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 pretty much walked on to the ship on departure day at 2 pm on the afternoon. No crowds. Simple and efficient as ever. Our cabin steward greeted us with a smile and assured us that he would make our cruise "excellent".
We enjoyed the sea days ...continue
Loved the staff. They served "cheesy scrambled eggs" the first breakfast and I loved them. The second breakfast it was some other combination of eggs. I expressed my disappointment at not being able to have the "cheesy scrambled eggs" to the ...continue
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We took the 14 day Panama Canal transit from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles.
Embarkation went smoothly, however our luggage was the last to be loaded onto the ship and did not arrive in our cabin until after the ship sailed at 5:00pm.
We brought a ...continue