We just came back from a cruise to Alaska with a company called Celebrity. They say people either love them or hate them. For me, it was the later, never again. This is a summary of my experience.

Prior to the cruise I noticed the company had a lot of downtime. When I investigated I found it had been going on for 2+ years. I wrote to them but they never responded to my concerns.

The Best Bits

  • Specialty Restaurants: These were better spaced out than the other eating areas and the staff more professional and relaxed, the passengers in them more or less behaved themselves although numerous ones had their moments. We went to three of these restaurants, the Asian one being the best.
  • Cabin Cleaning Crew: A typical member of staff has to clean 70 cabins once a day and “get their bed ready” in the evening, that is 140 sweeps of their floor in a day. We were very friendly with those members of staff, I felt I had a better relationship with these than any others. There was none of the marketing BS other staff members would throw at us. Many of them are Filipino and we ate at the food stands off the boat they recommended, no other passengers went to them, only cabin crew staff, it was the best food and company we had during the whole cruise.
  • Professional Passengers: Most of the passengers were just rude and awful but we did talk to a handful that were really wonderful, like the Taiwanese guy who invented some semiconductors and a couple who were senior leadership in health care.
  • Classical Music: There was one quiet bar with a cello and violin player, playing classical music. It was a very welcome and sane change to the entertainment on the rest of the boat.
  • Tourist Shop: There was one tourist shop that was more reasonably priced than the ones off ship in Alaska.
  • Photography Team: I had heard that photographers interrupt passengers everywhere to take their pictures and sell them at $20 a shot. This was not the case for this cruise, I did see passengers approach them but not the other way round.
  • WiFi: We got a deal on a WiFi package. The speed was much better than expected but could only do basic stuff like emails and some bandwidth friendly websites.
  • LGBTQ: There is an LGBTQ meetup every night although I was not tempted to attend.
  • The Cabin: The cabin was better than expected, as were the facilities and storage, but we were in a more expensive class. Anything smaller would have been a nightmare.
  • Art Gallery: This was better than expected with prices much less than regular galleries for the same art. The diversity of the artists was good but that wasn’t reflected in their art unfortunately.
  • Leaving: Even though there were annoying parts, disembarking the boat was more organized than the boarding.

The Worst Bits

  • Sea Sick: I was very sea sick, it wasn’t until I could get off the boat into a town at the 2nd port that I could buy some medication.
  • Treatment of Staff: This I found particularly upsetting. From what they told me staff have to work 9 months without a day off, they then get 3 months vacation I guess when the season ends. Even so, 9 months non-stop seems very rough on people. I suspect its tough to keep staff motivated under these conditions. Many staff members were from the Philippines who had left their wives and children behind to earn a better wage doing domestic duties on the ship, life must be so hard to have to travel that far to earn a wage to sustain your family, this upset me deeply.
  • Climate Change: Cruise ships dump their stuff in oceans which increase the acidity levels in the water, no matter how much they filter the sewage there is still an effect. As spectacular as they as it was incredibly sad to see glaciers vanishing before ones eyes, I am pleased cruise ships are heavily regulated in those areas by National Park Services although I wouldn’t trust the companies to self-regulate or self-report which is the current law. There is a lot of “green-washing” on board the boat.
  • Boarding: We got on at the Port of Vancouver (British Columbia) and it was a nightmare. Long lines. Disorganized ground crew with no one knowing what they were doing. The waiting area was jammed with people. The cruise company had no idea what they were doing.
  • Safety Video: All passengers are required to watch the video, which is good, but its very short and inefficient. I had better safety instructions on board commuter boats in London down the River Thames.
  • Crowds: Cruise companies want to stuff as many passengers as they can to make lots of profit. However, most of those people were rude, obnoxious and pushing each other. It was completely awful. There was more than one incident where I saw people bump into and push over disabled passengers. Some passengers were running to get first in line to a restaurant knocking over others. I did not see any staff member assist disabled passengers around the boat.
  • Buffet: At lunch time many people ate at the buffet, it is a completely nightmare. Not enough seats, people pushing and shoving around the buffet stations. The poor staff trying to keep things organized were on a losing battle. It was like a pig pen, but worse.
  • Main Restaurant: This was also a gong show. More crowds, tables too close together with staff not being able to get between them in order to delivery a good service.
  • Food Quality: The food wasn’t as good as people had said they were. It seems that many fall for the marketing; if they are told many times that its great people start to believe it, but it wasn’t. Many “traditional” recipes they had were no where near it, it was worse than school dinners. The chefs try to be over fancy and many recipes didn’t work out, it would have been better to keep to basics and make those recipes awesome. I kept to “safe” food like corn flakes, salad and fruit.
  • COVID and Health: During the 7 day cruise I only saw one member of staff wear a mask and he was outside the boat. None of the staff serving or handling food had masks on, or any other safety clothes you would expect to see in the food service industry. I would say 2% of passengers wore masks, all of those were Asian. I wore a mask 100% of the time.
  • Ports: Every port, or every place where the boat stopped, was a tourist trap. It was full of gift shops and very little of interest. Most of the indigenous products were made in China and not by locals, so there is no benefit to those specific communities.
  • Excursions: These were a rip off. The cruise company takes a percentage of the cost of the excursion and as some people found out buying from an external company was more than 50% cheaper, even being able to barter the price. The cruise company tells you to only buy their excursions in order to be back at the boat on time but this is more than often false as external companies already know when the ship leaves. There is still a “buyer beware” for external companies as their is via the cruise company. The cruise isn’t in port long enough to enjoy sites that might be further away from the tourist trap area.
  • Main Entertainment: The entertainment on the main stage was awful and cheesy. Both performances we saw were not very good productions and the singers were out of tune, sometimes on their own but very much when they sung together. They just churned out songs with no thought of stringing them together to tell a story. The music from the “band” was much louder than the singers. Also, watching the equipment in the booth the sound levels were way above what they should have been therefore much was distorted over the speakers.
  • Ship Wide Entertainment: They were really blasting out music in various parts of the ship and it was way too noisy, I kept getting headaches. The “Entertainment Director” was so annoying and loud, like a Pontins reject. Most of this entertainment was just annoying.
  • Smoking: The smoking areas of the ship were too awful to go near and they had great scenic viewpoints which is such a shame few people could take advantage of.
  • Posh Shops: Couple of floors on the ship had a lot of posh shops. They gave out crappy gifts to entice people in to buy expensive rubbish which was cheaper elsewhere, this was also the case at every port.
  • Casino: Virtually no one was using the casino, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.

Summary

So the worst parts of this cruise made me decide that they are not for me and would never ever consider one again:

  • Crowds and rude passengers.
  • Climate Change.
  • Treatment of Staff.
  • Cheesy Entertainment.
  • Port of Call Tourist Traps.
  • Too much marketing.

I can see the advantages of doing a cruise but they are for a certain type of person, that is not me.

Update 2024-06-11

  • We have been sick for more than two weeks after the cruise. We are gradually improving though.
  • We had booked another cruise to Mexico prior to going on the Alaska one. From the experience above this has now been cancelled.
  • Never heard back from Celebrity regarding the health concerns on board.
  • The travel agent we booked the Alaska cruise from showed no concern about our health, they just said “cruises aren’t for every one”. Like Celebrity they appear to only care about the money not the people.
  • I noticed this story about the Maui local government warning cruise companies for getting too close areas of delicate ecosystem.