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The Last Frontier or Bust! Alaskan Cruise 2022

What do you get when you combine my favorite cruise line and my favorite airline😉? A fantastic Alaskan Cruise with memories to last a lifetime on the Carnival Spirit. One of the downfalls of being a travel agent is the number of new bucket list vacations that I add to my list each month. While Alaska has always been on the list, it is hard to pass it up when an opportunity presents itself. While research cruises for a client one night, I came across an opportunity to sail to the Last Frontier and see what all of the hullaballoo was about. The only problem was who was I going to take with me? I know, I know a major real world problem. After some thought, I thought why not ask my Mom to come with me again. After all our last cruise ended with a bang...the shutdown of the cruise industry for a year and a half. Fingers crossed this one goes a little better. This time how ever I enlisted the assistance of an accomplice to join us, my sister and nephew. So in the wee hours of late May, I hatched a plan to journey north to Alaska with my mom, sister and nephew.

Step one: Convince my Mom to journey with me to Alaska on a 6 night cruise onboard the Carnival Spirit. Not much convincing needed. Step two: Convince my sister and nephew to join us and to keep it a secret for a month so my Mom has no idea she will be joining us. Easier then convincing my Mom. Step Three: Nail down the details of the trip and get all of the arrangement made. After securing the cruise, flights, and pre-cruise hotel, it was time for the ultimate rouse. While most of what I told my Mom was true, a little deception was necessary in order to keep her from finding out the truth.

So in the run up to the cruise, we had a few icebergs to avoid, if you will. To start off, my Mom kept borrowing everything my sister owned for travel. First it was her suitcase and then it was her hiking boots. Then we started to see airlines running into issues day after day with delays and cancellations. Now like an avid cruiser, I set our flights for the day before however it seemed like that might not be enough. So with a few clicks and some price changes we were now headed into Seattle two days ahead of the cruise. All that was left was to pack and surprise my Mom with the additional passengers. The plan was to take it all the way to the airport and tell her as we were checking in.

The day finally arrived and everyone was patiently waiting at my house for me to get done with a meeting. My sister had brought my Mom down to my house, cause "she had nothing better to do" and was going to head home once we left. Unfortunately the meeting went long, which it did, and I felt my sister riding with us to bring my car back home so it did not have to sit at the airport was a great idea. Little did my Mom know my sisters bags were already packed in the car. Once I packed up the rest of the car, leaving my hat, gloves, and coat behind mind you, we were off to the airport. As we go to the airport, I conveniently parked in the terminal ramps "forgetting" my sister was taking the car back home and we headed in to check in for our flight, which we had already done. As we stood there getting our luggage to checked, guess who walked in? With a completely shocked look on her face and smiles all around the adventure had officially begun.

After a short flight to Seattle, we collected our belongings and headed to the light rail for our transfer downtown. Normally I like to take an Uber or pre-set transfer, but for this trip our hotel was within blocks of the light rail station and it literally saved us a lot of money. After about a 45 minute ride to downtown, we took the scenic route to the Sheraton Grand Seattle, meaning I walked the wrong way after getting off the train and had to back track. But it did help get my steps in for the day. After a smooth and painless check in, it was off to the room for dinner and the ever popular COVID test. I had purchased eMed tests for this trip. The testing process was smooth and convenient and can be done 24/7. Once the tests were complete it was time to turn in for the day.

For this trip, we planned a full day in Seattle before the trip. This essentially gave us another port stop on the cruise. We purchased the CityPass for Seattle which gave us access to five different activities while in Seattle. If you ever stay in Seattle, the Sheraton Grand Seattle or the Westin Downtown are great hotels for pre-cruise stays. they are within walking distance of the Pike St Market, the waterfront, and a short monorail ride away from the Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle and other attractions. With our free day, we enjoyed our time at the Space Needle, Pop Culture Museum, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass at the Seattle Center. We then headed back to the waterfront and wondered through the Pike St Market and the Seattle Aquarium before we headed out on our Harbor Cruise. The day could not have been better. My sister even found a new love interest! Sorry had to. For just over $100 each, we were treated to a day of adventures and experiences that kicked off the trip right. I also used this day to find a coat and a hat which came in handy later on the trip. Next Stop: Embarkation Day on the Carnival Spirit.

Embarkation day is one of my favorite days of the entire cruise. This is the day you get the opportunity to explore a brand new ship, unless you have sailed it before, and see the wonders that each of these ships offer. As a fan of Royal Caribbean, this was my first sailing with Carnival Cruise Line in five years. After a very short embarkation, like maybe 15-20 minutes, we were onboard exploring everything the Spirit had to offer. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by the ship. For an older ship I found it well maintained with enough activities to keep everyone entertained. As any cruiser knows, once you have your bearings it is time to find the food.

The Spirit offered a wide selection of dining options including the main buffet, Guy's Burgers, the Blue Iguana, and more. I will say the one disappointment I had with this ship was the food quality. The main dining was fantastic each night, however the buffet left something to be desired. Guy's Burgers and the Blue Iguana along with the Deli offered the best options for lunch. For this trip, we did not do any specialty dining and stayed in the main dining room each night. As always, the service in the main dining room was outstanding. Our waitstaff were very attentive, however we were never asked if we wanted something to drink other than water for dinner. The first nights dinner was rather interesting, as we set sail and were enjoying dinner, the ship shift significantly back and forth. Quite interesting looking out the window and seeing nothing but water and then sky. We found out later that apparently were turned quickly to avoid a whale. Not sure how you would write up a ship verses whale accident report, but at least it wasn't an iceberg.

For this trip, we were booked in a balcony stateroom on the Panorama deck. Carnival was even supplying sharks with your life vest so you did not need to wait for one if you fell overboard. This deck is just below the Lido deck and offered great views of the scenery along the way including whales and other sea life and also provided for some very loud music from the Lido deck at night. For the most part however the music was done by bed time or shortly after. The room was small but offered a nice outdoor space. We had a little bit larger balcony which was nice as that is where I spent most of my time. Prior to the trip, I purchased a nicer camera for the business so I could take real photos. The camera did great, the photographer, not so much. The beds on the ship were amazing and some of the best I have slept on while traveling. The room did lack outlets, it had one, which made me happy that I had brought my adapter so we had a few more plug ins.

The entertainment at night was decent. I often spent time in the comedy club after the main show and before going to bed. Most of the acts were decent and put a smile on your face. The main shows good, but I would not say they were over the top good. The performers did a good job, but it seemed to lack some of the flair the other cruise lines have. The ship also had a Naturalist onboard which I really enjoyed. the only problem was you could not hear him if you were in your stateroom or on your balcony. The Naturalist pointed out whales and wild life along the way and also provided some in depth insight to Alaska. It was really nice to learn a little about the Tongass National Forest and Alaska while we sailed.

Our first day was spent at sea traveling past Vancouver Island. I have sailed many Caribbean cruises, but this was my first to Alaska and wont be my last. I found it really nice being able to sit on your balcony and watch the scenery as is goes by instead of looking at open water. It was also fun chasing tail as I call it, watching for whales as you sail by. We saw several whales and other marine life including a few sunfish and jellyfish.

Our first port of call was not really a port of call. Our first stop was the Tracy Arm Fjord with a visit to the South Seward Glacier. However, we purchased an excursion that allowed us to get off the ship onto a smaller boat which took us right up to both the North and South Seward Glacier. If you are ever on a cruise to Alaska and get the opportunity to get off the ship to see the glaciers, I highly recommend it. It was the most amazing experience and a highlight of the trip. We got to see several glaciers, ice sausages (Harbor seals), waterfalls, cascades, and more. The only downside was it rained some of the time and I looked like I took a shower in my clothes. It is important however to book it early as it sold out and those who booked on the ship missed out because one of the boats broke down and had their excursion cancelled.

Our next stop was Juneau, Alaska, one of only two capital cities you can not drive to. Can you name the other? I thought it rained a lot the day before but boy was I wrong. What some people might not know is that Juneau is part of the Tongass National Forest which is mostly rainforest. Go figure, it is going to rain. Anyway, our day started off with a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier and Nugget Falls. After we boarded our shuttle, we met our driver Bill from Minnesota, and had about a 20 minute drive glacier. The glacier has receded significantly but is still visible for several locations. Note to self, when you buy a camera to take long range pictures of beautiful scenery, don't leave the battery on the ship. We hiked to Nugget Falls which is a really easy path that is maybe a mile and a half round trip. Just standing at the base of the waterfall watching the power of the water was awe inspiring

After a brief stay at the glacier, we headed back into town for some shopping for some and some hiking and exploring for me. Upon arriving back downtown, I took the Mt. Roberts Tramway to the top and did a little exploring. I hiked for about an hour and a half up Mt. Roberts until I needed to turn around due to the time. I wish I had more time and wore better clothes. Wearing jeans and hiking shoes, that are not really hiking shoes, is not the best idea in the world when it is constantly raining. Needless to say my jeans were soaked from the rain and the brush along the trail, but the views were amazing and I had a battery. After taking the tram back down the mountain, a quick shopping trip and back to the ship in time to sail away.

Stop three took us to Ketchikan, Alaska home of the Banana Slug. I spent sometime looking at what to do in this port and decided that I wanted to take a hike to Carlanna Lake and beyond. The rest of the group went and saw the lumberjack show and did some more shopping. I got off the ship right away and grabbed a cab to the trailhead. After a short ride and a $20 buck, I was off on another adventure. The hike to the lake is straight up hill on an improved path. Once at the top, the views are spectacular. I continued on the hike through the forest and up the mountain to several waterfalls and an avalanche fall area. I found the trails well marked and easy to navigate, but not necessarily easy to traverse. This was not a hike for those that have a difficult time getting around. I made it to a clearing where I could see the lake below and felt this was a good time to turn around. There is something peaceful about walking in the wilderness alone with some music and a camera to document your journey. However, not the best idea doing it alone, luckily Yogi stayed away. Elliot however greeted me at the lake on my way down. For those that are wondering, Elliot is a deer from Open Season. The deer just stood there and looked at me. He had a look on his face like, "what is that fat guy doing hiking?" But we parted ways and I headed back to downtown Ketchikan, a little less wet this time, for a quick stop at the shops and then back to the ship.

Our last stop was a quick stop in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. For those that may not be familiar with the law, ships sailing from US port to US ports that are not US flagged must make an international stop before returning to the homeport. This is that stop. We had roughly three hours to spend in Victoria which was a shame. I found the city to be pretty amazing. We had just enough time to walk downtown, buy some stuff we did not need, and get back on the ship, Ah. The lights of the city made it worth the walk however. Then it was time to get back on the ship and head for home.

While Carnival is not usually my first choice for cruise lines, I was pleasantly surprised by the cruise itself. I think they did an fantastic job of offering a great vacation and a great price. The ship staff were friendly and did a great job as expected. The entertainment and overall cruise experience was memorable in a good way, but the food in the buffet was more on the meh side especially for lunch. This is a trip that I would recommend to anyone and I would recommend this particular itinerary as well, although it would be nice to have a few more hours in each port.

On a side note, on my very first cruise back in 1998, a nice gentleman on the plane next to Danielle and I told use to avoid the casino and not waste our money. On the last day before heading home, I saw that advice be completely useless. I watched as a passenger put a $10 bill into a machine and turn it into $400. I then watched as that same person put a $20 in a different machine and turn it into over $2,000 in three spins! What the heck. Guess I should have played more slots. Anyway, tears were shed and tantrums were thrown for not playing that machine, but I'm getting over it.

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