Alaska itself is simply stunning. Huge landscapes, pristine wilderness, soaring mountains, unbelievable ice blue glaciers , incredible wildlife. It was such a privilege to visit "The Great Land" and Princess did an impeccable job of organising an amazing range of tours to cater for a wide range of interests. All the tours were so efficiently run that you never felt worried that you would end up stranded or miss the ship.
The first week we spent travelling from Heathrow to Seattle (ovenight stay), then Anchorage (overnight stay) by coach to the Mt McKinley Princess Lodge , where we stayed two nights , then on via train from Talkeetna to the Denali Princess Lodge for two more nights , then finally on to Whittier where we picked up the ship. We covered a lot of miles in that week, and loved it all! What can I say about the highlights? Anchorage Museum - incredible if you are interested in First Nations history and Art, the Princess Lodges themselves - Mt McKinley Lodge is beautiful, and we were lucky to see the Mt McKinley summit peak clearly, shining white in the early morning sun. Loved the 5 hour Three Rivers Jet boat trip on huge ,wide wilderness rivers - just awesome!Talkeetna was great, and we enjoyed a fabulous wagon ride complete with cowboys and huge horses, panned for gold and had very close mouth to mouth encounters with caribou! Denali National Park was the highlight - we were lucky to book the nine hour bus trip into the Park, and the landscapes of multi coloured striped mountains and vast braided rivers were incredible. We saw wolves, caribou, a grizzly bear and we came back with fantastic photos. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see the heart of Alaska. Even the school buses were fun -the only vehicles allowed in the park, squeegie mops provided for passengers to keep the windows clean since there is no tarmac road. The Alaska Railroad was marvellous -excellent views from panoramic railcars of hundreds of miles of the most stunning scenery. The final journey down to Whittier to meet the ship is fabulous ,those amazing blues where mountains, glaciers , snow and ice meet the the sea. And then we saw the Diamond Princess waiting for us , white against the mountains and sea. Boarding was quick and easy and soon we were exploring the ship, which we all loved. Our cabins were on Caribe deck and we were delighted with the double balcony and plenty of space . My cabin steward Joseph was a delight - nothing was too much trouble. We had breakfast every morning in Sabatinis - food was plentiful and beautifully prepared. We ate every evening in the International Restaurant - superb service, wonderful food , brilliant!Our waitress Merila was fantastic- we were upset to say goodbye at the end of the cruise , she was so lovely! Adored the ship, we are all working out how to sail on her again. We were so sad to see her leave Vancouver without us on the day we disembarked. We all feel a real connection to her now and check the bridge webcam to see where she is every day.
We did some excellent shore trips , one up the White Pass to the Yukon from Skagway,- we ended up at Caribou Crossing in the middle of nowhere= hilarious!! ! Al;so a highlight was whale watching with Allen Marine from Juneau. We were so lucky to see a pod of orcas hunting , though it was upsetting when they finally killed the seal they had been using for twenty minutes as bait for the two young calves in the group to learn how to hunt. Also saw humpback whales ,seals, sealions and lots of bald eagles. Unforgettable! Ketchikan and Skagway are fun, really quaint and lots to see. But the really most memorable days were on the ship visiting Yakutat Bay and Glacier Bay to see the most spectacular glaciers. Imagine a green blue sea filled with floating ice everywhere, dotted with seals , eagles and other seabirds , and then approaching a 300 feet high cliff of ice which is the face of the Hubbard Glacier. Pieces of ice are constantly falling from the face, - just magical. If you haven't been to Alaska , then go! It is truly unique. I would go again in a heartbeat , and a few people on our cruise said they were returning for the third time! If I am lucky enough to return to Alaska, it will definitely be with Princess for a repeat of this trip. And I hope to catch up with the Diamond Princess soon!