I always tell myself that I'll write a review after a cruise, but life intrudes and I don't get around to it. So, this time I thought I'd write a short but sweet review of our recent Alaskan cruise on the [I]Golden Princess[/I] roundtrip from Seattle. We sailed on June 2... We picked this itinerary because it was sailing from Seattle and was going to Tracy Arm Fjord. Last time we sailed to Alaska was on the [I]Sea Princess[/I] and we saw Glacier Bay on that cruise.
Pre-cruise: We flew in from Los Angeles the evening before and stayed at the Fairfield Inn near Sea-Tac. Accommodations were fine and they had a shuttle to/from the airport, local restaurants and the Sounder light-rail.
Embarkation: We had Princess transfers so we caught an early shuttle back to the airport, met one of the myriad of Princess/HAL representatives that were wandering the baggage area and we were directed to Door 00 and joined a line of other travelers. In short order, we were on the bus and headed to the pier. In about 30 minutes, we were there! We met up with some friends who had flown in a couple of days earlier. They had to join a line to drop off their luggage, but once we got upstairs we sped through the line. My companion is Elite and I'm Platinum and our friends were Gold and Blue. They joined us and we were directed to another door where we basically skirted the long line of folks that were boarding. Very nice. And there was NO sign of staggered boarding. btw, the [I]Westerdam[/I] was docked next to us and there was an NCL ship at the other cruise terminal.
Muster: Our muster station was the casino and the canned speech did seem a bit longer than before. Everyone seemed very attentive and those that were talking to each other during the speech were shushed by folks around them.
Cabin: We had Aloha 320 which was an inside cabin. There were four of us in the cabin. It was a bit cramped, but we really had no problems. Our room steward was Alberto and except for the first day, we rarely saw him. Our cabin was cleaned satisfactorily and my friend was happy with the Elite laundry service.
Ship: For a ship that was just out of drydock, I was a bit disappointed. It was still beautiful, the carpets seemed to be new, but there were niggling things like painter's tape hanging off of windows on Plaza deck. Contrary to previous speculation, Alfredo's was not added and the moving walkway to Skywalkers was not removed.
Sailaway: Because of some local regulations, sailaway is "silent" with no band allowed on deck. It was a beautiful day in Seattle and we got many photos of the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline. The [I]Westerdam[/I] departed first (and would shadow us to most of the ports) and we left shortly after.
Itinerary: We had an initial sea day, followed by Juneau, Skagway, Tracy Arm Fjord, Ketchikan and Victoria.
Juneau was beautiful with the temp in the low 70's. No rain at all. (The locals said that we had the best weather in a month!) We took the Blue Bus to Mendenhall Glacier and hiked to the waterfall. Very beautiful. Afterward, we rode the tram up to Mt. Roberts, but the trails were closed because of snow and mud. We had a couple of pints at the Red Dog Saloon and enjoyed the entertainment.
In Skagway, we just explored the town, while our friends took a bus that paralleled the train journey.
Tracy Arm Fjord was spectacular. Truly amazing. The weather was chilly and I parked myself at the bow on Emerald deck. We met [I]Star Princess[/I] coming out of the fjord and were able to make it to the bend with the island before we had to turn around because of ice. We could see Sawyer Glacier in the distance, but the ice was too thick to attempt an approach. We did see many seals and a few bears. The fjord was amazing with many, many waterfalls and there was still a significant amount of snow on the peaks.
In Ketchikan, we walked around town and our friends went on the Bering Sea Crab excursion (we did that one last time around).
In Victoria, we took a cab into town and walked around on an impromptu pub crawl. We had a good time.
Naturalist: Our naturalist was Michael Modzelewski who was very good and knowledgeable but a bit dramatic.
Shows: We didn't really go to any of the production shows, but did catch the International Crew Show which was fun. In a twist, they started off with the "If I were not upon the sea" number and ended with a very funny "Fountains" number. Hilarious.
Food: We had late seating in the Canaletto dining room. Our waiters were efficient and the food was good. We didn't send anything back and enjoyed every meal. We ate in the buffet only twice, much preferring to grab a snack from the International Cafe. We also did Pub Lunch on the first sea day. We also had a great dinner at Sabatini's.
Platinum/Elite lounge: We made a point of making the lounge every evening and enjoyed the appetizers and drinks.
Most Traveled Cocktail Party: My partner was invited to the Cocktail Party (he was middle of the pack with about 250 days!) and invited me. The food was great and the free drinks were nicer! :p We did spend some time talking with Sammi the CD (she said that she's retiring soon), Rosie the Captain's Circle Host and Captain Calabrese. It was very nice.
Disembarkation: Quick and efficient. We had transfers back to the airport and were off the ship by 9am.
Post-cruise: We booked a room at the Coast Gateway at Sea-Tac and once we got back to the airport, took their free shuttle to the hotel. It was a good hotel and was just a few blocks from the Sounder light-rail station. We were really impressed by the ease by which we could get around in Seattle. The light-rail went all the way from the airport, past the stadiums and into downtown. (For someone from Los Angeles where you can basically do none of that, it was amazing. :) ) We got a CityPass and actually got to all six venues (Argosy harbor cruise, Space Needle, Experience Music Project, Seattle Aquarium, Science Museum and Museum of Flight) that were offered in the next three days. We had fun and it was great to explore a new town. We also rode the monorail, ate at the Pike Place Market and walked around town. The weather was perfect and only rained a bit on our last day.
All in all, it was a great vacation.