After an intense three-day pre-cruise land tour in Alaska that included a plane, a train and a handful of motorcoaches, Island Princess looked like eye candy when we first spied her at the cruise terminal in Whittier.
Here was our refuge, our refueling station. We had cruised with Princess once before -- on Coral Princess, Island Princess's sister ship (her twin sister, as it turns out). The two ships are identical -- right down to the restaurants, the entertainment venues, the layout and decor. Immediately, we felt at home.
That's not to say Island Princess doesn't deliver some pleasant surprises. The public space is sleek, and even though she launched in 2003, there's no hint of wear and tear. Service was very good, particularly in the dining room. And the entertainment was top rate. But the thing that really stood out during our seven-night cruise through Alaska's Inside Passage was the quality of life onboard. Island Princess does a remarkable job of creating a quintessential Alaska experience that's highlighted by a lecture series featuring a state naturalist, National Park Service "ranger talks" and a presentation by the first woman to win the Iditarod. There's even a Princess travel guide and map that allow passengers to detect their navigational positions while referencing tales, points of interest and photos of the route.
Editor's note: During Island Princess' Central America season, the educational focus shifts to the Panama Canal.
And what's not to love about the private Alaskan Balcony Brunch, which includes Alaskan king crab quiche, smoked Copper River salmon, fresh fruit, homemade pastries and chilled champagne? Or waiters distributing hot toddies on deck? Or, of all things, a reindeer chili and rockfish chowder cook-off? And where better to enjoy Baked Alaska than in Alaska?
Island Princess Fellow Passengers
Island Princess' Alaska cruises, because they tend to be shorter and occur during summer, draw a younger crowd than the Panama Canal itinerary, which trends toward 60-plus. Passengers are largely American, though during our cruise, which was fully booked, 10 countries were represented.
Island Princess Dress Code
Cruises of seven nights or more usually have two formal nights -- and folks do get decked out. Men typically wear a dinner jacket or dark business suit, while women tend to favor evening gowns, cocktail dresses or trouser suits. Otherwise, the recommended evening dress is smart casual -- an open-neck shirt and slacks for men and a dress, skirt ensemble or trouser suit for women. Shorts and T-shirts are not permitted in the dining rooms. Daytime, it's pretty much anything goes.
Island Princess Gratuity
Gratuities, which are automatically charged to onboard accounts, are $11.50 per person (including children), per day, for passengers staying in standard accommodations and $12 for passengers staying in mini-suite and suites. A 15 percent gratuity is added to beverage purchases onboard, including wine at dinner. Spa and casino staff members do not share in the gratuity charges -- if you use these services, tips are advised.
Room service gratuity is not included, and we recommend that -- especially for prompt service -- you have a couple of singles handy.
We sailed from Vancouver to Whittier at the end of August on Island Princess. This is my first experience with Princess Cruise line, and it was generally very positive. We arrived early to board, and waited until their posted boarding time. We ...continue
We definitely enjoyed our family reunion trip to Alaska despite the gloomy weather We constantly reminded ourselves that we were in one of the largest rain forest during the rainy season. In fact the cloudy weather resulted in some haunting ...continue
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In the past two years, I took my family on two other different cruise lines, Norwegian and Disney. After this trip, although Alaska is the winner in terms of the scenery, I have to say that the service at Island Princess is the worst.