1) Background info
My husband and I are 29 and 31 years old. We cruised the Alaska Inside Passage on Sea Princess from August 21st-31st, 2012. We chose this cruise because our priorities were to see Alaska, sail out of San Francisco and enjoy Anytime Dining with a private table for two.
Everything went smoothly at Pier 35 in San Francisco. We got in line to board around 1pm and were on the ship by 1:45pm. To disembark, we were in the 10:10am group and were off the ship with all of our luggage by 10:25am.
Sea Princess inside stateroom P345 is conveniently located near the center of deck 5, close to the reception desk and the Rigoletto dining room. The staff door was about 3 feet away from our door.
When inside our room, we could sometimes hear people walking around and talking during the daytime, but it was quiet at night.
Our room was certainly not luxurious or spacious, but we considered it adequate for our needs. We did not spend much waking time in the room.
Considering the size of the stateroom, we were pleased with its storage capacity. There were 6 desk drawers and 6 bedside cabinet drawers.
The closet offered:
3 side shelves for shoes, bags, etc.
1 top shelf (where the life vests were stored)
1 plastic belt rack to hang up to 8 belts
The cabinet beneath the TV had two shelves. One contained a safe.
We stored our luggage under the bed.
Bathroom storage was limited to three shelves above the sink. The shower contained one soap shelf and one bottle-sized shelf. There was a bottle of shampoo/shower gel attached to the shower wall.
I kept my make-up in a desk drawer and used the desk as a vanity table.
It's a little bit of a challenge for two people to get ready at the same time in cabin P345. There is not much space for two people to move around in front of the open closet or bedside cabinet.
Also, if one person is seated at the desk, the other person can not fully open the bathroom door. The room arrangement was such that an open bathroom door would hit the desk chair and block 3 of the desk drawers.
I solved this challenge by getting ready early in the morning while my husband slept, and then going out to read a book in the Atrium Lounge while he got ready.
Housekeeping refreshed the room twice daily and the cleanliness met our expectations. The carpet near the bathroom had several stains, but this will probably be remedied very soon, as the Sea Princess will be dry docked within the next few weeks.
We would stay in cabin P345 again. Although a larger stateroom with a view might be preferable for most people, we didn't spend much time in the room and wanted to save the money for excursions and future vacations.
4) Passenger demographics
During the cooking demo, the audience was asked how many Americans were in the room and around 99% of us raised our hands. Many of the people we encountered were from California.
Our estimated age ranges of the passengers:
Around 25-30 child passengers, ages 17 and under
Around 100-150 passengers in the 18-40 age group
The vast majority of the passengers were ages 60 and up
Sea Princess will be dry docked soon for renovations. The ship's overall design and cleanliness met our expectations. A larger theater would have been ideal though, as it was often completely full during popular shows.
We selected the Anytime Dining option, and usually arrived for dinner in the Rigoletto Dining Room between 5 and 6:30pm. Our request for a table for two was always granted.
We never made dining reservations in advance, but were sometimes seated immediately. We never waited longer than 30 minutes for a table at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. When there was a wait list, the host or hostess gave us a pager and paged us when a table for two became available. We sat in the Atrium Lounge while waiting to be paged.
As a vegetarian, I appreciated that the menus in the main dining rooms always labeled vegetarian items with "(V)." That way I didn't need to inquire about hidden ingredients, such as chicken stock or gelatin. Most of the vegetarian entrees were inspired by Moroccan, Indian and Asian cuisines.
Unfortunately, Cafe Corniche and the Horizon Court Buffet do not label vegetarian items, but the staff was helpful in answering my questions about ingredients.
My favorite foods on board the Sea Princess were:
Chilled blueberry yogurt soup in the main dining room (served in a glass, with a straw, like a smoothie)
Veggie egg rolls with peanut sauce in the main dining room
Potato turnover appetizer in the main dining room
Pizza and tiramisu at Cafe Corniche
Any rice dish at the buffet
Red velvet cupcakes at the buffet
Banana bread at the buffet
We avoided all shopping-based activities and missed the majority of the evening shows, however we attended most of the nature/wildlife lectures by naturalist Doug Capra and were very impressed. We were also privileged to attend a lecture by Libby Riddles, the first female Iditarod champion.
Other on board activities we enjoyed were:
Scenic cruising through Glacier Bay
Card-making (arrive early to get a seat, as our session filled up quickly and late arrivals were turned away)
Cooking demo and kitchen tour
Fruit carving demo
Towel folding demo
All of the staff were polite and courteous during our interactions, and most were friendly and enthusiastic.
9) Packing advice
Two things we were glad to have brought were:
Plastic bags and/or Tupperware - To save money and insure that we would have snacks if none were available, we brought banana bread, cereal, etc. from the buffet on excursions.
A multiple socket electrical outlet - Our stateroom only had one outlet that would fit my phone charger or camera charger. We plugged in the multiple socket outlet that we brought from home and were able to charge multiple electronic devices stimutaneously.
We had a great time and would book this same vacation again in the future.
1) Juneau, Dog Sledding, booked through the cruise line, Rating: 5
We attended the Dogsled Summer Camp tour and it met our expectations. We were able to ride a golf-cart style dogsled on a trail with a group of 6 people, see an example of a lodging tent that would be used for racers, and observe the sled dogs and puppies. Hot chocolate, coffee, tea, and Oreo cookies were available free of charge.
We liked this experience because we could never do anything similar close to home. We chose the Summer Camp instead of the standard dog-sledding excursion due to the lower price, warmer weather, and fear of helicopter rides.
2) Skagway, White Pass Train Ride, booked through the cruise line, Rating: 5+
We booked the White Pass and Yukon Scenic Tour. Alisha was our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide for the Yukon Route bus tour to Caribou Crossing and Carcross. We stopped a few times for photos along the way. At the end of the tour, the bus dropped us off at the White Pass Railroad stop in Fraser, BC and we rode the train back to Skagway.
A casual cafeteria lunch at Caribou Crossing was included in the fee. Lunch was chicken (or lentil soup for vegetarians), potatoes, coleslaw, and donuts.
The White Pass train ride had very nice views.
Also, we saw part of the dogsled activity in Caribou Crossings, and it was smaller than the Dogsled Summer Camp in Juneau. If you are deciding between non-snowy dog-sledding in Juneau vs. Caribou Crossing, we would recommend Juneau.
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, booked through the cruise line, Rating 4,
and Adventure Karting, booked through the cruise line, Rating 5
The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show was fun. The skits are mostly geared towards children. Each half of the audience was assigned to one of the two lumberjack teams to cheer for. It was interesting to watch the log-climbing, log-rolling, and sawing.
The Adventure Kart trail leads to nice views of the water, mountains and mini-islands. We also saw a waterfall on the trail. The tour guides discussed the Ketchikan lifestyle, geography and history. The Karts follow each other single-file along the tail, with one tour guide in the front and one in the back. Each Kart holds 2 people. Helmets and rain/mud-resistant overalls were provided. Bottled water and granola bars were served.
4) Victoria, Craigdarroch Castle, booked through the cruise line, Rating 3
We booked the Mt. Tolmie, City Highlights and Craigdarroch Castle tour. The bus took us through residential areas (we got a glimpse of the Butchart's residence), downtown and Chinatown, but there were no stops for photos. The two stops were Mount Tolmie and Craigdarroch Castle. Mount Tolmie had great views.
As part of the Mt. Tolmie, City Highlights and Craigdarroch Castle tour, we were only allotted 40 minutes to tour the castle, which felt very rushed, especially since it was crowded. It was a nice castle though, and we liked seeing the decorations and clothing.
Next time we would choose the Butchart Garden + Butterfly Garden tour instead.