My wife and I just completed a 10 day land /cruise vacation on the Coral Princess. We did three days on land prior to boarding the ship in Whittier and sailing south to Vancouver. We started in Anchorage and then took the Princess motor coach to Mt. McKinley Princess lodge and then up to Denali Princess lodge. HUGE TIP: If you are doing a land/cruise trip and your land package is first, you should pack luggage for three days of land, and the rest for what you will need on the ship. This was a big issue when we were at the Anchorage airport checking in to be transferred to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. There were several people that did not know that this was an option (including us.) When I spoke to a representative with Princess, she said that there were a lot of people trying to resort their luggage at the last minute so they would not have to take all of their luggage to the lodges. Princess would take your "cruise luggage" directly to the ship. This would have been very helpful to know when we were packing at home. Nowhere, did we read this before we left. Great concept...just make it known so people are not re-packing thier bags on the floor of the airport.
McKinley Princess lodge was very clean and had a wonderful deck with breathtaking views of Mt McKinley. We were very blessed to have absolutely PERFECT weather when we arrived on July 20, and also July 21st. There was not a cloud in the sky and the mountain was gorgeous. We stayed in building 20 and enjoyed the walk both morning up to the main lodge. It is not that far and the grounds are very pretty. The first night we ate at the Mountain View restaurant with yet again great views, and the food was very good. The second night we ate at the 20,320 restaurant. The food was good, but Mountain View was better, in our opinion. Different type on menu for each. Mountain View is more "fine dining" and 20,320 more casual.
In the reviews that we had read, people are correct in the fact that there is not that much to do at the lodge itself. Enjoy it for what it is, and venture out to enjoy some excursions. We booked all of our excursions on our own by researching Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic. The relaxing deck and views at the lodge are spectacular. We went over to Talkeetna for the day on the the shuttle (50 minute ride) and had a wonderful time walking around this little town. We ate breakfast at the Roadhouse and lunch at Mile High Pizza Pie. Try the reindeer sausage at the Roadhouse. Another tip for the Roadhouse...order half orders instead of full. the pancake were huge and looked very good. Mile High pizza was excellent, and you can order by the slice. Sarah was our hostess and she was very polite and attentive. Todd the owner came over to us to visit and was very polite. They have a great area to sit outside and people watch, enjoy some pizza and have a beer. In Talkeetna we were fortunate to take a scenic flying tour and glacier landing. OUTSTANDING!!! Again a lot of this had to do with the perfect weather that we had for this day. We flew with Talkeetna Air Taxi ( Brad was our pilot ) and I have nothing but positives to report with this company. Highly recommend. I will post a picture of what we saw on Trip Advisor under "Perfect Weather".
The trip on the motor coach to Denali Princess Lodge takes about 2.5 hours. Very pretty country all the way up, and we had a knowledgeable driver that told us about a lot of the what we were actually seeing.
We were in building 10 (one of the newer units) at the Denali Princess and enjoyed our stay here as well. Again, huge decks with wonderful views of Denali National Park. There were a lot of people sitting out enjoying a glass of wine and the views. Very relaxing! We had read several reviews about the two lodges that we stayed in that made us a little apprehensive. The key word here is that they are "lodges". They were both very clean, with comfortable beds, and more than adequate amenities. You are in Alaska, not downtown Chicago at the Ritz. Yes, there is a strip of commercial shops etc., across the street, and a Subway. Hey, you can eat at Subway every day when you are home. We went to the Salmon Bake for dinner and had a great time. Alaskan menu and priced well. The character of this place was very rustic and unique, with a lot of fun people enjoying good food. Souvenir tip: If you are looking for a ULU knife, we found that you can spend well over $100 for more exotic handles and blades. We found ours one of the gift shops across the street from Denali Princess lodge near the Salmon Bake. Watch for ones that say "made in China" on the box. The ones that we bought were "made in Alaska" with birch wood handles and have a quality blade. $20 a piece. We have used it several times since coming home, and love it! Time to leave Denali and head for Whittier. The motor coach takes about 7-8 hours...the train takes longer. We had a full size motor coach ( capacity ~52 passengers ) and only has 11 people on board. This made for a very relaxing trip with yet another informative driver. We made a stop at the Alaskan Veterans Memorial, the Iditarod Headquarters in Wassila, (very interesting and worth the stop) and spent 1.5 hours in Anchorage having lunch and walking around downtown. We ate at Humpy's and had an excellent hamburger with local micro brews. The place was packed at 1:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday and the locals said that it is even more crowed at night. Worth the visit! Walk around...the flowers downtown are gorgeous!
Once we were on the ship we had a couple of days at sea. Our first day we were attempted to see Hubbard Glacier. Unfortunately the Captain had to make the decision to turn around before we reached the glacier. The weather was very poor with heavy drizzle and thick fog. It was disappointing, but understandable when you attempted to look forward. The fog was thick!
Our second day at sea we where in Glacier National Park. At first light we thought that we might have another really bad weather day. But it cleared enough for us to see some amazing glaciers. Margerie Glacier was incredible. One mile wide and 250 feet high! We witnessed some incredible calving. The key here is to be patient and watch. Calving can happen at any moment. Tip: The Coral Princess videographer films the entire stay at Margerie and the sell the DVD for $39.95 individually. So, if you have a great day of calving, you may want to consider buying.
The food on the Coral was good. Not great, but good. We must agree with the other reviews that we have read about the Horizon Court, predictable buffet food. This is an area for improvement Princess. We did not try the specialty restaurants this time around. The dinners were good, but the deserts disappointing to us. The pizza on the Lido deck was predictably really good!