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She Cruises to Alaska With Celebrity

 

Evelyn Hannon

I've just returned from a lovely luxurious cruise experience exploring Alaska's Inner Passage. My travelling partners were two of my very dear girlfriends. The three of us (one now a great-aunt and the two others, grandmothers) have been pals since high school. One lives in the same city as I do while the other travelled from the Middle East to meet and celebrate our milestone -- 50 years of solid friendship. We're all good solo travellers who by this time have pretty well been there and done that. For our celebratory holiday we sought out an adventure that none of us had tried before. Amidst a flurry of emails and phone calls, we decided on Celebrity's seven day Alaskan cruise departing from Vancouver, Canada and visiting the outposts of Ketchican, Juneau and Sitka. We looked forward to exploring new destinations, meeting interesting people, having lovely meals served to us, hanging out without a care in the world, and catching up on each other's lives.



Choosing a ship...


Once the decision on destination was made, then the research regarding cruise lines quickly followed. We surfed the net, posted questions about ships and subscribed to cruise newsletters. In the process we decided on the 91,000 ton ship, Infinity, part of the Celebrity Cruise Line fleet. The ship's itinerary and its high performance rating suited us perfectly.

Next came choosing the appropriate accommodation. We settled on an outside cabin, with a huge verandah at the back of the ship. It was explained to us that should waters become choppy there is less rolling motion in the center of the ship. We, however, needn't worry as we would be sailing the Inside Passage which is generally quite calm. We also knew that a balcony at the rear of the Infinity had an extra very strong plus. At all times, it allowed you to see the scenery both to the left and right of the ship.

As three independent travellers, we were most concerned about living in a space that was too small for us to relax in comfortably. We needn't have worried. Our stateroom measured 271 square feet. It featured two single beds with a privacy partition leading to a sitting area with two, additional sofa beds. From there, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors led to a balcony that was almost as large as the complete stateroom. Cupboards and storage space were more than ample and with cooperation between three women that know each other very well, our one bathroom sufficed.



Choosing a hotel...


To avoid any last minute snags and delays, we decided to arrive in Vancouver the day before our Celebrity cruise departed. To make things as easy as possible for ourselves, we checked into the Fairmount Waterfront Hotel located right across from the cruise ship terminal. From our elegantly appointed suite high above the harbour we could see cruise ships arriving and departing. That certainly added to our already high level of excitement. Best of all we could relax totally knowing that we were close enough to simply roll our luggage across the street, into the terminal and on to the ship.

At the Fairmount, once you enter the spacious hotel lobby the pampering begins. There was absolutely no wait for our adjoining rooms which were certainly women-friendly in every way possible. We enjoyed hot chocolate, coffee and tea which we made from our mini refreshment bar. There was an ironing board and iron if we needed to freshen up our outfits, a full length mirror, cozy bathrobes and a sparkling, well-appointed bathroom. The amenities were definitely a cut above with Miller Harris (UK) bath soap that was citron-scented and lovely. Our location allowed us to walk easily to historic Gastown as well as the Vancouver Art Gallery.

And remember our luggage that we planned to roll right up to the Celebrity? That wasn't even necessary. As a service to the guests who requested it, the Fairmount Waterfront checks any cruise luggage directly on to the ship . We left ours with the hotel staff at check-out and the next time we saw our bags they were waiting in our stateroom. How's that for service?

Fairmount Waterfront Hotel: http://www.fairmont.com/waterfront/



Packing for the cruise...


Ask most women about to embark on their first cruise and they'll confide that they're worried about what to pack. To complicate matters, a summer cruise to Alaska means preparing for warm, cold, wind and rain -- sometimes all on the same day. Often mid-day temperatures hit 50 degrees (Farenheit). Other times it was too windy to walk on the outside deck.

The best way to pack for all these circumstances is in layers. On the ship, during the day leisure wear is your best bet. We saw everything from dress trousers, capris and jeans to colorful yoga outfits and hiking pants. Tee shirts that could be layered with zippered sweat shirts, sweaters, a fleece jacket or wind breakers and rain jackets were perfect for shore excursions (one light sweater, one sweatshirt and one fleece is perfectly adequate for the week). The emphasis was on dressing appropriately for the weather rather than looking perfectly stylish at all times. In terms of footwear we packed sneakers, waterproof walking shoes and a pair of dressier shoes for evening. A light, collapsible umbrella, hat, scarf and gloves plus a small backpack were helpful as well. That's all we ever needed.
P.S. Don't pack a bathrobe. Celebrity provides one for every passenger's use. Also, throw in your bathing suit if you plan to use the pools.

Dressing for the evening required a bit more planning. On the Infinity there were two formal dinners, two dressier dinners and two casual meals in the main dining room. Those who love to dress up wore cocktail dresses and even evening gowns. The majority, however, used ingenuity and managed with 'a mix and match attitude' to be festively dressed for each evening meal. In our cabin the rule of thumb was one long black skirt or trousers with a few different tops or jackets combined with something sparkling on our ears. Wearing the same thing a few times was never a problem and we were always dressed appropriately.


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