We were on two back-to-back cruises (Vancouver-Whittier/Whittier-Vancouver), which I thought it worked out very well for this itinerary - and no need to fly. While there is some repetition of the ports, we found having a second visit to each port allowed us to do different things we didn’t have time for on our first visit. It was great having two days at Glacier Bay (I can never get enough of that!). It was also nice getting to see both College Fjord (NB) and Hubbard Glacier (SB). The arrival and departure times are different for some of the port calls NB vs. SB, so it was nice having the different times. It allowed us to see scenery in one direction that we had missed in the other: for example, on the NB, we sailed through Stephens Passage very early in the morning before our 7:30 am arrival in Juneau, but on the SB we left Juneau at 4pm and could better enjoy the scenery during the late afternoon and evening. It was so nice knowing our cruise was only half over when we got to Whittier. It was also nice not having to do the second muster drill in Whittier – we were able to enjoy a very quiet meal in the dining room.
Although this was my 11th cruise with Princess, I’ve mostly done longer cruises and I’ve never been on a 7 day cruise before. We definitely noticed that it was a much younger crowd compared with what we’re used to on Princess. It was nice to see a greater mix of ages.
I booked this cruise less than two weeks before sailing, and while I got a great deal, one of the disadvantages of such late booking is the limited selection of cabins – especially if you want the same cabin on both sailings. I’m not very particular about cabin location, so we were fine with an inside cabin near the very front on the Aloha deck. I was a bit concerned about ship movement in this location, but the sea conditions were so smooth that this was never a problem.
I don't understand how people can complain so much about the food. How can people not find something to like at the buffet - there's such great variety! I found the food in both the main dining room and the buffet to be very good and the service was always friendly and helpful.
There were 3 production shows on each 7-day cruise. One of the shows was different on the second cruise, so we were able to see 4 different shows during the 14 days on board.
NB: “Destination Anywhere” on Monday (postponed from Sunday due to illness of one of the performers), “Motor City” on Tuesday, and “Disco - Blame it on the Boogie” on Thursday
SB: “Destination Anywhere”, “What a Swell Party”, “Blame it on the Boogie”
I thought the shows were overall better than usual, and I especially liked “What a Swell Party” , which was one of the best shows I’ve seen on Princess.
Movies Under the Stars seemed fairly well used. It’s great watching a movie while being snug under your blanket.
For me, this was the highlight of the cruise. I think I enjoyed the scenic cruising days even more than the port days.
Glacier Bay: We had a beautiful sunny day on the NB cruise and visited the Reid, Lamplugh, and Margerie Glaciers (with about an hour in front of the Margier Glacier, with the ship turning around halfway through). The weather was just as nice on the SB trip and we visited all the same glaciers, plus we went part way into John Hopkins Inlet to get a beautiful view of the John Hopkins Glacier. The ice conditions seemed very good for relatively early in the season.
College Fjord: Although it was overcast and a little damp, still very beautiful and amazing how much ice (growlers and bergy bits) that we sailed through.
Hubbard Glacier: This was amazing, being so large - the face is 10 km (6 miles) wide and the height of a 35 story building above the water. Just as we were leaving we saw a huge calving, with nearly the full height of the glacier face falling off. The subsequent wave made the ship rock even though we had already started to move away.
One tip: Deck 19 above Skywalkers was a great place for watching the scenery and very uncrowded. It’s supposed to be for minigolf (Princess Links), but I never actually saw anyone playing. Usually there was just half a dozen or so people sitting watching the scenery. Although it’s at the back of the ship, you can see out both sides an you can even look around towards the front.
My one complaint related to scenic cruising is that Princess ships don’t go through any of the Inside Passage between the northern end of Vancouver Island and Ketchikan as some other cruise lines do, but rather they are in open sea. Using the true Inside Passage route would make the cruise more scenic on the first sea day (NB). The last sea day (SB) is scenic once you reach the northern end of Vancouver Island (from early afternoon onward).
We took the Glacier Express bus to Mendenhall Glacier. It costs $20 return and runs every 30 minutes. There is also a nice hike up Mt. Roberts that you can access from Basin Road, past the top of Gold Street. It took about 30 minutes to walk from the ship through town, to the beginning of the trail, then just under an hour to hike the trail to the top where the tram station is located – beautiful views! You can either walk back down or take the tram down for $10. If you spend $10 in the gift shop, you can ride the tram down for free.
We spent our first day just wandering around town – I especially enjoyed climbing the stairs up into the hillside residential areas – some really cool neighborhoods. On the second day, we took the public transit bus to Totem Bight State Park. The Silver Line bus runs there once an hour with a stop right across from where the ship docks and it drops you off right at the park. The trip takes about 20-25 minutes each way. The bus is a bargain at $1 each way and entry to the park is free. The park is a very nice setting with a long house and a good collection of totem poles.
If you get tired of all the jewelry stores, I would highly recommend renting a car and driving up over the White Pass to Carcross in the Yukon. It’s about a 90 minute drive each way, but there are lots of places you’ll want to stop. It’s one of my favorite drives and the scenery is amazing. Particularly beautiful spots are the White Pass summit, Bove Island overlook, and Emerald Lake (which is actually about 10-15 minutes past Carcross).