We chose this cruise because it was our 40th wedding anniversary. After research and talking with our travel agent we found out that Princess had it's own lodges for the land portion we wanted and was one of the few cruise lines that could cruise Glacier Bay and get up close to the glaciers. We had previously done 2 cruises with Oceania but their itinerary did not work for our time. We knew Princess would not be Oceania but had heard good things about them also. We did have a wonderful time but some things I wanted to write about.
We flew into Fairbans and Princess was there to meet us and take us to their Lodge in Fairbanks. We had a long travel day so we just walked the grounds of the lodge and had dinner outside on the deck to enjoy the beautiful weather and sunshine. The Princes RIverside Lodge sits on the Chena River. The our room was very basic but clean, This lodge could use some updating. Our dinner was very good. They told us that we could pack a bag that they would take ahead to the ship. We would then pack another bag with enough clothes for the next 3 days and our necessities we needed to stay with us. If someone would of told us this before we left it would of simplified our packing at home.
The next day we had a morning excursion on The Riverboat Discovery for a narrated cruise along the Chena and Tenana River. We enjoyed this very much. It was a beautiful day and we sat up top of the boat. The narrator was terrific and staff very friendly. You get to watch a sea plane take off and land on the river in front of you. The PIlot talked by radio and it it piped over the loud speaker. Along the way you stop at Susan Butchers Iditarod sled dog kennel. Her husband brings dogs to the shoreline and you watch from the boat. Later at the Athabasca Village they bring dogs to the village and a musher gives a talk. You can also purchase the book of her famous dog Granite, makes a great gift especially for a grandchild. Coming back you get off at the Athabasca Village and young Alaskan Native Guides give talks on native lifestyle, clothing, and fishing. They also tell you about all the homes along the river. The river was kind of muddy but the scenery was beautiful. After you dock they have a gift shop and box lunches for purchase or if your tour includes lunch they have a restaurant. Ours did not and the box lunches were picked over by the time we got to them. They needed more staff at registers and a better system of getting the lunches. We ate outside on a beautiful day. We then boarded a bus for our trip to Denali Princess WIlderness Lodge. This took about 3 hours and we arrived very late afternoon. Our bus driver was Steve and he was great.
The Lodge and grounds were beautiful. Our room was just fine. We had to repack and have our bags out early in the morning. We then went for a walk and enjoyed the late sunshine and dinner at The KIng Salmon restaurant. It was very good and we enjoyed our server who was delightful. We had time to do a little shopping in the gift shop and order our box lunch for after our tour the next day.
The next morning we went to the coffee shop for breakfast and they told us they didn't serve some of the hot items any longer even though they were up on the board. We then left to go into the Park on our tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about so much of the Park. He was very personable and we enjoyed him. The only thing we didn't like was the part of the tour where you walked to a cabin and a lady talked about what it was like to live there many years ago. I think she thought she was performing a play instead of talking to us, also the mosquitos were so bad you could hardly pay attention. The rest of the tour we saw moose, bald eagles, a bear, way off in the distance and a native Alaskan gave a talk about culture. If we ever get to go back we would love to go further into the park. After retuning to the Lodge we picked up our boxed lunch we ordered and then took a 3 hours bus ride to Mt McKinley Lodge. Our bus driver was ok she seemed to forget quite a bit of what she was talking about and rambled. We went and heard a talk by a lady who was on a expedition to climb Denali. After 3 weeks and an 11 day storm they had to go back. She was very interesting to hear.
We loved the Princess Lodge at Mt McKinley. The flowers were beautiful and we sat on the large porch outside. Denali was in the clouds so we did not see it, as most people don't. They had an outside fire pit area which looked very cool but very crowded. At our restaurant we did not have a good experience. We sat at the bar and our server was not polite to us, she was very busy. Finally another man came and helped us and by that time we were getting unhappy. The food was just ok and not worth the hassle of we had to go thru to get it.
Our room was nice and in a separate part away from the main lodge.
THhe next morning we took a bus ride to Talkeetna, it was pouring rain but our driver was fantastic!. SHe was a young lady with spunk and an interesting story. We LOVED Talkeetna. If we go back again we would stay there and do day trips from there. It is a quirky, colorful town and definitely tourist friendly. We had breakfast at The Roadhouse. You sit at a family style table with anyone. We sat with several local people and another couple traveling like us. The breakfast was great and huge. The bakery was amazing. We got a raspberry cinnamon roll to go and ate it as we walked thru town and did some shopping. They then took us by bus to the train station where we then went to the cruise ship in Whittier. It was an enclosed glass train car and you are assigned seats so you don't now who you are sitting with. The trip is 6 hours to the cruise ship port. We were able to order lunch and drinks on the train. They do a narrative along the way. The scenery is beautiful and we were glad we did it, it's just a long trip. We arrived in the rain at the port. After going thru security, we were the last people on board the ship.
Our luggage was in our room, Dolphin Deck Room 333. We had to immediately go to the muster drilll in the Princess Theater. AFter that we went to dinner in the MDR. After a long day of travel we ordered a glasss of wine and they said they did not have that wine. It seemed odd to us since it was the first day of our cruise and they were already out of something. We purchased the beverage alcohol package. They then said they had a bottle of something similar. At this point we were tired and just said ok. Something seemed off, the staff kept trying to sell us things all along, like a wine tasting, photos. We just wanted to eat dinner and have a glass of wine at leisure and not be rushed. We felt that way every time we went to the MDR. We even had to tell our waiter one time to just slow down we didn't want to be rushed that way.
Our next day was a sea day and it was cruising Hubbard Glacier. We enjoyed the day very much. Then Glacier Bay National Park was next. The Park Service brought a ranger on ship and she gave a talk and then pointed out high lights as we cruised. Our captain got as close to the glacier as he could and stayed on each side about 45 minutes. It was raining so we went to our room balcony and got fantastic views!. We loved this day.
The first day into a port was Skagway. We had booked our excursions ahead of time and 2 planned for that day. The morning we did the White Pass Scenic Railway Tour. If we would have known our train ride previously was 6 hours we would not have done this. It was just ok, didn't need another train ride. The afternoon we did the CHilkoot Train HIke and Float Adventure. They took you out of town in a van to start the hike. This was a 2 mile hike in with a guide who was wonderful and told us all about the rain forest we were in. Then we floated back down the river to meet the van. We loved this. We saw several bald eagles, beautiful scenery and felt like we were experiencing Alaska. It was a Discovery Exclusive Excursion. We got back to town with no time to see the town. It looked nice from the van as we rode thru. We would go back to Skagway.
The next day was Juneau. We had booked the Alaska Whales and Mendenhall Trail Animal Planet Recommended excursion. We had another great day!. Our guide met us and we drove out of town to the Mendenhall Glacier Trail. It was a 1 mile hike, really a walk to a lake with a beautiful view of the Mendenhall Glacier. Annie was fantastic, She was very knowledgable and funny. She follows the whales from Alaska in the summer to Hawaii in the winter. She encouraged questions and gave us ample time for photos. We then took the van to a marina and picked up a whale watching boat. It was a smaller boat with only about 25 people on it. The windows all opened and there was plenty of opportunity for photos. They took us as close as possible to the whales we saw and it was AMAZING! Our captain was very good and took us several places and moved with the whales.
On our way back in Juneau we drove thru the town and it looked great. I had time to check out a few of the shops before the boat left, it was an early day to leave.
Our final stop was Ketchikan. Again we loved it here. Our excursion was The Misty Fjords Wilderness Flight and Cruise. There was about 10 of us on the small flight. Our pilot was great and got us as close as possible to the mountains to take photos. Plenty of beautiful scenery. We then landed at a boat marina in the middle of a fjord. We took a scenic catamaran back to town. The cruise was longer than we expected. They did have light snacks but it was very long. We did have time to go shopping in Ketchikan and ate a late lunch at Annabelle's Chowder House. This was recommended by a local shop merchant who owned a great gallery called Arctic Spirit Gallery. They have beautiful local jewelry and gifts. MIchael is the owner and is wonderful. His wife also owns the store next door. It was nice to have a quality local store to shop in and not just touristy jewelry and souvenir stores.
The last day was a sea day. It was beautiful and we spent most of the time outside by the pool.
We pulled into Vancouver on our last day early. We had been there before so we were going home. It was a beautiful skyline going into the harbor. Disembarkation was smooth and they had our bags at the airport.
Something's about our boat: The Coral Princess is the smaller of 2 boats that cruise Alaska. It was clean but it big need of updating. Our cabin was a balcony cabin. It was clean but definitely needed updating. The shower/tub had a gouge in it and needed to be recalled. The bathroom tile did not match. There was a updated different tile strip on the wall but old harvest gold tile on the floor.
Our steward, Raymond was fantastic. Very nice, friendly and did a wonderful job every day.
One day they came to so some painting on our balcony when we were gone all day. They never did come back to clean up their paint chips where they had scraped and repainted. You could also see other areas of rusitng and areas where they just repainted over old paint.
The 2 shows we went to were good and we enjoyed them.
The buffet was very good. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner there during our trip. All the food was good and looked fresh. The staff had a hard time keeping up with cleaning tables. There was also the annoying people selling bellini's constantly going by.
All in all we had a very nice trip. The land portion was too much moving for us and bus time. If we did it again we would structure it differently on land. We enjoyed the towns and would go back. The Captain and Cruise Director seemed very good. We enjoyed the Crooners Bar for cocktails, and the pizza and grill for lunches. The outside bar also served good pool side drinks. I am not sure we should of bought the drink package I don't think we drank enough to make it worth while but it was convenient. I don't think we would cruise Princess again. For what you got it seemed expensive and they were constantly trying to sell you more but we wanted this itinerary and the dates were what we needed so we tried it.
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