My wife and I booked this cruise nearly a year in advance, so the anticipation and expectation that comes along with that was high. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. As with any vacation there was the odd thing here and there, but for the most part I'd say the ship, the staff and the itinerary were exactly what we'd hoped for.
We started with a few days in Vancouver. My wife and I are from Ontario and she'd never really been west, so we saw this as a great opportunity for her to see a part of the country she'd never experienced before. For anyone who has the time and resources to do so, I'd suggest getting to Vancouver a few days early. We took in the typical Vancouver attractions like Granville Island and Stanley Park, both of which are must sees! You could easily wander through Stanley Park for a full day without being bored. It has everything from an area with totem poles describing the history of Indigenous people in the area to bike tours, a beautiful garden and breathtaking views of the Lions gate bridge and downtown Vancouver. Granville Island is another must. It's walkable from most downtown hotels and is full of local arts, cultural experiences and local dining. For those who are interested in craft beer, there's also a great local brewery that has a restaurant and does tours. We rented a car for day a took a ride out to Squamish for the Sea to Sky Gondola ride. If you can make it work, this is truly worth doing. The drive itself is beautiful, but the views of Squamish and Howe Sound from the summit lodge are something to experience. Following the Sea to Sky Gondola ride we continued along highway 99 to Whistler, home of the 2010 Winter Olmpyics. It's your typical ski resort, so not a must do, but if you have the time and you're in Squamish this is a good stop as well.
Embarkation went fairly well. Nothing overly surprising here. We showed up 15 minutes in advance of our scheduled time for check-in and ended up waiting close to 45 minutes before finally boarding the ship.
Many people here have written about how dated the ship is, and it's true that it certainly isn't the newest in the fleet, but it's honestly not nearly as bad as some people here make it out to be. To be honest, my biggest complaint about the ship is not it's age, but rather how many signs they had out stating that certain areas were closed for maintenance or some other reason. We found the ship a bit difficult to navigate, but other than that we were quite happy with it.
We had an excellent experience with Anytime Dining in the Dining rooms. Typically, my wife and I spend more time in the buffet than anywhere else. Sometimes it's a time thing and sometimes it comes down to preferences and what's being served in the dining room that night. However, we ate in the dining rooms five times this cruise (twice in the Provence Dining room and three times in the Bordeaux Dining Room). The Provence is usually reserved for people doing traditional dining, but we found they staff did a good job of moving us up there from time to time when tables were available so we didn't have to wait long. The staff were incredibly courteous, and very good at their jobs. We had the same server two nights in a row in the Bordeaux dining room, and upon our arrival the second night he remembered our preferred drinks from the evening before. Small things, but impressive considering this was not in the traditional dining room where you may expect a server to get to know your preferences.
I have to admit, we didn't do very many of the onboard ship activities, but we did take in one production show and twice spent an hour or more listening to the live bands. The production group was excellent! They performed a fictional musical about the life of a man from New Orleans, telling the story of the man through popular blues songs. There were also two bands on board that performed in various places throughout the ship. We would go one of the lounges for drinks when a band was playing. They had planned sets, but were very good about taking requests. As you'd expect on any cruise, the servers were good and drinks even better.
Overall, we found the service on the ship to be very good. The folks at the pizzeria and grill on the open decks lacked the personality that most cruise service folks have, but all my other interactions with staff were great. As mentioned previously, we had the excellent server in the dining room, but we were also very pleased with our stateroom steward. He was very attentive, and carried out Moses request in a matter of minutes. He was also one of the genuinely caring people who really wanted to know how your cruise was going and what you'd experienced that day.
The first port of call was in Ketchikan. We didn't book an excursion here as we simply couldn't afford to do one everywhere. I know many people book their excursions privately to save money, and as we get more comfortable with cruising we may start doing the same, but for this trip we booked all of our excursions through Princess. That being said, there was plenty to do in Ketchikan. I'd suggest the salmon ladder a short walk from Creek Street. There's also Married Man's Trail and Creek Street itself. We only did these three things, but it was really enough to fill all our time in port while also giving us a sense of the place.
In Juneau we had a bus that took us to the Mendenhall Glacier and then to a whale watching tour. It was really well done! Our only critique is that we wish we'd had more time at the Mendenhall Glacier. We barely had an hour, which really doesn't give you much time to see the the glacier and do the hiking trails. The whale watching part of the excursion was about three hours. It sounds quite long, but again, by the time it was done we hadn't noticed the time pass. The naturalist on board was very knowledgable, and the captain did a great job of making sure we saw wildlife like whales, sea lions and bald eagles. Some people were a little disappointed as they were expecting to see a whale breach. For those who may be booking a whale watching tour expecting that you should know that it doesn't happen very often. We were not among the lucky few that get to see this. All the pamphlets and pictures show it, which can be a bit misleading. That being said, you'll see plenty of spouts and flukes as the whales come up for air and then start there dives.
Our second excursion was in Skagway, but we took a short ferry ride to Haines, where we did the 4x4 tour of the Tongass Rainforest. Money for excursions can often be tight, so if you can't do one everywhere I strongly suggest you consider this one! We climbed roughly 1500 feet in our 4x4 where we arrived at a private lodge for coffee and treats. After a short break we continued through the rainforest where we were treated to breath king views of the Lynn Canal, waterfalls and the chance to eat wild berries. At the very end we went back to the lodge where we were treated to a homemade meal of battered halibut, smoked chicken and salad. While the ride up is fun, the ride down is where you get the most incredible views!
Following three days in port we finally started two days of scenic cruising, which were the days I was most looking forward to going into the cruise. These days met my expectations and then some! There is something simply majestic about the glaciers. Between the naturalist on board the Island Princess and the park rangers we picked up along the way, there are plenty of people to give you great information about what you're taking in. How the glaciers were formed, how big they are, and whether or not their currently advancing or retreating is just some of the information you'll get. In Glacier Bay we saw the Margerie and John Hopkins Glaciers, both of which are very impressive. However, I have to say that my favourite day of the whole cruise was the scenic cruising through Prince William Sound and then the couple hours in College Fjord. The ship will spin 360 degrees giving everyone on board the opportunity to roughly eight different glaciers in a matter of minutes. You'll also get fascinating information about the people who found College Fjord and why they named the area after famous East Coast Colleges.
Our last excursion was in Whittier. We did this one because it came with a transfer to Anchorage, and the price difference between the transfer alone and the excursion with transfer was only $50. The excursions made stops at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Area, the Alyeska Tram and Potters Marsh. In all honesty, the only part of this excursion that really blew me away was the Widlife Conservation area. It gives you an opportunity to get up close to animals like bears, moose and other native Alaskan species without the risk of encountering them by accident in the wild. While the tram ride was neat, it was nothing to write home about. In fact, I found the Sea to Sky Gondola ride in Squamish quite a bit better. The final element of this was Potters Marsh, which I think Princess tacked on as "extra" that doesn't cost them much. It's literally a stop along the side of the highway.
Well, I think that about sums things up! All in all we really enjoyed our trip and both said we'd certainly do it again. Though we spent time in every port, there simply wasn't enough time to do it all. Plus, if you enjoy nature in anyway you won't be able to get enough here!
We had stateroom L719 on the Lido deck at the aft of the ship. As I understand it these rooms were added as part of a dry dock in 2015. It was very comparable to what we experienced on the Regal last year. Whether this be because it's a little newer, or maybe we're just easy to please I don't know, but we really enjoyed it. We also didn't find the shower to be any smaller than what we experienced on the Regal. My only complaint with our stateroom is that it wasn't advertised as being uncovered. Nearly every balcony on the ship has another balcony above it, and thus they are covered. With Alaska getting so much rain, it was a big reason we booked a balcony. we wanted to be able to take in the glaciers without having to potentially stand in the rain on an open deck. Unfortunately, we weren't really able to use the balcony much as it rained five out of seven days. All of the balconies on the Lido deck are uncovered, so if this is important to you make sure you're at least one deck below that.
See my description in my general review.View All undefined undefined Reviews
See my description of Ketchikan in my general review.
Check out the paragraph about Vancouver in my general review.
See my comments in my general review.View All 36 4x4 Tour Reviews
See my thoughts in my general review.