Direction: Northbound - Voyage of the Glaciers
ITINERARY is good for those who want to reach mainland Alaska to do some sightseeing after the cruise. This time we travelled from the port of Whittier over to Seward to see the stunning Kenai Peninsula.
PORTS: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway are interesting in their own right and if this is your first Alaskan cruise then they are very much worth experiencing.
The Inside Passage, Glacier Bay and College Fjord are stunning and not to be missed even if the weather can be a little dreary at times.
Immigration, Check In and Boarding: Vancouver - Canada Place.
International guests i.e.: for non-USA or Canadian citizens like us was a confusing procedure at the port. The problem was that not enough staff or signage was visible to help distinguish the separate lines for Immigration procedures.
We had a long wait to go through the rigorous US Immigration procedure because we were leaving Canada and entering the USA again in Ketchikan.
It might have helped us if signs indicated where to go or port staff gave information without us having to second-guess the different procedures.
It was time consuming to finally get on the ship.
CHECK IN was quick after that, BOARDING was a breeze and we got to eat a very late lunch before the safety drill. So take this into account if this refers to your cruise as an earlier port arrival will help get you on board that much sooner.
Luggage had already turned up at our cabin, which was a plus in this situation.
Cabin Type: Balcony - Baja Deck - Mid Ship
CABIN was a good size with the bed a large Queen (a bit hard). Plenty of stowage space with a large open closet with lots of hangers, a single cabinet with several shelves, small bedside drawers each side, side drawers each side at the writing table and other little nooks and crannies to fill. A small LCD TV has replaced the 'box', a mini fridge has 'pay as you use' supplies and a chair and single sofa chair takes up a little space.
BATHROOM is the most surprising as we could actually manoeuvre in it with out hitting the walls too much or flooding the bathroom. The vanity area has a good deal of space on the side, below the sink and on top so no worries there.
BALCONY type was fully covered from the elements as opposed to those below that were half exposed or in the mini suites below that which were fully exposed. Because the weather was a bit on the rainy side we were able to go out without getting wet or protected from some wind at sea. Truthfully we hardly saw any passengers on the exposed balconies much of the time due to weather.
Staff and food: Cabin - Dining - Bar - General
It a nutshell -- FAB-TASTIC!
If all staff worked as well together as they did on the Diamond then there would only be problems 'that can't be helped'.
CABIN: friendly, discreet and 'will do anything to help' cabin attendant was the best. Nothing was too much trouble and always asked about our day even on sea days. Did not use room service but plenty of choices available throughout the day.
DINING: Staff and food were great and because we chose to attend Horizon Court the whole trip even on busy days they got to know us. Food quality here was excellent and always hot. Plates were heated even though melamine. We liked the fact that hand sanitisation is mandatory at each visit to the food section.
A bit repetitive but 'oh so' good to know that the majority of the passengers were doing the right thing. Staff were always manning the entry and exit area to make sure that people complied. Burgers, hot dogs, fries and pizzas were tasty on pool deck, egg station there in the mornings. Waffles available at the ice cream station at breakfast time too. There was a delightful but naughty dessert buffet here as well during the cruise.
BARS: Always willing to make a drink not on the drinks menu.
CAFE: The best of any ship we have cruised on, made coffee to perfection and remembered our selection every time we came here.
GENERAL STAFF: Very courteous and respectful at all times.
Well trained and helpful.
Facilities: Entertainment - Gym - Pools - Decks -- Movies - Tours
ENTERTAINMENT: Did not attend any of the shows or various bars or areas providing them. Too busy enjoying the great outdoors on the ship due to the long daylight hours!
GYM: Preferred to use the excellent promenade deck in all weather conditions.
It included stairs in the forward area.
POOLS: Did not use but always people in the heated outside pool and very crowded in the covered solarium pool area. On the last day however, the pool had been emptied.
DECKS: Most of the food areas on the decks were always crowded and if there was anything difficult on this cruise it was the lack of seating available on sea days. People would just use them to socialise and not for eat which got a bit frustrating. The top decks were crowded as well when the National Parks personnel made wildlife sightings and commentaries in the Passage, Glacier Bay and College Fjord. It all added to the great atmosphere though.
MOVIES: We have to give credit to those that braved the colder conditions to watch the large outside screen on pool deck. Ships blankets came in handy but it was still a bit too cold for us. A varied selection was shown and everyone enjoyed the hot popcorn. A movie was shown daily in the theatre.
TOURS: We have been on this cruise before and found tours to be expensive when bought from the cruise line.
KETCHIKAN: we tried to hire a bike but the shop was closed so we walked the old town and caught a free bus to Wal-Mart to stock up on sundries. Ask at the Visitors kiosk and they will tell you where to pick up the mini bus. There was a lot of ships crew and passengers using this service.
JUNEAU: we wanted to go dog sledding on a glacier, which is REALLY expensive by helicopter. Bought the tour on the ship, which is about 10 percent more than going direct online or at the chopper base at the airport. Weather plays a big factor for this tour and ours was cancelled due to conditions at altitude in Juneau.
Money back no problems but a bit disappointing we couldn't experience this.
This tour is one of the most cancelled on the cruise.
We hired an AVIS rental car in Juneau due to the long hours in port.
You can't go far in Juneau but we got to Mendenhall Glacier and to the Shrine of St Therese along the inlet (and another Wal-Mart). Pick up for car is at the airport and we caught a bus that took 60 mins via the suburbs and 30 mins express coming back. Check the bus numbers and save some time but it was interesting to see the area.
SKAGWAY: we drove to Carcross and Emerald Lake in Canada (another rental car from AVIS), which is the recommended drive time, no further. It was scenery that you would think to see only in postcards but it was there across White Pass and the lakes area! It was one of the highlights of the ports! Carcross is a cute town, has a lovely lake, quaint shops and station with a couple of good eateries.
We had enough time at the end to visit the main streets of Skagway but the shops started to close around 630pm.It was a bit of a trek to get back to the ship.
DISEMBARKATION: Whittier - Alaska
Forms for times to get of the ship came about 3 days before the end of the cruise. If you have independent transfers as we did then it is best to stipulate this on the form. The tunnel openings to Anchorage are timed so the transfers do adhere to these timings. Princess does offer transfers on the ship but can be twice as expensive. We paid around $30 p/p to be dropped at the airport but they did have a transfer with a bit of sightseeing on the way for a few dollars more.
Called 'Alaska Cruise Transfer' and can be booked online. We were off the ship in good time to meet this transfer but it was a free for all in the luggage area even though the times were staggered off the ship. This company did not have any signs indicating which bus number or driver to meet. Some passengers got onto our bus by mistake and there were no seats left for others who came later.
Luggage had to be off loaded and this took up some time however, we got through the tunnel along with several other buses. Travel time was about 90 mins or so once on the road and the scenery is beautiful along the Cook Inlet.
OVERALL: Always a delightful company to cruise with and the Alaskan scenery is stunning. This ship is huge so therefore more people on board. Big ship cruising does have some disadvantages like this but some advantages like more on board facilities.
Enjoy your cruise!