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Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 7 - Victoria, Canada

In:
29 Jun 2018

The last day of our adventure takes us to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  I have never been to this port, but was not exactly sure what to expect.

We booked prior to the cruise the Butchart Gardens and Craigdarroch Castle shore excursion tour through Royal Caribbean.  Both options seemed like the most popular options and we hoped it would be a good choice.

Explorer of the Seas docked in Victoria and we headed down to deck two for disembarkation.  To our surprise, there was a rather long line to get off the ship.

Once off the ship, we took a bus to Craigdarroch Castle, which took about 20 minutes or so. 

Craigdarroch Castle was built by a wealthy family in Victoria, and it is an exquisite example of a Victorian bonanza castle. It was very cool to see how this way of life and era was preserved perfectly. 

Honestly, it was a bit creepy being in the building just because it felt like a time machine to that era.  Still, as a history buff, I loved seeing how people from the turn of the last century lived.

I think the kids enjoyed the castle, primarily just going room to room and seeing the oddities they could spot.

We boarded the bus and headed to the Butchart Gardens.  The Gardens was a bit of a drive, and are sprawling grounds that offer the finest example of botany thatI have ever seen.

Without a doubt, the gardens are incredibly manicured and it was so beautiful.

Unfortunately, it was quite crowded and part of the enjoyment was lost on me simply because navigating the crowds was tiresome.

Overall, the tour was great but I think I enjoyed the post-excursion exploring of downtown Victoria far more.

Victoria is beautiful and has a lot of history, along with some great food. I wish I had an extra few hours to walk around some more and see more of what it offers.

The walk from downtown to the port was about 20 minutes or so, and we got back onboard just in time to see sailaway and then get ready for dinner.

Overall, this was a fantastic cruise that exceeded all of my expectations.  Going to Alaska was everything I could hope for and more.  Everythng you hear about Alaska is as great as described.

Moreover, being able to explore Alaska for the first time with so many wonderful friends from Royal Caribbean Blog was an added highlight.  I met some new folks, and got to reconnect with old friends.  It was a fantastic cruise.

Thanks for following along this live blog.  I appreciate all the great comments during the blog, and loved sharing all of this with you.

Before you get too weepy-eyed about the end of this live blog, the good news is another live blog kicks off in just 6 days on Majesty of the Seas as we head to Cuba for the first time!

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 6 - Sea Day

In:
28 Jun 2018

Interestingly enough, our last sea day is not our last day of the cruise.

We started off the day with a private ice skating session for those that booked into our group. It was so nice having the entire rink just to ourselves and my daughter made some real progress on skating without assistance.

Speaking of events, our lunch took us to Chops Grille for an invite-only event for Royal Caribbean Blog Insiders who were on the cruise to enjoy a great meal together.

Based on the recommendation of my server, I went with the salmon and it was fantastic.

After lunch, we took the kids up to the arcade for a few games prior to dropping them off at Adventure Ocean.

In terms of weather, it was another great day. By afternoon, the sun was shining and it felt great to me being outside without a jacket. My wife might disagree.

During the afternoon, we held a Royal Caribbean Blog Trivia Night event, where teams competed to prove their dominance of Royal Caribbean knowledge.  Here's a few sample questions:

  • What year will Oasis 5 debut?
  • What was the name of the barber shop that used to be on Freedom of the Seas?
  • What does the Greek letter Chi "X" stand for in Celebrity Cruises funnel stack?

It was a great time, and shout out to the "Jerel's Kids" team for winning the game.

We fed the kids in the Winjammer, which happened to be Indian theme night.  I enjoyed quite a lovely pre-dinner.

For dinner, it was back in the main dining room again.

Following dinner, it was time for the Quest.  After a disappointing and demoralizing Quest loss on the Harmony of the Seas group cruise (primarily eminating from poor leadership), we sought redemption tonight.  

As luck would have it, our team leaders persevered and brought home the winning trophy to the Royal Caribbean Blog Quest team.
 

We all celebrated at the R-Bar after our win.

Tomorrow is our last day, and we will be in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Stray Observations

  • The drink card appeared today.
  • I got a chance to check out one of the best features of the Voyager Class ships, the Peek-A-Boo bridge.
  • The internet onboard has been quite slow since Tracy Arm.
  • The Royal Promenade was backed with sales today.

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 5 - Tracy Arm

In:
27 Jun 2018

Of all the places in Alaska we are visiting on this cruise, a trip into Tracy Arm fjords has to be the real highlight.

I wish I could say I woke up super early to see the entire sail in, but we were so tired that we woke up exactly when the ship arrived at Dawes Glacier.

Even after seeing Mendenhall Glacier, the spectacle of today was even more pronounced.

After we arrived, the ship spun in 360 degree circles, so that everyone could have a view.  By my count, we completed 2.5 to 3 rotations before departing.  

I started off watching from my balcony, but quickly ran around the ship to different spots to not only see the glacier, but also see how crowded things were.

I was surprised to find plenty of space at a variety of decks to see the glacier.  

The view improved for everyone when the sun started to peek out, revealing some beautiful colors in the ice.

I wish we could have spent a few more hours there, but we started to head out.  The weather quickly turned again, with a cold wind and rain joining our departure.

For lunch, we decided to head to Izumi.  Unlike some other ships, they offered their full menu for lunch as well, which includes the hot rocks.

My wife went with the beef hot rock, while I opted for the DX Sushi combo.

After lunch, the weather improved yet again and it turned into quite a sunny day.

There were two showings of the ice skating show.  On this ship and sailing, they broke up the showings based on your muster station.  So depending on which muster station you are in, you would have ability to get into the show in advance.

Tonight was formal night, so we got dressed up and headed down to the Star Lounge for the Top Tier Crown and Anchor Society event.  The ship’s Captain, Captain Mal, was the featured guest.

For dinner we had booked Giovanni’s Table, which is located on deck 4.

We were part of a group of 8, so we ended up getting a lot of dishes served family style. It was a great opportunity to try everything on the menu.  

For my entree, I went with the sole filet.  Great choice and very light after a lot of appetizers and pasta.

Tomorrow is another sea day.

Stray Observations

  • There was an Asian Breakfast offered in Izumi today that I totally missed.  I asked, but they are not offering it again on this sailing.
  • There was a drink station and hot chocolate station on the helipad during the glacier viewing.

 

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 4 - Skagway, Alaska

In:
26 Jun 2018

Northern bound we go with our next stop in Skagway, Alaska.  Since Skagway is so close to Juneau, we were scheduled to arrive in Skagway fairly early, 7am.  In fact, we have a long day in port, staying until 8pm, which makes for one of the longest port stops I have ever done.

Our shore excursion was scheduled for right at 7:15am, which is really, really early. We picked this time instead of one later in the day so that we would have plenty of time to explore Skagway later on.  It made logical sense, but it did not help any when we had to wake up super early to get ready.

Explorer of the Seas was cleared right on schedule and we disembarked the ship and met up with our tour group at the end of the pier.  We had scheduled a Yukon Hummer Adventure, which allowed us to drive Hummer H3’s to tour the area.

There was just one other family in our excursion, so it was not a giant group.  A bus took us to the parking lot where the Hummers were waiting.

We had our own Hummer to drive and quickly were on the road in a small caravan, with a lead driver to guide us and each family (group of four) in a Hummer following.

Our trip would take us out of Skagway, across the Canadian border and into the Yukon territory.  

The entire tour lasted 4 hours, and we made periodic stops along the way at some scenic spots.  

 

The trip culminated with a visit to Emerald Lake, which is absolutely stunning to see that kind of water color outside of the Caribbean.

We also stopped in a small town for coffee, souvenirs and an opportunity to stretch our legs.

Along the way we did manage to spot a brown bear, which was a real highlight.  

Speaking of wildlife, it has been noticeably absent on this trip.  Based on what I had heard and read from others, as well as anecdotal evidence from locals, I was expecting to find a lot more wildlife in general in both Juneau and Skagway.  Obviously no one has any real control over the luck of seeing animals or not, but it just seemed to me abnormal.

We then reversed the course and headed back to Alaska.

Our excursion ended just before noon, so we grabbed lunch at the Bonanza Grill (good luck getting that classic tv theme song out of your head now).  We then spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Skagway.

Downtown Skagway is quite lovely, and is comprised of historic buildings that have mostly become jewelry stores.   Despite the omnipresent tourist angle, we found Skagway quaint and charming.  While there were plenty of Diamonds International and the like, we found lots of stores run by locals with local crafts and foods that held out attention.

Besides the commercial aspect of Skagway, the beautiful mountainous surroundings were astounding.  

Since we were docked in Skagway until 8pm, we spent our day meandering around town, enjoying what it had to offer.  There is no doubt the fact Skagway was our last port of call in Alaska played a role in compelling us to spend as much time as we could on shore to soak it all in.

As afternoon turned to evening, we returned to our ship for a quiet evening of dinner, drinks and some much needed rest.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to visit Tracy Arm Fjord, although the Captain printed a notice in our Cruise Compass that the ice flow has been “limiting” and that the Captain will make a decision tomorrow as to which approach and glacier will be safest to see.  

Stray Observations

  • In both Juneau and Skagway, Radiance of the Seas has been docked in port with us and in both ports they have had the dock spot that is closer to town. 
  • The shuttle between the pier area and downtown Skagway costs $2 per person, per ride, although an all-day unlimited pass costs $5.
  • Having two staterooms on this cruise has been so nice with the kids.  It allows them to sleep when we are getting ready in the morning or winding down at night, and the extra bathroom is tremendous.
  • The forecast was for the high temperature to be in the low 50s today, but it felt significantly warmer than that.  So much so I ended up wearing a t-shirt for most of the day.

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Juneau, Alaska

In:
25 Jun 2018

Spoiler alert: today was an amazing day.

Our first port stop brings us to Juneau, Alaska and I had such high hopes for today that I just could not sleep this morning.  I woke up around 6am and just had to get up and check out the scenery.

We were not scheduled to dock in Juneau until noon, but the voyage in takes a few hours and we got out first look at what Alaska is all about.

In the time it took to get to Juneau, you could see plenty of islands, landmasses and occasional wildlife.    It was also chilly in the morning, and the jackets came out quickly.  Regardless of the temperature, it was incredible to see the Alaskan landscape after all these months of waiting.

Our ship docked perhaps a bit early and we met up with our shore excursion group at the end of the dock right on time.  

We had booked the Alaskan sled dog excursion, which was essentially half lesson on dog sledding and half play with dogs.

My biggest problem with group excursions is the pace of the event being too slow, but this excursion went quite well.  They broke up the group, with some going on a dog sled first and the others meeting some of the dogs.  Everyone then met up at the end to play with the puppies.

We started off with the dog sled race, where we boarded a dog sled on wheels and had a real dog sled team take us down a course in the area.

 It was incredible to see the whole team of dogs working in tandem and it was a lot fun racing around the corners of the course and seeing how fast they could get up to.

After the race, we got to meet the dogs. We started off with the dogs that took us on our race, meeting each pair of dogs that were part of the team.

The piece de resistance had to be the puppies.  They had a few different puppies of various ages including some puppies that were just a few weeks old.  My wife and kids were in heaven!

At just about two hours, the dog sled excursion was the perfect amount of time.  Of course, my wife would have preferred a few more hours playing with the puppies but we all had a great time interacting with the dogs of all ages.

The excursion bus dropped us off downtown (we had the choice of going downtown or back to the ship), so we found a cab waiting and hopped on to go to Mendenhall Glacier Park. The taxi ride over was about $35 each way plus the admission cost to the park (plus a pit stop at McDonalds for the kids).

Since it was later day and we did not want to push things with the kids, we decided to take the relatively short trail to Nugget Falls, which provides not only an upclose view of a really large water fall, but also a fantastic view of Mendenhall Glacier.

For me, coming to the glacier and seeing nature in all of its glory was worth every penny and hour on the airplane.  It was simply incredible, and I wish I could have just sat down in a beach chair and took in the view. 

Afternoon turned to evening and we had to head back to the ship. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit downtown Juneau and take in the food and culture there, but it was an incredible day.

Back onboard Explorer of the Seas, we got the kids up to Adventure Ocean and then grabbed a quick drink in the Concierge Lounge before heading down to dinner.

It was 70’s night on the Royal Promenade but we were pretty darn tired and have an early day tomorrow, so called it a night.

Tomorrow we will be in Skagway, Alaska.

Stray Observations

  • Weather wise, it was downright frigid on our balcony sailing into Juneau.  Once on land, it felt fine and by the time we reached Mendenhall I took my fleece jacket off.  
  • In terms of wildlife, we saw a whale, a few bald eagles, a beaver and no bears.
  • We got invited to the Crown and Anchor Society event later in the cruise.  The challenge for me is to remember the day and time.
  • Interestingly enough, this was the first night of any cruise I have ever been on where there was no production show or comedy show or any event in the theater tonight.  Sure, there was the 70s party on the Promenade, but I cannot recall ever seeing nothing in the theater at all (not counting embarkation day).

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day

In:
24 Jun 2018

Our first full day on Explorer of the Seas brings us to a sea day.  One of the general themes of going on an Alaska cruise has to be adjusting to the Pacific Time Zone.  We still had lingering effects of the jet lag and woke up around 8:30am, while the kids woke up closer to 9am.  For our kids, that is super late.

Upon waking up, we got ready and headed up to the Windjammer for breakfast.  I found an Indian breakfast potato dish that was pretty darn good.

After breakfast we dropped off our youngest daughter at Adventure Ocean and then headed up to the Concierge Lounge for coffee.  

As Diamond Plus members in Crown and Anchor Society, we are allowed to go into the Concierge Lounge (along with the Diamond lounge).  The Concierge Lounge is on the same deck as our stateroom and very close, in fact.

Our morning consisted of walking around the ship a bit and taking it all in. The weather today was mostly sunny, with some passing clouds and by the afternoon it was downright balmy.  If you happened to be out in the sun, it felt quite nice.  

For lunch, we decided on the main dining room.   The main dining room opened at noon and there was a sizeable line that developed.  We did see there was a special entrance reserved for Diamond and Diamond Plus members that allowed us to get in quite quickly.  

Overall the food for lunch was great and I ordered a Morroccan lamb dish along with a turkey burger.

Our first group cruise event was in the Viking Crown Lounge at Dizzy’s.  

Our friends at MEI Travel organized a welcome party, complete with complimentary alcoholic drinks, appetizers and a Royal Caribbean Blog cake!

We had a great view of the ocean, along with a few whale sightings too!

(No whale pictured here, but it was definitely scenic)

Following that meet, we rolled into the next meet, which was the pub crawl.  We visited four bars: Crown & Kettle Pub, Schooner Bar, R-Bar and Sky Bar.  I can tell you from personal experience it was a lot of fun “exploring” all of these venues.

After the pub crawl, a few of us headed to Izumi to grab a pre-dinner sushi roll.  I went with a bowl of miso soup and yellowtail roll roll. Perfect post-pub crawl meal!

Tonight was formal night, so we all got ready.  I took the kids to get a couple of photos taken on the Royal Promenade and then dinner at Cafe Promenade.

After dropping the kids off at Adventure Ocean, I enjoyed some pre-dinner cocktails at the Diamond Lounge, which was not too crowded at all.

Dinner tonight was in the main dining room.

After dinner, some of us in the group went to the Pub to enjoy some classic bar songs.

Tomorrow is our first port day at Juneau.

Stray Observations

  • Weather wise, the day started off quite chilly but by the afternoon if you were in the sun it really felt quite nice. The high temperature for today was listed at 54 degrees.
  • The internet has been hit or miss on this sailing.  Last night, it was barely functional but I found a lot more success today.  The key I have found is to go to places where others are not, and/or just keep trying until it goes through.  
  • The pub layout on this ship is quite odd.  There's essentially a large triangle shaped bar in the middle of the pub, instead of the bar being along the back wall.

 

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation Day

In:
22 Jun 2018

Cruise day is here and that means our Explorer of the Seas Alaskan adventure is set to begin!

Falling asleep last night was pretty easy for us.  We struggled to stay up “late” so that we could acclimate ourselves to Pacific Time, but by about 9pm or so we called it a night. I woke up at about 5am, but managed to get back to sleep a few times until finally getting up at 7am.

We grabbed a quick breakfast from our hotel.  Holiday Inn Express offers a pretty decent breakfast and it certainly gave everyone just enough to get going.

Our group organized a shuttle to take us to the port, which was a 15 minute or so drive to the port.  

The Port of Seattle had two ships in port today, Explorer of the Seas and Celebrity Solstice. It was different to have everyone essentially drop off in the same spot and then diverge to whichever ship you are going on after being dropped off.

We checked in and it was fairly standard, although they were unable to locate our SeaPass cards so they had to print out new ones.  A few minutes later we were on our way.

What was truly odd was after we got our SeaPass cards, they just let everyone board at the same time.  From what I could see there was no boarding process by groups or Crown and Anchor Society.  I believe others that arrived earlier than we did were seated by group, but by the time we checked-in, we headed straight onboard.

We were onboard and at the pool deck by 11am.  The Windjammer was not open until 11:30am, so we enjoyed a crisp, but enjoyable day outside.  It was mostly cloudy and temperatures in the mid-60s.

Once the Windjammer opened, it was time for embarkation day lunch and one of my favorite moments of the cruise.   I love the feeling of being in the Windjammer on embarkation day with the entire cruise ahead of me and lots of great food to enjoy.

After lunch we went up to Adventure Ocean to register the kids.  The set up was very similar to other Voyager and Freedom Class ships, but the layout and decorating choices were noticeably different.

The rooms were ready right at 1pm.  We have two rooms for this cruise, a Junior Suite (for me and my wife) and a connecting balcony room for the kids.

The Junior Suite enjoys a lot of space in the living area, and it was nice to have not only a sofa but two chairs as well.  

Our room is on the “hump” and perhaps that is why the balcony is as “enclosed” as it looks.  

Overall, it looks like a great place to call home.

At 2pm, we held our first meet up onboard of the Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, the “Go with the flow Lava Flow meet”.   Basically, an excuse to enjoy drinks together at the Viking Crown Lounge at the top of the ship.  It is an opportunity to meet everyone and see old friends once again.  

Muster drill came up quickly and following that, we all headed up to the pool deck to enjoy sail away.  The weather was much warmer than I was expecting.  The forecasts called for a high of 68 degrees today, but it felt like it was in the 70s.  Either way, a beautiful scene for bidding adieu to Seattle.

We got back to our room and found our luggage waiting for us and took the time to put things away before taking the kids to grab dinner.  On embarkation day, Adventure Ocean opens at 8pm instead of the usual 7pm.

We took the kids up to the Windjammer for dinner, followed by dropping them off at Adventure Ocean.  A very smooth process and after dropping them off, we headed down to the main dining room for dinner.

The main dining room menu on Explorer of the Seas is still the “old menu” (prime rib night).

I was impressed by the speed of our waiters on embarkation day, which is usually a slower day.  Moreover, our waiter was able to not only bring savory bites upon request but I actually got a serving of Indian curry instead of having to wait for tomorrow.  

After dinner, we grabbed a drink at the Pub before heading over to the theater to seethe adult comedy show.  The comedian was pretty good and better than I was expecting.

We decided to grab the kids and call it a night. Adjusting to west coast time has been going better than I expected so far.

Stray Observations

  • There was a secondary buffet option in one deck of the main dining room.
  • The no more plastic straws policy is in effect.
  • No surpriise, but the sun really did not go down until maybe 9 or 10pm.  Everyone tells you about it, but it is still quite a phenomenon to witness.

Explorer of the Seas Live Blog - Seattle Pre-Cruise Day

In:
21 Jun 2018

We got up super early to kick start our Explorer of the Seas cruise.  We were travelling from Orlando, Florida to Seattle, Washington and picked an early morning flight to maximize our time in Seattle on the first day.  The downside of a 7:20am flight is you have to wake up pretty early in the morning.

In the grand scheme of 4am wake ups, things went quite smoothly and we were on the road on time and headed to park our car near the Orlando airport.   The parking lot shuttle took us to the airport, which I found to be much busier at 5am on a Thursday than I expected.

We were flying Delta, primarily because they offer a direct flight between Orlando and Seattle. In fact, we managed to get a pretty good deal on first class tickets for the four of us roundtrip.  When I say good deal, I mean it was a rate I could live with and to me, it was worth splurging for a vacation of this magnitude.

Check-in was a breeze and one of the many benefits of flying first class is we were able to completely bypass the security line, which in essence was like having TSA Pre-Check.

We got through security and to the gate without much fuss.  The flight was on time and we were in our seats, ready for a great flight to Seattle.

In all honesty, I am petrified of flying.  I never enjoy it and it gives me Oasis class sized anxiety.  However, the flight was pretty darn smooth and uneventful.  Moreover, having the extra space and complimentary perks of first class really started off our vacation on a positive note.

We landed in Seattle about 20 minutes or so early, and collected our luggage (which came out first since we were in first class) in minutes.  We used Lyft to get us from the airport to our hotel in downtown Seatle.  We upgraded to the Lyft Plus to get a larger vehicle, and yes, we brought our own car seats.  Lugging around car seats is no fun, but having them means we can take advantage of so many more transportation options.  Cost of the Lyft ride was $59 (with gratuity).

We are staying at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites City Center and got ourselves a King Suite room.  Sounds fancy, but it just means we have a door between our bedroom and the living room where the kids sleep.

The room was not ready so we left the luggage in the room and wandered down to the Pike Place Market for lunch and browsing.  

Pike Place Market is a gargantuan farmers market that features a lot of fresh seafood.  It is probably best known for two things: the original Starbucks location and the people that throw the fish.

We had lunch at a nice little diner near the market and then walked the market to check it out.  Quite nice, although it really benefits you if you can buy fresh seafood, produce or flowers to take home.

Our room was ready, so we headed back to the hotel to take a rest.  We purposefully avoided napping because the best way to adjust to a big time change is just adopt the local time zone and go with it.

Our hotel room is a pretty typical Holiday Inn hotel room.  Clean, well-maintained and somewhat recently updated. Great for a pre-cruise stay.

I ventured out while the kids relaxed to exchange our Seattle CityPass voucher for tickets.  We purchased a CityPass months prior to a price hike and it gets us into a half dozen popular tourist spots, including the Space Needle, harbor tour and aquarium.  We will use these after our cruise in the few days we are staying in Seattle for post-cruise.

I also took an opportunity to get an up-close look at the Space Needle.

For dinner, our friends from MEI Travel hosted a pre-cruise pizza party in the lobby of our hotel. We figured since a lot of the people in the group cruise were already here, we would spring for some pizza to enjoy and say hello before getting onboard.

As a pizza snob, the local pizza was not half bad! A good and fulfilling time was had by all.

By about 7pm, we were all pretty tired because of the time difference and waking up so early.  We headed back to the room to relax in preparation for our big day tomorrow headed to the port!

Tomorrow morning, we will head to the port and board Explorer of the Seas and start our cruise adventure!

Live blogging from Explorer of the Seas - Preamble

In:
18 Jun 2018

We go on our fair share of Royal Caribbean cruises, so when there is an opportunity to knock something off our bucket list of must-do cruises, it makes the cruise extra special.

After seemingly buying every accessory, specialty apparel, and gadget one might run across while searching for an "Alaska cruise packing list", we are ready to head to Seattle for a 7-night Explorer of the Seas sailing to Alaska.  Going on a sailing that takes to an all-new to us itinerary is pretty special, and on top of it, we are sailing with so many of our friends as part of the Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise.

We have been looking forward to this particular sailing for a while, having booked it back in early 2017 at the behest of my wife who really wanted to try an Alaska cruise.  I certainly relished the prospect of heading west and sailing on a completely new itinerary for me.

When you talk about a cruise to Alaska, you are looking at one of the most beautiful places on earth to take visit and cruising is a natural fit. I have probably put off a cruise to Alaska for this long primarily due to the distance required for us to travel (we are flying from Florida), but with my daughters geting old enough to sit on an airplane and remain civil, the time is right to go West.

While the itinerary will be new to us, the ship is a repeat for me.  My very first Royal Caribbean cruise was on Explorer of the Seas out of Cape Liberty in 2006.  Going back on Explorer of the Seas after all these years is a bit of a homecoming for me, and I am looking forward to getting back on her after a large absence.


 

If you read any kind of blog post, article, infographic, or MySpace post, you will likely see a mention that when you sail to Alaska you must book a balcony room.  It will cost you extra, but it is worthwhile and so I listened to the experts and booked a Junior Suite that connects to a standard balcony for our family. While not as epic is our Grand Suite connecting to a balcony room, it should be a great way to not only see the beautiful Alaskan nature, but also provide separation from our kids at night.

I will be sailing with my wife and two daughters (ages 7 and 3), and my kids are most excited for Adventure Ocean, exploring Alaska, and as much soft serve ice cream they can eat (probably in that order).

Speaking of who I will be sailing with, we have over eighty Royal Caribbean Blog readers joining me on this incredible adventure. Being able to share in the excitement of this sailing and explore Alaska together is an added bonus. As is the case with any Royal Caribbean Blog group cruise, we have one or two events each day of the cruise that everyone is invited to join us for.  These events include a pub crawl, Royal Caribbean trivia, photo safari, private ice skating session and more.

Of course, this is a group cruise too, which means we have a large contingent of fellow Royal Caribbean fans joining me and I could not be happier. There is just something so fun about seeing friendly faces all around the ship, and being able to share in the experience in person is second-to-none.

Itinerary

This Royal Caribbean cruise is by far the most intriguing itinerary I have taken to date. When you cruise to Alaska, Royal Caribbean offers three types of sailings: a round trip, a one way northbound and a one way southbound.  

We chose the roundtrip primarily because I did not have vacation time to do two weeks for both one ways and I was not mentally prepared to fly to or from Alaska.  I understand the argument that the one way sailings offer a superior itinerary, but a roundtrip from Seattle is what is in the cards for us this go around and I think it will be a great introduction to Alaska.

Our shore excursion plans

Here is what we have planned for each of our ports.  We spent a lot of time looking over the various choices and came up with these.

3. Alaska Sled Dogs & Musher's Camp (Juneau) [Link]

My wife insisted we do some sort of excursion that involved Alaskan husky dogs (preferably puppies), so we picked this 2 hour trip.  Besides involving super cute puppies, we think our daughters will enjoy going to the countryside and getting a first-hand look at what Alaska is all about.

We will have some extra time in Juneau after the excursion is over, and may hop into a taxi to visit the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and do some "light weight" exploring.

2. Yukon Hummer Adventure (Skagway) [Link]

I thought this excursion sounded like a really fun one, primarily because it allows us to see a lot of beautiful areas in Alaska and Canada from the comfort of a Hummer.  I have always wanted to drive one of these cars, so I think this is perfect opportunity.  

One caveat is this excursion states my youngest daughter is not allowed to come with us.  I am not entirely certain why and we are guessing it may have to do with car seats.  We will talk with the Shore Excursion staff onboard Explorer of the Seas and get a better sense of what the issue is all about.

1. Craigdarroch Castle And Butchart Garden (Victoria) [Link]

It seems like the two places to visit in Victoria are Butchart Garden and Craigdarroch Castle, so we booked the excursion that brings us to both.  I am slightly concerned my children will be bored by the pace and subject of the tour, but I remain optimistic that they will have a good time...and with a bribe of a present to keep them in line (it's not my first rodeo).

What's next

Our Explorer of the Seas cruise begins on Friday, June 22nd (although we will fly to Seattle a day earlier), and I will be sharing the details on the blog, as well as across my social media channels.  Be sure to follow me on FacebookInstagram and Periscope for live updates throughout the day.

I invite you to share in this experience with me, by posting in the comments for any blog post questions and comments you may have.  I try to make these live blogs as interactive as I can, so I want everyone to feel welcome to share their thoughts.

Thanks for reading all of this and welcome aboard our next fun live blog experience!

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