Island Princess Entertainment
There's no lack of entertainment choices, day or night, on Island Princess. Basically, you can be as busy -- or still -- as you wish to be. On our cruise there was nothing more mesmerizing than watching a glacier calve, searching for whales or just relaxing in the glow that attends the almost ever-present daylight of Alaska summers.
The daytime programming is surprisingly robust. And for real added value, there's an enriching educational component that complements the itinerary. As an example, a naturalist delivered several presentations covering topics such as glaciers, bears, whales and volcanoes. National Park Service rangers offered compelling live commentary on Glacier Bay as we passed through it. And in a "Princess exclusive," 1985 Iditarod champion Libby Riddles shared her story about the grueling dogsled race that put her in the history books.
Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.), the big-screen outdoor theater that's proven so popular with the line's newest ships, will be installed aboard Island Princess in October 2010. Passengers can enjoy movies, concerts, sporting events and other special programming throughout the day and evening.
On top of that, there's much of what we've come to expect from Princess: ice carving demonstrations; trivia challenges; afternoon movies in the Princess Theater; a cooking show and galley tour; wine tastings; art auctions; cocktail demonstrations; bingo; and dance classes. During our cruise, the Scholarship@Sea program also offered computer and ceramics instruction.
Nights, our friends-and-family crew enjoyed an array of activities: dancing in the Explorers Lounge; gambling in the Paris-themed casino; participating in a Name That Tune challenge; watching a Newlyweds and Nearly Deads contest; enjoying cognac in the cigar bar; and viewing some first-rate Vegas-style shows in the Universe Lounge and Princess Theater. There's really something for everyone, including a classical concert with a string quartet, stand-up comedy, a variety show, and, if that's not enough, a cabaret. Another treat: There are first-run movies broadcast each evening on your stateroom TV.
As for shore excursions, the selection was so vast that Gil and I didn't focus on them until we were onboard. Flightseeing? A glacier walk? Train ride through the Yukon? In the end, we signed up for a trolley tour of Skagway and, as dog lovers, enjoyed one of our favorite outings ever, a dogsled ride at the animals' summer camp in Juneau. 120 Alaskan huskies. Need I say more?
Island Princess Public Rooms
The 1,970-passenger Island Princess was designed to go through the Panama Canal, so it is trimmer and more compact than other ships in the Princess fleet. But thanks to a creative design, it features two full decks of public spaces as opposed to a traditional single Promenade deck.
Indoors, it doesn't scrimp either, offering as much in the way of public room space -- lounges, eating areas, entertainment venues, library, boutiques, cigar bar and Internet cafe -- as Princess' larger vessels.
Island Princess, by the way, has two banks of computers on Emerald Deck, or you can buy a wireless card for your own laptop. There are lots of wonderful nooks and crannies in the public spaces of the ship, including comfortable seating at the base of a sweeping four-story atrium that serves as the centerpiece of the ship's interior.
Island Princess Spa & Fitness
One of the biggest things I've come to appreciate about cruising is that it doesn't necessarily have to interrupt your workout routine.
Most days, I'd walk four miles on the relatively quiet Promenade Deck (2.8 circuits equal one mile). In fact, one day we participated in "On Deck for the Cure," a 5K walk to raise money for breast cancer research. There's also a shuffleboard court, table tennis and a nine-hole golf putting course.
Island Princess has an oceanview gym with weights, elliptical machines and treadmills. Again, this is a ship that's focused on selection. Among the classes the fitness center offers: step aerobics, stretching, Pilates, spinning, yoga, circuit training, upper and lower body conditioning, and exercise aimed at "bums and tums." The Pilates, spinning and yoga classes are $10. Programming also includes seminars with titles such as "Burn Fat Faster," "Facelift in a Jar" and "Secrets to a Flatter Stomach."
Next to the fitness center is the Lotus Spa, a relaxing Asian-inspired retreat that offers a full range of body and facial treatments, steam and sauna facilities and hair salon. There's even a thermal suite, where passengers can veg out in a heated ceramic lounge while they enjoy a tropical/fog shower.
Spa services include a Tahitian scalp massage, hot stone massage, a lime and ginger "salt scrub" and rehydrating facials, among many other choices.
The fitness center and spa are located on Lido Deck, which also houses two pools and five hot tubs. One of the pools, covered by a retractable glass dome, has a swim-against-the-current feature.