My husband and I are in our 50s. This was our first cruise on Princess. This was our first time doing an Alaskan itinerary. We've done four Carnival cruises and seven Norwegian (NCL) cruises.
We went on this cruise with friends who are in their 60s. This was their first time on Princess.
We flew into Anchorage the day before the cruise. We stayed at the Microtel hotel. We arrived late night and having had made prior arrangements with the hotel, they sent their shuttle van to pick us and other late-arriving hotel guests. Quick and easy. A nice way to end a
l-o-n-g day of travel and get to the hotel for some much needed rest before the fun of cruising began.
The hotel had a complementary breakfast buffet. Bananas, waffles, boiled eggs, cereal, oatmeal, coffee, orange juice, milk, water. Super way to start the day. We were going to walk to see the area, but quickly found the surroundings were of a neighborhood. Too far to walk to shopping or downtown, so we returned to the hotel's front desk to see about transportation to downtown Anchorage for some shopping. The nice gentleman working the desk called for a taxi to come pick us up. Later we got another taxi to return back to the hotel for getting our stuff and checking out.
The taxi to downtown was approximately $13.00 and the same amount coming back to the hotel. We added a $5 tip to each trip. While downtown we popped into an information center, then walked along the street, stopping in several of the stores there. We hit the jackpot in one store because their prices were extremely good since they were having an end-of-season sale. We bought many items and, now home, wish I had purchased a few more items. I’ll have to remember this regret next time we go to Alaska in September! ;-).
Transportation to Whittier (port) from Anchorage:
We had made prior arrangements with the company (Alaska Cruise Transportation) to pick us up for transportation to port in Whittier. We chose the option that included a stop by a wildlife viewing area. I had never seen the majority of wildlife they have, so I was looking forward to it since it might be the only time during the trip to see some of these animals. There we saw moose, elk or caribou, musk ox, bison, eagle. The stop at the wildlife viewing area was extremely short...too short for us to see all of the animals they had and go to the restroom and get a snack. So we saw as many of the animals as we could, went to the bathroom, and got a snack. I'm glad we chose the animal stop because it was the only time we saw some of the animals during the vacation. The transportation was good, got us to port safely and on time. We'd use this company again if available and reviews were still good, but we'd skip the animal stop since we did it this time.
Port and getting on ship:
Whittier is an extremely small town, with not much to do or see (at least that we were able to find before the trip), so we just got on the ship once we arrived.
Checking in was easy. There were two or three employees who made getting from the atrium and onto elevators a drawn out process. Soon, people ignorned the employees and went around to other elevators. Why they tried to keep a line and funnel people to certain elevators made no sense as it caused a back up of people wanting to get on and out of the area. Once we got an elevator, we quickly got up to our deck then cabin. This was our first time at being able to take our carry-on bags to our cabin immediately upon boarding and that was nice. On NCL and Carnival we had to wait for the cabins to be ready before taking our things to the cabin. Later, on the last day (disembarkation) we found out how Princess is able to accomplish this - you have to have your things - and yourself - out of the cabin by 8 a.m. That gives them the necessary time to prep the rooms for the next passengers. Early in, early out rather than what I was used to - late in, late out. Either way works for us.
Ship (Crown Princess):
The ship was clean and in good repair except for one area of ceiling in the Horizon Court buffet. There they must have had a leaking issue as we saw black discoloration on the ceiling, a sponge in the wooden fixture on the ceiling. We talked with one of the buffet attendants about this. A day later there was a yellow caution stand-up sign saying wet area and a bucket there. That's when we noticed the rust on the white ceiling panels. Don't know how we didn't notice the rust before then. Guess we were too focused on the discoloration and the sponge.
A nice feature provided by the ship is the kiosk where you can swipe your card and get a print out of your onboard account. The kiosk was sitting outside one of the shops. It's a great way to avoid the busy times at the guest services desk.
There is a variety of artwork around the ship. It made it interesting to explore. Some of the art I liked, some not-so-much. But it kept me happy and busy so no time was spent reading or doing my usual Sudoku puzzles. There are a lot of areas to sit in the sun or in the shade, depending on your mood or needs. I liked the large, tastefully decorated public areas and lounges. Some of the seating was on the smallish side for plus-sized people, but there were also settees, loveseats, and benches available in many of the venues, so finding a comfy seat isn't too difficult to do :Cool:
I loved the multi-layered decking outside. It made it easy to find good viewing areas for scenery, relaxing in the shade, worshipping the sun, being in the crowd, or catching a quiet moment to yourself.
The promenade deck is where you can walk around the ship on deck seven and eight. Down here you can hear the waves and get a better sense of being at sea.
For such a big ship with a large passenger count, I was continually surprised at how uncrowded the ship felt and the vast amount of open area we had out on deck much of the time and in some venues many, many times. The only times and places we found it crowded are the usual - breakfast in the buffet, maybe a lunch or two in the buffet, the early performances in the theater, and some of the lectures in the theater...and of course, occasionally in different points around the decks during glacier and wildlife viewing (but people were very good about not hogging places and would view, take pictures, then move on to another spot so others could take a turn - at least in my experience). Like I said earlier, it's such a large ship so finding a good spot was pretty easy to do. I was disappointed in not finding a shuffleboard court , though.
Our obstructed ocean view cabin was of nice size and well laid out. The picture window was larger than I expected it to be. We had found pictures of the ship's cabins on the internet and thought the obstructed view was okay, but in person we were happy to find the view better than expected. It was obstructed, but I didn't have to stand on tip-toes in order to see over the tender boat...so I was one VERY happy cruiser!!! The closet location was excellent - right outside the bathroom door. It was long, open, with more than enough hangers for us. Shelf storage above the hanging items (life jackets located here). Below the hanging items is ample floor area for luggage storage, shoes, and room for our small pop-up laundry hamper to sit (very convenient!). A storage cabinet with a door stood between the open closet and the bathroom. It had approximately six or seven shelves - the safe was located on one of them. The bathroom was of good size, a nice counter top to sit things on while showering and getting ready. Three small shelves along one side. A couple of glasses were on one and the other two could be used for keeping items in the bathroom, if desired. The shower, however, was dinky! It's adequate to shower in if you're small to moderately plus-size (which we are), but would not be fun if you are very plus-size or want to shave your legs while showering. Thank goodness I shaved them before the trip, and I’m old enough the hair doesn’t grow as fast anymore :D. You may end up bumping the walls, knocking yourself out, or covered in shower curtain :o. I wasn't too crazy about the placement of the wall bottles of shower gel and shampoo/conditioner - a little too low. The room wasn't too far from a set of elevators. There was a crew area across from our cabin door. There wasn't much noise coming from this area except for the last night when luggage collection was going on, but really the noise wasn't bad and didn't last too long into the night. Since it was a forward cabin, it was quite a walk to and from the buffet, but that can be a good thing :-) .
We ate all of our shipboard meals in the buffet this trip - excellent. We got pizza from the pizza station once - very good. They have a couple everyday selections and a third choice that changes each day. I ordered a cheeseburger, french fries, and iced tea from room service late one night - good. Hubby and I ordered a white chocolate mocha for me and a hot chocolate for him at the International Cafe - good. Lol, I had "try a Cronut" on my list of things to do on this trip, but my lazy self just never made it to I.C. early in the day to get one, so it'll be on my To-Do list on a future sailing. If I can’t wait that long, I’ve seen a poster in a Dunkin Donuts store that says they have Cronuts.
The Buffet: The variety of foods available in the buffet blew me away!!!!! They had different themes each day. There was a lot of seafood available throughout the voyage. I've always been impressed with the variety and freshness of fruit available on NCL, but Princess outdid them :eek: :Cool:!!!!! Amazing. The selection of side dishes, meats, vegetables, eggs, pancakes, cheeses, breads/pastries,......Just simply amazing! There were so many dishes I'd only seen in magazines, on television, or in recipe books, but had never made or found in a restaurant to try, but they had many of the items in the buffet - so it's not too hard to guess what I did. I tried a bit of each of them :-) . Thanks to Princess for providing this unexpected happiness! Hubby and I thought the vast majority of items we tried were very good to excellent. One of the items I wasn’t too happy with was the iced tea. I’d read posts on Cruise Critic saying the iced tea on Princess wasn’t very good, but I'm pretty easy to please, in my opinion, so thought I’d be fine with it. I'd been happy with the available iced tea on Carnival (2002-2008) and NCL (2007-2013), but the iced tea on Princess wasn’t very good. In fact, it burned my throat on one occasion, and my friend said she had the same sensation on another occasion. Weird.
We had a big problem with the heat in the front sections of the Horizon Court buffet. We could not sit in this area because of the heat. I think it was coming from the open kitchen area in the middle of the ship between the buffet lines. We found the back section of seating more cooler due to doors opening to the back of the ship deck helped
cool this area.
One note about employees we encountered in the buffets. They were the friendliest by almost always saying hello/good morning/good afternoon/ good evening when passing by each other. When entering the buffet line, greet us with a good morning/afternoon/evening, welcome, have a pleasant breakfast/lunch/dinner. Or they’d ask if they could help us find a table, or if they could carry a plate of our food to a table for us, or get us something to drink (juice, tea, coffee, water, sometimes offer to sell us bottled water), or refill our cups. Or they’d stop by our table and make observations of the day’s events, tell us about the ship, ask how our day/evening was going, ask about any plans we had for the day/evening, things to do in port, what we’d done in port, the scenery, events going on on the ship that day/evening, how their day is going, which ships and itineraries they’ve worked on previous cruises, where they’d be going after the final Alaska cruise (which turned out to be our cruise), …
We really enjoyed being greeted and returning the greetings. We appreciated the offers of help at finding tables, assistance with plates, offers to bring us drinks and refilling them. Most of all, we liked the employees stopping by to converse with us about themselves/ship/itinerary/scenery/us/previous jobs, current job, ships, itineraries, future jobs, ships, itineraries.
The only thing I didn’t care for was the amount of times they stopped by to offer drinks and refills. Most often there were too many stops. On rare occasions too few stops to our table. It reminded me of a restaurant chain the four of us eat at a lot back home. There are many times when the chain restaurant’s employees stop by the table too often, causing disruptions in the conversation and in eating our dinners. Then I got to thinking about the Brazilian Steakhouses or Churriscarias (sp?) on land and on Norwegian (NCL) cruise ships. In these, you are provided with a card that you turn up a certain color if you want more meat(s) right now or turn to another color if you don’t want any meat(s) right now. A card with service, please on one side and we’re fine at the moment on the other side might be a good thing to use in the Horizon Court. That way the tables not requiring drinks or refills at the moment wouldn’t be using up time the employees could be using on tables that would like drinks or refills at that time. Just a silly thought on my part...
I ordered a few different drinks during the cruise, with one drink being the most purchased - and purchased in many venues. The consistency of one drink varied greatly in one of the venues, and between venues. I quickly gave up ordering in the venue that had too great a consistency. Another problem across the board, no matter where I ordered a drink, was the fact way too much ice was put in the glasses. I even mentioned it to one bar tender - along with the lack of quality of the drink (way too little alcohol content, too watery taste). The drink I had so many problems with is one listed in their drink menu that can be found on tables in each venue, therefore a reciped drink of the ship’s. I expected quality and consistency with each and every one of those drinks I purchased. A shame that didn’t happen, because if inconsistency and lack of quality happened to me, it probably happened to other passengers as well. I’m sure it affected the number of drinks I ordered, and would be surprised if it didn’t affect the number ordered by anyone else if they had the same experience. I also learned quickly not to order a drink outside near a pool or hot tub. On the two occasions that I did, the drinks were not in an appropriate beverage container for the drink. I'm not into small plastic dining room cups for my alcoholic beverages. I understand the need to use plastic near pools and spas. That's fine. But give me a plastic cup (clear, preferably) of the appropriate size and shape for the drink I've ordered.
We found that the drinks were in very small glasses, as compared to NCL and Carnival, and the drinks were more expensive. Not a good value!
One thing we liked was that the staff were not pushy when it came to selling drinks (as they are on Carnival and NCL). If I want a drink I’ll ask or signal a server or go up to a bar, I’m happy with that, and that’s the way it was on Princess - cool!
Hubby and I went to a couple of comedy shows featuring Carlos Oscar. - hilarious!, a couple of production shows (Blame It On The Boogie - good, Motown - okay, if I recall the names correctly) a naturalist lecture on animals found in Alaska and Canada - very good, and Libby Riddles' Iditarod (sp.?) talk - very good.
Hubby and I enjoyed one night of the show band playing big band music in (I believe the venue's name was) Explorer's. We didn't stay to see them on another night for a couple of reasons (not able to find a seat and that was the venue that had the varying quality of drinks so I wanted to move on to another venue). One night they were supposed to start at an advertised time, and we were there at that time, but the band wasn’t. They were like 10 minutes late. Then they stopped at the set time to stop. Are you kidding? Show up late then don’t make up that time? And that became a sore point with us about the entertainment. All of the entertainers didn’t seem to play for very long periods of time considering how many hours there are in a day. Too many hours between live entertainment. In fact, hubby and I noticed and discussed the lack of live entertainment our first day or so on the ship. Too quiet, and not as much fun as the first day or so on all of our prior cruises.
Again, I’m not too picky - really I’m not - but I didn’t care much for some of the entertainers :blush:.
Some entertainment drew bigger crowds than others. Big band music (which I love, in part because it’s not as readily heard everyday) drew a smaller crowd than the 70s music show in the lounge drew - a packed house. I like 70s music, I grew up with 70s music, but I can hear that any time.
Hubby and I went to the venue holding Karaoke a couple of times, mainly because of a lack of other entertainment going on, or what was going on wasn’t up to par for us or not of interest to us. We used to like Karaoke back when we sailed Carnival, but then we came to the conclusion that Karaoke was a cheap form of entertainment for the cruise line, so we aren't into it like we used to be. The first time we stayed to hear a whopping three people sing. When they weren't singing one of the Karaoke hosts sang. The second time only one person, besides one of the hosts, sang. We stayed maybe two or three minutes. The venue was large, yet very few people were in there either time when we stopped in.
Spent a few minutes in a venue where the band Tons of Fun was playing.
Skywalkers. Nice venue day or night. During the day is great because you have all that glass to look out at the ship and the scenery. Spent more time here during the day than during the night. Night time it's dark with dim warm white and colored lighting. There was either canned music or a DJ playing in there when I stopped by for a few minutes one night. Since I'm not into either one, I didn't stay long or come back on other evenings.
Movies Under The Stars. I absolutely loved watching movies on deck on Carnival Liberty, and I still remember the movies that I watched there and when re-watching them at home, I think about sailing on the ship, watching the movies. So I was r-e-a-l-l-y looking forward to watching a movie or two during this cruise. Seemed like there was one thing or another that kept me from making it to a movie - either we were dining, or seeing a show, or I'd already seen the movie and wasn't interested in seeing it again, something else was going on, or the volume was too loud and the sound quality wasn't very good. I was determined to get to MUTS on the last night of the cruise, no matter what. The last night instead of a movie, music shows were aired. Oh well. The evening was fabulous - comfortable temperature, only a few people around, choice of chairs, so we sat there and watched a few minutes of some group I didn't know, though I think Paverotti (sp?) was to be showing. I'll just have to give it another try on a future cruise.
The entertainment was [b]not[/b] up to my wishes or expectations - too much dependence on karaoke, canned music and DJs. Playing times of music too short, and there were too few sessions of them. Either too few trivia sessions - or they were held at times when other things were going on or when we were off ship, too few movies on cabin tv playing on continuous loop, too few airings of movies on MUTS (two showings seemed to coincide with dining or other entertainment going on. Movies on television played at strange times - too early, during dining, or during other entertainment, that I didn’t get to watch any of the ones I would have enjoyed watching once back in my cabin for the evening. I found a continuous loop of a movie during one of the last nights of the cruise, but unfortunately it wasn’t one of the movies I wanted to see.
Casino. Spent some time here most nights playing slots. Won a bit, gave most back. The best night was a no smoking night. The place was packed with people. I've read reviews where people say no smoking nights aren't busy, well, this was not the case the no smoking night we went. Really enjoyed it. There were lots of slot machines, but not as many as on other ships/cruise lines I've sailed on before this cruise. Overall the casino seemed more open/uncrowded somehow, though the area where the slots I played a lot was a little cramped at times. Maybe due to the arrangement of machines there?
Itinerary: Absolutely fabulous! The cruise started in Whittier, went to Hubbard Glacier, Margerie Glacier, Johns Hopkins Glacier, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Day at
Sea, ending at Vancouver. The only way to improve it would be to lengthen the stay in Ketchikan :-). Along the way we saw whales, seals, porpoises while sailing.
Officers/Staff/Crew: The personnel working in the buffet were pretty attentive, almost constantly asking if they can carry something to the table for me, getting drinks, refilling drinks, asking how our day is going, how the day went, how is the cruise going, how did the cruise go, were we having a good time, did we see this, did we go to that, talking about something that would be going on on ship, talking about the scenery, the area, the towns, excursions, their jobs, ... The entry way attendant into the buffet lines almost always said good morning/evening. Almost every time we'd pass by an employee of the ship, the employee would say good morning/evening/hello.
Our cabin steward took good care of our cabin, provided items we'd request (supplies, towels, sheet for the bed). He introduced himself the first day and would say hi when we'd see each other. I don't know how many cabins he had to take care of, but he seemed to always be in a hurry.
Overall, there were lots of hellos, can we get you fill in the blank, can we help you fill in the blank, and general pleasantries, but there were few smiles or genuine warmth. There were a couple of exceptions, and that was refreshing - I truly enjoyed seeing these people.
I wasn’t all that wowed with the cruise director or the job he did with scheduling entertainment. Too few activities/shows with too many overlaps = entertainment missed or no entertainment to be had. I’ve said and posted that if one is bored on a cruise, they had only themselves to blame for that condition, but now I may see their side of things. I truly am fairly easily to please entertainment wise (as said by many people who know me), but I struggled this time.
Veterans Appreciation get together in one of the lounges one afternoon was appreciated and attended by quite a few former military people. We (Hubby and I) went with our friends (he retired from the military after 20 years and his wife). It was a nice touch by the personnel, the ship, and the cruise line that they provided champagne/sparkling wine for making toasts to the veterans, their spouses, the current military, and to those who died while serving their country.
Setting Out Luggage For Pick Up On The Last Night: It was kind of confusing for us as it's done differently than we'd done on Carnival and Norwegian (NCL). Instead of putting luggage out in the hallway for collection before going to bed (or midnight) the last night, we were instructed to put luggage out in the hallway for collection following evening dinner.
Disembarkation: This was different, in a way, than what we'd done before in that they provide a list of times when each color is to disembark. During the cruise a paper is given to each cabin asking what time you would like to disembark. We chose a time and way we wanted to get off the ship (late and independent, since we were going to be spending the night in Vancouver and wasn't going to be doing an excursion or airport transfer with/through the ship). Our area to wait to be called to leave the ship was in the casino. The list they provided helped us keep up with who was leaving next. Getting off the ship was easy. Finding our luggage in the port building was easy.
In Summary: I had been worried about cruising on Princess but found out that I shouldn't have been afraid at all. It was somewhat more formal than some of the cruises I've been on, but it's not too hard to fit in.
The majority of cruisers on this trip were in the mature category than my other cruises have had, but that could be due to time of year, itinerary, because we’ve gotten older.
The itinerary was superb! And boy, did we luck out in the weather department! Only a little mist or drizzle a couple of times - once early in the morning for a very brief time then clearing up into a beautiful day, and one evening while whale watching from the front of the ship during sailing, for a little bit of time then ending.
The food was of amazing variety and quality, ranging from very good to excellent (except for the iced tea :mad:).
The entertainment was hit or miss - in quality, quantity, length, amount, and attendance.
Our ship booked excursion - Skagway railroad and motorcoach was good (but I wouldn’t have wanted to pay more than we did for it).
Personnel were attentive and did their jobs. But felt they were a little cooler than what I’ve experienced on previous voyages on other cruise lines.
The ship was beautiful and interesting to explore. Just wish I’d been able to spend more time enjoying all those amazing venues and outdoor spaces. We liked everything about our cabin but the coziness of the shower (will just have to keep plugging away at the gyms or add an extra Zumba class...and remember to again shave legs before getting on the cruise ship :P).
All-in-all, it was a fantastic cruise, the only negative for me was the entertainment and I know that would most likely be different on a future sailing. And there probably will be a future sailing on Princess because they have terrific looking itineraries - and that has become one of our top factors when taking a trip.