We left hot sunny Florida and flew to cool rainy Vancouver the day before we left. Vancouver really is a beautiful city, expensive, but beautiful. We stayed at Coast Coal Hotel about 5 min walk from port, a very nice hotel would definitely stay there again.
The next day we headed to the port at about 11:00, there was hardly anyone there so we breezed past security, the health questionnaire and check-in. We had to wait about half an hour and we were able to board the ship. All in all a typical smooth embarkation with Princess.
The ship is the smallest we have ever been on, but it was still well laid out and nice for its size, considering we just got off Oasis of the Seas in Sept. The Island Princess could use some work she is starting to show her age, and at times had some musty smells. We had a mini suite balcony, the first time we have had a balcony and now we are spoiled. There was a good about of room for three people, lots of storage. Just a heads up if you get a mini suite balcony on Dolphin deck ust know there is no cover over your balcony so when it rains no protection from the rain and when its nice expect people to look down on you.
The food...well for those of you who think because you are on a cruise ship you are going to get 5 star quality food, you are wrong, at least on Princess. The food is by far much better then Applebee's but not quite as good as Emeril's, but we still enjoyed it as usual. We had anytime dining and only had to wait on a table once for about 20 minutes, otherwise we tried to make reservations in the morning to avoid that wait. The service in the dining room was just ok, normally Princess has better. However, the food and service in the specialty restaurants were awesome, as usual, well worth the extra money! The Horizon court was much smaller on this ship therefore not as much variety as on their bigger ships, but still good food. The biggest disappointment food wise was that after 11:00 pm there is no food!! The only thing available is room service, big surprise after we left one of the late shows and went looking for a snack.
The entertainment...one of the best comics we have ever had on a ship, he was hilarious. The ventriloquist was pretty entertaining, the magician was interesting and the one production show we saw was ok. The cruise staff was ok. We took my mom to see the traditional newlywed game because it is usually really funny...not on this ship it was horrible, and after all the talking up we did, we were all really disappointed. Most of the things the cruise staff hosted were pretty dull.
The ports...The first stop was Ketchikan, we woke up went out to the balcony and the first thing we experienced was cold and rain, and it lasted all day. We took the duck tour, it was entertaining and informative. That lasted about 2 hours then we took the free shuttle to downtown and spent the rest of the day walking around town shopping and being typical tourist. The second port was Juneau, this port had on and off rain showers and stayed partly cloudy most of the day. Here we went to Mendenhall Glacier....WOW!! That was breathtaking, we only had an hour there so my husband and I walked to the waterfall and a closer look at the glacier. The walk was easy, but beautiful, and the view at the end of the trail was breathtaking! My mom did the visitor center and said it was really nice. Our tour then took us to a cooking school, we had a salmon pasta that was delicious and a reindeer sausage salad that was awesome as well. Next we went back downtown for beer tasting, I don't normally like amber beer but Alaska has some awesome amber beer a must try. After our tour we took the sky tram, rather expensive, but the view was amazing. They have some good hiking trails at the top and an injured bald eagle they are taking care of, very beautiful bird. Our final port was Skagway, that was our first sunny day and we enjoyed it, the temperature was still cool but very welcomed. Here we went to the Red Onion Saloon for breakfast and a tour of the brothel museum. We then went to the Yukon summit, another breathtaking site, and continued onto the suspension bridge up in Canada. All in all a very nice tour, with a great tour guide. The rest of the day was spent wondering around the city enjoying the sun.
The glaciers....The only word to describe them is WOW!!!! Marjorie glacier was so surreal, the noises, the falling ice and snow and the calving was just so unreal.The captain did a great job with the 360 spinning so all sides could enjoy the view form their balcony. We got to see otters, seals and whales the last two days, the balcony was well worth the money once the rain stopped so we could enjoy the glaciers and wildlife. College fjord was another amazing area, if you haven't seen them PLEASE DO!!!
Disembarkation is usually sad but this time it was not as we had a cruise tour. We met in the dining room and then were escorted off the ship and to the train, a very very easy process. We boarded our car and found our table, the table seats 4 so with just the 3 of us we had the table to our self with that little extra space. The train ride was 8 hours but was fantastic. We saw moose, Dall sheep and Mt. McKinley, they say only 30% of people who go to Alaska see Mt. McKinley and we got to see it full glory about noon, what a site looks almost like a cloud. Our guide on the train was very informative and we had a lot of fun.
Princess Lodge...We got to the lodge about 6:00 found our room and then went exploring. The lodge was very nice, our part of the lodge had a huge patio that overlooked the river below and the mountains, very relaxing. We ended up spending the rest of the evening across the street at the little shops and ate at the Salmon bake, it looks a little iffy but the food was very good a lot of people made there way over to. A little cheaper then what the lodge offers. Across the street from the lodge are of course gift shops, liquor store, convenient store and other little restaurants. The next day by husband and I went to the park and went hiking, very beautiful and relaxing. We saw squirrel, and birds, but other people kept saying they saw moose which I really wanted to see but never did. We met my mom later for lunch she had a massage and said it was very good and not to expensive. We ended up eating at the lodge it was good food but a little pricey. That afternoon we took the history tour that is part of the package, it was another beautiful and informative tour, and we even got to see two Caribou, huge amazing animals. That night we order pizza from the pizza place at the lodge and ate it out on the patio, I looked down at my watch and noticed it was 9 pm, here you never know what time it is with the sun not "setting" till 11 and even then its not even twilight. The next morning we boarded the motor coach to head to Mt. Mckinley lodge.
Mt. McKinley Lodge.... Another beautiful lodge with a great view, FYI they do not have air conditioning here and that day it was little warm, they do give you a ceiling fan and floor fan. We took the shuttle to Talkeetna and explored this cute little town. FYI to those who like the show Man vs Food, there was a challenge done here, Adam won and my husband lost :) This little town is so cute and friendly make sure to walk to the end of downtown and check out the river, some good history there. That night we ate at the lodge another good but pricey dinner. The next morning my husband and I walked their nature trails, again no moose, but there has been a mother and her twins spotted there frequently the last few weeks. We ate lunch at the 20,320 cafe before boarding the motor coach for a 4 hour ride to Anchorage. The ride was quite as many people were wore out from a great vacation.
Anchorage...We arrived at Captain Cook Hotel around 5, what a huge hotel!! We finally found the business center printed our boarding passes and made our way to the room, another room without ac, but gave you fans. We cleaned up a little then my mom went shopping and my husband and I went to explore the city. Man vs Food did a challenge here too at Humpy's, we went and saw the place but my husband was challenged out. We ended up eating dinner at the Brewhouse, highly recommended, the King Crabs were the best crabs I have ever eaten!! We walked the city till about 9 then went to the hotel, repacked our suitcases, as you can only bring one piece a person on the cruise tour. We then got our taxi at 11 and headed to the airport. We flew back home at 1:45 am.
This was probably one of our favorite vacations ever! Alaska is sooo beautiful we would love to go back it was worth every penny! Princess did a really good job, except with loading up motor coaches, I guess people thought they weren't going to get on the bus even though that was your assigned bus. Other than that a must do trip all around land and sea. And we had no problems doing cruise first then land tour, just matters on your preference I guess. Sorry so lengthy but hopefully helpful.