by Jill Romano, Owner and Travel Advisor
What, When, Why, Where!
What? Silversea, Silver Muse
11-day sailing out of Seattle, to Ketchikan, Sitka, Icy Straights, Skagway, Endicot Arm and Juneau
When? August 9-18, 2021
Why? Invited to experience the Return to Cruising with Silverseas!
Where? Alaska - don’t wait, go now and go often!
Today's Port - Ketchikan
Arrived via the Tongass Narrows, be sure to be up early to watch the Alaskan scenery from your balcony or the comfort of your suite. Our local guide says, “there are 2 seasons “Winter and August”!
Travel Tip for Today:
Take a scroll down Creek Street, the painted houses just a few blocks from the pier and enjoy the artisan shops or pick up a souvenir of two!
Fascinating, small port, quite near Juneau (35 miles away) Short gondola ride for those that want to see a bit of the island, walking a short way to the old cannery and shops.
The village prides itself on being home to more “brown bears, than humans”. This is the place to be adventurous, ATV and Jeep expeditions to zip lining through the canopy of trees to kayaks and canoes and of course whale and orca excursions…there is something for everyone.
Travel Tip for Today:
Great port for bear viewing and whale watching….or try the Ziprider!!!
Easy walk into town if you are not doing a shore excursion - highly recommend the White Pass Scenic Railway (departs from a rail line, steps from the ship) ferries over to Haines, visit the Skagway Museum or a variety of wildlife viewing excursions. Remember, as you walk around the town, forms part of the Klondike Gold Rush National History Park!
Travel Tip for Today:
“Did you know…why there are so many jewelry stores in Skagway…it’s because there a max of $132 dollars tax place on any jewelry purchase, no matter the price! So do your shopping here!
Dinner at Kaiseki Tonight
Reservations required and a small booking fee. You can eat at the bar as you watch them prepare each delicious dish or choose for a table for 2 or 4. Each dish was beautifully presented and delish!
Morning Mendenhall glacier and whale watching photo safari through Gastineau Tours is a Must here! Short ride to the harbor about 20 mins, great commentary along the way, combing local history, beautiful sights like Auke Lake (Auke is the Tlingit word for “little lake”, so it’s Little Lake, Lake!)
Great captain, worked for the Coast Guard for years, now working these trips, full of local insights into daily life. Our guide was excellent, working about 20 years and thrilled to be working again!
Quick set up for everyone with cameras and a pointer or two for the Camera/Phone users such as, when you take a video, “start” with the phone horizontal, if you start vertical and then turn…. the video will record in vertical only and you will miss 1/3 of the scene.
Great time of year to see the whales, they are feeding like crazy, and we saw 15+ very near our boat and both the captain and guide were able to tell us, by their tale markings, which whales they know…it was like listening to someone greeting an old friend “look there’s Sasha!” “Over there is Flame and her calf, Bolt” (named for the lightning bolt marking on his tail!)
Travel Tip for Today:
Remember, after madly taking photos and video…put everything down (maybe the binoculars too) and just watch and enjoy…these are precious moments with these majestic mammals.
Short ride Back Loop Road towards the start of our walking tour up to Mendenhall glacier. Gentle walk, through the rainforest, feels a bit like Hobbit Land! Our guide took time to point out where the bears have been feeding on the various plants, the flora and fauna as well as how to approach taking photographs.
Travel Tip for Today:
If you can, get down low and look back up towards your subject (everyone else will take theirs from above…get a different perspective)
We photographed a variety of interesting mushrooms, the Devils Claw, very transparent so take a picture from underneath! And of course, waters walls and streams…currently full of spawning salmon. Markers along the route signal where the glacier was in the early 1900’s outlying the speed at which it has been moving.
Did you know…the ground under your feet is rising at an average of one inch per year! Why, it’s due to glacial isostatic adjustment the pressure from the glaciers, once they have passed through, releases and the ground begins to rise again, fascinating!
Travel Tip for Today:
This type of tour also provides some great vantage points to view the glacier, many tours only take you to the Visitors Center and the effect is very minimal.
Endicott Arm - Dawes Glacier
This was a last-minute change as we were due to visit Tracy Arm but as the ship cannot get in very close, they opted for Endicott Arm. A “must see/do” is the catamaran trip into Dawes glacier. Normally this starts out early in Juneau, but Silverseas arranged for the boat to moor alongside and 120 pax were able to easily board and head out on our journey. Along the way we stopped at Ford’s Terror and Wedding Cake falls, with commentary along the way. But everyone was waiting to see the glacier and we were not disappointed! While the Silver Muse was able to get up to about a mile away, not a bad view for those on board…. we were right up within about a 1/4 of a mile to see this wondrous, wall of ice, with spikes like high-rise buildings. The sound of silence broken only by the “bang” as the ice calved - wow!!!
Returned to the ship in time for lunch and continued to enjoy the view of the Dawes glacier from La Terazza restaurant!
Travel Tip for Today:
Board early if you can and sit on Deck 1, front row, great view. At each stop, they open up access to Deck 2 and 3, where this is plenty of room to view and take pictures. Deck 2 has 2 levels, so if you don’t find a place at the railing, you will still get a great view. Top Deck, go up at least once, but be prepared, even without the wind, it’s a bit chilly!
Two more wonderful days at sea, so it’s off to the Zagara Beauty Spa for a bit of pampering before I decide what else to do!
Today we turn the clocks forward one hour as we make our way back down the coastline to Seattle.
Travel Tip for Today:
“If you love Caviar, like I love Caviar” you can order it anytime, anywhere on the ship. I enjoyed this with a cocktail up in the Observation Library on Deck 11 as we sailed along, at dinner in Indochine and in our suite.
by Wynette Brecher, Travel Consultant
Dinner under the stars...A sunset beyond words...
It was hard to leave such a magical place...
I was fortunate to be able to sail around Tahiti and the Society Islands aboard the Paul Gauguin. If I can assist you with a Tahiti vacation (or anywhere!), please reach out to me.
My trip was pre-COVID. If you'd like to now more about the current health entry requirement, please visit https://cibtvisas.com/health-requirements and choose French Polynesia.
Flying to Tahiti
I flew on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles. It is a nice carrier and we had an on time departure.
Two meals were served (main course and later a snack), I ordered my vegetarian meals in advance and they were quite good. They gave out little amenity bags with socks, eye mask, ear plugs and headphones. There were pillows and blankets on every seat with good entertainment options. We arrived Papeete in the early evening, transferred to ship, and we were in our cabin on the Paul Gauguin by 10:00pm.
Aboard the Paul Gauguin
Ship is lovely, small but very functional. The staff ratio was practically 2-1 and they were very accommodating. The pool is small but just big enough. It was filled with salt water, drained each evening and refilled each morning.
We had a far front cabin on starboard side. The the only issue was that we were above the show room (and went to sleep to the sound of drums) and near the anchor. Luckily we are early risers. I will make sure I don't book that cabin for my clients!
Our cabin was a nice size with tons of storage and good size bathroom. Our balcony was small but great and I could not imagine sailing without one on to that destination. The in-cabin arrival amenity was a big bowl of fresh fruit and bottle of champagne. The fridge is fully stocked with whatever you want as this cruise line is all-inclusive.
We started off our dining experience with a nice food buffet available for the late arrivals (us!). The food was very good, plentiful and fresh. I did meet with head restaurant maitre’ d as there were not many vegetarian options, but he said “we will make you anything you want”, and they did! Desserts were over the top! There were three restaurants on board, two of which required reservations for dinner and passengers need to do that as soon as you can onboard. We did not and could not get into those restaurants til end of our trip. This is another thing I will tell my clients!
The Other Passengers
The ship's capacity is 330 guests. Most are well traveled and over 50 yrs. There were a few small children and some teens, but I hardly ever saw them. There was a mix of nationalities with half of the passengers being French Canadian and the rest were Americans, French and Polynesian.
Spotting wildlife: From our stateroom balcony, we saw dolphins early one morning and some flying fish. I also a turtle in port at Bora Bora.
Water Sports: The water sports marina is off the back of ship, and kayaks, paddle boards, and wind surfers were available. They provide snorkel equipment but you cannot snorkel off back of ship, only ashore on the motus.
Spa & Fitness Center: The fitness center was small but satisfactory but no view. I did not use the spa but it looked nice.
Blessing Ceremony: We did not attend blessing ceremony as it was on the overnight in Bora Bora, but I saw the photos and it looked lovely. Lots of guests took part to renew their wedding vows.
Flowers: During lei and hei making, I made right there on the spot to match my dress. I was adorned with a neck lei as well as a wrist lei!
Entertainment: The shows were good and the Polynesian night was fun!
Shore Excursion - Moorea
Moorea: Our snorkeling excursion in Moorea was cancelled due to lack of sign ups. So we took the ship's shuttle to go to the InterContinental Moorea Hotel. The property was very nice and they gave us full access to pool/beach. Snorkeling was not great on property, but beach was lovely. Food was good, staff very nice and the grounds pretty. They do call their bungalows “over water” but they are actually on land and the deck is over the water. And they are just oversized rooms, not suites like at the Four Seasons. They do have a few that are truly over water and they are in the premium category.
Shore Excursion - Bora Bora
Bora Bora: it is possible to overnight ashore as a shore excursion at the Four Seasons Bora Bora. The resort picks you up in their private boat at the port of Bora Bora and 30 min later you are at the resort. They met us at the dock with juice, towels and leis. The resort is absolutely jaw dropping!
We did a site inspection upon arrival, exploring the property by golf cart. It is all over water bungalows or private villas on the beach. They are converting some of the bungalows to allow families to stay, not connecting, but with a wall built for privacy to house two bungalows together by a walkway.
We stayed in a mountain /lagoon view over-the-water bungalow, which are the best on property.
The bungalows are actually huge suites, large living room with sofa bed, leading to huge bathroom with separate tub and shower area (tub looks out on lagoon!). bedroom has king bed, also facing lagoon. It even had a glass bottom floor and we did see fish. We had room service and we did not want to leave! The deck was also huge with a large table for dining, two chaise lounges and a ladder leading right into the water.
The sunset was beyond words.
As full as the resort was we never saw anyone til we went to the restaurant the next morning. The breakfast buffet was plentiful.
They do about 1 wedding a day at this time of year. We did see a beautiful bride!
The resort had snorkel gear waiting on our deck. We snorkeled in their private lagoon and saw every fish under the sun and gorgeous coral. We were the only ones in the lagoon! Incredible.
Upon departure, the General Manager and Director of Sales came to see us off. They put a shell lei around our neck (right from their fridge, so very cool on a hot day!), and presented a glass of juice. Then the resort shuttled us back on 11:15am boat to the port in Bora Bora and we rejoined the cruise. It was hard to leave such a magical place. It was the cherry on the cake of the trip. Our last night was in Papeete and we had dinner under the stars. It was lovely!
The next morning we had a 4am wake up call, were off the ship by 5am,caught our flight at 7:50am, landed in LAX at 8pm.
Farewell to Paradise!
By Jodi McNamara | Travel Advisor
I was fortunate to be able to join a familiarization cruise aboard the Celebrity Edge. If I can assist you with a cruise (or a trip anywhere!), please reach out to me.
By the way...a familiarization trip, or "fam", is an educational group trip often just for travel advisors. They are hosted by cruise lines, tour operators, hotel owners, local attractions and restaurants. The sightseeing pace or training can be intense, like a cram course, but it allows me to see and learn so much, meet key local people and leave feeling like I really got know a part of the world much better.
Arriving in Ft. Lauderdale
Flying out of Sacramento to save a few dollars on the evening of July 9, the airport was eerily empty. Hardly a soul in sight. We changed planes in Salt Lake City and arrived in Fort Lauderdale about 6:30 am on July 10th. Red eyes are just like I remember them, horrible. A couple notes about the flights, etc. You had to wear a mask at all times on the plane, (even when asleep and in between bites or sips of your beverage) and in the airport, but there was no real social distancing at all. We ended up getting a day room in Fort Lauderdale as our check-in time at the port with Celebrity wasn’t until 3:30 pm. The Rodeway Inn was a great stop to shower, nap and eat before we embarked on the ship. Luckily, we didn’t fly in later as there was a bomb threat at the airport after we left and the airport was closed as flights were diverted. I know of at least one person who didn’t make the cruise because of it. Good reminder to get in the day before so you don’t miss your cruise.
Embarkation on the Edge was a breeze! Most of it was done via the Celebrity app on my phone before we even got onto the ship. The app is pretty cool. It turns your phone into a cabin key and also keeps track of anything you reserve, such as a fine dining night or a show on a daily calendar. Security was very tight at the port, everyone had masks and social distancing was in play. They took our temperature, checked our vaccination records and on we went. The final step of check-in was to go find our Muster Station and check-in there before 4:30 pm. We made our way to the casino and checked in with the personnel located there.
Ship capacity was about 50% capacity with 2908 passengers and almost 1,000 crew. The customer service was unbelievable. They were so excited to be cruising again and we were taken care of like royals. No Masks on ship. It was 99% vaccinated and the 2 people that weren’t vaccinated had already had the virus and they had to wear masks and bracelets. It was so nice to move about the ship without masks.
The Infinity Veranda
Our cabin was an infinity edge balcony. Done is soft blues and creams, it had a balcony that could be part of the room, or partitioned off. The window moved down from above and the glassed in veranda could be either part of the whole room or sectioned off by itself. It was very spacious with the extra footage from the balcony included in the room. There was also a blackout blind that we could lower so we could block out the light. The closet was a nice size as well as the bathroom. The shower was lovely and very roomy. The sitting area in the room was very comfortable also. The décor was very contemporary, sleek and very relaxing. We were on the 7th floor, aft. Dennis felt a bit of ship movement but I didn’t feel anything.
We were assigned to the Cosmopolitan Restaurant on Deck 4 from 5:30 to 9:30 pm. Our servers were Dewi, Suzannah and Queenie. Dinner was excellent every night we ate at the Cosmopolitan! There are four main restaurants, the Cyprus, Normandie and Tuscan. We ate at the Normandie the morning we disembarked. All the menus were very similar and the food was very good.
Typically 3 to 4 courses starting with a bread basket, then soup or salad, a fish, chicken or some steak entrée and dessert. The dress code was smart casual with one night of Evening Chic. There were also the fine dining options: Raw on Five, Eden Restaurant, Fine Cut Steakhouse, and Le Petit Chef & Friends at the Grand Bistro. Luminae was for the Retreat guests and Blu was for the AquaClass exclusively.
Le Petit Chef - WOW Dining!
Dennis and I tried Le Petit Chef and friends at Le Grand Bistro. It is a very clever 3D dining experience that projects an animated movie from the ceiling onto your plate. Four animated chefs engage in a competition by each assembling a course on your plate in front of you at your table. Then the actual waiter comes out with the finished product and puts it on your plate. Very innovative and quite entertaining, we enjoyed the show between each course and it was quite delicious as well.
How Do the Buffets Work Now?
The buffets were open and doing a hearty business. There were dedicated handwashing stations at the entrance and an attendant that directed you to use them in case you weren’t aware. Very well done dining options, fresh fruit, salad, cheese, bread, charcuterie all served to you as you stood in front of the food stations. Entrees varied from chicken, seafood, beef and vegetarian options… I noticed quite a bit of Indian options which were delicious and a Mexican option when we were in Cozumel. A great favorite was the Pizza bar open until 1:00 am. Dessert was different daily and offered cakes, puddings, and other fruity delicacies. Waiters roamed the tables to take drink menus and I never really had to wait for anything – very well staffed. There was a wonderful station for ice cream and cookies as well.
Spa & Fitness Center
The Sea Thermal Suite in the spa is unbelievable. (Aqua class guests have unlimited access). There are a quite a few different experiences.