The Savvy Old Lady and The Crabby Old Guy's Great Alaskan Cruise Adventure
First let me be honest and say that Alaska has never been on one of my top five wish places to cruise. But this year, my husband The Crabby Old Guy, (an affectionate title) insisted that we join the millions that have escaped over the years in search of adventure in our forty-ninth state. Once I agreed "Crabby" went on his very own seek-and destroy mission to find the perfect cruise while I just sat there muttering under my breath that I thought he knew I wanted to go to South America and cruise the Amazon or see the pyramids in Egypt or visit the exotic islands of Tahiti and Bali or even see the fjords in Scandinavia. Dang, he knows I'm definitely a warm climate person and the mere fact that we would now have to go and find scarves, gloves and hats in the middle of a heat wave in Nashville, TN in July was definitely not a welcoming prospect. Surprisingly, finding the perfect cruise for us More
wasn't as easy a task as it sounds. There are endless cruises with all sorts of itineraries, from land and sea packages to strictly sea and then there is always the length of stay. After spending hours of surfing the web "Crabby" announced that he had found our perfect cruise. The Tahitian Princess was sailing the inside passage of Alaska stopping at eight ports in fourteen days. Aha, he did remember I wanted to see Tahiti he just got the locations mixed up. Packing turned into a bit of a chore. Exactly what should we bring? I knew the interior of the ship would be nice and toasty warm but sitting on our balcony each day would be a bit of a challenge. Trying to cover all the bases we decided layering would be the answer to this little dilemma. If it turned out to be a bit warmer than we expected we could always work our way down to our T-shirts. Okay, I didn't say I'm not a dreamer and what are the odds of wearing just a T-shirt and jeans in Glacier Bay...nil to none? As usual with any of our cruises, "Crabby" scheduled us to arrive in our destination city, Vancouver, the day before our cruise was set to sail and therefore not have to worry about missing our cruise due to flight problems, airplanes that is since "Crabby" was a tad bit worried that I would take flight and wind up some place on this planet with a warmer climate. He booked us in at the Pan-Pacific hotel in Vancouver and it turned out to be a brilliant choice. Not only is the Pan-Pacific a beautiful hotel but it just happens to be directly over the port. After a good night's sleep and a leisurely breakfast we returned to our room and called for a bellman. Our luggage was picked up and immediately delivered to the terminal. This saved us the price of a cab fare and most importantly the hassle of dragging our entire luggage to the terminal ourselves. It was really quite pleasant to be able to take the hotel elevator directly down to the embarkation area. I'll take "no fuss no muss" any day especially when I'm on vacation. We boarded the Tahitian Princess at 11:30am in a quick and efficient manner. It was not long before I realized that there was something completely different about the Tahitian Princess. The frenetic pace that you usually see and feel is not there. There were no long lines at the reception area and purser's desk and everything was moving quite smoothly. We were immediately directed to our cabins and within a reasonable period of time our luggage appeared at our door. You quickly realize that efficiency and service are key to the success of the Tahitian Princess. Although it is a much smaller ship and accommodates up to 730 passengers its charm and ambience allows passengers to refer to her as a "floating Victorian mansion" and believe me when I say "That, she is." The use of beautiful rich woods and cozy sitting areas bring back memories of an era in the early twentieth century when cruising was a life style enjoyed only by the aristocracy. Beautiful flower arrangements are displayed throughout the ship.
However it's not just the dEcor that makes this beautiful lady so pleasing but the hard work of the crew, officers and Captain. The passenger to crew ratio is 2-1 which allows the crew more time to interact with the passengers. Captain Stefano Ravera is probably the most unique of cruise Captains I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is extremely hands on and approachable to all of the passengers and crew while still running a tight ship. He welcomes us with a smile to our new home away from home for the next fourteen days and it is not hard to see that he is greatly appreciated by the passengers and crew. Captain Ravera sincerely makes each and every passenger feel like they're part of his extended family and that is no easy task it just seems to be the nature of this man. When the Captain is not on the bridge he can be seen all over the ship interacting with passengers and setting an example for his crew on the importance of being good will ambassadors for the Tahitian Princess. "Crabby" and I were extremely fortunate to be invited onto the bridge (and yes, we did have a security check before entering) when we were leaving the port of Vancouver. Believe me when I say The Savvy Old Lady and The Crabby Old Guy were as thrilled as any child at Christmas. This wonderful opportunity cleared up many misconceptions about cruise ship piloting that I have had in the past. I always thought that when the pilots came onboard they had full reign over the ship and they were the ones that piloted the boat away from the port and out into clear waters. Well, not true. It is truly a concerted team effort between the captain and in this case two pilots. Still the Captain remains at the helm and takes full responsibility for his ship leaving the port. One of the pilots on board told me that there are only two places in the world where the pilots take full control of the ship and they are the Suez and the Panama Canals. The pilot was also quick to say that he can never take his job mundanely since each and every time he helps to pilot a ship out of port there is usually some little twist of fate that happens that can endanger the ship and its passengers. As we started to pull out, we quickly stopped as a container ship was barreling along full speed directly behind us. Day 2 on the cruise was a sea day and believe it or not it was the day that Alaska became Number 1 on my wish list. Ann Carroll Burgess, a naturalist and wonderful speaker is onboard the ship for the entire cruise and is a fabulous asset to all the passengers. She is part of Princess' Scholarship @Sea™ program. Ann taught all of us how to recognize the different whales and orcas. She also stands on the bridge and advises us of all the whale, Orca, sea otters, seals, etc. sightings over the PA and whether they can be seen on the port or starboard side of the ship. I guess you might say she is our Indian scout. Having a naturalist on board brings all of the wonderful sights to life and just the right bit of science to our seagoing safari. After spotting my first Orca and Humpback whales from my balcony I became totally hooked. Truth be told "Crabby" was literally dragging me off the balcony to go and eat. It was as if we were on a seagoing safari and I didn't want to miss one of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Whales, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, porpoises and sharks all swam beside our ship and put on a show that was unforgettable for all the Tahitian Princess' passengers.
Day 3 we docked in quaint Ketchikan, an island and Rain Forest, and our adventures continued as we drove out to Herring Cove where the salmon come to spawn and the eagles come to dine. There we saw over thirty bald headed eagles and watched as they swooped down and snatched up 40 lb salmon as easily as we might pick up a salt shaker. These magnificent birds with their 8 foot wing span are definitely mighty hunters. Next on the agenda was the Saxman Totem Park where we experienced the carving of the totem poles, toured an authentic clan house and watched a ceremonial tribal dance. The master craftsman was there carving a huge totem pole for one of his clients at a mere pittance of $1350.00 a foot. Did we buy one...well somehow the budget wouldn't allow that, but if we could have justified the expense he would be carving it right now. Lastly, was a short trek to Miss Dolly's house a famous brothel now turned museum that will definitely tickle your funny bone.
Day 4 was so incredible that it's hard to describe since we cruised into Glacier Bay and was able to observe the magnificent white and blue glaciers. The Tahitian Princess made it even more special by starting our day with a champagne breakfast served in our cabins for a small fee. I guess I wasn't the only one on board who didn't want to leave her balcony. Next to one of the glaciers was a running stream and at the top perched a beautiful gold Eagle. Little puffins dotted the waters and two park rangers from the Glacier Fjord National Park boarded our ship and were more than willing to answer any questions the passengers had.
We witnessed three calvings of the glacier that hour. Calvings are when large pieces of glacial ice break off and splash dramatically into the sea. It is a spectacular sight. Ice, tens of thousands of years old, evolving into our ecosphere right in front of our eyes. Even The Crabby Old Guy was impressed with that! Our wonderful day ended with dinner at Sabatini's Italian restaurant and I can't think of a better way to end a great day.
As each day goes by I am more and more amazed at the beauty and splendor of Alaska and especially thankful that "Crabby" found the Tahitian Princess to escort us on our Sea-going Safari. The energy and enthusiasm onboard is truly contagious and it begins at the top with Captain Ravera and the whirling dervish of the ship is Michele Castiglloni, the Passenger Services Director. Michele is the "Where's Waldo?" of the ship. There are not only whale sightings onboard but Michele sightings all over this beautiful ship. I am waiting for the day when the Cruise Director announces a contest where we have to name all the places we have seen Michele in one day. Yes, we are being pampered by the staff and crew but in a completely different manner then on any other ship I have sailed. Due to the size of the ship, the relaxed pace and the number of passengers onboard face-recognition soon turns into easily made friendships; there is a camaraderie between the passengers and the passengers and crew that can only be found on ships of this size. The staff and crew have more time to interact with the passengers and share stories of their homelands and previous cruises. How wonderful it is to have this incredible wealth of knowledge being passed around to all of us. Since we are cruising in the "Land of the Midnight Sun" dinner has become a special event. If in the past you have requested a table for two or even for four on this kind of cruise you will definitely want a window table for six or eight. As we sit down for our second seating dinner at 8 PM and look out the window it is still daylight and our safari continues while we enjoy our meal. At our table we have designated a gentleman from Colorado named Doug to be the "Eagle Eye" of our group and he has this uncanny ability to spot a whale spout at least 1,000 yards away. We all compare notes on what sightings and adventures we have had during the day and we use newly learned naturalist terms such as "breaching", "spy-hunting", "tail fluking" and "bubble netting". Kudos go out to our onboard naturalist, Ann Burgess, (anncarrollburgess.com), for teaching us all a new language, that of the Alaskan wilderness. It's not uncommon for someone to spot a humpback whale or an orca while we are dining and quickly the news is spread across the dining room for all of us to enjoy. Day 5 found us in Skagway on the White Pass &Yukon Route; a 3 hour train ride. It couldn't be more convenient to take this tour since the train depot is located right at the pier where we docked. We traveled in comfort in vintage parlor cars on a railroad that was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and climbed 3,000 feet in just 20 miles while experiencing cliff hanging turns, wooden trestles and tunnels. We enjoyed the breathtaking views of the glaciers, mountains, and Alaskan fjords. There was a lot to see on this tour. Wildlife, scenic overlooks, waterfalls, remnants of the Klondike Trail and one of the world's engineering wonders, the White Pass train line itself (built by 3,500 very brave men). Poor Crabby, by the time this ride was over he was suffering from finger cramps as he continually snapped away on his camera at all the amazing sights. Alaska is definitely one of those places that a good digital camera with a decent zoom feature is an absolute must since no one wants to return home without some incredible pictures. What fascinated me the most was actually seeing the original Klondike trail of '98 literally formed into the rocks. I can't even imagine walking this narrow (in some parts maybe a foot wide) rocky trail up the mountain while carrying supplies and dreams of striking it big. We passed Dead Horse Gulch where it's estimated that at least 3,000 horses lost their footing and fell off the mountain. This train ride is a definite must for those of you who want to experience firsthand the trail the original gold rushers took. For those people who may be wheel chair bound the train is wheel chair accessible.
My favorite tour was next. After a quick lunch we boarded a bus and were off to an Alaskan Dog Sled and Mushing Camp. We soon arrived and saw 300 beautiful mushing dogs, all with their very own dog houses and names painted on the top, eager to greet us. The musher, that is the sled team driver and dog-team owner, told us that Mushing Camps are usually set up quite a distance away from any town since they don't make very good neighbors when the dogs start barking and howling in unison; imagine 300 of these energetic and expressive Alaskan Huskies all sounding off at once! You will be amazed to see how much these dogs love to run. Since there was no snow on the ground at this time of year they have a cart constructed with wheels that the huskies "mush" you on a one mile ride down a trail. (For those of you who are looking for the real experience there is a tour which includes a helicopter ride to a glacier and an actual dog sled ride on the snow.) The speed you go on this ride is about 8 to 10 miles an hour, the same speed they travel in the Iditarod Race. Several times during this brief but fun trip the musher stopped the team and the dogs began to howl. They just don't like being made to wait to start running again. Sixteen dogs pulled our sled which is usually the same number they start out with in the Iditarod. I was surprised to learn that the dogs they use are not pure bred Alaskan Huskies. The majority of the dogs are mutts that are selected and bred for their endurance and stamina on the trail. I was able to speak to a young musher, Rick Savoyski, aged 23, who raced for the first time in the world famous Iditarod last year and placed 67th out of 136 racers. He explained to me the importance of these camps that the tourists visit each year since they help to finance the maintenance and veterinary care of his dogs. The entrance fee for the Iditarod race is $4,000.00 however, that does include dog food and veterinary services at each check point. At the end of our ride the musher unleashed one of his dogs, Kobok, (an experienced Iditarod runner) and had him visit and play with the riders. I tell you, when I saw that beautiful, playful and happy dog it was love at first sight. I scratched Kobok's head and he licked my face and the romance began. Just watching the interaction between the mushers and their dogs is a joy. These men and women have developed such a close bond with these beautiful animals that it is no small wonder that on the arduous and grueling treks across Alaska man and beast join as one to overcome all the obstacles. If you come to Alaska definitely visit the mushers' camp it is one experience and memory you must take back home with you. One little tip is make sure you sit in the second row or further back in the cart when you are taking your ride. The Huskies have learned to answer Mother Nature's call while on the run and if there is a bit of a wind and you are sitting in the first row, well, I think you get the picture. Day 6 was a relaxing day at sea and a chance to concentrate on our Sea-going Safari. When not on our balcony looking for whale spouts "Crabby" took advantage of the great Princess Cruise Line's Scholarship Sea ™ program. He booked himself for a series of one hour programs to teach him how to enhance his photos with the use of Photoshop. While a fee is assessed for such add-on programs it is very modest. I, on the other hand, was attending Ann Burgess' seminar, "Bears, Bears and more Bears". So now "Crabby" can take a photo of me being chased up a tree by a bear and make it an award winning photo and I'll be able to tell if it's a brown bear or a grizzly. Hmmm, am I getting the short end of the stick here or what? That evening we enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner at Sterling Steakhouse specialty restaurant. These extra-fee restaurants are becoming an almost universal feature of cruising these days. While the food in the general dining room on board the Tahitian Princess was good it was uninspired. With the broad range of guests on board and varying tastes and dietary needs, Executive Chefs need to hit the median taste-buds. That is no easy task and why those few Executive Chef's who are able to prepare and present memorable meals in the general dining rooms are worth their weight in gold for cruise lines, particularly upscale ones, like the Tahitian Princess. One way cruise lines are able to deal with this dilemma (and, frankly, get a bit of extra revenue) is to provide these alternative dining venues. Here, as was explained to us by the Tahitian Princess Executive Chef, Claude Palloure, the approach to seasoning, variety and regional cooking can be highlighted as guests know just what type of food they are going to get. The up-charge for these specialty resultants is generally modest (between $15 and $20 per person) but the level of service and more sophisticated cuisine is well worth the break from the general dining areas. The steaks at the Sterling Steakhouse were very good and properly prepared. We also had a very nice Tiger-Shrimp cocktail (much better than those served in the general dining room which tended to be "mushy" from improper defrosting) and a perfectly prepared classic Caesar salad (anchovies optional). At the end of this great meal I was able to enjoy my favorite dessert, a Princess Cruise line signature dish, deep-fried peach turnovers. Maybe if I'm really nice to the pastry chef when I meet up with him in a couple of days and get down on my knees (not an easy task with these arthritic bones) I can talk him into sharing the recipe and of course I will pass it on to all of you.
We ended this splendid and romantic evening in the Tahitian Lounge on deck 10 with a 60's party. Yes, we were twisting, doing the hand jive, hula hooping and just dancing up a storm with the Tahitian Princess dancers and the Nova band and as we returned to our rooms a pleasant tiredness was felt and we knew it was a day well spent.
Day 7 found us in the quaint and sedate little town of Valdez. For the braver among us there were white water rafting and kayak tours. I have long since left these kinds of tours for my children along with the zip-lining through the rain forests. Crabby and I decided to make our own adventures and memories and set out to explore the town on our own. As I stood out on the balcony that morning I was delighted to see the pink salmon jumping. We were told that the female salmon will jump out of the water to loosen her egg sacks for spawning or to get away from some prey. However, this particular morning I liked to think they were just welcoming us to Valdez. Once off the ship we were able to get a shuttle into town which is just a twenty minute leisurely walk if you prefer. The shuttle driver was quite informative and told us that many of the residents drove to Fairbanks (a 5 hour drive in the summer and 6 hour drive in the winter months) at least five or six times a month to stock up on items from Walmart and Costco and visit a doctor or dentist. Most of these coastal towns have populations ranging from 2.000 to 4,000 people. These people depend heavily on the tourist trade that comes through in the summer months. Since Valdez is the terminus of the 800 mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline, you can watch as the tankers fill up and deliver their cargo to the Lower 48. Valdez would be just another quaint Alaskan coastal town if it had not undergone one of the worst earthquakes in North America in 1964; their docks and town were totally decimated with a 9.2 earthquake and tsunami that soon followed. If that wasn't catastrophic enough in 1989 the residents had to face an even greater threat, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the horrific pollution of their pristine waters. The cleanup of the surrounding waters brought an influx of people to Valdez and one of the hotels in town was the actual command center for this mission. I have the utmost respect for the people of Valdez who have had to overcome such incredible obstacles and yet still remain here and look forward to a brighter tomorrow. Each morning Mother Nature awakens the passengers on the Tahitian Princess with a new and more exciting day and adventure. You will soon find yourself telling others that a cruise to Alaska is different than a cruise in any other part of the world and it should be a definite must on everyone's travel wish list. Here in Alaska it's not the cathedrals, museums, works of art, or great battle sites but as Jack London so aptly named it "The Call of the Wild." Yes, we are here to see the incredible and majestic display that only Mother Nature has to offer. All else pales when compared to the beautiful blue glaciers, fjords, the orcas, humpback whales, soaring bald eagles, brown and black bears, wolves and panoramic views of the mountain ranges and waterfalls. It has now become quite apparent to me why so many people dream of one day visiting this amazing state and my wish for all my fellow cruisers is that you are able to experience all that "Crabby" and I have on our amazing journey.
Day 8 found us in Seward the starting point for the 1100 mile dog-sled race known as The Iditarod. Once again your choice of excursions ranged from the adventure of taking a helicopter ride to Godwin Glacier for a dog-sled ride (a little pricey $509.00 for an adult and $469.00 for a child for a 30 minute flight and 45 minutes on the glacier) to the more sedate Historic Trolley tour. "Crabby" decided to go to the Alaska Sea Life Center and enjoyed it thoroughly. He said there were many interactive projects and he thought that young children would definitely enjoy seeing the sea life up close and personal. I on the other hand decided to stay on board and catch up with writing my review. Friends took the tour to Anchorage which was a 2 hour bus ride and history of Anchorage and really enjoyed it.
Day 9 we arrived at Kodiak. We woke up to a very rainy, cloudy and chilly day. Sadly, many of the charter flights were cancelled due to weather and the passengers had to make other arrangements for the day. However, being prepared for rainy weather we donned our rain jackets and headed into town. For a nominal fee of $6.00 which can be charged on your sea pass you can take a shuttle into town and be picked up at any number of places. After checking out a few of the shops, "Crabby" and I decided to have lunch in town. Several people had recommended a small local restaurant called The Chowder House. Well I sure lucked out since the Friday special was Alaskan king crab legs. For $20.00 you were given 1 and ¼ lbs of the sweetest, juiciest crab legs I have ever eaten. Crabby decided to have the fried halibut and was equally pleased with his choice. Although a small restaurant within minutes it was filled with locals and tourists. I found it interesting that according to Alaskan law restaurants cannot purchase sea food directly from the fishing boats but instead must buy from the local canneries. The Chowder House is owned by one of the canneries so we were even told which boat caught our lunch for the day. Their homemade soups, fresh baked pastries and Cascade Glacier Ice Cream make The Chowder House a must on places to go to in Kodiak.
After lunch we walked around Cannery Row and "Crabby" found the only Pharmacy in Kodiak (a busman's holiday for him) and had a delightful discussion with the Pharmacist. That evening we went to the Johnny Thunder (originally of The Drifters and the Inkspots) show also known as Mr. Loop de Loop for a very enjoyable show.
Day 10 was a relaxing day at sea it was also a good day to catch up on some laundry. On each floor is a washer and dryer for the cruisers. However, The Tahitian Princess offered a special for the day $20.00 for all you can fit in one of their laundry bags (you wouldn't believe how much "Crabby" stuffed, rolled and folded into that bag.) While the day was filled with Line dancing and ballroom dancing classes, scholarship lectures, arts and crafts, an Art Auction, and a Sudoku competition we decided to attend the formal Afternoon Tea. I would definitely recommend you try their tea which is served with finger sandwiches and desserts. Leisurely sitting in the dinning room sipping tea while watching for whale spoutings was absolutely an enjoyable and a wonderful way to spend an hour. The three nights at sea were all formal nights and non-smoking in the Casino.
Day 11 was Juneau and my favorite yet most frustrating day on the Tahitian Princess. For days "Crabby" and I had poured over the tour brochures and were hopelessly undecided on which tour to take. In 1880 Joe Juneau searched for gold and after overcoming unbelievable obstacles (mountains, freezing streams, blizzards and lack of trails) he discovered three of the largest gold mines in the world. One of the tours took you to Gastineau Mill, once the world's largest gold producing mill. Another tour was a "Taste of Juneau" which took you to Mendenhall Glacier then to the Alaskan Brewing Company and finally to Chez Alaska Cooking School for a demonstration on how to cook Alaskan foods the Alaskan way. A short walk from the ship is the Mount Roberts Tramway which will take you up to an 1800 foot level on Mount Roberts where you can view the Chilkat Mountains, Stephen's Passage and downtown Juneau. You can also see demonstrations in the shops of local artisans working in wood, fossilized ivory and silver. There were tours going to the Glacier Gardens. For those with a more adventurous spirit there was a rainforest canopy and zipline expedition. Can you see our dilemma? Well we finally chose the Mendenhall Glacier and Whale quest tour in Auke Bay and had a wonderful time.
As we returned to the ship I noticed a woman standing near the gangway with two Alaskan sled dogs. Yeah, The Tahitian Princess had a surprise for all its passengers...Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod Race came onboard and told us of her amazing race. An interesting fact that she mentioned was that the dogs that race are not pure bred Alaskan Huskies but "mutts" bred for their stamina and racing capabilities. Her stories of her races and her dogs kept the entire audience enthralled.
Afterwards, she stayed and autographed her books. I spoke to this fascinating woman and as a true Alaskan frontier woman she said that she gave lectures and made appearances just to make enough money to keep her 40 sled dogs in food. At the summer dog mushing camp we were told that the entrance fee for the Iditarod Race is $4000.00 and that includes dog food and veterinarians at each of the check points. Libby mentioned that the Iditarod Race is held in March each year and if we were interested we could go to www.iditarod.com and follow the race.
Day 12 was the quaint town of Sitka. Although there were some great tours we decided to take a leisurely stroll through the town on our own. In 1799 a Russian explorer, Alexander Baranof founded a settlement near the town of Sitka and in 1804 the Russians returned and took over Sitka in the Battle of Alaska. To this very day there still remains a Russian cultural influence in this charming town. After taking a short tender ride clutching our guidebook we saw the Russian Blockhouse, Russian Cemetery and some native dancers. Saint Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral is in the center of town and for a small fee you can take a tour.
It wasn't long before I found the Russian American Company and I went into my full shopaholic mode. This store was so impressive with their Russian gifts, jewelry and fine collectibles that "Crabby" had to literally drag me out of the store before I pulled out my AMEX and purchased some of their Faberge jewelry and destroyed our budget for the next 10 years. Olga and Douglas Borland are the owners and they welcome all of their customers with a smile and are pleased to explain any of the pieces in their store. Hard sell is not necessary here since the beauty and elegance of the pieces basically sell themselves. If you would like to take a peek go to www.russianamericancompany.com and see why I intend to do some of my Christmas shopping on line. Hopefully, "Crabby" will too.
Day 13 was a day at sea. At 10:00am there was a culinary demonstration with the Executive Chef Claude Palloure and Maitre D' Lorenzo Tarini. The lounge was filled with passengers and the repartee between the two was hysterical. Truth be told there wasn't a dry eye in the room. I don't think I've seen a funnier comedic act on any cruise ship.In the afternoon "Crabby and I headed up to the Tahitian Lounge and were charmed by a hitchhiker who was perched on the railing outside the lounge. Word spread fast that a peregrine falcon had decided to come aboard and hitch a ride to Victoria. Soon everyone with a camera was snapping shops and the falcon had no problem posing for all.
Day 14 found us in Victoria, B.C. and it was our last full day aboard the amazing Tahitian Princess. Many of us opted to stay onboard while other chose the tours of the Butchart Gardens or even the Pub and Microbrewery tours. We decided to spend a leisurely day on the ship and finish our packing as well as say goodbye to many of the staff and crew who had made our trip so incredible. The staff at the front desk were always courteous and extremely helpful. I can't say that a single day went by when I passed the desk that I didn't see a smiling welcome. Interestingly enough, they always referred to me by name and I wasn't the only one. This again is one of the benefits of cruising on a small ship. Staff and passengers bond and you're not just a cabin number but an actual person. John Clefford, the Cruise Director spoke of the challenges of planning activities and entertainment on a smaller ship where there are fewer venues available. However, the passengers seemed to enjoy all that was available to them. I would highly recommend cruising on a small ship when doing an Alaskan cruise. We were extremely happy to take advantage of having our luggage taken immediately from our state room to the airport. Leaving the ship with only our carry on and going through immigration was really a pleasure. Once at the airport we were directed to an area where we picked up our luggage and checked in without any fuss or problem.
The Tahitian Princess, Captain Ravera and the staff and crew definitely made our trip one that we will remember forever. Thank You!