Alaskan Cruise – Roundup

If you have been reading Mr Papa’s World the last week or so, then you have read my daily blog our my family reunion cruise to Alaska on board the Celebrity Mercury. Today, I thought I would just provide some wrap-up comments about the cruise.

Alaska

This was our second cruise to Alaska. The last one was 14 years ago on board the Holland America Rotterdam (the second one). Both cruises were absolutely wonderful. Alaska is indeed an very nice place to cruise and I would heartily recommend it to anyone.

That said, there was still a night and day difference between this cruise and the one 14 years ago. On the Rotterdam, I believe we were always the only ship in port on that Alaska cruise. One could easily roam the streets of the ports we visited with seeing a ton of people or feeling congested. That cruise was clearly before Alaska became the cruise destination it now is.

When you cruise Alaska today, be prepared for a mass of people. There was always at least 3 additional ships in port where ever we visited. If you are expecting to get of the ship and see quaint little Alaska towns, forget it. The areas near the docks are now cruise ship tourist areas. The shopping areas will feel like the mall on Christmas Eve.

If you want to avoid the touristy areas and experience Alaska, you will have to take some excursions. Some are pricey, but you will find them worth it. It will also get you away from the docks and experiencing Alaska. I recommend you seriously consider taking some excursions, but leave a bit of time for wandering through town.

Be sure to watch for animal life. The highlight animals we saw were Orca whales, Humpback whales, Bald Eagles and a black bear.

Family Reunion

Having a family reunion on a cruise turned out to be a great way to do one. I only wish that more of my family could have cruised with us. The cruise worked out much better than I could have envisioned. Everyone tended to do their own thing when they needed/wanted to. We ate dinner together most nights and spent some time together on excursions and during the sailing. No one felt obligated to spend time with each other because it was a family reunion. We had great times together and relished the time together. To my knowledge, no one got sick of each other and everyone genuinely had a great time. I hope to arrange more family reunion cruises in the future.

Celebrity Cruises

We tend to favor Celebrity Cruises when we select a cruise. We have found Celebrity to be absolutely wonderful and love the experience they give you on a cruise. This cruise was no different. The crew on board the ship could not have been nicer or more friendly or helpful. The food served in the dining room was absolutely delicious. We rarely eat in the buffet area, finding the dining cuisine to be a highlight of the cruise. We ran into countless numbers of other cruisers that unequivocally stated that the Celebrity food was the best in the industry. Everyone of them had cruised other lines.

There were a few hiccups on this cruise, such as the tendering process in Ketchikan, but none were remotely large enough to have caused us any distress on the cruise. Every time we asked for something on the cruise, the crew jumped to satisfy us. I cannot recommend Celebrity Cruises enough. If you haven’t sailed them before, give em a shot.

The New Celebrity Mercury

We have always found the Mercury to be one of our favorite ships. We tend to avoid the really big ships, liking the coziness of the somewhat smaller ships. We have had several great cruise on the Mercury and were looking forward to her again.

In a rather unique situation, we were booked on this cruise in the exact same cabin as the cruise to Mexico we took on the Mercury last November. On that cruise the cabin was Family Ocean View stateroom on the back of the ship. We had a couple of large picture windows that looked out over the back of the ship. There was a public are between the windows and the railing of the ship. We really enjoyed this room as it is larger than most non-suite staterooms.

In April, Mercury went into dry dock for some refurbishment. Among the changes was the conversion of our stateroom from an ocean view to a balcony – the actual class now called Sunset Veranda. The changes to the room are amazing. The length of the cabin, already large, was expanded by almost two feet as the window and wall on the backend were removed. The public area was converted into a 10′ x 10′ balcony right to the railing on the back of the ship. The class name Sunset Veranda was very appropriate on this cruise as we had many wonderful sunsets off the back of the ship.

As luck would have it, since we had already booked the cabin, there was no additional cost for us in the new cabin. To book the Sunset Veranda rooms now will cost more money as the class is now priced right below the suites, which quite frankly is where it belongs. They are fabulous cabins. Also, on the November cruise, the kids decided to leave themselves a note and taped it to the bottom of one of the drawers in the room. To our surprise, but to the glee of the kids, the note was still there when we boarded Mercury for Alaska.

Another major change to Mercury during the dry dock was the shopping galleries. They were pretty simple and plain before, but have gotten a major overhaul during the dry dock. The quality of the items in the shops was also improved. Now, we don’t spend much time in the shops, but they were jam packed whenever they were open. I still get amazed at how the crowds swarm the shops when there is something going on in jewelry.

Most of the public areas on the ship were also given an facelift. There wasn’t any major construction that I could tell, but carpeting, drapes, upholstery and fabrics were replaced.

In short, Mercury looked absolutely wonderful and gave us a great cruise. We look forward to sailing her again in the future.

Now it’s time to start planning our next cruise. Currently, we don’t have one booked, but are currently centering in a Panama Canal cruise on Celebrity that sails from San Diego and ends up in Fort Lauderdale. This cruise would be Thanksgiving 2008. The problem is that’s almost 18 months away and we may decide to do something sooner.