In preparing for our Alaska cruise, I read all the reviews. I figured that I had better write one, so future travelers can learn from my experience too.
I booked this cruise directly through Princess. Our first Princess rep. left her position, so when I called to talk to our new rep, the guy answering the phone said, "I'll be your rep.". I just figured that Princess would have assigned somebody to our booking but, that wasn't the case. Our new rep. seems to be out of the office alot and does not return voicemails. For this reason, I will probably not book another cruise directly though Princess again!
Our embarkation was from Vancouver on June21. We had flown into Seattle the night before and took a shuttle from SeaTec ($40 booked through Princess). The shuttle left 45 minutes past it's advertised departure time but otherwise the 3+ hour drive was uneventful. Canada Place (the pier) on the other hand, was a different story. We were over 3 hours waiting to board the ship. Had heard that the Crown Princess and another major ship, had docked at the same time so there were probably close to 5000 people trying to board. The last thing we had to do is fill out and sign a health question sheet but they did not give us a pen to do this with.
Once we boarded the ship, we were told that the elevators were down so we took the stairs to our room on the Caribe deck. Our cabin was Interior, pretty much in the center of the ship. I was impressed with the room size. The ship departed close to the time that it was suppose to and sailed under the Lion's Gate bridge which was awesome to see.
The first full day of sailing was good up until early afternoon on June 22 when the water became a little choppy and you could feel the boat sway. This ship movement was for about 8 hours but then it became smooth for the remainder of the trip.
We picked the anytime dining plan and ate our meals early (as soon as the restaurants opened). We had no problem with seating. There were two formal nights on our cruise. We participated in one of them and did not feel like getting dressed up for the second one so we ate at the Horizon Buffet that night. I felt that the food, at all venues, was ok but nothing spectacular. We did eat at the Crown Grill one night and that was excellent.
Our ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway were wonderful and I had planned them on my own which was less expensive than booking through the ship. Our day sailing Glacier Bay was wonderful. We had found on table in the corner of the Lido deck (out of the wind), got our coffee and watched as the ship sailed by the beautiful sights. Finding ourselves there at lunch time still, we got pizza (which was excellent) and continued our viewing. The next evening we were at College Fjord which, in my opinion, was even better than Glacier Bay.
We included a land tour option to our cruise which I highly recommend. The cruise ended at Whittier and exiting the ship went smoothly. Our luggage was transported to the Denali Princess Lodge while we board the train for a 9 hour trip. We did the Tundra Wilderness tour through Denali National park (8 - 9 hours) which I believe was better than the shorter History tour. Our stay at the Princess McKinley Lodge was wonderful as was our night at Captain Cook in Anchorage.
I was very impressed with the organization of Princess as far as our luggage and the transportation from one location to the next. At times, I felt that we were always being shuttled someplace, but it has to be that way when you are part of a tour. We did rent a car and do a couple of days on our own, touring the Turnagain Arm area.
Mendenhall Glacier was fantastic and it is worth the walk to Nugget Falls. We had only 1 hour at this location so it was somewhat rushed. It was very crowded when we went. The young man at the Robert's Tram location for Dolphin, was totally inept. We ended up walking to their bus ourselves after waiting close to 30 minutes for it to arrive. He didn't even look at us after we checked in with him. Come to find out, we needed yellow wrist bands for the glacier but he didn't provide that either.
Felt that it was rather pricey to ride this tram. The view at the top of Mt. Roberts was awesome. We hiked to Father Brown's Cross but then it started to rain so we decided to get back to our ship. Had planned to take the tram later to view the movie (and get our moneys worth) but it was raining too hard so we opted to stay on the ship.
The whale watch was good and we did view a few whales. Dall's porpoises played by our boats. This tour provided salmon spread on a bagel (yummy) and water/coffee too.
We opted to walk around the town on our own particularly the Creek Street area. All the streets were clearly marked. The visitor center is also very nice.
Even in the pouring rain, this was a delightful show. It was informative and entertaining at the same time.
We took the public bus line to Totem Bight State park ($1 per person, one way). The bus runs on the hour. We viewed the Totem poles and the Clan house well with in an hour. May have spent longer there but the rain was miserable. Don't miss the totem and souvenir next door to the park. This place is a museum in of itself with old cars and guns.
We had walked into town and happen upon a tour in progress with a National Park Ranger. This young man did an excellent job walking us around town explaining it's history and it's Free!
Hiked to Yakutania Point & Smuggler's Cove. The point was nice but we made a wrong turn going to the cove and ended up down a totally different trail.
This train ride is a must do. We had several people mention doing it. I would not book through Shoremanager.com again. The rail road depot had no record of our booking. Gave us somebody else ticket with the same last name. We had paid with a Discover Card and these folks used a Visa. Contacted ShoreManger via email and they have not responded.