1,010 Princess Coral Princess Cruise Reviews

My husband and I just returned from our first Alaska cruise! For anyone unsure about visiting Alaska via a cruise ship-I high recommend it as this is a good way to see the area and you may get to see sights you wouldn't get to see ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our first Alaska cruise! For anyone unsure about visiting Alaska via a cruise ship-I high recommend it as this is a good way to see the area and you may get to see sights you wouldn't get to see easily by any other travel method. Embarkation: We left from Vancouver, and embarkation was handled very efficiently. The ship did not leave until 5 p.m. but we had to check out of our hotel by 12 noon so we headed down to the port. We dropped off our luggage and wandered around the port area in Vancouver for a couple of hours before actually getting on the ship. A lunch buffet was served for those that got on the ship early. Our luggage was delivered to our stateroom by about 4:00. Safety Drill: You will have a safety drill as the boat is leaving. This safety drill was a little different than on previous cruises, as our muster station was actually a lounge and not outside. It was handled very well but I heard some later complaints that it took place during sail away, and no announcement that we actually WERE sailing away was made. Dining: We chose the Any Time dining option. If you do chose this option, you will have a separate dining room (Bordeaux) from those that chose Traditional dining(Provence). The menus are identical so you are not missing out on anything. Since we were a party of two, we often were asked if we minded sharing a table with others. We didn't mind this, as we met lots of people that way. If there is a wait, which there will be if you choose to eat from about 6:15-8:00, it is usually no more than 30 minutes and you are given a beeper which works anywhere in the atrium area. Your wait is usually less if you choose to share a table. You can also make a reservation for a specific time if you call them before 5:00. The dining room is open from 5:30-10:30. Note that the dining room is only open for dinner. You will eat breakfast and lunch either in the Horizon Court or one of the other eating options. I would rate the food as good, but not spectacular or as elegantly presented as I have had on other cruise lines. You have to remember--they are cooking for 3000. Think high end banquet food. I need to compliment the dining room staff, as they were always very welcoming and willing to go above and beyond to serve every one's needs. One night we ate with a woman who had numerous food allergies. The wait staff would let her order her meals a day ahead and even went so far as to make her special mayonnaise and salad dressings. Dining Attire: Princess states that "smart casual" is the attire for non- formal nights, but I saw plenty of jeans and shorts. I think that Alaskan cruising is very casual in relation to other parts of the world. On formal nights (you will have two on a 7 day cruise) we saw everything from long dresses and tuxedos to what I would consider church attire. My husband wore a sports coat and tie and fit right in. Other Dining: The Horizon Court is open 24 hours and has a buffet of hot entrees, salads, desserts, and depending on the time of day, a custom omelet and pasta station. This is the only place to eat breakfast so it gets very crowded during peak times. They also had two specialty buffets on days we were at sea--an Alaskan seafood buffet and a dessert buffet. We also sampled the Outdoor Grill area which serves burgers and hot dogs, and the pizza kitchen; both were good. There is also free soft serve ice cream. Specialty Restaurants: There are two specialty restaurants on board--Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe. You must pay a charge of $20 per person and make a reservation. We did not go to either but heard good comments from those that did. They did not seem to ever be crowded. Stateroom: We chose a balcony stateroom on the Emerald Deck. It was small but functional and we really did not spend much time there. I would definitely spring for a balcony on an Alaskan cruise because if you are going to see the glaciers, this is positively the best place to see them and get good pictures without 2000 other people jostling you to get pictures also. If you have never cruised before, you will be surprised at how small the showers are--be prepared if you are a large person. Your bathroom if about the size of an airplane bathroom. Our cabin was cleaned twice a day by a polite but not overly talkative cabin steward. No towel animals, although one of the staff told us that some of the cabin stewards do make them. My only complaints about the stateroom were the lack of electrical outlets (one in the bathroom and a double one near the desk, but configured where you could only plug in one item at a time)and the built in hair dryer, which sparked like it was going to catch on fire at any moment. Ladies--bring your own hair dryer from home! Internet/Cell Phone Service: If you want Wifi while on board, you need to purchase a package. There is an internet cafe and also wifi in your stateroom if you purchase it. I have T-Mobile and had service while in every port, but not while we were at sea. Beverages: The only beverages you can get free of extra charge are coffee, tea, iced tea, water, and lemonade. You have to ask a waiter for the lemonade, but everything else is at the buffet or bars. You can buy a soda stamp for $7 a day. If you think you will drink a lot of soda, this is probably the way to go, but if you purchase a can of soda it is $2.25, so only worth it if you are going to drink 3 sodas a day. No matter where on the ship you sit you will find a bartender and wait staff happy to provide you a cocktail! Drinks were on average about $7 a piece. You can purchase a bottle of wine and if you just like to have a glass or two at dinner, they will keep the bottle for you and retrieve it when you order another glass. For the cheap-look for activities where you get a free cocktail (we went to a couple of art auctions that included free champagne). Your bar tab can really add up quick, since you use your stateroom card for all onboard purchase, you might be surprised by a hefty bill at the end if you are not careful. Entertainment: We saw all but one of the onboard shows, which included an illusionist, a dance review, and a very funny comedian named Sarge. All were okay, but don't expect Broadway. There are usually two shows a night. If you didn't want to go to the live shows in the evening there was always a movie option. The Coral Princess has movies under the stars outside by the pool--but a bit cold for that in Alaska! There was usually an indoor option as well. The "entertainment" that should NOT be missed are the presentations by the naturalist, Kathy Stamp. Kathy is a 70 something retired school teacher who lived in Alaska most of her life. Beside being a great speaker she knows EVERTHING you might ever want to know about Alaska. Her presentations are invaluable if you have gone on this cruise for your first time in Alaska. Pools/Sports: There was an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. Not too many swimmers except for kids; this is Alaska after all. The hot tubs got a lot of use. I heard there was a golf simulator on the top deck but never actually saw it. Not much else in the way of sports activities, except for shuffleboard. Other Programs/Activities: We also enjoyed the cooking demonstration and a tour of the galley. There was bingo and art auctions every day and also a Casino, which is only open when you are sailing. Not as much shopping as I have seen on other ships, two small stores and a fine jewelery store. However, be prepared that many programs are an opportunity to SELL you something. The first day at sea EVERYTHING was a sales pitch--and much worse than I have experienced on other cruise lines. If you don't want a sales pitch--don't go. There is also a nice exercise facility with a good number of machines--it did not seem overly crowded--and exercise classes were offered for an additional fee. I also took advantage of the spa--HINT--go the last day when they have a "sale" and some treatments are up to half price. There are children's programs and teen programs, but can't speak to them since we travelled without children. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and had a sign and balloons on our stateroom door, and the waiters also sang to us. You could get married our renew your vows on board if you wanted to. A shameless plug for one prgram in particular--the Princess Pop Choir. I participated in this--we had several hours of rehearsals and then sang in the atrium on the last night. Just so much fun! Remember the age of the cruisers. Pop music was Tom Jones/Neal Diamond variety. Age Range: I had to include this because you need to know that the average age on this cruise is going to be older than most Caribbean cruises. We are in our late 40's early 50's but felt very young! There were a handful of families with young children on board, and a small group of teens, but it appeared that most of those were there as part of large family groups celebrating, say grandma or grandpas birthday or 50th wedding anniversary. Be prepared to hear about every one's grandchildren and health problems. That being said, the cruise ship staff seemed VERY patient about dealing with some of the older folks and was very accommodating to those who had a hard time getting around. Because of the older demographics, this was a QUIET ship. Not a lot of late night action or crowded cocktail lounges. That was fine by us but I wouldn't advise it for the 20 something crowd. The point of this cruise is to experience ALASKA, after all, the ship just happens to be the vehicle to get there. Ports: Our cruise was the Inside Passage Northbound--we made stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and ended at Whittier(Anchorage). We did not do the interior trip to Denali. Between Skagway and Whittier you will have two days at sea--the first day you will cruise Glacier Bay and the second afternoon you will cruise College Fjord. We took a shore excursion at each port. Ketchikan: We opted to take a nature walk excursion to a wildlife refuge. Many people also went to this preserve to do zip lining. We were extremely fortunate to have BRIGHT SUNSHINE which everyone kept explaining was rare--Ketchikan receives 300 days of rain a year so be prepared. The ship docks right downtown so it is a very walkable cute town. We saw lots of bald eagles here. You are only in Ketchikan half a day, so back on the ship by lunch. Juneau: The thing to do in Juneau is to go whale watching. We took a whale watching, glacier visiting trip from 8-5 that included lunch out on a little island. We saw LOTS of whales, and if you really want to see whales, this is the port to do it. You will probably also go to mendenhall glacier--but be forewarned that you will see TONS of glaciers on day 5 and 6, so if you have to miss this one it is OKAY. Also visit the Red Dog Saloon in town--even if there is a line! This was probably my favorite port. You don't have to be back on the ship until 8:00 p.m. so plenty of time to shop in town and you can walk from the dock. Skagway: This was the only port day it rained (again--unusual and the ship's crew said it had been raining for three solid weeks prior to our trip). We took a bus up to the Yukon (you need your passport--this is in Canada) and then rode the narrow gage railroad back. Unfortunately, we couldn't see much of anything due to heavy fog. We did get to see some bears by the side of the road. We visited a tourist center in Carcross--if you want to see some sled dogs in summer training this is a good place for it. Skagway is TINY. There are only 800 permanent residents. One grocery store, one post office, one school--and 17 jewelery stores for the cruise ships. Glacier Bay: Be prepared to be outside today and dressed warmly--and I do mean hats, gloves, and winter coats. You see two very large glaciers up close and personal and lots more from a distance. Again-blessed by sunshine--and I got a very nasty sunburn, so don't forget sunscreen either. College Fjord: So named since all the glaciers here are named after Ivy League schools. You don't get her until about 5:30, and stay about 2 hours. At one point, you can see 8 different glaciers at once. You will leave here either in love with glaciers or never wanting to see another one. I was pretty much glaciered out at this point, plus this is when you have to get packed. Whittier: Whittier is where you disembark. You will either take a bus ride of about 1 1/2 hours to Anchorage or a train or bus if you are going on to Denali and Fairbanks. Don't expect to do anything in Whittier--it is a town of 160 people with NOTHING there except boats. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was handled very smoothly-we were separated in to groups depending on whether you were going to Denali/Fairbanks or to Anchorage and assigned a specific lounge to wait in and a time to disembark. Everything went right on schedule. You do not have to worrry about claiming your luggage as it is transferred to the airport or your destination for you. Be prepared that you have to have your luggage out by dinner the prior night, and not midnight as on other cruises. We were a little worried about the luggage as our flight back to Houston did not leave until after 8 p.m. that night, but the airport holds them in a special room for the cruises and it was very quick to claim them before we checked in to our flight. We were dropped off by the bus at a downtown visitors center in Anchorage about 12:00 noon. there are free shuttles to the airport every hour, but you have to claim your luggage before the room closes at 7 p.m., so 6:00 p.m. shuttle at the latest. the visitors center will also store your carry on luggage for you so you do not have to haul it around all day in Anchorage. Overall Impression: I would categorize this as a mid-range cruise aimed at an older clientele. The ship serves as the vehicle to get you to your destination and your real source of entertainment, which is Alaska in all its glory. This is not for the luxury cruisers. The food is adequate, plentiful, and fairly typical, but not elegant. The entertainment is about what we expected. The naturalist was a great asset, and if you missed her programs you really missed what was going on each day. GO TO HER PROGRAMS. Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, we plan on going again and taking our sons with us at some point. 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Sail Date July 2012
Princess does an excellent job at the Vancouver embarkation port. Our cab pulled in to Canada Place underground facility for cruise ships, backed in, and our baggage was unloaded and placed for delivery to our room. After going through ... Read More
Princess does an excellent job at the Vancouver embarkation port. Our cab pulled in to Canada Place underground facility for cruise ships, backed in, and our baggage was unloaded and placed for delivery to our room. After going through customs we went to a staging area where we waited for our group to be called to go to our room. At the staging area we were handed our room packet with keys. Within one hour of our cab arriving, we were in our room and unpacking. After unpacking we hooked up with our friends staying in the balcony cabin next to ours, and we had lunch on the Lido Deck at Horizon Court buffet. The buffet was very good but not excellent. Had to ask for lox and cream cheese for example. A touch below what we were used to on Holland America. Also the Coral Princess seems to have a stange layout where it is difficult to get to Lido Deck without going outside, and walking through common areas. A minor complaint however. Our cabin on the Emerald deck had a balcony and while we did use it, it was too cold to stay out for long. It was not as useful as it would be if one were going on a Panama Canal Cruise for example, where you could stay out on the balcony for hours. We could have saved ourselves some money by booking an outside stateroom. Alaska also does not have the magnificent ports like those cruising southward. Ketchikan, Juneau, & Skagway are underwelming as ports, so no need to be on your balcony as you come into port like one does on a Panama Canal cruise. The other downside of our cabin was it had no sofa, so all we had were two chairs that were no comfortable to just relax for awhile. But we didn't book a cruise to sit in our cabins. Coral Princess is a nice ship and has all of the ususal amenities one would expect including shopping and gambling venues, many quiet spaces, a coffee bar, and multiple cocktail lounges where the drinks were excellent and not too pricey. We had drinks in the Crooners lounge, named after the Rat Pack, and the bartender made our drinks perfectly. We chose the 5:30pm seating at a table for eight and we met up with four new dining companions that made for fun conversation. Our waitstaff was courteous and professional, and went out of their way to ensure we had a pleasant dining experience. The food was good but not great, a notch below Holland America. The variety was good and wine selection was adequate. We had two formal nights but not many wore black tie, mainly sports coats and suits for the men. Don't know why the first seating was at 5:30 instead of 6:00pm. We had dead time between the end of our dinner and the start of the evening entertainlment. If we travel on Princess again we would probably opt for the anytime dining, which we did use one night, when we got back late from our stop in Skagway. Also when we arrived at College Fjord, it was right at 5:30pm so we skipped our sit down dinner and opted for the buffet once we were out of the Fjord. It would have ruined our trip had we missed College Fjord since that was a major highlight. Princess charges for lattes, so if you want upgraded coffee, it would pay to get one of their coffee cards which can be used on other Princess ships too. Didn't take advantage of that but I should have. Did not drink any soda's so did not need the soda card. Had the tea service one day in the Provence dining room and it was ok but not up to the standards of a real real British tea shoppe. They used whipped cream rather than clotted cream for example. Still it was worth trying one time. For breakfast we went about half the time to the buffet and the rest of the time to regular dining room. Preferred the regular dining room where you get waited on and it is more relaxing. The buffet is crowded and hectic but does have a lot of breakfast options. Ask for the lox and they will get it for you. We shared tables with other people in the buffet but that is part of the fun of cruising. Cruisers are very friendly people. The excursions we booked through Princess were good. The whale watch in Juneau was excellent in that we saw humpack and orca whales. The salmon bake was forgettable (don't bother), and the Mendenhall glacier has receded to the point where it is no longer a spectacular venue, especially compared to College Fjord. In Skagway, the White Pass railway trip to the border between Alaska and the Yukon was amazing. A lot of spectacular scenary long the way and a fun train trip. That was my wife's favorite excursion. In Ketchikan we just walked around town and looked in gift shops. Our friends did pick up a couple of nice jackets for only 20.00 each and supposedly they are the best selling jackets in Alaska because of the price. Go to the Tongass shop. And be prepared for rain. Ketchikan is one of the rainiest prices on earth supposedly. We made good use of our rain gear. Our ship cruised Glacier Bay and it was nice but not as spectacular as College Fjord or last stop. College Fjord was my favorite sight and of course it is the place featured on all of the Alaskan cruise brochures. We arrived right at dinner time so we skipped our regular dining and went to the buffet later. When we disembarked at Whittier our train was awaiting us to whisk us on a leisurely 10 hour trip to Denali National Park. Princess was well organized throughout the cruise and as long as their baggage tag instructions were followed, baggage handling was a breeze. We would use Princess Cruises again if the price were right. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I'm a geezer. I'll be strictly objective, but my perspective is perhaps unlike many others. I also tend to seek more active pursuits, so probably not the best candidate for cruising. With those caveats, here are my ... Read More
I'm a geezer. I'll be strictly objective, but my perspective is perhaps unlike many others. I also tend to seek more active pursuits, so probably not the best candidate for cruising. With those caveats, here are my impressions of the good and bad, with particular focus on Princess: Our cruise was the inside passage departing Vancouver June 25 2012, ports being Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and finishing in Anchorage. The sights are every bit as impressive as they say, and more. The experience is not to be missed. The cruise lines (and others) offer every imaginable excursion activity. We took the zip line tour to Grizzly Falls in Skagway (Probably the best & the longest zip lines for the money). This was the absolute highlight of the adventure for me. You'll have to book Grizzly directly. The cruise lines don't list it. (We also happened to get very lucky indeed with weather: blue sky, sun and not a drop of drizzle.) The landscape here is simply stunning. In Juneau we took the float plane ride over the glaciers. (Booked through Princess.) Wonderful, wonderful experience. Much better than the helicopter that just dumps you on the glacier to walk around on the ice. Onboard, the cabin stewards generally live up to their reputation for being very friendly, attentive and helpful. This adds greatly to the level of comfort. The staterooms are lovely and due to the reduced level of bookings we got easily upgraded to a balcony a week or so ahead of sailing. If you're looking to get away from the maddening crowds, cruising is the last choice for you. Modern cruise ships are enormous & the carriers work diligently to put a paying passenger in every available square foot. If you're looking to find a comfy seat in a quiet spot to read or relax, you'll almost certainly find a body already in it. If you head to the gym at typical times, you'll find it fairly well equipped, but a body occupying every station much of the time. (A real zoo.) If you want to pay even more money than you forked over in advance, Princess has a few premium relaxation areas you must pay to enter ($20 a day) where (hopefully) you'll find a spot. Like timeshare locusts, they seem to hawk overpriced premium items (photos, bottled water, wine, soft drinks, etc) more or less constantly, which is truly annoying. The spa services are priced at roughly 4-5 times the going rates elsewhere. Our cruise happened to have a very talented comedian-musician ("Sarge") who was clearly well above cruise ship caliber. Very funny and the crowd loved him. Much of the other talent also seemed generally well above what one might expect. The serving & other staff is spread thin & it shows. The buffet food is, well, buffet food. If your thing is force-feeding yourself an endless variety of mediocre-at-best, nutritionally questionable calories, you'll love it. The emphasis on economy is everywhere: in the powder mix iced tea, the heavily watered-down sauces, soups, etc, as well as the dreary attitude of some staff. At times, you'll wait far longer here for a coffee or water refill than you would in your local Denny's. In fairness, service in some areas of the buffet is much better than others. The dining rooms offer better fare, but nothing you'll rave about. Cheap cuts of meat, very small portions. Same watery sauces, soups (ugh!), etc. I got a lobster tail that looked more like a large shrimp, and it was just too scary-looking to eat. One of our party complained bitterly about having notes to the cruise director simply ignored when she sought help with onboard activities. No response. Zippo, nada. There is fastidious attention to cleanliness and disease prevention. I saw nothing anywhere that raised any concerns. Bottom line, it was about equal to my expectations. The total cost was about as budgeted. For extras, expect to pay at least a thousand or two over & above your cruise & air fare. (Excursions, tourist crap, drinks, ship gratuity & other charges, gambling, etc.) Would I do it again? No, but then it was always something I thought should be done at least once, and I still do. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We have just returned from a southbound Alaskan cruise on Coral Princess from Whittier to Vancouver from June 18 -- 25. This was our 12th cruise, and the fourth one with Princess. We live in Vancouver, and have been to Alaska 2 times ... Read More
We have just returned from a southbound Alaskan cruise on Coral Princess from Whittier to Vancouver from June 18 -- 25. This was our 12th cruise, and the fourth one with Princess. We live in Vancouver, and have been to Alaska 2 times before, but never been to Glacier Bay. We picked Coral Princess because of its itinerary and timing. Turned out to be a good decision. The following is a brief review of Coral Princess: Embarkation/Disembarkation Very easy and efficient. We arrived at the Whittier pier at 3:30 p.m., and was on board in half an hour. I saw many Princess buses arriving later in the day -- must be other passengers arriving from other part of the country. In Vancouver our disembarkation time was 8:25 a.m. We arrived at the designated area at the time indicated, and was told to follow everybody else to leave the ship. Went through customs and picked up our baggage, and was outside Canada Place at 9 a.m. waiting for our ride. Cabin We had an inside cabin on the Plaza deck. The size was more than enough for 2 people, with plenty of storage space. The shower was a little small, but you get used to it. I wore ear plugs every night, so I had no idea whether it was noisy or not. Of course it would be nice to have a window and balcony, but I found it was a much better experience to be on the open deck while cruising Glacier Bay because you can absorb scenery on both sides of the ship. Food We opted for any time dining. With the exception of first night where we ate at the Provence dining room, we always ate at the Bordeaux dining room for dinner. Normally we went to dinner around 5:45 p.m., and requested a table for two. There was no problem every night, but beware sometimes they have 2 tables adjacent to one another with only a small gap in the middle. Effectively that is a shared table if that is what you want to avoid. We ate all our breakfast and lunch at Horizon Court Buffet. In general the food was good, but not exceptional. No comment on specialty restaurant as we did not go to any. There were always food at the horizon court, so you would never be hungry. The soft ice cream tasted artificial, but was refreshing. The pizza was ok. My wife said the coffee tasted watery, so you may have to purchase the specialty coffee. Entertainment At the Princess Theatre there were 2 production shows, one magic/illusion show, one comedy show, and one hypnotist show. We went to every show with the exception of the last one, but saw the re-run on the following night in another venue. There was no show on the last sea day. There are always seats available inside the theatre, as opposed to the Caribbean Princess when we cruised last Sep that you have to arrive half an hour early to get a decent seat. We also went to the production show "On the Bayou" at Universe Lounge. Not sure why it wasn't held at the Princess Theatre. These were all typical cruise ship shows. Cannot be compared to Las Vegas, but good enough to keep you entertained. Fitness Center It has about 10 treadmills, 5-6 elliptical machine, 3 stationery bikes, and weight lifting equipment. All are in good condition. With the exception of the first sea day, the center was never very crowded. We spent more than an hour everyday there (to burn off the calories). I did not gain any weight after the cruise! Miscellaneous I would guess the average passenger age was over 60, with a small number of children. There were also a handful of younger people. I was told the ship was full, but I never felt too crowded. The TV channels were limited, and I was disappointed I missed the NBA finals. But you are not on a cruise ship to watch TV, no big deal. There is coin laundry facility: $2 for either washing/drying. I did check out the secret public aft decks (Emerald/Dolphin/Caribe/Baja) just in case it was raining and windy, but it was not necessary. Couldn't find the public forward decks. Final Thought In conclusion it was a enjoyable trip, and I would not hesitate to recommend Coral Princess if your expectation is not too high. In the future I would like to try a bigger and newer ship as I imagine it will have more facility and better entertainment. See http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1659614 for the trip review and pictures. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land ... Read More
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land portion of the trip can be found in the Review section of Tripadvisor. I especially want to thank all of folks that post in the Alaska section of the Tripadvisor forum. Without the forum, I would have had a very difficult task to determine an itinerary (special thanks to Manitoba Maple for the itinerary suggestions) and decide on attractions, restaurants, and lodging. The search engine on works great and helped me locate past posts that provided a wealth of information and answered my questions. I also wanted to thank the posters at Cruisecritic. I wanted to especially thank Budget Queen for her suggestions on the Denali summit flightseeing tour and using the shuttle bus in Denali NP. I also wanted to thank Cruising Goddess for her Alaska website. Her packing list was invaluable to developing our Alaskan wardrobe. We loved the convertible pants! The posters at Cruisecritic also provided good info on Alaska, as well as, helping with cruise and cabin selection. I fall in the category of a severe planner and try to tie down as many loose ends as possible, so the information on both sites is a valuable resource. Day 1- Travel day We landed in Anchorage in late afternoon. We pickup our rental car from Alamo. It was a Nissan Altima which is considered full size. We were able to stow our three pieces of luggage and the two day packs in the trunk. (Following advice on the TA forum, we booked a rental car through Alamo about a year earlier for eight days for a total cost of $366.) It was raining when we left the airport, but that ended quickly. The sun came out, and we got our first views of the mountains surrounding Anchorage. After a full day of flying, we had enough energy to shop for groceries, deet, the Milepost, and sundries at the Wal-Mart on Dimond Blvd and get sandwiches from the nearby Subway. We headed to our lodging at the Girdwood Guest House. It was still a sunny day, and the heavily snow-covered mountains along the Turnagain Arm were an unexpected surprise. Pat and Judy at GGH were great hosts. They told us there was more snow on the mountains this late in the year due to the heavy and prolonged winter and spring snow falls. We were able to sleep well because our bedroom at GGH has no windows. Day 2-Girdwood to Homer Day 2 starts with our first wildlife sighting. While fixing breakfast, my wife spotted a black bear across the street. He was about 20 feet away. He moved away before we could get to a camera. We did the Glacier Dog sledding tour with Seavey Iditarod/Alpine Air. Alpine Air runs the airport location and operates the helicopters, and Seavey runs the dog camp. The day was overcast, but no rain, so we were good to fly. They fitted us with fleece gloves and waterproof jackets and pants in addition to the glacier boots. Since I saw glacier dog sledding on an RCL commercial in the early 2000's, I had always wanted to do this tour, and I was not disappointed. They land you onto Punchbowl glacier. During the helicopter trip, we saw blue ice pools. While we were on the glacier, I noticed all the footsteps made in the ice reflect a slight blue tint. The dogs are only 30 to 40 lbs, but they are incredibly strong. I did not realize how eager they are to pull the sled, and they will do it with or without a musher aboard. We got to hold the 8 week old puppies who were so cute. The view of the surrounding mountains around the glacier was spectacular (sorry if I overuse this word in my report, but this vacation was incredible). I got to ride in the co-pilot seat on the way back. Because of my height and weight, this was an unexpected thrill. The scenery in the mountain valleys was beautiful. We wish the helicopter ride could have been longer than 10 minutes each way. After the helicopter trip, we decided that the Alyeska tram would be a letdown, so it was on to Homer. We made several photo stops along the Turnagain Arm and Portage area. We took several minutes at each stop just to admire the incredible views of these snow and ice covered mountains. Along the drive to Cooper Landing, we noticed the beautiful green colored water in the streams. The scenery after Cooper Landing to Soldotna is not as spectacular since it is mostly trees, but we were rewarded with great pastries at The Moose is Loose bakery in Soldotna. After Soldotna, the scenery improved. We had views of the Cooke Inlet. Along the Sterling Highway between Ninilchik and Anchor Point, we made several stops to admire the mountains across the Cook Inlet. I read reviews talking about an impressive view as you enter Homer; they were right. That view of the town, the bay, and the mountains was awesome. We stayed in the Compass Rose Quarters at the Alaska Beach House. Doug and Sue were great hosts and provided good information. The cottage is a stand-alone building which has a balcony overlooking Kachemak Bay. There was an amazing view of the ice-covered mountains across the bay. Upon our arrival, there was a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree. Apparently, there was a bird turf battle for the tree. The eagle was being strafed by 3 crows. I expected the eagle to strike back, but I guess it figured it wouldn't be worth the effort with so many surrounding trees. It flew off and yielded the tree to my least favorite birds. We spent the evening admiring the view from our balcony and the comfortable recliners inside the cottage. Even with overcast skies, the views of the mountains are so striking. Day 3 - Homer Originally, we planned to go to Seldovia on the Kachemak Bay ferry since this would only take about half a day. This would have still allowed about a half day to explore Homer. However, the ferry company changed the schedule, and we would have spent an entire day in Seldovia. We wanted to see Homer as well, so we opted to spend the day in Homer and were rewarded for that decision. The day started out overcast with a low cloud deck. We decided to start with a visit to the Island and Oceans museum. This museum has pretty cool exhibits on the people, history, geography and fishing of the area. While in the museum, blue skies and the sun appeared. We walked the museum trail through Beluga Slough to Bishop's beach. The view from the beach was gorgeous. The beach consists of a dark grey colored sand from the granite mountains which I had never seen. There were posted alerts about a moose being spotted near the trail, but we did see any moose. We then decided to drive along East End Road. We found out that buildings and trees block the view across the bay. To view the beautiful scenery, you need to travel on the interconnecting Old East End Road and the small public gravel roads. We couldn't get enough of staring at the scenery on both sides of the bay. At the end of the paved portion of East End Road, a young woman in a colorful long Russian dress and bonnet was caring for her two children in the front yard of their house. We turned around and headed back to Homer. Since we're fans of the Deadliest Catch, we had to go to the Time Bandit store. We found out the Time Bandit was in port at the Spit, so we rushed to go there. We found the TB. In real life, the ship looks small. I know it is only 109 feet long, but on TV it appears to be larger. It really takes a special kind of courage to take a ship this size into the Bering Sea during winter. We went to the Land's End which has a lounge that has an outdoor area with nice views of the mountains. We ended the day by driving to Skyline Drive. This required driving on East and West Hill Roads. These roads had some turns with steep drop offs that were sort of challenging to this flatlander. On Skyline Drive, there is a pullout that provides a fantastic view of Homer, the Spit, and Kachemak bay especially on this sunny day. Day 4- Homer to Girdwood It was a cold, overcast day, but I wished we could have stayed another day in Homer. I really recommend spending two full days in Homer. We really enjoyed the views from balcony. During our stay at the cottage, we had numerous eagles fly over us. On our way out of Homer, a moose cow and calf were grazing about 20 to 30 feet off the highway. The moose is an unusual looking animal. It looks like it has parts from other animals and was obviously the product of a design by committee. Even though it was overcast and occasionally rainy over the Kenai peninsula, it was sunny across the Cook Inlet, and we were treated to outstanding views of Mts. Redoubt and Iliamna. At one pullout, there were roadside signs describing the volcanoes. Mt Redoubt last erupted in 2009, but it was quiet today. We also saw eagles. While driving down the gravel road to the Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik, a moose cow crossed the road. The moose walked to our right side, and we saw that the calf had preceded her. We watched them feed on the trees. We proceeded to the church. The inside of the church was closed for the day, but it was a treat to see the outside of the little church. We stopped to see the Princess Wilderness Lodge at Cooper Landing. That area has great scenery especially with the green colored streams. Though it was raining, there were quite a people fishing in the river. We arrived at Girdwood where we again stayed at the Girdwood Guest House. Soon after we arrived, the bear we saw on Day 2 came back to tell us hello. We ate at the Silvertip Grill. I had the reindeer lasagna which was delicious. They also had great beer from an Alaskan microbrewery. The grill is frequented mostly by locals, and they made us feel at home. Girdwood is a cool little town. We were again able to take refuge from the white nights in our totally dark bedroom. Day 5 - Homer to Matanuska It was overcast, windy, and cold as we toured the Turnagain Arm area toward Anchorage. The weather did not detract from the spectacular scenery along the arm. We stopped at Windy Point (it earned its name that day), Bird Point, Beluga Point (did not see any whales), and Potter Marsh. We saw lots of birds at Potter March. We even saw Canadian geese with gosling. Some birds like the songbird were at the railings of the boardwalk, but for most, it helps to have binoculars. During our travels along the Turnagain Arm, we did not try to view the bore tides since they were predicted to be very low height or non-occurring. Due to the low cloud deck, we scrubbed going to Independence Pass and Hatcher Mine, and we opted for the Musk Ox Farm. This is a good side tour especially if you have children. The tour guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The musk ox which is actually a goat looks like a throwback to the Wooly Mammoth days. They even let the children feed wild dandelions to the young musk ox. We continued our drive on the Glenn Highway. I found out the hard way that the road to Matanuska was in the mountains (probably foothills, but to this flatlander they seemed like mountains). We got a good view of the Matanuska glacier. At 26 miles long, it is impressive. We stayed at the Majestic Valley lodge and ate at the restaurant at the Sheep Mountain lodge which had good food. Day 6 - Matanuska to Talkeetna It started out as a foggy morning, but the clouds began to lift. It was a sunny day as we did our 3 hour walk on the Matanuska Glacier with MICA tours which we booked the previous day. I really enjoyed the glacier walk, and hopefully I will be able to do at least another one in the future . We got to see the deep crevices and holes in the glacier. We saw the small greenish blue kettle ponds. The snow-capped, surrounding mountains and glacier were absolutely gorgeous. The trip was harder on my wife who has a bad knee. We mistakenly thought that glaciers were relatively flat with some gradual changes in elevation. Wrong, silly flatlanders. There is a somewhat steep change in elevation. We wished we brought her knee brace (which she has not had to wear in over ten years). It would have also helped if she had a hiking pole. The MICA guides were absolutely fantastic about assisting her. We felt bad that we held back the two much younger people in our tour. Needless to say, this was her first and last glacier walk. We drove to Talkeetna. On this sunny day, the scenery along the Glenn Highway was beautiful. Mountains are on both sides of the Matanuska river with the road cut into one of the mountain (yeah I know, foothills). We spent a lot of time stopping and viewing the scenery. After Glenn Highway, the drive from Wasilla to Talkeetna is a bit of a letdown. To quote a line I previously read on Tripadvisor, it was trees, trees, and more trees. When we got to Talkeetna, we spotted Denali (McKinley) from a pullout on the Talkeetna Spur road. The mountain was in a full view! We tried to get a summit flightseeing tour for that evening, but were not successful. We stayed in the downstairs lodge room at the Susitna River Lodging which has a good view of the adjacent Susitna River. From the lodge grounds, you can see some of the Alaskan Range, but not Denali. Later that evening, a couple of large raft tours on the river passed by the lodge. We really enjoyed our short stay at the lodge and at Talkeetna. We ate at Twisted Creek; great service and beer (brewed onsite) and good food. On this Alaskan trip, I verified that halibut is not my favorite fish, but I like how it is prepared at Twisted Creek. Day 7 - Talkeetna to Healy It was an overcast day at Talkeetna, but the skies were clearing over the Alaskan Range. We booked a mid-morning summit flightseeing tour with K2 Aviation. There were some low clouds on the west side of Denali, but were able to get full views of the mountain on the east, south, and north sides. The skies continued to clear as the flight progressed, and we got beautiful views of Denali, Foraker, Hunter, and the surrounding areas. This area had gotten a fresh dusting of snow the previous night. As with other areas of central Alaska, the mountains had much more snow than usual due to the heavy winter and spring snow falls. On a clear day, I highly recommend this tour. It was exhilarating. I was also fortunate to sit in the co-pilot's seat. Ed was our pilot who provided great narration. We did a final drive around Talkeetna (such a cool little town), and it was on to Healy. The scenery improved as the Alaskan Range began to poke above the trees. We also had a black bear cross the highway about 50 to 100 feet in front of us. I was getting sleepy during the drive, so my wife took over the driving. While I was napping, she said she saw a bull moose on the side of the road (I snooze, I lose). We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center in Denali National Park to pick up our prepaid tickets for the 6:15AM shuttle to Wonder Lake. We also watched the short film which was about the early history of the park and construction of the park road. We then headed to our lodging at the Denali Lakeview Inn which is on the shores of Lake Otto. We stayed in the Alaska Room which has large vertical windows providing spectacular views of the mountains and lake. We also had a shared balcony with two other units. We ate at the nearby Black Diamond Grill. The food was very good. I had an Alaskan King Crab leg and salmon. The beer was from the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage. We went back to the inn and stared at the scenery from the comfort of the wrap around couch. The white nights are tough on sleeping, but great for viewing scenery. Day 8 - Denali NP We woke up at 5AM to another sunny day! We drove to the WAC and boarded the shuttle bus. The seats on the bus were surprisingly comfortable, and there was an overhead storage rack with ample room for our day packs. Our shuttle bus driver was Wendy who was fantastic. She gave a great commentary on the history, wildlife, and geology, and geography of the park. She also had fantastic vision at detecting wildlife. Because of Wendy, we saw moose, brown bears and cubs, loons, willow ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), dall sheep, and caribou. She stopped for all wildlife sightings. For some of the bears and caribou, Wendy stopped the bus and waited patiently. She said the animals would get nearer to the bus, and she was right. The caribou crossed the road in front of us, and the bears approached close enough that they could be easily seen without binoculars. We also saw a red fox walking along the road. At the Eielson VC, we ate the sack lunches that were prepared by the folks at the Lakeview inn. The lunches were good and must have smelled good because it interested a ground squirrel who we thought was going to leap onto the bench. I told him know "no" repeatedly, and he kept faking a leap. Apparently, the back and forth between the squirrel and I must have been entertaining enough to draw a crowd snapping photos. Eventually, he got bored and left. He must have put the word out on me to his other squirrel buddies because they scurried when they saw me. From the park entrance to one of the stops, we got full views of Denali! By the time, we got to Eielson, some clouds were at the base of the mountain, but you could still see about 80 to 90% of the mountain. We rode the bus to Wonder Lake, but could only see the top of the mountain at that point; we did see the red fox during this trip. The bus ahead of us saw a wolf pack, but we did not. The mosquitoes at Wonder Lake were numerous but not swarming, but we were glad we had head nets and Deet. 100% deet works great at repelling mosquitoes, but it takes quite a few hand washes with lots of soap to later get rid of the smell. We considered ourselves lucky to get a great bus driver/tour guide, plenty of wildlife sightings, numerous Denali sightings, and a sunny day. We ate at the 49th State Brewery in Healy. The food was OK, but the beer was good. They only brew one beer, a golden ale. The other draft beers are from breweries in Alaska and Washington. Day 9 - Healy to Anchorage It was a fairly uneventful trip to Anchorage. The day started out overcast, but became sunny by afternoon. We did see the top of Denali at a road side pullout. We stayed at the Ship Creek Comfort Inn. We chose this location because it was within walking distance from the train station. We had reserved tickets to Whittier on the Alaskan Railroad for our cruise tomorrow. The inn borders the Tony Knowles trail and Ship Creek. At the creek, there were a lot of people fishing for salmon. We stayed a while, but no one hooked a fish while we were there. Our room was on the creek side of the building, so it was not directly facing the train tracks. We heard, but were not bothered or awakened by train whistles during the night. Day 10 - Anchorage to Whittier Comfort Inn had a great breakfast which we needed since we wound up having a full day. We checked our bags except our daypacks with the railroad employees at the large white tent that is adjacent to the railroad terminal. They had a special section for Princess Cruise luggage. We were told that the bags would be checked all the way to our stateroom on the ship. We then got our ticket from the counter inside the building. We were told that boarding would begin about 20 minutes prior to departure, so we were able to go back to our room at the Comfort Inn for about an hour. The train has very comfortable seats with a lot of legroom. There was ample space in the overhead storage rack for our day packs. We had another sunny day. This afforded great views of the Turnagain Arm and Portage Glacier. After we came out of the second tunnel, we saw Whittier, the Coral Princess, and sunny skies! When we departed the train, I immediately called Major Marine and was told they had about 100 available seats for the 4-1/2 hour tour to Blackstone Bay. We did not opt for the salmon and prime rib buffet. We were still full from breakfast and knew we would eat on the ship that evening. We got an assigned table to ourselves on the first level. We spent most of our time on the open decks on the first and second level. The views of the snow capped mountains and waterfalls were spectacular on this sunny day. The tour has a Park ranger on board who provided great commentary. We saw otters and harbor seals in the bay. We stayed at the Blackstone and Beloit glaciers for about 20 to 30 minutes each. We were within 1/4 mile of each glacier. There was quite a bit of cracking and some large chunks of ice fall from the glacier. I don't know if they would count as calving. One piece seemed small, but sound like a gunshot when it hit the water. We saw quite a few waterfalls, and stopped close to a large one for pictures. We enjoyed the boat ride to and from Whittier. This was a great tour especially with the great weather. We returned to Whittier and boarded the Coral Princess. On our past Caribbean cruises, we had booked inside cabins. For this cruise, we splurged and booked a mini suite, and we are glad we did. When we opened the door, great views and our luggage were awaiting us! We loved this stateroom. We spent a lot of time on this cruise looking at scenery from the balcony or the full size sofa in the stateroom. Day 11 - Hubbard Glacier It was an overcast day with a very low cloud deck when we got to Yakutat Bay. The onboard Princess naturalist said not worry. She said there was a 90% chance of seeing the glacier, and she was correct. We were only able to get within 8 miles of the glacier because of the floating ice. The glacier is the largest in the world and it was impressive. En route to the glacier, we did see the tail of a humpback whale. Day 12- Glacier Bay National Park A sunny day in Glacier Bay! We viewed Reid, Lamplugh, and Margerie glaciers. In addition to the onboard naturalist, we had Park rangers on board to provide commentary and respond to questions. One of the rangers told me that there was more snow on the mountains than in past years. We were about a mile from Margerie glacier. We saw quite a bit of ice fall from the glacier. We saw an eagle floating on an iceberg close to the ship. Day 13- Skagway It was a sunny day in Skagway! Not all was perfect, I started with a head cold. We went on the Emerald Lake-Carcross tour with Dyea Dave. We also had reservations for the WP&YR train from Fraser Meadows to Skagway. Shelby was our tour guide. Our experience with her was the opposite of Wendy with the Wonder Lake shuttle. The tour seemed rushed, and compared to other tours, we got minimal informative narration. That day, she seemed to view herself more a bus driver than tour guide. I had read great review about Dyea Dave, but it seems if you don't get Dave then the quality of your tour may be luck of the draw. With that said, the scenery to Carcross is pretty. We saw a group of vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Most on our bus saw a bear. We saw a lake that was so still that it mirrored the surrounding land. When we encountered that lake, I thought it was part of the land. We also saw Emerald Lake which gets its color and name from the algae growing in it. We visited the Carcross Desert which is the world's smallest desert. Carcross is a quaint, tiny town, and the water around Carcross also appeared to have an emerald color. The train ride from Fraser to Skagway was great. The allure of the train is not so much the scenery which is pretty, but that the tracks are cut into the side of a mountain. One thing we would have done differently was to not bring both daypacks on the Skagway bus trip. We typically carried the small camera, water, some snacks, and the rain jackets and rain packs in the day packs. Since we had room, we probably included other stuff that I can't recall now. The small bus used by Dyea Dave did not have an overhead storage rack. (I had previously asked them if it was OK to bring day packs which they said would be OK, but neglected to ask if there was storage for the packs.) There is very little room under the seats for day packs. (This was also true of the shuttle bus used by Orca Enterprises.). The smaller day pack was able to be put on the floor and shoved a little under the seats in from of us. We had to carry the 20 inch long day pack on our lap for the duration of the bus ride. For the Orca trip, we learned our lesson and crammed the above items into the smaller day pack. That worked well for the shuttle bus ride and most importantly, the boat trip. On the WP&YP train ride, there are overhead storage racks. Looking back, the only bus or boat trip where we needed 2 day packs was on the 11 hour Wonder Lake shuttle bus where we also had to carry lunches, snacks, and additional water. Another thing that surprised me was that there was more leg room between the seats on the old passenger cars on the train than there was on the small bus. Even with the limited legroom, I would still use one of the tour companies to travel to Emerald Lake and back to Fraser since the bus does stop for photo ops along the way. Day 14- Juneau Another sunny day! We did the whale watching tour with Orca Enterprises. The entire experience was great. The driver who drove us to and from the docks provided a lot of information on the sights we saw on the way. On the boat, Jeff was the tour guide, and Josh was the captain. They were great. Jeff gave an informative talk about the humpback whale especially their feeding habits and behavior. Josh was adept at finding whales. We saw plenty of backs and tails. Josh also told us to watch the eagles. He pointed out how one would scoop the fish out the water, and another eagle would try to steal it. The fish was usually the winner because it would fall back into the water during the aerial scuffle. It was fascinating to watch the eagle acrobatics. We had about 15 passengers on the boat, so everyone got ample time to go up on the upper deck for whale watching. You can only be up on the upper deck when the boat is stopped, and they limit 6 passengers at a time. We got to see Mendenhall glacier from the boat. We were a bit tired from our travels and decided not to visit the glacier. Since it was a sunny, cloudless day, we took the tram up to Mt. Roberts. We had great views of the surrounding area from the top. We saw an interesting short movie about the Tlingit people. There are quite a few walking trails and one that goes down the mountain. There were still mounds of snow on the mountain. The tram was a good alternative to the glacier. Day 15 - Ketchikan This was a sunny day in normally rainy Ketchikan. We were scheduled for the Misty Fjords/Glacier flightseeing tour with Family Air. Gretchen picked us up on the street in front of our cruise ship. We chose Family Air because they were the only company that would do the glacier tour without having at least four people booked. I guess this is because Dave's plane is a Cessna bush plane and normally seats four. The other companies used a slightly larger DeHavilland and seat six. Dave is the owner and the pilot. He told us that the great weather had some drawbacks. On an earlier flight, there was quite a bit of turbulence. He said that the glacier portion may be too rough, but it would be our choice whether to proceed. This was our first flight on a seaplane, and I really enjoyed the experience of taking off and intentionally landing on water. As we had seen elsewhere in Alaska, there was more snow on the mountains than normal. We enjoyed flying through the fjords. Dave is very personable and gave a good description of the area. There was quite a bit of turbulence. We heard other pilots saying they were turning back because their passengers were getting queasy. The turbulence prevented us from landing in the lake and getting off the plane onto land. We did land in the water near a boat owned by a friend of Dave's. They had just caught a 50 lb fish. We were able to stand on the pontoons which was still a cool experience. Because of the turbulence, we decided not to proceed with the glacier tour. After the flight, Gretchen dropped us off at the Creek Street area at our request. She directed us to the salmon ladder, but said it might be too early to view salmon. She was right. The salmon ladder is pretty neat to see, and it would be great to visit it in July and August during the salmon runs. We walked down Married Man's trail which is what men used to sneak down to the brothels on Creek St. It is a scenic walk down the trail. We took the funicular from Creek St up to the Cape Fox Lodge. Going up the hill gave us a nice view of the area. We had lunch at the Heen Kahidi Dining Room which has nice views of the dock area. We enjoyed the open face sandwiches. I had the Bear lunch which consisted of salmon and cream cheese on flat bread and a yogurt topped with raspberries. My wife had chicken, green onions, and havarti cheese on flat bread. Just outside of the inn was a collection of totem poles. After enjoying the view from atop the hill, we took the funicular back to Creek St. Ordinarily, you would pay the attendant $2.00 pp at the lower level. For this trip, there was no one there. I had read that this does occur frequently during the summer, and you just operate the funicular yourself by pressing the up/down button. We walked along Creek Street to Steadman's bridge. Creek St now contains shops and restaurants. The buildings are on the water and supported by pilings. There are informative signs on the buildings that were brothels. At Dolly's house, a young woman in 20's garb appeared at the door and gave us a funny double entendre sales pitch for the tour. She had a lot of enthusiasm. At this point, it was late afternoon, and I was getting tired from the head cold. We passed on the tour, but in hindsight, wished we had taken the tour. Days 16 and 17 - Sea Day and Vancouver It was an overcast day and visibility was limited. The sea day allowed us the opportunity to crash. We slept most of the day. We disembarked in Vancouver, we took the City HIghlights/Stanley Park tour through Princess. This was the only tour we booked through Princess since it included a transfer to the Vancouver airport. The tour guide was very good. The bus was very comfortable with overhead storage for the day packs. We had a 3:14 PM flight, so this tour was a great alternative to sitting in the airport. The tour included a 20 minute stop at Stanley Park. They have a very impressive display of totem poles. From the park, there is a scenic view of downtown Vancouver and a final view of the cruise ship. Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful. Misc. Lessons Learned and Conclusion: Food: Someone in a recent trip report stated that they found the fish to be overcooked. With exception to the Twisted Creek restaurant in Talkeetna, I would agree. I did enjoy items such as the reindeer lasagna at Silvertip Grill. This is something that I cannot get back home. Customer Service: I had read posts in Tripadvisor that gave the impression that personnel at the lodging and restaurants might be apathetic regarding the patrons. We were fortunate. All of the hospitality personnel that we encountered were very friendly and accommodating. Sleep: I wish I had worn the sleep masks at home well before the trip to get used it. During the trip, it made it a challenge to get used to sleeping in near daylight conditions with a mask. Energy: I was surprised how taxing this trip could be at times. Even though I'm nearly 58 years old, I had a lot of energy during our trip last year to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Quite a few times during the land portion of the trip, I found myself tired around 6 or 7PM at night. Conclusion: This trip had been my dream vacation for a while, and it met my expectations which were high. We enjoyed our stays at the various accommodations and would do so again. With exception of Dyea Dave, all of our excursions were a lot of fun. Hopefully, my first trip to Alaska will not be my last. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
First time Princess cruiser; started off on the right foot by receiving an 8-category upgrade to a balcony after having purchased a very inexpensive guarantee. (Also, our on-line TA booking came with a bonus shore excursion credit which we ... Read More
First time Princess cruiser; started off on the right foot by receiving an 8-category upgrade to a balcony after having purchased a very inexpensive guarantee. (Also, our on-line TA booking came with a bonus shore excursion credit which we used to purchase a private limo transfer from LAX to San Pedro - very nice!). Value for the Price: 4/5 Embarkation on Wednesday was unbelievably quick and hassle-free. Including travel time we were no more than 35 minutes from airport luggage carousel to gangway. (Mind you, this was 12:30 p.m. - peak boarding time.) This part of the process couldn't have gone better. Excellent luck with everything from our transfer arrangements to the curbside porters. Embarking onto Deck 7 rather than the Atrium though, lacked a certain WOW factor, and I was disappointed for my sister, who is a first time cruiser (who fortunately didn't know what she was missing!). Travel & Embarkation: 5/5 Our cabin was ready when we boarded, which I understand is the standard for Princess. Our BE balcony was located way too far aft for my preference, and actually we under-utilized the balcony due to the weather and having so much else to do. Even so, never look a gift-balcony in the mouth (or something like that...). The cabin itself was very spacious, but dated in decor and somewhat ill-kept with stained and worn furniture. Storage was strangely lacking other than the large, open closet (one cabinet with shelves and only bed-side table drawers). The beds were INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE - I slept poorly and rose early as laying there too long was actually painful. Our cabin steward was perfunctory - not a super job, but adequate. Robes from our Personalizer requests were delivered the second day. Accommodations: 2.5/5 The ship is clearly not new or particularly modern in decor, but is very tasteful and not garish in any way. Clean and tidy, with everything one could ask (children's facilities, bars & lounges, a very impressive library, showroom, shopping, giant movie screen, golfing, spa, salon & casino). We took advantage of almost everything on offer, including the Sanctuary and the Lotus Thermal Suite. (These facilities were completely under-subscribed on this trip and by the end of the second day aggressive "salesmen" were roving the ship trying to get people to sign up. While we really enjoyed both of them, I must say I am a little resentful of having to pay for what used to be included in yester-year cruising). A FEW WORDS TO SMOKERS: There are outside smoking areas along the starboard side of the walking track on Deck 7 and in the open space on Deck 15 forward. There is no smoking at all allowed at the tables or loungers around the pool on the Lido or that I noticed in the Casino, although I was not in there much. There is an indoor facility (Churchill's Cigar Lounge) that is so oppressive and horrible it was more like free smoking-cessation therapy! I did not notice any conflict whatsoever between passengers over smoking on the Coral Princess. Public Spaces: 5/5 Dining was uniformly disappointing, perhaps the worst food I've ever been served on a cruise in every venue. (I had fully intended to enhance this review with "Food Porn", but honestly, there was nothing worth photographing.) Main dining menu selections were not tempting, presentation was not creative and taste and temperature were unsatisfactory. Our table request was not accommodated and we were seated at an 8-top. Two of the other couples had been on the ship since Ft. Lauderdale and had developed a real rapport with the wait staff. We actually felt a little ignored (by the wait staff, not our tablemates), which was a weird experience although I suppose we could have complained if it was that big a deal. Service in Horizon Court was better, but buffet choices were unappealing and deteriorated quickly under intense heat lamps. Cold selections of meats, cheeses, fruit and salad were better, but really, how can you mess those up? In desperation we ate at one of the specialty restaurants (the Bayou Cajun Steakhouse). It was way better, but only as good as main dining should have been - nowhere near as outstanding as the high-end restaurants I've been to on other ships. Dining: 1/5 Service was efficient, polite and professional, but rarely personable. Just O.K. in every way, but O.K. is good enough isn't it? We wanted for nothing, and if we had we were more than capable of seeking out assistance. I'm beginning to believe that we've all developed a mythology around cruise ship crew. They are there to do their jobs, and for the most part are very adequate at it. Few genuinely desire to "be friends", but then again, why would they? (FYI for anyone that's wondering - yes, we did leave our auto-tips in place, which I consider part of the cruise fare. Almost nobody warranted additional cash tips except the sweet staff in the Sanctuary). Service: 3/5 Activities and Entertainment provided by Princess blew me away!! Incredible array of opportunities on the roster each day - I consistently had to miss something in favour of something else. Never before have I been confronted with this happy dilemma! Two shows each evening (one on the main stage and one in a cabaret setting) and each performer was GOOD, really good! Any of you who have seen Steve Moris over the years will understand the caliber of the talent. I do regret that "On the Bayou" was not performed as it was highly recommended, and weather conditions precluded watching an evening movie outdoors. I think in hindsight I would trade better entertainment for better food again anytime. Entertainment & Activities: 5++/5 Itinerary was lovely, we had unbelievable luck with the weather in San Francisco, Victoria and Vancouver, although the winds on board were FIERCE and the seas rough while underway. Ship sponsored excursions were limited as this trip was the first of the season for each port. We toured independently in San Francisco (google GoCar dot com - you won't be sorry!!) and took Princess excursions in Victoria & Vancouver (Butchart Gardens & City Tour/Canyon Walk respectively). Both were very good quality and we were satisfied. I highly recommend taking an excursion on disembarkation day - it allows you to be escorted off the ship past the other 2000 people waiting in line! Ports of Call: 5/5 All in all, we had a wonderful vacation and I'm very pleased with the experience I was able to offer my DSis, who was a cruise newbie. I still have not found my elusive "Absolute Favorite Cruiseline". More and more I'm convinced that I never will, as the offerings of each of them are quite diverse and really serve different, equally worthy purposes. I will confidently recommend Princess when appropriate and look forward to sailing Princess again myself when the circumstances are right. Please feel free to ask any specific questions! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This was my 3rd Princess cruise (sailed on the Grand out of Galveston in 2006 & Emerald out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2010) and it was great! This was my second time to Alaska (sailed on the Carnival Spirit in June 2007). Cabin: My ... Read More
This was my 3rd Princess cruise (sailed on the Grand out of Galveston in 2006 & Emerald out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2010) and it was great! This was my second time to Alaska (sailed on the Carnival Spirit in June 2007). Cabin: My husband and I had a Balcony cabin on the Caribe deck (C612). The room was plenty spacious for us although it was the smallest shower I have ever had on a cruise (17 cruises) but it really wasn't a big deal. The balcony in this room was great!! It was larger the the balconies on the decks above us and was half covered (unlike the balconies on the deck below us). I'm glad we had some covering since we had rain several days. You could still have your balcony door open or sit under the covering to enjoy the scenery. We had friends in the 3 cabins next to us (C614, C616 & C618)and our room steward opened up our balconies so we were able to go back & forth between very easily. Food: I am a very picky eater but was able to find food to my liking every night. There was a lot of seafood but that is probably pretty standard for an Alaskan cruise. The cold soups were really good - they served them in drink glasses! The lunch buffets always had a great salad bar but the main entree always seemed to be Mediterranean/Middle Eastern. Desserts at dinner were wonderful. I thought that they were trying to sell the soda card, specialty restaurants, and wine tasting way too hard on this ship. When eating in the buffet several people would stop at our table and try to sell us something, it was quite irritating. Shows: We only attended the comedian (2 nights) and the Illusionist. We really enjoyed the comedian both nights, he had 2 different shows. The Illusionist was good but I think the show was somewhat racy for the older audience on board. A lot of people got up and left. Anchorage: We spent 2 days in Anchorage before our trip before heading to Whittier. We attended the Anchorage Market & Festival that had a lot of shopping & food vendors...great for locals or tourists. We went to the Earthquake Experience Theater and also watched another film on Alaska there. We rented a car so we went out to the Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood. It's Alaska's most popular ski resort. It was a beautiful hotel and we took the tram ($20) up the mountain and enjoyed the views and watched the skiers. It was also a pretty drive (even though the weather wasn't great). We also went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood that you can drive around and view the animals. Ate at some nice restaurants while in Anchorage: Humpy's, Glacier Brewhouse, Snow City Cafe. Whittier: We took the train from Anchorage to Whittier and really enjoyed the ride. It was a really nice day and the train ride was fun. Not much to do/see in Whittier so we got straight on the boat and embarkation was a breeze. We were like the 5th couple in line and it took about 5 minutes to check in and go through security. They took our luggage before we boarded the train and we didn't see it again until they delivered it to our room that night. It was really nice to not have to lug it from the train to check-in. Sea Day: Our first sea day was fairly rough. I anticipated it might be rough because we had some rough cruising on our first Alaska cruise. I took some motion sickness pills and had no problems (other than wanting to sleep even though they were no drowsy). Yakutat Bay (Hubbard Glacier) Scenic Cruising: The weather was rainy but we still enjoyed seeing the Glacier. They were giving facts and talking about the glacier as we were cruising and we could hear from our balconies (they had speakers up on deck). They also had it on the t.v. so if you didn't have a balcony or couldn't hear you could turn it on. Glacier Bay (Scenic Cruising): Pretty much a repeat of the review above. Weather was about the same and the glaciers were very neat. We didn't get to the main 2 glaciers (Margerie & Johns Hopkins) until about 2pm. 6 of us decided to go in the hot tub up on deck after we got all of the glacier pictures we wanted. It was hard getting in and out because it was so cold outside but the hot tub felt great...and we couldn't ask for better views! Vancouver: After our 2nd sea day we arrived in Vancouver. Very rainy and dreary day. We chose to do the latest disembarkation because we were not flying out until the next day and had a private tour booked at 1145. Unfortunately the latest disembarkation time was 9:30 but you had to be out of the staterooms at 8. They seemed to have disembarkation nailed down because there weren't tons of people waiting around everywhere. We waited in the lobby by the coffee bar until we were allowed to go to our designated lounge. Once disembarking, going through customs, and claiming our luggage - we waited in the hotel that is attached to the cruise terminal for our private tour (Shore Trips). There were a total of 16 people on the tour (8 from our group) and it took us to Stanley Park, Capulano Supsension bridge, Granville Island, and Gastown before dropping people off at their hotels or the airport. It was a great tour to get a taste of Vancouver. We had a wonderful time in Alaska, and although I have been twice, I wouldn't hesitate to go back. There are so many different things to do and experience in all of the ports. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Our cruise on the Coral Princess through the Panama Canal started on 2/14/2012 at Los Angeles and ended at Fort Lauderdale on 2/28. We had port stops in Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, and Aruba. We enjoyed the cruise very much. We had a ... Read More
Our cruise on the Coral Princess through the Panama Canal started on 2/14/2012 at Los Angeles and ended at Fort Lauderdale on 2/28. We had port stops in Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, and Aruba. We enjoyed the cruise very much. We had a room with a balcony where we spent a lot of time. I would recommend to anyone going through the Panama Canal to have a balcony. Our room was on the left side of the ship so we had a view of the shore when we were close enough. The first 5 days were at sea except for a brief stop outside the harbor of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where we saw a Disney cruise ship go by. During the days at sea, we explored the ship and watched the birds and fish from our balcony. We had anytime dining for the dining room (Bordeaux Room). This dining area was only open during the evening (5PM to 10PM) and required smart casual dress (business casual) on all but 3 formal dress nights on the cruise. We tried the formal night once and were not impressed by the food or the service. The waiters seem to be irritated that we did not order wine with our meals (we don't drink). We also did one night with business casual and most of the same food on the menu was also available in the buffet dining area (Horizon Court) which is open most of the time and the dress is casual. The assigned dining room (Provence Room) was open for lunch (casual dress) on all days except the days we were stopped at one of the ports and the food was good but menu items here are also available in the buffet most of the time. There is also a grill on the Lido deck that served hamburgers and hot dogs and a pizza place that served good pizza. Don't eat the hamburgers in the dining rooms; they are not very good (hard as a hockey puck). The hamburgers at the grill were good meat and had a good flavor. Soft serve ice cream was available at an ice cream bar from 11AM to 11PM on the Lido deck and the ice cream was good. The ice cream is made on the ship. Unless you really feel you need the extra attention from the wait staff in the dining rooms, eating evening meals at the buffet, the grill or the pizza place is very enjoyable. I don't feel the dining room is worth the several minutes required to wait for a table. Eating in the dining room for lunch occasionally was enjoyable for us. The ship desalinates the sea water as it is needed and the water tastes good. Soft drinks and bottle water are not free on the ship and Dr. Pepper is not available on the ship and we did not find any at any of the ports on the cruise. On our 6th day, we stopped at Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We did not do any of the ship sponsored tours. There were local vendors at the end of the pier and we walked through and picked out some souvenirs. We departed for our next port around 7PM. We were at sea on the 7th day. On the 8th day, we anchored around 7AM near the entrance of the Panama Canal at Puerto Amador, Panama. We took a small boat (tender) to the dock. We did a boat excursion (the boat had about a 400 person capacity) that was supposed to go through the first set of locks of the canal. When we arrived at the entrance to the locks, there was a problem that made us miss our time slot. We had a good view of the entrance to the canal and the structures along the shore and the tour guide gave a good commentary, but we were disappointed that we were unable to go through the locks. We returned to the dock and took a bus tour of part of the city and a section of the canal which we enjoyed. Since we did not get the tour we signed up for, Princess Cruises refunded all our money. The tour we had was free. On the 9th day, we pulled anchor and began our entrance into the Panama Canal about 4AM. By the time we entered the first lock, the sun was beginning to come up. The view was great from our balcony and well shaded (deck 12). We could see the west bound locks as we passed through the east bound locks and the new construction for the third set of locks (for wider ships) that is projected to be finished in 2014. We could also see a partial view of what we were approaching at the front of our ship. After passing through the first two sets of locks, we entered the lake and cruised toward the Atlantic side locks. We passed several ships that were heading west as we headed east. We arrived at the Atlantic locks about 4PM and passed through the locks into the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) and sailed towards our next stop. Passing through the canal was the highlight of the cruise for us. The views along our route were great. On the 10th day, we arrived at Cartigena, Columbia about 7AM. We did a ship sponsored tour of the old part of the city. At the dock, we took a tour bus to the old city. Out tour guide (Willy), gave us a description as we were passing the sites. Our first stop was an old fort that dated back to the time of the early Spanish explorers. Street vendors were everywhere. If you don't want to buy from them, it is best to not speak to them and don't make eye contact. Our second stop on the bus was a small shop that sold tourist items. The rest of our tour was on foot and there was a lot of interesting buildings with a history behind them which Willy gave us a running story of. He was a very good tour guide. Our walk took us about 1 hour and included stops at three jewelry stores which I could have done without. Street vendors were everywhere along our route and occasionally beggars. When our walking tour ended, the tour bus took us back to the dock. We really enjoyed the tour and gave Willy a good tip to share with his driver. Tipping is not required, but it is very much appreciated by the tour guides. Our ship departed about 2PM and sailed towards our next stop. On the 11th day, we arrived in Aruba about 1PM. The ship was to sail again at 7PM, so we just did a little shopping at the local stores that were located within easy walking distance of the dock. Several people from the ship went to the beaches, but we had no interest in that. We live in Galveston, Texas three blocks from the beach. We spent about 2 hours off the ship. We sailed at 7PM and headed toward our final stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The next two days, we were at sea. We spent that time watching movies in the theater and just enjoying the activities on the ship. We were given the chance to sign up for a program to make an easy transition to the airport after we arrived in Florida. For $20 per person, the ship contacted the airline for us and obtained a tag for our checked luggage and boarding passes for us which we received around 6PM the last night of the cruise. We tagged our checked luggage and put it into the hallway before 9PM. Our luggage was picked up by ship staff and was ready to go to our airline at the Airport. Our luggage was already checked to our destination. The airlines also charge a fee for the checked luggage ($25 for us) and that was added to our bill for the service. We did not need to deal with our checked luggage again till we arrived at our destination. I think this is a good service to take advantage of. We filled out a simple declaration form for customs. We spent less than $800 out of the country, so we just breezed right through customs. It only took us about 15 minutes including the time standing in line. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on the 14th day around 7AM. We left the ship in groups so that the departure process was faster. We were on our way to the airport in just a few minutes from the time our group started to leave. The cruise was a fantastic trip. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very professional and seamless. Cabin: towards aft on Caribe deck on a "bump out;" no significant movement of ship was noted and gentle rolling in high-ish seas assisted in sleep; cabin was smallish ... Read More
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very professional and seamless. Cabin: towards aft on Caribe deck on a "bump out;" no significant movement of ship was noted and gentle rolling in high-ish seas assisted in sleep; cabin was smallish but well laid out; shower was okay except for "amorous" shower curtain which kept wanting to wrap itself around you! Good space for clothes; liked the mini-fridge but not the lack of a coffee/tea maker; balcony seemed larger than some with two chairs and loungers with a small table while the lack of complete overhead cover was actually more enjoyable; Cabin Steward: A great disappointment as her first words to us were to apologize for not completing our roomn upon embarkation - some magazines were missing - and stating that as she had 19 cabins to clean twice a day, she might be a little late on some days getting to ours - unlike previous cruises, we had no relationship with our cabin steward who seemed totally exhausted whenever we saw her; CruiseAdvice indicated that as our cabin was next to two suites, we would enjoy the cabin services of a the steward assigned to them NOT! Room service: We enjoyed breakfast on a few days and found the service very speedy and professional; it would have been nice had we been able to order more than just a light continental breakfast. Entertainment/shipboard activities: without doubt, the highlight of the cruise for us - very professional and with great variety. Cruise Director and staff brilliant and omnipresent; good interaction with passengers. Dining: "Anytime Dining" resulted in meeting many interesting and entertaining fellow passengers - another highlight of our cruise. Horizon buffet restaurant small with crowded serving lanes; sun was very hot on some tables; food was of a high quality with good variety. Formal dining room fare was surprisingly "average" and was served in smallish quantities; plating was excellent and wait staff always willing to provide additional orders upon request, such as steamed vegatables. Table staff from bussing to waitering was almost universally professional, warm and sincere - well done! Princess needs to address their two specialty restaurants which were mostly deserted after 8:00 p.m. each night; not sure if the $20 per person charge or the menus are to blame; lunch in the "Pub" was a blast and very well attended - good grub as well! Ship design/amenities: we echo other past passengers observations of "where were all the people?" our cruise was sold out yet many areas of the ship seemed deserted. "Coral" is a very well laid out ship replete with lovely bars, meeting/entertainment places. Shore excursions: we only chose a shiop excursion on disembarkation day to a0 use up some time as we were taking a late-afternoon flight to Arizona, and b), to reduce the hassle of geting our luggage out of our rooms and to the airport; we opted for the Fort Lauderdale bus tour and boat cruise of the canals - a very good choice as the scenery was fantastic and it was interseting to see the monster houses and yachts on the canals. We used "my friend Mario" for our Panama shore excursion and "Odessey Tours" for Costa Rica; we were not overy impressed with either company as they seemed to have "cobbled" together their tours with little attention being paid to content; we can provide more details upon request. Ports of call: adequate time for Costa Rica and Panama but Princess needs to re-evaluate only spending a few hours in Aruba and Cartegena; heard many passengers complain about Princess shore excursions for these two ports being rushed. Annoyments: It seemed that the higher up the staff chain one went with a complaint or interface, the less likely one was to receive a sincere response; it seemed that a glazed look comes over some staff members' faces when they actually have to address a passenger concern - the major complaint we had was in the allocation of mini-suites for which my wife and I were 3rd on the wait list pre-sailing; I phoned Princess 48 hours before the sailing date and was told that there was now availability and that I should check with the ship upon embarkation; this we did at Guest Services and we were met with one officious reply after another culminating with an officer who said that it was her job to allocate all passenger cabins; we never did receive a satisfactory answer and this experience on the first day of our cruise left a sour taste in our mouths. Finally: We did enjoy our Princess experience on "Coral" enormously and loved the ship; not too keen on the constant badgering for "add on" expenditures but we just tuned them out and didn't sweat the small stuff. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
On the 6th of January 2012 we flew to miami and boarded the coral princess the following day in fort lauderdale to do a back to back cruise for 2 weeks in the western carribean. We have cruised this region twice before with Thomson also ... Read More
On the 6th of January 2012 we flew to miami and boarded the coral princess the following day in fort lauderdale to do a back to back cruise for 2 weeks in the western carribean. We have cruised this region twice before with Thomson also on back to back cruises. I have cruised before on the Golden Princess to hawaii. As usual the ship was excellent the food wonderful and the entertainment of west end standard. I could not fault any of the facilities However we had one major dissappointment on the 2nd day we were informed by another British couple who had been there a week already that we were going to get the same entertainment itinerary and the same menues in the restaurant the 2nd week as we would have the 1st week. True to this on our 2nd week of the cruise we did indeed have the same entertainment everynight except for the visiting comedians who changed. Also the menue in the retuarants was exactly the same as the week before. We were sold this in the uk as a 14 day holiday. Now we knew this was a back to back, but other cruise lines we have been with on back to back cruising always make a point of rotating the entertainment and menues on a 3 week rotation so that people who are stopping longer than a week have a better experience. This took the shine off our cruise as you can imagine, one night there was nothing for us to do but sit in a bar, and the food I was deciding what to have from the menue before I got there. Part of the excitement of a cruise is to look forward to the entertainment and to wonder what you will have to choose from for dinner. This should be made clear in Princess advertising that if you book this as a back to back cruise you will get exactly the same the second week. The only difference was the ports of call. Also princess what has happened to your standards it is only 18 months since we went to Hawaii, and these other points came to our attention People were allowed in the restaurant wearing shorts. The deck attendants are suppossed to remove towells of sunbeds if they are reserved for a certain amount of time. This did not happen, some seemed to be reserved all day with no one in them. also we found on this trip that the on board photographers were, more in your face, all the time they seemed to mobbing you for photos, but worse than that princess prices have got extortionate I had 4 x A4 photos taken on my ruby wedding night and they wanted $100 unframed just in one carboard frame! The waiter service in the restaurant was not up to par they seemed to have a lot who didnt quite know what they were doing, and one night we spent over 45 minuites between courses and missed the evening entertainment completly and had to ask where the wine was and what was happening to the food we were one of the last tables in the retaurant with people on it and yet we got there at 7.30pm I will be going with princess again as once again I must reiterate the ships are great the staff friendly and the service on the whole is good,but not on another back to back cruise.They must review this back to back cruising, come on princess us brits., travel a long way for a 2 week cruise to have the 2nd week the same as the first!, you must tell us at booking also you must let 2 weekers know that on the change over day in the middle you really must leave the ship as immigration has to have the ship declared empty know one told us luckily we went on an excurion, but those on board had to muster in one of the lounges to be inspected by immigration , great in the middle of your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We knew that the four ports of call for our January 2012 cruise through the Panama Canal would be hot and humid, and we were not interested in paying for ship excursions, particularly the "adventure" ones. Our goal was just to ... Read More
We knew that the four ports of call for our January 2012 cruise through the Panama Canal would be hot and humid, and we were not interested in paying for ship excursions, particularly the "adventure" ones. Our goal was just to walk around and try to get a feel for each port. You can easily walk from the dock to the port town in Aruba, but there isn't much to see there beyond the usual souvenir shops. However, Cartagena (pronounced cart-a-hay-nya) has a brand new catamaran service from the end of the dock to the "old town," with its narrow streets and Bouliva Plaza with its free gold museum. The trip costs $5 per person round-trip and takes about 15 minutes each way. An excellent independent excursion. Fuerte Amador is a great disappointment. If you don't want to take a cab to Panama City (and note that museums usually close on Mondays), you can take the tender to the dock and walk a little. The docking point is at the end of a 5 km sea wall constructed at least a hundred years ago to protect the Pacific entrance to the Canal. There isn't much of anything to see there except a few run-down shops and restaurants. Puntarenas, Costa Rica, has a mile or so of shops and stands, the people are extremely friendly, and there are actually some bargains to be had. (Note the beautiful rosewood bowls and boxes!) The dock is perhaps a hundred yards long, and the stroll along the main street is interesting. If you are used to finding internet cafes to check email at reasonable prices, be advised that ones with computers to rent are getting hard to find. We did find ones in Aruba and Puntarenas, but generally you'll have to bring your own and use a cafe or other place with "hot spots" that allow you to connect to the internet. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
For the second consecutive year I decided to spend the holiday season on board a cruise ship. What a great way to get away from it all - no email, no email and guess what? no email. It was relaxing and all that I hoped. This was my 7th ... Read More
For the second consecutive year I decided to spend the holiday season on board a cruise ship. What a great way to get away from it all - no email, no email and guess what? no email. It was relaxing and all that I hoped. This was my 7th cruise with Princess and I generally travel alone. This time a friend decided at the last minute to join the cruise. Although this was my third time through the canal I booked a balcony stateroom so that I did not have to crowd the decks to watch the transit. The stateroom was very nice, although Celebrity's Concierge class are nicer, but there is good value for the money paid. I had been upgraded to a stateroom with a large balcony and I was surprised that a ship that had just been refurbished was in need of more work. The paint was pealing around the outside light fixture and the metal rims of the chairs were also pealing. I thought it a bit odd, especially since the category I was in should have had relative perfection given the price that I might have had to pay. Pealing or not I did not allow this imperfection to dull my senses or detract from my much needed R & R. I have noticed that the quality of the meals has not been kept up to the same standards that I recall from my first trip onboard Island Princess back in the late 1980s. One night the steak was so bad that everyone at the table left it. We did the Chef's Table and the food was incredible. Along with the wine parings it was well worth the $95 surcharge that we paid. We also had dinner at Sabitini's one night and the food was excellent. We had planned to go to the Bayou Steakhouse on New Year's Eve for dinner but cancelled after having looked at the menu and the environment. I thought it would be more like the Stirling Steakhouse on Golden Princess but alas it was not. We found the menu to be too fussy and the restaurant and accompanying bar too big and too loud. Although the majority of our meals were good we found the meals we paid extra for were exceptional. I also noticed that the selection in the buffet is getting smaller and smaller. Now on saying that I only had 3 breakfasts and 1 lunch in the buffet as I found the food selection not to my liking. We ate breakfast every morning in the restaurant and I did order room service for lunch twice because all I wanted was a simple tuna fish sandwich. The entertainment was very good on the ship and there was only one show that I can recall that I saw the previous Christmas and it was well worth seeing again. All in all Princess continues to offer a good value for the dollars spent. They also have an excellent variety of destinations to chose from. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Panama Canal cruise, October 25, 2011 to November 8, 2011. Let me start out by saying, my husband and I are not seasoned travelers. We save for several years to take a special vacation. The Panama cruise was our 5th cruise in about 20 ... Read More
Panama Canal cruise, October 25, 2011 to November 8, 2011. Let me start out by saying, my husband and I are not seasoned travelers. We save for several years to take a special vacation. The Panama cruise was our 5th cruise in about 20 years time. Our group turned out to be 5 couples, all in our later 50's to mid 60's. We were on a Princess ship back in 2002, so were prepared for the small bathroom ( especially the shower ), and the limited drawer and shelf space. Our room had a balcony, located mid ship. We were next to 2 other couples, so we opened our balconies up to enjoy the bigger space. We printed the sign provided by Cruise Critic with our internet name and taped it to our door. This turned out to be a great sign for knowing if you were headed for the stern or bow. All and all this was a wonderful vacation. Embarking went very smooth and once on the ship, we were able to graze on the lido deck and found our luggage, within a few hours, in our room. As mentioned above we were a party of 10. We had late traditional seating, and were able to be together at a large table. Initially, we were disappointed with the food portions in the formal dinning room. When we think of a fillet of beef we do not think it would be 3 inches in diameter and less than ½ inch thick, but the portions were small through out the cruise. On the up side- you eat all day and have multiple choices, so by the time dinner comes, the small portion turned out to be enough. Maybe they do this to decrease food waste. We had no complaints. On the subject of food- another disappointment was going to the special restaurant. One evening, while at sea, we booked dinner in Sabatini's. We thought the portions were the same size as the dinning room, we felt the selection really was not anything special and the experience took over 3 hours, which was way too long. Only three other parties were in the restaurant that night. I would not recommend spending the extra money to eat there. We communicated with Cruise Critic members prior our trip. A meet and greet was arranged along with a cabin crawl/poker run. We had the best time with those activities, and enjoyed meeting some new people. Two excursions were arranged by a CC member. We participated in one, and should have participated in the second one because the ship excursion was not that great. Our Cost Rice tour with Okey Dokey was very good, but could have been better, if we would have left on time and lunch arrangements were organized better. We did see a variety of sights and did more up close and personal activities then the ship's excursions. We did the ship tour in Cartegena and were stuck in traffic most of the time. As a result, limited time was left for our stops. I mainly wanted to shop, and felt that we were rushed to make decisions about purchases. The CC tour left early and had more flexibility. The entertainment was wonderful. Because we ate late, the last show in the auditorium was never full. The only time we could not see a show, was when the crew put on their talent show. There was only one performance, at 10pm. By the time we got to the auditorium, it was more than full. I did have a massage in the spa one time. The treatment was wonderful. The therapist was running about 40 minutes late, but I was not shorted on time and she let me use the thermal room afterwards. The price was extremely expensive which is why I only used the service once. Our favorite activity was wine tasting. We bought the wine card, which saved us money for wine with dinner, plus we got to try many wines at the tasting, so we were better prepared with choices when it came time to make a selection. Most of the wines on board were California wines. We would have like other countries wines, but the selection and quality were good. Not sure when or where our next cruise will be. Princess did a good job overall. We seem to prefer the smaller ships. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour ... Read More
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour group. We met at the Anchorage airport, and took a bus to McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We were there 2 days,and went flight seeing and visited a dog musher camp. Then we went to Denali Princess Lodge. (very nice) We took the Natural History Tour in Denali, and went to the dinner theater. Then we took the Denali Express railway from Denali to Whittier, where we boarded the Coral Princess. We loved coming into Whittier on the train! The domed train was a wonderful way to spend the day in Alaska! So our land tour was the highlight of our trip! The Coral Princess is pretty, but very hard to navigate. Because of the centrium, you have to learn which elevators take you to the level you are trying to go to. We were on Dolphin Deck 9. Coming to our stateroom, the hall smelt like a nursing home. (urine smell in the carpet) That was not a great first impression! But our mini-suite was very nice and spacious. But be aware that if you get a mini suite on the Dolphin level, your balcony is not covered. It was raining on our embarkation day, so we couldn't get out and enjoy our balcony like others could. Our furniture was wet-and we didn't want to stand out in the rain. I wish the balcony had been covered, as they were on other decks. We signed up for traditional dining-which I though was at 6:00 pm and had requested a table for 2 by the window. We were given a table in the middle of the room and our assigned time was 5:30. We thought that was too early. So we met some couples on our land tour-and went to anytime dining with them. But the Coral Princess is very inflexible about the dining rooms. Traditional seating only in one and anytime dining in the other. We liked the freestyle with NCL better. The food was not as good as NCL or Royal Caribbean. But the service was great on Princess. The front desk was very rude. Someone had entered an incorrect number and our credit card was denied. We kept getting letters in our stateroom, telling us our credit card had been denied. It took us 4 days to get that straightened out-and my husband was the one who discovered that the cruise line had entered the wrong number. They were very indifferent about the fact that they were the cause of the credit card problem. But once the correct number was entered- there were no more problems with our credit card!The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the comedian and the singers and dancers were great! It was too cool to use the pool or hot tub, but the pool deck was very pretty. We got a drink card for $9 a day, and it was well worth the money. I loved the virgin pina coladas and their hot chocolate! We loved the pizza and soft serve ice cream on the pool deck! We often took snacks back to our room. We enjoyed the enclosed area on level 15. That was a good place to enjoy the scenery in the rain and wind. We chose Sept. because of the price, but I wished we had gone in May-for about the same price. I heard there is more snow in May and the weather is better. We had a lot of rain and wind. In fact, when we were out in the Pacific we were in 80-100 mph winds (hurricane force wind). Half of the ship, including me- were sea sick. But when the ship got back in protective waters and the waves calmed down, everyone felt better. Alaska is beautiful! If you haven't been you need to go. June, July, and Aug. are the most crowded and most expensive months. If we ever go again, I would like to go in May. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We loved the trip, and had a great time! Alaska is a place that everyone should add to their "bucket list", whether by cruise ship or not. The scenic beauty is simply breathtaking. As a first time Princess cruiser, I can ... Read More
We loved the trip, and had a great time! Alaska is a place that everyone should add to their "bucket list", whether by cruise ship or not. The scenic beauty is simply breathtaking. As a first time Princess cruiser, I can say I enjoyed the ship and crew a great deal, and have no serious complaints. Any problems we did have were minor, and attributable to everyday life and personal taste, as opposed to any inherent problem with Princess. I certainly wouldn't hesitate to take Princess again if/when the itinerary matches our specific travel desires. Transfer: For our transportation to Whittier from Anchorage, we booked a shuttle from Alaska Tours and Transfers. It had several advantages over Princess provided transfers: 1) It was cheaper! 2) They offered hotel pickup! 3) Beyond just a bus ride, this shuttle also stopped at several scenic lookouts, and the Alaska Animal Conservation Center. We had a full hour to visit the Animal Conservation Center, and enjoyed the rather rustic "zoo" atmosphere. All in all, I would recommend them to a friend. I thought it was a very nice option. Embarkation: Princess embarkation process was simple, and handled very well. We were in line for maybe 10 minutes if that. The embarkation in Whittier is probably one of the least crowded you could come across. Boarding was spread out from probably noon, through 7:00pm, with buses and trains evenly spaced throughout that period. Rather low stress all around. The only downside of using the private shuttle was handing off our luggage. I'm sure that with the Princess shuttles, you never had to touch your bags again. On the other hand, we had to retrieve ours from the shuttle bus, and hand deliver them to an uncovered luggage dropoff area. It wouldn't have been an issue....if it hadn't been raining! A minor annoyance. After luggage drop off, the walkway to the ship was covered, in preparation for what I'm sure is often a rainy day. Given the late departure from Whittier, the first night of dining was handled by cards handed to us upon check in. So, for one night only, we were in the Bordeaux dining room at 8:00pm....or immediately after the required safety/lifeboat drill. The drill, conduced at 7:45pm, was much more humane than what we experienced on HAL, in that all groups met INSIDE in one lounge/showroom/theater or another, rather than forcing us to stand on deck. It was quick and painless. I would say that Coral Princess in general did NOT have a high pressure sales atmosphere, (photographers, drink options, wine tastings, etc.) "No Thank You" worked, and nobody tried to force us into anything we didn't want. Stateroom Specifics: We reserved, and received, a starboard side balcony room on Emerald deck. The room was pretty much what I expected, and was perhaps a bit more roomy than I recall from my one previous cruise on Holland America's Veendam. The king sized bed was comfortable, and I had no complaints about it being too hard, as some have reported. Of course, that's a matter of personal taste. There was plenty of hanger space, and spare hangers, and we probably didn't even use all of them provided. A fairly large cabinet of shelves and nightstand drawers easily handled the rest of our clothing. The bathroom was sufficient, but we did experience the somewhat cramped shower that others have reported. But in reality, it wasn't out of line....and I'm not a small man! The balcony was fully covered, which was nice for what turned out to be a rather drizzly week. It fit 4 deck chairs and small table. Honestly, having 4 people on the balcony would have felt cramped, but for the two of us, it was quite spacious. Peculiar to the aft cabins on Emerald deck, the balcony was also more private than some, being a hard bulkhead wall on one side, and less permanent divider on the other. It was like having only ONE neighbor. The one small complaint could be the sound coming from the Universe Lounge directly below our room. The bass from the sound system tended to bleed into the room, but never during our "core sleeping hours", so I have only mentioned it for the benefit of the truly sound sensitive. It never bothered us much at all. Food and Dining: For the most part, we ate a late breakfast in the Horizon Court, (around 10:00am), and had pizza or the deck buffet mid-afternoon, and the dining room for dinner. So, like most reviews, my experience won’t cover ALL of the options out there. Horizon Court for late breakfast wasn’t nearly the circus we expected, particularly on port days. I guess we figured out a way to beat the crowd! We never had problems finding a seat, and the serving lines handled the diners quite well. The food was hot, and the “eggs to order” station was much appreciated. The rolls and danishes were quite good, and we never had to wait long for drink orders to be taken. For lunch, the Wife fell in love with the pizza! I think she had it nearly every day for lunch. And, despite being served essentially outside, it was always hot and fresh. Quite often, and as near as I can tell unadvertised, they had an outdoor buffet either on deck, or at the Grill. Smoked salmon, “reindeer chili”, salads, and a variety of other options were available, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Let the wife have her pizza, I’m sampling new things!....and we were both happy. For dinner, we had requested late traditional dining, at a table for 8....and that’s what we received. We decided on this because, frankly, we got BORED eating at a table for 2 during our last cruise. There’s only so much you have to say to your spouse after spending the whole day with them! Late seating was at 7:45pm, which is a little earlier than advertised, but that may be specific to either Coral Princess, or maybe the itinerary involved. Now, this is a matter of personal taste. But the dining room food to me was good, but rarely outstanding. I really enjoyed the appetizers, soups, and salads more than the main course, for the most part. The foods that stood out were the French onion soup, goat cheese soufflé, fettuccine alfredo and seafood salad appetizers. I was underwhelmed by the scallops, shrimp, and steak main courses. Again, they weren’t BAD, but I love shrimp, and REALLY love scallops, and they just didn’t “sing” for me. The wife is another story. She’s a rather picky eater, and commented several times that she just couldn’t find anything that she really wanted. She resorted to the chicken breast “always available” several times, but got tired of that. This isn’t out of the ordinary, but in all of her cruising experience, (which is much more than mine), she said it was the worst she had experienced. The “best” she came across was the special pasta course served during the “Italian night”, and that wasn’t even ON the menu. She was able to order that as a main course. The last few nights, she resorted to the children’s menu, and was a little happier. The deserts, however, always satisfied. No complaints from us there. Formal Nights: On Coral, for this itinerary, formal nights were the evening at Hubbard, and the evening after leaving Juneau. Considering that we were still AT the Hubbard glacier at 5:30pm, I felt sorry for those at the early traditional dining. It seemed like a poor choice.....and made me glad we had the late seating. Future cruisers may want to take this into account. Just to cover a hot topic on CC, I found that MOST people were dressed appropriately for formal nights. I saw mainly suits and dresses, a few tuxedos, and maybe a few skating by without jackets or ties. For me, it’s a big “I don’t care what you wear”, but most want to know what to expect. Dress to the code, and you won’t be out of place! On casual nights, I didn’t see too many in inappropriate attire either. We did see some shorts during the one lunch we ate in the dining room, and the rules got stretched on the final night in the dining room, but for the most part, it was a well behaved cruise. Public Spaces, Activities, and Options: I thought Coral Princess is a very nicely laid out and decorated ship. Besides your own room deck, there are probably 3 decks you really care about, and everything you need to get to are within easy access. Shows and Entertainment – We weren’t really all that interested in the stage shows, and only went to the comedian’s show, which did give us some laughs. There were movies most nights, but they weren’t always publicized very well. Patters seemed to catch about half of them. We had hoped to catch a “Movie Under the Stars”, but it seemed that either the weather was against us, or the movie that night didn’t interest us. All in all, there was plenty to keep a person busy....we just chose to not be that busy. Drink Cards – Several tables set up the first day or two giving you the chance to purchase them. As mentioned earlier, no hard sell. Very well handled, actually. Games and Trivia – I think we would have partaken of this more often in the evening, but they were always scheduled for 9:30pm. And since we were enjoying dinner until at least that time, we usually missed out. I think Coral needs to spend a little time working out their timeline. Then again, maybe we just weren’t all that good at our own time management....take your pick. Photographers – We were shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that the photographers were really quite good! Each formal night had several stations set up with backgrounds for pictures, each manned with a different photographer. It wasn’t the “Smile-*Flash*-Next” thing we had experienced in the past. Actual sitting and posing. We LIKED the pictures they took, and bought a few of them. The Wife commented that she didn’t see any “Oh my God, that’s hideous” pictures on display at all. Scenic Cruising: For me, this was the highlight of the trip. Everything I read said, “Hubbard or Glacier Bay: You have to see one of them”. Getting to go to both was a real treat, and the reason we picked this itinerary. We were NOT disappointed. Our day at Hubbard started off a little scary. There was a heavy fog as we turned into Yakutat Bay, and I had visions of disaster running through my head. “What if we have to turn back and skip it?” Uhg. But I shouldn’t have worried. As we moved closer, the fog cleared, and it was a beautiful day at the glacier. Overcast, to be sure, but clear as high as the glacier was! And, according to the onboard naturalist, we got closer to the glacier than she had all year. The last official announcement over the PA said we had passed within 1 mile. But by the end of the day, I’m pretty sure we had drifted to within ½ mile. It is truly majestic. Calving was slow to develop, but it picked up during the day so that it became more and more frequent. Not having much (any) experience, I would say we didn’t see any HUGE calving events, but there were frequent small to mid-sized events, and they were spectacular. The creaking, popping, and crashing were spectacular. I didn’t want to leave! Glacier Bay was just as good. Sitting on my balcony early that morning, I saw my first humpback whale. One tail in the air...one swimming silently past the ship. Puffs of mist. Fantastic. The scenery and glaciers were just amazing as well. We got very close, again, to the Grand Pacific and Margerie glaciers. The Margerie is like a mini-Hubbard. White and blue, and dominating the sky. Seals, and Sea Lions were spotted. And we were able to get far enough up the Johns Hopkins inlet to see the Johns Hopkins glacier. The naturalist, who knows a whole lot more than I do, said it was a rare treat. If the cruise ended here, I probably would have still been happy. Ports and Excursions: Skagway: A nice little tourist town, really, but still a nice stop. We took the White Pass Railroad tour, and really enjoyed the scenery. I give it B+ for tours. A bit pricey, and the commentary was a bit bland. Juneau: We took the glaciers “Flightseeing” tour, which flies float planes over 5 glaciers descending from the Juneau ice field. Again, spectacular views. I’ll give it an A-, with my only complaints being that the tour is guided by pre-recorded audio, and 40 minutes just seemed too short! I would have much preferred a more personal live guide....but I guess the pilot was probably busy with other concerns. Ketchikan: We didn’t schedule a tour, and just took in the town on our own. Too bad we had a downpour about midway through our day, and we decided to cut it short. It’s a nice town, I thought, but we missed out on going up to Creek Street. Still had a nice day. Disembarkation, Vancouver: All-in-all, I thought they did a very good job here. Bags were requested to be left outside our stateroom by 10:00pm, “or before you retire for the evening”. I have a little problem with the wording being vague. Is it “whichever is later”, and 11:00pm would be OK? Or is “before you retire” assumed to be before 10:00pm, and everything should be out before 10:00pm? No matter...we had ours out at 10:00pm, but might have liked to have another hour or so to arrange things. We were assigned to the appropriate group, (independent plans), and given a lounge to report to by 8:20am. We did that as directed, and probably sat there for only 10 minutes before our group was called. Pretty good considering we were probably right in the middle of all of the groups listed. A quick walk off the ship, short line to get through customs/immigration, turn a corner to the luggage pickup, carts were available, got our luggage without delay, and a quick walk to a well managed taxi stand. We were easily out of there by 9:00am. Bing, bang, boom. Complaints, Problems, and Issues: - Our toilet quit flushing on two occasions. Push the button, and nothing. But to the credit of Coral Princess, it was fixed both times I called it in within 30 minutes, and without having to enter our room. Minor annoyance....And really a compliment to the crew. - Poor manning/signage at Internet Café. I had some trouble signing up for internet, but nobody seemed to be manning the desk. Only later did they post hours....I just wasn't going at the right times. - Uncovered luggage dropoff. (See above). - Event timing around dinner times could be better. - Some noise on Emerald Deck from show rooms below them. Minor. Alaska was the "Star" of the cruise, and Princess played their part very well as the supporting staff. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We enjoyed this cruise. They did a great job of getting the ship up close and personal at the glaciers. The land portion, Fairbanks, Denali and McKinley, was great especially the Tundra Wildlife tour at Denali. Had a great gold panning ... Read More
We enjoyed this cruise. They did a great job of getting the ship up close and personal at the glaciers. The land portion, Fairbanks, Denali and McKinley, was great especially the Tundra Wildlife tour at Denali. Had a great gold panning tour at McKinley, not your packaged, warm water, amusement park tour but a real trip guided by a real gold panner. The Alaskan ports are just large jewelry stores but the scenery in between and around the ports is spectacular. Wildlife tours give a great view of animals not in a zoo. On our cruise, the photographer were very pushy and obnoxious. Kept us waiting in the rain taking embarkation photos. Food and food service on cruises had declined over the years. One down point is the Vancouver Airport. With two ships arriving, the lines for luggage retrieval, airline check in, luggage check in, security and customs were long, long. We arrived 4 hours before flight and needed most of that. But go on a Princess Cruise, you will enjoy it. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
I did a 10 day Panama Canal cruise from Ft Lauderdale to Acapulco. First, stayed at Rodeway Inn, FLL. Free shuttle from airport, free shuttle to cruise (though I didn't need it), decent continental breakfast daily, lovely clean ... Read More
I did a 10 day Panama Canal cruise from Ft Lauderdale to Acapulco. First, stayed at Rodeway Inn, FLL. Free shuttle from airport, free shuttle to cruise (though I didn't need it), decent continental breakfast daily, lovely clean heated outdoor pool, hardly anyone in it, nice staff, free internet, cheap, right next to highway exit and near Enterprise rental so convenient for driving, what more could you ask for? Cruise itself: nice balcony cabin, food was plentiful and good though not stunning, everything orderly and clean. What stands out as excellent were the crew: at least half made special efforts to greet me by name daily, know my preferences, dance with me, chat on a personal basis (not just formal), were always friendly and sincere and helpful. I invited half of them back to visit me and really hope they come! The only thing I could possibly criticize is Princess still allows smoking on balconies (and some people even had cigars though this is supposed to be forbidden). I made it plain I was an avid allergic anti-smoker yet was placed between smokers on either side of me. It again meant I could not use my balcony (like on Carnival, RCI much better) for the whole 10 days. This would not have been a big deal but I was quarantined to my cabin for 24 hours with suspected Norwalk and had no access to air except by balcony. I had no problem with the concept to keep the rest of the passengers healthy, and I was not up to going out anyway, but it was claustrophobic and I would have liked to leave my door open but the jerk especially on one side refused, even after I explained the situation, to stop smoking on his balcony even for a few hours. My point is, if they are going to make me essentially a prisoner with only my balcony for fresh air, they should have told my neighbours to butt out for the duration. That is really my only complaint, but until they confine smokers to one side and let me book on the other, I will go to Celebrity, who, I gather, has outlawed smoking on balconies.The cruise ended in Acapulco and some people were so afraid of crime they didn't even get off the ship. All the news of bad stuff is so highly overrated! I was traveling alone, and walked the street outside my hotel as much as I wanted, up to 2am for 3 nights in a tank top and skirt and had not one hassle. People were friendly, respectful, taxi drivers were honest and on-time, there were lots of people, even little kids, out at night because it was Semana Santa (Holy Week around Easter when lots of Mexicans on vacation), and I felt entirely safe. Buses were easy to use, I wandered the shops and sights, and everyone was helpful. There is crime everywhere in the world, no worse in Acapulco than anywhere else as far as I could see. Police officers even posed for pictures with me, streets were much cleaner than many other places, and I would return anytime. I stayed at the Hotel Emporio and it was an absolute gem. Gorgeous views, beautiful pools, quiet, clean, helpful people, gym, travel agency, restaurants, comfy bed in room with safe, frig and micro, including huge breakfast buffet for less than $100/night. There was an earthquake one morning which scared me to death but they were not concerned and I was assured by their confidence. Hotel is strongly built and had no ill effects, though we shook terribly! Pretty beach but I was told surf was rough. I ended up at the pools all day anyway as they were so peaceful, hawkers will approach on the beach like anywhere, but they are not aggressive. Starbucks and mall across the street, lots of shops and restaurants within 5 minutes. Couldn't ask for more! Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I was excited about this trip, and it did not disappoint me. From the moment I got on the ship, I had a good feeling. The crew was excellent. The steward didn't smile, but that didn't make him any less friendly. Everyone ... Read More
I was excited about this trip, and it did not disappoint me. From the moment I got on the ship, I had a good feeling. The crew was excellent. The steward didn't smile, but that didn't make him any less friendly. Everyone associated with the dining rooms were easy to deal with and were eager to please me. The passenger services desk didn't ever seem to have a line. The senior doctor and nurses were pleasant to see each time I went. The food was almost always excellent. There were a few misses, but even those weren't horrible. Chef's Table was definitely worth the money. There were plenty of activities throughout each day. My activity of choice was trivia. I ended up with a team that stayed together the entire cruise and were the ones to beat. Other activities I participated in were the Gingerbread House Contest, the Ultimate Ship Tour, the Cruise Long Scavenger Hunt, and the Scrapheap (Boat Building) Challenge. I would participate in all of these except possibly the Scavenger Hunt again, and that's just because I tend to be lazy which means I would lose. The ship was very clean. I dropped a napkin and the buffet attendant picked it up within 30 seconds. Room was cleaned well. I requested a towel animal and received an elephant one night and a monkey the next. Finally, I had taken a stuffed mouse on the cruise, and some of the staff really enjoyed seeing it on a regular basis. (It also serves as an excellent ice breaker.) If I had the opportunity to go on this cruise again, I would be there in an instant! For a much more detailed review, check out the following thread: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1329931 Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
On December 14th we flew Continental from SLC to Fort Lauderdale to board the Coral Princess the next day for a 15 day cruise to celebrate our anniversary and Christmas. The cold temperatures in Florida were a surprise and we hadn't ... Read More
On December 14th we flew Continental from SLC to Fort Lauderdale to board the Coral Princess the next day for a 15 day cruise to celebrate our anniversary and Christmas. The cold temperatures in Florida were a surprise and we hadn't brought enough warm clothing. But the hotel our cruise specialist recommended, Hyatt Airport South, was comfortable and they picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at the ship the next morning free of charge. We were close to a shopping center for restaurants that evening we arrived and for last minute shopping and had free continental breakfast at the hotel. The ship boarded us quickly at 12:30 p.m. 12/15/10 and we sailed late at 5:45 p.m.due to a delay or some mechanical problem. We had a balcony cabin and were situated just 3 decks below the Horizon Court at the front of the ship. The first two nights it rained and the seas were rough. It was also rough the last night from Cabo San Lucas to Los Angeles and rough enough to almost knock us out of bed. Most days were overcast or rainy but the sunshine came through at every port of call. On the 4th day we docked in Aruba for 5 hours. We took a Princess tour of sightseeing and an Ostrich farm. It was very good but overpriced and too short. We hurried to see the rocks, the ostrich farm, the arch, shopping, the light-house, and downtown. The ship left at 12:30 p.m. that day. We took independent tours in Cartagena (Lee Miles Tours with J.C. a schoolteacher, Puerto Amador (Panama City) with Mario's Tours, Puntarenas (Ricky Ricardo tours with Gustavo), and Acapulco (Rosie's tours)that we found on Cruise Critic beforehand and booked. But you did have to pay in cash when the tour was completed. They were low cost and we saw more than on typical Princess arranged tours. The vans were smaller and had between 6-10 people each. And the all day passage through the Panama Canal was a great tour aboard ship. In Panama (we missed the tour due to the tender waiting), but Mario Jr. of Mario's Tours,took us by private car to all the places we would have gone with a group. In Puntarenas, Gustavo was our guide through a monkey preserve, sugar cane farm, crocodile river tour, lunch, and the rain forest trams. And in Acapulco, Oscar took 6 of us to a chapel, the open markets, a silver market, Los Flamingos hotel where Johnny Weissmuller spent his time, to the cliff divers, and to see the murals of Diego Rivera. These tours were well done and just the right amount of time and less $$ than the planned tours of the Princess line. We were able to change any of the planned stops if the group voted for the change. We like anytime dining, but so did everyone else and many cruisers abandoned the late night fixed seating and added to the congestion between 6 -8 p.m. causing everyone to take the little lighted boxes that call you when your table is ready. We did eat at Sabatini's Restaurant on our anniversary for Lobster tails and the 14 courses. We found it worth the extra $20 cover charge. We only had one night near the end that the main dining room offered lobster. We found the staff dedicated to keeping us using the hand sanitizer and it was set up in the Horizon court, near the computers, near most dining venues, in the spa and gym, and only missing in the main dining rooms and bars. If you reported illness they confined you to your cabin and checked on you. And the cabin stewards cleaned the hall walls, ceilings, and railings once a week with disinfectant. The spa was a disappointment and ran many promotions and drawings to attract more guests. I had one top to toe massage that was discounted to $139 and there was no aromatherapy after all, it ran 90 minutes. Most services started at $155 and went up and then you added a tip. We attended many onboard comedian, magic, and a cruise staff shows. The magician was terrific and one comedian, Jeff Nease. Maurizio played in the Crooners Bar until they gave him a night in the Universe Lounge. We played games like trivia, attended Jorge's Spanish at Sea program, and golf contests. We found the 7 sea days to be full of activities and lots of sleep-in days that were relaxed and unhurried. We had not expected that to be so. Jim Kennedy conducted talks about space travel and Leonard Maltin gave speeches about his favorite movies, many of which were little known titles and hadn't shown in theaters. He needed more props or some videos to make it interesting. They showed his movies on the stateroom t.v.'s, in the Princess theater, and at the "Movies under the stars." We also enjoyed 200 free minutes of internet time being Platinum members and the captain cocktail party one night. We met many people in the guest laundries on each deck. The laundries were well maintained and busy around the middle of the cruise. Jorge, of the activities staff, was very entertaining. The puzzles in the library were difficult and the board games and card room was always full on sea days. We docked at 7 a.m. in San Pedro port of Los Angeles on December 30 and met our daughter for a few days in L.A. before flying home on New Year's Day. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
I've been on about 7 cruises, Carnival and Princess only. This was my second Princess. The first was Alaska on Sapphire three years ago. I will list some key points to consider. Do not stay on Emerald Deck 8 if you have ears. I ... Read More
I've been on about 7 cruises, Carnival and Princess only. This was my second Princess. The first was Alaska on Sapphire three years ago. I will list some key points to consider. Do not stay on Emerald Deck 8 if you have ears. I specifically asked about any issues with this area of the ship and the Princess agent, Ann Butler, who booked the cruise for me assured me there might be some bumpiness back there or engine sound but that's it. My elderly mother, who is almost deaf, could hear the thumping bass coming from the Universe Lounge below. until 4 in the morning a few nights!! Just be honest Ann, and let me make an informed decision! I also inquired as to whether the ships ever get bedbugs and she acted like I was stupid and said no!! Well, I found out they had an outbreak on the Coral Princess only a few weeks earlier! Of course they can get bedbugs, I realized. The issue came up after being in Panama when everyone was getting bit by mosquitoes. The best hotels get these, just be honest with me. Someone said maybe she didn't know. She bragged she knew a lot, having worked there 5 years, so she must have heard about it at some point before. Despite the Universe Lounge noise, I loved the deck out back on deck 8. Nobody knows it's there so it's almost like your own private area. Though deck 10 has a bigger one. I found this out when one of the ship officers invited me for a drink, then a stroll, where he proceeded to seduce me despite my protests. He couldn't believe it when I jumped up from my deck chair because he seemed to be finished talking and I wasn't interested in kissing a stranger. He thought I was the rude one! whatever. Shocked to find that there were no feminine products sold in singles, as I needed only 1 or 2 more. TWELVE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS for a box in the gift shop!!! Due to the couple thousand I spent onboard, after a written complaint I thought they might have a heart, open a box, and deliver a few! It was the principle of the thing. Other prices seemed rather reasonable to me. But if someone didn't have a choice and really NEEDED this item, they were exploited and had to pay a 300% markup! They act like they want you to feel like a valued guest, or family. Elite! Gold! no. The bottom line is always just that. Disgusting. Nobody ever did even respond to my complaint. rude Food, about a 6 most of the time. A few happy surprises of DELICIOUS 10 though! That doesn't bother me so much because I didn't gain any weight since I don't eat food that isn't "worth it". So one bite, if it's not worth it I don't eat it. I must say the sweet waiters seemed to be disturbed by this. Excuse me, Miss? Don't you like it? Please! let me get you something else from the kitchen!! I said no worries, the next course is coming, I'm quite certain I will be full by the end of the meal! To be honest, I'm not really hungry now, but it's dinnertime and mom wants to eat. They were not happy with this response and tried to get me something else repeatedly. very sweet. Pizza and burgers were great. Soft serve ice cream not. again, that's fine or I would surely have gained 10 pounds because I love the stuff. LOVE the fish n chips they do a few times in the bayou cafe for lunch. Divine. That place had such ambience for dinner. too bad I never ate there. ate dinner at the Horizon once and liked it better than the dining room. But mom likes to dress up and be served dinner so that's where we ate. Waiting times with buzzers were never that bad. Like any restaurant. big whoop. Champagne split a good price. I LOVE that on this ship the promenade deck goes all the way around. It was so much easier to navigate this ship than the Sapphire, which cut off and I never bothered to figure out how to go all the way around. better things to do. Having cruised Carnival a couple years ago again, I must disagree with another review that said Carnival is better. Despite my complaints, I do still love Princess and the efforts the majority onboard go to making you feel special and like a princess! Carnival is kind of a joke compared to Princess. Great for when you are young and drunk. But as a more mature woman, absolutely not. They do not disinfect the public areas regularly like Princess does. And force hand sanitizer, at least not when I was there. It makes a difference. I don't hear of anyone getting norovirus on Princess like other lines. My friend and I ordered room service one evening on Carnival as we were getting ready for dinner and a night out. We decided the Assortment of Desserts would be a fine pre-dinner choice! Well, it was 2 tiny hockey puck brownies and 4 stale hydrox chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies. Needless to say, we did not eat them. I really don't think Princess would do that to me. In fact, the hotel manager asked me my favorite pillow chocolates and when I said I hate them all, they are like hershey bars, he had chocolate covered strawberries in my room continuously, until the end of the cruise. I do hope they value these employees, they are the ones keeping us loyal to Princess, despite the mishaps and golden tampons. Oh, but I hated that they thought Bingo more important than our final lecture with Jim Kennedy, which got bumped!! He filled the Princess Theatre with his amazing lectures, and we were so looking forward to the grand finale, the blast off!! Despite all our complaints the smug little event planner cruise director guy said he can make that choice and he did. Bottom line again, Bingo makes them some more money...oh but we loved Jim Kennedy.... :) Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Panama Canal December 2010 Background Information This cruise was a belated celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, which we were unable to schedule in June, the actual date of our anniversary. This is a fun ... Read More
Panama Canal December 2010 Background Information This cruise was a belated celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, which we were unable to schedule in June, the actual date of our anniversary. This is a fun cruise on a professionally run ship. We had a fabulous time meeting other Cruise Critics. We wish that the food had been a little more consistent in quality. This was our eighth cruise, the fourth with Princess. The Princess ships become a little bit like "home" the more you cruise with them. They have similar layouts, similar styles, similar food and there is definitely a Princess corporate culture present on all the ships which allows you to know what to expect. Overall, the crew was friendly and helpful. Because we were traveling about two weeks before Christmas, the ship was decked out with beautiful holiday lights, garlands, and Christmas trees, which created a festive atmosphere. There was also a Menorah located near the customer service desk to commemorate Hanukkah. Hotel in Fort Lauderdale We arrived in Fort Lauderdale late in the evening before our cruise and stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott FLL Airport & Cruise Port in Dania Beach. We've stayed there before and selected it again because our credit card gives us points which are redeemable for Marriott gift cards. A very comfortable room was $123 per night plus tax (AAA rate) and includes transportation from the FLL airport and to the cruise port. Meals are extra. Upon arrival we had a very nice snack of fruit and muffins, although we saw the staff in the restaurant preparing salads and sandwiches for guests despite the late (after 10 pm) hour. Transfer to Port After a tasty breakfast of oatmeal and a fruit & yogurt parfait, we packed our bags and proceeded to the lobby area. The hotel has several shuttles to the port and the lobby was packed with folks going to various ships. Because the hotel had a sign-in sheet the process was pretty orderly, although our 11 am shuttle, never departed until almost 11:30. The luggage was placed in a little trailer which was hooked onto the shuttle bus. As we approached the shuttle, we were informed that our shuttle was a little "short on seating" and we might have to get pretty "cozy". Well, since our luggage was already in the trailer and there was only one seat left on the shuttle, I wound up sitting on my DH's lap on the trip to the pier! We tried to be good-natured about this, but the woman next to us was definitely annoyed as I guess I encroached a bit into her personal space. The luggage was taken out of the trailer and we were instructed to remain on the shuttle during this process. When we finally exited the shuttle, we claimed our carry-on bags and left the remaining bags with the luggage attendants. This process always makes me squirm, as no claim checks are issued so you have no proof of luggage and no real way to trace "lost" luggage. That said, our bags were waiting outside our cabin door when we arrived at our cabin. We've seen baggage get misplaced and at times it's taken hours to "find" our luggage. Embarkation The embarkation process was slow. Since we arrived at the port around noon, I suspect that it was just a busy time. We probably would have done better had we arrived around 1:30 or so. We waited in a queue formation in the terminal for nearly an hour. No chairs, no coffee, no entertainment, no information, just a line that seemed endless and didn't move. I felt badly for some of the more incapacitated passengers who were forced to stand in this line. Finally the line began to move and once inside the registration area, embarkation went very quickly. Once inside the ship, we quickly found our cabin, unpacked, and went to find some lunch. Dining The food on cruise ships is supposed to be one of the highlights. In this case, I would have to say that the food quality and selection was hit-or-miss. Breakfast was fine, with a plentiful selection of rolls, pastries, fruit, eggs, oatmeal, French toast, etc. We never had a problem with breakfast and we either ate in the Horizon Court or had it delivered to our cabin on four mornings. I was disappointed that I only saw smoked salmon (delicious) on the first morning, but maybe I missed it on days we ate in our cabin. We usually ate lunch in the Horizon Court. This was where the food became a hit-or-miss situation. We don't eat a lot of meat and some days that was the only appetizing main dish that we could find. Some of the entrees were a little weird with strange combinations of vegetables and seasonings. I would have appreciated a few more "plain" items. There was always a great salad bar, however. So some days I went to the pizzeria and picked up a slice and then brought it back into the Horizon Court to enjoy with my salad. Desserts were always delicious and the fruit was abundant and fresh. We ate one lunch in the Provence Dining Room. It was delightful and delicious...we should have taken the time to eat there again. We did not feel like paying extra for Sabatini's or the Bayou Cafe. The menus just did not appeal to us, since I'm allergic to shrimp and neither of us eats a lot of meat. We had signed up for Anytime Dining which was absolutely chaotic. The first night we had about a 40 minute wait for dinner. Now, mind you, we had requested a table for twelve because we had met a group of Cruise Critic folks and wanted to dine with them. However, even passengers with smaller parties were walking around with flashing beepers a la TGI Fridays. The second night the maitre d' in the Bordeaux Dining Room (anytime dining room) suggested that he call the Provence Dining Room (fixed dining) and we received a late dining seating (7:45 pm) which we held for the rest of the cruise. By this time our group had expanded to 14 people on most nights, so we occupied two tables next to each other. The dinner menus were definitely the weak point for us on this ship. On several nights I felt my main course meal was inedible. Salmon was hard and tasteless, like it had been frozen for months. Penne pasta served with tomato sauce that tasted like it had been heavily spiked with chili peppers to the point of being nearly intolerable. Desserts remained the one strong point on all nights. And some meals were superb...seared scallops were sweet and cooked to perfection and the lobster tails were a complete delight. A vegetable and phyllo dough tart was also an absolutely delicious main course. The service in the dining room was usually pretty prompt and accurate. Food was brought out hot and served promptly. However, we felt a bit rushed to leave after coffee and dessert as the staff obviously wanted to get out of there after their last shift of the evening. Entertainment The entertainment was generally good to excellent. Rodney Johnson, the comedian was hilarious. His humor was clean and very sharp and funny! We wish that we could have seen Rodney again, but we missed him on the third night because we had a late dinner seating and decided to attend the Adrian Zmed show (of "TJ Hooker" fame)instead. Adrian Zmed is very talented and offered a great variety show that we totally enjoyed. We also enjoyed Maurizio's show, as well as hearing him in Crooners on some evenings. Most of the shows with the Coral Princess dancers and singers were pleasant and very energized. We also enjoyed the Joszef Trio with their classical strings performances. I also have to make special mention of the Coral Princess International Crew Show. Billy Hygate, the cruise director, as Fiddler on the Roof's Tevyeh was phenomenal! He could put Zero Mostel to shame. We wish he could have done an entire show! Billy Prudhomme, the juggler/comedian, was just average. We've seen his show on a previous cruise and seeing him again was too much. We also thought Jeff Nease, another comedian was just passable. He definitely needs to check his material as some of his jokes we had already heard from the first comedian. He seemed nervous and not very well prepared for his show. We also could have done without most of the on-board movies. I can watch movies at home on demand or download them on my computer and I expect a little more original entertainment when we cruise. The Pool I didn't go in the water so I can't comment on the pool itself. The deck around the Lido pool was pretty crowded but we never had a problem finding a seat. The deck chaises were not all that comfortable and definitely needed more padding. I loved the Lotus Pool with its very calm and quiet atmosphere which generally put me to sleep! The warm cookies and milk offered poolside were a lovely touch on most afternoons. Because the Lotus pool area is available for free we really felt there was no need for paying for the Sanctuary area. Cabins Our Cabin was a reasonably size BA balcony unit on the Caribe deck. The bed was a little hard for me, but my DH loved it, so we decided not to get an egg-crate matress topper. The pillows were awful, and I don't know why we didn't complain about them. The balcony had a table and four seats. Two of the seats were covered in bird excrement, so we didn't use them. We loved having a balcony. The best part is enjoying breakfast, in our bathrobes, on the balcony on sea days. Please beware of opening the cabin door and the balcony door at the same time, or you will have a wind tunnel churning through your cabin. The showers on the Princess ships are too tiny. I am not a large person so I can't even begin to imagine how someone with more body size would function in the shower. There was plenty of storage for toiletries in the bathroom. On some occasions, the "fresh" towels that we were given seemed a little damp. We had heard that one of the ship's dryers was not working, so maybe this was the reason. Our cabin steward, Ronaldo, kept the cabin spotless and was extremely helpful. However, we did not appreciate his unsolicited offer to help us find cheap watches in one of the ports. We don't even know how that discussion came up! The Internet We purchased a $100 package of 250 minutes at the Internet Cafe with a bonus of 30 minutes because it was purchased on the first day of the of the cruise. This was just the right amount of minutes for a ten-day cruise. We had brought our netbook along with us, but usually could not get a reliable connection and gave up on it after a couple of days. I don't think I'll bother bringing it on our next cruise as there was usually a terminal available at the internet cafe anyway The Library I didn't take out any books, but we really enjoyed the daily crossword puzzles that they provided. Also the chairs in the library were so comfy. It was a nice atmosphere for reading and watching the sea. The Spa I utilized the hairdresser at the Spa. I had no problem getting an appointment and she did my hair exactly as I requested. I told her that the hairdryer she used was too hot as it felt like it was burning my scalp and I had to repeatedly ask her to turn the heat down. Also, she spent almost the entire appointment trying to sell me various hair care creams and potions, skin creams, and even vitamins! This selling mentality seems to be ingrained on Princess crews, as someone is always trying to sell you something from drinks to jewelry to exercise classes. The Gym This was generally a busy spot, but I never had a problem locating a treadmill. The free weights were lacking. There was only one five pound weight and it was generally in use! The second weight disappeared after the second day of the cruise. Also the space to use the weights was too small. I felt like I was always in someone's way. Ship Activities We thoroughly enjoyed the at-sea days with plenty of activities planned. We took the Galley Tour on the last sea day and found it to be very interesting. Also we enjoyed the culinary demonstration. The port informational seminars were interesting. We participated in the Trivia Challenges and I played way too much Bingo. I didn't win at Bingo, but it was fun anyway. Because we were traveling during Hanukkah, there were lovely services conducted by fellow passengers. These were followed by delicious potato pancakes and donuts. The ship even provided prayer handouts. There was also a nice setup for the Friday evening service. Disembarkation This was quite orderly and timely. Princess seems to have this under control. We made it off the ship, located our luggage in the terminal and passed easily through US Customs and Immigration. Locating a cab to the Fort Laurderdale Airport was easy and ran about $15, including a tip. We were at the airport by 9 a.m. Summary This is a clean and well-organized ship. Even though the food selection was a little unpredictable, we had an excellent time. We enjoyed meeting the other passengers. We definitely will sail with Princess again. It's not perfect, but it's pretty darn good and an excellent value for the money. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Generally, the ship and Princess compare very favorably to Celebrity. One thing that can be improved is the food. We ate in the Bordeaux dining room at "anytime dining." We enjoyed eating when we felt like it with different ... Read More
Generally, the ship and Princess compare very favorably to Celebrity. One thing that can be improved is the food. We ate in the Bordeaux dining room at "anytime dining." We enjoyed eating when we felt like it with different people most evenings. We met a lot more people that way and had different conversations each night. The lobster, shrimp and fish dinners were excellent. The beef was tough to us and to other couples we dined with. Some of the offerings did not sound appetizing. Also, the hot lunches in the Horizon buffet dining were not very tasty. We did not pay extra to eat in any of the specialty restaurants on board. The ship left Port Everglades on Thanksgiving Day. We were able to get on the ship easily before noon even though we were told we couldn't board until 1PM. Getting on was quick and so was getting off. Very efficient. We were able to get off first because we took all our own bags off with us. We took 4 shore excursions booked through Princess. We were happy we booked the Princess tour in Costa Rica because our bus got caught in a traffic jam and flood caused by 8 inches of rain! Our bus and 2 others were almost 2 hours late past sailing time and Princess held the ship for us because we booked through Princess. We had almost taken a private tour and were so glad we didn't!! The minute we were back on the ship, they sailed away. We booked this cruise last minute on Monday and left port on Thursday. Saved a lot of money and were upgraded 2 classes. We had the last cabin at the back of the Coral Princess on the Aloha deck. It was very quiet and comfortable. We had to walk a long way to the restaurants at the front of the ship but it helped us burn off some calories and get some exercise. The shows and entertainment in the Princess Theater were very nice. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Whittier --> Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks. Vancouver looked like a nice city to visit. We should have left a day earlier and stayed one night there before the cruise. ... Read More
Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord, Whittier --> Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks. Vancouver looked like a nice city to visit. We should have left a day earlier and stayed one night there before the cruise. Boarding the ship was smooth - no lines. The Coral is probably the smallest cruise ship I have been on but it was very nice. The grill and pizza place was where we at most of the time. The few times we tried the dining room it took forever to get our food. We've been on a lot of cruises and this was the first time we had experienced this. The staff all spoke very good english and were very helpful. The entertainment was very Vegas-like. I could take it or leave it. A nice touch was that they offered beer from Alaskan Brewing. Most cruises I have taken it is the usual light, fizzy yellow beers offered with the token Guinness. The shopping was pretty bad. Every stop had the same 5 or 6 stores offering the exact same stuff. They also had the same jewellery stores at every stop - who cruises to Alaska to buy jewelery??? We started looking for the locally owned/operated stores and gave them our business. Most of the stored have something indicating that they are locally owned/operated. DO NOT expect fast internet anywhere on this trip. I had to do some work on the trip and the connection was very slow. I even brought my Verizon usb modem and I did not get 3G anywhere so it was very slow as well. Ketchikan was nice and we did the Canopy tour excursion. It was fun but I will book all excursions outside of Princess next time. More options and better prices. I would recommend the canopy tour. Juneau was smaller than I thought and it rained a bit here. We took the tram and hiked in the rain. We had booked a helicopter and dogsled excursion trough Princess but it was cancelled due to clouds/visibility. We walked down the dock and found Era tours. They had a helicopter and dogsled tour that went to the Norris and Taku glaciers and DogWorld instead of Mendenhall like everyone else. We saved more than $100 per person and still got to do the helicopter and dogselds. We got spectacular views of the glaciers and we able to meet/pet/mush the dogs. It was a highlight of our trip! Skagway was a bit boring but the Skagway Brewpub was worth a visit. Food and beer were both excellent. We also took the Gold Rush trip and that was a waste of our time. Glacier Bay and College Fjord were both amazing as expected. We found that there were small decks on the front and back of the ship on the Caribe, Baja and Aloha decks that almost no one seemed to know about. We had spectacular views of the glaciers and did not have to fight for a position to see them. We also used our balcony. It was a bit cloudy but I still took some great pics. The stop at the Animal Preserve outside of Whittier on he way to Anchorage was nice and I would recommend it. They take in injured animals and nurse them back to health. A lot to see here. . Anchorage was a nice stop. They had a street festival going on and we walked around and enjoyed the city. I recommend the Snow Goose for good beer. We didn't get a chance to try the Glacier brewpub - it was packed. The Captain Cook hotel was very nice and had a great view. Doing the tour after the cruise worked out better for us. The train ride from Anchorage to Denali was painful. It took forever to get there and the seating was cramped. If we had taken the train before the cruise it would have put a damper on the rest of the trip. The Denali lodge was horrible. The rooms were easily the worst we stayed in on any trip we have taken. Paper thin walls and cheap furnishings. We could hear the people on either side of us snoring and if they were moving around at all we could hear it. There were not many food choices there either. The best option is to go across the street and get breakfast/coffee/dinner/beer over there instead of at the lodge. They offer a $14 breakfast buffet or a muffin and coffee - that's it. I'm not eating $14 worth of food for breakfast. We ate at the Salmon Bake twice and got coffee across the street. We also booked a white water rafting trip at Denali Outdoor Center and had a great time. I would recommend this one even though the water was fast and 36 degrees. They gave us drysuits so we were not cold or wet at the end. Our package included a 5 hour 15 mile bus trip into the park. There was no way I was sitting for 5 hours on a bus to only go 15 miles into the park. The desk at the lodge was pushing the upgrade to the Tundra tour. We passed on that and went to the visitors center and traded our tour tickets for a shuttle pass. The shuttle buses go a lot further into the park and have experienced and knowledgeable drivers. They stopped for wildlife sightings and made the trip fun. I would recommend not buying a tour from Princess and getting a shuttle pass instead. We rode with the somewhat famous John Allen. The bus to Fairbanks was ok. The driver stopped at Parks Monument which is really a rock on the side of the highway - nothing to see here folks. It could have been skipped since there was nothing there and we were almost into Fairbanks by that time. Fairbanks was a nice little town. Our room at the Bear Lodge was nice and it had 2 good places to eat within walking distance - Ichiban Noodle and Geraldo's. Both were very good. We took the riverboat tour and this was fun. We saw Lance Mackey and Susan Butcher's dog camp and got to see how the natives lived. It was a long and fun trip. I took 10 gigs of photos and videos.We saw glaciers, whales, moose, caribou, musk ox, bears, eagles, owls, seals, sea otters and learned a lot about the culture of the natives. I would do a few things different if I cruise to Alaska again but we enjoyed it overall. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
We greatly enjoyed our Alaska cruise. The minisuite was very well laid out, and quite comfortable. The balcony was a bit smaller than our two previous cruises, but still comfortable. I would highly recommend requesting an eggshell crate ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed our Alaska cruise. The minisuite was very well laid out, and quite comfortable. The balcony was a bit smaller than our two previous cruises, but still comfortable. I would highly recommend requesting an eggshell crate mattress, which made a huge difference in the comfort level of the bed. The faxed request that we sent before the cruise was lost, but the room steward was able to quickly obtain the mattress for us on the first day of the cruise. You should request this mattress quickly, as previous reviews have noted that they can run out. Embarkation was an unmitigated disaster, but this was not at all due to any negligence on Princess' part. Port screening took 2-2 1/2 hours to clear due to a lack of availability of customs and security agents. Once customs was cleared, Princess quickly and efficiently processed its passengers for embarkation. The glacier viewing was excellent, and we loved seeing the calving at Glacier Bay. The food in the dining room was generally quite good, and some dishes were outstanding. On two days there were special seafood buffets, and both were excellent. Our waiter was highly knowledgable, and very efficient. The most significant area that Princess needs to improve is the buffet. The food in the buffet is more limited than previous cruises (both Holland America, and surprisingly even Carnival had more buffet options). Most importantly, the cruise often chose to close half the dining room (leaving only either the food options on the port or starboard side open). This led to very long and frustrating lines to obtain food. Once you finish standing in line, it was then very difficult to find a table since there is not enough seating available inside. This may be less of an issue on the Panama trips, since is will be warm enough to eat outside. But on the Alaska cruises, it is often a bit too chilly to eat outside comfortably, and so there is a significant shortage of seating. I was also surprised that the doors leading from the buffet to the outside tables had handles that you need to turn to open. There are sliding glass doors elsewhere on the ship, so I was surprised that they did not chose to incorporate this design feature between the buffet and the outside tables. It is quite difficult to open doors when you are carrying food (and impossible if you have one plate of food in one hand, and a drink in the other). I hope that sliding glass doors will be utilized in new ships between the buffet station and outside tables. The ports were excellent, and we had adequate time in all of the ports to enjoy many activities. In particular, we loved the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour in Ketchikan (which is fascinating and great for families), and the Temsco helicopter to Dog Sled camp in Skagway (please note that Temsco is the subcontractor for the helicopter tours for the cruise ships, and you can save 10% by booking directly through their company. Also, if you choose to visit a dog sled camp, please make sure you do it in Skagway, not Juneau since the weather is a bit more stable in Skagway. Also, please try to book your helicopter tour in the morning, since helicopter tours are often cancelled due to inclement weather. If your helicopter is scheduled for the morning, you will have a better chance of it being rescheduled for the afternoon, instead of the tour being cancelled outright. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will be able to participate in this amazing activity due to the unpredictable Alaskan weather). I encountered some difficulties in trying to book a cruisetour. The website stated the A La Carte cruisetour was available on our intended travel date for $1800 per person, but when I called Princess to book the tour, I was told that the tour was sold out and that I could be put on the waiting list, but that we might be charged $2200 per person. The Princess phone representative stated that Princess did not know exactly what price it would be charging for wait-listed customers on the A La Carte Tour, and so they needed to quote the $2200 price even thought it was possible that the actual price of the tour would be less. I was surprised to learn that the tour was sold out, since other dates said Please call for pricing and availability instead of having a price listed, and I assumed that a date with a price would be available at the listed price. I was also surprised that Princess could not quote me an exact price for the tour, especially since their website listed a specific price for that exact date. Since we found the Princess' cruisetour pricing a bit confusing, we decided to travel to Denali on our own, and we really loved our independent tour. We took the Alaskan Leopard Comedy Tour from Whittier to Anchorage, which stopped at the lovely Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center along the way. In Anchorage, we picked up the Alaska Park Motorcoach to take us from Anchorage to Denali. Please note that if you want to arrive in Denali on the same day you disembark from your cruise, your only option besides a Princess tour is to take the afternoon Alaska Park Motorcoach bus to Denali. It is a very long travel day, but you may prefer this to spending a night in Anchorage. In Denali, we stayed at the McKinley Chalets, which had very good food (including excellent pizza), is in a great location, and has adequate rooms. The hotels in Denali are only open 4 months a year, so they are all significantly more expensive than a comparable hotel in the continental US. In Denali, we took the National Park Service's shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center, where we had a very lucky day and we were able to see a family of grizzly bears with cubs, a lynx, a family of gray wolves sleeping, a red fox, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, snowshoe hare, and a golden eagle. You might also consider taking the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake, which is supposed to be lovely and offer more wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. But we arrived in Denali one day before the bus to Wonder Lake started (which is June 8th in 2010). Please be very careful with checking the park services bus schedule, as you may be disappointed if you arrive in Denali before the buses are running (they generally begin shorter routes on June 1st, and add longer routes during the month of June). Private vehicles are only allowed partway into the park, so it is important to be aware of the bus schedule. Denali also has some very lovely hiking trails, and beautiful views of Mt. Mckinley (Denali) if you are lucky. On the way back to Anchorage, we took the Alaska Railroad GoldStar train back, which was lovely and had an open air platform on the back of the train. They also have less expensive seating, but the views are not guaranteed. You can also save money by booking a ticket on the cruise line's trains, which will guarantee you a seat in a domed railcar. They will sell any extra railroad tickets they have, after seating the passengers on their cruisetours. Holland America's trains were less expensive than Princess', and you also might want to check with Celebrity, since I think that they have a new train car on the Alaska Railroad. Overall, it was a lovely cruise, and we greatly enjoyed our time in Alaska. We would cruise again with Princess if we can find another cruise with a strong itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Our cruise actually started in Seattle where we arrived at 9:00. After checking in with Princess and were told we would be leaving on the shuttle 'shortly', we sat in the baggage claim area for 2 ½ hours. After getting on the ... Read More
Our cruise actually started in Seattle where we arrived at 9:00. After checking in with Princess and were told we would be leaving on the shuttle 'shortly', we sat in the baggage claim area for 2 ½ hours. After getting on the bus we made good time until the border where we sat for an hour waiting to be cleared through Canada. If we had to do it again, we would have just flown into Vancouver. We arrived in the port at 3:45 and thought since the boat was to leave shortly, that we would be one of the last to board. We were surprised to see the long line to get back through security and immigration. Basically, the embarkation process was a nightmare. The positive aspect of the embarkation was that we missed the muster drill that had the passengers sitting in the muster sights for 1 ½ hours! Our room was on the 12th deck with a balcony. Very nice and comfortable. The only issue I had was that the robes that I had requested online before we left were not there and it took 3 attempts to get them. We did have a meet and greet on our first day on sailing that was supposed to be on the Princess Patters, but due to the late departure from Vancouver, the purser could not get it on the Patter. I was surprised to see that no one from the cruise ship greeted us. I have planned several meet and greets and have always had an officer (usually several) join us. I have to say I really did not see many officers (2?) the entire time I was on the cruise. I did not find the crew overly friendly. I had no issues with any of the service on the ship. The room steward was fine and food was fine - not spectacular. We ate a majority of our breakfasts in the Horizon Court - the dining room was more of a time commitment that we were not willing take. The Court had plenty of workers there, but they did not interact with the passengers. We get up very early, so did not have a problem with seat, though I did hear from others that late arrivals had difficulty finding a seat, especially while the glacier view was going on. After being seated, we needed to call a waiter to get coffee or juice. At one point, I went over myself to use the coffee carafe and was scolded. They weren't very friendly and the service was often slow. We ate dinner in the dining room (early seating). The servers referred to the two older ladies sitting at our table as 'mommy'. I am not sure what that was about, but I am glad they did not refer to me with that name - I would have definitely take offense. Other then the overly familiar names, the wait staff was very nice and the service was punctual. We did eat one night in the Bayou Cafe - the food and service was excellent! With all that being said, I do not go on a cruise for the food - though I have no problem eating too much. I used the gym regularly and found it more than adequate. It was a good way to work off some of the food We chose this trip based on the ports and our desire to see Alaska. We had planned our activities at each port based on cruise critic and did not do the excursions on the ship. Therefore, I cannot speak on the merits on those. We did extend our trip to Denali which was through Princess. I did talk to several people who did do some of the excursions and they seemed to enjoy them. We found most of the port easy to do independently and there were many vendors outside the ship if passengers did not have prior arrangements. The 10 hour train ride was long, but the scenery was beautiful. I was on the train when I saw my first moose! The Princess Lodge was adequate. My only issue was the long lines to get coffee. Unfortunately, it was not available in the rooms, so everyone was trying to get their caffeine before heading out of the day at the same time. I know they are a business, but providing a coffee service in the room would be a nice addition. Denali was very easy to do independently. We started into Denali at 7:30 and made it back in time for the dog sled demonstration .We were blessed to have great weather during our trip - even saw the mountain. The people of Alaska and Canada could not have been more welcoming and helpful. The trip from Fairbanks to Seattle was a long day. They had us get the bus two hours before the flight for the 10 minute ride to the airport. We took a short hop to Anchorage and sat again until our flight to Seattle. It was a shame that this could not have been coordinated better and had a direct flight to Seattle. The Doubletree hotel in Seattle was great - spacious, coffee, a warm cookie and close to the airport. Check in was seamless - I would stay at this hotel again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
Coral Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 4.0
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

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