When the opportunity to take a Cruise Holidays training
class was offered in Seattle this month, we decided to take advantage of the
training and re-visit Alaska as well.
This was to be our third sailing on the Celebrity Solstice –
the second time this year. Needless to
say, Celebrity is our favorite, big ship company, and the Solstice is still one
of our favorites. The ship is 5 years
young and as beautiful as ever!
We had arrived very late the night before our ship
sailed. After a short night, our friends,
Ned and Carolyn Nelson, who are also our clients, picked us up at our hotel and
took us to Pier 91. Although the traffic
was heavy, once at the pier, check-in was a breeze and we were onboard in under
an hour after leaving our hotel.
We boarded the Celebrity Solstice on Friday, 31 May. The news on CNN about the tornados in the
Oklahoma City area (again…), our sail-away enthusiasm was slightly
diminished. Only when we received a call
from friends that our neighborhood was spared, could we relax and enjoy.
The departure from Seattle was a picture perfect, chamber of
commerce post card. We departed as the
sun was casting the warm orange glow on the Seattle skyline. Since we chose Celebrity Select (anytime we
prefer) dining, we didn’t have to rush to dinner. In fact, made our dinner reservations for
each evening when we completed our pre-cruise registration. It worked out perfectly! We had 7pm dining, table for 2 every evening
except 2 when it was 7:30pm. The food
and service were exceptional with lots of choices each evening along with the
usual, “Always Available” menu options.
Garry was able to enjoy escargot every evening!!
Our first night out was very smooth sailing – not the usual
high, rough seas typically encountered on round trip Seattle departures. The last 2 sea days were also smoother than
expected. Because a Seattle round trip
departure sails on the west side of Vancouver Island (not between the island
and mainland British Columbia), out in the open Pacific Ocean, the seas are
usually rough all year round. Because of
this, land is not visible and there is nothing to see but water – unlike the
sailings that depart from Vancouver, BC where land is visible for the entire
voyage, coming and going. Our
recommendation is always to sail from Vancouver, BC, however, you cannot beat
the convenience of sailing from Seattle.
On Sunday, another client, Doug and Doris Vig, met us in
Ketchikan and took us on a tour of the area.
This was our 5th visit to Ketchikan and it was nice to see it
from a local perspective. After our tour
and a stop at Totem Bight State Historical Park, http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/totembgh.htm,
we headed for a stop for lunch at the home of another client and friend,
Marlene Scanlon. She greeted us, along
with Lynn Clay and Diane , both also clients.
Except for Marlene, we’d never met the others. Our business has always been done over the
phone and via email. It was really nice
to put a face with the voices of these long time, loyal clients. Thanks Marlene for the wonderful lunch of
Alaska Halibut and to Doug and Doris for chauffeuring us to/from the ship. It was a sunny, warm day in Ketchikan –
unusual considering Ketchikan receives nearly 200 inches of rain per year!!
Early the next morning, we arrived in Tracy Arm Fjord and
the twin Sawyer Glaciers http://alaskancruiser.com/glaciers-in-alaska/tracy-arm-fjord/
. This was our 3rd cruise
into Tracy Arm and our very first to get up close to the glacier. It was an awesome sight! We spent over an hour in front of the glacier
where we witnessed it ‘calve’ many times.
Although we prefer Glacier Bay over Tracy Arm, they are both unique and
equally beautiful. If you want glacier
overload, opt for a cruise that includes Glacier Bay. If you want a ‘taste of the Norwegian
Fjords’, opt for Tracy Arm.
In the Afternoon, the ship arrived in Juneau where, due to
the number of ships in port, we were required to take a tender to the
shore. We arrived about 1PM and
fortunately our tour didn’t start until 4PM.
We were concerned about the time it would take to get off the ship and
we didn’t want to miss our tour. We had
arranged for a whale watching tour with the Shore Excursion Group http://www.shoreexcursionsgroup.com/Articles.asp?ID=143&Click=7502
(not part of the tours offered by the
ship). We were pleasantly
surprised. Our group numbered 13!! We had a small, comfortable boat with the
driver and a guide. We especially liked
the size of the group and the quality of the tour. Shore Excursion Group guarantees to get you
back to the ship in time for departure, or they pay to get you to the next
port. And, they are similar in cost to
tours booked through the cruise lines.
However, they were fewer people in both tours. We are glad we booked thru Shore Excursion
Our next stop was Skagway, and again, since we’d been there
many times before, we opted for another tour booked with the Shore Excursion
Group. This tour was a Wildlife
Photography tour that took us to Haines.
We docked at the Railroad Dock and followed the instructions on our
tickets to meet up with our guide. This
time there were only 4 in our group, plus our guide. He took us to meet the ferry to Haines and
then to his van where we spend the next 6 hours driving to different areas in
search of wildlife. We photographed
numerous bald eagles and hoped to see bears, but they were not to be found.
The last port of call was Victoria, BC. Since the ship docked at 6:30pm, we opted to
stay onboard to enjoy our last few hours onboard the Solstice. Bags packed and dinner at 7pm followed by one
last stroll through the ship. No evening
show…the casino was closed, as were the onboard shops. Only the bars were open while we were docked
in Victoria. The ship sailed at
midnight, but by then we had our bags in the hallway for collection and had
retired for the evening.
We awoke to another glorious day in Seattle, and our friends,
the Nelson’s were at the pier to take us to our hotel to begin our