We had always wanted to visit Alaska and we were not disappointed.
The cruise up the inside passage is fantastic and the trips into Glacier Bay and College Fjord are awesome. The ship goes right up to the Glaciers through icebergs and you see icebergs being calved off the glacier. Also we say countless whales - the naturalist on board gives a running commentary in the areas that whales are expected. One tip- on the north bound trip starboard cabins have the best views.
Princess booked us into the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver and this set the excellent standard for the trip. Cruise representatives check you in on the morning of the trip, your bags are collected from the room and after a short shuttle trip to the dock you board straight onto the ship with only minor formalities.
Service on board was excellent - all staff were helpful and friendly. The cabin steward was great with lots of advice. The ship had recently been refurbished so all public areas were More
We ate in Sabatini's for breakfast and on our first evening - perks with the cabin. Good quality food and service. Italian music could be a bit quieter.
All other nights we ate in the Savoy restaurant. We asked for a quiet table with a sea view and he had a super table for 4 (but just us two) in a quiet corner next to a window. The service was attentive and good. We enjoyed it so much that we booked "our table" every night. It is worth booking a time and table in advance.We usually had lunch in the Atrium either sandwiches of pizzas. We tried the buffet a couple of times - it was so so - I expected to see a bigger variety of international dishes.
The soda card is a good deal at $7 per day. One card covered us both and includes all soft drinks including non-alcoholic cocktails. However for some strange reason it does not include iced tea.
The ship never felt crowded and once you had orientated your self was easy to navigate.
There is various styles of entertainment going on throughout the day from full blown productions to solo artists in various bars. There are numerous attempts to get more money out of you but none of the these was over obtrusive. Good talks by the on-board naturalist, by a officer on the running of the ship and entertaining demonstration by the head chef.
We continued in land to Denali. Two nights at the Denali lodge and two nights at the Mount McKinley lodge. Both are owned by Princess and are in superb locations. You courier meets you disembarkation at Whittier and stays with you for the full trip. Do take the full day trip into Denali park - wonderful wilderness and we saw bears, moose and caribou. However be aware that the train trips are long (+9 hours to Denali and 6 hours Denali to McKinley) - I would recommend you opt for the bus instead: its quicker and you get more time at your destinations. We were lucky and had full views of Mount McKinley but apparently there is only a 30% chance.
We finished in Anchorage - the Captain Cook hotel is fine with excellent views across the city to the mountains. Do take the 1 hour tram tour - fascinating insight into city life and the 1964 earthquake. Less
Cabin B107 is fantastic and is worth the price. It has a separate bedroom and living room with piles of storage space. Reasonable sizes bathroom with bath and shower over. It is located on a the front of the ship so the window view from the bedroom is great - you can lay in bed and watch the view. However the key thing is the gigantic balcony that curves around the side and front of the ship - perfect for watching the glaciers on the Alaska trip. In port it is fascinating to sit up there and view all the activity. Tip - on the north bound Alaska trip go for starboard cabins. It is very quiet - the captain's quarters are above so you not overlooked.
You get lots of goodies with this cabin:
1. Entrance to Sabatini's for breakfast making a leisurely and quiet start to the day.
2. A soft drink, beer and bar set up. This lasted us the full trip and we were able to swap items.
3. Afternoon snacks in your cabin - we loved the chocolate strawberries.
4. Invite to the private pre-dinner drinks and snack lounge.
5. Free laundry service.
6 Free Internet - the wifi service was remarkably good.
7. Private lounge to wait in during disembarkation.
Fourth part of the trip. A flight over the Mendenhall glacier. This was awesome with on 5 of us in the small plane - I even sat next to the pilot. On criticism is that it would have been better if we had been supplied with headphones so the people in the back could have heard the pilot.
A full on day.
First a coach trip up the valley to the small boat harbour - fascinating guide explaining life in Juneau.
Second a 3 hour whale watching trip on a small boat with in a total party of 6. You really get up close to whales. They are so confident of whale sighting that you get a refund if you do not see any.
The rainforest "hike" is really a gentle stroll on boardwalks through the rainforest. A small group and an excellent guide. The highlight was seeing a black bear with cubs just below us. Take the first trip of the day the chance of seeing bears is better.
On returning we sat on our balcony watching the busy activity around the dock - a constant flow of small boats and sea planes.
The trouble with Skagway is that its is swamped with cruise ship visitors - there were 4 in on our visit so you don't really get proper feel of the town.
The small local museum is worth a visit also catch the park ranger talks.
We ate in the local brewery - good beer but so so food.
Shops everywhere but be prepared to negotiate. We looked a diamond ring in one store that started a "special" price of $8,000 and was down to $6,000 after 5 minutes as we walked out!
The cruise ship terminal is close to downtown Vancouver so is very easy to reach. We had already checked at our hotel so the boarding process was very easy and quick. Our bags were collected from our hotel room and a shuttle bus took us straight to the port. Other than a 20 minute wait to clear US immigration - there was a computer glitch and a large Chinese group in front - we quickly boarded and were one of the first on board. After exploring the ship we had a leisurely lunch in the Atrium.
Whittier is a unique place built during the war because the constant mists hide it and only accessible by a one way tunnel that shares the railway and road!
We were catching the train up to Denali and this is just across the quay from the boat. Disembarking was quick and easy. Your seat on the train is reserved so no need to rush.