1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Alaska Cruises
  4. Alaska Cruise Reviews

509 Whittier to Alaska Cruise Reviews

Princess knows how to do Alaska! We booked a 50th birthday land & cruise tour with Princess including a Penthouse suite (C408). Normally we would only have a balcony room, but thought this was a special enough occasion to splurge on a ... Read More
Princess knows how to do Alaska! We booked a 50th birthday land & cruise tour with Princess including a Penthouse suite (C408). Normally we would only have a balcony room, but thought this was a special enough occasion to splurge on a suite. It was worth it! I'll only mention the land portion briefly. We flew into Anchorage and were met by the Princess Rep and transferred to our Hotel. (Captain Cook) We transferred the next morning by bus to Princess McKinley Lodge for 1 night. We then went by rail to the Princess Denali Lodge for 2 nights. Finally we went by bus to Whittier to catch the ship. Everything was seamless and smooth. You send one bag to the ship so it never travels with you while on the land portion just meets you at the ship on cruise day. If you want more info on the land portion send me an email, mikemgt58@gmail.com. Alaska is such a scenic cruise words and pictures don't do it justice. Standing on your balcony seeing humpback whales breaching is an amazing site. Glaciers, fjords, wildlife etc was just as advertised. Be sure to bring good binoculars and a camera. I rented a nice long range lens for my trip and it was worth it. The weather was supposed to be rainy and in the 50's & 60's in Alaska during June. Well we must have won the weather lottery because it was mid to high 70's and low 80's our entire trip. They say only 30% of the visitors ever see the full Mt McKinley (Denali). We saw it, cloudless, all 4 days of our trip and no rain the entire 11 days. The ports we visited were Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, two days cruising in Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier. We were in suite C408 and it was great. The room itself was at least twice the size of a regular balcony room. The balcony had a table w 4 chairs, plus 2 lounge chairs and a small table. The bathroom had a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower. There were 2 TV's in the suite with DVD player and a DVD library with lots of movies. Our Steward Arlon was great. The mini bar comes filled and is complementary the first time if you want it restocked then you pay for it. The full room service menu was great as well. They come to your room and will set it up inside or on your balcony your choice. You also get a free dinner the first or second night of your cruise in one of the specialty restaurants. Every morning you can go to Sabatini's for breakfast and a free mimosa for suite members only. We went there 3 times and really enjoyed it. There were never more than 10 or 12 people there and the staff was super attentive to our needs always. We used the complimentary laundry and dry cleaning service as well. My wife did visit the lotus spa and the complimentary use of the Thermal suite and really raved about it. We traveled with my wife's sister and her husband and we all had a really great time.This was our 2nd Alaska cruise. I probably won't do it again, only because there are so many other places to visit. But I will say that its the only way to see Alaska. The land portion added so much more than just a cruise. Please feel free to email me with any questions you might have. Mikemgt58@gmail.com Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We met a Canadian couple on a Princess cruise in 2008 and became very good friends. Since we live in Florida cruising is a good way for us to get to see each other. They joined us for this cruisetour and this is our 4th cruise together. We ... Read More
We met a Canadian couple on a Princess cruise in 2008 and became very good friends. Since we live in Florida cruising is a good way for us to get to see each other. They joined us for this cruisetour and this is our 4th cruise together. We are in the 55 to 65 age group. This was our 11th cruise, with it being our 5th Princess cruise. I am giving information on the land portion too, because when we were looking at cruisetours we found very little information that covered the land portion of the cruise which to me was the best part.We booked the 15 day Princess Escorted Connoisseur Cruisetour with 8 days on land before our Southbound cruise. I am glad we did the land tour first because there was a lot of long days and it gave us time to rest up on the cruise. Booking the connoisseur tour meant our breakfast and dinner (including gratuities) was included in the price at all of the Princess Lodges. It included one beverage, appetizer, entree and a dessert. We didn't have to worry about where we were going to eat or how much is was going to cost. We could order anything on the menu and had king crab 3 times! There were 54 people in our group including our bus driver and our escort. I can't say enough about our Tour Escort Bruce Miller who was with us for the entire land portion of our tour. Not only was he very knowledgeable about Alaska, but he was witty and kept us amused with his jokes, stories and games on the long 9 hour bus rides between lodges. We didn't have to make a single decision our entire tour because he had already taken care of every detail including a wonderful group photo. We were also able to keep our fantastic bus driver Gordon Scott for our entire tour. All of the Princess Lodges were beautiful and comfortable with fantastic views from all of our rooms. At the end of our land tour we were like a big family and had new friends to start our cruise with. All of our excursions were booked through Princess. Some were included in the price, which I will mention.We flew into Fairbanks a day early to start our land tour at the Fairbanks Riverside Lodge for 3 nights. To our surprise the temperature was in the 80's. Beautiful view of the Chena River right out of our window. Our tour started with a welcome breakfast and then an excursion for an enjoyable trip down the Chena River on the Sternweeler Riverboat, followed by a beef stew lunch and a Gold mine tour, that were all included in the price. The next day we departed the lodge and boarded the train for a scenic ride to Denali National Park and the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for 2 nights. We had beautiful views of the river with the mountains behind it. Our excursion the next day was to Denali National Park on the Tundra Wilderness Tour. We saw a blonde colored mother grizzly with a jet black cub. Later we were stopped looking at a fox on the hillside when a grizzly came right over the top of the hill the fox was on. Awesome! We also saw moose, caribou and Dall sheep. This excursion and the â(EURO)oeMusic of Denaliâ(EURO) dinner show was included in the price. We departed the next day for a 9 hour bus ride to Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge. We had wonderful views of the mountains of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. The next day we took a scenic excursion to the beautiful town of Valdez where we did the Prince William Sound Glacier boat tour. We saw humpback whales, sea otters, seals, eagles, puffins, numerous other birds and the glacier. Highly recommend this tour! The next day we were off to the Kenai Peninsula and the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge. This was my favorite lodge because it sits over the beautiful blue-green waters of the Kenai River with the mountain behind it. It is absolutely breath taking and there is a trail that goes down and all around by the river. The next day was an excursion to the Kenai Fjords National Park boat tour out of Seward. The water was pretty rough at times and a lot of people got seasick, but we were fortunate and didn't get sick. We saw a pod of Orca whales. They put the hydrophone in the water and we could hear the Orca's calling each to each other. We also saw humpback whales and Dall's Pourpoise which look mini black and white Orca's and more of everything else we saw in the previous boat trip. Highly recommend this awesome tour! We departed the next day for our cruise.Whittier - Embarkation Whittier is a small port and you have to go through a tunnel to get there. Our bus was the first to go through the tunnel so our group was the first ones on the Sapphire Princess. We walked right on and it was like having the ship to ourselves. ShipThe ship was beautiful and spotless. It was a little confusing to get around, because if you went to the 6th deck aft you couldn't get to the front of the ship without going back up to the 7th deck. StateroomsWe had an aft port side balcony stateroom on the 12th Aloha Deck. We liked it because it was right under the horizon court which takes less than 5 minutes to get coffee in the morning. Was not noisy at all. The stateroom was nice with adequate storage. Our cabin steward's language was limited so he didn't talk a lot but did a good job of cleaning our room which is all that matters. DiningWe had any time dining and prefer to eat early so we usually eat around 6:00 and never had to wait for a table. With anytime dining you have your choice of 3 dining rooms, which are the Santa Fe, Savoy and Pacific Moon. The menu is the same in each dining room except each one has a specialty dish that is the same every night. We like Princess because the food is consistently good and this was no exception. We tried all of the dining rooms and the food and service was excellent with the exception that one night in the Savoy the service was slow and we were there for 2 hours and missed the 8:00 show and had go to the later show. The food was still good but I think the waiter was overwhelmed with too many tables for his section.EntertainmentThere are 3 show every night at 6:30, 8:00 & 9:45. We attended a show every night and enjoyed all of them. The comedians were good and we thought the singers and dancers were very good.Shore excursionsSkagway: Eagle Preserve Rafting & Wildlife Quest. We boarded a catamaran for a 45 minute ride to Haines which is a beautiful town. The weather was so warm the local people were sunbathing on the beach when we arrived and a few brave enough to swim in the 40 degree water. We then took a bus to our drop off point to where we had sandwiches before boarding our rafts for a leisurely (not white water) hour and a half raft trip. We saw many eagles along the way, some so close you could almost reach out and touch them. We were greeted with fresh cookies at the end of the raft trip. Beautiful scenery and a good tour.Juneau: Town, Tram & Timberline Trek. This tour was a bit of a disappointment. We went by van for a narrated tour of the city. We were supposed to go up the Mt. Roberts Tram and the take the Timberline Trek walk, but they had the trail closed because they still had snow on the ground. We then did a walk around an old gold mine instead and then took the tram up to the top of the mountain for the view which was spectacular. Ketchikan : Wilderness Exploration Cruise & Crab Feast. We were taken by bus to the George Inlet Lodge where we boarded as enclosed tour boat and cruised the George Inlet waterway. It was a scenic boat ride that took us to a cove that is a crab estuary to Dungeness crab. They pulled up some crab traps to show how the crabs are caught. There were many eagle seen along the way. We returned back to the lodge where we had all you can eat Dungeness crab, and believe me, it was all you can eat! This was my favorite shore excursion on the cruise portion.Disembarkation: Was not quite as easy as embarkation. We were to be in the Fusion Bar at 8:05 which was very crowded as everyone had to be out of their staterooms by 8:00. We were only there about 15 minutes when our number was called. We had booked the Princess transfer to the Vancouver airport which was great. They took our bags to the airport, which were there waiting for us when we got there. The Vancouver airport is a whole different story. We went through numerous lines and numerous security checks.Summary: The Hubbard Glacier was huge but we were not able to get very close due to the amount of ice in the water. This is the only place that was really cold. In Glacier Bay we were able to get very close to a glacier and you could even hear it cracking and popping. We were able to see some calving of smaller pieces, which still sounded like thunder when it hit the water. It was so warm people were sunning on the deck and swimming in the pools. On the last sea day, right before we entered the inside passage we were met by a group of Dall's Pourpoise which were every where you looked. They put on quite a show jumping out of the water. We had absolutely beautiful weather our entire cruisetour with not a drop of rain. Some of the mornings started out cool only to turn into beautiful warm afternoons. All of the locals said how lucky we were to have that kind of weather. Over all we could not have asked for anything to be any better than it was. It was the trip of a lifetime. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We did an Alaska Cruise tour with a balcony for my wife's 50th birthday. Her sister and brother in law traveled with us as well in a balcony room. Our 4 day land tour preceeded our 7 night cruise. We arrived in Anchorage and were met ... Read More
We did an Alaska Cruise tour with a balcony for my wife's 50th birthday. Her sister and brother in law traveled with us as well in a balcony room. Our 4 day land tour preceeded our 7 night cruise. We arrived in Anchorage and were met by a princess rep who quickly got us to our hotel (Captain Cook) We stayed in Anchorage 1 night before transferring by bus to the Princess McKinley Lodge. The next day we took a train to the Princess Denali Lodge where we stayed for 2 nights. Finally we left Denali by bus for our cruise ship. Only 30% of the people who visit Alaska see the entire mountain due to clouds and weather. We had 4 cloudless days and saw Mt McKinley all day every day we were there. Guess we won the weather lottery. It was supposed to be in the 50's and 60's with rain during June...Ha! It was in the mid to high 70's and into the 80's all 11 days of our entire trip with no rain. Guess we just got Lucky! We boarded the ship mid afternoon with no lines and went directly to our suite C408. Wow! What a great room. We were in suite C408 and it was great. The room itself was at least twice the size of a regular balcony room. The balcony had a table w 4 chairs, plus 2 lounge chairs and a small table. The bathroom had a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower. There were 2 TV's in the suite with DVD player and a DVD library with lots of movies. Our Steward Arlon was great. The mini bar comes filled and is complementary the first time if you want it restocked then you pay for it. The full room service menu was great as well. They come to your room and will set it up inside or on your balcony your choice. You also get a free dinner the first or second night of your cruise in one of the specialty restaurants. Every morning you can go to Sabatini's for breakfast and a free mimosa for suite members only. We went there 3 times and really enjoyed it. There were never more than 10 or 12 people there and the staff was super attentive to our needs always. We used the complimentary laundry and dry cleaning service as well. My wife did visit the lotus spa and the complimentary use of the Thermal suite and really raved about it. The Diamond Princess was a fun ship to spend a week in Alaska on board. Meals in the dining room were good not great, but the service more than made up for any shortcomings. The buffet was actually pretty good although we only ate there twice. The grill had good burgers and the pizza was also very good. We had 3 ports, Juneau, SKagway and ketchikan along with cruising 2 days in Hubbard glacier and Glacier Bay. The scenery in Alaska and the inside passage is 2nd to none! The glaciers, fjords, wildlife, humpback whales breaching etc, its right out of National Geographic or Travel Channel. We did the main show most evenings and it was ok. 2 or 3 variety type shows with dancing and singing etc. The comedian "Sarge"was very good. The other venues were solid. We really enjoyed Skywalkers lounge at the back and very top of the ship. It was great to have a ship with a full wrap around promenade deck for strolling around the ship. This was our 2nd cruise to Alaska and the additional land portion made it all worth it. Princess knows how to do Alaska! Seamless movement from each hotel. Luggage always arrived in a timely manner. You pack one bag the first night and they take it to the ship so you never have to worry about that one. The others travel with you and meet you at the hotel each night. You never check into a room, they just hand you an envelope with you room key and itinerary as you depart the bus or train.   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
My wife and I have cruised previously but this trip was the first cruise with our 13 month old son. We met my parents on the trip; they had done a 7 day land excursion prior to boarding the Sapphire. We arrived in Anchorage a day before ... Read More
My wife and I have cruised previously but this trip was the first cruise with our 13 month old son. We met my parents on the trip; they had done a 7 day land excursion prior to boarding the Sapphire. We arrived in Anchorage a day before the cruise embarkation. We decided upon the Hampton Inn. It was an average business hotel. Highly recommend you request a room NOT near the fitness center/pool. The hall way leading to your room was very humid and you could smell the chorine. The smell did not penetrate the room, but the humidity did. Transfer to Sapphire Princess: We decided to book a transfer through Alaska Cruise Transfer and Tours. The decision factor was ACTT picked us up at our Hotel and Princess only offered transfers from the Convention Center. Important: Read confirmation e-mail as there is a potential limitation on luggage. Transfer included two scenic photo stops and a stop at the Wildlife Conservation Center. Embarkation: Luggage handlers met our transfer in the parking lot. Tagged and took luggage in a matter of minutes. Made our way to the cruise ship terminal. We arrived approximately 3:45 PM. No lines. We were on the Sapphire by 4:00 PM. All embarkation staff were exceptionally courteous and helpful. Sapphire Princess: The ship itself was familiar to anyone who has cruised with Princess in the past. The ship was in good shape with maintenance crews working daily on different projects with out intruding on our experience.The room was what we expected. We have cruised with Princess previously. We started to explore the ship to gain familiarity. Having cruised with Princess before, the lay-out was familiar. Day One: Sea Day and Hubbard Glacier- Due to a denser ice field, we could only get approximately 10 miles from Hubbard. The captain did let each side of the ship have some time with Hubbard in the background for pictures. Day Two: Sea Day and Glacier Bay- The onboard naturalist stated we had prime whale sights between 7:30 and 9:30 AM. I walked out on the balcony at 8:00 AM and there were approximately 10 whales in the distance. Lots of blows and flukes. You could see them with the naked eye, but binoculars definitely helped. Glacier Bay was amazing. We had a starboard cabin and the captain provided approximately 30 minutes for Port and Starboard for photos and to witness calving. Amazing views of Grand Pacific, Margerie and Lumplugh glaciers. The nature viewing is the reason people sail this itinerary and it will not disappoint. Day Three: Skagway- We booked the White Pass Railway excursion through Princess. Worth it, in hindsight I would have booked the day long trip that included Bennett Lake, but I was unsure how my son would handle that length of excursion. It was a nice ride and the scenery is breathtaking. I had expected Alaska to be green (in summer) but was surprised at the lushness. It is truly a temperate rain forest. The main drag (Broadway) is where all the action is in Skagway. Not a huge town and there was 4 ships in Skagway during our stop. The town was busy in the morning with a lot of cruisers in the morning. Afternoon rain shower cleared the streets. Day Four: Juneau- We booked the Mendenhall Helicopter Tour and Glacier Walk though Princess. Amazing experience with a great guide (Dylan). If you can, both my wife and I highly recommend this excursion. It is about 4 hours total pier to pier. We were able to see the rest of Juneau (State house, Governors Mansion and the tourist area) with the remainder of our day. Some rain during the late afternoon. Day Five: Ketchikan- We ended up going with a private tour from the Pier. The tour included a Wildlife Viewing and the Saxman totem village. The guide, Tic Tac was interesting and providing a lot of local history for Ketchikan. The Wildlife part of the excursion was just a stop at the mouth of a river. Not much wildlife except some Eagles. Saxman Village was very interesting and Tic Tac provided a lot of information on each of the Totems. After the tour, we walked Creek St and did some souvenir shopping. Day Six: Sea Day to Vancouver: Overcast day but provided the necessary time to pack up for disembarkation. We did not make it to the Crew Talent show, but from previous experiences on Princess, I would highly recommend it. Day Seven: Disembarkation. Aside from having too much luggage, disembarkation was easy. We did the Hop-on/Hop-off Pink Bus tour of Vancouver. Going through Vancouver made us regret not taking an extra day for some more exploration. Staff: The Princess staff were overall very good. The staff was absolutely wonderful with our son; doting on him at every opportunity. I can not say enough nice things about the wait staff. They instantly new to bring my son's dinner immediately therefore my wife and I could enjoy our own dinner. Thank you Alex! Staff went above and beyond daily to assist us in any way with our son; with waiters even cutting up his food for him and buffet staff having a highchair waiting for him each morning for breakfast in the Conservatory. Thank you Roland and Renata! Food: I have always been satisfied with the food on Princess. Buffet was better than average and seated dinners were offered a good selection and were quite delicious. Don't forget to try the International Café for Panini's and Princess pizza...both are great. We ate many lunches or after shore snacks from the International Café rather than the buffet or dining room. I skipped dessert most nights in the dining room to have some of the sweets from the International café. The only Cons on the entire cruise were the following. During the first day scavenger hunt, the Internet staff member was so unhelpful and had such a chip on his shoulder that we decided not purchase a package as we have in the past. The photo staff was not as helpful as they have been on other Princess itineraries we have cruised. The last day, when we went to purchase our photos, the photo staff had placed the 1st formal and Embarkation photos in unlabeled tubs. You had to go through thousands of photos to find yours. Previous itineraries were longer and maintained the photos displayed throughout the entire cruise. Many people complain regarding the retail nature of cruising. We just chose not to be apart of the hype and focused on the nature of Alaska which is what Alaska is all about. The only upcharge we purchased was the unlimited Coke fountain products during the cruise. We enjoyed our 7 days on the Sapphire in Alaska. My wife and I both stated we wanted to do the itinerary again, but have more time in Vancouver. We truly enjoyed the trip and Princess staff put our concerns at ease regarding traveling with a toddler. We are already discussing the cruise vacation!   Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
This was our first Princess cruise, which we were planning with friends of ours for over a year. We chose Princess specifically due to the recommendations I've read here and its itinerary. We did not regret that decision. We started ... Read More
This was our first Princess cruise, which we were planning with friends of ours for over a year. We chose Princess specifically due to the recommendations I've read here and its itinerary. We did not regret that decision. We started by arriving two days early into Anchorage and stayed at a lovely B&B called the Wildflower Inn. I highly recommend it. On Saturday morning, we caught the 9:30 train to Whittier, having booked the 26 Glacier Tour through Phillips Cruises. I was under the wrong impression that we would have to handle our own luggage, since we did not arrange transportation through Princess, but happily discovered I was misinformed. When we arrived at the station, there were tables for Princess and Holland America. A porter from Princess collected our luggage and the next time we saw it was when we arrived on board and went to our stateroom. A quick aside about the 26 Glacier Tour. Highly recommended. We saw more wildlife in those four hours that we did the rest of the cruise. And that's not a knock on the cruise. The tour boat is right next to the Princess, so once we were finished, we were right there for check in. Embarkation This was a little confusing. Because we came from the tour, we went into a side entrance. We accidentally got on the boarding line, not seeing the registration area. We realized our mistake in time and a security guard was very helpful in pointing us in the right direction and allowed us back into line, so we didn't have to start all over again. The line had been long, since we arrived just as the land tour buses arrived. Room Since we boarded later in the day, we were able to go up to our room. Luggage was already there. The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship. We had a category B2 cabin on Caribe deck. We chose it for the larger veranda which did not disappoint. Our friends were in the cabin next to us, so we were able to open a connecting door between the two verandas. The room was a little smaller than other Deluxe rooms with veranda that we were accustomed to, only having enough room for the bed and a small desk. Storage was in a closet and wardrobe next to the bathroom. The bathroom was adequate, but the shower was tiny. I only had so much room to turn around. The temperature of the water was also a little inconsistent and had to be occasionally adjusted. Dining This was the first time we experienced Anytime Dining and I am hooked. I loved the flexibility since most cruise lines the 5:30 main seating is a little early for us and the 8:00 late seating too late. Even though reservations are recommended, we never had trouble getting a table without one. We did try to make reservations, but never got that process down right. Either we called outside the reservation window or when we called at the right time, were told they didn't take reservations past 6:30pm. Regardless, it didn't turn out to be much of an issue. By the thrid night, when we realized we were eating about the same time (7:00) each night, the matre d' assured us he would hold our table the following night. The serving staff was wonderful as was the food. Since three of the four of us are non-meat eaters, there was ample vegetarian choices. Service was prompt and efficient, only once did we have to ask for service to be sped up a little only because some of us participated in the pop choir. The other dining venues were equally impressive. I visited the International Cafe frequently and invested in the coffee card, which was well worth it. We also had the pizza which was as good as New York pizza (and we should know, since we're from New York) Entertainment This was the one negative we encountered. We went to the shows the first two night and never returned. The first night was a production show that we found amateurish and have seen better high school performances. While the dancing was okay, the vocals were off and sometimes out if synch. The following night was a comedian that put me to sleep. Maybe because we cruised Disney so much, we're spoiled, but I don't think it would have made a difference had we never experienced Disney. The seminars, on the other hand, were excellent. We attended one where an expert on Alaska gave us a presentation on the various forms of wildlife we might experience. The theater was packed and she held us captive. The Park Ranger presentations were equally fascinating. Which leads us to Ports The three ports exceeded our expectations. The first two days at Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay had us gazing with dropped jaws and mouths open the whole time we were there. We spent part of the time up in the bow and and some of it on our deck. The captain turned the ship around so guests on both sides of the ship would get their fair chance to see the glacier. Our visits to Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan were equally amazing. We did the White Pass Railway in Skagway which was wonderful and the Taku Lodge Feast and 5-Glacier Seaplane Discovery, which was the highlight of our trip. My wife is a nervous flyer, only getting back into it three years ago. Our pilot was great and even let her sit in the copilot seat. A recorded explanation of what we were seeing and the history of the area played while we flew to Taku Lodge. Taku Lodge is a rustic and charming place and the salmon bake gave me a whole new appreciation for one of my favorite seafood dishes. We did Ketchikan on our own, taking the shuttle to Saxman Totem Village and then going to the Totem Heritage Center before ending up with some shopping in town. Despite all our anxiety about what to pack pre-trip, the weather fooled us and we had three delightful days in ports, with temps in the 70s and bright sun. Disembarkation This was a little disorganized. We were told not to show up to the Pacific Moon any sooner than 10:10, so we hung out in Horizons until 10:00. But no sooner did we show up in Pacific Moon, than they announced our group. Lucky we were on time. Having to walk the one flight up was also inconvenient for those carrying any bags with them. Finding our luggage was a mess. It was not in the zone it was supposed to be and with people standing around and the exit line snaking into the baggage pick up area, it took us a while to find our bags. But, once found exiting through customs was a breeze as was the organized line up for a taxi. Post cruise We stayed in Vancouver for two days and found a great suite hotel called the Rosellen Suites in a residential area of Vancouver right next to Stanley Park and two blocks from Denman St. with plenty of stores and restaurants. Be forewarned, it is not a full-service hotel, but if you don't need 24-hour desk, a pool and in hotel dining, the suites were spacious with a full kitchen, living room and dining room. Summary We thoroughly enjoyed the Sapphire Princess. Had we been on a different itinerary where you spend more time on the ship, the entertainment might have been a bigger issue, but since we chose her for the itinerary and not the on board services, it more than met our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
Unfortunately, I spent my entire time on our Alaska Southbound cruise on Norwegian Sun being very, very sick. While in the boarding line, I wasn't feeling well, but I thought it was just jet lag. It wasn't long before I realized ... Read More
Unfortunately, I spent my entire time on our Alaska Southbound cruise on Norwegian Sun being very, very sick. While in the boarding line, I wasn't feeling well, but I thought it was just jet lag. It wasn't long before I realized that I likely had food poisoning (symptoms matched Salmonella poisoning). It must be noted that I DID NOT contract the food poisoning on the Sun. My suspicion is some poorly handled Salmon in the Seattle airport, but I can't know for sure. I spent the first few days feeling miserable, but was reluctant to go to the medical center because I knew I would likely be quarantined. On night three, it was clear that I was getting dehydrated and simply had no choice but to go down there (honestly, at that point, I didn't care if I got quarantined). The Sun medical staff was willing to allow me to come to the medical center before posted hours and after a brief examination, they told me that I needed IV fluids. I spent the next five hours hooked to an IV receiving fluids. The medical staff was fantastic! They took great care of me, were very professional and gave me the necessary fluids and two different antibiotics. Alas, I was quarantined for about 36 hours, but that is a CDC regulation and I understand that it is in the public interest. Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend much time at all exploring the Sun, but I would not hesitate to sail on her again. My only regret was not going to the medical center earlier as my whole trip was basically trashed. Even so, I was able to see many beautiful things from my balcony (which I highly recommend if you get quarantined - at least you get to see some of Alaska!) I am also thankful that I took out travel insurance. It looks like it will cover my trip costs and possible some of my family's trip costs. Every staff member I encountered on the Sun was pleasant, especially Grace, our fantastic room steward. She always asked how I was doing and was always there to help out. We have sailed on Carnival, RCCL, and NCL. NCL is by far our favorite so far, even with my illness. Looking forward to sailing with them again - and next time I'll take some antibiotics with me! Read Less
Sail Date June 2013
We cruised the Diamond Princess, with a land cruise first to Denali Park. The land cruise - the cabins were frigid and didn't warm up until well into the night; the bathrooms never warmed so showers were quick. The food at the ... Read More
We cruised the Diamond Princess, with a land cruise first to Denali Park. The land cruise - the cabins were frigid and didn't warm up until well into the night; the bathrooms never warmed so showers were quick. The food at the breakfast and dinner buffets was atrocious and expensive. The cruise was okay and allowed plenty of time in each of the three ports visited. The bar service was very good - they make great spicy Bloody Marys. The cabin service was okay considering there was only one steward rather than two as we've encountered on other cruise lines. Food - YUCK! Very little variety in the main dining rooms - same menu in in all of them. The buffet catered strictly to orientals, no variety except perhaps in the freshness of the kimchi, although how a non-Westerner could determine the freshness I'm not sure. It just stinks, period! The little food that was available for the non-oriental palate was bland, unappetizing, and very pedestrian. Overall, we had expected far more of Princess and were exceedingly disappointed. This was our first and last cruise with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Started out with a 4-day land tour (wife and I - 56 and 68 years young respectively and 7th cruise; 3rd on Princess and 4 on Carnival) spending 1 nite at the Fairbanks lodge (did the Riverboat tour), 2 nites at the Denali lodge (did the ... Read More
Started out with a 4-day land tour (wife and I - 56 and 68 years young respectively and 7th cruise; 3rd on Princess and 4 on Carnival) spending 1 nite at the Fairbanks lodge (did the Riverboat tour), 2 nites at the Denali lodge (did the National Park tour - both of these were "included" in our package) and 1 nite at the McKinley lodge (did a flight up to and around Mt. McKinley and landed on the Glacier tour - additional cost). At each stop the lodges got better and bigger (spread out) and the food also got better. The Riverboat (Paddle boat) tour was great, the Denali National park tour was OK - no animals seen other than 3 squirrels (reason being, as told by everyone, that part of Alaska was experiencing an "extended winter and late start to Spring" by about 2-4 weeks and the animals were still in hibernation - so to speak). The flight up to, around Mt. McKinley and landing on the glacier was nothing short of AWESOME...!!!!! Something that we will remember and treasure for the rest of our lives (of course have movies and still photo's of everything - even the 3 squirrels (ha-ha) to play back for fond memories. The train ride from McKinley to Whittier was long (5 plus hours) but comfortable, actually arriving at the ship about an hour late. (if you take the land tour - you MUST try/eat the REINDEER Sausage at all of the lodges - it is DELICIOUS.) Ship (Island Princess) left on time (transferred about 500 people from the train to the ship, even though it was late). First day was cruising Hubbard Bay (nothing spectacular) while the second day was cruising Glacier Bay - spent about an hour and half sitting a mile from the tip of the glacier. Had about a dozen and a half instances where ice fell off the glacier into the bay - again AWESOME to both SEE and HEAR (and record). You would see the ice break loose first and then hear a following sound that resembled a "crack of lightning" hitting next to you (or a sharp rifle shot). By the time you heard that you would already be seeing the ice hitting the water in the bay causing large splashes and then you would "hear" that - it sounded like a low pitch rumble or deep rolling thunder. Finally you'd see a ripple effect from the ice hitting the water - we were fortunate enough as I said to see that happen on about 18 separate occasions in that hour an half. Did not do any tours in our 3 stops along the inward passage as we done something on our previous cruise (Sun Princess - Seattle-to-Seattle back in 2006). The cruise was to mostly just "relax" and have a peaceful and enjoyable week - which we did. You'll NOTE - I gave the Dining only a 2-star rating - we were both fairly disappointed with not only the variety of the food offered in the main dining room (ate 2nd seating) but also our wait staff were very aloof and not very attentive. On all our "other cruises" by the second nite they would know and call us by our first name, and have our little whims and wishes known - i.e., extra butter, shrimp in the caesar salad, refills of tea and water, etc., - this group that tended our table (and I must say the others they were also responsible for) were below par from all the rest of our experiences. Also, the food offered in the cafe "overall" was not that great - and the variety again was not that abundant. They did offer a lot variety there during lunches of "fish" which "I" enjoyed - however, they also had various pre-cut cold-cut type of sandwiches available and some which were "wrapped" (chicken and tuna) which we felt were not very appealing or appetizing - compared to Carnival's "Deli Station" where they cook up/make up fresh sandwiches to order while you wait - NO comparison, Carnival tops all the way. Also, the Pizza cooking location - on the outside near the pool was not as good at that on Carnival. (I must say both my wife and I agree that the food quality and variety we've experienced on all our Carnival cruises far exceeded that of what we had on this particular cruise.) Our steward (Wilson) was exceptional - he ALWAYS had a "Hi and Hello" how are you attitude and smile on his face (miss the little nitely animals that the stewards on Carnival do - ha-ha). He kept our room immaculate. In addition, all the shows we went to were EXCELLENT - especially the one call BAYOU. The nite of that show it was done 3 times - we seen the last one, had we known about it - we would have done what we heard several folks say - gone to see it all 3 times - was WONDERFUL - do NOT miss it. The "overall" rating of 4 obviously reflects and is because of the dining experiences (both in the service as well as the variety and quality) we had. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
This was my second time to Alaska but the first time doing a Land Tour. My friend Jan had never been to Alaska before and wanted to see everything. We booked this DIY land/cruise tour in July, 2012 for May, 2013 and decided to fly info ... Read More
This was my second time to Alaska but the first time doing a Land Tour. My friend Jan had never been to Alaska before and wanted to see everything. We booked this DIY land/cruise tour in July, 2012 for May, 2013 and decided to fly info Anchorage a day early on Wednesday to maximize our time. Our TA chose Alaska Airlines because it flew directly into Anchorage from Chicago-O'Hare. Unfortunately it did not have a direct flight from Vancouver. More on that later. At our gate we met 3 ladies from Philly who were all retired teachers and were on the same tour as us. They had booked the extra day with Princess so had a Princess transfer waiting for them. We ran into them several times on land and the ship.Arrived on time about 1:00 PM in Anchorage on Alaska time which was 3 hours behind Chicago. Lucky for us, it wasn't so late that we felt we had wasted the day. Caught a cab ($22 including tip) to the Captain Cook Hotel where our room was ready for us. Because we had booked this extra day independent from Princess we were informed that we had to re-check in the next morning to start our Princess tour package. Our "meal" options on the plane had been a selection of snack boxes which we skipped in favor of our own food.Given a map of Anchorage at the front desk, we explored our options for late lunch/early dinner. The Glacier Brewhouse was a mere block from the hotel (depending which door you exited). The menu had several good choices. We were prepared for the prices and the food was good too! The ladies from Philly were in there also taking their time as their rooms hadn't been ready yet. Jan and I started wandering down the street to check the out different stores before we retired back to our room which had a great view of the Chugach mountains. I forgot to take a picture of them and was sorry as the next 2 mornings were overcast. We were settled in for the night after trying to decide if 9:30 was too early to go to sleep! But with a 4 AM alarm that day, exhaustion won out and we slept in pretty well to the next morning.On Thursday, after checking our map for breakfast options, we elected to try the Snow City Cafe which was 2 blocks from the hotel. A great breakfast place but we never had a chance to check it out for lunch also. It was much colder with intermittent rain that day and we ran back to the hotel to grab our umbrellas. First on the agenda was the Anchorage City Trolley Tour. It was $20 and worth every cent. Our driver was a teacher and she was a natural story teller and guide. She started with the 1964 earthquake and the changes that affected the downtown and surrounding areas.The Captain Cook was a perfect location as it was central to the downtown area and convenient to everything we wanted to see. The hotel had a vintage feel but with all modern amenities. It was a lovely property. We didn't book any excursions for that day as we weren't sure if we would have a travel delay. Took our time and checked out the local shops. I did not want anything made in China! The Anchorage Museum was a close walk so we spent a few hours in there being educated about the area. Asked a local man to recommend a place for a late lunch and he suggested the F Avenue pub and grill which was just down the street from the trolley. Excellent food in a casual atmosphere.When we returned to the Captain Cook we "checked out" of our room and paid for the night $160+tax. The desk clerk asked how I had gotten this rate and I told her our TA had reserved it for us. She told me that summer rates had started on 5/13 and the rate should have been $260/night! Checked back in for the start of our Princess Tour. There was a desk set up in another area of the hotel for the Princess Tour passengers so we checked in with them and picked up our packet for the next day. There were luggage tags and instructions for our transfer to McKinley Lodge the next day. Our bus was #3. The tags were designated as "Join me on board ship" and "Join me Tonight". There was also one with MPL on it for McKinley Princess. I knew about this from cruise critic and Jan and I were prepared with 1 bag packed for each destination. Decided about 7 PM to go for dinner and we picked Sack's. Unfortunately, we found out we were still full from lunch. Sack's was a fine dining place and the menu looked scrumptious but alas, we settled for soup and an appetizer. I actually filled up on the soup and just picked at the baked brie. Took it with me for a snack on the bus the next day.Luggage had to be ready at 6:30 AM on Friday for pickup so it was another early alarm. Thought we would check out the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Turned out to be a great choice as we were seated immediately. About 20 minutes later the place was full and we could see a long line of people waiting. Went back up to the room for some last minute clean up and since our bags were still there, we could put our toiletries in the case for McKinley lodge. The instructions were to meet in the lobby at 7:45 so we strolled down there at 7:40 to find the place packed and a lady calling for bus M-3. We weren't sure this was us and said something to some people who said they were looking for us and our bus was ready to leave! Needless to say, we hustled outside and announced our arrival. As the last ones on board they were ready to depart immediately. Our arrival at McKinley Princess Lodge was scheduled for noon. There were no stops. Our driver was also our guide and he kept up a nice patter of information on everything we passed. The weather had turned colder and it was rain mixed with snow when we arrived. An envelope with our room info and our transfer materials for the next day was handed to us as we exited the bus.We were in building #2, Room 110 which was close to the lodge. There was a shuttle for the more distant buildings and people with ambulatory issues. I was astonished at the slush on the stairs as the roads were clear. We stayed only long enough to dump our stuff and went back to the lodge for lunch. Jan and I had originally wanted to schedule a flight-seeing tour at this location but changed our minds when we found out the cost. It turned out all flights were cancelled due to weather. On the whole land portion of this trip, we did not see one deciduous tree with leaves. The news was telling us this was the longest snow season in history and we were in it. When I had done the cruise in 2003, we had temps from 50-70's with sunny skies the whole week. I guess I was hoping for the same thing but Jan had brought her down coat and boots. I did make use of my silk long underwear and the wonderful heavy sweatshirt with hood my daughter had given to me for Mother's Day. I glad I had brought along gloves and earmuffs too. The Lodge had several racks of lightweight parkas with a fleece lining for sale in the gift shop and they sold out several times! Jan bought one since she didn't have a lighter jacket with her. We saw those parkas on people throughout the entire trip.We ate lunch in one of the lodge restaurants and were not impressed with the menu or the food. I should mention that this was only the second week the lodge was open and they seemed to be having some trouble with their Coke dispenser. I kept getting my Diet Coke flat without the bubbles. The servers were all college students who had mostly just arrived the week before from all over the USA, mostly Florida, Hawaii and Arizona! They all said they had never seen snow and wanted a summer away from the heat at home. All were personable and did a good job.Jan wanted to see Talkeetna so we found the shuttle for the hour ride into town. The shuttle ran every hour from the same location. Outside was still a rain/snow mix and I had packed my umbrella in my suitcase. Luckily, my raincoat had a hood and I was dressed warm enough with my earmuffs and gloves. To say Talkeetna was a disappointment is an understatement. I was picturing a quaint little town with wooden sidewalks and was shocked to find a bunch of run-down log cabins with a mostly motley collection of souvenirs. One shop had some quality items. The best was the cafe were we had hot chocolate and homemade cookies. Their menu looked really good and our bus driver said that a lot of the staff from the lodge ate there frequently. Had we known, we could have skipped the mediocre and pricey lunch at the lodge. We were definitely back on the bus for the next shuttle. Back at the lodge, we went downstairs for the Ranger's talk on bears which was very interesting. The weather was still miserable so we were not able to enjoy the beautiful deck and mountain view. Went back to our room to find the luggage waiting for us. Cleaned up a bit and decided that dinner was a good option at this point so headed back to the Lodge. Another so-so dinner and we went back to the room to prepare for another early morning call to put our bags out for the transfer to Denali Princess Lodge. Breakfast on Saturday morning was quite bad. My scrambled eggs were dried out and cold. I ate the biscuit and bacon with my tea and figured just accept it since I am not one to make a fuss. But the restaurant manager happened by and asked if everything was ok so I told him I was unhappy with my food. He wanted to replace the meal but we had to meet our bus. He comped my meal and apologized. I did tip the server since it wasn't his fault and we left with a better feeling about the place.This next part of our trip was by train. We had to be in the lodge by 9:15 to board the bus for a 9:30 departure which we almost missed again! (Foolish us, we expected someone to announce it.) Since 9:30 came and went, I thought something was off so I went up to the desk and asked about it. The young lady looked panicked and called the driver on her device so they could come back for us. As it happened, they were still waiting since there were supposed to be 24 of us and some were missing. As we ran out, we told the Princess rep who was boarding people that we expected some kind of announcement. She went into the lodge and called out the info about the bus to Talkeetna depot and picked up another couple who was also waiting. Finally we were off on a sunny day back to Talkeetna Depot and were surprised by all the new snow that we saw. The train wasn't due for about 1/2 hour so we stayed on the bus as it was quite chilly outside. The Alaska Railroad train arrived pulling cars for Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess. I wasn't prepared for the train seating arrangement. The dining car was on the first level and the passengers sat upstairs sharing a table for four. I was expecting standard seating next to the panoramic windows. Jan and I were seated with a couple from Florida who were also going to be on the ship. We had a great time visiting with them and went down to lunch together so the time passed quickly. Arriving at Denali there were the requisite large coaches waiting for us. It was a short ride to the Denali Wilderness Lodge where we found bedlam in the lobby. Because of the cold weather, the pipes in the original lodge which was now Building A were frozen and a large number of people had to be moved. Our room info was given to us on the train so we knew our room number in building J. It was pretty cold to wander about and the last thing I wanted to do was shop but Jan wanted to check out the area. We had reserved the 8 PM dinner show for Music of Denali. The building was directly kitty-corner from ours so it was definitely a short walk. Since we had 4 hours until then, we elected to have a light snack at the Base Camp Bistro which was open for late lunch and dinner only. My train lunch had been light so I was ready for something else. The place was packed but service was good and so was the food. Back to the room and we had turned up the heat as far as it would go since the place was really cold. It didn't help that the room opened directly to the outside like an old-fashioned motel. (At the McKinley lodge which is newer, the buildings had a central, heated corridor for the rooms. This also made it more secure, a plus for two ladies traveling alone.) Strolled across the lane to the "theater". I think this cost us $89 each. Your servers are the actors. I would never recommend this activity to anyone. The show was beyond corny and the food just average. Giving the actors their due, they put their hearts into it but nothing could save this show. I could write a better show. There was plenty of food and it was served family style. If you wanted more of anything, they brought it out. The menu consisted of salad, very tender BBQ brisket, creamed salmon, garlic mashed potatoes and succotash. Dessert was a fruit cobbler.Leaving the theater we were surprised by how light it was outside. I had made sure I dressed much warmer for this day since I didn't know when the luggage would arrive. A smart move on my part since it was 10:45 PM before the bags finally made it. No idea what held them up but the front desk was deluged with complaints. We wanted to go to bed but had to wait for the luggage with our nightclothes. Since we didn't have to be up at 5 AM, we finally crashed about 11:30 and had to pull the drapes to shut out the light. Got up Sunday morning and went for breakfast at the Salmon Bake restaurant. I finally tried the reindeer sausage This was quite good with a great view. We were already comparing the difference in food quality to McKinley Lodge. It was another sunny, cold day with a brilliant blue sky. We had booked the Husky Homestead Tour through Princess and the bus for that was about 9:45 AM. It took about 15 minutes to get to the dog farm on their bus. This was the establishment of Jeff King who has won the Iditarod race 7 times. First off, we got to hold the puppies! Took lots of pictures and then the talk started. Jeff was very informative and down to earth. He is obviously devoted to his dogs and they to him. We were surprised that the dogs did not look like the usual Siberian Huskies that they always show on TV. All are bred for different traits and are quite lean. It was a great tour and I highly recommend it. Back to the Lodge for a light lunch before our Tundra Wilderness Tour at 1:30. I had booked this through reservedenali.com as the Princess tours were sold out. Originally we were told we had to walk to the McKinley Chalet resort up the road at 5:30 AM to be picked up for the tour. This had caused some anxiety in us as we had no idea where or how far away it was. Checking all my info before we left, I realized I had booked it for the wrong date! Called them and they were very accommodating to change it for me and we ended up with the 1:30 time on 5/19. The website advised that they would pick us up at the Lodge. One bad piece of info was that we had to go into the park to the Wilderness Center to pick up our tickets the day before. Since Princess had a free shuttle, we thought we could do this. I had mentioned this on the train and a lady sitting near us overheard me and said that she had also booked this tour and was told the tickets would be at the tour desk at the lodge. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. Another problem worked out in our favor!The TWT was scheduled for 5 hours. Our driver/guide Jen was very good and only one of several people who we met who lived in basic cabins for the summer just to spend the season in Alaska. It was quite enlightening. Since the weather was outstanding with sunshine and bright blue sky we anticipated seeing Mt. McKinley. Alas, the only clouds we saw were covering the mountain. We saw some wildlife but mostly it was boring. Some people would say we didn't go far enough into the park but we were limited by the snowfall and the fact the roads still weren't fully cleared. But our guide informed us of the number of moose, caribou, wolves and bears in the park and they are quite small for the amount of territory. It is so barren that there just isn't a lot of food available to support large herds. It was our last night in Denali and we decided to get pizza and salad for dinner at the Lynx Creek Pizza restaurant at the Lodge. It was time to pack the bags and have them out for 7 AM pickup. It was a clear, sunny Monday and the temps were up to the 50's. The Salmon Bake was our choice for breakfast which we again enjoyed with the spectacular view. We went up to the lodge to wait for our bus for the 8 hour drive to Whittier and the ship. We were once again on bus #3 with a very good driver/guide. On the road our driver pointed out that you could see Mt. McKinley very well. Sure enough, we were able to see both peaks clearly. Finally I was able to get some great pictures even if we were moving. The driver apologized that he could not safely pull over so we could get some pictures. We did have a rest stop where we could see the North Peak clearly. The park tour had informed us that only 30% of people see some of the mountain and only 10% actually see both peaks. We were batting 1.000.A one hour lunch stop in Anchorage gave us the opportunity to try Humpy's. As much publicity as this place gets I expected a lot more. Half the menu was mostly salmon (as was every other restaurant we tried) and we had a salad which was tasteless. This was a glorified tavern and not worth the stop. The Glacier Brewhouse was 100% better. We made it to Whittier and went through the famous tunnel to emerge and see our ship! Walked into the terminal and got into line which moved quickly to check in at 5 PM. I told Jan that I felt we were finally on vacation! I didn't realize how much I disliked moving from place to place every day and living out of a suitcase. Deciding to do the land tour first was the best idea we had. I felt like I took a big breath when I got onboard the Island Princess. Our room was E-726, near the aft elevators with a nice sized balcony. There were 2 reclining loungers, 2 regular chairs and a nice size table. It was still the new, uncomfortable furniture but better than what we had on the Grand last year. Our luggage was outside the room when we arrived so we unpacked quickly. Our big bags, which we last saw in Anchorage, were there to Jan's relief. She was worried that they would not make it. I was glad to see that my bottle of wine which I had double-wrapped in bubble wrap and 2 plastic bags had survived the trip. There was a message on our phone from someone (couldn't make it out) about a bottle of liquid in my suitcase and please come down to deck 4 about it. Well, since my bag was delivered, I couldn't understand why they considered this a problem. But, I schlepped the wine, still all wrapped up downstairs to Security where they said ok and marked it off on a list.Jan wanted to do the Scavenger Hunt again so we set off to visit the different areas on the ship. I was pleased to see that the Island was identical to the Coral in layout and decor. This is such a nice ship with a good passenger to space ratio. The decor is pleasing and comfortable. I had forgotten how long it was!Stopped in Sabatini's to get our cards stamped and to make a reservation for Wednesday dinner. We could have eaten there that night as the place was empty but I wanted to be more relaxed so we could enjoy it. Jan was a bit hesitant to do this but I wanted it to be my treat. Last year we had booked a bungalow on Princess Cays and she was talked into purchasing the special lunch without realizing the BBQ was included. Talking about food was making us hungry since it was now over 6 hours since our salads in Anchorage. We had Anytime Dining which had worked pretty well the last year. I have never walked into the MDR wearing jeans but figured it might be ok since people were still boarding. No problem at all. The dining room was not very busy as they offered us a table for 2 but we asked to join a group. I knew Prime Rib was on the menu and wanted to get a non-salmon meal after 5 previous days of it. Met some nice people and while we were chatting, I looked out the window and saw the train disembarking passengers. These were the same people who had left Denali when we did and they were just arriving! It seems there was a danger of avalanches and the train could only travel at 35 mph. Our bus trip was about 7-8 hrs and this was 10.5 hours. It was now only 1/2 hour until the Safety Drill and one couple at our table left without dessert so they could be on time. We figured we could sneak it in under the wire and lo and behold, an announcement was made that the Safety Drill and Sailing were to be postponed due to the late arrival of the last passengers. So we had our dessert and the drill too. Off to the first show, a taste of singers and dancers and the comedian. After that we realized we were sailing and the casino was open for business. Jan tried some slots and I sat down to chase my money playing 3 card Poker. Neither lasted very long and we decided to call it a day. For the first time, we could sleep in without any plans for the next day. It was heaven!Tuesday was cruising the Hubbard glacier and lots of activities around the ship. After breakfast we tried our luck at Bingo and I won the first pot for $100 which I had to split. (Little did I know that was the last money I would win while gambling.) We spent some time on our balcony admiring the scenery and then went down for the Naturalist's talk on Glacier Bay. The theater was packed but seats kept opening up as he wasn't a very dynamic speaker. I heard a few snores around me and we left early to play Bingo again.Back in our room, we started watching a movie and fell asleep. Awakened by someone knocking on the door, it was our cabin steward looking to make up the room for the evening! We had a good laugh about this and got ready for formal night. This was our night to eat in Sabatini's and it was money well spent. Jan was a little skittish thinking perhaps she would not like the menu since she is very picky. However, every course was delicious. Jan had the chicken and I opted for the lobster trilogy. What a nice surprise as the lobster was a perfect size and delicious. The only thing I didn't like was their version of a Napoleon for dessert. The creme brûlée was in a large shot glass and Jan said it was perfect. Dinner was about an hour and we had time to make the late show "Shall We Dance?" which was very good. After that we headed to the Universe Lounge for the comedian who was pretty funny. Can't remember his name. I really should bring my Princess Patters home with me so I can reference them for these reviews! Off to the Casino again for some "fun" and crashed around midnight. Wednesday was cruising Glacier Bay. The only things in the Patter where the times we were arriving at different glaciers. The Naturalist was on the bow cam station and he discussed what we were seeing. Our cabin on the port side was really perfect for this trip. We had breakfast in the MDR that morning for a change of pace. Much more civilized than the buffet but I do like to graze the choices. They didn't have Jan's favorite chocolate croissants so we actually headed up to the Horizon Court in search of them. Alas, they did not make an appearance until Sunday.That afternoon we stood on our balcony as we came up to Margerie (the blue one) glacier right off our port (cabin) side. Weather was sunny and no breeze so we were comfortable being out there, albeit in heavy clothing. But no need for gloves or earmuffs this time. Saw some "calving" but no Titanic-proportion icebergs out there. Just a lot of small ice pieces breaking away with lots of noise that sounded like thunder. The glacier was actually very noisy with pops and cracks. I was glad that I could get some of this on video. Before we left, my SIL had recommended getting bigger memory card for my camera. I went to the local camera store and the clerk informed me that I had room for 800 photos or 23 minutes of video. That seemed like a huge amount of space so I decided against upgrading. I was sorry later when we went on our 2 amazing excursions that I will discuss later.After the Captain started turning the ship around so everyone could see both glaciers, Jan and I went upstairs and out on the deck in the sunshine to continue viewing the glorious scenery. As we walked throughout the ship, we were amazed at how much viewing space there was inside with huge windows. Outside, we joined several people on Deck 10 forward to share the experience. Everyone agreed that this was what we had come to see. It is quintessential Alaska. I had cruised the inside passage 10 years previously but had not seen Glacier Bay. Now I saw what I had missed. Do not take this cruise unless Glacier Bay is on the itinerary. We left Glacier Bay to head to Skagway, our first port. There wasn't much to do around the ship so Jan & I headed back to our room to watch a movie and fell asleep to be awakened by our cabin steward knocking on the door! By the time we cleaned up and went down to dinner it was almost 8 PM. No problem getting seated for dinner with another group of new friends. It did not feel that late as there was still quite a bit of daylight. Saw the late show "On the Bayou" in the Universe Lounge. They did this show at least 4 times that night and we were so glad we saw it. This has to be the best show I have ever seen on my 11 cruises. If you have the chance to see it, don't miss it. A visit to the casino to chase our money and off to bed. Thursday was our first stop at Skagway. We had booked the breakfast/tour to the Red Onion "Brothel" and the Canadian suspension bridge. This was the only tour we booked through Princess and we were told to bring our passports. It was quite chilly and a bit damp on the pier where the mountains shaded the area. The Golden Princess was docked in front of us and there was controlled bedlam as all the tour buses arrived. Finally all boarded for the short ride into town where the sun was shining for another glorious day. First stop, the Red Onion for breakfast and a tour of the "facility". Our hostess was the "Madam", Lacy Knickers. Awaiting us were a choice of beverages: Mimosa, Bloody Mary, plain orange juice, coffee or water. The Bloody Mary was our selection and it was very mild. (Good thing or I would have slept through the rest of the tour!) Lacy and another madam gave a short history of the place and the "workers". Breakfast was served with scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuit and sausage gravy on the side. It was pretty good. A walk upstairs to view the remains of the cribs and the madam's bedroom. Tips were accepted graciously even if you didn't want to place it in Lacy's cleavage. The ladies were very agreeable to pose for pictures. Back on the bus with our driver who was a young woman (can't remember her name.) who was an Nome, Alaska native who "came South" to Skagway for the season to make money for college. We hit the Alaska highway and headed up to the Continental Divide and Canada. On the way, the driver suddenly slowed down and yelled out "Bears ahead!" Sure enough, there was a black bear momma and her two cubs in the middle of the road. Hearing the bus, they started moving quickly so we had to be fast to get some pictures. At no time was it suggested we get off the bus. On the land tour we had heard over and over about not getting near bears and especially cubs. Safety was paramount. We had to go through Canadian Customs to enter Canada and a trooper boarded the bus while everyone held up their passports. Arriving at the suspension bridge there was a person there who would stamp our passports for us with a stamp that said "Yukon Suspension Bridge. The area was set up to show the history of gold mining and how it was done. Crossing the bridge we found a facsimile trapper's cabin which was quite compact. There was the usual opportunity to purchase trinkets and snacks then back on the bus for our hour trip back to Skagway.On the way, our road paralleled the train tracks for the White Pass Railway. Talking to people who had taken this tour we found that they thought it was pretty boring. Our tour took in all the same scenery and was much more interesting. We were dropped in downtown Skagway near the main drag. I had a spa appointment @ 3PM so I wanted to expedite the souvenir shopping time.Jan & I were in the Christmas shop checking out Made in Alaska ornaments when I heard someone say "OMG!" Turned around to see a former classmate of ours. Cathy had attended one semester of nursing school and we had lost touch with her for 40 years. She had found another of our former classmates on Facebook and re-connected with her in Florida. We saw her at one of our reunions about 5 years ago and had been Facebook friends ever since. Never knew that she was not only was in Alaska but also on the Island Princess with her hubby. We made plans to meet for dinner. Off to my spa appointment of facial, full body massage, and foot massage. It was a special for people who purchased a Princess excursion. It was Heaven! I was so relaxed at the end the only thing that could have made it more perfect is if they could roll me out of there and dump me in my bed. But we had to meet Cathy & Dick @ 5:30 so more rest was not possible. Good thing as we probably would have fallen asleep again! Back to the Bordeaux dining room and received a table for 4 and it was Italian night. We had a great time catching up with Cathy & Dick and enjoyed a good dinner at the same time. We wanted to see the show and they were headed elsewhere so we planned to dine together one more time and share some wine. I think this was the night they had the Rock and Roll trivia and dance party which was well attended and a lot of fun.At this time, I want to comment on the cruise food. Last year, I was disappointed in the quality of the entrees and the sides served, especially the tiny "lobster" and shrimp combo. This year the lobster was actually a lobster and not a prawn. I did try the pasta special as an appetizer a few times and enjoyed it. The sides are still the cheapest veggies you can buy, i.e.; corn and zucchini.Friday was Juneau and our whale watching trip @ 10:30 with Harv and Marv. Jan and I walked into town early only to find the store she wanted to see was not open yet. The weather was quite pleasant with some clouds. We got separated and I went back on the ship to get my phone so I could call her. I hadn't seen anyone with a sign for Harv and Marv so I was getting concerned. Jan had inadvertently found our ride at the opposite end of the lot where we were looking for them. No one else had booked this trip at this time so we had a private tour! The ride was about 20 minutes to the other side of Juneau to the public dock. Captain Sean was our guide for our 3.5 hour tour. Saw 6 whales and with blows and tails and some sea lions. Alas, no bubble net feeding or breaching. Sean is a certified cetacean behavior specialist so he was very informative about what we were seeing. Jan had forgotten her sea-sickness patch so she took 2 Bonine before we left just in case. The boat was small and could seat 6-8 but it was ours alone.We could have gone to see Mendenhall glacier on the way back to the ship but Jan wanted to find one store and we were sailing @ 4:30 PM so just decided to skip it. We were hungry but didn't want to eat a lot so we went up to the Grill and had hot dogs. Saturday we landed in Ketchikan, our last stop. When we were getting off the ship, I spotted Cathy & Dick again and we made a date for the next night to share some wine and have a last dinner together. Here we had booked the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's tour AKA "Deadliest Catch". I had all my paperwork but forgot to print out the instructions on how to find them. We kept wandering up and down the area by the pier and getting worried. Jan found their info in the Tourist building and I called them. I was told to look for the bright yellow jackets. Sure enough, there he was holding up a Princess tour sign. We were directed to walk down the pier and look for the Aleutian Ballad. The last ones on board, again, and we were off for the tour. They turned around so we could see a whale. These guys were the real deal and no B.S. Engaging, funny, personable and entertaining, they made this is the most outstanding tour I have ever taken. They demonstrated how they caught a variety of seafood and not just crab. We went to an island where there were numerous bald eagles. Fish were chopped up and thrown in the water where the eagles just swarmed to get it. I wish I had more memory on my camera so I could have recorded it. We all got to hold crabs and pose for lots of pictures. The crew was so amiable and agreeable to take photos with every person. This port gave us more time to wander around the downtown and do some last minute shopping. I was in search of a way to send my kids some fresh salmon which I had done on my last trip. The cost to ship 1 lb. of salmon by FedEx was $280! No way was I spending that. I settled on 1 lb. of smoked, sealed salmon that I could take in my luggage. (They were happy to get it.)This was the last formal night and we were invited to the Past Passengers party. We arrived a little early and got into line. Saw a few tuxes and sequins, mostly on older passengers and an assortment of nice dressier clothing on others. No one looked sloppy. The show band played dance tunes and some people danced. I have learned to ask for the type of cocktail I want instead of taking the pre-made ones. It was served with a smile and in a timely manner. The Captain gave the gift to the most travelled passenger. I think it was 600+ days! After that we headed for our formal dinner. Jan doesn't eat fish so the job of checking out the lobster. Last year it was pathetic. This year was a big improvement. The lobster tail was just about the size of the one I paid $25 for in Sabatini's. Crappy sides with zucchini and corn. This is where Princess does not measure up to Celebrity's food. We went to the Universe Lounge for a show by the piano man in the atrium. He did a decent job of entertaining us.Sunday was our last day and it was a sea day. Jan & I went to play Bingo in the morning and wandered around the ship checking things out and taking pictures. Unfortunately, I found the Library on this day and was sorry I had missed it earlier. We must have walked by it dozens of times but on the other side of the ship. Did spend a considerable amount of time packing since our luggage was supposed to be out by 10:00. We went down for the last Bingo game which of course we did not win. Since I had casino chips to cash in, I went into the casino for some last minute action. I actually won a few dollars but called it quits to get ready for dinner.This was the day we had Cathy & Dick over for some wine on our balcony before dinner. We all went down for our last dinner and again shared a large table. Jan & I wanted to see the last show so we said our goodbyes and went to the theater. After that was time to put out the luggage and get to sleep early to make our early alarm.At the beginning of this review I mentioned that our flight home was not direct from Vancouver. Our TA had booked us on a 10:30 AM flight from Vancouver to Seattle where we would board our flight to O'Hare. She had also gotten us a Princess transfer from the pier to the airport. The early flight cutoff time was 10:15 AM. Posting this info on the cruise boards got me a lot of flak from CC members telling me it would never work even though Princess had given us the transfer. One person suggested we get Global Entry cards from the government to facilitate getting through Customs. Jan and I felt that if spending $100 would help us make our flight, it would be worth it. One person who had worked as a Princess boarding agent, spelled out how the process would work and he was the only one with correct information.As it happened, Princess has this down to pimple on a gnat's a$$. A few days before we disembarked, we received a letter in our mailbox confirming that we were part of this transfer. The night before there was detailed info with our Red-One luggage tags assuring us we would have expedited passage for Canadian Customs. Our luggage would be trucked ahead of us to the American terminal at YVR.Jan & I headed to the Buffet for our early breakfast and where she snagged an extra chocolate croissant for the flight. We had to meet in the Universe Lounge at 7:30. At 7:40, someone came to get us and we all trooped up to level 7 and the gangway set up. Everyone was instructed to have their passports, Canadian customs forms and the little tag off the luggage tags open and available. There was some discourse between Canadian Security and our passenger reps to verify that we were all American citizens going to American destinations. Off the ship into the terminal where our passports were scrutinized by Security and the customs forms were collected. Downstairs to the first bus in line where we showed our little Red One tag and could put our passports away. Even though this was Memorial Day for us, it was a regular Monday morning in Vancouver. The driver said it would be about a 45 minute drive to the airport and he gave us some commentary as we traveled. We arrived in 30 minutes and a Princess rep boarded the bus to tell us how to proceed. Dropped at the American terminal, we were directed to the end of the building where our luggage was being unloaded. Lucky for us, it was right across from the Alaska Airlines desk. Once we got our luggage we got in line to check in. The AA reps came around making the announcement that if you weren't on the 10:30 or 11:15 flights to go to the end of the line. I think the only people in line were the ones on our bus! Paid the fees for the luggage and then headed to Security. Something on my hands lit up the detector and they had to swab my hands for explosive residue. It was only hand lotion. Now to US Customs and used our Global Entry at the kiosk to fly through this station. As it happened there were only 4 people in line! A longish walk to our gate and we arrived 1/2 hour before boarding was called.Just a half hour to Seattle on a turbo prop where we deplaned on the tarmac in the rain. Trying to check in with Alaska Airlines, we found out our flight was changed to American but at the same time. (Poor DH at home had a heck of a time trying to find out if we were on time since the flight number was changed.) We had a nice lunch at Chili's which was directly across from our gate and took the leftovers with us for "dinner". Landed on time at O'Hare, got the luggage quickly, DH was there to pick us up and our beautiful trip was over. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Our cruise on the Sun was nothing short of fantastic in every way. We started with 2 days in Anchorage to explore the town and took a great wildlife viewing cruise in Seward with Major Marine. We booked our transfers to the ship through ... Read More
Our cruise on the Sun was nothing short of fantastic in every way. We started with 2 days in Anchorage to explore the town and took a great wildlife viewing cruise in Seward with Major Marine. We booked our transfers to the ship through Norwegian which would have been flawless, except the driver was 45 minutes late for our pickup. We missed the tunnel to Whittier and were delayed getting to the ship. When we arrived, around 5:30 for a 9 pm departure, there were very long lines for embarkation. After security, check in took place in Dazzles, which was slow but fine. The staff was very cheerful and helped alleviate some of the boredom. Overall, it took about 90 minutes from arriving at the port to getting to our room.The ship itself is perfectly sized and wonderfully staffed. We dislike all the new gizmos that ships are putting on, so the smaller and simpler Sun was perfect for us. We found navigating the ship to be easy and all the spaces we used were clean, comfortable, and nicely finished. The Sports Bar is especially well suited to scenic cruising. We didn't go to any of the shows, so I can't comment about the theater or Dazzles. Our balcony cabin was really well laid out with plenty of storage room and a nice sized bathroom (for a cruise ship). Our steward, Grace, was incredibly friendly and sweet and did a great job keeping everything clean (and not hiding the stuff I always leave on the bed). The balcony was great for Alaska, we sat out (in coats and blankets sometimes!) almost every day to watch the scenery and take photos.The food on the ship, most particularly in the specialty restaurants, was fantastic. We participated in the Chef's Table and it was a can't miss event. Chef Orwill was really wonderful and seemed to enjoy giving us an introduction to the menu and joking with the guests. He also did a really thorough galley tour for our small group that included some of the freezer and prep areas. As logistics enthusiasts, my husband and I were very glad we went and got some fascinating details on how the ship operates. We dined at the Italian restaurant, sushi restaurant, Teppanyaki, and Moderno. All 4 meals were notably good, even for food snobs like us. The pizza at the Italian place is fantastic, the sushi is some of the freshest I've ever had (try the snapper, so good!), and the churrascaria had some wonderfully prepared meat. Teppenyaki was a solid hibachi experience, although the show being performed by 2 filipino men making bad 1950s Chinese jokes made for a strange anthropological evening. Overall, it was well worth the extra cost for these eating experiences. The main dining rooms were fine, but the dishes mostly were bland and underseasoned. It was continental cuisine, with very little variety. There was a nice yellow curry the first night, but after that, chicken breast all the time. It would be really wonderful to see at least one ethnic dish on the menu every night. Mexican, Thai, Indian, anything with spice would be a huge improvement. Chef seemed to indicate that he was doing all he could with it and I believe him. I'm sure we are in the minority of eaters. We did find the Indian items on the buffet to be extremely good and went back for more multiple times. Other than that, the buffet was solid but usually too crowded for us.A tip on the food: the sushi restaurant is open for lunch on sea days and is filled with both guests and crew members. It was a great experience to see the crew enjoying themselves on their breaks and days off and the food was wonderful (and a great portion for lunch).The itinerary for the Sun was equally wonderful. We viewed Hubbard Glacier and stopped at Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan. We also went into Tracy Arm, but regrettably couldn't get close to the glacier due to ice. As for ports, I highly recommend that people walk to Hoonah and not just stay at the dock in Icy Strait. The people were very friendly and we saw multiple whales and eagles at a close distance on the walk to town. we also had the best fried halibut of the trip at Misty Bay Lodge in downtown Hoonah. We did a ship excursion in Juneau (Photo Safari with Gastineau Guiding) and a Dyea Dave bus tour up to the Yukon in Skagway, which were both very good. Ketchikan was by far the highlight, with excellent shopping at Rain Barrel and a floatplane trip with Randy at Mountain Air. Highly recommend both businesses. Disembarkation in Vancouver was a breeze. We didn't think we had a lot of time, so we did walk off and managed to be the second and third people off the ship (literally!). Customs both at the dock and the airport were streamlined and simple and we had no issues getting to the cab stand at Canada Place and getting to the airport. We made it from the ship to our gate in an hour. Definitely a record!Excellent cruise on an excellent ship. Can't say enough how much I enjoyed the Sun. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Since we had never cruised before, didn't know what to expect except what we had read. It was certainly better than expected! The staff of Princess Cruises love to help out the first time cruisers. Never felt so taken care of and ... Read More
Since we had never cruised before, didn't know what to expect except what we had read. It was certainly better than expected! The staff of Princess Cruises love to help out the first time cruisers. Never felt so taken care of and didn't want for anything. The cruise tour started off with freezing weather because the day before we got there it had gotten colder than it had been since 1928. It's Alaska, never know what to expect. Fairbanks riverboat and tour was wonderful even though it was freezing, there is coffee and donuts. In Denali had to switch rooms because of frozen pipes but Princess gave us each $25 vouchers for our trouble. Luggage was transported from spot to spot although a little late coming sometimes. Went on tour by Princess into park and saw a couple of Moose. Was beautiful and informative. In McKinley, the lodge and the mountain was beautiful. They say only 30% see it, it usually has a ring of clouds around it but not on the day we were there. For about an hour, it was clear.Took a bus to the train to get to the ship in Whittier, our float trip was cancelled because the river was frozen.Boarding ship was a breeze and so exciting for us. The weather turned out to be beautiful the whole trip. Cabin was great, steward friendly and helpful as were all of the staff. Danced until we couldn't dance anymore. Had great luncheon on deck when we went to glaciers. All Alaskan food! Ports we stopped in were interesting, but a lot of shopping. Our favorite was the the helicopter ride and a stop to walk on a glacier in Juneau or maybe it was the Whitepass railway in Skagway. Too many favorites to count!Disembarking in Vancouver went very smoothly because Princess was there to direct us all the way.Food was very good on the buffet but in the Anytime dining room, it was delicious. No problems eating at 6:00pm every evening, I even lost 5lbs eating fish every night while hubby gained 8lbs. We really enjoyed the wait staff and their great smiles.We would do this trip again in a flash. And we are planning our next cruise to the Panama Canal on Princess. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
We booked the Denali Explorer (11 days). Got home last night 6/3/2013.The front end land package was exhausting, we were up & running to the bus to hit the road every morning before 8 am. Bussed ANC to Talkeentna, train to Denali at ... Read More
We booked the Denali Explorer (11 days). Got home last night 6/3/2013.The front end land package was exhausting, we were up & running to the bus to hit the road every morning before 8 am. Bussed ANC to Talkeentna, train to Denali at the start-- couple of days there, then bussed to Whittier to the dock. Beautiful! Denali Bluffs hotel sucked big time, rooms are tiny, dirty, food is repulsive. Premier Tours was mediocre at best. Cruise was fabulous, really great job by NCL. We booked a port balcony on return & view was spectacular. Lessons learned: don't book land pkgs thru NCL, save a bunch & do it yourself. that's about 35-40% more plain & simple. You won't miss the ship if you book independently despite claims to the contrary. Avoid shopping at stores on shore that are advertised by NCL, it's a series of kickbacks. Shop the locals who are independent of NCL. Aside from the irregularities discussed, enjoyable once we got on board, kudos to the crew, chefs, etc. Read Less
Sail Date May 2013
Sapphire Princess Cruise Critic Review September, 2012 Voyage of the Glaciers, Southbound (Whittier to Vancouver BC). Our group of 13 people took the Sapphire Princess from Whittier to Vancouver BC, starting on Labor Day weekend, ... Read More
Sapphire Princess Cruise Critic Review September, 2012 Voyage of the Glaciers, Southbound (Whittier to Vancouver BC). Our group of 13 people took the Sapphire Princess from Whittier to Vancouver BC, starting on Labor Day weekend, 2012. Age range from 40s to early 60s. Our journey started in Anchorage, with a group dinner at Glacier Brewhouse on the night before our cruise. This was excellent, but reservations are an absolute must. Thanks to suggestions on CruiseCritic, we knew to visit the liquor store just up the street to stock up on wine (Downtown Wind and Spirits 930 W. 5TH AVE -- 907-258-0930). Important note... Everyone in your group who enters the store must have ID, or they cannot sell to anyone in your group. We had heard this on CC, and confirmed it with the sales person. Princess allowed us to bring a couple of bottles of wine on board, with no fuss, which was much appreciated. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Ship Creek. Some reviews had made it sound like it is right across the street from the train station, but actually it took about 10 minutes to walk there, with rolling baggage. The staff was very pleasant, and the motel is OK, except for the train noise. Not only do the nearby tracks serve the Alaska passenger railroad, but also the freight services as well. We heard a lot of train noise, and it made sleep difficult. I would suggest a different hotel, and pay for a taxi in the morning. We checked in for the Anchorage to Whittier train approximately an hour before departure, and were able to drop off our bags and have them delivered directly to the cabin. The seats on board almost all face the direction of travel, and are pre-assigned, so if you want to travel with friends, then have someone in your group make one reservation. Even though we were in different carriages, there is no difficulty walking between carriages, and visiting with people. People moved about quite a bit, to use the cafeteria, etc. They also have open platforms on the train where you can take pictures. By the way, you can make reservations directly with Alaska Rail Some in our group were under the impression that they had to book through Princess in order to have luggage accepted for direct delivery to the cabin. This was not the case. The train journey was very pleasant, and I highly recommend it. Upon arrival at Whittier, you disembark from the train and walk about 800 feet under a covered walkway to the check in area. We were some of the first to arrive, and the lines were very short. Including filling out the health questionnaire, the embarkation process took us about 15 minutes. Initial Boarding: Our group contained some experienced cruisers, and we knew what we wanted to do when we first went aboard. We quickly walked to the Purser/Passenger Services Desk to make reservations for the Ultimate Ship's Tour. Unfortunately, they were only offering this on the day when we would be in Skagway, and we already had reservations for a shore excursion that day. We were very disappointed, since we had heard good reviews about this activity. We also took the tour of the Lotus Spa, and the Serenity area. Some of our group later signed up for individual treatments, but none of us signed up for the Spa area pass. The "public" area of the spa does not have any outside windows, which is a shame because it would have been great to be sitting on a heated stone lounger watching the glaciers. Note that you can use the Lotus pool, hot tubs, steam room and sauna without needing to buy a pass. The changing rooms are also available if you want to change before using the gym. Serenity is the adults-only area. Since poor weather was forecast for the first few days of our trip, we knew that the area would likely be closed. Also, we had chosen this trip because there likely would be fewer kids on board, so it did not seem to be worth purchasing a pass. For glacier days (Hubbard & Glacier Bay) only full day passes were available. Other days you could purchase morning and/or afternoon passes. Because of the foggy/cool/wet weather on our trip, the Serenity area was never open that I saw. Upon boarding we were also told that our cabins were available for immediate occupancy. This was a very nice touch, and we stopped by our cabin to drop off our carry-on items. We wanted to have a "served" lunch as opposed to the buffet, and so (after asking a couple of staff members) found that the International Dining Room was doing served lunch. Note that this is different from the deli-style International Cafe in the Atrium. Lunch was lovely, including a souffle! They do however, stop serving promptly at 1:30 PM, so make getting there a priority if this is important to you. Ship's Ambiance: In January, 2012 the Sapphire Princess went through a refit, and we found her to be very clean and well maintained. The addition of the International Cafe was very nice, but the addition of the MUTS (Movies Under the Stars) screen and sound system was not so welcome; more about that later in this review. Our journey had a bit of an older crowd, with hardly any children at all. We had wanted a relatively "kid free" experience, so this was welcome. Our group ranged from 40s through early 60s, and we thought we were perhaps on the younger range. The impact of this was later shows, and the nightclubs, tended to be quite quiet, but we still had a good time. One thing which we particularly liked was that there were very few announcements (bingo, art auctions, etc.). One thing which we wished they would have announced was the sail away at each port, including the embarkation port. We quietly slipped out of port and so missed that special moment when you first get underway. Activities on Board: There were a wide variety of activities on board, and it was nice to see that Princess stays away from the hairy chest contest and similar events which some other lines can go in for. The on board Naturalist was OK, but not great. We felt sorry for the people who had interior or ocean view cabins, and so who needed to be on deck to enjoy the view, since the Princess Naturalist was broadcasting to the public spaces and her voice became annoying after awhile. The National Park Service Rangers were much better, and we appreciated their presence on the day when we were in Glacier Bay National Park. The magician, Landon Swank was very good. In addition to the formal show in the Princess Theatre, he also participated in a magic lesson in the Explorer's Lounge. This was mostly presented by Princess staff, but Landon did demonstrate a couple of tricks (without giving away his secrets!). There are now three 1/2 --hour showings of the production shows in the Princess Theatre. This is in comparison to the old system of having two 45-minute shows. This seems to work out quite well, as it gives more flexibility during your evening. A very enjoyable activity was the behind-the-scenes tour of the theatre. We got to talk to some of the cast members, and to see how the lifts and changing areas are laid out. It is impressive what they are able to do. We enjoyed the music on board, ranging from the string quartet in the Atrium to the disco at Skywalkers. The production show that we saw was fun and energetic. I also went to the Future Cruise Consultants presentation and was impressed that she was knowledgeable, and provided good information, without the "hard sell" atmosphere I have experienced on other lines. I had some questions for her afterwards about the Amazon, and was glad to hear that she had actually been there, and had first-hand knowledge. Food & Dining: We very much enjoyed the food on board. We had anytime dining, and our group tried a variety of the four available dining rooms. Pizza at the pizza restaurant in the Atrium was excellent, and since the International Cafe is on the same deck it is easy to walk over, pick up a dessert, and bring it back to the pizza restaurant to finish up your meal! Even with Anytime dining, we got to know some of the waiters, and they fun and gave great service. Servers in the bars were also great, remembering us and being friendly and attentive. Sterling Steakhouse had very good food, and was worth the additional $20 each in our opinion. The "restaurant" is actually just an area of the Horizon Court Buffet which has been blocked off, and table clothes added, but it was still nice, and our table by the window allowed us to watch the ocean as we enjoyed our delicious steaks. We had the champagne breakfast (delivered to our cabin) one morning, and enjoyed that. Cabin: We had a BA -- Balcony cabin on the Caribe deck. This is the top of the range of balconies. The advantage of this is a cabin which has a balcony which is larger and is half covered and half uncovered. We found this very helpful when it was raining in Glacier Bay. The location of the cabin midships, which means less motion is felt. This can be significant, if you have someone in your group who is prone to motion sickness. Our cruise did experience some motion both during our first sea days after leaving Whittier, and also in the passage between Ketchikan and the entrance to the strait east of Vancouver Island. I would definitely recommend a balcony cabin for Alaska. On our Glacier Bay day it was raining and passengers with ocean view or insides were either braving the elements on the upper decks, trying to find space on the promenade deck, or packed into public spaces with windows. The cabin was a bit tight for two of us. More storage space, in the form of shelves in the cabin itself, would have been welcome. There was plenty of space to hang clothes, and a shelf running above the space for hanging clothes. There was also shelving inside a separate closet. The bathroom is small, but adequate for two people for a week. The shower is quite small, and women in our group said that it was difficult to shave their legs. Our cabin steward (Chris) was very good. He provided good service, without being intrusive. Other Aspects of the Trip: I mentioned MUTS (Movies Under the Stars) above. This is a very large movie screen, with equally large speakers, mounted outdoors in the center of the ship. We could hear some noise from this when we were on our deck (Caribe), which was not welcome when trying to just enjoy the view of the ocean, but the really annoying thing about this system was when we were in the passage just north of Vancouver Island. We saw pack of Orcas and other wildlife, and the Captain was giving updates from the bridge. We were having a final-evening party at a bar in the midships area, and could not hear the Captain's announcements due to the noise from MUTS. We asked several crew members if the volume could be turned down, but were told that only the Cruise Director could do this. I checked both decks where MUTS could be viewed, and no one was watching it! All eyes were turned outwards, watching the wildlife. This was very disappointing. Sea Days: Our ship left Whittier on Saturday evening, and arrived at Hubbard Bay on Sunday afternoon. In Hubbard the presence of some fairly fast moving ice kept us from getting too close to the glacier, but we still had good views. We left at Hubbard on Sunday evening, and arrived at Glacier Bay entrance at approximately 9:30 AM on Monday, where we took three National Park Service Rangers on board. We spent the day cruising up to Margerie Glacier, arriving at approximately 1:30 PM. Due to thick fog during the time in Glacier Bay, we did not get to see the spectacular scenery. We also did not stop at the second glacier on the way out, due to visibility. This is a risk you take if you decide to go later in the season. The people on board the week before us had spectacular weather, so you just can't tell. Shore Excursions: Our trip had three port stops: Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. We had privately organized group activities in Skagway and Juneau. In Ketchikan we each did our own thing. In Skagway, we went with Chilkoot Charters Van and Train excursion to the Yukon. Our small van was much more nimble than the larger buses which people who were on Princess excursions were on. We got to make more stops, and the itinerary was more flexible. The cost was also less. The driver (Mike) was excellent, with lots of local knowledge. We had been told that the road up to the Yukon was a winding pass, but we did not think it was bad. One of our group had chosen not to do the excursion for that reason, but we felt that it probably would have been OK for her. It was foggy and damp in Skagway, but cleared out to be a beautiful day once we got to the higher elevations. We had lunch at the Carcross dog sled attraction, which is clearly set up for tourists, but it was fun never the less. In Juneau we went whale watching with Harv and Marvs. Our group had its own boat, which was wonderful. Again, a smaller group experience than was had by those on the ship's excursions. Our skipper and the on board naturalist were both excellent. Again, cold and foggy weather with a choppy sea. Definitely bring layers of warm clothing. Conclusions: This was an excellent trip. All of us in our group were impressed with Princess, and with the service we had received on board. If I was to do the trip again, I would probably book for July or August since the weather is the thing which disappointed us most. The scenery in Alaska is spectacular, but is best experienced in the sun! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Background: Mom / Daughter travel team. I, the DD, wanted to show my mom Alaska, before she gets too old to endure the trying travels of an Alaskan 9 day land package and 7 day cruise. Alaska is not an easy vacation...if you do the shore ... Read More
Background: Mom / Daughter travel team. I, the DD, wanted to show my mom Alaska, before she gets too old to endure the trying travels of an Alaskan 9 day land package and 7 day cruise. Alaska is not an easy vacation...if you do the shore excursions! Worth the effort but far from just kicking back in the Caribbean! We were booked in the Grand Suite, September 1, 2012, just for reference purposes. Weather was basically horrible (rain, fog, wind) the entire 7 days. The very last day, debark day, was nice! Glacier Bay was socked in with fog...total disappointment. Visibility was about 3 feet, at best, most of the day. Boo hoo! Embarkation: We embarked in Whittier. There was no line for suite guests, so we had the 'pleasure' of waiting nearly 30 minutes. Not the end of the world, but Princess states that a priority check in is part of what a full suite guest is paying for. At check in, the Princess rep informed my mom that she did not 'exist'. Not good! Then, after we got a supervisor involved (and yes, we had all of our boarding documents pre-printed and in hand, so we most definitely DID exist!), we discovered that either Princess or our TA, had my mom classified as a Mr. instead of a Ms. or Mrs... This was a fairly big deal, that added another wrinkle to an already challenging embarkation. Finished up with security and voila! We were on board and headed to the Grand Suite. It is on deck 11, completely aft. Normally, I enjoy an aft view, but for the purpose of wildlife viewing, a side balcony would have been much, much better. Grand Suite: In a word... PERFECT! The only improvements that Princess should make to this wonderful layout is a 2nd toilet. We were only a party of two, but I know that a lot of large groups reserve this suite. A true 2nd bath, like most of the other major lines offer, would make the suite perfect! The bed linens were very good. The master suite bed was a bit FIRM, but with an egg crate topper, things were better. I had the sofa bed and our wonderful steward, Roel, put a TempurPedic (or Tempur-Like!) pad on the sofa bed for me. Wonderful! Warning for future grand suite guests...the shower STINKS! No, I don't mean that it's bad (quite the contrary with its 9 jets!)...I literally mean it smells like the oldest, nastiest kitchen sponge you could ever imagine. Be prepared! Also, there is a small pillow menu. Be sure to look for it in your 'Suite Benefits' book. It is sort of hidden but is definitely there. For room service, please note that you can order basically ANYTHING that is offered on the ship. Just be nice when speaking to the operator and she will work hard to make you happy. If there is something specific you want for breakfast, just write it in on the door hang tag. It will be brought without question. Like I stated earlier, staying in a suite definitely makes for a nice experience. TV: In a word... AWFUL! Since this is a very big election time for our country, we were interested in following the news. Not going to happen on Princess. They could never keep any of the national cable news channels going. Now, you will be relieved to know that they were able to keep the annoying Princess 'sales pitch' channels running at all times! Seriously, if we could get cable news more than 1 full day, it was cause for celebration! Breakfast in Sabatinis: Wonderful! This is a wonderful perk that Princess offers its' full suite guests. The brioche french toast is truly Heaven! More! I want more! Unlimited internet is GONE for suite guests and this is a shame! Princess 'replaced' the perk with a complimentary night in a cover charge restaurant. This is no replacement! I hope that Princess brings back this benefit, as it was one of our deciding factors when selecting which line we were going to spend our 'suite' dollars on! Room Steward: I normally do not have good Room Stewards and sit and stew in my own envy, over the cruisers that constantly brag about how they wanted to adopt or kidnap their stewards... Not this time! Roel, our room steward, was truly amazing! He made our 7 days wonderful...greeting us every day with a giant smile, rushing to open our stateroom door when he would see us walking down the hall, offering to help us unpack, etc..etc...All requests were met with a big smile and the word 'no' did not ever happen! Food: We ate in Sterling Steakhouse for dinner... C+ at best. Waiter (Christian) was argumentative, food was only so-so, service (not including the arguing!) was OK, but honestly, I have had better at Denny's! Also, what's up with putting a 'high end' steakhouse in the Horizon Court Buffet area? I guess that us dumb passengers are just toooooo stupid to know da difference, huh? Our friends had a dinner at Sabatinis and said that it was soooooo much better, on all fronts, than Sterling. Horizon Court Buffet: I give it a strong "B" grade. Food was not very hot, salad bar selection could be better...but all in all, no one went to bed hungry. I will give Princess high marks for always having the buffet open, breakfast/lunch/dinner. When we would return from a busy shore excursion day at 3:00 PM, unlike Celebrity, there was plenty of food for us to select from. Entertainment: The singers/dancers on Princess were excellent! Costumes were in good shape and you could tell that the performers had practiced their routines thoroughly. The jugglers tried hard, but were just 'flat'. The one juggler that performed sword swallowing merely grossed out the audience and ALL of us hated it! The illusionist played to a standing room only crowd, so that gives you an idea how truly GREAT he was. The bands around the ship were barely OK to truly awful. When walking by the bars at night, you would cringe when hearing the sounds being sung by various performers. Not all were terrible, but overall, it was just bad... The classical music/piano being performed in the Piazza was lovely and well done. Casino: Smokey! Ick! Another shameful moment for Princess! Casino must be non-smoking or patrons will simply not stay there. I refuse to play the uber tight slot machines and get lung cancer! No thanks! Based on the tightness of the machines and their lack of payouts, this would be a losing proposition, for certain! Debarkation: Shame on you, Princess! So many of our friends had their trips nearly ruined thanks to the way that your porters treated their luggage! So many broken bottles of wine in their clothes.... expensive pieces of luggage destroyed... Why must the porters be so rough? Is it really necessary? Porters will keep on until NO ONE will tip them, ever again. Personally, after seeing my FUL duffel (if you have seen these Duffels at Costco and the hard core way they are constructed to stand up to any abuse, you will understand why this is a big deal) destroyed by Princess, I am probably DONE tipping these porter jerks! If they take my money and then still destroy my luggage/belongings, then they can play someone else for a fool. I'm done! The laundry room was very busy on the 1st night with people desperate to wash the wine from their clothes. Sad.... The debark process is OK, but if Princess isn't going to allow us off the ship until 9:45 AM, then why kick us out of cabin (that we paid for!) at 8 AM? Senseless... Give us at least until 9 AM to not be going like a frog in a blender, on such a busy day. Yes, I know that the rooms have to be cleaned and turned around, but other lines allow 9 AM so Princess can, too. Summary of thoughts: Princess does a lot of things right, and as with anything, has room for improvement on others. The food was better on this cruise, than on previous cruises. Entertainment, overall, was a strong 'B'. Suite was wonderful! Wish the balcony would wrap a bit, around the side, in order to not ONLY have an aft view. On board shopping has gone downhill. Merchandise is becoming more and more super high end. Who the heck goes on vacation to purchase a $100 Tommy Hilfiger shirt? What happened to the more reasonably priced items in the shirt's clothing/general merchandise store? Will I sail Princess again? Maybe to probably.... I prefer Celebrity and I constantly heard while on board, that HAL gives a much better experience, so my first vacation/cruise dollars would most likely go to one of those lines. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
We have travelled on Carnival three times and loved it! Usually there newest ship, the latest being lasy sept. in the Medditeranean on the Magic. We chose Princess at our agents reccommendation as they are rated as number one for Alaska ... Read More
We have travelled on Carnival three times and loved it! Usually there newest ship, the latest being lasy sept. in the Medditeranean on the Magic. We chose Princess at our agents reccommendation as they are rated as number one for Alaska cruises. We booked the land add-on pre-cruise with a night in Anchorage, a night at Mckinley Lodge, and two nights in Denali with a 9 hour train back to Whittier. The land portion was a highlight! I would suggest if you are going it should be mandatory! Made the rest anti-climatic. Beautiful Lodges, Great views and country and the train dropped us of in front of the ship, you miss a lot by not not doing this! The Sapphire Princess itself is a nice and somewhat classier ship decor wise than Carnival. The rooms were much smaller than Carnival, first thing I noticed walking in was the smallness, Carnival has room for a couch and coffee table in all Balcony rooms here you could barely walk around the bed let alone have a sofa at the foot! Carnival has the convenience of looking at your sail card balances and purchases on your in-room T.V., You can also book last minute tours with a click of the remote and even preview the tour by watching a video of it! On Princess your statement comes the morning you disembark! How do you remember what or when you made a purchase? the only option was to line up at the desk or go to a kiosk and print off a copy ahead of time. Seems small but it was an unexpected inconvenience I assumed all ships hwould have the technology. Next were the captains announcements, although rooms and baths were wired with speakers, no announcements came over them. Another really dumb and inconvenient decision. If you had the tv on and were lucky enough to think you heard talking in the hall you would run for the door and open it to hear the last part of the announcement, while waving at everyone else in the hall wearing your towell! Speaking of towells, if you wanted a robe you had to call and order one, they werent provided in the room otherwise. On Carnival, all three ships, our room stewards knew when we dined and always did the room then, we never seen him it was always done when we returned. On This cruise we were told to put our "please service room" card on the door handle when out. We would go out a couple hours, come back, still not cleaned. It was really not a well run department. On carnival we would get one free bag of wash done, not so here, although it isnt expected. But when you book a 4 or 5 night pre-cruise package if anytime it would be appreciated it would be now. The dining room service was very lackluster! and everyone we met agreed so it wasn't just our waiters. I have to say on Carnival if one person asked for oil to dip bread in one bight, every night after it was already on the table when you arrived. On Princess we would order a bottle of white wine with Dinner and every night we would arrive and the half bottle was nowhere to be found, we were asked nightly if we had any leftover, we said yes, then they got it. This was a real dissapointment! Not once, but every night. So much for service. So overall the cruise itself was a dissapointment. But the land portion was amazing! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
The Sapphire Princess is a lovely ship that has many amenities available without additional charges. For example, you can use the spa changing facilities which includes the large showers, lockers, steam rooms, hot tub, and secluded adult ... Read More
The Sapphire Princess is a lovely ship that has many amenities available without additional charges. For example, you can use the spa changing facilities which includes the large showers, lockers, steam rooms, hot tub, and secluded adult pool for no charge. If you want to use the hot beds in the Serenity area it is an additional $99.00 for the week; I did choose this option and enjoyed the peace and quiet but would have been happy knowing that you don't have to pay extra to use many of the facilities. The International cafe is open 24 hours and has really excellent food....no extra charges for the meals there or for the very wonderful deserts! Try the peanut butter chocolate mouse! Twice the ship had a special pub lunch which includes fish and chips/Scottish eggs/Shepherd's Pie/Chicken Curry, check the princess patter for those days. The casino staff will take the time to teach you how to play the table games.......take advantage of their expertise...it's free. The library has a number of games to play, be sure to bring your Mah Jongg card; they organize games for the guests and have several sets available. Bring a book and take a book exchanges were also available in the library. Avoid the specialty coffee because the Sapphire has the best "free" coffee I've had on ANY of my 26 cruises. Don't worry about "run of the mill" food on the Lido deck, it's excellent! Especially if you don't want to do the formal nights in the regular dining rooms, this is a very pleasant option. This is a ship that you can easily have a wonderful vacation and not break the bank Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Let me start by saying that my husband and I have cruised quite a bit both by ourselves, with friends and family. Living in Florida, we taken advantage of the convenience of cruising without much planning or hassle. That being said ... Read More
Let me start by saying that my husband and I have cruised quite a bit both by ourselves, with friends and family. Living in Florida, we taken advantage of the convenience of cruising without much planning or hassle. That being said taking a cruise to Alaska is one of those things that has been on my bucket list. l love to watch National Geographic, Discovery Channel or any thing affiliated with nature. So Alaska and the Glaciers was something that we were really looking forward too. I planned the trip and my husband's brother and sister-in-law met us there from DC. We took the land portion of the cruise first for 6 days starting in Fairbanks, which was wonderful. I would highly recommend if anyone goes all that way, to try and take the land portion with Princess. The scenery, rustic lodging and excursions are well worth the extra money and time. Now on with our cruise. the day before we arrive in Whittier, we heard that they weather may be bad for the 1st day of our cruise. Having been in rough seas before, I was prepared and had my dramamine close by. Winds and a down pour started out our arrival on the ship. We were to take off at 11 the evening and our group was one of the last ones to arrive. I had a feeling that we may be leaving late but when the captain came on and informed us that not only would we be leaving late but we would be staying over another night in Anchorage and would not be leaving until 11 the next night. This seemed pretty strange to me that we would already know the need to leave so late. But it all became clear with the next announcement saying that tours would be offered in Anchorage the following day (who in their right mind would want to go in pouring cold rain) and because we were leaving so late, we would be missing both days (2) of the glaciers. Which meant our Glacier Cruise was now Glacier-less!! I completely understand about safety but to cancel both days for leaving one day late without even giving the weather a chance to clear up irritated me to say the least. And then to make matters worse he made it a point to let us know we would not be missing any of the ports (tourist paying excursions) As it turned out, the sun came out about 3 the next afternoon but since all the passengers had been told they didn't need to be on the ship until 9 p.m. we could not leave and sat at port. I have traveled on Princess many, many times and I really can't remember being so irritated in the "name of safety". Now for the good news.....we loved our mini-suite. We have always booked a balcony but decided to upgrade to a mini-suite balcony (for those sight seeing glaciers). I don't think the mini-suite is that much bigger than a normal balcony but that extra room really makes a difference. It was clean and the beds were very comfortable!! Our room steward was great as well. It was pretty cold for us Floridians so my husband enjoyed the balcony more than me. Thank heavens I signed up for excursion or we would have not even seen a small glacier. My favorite excursion was a photo/whale watching trip. The professional photographer helped everyone with their cameras and took so much time with us. The excursion is limited so there were just 12 of us and we saw lots of whales!! Back to the ship....we had second setting and very much enjoyed our meals and waiter. We had planned on going to a specialty restaurant but never felt the need. I love the speciality coffee and goody area in the center of the ship and love to listen to the musicians. The ship is very clean and someone always is working on something to keep the appearance of the ship up. They work so hard on the ships I give them all the credit for making our week so relaxing and enjoyable. We were so busy once the boat left the dock that we didn't have a lot of time to go to all the activities they offer but if you have never taken a cruise and like to stay busy, this is the vacation for you. Or you can just kick back, read a book and enjoy the quiet. We arrived in Vancouver and had about 6 hours for our flight so we took a tour of the city which I really enjoyed. I wish that we would have stayed over another night. If we hadn't taken the land tour as well, I think I would have been really upset that our Glacier Cruise was Glacier-less but seeing the beautiful sights on land help a bit. But I will never be convinced that the additional day of missing the Glaciers was not based on economics. We could have easily skipped a port to see a glacier since they were both on the same path!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
My wife and I took the southbound cruise with a two day poststay in Vancouver. LAND PORTION: We began our 4 day land stay in Fairbanks and worked south. All of the properties were very good. Fairbanks was a short stop with the Riverboat ... Read More
My wife and I took the southbound cruise with a two day poststay in Vancouver. LAND PORTION: We began our 4 day land stay in Fairbanks and worked south. All of the properties were very good. Fairbanks was a short stop with the Riverboat Discovery tour which was a good introduction to Alaska. We stayed at the River's Edge in Fairbanks for one night. The luggage was moved seamlessly from one stop to another. At Denali, take the extended Tundra Wilderness tour if you want to see the wildlife. Our guide said studies have been completed and only 7% of the wildlife sightings occur on the shorter version. Also, it's important to plan your trip depending on what you want to see. The bears in Denali eat berries, not salmon. So they really don't show up well until August when the blueberries ripen. Also, if you go in May, you may not see bear or moose because they are both in the forest--one to give birth and the other to find the young ones for food. Talkeetna is a quaint town. The box lunch provided by the park service is horrid. Pack some snacks. We did a float trip in Talkeetna which was relaxing, but no wildlife. The town is neat. The scenery is great, however. We went from Denali to McKinley on the train. Great scenery, but 4 hours is about all I wanted. The train hauled Princess, Royal Carib, and Holland cars. EMBARKATION: Don't believe what you read about an easy entry to the ship from the train in Whittier. Ours was a 5 hour ride to get there from Talkeetna. Princess does check you in on board, but we had over a one hour wait for security once we got there. The Captain was calling for muster as we walked on board. I would opt for a motor coach transfer instead of the train. It's quicker and will get you there sooner. CRUISE: The cabin was smaller than most, and I hate shower curtains! I'm 5'10", 185 and could hardly function in the shower. I never got soap below my knees all week! We were on Baja deck with a balcony. For dinner,we had fixed seating. To do it again, I would opt for anytime dining because you never know when you might want to be out for scenery or wildlife (although not much wildlife to see). We seemed to be dining whenever something was spotted. We should have used that as an opportunity to get away from our server. She was not pleasant to have, so we only ate in the dining room on three nights. I thought the food was good, but the Horizon Court selections have gone down since our last Princess cruise in terms of quality and variety. Unless you plan on shore excursions that MAY see wildlife, you won't see much on the cruise unless you are good at spotting something moving about two miles away. We saw whales spouting and a few porpoise for all week. Even the comedian made fun of the naturalist's sightings. SKAGWAY, JUNEAU, KETCHIKAN: Each was remarkably different than the other. We enjoyed the city of Skagway most for walking around. I don't know how anyone can live in Ketchikan. It's the fourth wettest place on the face of the earth. Any tour you take there will be hindered by rain, clouds and mist. They don't call it Misty Fjords for nothing. We took the Eagle Preserve trip in Skagway. Quite expensive at $199 each to see three eagles and a few salmon. Our whale watching in Juneau was the best. Lots of humpbacks and more eagles than we saw on the Eagle Preserve in Skagway. However, whales are not easily seen until mid-July or later due to their food source not being around yet. HINT: If your tour voucher says Wildlife Not Guaranteed, you won't see much, if any. Princess does some misleading wording in describing their excursions, so buyer beware. The whale watching offered $100 back if no whales. DISEMBARK AND VANCOUVER: Disembarking was smooth, but we had to wait 45 minutes for the bus to our hotel. We stayed at the Westin Bayshore which is a great location. All in all, if you want to go to Alaska for the scenery, go for it. If you want wildlife, head to Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
My wife, adult daughter, and I sailed the Island Princess in July -- August 2012 from Whittier to Vancouver, and had a blast! We had booked our daughter her own room, which by a tremendous stroke of luck, turned out to be a very good ... Read More
My wife, adult daughter, and I sailed the Island Princess in July -- August 2012 from Whittier to Vancouver, and had a blast! We had booked our daughter her own room, which by a tremendous stroke of luck, turned out to be a very good decision indeed. I suppose that Princess must have over-booked the cruise, because 2 days before embarkation, they called and offered to exchange our 2 interior rooms for one premium suite, plus give us $1,000. We received the message late in the day on a cell, plus our daughter was a bit hesitant to give up her private room for sleeping on a pull-out sofa, so (fortunately) we didn't respond that day. I called the next day to ask about the sleeping arrangements in the suite, and the agent informed me that the pull-out sofa could be separated from the bedroom area with a curtain, and when she described all the amenities that came with the suite, and upped the ante to $2,000, this was an offer we couldn't refuse! They apparently really wanted space, and I suspect we were one of the very few families of 3 -- if not the only one -- from whom they could get 2 cabins. In any case, we didn't look that gift horse in the mouth any longer, and so we were livin' large on the cruise. If money is no object, I highly recommend the suite. You'll feel like a rock star. Only qualifier is that sleeper sofa has a rather thin mattress, so it's hard to sleep on it comfortably. Two solutions are to put the mattress on the floor, or, if you enjoy sleeping under the stars and the weather cooperates, pull the mattress onto the balcony. The latter was what our adventurous daughter ended up doing most nights, and she enjoyed the experience. Otherwise, perfect -- lots of storage space, roomy bathroom with both shower stall and jetted tub, wet bar, 2 TVs and a DVD player, enormous balcony. But even apart from the sweet suite, the cruise itself was great. About the ship: As a perk of staying in the suite, we ate breakfast at Sabatini's every morning (with free mimosas), and loved it. (Only suggestion for improvement here would be to expand the menu a bit, but the service and food were great, including an excellent rendition of my favorite, eggs benedict.) For lunch, we generally went to the buffet (we only ate lunch at the sit-down restaurant once), and for dinner we did the buffet 3 times, the Bayou Grill once and Sabatini's 3 times. As you might infer from this, we had great experiences at Sabatini's and so kept going back. But the food at the buffet was quite good, with lots of options. We also enjoyed the pizza place a couple of times. For wine lovers, they have a pretty good wine list, with prices that in general are moderate. The exercise room on the ship was well equipped with weight machines and all kinds of exercise machines (running, rowing, ellipticals, biking, etc.). The only time it was crowded in my experience was at prime time the first day cruising; otherwise, it was very under-utilized. They offer an extensive list of spa services, and our daughter used a few. She was unhappy with one massage, but they immediately offered her another. We didn't avail ourselves of many late-night activities -- too much to do during the day -- but we did watch a movie in the Universe Lounge, which is a nice facility. The lectures by the Park Rangers and narration during the cruise (rangers came on-board 2 days of the cruise) were very informative. The cruise resident lecturer, Dr. Ryan, is obviously very knowledgeable and has a lot of experience in Alaska, but we found his talks a bit disorganized. Still, they were worth hearing, except the last one (titled something like ''The Inside Passage''), which we found was pretty repetitious of the previous ones. There was a lecture by the first woman to win the Iditarod, but unfortunately this was during the day in Skagway, so we had to miss it. (It would seem they could have brought her on board the previous evening.) About the sights and ports: As much as we enjoyed the ship, what really made the cruise special was what went on in the water and on shore. While cruising, we saw our first whales soon after leaving Whittier, then later saw many, many whales, sea otters, seals, sea birds, and even a bear and wolf (a long way off) while cruising Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay. The only excursion we did was whale watching with Alaska Galore tours in Juneau, which was fabulous. (Read my review on Tripadvisor; search ''Alaska Galore''.) In Skagway and Ketchikan, we looked around town on our own, and had a great time. I'm sure the excursions are good, but we found plenty to see and do on our own. A final word on a topic about which I consulted Cruisecritic chat groups before our cruise -- bringing beverages on board. At our original embarkation and while re-boarding after a port call, I brought on board boxes and (at embarkation) plastic bottles of wine and a 12-pack of soda cans. At one stop, our daughter brought a 6-pack of beer and some cans of cider. No one said anything about this. This is not Princess's official policy, but I have to infer that they have sensibly concluded that it's not worth the time and aggravation (for their staff and passengers) to really try to prevent this. This certainly makes me more willing to cruise on Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We booked a cruisetour with Princess, and after a week of touring and traveling were eager to board the ship and relax. Embarkation was handled very efficiently and went quickly. The first two days were at sea, a great way to relax and ... Read More
We booked a cruisetour with Princess, and after a week of touring and traveling were eager to board the ship and relax. Embarkation was handled very efficiently and went quickly. The first two days were at sea, a great way to relax and begin the southbound trip. Our suite was spacious and our steward, Raul, was very courteous and attentive. The strangest thing we encountered, was the way the bed was dressed. There was only a bottom sheet and duvet...no top sheet. Towels were plentiful and luxurious, nice bathroom amenities. Princess lacks the large, 2 story diningroom we were accustomed to on Holland America. Their dining options were smaller, themed restaurants. Since we chose the early seating, we were assigned to Vivaldi. After requesting a move to the International Diningroom, we were given a nice table at a window. The wait staff seemed friendly and we looked forward to seeing them each night. The food, however, was rather mediocre. The steak was chewy and some of the other preparations were not as well prepared as they could have been. Comparing it to the dining experience on Holland America, it was definitely not as enjoyable. We had one breakfast in the Horizon Court--not a good experience--and decided to get up early enough to eat in the International Diningroom that served breakfast until 9:00 AM. We could have had breakfast in Sabatino's since we were in a suite, but our friends would not have been included, so we chose to eat with them. We did have tea delivered to our suite, and that was very nice. The pizza restaurant in the piazza was wonderful! Great homemade pizza. Drinks were extra, and they even tried to charge for a milkshake at the ice cream bar on the pool deck! The musical shows were not that good, so after the first night, we chose to miss the remaining two programs. We did enjoy the ventriloquist and magician. The groups playing in some of the lounges were definitly not worth the time, with the exception of the duo that seemed versatile enough to do an Eagles and Beatles tribute as well as sing a variety of "oldies" and country in the different locations throughout the ship. We tried to hear them each night. The Casino is a poor excuse for a cruise ship casino. They permit smoking in the casino, which seems to be the gathering place for everyone who wants to smoke since the rest of the ship is non-smoking. The casino is directly behind the passenger service desk, and the smoke invades this entire area and much of the piazza when the casino is in operation. There are very few slots and table games,along with a very tired apprearance, so the area definitely seems like an afterthought. We did use the spa, and felt it was not only very expensive, but the services were not as good as we expected. The pedicurist seemed very uninterested in her work, was rather rough, and seemed eager to finish her tour and return home to Jamaica! We cruised Alaska with Holland America several years ago, and the crowd on Princess is younger with quite a few children. We chose Princess primarily because of their offerings on the land portion of the cruisetour. The weather was great and we could get quite close to the glaciers. We spent quite a bit of time on the balcony. We did enjoy our week, but will definitely book with another line when cruising in the future. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
After writing my whole review, I would agree with everything reviewer ckellyne said so I will not repeat it again. Only differences: We took the cruisetour (one night Mt. McKinley, two nights Denali and 7 night cruise to Vancouver) and ... Read More
After writing my whole review, I would agree with everything reviewer ckellyne said so I will not repeat it again. Only differences: We took the cruisetour (one night Mt. McKinley, two nights Denali and 7 night cruise to Vancouver) and the weather was rainy, in the 50s and gloomy every day (first two weeks of August 2012). This, of course, is not Princess' fault. We just picked the worst 11 days ever to go but can't predict that. Pros: The ship is beautiful, the cabins are as comfortable as our home. The beds are great with two pillows for each person and the storage is fantastic. Even thought lots of cabinets and drawers, you can store a lot under the bed. The temperature in the room is adjustable and was very comfortable. We had five couples in a row and all had connecting balconies which was great! We had a cabin midship up and midship across which was a perfect location (Caribe Level). Cons: We wish they had more activities for older people in the afternoons. Seems like a lot of things we went to turned out to be people trying to sell us something. I wish there was a lot less of that and more activities. The entertainment was kind of high schoolish but the singers and dancers were good. Over all, the Princess Sapphire is a great ship! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We took the 12 day escorted land-sea cruise tour of Alaska. Our ship was the Diamond Princess. First the Pros: The Diamond Princess is a clean, well-maintained and roomy ship. crew is friendly and helpful. The scenery on both the land ... Read More
We took the 12 day escorted land-sea cruise tour of Alaska. Our ship was the Diamond Princess. First the Pros: The Diamond Princess is a clean, well-maintained and roomy ship. crew is friendly and helpful. The scenery on both the land and sea parts is beautiful...awesome is a better word. We saw some animals of each of the Alaskan species..bear, moose, caribou, sea otters, whales, eagles, mountain sheep etc. But not many, usually they were in groups of 1-3. Food throughout the tour was excellent. The escorted tour includes almost all of the meals, and is well worth the additional cost from that aspect alone. We took the Skagway train, Devils Canyon jet boat, Denali tundra tour, whale watching, zip line and Ketchican Duck for excursions. All were excellent and fun. The disembarking process at the end of the sea cruise was very efficient. The Cons: The land tour escort was sometimes not present at key times (like when boarding a bus for excursions) and since the escorted tour had sometimes different transportation, it was frustrating to try to figure out where we were supposed to be. In a related issue, we often received 2 differing sets of instructions for the land tour. The first night on the ship, we went to the buffet and found old and tired lettuce in the salad bowls. When this was pointed out to the chef, he had the bowls changed. But they should have not even put this salad out. There we no hand sanitizers at the entrances to the dining areas, with the exception of the buffet and the fast food areas. The ship is very commercial. Lots of sales, jewelry, art work. It was sometimes hard to get from place to place because the vendors tied up the passage space so that you were forced to funnel past their wares. Especially annoying were the on-board photographers who actually forced long lines when we were disembarking for the ports, so that everyone had to get a picture taken, whether they wanted to or not. I have been on many land and sea tours, so on a comparative basis, I would rate Princess as good, but not excellent. In my opinion, Viking is the best, followed closely by Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a ... Read More
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a try. Neither of us had ever been to Alaska and yes, we both wanted to go but we were planning to wait a few years. However since we really wanted to go on a cruise...off we went. We flew into Anchorage Saturday night, embarkation was Monday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in mid-town. Very nice hotel, close to a few places to eat and a grocery store with a liquor store if you want to carry on a couple of bottles of wine with you. They offered a free shuttle which we took advantage of to pick us up at the airport and to take us downtown. Breakfast was really good but the lines to eat were a bit crazy. Between all the people who acted like they have never eaten breakfast in a hotel before and only one person cooking omelets it was at best slow. Ultimately I think I would stay downtown if we did it again. Close to the market, restaurants, activities, etc. Embarkation went smooth. We opted to buy transfers from Alaska Cruise Transfer. Went smooth, they picked us up when they said, had some narration on the ride over, Whittier tunnel was neat to see and all at half the price of the cruise ship transfer. We walked on the ship just after 3pm and everything was ready. Our bags showed up very soon after we got to our cabin. Cabin A306. Small but worked. To be fair we usually choose at least a mini suite as we like the space they provide. It was quiet had a covered balcony, was close to forward stairs and elevators. Very small shower but great water pressure. Cabin had enough storage and the refrig kept things pretty cool. Beds were horrible in our opinion. Hard...very hard. Oh yes, not one single towel animal either. We opted for the Horizon court the first night for supper, other than that we only ate breakfast at the buffet two other days and that was it for the buffet. Not that it was bad, we just didn't eat there much. We went to the welcome aboard show the first night, in fact we basically went to all of the shows that were offered. Sarge the comedian, the illusionist, the hypnotist, and production show Motor City. Yep we went, but basically thought they were all very unimaginative. After looking at scenery all day and having basically nothing else happening on the ship we went for lack of something better. In fact it was very strange. I don't know if it was the type of crowds that generally go on this cruise or what, but there was not a lot of activities to choose from. Stuart the cruise director did not seem to be engaged in the passengers at all. Hubbard Glacier did not get visited due to weather and too much ice. Glacier Bay was nice and we saw a few glaciers, whales, dolphins, birds. Basically everything you were supposed to see. Commentary from park ranger was fine. Skagway was an okay stop. We chose to ride the train which was a very nice ride with a lot scenery but looking back at 119 dollars each it was pretty high priced. I would recommend finding something to do that takes you out of town as there isn't much there and you can pretty much see walk it quick. Would also be a good day to see it and then head back to the ship for a massage. We enjoyed Juneau. We bought through the cruise ship the Taku River Lodge and flightseeing excursion. Fly in a float plane, see several glaciers from above, land on the Taku river, eat fresh grilled salmon, experience a historical lodge, fly back to Juneau. If you are wanting to see some whales this is a good stop to sign up for some whale watching as well. Ketchikan was our only really rainy day. Other days had a little bit of drizzle at times but also times when it was sunny (Hubbard Glacier day it was very thick fog). We walked around town a bit, did a little shopping, had lunch, bought some canned salmon, a t-shirt, etc. then back to the ship. You can easily walk to the salmon ladder and fish hatchery if you don't want to buy an excursion. The meals were good, they still had lobster tails one night in the main dining room. Most were the size of a jumbo prawn. We ate at the Bayou Steakhouse one night. Very good and a nice change from the main dining room. 5 extra dollars over the cover charge for a lobster tail but you got a great lobster tail for the money. Yes as other people said, they were always trying to take your picture. We didn't buy any but thought it was fun to let them take them and look at them later. I always have though if they would lover the price they would just about sell all the pictures they take. As it seems they must throw a lot of them away. Pub lunch occurred twice during the cruise and we went both times. Fish and Chips were very good. It was a great lunch that I don't think a lot of people knew about because it wasn't busy at all. We signed up for the ultimate ship tour. We enjoyed this very much. Three hours of going everywhere on the ship you can't normally enter. Bridge, Galley, Engineering, Laundry, etc. If you are interested in the "How" then this is a good tour. If you only care that things just get done and don't care about how it gets to that point, I wouldn't sign up for this. Disembarkation went very smooth. They do a great job and has to be one of the best we have experienced. Conclusion, this was our 9th cruise and 2nd with Princess (first on the Crown) and I would rank this toward the top of the bottom third (we are in our mid 30's). For Princess the Crown is still keeping them in the running with us for future cruises. We still have had much better experiences with RCI. We did get a relaxing vacation. I however was also in the mood for a great cruise ship experience and what we really got was a great tour of Alaska instead. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
2012 Alaskan Vacation and Cruise Review June 27 -- We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska at 1:45pm Alaska time, which felt like 4:45pm Texas time and were starving. After getting our rent car and checking in at the Holiday Inn Express, we went ... Read More
2012 Alaskan Vacation and Cruise Review June 27 -- We arrived in Anchorage, Alaska at 1:45pm Alaska time, which felt like 4:45pm Texas time and were starving. After getting our rent car and checking in at the Holiday Inn Express, we went to Sourdough Mining Company for dinner. We wanted some of their famous Corn Fritters and honey butter, and they were delicious. DH had a double, open face chili burger.....he loved it, while I had a burger with swiss and mushrooms. It too was delicious. We drove around Anchorage a bit, and visited the Ship Creek area, but were tired and stuffed so we headed back to the hotel to hit the hot tub and then to bed. June 28 -- After breakfast, we headed out to Knight's Taxidermy Shop. We had watched their tv show Mounted in Alaska on the History Channel and wanted to pay them a visit. The shop manager, Doug gave us the grand tour of the shop, we my DH really enjoyed. We also purchased a bear skin from them and they shipped it to Texas for us. We then went downtown to the Anchorage Museum. It really is a world class museum. We took the guided tour of the Alaskan History exhibit and thought it was well done. We had lunch at The Muse (cafe in the Museum) then finished the exhibit of photography of Bradford Washburn. He photographed Mt. McKInley and also led expeditions to its summit. The photos were excellent. We visited the Denali Winery which turned out to be more fun than expected. We visited with the owners for a couple of ours, tasting their wines, and purchasing some to take onboard. We will most definitely visit them again. We paid a visit to Carr's to purchase some snacks for the trip to Denali. June 29- We checked out and loaded up for Denali. We loved our drive up and did not have any trouble with traffic or road construction. We went into the park and picked up some info at the Visitor Center. We checked into our cabin at Carlo Creek and made ourselves at home in the sod roofed cabin. We really liked Carlo Creek. Our cabin had a queen bed, mini fridge, microwave, 2 chairs and small table. They provided towels and we shared a bath house. Their bath areas were exceptionally clean, as were the laundry facilities. We also had Wi-Fi and could check in with our family in Texas. We went back into Glitter Gulch to meet our Rafting guides at Denali Raft Adventures. Denali Dan, our raft guide was fun and quite good at guiding us through the rapids. The river was up and running faster and we had a blast. This was the 2nd time we have rafted with this outfit and always have fun. After getting out of our drysuits, we had dinner at the Salmon Bake. I enjoyed my Halibut sandwich and fries. Since I was cold from rafting, partially in the rain, I ordered hot chocolate. I got a large cup with lots of whip cream...and the waiter didn't charge me for my refill. It was right on time. We both took hot showers and slept well. June 30- up early for a 6am shuttle to Eielson Visitor Center in Denali National Park. We found our sits on the bus, and visited with the troop of Boy Scouts from Long Island, NY were sitting behind us. We enjoyed the shuttle. Our driver was very competent. He stopped for wildlife, turning the bus off as to not disturb the wildlife. We were the first bus out for the day, and that had its advantages. ...no one in front of us. We traveled to the visitors center, making scheduled stops along the way. We spent 45 minutes at the center, and got to see just a few minutes of the North Summit peeking out of the clouds. Everyone was clicking cameras ...it was a beautiful sight. In all, both going out and coming back, we saw 10 different Grizzly Bears (including cubs), 2 Caribou, a mama moose and her calf, and 3 groups of Dall Sheep...one group of ewes and lambs, and 2 different groups of Rams, plus a Golden Eagle. All in All, we got our money's worth. It was exciting! We made our way back to our cabin to rest a bit, then ventured across the Parks Hwy to Panarama Pizza. We loved the Denali Pizza....delicious. I did a load of laundry and we repacked to head back to Anchorage the next day. July 1 -- We headed back to Anchorage, stopping off at Talkeetna on the way. We absolutely loved the Sourdough Hot Cakes at The Roadhouse for breakfast. It was our first time to visit, but won't be our last. My DH made a deal on a Moose shed, and they shipped it to Texas along with a Caribou shed that the Carlo Creek Owner game him. (just so you understand, DH is a Hunter Education Instructor for the State of Texas, as well as a Hunting Skills Instructor for Texas 4H...all of these specimens will be used to teach Texas youth) We had a trip with Talkeetna Air Taxi and got to go thru the clouds to see Mt McKinley. Our pilot, John was very good to inform us about Alaska history of the area throughout the flight and explain how we were approaching the mountain. It was a highlight of our trip. Sidebar-we used a Groupon 2 for 1 deal....made it even better. We headed back to Anchorage after our flight, turned in our Rent Car and caught the hotel shuttle to the Clarion Suites Downtown. We liked our room, very spacious and clean. Their hot tub spa needs some work...didn't jet correctly, but we enjoyed it anyway. We just finished eating all of our snack food for dinner and crashed after such a great day. July 2- had a great waffle at the Clarion before shuttling to the Alaska RR Depot to get aboard the Glacier Discovery Train headed to Whittier. We booked this trip independently, but since our Princess tags were on, the baggage porter told us our bags would meet us on board the ship. Joy!! We enjoyed our train ride and arrived right on schedule. We walked right through security and boarded the Coral Princess. It was fantastic. This is our 4th cruise and was the fastest and easiest we've ever boarded. We dropped off our backpacks, grabbed our camera and went to have lunch in the Horizon buffet. All is good. Our luggage had been delivered when we returned. We roamed the ship a bit, the DH went to watch Wrath of the Titans in the Universe Lounge. I ventured around and back to the room to stretch out for awhile. Our TA had ordered chocolate covered strawberries, and they were delivered while I was there. Delicious! We enjoyed dinner in the Provence Dining room with 2 couples from Colorado and 1 from Pennsylvania. We missed the Welcome show in the theater, since we ate so late. We had a nightcap in the Explorers Lounge and listened to the music of Epiphany. We slept well and woke up rested. July 3 -- enjoyed breakfast in the dining room with a couple from Northern California. I then completed the Treasure Hunt getting stamps from various venues on ship, although I didn't win a prize. I did play some Bingo, again didn't win, but it was fun. DH checked out a book from the Library and also attended the Naturalist lecture North to Alaska by Kathy Slump. We had lunch in the dining room and ate with a couple that used to work on cruise ships. They shared some from their experiences onboard. I met with a few Cruise Critic/Facebook Roll Call members in the Crooners Lounge. It was fun putting a name with a face. I enjoyed meeting them all and comparing our trips thus far. The weather was not helpful in viewing Hubbard Glacier. The visibility was not good, and the current was strong, icebergs were large, evident of lots of movement by Hubbard, so the Captain thought best to not go any further. Tonight is our 1st formal night, so we got dressed up and had our pictures made. We had a lovely dinner with our tablemates in the Provence Dining Room, Sandy and Paula were teachers from Delaware-leaving husbands at home and traveling together, David and Carolina were retirees that moved to Florida from Washington DC...we will enjoy dining with them each evening. July 4 -- Cruising Glacier Bay! Weather was cloudy or foggy, until we reached the Glaciers. I watched the NP Rangers board the ship Port Side just below our balcony ...fun! We attended the NPS presentation in the Princess Theater, grabbed lunch, then enjoyed the Glaciers from our own balcony. We turned the volume up on the TV to hear the narration from the Park Ranger. It was wonderful. We enjoyed good views, of Margerie, Grand Pacific, and Lamplugh Glaciers. Dinner again with our new friends was lovely. Our server, Rocio, from Mexico was great. She was friendly and fun to visit with each evening. The ship decorated for July 4th as well. July 5 -- Skagway - The day began cloudy but the sun broke out to be beautiful. We headed into town, purchased a few postcards and got them in the mail. Then we met our Hike and Float tour and ventured out to the Chilkoot Trail for our adventure. Keenan, our guide from Skagway Hike and Float Tours, led us through 1 mile up the mountain on the Chilkoot Trail, then 1 mile fairly level ground, ending at the Taiya River and floating down rather gently back to our van. It was a moderately strenuous hike, but we did it. My DH loves to be outdoors, so he really enjoyed it, plus it was great exercise. Once back in town, Keenan dropped us off at the Skagway Brewery, where DH enjoyed the sampler, plus a pint of the Porter and we shared a Halibut Sandwich. Then we headed back to the ship. We enjoyed a warm shower and got ready for dinner. We attended the comedy show, featuring Sarge. He was funny and we enjoyed the show. July 6 -- Juneau -- We took the Blue Bus shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier. We got our tickets near the Tramway building. Our driver was a funny gentleman and pointed our various points of interest along the way, including Eagle Island...where the American Eagles was resting on trees and fallen logs. We counted about 7 as we passed. We went through the Visitors Center and watched the informative, brief movie about the Glacier before hiking out to Nugget Falls (45 min round trip) We enjoyed the walk and the view when we arrived. After taking more photos, we caught our shuttle back into town, picked up a couple of gifts and went back on board the Coral. We grabbed lunch at the Horizon Court, and then attended the presentation by Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985. We both enjoyed her presentation and my DH, who follows the race online each year, purchased a book about the race. Ms. Riddles autographed it for us. After 2 days of hiking, I was rewarded with a session at the Lotus Spa....Hot Stones Massage, Feet and Ankle Massage and Neck and Shoulder Massage...all in all, an hour and worth every penny. We enjoyed dining with friends again. We did attend the Motor City Show tonight. The dancing was very well done, high energy. The singing was okay...lady vocals were stronger than the men, but still enjoyable. July 7 -- Ketchikan -- typical day in Ketchikan...rainy! DH and I put on the rain coats and went into town to Tall Tale Taxidermy. DH is building his Wildlife ID specimens along the way on this trip. Today, he purchased some Porcupine Quills and River Otter hide. We headed back to the ship to find our fishing charter guide. Ken, with Northern Lights Charters picked us up at 12 noon. We climbed aboard his boat and headed out into the choppy waters in search of King Salmon. After finishing the licensing paper work and getting our King Salmon Stamp, we both put on our rainsuit pants. Ken got us into a little cove and within just a few minutes, we got our first bite. DH reeled it in, while I helped bring in the other line, so his fish wouldn't get tangled in an empty. This first fish put up a fight, I was glad I wasn't on the pole. It was our largest fish of the day weighing between 25-28 lbs. We got 6 King Salmon total and yes...I reeled in 2 on my own...and my shoulders are sore today to prove it. They do put up quite a struggle, but it was exciting for this Texas girl to experience it. We filled out our processing paperwork and Ken took care of the rest. We will have lots of Salmon for our freezer in Texas. We boarded the Coral and took off our wet stuff, grabbed a bite to eat in the Horizon. At 5:00pm, we both said we'd catch a quick nap and then shower before dinner. At 7:15pm....we jumped up and quickly got ready for 7:45pm dinner time. We realized we were more tired than we thought. We enjoyed visiting with our Floridian friends through dinner, and were saddened to hear that one of our Delaware teachers had been ill, so they weren't joining us. We went back to our room, read the Patter for our day at sea, and fell fast asleep. July 8 -- DH birthday! Princess had posted a Happy Birthday poster on the door, along with balloons. I took his picture by the doorway and posted it on Facebook for our family to see. We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room with 2 couples from different areas of Canada. We always enjoy meeting new folks at our meals in the dining room. We headed up to the Lido deck to read and got a surprise performance from a large group of porpoises off the Port side. I visited the Outlet Sale, but didn't see anything I really needed. We went up to the room, opened the curtains back to view the ocean, did some re-packing, and reading. We just relaxed this last day at sea...did nothing special. We sat our luggage out before we headed to dinner. Our tablemate caught some Silver Salmon on his excursion and got the Princess Chefs to prepare them for our dinner. They brought it to our table and served it to us. It was delicious. The head waiter and our service staff brought my DH a birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday...fun fun fun! We said good bye to our new friends and headed back to our cabin. Today was absolutely the most beautiful day of our cruise....sunshine and smooth seas. We enjoyed our balcony before retiring for the evening. July 9 - We woke early to watch as we sailed under the Lion's Gate Bridge in Vancouver, then ran up to the Horizon Court for coffee and a bite to eat. We were on the 8:55am meeting time in Princess Theater so we had time for breakfast. After eating, we went back to the cabin, brushed teeth and watched the happenings on the dock, before heading to the Princess Theater. We finally were called for disembarkation around 9:20am. It went smoothly. We took the Princess transfer to SeaTac, so they sealed our bus at the dock. When we got to the border, the Border agents came on the bus and checked our passports and we were on our way. We found that we liked the Coral Princess better than the Diamond. Maybe because it is smaller, it seemed easier to get around. We enjoyed the friendliness of the entire staff. We bumped into to Stu, the cruise director in the hallway and stopped and visited awhile...just a neat guy. All of the servers, even those not serving us at the time, would stop and visit with you or joke with you. We just enjoyed all aspects of our cruise vacation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Island Princess July 11, 2012 Cruisetour Alaska We chose the three day on you own land tour. I got a really good deal on it! This was our 2nd cruise to Alaska as we did the Sea Princess inside Passage 3 years ago. We wanted to go ... Read More
Island Princess July 11, 2012 Cruisetour Alaska We chose the three day on you own land tour. I got a really good deal on it! This was our 2nd cruise to Alaska as we did the Sea Princess inside Passage 3 years ago. We wanted to go back to see Denali though, and our cruise buddies were booked, so we joined them. Very worth it! We had a wonderful time. We started out in Fairbanks and stayed at the Bear Lodge. It was very nice. Princess was at the airport, as always, to transfer us to the lodge. It never ceases to amaze me that they are so organized! They transferred our luggage from lodge to lodge and nothing ever got lost or misplaced! Bear Lodge had a pricey but lovely breakfast. We had booked the Riverboat Discovery for a trip on the sternwheeler. We shared a cab with our friends, but Princess does this tour and provides busses. This little cruise down the Chena River was so picturesque. Very pretty. They stopped for a sled-dog demonstration, which we loved. They also stopped at an exhibition village, where we learned many things about the Indian tribes. Really, this was one of the highlights of our trip and I'm so glad we planned it. (There were many highlights.) From Fairbanks, we took the train to Denali. Wonderful train ride, and the breakfast service was such a treat! Stayed at Denali Princess Lodge. Had a beautiful room facing the water and lush trees. Way on one side of the property but we didn't mind. The nice restaurant on the grounds had great food. Service was definitely Princess and we had a terrific server! Can't remember the restaurant name but it had Salmon in the name. While in Denali, we took a shuttle from the access center into the Park. We did the tour that took us in about 57 miles. This was long enough! Please take water with you...none anywhere in the park. Take a snack too, as there are none. The park was beautiful and we were lucky enough to see bears, caribou, and moose. Mt McKinley did not show itself as it was very cloudy. Still, it was a sight just to see all that wilderness! We took a motor coach to the ship. Nice ride. Stopped for lunch and then on to the ship! Finally saw Mt. McKinley! We are now Platinum members so didn't have to go through a long line, which was so nice. We met the rest of our friends on board and that night we made plans to have our same waiter as our last trip on Island Princess (Panama). We do Anytime Dining but there are ten of us, so we arrange reservations. We finally got to cruise the glaciers, as we didn't get to do that last time. It was very cloudy and even rained a bit. Very cold and people bundled up. But it was really wonderful to see and also hear the calving of the glaciers. This ship is still one of my favorites. Food seemed better the last time. It seems like maybe they are cutting corners. Entertainment was great, and we always enjoy Crooners bar and Wheelhouse. The ship is beautiful and just the right size. Try the peanut butter cookies....yummy! We love to hang out on deck 5 in the lounge by the coffee bar. The rest of our cruise was mostly a repeat of our first, but we enjoyed all the ports. We took the sea plane on Juneau again! We loved it so much 3 years ago, we had to do it again with our friends. Mendenhall is easy to get to...just take the blue glacier bus in town. It's $16 a person round trip. A must-see! Skagway was fun. We took the White Pass train and it was really great! We loved it. We hadn't done that before. In Ketchikan, don't miss Creek Street! So quaint. Weather turned warm in Skagway. In Juneau it was cold by Mendenhall. It drizzled a little. In Ketchikan, it was very windy! We definitely needed our heavier jackets in Denali. Lighter jackets and/or layers in ports. Must have rain gear! Disembarkation was fine. In fact, at no time was it difficult to get on or off the ship. We stayed in Vancouver a couple nights and really enjoyed that too. Wonderful city. It rained one day, but was still nice. In our opinion, Princess did it once again! The crew was friendly, everything done to assure our comfort. As usual, we purchased our future cruise credits on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click