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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Commodore Cruise Line

SS Universe Explorer

Your Rating:One Stars
Reviewed by:Carol Plotnick
# previous cruises: 1
Date of Trip: August 10, 1999
Itinerary: Alaska

If you don't care about gambling, glitz, and fancy staterooms; however, you do like seeing the ports you visit, hearing live classical and pop entertainment, good food (not overwhelming quantities), then this one is for you. We LOVED our wonderful 14-day cruise to Alaska. No other cruise line hits all the ports that we did.

Public Areas
Loved the Mid-Ocean Lounge. It's comfortable and was great for everything from lectures to shows. St. George's Watch Lounge is located directly over the ship's bridge. What a lovely place to watch the world go by. They had a pianist on board who played requested tunes. The library is the best afloat. It's a quiet place to write, watch the scenery, or read a book or newspaper. This is also where they posted the ship's daily progress on nautical charts (with descriptive text about what you would see).

Food and Service
There were usually two "formal" seatings for dinner. The quality of the food was top notch and the portions just right. Our head waiter, waiter, busboy, and wine steward were prompt and very courteous. They felt like old friends by the time the cruise ended. There was never a dinner buffet; however, there was one occasionally in the formal dining room for breakfast. We usually had the breakfast buffet in the Harbor Grill--it's bigger than it's name implies. There you could either eat inside or outside on the aft deck. If the weather was bad or you came late and there were few seats in the Grill, it was no problem to go next door to the Mid-Ocean Lounge with your tray. When in port, the Harbor Grill was where you could get lunch, if you wanted to return to the ship.

We were quite satisfied with our cabin. Our steward was always on top of things. There was a closet for each person and we had a comfortable full size double bed. There were two dressers and one dressing table. There was plenty of lighting. The shower was small, but I've seen smaller. The full-size medicine chest opened and had a lock so that nothing would spill out in rough seas. You could ALWAYS get hot water (she's a steam ship), though the pipes sometimes whined when you were adjusting the temperature.

We attended most of the shows. They had a classical pianist, a singing duet, pianist in the bars, Russian musicians, and a lady who did a cabaret-style act. They all were very good performers and we thoroughly enjoyed their shows. Every night there was also a movie (sometimes an early show and a late show) in the theater. Throughout the day and late evening there were film shorts and movies on the ship's TV channels. Frequently, one channel carried the world news of the day. The cruise director (Lee Drury) had a cabaret act for our last night at sea. He was GREAT!

On board ship there were one or more lectures by college professors about the area's geology, glaciers, wildlife, plants, sea life, and native peoples. We were lucky to have one of the scientists who studied Utzi ("The Iceman"). He gave two very good lectures about his research. The ports we stopped at were (in order) as follows: Wrangell, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay (Margarie Glacier), Seward, Valdez, Yakutat Bay (Hubbard Glacier), Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria (B.C.). We boarded and disembarked from Vancouver, B.C. Between Skagway and Seward, we spent a full day crossing the Gulf of Alaska. Seward and Valdez had the best shopping (selection and price) and the Totem Pole Museum in Ketchikan has the best prices on native handcrafts and works of art. Go flightseeing if you can afford it and the weather cooperates. In Juneau, don't pass by the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. The best food going and they had a singer who made the experience perfect.

If the salmon are running (they were when we were there) you can watch them in Gold Creek, steps away from your table. Ride the White Pass & Yukon railroad in Skagway and browse main street. Jewelry prices are out of sight here; go to Seward. Seward also has the brand new Sea life Museum. They have puffins, seals, and other sea life that you can view from both above and below water level. Great for kids, too! Valdez has let the vendors come onto the cruise ship dock (town is 4 miles away). You can get some good bargains here. Don't miss the man selling salmon products! A tour of the pipeline is OK, but otherwise a quieter town than most of the others. Sitka and Ketchikan are terrific cities. Take either a guided tour of both or strike out on your own (with street guides provided by the information centers). The Raptor Rehab. Center in Sitka is definitely worth more time than a guided tour offers.

Victoria is a wonderful town. It has a European flare and is SO clean. Here you must see the Butchert Gardens. There is nothing like it in the world. The beauty is breathtaking any time of year. And we cannot sidestep Vancouver. You will hear a rainbow of languages spoken here. On Robson St. there is every kind of shop imaginable! Stop in Cows for the best ice cream that I have EVER tasted. The Chinese and Japanese restaurants are like nothing you can find on the East Coast (U.S.A.). The people are so friendly here, too. Absolutely wonderful! Do take a city tour. There is enough in this large city to keep you busy for days!!

Who Goes
We had lovely table mates for our dinner meal. A few times we wound up taking the same land tours together. I have stayed in touch with them and we may meet for dinner somewhere between our respective cities. Everyone else that we met on the ship was very friendly. Because of the ship's size you wind up seeing practically everyone and getting to know a few rather well. The professors were very approachable and we often shared a lunch or a few moments on deck with them.

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