My wife and I just returned from a 7day Inside Passage Cruise aboard the Star Princess. It was the most relaxing and luxurious cruise we have been on. We were able to upgrade from a mini-suite/balcony to a full suite for a very nominal fee. Since we were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary it was money well spent.
The Star outshined herself and was a floating palace on the waves. Our stateroom steward, Edgar, was phenomenal! On the Inside Passage cruise in September you should expect rain, drizzle, sunshine and whatever else. Well, we experienced all of it, but being travelers use to adverse conditions, it made little difference.
The scenery was outstanding and just beyond belief. Mountains, waterfalls, snowcapped peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, wildlife, waterfalls, whales: humpback and orca, stellar sea lions, and did I mention waterfalls. They were everywhere. Well, we have taken the cruise before, but we were still astounded by the sheer magnificence of the wonder of God's beauty.
I could write a thesis on the cruise and the scenery, but if you can swing it please take this cruise, whether you get an inside cabin or what, take the cruise. You will thank yourself afterward.
Planning the Cruise!
This all began back in April 2012 on a Thursday afternoon when the wife was off to play cards and I was home alone with nothing much to do. That was her 1st mistake of the day! I got on the computer and began reading through several emails, of which one was from Princess Cruise Line (PCL). Checking out the offerings, I got to thinking (my 1st mistake) about our upcoming 50th Anniversary! Being the old softy that I am, I remembered how much fun we had on the first Inside Passage Cruise on PCL back in 2007, even though I spent the last 3 days in bed with a Crohn‘s Attack. I contacted PCL an when “Willis” came on the phone I started receiving the “First Class Service” Princess is known for. By the time the call ended every question and need was taken care of one by one. To start off with I booked a Balcony Stateroom and the Transfer Package with a night at the Doubletree Hotel SEATAC. “Willis” asked if this was a special trip and I informed him that we were going to be celebrating our “Golden Anniversary“. He asked if he could put us down for an anniversary cruise recognition, to which I said yes. I also requested the following Special Orders for our room: Deluxe Canapés , Jack Daniel’s (375ml) for the room, Flowers Bouquet for the room, and Pre-Paid Gratuities. By now I figured that I had spent enough money. Now it was time to get off of the phone and start checking on money.
As you might expect, after check with our financial advisor (telling him what I needed) things were set in motion and the trip was “full steam ahead”. When she came home from cards, everything was pretty much taken care of including the money. To say she was surprised was an understatement. Then she wanted to know how we were going to pay for it. Her 2nd mistake was to underestimate a determined husband in love with his wife of 50 years. Everything was taken care of and we could hardly wait for the cruise! Then came the rest of the planning, as to which excursions, clothes, air travel and extra days at the end of the cruise.
Later in April, I booked the flights through Orbitz (but not sure that I will use them again as they really screwed up the times and schedule). Now, around mid-June I had another idea (my 2nd mistake) decided to upgrade to a Mini-Suite as an added surprise for our anniversary without telling the wife. This was handle with care and concern over getting things just right by “Lisa”. She couldn’t have been more helpful. She double checked everything from the previous call and assured me that everything was set and ready for us. The cruise coordinators that work for Princess are the most courteous and helpful that I have come across. To me half of the fun of a trip is the planning and Princess really adds to that fun, even if it can get a little bit expensive, but you only celebrate your 50th Anniversary once and you might as well do it right!
By mid-July we had decided which excursions we were interested in and pre-booked them on line with no problems. Since we had taken the Inside Passage Cruise on the Sun Princess back in May of 2007, we had a real good feel of what we were interested in doing this cruise. We booked on-line 3 great excursions and enjoyed each.
By now it was late August and we were down to the nitty-gritty. On Aug 28th around 6:50PM I went into shutdown the computer that evening and found an email from Princess date stamped 6:45PM. It was the following:
*SPECIAL OFFER FOR PAST PASSENGER GUESTS BOOKED IN A MINI-SUITE CABIN(AA-AE)*On Star Princess departing SEPTEMBER 09, 2012 (9229)*PRINCESS CRUISES is pleased to announce a very special upgrade offer!*Cruise 7 nights in a FULL SUITE for only an additional $299 per person!*
Well there went the “Mini-Suite Surprise“. I informed her about the email and we proceeded to discuss the pro’s and con’s of the up grade offer. Finally, after a grueling 10 minutes we made the decision to splurge and pay the “Upgrade Fee”. Then I returned to the computer and with the information on it I made a call at 7:05PM and received a voice mail stating that if this was about the “Upgrade Offer” I was to leave my name, phone number and booking number. Again, it was time to wait.
The next day came and was slowly passing by, when around 6:30PM I received the call back. The lady told me, we were the 1st ones to call about the upgrade. What I had saved on air fare and anywhere else was now shot to thunder! WOW, we can hardly wait!
Jumping ahead to September the 8th Saturday, at the OKC airport we boarded the plane to Denver with a connecting flight to Seattle where we arrived around 8:35PM. We caught the shuttle over to the Doubletree Hotel as part of the “Transfer Package” for the evening.
Sunday morning, after checking in with the PCL representatives at the hotel, we enjoyed a nice peaceful breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel. At the designated time, everyone gathered at the assigned location to board the buses and head to the “Star Princess” at Pier 91 for embarkation.
Upon arriving at the Pier 91 at the Seattle Cruise Terminal we were met by smiling Princess employees. We were very impressed by the genuine happiness, smiles and friendliness of the blue-shirted employees around every corner. We were directed to follow the instructions that went along with the Pink Stickers which we had been given to wear that would speed the boarding process for those with the Hotel Transfer Package. Passengers with a “Preferred Boarding Pass and/or Transfer” were permitted to check-in anytime! They had everything very well organized and we were processed and onto the ship in under an hour.
After boarding, we made our way to the “Barbados Suite C-415” and its 536 sq. ft. and balcony to began a week of luxury and pampering beyond belief. We quickly met our stateroom steward, Edgar who seemed to always be on call and quick to respond to any need. We couldn’t hardly go out of the suite without seeing Edgar and I could have believe that Edgar was our own personal room steward and of course that was his intent.
Then came the required Muster Call! This is a required attendance and you are scanned into the Muster Area. (They check every room to be sure that no one skips out.) After Muster we stopped by Sabatini’s and made reservations for 7:00PM that evening. Then when we arrived back at the room, the complimentary hors d’oeuvres and iced bucket with a bottle of Champaign along with 6 Chocolate dipped strawberries that were part of the “Anniversary Experience Package” had been delivered. We took time to enjoy the massive deck of the suite while partaking of the hors d’oeuvres, sipping the Champaign and not forgetting the 6 Chocolate dipped strawberries. When the time came to freshened up (Sabatini’s is formal attire evening specialty restaurant) before going to dinner.
Upon arriving at Sabatini’s we were greeted like long lost friends and thus the evening began. To say dinner was good would not do it justice. It was fantastic, but way too much food. The dining experience was over 2 hours of enjoying the wine (Chateau St Michele Riesling), appetizers (Calamari in a Cone), pasta with mushrooms, main course (Lobster 3 ways) and then dessert (Crème Brule). Upon leaving the restaurant, we were reminded that they were expecting to see us for “Breakfast”.
After indulging ourselves at dinner, we meandered around the Piazza listening to the various groups that entertain there in rotation. The individuals and groups that played during the week (Pianist, String Quartet and several Vocal & Instrumental groups) were great and very entertaining. At times there was not seating available, nor any room around any railings of the upper 2 decks. We also visited the shops before returning to our room. What a first day this was!We were now ready to retire.
After morning coffee delivered to the room, we were ready breakfast at Sabatini’s (another perk of the suite). As we approached the Maitre’ D Luegi called us by name and again the pampering continued. Breakfast took the better part of an hour and a quarter. The waiters were absolutely the most attentive I have ever seen. Since we were not in a hurry it was very pleasant to be indulged.
Oh, by the way, did I tell you the sea was a little rough! Well, it was and there were plenty of green looking people around. The ship’s dispensary was a busy place and eventually ran out of the little patches that help with motion sickness. (Luckily, we do not suffer from motion or sea sickness.)
That day was rather relaxing but somewhat unstable due to the ships motion. Then it was time for the first Formal Night and we saw everything from tuxedo’s to suit’s on men and evening gowns to nice pants suits or dresses on the women. We had chosen “Anytime Dining” which would allow us to eat by our selves or with others at a large table in order to meet as many of the other cruisers as possible. This proved to be an excellent choice for us because we enjoy meeting new friends. By now it was time for the evening show “Showtime, Destination Anywhere” so it was off to theatre where we sat up towards the back because of the stairs. The show was great and lasted about the right amount of time, 45 minutes with another 5 to 10 minutes of the Cruise Director (CD) Martyn Moss doing a comedy routine, which was really good also. We came to enjoy Martyn’s humor and would look forward to any cruise that he is on.
Then on Tuesday there was a knock on the door and the coffee was delivered just in time, as we were docking in Ketchikan. Again we were off to Sabatini’s and of course Luegi. After breakfast, we returned to the room and our balcony (starboard side) to watch the people disembarking for their excursions. Our excursion: Wilderness Exploration, Cruise & Crab Meal KNT650A departed at 10:30AM and returned at 02:30PM. This included an All You Can Eat Dungeness Crab Feast! This was the most fantastic meal that I have ever eaten. The Dungeness Crabs were fresh, tender, delectable and plentiful. The only issue was that no where on the details of the excursion did it refer to the 89 steps down to the pier and the boat for the cruise. But worse that the 89 steps down was the 89 steps back up after you had indulged in an “All You Can Eat Dungeness Crab Feast”! There are benches about every 12 steps for some of us to rest at on the way up. It took us at least 2 ½ time longer to go up than to come down. Back at the ship there was some shopping in a nearby shop, but nothing seemed to grab me. Then getting on the ship we went through the card scans and x-ray of packages, cameras, coats and we walked through a airport type scanner. Very secure!
This evening, we ate around 6:30PM to be able to make the Comedy Show with Glenn Hirsh in the theatre at 8:15PM. He was really great and we had an enjoyable evening, full of laughter and relaxation.
On Wednesday morning, our morning coffee which was delivered at 6:00AM because we were in Tracy Arm Fjord for scenic cruising, we dressed hurriedly so as not to miss anything and I even shaved out on the deck while drinking my second cup. Tracy Arm Fjord is simply spectacular!
Arrival at Juneau, our 2nd port-of-call. around 2:00PM we stood on the balcony to watch the docking. Here we had an early afternoon excursion: Whale Watching & Wildlife Quest JNU610A departed at 02:30PM and returned at 06:30PM. The charter boat was large and crowded with around 175 to 200 people. If whales were spotted on one side of the boat everyone stood up and moved to that side of the cabin. Obviously, if you were on the wrong side, you saw a lot of heads. Note: check to see the size of the group on boats!!!
Then after dinner we relaxed and enjoyed the Piazza and it's lounges before retiring from a rather long day.
Thursday was a relaxing day for us as we had no excursions booked. Shopping in the different stores and buying a couple of PCL T-Shirts at the sale tables. Casinos are closed on port days so we just walked around and snacked some more.
Then came Friday and we were back at sea, but now the sun was shining and everything was just beautiful. All of Friday and Saturday we really enjoyed the extra large size deck that we had with our suite. Of course, Friday night was the second Formal Night and we decided that we would return to Sabatini's for one last shot at extreme luxury dining! WOW are we getting spoiled and by now we are even looking into sailing to Hawaii in 2014 on PCL. Believe me it will take that long at least to come up with the money to take the Hawaiian Islands Roundtrip from Los Angeles, California - 15 days cruise!
While many passengers visited Victoria, we chose to enjoy the solitude of the ship. After all, we had just finished packing our luggage and after sitting it out in the hall went down for our last evening dining experience on board the "Star Princess".
Sunday disembarkation was so smooth and seamless that it was almost enjoyable, but then it's never enjoyable for a cruise to be over.
Well, the cruise was just as fabulous as we could have imagined and I could go on and on about the fabulous service and treatment we received on this cruise, but some of you are already bored. We, however, were never bored, disillusioned or dissatisfied on this week of glorious luxury and splendor that we spent celebrating our “Golden Anniversary” on the "Star Princess" Inside Passage Voyage # : 9229 on Sept. 9, 2012 with the “Princess Cruise Lines”!