August 31- September 7, 2011
Alaska Cruise Tour
Itinerary-Whittier,Yakutat Bay(Hubbard Glacier), Glacier Bay, Skagway,Juneau,Ketchikan, at sea, Vancouver.
We started out staying 1 night on our own in Anchorage at The Courtyard by the airport. Highly recommend. We also rented a car literally 2 blocks walking distance from the hotel.
We started our tour on a Sunday -The Princess reps are in the baggage area at the north end, at a podium to check you in for boarding the bus. We headed out for Mt Mc Kinley Princess Lodge for 2 nights.(you may begin boarding bus around noon until around 2:30/3pm) All our hotel information and room keys were given to us at the airport in a envelope, luggage pick up time,when the bus would leave the lodge as well as bag tags that said Join Me Onboard(we had 2 bags-1 rollerboard bag & a regular size suitcase) and bag tags that said Join Me Tonight(we had 2 bags- regular 28"/29" suitcases). We left all the bags with Princess in Anchorage except our carry on backpacks. We each carried on rolling backpacks on the bus. We made 1 stop for a break (at Miller Store in Houston,AK). We ran into a little traffic because the State Fair was going on in Palmer,AK. The bus had a restroom onboard.
While staying at Mt Mc Kinley(Monday) we went into Talkeetna and went to the Sun Dog Kennels, Jerry is a 10 yr. Iditarod participant(he has finished in the top 20). He and his wife(Kathleen) and another employee run the dogs in the summer for exercise and income by giving the public, tours of their kennel. Transportation to Talkeetna takes 1hr. each way, then Kathleen & Jerry transport you by van to their kennel and home(you meet at their restaurant(Kahiltna Bistro) in town). We went early(prior to our tour) into town to walk around and eat lunch. Had a great view of the Mountain by walking down to where the 3 rivers meet,excellent photo op. The shuttle from Mc Kinley Princess Lodge to Talkeetna leaves on the hour starting at 7am. It returns on the half hour starting at 10:30am to 9pm.(no shuttle at 8:30pm.
On Tuesday morning we left by bus to the Denali Princess Lodge for 1 night.(at 10am) I would recommend 2 nights here. We received our hotel envelope with keys for the Denali Princess Lodge room as soon as we got off the bus. We took the 2:15pm Tundra Wilderness Tour-highly recommend. You will get a box lunch/dinner on the bus. The bus was equipped with a 100X zoom operated by hand by the driver when stopped. this camera was great. A DVD is available to purchase by mail of your tour experience. The bus makes stops to visit the rest room.(none onboard)
On Wednesday morning we boarded a bus(7:45/8am) to go to the train depot which is near the park entrance.(very short distance) We were assigned a train car and a table(this was on envelope for Denali Lodge). The first 2 cars of our train were the Gold Star car and the Mc Kinley car which were leased(held Princess passengers) and had bus type seats.(all faced forward) We had a Princess car which had bench seats for 2 on each side and a table in the middle.(we faced forward, but asked our table-mates if they wanted to switch half way through,but they were fine facing backwards) We were in the Blackburn car- in the middle of the train. We had about 7-8 cars on our train.The seats are upstairs via a small spiral staircase in a dome car. The dining car was below us. We could order food from a menu and eat in our seats, which we did for breakfast and we went down to the dining car for lunch. Each car has a "tour guide" that points out things along the way. He was very good and made the time go by quicker than we anticipated. The train upstairs had a bar area in each car. You could also order alcoholic drinks in the dining car. Each train car has a viewing platform outside on the lower level.
In Wasilla,AK Princess reps get onboard and do all the necessary paperwork(passport scanning, you hand in your boarding pass, we filled out a health form, and make sure you have a credit card on file or if you wish to change the card,etc.) We received our cabin room cards just prior to disembarking the train. The reps get off in Anchorage.
We boarded the ship(on Wedensday) via the train from Denali(Denali Express) about 6pm.(short walk from train to boarding area). We waited in a security line(took about 20-25min.,since we had all just got off the train) and boarded the ship. The first night is open seating for dinner in your assigned dining room,although they did not check your card,so probably can go to either one.
The Patter says dinner was from 5:30pm to 7pm and 8pm to 10:30pm the first night.(embarkation day) We went to dinner after the emergency drill.
We had muster drill around 8pm.
I recommend rain gear and layers. We used our rain pants,waterproof shoes,rain coats, and umbrellas. We were perfectly dry.
Glacier Bay Cruising
Bridge Commentary by National Park Rangers can be heard on the open decks,Horizon Ct., & channel 42 in your cabin. Only 2 ships per day may enter. To hear the calving of the ice is truly amazing.
I recommend taking a tour here. Not much in the town besides lots of jewlery stores.
We took the White Pass Scenic Railway through Princess, the rail picks up right at the dock(railway dock aft on a map) and dropped us off at the ship or in downtown at the depot. We walked back to the ship at a slow pace,it probably took less then 15 min. Golf carts(complimentary) took us the length of the ship. There is also S.M.A.R.T. transportation for $2.00 per person 1 way or $5. all day pass to town.(we did not use this)
At 5pm we saw Steve Hites a local entertainer from AK, he told poetry,story, & song.(he is onboard for this show only and then gets off the ship) We enjoyed the story of Skagway through his eyes.
1 other ship was in port with us, Holland America Voledam.
Tonight was Italian night in the dining room so we went to Sabatini's.
We walked(a little bit of a hike;all flat) to the Alaska State Museum, great price of $5.00 to get in. We walked from the museum to see what the AK state capitol building looked like and then walked in the shops downtown. then back to the ship for buffet lunch and then to listen to Libby Riddles-1st female Iditarod winner. Drizziling alll day.
The dock is the Franklin dock not far from town. There were 3 other ships in town.
We took the city bus(Blue line north) to Totem Bight (a wide bay) State Park, which you can catch on the same side of the street as the dock by the eagle statue or across the street from the eagle statue on the corner of Grant & Front St. facing the direction of the tunnel.(the bus makes a loop) The cost is .50 cents for seniors and $ 1.00 for Adults. The totem park is free. Takes about 20-25 min. to get to the Totems. There are approximately 14 totem poles.
We then walked around the town on Creek Street(got off bus by the library after visiting the Totem Bight) and then walked around the town and ate at Annabelle's(3 kinds of chowder) for lunch on Front Street. It was raining by afternoon.
There were a total of 5 ships in town.
Tonight we changed the clocks 1hr. forward.
By 11:30pm we were having very high wind speeds across the deck and seas stormy.(force 11)
The morning of the Sea day the winds were no longer following us and they calmed down to force 5 (20 kts).
We had Captain Nicolo Bommarco, CD Joseph Richard(he was ok), Asst. CD Elaine Simpson, and Ceri-Asst. CD towards end of the cruise.
Hours of Horizon: 5:00am-11:30am Breakfast, 11:30am to 3:30pm for lunch,11:30am-2pm speciality buffet,3:30pm-5:30pm light snack, and 5:30pm-midnight for dinner.
Bordeaux D.R. open for breakfast 7:30am-9:30am(Ketchikan day open 6:30am-9am),noon-1:30pm for lunch, 3:30pm-4:30pm for afternoon tea. 5:30pm to 10pm for Anytime dinner.
The dining rooms were not open for lunch while we were in port.
Our laptop did not always want to connect in our cabin on the desk, so we moved closer to the door or went to the card room and it connected every time. Still slow internet on the ship, but that is ok,we had free Platinum minutes.
We tried Sabatini's for the first time on this sailing and enjoyed it very much.
This sailing had approximately 41 Elite & 80 Platinum passengers. The elite,suite,& platinum cocktail & hors d'oeuvres were held in the Explorer's Lounge from 5-7pm, but they were not very well attended.
Cabin D334 doesn't have a divider that opens to connect to cabin D332,but divider opens to cabin D402 if you are traveling with others.
The washers and dryers were on Dolphin deck in the back by the 700 cabins.(same place on every passenger deck) The cost was $2.00 to wash for 38 min. or 58 min. to dry for the same price of $2.00. Soap was $1.25 per box.
Champagne breakfast on the balcony is $32./couple.
Beer Package is 6 beers for the price of 5 ($21.25) Miller Gen. Draft,Becks, Dos Equis, Miller Lite, or Coors Light.
Soda package is $9.75 buy 6 for the price of 5.
The room service menu seemed to have a little bit of everything on it,(we did not try it)
We did the stuff the laundry bag($20.) in Juneau-give to your cabin steward before noon and we got it back on the eve of Ketchikan. Everything came bag so nice. An example of what each piece would have cost; shirts $3.00,underwear $1.00,bras $1.50, & pants $4.50.
The hair dryer in the room is a First Class brand with 1200 watts, it is located by the desk with a mirror. Power is ok.
Thursday cruising Yakutat Bay/Hubbard Glacier was 1st formal night. 2nd formal night was Sunday in Juneau. Saw a few tuxedos but mostly jacket & ties for the men. Women had dressy attire on.
5:45pm was first seating traditional and 8pm was second seating.(Provence D.R.) I heard there was a 5:15pm traditional as well(Patter never mentioned)
We enjoyed Comedian Scott Wyler and Do you Wanna Dance and Motor City(Motown). We also thought the Princess Orchestra was great. The Ventriloloquist-Dan, guest Star Adrian, and Comedy Magician-James we did not care for.
The most traveled passengers on our cruise were right from the same city as us, so we had to go introduce ourselves. they have sailed 759 days with Princess.
The Lido Bar had self service hot chocolate and I am pretty sure you can get it complimentary in the dining room on AK itineraries.
Coffee cards are I believe $29. + 15% gratuity for 15 speciality coffees.
JUST READ your Patter(newsletter) it has most of the information you need to know.
I attended the Backstage Pass on the sea day while my husband went on The Ultimate Ship Tour. The dance manager was Emma Hopkins and the Stage Manager was Mark who gave the presentation on how the theater works.(seats 662 people) We went on stage and backstage to the dressing rooms. I love this feature that Princess has.
There was not a crew show on this voyage, we enjoy this.
There are optional tours in Vancouver for those who have flights after 2pm you can take a City Highlights Tour & Stanley Park Tour and then go to the airport.(9am-11:30am) or if your flight is after 3:30pm take the City Sights & Capilano Canyon Walk.(9:30am-1:30pm)
There are Princess transfer buses available to Vancouver($24. per person) & Seattle($49. per person) airports.Travel time is approximately 4 1/2 hrs. between Canada Place and Seattle airport. There were buses for flights before 11:30am and for flights between 11:30am-12:30pm, 12:30pm-2pm, and flights after 2pm to Vancouver.
A bus for Seattle airport for flights before 4pm & after 4pm(these passengers met around 8:45pm in their designated areas.
The process is silent,no announcements made except for in your designated lounge/meeting place. The ships power went out at about 9am and disembarkation stopped temporarily,no cards could be "dinged out". About 10-15min. later disembarkation resumed with no power, so we just handed in our cruise cards(no souvenirs).
Bordeaux D.R. was open on disembarkation day from 6:30am-8:30am. Horizon Ct. 5:30am- 9am. No room service available today.
We had light blue 2 luggage tags for independent passengers for a meeting time of 9:05am.
We had plenty of time to catch our 11am bus(Pacific Coach) to Victoria right outside customs.
We liked The Island Princess and the staff. Hope this review was informative and not too long and boring.
We enjoyed meeting with our CC group on the first day after embarkation and enjoyed seeing them around the ship.