After receiving a 2-for-one offer from Princess, I booked this cruise for the September 13, 2009 sailing. Initially I booked it as a solo, but, happily, my dear SIL agreed that my daughter should accompany me, since he had no interest is seeing Alaska, but she did.
We flew to Seattle the day before embarkation, she from Nebraska, and I from Florida. We met at SeaTac, and stayed the night at the Doubletree @ SeaTac, which was booked through Princess. I prefer to use the Princess hotels when sailing from a port city that requires flying cross-country, because it includes transfers to the pier. And Princess picks up your non-carry-on luggage from your hotel room on the morning of embarkation, transports it to the ship, and the next time you see it is in your cabin. The hotel was very nice, and all went as planned. Another plus for this arrangement was that we were able to present our travel documents and get checked-in for the cruise at the hotel, and when we got to the pier, all we had to do was provide our credit cards for verification, and get our cabin key cards. We were onboard and in our cabin in a little more than a half hour. Since our bags had not arrived yet, we chose to go to the Horizon Court for lunch. Although it was pretty crowded, and the buffet choices were rather limited, we had no problem finding something we each enjoyed, and we found a table outdoors near the Outrigger bar. I LOVE Princess’ crusty rolls, and I was not disappointed! Yummy, as always, and my daughter quickly understood why I raved about them.
Our cabin was a Caribe balcony cabin, chosen for the large balcony size and that it was half-covered. Good choice, because we spent a LOT of time out there enjoying the scenery and taking many pictures.
The weather at sailaway was sunny and pleasantly warm. We had planned to meet up with some fellow CC roll call friends at the Outrigger on the Lido deck, but we didn't find anyone there that we recognized (guess we should have provided better self-descriptions or photos beforehand!). We decided to toast sailaway, and got our "Mucho Mango" drinks, and enjoyed the views from the aft area of the Lido deck. Sailing away from Seattle was lovely in the sunshine. After a bit we decided to explore the ship for a while, and later went to the cabin. Since out suitcases had arrived, we devoted about an hour to getting things unpacked and put away so we felt organized. We met our steward, Jose, and found him to be charming and accomodating. I had requested robes pre-cruise, and before bedtime, with no further reminder, they appeared in the cabin. I also requested, after meeting Jose, that he please give us 2 Patters every day, since we both wanted them for out post-cruise scrapbooks, and he complied every day.
We spent some time in the casino the first evening onboard, and I actually won a couple of hundred dollars on Video Poker. Good thing I did, because throughout the rest of the cruise, the machines were in a take and keep mode! Happily for my daughter, she hit a Royal Flush playing Jacks or Better a few days into the cruise. It was her first Royal, and we memorialized it with photos and a toast with our 24K ritas!
Day 1 was a sea day, and we spent a pretty relaxed day. After lunch we had a Meet & Greet for our roll call in Skywalkers Lounge. About half of the roll call members who said they planned to attend showed up, and those of us who did go had a fun time getting acquainted. That day was also the first formal night, so we got gussied up and enjoyed dinner in one of the Portofino Anytime Dining room. We celebrated my daughter’s 40th birthday (belatedly) that night with a bottle of wine, and Princess did their thing, with singing waiters and one of their nifty little chocolate birthday cakes. We were seated with a delightful group of 3 cruisers, and the gentleman in that group was also having a birthday celebration, It was even more fun, having 2 birthday people at the table. On day 2, we were in port on Ketchikan. It was overcast and drizzling all day, but we didn’t mind. After all, we were finally in Alaska, and we had come prepared with waterproof gear. We did a ship’s tour to the Saxman Native Village, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We had a very good driver/guide named Ja (pronounced Jay) on the bus, and good native speakers at the village. In the totem pole carving shed, there was a cute little old native fellow who was a master carver, demonstrating his skills. We also went into a large tribal meeting house for Tlingit tribe members to put on a singing and dancing show. Shopping in Ketchikan was excellent, since it was the end of the cruising season, and lots of merchandise was 50% or more off. The variety of merchandise was huge, but, being a label reader, I saw that most of it had “made in China” stickers. That deterred me from buying much. Not that I would have anyway, as my primary souvenir choice is magnets to add to my collection. The most amazing fact I recall about Ketchikan is that they average 13 FEET of rain annually!!!
Day 3 brought the same type of weather, but again, we didn’t care. We knew before the cruise to expect it because of the time of year. The morning was spent doing scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord, and the views and scenery were beautiful beyond anything we expected. Majestically huge mountains, lovely waterfalls, oodles of icebergs floating in light aquamarine water. And the Glacier!!! Wow! Is about all I can say. What a wonderful way to see one’s first glacier! More majestic mountains as we backtracked out through the fjord, and many glaciers visible when looking at the ranges of mountains that line the fjord. Juneau was almost anticlimactic after the fjord. We took another ship’s tour; this one was to the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest. The glacier is enormous, and the park itself was lovely. It was self-guided, so we were able to wander wherever we pleased. After the tour we were dropped off in town and we roamed around Juneau. We visited a variety of shops, and went into the Red Dog Saloon. Funky place, and it sounded like the folks in there were having a good time. Also picked up some kettle corn from a little shacky place on the main street, and it was very good.
Day 4 was our day in the port of Skagway, which turned out to be our favorite port. It’s small (year-round residents number only about 800!) and quaint, right down to the wooden sidewalks. Our tour there was called “To the Summit”, a mini-bus trip up the road that runs near the railroad tracks up to White Pass. We crossed over into the Yukon, Canada briefly, and most of us got out just to be able to say we’d been to the Yukon, and to take photos. The driver/guide was named Tom, and he was excellent. He was very informative, articulate and knowledgeable. We saw much wild beauty in both directions of the tour. Of course, after the tour, we had to do some wandering about town to pick up a few souvenirs. And, of course, it was still gray and drizzling all day. We were pretty tired after the 3 port days, and didn’t feel like getting cleaned up to go eat, so we decided on room service. We settled in for the night and watched a movie on TV and enjoyed some of that kettle corn we had gotten.
Day 5 was a sea day, and our last formal night. I had an invitation to the Captain’s Cocktail party, so, we got dressed up for it and dinner in the dining room. My daughter had not attended a Captain’s party before, and she was pleased to be able to go. It was the usual - free drinks, a few bottles of champagne given away in a raffle (too bad we didn’t get one!) a few many-cruised people honored, and it was over. We were seated with 2 very pleasant couple for dinner, and enjoyed chatting with them. We went to the production show that evening, and it was pretty good. There was one dance segment of it that I can only call “kind of weird”, but the rest was enjoyable. After a short, unproductive visit to the casino, we decided to call it a night.
The last day was at sea till the ship was due to dock in Victoria, BC around 5 PM. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to dock there because the were some very strong winds out of the northwest, and the Captain and the harbor pilot felt it was unsafe to try to dock such a large ship. So we anchored outside of the harbor for a few hours, and then began to slow-sail toward Seattle. It was disappointing, but we both felt that missing Victoria was preferable to missing any Alaskan ports.
Arrival in Seattle was on time and the weather was a little cool, but mostly sunny. As we were booked for the ship’s tour of Seattle, our group disembarked at about 9 AM, it was a quick trip through Customs and Immigration. We had a another great tour guide/driver, named John, and really enjoyed the tour. We went up in the Space Needle, and visited Pike Place Market. We were dropped off at the airport shortly after 1 PM. My daughter had a mid-afternoon flight, but mine wasn’t till 11:30 PM. Suffice it to say I spent 10 hours, that felt more like 10 days, in SeaTac. Nice place, but after a very long wait, I was glad to leave!
Wifi access was great every day but the day we were in Skagway. We both took our netbooks, and loved being able to sit on the balcony or in the cabin and stay in touch with family back home.
All in all, it was a wonderful cruise on a great ship, and we were both very glad we went.