Pacific Princess Alaska Review – 13-20 May 2014
We booked the Pacific Princess about 6 months in advance, to celebrate of my wife’s birthday. We were intrigued by the concept of a small ship since our days at the rock-climbing walls and zip-lining are sadly behind us and we don’t really desire a huge activity schedule. Reading out on the balcony is more our speed. We have taken 20 + cruises on several different lines, including one other cruise on Princess. We are both customer service providers and are interested in how well cruise staff is trained to respond to travelers. We booked a full suite, which was excellent.
The ship just came out of drydock and we were a bit concerned that the smell of paint, carpet glue, etc., might bother us. We found none of this. Previous reviews indicated that the ship badly needed freshening. The only thing I noted was that the pillows on the lobby sofas looked like they were smashed down and lost some stuffing. There were no faded or torn upholstery, peeled wallpaper or other marks visible.
We arrived around 11 AM and there were only three porters available at Canada Place. One was tied up with a large group, so it took about 10 minutes to take our baggage. Check in was very efficient and took less than five minutes. We were told that boarding would start around noon and by 12:10 we were on the ship.
We heard about the Sanctuary in reviews of other Princess ships and went to the spa to see what it entailed. On this ship there were around 20 chaise lounges surrounding a thalassotherapy pool. The pool had no water, but we were told that it would be filled by the next morning. They charged $99 for the week. Later we found that they charged $99 for the previous 12 day cruise, so we felt a little cheated.
As suite guests, they waived the cover charge for the Steakhouse on the first night. The steaks were good, but the vegetables (mushrooms, creamed spinach, asparagus) were excellent.
I like to go to a coffee shop (both on and off ships) and have a mint mocha cappuccino. It always amazed me that no ship carried mint syrup but, to our surprise, the Pacific Princess had the alcoholic version. Since I brought my own flask of the non-alcoholic syrup, I was pretty set anyway. They also carried Vitality brand lemonade, our favorite.
Then we went to Sabatini’s for breakfast and had a great breakfast. I have always enjoyed a couple of canned figs, when available, for breakfast while on the cruise. Can't get them at home. I asked our waiter, Sandro if he could get them. He said that they didn’t have it but would try to search them out. By the time my wife’s juice arrived, he had the figs in front of me. Nice customer service, Sandro! The food in the main dining room was slightly above average and fairly good (but not spectacular).
The TV had the usual channels but the quality of reception, although not HD, was exceptionally good. Never saw a better picture on the ship. Only on one night (the second inside passage day) did the satellite drop out for a few hours.
The first day at sea (Inside Passage) was foggy and there was nothing to see. Kind of put a crimp in our plans to sit out in the Sanctuary or our balcony and read. Instead we hung out in the beautiful library, the lobby and the room to read. The sun peeked through about 2 PM but there was still a chill in the air. The next few days (Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and Ketchikan) – sunny with temps in the high 60’s and low-mid 70’s on our thermometer. Rather unusual for the first cruise in May. On our last Alaska cruise, the temp never got above 55 degrees. The lowest it got was the low 60’s during inside passage cruising. We had no rain for the entire week. The first inside passage day had a light misty morning.
We don’t do much in the way of excursions (already been there, done that in Alaska) so we usually take a long walk around town. We found nothing really special in Juneau and Skagway. Ketchikan had Creek Street, which has some lovely shops along with the usual trinkets.
The small size of the ship lends you to see the same passengers over and over again. You can also find many quiet places to stay by yourself or with your significant other. The ride was a little bumpier than we saw on larger ships, but no one appeared seasick. Overall, the ship had a rather dowdy décor, with a crew that gave great customer service. It appeals to folks (like us) who just want to spend time on our own. It was perfect for us.