The Cruise - My wife and I were on the 6/14 – 6/25 Star Princes Round trip from San Francisco to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Victoria. We are native Californians’ and live the SF Bay Area. This was my wife’s first cruise and my second. My first was over 42 years ago so I do consider this a first time trip.
Embarkation- After following several threads on the CC I was dreading the boarding procedures. To go a bit green for this trip we had a friend take us to a local BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station with our two rolling suitcases and back packs. We got on just BART before 11:00am. We arrived in SF and rolled our luggage to the cruise terminal arriving about 11:50. I found a Princess rep who told us to load our luggage cart and then head into the terminal. We did just that and after doing our medical paper work, carry on X-Ray, metal detector, wine corkage payment we got in line. We waited all of 15 minutes and we on board by 12:30 and in our room by 12:35. I have spent longer times getting on airplanes than it took us to get to our room.
The Ship – We loved all the art work and how the ship was laid out. We spent a lot of time on the Promenade Deck doing our laps to try and offset some of the calories we consumed on the trip. I really enjoyed the Atrium area (Piazza) with the various music events. We loved the ship and all the crew members. We only took the elevators twice the whole cruise so I can’t speak to their speed. We visited Skywalkers during the day a couple of times. We did find the secret deck above the bridge and in front of the gym windows the last day. My biggest fear was feeling crowded on ship with over 2800 people on board. This never happened! I was totally amazed at how open the ship felt most of the trip.
Cabin – We were in a balcony on deck 11 (Baja) starboard side aft in cabin 635. We loved our room. For two people it was the perfect size and having a covered balcony would make all the difference on this cruise. Our cabin steward Marcos was great. He handled all our requests was always friendly and saw to getting the plumbing, sliding door and bathroom light issues fixed quickly. We had the bed set up as a queen and we found the mattress to be prefect. We did not go with the foam topper. We did bring our own pillows and glad that I did. There was on pillow that might have worked but very glad I did not have to make due.
Food – I agree with several of the over reviews about Horizon court. We had lunch getting on board the first day as were turned away from the Portofino Dining room because it was in use by the Bon Voyage groups. Code Red as still in effect at lunch the first day and it made getting what you wanted difficult. I can see real issues in this venue if full Noro virus restrictions were in place the entire cruise. We only ate there two other times and never like the food or the experience. This was the only place I found a bit crowded on our entire trip. We had Anytime Time dining and switched between both the Portofino and Capri MDRs. We really enjoyed the people we meet on the cruise. We very much enjoyed all the food. Never went hungry or overstuff. Wait staff were always friendly. There were one or two meals (sea days) where the dining room was pretty full and the waiters were really busy, but I never felt we were waiting on service. We loved the coffee at the International café, as well as the pastries, desserts and sandwiches.
Specialty Restaurants – We did the pub lunch in the Crown Grill one day. My wife loved her Bangers and Mash but my Fish and Chips were good but not great. We then tried Crown Grill for dinner one night. I forgot to make a reservation when we came on board so when I called the only times available was late. But wanting to try this out we made the reservation. We arrived and Gabriel the Crown Grill Maître D’ Gabriel was able to get us seated a bit early and found the perfect table. The food was great and we totally enjoyed our meal.
On Board Food Events – We took advantage of three on board extra cost charge events. We did both wine tasting events in the Amalfi dining room. Both we very good but at the first wineeven it was hard to hear the presentation over the loud conversations that came from the table behind us. At the second tasting we sat closer to where the speakers presented and it was a much easier to hear. Both flights had wines from wineries we had visited in the past. The other event my wife and I were able to join was the Chef’s Table. Cost is an additional $95.00 per person but it was one of the highlights of the trip. We were given a tour of a main kitchen which included a flight of Champagne and Hors d’ oeuvres in the Galley before being seated in the Portofino dining room. We were served by the Executive Chef Andrea Baiardo, and Chief De Cuisine Russell Jason. We had four appetizer in the galley and 6 courses in the dining room. The food was out of this world and the presentation and service were over the top. If there is one must do item and if you can get you name on the list by all means try and snag this event it will be something you remember.
Excursions – We book our three excursions though Princess. The first was in Ketchikan and was the Coastal Wildlife Cruise, and while our stay in Ketchikan was a rainy day, that should be expected since they only have about 100 days without rain a year. We saw one bear, pods of Orca’s, a seal rookery, and several Bald Eagles. The crew was friendly and did their best to find as much local wildlife as they could. Our second trip was in Juneau and was the Glacier View Sea Kayaking trip. This was a least favorite of the three and one I would not repeat. The tour operator had a hard time trying to split a large group in to the required 12 people per guide and the bay was pretty devoid of wildlife. The last excursion was the Eagle Preserve Rafting & Wildlife Quest in Skagway. We took a 45 minute ferry to Haines then a bus to the raft put in on the Klehini River. We then floated through to the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve and on to the Chilkat River. We saw a large number of Bald Eagles, both adult and juvenile, two nests, wolf paw prints and lots of other birds. The trip was extremely well organized and Scott Ramsey who was the trip leader was funny and informative. We did not do an excursion in Victoria but did find what I believe are the best Fish and Chips in the city. Redfish Blue fish on Wharf St was out of this world. The Halibut was fresh, and cooked to perfection. We visited the Canoe Brewpub for a flight of their brews and their summer special.
Entertainment – We only attended one Princess Theater show. Comedy Variety of Alfred and Seymour show which enjoyed which was two black comedians who picked fun of anyone walking in late to the show along with a whole raft of jokes and skits. We did see all of the on board naturalists presentations and found them very good. Shari Newitt did a great job during the cruise providing insight on the Alaskan wildlife as well as the native peoples. She shared her experience from her work in Alaska which added a very nice personal touch.
Disembarkation – We chose to go with the walk off option and we arrived in the Capri dining room at about 8:50 for a 9:10 walk off. Again I found a princess rep who said follow me! I grabbed my wife and we walked off the ship. Never say a customs agent, so the forms we filled out did the trip. We were on the street by 9:20 and back to BART by 9:50.
Overall we really enjoyed the cruise; there were a couple of hiccups toward the end that the on board customer service staff was able resolve to our stratification. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to a good Alaskan experience.