Background: This was our sixth cruise, fourth with Princess and first Alaska cruise. We choose this cruise for our 30th anniversary celebration.
Travel to Embarkation Port: We arrived in Vancouver 4 days out of Toronto before the start of the cruise. My wife had never been to BC and I wanted her to see the mountains, the sites and arriving early allowed use to visit friends.
Hotel: We stayed at the Century Plaza downtown about a 12 minute taxi ride to the cruise terminal. We booked the hotel through CAA and were very pleased. Very friendly and knowledgeable staff. They provided info on restaurants, pubs, liquour and grocery stores and we were able to purchase tickets for the hop on hop off trolley which we used for 2 days. It was a great way to see Vancouver. We also rented a car for 2 days from Avis just around the block from the hotel. We drove to Whistler for a day on the new highway.
Embarkation: We received an email in the morning advising the ship was leaving early. Not a problem as we intended to arrive around 2 pm to avoid the rush. The taxi took us right to the front door inside the building out of the rain. Friendly Princess staff advised what documentation was needed and where to go. Clearing US Immigration and Customs before boarding, very easy. Obtaining our cruise cards, layout map of the ship again was met by a very friendly individual. Minutes before sailing my wife's luggage had not arrived in the cabin. Asking the cabin steward we were advised to go to the ship's office. There we were told the luggage needed further screening due to having a bottle of wine inside. This was odd as Princess allows one bottle of wine or champagne to be brought on board. The luggage was easily found and once the wine was produced the issue was over. We took the luggage to our cabin ourselves. Upon arriving at the cabin, a notice was there advising of the issue with the luggage. Minutes after the fact. Security should be taught the difference between a bottle of wine and alcohol, which is very noticeable. First time we have had this issue with a bottle of wine.
Stateroom: We opted for a balcony aft of midships on the port side. I usually select a cabin at midships or aft. The motion of the ship is less noticeable. We had one bed converted, the balcony was large with 4 chairs and a small table. Lots of hangers in the closet, the safe worked as it should, the shower was small. Because of the rainy weather we hardly used the balcony except for the day at Glacier Bay.
Ship Info: The Island Princess is 10 years old and recently underwent an upgrade during her last refit. The ship handled very well during the rough days and road the seas smoothly. Didn't notice any jarring or shuttering. The ship is well laid out, we found it easy to navigate from one end to the other. There are diagrams at all the stairs/elevators indicating where you are. Plus everyone receives a ship's map during embarkation.
Dining: We selected anytime dining in case the shore excursion arrived back late. Wait times were minimal and were usually seated within 15 minutes. This ship offers two different dining options, traditional and anytime dining. We were surprised that people could reserve a dining time in the anytime dining. We think this practice should not be allowed. If people want to reserve a dinner time then they should have selected the traditional dining. We experienced this on the Emerald Princess. The food and service was always very good. We often ate in the restaurant for breakfast. The buffet had different themes and lots of options. We ate in Sabatini's on the first formal night and had a great meal and dining experience. They provided a lovely cake and the staff sang happy anniversary for us.
Activities: The Patter is required reading before going to bed as it informs you of what's going on the next day. Some activities we did together such as the morning trivia, or we would separate and one would go to the art auction, beauty tips or listen to a presentation on watches or jewelry. Again you could do everything, anything or just find a chair and read or watch the scenery go by at a window. I played in three poker tournaments which were full expect for one. They could easily have had consecutive tournaments.
Staff and Services: The stateroom attendant and bar staff in Crooners bar were great. The ship's office staff were very helpful and cordial. We did not come across any unfriendly Princess staff. We did notice the shopping on board was limited and picked over. This was the first time we did not purchase liquour as the brand was sold out. Probably due to the fact this was the ships last cruise to Alaska for the season.
Entertainment: We went to a few shows, we enjoyed the comedian act, a wonderful Motown singer and spent many nights in Crooner's bar listening to Peter Thompson play the piano. It was standing room every night he played. He was very approachable and one night a waiter sang a few songs to lots of cheers.
Shore Excursions: We did an excursion in each port. In Juneau after taking the tender ashore we panned for gold, toured the city and attended a salmon bake. This was a very interesting tour as I had wanted to try panning for gold. We both found gold flakes and some garnet. The salmon bake was very tasty. In Skagway we went on the White Rail Pass train to Summit Lake into BC (had to show our passports) and then took the bus back down the mountain to the Red Onion Saloon for a tour and beverage. Then onto another tasty Salmon bake. In Ketchikan we went to Totem Bight, a tour of the town and then to the lumberjack show. Of the three ports, Skagway was our favourite stop. We were surprised to find the amount of jewelry stores in all of the ports.
Disembarkation: This was very easy. We filled out the sheet indicating what time we would like to leave the ship. We then received luggage tags that afternoon indicating what colour we were, the time and location to be at, ours was one of the dining rooms. Once they called your tag colour which was early, we were escorted to the gangway, showed our cruise card and left the ship. Finding our luggage ashore was easy and clearing Canada customs was even easier. We had booked an independent shuttle to the airport which was easy to find and again the staff were very courteous.
Summary: This was a very good trip in which to celebrate our 30th anniversary having spent four days in Vancouver and then seven days on the cruise. We would recommend an Alaska cruise but perhaps not in September as the weather was rainy every day.