I will try to condense the past week as much as I can. We sailed Star Princess to Alaska because when we booked (three mos ago) our agent told us Royal Carib. was about $300 more dollars and he could upgrade us on Star Princess. We weren't disappointed. We knew to have one room with balcony and the other was an interior room for my twenty yr old daughter and my great friend (for past 30 years or so)--they shared that room for the week. We were right across the hall from each other on the Baja deck so it was easy enough for them to come across to our room to see the view.
We did not pay attention to the staggered boarding time of 12:30 given to us. We left our hotel (Courtyard Marriott in Seattle) at 11:00, arrived to Terminal 91, handed over our luggage (all of it--even carry ons), and were in the first line at 11:35. The next line we got into to get on the ship was at 12:00 (this is once we have been handed our Princess cards). We were in our room at 12:45.(Glad we left hotel when we did, since we were pretty much right on with our staggered time.) Went pretty quickly, although we were excited and that 45 minute line seemed to take all day! I was hoping to eat lunch in a dining room but we were directed to Horizons. We then toured the ship, toured the spa (didn't go back for any services and I noted that again, they put specials out at the week goes on so hold out for them). We had our Muster drill in the Vista Lounge and I liked that we didn't have to then walk from the lounge to the actual boat we would get into like I have had to do in the past. We stayed in the lounge, practiced putting on our life vests, took those crazy pictures of ourselves and we were done. We watched Mt Rainier from the balcony (yes, it did come out for us that sunny day!) and sailed off at four pm. We played cards, had dinner (anytime dining for us and NO formal nights for us--by the way, some dressed really formal and others in dress pants or simple skirts and Sunday dresses). Plan on dinner in the dining room taking about ninety minutes. We ate with four others and shared stories of the day. We went to hear Alan, the Naturalist, speak in the Princess lounge (could have skipped this) and picked up popcorn from outside by the movie screen.
The next day was day at sea. I listened to Jimmy talk about shopping (my group played trivia and we did that anytime it was an available time--fun game and we realized we know a little more than we think or sometimes very little but we also met people this way and shared more stories). I realized every port would have the same shops, he wasn't giving away all the prizes that were on the table (they were just items you could by in stores), and overall, I was let down by this presentation (watch it on tv instead).
My daughter and I bundled up and watched a movie outside (hot chocolate not free during the day). It was misty and foggy so fog horn blew A LOT! Great experience but would be more pleasurable if not so noisy from that horn. I will try it again another time. Later in week it was too chilly to be out there at night (and rainy--plus I had seen the movies already). But the blankets are thick and warm.
We saw the British Invasion show (picked up after the acrobats performed)--again, I am glad I didn't spend too many nights watching the shows. I was having a great time playing cards, reading and people watching in the atrium and at the different lounges.
Sorry if I skip around a bit. We enjoyed the comedian Timm Metivier. He wasn't too bad but he kept stating that he didn't know he was going to be giving a show that night. Sort of uncomfortable there. He said it quite a few times, but he was funny most of the time. We also went to the Crew Talent Show. Late night for me, so looking back at that, I could have watched that on tv as well. It was fun, but not too many acts were shown (maybe five?).
We had a sunny, sixty degree day in Ketchikan (warmer with sun out of clouds). We rented a little car from the Rain Barrel shop for an hour and had a blast driving around the town. We went up the funicular for two dollars and ate lunch at the Cafe Lodge. Had a great meal here. We shopped and walked Creek Street. Once on the ship, we watched the four stragglers race back onto the ship (they do announce the names of the missing passengers and as usual, there are always a few that don't pay attention to the time) and sat at the back of the ship as we sailed away. Sunny day with some hot chocolate and coffee.
Tuesday morning we had room service delivered, bundled up and were happy for a covered balcony. Those below us couldn't be outside when entering Tracy Arm due to the rain. Eventually it cleared and people came out, but we sat on balcony for four hours taking in the icebergs, glaciers, harbor seals, etc. We had binoculars, layered our clothes, we were on starboard side (but remember the ship turns around so what you miss going in, you see coming out) and listened to Alan tell us things that we were seeing or not seeing (depending on what side of the ship you were on). Again, his tone and presentation frustrated us a bit. He talked a lot about what was seen port side going up and even heading back he still talked about port side events. I was happy I was on starboard side though. Sawyer Glacier is on this side.
It was high tide so there weren't beaches--so no wildlife seen on the edges of the mountains.
That afternoon we had lunch in Horizons since we wanted to be on line at 1:30 to get off ship. We did the Whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour through Princess. It was a long and eventful day! We were on the bus by 2:20 (designated time), and off to Allen Marina. We had a wonderfully entertaining bus driver, and we did see whales, seals and bald eagles. The snacks were pop um donuts and free coffee, tea or hot chocolate. You can buy hats, scarves, souvenirs, beer and food. They provide great set of binoculars. I suggest sitting on lower level if you want to get off boat first and onto bus quickly. We sat on upper level. When we got off boat, it was raining (and it rained a bit while whale watching so have a hat), and we were then seated at back of bus. We arrived to Mendenhall Glacier at 6:45 and had an hour there. I strongly recommend going into the visitor center to watch the fifteen min video (wonderful!) and then walking to see the glacier. Makes you appreciate it more. It was pouring when we walked to the glacier (short distance), so I suggest having an umbrella at the ready. I also sprayed my raincoat with water repellent before my trip. Worked great! After our walk, we then saw the video and I wanted to go back to see more, but we didn't have time. We got back to the ship at eight pm. Some of the people on the bus did go into Juneau (the bus drops you off for this). We just didn't care about shopping or going into the Red Dog Saloon. Again, a LONG day. But entertaining!
We arrived to Skagway the next morning. We took the train up to the Yukon Summit through Princess tours. We were to be on the train at eight am. Then we had to wait for the Disney cruise ship passengers to board the train ahead of us. We were unfortunately in a car with some unruly kids (parents were there but not really parenting). And the parents talked every time the microphone came on and something was said about what we were seeing. The kids were being kids and goofing off but in a "gassy" way. Almost said something and the woman next to us was super annoyed, but then the trip was over. I don't know if I would recommend this excursion. For the things that you see (few things) and to be on a train for 3 1/2 hours, my group wasn't sure it was a necessary event. It could have been that the large family in our car just annoyed us. Make sure you sit on left side and then they do have mandatory flip of sides coming back down the mountains (this is great)...but it is slower going at first, so you will get better pictures. Also, stand outside once going down...just fun! And take pictures outside as well. No big deal if you are on right side at first because you can go outside to take pictures, but just better views on left when heading up to the Yukon Territory. Once off the train, we walked into Skagway and had lunch at the Brewing Company. The Red Onion was crowded, but we did step inside to see it. Shopped a bit and back on the ship for the next day at sea.
Friday was rough seas, windy and the deck was closed. We could still get pizza though :) and I want to say that while ice cream is free, you can pay for sundaes. I was not used to them serving me my ice cream though. I am used to it being in the buffet area and self serve (this was on Carnival ships though). Also, I remember being able to walk up to juice machine and getting iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch or any juices anytime of day. Now they serve it to you in the Horizons area (but they were slower as the week went on so I just started walking up myself). Has Princess always been this way or is it just since the Norvirus took over and they handle things more themselves?
I do like the International Cafe having those "free" pastries, donuts, muffins and light meals of sandwiches, and salads. On Carnival ships in the past, this cafe was not free at all. Your card was charged. My daughter made use of the coffee card by the way (BUT recommend you share one with someone since she didn't use four punches and my friend didn't use five of hers)--you can take it on another cruise and use it you go again. And both my husband and friend made plenty use of the soda card.
Noticed that when we did a later breakfast at 8:45 in dining room, I really felt rushed. Decided to skip lunch and have pizza and buffet that day. Then noticed that on that Saturday, they were slower to get you drinks and to clear the tables. I don't enjoy buffets because the food never stays hot, but it wasn't all that hot in the dining room (But I will say it was very good food...I was usually happy with what I ordered and yes, I ordered two things at times). I will also say that what they served in the dining room on formal nights, I had the same food in the Horizons buffet.
I enjoyed the "Food Network" Culinary Demonstration that the chef and maitre D put on in the Princess Lounge on Friday morning. And we took the galley tour.
We played a lot of trivia, and used our cards a lot. And we read a bit. We also sat in the atrium and watched the Bar Wars and Martini Challenges.
Oh, the casino was to shut down at two on Saturday but plan on it being earlier sometimes (depends on when you get into Canadian waters), and yes, the laundry room is closed Mon-Fri so do your laundry or ironing early. And some man we met during trivia stated it took the dryer three hours to not even dry his clothes, so he had to hang them in his room.
I wish I had booked the Victorian City Bus tour. I would have liked to have spent an hour touring the city. Instead, I bought the shuttle tickets (from the tour office because they "are cheaper"...the ticket was $9 on ship and $8 Canadian at the terminal--Canadian and US dollar right now are about the same). It is a 30 min walk to town but there are plenty of signs if you do take the walk. We toured the Empress Hotel on our own, bought cookies and chocolates and got back in LONG line for bus at about 9:30. Would have loved more time in this quaint city.
Played cards and watched people get back on the ship. Our disembarkation time was at 8:40, so we ordered room service FRIDAY night so we could have food in room Sunday. Really no need if you do get up early. There is food at International Cafe (cash only for coffees or use your card). We were to be in Vista Lounge at 8:40. Got there at 8:30 (go earlier if you want pick of seating--gets crowded) and we were walked off ship at 8:35. Early. Our flight was at 11:45 for one of us and 1:50 for the others. We were put into different times (red 5 and 6) and locations but it was easy to change at the desk. Even the girl at the desk didn't know why my husband and I were in different locations. We boarded the bus for the airport by 9:00 and when all was said and done, we were at the gate for our 1:45 flight by 11:00. There isn't much to eat in SeaTac once at gate so eat before security or have BIG breakfast.
I did write up cards for all the wonderful people that took care of us on this cruise. I was surprised by lack of towel animals too, but I was warned by reading the forums. And I was thankful to have read some of the reviews posted (especially by the TA that cruised in May--I had just spotted her review while in Seattle so thank you!). The room had plenty of storage, bring an extension cord (the only thing the bathroom plug accepts is a razor) AND yes, I had to use my own hair dryer. The one in the room took too much time! And bring layers. I had a rain coat, light sweater or fleece to wear under it, tee shirts or long sleeve thin shirts, scarf and gloves, barely wore hat (except the one attached to my coat), ear muffs (my husband wore his), umbrella, I did wear a thermal shirt but probably not necessary (no one else in group did)--I get cold fast, and I had Sperry shoes and Croc Clog type shoes...no hiking boots for me (and these I sprayed with water repellant as well). Also ask your steward for an egg crate mattress(again Thanks for this tip!). We didn't the first night (my daughter and friend did though--they knew right away they had to!) and we knew the second night we would want one. Helps with the mattress and to settle movement from the ship! And ask for use of robes for the week!
Hope this helps you! It was fantastic and exhausting and most likely once in a lifetime, too!