Having religiously read cruise critic for the past year preparing for this cruise, my husband and I felt well prepared to face the Alaskan weather in September. We flew to Anchorage and spent the first night in the airport Holiday Inn before transferring to the Captain Cook Hotel for the start of our land tour. The Captain Cook Hotel was very nice and we had a room on the 17th floor that overlooked the inlet. It was lovely. After walking around downtown Anchorage that afternoon, we had a lovely dinner at Orzo's, a small restaurant nest to the Glacier Bay Brewing Company. We had the most wonderful pecan crusted Halibut and grilled salmon we had ever tasted. The next morning we ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant and had sourdough pancakes and boarded the coach for the three hour ride to McKinley Princess Lodge. The trip seemed short and we arrived at the lodge and went directly to our rooms.Although small, the rooms were functional and comfortable.There are no elevators or air conditioning. The lodge is set up with a main building and a number of outlying buildings connected by a shuttle that runs about every 20 minutes. It was a bit cloudy when we arrived but it soon cleared and we had a lovely view of Mt. McKinley. I signed us up for a wake up call that is available if the Northern Lights appear and as luck would have it, we got the call at 10:30 that they were visible. Although it was only about a 10 minute show, there are no words to describe their beauty.
The next day was warm and sunny and very clear. Once again, Mt.McKinley was visible. We went on the ATV trip which I would highly recommend to everyone. We had so much fun. We ate a late lunch in the Lynx Bar and Grill back at the lodge and to our surprise saw actor Jon Voight at the next table. We would see him several times during our stay.
The next morning we left by coach to the Talkeetna train station where we boarded the train for Denali. We sat at table style seating in the upper dome of the rail car and went downstairs for dining. We really enjoyed the meal service. The menu was varied and the desserts were yummy. I had a hamburger and my husband had the seafood sandwich. They were both very nice. Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake with ice cream. Total bill with soda's was around $25 which we thought was reasonable. Arriving at the Denali Princess Lodge we found our room which overlooked the river and settled in. The Denali Princess is like a little village with surrounding buildings with rooms all around it. Once again the room was very small with no air conditioning but there were fans if you needed them. (we did). We had a delicious dinner at the King Salmon restaurant there on-site. You must try the prime rib and crab dip!!
It had been another warm, clear day and all the rain gear we had packed was still unused. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour the next day and saw moose, caribou, bears and eagles. It was well worth the time and money. The weather was again warm and we wore short sleeves. A box lunch was provided which turned out to be a roll, piece of cheese, reindeer sausage, packet of mustard, granola mix and a bottle of water. We brought our own subway sandwich and cokes. The bus stops about every 90 minutes for a restroom break. Although school buses are used, the princess buses have coach type sears which are much more comfortable than the bench style in the regular school buses. The next morning was once again beautiful weather as we boarded the train for the trip to Whittier to catch the ship. This time instead of Princess coaches we were on Holland coaches in which we were once again in the upper level but the seats were coach style without the tables. Although the scenery was beautiful, the ride was very long. There were delays along the way and we ended up getting to the ship at about 6:30 and to our room at about 7:30. Whittier was the first rain we encountered. Our suite was beautiful with its marble floor entry and huge balcony. The bathroom was very large with a jetted tub and large shower. There was a lovely flower arrangement, large bowl of fruit, tray of canapes and two glasses of champagne waiting for us.Almost as we arrived to the room, our steward Brando appeared. He informed us that Muster would be in 15 minutes and where we needed to go.I did a quick wipe down of the cabin with my germicidal wipes. We were exhausted at that point but realized we had no choice. We went down to the lounge and went through the usual drill. This was where the first of two of what I will call "dumbest questions" occurred. As the life vest instructions were given, a lady asked if the whistles attached to the vests were sanitized after each use. The cruise director paused and said "Madam, they have never been used but in the event you are in freezing water who would care"? That was worth a good laugh from all. We then took our vests back to the room and went to the buffet for dinner. We ate at the buffet for several lunches and dinners and found the food to be very nice. The variety was good and the food kept fresh. We then went back to our suite and went to bed. I do not know if the linens and mattress are different in suites but our bed was sooooo comfortable. The sheets were luxurious and the mattress very soft and nice. We had feather pillows (6) and a thick soft comforter. The next morning we were able to look more closely at the suite and found all the promised amenities present...thick terry robes, leather wallets, princess bags, slippers, umbrellas, spa toiletries etc. We had an extended menu for breakfast but we went down to Sabatini's and had the first of six pampered breakfasts. There were only at most 3 other couples in the whole dining room each time we went. We were waited on by at least 3 different staff members who were constantly refilling and refreshing our meal. Although a limited menu, you could request anything you wanted and it would magically appear. I really got used to the Mimosas.
We had anytime dining and never had to wait in line as we had preferred dining and were immediately taken to a quiet table by a window. The food was excellent. Most noteworthy was the french onion soup and diver scallops. I have read many times on cruise critic where it has been said that you can order anything off the MDR menu for room service when you have a suite. We found this not to be the case. We were given the "alternatives" or left hand part of the menu and were able to order off of that. We verified this with the Room Service staff as it differed from what I had read. Having just come off the land tour we had a lot of dirty laundry. We immediately sent it to the laundry and it came back beautifully cleaned the next day. Throughout the cruise our laundry bill would have been about $150 had it not been a suite perk. We also had free Internet use and took advantage of this frequently. We encountered no sales pitching throughout the entire cruise. I expected this but was pleased when it did not occur. We also found all the staff to be friendly and outgoing. Our cabin steward was absolutely the best. Brando has been with the ship for 20 years and was wonderful. We has misty mornings that cleared to lovely warm days. We sat on our deck much of the time. Glacier Bay was cold but clear. The port stop days were also nice with the exception of Ketchikan in which there was a bit of drizzle on and off. After leaving Ketchikan we had a night of very rough seas but the closer to Vancouver we got the smoother the seas. We checked our bill several times and found it to be accurate. All in all it was a perfect cruise. Now for the second "dumbest" question. While in Glacier Bay, the man on the next balcony asked " what elevation do you think this is"?
We had absolutely no smoke problems except in the casino and we just didn't return there.
Things we packed but didn't need included umbrellas, rain gear,thermal shirts, sweaters, gloves and scarves.
We kept hearing that this nice weather was not normal for September in Alaska and that the usual was rain every day. We were just lucky I guess.
We had a wonderful time and although I expected a few glitches there were none. It was a perfect cruise. Cruise Critic was so helpful with so many details. As for the suite.....we are hooked and will never be able to go without one now.