CRUISE TO ALASKA – 2014

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Here is our daily report about our cruise to Alaska on the Celebrity Solstice:

DAY 1: We left Buffalo on an afternoon flight which had a brief stopover in Chicago and arrived in Seattle at 5:30 pm Pacific time. We opted to spend 2 nights in a hotel by the airport, giving us a full day to sight-see in Seattle. Since our arrival was in the evening, we had a nice dinner in a nearby restaurant and just relaxed.

DAY 2: A full day in Seattle, which was both interesting and an adventure. We toured Seattle, from her signature “Space Needle” to the famous Public Market, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAalso seeing the waterfront with its huge ferris wheel and busy harbor, China Town and other sights. Others in our party also saw other landmarks including the famous Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Our tour (by van) also included some lesser known attractions. Then we headed back to the hotel to relax, looking forward to boarding the Solstice the next day.

DAY #3: The day finally arrived for us to board the Celebrity Solstice for our Alaska cruise. Our excitement built up as we checked in and boarded. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe unpacked upon reaching our stateroom and then headed for Celebrity’s wonderful “welcome aboard buffet” in the bright and cheery Oceanview Cafe. We found carving stations, pasta stations, a grill, salad bars, hot food bars and dessert tables, along with beverage islands. There is plenty of seating, although, the outdoor tables do tend to fill quickly, both on the stern and mid-ship. But there isn’t a bad seat anywhere. So we chose from the various foods and relaxed while seeing the Seattle skyline. We watched as we pulled away from the shore and eagerly anticipated our adventure north.

DAY 4: Our first full day was a relaxing day at sea. This allowed us to explore the ship and also to enjoy our private veranda, which was especially nice this time because we were close to shore much of the day so we had changing scenery, a rarity at sea. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a bonus since we always are happy to watch the calming waves and breathe the fresh sea air. We watched for whales and dolphins, but didn’t see any. Others, with cabins on the other side of the ship, did see some whales swimming alongside. We met the captain and the chief engineer and always are pleased to see so many of Celebrity’s officers who are friendly and sociable with passengers. The water was like glass the entire day and over all, the day was very relaxing and made for a perfect day before we started visiting the ports on our itinerary.

DAY 5: Waking up to beautiful sunshine, we went out on our private veranda and watched as our ship glided quietly into the harbor of Ketchikan and our first look at Alaska. After a great breakfast in the cafe, complete with made to order omelets and various side dishes, fresh fruit and more, we got off the ship for our first excursion. It was considered mild and included a tour of Ketchikan and a visit to the historic Totem Pole Park. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we viewed the wonderful and brightly painted carved poles that were rescued from abandoned native villages and were mostly dating back to the 19th Century. This was a very interesting experience, as we learned about the history of several of the poles and how they were made. We were given time to explore the park on our own. After lunch on the ship, we headed out on our own, into the downtown area to browse the many colorful shops, featuring everything from low budget souvenirs to high end goods. As our day ends, we are relaxing in the late evening sunshine on our veranda after a wonderful dinner in the main dining room, where our wait staff makes sure that we have everything we want and more.

DAY 6: We were very surprised when we woke up this morning and opened our curtains expecting to see the usual port view in Juneau. What we saw was a mountain so close we felt we could almost reach out and touch it! A virtual wall of evergreens. There was a narrow wooden walkway between the ship and the forest so we could disembark. The city, the capital of Alaska, had more activity then the other ports, with traffic and people moving about. The day was overcast and it was drizzling. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat did not dampen our spirits and in fact the view of the mountains was more dramatic because of it. We wandered around the port, browsed the shops and then went out on our excursion to Mendenhall Glacier after lunch. Our guide told us that the glacier would be more beautiful because of the clouds and he certainly was right. There were such gorgeous blue tones in the ice that we stood in awe of it. Some of us ventured down the pathway to get closer to where the glacier reaches the sea and they reported that it was well worth the trek. Afterwards, we returned to the ship, relaxed, had a 4-star dinner and then enjoyed our veranda as we set sail from port.

DAY 7: Today we cruised into Tracy Arm Fjord. To call the scenery spectacular is an understatement. The seas are calm, but we did sail in and out of some fog. We encountered ice floes, which became more numerous as we slowly sailed deeper into the fjord.. Finally we reached more pack ice, so the captain wisely decided not to risk getting hit or stuck and turned back.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While some passengers expressed disappointment, the captain did the right thing by putting our safety first, especially since we really saw so much and could make the return trip even more leisurely. The sights were very entertaining in that we were surrounded by beautiful mountains, no two of which looked alike, each having its own unique beauty. The glaciers and waterfalls added even more splendor to the view from our private veranda, where we relaxed and enjoyed the ever-changing view. This has to be the best sea day there is!

DAY 8: Today’s port is quaint Skagway. There is nothing like having breakfast al fresco while watching the ship enter the harbor and dock. We pulled into port with the view of the beautiful and rugged terrain  and the colorful buildings of the waterfront. The harbor was populated by coast guard cutters, fishing boats and sea planes. After a good breakfast,  we went ashore, camera in hand as always, to capture images of the old gold rush town. We walked along the streets filled with shops and old-time saloons giving us a hint of what it was like during its frontier days, with prospectors hoping to strike it rich with Alaska’s gold. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStrolling the wooden sidewalks, we were taken back in time as honky-tonk piano tunes played centuries old folk songs, where men drank and argued while the few women that were there with them did their shopping for provisions for the winter with its long nights that would follow.  That afternoon, we took a tour bus that took us up to a mountain top. We had a magnificent view of the area and even crossed the border into Canada’s Yukon. We saw breathtaking scenery and heard stories and legends of the people that carved the land and settled there. A stop was also made at the cemetery where gold rush casualties were laid to rest. After a full day of exploring Skagway and its surrounding area, we returned to the ship to enjoy another superb meal in the main diningroom, where we discussed our day’s experiences.

DAY 9: Our last port is Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. For us, this is the day we realize that our trip is close to the end so we always pay extra special attention to making it a fulfilling day and enjoying every moment of it. Here in Victoria, our final port of call, we are greeted by the friendly Western Canadians, who go out of their way to make visitors feel welcome. We hopped on a local tourist bus, complimentary from the port, and got our cameras ready to capture the charm of this beautiful city. It has both old world charm and modern elegance. The streets are bustling. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEverywhere there is green space with flowers and statues along with rich architecture. A tiny ferry takes people across a narrow canal and there are park benches all along the way to just sit and rest and enjoy a tranquil time watching people and boats scurry by. While taking in the sights of the downtown area, we stopped at a nice sweet shop and bought ourselves some treats to snack on before heading back to the ship for our final dinner and to prepare our luggage for the morning disembarkation. Dinner, as always, was tasty and filling. As we ready for a good night sleep, we linger a little longer on our veranda and watch the waves and a beautiful sunset while we reflect on the fantastic journey we are about to put behind us, but also to think about the journeys ahead of us. It seems traveling, especially cruising, is in our blood now and we look forward to many more journeys to both familiar places and new destinations that we want to explore.

A LOOK BACK: Most of this blog has been dedicated to the ports and the experiences there, but it is impossible to think about this or any other cruise without discussing the ship and the life onboard. The Solstice is the first in its class of incredible cruise ships by Celebrity Cruises. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe truly was our home away from home. First, our accommodations were great as we booked a cabin with a private veranda where we sat and watched the beautiful scenery as we glided through a sea of glass. There is nothing like waking up and stepping out into the fresh air and then relaxing and watching the sunset before getting into a soft and comfortable bed.

And what can we say about the food except that it is exceptional any place you eat, from the cafe to the formal diningroom. The food ranges from a traditional pool side grill with hamburgers, hot dogs and fries, to specialty dining, which for a small cover charge, gives you special attention to detail and dinners fitting the theme of each restaurant. In the cafe, there is a grill at the stern which offers breakfast specialties, paninis, shishkebobs, grilled to order meat and seafood and more. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlus there is a pizza station, a pasta station, made to order omelets for breakfast, Asian stir fry, Indian cuisine, a carving station, fresh fruits and salads and so much more. The formal diningroom has it all from soup to dessert, from vegetarian to lobster. But don’t think it is all about overindulging. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many healthy choices offered. And a venue which is unique to Solstice class ships is the Lawn Club where you can order steaks and other choices and either grill them right there yourself of have a chef do the grilling for you and eat them there on a manicured natural grass lawn, with a cover charge.

The entertainment is also quite good with musical reviews, comics, and other entertainment in the main theater. There are also several more intimate venues with pianos, small combos, guitarists and lounge singers throughout the ship. In addition, there are enrichment lectures, classes and fitness activities. The spa offers typical spa treatments for a fee. There is an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool as well as hot tubs. This ship also has a Corning Hot Glass Show, IMG_1754done in conjunction with the Corning Museum of Glass which is very popular. (Note, if you sail on any Celebrity Cruise ship, take your sea pass card to the Corning Museum and get free admission for you and a guest.) Finally, don’t miss the Celebrity Top Chef’s challenge. It takes place in the main theater and is every bit as entertaining and insightful as those you see on television. The shops on board are as good as any you find ashore and they are duty free shops. The casino is also first class with tables and slots to test your skills and luck.

Most of all, just relax and enjoy the pleasures of being at sea. Be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves in the evening. Rise to a bright sunny day and satisfy your appetite with a made to order breakfast with all the fixings. Tour the ship when you are not ashore, especially on sea days. Enjoy five star dinners with five star service by wait staff that somehow remember your tastes after the first night. Visit a lounge and relax to smooth sounds before heading to your balcony or to the outside deck to watch the sun set over the sea. Reflect on the day you just had and the days ahead. And before heading home, purchase a future cruise certificate or even book your next cruise, to get benefits for the cruise you are sure to want to take soon!

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