Island Princess Cruise Review by colorado_cruiser2010
- Sail Date: June 2010
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony
The boat left on Monday; we flew to Vancouver and stayed at the Pan-Pacific the night before. I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Pan-Pacific. It's a great hotel, and you can't beat the location. Best of all, they will take your bags directly from your room to the ship - no shlepping bags! We got both a city view and a harbor view - the harbor view was not worth the extra money. The harbor view room was MUCH smaller than the city view, and not as nice.
Embarkation was pretty smooth - a little bit of sit and wait around, but overall was pretty good. Most of our bags were in our rooms when we got them, except for one. Our son's bag wasn't there - finally after several hours we called and they said they had held it because he packed a knife on it (we were unaware he had done so). They held the knife, and delivered the bag.
The ship is beautiful, and well maintained. My husband and I and our 5 year old had a mini-suite with balcony and the other 2 kids had their own inside cabin. The mini-suite was perfect for us - but there's no way we could have put the older kids in the room also. For one, the sleeper sofa was about the right size for a 5-10 year old, but there's no way the teenagers would have fit on it. Plus it was HORRIBLY uncomfortable if you were over about 70 pounds. But, the mini-suite worked great, and the room steward made towel animals for our daughter, so she was thrilled.
Dining: The dining rooms were fantastic - the food was excellent. We had anytime dining, which worked great for us. There are lines if you go about 7pm, but before or after seemed to get right in. We ate one lunch in the Horizon Court buffet and it was not good. However, we ate most breakfasts there also, and breakfasts were great. Our advice - they have everything you need for breakfast (they will custom make eggs, plus french toast, waffles, etc). I would steer clear for lunch and dinner though.
Kids club: The folks who ran it were VERY nice. The bad part is that the club is at the absolute end of the boat (the stern), so the vibration and the noise was a little tough. Our daughter wanted to go some days, and cried on the others so much that we didn't take her. They aren't open during meals, except for the two formal nights, when they serve the kids dinner. She had a blast on those nights. Overall, the program is really good though.
Activities: My husband and I were pretty mellow, and mainly hung out in the Crooner's Bar and went to the magic show. The Crooner's bar is nice and relaxing. Overall the magic show was good - the magician was very good, but it was a little too over the top as far as showmanship. The kids spent every waking hour doing something - dancing, hot tubbing, going to shows. (they went to every show on board). They had a BLAST.
Weather: overall, it was good weather - lows in the 40s to highs in the 60s. As many others have suggested, layer your clothes, and bring rain gear! overall, it was pretty nice, although Glacier Bay and College Fjord were COLD so be prepared (hats, mittens were helpful)
Excursions: We did a few. In Ketchikan, my husband and son did the zipline excursion. They said it was fun, but you only actually zipline for something like 5 minutes of the 4 hour tour. (The rest was transportation, and waiting on the platforms for others to zipline).
Juneau: We tried to do the helicopter/dog sled excursion, but it was cancelled due to weather (we tried to do it the next day in Skagway, and it was also cancelled). Instead we did the helicopter ride with glacier landing, and then later did the Evening Whale Quest. The helicopter/glacier landing was fun - the ride was beautiful, but you only get about 5-10 minutes to stand on the glacier. Still was very very cool, and the pilot was fun. The whale watch was good - dinner was great, and we saw both orcas and humpbacks, which apparently is unusual.
In Skagway, when our dog sled glacier outing was cancelled, we ended up on the sled dog summer camp excursion with a bunch of people from the Carnival ship in dock. This was great fun - you go for a ride on a sled pulled by dogs, and then got to pet the puppies and dogs. All 3 kids LOVED this.
Disembarkation was a breeze - we were first off due to going on the cruise tour and needing to get the train to McKinley.
Cruise Tour: I would probably not recommend going through Princess. Rather, if you want to do this portion, rent a car and do it on your own. This was pretty much a big hassle and the Princess accommodations on land ranged from great to "you gotta be kidding me". Our biggest pet peeve was that events were poorly timed (luggage pick up was 7am, check out 11am but you didn't leave until 3pm for example).
McKinley Princess Lodge: avoid it. Ok rooms, but there is NOTHING to do here. You do get a chance to look at McKinley, but we all felt it was a waste of time.
Denali Princess Lodge: VERY nice - worth staying there on your own. I wish we would have skipped the McKinley lodge and spent another day here. We took the Explore Denali tour, which was the shortest. We didn't think the 5 year old would make a 6-8 hour bus ride. The tour was nice, you got out and walked around for a while and we got to see McKinley again. If we weren't travelling with such a young kid, we probably would have done one of the longer ones. Overall though, the tour was very nice. We also did the Sled Dog camp in Denali (free). You can pet the dogs and they talk about the dogs.
Fairbanks Princess Lodge: ugh. Was a slightly nice Motel 6. We didn't do the Princess shuttle to the airport, as it would have required us to have our bags ready 12 hours before the flight left. The hotel has a free shuttle.
Staff: overall, the Princess staff on board and in all the lodges was truly excellent. They were all helpful and accommodating and VERY customer focused.
In summary, fantastic trip - would definitely do the cruise again, but would skip the land tour. If you do the land tour, I would agree with others on here that said do the land portion first, and then have the end of your vacation to just relax on the boat.
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