Just a few days before our cruise, we received the good news: we had been upgraded from our GG Obstructed View Guarantee to a BA balcony cabin! I love Princess! We left South Florida on June 8 to stay overnight in Orlando before our very early flight to Seattle on the 9th. Arriving at the Seattle airport around 2:15, we were picked up by the Cedarbrook Lodge shuttle and taken to one of the most awesome hotels ever. The Cedarbrok lodge is just a couple of minutes from the airport, but is like a secluded hideaway lodge built with beautiful natural woods, spread out on a lovely property of gardens and walkways easily enjoyed from floor to ceiling window vistas. The staff and amenities are top of the line. Sumptuous breakfast is included, and there is a wonderful restaurant, bar, and lounge where great food and drinks are prepared, and the fireplace and pool table add a homey touch. Rooms are grouped in buildings which share a common living room, complete with complimentary snacks, drinks, and ice cream. We were almost sorry to leave the next morning when the shuttle came to take us to the Light Rail for our ride into downtown to meet our ship. The trip took about 40 minutes, in which we feasted our eyes on the beautiful scenery that surrounds Seattle. Once off the train we hailed a cab to pier 91. My husband discovered he had left his binoculars in the car back in Florida and we had the cab driver stop at an REI on the way so Phil could get another pair. Wouldn't dream of going to Alaska without them, especially since we were getting a balcony (more about that later).
We got to the port around 1:00 PM, and boarded by 1:45. That was a longer wait than we had ever experienced with Princess, but not as bad as some other embarkations on other cruise lines. Once aboard, we were guided to the elevator which had an attendant to push the buttons! When we opened the door to our stateroom on deck 10 (Caribe), we couldn't believe how huge it was, and how huge the balcony was. We happily imagined having our breakfast delivered to our balcony each morning and spending countless hours using our cameras and binos in the next 7 days. We headed up to the Horizon Court for lunch, and encountered a long unmoving line of people waiting to use the Purell. Finally we got into the food court area and found many good things to put on our plates. We were seated quickly by a waiter, who brought us our drinks. The food was very much to our taste--salads, soups, sliced meats and mashed potatoes with gravy. So far so good. We went back to our room to rest a bit, frankly still suffering some jetlag and exhaustion from the long trip. That's when we discovered that the bed was as hard as a rock even with the egg crate our travel agent had requested. When our stewardess Marjorie came to introduce herself, we asked her about it and she came back with a nice pillowtop that helped quite a bit (as a quick aside, sadly, the beds on the Star are terribly in need of replacing; they are just plain worn out--each morning when we got out of bed the middle looked like a hammock).
Then at 4:30 came the muster drill. After the Concordia incident, we had decided to take a more serious approach just in case the unexpected were to occur. We brought a ziploc freezer bag and once onboard placed our passports, a charged cell phone, a credit card, some cash, some medications for my husband and some small snacks in case his blood sugar dropped. Once the ship was under way I tucked this tiny "ditch bag" into my purse whenever we left our cabin. The muster drill was very thorough. The crew took roll by scanning our room cards and we had to wait until all the passengers were present and accounted for. Once the drill was over, we became part of the enormous crush of cruisers heading back up to their rooms.
We really enjoyed our balcony as the ship left port and headed for Alaska. We took loads of pictures, peered through the new binoculars and sat on the chairs with cups of tea. Life was good!
We went down to the Portofino dining room for dinner. There was a long line around 7:45. We were finally seated at a table for two and our waiters quickly took our orders. Food was served quickly and the service was outstanding. The soups and entrees were very good, as were the desserts. We were much encouraged, and decided we would make a reservation for the next night so we would not have to wait in line. After dinner we headed back to our room to turn in early. Marjorie had done her job efficiently and there were even chocolates on the bed (which I stashed in the "ditch bag" in case of emergency). We left our curtains open so we would be awakened by the dawn--we just didn't realize it would be before 5 am! One of the many surprises heading our way. Our breakfast was delivered as planned, but, brrr, it was much too cold to eat on our balcony! So we enjoyed our breakfast and view from behind the closed sliding doors. We Florida folks simply had no clue...
The first day at sea was spent in mostly relaxing and recuperating. We went to the library, which was small but the quality of books to choose from was good and we both found books by favorite authors to read. We enjoyed listening to the various musical offerings all around the ship. They were really quite good. I did some laundry since the laundry would be closed from Tuesday to Friday morning. It was formal night and we wanted to eat dinner earlier than the night before, but had forgotten to make a reservation. To eat early on the "Anytime plan" (really not quite a truthful concept on this ship)you must eat in the Capri dining room which opens at 5:30; we arrived at 6 pm to find a huge long line again. Upon finally being at the head of the line we were told we could not have a table for 2 unless we waited a lot longer; so we were seated at a large table of delightful and entertaining travelers from Canada and Texas. The food we ordered was not quite as satisfactory as it had been the night before. Some courses were very good, some not so good, some not edible. From this night on, that was our experience in all the dining venues--extreme inconsistency. Nevertheless the service was always friendly and efficient, and the waiters tried to recommend the best dishes to choose. In addition to the menu our table talk was lively, covering everything from cruises to politics to religion. Nevertheless, on principal, I determined to get a reservation for a table for two for the next night!
The day in port turned out to be quite sunny and nice(if cool) when we arrived in Ketchikan. The views just got better and better, snow on mountaintops, beautiful "Christmas" trees everywhere we turned, green, green, and more green. I remembered to call for a reservation and was told the earliest was 7:45, so I booked the Portofino for that time. We walked off the ship and into town and did some shopping and ate at a little seafood place on the dock. The fish and chips were the best we'd ever had, and the salmon chowder was amazing. We went back to the ship to enjoy our nice cabin and look at our purchases. We really loved Ketchikan; took loads of photos both on and off the ship. There were other ships of course and we took pictures of them too.
After our 7:45 table for two at which we had a mediocre dinner but nothing disastrous, we went in search of ballroom dancing. The Explorer's Lounge has ample opportunity for dancing, and we had a nice "dance date". We noticed that it never seemed to get dark and that the nights were very short indeed and getting shorter. We went back to our room and read our books and watched the news on TV and spent time together that we never seem to have any other time.
Breakfast behind the sliding doors again! The day was cloudy, gloomy,cold, and wet. When we got to Juneau we put on our warm clothes and rain gear and hopped the shuttle (for a fee) into town. Throughout the cruise the Star docked farther from the towns than the other ships, and it seemed like we always has to come up with more cash just to get to the ports of call. It took time, too. We took the local bus to Mendenhall Glacier, which was breathtaking. There was a waterfall you could walk to but we did not feel we had time to do that so we observed it from afar. Not a sight to be missed, regardless of the weather. Nice change from the tropics, to be sure! We took the bus back to town and did a bit of shopping before returning to the ship for dinner. We did manage to get a table for two at the Capri after a brief wait. I think that was the night we had spaghetti and meatballs, and it was pretty good and at least recognizable comfort food! I had outstanding eggplant Parmesan as an appetizer. And, the one thing that was consistent at the table was the bread, which was always a treat. We were too tired after all the walking to do much dancing, so we read our books and turned in early to be ready for Skagway the next morning.
In Skagway we took the train ride (the shorter one) after taking yet another bus back and forth from the ship to town. The train ride is a must. We saw a brown bear and many other wonderful sights--tunnels, trestles, glaciers, waterfalls, historic sites, snow, snow, more snow, and mountains of course. After leaving the train, we again encountered an enormous line waiting to re-board the ship. This was a first for us. In more than 30 cruises, we have never stood in a line to re-board the ship in a port. And it was cold, and raining. Just more of the adventure, we figured. But could not Princess have found a more efficient way to board the passengers? Just saying...At dinner we ordered a nice bottle of French wine to warm us up.
Friday was a sea day, and the laundry rooms were open for business! And you could not get near one since everyone was trying to get caught up on their laundry. After a couple of hours I managed to grab a machine after having hand washed some clothes already. Each machine takes $2 in quarters, and there is a change machine right there. The weather was awful. High seas, gale force winds. I almost had my camera blown out of my hand when I braved the balcony in my parka for some evidence to take home to Florida. After this we headed to our favorite spot on deck 17 aft (Skywalker) with our books, where there are 360 views and Irish coffee from a nicely stocked bar. This place is far away, hard to find on the ship and few people seemed to be up there but it was our favorite place to hang out in the daytime. The weather was somewhat worrisome so that the captain kept making reassuring announcements. I thought it was all rather exciting and took lots of gray pictures of nothing much...
Soon we went back to our room to prepare for the second formal night. I put my hair in curlers and went to dry some stuff in the dryer. Phil finished the job in the laundry room, bless him. We managed to get a table for two in the Capri again, and Phil got lobster which was served with a glob of sticky white rice. But still, lobster. He said it was good. I ordered fish, which was white fish which came in a white serving bowl in a white sauce with white scalloped potatoes. There were a few spots of something green, otherwise it looked like an igloo. Really? What happened to the artistic presentation we saw on the first night???? Tasted OK but uninspiring. Phil did not want to dance due to the lack of smooth floors, so we listened to music, did some shopping, read some more, and spent time in our stateroom.
Last day! Basically almost another sea day since we did not arrive in Vancouver until 7 pm. We chose to stay on board and dance the night away, which we did. Unable to face the dining room anymore, we went to the Horizon buffet for dinner. I made a huge salad with all sorts of great veggies. In the dining room a salad had consisted of a few sad greens with maybe 1/2 of a cherry tomato but very good dressing. Go figure. On the buffet on this last night there was also prime rib, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, lots of things Phil likes. Fresh fruits, different than the ones we had in our cabin, were there for the picking. We danced until bedtime and then turned in.
Disembarking was easy. We had sent our bags ahead, so we ate in the dining room for breakfast for the first time. It was good. We were in the later group to leave since we were to spend the night at Inn at the Market at Pike Place. Waiting in line for a cab took a long time. Maybe 45 minutes or so. Our room in the hotel was not ready for awhile but finally we checked in. What a special place! Great bed, great service, and location, location, location! They had given us a little cake for our anniversary. It was delicious. We wandered around the Market area that day and the next before taking the Light Rail to the Radisson at the airport since we had another very early flight the next day. Another nice hotel with a great new restaurant if you need to be near the airport. Our nonstop flight home to sunny Florida on Alaska airline was uneventful and pleasant(thankfully). We got our car and drove the three hours back to Jupiter, stopping at Red Lobster for a meal which was superior to some of the meals we had eaten on Star Princess. But to quote my travel agent of many years "food is always good if I don't have to cook it myself or clean up after it". So it's on to the next adventure on our bucket list, a trip to the Holy Land. We're thinking of taking the Norwegian Jade next year.