Last summer it was the East Coast College Tour. This summer the OC Domer family went on a cruise to
We had reservations at the Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside, which put us in the heart of
After check-in we wanted to do a little sight-seeing and enjoy the city. Having watched the weather forecasts closely, we weren’t surprised when we got soaked in the rain while walking around (in the jackets that we THOUGHT were waterproof and that we were counting on to keep us dry through a rainy week in Alaska). We walked toward the historic Gastown area, checking out the shops. There is a lot of merchandise on display for the 2010 Winter Olympics that are being held in
The next morning my son went for a long run along the waterfront and around Stanley Park with his uncle, and my wife and I got out and took a nice long walk to
The Cruise. I have been thinking about it a lot, and I think the best way to review the cruise is to write on the one hand about the shipboard experience on Carnival Spirit, and to write separately about
The Carnival Spirit is a really big ship designed to carry (house, feed, entertain) over 2,000 passengers and nearly 1,000 crew members. The ship really does resemble a
The dining room experience was the source of some disappointment. We did get the “early” dinner seating we asked for (6:00 p.m.), but we were not all at the same table, instead sitting at two tables that were very close to one another. The tables are fixed to the floor and cannot be moved together. I went to the Maitre D’ on the first day to see if we could be moved to a single large table for eleven, but he was unable to help us unless we wanted to switch to the late dinner seating (8:00). This was frustrating since there were other large groups sitting at single tables all around us, and it wasn’t clear why we got hosed. So the Maitre D’ didn’t get any tip from the OC Domer group at the end of the week. The menus for dinner were good, featuring many fine choices, but short on dishes that many of the kids in our group were very eager to eat. They tried different things, but were rarely truly happy with the offerings at dinner. The quality of the food in the dining room was uneven. “Good” most of the time but never “great.” I think it compares well with the dinner you might get at a wedding reception for 1,000 people or at a pretty decent college dining hall. A recurring theme was food that wasn’t hot.
Breakfast and lunch were buffet style on the
The slate of scheduled activities on the cruise seems to have been pared back from a typical Caribbean cruise, as the primary activity (even on days “at sea”) is sight-seeing, including looking out for whales and other wildlife. I did manage to bring home the trophy for winning the sports trivia contest, which almost made up for the money I lost in the poker and blackjack tournaments. The ship had a pretty good casino, although it is clear that the purpose of the casino is to generate revenue for Carnival, not provide entertainment for the passengers. Heck, even the BINGO games were giving out paltry prize money compared to the revenue they were generating from selling the cards.
As I alluded to above, I really compare the shipboard experience with spending an entire week at the Luxor Las Vegas. It’s very new and exciting for a few days, but by the end of the cruise you’ve seen all there is to see, you’ve eaten all the free ice cream you want, and you’re ready to get off.
Our itinerary consisted of a cruise along the inside passage, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka, before crossing the Gulf of Alaska, entering Prince William Sound and spending several hours on the last day of the cruise in spectacular College Fjord. In my mind, I pair up
I mentioned above that a cruise ship is probably the best way to see
The towns are cute, but the fun begins when you get away from town and into the wilderness. The mountains, rivers, trees, and wildlife are the greatest show on earth, and the vast scale of the landscape is hard to comprehend. The only other place where I felt that the scale of the landscape was so intimidating was on a trip to the Canadian Rockies when we visited
The last day of the cruise featured a
But we opted instead to pick up rental cars at Avis (the only game in town – book ahead!) so that we could take a side trip to visit my wife’s cousin who lives with her family in
After seeing Soldotna we drove to
It was a great trip, and I’m so glad we all got the chance to see such a wonderful place. Although I didn’t take my camera kayaking, I did take it everywhere else. I took over 1,500 digital photos during our trip. I have culled through all of them and compiled by Best of Alaska 2008 slideshow which is embedded below. If you click on any of the pictures, it will take you to the online gallery where you can see larger versions of the images and flip through them faster (or slower) if you like. I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out, and I hope you enjoy them.
This post is way too long, but I really left a lot out. If you are interested in