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Intro First, a little background info. My wife and I have sailed on Celebrity, HAL, RCCL, NCL, and Carnival. This would be my ninth cruise and my wife's eighth and our first on Princess. The Coral did not disappoint. Alaska was pretty spectacular, too. Overall, we would rate Princess tied for second with RCCL and HAL. Princess fans do not take this the wrong way. It was a great cruise. I would not hesitate to sail Princess again. We really had a great time. Here is the review of our June 11-18, 2007 cruise of Alaska aboard the Coral Princess: Flight to: We had a direct flight from Cincinnati to Anchorage. Since 9/11, flying has become a monumental hassle. Going through security, the TSA inspected our bags for liquids. The TSA found that the liquids were not in a quart size bag and proceeded to 'shop' through our stuff and took out one tube of toothpaste (we had three), shaving cream, eye drops, and a stick of deodorant. The guy was nice enough. He let us keep 90% of the stuff we had. We had nice talk about Alaska since he just got back a couple weeks prior but what he took and what he let us take made no sense. Anyway, the flight was on time which is a blessing in this day and age. We packed really light and had only carry-on bags which made getting out of the airport and into a taxi very easy and quick. Anchorage We checked into the Extended Stay Deluxe on 8th street. We stayed here for two nights and, thanks to CC, got it for $36/nt! We thought, for sure, it would be a fleabag but it was really quite nice. The service was great. The room had a kitchenette and was clean and comfortable. The first night we got a pizza, ate half, and put the rest in the fridge for dinner the next night. We went to bed and got up at 3am and took a walking tour of downtown Anchorage. Believe it or not, there were quite a few people out walking around at that time of day. We walked the coastal trail and then headed back for a delicious continental breakfast at 530am. The Extended Stay had those make-it-yourself waffle makers of which we took full advantage. Yummy! At 640am, we met Talkeetna Aero at Merrell Field for our flight to Denali. The Extended Stay has a shuttle but did not have a driver so they paid for the taxi over to Merrell Field. What service! Talkeetna Aero Talkeetna Aero Taxi arrived at Merrell Field where four others, my wife and I met them for our flight to Denali. At 7am, on a crystal clear Sunday morning(June 10), we took off. Denali, the mountain, was out in all her glory. Even the pilots were impressed with the visibility. We felt very fortunate, indeed. We landed in Talkeetna where we changed pilots and took off for Denali NP. On the way, we got even more great views of the mountain and tons of photographs. On the shuttle from the airport to the NP, we were given our tickets for bus tour to Fish Creek. After our tour of the NP, Talkeetna Aero picked us up and we were flown over the summit of The Great One. It was absolutely spectacular. Words can not do it justice so I won't even try but it is must-do experience. I will say that Denali, the mountain, tends to be on the shy side but on this day she was feeling pretty good, obviously. Denali NP We took the 8-hour trip (4 hours one way) to Fish Creek. Again, the day was stunning in its beauty. However, according to our bus driver, the animals prefer to stay hidden on sunny days. Elton, our driver, was supremely excellent, informative, and funny. We saw a willow ptarmigan (state bird of Alaska), ravens, caribou, sheep, snowshoe hares. On our return, our bus would not start at the final rest stop so we had to jump onto another bus. Fortunately, it was on this bus that we saw the wildlife highlight of the day...a wolf walking down the road with the head of a moose calf in his jaws. Either he scavenged off a grizzly kill or his pack took it down. I bet mama moose was not too happy. Unfortunately, I missed the shot. This trip gave me a new appreciation for wildlife photographers. We got back to Anchorage around 830pm. We warmed up the pizza and went to bed. Whittier After a delicious waffle breakfast, we checked out of the Extended Stay and were picked up by the Alaskan Leopard Comedy Tour bus. Digging around their website, I found that we could buy just a transfer from Anchorage to Whittier for $26/pp. It was a great deal. The driver picked us up at 7am, filled up with gas and headed for Whittier. We were the only passengers on the bus so we had a great conversation with the driver. The driver was the brother of the owner, Trapper Tom, and is a retired director in the Anchorage Public schools. His wife is a retired Air Force pilot. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the tunnel to open. Once we got through the tunnel and parked, we walked over to Alaska Sea Kayak where we had reservations for a three- hour kayak tour of Prince William Sound. Tammy was our own private guide since we had booked independently. There was another tour that was taking this excursion but it was ship sponsored. It was a good sized crowd with two guides. We checked out a few inlets, coves, waterfalls and kittiwake rookery where thousands of these black footed seagulls hatch their young. Up to this point, it had been an incredible vacation and we hadn't even gotten on the ship yet. We finished our kayaking trip around 130pm. We grabbed our bags and walked over to the ship. Embarkation Simply the best embarkation we ever experienced. I think it helped we were the only two getting on the ship when we walked into port facility. It was great. We were on the ship in less that 10 minutes. Princess crew were stationed on each floor and in the elevator to assist passengers in finding their cabin. We met our room steward, Twatchna, who was consistently excellent throughout our cruise. He was a very sweet man who introduced us to our cabin. He did a great job. Cabin We were in C304, a port side balcony. Compared to the cabin we had on the Celebrity Century in April, this room was palatial. We liked the light colors and mirrors that really made it seem roomy. It had plenty of storage space, too. We liked how the closets were open with REGULAR hangars. A true luxury. The safe uses a four digit code rather than a magnetized key card which we liked. I know a lot of people dislike the beds but I found them quite comfortable. Our two beds were pushed together so seamlessly, I thought they were a double bed. Our only complaint about the cabin was the size of the shower and shower curtain. The shower was the smallest we have encountered and I don't know how anyone with any size could feel comfortable in it. My wife and I are both average size and we thought it was small. Second, it is so small and the shower curtain so inadequate that it was impossible not to get water on the floor. Another complaint was the balcony glass was so dirty, it was difficult to see through. We washed it which improved the visibility a bunch. The chairs were very comfortable. They were so comfortable that we brought them inside to sit on while we looked out. Ship We loved the ship. However, for whatever reason, I never got my bearings. I was constantly going the wrong way. On some parts of the ship, it was difficult to get from one end to the other. Food The food was ok. It has been said on these boards numerous times that food is subjective so take this for what its worth. We ate in the Horizon Court every morning for breakfast. We got up around 430am every day. One thing we liked about Princess is that they started the continental breakfast portion at 4am. We stuck with the cereal, fruit and pastries which were quite good. On a couple of occasions, we needed a second breakfast which consisted of French toast or oatmeal which were fine tasting. The traffic flow of the Horizon Court is terrible. Do you stand in line or can you go from station to station? It was the worst set up on any ship we have sailed. The lunches in the Horizon Court could be great to not so great. The sushi was phenomenal. The desserts were very yummy, too. Thank the lord for the pizza station because on some days that is all that was available. In the Bordeaux Room, it was also hit and miss. The bread, appetizers, and cold soups were good. The yogurt-based cold soup was the best we ever tasted. The ice cream and coffee were excellent, as well. The prime rib was good, too. The steak was like shoe leather, however. In fact, I have tasted shoe leather that was better than the steak they served. Just about everything on the German night menu was awful. Food Service We ate in the dining room three nights and the Horizon Court the rest of the cruise. We did this for a couple of reasons. One, we thought the service in the Bordeaux Room was terrible. Again, this is one couples opinion but the service left us cold. We felt the dining room staff had an attitude problem which was reflected in their behavior toward the guests. With the exception of Lourdes and her assistant, the service in the dining was, at best, condescending. In the Horizon Court, some of the workers seemed like they would rather have teeth pulled than look one more passenger. In my experience, attitude tends to start from the top. I bet that behind the scenes, the supervisors are the ones with an attitude problem. Entertainment Cruise ship level talent. In other words, not very good. The comedian was telling McDonalds coffee jokes and everybody on Holland America is old. Hilarious. Fortunately, we found plenty of entertainment watching for wildlife. That is what Alaska is all about, anyway. Ports Overall, the weather was absolutely fantastic. It really made for a great cruise. College Fjord - an rainy, foggy, dreary day. The only bad weather day we had. Could not see a whole lot. The only disappointment on the cruise. Glacier Bay - this day was as good as College Fjord was bad. If you are reading this and haven't sailed yet, take this advice. Don't wait until your in Glacier Bay to get outside to look for wildlife. Get out early. The most action we had was in Icy Strait as we were entering the National Park. Whales, eagles, seals, otters. It was beautiful, too. Skagway We got off the boat about 545am and hiked up to the Lower Dewey Lake trail. The initial 500ft elevation rise was the hardest part of the hike. The path is well marked and the west side is well maintained. The only wildlife we saw was a huge porcupine. We came around a corner and it was sipping some water from the lake. We had never seen a porcupine in the wild. It didn't look anything like we had imagined. It was huge and did not move all that fast. Of course, when you have quills a foot long, speed isn't necessary. We were the most surprised by the size of this rascal. Barbara Bennett, the naturalist onboard, said that she might have been pregnant. While it meandered away, it looked over its shoulder then tried to climb a tree. It had a heckuva time. If you want to hike this trail, take this advice: Don't hike the east side of the lake. It's not that maintained, it's not very scenic, and it's not very fun. Stop at the bridge and turn around and come back the way you came. It will be the same distance (3.6 miles) and you will get the same perspective. We got back to town around ten minutes after 8am. We had reserved a car at Avis. When we got there, I found that I didn't have my driver's license so we had to take a not-fun walk back to the ship to get my wife's license. We got on the road about 930am. I would highly recommend renting a car. For $76 plus $20 for gas, we were able to drive to Emerald Lake and back. For Alaska, that is a cheap day and it's incredibly scenic. I have more great photos from this stretch than any other does. We followed Murray's guide the entire way. We stopped at Carcross and had a fish sandwich and fries (total for one sandwich, fries, drink $11)at the gas station before finishing the final leg to Emerald Lake. On the way back, we stopped at the museum ($7.95pp) and checked our the displays and the sled dogs. We had a great conversation with this woman who works with the dogs. She was originally from LA but moved up north about 30 years ago. She lived 20 years without electricity. Now she teaches art and works with the sled dogs. A very cool woman who chose an alternative lifestyle and has never regretted it. My hero. After filling up, we returned the car, checked out a few touristy shop. The town had some decent art, I have to say. We boarded the ship, ate dinner, played ping-pong, swam in the lotus pool and soaked in the Jacuzzi. It was heavenly. Juneau This is a port that we could have used a few more hours. We got off the ship 615am and walked around the city, taking in all the history and seeing the sights. Around 8am, we checked in with Captain Larry and Orca Enterprise. Captain Larry gets all the accolades, which is well-deserved, but his staff that works behind the scenes deserve a lot of credit. From the people working the email and phones, to the front desk, to the drivers, they run a tight ship. For my wife, this was the first time with Captain Larry. For me, the second. The first time, my sister and I had the most amazing time. We had a whale lunge feed about 10 feet from the boat. It was spectacular. I really did not think Captain Larry could top that first trip especially when Captain Sean, who was riding along on this trip, said that on sunny days, the food the whales eat go deeper so we might not see any animals. Juneau was warm and sunny. Fortunately, Captain Larry knows things mere mortals do not. We got out of Auke Bay and on the other side of Admiralty Island and caught up with a pod of orcas who seemed to delight in having their picture taken. Then Captain Larry caught up to a mother humpback with baby. The baby was flapping his tail in the water while mama rolled on her back exposing her huge fins. It was great. On the way back in, we found some stellar sea lions hanging out. Overall, a great whale watching expedition. Afterwards, Orca Enterprises dropped us off at Mendenhall Glacier. We could catch a ride back with them in an hour or take a shuttle. My wife and I thought we would probably need more time so we figured on taking the shuttle. Unfortunately, the shuttle never arrived. We checked out the visitor center and hiked out to the waterfall and checked out a couple of other trails on the beautiful day we had thinking we would have plenty of time to get back. We had to beg Donna, a bus driver for Princess, to let us on her bus so we could get back. She was super laid back and said it was not a problem. Thank God. We tipped her and got back but just in time. Ketchikan Another beautiful day. It was so warm coming into port, that it was too hot to sit directly in the sun. I actually moved into the shade of the balcony wall for comfort. Once docked, we grabbed a map and took the walking tour. Halfway through the walk, I took the pant legs off and went with just shorts. The last time I was in Ketchikan, it was warm and sunny...this is in one of the rainiest cities in the US. Amazing. Anyway, we got back on board about noon, had lunch and then got back off and met up with Island Wings at the rain gauge. Shona was early but so was everybody with reservation so we all piled in the van and set off for the plane. Misty Fjords was really Sunny Fjords on this day. We had reserved a flight and hike with another couple but they had to cancel so it was just the guide, Terry, my wife and I. Michelle landed on this glacial lake, we all got out, took some photos. Michelle and the rest left while we went for a hike. This was another place that is so beautiful it defies description. The highlight was spotting a black bear about 20 feet from where we were standing. It was just an incredible creature. The sun sparkling off his coat. We were near a waterfall so he couldn't hear us. He started heading our way so we had to yell at him. Obviously, he spoke English because he turned around on the log he was walking on and scampered off in to the woods after stopping and looking over his shoulder at us. It was quite exciting to see this huge beast move so gracefully and stealthily through the forest. A couple of hours later, Michelle picked us up and we returned to Ketchikan. We walked onto the ship at 530pm. The ship left port at 548pm. That was cutting it a little close but it was worth it. Debarkation and Vancouver Since we packed so light, we chose to do express debarkation where you carry off all your baggage. It was as easy as embarkation. The express passengers leave out a different gangway than the passengers with tickets which caused some confusion. Anyway, we walked off, breezed through customs and left the Coral Princess behind; a great ship and a great cruise. We lucked into a great Hotwire deal for the Pan Pacific which is the hotel attached to Canada Place cruise ship terminal. We got to stay at this five star property for $119/nt. On this vacation, Hotwire really saved us some money. We walked out of the cruise ship terminal, found the elevators, took the elevator up to the lobby, and checked in. The time it took to debark and check in was no more than 15 minutes. Time: approx 750am. The price of the hotel was even better because we didn't have to pay for a taxi. No rooms were ready which we had anticipated so we dropped our bags, grabbed a map from the concierge, hit the ATM for some Canadian funds and went for a walk. We walked a couple of blocks over to Gastown. A homeless guy offered to take our picture by the steamclock. At the time, we didn't know he was homeless. After he took the photo, he asked for few bucks. Joseph, the homeless dude, was obviously well educated. He also gave us great directions for a walking tour making sure we avoided the bad parts of town. For five bucks, we got our picture taken and advice. I told him not to drink it. He said he wasn't going to, he was going to smoke it! At least he was honest. His walking tour was great, I must say. After Gastown, we went over to Chinatown and checked out the public garden. Absolutely beautiful. We went back to Gastown and took a picture of Gassy Jack. We wanted to go up to the observation deck but it was not worth $19 bucks. Instead we walked over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and lucked into a GREAT exhibit ($19.95/pp). The exhibit is called From Monet to Dali. A truly comprehensive art history from impressionism to surrealism. Truly awesome. Rent the audio guides, it is worth the five bucks. We grabbed lunch at a deli and then headed down to the seawall and followed it over to Stanley Park. We rented bikes and rode all over the park for three hours. Part of the seawall is closed due to a terrible storm last fall. We detoured through the park. The size of the trees are amazing. Since it is a temperate rainforest, there is moss and lichen all over. It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. That same storm toppled some monstrous cedar trees that are hundreds of years old. It really is a special place. We rode the bikes over to the Burrard Bridge. Joseph, our homeless travel guide, told us we could ride the bikes to Granville Island since it really isn't an island. We didn't have time so we turned back at the bridge. After dropping off the bikes (two bikes for 3 hours = $28), we strolled up Robson street, window shopped and had some delicious fruiti de bosco gelato. Yummmmy! We got back to the hotel about 430pm and checked into our city view room. The room was huge, especially compared to our cruise cabin. After marveling at the room, we checked out the rest of the hotel and watched the Coral Princess leave the port. Later, we crossed the road and had dinner at the food court and had a gourmet McDonald's hamburger. We walked off dinner by taking one last look around Gastown. We had a 6am flight so we had to get up 3am. Taxi's were waiting when we came out of the hotel. We got to the airport, through US customs and security by 5am. The plane was on time. For the first time in a long time, we had on-time flights for our outbound and inbound flights. Amazing! Conclusion This was one of our best vacations ever. The flights, embarkation, excursions all went off without a hitch. Was it perfect? No, but it was pretty close. We would definitely sail Princess again. We would also like to visit Alaska when the salmon are running and the bears are feasting. Someday.

Coral Princess - Alaska

Coral Princess Cruise Review by bunduo

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: June 2007
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
Intro First, a little background info. My wife and I have sailed on Celebrity, HAL, RCCL, NCL, and Carnival. This would be my ninth cruise and my wife's eighth and our first on Princess. The Coral did not disappoint. Alaska was pretty spectacular, too. Overall, we would rate Princess tied for second with RCCL and HAL. Princess fans do not take this the wrong way. It was a great cruise. I would not hesitate to sail Princess again. We really had a great time.
Here is the review of our June 11-18, 2007 cruise of Alaska aboard the Coral Princess:
Flight to: We had a direct flight from Cincinnati to Anchorage. Since 9/11, flying has become a monumental hassle. Going through security, the TSA inspected our bags for liquids. The TSA found that the liquids were not in a quart size bag and proceeded to 'shop' through our stuff and took out one tube of toothpaste (we had three), shaving cream, eye drops, and a stick of deodorant. The guy was nice enough. He let us keep 90% of the stuff we had. We had nice talk about Alaska since he just got back a couple weeks prior but what he took and what he let us take made no sense. Anyway, the flight was on time which is a blessing in this day and age. We packed really light and had only carry-on bags which made getting out of the airport and into a taxi very easy and quick.
Anchorage We checked into the Extended Stay Deluxe on 8th street. We stayed here for two nights and, thanks to CC, got it for $36/nt! We thought, for sure, it would be a fleabag but it was really quite nice. The service was great. The room had a kitchenette and was clean and comfortable. The first night we got a pizza, ate half, and put the rest in the fridge for dinner the next night. We went to bed and got up at 3am and took a walking tour of downtown Anchorage. Believe it or not, there were quite a few people out walking around at that time of day. We walked the coastal trail and then headed back for a delicious continental breakfast at 530am. The Extended Stay had those make-it-yourself waffle makers of which we took full advantage. Yummy!
At 640am, we met Talkeetna Aero at Merrell Field for our flight to Denali. The Extended Stay has a shuttle but did not have a driver so they paid for the taxi over to Merrell Field. What service!
Talkeetna Aero Talkeetna Aero Taxi arrived at Merrell Field where four others, my wife and I met them for our flight to Denali. At 7am, on a crystal clear Sunday morning(June 10), we took off. Denali, the mountain, was out in all her glory. Even the pilots were impressed with the visibility. We felt very fortunate, indeed. We landed in Talkeetna where we changed pilots and took off for Denali NP. On the way, we got even more great views of the mountain and tons of photographs. On the shuttle from the airport to the NP, we were given our tickets for bus tour to Fish Creek. After our tour of the NP, Talkeetna Aero picked us up and we were flown over the summit of The Great One. It was absolutely spectacular. Words can not do it justice so I won't even try but it is must-do experience. I will say that Denali, the mountain, tends to be on the shy side but on this day she was feeling pretty good, obviously.
Denali NP We took the 8-hour trip (4 hours one way) to Fish Creek. Again, the day was stunning in its beauty. However, according to our bus driver, the animals prefer to stay hidden on sunny days. Elton, our driver, was supremely excellent, informative, and funny. We saw a willow ptarmigan (state bird of Alaska), ravens, caribou, sheep, snowshoe hares. On our return, our bus would not start at the final rest stop so we had to jump onto another bus. Fortunately, it was on this bus that we saw the wildlife highlight of the day...a wolf walking down the road with the head of a moose calf in his jaws. Either he scavenged off a grizzly kill or his pack took it down. I bet mama moose was not too happy. Unfortunately, I missed the shot. This trip gave me a new appreciation for wildlife photographers. We got back to Anchorage around 830pm. We warmed up the pizza and went to bed.
Whittier After a delicious waffle breakfast, we checked out of the Extended Stay and were picked up by the Alaskan Leopard Comedy Tour bus. Digging around their website, I found that we could buy just a transfer from Anchorage to Whittier for $26/pp. It was a great deal. The driver picked us up at 7am, filled up with gas and headed for Whittier. We were the only passengers on the bus so we had a great conversation with the driver. The driver was the brother of the owner, Trapper Tom, and is a retired director in the Anchorage Public schools. His wife is a retired Air Force pilot.
We had to wait about 10 minutes for the tunnel to open. Once we got through the tunnel and parked, we walked over to Alaska Sea Kayak where we had reservations for a three- hour kayak tour of Prince William Sound. Tammy was our own private guide since we had booked independently. There was another tour that was taking this excursion but it was ship sponsored. It was a good sized crowd with two guides. We checked out a few inlets, coves, waterfalls and kittiwake rookery where thousands of these black footed seagulls hatch their young. Up to this point, it had been an incredible vacation and we hadn't even gotten on the ship yet. We finished our kayaking trip around 130pm. We grabbed our bags and walked over to the ship.
Embarkation Simply the best embarkation we ever experienced. I think it helped we were the only two getting on the ship when we walked into port facility. It was great. We were on the ship in less that 10 minutes. Princess crew were stationed on each floor and in the elevator to assist passengers in finding their cabin. We met our room steward, Twatchna, who was consistently excellent throughout our cruise. He was a very sweet man who introduced us to our cabin. He did a great job.
Cabin We were in C304, a port side balcony. Compared to the cabin we had on the Celebrity Century in April, this room was palatial. We liked the light colors and mirrors that really made it seem roomy. It had plenty of storage space, too. We liked how the closets were open with REGULAR hangars. A true luxury. The safe uses a four digit code rather than a magnetized key card which we liked. I know a lot of people dislike the beds but I found them quite comfortable. Our two beds were pushed together so seamlessly, I thought they were a double bed.
Our only complaint about the cabin was the size of the shower and shower curtain. The shower was the smallest we have encountered and I don't know how anyone with any size could feel comfortable in it. My wife and I are both average size and we thought it was small. Second, it is so small and the shower curtain so inadequate that it was impossible not to get water on the floor. Another complaint was the balcony glass was so dirty, it was difficult to see through. We washed it which improved the visibility a bunch. The chairs were very comfortable. They were so comfortable that we brought them inside to sit on while we looked out.
Ship We loved the ship. However, for whatever reason, I never got my bearings. I was constantly going the wrong way. On some parts of the ship, it was difficult to get from one end to the other.
Food The food was ok. It has been said on these boards numerous times that food is subjective so take this for what its worth. We ate in the Horizon Court every morning for breakfast. We got up around 430am every day. One thing we liked about Princess is that they started the continental breakfast portion at 4am. We stuck with the cereal, fruit and pastries which were quite good. On a couple of occasions, we needed a second breakfast which consisted of French toast or oatmeal which were fine tasting. The traffic flow of the Horizon Court is terrible. Do you stand in line or can you go from station to station? It was the worst set up on any ship we have sailed.
The lunches in the Horizon Court could be great to not so great. The sushi was phenomenal. The desserts were very yummy, too. Thank the lord for the pizza station because on some days that is all that was available.
In the Bordeaux Room, it was also hit and miss. The bread, appetizers, and cold soups were good. The yogurt-based cold soup was the best we ever tasted. The ice cream and coffee were excellent, as well. The prime rib was good, too. The steak was like shoe leather, however. In fact, I have tasted shoe leather that was better than the steak they served. Just about everything on the German night menu was awful.
Food Service We ate in the dining room three nights and the Horizon Court the rest of the cruise. We did this for a couple of reasons. One, we thought the service in the Bordeaux Room was terrible. Again, this is one couples opinion but the service left us cold. We felt the dining room staff had an attitude problem which was reflected in their behavior toward the guests. With the exception of Lourdes and her assistant, the service in the dining was, at best, condescending. In the Horizon Court, some of the workers seemed like they would rather have teeth pulled than look one more passenger. In my experience, attitude tends to start from the top. I bet that behind the scenes, the supervisors are the ones with an attitude problem. Entertainment Cruise ship level talent. In other words, not very good. The comedian was telling McDonalds coffee jokes and everybody on Holland America is old. Hilarious. Fortunately, we found plenty of entertainment watching for wildlife. That is what Alaska is all about, anyway.
Ports Overall, the weather was absolutely fantastic. It really made for a great cruise.
College Fjord - an rainy, foggy, dreary day. The only bad weather day we had. Could not see a whole lot. The only disappointment on the cruise.
Glacier Bay - this day was as good as College Fjord was bad. If you are reading this and haven't sailed yet, take this advice. Don't wait until your in Glacier Bay to get outside to look for wildlife. Get out early. The most action we had was in Icy Strait as we were entering the National Park. Whales, eagles, seals, otters. It was beautiful, too.
Skagway We got off the boat about 545am and hiked up to the Lower Dewey Lake trail. The initial 500ft elevation rise was the hardest part of the hike. The path is well marked and the west side is well maintained. The only wildlife we saw was a huge porcupine. We came around a corner and it was sipping some water from the lake. We had never seen a porcupine in the wild. It didn't look anything like we had imagined. It was huge and did not move all that fast. Of course, when you have quills a foot long, speed isn't necessary. We were the most surprised by the size of this rascal. Barbara Bennett, the naturalist onboard, said that she might have been pregnant. While it meandered away, it looked over its shoulder then tried to climb a tree. It had a heckuva time. If you want to hike this trail, take this advice: Don't hike the east side of the lake. It's not that maintained, it's not very scenic, and it's not very fun. Stop at the bridge and turn around and come back the way you came. It will be the same distance (3.6 miles) and you will get the same perspective.
We got back to town around ten minutes after 8am. We had reserved a car at Avis. When we got there, I found that I didn't have my driver's license so we had to take a not-fun walk back to the ship to get my wife's license. We got on the road about 930am. I would highly recommend renting a car. For $76 plus $20 for gas, we were able to drive to Emerald Lake and back. For Alaska, that is a cheap day and it's incredibly scenic. I have more great photos from this stretch than any other does.
We followed Murray's guide the entire way. We stopped at Carcross and had a fish sandwich and fries (total for one sandwich, fries, drink $11)at the gas station before finishing the final leg to Emerald Lake. On the way back, we stopped at the museum ($7.95pp) and checked our the displays and the sled dogs. We had a great conversation with this woman who works with the dogs. She was originally from LA but moved up north about 30 years ago. She lived 20 years without electricity. Now she teaches art and works with the sled dogs. A very cool woman who chose an alternative lifestyle and has never regretted it. My hero.
After filling up, we returned the car, checked out a few touristy shop. The town had some decent art, I have to say. We boarded the ship, ate dinner, played ping-pong, swam in the lotus pool and soaked in the Jacuzzi. It was heavenly.
Juneau This is a port that we could have used a few more hours. We got off the ship 615am and walked around the city, taking in all the history and seeing the sights. Around 8am, we checked in with Captain Larry and Orca Enterprise. Captain Larry gets all the accolades, which is well-deserved, but his staff that works behind the scenes deserve a lot of credit. From the people working the email and phones, to the front desk, to the drivers, they run a tight ship.
For my wife, this was the first time with Captain Larry. For me, the second. The first time, my sister and I had the most amazing time. We had a whale lunge feed about 10 feet from the boat. It was spectacular. I really did not think Captain Larry could top that first trip especially when Captain Sean, who was riding along on this trip, said that on sunny days, the food the whales eat go deeper so we might not see any animals. Juneau was warm and sunny. Fortunately, Captain Larry knows things mere mortals do not. We got out of Auke Bay and on the other side of Admiralty Island and caught up with a pod of orcas who seemed to delight in having their picture taken. Then Captain Larry caught up to a mother humpback with baby. The baby was flapping his tail in the water while mama rolled on her back exposing her huge fins. It was great. On the way back in, we found some stellar sea lions hanging out. Overall, a great whale watching expedition.
Afterwards, Orca Enterprises dropped us off at Mendenhall Glacier. We could catch a ride back with them in an hour or take a shuttle. My wife and I thought we would probably need more time so we figured on taking the shuttle. Unfortunately, the shuttle never arrived. We checked out the visitor center and hiked out to the waterfall and checked out a couple of other trails on the beautiful day we had thinking we would have plenty of time to get back. We had to beg Donna, a bus driver for Princess, to let us on her bus so we could get back. She was super laid back and said it was not a problem. Thank God. We tipped her and got back but just in time.
Ketchikan Another beautiful day. It was so warm coming into port, that it was too hot to sit directly in the sun. I actually moved into the shade of the balcony wall for comfort. Once docked, we grabbed a map and took the walking tour. Halfway through the walk, I took the pant legs off and went with just shorts. The last time I was in Ketchikan, it was warm and sunny...this is in one of the rainiest cities in the US. Amazing.
Anyway, we got back on board about noon, had lunch and then got back off and met up with Island Wings at the rain gauge. Shona was early but so was everybody with reservation so we all piled in the van and set off for the plane. Misty Fjords was really Sunny Fjords on this day. We had reserved a flight and hike with another couple but they had to cancel so it was just the guide, Terry, my wife and I. Michelle landed on this glacial lake, we all got out, took some photos. Michelle and the rest left while we went for a hike.
This was another place that is so beautiful it defies description. The highlight was spotting a black bear about 20 feet from where we were standing. It was just an incredible creature. The sun sparkling off his coat. We were near a waterfall so he couldn't hear us. He started heading our way so we had to yell at him. Obviously, he spoke English because he turned around on the log he was walking on and scampered off in to the woods after stopping and looking over his shoulder at us. It was quite exciting to see this huge beast move so gracefully and stealthily through the forest. A couple of hours later, Michelle picked us up and we returned to Ketchikan. We walked onto the ship at 530pm. The ship left port at 548pm. That was cutting it a little close but it was worth it.
Debarkation and Vancouver Since we packed so light, we chose to do express debarkation where you carry off all your baggage. It was as easy as embarkation. The express passengers leave out a different gangway than the passengers with tickets which caused some confusion. Anyway, we walked off, breezed through customs and left the Coral Princess behind; a great ship and a great cruise.
We lucked into a great Hotwire deal for the Pan Pacific which is the hotel attached to Canada Place cruise ship terminal. We got to stay at this five star property for $119/nt. On this vacation, Hotwire really saved us some money. We walked out of the cruise ship terminal, found the elevators, took the elevator up to the lobby, and checked in. The time it took to debark and check in was no more than 15 minutes. Time: approx 750am. The price of the hotel was even better because we didn't have to pay for a taxi. No rooms were ready which we had anticipated so we dropped our bags, grabbed a map from the concierge, hit the ATM for some Canadian funds and went for a walk.
We walked a couple of blocks over to Gastown. A homeless guy offered to take our picture by the steamclock. At the time, we didn't know he was homeless. After he took the photo, he asked for few bucks. Joseph, the homeless dude, was obviously well educated. He also gave us great directions for a walking tour making sure we avoided the bad parts of town. For five bucks, we got our picture taken and advice. I told him not to drink it. He said he wasn't going to, he was going to smoke it! At least he was honest. His walking tour was great, I must say. After Gastown, we went over to Chinatown and checked out the public garden. Absolutely beautiful. We went back to Gastown and took a picture of Gassy Jack.
We wanted to go up to the observation deck but it was not worth $19 bucks. Instead we walked over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and lucked into a GREAT exhibit ($19.95/pp). The exhibit is called From Monet to Dali. A truly comprehensive art history from impressionism to surrealism. Truly awesome. Rent the audio guides, it is worth the five bucks.
We grabbed lunch at a deli and then headed down to the seawall and followed it over to Stanley Park. We rented bikes and rode all over the park for three hours. Part of the seawall is closed due to a terrible storm last fall. We detoured through the park. The size of the trees are amazing. Since it is a temperate rainforest, there is moss and lichen all over. It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. That same storm toppled some monstrous cedar trees that are hundreds of years old. It really is a special place.
We rode the bikes over to the Burrard Bridge. Joseph, our homeless travel guide, told us we could ride the bikes to Granville Island since it really isn't an island. We didn't have time so we turned back at the bridge. After dropping off the bikes (two bikes for 3 hours = $28), we strolled up Robson street, window shopped and had some delicious fruiti de bosco gelato. Yummmmy! We got back to the hotel about 430pm and checked into our city view room. The room was huge, especially compared to our cruise cabin. After marveling at the room, we checked out the rest of the hotel and watched the Coral Princess leave the port. Later, we crossed the road and had dinner at the food court and had a gourmet McDonald's hamburger. We walked off dinner by taking one last look around Gastown.
We had a 6am flight so we had to get up 3am. Taxi's were waiting when we came out of the hotel. We got to the airport, through US customs and security by 5am. The plane was on time. For the first time in a long time, we had on-time flights for our outbound and inbound flights. Amazing!
Conclusion This was one of our best vacations ever. The flights, embarkation, excursions all went off without a hitch. Was it perfect? No, but it was pretty close. We would definitely sail Princess again. We would also like to visit Alaska when the salmon are running and the bears are feasting. Someday.
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