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Introduction-This was our second cruise, our second cruise on Princess and our second cruise to Alaska. Our first cruise last May was wonderful but far from perfect. We booked it almost on a whim knowing little about cruising and not much more about Alaska. We missed so much (two ports and the glacier), a bad start made most of the passengers a little surly at best and an over tired crew did little in the beginning to improve things. On the way home, we started planning our next cruise and this is where this report really begins. We discovered cruisecritic.com and soon discovered cruise reports from our cruise. Many were totally negative. A few were Pollyanna sweet. Both sides missed the totality of the cruise. We started reading the cruise reports regularly, especially those to Alaska. We also read the Princess forum and the Alaska forum with care. We analyzed every detail of cruising and every reference to Alaska's ports of call. Soon, several consistencies emerged - itinerary is everything for the Alaska cruise, doing things on your own is less expensive and more fun, flight-seeing is a must and Alaska requires its extras. Our second cruise confirmed all of the above. We went back to our favorite TA to plan this cruise. We wanted the Coral Princess out of Vancouver in May. We wanted to see Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Our biggest disappointment last year had been to not see a glacier. This year we maximized our chances. Our TA told us we needed to book by early December to get what we wanted. This we would have done except that our best friends who hoped to go with us could not commit until January. By Mid-Jan, cabin choices were slim, but we got what we thought were good choices. Pre-cruise-We spent a week in Seattle visiting friends. We saw some of the sights of the area including Snoqualmie Falls and Mount Rainier. We went to Snoqualmie on a gloomy day. The falls were running full with spray everywhere. Mount Rainier blessed with a clear day for photo ops. We tried hard to adjust to West Coast time and did so a little better than last year. The weather forecast for Alaska's southeast coast was for rain all week. Saturday-Transfer and embarkation-On a cool overcast day, we went to the airport about 11:00 AM to catch the Princess transfer bus to Vancouver, BC. Princess had told our TA on two separate occasions that the first and last bus left SeaTac at 12:30. This, we discovered was not true. Buses had been running since 8:00 AM. We got on a bus that left at 11:45. First ding on Princess. This bus made good time to the Canadian border station. We were prepared for some wait and hassle and had been coached on behavior. There was another bus ahead of us when we arrived. Our driver said we would have to wait until that bus left before we could be cleared, but he took our declaration forms inside. He came back in a few minutes and said we were good to go. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes. Canada Place was a mess. President Bush's latest border security measures had just been implemented. Three ships were at the dock taking on passengers. The system was overwhelmed. The line was 5 hours long just to get to the first sorting point where US citizens were separated from non-US citizens to go through American INS clearance. Yes, the INS is in Canada, but I would rather see them there than in Juneau. After the sorting the estimate was an additional two hours. However, we skipped all of this. Our friend had by-pass surgery just fives weeks before the cruise, so our whole party went directly to the sorting area and directly to the INS station for those with medical difficulties. Our total embarkation time was about 30 minutes. Was this fair? For our friend it definitely was. He was tired from the bus ride and the additional wait may have put him in bed for several days. I expected that he, or maybe he and his wife, would get the fast track and that my wife and I would wait. Princess policy is that the whole party moves together. Getting through Princess registration was a snap. We posed on the gang plank for pictures and went on up. We were greeted and passed from crew to crew to our cabin where our cabin steward, Ban, greeted us by name. The cabin itself was exactly what we expected. Everything was in place and clean and neat. We asked for an egg crate for the bed and went to dinner. We were shown to a table for eight with a view and greeted by Leo our waiter and Joselito, our assistant waiter. Both proved to be funny, kind, efficient and knowledgeable about the food. Leo has been with Princess for 15 years. When Leo learned we are from Virginia, he sang a few bars of "Take me home country road." He has a pleasant singing voice. During the entire week, he always made sure we made a good choice from the menu. The egg crate pad was on the bed when we got back from dinner. My major disappointment of the day was that I was not on deck when we sailed. We were eating. The embarkation delays had delayed sailing and I missed getting a picture of the Lion's bridge. Sunday-This was our only Sea day. It started out badly for me. I wear contacts 8-10 hours per day. Other than that I have to wear glasses. So I started the day in glasses which have thick lenses which makes me a bit disoriented to my surroundings. On this day the sea was prone to heavy swells. The rolling of the ship exacerbated my disorientation and, for the first time in my life, I was experiencing motion sickness. Back to the room, remove glasses lay down for 30 minutes, insert contacts and I am a new man. I had no problems with my glasses the rest of the trip. We spent the day soaking up impressions of the ship. The Coral does not have the pure flash of the Diamond, but she is a beauty with class and overall, I think, a finer ship. The major ding on the whole trip was confined to the temperature control in the public rooms. When the weather was warm, as in Juneau and Skagway, the AC was on and everything was fine. When the weather was cool the heat was on and everyone, including me, was hot. I am extremely cold natured so when I get hot, I know that my wife is about dying from the heat.   The crew and staff were consistently friendly and helpful. The passengers responded with equal courtesy. This was a happy ship. I never heard a cross word the whole trip. We had few if any teenagers on board and only a few children and no babies so we did not experience any of the problems associated with them. The ship was clean and cleaned every day. We had no virus. Our balcony, A522 (port side) was a little disappointing. The port side mid-ship, has a monster overhang which obscures the overhead view from the balcony. This probably covers about 1/3 of the port-side cabins. One question CC did not give us was whether the electrical outlet in the cabin was a grounded outlet. It is. We came prepared with out three outlet strip ($1.00) from Wal-Mart, but my wife added a 3 to 2 prong converter in Seattle just to be safe. We did not need it. The food was excellent all week. We ate various places for breakfast and lunch but were faithful to our traditional first seating in the Provance dining room for dinner. We even got room service one morning. It was right on time. We ate Pizza which we all agreed was better than any fast food/delivery pizza. I had grilled shrimp at the on-deck seafood barbecue and it was excellent. The halibut, salmon, shrimp, lobster, and other fish were all outstanding. I had roast prime rib the last night. I've eaten roast prime rib since I was 8 years old in many fine restaurants. It was excellent. The only disappointment food wise was the beef short ribs for lunch. The flavor was good, but they were 90% fat. Our three coffee drinkers pronounced the coffee very good. The Coke card is still $22.50. The Cokes on the Coral are full strength and served in big glasses. On the Diamond, they were served in skinny bar glasses and watered down. These are differences any coke-aholic will appreciate. The entertainment was so-so. I missed Bert, at the Crooner's bar on the Diamond rocking the ship every night with "Elvira." And yes everything is still loud. The highlight of the day was our CC roll call meet and greet with about 30 people. About 10 of these were active posters to the RC. Monday- Ketchikan-We tendered to the dock which was no big deal. Our, friends, against our advice, left their Gortex wind breakers on the ship. As soon as we hit the dock, the wind came up and the rain came down. We left them to their own devices, at their insistence and charged off toward Creek Street. We did an excursion last year that took most of our time in K. This year we decided to walk the town and we did from one end to the other. We toured Dolly's house. This is a good $5.00 excursion. It is probably the only museum around decorated with hand made French Silk flowers made from condoms. Last year, I bought one of those fur hats (rabbit) with the pull down ear flaps for $35.00 US in Carcross, YT. This year I saw one in K for $295.00 made from beaver. The rain stopped in about 30 minutes and we had cloudy with showers the rest of the day. When the rain stopped we took pictures. When it came we tucked the cameras into our Gortex, and had a good time. Our excursion for the day was to eat lunch at Annabelle's in the restored hotel. The food was wonderful. When we got back to the ship, we found out that our friends had a good time on their own, but they never left the ship again without their Gortex. Tuesday- Juneau-The highlight of the day and of the week was our flight-seeing salmon bake at Taku Lodge. Flying conditions and photography light were perfect. The food was wonderful and in the middle of lunch someone cried bear and emptied the room in about 5 seconds. Scarface (resident bear) has not showed up this year. He was/is an old bear and may not have survived the winter, but there are still bears after the drippings. We had a flawless view of the hole-in-the-wall glacier. When we got back, I walked back to the ship by way of a couple of book stores and made my contribution to the city's economy. Wednesday-Skagway-We took Budget Queen's advice and rented a car and took off for Emerald Lake and the Cinnamon Cache Bakery. The car was a dream. We took four people to the Yukon for $25 each. Avis opened a few minutes early and we were on our way to the Yukon by 8:02 AM. We stopped at every pull off. We shopped at Carcross. We saw the lake and ate cinnamon buns and beef stew. We got back to Skagway in time to shop, turn in the car, and get back to our 5:45 PM dinner. We thought we might miss dinner this one time, but once we met the Ladies, dinner was not to missed for any reason short of health. Thursday-Glacier Bay-We saw four glaciers. Lamplugh, with its gushing mouth and Margerie, with its calving were the most interesting. A bridge game took up most of the afternoon. Friday-College Fjord and farewell to the Ladies-College Fjord was more beautiful than Glacier Bay at least in this week. There were Bergie Bits all over and the water was glassy smooth. The only drawback was that dinner was served during our time in the Fjord. So we interrupted the photo shoot for roast prime, baked Alaska and farewell to the Ladies. The four of us were partnered with four utterly charming, wonderfully entertaining and most gracious widow ladies from England. Each dinner brought the eight of us more in tune with each other. There were group photos, hugs all around, and a few tears when it was over. I shall never forget these ladies - all grandmothers and two great-grand mothers. All vigorous and cheerful. They may be riding off into the sunset of life, but they are doing it with grace and style and apologies to no one. This is traditional dining as I understand it should be. Saturday-Disembarkation-The process went smoothly on ship. We stepped off into the rain and straight onto the bus. Thanks to CC, we sat on the left side of the bus and saw what there was to see. The tide was going out so we saw a lot of mud. We got to the airport, picked up our luggage from Princess and checked it at Northwest. You can check bags 24 hours in advance in Anchorage. We rented a car and went down town or tried to. This was a big mistake. If you want to do down town, do it on foot. We did find the Ulu factory and bought for everyone on our list. There is no parking anywhere. We ended up going to several parks which was fun. Clouds broke up about 8:00PM and we saw Denali. By force of circumstances, we took the red-eye home. Never again. We got home to tired to even think. Afterthoughts-Everyone should go to Alaska. The land rejuvenates the soul. On a scale of 1-10, this rates about a 9.98. If we had been midship on Baja and the AC had been on the public rooms the whole cruise, it would have been a solid 10. The most subtle of the highlights came on Friday at lunch. Our traveling companions started the trip with mixed feelings. For her, it was her dream to cruise Alaska. He was going only to please her. At lunch that last day, he stated strongly that “I do believe that this has been the best week of my life.” That’s Alaska.

Coral Princess - Alaska

Coral Princess Cruise Review by James North

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: May 2005
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
Introduction-This was our second cruise, our second cruise on Princess and our second cruise to Alaska.
Our first cruise last May was wonderful but far from perfect. We booked it almost on a whim knowing little about cruising and not much more about Alaska. We missed so much (two ports and the glacier), a bad start made most of the passengers a little surly at best and an over tired crew did little in the beginning to improve things. On the way home, we started planning our next cruise and this is where this report really begins.
We discovered cruisecritic.com and soon discovered cruise reports from our cruise. Many were totally negative. A few were Pollyanna sweet. Both sides missed the totality of the cruise. We started reading the cruise reports regularly, especially those to Alaska. We also read the Princess forum and the Alaska forum with care. We analyzed every detail of cruising and every reference to Alaska's ports of call.
Soon, several consistencies emerged - itinerary is everything for the Alaska cruise, doing things on your own is less expensive and more fun, flight-seeing is a must and Alaska requires its extras. Our second cruise confirmed all of the above.
We went back to our favorite TA to plan this cruise. We wanted the Coral Princess out of Vancouver in May. We wanted to see Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Our biggest disappointment last year had been to not see a glacier. This year we maximized our chances. Our TA told us we needed to book by early December to get what we wanted. This we would have done except that our best friends who hoped to go with us could not commit until January. By Mid-Jan, cabin choices were slim, but we got what we thought were good choices.
Pre-cruise-We spent a week in Seattle visiting friends. We saw some of the sights of the area including Snoqualmie Falls and Mount Rainier. We went to Snoqualmie on a gloomy day. The falls were running full with spray everywhere. Mount Rainier blessed with a clear day for photo ops. We tried hard to adjust to West Coast time and did so a little better than last year. The weather forecast for Alaska's southeast coast was for rain all week.
Saturday-Transfer and embarkation-On a cool overcast day, we went to the airport about 11:00 AM to catch the Princess transfer bus to Vancouver, BC. Princess had told our TA on two separate occasions that the first and last bus left SeaTac at 12:30. This, we discovered was not true. Buses had been running since 8:00 AM. We got on a bus that left at 11:45. First ding on Princess. This bus made good time to the Canadian border station. We were prepared for some wait and hassle and had been coached on behavior. There was another bus ahead of us when we arrived. Our driver said we would have to wait until that bus left before we could be cleared, but he took our declaration forms inside. He came back in a few minutes and said we were good to go. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes.
Canada Place was a mess. President Bush's latest border security measures had just been implemented. Three ships were at the dock taking on passengers. The system was overwhelmed. The line was 5 hours long just to get to the first sorting point where US citizens were separated from non-US citizens to go through American INS clearance. Yes, the INS is in Canada, but I would rather see them there than in Juneau. After the sorting the estimate was an additional two hours. However, we skipped all of this. Our friend had by-pass surgery just fives weeks before the cruise, so our whole party went directly to the sorting area and directly to the INS station for those with medical difficulties. Our total embarkation time was about 30 minutes. Was this fair? For our friend it definitely was. He was tired from the bus ride and the additional wait may have put him in bed for several days. I expected that he, or maybe he and his wife, would get the fast track and that my wife and I would wait. Princess policy is that the whole party moves together. Getting through Princess registration was a snap.
We posed on the gang plank for pictures and went on up. We were greeted and passed from crew to crew to our cabin where our cabin steward, Ban, greeted us by name. The cabin itself was exactly what we expected. Everything was in place and clean and neat. We asked for an egg crate for the bed and went to dinner. We were shown to a table for eight with a view and greeted by Leo our waiter and Joselito, our assistant waiter. Both proved to be funny, kind, efficient and knowledgeable about the food. Leo has been with Princess for 15 years. When Leo learned we are from Virginia, he sang a few bars of "Take me home country road." He has a pleasant singing voice. During the entire week, he always made sure we made a good choice from the menu. The egg crate pad was on the bed when we got back from dinner.
My major disappointment of the day was that I was not on deck when we sailed. We were eating. The embarkation delays had delayed sailing and I missed getting a picture of the Lion's bridge.
Sunday-This was our only Sea day. It started out badly for me. I wear contacts 8-10 hours per day. Other than that I have to wear glasses. So I started the day in glasses which have thick lenses which makes me a bit disoriented to my surroundings. On this day the sea was prone to heavy swells. The rolling of the ship exacerbated my disorientation and, for the first time in my life, I was experiencing motion sickness. Back to the room, remove glasses lay down for 30 minutes, insert contacts and I am a new man. I had no problems with my glasses the rest of the trip.
We spent the day soaking up impressions of the ship. The Coral does not have the pure flash of the Diamond, but she is a beauty with class and overall, I think, a finer ship. The major ding on the whole trip was confined to the temperature control in the public rooms. When the weather was warm, as in Juneau and Skagway, the AC was on and everything was fine. When the weather was cool the heat was on and everyone, including me, was hot. I am extremely cold natured so when I get hot, I know that my wife is about dying from the heat.
 
The crew and staff were consistently friendly and helpful. The passengers responded with equal courtesy. This was a happy ship. I never heard a cross word the whole trip. We had few if any teenagers on board and only a few children and no babies so we did not experience any of the problems associated with them. The ship was clean and cleaned every day. We had no virus.
Our balcony, A522 (port side) was a little disappointing. The port side mid-ship, has a monster overhang which obscures the overhead view from the balcony. This probably covers about 1/3 of the port-side cabins. One question CC did not give us was whether the electrical outlet in the cabin was a grounded outlet. It is. We came prepared with out three outlet strip ($1.00) from Wal-Mart, but my wife added a 3 to 2 prong converter in Seattle just to be safe. We did not need it.
The food was excellent all week. We ate various places for breakfast and lunch but were faithful to our traditional first seating in the Provance dining room for dinner. We even got room service one morning. It was right on time. We ate Pizza which we all agreed was better than any fast food/delivery pizza. I had grilled shrimp at the on-deck seafood barbecue and it was excellent. The halibut, salmon, shrimp, lobster, and other fish were all outstanding. I had roast prime rib the last night. I've eaten roast prime rib since I was 8 years old in many fine restaurants. It was excellent. The only disappointment food wise was the beef short ribs for lunch. The flavor was good, but they were 90% fat. Our three coffee drinkers pronounced the coffee very good.
The Coke card is still $22.50. The Cokes on the Coral are full strength and served in big glasses. On the Diamond, they were served in skinny bar glasses and watered down. These are differences any coke-aholic will appreciate.
The entertainment was so-so. I missed Bert, at the Crooner's bar on the Diamond rocking the ship every night with "Elvira." And yes everything is still loud.
The highlight of the day was our CC roll call meet and greet with about 30 people. About 10 of these were active posters to the RC.
Monday- Ketchikan-We tendered to the dock which was no big deal. Our, friends, against our advice, left their Gortex wind breakers on the ship. As soon as we hit the dock, the wind came up and the rain came down. We left them to their own devices, at their insistence and charged off toward Creek Street. We did an excursion last year that took most of our time in K. This year we decided to walk the town and we did from one end to the other. We toured Dolly's house. This is a good $5.00 excursion. It is probably the only museum around decorated with hand made French Silk flowers made from condoms. Last year, I bought one of those fur hats (rabbit) with the pull down ear flaps for $35.00 US in Carcross, YT. This year I saw one in K for $295.00 made from beaver. The rain stopped in about 30 minutes and we had cloudy with showers the rest of the day. When the rain stopped we took pictures. When it came we tucked the cameras into our Gortex, and had a good time. Our excursion for the day was to eat lunch at Annabelle's in the restored hotel. The food was wonderful. When we got back to the ship, we found out that our friends had a good time on their own, but they never left the ship again without their Gortex.
Tuesday- Juneau-The highlight of the day and of the week was our flight-seeing salmon bake at Taku Lodge. Flying conditions and photography light were perfect. The food was wonderful and in the middle of lunch someone cried bear and emptied the room in about 5 seconds. Scarface (resident bear) has not showed up this year. He was/is an old bear and may not have survived the winter, but there are still bears after the drippings. We had a flawless view of the hole-in-the-wall glacier.
When we got back, I walked back to the ship by way of a couple of book stores and made my contribution to the city's economy.
Wednesday-Skagway-We took Budget Queen's advice and rented a car and took off for Emerald Lake and the Cinnamon Cache Bakery. The car was a dream. We took four people to the Yukon for $25 each. Avis opened a few minutes early and we were on our way to the Yukon by 8:02 AM. We stopped at every pull off. We shopped at Carcross. We saw the lake and ate cinnamon buns and beef stew. We got back to Skagway in time to shop, turn in the car, and get back to our 5:45 PM dinner. We thought we might miss dinner this one time, but once we met the Ladies, dinner was not to missed for any reason short of health.
Thursday-Glacier Bay-We saw four glaciers. Lamplugh, with its gushing mouth and Margerie, with its calving were the most interesting. A bridge game took up most of the afternoon.
Friday-College Fjord and farewell to the Ladies-College Fjord was more beautiful than Glacier Bay at least in this week. There were Bergie Bits all over and the water was glassy smooth. The only drawback was that dinner was served during our time in the Fjord. So we interrupted the photo shoot for roast prime, baked Alaska and farewell to the Ladies. The four of us were partnered with four utterly charming, wonderfully entertaining and most gracious widow ladies from England. Each dinner brought the eight of us more in tune with each other. There were group photos, hugs all around, and a few tears when it was over. I shall never forget these ladies - all grandmothers and two great-grand mothers. All vigorous and cheerful. They may be riding off into the sunset of life, but they are doing it with grace and style and apologies to no one. This is traditional dining as I understand it should be.
Saturday-Disembarkation-The process went smoothly on ship. We stepped off into the rain and straight onto the bus. Thanks to CC, we sat on the left side of the bus and saw what there was to see. The tide was going out so we saw a lot of mud. We got to the airport, picked up our luggage from Princess and checked it at Northwest. You can check bags 24 hours in advance in Anchorage.

We rented a car and went down town or tried to. This was a big mistake. If you want to do down town, do it on foot. We did find the Ulu factory and bought for everyone on our list. There is no parking anywhere.
We ended up going to several parks which was fun. Clouds broke up about 8:00PM and we saw Denali.
By force of circumstances, we took the red-eye home. Never again. We got home to tired to even think.
Afterthoughts-Everyone should go to Alaska. The land rejuvenates the soul. On a scale of 1-10, this rates about a 9.98. If we had been midship on Baja and the AC had been on the public rooms the whole cruise, it would have been a solid 10. The most subtle of the highlights came on Friday at lunch. Our traveling companions started the trip with mixed feelings. For her, it was her dream to cruise Alaska. He was going only to please her. At lunch that last day, he stated strongly that “I do believe that this has been the best week of my life.” That’s Alaska.
James North’s Full Rating Summary
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