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345 Princess Island Princess Cruise Reviews

Overall, this was a fun and relaxing cruise. However, my husband and I will probably go back to Celebrity for our next cruise. We felt that the target audience for this cruise was significantly older than us, resulting in a rather sedate ... Read More
Overall, this was a fun and relaxing cruise. However, my husband and I will probably go back to Celebrity for our next cruise. We felt that the target audience for this cruise was significantly older than us, resulting in a rather sedate experience. Here are a few bullet points regarding the good, bad, and mixed aspects of our cruise experience: The good: * Fantastic itinerary, which was why we choose this cruise: Aruba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Mexico. * Passengers - What a friendly, gracious, well-educated group of people! I don't think I met one grumpy person on the entire trip. These are not the "People of Walmart" you might find on a few of the other cruise lines. * The Ship -- Beautifully designed and very clean. * State Room - It was very small, but cozy and comfortable. The bunk bed coming down from the ceiling and the mini-fridge were nice touches (and we had no problem pushing the beds together like the previous reviewer). * Service - We received excellent service from our cabin steward (Nestor) and waiter (Song), among others. No service problems at all. * Laundry - I was impressed that this ship had a laundry room, unlike others we have been on. Sometimes crowded, but very convenient. * Almost never felt crowded - I heard there were over 2,000 passengers on the cruise, but it almost never felt crowded. Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze, and even the couple of ports requiring tenders were not too onerous. * @ Sea activities -- There were tons of activities on the days at sea -- Zumba, line dancing, ballroom dancing, ping pong, poker, bridge, pop choir, art auctions, movies, etc. The Bad: * The Shows - Most of the shows were just awful. The Bayou show was the best of the bunch, but the plot made no sense (how did the guy die?). The hypnotist was totally fake. The comedians were pretty funny, but for a 15 day cruise, there were way too many comedians and soloist musicians. Where were the magician, the circus, the Broadway-type show, etc? * The Musicians - Again, this was tailored to Baby Boomers and older. Magnitude = vomit-inducing 70's music. They actually played "I Will Survive" just before the "balloon drop" on New Year's Eve. Playlist = out-of-tune 70's music. DJ Low = doesn't exist (every time we went to a DJ Low event, we found that it was cancelled). * Evening Activities -- very sedate. We went to bed early a lot, because our only other choices were the shows and the music (see above). * Early Dining - Who eats dinner at 5:15?? I don't remember signing up for that. Next time I'm definitely going to go with Anytime dining. * Time in Ports - As with most cruises, there was was way too much time "at sea" and way too little time in the ports. Having to be back on the cruise at 1:30pm on a port day just seems ridiculous to me. * Upselling - This is also very common on cruises, but it seemed a little excessive on this cruise. Many of the "activities" in the Patter were thinly veiled attempts to sell something. For example, my husband went to the rum tasting, which offered an extremely small shot of ONE flavor of Bacardi, and the rum cake tasting, which offered one tiny piece of ONE flavor of cake (with the opportunity to buy more, of course). And they didn't even give passengers a free glass of champagne on New Year's Eve -- Sorry, but that's just cheap. * Overworked staff, with little redundancy - The staff were always rushing off from one activity to the next, and none of them seemed to have any replacements. For example, when the ballroom (and choir) teacher got sick, those classes simply got cancelled for several days. * Book group - This was a good idea in theory, but it failed in execution. It basically consisted of handing out a 550-page book and nothing else. Who wants to read a 550-page book on a cruise? As it happened, I had already read that book, so I returned on the last day to participate in the discussion, and there was NOBODY there, not even a crew member to moderate. What a disappointment. * Lectures - I only listened to these on TV, but they seemed extremely boring to me. Maybe they could get someone with a slightly less monotone delivery? * Temperature -- This was very poorly regulated. Some of the areas of the ship were hot (e.g., elevators), whereas others were unbearably freezing (Princess & Universe Theaters). One night I wore my fleece pajamas to the theater and brought a blanket. I got a few dirty looks, but that was the only night I was actually comfortable during the show. I heard stories from people who had to leave a movie or show during the middle (too cold), or abandon their assigned dining room table (also too cold). * A few cabin issues - The shower was very small and the shower curtain clings to your body. There's no place to shave your legs unless you want to get the entire bathroom wet. And the balcony chairs have zero lower-back support, which caused me a pretty bad backache by the end of the cruise (and I had to pay $16.80 to buy ibuprofen on the ship). The Mixed: * Food - In the dining room, the food was beautifully presented. I had excellent seafood on several nights, and I thought the Italian Night food was delicious. I also really appreciated the fantastic sugar-free desserts. But much of the other food was bland, and there was not a lot of variety. Why not feature the local cuisines of the regions we visited? I don't think I ever saw anything Caribbean, Central American, or Mexican on the dining room menu (or anything remotely spicy, for that matter). I mistakenly ordered steak twice -- fatty and covered with brown gravy, yuck. The buffet, on the other hand, was quick and convenient, and you could get whatever you like (including some ethnic specialties), but it started to resemble cafeteria food after a few days (too much time under the sun lamps). * Zumba - I'm a part-time Zumba instructor at home, so it's likely my reaction is much more critical than others'. First, I was thrilled to learn that the ship even offered Zumba, and it was free, and it was offered on every single "at sea" day (except Panama Canal day). The availability far exceeded my expectations. The instructor was friendly, easy to follow, and enthusiastic, and she played crowd-pleasing music. However, as with almost everything on this cruise, it seemed tailored to an older crowd. First, it was way too short (35 minutes) for a Zumba class, and many of us were left sitting in the theater for 25 minutes waiting for the next activity (line dancing) to start, so we could get a full workout. Second, it was too crowded, with many people dancing in the aisles or between the tables and chairs of the Universe theater. Third, the instructor's songs and choreography were out of date (2-5 years old, e.g. "Waka Waka" by Shakira). Zumba is evolving, and the instructor has basically been teaching in a vacuum, with no feedback or exposure to what other instructors are doing. While some of the participants were older or new to Zumba, many of them were young and fit, and there should be a fitness class that satisfies their needs as well. Pretty much all of the other fitness classes cost money (I think $12/day). Finally, a few things that I'm really glad I brought on the trip: * A pashmina shawl, which I used as a blanket for many of the shows in the cold theater. * Laundry detergent sheets (could also use Tide pods), so I didn't have to buy laundry detergent * A first-aid kit - it kept me from paying exorbitant prices for bandaids and OTC meds (other than the $16.80 ibuprofen, and that was only because I ran out). Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
I want to start this review by saying that I will be more critical than usual I guess it is because: 1) I have completed my 10th cruise, so I have way more information and opportunity to compare (ships, itineraries, cruise lines). Things ... Read More
I want to start this review by saying that I will be more critical than usual I guess it is because: 1) I have completed my 10th cruise, so I have way more information and opportunity to compare (ships, itineraries, cruise lines). Things that may have been seen as minor in previous trips have more meaning now, and 2) I am getting older, and things that did not bother me before are more noticeable and create uncomfortable situations. Let’s get the less positive aspects out of the way: The service in the Island Princess was not what I expected. I sailed last year in another Princess ship and none of the problems I will outline here I found there. I have to assume that it is not a cruise line issue but a vessel issue. One of the first surprises was that I wasn’t allowed to convert the twin beds in my cabin into a double bed because we also had a third person in the room and we were using the bunk bed. This is the first time I have encountered this problem. Questioned, our steward mentioned that it was now a “new policy” because apparently the cruise line had been sued by someone who fell on top of others. We went to the service desk to know what it can be done and the purser was as surprised as we were. She could not give us an answer. After three days, the supervisor of our Steward confirmed it was impossible to allow us to join the two beds. No one was able to provide us with a copy of such “policy”. During this ordeal we felt like we were treated as a nuisance and not as concerned or disgruntled customers. The second aspect of service was the waiters in the formal dining rooms. We are used to have the head waiter come to the tables every once in a while to greet us and talk to us. The head waiter in our section, funny enough, came to all tables EXCEPT ours. That went on for the whole trip, except for the last day when we celebrated my birthday. At some point, we even felt he was actually avoiding us because he was talking to the people right beside us and not even a hello or eye contact with us. The waiters were very friendly BUT they had fundamental issues with their waiter training. Most of the time they were reaching across to pick up or put down dishes, they were cleaning crumbs on top of us, they were putting menus upside down, etc. In one occasion, one of them spilled wine in my wife’s lap and he did not even bother to acknowledge the problem. He just walked away! In the buffet you will see waiter picking up the glasses from the upper ring (where you put your mouth) to serve juice or water, and picking up dirty plates without asking if you were done with your food. In the area of cruise recreation, there were hits and misses. The biggest one was that the cruise staff seem overworked and they had to run from one place to the next, arriving late in some occasions. You could also see that there were times when they did not seem their happy-selfs, and even in one case I saw one of them arguing with one passenger about a minor thing. Also, for a 14 days cruise, the recreation in the theatre and main venues was not stellar. Besides the 4 productions with the Princess singers and dancers (great!) and one musician-comedian (very good!), the other nights were just not good enough. For the first time in my cruising experience, I decided to miss more shows than I actually attended. One last thing to note on the minus side was the young recreation program. Very early in the cruise, we started to see flocks of teenagers just wondering around. They took over some areas and every day they seem more daring as to what they were allowed to do. One of the reasons why cruise lines implement young and teens programs is to engage them into activities they can enjoy. Clearly, it wasn’t the case in this trip and at some point (not my opinion but many people I talk to also noted the same) they became annoying. My daughter (11 years-old and experienced cruiser), also became disengaged from the program after a few days. Fortunately she found two or three girls her same age and they decided to create their own recreation program. They enjoyed the pool and other activities not offered in the Shockwaves program. Now let’s move to the positive side. The itinerary was great and the ports of call where excellent. It is a shame that beautiful ports like Cartagena and Cabos cannot be fully enjoyed (just half-day stops) but I understand there are operational needs that have to be followed. The ship was spotless! Even after the “wild” parties of Christmas and New Year, the next morning was like nothing had happened. The music groups we had in the ship were out of the ordinary. From the all omnipresent group that played in lounges and parties with its lead singer Victoria, to the trio playing in the Atrium and the piano man in the lounges, they are true artists and deserve every applause and accolade we can give. The food was superb. There are many excellent choices and not one of them disappointed. We took breakfast in the buffet, room service and formal restaurant and all of them worked well. Lunch in the buffet was always tasty, as it was the pool side grill and the pizzeria (sometimes overwhelmed by the success). Also, Sabatini’s, at night a cover specialty restaurant, offers some free lunches with gourmet pizza, as well as the Bayou’s “pub style lunch.” At night, the formal restaurants have a great variety of daily specials as well as old good “available all nights” dishes. Great size portions and generally well cooked. Did I forget to mention the always available ice cream stand? Another great feature in Princess Ships is the “Movies under the Stars”. In this cruise, it also became the giant screen football theatre for play-off and bowl games. It was great! The movies were generally good and it helps to have some popcorn at hand. Activities were many and there was always something to do, with enough balance to have some “free” time and enjoy amenities like the pool and the bars. Probably one of the highest mark goes to the free Zumba lessons (yes, there are still free activities worth going). The audience grew as the cruise progressed and it was a huge success. All in all, I will rank this cruise around 7 out of 10. I have seen better and I have seen worst. I would like to see more consistency in the service given the expectations created by a previous Princess experience. I have a Princess cruise booked for July; I guess it will be the chance to break the tie and decide if the line deserves our business.   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
This was our second Princess cruise and we've already booked another for February. Must admit it helps living in Central Florida as there's no need for airfare, etc.! I'd registered for the CC Roll Call so already ... Read More
This was our second Princess cruise and we've already booked another for February. Must admit it helps living in Central Florida as there's no need for airfare, etc.! I'd registered for the CC Roll Call so already "knew" several others that were on the cruise from information we'd exchanged on this site. It was so much fun as we already had others to meet for Anytime Dining, etc. A roll call member had set up a Meet&Mingle with the Island Princess and there were about 25 people that showed up. The cruise director and six other senior staff members came and spent about 15 minutes talking with us. The cruise director said that Princess enjoys CC members who are on cruises as "we" are all pretty knowledgeable about what o expect. We went mostly to see the Panama Canal and are happy we did the cruise as a partial-transit. As it was, we spent more full-days at sea than we'd have liked. It would have been much better to have days with shore-time mingled better with full-days at sea. The Canal was as expected. I'd read the Princess excursion that went through all the locks to the Pacific side was worthwhile, but also that it was too long. I agree and wish we'd done something different. Once you've gone through the first lock into Lake Gatun,you've seen how the locks work, no real need to see them all. Plus, the long bus ride back at the end of the day takes you through rush hour...ugh! We were in a mini-suite A-503 and enjoyed the space with so much time at sea. The cabin was mid-ship and so convenient although the balcony was smaller than most due to its location. It was a short walk up one flight of steps to the Lido deck so it was easy to go up for meals at the Horizon Court or the pools. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
Embarkation at Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale: went very easy. It took around 5 minutes from the time we entered the terminal until check-in, including going through security. As you entered the terminal, you were given a group number. We ... Read More
Embarkation at Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale: went very easy. It took around 5 minutes from the time we entered the terminal until check-in, including going through security. As you entered the terminal, you were given a group number. We then had to wait around 30 minutes before we could board the ship, waiting for our group number to be called. When we boarded the ship, our room was ready for us. We were able to drop off our carry-on's and then proceed to go to lunch. Food: Lots of selections for every diet whether you eat in the main dining room or the buffet. We especially liked the salad bar and fresh fruit in the buffet at lunchtime. In the Horizon Court buffet, if you wanted lemonade, you had to ask a waiter for some. There also was not any hot chocolate available. All of the food services closed down by midnight, except for room service. We had anytime dining and found we had very little wait time if you went before 6:30 PM and were willing to share a table with other passengers. On formal nights, there was a little more wait time. Also, the dress code is strictly adhered to on the formal nights. We found out that the minimum dress code allowed in the main dining rooms by men is a long sleeved shirt. A tie was not required. Even the invitation to the past passenger party stated formal attire, no short sleeves, as it was held on the second formal night. Entertainment: Most of the shows on the ship lasted 30-40 minutes. The dancers were very good in the various show productions. The entertainment that was brought on board was better than the average cruise ship. Cabin: Location was in midship which was perfect for going anywhere in the ship. Our cabin steward always had the room in satisfactory condition. Each evening, our bed was turned down, chocolates on bed, and the Princess Patter was received which listed all of the activities for the next day. Upon arrrival to cabin, and on last day of cruise, a luggage mat was placed on one end of bed for unpacking/packing. Excursions: Half of the ports we did on our own. In the Panama Canal, if you want to get off of the ship, you must book one of the ship's excursion. The ship docked at the pier in Aruba, Cartagena, Colon, and Puerto Limon. In the Panama Canal and the Grand Cayman Island, tenders were provided to get to shore. Also, at each cruise terminal, before getting back on the ship, there were chilled damp towels and chilled water available. Other Mentionables: There was a port lecturer, Bill Fall, on board who gave a talk on every port. He was born and raised in Panama and gave a unique perspective to the Panama Canal. All of his talks were extremely informative as well as educational. You could send an e-postcard free from the computers in the internet cafe to your family and friends. However, the message that you had written in the postcard did not show up when the recipient opened up the e-postcard, which we found out later after getting home. Afternoon tea was nice in one of the main dining rooms. The waiters served hot tea, small sandwiches, cookies, petit fours, and scones. Average age of passengers was 60-65. Some of the passengers were rude, jumping ahead of lines for elevators, etc. Overall the majority of the passengers were very pleasant. On the last night of our trip we received a nice summary of our trip from Princess. Disembarkation: was a little disorganized, as well as they were running behind schedule. A few days before departure, you are given a disembarkation questionnaire to complete and drop off at Guest Services. This determines what luggage tags you will be given and when you are going to get off of the ship. At least a day ahead of time, you received your luggage tags in your cabin. Depending upon your luggage tags, you were supposed to meet at a particular lounge at a particular time for disembarking. There were malfunctions in our waiting lounge for announcements. Once off of the ship, we collected our luggage in the cruise terminal, proceeded through customs, walked out of the terminal, and took a cab to the Ft. Lauderdale airport which dropped us off at our terminal. The cab fare was slightly less than $15 total.   Read Less
Sail Date October 2013
ABOUT US - we are Neil & Barbara Plested, a UK married couple in our late 50's. We retired 3 years ago and try and travel as much as we can, while we are still 'young' enough. In the past we have only been occasional ... Read More
ABOUT US - we are Neil & Barbara Plested, a UK married couple in our late 50's. We retired 3 years ago and try and travel as much as we can, while we are still 'young' enough. In the past we have only been occasional cruisers, but due to the recent great deals, we are cruising more and this is our third cruise this summer. We have cruised previously with RCL, P&O, Celebrity, MCL and Princess. We are not loyal to any brand and select on itinerary and value. We normally book quite late. We tend not to do many organised excursions, but try to travel independently. We are regular contributors to Trip Advisor. Prior to the cruise, we flew into Calgary and spent 6 nights driving around the Rockies and then 3 nights in Vancouver. After the 7 night cruise we flew from Anchorage to Seattle and spent a week driving the Oregon coast and Northern California to San Francisco, from where we flew home. The total trip was 24 days, including transatlantic flights. If you have any questions or comments, then please contact us on ' the.plesteds@virgin.net. We hope this review is useful to you. Safe travels - N&B. CABIN 3/5 - we were in balcony cabin A702 deck 12 Aloha, port side, towards the stern. Not the largest of staterooms we've had, but not bad. King bed with good quality linen and pillows. tv, desk and chair, a separate chair and table, telephone and bedside cabinets with lights. Plenty of wardrobe space and lots of hangers. Only 2 US sockets in the room - not enough these days with phones, computers etc. Good and quiet aircon. Bathroom - one of the smallest showers on the planet. How some larger people manage I do not know? We are both small and reasonably slim adults, but it was still a squeeze and you got to know the shower curtain quite well!! There is a power socket in the bathroom, which we had to use regularly due to the shortage. Balcony - again quite small with 2 chairs and a small table. Too small for sun loungers. To be fair, we could not expect the best stateroom, as we booked late and got a very good deal. An unobscured view. As we have always found with cruises, the cabin steward was superb. FOOD 5/5 ' Overall we found the food to be excellent throughout. We never had a poor meal. We found the choice to be first class and the service exemplary in all area. Unlike some cruises recently, we did not see any cutbacks due to the recession and lower prices. Well done Princess. We did not try the speciality restaurants, as we have eaten in them before, and did not feel the need on a 7 night cruise. We found the drinks and wines to be good quality and reasonably priced. Service was excellent everywhere, with lots of attentive staff. As always, the buffet could get busy at peak times, but we never struggled to find a seat or had to wait for long in a queue. Horizon Court Buffet - Breakfast 05.30 - 11.30 Lunch 11.30 - 15.30 Afternoon snack 15.30 - 17.30 Dinner 17.30 - 24.00 Province - set time waiter served dining First seating 17.15. Second seating 19.30 Bordeaux ' anytime waiter served dining Breakfast 07.30 - 09.30. Lunch 12.00 - 13.30. Afternoon Tea 15.30 - 16.30. Dinner - anytime dining 17.15 - 22.00 Sabatini's ' speciality restaurant Alfredo's Pizzeria - 11.30 - 14.30 (no charge). Dinner 17.30 - 22.30 ($25 cover charge) Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse ' speciality restaurant Dinner 17.30 - 22.30 ($20 cover charge). Some days an English Pub 11.30 - 14.00 (no charge) Pizzeria 11.00 - 23.00. Ice cream bar 10.00 - 22.00. Poolside Grill 11.00 - 22.00. La Patisserie coffee bar 06.00 - 23.00 SHIP 4/5 ' considering it's a few years old now, it seemed in remarkable condition. Everywhere seemed clean and tidy and well maintained. The public rooms were all very nice indeed. We really enjoyed the flat promenade deck - on some you have to climb stairs at the front or rear. Lots of seats and loungers on the decks, though less used in these northern latitudes. VALUE 5/5 ' we paid $909 each for a balcony cabin, including all taxes, cruise only. Superb value. OVERALL 4/5 ' we really enjoyed this cruise, despite the less than perfect weather, but we did not expect and would not hesitate to recommend it. We'd certainly do it again. DAILY BLOG DAY 1 embarkation - our hotel (Delta Suites Vancouver) was only 1 block (a $5 cab ride with luggage) from the Canada cruise terminal. You can drop your bags off at the terminal anytime and go for a walk around the town, but you cannot check in until 12.00. There were the inevitable queues at both check in and US customs. We were in our cabin within 45 minutes of arriving at the pier - pretty good. While we waited for our bags to arrive, we had a waiter served lunch in the Bordeaux dining room. An excellent sail away from Vancouver in the sunshine. We ordered a bottle of champagne from room service - always a nice way to start a cruise and we watched the world go by on our balcony - it sure beats working!! We had chosen anytime dining, which is in Bordeaux each evening. The first night was casual attire in the Main Dining Rooms (MDR). We were too tired to watch the show at 21.45 and had an early night. DAY 2 at sea Inside Passage - we were woken in the early hours of the morning by the ship's foghorn and it remained foggy until late afternoon, so we did not see much scenery as we sailed by. We had a room service breakfast and then walked 5 miles (14 laps) around the promenade deck - 2.8 laps for a mile. For lunch we had excellent sushi in the Horizon buffet. Later we went to a lecture on whales by naturalist Doug Capra. Then we had afternoon tea and cakes in Bordeaux - naughty but nice!! 1st formal night in the MDR. As our trip was for 24 days, we decided it was not worth carrying formal attire for only 2 formal nights on the cruise, so after a few glasses of free champagne at the Captains party in the Atrium, we ate in the Horizon buffet. It was Asian food. We ate superb spicy prawns and tender peppered fillet - a fine selection of flavoured food. We saw lots of humpback whales from the buffet window. Later we saw the show "Motor City" in the Princess Theatre. All your old favourite Motown songs - real foot tapping show. Then we had a good laugh at the Scot Wyler comedy show in the Universe Lounge. When we got back to our cabin the foghorn was going again - now where were those earplugs? The clocks went back 1 hour. Good - an extra hours sleep - if the foghorn allows!!! DAY 3 Ketchikan - we arrived early at 05.30 and docked near the town. A nice sail-in past forested hills and isolated boathouses. Weather cloudy, but at least no damn fog, hence reasonable visibility. We had a room service breakfast and walked off the ship easily approx 09.30. Weather was mild and dry, but cloudy. Ketchikan is a quaint, frontier looking town with lots of painted wooden houses. We docked directly in town with 3 other cruise ships. We walked through the small town and up to Creek Street, with its old wooden houses lining both banks of Ketchikan Creek. The river was absolutely full of salmon. We walked along the riverbank upstream for a short way, where you could see numerous salmon trying to get upstream to spawn, leaping through the rapids. Just follow the signs through town to the salmon ladder and spawning area. It's a 10-minute walk. Also near the spawning area is the Totem Heritage Centre. It contains a collection of 19th century Totems from the Tlingit Indians. $5 entrance fee. Lots of interesting information and old photos. Plenty of shops near the pier. We bought a few fleeces and rain jackets. Incredibly cheap at $20 each in the end of season sale. We got free wifi outside of a cafe in town. All on board 13.30. It started to rain as we sailed away. In the afternoon we went to a lecture by Doug Capra on mammals of Alaska. At 18.00, Doug Capra gave a commentary from the Horizon buffet. We saw many humpback whales in the Snowy Channel. They were breaching and bubble feeding close to the ship. Casual attire in the MDR. We ate in Bordeaux - it was an Italian theme evening. Later we saw the show "On the Bayou" in the Universe Lounge - a good New Orleans jazz show. DAY 4 Juneau - a pretty sail-in down a narrow inlet. We arrived at 07.30 and docked a few minutes walk into town. Dry but with low cloud covering the surrounding hills. We were in dock for over 8 hours, so plenty of time to do tours. In town prices - cable car return $31, bus to Mendanhall Glacier $8 each way. Whale watching $120. Lots of competition here for your $. We waited until the cloud had cleared a little and bought a whale watching tour for $90 each. There were lots of places to book any tour near the cable car station. You can do combo tours of virtually anything. We were bused to another harbour and a fast boat took 30 of us to see whales. We saw numerous humpbacks, with both females and calves breaching - absolutely stunning. Back at the harbour, Dolphin took us to see the Mendelhall Glacier. We had an hour at the glacier and then they bused us back to town. We had sunshine during both the wale watching and the glacier tour. Thank you Dolphin Tours. Back on the ship we went for afternoon tea and then to the Universal Lounge to hear a lecture by Libby Riddles, a winner of the famous 1,100 mile Iditarod dog sleigh race. As we showered prior to dinner, the ship had 2 power cuts!! Better in dock than out at sea!!! All on board 20.30 and we departed in darkness at 21.00. Casual attire in the MDR. We had dinner in Bordeaux. Later we watched the show in the Princess Theatre - a comedian/juggler. His juggling was good, but his comedy was dull. Not our cup of tea, as we English say. DAY 5 Skagway - we arrived at 06.00. We berthed at the end of the quay, so Princess provided a bus into town for $2 each way. As we needed the exercise, we walked - it took us about 5 minutes. Skagway is a small, real frontier town, with raised wooden sidewalks - really quaint. You expect at anytime a drunk to be thrown through the saloon doors, or a shoot out with the sheriff on the street. You can get free wifi at the Library. We went back on board at 11.30 for lunch in the Horizon. Later we took the White Pass and Yukon Route train. It runs twice a day - 08.45 and 12.45. The train leaves from the harbour, right by the ship. We booked in advance with Princess, as we though it might be full, and paid $129. It is $120 if you book in Skagway, but places are limited and you run the risk of not getting on if you don't book ahead. So Princess was offering a very reasonable deal. It took 3 hours for the 40 mile return journey. We were unlucky that the weather was wet, with lots of mist, so many of the lovely vistas were obscured. The trip was quaint and reasonably interesting, but nothing special. Perhaps it might seem better in the sunshine? Back on board by 16.30 for afternoon tea in Horizon. Casual attire in the MDR. We ate in Bordeaux then saw a wonderful acoustic guitar player. Later we saw another show put on by the entertainment team and talented ship's staff. It was a packed theatre, with a great atmosphere. DAY 6 at sea & cruising Glacier Bay - Princess provided each cabin with an excellent map and information on Glacier Bay. This is what cruising Alaska is all about. You cannot really get access to these places apart from by sea. We entered Glacier Bay off Bartlett Cove at 06.15 and picked up the National Park Rangers. Oh no - it's foggy again!!! Regular broadcast information from the Rangers, audible on all open decks, including balconies. At about 10.00, we sailed close to Marjorie Glacier near the end of Tarr Inlet and stayed there for about an hour. Even though it was misty, we still had good views of the glacier toe close up, rising some 250 ft above the sea. The Captain turned the ship around so everyone had a good view. We heard ice calving a few times, but it happened too fast for us to see it. The glacier moves at up to 7 feet a day, so lots of ice falls off each day. We then returned down Tarr Inlet and into John Hopkins Inlet. At about 11.45, we approached Lamplugh Glacier. It was majestic close up. The ship pirouetted in front of the glacier. We departed Lamplugh at 12.30 and sailed slowly out of Glacier Bay. Not the best viewing weather, but we felt lucky just to be here - many don't get the opportunity. For lunch we had a lovely seafood buffet, which has been set up in the undercover Lotus Bar pool area. Later we went to a lecture on the Glacier Bay National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) by the Park Rangers - as it was simulcast on tv, we lazily watched it in our room. We had good visibility and fine views in the afternoon as we exited Glacier Bay through the Sitakaday Narrows and back into Icy Straight. We then sailed west through Cross Sound and into the open sea of the Gulf of Alaska. We then headed north in open sea, where we hit really choppy waters first time on this cruise. 2nd formal night in the MDR. With the rough weather, and both of us not good in stormy seas, we had room service and chilled out watching films in our cabin!!! We missed the Captain's drinks party for Captains Circle Guests ' big deal!! We're not too keen on brand loyalty schemes. Most are worth very little, except for Sandals, which give you a free week, all-inclusive, for each 70 nights taken. DAY 7 - at sea and College Fjord ' a stormy night. We took seasick tablets and slept well. We had room service breakfast. At about 09.00, the Captain eventually spoke to the ship (we had hardly heard from him until now) and suggested, as we were experiencing rough seas, that we should take care when walking around the ship - about 12 hours too late. The wind was gusting across the deck at up to 70 mph!!! At approx 12.00 we entered Prince William Sound through Cape Hinchinbrook. This provided us some protection from the rough seas on our way to College Fjord. I eventually hauled ourselves out of the cabin and we had lunch in the Bayou Cafe as an English Pub, something I think Princess have borrowed from P&O. I had fish and chips and a pint of warm English beer - very nice. Later I went to an interesting lecture on "Navigation at Sea" by one of the Bridge Officers, followed by a question and answer session. Then we had afternoon tea in Bordeaux and then worked it off by walking 6 laps of the Promenade Deck. As we sailed Prince William Sound, it narrowed towards College Fjord. We entered College Fjord at 17.15. There was regular information broadcasts from Doug Capra the naturalist. The fjord is not as spectacular as those we've seen in Norway, where they are narrower and steeper, but the glaciers are the stars here and they are spectacular. Named after US colleges, they come one after the other on the port side. Then at the end of the fjord is the majestic Harvard fjord, fed by 24 other glaciers. We saw it bathed in sunlight, but later the mist descended again. The ship again kindly did a 360 pirouette for everyone. As we looked back down the fjord, the sea was calm and dotted with small icebergs on the azure blue water. Everything was still - there was no sign of life anywhere except our ship - it was quite magical. We had chose this itinerary to see the glaciers of Glacier Bay and College Fjord and we were not disappointed. We had dinner in Bordeaux and went to bed early. The bags needed to be outside the cabin by 22.30 latest. The disembarkation information from Princess was very clear and detailed. DAY 8 Whittier disembarkation - we arrived in the early hours of the morning, as it is only a short distance from College Bay to Whittier. We had breakfast in Horizon. We were in no rush, as our full day tour did not leave until 08.30. We did not go to the disembarkation meeting area, but just walked off the ship at 08.00. The weather was very wet and windy. We collected our bags and boarded our tour bus. We had independently booked an all day tour with Alaska Cruise Transfers. After the tour it dropped us off at the airport at 16.30 for our 18.20 flight to Seattle. REFLECTIONS ' a wonderful experienced, mellowed slightly by the less than perfect weather, though this is probably normal in Alaska. A fine ship with an excellent itinerary and superb staff. Highly recommended while the good deals are around.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
The Island Princess is an older, but well-maintained ship. The only problem with our mid-ship balcony stateroom (Baja deck) was the EXTREMELY uncomfortable bed--hard, looked almost like a camp cot--on a metal frame with one thin mattress! ... Read More
The Island Princess is an older, but well-maintained ship. The only problem with our mid-ship balcony stateroom (Baja deck) was the EXTREMELY uncomfortable bed--hard, looked almost like a camp cot--on a metal frame with one thin mattress! We did not complain, so we don't know if could have been switched or not. Surprising for a ship of this stature. Shower was tiny, very tiny. Anytime dining worked out ok, but you still needed a reservation to eat at your desired time window--nothing was ever available as a "walk-in" in the 6-7:30 range, so we generally had dinner at 9 following the shows, and sat for a table for 2( which at times was uncomfortable because other tables for 2 would be set up right next to you within just a couple of inches! It would then not be certain as to whether to engage those next to you in conversation or whether they would like to be alone, so uncomfortable to say the least. Food (Bordeaux room) was very good and beautifully presented with the exception of the shrimp cocktails--always tasted like defrosted frozen shrimp, small unappetizing. Everything was imaginative and delicious. The buffet food, although it was repetitive at times, was always nicely presented, colorful, for the most part very tasty, and plentiful. We liked the song/dance shows very much. The first night show was sort of a warm-up lesser show with comedy and some singing dancing. I was disappointed in getting a "reduced" performance just because it was the first night. Is this true of other cruise lines? I felt that for a highly rated cruise line, all performances should be top-notch. This was again true of the combination comedian/guitarist who changed up the lyrics and called it comedy. Really? Not at all a high quality performance. We did not bother to attend his second performance. Did not like being charged for sodas. We thought the price of the photos was excessive . The port shots should have been offered in the 8-10 dollar range; we would have bought all of them thus spending more total money. Also charged for hot chocolate which was ridiculous. We were standing outside on deck at Glacier Bay. It was freezing and raining. A waiter came by with hot chocolate which would have been wonderful to warm us up only to find out there was a charge for it! We didn't have our cruise cards with us to view the glaciers so were denied the hot chocolate! Some wanted liquor in theirs, and I can understand charging for that, but really, Princess??? Also felt as if they were ALWAYS trying to sell us something--seminars on shopping?The bar cocktails were varied, reasonably priced, and beautifully made,but they had little if any alcohol, so we only had 3 or 4 total for the entire cruise. Be sure to take the allowable wine/per person with you on board. All servers, waiters, staff, etc. were always polite, friendly, helpful, funny, and professional. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
Overall impression: The Island Princess is a fine ship--it is in great shape--looks almost new. The ports and glaciers--this ship goes to both Glacier Bay and College Fiord which is a great combination--you will see multiple glaciers. ... Read More
Overall impression: The Island Princess is a fine ship--it is in great shape--looks almost new. The ports and glaciers--this ship goes to both Glacier Bay and College Fiord which is a great combination--you will see multiple glaciers. Other ports are standard--Skagway is OK (I prefer Sitka)(I rented a car instead of the train and drove into the Yukon--Whitehorse was surprising nice), Juneau is fine, and Ketchikan is pleasant (ps in Ketchikan you can walk 10 minutes to the Safeway if you want to buy anything and the store even has free internet access). Re the Island Princess--the ocean view cabin is small--it isnt small by measurement compared to other ocean view cabins on other cruise lines--but due to what I regard as a poor layout due to the wasted space for the "walk in closet" and the wall running perpendicular to the orientation of the room which cuts the room by 1/3 and makes the bed area seem small--not even enough space for a small couch. You will feel cramped. I am sure Princess did a lot of research on how to arrange the space--but I think it makes the room feel cramped. And the comments on the shower that other people have commented on--it is really tiny--if you are at all a bigger person (really I am normal weight (BMI 24...) and it was tight)--it will be tight--seriously--you will be surprised how small it is. Re the layout of the ship itself--this is great--if you like to walk--you can walk on the promenade deck or the top of the ship. The lowest level, the Plaza--does feel claustrophobic as it opens to the atrium. And the coffee shop is on the Plaza level along with the dining room. Get the coffee card for around 32 dollars and you are set--just leave your room and get endless brewed coffee and up to 15 expresso drinks--right there near the room--no need to go to the Lido deck. Re dining--never a signif wait for a table under anytime dining. Service excellent. The food is fine--as long as you stay with pure american or italian food. Anything non-european will be terrible--interestingly, Carnival or Holland America do good Asian food--but not Princess. The italian food on Princess is good--surprising good pizza. Food was fine, both on the Lido deck, and the dining room. Overall a fine experience. Read Less
Sail Date August 2013
My husband and I love cruising, it is a true getaway. We have been on about 14 cruises, including the inaugural season of the Grand Princess, but for some reason, had not been back on Princess until now. We have been to some exceptional ... Read More
My husband and I love cruising, it is a true getaway. We have been on about 14 cruises, including the inaugural season of the Grand Princess, but for some reason, had not been back on Princess until now. We have been to some exceptional nature destinations, including Africa, the Galapagos, and Costa Rica, and we have to say that Alaska is right up there toward the top in ranking. We traveled with another couple who had never been on a cruise before, and they say they will do it again after this experience. Pre-cruise: We did a land tour prior to the cruise. We arrived in Fairbanks a day early, mostly to avoid any travel problems. We had read that Fairbanks isn't all that interesting, which we agree with, but we booked a Segway Tour through EcoSeg Alaska, and it was a lot of fun. We stayed at the Hampton Inn the first night before beginning the "official" Princess tour, and it was a bit worn. The second night we stayed at the Princess Riverside Lodge, which was very nice. We ate at the Pump House, which has a great outdoor deck. Our weather was great the entire time we were in Alaska. Sitting on a deck at 10 pm with the sun still shining was strange, but fun. The Denali Princess Lodge was nice, but a bit more rustic, and the Mt. McKinley Lodge was very nice. Food at the lodges was pretty mediocre. Upgrade to the tundra tour at Denali instead of the included history tour, you will be glad you did. It's 8-9 hours on a school bus, but worth it with all the scenery and wildlife. We saw Mt. McKinley in all its glory from both sides in the 2 days we were there. Our train ride to Whittier was a bit disappointing. We were not on the Princess train, but rather a train they lease from the Alaska Railroad during peak season. It did not have all the amenities that the Princess train has. Ship: We thought the ship was in great shape and had a lot of interesting venues. I agree with another cruiser, though, the shower was definitely the smallest we have ever seen on a ship. It was very difficult to move around and the bathroom was flooded most days. The dining rooms were always way too warm, there just didn't seem to be any air circulation. Activities: The best activity was watching the scenery go by and looking for marine life. We saw quite a bit. We also did the dance lessons that were offered on sea days - the instructor was excellent - and played bingo. Entertainment: We did not go to many of the shows as we always seemed busy doing something else. The Bayou show was good, but was interrupted by technical difficulties and we had to sit around and wait for them to sort that out. The performers were real troupers. We also enjoyed the marriage game. We especially enjoyed Dan Hodges in the Crooners Lounge and went every night to listen to his songs and stories. Service: Contrary to what we read in some reviews, we found the staff to be friendly and helpful. Our cabin steward, James, and the bar staff in the Wheelhouse Bar were great. Ports/Excursions: In Skagway we did the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari - saw whales on the way out, sea lions on the way back, and walked on a glacier - would recommend. In Juneau we did the Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari since my husband and our friends are into photography - would also recommend. In Ketchikan we did the Rainforest Island Nature Walk & Seahawk Adventure, and I would say "pass", there are better things to do here. Be sure to walk up to the salmon ladder in town. It's amazing, but kind of sad, to see these fish work so hard to get up stream. Dining: The food on board was a nice surprise. We really weren't expecting much, especially after reading some other reviews. We are all "foodies" and enjoy nice restaurants. We did any-time dining most nights and never had a problem getting a table as we always ate after 8 pm. We did both specialty restaurants and the meals were excellent. Even the main dining room food was good to very good. I had lobster 3 times and it was done perfectly every time. Others said the steaks were some of the best they had ever eaten. Summary: All in all, we had a great time. Princess is a master of moving people. We never had a problem in the 12 days we were in their care. Alaska is a wonderful place to see, and having great weather the whole time made it even better. We will definitely sail with Princess again.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Started out with a 4-day land tour (wife and I - 56 and 68 years young respectively and 7th cruise; 3rd on Princess and 4 on Carnival) spending 1 nite at the Fairbanks lodge (did the Riverboat tour), 2 nites at the Denali lodge (did the ... Read More
Started out with a 4-day land tour (wife and I - 56 and 68 years young respectively and 7th cruise; 3rd on Princess and 4 on Carnival) spending 1 nite at the Fairbanks lodge (did the Riverboat tour), 2 nites at the Denali lodge (did the National Park tour - both of these were "included" in our package) and 1 nite at the McKinley lodge (did a flight up to and around Mt. McKinley and landed on the Glacier tour - additional cost). At each stop the lodges got better and bigger (spread out) and the food also got better. The Riverboat (Paddle boat) tour was great, the Denali National park tour was OK - no animals seen other than 3 squirrels (reason being, as told by everyone, that part of Alaska was experiencing an "extended winter and late start to Spring" by about 2-4 weeks and the animals were still in hibernation - so to speak). The flight up to, around Mt. McKinley and landing on the glacier was nothing short of AWESOME...!!!!! Something that we will remember and treasure for the rest of our lives (of course have movies and still photo's of everything - even the 3 squirrels (ha-ha) to play back for fond memories. The train ride from McKinley to Whittier was long (5 plus hours) but comfortable, actually arriving at the ship about an hour late. (if you take the land tour - you MUST try/eat the REINDEER Sausage at all of the lodges - it is DELICIOUS.) Ship (Island Princess) left on time (transferred about 500 people from the train to the ship, even though it was late). First day was cruising Hubbard Bay (nothing spectacular) while the second day was cruising Glacier Bay - spent about an hour and half sitting a mile from the tip of the glacier. Had about a dozen and a half instances where ice fell off the glacier into the bay - again AWESOME to both SEE and HEAR (and record). You would see the ice break loose first and then hear a following sound that resembled a "crack of lightning" hitting next to you (or a sharp rifle shot). By the time you heard that you would already be seeing the ice hitting the water in the bay causing large splashes and then you would "hear" that - it sounded like a low pitch rumble or deep rolling thunder. Finally you'd see a ripple effect from the ice hitting the water - we were fortunate enough as I said to see that happen on about 18 separate occasions in that hour an half. Did not do any tours in our 3 stops along the inward passage as we done something on our previous cruise (Sun Princess - Seattle-to-Seattle back in 2006). The cruise was to mostly just "relax" and have a peaceful and enjoyable week - which we did. You'll NOTE - I gave the Dining only a 2-star rating - we were both fairly disappointed with not only the variety of the food offered in the main dining room (ate 2nd seating) but also our wait staff were very aloof and not very attentive. On all our "other cruises" by the second nite they would know and call us by our first name, and have our little whims and wishes known - i.e., extra butter, shrimp in the caesar salad, refills of tea and water, etc., - this group that tended our table (and I must say the others they were also responsible for) were below par from all the rest of our experiences. Also, the food offered in the cafe "overall" was not that great - and the variety again was not that abundant. They did offer a lot variety there during lunches of "fish" which "I" enjoyed - however, they also had various pre-cut cold-cut type of sandwiches available and some which were "wrapped" (chicken and tuna) which we felt were not very appealing or appetizing - compared to Carnival's "Deli Station" where they cook up/make up fresh sandwiches to order while you wait - NO comparison, Carnival tops all the way. Also, the Pizza cooking location - on the outside near the pool was not as good at that on Carnival. (I must say both my wife and I agree that the food quality and variety we've experienced on all our Carnival cruises far exceeded that of what we had on this particular cruise.) Our steward (Wilson) was exceptional - he ALWAYS had a "Hi and Hello" how are you attitude and smile on his face (miss the little nitely animals that the stewards on Carnival do - ha-ha). He kept our room immaculate. In addition, all the shows we went to were EXCELLENT - especially the one call BAYOU. The nite of that show it was done 3 times - we seen the last one, had we known about it - we would have done what we heard several folks say - gone to see it all 3 times - was WONDERFUL - do NOT miss it. The "overall" rating of 4 obviously reflects and is because of the dining experiences (both in the service as well as the variety and quality) we had. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Loved the staff. They served "cheesy scrambled eggs" the first breakfast and I loved them. The second breakfast it was some other combination of eggs. I expressed my disappointment at not being able to have the "cheesy ... Read More
Loved the staff. They served "cheesy scrambled eggs" the first breakfast and I loved them. The second breakfast it was some other combination of eggs. I expressed my disappointment at not being able to have the "cheesy scrambled eggs" to the omlet cook. One of the other staff heard me and went back and brought the sous chef out. He offered to make the "cheesy scrambled eggs" for me. And he did. That incident typifies the way the staff bent over backwards to make our cruise special and enjoyable. When I mentioned that the bacon was really good, but too well done, the man behind the counter asked me how he could help. I told him the bacon was too crispy and he went right back and brought out some less crispy bacon. When we mentioned that all of the prizes for the daily wake-up question were gambling prizes, they immediately changed the prizes. The trivial pursuit game was great, and they gave out some nice prizes. The dance instruction was lead by two different staff members and was great. My wife and I had a wonderful time. The Panama Canal was something I wanted to see all my adult life. I had a wonderful time. We took some awesome photos and the ships photographer was exceptionally kind and took our photos. The guide was great at telling us the history as we were passing various landmarks or animals on the shore or in the water. It was everything I thought it would be. The only bad part was the spa. They used very high pressure sales tactics for their oils and lotions and were not that well trained in the art of massage therapy. They promised a $99 special and then tried to double the price. If I hadn't written down the terms and price they would have charged us double. As it was I had to go back to our cabin and get the quote they gave me and prove it to them. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We just returned from our 10 day cruise aboard the Island Princess. Below is my overall review: 1. Pre-cruise: We flew to Fort Lauderdale 4 days early and stayed at the Universal Palms in Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at about 2am and ... Read More
We just returned from our 10 day cruise aboard the Island Princess. Below is my overall review: 1. Pre-cruise: We flew to Fort Lauderdale 4 days early and stayed at the Universal Palms in Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at about 2am and I was honestly hesitant to check in. The hotel lobby was very well maintained and the front desk attendant was quite helpful however the outside of the hotel was concerning. The room was clean for the most part however the bedding was like sleeping on cardboard. The shower was something to behold! There was no tub or any way to contain the water to the shower area. It just drained onto the bathroom floor down a small ramp that they fabricated to make the room wheelchair accessible (we did not ask for this accommodation and did not need it). There was mold around the baseboard however that was likely due to the shower arrangement. I would not recommend this hotel. We toured Everglades Holiday Park (where the Gator Boys are) and took pictures with the crew and then took an air boat tour and saw lots of alligators. This was a great experience. The next day we drove to Everglades National Park and saw even more alligators. This was very interesting to us as the people in the park were much more interested in the birds rather than the alligators. It seemed like they thought of seeing alligators as I think of seeing deer or squirrels at home! Both of these are must sees for people who don't live in the area. The remainder of the time we spent touring around Miami, Palm Beach and a drive though safari/zoo (Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee). 2. Embarkation day: We returned our rental car to Hertz at the Fort Lauderdale airport around 11am and the staff there was nice enough to drive us to the cruise terminal. The terminal is only a few miles away and on the return trip we took a taxi that only cost about 12 dollars. I appreciated the ride to the terminal though. We arrived about 11:30 and entered the terminal to find that there was almost no line. We checked in and were asked to wait for about an hour or so until the ship was ready. We boarded about 12:30 in groups of about 50. Embarkation went smoothly. The ship itself seemed a little worn as compared to the other 9 cruises we have been on. That being said, it was clean and there were no obvious issues or significant concerns with the ship itself on first impressions. The crew was always great! We were allowed right to our cabin (A-307) which was also clean and well appointed and comfortable. 3. The cruise: We headed out for Aruba at about 4:30 and had a really great time on the ship. Aruba was awesome (my wife enjoys the duty free shopping) but it was quite warm and humid. It seemed that there were problems with the ships air conditioning system. It was never quite cool enough and it seemed that the temperature in the cabin was much to warm at night on several occasions despite having the AC set on the lowest setting. The cabin steward was excellent as always. One curious issue is that the cold water in the cabin was never cold. At best, it was in the 80's which was a new experience for me while brushing my teeth. The ports that we were able to get to were excellent and we had a great time. a. Aruba: We did not plan a ships excursion at this port. We spent our time shopping (I could care less about the jewelry, but my wife goes crazy over this) but the deals seemed to be pretty good. b. Cartagena: In this port, we did not schedule a ships tour, but on the advice of one of the staff members (not to be named as it may cause and issue for him on the ship), we rented a Taxi for the time we were in port. The Taxi cost $45 for the day and we had our own personal tour guide for the day. He was very informative and took us everywhere the ship's tours were going but we did not have to wait for 50 other people to get on and off of the bus. I would recommend this as an alternative to the ships scheduled tours. However, be sure that you walk past the first group of taxi drivers and get into an "official" taxi. They all have blue shirts with "Taxi" written all over them and be sure that your "guide" speaks good English (ours did). c. Panama Canal: The Panama Canal is just how other reviews described. The ship started its approach at about 6am but the railing was already full of people. If you've read the other reviews, there are notes about a "secrete" deck at the front of the ship on decks 10, 11 and 12. This is where I was and it was not too difficult to see everything you wanted to see. After the passage through the first 3 licks, the ship anchored in Gatun Lake and then we tendered to shore for a ship's excursion. We decided to see the Gamboa preserve and took the gondola through the canopy. I rather enjoyed this and saw a sloth and lots of birds in the wild including several toucans. However, we had dinner with another group that took the boat tour (not the one through the other set of locks) and saw a significant more amount of wildlife up close including monkeys... d. Costa Rica: Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us on this day and we were unable to dock in Limon. I was rather disappointed as this was the only port that we scheduled a tour in prior to the trip. We were planning on going to the Jaguar Reserve (http://www.jaguarrescue.com). We booked this through Eduardo at Your Lucky Tours (http://www.yourluckytour.com). All of my interactions with Eduardo have been excellent although we never had the opportunity to meet. Despite this, if you are going to be in Limon, I would recommend using him for your tour (he has other reviews that are all excellent). e. Jamaica: What can I say about Jamaica mon...it was simply beautiful. Again, my wife decided to shop so I again acted as her courier and credit card holder......As they say in Jamaica, "no problems mon, just situations...." 4. Other ship items: a. Food: As above, we have been on 9 other cruises and we both feel that the quality of the food has been in decline. I'm not sure why this is, but I think it is true (as well as others at our table). We chose traditional late dining (7:45) and had great table partners. The food in the dining room was overall better however certainly not the best or even in the same universe as we have had before. The buffets were like a mediocre Las Vegas buffet. The servers were awesome as always in the dining room. Richard (our assistant waiter) was excellent and probably the best we have ever had on any cruise. Our waiter was also good; however Richard seemed to outshine him in our opinion. We did eat one night in the Bayou Cafe. I was disappointed in this but my wife thought her food was excellent. She had shrimp and lobster (a $5 up charge for Lobster) and I had the NY Strip. I think that Outback does a better job on steaks....just saying... b. Movies Under The Stars: Although this seems like a good idea, it was often much too windy to really be of much benefit to us. I would be nice if they also played the MUTS in the cabins. There were also other movies played in the Princess Theater. This would also have been better if there were more show times to accommodate different schedules. c. Boutiques: The Boutiques were pretty similar to the shops on other ships, however this time I paid particular attention to prices and even compared some of the prices to stores in the US. They did have a rather unique line of Roman Glass that I had not seen before. We bough a piece for $180.00 on the ship but I did find it a little less expensive (same piece and from the same maker) on the internet....the difference was not significant so I'm glad I bought it on the ship for the 5 year guarantee. She shopping host (Dennis) was also very attentive and there were lots of raffles that were conducted after their presentations. Dennis was very entertaining and really tried to take care of us on multiple occasions. Kudos to Dennis! d. Enrichment lectures: We had two speakers on board...one was a kind of self help lecturer with two or three presentations. I did not really get into this at all but her lectures always seemed well attended. There was also a lecturer who gave port lectures for each of the ports as well as a lecture on the canal and narrative as we passed through the canal. Although he was somewhat difficult to understand, he was pretty funny. e. Shows: Although I generally do not enjoy Vegas style shows, the On the Bayou was actually pretty good. If I thought this was a good show, I'm sure that those of you who really like this type of show will agree. The singers and dancers were good however the shows were very short as compared to other cruises we've been on. 5. Disembarkation: We disembarked on 8 March at Fort Lauderdale. We arrived in port at about 7am and the crew divided everyone into groups depending upon travel arrangements and the need for assistance with luggage. There were only three customs officials and the disembarkation took much longer than originally planned, however this was really not the cruise lines fault. We took a Taxi to the airport with a meter cost of about $12. Overall, a pretty good trip. If you are booking for the itinerary, then you really can not go wrong. If you are booking for the food and additional perks for the cruise, then I think that there are probably better lines, however overall we had a good time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
I went on my first cruise in 2007 and this is my 8th cruise, 5th on Princess. We've been on HA and Celebrity, but we like Princess the best because of the food and the cabins. We arrived at the LA cruise terminal at noon and ... Read More
I went on my first cruise in 2007 and this is my 8th cruise, 5th on Princess. We've been on HA and Celebrity, but we like Princess the best because of the food and the cabins. We arrived at the LA cruise terminal at noon and literally walked right onto the ship. We had priority boarding because my husband was a platinum member, but it didn't matter because there was nobody waiting in line. Island is an older ship but Princess has done a decent job of keeping it up to date. Bit of wear and tear as well as some rusty bits, but this was expected given the age of the ship so we weren't disappointed. The Lotus Spa pool and pool area was fantastic and one of our favourite outdoor areas of the ship. Bigger than the Lotus pool on the newer ships, so there was room to swim around. The roof of the spa pool area was built so that it could be opened and we were disappointed that it was never once opened in the entire cruise. The atrium area of the ship is the nicest we've seen on any ship. Nice couches, a great cafe, lots of good seating areas to people watch or just read a book. The ship was full of seniors and we only saw one child on the entire ship. At 50, we were among the youngest people on board. Having been on a recent cruise where it was full of kids, we were very happy at the age demographic of this cruise. The average age was rumored to be 70. It meant that the anytime dining room was completely full at 5:45 pm. Waiting to be seated for dinner was the worst experience we had on the cruise, on any cruise actually, because we waited up to an hour and 15 minutes on some nights. We ended up calling for reservations and could only get one for 5:45 each day. That's not anytime dining. We were in cabin Baja 215, category AA, a mini-suite on deck 11. It was right at the front of the ship and on the one really rough sea day, we barely slept at all because of the tossing about. But it was a great cabin for viewing the canal passage because we were close to the front viewing areas (decks 10 and 11). Plus our balcony had a clear view straight down which was great while going through the locks. It was a big room with a full 3 seater couch. The two flat screen TVs came in handy when I was asleep and my husband wanted to watch TV, he just sat in the 'living room'. Lots of room in the bathroom, big bathtub, and a big closet. We loved our room. Yes, it's an older ship so there's some rust in places and a bit of wear and tear, but the cabin steward did her best to keep everything clean. We didn't find the entertainment on the ship appealing but take this with a grain of salt because we never enjoy the big dancing and singing shows. We always go for the comedians. This trip had a number of them and we saw three. Two of the three were not good at all. In fact one was clearly geared for the 70+ crowd because he hadn't updated his material since his heyday in the 1960s. The dining experience was very good (other than the waiting to be seated issue), because the waiters were pleasant and the food was pretty good. Princess tends to default to using salty gravy a lot which I don't like, but most of the meals were good. It's a good opportunity to try things that you wouldn't normally eat. Many different types of fish, which they do well. One big problem with Princess ships is that they use instant coffee in the dining rooms. This stuff is the worst backwash that you will taste. If you want a real brewed cup of coffee you will need to buy a coffee card and go to the cafe. With the card you have unlimited regular coffees as long as you still have unpunched lattes/cappuccinos, etc on the card. Really worth it if you like coffee. Since the ship was full of elderly people, the pool areas were often not full which is a rarity especially on sea days. It also meant that there were no loud heavy-drinking partiers. It meant that booking the Sanctuary was a waste of time because it was quiet and sparsely populated elsewhere. We did book the Sanctuary for an afternoon and ironically there were loud people there that ruined our experience. I had three spa treatments. Pedicure, massage and a facial, all of which were professional and enjoyable. Not so great was the sales pitch at the end of each treatment to purchase products. But I understand that they're in the business of making money, so it was fine. Bit of comic relief actually, because at the end of the facial I was presented with a suggested face care program which entailed me buying products totalling $745. I laughed my way out of the spa that day. I used the gym a few times and it was completely fine. Everything you need for a good workout is there. Disappointing that I couldn't use a spinning bike on my own (safety reasons! Like the spinning bike is going to launch me through the window or something) but it didn't matter because I still got a great workout. As usual the service on the ship was great. The cabin steward, waiters, bar tenders -- all were fantastic, helpful, attentive. They work very hard with very little time off. We recommend this cruise and this ship. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
First let me say that this was our second time on the Island Princess, the first being in 2008 to Alaska. We purposely booked this cruise so we could be on the same ship as last time, since our experience was so spectacular. Maybe I was ... Read More
First let me say that this was our second time on the Island Princess, the first being in 2008 to Alaska. We purposely booked this cruise so we could be on the same ship as last time, since our experience was so spectacular. Maybe I was expecting too much so I was slightly disappointed. I an not saying the service/food/experience was not good, just not as good as last time. We boarded the ship early (around 12N) and were pleasantly surprised to find our luggage had already been delivered to our cabin (which we were able to go to immediately upon getting on board). Boarding was fast, organized and painless. We unpacked and went to the Horizon Court for lunch. After lunch we reacquainted ourselves with the ship and we found it had not changed in the 4 years since our last sailing. It did not look worn and everything was clean. The sail away party was pretty pathetic but I think that was due to the advanced ages of most of the passengers! I would definitely say there was a great percentage of the over 65 on this cruise and we only saw 5 children the entire time. The days at sea were relaxing. I went to the gym every sea day and took the spin/cycling class. The instructor was good and the bikes in good condition/repair. I then took the free zumba class and Toby from the cruise directors staff was a terrific and funny instructor. We did the class in the Universe Lounge on the wooden stage floor. It was a great class. Compared to other cruises I have been on, there was never a problem getting a lounge chair on the Lido deck. The bar staff were plentiful and getting drinks was fast and easy. The fresh made pizza was delicious and the smell of the garlic was divine! I guess the primary dissatisfaction with this cruise was our anytime dining. On previous cruises we only had to wait for a table once or twice but on this cruise I got the distinct impression that the hostess/maitre d' staff were not prepared for the number of anytime diners they had. In our dining room there were main seating as well so the number of anytime tables was severely limited. We were given a "pager" every evening no matter what time we arrived at the dining room (5:45, 6, 6:15, 6:30, 6:45 and 7). The hostess reminded us we could make reservations but we relied to her that the whole purpose of anytime dining, is to go anytime. If I wanted to make reservations, I would have booked the early seating but 5:45 is way too early to eat and 7:45 is too late. The first nights meal was underwhelming according to my husband but my meal (prime rib) was cooked well and very tasty. The evening entertainment was okay. Nothing spectacular and definitely the production shows are about 10 minutes shorter than on previous cruises. We were told by the production manager when we took the back stage tour that this was intentional so that passengers could enjoy "anytime entertainment". The only problem with this was there was often no other entertainment except the lounges. Our cabin was a mid ship balcony. The room was comfortable but not as large as balconies on RCL or Carnival. On both of these other ships we had a couch in our cabin. In this cabin we had 2 wooden chairs. The food in the Horizon Court was tasty an well displayed. I really enjoyed the Sushi bar they had for lunch one day! We had dinner 2 nights at the buffet just so we would not have to wait with a pager in the dining room. Both evenings the food was delicious with a too much to pick from variety. One of our splurges was having the "Platinum Photos" taken. The photographer took 92 pictures of us, and then narrowed it down to the best 50. These are all done in black & white with special lighting and they came out fantastic. They are very pricey and are printed in the US and shipped to your home 6-8 weeks after the cruise. I would definitely recommend these if you have a special occasion. (it cost $575 for 6, 8x10 portraits) Our ports were Aruba, Cartagena, the canal, Limon and Ocho Rios. The highlight of the cruise was the partial transit of the canal. We arrived in the zone at 0500 but everyone was up on deck or on their balconies. It started to rain so most passengers were either in the Horizon Court or Promenade deck to watch our passage. Fortunately the rain stopped just as we got to the first lock. The photographer told us to stand on the Promenade deck and it was a great tip. It was not overly crowded and we were able to stand at the railing. We could easily see the walls of the lock and watched as we were raised up. Disembarking the ship was the most organized of any cruise we have taken. We had our car at the port parking and originally we were supposed to disembark at 1055 but I changed it to a little earlier at 1015. We went to the Provence dining room a the assigned time and immediately were told to proceed to the gangway. Our luggage was waiting for us in the "aqua" area and in less than 15 minutes we had cleared customs and were walking to the parking garage. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
Panama Canal was one of the destinations we very much wanted to do and we were not disappointed. We began in Ft. Lauderdale and were interested in how our new Preferred check-in status (we are Captain Circle Platinum members)would work. ... Read More
Panama Canal was one of the destinations we very much wanted to do and we were not disappointed. We began in Ft. Lauderdale and were interested in how our new Preferred check-in status (we are Captain Circle Platinum members)would work. Getting through the security checkpoint was a nightmare. The line we hoped to avoid was worse than usual, but once we got through, the actual check-in and boarding took less than 10 minutes. The ship looked, on the outside, ready for a dry dock update, but the inside was high standard as usual. Food was decent. We did Anytime Dining so we could sit with different people each night which, I think, gives a better variety of stories. I am a fussy eater so I was glad to see that Princess has added comfort food selections to the menu, such as an Angus burger. Simple but welcome. Entertainment was plentiful but I've seen better acts. The comics weren't that funny and I didn't get to any of the production shows. The ships band (Sol Provider) was excellent. Cruise staff were great as usual. We saw the deputy Cruise Director more than the head guy but both were enthusiastic and fun. The assistants, especially the DJ were crazy (James' trivia questions were evil). Our room steward, Emmanuel, was very helpful with a problem we had with our balcony door. Ports of call included Aruba, Cartagena, the canal itself, Limon Costa Rica and Grand Cayman. We found our walking tour of Cartagena's Old City tiring but fascinating although the street vendors are quite annoying. They are not shy and will not let up. At the canal, after going through the Gatun Locks we tendered ashore to get on a smaller boat which took us through the Galliard Cut and the other locks out to the Pacific. I must say, you get a better feel for how the locks work this way. On the IP I never got the sensation of being raised even though I knew we were. On the small boat being lowered felt very dramatic. Our best excursion was white water rafting in Costa Rica. Class II rapids, so not real wild but wet and exciting. Disembarkation took way too long due to a shortage of Customs agents but I think that's par for the course. I would definitely recommend this trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Background - We started our trip by staying with people we met on our Princess Alaskan trip 3 years ago in Fort Lauderdale. Embarkation - Did not go smoothly since Island was not in its usual berth and Princess reps had no clue also ... Read More
Background - We started our trip by staying with people we met on our Princess Alaskan trip 3 years ago in Fort Lauderdale. Embarkation - Did not go smoothly since Island was not in its usual berth and Princess reps had no clue also how to handle passengers. We took our friend to do the Bon Voyage experience and a little disappointing. Short tour and waiters had no idea what our friend was suppose to receive. He enjoyed it. Island Princess - Compared to the Sapphire 3 years before, I really enjoyed being on the Island. Very convenient to find dining rooms, theaters etc. Also found it not crowded. The outside of the ship needs major painting, but the inside was clean, no wear or tear, sparkling. Our meet and greet turned out wonderful. Stateroom - Our mini suite was clean and convenient to laundry, and mid/aft elevators and although we didn't have a cover on our balcony, I had an umbrella. Dining - Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe - Food and service were amazing. Longtime Princess cruisers were disappointed with the new menus. Since we didn't know what was before, we liked the food. Absolutely the pizza. MUTS - Only got to watch part of a film. I didn't find it very noisy as people commented. I would have liked their first run movies to be on the TV in the room. Watching Love Boat is not my idea of good TV. Even though I watch football, too many games on Muts and really not enough people watching them to have them on Muts. Entertainment - Wonderful. I would have liked the shows to be longer since I enjoyed them all. I also enjoyed the singers. Service (not including dining) - Everyone from Steward, front desk, bar waitstaff, stores, room service etc. were very friendly and helpful. Dining service - We had anytime dining and chose to eat at different tables. Inconsistent waitstaff. One night fantastic service, next night, rushing us out so they could get ready for next patrons. Next night, very slow because he had too many tables and couldn't wait on them at same time. Port/Shore Excursions - Comments on another thread Summary - We absolutely enjoyed this trip and would recommend Island Princess to anyone for the Panama Canal experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Having cruised from Ft Lauderdale with Princess before the transfer to and from our pre cruise Miami hotel was exactly as we expected, just excellent. Embarkation was quick and the ship looked in very good condition considering its age. ... Read More
Having cruised from Ft Lauderdale with Princess before the transfer to and from our pre cruise Miami hotel was exactly as we expected, just excellent. Embarkation was quick and the ship looked in very good condition considering its age. Its layout was similar to the "Grand" class ships except the Horizon Court was at the front. Handy for us as our cabin was on Aloha deck right underneath. Each morning we could grab breakfast and take it back to our cabin in minutes. Whilst our balcony cabin was smaller than our previous one on Celebrity Solstice it was what we expected and a new carpet was a pleasant surprise. The new mattress however was too firm for my liking and for the first time in 10 cruises I didn't sleep so well. As expected for this time of year we had rain at some point every day but when the sun shone it was hot. This however never caused a problem regarding sun beds. There were plenty free as many people just weren't interested in sitting out in the sun. The Splash pool deck was empty and the deck area below forward of the bar and grill had only a handful of people laying out. The only time there was an abundance of people on deck was when NFL football matches were screened on MUTS. For dinner in the MDR we had a table of 8 on second sitting and our table companions were great. We got on so well we were always the last to leave the restaurant each evening. The food however wasn't so great and some of the choices were odd to say the least. The menu even had beef burgers as a meal you can have any night. I tried it one night, as the menu choice was particularly poor, thinking it would be more special than the Lido grill burgers. It wasn't! Entertainment was understandably geared to the majority of US passengers so we found the solo artists not to our liking (and not that funny). The ships dancers/singers did however a good job. The activities team tried their best to get passengers engaged but their "ultimate sailaway" party from Grand Cayman was a flop. The evening deck party however was more successful. Such a shame the atmosphere that night only occurred the once! Around the ship there were the usual Princess entertainment offerings. One band (Sol Provider) was particularly good in Explorers lounge, whilst another called Phoenix Rising were pretty awful. They were based in the Wheelhouse bar and their music just didn't get people up dancing. Such a waste of a good sized dance floor. They would also pack up just after 11 pm despite a few of us wishing to party on. In fact the whole ship became a ghost ship after 11 pm (except the casino). This despite 4 sea days and two nights when the clocks were put back an hour. Very disappointing. Apart from the inept cruise director I would say the crew were the friendliest and happiest I've ever encountered on a cruise. I read reviews stating this about Island Princess and I totally agree. Our ports of call were Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal transit, Limon and Grand Cayman. All except Cartagena I would happily return to. The hassle from unofficial tour guides and street vendors became unbearable in Cartagena. Obviously the point of the cruise was to see the Panama Canal locks and they were very impressive. We made the decision not to take a ship excursion so we could transit the locks again and that was definitely the right choice. Another highlight of the cruise was holding a Sloth. They are actually really cute and soft to hold. We met some lovely people on this cruise and our CC M&G was excellent but overall I'd say this cruise did not match up to my expectations. I would still recommend it to others though. I think we'll stick to cruising in the main holiday periods when life on board is a lot livelier. Read Less
Sail Date November 2012
Strangely, we were upgraded without request or warning from Plaza deck double cabin to Baja deck minisuite. We chose the position and location of our cabin for a reason--lower and center for stability in case of rough seas. We were ... Read More
Strangely, we were upgraded without request or warning from Plaza deck double cabin to Baja deck minisuite. We chose the position and location of our cabin for a reason--lower and center for stability in case of rough seas. We were arbitrarily put on the next to highest deck and in the most forward cabin where we felt every twitch of the wind and intermittent whacks from heavy waves under the bow. We originally wanted twin beds because each of us have different sleeping styles. The mini suite had a large bed, but with a single mattress. The room was spacious, had a full bathtub (although with repaired cracks)and a pleasant and competent steward. While towels were soft and absorbent, the tissues and toilet paper provided reminded me of something I would expect in a third world country. The sheets of tissue from either box or roll were thin, hard and non-absorbent--hardly what you expect of a first-class hotel, which the cruise line thinks it is. Lights went on the blink and even though we mentioned it, no action was taken. Water from the tap was either luke-warm or very hot--the cold-water tap, I mean. Food was good if slight in portion. On the other hand, everyone we spoke to who had used a specialty restaurant said the portions there were too much.While some passengers were a bit enthusiastic in their eating, they were able to pig out at the Horizon grill if they couldn't do so in the main dining. Coffee, tea, water and particularly un-juicy juices were available. Otherwise the hand was out for everything else--automatic tip or service charge included. Orange juice was watery from concentrate or from the bar, out of a can. Poor quality concentrate at that, for a boat that sails out of Florida. Of the few things we wanted to see on land, we looked into charges for independently arranging a tour. It turned out that one tour company could not serve us at their reasonable rate should we be staying in a hotel inland, but must book the higher priced Princess tour for the same tour company. Everyone we spoke to complained about the internet charges and the addition of another specialty venue at the $20 rate. Many complained that the port stays were too short in Aruba, Cartagena and Jamaica. I could have enjoyed more time ashore, but I realize that it would curtail the cruise line profit if I put money into the local economy rather than their pocket or in those shops they own or have an arrangement with. Princess wants to claim that we are now family and favored guests. Perhaps that would be true if vampires wanted money rather than blood. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Looking for a new cruise itinerary from a port we could drive to, we chose the Island Princess Panama Canal round-trip. The embarkation and debarkation process at Fort Lauderdale was by far the easiest we have encountered. We stayed at ... Read More
Looking for a new cruise itinerary from a port we could drive to, we chose the Island Princess Panama Canal round-trip. The embarkation and debarkation process at Fort Lauderdale was by far the easiest we have encountered. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn which provided free parking and shuttle to and from port. Our mini-suite was very nice, with full bathtub and two flatscreen TVs, fridge. Cabin attendants were efficient and friendly, but no towel animals. Food and service in main dining room were excellent. (We chose anytime dining, and did not do formal nights). Buffet was OK, but it seemed NCL has better selections. Interior lounges, theaters and other public areas were beautiful. But pool deck seemed a little drab and uninviting. Outside bars and eateries had cheap plastic tables and limited seating. Lotus pool area was much better. Shows were not up to NCL standards, and very short. The average passenger was a little older on Princess, very few in their 30s or 40s. This is not a bad thing for someone like me in his 60s. Children were even rarer, although we did have a toddler a few cabins down that liked to cry a lot. Casino did not provide a players club or free drinks like NCL. We are casino fans, so this was a major drawback. We missed Cayman due to bad weather, and Colon due to riots, but this is not Princess' fault. All in all, we would return to Princess if the itinerary was attractive, but prefer NCL so far. Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
End of July, my wife (DW) and I took our 10 year old granddaughter (DGD) to Alaska. The trip had two phases. The first was a cruise on the Island Princess, 7 days sailing from Vancouver to Whittier, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and ... Read More
End of July, my wife (DW) and I took our 10 year old granddaughter (DGD) to Alaska. The trip had two phases. The first was a cruise on the Island Princess, 7 days sailing from Vancouver to Whittier, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. The second phase was land based, traveling independently by rental car from Whittier up to Denali, then Talkeetna, then over to Matanuska Glacier area on the Glen Hiway, where our son, (her uncle) works as a guide with Mica Guides, Exposure Alaska. This report will cover the cruise portion. When DGD arrived at our house from her home in Las Vegas, we took her to REI for outfitting, as her wardrobe needed upgrading in order to travel in the places we intended to go. We bought her hiking boots and non-cotton pants and shirts in order to deal with hiking in wet conditions, which normally exist in Alaska. She already had warm clothing, and other layers. There were several good looking cruises, with Princess and others, but this one fit our short window of time the best. I used a travel agent to book the cruise, and booked the air myself, along with all the other lodging and excursion activities. We did not use any of the ship's excursions. I have never trusted airlines to get me to a midday embarkation on time, so we flew a day early to Vancouver. We arrived early afternoon and grabbed some lunch at the airport. We saw a Princess representative standing around and got some embarkation information from her. She advised us to not show up at the dock until about 2 in order to miss the crowds. We ignored that. We took a cab to our hotel (Marriott) in downtown Vancouver and after check-in, wandered their beautiful waterfront area. Looks like a lot of work has been done here. We watched the float planes come and go for a while, talked with some others we met who would be on the cruise, and found a great little ice cream store. We had dinner at the hotel and had an early evening. Wed, Embarkation Day. 1 Aug We checked out of the hotel at the mandated 11 AM, and got a cab for the short ride to the dock. Could have walked, but we had a lot of luggage. There was absolutely no crowd, hardly anyone, but they were ready to board us. All personnel were smiling and happy, and oh so helpful. I had all the docs from pre check in, and the process went very smooth. DGD was delighted with the id card, when I told her this would let you into everything on the ship. We were in our room by noon. She was jumping with glee. We had a veranda, Room B223, starboard side, up near the front of the boat, deck 11. We explored the boat, and went to the buffet for lunch. She was ecstatic. She loves buffets (she lives in Vegas). Checked out kids program, "The FunZone," she will be with the "Shockwaves," ages 8 -12. There are two other age groups; 6 to 10, and 13 to 17. Since she is 10, I gave her authority to sign herself in and out (except while in port, when adult has to sign). We got her a neck strap to hold the card; she carried it around her neck constantly. Our first dinner in main dining room was "smart casual." We had the early seating; 5:30. Two other couples. Luis was our waiter (from Mexico). He was hilarious and DGD loved him from the start. I didn't think she would want to go to the formal dining room often, but it became very important to her to dress up and go to dinner, especially to see Luis and Christina, his assistant. After dinner, went to "Fun Zone" and signed her up for chef's visit ($25) on wait list, later got a call she was on the list, and would go on Monday. We left her there, and went to the room in case she came back early, perhaps not happy with "FunZone." Not to worry. Turned out she was there constantly, and loved it. She came back about 930pm. The top sheet of the fold out sofa bed was a bit dirty, so I called for a new one. Didn't get one for about an hour after a couple of calls. Only time Princess service came into question. In all the rest of the cruise, they were fabulous. Our cabin guy didn't do the towel animal thing, but he was very attentive to our room. No complaints there whatsoever. Thur, Day 1. At sea DGD sleeps about 10 hours, waking at about 9. Upset cause Shockwave ("FunZone") starts at 9. Dressed quickly, and without breakfast, set out for Fun Zone on her own. After breakfast, DW went to a fruit carving exhibition, and I went to lounge area of Wheelhouse Bar to work on computer. Didn't buy wifi, $60 for 100 minutes, plus fee for emails, and $4 activation fee. Users were telling me it was slow, typical of satellite type service; not unexpected. I knew that phone service would be good at our three stops, so didn't worry about it. We warned DGD's parents the problems of contact, and they were ok with it. DW runs into DGD as her group were coming back from Chef's tour. Seems some one didn't show up so DGD got to go today, not next Monday. They had on chef's hats and aprons, which they kept. Later we learn they decorated a cake, which we can have tonight for desert if we remember to ask Luis. Finally got together for buffet lunch at about 1230. After lunch, decided she didn't want to go back to fun zone, so we went to 3 Stooges movie. Funny. DW joined us later in the movie, and even she was laughing. DGD is amazed that we don't have to "pay" for things. Just walk into the buffet, restaurants and movie. Formal night at dinner tonight. I wear tie, DW and DGD dress in basic black. Had a great dinner, then Luis brought out her cake. It was large, 3 tiered, decorated personally by DGD under the supervision of the pastry chef, with chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, and strawberries. It was beautiful, and we share with the others at the table, and left the rest for Luis. Returned from dinner about 8, still very light outside, saw a large number of Orca blowing and slapping tails off our side of the boat. Boat made a huge circle to starboard. Most were far away, but a few were surprisingly close. We were all very excited. When one slapped his tail repeatedly, there were lots of oh's and ah's coming from our side of the ship. Lots of us were watching from our balconies. About 8:30, DGD wants to go back to fun zone for "dance" which starts at 9. Got her formal stuff back on and off she went on her own. Promised to be back by 10. I'm a little nervous, I mean a "dance?" What would her parents say? Not to worry. It was a conga line. While sometimes we have some "issues" to deal with, she is very excited and loves to be on her own. Seems very comfortable on this ship, and says the bed (sofa bed fold out) is the most comfortable she has slept in. Seems traveling with Grandparents isn't so bad. Tonight will set clocks back 1 hour. Tomorrow up early for Ketchikan. Friday, Ketchikan Day 2 In port 0630 to 1300. Arose early, then up in the buffet, she was a real little jewel. So pleasant. I have a cough, so stayed on the ship. DGD and DW went to Totem Bight State Park. They took the public bus which stops very near the dock. It was cold and rainy. They headed back to town only after an hour, and walked around cute little Ketchikan. That girl loves shopping, and hit most of the stores. After lunch she headed off to Fun Zone for a game of Liar Liar, whatever that was. She bombed into the room about 4:30, grabbed her bathing suit and was off to see "some friends." What fun. Tonight we decided to eat at Sabbatinni's, the Italian restaurant. Cost an extra $20 pp ($10 for DGD), and the service was slow, and the food about average. Considered it a mistake to eat there, and DGD ended up a little peeved cause she missed Luis and the dining room. After dinner, she went directly to the FunZone. Saturday, Juneau, Day 3 Aug 4 At breakfast, one of the waiters thanked her for the cake from the other night that he had shared with Luis. (Word gets around.) We left the ship early, and waited for our driver by shopping in the really nice shops there by the dock. She saw some stuff we said we'd get when we returned. I had booked Alaska Galore by email (reviewed on trip advisor) for a whale watching trip. They picked us up at the dock, along with the rest of their load for the day, a total of 9 persons. We drove about 20 minutes to Auke Bay, where the whale watchers leave from. Their little boat was very comfortable, with nice inside seats, and good outside viewing room both fore and aft. Boat ride really good, saw some whales and sealions. Sun shining about mid 50's, very calm sea. Beautiful day, and scenery was really good. Got some good pictures of tails and humpbacks blowing. Tour company dropped us at Mendenhall ($5 fee). We are glad we stopped here. On a catwalk into the forest, we saw a mama bear and two cubs climbing a tree about 20 yards from us. Also a porcupine sleeping in a different tree. Below, a river was full of sockeye salmon swimming upstream. In the Visitor Center, saw a very interesting 20 minute movie, listened to a ranger talk, and tasted from a chunk of ice 400 years old. We took the shuttle bus back to the center of town ($8), and did some shopping and got a snack from a street vendor. Then walked back to the dock, and bought those few little things at the large dockside giftshop. A night shirt says "Bearly Awake," and a pair of huge slippers the shape of bear feet. At dinner, found another couple had joined our table the night before. They got on the ship in Ketchikan. Seems their flight connections got all fouled up, and they missed the debarkation. Got a charter flight to Ketchikan, where they spent the night, then boarded when the ship came in. (That's why I don't fly in to port the day of debarkation.) After dinner, off she went to funzone about 7:30 (we had to sign her in, being still in port). Bedtime she wore her new "bearly awake" nightgown and was wearing her "bear" feet. Sunday, Skagway, Day 4 No activities scheduled today, in Skagway, and it is cold, cloudy and raining off and on. Couldn't find any that we thought would hold her, including the train ride up the mountain. Woke after 8. DW an I went up to buffet, she came up a little later with boots on and ready for shore. After breakfast she went off to funzone, we decided to do laundry. Got DGD from funzone before noon, finished laundry 1245. Shuttle to town, Red Onion Saloon for lunch. Had our sandwiches and really good root beer on draught, then left. Went into all the stores, found internet cafe, had some great ice cream sitting on a bench watching the world go by, back on ship 4:30, just as it started to rain. The dining room, dressing up, and Luis and Christina have become very important. Monday, At sea Glacier Bay, Day 5 Nothing planned today due to "cruising Glacier Bay.' Very foggy, can't see horizon. DGD is off to funzone with many activities planned. About 0930, got close to one of the glaciers. Narration over ships intercom from ranger. View glacier from top of ship, in rain and fog, but can see glacier pretty well, and it calves off several chunks of ice. Later, down below in our room, ship turns so starboard side is to glacier. We can hear it and watch more calving from our veranda protected from elements. Meantime, DGD has been painting totems and working on beaded key rings. Afternoon, we went to kids talent show, put on by FunZone in the Explorer Lounge. Sailing away from Glaciers, see hundreds of otters lying on their backs in the seaweed. Last "formal" dinner was a good one. Luis in fine form. Baked Alaska. DGD went with a new found friend and family to show in theater singing old songs. Later, won a necklace with auction chips she won playing 21. "What?" Never got a good explanation of that one. I won some $$ playing 21 myself. Tomorrow, DGD says don't wake her, and ok if we go to buffet without her. At bedtime, in open ocean, and ship is bouncing a little bit, but nothing serious. Seas are calm. Rain continues. Can't see any shore line. DGD has never once indicated any touch of sea-sicknes. Tuesday, At sea College Fjord, Day 6 Today "cruising" College fjord, but not til 5 pm, our dinner starts at 5:30pm. DGD in funzone most of day, except for an afternoon appointment at the hairdresser. Yeah, that was a treat for her. DW and I packed, getting ready for debarkation tomorrow. At dinner, Luis was the star attraction. DW and I would sneak away from dinner and see College Fjord for a few minutes between courses. Very beautiful. DGD seems uninterested in glaciers, did not want to leave table. After dinner, DGD back to funzone, DW and I loitered around on deck looking at the beautiful scenery of College Fjord. Very remindful of Doubtful Sound in New Zealand. College Fjord is indeed a very beautiful and peaceful place. Almost spiritual. It is too bad we were cruising it at the same time as our dinner. If DGD had not been along, we would have stayed out on deck much longer absorbing the beauty, and eaten later at the buffet. Wednesday, debarkation, Day 7 With great protestations from DGD, got up early and debarked in Whittier on time 0845. Debarkation was incredibly smooth. Whittier was cold and windy and grey. I walked quarter mile to the Avis office (also, hardware, fishing tackle and bait, and some grocery items) and retrieved a Toyota RAV4 and returned to the dock. Loaded the girls and luggage, and proceeded to a hotel/restaurant next to the dock for breakfast. When I booked the car on the internet, Avis system indicated only full sized car was biggest available. But upon arrival, I asked and was pleased to be offered the RAV4, with 4wd. That car served us well for the next 2 weeks up country (which will be reported on the Alaska board of Fodor's forums under the user name BillJ, if you are interested). I rate the cruise in general very good. Certainly, DGD was really excited most of the time. The kids program seems well organized and keeps kids very active. We were very glad for her to have this activity each day. The dinners were very good, though not quite the quality of some other higher priced lines. But that is to be expected and DGD thought they were "the best." If you haven't figured it out by now, this cruise was all about DGD. We would have had a completely different experience if she had not been along. Not complaining, mind you. The experience was......."priceless," as they say. The buffets were also very good, and the one day desert extravaganza was over the top. We found service in all catagories very good to excellent, and universally friendly and smiling people. All in all, a very good way to see that part of Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was only our second cruise and our first with Princess. A much better cruise experience this time. Embarkation/Disembarkation and Transfers- Princess has got this down to a science. All were very smooth, efficient, and relatively ... Read More
This was only our second cruise and our first with Princess. A much better cruise experience this time. Embarkation/Disembarkation and Transfers- Princess has got this down to a science. All were very smooth, efficient, and relatively painless. There were always Princess reps available to guide us, answer our questions, and see that we got to where we were supposed to go in a friendly manner. Our luggage also always ended up where it was supposed to be in a timely fashion. The Island Princess- The ship was fairly compact and reasonably well organized. Once you figured out which elevators went to what floors, it was easy to navigate your way around the ship. The outdoor hot tubs could have been a little warmer, but were always relaxing (the indoor ones were generally crowded and noisy). Stateroom- Our deck 8(Emerald) balcony stateroom was slightly to the rear of midships. It was very quiet without much vibration (some folks we talked to with aft staterooms apparently had vibrating beds when the ship was making good speed). We had a completely covered balcony, so we could be out there in most weather. I'm so glad that we sprung for the balcony because we spent a lot of time out there watching the scenery go by (and isn't the scenery the biggest reason for going to Alaska). Our steward, Rodgie, did a great job of keeping our room clean and well stocked and was never in the way. Any issues we had were handled promptly. My one complaint was that you couldn't hear ships announcements in the room or balcony unless you had the TV on. I may have annoyed my neighbors when I blasted the volume on it when I was on my balcony. Speaking of the TV, the only channel I tuned to was the ships navigation channel, with gave constant updates on wind, weather, and the ships position. Food- We had anytime dining and were in the dining room for most meals. After consulting the "Patter" and planning our day, we always made reservations for dinner and usually got a time and seating that we wanted. Most of the staff was very good. The food was generally good and well proportioned and there was a decent variety available. As for the food quality, have the fish. I must admit that I'm a Midwesterner and am quite spoiled by the quality of our meat and the abundance of people skilled at preparing it. Some of the beef and pork dishes that I and some table mates had was not of the highest quality, but nearly all of the fish or seafood dishes were excellent. The few times that we ventured into the buffet, it seemed to be organized chaos. But the food choices and quality where fairly good. I recommend the "dessert extravaganza" that they had one of the days. The pizza was always hot, fresh, and available so I grabbed that a few times. Entertainment- There seemed to almost always something to do somewhere on the ship, if you were looking. We took in several shows, danced a lot (even took some dancing lessons),and even had fun singing in the choir. The culinary demo put on by the head chef and the head waiter was very entertaining and informative. It also included a tour of the ships galley (where 200+ people work hard to keep everyone fed). For me Glacier Bay was the highlight of the cruise. I spent all day parked on my balcony watching it go by. I even had breakfast and lunch delivered that day because I was afraid I'd miss something. The NPS guide that talked to us all day was very good and pointed out some wildlife that I might have otherwise missed. Besides all the glacier activity, we also saw whales, bears, wolves, sea otters, seals, and many birds. My only main complaint was the hard sell that seemed to come from all directions. Princess seemed to be trying to make a buck at every turn. From the soda card, the coffee card, the companion books, the photos, and all the various sales, they always seemed to be trying sell you something. The "Ultimate Ship Tour" might have been fun, but I shied away from it due to the high price. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
This was our second trip to Alaska with Princess. The first time was the Inland Sea RT from Seattle since we were newbies to cruising that time. Now being semiretired, we went northbound from Vancouver on the Island, and planned our own ... Read More
This was our second trip to Alaska with Princess. The first time was the Inland Sea RT from Seattle since we were newbies to cruising that time. Now being semiretired, we went northbound from Vancouver on the Island, and planned our own landtrip after disembarking in Whittier. Getting to Vancouver went smoothly on Alaska Airlines, Oakland to Vancouver. We had originally planned to fly to Seattle & take Amtrak, but Alaska offered a sale price that was comparable, a few weeks before, so we switched. Our precruise night was spent at the Ramada Limited Downtown Vancouver, close to Canada Place. In any other part of town this hotel would be rated higher since it has been extensively remodeled and service was really emphasized. Although there were bars on some neighborhood shops, we felt safe enough. The location was ideal, allowing us to walk everywhere we wanted, including dinner in Gastown, and to the cruise dock. The price was also right for one night. Embarkation was smooth, and sailaway was on a sunny afternoon. We met a few CCrs at the Lido Bar after Muster, but this cruise seemed to attract few folks who knew about CC. We'd rate this cruise as very enjoyable - dining room food was ok, but the menu is getting a bit routine, buffet was top notch however, as one could eat more healthy. Plus, they were creative with the theme nights - Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Mongolian BBQ, Fish Fry, etc. Cabin service was fine, with our steward leaving a couple of towel animals for us in honor of a birthday and an anniversary. Entertainment included two shows we hadn't seen - On the Bayou & British Invasion - we enjoyed both. We also were able to catch Carlos Oliver, Princess' Entertainer of the Year. We found him mildly funny, and family friendly. The other music was ok - pianist tended to country which isn't our thing. The jazz trio was very good and I wish we had spent more time where they were playing. Our cabin was fine, with the exception of a bad case of moldy grout in the tub/shower. This is the second time its happened with Princess. The last time was on the Golden. I don't know if its a ventilation problem, lack of proper cleaning products, or what, but I'd wish they'd fix it. Each time I've been told that the ship was full, and that it takes 3 days to remove, replace grout & dry. Yuck... Port calls: Since we'd been to Skagway, Juneau & Ketchikan we didn't feel a lot of pressure to get out & see as much as possible. We privately booked flightseeing in Ketchikan (how much can you do when there are 5 or 6 ships in port), took the Blue Bus to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau & did a little shopping, and walked to Jewel Gardens, the Pioneer Cemetery & Lower Douglas Falls in Skagway. We were able to take a picture of a client's grandfather at the Park Service Museum. He was one of the gold rushers who braved the Yukon Trail. The scenic cruising was the highlight of the cruise for us. The naturalist and ranger who came aboard were great, and added a lot to our enjoyment of what we were seeing. Plus, we were fortunate to see a lot of wildlife - bears, whales, seals & sea lion, calving glaciers. We felt the time we spent on deck to be totally worthwhile, even though we had showers that day. Disembarkation in Whittier went smoothly, and we were in Anchorage by 10:30 or 11:00 with our private transfer. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We liked the ship. The smaller size made it easy to get around. The staff was great. Our room steward Ferdinand was outstanding and we've already told Princess about how great he is. DJ Aris was fun. Loved our balcony room, ... Read More
We liked the ship. The smaller size made it easy to get around. The staff was great. Our room steward Ferdinand was outstanding and we've already told Princess about how great he is. DJ Aris was fun. Loved our balcony room, B645. It was the last covered balcony on the starboard side which came in handy. Food in dining room was good but not memorable. Horizon court was a little below standard buffet food (think a little below Golden Corral). I wish we could have eaten more lunches in the dining room. Desserts were really good, especially any layered cake. The sugar free desserts were as good or better than the sugar ones. Both my husband and I agreed that none of the food was memorable. In fact my best memory is the chocolate mint martini at Crooners. Anytime dining didn't work the first night at all. We waited for at least 30 minutes before even getting to the door. After that we made reservations for 7:30 or 7:45 and always got a table for 2. My big complaint with the dining room is the lack of enforcement of the dress code. We took the time to bring the right clothes. They let faded jeans/tshirts/sweatshirts in for dinner. That is not smart casual to me. Embarkation was super easy. We had stayed at the downtown Hampton inn and took the shuttle. Got to the ship by 12:30 and was on by 1. Glacier bay was cold and light rain. It took the captain longer to get to the glacier because of the ice in the water. Us hardy folks who stayed outside got to see a couple of huge glacier calving. We watched on the aft side first behind the indoor pool. Then we moved to our balcony when the ship rotated. We had calm seas the entire time except for a little bumpy patch when we left glacier bay. I saw whales, otters, eagles and sea lions while on the ship. Disembarking in Whittier was easy. We were one of the last ones off the ship because we were renting a car there. Most people were taking the train and had to get off early. We rented a car in Whittier and drove to Seward for a couple of days. Went to Exit Glacier and guess what, it was sunny again. I was really beginning to think that Alaska never got cold. We went to the sealife center too. We stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation center on the way to Wasilla and saw three baby moose. We stayed in Talkeetna one night and went flight seeing. You guessed it... Sunny and we saw Denali and everything else. Beautiful pictures. Stayed three nights in Healy. Took the tundra wilderness tour and had a really great driver. She had commercial fished for years and had run the idatarod. Saw several grizzly, caribou and sheep. Stopped at the idatarod museum on the way to the airport. We stayed in small cabins and inns that I would be happy to recommend. Negatives of trip- the entertainment on the ship was weak. I only saw the cruise director once at the chef demonstration. I have no idea what he does because his staff was at everything we went to. Horizon court at lunch was too hot to eat at if you were lucky to find a seat. That was the only place that I saw hand sanitizer and they often ran out. There were very few children on the ship compared to other cruises we've taken. We also felt very young (we are in our mid 40s). Overall we enjoyed the atmosphere on the cruise (maybe because it wasn't as hectic as Caribbean cruises we've been on). Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We are professionals in our mid-50s; I have sailed 11 cruises; hubby 6 cruises. This was our third PRINCESS cruise. Last cruise was January 2011 with PRINCESS. We used a TA for the Princess booking, which was completed August 2011, and ... Read More
We are professionals in our mid-50s; I have sailed 11 cruises; hubby 6 cruises. This was our third PRINCESS cruise. Last cruise was January 2011 with PRINCESS. We used a TA for the Princess booking, which was completed August 2011, and booked our own airfare and embarkation hotel. Ports visited: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord. Disembarkation at Whittier Alaska We spent two nights at the Hampton Inn Robson Street in Vancouver. Excellent downtown location. This hotel offers a free shuttle to Canada Place, but you have to line-up, in person at 7am at the front desk to sign-up for that same day shuttle. No advance reservation is accepted for this shuttle; no phone calls are permitted to make a reservation. Upon arriving at CANADA PLACE at 11am, we were advised by the terminal staff that the Coast Guard was conducting an inspection of the Island Princess and all boarding was delayed with no time determined for boarding to begin. We continued processing through immigrations and waited only 20 minutes before boarding. We hand-carried onto the ship two bottles of wine without any hassle. The emergency station muster drill was conducted at 4pm. For the first time ever, we were "scanned" (crew scanned our cabin keys) into the drill. Sailing was scheduled for 430p, but approximately 60 passengers had been delayed by the airlines, so the sailing was pushed back to around 6pm to allow those passengers to come aboard. We were in mini-suite DOLPHIN 415 (starboard). D415 balcony is 100% uncovered. We did not experience any vibration or swaying at any time during the cruise. There were numerous infrastructure problems encountered with D415: - Cabin toilet would not flush for 12 hours. - While showering, water stopped intermittently for 40-60 seconds. - Cabin ceiling fire suppression sprinkler head dripped into cabin intermittently. - Cabin ceiling lights turned on/off at their will. - There is no heat option in cabins; only "warmer" air conditioning that cannot be turned off. - We were extremely disappointed in the service from our Cabin Steward. It was obvious to us that he just didn't care. - Cabin Steward advised no bath towels available one day, so we went and found pool towels. - Cabin Steward left one wash cloth and when we asked him for another he said he couldn't give us another one and told us to "share"!! (we had to go to CUSTOMER SERVICE to get another wash cloth.) - As mini-suite passengers, we requested bath robes which resulted in horribly used robes unfit for wear! Requested replacements from Cabin Steward--still waiting! - Request to Cabin Steward to remove all sodas from cabin refrigerator to make room for medications--Cabin Steward told us to do it ourselves! - Request to Cabin Steward for 2 wine glasses--still waiting! High on our "to do" list once on-board was to reserve Sabatini's for hubby's birthday celebration, so we stopped by in person and mentioned the celebration when asked by the staff who then noted it. When we did dine in Sabatini's, we experienced poor service -- salads forgotten and so was hubby's birthday! Our lobster was overcooked. Loved the pasta! After dessert, as we were leaving, the head waiter stopped us and asked us to return to our table -- that WE forgot something at our table. It is then that a small birthday cake with a candle was brought to the table. We were pleased with the dining room food, available menu selections and portion sizes. The service was another story--we've seen much better from PRINCESS. Service was very slow for our table for two with a 20 minute wait between courses and dishes remaining on the table once we were finished. Formal nights were more casual than any other cruises we've sailed and we were very comfortable with our choice of sports coat and tie and shimmery top and black slacks. For the first time ever, we wore jeans to the dining room on smart casual night as it was just warmer. We try to avoid the Horizon Court whenever possible, for numerous reasons, so we ate several breakfasts and lunches in the dining room (even on embarkation day) where we had much better service than at dinner! Pool-side pizza was its usual great! There was a poor attempt to have a TASTE OF ALASKA seafood lunch buffet poolside. It was set up as though they were serving 50 people, not hundreds. We stood in a very long line for over 20 minutes without any movement (delay was due to no food in serving dishes) and then gave up. We were among dozens of disappointed passengers that afternoon! We got to only one afternoon tea, which was quite crowded and selection of yummies were extremely limited. We were so busy on the last sea day, we totally missed the Extravaganza Buffet photo session! There were numerous on-board events in addition to the constant opportunity to view wildlife and sea life. Shelley Gill, naturalist and scientist, provided numerous remarks from the bridge on wildlife sightings which could only be heard on the outside decks and one cabin TV channel. We made it a priority to go to Shelley Gill's naturalist lectures which were very informative and enjoyable. We were extremely disappointed that lectures by Shelley Gill and Libby Riddles were scheduled in the middle of Port afternoons -- such a disservice to those of us who paid for shore excursions. Disappointed yet again to discover that these lectures were not taped and not shown on cabin television, probably due to contractual arrangements with the lecturers. Port information was shown on television 530-730pm only, so we missed that also. The National Park Service Rangers provided outstanding commentary during our sailing in Glacier Bay National Park, which could be heard on the outside decks and one cabin TV channel. NPS Rangers were also available for an early morning "chat" in the Horizon Court and had a table set-up in the Horizon Court with educational materials available for purchase. This was our coldest day yet with snow flurries and temps in the lower 40s, not including the wind chill. We were happy to be able to see during our sailing PRINCESS' Performer of the Year, Carlos Oscar. Super comedian! We really enjoyed local entertainer, Steve Hites' one show NORTH TO ALASKA that illustrated Alaskan history in poetry, story and song. The production show, ON THE BAYOU in the Universal Lounge was very good and a nice change from the Princess Theater. We found interesting Alaska documentaries on late-night cabin TV channel 21 throughout the week. Recently released, full length movies were shown in the Princess theater and MUTS. Not too many brave souls watching MUTS, though! With so many activities on-board and all the wildlife/sea life viewing, we did not utilize the internet cafe, library, spa, casino or the aerobic studio. OUR EXCURSIONS: Ketchikan -- THE BEARING SEA CRABFISHERMEN TOUR (reserved through USAA Travel) One of THE BEST and unique excursions we've ever experienced! Actual "Deadliest Catch" boat from Season 2 along with crew members from Season 5. In addition to seeing "the catch" and hearing the crew's stories, we had the awesome sighting of over a dozen bald eagles soaring next to the boat to collect herring! Amazing! If you miss this experience, you've missed part of Alaska! Juneau -- MARV & HARV'S WHALE WATCHING (reserved directly with Marv and Harv) Our 28 ft boat captain, Jayleen, grew up in Juneau and knew all the good spots to see whales! Seeing a whale and her calf, side-by-side, was breathtaking! We spotted a dozen whales in the rain, fog and freezing temperatures! What an excellent adventure! Skagway -- WHITE PASS RR, YUKON SUSPENSION BRIDGE with LUNCH at JEWELL GARDEN Two-hour train ride into Canada, then onto coaches to the suspension bridge, which was a true tourist trap! The tour and lunch at Jewell Garden, in Skagway, was nothing special. All-in-all, I would skip this excursion all together at $200/pp -- definitely not worth it by the stretch of the imagination! PRINCESS certainly has disembarkation down smoothly -- no announcements -- no two-hour disembarkation briefings the day prior -- no confusion. Just a handout with details, times and locations along with corresponding luggage tags. Whoever crafted this idea should be the crew member of the year! Seemed that all disembarkation times were an hour earlier than experienced with previous PRINCESS cruises, but that is probably due to many passengers moving onto land tours and having a full day of coach or train riding ahead of them, which was our case. Upon disembarkation at Whittier Alaska, we boarded a coach at 815am en route to Copper River PRINCESS Lodge. We had a 9am "appointment" to transit the 2.5 mile Whittier tunnel, but had a slight delay due to an on-coming train. We arrived into downtown Anchorage at 1030am and was dropped off at the Convention Center by the coach driver for lunch on-our-own for 1.5 hours. Even after consulting with Visitors' Bureau specialists, we found it difficult to find a restaurant open for lunch that early and ended up at the Fifth Street Mall Food Court -- BLAH! Arrived at Copper River PRINCESS Lodge at 430pm in a coach that you cold hang meat -- it was that cold and the coach driver refused to turn off the freezing air conditioning! This lodge is the newest in the PRINCESS inventory -- 10 years old and in very good condition. Lodge rooms, lobby, restaurants, bar, tour desk, internet cafe, and gift shop all in one building. A very impressive flag lower ceremony honoring veterans and active duty members is conducted nightly at 830pm. $5 shuttle tickets available at tour desk for Copper Center and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park Visitors' Center. We had an unusual sunny afternoon (but chilly) which we enjoyed walking on short paths around the Visitors Center. We really enjoyed this slower paced lodge when compared to the other two we visited. The mountain view from the lobby was spectacular. This lodge is a super place to relax and rejuvenate! Excursion: SCENIC WILDERNESS RAFTING of the COPPER RIVER. Thankfully we were outfitted in rubber waders, boots and jackets for this float. We got splashed a couple times, but never soaking wet! Magnificent scenery and an excellent guide! We would definitely take this excursion again. Checked baggage was due in the hallway at 630am with a scheduled departure from Copper River at 8am (stragglers caused a 30 minute delay) en route to Denali PRINCESS Lodge via 100 miles of gravel roads. Looooooong day riding the coach. Very remote road trip, but we did stop at for lunch at Maclaren River Lodge, Mile 42, Denali Highway. This is basically a home that served lunch to all of us on the PRINCESS coach. Choice of either all-you-can eat soup/chili (three choices) with homemade bread ($9) or a turkey or ham sandwich with potato salad ($13). If you wanted both, $22. Canned sodas extra. Seating was family style. Our recommendation -- skip the soup and sandwich and just have the pie ($5)! We arrived at the Denali PRINCESS Lodge at 430pm which allowed us to quickly run over to the Music of Denali Dinner Theater ($59/pp) that we had reserved in advance. Great young singers/actors/actress. The pork "riblets" and salmon were served family-style along with salad, potatoes, and mixed veggies followed by a fruit crisp for dessert. Alcoholic beverages were available at additional costs only during dinner. There were "slop buckets" --metal buckets set in the middle of the dining table where diners scraped anything off their plate they did not want to eat--it was disgusting! The show was average and the meal was horrible. We would not recommend it. The Denali PRINCESS Lodge is a campus with numerous hotel-type lodges, gift shops, and restaurants. There was a van shuttle to designated pick-up sites throughout the property. Across the Denali Highway is Glitter Gulch -- a row of small buildings occupied by merchants from a SUBWAY to a tiny Harley-Davidson shop to a very tiny grocery store. Also across the Denali Highway is Prospector's Historical Pizzeria and Alehouse, which was very good ($18.59 for 13 inch Kodiak Bear pizza). Beers on tap from 10 Alaskan breweries. Ate breakfast at the PRINCESS King Salmon Restaurant where we had faster than normal service! Excursion: Tundra Wilderness Tour. Ten weeks prior, we cancelled the PRINCESS Natural History Tour and reserved through the ARAMARK website (www.reservedenali.com) their Tundra Wilderness Tour ($113.25/pp). This included pick-up at the Denali PRINCESS Lodge Lobby at 5am, but the bus never showed until 6am! The bus driver is also the on-board naturalist who excellently provided unending information and commentary as we traveled along. A nice box lunch (four large slices of reindeer summer sausage, Tillahook cheese slice, bun, condiments, bag of chips, bag of baby carrots, and trail mix) was provided along with bottle water. We traveled 53 miles (one-way) into Denali National Park and Preserve with restroom stops every 1.5 hours. We saw numerous grizzly bear, caribou, moose, and sheep. Once wildlife was spotted, the bus would stop to permit viewing and the driver would engage the bus' zoom camera which allowed showing on the on-board overhead video screen. We arrived back at the Denali PRINCESS Lodge at 2pm. We would highly recommend taking this tour in the morning if you are interested in seeing wildlife. After spending two nights at the Denali PRINCESS Lodge we took the glass domed-car train from Denali National Park Visitor's Center Rail Station to Talkeetna and onto Mt McKinley Princess Lodge by coach. We spent nearly two hours at the Denali National Park Visitors Center, viewing exhibits and film. There is small cafeteria restaurant and a Starbucks co-located with the Visitor's Center. While waiting for the train, a moose ate its way towards us at the Rail Station. What a bonus with some excellent photos!! Since the train was nearly an hour late, we all commented that PRINCESS must have hired that moose to entertain us while we waited! The domed-car train trip was spectacular, but way too short (four hours). A full-bar is available in each car and the attendant service was excellent! We ate lunch in the dining car, but would not recommend it. Once we arrived in Talkeetna, a PRINCESS coach was waiting to transfer us to the Mt McKinley PRINCESS Lodge -- a one hour ride! The Mt McKinley PRINCESS Lodge is so remote, they are off the grid and have their own diesel generators. Once again, this was a campus of numerous buildings, similar to Denali PRINCESS Lodge with a van shuttle to designated sites throughout the property. Upon arriving at our lodge room at 645pm, we found housekeeping in the middle of servicing our room and reported they required another two hours to finish! We went to the Mountain View Dining Room in the Main Lodge and were quickly told we needed reservations to be seated prior to 9pm. After some discussion and a review of their reservations and remaining availability, we were seated within 10 minutes and were surrounded by at least a dozen empty tables the entire time we dined! We identified a disconnect with our PRINCESS-reserved McKinley Discovery Flight Tour scheduled for the next morning and brought it to the attention of the Princess tour desk that they had failed to inform us how we were to get transportation from Talkeetna back to the Lodge. Their direction to us was to catch the coach from Talkeetna back to the Lodge, but it did not guarantee we would arrive at the Lodge in time to board our scheduled coach from there to Anchorage. When we identified this disconnect, the quick response from the tour desk, "not our problem" and "your tour is not refundable at this point"! Once again, we stood our ground and requested a discussion with the Tour Desk manager, who also replied "not our problem", but after we expressed our disappointment, she then made some phone calls and within 10 minutes she identified a solution, which would be a PRINCESS van transfer from Talkeetna PRINCESS operation office to a highway junction where we would wait along the highway for our coach en route to Anchorage. She assured us it would work and we tried to keep a positive outlook as we were so excited for our flight tour. In retrospect, one night, well, really it was 14 hours, at the Mt McKinley Lodge wasn't worth it and recommend this only if your schedule permits more time. We never got a chance to explore the property and our experience with our room, dining and the tour desk really was the worse experience of all the three lodges. We boarded a PRINCESS Talkeetna-bound shuttle in ample time to walk the couple blocks from the drop-off point to the Talkeetna State Airport. Once we checked in for our flight, we were informed by operations that all flights were suspended due to low cloud cover. Due to our arrangement to catch the coach to Anchorage, we were unable to reschedule later that afternoon. We were extremely disappointed but certainly understood the weather situation. It became our responsibility to take the cancellation notification to the PRINCESS operations office in Talkeetna so they could process our refund. Once this was all settled, we had lots of time to explore the quaint town of Talkeetna, where Mt McKinley climbers register at the Ranger Station prior to their trek. We had lunch at the Talkeetna Roadhouse -- very good -- interesting place! The US Post Office in Talkeetna was very useful to send a shipment home. We were greatly relieved to board our van transfer which took us to meet our Anchorage-bound coach! All three PRINCESS Lodges sleeping rooms were nicely furnished, clean and comfortable with in-room coffee maker, hair dryer, television, ceiling fan and automatic temperature controls. There are no in-room refrigerators. Our beds were also comfortable. Except for the Music of Denali Dinner Theater, the Lodge restaurant food was very good with large portion sizes. We especially liked their blueberry mojito! Upon arrival at each Lodge, we were presented with an envelope that contained our room keys, schedule of events during our stay, and our excursion details/tickets. Our luggage was waiting for us in our rooms upon our arrival. We arrived at the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage at 5pm which was a very spacious king-bed room with an excellent view. Enjoyed night-caps at their top-floor Crow's Nest bar. Our recommendations of items NOT to leave home without when taking a late May/early June Alaska cruise/land tour... Waterproof jacket/coat Waterproof hat (or hood from waterproof jacket) Waterproof shoes Gloves Binoculars Warm clothing Warm socks Your favorite cold/cough medicines/remedies (it seemed everyone had a cold!) Extra SD card for your digital camera (we used two 4GB and 1GB SD cards)   Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Recently returned from a cruise to the Panama Canal on board the Island Princess. Embarkation was quite quick ... our cabin was ready for our arrival. Lots of storage space including room for my husbands golf clubs! I asked for a foam ... Read More
Recently returned from a cruise to the Panama Canal on board the Island Princess. Embarkation was quite quick ... our cabin was ready for our arrival. Lots of storage space including room for my husbands golf clubs! I asked for a foam piece for the bed as I did find it quite hard and the pillows flat. Recently Princess has taken to having non smoking including balconies however I was disappointed at times to smell smoke early morning and evenings and of course it's impossible to tell where it is coming from. That is not the cruise line's fault as not all people adhere to respect and rules. The only fault is that their anytime dining day one was chaos. Tons of people lined up .. nobody answering the reserve line so we went to Sabbatini's. I called afterwards and reserved the same time every night of 7:15. I would encourage all to do that if you want to ensure a seat. We were two but didn't mind sharing but I found that this worked best. The ship is beautiful, clean and gleaming. But I cannot say enough about the staff. Amazing people, friendly, smiling. Made the experience wonderful. We didn't do a lot of excursions but the train ride at Panama was lovely. Organized a private tour with Lee Miles in Cartaghena with other CC people and really enjoyed it. Loved all the activities on board. Even played scattergories! Played and lost at the casino. Food was very good and improved every day. Make sure to hit the dining room for breakfast and lunches. Very nice and less noisy and crowded than the buffet upstairs. Loungers are nice .. there were of course people reserving but I would just carry some up to the very top and was happy there. Took advantage of the boot camp and spinning classes .. there was a fee but felt it was warranted to work off all the food! So enjoy .. we really did. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Travelled on Princess to the Panama Canal. Excellent cruise -- destination ports included Aruba, Cartagena, Canal, Limon Costa Rica, and Ocho Rios Jamaica. While not experienced cruisers, we have found that there are two types of people ... Read More
Travelled on Princess to the Panama Canal. Excellent cruise -- destination ports included Aruba, Cartagena, Canal, Limon Costa Rica, and Ocho Rios Jamaica. While not experienced cruisers, we have found that there are two types of people on cruise ships -- those who go to cruise and those who use the cruise to get to unique destinations. We tend to fall into the latter category and therefore don't participate in many of the cruise amenities and services. Probably something to keep in mind for those reading this review. Island Princess is a nice, well-laid out smaller ship. Because it is small -- on many of the main services decks, public hallways tend to be only on the starboard side of the ship. But, despite the ship's small size, it felt like there were lots of options for places to go and things to do. Two dining rooms, a buffet dining room, and two upscale restaurants, plus several bars and two theatres meant lots to explore. I found the boarding and disembarkation process with Princess to be outstanding. The organization of the luggage in particular at disembarkation was quite remarkable. Things were so easy to find the process was very quick. The same level of organization and order occurred for excursions. I was very impressed. The food on the Island Princess was really amazing -- we chose traditional dining and while the menu there was very good the quality of the food was quite outstanding. The buffet was good quality for breakfast although we found the crowds a bit much so we tended to opt for breakfast in the Bordeaux, where table service could be found. We ate once at each of the upscale restaurants and both were excellent. The service at Sabatini's was particularly notable -- great fun. The great service at Sabatini's aside, we found that the restaurant service in general on the Island Princess didn't match the quality of the food. We chose traditional dining because we liked the experience of getting to know our wait staff over the course of a cruise and that didn't happen for us on this cruise. The crowd on this cruise tended toward a bit older so I think that some found the night life to be a bit stodgy (but being a bit older myself, I didn't notice!). Small quibbles -- - couldn't even get a soft drink without pulling out your cruise card... we felt a bit nickeled and dimed - the photographers were everywhere! You couldn't turn around without someone from Princess wanting to take a picture of you. There must be a return on it, but we found it occasionally annoying. All in all, we really enjoyed our vacation and would recommend the Island Princess and the Panama Canal. All in all, we really enjoyed our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Island Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.8
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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