Husband grew up in Fairbanks and we've traveled many places in Alaska, but never to the Southeast area, which is best done from a ship. We booked this trip as a "last minute" vacation less than a month and a half before ... Read More
Husband grew up in Fairbanks and we've traveled many places in Alaska, but never to the Southeast area, which is best done from a ship. We booked this trip as a "last minute" vacation less than a month and a half before sailing and got an excellent price from Vacations to Go. Flew into Anchorage a day early and stayed at a hotel in the mid-town area. There are many hotels in that area and they are the type that provide free shuttle service from the airport and have free breakfast. The shuttle served three hotels and would also go to Walmart and to downtown Anchorage (visitors center). Check out the Market in downtown Anchorage on Saturday morning. Local artisans, along with produce and entertainment and food trucks. We bought authentic souvenirs and met the people who made them. Bought sea salt made in Homer, gold nugget jewelry (mined near Fairbanks), children's book signed by author, etched baleen from Native artist, locally made soap and more.
Did not want to go back to the airport and ride a large coach bus to Whittier, so we booked a shuttle from Anchorage Tours and Transfers. It was less expensive. They came to our hotel at 2:30 to pick us up and then other hotels. The mini bus holds 24 and they have a trailer in back for the luggage. We didn't need a "tour", but our bus driver provided lots of information and we had time for a stop at a viewpoint before getting to the tunnel for Whittier.
Star Princess was a nice size (one stats description says 2600 passengers). We were on the very large Carnival Vista last year. Cabin size is smaller than Carnival (which we were aware of). Our discounted cabin was a fully obstructed view (seemed like almost the entire 8th deck was obstructed views because all the life boats were hanging in front of windows -- who designed that?!) I thought I wouldn't mind (good price last minute, too cold for a balcony, just this time), but I didn't like it. Even if I didn't have a view, I needed the daylight.
Although I read that the ship was refurbished last year, that must have been the public areas. Our room looked tired and needed an overhaul; the drawers didn't work and the furniture style definitely wasn't up to date. Bed was fine. Very large TV. Our room only had one chair, at the desk. But there were two of us and you can only sit on the bed for so long. Our room steward got us another desk chair for the week. Eighth floor was a good location. We could easily walk down one flight to the Promenade deck which became our "balcony." traditional walk around the ship deck with comfortable deck chairs. Seventh floor also had theatre and shops. Also didn't need the elevator to walk down two decks to the 6th for the dining rooms.
All three dining rooms looked alike, and really weren't very fancy. Dining room meals were fine, but the quality could have been just a little bit better. I was surprised and pleased with the buffet. Large Carnival ship buffets are spread out too far and serve such large quantities that food is never hot (or warm) and there was no quality at all. On Star Princess the buffet area is compact so you don't have to go far to get your food, and smaller quantities are set out at a time so you have a better chance of the food being hot when you get to your table. I also thought the quality of the food at the buffet was very good and there was a good variety. Servers bring beverages to you and clear dishes promptly.
There are many, many excursions (and they are expensive), but there is so much you can do on your own. Long day in Skagway means you can do a few things. We did take a Klondike bus excursion that we could have easily passed on. Skagway is about the gold rush and we wanted to see some of the trail. Our mini bus drove up the road. There really wasn't anything to see. Stopped at the Welcome to Alaska sign and a waterfall coming down the side of the road. The bus driver was good, telling lots of stories and history. But $39.95 per person was way to much for the experience (1 1/2 hours). DO check out the National Park Service in town. They have an information center with films. They also have other buildings in town that you can walk in to or get a free tour. NPS is always excellent. We had a great lunch at the local Sweet Tooth Cafe. And the best part of our day was a trip to Jewell Garden and glassblowing. We arranged this directly with Jewell Garden (later saw there was an excursion at almost twice the price). We took the local SMART bus ($5 all day). Husband was surprised that he had so much fun making a glass orb (it was shipped home). You choose the colors, style, design and they walk you through every step.
In Juneau we took the Mt. Roberts tram. Cost is the same from ship or directly and you can walk there from ship. We then took an Uber to the Alaska State Museum (walkable for some, maybe a mile). Museum was excellent. Cost $12. Items from the different Native groups, history about Russians, US purchase, gold rush, WWII, statehood and art. Take about an hour.
In Ketchikan we wanted to see the totem poles at the Bight Totem State Park. Park admission is $5. Taxi cost $35 one way and excursion also was expensive. But the city bus is only $2. The bus was crowded and it takes more than a half hour to get there. Spent an hour there and caught the bus back to town. Walked around town. Ate at Alaska Fish House (3 piece sampler fish fry was terrific). Walked around Creek Street area. Found similar souvenirs that were priced higher than in Skagway and Anchorage.
Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay were wonderful. Bring layers of warm clothes, and gloves. On Glacier Bay day, ship did not schedule any activities, so everyone was engaged in the glaciers. At Hubbard Glacier, people went to the shopping talk and went to enter raffles, etc.
Enjoyed talk by Libby Riddles, first woman to win the Iditarod.
I'd do this cruise again. Read Less