Note: I am currently sailing a 7-day Alaskan cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. Each day I cover the experience, giving you an inside peek at what it’s like to sail on a “bucket list” cruise to Alaska.
You can view other days here:
- Live Blog (Day 1): Boarding & First Impressions
- Live Blog (Day 2): Wet Weather Doesn’t Spoil the Fun
- Live Blog (Day 3): Sitka, Stunning Peaks, and Skydiving
- Live Blog (Day 4): I’ve Never Seen a Landscape This Amazing
- Live Blog (Day 5): Glaciers, Gold, and Juneau
After seeing Sitka, Skagway, the Endicott Arm, and Juneau on consecutive days, the cruise then turned a corner, literally. It was time to head the way back home.
Heading back toward Seattle (with a stop in Victoria, British Columbia), Day 6 of the cruise was a welcome day at sea. After back-to-back-to-back days of waking early, being out and about all day, exploring ports, and taking it all in, it was nice to be able to relax and feel like I wasn’t missing out on something special if I wasn’t out exploring.
It didn’t hurt that Day 6 saw a turn in the weather. Practically the entire day was gray, overcast, and gloomy. In other words, it wasn’t really the sort of weather that you want to be out in.
Instead, it was about finding ways to entertain yourself on the ship. With the advantage of a covered and heated pool on the ship, I started the day with a dip in the pool, a little breakfast, and then catching up back home on the computer.
In truth, there wasn’t much going on around the ship. Everyone knows that the main activity during a sea day on a Caribbean cruise revolves around the sun and the pool deck. Here, laying out and swimming in the sunshine isn’t really an option.
Still, the staff does put on entertainment. One of the highlights was the “Sexiest Man Competition,” but held in the 270 Theater instead of its normal location on the pool deck. It’s always a crowd favorite and good for some laughs. Let’s just say those are some brave guys who choose to get up in front of a crowd of strangers and flaunt their stuff.
But the real highlight was a performance of Starwater in the same 270 Theater that evening. If you haven’t sailed on a Quantum-class ship before, I have to describe this place.
The theater is at the back of the ship. It’s two levels, but feels more like a lounge (lots of couches as well as small tables and chairs instead of row seating). During the day the theater offers wide views out the massive windows at the back of the ship.
For performances, however, it transforms. Screens cover all the windows and images are projected onto them. The stage has spots that raise and lower, areas of the floor that open and let performers comes through, and even spots in the ceiling where performers can drop down.
But the real unique thing are six digital screens attached to the sort of robotic arms that are normally used to build cars. These screens are all programmed to rotate, tilt, and pan with the performance. It adds a wild effect that I haven’t seen anywhere else than on these ships.
Starwater is hard to describe. The performance is set to music with dancing. At the beginning it’s a bit slow and avant-garde. But as it goes on, the show gets more creative, high-energy, and entertaining. At one point a singer on a raised stage in a ballgown has her dress unfurled by other performers, only to realize it covers the entire stage and has lights projected onto it.
Creative and unique moves are happening all over the stage — it’s anything but a typical song and dance routine. Combined with the screens, the costumes, dance routines, and music, I can say for sure that I’ve never seen anything like it. It would easily be right at home in Las Vegas, but is here in the middle of the ocean.
Exploring Victoria and All Its Beauty on Day 7
It seems that our ship has just been blessed with good weather when in port. All day yesterday was gray and overcast. This morning started the same way, but the closer we got to Victoria, British Columbia, the more clear it became. By the time we hit port, the sky was blue and the sun was shining… but there was strong wind that’s stuck around all day. Get out in the wind and it’s chilly, even if you are standing in the sunshine.
Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about the wind as I booked a tour of Victoria that took our group around to see all the sights in a double-decker bus. If it’s your first-time visiting the area, I highly recommend it. The price was reasonable ($49 for the two-hour trip) and it took us everywhere — downtown, around parks, beautiful neighborhoods, and more — all with the driver giving a narrated tour and sharing information about the city. It was a fantastic way to get a feel for the area.
And having been run all over Victoria, I can tell you first-hand that it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a fairly large city (especially compared to the small Alaskan ports we’ve been visiting), but also seemed extremely friendly and livable. The foliage is lush and blooming right now; seriously, the entire place seemed like a city set inside a garden. It is also safe, clean, and has beautiful architecture.
At the end of the tour, we had the option of either riding back to the ship or being dropped off in downtown. I opted for downtown where I was able to explore a bit outside the bus and get some pictures of this gem of a city without a window between me and what I was seeing.
From there, it was an easy 30-minute walk back through neighborhoods to reach the ship for the end of the trip.
Tomorrow morning our ship docks again in Seattle, where I trust the debarking process goes smoother (and shorter) than embarking. The self-assist departure time begins at 6:30 a.m., hopefully meaning I have plenty of time to get to the airport for a 10:30 a.m. flight.
Final Thoughts on This Cruise to Alaska
So what’s the takeaway from this cruise? To say I’ve been amazed would be an understatement.
Obviously, I’ve taken a lot of cruises, but sailing Alaska is something else entirely. It just can’t be put into words or shown with pictures exactly what it’s like to be sailing right next to mountains, seeing glaciers, or catching a glimpse of a pod of whales. It’s something you have to experience.
I’ve always thought that the Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful part of the country, having spent lots of time in Washington and Oregon. But Alaska really takes that beauty to another level altogether. The ports of call offer so much to see and experience, and it’s all things that you simply can’t do back home.
In short, if you’ve thought about taking an Alaskan cruise but weren’t sure if it’s worth it… it absolutely is. I’m already thinking about when I can come back again.
What About the Ship?
As for the ship, Quantum of the Seas, I am more torn. It’s a great ship, and the size means there’s plenty of indoor spaces and things to do — perfect for a trip to Alaska where it can be chilly.
But that size also started to wear on me as well. Crowds (starting with embarkation) were simply everywhere. Lines for embarkation, lines for shuttles, crowds for prime viewing spots on the ship, reservations quickly filled up, etc.
After a week, I am happy to be getting away from crowds for a bit. I’m thinking a smaller ship might be better for my next cruise.
Still, I know once I’m off the ship, that annoyance will be a distant memory. What I won’t forget is the experience of being able to see some of the most scenic spots not just in America, but on the planet.