Star Princess Cruise Review by horizonbound: Alaska Inside Passage, June 2013
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Alaska Inside Passage, June 2013
Back to Alaska! I had been offered a great deal on this Glacier Bay cruise and jumped on the opportunity.
Boarding in Seattle was through the new terminal at Pier 91, and it was a slow, drawn-out process. Our airport transfer reached the terminal about 12:30pm, and we were asked to wait in the sun across from the terminal as the interior was far too crowded to accommodate us and all the Holland America Westerdam passengers on the other side of the terminal. It seemed nearly half these passengers were from China, and these folks tended to move in large groups. This frequently hindered easy passage on the ship and in the ports. I was finally aboard after nearly two hours of slow-moving lines. I was exhausted!
I was traveling solo in A-612, a "mid-aft" balcony stateroom on the port side. The room was clean and comfortable and my cabin steward (Patrick) is a prince among mere men; what a wonderful guy! I stowed my stuff, and sought out the dining table that was More supposed to be in the Piazza to make reservations for the Crown Grill. I didn't find this table, but found drink packages being sold in numerous locations. The "Dine Line" on the cabin phone rang and rang for 45 minutes before I gave up. I had noticed that Sabatini's had the podium open for reservations; the Crown Grille was unattended. I finally went to the Crown Grill at the 5:30pm opening and was informed that they do NOT take single diners. Even though the room was open at that moment and was bereft of diners, they would not admit me since I was there alone. So dinner happened in Capri, and the Medallions of Filet were delicious.
The next day was a day at sea and the only motion in the ocean... a slight southwest swell. Anytime dining, in spite of what Princess publishes, is only served until 9:30pm. Capri is only open until 7:45 when all diners on the anytime plan dine in Portofino. Attendance at later seatings was sporadic, so I usually ate at eight. The Horizon Court buffet always had long lines and difficult seating, and the fare was mediocre; scrambled eggs were consistently dry and crumbly, and everything was wayyyyy too salty. I also finally got into the Crown Grill as that's where they held the British Pub Lunch. The Crown Grill does NOT offer iced tea; it's either coffee or water, unless you wanted to pay for some alcoholic beverage. I don't drink.
I also sampled the pizza during this cruise and was pleasantly surprised. I tried on two different occasions to get a cheeseburger, but the attendants here kept trying to serve me chicken sandwiches since they evidently did not speak ANY English. Really? On a cruise marketed primarily in the US and Canada?
Day three put us in Juneau. This was the first cruise where I thought I'd skip shore excursions, unlike in the past. I thought I'd just go ashore and stroll about town. Juneau is pretty much nothing but Jewelry stores, although I did follow tradition and had a cheeseburger at the Red Dog Saloon. The burgers used to be much better here. Weather, however, was amazing. It was 83 degrees and sunny.
Day four is Skagway, where it is 85 degrees and sunny, a situation I'd never seen here before. Along with Star Princess moored on the left, Holland America Zuiderdam was docked on the Ore pier and the rail pier had Sapphire Princess up front, with Celebrity Solstice behind. This puts, by my guess, about 9400 passengers in Skagway, a town with a permanent population of about 800-900. The crowds were so thick people were strolling in the street, a dangerous situation. Huge crowds, and anything you want if it's T-shirts or jewelry. If I ever do this again, I will most definitely use an excursion that leaves the town site.
Day five is Glacier Bay, where our strange weather continued; it was 72 degrees according to the weather monitor on TV. Margery Glacier was a fascinating as ever, and as noisy as ever. Sounds like a war zone! They say the park service allows only two cruise ships in here on any given day. I did not see another.
More typical weather greeted up in Ketchikan on day 6; is was chilly and overcast and I felt a few raindrops. I returned to Star Princess fairly quickly as Ketchikan was also pretty much all Jewelry stores and T-shirt shops.
The final stop in Victoria was evidently pretty popular, as Star Princess seemed pretty empty. After numerous visits into Victoria, I just stayed on board and watched Karaoke, where people who should NOT drink get up and discover they should NOT sing, either!
Disembarkation went quickly and smoothly, although our airport transfer driver was terrible; it was full gas, slam on the brakes, full gas, slam on the brakes. My neck is still hurting from that ride.
So in the end, I've made some revelations. 1) Single travelers are evidently not welcome at Princess. I was made to feel like something less than human all week long. 2) Alaskan ports are nothing but Jewelry vendor-operated tourist traps. 3) Star Princess, except for the Victoria stop, was consistently crowded. And 4) Reindeer Chili is delicious, but the dining area attendant that did not speak a word of English couldn't be convinced that you can't eat chili with a fork. What I could try with a fork was delicious. Less
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Cabin review: BCA-612 Balcony
People keep grousing that this location will receive a lot of noise from the Horizon Court buffet above, and from the coin-operated laundry across the hall. This never happened during this week. Most of the noise here came from the orientation of the ship in the ports; VERY noisy on the dock side, especially in Skagway, where a busy heliport is right next to the ship, and those whirlybirds were coming and going all the time!My room steward, Patrick, was a friendly, gracious and helpful gentleman. Not only did he exceed every need, he had a tendency to anticipate my needs!
Port and Shore Excursions
Very crowded with four ships in port (Our Star Princess, Holland America Zuiderdam, Holland America Westerday, Celebrity Solstice at anchor in the harbor). Other than the fun Red Dog Saloon, the vast majority of vendors here are Jewelry stores or T-shirt shops. Should have taken the Whale Watch trip and skipped this tourist trap.
More of the same here. We we sharing the port with our ship (Star Princess), Sapphire Princess and two Holland America ships. Far too many people for far too small a town. And, like so many ports these days, you could get anything you wanted as long as it was T-shirts or jewelry.
I used to love Skagway. We'd sail in, take the train trip, maybe a wildlife excursion over to Haines. Nowadays, it's four ships with over 9000 people jammed into far too small a space. This too-small space is pretty much all T-shirt shops and jewelry stores, like so many ports all over the world that have degraded into tacky tourist traps.