My third time to Alaska on the Golden Princess was a rather "last-minute, I've got nothing to do in September" decision. At first, I was looking to cruise solo, but when I found that for less than a dollar more I could bring someone along, I asked my father-in-law what he was doing in September. So, after reimbursing us the additional 60 cents, he and I planned a lazy and relaxing cruise. Airline miles got us cross-country to Seattle (and back) in first class, a nice concierge-level room at the Grand Hyatt at 7th and Pine the night before (because, as all experienced cruisers know, you really should fly in the day before your cruise departs, if not earlier) on Hyatt points and we were not only still flush with cash but rested, if a bit jet-lagged.
Seattle is a clean city, easy to walk about in and we have found that the Grand Hyatt is nicely situated for short walks to Pike Place, the Space Needle and other landmarks, or a short taxi ride if one must. We used Shuttle More
Express to get us from the airport to the hotel and then, the next day, to Pier 91, where Golden Princess awaited us and a few thousand more passengers.
Check-in at the Pier was mostly a process of standing in, and shuffling along, a long serpentine line, going from the parking area upstairs to the standard security checks to the counters containing the obligatory health questionnaire then on to the Princess kiosks where you'll not have your picture taken or credit card requested but will be provided with your cabin key and shipboard account card. Then more line zig-zagging along the length of the ship to the tower that winds up a few more coils until you are finally deposited on the ship where ship's security will take your picture and then can easily avoid the almost obligatory photo-op of your party boarding the ship. It took us about 1 hour to complete this fairly painless process. We had nice weather for it, but if it were cold and anything but sunny you might not be too pleased as the last portion of the process is, while covered, outside the terminal building.
The ship itself is in good condition, cleaned and cared for by an experienced crew. We were recognized and greeted by nearly every crew member we encountered, passing the time with them in playful discussion about the Horizon Food Court coffee (which is quite dreadful, apparently across the line as it was as obnoxious as the coffee on both Sun and Ocean Princesses) or the amateur efforts of the cruise directors staff at game shows. They all were friendly and efficiently performed their duties always to our complete satisfaction. I did note that their was only 1 hot tub that seemed to do anything more than annoy its occupants but the pools were in almost constant use. While this ship is the largest (by passenger count) that I've ever sailed, it never seemed over-crowded. There are several very pleasant public areas to sit and read or chat.
Being the 3rd Alaska cruise both my father-in-law and I have taken over the years, there wasn't much we hadn't already done in port that we still wanted to do. The exception was Skagway, a port my father-in-law had not yet visited. We took our one and only excursion here, choosing the White Pass Railway and Yukon Adventure. It was pricey but we both found our money well spent, especially on the train portion of the tour, which takes you through some very dramatic territory to the "Tortured Valley", a beautifully stark landscape pillared by mountain ranges where the clouds rest along the peaks for much of the day. This cruise also included a half day of scenic cruising in Tracy Arm, the end of which contains the dramatic South Sawyer Glacier. However, we spent little time viewing the glacier, which I found rather odd, so be sure you are in position to take pictures as you arrive at the glacier. If you have never been to Alaska or viewed glaciers before, I would recommend an itinerary that includes Glacier Bay National Park where you'll nearly all day viewing several different glaciers including the impressive Marjorie and Grand Pacific Glaciers.
Disembarkation was fairly typical with everyone rushing off in different directions early in the morning to find their waiting rooms before being called off the ship. I don't suppose there is an easy way to get this process done but it did seem to have lots of people from the back half of the ship moving to the front half at the same time people were moving from the front half of the ship to the back half; as always, elevators where in premium demand and major bottlenecks to traffic flow. I like Holland America Line's process of asking passengers to wait in their cabins until called to disembark.
Overall, we had a remarkably relaxing and pleasantly lazy week on board Golden Princess, exactly what I was looking for. Less
Golden Princess Cruises to Alaska
Family & Children
Fitness & Recreation
Value for Money
Cabin 212 is small but the space is well used. AC worked adequately. Toilet never failed. Shower curtain doesn't always contain water in the shower basin and is often "worn" by the occupant. Good water pressure and temperature control. Very quiet room except for doors of nearby cabins which can be easily heard.
Our least favorite of Alaska port cities. There's not much to see walking here as it is a working, government city. We did enjoy our visit to the Red Dog Saloon though. A city bus will run you out to Mendenhall Glacier for far cheaper than the ship's tours will. Otherwise, you have the Mt. Robert's Tram to the top of the mountain or will have to book something via the ship or independently, the later being easily done just as you debark your ship.
Ketchikan, or as we like to call it: "Ketchup-can", is a fun place to shop and walk. It's very tourist oriented and you might even recognize the lady who sold you that bracelet you bought on your last Caribbean cruise; you'll surely recognize the jewelry shops. We found our way easily to Creek Street as many do but also found that lots of salmon had also found Creek Street and never left; the pungent smell of dead fish filled our nostrils with each breath. If you don't like this smell, don't go after the salmon have run!
Skagway is a fun little city with lots of excurions. We took the White Pass Scenic Railway and Yukon Adventure which we thoroughly enjoyed. It seems a bit pricey but the train is definitely worth the cost.