Alaska Coral Princess CruiseTour June 13 25, 2012.
This trip was a celebration of our 40th anniversary and a trip of a lifetime. Our flights in and back home were nightmares because of delays, but we did not let that mar our trip.
We liked the size of the Coral Princess. We had been on a large Carnival ship for our first cruise and we seemed to spend a great deal of time walking from one place to another. Not so much unnecessary walking on the Coral.
We stayed so busy with excursions we did not see any of the shows.
We had a balcony stateroom and even though the weather was a bit cold we enjoyed being on the balcony looking at scenery and scanning for wildlife. Even standing inside looking out was nice. Our stateroom was quiet and peaceful. I missed having a couch to sit on during the times we needed to be in the cabin. Like many others, I really disliked the small shower stall and the curtain. I kept hitting my elbows on the grab bar. I managed to keep the curtain fairly under control by clipping clothes pins to the bottom. Thanks to all cruise critic members who made that recommendation. Our stateroom steward was very friendly and kept everything spotless. We had adequate storage space.
I wanted to sit in one of the hot tubs and was disappointed to find none of them were running, however, I did enjoy a dip in the covered pool.
We had Anytime Dining and the only evening we would have had to wait for a table for two was the Captains Gala. We decided to sit with others rather than wait.
Princess took care of all the logistics for getting our luggage from one hotel/lodge to the other. That was a great relief for us. However, initially, I did not know that all of our luggage would not travel with us on the land part and we had to re-pack, almost at the last minute. Be prepared for this from the start and packing will be much easier. We loved being able to dress casually in Alaska for dinner.
We flew into Fairbanks one day early to participate in the Journey Above the Arctic Circle. The excursion time was 6:15 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and I was concerned about being tired and sleepy, but I should not have worried. The sun was still visible at 11:00 p.m. and helped keep me wakeful and alert. The pilot was very knowledgeable and narrated the entire flight. The bus tour guide on the ground was surprisingly negative and did not say nice things about the military that were at Fort Yukon at one time.
While I rested, DH went on an excursion in a Hummer that went to the oil pipeline. He enjoyed photographing wildlife while on the same excursion.
Our room at The Fairbanks Princess Lodge was adequate. At dinner in their restaurant the waitress was very friendly and explained to us the different types of salmon. We tried the white salmon and it was very good. DH was disappointed they did not have his favorite brand of beer, Miller Light.
The next day we were on the Chena Riverboat Discovery Cruise. We saw lots of beautiful scenery and homes. At the end of that cruise, we boarded the coach for a three-hour ride to Denali. The ride was fairly comfortable even though the seats were very close together.
That evening, we had dinner at the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre. The entertainment was a lot of fun. Prior to the show, they served a family-style meal that was good. Once again, DH disappointed about his brand of beer. We were in room 185. It was adequate, though bare bones. I did not like the sink being in the room instead of the bathroom.
The scenery was awesome. Seeing the huge mountain ranges and the snow-capped tops was breathtaking. I felt like I walked out of the room into a postcard.
The next day we went on the eight-hour Tundra Wilderness Tour. We paid extra to go on this tour in place of the Natural History Tour. It was worth every extra penny. We were fortunate to be on a new, comfortable tour bus and to have a great driver. She was very knowledgeable of the history, the Tundra, the animals everything. She watched for wildlife and stopped to point out animals she spotted that passengers did not see. We saw moose, caribou, grizzly bear, Dall sheep, and a lynx. We did not see any wolves. Thanks to her we have great photographs. The driver even stopped for us to see and photograph Mt. McKinley, because she was concerned we might not be able to see it later. We had an adequate boxed lunch and bottles of water.
Food at the other restaurants at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge was pretty good. Breakfast before the Tundra Wilderness Tour was a buffet at the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre. We had dinner at the King Salmon restaurant after the tour. My prime rib was very good, but part of DH s steak was gristly and not as good.
Breakfast at the King Salmon restaurant, before leaving for the two-hour and 15-minute trip to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, was decent. We had to be up early to put out our luggage for pick up to transport to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. Our coach overheated and we had to pull off the road. Fortunately, there was an empty coach right behind us that stopped and we were able to get on that one and continue our transfer.
Our room at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge was in Building 11. I liked this room better than the one at Denali. There were two full beds, the sink was near the closet, instead of in the room, and the room was bigger and nicer.
We ate at several of the restaurants and, once again, the food was decent.
I had baked French Toast the morning we left and it was gooey on the bottom.
After we arrived at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, we went on the Byers Lake Nature Walk and I wish we had not. I used one of their mosquito net hats and mosquitos were all over it. You had to look at the ground to be sure not to trip over a root. I would not do this excursion in June again. Maybe at another time of the year it would be more fun.
Mt. McKinley came out and we were able to take more beautiful photos. We felt so fortunate, since we had been told many people do not get to see the mountain. Even late at night and early morning we took photos, since the sun never completely went down. It was amazing. Before leaving the next morning we shot really good photos of the top of the mountain. The scenery and mountain ranges were magnificent here, just as they were at Denali Lodge.
We had an hour-long ride on a coach to Talkeetna where we boarded the domed train for a five-hour journey to Anchorage/Whittier and the Coral Princess. There was a lot of pretty scenery along the way. We had a table seat which was nice, but I really would have liked to have been able to recline in a chair for part of the trip. Embarkation was late in the day but it went smoothly and quickly.
We slept in the next day to rest up and had breakfast in the Horizon Court. The food was OK. We saw the Hubbard Glacier, which was really quite nice. Something different to see. Lunch in the Horizon Court had a big sushi bar. Since DH I are not sushi fans, there really was not anything we wanted. Dinner was a formal night in the main dining room and the food was really good. I had miniature filet mignons and DH had a baked or fried halibut that was really good, so we really enjoyed our meal.
The weather was rainy, drizzly and foggy. Cleared some in the afternoon but was still cold and nasty.
The next day we got up early enough to have breakfast in the main dining room and it was nice to be able to go in there and just sit down and have someone wait on you. The food was good. After breakfast, we were cruising Glacier Bay National park which was a lot of fun because there are a lot of different glaciers. The weather started out a little foggy but cleared up into a beautiful day. We located lounge chairs on a small deck on the back of the ship and watched as we left the bay and the glaciers and we even took a little nap.
Today was our 40th anniversary celebration day and our door was decorated nicely. We chose the specialty restaurant Bayou Caf and Steakhouse for our anniversary dinner. There was a $20 upcharge for each and extra $5 for lobster. I asked for the lobster to have regular melted butter instead of Cajun and it was very good. Unfortunately, DHs porterhouse steak had a lot of gristle, but he did not say anything until the end of the meal. After we mentioned it, many people were trying to do many things to make up for it. My husband was too full for another steak. They brought him some jambalaya and a delicious lemony, citrusy after dinner liqueur for both of us. I had ordered a second glass of white wine which did not come until the meal was over and the waiter said he could take it back. On the way back to our cabin I ordered a strawberry daiquiri and they asked if I wanted a small or a medium and I asked for a medium and it was in one of the big hurricane glasses.
Thursday morning we were in Skagway and the weather was beautiful. We rode the White Pass Railway train in the morning. The Railway is an engineering marvel and it was an interesting ride. We had breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court and I found that they had more food there than I realized. We had signed up to do a helicopter ride after lunch and when we got down there, the wind was just suddenly horrific. They put it on hold for two hours but when we went back, rain had started so the flight was cancelled. What a sudden turn in the weather.
Juneau was our port on Friday. We had to get up early, 5:00 a.m., and had breakfast in the Horizon Court with eggs, bacon, little waffles, etc. We met the tour guide for the Whales, Bears, and Glaciers excursion. The whales portion was really good. We saw a lot of humpback whales and snapped photos of the tails. I had never seen a sea otter, let alone know they live their lives swimming on their backs. We were able to get photos of that as well. We also saw porpoises and bald eagles. After two hours, we loaded into a van to look for Grizzly bears along a road that led to a waste disposal site. I really did not think we were going to see anything and was really surprised to see one along the road. Then we saw an evasive mother with a cub. After a while, we got out of the van and walked to an open field where there was a grizzly off in the distance. Glad I had my boots on. I was astounded that the bear could hear us whisper that far away and went off into the woods. One of the guides had a very large gun and we were told to stay close to the group. We took lots of good photos. The third part of the excursion I could have done without. We boarded a very small one engine Cessna airplane and it rocked and rolled and dropped and I just could not enjoy seeing the glaciers. All I could do was clutch the back of the seat in front of me. There was no method for the pilot to communicate what we were seeing. The Captains Gala Dinner was pretty good. DH and I enjoyed the lobster, even though we were really tired from the earlier excursion.
Since we did not have an early excursion in Ketchikan, on Saturday, we slept in and rested. We went on a Mystic Fjords Float Plane Trip. The plane was a single engine plane but it was a larger plane than the one at the end of yesterdays excursion. I think it was a DeHavilland. The pilot had headphones to communicate with us and describe what we were flying over. I had much more confidence in this flight. We saw many trees, tree growth, dead trees and lakes, and she gave a thorough explanation about the rivers, the fjords and the glaciers creating them. We set down on the water on Punch Bowl Crater or Beach. We were on shore for a while and took photos and had photos of us taken. It was really hot that morning and seemed crazy hot for Alaska. It was somewhere around 86 degrees that morning. By the time we returned to where the float plane docked, that temperature had dropped around 20 degrees and the wind had picked up. So they do have wildly fluctuating weather. We walked around town a little bit and then went back to the ship. We had lunch in the Horizon Court and since DH was feeling a little poorly we napped and rested for a while. We had dinner in the Horizon Court.
Sunday was a sea day and DH was still feeling pretty badly. It was not noro I am glad to say, but still no fun. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Horizon Court. Our server went to the Bordeaux dining room and brought the rest of my bottle of red wine to the Horizon Court. The turkey and roast beef were pretty good.
I was very happy that the Horizon Court had a large variety of salad items and I was able to eat sensibly most of the time.
If you want a really good Irish Coffee go to the Explorer Lounge. The MDR did not make a good one.
Disembarkation in Vancouver went smoothly and we were transferred to the airport by Princess transportation.
All staff members we interacted with were friendly, professional and gracious.
We had a more wonderful experience than we thought possible. Thank you Princess.