If you're planning an Alaskan cruise, I've got the details from our adventure. We cruised along the Inside Passage on the Celebrity Solstice in May 2022. I'll tell you about our experience and give you some helpful information for Alaska Cruises.
How to choose a cruise to Alaska
There are a few things to consider when choosing an Alaskan cruise. First, you need to consider the weather. Unlike Caribbean cruises, cruises to Alaska are seasonal and do not run year-round. The cruising season for Alaska is from May to September. You'll often find cheaper rates in May and September as the weather can be more unpredictable and colder during those months.
Next, you'll want to consider your ideal itinerary. Do you want to do a land and sea adventure? Is there a certain port you want to visit? For me, I really wanted to cruise along the Inside Passage.
Lastly, you'll need to decide which cruise line best fits your needs. Most of the major cruise lines have ships sailing in Alaska, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival, Disney, Norwegian, Holland America, and others. We decided to take a kid-free trip. We chose Celebrity since the line generally attracts more adults than families and offers an upscale experience.
Preparing for an Alaskan Cruise in 2022
Travel has changed dramatically since COVID began in 2020. In fact, the ship we chose, the Celebrity Solstice just began sailing again. So many things have changed so I wanted to share our experience.
About a week before our trip, airlines changed their policies regarding masks. We were not required to wear a mask during our cross-country flight. However, our cruise line did have some requirements and guidelines of their own. Be sure to check with your cruise line often for updates. Here are the current Celebrity guidelines.
Celebrity COVID vaccine requirements and guidelines:
- Those who are eligible to be vaccinated must be fully vaccinated with all initial doses administered at least 14 days prior to sailing. As of May 5, 2022, this included all guests 12 years of age and older on all Celebrity Cruises sailings.
- COVID-19 Booster Vaccine shots were not required but were highly recommended.
- Documentation of full vaccination needed to be provided at the terminal as a condition for boarding.
Celebrity COVID testing requirements
- All guests two years of age and older were required to present a digital or printed copy of a negative COVID-19 test result in order to board their Celebrity cruise.
- All vaccinated guests were required to present a negative COVID-19 test result at the time of embarkation. This test could be an Antigen or PCR test, conducted within two days of boarding the ship. Guests are responsible for making their own testing arrangements using an accredited testing provider and covering all associated costs.
- Unvaccinated guests were required to bring a negative PCR test conducted within three days of boarding. These guests were to be given an additional COVID-19 Antigen test at the terminal prior to embarkation and on the day before disembarkation. The CDC has advised unvaccinated guests cannot be tested twice in one day as it may affect the accuracy of the test results, therefore the COVID-19 PCR test required before arriving at the terminal cannot be taken on boarding day.
- Guests who had recently recovered from COVID-19 could present a Certificate of Recovery and proof of the positive PCR test result taken between 11-90 days prior to the sail date in order to board. However, they would not accept a Certificate of Recovery in place of a vaccination record. Also, some ports of call would not accept a Certificate of Recovery for the purposes of debarking (but I do not know which ports those were).
ArriveCAN is the official Government of Canada platform to track travelers entering and leaving the country. Travelers must use ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information before entry into Canada. All travelers entering Canada by air, land, rail, or marine vessel (cruise ships) must use ArriveCAN. You'll need to submit your information within 72 hours before your arrival and/or before boarding a cruise. You'll need to submit your vaccine records and passport information.
ArriveCAN is mandatory, but it's also free. Be wary of third parties or web pages that ask you for payment. There is an app for you to download for iOS, Android, or a web version. If you don't submit your information through ArriveCAN you may be denied boarding or entry into Canada.
Should you arrive the day before?
If you're sailing to Alaska there is a good chance you'll be leaving out of Seattle (Washington), Seward (Alaska), or Vancouver (British Columbia). Our itinerary called for us to leave from Seattle and I felt comfortable about this since I was able to book a nonstop flight from Orlando.
Since the cruise was leaving in the afternoon I thought we'd have plenty of time to catch a flight that morning since we'd be "gaining" 3 hours by traveling to the Pacific time zone. I didn't take into account the current situation with the airlines. I woke up at 4:30 AM to text messages that our flight had been delayed twice. At that point, we'd likely arrive too late and would miss our cruise.
I had to book new flights at 5:00 AM that cost three times as much in order for us to get to the boat on time. In fact, I'm still waiting on a refund from Delta for my original ticket cost.
So, I'd strongly suggest arriving at your debarkation destination at least one day in advance.
Sailing from the Seattle Cruise Terminal
I'd been to Seattle about 6 years ago so I was already familiar with the airport and downtown area. We wouldn't have time to see the city before our cruise, but we'd have almost a full day in the city before catching our flight home.
When we arrived in Seattle, we planned on calling a taxi or Uber to take us to the cruise port (Dock 91). We'd read online that it would cost us approximately $65 and would take about 40 minutes. However, at the baggage claim, we saw a woman with a Celebrity Cruise Line clipboard and uniform. She was talking with other people from our flight about transfers to the port. We inquired and were told that we could sign up for about $30 per person (including our luggage) and it would be charged to our room. This service was available for Royal Caribbean as well. We decided to use that service and found it a bit time-consuming (we had to wait for the charter bus for quite a while and it was chilly). Next time, I'd probably just take a cab.
We arrived at the port and there were two cruises leaving that afternoon; the Celebrity Solstice and a Royal Caribbean ship. The lines for the Royal Caribbean sailing were terribly long and it was a bit confusing. Once we figured out where we were supposed to go, the Celebrity line went fairly quickly.
As I mentioned before, I'd been to Seattle about 6 years earlier but I wasn't aware of how much the city had changed. After our cruise, we spent the day in the city and although Pike's Place was charming, the city itself wasn't as beautiful as I remembered. I don't want to go into specifics of what we experienced, but I probably wouldn't venture out after dark if you're staying in Seattle before or after your sailing.
What do you do with your luggage after your cruise?
If you have a late flight out of Seattle and you'd like to do some sightseeing, I'd highly recommend the Port Valet service. Port Valet is a complimentary luggage service sponsored by the Port of Seattle and cruise line and airline partners. Simply enroll ahead of time and you'll receive airline boarding passes and special luggage tags from your ship's crew. Set your bags outside your cabin the evening before your trip ends and they'll handle the rest. Your bags will be securely transferred from the sip to the airport and you'll receive them at the baggage claim of your final destination.
It's free and so convenient. You'll be able to enjoy Seattle luggage-free. You can even track your bags for peace of mind.
Celebrity Solstice Review
We wanted an elevated experience with excellent food, drinks, and service so that's why we explored Celebrity Cruise Line. The Celebrity Solstice seemed like a perfect fit for us. The boat was first launched in 2008 and generally garnered good reviews online. There were around 1,800 guests on board (although the ship can accommodate 2,800) during our May sailing so it wasn't full by any means.
We left Seattle, Washington, and our itinerary included stops in Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria BC Canada.
Celebrity Solstice Cabin
We booked a concierge-level room and stayed on Deck 10. Our room included a balcony with two chairs and a small table. I'd say a balcony is a MUST for an Alaskan cruise.
This is especially true if your route includes the Inside Passage. You'll spend a good amount of time cruising slowly through channels with icebergs that are absolutely amazing.
The room was more than adequate and included a large bed, couch, and coffee table. In the concierge-class room, you also get bathrobes, binoculars, an umbrella, and a small surprise or snack plate delivered each day.
Celebrity Solstice Amenities
There were a few full days at sea on the Solstice and since it was still rather chilly in May, we spent a lot of time in the Solarium. This glass-enclosed space was perfect for lounging.
There is a large pool inside and two hot tubs, with plenty of chairs. The Solarium also has the Spa Cafe which serves healthy food and snacks. They also serve smoothies (which is an additional cost, even with the premium drink package).
One of my very favorite places to relax was one of the huge hammocks on deck 12. There are two inside the Solarium and two outside of it. They were perfect for lazy days and reading books. The servers were top-notch and made sure we always had drinks.
As a side note, our booking included the classic drink package (with wines up to $9/glass), but we opted to upgrade to the premium package and it was definitely worth it. You get specialty coffees and teas, craft and artisan beers, premium spirits, cocktails, frozen drinks, Coca-Cola products, premium bottled water, and wines by the glass for up to $15 per serving.
Of course, there are also pools and hot tubs outdoors. I'm sure these would be lovely in the summer months, but it was too cold during our May 20-27th sailing.
The Solstice has a really fun patio on the lawn with an outdoor movie screen. There are also cabanas to rent.
There is even a Hollywood Hot Glass studio where guests can learn how to blow glass into beautiful creations.
I was thrilled to see the library on deck 10. There were a great variety of books that you could simply grab and read. It was lovely and I wish I would have known about it ahead of time so I could have brought a few of my favorite books to leave behind.
Celebrity Solstice Dining
The dining options on the Solstice were excellent. We chose Anytime dining so we'd have more flexibility and never had trouble getting a table for any meal.
The main dining room was great, but I actually preferred the Oceanview Cafe for most meals. There were just so many options and categories of food to choose from. There were also good vegan and vegetarian options too.
Being dairy-free, I know how challenging it can be to eat out when food is mass prepared. The dining room staff was very accommodating to my dietary needs and would often give me the menu a day in advance to pre-plan my meals. Most of the food within the Oceanview Cafe was also clearly labeled for those with food aversions or allergies.
We did opt for specialty dining one night at the Tuscan Grille. I didn't think the food was much better than the main dining room, but we did sit up against the window at the very back of the boat and had a phenomenal view.
Bars on the Celebrity Solstice
There are several places to grab a cocktail on the Celebrity Solstice. One place that stood out for us was The World Class Bar. The bartenders were fabulous and made delicious custom cocktails. This is also one of the only places on board to get smoked cocktails like a smoked Old Fashion.
Cellar Masters was another favorite since they had a larger selection of wines than most other bars. Thanks to the friendly bartender, I was introduced to a new favorite, Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc. Once I found this wine, I was also able to request it in the main dining room.
The Martini Bar was also excellent. The bartenders put on quite a show and the entire bar top is covered in ice to keep drinks cold.
Shopping on the Solstice
We made sure to peruse the shops on the Celebrity Solstice and got a few great items during our trip. I purchased designer makeup (which was duty-free) and we bought two dreamy sweaters from a luxury shop on board.
There were high-end new and used handbags from Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, and more. You could purchase jewelry, including Rolex watches, and designer perfume. Of course, there was also Celebrity branded clothing and gear.
Fitness Center on the Celebrity Solstice
We took advantage of the fitness center three times over our 7-day sailing. There were plenty of treadmills, exercise bikes, ellipticals, and two rowers. The center also had various machines and dumbbells up to 70 pounds.
Specialty classes were available, some of which cost an additional fee. There were Peloton classes, HIIT, and yoga classes on different days.
The fitness center was located within the spa but we didn't utilize those services.
Entertainment on Celebrity Cruise Lines
We went to a few of the after-dinner shows during our trip. The theater itself was beautiful and had great acoustics, but one of the shows we saw felt a little too contemporary for the crowd. However, the 3 Divas and Shades of Bublé got rave reviews. There were also fantastic lounge singers at different venues and times throughout the trip.
A particular highlight of our trip was hearing from naturalist Brent Nixon. He conducted discovery talks and was so informative.
Celebrity Solstice Video
Check out this awesome video that was made by a gentleman named Scott during our May 20th voyage. This was shared in the private Facebook group for our sailing date. That's another great tip: look for Facebook groups for your cruise line and sail date.
I hope this overview has been helpful and that you love Alaska!