ABOUT US - we are Neil & Barbara Plested, a UK married couple in our late 50's. We retired 3 years ago and try and travel as much as we can, while we are still 'young' enough. In the past we have only been occasional cruisers, but due to the recent great deals, we are cruising more and this is our third cruise this summer. We have cruised previously with RCL, P&O, Celebrity, MCL and Princess. We are not loyal to any brand and select on itinerary and value. We normally book quite late. We tend not to do many organised excursions, but try to travel independently. We are regular contributors to Trip Advisor. Prior to the cruise, we flew into Calgary and spent 6 nights driving around the Rockies and then 3 nights in Vancouver. After the 7 night cruise we flew from Anchorage to Seattle and spent a week driving the Oregon coast and Northern California to San Francisco, from where we flew home. The total trip was 24 days, including transatlantic flights. If you have any questions or comments, then please contact us on ' firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope this review is useful to you. Safe travels - N&B.
CABIN 3/5 - we were in balcony cabin A702 deck 12 Aloha, port side, towards the stern. Not the largest of staterooms we've had, but not bad. King bed with good quality linen and pillows. tv, desk and chair, a separate chair and table, telephone and bedside cabinets with lights. Plenty of wardrobe space and lots of hangers. Only 2 US sockets in the room - not enough these days with phones, computers etc. Good and quiet aircon. Bathroom - one of the smallest showers on the planet. How some larger people manage I do not know? We are both small and reasonably slim adults, but it was still a squeeze and you got to know the shower curtain quite well!! There is a power socket in the bathroom, which we had to use regularly due to the shortage. Balcony - again quite small with 2 chairs and a small table. Too small for sun loungers. To be fair, we could not expect the best stateroom, as we booked late and got a very good deal. An unobscured view. As we have always found with cruises, the cabin steward was superb.
FOOD 5/5 ' Overall we found the food to be excellent throughout. We never had a poor meal. We found the choice to be first class and the service exemplary in all area. Unlike some cruises recently, we did not see any cutbacks due to the recession and lower prices. Well done Princess. We did not try the speciality restaurants, as we have eaten in them before, and did not feel the need on a 7 night cruise. We found the drinks and wines to be good quality and reasonably priced. Service was excellent everywhere, with lots of attentive staff. As always, the buffet could get busy at peak times, but we never struggled to find a seat or had to wait for long in a queue.
Horizon Court Buffet -
Breakfast 05.30 - 11.30
Lunch 11.30 - 15.30
Afternoon snack 15.30 - 17.30
Dinner 17.30 - 24.00
Province - set time waiter served dining
First seating 17.15. Second seating 19.30
Bordeaux ' anytime waiter served dining
Breakfast 07.30 - 09.30. Lunch 12.00 - 13.30. Afternoon Tea 15.30 - 16.30. Dinner - anytime dining 17.15 - 22.00
Sabatini's ' speciality restaurant
Alfredo's Pizzeria - 11.30 - 14.30 (no charge). Dinner 17.30 - 22.30 ($25 cover charge)
Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse ' speciality restaurant
Dinner 17.30 - 22.30 ($20 cover charge). Some days an English Pub 11.30 - 14.00 (no charge)
Pizzeria 11.00 - 23.00. Ice cream bar 10.00 - 22.00. Poolside Grill 11.00 - 22.00. La Patisserie coffee bar 06.00 - 23.00
SHIP 4/5 ' considering it's a few years old now, it seemed in remarkable condition. Everywhere seemed clean and tidy and well maintained. The public rooms were all very nice indeed. We really enjoyed the flat promenade deck - on some you have to climb stairs at the front or rear. Lots of seats and loungers on the decks, though less used in these northern latitudes.
VALUE 5/5 ' we paid $909 each for a balcony cabin, including all taxes, cruise only. Superb value.
OVERALL 4/5 ' we really enjoyed this cruise, despite the less than perfect weather, but we did not expect and would not hesitate to recommend it. We'd certainly do it again.
DAY 1 embarkation - our hotel (Delta Suites Vancouver) was only 1 block (a $5 cab ride with luggage) from the Canada cruise terminal. You can drop your bags off at the terminal anytime and go for a walk around the town, but you cannot check in until 12.00. There were the inevitable queues at both check in and US customs. We were in our cabin within 45 minutes of arriving at the pier - pretty good. While we waited for our bags to arrive, we had a waiter served lunch in the Bordeaux dining room. An excellent sail away from Vancouver in the sunshine. We ordered a bottle of champagne from room service - always a nice way to start a cruise and we watched the world go by on our balcony - it sure beats working!! We had chosen anytime dining, which is in Bordeaux each evening. The first night was casual attire in the Main Dining Rooms (MDR). We were too tired to watch the show at 21.45 and had an early night.
DAY 2 at sea Inside Passage - we were woken in the early hours of the morning by the ship's foghorn and it remained foggy until late afternoon, so we did not see much scenery as we sailed by. We had a room service breakfast and then walked 5 miles (14 laps) around the promenade deck - 2.8 laps for a mile. For lunch we had excellent sushi in the Horizon buffet. Later we went to a lecture on whales by naturalist Doug Capra. Then we had afternoon tea and cakes in Bordeaux - naughty but nice!! 1st formal night in the MDR. As our trip was for 24 days, we decided it was not worth carrying formal attire for only 2 formal nights on the cruise, so after a few glasses of free champagne at the Captains party in the Atrium, we ate in the Horizon buffet. It was Asian food. We ate superb spicy prawns and tender peppered fillet - a fine selection of flavoured food. We saw lots of humpback whales from the buffet window. Later we saw the show "Motor City" in the Princess Theatre. All your old favourite Motown songs - real foot tapping show. Then we had a good laugh at the Scot Wyler comedy show in the Universe Lounge. When we got back to our cabin the foghorn was going again - now where were those earplugs? The clocks went back 1 hour. Good - an extra hours sleep - if the foghorn allows!!!
DAY 3 Ketchikan - we arrived early at 05.30 and docked near the town. A nice sail-in past forested hills and isolated boathouses. Weather cloudy, but at least no damn fog, hence reasonable visibility. We had a room service breakfast and walked off the ship easily approx 09.30. Weather was mild and dry, but cloudy. Ketchikan is a quaint, frontier looking town with lots of painted wooden houses. We docked directly in town with 3 other cruise ships. We walked through the small town and up to Creek Street, with its old wooden houses lining both banks of Ketchikan Creek. The river was absolutely full of salmon. We walked along the riverbank upstream for a short way, where you could see numerous salmon trying to get upstream to spawn, leaping through the rapids. Just follow the signs through town to the salmon ladder and spawning area. It's a 10-minute walk. Also near the spawning area is the Totem Heritage Centre. It contains a collection of 19th century Totems from the Tlingit Indians. $5 entrance fee. Lots of interesting information and old photos. Plenty of shops near the pier. We bought a few fleeces and rain jackets. Incredibly cheap at $20 each in the end of season sale. We got free wifi outside of a cafe in town. All on board 13.30. It started to rain as we sailed away. In the afternoon we went to a lecture by Doug Capra on mammals of Alaska. At 18.00, Doug Capra gave a commentary from the Horizon buffet. We saw many humpback whales in the Snowy Channel. They were breaching and bubble feeding close to the ship. Casual attire in the MDR. We ate in Bordeaux - it was an Italian theme evening. Later we saw the show "On the Bayou" in the Universe Lounge - a good New Orleans jazz show.
DAY 4 Juneau - a pretty sail-in down a narrow inlet. We arrived at 07.30 and docked a few minutes walk into town. Dry but with low cloud covering the surrounding hills. We were in dock for over 8 hours, so plenty of time to do tours. In town prices - cable car return $31, bus to Mendanhall Glacier $8 each way. Whale watching $120. Lots of competition here for your $. We waited until the cloud had cleared a little and bought a whale watching tour for $90 each. There were lots of places to book any tour near the cable car station. You can do combo tours of virtually anything. We were bused to another harbour and a fast boat took 30 of us to see whales. We saw numerous humpbacks, with both females and calves breaching - absolutely stunning. Back at the harbour, Dolphin took us to see the Mendelhall Glacier. We had an hour at the glacier and then they bused us back to town. We had sunshine during both the wale watching and the glacier tour. Thank you Dolphin Tours. Back on the ship we went for afternoon tea and then to the Universal Lounge to hear a lecture by Libby Riddles, a winner of the famous 1,100 mile Iditarod dog sleigh race. As we showered prior to dinner, the ship had 2 power cuts!! Better in dock than out at sea!!! All on board 20.30 and we departed in darkness at 21.00. Casual attire in the MDR. We had dinner in Bordeaux. Later we watched the show in the Princess Theatre - a comedian/juggler. His juggling was good, but his comedy was dull. Not our cup of tea, as we English say.
DAY 5 Skagway - we arrived at 06.00. We berthed at the end of the quay, so Princess provided a bus into town for $2 each way. As we needed the exercise, we walked - it took us about 5 minutes. Skagway is a small, real frontier town, with raised wooden sidewalks - really quaint. You expect at anytime a drunk to be thrown through the saloon doors, or a shoot out with the sheriff on the street. You can get free wifi at the Library. We went back on board at 11.30 for lunch in the Horizon. Later we took the White Pass and Yukon Route train. It runs twice a day - 08.45 and 12.45. The train leaves from the harbour, right by the ship. We booked in advance with Princess, as we though it might be full, and paid $129. It is $120 if you book in Skagway, but places are limited and you run the risk of not getting on if you don't book ahead. So Princess was offering a very reasonable deal. It took 3 hours for the 40 mile return journey. We were unlucky that the weather was wet, with lots of mist, so many of the lovely vistas were obscured. The trip was quaint and reasonably interesting, but nothing special. Perhaps it might seem better in the sunshine? Back on board by 16.30 for afternoon tea in Horizon. Casual attire in the MDR. We ate in Bordeaux then saw a wonderful acoustic guitar player. Later we saw another show put on by the entertainment team and talented ship's staff. It was a packed theatre, with a great atmosphere.
DAY 6 at sea & cruising Glacier Bay - Princess provided each cabin with an excellent map and information on Glacier Bay. This is what cruising Alaska is all about. You cannot really get access to these places apart from by sea. We entered Glacier Bay off Bartlett Cove at 06.15 and picked up the National Park Rangers. Oh no - it's foggy again!!! Regular broadcast information from the Rangers, audible on all open decks, including balconies. At about 10.00, we sailed close to Marjorie Glacier near the end of Tarr Inlet and stayed there for about an hour. Even though it was misty, we still had good views of the glacier toe close up, rising some 250 ft above the sea. The Captain turned the ship around so everyone had a good view. We heard ice calving a few times, but it happened too fast for us to see it. The glacier moves at up to 7 feet a day, so lots of ice falls off each day. We then returned down Tarr Inlet and into John Hopkins Inlet. At about 11.45, we approached Lamplugh Glacier. It was majestic close up. The ship pirouetted in front of the glacier. We departed Lamplugh at 12.30 and sailed slowly out of Glacier Bay. Not the best viewing weather, but we felt lucky just to be here - many don't get the opportunity. For lunch we had a lovely seafood buffet, which has been set up in the undercover Lotus Bar pool area. Later we went to a lecture on the Glacier Bay National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) by the Park Rangers - as it was simulcast on tv, we lazily watched it in our room. We had good visibility and fine views in the afternoon as we exited Glacier Bay through the Sitakaday Narrows and back into Icy Straight. We then sailed west through Cross Sound and into the open sea of the Gulf of Alaska. We then headed north in open sea, where we hit really choppy waters first time on this cruise. 2nd formal night in the MDR. With the rough weather, and both of us not good in stormy seas, we had room service and chilled out watching films in our cabin!!! We missed the Captain's drinks party for Captains Circle Guests ' big deal!! We're not too keen on brand loyalty schemes. Most are worth very little, except for Sandals, which give you a free week, all-inclusive, for each 70 nights taken.
DAY 7 - at sea and College Fjord ' a stormy night. We took seasick tablets and slept well. We had room service breakfast. At about 09.00, the Captain eventually spoke to the ship (we had hardly heard from him until now) and suggested, as we were experiencing rough seas, that we should take care when walking around the ship - about 12 hours too late. The wind was gusting across the deck at up to 70 mph!!! At approx 12.00 we entered Prince William Sound through Cape Hinchinbrook. This provided us some protection from the rough seas on our way to College Fjord. I eventually hauled ourselves out of the cabin and we had lunch in the Bayou Cafe as an English Pub, something I think Princess have borrowed from P&O. I had fish and chips and a pint of warm English beer - very nice. Later I went to an interesting lecture on "Navigation at Sea" by one of the Bridge Officers, followed by a question and answer session. Then we had afternoon tea in Bordeaux and then worked it off by walking 6 laps of the Promenade Deck. As we sailed Prince William Sound, it narrowed towards College Fjord. We entered College Fjord at 17.15. There was regular information broadcasts from Doug Capra the naturalist. The fjord is not as spectacular as those we've seen in Norway, where they are narrower and steeper, but the glaciers are the stars here and they are spectacular. Named after US colleges, they come one after the other on the port side. Then at the end of the fjord is the majestic Harvard fjord, fed by 24 other glaciers. We saw it bathed in sunlight, but later the mist descended again. The ship again kindly did a 360 pirouette for everyone. As we looked back down the fjord, the sea was calm and dotted with small icebergs on the azure blue water. Everything was still - there was no sign of life anywhere except our ship - it was quite magical. We had chose this itinerary to see the glaciers of Glacier Bay and College Fjord and we were not disappointed. We had dinner in Bordeaux and went to bed early. The bags needed to be outside the cabin by 22.30 latest. The disembarkation information from Princess was very clear and detailed.
DAY 8 Whittier disembarkation - we arrived in the early hours of the morning, as it is only a short distance from College Bay to Whittier. We had breakfast in Horizon. We were in no rush, as our full day tour did not leave until 08.30. We did not go to the disembarkation meeting area, but just walked off the ship at 08.00. The weather was very wet and windy. We collected our bags and boarded our tour bus. We had independently booked an all day tour with Alaska Cruise Transfers. After the tour it dropped us off at the airport at 16.30 for our 18.20 flight to Seattle.
REFLECTIONS ' a wonderful experienced, mellowed slightly by the less than perfect weather, though this is probably normal in Alaska. A fine ship with an excellent itinerary and superb staff. Highly recommended while the good deals are around.