Multi-Gen trips are when Parents, grandparents, grandkids, etc all travel together. With the Skip-Gen trips grandparents can enjoy some quality time with just the grandkids. These trips have become more popular due to there being more Baby Boomers ready to travel and share their experiences with family. It also helps that grandparents and kids have more free time so it is easier for them to travel.
In my 21 years of booking vacations I have helped a lot of grandparents take their grandkids to Disney. Sometimes it was a tradition to take one of the grandkids when they hit a certain age. I always thought it was sweet and something that must be fun for the grandkids to look forward to. These usually tended to be grandparents taking younger kids. So it might have been they took them before starting 1st grade or maybe after a new baby sibling arrived.
More recently I am seeing grandparents taking older grandkids and taking them on more adventurous trips. Taking a grand kid on a special trip when they graduate high school or middle school have become more popular now. They are choosing trips like expeditions or river cruises in Europe where the kids are also learning and really immersing themselves in the culture. On my Alaska expedition cruise this summer there were 2 sets of Grandparents on a Skip-Gen trip with a grandchild that had graduated from Middle School. The kids were very interested in whales and marine biology so that was why they chose this cruise. I thought it was great that their grand parents were taking them on a trip that might help them decide what they want to do when they go to college. Another thing Grandparents are doing is taking grandkids to see where they came from and learn about their ancestors.
No matter what type of trip Grandparents take grandkids on I think it is a wonderful way to bond and create a special memory for them all. Happy Grandparents Day to all of my readers that are grandparents and I hope I have inspired you to start a new vacation tradition.
Let's talk about Wish staterooms today. The staterooms on Disney Wish might just be my favorite on any ship I have ever sailed. Sure the nautical feel in the staterooms on the other Disney ships is nice but I personally love the lighter more whimsical rooms on Wish. Don't even get me started on the way to amazing suites onboard! Even the lowest priced room - which is a standard inside room - still feels spacious and luxurious. Of course then you also have the over the top, first of its kind, in the ship's funnel, Wish Tower Suite - which is bigger than my house!
Disney Wish has a total of 1,244 staterooms. 70% of those do have a verandah. Disney is a premium cruise line and you definitely feel that in the staterooms. Even the smallest room on Wish is bigger than most rooms on the cheaper Mass Market Cruise Lines. You also feel the difference in the amenities in your room. Disney puts so many little touches in the rooms that they are more than just a place you sleep while on vacation. Things like the split bathroom to even the new fridge on Wish that is a drawer just make cruising with a family easier.
Inside staterooms - Disney Wish changed things up for the inside rooms and does not offer any of the Deluxe Inside rooms so that does mean none of the inside rooms will have a split bathroom. They also did not bring the virtual portholes from Dream and Fantasy onto Wish. The Standard Inside Staterooms rooms are 169 sq ft and can sleep 3 or 4 guests. There are only 121 inside rooms.
Oceanview staterooms - There are 2 Category options for Oceanview either a Deluxe Oceanview (218 sq ft) or Deluxe Family Oceanview (237 sq ft). The Deluxe Family offers some rooms that can sleep up to 5 guests. The Oceanview room I was able to tour on my cruise had a very large and easy to sit in porthole. It was one of the Deluxe Family rooms so I am not sure if all rooms have that large window or not. There are 170 Oceanview rooms.
Verandah staterooms - There are also 2 Categories either Deluxe Oceanview with Verandah (243 sq ft) or Deluxe Family Oceanview with Verandah (284 sq ft). The Deluxe Family rooms can sleep up to 5 guests. The room I had on my cruise was a Verandah and while it really wasn't that much different in its layout than the other 4 Disney ships it still felt bigger I think because the room was so much lighter. My room was one of the ones that was slightly on what I call the bump out so we did have a sort of slanted verandah which seemed to have a little extra space. This is when it can be important to book your cruise early if you want to try and snag one of these "bump out" rooms. Sadly though my guess is if Disney realizes those rooms are more popular they might start charging more for them. There are 877 Verandah rooms.
Concierge rooms - There are a total of 76 concierge rooms which are broken up into 5 Categories and a couple of these are totally new room types for concierge. I will start with the Category that only has 1 room and that is the Wish Tower Suite (1966 sq ft). This is also the only concierge room not located inside the concierge area. Yes it is very cool that is located inside the ship's funnel and yes I did get to tour it. It is gorgeous and spacious, however I also feel like it might be kind of noisy because of where it is located. Just imagine the Pirate's night show going on right outside your room. Also since it is in the funnel it does not have a verandah so that means you have no outdoor area as part of your suite. Personally I feel like for the price tag Disney put on that it really isn't worth it.
My favorite suite was one of the 4 Royal Suites with Verandah. There are 2 options in this Category either a 1 Story Royal Suite with Verandah (1507 sq ft) or a 2 Story Royal Suite with Verandah (1759 sq ft). I loved the 2 Story Suite! It has a beautiful spiral staircase leading to the bedroom and the most amazing bathroom (yes I did hop in the tub for a photo). The first floor of the suite has another bedroom, dining and living area and a small kitchen. Besides the amazing bathroom it also has the best verandah ever! It is sort of a wedge shaped since it is at the very front of the ship but it has a nice size table and chairs, loungers, and a large hot tub. The 1 story suites are also very nice and have a large wrap around balcony so even though they don't have a second story they pretty much have just as much space and feel just as luxurious. Both the 1 and 2 Story Suites can sleep up to 6.
Then there are 18 of the 1 Bedroom Suites with Verandah (608 sq ft). These can sleep up to 5. Even though their bathrooms do not have a view they are still pretty amazing for a bathroom.
There are 46 of the Family Oceanview Staterooms with Verandah (296 sq ft). These are similar to the regular verandah rooms except they have a king bed. They can sleep up to 5.
Another new category of room for Concierge is the Family Oceanview staterooms (357 sq ft). These rooms have floor to ceiling windows. I didn't get to tour one of these but I really wanted to. There are only 7 of these rooms.
No matter what category you choose, all the rooms are beautifully decorated and very comfortable. I love the artwork that is above the headboard of each bed. There are different themes on the decks and the art in the rooms will match the hallway theme for that deck. The theme is in the hallway carpet and in the lighting. Even the little metal critter that is outside each door now also matches the theme of the deck. So I am thinking we can longer say fish extenders but maybe need to call them Wish extenders. There are just so many amazing little details everywhere on Wish and I love that Disney puts just as much detail in every stateroom too!
This week let's talk dining on Wish! Disney puts so many details into their dining locations that no matter where you choose to eat it is about more than just food. There are the 3 main dining rooms along with the 2 adult only dining locations, plus the buffet type, and pool deck food court. There are other places to grab snacks and stuff too.
Back in the late 90s when Disney Cruise rolled out their first ship they debuted a whole new way to do the main dining room on a cruise with rotational dining. On all other ships you ate dinner in the main dining room every night at the same time and same table. Disney made dining so much more fun by having 3 main dining rooms and having guests rotate each night to a different dining room but their serving team also goes with them.
Wish still offers rotational dining but it is a bit different than the other ships. Wish is pulling more characters into dining with Worlds of Marvel and Arendelle. Then the 3rd option is 1923 which is actually 2 smaller dining rooms with a Roy side and a Walt side.
This is going to be your quiet, more upscale of the 3 dining rooms. There are so many things to look at all around that you might find yourself wanting to explore instead of eat. I went back in to walk around during the day when it wasn't serving food just to look at all the art. Dinner in here was wonderful. I order the filet for dinner and I have to admit I love a cruise where the main dining room includes stuff like that on the menu. If you are not able to snag a reservation in Palo or Enchante then 1923 will be the next best thing. If you are cruising with the kids this is the one you might want to send them off to the kids club so you can enjoy a nice dinner.
Worlds of Marvel
I will be honest this was my least favorite dining room. Part of it was all the noise and tvs constantly playing but I was also expecting something a bit different too. I was hoping there was going to be some kind of cool interactive portion other than just pushing a button. The food was good and I get that they tried to theme the food to the Marvel characters. I was thinking of this as being the Animator's Palate of Wish but it is not. While the kids (and some adults) might enjoy Antman and Wasp making an appearance I don't really like having characters at dinner.
If you have been on the Magic in the past couple of years you will notice the similarity between Arendelle and Rapunzel's Royal Table. Both are themed around planning a party with live singing on a center stage. Even though it was a bit noisy and also involved characters making the rounds to the tables I did enjoy this one more than Marvel. The food had a bit of a Norwegian theme which ties in really well and was really good.
This is the buffet type dining area. It is set up similar to Cabanas but yet somehow seemed easier to navigate and just a little more upscale. I love that Disney made it a buffet type that no one is serving themselves. Cast Members at each station will plate your food for you. The one thing that is a bit of a pain is no trays so you might have to either balance a couple plates at once or make a few trips. Be sure you walk all the way to the back of the market even though each side has the same stuff the back has totally different things, and usually some of the best stuff. Be sure to check out all of the cool design details like milk bottle lights and colander shades. The posters all around are fun too.
Mickey and Friends Festival of Food
This was one of my favorite places to grab food. While I liked the pool deck food stations on Dream and Fantasy it always just seemed too busy in that area. Wish has tucked the pool deck food stations into a quieter spot and offers many more options. There are 5 stations (just like there are the fab 5). My favorite was Mickey's Smokestack Barbeque. The pulled pork, mac-n-cheese, and sweet potato fries were just as good as any BBQ place I have been to on land. I always love the soft serve ice cream station on every ship so I of course stopped by Minnie Ice Cream! Donald's Cantina almost always had a line so while that wasn't my favorite it was a clear favorite of others onboard. I was told if you like Chipotle you will love Donald's Cantina. Goofy's Grill is where you can grab all your usual grilled faves. Daisy's Pizza Pies served a few different types of pizza. Personally I would head right to Festival of Foods as soon as I boarded instead of Marceline Market.
Palo and Enchante
These are the adult only dining options and I didn't try either on my short cruise so I can't review the food but I was able to tour both and they look like they would make for a lovely romantic evening. These also have an extra fee whereas all the other locations I talked about today are included in your cruise fare.
Last week I talked about the adult areas on Disney Wish and today I will talk about the Kid Areas. I know the adult areas sounded pretty cool but let me tell you the kids are the ones who get the best spaces onboard Wish! Don't worry adults, you do get the chance to check out these spaces during an open house (this is usually the first day onboard so be sure to check the schedule). Yes that does mean you can try out the twisty slide that takes you from Deck 3 down to Deck 2 right into the club (here's a tip - keep your elbows close to your body). Even if you are cruising without kids you can still check out these fun spaces.
Basically almost all of Deck 2 is dedicated to the kids. This just makes total sense to me since staterooms on Deck 2 are not as popular on the other ships.
Yes you heard that right on Wish Disney isn't splitting the kids up. I love this way of doing it. The Oceaneer's Club is really what takes up most of Deck 2 and while it is a big space it is all set up with totally different themed areas and some that can be closed off from the rest of the club during certain events. This is the club you will take the twisty slide into if you choose.
The youngest in the club will enjoy Mickey and Minnie Captain's Deck. It is a nautical themed playground geared towards the smaller club guests. It also has Minnie's Captain Academy which has some fun challenges tied to STEAM principals so the kids are learning while having fun.
Walt Disney Imagineering Lab - this is a nice open area with lots of places for kids to sit down and do some hands on activities and experiments. This area also has the Ride Studio where kids can design their own roller coaster and then virtually ride. For us grown ups there are lots of cool things on the shelves to check out in this area.
Fairytale Hall - All the princess fans will love this area. You can get comfy in Belle's Library where you can read and act out stories, or test out your powers in Anna and Elsa's Sommerhaus, or get creative in Rapunzel's art studio.
Marvel Superhero Academy - This is where superhero kids will love to hang out. They can design their own super suit and then virtually battle enemies. They will also have time to hang out with some of their favorite heros too.
Star Wars: Cargo Bay - Ok so I am just going to say this area is going to make the adults wish they could be kids again. Wish added a couple Star Wars areas and this kids area beats the adult Hyperspace Lounge! It has the first of its kind interactive experience called Creature Challenge. Kids get to learn about some of the craziest creatures from across the galaxy. There are so many cool things to see in this area!
Vibe is where the oldest (actual) kids aged 14 - 17 onboard can hang. Just like with Vibe on Dream and Fantasy Disney chose a prime spot to put this area. They don't have the front outside deck on this ship since that became the Rainforest room area but they do have a nice spot up on Deck 12 with lots of floor to ceiling windows. It is designed like a Parisian Loft and has lots of cool retro stuff all around. I totally would love to hang out here! Adults might actually get to use a part of this space for some events though since Disney also included a way to close off a portion of Vibe which they call The Hideaway. When closed off from Vibe, The Hideaway will serve as a place for events for the 18 - 20 crowd and also for some of the tasting events onboard.
One more area the kids will love is Hero Zone. This is a multi-function sport zone. What makes it even better than any other cruise sports zone is that it is indoors which means AC! It will have the usual sports activities like basketball, soccer and things like Jack-Jacks diaper dash. Plus at certain times it hosts the big event - The Incredi-Games! This is when a big inflatable obstacle course themed to The Incredibles will appear and guests can race each other through the course. I did try it and let me just say I wasn't very much like Elastigirl at all.
The Wish has so many fun places for kids that I won't be surprised to hear back from clients saying they never saw their kids or that the adults were so jealous of all the fun things the kids got to do onboard!
I have always said a Disney Cruise is great for an adult only vacation. I know people think I am crazy but Disney really does such a good job at having amazing spaces for the kids that they don't want to leave. Disney also has plenty of adult only spaces too that you really could almost barely see kids on your cruise.
Disney Wish changed things up a little with some of adult spaces some good, some bad, and some just too small. Let's start with the good and my favorite place on all of the Disney the ships -
The Rainforest Room
Disney Wish has my new favorite Rainforest room. Have you been on Disney Dream and Fantasy and looked down at the outside area of the Vibe Club for the teenagers and thought oh wow they have the coolest outdoor space on the ship? Well I have, and I am guessing I wasn't the only adult that thought that because Disney Wish has taken that space and made it adult only as the outside area for the Rainforest room. It is lovely outdoor area with lots of comfy seating and 2 hot-tubs (Mickey's ears in the photo below is where the hot tubs are).
Inside the Rainforest room has all the things you will usually find - heated loungers, sauna, steam room, showers, and new an ice room! It is a great place to just relax and enjoy quiet adult time.
The Bars and Lounges
Wish changed the adult distract idea from the other ships and instead of putting all the bars in one spot they are a little more spread out on Wish. There is not a nightclub on Wish which I think is OK. The hottest bar right now is Hyperspace Lounge. It is so popular it requires making a reservation - which at this time you need to do once you get onboard. I have feeling Disney is working on a different plan for that so guests can reserve in the app (at least I hope they do that).
Hyperspace Lounge is similar to Skyline on the Dream and Fantasy but with a Star Wars theme. The drinks are interesting and there is even on that cost $5000! As of right now when you make a reservation you get 45 minutes to spend in the Lounge which is pretty much about enough time for 1 drink. It was fun watching the jump to light speed and seeing where we were next based on the large picture window behind the bar.
Nightingales is a cozy piano bar with lots of cute little Cinderella touches. I love the chandelier about the piano that looks like bubbles wrapped in musical notes. I like that is always has big windows to the outside so you also have a view.
The Bayou is an open lounge with a small stage for live music and entertainment. It has a nice feel to it but I am not sure if ends up feeling like the most adult only place since anyone could walk walk on either side. Plus all the shops are around it so it is a busy area.
Keg and Compass Pub is the place to go if you are a pub fan. It has a classic Norwegian nautical feel with lots of cool hidden touches like be sure to check out what the wooden octopus around the porthole is holding. I also love all the vintage luggage that makes up the wall of the bar and the atlas drawers.
Hook's Barbery - yes I know what you are thinking how can a barber shop be adult only. Well Hook's host some special 21 and up evening events in a secret bar offering whiskey tastings.
Cove Café is an adult favorite on all ships where you can get your favorite coffee shops drinks along with some adult beverages too. Cove Café on Wish is located in very aft sort of hidden.
The Rose is up with the adult only dining options. It is a nice quiet place to grab a drink either along with your dining reservation at either Enchante or Palo or just a visit to bar. It has a lovely upscale Beauty and Beast theme along with some nice windows to enjoy a nice sunset with your adult beverage.
There are of course the other usual bars scattered around the ship like by the pool or outside the theaters.
A Disney Cruise Staple, Palo, is also on Wish but with it's new upscale steakhouse feel instead of that Italian feel on the other ships. Enchante is the French themed adult dining indulgence. Michelin Star Chef Arnaud Lallement designed the menu. You can feel Lumiere's influence on the deco in this dining room while Cogsworth put his touches on Palo. Snagging reservations for either of these is not going to be easy so be sure to be paid in full before your Castaway window opens (sorry Silver member or first time cruisers but you might have to hope to try and snag something once onboard as the online reservations fill up fast).
Quiet Cove Pool
This is where I was most disappointed. When I heard the adult only pool was going to be an infinity at the very aft of the ship I was picturing a large area with a really cool pool going across the back of the ship. Unfortunately it is a small pool with not much space around to lounge or anything. There also isn't much shade back there either. Don't get me wrong I am still happy to have the back of the ship as the adult only are as opposed to the front but it just seems way smaller than the Quiet Cove on the other ships.
Disney Wish Facts
Built at Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany
Maiden Voyage - July 14, 2022
Home Port is Port Canaveral - she will be sailing 3 and 4 night Bahamas cruises
Registered in The Bahamas
The first Liquid Natural Gas fueled ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet
Can hold up to 4,000 Passengers
Approximately 144,000 Gross tons
341.13 Meters long (1,119 feet)
90% of staterooms have an ocean view.
121 inside rooms, 170 Oceanview rooms, 877 Verandah rooms, 76 concierge rooms.
First ever Suite built inside the ship's funnel! Wish Tower Suite can sleep up to 8 guests.
36 mobility and communication accessible staterooms. 56 communication only staterooms.
902 connecting staterooms.
Queen beds in all non-concierge rooms and most concierge rooms have King beds.
3 Main Dining rooms - Arendelle, Worlds of Marvel, 1923
2 Adult Exclusive Dining - Palo Steakhouse and Enchante by Chef Arnaud Lallement
2 Casual/Quick Dining - Marceline Market and Mickey and Friends Festival of Foods.
5 Nightclubs, Lounges, Bars - Star Wars Hyperspace Lounge (reservations required), Keg and Compass, The Rose, Nightingales, The Bayou.
5 Areas for kids in Oceaneer Club - Star Wars Cargo Bay, Fairytale Hall, Walt Disney Imagineering Lab, Marvel Super Hero Academy, Mickey and Minnie Captain's Deck. Takes up pretty much all of deck 2. The older kids also still have their spaces in other areas on the ship like with Edge, Vibe, and The Hideaway. Of course the littlest sailors also have the It's A Small World Nursey.
Grand Hall - 3 deck high glittering castle on the seas. Instead of having a mid-ship elevator Disney uses this area as an immersive entertainment venue.
7 pools - one that is an adult only infinity pool at the very back of the ship.
2 Movie Theaters that will run both brand new movies along with some old favorites too.
Cinderella is the bronze statue that is the featured in the Grand Hall.
Rapunzel is the character hanging out on the very back of the ship - she is using her long hair to hold her up while she paints the ship's name on.
I really think the Disney Wish is a gorgeous ship with a more upgraded feel than the other 4 Disney ships. It feels more like a floating castle than a nostalgic cruise liner. Wish is only slightly bigger than Dream and Fantasy but if you ask me it actually didn't feel bigger. I think having just the 2 elevator areas made it feel easier to navigate and not as long of a ship as Dream and Fantasy.
Disney continues the rotational dining for dinner. Even though on other cruise lines I will opt for the anytime dining I do actually really enjoy the set time and assigned dining room rotation on Disney. I did try all of the dining areas except the adult dining and will talk about that in next week's trip report.
I know some people might not like the smaller pools but I think breaking up the pools and spreading them out a bit is a good idea. It also helps that Disney has ways to cove up most of the pools to use as deck space when needed too.
The staterooms on Wish are about the same size as on the other ships but they have a different feel to them. They are lighter and brighter and feel a bit fancier if you ask me. The different art work based on your deck is also a really cool touch. Even the lighting and the carpet in each hallway matches the theme of that deck. The little metal critter on the wall by your stateroom will also match theme so it isn't like the other ships where they are different based on the side of the ship your on. There are some nice display cases in the Grand Hall that show all the different materials that were used throughout the ship which I found very interesting to see.
The spa and fitness area are bigger along with 2 separate beauty salons called Untangled Salon and Hook's Barbery. I of course loved the Rainforest room which is more like a Rainforest area on Wish since is has an inside and large outside deck area. More on that next week though.
I really enjoyed my cruise on Disney Wish and really liked all of the changes Disney did to make Wish have a whole new feel from the other ships.
Alaska cruise Vancouver to Sitka
May 27 - June 7 2022
American Queen Voyages - Ocean Victory
American Queen Voyages includes a pre-cruise hotel night at the starting city with all of their cruises. I think this is wonderful since I always recommend getting in at least a day prior to the cruise. Besides relieving some travel stress having the day before gives you time to explore the city where your trip starts. Our cruise started in Vancouver however when looking at flights I found much better options for flying into Seattle. I had always wanted to take the train from Seattle to Vancouver so I thought this was perfect. However I was disappointed when arriving at the train station to find that due to staffing shortages the train wasn't running so they were taking us by bus. Let me just say it was a not pleasant surprise. The bus took twice as long and requires everyone to get off the bus and get their bags to go over the border. I do not recommend the bus.
We made our way to the pre cruise hotel which was the Hyatt Regency Vancouver. It was a great hotel conveniently located not too far from the port with plenty of things in walking distance. Transfers to the ship were included but they were in the afternoon so we had the morning to explore. I realized the nice part about the later transfer was the port was pretty empty even though there were quite a few big ships also leaving the same day. We boarded our ship and explored a bit before it was time for the safety drill and and sail away.
Day 1 and 2 - Inside Passage and scenic cruising
Our first 2 days were sea days where we learned what was to come on our cruise. We got to see the mud room and request boots and raingear if needed. We also learned about the zodiacs and what wildlife we might see along the way. There was a leader from the Tlingit tribe onboard that gave a few talks about life in Alaska.
Day 3 - Ketchikan, AK
We made our fist stop which was Ketchikan. I have been there a couple times on bigger ships and was a little disappointed that our small ship that can go places the big ones can't was stopping here. We were also docked at the port that is a bit of a ways out of town so we had to rely on shuttles to get into town and back to the ship. There were a few big ships docked right in town so it was a bit crowded, but not as crowded as I have seen in before covid. The cruise did include an excursion which was a city highlights tour but since I have been there before I chose to skip that. There were also some premium excursions available for book for a fee but none of those appealed to me. It was just nice to wander around town, grab some lunch, and do some shopping.
Day 4 - Misty Fjords
This is what I have been waiting for - an expedition day! We started out with a zodiac ride and got really lucky to have an Orca go past us rather close to our boat. After lunch it was time to kayak! They were keeping us travel agents together so our kayaking group was a big larger than the other groups so it took quite a bit of time to get everyone out on the water but it was a nice paddle. Misty Fjords is almost 2.2 million acres of National Monument Wilderness so it is a wonderful protected area for spotting wildlife. I had been to Misty Fjords on my first Alaska cruise but it was via floatplane from Ketchikan so it was nice to go back and spend time on the water.
Day 5 - Wrangell Island, AK
We are on land again but this time in a cute small town that the big ships cannot stop at. It is the 3rd oldest town in Alaska. There was an included heritage tour along with some premium excursions for purchase. We opted to explore town on our own. We found a little pizza shop for lunch that has the most delicious crust I think I have had. Everyone in town was super friendly and genuinely seemed happy to have us. One local even said that the residents of Wrangell are the friendliest of all Alaska. There was a Petroglyph Beach that was an easy walking distance so we headed there to check out some of the carved rocks.
Day 6 - Bay of Pillars
Another expedition day. We started with kayak in the morning and this time they split our group up so the more experienced paddlers got to do a bit more. We came across a bunch of otters and I loved watching them watching us. After lunch we did a zodiac ride but didn't really see much of anything new. It was still fun just to be out on the water. Alaska's cruise season is rather short from May - September but there are big differences in what you will see based on when you visit. In May and early June you will see a lot of snow topped mountains and floating ice but you also have a lot of melting snow creating lots of amazing waterfalls. We got to see a lot of them on this cruise some of which looked like they started miles above of us as we looked up from the zodiacs. Mid June - July is salmon running season so that the time go if you want to see them and the bears grabbing them out of the water. June and July also tend to be the rainiest and most crowded though. August tends to offer nice weather and usually clearer skies so if you are looking for those photos filled with flowers and mountain tops instead of clouds August can be better. You can spot wildlife anytime you visit though.
Day 7 - Petersburg, AK
On land again, and our first really rainy day (we got really lucky with the weather since SE Alaska is part of a temperate rainforest you usually have rain every day). This is another town the big ships cannot get to so it was nice to enjoy the small town vibe again. This town was founded back in 1910 by a Norwegian and it turned out a lot of people from Norway ended up joining him here so you almost felt like you were in Norway when walking around. I have always thought Alaska and Norway were very similar. There was the usual included excursion and a couple premium options. One of the premium was a sport fishing experience. I did not try it but it did sound like a fun an adventure. The Sons of Norway Hall is where you can experience a bit of the culture from Alaska's Little Norway. Here we were treated to a private dance from the local kids and tried a few local pastries. It was a cute experience.
Shortly after leaving Petersburg our expedition leader, Jess, announced that there were some Orca off the front of the ship. What I love about expedition cruises is the Captain can decide to stop or change course if we spot some wildlife. While keeping a safe distance away our ship pretty much sopped and allowed us to watch these playful Orcas for over an hour! It really was the highlight of the trip for me. We later found out it was 3 pods of resident Orcas that were pretty much just playing around and showing off for us. They were rolling around, tail flapping and spy-hopping (term for when they pop their head out of the water like the photo below). Then just as the ship decided to turn around and get back on our way one Orca decide to breach! I of course had walked right to the back of the ship as soon as we started sailing away so I could watch these guys as long as possible so I had a perfect view of it. One thing I have learned from 4 visits to Alaska is that trying to capture the perfect photo means you really do miss out on just enjoying yourself so I did not have a camera out at all and totally loved just watching!
Day 8 - Tracy Arm
This was our last expedition day (if you ask me they need to add more expedition time if they really want to call this cruise an expedition) Today we were going to be getting close to a glacier. Unfortunately not by kayak though. Today was zodiac only. Our group got really lucky and we saw a lot of calving with some humongous pieces falling off the glacier while watched. Our guide said the one piece was probably as big as a 2 story building. It sounds like thunder when it happens and then you will feel the waves is creates as it crashes into the water. You cannot get too close to the glacier due to this but our zodiac drivers were always within safe distance. We also saw some momma and baby seals but not as many as I saw last year in this area.
Day 9 - Kake, AK
Well this was supposed to be our last stop but unfortunately we were not able to go on shore. They did bring some locals onboard to talk and perform for us though. Kake is a tribal village and 70% of the residents are of Tlingit heritage. This is the location of the tallest totem ever carved from a single tree. We could see if from the ship but it was a bummer not to get to stand in front of it.
Day 10 - Sitka
Sitka is where our cruise ended. You could choose from a couple premium excursions here all of which pretty much got you to the airport. There are a couple of hotels in town so if you wanted to enjoy Sitka a little more you could stay over. The airport is very small so not a lot of flight options so that could be another reason to stay over a night. I however opted for a long day of traveling to get home. We flew out of Sitka to Seattle and then had a few hours before our red-eye flight back home which connected in Philly before getting us back to FL. It was pretty much 24 hours of traveling. This is why it can be easier to get to Europe from the East Coast instead of Alaska. It was a wonderful cruise though so well worth the time to get there.
Overall Cruise rating
Ship - 5 Stars. Beautiful small luxury ship with all the extras needed for expedition.
Food - 3 Stars. This was a tough one for me because for a luxury cruise I just do not feel like the food was up to that standard and if you know me you know I am not a foodie person. The only reason I even give it 3 stars was because there was an option to order steak and lobster for dinner every night. I am hoping part of the food issues were from supply chain problems. I really hope they will start including local foods and more variety.
Excursions - 2 Stars. I think this is an area they really need to work on if they want to be an expedition cruise. There just was not enough expedition time. They need to add some hikes, bushwhacking, and beachcombing. The culture excursions are nice for an expedition there has to be as much adventure as culture.
Ports - 4 Stars. I loved the 2 small towns we stopped in. I also understand that things happen so while is was a bummer to miss one port that can happen on any cruise. I would avoid the big port like Ketchikan and instead build in some time to get to on land on uninhabited islands.
Crew - 4 Stars. I would love to give them 5 stars however there was still a bit of learning to do. Plus I also know there are shortages thanks to covid so that definitely played a part in the service. The dining staff were always eager to please but without enough of them things were a little slow. The guides onboard were friendly and knowledgeable.
I would definitely recommend this cruise. As a brand new ship and new destination for American Queen Voyages I do think they have some things to work on but it was a true luxury small ship experience in Alaska which is hard to find. I also believe they will improve on the things that were lacking.
Ocean Victory is a new and very unique looking ship that was built for sailing in cold waters. Ocean Victory started her first year down in Antarctica sailing for Albatros Expeditions. Then American Queen Voyages took over when she headed north to Alaska. American Queen Voyages is known for its iconic looking paddlewheel boats that sail the rivers of the US but they are branching out into more adventurous waters with Alaska on Ocean Victory. For the half the year that American Queen Voyages is running the ship they are offering one way sailings from Vancouver to Sitka and reverse. I will talk more about the cruise portion in my trip report. Today let's just talk about the ship.
Ocean Victory is a brand new build and really is one of the most modern small ship vessels in the market. I am going to break this report into 3 sections - Technical Details, Staterooms, and Public Spaces.
The vessel is part of a brand new generation of low-energy vessels, with 4 diesel engines and 2 electro engines, all controlled electronically to optimize speed and fuel consumption.
The stateroom was definitely the most luxurious room I have had on an expedition ship. Of course being a brand new build helps with that since the other expedition ships I have been on have been older ships. The bathroom was a nice size with walk in shower but the best feature was the heated floor! The ship has no single-use plastics onboard so do not expect to find any take home toiletries. They do have the shampoo and body wash caddies in the shower that most cruise ships and hotels are using now. I am used to expedition ships not offering fancy toiletries so I knew to bring my own stuff but some guests did not.
The room could be set up as 2 twins or the bed put together just like most ships. I found the bed to be comfy but I will say 2 of the 4 pillows were the hardest pillows I have ever felt. There is a large TV that even offered a nice selection of movies and tv shows to watch. Most expedition ships do not have TVs in the room or if they do the TVs only play things like video from the underwater camera on the ship. Honestly on my other expeditions there just wasn't really time for tv watching but this one was a bit different (more on that in my trip report to come next).
There is also a couch and desk area with plenty of space and then the door out to the balcony. My room was one of the ones that could sleep 3 so the couch could turn into a bed (more child size I would think). Rooms also include things like binoculars, hair dryer, and a mini fridge. The sockets might seem like they won't work for your plugs but pretty much most things were fine without a converter. The things we heard that were not compatible with the room sockets were hair styling things.
I did get to tour a few other stateroom categories and to be honest they are all very similar. The suites of course are larger but that was about the only difference.
For a small ship Ocean Victory actually has a lot of public spaces. There are 6 decks of guest area and there is an elevator to get to most floors. I am going to start from the top down.
Ocean Victory really offers a premium experience for an expedition cruise. If you want to get out into nature on your vacation but don't want to rough it this is the ship for you. I would call it the glamping of the seas. If you are ready to explore Alaska or Antarctica on this beautiful ship just let me know.
If you are like I was the first time I was going on an Alaska cruise you might only be used to packing for tropical weather on a cruise. I really wasn't sure where to start but now I have been so many times I feel sort of like a pro so here are my tips. Of course sticking to your normal packing list will work - yes even your bathing suit since the ship will most likely have a pool and/or hot tub. Some cruises even offer the chance to do a polar plunge if you are crazy enough.
When I board a cruise ship the first place I like to head is the Spa. Well sometimes I grab lunch first but I always get to the spa early on embarkation day. This is the time when you can tour the spa and check out everything they have to offer. Sometimes they even have a spa raffle you can enter when you do the tour. The thing I want to see most in the spa is the Thermal Suite! If you haven't been to this amazing area on a ship before you are missing out.
Almost all cruise ship spas will have some type of thermal suite. They might call it something else, such as Disney calls theirs the Rainforest Room or Princess calls it the Enclave. Whatever they call it, the thermal suite is an area of the spa where guests can relax and do a little self care on their own. In the past few months I have been lucky enough to sail on a few different ships and try out each of their thermal suites.
What will you find in a Thermal Suite?
First off I will say they are co-ed so you will find everyone wearing bathing suits.
While it varies from ship to ship most thermal suites will usually have at least a steam room, sauna, and aromatherapy showers. Many now have a salt room too.
Some offer hot tubs and/or cool tubs (yep cool water actually feels nice after the steam room or sauna). If you are lucky they will have a thalassotherapy pool - these are a bit different than a hot tub as they are larger, use saltwater, the jets are stronger, and they usually have a full body size reclining seat in the water. I really enjoyed the one in The Enclave on Princess Sky. Disney Dream and Fantasy have 2 hot tubs on an open air deck portion of the Rainforest room which I also really enjoy.
Some of the more unique things I have found in thermal suites are the mud room on Virgin and the snow room on MSC and NCL. I can't say that I am normally a fan of mud or snow but it was fun to try them out in the spa. I also really liked the crystal room on Celebrity Apex.
After you've experienced some of the features you will want to just relax and enjoy the zen feeling so most will have some type of heated lounger that you can just melt into. These are usually my favorite. I say usually because I was not a fan of the heated seating in Virgin's spa. Some ships place their thermal suite in really nice locations like Celebrity Apex which was at the very front of an upper deck so your view from the heated loungers was amazing, especially around sunset! The thermal suite on Apex also had nice big window views from the sauna and hanging chairs so there are lots of places to relax and enjoy the view. Not all thermal suites will be in a location with a view which isn't bad either. I kind of liked the darker quiet feeling of the Enclave on Sky Princess which is in interior area of a lower deck.
How do you access the Thermal Suite?
Some spas will give you time in the Thermal Suite before or after a booked treatment.
If you are not planning to book any spa treatments you can usually book a day pass or length of cruise pass to visit the thermal suite whenever you want.
Some ships even offer a special stateroom category you book that includes access to the thermal suite during your cruise. Be sure to check pricing since sometimes those spa staterooms are a great deal if you are planning to spend time in the thermal suite anyway.
Viking Ocean Cruises even goes a step further and includes thermal suite access to everyone.
During covid rules you had to make an appointment for your thermal suite visit so they could control the number of guests in there at a given time. Disney went as far to make it a private appointment which I really loved even if I didn't love the price tag for that hour and 45 minutes. Now covid rules are easing so most spas are running pretty close to normal again.
Going to the thermal suite can also come with a bonus. You will be able to use the changing room area before and after so you will get a robe and can store anything you don't want to bring into the thermal suite. That area usually also has showers you can use which tend to have some upgraded bath products and lotions.
Another bonus - no kids allowed in the spa!
If you are like me and love to find nice quiet spots to relax when you cruise I highly recommend checking out the Thermal Suite in the ship's spa.
The Ship Overall
Apex is a mid-sized ship holding around 2900 guests which is typical of Premium Cruise Lines. It has a beautiful modern and whimsical feel about it. When you first see Apex the thing you probably notice most is the bright orange rectangle shaped piece attached to one side of the ship. This is the Magic Carpet which Celebrity introduced on the Edge Class ships. It is a moving bar/dining area that will go up and down to be on different decks during your cruise. Don't worry it doesn't move up and down while guests are on it. It has all the typical things you would expect to find on a Premium Cruise ship - a couple pools (one outdoor and one indoor), hot tubs, multiple dining locations and bars, a theater, casino, and spa and fitness center. Some other cool features onboard are Eden, The Rooftop Garden, and the jogging track that spans 2 decks so you get to walk uphill and downhill. Apex also has the Retreat which is Celebrity's version of the ship within a ship for guests booking suites.
There are so many wonderful dining and drink options onboard with 29 distinct restaurants, bars, and lounges to choose from. There are 7 specialty restaurants but don't worry if you want to stick with the food that is included in your cruise cost there are 8 options. There are 4 main dining rooms each with their own theme along with a wonderful buffet that in my opinion serves the best pizza at sea. The buffet of course serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I did try all 3 meal options at least once in there. There are a lot of made to order food in the buffet which is great. There was also a different theme in the buffet each day which even the pizza would offer something that went with the theme such as French Pizza on the French day.
The 4 Main dining rooms have an interesting menu set up. Each dining room has its own theme - Greek, French, Italian, and Contemporary American. Each dining room has what is called their Exclusive menu items and those will be offered every night of your cruise in that dining room only. Then there are the classic menu items which are also served every night but in all 4 dining rooms. Lastly there are the Celebrity Signature items and these changed nightly but were offered in all 4 rooms. So that means if you want French Onion Soup every night you could get that no matter which dining room you chose because that was a classic item. I always looked at the Celebrity Signature items first since I knew those were only offered that night. If I didn't like those I would then look at the ones that were exclusive to each dining room to see if that would help me decide which room to choose. Besides the 4 Main Dining rooms and the buffet there are also 2 cafes and a burger spot that were available for free eats. I really enjoyed all of the food I ate onboard and that says a lot since I am a pretty picky eater.
There was a lot of great entertainment onboard and not just in the main theater. The shows in the theater were good but I enjoyed the shows in Eden more even if I didn't really care for the seating arrangements in there. Eden is in the very back of the ship and spans a couple decks in a sort of sphere shaped room with a seating walkway that wraps around and up the outside of the room. Since it was just random tables and chairs all around there was no easy way to get good seating for a show without arriving early. When there isn't a show going on Eden is a bar/lounge/cafe area that is great for relaxing. There is also a room called The Club which hosted a show and some other other activities when it wasn't a dance club. The problem with seeing a show at the club is that it is a 2 story room and the seating is tucked into a lot of corners so you really couldn't watch a show unless you snagged one of the front of the room seating areas. Some of the other entertainment onboard were the fun activities to choose from each day. I really enjoyed the artist onboard that did a couple sessions where he walked you through step by step doing a sketch.
No ship review would be complete with a stateroom overview. Since this was a regular guest cruise I did only get to experience my own stateroom firsthand. I had a Concierge Class infinite verandah room. The room was a good size with lots of great storage options. The sheets and amenities were all premium and very nice. I especially enjoyed the Lavender Mint soap, lotion, and bath products. Concierge rooms come with some nice extra perks too like a pillow menu and other items in the room to use like an umbrella and binoculars. Our room did have a slightly obstructed view as it was next to the room that the Magic Carpet went by which also bumps out from the ship so we really couldn't look towards the back of the ship at all. I have heard some people do not like the infinite balcony rooms and I can see why after having one but to me it made the room feel bigger. The way they are set up is that you do not have a sliding door to open to go out to your balcony but instead it is more like a french balcony like you find on a lot of river cruise ships. So you have a floor to ceiling window that you can push a button and the top half of the window will go down so that you will feel like you now have a balcony. There are folding doors you can close to section off the balcony from the rest of the room but we really never used those. It can mean your room could get a bit breezy and the AC will shut off when the balcony window is down but we were OK with that. There was a nice shade that you push a button for and it would go down over the window so your room would get plenty dark for sleeping. The shade will not go down if the window is open though. Also if it starts raining or window cleaning is happening or something else where your window should be closed it will automatically close so you don't have to worry if you left it down when not in the room.
I really enjoyed a lot about Apex and I do feel the Edge Class ships on Celebrity would make a nice romantic vacation for couples.
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