Thoughts on the cruise ship experience (and the Emerald City)
So I’m back. It was a 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas, which left Seattle on Friday, May 20 and returned on Friday, May 27. It stopped in Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria. We then stayed a few days at the “green” hotel Olive 8 in downtown Seattle to decompress before the journey home.
Observations, in no particular order:
- Almost all of the crew members on the ship were friendly and helpful. It did not seem like a forced friendliness – “be nice to the passengers or you’re fired!” – but the genuine real thing. Most of them are from India, the Philippines, or Indonesia, with some Caribbeans, South Americans, and Europeans. I am sure that the absence of Americans is no mere happenstance.
- The buffet restaurant, the Windjammer Cafe, served decent food but was often way too crowded. Getting a table was quite the challenge. The formal dining room was very very nice, excellent food and top-notch service.
- Electronic message boards on all the decks and a daily newsletter list all of each day’s activities on the ship. It looks as if there are countless things to do, but then you realize that a significant percentage are just ways to sell you stuff (“Jewelry blowout sale!”) That being said, there was no shortage of actual things to do.
- The onboard Internet service, which costs $20 per device per day, was something you’d expect from one of those 1980’s modems, the type where you’d put the phone handset on the modem.
- We didn’t see much of Juneau, just the port area, where we rode on an aerial tramway and I walked a bit on some trails. Skagway seems to exist for no other reason than the cruise ship tourist trade. During the 7-month off season the population drops to 500 and almost all businesses close. Victoria was a gorgeous city, and is the only place in Canada where palm trees grow.
- The boarding/disembarktion process at the Seattle cruise terminal looked chaotic, with lines everywhere, but it was controlled chaos and things moved surprisingly fast.
- Downtown Seattle is nice, with apartment living definitely the up and coming Thing, but oh those hills! It really is one of those cities where I wouldn’t mind living. There were a lot of skells, but that’s not surprising given that Seattle was the home of the original Skid Row. And the Monorail is a very short ride, but fun.
- I thought it was bad when we had to be at Kennedy Airport at 5am to get the Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. Trust me, that is nothing compared to getting an overnight (“red eye”) flight from Seattle back to New York, leaving at 9:30pm and arriving, with time zone changes, around 6:15 in the morning. It was brutal. Never again.