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

115 Whittier to Alaska Cruise Reviews

Alaska Cruise September 3rd 2008 7 days southbound from Whittier to Vancouver BC on the Carnival Spirit.Ports included Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.We flew from Atlanta, non-stop, to Anchorage the day prior to our cruise leaving. ... Read More
Alaska Cruise September 3rd 2008 7 days southbound from Whittier to Vancouver BC on the Carnival Spirit.Ports included Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan.We flew from Atlanta, non-stop, to Anchorage the day prior to our cruise leaving. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was a nice hotel with a good location. They have free wireless Internet, refrigerators, and nice size rooms. They also offer a free shuttle from the airport. There are several places to eat near the hotel that are in walking distance. We had booked the Magic Bus for our shuttle to Whittier the following day. The Hampton Inn also serves a free breakfast, which is typical of what you will find at these type hotels. The Magic Bus picked us up around 10am the next morning. We had a rainy drive to Whittier with two stops along the way to take some pictures. Our driver, Dot, gave a good narration throughout the trip. When we got to Whittier she drove us around the town and gave us a quick tour and info on the small local community. I highly recommend the Magic Bus, which is a good deal for around $50.Afterward we were dropped at the entrance to the Carnival terminal around 1pm. There was a long line when we entered the building due to the fact that their computers were down. However, the line moved very quickly and I would say that we had checked in within 15 minutes. We went through security and then entered the ship. We went to our stateroom 5128, port balcony, and dropped off our luggage. We then went to the Lido deck to have some lunch. I like the way the Spirit has different areas for different types of food. I had some of the Asian dishes, and also tried some chicken. It was pretty good. They had a nice variety of foods, including salads, fruit, deserts, and pizza. We went to our rooms after checking out the ship and found our luggage had been delivered. The balcony was awesome. You could really get great views just sitting there and watching the world go by. It was worth the extra money without a doubt. Our first day was at sea. They took us into College Fjord to experience the glaciers. When we got up around 6am, you could already seem them right off our balcony in the early morning light. We got dressed and went up on deck with most of the other passengers. It was a little cold and rainy, but we were able to get some great pictures. You could really see the blue in the glaciers due to the over cast weather. The Captain turned the boat several times so that we could get good views of everything. After about an hour we went into the Lido deck to eat breakfast while watching the beautiful scenery.Our first port was Sitka, which is the only tender port on the trip. It was cloudy in the morning, but the sun came out after lunch and it really warmed up. We had the Sea Otter Wildlife excursion, which picks you up right from the boat. We found this to be a wonderful trip, and I would highly recommend this if you want to see a variety of wildlife. We saw sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, and hump back whales. In addition we had a naturalist on the boat that elaborated on a all the wildlife. After the excursion, the boat dropped us at the dock in Sitka. We were hungry and stopped at a local place close to the water to eat. Afterwards we shopped around town. Shopping seemed to go well in every port. We were told that due to being late in the season there were a lot of discounts. Most places in all ports were from 30%-50% of everything in their store. We bought some "real" Ulu knives in Sitka and shipped them home. There is a post office right on the main street. On the Ulu knives, we were told you could bring them on board because they were considered a kitchen utensil. We did buy some larger ones later in the week and had no problems bringing them back onto the ship. They did tell you that no knife with a 4-inch blade could be brought onboard. Our second port was Juneau. The weather was nice and sunny most of the day. I think there were a few scattered showers in the morning, but it cleared up and was very nice. We shopped a little in the morning, and then did a gold panning and salmon bake excursion around noon. This was really fun. Our guide, Jack, took us on a narrated guide through town, and then up into the hills. They take you to a stream and give you detailed instructions on how to pan for gold. Everyone found some gold on our trip. Afterwards they took us to the outdoor salmon bake. This was a really nice area with covered eating tables and buffet style food. The salmon was great, as were the beans and corn bread. Afterward there is a nature trail you can take down to a waterfall area. During the salmons season they said you can also see salmon in the streams. After lunch, they shuttled us back to the shopping district in Juneau. We picked up a few souvenirs and my wife found a very nice ring for her anniversary. I will get into some comments on the Carnival shopping later.Our third port was Skagway. My wife and I both liked this town the best. It was just a nice place. We had a dogsled mushing camp excursion that morning. It was overcast most of the morning, but did not rain until after lunch. We both really liked this excursion. You travel about 30 minutes from town until you get to the camp. You get into a six-person cart, which is very comfortable, and a team of dogs pulls you for about a mile. It was a fast fun ride. Afterward they take you down to the camp, and you get to talk to a musher who owns the dogs. Our guy spoke about his experience on the Iditarod. We got to pet the dogs and spend some time in the camp. We also got to hold and pet the six-week-old pups that were soooo cute. After our excursion, we were dropped off in Sitka. We had lunch at a restaurant called Northern Lights, which is right off 3rd street. The food very good. Afterward we went shopping around town. They have a lot of locally owned shops with Alaskan goods. We didn't buy anything unless we knew it was make in Alaska. Again, lots of sales everywhere. It's a good little walk back to the ship from town. We opted to take the shuttle for $1.50. Our last port was Ketchikan. We had sunny skies for most of the day here with a few showers late in the afternoon. There seemed to be many more stores and more of a commercial feel than any of the other ports. We went on the Saxman Native Village and lumberjack show tour. The native village tour was interesting and the totems were impressive. You get background on the native people and also get to see how they make the totems, as well as the history on their meanings. Afterward they dropped us at the lumberjack show. They make this a really fun show and have all of the events just like you see on television. The seating area is covered and cushioned, and they have heaters blowing on the crowd as well. After the show we did some more shopping and then headed back to the boat. Our last day was at sea was cruising the inside passage. It was bright and sunny the entire day. The scenery was really nice. We did see some hump back whales and I believe there were porpoises. It was just a nice day to spend out on the deck looking at the scenery go by. We spent most of the day doing activities on the boat such as the galley tour, towel animal folding, and trivia contests. We were docked around 7am on the last day. We had booked transfers to Seattle airport through Carnival. I highly recommend this if you are flying out of Seattle and booking your own air, like we did. They preloaded all of our luggage onto the bus, so we didn't have to worry about that. They called our number to disembark, and we were on our bus within 15 minutes. The trip was 3-3.5 hours long including a 20-minute stop at the border crossing. When we arrived at SEATAC they unloaded our bags and we picked them up. We were actually flying out the following day so I called our hotel, Courtyard Marriot SeaTac, and they picked us up. This is a nice hotel, which offers free shuttles within 5 miles of the hotel. Now to some of the issues. We attended the shopping talk put on by the Carnival shopping specialist. This little dude just talked and talked about how jewelry was the best buy in Alaska. They made sure to give us plenty of maps and info on all their "recommended" jewelry stores. Now we were told they gave best prices to Carnival Spirit customers and gave us a discount card to take into the store. We went into Tanzanite International in Juneau right after we got off the boat. My wife found a nice ring and we told the sales lady that we were on the Carnival Spirit. She mentioned our sales specialist by name and said she would give us the best price. She offered us about 50% off retail from, $2,200 down to $1,100 for the ring. I told her thank you and this was our first store we had been in, so we would keep looking. She calls her manager over, who then offers me another price of $850. I again told him no, and proceeded to head out the door. He then came back with a lower price of $695 for the ring. Well this kind of got me upset. One thing I hate dealing with used car salesmen (no offense), and I felt like the whole processed was tainted. I mean if you are to give me this good price because of my Carnival sales specialist and go to a recommended store I expect to get a good price up front and not have to haggle with people like this. I did leave the store at that time without purchasing the ring. We looked at several other stores, as well as the Diamonds International store. It was actually worse than the first store. The guy tried to put a guilt trip on me for not buying my wife a ring at his store. Every time he quoted me a price on a piece of jewelry he would say, "but I can do better". Well dude then give me your better price to begin with. We did get her a ring for her anniversary, so all is well that ends well. I just wanted others to know that they need to be careful about these recommended stores and never ever take the first price offered as their "best price". It had been ten years since our last Carnival experience, so I would have to say that things have changed a little. The first night was open seating in the Empire dinning room. You just went in and sat wherever you wanted. We had early seating and found this to fit our schedule much better. I guess they did open seating the first night because the ship departs so late, around 10pm. The next night we went to our assigned seats and met a couple from North Carolina. They were really good tablemates and we had a good discussion every night about the days activities. Our waiter was nice, but not very personal. We saw the Matride one time the entire trip when he stopped by to say hello. The food was good, not great in the main dinning room. My wife ate steak most of the nights. I tried to adventure out with fish and some other dishes. One night I ordered pan fried red snapper and was served some type of broiled white fish in a lemon sauce. I asked the waiter what it was, because it was not what I had ordered. He just looked at me and said that's what I got and make no apologies. The warm chocolate melting cake was wonderful, and I found that I had to have it every night. We did eat in the Noveau Supper Club one night for our anniversary. I will have to say that it was an exceptional meal and service, and well worth the $30 cost. The service and attention to detail was outstanding.I think we went to every show and late night show. They were all very good. I liked the Spirit Dancers, and thought they did very well. The music was top notch with a nice live band. The comedians were pretty good also. There was a guy who did magic and comedy who I really liked. The cruise director, Chris, was energetic and really added to the experience on the ship. Kirk was the assistant director, and I thought did an outstanding job as well. You could really tell everyone got along well and things flowed nicely. There were always activities, trivia contests, ice carving, bingo, etc on the ship. We did go in the casinos a few times to play slots. I also highly recommend the coffee bar right outside of the Pharos on the 2nd floor. They have ice cream, shakes, sweets, coffee, etc., at a low price. If you like beer, the Alaskan Amber is served on the ship. It was very smooth with a nice taste. Here's a link to some of the pictures that we took. Once you enter the album if you click on the detail view it gives a description of each image. http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0CZsmLhszZsXTw&emid=sharshar&linkid=link5darin2@windstream.net Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Embarkation: My sister and I took a wonderful landtour (saw Denali!!) before the cruise and thus arrived at whittier on the McKinley Express after a 5 hour ride from Talkeetna with a wonderful tour guide in our car. Check-in was on board ... Read More
Embarkation: My sister and I took a wonderful landtour (saw Denali!!) before the cruise and thus arrived at whittier on the McKinley Express after a 5 hour ride from Talkeetna with a wonderful tour guide in our car. Check-in was on board and there were no delays or problems with embarkation. However, since we arrived at approximately 7 PM, there was no time to explore the ship that day. Stateroom; Our stateroom was very comfortable and spacious (obviously, excluding the bathroom) and loved having a balcony (our first). We worried about the location (next to children's Kid Zone) but did not really notice any noise until the last couple of days when there was a lot of running down the hall during the day. Our room steward (Nikki) was great. Ship: The public areas of the ship are very inviting - lots of places to sit and we never felt crowded. The library has a great selection of books and very comfortable chairs. The card room was also comfortable but people had a tendency to take the board games to their rooms instead of leaving them where others could enjoy them. We did not use the pool or hot tubs but had wonderful massages, facials, manicures and pedicures at the Lotus Spa. Entertainment: In general, we thought this was the area most lacking in quality and organization. We loved Vinnie Knight and the Jazz Riders! The show by Adrian Zmed was very good. The timing of the evening events was not geared for late dinners with many nights . On other cruiselines we were always able to see a show before dinner and either a different show or a movie after dinner (late seating). Activities: Lackluster for the most part with the exception of talks by the Park Rangers and naturalists. Dining: We are not gourmands by any means but overall, presentation was excellent and the food was generally good - some very dishes and some just so-so - but we have no complaints in that department. We had breakfast in the dining room every days except on the morning of disembarkation, mostly because we like sharing a table and meeting new people (people are less inclined to socialize at the buffet). We had lunch in the dining room most days; skipped lunch one day (!!!) and opted for a quick pizza on the Lido deck once due to time constraints. We were very surprised and ended up eating 2 slices each. Afternoon tea was always wonderful and presented another opportunity to socialize with a new group of fellow passengers. We opted for traditional late-seating dinner every night. Somehow we ended up with a table by the window (probably because it appears that most people choose anytime dining, including on formal nights). Our tablemates were great and we thoroughly enjoyed talking with them every night. The regular coffee is definitely very bad, so we each purchased the coffee cards ($25 + 15% gratuity) which allow for 15 expresso-based drinks. We only used 9 each, but were informed that the cards were valid for the next cruise. The expresso-based drinks were definitely better tasting! Service: Excellent service everywhere. Our head waitress(Ana) and her assistant Darko were wonderful. Ana's nightly recommendations were always especially helpful. Ports: Since we had done many of the major excursions on our first Alaskan cruise years ago, the only shore excursion we booked was for a helicopter ride/walk on Mendenhall glacier. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to weather conditions. We still enjoyed exploring the ports on our own. It was cool and either very cloudy and/or raining most days, but the beauty and splendor of Alaska was still evident. We will definitely return to Alaska and will definitely consider Princess again. Disembarkation: We opted for the Onboard Check-in and were very happy we did so. For an additional $16 per person, we received our airline boarding passes, our luggage was checked though to out final destination, and we were quickly processed through Customs/Immigration (Canadian/US) and security at our arrival at the airport. We met in our assigned location on the ship at 7:15 AM and were at the airport and checked in by 9:45 AM. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
My husband and I of 39 years sailed the beautiful Island Princess on July 21. This was his choice as a celebration retirement cruise. We have previously sailed with Celebrity, Azamara, Carnival, RCCL, and NCLA. We were anxious to try ... Read More
My husband and I of 39 years sailed the beautiful Island Princess on July 21. This was his choice as a celebration retirement cruise. We have previously sailed with Celebrity, Azamara, Carnival, RCCL, and NCLA. We were anxious to try Princess and were not disappointed in the least. We booked a guarantee cabin for the 1st time, and I must admit it was a bit nerve-racking for me not to know where on the ship we would be. We eventually found out our assignment 3 days before sailing. It was a 1 category upgrade from AD to AC mini-suite. We enjoyed the cabin and our room steward, Jessy. The food was good in the restaurants (anytime dining). There were always choices that were available on the left side of the menu....ex. shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, fett. Alfredo, etc. in addition to the always available entrees...steak, salmon, chicken, etc. One of our favorite meals was the crab legs. They were split and very easy to eat. Our waiter said he would bring a double order if we wanted. I couldn't even finish my first portion. The desserts, in my opinion, were lacking in variety and flavor. We are from NY so I was a bit disappointed in the texture of the cheesecake. The mousse was quite heavy, also. We did eat at Sabitini's. I thought the food was very good. Just taste a bit of each dish that is brought to you and you will be fine. I could be more specific if anyone would like, please email me. We did attend some of the entertainment on board. The Piano Man show was quite good. Also, Glen Smith on the piano was very good. The CD kept talking about the show with Adrian Zmed (he used to star on TJ Hooker). The show, in my opinion was awful. Some people left in the middle. To sum it up, it went something like this....Look at these clips of me I used to be really famous, REALLY, and you should remember me....and then he would sing...pretty sad. I must make a comment here about the CD. I think she was the weakest CD I have ever encountered. Her asst. had more personality and charisma than she could ever have. Service on the whole ship was fantastic. No problems at all. Now on to Alaska itself. We did a 5 day land tour before the cruise. We flew from JFK to MSP and then to ANC for an overnight at the Capt. Cook Hotel. It rained when we arrived in Anchorage. That should have been an omen of things to come. The hotel is very nice. It is centrally located and it is easy to walk to many places, IF it's not pouring. I had made reservations at Simon and Seafort's on line before leaving NY so we were really looking forward to their early special that was advertised on their website. We went to the ULU factory first and then took the trolley back and had to walk again in the rain to the restaurant. No problem... we were in Alaska and that happens, right? The restaurant is not in a separate building so it took some searching but finally we found it. Wet and hungry, we were excited to be having our first true Alaskan meal. When we were given the menu, I told the waitress that we were interested in the early special, but I didn't see the choices on the menu...you can see where this is going. She said that they didn't offer that special in the summer. Really? How would I have seen it on the website? Oh that must be a mistake. So we stay and have a great meal, but that is a bit of foreshadowing of the remainder of our trip. Next morning got the train to Talkeetna. The train ride was good, but saw no wild life. I really liked this little town. My husband did a jet boat safari and enjoyed it, but again no wildlife. I shopped a bit in the rain again. Also, no one told me that mosquitos could be biting in the rain! Live and learn. Took shuttle to McKinley Lodge. Mt. was not visible at all. We could barely see the lodge let alone the Mt. There were bugs in the bed that bit me so we had to change rooms. I kept trying to enjoy myself still. Next day Train to Denali. Scenery is great even though it's still raining. BTW Food on train is good and reasonable. Bus ride to Denali Lodge is short (10 min.) as compared to McKinley Lodge. Upon arrival we went to Outfitter's desk and got tickets to Music of Denali show and Whitewater rafting for next morning. Show was cute and food was ok. My husband enjoyed the rafting. Since I was so bitten by bugs I wasn't able to do much outside; couldn't even walk without being attacked...still trying to have a good time. The rooms at Denali are "interesting". As an example, the bathroom sink is in the bedroom. This didn't bother us but some people were very upset. I understand that the new rooms are different. We were supposed to go on the NHT but opted not to do it. Princess did not offer a refund although we asked. After my husband returned from the rafting and we had lunch at LYNX pizza (OK) we boarded a bus for Fairbanks. I was amazed that there were just 6 of us on a full size bus. It was a very pleasant 4 hour ride. We enjoyed the scenery and looked forward to spending 2 nights in 1 place. When we got in our room there was an awful smell as if someone had been smoking and they tried to cover it up with an air freshener. Both of us had difficulty breathing. It almost sounds comical now, but they said to open the window and they brought in a fan of about 4 inches in diameter. We just laughed and and said to find us another room...hopefully, on a ship. LOL Of course, the first response was that there was no room in the inn, but I told them that we were going to the salmon bake and when we returned we expected to be given a room change. It was a "miracle". When we returned there was a room available. BTW the salmon bake was good, but "buggy" again...at least no rain. Could our luck be changing? Next morning nope rain again... We went to the El Dorado Mine, stopped to see the pipeline, then back to the lodge for lunch and then a riverboat on the Chena River. A very full but fun day....except for the bugs and the rain. It seems like a theme here. We walked to Pike's Landing for dinner. It is right next door to the Riverside Lodge. The food was very good and the prices were what we expected to pay in NY. I know it seems like I'm complaining alot. All I did was try to have a good time. Trying is not what I want to do on a vacation. Even my husband who is the most positive person I know started to get discouraged. This really bothered me since the trip was one he wanted to do so badly. So the next day we flew to Anchorage from Fairbanks. Then a 2 hour bus ride to Whittier. I was never so happy to see a ship in my whole life. Embarkation was smooth but we got soaked as it was pouring and there was not complete cover. No problem we were on the ship and all would be well...at least for 1 day. We had a great dinner in the buffet that night, went to the casino, and to sleep. The next morning my husband woke up with bronchitis, went to the Dr., then I got the same thing, it rained every day, my favorite shore excursion was cancelled, etc. I know we can't blame our lack of a good time on the weather or getting sick, but I must admit I was disappointed in Alaska in general. As I stated we are from NY. The scenery here is also spectacular. Some would say how can you compare that to Alaska? We can compare it to the Alaska we experienced. I was almost afraid to write this review because there have been so many positive ones about Alaska that I'm sure I'll get some hate letters. Just remember different strokes. I have to mention again how much I enjoyed Princess. Their cruise/tour package was great. They really have their act together. I would definitely cruise on one of their ships again...just never to Alaska. In case anyone is interested I will email you a picture of myself with a yellow poncho on at the Mendenhall Glacier. My husband says it is priceless. I was not going to let the rain stop me from seeing that glacier. It was spectacular! Lorraine and Terry D tjld123@aol.com Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We are a couple in our mid-60's who decided it was a great time to see Alaska. We were concerned that the weather would be cold and rainy in June. We waterproofed our shoes and bought weatherproof jackets. The weather was excellent ... Read More
We are a couple in our mid-60's who decided it was a great time to see Alaska. We were concerned that the weather would be cold and rainy in June. We waterproofed our shoes and bought weatherproof jackets. The weather was excellent which was a very pleasant surprise. We returned the unworn jackets when we got home. We took Princess' "4S" cruisetour which included one night at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge and 2 nights in Denali plus transportation on the rail between the parks and to the dock in Whittier. Having 19-21 hours of daylight really helped to provide us with a long day to enjoy and see a lot. The land portion was everything that we envisioned. At McKinley we spent hours just looking at the snow-capped mountains from the lodge's outside deck and indoor viewing areas. Mt. McKinley is often fogged in, so you can request to be called if the mountain should come into view. They phoned us at 2:30 in the morning and we rushed out in our pj's and coats and saw a magnificent sight. By 6:00 a.m. Mt. McKinley was no longer visible. Compared to other national park areas, there are only a few walking trails in this park and the main one was closed because a moose had calved there. We saw 3 ranger presentations. The one on moose/caribou was so, so. The one on dog mushing was excellent as the ranger was a musher and very passionate about it. The third show was a slide presentation on the many facets of the aurora borealis set to music. There was a charge for this slide show but it was excellent. The lodge at Denali was truly lovely with a wonderful view of the mountains and whitewater river below. Our cruisetour included the Tundra Wilderness Tour which took us into Denali for the greater part of a day. We had a wonderful guide, Jason, who was extremely well versed in the all aspects of the history and sights in the park. We saw moose, golden eagles, owls, caribou and Dalle sheep. But the highlight was the two grizzly bears that wandered right alongside our vehicle. The male woke up, turned over on his back and scratched his belly. There were three rail trips including the a very long one from Denali to Whittier which took about 10 hours. Princess had an "outfitter" on board the train who helped to pass the time with information about the sights. There was also an observation car and dining car. It was a good, relaxing way to see more of the interior of Alaska. Also, it gave us extended time and opportunity to meet some very interesting people. When we arrived at the port, there was a very long line to check in and go through security. We were amazed at how Princess organized the transfer of so many people from different tours onto the Diamond. We had a balcony cabin on the Baja deck. We opted for the "anytime" dining and enjoyed great conversations every night. This ship has 4 smaller dining rooms for "anytime" diners. Two of them are themed for Chinese and Mexican, but the food is all the same, except for a signature dish specific to each restaurant. We especially enjoyed the service in the Savoy dining room. We ate in the larger International Dining Room several times for breakfast and lunch and each time we had trouble locating it because it is on a floor all by itself. We found the food quite good throughout the cruise and loved having it available whenever we wanted to eat. At the buffet, we especially liked their salad bar and the fact that we were able to get made-to-order omelets upon request at breakfast. Occasionally, it was impossible to find a table anywhere near the buffet area. Entertainment: The master of ceremonies on this ship, Neil, left a lot to be desired. He was a bit of a phony and not a good comedian. In general, the entertainment was song/dance shows and comedy acts, all of which were duplicated several times. The Princess singers and dancers did an excellent job with "Piano Man," a tribute to performers like Billy Joel and Elton John. But the lack of variety was a bit tiresome. We attributed this to the logistics of getting entertainers on and off the ship at the obscure ports in Alaska. The best act was the juggler/comedian who entertained in one of the smaller venues on the ship. If you did not come early to the shows, it was hard to find a seat in the theater or Explorers Lounge. What we found surprising was that there were many children of all ages on this cruise. Some parents brought their infants to the shows and it was disturbing. The onboard activities were fairly typical and, as usual, we found we didn't have time to take part in as many events as we would have liked. We took advantage of the gym several times and found the equipment in good condition. The presentations by the naturalist on board, Pat Kramer, are not to be missed. The information she provided plus her multi-media slideshows added immeasurably to our knowledge of the wildlife and geological features that we were witnessing. On the scenic cruising through Glacier Bay, park rangers came on board and narrated throughout the day and were available to answer questions. Excursions: Aside from the scenic cruising through the Fjords National Monument and Glacier Bay, there were three ports on the inside passage. In Skagway, we took the full day bus trip through the White Pass Summit, continuing on to the suspension bridge and Caribou Crossing. This excursion took us into British Columbia and the Yukon. The scenery on this trip was spectacular and we really enjoyed traversing the suspension bridge over the rapids. In Juneau we choose the excursion to the Mendenhall Glacier plus the rain forest. The rain forest was on private land owned by a landscaper. They used golf carts to take us up a steep, winding incline for about 600 ft. ending at a point overlooking Juneau. The guide provided information on ecology of the rain forest. Our bus driver was a life-long resident of Juneau and he gave us some real insight into living in the area and showed us an album of incredible wildlife photos he had taken over the years. Ketchikan has over 160 inches of rain a year, but we had one of only 17 days of warm sunshine. We took the boat excursion to Misty Fjords. The boat stopped for an extended period and got amazingly close to beautiful granite cliffs and waterfalls. They rushed us back just prior to the ship's departure, which is one of the reasons we prefer to take longer excursions that are sponsored by the cruise line. Upon our embarkation in Vancouver, we arranged a Princess excursion taking us through Stanley Park and Capilano Canyon which included a visit to the salmon hatchery and a very interesting hike into the rain forest with a wonderful guide (Mike). We stayed on for two days in Vancouver which we arranged through Princess. We would definitely recommend the Westin Bayshore Hotel which is right on the harbor. We also took the excursion the following day to Vancouver Island, Butchart Gardens and Victoria. Our guide, Billy Ray, was excellent and he gave us some extra time in the gardens. This was essential in order to really see everything and stroll leisurely enough to appreciate the beautiful setting. It was a VERY long day with a lot to see, but we do recommend it. Last thoughts: Many people return to Alaska several times and we can see why. We would have loved to take a helicopter ride above the glaciers and to have gotten more insight into the totems. Also, as we were not in the salmon run season, we missed seeing bald eagles swooping down to catch fish. But a cruisetour is a great way to touch the surface of Alaska and still have a relaxing vacation. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
To give some background my husband and I are in our mid-twenties and have Alaska on the Sapphire is our 3rd cruise together. We have traveled with Carnival, NCL, and my hubby has traveled with Princess before. We are a pretty quiet couple, ... Read More
To give some background my husband and I are in our mid-twenties and have Alaska on the Sapphire is our 3rd cruise together. We have traveled with Carnival, NCL, and my hubby has traveled with Princess before. We are a pretty quiet couple, enjoying shows and comedy rather than the club scene. With that being said, here goes the rest of the review: Embarkation: We flew into Anchorage at noon and immediately picked up our luggage and passed it on to the Princess folks with a carry on that we didn't want to take on the transfer. This was great as we knew that the luggage was taken care of. The transfer to Whittier was fun and had plenty of scenery. As we were driving along the shore it was low tide and we were both amazed to see how far the tide goes out in Alaska. We were further astonished that the tide actually comes in and out of Alaska twice a day! The Princess bus was nice and our bus driver was informant when possible, she hadn't been doing this that long. The one thing that I will note is that this bus had the cleanest windows of the week, which meant that the pictures that I took don't have an odd haze as some of my others do. The tunnel is a wonder, it's really hard to believe that we were traveling on train tracks. It gets close at times and I can't believe that these buses used to be on train cars to pass through. We were anxious to get off the bus as we got to port, but we had to wait about 5 minutes for another bus to unload. From there we went through security and into the maze. I think we were only in the maze for 15-20 minutes and we picked up the coupon book that was given out. For those of you who have spent time at amusement parks this wait wasn't bad, and they had an express lane for past passengers. Once we got our cards we went through Coast Guard security and got on the boat. Don't forget your embarkation photo! I hate these as I always feel like I'm looking my worst, but it doesn't stop those photographers from taking the pics. Cabin: Once we went through embarkation we went straight to our cabin, L207. It didn't take long to find it, and even as we walked the hall we met our room steward, Leonardo. What a gem, he made sure that we knew what was going on, how we liked our room to be prepared and just made us feel at home. I wish I could have taken him with us as we left. Anyway to the room, it was an inside cabin and not that large, but did it need to be? We were pretty happy with the room in general other than the hard as rock bed and the shower. There are a total of 7 drawers, 2 in each of the night stands and 3 in the dressing table. This was fine with us, there was also the huge closet, I think it's 6 feet long or better with a large shelf on top. There's also a mirrored door that covers the storage shelves for more clothes. There is also the safe in these shelves where our wallets and documentation sat for most of the week. When we unpacked I ended up putting the bags above the closet, but they could have been put under the bed. The bathroom was another story. Like we would expect it was small, but the shower, come on.. Like in another review that I read you have to turn around to make sure that you get water everywhere it needs to go. One good note, the water pressure, even on the 14th deck was amazing. I don't have it that good at home, another thing that I miss from the Sapphire. The bathroom only has one power outlet and there are 2 at the dressing table. Ladies if you're like me and at times need both a blow drier and straightener either do it at the dressing table or don't forget your strip plug. One last thing that I want to mention, there are light switches behind your head when you're in bed. These were great and I loved not having to get out of bed to turn off the lights. I'm trying to talk my hubby into installing these at home as he's constantly leaving the lights on as he comes to bed. Public Rooms: All in all, I liked the dEcor of the ship and the public rooms were nice. The chairs in the Explorers lounge were semi comfortable and I couldn't sit in a few as I couldn't seem to stay upright. A lot of the rooms had windows so you could see out and enjoy the view. I didn't find the library until the 2nd to last day and I wish I had come earlier. There were some awesome chairs in there and you could look out onto the shore as you were cruising by. Like I said, we're not into the party/club scene so we were rarely at Club Fusion, etc when the lights went down so no real comments for that. Dining: I really just want to say that my expectations were sorely missed on this ship and my husband kept saying this has gone way downhill. We ate at the buffet for 2 dinners and really, what a waste. The food was edible, but it was really a buffet. The fresh fruit was great, but it seemed that they were always running out of strawberries. The bread... hard as a rock, so if you like it that way you're set. We dined in all dining rooms except for the International dining room as we had anytime dining. I don't care what some people say, I love this. When we were on NCL we booked our dining the first night, but it didn't seem like you could do that with Princess. We ended up calling for reservations in the morning or some days we just showed up. This was fine for us and at most we had to wait 5 minutes. Once again, the food was OK, but not cruise food great. The desserts were different every night, but generally not to our taste and we just ended up getting the cheesecake or ice cream most times as we knew this was good. The others that we tried were OK, but not really to our tastes. The bright spot, food-wise, was going to Sterling Steakhouse. The steaks were great, and I wish we could have gotten reservations for another night, but we missed out. The waitstaff in the restaurants were great, and really made sure that you were enjoying the trip. The waitstaff in the buffet tended to be a little less friendly and I was always left with a stack of plates. Breakfast was OK, I ended up going to the omelet line every morning and if you ask, they will make them well done for you. I hate runny eggs and that seems like all you can get on the buffet. The buffet line was not really well planned out, and usually by the time I had the rest of my food and found a seat my food was cold! One thing to note is one of the best places to eat was on the aft outer deck from the buffet. It was cold sometimes so you had to dress a little warmly, but I found this to generally be quiet and relaxing. One other note, the only drinks that you get for free are water, iced tea, hot tea, and coffee. This was quite a change from our other cruises as we at least expected juice or lemonade all the time. Orange and apple juice was available in the morning, but other than that you had to deal with the other drinks, or pay for pop. So you know, the pop on board is Coke, so if you're an avid Pepsi drinker you may want to bring on your own. They also have a coffee card, which I guess if you drink coffee is a good deal. This does point out though that they were always trying to sell you something, and this puts a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Entertainment: I would say that it was OK in general and got better as the week progressed. You do have to get to the theater early as it's small and does fill up quickly. We were turned away from 2 shows as it was standing room only. The comedians that came on board were pretty good. There was one gentleman that I forget his name, but he's a former LA cop.. what a great entertainer. I plan on looking up his info in the Patter later this week and see if I can pick up a DVD. This also leads into the cruise director and staff. These were great people who were there to make sure that you were happy. All seemed to be English or Australian and had a great dry humor, they could always get a smile out of me with their antics. Enrichment: I have never been on a cruise with so much enrichment time. There was always something to go to learn more about Alaska and it's inhabitants. During Glacier Bay the park rangers come aboard and will give some lectures on what we're passing by on the loudspeaker and they have a lecture in the theater. The naturalist on board was OK, and she made sure that if you could hear the loudspeaker you would know the wildlife that we were passing. Shore Excursions: Skagway - in Skagway we booked through Chilkoot Charters as they were highly recommended through the boards and did the White Pass and Yukon trip. Our guide was Shawn and what a great guide. He pointed out areas of interest and was always making a joke. He definitely made the tour better. The train ride was fun, although the windows kept fogging. It's hard to imagine the men and women of the goldrush days hiking through this wilderness with all that they needed to carry with them. In Canada and Yukon we drove by some great glacial lakes and of course Emerald Lake. The sun was not fully out, but we did get some great green lake pictures. We also stopped in Carcross at what I will lovingly call a tourist trap. This was a nice place for lunch and had a ton of things to see from some taxidermy in the museum, it's very well done, to the sled dogs outside. We got to play with the puppies and got some of our dog fix for the week as we were missing our girl at home. From there we went to the town of Carcross and just drove around. Then we were on the trip back with some stops, but the hubby and I ended up sleeping most of the trip away. Juneau - in Juneau we went on the Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching tour booked through the cruise line. I was pretty disappointed. The glacier was fantastic and even though there were so many people there I was still able to see what I wanted and was never pushed out of the way from someone wanting the same sight. The whale watching tour was something else altogether. We had to drive pretty far out to get on the boat and then there were so many people on the boat that it seemed like we were on a sardine can. We made the decision to be on the top deck. The windows were not clean so all pictures taken inside are not clear. Also, we went out to the deck to take pictures and there were so many people who were aggressive to take the pictures I just let them at it and tried to enjoy the scenery. The naturalist on board was nice, but it seemed like a lot of what she did was push the local merchandise. I understand this, but it's still a little aggravating. Our bus driver was Hollywood, and she was OK, but you could definitely tell that she was straight from college and didn't want a "real job". I respect her for coming to Juneau and becoming a tour guide, but I would have liked to know more on the area and not hear her being, sorry to say.. a ditz. The other thing that I wasn't a big fan of in Juneau is that it was a really short day in port and we really didn't get a chance to see the town. What I did see though was fun. Ketchikan - I was looking forward to this spot the most as I had booked a float plane ride with Island Wings, who everyone touts on this board. I was so disappointed to see rain and fog as we came into port and the tour was cancelled. We ended up walking our feet off and shopping our wallets clean in Ketchikan and this was the port were 90% of our families gifts came from. We walked through Creek Street and I'm so glad that we made it. The area was quaint and is not to be missed. The locals are fun, and I can agree with others that if I moved one of the first towns to think of is Ketchikan with over 200 days of rain. Cruise Photographers: You will find that there are many photographers around the ship and most nights there are 4-6 with backdrops ready to take your picture. If you're up for it then that's for you. Also, the photos are like $20 per photo. I have a feeling that the cruise line is no longer making money through the cruise fare, but through the photos, liquor and casino. Anyway, those are my thoughts, but like I said, if this is what you're up for then it's for you. Service: The last at sea day I stood in line for the Pursers desk to remove my gratuities. There was a paper to fill out and then punched into the computer, pretty easy I thought, but not so. We handed out our gratuities the next morning and then looked at the bill, they were not removed and actually had already been charged to my card! I called the desk and they said that they would refund in cash, but I had to come to the desk. I went to the desk, but when I got there apparently I could only get a charge refund and I wouldn't see the refund for 4-6 weeks. There was also no apology for not completing my request the night before even though I had waited in line and so on. Not a great feeling when I left there the last morning to go to breakfast. Disembarkation: Getting off the ship is usually a breeze. Not so this time. We had a transfer to Seattle from Vancouver and were gathered at the appointed location at the appointed time of 7:15 AM. We waited in the restaurant for 3 hours as apparently our bus was stuck in traffic, broke down, or something. At this time, they did nothing for us such as ask if we'd like anything to drink, something to munch on. We'd been on the boat for a week and an hour without food is pushing it.. =) Finally at 10:15 they got us off the boat only as they had to have an all clear ship by 10:30AM! From there we had to stand at the pier for another hour as we were waiting for the bus to arrive. Needless to say, I was steamed. When we got to Seattle we picked up our rental and headed out to the city. Seattle did not disappoint and we had great weather for our trek around town. Value for Money: So we booked our cruise about 6 weeks prior to the actual cruise and lo and behold it was about 1/3 the cost of when we first looked at booking about a year earlier. In this I think we got a value for the cruise. All in all, we had a great time and please don't look at this review as the Sapphire and the trip was not a great experience. We are even talking about coming back to Alaska on a land trip to catch some of the things that we missed. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We hadn't really even planned a vacation, but following our younger daughter's early June wedding we decided to check into last-minute deals that were available during the time frame we had available. A cruise sounded like a ... Read More
We hadn't really even planned a vacation, but following our younger daughter's early June wedding we decided to check into last-minute deals that were available during the time frame we had available. A cruise sounded like a perfect way to rest and relax following a very busy few months, and we'd never been to Alaska. I found a great price on a guaranteed oceanview stateroom on the Coral Princess and booked immediately. We also found decent airfare (there seem to be few real bargains in airfare these days) and in the space of about a half an hour had everything in place to leave in about a week! Temperatures here in the deep South were hovering near 90, so it required a total change in mindset to pack for the radical difference in climate we would experience in Alaska. The more we travel, the less disposed we are to over pack; knowing that the Coral Princess had self-service laundry facilities on several decks, we resolved to bring just one carry-on size suitcase each. As there were to be two formal nights on the seven-night cruise, my husband tried to rent a tux to be waiting for him onboard, as we have done in the past. However, as we were barely a week out, he was informed that it was too late, and brought a dark suit instead; I packed a long black skirt and two dressy tops and it turned out that this worked well for both of us. We flew into Anchorage the day before the June 16th cruise, spending the night at a Days Inn which was perfectly adequate and reasonably priced, though by no means fancy. Our older daughter had described Anchorage as looking like a town that "had the snot beaten out of it"; she was pretty much dead on in that description. However, she had also mentioned an excellent restaurant, Orso, which turned out to be just a few blocks from the hotel. It was a bustling, upscale place with an eclectic menu - an excellent choice, as my sirloin and hubby's rockfish (a new one on us!) were both simply divine. I had been uncertain about transfers between Anchorage and the ship; by booking so late we had no chance to book any Princess-sponsored transportation. As it turns out, this was serendipitous, resulting in my booking a trip on the Alaskan Railroad's Glacier Discovery train ($60/person, one way) which left at 10 am. The trip was utterly delightful, with comfortable, old-fashioned seats and great scenery, accompanied by commentary from a pleasant young woman who highlighted points of interest along the way. The train arrived in Whittier twenty minutes early - plenty of time to acquaint ourselves with this most peculiar little port where virtually everyone lives in the same high-rise building (a remnant of its days as a military base.) Embarkation was easy as pie; though we arrived earlier than planned, and expected a real crush of people, it never materialized. Within 5 minutes of entering the rather makeshift cruise terminal, we were on board. I knew that we were taking a chance when we booked an oceanview "guarantee" cabin; we ended up on Emerald deck, starboard side, in a cabin with what was described as a "fully obstructed" view (E317.) While our picture window did, indeed, open onto a lifeboat, we actually had a pretty decent view over the top of the boat. For what we were paying, combined with the fact that we planned to be on deck most of the time, I certainly couldn't complain. The cabin had superb closet space - more than plenty of room to hang everything, along with several shelves in a cabinet, and several small drawers in the desk. Our suitcases stowed easily under the twin beds pushed together. There wasn't much room to move about, but we managed. The bathroom was small, and the shower could only be described as minuscule. The grab bar was right at elbow height, further constricting movement. It was by far the smallest bathroom we've yet encountered on any ship. Our steward was an 8-year Princess veteran, delightful, efficient and unobtrusive. All in all, we were well satisfied with our accommodations, and with the service. A housekeeping supervisor saved my sanity by finding my "lost" passport, which had lodged itself inside an area of the small safe obstructed by its door. Apparently, it wasn't the first time this had happened. The ship is large, but not huge, and we found our way around fairly easily. The main dining rooms - Provence for traditional dining and Bordeaux for "anytime dining" were on decks 5 and 6. With our late booking, our only choice had been between the late seating for traditional dining, or "anytime dining", which we chose. Service in the Bordeaux dining room varied from inattentive to excellent; I wonder if the fact that there are not generally extra tips forthcoming, given that diners are not necessarily served by the same waiters each day, was the reason for this inconsistency. We found the meals (dinners only, in our experience) to be excellent, though portions were a bit modest (not necessarily a bad thing, given the buffets we visited for breakfast and lunch!) I had been apprehensive, having read some rather lukewarm reviews of the dining room, but we both agreed that the food was very, very good - inventive, well prepared and presented beautifully. There are still some kinks to be worked out of "anytime dining". We had heard in advance about the possibility of making reservations for a table in the Bordeaux dining room at a particular time. We did this a few times and were immediately ushered to our table for two (we tend to eat fairly early, which likely helped.) It was clear, however, that many people had no idea that reservations could be made, and there was no indication whatsoever at the dining room entrance that the line on the left was for those who had reservations. Diners who had not called ahead tended to feel a bit like "second class citizens", and this was certainly understandable. The whole concept of "Anytime Dining" seems to be undermined by this growing tendency towards reservations; I honestly don't know what the solution may be, as it is clearly impossible to know exactly how many people will show up at any given time each evening. I think that we would opt for early traditional dining next time around. The Horizons buffet tended towards bedlam at "rush hours" for breakfast and lunch, with people often having to wander off to other Lido deck venues (near the pools, etc.) to find a place to sit and eat. Food was plentiful, varied, with excellent fruits and vegetables, and some of the best cookies I've had anywhere. There were always numerous elaborate pastries, many of which were simply too heavy to appeal to us. We were never disappointed in the selection of entrees and accompaniments, and the service was impressive; coffee, tea and juices appeared reasonably quickly at breakfast, tables were quickly cleared and utensils replaced, and there were frequent offers to get anything we needed. We had been apprehensive about the food in Horizons, having read a number of unflattering reviews, but we simply couldn't complain about any of the meals we had there. We also tried the separate pizza parlor - absolutely delicious, and they get the thin crust just right. The entertainment is always a question mark, as we have encountered everything from exceedingly bad to very professional on various cruises. We made a point of attending three shows and were fairly impressed with the high quality of the costumes and sets, and, for the most part, the dancing. Two male and female vocalists were also featured, and they were adequately talented. One unexpected pleasure was the hypnotist who appeared the last night of the cruise. We had enjoyed a little ballroom dancing (getting harder and harder to find on cruises, it seems) and decided to stay for the hypnotist's show. He put on a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining show with audience volunteers - several of whom who were politely "disinvited" from the stage when they showed clear indications that they were not susceptible to hypnosis. There was much good-natured laughter and lots of fun and no real embarrassment to the participants, except, perhaps for the young woman who leaped up and shouted to her husband "Holy s***, we won the lottery!" when so convinced under hypnosis. She also did a pretty good impression of a vacuum cleaner, as I recall... The scenic cruising was memorable and it was simply astonishing to get so close to glaciers...close enough to actually witness "calving" (a portion of a glacier sliding into the sea.) The ports were enjoyable, looking much as we expected they would. We had booked the cruise too late to sign up beforehand for any excursions, but we prefer to explore by ourselves, anyway. I had booked, independently, a whale watching trip out of Juneau through Orca Enterprises, on a jet boat with "Captain Larry" - a real whale-locating expert - at the helm. (I found it interesting that the Coral Princess's naturalist was on board with us, rather than the excursion sponsored by the cruise line.) I was astonished by the calmness of the water and thrilled that there was no hint of seasickness. Instead we had about 2.5 hours of terrific whale watching and saw plenty of humpback and killer whales, plus sea lions and many bald eagles. This was a real highlight of our trip and exceeded all expectations. Having packed lightly, we were in the first, independent group to disembark in Vancouver, a city we had visited before. I had been fortunate enough to book a room at the Sutton Court Hotel on Burrard Street; this is a truly outstanding hotel with excellent rooms and service. We presented our weary selves at 8 am, bags in tow and fully expecting to stow them until mid-afternoon when our room would be ready, but were gratified and delighted to be told that there were a few rooms available and we could check in immediately. I had made a point of mentioning that we were just off the Coral Princess, as I knew that this was one of the hotels Princess employs for pre- and post-cruise hotel stays; I figured it couldn't hurt. All in all, and especially considering the last minute nature of our plans, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week and I feel we more than got our money's worth. Of course, we tend to be the type of people who subscribe to the "we're on a cruise...how bad can it be?" school of thought, but it would have to be considered delightful by any standards. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Please enter your review. We took the seven night cruise, plus the three day land excursion prior to the cruise. I would highly recommend taking the land portion first, since it can be somewhat tiring to get up early every day and move ... Read More
Please enter your review. We took the seven night cruise, plus the three day land excursion prior to the cruise. I would highly recommend taking the land portion first, since it can be somewhat tiring to get up early every day and move every night. We were so lucky on the entire trip with the weather. Alaska in May can be very cold and wet, but we had absolutely no rain the entire trip. Sunny skies (cold, but sunny) pretty much the whole time. Lucky us! If you read the review of the cruise before ours, the weather was lousy. Everyone kept telling us how lucky we were on the weather. Flew into Fairbanks, and was taken to the hotel by Princess pre-paid transfer. Went smooth as silk. Up early the next morning to take the Riverboat Discovery tour. Wonderful! It's not just a riverboat trip; they have all sorts of things they put on from the shore, including a floatplane taking off and landing, a stop to see dog sled teams run without ever leaving the riverboat, and a stop off trip to a recreated Native village complete with demonstrations and more dog sled dogs! The whole thing was narrated and really entertaining. We had a long bus ride to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. We did see moose from the bus which was fun. The lodge was OK, nothing really special. Certainly clean and well kept. Up early (really early, met out tour at 6:00 a.m.!) to see Denali park. You have to ride their buses, no private cars allowed on most of the roads in the park. Really beautiful, and we saw lots of wildlife including a mother bear with two year old cubs. We followed them as they walked up the road for nearly an hour. Again lucky us - the guide said he cannot remember a group seeing bears for such a long period of time. Also saw moose and caribou from a distance. That afternoon we took the train ride on the domed train cars to Talkeetna. A long trip, but absolutely beautiful. I loved every minute. The food on the train was lousy, dry burger and burned fries. Other people said the soup was good, so stick to that. Rode a bus from Talkeetna to the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. I liked this place better, although the lodge is really spread out into various buildings and the grounds are very hilly. They have a shuttle to take you around, but if you can try to get a room nearer the main lodge you will be better off. Again, perfect crystal clear skies. They told us that 60% of the people who come to see Mt. McKinley never see it because it's covered in clouds. It was out clear almost the whole time we were there. A note on both lodges: Both had just opened, and the service was chaotic at best. They were trying, but the fact that they just opened with a lot of mostly untrained people was painfully obvious. Dinner at the Denali lodge (sandwiches!) took over two hours due to very slow service. Hopefully this will improve as the season proceeds. Next day up early again to take the bus back to Talkeetna to get on the train to Whittier. The train was two hours late leaving off, which got us to the ship very late. The train ride was not as pretty as the first one, except the part from Anchorage to Whittier. That was spectacular. Sleep through the first part, and have your cameras out for the end! Got to the ship at 9:30 p.m. due to late train. Frustrating, since we missed going to dinner, seeing show, etc on first night. Just a quick bite at the buffet and off to bed for me. Love the ship. Beautiful, clean, terrific. I had an inside room, which was spacious compared to some I've seen. The food was mostly pretty darn good. Must be, I gained six pounds. The people I was traveling with had a suite. OMG, I've never even been in a suite on a ship before and I got to hang out there during glacier cruising day. It was huge. The weather held throughout the cruise and the scenery, especially the first two days when cruising College Fjord and Glacier Bay was incredible. First port was Skagway. Cute place, but small. Did the White Pass railroad, which I thought was overpriced. I had ridden the train so much before the cruise I felt like I could have skipped that. Took the Chilkoot hike/float trip in the afternoon. The hike is harder than they made it sound. Don't try it if you have any knee problems. On the way back to the ship, we saw 6 or 7 bald eagles eating a dead otter. Watched for 20 minutes, it was really cool! My favorite shore excursion was the dog sled tour we did in Juneau. We got to ride the cart (a wheeled cart since no snow!) and it was such a blast. Highly recommended. You have to see the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, it is awe inspiring. In Ketchikan, I splurged and took the float plane trip over the Misty Fjords park. Expensive, but worth it. If you only take one plane trip, this is the one I would recommend. Last day was a sea day (actually cruising the Inside Passage, very beautiful) and can you believe the weather was still great! Disembarkation went very smoothly. All in all, a fabulous trip! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
3-day land tour and southbound to Vancouver We traveled to Anchorage on 7-12-07 from DFW and stayed at the Hilton Anchorage. We had an awesome room on the top floor - floor to ceiling windows. This hotel is very nice and clean and the ... Read More
3-day land tour and southbound to Vancouver We traveled to Anchorage on 7-12-07 from DFW and stayed at the Hilton Anchorage. We had an awesome room on the top floor - floor to ceiling windows. This hotel is very nice and clean and the big plus was air conditioning. The only problem we had was no hot water and that was fixed and they credited us $50 for the inconvenience. 7-13-07 Official start of land part of cruise with Princess. We re-checked into the same room we had booked on our own. They were very nice about letting us keep the same room for both nights. All of our information was together and organized with explanations of where to meet and how luggage would be handled. 7-14-07 Picked up around 10:00 am to head to Mt. Mckinley Lodge via motorcoach. The motorcoach was very clean and so was the restroom on the coach. Seats were comfortable. Our driver/guide was so-so...Travel time was approx 3 hours. Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge was fantastic! It was my favorite of the two lodges. Unfortunately the mountain was not out this day but that was made up for later on the train ride. The lodge was immaculate and the food was good. We had dinner at the King Salmon - grill. Great views and a nice room. We were in building 19 which was one of the two new ones that opened last year. It was so peaceful and quiet...I was worried about air conditioning and mosquitoes but had no problems with either. We slept with the window open and temps were in the upper 30s, lower 40s in the morning. The mountain tip came out very briefly about 6:30 in the morning. 7-15-07 Motorcoach to Denali. We had a great driver/guide on this leg of the trip. She was fantastic. We saw a bear on the way and she even pulled over and stopped the bus. It was a distance away but we could see a black spot and got a good picture. Towards the end, the Princess outfitters get on board (at a scheduled stop) and register you and give a little talk about things to do. The setting of the lodge is very pretty along the Nenana (sp?) river and we were able to listen to the river when we opened the window to our room. The lodge in my opinion needs an update. It was very clean but dated and the walls very thin. Again, no hot water and a disgusting shower curtain but these problems were remedied VERY quickly. Had a great dinner at the nice restaurant but can't remember the name. We had copper river salmon that was to die for. The much maligned natural history tour was very enjoyable. The scenery was beautiful and we did not mind that we did not see a huge amount of wildlife. We got great pics on the return of a female moose grazing right there on the side of the road within 10 feet of the bus. The bus driver stopped, and we were all silent...and there were a lot of kids on our bus. You could have heard a pin drop. She posed for quite a while and it was fantastic. 7-16-07 Train ride from Denali to Whittier: This was awesome. We got lucky and had a great couple sharing our table and we talked and laughed the whole 9 hours. I will admit that towards the end, I was ready to get off. The train is very clean and lots of fun. The best part was not a cloud in the sky and the views of Mt. Mckinley in all its splendor was a very rare thing...perfect views of the WHOLE mountain...better than from the Lodge. It made the whole trip worth it. Embarkation to the ship was very easy as the outfitters did it all for us and brought us our key/cards onto the train and handed them out. All we had to do was get on the ship and go to our cabin. We had a mini suite bump out on Baja - B503. I would not book this cabin again even with the extra view on the balcony. The cabin was great, size, cleanliness but there was a service door directly across from the cabin which made for noisy mornings, evenings and the last night was horrible when luggage was being taken out of cabins for debarkation the next day. I made a call to the purser's desk but there is nothing they can do and it went on until midnight. Some other observations were that Princess service is not what it used to be. Their customer service seems to be lacking and it is whatever is best for them and not the customer. But it was a great trip. Hubby and I both got sick but I will get to that. 7-17-07 College Fjord - AWESOME - beautiful and sunny and not too cold. We got great pictures from our balcony. We were fortunate that I woke up early enough to see the glaciers. Many people missed them as we did not know it would be 6:30 am when we would see the glaciers. 7-18-07 Glacier Bay - simply spectacular. Words cannot describe. Weather was perfect, sunny and warm believe it or not. We were out on the balcony all day. Evening: I woke up at midnight with nausea, vomiting and the other lovely symptom as well. Went to the doctor in the morning and got two shots and was confined to the cabin for 24 hours and missed Skagway. My hubby did the White Pass Railroad without me and got some great pics but I missed seeing it. The doctor said he should go as it was beautiful. They came twice to sanitize the cabin and I felt a bit like I was public enemy #1. Started feeling better by end of day and was cleared out of the cabin the next day. 7-19-07-Skagway I was sick, hubby did White Pass Railroad and loved it. 7-20-07 Juneau - had scheduled the helicopter landing on Mendenhall glacier but it was cancelled due to bad weather. This was the only port my husband and I were well at the same time. Oh well. 7-20-07 Hubby got sick in the middle of the night with the same problem. The medical staff came to our cabin...same story. He was confined for Ketchikan. 7-21-07 Ketchikan - I went out unsupervised and bought some jewelry. Ketchikan is a lovely town. We had two shore excursions scheduled which we missed due to his illness and I did not want to go on my own. Princess credited us back for all missed excursions due to illness and weather. Not many sick on this trip - about 5 probably. 7-22-07 Both hubby and I were well and out of the cabin and enjoyed our day at sea on the way back to Vancouver. Overall we had a great vacation - it could have been perfect if we had not gotten sick and if Princess had been a little more attentive to customer service. Our dining staff was awesome - some of the best we have had on any cruise. Room service was perfect and I am happy to report the coffee has greatly improved. We had attitude issues with the Spa and one of the Maitre D's but not important enough to give detail. I am happy to answer any questions you might have so please email me at lisa.hudson@eds.com. Princess arrangements worked out perfectly. We did our own air and could not have planned it better. I messed up on the US Direct on the way home but that would have been the best way to go. I had not realized I needed to let Princess know what our flights were given that we had done it independently. Not a major issue however in the long run. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
This cruise was my first cruise with Princess and to Alaska. Our itinerary began in Whittier and ended in Vancouver, with stops at College Fjord, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau & Ketchikan. I've sailed previously on Carnival, Royal ... Read More
This cruise was my first cruise with Princess and to Alaska. Our itinerary began in Whittier and ended in Vancouver, with stops at College Fjord, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau & Ketchikan. I've sailed previously on Carnival, Royal Caribbean & Celebrity. My husband and I are in our early 40's and are both fairly well traveled. We flew from Minneapolis to Anchorage the day prior to the cruise. . We picked up a Toyota Highlander through Avis at the airport with the intention of dropping it the next day in Whittier. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Credit Union Drive which is just a few short miles from the airport. I really liked this hotel because Hampton Inn's have nice pillow top mattresses and are generally clean and comfortable. I would highly recommend this property for many reasons. They have a complimentary shuttle system that will take you wherever you wish to go; airport, downtown, etc. It's also right next door to several chain restaurants such as Applebees, Cattle Company, etc. Their staff are friendly and willing to share all sorts of travel advice with you. They also have a complimentary continental breakfast in the mornings. We spent a comfortable night in Anchorage exploring downtown and Ship Creek. We only saw one lone salmon in the creek since it was a bit early for the salmon run. Downtown was rather boring and I noticed that what Anchorage lacks in architectural beauty is make up by the surrounding natural beauty. We ate a restaurant called the Snow Goose Restaurant and Brewery on 3rd Ave. We had incredible seafood that was very spicy and just how we like it! Ran about $60 including tip for dinner for two. We also paid a visit to the Alaska Wild Berry Company and really enjoyed shopping there. The next morning we hopped into our SUV and hit the road to Whittier. It's an easy and incredibly beautiful drive. We stretched it out over several hours and made many stops along the way. We stopped to hike a while at Potter's Marsh, Turnagain Arm Trail and McHugh Creek. I thought McHugh Creek was by far the nicest place to stop. Beluga Point didn't have any whales and we also took the tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska in Girdwood. I thought that the tram was overpriced and overrated. Our final stop was at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The entrance fee is only $7.50 and by far worth your time to stop. It's not a very glamorous place, but you have the opportunity to view close up brown bear, bison, elk, musk ox and more. The gift shop there is reasonably priced and well maintained. We finally arrived at the tunnel and waited about a half hour before the next opening. Once you drive into Whittier it's easy to find the cruise terminal, but not so easy to find the only gas station in town prior to returning the rental car to Avis. Check in was fairly quick, but I thought it humorous that you had to fill out a statement declaring yourself healthy before boarding the ship. Those unfortunate enough to say anything about not feeling so well were sent to a waiting area indefinitely. Upon check in, I discovered that I had grabbed my son's passport upon departure from my home instead of my own! Because I happened to have a copy of my passport with my other travel documents, they allowed me to board the ship after signing a statement declaring that I was a US citizen. So much for post 9/11 security. After getting on board, I stopped by the purser's desk to get the address of the port agent in Ketchikan so that I could have my passport sent to me. I knew that I would have a difficult time without it once I arrived in Vancouver. I made several stops at the purser's desk that week to follow up on my passport and it was so difficult to understand the foreign accents of the pursers and nobody really knew what I was talking about in most cases. There was one supervisor named Nina that seemed to have it together and I made a point to only talk to her about the situation for the remainder of the week. I have to say that while I found the crew to be polite on board this ship, I wonder is some of them were new since beginning the Alaska season. Many just didn't know much of anything and there seemed to be a lack of energy and vitality amongst them all. We booked cabin 310 on Aloha Deck. I had faxed Princess over a month ago to request egg crate mattress pads to be placed on our bed, but they weren't there when we arrived. Our stateroom attendant, Irma from Mexico, graciously found some for us and put them on right away. Irma was probably the best stateroom attendant I have ever had. Every request was accommodated with a huge smile. She seemed genuinely happy with her job and she was wonderful. The inside cabin was well laid out and had plenty of storage. Once we had the mattress pads on the bed, I found the bed to be quite comfortable. I wouldn't recommend this cabin though because the deck diagram shows this cabin at the end of a row, but it's really next to two empty cabins used for storage and access to a stairway. This means lots of noise from the other stateroom attendants who are going in and out of the rooms to get supplies. The cabin is also directly below the Mermaid's Tail bar and we could hear the ice machine quite frequently. I also really disliked having an inside cabin on such a scenic voyage. I would have rather paid more for a balcony cabin and enjoyed the views more frequently. Live and learn, I guess. I really couldn't see much advantage to having a port side balcony vs. a starboard balcony for those that are curious about this. There was scenery on both sides and it always was equally beautiful. Diamond Princess is a lovely ship, but she was looking a little frayed in some areas and could definitely use some refurbishing in the near future. There were plenty of activities for those that were interested, but we mostly spent our free time taking in the sites. We did go to some of the shows, but I thought that they were typical cruise line entertainment and nothing special. We usually ate in Horizon Court in the mornings and for lunch when we were on board. We tried the Vivaldi, Pacific Moon & Santa Fe dining rooms and thought that the service was best in Vivaldi. The food was generally ok, but typical cruise food. I think I was spoiled on Celebrity and the freshness of everything they prepare. I really think Princess has a hit with the 'Anytime Dining' concept and we never waited for a table, always choosing to eat around 6:30pm. We also tried Sabatini's, which was absolutely incredible and well worth the $20 per person surcharge. We also tried the Sterling Steakhouse, which was good, but I don't think I would go again as our steaks were a little over cooked and the food was just not as good as Sabatini's. I did notice that the lines got very long at the Horizon Court if you waited until after noon to eat lunch. There also didn't seem to be enough seating as we were always looking for a place to sit and had to double up frequently with other diners. Half way through the cruise, there was a small outbreak of noro virus and we were no longer allowed to serve ourselves at the buffet, including coffee. This made the delays even longer and it was very frustrating. We had even brought our own thermal coffee mugs to use during the cruise and towards the end they wouldn't fill them with coffee for us anymore. We could only use their cups. We had wonderful weather during our cruise and it sprinkled only once in Ketchikan. I found the cold wind too chilly for me to spend much time on deck during the 'at sea' days, but our port days were low 60's with no rain. We were lucky to see a glacier calve, but didn't see much wildlife. Whale spottings were just so far away for them to be very meaningful and there didn't seem to be many sea otters, sea lions or anything else around. I did find the naturalist David Hancock quite fascinating and I would encourage anyone going on an Alaskan cruise to tune in whenever the naturalist is speaking. Our first port stop was Skagway and we spent the morning hiking Lower Dewey Lake. This is a grueling hike several miles uphill and while my husband and I are in good physical shape, it was really exhausting. Plus, we never found the lake! Must have taken the wrong trail along the way. We stopped at the Sweet's Tooth Shop to get sandwiches for our hike and while the sandwiches were really good, they shorted us by one. After our hiking, we took the mid day train to White Pass round trip and really enjoyed this excursion. I booked it directly through Princess and it took about 3.5 hours and you definitely want to sit on the left facing the front of the train on the way up. They do switch seats at the top though and everyone gets a chance to have the best view. The scenery was incredible and the weather beautiful. I think Skagway was my favorite port. Our next port stop was Juneau. We had booked a whale watching excursion with Harv & Marv and we met up with Sandy the shuttle driver very early in the am. He's a really nice guy and born and raised in Alaska. He took a lot of time pointing out sites to us along the way to Auke Bay. We then met Pete, who is really Harv or Marv, but I'm not quite sure which one. We had another couple in the boat with us and Pete was very friendly and knowledgeable about the area. His boat was clean and well maintained. He took great care to show us a good time and to find the whales. We never got closer than about 200 yards to any whales and I found this rather disappointing. Looking at whales through binoculars just isn't very thrilling to me, but I would highly recommend Harv & Marv's excursion as they were very professional and well run. Sandy then dropped us off at Mendenhall Glacier after our excursion and promised to pick us up a few hours later. We spent a few hours hiking the trails at the glacier and really enjoyed our time there. True to his word, Sandy picked us up and we were dropped off at the ship in time. Our last port day was in Ketchikan. We had planned a Misty Fjords float plan trip through SeaWind Aviation. Leslie and Steve are a wonderful couple and I felt completely safe in the plane. The flight was amazing and since Steve was born and raised in Ketchikan, he knows a lot about the area. He has a great sense of humor and we spent quite a bit of time just chatting during our lake touch down in the fjord. We were able to get out of the plane and walk around on shore during our lake landing and it was just incredible. I can't say enough about how beautiful the fjords are and would highly recommend this excursion. After our flight, we stopped at the Ocean View restaurant on Tongass Avenue, which is an authentic Mexican restaurant. Very good food and quite filling. We walked back to town which was an easy 20 minutes away. Shopping in Ketchikan is great and I really liked the Creek Street area. Our last day at sea was spent traveling through the inside passage. While it was very pretty, we saw virtually no wildlife and I didn't get what all of the fuss about the inside passage is. We spent a quiet evening onboard our last night of the cruise. Disembarkation the next morning was quite challenging. We waited about an hour past our designated time for our color 'pink 2' to be called. Once called, the line was very long leaving the ship. After we got into the cruise terminal, we waited a full hour to pass through Canadian customs and get on our shuttle. Because we were participating in the US Direct program, we weren't supposed to see our luggage until we arrived at the airport. During the hour long wait in line at the terminal, several elderly people were having a difficult time with the wait and had to be brought wheelchairs to sit in. We thought that the delay was due to lack of customs officials, but what really happened is that Princess ran out of shuttles for the airport. After some new shuttles were located, the line began to move and it took about 30 minutes to get to the airport by bus. Once at the airport, we found our luggage and proceeded to check in with our carrier. After check in, we then had to get in another line to go through US customs. We would never had made a flight prior to noon had we taken a chance and booked it. Vancouver is a very busy airport with cruisers coming in and out of it. My husband thought our Alaska trip was the best trip he had ever taken and I would also rate it very highly. Princess is a good cruise line and I would rate them similar to Royal Caribbean in quality. I would sail on them again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Our first cruise on Princess, overall this was a good experience. Our cabin was comfortable, and the views from our oceanview double balcony spectacular. Our steward from Poland could not have been better. He was a gracious and ... Read More
Our first cruise on Princess, overall this was a good experience. Our cabin was comfortable, and the views from our oceanview double balcony spectacular. Our steward from Poland could not have been better. He was a gracious and attentive. However, the bed was rock hard, and our requested egg shell cushioned it somewhat. Shower was claustrophobic, I wonder how obese passengers get in and out. The shore excursions were very good, in each off the three ports, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan. I'm glad I consulted Cruise guide books this cruise. Entertainment at the Princess Theater was good, although the size of the theater sometime meant we sat too far from the stage. The overall relaxed atmosphere of the cruise, carefully timed public address announcements were just right. Unlike our previous Mexican Rivera cruise on another cruiseline, we didn't feel like we were in a military bootcamp. We selected anytime dining, however, found the food and service unsatisfactory. The Bayou Cafe's food and service was good, but not spectacular, not worth $15 a piece surcharge. However, the Horizon Court, Lido Deck Buffet was excellent, and that's where we ate the rest of the cruise. Same selection as dining room, only you can see what you're getting, and chose amounts and options. Personnel at the buffet were gracious and efficient. Great view while dining, along with an excellent naturalist, and lots of whales to see. Getting on and off the ship very efficient and organized. We'll be back again to Coral Princess, but not in the anytime dining room. Read Less
Sail Date September 2006
This ship had an outbreak of the gastro norovirus. It was on the ship when we sailed. I spoke to one woman who spent 4 days quarantined in her cabin. Her husband got it first. The cruise personnel told her they must have come on board with ... Read More
This ship had an outbreak of the gastro norovirus. It was on the ship when we sailed. I spoke to one woman who spent 4 days quarantined in her cabin. Her husband got it first. The cruise personnel told her they must have come on board with it. Then she opened the night stand drawer and showed them a partially used box of imodium AD that was in the drawer when they got on the ship. The ship is repositioning to Mexico in a couple of weeks so be careful. The cruise itself was fantastic for the view and the friendly staff. It's a large vessel so be prepared to walk your socks off. There is a lot of "you can't get there from here." We did the "free style" dining which was fun. We ate in a different restaurant every night. Sabatini's is a must. 12 courses plus. $20 surcharge but worth it. So is the Sterling Steakhouse, $15 surcharge. College Fiord was our first morning and it is spectacular to wake up to what sounds like thunder and to open your curtain to a calving glacier about 100ft from the ship. Glacier Bay too was fantastic. Skagway: The Klondike bike ride is great and the nature excursion. Juneau: Don't bother with the "taste of Juneau" tour. You stop at a smelly fish processing plant to taste salmon and then stop at the Alaskan Brewery to taste beer. Then you go to the Mendenhall glacier. Now that is worth seeing without the other two stops. Ketchikan: Pub crawl, it was raining too hard. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
The itinerary was why we chose this cruise. (Did the Vancouver RT on Celebrity with most of the same family in '92.) Traveled with a group of about 20 family and close friends. Alaska is a port intensive cruise, and most anything ... Read More
The itinerary was why we chose this cruise. (Did the Vancouver RT on Celebrity with most of the same family in '92.) Traveled with a group of about 20 family and close friends. Alaska is a port intensive cruise, and most anything one does while in port will be fun. I have decided to concentrate my review on the ship, line, and Carnival cruise experience. Arrived in Anchorage two days before to join friends who live on the Kenai. Took the train to Whittier at 10am on Wed. Nice trip. Embarkation VERY SMOOTH and QUICK. Had a balcony cabin (booked as a guarantee) on Deck 6 portside. View was good, but would have been better from about 3 more cabins farther aft due to the forward bump out, but that's what ya get when you go "guarantee". Storage was adequate. Like the hangers in the closet. Shower seemed small and lacked shelving for soap, etc. Not everyone wants to use the mystery blue shower soap or Dove all purpose shampoo! Amenities basket had gum, EmergenC packets, toothpaste, razors, etc. The bedding was soft and comfy; the pillows both firm and squishy to please all. The mattresses didn't seem any different, but our backs never hurt, so they must be okay! It was nice having the bed next to the balcony. (Celebrity and NCL have their sitting area near balcony) This was our third cruise with Carnival, the first being in '94 on the Holiday and our second on the Elation in '93. Things sure have changed since our last cruise! Service was pretty good. Cabin was clean and tidy, but only the minimum amount of effort was extended by our stewardess. (yes, I understand the season is ending and contracts may be coming to a close, but we paid just as much as cruisers at peak season!) The towel animals WERE awesome tho! I t was a chore to contact our stewardess the first night. Were told we HAD to keep the cabin door open because they hadn't finished cleaning all the cabins on our deck. WELL, if you're not ready for guests then don't let me onboard...duh!!! (We felt we heard alot of "NO" on this cruise. Not sure why, but it happened many times. It started to put a damper on things for my DH and I.) ANYWAY...on to the food. Found the Galley tried too hard to "gourmet the selections". If you can't cook the basics correctly, you can't correct it with a sauce! Carnival should stick to doing simple foods WELL. Get the basics down, then maybe move on. Stop trying to compete with the more upscale lines in your mega-sized dining rooms, Carnival. The deli (Lido deck) did a fabulous job of providing simple food that was tasty, fresh, and well presented. The made to order omelettes are good too, but the system for ordering is stupid to say the least! People line up in front of a buffet area with bacon, sausages, hash browns, scrambled eggs, etc. causing those that just want this quick food to have to ask, "excuse me, are you all waiting for omelettes, or may I cut in for some bacon?" Besides, who wants to get their sides just to have them get cold before the omelette gets there. Wow, am I dwelling? The buffet kept closing early this trip. Not sure why. The dining room is very nice. Our waiter, Jesse, was fabulous! All the waiters and assistants were very attentive and patient! We had three tables and 6 kids spread around these tables. The waiters were quick with diversions for the kids, cute folded napkins, crayons, etc. This helped make dinner less of a "drama" for the adults!! The food was generally good, especially the "basics". Our informal poll decided that the roasted meats were the Galley's specialty. Prime rib was perfect. The lamb was also very good. Tender and spiced nicely. I had salmon twice, and it was never dry, nor was it oversauced. There were differing views on the lobster. Some loved it, others said it was rubbery. Most of us could have done without the "waiter dances" each night, but many in the dining room enjoyed the performances, so c'est la vie! Sushi from 5:30 to 8:30 was basic. Lots of Philly Rolls. Sometimes we got hand rolls. They didn't seem to use the local fish. hmmm. The nouveau Supper Club is not to be missed!! This is where you will get a true gourmet meal on par with Spago, or a great NY Steakhouse. We spent about $150 for the evening (with a very nice bottle of Cab-Sauv)and know we would have had to pay three times that on land for the same meal. GO! Have the 24 ounce porterhouse, 9 ounce filet, or NY Strip. YUMMMMMMM The entertainment was good, but nothing I haven't seen before! Some of those kids need to learn how to find their light. lol.The orchestra is, by far, one of the best I've ever seen. Karaoke was entertaining, but underattended. They had a hard time getting people for the Legends show. The disco was also underutilized by guests. Kinda sedate (read boring) nightlife for a Carnival ship...hmmm. The casino was busy, but not sure if anyone really won big. Never made it to the piano bar as there were many private parties there. Ports: Was raining in Sitka...but doesn't it always! Juneau was warmer and less rainy. Did the Mendenhall float trip. FUN!! Water was high, but the rapids were fairly sedate. Never enough time in Skagway. Took the Yukon and Whitepass Railway train trip to Canada RT. Understand you can buy this for lots less in town from street vendors. The 12:45 trip cuts it close to reboarding the ship! If you book in town or with the train station you cannot board from the dock, but you can get off on the dock! Ketchikan was sunny and nice. Took the "duck" tour. Fun. Always plenty of salmon to see, eat, catch here. All in all the Spirit is a beautiful ship. Not sure if her opulence is a good fit for Alaska, but that's where she is...for now. The service is generally better than the food in the "free" venues. Cabin service is adequate. Room service was quick and error free for us, but we DID tip. An enjoyable trip despite some problems, but my DH says we will not be going on Carnival again. It's time to go back to Celebrity for us. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
My wife, our two sons (19 and 16) and I cruised on the Carnival Spirit leaving from Whittier on June 21, 2006 and headed south to Vancouver. We did a 1 week land tour that I planned myself before the cruise but that is a subject of a ... Read More
My wife, our two sons (19 and 16) and I cruised on the Carnival Spirit leaving from Whittier on June 21, 2006 and headed south to Vancouver. We did a 1 week land tour that I planned myself before the cruise but that is a subject of a different review. Weve been on several other cruises, all in the Caribbean. Boarding was easy. We boarded around 1:00pm on Wednesday and spent the day resting from the previous week. Our stateroom (5192) was plenty big enough for the two of us. Plenty of storage. We had a second cabin (5188) that was considered an obstructed view balcony. Our boys couldnt see down the side of the ship, but they were able to see everything else from the cabin. This was a very good compromise for us on cost. I would recommend the obstructed view balcony cabin to anyone wanting to save a few dollars. Carnival is actually bragging about their new beds. I must say that I wasn't impressed. I wasn't expecting a plush, luxurious bed, but it definitely could have been softer. I just can't believe anyone would actually want to buy that bed. Our stateroom attendant wasnt as friendly as the ones we have had in the past. She seemed put out when my wife was seasick our first morning at sea and she didnt come out of the stateroom until that afternoon. We told her to just leave us some towels because she wasnt up to leaving the cabin. I guess that set the tone for the rest of the cruise because she seemed short with us and not nearly as friendly as other attendants we have had on other cruise lines, including Carnival. The food on the Spirit was good, but started to get monotonous by the end of the cruise. We made a big mistake in taking the early seating. We were never able to make it back from our excursions for dinner so we only ate in the Empire dining room twice (sea days). This meant that almost all of our meals were on the Lido deck and that is where it was monotonous. The food was good and it wasnt Carnival's fault that we didnt get back in time. The Deli was quite good but I could only eat so many sandwiches. The boys enjoyed the pizza and the grill. The entertainment was not as good as previous cruises. The ship dancers and singers did a good job, but the shows seemed sporadic and pieced together. The final show, Standing room only was the only one that I thought was good and worthy of being called a 'Las Vegas Style' show. The entertainment wasnt horrible, just not as good as my previous cruises. The entertainers that were flown in were pretty funny. The midnight 'Adult comedy' shows just involved curse words, and even then very few. I didn't consider them racy. Our first day at sea brought us into College Fjord. We came up to the Harvard Glacier and we had plenty of time to watch the glacier calving. The ship spent at least an hour at the glacier, turning once so that everyone on board was able to get a good look. Just spectacular. The rest of the day was spent cruising and watching the gorgeous scenery. The naturalist was pretty good, and we could turn the TV to channel 15 if we wanted to hear what she had to say. I thought that worked out quite well. Our 16 year old went to the O2 club for teens on the Spirit and met a group of other kids that he had fun with during the trip. They didnt stay at the O2 club after the second day because they didnt like the person running it. She was gearing it toward younger teens and it wasnt what my son and his new friends enjoyed. By the end of the cruise, only two or three teenagers hung around the O2 club and the rest avoided it. They had a great time going around the ship, working out in the gym, playing ping pong, and jumping in the pool. The pool slide was closed, but it was really too cold to use it anyway. I was disappointed in Carnival for not providing someone in the O2 club that they could connect with. Our 19 year old was stuck in between. He was too young to go to the disco or the bars and drink, and the O2 club was only for kids up to 17 years old. He pretty much stuck with us and seemed to have a good time. Toward the end of the cruise he started hanging out with the group my 16 year old son was with and they seemed to have fun together. In Sitka, we took the Sea Otter Quest tour offered by Carnival. This was a pretty good tour and we saw a lot of wildlife. We saw Humpback whales, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and Sea Otters. It wasnt too crowded. I would suggest this tour. The town of Sitka is very nice and we had a great time walking around. Definitely give yourself time to walk around this town. The people were very friendly and we had a great time. In Juneau we booked a helicopter tour and glacier landing with Coastal. We had done a flightseeing tour and glacier landing of Mt. McKinley out of Talkeetna earlier during our land tour, and I was worried that this would be much of the same except with a helicopter. The experience was VERY different and we enjoyed both very much. The Mt. McKinley glacier was covered in about a foot of snow and it was very quiet and we were the only ones on the glacier. The helicopter tour with Coastal landed us on a glacier that was hard ice near a pool of bright blue water and a stream running in and out of the glacier. Our guide was very informative and we had a great time. Definitely a highlight and suggested. Coastal did a great job. We toured Juneau for a while and enjoyed ourselves there. I stopped in at the Red Dog saloon and had a few beers while my wife shopped and our sons went back to the ship. The Red Dog, complete with sawdust floor was a nice place to relax. We had planned to rent a car in Skagway and drive up to Emerald Lake, but we decided a walking tour of Skagway sounded like more fun. We went on the Goodtime Girls and Ghosts tour. Our guide was very good. She was funny and informative. Dont worry folks, it wasnt R rated. I believe it was barely PG rated. We ended up at the Red Onion saloon for a tour upstairs. I dont think Skagway was a pretty as Sitka, but it wasnt bad walking around there either. Our last port of call was Ketchikan. We had booked a fishing charter with Northern Lights for the afternoon. We didnt catch anything but rock fish, but it looked like no one else was catching anything that afternoon either. My boys had fun and Im glad we went on the charter, but to spend that much money and time and come back empty handed was a little tough on me. I couldnt tell you much about Ketchikan because we spent most of our time with the charter. The last day at sea was relaxing. We did a few things around the ship, such as trivia contests and even a bingo game. There were plenty of things to do. Debarkation in Vancouver went VERY quickly. I dont think Ive ever gotten off of a ship so fast. We stayed at the Westin in downtown Vancouver. The Westin is a beautiful hotel and the rooms were wonderful. We loved walking around the downtown and docks area. We also went to Grouse Mountain and Capilano bridge. The next day we walked around the park in downtown Vancouver (very pleasant walk and the weather was beautiful) and caught the Amtrak Cascades train to Seattle. The train ride was very scenic and relaxing. We stayed at the Doubletree in Seattle and flew out the next morning. We really enjoyed our trip. If I were to do it again, I dont think I would cruise Alaska. We all agreed that the land portion and going wherever we wanted was much more fun (not to mention cheaper). If I were to do another Alaska cruise, I would select a different cruise line. I think Carnival is great for the Caribbean, but they are just OK in Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date June 2006
I took a land/sea (cruisetour, as described by Princess) cruise from Alaska with my parents, brother and fiancE. This was a 11 day trip with some fantastic scenery. We spent 3 days staying at Princess Lodges in the interior of Alaska, ... Read More
I took a land/sea (cruisetour, as described by Princess) cruise from Alaska with my parents, brother and fiancE. This was a 11 day trip with some fantastic scenery. We spent 3 days staying at Princess Lodges in the interior of Alaska, before cruising 7 days from Whittier to Vancouver via the inside passage. I have been on 2 other cruises before but only to the Caribbean, so I had a good idea of what to expect. I had cruised with Carnival and Royal Caribbean previously and was hoping Princess was more like the latter than the former even though Carnival owns Princess. We left Baltimore on 7/23, with a quick stopover in Minneapolis before we landed in Fairbanks. We landed in Fairbanks around 5-6 p.m., which felt like 9-10 p.m. due to the time difference. Upon our arrival, we were told not to worry about our baggage and go to the Princess desk. We were given some colored stickers and our room keys for the hotel and waited for 10-15 minutes. The director then rounded us up and took us to the baggage area where all the bags were neatly organized and we were to "tag" our baggage so it could be transported to the hotel. Around this time, I looked around and noticed that most people were not my age. In fact, they were not my parent's age. There was quite an abundance of grey and blue hair in fact. Now my parents are not young; they are mid 50's. The remainder of the group appeared to be at least 10 years older than them. This was not a big issue for me, but just something that may be of note to younger people thinking about taking this cruise. We were bussed about 5 minutes away to our hotel on the Chena River. The grounds were nice but not overly impressive. There was a wonderful display of flowers but overall just satisfactory. Truthfully, due to jet lag, we ate and went to bed fairly early but I don't feel I missed much. The next day we boarded the train from Fairbanks to Denali Princess Lodge. The train was probably the best experience on the trip and was a great way to see the land. You are seated at a table on the upper level of the train and have some terrific views. The Denali Lodge was probably the best lodge we stayed at. The lodge rests on a hill above the river (forgot the name) surrounded by mountains. Gorgeous views! There are a even a few buildings across the street with a coffee house, gift shop and a Subway (sandwich shop). My brother and I did an ATV excursion here which was disappointing. We got a few nice views but no wildlife spotting and very few stops to admire the views. I would not recommend it unless you are just interested in riding around on an ATV. You are also booked automatically on a Natural History tour that the park service hosts that is highly recommended. We had a few wildlife spottings and were able to get some breathtaking views of Mt. McKinley (Denali, to the locals) and the park in general. Several reviews advise to book the Tundra Wilderness Tour. The tour is longer but honestly, 4 hours on a school bus was enough for me. I don't think I would have liked to spend 8 hours on the bus. We saw enough wildlife to keep us happy without getting cranky on a not so comfortable bus. Next day, 7/25, we took another leg of the train to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. Again some great views from the train, especially at Hurricane Gulch. The last half of this leg got tiresome as most of the scenery began to look the same (river, forest, river, forest). The lodge is about an hour drive away from the train depot. The views from the lodge of McKinley, weather permitting, are the best around. The lodge is only 40 miles away and gives you some great views of Denali towering over the other piddly 10K foot mountains. There are a few trails to walk, but nothing strenuous. Monday, 7/26, is sailing day! We took a bus from McKinley Lodge to Whittier, about a 5 hour drive. There were a few stops on the way, one at a farm that nurses back injured wildlife. Although not truly a wildlife sighting, it was our best opportunity to take a picture of bears, moose, caribou and ox. The rain began as we arrived at the wildlife park and became unrelenting. We arrived at the port in Whittier at around 1-2 p.m. The check in was fairly well organized as we stood in line to check in for approximately 30 minutes, where they took your credit card and gave you your cruise card which was your boarding pass, room key and charge card for the rest of the week. It took another 10-15 minutes to get through security and it was a quick dash through the pouring rain to get on the ship. There were attendants directing you to elevators that were strictly reserved for embarkation. We stopped to drop our carried on baggage in the room, which was on the Aloha deck, aft, starboard side. My fiancE, brother and I were crammed into this room, which was fairly small and had four twin beds that dropped down from the walls. The bathroom seemed bigger than it actually was. The shower appeared to have plenty of room but the placement of the showerhead required you to fit in a smaller area. It's hard to explain but be advised that the shower is actually smaller than it appears. We had lunch at the Horizon Court, which was serviceable but there was nothing outstanding. We purchased a fountain fun sticker, which gave us unlimited soft drinks for the sailing for $22.50. This was a good deal as the drinks normally cost a dollar a piece which really only required you to drink more than 3 sodas a day to make it worth while. The sodas were small so this was easy to do. We had dinner at the Florentine dining room, as we were set up for Personal Choice dining. The service that night was not exemplary and food was above average. We left early to try and catch the welcome aboard show but showed up a few minutes after start and the Princess Theatre was packed. We ended up wandering the ship until bed. My parents found their haunting grounds for the trip; dancing the night away to the band in the Wheelhouse Lounge. Sailing was delayed due to the high winds and heavy rain and we did not leave until early Tuesday morning. Tuesday. 7/27, College Fjord - We missed the actual cruising through the fjord due to oversleeping. I thought since we left so late that we would not be cruising through the fjord at the time initially given. Most of the day was spent checking out the ship and eating. The breakfast at the Horizon Court was decent but greasy. The standard fare of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast was served. There was an omelet chef as well. We spent a good portion of the day in the Deck to Deck game room with a rousing game of Monopoly...I lost. This was the first formal night so we got all dressed up in our dresses and suits. There are several locations where professional pictures are taken, with simulated or actual Atrium backdrops. Our pictures turned out great and ended up spending almost $100 on reprints. The food in the dining room was excellent and the service was much better. There was a French menu which included frog legs and escargot. The escargot was delicious. We went to the song and dance show after dinner. It was barely tolerable. The main singers had good voices despite the bad song selection. The tackiest part was that there were props on the stage that doubled as wardrobe. In between numbers, the cast would open the wardrobes and change costumes on stage! It really made the whole production seem tacky and cheap. The dancers were fundamentally sound but the choreography was uninspired. It was also on this day that we began to realize our room steward was irritating. He knocked on our door at 8 a.m. to make it up and was a stickler about us using the "do not disturb" sign. If it wasn't up, he would knock briefly and walk in. He would call us if we had the "do not disturb" sign out too long to see "if we wanted service today since we was off in an hour." The other cruise ships would leave cute towel animals and the like, but there was nothing of the sort. He did a decent job of keeping the room clean but we seemed to be working around his schedule instead of vice versa. Royal Caribbean's steward was seamless. He seemed to know exactly when we were gone, making up the room without disturbing us. I expected similar service but got the opposite. Wednesday, 7/28 Glacier Bay - I believe some of the best scenery on the trip was seen here. Cruising right through Glacier Bay and getting up close to several glaciers was truly amazing. At one point, the ship was stopped no more than 100 yards from the glacier. When the glacier would calve (ice dropping off), it would sound like a shotgun blast as the ice tumbled into the water. Unbelievable! We were up on the bow of the ship for a while until it got too cold to be up there. Princess did hand out wool blankets to wrap around yourself, which was a nice touch. This was the day of the Foods of Alaska lunch which was surprisingly bland. The salmon was out of this world, but the other items (shrimp, crabcakes) were nothing notable...and no reindeer! I was disappointed. Dinner was again in the dining room, which was good. For the most part the dining room dinners were all well prepared but the dessert choices were lacking. There was a comedian tonight who was relatively good. Thursday, 7/29 Skagway - We pulled into Skagway at around 8 a.m. We didn't have any excursions planned for the day so we slept in until around 10 a.m. and wandered into town. The town itself is very small, essentially consisting of 1 main street with a few cross streets. It was quaint but touristy with gift and jewelry shops lining the streets. We attempted to stop in the Red Onion Saloon for lunch but it was too busy for us to scramble for a table. We ended up having lunch at the Corner Cafe, which was nice but very basic diner menu. The best store for souvenirs was the Alaska Shirt Company, which is the Wal-Mart of touristy shops. There is one in Skagway and another in Juneau, both a short walk from the docks. They have just about any little souvenir you could want at very reasonable prices. There were a couple nice little stores including one that had painted glass bobbles, some of which could fit a candle. It was impressive seeing hundreds of them hanging in this small shop about the size of 2 office cubicles. My parents took the White Pass Rail, which seemed like the thing to do in Skagway. They said the scenery was fantastic and the train drops you off right next to the boat. We decided to eat dinner at the pizzeria tonight. The pizza there was fantastic. The other ships, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, had pizzerias but they paid lip service to the quality. They essentially had something set up in a corner that served barely edible pizza. It was used mainly as a marketing tool to parents (look! Your kids can eat pizza if they don't like the other stuff!). The pizzeria on the Princess had what tasted like brick oven pizza. They even had foccacia and a couple pasta dishes, as well as probably the best dessert on the ship, tiramisu. The pizza was a little greasy with pepperoni but still good. No show tonight as we decided to lose a few bucks in the casino. The casino was ok. Lots of quarter slots but little variety in terms of types of machines. I did like that the bar had video games (poker, Blackjack, etc) built in so you could a least drink yourself into more debt as you lost money. Friday, 7/30 Juneau - We arrived in Juneau around 7:30 - 8 a.m. My fiancE, brother and I were booked for two excursions in Juneau so we were up bright and early. Our first excursion was the Horseback and Mendenhall Glacier tour. I was under the impression that the horseback riding was going to be close to the glacier based on the description but it was not. On most days, the horseback riding is first and then the glacier tour but today is was flip flopped. The Mendenhall Glacier is definitely a sight to see. The blues from the glacier were impressive and there was an extensive visitor's center for information. There are a few different view points to see the glacier but they didn't offer large variation in viewpoints. After around 45 minutes at the glacier, we went drove about 10 minutes away to the trail where we rode our horses. The scenery was nice; it was nice leisurely ride along a river in the woods. We did not see any wildlife but we did find evidence. There was a stench of, from what we were told by our guide, bear. They roll around in the skunk cabbage in their territory, which caused the stink we smelled as we rode through. It was a casual, not strenuous, ride that was fairly relaxing. After that we were dropped off at the ship and took off to our next "excursion" to the Salmon Bake. This was probably my favorite part of the trip...just 'cause I'm a pig and I like salmon. The bake itself is nothing particularly special. Kind of like a barbecue with salmon. The grounds are really nice. There is a singer, who was a little too hippy for me (there is wisdom in the trees, flowers blooming free, love the earth and your brother, yadda yadda yadda), but had a good voice. There is a waterfall about 50 yards away from the picnic site. But the salmon...oh the salmon...it's grilled over an open fire and topped with a brown sugar/honey butter glaze. Fantastic!!! The sides are pretty good too. There were baked beans with reindeer sausage (mmm...reindeer), BBQ ribs, salmon salad (essentially Caesar with salmon mixed in), potato salad and chicken as well as a few other things. We stuffed ourselves, wandered the grounds and hopped the shuttle back to town to look around. We stopped in the Red Dog saloon for a few minutes. There was a surly old man at the piano playing (think the guy on the Man Show that used to sing dirty songs and pound beers) and making cracks at various people that walked in. Great old saloon atmosphere. Again there was the usual fair in town, gift and jewelry shops for the most part. I think you've gotten the gist of food on the ship so I'll stop commenting at this point. I must mention that we attempted to see the dance show on this night and realized that there was no hope. We sat down for about a song and a half and left. There was some nonsensical dance routine that was set in an office with the dancers prancing around the stage while the music consisted of typewriter typing sounds and the "ching" to reset. I can describe how horrible it was. My suggestion to you is to stay away from the show and to Princess, hire a new director/choreographer...something! As I mentioned earlier, the dancers seemed sound but they just had nothing to work with. Saturday, 7/31 Ketchikan - As we heard from our fishing excursion operator, as usual, we pulled into Ketchikan late around 9:00. Most excursions were planned for 8 a.m. so as we docked there was a line stretching the length of the ship to get off into port. My father, brother and I went on the Sportfishing Excursion. Apparently the Dawn Princess hadn't pulled into Ketchikan on time once this year. We had a bright sunny day which is unusual for Ketchikan. We spent about 4 hours out in the arm trolling for salmon. There were quite a few catches by the 6 of us (we were paired up with another group). No king salmon as it was too late in the year but plenty of pink salmon and a few coho. You can freeze your catch and have it sent home to eat for an extra $100 or so but we just caught and released. After we returned from fishing, we went out to see the town. Creek Street is the place to see in Ketchikan. It's essentially a boardwalk lined with stores over the "creek" that flows through town. Some nice pictures to be taken there. There are also a few totem poles in town that peaked our interest. We wanted to visit Saxman Park, the park with the most totem poles in the area, but fatigue and time restraints prevented us from doing so. I was also told that the Lumberjack show was worth seeing in town. Entertainment on board was excellent as there was a comedian/magician who got the audience involved a few times. Very funny and entertaining. The best the ship had to offer all week. Sunday, 8/1 Inside Passage (Cruising) - This was a leisurely day spent sucking the last breaths out of the vacation. We didn't do much beside eat, buy last minute gift and duty free items, and lounge in general. We played the jackpot Bingo and saw the "horse racing," which was hilarious - check it out. The scenery was very similar to the rest of the trip but nice nonetheless. The land was greener and there was more civilization. We did see some Orca whales swimming along the ship but you just saw the fins - no Free Willy/Shamu type jumps. We somehow managed to pack our bags despite that fact they were full when we arrived and we purchased additional junk, and left them outside to be sent to the airport. Monday 8/2 Vancouver - Disembarkation was very well organized. On Sunday you were given a colored and numbered tag which they called over the PA system when it was your turn to disembark. We grabbed a quick last breakfast at the Horizon Court and settled down the Wheelhouse Lounge until we were called. Apparently we missed our tag but still made the shuttle to the airport. Our shuttle driver was extremely nice and well...effeminate. He checked that we all had late flights and asked if we wanted to see some of the town. I wish I had more time to spend in Vancouver as it's always been a town I wanted to visit. We drove through town near the dock area, which was very modern and bustling with activity. It wasn't an extensive tour but it was nice to at least see a little of the sights from the bus window. Vancouver's airport was a madhouse but fairly well organized. All the bags were set aside at one end of the airport. Once you collected yours, you made your way to your airline's line. We waited in Delta's line for about an hour. Then you cart your bags through Immigration. This line was deceptively long as it stretched probably 5-6 times as long as the airline carrier's longest lines but we got through it in 45 minutes to 1 hour. Finally we get to ditch the bags and you guessed it...wait in another line for security, which was another 20-30 minutes. We arrived at the airport at around 10:30 a.m. for a 1 p.m. flight and we managed to make it to the gate with 10-15 minutes to go before departure. Overall this was nice trip. The scenery of Alaska is outstanding and it was a very relaxing trip. The only qualms I really had was that there were so few people my age on the ship. I'm not sure if that's because it's Alaska or if it's Princess. Either way, I would sail Royal Caribbean again before Princess. While there was nothing bad about Princess, there was nothing really that great either. The service was better on Royal Caribbean. I will say the food was probably better on Princess. So I will definitely recommend Alaska as a vacation spot, although probably not if you have very young children. They probably would not value what they are seeing, unless it's a moose or animal of some sort, and there isn't that much for them to do. If you do sail Alaska, I would recommend Royal Caribbean over Princess. Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
Since I had not done a cruise in years, this ship was a real surprise. Very clean lines and spotless and elegant interiors. Near the glaciers they can spin the ship on its axis to allow all cabins to view the glacier from their balconies, ... Read More
Since I had not done a cruise in years, this ship was a real surprise. Very clean lines and spotless and elegant interiors. Near the glaciers they can spin the ship on its axis to allow all cabins to view the glacier from their balconies, which most cabins have. Very spacious cabins, particularly for the mini-suites. Layout is nice throughout with good access to almost everything. Having ongoing naturalist and ship particular channels on closed-circuit is wonderful when cruising near the shorelines. However, the downside was the dining. With the norwalk virus ever on the prowl, they were draconian in their hygiene, requiring everyone entering any dining facility to wash with an alcohol wash. I didn't mind this as I'm a bit of a hygiene fuss myself, but then they went the extra step of not allowing anyone to even get their own food in the buffet. This brought buffet service to a crawl and made getting something as simple as a cup of coffee a painful endeavor. The food itself was generally not bad, but not exactly four star either. I guess feeding a zillion people at a time and still getting food that is properly prepared and served is not easy, but other lines seem to do this a bit better. Simple suggestion here would be to move all beverage service away from the rest of the buffet and allow better access. No one is going to stick their hand in a 198 degree pot of coffee or tea and contaminate it. To add insult to injury I had to pay for soda ($22 for 7 days worth). Service, both in-cabin and dining, was spotty. Some staff were courteous, friendly, and helpful. Others were snooty and churlish day-in day-out. I think they have some training issues they need to deal with. Their standard you-pay-unless-you-demand-otherwise method of doing tips contributes to this as well. Most staff know they are going to get about the same whether they are nice or not. Since they have a passenger identification card for every passenger I don't understand why they couldn't just set up some kiosks around that allow passengers to insert their card, punch up the staff-person's name they wish to tip, and enter the amount. Bingo, on-demand tipping! Overall, not a bad cruise to take. Beware the ninja soda-card salesman though! He has a future in the insurance industry. Read Less
Sail Date June 2004

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click