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509 Whittier to Alaska Cruise Reviews

Island princess 10th fl caribe deck cabin c539 category BA June 8-15 southbound from Whittier to Vancouver We are in our early 40's and loved this cruise. It is mostly an older crowd. Although there were some children I would ... Read More
Island princess 10th fl caribe deck cabin c539 category BA June 8-15 southbound from Whittier to Vancouver We are in our early 40's and loved this cruise. It is mostly an older crowd. Although there were some children I would not suggest bringing them I know mine would have been bored. All staff were absolutely wonderful and no complaints! A balcony room is a must for this cruise- preference is port side (left) but we had starboard and had no complaints. You can lay on the bed and watch the beautiful snow covered mountains. Rooms are very nice. Bathrooms are small and almost impossible to shave in the shower. Rooms are quiet except for the lovely people who let their cabins doors slam instead of manually closing them. The tvs in your room have a channel for a camera in the front of the boat to show where you are going. If there is something to see the naturalist comes on and tells you what you are seeing and if there are whales etc which side of the ship it is on. We did see whales, sea otters, eagles, and porpuses. Food was good. We did both the dinning room and buffet. If you can't have chocolate or dairy you can pretty much hang up eating any desserts. They have formal nights which we did not do. We did wear nice jeans and a nice shirt to dinner. The older people tend to dress up more. Shows were entertaining. 2 different comedians, dance show, a couple of singing shows and a crew performance which is a must see. The first and last day at sea is rough so bring something if you get sea sick. You can get motion sickness patches from your doctor. The ports have libraries or cafes that have free wifi. For verizon wireless once the ship is docked you can pick up a cell phone tower in town and not be roaming. Glacier bay and Hubbard glacier were the highlights of the trip. Absolutely amazing! Make sure you spend every minute on your balcony or on deck while cruising through here. This is where most of my pictures were taken. Skagway- basically the only thing to do here is to take the train ride to white pass. Very beautiful ride. Doesn't matter what side if the train you sit in because you change sides coming back down. We also watched the show of 98 in town. Was really good. $20 per adult. Don't sit in the front unless you want to be pulled on stage. Talk to the guy taking tickets. He is an actor from NJ and bought the theater. Juneau-neat town but more commercialized. Early in the morning right out from the dock you can watch boats bring in pounds and pounds of halibut, black cod and red snapper. We ate fresh halibut at Twisted Fish the restaurant right at the dock. Really good. We took a helicopter to Mendenhall glacier and walked on the glacier for an hour. There was a stream of glacier water that we could drink and put in our water bottles. This is a must if you want to spend the money. $350 pp for a lifetime experience. The only regret I have is not doing the 2 hour trek. I thought it would be too difficult but it wasn't. Our guides were Nick and Katie...they were wonderful. We did not have time for a whale watching tour but talked to people who did and they said it was amazing. Ketchikan- this was my favorite town. Will probably rain on you. Must go to creek street. Neat shops owned by locals. We did the tour of the bering sea which the boat is one from the deadlist catch season 2. The tour guides were actually crabbers and have great stories to tell. They pulled up various crab pots and you got to hold them. Well worth the $200 pp. I wish we would have done the northbound cruise only because I like to save the best for last and after seeing the glaciers nothing could compare. But I am not sure the itenary is the same. Glacier bay is a must when choosing a cruise. Remember to bring binoculars, a coat, small gloves and something to cover your ears. It gets really windy and cold on the deck when viewing glaciers. Although the ports get warmer we never wore short sleeves without a light jacket. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We flew from South Florida to Anchorage on American through Chicago.Arrived in Anchorage at 9:30 pm on Tuesday night. First shock - it's still broad daylight. I was aware of this but you don't appreciate how it messes up your ... Read More
We flew from South Florida to Anchorage on American through Chicago.Arrived in Anchorage at 9:30 pm on Tuesday night. First shock - it's still broad daylight. I was aware of this but you don't appreciate how it messes up your body's perception of night.We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard, which is just off the airport. I used Marriott Points to stay there.Within a short walk on Spenard Road, I later discovered, is a coffee/bagel shop, a Subway and several fast food places. There is also a Harley-Davidson dealer, where I picked up a hat for a friend of mine.The following morning, we took a cab into town. It should have been about $10, but the cabbie took us on a circuitous route and wanted to give us a little tour. We only had a few hours in the morning before the Whittier Shuttle was going to pick us up at our hotel. We wandered Anchorage a little and decided to walk back to the hotel, which is about 4 miles. We made it as far as the Carr's Safeway supermarket, where we were going to stock up on some cabin supplies, then called a cab for the rest.Prices are high in Anchorage. I assume because of limited supply. The Safeway was very big and had a large selection. But without a Safeway membership card, our supplies would have cost about 50% more. We bought 2 liter bottles of soda, some snack foods, ate breakfast and bought prepared sandwiches for lunch. Like I said, we took a cab back to the hotel.The Whittier Shuttle instructions tell us that we should be ready 15 minutes before scheduled departure. It showed up at about 1:10, which was 10 minutes after scheduled departure. The smaller shuttle then took us to the airport where we were taken off the shuttle and sent to a different part of the airport to wait for a bus. The bus did not show up until close to 1:45. This was kind of aggravating. I felt like I was in the Caribbean, only colder.Instead of taking the direct shuttle, we took the "wildlife tour" which was only a few dollars more and included some scenic stops and a stop at the Wildlife Conservation Center. This was pretty neat. We saw some wildlife up close and personal. From there we went to another stop, not far from the Whittier tunnel. We made the Whittier tunnel in time for the 4:30 opening. It is a short drive from the tunnel to the pier.There may be some things to do in Whittier, but I didn't see them. The check-in process was painless and quick. The cruise line handed out an Alaska coupon book, which was useful later in the cruise.We checked into our cabin, the "infamous" Aloha 416 and were very pleased. Three of us were traveling, including me, my wife and daughter. There had been many questions on this board about whether or not this cabin had a covered balcony. The answer is that it is half-covered. For this trip, however, I would consider it perfect. We discovered how wonderful it was during the rest of the trip.We had read online about "Anytime" dining and preferred that over a fixed dining time. To change to anytime, we had to meet with the Maitre d', who was available in the afternoon on embarkation day. We met with him and changed our dining arrangement.Here's how anytime dining works - you can call during the day and try to make a reservation for a particular time. If it's available you can have it. I tried doing that the first day, and was told that there were only reservations for 5:15 to 5:45 available, other than that, there were very late timeslots. We decided to take our chances and showed up around 8:00. We were given our own table.The first day was Glacier Bay. It was a glorious day. Having the open-fronted balcony allowed us to see the glacier approaching without leaning over the balcony. We had a full 90 degree view from forward to the left while seated. It was wonderful. If it had been raining, of course, we would have gotten a little wet. But it wasn't and we didn't.The second day was Yakutat Bay, with the Lamplugh and Hopkins Glaciers. It was not perfectly sunny, but close to it. Another beautiful day and another day where our particular balcony was a real advantage.We did not make dinner reservations. We showed up at 7:00 and were told that only shared seating was available. That was fine and we met some nice folks from Houston.We arrived in Skagway the following day. I had made reservations online with the White Pass and Yukon Railway. Their instructions stated that we had to get to the train depot, while cruise ship passengers who made their arrangements through the ship could board at the dock. The price difference was at least $25 a person.While we walked to the train depot for the 12:45 departure, I noticed the train was loading the cruise passengers and the two lead cars were marked "reserved". We arrived at the depot and promptly were instructed to follow the group to the "junction" where we would board the train. We were being placed on the same train as the cruise passengers.Skagway has a lot of shopping. There is also a National Park Service tour, which is free. We wandered through lots of the shops. There were a bunch of coupons in the cruise booklet that we received on embarkation. They would have produced some decent deals, but not on anything we wanted. We were told Skagway was the "shopping" port but were not in acquisition mode.The train was pretty neat. They supply water and you can eat onboard. Once underway, you can go to the platforms outside the cars for better views and fresh air. Had I not felt like I was abandoning my wife inside, I would have stayed outside the entire trip. The train goes through two tunnels and over several bridges. We did see a bear and a number of eagles. This trip was pricey but we got to see things that we probably would not have seen if we didn't take the trip.Skagway has a local shuttle that is $2 for one-way or $5 for an all-day pass. The all-day pass makes sense if you're someone who likes to return to the ship for meals and dropping off stuff. It save wear and tear on the legs/knees/ankles.The next stop was Juneau. This had the earliest on-board time, 3:30 pm. We decided to go to Mendenhall Glacier. We took the Blue Bus (there is also a White Bus) and received some local information on the way there. The bus is not fancy. All the tour windows sell tickets for both buses, which are $16 round trip.When at Mendenhall, we took the trail to Nugget Falls, which is a waterfall very close to the mouth of the glacier. It was very pretty and the whole setting was awesome. We did not do the helicopter to the glacier because it seemed pretty pricey. Maybe next time. There were lots of helicopters. Almost as many choppers as there were mosquitoes.The National Park Service also has a very informative display and information center. The cost is $3 but is free if you have a Park Service card. In addition to all the informative displays, they had a large piece of glacial ice you could touch. The $3 wristband also got you a $2 discount at the visitor center in Ketchikan, which was our next stop.Shopping in Juneau was the same as Skagway, basically. In retrospect, if I could have rented a car, it would have cost me a little more, but given me the freedom to see more things. Juneau seemed easy to navigate and I had a GPS that had Alaska on it. There is a Wal-Mart and Costco in Juneau. I'm thinking souvenirs would have been cheaper at Wal-Mart than right near the boat. And I could have stocked up on more onboard goodies if necessary.We did the walk-in thing at the Bordeaux dining room and were seated with three other couples. It was fine, but one of the couples was vegan, so the waiter had to answer questions about the ingredients of each dish.The next day we were in Ketchikan. It was sunny and 70 degrees when we docked. We had decided to go to Totem Bight to see the large collection of authentic totem poles there. We went to the "visitor information center" where there was one-stop tour shopping. It appears that, in the end, they all work for the same people. We signed up for the double-decker bus tour for $40 per person that the saleswoman said would take us to Totem Bight and Saxman village. The bus took us to two scenic lookouts, including one where we saw a stream full of salmon (and there was also a roadside stand selling jams and jellies) then to Saxman Village. Saxman Village struck me as a place that tried to be authentic, but really wasn't. Maybe I had misplaced expectations, but it seemed like a tourist trap. Reminded me of the "Authentic Amish Village" when I was growing up. We headed back to port and I asked about the rest of the tour. Others asked as well. The tour guide said that the tour was not supposed to go to Totem Bight. He said he would talk to the manager.When we got back to port, I ended up speaking with the manager. He offered a $30 refund. I told him that I would not have taken the tour if I had known it was just Saxman. Eventually, after telling him I would dispute the charge, he offered a $60 refund.Interestingly, one of the local employees then told me I could grab a city bus to Totem Bight for $1. It runs every hour and leaves from a nearby corner. Unfortunately I had just missed it and waiting an hour for the next bus would cut it very close in making it back to port for the 5:30 all aboard. So we saw the tourist trap but not Totem Bight. On the other hand, I would share that the $1 fare to Totem Bight looks like a genuine bargain.We shopped in Ketchikan. For anyone leaving from Vancouver to Whittier, I would suggest waiting to get to Ketchikan and buying warm weather clothing there. The coupons in the coupon book would provide great deals on warm outerwear rather than buying it and packing/schlepping it. We bought some Salmon from the Salmon Market. It's a little hole-in-the-wall shop but they were very friendly and offered samples of everything. They sold the same spreads as Tongass Trading, but were a $1 per spread higher. Oh well.As for onboard entertainment, we skipped the production shows after opening night. The dancing was low-end. The dancers did not look like they were listening to the same music. On the other hand, the comedian, Scott Wyler, ventriloquist, Dan Horn, and magician, James Michael, were all very good. On the final night, James did the infamous "banana/bandana" trick that he "downloaded from the internet" that I have seen on ships at least 3 other times that I can recall. But he had a different attitude so it was still funny.Avoid the "Liars Club" game. It was atrocious. It was done with the Cruise Director's staff and it just wasn't funny, which was a large part of the original game show. We walked out.The final day, a sea day, was a gray misty day. If I was home, it would be a "stay in bed" day. There were things to do, but nothing that really tickled our fancy. So we read, which is something we don't do much of while home.About the food - I was disappointed in breakfast. Only on Day 2 (the first full day) and Day 6 (the sea day) did the breakfast buffet have smoked salmon (lox). The other days it had other smoked fish, but not something that would go easily on a bagel. Disembarkation morning, they did not have either lox or smoked fish. And they did not have my other favorite, waffles, which they had every other night.On the night of Day 5, we decided to skip the dining room and were rewarded at the buffet. They were grilling fresh salmon or chicken fillets and making fresh Caesar salad. It was an excellent meal, particularly for a buffet. The last night, NY strip was on the menu. It wasn't that exciting, although the peppercorn sauce was good.On the last day of the cruise, they held a 3 hour sale in the Provence dining room of various clothing and souvenirs that were seriously marked down. They also had a last day Internet special of 30 minutes for $12 if you desperately needed an Internet fix.About communications - because we were in US territory, we were not roaming on our AT&T phones in the three ports. We had coverage everywhere we went in the ports, including way outside of town. In town, we had 3G service and out of town it would usually drop to 2G. But I could call from my balcony and brag to my friends and family about how cool everything was.One cool picture had to be the one of the seaplane taking off right past my balcony. In all of the ports, seaplanes are an integral part of the economy and they buzz around all day. My wife hates to fly, so I'll have to do it alone some time.Disembarkation notes - We try to always walk off the ship. On other lines, we're basically told that we can walk off whenever we want. Since we live in Florida, we're not in a great rush and this gives us time to sleep a little later. So we signed up for "self-help" disembarkation as we were going to spend the day in Vancouver and take the Amtrak Cascades train that evening. When we got the disembarkation instructions, we were told we had to be in the Explorers lounge by 7:25 a.m. So much for sleeping in. I asked about repercussions if we walked off later and the desk said that Canadian customs was fussy about walkoffs. I don't know if they could tell, but disembarkation, other than the designated time, was a breeze. I am posting this using the WiFi on the Cascades train from Vancouver to Seattle. It is a very cool trip and if you're not in a hurry, I highly recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
From the disorganized check-in process to disembarkation, the Diamond Princess is a mockery of the hospitality industry. When placed on a different deck than on our reservation, customer service simply said they were fully booked and would ... Read More
From the disorganized check-in process to disembarkation, the Diamond Princess is a mockery of the hospitality industry. When placed on a different deck than on our reservation, customer service simply said they were fully booked and would get back with us and that the option we received was much better and quieter than the original booking. All statements were false. We never heard from anyone while onboard the ship. The food was horrible. It was comparable to a high school cafeteria. I lost ten pounds while on the trip. Not even a decent cup of coffee was to found onboard the ship. The staff was not well train and not able to answer the simpliest question. For example, my husband was locked in the gym by the staff. He had to call security to unlock the door. We asked to change American dollars into Canadain Dollars and was told they did not handle currency onboard. Additionally, we received the same response when a washing machine ate our change and did not work. We were charged for making a reservation to eat in any of the "anytime" dining rooms. The list goes on-and- on. However, probably the most reflective of the Princess Cruise line incompetency is the post cruise online survey. Sent on June 11th, the ending day of the cruise, I was not able to respond to it until June 16th due to extension of our travel. When I attempted to participate in the post-cruise survey, I received the pop-up window that the survey had expired. I guess Princess really does not want to know. I filed this review with Princess via email and did receive an answering machine response but was not able to understand the customer service representative message due to his mumbled verbage. Please do not waste your money crusing with Princess Cruise Line. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We are mid-late 50's and have previously cruised both RCCL and Princess. We had a great time on this cruise. If anyone has previously only cruised in the Caribbean, it is good to be aware that cruises to Alaska are ... Read More
We are mid-late 50's and have previously cruised both RCCL and Princess. We had a great time on this cruise. If anyone has previously only cruised in the Caribbean, it is good to be aware that cruises to Alaska are different than Caribbean cruises, no matter what line or ship you are on. The fellow passengers will tend to be slightly older and there are not the pool side festivities that Caribbean cruises are well known for. Alaska is about the scenery and wildlife. Food: I know food is subjective, but we thought most of the food was very good. I primarily ordered the fish dishes offered in the main dining room and all but one dish was fabulous. One dish did not appeal to me, so I ordered something else...no big deal and the waiter was happy to accommodate. My husband typically ordered one of the mean dishes, either beef, lamb or pork and was happy with all his selections. I am always amazed when people say they have a hard time finding something on the menu that appeals to them. If you happen to get something you don't care for, just re-order something else and quit complaining. We chose anytime dining and I really liked it. We were always seated at a table for two. We usually arrived between 6:00 and 6:30 and were always seated quickly. Once we arrived at 7:30 and had to wait a half hour. Not a bad thing, since we then spend time looking out of the windows by the lobby bar and saw about 3 whales fairly close to ship. The buffet can get crowded for breakfast, but we always were able to find a seat. Entertainment and speakers: Princess has a wildlife speaker/naturalist on board their Alaskan cruises which I enjoyed. I enjoyed all the presentations. If I had to give any feedback, it would be that I would like to have learned more specifics about each of the main animals/wildlife encountered, such as sea otter, harbor seals, humpbacks, etc. We were given some info, but I would have preferred more detail. Avoid any of the "shopping talks" what ever cruise you are on...nothing but a paid commercial and a total waste of time. Most of the entertainment in the theaters was good to very good, not necessarily outstanding, but fun and enjoyable for an evening. The comedians were my favorite. The first shows in the main theater and Explorer's lounge always filled up early, so if you are interested in going during those time slots, get there early. We beat the crowds by always going to the second shows in the evening and never had a problem getting a seat. Ship and staff: We always encountered friendly and helpful service. The ship was elegant and nicely decorated. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Just a little background- my husband and I are both 28 years old, from South Florida, and have been on 13 cruises prior to this: Royal Caribbean (8), Carnival (4), and NCL (1). Alaska was one of the "pre-baby bucket list" items ... Read More
Just a little background- my husband and I are both 28 years old, from South Florida, and have been on 13 cruises prior to this: Royal Caribbean (8), Carnival (4), and NCL (1). Alaska was one of the "pre-baby bucket list" items we wanted to check off before we think about having children. We planned to walk to the Alaska Railroad from our hotel (Comfort Inn Ship Creek), but the shuttle driver offered to drop us off. It was literally a 5 minute walk- maybe more with our 3 suitcases. He loaded up our things- drove us across the street and unloaded our belongings. There is a large, permanent, tent to the right of the building. This is where you drop off luggage. There was a rep from Princess there who tagged our bags and loaded them in to a van. We proceeded in to the depot for check-in. We purchased the tickets ahead of time through the Alaska Railroad company website ($30 less per person than the train transfer offered through Princess- same train though). The train leaves Anchorage at 10:00am and arrives in Whittier at 12:05. Great way to travel to the ship as there are only two options- bus or train. The buses are timed due to the tunnel in Whittier being one way and shared by cars & train! It was a beautiful two hour ride along the coast, winding around the mountain edges. Caution- Whittier is rainy and foggy more frequently than not! We emerged from the tunnel in Whittier and could barely see the ship even though it wasn't far in front of us. We came prepared with good rain coats. It never poured, just a constantly heavy drizzle ALL DAY. Coral Princess- I'd have to say it was a great ship but certain things are in desperate need of dry-docking! The material paneling inside the stateroom just above the bed/headboard was worn and yellow. I have a picture with my husband and it's almost embarrassing to show... The carpets were worn as well. I could feel that there was no padding left, they were all rather flat and hard under my feet. This made the children who ran down the hall multiple times per day even louder than normal cruise-ship-running-children. Our balcony was rusty- but that's hard to combat being on the water constantly. Otherwise all else was in great shape. The size of the ship was perfect- not too big and not too small. There is a smaller passenger capacity on this ship than most others of the same size. It never felt crowded unless you were looking for a table in Horizon Court at breakfast. Nobody ever sat outside on the Lido deck area due to constant rain throughout this trip and colder than usual temperatures. This was my first Princess experience. People always talk about Princess Pizza and I always brushed it off and thought- ugh how good can cruise ship pizza really be?!? Okay, I will admit- I was addicted to it. It's real thin crust NY style pizza! We had it many times on this trip. Always hot and delicious! Service- Everyone was friendly and attentive onboard! Everyone- they all smiled and helped us any time we asked. I love the layout of the cabin: a closet area with the bathroom being somewhat like a separate area for changing and such. However this was the smallest shower I had ever been in. I am fairly small- short and thin. I did not fit in the shower... I was unable to shave my legs without getting out of the shower completely. Good thing I was in Alaska and wearing long pants all the time ;) Sabatini's- I had no idea what I was in for. The food was amazing- and so much of it! It was a 15 course meal. Go hungry- Skip lunch that day! It's worth it in the end. We didn't heed the advice of the waitress that booked us and I couldn't even look at my meal once it came. I was completely stuffed! Our first stop was Skagway- we chose to go to a Musher's Camp there. Fabulous experience. We booked both excursions through the ship because we couldn't find anything similar on the independent tour companies. After the Musher's Camp we had lunch at Skagway Brewing and walked around the small town. Juneau- We had scheduled a Helicopter tour to a glacier with an hour hike on the glacier. We toured Juneau on our own for a few hours in the morning then went to the shore excursion guides at the end of the dock. Bad news- 90% of the flightseeing excursions were cancelled due to fog that day. I was very upset as this was to be the highlight of our trip. We went to the Princess booth at the end of the dock and asked to be sure that our tour would not be charged to the bill. The lady was amazingly helpful and said that she was not going to let us walk away unhappy. She searched through the excursion log and called up another company to arrange for us to go on a helicopter ride. Era Flightseeing hadn't cancelled any of their tours because they fly to a different glacier and this was in the direction away from the fog and rain! She immediately assigned us to that tour :) After all was said and done- you can't go to Alaska without taking a helicopter ride to a glacier!! Greatest experience of my life :) I was very happy that the Princess Shore Excursion rep quickly fixed that glitch. Ketchikan- We chose not to do a tour here. We printed out maps of the city and chose to venture out on our own. This was the most disappointing day of all. First we went to Saxman Totem Park. In all honesty I wouldn't recommend it. It's about the size of a basketball court or two. They charge $5 to walk on the property. The local bus only comes once an hour. This left us waiting for 55 minutes because it takes 5 minutes to explore. There was no dance show, no carving show, and nobody explain anything on this day. A big let down. Once we got back in to town we walked through Creek Street and then basically back to the ship. Onboard Activities- I don't know if this was because it was Alaska and it tends to have an older crowd or if all Princess cruises are like this. We found few things to do onboard that met our interests. It was always too cold and rainy to ever use Movie Under the Stars. The "nightclub" didn't play music we could really get in to. There was a lot of ballroom dancing- which is great if you know what you're doing! We did enjoy Ceramics @ Sea. We started our pieces on the first sea day, they told us it would be offered throughout the week so we could finish it when we please. But the only other time it was offered was when we were on the helicopter in Juneau! We got our pieces back on Friday afternoon and they looked like junk because we didn't get a chance to finish :( I enjoyed the lectures, but my husband did not. He can't stay focused and fell asleep on my shoulder during the first one. I didn't make him come back to the others with me. We found ourselves back in our cabin on most nights watching the scenery go by and watching movies. There was a good selection of channels and we found a new movie to watch each night. Dining- We chose anytime dining and never had a wait. Service was not as personal as on other cruises, but we realize that is because we had anytime and there isn't time to make a connection when there is a different waiter each evening. The buffet was great- a lot of very unique options. We didn't feel like we were eating at all the other cruise ship buffets! Cabin- We had a category BA on the Caribe deck. Loved the balcony!! Loved the "closet" for our clothes. Smallest shower I have ever been in. Plenty of TV channels. Good movie selections on the TV. We spent a lot of time in the cabin because we had a great balcony and there were two whole days of scenic cruising. Passenger Mix- There were many people older than us, which is what we expected. There were few to none in our age group. There were A LOT of families with children. A total shocker to me. This was a very expensive trip and I was truly surprised that people spent even more to bring huge families. This was the first cruise I had been on in which kids were unruly. 80% (or so) were well behaved. But there was a decent sized group of kids that ran down the halls multiple times per day. One kid used the ship's rail and Lotus pool as his monkey bars. The staff onboard kept asking him to stop and the parents completely ignored the behavior and requests from the staff. I am not here to complain about children- I teach elementary school, so I am totally used to child behavior. I just expected something different on this ship/ itinerary. In Vancouver we opted for the Sky Train to get to the airport. $2.50 per person to get from Canada Place to the airport. Great deal :) Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Bear with me as this is a long review. It was our first cruise and I hope to help provide answers to other first time cruisers. I still had some questions about how it all worked before we left. Once I found CC the info it provided was ... Read More
Bear with me as this is a long review. It was our first cruise and I hope to help provide answers to other first time cruisers. I still had some questions about how it all worked before we left. Once I found CC the info it provided was invaluable. It helped with many of our decisions with restaurants and excursions.We decided to take a Princess Cruisetour to Alaska to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We are both in our early 50's.We did the land tour first, followed by the cruise SB from Whittier to Vancouver June 6 - June 18. We added an extra day to the land portion by flying into Anchorage a day early. Our flight from Houston to Seattle to Anchorage was uneventful. Because we had decided to pay for transfers, Princess reps met us at the airport. They were easily recognized as they were standing in the luggage area with a sign reading "Princess". They sent us over to a Princess desk where we were checked off the list. They handled our luggage and sent us off to the Captain Cook hotel in a motorcoach. Our driver was very friendly and knowledgeable and gave us lots of information about Anchorage. He dropped us off at the Captain Cook where we were met by another Princess rep who handed us a package that had our room key and information about what time we would be leaving for the Mt. McKinley lodge on Wednesday. It also contained information about what time to have our luggage ready to be picked up on Wednesday morning.I had read some questionable reviews about the Captain Cook hotel on CC, so I was very happy to find it was a fine hotel. There is a lot of wood paneling, but it reminded me of a traditional golf club decor. The room was a reasonable size and the bed was fine. There was a fan in the room to help move the air as there is not any AC. The luggage was delivered to our room about 40 minutes after we arrived.Although it was 5:30 PM Anchorage time, our stomachs were still on Houston time - 8:30 PM. We walked over to the Glacier Brewhouse - a restaurant we had read about on CC - thanks! Because we were a little early we were able to be seated at a table right away. DH had the parmesan herb crusted halibut and I had the mixed seafood grill (salmon, cod, halibut). Both were delicious including all the sides. We also tried their beers, which were good too. By the time we left a long line had formed to be seated. We were tired so we went back to the hotel and admired our view of Cook's Inlet and tried to sleep with the sun still high.On our second day we ate breakfast at Snow City Cafe just a short walk away from the hotel - another great CC recommendation. The portions were large and very good. I had reindeer sausage for the first time! It decided to rain that day. We knew we would be on a motorcoach for about 4 hours the next day and wanted to stretch our legs after being on the plane the day before. So, we put on our rain jackets and I added my rain hat and off we went to Downtown Bike Rentals located on 4th Ave. Mike fixed us up with 2 nice bikes, gloves and rain boots. He then handed us a map and highlighted several different bike trails for us. We decided to try the Tony Knowles Coastal Bike Trail. It's paved and runs along Cook's Inlet. It was easy bike riding for 2 people who haven't ridden in years. For the most part the trail was pretty flat and very smooth. The scenery was spectacular! Towards the end of the trail we saw a moose sitting in the forest .There were a couple of hills where I had to get off and push my bike, but we made it to mile 8.5 out of 9. (The last ½ mile is all up-hill). We turned around and went back the same way. Even though it rained most of the day, this was lots of fun. It took us about 6 hrs.That evening we walked over to Humpy's for dinner. I had halibut fish & chips. DH had a halibut hamburger. Again, both were very good. We then walked over to the Visitors Center and admired all the beautiful flowers and hanging baskets that were everywhere. That night even though the sun was still shining we were physically tired enough to sleep.We were up early our 3rd day in Anchorage. Luggage was suppose to be picked up at 6 AM inside our room.We had decided to bring 2 large pieces of luggage and each had a small carry-on. Before leaving Houston we had dedicated 1 suitcase to our cruise clothes and 1 suitcase to our land clothes. We put the appropriate tags on the suitcases and they were taken away. Our motorcoach ride to the McKinley Lodge was interesting. We had another knowledgeable and interesting driver who helped to make the time fly by.We loved the Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge! The setting is spectacular! The lodge is rustic and it seemed not very crowded. We live in a large metropolitan area and it was nice to get away from it all and into nature. We had promised ourselves some downtime so we did not plan any excursions at the lodge. For an unknown reason the Princess rep did not have our packet of information (room key etc.) when we departed the motorcoach. She directed us to the Tour Desk and we were quickly and courteously taken care of and our packet was delivered to us. We were in a cabin close to the main lodge. Our room had 2 double beds and rustic looking furniture. I believe that's the norm. Again, no AC, but a ceiling fan and room fan were available. The room was fine and the beds comfortable. As we were hungry we ate at the Grizzly Bar Club in the main lodge. The food was good and we split a large hamburger platter. Afterwards we hiked the three hiking trails that surround the lodge and took some great photos. The Hilltop Trail was our favorite. The desk clerk had given us a great suggestion of beginning that trail at its end and ending at the beginning because of the initial steepness. We were glad we took her suggestion. The beginning of the trail is very steep and rugged. However you walk it - the views are worth all the effort. We returned to our room just as our luggage was being delivered - we had been there about 4 hours.We returned to the main lodge to sit on the deck and see if "the mountain" would peek out of the clouds surrounding it. We did see various parts of it clear over the next several hours. One of our favorite memories is realizing we were totally alone on the deck because it was dinner time and everyone had gone to the various restaurants. We went inside to the Grizzly Bar and asked if we could have beer, wine and an appetizer brought to the side deck where we were sitting. They were delighted to accommodate us. So, for about an hour we had the side deck to ourselves while we drank beer & wine and ate a delicious crab & artichoke dip. It was so beautiful and quiet!Our 4th day we left beautiful Mt. McKinley lodge and motorcoached to the Denali Princess lodge. The luggage was picked up outside our room at 7 AM and we left the lodge about 2 PM. Again the ride was enjoyable and the driver gave some great information about the area we were driving through. We arrived at the Denali lodge about 4:15 PM - were met by a rep who gave us our packet of information and room key. We hurried to our room where our luggage was already waiting for us. We had signed up for the Black Diamond ATV excursion that left at 5:30 PM. They pulled up in a bus at the lodge's main entrance exactly on time. The bus ride took about 20 minutes to the ATV place. We watched a safety video, put on rain suits, goggles & helmets, got on our ATV's and took off. Neither one of us had ever ridden an ATV before. It was so much fun! We had about 10 people and 2 guides in our group. Great excursion in another beautiful location. It was about 9 PM when we returned to the lodge. We were hungry so we ate at the Base Camp Bistro located on the Princess Denali Lodge. We ordered the Alaskan crabburger platter. Again, the food was delicious and the service was fast and friendly. The next day was our Tundra Wilderness Tour into Denali National Park. We were picked up at 6 AM in front of the main lodge. The bus is more a school bus than a motorcoach. Our driver was an Alaskan who used to commercial fish and was now a dog musher. She brought her team to Denali Natl. Park during the winter and very extremely knowledgeable. We drove to mile 53 in the park and saw lots of wildlife - bear, caribou, rabbit, coyote, moose, dall sheep etc. The park is starkly beautiful. Once we reached the tundra I felt like we were on another planet. I've never seen scenery like that before. We are glad we did the tour, but would not do it a second time. Nine hours was too long and it was too cramped even with the stops to shake your legs out. My husband is tall and he was very uncomfortable. The drive left us exhausted and we were ready to get away from all the people. However, as the Denali lodge is so big and there are so many people it's impossible to do. We did walk across the highway over to the Salmon Bake for dinner. I had halibut fish & chips and DH had halibut tacos. Again good, but I thought the Base Camp Bistro was better and cleaner. Our 5th day was the train day and we loved it. First we were motorcoached from the lodge to the train station that is near the entrance to Denali National Park. We were in Railcar 2 and everyone had assigned seats. There are 4 people to a table, 2 on both sides (2 facing forward and 2 facing backwards with the table in the middle) As our tablemates arrived first we ended up sitting in the backwards seats, but it didn't make a difference. The view was great. We spent 9 hours on the train and enjoyed every minute of it. Made several trips to the viewing platform and walked our way to the back of the train and stood on the caboose for a long time. We ate in the dining cars and enjoyed the food. We thought the scenery was great, saw lots of bever dams (which is new to us) and it was interesting going through the various cities. Towards the end of the trip a Princess representative walked through each railcar and checked everyone onto the ship. When we arrived in Whittier, we waited our turn to disembark from the train, walked into the terminal, went through the security line and then we were on the Coral Princess.Once on board, we received our ship card and were on our way to our suite. It was all handled very quickly and smoothly.The Coral Princess is a beautiful ship and it is very easy to find your way around - even for first-timers. Our suite was beautiful and our luggage was already waiting for us. Two weeks before the cruise we were upgraded from our AA minisuite to a premium suite. We were booked in the Bali Suite, C628. It was lovely and very spacious. It was 2 rooms, the living area and the bedroom. It had a spacious bathroom with a full size glassed in shower and a full size whirlpool bathtub. The balcony ran the length of the suite and had lots of room. Lots of perks come with a suite and we enjoyed as many as possible. ?We met our steward, Ricky, and he informed us that the muster drill would begin shortly and how to find our way to our appointed lounge. Muster sounded and the whole process ran very smoothly and was over in ½ hr. Supper was being served in the Main Dining Room for anyone interested, but we went up to the Horizon Court hoping to beat the crowds. Again, the food was fine and I was delighted to find a small salad bar and some fresh fruit.DH and I are not picky eaters and thoroughly enjoyed all the food the entire trip. We had selected the first dining time at Traditional Dining. Our tablemates were great and everyone enjoyed meeting each other and discussing what we had already seen and what excursions we were going to do and then we discussed how much fun we had on our excursions. Our waiters were great and always gave suggestions as to what they thought were the best selections of the day. Also, a large majority of the ship dressed up for both formal nights. Probably more cocktail dressing than "formal", but it was fun to see everyone looking so nice. In fact, in the Traditional Dining Room everyone dressed very nice each evening. I never saw anyone wearing blue jeans/t-shirts to dinner. Maybe that happens more in the Anytime Dining Room. One night we were tired after returning from our excursion so we got pizza/hamburgers from the Pizzeria/Grill on the Lido deck and then took them back to our room. That pizza was delicious! One night we ate at Sabatini's. That was a real treat - so many courses and so delicious! We really enjoyed it, but probably wouldn't do it again because it was way too much food for us and we were so uncomfortable afterwards. Friends gifted us with a champagne breakfast and that was fun to eat in our room one morning. We also enjoyed the shows every evening. Get there early, the seats fill up quickly.On the day we cruised Glacier Bay we spent a lot of time on the "secret" deck on the Caribe deck - thanks CC!. Very few people were out there. It was cold and we were glad we had brought gloves, hats, and layers! We got very close to some of the glaciers, but there was little calving going on that day. Being from southeast Texas it was thrilling to see ice floating in the water. Saw lots of birds, bald eagles, seals, otters and a couple of whale tails. We spent most of the day with friends we had made on the land portion of the cruise. In fact, we found it very easy to talk to people on the cruise. Everyone was happy and on vacation. Skagway was our first port. All of our excursions were made through Princess and my favorite was our Skagway excursion. We did a heli-hike-train adventure by Packer Expeditions. Our guides met us on the dock holding up signs that read "Heli-hike-train". There were 12 in our group plus 2 guides. First, we took about a 20 minute helicopter ride (6 per helicopter) above the Skagway valley and mountains. We got a close up look at the Laughton glacier. Wow! It was great! They landed up the valley on helicopter pads beside the train tracks and next to the Tongass National Forest. The guides gave us some bottled water and trail snacks. We hiked into the forest for about 3 miles in and then back. It was a pretty smooth trail and easy to moderate hike. There were plenty of stops as the guides explained the plants in the forest. For most of the way we hiked beside a glacier fed river. Got some absolutely beautiful photos. There was a bathroom at the half way point in the hike. We hiked back out the same way and ended up beside the train tracks. We waited about 15 minutes before the train stopped for us on their way back down the mountain to Skagway. Packer has reserved the last railcar - so we had it all to ourselves. We were on the train for about 25 minutes and the guides fed us some salmon pate they had made. Delicious! The whole excursion took about 4 hours. When we reached Skagway we made our way into town. However, 3 other cruise ships had docked while we were on our excursion and the town was extremely crowded. Too much for us, so we went back to the ship for a nice nap!The next day we docked at Juneau. We had decided to tour ourselves and not take any excursions. Thanks to CC we knew to take the MGT bus out to Mendenhall Glacier. We walked off the ship and a short way down the dock found a vendor selling MGT tickets. Very easy! A 20 minute bus drive left us off at Mendenhall. We walked down to Nugget Falls and got a close-up view of the falls and the glacier. It took about 10 - 15 minutes to walk to the Falls and the trail was smooth and easy. Again, Wow! Afterwards, we caught the bus back to Juneau. I was looking for a famous organ for a music friend. We found it in the Juneau State Building. If you are there on a Friday during the summer, they give free organ performances. After taking photos for my friend, we wandered out onto the huge observation deck adjacent to the building. We had a great view of the harbor, the ship, and the mountains. We got to watch a seaplane coming in for a landing. Then it was off for some souvenir shopping. Thanks to CC, we found the best shopping in Juneau.Ketchikan was our last port. Our excursion took the entire time, so we did not get to tour the city. This was DH's favorite excursion. I liked it too. It was the "Alaskan Wilderness Fishing & Dining Adventure". We were met at the dock by our guide and walked over to the docks. There we bought fishing licenses and were outfitted in rubber rain suits and boots. If you take this excursion make sure you wear plenty of warm clothing/hat/gloves and a rain jacket of some type! It's cold when your boat is skimming across the Inlet. There were 4 guests and a guide per boat. We fished for about 2 ½ hrs. and everyone in the boat caught fish. We caught rockfish, cod and a halibut. We also saw whales in the water. After catching the fish, our guide took us to an island where an outdoor kitchen was set up. There was also a campfire with coffee, hot chocolate or tea. A bathroom (sorta) is also available. We met up with some other cruisers also on the excursion. We all had stories to tell. There were 4 other women - one in her late 60's. Our guide filleted our fish which were then made into a delicious fish stew. For dessert we had a blueberry bread pudding. When we left the island to head back to the dock our guide brought the fish carcasses. At a certain point he threw the carcasses into the water and a bald eagle launched out of a tree and swooped down and caught it in his talons. Wow!We enjoyed our last day at sea - spending lots of time on our balcony relaxing. Disembarkation in Vancouver the next day went very smoothly. We were called to our lounge and then escorted off the ship. We had a transfer to the airport and were put on a motorcoach and driven there. No hiccups! The longest line we had to wait in was to pick up our luggage in the airport. We went through customs and then waited for our plane to take us back to Texas. We had a most wonderful vacation and can't wait to do it again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Introduction: DH and I are 1st time cruisers; 67 & 56 respectively. 1st trip to Alaska, we wanted everything 'easy' and we couldn't have asked for any better service than what we got with Princess. We decided to ... Read More
Introduction: DH and I are 1st time cruisers; 67 & 56 respectively. 1st trip to Alaska, we wanted everything 'easy' and we couldn't have asked for any better service than what we got with Princess. We decided to 'go for it' and after much research on CC, we did the 12 day Crusietour (5 land/7 cruise). We booked an AA mini-suite, (C504) midship, Deck 10 (Caribe) on the Island Princess, SB from Whittier to Vancouver, June 8 to 15. Our land tour began June 3 in Fairbanks.We booked ourselves from upstate NY to Seattle, WA . We had 2 nights at the Mayflower Park Hotel located only 3 blocks from the Pikes Market, and adjoining the Westlake Mall and access to both the monorail to the Seattle Center (Space Needle) and the light-rail. We used the Shuttle Express to/from the airport for a web reserved discount of $54 r/t for the both of us and 4 pieces of luggage. Great location, rooms are smaller than newer hotels, but staff was helpful, friendly and accommodating. Loved the convenience of being able to walk anywhere. Also, business district city busses are free, so we saved on a Hop on/Hop off tour bus. Ate at the Market (Lowells the 1st night; The Pink Door for the 2nd - OUTSTANDING!) Picked up some fresh cooked prawns and fruit and picnicked for lunch.Booked through Princess for air travel between Seattle and Fairbanks. Arrived in Fairbanks and left our worries behind. Princess took care of EVERYTHING! At the airport, they gave us a welcome envelope that included our room keys, luggage tags ( "come with me tonight" and "meet me at the ship"), itinerary for the next day, time to leave luggage outside (6:00 am), time to get bus to Discovery Riverboat trip and bus # to Denali Princess Lodge. This same scenario repeated itself over the course of the next days travels. A Princess Rep would get on the bus and hand out our envelopes with all information required printed on the front. Travel by coach - comfortable, like a regular charter bus. Small storage bins above seats, room at feet; storage in belly of bus for larger items. Travel by train - 2 different types of trains. Our 1st experience was the McKinley Explorer, a double decker, dome car with front facing, wide cushioned seats. Ample room at feet for small bags & carry ons; storage available below prior to getting on train for larger items. Did see some 'airline' sized carryon bags that were stowed underneath. This was between the Denali Princess and the McKinley Princess lodges. The 2nd train (between McKinley Lodge and Whittier), was the McKinley Express. This is also a dome care, but one level, bench seat style facing each other over a table. NO SPACE AT ALL! We crammed our backpacks in at our feet - a VERY uncomfortable 5 hour trip! The lady seated opposite us (we were facing forward) said she'd get sick riding backwards, so my DH switched with her. They did offer storage as well in the club car, but I traveled with my computer and didn't want to risk it being bounced around and damaged. Dining car available on the 1st train; limited menu on the 2nd. Not supposed to bring on own food, but we didn't know that and we'd brought our own sandwiches with us! No one said anything.Lodging - Fairbanks Princess Lodge: 5 min. trip from airport. Located on river, nice rooms, spacious and clean. Small gift shop, ate in Pub for dinner first night; had buffet for breakfast the next morning. Very satisfied with both. Would have liked 2 nights in Fairbanks, some interesting tours near by we didn't have time for. Shuttle bus into Fairbanks available for $5 pp. We didn't take it, but saw several people lined up for it.Princess Denali Lodge: 3 hr trip from Fairbanks by coach. Had a great guide/driver, who pointed out many points of interest and interesting side stories along the way. Those on the 2nd coach to Denali had a more 'sedate' driver/guide who hardly spoke. Main lodge is near road; across the street from a 'strip' of shops and places to eat. Pizza place, Subway (24 hrs), Salmon Bake rest. Ate at the lodge's pub the 1st night (just chowder and appetizers). Had dinner at the Salmon Bake the following night and breakfast there the morning before leaving for the McKinley Lodge. Heard different comments regarding the dinner show (from 'cute' to 'hokey'). Rooms are spread out in different buildings, shuttle constantly running through, but hardly ever saw anyone using it. Several gift shops between the main lodge and the rooms. Newer buildings (#10/11) are up a slight hill. Our room was in a Bldg near the restaurant. Comfortable, flat screen TV, quiet - quite satisfied. Took the Tundra Wilderness Tour the following morning. DO NOT bother with the Natural History tour. Your first 15 miles are essentially the 'public' areas of the park - with the exception of a mother moose and her twin calves near the entrance of the park - there was virtually no wildlife that we saw - even the drive is limited in the views. We probably went in about 25 miles before we began to see anything. NOTE: the busses look like a school bus on the outside; the seats are NOT bench style - they are more like the coach/charter bus seat, a bit more narrow. Open shelving above for storage. Try to sit (either side) either right below one of the drop down video screens or one row back. They are spaced out about 1 every 4/5 rows. It made a difference a couple of times to see the wildlife up closer. NOTE: 'box lunch' includes: reindeer sausage (looks like kielbasa), bag of baby carrots, bag of granola, 1 oz pkg of cheese, 1 bottle of water, 1 sliced white roll.) Bathroom breaks were every 90-120 min. Nice, clean facilities - not what I expected. One stop even has a small gift shop!! Wildlife viewing is different every trip. Appreciate what you DO see! We saw everything but bears - bus behind us? Saw the bears! Oh well! The views are breathtaking!Some took shuttle back to Visitor's center - we didn't because DH wasn't feeling well, but others said it was great - do it if you can.HINT - taking the train from Denali to McKinley? Don't wait for the scheduled bus - crowded and mayhem at the main lodge. Hop on one of the free shuttles to the Visitors' Center, cross the street and you're at the train station! Princess has their clients wait in covered shelters to the left of the main station. Holland America has theirs wait in a more open area towards the center. A Princess rep will tell you which shelter to wait in based upon the name of the railcar you are assigned to.We had a great 'guide' on the train and had a great day of weather - as we rounded a bend, he pointed out that "the mountain is OUT!" Sure enough, Mt McKinley (Denali to the locals) was clear and bright! An incredible and impressive sight. We counted ourselves very fortunate to get to see it!!McKinley Princess Lodge - REMOTE! A good hour drive by coach after arriving by train in Talkeetna. Some chose to stay in town and catch the hourly shuttle back to the lodge later. NOTE: You are allowed one "FREE" roundtrip on the coach. If you stay in town upon arrival, you can catch the shuttle back at no cost. If you take the shuttle into Talkeetna and back the same day (like we did on our 'free' day), it is $10 roundtrip pp. The town is SMALL! Only about a dozen buildings. If you can, catch some of the lectures/presentations back at the lodge before exploring the town. We went to the one about "Bush Pilots" and then went into town. It really gave a lot of background info on some local legends. Visit the historical museum, and if you have time, walk over to the town cemetery. There are gravesites there that have plane propellers instead of headstones! Eat at the "Roadhouse" - it's family style seating, good food and the building is pretty interesting itself.Our room was located in one of the several lodge style buildings throughout the grounds. We were right near the 20,320 Restaurant. This is the only place we ate on property - breakfast and dinner. Prices were reasonable and service good. The main lodge had a good sized gift shop, a HUGE common area with large windows and a large deck area with plenty of seating to see the mountains. They have 4 or 5 computers available in the 'internet' lounge, but wireless was easily available on your own equipment. Not in the rooms, however. Again, Princess made everything easy. Bus to the train the next day was on time and our driver was a doll! Train to Whittier - only issue on entire trip. The McKinley Express is (as I described above) not as a comfortable mode of transportation. It did go past some beautiful scenery though. Arrival at Whittier - I should mention that we stopped shortly in Anchorage where Princess rep's boarded the train - one to each car. They went seat by seat and scanned everyone's passports. Answered questions and explained how embarkation would work. When we arrived in Whittier, and before leaving the railcar, we received our Cruise Cards! Simply walked off the train, followed the walkway to the security building (there were about 400 of us on the train, so that did take about 20 minutes or so to get through), continued to the ship where they scanned our card at the entryway and the 'machine' took our photo! Onboard at last! Barely walked in when our room steward, Robert, came by, introduced himself, pointed out that the egg crate and distilled water (for DH Cpap machine) were already in our cabin, confirmed our requests for robes, showed us how to request service, explained the breakfast room service card. Within 15 min. or so it was time to go to the muster drill. Crew and staff were posted everywhere to direct people, instructions were short and sweet and then everyone disbursed again.Got our bearings and headed to the buffet where it was a bit crowded and crazy to say the least. Buffet lines were slow moving (some seemed to be filling up a week's worth of food - perhaps they were afraid the ship would run out!). Eventually we got our 'light' supper and then did a quick cursory tour of the ship, unpacked and settled in for the night.1st day of cruise was spent getting a massage, attending the CC Meet and Greet (Thanks Jody!), having lunch in the Bordeaux . It was also the first formal night, but because we were also cruising to Hubbard Glacier, we made a decision to forgo the dinner to watch the glacier instead. HOWEVER, due to heavy ice floe and heavy fog setting in, the Captain decided for safety sake to stop eight miles away (still pretty impressive from what we could see) and turned around earlier. Problem solved - dressed for dinner. We preferred eating our meals in the dining room. Enjoyed the service, the quality of food and the ambiance. We had a lunch in Horizon Court once and on an early tour excursion in Juneau, we had room service (mostly breaks, fruits, cereals, juices and an 'egg mcmuffin' style sandwich. DH had room service bring coffee, juice and fruit each morning. Always on time or early. Always delivered with a smile and 'good morning'! Had pizza a couple of times as a snack. Actually pretty good! Had ice cream cones a couple of times as well. I'm a big diet soda drinker, so we sprung for a soda package ($36 for the length of the cruise, unlimited). Had no trouble getting it at the buffett, dining room or any of the bars open throughout the ship. I saw some people walking around with their 'coke' souvenir mug to have it filled up, but I just showed my cruise card with the sticker on it. NOTE: got my cruise card punched in the casino and the cashier put it on a lanyard for me. VERY handy!Glacier Bay was outstanding - weather was perfect, glaciers were calving, Rangers on board were great!Skagway - DH didn't want to do the train, so we opted for the bus trip over the summit and Liarsville. Beautiful scenery. Liarsville was cute. A B+ overall. Went back to the ship for lunch, then met up with our guide for the "Good Times Girls walking tour". Also a B+ (although DH would probably give it an A+!!). Juneau - booked our own tour with Harv & Marv's. OUTSTANDING! They book no more than 6 pax per ship, so imagine our surprise when we were the ONLY TWO on our tour! We had Captain Liz, who did a WONDERFUL job of getting us to the whales fast and pointing out great shots. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day! I HIGHLY recommend H&M! Ketchican - the first 'drizzly' day we had all week! Still, not wet enough to need much more than a good waterproof jacket and baseball cap. We took the self-guided tour through town (pick up right at the dock at the Visitor Center). The first thing we did, though, was head to the Post Office to mail packages of gifts we'd been buying all along. What I didn't know, until I read it in the Patter, is that you have to meet with a Custom's agent ON THE SHIP prior to taking any packages off to be mailed. About a dozen pax and crew waited for the agent to arrive in the Provence DR. She did a cursory check of the opened packages and then you sealed it and she put the customs inspection tape on it. I don't know if this is something that people bypass by not packing boxes and just carrying things off, but we didn't want to take any chances. Also, stopped by the Library/Museum. Nice museum and the library offers 30 minutes free wifi if you have your own laptop. They also have some PC's available, but I overhead the librarian tell a fellow pax that they would have to wait an hour to use it.Ultimate Ship Tour - yes, we sprung for the $150 pp and LOVED IT! Only one dozen permitted on the tour (we had ten total). Got to see the galley's, coolers, laundry, medical center, mooring, engineer room, walk the "M1" secret corridor on deck 3 from forward to aft, and finished up in the Bridge with the Captain. Not long after the 3.5 hr tour, we received 2 heavy terry cloth robes, 2 chef's coats, autographed photos taken at the different locations. A great experience!Vancouver - arrived in dock on time. Disembarkation was relatively quick. Our group was given the place (Universal Lounge) and time (8:20). We departed the ship about 8:30, went right through Canadian customs, found our luggage, got in a cab and by 9:00 we were at the West End Guest House B&B only about 4 blocks from Canada Place. Dropped off our luggage, picked up the Vancouver Trolley and toured the city. Caught a couple of comedian shows, but generally, we were pretty tired in the evenings and would spend a quiet night in our cabin.A wonderful experience and can't find a negative thing to say about Princess! Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
My husband and I joined friends and took advantage of Princess' transfer and airfare and spent the day before the land tour in Seattle sightseeing. The following morning flew to Fairbanks and Princess representatives met us, gathered ... Read More
My husband and I joined friends and took advantage of Princess' transfer and airfare and spent the day before the land tour in Seattle sightseeing. The following morning flew to Fairbanks and Princess representatives met us, gathered up our luggage and took us to the Princess Riverside hotel in Fairbanks. Perfect setting, room with a view of the river and the two excursions that Princess arranged for us the following day were very enjoyable. Took the train to Denali National Park and stayed for 2 nights. Can't wait to return. Absolutely equisite scenery and crisp air and a view of the top of Denali both days! 2 days later returned to the train and stayed at the Princess Wilderness Lodge and continued on a breathtaking land tour. Paid $10 for a round trip bus ride to the town of Talkeena and was once again astounded by the view of Denali from the walk to the river. On Saturday, May 28th took a final train ride to Whittier where we started our glacier cruise. Check in was efficient and the next morning we found ourselves out on deck 15 with our binoculars looking at glaciers. It was a grand cruise. We had never been so far aft on a cruise before. Our room was lovely, just not midship but the water was absolute glass throughout the entire sailing. The day in Skagway was spent taking a train (yes, another train)to the Yukon. The scenery included black bears and moose and scenery that took your breath away. The day we spent in Juneau found us walking in a forest with a naturalist explaining the medicinal purposes of the plants and trees and ending up on a beach with an unobstructed view of the glacier. That afternoon we were on a small boat and lost count of the humpback whales we saw. The time in Ketchikan went by so fast. We took a historical tour of the town and then found our way back to our favorite book shop there. The weather throughout the entire trip was absolutely perfect. The ship's crew are relaxed, friendly and make you feel like you're a guest. They appreciated us and we appreciated them. My gluten free/wheat free diet was honored in the main dining room with wonderful surprises every evening. Loved this trip. Princess has the land tour down to a science. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
As first time cruisers we had to learn everything from the Internet and asking questions of our booking agent. It took me awhile to get to where I am now and probably still have a lot to learn. I had been to all out ports of call before ... Read More
As first time cruisers we had to learn everything from the Internet and asking questions of our booking agent. It took me awhile to get to where I am now and probably still have a lot to learn. I had been to all out ports of call before and have lived and vacationed in the areas so my shore excursions are not the purpose of this review. I would rather pass on my experiences to maybe help others going through this process. I liked the fact that the Coral Princess only held around 2000 passengers. I was surprised by what I thought was a rather older group and how many people needed some kind of assistance in getting around. The elevators always had a line so we stuck to the stairs. I picked a cabin in midships and was pleased that I did--quick to forward and aft as needed. I agonized which over which cabin category and decided to splurge (in case we never sailed again) and this turned out to be my best move. We ended up on Deck 10, Caribe in a mini-suite, category AA-mid-ship. What I liked--tub in the bathroom, 2 dozen hangers, a queen size couch that could fold down and a feeling of size. We made full use of our cabin and its deck. Because our cabin was larger the deck was smaller than those around us and only held 2 chairs. Cabin was quiet even though near stairs. Points to note--safe in room is very small-barely could hold my Kindle and not meant for bulky items. Plenty of dresser room, no outlets in bathroom, hairdryer over desk, same with outlets. We went with anytime dining which means the Bourdeaux dining room. We heard that you can make reservations there after 7:30 p.m. but didn't partake. If you show up and no tables are available they will give you a pager--longest wait was 20 minutes. As there were just the 2 of us you can request a table for 2 or take whatever opens up. Our tables for 2 were so close to the other table for 2 that you end up talking to them. For the most part we had great table-mates but than had a couple that made you want to bolt. An issue--over lunch if they seat you at a large table (i.e. 10 seats) you have to wait until the table is full before you can order--one lunch it took us 15 minutes as savvy cruisers saw the size of the table and asked to be sent elsewhere. Food and service. Outstanding service no matter where we ate. I guess my expectations on the food were too high. We tried the specialty dining at the Bayou Cafe for a nice steak-fillet for me and a porterhouse for her. Good cut of meat just no flavor. Bread-pudding turned out to be just pudding--no bread. I gained no weight on the trip. We only ate at the Horizon Court for breakfast--typical buffet food and generally crowded. One thing I learned is that they will serve limit quantities of food not offered in the dining rooms. We had reports of plates of sushi being served. If you go be prepared to be bumped and trampled as people go for the food--saw some "mile high" full plates and some that didn't make it back to the table. Entertainment. It was good and varied. If a show starts at 8:15 p.m. make sure you show up anywhere from 15-20 minutes early for a seat. Late show usually wasn't as bad. Keep moving around until you find something you like. Movies under the stars is a great concept but probably better suited for the warmer climates--anyway too much other stuff to do. Formal dress. I really agonized over this. In the end I brought a suit. She really wanted to dress up. No they will not throw you out of the dining room if you aren't wearing a tux or suit. A nice shirt or sweater would get you in. Sunday night at sea was the first formal night and people really did dress up nice. The second night--Wednesday out of Juneau--was a little less formal. It did add some fun and I would probably do it again but maybe just a sports coat. Overall, some people dressed as if they had never left their home and others tried to be smart casual and relish what it must have been like in the older days. Best Bet. Sign up for the Ultimate Ship Tour. They only take around a dozen passengers at the end of the cruise and it does cost $150 but the best money I spent. We had a 4 hour tour that included among other places--the galley, medical facilities, navigation and other parts of the ship off limits to the passengers. I came away with four pictures, a chef's jacket and a bath rob plus lots of snacks in between. If too many people sign up they have a drawing. Quick thoughts. I did not like all the photographers holding me up for pictures. Pizza and hamburgers filled a hunger but nothing special. Not many gamblers and in fact couldn't get some tables up and going. It was one of the few places you could smoke which kept a lot of folks out. Pools were OK but the hot tubs better--great weather but no real crowds. Easy to find spots to hang out on the deck or just sit and relax. They have some great chairs aft and out of the wind. No one seemed to be paying for the Lotus and its Sanctuary. Wine--We always bought 2 bottles while on shore and never had a problem with security and even paid the corkage fee one night for dinner. Brought our own bottled water as well and saved some bucks--did drink tap water at meals. Summary. I would cruise again. I would invest in the best cabin I could justify, be pleasantly surprised if the food was really good, stick to smaller ships and hope for great weather. PS. I tell all my family and guests to come up in May for the best chance of good weather. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Tour Seattle to Anchorage to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge to Princess Denali Lodge to Whittier 9/5 - 9/18 Seattle was the typical Seattle, sun then gloomy with bits of sun peeking through. We did the touristy things, Pike's Place ... Read More
Tour Seattle to Anchorage to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge to Princess Denali Lodge to Whittier 9/5 - 9/18 Seattle was the typical Seattle, sun then gloomy with bits of sun peeking through. We did the touristy things, Pike's Place market and the Space Needle. Best tip for Seattle, go to Beecher's and get some cheese for your trip. We rented a car and it was very convenient to get around Seattle. There is also an elevated train that takes you downtown from the airport as well if you don't want to drive it. We booked the Seattle Air Advantage through Princess. Princess arranged for transportation to the airport, a short 5 - 10 minute ride. We were met at the Anchorage airport by a Princess rep and taken to the Captain Cook Hotel. We walked around downtown Anchorage and just had a great time in all of the shops. We took the trolley tour and this is where I learned that all of the tour drivers tell you to be ready for the wildlife that was on the last tour I just took around. By the way, they never showed up until the TWT. I found a great antique shop downtown near the hotel that had some great Native American and Wild West memorabilia. I can't remember the name but is was very unique; they had a Native American war vest with scalps sewn on. We were shuttled to the train depot for our 1st train ride to Talkeetna and Mt. McKinley lodge. The train ride was spectacular and shouldn't be missed. The service was great and the food was pretty tasty. The scenery was beautiful even through the clouds and fog. The transfer from the bus depot to Mt. McKinley Lodge is about 45 minutes. If you have the opportunity to stay in Talkeetna and explore the town you should it has it's own personality. Mt. McKinley Lodge was in one word GREAT! We were in building 9, we had a short walk to the lodge but with all that fresh air, it was just refreshing. My friend and I went fishing on a tributary to the Talkeetna River the water was very clear and the fishing was good (8 salmon between us). It was catch and release because the salmon were deteriorating because of the spawn and not much for eating. Our wives went ATVing and absolutely LOVED it. Neither have the daredevil gene in them but they certainly enjoyed it. The food at the lodge was very good. Our last evening there we got "lucky" and saw the silhouette of Mt. McKinley. We were in awe but would soon realize how awestruck the mountain can make you feel. So far no wildlife, but it isn't a zoo. The bus ride from Talkeetna to Denali Lodge was rather unspectacular, our driver made it a better bus ride with his stories and his love for Alaska. He talked about how on one repositioning trip he was impressed by the scenery so he started America the Beautiful. He says he had no complaints from the passengers but then he was the only passenger. Princess Denali Lodge was very, very nice. The lodge property overlooks the Nenana River and Denali National Park. The view is breathtaking. Directly across the "highway" you will find a bunch of shops and restaurants. My wife and I had lunch at the coffee shop and I would recommend it again. We went to the Songs of Denali show, it was your typical dinner show. The next day we went on the Tundra Wilderness Tour and I cannot say enough about it. The sights were phenomenal, the wildlife was slow at first but in the end we saw, 1 moose, 3 bears one with a cub, a pack of wolves (9) in all, numerous dall sheep, 2 golden eagles, a willow ptarmigan and a snowshoe hare. To me, the best part of the TWT was the view of Denali, it was spectacular and if you don't get to see it you are missing out. I cannot wait to see our photos because it was breathtaking. Our driver was excellent and how he and the other drivers don't go driving off the sheer cliffs with no guardrails on essentially a two-lane GRAVEL road is amazing to say the least. They are very talented drivers. That evening we had dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. This restaurant really gives you a local flair! We met some locals who talked about how the strip of shops essentially closes after September 17th and won't open until May and how they sustain themselves over the winter months. It takes a certain personality with a hearty soul to not have much contact with the other for such a long time and not go more than a little "batty". The train ride from Denali to Whittier is very nice. The views once again are great and the service we received was so nice. Basically, this was the end of our "vacation" in the interior of Alaska and to say the least, I enjoyed every bit of it. I cannot wait to return and experience more of the interior areas of Alaska. Cruise Whittier to Hubbard Glacier to Glacier Bay National Park to Skagway to Juneau to Ketchikan to Vancouver We didn't arrive in Whittier until late in the day thus it was a wash. However the embarkation was smooth as silk. The train stopped maybe 200 yards from the ship and the process was quick, we were on the Coral Princess in less than 20 minutes. Hubbard Glacier, day one of sunny skies, all I can say is WOW! It was magnificent, to see the "iceberglets" floating in the water and our naturalist explaining how they are made of clear ice, "dirty" ice and how the top is only 1/3 of the mass of the "iceberglet". When the glacier started to calve I think the naturalist was more excited than we were. His excitement carried over to those of us on the ship and we all were waiting to see the crashing of the walls of ice into the ocean. We eventually learned that if you hear the "thundering" of the calving you probably missed seeing the actual calving. Regardless of how "warm" it is near the glacier it is cold, you will need hat and gloves. Glacier Bay National Park, day two of sunny skies, I must admit after seeing Hubbard Glacier I wasn't overly excited to see another glacier. Well, that was a mistake. The views of John's Hopkins Glacier and Margerie Glacier, though much smaller than Hubbard Glacier, were really impressive. We were so lucky to have clear skies as we were able to spend more time at the glacier and we were able to see so much more of the beautiful vista's throughout the park. Probably the only negative I can say about these two sea days cruising the glaciers was the jockeying for position at the rails to get a good view of them. However, as has been stated on Cruise Critic before, on deck 10 both on the bow and stern you have some "private" viewing decks (no chairs) to view the glaciers. Skagway, day three of our sun filled cruise to Alaska, was a trip of adventure and one amazing lake. We started with a train ride on the White Pass Railway with Chilkoot Charters. We chose to do this independently because of the savings from the cruise line's costs. My only concern was do I want another 8+ hour day on a train and bus but one of my goals was to go to Emerald Lake. Well, the train ride was spectacular; to see the path that so many traveled during the gold rush was so impressive. We ended up at Emerald Lake it truly is an awesome sight. We lunched on a chicken leg and thigh and ½ potato at Caribou Crossing and visited the city of CarCross. On the return home we drove over the Cantilever bridge, a very impressive display of engineering at the bridge was one of the bike riding tours. Our driver said they are the bane of his and other tour drivers existence and is convinced that they will be the cause of a major incident on the Yukon Highway. Did I mention that my wife is afraid of bridges and heights so she was "fun". Tonight we dined on surf n turf, well our own surf n turf. The menu had lobster tails and prawns as well as beef wellington. The lobster was sad, rubbery and it's a shame to harvest such a small lobster. However the shrimp were divine and the wellington, delicious. Juneau, day four of our week in Hawaii er Alaska. Today we went whale watching with Kevin Burchfield from Lost in Alaska Charters. We were able to find some active whales and a pod or 2 of dall porpoises. We then hired our taxi driver to take us to Mendenhall Glacier, he gave us a tour of Juneau and some of it's charm. We ended up at downtown near the tram. We took the Mt. Robert's Tram - I can't say it was worth $27 per person. I would have preferred to stay at Mendenhall Glacier. This evening we dined in the Horizon Court - the theme was Octoberfest, not bad - not great. The desert was the best part so at least I went away with a smile. Ketchikan, day 5 of sun - simply amazing, I took a charter with Ken from Northern Lights Charters. The fishing was slow since we couldn't go where Ken normally fishes due to Orca's. Actually slow is the wrong choice of words, more like non-existent. However, Ken made lemonade out of lemons. We found some deep water and bottom fished. We ended up with 3 red snappers and 2 smaller rock fish, catching an 8 - 10 pound fish in 300+ feet of water isn't easy. We finally ended up with one keeper salmon and the 5 deep water fish. My wife went on the Bering Sea Crab Fishing tour and truly enjoyed herself. I haven't had time to see all of her photos and videos but from what I can tell she had a GREAT time. This evening we dined at the Bayou Cafe. Tasty and they were very accommodating for one of our party who doesn't eat beef or seafood. So a little tip, if you want personalized service but don't necessarily enjoy the menu just ask. The cruise line wants to satisfy you not disappoint you. Scenic Cruising - day 6 that's right, our entire cruise was sunny! We just relaxed, played cards, listened to music and enjoyed some refreshments at the bar. We were escorted between 5:00 and 6:00 by a huge pod of dall porpoises. We watched them for 15 minutes what a beautiful way to end the cruise of your dreams. Tonight we at at Sabatinis, one word, delicious! To say the least the cruise was spectacular! 7 days of sun and calm waters! We were truly blessed. We met some wonderful new friends. Sandy and Howard I can't wait to hear how the fish that we caught tastes. Princess certainly does it right. I cannot see taking any other cruise line. We brought wine on board and had wine/cheese/crackers nightly before dinner. The meals were very good, I would say the only negative was Octoberfest night. The entertainment was OK - the dance/sing show was fair, Jay Johnson from the old 70's show Soap was great and the International talent show was very fun to watch especially the finale! My favorite "entertainer" was Mel from the Cruise Director's staff. She really can sing. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This trip was a replacement (can you believe this) for a 16 day jaunt from Valparaiso, Chile to San Francisco on Star in March 2011, However Princess for the second time cancelled a cruise from under our feet. It took years to convince my ... Read More
This trip was a replacement (can you believe this) for a 16 day jaunt from Valparaiso, Chile to San Francisco on Star in March 2011, However Princess for the second time cancelled a cruise from under our feet. It took years to convince my wife that there was more than your standard "warm weather" cruising, so off we went. We stayed with friends in Vancouver prior to our flight(s) to Anchorage. The two of us flew with Continental on a Vancouver/Seattle/ Anchorage routing for the great price of CAD$736.00. Air Canada wanted CAD$630 plus change per person for the non-stop Vancouver/Anchorage flight. Arrival times were not that far apart. Great service and will fly Continental again in a heartbeat. Stayed one night pre-cruise at the Holiday Inn Express in Anchorage on Spenard Street close to the airport. For an HI Express, it had all the amenities of the larger Holiday Inns (without a pool). It appears to be a relatively new property for IC hotels...very clean and modern. Beds were extremely comfortable (almost Crowne Plaza standard for an HI Express). Princess can take a lesson here. Cab fare to downtown was USD$13-15. For those who booked Princess transfers, the transfer process opened at 9am with the first shuttle departing the Convention Centre for Whittier at 1pm. The process was excellent all staffed by locals. You could leave your bags there, check them in and they'd show up several hours later at your stateroom door. This allowed you more free hands to do pre-cruise shopping in Anchorage for those items necessary for a happy cruise...a few well priced PGA golf shirts and of course a few pairs of dress pants to replace those with the ever shrinking waist bands. Transfer time to Whittier was approximately 90 minutes and the bus driver was knowledgeable on the local area providing the standard tourist info especially on the sandbars and the tunnel through the mountain into the port area. Check in at the pier was painless. As we were Platinum Captain's Circle members the staff checked for our Preferred Boarding Pass and ushered us to the front where we were served immediately. Afer providing the print of the credit Card we were on our way shipboard cards in ahnd and we were onboard and in our staterooms within 30 minutes of arriving in Whittier. It was our first time on this class of vessel. She looks magnificent from the outside, but after having explored several of the venues and shipboard areas as well as our stateroom we were a tad sad to see her run down look throughout in general. Furnishings were well rubbed (not polished) scuffed and in most cases are in dire need of replacement. Hopefully a refit in Singapore in October this year will include more than the requisite installation of MUTS and an International Cafe. The seating in the Princess Theatre for some reason felt more comfortable than the Golden and Star, possibly due to the lack of comfort of the beds in the stateroom (even with egg crate attached). Sammi Baker as always is an effervescent lady as a Cruise Director and was always interacting with passengers...a real go getter. The hypnotist from Las Vegas, she was OK...why do they advertise the shows with promo material that is 10-15 years out of date? Other than that didn't take in any of the larger onboard productions. In terms of activities I suppose we were spoiled by the numbers who participated in sea-day activities on Star on our trans Pacific voyage. Trivia sessions were lucky to draw 15 people if you were lucky, and I felt bad for Tim, the art director, as there were no large crowds bidding on the Nechita and Rembrandt pieces he was trying to auction off. I give great credit to the service level provided onboard specifically to Harish our stateroom steward and to Satipa one of the bartenders in the Atrium, Wheelhouse and Tradewinds Bars. Even outside in inclement whether she would always have a smile and chat with you although she could have used some warming up I'm sure. Our dining room stewards were amazing, and we lucked into getting them (a total Thai team) for six of the seven nights onboard, which segues into a somewhat contentious topic dining. The food for the most part in the HC was average to below average and cool temperature wise. It took 13 minutes to find a replacement bottle of ketchup. I am convinced that the chair hogs from Caribbean cruises, when on Alaskan cruises move indoors and occupy chairs and tables sitting and reading for hours on end while others are left to fend for a place to eat. This was a common complaint on this cruise. The food in the main DR was nothing to write home about, about 3-4 out of five on the Richter scale for food. Then onto that favourite contentious issue of dress in the Dining room. A group of Taiwanese cruisers were seated next to us on five of our six nights. They obviously had never bothered to read the dress "suggestions" from Princess as they sat down at the table in jeans, sneakers, teeshirts and wearing caps, ballcaps and (yes even) toques for you Canadians out here. What topped it off was when they brought out the laptop placed it on the table and illuminated the corner of the Dining Room with the twenty minute PowerPoint presentation of all the they had taken. The issue was addressed to Paco and Joseph, the head waiters for the Vivaldi DR who explained that they had almost been fired for trying to address a similar issue on a previous occasion. It would appear that the poor staff are in a Catch 22 situation either way. Princess needs to establish DR policies that are applied equitably across the fleet. Plaudits to Capt Bob Oliver, his Staff Captain and the Bridge crew for getting us so close to the glaciers in both Yakutat and Glacier Bays. Bob is off for a well deserved holiday with the family as we speak. ...and before you know it the seven days had come and gone. Even though we were "walk off", I give credit to Princess for having moved the "luggage out" time tppm from midnight which allows all passengers to try to sleep without the continual ruckas of baggage being bounced about throughout the early hours. Disembarkation was painless and Canada Customs and Immigration at Canada Place (IMHO) are the friendliest ( if you can call a CBSA officer that). To summarize, a cruise with both highs and lows. I do hope they can certainly do something during the refit to update the furnishings and carpets in the staterooms and public areas to freshen her up on the inside as well as out. From captainron, you know it by now...Ciao for now!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
The Island Princess is a large, well appointed ship but might be not as 'freshly decorated' as some other ships. This was its last trip of the season so it may have been showing some wear. In spite of this, it is well maintained. ... Read More
The Island Princess is a large, well appointed ship but might be not as 'freshly decorated' as some other ships. This was its last trip of the season so it may have been showing some wear. In spite of this, it is well maintained. The itinerary and ports of call for an Alaskan cruise are pretty standard. The stateroom was a bit small but very clean and very well maintained during our voyage. Island Princess has two dining room and the required buffet. The food in the two dining rooms was excellent; however, I can't say the same about the buffet. I was always well pleased with the food and the service in the dining rooms. I can't say the same about the buffet. I found it difficult to find food in the buffet that I appreciated. I'm not a picky eater but they even screwed up the scrambled eggs. How's that done? The coffee on the ship was horrible. It appears to be delivered and stored as a concentrate then coupled with a hot water dispenser for delivery. It always tasted stale, strong and bitter. Most people tried to adjust by mixing it half-and-half with hot water. The problem with the coffee was standard throughout the ship - even in the espresso bar. The area set aside for smoking does not appear to have a discrete and separate ventilation system. This allowed the smoke to penetrate areas of the ship in which it was not appreciated. i heard several people complain about that. I'm hardly connoisseur of coffee but that issue would make me think very hard before using this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Princess did it once again!! The most awesome cruise line gave us an awesome adventure in the most awesome state in the union, Alaska! This was our third cruise with Princess for a reason, they just flat out do everything with class; ... Read More
Princess did it once again!! The most awesome cruise line gave us an awesome adventure in the most awesome state in the union, Alaska! This was our third cruise with Princess for a reason, they just flat out do everything with class; beautifully designed ships, great food and entertainment, very friendly and courteous staff, and a routine that keeps everything flowing smoothly. The lodges at both Denali and Mt. McKinley were beautiful, but I believe we leaned toward McKinley a little more due to it's remoteness. Being off of the beaten path, ( no tourist traps across the street), made it seem like we were truly in the 'north woods'. The Princess Rail between Fairbanks and Denali and also between McKinley and Whittier was a highlight of our trip. This was a first train experience for my husband and me, and we thoroughly enjoyed the rides. The staff on board both rail cars that we were assigned to were very friendly and quite knowledgeable about the areas that we were traveling through. Finally, the Coral Princess! As I stated earlier, this was not our first cruise with Princess, nor will it be our last. Some of the other cruise lines out there would do well to take a few lessons from these pros. Everything from food, to entertainment, to friendly and helpful staff,to the tasteful decor made this ship special. We chose Anytime Dining and were certainly not disappointed. The Horizon Court always had food to offer that would fit anyone's taste buds at both breakfast and lunch; and on the mornings that we had nothing scheduled early, we enjoyed breakfast on our balcony. We would make reservations most evenings for the Bordeaux Dining Room and thoroughly enjoyed the variety of food offered there also. We thought that a good variety of entertainment was made available to passengers. Jay Johnson, the comedian, was a treat and when it wasn't too awfully cold, we enjoyed wrapping up under blankets for a night at Movies Under The Stars. The daytime was full of places to keep busy also; Casino, Internet Cafe, Trivia & Bingo games, the Library, or just finding a quiet spot to sit and read afforded everyone something to do. Loved the location of our cabin, B418. We like the Baja deck the best because of the balconies; no one can look down on you from above so they are quite private. Also, the room was just big enough for two people to share, and we were close to the elevators. Our room steward, Morris, wasn't as attentive as some we've had in the past, but if we ask for anything he made sure to provide it. Quite surprisingly there is ample storage space in these rooms also. As to the itinerary, everywhere we either cruised or stopped in Alaska was perfect. Hubbard Bay and Glacier Bay cannot even be described well enough to do them justice! This state is definitely one that everyone should add to their "bucket list"! Thank you, Princess, for the trip of a lifetime!!   Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
We flew into Anchorage the night before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn. Van service was prompt and very courteous. After a very nice breakfast buffet we took the van service back to the airport for a Princess transfer to ... Read More
We flew into Anchorage the night before the cruise and stayed at the Hampton Inn. Van service was prompt and very courteous. After a very nice breakfast buffet we took the van service back to the airport for a Princess transfer to Whittier. The driver to Whittier was a wonderful tour guide with a stream of information. We even saw a mother bear and two cubs on the drive down. Embarkation was probably the fastest we have ever experienced. Since this was our second time in all the ports we took different tours than most people would take on their first trip to Alaska. It was nice to start out with a day at sea, leading to an attempt to get to Hubbard Glacier. Fog and ice kept us away. Then on to Glacier Bay where we had a beautiful day. Information about "secret decks" picked up on Cruise Critic made the time in Glacier Bay uncrowded and almost private. Skagway was the next port. We took the Princess tour to Jewell Gardens and were very pleased. In the afternoon and other Princess tour led by one of the "staff" of the Red Onion Saloon. She had the entire group strutting their stuff around the streets of Skagway. In Juneau two more Princess tours, a nature hike on Mt. Roberts and a miniature steamboat ride. In Ketchikan we took the Crab Boat Excursion on our own. This was truly a great tour led by a most enthusiastic crew. Food on the ship was great in Anytime Dining, with little or no waiting. We found Horizon Court to be crowded ONLY on the first morning when everyone slept in and arrived at the same time for breakfast. Horizon Court had a wide variety of tasty food and was managed very well. The entertainment was the best we have seen in several years on Princess. The cast in the shows were the strongest dancers/singers we have seen on a ship. Dan Oliver was exceptional in Crooners. He had a packed room every night in Crooners. The ship is in great shape, especially considering it was scheduled for dry dock in four weeks. Self disembarkation was painless. More than 80% of the cruisers were first time Princess cruisers and most of those on their first cruise ever. Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
I read a lot of passenger reviews before booking so I think I owe it to you all to review my experience. There were 8 of us from age 14 - 72. Since I was the organizer I was very invested in getting the best experience for the money. I ... Read More
I read a lot of passenger reviews before booking so I think I owe it to you all to review my experience. There were 8 of us from age 14 - 72. Since I was the organizer I was very invested in getting the best experience for the money. I think I did. My in-laws are retired and live in FL and do about 6 cruises a year on the majors (mostly in the Carribean but first time on Princess) and they agreed that the Alaska cruise on Coral Princess was the best cruise they have ever taken. Coral Princess excels in the following areas: Itinerary - I figured we all probably would not get together in Alaska ever again so I wanted to make sure we saw as much as we could in the time we had. I knew Glacier Bay was a must but I also wanted to see Hubbard and Mendenhall. We also wanted Skagway for sure. The Princess "Voyage of the Glaciers" hit all four plus Ketchikan which we ended up liking very much. The naturalist on board was very experienced and gave a great narration of Hubbard, as did the National Park rangers who were aboard during Glacier Bay. Coral Princess - She is a very nice ship. They keep her spotless. I have been on some of the giant cruise ships of some competitors but I think those days are over. Even though Coral Princess is mid-sized (2000 passengers) you don't ever feel crowded. Somehow they manage to spread people around throughout the ship. We had 3 obstructed view staterooms and one mini suite. The 3 smaller staterooms were pretty good - they did not seem as small as I thought they would. There is a closet-dressing area between the bed and the bath that makes the room appear to be much larger. The views were not great but at least you could see out. The mini suite was fantastic. Having a balcony for this cruise was a great addition. 4 could sit comfortably on the balcony. 5 could sit comfortably in the living area. We all spent a decent amount of time up there. They played the naturalist's narrations on channel 49 so you could sit on the balcony during Hubbard and Glacier Bay and hear everything. Plus it was nice to just sit up there and watch the unbelievable coastline views. The food - best I've ever had on a cruise ship. The executive chef is to be commended. We ate in the dining rooms for breakfast and dinner. We were on excursions most lunches but had snacks from time to time in the buffet. There were two formal nights which people dressed up for. We did the anytime dining option which went without a hitch on all occasions (we ate usually between 7:3- - 8:00). The Chef's Dinner was really very good. They had a menu that was available every night, plus the different nightly offerings. My mother in law is very particular and I've never seen her enjoy eating so much. Our fellow passengers - a cut above. People of all ages, many different nationalities. We spent some time in the (very nice) game room and it was always busy with people playing board games and doing puzzles. I guess you could say the age range was weighted towards 50 plus but they were the more active slice of that demographic. The health club was full by 8:00 am so go early! People went on a lot of excursions. The attended the lectures and presentations. Overall a much nicer and more sincere bunch than you might find on your average 7NC. We fear we are spoiled. We would go again tomorrow if we could. But I have to work (heh) but Princess is on the top of my list for the future. If you have read this far, here's a tip - Coral Princess (and her sister ship, I presume) has a really nice terrace at the back of the ship off the 10th deck. Hardly anyone knows it's there and we had a fantastic time while cruising Hubbard Glacier. Regrets? Not enough time to see and do everything. More time in Ketchikan. If you can (not everyone can spend the time and/or money) do the cruise-tour to Denali. Who knows when you will ever get there again! Read Less
Sail Date August 2010
There were 6 in our group, my husband and I, who had cruised to Alaska in Sept 2007, our 3 grown kids and a friend, who had never cruised to Alaska. We had 3 balcony cabins on the Caribe Deck, C612, 614 & 616. We flew out of LAX on ... Read More
There were 6 in our group, my husband and I, who had cruised to Alaska in Sept 2007, our 3 grown kids and a friend, who had never cruised to Alaska. We had 3 balcony cabins on the Caribe Deck, C612, 614 & 616. We flew out of LAX on Alaska Airlines on 7-9-10 to Anchorage. We had never flown with Alaska Air but it was an O.K. airline. It was a typical size plane, 3 seats on each side. Of course, on a 5 ½ hr flight, it seemed a little too small. I recommend taking your own food and entertainment. The food was expensive and not very tasty. There is no entertainment unless you rent a Digi Player for $6, which plays music, movies and games. If you prefer not to pay the $6 or bring your own entertainment then plan on sleeping or starring at the ceiling, only 1 magazine to read. We also had to pay $220 for luggage (each way). It seems that the airlines charge for everything, next they will be charging for you to use the bathroom. We arrived at Anchorage and the Comfort Inn Hotel Free Shuttle was waiting for us, which I really appreciated. I had chosen Comfort Inn at Ship Creek, so we would be close to the train depot. The shuttle driver was excellent, very knowledgeable on Alaska and gave us a mini tour. We arrived at Comfort Inn and were very pleased; it is a very cute, country style and clean hotel. It is located right next to the ULU Factory. We had 2 rooms with 2 queen beds on the bottom floor, which I had requested. The hotel has a complimentary breakfast, large fireplace in a large sitting area. The hotel also will provide you with a fishing pole and gear if you want to fish for salmon behind the hotel, about 300 yards from the back door. You do need to get a fishing license, which we did when we went into downtown. After we got situated we headed for downtown Anchorage and took the free shuttle that ULU Factory provides. You can walk but it is about a 25 minute walk uphill. We had lunch at Rum Runners Bar & Grill and the food was great, we had eaten there before. After we walked around and purchased a fishing license for my daughter to fish, when we returned to the hotel. We jumped back on the ULU Factory Shuttle; it runs every 20 minutes from several locations downtown to the ULU factory, next to our hotel. My daughter grabbed the fishing pole and gear from the hotel front desk and off fishing she went. Thereafter, a man standing next to my daughter caught a 42" salmon. Unfortunately, she didn't have the same luck. We ordered pizza to be delivered to the hotel for dinner and then walked around the hotel grounds at midnight, as it was still daylight out. It never really got dark, only dusk for about 2 hrs, from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. We woke up on 7/10/10 had a great complimentary breakfast at Comfort Inn and headed for the AKRR Train Depot. We took the Train to Whittier about a 2 hr ride. The train had comfortable reclining seats and the scenery was magnificent. We arrived in Whittier where it was rainy and cold. We had scheduled a tour with Major Marine to see the glaciers in Prince William Sound. The tour was about 6 hrs and included a Salmon & Prime Rib Buffet. I highly recommend this tour, as it is well worth the money. We came within 200 yds of the beautiful, huge glaciers. There were several events of calving at 2 of the main glaciers. After arriving back from the PWS Tour, we walked over to the Diamond Princess and boarded. We didn't board until 6:30 p.m. with sail away scheduled at 8:30 p.m., so not much time to settle in before Muster Drill. It was typical Muster Drill, except the Muster Stations were inside the ship. We had sail away around 9:00 p.m. as we had to wait for some passengers that had a flight delay. We went and had dinner in one of the dining rooms. After dinner, we unpacked, checked out the casino and off to bed we went. The rest of my review will be categorized, so hopefully, it won't be too long. CABIN: We had 3 balcony cabins on the Caribe Deck. We have always stayed on the Baja Deck but decided to go with the larger balcony even though only half of it is covered. The cabins were what we have experienced before, small but enough room, nice size closet, small shower, enjoyed the refrigerator and the beds were very comfortable. Of course, I like a firm bed and the bedding was very nice. We had our cabin steward unlock the balcony partitions, so we could easily walk from one cabin to another. It did take some time getting use to it still being light outside at midnight, sunset was at 1:00 a.m. and sunrise at 4:00 a.m. The drapes in the cabin seemed to keep the light out very well but I love sleeping with my drapes open to look at the scenery, when I wake up. CABIN STEWARD: The cabin steward for 2 of our cabins, Ernesto, was fantastic. He was extremely attentive and fulfilled any request we had, within minutes. Unfortunately, one of our cabins had a different steward, who provided poor service, which is a real surprise, as we have always had great stewards in the past. He never introduced himself, so we don't even know what his name was. We saw he once, during the entire cruise which is not a problem except that we had to constantly leave notes requesting things and the request were never carried out (simple request like replacing the dirty glasses, emptying the bathroom trash and an extra roll of toilet paper). Needless to say, Ernesto was given several tips during the cruise. I choose not to remove or reduce the auto-tips even though we were very unhappy with Sam's service. The auto-tips are for several crew members and all should not be punished for one crew member's poor performance. DINING: We typically eat in the Dining Room for all meals and stay away from the Buffet to lower our risk of illness. We did eat at the Horizon Court Buffet for lunch one day. The Buffet was fair, small selection, strange food combination and the taste was fair. I have seen the Buffets change over the years, as I think the cruise lines would prefer the passengers dining elsewhere, as it is a high risk area for Norvo Virus. I did notice that there was no crew member at the Buffet entrance reminding passengers to use the hand sanitizer. It is common sense to me but I watched several passengers walk right in without using the sanitizer. We had the Traditional Early Sitting in the Dining Room. I think perhaps the next time we cruise, we will try Anytime Dining, as to have the flexibility. The Dining Room was beautiful decorated and our Waiter, Sam and Assistant Waiter, Guamo, were terrific. The menu selection was not very impressive, as they offered too many gourmet entrees and repeated items, used a different name, several times over the 7 days. I have always looked forward to wonderful and tasty desserts but again, it was a disappointment, as there was one or two bakery type, Jell-O, custard and ice cream. The food quality was fair to good. I have definitely seen a decline in quality since we cruised 2 years ago. Formal Night was Day 2 (Hubbard Bay) of the cruise and Day 5 (Juneau). I was very disappointed that they changed the second Formal Night to a port day, instead of the usual last Day At Sea. We had to rush back to the ship from our excursion, get dressed and be in the Dining Room by 5:30 p.m. The Formal Night Menu was nothing special other then Lobster tails that were served the first Formal Night and Baked Alaskan served the second Formal Night. I was happy to see the passengers dressed up in their Tux's, Dark Suits, beautiful dresses and gowns. We were going to try one of the Specialty Dining Rooms but we had dinner off the ship 2 of the days, so we ran out of days. I would like to see Princess review their selection and quality of food; it really wasn't up to par. ENTERTAINMENT: The Princess Theatre on the Diamond is very small; unlike other ships I have been on where there are 2 levels. The shows that they had at the Princess Theatre were O.K. and repeated for 2 nights. We did go to some of the other lounges and saw a Hypnotist, who was pretty good and a comedian, who really had us laughing. I did notice that the Diamond offers entertainment in several lounges, so maybe that's why they have such a small Princess Theatre. The Lounges were pretty quiet after about 11:00 p.m. Alaska is a port intensive cruise so many passengers are tired when evening comes around. My grown kids, 25, 22 & 21 did find themselves getting a little bored. They felt Princess is for middle to senior age and not for young adults. They said other then the Casino, there really wasn't anything for them to do late in the evening. I do have to agree that Princess probably is for 35 yrs and older but I think that Alaska is also not necessarily for the younger adults. My kids did enjoy the cruise though, very much, they were just comparing to other cruises they have been on. CASINO: Good size and pretty good selection of slots, along with table games. There is was a table game called Pro Poker that my oldest son loved. It was very popular, as there were always passengers waiting, to get a seat. I won $480 the first night and managed to give it all back, by the end of the cruise. I have always heard the machines are loose the first night, to get you sucked in, and then the slots were really tight. They did have 2 Blackjack and Slot Tournaments. We played in the Slot Tournaments but never made it to the finals. The Casino is closed while in ports, Hubbard & Glacier Bay. SPA: My daughter and I had a massage at the Lotus Spa and it was incredible. They had a special the last Day at Sea, so wait for the specials. The Diamond did have the Sanctuary but we just had a massage. The Sanctuary seemed pretty busy the day we were there and was beautifully decorated. POOLS: There are 4 pools and 4 hot tubs on the Diamond. We didn't have the chance to use them, as the weather was pretty chilling while at sea. I did sit at the aft pool which has a beautiful view. The pools are heated and are fresh water pools. There really weren't many of young kids on the ship, so the pools were pretty quiet. ACTIVITES: There are several activities to keep you busy but unlike other cruises, Alaska is all about scenery so most the time you find yourself watching the scenery. There is a sports deck with basketball, tennis, ping pong, and miniature golf course. My husband and kids enjoyed the Virtual Golf. There were some Bingo sessions and the standard classes. There is a kids program onboard but as I said, we saw very few kids. SHOPPING: There are some boutiques and there was always some type of sale in the walk ways. Of course, there is the Photo Department but I did find that there were no forceful ship photographers, which was nice. I do recommend that you consider the digital scrapbook album package they offer. The cost is about $60 which includes 100 pages and free shipping. They will also download any photos you purchased to the pre-paid scrapbook album. The album is very nice and very simple to complete online. DISEMBARKMENT: We chose to self-disembark, where you carry off your own luggage. It was simple and went fairly smoothly. You need to inform the front desk if you intend to do this, as they will give you a time to disembark. Our schedule time was 8:15 a.m. and we were off the ship and in a taxi by 8:40 a.m. EXCURSIONS: Skagway - Klondike Gold Panning and Takshaunk Mountain 4x4 Adventure. The gold panning was good but wouldn't do it again. We really enjoyed the Takshaunk Mtn 4x4. There was a high speed double decker boat that took us over to Haines, where we were joined by a shuttle bus to the tour site. We drove 4x4 Mules up a pretty windy and steep trail, had a very good BBQ Chicken meal and saw some incredible scenery. The kids really enjoyed driving the mules. I would highly recommend this tour (through the ship) and we would absolutely do it again. Juneau - Harv & Marv Whale Watching, Mendenhall Glacier & Salmon Hatchery. We had done the Harv & Marv Whale watching back in 2007 and couldn't wait to share the experience with our kids. This is absolutely the BEST whale watching tour. We saw so many whales, sea otters, sea lions and bald eagles. After the whale watching, Harv & Marv drove us over to Mendenhall Glacier, where we walked around for about 2 hours. When Harv & Marv came to pick us back up, they took us to a Salmon Hatchery where we were amazed how many salmon there were and how high they jump. We also stopped at an inlet shore line where there was over 75 Bald Eagles eating salmon that was left on the ground from the tide moving out too quickly. It was an amazing sight. Ketchikan - Carlin Air flight to Anan Bear Observatory. This is DEFINITELY an excursion to do. It is a once in a lifetime experience. We saw so many Black Bears and they walked within 5 feet of the visitors. The bears roam freely, no fences or barricades. There is a wooden platform for you to stand on and you have a scheduled time to sit in a tent like area to see the bears close up, catching salmon right from the stream. There is a ranger up there to make sure the visitors do not disturb the bears. There is an outhouse that my husband needed to use, it but he had to wait until the bear who decided to sit in front of it, for about an hour, to leave. The ranger said there was a woman the previous week that went in to use the Outhouse and a bear had come by to sit in front of the door while she was still inside. The woman had to wait almost 1 ½ hours until the bear moved. The rangers will not interfere unless a visitor is in danger, which she wasn't, just an inconvenience. We really enjoyed our cruise and like the first time, it was just too short. Our first cruise we booked Northbound, Vancouver to Whittier and this trip we went Southbound, Whittier to Vancouver. I think I preferred the Southbound route only because the flight home was 2 hours instead of 5 ½ hours. The weather really was very nice, we did have some cloudy days and light rain one day. The temperatures ranged from low 50's to low 70's. We can't wait to return to Alaska and I see many return trips in our future. It is our all time favorite place to cruise to and we would only cruise on Princess, as they go to both Hubbard & Glacier Bay. We spent 2 days in Vancouver, where we visited Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium and Capilano Suspension Bridge. I love the transportation system in Vancouver; they have it down to a science. There is Hop On - Hop Off Bus that stops several points of interest, City Bus, Canada Line Monorail and taxis. We stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel, 26 stories; every room is a corner room with a balcony and 2 views of the city. Vancouver is fairly expensive, especially the restaurants. Vancouver reminds me of New York, high rises everywhere aka cement city. It is a great city to see and a lot of things to do. I have posted several pictures from our cruise on Webshots, if you care to look at them. http://community.webshots.com/user/CALMOM5 Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We started with the land portion of our cruise in Fairbanks. Did the Riverboat cruise there which was very interesting and fun. We also had time to check out the Georgeson Botanical Gardens there which were beautiful and only had a $2 ... Read More
We started with the land portion of our cruise in Fairbanks. Did the Riverboat cruise there which was very interesting and fun. We also had time to check out the Georgeson Botanical Gardens there which were beautiful and only had a $2 admission fee. Gorgeous! From there we went to Denali which was also interesting. We saw moose, bald eagles and beavers. Most importantly, we saw Mt. McKinley! The Wilderness Lodge was very nice. Went to the Denali Dinner Theater which was ok, but a little pricey. The Natural History Tour was great, and we had time to take in the dog mushing camp and also walked a trail where we saw more moose. I don't think we would have enjoyed the longer version, although I've read here it's wonderful. For me 4 hours on an old school bus was enough! On to Mt. McKinley Lodge next. The views were incredible, but not as much to do here as there was at Denali. I was surprised to learn that some of our group spent 2 nights at the Denali Lodge and 1 at McKinley, and some the other way around. We were glad we had 2 nights at Denali. Next was on to Whittier to board the Diamond Princess. Embarkation was super easy and well done. Glacier viewing was incredible! Lots of calving and just amazing and awesome to get to see. Skagway we took the Helicopter tour landing on Meade Glacier. Scarey! But again, incredible. The guides were so great at making us feel comfortable walking around on the uneven surface. What an awesome thing to get to do! We also did the Dog Musher's camp in Skagway which was lots of fun and interesting. Loved seeing the dogs, including a litter of 8 day olds pups. Juneau was Whale Watching. We saw lots of whales and it was very interesting. Our only complaint was a family with young kids including a dad who was annoyingly saying he wanted to give away his kids. We also did a Salmon Bake in Juneau. This was our only excursion we felt was a tourist trap. The food was just ok and there was a woman playing guitar and singing and trying to push her cd's which she had for sale. Would have rather spent the time doing something else. Ketchikan was just charming. Did the Lumberjack and Totem combo. The Lumberjack show was corny, but very cute and fun. The Totems were very interesting with a carver there explaining just how she works on the totems. Again there were unruly kids who ran around and whose parents were oblivious. I wish the guide would have asked them to take a seat, but it was still very good. Our cabin was great. We had a balcony and spent most of the at sea time on it. The food was very good, especially in the Savoy dining room where we had a super attentive server. Disembarkation was very well done as well with no problems. This trip has been on our "bucket list" for a very long time. It was everything we had hoped for and more! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We were a group of six, traveling to Anchorage for the embarkation in Whittier. We stayed at the Springhill Suites (Midtown) and were very pleased with the choice. They had a shuttle that picked us up at the airport and took us back and ... Read More
We were a group of six, traveling to Anchorage for the embarkation in Whittier. We stayed at the Springhill Suites (Midtown) and were very pleased with the choice. They had a shuttle that picked us up at the airport and took us back and forth to the Egan Center, as that is not only the place for embarkation, but downtown is easily navigated from there. The staff at the Springhill was very friendly and helpful. It is extremely clean and we would stay there again. While in Anchorage we took the city trolley tour that we enjoyed learning more about Anchorage history. We ate at the Moose's Tooth, a local brewery, where we had great pizza and beer. Also had a great lunch at Humpy's downtown and dinner at Snow Goose was delicious. I had been apprehensive about the process of embarkation, but it was totally pain free! The hotel shuttle took us to the Egan Center, where there was a large room that was desinated for our cruise to meet and leave our luggage. We were there about 11 a.m. and our motorcoach transfer was scheduled for 1 p.m. A couple of us stayed there at a table where we left our computers and small carry-ons and a couple of us wandered around to a couple of more shops in the area, stopping at Starbuck's and a deli. The ride to Whittier was very comfortable and we enjoyed the scenery. It was about an hour and a half ride. Embarkation onto the ship was a breeze...no stops at all in line. Our luggage was waiting for us at our cabins. I must say that many have commented on personnel trying to sell coffee/drink cards, etc., but we had none of that. The entire week we never felt pressure to purchase anything. Even in the lounges we didn't feel that we had to buy drinks while enjoying the entertainment. Our cabins were great...yes, the showers are small, but that was expected. We stowed luggage under the beds and had enough room in the drawers for all our belongings. Since we had adjoining cabins, our balcony doors stayed open during the day, and we closed them at night, for a little more quiet. Our cabin steward, Boylyn, was excellent. He knew all of our names the first night! I had faxed a request for egg crates on our beds for our cabin and that of our daughters. The request for our daughters was noted, but not the one for our cabin. Boylyn made that happen immediately. All week, he was extremely accommodating. We hated to leave him at the end of the cruise! Likewise, our waiter, Ranier, and his assistant, Marlon, were sure to make our dining experience, each night, memorable. I have to say that we found every single member of the staff so friendly and anxious to please. I have been reading reviews for months and there are so many with complaints, but we could not have been more pleased. Each day we watched the morning show with the cruise director (Billy) and his assistant (Andre) and enjoyed their banter very much! And too, they give out the information that we needed for each day. Two "cons" would be in reference to the laundry room on our deck...it was out of order, so we had to go up to the Emerald deck and was really busy. Another "con" has been referred to in other reviews....there was a definite "sewage" odor near the middle elevators on our deck as well as the decks above and below. Cruising thru Glacier Bay was an incredible experience. Hearing the calving is pretty amazing. There were so many places to position oneself on the ship to witness such beauty. We were dressed warmly so being outside was where we wanted to be, but some folks wanted to be more protected from the elements and there were plenty of places to do that. Entertainment: We went to the first night's entertainment in the theater.....too little of the singers and dancers but too much of Billy Vader. Did not go back to the theater all week. We enjoyed Roger Carr very much playing the piano in Crooners. I think that we saw him every night and bought a CD. Loved Indigo....she is so talented and that was her last week before leaving Coral for Dawn Princess and Hawaii. Ports: Skagway We took the White Pass & Yukon Railway thru a scenic route while hearing some great history of the area. Our daughters had scheduled a helicopter ride to a glacier and to see the musher dogs. It was the most looked forward to excursion of the cruise. However, the weather was not cooperative and the trip was cancelled. Juneau We had reserved a whale watching trip with Harv and Marv on their new vessel that holds 12. Since there were only six of us we really had a custom trip. Shawn was our captain and Hunter, our naturalist. It was so informative and we could not have been more pleased with our day. On our way back to the ship we stopped at Hubbard Glacier for a few minutes. Since our daughters had missed out on the helicopter ride in Skagway, they were booked on another ride for Juneau to a glacier where they were able to exit the helicopter and explore a little bit. They had a great time. Ketchikan We experienced a few different excursions here. Three of us went up on the Princess Floatplane excursion to the fjords. Absloute beauty as far as the eye can see. Two of us went on the Deadliest Catch excursion and they came back raving about it. One of us went on a zipline and she thought that was great. I must say, that, in Alaska I think that it is very important to do excursions. The main streets in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan are full of novelty trinket shops that do not appeal to me. Similarly in the Caribbean, all the shops look the same and don't feature the local artisans. We did fine some local restaurants that we thought were very good. Disembarkation in Vancouver was very easy. We stayed over for 3 days to explore and we should have stayed close to the port and not way out by the airport. We loved Vancouver and took a city tour and then went on our own to Granville Island on our own....great place to visit. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
We had taken the Coral on the 10 day Panama Canal a couple of years ago. She was a good size to do Alaska, since she was able to get pretty close to the glaciers compared to the larger ships. I organized our own pre-cruise portion and that ... Read More
We had taken the Coral on the 10 day Panama Canal a couple of years ago. She was a good size to do Alaska, since she was able to get pretty close to the glaciers compared to the larger ships. I organized our own pre-cruise portion and that worked out well taking the Alaska Railroad. I bought the Alaska TourSaver coupon book, which saved a lot of money. I also booked all of our tours online about a year in advance to make sure to get the times I needed to fit it all in. We had a small but mighty roll call for this trip and many of us met at various tours along the way. General impressions: The cruise and ports were all great, but do think some time spent on land is a must. Weather seems to be ever changing and not that predictable, so layering is key. At one time or another we wore everything from under layers of Winter Silk, fleece lined tights, fleece pants or jeans, long sleeved tees under outer shirt, fleece jackets and water/wind proof jackets and pants to capris, shorts and tee shirts. Gloves, ear warmers, scarves, hats helped for the glacier viewing. A bathing suit for covered pool or hot tubs and your covered. Seeing wildlife of course is luck of the draw, but devoting time and excursions to viewing is also a must if you want a better chance at seeing it. On glacier days we spend hours and hours out on deck with binoculars to see whales, seals, otters, sea lions, puffins eagles, and other birds as well as the sights and sounds of the calving of the glaciers. In Denali we went into the park as early as we could and spent all day into the early evening there. We were rewarded with many moose, wolves, Grizzly bears, foxes, caribou, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares, Merlins, Eagles (Golden and Bald), and Marmots. Other people we talked to visiting the park within days of each other all saw a lot of wildlife. I have a loooooong review mainly so I can remember what we did as time passes, but tried to make notes of where we used the TourSaver and where we stayed at each stop and tour operators used in case it will help others planning their trips. I've broken it down into segments so you can easily move on if that part isn't of interest. Pre Cruise 7 days on land: Seattle: Saturday July 24 we flew to Fairbanks with a long layover in Seattle. We stored our carryon bags at Ken's Storage between carousels 12 & 13 under the escalators ($5-$9 per item) and took the Light Rail from Sea-Tac to Westlake Center where we grabbed the monorail to the Space Needle where we had reservations for brunch at the revolving restaurant. The reservation includes the cost of the elevator to the top (and eliminates the long wait in line) The views of the city were amazing as was the food. There were 3 courses with several choices in each category. We made several revolutions around as we ate. We took the monorail back to West Lake center and then walked to Pike's Market and took in the sights and smells. Fresh flowers, fish market (yes, they tossed the fish), various food stalls and souvenir shops. Still full from brunch we grabbed 2 of the largest peaches I have ever seen (over a half pound each!) and took them for dessert for after whatever we found at the airport for a light dinner. Walked back to West Lake center and took the light rail back to Sea-Tac. Arrived in Fairbanks late that night and called for the free shuttle to Pike's Lodge where we spent 3 nites (1 nite free with coupon) in one of their cabins. (at this point we had been awake longer than 24 hours and we got a couple hours sleep before having to get up for our 7:36a flight to Barrow.) It was a nice clean well appointed cabin, with our only complaint being the cabin was hot! Seemed there were heaters to keep pipes from freezing or something and an open window would have been welcome if they opened. I imagine most times of the year it's not an issue. It was a convenient place to stay and very nice. Barrow: We booked the tour through Northern Alaska Tours which included the transportation on Alaska Air and the city tour with a local company. We made a stop at Prudhoe Bay (Dead Horse) for fuel and to drop off supplies as our plane was half cargo and half passengers. Then a short time later we were in Barrow which is the most northern town is the U.S. Had a fantastic local tour guide Eli for the day who showed us the sites and entertained us with stories and history about the area. Stopped at the Arctic Ocean where we dipped our fingers in...burrrrr. We saw a couple of snowy owls, a seal, loons, ducks and other birds. We stopped at Pepes North of the Border for a pretty good Mexican lunch where we received our Arctic Circle Crossing certificates. Then finished our day tour which included a stop to see Inupiat Eskimos performing traditional dancing and the blanket toss. There are normally more there to perform, but their Olympics were being held in Fairbanks and most were there. A nice museum there and some locals selling their crafts. I bought a cute pair of earrings made of seal fur and skin from a local artist. The Inupiats in Barrow are a whaling community and there were huge bowhead whale jaws to stand in and get photo ops. 2 people on the tour decided they wanted to join the Polar Bear Club and took a dip in the Artic Ocean. Water was in the range of 0* or low negatives. Burrr. They had no bathing suits so they went in their underwear. To earn the certificate they had to completely submerge and stay under for I think 30 seconds. It's not something I could have done, but was a great photo op! The lady who did it had me take pictures with her camera and my husband also got some great shots that we will email to her. A very nice day here. (record heat for the area---still cool for my standards) We stopped at the local supermarket to pick up something to eat while waiting for our return flight. (no food at their small airport and it was dinner time) Everyone on the tour was getting a kick out of the high prices in the market. Everything has to be flown in so of course it's expensive. Got some cheese and crackers and enjoyed them while we waited for our flight---that was quite late and we had time to walk around town some more. So, already going on next to NO sleep we arrived in Fairbanks around 11:00p instead of 9:20. We rented a car for the next day and went back to the lodge. Fairbanks: We were able to get a bit more sleep as our Riverboat Discovery tour (2 for 1 coupon) didn't start until 8:45. It was just a short drive from the lodge and was another lovely day. The sternwheeler was a fantastic trip with stops at Susan Butcher's dog camp (her husband now runs it), and various displays and demonstrations of reindeer, furs and native ways of life. We saw Beavers in the water as well as birds here. They had samples of smoked salmon made in a cream cheese spread that was to die for. Of course you just HAD to buy some of the salmon to have shipped home. After that we drove to the Chowder house and had a couple of delicious chowders. One was a smoked salmon chowder (our favorite) and the other halibut & corn chowder. We then headed off to find the Pipeline visitor's center. We drove right by it, but had a lovely drive until we were to be at the El Dorado Gold Mine Train (2 for 1 coupon) at 3:00. It was on the Tana Valley Railroad and there was someone singing and playing fiddle and banjo. We went through a permafrost tunnel and had a walking tour of the mining camp. We panned for gold and had it weighed but didn't have it put into any jewelry. Did enjoy the hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. Then we drove back to the Pipeline Visitor's center to check that out. We then drove to a town called North Pole and saw their reindeer and shopped in Santa's village. Drove back to Fairbanks and grabbed a quick dinner and returned our rental car and took the free shuttle back to Pike's Lodge and walked around their grounds, had some Huckelberry ice cream and Blueberry cheesecake ice cream before heading off to get a bit of sleep. Next day we took their shuttle to the train station and headed for Denali. The Riverboat Discovery and El Dorado tours were both quite well done. Denali National Park: We had Gold Star service on the train (private dining car and the domed windows) All segments were 2 for 1 with coupon. We ate breakfast there and enjoyed reindeer sausage served in omelets and croissants. We enjoyed the scenery and spent a lot of time outside on the viewing area between cars. A moose was spotted and Greg saw a dead moose beside the tracks. We had a great sighting of a golden eagle sitting by the tracks, beaver dams and lodges and lots of other birds. Arrived in Denali at 12:15 and we took the park shuttle to the Denali Princess Lodge. Went across the street and ate at Great Alaska Fish & Chips Co. Had 1 Cod and 1 Haddock with fries and sweet potato fries. Really good food! We went to the Toklat Visitor's center and the Wilderness Access center and looked around and watched the movie. Went back to the lodge and checked in and our bags were waiting. (and someone else's bag had been left there as well). Luckily, it belonged to our neighbor and not to someone who had already left on the train. We walked across the street and had dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. We had made reservations prior to the trip and got right in. Really good food. We had the elk sliders for the appetizer and had an Asiago & Parmesan crusted Halibut and King Crab Chimichangas. Greg had a sampler of the local beers. We then shopped for something to take for lunch the next day at a local market. Cheese crackers and some sliced Salami and some oreos and sodas were easy enough to pack in the little soft sided cooler we brought. Found some more ice cream to try the local flavors. Next morning we got up very early for our 6:00 Eilson Shuttle. We found out that Princess shuttles don't run that early so we walked from the lodge to the Wilderness Access Center. We had picked up a couple of yummy cinnamon rolls at the lodge the night before and we ate them on the shuttle. Wildlife sighted on our shuttle was 11 moose, 2 sets of mama grizzly bears with 2 cubs each, male and female caribou, 2 foxes, a ptarmigan, a couple of golden eagles, a few Dall Sheep, 2 snowshoe hares, Marmots, a juvenile Merlin, ravens, and a pack of wolves with at least 15 of them with their young. Though I can't be sure it looked like they had made a kill as I saw a large animal with huge antlers on the ground and they were gathered around. They all howled (the bus got very quiet to listen to this) and we got pictures in that classic howling pose. The shuttle driver said he has only heard them howl now twice in his life. We got to Eilson center and had our lunch and watched the movie on hiking McKinley. We then went to hike a short trail, but were quickly called back as they were closing the trail due to a bear in the area. We had time so we upgraded our ticket to continue onto Wonder Lake. The terrain is really different during that part of the drive and not really much wildlife sited during this portion (except mosquitoes and a fox) The lake was beautiful and we picked wild blueberries. The Ultrathon insect repellant really worked and we weren't bitten by the swarms of mosquitoes. We then did the ride back stopping for animal sightings. We did get a few glimpses of Denali as the clouds were ever moving and we got lucky and just happened to look at the right time to see the peak. We got back with barely enough time to make the 8:30 Cabin Nite Dinner theater. (2 for 1) We met up with a couple from our roll call who were traveling on a different schedule on their land portion, but we found ourselves here at the same time and met for dinner & the show. The Cabin Nite was nice enough, but in hindsight, we wished we had skipped that and spent longer in the park. (another full day here would have been really great!) The Princess Lodge was nice enough with one interesting feature.....the bathroom door auto closes and it was like a meat locker in there. We had to prop open the door to let some heat in. Denali to Talkeetna: Finally, we got to get nearly a full night's sleep! The train doesn't leave until 12:25 so we slept in and walked across the street to have breakfast at the Salmon Bake. Really good blueberry cinnamon bread French Toast with fresh berries and anything you want from their "toppings bar". Another enjoyable train ride to Talkeetna. A bear was sited and we saw some swans. I can't say enough about the hospitality of the folks in Talkeetna. We stayed at Denali Fireside Cabins and the owner picked us up at the train station. She gave us a mini tour of the town and checked us into our cabin and then she knew we wanted to grab a quick dinner and head to our 7:00p Mckinley flight with Talkeetna Air Taxi (2 for 1 coupon) so she drove us to Mountain High Pizza Pie where we had a wonderful reindeer sausage, pepperoni, onion and roasted garlic pizza and as we were leaving the restaurant the owner of the cabins was there to pick us up and take us to the airport for our flight. She wanted to wait for us as the weather was pretty cloudy and not looking like we would be able to go, but she had been invited to dinner by friends and we said it was no problem, it really was just a short walk to anywhere around town. Our flight was canceled. Our friends that we met up with at Cabin Nite said they got their flight, but no landing. They said they would do their best to reschedule us the next day. We had a 7:00a 4 hour river float with Talkeetna River Guides (2 for 1 coupon) so we rescheduled for just after that. It was raining as we walked to meet at the yurt for our ride to the river float. We had time to grab some fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls at the Roadhouse. We jumped into the vehicle with the river guides who chatted and ate their breakfast on the drive there. Everyone else on the tour had stayed at the Princess McKinley Lodge or other so we met a few people there. We were first to arrive and donned our "Groton's Fishermans" outfits. Bright yellow rubber overalls and long jacket and boots. If you didn't dress appropriately they had lots of fleece jackets etc for you to wear as well. The float trip was amazing. So serene floating down the river and we saw at least 15 eagles along the way, both juveniles and adults. The weather cleared and the sun came out and it got down right hot in all that gear! It also gave us beautiful views of the mountains. It was looking good for our flight to go! We had time to grab a quick lunch at the Roadhouse and had some tasty pasties. One reindeer pastie and the other pulled pork. We stopped for some Hot Licks ice cream at the store next door to wear we stayed and owned by the same people. Best ice cream EVER! Loved the dark chocolate. We walked to the airport and we got our flight and the landing at the base of McKinely! (couldn't use the coupon due to the rescheduling, but they gave us a discount) The landing was really cool as the plane skids to a stop on it's skis on the glacier. So quiet and beautiful up there! I ate glacier snow. We got a few glimpses of McKinley out. Beautiful views from up there and landing on the glacier was fantastic! The people from TAT offered to drive us to the train station first stopping at the lodge to pick up our luggage. Did I say I couldn't say enough great things about the hospitality of the people there? Would highly recommend the Denali Fireside Cabins, The river float and the McKinley flight! We enjoyed the pizza place and the food at the Roadhouse. Back on the train. Phew! We had some leftover pizza. (that the owner of the lodge took from us and put it on a plate and dropped it by our cabin and put it in the fridge for us while we did our plane flight.) Beautiful views on this segment as well. A moose was sited. There had been an aviation accident that had part of the tracks shut down while it was under FAA investigation so we had to get off the train and be bussed the rest of the way to Anchorage about an hour out. It was all handled very efficiently and only added about 30 minutes to the length of the trip. Got checked into the Historic Anchorage Hotel which was very nice. It would have been a short walk from the train station, but it was raining pretty good so we grabbed a cab. (less than $5.00!) We then set out to find a light snack and some ice cream. Found the lady with the reindeer hot dog stand by the Federal Building and caught her just as she was closing up. For $6.00 got a dog, chips and a soda. It seems I can't get enough of reindeer since I first tried it last year in Stockholm. YUM! Then, walked around a bit and found an ice cream place open. Cruise portion: Up early for our transportation to Whittier on Alaska Leopard Comedy tour. Just 6 of us in the van and was good cheap transportation to get to Whittier. Comedy is dismal at best, but great views out the window. It was cool and rainy and so we didn't spend much time out viewing the sites where we stopped. We got to the cruise terminal early and knew we would have to wait a bit to check in and board. However, what we weren't prepared for was NOT being able to drop off our luggage. We were first to check in around 11:00a but couldn't board as we had to stay with our luggage until the union luggage guys started at 1:00! Not an issue if you used a bus or train to get there as they check the luggage for you directly to the ship. Considering this drawback, I think Alaskan Leopard is a good means of transportation leaving the ship at the end of a cruise, but not beneficial for arriving there unless you want to sit for hours and watch everyone else get on the ship while you sit with your luggage. We had a Prince William Sound Glacier cruise scheduled with Prince William sound Glacier Cruises and found out they would have picked us up and stored our luggage for us. Weather was misty and rainy for the start of the PWS cruise, but eventually cleared and we got some great views of glaciers. We saw lots of sea otters, 3 eagles, a black bear by a stream on the mountain, many harbor seals and some huge jellyfish. Saw and heard our first glacier calving. AMAZING! Beautiful waterfalls and scenery. Would have loved the 6 hour tour here, but only did the 4 hour. (2 for 1 coupon) Being that close to the glaciers was really a treat. Included crabcake lunch and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Finally got on board the ship and found our cabin with luggage waiting. We got unpacked and met our friends for dinner, which was open seating that first night. We skipped the show that evening and just chilled out. Early to bed for a full night of sleep. The first full night since we started this vacation. Hubbard Glacier: I slept in and Greg got up and exercised. Showered and had a light late breakfast and headed for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the Wheelhouse Bar at 11:00. It was fun to meet the people we had chatted with over the months before the cruise on the boards. We all exchanged stories of our vacation so far. Most had done land portions before the cruise. Then it was off to lunch in the dining room. Then back to the room to bundle up for the glacier viewing. We headed forward on the Caribe Deck to the "secret balcony" It never got crowded out there and you could hear the commentary. We spent the whole day out there. Saw seals, otters and quite a bit of calving and icebergs. Just amazing. Had a late dinner in the dining room and went to the evening entertainment. Glacier Bay: Slept in and had breakfast before heading out on the same deck for the viewing today. Again, we spent the whole day out there taking a quick break for the seafood buffet on deck for lunch and a quick change for dinner and then changed back to warm clothes and back out on deck for some whale watching. In the day time we saw a couple of Orcas on the sail in to Glacier Bay, later we saw otters, puffins, harbor seals, and after dinner we saw humpback whale tails and one thumped it's tail about 20 times in a row. Skipped the show & got to bed for a bit of sleep before our day in Skagway. Skagway: Booked with Dyea Dave and our van was all cruise critic friends and not crowded at all. Dave was great. With all the reviews about him, I was prepared for a long day of groans with bad tired jokes. Maybe he was on his best behavior that day, but we all really enjoyed him as a tour guide. He really took every effort to keep ahead of the big tour buses and to stop at just the right spot for the perfect photo ops. He was very knowledgeable and informative on our ride to the Yukon. Highly recommend him! We did see a black bear beside the road, a marmot, magpies and Canadian Geese. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at Carcross to buy our White Pass Railroad tickets from Fraser back to Skagway. Unfortunately the Cinnamon Cache had closed and she was trying to sell her business. We ate at the Spirit Lake Lodge, which was an experience in itself. Dave warned us about the owner. Said she liked things to go her own way and as long as we all did as we were told everything would be fine. Let's just say that the experience had us all remembering the Seinfeld episode of the "Soup Nazi" We would have loved to have tried the Dutch pancakes, but we were all told we could not order off the menu and could choose from the pre-made sandwiches, soup and pie. The pie was very good and it definitely was an interesting dining experience. (chalked it up to the local "charm") As much as we hated to leave Dave we opted for the White Pass Railroad back to Skagway. It was a fun experience on the narrow gauge tracks and we spent the whole trip outside on the viewing platforms. Beautiful views! Dave had already given us a tour of the town and was waiting for us as we got off the train. He then would take us back to the ship or drop us in town. We opted to stay in town, found some ice cream and made our way to the Red Onion Saloon. Very enjoyable day here with great weather! Juneau: We booked a whale watch tour with Chris at Rum Runners who was willing to go out for a 7:00a tour on his 6 person boat joined by 2 other Cruise Critic couples. Highly recommend his company! Only 6 of us on the boat with Captain Chris and his mate a nice young guy who was very informative. Oh, and his adorable dog Autumn Moon who seemed to know when the whales would surface. We were lucky enough to watch a pod of Humpbacks bubble net feeding. A group of whales working together will dive under schools of herring, one whale will swim in a circle while blowing bubbles under the herring. When the bubbles rise they form a net and scare the herring into a tight ball in the center. The whales then come up through the middle with their mouths open, capturing large amounts food. Just awesome! Saw lots of mouths open, tails, dorsal and pectoral fins and spray from the blowholes. We estimated there were at least 11 whales doing this and we saw a few single whales as well. After watching this for some time he took us to see some Steller Sea Lions hanging out on a buoy. We saw 3 eagles on the ride. Hated to see it end, but as promised Captain Chris got us back to the dock in time for meeting our next excursion. Knowing we didn't have much time between excursions we made some sandwiches from the buffet the night before and put a few cookies in a baggie and we ate those on the bus ride to the airport. We had a little time to walk the town before meeting the van for ERA helicopter and dog sledding adventure. I must say they run a fine operation and it was fun to watch the helicopters take off and land 6 at a time taking off or landing right after the other. Scenery was breathtaking! Then it was time to land on the glacier and we could see these dots down there that eventually turned out to be the Dalton Gang dog camp. They have about 150 dogs that rotate doing the tours. There was plenty of time to interact with the dogs before embarking on the dog sled ride. Each of us got a chance to stand on the back and help work the brakes and then switched to ride in the seats of the sled. Interesting perspective from both of the positions. More time to pet the dogs and talk with Dave Dalton about sledding and racing. On the flight we saw many glaciers including Taku the largest one in the Juneau Icefield. We saw a seal in the water and 9 eagles. Another awesome experience! We even purchased the picture they took up on the glacier. We had a bit of time before boarding the ship and we walked down to the Red Dog Saloon where Greg sampled more of the local beers. Fantastic day in Juneau! Ketchikan: We had a little time to walk the town before our first tour. We booked a Misty Fjords floatplane trip with Michelle at Island Wings. It was a clear and hot day so no mist, but fantastic views. We were on her Beaver with another CC couple and with only 4 of us we each got our own rows on the plane. Perhaps Michelle isn't a morning person, but we found her a bit "bristly". She pointed out the salmon jumping and Greg asked what kind as we had learned there are 5 kinds of salmon and she answered "Salmon, didn't I say salmon?" I was looking out the window and listening to her commentary and I turned to look at her as she was very interesting. She says to me and not in a "nice way" that I should be looking out the window at the beautiful scenery instead of watching her, "after all you paid a lot of money to go on this tour" She pointed out some mountain goats that I didn't see. (I think the wing was blocking my view) Since I didn't see them I used my binoculars to try to find them. She says the reason I can't find them is because I'm trying to use binoculars and they are useless in a plane. So, she makes another pass and says if you don't see them now you should get your eyesight checked. They were there, but really just dots with the naked eye-----our pictures with super zoom did confirm they were indeed mountain goats. One of the other passengers was making too much noise with his mouthpiece and she just said "whoever is doing that it's not acceptable". She did seem to warm as the flight went on and we felt safe and the views were awesome. The landing was fun and we got to get out and walk around. We picked some blueberries and salmonberries and Michelle took photos with our cameras of both couples. We then headed to the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's boat. I don't think there is a bad seat on the boat as they make sure you all get to see everything. Very fun and interesting. Even if you don't watch Deadliest Catch I'm sure it would be of interest. They told lots of stories of the boat and crabbing and showed us samples of each type of fishing. There was a box crab that they passed around and they let us pose next to the King Crab one of the deck hands held. They let you hold the snow crab. They also had brought up a couple of octopus and a sunflower sea star that was really cool. We saw about 20 eagles, some Dall's purpose, jellyfish and lots of salmon jumping. Very good time. Finally, a relaxing sea day! This was Greg's birthday and I had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to the cabin. We played bingo in the morning and headed to the Pub lunch served in the Bayou Cafe. Had a couple orders of fish and chips and bangers and mash. Delish as always! Got our things packed for disembarkation the next day and headed to the final bingo session. We had skipped bingo the other days as viewing the glaciers and wildlife had us ignoring the usual things to do around the ship. Drum roll please......I won the final jackpot of $1,750.00!!!!!! Boy, did that top off an already great vacation! That evening we had reservations for the Bayou Cafe for Greg's birthday. I guess I should have reminded them when we made the reservation as they didn't acknowledge it. He did get balloons by our cabin door. The food was as fantastic as we remembered, except for the chocolate pecan dessert which was hard and dry. It was moist and fudgy last time and to die for. The steak and the lobster were superb and the appetizer sampler platter very tasty. We attended the evening's entertainment which was good. Vancouver: Disembarkation went well (though it's never pleasant ending your cruise). We walked to the Hotel le Soleil where we spent 2 nights with our luggage in the gentle rain. It was a very nice hotel and there was an included continental breakfast. We had them hold our bags and headed out and bought transportation tickets for the next 3 days. Even though it was misting or raining we walked to Stanley Park and walked along the sea wall for a while instead of taking the bus. Wildlife today was a black squirrel, Canadian Geese, swans and other sea birds. It was frustrating trying to find the park shuttle as all that came by were the HOHO tours. (in hindsight that would have worked better) We finally gave up waiting when we found the sign saying they didn't start until 11:00 and walked to the Fish House for lunch. Had salmon cakes and a haddock burger that were quite good. They told us where to get the shuttle. They actually directed us to where the HOHO buses come by and we walked back to the other stop after waiting for half an hour without one coming by. The HOHO drivers all said it would be by soon. Finally, we get on the park shuttle and bought our tickets and stopped at the rose garden, first nations exhibit, totem poles and a couple of other viewing spots and also had a beaver tail as a snack. It proceeded to rain all day and evening here. We skipped Granville Island since we lost so much time this morning. Took the bus to Gas Town and China Town. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden was still open, but we missed the last guided tour and walked around on our own. It was time to find some dinner and we made our way to Shanghai Chinese Bistro which had about an hour wait so we put in our names and went elsewhere to grab a drink and wait since it was so crowded there and there was no place to wait. Had a wonderful meal and were surprised to find 2 CC couples that we had done the whale watch with just getting seated as we were starting our meal. Too funny. Lots of places to eat there...what are the odds? Day 2 in Vancouver: we had booked an all day tour with Prince of Whales. (highly recommend) Met them at the Sea Bus station on Waterfront. On the way to Victoria we had a whale watch and saw a couple different pods of Orcas. One was a family with a baby that was very playful. Actually all the Orcas were quite playful. Lots of great whale viewing. We also saw seals lying on logs being transported via barge, harbor seals, 4 eagles, lots of interesting things being transported by barge and many sea birds. We arrived at Victoria and were headed to Barb's fish & chips, but the crew told us that Red Fish Blue Fish was closer and very good. So, we waited over an hour in line to order our fish and chips, which we enjoyed while sitting on the dock and listening to a guy performing there for tips. The sun had come out and it was a beautiful day. We had no time left to tour the town as we wanted to spend at least 2 hours at Butchart Gardens. Grabbed the bus there and the gardens are beyond description. Just breathtaking! We wished we could have spent a couple more hours here. In hindsight we wished we had skipped day 1 in Vancouver and spent the night on Victoria. At 5:30 we headed to the dock at the gardens for our 2 hour boat ride back to Vancouver. Dropped some things off at the hotel and grabbed a bus to Robson street to find a late dinner. Found Hon's Chinese food and while a different atmosphere than the Shanghai Bistro the food was quite good. Then happened upon a Gelato place that had the best gelato we have had since we were in Italy. An article on the wall said they originated in Rome. Back to the hotel to pack up and check out the next morning. Day 3 in Vancouver: Again, the hotel stored our luggage as we headed out to the sea bus to the North Shore to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was a fun experience and a nice little park with a short nature walk. We then grabbed the bus and went to find the Capilano Fish Hatchery. It was supposed to be a short walk...but ended up being quite a bit longer than the 1 kilometer stated. The salmon weren't jumping the ladder, but a few were resting there. It was a lovely park and a great place to spend a whole day. With only a short time to spend there, we should have skipped it and went straight to Grouse Mountain. It started to pour rain during our walk and despite the low visibility we took the skyride to the top. Actually, the mist was kinda cool and towards the top it was starting to clear. We grabbed a quick lunch here and wandered out to see the sights. There was a small wild deer that was attracting a lot of attention and posed for a lot of pictures. I think it was too scared to move as some kids were kind of boxing it in. We took lots of pictures of the beautiful tree trunk carvings. The 2 bears were sleeping, we watched a very nice bird show. We watched part of one of the movies before it was time to take the ride down. The skies cleared and we got very nice views of the city. We stopped at Londsdale Quay for a snack at Beaver Tails. The chocolate hazelnut pastries were to die for! Very nice market here with lots of international cuisine. Took the Sea Bus back and Greg left me at the train station while he went to collect our luggage. We took the train to the airport and had time to grab dinner. Had a short flight to Seattle and Customs was a breeze. Had a couple hour layover in Seattle. We went to board the plane and were told to speak to an agent. We booked seats well in advance and checked in several hours before the flight, but they gave one of our seats away. We booked an isle and a window in the same row. (I get up a lot and don't like to walk over other people). We were told about 3 different excuses of what happened. One said, there was a 1 year old they had to accommodate, one said it was a computer glitch, and another said it was to accommodate someone with an injury. The person who had Greg's seat was traveling with a dog and no one in either of our rows was a child or had an injury. Greg got one guy to trade with me so he could have my window seat and I took his middle seat to sit next to Greg. The woman with the dog had demanded the isle seat, but the under-seat space is smaller there and her dog didn't fit very well. The flight attendant kept telling her to keep it completely under the seat. She left it out and since there was no room for her feet she spent the whole trip with her legs spread on either side of it which of course was in my space and the isle. She actually took the dog out of the carrier and held it for a while making smooching noises and the dog dives towards me. It was a small dog and it only made a few whimpers, but the woman loudly shooshed it waking me up several times. It was a redeye and I really wanted to sleep. Ah well, only s small sour note to end a fabulous trip! Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
Starting off in Anchorage, we were met by Princess reps who took care of our baggage and transported us to the Captain Cook Hotel. Even spotted a moose on our short ride to the hotel. Also met our new travel mates - and "fast ... Read More
Starting off in Anchorage, we were met by Princess reps who took care of our baggage and transported us to the Captain Cook Hotel. Even spotted a moose on our short ride to the hotel. Also met our new travel mates - and "fast friends" Barbara & Jim from Albany. Next morning, we were up bright and early for our trip to McKinley Princess Lodge, where we were able to see Mt. McKinley, the majestic scenery and delicious sunshine. Our room was light and airy, just a short walk to the outdoor hot tub. BE SURE TO BRING YOUR BATHING SUITS TO THE LAND PORTION. The next day featured a train trip to Denali Princess Lodge - which was scenic, relaxing and a lovely way to spend the day. Here we met two more "fast friends" -Elaine & Gary from Winnipeg. The food in the dining car was wonderful and the service friendly and superb. Our room at the lodge was dark and very basic. Because it was ground level, we used the room darkening shades even in the daylight hours. Of course, it didn't get dark until 11:30 at night. We thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend the Denali Tundra Wilderness tour. We saw an abundance of wildlife, which excited everyone on the bus. The driver also spotted wildlife for us, utilizing a drop down screen in front of each seat, with closeup images from his zoom lens. Another stunning highlight was the day long trip to Copper River Princess Lodge. Don't let the 8 hour drive on a gravel road scare you. We stopped often - and there were rest rooms on the bus. The ride was gorgeous, again with many wildlife sightings. And, oh, Copper River Wilderness Lodge. With only 80 rooms, it was intimate and loaded with great hiking trails. Excellent restaurant and an abundance of fresh salmon and halibut added to a delicious two days. The trip from Copper River to Valdez, while not promoted, is one of the most breathtaking journeys - every turn of the road brought ooohs and aaaahs. Once in Valdez, we took a comfortable and large catamarin to the Island Princess. The many friends we met on the land tour added to our enjoyment of the trip. Great thing about doing a land tour first is that it's far easier to meet people you travel with from lodge to lodge than on a 2000 passenger ship. Embarkation from the catamaran directly to the ship took minutes. We thorough enjoyed our mini-suite Dolphin 710. The balcony was completely covered and private. Although the sea was rough some of the time, the "roll of the ship" in our room presented no problem at all. Our room steward Enrique couldn't have been better. Every request was handled promptly and with a smile. The moment we got on the ship, we dialed 3463 and made reservations for the Chef's Table. Although not promoted, it surpassed all expectations. We donned white coats, scrubbed our hands, and entered the galley. Our hosts in the galley and throughout the evening were the Executive Chef, Maitre de, and their boss, a terrific lady with a sense of humor and much responsibility. We enjoyed flowing champagne and four different appetizers in the galley and learned what it takes to feed 2000 passengers. In the dining room, our table was laden with fresh flowers and candles. Each course was accompanied by the appropriate wine. A complimentary group picture and an autographed hard bound cookbook were extra treats. Highly recommended and well-worth the $75 per person cost. The ship is beautifully maintained and very clean. We saw no signs of wear at all. We danced every night to 'The New Deal' - whose repertoire ranged from Van Morrison to Santana to Johnny Cash. Very danceable music - and a super way to lose those extra pounds. The shows were pleasant, and we especially enjoyed Scott Wyler, a deadpan comic with hilarious one-liners. Food on the ship was OK. We did go to the Bayou Restaurant - and enjoyed it so much that we went a second time. Best lobster, steak, oysters, prawns on the ship. Specialty dining is like going to a fancy restaurant with individualized service - well worth the $15 per person cover charge. All in all, it was a marvelous vacation. Princess has it buttoned down. Now we look forward to our European vacation on the Ruby next May. We'll be celebrating our fiftieth anniversary - but still feel like "teenagers!" Boy Voyage!! Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
I saw a nifty review set up like this and thought I would try it here for my blog and also for my review on Cruise Critic. I loved her format so here is mine for the Island Princess. Overall: Our trip aboard the Island Princess and our ... Read More
I saw a nifty review set up like this and thought I would try it here for my blog and also for my review on Cruise Critic. I loved her format so here is mine for the Island Princess. Overall: Our trip aboard the Island Princess and our self planned pre cruise tour was everything we ever dreamed it would be. Princess exceeded all of our expectations, in food, service and shipboard amenities. This was our second cruise without our children, the first being just a 2 day travel agent escape on a new ship and Pete and I had a fabulous time. There were a few things I would do differently, a few mistakes along the way, but all in all we had an amazing trip. I have never seen Pete smile so much, we relaxed and regrouped from our stressful jobs, treasured these experiences we were sharing with just each other and made some nice friends along the way. I spent a significant amount of time planning and researching this trip on Cruise Critic and across the web and thoroughly loved the experience, though I would have preferred to have more time to do it. I booked this trip on Apr 5 and left for Alaska on May 21. I will say, however it is possible to plan a last minute vacation fairly easily thanks to places like Cruise Critic! About Us: We are a couple in our mid to late 50's, first timers to Princess and Alaska! I am a Princess Commodore/Elite member, and had just gotten my Alaskan Specialist certification for Princess. We set sail on the Island Princess out of Whittier on May 24th, 2010, after a 3 day pre-cruise trip to Denali National Park. Ports of Call were Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, with one day each of scenic cruising at Hubbard Glacier and in Glacier Bay National Park. We have cruised many times previously on Carnival, and once each on NCL, and Royal Caribbean. We are from San Diego, CA. Comparisons of Princess with CCL & RCI: You may be wondering why I did not include NCL here. Our experience with them was poor overall, it being a Pride of America cruise during the times when the ship was having major issues with staffing. I know that NCL is probably a great cruise line outside of Hawaii and has probably improved quite a bit in Hawaii since we went, but I have not been willing to retry that line after our experience. Food a. MDR: Princess was hands down the best in the main dining room. This was Alaska and we went expecting seafood and got it. There was barramundi, sea bass, king crab, shrimp lobster and salmon served. Salmon was an everyday choice on the menu! All were done extremely well with generous portions. Beef was a close second, with huge portions, and both the New York and Filets in the dining room were melt in your mouth tender and delicious. It was the best compared to all other lines for seafood and slightly better than Carnivals main dining room. Carnivals Supper clubs are better but not markedly so, and the portions are too large. Even the New York steak I had in the MDR on Island Princess was too large for me to eat. It looked to be between 8-10 oz. Wait staff in the MDR was excellent, with none of the silly, campy wait staff entertainment as on Carnival. Head waiters, and the Maitre'D were impeccable and attentive. The head waiter prepare tableside salads or pastas and they are fabulous to both watch and taste. We had initially opted for late dining which we changed to early to be with friends. I will not do that again, since it made us feel rushed to get back to the ship each port day, and did not provide any real benefit to after dinner entertainment. b. Buffet: The buffet on Princess was smaller than the Carnival and RCI ships and offered less choices, but the things it did offer were better, on most days we tried it. This may not be true on the larger ships. There were not the specialty stations that are available in Carnival and we missed that slightly at lunch. Breakfast's were good, the eggs tasted delicious and the coffee was drinkable. There was always fresh fruit salad which was great and the fresh fruit did not vanish mid week like on Carnival or RC ships which I found astounding since we were nowhere near anywhere that could have provided new rations! Lox and other smoked fish was available every morning which I took full advantage of. Grill items were good and I was told by friends the pizza was wonderful. Staff was excellent and there was always someone to ask if you wanted more coffee or juice. How the buffet handled crowds was better than any other ship we had been on. Of the three specialty buffets on Island Princess we only sampled one, the Taste of Alaska which was amazing. Delicious choices and variety, although I was slightly disappointed not to get any crab, we had it later in the week at dinner. We did not try a specialty restaurant and I am sorry we did not. I would have liked to have tried Sabatini's as we both love Italian food. We skipped this because we were initially set up to do Chef's Table, which was cancelled due to some illnesses aboard ship. Winner in food and wait staff in for the MDR- Princess Winner variety in selections and choices at buffet- Carnival Winner in food at buffet- tie RCI and Princess Lesson: Eat Seafood, you are in ALASKA! If it is not your thing, try the beef or lamb. Go with the best dining plan for you. You can always meet up with friends after dinner. Or choose anytime dining if planning to dine with a group. Try the specialty restaurants if within your budget. Drinks Neither Pete or I are big mixed drink fans. We had one each served in the Universe Lounge and it was strong and good. Bar staff were nice and not too pushy, which I liked. We did drink wine with dinner and never had an issue or problem with the waiters keeping our wine for the next night, it was magically there waiting for us. Service I have never been on a ship where everyone is so happy. Maybe it's in the water!? All of the staff from pursers, to waiters to stewards wer wonderful. They are hands down the best as a whole and individually we have experienced so far. We have had some marvelous stewards on other lines but Wendy put them to shame. She was always so helpful, efficient and pleasant. Entertainment I am sure there was good entertainment on board, I just did not find much of it. The production shows I felt were really bad, the singers failed to impress and the dancers were, well they were awful. Maybe American Idol , So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars has jaded me, since I found myself as grumpy as Simon Cowell lambasting a bad performance. Giving the entertainment staff the benefit of the doubt, it being a new season and all, I still went away disappointed. I did get the sense, there is not much in the way of late night nightlife, although I cannot say this for sure, since I was in bed before midnight every night. I am not sure if it was the fresh cold air, or the busy schedule for ports, but I was more tired than I usually am on a cruise. I took advantage of it and slept more, and read, which is my favorite cruise pass time, so I did miss some night life. Specialty acts were a bit better and I enjoyed the comedians and magicians. The Cruise director Frank Castilgone was top notch, however, and I really loved his energy and personality. We had a nice chat about our hometowns one afternoon, since he grew up quite close to where we live. His assistant CD's were all personable and fun loving. He was the best shipboard cruise director, besides John Held of course, we have ever had. I do regret not going to hear the onboard naturalists and really only heard the one in Glacier bay. She seemed to be very good and gave us rich detail about the wildlife and natural history of the glaciers. Lesson: See the dining comments above... late dinner works better for us, stick to it. Go and listen to onboard entertainment in the nice clubs and go to lectures. Pre-Cruise: 1. Denali National Park: We rented a car and drove to Denali, from Anchorage. Our original plan was to stay 3 nights and drive back to Anchorage on Monday to catch the ship. What I failed to realize when planning this was just how long this drive is. Sure it is only 5-6 hours but doing that on the morning of departure would have been a mistake. We changed our plans at the last minute and drove back on Sunday, losing a day in Denali. We stayed at Denali Lakeview Inn, which was a wonderful bed and breakfast about 15 minutes from the Wilderness Access Center in Denali. It was spotless, the rooms were lovely and had nice continental breakfasts in room. The owners were very nice and had no problem with us leaving early with notice. It was important I think to note that the Princess Lodge was right on the highway, I was shocked about this. All the pictures you see are shot of the lodge seeming more remote than it is. That being said it is also in a great spot on the Nenana river and the access it has to Denali National park is nice, especially if you do not wish to drive yourself. it is a short walk or easy shuttle ride to the Wilderness Access Center in the park. Denali was everything and more that you ever imagine and the drive up and back was fun and filled with beautiful sights. I loved everything about our Tundra Wilderness Tour and was very happy we picked it instead of the shorter Natural History Tour. We had an amazing tour guide Tom Richards and he made everything about Denali come to life with his vast knowledge of wildlife, and everything else Denali. Mt McKinley or Denali is it is properly called was out all three days were up there and we felt truly blessed to see it. Because we went early in the season, there was not as much grass or flowers as I would have liked, but I did know the tundra was likely to still be rather dead and wintery looking. Lesson: Spend at least 2 full days in Denali. Even more if you love nature, hiking or wild spaces. Take the Tundra Wilderness Tour, it is worth the time and money! If you have extra time take a shuttle to Eiselon or visit the Murie Science Center. Stay in a B& B if you want simpler Alaska style visit or one of the Lodges if not driving yourself. If you expect green everywhere and flowers, go in midsummer. Do not plan on driving back to Anchorage the day of your cruise! It is a LONG 5-6 hour drive on a 2 lane road. 2. Anchorage: Because we changed plans at the last minute we arrived back in Anchorage the night before our cruise. We had to scramble to find a hotel room, and they tend to be pricey in Anchorage. We "settled" for a room at the Puffin Inn, which looks ok, but really is not that OK. We had an awful room for what our gorgeous B&B cost, in downtown Anchorage. We kept telling ourselves just a few more hours and we will have our mini suite. BIG Lesson: Plan ahead and do not change your reservations. Had I known this now I would have gone a day early to Denali and found a reservation in a Cruise Critic recommended hotel. Puffin Inn is not really a very good choice in rooms even for just one night. Ports of Call/Excursions: 1. Cruising Hubbard Glacier: Hubbard is a very impressive glacier and is completely eye popping in size and scope. Our view was made even more impressive because a HAL ship was there in front of it when we sailed toward it. We did not get quite as close to the glacier as the HAL ship, probably because the Island's draft is a bit larger and deeper than the smaller HAL ship, but it was still impressive and very cold! 2. Cruising Glacier Bay: Everything anyone ever tells you about Glacier Bay is true. There really are not words to describe it adequately. Pristine, cold, shocking, gorgeous, really do not do it justice. We saw numerous small calvings. Many of the ship saw tons of wildlife, which we somehow missed. The naturalists were great at spotting and describing what we saw. Lesson : If for no other reason to spend the money on a balcony, spend it for these two places alone. It was so nice to watch from our balcony and listen on the TV channel as the naturalist described things. If you can pick a cabin where you can get to an outside deck, either Lido or the forward or aft decks, if possible. If you imagine Alaska for its glaciers and snow and pristine waters. Make sure Glacier Bay is on your itinerary. 3. Skagway: This was hands down our favorite shore day. The first of our tours researched on Cruise Critic. We took the White Pass and Yukon Railroad tour through Chilkoot Charters. It was hands down the best tour we have ever taken and though a long day, it was full of firsts. Lots of bear sightings, an incredible train ride through pristine wilderness, a truly Alaska experience at Caribou Crossing, reliving the paths and stories of the Klondikers, and picture taking opportunities galore. Had we been at late seating we would have gotten to see more of the town, but that is a small thing really. Lesson: Take this tour, at least once in your lifetime. It is worth every penny and by booking privately at least with some savings and a huge plus in the "personal attention" of the guide and quality of the experience. These are the pictures my friends here at home marvel at the most and I have only a simple point and shoot camera! 4. Juneau: Another fantastic shore day, this time Whale watching with Harv and Marv. This tour was chosen solely based on information from Cruise Critics and was worth every penny. We saw many whales and got so close you can hear them breath. Also tons or bald eagles and seals. Captain Steve made the experience fun and each of us returned with that classic photo of a whale tail. While we did not see Orcas, we were thrilled to have such an up close experience with Humpback whales. We stopped off at Mendenhall Glacier and would have liked to have hiked out to the closer viewpoint, had we the time. We did shop a bit here and would have liked to have shopped more....only we ran out of time...yet again. Lesson: Somewhere in your cruise itinerary, do a whale/wildlife watch. This is especially important if you do not see Denali National Park or other wilderness areas. Find a great company with good reviews and go. Make sure it is a small boat so you can have an up close and personal view of these magnificent creatures. 5. Ketchikan: We shopped in town in the morning, hiking up to see Creek Street and bought souvenirs. We loved Creek Street and could easily have spent hours here alone. We saw very little else in this charming town. In the afternoon we had a salmon fishing excursion with Ken and Northern Lights Charters. This excursion was our only mistake I think. First it was cold, drizzly and the water was choppy. In late May it was still very early in the salmon season. Plus there was a fishing derby going on during the day we were there, which meant there was more than the usual number of boats out. The tour itself we split with another couple who we really liked and were happy to meet. We did manage to catch 2 undersized Kings but that was it. Needless to say we were all very disappointed. I was a bit upset that Ken failed to mention how poorly the biting was when we talked, in fact he said they were catching fish, nor did he mention that there would be extra competition for the fish. We could have gone for halibut too and he never switched out the gear to try them. Also it is not smart to go in May since the limits for salmon are one each, in June they are two each. Still we went realizing it could happen. I initially wanted to do the Bering Sea Crab Fishing boat and shop in this port. Next time I will. If Pete wants to go fishing again, we will split up. Lesson: CAREFULLY outweigh something like whale watching or wildlife viewing or FISHING, to the cost of these excursions. These are NOT sure things! Ask yourself would you go if you knew you would see nothing? In hindsight it will be the last fishing trip like this I do. Strangely enough though, Pete says he will try again, next time, only we will head to Alaska during the height of the season rather than the start. Go do what you want to do, not something on a whim. The Island Princess: She is a beautiful, understated and lovely ship who is well kept and has handled her age gracefully. I never saw a dirty place on the entire ship. We prefer mid size ships to the super large and loved her layout and common areas, lounges and design. The only problem we found was navigating from our far forward room to the mid ship dining room, but it was a minor inconvenience, due to the fact we had upgraded rooms. We loved the forward "hidden" deck for Glacier Bay and had a blast running back and forth on those glacier days, comparing forward views to our balcony. We loved our room (C227), bed, bedding, double TV's and the great big (hehe) bathtub. Tools of the Tourist: We bought a good set of binoculars for this trip and felt they were totally worth the price. The Nikon Action Ex Extreme 8x40 binoculars were a bit heavy, but well worth the price we paid at Amazon.com. Makes sure you buy ones with a diopter setting and eye strain relief cups if you wear glasses, they make a HUGE difference. If in your budget I would take two pair as I had a hard time wrestling the binocs from my DH, he absolutely loved them. Perhaps a second set of lighter ones for our next trip. My battered, little Canon Power Shot A540 with 4X optical zoom, held up well and took some amazing pictures during our trip. That being said, from day one I longed for a DSLR camera and desperately wanted one many times on the following days. I opted at the last minute not to take my lap top and did not need to as I had plenty of cards and batteries. It also would have been nice to have a camera that does shoot video as well, so I will definitely be upgrading my camera before I go again. Lesson: If you want close wildlife shots and do not have a camera with a good zoom, UPGRADE YOUR CAMERA BEFORE you go. Carry it and your binoculars everywhere. Have at least one really good set of binoculars and more if you do not like sharing. Packing and Cold Weather Clothes: Worried that we were heading to Alaska and we would not have enough cold weather clothes, I bought fleece shirts, a jacket, rain coat/parka and a fleece vest all at great summer sale prices. We were blessed to have some very warm and mild weather for much of the trip. I did not need so many warm clothes. On the coldest day in Glacier Bay I wore a long sleeve T shirt, the polar fleece and rain/wind coat and was fine. Head covering and the hoods helped as well as fleece gloves and a muffler. I never wore 2 of the fleece shirts, or the vest! Otherwise I wish I had packed more jeans, and less dressy clothes for the dining room which is decidedly understated, even on non formal nights for Alaska. I also wish I had had one more comfortable pair of shoes and one less pair of dressy flats. I did buy a great backpack before this trip which we really used and loved. It is a Rick Steves, Veloce Travel Pack and it stored a ton of stuff! Well worth the price and it become our daypack and my purse on excursions. Lesson: Layer layer, layer! You do not need too many fleeces! Either wash a load of clothes on ship, take advantage of the ships cheap laundry bag day or advantage of Elite laundry benefits, and pack LESS. Buy a good pack to tote discarded layers, lunches, snacks, ID, binoculars, cameras, batteries, cards, maps etc in for excursions! Final Comments: This was the best vacation we have ever taken. It is not just a once in a lifetime experience as you may go thinking the first time you travel there. You will find yourself wanting to go back. As my DH says...It is beyond what you dream it will be. It is everything and more. A feast for the eyes and soul, and a reaffirmation that there are pristine wilderness areas left on earth, one of the loveliest truly is Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
Pre-trip: Our excellent journey actually began 2 days before our departure when we received an e-mail from Princess advising us that we had been upgraded to a full suite! We then departed from the east coast to Anchorage on June 17,2010 ... Read More
Pre-trip: Our excellent journey actually began 2 days before our departure when we received an e-mail from Princess advising us that we had been upgraded to a full suite! We then departed from the east coast to Anchorage on June 17,2010 for our 12 night cruisetour. We'd booked our own air travel on Alaska Airlines, taking advantage of the Alaska Airlines credit card $99 companion ticket to travel first class for 2 for just over the price we would have paid for 2 coach fares. It was well worth the extra money to fly first class on such a long trip. Alaska Airlines was an outstanding flight experience. Land Tour: We arrived in Anchorage and found our Princess transfer to our lodging at the Hotel Captain Cook. We found this hotel to be adequate with a smallish room in the original hotel tower. We found it odd that the common areas of the hotel had air conditioning, but our room did not (even inquired about it at the front desk and they confirmed no AC in guest rooms). It was a bit warm, but we made it work by opening the window. Even though the time difference made it a very long day for us, we decided to venture out to see some of Anchorage. We found ourselves at Glacier Brewhouse, enjoying some snacks and beer brewed on-site, which was all very enjoyable. The weather was warm, so we walked around the city a bit from there, marveling at all of the beautiful snow-topped mountains that seemed to surround the city. We browsed in the local shops and found a souvenir shop that seemed to have everything, Trader Jacks (I think), with some items made locally and some overseas. We were generally pleased with the prices. We then found another spot, Rumrunners, to have another local brew and watch a basketball game. We enjoyed our low key afternoon/evening in Anchorage. The next morning we arose early to have our bags out in order for them to be picked up for transit to the Princess MT. McKinley Lodge. We boarded a coach for a very short trip to the train station, where we boarded our Princess railcars to travel to the lodge. The railcars were very nice, with the seating on the second level in domed cars. Shortly after we set out, we saw a moose just off the tracks and then we were treated to an airshow by the fighter jets stationed at the airbase just outside of Anchorage. The train ride was pretty, taking us through wooded areas and over streams. The guide did a nice job narrating and pointing out items of interest as we went. We enjoyed a nice breakfast in the dining car below. We pulled in to the Talkeetna station shortly after noon. We decided to stay in Talkeetna and explore rather than immediately heading out to the lodge. Talkeetna is a tiny little town with essentially one main street. We explored some of the local shops, most of which appeared to have locally-made items. We also found another brewhouse, The Denali Brewing Company. We had lunch at one of the local cafes. We then caught one of the regularly-scheduled coaches heading back to the Lodge, which took approximately one hour travel time. We'd already received our keys, so went directly to our room in one of the small buildings that surround the main lodge. We found our room basic and clean, with 2 double beds. No cause for complaint, but certainly not a well-appointed room. The main lodge was spectacular, with a huge central stone fireplace and a big porch off the Mckinley-facing side that was lined with benches and adirondack chairs perfect for mountain viewing. When we arrived, part of the mountain was visible and we enjoyed just taking in the view and the wilderness. One of the walking paths below the lodge was closed in the evening due to the presence of a mother moose and her baby who were munching on leaves near the path. It was a neat sight through the binoculars. We had dinner one of the on-site restaurants and found the food to be good. The next morning we had a good breakfast in the lodge's main dining room and then explored the various walking paths on the property. All were a very easy walk. We chose not to do any optional excursions while at the McKinley lodge and elected to just sit on the porch enjoying the views. In the afternoon, we boarded a coach for the trip to Denali Princess lodge. Upon arrival, we were given our keys and found our room to be in one of the new buildings on property. Again, we found the room to be basic and clean, but nothing special. It would have been nice to have the opportunity to elect (and pay for) upgraded room accommodations. We explored the many souvenir shops that are across from the lodge, most of which seemed to be selling items made overseas rather than in Alaska, and all seemed to be of the "tourist trap" type. However we did buy a few decent t-shirts and other trinkets. We returned to the lodge and had a wonderful dinner at the main restaurant. The next morning we arose early and had breakfast at the buffet on-site. It took quite awhile to get served drinks and the buffet food was just fair. We then embarked on our Tundra Wilderness Tour into Denali. The buses are operated by Aramark and are school buses rather than nice coaches. Overall, they were fairly comfortable. We had a knowledgeable tour guide who had been doing tours in the park for several summer seasons. The ride in the park was beautiful, with so many different types of scenery, from dense woods to tundra grasslands to rocky mountains. We got to see quite a bit of wildlife once we got further into the park, including lots of caribou and Dahl sheep, a fox and her baby right near the bus, a golden eagle soaring near a mountain peak, a wolf sleeping near the entrance to its den and a mother bear and her 2 young cubs off on the side of slope. It was a terrific trip into the park and well worth the full day on a school bus. That evening we had pizza at the on-site pizza place, which was not great pizza. We then ventured off-property to the outlook, which is across the street and up a very steep incline from the lodge property (you can call for a pick-up). We enjoyed a beautiful view of the park while sipping some of the local Alaskan beers. The following morning we had our bags out early for pick-up and then boarded buses to the train station. We boarded the train for a very long ride to Whitier to meet the ship. We were paired up at our table with a very nice older couple from north of Chicago and really enjoyed talking with them throughout the trip. We had a gloriously sunny day for the trip and as the train wound down on its travels, there were a number of beautiful vantage points from which we could see Mt. McKinley (Denali as the locals call the mountain) in all its full, uncovered beauty. It was one of the most spectacular sights that either of us had ever seen and the train slowed a number of times for passengers to be able to take pictures. Even some of the guides and staff on the train were taking pictures and telling us it was one of the most clear shots they'd seen while working on the train. It was a long train ride, but manageable with the dining car for a nice lunch and the bar for some tasty drinks. Embarkation: All of the pre-boarding was actually done on the train when we picked up several princess employees in Anchorage who handled all of the pre-board paperwork, checked our passports and handed out our cruise cards. We pulled into Whitier, went through security and were on the ship within 15 or 20 minutes. Cruising: Suite: Upon entering the ship, we were directed to our suite, D701, the Seychelles Suite. It was absolutely beautiful and very spacious. It had a nice marble-tiled entryway which then entered into the living room, which had a roomy desk area across from the wet bar and refrigerator, which had been stocked with complimentary beverages. The living room had a TV, nice sized sofa and armchair and a cocktail table and side table that held a beautiful arrangement of flowers. The living room had a set of balcony doors leading out to our double balcony, set with a table and chairs as well as lounge chairs. Back in the suite the living room was separated from the bedroom by a set of heavy draperies that could be pulled at night to accommodate different sleeping patterns. The bedroom was roomy with a large queen-sized bed and two side tables, another TV, a big mirrored dressing table with a lighted make-up mirror and plenty of storage for all of our clothes and belongings. There was a huge walk-in closet for all of our hanging clothes as well. The bathroom was huge, actually separated into two sections, one for the sink and toilet, separated by a door from the area for the jetted jacuzzi tub and large glass-walled shower. The extra bathroom space was very nice. We met our cabin steward, Chet, who brought us a glass of champagne to celebrate our arrival. We watched from our balcony as the ship pulled off from the dock. Shortly after we did the obligatory muster drill, then began exploring the ship. We had a cocktail up on the lido deck at the pool area. The dining had been changed since it was the first night on board, so we decided to have a late dinner at the buffet rather than the main dining room. We did not find the buffet food to be very good. We're used to buffets in Vegas where there are many more selections and both the selection and quality were lacking in the buffet. We discovered Crooners martini bar and enjoyed a wonderful late-night cocktail. Our second day on board was a sea day and the first of our formal nights. We started the day by having breakfast at Sabatini's, a perk for Suite guests. We enjoyed this immensely. The food was excellent and the service, by our waiter Sebastian, was outstanding. We did breakfast at Sabatini's most days when we didn't have an early port excursion. We were surprised that there were not many others who took advantage of this wonderful experience. We spent the day exploring the ship and finding all of the main entertainment areas, dining areas, lounges and pool areas. We found the ship very easy to navigate and get around. We spent the day leisurely napping and also had a very good lunch in the main dining room. We dressed early for dinner and took part in the evening cocktail hour that is held for elite and suite guests. We were surprised to find that very few people attended this cocktail reception, which was surprising given that they put out some very nice hors d'oeuvres. We enjoyed the service from the Italian chef, Eduardo, who oversaw the event. We took part in this several evenings during the cruise. We decided to have formal portraits taken by the ships photography staff. That evening they were having a contest. If you had your picture taken at all of the photography stations, you could enter a drawing to win a $300 photo package. We had our picture taken at all of the stations and turned in our prize card and the next morning, when selecting some pictures, learned that we had been drawn for the prize. We received a CD of our selection of formal portraits and 5 8x10 prints. We were thrilled. We also attended the Captain's Champagne Reception that evening which was nicely done with a Champagne waterfall. We had a very nice dinner at the main dining room. We had elected the anytime dining room and had not problem getting a table at approximately 8:00, even requesting a table for two. After dinner we went over to the bar at the Bayou Cafe to listen to Jean Mac sing songs from the American Songbook. We danced and really enjoyed the music. Later we found the casino and found the gaming to be adequate, with roulette for me and video poker for my husband. The dealers were very nice, although throughout the cruise I didn't find that many other players at the roulette table. Over the course of the cruise, between the 2 of us, we actually walked away from the casino with an extra $500 or so over what we'd started with, which was nice. We also did check out the Wheelhouse Bar, which was nearly deserted most of our voyage. There was a band called Nova, and they were just okay. I don't think we ever saw more than one or two couples dancing. We ended our evening at Crooners with the terrific entertainment by Dan Oliver who was great on the piano and had a wonderful singing voice. We met our favorite cocktail waiter Enrique, who provided us excellent service throughout the cruise. The cosmos made by the Crooners bar staff were excellent. The next day was the trip into Glacier Bay. We had our morning breakfast at Sabatinis and then attended the Glacier Bay Park Ranger presentation in the Princess Theater. It was a very interesting presentation about the glaciers and history of glacier bay. The day was rainy, but we braved the elements and went up on the open deck. It was well worth the cold and rain. The captain was able to pull in quite close to the Margerie clagier and we were able to hear and see it calve off ice several times. We saw a seal pull out on a small iceberg. The glacier was simply awe-inspiring. The captain then spun the ship around, so we retreated to our cabin where we could continue to see the glacier from our covered balcony while enjoying a yummy hot tody. We were also visited by a gull who decided that he like the railing of our covered balcony as well. Glacier bay was a wonderful day. That night we enjoyed a good dinner in the main dining room as well as the entertainment and cocktails at crooners. Our next day was in the port of Skagway. We had an early breakfast at the buffet, which we found to be quite good, with made to order eggs and omelettes and a good selection of fresh pastries. The coffee however, was awful. We were scheduled to go on the very first helicopter glacier landing flight of the day. However, with significant fog, the first trip was cancelled. They were able to book us on an 11:00 flight with the hopes that he fog would lift. Until the flight, we walked around town a bit. Skagway is a fun little town, with one main street full of small shops. We then presented back for our excursion and luckily it was able to fly. We hopped aboard a helicopter and took a 20 to 25 minute flight out to the glacier. We landed on the glacier and did a 20 minute trek around the glacier looking at the different melt formations, the running water, which appears a beautiful blue and the rocks and other items that get picked up and dragged around by the moving glacier. It was a very cool experience. We then re-boarded the helicopters and flew back to the base. The helicopter flight in both directions covered some very beautiful scenery. We were transported back to town just in time for our next excursion out to a summer sled dog camp. We were met by our nice guide Tini (Christine) and took a bit of a drive up out of town to Dyea where the sled dog camp is located. We then broke up into groups and boarded small wheeled carts, holding about 6 people each. The musher gave the command and were were off, pulled by a pack of 18 dogs. The dogs were absolutely amazing. All slight in build and clearly very athletic. They just couldn't wait to run. There was one who would bark like mad and jump up and down in line while waiting, clearly ready to do his job. We learned that the dogs were owned by our musher on board who had run the iditarod race several times, placing well with some of the very same dogs pulling our cart. We then returned to the musher's center for a brief history of dog sledding. Then we got to spend time with a group of young husky pups. They were absolutely beautiful and so much fun. Then it was back to town. We really enjoyed both excursions in Skagway. We finished up our day in Skagway with a pizza and beer at the Red Onion, a former brothel turned bar that maintains its original brothel theme. The pizza was good and the atmosphere very fun and light. The it was back to the ship. We finished off our day on ship with a nice dinner, some casino play and drinks at Crooners. The next day was another early port day, this time in Juneau. We had pre-planned excursion called Whales, Bears & Glaciers. We took a short van ride to a small harbor on the outskirts of Juneau where we boarded a small boat. The Captain then headed out in search of whales and other sea life. As we were pulling out of the harbor, we passed a small pebbled beach on which there was what we were told was a "parliament" of eagles. There were approximately a dozen or more eagles all feeding on halibut. The were simply beautiful, some adults with full white-feathered heads, some juveniles who had not yet gotten their white heads. We then moved into the open water and very shortly spotted the plume from a whale's blow hole. We slowed down and were able to see 2 whales off a bit in the distance, with their humped backs occasionally cresting out of the water followed by their big tails. We continued on our way, seeing a few small seals poking their heads out of the water and then a group of sea lions who had pulled themselves out of the water on to a navigational buoy to enjoy the sun while others barked around in the water clamoring for a spot. We then continued on and saw a group of porpoises that came right up to the boat, jumping and playing along beside the boat as we moved through the water. They actually looked like small killer whales, with similar coloring and markings. Last, we saw a humpback whale calf who came very close to our boat and was having a great time just playing. He was rolling around and pulling his fins out of the water. His mother also came fairly close to us and he continued to play. It was a fabulous whale watch. We then landed on a island, which were later told was twice the size of Rhode Island, with a human population of 950 and a bear population of 3500. We then got on a 15 person van with a guide who was a local young man who had grown up on the island. He was very informative about life on the island, wildlife and growing up in Alaska and shared many great stories. We got out at a wooded path where we walked along a raised plank path through dense woods. Our guide showed us some signs indicating bear had been through recently including claw marks on trees and hair left from the bear rubbing its back against a tree as well as bear droppings on the path. He noted that it was not yet salmon season and that the bears were still in mating season, during which they are constantly on the move. As we came out into a clearing at the end of the path at the water, we saw a small deer and an eagle. We returned to the van and shortly after heading out, just ahead on the logging road, was a large brown bear. Our guide pulled up further on the road and stopped where the bear had crossed the road. There right beside us, on a small rise next to the road, was the bear. He was no more than 8 feet from us. He'd climbed the small rise and had turned sideways and was just staring at us. He was so beautiful. He looked at us for about a minute or so, then turned, walked off and disappeared into the woods. Our guide said that the bear looked to be fairly young, maybe 4 years old and that it is likely that the bear had never seen humans before, which is why he turned to look at us. It was such a cool experience. We then continued on our way for another half hour or so, then arrived at a small airfield. We boarded a small plane that took us up for a 25 minute flight over the Juneau icefields. We saw what looks, from the air, like rivers of ice, that surround Juneau. It was absolutely stunning. We landed back at the Juneau airport and boarded a bus that brought us back to the ship. Back on board the ship, we returned to our suite and prepared for our second formal night. We had a lovely dinner in the main dining room with three other couples at our table and then closed our day at our usual crooners. The next day we awoke to a steady rain in the port of Ketchikan. We had originally planned to do the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show, which we decided to forego due to the rain and wind. Our main goal in town was to finish up our gift shopping, which was easily achieved in Ketchican's many shops. There were many jewelers in town, similar to what one sees when visiting Caribbean ports. We steered clear of those and stayed with the local shops. We found some nice local-made gifts and souvenirs. As soon as we finised shopping, we re-boarded the ship. We dried off and warmed up, then hit the pizza counter by the pool for lunch. We grabbed drinks from the buffet, sat under the covered section near the pool and found the pizza to be very good. We napped and had a leisurely afternoon. We invited in some frineds that we'd met on the land tour into our suite for pre-dinner cocktails, which was very easy to do since we had such a large living room in our suite and also were able to order a tray of canapes every evening as part of the suite perks. For dinner we went to the Bayou Cafe, which we found to be quite good. I had a fabulous spicy grilled shrimp appetizer and we both had steaks as our entree. The food was well done and the service very good. In the eventing, we went to the early Comedy show in the Princess Theater. Kevin Hughes was the comedian and he was pretty funny. Overall we enjoyed the show. We went to the late showing of the International Crew Show in the Princess Theater, which was sort of hokey, but fun too. We finished the night at our usual crooners. The next day was our final full sea day We had our final breakfast at Sabatini's where we continued to experience great food and outstanding service. We took a long walk around the Promenade deck and spotted whales and porpoises off the ship. We ate lunch from the Grill counter on the pool deck and found the simple burgers and fries to be good. In the afternoon, we packed our bags in preparation for having them out in the hall that evening and shopped a bit in the on-board shops, picking up some Princess-themed souvenirs at sale prices. We had made reservations for dinner at Sabatini's that evening and arranged to be served by our favorite waiter, Sebastian. Sabatini's has a really neat way of doing dinner service, where you choose your entree and then they bring you platters of all of the salads and appetizers with small tastes for you to try. It was wonderful. We really enjoyed the food and the way it was served. That evening we found all of our special crew that we got to know and gave them special tips. It was nice to be able to let them know how special they had made our trip. We then visited the casino, again taking away some winnings and closed out our night at crooners. The following day we had an early breakfast in the main dining room and then proceeded with our hand-carried luggage to the wheelhouse bar, the designated area for suite guests, where they had good coffee and juice out for us. We heard our designated pick-up color and number and proceeded down the gangway and through the customs area. We then boarded our Princess transfer to the airport. I was glad that we did the Princess tansfers, as we never had to handle our bags until we got to the airport. The whole process was very smooth and quick. We had a wonderful trip overall and would not hesitate to do the Alaska cruisetour again with Princess. We did purchase future cruise credis and are working on planning our next Priness adventure. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
When my husband and I decided to book an Alaskan Cruise I always said I would go on Princess Cruise after my many years of watching the "Love Boat" and the one episode of the TV show crusing Alaska I always knew we would go on ... Read More
When my husband and I decided to book an Alaskan Cruise I always said I would go on Princess Cruise after my many years of watching the "Love Boat" and the one episode of the TV show crusing Alaska I always knew we would go on the "Love Boat" as well. Well wehen I researched the various ships on Princess I wanted a large ship so I had room to walk around and not feel crowded, We chose the Diamond Princess as our ship and we wanted a balcony for the cruise. This ship has 748 balconies. We were told by the Cruise line that we would want the Caribe deck as there was no walkway in front of the balcony. The Balconies are partially private as you can still see balconies above and below you and you can talk to your neighbors next door as well as it just has a partition but that was fine as we are friendly and it was nice to talk to other passengers. I am only mentioning as some people want total privacy and you will not. Our cabin was very clean and our steward was very attentive. We had ample closet room in which I was surprised for a cruise ship and in room safe. The bathroom was ok size the shower was a little tight but after all I am on a cruise ship. This ship offered the traditional dining and also offered anytime dining with 4 choices of dining rooms. FYI they do take a limited amount of reservations each day so if you don't want to wait to eat it is recommended that you make reservations if there is a certain time that you want to eat when you choose anytime dining. There were five pools including an adult only pool. A small miniature golf coarse casino, spa, theatre standard fare on most cruise ships.FYI in November this ship will be adding movies under the stars one of the 1st ships in the fleet to not have it yet sorry we will miss this feature as I would have enjoyed watching a movie under the stars like being in a drive-in oh well next time. We really enjoyed the lounge with the piano bar in the evening it was a nice way to unwind before bed. This was a plus there was 24 hour food service some cruises just have food up until midnight but not this ship they had food available 24 hours now it is not a full menu but they call it a snack for the late night snackers which is a nice feature. They also had an ice cream parlor and a grill out on one of the pool decks this pool has a retractable roof which was nice as cruising Alaska can be cold but you could still sit out by the pool and not freeze since it had the retractable roof we spent a lot of time on this deck. Room Service was excellent we did use it on our day cruising the Glaciers and they offered a nice menu of choices. We ended up ordering Hot Dogs from the grill and they were delivered nice and hot and they were so good. We actually ended up ordering a second round of food and it was brought very timely. The food on the ship was pretty good and decent choices. The desserts were yummy and they even had one called the "Love Boat" We had two dress up nights while on this cruise the captains dinner and the formal night. They also had an awesome dance party in the atrium on the formal night which was a blast. I do recommend getting the coffee card that they offer for an additional fee if you like you lattes and mocha's as those are all in additional fee so it will add up on the course of the cruise they give you 15 specialty drink choices on the card and unlimited hot tea, hot chocolate and coffee this way you can get these items at the bar and not have to get your coffee and tea at the 24 hour dining room a plus if you are on the go. The staff was great and helpful. The shore excursions were expensive but very organized. I had a great experience and would travel on this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was our first experience with Princess Cruises. We usually travel on Celebrity or Holland American. The trip was just "OK", but not nearly what we expected. We wondered if we weren't being too critical until we began to ... Read More
This was our first experience with Princess Cruises. We usually travel on Celebrity or Holland American. The trip was just "OK", but not nearly what we expected. We wondered if we weren't being too critical until we began to hear similar comments from fellow travelers as the trip progressed. Let's begin with the positives: Entertainment was excellent throughout the week. There was something for everyone. Our room steward was wonderful. He was friendly, helpful and did a great job. Excursions were usually of good quality A request for dining change was handled well. We were able to rearrange reservations so that the group which met the first morning was able to change to the same dining time and table. We began with a six day land tour of Fairbanks, Denali and Mt. McKinley. Our tour guide, Liz, was wonderful. She was full of energy and excitement which carried over to the group. We got introduced at a breakfast on the first morning and met some wonderful people who we stayed with for the full two weeks. That evening, the head of food services for the lodge, (Mr. Wynan?), treated us to a wine dinner. The food and beverages were outstanding, as was his commentary on the meal and his tales of living in Alaska. This was a true highlight. The land accommodations were in lodges with impressive public spaces and comfortable rooms - usually in separate buildings - for sleeping. The rooms were nice, but they had no air conditioning. During most of our land tour, the temperature was in the high 70s to the mid 80s. Sleeping was uncomfortable. In two of the three lodges, we were on the first floor and there was no way to lock the window so that it was only open partially, but we could still feel safe at ground level. There were several included excursions, but we were on our own far too much. The included excursions, as well as the ones we purchased, were of excellent quality. The last day, they had nothing planned and most of the available trips were repeats of things we had done earlier in the week. We left for the cruise at 11 AM on Saturday morning, but there was nothing to do but wait for the bus to the train. Any excursions at the McKinley lodge got back too late for us to partake. We had a very good time on this portion. We saw lots of the scenery and the wildlife. We were checked in for the cruise by Princess personnel who got on the train in Anchorage. They were friendly and efficient. This process made boarding the ship a breeze. When we got to the ship we saw the differences between this line and the others. As we entered the ship we were handed a glass of champagne and then had to walk a gauntlet of people trying to sell wine packages, drink packages, photo packages, tours, etc., etc. We asked each how to get to our floor, but they said they weren't sure and passed us along to the next salesperson. Only when we found the elevator did someone finally tell us which number floor corresponded to the letter on our documents. The room was a big surprise. We booked mini-suite. Based on our experiences on other lines, we expected a spacious room and large balcony. Instead, we had a cramped room which was poorly set up. Much of the floor space was dedicated to a tower with a refrigerator and two flat screen TVs. One faced the bed and the other faced the couch. The room was small and not always seemed to have some piece of furniture in your way. The bathroom had a full tub, but that extra space could easily have been dedicated to room space. The closets and shelving were adequate, but the dEcor looked like we had walked into a hotel in the 1970s. The room was about ½ the size of a mini-suite we had on Celebrity last year. The balcony was only about 1/5 the size of our previous cruise. There were four chairs and a small round table, but we constantly had to rearrange the furniture to move around the balcony. On Celebrity, the mini-suite came with champagne, flowers, fruit, personalized stationary, daily tea, a dining table, and a butler. On Princess, the mini-suite came with a room steward. He was terrific and kept the room spotless, but he couldn't compare with a butler. Day for day, the Princess cruise was more expensive. One of the couples at our dining table had a full suite. The expensive accommodations didn't begin to compare with our Celebrity experience. Our stays in Juneau and Ketchican were very short. We needed much more time there to get a feeling for the destinations. The main problem during the cruise was the lack of attention to detail. We had our first dinner and most breakfast meals in the Horizon Court. The food selection was much smaller than other buffet venues we have experienced. After getting your food, you were left to your own resources to find seats in the crowded venue. There were plenty of workers there, but they didn't interact with the passengers. After being seated, we needed to call a waiter to get coffee or juice. They weren't very friendly and the service was often slow. In the dining room, the service was perfunctory. Our waiter wasn't very friendly and his assistant didn't say 10 words during the seven days. Waiters, especially at assigned seatings, are often the people who make you feel the most welcome onboard. This was not our experience during this cruise. On several occasions we were served the incorrect selection. When asked what was in the wild-game pate, our waited insisted that it was a vegetarian selection. He was unable to correctly identify a number of dishes throughout the week. They also pushed the wine list heavily at each dinner. Offerings were inconsistent. On two afternoons a pub lunch was served in one of the specialty restaurants. The food was good and there was no extra charge for lunch in the room, but they charged for coffee after the meal and no dessert was available. It would have been nice if other specialty lunches were offered on additional days. The ice cream bar served small soft-serve cones, but charged for hard ice cream. After about 10 cruises, this was truly a first for us. One night we watched a movie under the stars on the open deck. The movie was fine, but someone forgot to turn on the sound. A number of us tried to find someone who could address the problem. The first two workers I approached told me that was not their department and kept on walking. Other passengers had the same experience. Finally I got one of the servers at a snack bar to allow me to use the phone to call the main desk to report the problem. It took over 30 minutes to get it working. The movie was a popular title and many people wanted to see it. Many requests were needed to get the stewards to unlock the blankets and let us use them. We were on the open water in Alaska and it was cold! They only brought out a few blankets at a time and needed constant prodding to produce more. Our last day was a sea day. We wanted to sit on the deck and read, but we were told that blankets were not available. There were three stewards standing on the outside deck chatting, but the rest of the space was nearly empty except for a few people who bundled up with coats and towels from the pool. They wouldn't give a reason why we couldn't use the blankets. While the entertainment was excellent, the timing of events was poor. Many activities overlapped by a few minutes. By the time one show or game was finished, the next event was already starting in the next room. If the cruise staff left a little additional time between events, there would be more availability for the passengers. It seemed like much of the time on ship was spent catching the last portion of one event or another. Many entertainments took place during only one of the dining times. If you were scheduled to eat then, you just missed the entertainment. The event times in the Princess Patter newsletter didn't always match up with the actual events. Several things we wanted to attend were just terminated early. One of these was the highly-touted "dessert extravaganza." We went up to get a snack about 45 minutes before it was supposed to end. The "extravaganza" had been moved to the regular food line and two waiters were doling out minute portions of the final half of just two cakes which were available. While seated in the various theatres or lounges, we were often approached by four or rive servers hawking drinks. It servers had been assigned to a particular section, they would know who didn't want service and that would be the end. After a few days, the constant bombardment got to be annoying. The disembarkation process did not go nearly as smoothly as the embarkation. We were assigned tags with colors and numbers. When we assembled in the Princess Lounge (theater), the numbers were not seated separately. When they called a group, people found themselves crawling over others who were still waiting to be called. It truly felt like we got the bum's rush getting off the ship. We were told that we could be in our rooms until 8 AM. When we got back from breakfast at 7:20, our things had been piled on the couch and the room was ready for the next passengers, even though the next boarding was 5 hours away. While the personnel on the pier were friendly and helpful, those who worked on the ship gave the impression that the tips had been given and they were more than through with us. When the Princess buses arrived at the airport, we needed to stand in a very long line for nearly 45 minutes before any luggage arrived. We were there over an hour when we finally received our bags. Anyone in PR should know that the first and last impressions are the most lasting. This last impression wasn't what they should be giving. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010
This was our second time in four years to sail the Inside Passage, but our first time to sail on Princess. We chose the Coral Princess for the itinerary (two full days of glacier viewing)as well as the size (we did not want to go any ... Read More
This was our second time in four years to sail the Inside Passage, but our first time to sail on Princess. We chose the Coral Princess for the itinerary (two full days of glacier viewing)as well as the size (we did not want to go any larger than this size ship as we really prefer smaller ships i.e. Regent). We flew from Atlanta to Anchorage with a plane change in Portland. Upon arriving in Anchorage we called the shuttle for Embassy Suites and were picked up and taken to our hotel. The two couples shared a lovely 2 bdrm/2 bath suite. This hotel seems very new and is very beautiful! The hotel had free shuttle service to just about anywhere you wanted to go and they were ready to pick you up in less than 10 minutes. Evenings they gave you 2 free drinks in the lobby bar with appetizers and a wonderful buffet breakfast (one of the best) that was free with made to order eggs/pancakes and waffles. For dinner we went to Simon & Seaforts - great fresh seafood! The next morning we went to the train station and rode the train from Anchorage to Whittier. The ride is just over 2 hours and a great way to get to your ship. We were able to see moose, sheep, eagles and other birds along the way. We arrived in Whittier and we were in the cruise terminal about 12:30 p.m. We were one of the first to enter the terminal and after about a 5 minute wait in line we were able to get our key cards and board the ship. We were given a shopping/information guide to all the ports with some very good coupons. As soon as we embarked we were able to go to our suite - what a wonderful treat this was! I purchased an "ultimate drink card" which for $9/day allowed me to go to any bar and order a virgin drink, a hot cocoa, malt, soda (anything that did not contain alcohol). I felt this was well worth the cost and you were give a large insulated mug, too. Our mini suite was spacious, (on Deck 9 port side forward) we found enough room to store all the many clothes/jackets we brought with us. Nice furnishings - not overly luxurious, but far better than I had anticipated. After looking around at our room we went up to deck 14 to the Horizon Buffet for a nice lunch with a great view of the snowy mountains meeting the ice blue ocean. We took advantage of our late sail away and walked around the tiny town of Whittier in temps of 60 and sunny. Bought a few nice locally made ornaments and then back on the ship for sail away. Dinner; Crispy Spring Rolls, Texas Chili and no-flour chocolate cake - all very good! Sunday we woke to sunshine to sail in Yakuat Bay and Hubbard Glacier. What a heavenly day for glacier viewing. Not a lot of activity with calving, but there was some. Lunch: Bayou Cafe for British Pub Day so we had fish & chips (good) Dinner: Horizon Buffet (we skipped formal night) Monday another sunny day in Glacier Bay. This was my favorite part of the cruise - what a beautiful way to spend a whole day cruising slowly through mountains of ice and snow. We watched a brown bear lazily walking on a beach for a good 20 minutes. Tuesday - Skagway where we walked around on our own to the many quaint shops. Had lunch at The Fish Company (just down from where the ships dock) and had the best fish fry of halibut! The temp was very warm and sunny - over 70! We found a nice waterfall hidden in the woods just off the street by the RV park and near the cruise ship docks. When we returned to the ship we took a swim in the pool (outdoor pool) and soaked in the hot tub. Dinner: Italian Night - I had Penne Arrabiata (made tableside by a chef) very good! Wednesday - Juneau with another sunny day in the 70's. My friend and I did the "taste of Juneau" while our hubby's did a helicopter/glacier trek. Both excursions were wonderful. The taste of Juneau included a visit to Chez Alaska cooking school where we watched a chef prepare 2 dishes made with local fish, then on to Mendenhall Glacier and our last stop was to taste Alaskan Ales. Thursday - Ketchikan and more sunshine! Our excursion was to George Inlet Lodge with a pontoon cruise ride in the inlet to view crab traps and then back to the lodge for a tasty meal of dungeness crab (you could have 4 halves), salad, red potato and cheesecake. They have a great small gift shop at the lodge where I always find many great things to buy. Friday was a sea day and it was quite foggy. We signed up for the Ultimate Ship Tour (they charge a good fee for this and only allow a max of 12 people). You were taken to parts of the ship you normally do not get to see; back stage at the theater, the sound/light area, the area where the anchor and huge ropes are stored, laundry, photo lab, print shop, hospital, engine control room, the coolers and freezers as well as the galley and the bridge. We were presented with a plush Princess bath robe, chefs jacket and photos to have a keepsakes from this great tour. Dinner: turkey and all the trimmings with Baked Alaska (if you chose this for dessert). Saturday we sailed in to foggy/rainy Vancouver about 7 a.m. We were off the ship by 8:20 - very easy to locate our luggage and grab a taxi to our hotel the Hyatt Vancouver. The location of this hotel is great for walking downtown to the many shops. It took about 20 minutes to get to the airport Sunday morning from the hotel (left at 4 a.m. for a 6:40 a.m. flight). We did not attend any activities in the evening as we prefer to go back to our suite after dinner to open the curtains and watch the beautiful scenery. This cruise is one where you just don't want to miss a minute of the ever-changing sights. We did attend a few lectures by Kathy Slanp the Alaska Naturalist they had on for the cruise. She was very informative and interesting to listen to. Before the ship left Skagway they had a comedian/folk singer on board and he was great! Quite funny and also left you with a good knowledge of the history of Skagway. As far as food goes this is always a very touch subject; we felt the food was good to very good in most instances. Our friends did the "Chefs Table" dinner (I was sick that night so we had to cancel) and it is an added cost, but they said more than worth the cost for a 13 course meal specially prepared by the head chef. They only allow 10 people to sign up for this. All areas of the ship were spotless and well maintained - nothing was torn or needed to be replaced. The color scheme was not over powering nor was it bland - a nice blend of aquas and golds. I really loved these huge tubes that were constantly bubbling located on both sides of the Passenger Services Desk on deck 5 - quite unique and beautiful. While my husband and I do prefer a smaller ship with less passengers and the "all inclusive type style" we found we did enjoy the Coral Princess and we would definitely sail her again in Alaska. This itinerary was great for those who prefer to see more of the natural beauty of Alaska as we were glacier viewing for two full days. Read Less
Sail Date May 2010

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