A Cruise Skeptic Sails to Alaska
I had an excellent trip on the Radiance, and I liked following up its southbound route with city touring and a shorter flight home. I would cruise again on this – or a similarly sized ship with lots of room for a full passenger load to spread out – on a port-intensive itinerary with each stop allowing plenty of time for expeditions and breathing room to explore. I love to be immersed in a destination, getting to know it on my own terms. I also see the ship as more of a floating hotel than an experience of its own. Though I liked some of the activities, I was stir crazy enough on the first sea day that I’d rather not have multiples thereof in a row, or too many in comparison to port time.
Our inside cabin on deck 3 was perfect – dark throughout the 4 a.m. Alaskan sunrise, a satisfying stair climb away from upper deck points of interest, and with enough lounging and working space for two and storage to organize our stuff. With windows all over the Radiance, Spousal Unit and I had no trouble finding hangouts with scenic views. Unless I lucked into some fantastic deal, I would save the cash and go inside in the future.
I loved the Windjammer, where I could get my preferred food done nicely – egg white omelets, fruit, bran muffins, creative marinated salads, equally well-prepared fish, grilled and roasted vegetables, Indian style beans and paneer. Desserts and pastries were small, generally flavorful, and easy to enjoy without overdoing it. The food did get repetitive, as did the music playlist that always seemed to be in the same spot whenever I was in there, but at least it was consistently appealing. Aside from one spectacular strawberry sorbet, I didn’t care for the main dining room, with its limited selection and inconsistent labeling of vegetarian and lighter choices. Ordering custom food seemed needlessly awkward and slow when I could just hit the buffet instead.
The Schooner Bar was a great place to hang out, especially with the highly entertaining Derrek Wayne on piano. Colony Club was oftentimes deserted and nice for chilling with larger groups. Quill and Compass gets special props for carrying La Fin Du Monde.
I regret that I only got to rock climb once.
The primary bill through our travel agent – cruise, flights, hotels, Alaska adventure excursions – was a doozy. Other tours and activities, food and drink, and assorted fun stuff weren’t much in comparison. Even so, this vacation murderized my general entertainment budget, especially given our costs of airfare. I can say that all major discretionary expenses were well worthwhile and critical to the experience I wanted.
My souvenir totem pole, ensconced by Fish Creek in a cylinder of bubble wrap, survived the baggage handling process unscathed.
I would return to Alaska for more hiking and trekking and history and culture and general outdoor fun – either another activity-focused cruise, or hanging around somewhere for a few days of play time. I would most definitely return to Vancouver and Seattle as well, as my taste of those cities only left me wanting more. They are two flavors of a common vibe – hippie cosmopolitan right next to wilderness bike everywhere with much improved summer weather to boot.