Grand Princess Cruise Review by BrnBrok
- Sail Date: July 2015
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Balcony
If you have no interest in our air issues you can skip this next part
The air part of the trip booked using Princess air was a very poor introduction to our vacation. We never got any advice that would take us from BWI to Fairbanks with a minimum of stops (changing planes). Our path was early flight from BWI to Dallas. Plane delayed for a brake light failure with brakes working. That put us behind schedule on our American Airlines flights by an hour and 1/2. Once in Dallas having missed our connection we tried throughout the day to get on standby for our flight to Seattle. Finally we did board where we encountered a problem with the window seal. That was another hour plus wait first on board then at gate and then back on board. We then got to Air Alaska 10 minutes before that flight went to Fairbanks. So given our luck that put us back a few more hours as we could not board. We arrived at our hotel at 2:30 am their time for about a 26 hour traveling experience.
Our trip home was also quite interesting. My wife needed assistance to get off ship ant through the airports. We got to the appointed place to meet on ship, but unfortunately we went from the 7th floor area, moved on to the 5th floor area (could not get off), up to the 6th floor area where we also could not get off, and finally back to the same 7th floor area. The person in charge of that area was friendly, but apparently never told the rookie aide that the ramp was right around the corner from our original meeting place. Then we continued with a race to the bus and just got to our early flight on time. Now comes our Toronto experience. We had a turbo prop plane to BWI. It was all the way (seemed like a couple of miles) from where our first plane came in. My wife was passed on to at least 6 different people to help her and we got the special pleasure of doing customs twice (once for Canada and once for U.S.) and I think two security check through procedures.
We did not want a turbo-prop plane. Once booked on a restricted fare we could not change without excessive fees beyond our original booking fee. Also we later found out that air out to Fairbanks could have been much easier. Alaska Airlines did offer a flight to Seattle and then another flight from Seattle to Fairbanks. Instead we got to travel through 3 plane changes. So much for service and definitely Princess Air was not geared to find us the easiest route.
Now back to the Land
Fairbanks (3 nights)
We came in a day early. At least that was the plan. So our late arrival led to us just recovering that day. The Princess Wilderness Riverside Lodge was fine. Lobby attractive and several restaurants to choose from. But lots of duplication among them in terms of selection. Our excursion on our 2nd day was a combo Gold Dredging (train) and Riverboat trip. This was excellent. The hotel did have some fairly short walking trails near the river with paths around the woods. This was nice diversion for me since we did not go on as many trips as planned. Princess handled our transfers and gave us our welcome packets including room key and excursions, meals included. This saved us impacting front desk.
Denali Wilderness Lodge (2 nights)
Loved our cabin-like rooms. And had wonderful breakfasts at the King Salmon Restaurant. Nice variety and was a coupon voucher included meal. Took the Tundra bus trip on our second day at the lodge. This was a long day in a school bus vehicle. We had rain, heat, cold, sleet and snow. Still a great trip with lots of animal sightings. After a long day, back around 10:30 had pizza at the lynx restaurant. You order they bring to table. Billed itself as best pizza south of the Yukon River. Who knows, but coming from NYC the pizza was pretty poor. The price for what you got was high. I would skip unless you believe their hyperbole and/or must find a place to eat after a long day of traveling.
Our first night included Music of Denali show/meal. Service was good, food was fine and show though hokey used our waiter/actor well. Enjoyed the evening. Again welcome packet set us up well.
Mt. Mckinley (1 night)
We are among the 30% who could see the mountain completely. Room was small and room was hot even with fan on. Lodge itself was nice with great view from back deck of the Mountain. We took a covered wagon excursion which was fun, and also included a stop for reindeers along with smore"s over a fireplace. This trip started at lodge and returned us to lodge so we did not have to add another 45 min to an hour to connect with excursion all after a long bus ride to the lodge. Packet once again got us for our day there. We had dinner at the Mountain View Restaurant. Yes there was a view. Room itself was average especially compared to King Salmon Restaurant at Denali. Meal was great and made greater because our voucher covered it all. Otherwise this would have been one very expensive meal.
Train ride to Whittier- Long, but very scenic using domed cars. Food available with non alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
Now on to the ship (yay)
Service with one exception was excellent. Here is the exception. We dined in the specialty Italian restaurant. Meal was on voucher. We also had a free bottle of wine on another voucher. I asked if we could upgrade and pay the difference. We were told that the difference was $7 for the one picked by us. Later the bill showed the difference as $19.10. Tried to correct this with telephone calls to restaurant and up the ladder of management. Told that it might be a waitress mistake. We responded but why should we be penalized. Then told maybe we misheard the amount of difference. 4 people in our party heard $7. Told once paid that we could not get any credit. Next told that a manager from the Italian restaurant would meet us at the Steakhouse next night and offer us an apology. He never showed up. But did give us a house wine (white or red) 4 glasses. Not really a satisfactory resolution we felt as we did not want that wine from the beginning of our conversation at the restaurant.
Main dining room had good variety . Food was hot and tasty. We had a choice of Alaska specialties and 50th anniversary items. For breakfasts we ate mostly in the buffet. The food was good and the variety included fresh made omelets and eggs. Also had lunch which was good and ate a lot at the International Cafe which had sandwiches, soups and salads. The pizza restaurant on deck 5 was great. As others mentioned the only thing you could not get was salads. You could bring them in from those available at the International Cafe.
3 ports (Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan) Took private tour (not from ship) in Skagway. Chilkoot Tours gave us a train and mini-bus tour that was excellent. Whale Watching Tour from ship got us Whales Whales and More Whales. Throw in Seals, Eagles...Oh My!! On our own wandered near Mt. Roberts Tram to Tracy's King Crab Shack. Great and Beyond Great. But bring plastic as it was pricey. In Ketchikan wandered around on my own with the rain (light to heavy modifying my plans) Went to South Eastern Discovery Museum (free for seniors if you have your National Parks Card otherwise $5) Small but Interesting Museum with bonus of a place to dry out and clean restrooms.
Only went to two show. One a large musical review was ok. Comedian magician did not really hit my funny bone.
Getting on/off Ship
Easy getting on. Already covered our getting off experience.
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