I must say before I left on my cruise I read the reviews here and set my expectations low. I was also concerned that Princess would not be a kid friendly cruise for my 7 year old, 5 year old twins and 20month old. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised as was my husband who was skeptical of cruises beforehand. I found the age was varied on this particular sailing. I also found that Princess Golden was very kid friendly. The staff and crew were probably nicer to us because of our kids. The Kids Center was small but they had activites and crafts planned every minute. My only complaint about the center is the staff. The manager was rude to me when I asked if they planned to watch videos all day. The other staff member there was huffy with another child while I was there. I'm glad they watch my children but I expected them to be a little nicer. Otherwise, my kids really loved it there. They also had an outdoor covered area for the kids to play with a whale pool. Although cold for Alaska I took my kids there to get some fresh air.
We drove to Seattle from Oregon and stayed one night at Homewood Suites Pike Street. We love this hotel and it's right in downtown. We had to park our car in Seattle while we were on the cruise. I found "Seattle Cruise Parking" online and it is located in an Armory 5 mins from Pier 91. I must say that it just a lot with a shack for an attendant surrounded by barbed wire fences. The shuttle bus is comfortable and comes right up to your car and they load your bags. My only complaint was coming back from the cruise it was chaotic and the wait was about 30minutes. Make sure you find the right person to check you in as there are two different people there. Also, make sure you see them load your luggage because they forgot to load up my dad's luggage and my husband jumped out to grab it before they left.
We got to Pier 91 at 11:30am because of all the reviews I read. However, I was disappointed that it took us 2 hours to get on board when I read others got on in 30minutes! First, you drop off your luggage-make sure you print out the tags beforehand. Then you go up to the 2nd floor where they check your passports and then you check in and get your room key. The line up the gangway was slow. When we got in at 1:30pm I was told the dining room had just closed. I'm glad I packed sandwiches to eat while we were in line. My family went to the buffet to eat and that was another 30minute wait. I took my 20month old to the cabin for a nap.
We were in P219 and P229 in quad rooms. We had Alan, our steward from the Phillipines. He was courteous and helpful. The rooms were ready but my crib was missing. He went and got the crib after I told him I needed it for a nap but it took him a while to get it. He did a good job of cleaning our room everyday. He works pretty hard. I was impressed with the amenities and even the princess bags they gave us. The closet space was nice but not enough hangers to fill up that space! Also, if you have a quad room they will not put together the bottom two beds much to my husbands dismay.
I loved the 5:30pm sitting at Donatello. The waiter and junior waiter were attentive and the service was impecable. Just be aware that a dinner sitting takes along time from appetizer to dessert. We were always there until 7pm. The food was varied and good. I like that you can try whatever you want and have as much as you want. My waiter would bring stuff we didn't order to try. I would recommend the lobster. That was really good. Also, at the Donatello the ice tea, milk, tea and coffee were free. At the buffet the lemonade is free. We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffet and I must say the food isn't as good and the service is not as spot on. We switched in the middle of the cruise because my dinner waiter suggested it. We're glad we did. There is also an afternoon tea at 3 at the Donatello. They come around with finger sandwiches and pastries. For those who prefer shorts at dinner time, Donatello will allow you to wear shorts at dinner the first and last day of sailing.
The zumba class with Paul was fun but don't expect to work out too hard. The shows at night were not as good as I've seen on Carnival or Royal Carribean. They said it cost millions for the productions and I say that is a rip off. The show was not worth its millions. We chose to see the movies under the stars even in rain and cold. We just covered up with tons of blankets that you can borrow. The shows were mostly current. The international crew talent show was a big let down. 5 acts mostly from the Philippines and a crewd skit from the cruise directors staff. Skip it! I did enjoy the cooking show/galley tour. My one regret is that we didn't go up to the Skybar to sit and watch the scenery because it's beautiful up there during the day.
Tracy Arm Fjord:
We got up at 0530am to see the Fjord. That was my mistake because we had fallen one hour behind in Alaska but my cell phone was still on Pacific time. We're glad we did because it was beautiful and we didn't want to miss a beat. The naturalist Kathy Slamp started narrating at 0630. We really liked all the info she gave. You can only hear her on certain parts of the ship. If you're on deck 7 (great spot in the rain) it's a little hard to hear her. My only disappointment here is that we could barely see the glacier. The ship had to turn around because of icebergs in the water.
We docked at 6:30am but my family got off at 8am. We took the free shuttle to town. It was pouring rain and I had to ask where this shuttle was because it wasn't marked. Its to the right as you get off the gangway. There was one shuttle for the thousands of people coming off that boat. We waited 30minutes and tried to get on with the herds of people some of them who didn't wait 30minutes tried to cut in line. Tensions were high and the driver was rude! You can probably walk there since it was a 5 minute drive to town or take a $5 taxi cab ride. There was also a free Walmart shuttle. I found a private company called Ketchikan Taxi Cab tours online and they agreed to meet us at 10:30am at the Discovery Center. I highly recommend this tour because she caters it to your needs and wants. She took us to see bears (they didn't come out for us that day), then to a waterfall rich in oxygen, Tongass rainforest park,and Potlach park. It was an insiders tour that you cant get on a Princess excursion and much more affordable! She even dropped us off at the boat because I wanted to avoid that shuttle!
We were the farthest docked cruise ship here and so you do have to walk to get into town. It's not far but we weren't sure where we were going and I was hoping to see tour companies lined up waiting to sell you something. The first shack we came upon (I'm serious) we purchased a $8/way shuttle to Mendenhall glacier. I recommend you stay away from this company Juneau Tours because the wait for the shuttle was 45minutes and the bus was old and some people had to stand. Mendenhall glacier was wonderful though and on the trail there were bear sightings of course we didn't see any.
Again, we were the farthest docked cruise ship and when we got out we had to walk. I had prebooked a tour with Klondike Tours beforehand and they gave me directions to find them. We took the White Pass tour on a bus that seats 25 people. The guide, Brittney was great and she made many stops for photo ops and was very knowledgeable. We got to put one foot in Canada and one foot in the US. Very cool. She also stopped at the town cemetary which was very interesting.
Unfortunately this stop was too short. What can you possibly do at 10pm except go to a pub or bar? We took a taxi cab from the ship to town which was $10/way. Princess offers a shuttle to town for $9r/t per person. Outside the boat they have shuttles for $10r/t or $5r/t for seniors and chidren. We walked around and shopped but that was about it on this pretty town.
You have to be out of your cabin by 8:30am but you can still hang out on the boat which we did. We found our luggages and hired a porter to take it. It was a painless process getting off the boat. We really didn't want to get off after being pampered by the staff and crew. Overall, we had a great time and were very happy with the Golden Princess and it's crew.