Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Vision of the Seas
Sailing Date: June 24th, 2005
Itinerary: Vancouver to Seward
Our cruise-tour left Vancouver on June 24th. It included a 7 night cruise to Seward, and a 3 night bus tour to Talkeetna, Denali and Anchorage. We returned to Texas on July 4th. I’m not going to give a blow by blow but limit my discussion to some tips and suggestions.
If you are flying into Vancouver on departure date be sure to take advantage of the US Direct program. You should purchase a Transfer from the Cruise Company before you get to the airport. This program bypasses most of the Canada immigration and customs saving much time. Not all the travel agents are familiar with the program, mine didn’t.
There are two main dinning areas on the Vision of the Seas, the Aquarius and the Windjammer. The Windjammer is a buffet, open most anytime. The Aquarius is sit down order from the menu dining. The Aquarius has open seating for breakfast and lunch. Everyone gets an assigned table and time for Aquarius dinner but you don’t have to eat any meals in the Aquarius. Most people eat breakfast and lunch at the Windjammer but eat dinner at the Aquarius. The benefit of the Aquarius is the chance to sit with other shipmates and share stories. At dinner you sit every night with the same people at your assigned table. Be sure to check out your seat assignment. We wanted to be near the window so we had our table changed. We just took a chance that our tablemates would acceptable. RCI makes no attempt to match people at the tables. You would think that they could put people with similar ages or with children together. It is a potluck approach.
It was pointed out to me that the cheapskates skip the last dinner so they don’t have to tip the wait staff. In that respect I think the Windjammer does a disservice to the staff.
They offer two seatings, 6PM and 8:30PM. I recommend the 6PM. If you eat at the 8:30 seating you will see the shows before dinner and you will be pretty full for bed. Dinner can last over an hour and a half.
Don’t miss the free soft ice cream that is served on the 9th deck all day. It makes for a great afternoon snack. The fresh lemonade in the Windjammer at lunch is outstanding.
You should advance register online for your shore excursions. Besides getting the best choice of times you’ll avoid the long lines on the ship. We thought the White Pass Railroad trip was good (take a snack, it is a long trip). The Totem Bight Park trip was kind of weak. Don’t miss making a trip to the Mendenhaul Glacier. You can get a ride for $5 at the dock if you want to chance it. Icy Strait is a manufactured tourist site the local natives have created. This is the second year that RC has visited. It is worth the trip even if you don’t do a shore excursion. We didn’t do any flying but we heard lots of good feedback. At Denali we did white water rafting. It was a kick.
Don’t miss the shows. The local ship talent is top notch. They do two one hour plus shows of singing and dancing during the week with some extras thrown in. The guest acts on the other days were good as well. The Coasters played one night for us.
We did the three-day tour to Denali at the end of the cruise. This includes quite a lot of bus riding. Don’t plan on seeing Mt. Mckinley unless you take a flying trip. You never get closer than 50 miles to the mountain. You only go 17 miles into the park. At the end our tour included a short 3-hour train ride from Talkeetna to Anchorage. It was a nice change up from the bus. Be sure your tour includes a train ride in the RC special coaches.
I have a comment about American Airlines frequent flyer tickets. Months before when I made my reservations the best I could get returning from Alaska was Anchorage to DFW via Seattle. The Anchorage – Seattle leg was going to be on Alaska Airlines leaving at 2:40 in the morning. I called often to see if there were any more AAdvantage seats available on other flights or if they had any cancellations. I was told everything was booked. At 9:30 PM, just 5 hours before our flight was to leave, I called one more time. All the flights on my route mysteriously now had open seats. We changed our flight time to 7 am and got some needed sleep. The actual flights had plenty of seats and weren’t even close to being full. There were only 42 people on the Seattle – DFW leg. The moral of the story: when you get within 48 hours of the flight call again. It made a big difference in our day.
All in all it was a great time. We are planning to go back again in 5 years.