After we got the news we were booked on American Cruise Lines’ 10-night, Grand Puget Sound cruise, the first order of business for these two, longtime Floridians was finding clothes for a much different climate.
This would be our first experience with ACL, which for over 50 years has specialized in cruises exclusively on U.S. rivers and coastal waters, from Florida to Alaska, with a domestic fleet of 17 ships and riverboats that host 100-200 guests. Our Grand Puget Sound cruise starts in Seattle, with an itinerary that takes us around the San Juan Islands, including an excursion into Victoria, British Columbia, and ending back in Seattle.
Even though getting from South Florida to the Pacific Northwest is akin to a trip to Europe, ACL has made it easier by taking care of all the travel arrangements, starting with setting up our flights and a transfer from the Seattle airport to the line’s pre-cruise hotel, The Four Seasons — including a hotel stay is especially welcome after a full day of travel.
As expected, we went from the sunny 80s to the rainy 40s — it is Seattle, after all — but we took advantage of the time by walking the downtown area near the hotel, making stops at the iconic Pike Place Market and the historic Smith Tower, a skyscraper built by the famous typewriter baron which opened in 1914, where you get a bird’s eye view from its 35th floor observatory.
At the hotel desk, we were given an information packet and lanyards from ACL, laying out everything we needed to know about getting to the ship. Guests would meet the next morning for breakfast while luggage would be collected and sent directly to staterooms on ACL’s American Constellation. At breakfast, we had a chance to meet and trade travel stories with some of our fellow passengers — we learned there would be 107 taking the cruise, about half of us first-timers.
ACL excursion managers guided us to a waiting bus, where we were treated to a two-hour, guided tour of Seattle before getting dropped off on the dock to board the ship. It was indicative of the premium ACL places on customer service — in the weeks leading up to our departure, we got regular updates from them on what to expect.
As we boarded the ship, we discovered besides featuring our names and cruise status (returning customers are designated “Eagles”), the lanyards also had a QR code that served as our boarding pass, making it easy to scan whenever we entered or exited the ship.
Once onboard and out of the raindrops, we were treated to a welcome glass of champagne before we headed to our fourth-floor stateroom, where just as promised, our bags were waiting.
Our stateroom, number 401, was quite spacious, with a roomy balcony perfect for observing the magnificent scenery for which the Pacific Northwest is known. It featured a large desk and plenty of drawers for storage.
After lunch in the main dining room, we attended an orientation and safety presentation in the Cascade Lounge on deck 3, led by the ship’s cruise director, Jerry, where we were introduced to senior staffers and had a presentation on shore excursions from Miranda, who assisted us at the hotel.
Back in the room, Bryan Hobcroft, the ship’s captain, alerted passengers to a group of passing orcas. We rushed to our window just in time to see three black fins breaking the surface as they glided gracefully through the water just ahead of a ferry boat. Amazing, and what a great way to start our first adventure on Constellation.
Tomorrow: Our first port of call, Bremerton
PHOTOS (Photos by Gerry Barker)
- A view of the Seattle skyline from our balcony
- Pam gets a glimpse of the orcas
- Our stateroom was spacious
- A welcome packet was waiting at our hotel
See all cruises and especially this one: American Cruise Lines (cruisecompete.com)
|Friday Harbor, WA
|Cruising the San Juan Islands
|Port Angeles, Wa
|Port Townsend, WA