This was my 10th and my husbands 5th cruise. This was our second time to Alaska, but first time to Glacier Bay, Skagway and Victoria. Overall Princess did an excellent job and the ship was impeccably kept.
Our boarding time was at 2pm. We arrived at noon, got priority embarkation and were onboard in about 25 mins. Our cabin was already ready, we dropped out bags and went to the Horizon court, which was busy. I immediately went to check on Sanctuary reservations, but by the time I arrived, they had almost booked everything for Glacier Bay. It would have been $70 for the day per person with a buffet. I decided to pass.
We booked inside guarantee and were put on the Lido deck in a handicap cabin.
The cabin was very large with alot of storage space. It was quite convenient as most of the activities we wanted to do were at the top of the ship. We don't get seasick, and didn't mind feel the ship move a little. It was a bit noisy if you tried to take a nap during the day with everyone's door's slamming all the time. At night it was pretty quiet, but I did hear something scraping above in the distance at times, but it didn't keep me awake. Bed was comfortable but the middle seam from joining them caused kinda of a valley so we asked for an egg crate and it was then fine. I also asked them to put a top sheet between the fitted and the covers, and change my comforter as it looked dirty from the laundry machines. The room was very clean, but had rust on the shower drain, and one day when we were out they came and re-caulked it.
The room steward was awesome, and I just left written instructions for what I wanted and he performed everything wonderfully.
Very odd setup on the Golden, they funnel everyone into one entrance and two exits, with a very tight setup to squeeze thru. Not like most ships Lido with stations for different foods. After everyone got used to not queuing it worked better. Good selection of foods, not great, but not bad. Breakfast always had smoked salmon, cold cuts like chicken, turkey, prosciutto, cheeses, fresh fruit, hot and cold breakfast foods. You could request things, but it would take a while for it to be accommodated like getting turkey sausage. All meals always seem to have an abundance of seafood dishes, smoked, baked, fried, salads, etc. Good salad bar, with a couple speciality salads. Once seated the servers would ask if you like juice, tea, coffee and you could request bar service, lemonade, smoothies. Open until 11pm, except Victoria were open until midnight.
Pizza was made fresh, and the crust was very thin and not overdone, they had a speciality pizza featured daily, it was very very good. They were only open until 11pm most days, except Victoria, they were open until Midnight.
Had a wide selection of pastries, yogurt parfait, egg muffins and oatmeal or granola for breakfast. Lunch same pastries, add chicken salad, Greek salad and paninis. The food was excellent and fast here. They were open 24 hours.
Very busy on the Victoria day.
Specialty Coffee next to the IC:
Excellent service, also serves speciality teas, hot or cold, usually a small line in the AM, VERY LONG LINE on dis-embarkation day. They also serve the regular real brewed coffee to those seated in the atrium here, instead of the syrup coffee in the lido. I bought a coffee card and my husband drank the coffees, i got free unlimited speciality teas and hot chocolate.
Canlaletto Dining Room:
We had the 8pm seating, which was very empty. We had wonderful waiters, but a horrible wine steward. I am not a wine snob, and tend to order cheaper reds. I don't mind paying for wine in the dining room, and find it more convenient than bringing wine onboard. However, I tasted the "Princess Cabernet" in Vines and asked if I could order it in the dining room. They said "Yes". Well apparently the wine steward either didn't know this or didn't want to sell it to me, because at first he acted like he didn't know what it was and suggested a more expensive wine, then he finally acknowledges and says its a "Gift" wine, and not served there. I insisted and it took half of the dinner for him to track it down and bring it. Then after a while he made a point to come back and say to me to let him know if i wanted another bottle of the "GIFT" wine in the future because there were only 6 onboard. Really Really can you make it any more painful and embarrass me any further to get the wine? From that point on, I decided to buy my wine in port and give him no further business. BTW it was 23 dollars, made in California and excellent!
Our service was a bit slow the first night, but after we let them know our preferences, they sped it up. We found that Princess served the most seafood on the standard menu compared to the other lines we been on to date (Carnival, NCL, Holland, Disney, Celebrity), and we thought they did a great job. The lobster night was good, and our waiter came by unsolicited and brought more with grilled shrimp too. I however didn't like my calamari steak, it was overdone, which they wanted to replace, but I was too full. I really like seafood and ate it almost every day. Our salads were also a highlight.
We didn't try Sabatini's, or Crown Grill, they were booked up by the time we decided we wanted to try them, so be sure to reserve in advance and cancel if you change your mind.
Wheelhouse Pub Lunch: I had the kidney pie and liked it, my husband did not said it tasted too kidney. He had the fish and chips and thought the fish was a little soft not crunchy but good. The chips were good.
Lido speciality buffets: Seafood with sushi was really good, but no real sushi just salmon, and tuna, and smoked fishes, pate's, etc but really good. Dessert Buffet: Didn't try it but it looked amazing. They would setup a buffet by the covered Lido Pool daily for lunch and it was very good. Ice cream was soft serve only. Room service didn't try. Vines, very nice.
Grabbed a togo lunch at Tracy's Crab Shack (great as usual) and then headed back after picking up some wine, beer and souvenirs back to the ship, dropped it off at our rooms and then hustled for our Salmon Fishing Charter through the ship.
Salmon Guides were good, they worked hard, but alas it was raining and we didn't get many bites. The ones we did get were too small (king salmon) and we had to toss them back. It was a very soggy soaked thru your bones kinda rain. It wasn't windy, but it was wet. Walked about a bit, and then got on the ship at 715 and raced to get ready for dinner.
We rented a jeep from Green Jeep Tours directly, it was $183 with tax and they provided us with a CD with narrated guide to drive up the Klondike highway to Emerald lake and drive back, we did some additional stops on the way back to the Iditarod Camp just after silver lake and had the place to ourselves as the tour bus had just left. The puppies were adorable and I got to hold as many as I could and as long as I could. The museum was amazing collection of animals preserved from the Klondike. They looked like they had a whole section reserved to cook and serve meals to large tours, but also had a cafe where you could get a sandwich. We had packed sandwiches, chips and drinks so we didn't eat anywhere local. We stopped on the way back for interesting shots, at first it was overcast and rainy, but got sunny on the way back. We stopped at the log cabin, and saw the princess jeep excursion. We also stopped and took pictures of the suspension bridge, and a quite a few breath taking vistas overlooking the lakes along the way. It was too perfect and beautiful. Then we did a little off roading but nothing crazy just rail road maintenance trails that ran next to where the white pass RR used to extend past carcross. Found some old rusted rail cars, and neat old stuff. More great views and waterfalls and rivers. Then followed it right into Carcross.
Carcross had some interesting exhibits of the steamship and the railroad.
Upon returning to town, we took the road to Dyea, saw the cemetery, the false front, the tidal flats. The whole trip we didn't see any bear or moose, wasn't our day. We had an awesome day, dropped our jeep off and rushed back to the ship, after picking up some wine and souvenirs.
We went on the Princess Salmon Sport Fishing Tour. They met us on the dock and as soon as we had about 18 assembled we walked to the boats. Our group was four women and two men. Our boat captain did not have a mate, which we later regretted, but he did a fantastic job putting us on the fish and we had alot of bites (30-40), but only caught 10 fish. It is usual and customary for the boat to split the fish evenly among all the paying passengers but he did not. So that's where the regret comes in, I didn't fish, just watched to give hubby more time, and he and another passenger spend time helping steer and clear lines and net while the captain tried to keep up. If we had known that I would have worked into the fishing rotation and just handed my line to him. The unfair distribution resulted in 4 fish for everyone else and only two for the two of us, even though my husband helped everyone catch theirs as he is a very experienced fisherman. I had alot of fun watching, and I wish we would have known (but should have asked up front). I took pictures of everyone reeling in, and saw eagles and some whales in the distance. We were lucky it was one of the beautiful 14 sunny days they get a year.
We then walked to the grocery/liquor store for supplies and got in a huge line at noon with the whole ship to get aboard.
It started out raining, and lightning but then cleared. We just walked around toured the Empress, Government Street, China Town, the waterfront, the open air market. Took the 8 dollar shuttle bus out and back. Got Toffee and Maple cream cookies for the kids. Almost all the other tours were starting at 7 or closed at night. So either get on a tour immediately, or everything else is closed. The BC museum was open to 10pm with an excellent Dinosaur display but we didn't want to miss walking and checking out all the historic buildings the city was filled with.
Pools & Hot Tubs:
We sat in the hot tubs when we had sunny days in the aft and at the spa, they were very very hot and great. The pools in the same areas were some times even hotter than the hot tubs. My favorite for shade was the Lotus Spa hot tubs with the lap pool.
Very nice with private changing rooms and showers. Some showers have shampoo / conditioner, some didn't. Good availability of towels, short supply of robes. Stone massage was great, and of course they try to sell you products, but just say no.
The gentlemen taking reservations the first day was a complete newbie and made me wait 40 mins to find out what was going on, and could not seem to explain very clearly what you got for your glacier bay view day. I didn't use it the rest of the time, but usually its very nice first come / first serve $10 for either am or pm. I was too busy this time.
Gym: Very nice, alot of equipment, well maintained.
We saw the comedian, magician, and the staff show. Didn't take in others. We loved the comedian, thought the staff show was funny and good. The musician was good but our audience seemed to be in a coma. Get your seats early.
We went to the Wheelhouse Bar for the Blues band and they were good. The disco gets started too late (10pm)especially for an Alaskan cruise where you are wore out by your excursions. One night played electic type disco which I don't like, then another the old fashion type which I like (we're in our late 40's but really do like to dance to rock/pop, rick james and stuff). The general dance band was just to soft for us, we like more modern rock, riffed blues, up beat stuff. They had music all over the ship, but we were just a bit young at heart for what was played.
They played alot of newer movies in the Under the Stars, with comfy covers and pillows, brought by popcorn and movie candy. They also played some in the theatres, and in your room, lots of movies and lots of good ones.
He did alot of lectures, and they were replayed on your stateroom TV very interesting.
Lots of great lectures, navigational one was the best from the point of view of how navigation evolved. Then the officer that came to answer questions, very informative.
We seemed to be on a ship where either there were little children or they were very well kept to their own areas and activities. We don't mind children, but definitely don't like them running amok... there was none of that on Princess. They were not clogging up the spa, or in the adult pools. I really enjoyed meeting alot of the passengers, but we tend to be a little more active and on the go than most of our fellow passengers, who seemed to prefer more relaxation activities. We met alot of family reunion groups, alot of couples and alot of great people, everyone was very nice. We adored our tables mates, there were more outgoing like us.
CONS/IMPROVEMENTS: The Lido closes too early, 11pm really? Pizza should be open late, with burgers at least. Most bands/music stop too early especially on the sea or late days... 11pm? Speciality coffee should also be available on the Lido deck at the bar or bars. Movies under the stars pool area needs an update to the deck, so that the carpet is not always wet, replace this with wood... many people slip here, be careful. Pictures... would like to take pictures after dinner too for the late seating on formal nights, don't roll up the photographers here.
Overall Princess delivered exactly what it promised. It is not trying to be the more active and adventure ships like NCL and RCCL, its not the Carnival party ship, it is Princess, elegant and understated. This ship is excellent for multi-generational family reunions, couples wanting a romantic escape, and anyone wanting to relax. Those that are very active, like more sports, activities, rock n roll, music, will feel a little let down by the night life.
1. We did ask to switch to anytime dining on the night before our early port in Ketchikan, and while they initially denied us, they said if we were willing to go at 5:30 that they don't always check ship cards and we walked right in.
2. It will definitely RAIN, it is a RAINFOREST. Plan for it, but in some ports it is too windy for an umbrella. The tours will go rain or shine...
3. Skagway is a really touristy stop, go on one of the tours to the Klondike you won't regret it. We loved Green Jeep Tours.
4. If you've done Juneau, take an alternate tour that gets your group to see some wildlife or a salmon bake, etc. I would not recommend Juneau for fishing even if it's not raining, we had to drive too far to go fishing.
5. Ketchikan has great self tours with the free local bus, ask the visitor's center, but if you've done that I would highly recommend fishing here, we didn't have to go very far to fish, and it is the salmon capital of the world.
BUT Discuss terms of sharing the fish up front, and maybe charter that whole boat?
6. Victoria, if it's not raining just walk to town it's 10 minutes, or take a tour from Hop on Hop off Bus, Grayline, Horse Drawn Carriages, Ghost Walk, they'll pick you up at the pier, and it's faster than waiting for the shuttle buses to fill up.
7. Go to the dining room for breakfast the morning of departure, but be sure you're not late, they roll it up at 815am.
8. Go to Photo and finalize after 4pm on the last sea day and they will have all your photos ready.
9. Use your webmail not your outlook for email or retrieving boarding passes, remember everyone else will be doing so at about the same time ... so it will be slow.