Sometimes the quality and enjoyment of a vacation can be affected by the beginning and end, fortunately in this case I can separate them.
We chose to use Princess Air Scheduling because of the open-jaw airline flights. For those of you not familiar with the term is means using two separate airports, and in the case of this cruise those happened to be Arrival in Vancouver, B.C. And departing from Anchorage, AK. Surprisingly to me the outbound flight on US Air was on time and the crew was friendly, arrival in Vancouver I had requested a wheelchair, none was there. I made SEVERAL requests to the US Gate Personnel, (Less than helpful) and after waiting nearly one half hour we decided to walk. Vancouver Airport is a pretty good hike for someone with bad knees. Anyway after retrieving our luggage we boarded the bus for the trip to the pier.
This was our sixth cruise on Princess and the second on The Island Princess,as well as our fourth Alaska Cruise with other on Celebrity, 7 night, Princess 7 night plus land, and Holland American 14 night.
Check in was a breeze and we bypassed the picture, I have way too many of them, and boarded the ship taking our carry on bags to the cabin, then on to the buffet! WE had been on The Island Princess in May of 2011 on a Panama Canal cruise so the ship was familiar to us. We chose a mid ship ocean view stateroom, it was clean and well maintained as was the rest of the ship.
Day 1 was a sea day, one of may favorite times on a cruise ship. We went to Trivia and generally kicked back. At one of the trivia games we ran into D.J. Aris, who we had met on the Panama Canal Cruise, he recognized us immediately. He hosted the daily music trivia, which my team won twice, and did a great job in-spite of some computer problems.
Day 2 found us in Ketchikan our visit there was a relatively short one from 6:30 Am to 1:30 PM. Since we had been there before we opted not to take a formal excursion, we did however board the free shuttle to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things we needed. Later we met up with one of my High school Classmates and his wife as they were sailing southbound on Holland American's Zandam. We had an enjoyable visit on the pier and soon it was time to get back on board and head to Juneau.
Day 3 was Alaska's Capital city Juneau. There are only three ways to get there, by air, by sea, or by birth canal! My wife had wanted to go to the Alaska State Museum since our first trip several years ago, however until now we never found time. We called a taxi and went off to the facility. I was impressed by their displays and we spend several hours poking around the museum, taxi back to the ship.
Day 4 was Skagway. We chose to stay on the ship that day, as we had been to the city before and nothing really peaked our interest. Many passengers too the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, which I had several years ago, and reported a great trip.
Day 5 Found us cruising in Glacier Bay National Park, again a great place to sit an observe life at it's best. We spent a fair amount of time in the Horizon Court as the view from there were great. We saw several Sea Otters, lots of birds and Harbor Seals, but no whales. The glaciers were fairly active and even though we had been there before we took a good number of pictures.
Day 6 College Fjord, again cruising and time spent at the Horizon Court watching.
I like Princess's policy of bringing on experts, one was Libby Riddles winner of the 1985 Idiarod Dog Sled race. Even though we had attended her presentation before we found it to be informative and entertaining the second time around as well. Steve Hite also was on board for his history of Alaska in song, as he says, "the story of Alaska in 38 Â½ minutes. Again this was the second time we had seen him, but his show as a winner with us and the crowd.
On-board Naturalist Shelley Gill was another frequent presenter, and during the time we were in Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm, she would give history and keep us alerted to things going on around us.
The Princess Pop Choir is another opportunity for passengers to do something different. I had participated on the last cruse on the island Princess and did so again. Myself and 21 other passengers were under the careful hand of Asst. Cruise Director Dave and after four practices we gave out performance to a LARGE and appreciative crowd in the Atrium. I even took along extra clothes, white shirt tie and dark pants, although that probably was not really necessary. It was a lot of fun and I would do it again. I hope to have video posted on You tube look for Island Princess Pop Choir June 12, 2012.
The Island Princess is a good ship, if she has any short comings it is the A/C system, which on the Panama Canal Cruise was TERRIBLE and was barely comfortable on this cruise in our stateroom. The other thing that you need to get used to are the elevators, you pretty much need to plan your route in advance where you are going as not all elevators serve all decks.
We did not attend any of the production shows or commedians, as we had seen them all before several times. One night we were going to see the show in the Universe Lounge, however the LONG line made us change our mind.
We did not eat dinner in the dining room during the trip opting for the million dollar views afforded from the Horizon Court Buffet and also we only checked on suitcase for the both of us so packing dress clothes was NOT and option. I understand that many still enjoy the Formal nights, but I feel that the buffet was busier than I have experienced before. I am sure a lot of people feel as I do, that it is not worth the extra packing and charges. The food there was good I did notice that they seemed to serve a lot of pork and very little beef during the trip. We did eat breakfast and lunch several times in the dining room, and the food and service for the most part was very good.
Our dis-embarkation at Whitter was smooth and EARLY, 6:05 Am, it was raining but we were soon on the bus headed to Anchorage. The trip was nice and the driver was most informative so the time went fast. We checked into Delta and went to that gate, as we had used the Princess "check through" luggage service. BTW even if you are ONLY checking one bag you still must pay a service fee for your checking in to Princess.
Arriving at the gate we heard rumors that the plane would be late, so we settled in a check the status board frequently, not until the posted boarding time did we see anyone from Delta and the board was updated. The aircraft was over 3 hours late which of course meant we were at the airport from approx 9:00 AM until we boarded about 3:00PM. One good thing is that most of the other passengers were on a different flight there was less than 50 people total on a 757 so everyone had their OWN ROW. The Delta staff on board were friendly and did make the best of a bad situation. Our return flight to Phoenix had connections through Delta's hub at Minneapolis/St Paul, gotta love those "direct" route. Because of our late departure from Anchorage we missed our connecting flight in MSP. Delta did voucher us for a hotel the Crown Plaza, we did not arrive their till midnight local time and was up again at 5:30 to make our flight. Delta did also voucher meals $6.00 per person per meal, (not really generous) so we ate breakfast at the airport. They did upgrade us to "economy comfort" seats for our trip back to Phoenix. We pulled away from the gate on time, and then the Auxiliary power unit in the aircraft shut off. The pilots did get it restarted and we taxied only to be held in various place around the airport for the next two hours due to severe thunderstorms. We finally got underway and returned to Phoenix .
The trip can be summarized in a few short words; "Cruise good, travel terrible." After this trip we pretty much decided that any future cruise will be from ports we can reach non stop and preferably on Southwest Airlines.