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509 Whittier to Alaska Cruise Reviews

Sapphire Princess---Whittier to Vancouver While we have sailed many times, this was our first sailing on the Sapphire Princess and sailing out of Whittier. May we suggest that if you are sailing our of Whittier you fly to Anchorage a few ... Read More
Sapphire Princess---Whittier to Vancouver While we have sailed many times, this was our first sailing on the Sapphire Princess and sailing out of Whittier. May we suggest that if you are sailing our of Whittier you fly to Anchorage a few days earlier and enjoy some of Alaska. In the past we have flown into Anchorage and taken a cruise ship out of Seward. Traveling from Anchorage to Whittier will be a great experience. You have several choices on how to get from point A to point B. You can prepay the cruise line for ground transportation and that is not bad as your luggage will be taken care of. There is a train that can be used to get to Whittier or you can pay for taxi, bus or limousine service. Instead of all of these we opted for a rental car. A word of caution---plan way ahead as there is only one rental car company at this time (Avis) that permits a one way drop from Anchorage to Whittier. The cost of bus or limousine service is approximately $50 per person. For approximately $250 (plus gas) you can rent a van in Anchorage and drop it off in Whittier. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier is one of the most scenic and most interesting you will find in Alaska. You travel along the coast right next to the ocean. Along the way stop occasionally to see fish being caught by dozens of fishermen and observe the eagles flying in and out of their nest. Don't forget to leave the camera out of your travel bag. A few miles south of Anchorage there is a roadside park. Take a break and take a look at the old snow blower engine sitting in the park. It's difficult to find one of these in operation in Florida or California!!! The trip is approximately 60 miles and you will turn off the main highway after about 50 miles and head toward Whittier. Just before the tunnel there is a National Park and information building. It is very nice so take about an hour for a rest break and take in all the info center has to offer. There will be glacier bits floating in the water behind the information center. Back into you rented vehicle (can't do all this if you are on the bus) and head for Whittier. This was be one of the most interesting few miles you have ever taken. We have traveled extensively throughout Switzerland by car and this segment tops even those road trips. You will be stopped at the entrance of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a 2 ½ mile long tunnel that will exit at Whittier. There was a $12 toll fee. Turn your lights on and maintain the required distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. You will literally ride the railroad tracks for 2 ½ miles. The flow of traffic is reversed every thirty minutes and occasionally car traffic stopped so that a train can travel on the tracks. Don't worry all this is carefully controlled so you don't meet a train in the middle of the tunnel. When traveling through the tunnel forget using your cell phone and if you are the driver just concentrate on staying on the tracks. The speed of our "caravan" was quite brisk. We exited on the Whittier side and presto there was Whittier. Our first business was to turn our rental car in. The cruise line had a tent set up close to the ship where you could drop your baggage. (TIP--have all you baggage tags completed and drop your baggage and go as there are others waiting). After dropping the baggage off we headed for the Avis drop off, a small hardware store. All the person wants is your keys, the level of the gas and you contract. They will complete the information and mail you a receipt in about two weeks. This is a no nonsense drop off so don't plan on staying around and talking the morning away. The town is only 60 miles from Anchorage and you will immediately notice the beauty of Prince William Sound. The Sound is made up of numerous deep fjords with tidewater glaciers that calve right before your eyes. Whittier is also surrounded by the Chugach National Forest. In Whittier there is day cruising, fishing charters, kayak tours and in the winter time many winter activities including cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Thus if you have an early arrival for a late sailing ship you have plenty of time to engage in one of the above activities. You will immediately notice two very large buildings in Whittier. One is now vacant. This area was a secret military base during World War II. One of the buildings is now occupied by local residents and reportedly almost all the town's population now lives in that one building. The port remained an active military installation until 1960. At that time the town had just over 1000 residents. The town was eventually incorporated in 1969. The brochures tell about a lot of good dining in Whittier. It was time for lunch when it starting pouring rain so we decided to head for the ship instead of lunch. Below is a picture of one of the restaurants that was closed when we were there. Looks like a great business adventure if you want to relocate to Whittier. The Sapphire Princess one of the mega ships in the Princess fleet. Put in service May 2004. Capable of carrying 3100 passengers our cruise was not totally full however the number on board was plenty by any standards. A ship 4 years old just has to show some wear and tear, however the crew continues to do a very good job and the public areas as well as the cabins were in good shape and clean. We have sailed on the Diamond and Grand which are almost identical to the Sapphire. There is also the Golden and the Star which are comparable. This is a large ship that takes a little time to get used to. Public areas are too small for the number of passengers. For example there is a theater that seats less than a thousand yet there could be as many as 3300 on board. Seating for two shows is always a problem. It is not possible to have a single Captain's Reception thus there will be more than one. The common space just isn't there. The ship's designers have foregone the high ceiling two story spiral stair type dining rooms for a more traditional on shore type look for the International Dining seating. Even the other restaurants where you have anytime dining look more like a nice on shore restaurant. Having said this let's look at the rest of the ship. DINING---Got to get this one first since this seems to be the main topic of discussion about one's cruises. We opted for the traditional second seating dining and that was a mistake. We were seated at table for 6 in a dark corner. Service was poor and we were close to everything you did not want to be close to. Serving stand, dirty dishes, waiters walking back and forth with other table's meals, etc. Dining with the traditional dining service just wasn't what we had in the past. We tried to get anytime time and found out that the staff does not like to see changes made after you are on board. However we used anytime dining the second night. By getting there early the next four nights we had anytime dining in the Santa Fe. It was nice and we all enjoyed some very good dinners. Breakfast was always in the Horizon Court on the Lido Deck, which leads us to that dining area. There are 11 serving areas in the Horizon Court on the Port side and 11 serving areas on the Starboard Side. This no doubt presents a real problem for many passengers as there just stand and stare at the food. I don't know how many times we witnessed a passengers using the tongs to pick at a particular strawberry only to lay that one down and pick up another. With so many choices it appears some of them just can't make a decision. The dining in the Horizon Court, which we usually ate breakfast and lunch was actually very good. Nothing much has been changed from previous cruises. This is not 5 star restaurant food, however it is good food. You can usually get your food very quickly however finding a place to sit may be difficult. Seems like some passengers tend to hibernate at a table from morning to dark. Some were talking while others were playing cards. Did not matter, as there were many other places on the ship where this could have taken place. You can take your food out to the aft deck however in Alaska this is sometimes a little cold and windy. There is also the swimming pool areas on the same deck and there were usually several tables available. ICE CREAM----There is an ice cream bar on the shop where you can purchase---yes I said purchase----sundaes and cones. The prices are in line with those you will pay back home at a similar ice cream store. TIP---there is free ice cream between 3 and 4PM on the Lido Deck and you can add toppings for a sundae. We found a lot of people apparently did not know about this thus we never found any real long lines. The time period also had a lot to do with this, as days we were at a port a lot of the passengers were still on tours. MOVIES---There is no dedicated theater on this ship however you can still watch movies. The listing will be in your daily guide. Movies are shown in the large entertainment theater, in the Explorer's Lounge and on your cabin TV. Some showings included current films. We missed the outdoor movies under the stars and the popcorn we have had on another Princess mega ships. ATRIUM---The ship has a beautiful atrium in the center of the ship that extends up trough several of the decks. Surrounding the open center are shops, with perfume, clothes items, etc., souvenir store, purser's desk, tour desk, a store with small drug and candy items. Usually the staff sets up tables on the perimeter where they sell items usually related to the port that is next or the port the ship has just left. PHOTOS---The area around the photo sales area was always crowded, The staff will literally make thousands of photos as they seem to be everywhere. Formal night is especially a challenge as the photo crews will actually block several passage areas to set up their cameras. The candid photos are made using a digital came from which they print a mass production snapshot. They sell these from formal night shootings a "portraits". Trust me---these are far from being professional portraits. If you must have a snapshot, then spend the $25 however a better option is to have you own digital camera, make several photos and print them on your computer when you return home. DRINK CARDS---The first day aboard you will be asked (sometimes many times) to purchase an all you can drink soft drink card. They are about $60. If you drink several cokes each day this is a real deal. That's about $9 worth of cokes each day, however at bar prices that may not be all that many. They also sell a coffee card for gourmet coffee such as cappuccinos. I purchased one for $30 and only used it eight times thus my coffee was rather expensive. On a longer than seven day cruise I would have easily used the entire card. I did get a souvenir cup out of the deal though. SPECIALTY DINING—There are a couple of restaurants where you can get special dining with special entrees. They are the Sterling Steakhouse and the Sabatini's Trattoria dining room. On this trip we did not eat at either. We really don't like to pay the extra charge associated with this type dining although we must admit we have done it in the past. The restaurants were never full on any evening. HOT DOGS & HAMBURGERS----Oh yes—there is a place on the ship where you can dine on hamburgers and hot dogs, plus there is pizza available. This is at the end of the pool area. They cook your burger to order while you wait. INTERNET---One of the nicest internet rooms of any ship we have sailed. There is also a coffee bar in the room. Space was always available on this cruise and the internet connections were excellent. Probably because we were always close to land, either Canada or the United Sates. The staff was very pleasant and helpful. Cost is about the same as on other ships. In our case $100 for 250 minutes. TIP—sign up the first day aboard and they may give you some additional free minutes. TIP—If you encounter problems with the internet, such as getting several disconnects, etc., ask the attendant to make an adjustment or add the lost minutes. We found them to be accommodating. COMPUTER AT SEA SCHOOL---Don't know how to work worth Adobe Photoshop. Then take a couple of class aboard ship. The classes were almost like having your own personal instructor. Even though I know some about Photoshop and my granddaughter knows a lot, we still took the classes and found them to be well worth the $25 per class. Take three classes and the fourth is free. They give you easy to read handout and you can also download then from the Princess site when you return home. CASINO---This ship is reported to have one of the largest casinos on the seas. There are more than 250 slot machines, including penny machines, two roulette tables, crap tables and blackjack. We found the casino being very well used throughout the cruise. ART AUCTION---I am still amazed that people go on cruises to attend art auctions and unless I am be conned, there are people actually buying some of the "art". After attending for three days I found the same people attending day after day. If this is your thing go for it, I would not know what I was buying or what it was worth. The auction is held in the Explorer's Lounge. GOLF---There is a neat golf putting area on the top deck. The wind and cold will just add to the challenge. We never found more than two or three people on the course partly because it was difficult to find. Take a break from the auctions and bars and go outdoors to the putting area. WEDDING CHAPEL---There is a very nice small wedding chapel on this ship. The door remained locked every time we were in that area however I would imagine it may be used on longer cruises. HOSPITAL/SICK BAY---As is on many new ships there is a nice looking medical facility. Since we did not have to use the facility (we have on other sister ships) we really can't review the service. On other Princess ships where we have used the service we found professional, courteous personnel and very clean facilities. Expect to pay in full before you leave as they don't accept insurance. You can file a claim against you health care provider when you return home, so be sure and get a detailed receipt of the procedure you used. HAIR SALON---My spouse is always a customer whether the cruise is 30 day or 7 days and this cruise was no exception. The service is always good and the prices are always high. Also expect to provide the person with hefty tip as tips are not added to the bill. FITNESS CENTER---The fitness center is really excellent with lots of the very latest equipment which was in very good condition. We have been on ships where the equipment has been neglected. At times the area was crowded and you have to put you name on a time schedule. LIBRARY----There is a very nice library on the ship and it also contains several internet stations. In the same area there is a writing room which is equally nice. Both places are good areas to read a book and just take life easy. SWIMMING POOLS AND SPAS—They are all over the ship. Some are crowded while others remain mostly empty. Look for the ones where kids are not allowed, otherwise some of the younger kids will run wild around the area with parents nowhere to be found. On this cruise there were plenty of lounge chairs around all the pools. CHILDREN'S AREA---There is a special part of the ship set aside for children of all ages. We had a teenager that went a few times but for the most part opted to stay with the adults. There are games including high tech games in the children's area. When we passed by we always saw the area being adequately supervised by ship's staff. OUTSIDE BASKETBALL & TENNIS COURT----A very nice area that we saw being used quite often. Located on the front of the ship on a top deck. SHORE TOURS---In the past we book some of our shore tours on the internet before the cruise. On this trip we did not book one tour until we arrived on board. The tours were plentiful. We had also traveled to Alaska many times thus many sights we had seen on our own. In every port there were several large ships and the crowds on the streets were just more than we cared to handle. We will probably take earlier or later cruises to Alaska in the future in order to available the really large crowds on shore. This time though we did take a train out of Skagway. It was very good though a little expensive. In previous shore trips we try to go on our own. Usually we rent a car along with another couple and head for non-tourist sites. We find the cost to be much lower, the freedom to do what you want and seeing sights where tourist don't generally go. THEATER & ENTERTAINMENT---The theater does not adequately seat the number of passengers that want to attend each show. Thus you must arrive very early to get a seat. We found that 45 minutes before the show the theater started filling so we usually arrived about 45 minutes before the show. The shows presented by the entertainers on board was rather good IF you overlook all the errors and mistakes. Just take those with a "grain of salt" and look at the lighting, special effect and costumes. They are really very good---not Broadway—but think about it, you are not paying an extra dime for the entertainment. Individual performers in the theater were on a scale of excellent to extremely poor. On the one night where the entertainer was very poor the theater was no more that 60% full. A lot of folks knew something that we did not know. ARCADE---Really nice electronic arcade located close to the casino. Lots of nice new machines in the room however we never found anyone using them. If this keeps up that room will someday disappear. CABINS---Our cabin was an outside room on the Emerald Deck. Clean and the cabin steward maintained it that way throughout the cruise. The bed was excellent, bathroom always stocked with supplies and in general we were well pleased with the room. We did not have room service during this short cruise---we were just too busy. Fresh fruit was brought to our room each day we requested. Just leave the request on the door the evening before. We did not use the laundry service on this cruise however we did use the washer and dryer on our deck. The place was clean and all machines worked. Even the coin machines were in working order. Each evening the ship's paper was delivered to our room and a mint placed on each pillow. We were able to control our temperature in the room exactly as we desired. The TV set was in first class working order. Ice was left in our refrigerator each day and we got clean towels each day. DRESS ----We normally would not list this as a review section on a cruise however feel this is becoming a major issue. We are savvy enough to realize that people are going to dress as they please. There were two formal nights on this seven day cruise, however I would challenge anyone by showing me which of those two nights were the formal nights. At dinner there were many people that came with t-shirts, sport shirts and a form of shorts. Some people appeared to be wearing what they had worn on shore tour rafting. Tennis shoes were all over the place. A very small percentage of passengers were actually in formal clothes. We went to the last entertainment and noticed even some of those returned to their cabin after dinner and changed into sport clothes. Formal night dress means very little for a great percentage of the travelers. EMBARKATION---We boarded at Whittier and the embarkation was easy, efficient and fast. We arrived at a time when few passengers were arriving (1:00PM). The ship had a departure time of 9:00PM. The staff was most helpful and friendly. We could not have asked for a better experience. DEBARKATION---We purchased bus tickets from the ship to Vancouver Airport and that was a great move. We left our luggage outside the door the evening before and saw it next at the baggage area at the airport. We were among the first to leave the ship and among first to arrive at the airport. The cost was only $25 per person. We highly recommend this. We have traveled enough on cruise ships to know that a lot of factors will influence one's perception of the cruise. The observations we post are those of our own and we respect the differences others may have experienced aboard the same cruise. We had a great time and will cruise with Princess again. We trust this review will provide a little insight especially for those who had not cruised on the Sapphire. Have a great trip. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
After one week on land in rental car, embarked from Whittier, using Princess bus transfer service from Anchorage. Transfer was smooth and pleasant, although it was inconvenient that we had to check-in that AM at Anchorage Convention Center ... Read More
After one week on land in rental car, embarked from Whittier, using Princess bus transfer service from Anchorage. Transfer was smooth and pleasant, although it was inconvenient that we had to check-in that AM at Anchorage Convention Center to get time of transfer. Bus ride to Whittier was made more pleasant by scenery and driver who gave narrative of area. Embarkation lines were longer than on other cruises, mostly because 3 bus loads of people arrived at same time, due partly to scheduled tunnel opening to get to Whittier. Still, it was all organized and pleasant. Found our 2 mini-suites, one for husband and me and one for our 2 near-adult children, ages 17 and 22. Large, beautiful, clean - adequate storage. Bedding was not arranged properly in kids cabin (should have been 2 twins, was not) but quickly fixed by cabin attendant. Upon arrival on ship guests are given assignment for dinner seating for that night only - ours was at 5:30, which was fine with us since we never really stopped for lunch. Unpacked, checked out some of the ship. We immediately noticed that most passengers were in the 55-75 age group. There were a few children but, as we expected, saw no one in age group of our kids. Usual lifeboat drill was held completely within one of the theatres, unlike other cruises where we had to actually go stand on a deck. Our cabin had only one life vest in it - I informed my husband that he would have to swim if we sank, and our kids told us life expectancy in Alaska waters was so short it would not matter. Despite several requests, never got another life vest. Next 2 days were glacier sailings. Views were spectacular, both from our balcony and decks of ship. There was a "naturalist" giving narrative over PA system - she was not very good, but easy to ignore. On second day, glacier viewing was cut short by passenger requiring emergency medical evacuation. While disappointing, it was reassuring to see lengths cruiseline would go to get passenger off ship (sailing 3 hours at higher speed, transfer passenger to lifeboat, take to ranger station, transport from there, wait for lifeboat to get back to ship) First port was Skagway. Unless one took rail tour, this is not an interesting town. Lots of the usual cruiseline-owned jewelry and t-shirt shops. Dtr and I did enjoy culinary demonstration and garden tour at Skagway Inn. Husband and son did independent hike with benefit of map from ranger station. In Juneau splurged and did Mendenhall glacier helicopter landing and glacier walk-around. While I was somewhat scared at going in tiny helicopter, the glacier and views made it worthwhile. Then to Salmon Bake by bus - it was a nice break from ship food, but skippable. Never did see much of Juneau. Ketchikan 3 of us went on rainforest zipline adventure and I did rainforest walk. Saw a bear. Both very enjoyable. Final day was at sea - for us a nice chance to relax after 2 1/2 weeks away from home - and there was surprisingly great scenery and sea mammal sightings. We did later traditional dining. Food was very good - always something we liked, and service was exceptional. Our waiter made sure our 22 year old son had plenty of main courses - including a small ton of crab legs on crab leg night. She was also knowledgeable about making recommendations off menu. We ate lunches at buffet, which was above average for cruise lunch buffet. Same with breakfast. Our son ate his share of pizza and proclaimed it excellent. Never did any late night dining nor did we try specialty restaurants. One interesting note is that this group of passengers was an early-to-bed bunch. Husband, son and I tried one night around 11:30 to get a drink in a ship bar, found only 2 open, and then it was "last call" just as we got our drinks. Not that we wanted to party all night, but walking back to our cabins, we saw virtually no other passengers at a little after midnight. And, being Alaska, it was still light at that hour! Other things we enjoyed - demonstration by head chef and galley tour, National Park Service narration one day (as opposed to that of naturalist), service by excellent cabin steward, efficient room service, comfortable bedding, surplus of hangers in closet. Dress was far less formal than warm-weather cruises I have taken, even on "formal nights". Most people wore jeans and fleeces all day and for evening almost business-casual. Saw only one long dress and about 2 tuxes. Ship temperature inside was comfortable all the time - but it is cold in Alaska in June (yes, I knew that, but it took a while to register) and we found ourselves in shorts on day catching some balcony sun when it was 61 degrees - and thinking it was quite warm for a change. There was an indoor pool, lightly used, and saw only a few hearty souls in outdoor pool. Even hot tubs lightly used. Great cruise, great ship, great staff. Very different atmosphere from Caribbean cruise, but enjoyable. Best part was excursions, which were expensive but not unreasonably so considering what and where they were. Balcony was nice to have, but if money were an issue I would skip the balcony and spend the money on excursions. I would not suggest this cruise for families with little kids or teens if they hoped to meet other young people on board. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
My husband has had an Alaskan Cruise on his "bucket list" since our honeymoon 27 years ago. Alaska didn't sound like my idea of a vacation all that nature stuff and no beach but after a Hawaiian Cruise 2 years ago I thought ... Read More
My husband has had an Alaskan Cruise on his "bucket list" since our honeymoon 27 years ago. Alaska didn't sound like my idea of a vacation all that nature stuff and no beach but after a Hawaiian Cruise 2 years ago I thought it was his turn. This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for us and one that is very hard to describe. For me it was like being at the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls, you know you are there but it is just too beautiful to describe and the pictures definitely do not do it justice. We decided to take the southbound cruise from Whittier to Vancouver because our two sons live in Vancouver and this gave us an opportunity to build in a few extra days at the end of the cruise to visit with them. We flew from Toronto to Vancouver and Vancouver to Anchorage. Make sure your travel agent gives you enough time for the flight change if you have to go through customs in Vancouver like we did. We booked to bus transfer from Anchorage to the port in Whittier just because it seemed simpler. This trip is about 1 1/2 hour drive depending on when you arrive at the tunnel and how long you have to wait. (the tunnel only goes one way so times are alternated every 1/2 hour.) The first day on the open sea was very rough leaving some people confined to their rooms. This was our 6th cruise so we are either used to it or it just didn't bother us. Take this into consideration when packing your medication. We were told that the next morning we would arrive at College Fjord around 6:00 am. Due to the time of year, there is very little darkness so my husband who was like an excited child had me up and out of bed at 4:30am. I can tell you I did not regret this for the world. The cruise down the passage of the fjord was one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. Again, undescribable. The next day we were in Sitka, where we just walked around the town and took in the local sites. A lot of jewelry stores and touristy hype. I would imagine that without the cruise lines stopping there this little town would be nothing. Saturday was our big treat day as we had pre-booked the helicopter tour to the glazier with the 2 hour walk about. At first I thought what do you do on a glazier for 2 hours. It was amazing. Out tour guide, Amanda, was so interesting and was so knowledgeable about glaziers that it made the trip so interesting. And the helicopter trip was not as scary as I thought it would be. Sunday, Skagway. Another town similar to Sitka. We took the train ride up to the Yukon and back. Unfortunately the trip back is the same as the trip up so although the scenery was lovely, the trip back give me a chance for a little nap. Monday, Ketchikan. Again another very touristy town but larger and more shops. Did I mention my husband hates to shop. We hired a private little but company to drive us around the local sites. Probably not as professional as one of the tours from the boat but half the price. The ship itself is of course beautiful as all Carnival ships are. (a little on the tacky side but fun) Extremely clean and our balcony cabin (upgraded at the last minute because how often do you go to Alaska) was always immaculate and our purser, Constatin was always very friendly and accommodating. We had late seating for dinner which was about half full (I guess the older folks like to eat earlier) and although we asked for a large table so we could socialize, we were given a table for two. Meals were amazing although a little rushed. We decided to treat ourselves and spend the extra money on the Nouveau Supper Club the last night. It was $30.00 extra each and the meal was comparable to a meal I have spent over $200.00 for. The service fantastic and a lovely little couple performing all through dinner. We even had a chance for a romantic dance or two. Shows were fantastic. Late night X rated comedian was a scream. All the staff were fantastic. No bad experiences here. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Our cruise was Alaska Southbound on the Carnival Spirit. We flew into Anchorage the night before and stayed at the nearby Marriott Courtyard. There is food for dinner within walking distance but cabs are available. We did take a cab the ... Read More
Our cruise was Alaska Southbound on the Carnival Spirit. We flew into Anchorage the night before and stayed at the nearby Marriott Courtyard. There is food for dinner within walking distance but cabs are available. We did take a cab the next morning to the Egan Center where we were met by very friendly Carnival employees who took our bags and directed us to coffee and a table to wait. We went early, around 9 am to catch the first shuttle to Whittier. We didn't wait very long and boarded a bus to Whittier. The driver was very entertaining, the scenery was amazing, and we even made a couple stops to take pictures. The tunnel to Whittier is one way so the timing has to be right or you sit for 30 minutes waiting for traffic to go your way. We arrived at the ship around noon, the first bus from Anchorage but not the first to arrive at the ship. Check in was speedy fast and we were having lunch within minutes of arriving. It seemed like we were in port forever but finally left on our way. We took second seating for dinner and even though we were at a table for 4, we ate alone every night. We had the option to join another table but declined. We had breakfast in the dining room instead of the buffet and they will seat you at a table with others if you eat for breakfast in the dining room. First stop was Prince William Sound. Amazing!! We are east coasters so waking up early Alaska time was the norm for us. When we awoke, it was to an amazing site of glaciers all around, floating ice, and beautiful snow-covered mountains. A couple things we learned: 1. It is not too light to sleep. Yes the sun is out for 18-19 hrs a day, but the curtains are very thick and block all light out. We had a balcony room. 2. Due to older crowd and Pacific Time zone, after 10 pm the ship becomes a ghost town. 3. It was not as cold as everyone says. We are from Florida and didn't need jackets to walk around town. Next day was Sitka, the only port where the ship does not dock. Not too much to see here so it was a good idea to wait for the first crowd to disembark and then get off the ship before lunch. We found this staircase that leads to an overlook of the bay which was very nice. You can find it right as you walk into town on the right before all the shops start. Next day was Juneau, a nice scenic town with many cruise ships docked with us. We scheduled the Flight-seeing Adventure on float-plane for 9:30 am...a mistake as we found out. Weather was cloudy and the morning flight was canceled as usual. If you book a flight, shoot for later in the day. We kept rescheduling but they had to cancel. We finally went at 2pm, but by then we got lucky because everyone else was trying to reschedule and they had no more room. While we waited we took the tram up the mountain and I recommend it. You can purchase the ticket and it is good all day long. There is a great restaurant at the top, hiking trails (where there was 6ft of snow), a science center with a movie and great views of the bay. The float-plane was a great tour...very smooth flight and scenic. We also did the whale watch. The boats were amazing...very high class with a small buffet on board and plenty of binoculars for all. We didn't see many whales but the sight of one up-close was worth the trip. Another thing to consider: time of year. Go in May and see the mountains covered in snow all over, but whales are not there yet. July or later see more whales but looks like Colorado...much of the snow has melted from the scenery leaving beautiful green mountains, but being from Florida we wanted to see snow. Skagway was the next day and a great port to walk around. We did the Skagway street car which was a lot of fun but the seats are very small on the street car, barely fits 2 regular size adults and they pack them in. We did the White Pass railway and that was great. It won't matter what side you sit on because the train goes up and when you get to the top they make everyone switch seats for the way down. One more day at sea which was nice then Ketchikan. This was the nicest looking port city in my opinion. Looks like a postcard picture. We did the lumberjack show and it was so much fun and very entertaining. Overall the Alaska cruise is great!! Every excursion was super! You can get tours at the pier of every port if you cant make up your mind which one to go on and other passengers commented that they saved a bunch of money by doing a tour not purchased on Carnival. We liked the security of knowing what we were going to do and when, and knowing we would be refunded if it canceled. The Carnival Spirit was a great ship with a few things worth noting. 1. The Nouveau Supper Club was definitely NOT worth it for us. The service was terrible, worse than the dining room and it wasn't even crowded that night we went. The food was good, but with a deck-level view of people walking past your table outside, not worth it. 2. No need to "get there early" for good seats to any shows. The shows were not well attended despite the high quality of entertainment. 3. Casinos close by midnight due to lack of participation. Actually most lounges are empty all night. 4. Enclosed pool...who are you kidding? Saw 2 people in the pool the whole cruise. 5. Heard many passengers complain about the slow-to-flush toilets in staterooms. Ours was slow, but didn't bother us. 6. People lined up early for dinner..why? 10 minutes after dining room opens, you may walk right in and get served. *****And the one thing I wish people had told us*** 1. Every room has a lack of outlets to charge phones, cameras, etc. BRING A POWER STRIP, standard electricity, to plug in your stuff. Too much to tell...Alaska is a must-do if you travel. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We booked this cruise because it looked beautiful and saw the good reviews it got online. Also, we got a great deal on it, only 450 for a 7 day. Boy, were we sorry. I should start by saying that the group I traveled with is used to ... Read More
We booked this cruise because it looked beautiful and saw the good reviews it got online. Also, we got a great deal on it, only 450 for a 7 day. Boy, were we sorry. I should start by saying that the group I traveled with is used to something a bit more fast paced than what we got. The ship was bustling with the 55 and older crowd, and not that I have a problem with them, but they were just a bit too quiet and snobby to our liking. We also chose this cruise because of the "extensive" child facilities. Our two 15 year olds and one 16 year olds were always complaining that there was nothing to do for them and one even spent the last few days in the cabin just playing games on his laptop. The food was horrible. It looked really nice, but, just like the ship, that's all it had to offer. The only thing edible on the lido deck was the pizza. The food in the dining rooms was not much better, and when my daughter asked for the Grand Marnier souffle for dessert one night, the waiter wouldn't let her have it because it contained alcohol. WOW. Great excuse, right? We paid for that food and we should be allowed to order what ever we want. The only time the service was good was during tea time. The entertainment was blah. My husband and I ended up leaving early on 2 occasions because we simply did not enjoy the shows. The fitness center was busy at all times. The equipment was nice though, very new looking. Embarkation/Debarkation was well organized and we were on without too long of a wait. Our stateroom was rather small, but as always, the beds were just so amazingly comfortable. I slept like a baby every night. The ports were so-so. I recommend buying the shore excursions from private companies because the ones offered by Princess were overpriced. The good thing about the ports is that there are lots of liquor stores and Princess wasn't anal at all about letting us 'sneak' some on. Sure saved us a couple hundred bucks. In conclusion, you get what you pay for. The 450 bucks was worth it, but I would have gladly paid more for something that had better entertainment and more activities. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
Prior to Embarkation - Stayed one night in Anchorage. Not a great town, very expensive and hotel left much to be desired. Train trip to Whittier from Anchorage was a beautiful trip and well worth the cost ($60) which was less expensive ... Read More
Prior to Embarkation - Stayed one night in Anchorage. Not a great town, very expensive and hotel left much to be desired. Train trip to Whittier from Anchorage was a beautiful trip and well worth the cost ($60) which was less expensive than the bus transfers offered by Carnival. Embarkation - very small terminal, but the easiest embarkation I have ever experienced. Cabin - The cabin was located on the rear of the ship. Plenty of room and provided for a great 180 degree view, but was quite wet at times as there was no overhang and the weather in Alaska is not always the best. In spite of wet chairs, I would still do it again. Food - Dining room food for dinner is always excellent on Carnival. Lunches are better on the Lido (I don't recommend the dining room for lunch at all) and breakfast is decent in either place. Good omelet bar on the lido and pretty good breakfasts in the dining room. The late night pizza bar or hamburger and hot dog bar usually satisfy if you are a late night person. Room service is adequate, but not a huge selection. The supper club is superb and well worth the expense for a special treat. Service - We received great service in all areas - dining, room stewards, bartenders, etc. The staff was great and always remembered our names and our preferences. It made us feel important. Ports - Sitka was beautiful. There was more to see than we had time for. The tendering experience was good, but not great. There was quite a wait to get off the ship, but once we were in port, it was well worth the wait. Juneau had the worst weather, but it was one of the best ports. We did not book an excursion through the ship, but just happened into Orca Enterprises. If you read a lot of reviews on Alaska, you will see a lot about Captain Larry. As soon as I heard it was his place, we book immediately. We were very fortunate to be the first excursion in over a week to actually see the orcas - a whole pod of them!. Everyone sees humpbacks on his tours which are absolutely fascinating. But the orcas were incredible. The naturalists on his vessels are very knowledgeable and the whole experience was not only beautiful, but it was a lot of fun. I would highly recommend booking through Captain Larry if you can. Skagway was next. It was a beautiful area, but not a lot to do. We booked a bus tour through the ship that included Liarsville. It was a lot of fun and the scenery was great and the price was right. But it was probably the least memorable of the ports. The final port was Ketchikan. We booked the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's tour. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny. In addition to seeing the now famous boat from Deadliest Catch and watching how they do their work, we also made a stop where we saw at least 40 to 60 eagles which absolutely made the trip. It was a great day to really enjoy God's beautiful creation and to also learn a lot. The crew was great and the presentation very fascinating. The sea days at the beginning and the end provided for some very beautiful scenery with the glaciers and occasional whale sightings. We docked in Vancouver and spent one night there before heading home. I was not real impressed overall with Vancouver, but we got some of the best food and most reasonable of any of the ports. One important suggestion - Take a GREAT camera with you. We took our digital which allows us to make some of our pictures better, but it was totally inadequate for some of the things we got to see. This cruise was for our 20th anniversary and there is no doubt in my mind that we will fondly remember this experience for the rest of our lives. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
The following is a review of our Alaskan adventure aboard the Coral Princess that sailed from Whittier AK on June 16, 2008. We celebrated my wife's 50th birthday and our 16th anniversary during the voyage. We splurged a little and got ... Read More
The following is a review of our Alaskan adventure aboard the Coral Princess that sailed from Whittier AK on June 16, 2008. We celebrated my wife's 50th birthday and our 16th anniversary during the voyage. We splurged a little and got a full sized suite. We had a wonderful time and a definite must do (both itinerary and ship) for anyone wondering whether this cruise is for him or her. I will offer some critiques that hopefully Princess will notice...these would have made the overall experience exceptional versus a great one. We flew to Anchorage on Alaska Airlines direct from San Francisco. Great flight, very attentive flight attendants...good start to the trip. In Anchorage Airport, baggage claim is fairly simple and relatively quick. Taxi ride to town was about $23. Anchorage is a good starting point, a lot of shops, restaurants and a shopping mall for those that may have forgot to pack an item of clothing, like a swimming suit or just 1 shoe (as one of our party did). We stayed at the Marriott which was average (I stay at a lot of hotels on business trips)...this one was average. A definite must - request a room up above 10 stories - Cook Inlet side....the view of the sweeping inlet is worth the extra request. It costs nothing extra for an inlet view room. The Hilton looks nice and a bit more convenient to the shops, restaurants and Egan Center. The most convenient to Egan Center would be the Westmark, which also appeared nice. All are within walking distance of the Egan Center (Marriott - 5 blocks, Hilton - 3 blocks, West mark - 2 blocks). We dined at the Snow Goose (1st Street) - a brewery and pub with that rustic Alaskan dEcor. Highly suggested for lunch or dinner. More upscale, Club Paris (a steakhouse) is great (a recommend from my business colleagues who travel to Anchorage) and located across the street from JC Penney. There are many restaurants to choose from, just ask the front desk of the hotel for a recommend. All are easy walking distance in the downtown area. Transfer to the ship - we took the Princess transfer from the Egan Center to the ship. We had looked into the train (completely booked) and the comedy bus. As we did not take those alternative forms of transportation, I am sure there are many pluses...but we did note that the train brought many people all at once creating a long embarkation security check line each time a train arrived. The view from the bus is essentially the same as the train as the tracks run along the same highway. From the bus, our embarkation took about 12 minutes. On the comedy bus....we saw one that was an old school bus (don't know if that is just a local pick up bus or ...anyone planning this should check). Those going to the Egan Center: Princess does have things set up to check in your bag early (we did at 9 AM). You can also do a drop off your carry- on similar to leaving your carry-on with the bellman at a hotel. You can then retrieve your carry-on with your claim check. The service is free. This allows you to explore downtown Anchorage and even have early lunch as there is absolutely nothing happening at the Egan Center until your bus departure time. When you check in at the Egan Center, you will get your bus assignment. Buses left 12:30, 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00. All make the ship with plenty of time to explore the ship before dinner. The bus trip takes approximately 90 minutes with several photo stops. After you get out of Anchorage proper, the highway winds along the shore of the Turnagin Arm of Cook Inlet. The driver pointed out many historical and interesting sites and cracked some groaner jokes...but a fun trip. Do bring a bottle of water and perhaps a sack or two, if you must, as there is no beverage or food service on the bus or at the stops. There is a bathroom on board the bus. The scenery, glaciers immediately before the Whittier tunnel and the 2 1/2 mile tunnel are impressive. When you pop out the Whittier end of the tunnel, instant inlet with ship! The ship - The Coral Princess is stunningly beautiful. You enter into the Plaza deck atrium area (Deck 5). The sweeping staircases and glass elevators provide a grand accent to this lovely space in the ship. There is a lounge in the atrium on Plaza deck (5) and Promenade deck (7). The latter is the Crooners lounge that serves up great martini's. The two main dining rooms (Bordeaux and Provenance) and the Wheelhouse lounge are just off the atrium (near the glass elevators). These areas are very nicely appointed. On chilly days or rainy ones too, Crooners is a lovely place to meet with newly made friends in an elegant atmosphere. The Internet Cafe is on Emerald deck (8) in the atrium as well. Note: Internet is frustratingly slow while the charged minutes tick away!!! Throughout the atrium is a hotspot that you can use your wireless through the Princess wireless system. Though slow, it is much better than using the provided desktops, which are extremely slow. My recommend, if you have to e-mail; wait till you are in port and use a wireless provider. Fiesta deck (6) has gift shops, jewelry and sundry shops in the atrium. The casino is on Fiesta deck (slots - penny, two cent, nickel, quarter and dollar slots; and the usual compliment of table games - minimums tended to be $3 on blackjack cards up and $5 on other tables). Except for smoking, which is allowed in the casino (except for one designated no smoking evening); the casino was fun and lively. Note unlike Vegas, drinks are not free! The slots do take US currency or you can charge to your room. Along the main hallway on Fiesta deck (6) is the photo store (yes, these folks take many photos and post them for your purchasing pleasure - the photographers are pretty good - I don't photo well, so we just bought the embarkation photo). Also on Fiesta is Explorers Lounge - great Karaoke and a very good band that played late. Promenade deck (7) have the upscale restaurants (Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe) which I will mention later. On deck: Lido deck (14) and Sun deck (15) are the pools and lounge chairs. Despite being an Alaska cruise, we had great sunny, 70-degree weather on two days that brought out the pool and sun worshippers. For the Alaska cruise; one pool and two spas are indoor and the others are open air, so something for everybody. There were also lounges on Promenade deck (7) that did not catch as much draft as the upper decks. Great place the curl up with a book and hot cocoa! Shows and presentations are in the two theaters at either end of the ship (Deck 7 and 6) - the Universe Lounge and the Princess Theater. Both are extremely comfy and enjoyable show venues. The entertainment was good, not exceptional, but entertaining. The restaurants on board offer up something for everyone's taste: * The main dining rooms (Bordeaux and Provenance) were average....the service varied by table. Some waiters/waitresses were very attentive and happy, others were unresponsive and bitter (seems the longer a person was on staff, the less attentive they were - I think the gratuity included on every drink and the daily gratuity charge per person per room is a disincentive to provide good passenger service). Anyway, Food in the main dining room tended to come out on the cold side for the sides (potatoes, veggies)...the entre's were usually warm. Food was average cruise food - I have had better on other cruise lines. Wine prices were actually quite decent - most bottles averaged between $30 and $55 - typical for any mainland restaurant. The staff does hold unfinished wine for the next dinner service in case you cannot finish a bottle in 1 sitting. Also, a decent selection of wines was available by the glass too! Note: the first night is open dining - after that set time based on your wishes when you did your pre-boarding preferences. * Horizon Court - the concept is great - a variety of food goo - but man, the chaos!!! Seems everyone that dined there must have been starved for weeks and could not get enough food. People cut each other off, would grab the serving spoons literally out of your hand. Mix in a very confused layout of the food lines and some older set that would wander around between the food stations aimlessly, and then once you had your food finding a table (finding a parking space in downtown San Francisco or Manhattan would be easier at lunch) - you get the adult version of Chuck-E-Cheese! We avoided this like dining room except for off hours. We did note that some smart folks picked up their food and then went out near the pool and dined versus doing the parking lot cruise hunting for that open table. If you want the buffet, eating out by the pool, does make things a bit more bearable at lunchtime. Food average, fruit and veggies seemed to be more aged than in the dining room, but Ok. Many families dined here with their kids and seemed to "enjoy" it. * Pizza and the Grill - both open 7 AM till 7 PM - Deck 14 and Deck 15 respectively - we found the food much better than either the dining room or Horizon Court during lunch - I suggest this as a great alternative. Note: If too cold outside to dine - pick up a burger/chicken sandwich/hot dog and fries (at the grill) or pizza (cheese, pepperoni or the daily special) and go back to your cabin or into the Horizon Court to eat. During the week, as more passengers "discovered" these two eateries, the popularity grew. Do yourself a favor and find these first! * Ice Cream - Mid deck - Deck 14 (Lido) - great variety of flavors and toppings. There is a nominal charge for food from here, but worth it! Indulge...you're on vacation! The ship has two upscale restaurants Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe. * Sabatini's is upscale Italian cuisine with a 3 hour tasting menu...hint to all, you get a sample of everything on the menu, taste and pace yourself or you won't make it through the entire dinner. Also, if you don't - the staff will wrap up desert so that you can take it back to your stateroom for nibbling later. Minisuites and suites had small refrigerators -not sure if all the rooms had them. Sabatini's is well worth the $20 pp cover. Wine list is the exact same as the main dining rooms. Another hint, ask for a window side table when making your reservation! * Bayou Cafe - this restaurant is a steakhouse with a nice variety of food. Some spice but not so much that anyone should shy away. A nice variety of southern foods, Cajun and Creole. Our best meal on ship was in this restaurant and well worth the $15 pp cover. Steaks are great and can be blackened, or topped with whatever you desire. Don't be afraid to make requests!! These folks were the most service oriented on the ship. You will do yourself wrong if you don't dine here at least once during your voyage! Stateroom - I had mentioned that we splurged and got a full sized suite....a better word would be SWEET! I know the photo and layout on the Princess website don't help much in trying to envision what the room would be like, so let me try here. You enter into a small 5 ft x 5 ft foyer that opens into a living room that comfortably sits 5...I would say about 10 ft x 7 ft. A desk and a wet bar separate the living room from the foyer. There is a small refrigerator under the TV and a storage cabinet above the TV. Our sofa could open into a second bed. A curtained partition separates the living room from the bedroom. The bedroom has a queen-sized bed with nightstands and lamps on either side. You get about 3 ft around the bed. The nightstands both have drawers. The bedroom opens to a 10 ft x 10 ft dressing area equipped with makeup "desk" lighted makeup mirror, walled dressing mirrors and 8 clothing drawers. Off the dressing room is a walk-in closet that has a "his and hers" clothes hanging area. There are more drawers, storage cabinets and safe in the entry into the closet. There are entries to the bathroom from both the dressing area and the foyer. Off the foyer, the sink and toilet, then an inside door to the shower and tub area. The shower is roomy for a ship! The tub has "jets" to help relax one before bed. Another hint - there is space around the tub if you bring a faux candle or two for the mood (real candles are NOT allowed nor safe!). Our deck was twice the size of the decks of the other cabins and could easily accommodate up to 8 although only 5 chairs and 2 tables are provided. The two desk chairs help if you have friends over (we did). Our deck was partially covered - so if you went to the railing, you could see and speak with the folks above (I mention that for those who desire privacy and want to get out of the rain - if you encounter that - you might want to make sure you check your cabin when booking as many cabins have partial or no covering). Partial was just fine, except when some lame-brained passengers thought it harmless to feed some sea gulls when the ship slowed down in Glacier Bay - first 1 sea gull then fifty! I digress....the deck is great for room service breakfast or lunch! We did both on scenic cruising days (when the naturalist would be on TV talking about the sites as we sailed by). On a cruise like this, the cabin does enhance the experience. Go for it if you can, you will not regret it! The cabin was great!! You do get upgraded amenities in toiletries, live flowers, some complimentary mini-liquors, expedited room service delivery after breakfast (note: breakfast food was typically cold when it arrived - which altered what we ordered - there is no microwave in the cabin - if you want a truly hot breakfast - run up to Horizon Court). Shore excursions - we had three ports of call - Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. We didn't do the Princess tours at Anchorage or Vancouver - we did hear people rave about the Denali excursion for those considering - Denali will probably be the only place you will see bears and moose during your trip as nobody saw any on ship or in the ports mentioned above - we did see humpback whales, orcas, seals, otters and Eagles. Vancouver is a great place (I have been there on business), but I will leave that to others that did Princess excursions. For our three Ports: * Skagway - we took the White Pass & Yukon Railway and Yukon Expedition. As opposed to the brochure description we took the train up and bus back. The train is neat, definitely not as roomy as the Alaska Railway or Amtrak train passenger cars. The seats reminded me of school bus seats. Still breath taking scenery abounds as you climb to the summit. Hint: Bring something to drink and snack on as there is NO food service on the train. There is water from a water cooler, but that's about it for 2 hours. Second hint: bring some paper towels if it is chilly as the window will steam up and prevent good photos. The train trip was super! At Fraser BC, we boarded our bus for Caribou Crossing in the Yukon...a nice drive of about an hour with stops for photos (no food or drinks provided - bring your own - there is a bathroom in the bus). At Caribou Crossing (which is a small wayside of shops, rustic museum, ATV rides and dogsled rides - the latter $30 pp) we joined 17 other tour buses for lunch. Yes, I said 17. People are everywhere. Despite that, the folks at Caribou Crossing moved us through the food line quite quickly (about 10 minutes from bus to picnic table). Food consisted of a BBQ chicken drumstick/thigh (which you could have up to 2), coleslaw, baked potato, bread and mini-donuts. Coffee and/or Ice Tea to drink. There is an ice cream shop, which we went to for a waffle cone after "dining". You could also get soda pop at this ice cream shop. You are at Caribou Crossing for 1 hour - not enough time to go ATV'ing. But enough time to eat, shop in the gift shop, see the husky pups, walk the museum and have an ice cream cone. On the bus back, we stopped at Carcross Yukon. A small railroad stop town with a place where people got their passports stamped. There is a gift shop and food. Hint: Pick up something to drink or munch on as it is 3 hours back by bus with just photo stops. The scenery is great - lots of photos. A definite must do excursion if you like tours. This is an all day thing that leaves about 1 hour in town - the bus will drop you off in town. There is a shuttle that you can catch back to the ship at a nominal cost. * Juneau - we did the Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter Tour and Expedition. As great as the voyage and ship were, this is the top highlight of our trip. After a short bus hop to the helicopter people (Tempsco), you get fitted for ice gripping boots that go over your shoes. Hint: don't bring a lot of stuff (pocket books etc) with you as they have you put all but your camera in a locked bin before you board the helicopter. Depending on the number in the tour, you will have 1 to 6 helicopters carrying 4 or 5 people each. I don't know which was more spectacular, the helicopter ride or the walk on the glacier! The helicopter pilots fly in formation and do a dance in the sky as you fly over mountain tops, see vast ice fields in the distance, fly above Mendenhall and then land on the glacier. Here, you are met by guides who walk you around the glacier and who are more than welcome to snap your photo of you with your camera. It is an incredible experience. To a person, everybody wanted to stay longer after the 30 to 45 minutes on the glacier were up. The guides chuckled and said that everybody says the same. Then its lift off and fly back to Juneau - have the cameras ready for an aerial photo of Juneau. Hint: Dress in layers - it is not freezing - dress for 50-degree weather. Unless you are really sensitive to the cold, don't overdress or you will roast. Note: The helicopter tour and return takes about 2 1/2 - 3 hours from departing the ship to returning to the ship despite what the tour description says. The time in the brochure is the actual helicopter/glacier time and does not include the to/from, safety video, dressing time and gift shop time, so plan accordingly. Again, the bus will drop you off in town if you want. We did some minor shopping at the foot of the pier and then returned to ship. * Ketchikan - here we took the Misty Fjord Seaplane tour. After a short bus ride, we arrived at Taquan Air. On the northwest side of town. Very nice people! After a short safety video, you meet your pilot and board the seaplane. The plane will hold up to 7 people. Take off from the water was neat! We flew above town and the cruise ship (good photo op!). We flew on to the Misty Fjords. We had sunshine and blue skies, rare for this area. We flew by waterfalls, snow topped mountains, inlets with new age music playing in our headphones. After an hour, we landed in a remote fjord. For those that were brave, we crawled out and stood on one of the plane's floats atop a 1000 ft deep fjord. What an awesome experience - in nature, quite, refreshing air, steep tree covered cliffs on both sides, indigo water all around - wow, it doesn't get much better than that! If you want to be one with nature - do this! We were out about 2 1/2 hours - a bit longer than advertised because the pilot had some curiosity about areas he hadn't been to since the prior year (or so he said). Note: The plane does make tight turns, steep climbs and some bumpy air - so take your motion sickness pills or do something else if you have this issue. Otherwise, a fantastic must do! We did get back to town with plenty of time to shop and eat. Ketchikan is great on a sunny day! Let me close with the disembarkation. Your choices are an excursion, the Princess transfer to the airport ($20 pp) or walk off. We did the Princess transfer, which the purser described as whisking you past all the hassles of US customs. You still must clear customs, you have two passport checks and you still go through security in a very long line if you are not the first bus to arrive at the airport. Our friends chose to walk off, took a $30 cab to the airport and beat us to the gate by 25 minutes. We also did the EZ luggage transfer offered by Princess ($15 pp) which the purser described as hassle free - you will meet your bag at baggage claim when you arrive at your destination airport. Sounds good - doesn't work - our bags arrived the following day. Our airline said, the cruise line thing never works unless you have a evening flight, they suggested we not waste our money next time. Makes sense in Vancouver. I hope this review helps - I cannot say it more - this cruise/stateroom/itinerary SPECTACULAR! Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We hadn't really even planned a vacation, but following our younger daughter's early June wedding we decided to check into last-minute deals that were available during the time frame we had available. A cruise sounded like a ... Read More
We hadn't really even planned a vacation, but following our younger daughter's early June wedding we decided to check into last-minute deals that were available during the time frame we had available. A cruise sounded like a perfect way to rest and relax following a very busy few months, and we'd never been to Alaska. I found a great price on a guaranteed oceanview stateroom on the Coral Princess and booked immediately. We also found decent airfare (there seem to be few real bargains in airfare these days) and in the space of about a half an hour had everything in place to leave in about a week! Temperatures here in the deep South were hovering near 90, so it required a total change in mindset to pack for the radical difference in climate we would experience in Alaska. The more we travel, the less disposed we are to over pack; knowing that the Coral Princess had self-service laundry facilities on several decks, we resolved to bring just one carry-on size suitcase each. As there were to be two formal nights on the seven-night cruise, my husband tried to rent a tux to be waiting for him onboard, as we have done in the past. However, as we were barely a week out, he was informed that it was too late, and brought a dark suit instead; I packed a long black skirt and two dressy tops and it turned out that this worked well for both of us. We flew into Anchorage the day before the June 16th cruise, spending the night at a Days Inn which was perfectly adequate and reasonably priced, though by no means fancy. Our older daughter had described Anchorage as looking like a town that "had the snot beaten out of it"; she was pretty much dead on in that description. However, she had also mentioned an excellent restaurant, Orso, which turned out to be just a few blocks from the hotel. It was a bustling, upscale place with an eclectic menu - an excellent choice, as my sirloin and hubby's rockfish (a new one on us!) were both simply divine. I had been uncertain about transfers between Anchorage and the ship; by booking so late we had no chance to book any Princess-sponsored transportation. As it turns out, this was serendipitous, resulting in my booking a trip on the Alaskan Railroad's Glacier Discovery train ($60/person, one way) which left at 10 am. The trip was utterly delightful, with comfortable, old-fashioned seats and great scenery, accompanied by commentary from a pleasant young woman who highlighted points of interest along the way. The train arrived in Whittier twenty minutes early - plenty of time to acquaint ourselves with this most peculiar little port where virtually everyone lives in the same high-rise building (a remnant of its days as a military base.) Embarkation was easy as pie; though we arrived earlier than planned, and expected a real crush of people, it never materialized. Within 5 minutes of entering the rather makeshift cruise terminal, we were on board. I knew that we were taking a chance when we booked an oceanview "guarantee" cabin; we ended up on Emerald deck, starboard side, in a cabin with what was described as a "fully obstructed" view (E317.) While our picture window did, indeed, open onto a lifeboat, we actually had a pretty decent view over the top of the boat. For what we were paying, combined with the fact that we planned to be on deck most of the time, I certainly couldn't complain. The cabin had superb closet space - more than plenty of room to hang everything, along with several shelves in a cabinet, and several small drawers in the desk. Our suitcases stowed easily under the twin beds pushed together. There wasn't much room to move about, but we managed. The bathroom was small, and the shower could only be described as minuscule. The grab bar was right at elbow height, further constricting movement. It was by far the smallest bathroom we've yet encountered on any ship. Our steward was an 8-year Princess veteran, delightful, efficient and unobtrusive. All in all, we were well satisfied with our accommodations, and with the service. A housekeeping supervisor saved my sanity by finding my "lost" passport, which had lodged itself inside an area of the small safe obstructed by its door. Apparently, it wasn't the first time this had happened. The ship is large, but not huge, and we found our way around fairly easily. The main dining rooms - Provence for traditional dining and Bordeaux for "anytime dining" were on decks 5 and 6. With our late booking, our only choice had been between the late seating for traditional dining, or "anytime dining", which we chose. Service in the Bordeaux dining room varied from inattentive to excellent; I wonder if the fact that there are not generally extra tips forthcoming, given that diners are not necessarily served by the same waiters each day, was the reason for this inconsistency. We found the meals (dinners only, in our experience) to be excellent, though portions were a bit modest (not necessarily a bad thing, given the buffets we visited for breakfast and lunch!) I had been apprehensive, having read some rather lukewarm reviews of the dining room, but we both agreed that the food was very, very good - inventive, well prepared and presented beautifully. There are still some kinks to be worked out of "anytime dining". We had heard in advance about the possibility of making reservations for a table in the Bordeaux dining room at a particular time. We did this a few times and were immediately ushered to our table for two (we tend to eat fairly early, which likely helped.) It was clear, however, that many people had no idea that reservations could be made, and there was no indication whatsoever at the dining room entrance that the line on the left was for those who had reservations. Diners who had not called ahead tended to feel a bit like "second class citizens", and this was certainly understandable. The whole concept of "Anytime Dining" seems to be undermined by this growing tendency towards reservations; I honestly don't know what the solution may be, as it is clearly impossible to know exactly how many people will show up at any given time each evening. I think that we would opt for early traditional dining next time around. The Horizons buffet tended towards bedlam at "rush hours" for breakfast and lunch, with people often having to wander off to other Lido deck venues (near the pools, etc.) to find a place to sit and eat. Food was plentiful, varied, with excellent fruits and vegetables, and some of the best cookies I've had anywhere. There were always numerous elaborate pastries, many of which were simply too heavy to appeal to us. We were never disappointed in the selection of entrees and accompaniments, and the service was impressive; coffee, tea and juices appeared reasonably quickly at breakfast, tables were quickly cleared and utensils replaced, and there were frequent offers to get anything we needed. We had been apprehensive about the food in Horizons, having read a number of unflattering reviews, but we simply couldn't complain about any of the meals we had there. We also tried the separate pizza parlor - absolutely delicious, and they get the thin crust just right. The entertainment is always a question mark, as we have encountered everything from exceedingly bad to very professional on various cruises. We made a point of attending three shows and were fairly impressed with the high quality of the costumes and sets, and, for the most part, the dancing. Two male and female vocalists were also featured, and they were adequately talented. One unexpected pleasure was the hypnotist who appeared the last night of the cruise. We had enjoyed a little ballroom dancing (getting harder and harder to find on cruises, it seems) and decided to stay for the hypnotist's show. He put on a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining show with audience volunteers - several of whom who were politely "disinvited" from the stage when they showed clear indications that they were not susceptible to hypnosis. There was much good-natured laughter and lots of fun and no real embarrassment to the participants, except, perhaps for the young woman who leaped up and shouted to her husband "Holy s***, we won the lottery!" when so convinced under hypnosis. She also did a pretty good impression of a vacuum cleaner, as I recall... The scenic cruising was memorable and it was simply astonishing to get so close to glaciers...close enough to actually witness "calving" (a portion of a glacier sliding into the sea.) The ports were enjoyable, looking much as we expected they would. We had booked the cruise too late to sign up beforehand for any excursions, but we prefer to explore by ourselves, anyway. I had booked, independently, a whale watching trip out of Juneau through Orca Enterprises, on a jet boat with "Captain Larry" - a real whale-locating expert - at the helm. (I found it interesting that the Coral Princess's naturalist was on board with us, rather than the excursion sponsored by the cruise line.) I was astonished by the calmness of the water and thrilled that there was no hint of seasickness. Instead we had about 2.5 hours of terrific whale watching and saw plenty of humpback and killer whales, plus sea lions and many bald eagles. This was a real highlight of our trip and exceeded all expectations. Having packed lightly, we were in the first, independent group to disembark in Vancouver, a city we had visited before. I had been fortunate enough to book a room at the Sutton Court Hotel on Burrard Street; this is a truly outstanding hotel with excellent rooms and service. We presented our weary selves at 8 am, bags in tow and fully expecting to stow them until mid-afternoon when our room would be ready, but were gratified and delighted to be told that there were a few rooms available and we could check in immediately. I had made a point of mentioning that we were just off the Coral Princess, as I knew that this was one of the hotels Princess employs for pre- and post-cruise hotel stays; I figured it couldn't hurt. All in all, and especially considering the last minute nature of our plans, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week and I feel we more than got our money's worth. Of course, we tend to be the type of people who subscribe to the "we're on a cruise...how bad can it be?" school of thought, but it would have to be considered delightful by any standards. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
What a blast! I'm going to try not to brag about the wonderful weather, fabulous bargains and generally fantastic trip that my hubby and I just had- but it's going to be tough! We flew from Philly to Anchorage on the red-eye on ... Read More
What a blast! I'm going to try not to brag about the wonderful weather, fabulous bargains and generally fantastic trip that my hubby and I just had- but it's going to be tough! We flew from Philly to Anchorage on the red-eye on Friday, 5/16. Landed really late at night, especially considering the time change. When we finally got to the Hilton Anchorage, it was after 1 AM Alaska time and about 5 AM East Coast time. We crashed! The Hilton has a lot of bad press on here and on some hotel rating websites for being old, outdated, and gross. Wrong! Our room was perfectly Hilton- updated decorations, clean, nicely furnished. We had a great view of the mountains. We were in the tower, maybe that's newer? On Saturday, 5/16, we were up early to do a walking tour of Anchorage. It was a great little city, but it was COLD! It was probably in the mid-30's to low 40's in the morning. By the afternoon, I think it was probably in the low 50's. The Hilton is across the street from the Anchorage Market- which you have to do! It's got some great souvenirs for super cheap and yummy Alaskan food. We picked up some ulus from the craftsman himself- and got to chat with him and everything. We ended up seeing the same ulus, from the same artist, all over Alaska in the high end shops. We paid a fraction of the price! Since ulus are essentially knives, we were worried about bringing them on the boat and then through Canadian customs. No problem- the craftsman is shipping them directly to our home- and only charged us $9 to ship 2 ulus 2-day mail! We were back to the Hilton at 12:30 PM to wait for our pick up from Alaska Transportation Group. This company also has a very bad rep on here, but since they were very responsive (and everyone else had booked up really quickly), I thought I would give them a try. As mentioned, they were very responsive to my e-mails and phone calls. Our pick-up time was supposed to be between 12:30 and 1PM. At 1:45, after multiple phone calls to the company, they finally showed up. I am the kind of traveler where spending an hour waiting and doing nothing (when I could be exploring!) really ticks me off. I was quite....ticked!! But their bus stopped at the Portage Glacier, the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center, and some really pretty little scenic stops. The tour was nice- once they finally picked us up!! Driving through that long tunnel on the way to Whittier was creepy. It doesn't even look finished inside and it is equipped with all of these 'emergency rooms' for people to run into in case of emergency. I didn't find that reassuring. We arrived at the Diamond Princess around 4:30 PM. Check-in wasn't too bad- it took about 30 minutes. Then we were on our beautiful boat! We had an inside room on the Aloha Deck. We really liked the layout of the room; it was very different from any other cruise we have been on. We spent some time exploring and caught a show that night. The next two days were 'scenic cruising' days. I found College Fjord to be a tad on the boring side- maybe because I had to wake up at 6 AM to see it. We were done by 9 AM, so you really do have to be up early to catch anything. We were up on deck and we got to listen to the naturalist too, who was interesting. We saw lots of dolphins, sea otters, and eagles. We were able to get pretty close to the glaciers here. That night was our first formal night. We did traditional dining, late seating. We had a great group at our table! Very different range of ages (my hubby and I are late 20's) 3 other couples at our table- 1 couple was 30's-ish, 1 couple was 50's-ish and 1 couple was probably 60's-ish (I'm terrible at guessing ages!). But we had great conversations, learned all about the areas of the US that they were from and shared our daily adventures! It was a good time. Dinner food was also good. Next day, Glacier Bay was awesome! We saw calving glaciers. The weather was in the high 60's (I'm not kidding). We spent the entire day outside. Word to the wise- pack sunscreen! I actually managed to get a pretty bad sunburn. That night was French food night, which was really yummy- escargots, duck pate, onion soup- yum! Our first port day was Skagway. It was so cute! We started the day early with a 7:30 AM train ride on the White Pass and Yukon to British Colombia. We used Chilkoot Charters and had a great experience. The train was only half full, so we could bounce from side to side. If you do have to choose a side, sit on the left, with the aisle to your right. They let you walk outside while the train is moving, too. By the time we got back to town, it was actually almost 70 degrees. The locals said they had not seen weather like this in years. We walked out to the Klondike Gold Dredge (about 2.5 miles from town) to do some gold panning. If you do this tour on your own, don't pay extra for the 'tour', just do the panning. The self-guided tour is completely lame. Then we walked back to town and did a walking tour that we picked up at the tourist info center. The Gold Panning National Museum is very interesting and has a worthwhile movie about the gold rush. Our next port day was Juneau. It was cold again- mid 50's probably. We started out the morning by catching one of the buses to Mendenhall Glacier. It was beautiful and very interesting. The Visitor's Center had a great exhibit about how quickly the glacier is receding. We spent about 1.5 hours there. We then headed back to town and did our Alaska Salmon bake. We did not want to go to one of the ship sponsored, overpriced, crowded salmon bakes, so we went to the Thane Ore House in Thane (about 10 minutes from downtown). They picked us up right in the center of town (for free) and brought us out to their restaurant, where we pigged out on salmon, ribs, fried halibut, beans, corn bread, and all kinds of picnic salads. We saw eagles and deer. We had the driver all to ourselves for the ride in and back, so we got to grill him about all things Alaskan and he was a great sport. The owner also spent a considerable amount of time chatting with us about Alaska, current events in Juneau, and wildlife. It was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend checking them out- they have a website that you can easily find on google. It was packed with locals on their lunch breaks. We ended our day in Juneau with a quick walk around town. We were going to ride the tram, but it was really foggy so we didn't think we would see anything so we skipped it. A couple at our dinner table did ride the tram, and they said it was really nice even though it was foggy because there is plenty to do at the top even if the view was lousy. Our final port was Ketchikan. We spent the morning by starting out the Ketchikan walking tour and doing the Totem Heritage Center and the Eagle Conservation Center. We then went to meet our tour for the Saxman Village. We used Alaska Sourdough Tours for this tour. Now, this company had really good reviews on here and the tour was fabulous. However, the owner seems like a complete flake. He lost my payment and tried to tell me that I didn't have a booking. He was quite insistent that I had not paid- almost to the point of calling me a liar. Luckily, I had my blackberry, so I could show him the receipt where I paid for the tour online. Duh. What kind of company doesn't keep tabs on who has already paid? Despite his incompetence, he certainly knows how to hire the right people! If you have an option and you decide to book with this company- do the tour with Justin. He was fantastic! We went on a motorized trolley to a waterfall, a few scenic overlooks, through town, by Clint Eastwood's house, and to Saxman. Justin had a great commentary and was funny and informative. Our final day at sea was filled with all the typical stuff- casino (won $50!), booking the next cruise, tea time, etc. Disembarkation wasn't too bad. We were supposed to be in the Explorer's Lounge at 9:30 am. We woke up around 8, had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room, then headed down to the lounge at 9:15. They were already letting the people with our color tags go, so we just joined the line and slooooowwwllllly made our way down. It took about an hour from the time we joined the line until we picked up our bags on the other side of customs. Spent the next two days in Vancouver- what a great city! We rented a car, so we stayed in North Vancouver at the Holiday Inn. Awesome hotel! Great customer service, great location (near a beautiful park), great room. Loved it! Took the Amtrak train for a very reasonable $26 to Seattle. It was actually a great experience and I would definitely recommend it if you have the time. It was a beautiful ride and got the chance to chat with some people on our car. The scenery in that part of the world is magnificent and the 4 hours were very relaxing. Spent the next day in Seattle drinking Starbucks coffee and eating oysters at Pike Place Market. Then flew home! At least we have a hot, sticky, and humid summer to look forward to! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
We flew Alaska Airlines from San Francisco to Anchorage, via Seattle, the day before embarkation. We're glad we got that long flight (and tight connection) out of the way at the beginning of the trip. Stayed at the Westmark in ... Read More
We flew Alaska Airlines from San Francisco to Anchorage, via Seattle, the day before embarkation. We're glad we got that long flight (and tight connection) out of the way at the beginning of the trip. Stayed at the Westmark in Anchorage, which was very clean and quite nice. Free Wi-Fi. Downtown Anchorage itself was nothing to write home about, though the Alaska State Museum was very good. Transfer and embarkation went very smoothly despite rain (the worst we would get on the whole trip). The Princess shuttle ride out to Whittier was dramatically beautiful. We got on the bus at 1 and were in our room before 4. Our inside stateroom was spotless, well-lighted, and in good condition. Enough room everywhere, except for the shower, which was basically good for washing as quickly as possible and getting out. I liked the teak and teak-looking metal details in the room and in the hallways. It was very warm in the room when we embarked (wasn't a problem once we got sailing) so we requested topsheets to use in place of the comforters, and they were brought in promptly. The Diamond is a huge ship and never felt crowded. The cruise was sold out, yet we often wondered where all the other passengers were. We had anytime dining, only once made a reservation, and only once had to wait (about five minutes) as walk-ins. I should add, however, that window seats in the dining rooms and bars had to be grabbed when sighted. For most of the cruise, the weather while under way was bracing: cold, wet, windy, and quite refreshing -- in small doses. Most people watched from inside. Because of the weather, we never used the pools, but we spent a lot of time on deck looking at the scenery. There were only a few times we had trouble getting a good spot out there. After the chilly outdoors, there was the excellent gym, with good equipment, spacious showers, a big sauna and an immense steam room. Service was friendly and excellent overall. Our stewardess, Cheewannee (?) from the Philippines, introduced herself promptly and was very helpful and respectful of our privacy. Waiters were good, though on a couple of occasions dinner was too slow in coming. Having read the criticisms of the food, our expectations were not high. But with a very few exceptions, I have to say it ranged from very good to spectacular. Thanks to Teeara's review, we were clued in to the Nebraska prime rib, which was a highlight of the trip. The Pacific Moon's specialty dish, the scallops and shrimp, was an excellent light entree. Every lunch and breakfast we ate at the Horizon Court. A highlight there was the Asian duck salad. Coffee was hot and very good. The entertainment was average. As on the Carnival Paradise, the floor shows were well-executed but remarkably like 1960s variety shows. The ship's background music was frequently irritating. It seemed to be about a dozen songs played over and over, including the oddly chosen "White Flag" by Dido, with its chorus beginning "I will go down with this ship." (?!) I don't understand the point of the background music anyway. We preferred the string quartet and the guitar-and-violin duo that played in the atrium. The only activity we participated in was the cooking demonstration and galley tour, which was fairly entertaining. There was a good mix of passengers, and the average age was younger than we'd expected. Both College Fjord and Glacier Bay were quite spectacular, and we enjoyed seeing them from the deck even in the cold and damp weather (and the very early hour in College Fjord). It would have been nice to spend more time there, but at Glacier Bay we had enough time, basically a whole day. Because we were going through the Inside Passage, there were things to see almost throughout the cruise, usually on both sides of the ship. The naturalist, David Hancock, was on the ship throughout the cruise and did a good job of keeping us apprised of wildlife, though there wasn't a huge amount of it. We did get a good view of sea otters, bald eagles and some little dolphins, plus some whales and bears in the distance. Skagway is a bit touristy but has a rugged look, Juneau is rather charming (the free State Capitol tour was good) and Ketchikan is pretty. Going from north to south, the scenery changes from dramatic to pastoral, and the weather in the south was lovely. Amazingly smooth sailing for almost the whole trip. When disembarking in Vancouver, we ran into a few delays. We carried (rolled) our own bags and were told to gather in the casino at 7:30 a.m. We didn't get out of there until well after 8 a.m. We took the Princess shuttle (on Gray Line) and the driver was inexperienced, but that was the least of our worries. The wait at the Canada-U.S. border was three hours. Not Princess's fault, but an annoyance. Fortunately, we had booked a 6:30 p.m. flight out of Seattle so we had plenty of time. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
Please enter your review. We took the seven night cruise, plus the three day land excursion prior to the cruise. I would highly recommend taking the land portion first, since it can be somewhat tiring to get up early every day and move ... Read More
Please enter your review. We took the seven night cruise, plus the three day land excursion prior to the cruise. I would highly recommend taking the land portion first, since it can be somewhat tiring to get up early every day and move every night. We were so lucky on the entire trip with the weather. Alaska in May can be very cold and wet, but we had absolutely no rain the entire trip. Sunny skies (cold, but sunny) pretty much the whole time. Lucky us! If you read the review of the cruise before ours, the weather was lousy. Everyone kept telling us how lucky we were on the weather. Flew into Fairbanks, and was taken to the hotel by Princess pre-paid transfer. Went smooth as silk. Up early the next morning to take the Riverboat Discovery tour. Wonderful! It's not just a riverboat trip; they have all sorts of things they put on from the shore, including a floatplane taking off and landing, a stop to see dog sled teams run without ever leaving the riverboat, and a stop off trip to a recreated Native village complete with demonstrations and more dog sled dogs! The whole thing was narrated and really entertaining. We had a long bus ride to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. We did see moose from the bus which was fun. The lodge was OK, nothing really special. Certainly clean and well kept. Up early (really early, met out tour at 6:00 a.m.!) to see Denali park. You have to ride their buses, no private cars allowed on most of the roads in the park. Really beautiful, and we saw lots of wildlife including a mother bear with two year old cubs. We followed them as they walked up the road for nearly an hour. Again lucky us - the guide said he cannot remember a group seeing bears for such a long period of time. Also saw moose and caribou from a distance. That afternoon we took the train ride on the domed train cars to Talkeetna. A long trip, but absolutely beautiful. I loved every minute. The food on the train was lousy, dry burger and burned fries. Other people said the soup was good, so stick to that. Rode a bus from Talkeetna to the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge. I liked this place better, although the lodge is really spread out into various buildings and the grounds are very hilly. They have a shuttle to take you around, but if you can try to get a room nearer the main lodge you will be better off. Again, perfect crystal clear skies. They told us that 60% of the people who come to see Mt. McKinley never see it because it's covered in clouds. It was out clear almost the whole time we were there. A note on both lodges: Both had just opened, and the service was chaotic at best. They were trying, but the fact that they just opened with a lot of mostly untrained people was painfully obvious. Dinner at the Denali lodge (sandwiches!) took over two hours due to very slow service. Hopefully this will improve as the season proceeds. Next day up early again to take the bus back to Talkeetna to get on the train to Whittier. The train was two hours late leaving off, which got us to the ship very late. The train ride was not as pretty as the first one, except the part from Anchorage to Whittier. That was spectacular. Sleep through the first part, and have your cameras out for the end! Got to the ship at 9:30 p.m. due to late train. Frustrating, since we missed going to dinner, seeing show, etc on first night. Just a quick bite at the buffet and off to bed for me. Love the ship. Beautiful, clean, terrific. I had an inside room, which was spacious compared to some I've seen. The food was mostly pretty darn good. Must be, I gained six pounds. The people I was traveling with had a suite. OMG, I've never even been in a suite on a ship before and I got to hang out there during glacier cruising day. It was huge. The weather held throughout the cruise and the scenery, especially the first two days when cruising College Fjord and Glacier Bay was incredible. First port was Skagway. Cute place, but small. Did the White Pass railroad, which I thought was overpriced. I had ridden the train so much before the cruise I felt like I could have skipped that. Took the Chilkoot hike/float trip in the afternoon. The hike is harder than they made it sound. Don't try it if you have any knee problems. On the way back to the ship, we saw 6 or 7 bald eagles eating a dead otter. Watched for 20 minutes, it was really cool! My favorite shore excursion was the dog sled tour we did in Juneau. We got to ride the cart (a wheeled cart since no snow!) and it was such a blast. Highly recommended. You have to see the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, it is awe inspiring. In Ketchikan, I splurged and took the float plane trip over the Misty Fjords park. Expensive, but worth it. If you only take one plane trip, this is the one I would recommend. Last day was a sea day (actually cruising the Inside Passage, very beautiful) and can you believe the weather was still great! Disembarkation went very smoothly. All in all, a fabulous trip! Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
My husband, children(ages 16 and 21)did a cruise/tour of Alaska. We did the land portion first and arrived at the ship mid afternoon. It didn't take long to go through the line and get to our rooms. My husband and I had a mini-suite ... Read More
My husband, children(ages 16 and 21)did a cruise/tour of Alaska. We did the land portion first and arrived at the ship mid afternoon. It didn't take long to go through the line and get to our rooms. My husband and I had a mini-suite on dolphin deck and my children shared a inside cabin down the hall. My room was wonderful, it was a very nice size with plenty of room for all four of us to get together. I loved having a decent size tub. The balcony had 4 chairs and plenty of room, also. The balcony was not covered but that wasn't a problem for us. There was only one time it was raining that we couldn't us it. My children's inside room was fine, though they complained about it not having a window. Their shower was small. Both of our stewards were very pleasant and helpful. In fact, everyone I meet was nice and took good care of us. The ship is beautiful and a little confusing at first. There are so many places to go! It was very helpful that there was a diagram next to the elevators that showed where you were and what was on that deck. We could always figure it out. I loved having the Princess Patter to choose what to do everyday. The shows were all excellent, better then I expected. My husband and 16 year old son thought Cary Long was extremely funny. I thought he was funny, and my 21 year old daughter didn't care for him. The magician and comic Jeff Peterson was outstanding as was Don Horn who did a ventriloquist act. The music shows "Piano Man" and "Do you want to Dance" were very well done. We also enjoyed Michelle Murlin who sang and the comedy of Hal Spear. We found for most shows getting there 15 minutes early was enough, but it wasn't for the early show of Piano Man. We made a point to go half an hour early to the Farewell Variety show and it was a good thing we did. I found most of the food very good to excellent. We ate in the various restaurants everynight. We had anytime dining. Five times we made reservations and twice we just walked in. We were sat within 5 minutes everytime. Dinners were leisurely but that was what I expected. I particularly enjoyed the lamb chops, crab legs, lobster, and scallops mediterranean fashion. The food was better then I expected since I had read some less then stellar reviews of it. There were a couple of things I didn't love, but I can't say they were poorly done, they just weren't to my taste. The food presentation was excellent. My son enjoyed the sirloin steak that is available anytime. We had breakfast room service twice. The second time I wrote in hash browns and we got them. The rest of the time we ate in Horizon Court. The food was very good but a couple of times it could have been hotter. Twice we had trouble finding a table. I had lunch there twice and the selection was great. I enjoyed trying just a taste of many things and then going back for what I liked best. The roast pork they had one day was excellent. One day we shared a table and our tablemates complained that their coffees weren't refilled, ect. I just refilled my own. No big deal to me. Glacier Bay was wonderful and I was very very glad for my winter coat and hat. College Fjord was reached at 6 am since we were southbound and we got up to see it. Very nice, but not as special as Glacier Bay, which was all day. The towns were fun. We rented a car from Avis in Skagway and drove into the Yukon and Emerald Lake. It was fun and nice to be able to stop whenever we wanted. In Juneau my husband and son went on a floatplane flyfishing excursion that they both loved. My daughter and I had planned to do a helicopter glacier landing but they were all canceled due to fog in the mountains. I had scheduled it for early afternoon because I had read that the morning ones were often canceled. I wish we had planned it for earlier because by the time we found out it was canceled it was too late for a whale watch. We took the shuttle to the glacier there which was nice. We saw a mother black bear and her two cubs less then 10 feet away. She lives there and there was a ranger to keep people from getting too close. That was neat to see. In Ketchikan we did the Zip Line. My husband and children loved it. I am glad I did it, but it was a little scary. I never felt that I was in any real danger, but we were very high up, over 130 feet in the air. The guides were great, though, and very nice. Overall, I think Princess did an excellent job. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Our first cruise to Alaska and I can not say enough good things about it! I was expecting a lot and it did not disappoint. Having cruised the Caribbean many times, this cruise was more laid back and generally has an older crowd on average. ... Read More
Our first cruise to Alaska and I can not say enough good things about it! I was expecting a lot and it did not disappoint. Having cruised the Caribbean many times, this cruise was more laid back and generally has an older crowd on average. This was a good thing though, as we did not want the "party crowd" on this particular cruise. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot to do both on and off the ship, so it was never boring, but you can really set your own pace. Also, get the balcony cabin! it would have been a completely different cruise if we did not have a front row seat, whenever we chose, to the sights, wildlife and scenery. DAY 1 - Anchorage Arrived in Anchorage without luggage, it was delayed by the airlines. The airlines were somewhat helpful but not much. Took the MAGIC BUS shuttle to Whittier and had a great trip. The driver took us to the conservation center and really gave us a nice tour on the way. When we embarked, I went straight to the pursers desk just to "let them know" about luggage that may be arriving in Sitka. They immediately took control and genuinely seemed to care. After taking all of our info, She stated that from this moment we need not worry about our bags as Carnival would call the airlines and make sure our bags were in Sitka waiting for us. Nice piece of mind and excellent customer service! Dinner was waiting on board and there were activities, but almost everyone was pooped from the travel day and we got to relax without thinking we were missing something. The ship was in amazing condition and looked new. Day 2 - Prince William Sound Awoke at 6:30am to view the glaciers surrounding the sound. Although we were not fortunate enough to witness any calving of ice, the scene was surreal as the sunrise came up over the ridge, It was beautiful. Then we cruised through the day and again, had a chance top recoup after a 15 hour travel day. Day 3 - Sitka As promised by the purser's desk, our luggage was on the first tender to the ship and we got our stuff before we went ashore. GREAT SERVICE from the purser's desk. We did not have an excursion booked in Sitka so we just walked and shopped a little, walked to the Raptor center to check it out, It was nice and informative. Sitka is a quaint small town and easy to walk. Day 4 - Juneau This was our big day. We awoke early at 6am to eat breakfast and to go on our 1st excursion, whale watching with Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry. (highly recommended) As Orca can not be booked on the cruise line, it tends to be less crowded and cheaper ($114 ea) As luck would have it, on the first tour of the morning, we went on the newest boat that held 75 people. Our group consisted of (7) seven people! Yes Seven, which meant we had the entire boat to ourselves. We saw no less than 30 humpbacks, Dall Porpoise, Bald eagles, Harbor seals and sea lions. It was awesome. Then we went on a helicopter flight with Coastal Helicopters which we booked through Orca as a package and it only cost $199 ea (as opposed to $349 on ship) this tour included landing on the Herbert Glacier and a 30 minute walkabout, It was an experience not to be missed! After our tours it was 2pm and we went to do a little shopping. then we got bored and went tot he Alaska Brewing Company for the free tour and taste. Got back on the boat for seated dinner at 5pm. Shopped a little more and headed back to see a show and relax. The shows on board were actually beyond my expectations, they were great! There was an r-rated magician/comedian and he was GOOD! Day 5 - Skagway What a beautiful town! small yet inviting, once you get out of the 3 block tourist trap area. We walked it with no problem. Ate and sampled brews at the Skagway Brewing company, went to all the little museums and almost went on the white pass railway, only to discover that in town, we could get the "bus" tour to white pass for $40 ea (as opposed to $99 for the train) What the bus also does is follow the trains exact passage, but we made at least 10 stops for pictures and sightseeing, which the train does not do. I would recommend the train for the experience, but the bus if you really want to see the pass properly. Mr Skagway was on the ship for the matinee, He was very entertaining and told a lot of very interesting stories from the gold rush days. That evening was the hypnotist show and we enjoyed that very much, 2 of the entertainment staff were in the show and it was hilarious. They were pretty popular the next couple of days. Day 6 - Ketchikan Not much in Ketchikan unless you go on a fishing charter or go see the lumberjack show ($34) same price on shore as it is through the ship excursion. If you've seen it on ESPN, then you have seen this show. We went to Saxman Village and that was interesting. My wife and I learned a lot about Story Poles (totem poles). Other than that, it was more of a kick back day and we saw another r-rated comedian who STUNK! He was horrible, many people walked out. Day 7 - Inside passage Cruising the inside passage may sound boring, but was anything but. The scenery was breathtaking, we saw whales, white sided dolphins, and a rare treat of a pod of Orca's aggressively hunting salmon. We watched the pod for 40 minutes until they finally faded out of our sight. Waterfalls and scenic lighthouses abound. A camera and video is a must on this trip. Lot's of stuff to do on the ship so even if you were not in the mood to "whale wait" you could do a multitude of activities or just relax in the whirlpools, which all have sightlines to the wildlife. Day 8 - Vancouver Arrived in vancouver early and had a later flight. (6:40pm) We opted for the vancouver city tour and airport transfer which is the only excursion we booked on the ship. For 40 bucks ea, it was a great tour and took up a majority of the time that we would have otherwise spent in the airport. Summary This trip was the best my wife and I have ever had. We would go again in a heartbeat. The Spirit was clean and kept up beautifully. The staff was excellent and the service was great. The dining room food is what I expected (I have been on 3 Carnival cruises and expected above average, which is what it was) but the Filet was to die for! that meal was absolutely the best of the trip. The gym was excellent and had great views, even from the hot tub, which is inside and comfy. The onboard activities are a bit less than in the Caribbean, but was enough because of the amount of time spent on deck or the veranda sightseeing. You don't feel as if you have to do one or the other, you can do both. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Last August I was persuaded by my good lady wife to take her on an Alaskan Cruise. We consulted friends who had already taken a similar cruise and they recommended the one way version so that more sites were visited. We decided on a ... Read More
Last August I was persuaded by my good lady wife to take her on an Alaskan Cruise. We consulted friends who had already taken a similar cruise and they recommended the one way version so that more sites were visited. We decided on a Southbound cruise on the Coral Princess from Whittier in Alaska to Vancouver, Canada. Being an avid amateur travel agent I arranged the whole trip including a pre-cruise tour of Alaska starting in Fairbanks and a post cruise Rocky Mountaineer trip into the Canadian Rockies. When we arrived in Whittier aboard the "Magic Bus" transfer from Anchorage as the heavens opened but we were dropped right outside check in and were swiftly processed and in our cabin within half an hour although our luggage took a little longer to turn up. We were impressed with our choice of cabin (C-310) as it was a corner cabin on one of the bump-out sections that afforded wonderful all round views. The ship is blessed with perhaps the greatest percentage of Balcony cabins of any ship afloat apart from its sister ship the Island Princess and this was to prove invaluable later in the cruise to allow my wife to view the Killer whales passing by whilst doing her hair in preparation for a formal night. It's a pity that there isn't a similar site to the wonderful "Seat Guru" site that gives a low down on all the best seats available with all the airlines as this would greatly assist in the selection of cabins from the 67 different grades that appear to be available. The cabin was spacious, clean and comfortable and wonderfully serviced by Chai, a lovely Thai boy who I suspected was saving for the operation needed to become a "Lady Boy". Don't even contemplate any monkey business in the shower as a cat is in no danger of being swung therein. Well onto the cruise. Glacier Bay was understandably chilly especially early in the morning until the sun broke through. The Italian captain was very fair and turned the ship to afford similar amounts of viewing time to both Port and Starboard cabins. The other stops in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan were all interesting in different ways and the choice of excursions from both Princess and other local companies such as "Dolly Varden tours" was staggering. Suffice it to say that we saw sufficient Humpback Whales, Bald Eagles and Grizzly Bears to bore our relatives for many a long day. On the food front we were greatly impressed with the standard considering that the chefs are catering for 1,950 people at every meal. We decided that we were there to be pampered and so took all our meals bar one in the formal restaurants. We had opted for "Anytime Dining" although we ended up booking at 8.00 pm every evening. We thought the benefit of this arrangement was the possibility of meeting different people each night as we opted to be seated at the larger tables. This was fine except for one night where our arrival at the table was met with a stoney silence and we asked to be re-seated elsewhere. Otherwise a very sociable time was experienced. Our one visit to the buffet was brought about by our early morning Zodiac excursion with "Captain Dave" on the fjord in Skagway where we nearly bumped into a Humpback Whale. We weren't terribly impressed with self-service albeit for breakfast and so we did not join the hungry hoards at the 24 hour dining ever again. Entertainment was organized by a Cruise Director from the north of England and was excellent. We were both in hysterics at times with most of the comics. There were also plenty of quizzes, lectures and demonstrations to keep everyone occupied on our "at sea" days. We were disappointed with the number of people who did not join into the spirit of the two "formal nights" as we enjoyed the opportunity of dressing in our finery for two evenings. The champagne glass pyramid on the second formal night was amazing although it was of course enhanced by the availability of free champagne. Disembarkation was handled very efficiently and we arrived at our Vancouver hotel early in the morning to find a room available, a great blessing. All in all a fantastic introduction to cruising, so much so that we signed up for our next cruise with the on-board cruise coordinator! And guess what? I'm pleased to say that we're on the Coral Princess again but this time we'll be sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Acaplulco through the Panama Canal in November. Look out for further reports in December. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
A little background for context - I'm 29, this was my first non-Caribbean cruise, my 2nd on Princess, and my first on one of the smaller ships. I'm writing this on the long flight home, so as to give me something to keep busy. ... Read More
A little background for context - I'm 29, this was my first non-Caribbean cruise, my 2nd on Princess, and my first on one of the smaller ships. I'm writing this on the long flight home, so as to give me something to keep busy. Monday, August 6: I traveled from NY to Seattle for an overnight there - I used frequent flyer miles to try and keep costs down. I traveled with my mom and we spent the day seeing the touristy stuff in Seattle - Pike's Place Market, Space Needle, etc. I cannot remember what restaurant we had dinner in, but I had some fabulous lamb ravioli. Tuesday, August 7: We booked air from Seattle to Anchorage via Alaska Air. We chose the 1:15pm flight so we wouldn't have to rush in the morning. What we forgot was the effect of changing time zones. We were awake and ready to go by 6am. So we went to the airport and got onto the 10am flight instead. If you go standby at the airport, rather than changing your reservation, the change is free. Our original flight was sold-out and possibly oversold, so I'm sure they were happy to reroute us. The flight was great and being able to rent their video player ($5 on that trip for 3+ hours) made the time fly by. We stayed at a B&B in Anchorage - Susitna Place. The room was less than half the cost of the hotels downtown and we were only 2 blocks from the downtown area, plus their elevated porch overlooked a lake and we could see Mt. McKinley. The bed was comfy and the continental breakfast was tasty. Almost all of the guests were getting on the Pacific Princess the next day with us, so it was nice to chat with fellow travelers. We were also allowed to drop bags off early or keep them there after check out time. As we gained a whole afternoon in Anchorage, we went out exploring. The museum was small, but nice. I'd recommend it if you have an hour or so. The whole downtown area is compact and easy to navigate. It's set up in a grid, so almost impossible to get lost in. Dinner was at the touristy brew house, but the food was surprisingly tasty and the beer was also quite good. It was very disorienting for the sun to be up so late at night. I was physically exhausted, but my mind was trying to say it wasn't time for bed yet, even though I could have really used the sleep. Once again, I was up WAY too early, and couldn't get back to sleep with the sun already up. Wednesday, August 8: Our transportation to the cruise ship was not picking us up until 1:30, so after breakfast, we set out to finish exploring Anchorage. At the federal building, there is a smallish museum area and films about Alaska. It is free to the public - funding comes from your tax dollars. We watched the movie about the 1964 earthquake, which was quite interesting, and took silly photos of taxidermied animals. (is that a word?) Lunch was at the Snow City cafe, supposedly a popular place among the locals. We enjoyed it. We'd arranged for transportation between Anchorage and Whittier through Alaska Leopard. (http://www.alaskanleopard.com/Tours/whittier.htm) We got a call on Tuesday saying that a large group had cancelled and that we would be the only passengers. They offered to take us at the same price in an SUV rather than in the 18 passenger bus. We were fine with that. I hadn't paid much attention to the "comedy" part of the tour, just the itinerary, when we booked it. The B&B owner said that the last time guests were dropped off by them, two clowns came out of the bus first. I got worried. I didn't really want to be two adults traveling with a clown. Thankfully, our guide was dressed normally. He did tell corny jokes, but that I can handle. Along the way, we stopped to look at some Dahl sheep on the mountainside and we just happened to catch the bore tide in Turnagain Arm. (http://alaska.org/bore-tides.jsp) It was only a few inches high, but still fascinating to see. The tunnel to Whittier was also interesting - vehicles are let in so there is enough space in the emergency shelters for everyone in case of emergency. After emerging from the tunnel, you see the very small village of Whittier and the ship. The Pacific Princess is small to begin with, and the enormity of the scenery made it look even smaller. After having been on many Caribbean cruises, I couldn't get over the scenery - mountains, glaciers, and snow. Dinner was open seating that night as many passengers did not arrive until just before the 7:30 lifeboat drill. We met some interesting people and because the ship is so small, we saw everyone many times throughout the week. The ship set sail in the middle of the 2nd dinner seating - there was no sailaway party like on many ships leaving at 5pm. The show that night was a production number or two by the performance group and vocals by a guest performer. We left after the spiel by the cruise director as we were tired and we'd be arriving at College Fjord around 6am the next morning. Our cruise director was Sammy Baker. She's originally from Juneau and did a great job. She was the first cruise director that didn't annoy me. She was excited and funny, but didn't cross the line into "would you please just stop". Thursday, August 9 - College Fjord Thank goodness for jetlag, because that's the only reason I was able to be up and wide awake for our 6am arrival in the area. We cruised by the various glaciers from 6-8am. I watched from the 5th floor deck area as the chairs there we much nicer than the deck chairs upstairs - they were wooden and padded, as opposed to plastic. As the ship is small, it was easy to scoot across to the other side if there was something to see there. There was a bear sighting on the shore, but without binoculars, I couldn't see it. I went to the aerobics class offered that day at 8:15. It was a decent class, but the space is quite small. If we'd had much more than the 5 participants that were there, it would have been a tight squeeze. After that, I used the treadmills (4 available) and elliptical (2 available, but one was broken) for my cardio. There are also a handful of nautilus machines, handweights, and a couple bikes in the small gym area. Strangely, there was never a wait to get on a machine (though it may not be the one you want), whereas on the Star Princess, with way more in their fitness center, had waiting lists. I think part of that was the older demographic on this cruise. Naturalist - Bruce Bauerle He narrated the time at the glaciers, talking about watermelon ice, ice worms, and trying to spot wildlife. He also talked about the movement of the glaciers through time and their effect on the mountains when they recede. I went to see his talk on whales after we left College Fjord and it was quite funny. He said that he often travels with an inflatable whale on a stick so that people can get a photo with a whale. I then grudgingly agreed to stay for the shopping presentation, though I read a book throughout most of it. My mom won a pair of sunglasses and I won a stuffed dog. It was really by virtue of sitting in the front. They have a lot of stuff to give away at those things and almost everyone there went home with something free. My jet lag caught up with me after lunch and what I'd intended to be a quick nap turned into four hours of sleep. The Pacific Princess has only one main dining room, so they still have assigned seating. We were part of the late seating. This was the first formal night. We found out that our assigned table was for 4. I was a bit disappointed as I'd requested the largest size table available. I enjoy meeting people and the more people at your dinner table, the more likely that it will be a pleasant dining experience. That said, no one came to join us and I was even more disappointed that we wouldn't be meeting anyone. Bruce (the naturalist) was also at a table by himself, so we invited him to join us. That was fun, as we got the inside scoop about the role of the naturalist and their contract with the cruise line. The show that night was Words & Music - it was a Broadway revue. Of the four singers, the lead female was quite good, the other female and the lead male were OK, and the other male was often singing out of his range. I had to laugh out loud during the Les Mis section, though, as here we are, people with decent incomes, in Alaska, watching young Australians sing about the French Revolution. Friday August 10 - Glacier Bay Day Let me begin by saying that Glacier Bay is a must do for an Alaskan cruise. It was a day of absolutely amazing scenery. I started the observation at the front of the ship on the top deck - 11. We snagged the last 2 deck chairs and started to whale watch. Luckily, we saw one breach. As time wore on, there started to be some adolescent jockeying for position and I had to relocate. I spent some time on the treadmill just watching the world (and the glaciers) go by. The best place for sightseeing, if you don't have a balcony, was off the back end outside the buffet. Water, iced tea, coffee, and cookies were within easy reach, too. People sat at the tables and took pictures of each other, let others in to get the perfect shot, and were much more genial than those from the morning. There was also virtually no wind back there. Once we got to the glaciers, the Captain simply circled the ship for awhile - 30 min? 60 min? I wasn't wearing a watch, so I really don't know. But it was several slow revolutions. Once I had enough sun (I got a bit burned), I discovered the Pacific Lounge. Indoors, glass walls, comfy chairs, and a bar. Picture taking wasn't the best, but if I turned the flash off and set my camera on landscape, I got a few decent shots. The show that night was Doug Anderson, a comedy magician. I normally do not enjoy magic. I find that most cruiseline comedy magician do variations on the same act. Doug's tricks were pretty routine, but he was actually funny. Maybe it had something to do with the much more intimate setting of a small ship lounge with ~75 ppl at the show rather than a theater with 2000 people in attendance. Saturday August 11 - Skagway Our first time back on land in several days! Our excursion was in the afternoon, so we spent the morning just walking and exploring the town. Our ship docked at the railroad station, which was convenient for the people taking excursions on it. The walk to the town was about 10-15 minutes, completely flat. My favorite part of Skagway was the salmon fishery. I heard it was part of the school in town, but I don't know for sure. I spent about an hour just watching the salmon run. I got some great pictures and video. I was close enough that I could have reached out and grabbed a salmon. I was glad that I'd spent the time there in the morning because by afternoon there were about a dozen kids in the river playing and trying to grab the fish. When I was there, it was just me for the majority of the time - very zen. Skagway is a pretty area. I'm not much for "historical recreation" stuff, so I didn't LOVE the town itself, but it was cute. There is a federally funding tourist building where I watched a movie about how women made money during the gold rush. It was interesting. Our excursion was a Hike and Float. (http://www.skagwayfloat.com/hike.htm) We were picked up on time by our guide at the pier. There were 6 people on the tour. Two college students who were ending their summer working at the gardens in Skagway by trying to see as much as possible, two 30something backpackers who decided to go on the excursion after they met at the hostel, and us. We hiked the first 2 miles of the Chilkoot Trail. It was one of the best parts of the trip and I was so glad we'd done it. The trail was actually a moderately tough hike. The cruiseship tour groups now hike the trail using poles because, as our guide said, several people had fallen during the summer. There are places where you have to use your hands for balance or else you're going over the side. We saw baby eagles on the float portion of the trip. It's a tour I recommend for people without and physical limitations. The show that night was comedian Randy Lubas. My mom thought he was funny. I laughed once or twice. It just wasn't my cup of tea. After that, we spent some time playing the penny slot machines and it was off to bed. Sunday August 12 - Juneau Once again, we had the morning to explore the city as our excursion was scheduled for 11am. There were many cruise ships in port that day and we were about a mile away from the main shopping area. There are public restrooms available outside the public library, which were convenient after that walk. I'm not so much into shopping for souvenirs, so I bought a few doo-dads for my dad and brothers and that was it. Our excursion this day was Glacier Kayaking through Alaska Travel Adventures. (http://www.bestofalaskatravel.com/al...a_kayaking.htm) The company sells through the cruiselines and to independent travelers. We were scheduled for 11am - with a large group from another cruise ship. We had to tell ATA which ship we were on, so I was a but surprised they didn't encourage us to travel with the people from our ship, since it would have cut down on the number of stops the bus driver would have had to make. It turns out we knew some people from our ship on the excursion, but they were finishing as we were arriving at the launch site. The large group was split into 3 smaller groups of 5 kayaks (2 people each) plus a guide. The kayaks were equipped with a rudder and pedals, which made steering much easier, since the lake we paddled across was quite large. We made our way slowly across, with the guide giving us information and helping to spot wildlife. We saw eagles and a couple seals. By the time we paddled all the way back, I will admit that my arms were a bit tired. Libby Riddles gave a presentation on the ship about her experiences in dogsledding. She was the first woman to win the Iditarod. It was interesting and I was glad to have seen it. As this was the second formal night, it was the Past Guest party. Unlike the Captain's Cocktail party where it's tough to get more than one drink, the waitstaff was freely handing out non-watered down drinks. I'd say there were maybe 40-50 people there. The Captain and his wife were in attendance and the Pacific Lounge was a nice spot to have it. After dinner that night, we went to Karaoke. I have some nice video of the Captain joining in the fun to sing. That's something you probably won't see on the mega-ships. I popped into the show to see a little of it. It was called Tribute and was a medley of Beach Boys songs, Rat Pack songs, and something else. I was happy to have missed the majority of the beach section and the Rat Pack portion wasn't bad as I really like that type of music. That was also the night of the Champagne Waterfall. When I was on the Star Princess, they held that event in the atrium and it just seemed like as odd space - too crowded and the acoustics made it quite noisy. On the Pacific Princess, it was in the Pacific Lounge. We enjoyed the silly dances (Electric Slide, conga line, the cruise staples) and watching others do silly dances. This was also the night of the new moon and the best night for watching the August meteor shower. The Captain arranged to have the deck lights turned off for a few hours to enhance viewing. We were so far north that the view was spectacular. You could see the entire Milky Way and the meteors were easy to spot. I must have seen a dozen or more in less than 30 min. The only other time the sky had been that clear was when I was in the Boundary Water (MN). Monday August 13 - Ketchikan Unfortunately, we had to tender this day. Fortunately, the tender service was the best I'd ever experienced. With such a small passenger load, and tenders carrying about 100 people, there was no need for tender tickets and very little wait for the tender to leave. This was the only day where we ate a meal at the buffet. We had to get off the ship for our excursion before the dining room opened for lunch, so there was no choice. The food was edible, but nothing to write home about. We were scheduled to go on a canoeing excursion through Alaska Travel Adventures. (http://www.bestofalaskatravel.com/al...rest_canoe.htm) The last tender time was moved up and we were afraid that we wouldn't get back to the ship in time, so we called the company. It turned out that there had been a mistake and the only canoeing excursion scheduled for that day was at 8am, before we'd even arrived in port. They were very accommodating and put us on another excursion - a boat ride and some mild hiking. (http://www.bestofalaskatravel.com/al...ess_cruise.htm) The group was only 10 people, including our ship's fitness instructor and one of the women working in the salon. A small group was nice, and we enjoyed it, but it was an excursion I wouldn't have chosen. I skipped the show that night. It was a singer - Darren Lynton. We didn't care for him the first night, so didn't want to go through it again. The party for the night as Country & Western, also not my cup of tea. I *did* go up to see what was going on and saw a large group of people learning to line dance who seemed to be having a great time. Instead, we stayed at the casino bar until they closed and then went to watch the meteor shower again. While the deck lights were on this time, we were far enough from any other light pollution that you could still see a lot. Let me comment on the Pacific Princess margaritas. A standard margarita ($4.95) comes in a glass the size of your head - think the extra large glasses for the froofy cocktails at TGIFridays. I don't think there was an extraordinary about of alcohol in them, so I suspect they were mostly mixer. They were a lot of fun to drink, though. August 14 - day at sea (and the last installment of this review) The first thing I remember doing this day was the Culinary Demo at 10am. It was cute - there were cooking and cake decorating demos along with silly jokes. And the tour of the galley is always interesting. It was actually two floor with an escalator on this ship, which was interesting. I spent most of the rest of the day reading by the pool and lounging in the hot tub. The last day at sea never seems very restful since you have to pack up all your stuff, so I wanted to try and rest as much as a could before heading back into the real world. The show for late seating was actually before dinner this night. I assume to allow people to pack after dinner and/or go to bed early. Both comedians came back, but this time I though Randy Lubas was funny and Doug Anderson was not. The farewell Karaoke was a lot of fun. There were an awful lot of people in the casino bar area, but I was lucky enough to get a seat at the bar. After that shut down around 11, I went to check out the disco and it was already completely empty. August 15 - debarkation With such a small ship, debarkation was very easy. Very few lines, no gigantic warehouse of luggage to search through. It took us longer to get a cab than it took to get off this ship, get our luggage, and go through customs. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
This was our 12th cruise, 11th Princess cruise and 3rd time in Alaska. This was our first time going as far north as Anchorage and included a 4 day land tour before joining the ship in Whittier. Since most people don't cover the ... Read More
This was our 12th cruise, 11th Princess cruise and 3rd time in Alaska. This was our first time going as far north as Anchorage and included a 4 day land tour before joining the ship in Whittier. Since most people don't cover the land part of their cruise, I decided to cover our 4 days on land in depth. We flew into Anchorage from Los Angeles.After a 41/2 hour flight we arrived in Anchorage for our overnight stay at the Anchorage Hilton. Our room looked to be recently renovated and was quite comfortable. The service at the hotel was horrible. Our luggage as taken to our room shortly after we arrived and the bellman let us see the room. However we didn't receive our room keys for 2 hours since the front desk said the room wasn't clean yet even though we had seen it was. We walked the town and ate lunch at the Glacier Brewery. From 4-8PM we took the Anchorage City Tour which was kind of a waste of time since there isn't much to see. We stopped at The Alaska Gallery and had dinner before returning to our hotel. Princess was great the rest of the time giving us our room keys and even cruise cards before we reached each destination. The next morning our suit cases were picked up and sent ahead to our next destination as they were the rest of the trip to be waiting in our rooms. We were picked up by bus and transferred to the Alaska Railroad and Princess private dome rail cars. The train was comfortable and provided hot meals in the dining area[ for a cost] which were quite good. We had the only land tour that was all train between each of our destinations. We continued on to the Princess McKinley Lodge for our 1 night stay. Our room looked newly refurbished and was quite comfortable. We had great weather and terrific views of Mt. McKinley. While there we took an Ididarod Dog Tour. The food at the Alaskan Grill was pretty bad, but the food at the expensive restaurant was quite good. The next day we were transferred to the train again for our 2 night stay at the Princess Denali Lodge. We stayed in the Canyon Station Section in Bldg.11. This building also looked new and the room was comfortable again with air conditioning and a TV that got most cable stations. The setting of the lodge is beautiful and the food was quite good in all the restaurants. We did sign up for the Denali Music Theatre. The food was horrible and the show so loud that we walked out. My husband took the Natural History Tour and felt it was a waste of time. It was 41?2 hours long and he didn't see anything, but more trees. Animals were only seen on the Tundra Wilderness Tour which lasted 8 hours and went further into Denali Park. After 2 nights we were again transferred to the train for a 9 hour trip to Whittier where we boarded the Ship. We ate breakfast and lunch on the train on the way to the ship. While on the train we saw 2 moose and a black bear. CRUISE Our room was an AA category Mini Suite in the middle of the ship. It was 354sq. feet and very comfortable with a nice nice balcony that we used in our ports and for glacier viewing. Our room steward was great and the room was always clean. DINING We had early traditional sitting where the food was consistently good. We ate in the Sterling Steak House 1 night and the food was OK. My Halibut in the dining room was actually better, but my husband enjoyed his steak. ENTERTAINMENT Was always great. Just make sure that you arrive about 30 min. early to get a good seat as the theatre fills up fast. PORTS Since we had been to Alaska before, we generally walked each town and shopped. In Juneau we did take a Whale Watching Tour that was good and rode the Mt.Roberts Tram which gave great views of the surrounding area and all the ships below. They also had a Bald Eagle exhibit and restaurant. Definitely would recommend. WEATHER The land part of our trip was mostly sunny while the cruise part was mostly cloudy. Juneau was sunny, Skagway cloudy Glacier Bay cloudy,and Ketchikan light rain. All in all this was a great cruise. The land was beautiful, the train and ship great fun. If you have any questions fill free to e-mail me. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
There were a total of six of us traveling--four of us (me, husband, daughter 13, and son 9)in one room, and my parents in another. PrincessAir provided the travel to/from the cruise. We flew in on NWA the day of the cruise (I don't ... Read More
There were a total of six of us traveling--four of us (me, husband, daughter 13, and son 9)in one room, and my parents in another. PrincessAir provided the travel to/from the cruise. We flew in on NWA the day of the cruise (I don't recommend this!) Our first flight was cancelled, so NWA bumped us to First Class (I do recommend this!) We arrived in Anchorage around 3:00 to find one of our suitcases missing due to NWA using someone else's luggage tag on our garment bag (with all our formals, of course!). The Princess agent at the ANC airport was very helpful and explained we'd get the suitcase in Skagway, which we did. The transfer to Whittier was long--the tunnel really slows down the trip. Our busdriver was cheerful and gave good info about the area during the drive. She also drove us through a wildlife preserve along the way to pass the time til we could get through the tunnel. Embarkation was relatively painless--a long line, but moved along fine, and in about 15 minutes we had our stateroom keys and were on board by about 6 p.m.! Our room was a balcony stateroom on Baja, portside. There were four of us. I definitely don't recommend squeezing four into a regular stateroom. When the beds were down, the room felt tight. Kids enjoyed their bunks, though, and I found the beds to be quite comfortable. We each had two pillows and there was no need for the eggcrate toppers. The duvet was heavenly. We used our balcony a lot--especially in the mornings while sipping room service coffee and taking in the scenery. BTW, my husband and I enjoyed the coffee very much--but we did doctor it up with cream and sweetner. We thought the Princess service to be overall fantastic. Our dining staff (Mario and Javier) were personable, friendly, and attentive to our every need. Very professional, yet warm. Passenger Services was great--Ana provided a tux and a dress shirt for my husband and me free of charge when we told her our suitcase with our formals had been delayed. Our cabin steward Mark was efficient and hardworking--and he provided a couple of towel animals for the kids upon request! Overall, we enjoyed the food. Some dishes were just okay (sorry, I really can't think of any off hand), and others were amazing (scallops, tiramisu, crab legs, seafood and sushi buffet, chilled pear soup, chocolate buffet, afternoon tea...) There probably wasn't anything I'd rate 5 star, but I'm very happy with any meal that I don't have to prep, cook, or clean up after! We didn't use the soda cards--and it seemed that some wait staff weren't overly concerned as we weren't always charged for the sodas we did order. We enjoyed the entertainment venues we visited, which included the juggler, the stand-up comedian (very funny), Duncan Tuck (great guitarist!), and the lounge singers in the Wheelhouse bar. A rough idea of our itinerary: July 30--Sailaway. We checked out the kids' centers--staff were friendly and helpful. My kids spent a lot of time in Shockwaves and Remix. They made friends and had a lot of fun. July 31--College Fjord. Got up early (thank goodness for room service coffee!) to enjoy the scenery. Enjoyed the views from our balcony. This was our first formal night--and although Princess loaned us formalwear as our luggage had been delayed, it didn't fit my tall husband. We weren't sure whether we should go to dinner wearing just our smart casual outfits, so we talked to the head waiter who was most accommodating--he invited us into the dining room and told us to enjoy ourselves. Aug. 1--Glacier Bay. Amazing. The day started off cold and blustery (spent some time on the front deck off the Baja hallway--brrr!) but ended up warm and sunny. My son was able to swim in the outdoor pool while icebergs and glaciers surrounded us. We had a table on the Lido deck and enjoyed beers and the seafood buffet while watching the beauty of nature pass us by. We also spent a good deal of time on our balcony. I was able to spot (with my binoculars) two bears on the shoreline this day. Aug. 2--Skagway. We did the Sled Dog/Musher's camp in the morning. Toby was our driver/guide--he was delightful. We enjoyed the quick but thrilling ride on the dog "sled", and the puppies were adorable! Best of all, we were able to get up close (okay, about 100 feet away) with a grizzly bear cub. And another black bear crossed our path on the bus. Later that day we took the Evening Wildlife Expedition, where we saw bald eagles and went on a nature hike in a lovely state park. We also had time to do some shopping and wandering around this interesting little town. Aug. 3--Juneau. We did the Mendenhall Glacier/Salmon Hatchery/Salmon Bake tour. Mendenhall is not to be missed. The salmon hatchery was interesting, but some might be disturbed by the sight of near-dead salmon being clubbed. And then to follow that up with a salmon bake is a bit disconcerting! This was our second formal night--had some wonderful pictures taken. All those expensive photos really shot up our cruise charge! Aug. 4--Ketchikan. We enjoyed the Lumberjack show--got tickets ourselves instead of through Princess (we used Princess for all other excursions.) Ketchikan was my favorite town--quaint, great shopping--just seems like a fun place. Aug. 5--At sea. Overall, the sailing was very smooth--but we felt a little bit of choppiness after we left Ketchikan. I was looking forward to this last day of nothing--but really, there's so much to do onboard that I sometimes felt it hard to relax. Aug. 6--Disembarkation. No big deal--we had booked a tour of Vancouver for the morning, so we were off the ship by 8:45 after our last breakfast in the dining room. The bus tour was informative--I'd like to go back to Vancouver to really explore the city. The tour ended at the airport, where we boarded our plane around 3:30. Overall, Princess impressed me with their service and attention to detail. Most Princess employees seemed to enjoy their jobs and more importantly, seemed to enjoy doing their job well. Alaska is a beautiful, wild and remote state. The cruise was a great way to see these towns that are otherwise not connected (by road, anyway) to the rest of the state. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Everyone should experience Alaska at least once in their life time. This was our first cruise and our first time to Alaska. This trip was the best vacation we have ever had and we cannot wait to go back! First I would like to review the ... Read More
Everyone should experience Alaska at least once in their life time. This was our first cruise and our first time to Alaska. This trip was the best vacation we have ever had and we cannot wait to go back! First I would like to review the ship. The Spirit is a beautiful ship that was very easy to navigate. Her overall condition was excellent..She sparkled and shined. Our cabin was a corner aft wraparound. It was laid out very nice with a sitting area that moved into a dressing room that moved into the bedroom. The bathroom was fullsized with a spa tub. I used the tub every night. Our balcony was huge. We could see behind us and to the port side. The only thing I would change for an Alaska sailing is to get the same cabin on the main deck. Those cabins have more of an overhang from the top that would help quite a bit with drizzle and rain. The aft balconies are nice because we were sheltered from the wind. The service we received was very good for the most part. Our cabin was always clean and any request we had our cabin steward did everything with in his power to make it so. We were always addressed by our names and they always had a smile on their faces. The food was very good in the dining room as was the service. The waiter remembered my husbands aversion to vegetables and made sure not a single onion touched his plate. My cappuccino was delivered every night without having to ask. The Lido Buffet was just good. We ate lunch alot at the Deli which was excellent. This area was the only part of the ship I found hard to navigate. I kept getting turned around. Room service was ok. I would have liked to have had some hot menu items. The room service was excellent. I would place the order and it arrived with in 10 mins. On to Alaska. We booked our airfare and transfers though Carnival. They booked our flight though Alaska Air. I loved flying with Alaska Air. We got to the airport early and upgraded our seats to first class for $50 each. What a way to start a vacation. Our flight arrived on time. We retrieved our bags then literally turned around and gave it to the Carnival employee. They checked our transfer ticket and took us straight to the bus. The bus ride to Whittier was about an hour. We had some time before our Tunnel time so our driver took us to a wild life refuge where we could get up close to some bears, moose and birds. This was totally unexpected. We had VIP Boarding which was nice. Boarding was a breeze. Our room was ready when we got on the ship so we just stood out on or balcony checking everything out. There were a few sea otters playing in the harbor and we watched them for a few hours until we left. Our luggage arrived at about 9 pm. Ports of Call The first morning we woke up to fog. You could hear thunder off in the distance. I told my husband that was not thunder it was glacier calving. The weather and ice worked against us at College Fjord. It was foggy with lots of ice in the water. The ice prevented us from going very deep into the fjord and we missed the Harvard Glacier. Sitka was our first tendering experience. I do not like tendering. Here we just wandered and shopped. I would love to go back and explore a little more some day. Juneau was our next port and probably the highlight of our trip. Here I booked a Tracy Arm cruise though Alaska Adventure Bound. We were excited about getting up close and personal with the Glaciers. Tracy Arm is beautiful and chock full of wildlife and icebergs. During the cruise we saw humpbacks, orcas, eagles and seals. The captain got us so close to the Sawyer Glacier you could throw a rock and hit it. The boat looked like it was floating in a huge slushie. Skagway I booked us the Best Of Skagway through the cruise ship. We enjoyed the excursion especially the salmon bake at Liarsville. Liarsville was kinda cheesy but very fun. The Red Onion was just OK. In Ketchikan we met friends that lived there and they took us to the real Ketchikan away from the tourist stops. Lovely town even though it rained. There we also boarded the crab boat Sea Star. The guys who work the boat were very nice and loved to tell stories! The Inside Passage was lovely. Lots of beautiful views. That day we just spent relaxing on our balcony watching the sights sail by. The weather for the most part was very cooperative and we hardly ever felt the need for our jackets. We had such a grand time we booked Alaska again for next year! For all you people out there talking about visiting Alaska quit talking and go visit! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
3-day land tour and southbound to Vancouver We traveled to Anchorage on 7-12-07 from DFW and stayed at the Hilton Anchorage. We had an awesome room on the top floor - floor to ceiling windows. This hotel is very nice and clean and the ... Read More
3-day land tour and southbound to Vancouver We traveled to Anchorage on 7-12-07 from DFW and stayed at the Hilton Anchorage. We had an awesome room on the top floor - floor to ceiling windows. This hotel is very nice and clean and the big plus was air conditioning. The only problem we had was no hot water and that was fixed and they credited us $50 for the inconvenience. 7-13-07 Official start of land part of cruise with Princess. We re-checked into the same room we had booked on our own. They were very nice about letting us keep the same room for both nights. All of our information was together and organized with explanations of where to meet and how luggage would be handled. 7-14-07 Picked up around 10:00 am to head to Mt. Mckinley Lodge via motorcoach. The motorcoach was very clean and so was the restroom on the coach. Seats were comfortable. Our driver/guide was so-so...Travel time was approx 3 hours. Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge was fantastic! It was my favorite of the two lodges. Unfortunately the mountain was not out this day but that was made up for later on the train ride. The lodge was immaculate and the food was good. We had dinner at the King Salmon - grill. Great views and a nice room. We were in building 19 which was one of the two new ones that opened last year. It was so peaceful and quiet...I was worried about air conditioning and mosquitoes but had no problems with either. We slept with the window open and temps were in the upper 30s, lower 40s in the morning. The mountain tip came out very briefly about 6:30 in the morning. 7-15-07 Motorcoach to Denali. We had a great driver/guide on this leg of the trip. She was fantastic. We saw a bear on the way and she even pulled over and stopped the bus. It was a distance away but we could see a black spot and got a good picture. Towards the end, the Princess outfitters get on board (at a scheduled stop) and register you and give a little talk about things to do. The setting of the lodge is very pretty along the Nenana (sp?) river and we were able to listen to the river when we opened the window to our room. The lodge in my opinion needs an update. It was very clean but dated and the walls very thin. Again, no hot water and a disgusting shower curtain but these problems were remedied VERY quickly. Had a great dinner at the nice restaurant but can't remember the name. We had copper river salmon that was to die for. The much maligned natural history tour was very enjoyable. The scenery was beautiful and we did not mind that we did not see a huge amount of wildlife. We got great pics on the return of a female moose grazing right there on the side of the road within 10 feet of the bus. The bus driver stopped, and we were all silent...and there were a lot of kids on our bus. You could have heard a pin drop. She posed for quite a while and it was fantastic. 7-16-07 Train ride from Denali to Whittier: This was awesome. We got lucky and had a great couple sharing our table and we talked and laughed the whole 9 hours. I will admit that towards the end, I was ready to get off. The train is very clean and lots of fun. The best part was not a cloud in the sky and the views of Mt. Mckinley in all its splendor was a very rare thing...perfect views of the WHOLE mountain...better than from the Lodge. It made the whole trip worth it. Embarkation to the ship was very easy as the outfitters did it all for us and brought us our key/cards onto the train and handed them out. All we had to do was get on the ship and go to our cabin. We had a mini suite bump out on Baja - B503. I would not book this cabin again even with the extra view on the balcony. The cabin was great, size, cleanliness but there was a service door directly across from the cabin which made for noisy mornings, evenings and the last night was horrible when luggage was being taken out of cabins for debarkation the next day. I made a call to the purser's desk but there is nothing they can do and it went on until midnight. Some other observations were that Princess service is not what it used to be. Their customer service seems to be lacking and it is whatever is best for them and not the customer. But it was a great trip. Hubby and I both got sick but I will get to that. 7-17-07 College Fjord - AWESOME - beautiful and sunny and not too cold. We got great pictures from our balcony. We were fortunate that I woke up early enough to see the glaciers. Many people missed them as we did not know it would be 6:30 am when we would see the glaciers. 7-18-07 Glacier Bay - simply spectacular. Words cannot describe. Weather was perfect, sunny and warm believe it or not. We were out on the balcony all day. Evening: I woke up at midnight with nausea, vomiting and the other lovely symptom as well. Went to the doctor in the morning and got two shots and was confined to the cabin for 24 hours and missed Skagway. My hubby did the White Pass Railroad without me and got some great pics but I missed seeing it. The doctor said he should go as it was beautiful. They came twice to sanitize the cabin and I felt a bit like I was public enemy #1. Started feeling better by end of day and was cleared out of the cabin the next day. 7-19-07-Skagway I was sick, hubby did White Pass Railroad and loved it. 7-20-07 Juneau - had scheduled the helicopter landing on Mendenhall glacier but it was cancelled due to bad weather. This was the only port my husband and I were well at the same time. Oh well. 7-20-07 Hubby got sick in the middle of the night with the same problem. The medical staff came to our cabin...same story. He was confined for Ketchikan. 7-21-07 Ketchikan - I went out unsupervised and bought some jewelry. Ketchikan is a lovely town. We had two shore excursions scheduled which we missed due to his illness and I did not want to go on my own. Princess credited us back for all missed excursions due to illness and weather. Not many sick on this trip - about 5 probably. 7-22-07 Both hubby and I were well and out of the cabin and enjoyed our day at sea on the way back to Vancouver. Overall we had a great vacation - it could have been perfect if we had not gotten sick and if Princess had been a little more attentive to customer service. Our dining staff was awesome - some of the best we have had on any cruise. Room service was perfect and I am happy to report the coffee has greatly improved. We had attitude issues with the Spa and one of the Maitre D's but not important enough to give detail. I am happy to answer any questions you might have so please email me at lisa.hudson@eds.com. Princess arrangements worked out perfectly. We did our own air and could not have planned it better. I messed up on the US Direct on the way home but that would have been the best way to go. I had not realized I needed to let Princess know what our flights were given that we had done it independently. Not a major issue however in the long run. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Neither my husband nor myself had ever cruised before, but we have friends who have and had mixed reviews of their experiences. So we arrived with an open mind. We travelled independently to Anchorage and took a taxi to Whittier, which was ... Read More
Neither my husband nor myself had ever cruised before, but we have friends who have and had mixed reviews of their experiences. So we arrived with an open mind. We travelled independently to Anchorage and took a taxi to Whittier, which was expensive but worth it as the taxi driver had a wealth of information about the area, as well as being much more convenient with four large suitcases. EMBARKATION. Absolutely trouble free. We expected lines and delays, but were on board and in our stateroom in 15 minutes, and our bags were with us within the hour. Our cabin steward, Ariel, was there to welcome us, and he gave us first class service throughout the entire trip. CABINS. We had a balcony stateroom on Caribe deck, and we were delighted. Some people have complained about being overlooked, but this wasn't an issue for us and it was just great to wake up to fresh air and wonderful views. We had everything we needed; the cabin was kept spotlessly clean, and the facilities were excellent given the limited space. The bed was very comfortable too. DINING. From our first night in the Santa Fe restaurant, where we turned up with no reservations to really excellent food and service, we were very impressed with the catering and customer care. We ate in both the speciality restaurants, Sabatini's on the Sunday night and Sterling Steakhouse on Wednesday. Both were fabulous, Sabatini's for the authentic Italian style dining and wonderful food, and Sterling for the personal choice steaks - cooked to perfection - and the joy of watching Orca from the window as we enjoyed our meal! But we were especially impressed by the service we witnessed in the Vivaldi restaurant on Tuesday evening; in an Italian themed restaurant with a fairly extensive but fixed menu, an Indian couple arrived at the table next to us and demanded a full Indian meal. They got it, without hesitation, and with perfect customer service. Gold stars to Princess. PUBLIC ROOMS. We thought Diamond Princess was a lovely ship, and we felt as though we were in a luxury hotel. ENTERTAINMENT. We didn't go to any of the shows or organized entertainment, preferring to go to Crooners Bar in the evening after dinner to have a leisurely drink and relive the day. I enjoyed the "Martini of the day" every evening and amassed a collection of 6 different Martini glasses to take home, and my husband was well impressed with the selection of malt whiskies and that Olena and Andrew both remembered our names and that he liked just two cubes of ice in his whisky! SHORE EXCURSIONS. In Skagway we took the Glacier Wilderness Safari, which was absolutely wonderful and in many ways the highlight of our trip. Canoeing out to the very face of the glacier in the depths of the Alaskan wilderness is an experience we won't forget. We simply boarded the Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, and found the scenery spectacular. Standing on the mountain watching bald eagles overhead was magical. In Ketchikan we took the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary trip, and were thrilled to see a black bear, who was more scared of us than we were of him! The Horse Drawn Carriage Tour in the afternoon was a good way to see the town. FITNESS AND RECREATION. We didn't make great use of the facilities, but I attended a fascinating (and scary!) lecture on nutrition and detoxing, while my husband had a very satisfying deep massage. DISEMBARKATION. As we were staying on independently in Vancouver for a few days, we were in no hurry to disembark, and were coded Light Blue for a 10.30 departure. We had a leisurely breakfast, then sat in a lounge on Deck 7 to await our call. We were on land with our bags by 10.40, and greatly impressed by the efficiency of the staff at the Port of Vancouver who had us in a taxi within half an hour. OVERALL. We can't praise Princess or the crew of the Diamond Princess, highly enough, and would certainly cruise with them again. We have already recommended them to our friends. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
June 18th Voyage The cruise was, as expected, routine in that it was perfectly executed. Upon arrival in Anchorage we quickly found the Princess ground transfer staff, and within 60 minutes were in the motor-coach bound for Whittier. The ... Read More
June 18th Voyage The cruise was, as expected, routine in that it was perfectly executed. Upon arrival in Anchorage we quickly found the Princess ground transfer staff, and within 60 minutes were in the motor-coach bound for Whittier. The transfer was uneventful, except for the 15 minute wait at the one-way tunnel just before the harbor. Our transfer took about 2 hours, but other family members on a subsequent coach required more than 3 hours to make the trip due to delays at the airport and a longer wait at the tunnel. The walk up the gangway took longer than the check-in process...nice. Really put in context my 2 hour wait last April for a Royal Caribbean - Freedom of the Seas cruise. I observed a kind customer service event shortly after arriving aboard. Two older ladies had become lost while searching for their staterooms, and asked a crewmember of assistance. Despite being very busy directing scores of other passengers he paused, telephoned for their stateroom location (for security reasons, the stateroom number is no longer on your cruise card), called for another crew member to take his place, and then escorted them to their stateroom. The Diamond Princess is a nice ship - we really liked the scale and the subtle improvements over the Grand Princess. However, the Grand Princess Skywalker venue is a better design. My guess is the newer design is far less expensive to construct and thus the change. My mini-suite was great, but at bedtime found the vibration from the engines more noticeable than on prior cruises. Can't say if it was because my cabin was in the aft or because this was a Mitsubishi built vessel - maybe both. Every port and every glacier - were exactly on time. Glacier Bay National Park was a true highlight. I witnessed some spectacular calving and a most extraordinary bonus; a grizzly bear. As we were departing GBNP a park ranger spotted the bear along the water's edge and made the announcement, and sure enough there it was. It was only a brief glimpse, but it was a grizzly in the wild. For those visiting Skagway consider the National Park Service ranger guided tour. It's free and an easy walk through the historic district. You can sign-up at the 2nd and Broadway Visitor Center walks. http://www.nps.gov/klgo/planyourvisit/guidedtours.htm As it was a beautiful day we walked out to the Gold Miner's Cemetery (about 2 miles from town). It's a great walk and located just up canyon from the White Pass Train Shops (not the depot - but the shops). If interested, ask the park rangers at the visitor's center. My wife and mother-in law toured the Glacier Gardens Rainforest in Juneau. Both were pleased and found the tour fun and much unexpected. Planted gardens in a rainforest in Juneau, Alaska? http://www.glaciergardens.com/ The "anytime dining" concept has apparently become so popular that it's having a negative impact on the entertainment venues. Historically, 2 dining sittings have allowed half the ship to dine while the other half was entertained. Now with so many people eating early (and apparently quickly) the entertainment venues can be overwhelmed for the first show times. Never before have I seen the main theatre absolutely packed beyond its capacity with people lining the walls and sitting in the aisles. Food was quite good and noticeably better than on the Royal Caribbean cruise 2 months earlier, and the dining room wait staff was on par with other Princess cruises. The production shows were good, but I had a sense that there were fewer shows than on previous cruises. The role of the cruise director seems to be declining (not a bad thing), with less stage time and an appearance only after (and not before) the shows. Disembarkment was efficient and routine. The process is always a bore, but at least Princess kept to the published schedule. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
The year of anticipation couldn't have prepared us for the excitement we felt as we finally sailed away on the beautiful Sapphire Princess! Before sailing Southbound out of Whittier on June 23rd, we spent our first night, June 20th, ... Read More
The year of anticipation couldn't have prepared us for the excitement we felt as we finally sailed away on the beautiful Sapphire Princess! Before sailing Southbound out of Whittier on June 23rd, we spent our first night, June 20th, in Fairbanks at the lovely Sophie Station Hotel. The rooms here were very nice, and the quaint little bar had the most delicious tempura-fried halibut on their hors-d'oevres selection, so we just ordered a couple of those for our dinner. The next morning we took the Discovery Riverboat Cruise and had a wonderful time as well as a very informative tour. I would recommend this to anyone who has the time to do it,(about 4 hours). That afternoon, we boarded our motorcoach and set out for the Denali Princess. After reading many pros & cons on this hotel,I have to tell you that we were more than pleasantly surprised as we were taken to our room in the new part of the Denali Princess known as Canyon Station. We had an absolutely luxurious 2-room suite complete with 2 flat-sceen TV's, a solid glass 6'foot walk-in shower and a 6 foot jacuzzi tub. There was even a phone in the bathroom! The balcony looked out over the river and we were treated to eagles, silver fox, 1 brown bear, and many water-rafters yelling with delight. I would definitely give this location 5 stars. Our trip to Mt. McKinley the next day was delightful - however our view of the mountain itself was spoiled by a forest fire south of the area that completely obliterated the view with smoke. In fact, there was a letter issuing a smoke advisory for asthma & emphysema sufferers waiting for us when we got back to our room. Too bad - it was the one thing we missed seeing on this otherwise perfect trip! We took the domed train down to Whittier the next day - an 8 1/2 hour trainride with spectacular scenery. We were fortunate enough to meet another couple that was cruising on the Sapphire as well and we remained fast friends for the duration of the cruise. It was drizzly rain in Whittier but the entire walk-way up to the ship was covered. We arrived on board about 5:30PM, there was relatively no line at all and check-in was a breeze. That was the last day we saw rain. The ship itself we found to be immaculate and extremely well attended. We had an aft suite on emerald deck and thought we had discovered our own private oasis! We met the couple next door and had the our cabin steward Phillip (who was absolutely wonderful) open the divider between our two balconies to make it more accessible! We spent our days at sea and in Glacier Bay with our 4 new-found friends enjoying the beautiful sights, eating & drinking and not missing a thing from the privacy of the balcony. No wind at all there, no crowds, and we got some fantastic photos of whales, dolphins, eagles & sea lions, not to mention the spectacular mountains & glaciers! We all thought we were living a dream! If anyone can possibly do a suite, please indulge. The bathroom has a separate jacuzzi tub, large glass shower, and a separate water closet area that is accessible from the living room foyer or the bedroom. The free laundry and dry cleaning services are a MAJOR plus, and the other perks are just added surprises! We all had anytime dining and enjoyed the flexibility of that choice. We did make reservations since we all ended up dining together, and not once did we have to wait for our table. We found the food to be very, very good, and served with wonderful "presentation" as the waiters seemed to be so fond of saying. We also did the Balcony Breakfast and have never seen so much food delivered to any two people! It was well worth the $25.00 extra charge! We didn't need lunch on that day! The remaining days we ate breakfast at the Horizon Court buffet. If what you wanted wasn't there, then it didn't exist! We found the breakfast there to be more than "good" - it was very good! We did not eat any other meals there, so can't comment on lunch or dinner. Every port day had sunshine! The natives kept telling us how lucky we were,(especially in Ketchikan!) We did the Deluxe Klondike R/R tour in Skagway on the Yukon & White Pass Railroad! Spectacular! Not near enough port time in Skagway. We had a wonderful tour guide named Bruce Schindler on the motorcoach trip back. He has lived in Skagway 14 years and gave us alot of history and even threw in a tour of the town itself! Juneau again was a beautifully sunny day. We took the Mendenhall Glacier/Salmon Hatchery Tour in the morning. Just getting that close to the glacier was unforgettable! We did Whale Watching with Capt. Larry (Orca Enterprises) that afternoon and saw, whales, whales, whales. We were even lucky enough to see them "bubble-net" feeding which we were told, was something that is seen there approximately once a month. Loved Capt. Larry & would book again with him in a heartbeat! Ketchikan, again- sunshine & blue skies. DH took a 6-hr fishing trip (their group caught 5 salmon) and I went flight-seeing with Michelle at Island Wings! If you are considering a flight-seeing tour in Ketchikan, book with Michelle! She has been flying there for 22 years and will show you sights that you can only imagine! We absolutely loved the Sapphire and I can't say enough about the wonderful service we received from everyone on board. Our favorite "hang-out" was the WheelHouse Bar. Very elegant and generally very quiet. The drinks prepared there were really a treat! The men found Churchill's and enjoyed an evening cigar there most evenings! It was hard to believe there were 2600 people on board. The way the ship is arranged, you very seldom felt there were that many people on board. We enjoyed the one show we did see - LOVED the food demonstration & galley tour, and the champagne waterfall in the Atrium was awesome! We spent 3 nights in Vancouver at the Westin Bayshore and have already decided we must go back. Such a beautiful city and not near enough time to see even a small part of it! All our transfers were handled by Princess and we had no delays anywhere! We went through customs in Calgary where our flight connected to Houston, and had absolutely no problem. We were through in less than 20 minutes! We can't wait to board the Sapphire Princess again in February as we set sail from Sydney, Australia in February of 2008! Kudos to Princess for a dream vacation! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
My wife, 2 teens and I enjoyed the Whittier to Vancouver cruise. We have previously cruised on HAL (2), Carnival (2) and RCCL in addition to Princess. This cruise on the Diamond Princess was booked within 9 days of sailing. We were ... Read More
My wife, 2 teens and I enjoyed the Whittier to Vancouver cruise. We have previously cruised on HAL (2), Carnival (2) and RCCL in addition to Princess. This cruise on the Diamond Princess was booked within 9 days of sailing. We were supposed to sail on HAL, but my 105 year old grandmother died two days prior to the date. We did get a fantastic rate on this cruise. I guess they had a few cabins left to sell at this late date. Although my wife and I were a bit concerned because of a cruise on the Dawn a year earlier, we were very pleased with this cruise and would do princess again. After flying to Anchorage and spending the night, we took a shuttle ($35 each) to Whittier. It was a very scenic drive. My son spotted a black bear on a patch of white snow about 40 yards from the roadway. Upon arrival in Whittier, the van pulled up to a spot where the dock staff removed the luggage from the van and loaded them directly in a container to be loaded onto the ship. We didn't touch them. Embarkation took about 10 minutes. There were about 20 people ahead of us in line and about 15 employees taking care of the paperwork. As long as you don't arrive in Whittier with loads of buses or the train, then getting on to the ship is quick. The inside stateroom was clean and made up with a double for us and the kids had singles in their room. There was plenty of storage, but we did find the bed a bit too stiff. The food quality was generally good. The buffet breakfasts had more choices than one should be allowed to have. I am a creature of habit, so I had basically the same thing daily. Dinner in the dining rooms consist of 5 entrees. Generally, 2 of them are fish/seafood. If you like fish/seafood, you are in luck. My family doesn't, so we were limited to 3 entrees. I have to add that each restaurant (4 of them) has a signature dish unique to that specific restaurant that is available daily. Also, chicken breast and NY steak are available everyday. Sabitinni's (pay Italian restaurant) food was a heavenly melding of flavors that you won't find in the dining rooms. For the price, try it. You will like it. Pizza was great per the kids. Plenty of bars and the prices were average. Prices for bottles of wine were a bit steep though. Staff was generally attentive and attended to your needs. No real language barriers were present. We did not attend the Broadway shows, but did go to the lounges to see comedians, magician and others. The kids wanted to go to every trivia event which came as a surprise to us. We went to some of the on-board movies. Fellow passengers were of all ages, but more of a laid back crowd compared to what one would see in Mexico or the Caribbean. A very easy going group. There were about 300 kids (0-17 years old), but there were no groups running down the halls screaming. They were well behaved. The scenery was stunning. My first trip to Alaska. The ship maneuvered very close to Marjorie Glacier and parked for an hour or so. We heard calving and saw ice sluffing off the glacier. Pictures in books do not do glaciers justice. In Juneau, we took the public bus to near Mendenhall Glacier. A 1.3 mile hike and your at the Glacier. Got to meet some friendly local people on the bus. Learned how to avoid the tourist places in town near the ship. Besides the bear near Anchorage, we saw whales, dolphins/porpoises, some otters, and also saw quite a few bald eagles in Ketchikan. Our color was called to exit the ship about 20 minutes prior to the scheduled time. Princess does not require you to vacate your room early. About 10 minutes in line, we were off the ship. Another 10 minutes we had luggage in hand. I will say the terminal was crowded because of another ship arriving when we did. That meant about 6,000 people looking for taxis, buses etc. Disembarkation was no better and no worse than other cruises. We stayed in Vancouver for a few days to enjoy the sights. For those who have never been there, it is a modern cosmopolitan town with a good public transit system. By 2009, they will have lightrail from downtown to the airport. Flying out, I was surprised that US Customs has set up shop at the airport, therefore flying back to the lower 48 states; one needs not go through customs there. Overall, I would do Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
We are a 30ish couple and we cruised on the Princess Sapphire June 07 from Whittier Alaska to Vancouver BC. Overall it was great and we'd highly recommend it for anyone. We regret not taking the time to go inland and if we had it to ... Read More
We are a 30ish couple and we cruised on the Princess Sapphire June 07 from Whittier Alaska to Vancouver BC. Overall it was great and we'd highly recommend it for anyone. We regret not taking the time to go inland and if we had it to do over we would- probably prior so that jet lag was over before embarkment. Here are the highlights: Rooms: We booked the least expensive room category and our only real complaint was the bed being hard. We paid 1/5 the price that the balcony cabins were going for at the time of booking. We saw only a handful of people out on their balconies at any given time and since it's light 20 hours a day, the lack of windows was a plus for sleeping. Service: Service throughout the ship was fantastic- no language barriers. Food: Also fantastic. The 24-hour buffet is for real- a full selection of foods whenever you want with plates that are temptingly big. The dining room food was a notch above and a great opportunity to try new things. Pizza is good- especially the 4 cheese. I am a vegetarian and it was heaven for this- dedicated vegetarian station at the buffet and a designated section on the dining room menu. Tours: Overpriced and in some ways disappointing. Having said that we would still go on some tours if we had to do it over, we'd just do more research on which ones are worth it and of course book it ourselves once we got off the ship rather than through princess. Special Note: The Yukon Suspension Bridge is not in the Yukon. We went on this tour specifically to go to the Yukon and in fact you don't leave British Columbia. Nightlife/Entertainment: Lively until a little after midnight and a sparse crowd after that. There are lots of choices for all ages so you won't be bored. A newsletter is delivered to your room daily outlining the next day's events and they are broadcast as well for a reminder. We loved this. Demographic: Mostly Americans, a few fellow Canadians and about 50% over age 40. You wouldn't feel out of place at any age. Attire / Weather: Don't let other reviewers make you think you need to dress up all the time. Other than the formal nights (on which jeans were still sparsely noted) people can and do wear whatever they want including tracksuits. It was an average of 12 c each day with partial sun and we were told this was great weather for Alaska. Depending what climate you are used to you may even need a light hat and gloves. You'll want closed toe shoes mostly and a warm waterproof jacket. Extras: We underestimated how many extras there would be to pay for on top of alcohol, tours and service charges. Eg. bingo, yoga, wine tasting, bottled water, hot chocolate, internet - which was crazy expensive. The formal night photos are $25 each. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
We cruised southbound from Whittier on the Sapphire Princess on 6/23. Just some background information: we are a married couple in our early 30s who have cruised multiple times before with other cruise lines. This was our first Alaskan ... Read More
We cruised southbound from Whittier on the Sapphire Princess on 6/23. Just some background information: we are a married couple in our early 30s who have cruised multiple times before with other cruise lines. This was our first Alaskan cruise and also our first with Princess. We didn't do the land-tour component of the cruise with Princess. Instead we arranged our own seven-day road trip and then took the Magic Bus to Whittier. Embarkation: We intentionally arrived late in the day so that we could enjoy Anchorage in the morning. When we arrived around 5:30, there was a very short line. We waited approximately 5 minutes before receiving our cards and being able to proceed to onboard. I was very impressed with the efficiency of the process. Cabin: We stayed in E728 which is one of the infamous minisuites on the Emerald Deck with the extra-large balcony which is fully covered. I highly recommend this class of cabin, and particularly this cabin specifically. The room layout is wonderful with a separate sitting area that is next to the balcony. The minisuites have full baths with a full size tub. There is a essentially a "walk-in" closet with a tall cabinet with shelves next to it as well. The in-room safe is very easy to use and out of the way on one of the shelves. There were two T.V.s in the room and actually some good first-run movies (for those early evenings.) Our room steward, Phillip, was very good and had a sixth sense for when we were out of the room. The bed was very comfortable. There was some vibration from the thrusters, but nothing disturbing. Club Fusion was directly below the room, but I only remember hearing it a couple of times and neither time was terribly disturbing. Perhaps it was because it was the Alaskan itinerary and the crowd was exactly into head-banging rock. Dining: We did traditional seating and enjoyed it very much. I've cruised with Royal Caribbean, Disney and twice with Carnival. The Sapphire Princess definitely held it's own with all of them. My husband and I both very much enjoyed the meals. The other people at our table also commented on the quality of the food. We only ate dinner in the formal dining rooms. For breakfast and lunch we ate at the Horizon buffet. The food was good - especially for buffet food. Always plenty available and hot. One caution - the lines can get long and kind of confusing. If you can find the end, they actually move quite quickly. Patience is the key factor. There's plenty of people-watching to be had, so we figured we might as well enjoy the atmosphere. Also - quick tip - you typically have to pay extra for ice cream from the ice cream bar BUT between 3 & 4 most days there was free ice cream in the Horizon Buffet (it's only set up on one side though so you may have to go look for it!) One warning - beware the "would you like a cup of hot chocolate" waiter at breakfast. I thought since it was just hot chocolate it would be free. Nope - $1.50. No big deal - just surprised me. Ship: Just a few basics - the spa is amazing! We had a Couple's Massage - my husband's first massage - and it was excellent. There is a covered pool mid-ship - not heavily used but looked relaxing. You can pick up wool blankets for use through the entire cruise on the Lido Deck (I believe - don't quote me on that one.) If it's really raining out but you still want to be on deck, check out Skywalkers. Great view from the back of the ship and completely enclosed. Also - Horizon Court has great views. Ports: We cruised through College Fjord and Glacier Bay the first two days. Beautiful views - saw lots of humpback whales from our balcony. No major calving that we saw but we're not going to get lucky everytime. We then stopped at Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. In Skagway, we did the Whitepass Railroad tour and the Original Streetcar Tour. Both were excellent. The railroad tour was very historical and we learned a great deal about the struggles of the early goldrush hopefuls. The Original Streetcar Tour then filled in the blanks with the town's history and present day facts. The tour operators are very energetic and dynamic - lots of stories and laughs. They stop at a couple scenic passes and at the Goldrush cemetery. You also see a 10 minute movie about the history of Skagway. In Juneau we took the $6 shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier. You can buy tickets along the street as you walk towards town at the booths. We hiked for about an hour at the Glacier and then since we had booked a private Whale Watching tour with Harv & Marv, they were kind enough to pick us up at the Glacier. I would highly recommend this tour company - very personable, responsible and intent on providing a high quality experience. In Ketchikan, we ended up taking the 90 minute Duck tour so we saw the view from land and the harbour. You can get tickets at the visitor's Center right on the pier. It was nice to get a guided tour first so that we knew where we would want to spend more time. We then took the walking tour and checked out Creek Street and Discovery Center. We were fortunate and had beautiful weather in all three ports - highly unusual, especially in Ketchikan. Debarkation: This is always the most frustrating part of any cruise. We had purchased the transfer to the Vancouver airport. Unfortunately, our airline was not participating that week in the Early Check-in process. We had to be out of our cabin by 8:00 and our color/number combination didn't get called until 10:00. One kudo for Princess, they were showing television sitcoms in the Explorer Lounge so at least we weren't nearly as board as we had been on previous cruises with other cruise lines. Another kudo - our luggage went directly to the airport so we didn't have to reclaim it at the port and then wait for it to be loaded before the bus could leave. We just picked it up in a holding area at the airport and then proceeded to check in with our airline. (I don't know if that is technically part of US Direct or not but it definitely made it a little easier.) Overall, Princess handled it OK. If you're willing and able to lug your luggage off the boat with you, you can actually debark significantly earlier - they were all off by 8:30 or 9. One other last note about the last day - beware the wait for U.S. Customs at Vancouver airport on Saturdays. After checking in with the airlines, you need to personally take your luggage through US customs. We waited in line for probably an hour to get through. Necessary, I know, because we all want to be safe and I'm 100% onboard with that. Just plan enough time for the wait. So - all in all - probably one of the best cruises we've taken. Great service, great food, excellent cabin, amazing scenery. Highly recommended! Read Less
Sail Date June 2007

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