Next morning, we were up bright and early for our trip to McKinley Princess Lodge, where we were able to see Mt. McKinley, the majestic scenery and delicious sunshine. Our room was light and airy, just a short walk to the outdoor hot tub. BE SURE TO BRING YOUR BATHING SUITS TO THE LAND PORTION.
The next day featured a train trip to Denali Princess Lodge - which was scenic, relaxing and a lovely way to spend the day. Here we met two more "fast friends" -Elaine & Gary from Winnipeg. The food in the dining car was wonderful and the service friendly and superb.
Our room at the lodge was dark and very basic. Because it was ground level, we used the room darkening shades even in the daylight hours. Of course, it didn't get dark until 11:30 at night.
We thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend the Denali Tundra Wilderness tour. We saw an abundance of wildlife, which excited everyone on the bus. The driver also spotted wildlife for us, utilizing a drop down screen in front of each seat, with closeup images from his zoom lens.
Another stunning highlight was the day long trip to Copper River Princess Lodge. Don't let the 8 hour drive on a gravel road scare you. We stopped often - and there were rest rooms on the bus. The ride was gorgeous, again with many wildlife sightings. And, oh, Copper River Wilderness Lodge. With only 80 rooms, it was intimate and loaded with great hiking trails. Excellent restaurant and an abundance of fresh salmon and halibut added to a delicious two days.
The trip from Copper River to Valdez, while not promoted, is one of the most breathtaking journeys - every turn of the road brought ooohs and aaaahs. Once in Valdez, we took a comfortable and large catamarin to the Island Princess.
The many friends we met on the land tour added to our enjoyment of the trip. Great thing about doing a land tour first is that it's far easier to meet people you travel with from lodge to lodge than on a 2000 passenger ship.Embarkation from the catamaran directly to the ship took minutes. We thorough enjoyed our mini-suite Dolphin 710. The balcony was completely covered and private. Although the sea was rough some of the time, the "roll of the ship" in our room presented no problem at all. Our room steward Enrique couldn't have been better. Every request was handled promptly and with a smile.
The moment we got on the ship, we dialed 3463 and made reservations for the Chef's Table. Although not promoted, it surpassed all expectations. We donned white coats, scrubbed our hands, and entered the galley. Our hosts in the galley and throughout the evening were the Executive Chef, Maitre de, and their boss, a terrific lady with a sense of humor and much responsibility. We enjoyed flowing champagne and four different appetizers in the galley and learned what it takes to feed 2000 passengers. In the dining room, our table was laden with fresh flowers and candles. Each course was accompanied by the appropriate wine. A complimentary group picture and an autographed hard bound cookbook were extra treats. Highly recommended and well-worth the $75 per person cost.
The ship is beautifully maintained and very clean. We saw no signs of wear at all. We danced every night to 'The New Deal' - whose repertoire ranged from Van Morrison to Santana to Johnny Cash. Very danceable music - and a super way to lose those extra pounds. The shows were pleasant, and we especially enjoyed Scott Wyler, a deadpan comic with hilarious one-liners.
Food on the ship was OK. We did go to the Bayou Restaurant - and enjoyed it so much that we went a second time. Best lobster, steak, oysters, prawns on the ship. Specialty dining is like going to a fancy restaurant with individualized service - well worth the $15 per person cover charge.
All in all, it was a marvelous vacation. Princess has it buttoned down. Now we look forward to our European vacation on the Ruby next May. We'll be celebrating our fiftieth anniversary - but still feel like "teenagers!"