This is our first holiday that has been to a country less than warm but it was such a brilliant adventure.
Sea princess is one of the smaller ships but that just means it is less likely that you will get lost on it. Excellent service and spotlessly clean, with good amenities and lovely staff. Get a soft drinks package to keep down bar costs and take your own booze in your suitcase. All paperwork says you shouldn't but everyone does.
It is not widely advertised, for obvious reasons, but you can ask at reception on the first day to have the automatic tips taken off your account. Otherwise they add on 15 pounds a day each on top of your room bill. Just tell them you want the freedom to add on your own tips at the end. Princess shouldn't guilt trip everyone into the tips package by saying it means the back staff are all included. Perhaps they should pay them enough in the first place, so they are not reliant on tips. My only complaint!
Wifi access is easy but make sure you log out after each use. The speed of connection is best when in port but there is plenty of free wifi in the local bars, as long as you have a drink which is no great hardship!
Massively expensive through the cruise line when you can often do the same thing locally, which also helps the local economy.
Ketchikan - lovely, small town, really easy to get around. Walk round creek street and see the seals up close, swimming around in the creek. You can pick up deadliest catch and ice road truckers silly stuff from here. It is the best place to buy souvenirs. There is a vernicular cable car up to the hill, where there is a lovely hotel, with free wifi and bar, gives great views of the ship and surrounding area. Only costs a dollar each!
Definitely go to the lumberjack show, really entertaining. We bought our tickets on line a month before, but you can just pop into the shop and buy on the day. They have their own website and there are two or three shows a day, depending on the month. It is covered and heated, although the weather was sunny and quite warm when we went. Often rainy so I hear from the locals.
Juneau - mendenhall glacier is a must but really easy to get there yourself. There is an eight dollar bus, each, each way, from the port, which takes you straight to the glacier. We got the local bus which gave a great tour of the area, we got to speak to local people who were exceptionally friendly and helpful and it was two dollars each, each way. Ask at the tourist info booth on the port. It meant a mile walk from the bus stop to the glacier but the views were magnificent, and we saw a black bear. Once there, most people take the nugget falls trail which is a mile and a half easy walk and takes you right up to the beautiful waterfall which is next to the glacier. absolutely breathtaking. We compared notes with a couple who had paid for the ship excursion and for the same outing it had cost them over a hundred pounds each. It is free to get into the glacier park.
Haines - not all ships stop here because there is only room for one ship. They usually only get one a week. The town is a mile or so easy walk, though the hammer museum is up a steep hill. It is 3 dollars each and is really someone's front room, but a silly fun way to spend a few minutes, and the owners are really friendly and enthusiastic. Our main trip was with the rainbow tours company, an impromptu booking when we arrived. They are just opposite the dock. It was 60 dollars each for an hour and a half in a mini bus to go round along the river and to chilkoot lake. Stunning scenery. There were 8 on the bus which gave everyone plenty of room. It was brilliant. We saw lots of eagles and a grizzly bear fishing in the river, only 15 feet away from us. You get out of the bus but have to stay close for obvious reasons! See YouTube clip grizzly bear in Haines. Thrilled we did it. Someone we met, also watching the bear, who had taken the princess tour for half a day said this was the best part of it. We felt really lucky but actually I hear it is quite common to see grizzlies, because the salmon are coming home to spawn in the summer.
Tracy arm fjord scenic cruising- put lots of jumpers on if you are going to stand outside for the full 5 hours. Beautiful, and so interesting. There was, however, so much ice in the water that we couldn't get too close to the sawyer glacier. There was a seal on an iceberg! I've heard that glacier bay, which is the alternative route, is better obviously for glaciers so if you want to see one calving that might be best, but it didn't spoil our holiday. It was the only time we were cold on holiday, but well worth it.
Victoria, Canada - we pre booked a killer whale watching trip from home on the Internet which was easy. All companies do similar things and work together to find the whales. We went with orca spirit, on a ten seater zodiac speed boat. It was exhilarating but not for the faint hearted although the two kids on board had a great time. Tie your hair back and wear sun glasses. They provide big waterproof overalls which keep you warm, but wear a big jumper underneath too. We saw about eight whales really close. One came up to our boat, and we saw sealions on the way home. Some companies will send a taxi to pick you up from the port. It is walkable but might not be so easy to find. We only had half a day here so there was some concern about getting back in time for the shop but our trip was 9am til 12, with the ship leaving at 2pm. If you are unsure, you might like to book through princess, because they will wait for you if you are late. Prices for this are similar but the smaller boats are so much more fun and easier to see from. It was 100 dollars each to do it independently.
There are whale watching trips from each stop, depending on what type you want to see. But we saw hump back whales from the princess ship, the captain told us over the loudspeaker so for us lazy whale spotters we didnt have to stare at the sea for hours! This is quite regular as we sail through their feeding grounds. We also saw dolphins and porpoises from the ship. I recommend the lectures by the naturalist, really informative and gives you an idea of what to look for and when.
Our port was San Francisco. We did the open top bus, walked over golden gate bridge and went to Alcatraz which by far was the best trip here. It was colder than Alaska in the fog but had its sunny moments. You will only need a big jumper for most of this trip and lots of the time people were walking round in t shirts and jeans. There are 15000 homeless people in San Fran so be prepared, it is like most big cities in that respect. Pier 39 is the best touristy place to eat and drink and has lots of sealions. We stayed at the wharf inn for a night before our trip and three days afterwards. It was one of the cheaper places, bit grubby from the outside but nice rooms. Free wifi and parking which is a big deal in the city, really helpful staff and clean inside. A motel rather than a nice hotel, but was a five minute walk from pier 39 and the ship so we wheeled our suitcases to and from the boat. From the airport a taxi was 50 dollars and about 30 mins. Princess recommended Mark Hopkins intercontinental on nob hill, but that is near the big expensive stores and would be a taxi to the piers. Nice area though.
A347 great to be on this side of the ship for all ports of call. Good to be near the top of the ship so we could walk up the stairs to breakfast and deck, and not have to use lifts which were busy. Balcony lovely and sheltered but plenty of space. Wardrobe area not spacious but it's a ship! Bathroom small but spotless. Near stairs and lifts so useful.
Booked six months before our trip because they sell out quickly and don't operate every day, certainly if you want an evening tour. Ours was moved from evening to daytime because they had a function on! Best thing to do in San Fran, and interesting boat trip out with great views of the city too. Get your tickets online with Alcatraz tours and pick up your tickets when you get there.View All 41 Alcatraz Reviews
Really interesting, and good for adults and kids. Buy your tickets from the pier. You can combine attractions tickets to save money.View All 1 Aquarium of the Bay Reviews
Went through Chinatown on open top bus. Wouldn't bother going as a separate trip.View All 3 Chinatown Reviews
Touristy but felt safe and was fun. Great restaurants, especially seafood. And fun shops to look round.View All 6 Fisherman's Wharf Reviews
Bay bridge looks nicer but you've got to go, haven't you! We walked along the bridge. It was really foggy and so we couldn't see the top. The open top bus takes you across the bridge. Good view of the bay, and we saw sealions and whales.View All 9 Golden Gate Bridge Reviews
Get note us with a live guide. They leave from outside the wharf inn hotel, another good reason to stay there. Takes an hour and a half to get rou d San Fran.View All 12 Motorcoach Tour Reviews
So easy to walk around creek streets your own. See main review.View All 64 City Tour Reviews
Best thing to do if you are staying in Ketchikan. See main review.View All 333 Lumberjack Show Reviews
Awesome trip to mendenhall, done independently. See main reviewView All 971 Mendenhall Glacier Reviews
Booked with orca spirit. Brilliant. See main reviewView All 53 Whale Watching Reviews