DW and I are approaching 20 cruises, sampling all mainstream lines except perhaps MSC. This is somewhere around our seventh Princess cruise and our second cruise to Alaska, the first being a Seattle round trip aboard the Sapphire Princess in 2010. Although we really have no brand loyalty, we consider Princess our favorite.
June 18 – Flew to Seattle, 10:40 p.m. arrival, overnight at the Best Western Executel. The hotel offered 24hr shuttle service and a decent enough breakfast. We found it to be a fine place to lay our heads down for a few hours.
June 19 – Following breakfast we took the shuttle back to the airport for a Princess Motorcoach transfer to Vancouver. Had a bit of delay at the border as some crazy, screaming pedestrian woman attempted to board our bus and was pursued and detained by the customs officers. We arrived at the cruise terminal about 1:30 p.m. and were on the ship about 20min later. We enjoyed a very nice sail-away, although it was cool and cloudy.
June 20 – Cold and drizzle forced us to pursue indoor activities today. Although I did spot some whales as we were coming off the north end of Vancouver Island. Our routing went east of Vancouver Island whereas Seattle departures go out in the ocean (west of Vancouver Island).
June 21 – A short stay in Ketchikan; 6:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. We had a great time with friends from Ketchikan. We got the local perspective of this small rain forest area. There was a great sense of community here. He is a commercial fisherman by trade and I am an avid sport fisherman. We were treated to a great lunch with succulent black cod, king salmon and dungeness crab dip! As we dined we watched the Celebrity Century sail in from their beautiful waterfront home on the Inside Passage. It was interesting to note that homes in this area rely on rainwater collected in basement cisterns for non-potable water. They do not have wells. There was a 1500-gallon cistern in this house, which I’m told is on the smallish side. After a tour of the fishing boat (45ft steel vessel), we are back at the dock to board the ship at 1:30. The ship’s naturalist provided commentary late this afternoon as we came into an area known for sea mammals. We saw several humpback whales and some sea lions on a buoy .
June 22 – Today we are celebrating our 28th anniversary. We get off the ship around 10:00 and browse a few shops before boarding a local bus for the Lumber and Mining competition/festival out on Douglas Island. We dined on pulled pork from a roasted pig. Back in Juneau, we shopped for souvenirs and then decided to take the tram up Mt. Roberts. Once on the mountain we set off on some of the hiking trails and almost made it to the next peak. We got some great photos… my wife kept singing, “The hills are alive…” Back at the tram terminal we checked out the restaurant, decided to try it, and are glad we did, it was fantastic! The fresh seafood combined with the mountain top view was a great way to cap off our anniversary! Also, tonight was the first night it never got dark.
June 23 – Fishing is my primary focus today. Last night I purchased a one-day license online and printed it at the internet café. DW and I head off around 9:00. After two days of clouds and drizzle, today we are greeted with bluebird skies! She heads to the shops and I head to Pullen Creek that flows between the mountain and the bay. I found some great looking spots, but no takers. I meet up with DW and we go back to the ship for lunch. Following lunch, we head back out to hike the trail up to Lower Dewey Lake. It’s probably about a 30min hike to the lake. The lake is absolutely stunning, however we failed to consider the mosquitos and thus were without repellent. This forced DW to head back, however I continued my attempts to land a fish. I was encouraged when I had some followers of my Mepps spinner on the first couple of casts… but after losing the spinner to a tree and having to cast alternative offerings the followers were no longer interested. So, I shed my shoes and socks to brave the icy waters in an attempt to retrieve my spinner… I could not hack it, even though the water was only knee deep, it was just too painful, so my spinner remains in the tree. I worked my way south and when almost to the spillway at the south end I had a good solid hit, the subsequent cast produced a beautiful 8” dolly varden trout, first one I’d ever seen. The coloration is very similar to a brook trout. I continued to fish for another hour or so working my way around the end of the lake, over to a creek on the south east side that flowed into the lake. By now, it was about 7:00, I thought I’d better head back to make sure I was aboard the ship by 8:00.
It was a beautiful sail-away and as the skies turned to twilight and we turned west, a bright full moon hovered over the southern horizon.
June 24 – Today is a sea day/ Glacier Bay. Several (4?) National Park Rangers boarded around 7:00 a.m. with commentary starting at 8:00. They set up a table and displays in the covered pool areal on deck 12. It was another beautiful blue-sky day. The commentating ranger pointed out mountain goats and later a brown/grizzly bear on the beach. We visited several glaciers and witnessed calving with the accompanying thunder. As we were sailing toward the bottom of the bay, we saw whales and dolphins as well as numerous sea otters and a few puffins. The Sapphire Princess passed us as they were coming in a few miles to the east. The rangers exited the ship around 3:00 and the naturalist started her commentary about 4:00. Soon we were literally surrounded by humpback whales. My wife saw one breech. We lost track of how many, but it was dozens. As we sailed out of the bay and headed for the ocean the winds picked up but the ship remained quite steady (even in our far aft balcony).
Our other Alaska cruise included Tracy Arm Fjord/Sawyer Glaciers and there seems to be an ongoing debate about which is better, Tracy Arm or Glacier Bay. Most give the nod to Glacier Bay, I’m not sure I agree. They are very different experiences. I think I need to do them both again!
June 25 – Today is at sea. College Fjord is scheduled around 5:00 p.m. We packed in the afternoon and by late afternoon were beginning to see the glaciers of College Fjord. It was very scenic with lots of sea otters. Around midnight it was still daylight and we were pulling into Whittier. The next day we would take a transfer to the Anchorage airport, rent a car, lunch at Humpy’s (as featured on Man vs Food) and spend two nights at the Princess McKinley Lodge (about halfway between Anchorage and Denali). The following day we would head up to Denali, return for night two at the lodge and then a leisurely drive back to Anchorage to catch our 9:00 p.m. flight on Friday (including some fishing stops).
All in all it was a fantastic cruise. The crewmembers without exception were upbeat and personable. The food was at least OK. The ship was sparkling. The coffee and production shows were lousy as ever. This was our first experience on this class of ship and I really liked the layout, but found the showers to be the smallest I’ve ever had. Nevertheless, after straying to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity for our last two cruises it was great to be home again!