We left June 30, 2012. It was a calm flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor to Seattle's Seatac airport. We flew over the Grand, Zion and Bryce Canyons. They are always beautiful from the ground, and do not disappoint when viewed from the air. The weather conspired against us (but Seattle though getting fewer inches of rain than New York City, it rains more often), so our original plan of taking in the Woodland Park Zoo was changed to walking around Union Lake, and enjoying the wooden ship festival. We had a great pork sausage sandwich that tasted like a cross between Polish Kielbasa and Bratwurst. Later in the day we met some friends and walked around the Pike Street Market area. We finished up the day with a trolley ride back to the hotel. It had been a day filled with lots of walking on the hills of Seattle.
A good breakfast in the hotel restaurant started our day. We repacked our bags for the cruise. The major difference between flying and cruising is the desire to have our good cameras readily available instead of a quick change of clothing. We decided to take in a few more sights so we took the trolley downtown and walked to the Space Needle. We shot some photos of the flowers and other sights until it got late enough to head out to the cruise ship. We took a taxi back to the hotel and had the driver wait for us to check out. We got to the dock just ahead of the heaviest crowd and boarded the Star Princess about an hour later. Our room was easy to find, as were the buffet, lounges and theater. We ran into some more friends in the Horizon Court Buffet. I started my shipboard dining experience with iced tea, 2 chocolate cookies and 2 small brownies. They were good, but not good enough to make me eat more than that. We ate supper about 7 PM. The choice of soups and appetizers was a bit disappointing, in that they were not varied enough. The Prime rib was nicely done, and the string beans and the baked potato were a nice complement to it. The opening night's show was entertaining and introduced the ship's entertainment crew to us. It was followed by the ship's naturalist. He was very informative and made trip to Alaska sound like the best travel investment one could make.
July 2, was a sea day. We spent the morning familiarizing ourselves with the ship. Although Princess uses the same names for their dining rooms from ship to ship, their location varies with the class of ship. The decor changes very little between the ships. We met some very nice Cruise Critic members at the meet and mingle meeting. Though we were left to wonder why Princess did not have any staff members attend. The afternoon trivia game was fun. The first formal night as usual was an extravagant excuse to persuade people to pose for pictures. We did not fail to participate.
July 3, I awoke early in part due to the ship's horn announcing our presence in the surrounding fog. We were about 15 nautical miles from Ketchikan at that time. Based upon the lack of the aches I normally experience during the rainy episodes of our sea day, I figured that the day would be pleasant at worst. Rain or shine, a ride along a series of zip lines with Alaskan Canopy Adventures was going to be my main activity. I ate a good breakfast and left the ship about an hour earlier than my expected pick up. As I passed by the swarm of barkers hoping to draw in customers for their tours, I met Jimmie. His approach was a bit friendlier and he actually directed me to a location filled with anemones, starfish kelp, and huge numbers of jellyfish all within a minutes' walk from his location. Since he had made some great shots possible,
I hope some readers will take time to at least talk to Jimmie I have used some of the tour operators he recommends with great results (they include Alaskan Canopy Adventures).
On the way to the zipline, we passed a bear that was exploring the front yard of a resident. My guides for the zip lines were Guthrie and Tom, they checked the rigging and demonstrated proper technique which ensured a safe, fast ride without anyone over or under shooting the landing zone. The hardest part of my trip was using the stairs for the final descent (descending stairs is painful to me). There were a lot of eagles in the area.
We had supper in the Capri Dining Room. The conversation and food were excellent. If you ever get the chance to try their Peach Soup, do not pass it up. Princess has changed their celebration routines a bit. Using the menus to imitate the sound of fireworks is a nice addition to the normal singing.
July 4, 2012 I awoke about 4:00 ship's time. We were about to enter Tracy Arm. Unlike the other glacier settings in Alaska I have visited, Tracy Arm is best viewed from the starboard side. In addition, the best views of the Sawyer Glacier at the end of Tracy Arm is only obtained via a catamaran tour that boards directly from the ship. Nevertheless, the best views from the ship are in a 3 hour window that was over by 9:00.
Upon arrival in Juneau, I headed over to the offices of Orca Expeditions. I wanted to book a tour with captain Larry, having used his tour several years ago with great success, I wanted to repeat the results. The whale watching tour was another triumph! We got great photos and had a fun time.
Juneau launched their fireworks about 12:01 AM on the fourth, which meant that we had arrived long after the display, so we opted to watch the show in the Princess Theater. The evening's entertainment was a comedian who's act included feats of remarkable strength and balance. That he would do such a routine on a moving ship indicates extreme confidence in his abilities. It was enjoyable.
July 5, 2012 I awoke early enough to watch the approach to Skagway. The Coral Princess was ahead of us and we were being followed by the Statendam and Disney Wonder. We had made arrangements to travel with Dyea Dave to Emerald Lake in the Yukon, so we ate a quick breakfast in the buffet. I was reminded of why I prefer to eat in the main dining room (the lack of crisp bacon and semi warm eggs). We were met at the pier by Dyea Dave's sister. She was the was the warm up act. She made it clear that our tour would not be conducted with a short narration at each stop because, Dyea was a term for a big wind, Dave was called that because he couldn't stop talking for more than a minute and that Dave would conduct our tour himself. From the moment we got in the van to the exit back at the ship, a lot of information was delivered to us about the people, places, plants and animals in the area. He stopped at every picture worthy place. He took the pictures of his guests whenever they wanted to be in them. He even offered to transport the people that had opted to be dropped off in town back to the ship if they needed it. Local economies are dependent upon tourism, tourists need to know which businesses are local. I highly recommend his tour, but even if you are not on his tour, if he is around, he will assist anyone that may need assistance.
July 6, was a sea day. Aside from lots of walking and talking on the ship, we didn't do much during the day. The evening was the second formal night, and Lobster was on the menu! I guess the wait staff had been told to make sure that everyone's formal wear was kept as clean as possible, as they took time at the table to remove the meat from the shells.
July 7, is mostly a sea day and the day we packed for debarkation. We spent the morning saying goodbye to the new friends we made on the trip. We would be stopping in Victoria, B.C. Canada. We lucked out in that we arrived about 2 hours earlier than expected. All cruises that ply American waters and are flagged in foreign ports with international crews are required to make at least one stop in a foreign port. I also had my first mediocre meal in a main dining room since I started cruising in 2005 (my medium steak was overcooked and tough). Since we were in a rush to make it to our planned trip to Butchart Gardens, we ate fast! The trip to the gardens in the evening was terrific! Saturday's during the summer there is a great pyrotechnic display (fireworks).
July 8, We debarked about 8:45 and headed off to the Woodland Park Zoo. The weather was picture perfect for this last day of our vacation. By the time our plane touched down in Phoenix, we were tired and could have used another full day to rest up, but, pardon my use of a four letter word, work was on the schedule for Monday!