18 Seattle to Alaska Princess Sun Princess Cruise Reviews

Went on Star Princess Alaska inside passage on June 29 out of Seattle. While my last cruise was on Oasis of the Sea in Sep 2012 I knew not to expect the first class service; but Star Princess took the cake for the worst and most boring ... Read More
Went on Star Princess Alaska inside passage on June 29 out of Seattle. While my last cruise was on Oasis of the Sea in Sep 2012 I knew not to expect the first class service; but Star Princess took the cake for the worst and most boring cruise I have ever taken. Transfers to the port were well organized and getting on the ship was over all good. I had a mini-suite with a balcony which was a nice size; disappointed with the balcony as it looked like it should have been powerwashed and there was a constant banging from the partition at night and banging from the cabin doors on the floor above and below. Food was the worst I have ever had on any ship as it was never hot mostly luke warm, poor variety and it looked like it was frozen. Only ate at the dining room twice once for breakfast -- we had to ask them if the pancakes were frozen as they were barely warm and all looked the exact same) ate for a lunch -- my friend ordered a cheeseburg and fries and I ordered lasgna--both were cold and her hamburg came with a piece of cheese slapped on needless to say it was sent back to heat the cheese up and then they poured the ketchup on the hamburg and portion it on the plate for the fries. You also had to wait for the drinks to be ordered and delivered to your table at the buffet court--beware of the toddler glass they put your orange juice in -- you must tell them you want a large (which is regular size glass). They had poor variety at the buffet and my time dining needless to say we were not going to spend money on the specialty restaurants and be disappointed. The tuna sandwich at the cafe was good as you could get it heated. Beware of the drinks as I ordered a $9.14 long island ice tea which was horribly watered down along with my friend who got a cosmo. Entertainment was never more then 30 minutes. We had to ask the host why the performances were so short--he stated that the entertainers get tired as they had multiple performances during the night. We saw a comedy show with a ventriliquist which was funny, the regular comedy was bad and the stage performance was horrible as it felt like they were yelling at you because the theatre was to small--a high school performance was better then this. Princess Olympics, yes/no game, bingo, jeopardize were all good but 30 minutes and only prize was the princess key chain with light -- I think that they had an overstock of them. Excursions were very good (tram ride- Juneau, 6 hr train/motorcoach tour-skagway, and zipline in ketchikan) but poorly organized getting to the correct location for your bus as you had to walk up and down looking for the bus or the person holding the sign (some were actually using their sign to sign waiver on). Disappointed debarking and embarking never knew what floor to go to and the location was most times close to the stairs--at times they had to hold people outside due to the backlog inside . Also disappointed with the time at each location -- it stated one thing on our itnerary and news letter but they also changed the time due back on board as we were competing with holland america at the ports. Needless to say I will not be cruising with princess again and have since cancelled by cruisetour vacation to Australia/New Zealand and booked with celebrity cruise as it was too much money and time to have a bad experience.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This was my first cruise. I was traveling with my partner (her third, and second with Princess), my senior parents (their first), my senior aunt and my 40-year-old cousin (also their first). Overall, we all had an amazing time. The Sun ... Read More
This was my first cruise. I was traveling with my partner (her third, and second with Princess), my senior parents (their first), my senior aunt and my 40-year-old cousin (also their first). Overall, we all had an amazing time. The Sun Princess is an impressive ship. I guess it was originally launched in 1995, and it has that era's sort of gentrified brass-rail type of modernized decor for the most part. Though not classically elegant, it is grand in its own way. It has all the amenities that you would expect, just not anything strikingly unusual or special. During the day, our favorite on-ship activities included the art auctions and wine tastings. We didn't spend too much time in the casino, though I did win $20 on a Pink Panther slot machine. There were quite a few activities scheduled, especially during at-sea days, and some of the events I wanted to do conflicted with others. It would have been nice to perhaps repeat some of the events at different times so that people might have a second chance to experience them. I really wanted to see the lecture with the first woman Iditarod winner, but the timing was poor -- it was scheduled while we were in port at Juneau and it was tough trying to get back from our excursions to freshen up in time and also try to grab dinner. I also wish the Lotus Spa/Gym had offered more fitness classes throughout the day, not just in the morning. The evening production shows in the Princess Theater were entertaining enough for a general audience, but since I have experience as a professional theater producer/director, it was sometimes excruciating for me to watch (particularly the Viennese dance montage during one of the productions -- the zombified head-bobbing grins were a frighteningly odd choice in choreography). I thought most of the dancers were very talented and the lead female singer was especially great -- versatile and beautiful. But the male lead didn't seem to have much range in voice, expression or movement -- to the point that it was distracting enough to taint the rest of the production. Also, some of the costumes were shoddily put together, feathers and beads falling apart onstage, and many garments were ill-fitting on some of the dancers. The quick-changes were impressive though. The magician/comedian used a somewhat derogatory skit involving Chinese linking rings; I just felt it was done in poor taste, especially when he pulled an Asian woman from the audience to participate and made her wear "Chinese" accessories and had her bow to the sound of a gong -- repeatedly. We liked watching shows in the Vista Lounge -- it had much more of a "night clubby" ambience than the traditional Princess Theater, with cocktail tables and low-light lamps. The juggling comedian was great, as was the guitar-playing comedian. The Atrium lounge vocalist/pianist (Greg Watson?) was excellent. Fabulous stylings on familiar jazz and classical standards from Rachmaninov to Billie Holiday. My father lit up like a candle and sang along to every tune, and even grabbed up my mother for a dance or two. It was lovely to see them having such a good time. At the end of one of Greg's sets, an audience member gave a standing ovation and said "You're better than the mainstage shows!" I had to agree. Service-wise, I would have to say that most of the crew we encountered were top-notch. Our stateroom steward on the Aloha deck was Gerry, and he was incredibly accommodating, friendly, always accessible but never imposing. Our head waiter in the Regency Dining Room was Ronnie, who was absolutely stellar and remembered all of our individual preferences every night we dined there. He would have my aunt's hot water waiting on the table for her before we even arrived. His assistant was Randy, who had a great sense of humor. The service was wonderfully personalized and everyone in my family felt comfortable and cared for. Dining in the Marquis was quite a bit different -- service was good but understandably not as personalized because it is anytime dining and it must be hard to establish a rapport with customers in such an unstructured setting. I did notice there was one server during the wine tastings in the Marquis who seemed to really hate his job for some reason and was not very attentive at all. In the lounges, all of the bartenders and servers were very nice -- but most notable was Jose, the bartender of the Rendezvous bar. His jovial nature combined with his astute mojito- and martini-mixing skills made the Rendezvous our favorite watering hole on the ship. My partner and I had never before considered ourselves "cruise" travelers, but the Alaska destination was the driving factor of why we chose this cruise. We had an amazing time on our excursions for the most part: -bicycling 11.5 miles of rolling hills in Ketchikan and trekking into the Tongass Rainforest to view a waterfall and natural salmon ladder -walking around downtown Ketchikan on Creek Street was also amusing, as was the Dolly's brothel museum -Canoeing to the Mendenhall Glacier and waterfall was probably one of the most amazing things I have ever done. It was a privilege and an honor to see one of the great glaciers -- before it is gone. It is so sad to realize how fast these ice formations are receding. -Horseback riding in the Alaskan wilderness is also something that took my breath away. We were in an area outside of Skagway called Dyea and the vast valleys were so incredibly beautiful. -The Skagway Streetcar ride was not really worth it for us, since our horseback riding guide had already driven us through most of the hot spots and filled us in on Skagway history and lore earlier in the day. But if you are not really an adventure-seeker, I suppose the tour would be a decent overview of Skagway. Many folks said the White Pass train ride was well worth the price of admission though -- so if we are to go up there again, I think we'll do that. -Butchart Gardens in Victoria was of course beautiful and fragrant. I had been there before, so it wasn't much new for me. However, we had a four-course picnic meal on the lawn, which was nice. The biggest pet peeve throughout the voyage were the obscenely opulent shopping and sales pitches in the very incongruous rural Alaskan towns. In Skagway, where there is not even a physician (only an RN and nurse's assistant), there are 27 jewelry stores. Embarkation and disembarkation were for the most part much smoother than I had expected. The Victoria shore leave disembarkation however, was a much different story. The single exit was massively congested -- people were backed up several flights of stairs and down the stateroom halls just trying to get off the boat. Some passengers came close to fisticuffs because they accused each other of "cutting" in line. Staff seemed to be strangely non-existent during this particular exit process. The inside stateroom we had was smaller than most, but as this was my first cruise, I wasn't too picky. It had ample storage room for all of our luggage (and I thought we had overpacked with four suitcases and three smaller bags). The beds were conveniently tall enough to stow away any luggage bags. The beds were also quite comfortable, too. The safes were a little touchy -- they didn't always work when you punched in your security codes. We were fortunate that our stateroom was close the the forward public balcony on the Aloha deck and it was almost always quiet, so we didn't care too much that we didn't have a window or balcony. Dining options were a little less varied than I had expected. The buffet had revolving ethnic offerings, but aside from the pizzeria, there wasn't any dedicated type of cuisine on a regular basis. The dining room meals were for the most part amazing, with a few bland misses here and there. The vegetarian options weren't very impressive -- almost always pasta and my vegetarian aunt was disappointed. The seafood was very fresh though, and other family members raved about the steak and game poultry. Anyway -- overall an amazing experience, and it has made a future cruiser out of me. I am very tempted to someday book the 102-day cruise for its circumnavigation to 36 ports of call. I can't imagine a more economical and convenient way to see the world and get an idea of where I'd like to return for a longer land visit. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This was the first cruise for both my wife and I. We chose Princess because of the embarkation point. We've been to Seattle about 10 years ago and wanted to go back for a visit. We had originally booked an outside cabin back in ... Read More
This was the first cruise for both my wife and I. We chose Princess because of the embarkation point. We've been to Seattle about 10 years ago and wanted to go back for a visit. We had originally booked an outside cabin back in January. About two days before we left for the cruise, I received an email saying that we had been upgraded to a balcony room. What a pleasant surprise! It really made the trip that much more pleasurable. I cashed in most of my frequent flier miles from Delta to get first class tickets. All went according to plan except that our flight from Orlando was about 2 hours late leaving Orlando because of weather. We missed our connecting flight in Cincinnati. Fortunately for us, we planned on traveling the day before the cruise departure. Delta did the best they could to get us on the last flight out to Seattle that night. Unfortunately, it wasn't first class. We made it into Seattle about 1030PM. Too late to do any sightseeing or get a decent dinner. We stayed at a small hotel in the Queen Anne area of Seattle called the Mediterranean Inn. An older place but the room was quite comfortable and it had a Starbuck's right off the lobby. The next morning, we took a cab to Pier 30. We got there about 11AM. Everything I read here said that 11AM is not the best time to show up. We got antsy and wanted to get going. We took our chances. It was a breeze. We probably waited less than 30 minutes before people were allowed to board the ship. Once we got on the ship, we took the little map that they gave us and started exploring. We found the Horizon Buffet on Deck 14. It is where we ate breakfast several times. The food was typical buffet quality. I wasn't expecting a culinary experience. Just something to fill up on. I was thankful that the ship personnel were very meticulous about the hand sanitizer. No one got into the restaurants without doing the sanitizer thing. It took me one night to get used to the motion of the ship. After never being on a ship that big out in the open water, I was really a bit apprehensive. I didn't sleep that well the first night. However, the bed was very comfortable. By the next morning, I had gotten used to it and the motion never bothered me the rest of the way. And it did get a little choppy the next day. I always like to stay informed even while I'm traveling. The TV channel choices were a bit of a disappointment. I know people will say that you don't take a cruise to watch TV. However, I wish they had the US version of CNN rather than CNN International. That being said, the Captain kept everyone informed as far as ship route and weather was concerned. There were plenty of events during the day to keep us busy. The one thing I didn't care for too much was the presentation that someone gave the day before Ketchikan telling us about all the wonderful deals we were about to get in the shops in Ketchikan and Juneau. I walked out in the middle of it. My wife wasn't so fortunate. She was stuck in the middle of a row and had to wait until the end. I will say that in my opinion, the food was excellent (not Horizon Court). The meals were prepared exactly the way we wanted. The server staff was outstanding in both restaurants we ate at (Regency and Marquis). The desserts were out of this world. I couldn't get enough of the NY cheesecake. We didn't do the Steakhouse, which was actually part of the buffet. But, we did have lunch in Verdi's Pizzeria. My wife said that the calzone was quite good. Since neither one us could fathom drinking $31 worth of Coke, we paid by the drink. I'm a coffee drinker and I will say that the regular coffee was acceptable to me. I had heard stories about the coffee not being brewed from beans on cruises. I couldn't tell the difference if that was the case. They had coffee in the buffet and in a coffee station off the Terrace Grill. Never had to pay for it, so I guess it was included in the cost of the cruise. I was expecting to pay extra for coffee. We stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway. We liked all three ports a great deal. The weather in Ketchikan and Juneau was cloudy and cool, no rain. When we got to Skagway, the sky cleared after mid-morning and became pretty sunny in the afternoon. We did the lumberjack show and the totem poll park in Ketchikan. The bus driver bringing us to/from the ship was very well informed about the local area even though he was from Chicago. A very entertaining guy as well. The trip through Tracy Arm was the highlight of the trip. It was cold but at least it wasn't raining. I took lots of photos on this part of the trip. The one thing I thought was a little cheap was when we were charged for hot chocolate. I just thought for the price we paid, the cruise line could spring for a $1.75 hot chocolate. Just a little nit-picky thing on my part. No big deal. In Juneau, we did the salmon bake and Mendenhall Glacier. If the salmon at the bake wasn't the best I ever had, it was right up there. We were able to eat all we wanted. Excellent. I highly recommend it. The glacier was a sight to behold. Glad I got to see it at least once in my lifetime. In Skagway, we did a musher's camp and the White Pass RR. The dogs were a hoot. We were one of the first groups to show up at the camp and the dogs were ready to go. After the ride, we got to play with the pups, which was my highlight as I am a dog lover. The White Pass RR was well worth the money. The scenery was outstanding, especially when the train got up in elevation and we were able to look back down the valley to the water and see the ship. The last port we visited was Victoria. We didn't do anything organized as we got there a little late (5PM) and I thought seeing the gardens in the evening would have been a waste. We ate dinner down by the inner harbor and walked around downtown a bit. Victoria, as all Canadian cities we've been to is very safe and very clean. The people are also very friendly. The next to last day was an at-sea day. The weather was clear and the temperature warm. We actually got a sunburn sitting at the rear of the ship. We got to Seattle early in the AM. From the time we started getting off the ship to the time we had our bags and got a taxi was maybe 1 hour at most. Very efficient to me. We stayed at the same hotel (Mediterranean Inn) getting off the ship. Since we got to the hotel about 9AM, the hotel let us store our bags there until the room was ready. We went off to see Safeco Field and Pike Market. We've seen the market previously but missed the fish throwing this time as we got there too late. I'm a Yankee fan so I wouldn't have normally cared if the Mariners won or lost EXCEPT that they were playing the Red Sox. Well, the Mariners lost. The food at Safeco was great. They had these garlic fries to that were die for. In fact, they had so much garlic on them, I wasn't bothered by evil spirits for a week. Headed back to Orlando the next day. Overall, it was the best vacation we ever had. The staff on the ship always went out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Never ran into one bad one. Our stateroom attendant (Ariel) was outstanding. I never got over how he knew when I used a towel in the room because when I got back to the room, there was always a new towel. We are already planning our next cruise next year. It will either be the other Alaskan cruise (Voyage of the Glaciers) or the cruise that leaves out of NYC and goes up to Canada. Princess is the way to go for me. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
I traveled with my sister and her husband and my college roommate who lives in NM. I am from Seattle so had a 5 minute drive to pier 70 where the ship is docked. We arrived at 10:55AM and we were checked in and waiting in line to board at ... Read More
I traveled with my sister and her husband and my college roommate who lives in NM. I am from Seattle so had a 5 minute drive to pier 70 where the ship is docked. We arrived at 10:55AM and we were checked in and waiting in line to board at 11:15 am. They opened the doors at 11:30 and by 11:45 we were in our room and exploring the ship. The pool and hot tubs were opened by 1:30 pm so we enjoyed the afternoon exploring the ship, unpacking, lunch and hot tubbing. If you choose or are able to arrive ~11:00 then pack your essentials in a carry on (such as bathing suit or work out gear) as your luggage won't arrive till after 1:30 or 2:00. This was my second cruise to Alaska from Seattle so I knew what to expect to some degree. Not having to fight the crowds with the airlines or bus schedules is a plus in my book. I might suggest if you are part of a tour to take your own cab when you arrive or depart to avoid the check in/out madness. Although Princess made it very easy and smooth. My party opted for the reserved dining at 8:00PM as it gave us all a chance to get together at least once a day and it was very fun getting to know your servers for the week. We had two wonderful wait person's from Thailand and Romania who in many ways made the cruise for us. Princess does the partial free-style cruising meaning you can have reserved seating or not. I would highly recommend signing up for reserved seating in advance (either 6 or 8pm) as if you wait till you board you will probably not get it. You can make reservations at the Marquis dinning room on a daily basis but why hassle if you don't need to. My college roommate and I opted for a balcony cabin which we thoroughly enjoyed. We were complimentary upgraded to the Aloha deck from the bottom (Dolphin) deck which was nice. Same room only closer to the hot tubs and buffet. My sister and her husband had an inside cabin which seemed bigger since it did not have the window/sliding glass door so it probably was. The TV shows the ship's camera from the bow so you can check the weather before venturing out doors. The cabins were well equipped with pool towels, soaps, fridge, hair dryer, etc. You can't iron in your room but there is a laundry room down the hall with an ironing board and w/d so that was fine. Our room steward brought us bathrobes and slippers when we asked which was nice. We made sure he knew when we left in the morning and evening so he could do his thing and get on with his day or night. He was wonderful. The rooms are very quiet. There are often many announcements which you will not hear in your room unless the TV is turned on to the ships channel. We did two tours; the Lumberjack show in Ketchikan and the train ride in Skagway. I would highly recommend both. It rained constantly at all three ports but it didn't dampen our spirits or time! Having been to all three ports before I spent quite a bit of time shopping with my friend and just walking the city. The Mt. Roberts Tramway is a must but I would recommend not pre-reserving it as you can walk to the base and buy a ticket when you get there. It was totally fogged in when we were there and I doubt people got their money back. You also don't need to reserve for Mendenhall Glacier as there are buses you can catch for $12/pp that leave every 30 minutes. It is about 20 minutes out and nice scenery. Look for eagles as there were many just on the bus ride. In Juneau go to the Chamber and get a city walking tour map. It is very fun and a nice way to walk off the buffet's and see the non-tourist parts. The Totem's museum is great and is walkable from the ship although a bit of a hike. Have never been to the Saxman Village but have heard it is fabulous. Many of the tours you could do on your own but you would need to research to make sure. If there are tours you definitely want to do then sign up early before you get on the ship as they do sell out. You can always cancel within 24 hours once on the ship so better to be safe then sorry. My friend and I used the spa a lot! Manicure's, pedicure's, facial, seaweed wrap, air bed and we even both got out hair cut. Everything was fabulous! One hint. Wait till the first or second day as they will start having specials. I got my facial for 1/2 price. Also, if you are going to buy any products then if you spend over $250 you will get 10% off which between the two of us we did. We went to most every show after dinner and they were all fabulous. Excellent singer's and dancers and something for everyone. We also went to some of the lectures. My brother-in-law was smart as every morning he wrote out a schedule of events he wanted to do. There were golf competitions, lectures, movies, yoga, glacier viewing, art auctions, kitchen tours, computer classes, painting classes, etc., etc. We walked through the casino and nightclubs but were too tired by the end of our long days to stay up and party. They looked very fun though. The aft hot tup on the upper deck was the best and usually not too crowded. And of course the endless food choices. We ordered room service once which was kinda fun to sip coffee from our deck. A couple of hints. Be sure and have a burger and fries from the Grill which is out side from the Horizon buffet open from 12 to 4. Tea is served from 3 to 4 in the main dining room and ice cream sundays in the Horizon buffet from 3 to 4. The pizza restaurant is great but not the calzone's - just the pizza. At the buffet for breakfast if you want something that is not shown then just ask! I enjoy tomato juice and smoked salmon and they got it for me. They really do bend over backwards to please. From 3 to 4 they bring out pizza and larger cookies and little sandwiches so look for those. Be sure and check out the desert buffet they do on Thursday or Friday (???) which is in the afternoon. I missed most of it but it looked great and a must see. They had Alaska crab leg's one night and lobster another night. The food was wonderful and you could have as much of anything you wanted. My jeans definitely shrunk on this trip! Tracy Arm was very nice but a little disappointing as we could not go up very far - too many iceberg's! Look very close to the shore as we saw a black bear and many eagle's and a few seals. We also saw whale spouts and dolphins but you had to really concentrate and look but well worth it. Mainly out at sea. Definitely bring some cold weather and waterproof gear. Umbrella's were a must including hats and gloves while at the glacier. Bring a small backpack to carry your wallet, umbrella, book and purchases when going ashore. The two formal nights were fun but certainly not mandatory. I didn't really participate in the captain's dinner but did dress up. They have many photographers set up during the evening to take your picture with different backgrounds. No obligation to purchase and very fun. I ended up buying two. Take a look around and try all the different back grounds. There were entire groups of families having there pictures taken. I did not use my laptop but could have for .50/minute using my wireless card. My cell phones both worked in the towns but were on roaming - Verizon and T-mobile. They did not work out at sea which is not surprising. Sunday morning came too soon but it was a great week. We did the express check out so did not have to have our bags outside our room before dinner the night before. We walked our bags off the ship at 7:30pm, caught a cab and was home at 8:15am! I was too tired to watch the ship leave that evening at 4:00 but know I will see it many time's before the season ends. Am happy to answer any questions I may not have touched on. Enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
My husband and I decided to celebrate our 8th anniversary by taking an Alaskan cruise. After much research, we found that only the Sun Princess operated by Princess Cruises could accommodate our requirements: 7 day cruise, in/out of ... Read More
My husband and I decided to celebrate our 8th anniversary by taking an Alaskan cruise. After much research, we found that only the Sun Princess operated by Princess Cruises could accommodate our requirements: 7 day cruise, in/out of Seattle, sailing on or about 09 Jul 07. This was my third cruise (I previously cruised with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) and having had a blast on my last two cruises, I was excited to go to Alaska. Having stated all of this, I have used my previous cruises as a comparison to the Sun Princess Alaskan cruise. Embarkation - The facility where you embark is not nearly as efficient or nice as other cruises / ports. They advise you to wait until after 2:00 pm to board, and I wish I had. You have to wait outside in one line to drop your luggage off, then you are directed to go inside to another line to get checked in, then you are sent through security, then you are routed up a long / somewhat steep ramp to board the ship (I only mention this because it may be hard to get a wheelchair up the ramp without assistance). The biggest hitch was getting out of Seattle. After doing the mandatory boat drill, the captain announced that they would be disconnecting from the Seattle power supply and turning on the ship's power. He stated that there maybe a temporary loss in power but to keep our fingers crossed. Well, the ship did in fact lose power and did not come back on until five (that's right 5) hours later. We sat in the Seattle harbor for five hours while the crew tried to resolve the power issue and were therefore five hours late getting out of Seattle, which put us in late into Ketchikan. In a goodwill gesture, every passenger was given a $50.00 credit on the fifth day of the cruise. Cabin / Room Steward - We stayed on the deck 12 (Rivera) in room R348. We decided to spend the extra money and got a balcony room. We both decided that it was money well spent and logged a lot of time on our private balcony. The room was pretty much standard as cruise rooms go. The bathroom layout gave more room than one of my previous cruises. There was plenty of closet space and hangers for clothes but could only hold one suitcase. We stored our other suitcases under the bed. Our steward was great!! He brought all requested items (extra towels, robes, etc) in a timely fashion and was always polite (which not all staff members were). He even decorated the outside of our room with Happy Anniversary balloons on our anniversary. The only items to note were that the in room hair dryer was broken (I luckily brought my own) and my husband did not feel that the shower water was hot enough. Plan on bringing an extension cord as the rooms only have one outlet. Ship - The ship is one the older ships in the fleet and it shows. The ship really needs to be redecorated, recarpeted, and in some areas remodeled. The elevators were extremely slow and it was usually faster to take the stairs. My husband and I noticed that the average age on the ship appeared to be around 60. It was a very old ship (passenger age wise) and the clubs and bars were never crowded. Both my husband and I thought that a lot of the older cruisers were grumpy / cranky and rude to both the staff and fellow passengers. Staff - We found a few friendly bartenders, but a lot of the crew members were unfriendly and unhelpful. One crew member even mocked an item that I purchased at an onboard store when he saw me showing my husband what I had bought. We both felt that since Princess automatically charges each passenger $10.00 a day for tips, that there is no incentive for the staff to go the extra mile. Spa - I had pre-booked a traditional manicure through the Princess website prior to the cruise. However, when I went to the spa for my scheduled appointment, I was told that the website is outdated and that they no longer do traditional manicures. Frustrated I left and went to the purser's desk to complain and make sure the charge for the appointment was taken off my bill. Dining - Food. Eh. This cruise had the by far the worst food of any cruise that I have been on. Buffet - The only good thing to be said about the buffet food was that it was convenient. The food was generally bland and not very good. We ate most of breakfasts there and ate lunch once or twice there. Again, if you have more time go to the dining room. Main Dining Room - We elected anytime dining and only ate in the dining room four times. The food was good, but often you had to wait in line and you spent about an hour and a half at dinner. Balcony Dining - We decided to forego both formal nights. The first formal night was on our anniversary and we decided to do Balcony Dining. It was an additional $100.00, but it included a four-course meal (steak and lobster), a bottle champagne, our choice of cocktails, a free 8x10 photo (they sent a photographer to the room to take pictures of us on our balcony), and a cake for our anniversary.We both really enjoyed the Balcony Dining and the food was pretty good. Sterling Steakhouse - For an additional charge of $15.00 per person, we ate at the Sterling Steakhouse. It took us a while to find it since it the sign was in front of the buffet restaurant. Then we realized that the steakhouse was inside the buffet. They shut down have of the buffet restaurant, put up a curtain and that is the steakhouse. You can still hear all the commotion from the other open buffet line and dining area. Having said all that, the food is pretty good at the steakhouse. Ice Cream Stand - Don't waste your money. You can get ice cream at the buffet for free and it's all you can eat. We went there and order off the menu for $3.75 a person and what we got wasn't the way it was described on the menu. When I pointed out this fact, I got a blank stare from both crew members. Pizzeria - Probably the best food on the ship and we ate most of our dinners and lunches here. The pizza and pasta were very good. Shopping Onboard - This ship didn't have as many stores as my previous cruises. Even my husband thought that the shopping was limited (that's saying a lot) compared to the other ships we've been on. Still, I managed to spend about $100.00 at the stores. One note for you smokers out there, if you buy a carton of cigarettes, the ship holds it until the last night. This goes for cartons purchased onshore as well. This forces you to buy your cigarettes from the ship's bars the entire time. Entertainment - We went to most of the game shows and afternoon trivia sessions. The game shows were lame, but helped pass the time and the trivia sessions were hard. We didn't make it to any of the stage productions, but did see the "Hey There Lonely Girl" singer, the comedy show, and the magic show. All three were very good. We also went to watch the Karaoke night, which was really entertaining. Drinking - Drinking onboard can get very expensive. We racked up a $50.00 bar tab in under an hour on night. The best value around is the unlimited soda pass for $31.00 (which is the cheapest I've seen on any of my cruises) and I highly recommend it. Ketchikan - It started raining right before we got to Ketchikan and didn't stop until we got to Victoria. Ketchikan was my least favorite port. It rained steady all day and there wasn't much to do in town. We went to the Lumberjack show and we both really like it. Tracy Arm - Still raining, high around 40 degrees. Beautiful scenery, but very cold, perhaps that coldest area on our trip. We saw lots of whales and icebergs. We could not do the whole passage since there were too many icebergs. Juneau - Still raining, high around 50 degrees. Probably my favorite port. We went to Mendenhall Glacier, the salmon hatchery, and to a salmon bake. I highly recommend all three. The tour driver here was very entertaining and knowledgeable about the area. Skagway - Still raining, high around 50 degrees. I really liked this port. We went to Liarsville and we took a bus ride up the White Pass Summit. Liarsville was a lot of fun and the Summit was beautiful. One note, it was so overcast the day we were in Skagway that the bus drive almost didn't do the Summit. She told us that out of four months last year they only successfully did the Summit tour 17 days. Luckily, it cleared up enough to go. The tour driver here was very entertaining and knowledgeable about the area. Victoria - Finally stopped raining. The city was beautiful and the 70 degree weather almost felt like a heat wave after the last couple of ports. We went to Buchart Gardens and really enjoyed the ride out as well as the gardens. I recommend this tour, although there is a lot of walking involved. An elderly couple (one was in a wheel chair) on our tour struggled with the handicap ramps, which some were pretty steep. Disembarkation - We received our final bill the morning of disembarkation (which was no surprise since we had the purser's desk print off our charges every two days - it helps to control your spending). Since they had our credit card on file, we were all set to go. We elected to do the express disembarkation (which it seemed like half the ship did as well based on the crowd). Despite the crowding of the public areas and line to get off the ship, disembarking was pretty quick. We took a Princess bus transfer and was at the airport by 9:00 am. Overall - We had a great time at all the ports and really liked Alaska. I would not cruise on this particular ship nor recommend it to anyone. When I cruise again I will probably select a line other than Princess. My husband and I both agree that we will pick a newer ship as well. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Over all the cruise was excellent. Here are some high and low points (mostly high): Embarkation/Disembarkation: It has never been easier. Since this cruise was in celebration of Gene's 30th anniversary working for the same company ... Read More
Over all the cruise was excellent. Here are some high and low points (mostly high): Embarkation/Disembarkation: It has never been easier. Since this cruise was in celebration of Gene's 30th anniversary working for the same company (that's unusual these days and well worth celebrating) I ordered a limo to take us to the cruise terminal from our home. When we arrived at 1pm, we noticed a long line of people with luggage. Immediately I was worried. The line didn't appear to be moving. I signaled a porter to come help us with our luggage. He loaded up his cart and took us into the terminal, bypassing the long line. Apparently, all the people in line wanted to bring their own luggage onboard - without help. Therefore they had to be screened through a metal detector which slowed down the process. Why they chose to stay in that line instead of turning their luggage over to a porter is beyond me. After only 15 minutes we had turned in our luggage, checked in, and passed through security. Our feet touched the Promenade deck at 1:15 and the cruise began. On the way home the situation was just as good, but in reverse. Immigration passed everyone with a US passport through with only a cursory glance. Non-US citizens were screened more closely. I suspect immigration was quick because the vast majority of the cruise took place in the state of Alaska with only a short stop in Victoria, Canada. The Ship: The Sun Princess is about 12 years old. In some spots the age is showing, but overall the ship is in very good condition and it is well maintained. It also seemed especially stable. As usual, the crew was cleaning and painting the ship throughout the cruise. The atrium on the Sun class ships is very large and pretty. Unfortunately, the atrium elevators don't travel the entire height of the ship. They are limited to the four decks of the atrium space. Some folks in other online reviews have complained that the elevators are slow on the Sun. Well, all I can say is I usually took the stairs if for no other reason than it's the healthy choice and saved time. Leave the elevators to the infirm and those traveling more than 4-5 decks. When I used the elevators to travel from deck 5 to deck 14, I thought it was annoying that so many healthy people were using the elevator just to rise 1 or 2 decks. The Food: On a cruise, food in of paramount importance. Overall, the food on the Sun Princess was very good. I appreciate that the ship has a Sterling Steakhouse onboard. Even though they lack an exclusive venue, using an isolated section of the buffet instead, we did enjoy the food and atmosphere. As usual, the beef was excellent and cooked exactly as ordered. However, I think they need to do something to improve the quality of their side dishes. Sadly, Gene and I both thought the buffet was lacking in selection - especially at breakfast. But I did like the freshly prepared omelets. I winder why the Grand Class ships regularly have both Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine in the buffet, but the smaller ships never do. Those dishes are strongly associated with travel for us and it's always disappointing when they are not served onboard. They didn't even have them in the dining room when we went there for breakfast three times. Overall, I would say the Sun Princess buffet was better than that on the Regal Princess, but not as good as on the Grand class ships. Late in the cruise we did go to the Verdi's restaurant. It was good but not terrific. The menu is limited. Gene enjoyed the calzone. I had a pizza and found it to be adequate. It's a true thin crust Italian style pizza, but the toppings available lacked creativity. Finally, the food in the dining room was excellent as usual. I'm hoping with the new menus that Princess is starting to distribute throughout the fleet they will do more to improve the presentation of their food in the main dining rooms. The Service: We found the service by crew members to be as good as that on any Princess ship. Most impressive was our steward, Edison. He was the first person to actually read and follow our online Princess Profile. Our fruit preference was delivered on the first day and bath robes were waiting for us. He had the twin beds prepared as a king size bed (some stewards have made the wrong assumption that two men together aren't supposed to have the bed made up as a king). As has always been true for us on Princess, Edison was quiet, efficient, and had everything prepared on time. We had no extra requests because he took care of everything in advance. We also enjoyed the one gay passenger gathering that Princess hosted. It was one of the largest we have been to with about 16 passengers present. The situation on the Sun Princess was unique. The bartender (Jose) and a waiter that are routinely assigned to the smallest lounge onboard were both gay. They hosted the gay passenger reception and basically assured us the tiny Rendez Vous bar was a "family" bar. So those of us who attended the reception were always welcomed and recognized on later nights when we dropped by. Jose even arranged to play music that's popular with gay folks (and straight too) and he sometimes had extra snacks available. Though the Rendez Vous wasn't exactly a gay bar, it was definitely mixed - especially in the evening. It felt like home. Finally, we usually had dinner under the umbrella of the Anytime Dining program. This was our first cruise taking advantage of that flexible option and frankly, I didn't care for it. I learned I prefer to have the same dining time every night. We usually dined at the same table because we liked the waiter. But it a couple times we couldn't get a reservation for our preferred time. In the future I think we will stick with traditional dining even if it means we get the first seating assignment rather than our preferred second seating. The predictability of traditional dining fits us better than always having to think in advance about making a reservation or just walking up to find we must wait. The Entertainment: We saw all the production shows plus a magician/comedian. We attended a few of the trivia games (always scoring in the top three) and we won three games. The shows were terrific with the exception of Extreme Country. It just wasn't my cup of tea though I do like some of the songs they used in the score including a Garth Brooks tune. We especially enjoyed Save the Last Dance. When I took the back stage tour in the Princess Theatre I found out that show is also a favorite among several of the singing and dancing cast members. Finally, for the fifth time we saw Piano Man. Usually we would not have gone to that show, but it was the first opportunity for my parents to see that show and since we think it is the best show Princess has, we wanted to tag along. Sadly, I enjoyed the magician but apparently no one else in my family did. Gene thought he was boring and his act was "dumb." I admit, it was nothing fancy or amazing, but I found it simple, funny, and clean. I also appreciated that the magician spent a lot of his off stage time teaching the few kids on the ship how to do magic tricks. As a teacher, I appreciate when adults provide kids with some good clean fun that doesn't involve TV or video games. The Ports: We liked them all. We spent the least time ashore in Ketchikan and the most in Skagway (though our time was dedicated more to the Yukon than the small town of Skagway). In Ketchikan we wandered through town, stopping at the SE Alaska Discovery Center. It's a museum about the topography, animals, people and industry of Alaska along the Inside Passage. I really enjoyed it. In the future, I would like to see Misty Fjord's National Monument in Ketchikan. In Juneau we took a helicopter tour to Herbert Glacier, landing and spending some time walking on the glacier. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I loved every moment of it. We booked outside of the Princess excursions and saved $65 per person. Still the cost was expensive at $199 each. My parents took the Princess tour to Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. They found it loud, crowded and the people were boorish. They especially annoyed by the bus driver who spent much of the time narrating with commentary about how bad the state and federal government are. Our greatest disappointment was that we ran out of time in Juneau. We wanted to see more of the city after we completed our scheduled tours, but we ran out of time since dinner scheduling became a problem. Also, there was insufficient time in Victoria. I think Princess could leave Victoria a little later and still make it back to Seattle by 6am. In Skagway we started by wandering through town for about 90 minutes. It's a tiny city but very beautiful. Then we picked up our rental car at the only agency in town: Avis. It was expensive ($110/day) but for four people, it was cheaper than a Princess tour. We drove along the Klondike Highway over White Pass and all the way to Carcross in Canada's Yukon Territory. The scenery was awesome. We had a tailgate picnic overlooking Emerald Lake (about 75 miles from Skagway). I'm glad we rented the car. We got to set our own itinerary and timeframe. It was quiet and comfortable and at a per person cost we came out about the same as a Princess tour, but on our terms. The final port was Victoria. Again, we had a rental car. We went to Butchart Gardens, touring the Sunken Garden first. Then we ate dinner at the Dining Room. Afterward, we wandered through the Japanese and Italian gardens. Our time was too short but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. The Passengers: Without a doubt, this was the oldest crowd we have cruised with in eight cruises over the last 18 months. And, unfortunately, is was also the most slovenly. Yes, I'll say it - I thought I was on vacation with a bunch of rednecks and cowboys - I just wish they would cruise on a line like NCL or Carnival which are geared more toward casual cruisers. Yet, I want to give credit where credit is due. Those that didn't want to dress up for dinner on formal nights went to the buffet or Italian restaurant instead of the formal dining rooms. However, on regular nights we saw plenty of jeans in the dining room and even baseball caps. I'm sorry, if you can't take your cap off in the dining room, then your momma didn't bring you up right! Yes, I am a snob and elitist. I am not a shit-kicker or a farmer or a Texan. Yeah, I'm ragging on Texans this time because the two ugliest moments on the cruise both involved folks from the state with the most bravado and is home of our least intelligent President. In the first incident, a man from Texas was yelling at a crew member at the purser's desk. I assume he was from the Lone Star State because that's what it said on the thin T-shirt that barely covered his big belly. I don't know what the problem was, but it definitely wasn't a pretty situation and neither was he or his behavior. In the second incident a lady from Texas was complaining in the elevator that when she paid for something in Canada and used US dollars, she got her change back in "useless" Canadian dollars. Hello! We were in CANADA dumb ass! The ugly American strikes again! Ultimately, despite the rare nastiness of a tiny minority (not all Texans are obnoxious - but they seem to have more than their share) or the limited choices in the buffet, it was a wonderful cruise. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular - and especially so on the three sunny days of the cruise. Add to that the fact that we had no significant rain during the whole trip and I think I can easily state we were blessed by mother nature. The fact that we could celebrate Gene and his long term commitment to a company that has not always treated him well, and also share the cruise adventures with my parents (who dress very nicely ) made for a terrific 7 day experience. I have no doubt we will see Alaska again some day. I remain a happy Princess Cruises customer.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Embarkation: We arrived at the Seattle airport and were met by a lady who directed us to take our luggage to the far end of the baggage terminal, then head to the complete opposite end to board our bus to the ship. Turns out we could have ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived at the Seattle airport and were met by a lady who directed us to take our luggage to the far end of the baggage terminal, then head to the complete opposite end to board our bus to the ship. Turns out we could have taken our luggage to the end where the bus was - so that was kind of a bummer but we weren't going to let a little misinformation ruin our trip! Once we boarded the bus, we waited a bit for more people to board and were finally on our way. Quick line at the port and we were on the ship in less than 30 minutes! Very smooth embarkation... FYI they take your picture immediately so have your makeup on ladies! After traveling early in the morning we did NOT want our picture taken but they made us wait in the line anyway. This is the first of hundreds of photos you will be in during the next 7 days! Cabin: We were in A608, a category BB balcony. We had originally booked an inside and at the last minute, decided to call and see about paying for an upgrade to a guaranteed category BE balcony. This worked out GREAT for us - - because since the prices often drop as you get closer to your sailing date, you can take advantage of the lower prices. We paid at least $400/person less than if we had originally booked a BE - - and since we then booked it as a guarantee, we got a visit from the upgrade fairy and ended up in a BB. The cabin was nicely decorated, with plenty of room for all of our clothes, books, etc., with room to spare. All four of our suitcases were easily stored under the bed. I used one suitcase as the "prize" suitcase and filled it with all the things we were bringing back to people at home - - this made the room stay more organized and clean, without a ton of different souvenir bags laying around. The bed was definitely not new and was very lumpy and uncomfortable but we immediately called our room steward and ordered an egg crate mattress which made all the difference in the world! The bathroom was fine and shower was bigger than I expected. Our room steward, Chai, was excellent. He was always right there if we needed anything, and was very prompt about servicing our room whenever we left for dinner or activities. He was very friendly, had a great sense of humor, and we couldn't have asked for a better room steward. TIP: Pick up little gifts and leave them for your room steward every night when you leave for dinner - - just as a little thank you for taking care of you! Food: Horizon Buffet: Our first impression of the food on the ship (unfortunately) was the Horizon Buffet. Not good. We did go back there a few times just because it was convenient for the times we ate sometimes, and my hubby had a few things that he liked. The best thing I found was the sandwich making stuff - the bread was very fresh and soft and the cheese and meats available were plentiful and yummy. Other than that, to me the food was okay. Regency Dining Room: We did traditional dining and were in the second seating (8pm). This was by hubby's first cruise that offered traditional dining and I wanted him to see what it was like - he loved it! Once he ordered ginger ale the first night, it was there waiting for him every night after that. Our wait staff was awesome - very friendly and we looked forward to seeing them every night (Denisa from Romania and Steve from India). The food was always excellent - a huge variety to choose from and always perfectly prepared. We ate way too much on some nights - never ending king crab legs! Pizzeria: We ate there twice and it was very good - our wait time was very minimal and staff was friendly and fast. Sundae Bar - don't bother. The ice cream has ice particles in it - not creamy at all, and you have to pay extra for this. (We didn't have the soft serve - I think that actually would have been better.) Patisserie: We never had a "frequent coffee buyer" card offered to us so maybe this ship doesn't offer that. Never did buy a specialty coffee, but had a few drinks there and the bar staff was always very nice. We did get the all you can drink soda stickers - and if you don't want to keep coming back for a drink, you can ask them for the biggest glass they have of whatever soda you like and they'll hook you up. We also had a big Nalgene bottle and they were happy to fill that up for us too. Drinks on the Promenade: During the morning we were cruising Tracy Arm, there was a small portable bar brought out to the promenade that offered hot drinks like cocoa, coffee and liqueurs etc. - fyi, hot chocolate is $1.50 on the promenade, but is free if you order it for breakfast in the dining room. Onboard activities: We didn't do a ton, but the things we did were definitely fun. We played bingo (hubby won $250!), wooden horse races, ceramics at sea, and played in the casino a bit (although it was very tight and we didn't win anything there - we only heard of two people who won anything substantial). We also participated in the "On Deck for a Cure" Susan G. Komen 5k walk around the promenade - 10 laps = 3.1 miles. First time I've done a 5k in the middle of the ocean with whales spouting 100 feet away! For only a $15 donation, you get a high quality baseball hat and it's a great way to burn some of those pounds off that you gained! Excursions: We did two excursions through the ship: in Ketchikan we did the Rainforest Sanctuary tour which was okay - just a walk through the forest really, but at the end we got to see a guy carving a totem pole which was actually very cool. We also got to pet and feed some reindeer. The other excursion we did was the best - in Juneau we did the whale watching and wildlife excursion - saw a pod of 15 whales feeding which was incredible and according to the crew, they only see that once every few weeks so we were lucky. Other than that, we would recommend renting a car in Skagway and driving up to Emerald Lake in Canada - - you go through the same area the train goes, but you can stop and take pictures anytime you want - AND we saw a bear! He was just off the side of the road, having his lunch (eating every green leafy thing around him). He laid down, and all the other cars around us left, thinking he was gone - but we stayed and ended up being the only people there - and Mr. Bear got right back up and continued grazing with just us as his audience - very cool!!! So the choice to do the $80 rental car as opposed to the $170 each train trip was a very wise choice!! In Victoria, we just walked around and took some photos. Tips: *Check out your bed immediately and order an egg crate cushion if necessary. *Bring little goodies to leave for your room steward every night – doesn’t have to be anything big, but candy bars, post it notes, a book, etc. - - just something thoughtful to thank them for taking care of you. Very few people do this but the room stewards love it! *Bring something for your toiletries to hang from the back of the door – many people use the plastic portable shoe holder things you can get from Walmart or Target – personally I have a toiletry travel bag that has lots of zipped pockets that hangs – great place to store/organize everything and keeps the bathroom less cluttered. *Bring cash for onboard – most things are cashless and can be charged to your room using your room key, but there are little things (like the casino and extra tips if you choose to leave them) where cash will come in handy. Overall: We had a blast and would definitely sale on Sun Princess again. Staff was great, food in the dining rooms was great, activities were plentiful… We booked our next cruise onboard so only had to put down a $100 deposit – highly recommend everyone do this! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Sun Princess 6/10/2007. My husband & I stayed at the Moore Hotel in Seattle before & after the cruise. The Moore is not the Ritz . But at $94.00 inc. tax, this is a rare find in downtown Seattle. The Moore is the oldest continually ... Read More
Sun Princess 6/10/2007. My husband & I stayed at the Moore Hotel in Seattle before & after the cruise. The Moore is not the Ritz . But at $94.00 inc. tax, this is a rare find in downtown Seattle. The Moore is the oldest continually running hotel in Seattle. It is clean. The staff is helpful & friendly. I've stayed in 5* hotels were the staff didn't even touch the level the Moore's staff was at. The bed was comfy! The bath tub is HUGE !!! Both rooms we had were recently remolded. Apx. Three blks. From Pikes Market. BTW, we could afford to stay in any hotel in Seattle , but why pay $250. Per night just to lay your head down & leave the next morning. Embarkation went very smooth & well organized. I faxed Princess before the cruise & asked for egg crate mattress pads, extra pillows, robes, fruit bowl & wine glasses. Our steward had all ready but the robes (they were in laundry) & fruit. Fruit is now delivered by room service, we got robes the next day. The steward was very attentive throughout the cruise. FOOD: we did anytime, we had friends doing traditional ..they switched after the first night. Never had a problem getting a table. King crab on night 5 & lobster on night 6. Buffet at breakfast very good. Lunch also very good , dinner OK. Restaurant breakfast very good (but slow) lunch OK , dinner good to very good. Entertainment : We enjoyed the production shows very much. The first comedian was very funny. The second OK. The magician was really good. ( his free magic lessons were awesome. ) We didn't do any Princess excursions (we went on excursions with a friends tour group). Next time we'll do our own. We brought our own wine, did not purchase any drinks from the ship. Tracy Arm was beautiful. Don't do to the port seminar, it's just a selling propaganda meeting. The only thing that I HATED on the ship was the selling , selling ,selling. It is constant. We ignored it, but I saw many people who thought they were getting the buy of a lifetime. They should be "privileged be buy the diamond, gold ect. , sold in port" ( at Princess recommended stores) . I talked to an employee who's friend had to do some of the shopping talk. She said it was the hardest thing she has ever done "like shooting fish in a barrel". The ports were breath taking . All in all we had a very good time. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007 - New Orleans to Seattle via Salt Lake City Our Alaska Adventure began with a flight from New Orleans to Seattle via Salt Lake City. We arrived safety in Seattle and were met by two Princess representatives who ... Read More
Saturday, May 12, 2007 - New Orleans to Seattle via Salt Lake City Our Alaska Adventure began with a flight from New Orleans to Seattle via Salt Lake City. We arrived safety in Seattle and were met by two Princess representatives who directed us across the Sky bridge, where we took the Doubletree SeaTac shuttle. We bought the hotel and transfer to ship package to avoid the uncertainties since we had never been to Seattle. It made the beginning and end of our trip seamless -we found it to be well worth the price. A Princess representative was located at a table on our wing of the hotel. She gave us forms and told us to put our luggage out at 10 a.m. and be ready to leave before noon the next day. The hotel was beautiful and our rooms were comfortable. It was pretty easy to get our bags re-organized per Princess advice, keeping out a small bag with jackets, medicines, etc. to tide us over until they delivered our luggage. Sunday, May 13, 2007 - Board the Sun Princess in Seattle We awoke and found it was in the 40s. We boarded the bus at noon with our friendly guide at the wheel. Once we pulled up to the dock, it was less than 15 minutes before we were going the ¼ mile walk up the gangplank! It was so easy with the Princess transfers to go to the desk, show our Passports, etickets, and health papers, and proceed to the ship. We were on the ship before 1 p.m. We were given a "credit card" which could be used anywhere on the ship in lieu of our normal credit card. All charges were added to this to be presented to us at the end of the trip. This was convenient. Soon after we came aboard, we were initiated in what would become a ritual: sanitizing our hands with antibacterial gel as we entered the dining areas. After hearing horror tales of Norwalk virus lurking on cruise ships, we didn't mind the procedure at all, and felt reassured when we saw cruise ship employees regularly wiping down handrails with antibacterial products. We were discouraged from using public bathroom facilities unless absolutely necessary. To my knowledge, no one got sick. After getting onboard, we examined our room. It was really nice, compact but with plenty of room to put things. We got our luggage around 3 p.m. Our suitcases fit nicely under our beds, and we hung up our clothes and put away our things. There was room for the contents of our two large suitcases, one small suitcase, and one rolling backpack. We soon met Danny, our steward, who always had a smile and a willingness to assist us. We ordered fruit and then walked down the hallway to go through the two sets of doors we had learned about on cruisecritic.com to find a relatively private "balcony" on the bow of our deck, the Baja. We tried the Horizon Court and found the food was adequate but more like banquet food. The food did not taste bad, but it was not spectacular. Then we went to the aft of the ship for our bon voyage. It was exciting to see Seattle fade into the distance—the Starbucks clock, Space Needle, tall office buildings. At 3:15 p.m. we participated in a somewhat unsettling event—a passenger muster exercise, a euphemistic term for a lifesaving drill or shipwreck contingency plan. It was probably one of the most frenzied times on the ship, but I cannot fault the Princess staff for their ability to muster and train large crowds in a short amount of time. We had a delicious dinner at the Marquis Dining Room. It was superb! Throughout our cruise, the food in the dining rooms proved to be par excellence. We had crab and salmon pate, salad, pina colada soup, prime rib and baked potato, cream puff and berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), hazelnut ice cream, and coffee. We hesitantly chose the personal choice dining but were not sure we had made a good decision until we actually experienced it and saw the benefits. By being able to schedule our own mealtimes, we could plan our activities and arrange our meals accordingly. Again, we used two tips from Cruisecritic.com. Each evening we received a detailed program of events for the next day called the Princess Patter. We brought a highlighter and each evening went through our Princess Patter, planning the activities we would like to take part in. Then, we would call each morning to make reservations for that night, planning our times around our pre-selected activities. I usually asked specifically for a private table for two near a window. Almost every night we were able to sit by the window at a private table. By having personal choice dining, we were still able to eat in the Regency Dining Room at lunch time, but with no reservations. We never had to wait but almost always ate with from two to four other people. This provided just enough interaction with others to make the trip interesting, yet we treasured our romantic dinners with just the two of us. I'll insert here that I highly recommend allowing yourself some time to read! You will be given a large amount of reading material about activities and amenities, and it is well worth your time to peruse the pages. Two other handy references are the quick reference for dining hours (found on the cabin dresser) and the pocket guide, a map of the ship. I had made it a point to study the decks on the web site and kept the pocket guide with me at all times. It helped to have our territory staked out. We took a couple's advice in Cruisecritic.com and took the stairs most of the time. They are carpeted with nice handrails, so not really too unpleasant. I could not believe it, but after a week of dining sumptuously, I had lost four pounds without trying! Here is a brief summary of the main places you don't want to miss, described from back to front and bottom to top. 05 - Plaza Deck - Marquis Dining Room - Reception - Patisserie - Grand Plaza 06 - Emerald Deck - Regency Dining Room - Boutiques I was pleasantly surprised by the dining rooms. I did not imagine they would have such lovely window views. Even if you are not sitting close to a window, you don't feel you are in a huge banquet hall. The seating is comfortable and grouped. The dining rooms are not noisy and they are decorated in pleasant colors. 07 - Promenade Deck - Vista Lounge - Internet Cafe, Bay View Library - Photo Shop - Atrium Lounge - Wheelhouse Bar - Princess Theatre 08 - Dolphin Deck - Verdi's Pizzeria Decks 5-8 contain a major hub of the ship's activity. The Promenade Deck was our favorite public deck. That's where they have the teakwood lounge chairs. Get your blankets near the Terrace Grill and then head for the Promenade to enjoy a quiet time of napping or reading. Vista Lounge is large yet comfortable with a cozy feeling. We attended lectures and the chef's demonstration there. I totally avoided the internet room, as I work with computers every day and wanted to escape completely! We don't drink, but we visited the Wheelhouse Bar as it is also used for gatherings and is a very beautiful wood paneled room with nice furniture. As described elsewhere, the Bay View Library is a cozy and wonderful cocoon. Don't miss it. I couldn't believe people were recommending that we eat at Verdi's Pizzeria/Trattoria on a cruise with all the other choices available to us, but once we ate there I understood. For pizza and pasta, it's really good, though my favorite was dinner in the Marquis. 09 - Caribe Deck - Cabins 10 - Baja Deck - Cabins (Don't miss the view from the bow) 11 - Aloha Deck - Cabins (Also has a view from the bow) 12 - Riviera Deck - pool, gym, spa, beauty salon - Cyberspace - Fun Zone - Sundaes - pools We didn't concentrate on the above areas. We didn't buy ice cream, as it was free for dessert in the dining halls. 14 - Lido Deck - Sundowners Bar & Spa - Shuffleboard - Terrace Grill - Horizon Court We split a burger at the Terrace Grill as a between-meal snack one day, and we found it to be quite good though definitely not gourmet. The Horizon Court is definitely for those who prefer quantity over quality, though I have to say the meals in the Regency and Marquis were very filling, ample portions. 15 - Sun Deck We enjoyed walking around up here, but preferred the Promenade Deck. I had brought a warm hooded parka and received several envious looks from others in short sleeves and thin jackets! Dressing in layers is definitely smart. We were glad to have the silk long thermal underwear and light jackets. Since we cruised in early May, the heavy coat took up extra luggage space, but it was well worth it. Our bed and sheets are were very comfortable. We didn't ask for the egg crate foam, as we found the bed really cozy. Monday, May 14, 2007 - At Sea We were glad we read the suggestion to bring a clock, as neither one of us wears a watch and we normally use our cell phones to keep time. We approached the north end of Vancouver Island. We were told to look for orcas (killer whales) today—known by their white spouts blowing up in the water. We were not disappointed and got some good pictures of several whales. I bought the Alaskan Cruise Companion and had the Captain sign it. One portion of the Patter gives page numbers to read in the Cruise Companion. My trip was enhanced by reading each day from this guidebook to learn what to watch for and to know details of our surroundings. We went to tea only once. I was surprised that there was just one kind of tea—Lipton. We had tea, sandwiches, scones, cookies, delicious but too much food! I was delighted with the sandwiches and cookies, but the scones were not to my liking, and I'm a scone aficionado. I had read bad reviews of the Discover Shopping Talk about Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. I still had opportunities to pick up freebies and samples of items by using an Alaska coupon book that we were given before we ever boarded the ship. Perhaps this would be enticing for someone who lives to shop, but we were on our cruise for a romantic time of rejuvenation, refreshment, and relaxation. Shopping was a part of our trip, but not a focal point. We enjoyed the young people in the string quartet and after dinner we listened to Greg Watson on the piano. We returned to our room to find our bedspread removed and chocolates on the bed. Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - Ketchikan We got up at 5 a.m. and enjoyed the view of the snow capped mountains. We were the first two people off the ship at 6:30 a.m. once we docked at Ketchikan. It was a pretty fast process to disembark the ship by producing our cruise card at the gangway. We explored Creek Street, a salmon fishery, the city park, the and Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. I highly recommend the Discovery Center. It was well worth the price. The Visitor Center at the dock provides a walking tour map of Ketchikan. I had received some free brochures on Ketchikan and Juneau from internet searches and had already determined some of the places I considered to be "must-see." We went up a funicular to a lodge on the mountain, where we saw several totem poles. Ketchikan is a quaint, picturesque town. Ketchikan is known as the rain capital of Alaska, and everyone was surprised and pleased that today was sunny and beautiful. We boarded the ship, ate, and returned to downtown Ketchikan to look around and shop some more. They have a coffee called Raven's Brew which is really good. They sell it on the dock and in shops. I bought an Inside Passage video (www.akvideo.com) on sale for ninety-nine cents which turned out to be quite professionally done. We did not go to see Misty Fjords National Monument, but it sounded beautiful. You just can't do everything. Once again we returned to the ship and attended the Tongass Lectures by the forest service rangers. It was extremely interesting, but I won't go into the details of the lecture here. Our forest service ranger gave us a unique way to remember the five kinds of salmon, using our hand. The thumb stands for chum, pointer finger is the sockeye, middle finger is the king, fourth finger (ring finger) is the silver salmon, and the pinkie is pink salmon. Sockeye, King, and Silver are the three best. Chum is good for eggs and pink is good canned or smoked. I'll mention here lest I forget to do so somewhere else that Princess has relevant TV channels. One channel is a constant webcam of the view of the ocean from the bridge of the ship. (I gave friends the Princess web site address so they could log on and see what we were seeing on the webcam!) Another channel shows various shore adventures and videos, while another gives shipboard announcements. We enjoyed viewing the fine art in the Gallery. Princess has a vast collection of art treasures. We did not go to an auction, however. Artists include Picasso, Chagall, and Dali. At 4:30 p.m. we set sail. We went to the bow for a good view of our takeoff, and then went to the Marquis Dining Room for dinner. I had fruit medley, onion soup with cheese, salad, rack of lamb, chocolate mousse. The lamb was the most delicious I've ever had. Our waiter Iamel, is from Romania. He gave us a cake for our anniversary and sang happy anniversary to us. We went up to the Baja deck at the bow of the ship and watched when the man at the watch by the captain signaled to us that there had been whales spotted once again! Two couples came out because they saw it on TV. Later we saw a bald eagle as we were leaving. We didn't come in until about 9:15 p.m. and enjoyed visited with others on our now not quite so private but still scarcely populated balcony. Wednesday, May 16, 2007 - Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier, Hatchery, Salmon Bake This will be a busy day: Tracy Arm Fjord - 6 - 10 a.m. Juneau - 1:30 - 10 P.M. 3:05 - 7:15 - Mendenhall Glacier/Hatchery/Salmon Bake 9:30 p.m. - set sail for Skagway This morning it was overcast, cool and windy. We were at the bow of the Baja for a few hours as we neared and traversed Tracy Arm Fjord. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and pictures don't do it justice. There are steep rock walls, towering spruce and hemlock, snowy peaks of purple grandeur. The ice was awesome. Some pieces were clear, some white, and some were aqua with holes cut in them, giving them interesting shapes. A naturalist came on over the intercom and gave a history of Tracy Arm Fjord and talked about John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, and Teddy Roosevelt, and his role in saving the pristine tracts of America's treasures. We saw another eagle sitting on ice. The ice and mountains were gorgeous. In this area, we saw a sister Princess ship and got some awesome photos of it. Later we read and napped in the library, a quiet nook with large, comfortable maize leather chairs with dark paneled walls and bay windows overlooking the Promenade Deck. It must be above the engine room, as there is a comfortable, cozy vibration and the faint sound of whirring engines. The seats near the windows have ottomans so that one can prop his feet up and look out at the oceans. Besides a large collection of books that can be checked out, there are games and puzzles. There are cacti in the window boxes. The library is geographically themed with carpet and paintings that go along with the theme. The ceilings have two insets of compass and constellations. The room is decorated in colors of blue, turquoise, and maize. The ship reached Juneau at 12:30, early due to cutting short the Tracy Arm Fjord trip by about 30 minutes due to the ice and rain. We got ready for our bus trip to Mendenhall Glacier, north of Juneau. We saw the awesome Mendenhall Glacier, and Steep Creek where soho and sockeye spawn, and where beavers make dams. It is part of the Tongass National Forest. You can since your own minuteness and shortness of life and the eternity of the universe around you. We had been on Athabaska Glacier in the Canadian Rockies and found it much more impressive, but any way you look at it, viewing a glacier is an awesome experience. We left Mendenhall and went to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. We learned the life cycle of a salmon from fertilization to fry. We got samples of caviar and salmon dip. It was an interesting tour. Then we boarded a bus and went to the salmon bake. By now it was raining lightly again. We had baked salmon and I had a marshmallow roasted on an open fire. I booked the glacier/salmon hatchery/salmon bake with Princess and complained to them that this was not worth the price. It couldn't have cost very much to go to the glacier, and the entry fee for the hatchery was nominal. I envisioned the salmon bake being out in the wild, and instead it was in a tawdry area, and the entertainment was poor. The food was not memorable. We left the salmon bake quickly and went back to Juneau by shuttle bus. We walked to the Russian church, the Alaska State Capitol and to the Silverbow Bagelry for a delicious cinnamon bagel with liberal dollops of cream cheese. Thursday, May 17, 2007 - Skagway Skagway took its name from the Skagway River, which is a Tlingit Indian name for "the home of the North wind." Skagway was picturesque and clean. The weather was cool and sunny. We saw a museum, several shops, and historical sites. The good thing about the Horizon Court is that you can go there any time throughout the night or very early in the morning. On days that we wanted to leave the ship very early, we stopped off at the Horizon for a quick breakfast of muesli, fruit, or eggs. In May of 1898, construction of the White Pass and Yukon Route of the railroad began. It was completed all the way to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory in 1900, but by then, the Gold Rush was over. We walked back to the ship to catch the train and boarded it at 8 a.m. Some people were a little too zealous to push ahead and get the best seats, but we went outside the train car and stood on the platform between the cars and had a great view. Inside the cars, your photos inevitably pick up a glare from the windows, but the views and shots are great from outside. You are told that you stand between the cars at your own risk. The train ride was exhilarating and relaxing at the same time. We had sunny, cool weather. The conductor provided us with All Aboard, a magazine detailing the White Pass and Yukon Train's history and mapping points of interest. We had heard that some people rented a car and drove rather than taking the train, but we are glad we took the train ride. It was relaxing and provided unique views of the terrain from a bird's eye view. The train came right up to the ship, but at this point, several other trains were also letting people off, and there was a bit of a jam. To complicate the issue, the ship's computers went down and we had about a 20 minute wait boarding the ship. Those few moments of frustration were erased in a few hours as we partook of an Alaskan dinner at the Marquis: Alaskan salmon with capers, cream cheese and toast for an appetizer, Alaskan Rockfish chowder, salad with raspberry vinaigrette, halibut with rice, broccoli and carrots, and delicious desserts. For dessert we had bananas flambe with cream, delicious butter toffee ice ream and hazelnut torte. We came back to the room and then went to the Promenade Deck and to the bow of the Baja. There was nice scenery of the mountains and several pretty lighthouses. We sailed south back through the Lynn Canal and on through Chatham Strait and later reached the North Pacific Ocean. Friday, May 18, 2007 - At Sea Today we went to an interesting cooking class at 10 a.m. in the Vista Lounge aft 7. There was a big crowd, but the seating was comfortable, and there was a big screen TV to show what the cook was doing. He gave us a recipe for tiramisu. Then we took a brief tour of the galley and got a nice brochure with information about how much they cook. We came back to the room. Once again we participated at the "feeding frenzy of Horizon Court for lunch. It was Italian Day, and probably one of the best of our infrequent trips there, with a great variety of pastas and other Italian foods. There were a huge number of sumptuous desserts, and people lined up like cows going to pasture. We found out that we could get photos developed at the Photo Shop for $5 per roll, which seemed very reasonable. We got them the next day, and we were very pleased with the results. Once again we listened to piano music by Greg Watson and heard the Premier String Quartet play. We went to the room and dressed for our second and last formal dinner. I wore Seabands on my wrists to avoid being seasick, and they worked. Today was the only day I felt I needed to take a Bonine just to be on the safe side. This is the only time I could detect rolling and rocking of the ship. All our belongings have remained intact in spite of the rocking of the ship. We ordered vegetarian sandwiches by room service to the room (avocado and Swiss cheese - delicious) and coffee, even though the formal dinner is at 8:15 p.m. The coffee aboard the Sun Princess is not that great. The formal dinner was wonderful. Saturday, May 19, 2007 - Victoria, Canada We enjoyed the leisure of time at sea. By evening, we had reached Victoria. It took until 6:15 p.m. for them to start unloading people to go into town. This was the only time I recall a long delay in trying to get off the ship, and we were glad we had decided to eat first at the Marquis Dining Room at 5:30 p.m. since we had been to Victoria before. We paid about $6 to go to Victoria on a shuttle bus. It was their first holiday of the season and three ships were in, so it was crowded. We couldn't tour the Empress Hotel because they had a function going on, but we walked around the grounds. The Empress is very English and was built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. The flowers were diverse and beautiful. The trees were lovely. We saw the Parliament Building, an impressive stone structure located on the Inner Harbor. A statue of Queen Victoria stands in front, and a figure of Captain George Vancouver is on top of the main dome. We walked by the Visitor Center, Bay, and downtown shops. We saw the Royal British Columbia Museum, but they had just closed so we could not enter. Since it was our very last stop before Seattle, it was nice to walk around with no particular agenda in mind. Sunday, May 20, 2007 - Seattle We went to the Regency for breakfast about 8 a.m. and saw a huge line at the "express" checkout where you carry your own luggage and get off earlier. It was something we are glad we opted out of, and we had a leisurely breakfast before sitting outside and enjoying our last moments of the cruise. Then we went to the public area on Deck 7, leaving our luggage outside. (Check your information when you get it the night before. They had us scheduled to go to the wrong hotel with the correspondingly incorrect luggage tags, which we fortunately straightened out.) We were supposed to depart about 9:30 a.m. After a startlingly short wait, perhaps 5 or 10 minutes, our tag was called. The tags are color coded and people are grouped for disembarking by the luggage tag colors, which makes for a much more organized departure. We went through the line and were on the bus in 10 minutes. When we got into the crowded holding pen, we were directed to the right bus and boarded it. While enroute to the Westin Hotel, I got a call from Princess. I was supposed to pick up our luggage but thought Princess was going to take care of it. They put my luggage on a taxi and by the time we checked in, told the concierge and went down to tell Baggage, our luggage had arrived! They took our luggage to our room and we went to Pike's Market, which was about a five minute walk. We were pleased with the way Princess handled this glitch. The Westin is downtown and just a short walk from Pike's Market, a place that exhilarates the five senses. Seeing and smelling the flowers, herbal soaps, cheeses, fish, aromatics, restaurants--Hearing people sell their wares and customers discussing prices--Seeing signs that say "Please touch," and picking up trinkets. The serendipity of showing up at the time of Cheese Festival was pleasing. We tasted a variety of cheeses with crackers, including blue cheese, Asiago, goat cheese, gouda, double cream, etc. The flowers were fragrant and beautiful. Calla lilies, tulips, irises in abundance. Fruit - oranges, giant strawberries, apples, cherries, kiwis. Fish were in abundance: halibut, silver salmon, King salmon, sockeye salmon, clams, mussels, scallops, Alaskan King crab legs, etc. There were restaurants and other shops on different levels with a view of the bay. It was fantastic. Bountiful stands were tucked under open air arcade walkways. We are on the 14th floor of the Westin with an awesome view of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, the monorail, the water and far away, the mountains. It is a gorgeous room with a huge picture window. I'm so glad we chose to spend a day before the trip and a day after the trip in Seattle with our Princess reservations and transfers. Monday, May 21, 2007 - Seattle to New Orleans via Salt Lake City We enjoyed the Westin's robes, Starbucks coffee and Tazo tea, a great view, double head shower, Egyptian cotton bedding. We went down to the Coldwater Grill for breakfast and had a buffet with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, Washington apple crepes, alderwood smoked plank salmon, yogurt, muesli, apricots, hazelnuts, banana chips, milk, coffee, juice, etc. We stuffed ourselves, as we'll only have airport food the rest of the day and won't get home until 9:30 p.m. I'm sure we'll have cruise feast withdrawals. Princess worked to assist us in boarding the bus. We took the bags downstairs and the valet loaded them on the bus. Our trip home was uneventful. Our Alaskan adventure was over, but we had made memories to last a lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
I just got back from our 7-night cruise and I want to go back! My boyfriend and I have never cruised before but I did a ton of research before booking our cruise to Alaska. Princess appealed to me the most out of all the cruise lines. From ... Read More
I just got back from our 7-night cruise and I want to go back! My boyfriend and I have never cruised before but I did a ton of research before booking our cruise to Alaska. Princess appealed to me the most out of all the cruise lines. From the moment we arrived everything was fabulous. Embarkation went very smoothly, there was a line but it didn't take more than a few minutes to get through check-in and we were heading up the gang plank. You are issued a cruise card when you embark, which makes it easy to purchase whatever you want; I never had to worry about having cash with me on board. Our stateroom steward was Alex from Romania. He was so attentive, he was always right outside our room whenever we entered or exited so it was no problem to get what we wanted. Our room was always ready by the time we got back from breakfast, and again when we returned from our shore excursions every evening. The bed was very comfortable and I never had a problem sleeping. The interior room was small but I expected that and it was very clean. There was more than enough drawers and closet space for all of our belongings, which was two big suitcases worth. We went to the buffet the first night and the food was mediocre, but we chose not to eat there any more and went to the dining room instead. The food in the dining room was always superb, usually better than most restaurants I've been in. And you can have as much as you want!!! The pizza was also very good. I heard some people complaining about the wait, usually about half an hour, but they are baking the pizza fresh to order and they told us when we were seated how long it would be so you could leave if you didn't want to wait; however I thought it was worth it for the tasty fresh pizzas we ate. The service on the ship was the best. I am a manager in the customer service industry and I would like my staff to take lessons from the cruise staff! I've never met a friendlier more accommodating group of people. And they seem to genuinely enjoy their work. Our shore excursions were worth every penny. They were more than we expected them to be; it was very easy to find all of our transfers and shuttles. The production shows on the ship were enjoyable as well. I was disappointed that the hot tubs close at 10 pm as we were eager to enjoy those every night after a long day. We registered for express disembarkation and we were getting in our car by 8:15 pm that morning. It was so easy and smooth, pretty impressive considering how many people they are trying to move through customs all at one time. I can't wait to take another cruise and I was so pleased with Princess that I will definitely book with them again. There were a few people on board that kept complaining about everything but I think they need to learn to relax and enjoy the vacation because all of the great things about this trip far overshadow the few minor complaints I had. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
This cruise on the Sun Princess was my first to Alaska...in terms of scenery it met or exceeded my expectations. Friends kept telling me that Alaska was a "must" and I have to agree. It was also the first time in 20 cruises that ... Read More
This cruise on the Sun Princess was my first to Alaska...in terms of scenery it met or exceeded my expectations. Friends kept telling me that Alaska was a "must" and I have to agree. It was also the first time in 20 cruises that I purchased a balcony cabin, which I highly recommend. Flew from Fort Lauderdale to Seattle the day before, meeting my traveling companion in Atlanta airport. We had purchased a 1 night pre-cruise at the Doubletree Hotel SEA-TAC, which could not have been more conveniently located, virtually next-door to the airport. The hotel was very large and welcoming, although I wish I would've chosen something closer to downtown. The next day we boarded Sun Princess with a very speedy embarkation process. Having previously sailed on the Golden Princess, once can see that the Sun Princess was the beginning of the design evolution to the larger vessels. She features a beautiful atrium lobby, and very subdued decor and color scheme. Actually a little too bland and corporate for my tastes, but relaxing nonetheless. One nice feature of Sun Princess vs. the Grand-class ships is the more private aspect of the balconies...they are totally enclosed and cannot be viewed from above. Of course, the dividers allow conversation (and smoke) to intrude on your privacy. Our cabin, A321, was a little smaller than I envisioned for a balcony cabin, certainly smaller than a standard outside cabin on Carnival for example, more in line with an RCI cabin. My general impression of the Sun Princess was that it was slightly in need of renovation. Like I mentioned before, the decor was very restrained, which in reality is a plus in Alaska; it doesn't distract from the scenery. I personally couldn't imagine taking a Carnival ship to Alaska, for example, or an NCL ship...too many interior distractions! To me, the main weakness of Princess is the absolutely unremarkable food. As on the Golden Princess, we only ate in the dining room one time in a week, choosing the buffet for other meals...all of which were "food court" quality at best. As the Sun Princess was built prior to "Anytime Dining", the only other options were the Sterling Steakhouse, which was simply a section of the buffet which was cordoned off with some temporary screening, very tacky. Other than that, a Pizzeria offered some good pizzas (but not up to par with the ones on Carnival). The cruise itself was very low-key and relaxing, with a minimum of announcements (my personal peeve). The outdoor pool are was hardly utilized, and the passengers seemed to be more focused on the destination versus the entertainment options of the ship. One area in which I thought Princess excelled was in their shore excursions. Usually I don't book with the cruise line, but did so in Skagway and Juneau. In Juneau, visiting the Mendenhall Glacier is simply spectacular. In Skagway, we elected to take the "Experience The Yukon" tour which also included a brief visit to Canada. As this was one of the earlier sailings of the year, the bus trip over the immense mountain ranges, still full of snow, was breathtaking. The lakes were still partially frozen as well. In Ketchikan, we simply walked around, but visited the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, which is only several blocks from the ship. It was slightly cheesy but fun; I recommend it. The undeniable highpoint of the trip was our early-morning visit to Tracey Arm Fjord. The towering mountains, waterfalls, and ice-filled waters simply cannot be described in words. It was worth getting up early and braving the cold weather to stand on deck while the Sun Princess cruised through the narrow fjord. On the subject of shore excursions and Alaska, one thing I hated to see was the appearance of all the "Diamonds International" and "Tanzanite International" stores and t-shirt shops, etc...just like in the Caribbean. It kind of took away from the "natural" aspect of the trip. Our final stop was Victoria, B.C., which was a pleasant and beautiful surprise; I would like to return. We took a shuttle bus and walked around the beautiful downtown area and visited the ivy-clad Empress Hotel. In closing, Alaska made this trip special more than the Sun Princess itself did. In fact, I had to refer back to my notes to remember some aspects of this trip. I've cruised 4 times this year and from a ship perspective it was the least memorable. Although the ship was well-maintained, it was forgettable. The service was mainly quite good, but the food was a disappointment...and I rarely like saying anything negative about a ship. In fact, the food on Carnival and even Imperial Majesty's little Regal Empress was FAR superior to Princess. Alaska is a "must-see" destination in my book...and the 7-day format was a nice introduction to it...I would like to return for a longer cruise or cruise-tour with rail, but probably on Celebrity or Holland America. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
First, thanks to this website and all who answered my questions... I just returned last night from my first cruise and first trip to Alaska. Alaska was awesome as was our entire experience. My DH and I took my 80 year old parents..one of ... Read More
First, thanks to this website and all who answered my questions... I just returned last night from my first cruise and first trip to Alaska. Alaska was awesome as was our entire experience. My DH and I took my 80 year old parents..one of whom we took in a wheelchair and all of us agreed it was just the best trip. 1.) The Sun Princess was a nice ship and the food was great. I had read mixed reviews here but did not have any meal I did not like. We like good food and last year when we were in Paris ate a Le Taivellent...arguably the best restaurant in the world. So while it may not have been 4 star french food it was good food. We had been waitlisted for Traditional late seating and found upon arrival we were on it. Loved it and would always choose it again. Liked out table mates and exchanged emails with two of the couples. Our waiters could not have been better...Mario and Adonis...they even brought me a bowl of brussel sprouts when I saw them on someone elses plate and on King crab leg night the plates just kept coming. We ate at the Horizon Buffet for breakfast every AM and it was just fine. Had free reservations at the Sterling one night and enjoyed our dinner there. 2.) Due to a recommendation I read here, we checked our bags in early that morning as we had a friend in town who dropped off our luggage, took us sightseeing and then brought us back around 3 pm. We never stood in a line. (The main reason for this was we had too much luggage...esp with the wheelchair!) 3.) For first timers worried about 2,000 people on board...I don't know where they are but you are not aware of large crowds anywhere. Only the first morning were all the treadmills full when I went down to exercise..altho it didn't help much as I still gained 5 pounds! 4.) The weather was cool...wet and foggy in Juneau and Skagway so could not take the helicopter ride and visibility was bad on the White Pass train but still worth the trip up. 5.) My recommendations: Go to the first Naturalist presentation for sure and the last one..Echoes of Alaska...was my favorite. I missed his others and I'm sorry that I did. But be sure you see Echoes of ALaska, it is just a great overview of Alaskan history and the sights you have seen and puts it all together in a cohesive and inspirational presentation. Ketchikan: Loved the town.. did the self walk up to the hatchery and watched the salmon swimming up stream...it doesn't get much better than that! Then took the Misty Fjords floatplane and boat excursion which was spectacular. My parents did the lumberjack show and enjoyed it. Juneau: Rainy and foggy so helicopter glacier trip cancelled...went into town (there was a row of stands selling tours) and took a van tour that took us around and to Mendenhall Glacier..wished we had more time there as there were trails to hike along the salmon laden creeks and bears eating them! Skagway: Walked around in the misty rain and went to the Gold Rush movie of the Forest service which I would highly recommend along with the museum next door. Then took the afternoon White Pass train and even though the top was fogged in the part you could see was spectacular and just made the point of how treacherous the climb over the passes would have been for the Klondikers. They have a wheelchair lift so my mother never had to leave her chair. Victoria: Loved the city and it was warmer there...went to Bushart gardens and wished again we had more time. There was a concert and fireworks that evening but the tour left at 8:30 even though we didn't sail until 1130 so if we had been on our own we would have stayed. Clothes: Followed the advise here and only ended up with 2 shirts too many and never put on my bathing suit. Took two pairs of tennis shoes because of rain but it never RAINED..just mostly misted, so could have taken only one. I liked formal night and we did buy one of the pictures of the 4 of us. Pictures: Wait till the end to buy your pics....they do formal portraits two nights and then you can pick and choose and the last night pics are fun and were with a map of where we had been..but I'd already spent enough so didn't get them. Shopping: This seems to be a big activity and not one that I was all that interested in but in hindsight I would have attended the shopping port talk and started my free alaska charm bracelet..didn't go until Skagway so only ended up with one charm. Never attended an art auction. Shows: Ate and drank so much each night for dinner only made one comedy show It was good. The only thing I disliked was the security getting back on to the ship. One day they searched my bag....I asked what in the world are you looking for? But didn't get much of a response. I understand the world we live in today..but searching me doesn't make me feel any more secure it just makes me think we live in a stupid world. I have this same bad attitude at airports and hated doing it everyday on the ship.....BUT that was my only irritation in the entire trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
We just got back from the Sun Princess on a cruise through the inside passage. This was our second sailing aboard this ship and was quite a different experience than our first time. 8/6/06-8/13/06 Seattle: We flew into Seattle the day ... Read More
We just got back from the Sun Princess on a cruise through the inside passage. This was our second sailing aboard this ship and was quite a different experience than our first time. 8/6/06-8/13/06 Seattle: We flew into Seattle the day before the cruise arriving about 1pm in the afternoon. We took a limo from the airport which was $40 for the four of us. You can pick one up on the third floor of the parking garage. We stayed at the Quality Inn & Suites on Aurora Blvd. There were four of us (my wife and I and our two sons). The room was a King suite with the king room separate from the room with the two queen beds. The room was clean and relatively close to both the Pike Market and the Space Needle. We spent about $190 on the room and it was well worth it. It had a full kitchen with microwave, stove, refrigerator and dish washer as well as all the glasses and silverware you could want. We walked to Pike Market and must admit we were not very impressed. The market was very crowded and filled with tattooed, body pierced, twenty year old vendors left over from the grunge period (that and 40 year olds trying to act like twenty year olds). Not being into the pseudo-intellectual art crowd we decided to return to our room to rest up. That evening we went past the Space needle in search of a liquor store, which by the way seem to be a rarity in the Seattle area (I guess they are too busy smoking clove cigarettes and drinking coffee). The Space needle was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and was nestled in the center of a loud and obnoxious amusement park. Needless to say we didn't linger. Embarkation: Welcome to the cattle line. Probably one of the worst embarkation experiences we have had yet. Oh they got through your paperwork fast enough, but then they line you up in a winding cattle line awaiting customs (sans chairs by the way so I hope you don't mind standing for 45 minutes). We had arrived at 10:15 am and didn't get on the boat until Noon. We checked out our room and tried to communicate to Bastion our room steward that we wanted robes and egg crate mattresses (which we had requested earlier but never quite made it too our stateroom). The robes arrived quick enough but the mattresses took a while. Another thing we noticed was they no longer give you fruit in the room but instead make you fill out a request sheet (which is understandable with all the fruit they probably had to throw away). I guess Bastion at this point decided we were troublemakers because the head steward showed up and thought we had requested a new room (which we had not) and Bastion tried to convince us that Dolphin deck was so much better than the deck we were on. Too bad Bastion we are staying! After a rather long day we decided to order a nice bottle of Crown Royal to our room, a service we had enjoyed on our last Sun Princess cruise. So sorry, Princess no longer offers that service anymore since it was cutting into our liquor profits. You used to be able to order a variety of spirits for personal consumption but now they only offer 5 different packages which include a 350ml bottle and 3 cans of soda for a mere $15. Back to the days of smuggling for us I guess. At Sea: We had a fairly relaxing sea day and enjoyed the cooler august temperatures. We attended a few of the demonstrations which were quite good. We also went to the first naturalist talk and thoroughly enjoyed it. He was very informative offering a lot of insight into Alaskan wildlife and his talks aided in our cruise enjoyment. If you love wildlife try to attend these! The Terrace grill was as good as ever offering up yummy brats and hamburgers. Try to get there early though to beat the rush. We attended the captains gala party where we discovered another Princess budget cut. They still offered drinks but absolutely no hors d'oeuvres whatsoever. We were kind of disappointed having told our sons they were coming. We had a wonderful dinner in the dining room (where you should try to eat all your meals since the Horizon Court has lousy food and is packed with people). My eldest son who fancies himself a connoisseur really enjoyed the elegant dining and the diverse menu options. We finished and arrived back at our room finding that it had not been cleaned at all. I guess Bastion had decided that since we forgot to put the little blue card in the door slot this alleviated him the responsibility of cleaning our room. A quick call to the purser's office insured this never happened again. This was our seventh cruise and I have never had such a lax cabin steward. They could take a note from Holland America's staff. They are the best at sea. Ketchikan: We arrived at Ketchikan and the Alaskan experience started to settle in. We explored the quaint creek street with its little shops lining the winding creek through town. There are a lot of nice little shops to explore and plenty of places to pick up souvenirs. We decided to look for a bottle of Crown to sneak back on board but found out that Alaskan liquor stores cost about twice as much as stores in the states. Next time we bring our own which I suggest you do if you don't want to pay the outrageous bar prices on the ship. We booked a float plane trip to Anan creek with Family air. The pilot was very friendly and the float plane offered us an eagle eye view of the pristine wilderness around us. Speaking of eagles they seem more frequent here than pigeons in New York! They were everywhere and quite a sight to see. We arrived at Anan creek and made our way up the board walked trail to the observatory. This was one of the greatest vacation experiences we had ever had. We saw about twenty black bears strolling around the stream looking for salmon to scoop up for lunch. We were so close we could reach out and touch them. They didn't seem to even notice us as they swatted at the water and snatched salmon up in their jaws. We saw a mother bear take her two cubs looking for fish as well as experiencing two bears fight over a fish rather loudly. I took over a hundred pictures at least. I will include a link to my photo website at the end to show off some of these pictures. Bears seemed to stroll all around us. They came right up to the blind and looked at us as if to say Hello. They were awesome and majestic and a few other adjectives that can't fully describe how cool it was to be that close to them. When you get to the observatory be sure to sign up to go down into the photo blind even if you don't take pictures since this puts you right next to the water and right next to them. On the way back to the plane we were finally treated to a large brown bear fishing in a lake not far from us at all. I snapped a few pictures of him and marveled at the beauty of this fabulous creature. All said this excursion was worth every penny! If you like seeing bears it's a once in a lifetime experience. I would go back again and again and never be bored. Tracy Arm Fjord: We arose early to secure a deck chair on the promenade deck and cover up with blankets to experience the fjord. We started winding our way through misty waterfall filled mountains as chucks of ice slowly flowed past our ship. It was very peaceful and quiet. The Naturalist occasionally came on to give us tidbits of information. He was entertaining and informative but we had to joke about his staccato Captain Kirklike delivery. Then came the bad news. We were going to have to turn around since the current and the size of the ice proved to be too dangerous for the ship. So we never got to see the Glaciers at all. My wife and I were very disappointed since this was going to be our only up close and person glacier experience. The worst part was the Captain didn't offer an explanation himself, but instead made the naturalist tell everyone (pretty lame of him if you ask me). Juneau: We arrived in Juneau in mid-afternoon and were glad we booked a later shore excursion since the boat arrived late due to two ships delayed leaving. We have read countless posts about Captain Larry and decided to give him a try. After paying for another shuttle L we arrive in town. Orca Enterprises is right across the street from the shuttle drop off. We shopped around town. Bought another overpriced bottle of Crown and some souvenirs then made our way to Orca Enterprises. We boarded a shuttle with a friendly little guy who gave us his own tour of the town on the way to the dock. He seemed to want to share everything he could. Where the new Wal-Mart was going, where the high school was, what kinds of trees and berries were on the side of the road. Normally this would be annoying but his quaint manners and charm made the experience fun. We arrived at the dock and boarded Captain Larry's Jet Boat. He specially designed the boat himself just for whale watching. It is a wide jet boat surrounded by large windows and an observation deck that can hold about twelve people. Inside were comfortable padded benches and tables. Also they have a mini kitchen for making snacks and a bathroom for, well, you know. We launched and within 1 minute we spotted our first whale. A humpback was swimming just of the shore. We saw the water spout up and soon a large body broke through the water followed by a huge tail sinking into the depths. Next we moved further on and hit pay dirt. A mother and her calf appeared right beside the boat. It was awe inspiring seeing these massive yet gentle creatures gliding through the water. Just when we thought we couldn't top this experience we saw the ultimate. A huge whale breached just a short distance from us. Even the staff was awed since this behavior is rarer than you think in Alaska. In all we saw seven breaches back to back. It was a godsend. I tried to snap a picture but they happened so fast and I did not want to miss one breach with my eyes. I didn't get a picture but I'll always remember this spectacular sight. Captain Larry and his staff are trained naturalists and offered lots of great information with plenty of humor mixed in. When they found out my wife was interested in the Stellar seal lions they made a quick trip to a sea lion spot just for us. Huge sea lions lazed on the beach sleeping the day away. A large male stuck his head up and started swaying from side to side to let us know we were in his backyard. We snapped some pictures and moved on. We were given some snacks composed of fresh caught salmon, cheese, Ritz crackers and some Capri Sun drinks or Coffee to chase it down. As we returned the naturalists and Captain Larry both shared some fun stories about their lives, Alaska facts as well as some serious discussion on the whales and sea lions we saw. You could tell that everyone who works with Larry and Larry himself have a deep love of the whales and the environment. It makes you think about how callous we are to natures beauty and that if we aren't more careful one day our descendents might not get to enjoy what we have now (Ok I'm stepping back off the soapbox). We had a fabulous time and can't recommend this tour enough. It will not disappoint. Our friendly little shuttle guy even drove us right back to the ship instead of making us take the shuttle. Skagway and The Klondike Highway: We rented a car from Avis and with our Murray's Guide in hand we prepared to se out on the Klondike Highway. Avis was easy to find and the car was clean and in good condition. We rented the smallest car for $77. They gave us a Nissan Sentra which was roomy enough for all four of us. The Klondike highway was easy to find being the only road leaving Skagway. We set out on what would be the most incredibly breathtaking drive of our lives. Alaska is referred to as the last frontier and this drive proves that. There is literally no development off the highway whatsoever. About 30 minutes into the drive and we are surrounded by huge majestic mountains powdered with permafrost. Crystal clear blue lakes flanked by untouched forest. If you pull the car over and shut off the engine the only sound you hear is the wind rushing along the lakes. You feel like you are in a living post card. The highway had very few cars on it and at times we felt like we were the only ones on the road basking in all this beauty. We arrived at the little (and I do mean little) town of Carcross and took some pictures of the worlds smallest desert. Carcross Information center has lots of literature and brochures to look through and they have clean bathrooms. It's a good place to take a pit stop. Finally we arrived at our destination Emerald Lake. Wow. Words cannot convey the beauty of this lake. It was like a huge gem swimming with blue and green streaks through it. I am going to include a link to my photo website for you to check it out. We drove back to Skagway and gassed up the car. We burned about a half tank so it cost us about $17 to fill the car back up. The total trip time with plenty of stops was about four hours total. If you are going to Skagway do yourself a favor, avoid the crowded buses and trains, stay out of the tourist shops and bars and drive this magnificent highway. You will not regret it. Be sure to pack your identification since you will have to go through both Canadian and U.S. customs. Bring lots of film or save a lot of space on your digital camera! At Sea Time to relax! We spent the day reading our books. We went to the naturalist lecture which was very interesting. We played Uno with the boys and ate as much food as we could possibly cram into our already over stretched stomachs. It was another formal night so we snapped some photos of the boys in their Sunday best. We indulged our lobster fantasies by eating ourselves silly. Lobster is one of my wife and mines favorites. They were cooked just right! We called it an early night to rest up from all our nature experiences. Victoria Our final stop was Victoria, Canada. I was very impressed with the beauty and cleanliness of this very British town. Double-decker buses and horse-drawn carriages were commonplace. Lots of quaint little shops, some touristy others offering unique wares. Be sure to check out the all Irish Store for some neat Irish and Celtic items. China town was a bit of a disappointment. The statues and archway were interesting but the shops were dingy and dirty looking. Homeless people dotted the streets looking for hand outs. At the end of the street we looked to our right and saw what appeared to be a drug dealing going on in pain sight. We decided to head back to the shopping district. We tried to go to a pub but since my youngest was only 16 they wanted us to sit in a very crowded restaurant section. We chose to leave since none of us were really beer drinkers. We meandered back towards the Parliament building and snapped some great pictures of Parliament lit up at night. It is a sight not to be missed in Victoria. There was a night market down by the water with various art wares and performers. We saw a harpist singing with an opera like voice and a juggler was drawing quite a crowd. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to return since the return busses have long lines you have to wait in to board. We returned to the ship for our final Verdi's pig out of Pizza, Calzone, and pasta. The worst part of any cruise - leaving the ship : We went and enjoyed our last breakfast in the dining room. We had a flight at 12:45 so we were in no hurry to leave the ship. Disembarkation went smooth and without a problem. We called the Seattle Shuttle service who agreed to meet us at the dock. This was a good idea since it helped us avoid the cattle lines waiting for taxis and shuttles. In closing this was one of the best experiences I ever had and the chance to share it with my family made it even more special. Notes: The inability to order liquor to you stateroom really tainted my opinion of this line because this was a recent change we were unaware of. It is obvious Princess is making a lot of cuts in service, No hors d'oeuvres at the captain's party, shuttles to town you have to pay for, no prizes at games or contests. Auto-tipping is definitely affecting the service on board. While our waiter was top notch we had several breakfast and lunch waiters who were apathetic and had no charm or personality whatsoever. It was like having a zombie shove a menu in your face. Our cabin steward was the worst we have had yet. It's a shame that those who excel and give great service are relegated to the same tips their slacker coworkers are getting. And if someone is giving you bad service they don't deserve to be tipped. We always remove the auto tipping and tip ourselves which must be common due to the envelopes they put by the purser's desk just for this. I know it all gets divided up the same but maybe if enough of us refuse to auto-tip they will stop this practice all together. Pack layers, take a small alarm clock, remember your multiplug. Contacts: Seattle Shuttle phone (206) 423-8388 email aos@ix.netcom.com Quality Inn & Suites Seattle http://www.qualityinnseattle.com/ Family Air Tours http://www.familyairtours.com/ Orca Enterprises http://www.orcaenterprises.com/ Avis (Skagway) http://www.avisalaska.com/rentalspecials.html Murrays Guide http://www.explorenorth.com/library/roads/sklondike-photos1.html My Photos of Klondike Highway and the bears of Anan Creek http://wblake1.photosite.com/ Enjoy your cruise!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
This was our 13th cruise, but the first to Alaska. We decided to do the Inside Passage cruise, Seattle to Seattle. It was just the 2 of us. Let me just say that Alaska never appealed to us, even though all of our friends who had been on an ... Read More
This was our 13th cruise, but the first to Alaska. We decided to do the Inside Passage cruise, Seattle to Seattle. It was just the 2 of us. Let me just say that Alaska never appealed to us, even though all of our friends who had been on an Alaska cruise came home loving it. They talked about panning for gold, salmon bakes, shopping for trinkets, or totem pole shows. All of these shore excursions secretly turned us off. We are both 60 years old, but wanted more. We elected to get an inside cabin, which we really wouldn't normally do, then take the savings to do exciting things ashore. The weather was rainy most of our trip, but surprisingly, it didn't matter. We were thrilled with the snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, and, and the train ride. We also visited the Butchart Gardens which was fabulous. Our bus ride from the airport to the ship was a bit congested, but the crowd of people in the terminal were in the ship in very short order. We arrived early, so the wait time was expected, since we all knew what time the ship admitted guests. Our room was neat and clean. We had read reviews about spotted carpet, tattered upholstery, and scratched furniture, but we did not observe any of this throughout the ship. We began cruising in the good old days when the food was a delight. We realize the cruise lines are answering the call of the general public for less formal dining experiences. The cruise lines need the general public, so they listen. Our food was as good or better than the food we have been served in upscale hotels. Neither of us had a bad meal. We selected personal choice dining, and observed some table mates who thought the food was awful. Of course, we observed this while they were eating "awful" food. I kept wondering why they kept eating something they thought was terrible. Yes, I would like to see the wine stewards, and white glove service too, but I still don't book my cruises on ships like the QE2. We like to dress up, and still do. We don't watch what other are wearing, and will continue to dress for dinner. That is part of our cruise experience. I believe some passengers are trying to push the envelope like kids in school to see what they can get by with in the dining room. We missed a lot of the shows, but did see a few. We saw Duncan Tuck (guitarist), and he was exceptional. We have seen the juggler/comedian on a previous cruise. He is ok; what we normally expect on a cruise. As I mentioned, it rained a lot during our 7-day cruise. The last day, a sea day, was gorgeous. We noticed a lot of families enjoying themselves in the pool. The kids were unleashed, and moms and dads were having a good time playing with them. Out of the blue, the staff asked everyone to get out of the pool, and it was drained. It was early afternoon, and we were nowhere near a port. The kids were devastated! Nobody could understand why the pool was drained, and it was a downer for a lot of people. We weren't in the pool that day, so it didn't affect us, but it still was an observation. We came home pleasantly surprised by all the things Alaska has to offer. We enjoyed the ship which was easy to get to know. The staff was very friendly and helpful. We enjoyed the personal choice dining so much that I doubt we would go back to assigned seating unless we are with a group. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Alaska July 23 to 30, 2006 Sun Princess Following is a review of our cruise on the Sun Princess. I am going to start with a quick overview I will call good, bad and ugly, and then I will go into more detail on the ship, the cruise, and ... Read More
Alaska July 23 to 30, 2006 Sun Princess Following is a review of our cruise on the Sun Princess. I am going to start with a quick overview I will call good, bad and ugly, and then I will go into more detail on the ship, the cruise, and the various ports of call. Hopefully someone will find this review helpful. Please keep in mind this was our first cruise, as well as our first trip to Alaska. So, when I say the food was good or the coffee OK, thats in comparison to my normal, everyday experience, not in comparison to any other cruise line. So, here we go&.. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Good: There were a lot of very good things about this trip. First, the ship was quite nice and the crew and staff were for the most part very good. Alaska is absolutely the most beautiful place I have ever been. I have lived in Oregon and Idaho almost all my life, and I am used to nice scenery, but Alaskas forests are greener and denser than any I have ever seen. And there are waterfalls everywhere you look. Pretty much everyone I ran into on the trip, from the other passengers to the crew to the tour guides and the townspeople and storekeepers, was very pleasant and courteous. Bad: The most disappointing part of this trip was that our plans for viewing glaciers got pretty much ruined. On Wednesday morning, we were supposed to cruise Tracy Arm fjord from 6:00 to 10:00 AM, then we were supposed to be in Juneau from 1:30 to 9:30 PM. I was up at 5:00 AM to get dressed warmly and ready to take lots of pictures in Tracy Arm, when the Captain announced that we would not be able to enter the fjord because of low visibility. Now, having been around the ocean quite a bit, I know morning fog is a very common thing, and I had been concerned about this for a long time before the cruise. Unfortunately, due to the time constraints we had, we did not have a lot of choices for this trip as far as itineraries. Now, I realize that Princess cannot control the weather, but I do think that, given that this is a very important part of the itinerary for this cruise, that Princess should look very hard at rescheduling Tracy Arm so they are not trying to sail into a fjord at 6:00 AM, when its quite likely to be foggy. To me, thats just common sense, and thats why I am putting this under BAD. As it turns out, missing Tracy Arm was not the only disappointment for the day. A bit before we arrived in Juneau, the Captain announced that all flightseeing trips for the day had been cancelled due to poor visibility. This was a real kick in the teeth following the cancellation of Tracy Arm. Now, I am not suicidal, and I have no desire whatsoever to experience a floatplane crash into the side of an Alaskan mountain. The reason I take issue with this cancellation is that our flight was SIX HOURS away. Visibility could certainly have improved in that time, and in fact planes and helos did operate out of Juneau later in the day. It seems to me very premature that they cancelled all flights for the entire day, and I dont know if this has something to do with Princesss arrangement with the tour operators or what. Again, very disappointing, and I am not sure that it was totally necessary. I would think that the flights would be evaluated and cancelled, if necessary, on a flight by flight basis. Oh, they did open up the Shore Excursions office in case you wanted to try to schedule something else&.good luck, the line was a mile long and not moving at all. Imagine each person affected standing at the counter one at a time and trying to figure out how to reschedule their shore excursions at the last minute&.not a pretty picture. One other thing bothered me about this cruise, and that was the number of photographs that went to waste. Most of the photos taken by the on-board photographers were pretty cheesy -- pictures with someone in a moose suit at the bottom of the gangway as you were disembarking at a port of call, for instance. These are printed up nicely on 8x10 paper, and put up in the photo shop, where you can hunt for your pics and buy them if you want. They are $19.95. I saw very few actually purchased, and huge stacks of them that were ultimately thrown away. This is quite wasteful, and expensive. I am sure the cost for the people who actually buy them could be quite a bit less if it werent for the waste. There has got to be a better, more cost effective, less wasteful way to do this. And it would help with sales if the pictures were less cheesy. If I want my picture taken with some guy in an animal suit, Ill go to Disneyland, thanks. Please dont get the impression we hated the cruise from this section of the review. Although this was the most disappointing day, we did enjoy the time we did spend in Juneau, and I will cover that more in a bit. Ugly: The only thing I think was really ugly about this cruise was the high-pressure sales pitch you were subjected to. As this was my first cruise, I have nothing to compare it to, but a number of other people I talked with who had been on other cruises said this was the worst cruise for having them trying to sell you stuff every time you turned around. On the first day, they introduced the cruise staff, and one of the individuals was the Discover Shopping Guide. Lets call him Mr. DGS for short, although I do have another name in mind for him. But since I want to keep this family friendly, Ill refrain from using that one! Now, its kind of hard to describe Mr. DGS, but he kind of reminds me of a cross between a Donald Trump wannabe and a snake oil salesman. Mr. DGS has one purpose in life, and thats to get you to shop rather than sightsee, and not only to shop, but to shop where Princess wants you to, at the stores that Princess must certainly either own or get a kickback from. (In fact, there are some shops that have signs stating they are not on your ships shopping map because they refuse to pay a kickback to the cruise lines!) Mr. DGS did a little spiel about shopping and about a seminar he would be doing. He showed the audience a diamond bracelet and promised everyone who attended his seminar they would get one. At the end of the presentation, when they dismissed the cruise staff from the stage, Mr. DGS pulled the case containing the diamond bracelet from his jacket pocket, looked knowingly at the audience, and tapped the case a couple of times. Dont forget, a free diamond bracelet!! Very theatrical, and I almost barfed. Of course, after his seminar, everyone on the ship got a coupon for a free diamond charm bracelet, redeemable at Diamonds International. I am reasonably sure this was the same bracelet, and the poor people who sat through Mr. DGSs shopping seminar just to get a free bracelet could have saved some time. Now, I am extremely fortunate in that my wife does not get weak-kneed every time someone mentions jewelry or diamonds, so Mr. DGS didnt have a huge effect on our cruise. Although we did some shopping, we did it where and when we wanted, when it didnt interfere with what we had gone to Alaska to actually do, which was not simply to shop. But Princess is SURE you went to Alaska to shop! On day two of the cruise, we went to a presentation by the ship's naturalist, Alan, who I will say was very good. However, when we arrived at the Princess Theater for the naturalist presentation, Mr. DGS was up on stage, in a fever pitch, telling people where to shop and who to ask for. Oh, this place is so great; circle it on your map TWICE!!! Etc. etc. All the people who were there for the naturalist presentation are standing outside waiting to get in, while Mr. DGS drones on and on, going well past his allotted time and into the naturalists time, and creating a huge traffic jam when all the shopping seminar people are trying to get out of the theater and the people there for the naturalist presentation are trying to get in. Nice work, Mr. DGS. Every time you turn around, you were being given shopping guides showing where Princess wants you to shop. They were stuck inside your Princess Patters, shoved in your hands as you went down the gangway, etc. And it didnt stop there, it went on a lot of other places. One night at dinner our waiter was trying to sell a cookbook!! In his defense, I am sure he had no choice in the matter and had other things he would rather have been doing. We had other things we would rather have been doing, too. Later in the cruise, on one of the shore excursions, an older gentleman asked the tour guide/bus driver (more on that later) where Diamonds International was located. Now, I am sure the poor old guy was under pressure from his wife to retrieve the free diamond bracelet they were promised, and while I did feel sorry for him, at the same time I wanted to grab him by the neck and shout MY GOD, MAN!!! They are on every street corner, and they have given you 700 maps showing how to get there!!! Now, thats all ugly enough, but here is the REALLY UGLY part. These beautiful little Alaskan towns are losing their local flavor to chain merchants. I am sure many of these chain stores are actually owned by the cruise companies. They are buying up the property, and driving out the local shops. And everyplace the cruise ships stop, the same stores are there. Skagway, permanent population 800, has a Diamonds International. Where in the real world would a town of 800 have a diamond store?? I think there is a real danger here, and I think the danger is not only to those of us who think Alaska is a beautiful place. There is a danger to the cruise industry too, if they dont behave responsibly and continue to commercialize these small towns to the point they lose their appeal. There is a modern version of the gold rush going on, with the cruise industry catching the Alaska gold fever. There is a great deal of money to be made here, by the cruise industry and by the people of Alaska, as tourism is big business. But Alaskas appeal is directly related to its wilderness, ruggedness and old fashioned charm. If thats lost, all you have is a cold, wet, rainy place that no one will want to go to. I really hope thats not where its headed, but people dont tend to use good judgment when a lot of money is involved. Now, lets move on and talk about some good stuff. First Ill cover the ship, Sun Princess, and cruise experience in general, then well move on to talk a bit about each port of call. The Sun Princess, and the cruising experience. We flew into Seattle the morning of the cruise on Alaska Airlines. The flight was fine, although one of the flight attendants was cranky. I dont really like to fly all that much, and am always happiest at landing. Apparently the pilot missed mother earth too, because he smacked the plane into the runway pretty good. In his defense, there was some rough air on the approach, so I will forgive him this time. Our flight arrived around 9:30 AM, and we held Princess transfers. We met the Princess transfer representative at the baggage carousel, and were directed to a luggage holding area at the far end of the terminal. We had to haul our own luggage there, but we managed fine. Once we dropped our luggage off at their holding area, we did not see it again until it was delivered to our room, and it was delivered well before dinner. I had read about how smooth Princesss embarkation procedure is, and I would probably agree. The only bad thing for us was that our flight arrived a bit earlier in the day, so we had some waiting before we could board. After we checked in at the terminal, we had a little wait until they opened the doors that said to ship. Hooray, we can get on board!! Well, no, we just get to wait in a big warehouse for an hour and a half or so. Even that would not be so bad, but it was HOT and there was no air moving in there. Heat is not usually a problem in Seattle, but it was this day. Some of the more elderly people were having trouble with the heat during this long wait. I have two words for Princess&..fans and water. We had our first encounter with Princesss on-board photographers (even though we werent on board yet), as the line entered the warehouse they took a picture in front of a cheesy-looking studio backdrop of a mountain. Finally, after sweltering in the warehouse for a while, we got started through security and out the gangway to the ship. Security involves walking through a metal detector and putting your carry-ons through an x-ray machine, just like at the airport. You will do this every time you get back on the ship at each port of call too. They dont seem overzealous though, I took on an Ulu knife with no problem, and my wife bought a metal letter opener that got through with no problem. I do have one pet peeve, and it applies at airports too&.having to put expensive cameras on a conveyor belt. Anyway, we finally got on the gangway. Yes, there are people set up in the covered gangway selling stuff. Get used to it. As we proceeded up the gangway, I watched them loading luggage, food and fuel into the ship. We finally got on board, checked out or cabin, grabbed a bite at the Horizon buffet, and started to explore the ship a bit. Our cabin was B217, an oceanview deluxe near the front of the ship on the starboard side. It was nice, good lighting, and clean. Our cabin was nice and quiet. Much quieter than many hotel rooms we have stayed in. I dont know if we just got lucky and got quiet neighbors, or the cabins were really well soundproofed, but noise was never a problem. Not much room in the bathroom, think of an RV bathroom for a good comparison. We really didnt spend much time in the cabin, and it was more than adequate for our needs. One thing I really enjoyed was that there is a big porch on the front of the ship just forward of our cabin we could go out on for air or sightseeing. This was the next best thing to a private balcony and it was very convenient and enjoyable. A little more about the ship. Sun Princess was launched in 1994, so its about 12 years old. I understand that at the time, it was the biggest cruise ship afloat, but is considered a smaller ship by todays standards. I really liked it. It was easy to find your way around. By the end of the first day, I had the layout of the ship pretty well down. There is also a Sun Princess Pocket Guide provided in your stateroom if you need a bit of help. I dont think many people had much trouble getting around, although on the sixth day of the cruise I did see two ladies, pocket guide in hand, who were lost. Maybe an even smaller ship would be better for them. For a bit older ship, the Sun Princess is in excellent condition. Think of someone with an older car who has taken meticulous care of it, and this is what you have with the Sun. Yes, if you looked hard you could see signs of age every once in a while, but it was very well maintained and spotlessly clean. The crew obviously took a lot of pride in the ship. There was constant maintenance work going on, every time we were in port there was painting going on on the outside. The crew was sanding and refinishing a lot of the teak wood on the ship, and doing other maintenance. Now, dont worry that you will be inconvenienced by all this, they do it in ways that are of very minimal inconvenience to the passengers, and I never felt it was a problem at all. On one occasion I heard a staff member in the dining room talking to a passenger about how clean they keep the kitchen. He was telling the passenger that they scored a 99 on their inspection, and that 100 was impossible to achieve. He told the passenger that many brand new ships do not score that high. This type of pride was normal among the crew that I encountered. Im not going to go into detail on all the shops, lounges, etc., as you can find that kind of info on Princesss website. Service in all of them was good. We did not go into the casino after checking it out on the first day, but from what I heard there were few winners in there. In fact, the cruise staff on several occasions referred to this, saying if passengers liked they could go to the casino and make a donation!! Overall, I would have to say the crew and staff were excellent. Our room steward was a young lady named Michelle, and she did a very good job. As soon as my wife sat on the bed the first time, she decided it was too hard. I asked Michelle to put an egg-crate foam thingie on if they had one available. She said they did, but seemed a little put out by the request. I think she must have just been overwhelmed on that first day, as the rest of the time she was friendly and did an excellent job. I did come to appreciate the very hard work the crew on the Sun does to keep the ship in perfect condition and everyone fed, etc. You may already know that Inside Passage cruises leaving Seattle actually sail on the seaward side of Vancouver Island. Because of this, you do get some rocking on the ship, mostly on the two sea days. This never became pronounced and I did not hear anyone complain of seasickness. I also did not hear a peep about Norovirus. We used the hand sanitizers to be safe, but I dont think it surfaced on this trip. The one bad thing is the elevators, they are slow. This is made worse by the fact that people get in the habit of pushing the call buttons for all the elevators, then taking the first one that gets there. There were many, many times the elevator would stop on a given deck and no one would be there, having taken another elevator. This just made them even slower. I am thinking there has to be a way to better program these elevators to speed them up a bit. There are banks of elevators forward and aft that cover all the decks accessible to passengers (5 to 14) and a pair of glass elevators in the Atrium that service only decks 5 through 8. Entertainment on the ship consisted mostly of various production shows and several comedians. On the last day, a couple of the comedians did an adults only show at midnight that was very good. The other comedy shows were not great, but not bad either. I think you have to keep in mind the venue for the entertainment. Sun Princess is in actuality a small town, not the strip in Vegas. Given the venue and size of the audience, it wasnt bad. The same holds true of the production shows. The singers and dancers in these are younger people, probably students hoping to get a start in the entertainment business, and keeping that in mind I thought they did an excellent job. Again, this is a small town, not Broadway. Since my wife and I dont drink or gamble much, the shows were a nice alternative to spend the evenings and I appreciate the effort the performers put into them. On the last evening, there was a talent show for the passengers that was fun and entertaining. There were lots of various other activities for those interested, such as bingo, trivia, and art auctions. We didnt go to the art auctions, but did admire some of the art. There was one artist we thought was very good, but we heard the pieces were going for outrageous prices. I dont know how much was actually sold. Again, we didnt go to Alaska to buy art, unless it was native art, and this wasnt. Now, the important stuff..FOOD!!! On the advice of our TA, and this being our first cruise, we had selected the anytime dining rather than traditional. We are thinking on our next cruise we will try traditional dining. The thing we didnt like about anytime was having to get to know different people every night, but never getting a chance to know them well. We were always seated at a table for 8, and this is how it worked. You would go to the dining room, and they would seat you. We were often the first or second couple seated at the table. You would introduce yourself around, and about the time you started to settle in and look over the menu, they would seat another couple at the table. So, you start all over, and then pretty soon another couple would be seated, and you would start all over again. I think you get the idea. With traditional dining, you dont have to go through three rounds of introductions every night, and you get a chance to know your table mates better, as well as your waiters. With anytime dining, you have different waiters every night, and while they were very efficient and professional, they are somewhat aloof, as you never get to know them very well. On one evening they served king crab legs, which I love. We were fortunate to have an excellent waiter that evening who ordered several extra plates to make sure everyone had all the king crab they could eat. We will talk more about tipping in a bit, but this is the one time I was in a quandary. I would have loved to tip our waiter a bit extra, but as I had not seen anyone else in anytime dining do so, I wasnt sure how it would look. And of course, I never had the same waiter again. So we are thinking we will try traditional dining next time. I have seen a tremendous amount of discussion on the boards about the dress code, formal nights etc. I did not personally see anyone on any night that was not dressed appropriately in the dining rooms, whether it was a smart casual or a formal night. I dont know whether the dress code was strictly enforced or everyone just abided voluntarily, but I never saw a problem. Now, lunch and breakfast saw jeans and shorts, but never dinner. Not a problem here at all, as far as I was concerned. As far as the food, I found the food in the dining rooms very good. We ate breakfast in the dining room only one time, as we found the buffet faster and more convenient for that meal. And scrambled eggs are pretty much scrambled eggs, whether in the dining room or the buffet. We did eat lunch in the dining room several times, and in the buffet the rest. Dinner is where the dining room really stands out, and unless we were too late getting back from a shore excursion, we ate in the dining room and really enjoyed the food at dinner. It was always delicious, and there were plenty of options. The deserts were terrific, and varied. I loved the hazelnut ice cream, and I need to find out who makes it for them. My wife absolutely loved going to afternoon tea. I went only once, but she enjoyed it greatly and went every time she got a chance. We did eat quite a bit also in Horizon court, especially on days we had port calls. Its a buffet, and the food was standard buffet type food. Not nearly as fancy as the dining room, but quick, convenient, and not too bad. I did hear from other passengers that it wasnt as good as they had experienced on other cruises, but I am not sure if they were referring to quality or variety. Anyway, I thought the buffet was quite adequate. We did not try any of the other dining venues. I would have liked to try the pizza, as I had heard it was quite good, but we just did not get around to it. Likewise, we wanted to try Sterling Steakhouse just to see how it was, but never got it done. Overall, I would rate the Regency and Marquis dining rooms as excellent and the Horizon Court as very good, keeping in mind it IS a buffet. Coffee is a subject I had heard quite a bit of discussion about prior to going on this cruise. We both require a caffeine jumpstart in the AM, and enjoy coffee with desert at dinner. So, here is my impression as a coffee drinker. The dining room coffee was excellent; the coffee in Horizon Court was palatable, but fairly strong and somewhat bitter. I did see them refilling the syrup machine one day and it is made of syrup. Maybe it was a good combo, the buffet coffee was strong enough to wake you up and the dining room coffee was perfect with desert. Along the same lines, there has been a lot of discussion about the soda stickers. We did not buy one, as we are perfectly happy drinking iced tea. We did run into several people during the cruise who were upset about them, saying that the other cruise lines they have been on do not charge for soda. I have no experience with other cruise lines to either confirm or refute this, so all I can do is tell you there were a few people who were unhappy about it. As far as tipping is concerned, we had the automatic tipping in place. I did tip our room steward extra several times during the cruise, as well as most of the tour guides. If we had been in regular dining, I am sure I would have tipped extra to our waiters also, but it didnt seem to be done in the anytime dining room. The crew does work very hard and they do certainly deserve their tips. One thing that I had expected, based on what I had read, was that the average age of the passengers would be just a bit older. I had read that Alaska cruises tend to attract an older crowd. My wife and I are 47, and I think we very much the average age on this trip. Yes, there were some older people, but many younger ones also. There were some kids, but they were never really a problem. A few doors down from us was a room with three boys about 12 to 14 years old. We never saw their parents, and we think they may have been on a different ship. They did get a bit rowdy in the hall a few times, but overall were pretty well behaved and did not make nuisances out of themselves, except perhaps to the room stewards. Ports of Call Seattle -- Our sail away from Seattle on Sunday was beautiful. It was a bright, warm, sunny day and the view of Seattle from the ship was just wonderful. There were sailboats out, and people para-sailing and kayaking. To me, kayaking in the same waters that 80000 ton ships are transiting doesnt seem too appealing, but at least some people apparently think its a good idea. The weather was so sunny and warm, it gave us hope for the same weather for the rest of the trip, but that would not last long. The weather on day two, a sea day, gave us a pretty good preview of what we would have every day until we got back to Victoria on the return trip. Cloudy, overcast, and intermittent rain showers. Not a lot of sunbathing went on except for the first and last days of the cruise. The good thing is, it was never hard to find a deck chair!! The rest of the cruise, we experienced what our naturalist called typical Alaskan weather. And he had some very good advice: Dont worry about it, and dont let it stop you from doing what you came to do. While my wife and I carried lightweight rain gear, we never used it, as we never had any really serious rain. Drizzle and overcast, yes. I did buy a nice rain jacket on board that folds up into its own little pack, to give to my son that lives in Portland OR. Most of the time we wore lightweight jackets over shirts and were plenty warm and dry. The day we went did the Whitepass RR in Skagway, I wore the jacket with a t-shirt under it, and wished I had worn a heavier shirt, but that was the only day I was at all uncomfortable. And I spent most of the train ride riding out on the back platform in a damp drizzle. You do need a light, water-resistant jacket and a layer or two underneath it. You dont need a parka and snow boots. Day 3, Ketchikan -- I woke up early as I wanted to be on deck when we arrived at Ketchikan, but when I peeked out the window, we were already there. We arrived a bit early, and the first thing I saw out our window was the Welcome to Ketchikan, Alaskas First City sign I had seen so many pictures of. I went up on deck 14 to take some pictures. I even got dressed first, much to the relief of the other passengers, and I am sure, the Captain. We had a tour scheduled in Ketchikan, called Best of Ketchikan by Land and Sea, a bit later in the day. We got a quick bite in the Horizon Court, and then went ashore to look around and shop. Getting downtown in Ketchikan was pretty easy. You just step off the ship!! We ended up spending most of our time a block or two over on Creek Street, though, rather than in the dockside shops. Creek Street is beautiful and unique, and its one of the places that makes Alaska worth visiting. I hope it stays at it is, and does not lose its beauty and local flavor. We wandered around a bit more, and then headed back to the dock to meet up for the shore excursion we had scheduled. It was easy enough to find locate the person in charge of our shore excursion, who then directed us to go down this street to that street, take a right, go a couple blocks, and then look for a girl named Tia. Well, OK. We can do that, but if we had a member of our group who was handicapped it might have been a problem. Or if someone got lost it might have been a problem. We did find Tia with no problems, and after a short wait, we boarded a boat for the sea part of the tour. This was done by Allen Marine, and consisted of a group of about 12 or 14 of us on a boat with a tour guide, a driver, and an assistant. It was a very nice little tour, we saw our first of many bald eagles and a lot of really nice scenery. This was our first glimpse of how overwhelmingly beautiful Alaska was going to be. The crew on the boat were all Ketchikan natives, and of course very knowledgeable about the area. We pulled into little inlets to see purple and orange starfish on the rocks, viewed breathtaking waterfalls, and pulled right up next to the faces of granite cliffs to see how precariously the trees clung to the rocks. This, the marine portion of the tour, was excellent!! The boat then deposited us at the old Libby cannery, where a bald eagle was sitting on the roof as if on cue. Now, this is an old, defunct cannery where they used to can salmon. They have a short video that explains about the process of catching (in those days, by nets) the salmon and processing them. Its a little bit interesting, but does not really deserve the time it takes. In my opinion, the time spent inside the cannery should be shortened, and visitors given more time to explore the outside. There is some really nice scenery in the area, and some great photo opportunities with the old, rustic buildings on the ground. Finally, you hike over a short trail to where the bus is parked. The trail passes through the rain forest, and its really beautiful along the trail. Unfortunately, once we boarded the bus, things went a little downhill. Whenever you read a description of a Princess shore excursion and it says tour by motor coach, you need to mentally substitute the words bus ride. This was to be a bit of a pet peeve of mine several more times during the cruise, but especially here and in Victoria BC. We were bused to Saxman village to see the totem poles. Now, if you are going to Ketchikan, you WILL see the totem poles. Not that I have anything against totem poles, but you need to realize they are a very big thing in Ketchikan. In fact, so much was made of the totem poles that I guess I was a little let down by Saxman village. Not much there, but some totem poles. There is a shop where they are carving new totem poles, and you can watch if you are interested. There is nothing wrong with this stop, but I guess I just expected a bit more to be there. The good thing is, no one is trying to sell you anything, they just want to make sure you dont get out of Ketchikan without seeing the totem poles. We reboarded the bus, and this is where things got a bit annoying. The bus driver/tour guide decided he just had to sing a birthday beat to whoever had a birthday close to that date. The selected victim was an elderly gentleman, who did not seem real thrilled about having happy birthday rapped to him. But the driver insisted, and during the song managed to insert the word tip into the song several times. I guess this was his way of subconsciously planting the idea we should tip the tour guide, but I am afraid it didnt work. This was the only time I didnt tip the tour guide, in fact. On arriving back at the ship, we took a few more pictures. I had missed the famous Ketchikan rain gauge on arrival, so grabbed some quick pics with that, then boarded the ship. I stayed up on the top deck for sail away. The naturalist did a very nice narration as we sailed out of Ketchikan. Literally dozens of float planes were taking off and landing from Ketchikan harbor at this time also, one right after another. Day 4, Tracy Arm and Juneau -- If you read the bad section at the beginning of the review, you already know our day didnt start out well. This was to be our big day for viewing glaciers, and with Tracy Arm and our glacier flightseeing both cancelled, we had a bitterly disappointing start to the day. I wont go into that further here as its already been covered. The location of the dock we were at in Juneau was not as convenient as it was in Ketchikan. Although it doesnt appear to be that far from downtown, its really a pretty long walk, as you cant walk straight there but have to skirt around some other properties. Fortunately, there are convenient and free shuttles that take you the mile or so to where the Mt. Roberts tram is, which is pretty much downtown. We had a shore excursion, A Taste of Juneau, scheduled right after arrival, so we took off on that first. This consisted of a trip to the Taku salmon smokery, where they talked about the fishing industry as well as their business of processing salmon and halibut. I was surprised to find that the halibut are more valuable than the salmon. Another interesting thing came up here. It was first touched on at the Libby cannery in Ketchikan the day before, but reiterated here. Alaskans are snobs about salmon. As I mentioned earlier, I have lived in Oregon and Idaho most of my life. We have salmon in our rivers, at least a few. Much publicity has been given to the fact these salmon are endangered, and there has been a lot of talk about breaching some dams to improve the salmon runs. Our endangered salmon are Coho and Sockeye, and these are hardly considered worth eating by the Alaskans. It was made clear to us in both Ketchikan and Juneau that only Silver and King salmon are worth eating!! It was also pointed out that there are far more bald eagles than people in Alaska, and that those were never endangered there, either. From the smokery, we proceeded to the Alaskan Brewing company. There we got to sample all the beer we wanted, and a very entertaining man named Tony gave the rundown on how they make their beer and the history of their company. This was a very popular stop, and we had trouble getting everyone back on the bus. When we did, we headed out to Mendenhall glacier. This would be the only glacier we would see on the cruise, so it was an important stop for some of us. Our tour guide/bus driver was on his last trip of the day, and very graciously offered to let us spend more time than scheduled at the glacier. However, one or two people piped up that they wanted to stick to the schedule. I am pretty sure these were the same people we had to just about drag out of the brewery. My wife and I would have loved to have more time at Mendenhall Glacier. It was beautiful, and there were trails in the area we would have liked to have taken. One of the rangers told us there were bears in the area feeding on the spawning salmon, so with a bit of time, we might have gotten to see a bear. Instead we were rushed to see the glacier and immediate area; I didnt even have time to get to the visitor center itself. From there, it was back to the ship. On the way back, the driver took us by some of the Juneau sights and government buildings, and provided some interesting info. He was one of our better tour guides, although they are in a way limited to being more bus drivers. I did appreciate him trying to give us more time at Mendenhall, and tipped him accordingly. After returning to the ship, we dropped off some of the cameras and stuff in our cabin, then left it again, catching a shuttle down to the tram. We then wandered about downtown, and made a very brief but important stop at the Red Dog Saloon. My wife, you see, is related to Wyatt Earp. One of his pistols, which he left with the Marshall in Juneau, is on display there, so we got some pictures of it for my wifes family photo album. Unfortunately, people were elbow to elbow in the Red Dog, so we didnt stay. We then did some shopping before returning to the ship. Day 5, Skagway -- We arrived in Skagway and docked right behind the Coral Princess. The Coral is a pretty ship, with its dark blue glass exposed balconies and windows. The hillside next to the dock we were at (there is another dock a little ways away) was covered with the names and dates of cruise ships, painted on the rocks. It is a tradition that the first time a ship goes to Skagway, the crew paints the name and insignia on the rocks. This has been done since the gold rush days apparently. Anyway, after getting off the ship, we boarded a bus to set off on our shore excursion, called Best of Skagway. This started out with a trip on the White Pass railway. This was absolutely one of the high points of the trip, and I am so glad we did it. Our group was assigned to the last two cars on the train, so I headed for the very last one. This allowed me to stand on the platform at the very back of the train and get some really nice pictures. It was chilly and drizzly, but the scenery was so fantastic I did not mind a bit. The trip can be just a bit scary at times, as the train tracks run right along the edge of very high cliffs, but you are past those areas before you really notice where you are. The train took us to Fraser, BC. We could not get off the train until Canadian customs walked through and glanced at everyones ID. And a glance was about it. However, one member of our tour was detained by Canadian Customs, although he did join back up with us later. I am not sure what the issue was. Then, we got on a bus for the trip back down the mountain. Again, this was pretty much just a narrated bus ride, although the driver was knowledgeable and did a good job. The bus took us to Liarsville, a delightful little fake gold rush camp. Did I mention it had been chilly and drizzly? Well, at Liarsville we were greeted with a very much appreciated hot meal. (Note: not all tours of Liarsville include a meal; it depends on the tour you are on.) We had some excellent fresh grilled salmon, chicken, pasta, baked beans, rice etc., and some nice hot coffee!! Because I was chilly and hungry, I will remember this as one of the best meals of the cruise!! They then give you a little time to wander around the camp, take pictures, visit the gift shop (I think even the rest areas in Alaska must have gift shops&at least in tourist country!), take some pictures, and visit with the characters before the show. The show is just kind of a skit, but fun and entertaining. You then pan for gold. They tell you bluntly that no gold was ever found in Skagway, so they got theirs from Canada, just like everyone else did. Liarsville, while of course completely fake, was a very fun stop and we enjoyed it immensely. There is a beautiful waterfall by the gold panning troughs, make sure to get some pictures there. Back on the bus, we headed down to town and a visit to the famous Red Onion Saloon. And brothel. We had an interesting and informative tour there, starting in the upstairs where the, uh, whorehouse, was located. The saloon itself was quite crowded, so we didnt hang out there long. My wife and I then proceeded to explore Skagway on our own. It is a neat little town, with some interesting old buildings. But, there were four ships in port, so there were about 10000 people in this little town of 800 residents. It was pretty crowded. When we finally got tired, we caught a shuttle back to the ship. Sailing out of Skagway was kind of sad, as we really enjoyed Alaska and would have loved to have more time to explore it. We had two little U.S. Coast Guard boats escort us for quite a ways out of Skagway, and the naturalist again talked about the area, sights, and wildlife on the way out. He did a great job again, and again was very knowledgeable about the area and its history. The Coast Guard looked like they meant business, there were FN MAG 7.62mm machine guns mounted on the boats, and they zipped all around the ship, visually checking it with binoculars as well as maintaining a secure zone around the ship. One of the other passengers had served in the Coast Guard, and commented that Skagway is great duty in the summer, but pure hell in the winter. Whatever they were looking for, they were deadly serious about it, and not just out for a pleasure boat ride. Day 6, at sea. A sea day, and the second night of Formal dining. We took it easy this day, catching some of the shows etc. By later in the day, we were starting to hit clearer skies and people were starting to spend more time out on deck, enjoying the deck chairs, pools and hot tubs. Quite a few people were in the steamer chairs on the Promenade deck, many of the snoozing. We did quite a bit of walking on the prom deck, enjoying the weather, watching for whales, and trying to walk off some of the calories we had been packing away all week. We went to the last of the production shows, and to the champagne waterfall that evening. Day 7, Victoria BC -- We spent most of the day just like the day before. Several times during the cruise there had been pilots on board, and this day we picked up the pilot for Victoria. We happened to be walking on the prom deck as the pilot boat approached, and watched the transfer. This happens, by the way, without the ship stopping. The pilot boat simply pulled up next to the Sun, and the pilot stepped off and through a door in the side of the ship. Very quick and easy on a calm day like we had that day. Very different and tricky on a stormy day with heavy seas, I am sure. The Captain came over the loudspeaker and advised that due to favorable currents, we would arrive in Victoria about an hour early. This we did, and we had a shore excursion scheduled there, called Victoria Highlights and Mt. Tolmie. Getting off the ship and through Canadian Customs was again quick and easy, just a matter of waving ID at them. I thought at the time this was too easy, but then I remembered that the ship provides them with all the passenger info well before it docks. They have already pre-screened it and determined if there is anyone they are interested in before they ever allow passengers and crew off the ship. Our tour guide was a Victoria native, very properly British in manner and voice, and boringly monotone during his narration. He was extremely knowledgeable about the buildings and architecture in Victoria. However, this was another case of a Princess tour being mostly a narrated bus ride. We saw the Empress Hotel, and the Parliament building, as we drove by. There was no stopping for even a few minutes to look or take pictures. We proceeded to Craigdarroch castle, where we took a self-guided tour. It is a very beautiful and interesting place. I would note this, the Princess info said you are not allowed to use flash photography in the castle, and that is not the case. They welcome you taking all the flash pictures you want. Now, for some strange reason, the bus does not drop you at the castle, but parks several blocks away. You then walk up a hill to the castle. I am not sure why this is. There is parking at the castle, and I do understand they may not want it taken up by buses. But it would be simpler to drop the tour group off at the castle, go park the bus, and then reverse the process at the end of the tour. The reason for this is, several people apparently took a wrong turn and had trouble getting back to the bus. I thought we were going to have to call out the Mounties to go find them. After the castle, we drove through more of Victoria and up to the top of a mountain. We were supposed to stop at the top of the mountain, as it has I guess a terrific view of the city. From my side of the bus, I had a terrific view of the parking lot, and we did not stop as the bus driver could not find room to park the bus. Apparently driving around the block and waiting for a parking place has not occurred to the Canadians yet. We then proceeded to drive through some various neighborhoods and through the University of Victoria. The UV has a rabbit problem. Apparently, some pet rabbits have been released and allowed to do what rabbits do best unabated. They were everywhere, and I guess its a health problem due to the rabbit poop, but no in has the wherewithal to deal with the problem as the rabbits are cute. My wife and I had discussed taking a shuttle or something after the tour, to go back and see the Empress and Parliament building etc., but by the time we got back to the ship, it was getting dark and we were tired, so we did not go back. I do think Princess needs to improve their tours, and add some stops at points of interest, even if they are just a few minutes. They need to remember the people on the other side of the bus dont get to see much during a drive by tour. The Final Day, and Disembarkation -- Princess had provided a disembarkation packet, with colored/numbered luggage tags, the day prior. We were in group White 4, and had put our luggage out the evening before to be picked up. According to their disembarkation schedule, we were supposed to leave the boat at around 9:25 AM. Our flight did not leave Seattle until nearly 3:00, so we werent in any hurry. Princess was, though!! It quickly became apparent they were calling disembarkation groups much quicker than the schedule called for. We were called an hour ahead of schedule, and proceeded down the gangway to the same warehouse type building where our cruise started a week before. Guess what? Its still hot in there!! Our luggage was not off the ship yet, so we repeated the waiting part again. After a while, the big luggage containers started arriving, and Princess staff started laying the luggage out in rows. The passengers were kept behind barricades until all the luggage was laid out. I asked one of the Princess reps if the luggage was being laid out in any particular order, and they did not know. It turns out it was not in any kind of order, nor were you bags kept together. The end result, when they finally lifted the barricades, was very much like a giant Easter egg hunt. Pure mayhem. And then, as people started digging through the stacks and trying to drag their luggage out, they would knock over other luggage, blocking the aisles and adding to the confusion. Not a fun time. I had my wife stay in a relatively safe corner with the carry-on bags, and I dove into the fray four times to find and retrieve our four bags. Remember that we had Princess transfers? On disembarkation, that means you participate in the Wild Easter Egg/Luggage Melee, drag your luggage to the bus (there are not nearly enough porters, if you want one, grab him early), and once at the airport, you are dropped off at a big canopy type thing set up in the parking lot. Of course, the other 7000 people who just got off cruise ships are there too, so the line is long and slow. A very important lesson was learned here: For less than the price of the Princess transfer (aka bus ride), we could have carried our own luggage off the ship at 7:00 AM using express disembarkation, skipped the whole Easter egg hunt thing, and gotten a taxi to the airport, where we could have gone through the normal check in lines instead of the special cruise ship passenger lines. SeaTac was a madhouse, and I am betting it had a lot to do with a lot of arriving/departing cruise ship passengers. Next time we will know better. The flight out was uneventful, but the TSA people at SeaTac were really pissy. One lady guard pretty much threatened me with a cavity search because I didnt hear her tell me to take my shoes off. This was kind of annoying, because you put your stuff on the conveyor belt to the x-ray machine, then stepped over to the metal detector, where they told you take your shoes off and take them back over to the conveyor belt. Then, while everyone was trying to get their shoes back on, the stuff on the conveyor belt was falling all over the floor because the belt was full, but they did not stop it. Not their problem if your stuff gets lost or broken, I guess. Overall, we really enjoyed Alaska and we hope to return soon. We also really enjoyed the cruise, and we plan to take more. But, we have not decided for sure that our next Alaska trip will be by cruise ship. We have also not decided that we will necessarily cruise Princess next time either. While we enjoyed the trip, there were some things that could have been a bit better. This being our first cruise, we have no standard to compare it to. So, while we would certainly consider Princess again based on price and itinerary, we would also consider alternatives. We had actually planned to purchase future cruise credits during this cruise, but after the Tracy Arm/Flightseeing day we were so disappointed we decided to wait, and investigate some other cruise lines and other itineraries. In other words, the cruise was good, but not so great we have become Princess Cheerleaders. I will NEVER book another cruise where I have misgivings about the itinerary, as I did with Tracy Arm. Next time we will plan further ahead so we have more options. I hope this review was helpful. Writing it, I felt as if I were emphasizing the negative too much, and I dont intend to do that. It was a terrific trip, and I would go again in a heartbeat. I again would make the following suggestions to Princess: Try to rearrange the itinerary to not hit Tracy Arm in the early morning. Fog is less of a problem later in the day, and you would greatly increase the chance of getting into the fjord if it were after 10:00 AM, or better yet, in the early afternoon. Dont cancel flightseeing trips prematurely. If there is some kind of arrangement with the tour operators that specifies that you have to cancel the whole day by a certain time, change it. And get your tour guides/bus drivers to STOP the bus once in a while! Seeing something from a moving bus past someone elses head from the wrong side of the bus is just not cutting it. And tone down the sales pitch! There was a lot of discussion about this among the passengers at dinner; I know I was not the only one who felt it was way overdone. Finally, if you are thinking of going to Alaska, GO. Do it before more of the glaciers melt and before more of the small towns are turned into even worse tourist traps. Even if you get rained on, you will enjoy the trip! Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Well, back home from the Sun.. a great trip to Alaska, sorry we didn't link up with any of the people on this board, just didn't work out that way, but had a great time: my comments: Getting on the ship: got to the terminal ... Read More
Well, back home from the Sun.. a great trip to Alaska, sorry we didn't link up with any of the people on this board, just didn't work out that way, but had a great time: my comments: Getting on the ship: got to the terminal about 11:45 on Sunday, waited in line about 45 minutes total, was on board in our room by 1:00 p.m. and up on th Lido deck for some food by 1:30..not bad...our only other experience was on HAL Zuiderdam out of Fort Lauderdale last year, I'd say the experience was basically about the same, except the walk up the very long plank to get on the boat will wear you out if you're not in shape. lol. The day and a half at sea was very relaxing while we headed to Ketchikan, it was definitely very cold on the outer decks. The entertainment and food was very good. One comment about the Sun versus the Zuiderdam, I must say that the buffet line and food on the Lido deck in general was not any where as good as the buffet on the Zuiderdam and the service in this area was not even close to the service we saw on the HAL line. Ketchikan was great!! We had great weather, it was beautiful. we did the sport fishing and wilderness dining excursion. Had a great time. between the four of us on the boat we caught probably 20-25 fish, only one halibut, which the young man (14 year old) caught, and it was about a 25 pounder.....caught five sharks.....the food at the campsite was awesome and the atmosphere was great...a really great experience...the guide threw out fish to the eagles and they would swoop down and get the fish within a few feet of the boat, that was great! saw some seals, no whales. Juneau...again we had great weather.....took the Mendenhall Glacier trip and whale watching excursion....saw a bunch of whales close up, it was awesome.......had a great time.....this excursion probably is a bit long in my opinion...was ready to get back to the town hours before it was over...saw many humpbacks, seals, eagles, the glacier was nice but you can't get very close to it...... Skagway, great weather again!....took the white pass yukon excursion by bus...it was great.....probably the highpoint of our Alaska experience, it is hard to explain how breath taking an experience it was to go up into the Yukon...it was great....you get a good meal and the sights are awesome. loved all the shops in the towns. Victoria, Canada is an absolutely beautiful city. We spent the time there just strolling through the city and shopping...had a very nice evening. We hit very rough seas on the sea day back from Alaska, even that was really something you have to experience, waves were real high, boat was a rocking BIG TIME........ Great cruise, I would say that overall The HAL Zuiderdam was a better ship and that the food and entertainment was better than the Sun's but the cruise on the Sun was still fun. The man in charge of the art auctions, Derek, was fantastic and whether you are into fine art or not I recommend you go to these auctions, they were entertaining, and heck we bought 6 pieces before we left the ship...ouch...expensive...yes...but we had fun Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
My wife and I just came back from an Alaskan Inside Passage trip on the Sun Princess out of Seattle, June 4th through June 11th, 2006. For the short, short version for those deciding whether or not this would be a good cruise: TAKE THIS ... Read More
My wife and I just came back from an Alaskan Inside Passage trip on the Sun Princess out of Seattle, June 4th through June 11th, 2006. For the short, short version for those deciding whether or not this would be a good cruise: TAKE THIS CRUISE. BOOK IT NOW. The Sun Princess is great, but more importantly, you need to get yourself to Alaska. It's beautiful. For a more specific, rather lengthy, rundown on the Sun Princess experience, plus insight into excellent yet rarely-taken shore excursions, read on. I intend to focus my review on a lot of things that I never found properly described in previous reviews of this cruise. Some background: I've never cruised before, my wife has cruised three times exclusively with Royal Caribbean (Alaska, Western & Eastern Caribbean cruises). So everything I know about cruise ships is from her stories, and she's never been on a Princess ship before. We have, however, been to an all-inclusive resort (Sandals) before so some of the cruising concepts that normally blow first-timers away were not entirely foreign to me. To start off, I'll explain the weather...we were ridiculously lucky. We were geared up to expect it to be 55 and rainy every day. Nope. It was in the upper 60s and sunny every day, and it was 70 in Skagway. I even got a sunburn. For the first week of June, it was amazing, and for it not to rain in Ketchikan, well that's just plain weird. At every stop we made, even in Victoria, all the locals told us it rained all day the day prior to our arrival. Admittedly, it was overcast for the first hour of our time in Ketchikan and overcast during the first two hours of Tracy Arm, but honestly it really added to the mystique of the beautiful scenery. With a day of low clouds, you'd really miss some of the fine details such as all the snow-capped mountains, but I don't think it would detract from your trip. It was rather cold on Tracy Arm morning, as the entry started at 6am, so I would recommend you pack a winter coat for at least that day, and a light jacket for the remaining trip. And I like it chilly, for me 65 is ideal, so if I had unnaturally nice weather and say to pack a winter coat, then seriously, no kidding, pack a winter coat. Bring ponchos and umbrellas too. We had a bunch of disposable ponchos on hand, but never used them. Before I get deeper into the ship, the ports, the excursions, I must address what most people come to expect from a cruise ship and is my most dire warning about Princess. That would be food. It's really not all that good. To be more fair, it's more hit and miss, with more misses than hits. For an example, you can pretty much write off all the hot food at the Horizon Court Buffet as being awful. Some breakfast foods, like sausage, bacon, and pancakes (note I did not say eggs) defy this, as they were tasty, but all other hot food was just plain bad. And I am not anti-buffet either, I like buffets sometimes, but clearly Princess isn't going to give a Vegas buffet a run for its money. But what about the dinner? Well, like I said, hit and miss, but you have more luck there. I should note that we chose the fixed seating, and were lucky enough to get a 2-person table. I am told that Princess is rather unique in that you can get anytime dining (but that absolutely, unquestionably requires a reservation, I learned from other passengers) or you can get fixed seating at varying sizes of tables. They had 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. I didn't see more than two 2-person tables in the entire room (there may have been more, but they are extremely infrequent and we just got super lucky), but there are definitely a reasonable amount of 4-person tables. But back to food quality - it was mostly good but you have an issue with selection. My wife doesn't care for seafood, and noted that the menu was seafood-heavy on most nights. The beef there wasn't good at all. I'm not going to say horrible, just that it wasn't good. The beef tenderloin and strip steaks were both bland, with the former tasting like roast beef and the latter desperately screaming for steak sauce. The seafood, I must admit, was quite pleasant. The salmon was very good, for example. What is key here is that the menu seemed to improve throughout the cruise. On the 5th night they had Alaskan King Crab legs. I asked for seconds, and got it! They were AMAZING. Quite possibly on par with the best crab I've ever had, and far superior to the dungeness crab I had at an upscale restaurant in Seattle before departure. The following night they had twin lobster tails, absolutely delicious. The waiter watched me finish the two, and without asking me, brought me two more! Still delicious. Desserts were good all throughout the cruise, definitely excellent all around, even their ice cream is great. But the definitive best night was Day 6, same day as the lobster, they had baked Alaska. I always thought it sounded boring, and my wife said the baked alaska on Royal Caribbean amounted to little more than neapolitan ice cream, but oh man, it was mindblowingly delicious and a huge portion. Yet I still finished it, and without asking the waiter brought me another. What a great guy! What I wouldn't do for more of that baked alaska right now... So as you can read, our impression of the food started out negative, and ended up positive. That's because we knew to avoid the hot buffet food, and avoid the beef at dinner. My wife later got pesto linguine at dinner, and it was great. (It's hard to screw up pesto.) But what I must bring to attention is the alternative food besides buffets and the fixed dinner. They had a fish BBQ on Ketchikan day, which included grilled shrimp, bbq fish (I thought salmon but my wife thought it wasn't), and crab cakes. You can have as much as you want and it was phenomenal, surprising since it was served poolside and you would expect less. On another day they served reindeer chili, which was decent. Also, one day the Horizon Court had an Asian themed buffet, again bad hot food, but they had a whole sushi buffet which probably won't please sushi fanatics as it is on par with most grocery store sushi, but it was fine for me. Poolside burgers, fries, hotdogs are all passable - better than I expected at least. We did not try the $15-per-person Sterling Steakhouse (which is simply a roped off section of the buffet). We spoke to somebody at AAA who told us the meat there was the same as the main dining room, but he said that implying the main dining room served good beef. I refuse to believe that the filet mignon is as bad as the beef in the dining room, so perhaps the steakhouse may have been good, but I wasn't about to pay money for it. Food-wise, this leaves one last thing. Verdi's pizza. Somewhere I read bad reviews of this, and I have no idea what those people were thinking. The pizza was GOOD. The service is terrible, you'll wait anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for your food, but the pizza and calzones are all great. I've had better, of course, but I admit that if Verdi's were a pizza place in my town, I would probably go there from time to time. Since the ship is docked in Juneau and Victoria during dinnertime, you're likely to miss the sit-down dinner at least twice. I heartily recommend Verdi's as an alternative. We ate there 4 times, and it was routinely the most reliably good food on the ship. Note I didn't mention a midnight buffet. Princess doesn't have one. They have a buffet 24 hours, but no special extravaganza. But they do have an abundance of desserts available at the Horizon Court late at night, every night, and on the last day of the trip they have a massive dessert feast there during lunch hours. Also on the second to last night, they have a champagne waterfall in the atrium, with free champagne for all. I would say that more than makes up for a high-class midnight buffet. Okay, everyone's favorite cruise obsession behind, how was the ship? I enjoyed it. My wife, being on 3 Royal Caribbean boats before, said that everything blurred together and is convinced that unless you are on the newer, giant ships with climbing walls and such, they all look the same. Personally I thought the Vista Lounge was the ideal place to spend an evening. The layout is just really nice, a great show lounge. The bars are all really cool, and the Shooting Stars disco is stylish. The dining room is nice, as one would expect. The Horizon Court Buffet, though lacking in food quality, is a really nice place to eat - visually - as it is on the top deck surrounded by glass, giving excellent views of the landscape you came to see. There are two small pools, a third circular pool by the spa that's really only good for soaking in, and five hot tubs. Approximately zero of these are covered. I will repeat: no. indoor. pool. That may upset some people. Like I mentioned earlier, we had great weather, so we did go to the pool twice. They are heated, they claim its 70 degrees but I am pretty sure it was warmer than that because 70 is pretty cold for a pool. So swimming is not out of the question, just be forewarned that it is not enclosed. For entertainment... well... it's a cruise ship. They had a great comic one night, a guy who really deserves his own Comedy Central special. Another night, a surprisingly funny juggler. Then a rather unexciting guitarist, and a cheesy but still amusing magician. All of these were in the Vista Lounge, which as I mentioned is a really cool venue. You'll want to avoid the Princess Theater like the plague. We stopped going after the first production show. Perhaps somebody actually likes this sort of thing, but we thought it was just plain awful. And finally, what the vacation should be all about, Alaska. It's beautiful. Not just in the ports, or on excursions, but just when the boat is sailing through all the islands, it's really a sight to behold. Whatever you do, pick excursions that actually get you out of town. The port towns are tiny and of no value, with the exception of walking down Creek Street in Ketchikan, which is fairly neat, you're not going to see very much if you just stay in these small towns other than crappy jewelry stores and junky gift shops. If that's what you want to go on vacation for, save the money and go to a local mall. If you really want to see Alaska, take an excursion. We took some atypical ones, and one very, very prominent excursion that everyone should (and usually does) do. Ketchikan - Rainforest Ropes and Zip Line Challenge: Not to be confused with the similar Rainforest Canopy and Zip Line tour. That one is a series of zip lines that takes you through the trees and over a 400 foot drop. Though it sounds like fun, we did the ropes course. It included various forms of rope bridges, swinging logs, and tightrope walks both with and without a second rope above you. Plus three zipline runs. I believe you hit a max height of 170 feet on those ziplines and the tightropes, whereas the rope bridges don't go much higher than 20-30 feet. Still, it was really fun. You got to enjoy an old growth forest, with 500 year old redwood trees, and yet have a blast on amazingly fun ziplines and admittedly freaky tightrope walks. We finished our tour on a climbing wall, that included a rather unique "giant's ladder". You'd have to see it to understand, and I defy anybody to try it. Juneau - Glacier View Sea Kayaking: this was hands-down the best part of our whole vacation. You take 2-person kayaks into Auke Bay, facing the Mendenhall Glacier. They say on a foggy day you can't see the glacier, but we had pure sun and had an amazing view. But that's not all, we also passed by several flocks of Bald Eagles (yes, they don't group together normally, but here they did) and were actually followed and approached by several harbor seals. Going eye to eye with a harbor seal within 15 feet of me is nothing like going to an aquarium. It was truly incredible, and a lot of fun. Skagway - White Pass Yukon Route Scenic Railroad: This is the biggie. Everyone should do this, and they usually go, because what else are you going to do in Skagway? If you have researched an Alaskan cruise at all, then you probably already know about this. A train along the klondike trail with stunning views and a trip into the mountains. This is your northernmost stop on the trip, you owe it to yourself to go 30 miles into the interior to see what Southeast Alaska is really like. Skagway - Klondike Rock Climbing and Rappelling: Yes, we took two excursions in Skagway. We just had to go rock climbing on real rock (we're used to the indoor gyms) and where else to do it but on a glacier-carved granite cliff overlooking the Klondike trail? It overlooks the valley the train goes through, but for those views you're better off on the train. This is all about rock climbing, though to be fair each person only got to climb twice and rappel once. A die-hard rock climber who has actually climbed real rock elsewhere in life probably wouldn't be too impressed, though they do have routes for all difficulty levels. But for me, I loved it, and now I can say I've rock climbed the Klondike trail. Victoria - Enchanting Butchart Gardens - a big "duh" here, unless you do whale watching or nothing at all, this is the prime spot at this port. Butchart Gardens is on the Travel Channel's list of top 10 gardens in the world (1 of 3 in North America, the other two being the superior Longwood Gardens in PA and the lesser Dunbarton Oaks in DC) and it deserves the recognition for the Sunken Garden and Rose Garden alone. Totally worth the trip. Be sure to stay in Victoria at nightfall to see the parliament building lit up at night, it's really cool. In the midst of all the ports, there is the trip through Tracy Arm Fjord. Yes, get up at 6am to watch it. Yes, bring binoculars (read the a few paragraphs down for the reason why). Yes, most definitely bring a winter coat. And NO, Tracy Arm is NOT Glacier Bay, it is NOT a fjord through pure ice. It's a fjord through glacier carved rock that has progressively younger and younger vegetation until none at all, and you get to see the Sawyer Glaciers at the end. Trust me, it's really incredible. A place like Tracy Arm is precisely why you go to Alaska. Unfortunately, it is also precisely why people errantly think they need to get a balcony on Alaskan cruises. Everyone always says "splurge on a balcony, if you're going to do it anywhere, do it on an Alaskan cruise!" "You need a balcony to see everything in private!" Baloney. You don't need it. If a balcony was the same price as an interior room, sure I would have booked one and I would have stood on it on occasion - the views are great all the time - but I can guarantee you I wouldn't stand there for very long. The last thing I would have wanted on this cruise was a tiny square of space with limited visibility on one side of the boat. You are only hurting yourself by spending your cruise there. You truly need to go up on the deck, frequently, during Tracy Arm, whale watching, or any other time where you have a free moment. It is simply not the same without the near 360 degree views available on the deck. With how much more a balcony costs, you can save that money and go on some of the many fantastic excursions instead. Also know that the sun rises early and sets late. Curtains or not, I don't want light in my room at 3:45am. Having a pitch black interior room was great for sleeping. If you need a window, try channel 35, it's the best channel on TV - the front of the boat channel! And now to save the best for last - the wildlife. I had no expectations for that. We saw one to two humpback whales PER DAY. At Skagway, one was feeding right in front of the ship. We saw harbor seals while kayaking, on the icebergs in Tracy Arm, on buoys in the water, etc. We saw sea lions playing. We saw dolphins pass our boat closely. We saw porpoises jumping in and out of our wake. And we saw more bald eagles daily than we see regular birds at home daily. The wildlife is abundant, and incredible. It's all the better that they have a ship's naturalist who announces when whales are passing by, and gives a lot of great information on them as you watch them. Make a point and take in his talks in the Princess Theater, he gives 4 talks and they are all great. With the end of the review, I should mention the end of the cruise. They allow express disembarkation for those willing to carry their own luggage. You disembark at 7:30, which is fine because everybody has to be out of their rooms by then and is off the boat within the next 2 hours anyways. We did this, and it WOULD have been excellent except for two thing. Number one, fools kept taking the elevator because they were too lazy to take stairs, even if people with 6 bags were waiting forever. We had to take our heavy bags down 4 flights of stairs. Okay, fine, deal with it. Get in line to disembark. Wait. Wait. "Why are we not moving?" Finally someone says "is this the line for express disembarkation?" and a bunch of confused people turn around all confused and say "no, we're waiting to be called. The express people already left." So, please, for all that is good and holy, if you aren't in the process of walking off the ship, don't stand in the vicinity of the exits and block the people who are trying to leave. Don't cause somebody else's cruise to end in frustration and anger at you because you can't handle sitting down in another area of the ship. Thank you. One should not be walking off from a fantastic cruise, cursing angrily with major irritation at the process of getting off the boat. And that's it. Granted, it may seem like I had a lot of complaints here, but that's because it's easier for anybody to post nitpicky complaints about minor things and it's a lot more vague to write a novel about how wonderful it was. Trust me, this ship is great, I would do the same vacation again in a minute, no changes. Avoid the hot food at the buffet, eat Verdi's pizza, get out of the ports, watch the wildlife, and carry a baseball bat during disembarkation. You will love the Sun Princess. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
We set sail for Alaska aboard the Sun Princess on June 11, a scant two days after getting married! We were so excited to begin our dream honeymoon, and based on previous reviews we had read of the Sun Princess, we felt confident in our ... Read More
We set sail for Alaska aboard the Sun Princess on June 11, a scant two days after getting married! We were so excited to begin our dream honeymoon, and based on previous reviews we had read of the Sun Princess, we felt confident in our choice. We were a bit disappointed. Most disturbingly, the food was appalling - rarely served hot, rarely comprised of fresh ingredients, rarely flavorful. Whether we ate in the 24-hour buffet (I've had better meals in hospital cafeterias), the pizzeria, or the dining room, we were plagued time and again by limited choices, poor quality, and inadequate temperature (to the point of being concerned about food poisoning). At first I thought it was just me, being a hard-core foodie and vegetarian (and for the record, I have been pleased with the food on every other cruise I've sailed on, all of which were carnival Cruises). But then my new husband, who is typically indifferent to food, mentioned it, too. And then the other people we ate meals with. Clearly, it was not just my food snobbery that was to blame! The food was just crappy. We took advantage of every single opportunity to eat off the ship, and did so with relish. The customer service was just so-so - our steward and all the restaurant staff were often indifferent to our questions and requests, and never really went the extra mile (for example: breakfast was supposed to be served from 6:30 to 11:30 - we can in at 11:25 for breakfast, which had already been cleared, and there were no vegetarian options for lunch - we asked for a box of cereal, or even some granola, and they were unable to accommodate the request.) I will say that Alissa of the social staff was friendly and recognized us as the "Scrabble Couple," often making conversation and chatting with us. In addition, the ship's naturalist was absolutely outstanding - we went to almost every presentation and whale watch and enjoyed every one thoroughly. The room decor and linens were dingy and clearly quite dated, so our oceanview cabin lacked ambiance. Shore excursions were terrific - the staff was professional, courteous and punctual. We did the canopy zipline adventure, sea kayaking, and 15-mile Klondike bike trip, and all were absolutely wonderful. Victoria was a lot of fun, too, although we did not participate in an official excursion, choosing to explore on our own instead. Other little things we had been excited about - such as the deck blankets and hot cocoa for those chilly Alaskan nights, mentioned in previous reviews - were nowhere in sight, and the few times we inquired, we were met with blank stares. So much for cuddling up under the Alaskan moonlight! A couple folks did bring their own blankets, however - I wish we had. Would we go back to Alaska? Certainly. Will we cruise again? For sure. Will we cruise on Princess? Highly unlikely. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
Sun Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.8
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.6
Family 4.0 3.6
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.4
Enrichment 3.0 3.3
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.5
Rates 4.0 4.0

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