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 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
- Live Blog (Days 6/7): A Beautiful Canadian City and Wrapping Up My Alaskan Cruise
Whenever someone thinks of a cruise, pictures of sunshine and poolside drinks no doubt come to mind. Things are definitely different on an Alaskan trip. With yesterday being warm and sunny departing Seattle, you couldn’t ask for a better start. Today the ship is getting the complete opposite!
Our day at sea before arriving at the first port of call — Sitka, Alaska — has been gloomy and overcast, with low clouds and occasional spits of rain. Temperatures are in the upper 40’s, with a strong wind when outdoors due to the ship being underway. In other words, Alaskan weather.
Thankfully Quantum of the Seas has a lot of indoor spaces for passengers. Between the Solarium, the indoor pool, and the SeaPlex at the back of the ship, there are several areas that stay warm and allow you to enjoy yourself without being out in the elements. That’s in addition to the typical inside parts of the ship that you’d expect on any cruise ship like bars, restaurants, and the casino.
In other words, if you had a bird’s-eye view of the ship, it would look like no much is going on. Inside, however, it’s a different story.
The First Day at Sea on the Way to Alaska
One thing I knew would hit me on this cruise was the time change. Seattle is two hours behind where I’m from. Alaska is three hours behind. That means like it or not, I was up bright and early this morning. And even waking up at around 5 a.m. there was still some morning light due to being so far north. (The daily planner said today’s sunrise was at 4:36 a.m.)
Rather than just lay in bed, I went to check out the ship when it’s quiet, and to my surprise, I was far from the only person roaming around. It was by no means busy, but normally on a cruise ship at 6 a.m. you might see one or two other passengers. Not on an Alaskan cruise. Plenty of people were already out and about.
With it being a bit early for breakfast, I took advantage of a still empty Solarium to enjoy the hot tub before things got too crowded. The hot tubs in the Solarium have a front-row view through large glass windows that make it arguably the best view on the ship. (except for the North Star observation pod, more on this in a moment). Soaking while taking in the view… you can’t start a day any better.
After a dip, it was back to the room to change and head to breakfast. I opted to head back to the Solarium to eat at the Solarium Bistro. It offers the same food as the main Windjammer buffet, but in a smaller and quieter atmosphere. Even the crew jokingly called it the “mini Windjammer.”
So what do you do when you’re at sea, it’s still early so not a lot is going on, and the weather isn’t that great? Have a drink of course.
In this case, I opted for a little “adult” coffee — a café latte with a mix of vanilla liqueur. And what do you know? Suddenly, I didn’t feel so cold!
A Cautionary Tale About “Guaranteed” Cabins
Normally around this time I would head back to the cabin and take in some time on the balcony. But I have yet to mention that I opted for the cheaper “guaranteed” cabin where you pick a room type and Royal Caribbean puts you where it pleases. I’ve done this plenty of times before and it’s always been fine. In fact, with some lines I’ve even been upgraded to higher tier rooms than what I booked.
That’s not the case on this cruise.
I was placed in an “obstructed” balcony, which is a bit of an understatement. Right outside the balcony is a lifeboat. If I sit in the chair, then all I see is yellow lifeboat. It was built in Germany, has a max occupancy of 307 people… not that I’ve had time to read all that or anything.
If I stand, then there is the ability to look out at the horizon. Even so, it seems like a funny quirk of ship design that so many balcony cabins sit behind a lifeboat. The guaranteed cabin is what I signed up and paid for, but certainly wasn’t expecting to have this view!
What’s Happening Around the Ship
Given the weather, it’s been a day of figuring out ways to keep entertained. And while there is plenty to do on the ship outside of the pool area, many things require reservations.
For instance, I went to the RipCord by iFLy to see about trying it out (I couldn’t register in the Royal Caribbean app.) It is complimentary on sea days, but completely booked already. So I opted for a paid reservation tomorrow. To say I’m excited to try it out is an understatement.
It’s a similar story with the North Star, which takes you up and over the ship in an observation pod. While I couldn’t book anything for today, I do have a reservation coming up later in the cruise to try it as well.
As you’d expect with no one wanting to go outside, the interior areas of the ship are busier than usual. The Royal Esplanade was absolutely packed around mid-morning. The indoor pools have plenty of people in them, and the Solarium — which was so calm first thing this morning — was packed by the afternoon. Even the gym, which I visited for a workout, was the busiest I’ve ever seen on a cruise.
The outside decks, however, are largely a ghost town given the bad weather.
Therefore, the afternoon consisted of having lunch in the dining room (I ordered a Mediterranean Lamb Pita that was surprisingly not good at all, but Royal Chocolate Cake that was fantastic), joining in some trivia contests and onboard game shows, chatting up fellow passengers and watching some of the competitions around the ship.
Tonight is formal night, and the ship seemed to transform with everyone dressed up. While I don’t usually participate, it is fun to see the ship go from casual to glamorous in just a few hours. However, with it being formal night I decided to opt for a casual dinner at Harp & Horn.
The pub serves a small menu of food items that are all priced fairly cheap. I ordered the Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos… and it was by far the best thing I’ve eaten so far on the trip. Perhaps best of all, it only cost $4!
Following dinner, I checked out tonight’s performance in the main theater. The show is a performance called Goddess. It’s a band from the Philippines whose lead singer was a major contestant on the Filipino versions of X-Factor and The Voice. I’m not normally big into those sort of singing contests, but there was no doubt that this woman’s voice was legit. Despite her small stature, she could sing like nobody’s business. Very impressive.
Leaving the show around 9 p.m. the sky had cleared somewhat. With it still being daylight this far north, you could see the snow-capped mountains of Graham Island. It’s the last bit of Canada before we finally reach Alaska.
Tomorrow the cruise visit our first port of call: Sitka, Alaska.
- One thing I’ve noticed is that very little of this cruise is far from land. There is almost always something to see off the starboard side of the ship as we skirt the coast up to Alaska.
- No matter how many times I cruise, I still can’t figure out the reservation system for restaurants and shows. Online before the cruise, it says that I can’t yet reserve. Once I’m on the ship, spots instantly all seem full. Someone is getting these reservations for prime spots and times, but it’s not me!
- Internet has been very hit or miss (but honestly mostly miss). There was even a note in today’s Cruise Compass that says the staff is “aware of this ongoing issue.” While I expect to have some problems here and there (it’s not easy getting Internet to a moving ship), it’s to the point where a refund may be needed. I’ve heard lots of passengers mentioning the issue as well, so it seems to be a widespread problem.