I have been on well over 100 cruises and Alaska is still one of my favorites. This was my 8th cruise to Alaska and yet every time I see those glaciers, I am still stunned.
This cruise started off from the Seattle Cruise Terminal 91. Seattle is a fantastic city in its own right and I would highly recommend if you book a cruise out of Seattle that you go a few days before or after to see all this great city has to offer. I was a little tight on time and had been here many times before so I flew in morning of.
We sailed on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. This is a great ship and at one point about a decade ago, it was the largest in the world!
The 138,000-ton Explorer of the Seas is loaded with recreational amenities: an ice-skating rink, in-line skating track, rock-climbing wall, television studio and full-size, open-air basketball court. The Royal Promenade, which runs through the center of the ship, is longer than a football field and wide enough to accommodate three lanes of traffic. Here you’ll find restaurants, shops, entertainment and street performers. The basketball court converts to a volleyball court, and there’s also a golf simulator, nine-hole miniature golf course and jogging track. Adventure Beach, just for families, has its own pool. Spots for socializing include a champagne bar, cigar club, sports bar, jazz club, dance club and a cocktail lounge at the top of the ship. Hungry? There’s a casual grill, ice-cream parlor, the Windjammer Cafe and Johnny Rocket’s, modeled after an authentic 1950s diner (complete with jukebox). Portofino, an intimate restaurant serving Italian fare, complements three main dining rooms.
Needless to say on a ship like this, there is no shortage of things to do. Cruising for me always represents work since I run a poker room for www.AnteUpCruises.com. We had over 100 poker playing guests with us this time and had a blast playing no limit Hold-em and many great tournaments. I think poker cruises are the way to go because you can do all the fun stuff on the ship and then when you have some down time or if you should get bored, there is lots of poker to keep you occupied.
Our first stop was in Juneau, Alaska. I have been here many times before but Juneau is my favorite city in Alaska. There is so much to see and do and the scenery is breathtaking. I took a group of friends out to Mendenhall Glacier. A 30 minute cab ride drops you off at the West Glacier trailhead. It is about a 2 hour hike to reach the actual glacier itself but you can go as far and long down the trail as you like if you want to do a shorter hike. We did about an hour in and an hour back.
The trail itself is well maintained and you get to see some beautiful woods and streams before you get to the point where you can first see the glacier. We even got to see some salmon swimming upstream. It was a perfect 70 degree day and the hike was exhilarating.
We then walked about a quarter mile from the trailhead to a place called Skater cabin. This little cabin sits right on the lake and gives you a pristine view of Mendenhall Glacier. If I was staying in Juneau for a few days, I think this cabin area would be great to rent for a BBQ and party.
After our hike we went back to downtown Juneau and had some lunch. There are a couple of new food trucks there that weren’t there in previous years. We opted on BBQ based on rave Yelp reviews. The ribs did not disappoint and afterwards I couldn’t resist a peanut butter/chocolate/Nutella/banana crepe. Yum!
Our next stop on the cruise itinerary was Skagway, Alaska. Skagway is a very small town with about 900 year round residents. I think if it wasn’t for the ships stopping there, it would cease to exist. There are some cool little bars and restaurants and Alaska Brewing Co has a location here where we got to sample some of their delicious beers. Even in a small port like Skagway the scenery is unreal. This was our ship docked for the day.
Our next day at sea we went into Tracy Arm Fjord. Here we were fortunate enough to have the ship sail right up to Sawyer Glacier. It is hard to describe in words how beautiful this bay and glacier really are.
Our final stop on our 7 day cruise was Victoria, BC. Victoria is a gorgeous city with what I consider the best fish n chip place in the world. Walk down the dock and head to Red Fish Blue Fish. The halibut fish n chips are freaking amazing! Also tried the jerk fish poutine that was fantastic. Just be prepared for the 45 minute wait. Totally worth it.
So there we have it. Epic scenery, great ship and fantastic food. What are you waiting for?