This was our fourth cruise and our first since 2004, and our first on Princess (although two prior cruises were with its parent, Carnival).
TRANSFER TO SHIP
We opted for the transfer to the ship from downtown Anchorage, which was handled really well. We arrived at 10 AM for a noon transfer, and they were already open and checked us in and took our bags in no time flat. We could even leave our carry-on temporarily while we walked around Anchorage. The bus was clearly outsourced to a local company, as I suspect they all are. The bus was well-maintained and the driver was friendly and professional. The baggage handling was seamless, although it did not appear in our stateroom until quite late in the day, even though we boarded around 2:30 PM. Overall, I recommend the transfer, as Whittier itself is nothing to write home about, and the bus followed the train route exactly. The baggage handling made it so easy!
The three of us had signed up in advance for spa treatments on our first day at sea. We went to the spa to confirm our reservations, where the spa manager up-sold my wife and daughter from 50 and 75 minute Swedish to 75 minute Hot Stone massage treatment.
The treatments themselves were fine...nothing to write home about, and the stones aspect was about 70% as good as the BEST hot stone massage I've had, from a private practitioner in the Bay Area. So yeah...good enough! And the price seemed normal for resort/cruise spa treatments.
I also purchased a pedicure, which was pretty good, but I really didn't need the 50 minute job, especially when it didn't include paraffin treatment already.
1 - The ship was offering a free 15 minute "add on" to any massages purchased on board for the first two days of the voyage. They did not mention this during the up-sell, and I only happened to stumble upon it when reviewing the Ship's "Special Offers" on the Princess at Sea website on board. When I went back to ask if we could change to 50 minute sessions, and add on the 15 minutes, I was told we could not because it was within the cancellation period (by about 2 hours) and we had booked it in advance (They DID say they would allow it for my wife, since her original booking was for 50 minutes and they had up-sold her; however, they never did adjust it in practice, but instead added 15 minutes to her 75 minute purchase and still charged the full price). So we were punished for booking in advance......BAD BUSINESS PRACTICE...they should have negotiated something so we felt satisfied, or honored our request to be treated as well as the last-minute buyers.
2 - The cross-selling of products was OBNOXIOUS. At seemingly every turn, from our pre-mentioned confirmation and subsequent upgrades, through the conclusion of the treatment, there was unsolicited SELLING of products, other services, etc. It felt like a used-car sell job. UGH. The upside is that, once I let them run through the pitch and politely declined, they graciously said, "no problem!" What was explicitly clear is that they had been FORCED to do this selling by management, even though I told my therapist that I would not be buying anything and she didn't need to waste her time, she said she needed to go through it. Barf.
3 - I hesitate to mention this, because it's second-hand information, but we chatted with another spa customer, who had arrived for treatment, only to be told that her appointment had been cancelled, and that "someone had already contacted you to tell you of the cancellation." The woman had never received any notice of cancellation, and when she told the manager this, the response was, "Well, this person is VERY experienced and would NEVER have failed to contact you." So effectively, the customer was called a liar. When this customer escalated to upper ship management, the "Customer is probably lying" vs. "Customer is always right" treatment continued, even though she was not asking for ANYTHING except an apology. When the apology finally came, the manager called and said, "Well, I hear I am supposed to apologize..." Having met this Manager, and seen her demeanor, and having chatted with the shipmate for quite a while, I am reasonably certain that our shipmate customer was telling the truth.
FOOD and DRINK
The Sip and Sail promotion we took advantage of may or may not have been our best financial decision, but it was WONDERFUL. There were VERY few drinks which were not included in the package. Top shelf liquor and very good beers and wines were included. And a 40% discount off bottles of wine was quite welcome.
MINOR downside: We brought our own bottle of wine to a premium restaurant one night, and even though we had the booze package, and would have otherwise consumed many glasses of their wine at NO CHARGE, they insisted on charging us the $15 corkage fee....just doesn't make a whole lot of sense, IMHO.
Otherwise, the food in the dining room and specialty restaurants (we did Crab Shack and the Cajun steakhouse) was excellent, as was the service. Prompt, efficient, friendly but not obsequious...excellent!
SUGGESTION: It's an Alaska cruise. More smoked salmon in the buffet would be nice, and every other cruise we've done featured lots of it...just seemed weird, and the whitefish was not very good.
POOLS and HOT TUBS
The weather made tubbing accessible, and I even took a swim one day. The pools were clean and the tubs, too. Lots of tubs meant not overcrowded, and the food/drinks were readily available, though we only had waitstaff service about 15% of the time....I think they were focused on those who could write in tips. Pro Tip: If you don't like screaming children by the pool, stay on the outside deck, where it doesn't echo as much...
Games and machines were adequate. But the staff (other than the ebullient Casino Manager and the nice folks at the Cashier cage) were rather sour-faced. They seemed nervous and uptight. Drink service was again VERY spotty for us.
Very disappointing. Terribly ventilated, obviously neglected room off of the Atrium, it was clearly where the 2nd Class Citizens were banished. No staff on any visit, and the cigar selection was clearly limited, although I never even had an unlocked cabinet look, since no one was ever there.
GREAT! Martini's and other drinks were excellent at the Crooners Bar, and the staff was consistently happy, smiling, accommodating and professional.
For what we got, I think the price was reasonable. However, the issues with the odor in the room and the general feeling that much of the staff was scared of messing up....these things will most probably keep us from choosing a Carnival family brand again, and CERTAINLY keep us from the Coral Princess, at least until the Captain is replaced. Remember, it all starts at the top. (PS: We NEVER saw the captain)
Our steward ("Virgilio") was AWESOME. Once the sofa-bed had been unfolded, my mid-20's daughter was (justifiably) horrified at the comfort level of the thin mattress, and he sprung into action and delivered a second mattress which strongly mitigated the problem (though she would have been much happier with a regular bed). Speaking of the bed....SUPER comfy! It was two twins joined to a King, but the joint was not noticeable, and the mattress was REALLY comfortable. Just GREAT.
The first (and most strongly) negative impression we had was the smell in the corridor leading to our room, and inside the stateroom itself. We had opted (thankfully) for a balcony "mini-suite" to accommodate my wife and I and our adult daughter, who was travelling with us. The smell remained present throughout all of the voyage, although it seemed to strengthen and weaken with no apparent pattern. The smell reminded me most strongly of a dead animal behind drywall in a building, though it had elements of mold and (in my daughter's opinion) garbage. In any case, we were very blessed to have a balcony door and no rain, so we could keep the sliding door to the balcony open day and night, which helped to dispel SOME of the odor.
This was on the Dolphin Deck, cabin D516.
We called guest services and they sent a total (over the first few days) of 5 people to 'investigate' the smell, and every one of them claimed they could smell NOTHING, which was clearly not true, because even if they were "nose-blind" to the stench, as we sometimes became, they had walked into the space from another part of the ship, and whenever we did that, we ALWAYS smelled the odor. They made it seem as though they thought we were making it up, when what was most clear was that they were LYING about the odor. And they kept emphasizing the corridor when referring to the smell, and never to the room itself.
The ship was completely sold out, so they clearly could offer us no other accommodations, and never offered, nor did we ask, because we had already inquired about a separate inside cabin for our daughter with the purser, only to be told about the sellout of the entire ship....not one cabin of any type available.
Two things strengthen my conclusion that they DID know about it:
1 - On day 5, upon our return from a shore excursion, the hallway had a large commercial dryer blowing air down the corridor outside of our room; it remained there for two days and the smell was somewhat reduced (though never entirely eliminated).
2 - On day 6, in the morning, the Guest Services manager called to offer us an upgraded dining experience at no charge, in recognition of our experience.
However, they never officially said anything about what they thought caused the problem. They clearly DID know and just wouldn't admit it. They seemed scared to do so, frankly.
Very brief, but fun. Just seemed overpriced for the time and experience. Puppy visits were delightful, and the short ride was adequate. The dog barking when it appeared that the sleds were about to leave....incredible. Scenery....meh. People running the show: Real, so that was cool.View All 162 Dog Sledding Reviews
The guides were knowledgeable and professional, but also friendly and fun. Safety was important, but the overall experience was excellent and exhilarating for my 50-something wife!View All 86 Zip-lining Reviews
The ship did not offer the excursion we wanted, so we booked ourselves. It was the White Pass and Bike return to Skagway with Sockeye Cycles and that was EXCELLENTView All 1212 White Pass Scenic Railway Reviews