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509 Whittier to Alaska Cruise Reviews

A Princess land tour sept 2011 Sept 5-Independently booked flight to Anchorage, and after renting a car spent the night at the Microtel Motel. This is a budget type facility but very clean and comfortable. Good for short stay but not ... Read More
A Princess land tour sept 2011 Sept 5-Independently booked flight to Anchorage, and after renting a car spent the night at the Microtel Motel. This is a budget type facility but very clean and comfortable. Good for short stay but not for long term. Daniel, the very pleasant desk clerk, sent us to Gwennie's Restaurant for supper but we got lost and ate at the Longbranch Saloon instead. September 6 - We did find Gwennie's the next day for breakfast, and Bob had steak and eggs, and I had spectacular crab benedict. We then headed down to Kenai Princess. Nice room with sitting area, wood stove, but needed to drive for everything we needed, including getting a cup of tea, which was only available at the lodge. \September 7 - drive down to Homer for a little tour and lunch at the Boardwalk fish and chips. Very nice. Then a drive around town, and up to the skyline for the great view, and back to Cooper Landing. September 8 - back to Anchorage to turn in the rental and meet the Princess group. Why did no one in the reservation process, including us and our TA, not notice that we didn't purchase transfers? BTW, are those folks deliberately obtuse, or actually as dense as they appear? Oh, well, taxi to Captain Cook hotel and saved a couple of bucks. As far as the Captain Cook Hotel, a room is a room, and we had a delightful view of the building that blocked our view of the bay. We took a walk and found Resolution Memorial, with statue of Captain Cook himself, then a walk around the area. Found a snack at the F street station, a nice local bar with good folks. Had dinner at Fletcher's in the hotel. Overpriced like everything else, but adequate. At least we could make a cup of tea while preparing for the super early baggage call. Early morning out for cattle call to the rail. September 9 - rail to Talkeetna, with overpriced, but adequate breakfast and drinks. Alcohol was frequently encouraged by the incessantly chattering guide, who may be the queen of bad jokes, and proud of that. Not much scenery on this leg. We did get a good view of Mt McKinley. Motor coach to McKinley Princess, and rooms out in the boondocks. Likely, none of the accommodations is intended to have a view here, so that the captives are in the lodge as much as possible, hopefully spending. Room reminiscent of Super 8 : cheap plastic furniture, poorly decorated, no amenities, bad sound insulation. Remember this description for further stops. Prepare for frequent long walks or wait for the shuttle every time you need something. Also, with regard to the shuttle drivers, they are uniformly polite and accommodating. The weather was damp and cloudy. September 10 - early up for early luggage call, then figure out what to do with your homeless self while waiting for the 2:30 motor coach. The management is most accommodating as long as one wishes to avail oneself of the opportunities to eat, drink and shop, which are available in the restaurant and lodge buildings. Restaurant 20320, the separate freestanding restaurant, had abominable service last year, but they appear to have rectified that this year. The bus ride to the Denali Princess was mercefully short. Upon arrival we were immediately deposited in Siberia, also known as buildings 10 and 11. Super 8 once again, although they had enough sympathy for those of us in the Twilight Zone to provide a satellite snack and bar location in the lobby. Also, we were treated to an unsurpassable view of the highway. Please note that this is the one location that has shopping, restaurants, a liquor store and a grocery off-site. Pizzas, subs, fish dinners, hamburgers, etc. are right across the highway at somewhat better prices. September 11 - the Tundra Wilderness Tour. Take it! Enough said!! Special note about Nicole, trolley driver, who consistently displayed exceptional service, especially to several guests with mobility impairments. September 12 - early luggage call, but the ride was scheduled to depart within two hours, so we had just enough time for breakfast, then on the road for a long day. The driver's incessant chatter tended to distract our attention from the great scenery. There were several photo opportunity stops but no facilities. Lunch stop offered chili that strongly resembled spaghetti sauce with beans and thin,but tasty beef noodle soup, or a very limited selection of sandwiches to order,with incredibly high prices, but the bread was tasty. There was no where else to go. Mid afternoon arrival at Copper River Lodge, with still another super 8 room, poor noise abatement, and another opportunity to be a captive client. We had a lovely view of the driveway. Bob's frustration with the accomodations was only increased by the rude treatment at the check-in counter. Bar and restaurant service did help to reduce some of the disappointment with the low end room. September 13. Spent a quiet day catching up on our reading, taking a little walk, and napping. Very pleasant. There is a ride to the town of Copper River available, at an extra cost, but except for a couple of bar/restaurants there wasn't much there we were told. Some folks took the raft ride on the river and enjoyed it. September 14. Off we go on another long bus ride to Whittier. Again, the scenery was great, and the driver a chatterbox. There was a nice stop at a good view of a glacier. There are "long drop" toilet facilities available here. After a couple more hours of riding with the scenery becoming less interesting, we made a lunch stop in Anchorage. We were dropped off outside the Captain Cook Hotel and told we were on our own for lunch. It would have been nice to have stopped at some other location to see some other part of the city. After lunch it was back on the bus for a ride along Turnagain Bay, very scenic, to the ship. In conclusion for the land tour portion of this review, I would say that the Alaskan scenery is great; Denali National Park especially beautiful; the service people we met, mostly college age summer help, friendly and efficient. The overriding problem for us was Princess's seeming disregard for the client. The "luxurious lodges" were anything but. As noted above, the rooms were spartan, the funishing cheap, and the ammenities non-existant. Would we do this again?? Simply, the answer is no. Would we recommend this type of tour? Only to the most hesitant or inexperienced traveler. If you have the slightest sense of adventure do your homework and do it yourself. And now for the better part of the cruise tour; September 14, evening. Upon arrival in Whittier on the bus, we were deposited directly in front of the door to embarcation. Because all our paperwork was pre-done on the computer, time for check-in was minimal. We were on the ship and in our cabin within thirty minutes. There were no guides, but there were plenty of helpful agents to direct us to the correct elevator. We found our cabin, C719, with no problem and were delighted to find our luggage waiting for us. Our steward, Andree, was right behind us. After introductions and a description of services he delivered two glasses of champagne. That was a nice touch. After a quick trip to the Lido deck for lunch we unpacked and settled in. Since we had sailed on this ship proviously, there was no need to make an orientation tour. The ship was apparently in good shape. Carpets, painted surfaces, windows, etc all in good condition. The emergency drill was delayed due to the late arrival of a train. This exercise which used to be such a pain is accomplished now in a much more relaxed and efficient manner. It took no more than twenty minutes. Sail away was on time. Some general comments about the food and service in the traditional dining room and the buffet. The quality of the food was not great, but not bad either. The menu in the sit-down dining room was not as varied as it was several years ago, but still there was something for most tastes. Service seemed to be spotty. Some tables seemed to like their servers, ours were only competent. The specialty rooms were very good with great service and better food. Both were worth the extra cost. Sabitini's no longer overwhelms the diner with appetizers. This is a great improvement since one's appetite tended to be satisfied before the entree was served. There have been some improvements in the buffet. The traffic pattern has been slightly revised so there is less backtracking and doubling back. The selection of food is somewhat larger I think. The greatest improvement is in the service. There are now staff to assist diners to tables and to provide delivery of drinks, hot and cold. We did eat several breakfasts and lunches in the buffet and enjoyed it each time. September 15 and 16. These days were spent cruising to Hubbard Glacier and in Glacier Bay National Park. Park rangers and ship personnel provide plenty of information on what you are seeing. The weather was not great these days but still the viewing was impressive. Cabin balconies are great places to watch the scenery go by. It does not matter which side of the ship you are on since the ship comes out the same way it went in. If a balcony is not available, there are plenty of places on deck to provide shelter while taking a load of great photos. September 17, Skagway, the gateway to the goldfields of the Yukon. Any one of the railroad/bus trips up through the trail of the Klondike is worthwhile. The scenery is great and the history impressive. Since we had done that before, we opted for a helicopter ride to Mead Glacier. We puchased independently in town from Temsco. The price is the same as through Princess. A little expensive, but certainly worthwhile. We were fortunate to have good weather and clear skies so the photography was memorable. For those not queasy about flying this is an excursion of a lifetime. Shopping in Skagway was pretty good because it was so late in the season and stores were preparing to shut down for the winter. There were a lot of "bargains" for those willing to work for them. Lunch at the Skagway Brewing Co. was good, albeit the service a bit slow. September 18. Juneau. We chose to again go whale watching with Captain Larry of Orca Enterprises. This was ur third trip with this company and again, the captain found the whales. Unfortunately, they were a bit far off so it was difficult to get good pictures, but the ride on the purple boat was worth it. We ate at Traci's Crab Shack, an open air, no frills serve yourself restaurant. No matter, the crab legs were huge and tasty as were the crab cakes and halibut. If high style isn't your thing, give this place a try. Again, shopping was very good. The tourist oriented stores are convenient to the docks and season end prices discounted. September 19. Kitchikan. We again chose to take zip line tour. This time we went on the Bear Creek Zip Line Adventure. This features a fifty foot rappel and 250 foot slide to complete the day. This company provides excellent equipment, training, and exposures. The guides are competent and fun. If you have no fear of heights give it a try. (even if you do, do it anyway). Again, there appeared to be abundant shopping arount the pier. As we cleared the Kitchikan area the captain warned that we would encounter some heavy storms and high seas. He wasn't kidding. By the middle of the night the ship was rocking and rolling pretty good. This is fairly normal at this time of year as the ship crosses open water prior to entering the protected inland waterway. By morning there were plenty of queasy folks looking for some sort of relief. The store was doing a great business in Dramamine. (yours truly included, for the first time in twenty five cruises). Once into protected waters things settled down to a pleasant ride. Arrival at Vancouver was on time. Disembarcation was well organized and competently run. Those of us taking a transfer to Seattle were off the boat and on a bus quickly. Disembarcation was by specific designation. We were Gold 2. The entire Gold Two group was carefully kept together throughout this exercise. We would be collected, lined up and then moved forward. During this we passed Canadien customs without incident. There was no need to collect our luggage since it had already been loaded onto the bus. When all were on board, the bus was sealed by customs and we were on our way. Very impressive. Because of all above, passing US customs was quick and easy. We left the bus, showed our passports and returned to our seats in less than ten minutes. In Seattle, we chose to spend a night at the Crestbrook Resort. This facilty is a five minute shuttle ride from the airport. The facilty is self describe as a hidden gem. It was a great way to finish our vacation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
CHECK- IN - We checked in at the Anchorage Downtown location and it was easy. They took our suitcases at that time, "coat checked" our carry-on if we were going to wander around the city before our bus left. FYI - On the bus sit ... Read More
CHECK- IN - We checked in at the Anchorage Downtown location and it was easy. They took our suitcases at that time, "coat checked" our carry-on if we were going to wander around the city before our bus left. FYI - On the bus sit on the passenger side not driver as you will have a better views going to Whittier. Once in Whittier it was quick and easy if you have completely filed out their online cruise personalizer. This is also where they hand you the coupon book for the ports. Total time 10 mins. CABIN - Was nice sized and at the end of the hall, so no one but crew coming threw and they were always quiet. Our room attendant remember our names and always greeted us with it. FYI shower very small, but expected it. Did have to turn off shower to shave my legs. If you can afford it I would recommend it even though it didn't have a balcony which would have been too cold you use. Only noise was entering and exiting port and only for about 30 minutes. FOOD - 1st night open seating which was great met lots of new people. 2nd night traditional seating - which we had to change tables as the couple we were seated next to Mrs was nice, but Mr was not - rude and kept correcting her. Maitre D changed us per our request and worked out great. Food was good for the most part - However Pepper Pot soup was bad, and most of the regular deserts were bland (except the Creme brulee - A MUST!! And if you can find them the peanut butter cookies) and the sugar-free deserts very dry and no flavor(except the chocolate mousse on wafer and trifle which were good). Also if you like your steak a little pink tell them rare. Breakfast - do NOT do the egg muffin from room service as it was downright nasty. 1 sit down and rest of buffet in Horizon Court which was fine. Lunch was same thing. Late night snack in Horizon Court was good and always lots to pick from(spicy shrimp the last night was yummy). ENTERTAINMENT - Lecture at Glacier Bay - Local Ranger was BAD more on her life in the everglades then what was going on in the area, Lecture by Libby Riddles on Dog Sledding was great, All 3 comedians were enjoyable (however 2 were Adult only type), 2 Dance shows were okay but if you are a dancer you will see every flaw in the steps. SPA - Which was the reason we chose Princess was okay. Really liked the Thermal Spa which we paid for entire week. Hated the way the masseuse tried to sell me $400 in product saying, I was in endangering my health and that I needed these products to be healthier. Really ticked me off. Finally told her that she needed to shut up or no tip. I recommend when you go in if they start asking question not having to do with the massage to tell them you are not going to purchase anything and you are not going to answer question not directly related to the massage. FYI robes are small and waiting area is in the middle of everything so anyone can see. DISEMBARK - If you are doing Alaskan Cruise have to bus from Ship in Vancouver to Seattle you MUST bring yourself a bottle of water. Its basically 6 hrs without if you don't. Make sure it is sealed and in your carry-on and hopefully customs wont take it. I image its the same reversed. Again make sure ALL of the cruise personaliser is completed including flight information or you will run into problems with your assigned time. This happened to people at our table and they had to do a "walk off" which means they had to carry all of the luggage, carry-on, etc off the ship and through customs without help or luggage carts. Onboard you can not arrange transportation off the ship to airport. It has to be done 2 weeks in advance. You can set-up shore excursion which will include transportation; however if you have an early flight or they are full you end up with taxi costs. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Embarkation Process Princess embarkation process was simple, and handled very well. We were lucky in that we went on an afternoon 26 Glacier cruise out of Whittier on Major Marine from 1:15 to 6:15 - so we were able to drop off our ... Read More
Embarkation Process Princess embarkation process was simple, and handled very well. We were lucky in that we went on an afternoon 26 Glacier cruise out of Whittier on Major Marine from 1:15 to 6:15 - so we were able to drop off our luggage outside at 12:45 and go on our cruise. When we returned from the cruise there was no one in line and we got our paperwork done extremely quickly, pics taken and walked right to our room. Our luggage was already in our room waiting on us. Overall - The embarkation in Whittier is probably one of the least crowded you could come across. Boarding was spread out from probably 12:30 PM through 7:00 PM, with buses and trains evenly spaced throughout that period. Rather low stress all around. The only stress for some was a fatality accident on the highway between Anchorage and Whittier which closed the rode from 4:15 till midnight. 19 people did not make the cruise at all and were stuck in Anchorage and a large truck with luggage for 126 cruisetour passengers did not make it either! Made for a fun first formal night - lots of jeans seen! They got their luggage in the first port and the 19 passengers also boarded there too! Maybe a plug for taking the train?? Given the late departure from Whittier, the first night of dining was handled by cards handed to us upon check in. So, for one night only, we were in the Bordeaux dining room at 8:00pm....or immediately after the required safety/lifeboat drill. Walked right in and were seated immediately. The drill, conducted at 7:45pm, was very organized and quick, in that all groups met INSIDE in one lounge/showroom/theater or another, rather than forcing us to stand on deck. It was quick and painless. The best I have ever experienced! I would say that Coral Princess in general did NOT have a high pressure sales atmosphere, (photographers, drink options, wine tastings, etc.) "No Thank You" worked the first time, and nobody tried to force us into anything we didn't want. I had to hunt down the correct bar to buy my coffee card - no one offered me one at all! I even attended a "FREE" vodka tasting in the Wheelhouse bar and got a pretty good buzz that afternoon on all the samples they gave us - but then I am a cheap drunk! They did not pressure us to buy and gave away a free bottle of Vodka and showed 4 different drinks and gave those away too! (I won nothing but enjoyed it a lot!) Stateroom Specifics We reserved, and received, two port side balcony rooms side by side on the Caribe deck. We were travelling with my sister and her husband - both of us were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. We reserved back in January to make sure we had connecting balconies and really enjoyed this feature! We could open the metal door between our balconies and go back and forth! The room was pretty much what I expected, and was perhaps a bit more roomy than I recall from my last cruise on Princess when we had an ocean view room. We had C624 and C626 and these were part of the furthest back bump out and made for a larger balcony. The balcony was half covered and half open which made it perfect! 4 chairs and a table. Complete privacy unless you were leaning over the railing. The king sized bed was comfortable, and I had no complaints about it being too hard, as some have reported. I had sent a fax ahead of time and asked for the egg crate and the top sheet and both were on the bed. There was plenty of hanger space, and spare hangers, and we probably didn't even use all of them provided. A fairly large cabinet of shelves and nightstand drawers easily handled the rest of our clothing. The robes we requested were in such poor shape we did not use them. I was glad I had brought a light robe of my own. I requested a sharps container for my husband and it was brought instantly to our room. We removed all the soda and water from the refrigerator and we had plenty of room for soda, bottled water and wine. The bathroom was sufficient, but we did experience the somewhat cramped shower that others have reported. But in reality, it was doable! I was glad I had brought the clothespins to hold down the shower - that worked quite well. I did not care for the scent of the lotion, shampoo and shower gel - eucalyptus - YUCK! Glad I had brought my own - but you could have used them if you could stand the smell. The hair dryer was pitiful and I was glad I had brought my own (1875 watts travel dryer with foldable handle at Wal-Mart - $9.88 ordered onsite and delivered to store) I also commandeered the desk to do my makeup and hair- not enough room or outlets for me! Worked out perfect as I could shower first and then give up the bathroom to my husband. The one small complaint would be the stinky cigars I smelled from my balcony. I have only mentioned it for the benefit of the truly sensitive. It never bothered us much at all - but it was always there when we were outside. Food and Dining For the most part, we ate breakfast in the Bordeaux dining room. I love being served and enjoyed their specials they had each day. I did not care for their scrambled egg dishes - they did not taste like real eggs - but if you ordered eggs cooked to order or eggs Benedict they were delicious. The bacon is really good too! We loved the special French toast on debarkation morning and were glad we did not miss it. We never ate breakfast in the Horizon Court so I cannot comment on it for breakfast. Our lunches were a mix of Bordeaux dining room and Horizon Court. The special Glacier Day Seafood buffet was especially good on Hubbard Glacier day - it was served by the pizza restaurant and was really yummy. The clam chowder was especially good that day as it was cold and rainy. We also had the Pub lunch in Bayou Cafe - good fish and chips- but tiny portions! I absolutely LOVED the pizza. I had it 3 different times and the reindeer sausage was my favorite! We also enjoyed the Dessert buffet in the Horizon court at 11:00 AM on the last sea day - beautiful presentation and took lots of pics! We had first sitting (5:30 PM) traditional evening dining in the Provence dining room at a table for 8. We found the service adequate, but often we waited long periods for requested items. We noticed a huge difference in the attitude of the staff from 10 years ago when we still gave out the little envelopes of cash on the final night. In my opinion, the auto tip does not make them work very hard for it. They do just enough to get by and it is not the wonderful dining experience of 10 years ago. I am not saying it was BAD - I am just saying it has slipped a notch. We loved most dishes we ate and I was pleasantly surprised in the quality. I had read many reviews on the food and was expecting it too not be as good as it actually was! We requested escargot a second time and it was ready for us the night we requested. They sang to us to celebrate our anniversary and brought a surprisingly good cake with a candle on top to us. All in all - a big thumbs up for the traditional dining experience! We ate at the Bayou cafe and we all were not impressed. Again - it was NOT the food, but the service that killed the experience for us. It was not busy the night we went - only 5 tables - but the service was so slow we did not enjoy it at all. There was NO reason that the service was so slow - there were plenty of waiters on hand. The oysters Bienville appetizer was to DIE for! The steaks were good, not great. We wanted to go to a show so we did not have dessert at all. I only recommend this restaurant if you want to devote the ENTIRE evening to it. We thought we could get thru in 2 ½ hours - NOT!! Because of this disaster, we cancelled our reservations for Sabattini's. Overall as far as dining room food - I really enjoyed the appetizers, soups, and salads more than the main course, for the most part. The foods that stood out were the French onion soup, wild mushroom soup, all the cold soups, goat cheese soufflE (OMG), fettuccine Alfredo, fresh salmon filet, escargot and seafood salad appetizers. I was underwhelmed by all the desserts. Again, they weren't BAD, but they just didn't WOW me. Room service was efficient and always brought at the time we requested. We tried the "egg McMuffin" knock off on an early morning we could not make it to the dining room and it was pitiful and not hot. It also had a runny yolk and would run all over you if you were not careful. Stick to the safe items like fruit and rolls. The granola was tasty too! I bought a coffee card and LOVED it! The mug is really cheesy - the pad on the bottom of the mug fell off the first day, but the coffee was so good I did not care! We really used it a LOT and the brewed coffee is soooooo much better than the syrup swill. I just wished there were more places to use it on the Coral - I spent a lot of time at the Patisserie! If you time it right - 3:30 to 4:30 you can get a hot chocolate chip cookie off the cart that is parked by it! My timing was great! (like every day!) each morning I prayed my jeans would zip! I still have 6 punches and will put it in the safe for our next cruise! PS - if you want a really COOL insulated coffee mug - go by a Starbucks before you get on the cruise in Anchorage -- I got the neatest mug that has a moose and bear on it and it says "Alaska" and was the superb quality Starbucks is known for and was only $9.98! Formal Nights On Coral, for this itinerary, formal nights were the evening at Hubbard, and the evening we were in Juneau. Our cruise was a little unusual in that 162 people did not have luggage - i.e. - no formal wear - so they let anyone in the dining room in almost anything! Just to cover a hot topic on CC, I found that MOST people were dressed appropriately for formal night on the second night. I saw mainly suits and dresses, a few tuxedos, and maybe a few skating by without jackets or ties. For me, it's a big "I don't care what you wear", but most want to know what to expect. Dress to the code, and you won't be out of place! On casual nights, I didn't see too many people in inappropriate attire either. We did see some shorts during the one lunch we ate in the dining room, and the rules got stretched on the final night in the dining room, but for the most part, it was a well behaved cruise. Public Spaces, Activities, and Options I thought the Coral Princess was a very nicely laid out and decorated ship. Besides your own room deck, there are probably 3 decks you really care about, and everything you need to get to are within easy access. It is easy to remember where to go after about the first day. It is a long narrow ship and it is good to get your exercise walking from front to back! The gym was great and I loved the staff and trainers. I loved all the classes I went to! I did not go to the Spa - prices too high for me! Shows and Entertainment We loved ALL the stage shows. The comedian was really funny! The juggler was more of a comedian than a juggler and we laughed a lot. The true magician and his partner was my least favorite. The dancers were really good and I thought the production shows were great. I am a singer so am usually critical and these singers were really good! The Universal lounge has a really amazing stage that moves up and down and shifts for the entertainers and we really liked the show in there that featured songs of the 50's and 60's - we knew all the words! Adrian Zmed was great also and I was his dance partner on our cruise - do not sit on the front row if you do not want to be chosen. Everyone complimented me and said I did great - but I was sure glad when I got to sit down! There were movies most nights, but they we never went. We preferred the real deal! Patters were well written and my highlighter was well used each night while we waited for our show to start. I would run back to the room and pick it up after dinner so I could see what fun was in store for tomorrow! We had hoped to catch a "Movie Under the Stars", but it seemed that either the weather was against us, or the movie that night didn't interest us. All in all, there was plenty to keep a person busy. Games, Casino and Trivia: We played trivia several times and never won, but had a good time! We watched the Not so Newlywed game and laughed a lot! One of the highlights was learning to play Craps with lessons in the casino! I had always wanted to really understand it and they were so patient - even when I threw the dice off the table - LOL I doubled my hundred dollars in 2 hours! My brother-in-law won the Slot machine tournament - $500 and we loved how they ran the tournament - show up any time between noon and 3 to play your machine and the final 5 played for the big money! The machines had a counter on them and that was used for the final number! My husband did well on the slots - so all in all we liked the casino too! Photographers We were shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that the photographers were really quite good! Each formal night had several stations set up with backgrounds for pictures, each manned with a different photographer. It wasn't the "Smile-*Flash*-Next" thing we had experienced in the past. Actual cool backgrounds and posing - expect lines - we did them both before and after dinner. We LIKED the pictures they took, and bought a lot of them. We also bought enough to do the Pan Raven book and I have to get going on getting it put together! We got our cards stamped for getting all of the poses in all of the places and my Sis actually won one of the drawings - she got 2 free 8X10's - pretty cool! The only thing I would change is the horrible way you have to search for your portraits. You would think with technology they could give you numbers to find your prints --- a lot like an Easter egg hunt every day. Scenic Cruising For me, this was the highlight of the trip. Everything I read said, "Hubbard or Glacier Bay: You have to see one of them". Getting to go to both was a real treat, and the reason we picked this itinerary. We were NOT disappointed and so happy that we had our balcony to watch from. Be sure and pick up a bottle of wine to share on the balcony for that day - it is one of my best memories of the cruise! Our day at Hubbard started off a little scary. There was a heavy fog as we turned into Yakutat Bay, and I had visions of disaster running through my head. "What if we have to turn back and skip it?" OH NO. But I shouldn't have worried. As we moved closer, the fog cleared, and it was a beautiful day at the glacier. Overcast, to be sure, but clear as high as the glacier was! And, according to the onboard naturalist, we got closer to the glacier than she had all year. It is truly majestic. Calving was slow to develop, but it picked up during the day so that it became more and more frequent. We saw bigger and better calving on our Kenai Fjords cruise out of Seward, but enjoyed it. We didn't see any HUGE calving events, but there were frequent small to mid-sized events, and they were spectacular. The creaking, popping, and crashing was exciting to watch! Glacier Bay was just as good. Again - a bottle of wine after our really yummy Seafood buffet on the Horizon Court. (Do not miss this buffet!) The scenery and glaciers were just amazing as well. We got very close, again, to the Grand Pacific and Margerie glaciers. The Margerie is like a mini-Hubbard. White and blue, and dominating the sky. The naturalist explained that when it is overcast like it was you really get to see the beautiful blue in the glaciers because of how our eye sees it. Seals, and Sea Lions were spotted. And we were able to get far enough up the Johns Hopkins inlet to see the Johns Hopkins glacier. The naturalist, who knows a whole lot more than I do, said it was a rare treat. Be sure and go to the naturalist lectures or watch the re-runs on TV at night if you can stay awake. She really knew her stuff and added to the natural beauty outside our balcony! I attended all of her lectures in person and was never bored. She also was easy to talk to around the ship and I thought she was the perfect person for the job. Ports and Excursions Skagway: A nice little tourist town and our first stop. As soon as we got off the gangway we saw Dyea Dave in his big top hat and they showed us to our waiting van. We had booked this trip with Dyea Dave back in February and were so glad we did. Our trip took us all the way to Carcross, BC where we had lunch and then they dropped us off in Frasier and we took the White Pass Railroad back to Skagway. This really is the best of both worlds - a little pricey to do both the train and Dave's tour, but so worth it! The day started off kind of foggy and we stopped frequently to take pics. Dave had advised us to take the train back so the fog would have a chance to burn off. He was SO right - bright sunshine in the afternoon for our train trip! Our tour guide was also very good at telling us the history of Skagway and took us thru downtown to buy our train tickets and he told us the best places to shop and he was spot on! We really enjoyed the scenery and we ate lunch at a small family owned diner that had homemade soup (minestrone that day), homemade sandwiches (try her fresh salmon salad sandwich) and homemade pies (my groups loved the dutch apple - I did not indulge). I am SO glad we were on this small tour bus of 16 people - we could all get out quickly, take pics and get back on the road again. Those huge buses that you booked thru Princess looked AWFUL!! I give it an A for tours. We had them drop us off in downtown to do our required amount of shopping. Was a beautiful afternoon and we used some of the coupons out of the free newspaper we were given as we got off the ship. Really fun place to shop - quaint shops with lots to see. Juneau: We had used the Toursaver book and used a B1G1 free coupon for our whale watching trip with Alaska Galore Tours. I was very apprehensive, because they had recently gotten bad press about not picking people up for a tour. This group is a consolidator and books boat captains based on their needs - kind of like a matchmaking company! When we stepped off the Coral we immediately saw a woman with a sign that said Alaska Galore. I was immediately relieved and she showed us to a warm van that was waiting for us. It was cold and raining and we had dressed for it. (Be sure and buy WATERPROOF rain gear - do not scrimp on this - buy the best you can afford and try it out before you go - do not skip waterproof shoe or boots also!) we went by and picked up the other couple for our tour - there were 6 of us on our boat. When we got to the wharf we were met by our boat captain and his assistant. He recommended using the clean warm bathroom before we left on our trip - good idea! He had a head on his boat, but I was glad I did not need to take one minute away from our whale watching to go down to find it! The boat we were on was about 30 feet and was spotlessly clean. It was the perfect size for our group! We all had a place to sit inside and the upper deck was big enough for all of us when we went up there. He immediately found us humpback whales and we were thrilled. He talked on his radio with other captains and they all shared where all the whales were. He got excited as they were seeing pods of Orcas and could hardly wait to find them for us. I loved the fact that he was as excited about seeing the whales as we were. He was personable and easy to talk to. He really wanted to find the whales and did not disappoint. When we were watching the Orca's we saw another humpback and my husband asked if they ever jumped out of the water? He said, not very often - that is called breaching and we see it about every couple of weeks. About that time, a mature male jumped right out of the water as if to say - "Today is the day!" The boat captain said WOW! We stayed and watched that whale breach 16 times and got amazing pictures! He was even amazed at the number of times the whale continued to breach. All in all we had an amazing time with him! He offered us soft drinks and water numerous times and offered us cookies and granola bars for the trip back in. I give this trip an A++++++ We cancelled our plans to go to Mendenhall glacier because it was totally socked in with fog. Alaska Galore was more than willing to drop us off on the way back from whale watching. Strangely enough our van for the ride back to the ship said "Harv & Marv" on the outside of it which makes me believe they ALL work together on whale watches! We shopped for souveniers at this really neat store that was right next to where the Coral was docked. They had really good prices and we bought quite a few things. Ketchikan: We didn't schedule a tour, and instead we rented a car from Alaska car rentals - $62 + tax - they came just as soon as we called them. We got a clean Jeep Cherokee which worked well for the 4 of us! Split between our 2 couples was a cheap day. We went all over and enjoyed a wonderful day with bright sunshine! This is a rarity in Ketchikan! I had printed out a map on the Ketchikan site and it gave us lots of places to go. We went to all the totem places and saw eagles in a nest. My sister and her husband wanted to go on a "Duck" ride so we took them to get their tickets. While they were on the Duck we went bird watching to a nearby lake. After we picked up my sis we went shopping at Tongass Trading Company - BEST shopping we found the entire trip for selection and price and they gave us a really nice shopping bag free! We went up to Creek Street and saw all the salmon ladders and sites there. We ended the day by watching bears eat salmon down at the boardwalk by the rainforest at Herring Creek. WOW!! Disembarkation - Vancouver All-in-all, I thought they did a very good job here. Bags were requested to be left outside our stateroom by 10:00pm, "or before you retire for the evening". We chose the latter = maybe about 11:00 PM and they seemed to be watching for them because as soon as we started putting them out they were whisking them away! We had filled out all the tags and thought the instructions were clear and simple. I LOVED that we were not bombarded by announcements over the PA system - they made a big point to let you know they would NOT be doing that and they did not. We ate a leisurely breakfast in the Bordeaux dining room along with others who had late flights or were staying over. We LOVED the special cornflake coated French toast we had heard all about for debarkation breakfast. I did not want to leave!! (sob!) Would someone be home waiting to lay a napkin on my lap each night - NOT! We were assigned to the appropriate group, (independent plans), and given a lounge to report to by 9:20am. We did as we were directed, and probably sat there for only 10 minutes before our group was called. Very efficient. A quick walk off the ship, short line to get through customs/immigration, turn a corner to the luggage pickup, carts were available, got our luggage without delay, and a quick walk to a well managed taxi stand. We were easily out of there by 9:40am. We had a great taxi driver who gave us a narration of all we saw thru the downtown area. Cab for 2 was only $32 +tip! Conclusion All in all we loved Princess and bought our future cruise credit and cannot wait to get back on soon!! Tips Book Early - we got a great deal in January on a site which allows online travel agents to compete! Read Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor - we got great advice on both sites! Get a balcony if you can afford one and stay on the Port side if you are going Southbound! Buy REALLY good WATERPROOF jackets, pants and boots (I know - I sound like a broken record but this is so important - I hope you do not need, but if you do ---) Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We loved the trip, and had a great time! Alaska is a place that everyone should add to their "bucket list", whether by cruise ship or not. The scenic beauty is simply breathtaking. As a first time Princess cruiser, I can ... Read More
We loved the trip, and had a great time! Alaska is a place that everyone should add to their "bucket list", whether by cruise ship or not. The scenic beauty is simply breathtaking. As a first time Princess cruiser, I can say I enjoyed the ship and crew a great deal, and have no serious complaints. Any problems we did have were minor, and attributable to everyday life and personal taste, as opposed to any inherent problem with Princess. I certainly wouldn't hesitate to take Princess again if/when the itinerary matches our specific travel desires. Transfer: For our transportation to Whittier from Anchorage, we booked a shuttle from Alaska Tours and Transfers. It had several advantages over Princess provided transfers: 1) It was cheaper! 2) They offered hotel pickup! 3) Beyond just a bus ride, this shuttle also stopped at several scenic lookouts, and the Alaska Animal Conservation Center. We had a full hour to visit the Animal Conservation Center, and enjoyed the rather rustic "zoo" atmosphere. All in all, I would recommend them to a friend. I thought it was a very nice option. Embarkation: Princess embarkation process was simple, and handled very well. We were in line for maybe 10 minutes if that. The embarkation in Whittier is probably one of the least crowded you could come across. Boarding was spread out from probably noon, through 7:00pm, with buses and trains evenly spaced throughout that period. Rather low stress all around. The only downside of using the private shuttle was handing off our luggage. I'm sure that with the Princess shuttles, you never had to touch your bags again. On the other hand, we had to retrieve ours from the shuttle bus, and hand deliver them to an uncovered luggage dropoff area. It wouldn't have been an issue....if it hadn't been raining! A minor annoyance. After luggage drop off, the walkway to the ship was covered, in preparation for what I'm sure is often a rainy day. Given the late departure from Whittier, the first night of dining was handled by cards handed to us upon check in. So, for one night only, we were in the Bordeaux dining room at 8:00pm....or immediately after the required safety/lifeboat drill. The drill, conduced at 7:45pm, was much more humane than what we experienced on HAL, in that all groups met INSIDE in one lounge/showroom/theater or another, rather than forcing us to stand on deck. It was quick and painless. I would say that Coral Princess in general did NOT have a high pressure sales atmosphere, (photographers, drink options, wine tastings, etc.) "No Thank You" worked, and nobody tried to force us into anything we didn't want. Stateroom Specifics: We reserved, and received, a starboard side balcony room on Emerald deck. The room was pretty much what I expected, and was perhaps a bit more roomy than I recall from my one previous cruise on Holland America's Veendam. The king sized bed was comfortable, and I had no complaints about it being too hard, as some have reported. Of course, that's a matter of personal taste. There was plenty of hanger space, and spare hangers, and we probably didn't even use all of them provided. A fairly large cabinet of shelves and nightstand drawers easily handled the rest of our clothing. The bathroom was sufficient, but we did experience the somewhat cramped shower that others have reported. But in reality, it wasn't out of line....and I'm not a small man! The balcony was fully covered, which was nice for what turned out to be a rather drizzly week. It fit 4 deck chairs and small table. Honestly, having 4 people on the balcony would have felt cramped, but for the two of us, it was quite spacious. Peculiar to the aft cabins on Emerald deck, the balcony was also more private than some, being a hard bulkhead wall on one side, and less permanent divider on the other. It was like having only ONE neighbor. The one small complaint could be the sound coming from the Universe Lounge directly below our room. The bass from the sound system tended to bleed into the room, but never during our "core sleeping hours", so I have only mentioned it for the benefit of the truly sound sensitive. It never bothered us much at all. Food and Dining: For the most part, we ate a late breakfast in the Horizon Court, (around 10:00am), and had pizza or the deck buffet mid-afternoon, and the dining room for dinner. So, like most reviews, my experience won’t cover ALL of the options out there. Horizon Court for late breakfast wasn’t nearly the circus we expected, particularly on port days. I guess we figured out a way to beat the crowd! We never had problems finding a seat, and the serving lines handled the diners quite well. The food was hot, and the “eggs to order” station was much appreciated. The rolls and danishes were quite good, and we never had to wait long for drink orders to be taken. For lunch, the Wife fell in love with the pizza! I think she had it nearly every day for lunch. And, despite being served essentially outside, it was always hot and fresh. Quite often, and as near as I can tell unadvertised, they had an outdoor buffet either on deck, or at the Grill. Smoked salmon, “reindeer chili”, salads, and a variety of other options were available, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Let the wife have her pizza, I’m sampling new things!....and we were both happy. For dinner, we had requested late traditional dining, at a table for 8....and that’s what we received. We decided on this because, frankly, we got BORED eating at a table for 2 during our last cruise. There’s only so much you have to say to your spouse after spending the whole day with them! Late seating was at 7:45pm, which is a little earlier than advertised, but that may be specific to either Coral Princess, or maybe the itinerary involved. Now, this is a matter of personal taste. But the dining room food to me was good, but rarely outstanding. I really enjoyed the appetizers, soups, and salads more than the main course, for the most part. The foods that stood out were the French onion soup, goat cheese soufflé, fettuccine alfredo and seafood salad appetizers. I was underwhelmed by the scallops, shrimp, and steak main courses. Again, they weren’t BAD, but I love shrimp, and REALLY love scallops, and they just didn’t “sing” for me. The wife is another story. She’s a rather picky eater, and commented several times that she just couldn’t find anything that she really wanted. She resorted to the chicken breast “always available” several times, but got tired of that. This isn’t out of the ordinary, but in all of her cruising experience, (which is much more than mine), she said it was the worst she had experienced. The “best” she came across was the special pasta course served during the “Italian night”, and that wasn’t even ON the menu. She was able to order that as a main course. The last few nights, she resorted to the children’s menu, and was a little happier. The deserts, however, always satisfied. No complaints from us there. Formal Nights: On Coral, for this itinerary, formal nights were the evening at Hubbard, and the evening after leaving Juneau. Considering that we were still AT the Hubbard glacier at 5:30pm, I felt sorry for those at the early traditional dining. It seemed like a poor choice.....and made me glad we had the late seating. Future cruisers may want to take this into account. Just to cover a hot topic on CC, I found that MOST people were dressed appropriately for formal nights. I saw mainly suits and dresses, a few tuxedos, and maybe a few skating by without jackets or ties. For me, it’s a big “I don’t care what you wear”, but most want to know what to expect. Dress to the code, and you won’t be out of place! On casual nights, I didn’t see too many in inappropriate attire either. We did see some shorts during the one lunch we ate in the dining room, and the rules got stretched on the final night in the dining room, but for the most part, it was a well behaved cruise. Public Spaces, Activities, and Options: I thought Coral Princess is a very nicely laid out and decorated ship. Besides your own room deck, there are probably 3 decks you really care about, and everything you need to get to are within easy access. Shows and Entertainment – We weren’t really all that interested in the stage shows, and only went to the comedian’s show, which did give us some laughs. There were movies most nights, but they weren’t always publicized very well. Patters seemed to catch about half of them. We had hoped to catch a “Movie Under the Stars”, but it seemed that either the weather was against us, or the movie that night didn’t interest us. All in all, there was plenty to keep a person busy....we just chose to not be that busy. Drink Cards – Several tables set up the first day or two giving you the chance to purchase them. As mentioned earlier, no hard sell. Very well handled, actually. Games and Trivia – I think we would have partaken of this more often in the evening, but they were always scheduled for 9:30pm. And since we were enjoying dinner until at least that time, we usually missed out. I think Coral needs to spend a little time working out their timeline. Then again, maybe we just weren’t all that good at our own time management....take your pick. Photographers – We were shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that the photographers were really quite good! Each formal night had several stations set up with backgrounds for pictures, each manned with a different photographer. It wasn’t the “Smile-*Flash*-Next” thing we had experienced in the past. Actual sitting and posing. We LIKED the pictures they took, and bought a few of them. The Wife commented that she didn’t see any “Oh my God, that’s hideous” pictures on display at all. Scenic Cruising: For me, this was the highlight of the trip. Everything I read said, “Hubbard or Glacier Bay: You have to see one of them”. Getting to go to both was a real treat, and the reason we picked this itinerary. We were NOT disappointed. Our day at Hubbard started off a little scary. There was a heavy fog as we turned into Yakutat Bay, and I had visions of disaster running through my head. “What if we have to turn back and skip it?” Uhg. But I shouldn’t have worried. As we moved closer, the fog cleared, and it was a beautiful day at the glacier. Overcast, to be sure, but clear as high as the glacier was! And, according to the onboard naturalist, we got closer to the glacier than she had all year. The last official announcement over the PA said we had passed within 1 mile. But by the end of the day, I’m pretty sure we had drifted to within ½ mile. It is truly majestic. Calving was slow to develop, but it picked up during the day so that it became more and more frequent. Not having much (any) experience, I would say we didn’t see any HUGE calving events, but there were frequent small to mid-sized events, and they were spectacular. The creaking, popping, and crashing were spectacular. I didn’t want to leave! Glacier Bay was just as good. Sitting on my balcony early that morning, I saw my first humpback whale. One tail in the air...one swimming silently past the ship. Puffs of mist. Fantastic. The scenery and glaciers were just amazing as well. We got very close, again, to the Grand Pacific and Margerie glaciers. The Margerie is like a mini-Hubbard. White and blue, and dominating the sky. Seals, and Sea Lions were spotted. And we were able to get far enough up the Johns Hopkins inlet to see the Johns Hopkins glacier. The naturalist, who knows a whole lot more than I do, said it was a rare treat. If the cruise ended here, I probably would have still been happy. Ports and Excursions: Skagway: A nice little tourist town, really, but still a nice stop. We took the White Pass Railroad tour, and really enjoyed the scenery. I give it B+ for tours. A bit pricey, and the commentary was a bit bland. Juneau: We took the glaciers “Flightseeing” tour, which flies float planes over 5 glaciers descending from the Juneau ice field. Again, spectacular views. I’ll give it an A-, with my only complaints being that the tour is guided by pre-recorded audio, and 40 minutes just seemed too short! I would have much preferred a more personal live guide....but I guess the pilot was probably busy with other concerns. Ketchikan: We didn’t schedule a tour, and just took in the town on our own. Too bad we had a downpour about midway through our day, and we decided to cut it short. It’s a nice town, I thought, but we missed out on going up to Creek Street. Still had a nice day. Disembarkation, Vancouver: All-in-all, I thought they did a very good job here. Bags were requested to be left outside our stateroom by 10:00pm, “or before you retire for the evening”. I have a little problem with the wording being vague. Is it “whichever is later”, and 11:00pm would be OK? Or is “before you retire” assumed to be before 10:00pm, and everything should be out before 10:00pm? No matter...we had ours out at 10:00pm, but might have liked to have another hour or so to arrange things. We were assigned to the appropriate group, (independent plans), and given a lounge to report to by 8:20am. We did that as directed, and probably sat there for only 10 minutes before our group was called. Pretty good considering we were probably right in the middle of all of the groups listed. A quick walk off the ship, short line to get through customs/immigration, turn a corner to the luggage pickup, carts were available, got our luggage without delay, and a quick walk to a well managed taxi stand. We were easily out of there by 9:00am. Bing, bang, boom. Complaints, Problems, and Issues: - Our toilet quit flushing on two occasions. Push the button, and nothing. But to the credit of Coral Princess, it was fixed both times I called it in within 30 minutes, and without having to enter our room. Minor annoyance....And really a compliment to the crew. - Poor manning/signage at Internet Café. I had some trouble signing up for internet, but nobody seemed to be manning the desk. Only later did they post hours....I just wasn't going at the right times. - Uncovered luggage dropoff. (See above). - Event timing around dinner times could be better. - Some noise on Emerald Deck from show rooms below them. Minor. Alaska was the "Star" of the cruise, and Princess played their part very well as the supporting staff. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We just returned from our cruise and I wanted to share our experience with the wonderful members of cruisecritic.com. Our cruise had been planned for a year and included 15 family members from all over the US. We were travelling with 4 ... Read More
We just returned from our cruise and I wanted to share our experience with the wonderful members of cruisecritic.com. Our cruise had been planned for a year and included 15 family members from all over the US. We were travelling with 4 couples and kids ages 1 - 15. My parents are experienced cruisers, having sailed with Holland and Royal but this was their first time on Princess and my first cruise. We all flew into Anchorage and stayed at the Anchorage Grand Hotel (would not recommend this hotel). We had arranged private transportation to Whittier from Anchorage the following day. We did make a stop at the Wildlife Conservation Center en route to Whittier which I really enjoyed. You have the opportunity to see bears (up close and personal - only separated by a thin wire barrier), moose, bison etc.. Embarkation in Whittier A very smooth process - we were checked in very quickly and our reservations were all correct - 4 suites Suites We were in the Family Suite (and my sister and her family were in the other Family Suite). Pros- The suite was nice and spacious for a family of 4. There were nice amenities included such as canapes, fruit, chocolate strawberries and profiteroles delivered daily Steward was very nice and attentive - and even did special little things for our kids (like making animal figures out of the bath towels each day). Cons- Suite had 2 bedrooms with a sitting area connecting them. Both bedrooms had 2 twin beds. Great for our kids - flashback to "I Love Lucy" for my wife and I. Balcony was large but totally unusable when the ship was moving due to the wind and lack of overhead shelter (it was totally open). Family Suites are the first cabins at the front of the ship (D101 and D102) so we felt the movement a little more. Because the suites are at the front of the ship you have to walk pretty far to get to dining rooms/public areas (but was a good workout everyday). The other members of our family had suites midship and my parents had a huge suite at the rear of the ship that was quite nice. Ship Layout The ship was very confusing to navigate. Most of the decks did not go from one end of the ship to the other and we continually were hitting "dead-ends" as we tried to get to different areas of the ship. I think I finally figured it out on our 5th day onboard. Shows Pros-Shows were well done and great for all ages Cons-Hard to get a seat for the early show Casino Pros-The Casino manager was very pleasant Cons-No free drinks while gambling - not even sodas.. Incredibly smoky - there was one night that was no smoking but the rest were almost intolerable Slot machines were very dated and worn (faded reels, fuzzy resolution) Dealers did their jobs -but definitely didn't go to any great lengths to engage the players. Pools Pros-Nice assortment of pools for all ages Movies Under the Stars This was great on our last day when the weather was pleasant enough to sit outside to watch the movies. The other days when it was windy/rainy there weren't many people willing to sit out to watch.. Spa Pro-Had some great treatments Con-Lots of "hard" selling and pressure to purchase add'l treatments/items. Food This was my greatest disappointment. Everyone had told me about all the wonderful food we would have on the ship - 24/7. I ended up losing weight between the horrible food and long walk to our suite several times a day. The first morning we were told the International Dining Room was serving breakfast from 7:30-9:30. We arrived at 9:25 and were told we could not come in and had to go to the Horizon Court Buffet. Awful - I felt like I was at a hospital cafeteria. Sandwiches wrapped in saran wrap that didn't appear fresh, weird assortment of items, servers who had no idea what items were, long unorganized lines, temperature was hot and stuffy, tables were left with dirty things until we requested they be cleaned.. It wasn't until the 3rd day that we realized we could eat breakfast in Sabatinis because we were in a suite. Noone had told us this - we just happened to walk by and see the sign. We ended up eating breakfast there each morning and it was the highlight of our food experience on the ship. International Dining Room - Food was awful and we always had to wait about 15-20 min for our drinks. Our servers were pleasant but we'd only see them when we sat down, when we ordered and when we were done. If you had a problem you were on your own.. We didn't have one decent meal the entire week. Sterling Steakhouse - Nicer and more attentive than the International Dining Room - but they cooked everyone's steaks wrong (I mean really wrong).. Trident Grill and Prego Pizzeria were both good - but the seating options were awful - you could either sit outside in a very cold uninviting environment - or try to find a table at Horizon Court where it was hot/stuffy and smelled like a cafeteria. Sundaes - Ice Cream Bar- Awful - Bad soft serve ice cream on bad cones with one topping option -colored sprinkles. The servers were incredibly "put-out" when you'd walk up and interrupt their personal conversations. Calypso Bar - the only decent bar on the ship and made an awesome latte. Customer Service In addition to the disappointing food we found the overall customer service to be incredibly lacking. The general feeling amongst our group was that the staff did not really care about accomodating the guests. It really was about what was the most convenient for them (the crew/staff) and if you made any inquiry outside of that it was quickly shot down. We were disappointed that on port days all of the stores on the ship were closed and unless you were in port there was not much to do. When we boarded we realized there wasn't anyone to help explain the different services, dining options etc.. While our steward was very helpful -he was from another country and incredibly hard to understand. All that said -we were left to figure out everything on our own. I also was a little annoyed that we had to have our bags packed and outside of our room by 9:00 the night before we arrived in Vancouver. Disembarkation in Vancouver We had to be out of our room by 8:00 a.m. the day we arrived in Vancouver. We all felt it was a little early to have to "check-out" given our flight wasn't until 2:00. While not the fault of Princess - the process once we arrived at the Vancouver Airport was horrible. We arrived at the airport by 9:30 a.m. and by the time we'd cleared customs it was close to 12:00 (and stood in not less than 5 lines with 2 small kids). Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
This was my 47 th cruise but 44 of those were as a crew member on RCI's Song of Norway in the Western Caribbean in the mid 1980s. As a musician on board I got to dine with the passengers and had free access to the ship before and ... Read More
This was my 47 th cruise but 44 of those were as a crew member on RCI's Song of Norway in the Western Caribbean in the mid 1980s. As a musician on board I got to dine with the passengers and had free access to the ship before and after work. I married one of the passengers! Following my tour on the SON I took two cruises with Carnival to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean. Ships were much smaller then! No balconies, no outdoor movies, no specialty restaurants, no fixed gratuities, no Internet nor cell phones. No waterparks or zip lines. There was bingo and Diamonds International though! 2011 and my traveling companion decides it is time she saw Alaska after years of trekking around the USA and Europe together. After much research on CC and company web sites we chose an Alaska southbound cruise aboard the much-praised Coral Princess from Whittier. We flew into Anchorage the day before sailing so that we were in place for the coach trip to Whittier next morning and had a relaxing day walking around the city albeit in a soft drizzle which would follow us for our first 5 days at sea. We stayed in the Captain Cook Hotel in a junior suite which was very spacious and well-appointed with great views of the city, mountains and inlet. Lunch and dinner were taken there and both were excellent. The Egan Convention center, about 3 blocks east was our point of departure for Whittier and soon we were on the road, in the rain, bound for Whittier 65 miles away. Scenic drive with some sightings of beluga whales at one point. Once through the 2.5 mile tunnel at Whittier we saw the Coral through the mists and she looked very imposing. Within 15 minutes we were processed, through security and on the ship. Princess are very organized. Some passengers however didn't make it onto the ship as there was a fatal road accident that closed access. Other passengers on the ship learned that their luggage wouldn't join them until Skagway as a result and had to spend a few days in the clothes they were wearing. Our mini-suite was on Caribe deck, very close to the bridge and far from the elevators. Quiet. The room was immaculate and within minutes our room steward, Rodney from the Philippines, was introducing himself and offering champagne. That had to wait as we had business to attend to.... First up was the Sanctuary-in the rain with more rain in the forecast. We were the only two people to book for the whole week ($180 for two). Then I dialed the dine line to arrange sailaway dinner as there was only one MDR sitting due to late sailing (8.30pm). I booked Bayou Cafe for that evening and Sabatini's for the following evening which would be Formal Night and we weren't packing formal clothes. A coffee card was purchased (for espressos) for about $30 (15 servings) and an Ultimate Kid's Package to cover soft drinks, OJ,"mocktails" and some vital hot chocolate (very good) for my TC (traveling companion). Business taken care of! Once unpacked in the cabin it was "Rodney-champagne!!" and we were in cruise mode. Muster drill was held before sailing, in the Princess Theater and was organized and brief. THE SHIP Coral Princess is a handsome-looking tub, in fine shape and the crew are always cleaning, painting, varnishing but not getting in anyone's way. It sparkles inside and out. The crew were very friendly-smiling, greeting in the hallways, holding doors open, engaging in conversation. Bar waiters Vinny and Ganesh (both from India) kept my glass full all week as the most spectacular scenery slipped by. Vaughan( South Africa), our first contact when he waited our table in the Bayou and also in his other role as Sanctuary steward was a fine conversationalist and on top of his game waiting tables and recommending wines. Miro and Laura (Mexico) pampered us each time we went to take our places in the Sanctuary. THE FOOD As I got an alarm call each morning at 4.30 so I could be up to see the ship approaching port I visited the Horizon Court buffet often. At 5 a.m. it was empty. The ship's "coffee syrup" was no worse than any diner in the USA and was good enough as a wake-up with my first cigarette on the Promenade deck (starboard only). My first breakfast each day was in the HC, my second was MDR (Provence dining room). HC had enough choices, nicely presented and I always cleaned my plate. I ate there once (Glacier Bay day) when it was super busy and sat at a table that hadn't been cleared yet. Within a minute a server was there to clear it and lay the silverware and fresh glasses. Drinks are served at the table-coffee, juice, lemonade etc. Well-run buffet. Someone is stationed at the entrances to ensure you use hand sanitizer before serving yourself. Very impressed with the HC. It's not haute cuisine but a great place to eat quickly without perusing menus or having a host of waiters buzzing around...the drinks guy, the bread guy, the one who takes your order, the crumb scraper man, the napkin arranger, the DR manager who comes by to chat and have a laugh (a great group of those in the MDRs). MAIN DINING ROOM As we had chosen Anytime Dining we had the Bordeaux as our assigned room and we ate there 4 of our 7 nights. Always a table for two. We waited once for ten minutes during which time we listened to a fantastic trio-Joseph Band from Budapest. Service and food in the Bordeaux was faultless. We ate each night at 8.30 and still made the 10.15 shows without rushing. I bought a bottle of wine on my first night in the Bayou and it followed me from one dining room to the next. It cost about twice a normal store price but Princess is a business and I was on vacation-so pour away my good man! Both our plates were licked clean at every course. Presentation of the food was very appetizing. I took photos of each meal as my memory isn't what it used to be. I didn't choose Princess for their dining reputation but I was well satisfied and had no cause for complaint. The dining rooms, like every room on the Coral were elegantly appointed, soothing on the eye and ear and divided into smaller sections for a more intimate experience. Nothing was sent back. No order was messed up. Deeee-lishus!!! Afternoon tea in the Provence was a very civilized and tasty experience. Mini cakes, pastries, sandwiches and scones with a good full-bodied tea. Great idea, well executed. SABATINI'S We ate there twice, on both formal nights. Fantastic for the extra $20 a head. Silvio is a very gracious host in this beautiful, under-used room. He is a waiter in the HC before changing into a gracious Italian welcomer at the entrance to the restaurant. We were given a window table (seating for four) upon request and had Julia from Ukraine as our waitress. Fabulous finger-licking food. You'll even want to lick your partner's fingers. Great breadsticks, olives. Feather-light calamari. My TC had lobster 3 ways and I had a steak. Also had maybe the best Spaghetti carbonara outside of Italy. Julia had great timing and we never were kept waiting. As with all my restaurant meals I finished the repast with a double espresso (using the coffee card) and charged a sambuca (less than I pay on land).The italian chef came to the table after the meal to ask how everything tasted. I licked his fingers. BAYOU CAFÉ Cajun inspired food. Spicy. Generous servings. There was a great little piano jazz trio there with the drummer singing. They swung! Excellent service, very attentive. Room didn't do much business in the evenings but was packed on Monday and Friday for the British pub lunch (fish and chips/bangers and mash etc) Chicken curry was very mild but flavorful. POOL GRILL Ate here a couple of times when the weather was good. Cooked to order burgers and fries-very good. Knackwurst with sauerkraut was fantastic. Attentive bar waiters ensured we didn't have to wait long for a nice cold Beck's beer ($5). I never got around to trying the pizza or ice cream bars but they were popular. PATISSERIE A good place for a morning espresso and a biscotti while relaxing in a comfy armchair looking out at the water, low down in the ship. SANCTUARY As the name suggests-a place to get away from it all. No kids. No anybody on a drizzly cruise. Big comfy loungers and two stewards waiting on you hand and foot. Even under grey skies and drizzle it was nice to take a nap under a blanket after listening to some tunes, sipping a cocktail or reading a Kindle. Stewards will bring you whatever you need to eat though there is a $3 charge for the fetch n carry service as they have to go all over the ship for you. We had the best glacier views from there. The stewards kindly ejected people who strolled in to take photos or find a nice quiet spot without paying. I am a fan of the Sanctuary. We had it to ourselves for 4 days. ENTERTAINMENT I began to read one of the Princess Patters early in the cruise but the choices of things to do was overwhelming so I just didn't plan my sea days, preferring to drift along enjoying the scenery, the bars and Churchill's the smoking lounge where I spent many happy hours meeting people from all over the USA. My TC however went to many lectures on Alaska from the on-board naturalist Kathy Slamp who would do commentary over the PA system. She also attended a cooking show featuring the Swiss head chef and the very funny Maitre' D, Neville from India. This was hosted by the naturally witty Brett Siborne the cruise director who was a fun guy. I meet him during a CC Roll Call meeting early on (hosted by GweninTX) and enjoyed talking to him. I did join my TC for some shows (she saw all of them including a juggler she raved about and an illusionist I am sorry I missed). All the shows-great comedian, MOTOWN and the Crew Show were fun and well attended. The ship's show band were very good and the sound and lighting just fine. I don't expect Vegas quality on a ship and nor should you. I joined a free galley tour and the place is spotless. EXCURSIONS Not knowing if my friend would like cruising or we would ever be back in Alaska, I booked us on some excursions as I have zero interest in shopping or visiting Red Onion saloons. SKAGWAY We did the White Pass Yukon railroad and kayak tour in the rain. This was a Princess Tour and only 8 attended so we left Skagway on a coach all to ourselves and headed over the mountains to Bernard Lake in Canada (BC) for a great hour on the water, ringed by mountains. We got back to shore and onto the waiting train, riding in the caboose, just the 8 of us. Unbelievable train ride back dowm from 3,000 feet to sea level. Saw my one and only brown bear on the tracks after we had passed (more traffic savvy than your typical deer/raccoon) Exhilarating day. I walked into Skagway before the tour (15 minutes stroll) and even with 4 ships in port it wasn't crazy. Stunning setting for a town. The excursion took 5 hours and was worth every penny ( a lot of pennies) JUNEAU Rain again but after my usual two breakfasts we were off on another Princess excursion-Era helicopter flight landing on Taku Glacier. Stunning-both the flight in rain and low cloud and landing on the glacier. No other humans in sight. No sound or sight of the 21st century. Just ice 1000 feet thick for miles. Silence. Crystalline air to breathe. No Diamonds International ( I checked carefully with binoculars) 30 minutes after arriving back at the Coral to charge batteries we were picked up by a van saying Harv n Marv for an independent excursion. Whale watching!! A 20 minute drive to Auke bay where we met Cap'n Tony in a brand new boat with room for 6. Us two and a wonderful family, two adults and two teenage daughters. We bobbed about on the water, far out to sea, seeing whales one after another breaking surface and diving. Too far away for good photos. We cut the engines and drifted, chatting. There were maybe 9 other boats half a mile away,one of them holding 140 people. Suddenly a "whoosh!" as a huge whale breached by our boat. Tony reckoned the tail landed 15 ft away and the head about 40 feet distant from that. A mighty splash. No photos ! We were all too taken by surprise at the event. The other boats got on the radio to check that we were OK as we bobbed in the whale's wash. After that unbelievable encounter we headed home stopping only to view some seals lounging on rocks and some eagles sitting on their nests. Wonderful excursion-thank you Harv n Marv! KETCHIKAN We had booked a Misty Fjords float-plane flight through Michelle the pilot. Coming into Ketchikan on a beautiful 80 degree, rain-less morning, I spotted a familiar sight tied up at the dock...a crab boat named the "Cornelia Marie" known and loved by fans of The Deadliest Catch on TV. We had booked the flight to start 20 minutes after docking (you live and you learn) but there was a line of maybe 1000 passengers ahead of us to disembark so we were 10 minutes late and as a result the planned water landing on a mountain lake was cancelled by a vote as we were flying so that we could see more from the air. Michelle knows her fjords and is a great pilot. It was a fantastic 90 minute flight and we landed next to the Coral . Michelle's company is called Island Wings and I endorse this message (LOL) Princess offers an excursion in Ketchikan to Saxman totem village. That's $59 you may kiss goodbye if you are as enthusiastic about totem poles as I am (there is no instrument that can measure how little they interest me). Most of the poles have a carving at the bottom, then 20 feet of bare wood and then a carving at the top. We took a taxi independently but that was @ $16 including tip for a 3 mile ride. Taxi driver, surrounded by empty soda cups, food wrappers, old dirty laundry or whatever offered to wait for us for half an hour for $40 but we declined. Half an hour was about 28 minutes more than you need for this excursion. SUMMING UP This has been a long review. Our first cruise together and our first Princess experience. Thrilled with both. Great value for money. Beautiful ship. Superb staff. Wonderfully spacious and well-appointed cabin. Well fed and entertained all the way. We met some great people who felt the same way and will return. Even 5 days of rain couldn't dampen our spirits. Glaciers were stunning. The last two days in brilliant sunshine made us want to return even more. Disembarkation in Vancouver was painless and efficient. We were very impressed by the experience Princess is currently offering and are already looking at the Crown and the Grand for possible winter getaways to the Southern Caribbean next January. A quick shout-out to the passengers on the other ships who shared docks with us that week- Zuiderdam,Zaandam, Westerdam, Oosterdam, Celebrity Infinity, Sapphire and Golden Princess- sorry I didn't get to meet all you guys....let's do lunch sometime! Two thumbs up...each! for Princess, the Coral and Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Our vacation started with a week visiting my sister in Seattle. After a week with her and her family we flew to Fairbanks via Anchorage. We took the UB5 12 Night Classic Alaska cruisetour with 5-day land tour before boarding the Diamond ... Read More
Our vacation started with a week visiting my sister in Seattle. After a week with her and her family we flew to Fairbanks via Anchorage. We took the UB5 12 Night Classic Alaska cruisetour with 5-day land tour before boarding the Diamond Princess. Princess representatives were waiting for us at the Fairbanks airport, took us to baggage claim, and guided us to the coach. Before getting on the coach, they handed us our first envelop with our room key, luggage tags, and itinerary for the next day. Everything was well-organized and self-explanatory. They gave us envelop at every stop with all the information we needed on a daily basis, like which coach/train to take, time to put baggage out, etc. The coach stopped at Princess Lodge near the airport first and then to Bear Lodge at the other end of town where we were to stay for two nights. I don't know whether we were the 'overflow' guests or because our whole tour group was placed there for convenient. I was actually looking forward to our stay there. I have checked out the Bear Lodge on line and liked what I saw. It's part of the Wedgewood Resort which encompassed a huge campus. The room was very spacious with two queen beds, flat screen TV, a balcony, air-conditioning, coffee maker, and wi-fi access (need to get code from front desk). After cleaning up a bit we went downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. We knew that the prices for food would be more expensive in Alaska but our first dinner turned out to be quite OK for the price. After dinner we explored the grounds of the resort. It was too late to get into the Antique Auto Museum so we just went on the trail to Wander Lake. Visited the outdoor museum and had a very pleasant chat with the gentleman working there. First Day--The coach took us first to the Alaska pipeline, then El Dorado Gold Mine, and the Sternwheeler River Boat ride. Enjoyed them all! It was raining on and off but we still had a great time. Panning gold was a lot of fun but the delicious free cookies and hot coffee/cocoa melted us on a cold wet day. I thought it was quite considerate of them to give each of us a poncho for the rain. It was a little chaotic to get on the boat after a good beef stew lunch which was family style in a big dining hall at the landing. There were two boats so you really have to line-up at the right time and the right place. There were many different tour groups so it was very confusing with the different color boarding passes. It rained really hard in the beginning of the boat ride then it cleared up. We watched the float plane demonstration and the Susan Butcher's Iditarod sled dog team on the boat. Then we got off and spent about an hour ashore at the Athabascan village where we experienced traditional Native lifestyles. We also helped ourselves to the free donuts and coffee while on the Discovery. After we got back to the lodge, we took the free shuttle to Pioneer Park for the salmon bake. I really think that was a good deal for an all-you-can-eat meal of prime rib, grilled salmon, fried cod, salad, sides, and beverages. We thought the quality was very good. The park itself was quiet maybe because we were there kind of late. Too bad we didn't have time to explore it more because we wanted to catch the shuttle back to the hotel. After we got back to the hotel, DS wanted to go back to Wander Lake and take more pictures, so DH went with him. I had to get our bags ready for the next day. I had to decide what to put in the "Meet me Tonight" bags, or the "See you Onboard" bag tonight. On the second day, we took a short ride to the train depot in the morning. Our group was on the McKinley Explorer car, which was one car in front of the Princess'. All the seats faced forward instead of having a table in between so no one would have to sit backward. It was a wonderful train ride in the domed car with comfortable seats. Plug in your own headphones to listen to the music on board. Breakfast was served downstairs for those who wanted to be scheduled. For about $10 a decent breakfast was served. My only complain was that food was not hot enough for me. By the time we got to Denali Princess Lodge it was about 12:30. We quickly went across the street to the Subway, got ourselves some sandwiches and then caught the free shuttle to the Wilderness Access Center at Denali Park. We booked the park shuttle to Toklat which cost $24pp but we were charge $34 online with the park entrance fee. They had no problem to refund the $10 back to us once we showed them the Princess itinerary that we would be on the NHT the next day. Our green shuttle bus departed the WAC at 3:00pm and about 10 miles in we saw a bear! Then we saw dull sheep, a wolf, a lynx, a few caribou, a few moose, and then another bear. There were no TV monitors on the bus so you really have to look for wildlife. It was a long 6-hour ride with a couple of stops but very pleasant. We came back to the WAC around 9:15. The princess shuttles stopped services by 7:30 so we used the courtesy phone on the wall to called Salmon Bake to pick us up. They provide free shuttle services if you have dinner at their restaurant. Dinner was great at Salmon Bake. I had a huge cobb salad which was loaded with scallop, shrimp, crab meat, avocado, etc. etc. Our room at Denali Princess was on the second floor of a 500 building. More like a motel room and a bit outdated. We started our third day with the all-you-can-eat breakfast at the dinner theater building. Good value for the money ($14pp), Alaska standard. We enjoyed the movies about Alaska while having breakfast there. We got to walk around the lodge a bit before getting on the NHT bus. The NHT was about 4-hour long and went about 18 miles into the park. It was shorter but still enjoyable. The tour started with a movie at the Wilderness Access Center. Our driver/guide was Jennifer who gave us a lot of information and insights about the park. We saw moose, caribou, and sheep. We also listened to a couple of presentations at the Savage Cabin and Primrose Ridge. After we got back from the NHT, we had pizza at the Lynx Creek right at the Princess Lodge. $9.95 special for a 12-inch pepperoni pizza, long wait because they made it fresh but delicious! After lunch we got on our coach for the 2-hour long ride to McKinley Princess Lodge. On the way the bus driver stopped for us to take pictures of Mt. McKinley which was in full view on a sunny day. We were very lucky to have two sunny days to see Mt. McKinley. I really liked the McKinley Princess Lodge with its beautifully landscaped grounds and bigger, newer rooms. We decided to stay, explore the grounds, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon there instead of going to Talkeenta. Wi-Fi was available at the main lodge and can be access even out on the deck if you have your own laptop. How cool is that to have Mt. McKinley right in front of you while surfing on the internet? Dinner was at the Bear Bar which served pub food and we enjoyed the same great view of the mountains as the more expensive restaurants. We got up early on the fourth day. Put our bags outside our door before taking the first shuttle to Talkeetna at 7:30. I was surprised that the bus was full that early in the morning. I believe most people got up early for their excursions because the town was actually very quiet. We headed right to the Roadhouse for breakfast after we got off the bus. It was for the experience and well worth it. We ordered the half breakfasts and they were huge in size. After breakfast we walked to the riverbank and had the most spectacular views of the three rivers and the majestic Mt. McKinley. What a sight! After exploring the town we went back to Roadhouse and bought some pasties (hand-held pies with meat and vegetables inside) and clam chowder to-go for lunch. We took the shuttle back to the lodge and enjoyed our pasties on the deck of the main lodge. At around 2pm we got on the coach for the ride to Anchorage. The only stop that we had was the ice-cream shop where all the buses stopped. Long lines but they moved quickly. We had the Huckleberry ice cream in a waffle cone, yummy! At around 5pm we arrived at our hotel—Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage. We were on the 5th floor of building 2. It was a spacious modern room with free wi-fi and coffee maker. After a little walk to the river, which was 3 blocks away, dinner was at the Teriyaki Box across the street from Captain Cook. Food was OK and a little expensive for California standard. We walked a little around downtown until it started to rain and then headed back to the hotel for the night. Day five--we took the coach to Whittier to be on the Diamond Princess. Our driver was a lot of fun. She is actually a school bus driver who was doing the tour buses during summer vacation. I found that the drivers on this trip were all good tour guides, not just bus drivers. They provided excellent information and personal stories along the way which made the trip much more interesting. The stop at the Wildlife Conservation Center was fun, especially if you did not see enough wildlife on the previous days. She also stopped at a place where we could see the salmon run. The scenery was amazing throughout the trip to Whittier. When we came out of the long tunnel the sight of the Diamond Princess was right in front of us. Checking in was painless except the line for security was a little long. Lunch was at Horizon Court because we were too late for lunch in the main dining room. The ship was unusually quiet because many people would be arriving late in the afternoon and evening on the trains. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship and then had an early dinner at the Pacific Moon. After dinner it was time for the muster drill. Our station was in Club Fusion. They kept telling us not to put the safety vest on until the demonstration is over but many people were not listening. It was a long assembly but at least we had the comfort of sitting down. Some people were so tired from traveling long distance that day that it was difficult for them to stay awake during the drill. For some reason, our ship was delayed in sailing out. We attended the Welcome Onboard show which was fun because of the guest comedian. Diamond Princess: We had an inside cabin on the Caribe deck this time because we realized that we would be spending much money on the land tour part. We were happy with the cabin. It was spacious enough for the three of us, especially with the separated closet space. Being in the inside cabin forced us to go out to other parts of the ship instead of just staying in. Our room steward was OK, cabin was cleaned on time and adequately. Ice bucket was filled everyday. Fresh fruits provided as requested. No towel animals but chocolate on the pillow every evening. Diamond Princess is a beautiful ship with a lot of places to relax and enjoy. We liked being in the Skywalker which was usually quiet except everyday at around 4 or 5pm part of it was corded off for suite guests and VIP for their afternoon snacks. DS liked to be out and about, like the Conservatory, outside deck 7, and up the stairs to the bow for great photo opportunities. We had meals 2 times at the Pacific Moon, twice at the Savoy, twice at Vivaldi and once at Santa Fe. If there is a wait at Pacific Moon, they will give you a pager, but not at Santa Fe. They will give you a time and you will have to go back at that certain time. Services varied even in the same restaurant. One night we had a great timely dinner at the Vivaldi and then another night at the same restaurant the service was very slow. I think dining early or late would avoid the wait. The two times that we had to wait for 30 minutes or more were around 7pm. Food was excellent. I didn't have to use their always available menu and was happy with the daily choices. Horizon court was OK sometimes hard to find a table. We liked to be at the aft of Horizon Court where they use as Sterling Steakhouse in the evening. It's quieter there. We only attended a couple of shows—the welcome aboard show and the crew talent show. We also went to the guest comedian Gary Delena show at the Explorer Lounge. He was funny! I have to comment on the Interdenominational Sunday service which was lead by Romeo, the assistant cruise director. It was one of the best services that I had experienced on board a ship. It was well-organized and with substance. Ports: The first two days we cruised to Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay. We were not able to get close to Hubbard Glacier because of the weather and the icy condition. It was a little disappointing. The next day when we were in Glacier Bay we got right up close to Mergerie Glacier. It was beautiful! On the 3rd day we visited Skagway. This was our second time to Skagway so we decided to just explore the town. We had the most amazing beer chili from the Skagway Brewery. The place was actually pretty crowded so we just ordered the chili to-go. The hot flavorful chili was great on a cold, wet day. After walking around town and a visit to the public library to use their wi-fi, we went back to the ship for lunch. In the afternoon we went on a hike up Dewey Lake. DH and I only went half way and DS went all the way up. He said it was beautiful up there but it wasn't an easy hike. Juneau—We had been here three times before. Originally we wanted to take the tram up Mt. Roberts but it was cloudy and rainy so we changed our minds. Instead we walked up the hill to visit the Orthodox church and also took a free guided tour of the state capital. Then we went to the library to use the wi-fi but it didn't work on our laptops. We found the King Crab Shack that was recommended and shared a combination of crab legs, crab bisque, crab cakes, and a roll. It was delicious but expensive! Ketchikan—We took the city blue bus to the Totem Bight Park north of the city in the morning. For $2 we got the all-day pass and it was a beautiful 30-minute ride. I like this park better than the Saxman village. They also have a Firearm Museum nearby and the park is free to visit. After spending an hour there we went back to the ship for lunch. Then we walked around town in the afternoon. We had a very nice sunny afternoon here but the whole town seemed to be very quiet. Business seemed to be very slow throughout. Disembarkation was a little chaotic. First, our scheduled time was delayed for some reason. Then they called our color and number to disembark but when we went down they said they did not call our color. After we got off the ship everything was fine. Our transfer to the airport was included in the package so we didn't have to pick up our luggage until we got to the airport. All in all we had a great trip both on the land part and on the cruise. We had done the Alaska cruise 3 times before but this was our first cruise tour. I was amazed at how everything is organized and ran smoothly throughout the trip. Well done, Princess! Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
August 31- September 7, 2011 Alaska Cruise Tour Itinerary-Whittier,Yakutat Bay(Hubbard Glacier), Glacier Bay, Skagway,Juneau,Ketchikan, at sea, Vancouver. We started out staying 1 night on our own in Anchorage at The ... Read More
August 31- September 7, 2011 Alaska Cruise Tour Itinerary-Whittier,Yakutat Bay(Hubbard Glacier), Glacier Bay, Skagway,Juneau,Ketchikan, at sea, Vancouver. We started out staying 1 night on our own in Anchorage at The Courtyard by the airport. Highly recommend. We also rented a car literally 2 blocks walking distance from the hotel. We started our tour on a Sunday -The Princess reps are in the baggage area at the north end, at a podium to check you in for boarding the bus. We headed out for Mt Mc Kinley Princess Lodge for 2 nights.(you may begin boarding bus around noon until around 2:30/3pm) All our hotel information and room keys were given to us at the airport in a envelope, luggage pick up time,when the bus would leave the lodge as well as bag tags that said Join Me Onboard(we had 2 bags-1 rollerboard bag & a regular size suitcase) and bag tags that said Join Me Tonight(we had 2 bags- regular 28"/29" suitcases). We left all the bags with Princess in Anchorage except our carry on backpacks. We each carried on rolling backpacks on the bus. We made 1 stop for a break (at Miller Store in Houston,AK). We ran into a little traffic because the State Fair was going on in Palmer,AK. The bus had a restroom onboard. While staying at Mt Mc Kinley(Monday) we went into Talkeetna and went to the Sun Dog Kennels, Jerry is a 10 yr. Iditarod participant(he has finished in the top 20). He and his wife(Kathleen) and another employee run the dogs in the summer for exercise and income by giving the public, tours of their kennel. Transportation to Talkeetna takes 1hr. each way, then Kathleen & Jerry transport you by van to their kennel and home(you meet at their restaurant(Kahiltna Bistro) in town). We went early(prior to our tour) into town to walk around and eat lunch. Had a great view of the Mountain by walking down to where the 3 rivers meet,excellent photo op. The shuttle from Mc Kinley Princess Lodge to Talkeetna leaves on the hour starting at 7am. It returns on the half hour starting at 10:30am to 9pm.(no shuttle at 8:30pm. On Tuesday morning we left by bus to the Denali Princess Lodge for 1 night.(at 10am) I would recommend 2 nights here. We received our hotel envelope with keys for the Denali Princess Lodge room as soon as we got off the bus. We took the 2:15pm Tundra Wilderness Tour-highly recommend. You will get a box lunch/dinner on the bus. The bus was equipped with a 100X zoom operated by hand by the driver when stopped. this camera was great. A DVD is available to purchase by mail of your tour experience. The bus makes stops to visit the rest room.(none onboard) On Wednesday morning we boarded a bus(7:45/8am) to go to the train depot which is near the park entrance.(very short distance) We were assigned a train car and a table(this was on envelope for Denali Lodge). The first 2 cars of our train were the Gold Star car and the Mc Kinley car which were leased(held Princess passengers) and had bus type seats.(all faced forward) We had a Princess car which had bench seats for 2 on each side and a table in the middle.(we faced forward, but asked our table-mates if they wanted to switch half way through,but they were fine facing backwards) We were in the Blackburn car- in the middle of the train. We had about 7-8 cars on our train.The seats are upstairs via a small spiral staircase in a dome car. The dining car was below us. We could order food from a menu and eat in our seats, which we did for breakfast and we went down to the dining car for lunch. Each car has a "tour guide" that points out things along the way. He was very good and made the time go by quicker than we anticipated. The train upstairs had a bar area in each car. You could also order alcoholic drinks in the dining car. Each train car has a viewing platform outside on the lower level. In Wasilla,AK Princess reps get onboard and do all the necessary paperwork(passport scanning, you hand in your boarding pass, we filled out a health form, and make sure you have a credit card on file or if you wish to change the card,etc.) We received our cabin room cards just prior to disembarking the train. The reps get off in Anchorage. We boarded the ship(on Wedensday) via the train from Denali(Denali Express) about 6pm.(short walk from train to boarding area). We waited in a security line(took about 20-25min.,since we had all just got off the train) and boarded the ship. The first night is open seating for dinner in your assigned dining room,although they did not check your card,so probably can go to either one. The Patter says dinner was from 5:30pm to 7pm and 8pm to 10:30pm the first night.(embarkation day) We went to dinner after the emergency drill. We had muster drill around 8pm. I recommend rain gear and layers. We used our rain pants,waterproof shoes,rain coats, and umbrellas. We were perfectly dry. Glacier Bay Cruising Bridge Commentary by National Park Rangers can be heard on the open decks,Horizon Ct., & channel 42 in your cabin. Only 2 ships per day may enter. To hear the calving of the ice is truly amazing. Skagway I recommend taking a tour here. Not much in the town besides lots of jewlery stores. We took the White Pass Scenic Railway through Princess, the rail picks up right at the dock(railway dock aft on a map) and dropped us off at the ship or in downtown at the depot. We walked back to the ship at a slow pace,it probably took less then 15 min. Golf carts(complimentary) took us the length of the ship. There is also S.M.A.R.T. transportation for $2.00 per person 1 way or $5. all day pass to town.(we did not use this) At 5pm we saw Steve Hites a local entertainer from AK, he told poetry,story, & song.(he is onboard for this show only and then gets off the ship) We enjoyed the story of Skagway through his eyes. 1 other ship was in port with us, Holland America Voledam. Tonight was Italian night in the dining room so we went to Sabatini's. Juneau We walked(a little bit of a hike;all flat) to the Alaska State Museum, great price of $5.00 to get in. We walked from the museum to see what the AK state capitol building looked like and then walked in the shops downtown. then back to the ship for buffet lunch and then to listen to Libby Riddles-1st female Iditarod winner. Drizziling alll day. The dock is the Franklin dock not far from town. There were 3 other ships in town. Ketchikan We took the city bus(Blue line north) to Totem Bight (a wide bay) State Park, which you can catch on the same side of the street as the dock by the eagle statue or across the street from the eagle statue on the corner of Grant & Front St. facing the direction of the tunnel.(the bus makes a loop) The cost is .50 cents for seniors and $ 1.00 for Adults. The totem park is free. Takes about 20-25 min. to get to the Totems. There are approximately 14 totem poles. We then walked around the town on Creek Street(got off bus by the library after visiting the Totem Bight) and then walked around the town and ate at Annabelle's(3 kinds of chowder) for lunch on Front Street. It was raining by afternoon. There were a total of 5 ships in town. Tonight we changed the clocks 1hr. forward. By 11:30pm we were having very high wind speeds across the deck and seas stormy.(force 11) The morning of the Sea day the winds were no longer following us and they calmed down to force 5 (20 kts). Misc. We had Captain Nicolo Bommarco, CD Joseph Richard(he was ok), Asst. CD Elaine Simpson, and Ceri-Asst. CD towards end of the cruise. Hours of Horizon: 5:00am-11:30am Breakfast, 11:30am to 3:30pm for lunch,11:30am-2pm speciality buffet,3:30pm-5:30pm light snack, and 5:30pm-midnight for dinner. Bordeaux D.R. open for breakfast 7:30am-9:30am(Ketchikan day open 6:30am-9am),noon-1:30pm for lunch, 3:30pm-4:30pm for afternoon tea. 5:30pm to 10pm for Anytime dinner. The dining rooms were not open for lunch while we were in port. Our laptop did not always want to connect in our cabin on the desk, so we moved closer to the door or went to the card room and it connected every time. Still slow internet on the ship, but that is ok,we had free Platinum minutes. We tried Sabatini's for the first time on this sailing and enjoyed it very much. This sailing had approximately 41 Elite & 80 Platinum passengers. The elite,suite,& platinum cocktail & hors d'oeuvres were held in the Explorer's Lounge from 5-7pm, but they were not very well attended. Cabin D334 doesn't have a divider that opens to connect to cabin D332,but divider opens to cabin D402 if you are traveling with others. The washers and dryers were on Dolphin deck in the back by the 700 cabins.(same place on every passenger deck) The cost was $2.00 to wash for 38 min. or 58 min. to dry for the same price of $2.00. Soap was $1.25 per box. Champagne breakfast on the balcony is $32./couple. Beer Package is 6 beers for the price of 5 ($21.25) Miller Gen. Draft,Becks, Dos Equis, Miller Lite, or Coors Light. Soda package is $9.75 buy 6 for the price of 5. The room service menu seemed to have a little bit of everything on it,(we did not try it) We did the stuff the laundry bag($20.) in Juneau-give to your cabin steward before noon and we got it back on the eve of Ketchikan. Everything came bag so nice. An example of what each piece would have cost; shirts $3.00,underwear $1.00,bras $1.50, & pants $4.50. The hair dryer in the room is a First Class brand with 1200 watts, it is located by the desk with a mirror. Power is ok. Thursday cruising Yakutat Bay/Hubbard Glacier was 1st formal night. 2nd formal night was Sunday in Juneau. Saw a few tuxedos but mostly jacket & ties for the men. Women had dressy attire on. 5:45pm was first seating traditional and 8pm was second seating.(Provence D.R.) I heard there was a 5:15pm traditional as well(Patter never mentioned) We enjoyed Comedian Scott Wyler and Do you Wanna Dance and Motor City(Motown). We also thought the Princess Orchestra was great. The Ventriloloquist-Dan, guest Star Adrian, and Comedy Magician-James we did not care for. The most traveled passengers on our cruise were right from the same city as us, so we had to go introduce ourselves. they have sailed 759 days with Princess. The Lido Bar had self service hot chocolate and I am pretty sure you can get it complimentary in the dining room on AK itineraries. Coffee cards are I believe $29. + 15% gratuity for 15 speciality coffees. JUST READ your Patter(newsletter) it has most of the information you need to know. I attended the Backstage Pass on the sea day while my husband went on The Ultimate Ship Tour. The dance manager was Emma Hopkins and the Stage Manager was Mark who gave the presentation on how the theater works.(seats 662 people) We went on stage and backstage to the dressing rooms. I love this feature that Princess has. There was not a crew show on this voyage, we enjoy this. Disembarkation There are optional tours in Vancouver for those who have flights after 2pm you can take a City Highlights Tour & Stanley Park Tour and then go to the airport.(9am-11:30am) or if your flight is after 3:30pm take the City Sights & Capilano Canyon Walk.(9:30am-1:30pm) There are Princess transfer buses available to Vancouver($24. per person) & Seattle($49. per person) airports.Travel time is approximately 4 1/2 hrs. between Canada Place and Seattle airport. There were buses for flights before 11:30am and for flights between 11:30am-12:30pm, 12:30pm-2pm, and flights after 2pm to Vancouver. A bus for Seattle airport for flights before 4pm & after 4pm(these passengers met around 8:45pm in their designated areas. The process is silent,no announcements made except for in your designated lounge/meeting place. The ships power went out at about 9am and disembarkation stopped temporarily,no cards could be "dinged out". About 10-15min. later disembarkation resumed with no power, so we just handed in our cruise cards(no souvenirs). Bordeaux D.R. was open on disembarkation day from 6:30am-8:30am. Horizon Ct. 5:30am- 9am. No room service available today. We had light blue 2 luggage tags for independent passengers for a meeting time of 9:05am. We had plenty of time to catch our 11am bus(Pacific Coach) to Victoria right outside customs. We liked The Island Princess and the staff. Hope this review was informative and not too long and boring. We enjoyed meeting with our CC group on the first day after embarkation and enjoyed seeing them around the ship. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We started our Alaska adventure out of Baltimore to Fairbanks arriving 1 day earlier than the start of our tour. We were picked up by Princess reps and taken to Fairbanks lodge. The lodge is rustic but with a wonderful view. The first day ... Read More
We started our Alaska adventure out of Baltimore to Fairbanks arriving 1 day earlier than the start of our tour. We were picked up by Princess reps and taken to Fairbanks lodge. The lodge is rustic but with a wonderful view. The first day was a free day and we took the lodge shuttle to the visitors center, then a bus to U. of A. museum. The museum was well worth the trip. In the evening we had "happy hour" on the deck and ate dinner next door at the Landing on the deck. Great food and scenery. We also were among the 30% to see Mt. McKinley...actually several times! Next day we started our official tour with Princess. We did the Gold Mine trip and the Riverboat Discovery. All 6 of us enjoyed both. The weather during the entire land tour was beautiful...around 65-70 and sunny. DENALI We left Fairbanks by train to Denali Lodge. The lodge is rustic and not as nice as Fairbanks but certainly adequate and clean. That night we went to the "Music of Denali" dinner and play. I would not recommend this only because it was way too expensive ($110 per couple)and the food was only ok and the show was like a high school play. Next day we did the Tunda Wilderness Tour and had a wonderful guide -MaryJane(MJ). We saw grizzly bears-one with 2 cubs, moose, carabo, Dall sheep, fox and eagles. MJ said we hit a "grand slam" of wild life viewing. Also, we were able to see Mt McKinley again. Next day we left by train to the ship. Although the train ride was long, all 6 of us enjoyed the ride and preferred the train to a bus. Each car has a narrator, bar with bartender, and dining below. Also, 3 bathrooms in each car. We were able to move around, go outside and take pictures, read or just nap -many more options than on a bus! We were in the last car and were able to go out to the observation deck to take pictures. We had a great breakfast on the train and it wasn't too expensive. The weather up to this time was wonderful...but then came the rain! But it didn't interfere with our pleasant train ride to Whittier. CRUISE We arrived in Whittier with cruise card in hand and got onboard the Island Princess around 6:00 pm. Our luggage was already there so we unpacked and then went to the obligatory lifeboat drill. The ship is very nice for it's age although the carpet in some areas could be replaced. Our room had enough storage space but the shower curtain was a pain...too short and never stayed in place. GLACIER SAILINGS The day we sailed Hubbard Glacier was absolutely beautiful! We enjoyed the naturalist's information as we watched the calving from our "secret deck"..which is deck 10/Caribe extreme forward. Only a handful of people were there! Also, this was the day we had our CC Meet and Greet in the Crooners Lounge. It was nice to be able to put names with faces and finally meet people we had communicated with on our roll call. Unfortunately, the day we sailed Glacier Bay was overcast and a little rainy. All in all, seeing the glaciers and the calving is memorable as mother nature still is awe inspiring! SKAGWAY We did the White Pass and Yukon RR thru Chilkoots and it was great. We had a fantastic guide. Would highly recommend. It rained on an off but did not affect our tour. One of our couples did the Mushing with the dogs as an extra and enjoyed it. JUNEAU We went to Mendenhall Glacier and once again it rained. The visitor center is worth visiting as well as the glacier. KETCHIKAN It was fairly nice in the morning. We walked around and enjoyed the town. It really is a neat little place. We went to the LumberJack Show and it started to rain. However, the seats are stadium seats with a cover. We all enjoyed the show. The second part of our excursion included the Totem Pole State Park. Thankfully, our driver had umbrellas for each of us because the it was pouring. We would have appreciated and enjoyed the park more if we weren't battling the pouring rain. FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT All 6 of us thought the food in the MDR was great! I can honestly say, not one of us had a bad meal. We ate in the Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse one night and it was delicious. All that got the fillet thought it was one of the best steaks they ever had. We love the shows onboard and went to all the production shows which were good. The comedian was funny and the ventriloquist amazing. We went to the casino most nights and made our deposit...no one in our group won. Since this trip was mostly seniors, there were very few people around after 11:00 pm! But one night there was a party in the atrium with the staff and we loved dancing to the great music and watching the staff relaxing and having fun. SERVICE Our room steward Isabelita was very good although she would stand at our door and wait for us to leave! We felt like were were affecting her "schedule". But, she did do a great job with our room. Our MDR waiter and asst waiter were wonderful. Alejandro and Marco made a great team and always with a smile. INTERNET I bought 100 minutes for $55. Although the internet was a little slow, it was a great way to keep up with family while at sea. The internet manager could be a little abrasive...just my opinon. VANCOUVER We opted to stay one night in Vancouver at the Pan Pacific. The hotel is so convenient and is really upscale. The six of us wished we had booked another night or two! Vancouver is so pretty. We did the HOHO bus and got to see quite a bit of the city. We ate at The Water St Cafe which was fabulous. FINAL THOUGHTS No one does Alaska like Princess. Although this was only our 4th Princess cruise out of 17 (we actually prefer RCCL) Princess did a fantastic job. We loved that we did not have to worry about luggage once we arrived in Fairbanks. (except when going to next destination) We loved the train, and all the sights and beauty of Alaska. The lodges were rustic, fun and clean. The ship was in good shape for it's age and most of the staff was friendly and seemed happy. We met so many wonderful people from all over. Most passengers were so pleasant and polite. We feel so lucky that we were able to experience Alaska and Vancouver. The six of us ranging in age from 55-67 had a truly wonderful trip. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Background..Myself, my sons ages 23 and 19, my brother and my Mom (age 82) all with backgound in cruising ranging from 3 to over 20 cruises. We were traveling with a group of 39 people who have lost a firefighter in the line of duty. ... Read More
Background..Myself, my sons ages 23 and 19, my brother and my Mom (age 82) all with backgound in cruising ranging from 3 to over 20 cruises. We were traveling with a group of 39 people who have lost a firefighter in the line of duty. Survivors who have met through the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. We arrived in Anchorage (barely) on July 30 after our flight from Newark , NJ. It was a very long flight with a stop over in San Francisco. We stayed at the Comfort Suites on International Dr in Anchorage. Good for one night..... On Sunday We checked our luggage at the hotel and took a cab to the Market and did some shopping. Back to the hotel to get on our way for our land tour. Land Tour...........we arrived back at the airport to catch the bus to the McKinley Lodge. We were the last bus so we had to wait for late arrivals. note to all...if your package says your bus is at 3 you can arrive anytime after 12 for the bus...wish we knew that. Off we went, driver stopped about half way so we could get ice cream. Arrived at McKinley.... Very foggy and rainy. Got settled in our room, had a drink and went to bed. Breakfast and then we learned our flightseeing tour was canceled due to the weather, made back up plans and went into Talkeetna and did shopping and lunch followed by the Jet boat Wilderness Tour. We saw bald eagles. It started to rain again, back to the Lodge for dinner at 20320, started off with hot chocolate...LOL.I guess you have figured by now.....we did not get to see Mount McKinley..Back to the room as it was off again early in the morning for the Denali Princess...We arrived, went to our rooms, took the trolley around the resort and then across the street to buy sandwichs at Subway for our Tundra Wilderness Tour which left at 2:30. It was awesome..........we saw moose, grizzly bears (about 8 incluing mama and her 2 cubs, dall sheep, caribou.) My trip was made!!!!!! Back to the resort at 10 ish for a cocktail and then off to bed.....as our land tour has ended............ Off to the train depot......We left on time, our group had the back half of a car. The scenery was awesome. I found the seating to be very uncomfortable for a 9 hour trip. No way could you take a nap.....LOL. We ate breakfast at our table upstairs and went downstairs for lunch. We went for a walk (up and down) through all the cars and came across a car that had regular train seating with seats that reclined. A problem we encountered was it was quite chilly in our car, I wore a sweatshirt the entire time....other cars I walked though were very toasty. Once again the rain started again, arrival in Whittier in the cold, damp pouring rain. We walked to the ship. It was nice to know that once we unpacked that was it for 7 nights!!! We had balcony cabins on Baja 637 and 607. The weather finally got somewhat better, however we couldn't go to see Hubbard Glacier, too foggy and too much ice in the water. Food......We ate all breakfasts in the Horizon Court and was very happy. We ate one lunch in the dining room, the rest in the Horizon and I found I had to supplement 2 lunches with pizza as I couldn't find much to my liking...no problem though, the pizza is delicious. We ate all our dinners in the anytime dining restaurant. Only had to wait on the last night for a table (over 30 minutes) as everyone wanted to eat at 6:30.....LOL I found the service to be slow with anytime dining, we were there most nights anywhere from 2 hours to 2 1/2 hours. I learned my lesson that when traveling with a group maybe traditional is better so we could all gather and find out how everyone's day was. The food I would say was good to very good..... Entertainment....I went to the first production show, "Do You Want to Dance" I was disappointed as it was singing and dancing to back up music on a CD, I prefer a live band. I saw the ventiloquist who was enjoyable, the magician in my opinion was a whack o...if I had been sitting on the end I would have walked out. I also went to see Adrian Zmed who put on a entertaining show with the dancers and singers. I thought the Crew Talent Show was awesome...they all sang with the live orchestra.... Naturalist...I went to a few talks and of course listened to his commentary while cruising the glaciers. Skagway...I booked an independent tour with Dyea Dave. Eleven of us from our group were in his van, the other people who booked went with Debbie. The trip was awesome and the weather cooperated. He showed us some sights in town, once we were headed out on the highway we saw a black bear cross the road. We made several stops for pictures and history of the area. We stopped in Carcross to stretch and shop a bit. We stopped for lunch at a cute restaurant where you must follow what the owner says...LOL. I can't spell her name but don't touch her pie plates....LOL. My brother went to take one as he was sharing the 2 samdwiches he bought with my Mom and he just about got his hand slapped....LOL. We then went on to Emerald Lake, turned around and made several stops back along the way. We came across some bikers who had stopped for a bear, watched him for quite awhile. Dave is and "Elk" and so was one of our group so when we got back into town some of us went to have a drink and a tour at the Elks Club. did some quick shopping and back to the ship. Juneau....I booked another independent tour with Orca for a whale watch. I think 13 of my group went. I seemed to be using the word awesome alot. We saw quite a few whales. Back into town and some of us went up in the tram for a visit to shop and eat lunch. Ketchikan....My family and I, minus Mom got off the ship early and went shopping and for a walk up to Creek St. Back on the ship for lunch and then on to the Bering Sea Tour. We truly enjoyed it. A must if you are traveling with kids as we got to hold shrimp and crabs. Lots of photo ops. I would love to do another Alaskan cruise someday, I want to flight see, I want to see Mount McKinley, would love to see more whales, however at his time I need to think about the warmer seas....and beaches...... BTW I made 3 stops in the casino... 1... put $50.00 in the $1 Wheel of fortune, walked out with $125.00 2. put the $75..00 in walked out with $50.00 3. put another $50.00 in and walked out with $545.00. I hit for $500.00 and took the money and ran . Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
We enjoyed this cruise. They did a great job of getting the ship up close and personal at the glaciers. The land portion, Fairbanks, Denali and McKinley, was great especially the Tundra Wildlife tour at Denali. Had a great gold panning ... Read More
We enjoyed this cruise. They did a great job of getting the ship up close and personal at the glaciers. The land portion, Fairbanks, Denali and McKinley, was great especially the Tundra Wildlife tour at Denali. Had a great gold panning tour at McKinley, not your packaged, warm water, amusement park tour but a real trip guided by a real gold panner. The Alaskan ports are just large jewelry stores but the scenery in between and around the ports is spectacular. Wildlife tours give a great view of animals not in a zoo. On our cruise, the photographer were very pushy and obnoxious. Kept us waiting in the rain taking embarkation photos. Food and food service on cruises had declined over the years. One down point is the Vancouver Airport. With two ships arriving, the lines for luggage retrieval, airline check in, luggage check in, security and customs were long, long. We arrived 4 hours before flight and needed most of that. But go on a Princess Cruise, you will enjoy it. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
My sister, brother in law and I have just returned from the best holiday I have ever had,over two weeks on a mainland and cruising tour in Alaska with Princess Cruises. Why was it so brilliant? Alaska itself is simply stunning. Huge ... Read More
My sister, brother in law and I have just returned from the best holiday I have ever had,over two weeks on a mainland and cruising tour in Alaska with Princess Cruises. Why was it so brilliant? Alaska itself is simply stunning. Huge landscapes, pristine wilderness, soaring mountains, unbelievable ice blue glaciers , incredible wildlife. It was such a privilege to visit "The Great Land" and Princess did an impeccable job of organising an amazing range of tours to cater for a wide range of interests. All the tours were so efficiently run that you never felt worried that you would end up stranded or miss the ship. The first week we spent travelling from Heathrow to Seattle (ovenight stay), then Anchorage (overnight stay) by coach to the Mt McKinley Princess Lodge , where we stayed two nights , then on via train from Talkeetna to the Denali Princess Lodge for two more nights , then finally on to Whittier where we picked up the ship. We covered a lot of miles in that week, and loved it all! What can I say about the highlights? Anchorage Museum - incredible if you are interested in First Nations history and Art, the Princess Lodges themselves - Mt McKinley Lodge is beautiful, and we were lucky to see the Mt McKinley summit peak clearly, shining white in the early morning sun. Loved the 5 hour Three Rivers Jet boat trip on huge ,wide wilderness rivers - just awesome!Talkeetna was great, and we enjoyed a fabulous wagon ride complete with cowboys and huge horses, panned for gold and had very close mouth to mouth encounters with caribou! Denali National Park was the highlight - we were lucky to book the nine hour bus trip into the Park, and the landscapes of multi coloured striped mountains and vast braided rivers were incredible. We saw wolves, caribou, a grizzly bear and we came back with fantastic photos. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to see the heart of Alaska. Even the school buses were fun -the only vehicles allowed in the park, squeegie mops provided for passengers to keep the windows clean since there is no tarmac road. The Alaska Railroad was marvellous -excellent views from panoramic railcars of hundreds of miles of the most stunning scenery. The final journey down to Whittier to meet the ship is fabulous ,those amazing blues where mountains, glaciers , snow and ice meet the the sea. And then we saw the Diamond Princess waiting for us , white against the mountains and sea. Boarding was quick and easy and soon we were exploring the ship, which we all loved. Our cabins were on Caribe deck and we were delighted with the double balcony and plenty of space . My cabin steward Joseph was a delight - nothing was too much trouble. We had breakfast every morning in Sabatinis - food was plentiful and beautifully prepared. We ate every evening in the International Restaurant - superb service, wonderful food , brilliant!Our waitress Merila was fantastic- we were upset to say goodbye at the end of the cruise , she was so lovely! Adored the ship, we are all working out how to sail on her again. We were so sad to see her leave Vancouver without us on the day we disembarked. We all feel a real connection to her now and check the bridge webcam to see where she is every day. We did some excellent shore trips , one up the White Pass to the Yukon from Skagway,- we ended up at Caribou Crossing in the middle of nowhere= hilarious!! ! Al;so a highlight was whale watching with Allen Marine from Juneau. We were so lucky to see a pod of orcas hunting , though it was upsetting when they finally killed the seal they had been using for twenty minutes as bait for the two young calves in the group to learn how to hunt. Also saw humpback whales ,seals, sealions and lots of bald eagles. Unforgettable! Ketchikan and Skagway are fun, really quaint and lots to see. But the really most memorable days were on the ship visiting Yakutat Bay and Glacier Bay to see the most spectacular glaciers. Imagine a green blue sea filled with floating ice everywhere, dotted with seals , eagles and other seabirds , and then approaching a 300 feet high cliff of ice which is the face of the Hubbard Glacier. Pieces of ice are constantly falling from the face, - just magical. If you haven't been to Alaska , then go! It is truly unique. I would go again in a heartbeat , and a few people on our cruise said they were returning for the third time! If I am lucky enough to return to Alaska, it will definitely be with Princess for a repeat of this trip. And I hope to catch up with the Diamond Princess soon! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We have cruised several times on several different lines (Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival) and were looking forward to our first trip on Princess. We were blown away with the fantastic itinerary and excursions, but must admit to ... Read More
We have cruised several times on several different lines (Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Carnival) and were looking forward to our first trip on Princess. We were blown away with the fantastic itinerary and excursions, but must admit to being disappointed about Princess in general. We did the 3-day land tour followed by a sailing from Whittier to Vancouver in July 2011. The Land Tour: Pros: Well organized, properties very nice, the tour guides friendly and pretty knowledgeable. We did a 2-hr river guide ride (booked through the Lodge) and flightseeing/glacier landing (booked through a private company - TAT) in Talkeetna along with breakfast at the Talkeetna Roadhouse (not to be missed if you are in the area - the cinnamon rolls are AMAZING and all the portions are ENORMOUS - pancakes literally hang over 10-inch plates and the toast looks like it is on steroids). Cons: Would have preferred food be included in the base cost even if the base cost was increased- we quickly tired of the $15 breakfasts and burgers. Regarding the Denali History tour, I was told by my TA and later Princess when I called them directly, because of our arrival time, we couldn't book the longer tour. When we arrived; however, people who were on our same bus had tickets for the longer tour. The air conditioning in our rail car on the way to the ship broke 3 hours into the trip, which made for a very long remaining 6 hours. The Cruise on Diamond Princess: Pros: Nice layout, clean, great itinerary, and awesome shore excursion options. We did the Yukon Pass train in Skagway (booked thru the ship), in Juneau we did whale watching via a private company (H&M) and sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier via Helicopter (booked through the ship) and in Ketchikan we took a floatplane tour with all-you-can-eat crabfeast in a private dining room at George Inlet Lodge (also booked through the ship) Most of the on-board staff seemed very nice. Enjoyed the park rangers being on the ship as we cruised through Glacier Bay. Cons: Room steward service left a bit to be desired. The plate with the remnants of our welcome chocolate-covered strawberries stayed in our room for 1.5 days until we finally got tired of looking at it and set it outside the cabin. Our champagne only had ice in the ice bucket the first night; it was never checked or refilled again the entire cruise. These are a couple of things to me that are "no-brainers" and I didn't feel that I should have needed to "ask for ice in the bucket" with the bottle sticking out of it right in the middle of our suite. Anytime dining was anything but. We arrived the second night at 5:45 and were told unless we had reservations, the wait would be 45-70 minutes. Reservations for "Anytime" dining defeats the purpose of ANYTIME dining. When I tried to call the next day for "reservations" I was told the earlier seats were again taken but I could have a reservation for 8:15. As a result we ate most of our meals in the Horizon buffet, which were okay but not what we were expecting to do. The couple of times we did eat in the dining rooms the food seemed to be the same options for each night and the service was slowww---several times I had to find someone simply to refill my water or take away my dishes. When we took pictures, some of the photographers were very pleasant but others seemed to be counting the time until they were off work. We like to have a couple of pictures from our cruises that don't look mass produced yet when we asked if we could "try this" or "try that," we could see the irritation in their eyes (and we made sure there was not a line when we asked). Some finally agreed to our requests but we felt it was an extreme imposition for them to accommodate our request and that they were doing us a favor...but seriously, at $25 a pop, who is doing who a favor here? The Sundaes ice cream station was simply horrid - hard, horrible tasting ice-milk....the ice cream offered in the dining room was much better. We were delighted to see the ship had a number of hot tubs, but disappointed when so many of them were closed during the cruise. A couple of days were so warm people were out by the pool yet I believe it was closed a fair amount as well. The Piano "Bar" we have experienced on other ships was much different than the one on the Diamond. This one appeared to be a regular seating area with a piano stuck back in the corner...no stools that sat around the piano, simply regular chairs arranged like you would see in any of the other seating areas around the ship, some facing the piano and others facing the opposite direction. Post-Cruise Once we arrived in Vancouver after the cruise was over, we stayed overnight so we could take in some of the sights but we had to arrange for our own transportation back to Seattle. Transportation was only available if we left the same day we disembarked the ship - EVEN if we purchased their optional post-cruise Vancouver tour...wow. So in the end we booked our own room in Vancouver at the very same hotel Princess wanted to book us at for $150 less. We then used the savings to purchase business-class tickets back to Seattle on the Amtrak train, cab fare to the station and breakfast on the train. That ended up being a nice relaxing trip back to the states....Why couldn't Princess have done the same thing for us? Take these issues one by one and they may seem insignificant to some, but to us they added up and equaled a really disappointing experience (and trust me, I kept giving them the benefit of the doubt because I really REALLY wanted to be impressed with them). All of the tours, both those booked through Princess and the ones we booked on our own, couldn't have been more spectacular. The scenery was breathtaking, service exceptional and we were not disappointed in the least. But the rest? We couldn't help but wonder if Princess thought because their itinerary was so great and people were going to book because of it, they could afford to provide less-than-stellar service. We received better service on not only Holland America and Royal Caribbean but even extended Carnival cruises...and they seem to have a reputation of being "party" ships. You can reach us with any questions at lookforus@bellsouth.net. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Those who bash the Diamond as old and dingy are "glass half empty" folks. The ship is a gleaming jewel of the sea, with plenty of different venues to satisfy every taste. Since we were coming off a 4-day land tour, the Princess ... Read More
Those who bash the Diamond as old and dingy are "glass half empty" folks. The ship is a gleaming jewel of the sea, with plenty of different venues to satisfy every taste. Since we were coming off a 4-day land tour, the Princess train dropped us off at 6pm right at the dock. There was only a 15minute line thru security and we were up in our room in no time. Our large bag was already in our room, since they took it the first day of our cruisetour. Our carryon bag arrived a few hours later. We had a balcony cabin on the Aloha Deck 12. It is the highest balcony on the ship and overlooked the open balconies below. The only negative was that at times we could hear chairs being moved on the Lido deck in the Horizon Buffet room. I would probably move down to deck 11 if I returned for that reason. Had the late 8pm traditional dinner seating in the International Dining room. We lucked out and sat with 3 other lovely couples who ranged from late '30's to early '60's. Everyone was very friendly and shared their daytime excursions at the table.Had only 2 breakfasts there and 2 lunches, since we had excursions in every port. The Horizon Buffet was OK, decent for lunch and good for breakfasts. The entertainment was above average with magic and comedy acts, several dance reviews, a pop singer and international revue. Formal nights were slightly dressy, with about 20% in tuxes, 60% in jackets and 20% in either dress shirts or golf shirts. The maitre'D only refused 2 men who dressed in jeans and sneakers, but they were not thinking or didn't care about the atmosphere. Saw one movie under the stars during mid afternoon and the weather that day was sunny in the upper '60's. Also used the Internet Cafe for about 30 minutes on the pay as you go plan, spending about $15. It was fairly empty and I was able to get on right away. The scenic glacier cruising was awesome - with Hubbard Glacier first, then Glacier National Park the next day. Both areas gave us great panoramic views of the huge ice fields and bergs floating in the bays. The first stop on our southbound trip was Skagway-Haines. We took the cat ferry over to Haines and took a private excursion with Joe Ordonez' Rainbow Glacier Adventures. My wife and I were the only cruisers on the trip so we got a really personal tour. Jennifer, our guide, picked us up at the dock in quaint Haines. It is a small cozy village with only a 3 block downtown, unlike bigger Skagway. We took a van over to the Chilkoot Lake for kayaking for about an hour. On the way we stopped and watched a female brown bear and her 2 cubs strolling along the riverbanks. The lake was like glass, with tall waterfalls cascading down from the high peaks surrounding the lake. Then we drove over to a nearby bay and hiked around the shoreline for another hour, then stopped at her house for a nice homemade lunch. The experience was very intimate and personal, with Jenn giving us a firsthand description of the area since she is a local. Her personality just added to the flavor of the wild. Next stop was Juneau, where we did the Princess Photo Safari Whale Watch and Mendenhall Glacier tour. It was much smaller than the standard whale watch trips, with only 12 people on the van. We stopped at the Glacier first and walked around the lake, shooting photos. Then we hiked thru the forest and spotted a black bear eating salmon on the riverbank. Took several shots of him too. Next we got in a large Zodiac raft with outboard motor and took off for humpbacks. Saw over dozen whales in the bay, tails and bodies splashing on the surface. That was an incredible sight, seeing the big beasts cavorting in the water. Our last port was Ketchikan, a down-home funky Alaska village. There we walked along Creek Street in the morning on our own, stopping in some local shops. Even walked by Dolly's House, the local madame who invited us in for a price!!! Our excursion was with Island Wings with Michelle the pilot and owner. They picked us up at the docks and drove to her seaplane. Unfortunately, the visibility was poor and our Misty Fjords trip was cancelled. Still, she offered us a chance to go on a bear-watch trip to Traitors Cove and Margaret Creek Fish Hatchery. We took a 20 minute floatplane ride to the island. Then after a 10 minute van ride, we walked thru the forest to the platform. There we saw a big black bear feasting on salmon. He was there for over 30 minutes and we shot many pix. The flight back was smooth and carefree, even though my wife was initially scared, she was pleasantly surprised at how easy the ride was and worryfree. Michelle offers a personalized trip and she cares about her customers. Debarkation was fairly smooth with a slight delay. But we had decided to stay overnite at the Pan Pacific Hotel after getting a great deal on travelzoo. com. We had an upper floor room overlooking the harbor, Lionsgate Bridge and the seaplane base. It was an incredibly stunning vista. Took the Trolley tour thru Stanley Park, got off and walked around Granville Island, with its charming art studios and public market, where we had a great chinese lunch. Then hopped on the trolley back to our hotel. Had dinner at the Lift Restaurant, on the harborfront near the westin bayside hotel. Took a taxi to the airport for about $40 with tip, since we had luggage with us. Air Canada was OK, the best thing is that they DO NOT charge you for the first checked bag. All in all, everyone should go to Alaska once in their lives. It is a wonderful land, unlike anything else in the lower 48.... Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
My husband and I decided to take a cruise tour to Alaska for our 30th wedding anniversary. I'd been squirreling money away for this for several years, and I didn't want to be disappointed. I saw an advertisement for Holland ... Read More
My husband and I decided to take a cruise tour to Alaska for our 30th wedding anniversary. I'd been squirreling money away for this for several years, and I didn't want to be disappointed. I saw an advertisement for Holland America, but when I started to do some research and found out that Princess has five lodges around Alaska, I looked into that. My husband was not interested in a cruise, and I wasn't really, either. We usually go to national parks to camp and hike for our vacations. However, I really wanted to go to Denali, ride a glass-domed train and see nature. It turned out the best way to do this is through a cruise tour. We saw Denali and so much more! We arrived in Anchorage the day before our tour was to begin and stayed at the Comfort Inn Ship Creek. It was tourist season, and there were some grumpy travelers, but I guess that is to be expected. The warm chocolate chip cookies soothed some nerves. We got in late and asked our shuttle driver where to go for a bite to eat. He suggested the Snow Goose which is the home of Sleeping Lady Brewery. The appetizers were quite good, but the beer was amazing! I had a delicious porter, and my husband had what he said was the best I.P.A. he's ever had. A group of German tourists at the next table each had Alaska-sized slices of New York Style cheesecake. When in Rome! The next day, we walked through town, had lunch and another amazing beer at the Snow Goose and bought an Ulu knife at the Ulu Knife Factory close to our hotel. We then took the shuttle back to the airport to start our excellent adventure, although it actually started in Anchorage. At the airport baggage claim area, we found a Princess Cruise kiosk and they directed us to the area where our cruise tour kiosk was. A suggestion I have is to thoroughly research the Princess cruise tour site on the Princess Homepage. They cover everything you need to know. If you are computer shy, ask your travel agent to help you find out as much as possible, or call the toll free number for Princess. These people are there to make our trip as pain-free as possible. We had an enjoyable motor coach ride up to the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. Our driver was entertaining and knowledgeable. The lodge was gorgeous! We are officially members of the 30% club because we actually saw the mountain. It was breathtaking! We made reservations for the Mountain View Restaurant and then took a quick hike around the lodge after settling into our room. The room is like what you would find in a good motel, but we didn't expect luxury. We weren't there to spend our time in the room. The food at the Mountain View Restaurant was quite good. My husband had the Alaskan snow crab and I had salmon. My highlight was the Alaska Gin martini. Wonderful! If I had room in my suitcase, and I was sure it wouldn't break, I would have taken home a bottle of Alaska Gin. The next day, we went on a wilderness hike. Our guide, Freddy, said that the destination is the hike. So true. The views were beautiful. The hike was a little challenging: 2.25 miles up and 2.25 miles down. But once we got up to the top we had a jaw dropping experience: the vast mountain range, including Denali (Mt. McKinley), with not a cloud in the sky. We became members of the 10% club! The food is quite good at the lodge. We had sourdough pancakes (with or without wild blueberries) for breakfast and more casual food at the 20,320 restaurant. The prices were reasonable. My husband was pleased to find his cognac wasn't priced the same as what he paid at a fine hotel in Chicago. The next day we boarded a coach for Denali Princess Lodge. It was interesting to see the change in the topography: fewer and more stunted trees and softer ground. This lodge is nestled in a canyon. The buildings are closer together and there are other restaurants across the street. After settling in, we had lunch at the King Salmon Restaurant. It had charming ambiance and the food was good. We went on the 17 mile Denali National Park tour since we were there for one night only. We saw two caribou up close and some astounding views. People we met later who were at Denali for longer went on the 53 or 92 mile trips and saw much more wildlife: wolves devouring a caribou and grizzly bears. When we returned, we went to a pizza place at the lodge which sold pizza by the slice. Great pizza and beer. The next day was our nine hour train ride to Whittier. It was long, but I couldn't take my eyes off the scenery. We saw a trumpet swan family, a black bear, and the changing landscape. The lunch on board was quite good, and the guide was entertaining and informative. In Wasilla, they let on Princess representatives who checked our passports and took our boarding passes. We were checked in and would receive our room cards as we left the train. Very efficient! As we walked to the ship from the train, I turned to take one last look and saw a bald eagle fly over the train. Good tidings! The first evening we explored the ship, practiced the safety drill and had a late dinner in the Bordeaux dining room. A very charming woman from Birmingham showed us the finer points in ordering from the menu. We could have as many or as few servings of any course as we wanted. Fortunately, the portions are very sensible so we felt fine having an appetizer, soup or salad, entrEe, and dessert. They also have spa cuisine which is lower in calories, fat and sodium. I found myself choosing those items often because they just looked more interesting. My husband and I are adventurous eaters, and we had a wonderful time trying things we've never had before. We thought the food was excellent, but it's important to know that they cook for all types of eaters. We had elderly sisters-in-law as table mates. One who would eat anything new and the other who would rather stick close to what she knew. One of them related a story worth sharing: she was having breakfast in Horizon Court, the buffet with the glorious view, and wanted salsa to go with her eggs. There wasn't any. She asked, and someone in the kitchen immediate made a batch of fresh salsa which they brought to her. She was flabbergasted and impressed. So were we. We had dinner at Sabatini's one evening which was excellent. The waiter was charming and very attentive, but our waiters in the Provence dining room were equally charming and attentive. Our visit to Glacier Bay National Park was a highlight. I never knew glaciers were blue! We saw a glacier calve and seals resting on icebergs as they floated past the ship. In Skagway, we hiked two miles up in a national forest then took a float trip down the river. We saw more eagles just sitting in the trees high above us. Our guide, Jessie, was great and knew how to manipulate the raft so we could see everything around us. Go to the Skagway Brewing Co. Great I.P.A. and halibut fish and chips! In Juneau, we hiked four miles round trip at Mendenhall Glacier. It was beautiful and later at the visitor center we saw a female black bear who has been hanging around that area for a few years. The salmon were spawning, and she was getting ready for winter. They had a steel reinforced boardwalk where we could view safely. Our guide, Robina, wore Wellington boots because it does rain a lot. Be prepared and bring a rain jacket. We wore ours every day we were in port. In Ketchikan, we went sea kayaking. Loads of fun, and something we've never done before. At one point, a bald eagle dove down to grab a fish right next to another couple's kayak. It was fun for all! I slept extremely well. It was nice not to feel pressured. Our room was always tidy when we returned. Thank you Eugene! They had afternoon tea from 3:30 to 4:30 everyday which we appreciated since that is important to us. We went light on the scones, though, since our dinner was scheduled for 5:30. We went to a cooking demonstration, a tour of one of the galleys, and a wine tasting. Great fun! They had entertainment every night, but we would sit in the Crooners Martini bar, have a cocktail and people watch. One evening we stopped in the library to watch the ocean and were delighted to see whales breaching. I usually pooped out early after all the excursions, but my husband would go to the Churchill Lounge, have a cigar and cognac and visit with others. There was so much to see and do. My husband can't believe how much he enjoyed the cruise portion, and I've started squirreling money away for the next one! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
My wife and I just completed a 10 day land /cruise vacation on the Coral Princess. We did three days on land prior to boarding the ship in Whittier and sailing south to Vancouver. We started in Anchorage and then took the Princess motor ... Read More
My wife and I just completed a 10 day land /cruise vacation on the Coral Princess. We did three days on land prior to boarding the ship in Whittier and sailing south to Vancouver. We started in Anchorage and then took the Princess motor coach to Mt. McKinley Princess lodge and then up to Denali Princess lodge. HUGE TIP: If you are doing a land/cruise trip and your land package is first, you should pack luggage for three days of land, and the rest for what you will need on the ship. This was a big issue when we were at the Anchorage airport checking in to be transferred to Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. There were several people that did not know that this was an option (including us.) When I spoke to a representative with Princess, she said that there were a lot of people trying to resort their luggage at the last minute so they would not have to take all of their luggage to the lodges. Princess would take your "cruise luggage" directly to the ship. This would have been very helpful to know when we were packing at home. Nowhere, did we read this before we left. Great concept...just make it known so people are not re-packing thier bags on the floor of the airport. McKinley Princess lodge was very clean and had a wonderful deck with breathtaking views of Mt McKinley. We were very blessed to have absolutely PERFECT weather when we arrived on July 20, and also July 21st. There was not a cloud in the sky and the mountain was gorgeous. We stayed in building 20 and enjoyed the walk both morning up to the main lodge. It is not that far and the grounds are very pretty. The first night we ate at the Mountain View restaurant with yet again great views, and the food was very good. The second night we ate at the 20,320 restaurant. The food was good, but Mountain View was better, in our opinion. Different type on menu for each. Mountain View is more "fine dining" and 20,320 more casual. In the reviews that we had read, people are correct in the fact that there is not that much to do at the lodge itself. Enjoy it for what it is, and venture out to enjoy some excursions. We booked all of our excursions on our own by researching Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic. The relaxing deck and views at the lodge are spectacular. We went over to Talkeetna for the day on the the shuttle (50 minute ride) and had a wonderful time walking around this little town. We ate breakfast at the Roadhouse and lunch at Mile High Pizza Pie. Try the reindeer sausage at the Roadhouse. Another tip for the Roadhouse...order half orders instead of full. the pancake were huge and looked very good. Mile High pizza was excellent, and you can order by the slice. Sarah was our hostess and she was very polite and attentive. Todd the owner came over to us to visit and was very polite. They have a great area to sit outside and people watch, enjoy some pizza and have a beer. In Talkeetna we were fortunate to take a scenic flying tour and glacier landing. OUTSTANDING!!! Again a lot of this had to do with the perfect weather that we had for this day. We flew with Talkeetna Air Taxi ( Brad was our pilot ) and I have nothing but positives to report with this company. Highly recommend. I will post a picture of what we saw on Trip Advisor under "Perfect Weather". The trip on the motor coach to Denali Princess Lodge takes about 2.5 hours. Very pretty country all the way up, and we had a knowledgeable driver that told us about a lot of the what we were actually seeing. We were in building 10 (one of the newer units) at the Denali Princess and enjoyed our stay here as well. Again, huge decks with wonderful views of Denali National Park. There were a lot of people sitting out enjoying a glass of wine and the views. Very relaxing! We had read several reviews about the two lodges that we stayed in that made us a little apprehensive. The key word here is that they are "lodges". They were both very clean, with comfortable beds, and more than adequate amenities. You are in Alaska, not downtown Chicago at the Ritz. Yes, there is a strip of commercial shops etc., across the street, and a Subway. Hey, you can eat at Subway every day when you are home. We went to the Salmon Bake for dinner and had a great time. Alaskan menu and priced well. The character of this place was very rustic and unique, with a lot of fun people enjoying good food. Souvenir tip: If you are looking for a ULU knife, we found that you can spend well over $100 for more exotic handles and blades. We found ours one of the gift shops across the street from Denali Princess lodge near the Salmon Bake. Watch for ones that say "made in China" on the box. The ones that we bought were "made in Alaska" with birch wood handles and have a quality blade. $20 a piece. We have used it several times since coming home, and love it! Time to leave Denali and head for Whittier. The motor coach takes about 7-8 hours...the train takes longer. We had a full size motor coach ( capacity ~52 passengers ) and only has 11 people on board. This made for a very relaxing trip with yet another informative driver. We made a stop at the Alaskan Veterans Memorial, the Iditarod Headquarters in Wassila, (very interesting and worth the stop) and spent 1.5 hours in Anchorage having lunch and walking around downtown. We ate at Humpy's and had an excellent hamburger with local micro brews. The place was packed at 1:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday and the locals said that it is even more crowed at night. Worth the visit! Walk around...the flowers downtown are gorgeous! Once we were on the ship we had a couple of days at sea. Our first day we were attempted to see Hubbard Glacier. Unfortunately the Captain had to make the decision to turn around before we reached the glacier. The weather was very poor with heavy drizzle and thick fog. It was disappointing, but understandable when you attempted to look forward. The fog was thick! Our second day at sea we where in Glacier National Park. At first light we thought that we might have another really bad weather day. But it cleared enough for us to see some amazing glaciers. Margerie Glacier was incredible. One mile wide and 250 feet high! We witnessed some incredible calving. The key here is to be patient and watch. Calving can happen at any moment. Tip: The Coral Princess videographer films the entire stay at Margerie and the sell the DVD for $39.95 individually. So, if you have a great day of calving, you may want to consider buying. The food on the Coral was good. Not great, but good. We must agree with the other reviews that we have read about the Horizon Court, predictable buffet food. This is an area for improvement Princess. We did not try the specialty restaurants this time around. The dinners were good, but the deserts disappointing to us. The pizza on the Lido deck was predictably really good! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This was our 15th cruise with Princess, but first to Alaska and first on the Diamond. We normally book a balcony or mini-suite but for this cruise opted for a less expensive option and booked an ocean view obstructed cabin as it did not ... Read More
This was our 15th cruise with Princess, but first to Alaska and first on the Diamond. We normally book a balcony or mini-suite but for this cruise opted for a less expensive option and booked an ocean view obstructed cabin as it did not seem likely that sitting on the balcony in a coat would be particularly to our taste. Being familiar with Princess ships we knew that there would be multiple inside viewing areas that would allow spectacular views, in particular we thought that Skywalkers would be a great place to view the scenery from and that assumption was correct. fortunately very few other people thought of this and typically there were only a handful of people using this massive space. We booked late and were unable to get our preferred Traditional fixed seating dining option. Our experience with Anytime dining was generally excellent. No issues with accessing a dining room at our preferred times as we generally made a reservation the day before or early in the morning, this also allowed us to get a table for two with no difficulty. We did miss the personal relationship that you can develop with your waiter when using Traditional fixed seating and for that reason we will likely return to traditional dining option for future cruises. On our anniversary we opted to dine at Sabbatini's, first time we have ever used one of the alternate dining options, the food and service were both exceptional. We had a table for two right beside the window so it made a perfect setting for our special occasion. The entertainment was generally excellent. We have seen most of the Princess production shows multiple times but they are always somewhat differently staged and of course the performers are different. On this particular cruise the shows were outstanding primarily based on the strength of one of the lead singers, Tracey Dawdy, who was an absolute powerhouse. Amazing range and handled all the different genres exceptionally well. I suspect that she has an acting background as she displayed a range of powerful emotions when singing that added to the production. A great change from the usually talented singers who simply 'stand and deliver', she didn't just sing - she preformed! We used ship booked shore excursions at all three ports and found them to be of higher quality than usual. We had exceptionally knowledge and personable guides/drivers on all three. Skagway we did the full day White Pass & Yukon Railway excursion which visits the Yukon. Went for a dog 'cart' ride at Carcross which was a highlight for my wife, not so much for me! In Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier and Garden Tour and in Ketchikan the Saxman Village and Totem Pole Park. We will definitely cruise again with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Itinerary: 5 days land tour from Anchorage, Mt McKinley, Mt Denali, ending in Whittier. 7 days cruise through the Inside Passage, visiting Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, arriving Vancouver on July 16. ... Read More
Itinerary: 5 days land tour from Anchorage, Mt McKinley, Mt Denali, ending in Whittier. 7 days cruise through the Inside Passage, visiting Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, arriving Vancouver on July 16. We flew Air Canada from Toronto to Anchorage, with a 2 hour lay-over in Vancouver. We arrived in Anchorage around 1:30pm. I was expecting someone from Princess Guest Service to meet us. No one came so we took a cab to Hotel Captain Cook ($25). Once we got there, we were sent from Guest Registration to other part of the hotel, where a Princess Guest Service table was set up. A Princess tour bus soon arrived. I am almost certain that we should have been picked up by the same tour bus, because our room keys and our tour tickets were on that bus. We found out later that the Princess Guest Service desk was set up in Baggage Claim area 3, and our Baggage came out in area 5. So if you book a Princess Land Tour in Alaska, look beyond your area for their Guest Service desk. They won't look for you, and they won't meet you at the point where you get off the plane. We were on our own that afternoon. We visited the Anchorage Museum and took a Trolley Tour around town. The museum is on C Street, within walking distance of the hotel which is on K Street (0.6 mile from hotel, 11-12 minutes walk). The Trolley Tour started on F Street, next to the Visitors Centre (look for a log cabin). Admission to the Museum costs $12/pp, while the Trolley Tour costs $15/pp. The Museum is open from 9am to 6pm every day and until 9pm on Thursdays. Being 4th of July, it closed at 5pm that day. You don't need to rent a car for most out-of-downtown attractions because so many places run free shuttle, including Alaska Wild Berry Park, the Ulu Factory, and the Alaska Zoo. You don't need to sign up for any Princess Excursion for this first day. There is much to do in downtown Anchorage. We had dinner in Simon & Seaforts on L Street, which is expensive but very close to the hotel. We had Alaskan king crab, which was very good but the Salmon Chowder was very salty. On the second day, we boarded the Princess Coach to Mt. McKinley Lodge. We love the Lodge. It is comfortable, with lots of place to sit and lots of great lookout points. We stayed in Building 20 and our room was very spacious and clean. It seems recently renovated. We booked two excursions: Devil's Canyon Adventure on a jet boat where we went right up to the rapids, and Sun Dog Kennels where we rode a dog-sled through the woods. Both excursions were a lot of fun. On the fourth day, we traveled to Princess Wilderness Lodge in Denali State Park. This Lodge looks like a university campus. We stayed in Building 10. Although the room is also clean and roomy, the whole Lodge doesn't compare to Mt. McKinley. It is much commercialized. Across the street, there are lots of shops and some restaurants including Subway and a restaurant called Salmon Baked. We had lunch at Subway but did not try Salmon Baked. This restaurant was built on permafrost. Over the years, due to lack of repair and maintenance, it is now all crooked and tilted to one side. We checked out the menu and decided not to spend over $100 for dinner in a shabby and noisy restaurant like that. We ended up dining in King Salmon, inside the Princess Lodge. Prices were reasonable but portion was small. Ambience was great with good view of the mountains. We did not see much wild life inside the Denali Park, just a porcupine and the backside of a moose. The Denali Natural History Tour, included in the Cruise Tour package, was unimpressive. Bring a jacket with you. It gets cold up there. We were also not impressed with the Music of Denali Dinner Theatre. The show was sub-standard, and the food was average. We shared our table with 2 other families, and they did not pass down the food for the first half hour of the dinner. The waiters and waitresses doubled as the entertainers. So they were in a hurry to clear the table. We felt very rushed. We could have better dinner somewhere else for $110, with a lot less stress. The most memorable part of this tour was the Denali Express train ride from Denali to Whittier. Don't bother taking a book with you. Have a good night sleep and enjoy the ride. We were on the "Goldstar" car with the famous dome-ceiling. Dining room was right below and their price was very reasonable. There was an observation deck at the back. We had a fantastic tour guide called Lane and he was very articulate and knowledgeable. Bring extra key and luggage tag with you. On this land tour, you'll be asked to send your luggage ahead of you to the ship. On the final trip to Whittier, there is very limited space on board of the train to store your luggage. We sent our 1st luggage to the ship from Mt. McKinley, and our 2nd luggage from Mt. Denali. When we reunited with our luggage on the ship, someone has stolen one of our luggage tags. The plastic tie was still intact, just the tag was missing. Remember that your luggage was left unattended, outside your room for an extended period of time. Don't leave anything in the outside pockets of your luggage unless they are secured with locks. We boarded the ship around 6:30pm. The emergency drill was scheduled at 8pm, and first seating dinner was rescheduled to the time right after the drill. We did not go to the dining room that night. We just went to the Horizon Court. Hubbard Glacier The water was very still, very cold here, with lots of floating icebergs. The ship could not get very close to the glacier. We stayed in our balcony and experienced total serenity and solitude. The scenery was unbelievable. Glacier Bay Fun and excitement happened in Glacier Bay. We saw humpback whales, breaching and diving. We also saw calving of the whole ice shelf. We got there around 3pm. So make sure you are on deck around that time. Skagway Don't miss the White Pass Scenic Railway tour. The train actually came right to the pier. Sit on the left side of the train; you'll be rewarded with wonderful scenery on the way up the mountain. Juneau People went whale-watching in this port. We did the same thing and witnessed one of nature's greatest spectacles: bubble-net feeding. This is a feeding technique used by humpback whales. There were at least 15 - 20 humpback whales that day. They dived below a school of herrings. Then one blew a ring of bubbles while another whale released a deafening "feeding call" which apparently confused the fish and caused them to school tightly and flee upwards in the water column. The whales followed with their mouths wide opened, engulfing the now concentrated prey. This happened over and over again, well over 30 minutes. We were totally absorbed. We spent more time than we expected in the whale-watching segment so the time allotted to the Mendenhall Glacier was very short. This Glacier is huge. Someone spotted a bear cub up a tree but the mother bear was nowhere insight. I was told that in August, there'll be a lot of bears in this area when the Salmon arrives. Ketchikan This town is known as the Salmon Capital of the World. We bought our smoked salmon from a place called Salmon etc. Their salmon is the cheapest around the pier. The Alaskans smoke their salmon till it's cooked, then canned them or packed them in foil pouches. They are flaky but not as salty. They are different from the salmon slices sold in Costco. About Coral Princess This ship is still in good shape, very spacious, with lots of place to sit and people watch. It has gross tonnage of 92,000 tons but 1970 passenger capacity only. I did notice the difference. There were always seats available in the Princess Theatre. We didn't need to go there 30 minutes ahead of the show. Food on board was OK, not great. Soups were always too salty. Steak ordered medium rare always came out well-done. If you have high blood pressure, stay away from the soup and order salad. Caesar Salad was available every night in the Dining Room. Some people told me they found better food in the Horizon court. Out of the 7 days, we tried the Specialty Restaurant (Sabatini's) once. It did not disappoint. I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass and my husband ordered the Lobster. The Sea Bass was light, fresh and cooked just right. The pasta was great as well. There is a $20/pp surcharge for this restaurant. The Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse was hard to find. It is actually located right besides Sabatini's but somehow we missed it all the time. So we did not try it. Breakfast in Horizon Court was boring and repetitive. Fruits served were mostly watermelon, honeydew melon and cantaloupe. Sometimes there were oranges, apples and banana. Diced strawberries could be found next to the waffles, in the morning only. This is the area Princess cut back the most. It is just not the way it used to be. Entertainment was sub-standard, except for the Magic show by illusionist Gaetano, with his beautiful assistant Heidi from Victoria B.C. The Princess Singers and Dancers were particularly bad. We found better singers in American Idols. Spa I highly recommended the sea-weed wrap on the waterbed, followed by a deep tissue massage. It completely rejuvenated me. I did not try their Thermal Suite since this is a very short cruise. Embarkation/Disembarkation This was the easiest ever. We were given our cabin card on board of the train which took us right to the pier. Half an hour later, we were in our cabin. Disembarkation was also very well organized. People no longer congregated in the Atrium. Each group was given a different public room to wait in. Since we are Platinum members, we were given a special lounge to wait in, with tea, coffee and pastries on the side. We were instructed to get there before 8:30am. At 8:45am, we were off the ship! Hotel We stayed in the Pan Pacific for two nights after the cruise. The porter at the pier helped us with our luggage and took them all the way to the hotel (3-5 minutes walk). The bell boy there checked in our luggage, gave us a claim check, and we went up to the Lobby to register without our luggage. Since it was only 9am in the morning, our room was not ready. So we just pre-registered and went on to tour the city. The hotel called us around 3:15pm to let us know that our room was ready for us. When we got back to our hotel, our luggage was in our room. It was a smooth and stress free experience. I only experienced the same service before in Tokyo. Skytrain (Waterfront station) is 3 minutes walking distance from the hotel. There is a Airline check-in kiosk in the Internet Centre located in the lobby. We checked in the night before our trip and printed our boarding pass. There is no complimentary shuttle to the airport. Cab fare costs $30-35 one way. The Skytrain will take you to the Airport as well. One zone fare is $2.50/pp but it is not available until 7:30am on the weekend. In summary, we had a wonderful time. We enjoyed the ship even though some area was hard to get to. Our mini-suite seems a little bigger judging by the size of the couch. Bed was comfortable but not the pillows. They were either too high or too low. Shower curtain stuck to our bodies when we showered and was most annoying. The closet was adequate; and there were enough drawers and shelves to accommodate all our stuff. Our cabin steward was efficient but cold. Headwaiter Ronard was exceptional. He must be the hardest working Headwaiter we had ever met. Our table waiters were friendly and efficient, and never mixed up our order. Future Cruise Sales Consultant on board (Aska) was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. If you have never done the Alaskan cruise, you owe it to yourself to do it at least once. We did not want to give up two weeks of Ontario summer to go to a place where we would need to put our jackets on. But God blessed us with wonderful weather. We only had two rainy days out of 15 days, one in Ketchikan, and one in Vancouver. If you can afford the Land Tour, do book it with the cruise. You will not be disappointed. Although the food was not as good as it used to be (except on Chef's night), we found the services on Princess have improved significantly. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I would like to start by extending my utmost appreciation to all of the members of CruiseCritic who post reviews and advise on everything from ships to excursions. Without you I would have not know anything about my trip in advance.I ... Read More
I would like to start by extending my utmost appreciation to all of the members of CruiseCritic who post reviews and advise on everything from ships to excursions. Without you I would have not know anything about my trip in advance.I called a TA that advertises in the newspaper to which I subscribe out of Jackson, MS to ask about an Alaskan cruisetour in May 2010. She sent me a quote on both Princess and Holland America. After opening the quote I had to look twice at the numbers, WOW. I just wanted to go on vacation during the summer of 2011, not buy a car. After some research on CruiseCritic and the Princess website I decided to change the ship from the Diamond to the Island. This decision saved some $$$, and after reading the reviews I felt the Island Princess would be a better fit. I decided not to tell DW and surprise her with the trip at Christmas. After much research I changed my booking to the EB4 CruiseTour starting in Fairbanks on July 2 and sailing from Whittier on the Island Princess on July 6.Several months before the cruise I finally was assigned my stateroom which was what I booked an AF minisuite. I booked this because it was the lowest category with a full size bathtub. I was pleased when I found out it had a fully covered balcony.On Christmas Eve you can imagine my excitement to watch as DW unwrapped the camera and binoculars that I bought to sort of help announce the trip. The first words from her mouth after seeing the binoculars were "I'm going to Alaska".Closer to the beginning of the trip I received and upgrade to an AA minisuite. I was pleased but wanted to make sure I still had a covered balcony, a must for me in Alaska. I was assigned stateroom B227. Immediately I checked and yes it had a covered balcony. The only difference between the AF and AA rooms was location that I could tell, so the upgrade was great but would have not been an upgrade if I had lost my covered balcony.During the next several months I researched almost every day on CruiseCritic about shore excursions and everything I could find about the ship. Thanks everyone!!!On June 27, the Monday before our journey that we had both been preparing for such a long time, DW had a one car accident and totaled her car. She felt fine after the accident so the trip was still on.On June 30 we finally leave on the one and a half hour trip to Jackson, MS to spend the night before our flight the next day. The SleepInn near the airport allowed us to park our vehicle there for the duration of our trip for free.Once arriving in Jackson I realized that I left our camera on the counter at home. Since it was already 12:30am I decided not to make the three hour round trip home to get the camera but to find another one. I am now going from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart at 1:00am trying to find the camera that I would want to take to Alaska. I was not going to go to Alaska without a camera. I finally found a Nikon Coolpix L120.The next morning we flew to Seattle and Princess had made arrangements for us at the Doubletree near SeaTac airport. The hotel was very nice. We ordered room service that evening and it was to be one of the best meals of our trip. We ordered a salmon and lobster chowder that was wonderful.Later that evening I noticed that I had a voicemail from my TA. She informed me that she had received a fax from Princess and they had upgraded us to a premium suite. A PS suite number C701. I again was grateful but immediately looked to see if the balcony was covered. It was partially covered so I was happy. This cabin amounted to a seven category upgrade from what I originally booked and paid for. THANKS PRINCESS!!The next morning we flew to Fairbanks to start our journey. It was raining which is what we were prepared for. We received our first envelope from the Princess personnel which included our itinerary and our room key for the next two nights. After waiting and waiting we noticed that we were still one bag short. The makeup bag!! Alaska Airlines told us that the bag should be on the next flight and they would get it to us as soon as possible.The Fairbanks Princess Lodge was very nice and our room was large with plenty of room. That evening we had dinner at the Edgewater Dining Room. We found this meal to not be up to the standards that we expected from Princess. The crab legs were very good, but the rest was not so good.The next morning we start early with a gold mine tour. This was a unique experience and one that we were glad we did but would not do again. After that DW was in a good bit of pain from her accident and went back to the lodge. I continued to the riverboat cruise which was quite nice. We enjoyed a husky dog sled talk from the husband of the late Susan Butcher which was very nice and we had time to explore the Chena Indian Village.After returning to the lodge DW was feeling a bit worse and in a lot of pain. We took a cab to tour the Fairbanks Hospital Emergency Room. The staff there was very friendly and helped her very much. We found out that she had mussel tears in her chest. She felt better and so we continued with our journey.I phoned the airlines to check on our lost bag since we were leaving in the morning for Denali. Still no luck but they said they would reimburse us for anything that we had to purchase because of the delay. We then went to Fred Meyers to purchase makeup and some other missing things.The next morning we awoke very early since we had to have our bags out by 6:00. The bags were to be marked with tags that read follow me or meet onboard. We were allowed one bag each to follow us to the next lodge. While tagging these bags we noticed the missing bag had suddenly appeared. Neither of us had noticed it the night before even though we completely unpacked and repacked to make sure what we needed was following us to Denali.The trip to Denali on the train was very nice. We had breakfast on the train which was very good. We sat across from a very nice couple who were on the trip celebrating their fiftieth anniversary. The weather was cool and partly cloudy. We had wonderful commentary on the train with the staff pointing out several things of interest.Once we got closer to Denali we received our next envelope with our room key. Princess has this process worked out very well. Once we arrived at the lodge there was no waiting to check in. We went straight to our room. Our bags arrived within ten minutes.Late that afternoon we ate across the street at the Salmon Bake which was recommended on CC. It was very good. That evening we booked the Husky Homestead excursion. We rode a bus to the home and dog camp of Jeff King. Jeff has ridden in the Iditarod 22 times and won it 4 times. His presentation was very entertaining.The next day we left early on the Tundra Wilderness Tour. I highly recommend upgrading to this tour from the Natural History Tour. The weather was spectacular and the scenery was great. We could see Denali (Mt. McKinley) in the distance. Yes, we are now in the 30% club!! During part of the trip the road had a drop off of about seven hundred feet to the valley floor. We saw several caribou, bear, sheep, eagles and several other wildlife. The commentary from our driver Bill was great.That night we decided to have dinner in the lodge's restaurant King Salmon. The meal was very good.The next morning we were up early again to catch the train for our nine hour trip to the Island Princess. Again, we had breakfast on the train. The commentary was very good during this long train ride. The weather was great. We had several chances to see Denali in all her glory. The view was spectacular. The commentator even commented that he had never seen the mountain so clear. We were seated with the same couple and enjoyed chatting about what we had done and were planning to do.We stopped in Talkeetna and picked up a Princess representative who scanned our passports and checked us into the ship. We received our envelopes that had our stateroom keys. About 4:30 we went around our last curve and saw our awaiting ship the Island Princess. Once arriving we only had to go through security which only took a few minutes. Since we had our room key we went straight to our awaiting suite. The suite Caribe 701 was amazing. It had a separate whirlpool tub and glass shower. The double balcony had two reclining chairs along with two other chairs and two tables. The suite came with flowers, a mini bar setup, free laundry and dry cleaning, and free internet. I had pre ordered internet minutes before we had the upgrade and once I asked I received a full refund in the form of a credit on my shipboard account. Our luggage was waiting on us when we arrived in our room. Soon after we met our cabin steward Andrei. Andrei was very helpful throughout our entire voyage. He would go out of his way to help us "Escape Completely". We immediately took advantage of the free cleaning and pressing service. We used this service several times during the week.We opted for anytime dining and the first night were seated with a very nice couple and two ladies. There were several complaints from the table about the food. DW and I thought our dishes were good, however, throughout the cruise she commented that the food on Royal Caribbean was better and she was surprised that the food was not better than it was on Princess. We noticed a flyer on the table advertising a wine tasting the next day. Our waiters asked if we wanted to come ($25 fee) which we declined. The gentleman sitting with us was drinking wine so every person who passed our table asked him if he wanted to come to the wine tasting. It was so frequent that it became the joke of the table. Very high pressure sales we thought. I asked the head waiter if I could be put on the list for the chef's table which is something I really wanted to do after reading about it on CC. He told me I would be good to go. Great!!The next morning we wanted to have breakfast in Sabatini's, a perk for suite guests. We instead slept late and ordered breakfast from the expanded suite menu. We found it to be very good, even the coffee.We had scheduled a couple's message at 1:00 and DW wanted a manicure and pedicure. The message was great. We both felt relaxed afterward. I tried to get to know the ship while DW was getting her other treatments.Later that afternoon we arrived at Hubbard Glacier. The glacier was spectacular. Even though it was cold we enjoyed sitting on our balcony enjoying the view. Each time we heard the naturalist speaking on the intercom we turned our TV to channel 41 and raised the volume to be able to hear her on our balcony. Throughout the cruise the naturalist was very good at pointing out whales and other wildlife.The next morning we were scheduled to enter Glacier Bay at 9:00. We ordered the Champaign Balcony Breakfast to be delivered at 8:00. We enjoyed the breakfast very much. We had mimosas while enjoying the beautiful scenery. We saw several whales while entering Glacier Bay. Again the weather was cold but only partly cloudy. A beautiful day.We had lunch in the Horizon Court when I noticed that now you do not serve yourself. I later learned there was a virus outbreak onboard. I spoke to someone in Crooners that evening who knew someone who was quarantined to their room.The next morning we had scheduled the White Pass Railroad booked through Chilkoot Tours. DW was not feeling very well so I went on this excursion alone. I had booked the 7.5 hour Yukon bus and rail trip. We rode the rail to Fraser BC and then boarded a small bus to Carcross. We had lunch at Caribou Crossing which consisted of BBQ chicken slaw and baked potato. The meal was pretty good. We had about an hour to explore and pet the dogs that were there along with goats and other animals. We then boarded the bus to return to the ship. I recommend booking through Chilkoot instead of the ship mainly because of the size of the bus. We were aboard a bus that only sat 25 people. The driver would turn around anytime someone spotted wildlife. We saw three bears, one that was on the side of the road and actually crossed behind us.That evening we chose to have dinner at Sabatini's (since it looked like breakfast was not going to happen). At the time they had the old menu which for me was a real treat. I ordered the Sea Bass and DW ordered the Lobster. The waiter suggested that if we could not make it through all the courses we might want to skip the soup and salad which we did. First he served us six cold appetizers followed by six hot appetizers. We were then served two pasta dishes. The main course followed which was wonderful. We did not even want to attempt desert. The meal was very much worth the extra $20, but if you plan on going, GO HUNGRY!!The next morning we arrived in Juneau. We had a full day planned so we were off the ship by 7:00 and met with our guide from Harv and Marv for our whale watching tour. This tour was great. The weather again was cold but sunny. We were on a small boat with only six people and the guide. Once we saw the huge boat carrying over 100 people that was offered through the ship we were very glad we booked through Harv and Marv. We immediately saw three humpback whales and were about 150 yards away. Later we witnessed about eight humpbacks bubble netting which the guide said was a sure treat. This tour was AWSOME!!We returned to the ship just in time for our next tour. I had wanted to book a helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier through Temsco but was unable to get the desired time. I booked the trip through Princess. To my amazement once we arrived it turned out that Princess actually uses Temsco for this tour. After watching a safety video and putting on snow boots over our shoes we boarded a helicopter bound for the glacier. The flight was awesome. Once arriving we met with our musher and each person took turns standing in the back. The weather was spectacular. Some of the staff on the glacier were actually wearing shorts and tee shirts. This tour was well worth the hefty price tag!!Later that afternoon after returning to our cabin I was informed that there would not be a chef's table during this cruise. I was informed that we were the only two people signed up for it.We had plans to eat breakfast in Sabatini's the next morning before going on our excursion in Ketchikan. Again, sleeping got in the way of our plans. We had scheduled a float plane tour to Misty Fjords with Island Wings. The view was absolutely spectacular. We landed in one of the lakes and got out and walked around on shore and took pictures. This was the only time during our trip that we had a problem with mosquitos. We had brought spray from home but of course left it on the ship that day. They were awful. While we were there another plane landed in the water but only let the passengers walk on the floats and did not come to shore. We were told that was one of the planes booked through the cruise line. I am definitely glad I booked this with Island Wings. The pilot and owner Michelle was great. I definitely highly recommend this tour!!Once returning to the ship we had our second couple's message scheduled. This message was definitely different than the first. We were both told that we had knots in our mussels. We hurt for several days after this message. After the message we were had to endure high pressure sales from the masseuse for over $300 each of oils that we "needed". After repeated saying no we finally were able to leave.The next day was a day at sea. We needed this after so many early excursions. Again, we missed Sabatini's for breakfast. Maybe next time if we are upgraded again. We saw our first show that night. It was the comedian and he was very funny. I also caught the adult magician later that night and he was funny also.The next morning we were able to sit in the Wheelhouse Bar awaiting for our color tags to be called for disembarkation. Disembarkation went very fast. We had our Canadian customs forms filled out and it went very smoothly. We boarded a bus from Vancouver to Seattle. We were waved through at US customs so we did not have to stop. The trip took about four hours and our driver Patty took us direct to the Hilton after dropping passengers off at the airport.That afternoon we took the light rail and monorail to the Space Needle. Dinner there was very good. You do not have to pay to go to the top if you are having dinner. Reservations are required.The next morning we flew home. I took a total of 2903 pictures during this trip so I am glad I did not go without a camera. Would I cruise Princess again? ABSOLUTELY!!!!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
My wife and I took the Island Princess south from Anchorage on July 6, 2011. This was our 6th cruise but first on Princess. We found this ship to have many of the same features of ships on RCI,Celebrity and Norwegian. If you like those ... Read More
My wife and I took the Island Princess south from Anchorage on July 6, 2011. This was our 6th cruise but first on Princess. We found this ship to have many of the same features of ships on RCI,Celebrity and Norwegian. If you like those cruise lines' ships of 2 to 3 thousand passengers you will feel at home on the Island Princess. This ship is a little smaller though, but we didn't think that hurt our enjoyment. We had a balcony cabin on deck 11. It was fine except its shower was probably smaller than any of our previous cabins. We are average size people and had not an inch to spare. The cabin also had no couch, just a basic chair instead. The bed was comfortable,hot water was quick,hanging space more than adequate and we heard no noise from other cabins. Food was usually good (some excellent) and service mostly good. We ate in the main dining rooms every night. Breakfast on a ship is a favorite part of any cruise for me especially in the main dining room and this did not let me down. We did not eat in either of the two specially restaurants but heard grumbling about the length of the three hour dinners in the Italian room. A definite strength of this cruise was the entertainment. The singers and dancers and the comedian in the main showroom were probably the best we have had on a cruise. The comedian's routines were a little on the adult side because his overall topic was adult relationships, but it wasn't filthy. In general this ship seemed to have more entertainment choices than others we have been on. My wife had one of the Spa's combination treatments for a reduced price which was offered one day. She says it was worth the lower price, but full price? Few reviews mention the casino on any ship. We played in this one almost every night and some days at sea. A few of the video poker machines have good pay tables. The penny slots were fun and profitable enough so we felt we got our money's worth. I played live poker at the one electronic poker table. They offered some tournaments as well as live games which usually started about 9 p.m. and went until about midnight. The players were a blend of casual players (some who were new to poker) and a few experienced, better players. Players were all friendly. This ship had almost no announcements on the intercom and that left some people not aware of info that was found in the written sheets. The ports all offer interesting excursions but we just took one...the train ride in Skagway to the top of the pass. We enjoyed the scenery and the narration. Getting off in Vancouver worked well. They even ran ahead of schedule! The cab to the airport was $33 American plus tip. In summary, we won't hesitate to take this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Where to begin. After spending a year planning this trip, I have to say that knowledge, research, and planning pay off. It was great to know what we wanted to see, and to seek out the best ways to experience this beautiful state and ... Read More
Where to begin. After spending a year planning this trip, I have to say that knowledge, research, and planning pay off. It was great to know what we wanted to see, and to seek out the best ways to experience this beautiful state and coastline. Land tour: We had a guided land tour, spending a night in Anchorage, 2 at the McKinley Princess Lodge, and 2 at the Denali Princess Lodge. It was important to spend 2 nights there to be able to see more of the national park, without the limitations of travel on the second day. On arrival at the lodge, we had lunch in the informal restaurant. The food was very good, and the service was fine. We were fortunate to view the peak of Denali for about a half hour. I found it interesting how people come to work in Alaska from so many places, and stay (in-season) year after year. The rooms are adequate, and the grounds have a retreat-like atmosphere. This was great for resting after busy travel-time. My husband loves ATV's, so we did the four-wheeler adventure the first morning and had pure fun. The owners and guide were locals, and it was great to learn about the flora, fauna, and lifestyle. All of the gear and rain protection was provided, and if I can learn anyone can. We drove through a few streams, along rough paths, and the guide set a pace that was doable. It was a small group, and very manageable. We then took the shuttle into Talkeetna for lunch. It is a quaint town. We ate at the Roadhouse, sharing our table with some locals, and trying the waitress's recommendations for food and local brew. The peanut butter balls came highly recommended, and served as a carry-out dessert as we continued to enjoy the town. The Denali Arts Council has an open air art show on weekends. It was nice browsing through some of the artisans booths and choosing a couple items as gifts. We were disappointed that our flightseeing tour with glacier landing was cancelled due to weather, but glad that the air tour companies there are honest and safety-concious. We departed the next morning for the Denali Princess Lodge. We went to the Music of Denali dinner theater with friends and our tour group, and it was delightful. The food was picnic fare and served family style (all-you-can-eat). The performers had wonderful voices, and it reminded me of a very good high school musical. :) The pianist had played on Broadway, and set the tone during dinner with great, familiar tunes. The next day was busy, starting early with the Tundra Wilderness Tour. We saw a lot of wildlife, and the driver/guide did a great job with the videography for those who may not have the best view. She would stop if wildlife was spotted, and stay until everyone had their fill. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous, and alone worth the trip. After supper, we went on the Husky Homestead tour, delighted that Jeff King picked us up in the van from the lodge. I highly recommend this experience for people of all ages. It is so much more than a "pet the puppy" experience, although you receive a puppy as you step off the van. You learn about the Iditarod from the master. It is great to learn how he trains for the race, prepares and cares for the dogs, and of his passion for the lifestyle, He still does many of the presentations himself. Highly recommended. He has written a book, artwork by his wife, and they have both signed them. I had them personalized for gifts, and had someone take our picture with Jeff to make it even more personal. Great guy, and an honor to meet him. The next morning we were off in the domed train to Whittier. It is a long, beautiful ride. Lunch on the train is reasonable, and they have you sign a wait list during busy seating times in the dining car. They also had some items they served in the domed area. Princess staff came aboard prior to arrival at Whittier, checked passports and boarding documents. Prior to arrival at Whittier, they give you everything you need for boarding, so you are on the ship straightaway on arrival. We had a wonderful balcony mini-suite on the end of the mid-ship bumpout. Our daughter had arranged for chocolate covered strawberries, and they were there on arrival. The balcony was smaller, but the view was exceptional! We spent a lot of time there, just admiring the scenery. After all, that is what we came for! The mini suite bathroom has a full tub, which is a great plus according to those who have just the shower stall. There was plenty of storage and closet space, room for the luggage under the bed, and a safe in the room. The steward service was very good, and we could count on the cabin being serviced twice daily. The Princess Patters arrived the evening before for the following day, so that is great for those of you who love to plan life aboard the ship. The webcam channel (42) played classical music, and the naturalist or staff would announce wildlife or other special sightings. It's a great reason to keep your balcony door open for the ambiance and information. My husband loved the buffet. (He is a buffet lover, so in his heaven). I had to make him dress up for formal night to celebrate our anniversary, and have a picture pouring at the champagne waterfall event. (I always wanted to do that). The photo came out so good, I bought it. We ate at the Anytime dining restaurant three times. Service and food was always good, and I tried caviar and escargot for the first time. I also had the pizza twice which was good. We had the champagne breakfast one morning and it was tasty, and too much food for 2 people. We lost a little bit of money in the casino, but we only brought what we could afford to lose. We pre-purchased an internet package and got extra minutes doing it that way. Very few problems with internet access although it was slower that what you probably have at home. But that was expected. The internet cafe manager was very helpful. The library area and card room have good areas to read a book or play a game, while viewing the scenery. The Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) were generally simulcast on TV for you movie lovers who don't want to brave the elements/cool air. You can always stop by and get some popcorn, and a couple blankets to take up to your room balcony.(we did) I have to say there were people in the pool/hot tub most of the time (not us). Being on the ship was our down time, so we didn't fill it with shows, activities, etc. We enjoyed the view. Speaking of views, there were great areas on baja deck (and others also) fore and aft for viewing. Brave it and go out those doors. Absolutely wonderful, and a great way to meet the few people who know about them. :) We did the Ultimate Ship Tour on the morning of the final sea day. It was wonderful to learn more about how the ship and it's crew work and live. It was an honor to meet the captain, see the bridge, the production area, the galley areas, the engine control area, the area where they dock the ship from. Everyone was friendly and informative. There were tasty treats and drinks presented along the way. Later in our room, we received plush bathrobes, chefs jackets, and photos of our tour group with various staff from areas we visited. Well worth the "excursion" price for the 3-hour tour. One word to describe Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier...AWESOME! Find yourself a front row seat and enjoy some of the most spectacular views you've ever witnessed. We were fortunate enough to see calving, seals floating on the icebergs, sea otters, gulls, whales in some of the entrance areas... I wouldn't have missed a moment of it. They pilot the ship so both sides can view the areas, and speak to wildlife that they note. While in Skagway, we really wanted to see Emerald Lake, so went with Chilkoot Tours to take a van ride up, eat a BBQ lunch at Carcross, do a fun little dogcart ride, and then ride the train back from Fraser. This could easily be done by driving yourself in a rental car, or with other vendors also. It was wonderful to see all the scenery, get good photo opportunities, and learn about the history of the town, gold rush, characters, and the trail. In Juneau we took the MGT bus out to Mendenhall Glacier. Absolutely beautiful, especially the icebergs floating in the water. There had been a recent historic event with some flooding near the glacier that we were able to learn more about through staff talks and photos. The visitors center is a great place to visit. We didn't have time to hike, as we then went with Harv and Marv's on a whale watch. Binoculars were provided, and the captain did a great job. The smaller boats with 6 or less passengers was appealing to us, but the whales will be there despite the size of the boat so it doesn't make a difference. All of the tour companies know where to go, and how to find the whales. We were fortunate enough to witness a group of humpbacks bubble netting. Quite a happening, and better than the best fireworks I've ever seen. In Ketchikan we wanted to go to Anan, and Dave with Family Air had permits for the day. He did a nice job piloting his floatplane through the misty areas to the entry area for Anan Wildlife Observatory. This was the highlight of our trip. We hiked along a 1/2 mile boardwalked path with many steps into the observation deck area. Get your camera ready. Honestly, you don't even need binoculars...the bear are that close. You may even meet them on the path on your way back and forth. The ranger briefs you on what to do should you encounter a bear. There is a second ranger at the deck. Bear would come within feet of the deck, including moms with cubs. We were fortunate to see both black and brown bear with cubs, countless eagles, and bear catching salmon in the stream...awesome, like I said before. We were able to be there for 3 hours before needing to make the hike back to the entry to meet Dave again for the trip back. So, our experience was fabulous and meant to be once in a lifetime, BUT I can think of many other things I'd like to do should we see Alaska again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
This is a summary of our trip; an extended version with LOTS AND LOTS of photos can be found here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1461935 Our family consists of my husband's 70-something parents who enjoy ... Read More
This is a summary of our trip; an extended version with LOTS AND LOTS of photos can be found here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1461935 Our family consists of my husband's 70-something parents who enjoy cruising often, and his 43 year old brother. We are middle aged couple from Texas with two daughters, 11 and 14 years old. We arrived two days early in Fairbanks for our Cruise Tour. We stayed two nights at Pikes Landing Lodge (booked on our own) and two nights at the Princess Riverside Lodge. We rented a car for the first few days which gave us the freedom to drive around the area. We visted Chena Hot Springs, the Museum of the North, and North Pole. We enjoyed the Discovery Riverboat and especially the recreated Native Alaskan village. Our bus ride to Denali seemed to go very quickly as we enjoyed the scenery. We did the included Natural History Tour -- for us, the 5 hour trip was just about right and we enjoyed the tour driver and the interpretive rangers. The Lodge is beautiful and flowers are abundant everywhere. We did the Music of Denali Theater -- plentiful family style food and corny humor. (Small children would probably find this tedious and not understand the storyline.) The train to McKinley was a double decker with seats facing forward on the top and a dining car below. And yes, a bar. The mountain was hiding in the mist and fog the day we arrived but shining in the sun the next day, all day. We enjoyed looking at the mountain and playing puzzles and games. It gave us time to meet our other passengers. The train to Whittier was one level with tables so half ride forward and half ride backward. This didn't bother us. We were free to walk around and talk to our new friends. The Princess rep came aboard at Anchorage and checked our passports and we were checked in. On board, it was good to be back on the Island where we had sailed on the Panama Canal in Dec. 2009. We saw Dan Horn, the ventriloquist; James Michael the magician (really more of a comedian and calls his show PG-13); and Jim McDonald the comedian. I liked the Princess's own talent, especially the singer Joe Sackenheim. Glacier Bay was beautiful, we happened to have a very sunny day. Skagway -- too many jewelry shops for my tastes but again, a gorgeous day for the White Pass train ride. Juneau -- saw the Mendenhall Glacier on a rainy and chilly day but it was nice to get up closer. We walked around Ketchikan and just soaked up the ambiance. It was a wonderful trip -- Please check out my photos at the link above. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I had been advised to cruise with Princess because they "did" Alaska the best. I must say I agree. This was our first Cruise with Princess and we were favorably impressed. We found it to be less of a party atmosphere than other ... Read More
I had been advised to cruise with Princess because they "did" Alaska the best. I must say I agree. This was our first Cruise with Princess and we were favorably impressed. We found it to be less of a party atmosphere than other cruises we have been on. We stayed in a balcony room on the Lido deck port side. The room was very clean and nicely appointed, not really different from other balcony rooms we have stayed in. We certainly used our balcony quite a bit to watch the scenery and wildlife. The balcony was covered, which is nice when it rained. The only drawback was we did hear people walking on the deck above the balcony occasionally, however, it was nice to be so close the the pool and eating areas on the Lido deck. It didn't matter much which side of the ship your balcony room was on, as the ship turns around in the fjords and ports so that you eventually end up seeing what was on the other side. Our cabin steward was excellent, very friendly and pleasant. We thought the food was slightly better on this cruise than others we have been on. We were so busy we usually ate at the Horizon court buffet, poolside grill or pizza spot. We chose anytime dining but only visited one of the regular dining rooms (Pacific Moon) one night. We especially enjoyed all the fresh seafood they served. Several afternoons, there were special buffets in mid-afternoon set up by the pools. The service of the food staff was excellent. Be advised that antibacterial lotion is offered at the entrance of all dining rooms and buffets, manned by waitstaff, who make sure everyone uses it before entering. Hand sanitation is a real priority, and they remind you often. We enjoyed the Princess theater shows, especially the comedians and illusionist. The entertainment staff was very good and there is a great variety of things to do. We did Movies Under the Stars some nights,and you are provided with blankets to stay warm under. We chose to fly into Fairbanks. It was unusually rainy for Fairbanks while we were there. We stayed in Wedgewood Resorts Bear Lodge. It is a little older hotel than we usually stay in, but was very clean and nicely done. The service staff was very good and very friendly. There is a restaurant on site, and the gift shop has a snack bar that serves desserts, sandwiches and some breakfast items as well as candy and snacks. We ate at the dining room only once for a breakfast buffet which was very good but pricey. The snack bar was good and much more affordable but there are few places to sit. The resort itself has many things to see and do. There is an antique car museum and wildlife observatory. While in Fairbanks, we took the Wedgewood resort free trolley to many spots in Fairbanks, such as museums, downtown, Pioneer Park and shopping areas. There is a wonderful Migratory Bird Sanctuary there, however, the birds have been slow in coming this year, so we didn't see much. We chose to take a late evening Hummer tour, which was great fun, but unfortunately, we weren't able to see much except the Alaskan Pipeline because it was so unusually foggy and rainy. Our guide was awesome. The next day we took the Princess train to Denali National Park. We ate breakfast on the train, on the second story observation car. The food was great, especially the reindeer sausage. There is a bar on board and a guide who was great! Once in Denali, we stayed at the Princess Wilderness Lodge. It was beautiful, with great rooms, views and food! There is a free trolley to take you anywhere on the property. There are several great restaurants, even a pizza spot and coffee bars. Service was excellent. We took the Denali Back-country tour through Shoretrips.com. This tour gives you a school bus ride thru the park all the way to the end of the road in Kashtina. We had a wonderful driver who had lots of information on the park. We saw grizzlies, moose, caribou, eagles and a fox. The scenery is unbelievably beautiful. There are several pit stops at Park visitor areas and snacks and drinks are provided. A delicious lunch is served at the Kashtina Roadhouse ( there are awesome cabins there too). It really does take all day to do this tour, but well worth it. We had heard from several other guests how good the trails and hiking are there in the park. We also did Canyon Run whitewater rafting thru Shoretrips on the nearby Neanana River. The water is 32 degrees, so they put you in dry suits, which really do keep you dry, but be sure to wear really warm clothing and socks underneath it. We went through Class 2, 3 and 4 rapids. What a blast! Our guides were so awesome! The next day, we went by bus to Whitter, where we met the ship. For lunch, we stopped in Anchorage, where we could go wherever we wanted for lunch. We chose to go the the Captain Cook hotel and had an excellent seafood lunch. Afterwards, we went to a great street fair held on Saturdays in Anchorage. Our bus driver was very friendly and informative. Embarkation was fast and effortless. The next day we visited Hubbard Glacier. There was a naturalist on board who broadcasts from the bridge on wildlife sightings. I don't get cold easily but it would be wise to bring a substantial waterproof coat and waterproof shoes, hat and gloves if you plan to be out on the deck for wildlife viewing in the glacial areas! The rest of the time, we wore polar fleece jackets with a rain shell if needed. The next day, we visited Glacier Bay. Park rangers board the boat, and have presentations and wildlife viewing. Bring your really good binoculars and long lens cameras. We saw puffins, whales, harbor seals and dolphins. After visiting Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, we left the ship in beautiful Vancouver. We had transfers to the airport, and debarkation is a little slower than doing it yourself, but not too tedious. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Our cruise on the Island Princess was very nice and we had fantastic sunny weather all the way until the last full day. Princess had a naturalist on board, who spotted animals and did mini lectures, which was nice. Our room was always ... Read More
Our cruise on the Island Princess was very nice and we had fantastic sunny weather all the way until the last full day. Princess had a naturalist on board, who spotted animals and did mini lectures, which was nice. Our room was always clean, new towels, cookies at night, candy on pillows. Some of the things we didn't like: the laundry rooms were in disrepair; SMOKING!!; commercialization of the ports was ridiculous and the onboard shopping thing was just nuts. We felt like Princess had it's hand in our pockets all the time! Let's face it, unless you have the bucks, this byline they go by 'escape completely' is unattainable. More ping pong tables would be an asset as all the teens tie them up all day long. We also felt like we were very uninformed about how things went. We eventually figured it out, but maybe a little flyer 'new cruiser tips' would be good. Food. Supper in the anytime dining 'Bordeaux' was great. We didn't want to go formal, so two nights we had to eat elsewhere. Sabatinis and the Bayou Cafe were not an option as $20 times 4 when you have two little kids who won't eat much is a waste. Forget dinner in the Horizon cafe. YUK. Pizza is excellent. Coffee is awful. We never got the complete scoop on the drink cards. My kids have never had soda, so that didn't seem like a good idea. Coffee card for that yukky coffee? no thanks. But then when I went to get one of those (free) midget ice cream cones, there were a lot of other items, not for free. !? no prices listed though. We did not book any port activities with Princess, but I did a lot of research and we did great things at lesser prices. All our port activities were SUPER! All in all, a great time, but I wouldn't be adverse to checking out another cruise line next time. Oh, and disembarkation. We had an 11:30 flight, so Princess had all of us early flights gather in the Bayou at 6:30 AM. They pick up your baggage the night before. All the people moving part went fabulously, but then we waited an hour at the airport for the truck to deliver the bags. Not so good at the baggage moving part. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I am an experienced cruiser, having traveled on Carnival, Disney, Princess and Royal Caribbean with my family in the past. I have just returned from an 11-day land/sea tour , cruising on the Diamond Princess from Whittier to Vancouver. ... Read More
I am an experienced cruiser, having traveled on Carnival, Disney, Princess and Royal Caribbean with my family in the past. I have just returned from an 11-day land/sea tour , cruising on the Diamond Princess from Whittier to Vancouver. Overall, the trip was a fabulous experience, due to the magnificent scenery and the natural beauty of Alaska. However, there were some serious disappointments that would cause me to hesitate to recommend the Diamond Princess to future travelers. Land Tour Positives: well organized, generally nice hotel facilities, plentiful, good options for excursions, very good, friendly service from Princess hotel staff, bus drivers etc. Land Tour Negatives: demands for luggage to be out for collection and extremely early hours. They wanted our bags outside our rooms at 6am at the Mt.McKinley Lodge, even though we didn't depart for the day until 11am. Fairbanks Princess Lodge- lobby not large enough - always very crowded, how about adding an indoor pool? hot tub? game room? something more to do? Natural History Tour in Denali- some of our group took this included tour, and found it to be too short, and they did not see much of Denali. We were glad to have been "tipped off" in advance via internet blogs that the Tundra Wilderness Tour was much more inclusive of the park and we upgraded to that and enjoyed it very much. Diamond Princess Cruise Positives: Good itinerary, nice selection of shore excursions. We chose this itinerary because it included both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay. Both were magnificent and not to be missed. Diamond Princess Cruise Negatives: *Arrival: On board the Princess train to Whittier, our train hostess announced that because our train was nearly 2 hours late coming to the ship, the ship would be having "open seating" in all dining rooms that evening and it would be "come as you are" as far as the dress code. After waiting through a very long line to go through the process of boarding the ship, (600 passengers all arrive at once on the train) we dropped our carry-on bags at our cabins and proceeded to the International Dining Room. We were turned away because it was not our time to dine (5:45 had come and gone) I told them about the "open seating" announcement that had been given and he just said "NO". We were referred to the "anytime" dining rooms, where we were turned away because one in our group was wearing shorts. Obviously, this was not a very warm welcome. When we expressed our concerns on the ship, it only brought about lectures about dress code. We are experienced cruisers and we understand dress code. The point is that their employees gave us erroneous information, and no one felt the need to apologize or adapt to the information that had been given to the passengers. We were forced to spend our first evening dining in the Horizon Buffet- a very over-heated serving area and dining room. There was a long line- only one side open, and a disorganized arrangement of food and people all bumping into each other. * As I said above, we chose this itinerary because it was the only one that included both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier bay, but the one big draw back I would say, is that when you arrive so late on the Princess train from the land excursion, you really miss your whole first day of cruising. We normally arrive to a cruise ship about 11am and spend the whole first afternoon exploring the ship, getting oriented etc. In this case, boarding at 7:30m and scrambling to find a place that would welcome us for dinner left us feeling cheated of our normal welcome aboard routine. * Horizon Buffet - this venue was always too warm. On another occasion, at breakfast, one side of the dining room was closed at 9am, even though this created a huge line on the remaining open side. We were hoping for a quick breakfast so we could explore the port that day, but the staff seemed more intent on "closing up" one area than on serving customers quickly and efficiently. This is only one small indication of an overall feeling we got that the staff was just not that interested in providing flawless customer service. *International Dining Room- our servers seemed to struggle to keep up with the tables they had. Any special requests took a long time to fulfill because they seemed to be always behind. On past cruises, our friendly servers quickly knew our names and we got to know them a little as well. Other past servers have been very helpful with the menu, and generous, even offering to bring out two appetizers or entrees if there was question about which one to order. These guys were strictly business with no "extra" offers of any kind. *One very important part of cruise travel that we appreciate, is the ability to travel with a large family group, each member doing their own thing during the day, and then all gathering together for dinner in the evening to share experiences and dining time together. We were traveling with an extended family group of 12. We were told that Princess would not accommodate us dining together at a table that large. Rather we were seated at two tables of 6, next to each other, but with different service staff. They were usually finished well before us, due to their efficient servers.... not much fellowship time together at dinner. I consider this a very significant reason to choose Royal Caribbean or Disney over Princess for our family travels in the future. Our experience with Disney and RCCL in the past was one of the staff going out of their way to accommodate the wishes of the passengers whenever possible. A table for 12 or even 15 is not a problem on those lines. Also, we chose traditional early seating, hoping for our family group to dine together regularly. I would recommend "anytime" dining instead. We missed much of the good viewing of Hubbard Glacier because we were at dinner. Also, some shore excursions run into dining times as well. *A second very important reason we enjoy family cruising is the variety of activities for all ages on most ships. We were pleased to see that the Diamond Princess had multiple swimming pools and 4 hot tubs, as our teenagers really like to swim (as do we). We were more than disappointed to find that the hot tubs were closed for most of the cruise. We were lucky if there was one open at any given time. The indoor pool was also closed periodically. Again, I spoke up on the board the ship, but was told a variety of "stories" by different staffers. One made up an amusing tale about the fact that they aren't allowed to have the pools open due to the environment in Alaska (???) Others told us the "chlorine was off". There seemed to be very little effort to correct the situation. We paid a huge sum of money to vacation with our family on your ship, and we felt cheated that one of the amenities that was important to us was rarely available. If pools / hot tubs are not generally available in Alaska, then that should be publicized well in advance. * Shows: we attended the shows in the large theater each evening. They were decent, but you had to arrive early for the first show or the seats would be gone. Other more popular shows in the show lounges also were standing-room only. *Cabin Steward: our cabin steward was the most friendly staff that we encountered and he kept the room nice and clean. However, on a number of occasions we tried to "page" him as per the instructions by the phone in the cabin and we never got any response to our pages. We were looking to get ice in the room for cold drinks, but that did not happen all week. The only way we finally got ice was by ordering it from room service. * Food: I usually found one item on the menu each evening that I wanted to order, but no more than that. Many of their selections were just plain "weird". The Alaskan food buffet and a dessert buffet were set up outside on the lido deck two afternoons. They looked great when first presented, but huge crowds of people waiting in long lines quickly devoured these foods and they didn't seem to make any attempt to replenish the foods. The buffet was published to be from 11am-2pm, so we decided to wait until closer to 2pm when we hoped the lines would be down. Surely the lines were down, but the food was wiped out by then as well. These problem areas might seem small and insignificant, but as a passenger, it's all these small "niceties" that add up to a wonderful cruise experience. Maybe these disappointments were magnified because one of the couples that were traveling with us had never cruised before. We had bragged to them, in advance, how attentive, friendly, and accommodating a cruise staff is normally, making every passenger feel like a "prince" or "princess". Instead, once on board the Diamond Princess we spent much of our time apologizing to these friends that the experience was not as we had described. After our trip on the Star Princess in 2007, followed by two cruises on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, I would have told people that Princess and RCL were about equal in service, food, etc. My opinion has now shifted well in favor of Royal. Finally, I know Princess doesn't control things at the airports, but I will tell you I would recommend that folks avoid departing through the Vancouver airport if at all possible. Their system was ridiculously complicated. We waited in no less than 7 different lines, showing our documentation over and over again and dragging our luggage with us much of the way. It took over 2 hours to make it through their system and I am told is "quick" for them. We've traveled a whole summer in Europe with less immigration/ security hassle. Thanks for reading my comments- feel free to email me with any specific questions: rknelson3@comcast.net Read Less
Sail Date June 2011

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