North to Alaska Sea Princess 6/12-22/12: Sea Princess Cruise Review by Retired Educator

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Retired Educator
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North to Alaska Sea Princess 6/12-22/12

Sail Date: June 2012
Destination: Alaska
Embarkation: San Francisco
We normally sail out of the Los Angeles area and drive to the port so this would be a cruise of several "firsts" for us. While not our first Princess cruise it would be our first trip to Alaska; we have sailed on the Sapphire Princess many times, but this would be our first time on the smaller Sea Princess; because we would need to fly to SFO we decided to use the Princess transfer program, another first for us... We were NOT disappointed with any of these first time experiences! From the time we arrived at baggage claim at SFO and were greeted by a warm, friendly Princess representative to the moment we were assisted to the curb side check in for our flight home Princess lived up to her motto of being the "Consummate Host".

The Ship: we had carefully checked the deck plans for the Sea Princess many months before when we booked our cruise and felt we already knew the ship. Yes, it is smaller than the Sapphire so there were fewer venues and most were smaller, but all were More clean and well cared for. Our room was located just off the forward atrium elevators on deck 8 starboard just steps from the rear entrance to the Cafe Corniche. Even though we had requested the beds be put together they had been left as twins and we actually felt it allowed more room to move about, so had our steward leave them that way for the duration of the trip. We had been told the room had a fully obstructed view; however we discovered that only a portion of the window was actually blocked by the back end of the life boat and a service platform next to it was open to provide a reasonable view of the scenery. Like most cabins in the "economy" category our bathroom was tiny, but functional; the closets provided more space and hangers than we actually needed and the pull out basket storage below the shelves allowed me to use the vanity and night stands for stuff other than clothing. Because I have COPD and travel with an oxygen concentrator that must be plugged in at night the limited outlets are always a drawback.

The Food: our boarding process went so quick and smoothly we found ourselves in the Horizon Court before noon on the first day! Only one side was open at that time and the food was just put out so it was nicely displayed and reasonably warm. Many choice tables were available to enjoy lunch while looking at the wonderful sky line of San Francisco and someone was quickly table-side to take our beverage orders. I wish I could say this was the norm for the rest of the trip, but sadly things went downhill quickly after we set sail, in our opinion, at the buffet. The Terrace Grill was calling me to try the hamburger and fries, but I think the cooks working it that first day were new to the assignment as it took forever and the burger was overcooked and the fries underdone. We tried the grill later in the cruise and, again, were not thrilled with the meal. Service in the Horizon Court was horrid after that first day with tables being left uncleared and passengers resorting to self service for water, ice tea, and other beverages. Many of the crew were simply standing around the carts chatting with each other as people walked by with full plates of food looking for places to sit. An especially large tour group seemed to take over the buffet early in the day and then use the area for games, reading, visiting and a general meeting place even during the busy breakfast and lunch "rushes" We checked the MDR menu each afternoon but really didn't find the food choices all that impressive. During the entire cruise we actually only used the MDR two nights and did the Sterling Steakhouse for Father's Day dinner with friends. We did use the buffet for dinner once but found the food, atmosphere, and attitudes of Cafe Corniche our favorite place to eat.

The Entertainment: we attended the lectures by the naturalist and enjoyed all the information she shared about Alaska (even the day her computer messed up and she had to wing it with an off topic presentation it was fun). As the contact person, aka hostess, for the M&G it was wonderful to have Captain Street, Hotel GM Richard Harry, Customer Services Director Robert Moik and Cruise Director Neil Rose join us in Razzmatazz our first day at sea. The Princess Patter had posted our little activity and we had a nice turn out, even though we were competing with several high venue activities that morning. Looking at the Patter each morning we found few activities that interested us and not being "night owls" didn't attend any of the major productions or entertainment. Larry Dunsmore was performing in Crooner's and that was where we could be found until he took his first break about 10:30... then it was off to our comfy beds for us. Between the cold and not a big fan of movies we avoided the MUTS. The few times we were on deck to enjoy the scenery and people watch the constant bombardment of sound and flashing pictures was NOT relaxing! Between our Kindles, people watching, visiting with friends and enjoying the scenery we had all the entertainment we wanted or needed. And, isn't that what a cruise is all about? Doing what you want, when you want, how you want and this trip on the Sea Princess allowed us to do just that!

The Staff: except for our dismay over what was being allowed to happen in the Horizon Court when we were there the staff on this cruise was fantastic. Our room steward was excellent, friendly, helpful and always polite. We had a favorite server in Crooners who knew just what we liked and seemed to truly enjoy his job and the people he worked with as well as the passengers. My trips to the front desk with my "silly questions" were always met with smiles, positive helpful responses, and kindness. After attending our M&G Captain Street and the other officers who attended made it a point to ask how things were going when our paths crossed during the trip.

FYI: Princess laundry rooms have been a big, positive feature for us, allowing us to travel "light" knowing we can do a quick load or two during the week. As it was our first trip to Alaska we had packed light on many items to allow room for the winter weight items we knew we would need. We DID NOT KNOW that from Juneau until after we left Glacier Bay the laundry would be closed! This also applies to the ship's laundry, so we saw more use of paper napkins instead of cloth in the casual dining options and our room steward mentioned that while there were ample linens he appreciated the fact that we used our towels for more than one time and didn't "demand" fresh sheets every day...

Looking Forward: Although Sea Princess will not be back in these waters next year when we return to Alaska we look forward to sailing again with Princess and will have to find some new "firsts" to try, because we will be returning to both Alaska and Princess! Less

Published 07/11/12

Cabin review: GG

Mid-ship location on deck 8 very smooth, quiet, convenient; our "obstructed view" wasn't as obstructed as we thought it would be, but the window could have been cleaner; close to the Cafe Corniche kitchen so smells of overcooked pizza drifted into room; crew passage across hall and access to lifeboat next to us seemed to have lots of crew traffic by room. Probably would not book this room again, but would accept it as an option to an inside room at lowest price.

Port and Shore Excursions

Mount Roberts Tramway

Because of my COPD we did not want to be locked into a fixed tour so opted to purchase through Princess Excursions on line the self guided open end tram tickets. As stated it was a very short walk to the tram base and even though my WH was carrying my oxygen i didn't need it there on the pier area. The slow ride up to the top at 1,800' was fantastic and we got several nice photographs of the many cruise ships in port that day. Once at the top I was surprised to discover that my breathing was doing fine but due to our early in the year arrival most of the trails were closed due to snow and mud. We watched the short "film" about the history and culture of the Native Peoples and saw the exhibits but had mad lunch plans for the Red Dog Saloon so didn't eat at the restaurant at the top... That can be one of the "firsts" next trip.

After our wonderful day cruising Glacier Bay we arrived in Ketchikan, our last Alaskan port. We knew it would be a tender (aka lifeboat) trip to the dock but were surprised by the somewhat small size of the harbor and the number of cruise ships already docked or anchored there. We had not booked any excursions for today, but did want to go ashore to buy the "trinkets" we would take back to those sweltering at home...hehe! We knew from the Patter and the announcements that we would need to get our "tender tickets", but those who had booked shore excursions would be first to go ashore as our time was limited in port today. We had agreed to meet our friends after the breakfast rush and wait for a tender later, planning lunch at The Fish Pirate Saloon after shopping. Even with waiting for a late tender the small boats were quite full and we were first to board, sitting down in the front. This is one day I didn't bring my oxygen and needed it! The wait while passengers got onto the tender allowed exhaust fumes to build up as the front windows were open so by the time we arrived at the dock my COPD had me huffing' and puffin'. The dock was a good 20' lower than the boardwalk (assume low tide) so we had to climb up a fairly steep ramp to reach the street level. We headed for the major souvenir shop which had an uphill slant to the sidewalk, and then stairs down to the entrance... Later we looked at a big map of the city and discovered that several of the "streets" were actually stairways! If you have any limitations with breathing or mobility this may not be the best port for you to go ashore. If we go ashore again in Ketchikan we will eat first, then go shopping as lugging the big shopping bag around wasn't easy. We had selected the Fish Pirate Saloon from an ad in the Alaskan Port Guide we had been given when we boarded in San Francisco, but it was the "first and last" time we will eat there. Service was slow, food portion small and greasy (fish and chips) for the price (2 small fish portions and about a dozen fries in a cardboard boat + ice tea x 4 people = $50.00 before tip!) After lunch I was ready to return to the ship, about a half mile walk to the dock, but our friends still had trinkets to buy so we parted company and made our way to the tender boarding area. We had to wait about a quarter hour for the next tender that could return us to the ship and again the exhaust fumes built up as it sat there putt putting while passengers loaded... One good thing about this port was that they had reopened the laundry rooms and while the ship was fairly empty we got our laundry caught up.
Read 1342 Ketchikan Reviews

White Pass Scenic Railway

The short walk to the train was a great way to start our day in port! We had pre-purchased on line the half day to the summit and back trip and again took along my oxygen as we would be climbing to 3,200'. Because it was all done sitting the oxygen wasn't needed, again! Throughout the ride we were entertained and informed by delightful, personable "guides" who told us about the history, personalities, hardships, and wonders of what we were seeing. The vistas were breathtaking and aweinspiring and we probably have about 100 pictures to select from when we put the gallery of our Alaska trip together on SmugMug later this summer. One thing I will mention is the fun game we played at the summit when everyone had to stand in the aisle and work together to flip the seats for the downhill trip back (no backward facing ride thank heavens) then being good neighbors we offered to swap sides of the train with those across the aisle from us. Going up we were on the "drop off" side, while our friends were looking at the sheer cliff faces and waterfalls. We did buy the DVD and only after we returned home and watched that did we really see just how beautiful the trip was. We were too close to really enjoy the views so to speak. It was well worth the cost for the ride and more than worth the price of the DVD! If we do this next trip we might make it the whole day experience of bus/train trip into Canada.


WOW! What a rush! This was an excursion for our guys only and they had a ball! The group was about 15 people ranging in ages from 9 to over 80. From the initial meeting on the pier, through the safety training and equipment fitting, over the rope bridges and from the first platform to the last and back to the ship it was non-stop fun, fun, fun! A first for both my WH and our good friend and they both can't wait to go zipping again! The guides were friendly, enjoyed people but always kept safety utmost for each part of the activity. They were quick to help and give advice while making sure everyone enjoyed the experience. We had selected this port as it offered the most economic zip line for the "first time" experience, and this was the one port we could actually do multi-excursions as we were there for a longer time.

We had planned to join our friends to explore Victoria on foot, but the view I got of the pier and the description in the Patter about the distance from the ship to the town (even with a shuttle) gave me second thoughts. It looked to be about a quarter mile from the gangway to the customs house, then a bit more out to the shuttle area. By this point in the trip I didn't feel up to that much walking so we opted out of the trip ashore. Our friends reported that while it was a fair amount of walking it was not as bad as I may have thought and they used the shuttle for most of the distant sightseeing. Their photographs look beautiful and I'm sure on our next trip we will definitely go ashore in Victoria. It was the first really sunshine day we had so far and it was nice to have the ship basically to ourselves. Even the MUTS was quiet! :) We took a panorama shot of the skyline as well as several venues on board. With such a small number of passengers who, like us, stayed on board it was easy to get shots of many public areas washed in sunlight without people in them.
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Retired Educator
Member Since 2012
882 Forum Posts
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