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260 Whittier to Alaska Cruise Reviews

This was my second Alaskan cruisetour with Princess. This summer I brought my 10-year old nephew and we had a wonderful time. We began with a 6-night land tour. Our tour director, Greg, was great. He took care of everything (including ... Read More
This was my second Alaskan cruisetour with Princess. This summer I brought my 10-year old nephew and we had a wonderful time. We began with a 6-night land tour. Our tour director, Greg, was great. He took care of everything (including dinner reservations) and ensured we all had a wonderful experience. Our fellow travelers were friendly and fun and by the time we exited the train in Whittier to embark on the Island Princess we had made a lot of great friends. We were one of the fortunate to get a glimpse of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) We saw amazing wildlife including a mother moose with her calf, three grizzlies and 6 cubs in Denali, humpback whales in Juneau and black bears during a Ketchikan bear flight excursion. We took a river float ride in Talkeetna to see bald eagles. My nephew's favorite excursion was taking a helicopter to the Denver glacier for a dogsled ride. On the ship we received excellent service and my nephew especially enjoyed the youth center. They spent time with a park ranger while in Glacier Bay NP, they learned about eagles and spent time making crafts. It was great to see this was more than just babysitting kids playing video games like on some other cruise lines. We thoroughly enjoyed the many different dining experiences including a dinner at Sanatini's. We made so many great memories it' s difficult to list them all. There is so much to experience in Alaska, we hope to return again some day and will certainly take another Princess tour when we do. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We chose the Coral Princess southbound as we wanted to be in Banff on a certain date. Booking was easy and our travel agent told them we were celebrating our silver anniversary and special birthdays. Having read the previous reviews we ... Read More
We chose the Coral Princess southbound as we wanted to be in Banff on a certain date. Booking was easy and our travel agent told them we were celebrating our silver anniversary and special birthdays. Having read the previous reviews we were somewhat anxious that the cabins would be sub-standard, there would be long queues and the facilities would tired and needing repair. What we found was the complete opposite. Our cabin door was decorated with congratulation posters and balloons and our cabin was kept spotless by Christopher. We had a balcony room which we retreated to every night to watch the scenery pass by, to read a book or to get ready for our evening meal. The bed was huge and comfortable and the room itself was more than adequate for the week. People have complained about the shower being a bit of a tight fit, it is a corner unit but we are not 'small people' and we managed just fine, in fact it was one of the best showers during our 3 week trip. There have been bad reviews of the dining arrangements, we were expecting huge queues and unimaginative buffet dining. We were advised to select a late sitting on the grounds that we could opt out if we didn't want to get dressed up or wanted to eat early to see a show. We found the 7.30 sitting to be just right, a civilised and un-rushed ending to a busy day. By the time we finished eating we were ready for a quiet hour or so to unwind and prepare for the next day. Everything we selected was well cooked and well presented and the table staff were attentive and made an effort to get to know your personal tastes. As they knew we were celebrating a double celebration (our anniversary and birthdays) we had a 'special dessert' on 2 separate evenings! The first evening everyone dined according to their embarkation time, it was organised and sitting with complete strangers on the first evening ensured you had someone to smile at as you made your way round the ship. The hotdogs and burgers from the grill hit the taste buds and the ice cream was creamy! We could have had breakfast in the Provence Restaurant but we opted for the buffet as we wanted to eat and get out rather than it and linger. The Horizon Court buffet (breakfast through to lunch, afternoon tea and supper) was well stocked with a wide range of foods and desserts, you can fill your plate as high as you like - our only niggle was the small serving of orange juice but we asserted ourselves and asked for a big glass! Be sure to walk all the way round otherwise you miss the cakes! Viewing the glaciers... walk as far as you can to the front of deck 10 and 11 (go through the brown doors) as you will find the front viewing platforms, a full 180 degree panoramic view of the glaciers and arrivals in port. Wrap up warm. Movies Under the Stars was giggle...it was cold but it is Alaska! With layers, hats and gloves we enjoyed the film and it was one of the many highlights of the cruise. The pools were in constant use...both the inside and outside (kids playing as it isn't big enough for lengths) and people were in the hot tubs quite late into the evening. The gym was in constant use, get there early if you want prime viewing point while on the treadmills. If treadmills are not your thing then 2.8 circuits of the promenade deck equates to one mile and runners, walkers and strollers share the route in a friendly manner. We were simply too busy to see any of the entertainment, but the few natural history talks were listened to were useful. Shore excursions...we did not book any through Princess but from conversations we had with others they were well organised and enjoyable. We were advised to pick our cruise based on the itinerary and as first time cruisers we had no idea as to what to expect. It was, quite simply, everything we expected plus more. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
I and a good friend had the 12 day cruise tour with Princess. We started in Anchorage and traveled down to Vancouver. We had a balcony cabin on the Island Princess. The cabin was spacious and very clean. We had a great view. The ... Read More
I and a good friend had the 12 day cruise tour with Princess. We started in Anchorage and traveled down to Vancouver. We had a balcony cabin on the Island Princess. The cabin was spacious and very clean. We had a great view. The bathroom was great also. The shower was a tad small but I am a plus size girl and found it to be fine. It was a great ship and a wonderful cruise. I can not say enough about the great service we received on board. I also enjoyed the food and specialty dining at Sabatini's. There was a great comedian and "The Voice" was amazing. The other show's were just OK. The music on board could have been a little livlier but we spent a lot of time off the ship so that really did not bother me much. They did tend to try to sell a lot (art auctions, videos, sidewalk sales, jewelry) but other than that I was pleased. The excursions provided by Princess were top notched also. I did a flight over Denali that was excellent. I also did the Tundra Wilderness Tour that I would really recommend. One day it rained and I did the Covered Wagon Tour and that was fun. We did the Jet Boat Safari and that was just fair. I'm not sure we would do that one again. The two days at sea were wonderful to relax after traveling on land. We had great days at Hubbard Glacier one day and Glacier National Park the next. These are things I will remember forever. I also did a dog sled ride in Skagway and the Yukon Pass Railroad. In Juneau we did Medenhall Glacier, a Salmon Hatchery and Salmon Bake that was grand. In Ketchikan we did the lumberjack show and the Totem Bright State park. All were excellent excursions. It was definitely a trip of a lifetime. I would love to see other parts of Alaska next time. I would also love to try another cruise with Princess to maybe the Carribean. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
This cruise was very enjoyable because of its amazing service, beautiful sights, and wide selection of food! The staff was always very kind, saying good morning, and remembering our names. Our two favorite waiters were Arnel and Erickson ... Read More
This cruise was very enjoyable because of its amazing service, beautiful sights, and wide selection of food! The staff was always very kind, saying good morning, and remembering our names. Our two favorite waiters were Arnel and Erickson because they always were so kind and even showed us a nice window table for breakfast! The ship passed many beautiful sights and they had a naturalist tell us all about the glaciers and animals as we sailed by. There was also so much food! They had a buffet from 6 in the morning to midnight, and a wide selection of restaurants to choose from. In addition, the cruise had many entertaining shows for us to watch, with a voice impressionist, a comedian, and even the Voice of the Ocean! Room service was always top notch, getting are rooms cleaned every few hours that we went out. The only thing I was worried about was the rocking of the ship on the first day and last day, but that was because we had to go over rough sea. Also, when we went to Juneau, a big city, we only had from 10:30 to 3:30 to see the sights we wished that we could have more time at Juneau to explore the city. Overall, this cruise really felt like an amazin vacation and we would definitely choose this cruise line again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
This trip was on our bucket list. My husband had just finished treatment from prostate cancer and we were celebrating his cancer free status. The timing was right and we wanted to do the land portion before the cruise. We has a great time ... Read More
This trip was on our bucket list. My husband had just finished treatment from prostate cancer and we were celebrating his cancer free status. The timing was right and we wanted to do the land portion before the cruise. We has a great time as the destination was stunning. The ship was just OK as we had sailed on her 10 years ago and loved her then. But after the refit of this ship, we decided it would be the last time we choose to sail on the Island Princess. We noticed that there was always a line for Anytime dining. We always opt for Traditional dining as we like to have the same wait staff each evening. While we did enjoy the crew, service and food, we did not enjoy the windowless gym or the promenade deck that was chopped off at the aft of the ship to make way for more cabins. There is no International Café in the Atrium, and the coffee bar was small and inadequate for the demand each morning. Given the many choices Princess has to offer as to what ship to sail; we would chose to sail on the sister ship (the Coral Princess or any other Princess ship) before returning to the Island Princess. The two scenic cruising days into Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay were jaw dropping and there are few words to describe the beauty of these places. The land portion with the Princess train from Denali to Whittier where boarded the ship was a winner for us. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
What a great cruise. We did the land portion of the cruise/tour first and we are glad we did. Starting with 2 days in Fairbanks, followed by 2 days at the Denali Lodge and then on to the ship, was much better than doing it the other way. ... Read More
What a great cruise. We did the land portion of the cruise/tour first and we are glad we did. Starting with 2 days in Fairbanks, followed by 2 days at the Denali Lodge and then on to the ship, was much better than doing it the other way. Those that we met in the lodges coming off the ship agreed that they would have preferred doing it the way we did. Our time in Fairbanks was mostly taken up with a wonderful river cruise and panning for gold. The river was very high but the scenery was spectacular. The Princess Lodge in Fairbanks is very nice but the eating options are pretty limited. It was a short visit so we did ok but more food options would be nice. The trip to the Princess Lodge in Denali was uneventful, and the Lodge is beautiful. There are plenty of eating options both on property and close by. The 8 hour bus ride in the Denali National Park was much better than expected. Having heard we would be on school buses, we were a little wary. They are school buses, but the seats are much better than the school buses I remember. The scenery and wildlife were wonderful and well worth the time in the bus. There were numerous stops for rest areas, although the facilities were pretty primitive (glorified outhouses). The Island Princess herself is an older vessel but she has been recently refurbished and is wearing her age well. She's small but well appointed. Our cabin was very nice and our steward (Morvin) was among the best we've had in 15 cruises. In fact, the entire crew was wonderful - helpful, friendly, and professional. The 2 larger lounges, The Wheelhouse Bar and The Explorers Lounge, were both used for many other activities so we rarely went there for drinks, but the La Patisserie became our meeting place and it was a very nice, quiet spot for a glass of wine with friends. We were part of a large group (11 people) and chose Anytime Dining. We were accommodating efficiently every night in the MDR. The food was very good to excellent, always at temperature. The menu was a little short, but we always found something to look forward to. The staff in the Horizon Court (buffet) was outstanding, clearing tables quickly and always there for drinks, etc. The food was typical buffet fare but it was hot and fresh. We enjoyed all of our excursions and didn't hear any complaints on excursions from anyone else. Horseback Riding in Skagway was a very pleasant ride with very knowledgeable and fun guides. In Juneau we did the Mendenhall Glacier & Whale Quest. The stop at the Glacier was not long but there was plenty of time to see the Glacier and tour the Visitor's Center. The Whale Quest portion was outstanding. We saw many humpback whales, including one group that was Bubble-Netting, which they rarely see in these waters, according to our guide. We also saw a pod of Orcas. All in all a very pleasant day. In Ketchikan we went on the Lighthouse, Totems & Eagles Excursion. The boat was small and there were only about 15 people on the tour. We say numerous eagles' nests and several Eagles, including 2 beautiful specimens on top of the lighthouse. We also saw a group of Harbor Seals sunning themselves on the rocks. The Captain and crew took excellent care of the passengers. All in all, it was a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
We were amazed at the size of the inner stateroom we had. On the 9th deck, it had a king sized bed, a full sized sofa (that could be converted to a double bed), 2 closets, 2 sets of drawers. So much room we even had a place to put our ... Read More
We were amazed at the size of the inner stateroom we had. On the 9th deck, it had a king sized bed, a full sized sofa (that could be converted to a double bed), 2 closets, 2 sets of drawers. So much room we even had a place to put our suitcases away and out of our paths. Since this was one of NCL's smaller ships the food choices, although good, were a little bit more limited but we each gained 10 lbs that week. The specialty restaurants were awesome as was the staff. We also went on the Denali land portion of this cruise and although exhausting felt that this was a very worthwhile experience.Although we did not utilize any of the shore excursions except the city tour of Vancouver to the airport, each port had plenty of very reasonably priced locals doing tours. I would gladly do this same cruise over in an instant! Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
Greatly enjoyed this cruise, which was admittedly aided by great weather (generally sunny with temperatures in the mid-60's to 70's). The cabin and cabin service were both excellent, and the views of the Alaska coastline from ... Read More
Greatly enjoyed this cruise, which was admittedly aided by great weather (generally sunny with temperatures in the mid-60's to 70's). The cabin and cabin service were both excellent, and the views of the Alaska coastline from the balcony were fantastic. Ship itself was very nice, and we noticed that this was the quietest ship (with the oldest demographic) that we have ever sailed. Most likely a function of the time of year and itinerary. Spent pre-cruise days in Alaska. Highly recommend Hotel Aleyska (beautiful) and touring Seward and taking the Kenai Fjord National Park Tour. Rented a large SUV to accommodate the four of us from Chevrolet of South Anchorage - highly recommend given the low price ($60/day) and vehicle condition (brand new Traverse). Have to keep in mind that this is a typical rental car company, so don't expect as quick a turnaround when renting or returning vehicle. This was my second time on Princess and greatly enjoyed the ship, although I do prefer Carnival and Celebrity for better food and overall entertainment choices. However, the entertainers on the cruise (2 male and 2 female "lead" singers, as well as a good dancing company) put on some excellent shows. Only complaint was that our Anytime Dining option was extremely poorly organized. Most days we stood in line to be given a card to go the the "late seating" in the other dining room. But our opinion is that if anyone lets the small things on a cruise bother them they are working too hard at it. Post cruise we traveled to Whistler and did the Peak-2-Peak tram ride - also highly recommend. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
We chose this cruise based on the recommendation of our travel agent and she gave great advice. This was our first time cruising and we were very pleased with the entire experience. The cabin was fine. The food was very well done. It ... Read More
We chose this cruise based on the recommendation of our travel agent and she gave great advice. This was our first time cruising and we were very pleased with the entire experience. The cabin was fine. The food was very well done. It was plentiful and also there were plenty of choices. We found we preferred eating in one of the restaurants, even for breakfast, as opposed to the buffet unless we were on a tight timeline. Some choices were always there, others changed daily. We had added three days on land and found the McKinley Princess Lodge and Denali Princess Lodge to be just fine. Nothing fancy but the views were excellent and things were run well and on time. Excursions we liked were the Byers Lake walk near McKinley Princess Lodge, the Denali Wilderness Hike out of Denali Princess Lodge, Train trip to the Pass out of Skagway as well as the Ghosts and Good Time Girls from the same port, and the Whale Watching/Mendenhall Glacier tour out of Juneau. One note about the Denali WIlderness Hike. This one caught be a bit off guard. It was listed as strenuous but also said no one could go that was over 300 pounds. Being more than 100 pounds under that I thought that if someone close to 300 pounds could do it then it couldn't be that hard. This tour really moved at a quick pace and had an elevation change of around 1500 feet that happened several times. It was strenuous so don't be fooled by the requirements. It truly was worthwhile though with stunning views and a chance to get off into the wilderness. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
My sister's AARP group offered an Alaska trip, which included part coach and part cruise activities. The cruise portion was 2016-06-01 - 06-09. The services and the amenities were excellent!! The excursions offered provided something ... Read More
My sister's AARP group offered an Alaska trip, which included part coach and part cruise activities. The cruise portion was 2016-06-01 - 06-09. The services and the amenities were excellent!! The excursions offered provided something for everytone, regardless of one's abilities. There were excursion options for the extremely fit, to the severely handicapped. The excursion prices offered something for people with tight budgets and those who really wanted to spurge. We kept our excursions on the lower to moderate end of the spectrum. Every crew member we came in contact with, was wonderful, friendly and always helpful, especiallly: LEVI-steward deck 12, EDWIN MORENO-waiter, and EDMON PUNSALAN-asst. waiter. These three people made our stay aboard the Island Princess amazing. They went out of their way to make sure we always had everything we needed. Sometimes they even anticipated what we needed BEFORE we asked!! Thank you, Island Princess, for everything Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
I was on the Star Princess's last Alaska Cruise in September with my children and son-in-laws. I came down with the flu the first night out and was sick the entire cruise. Saw nothing to speak of and stayed in my interior ... Read More
I was on the Star Princess's last Alaska Cruise in September with my children and son-in-laws. I came down with the flu the first night out and was sick the entire cruise. Saw nothing to speak of and stayed in my interior cabin. Given past circumstances, I booked the first cruise south from Whittier this season. Ship this time was the Island Princess. This ship is one of Princess older medium class ships. Both it and the Coral Princess were purchased and refitted to cruise the Panama Canal. Coming out of the tunnel at Whittier on the train I immediately saw the difference in the Island Princess. This ship carries around 2300 passengers. The cabins are a bit different than any of the other larger Princess ships I have been on due to not being built especially for Princess. There is only the Princess Theater and Explorers. The Bayou Café doubles as a Cajun cuisine steakhouse and small venue for after dinner drinks. They have a band stand and small dance floor segregated from the dining area. We had the last mini-suite at the back of the ship. Balcony was not quite a big as most other mini-suites I've been in and it was basically a straight room with nothing dividing the sleeping area from the sitting area. Still I got to like this kind of cabin. The balcony curved around the back so that you could actually get a view out the back of the ship. Bath was roomy and there seemed to be more storage space in the way of drawers and cabinets. The cabin did seem to experience more of the ships engine noise and vibration at times. For me this was no issue. Cabin steward was amazing and did a great job the entire cruise. As for Dining I especially liked that the Horizon Court was at the very front of the ship and you could get tables looking out over the bow. There were two serving lines like all other Horizon Courts but there was not as much seating. The pastry cases were placed near the front of the ship between the two serving lines. There was also an expresso machine and small bar which was a very nice touch. One thing I thought would put a damper on things upon first getting onboard was the fact there is no International Café. I did miss not having those delights to get in the morning. Still the La Pasterie had great coffee, expresso and a full bar. It was a great place to decompress upon re-entering the ship after being on shore. I ended up liking this very much. I'm not a big show person but had already seen the Motor City Show on another cruise a couple of years ago. Even though I am a real Motown fan that show did not do much with regard to props and presentation. Can't judge this cruises performers but it was never the performers it was the show that was lacking. Hope Princess can do a little more in the main showroom department going forward. We did excursions in two ports and had excellent weather at both Hubbard Glacier (full sun) and Glacier Bay. No rain on the entire trip. Food quality was good at both Horizon Court and in the main Dining rooms. Sabatini's was our dining of choice with great food (as usual) and sweets to die for. Did not try Bayou Café but heard from others that did it was very good for steaks. Overall I think Princess has Alaska down pat for how to do a cruise and what to see. We did two excursions, One in Skagway(Yukon suspension Bridge) and one in Juneau. The Skagway excursion was thru Princess and we just bought our own tickets on the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau. Both were great trips. The only less than great stop was in Ketchikan. To me it has become the Gatlinburg/Myrtle Beach/Santa Monica of Alaska. Mostly just touristy gitchy stuff. Still did walk around a little as it was nice weather, just a little windy. Overall this was an excellent cruise for me. Please realize I don't expect the sun, moon and stars when taking a cruise. This was an older ship and things will on occasion happen. Service was great, crew very attentive and food good. There were at least three other ships, Holland America Vole dam, Celebrity Solstice, and a Royal Caribbean ship. Juneau saw the most ships at one port. Almost forgot the Star Princess was in Ketchikan going North when we were in port there. I will, if possible, definitely be taking more cruises to Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We had a fantastic time on our Alaskan cruise! We arrived the night before and stayed at The Captain Cook hotel. Nice, large room with a great view. Easy walk to the Egan Center to check in for our transfer to Whitter. We had an hour so ... Read More
We had a fantastic time on our Alaskan cruise! We arrived the night before and stayed at The Captain Cook hotel. Nice, large room with a great view. Easy walk to the Egan Center to check in for our transfer to Whitter. We had an hour so walked around for a little while. The hour and a half drive was nice. Our driver narrated for us. Embarkation was pretty quick. We were given a map of the ship and our cabin info. Security was fast and then on to our cabin. We were in a mini suite D529. Very nice size with lots of room. Even our very large suitcases fit under the bed. We were met by our cabin steward with a very good glass of champagne. The sail away from beautiful. Some of my best pictures were taken that night. We had anytime dining and usually ate at 8:00 or later. Never a wait for a table for two. Reservations were available, but we never needed one. Since we ate late we went to the late shows and could always find a seat. We loved all the ports and excursions. My advice; choose an excursion that gets you out of town and away from the tourist shops. There is so much more to each city. Service was great from everyone we dealt with. Our best sail away was when we were leaving Ketchican. We were in the outdoor spa with a drink, watching the scenery go by and an eagle flying overhead, perfect! Debarkation was the smoothest in ten cruises. We had breakfast, walked off, found our luggage right away and just a ten minute wait for a cab. Now it's time to plan the next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We really enjoyed our Alaskan land/cruise the ship is a bit smaller then a lot of the ships however the staff was friendly and really hustled to be sure the guest experience was a pleasant one. The entertainment was excellent but, I think ... Read More
We really enjoyed our Alaskan land/cruise the ship is a bit smaller then a lot of the ships however the staff was friendly and really hustled to be sure the guest experience was a pleasant one. The entertainment was excellent but, I think they need to run later shows for people who enjoy the night more. The voyage through Glacier Bay was spectacular they had park rangers on board who gave information on the glaciers. We had a balcony room and could see everything from there because the captain rotated the ship so all could see everything. The ports and the excursions were interesting and great fun. The food was good the buffet had a good variety. We did try the speciality restaurants the Bayou cafe was amazing the food was so good. We didn't care for Sabitinis the food in there was ok at best. The lounges were nice we enjoyed the Universal seating it was comfortable with tables for your drinks. The explorer lounge had something going on every night game type things that was fun. Overall we had a fantastic time Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
Star Princess - Voyage of the Glaciers We started our journey at 4 am on a Saturday in mid-September and drove to the Savannah airport. Parking for eight days would cost us $83 at the end of the trip. We flew to Chicago and then walked ... Read More
Star Princess - Voyage of the Glaciers We started our journey at 4 am on a Saturday in mid-September and drove to the Savannah airport. Parking for eight days would cost us $83 at the end of the trip. We flew to Chicago and then walked a mile through O'Hare before a six hour flight to Anchorage. It was then a 90 minute bus ride to Whittier through the strangest tunnel in the world, barely big enough for the bus. Our driver played the theme to "Indiana Jones" as we made the six minute trek. We arrived, got on the Star Princess and sailed that night after an informal dinner in the Portofino dining room. We ate in the dining room three nights, Sabbatini's, an Italian specialty restaurant one night and paid to have a fondue night which was well-worth the price. Two other nights we dined at the buffet which is where we also had breakfast. We also enjoyed the hamburger/hotdog grill on Deck 14 and the ice cream bar. It was so great to go out and enjoy the sights all the time that we rarely stayed in our stateroom. This was our sixth cruise but first with Princess and we were pleased with the service of the room stewards and wait staff. Everyone went out of their way to help at all times. The shows were grand productions with a large cast of singers and dancers. They did two different shows during our seven day cruise. "The British Invasion" was my favorite with lots of familiar songs from the Beatles, The Who, Rolling Stones and Queen just to name a few. There were also comedian Jim Colliton and magician Farrell Dixon who did fun shows that were family-friendly. The temperature was around 50-degrees and it was cloudy most of the time. I recommend a medium, weather-proof jacket with a hood but nothing too bulky. You must remember that you are in a temperate rain forest and you will get a little wet. But just as fog seemed like it would ruin our sightseeing at Glacier Bay, the clouds cleared and gave us great views of the ice and mountains. Blue jeans and sweat pants were the fashion of the day with suits being donned for the two formal nights which were a lot of fun. We got along fine with tennis shoes most of the time. Together, my wife and I took more than 300 photos. A smart phone camera is good when you are in town and around ship, but I recommend a good camera with a good lens for scenic cruising and excursions. The ship is large and it took a couple of days to get used to the layout. Luckily, Princess offers a free intranet that works on your smartphone while you are onboard. The app lets you see the location of venues, informs you of daily events and let's you stay in touch with other passengers via text message. The technology really helped make things easy. The first two days were spent scenic cruising past glaciers and mountains that were truly spectacular. If you can afford it, get a balcony stateroom so you don't have to fight the masses for a good picture. The ship turns so both sides get a great view. If you must go with an interior cabin, you will not feel cheated. Ours was very nice. A Ranger was actually transferred on board to give an interesting briefing on Glacier Bay National Park that was replayed on the ship's TV system. She then stayed aboard to answer questions all day. On Tuesday we docked at Skagway, which is a 10 minute walk from the pier. It had some local shops and interesting buildings and was a nice change of scenery after three days on a ship. That night was the highlight of our cruise. We purchased the Renewal of Vows ceremony through Princess. We arrived at the chapel on Deck 15 and we were blown away! It was decorated perfectly and the Passenger Services Manager and Reggie, our photographer, were there to witness our private ceremony. Captain Vincenzo Lubrano arrived and performed an amazing ceremony that was like a second wedding. Reggie then took us around the ship for photographs. When we finished, we went to 14 aft for a fondue dinner that cost a few dollars extra but reminded me great deal of "The Melting Pot." We returned to chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne in our stateroom with a sign on the door and balloons outside marking our anniversary. The next day in Juneau, we discovered that our float plane excursion was cancelled due to weather. We decided to make the best of it and picked up a private "guaranteed" whale watching boat tour which was great! We saw dozens of humpbacks and the captain of the tour boat even took us to see sea lions relaxing on a buoy. Ketchikan's shops are primarily near the pier so there is less walking. It is a picturesque village of stores and restaurants with lots of excursions available. We opted for a shopping day and relaxed on the ship. Friday was a sea day and we were able to see a few orcas along the way. Farrell Dixon put on the farewell show and everyone prepared to leave. Disembarkation was the smoothest of any ship I have sailed. I woke, had my usual breakfast and then went to my assigned gathering point. We were leaving the ship within 15 minutes and we were through Customs in one hour on a Saturday. I won't dwell on the long journey home through four airports over two days because it is a necessary, and occasionally, fun, part of the vacation. It was the most memorable trip I have ever taken and one that I will remember for the rest of my life. We booked everything through Princess - flights, excursions, cruise - and everything went perfectly. I highly recommend the southbound Voyage of the Glaciers aboard the Star Princess. I would suggest taking the cruise during the spring/summer to see the salmon run and catch the bears before they hibernate. But any time you can get this cruise you should take it! 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Sail Date September 2015
We flew to Fairbanks on Sept. 6th with the hopes of viewing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. We had contacted Ben Boyd, Northern Lights touring company, in order to arrange for a pickup at our hotel at 10:30 p.m. Upon arriving at ... Read More
We flew to Fairbanks on Sept. 6th with the hopes of viewing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. We had contacted Ben Boyd, Northern Lights touring company, in order to arrange for a pickup at our hotel at 10:30 p.m. Upon arriving at the hotel (Best Western Chena River Lodge-excellent choice) we encountered a young woman who said that just the night before, she had been given a wake-up call from the front desk at midnight to view the Aurora. Even with the lights from a shopping center across the street, the brilliant blue and greens could be seen clearly in the sky above the hotel. Ben true to his word, picked us up in his van. On the way out to Chandalay Ranch, a prime viewing chalet about 20 miles away from the Fairbank city lights, we could actually see the formation of the Aurora from the van window. But could not witness their colors as it was not yet dark enough. By the time we got to the ranch, clouds had moved in and we never got to see the Aurora again. But Ben himself is quite a character, and performed an Indian (He's part Navaho) hoop dance to our delight. So the evening was a bit of a disappointment, but not a total loss. Sept. 7th, we opted for the Riverboat Discovery ride down the Chena River. This was a great tour and very informative. We pulled near the bank, but didn't disembark, when we reached the home site and kennels of Susan Buchart, the only woman to win the 1,000 mile Iditarod sled race 3 times. Susan died from cancer several years ago, and now her husband runs the kennels. He was hooked up by both mic & camera to our riverboat, and explained the raising of these remarkable pups. Not Huskys like one would expect, but a mix breed for stamina. He hooked up a team and demonstrated how they pull by running them in front of a wheeled tractor. They then brought the pups down to the river to the enjoyment of all. We also visited a re-created Athabascan indian village where we did disembark and enjoyed several demonstrations. Sept. 8th, we went to the Great Alaskan Salmon Bake, where the food ranged from excellent to very ordinary! The Salmon was grilled over an open fire and was very good, the prime rib was less so, at least the piece that I had. The battered deep fried cod was good also and the salad bar was adequate. You had to go to a separate cabin for coffee and cake, and had to carry both back to your table in the dining hall. A thing that needs to be changed. After dinner we walked across Pioneer Park (which was closed for the season) to a little theater where we thoroughly enjoyed the production of The Golden Heart Review. This was GREAT! With a cast of only 4 people, they kept us in stitches. Our hotel had a $10 pp coupon for the combo dinner and show, so all in all a great evening. Dinner and show for $44. you can't beat that! Sept. 6th. Now for the cruise itself. We flew to Anchorage where Princess picked us up from their booth at the airport to transport us down to the port of Whittier (a little over an hour drive and very scenic) where we literally flew through a short line, received our cruise card and was on the ship in less than 10 min. I must admit that Princess has this down to a science. The entertainment is top notch. We enjoyed the Broadway styled productions and both comedians as well as a magician. Libby Riddles (1st woman to win the Iditarod) was onboard one day to tell about her experience while driving her dogs through a blizzard. Service, including dining room staff and room stewards was great! The food itself ran the gambit from very good to mediocre. Lobster night was everyone's favorite and we were given a healthy portion. Their menu on the left side offered their version of "comfort" foods that you could order if you found nothing you liked from the ever-changing nightly offerings. Even the soups up on the Lido deck left something to be desired. Breakfast was always great and varied. Lunch was just so-so. Sometimes we just opted for salad and a slice of pizza. I've cruised Princess, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and in my estimation, Carnival has the best food by far. Their comfort food menu always offers, meat loaf, fried (yes fried) chicken and steak. But then I'm a meat & taters kind of girl. Princess' pre-made sandwiches up on Lido are on hard crusty bread while Carnival's Deli makes them to order on any bread desired and stacks the meat to the max. There was no sail-away party, no dancing waiters etc. I guess they're more refined. The waiters did a walk through sing along where we waved napkins on the final night. No towel animals on our beds. I guess I've come to expect too much. (or maybe too little, lol) Shore excursions: Skagway we took the ship's offering of the "Ghost and Goodtime girls" walking tour. This was one of our absolute favorite's! Our college student "woman of the night" was a hoot, but also extremely informative about the lives and times of these unfortunate woman, and just what drove them to this profession. We then toured the upstairs "bordello" cribs at the Red Onion and were offered a drink at the end of the tour. In Juneau we took another Ship's excursion to go through an actual closed gold mine. Also very informative and enjoyable. After the excursion into the mine with some actual demonstrations of the machinery used during the 40's, we were allowed to "pan" for gold from a sand and water filled trough. I collected a few flakes which were put into a tiny vial for me to take home. In Ketchikan, we rode the Ducks! Newer versions of the old WWII amphibean crafts. these much improved new versions were retro-fitted to accomodate the ever changing Alaskan temps. We drove through the town learning about the early life of these brave settlers and then finished by taking a dunk into the harbor and touring from the water. It was quite enjoyable. The day we were to view Hubbard glacier was rainy and very windy. We could not get very close to the glacier due to the high winds. We spent the morning running in and out of our cabins to see if we could view it from the balcony, but to no avail. The next day found about 75% of the passengers coughing and sneezing. Nobody I spoke with felt sick, just a horrible head cold. The day that we cruised through Glacier Bay was absolutely beautiful, and I don't care which cruise line you prefer, this particular cruise should be on everyone's "Bucket" list! Alaska has some of the most gorgeos scenery on earth! The ship came to a halt in front of Margeurie glacier (I'm sure I spelled that wrong) It's the 2nd tallest next to Hubbard glacier, towering 260 feet above the water line. All was extremely quiet and you could hear the almost constant cracking of the glacial ice. We saw sort of a mini calving of the glacier, and heard the thunderous roar as it crashed into the sea. We were followed by white dolphins and even had whale sightings as we sailed onward. Upon arrival in Vancouver, our final stop, we disembarked in about 10 minutes using the self-assist method by rolling our own suitcases off the ship. I'm 73 and my sister is 81, and if we can do it, anyone can! It beats looking for your luggage in an auditorium full of luggage. At least I think it does, lol. In Vancouver we could not get a flight to St. Louis which would get us in at a decent time, so opted to stay at the Days Inn Vancouver airport. Land and Seas Tour company picked us up right at the entrance to the pier and took us on a 4 hour tour of Vancouver, which we really enjoyed. With various stops for photo ops, and a 45 min. stop at Granville Island where you could shop the Market place or just sit and listen to street musicians while sipping a coke. The Days Inn at the airport was clean and comfortable but it's in more of an industrial area. It was right next to the Hampton Inn, which I think might have been a better choice. But the price was right and it was o.k. We ate across the street at the Burger King and I enjoyed a combo dinner listed for $5.49 but actually cost about $4.89 which was the final charge to my credit card. The US dollar has a great exchange rate right now. Flew out of Vancouver at 8:50 a.m. and got back home by 5:40 In summary: IF YOU GET A CHANCE TO SEE ALASKA, PLEASE DO! IT'S BEAUTY IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER! Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
I had a wonderful two week vacation in Alaska. Reading some of the reviews, I did feel some trepidation, but it was unfounded. I think some people aren’t happy if they don’t have something to complain about. It's a vacation! ... Read More
I had a wonderful two week vacation in Alaska. Reading some of the reviews, I did feel some trepidation, but it was unfounded. I think some people aren’t happy if they don’t have something to complain about. It's a vacation! Why spend it looking for things you can be upset about? Is that fun? This trip had been planned for over a year, so I had done plenty of research, including Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic. I also read all the information sent by Princess, so I wasn’t caught off guard because of the crowdedness of the Vancouver Airport, because my suitcase was delivered later at some lodges than at others, or that I had to put my luggage out early. I was supposed to travel with a friend who had to cancel at the last minute. I was nervous about not knowing anyone (the CC roll call was not overly friendly), but determined to make the best of it. I flew non-stop to Anchorage two days before the cruisetour began. I arrived in Anchorage about 8:30 pm (3 hour time change) and checked into the Embassy Suites which is a nice hotel. By the time I got the luggage, got the rental car, went back to the rental car counter to report damage to the car, and drove to the hotel it was 10:30 pm. I was hungry and tired and had been up for 21 hours. Fortunately the hotel restaurant was still open and I was able to get a quick dinner before falling asleep on top of the bed, not even unpacking. There are several restaurants very close to the hotel, including a Denny’s, a Village Inn, and Moosetooth Pizza, but since I was so tired, it was nice to just be able to eat there instead of having to go out again. The next day, I drove around Anchorage sightseeing and then did a Sunset Photo Tour with Through The Lens Alaska Photo Treks. It was a great tour. I saw moose and even beluga whales at Beluga Point on Turnagain Arm. The scenery south of Anchorage through Cook Inlet and Turnagain Arm is spectacular. The following morning, I drove down to Girdwood and did a Behind the Scenes tour at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. I was the only person on the tour and it was very interesting. Got some great photos, and got to feed peanuts to a porcupine and pet a baby musk ox. 2015 was the culmination of a 20 year project for them to reintroduce wood bison into their native Alaska range, after being gone for over 100 years. It’s a very interesting story and I like the work they do. In the afternoon, I drove back to the airport, turned in the rental car, and took my luggage up to the baggage claim area to find the Princess representative. I did have to wait quite awhile to get a bus to the Captain Cook Hotel as there weren’t enough people to fill the bus until a couple of flights came in, but at least they were up-front about that; taking my luggage and advising me how long I had to wait. Right from the start, the cruise tour was very organized. Everything was like clockwork. At each hotel/lodge, you were given your room keys as you left the bus, so there was no need to stand in a line to check in. Along with the room key came tickets for any excursions purchased and details on when you had to put out luggage and be ready to depart for the next destination, including the motor coach number right down to the train car # and your seat # on the train. On this cruisetour, I stayed at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, and the Princess lodges at McKinley, Denali, and Copper River. Of the 4, there was only once when it took more than an hour for my luggage to arrive. I was very impressed with Princess and their employees throughout the trip. I never encountered anyone, during the land portion or onboard the ship that was anything other than pleasant, well-informed, helpful, and positive. This was a late in the season cruisetour and southbound cruise on the Coral, but nobody seemed burned out or anxious for it to be over. Kudos to Princess for all their staff, both onboard and on land. Once I got my room key, I went out to walk around downtown Anchorage and buy a couple of things I needed . Later, I walked over to Simon & Seafort’s for a nice Alaskan seafood dinner. My luggage had to be tagged for one bag to “join me onboard” and one to “join me tonight.” It did have to be put out early, but I’m an early riser anyway and with the 3 hour time change, I didn’t have any problems waking in time to do that. The bus to the train station left about 8:15. The train went from Anchorage to Talkeetna and then a motor coach took us on the hour drive from Talkeetna to the McKinley Princess Lodge. The train ride was about 3 hours. Our seats on the train were pre-assigned, so no worries about trying to get a good seat or a window seat. They're all good seats and all have panoramic views. The train cars are two level, your main seating is on the top level with big windows. If you want to eat on the train (or use the restroom), you descend via a very narrow spiral staircase to the lower level. There is also an open air viewing platform. The steward on our train car was Ben, very young and enthusiastic, and full of silly jokes which we all rolled our eyes at. The bar tender was Charles King, also very enthusiastic, and a good singer. He sang several songs, (acapella) including a really nice “What a Wonderful World” at the end. It had been raining in Anchorage the previous day and the rain continued at the McKinley Lodge. There was no view of the mountain whatsoever, it was totally socked in by fog and low clouds. The lodge was nice, my room was fine and the food was fine. We arrived around 1:00 pm. They were making announcements about cancelled excursions on the bus. Due to weather, it sounded like most of the flight-seeing excursions were cancelled. I had booked a walk around Byers Lake in Denali State Park, and there was no problem with that. When I got to my room, my suitcase was already there. The rain had stopped for awhile and it was an interesting tour. I learned a lot about plant life in the Denali area and the tour guide had a real passion for her subject. There were only 3 people on the tour. I only had 1 night at McKinley Lodge and so the next morning it was off to Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, about 2 hours by motor coach. Denali Princess is much bigger than McKinley, with more dining options and quite a few stores on site selling Alaskan artwork and souvenirs. There is also a “strip mall” across the highway, an easy walk, with more souvenir stores, a Subway sandwich shop, a Salmon Bake restaurant, and tour vendors. I was in Building G, which is one of the older buildings. The bathroom was really tiny and the rooms opened onto an outside corridor. This was the least pleasant room that I had, but it was clean and comfortable. I would have preferred to be in one of the newer buildings that would have a window that wasn’t on a corridor, so I could have opened the window at night. I really liked the lodge and the campus though. I enjoyed eating at the pizza restaurant, the breakfast buffet, the grill, as well as browsing in the shops. Also the scenery around the lodge is gorgeous. It is right on a river and the fall colors were out in abundance. I knew that the luggage might not always come as quickly as it did at McKinley, and I had a white water rafting excursion that first afternoon, so I packed clothes and gloves for that in my tote bag. I’m glad I did, as my suitcase didn’t arrive until the evening. The whitewater raft excursion was a lot of fun. I had never been rafting before, and after the “safety talk”, neither I nor some of the other newbies wanted to go anymore! But it was fine and being so late in the season, the water was not high at all. The scenery was great. After the rafting, I went on the evening Husky Homestead excursion, which was a lot of fun too. Jeff King has won the Iditarod 4 times and this is a visit to his place where he raises and trains his dogs. You start out by getting to cuddle puppies and then have a couple of really informative talks about sled dogs and about sled dog racing. Up early the next morning (fortunately the buffet opens at 5:30 am) as I was on the Tundra Wilderness tour with a 7:00 am departure. It was a beautiful fall day, blue sky, no clouds. The “mountain” was out in all its glory for the entire tour, more than making up for missing it at McKinley Lodge. The tour driver, Scott Johnson, was really good. It is a long day on a bus, but the scenery is breathtaking and we had a very good day for animal sightings. Saw moose, caribou, Dall sheep (lots), and grizzly bears – 4-5 of them. He also drove a bit past the normal turn-around point to an overlook where we were only about 35 miles from Mount Denali/McKinley and got great photos. I am very glad that I changed to the Tundra Wilderness Tour instead of the Natural History Tour. I have heard a lot of comments about school buses being used. Yes, they are school buses, but they have plush seats. It was pretty comfortable. There isn’t a restroom on the school bus, but there are frequent rest stops, so that was not a problem. That evening I had a massage at the lodge – unlike on the ship, the price was comparable to what I would pay at home and it was one of the best massages I’ve ever had. The next day we left for the Copper River Princess lodge. Again, it was a long day on a motor coach, but beautiful scenery and we made several stops. It takes nearly a full day as a large part of the drive is on dirt/gravel road (Denali Hwy) and the coach can’t go very fast. The driver, Brent, was very personable and did everything he could to keep us entertained and informed. Lunch stop was at a restaurant outside of Paxson called MacLaren’s which has one of the smallest menus you’ll ever see (choice was tuna sandwich, ham sandwich, turkey sandwich, or soup) but they did have good homemade ice cream (coffee or honey peach on this day) and homemade fruit pies. They are about 200 miles from a grocery store. The Copper River lodge overlooks Wrangell St. Elias National Park, which is the largest national park in the US. Fall colors continued to be at their peak. The first evening there I did some laundry, which saved me from having to do any onboard the ship. I think it was $2 for wash and $1.50 for dry, but I only had one load. One dry cycle was more than enough. The next day I didn’t have any excursions, but spent the entire day hiking the various trails around the lodge – I think I hiked 5 of the 6. In the afternoon, went to the National Park and did more hiking there. There is a shuttle that costs $5 and will take you to the town of Copper Center (about 45 year round residents) or to the National Park. The Copper River Lodge is smaller than the others, but it’s very special. The manager came onto the bus before we unloaded to welcome us and to especially welcome any veterans. There is a special flag ceremony for veterans each evening. The room was very nice and everyone working there had a great welcoming attitude. The scenery is stunning. The next morning we left for the ship. It is about a 3 hour motor coach ride to Valdez and then a 4 hour catamaran ride across Prince William Sound to Whittier. We got to Valdez about 11:00 am and Brent drove us around the town pointing out the various choices for lunch. He dropped people off for lunch and then picked them up after. The catamaran left about 12:30. By then the clouds had turned into rain and wind, so the boat ride was not as fun as I had expected. Nobody wanted to be up on the outside decks in the rain and wind, so it was crowded in the inside cabin and with all the bodies, the windows kept steaming up, so you couldn’t really enjoy any scenery. It was a long 4 hours. When we arrived in Whittier, it was very windy and raining hard. Princess had put up canopies to cover us from the coach to the terminal, but the rain was blowing in the sides. Embarkation only took 10 or 15 minutes and my luggage arrived within a few minutes of me getting to my cabin. I had an aft mini-suite on Dolphin deck. Jimmy was my cabin steward. I have seen his name mentioned in other reviews and I agree that he was a delight. Always smiling, remembered my name from the start, always had a greeting when he saw me and was very prompt in tidying the room. I had no problems with Coral Princess. I never had an issue with the toilets not flushing correctly or with any smells. The cabin had plenty of storage room, I was able to put my luggage in the closet and there was plenty of shelf space. The bathroom was fine. Having a bathtub was nice. The water did drain a little slowly from the tub, but not anything that caused me a problem. The balcony had 3 chairs and a small table. I liked the cabin and the ship a great deal. Some people mentioned that it was an older ship in need of an update, but I thought it was very attractive. Every day I saw workers painting and cleaning. The cruise was fully booked, but the ship very rarely seemed crowded. The decks were crowded on the Glacier Bay day, of course, and a couple of times the Horizon Court was so busy that it was hard to find a table, (embarkation night in particular) but in general, you would not know there were close to 2000 people on board. I walked the stairs the entire cruise, so I don’t know how it was waiting for elevators, but I rarely noticed groups of people waiting. I usually ate dinner between 7:15 and 7:45 pm and never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a table, however, I was always willing to share a table. I think that makes it faster than if you specifically want a table for 2, for 4, etc. The food was fine. It wasn’t the best food I’ve ever eaten, but it was quite good and I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the pizzeria. The soft ice cream was nice. I bought a beverage card so had milk shakes at no charge there as well. I ate in the Horizon Court for dinner 2 nights and in the Bordeaux dining room (anytime dining) the other 5. I particularly enjoyed the night when they had lobster and prawns. The steak medallions (available every night) were also delicious. I did room service breakfast several days and it was promptly delivered. It was convenient on mornings when I had an early excursion. The burger grill was good. I did the ploughman’s lunch on one sea day and enjoyed that. I didn’t eat at any of the specialty restaurants. I enjoyed the selections in the Horizon Court. At lunch and dinner, it was different every day. They had some things the same but there was always a variety. I was a little disappointed in the Horizon Court desserts. Several times they had very nice looking desserts in a glass display that could only be reached by an attendant. Other desserts would be available for self-service, but frequently there wouldn’t be an attendant handy and so no way to get the desserts in the display case. I had excursions on all the port days. I’m surprised how much I didn’t do on the ship, but after the land tour and full port days, I spent a lot of time just relaxing, sitting by the pool or on the balcony. I was also fighting a cold the entire cruise, so that contributed to not being as active as I would have liked. I didn’t go to any production shows or movies and only one comedian, who was OK. I did buy the week long pass to the Thermal Suite and really enjoyed it. The steam rooms were enjoyable and I loved the heated stone loungers. A heated stone lounger doesn’t sound comfortable, but believe me, it was. I also walked several miles a day on the Promenade Deck. The gym was always crowded in the morning, but wide open the rest of the time. I didn’t buy anything in the stores, but enjoyed browsing the daily sales. I didn’t feel the sale pitches were excessive, other than there being lots of paper advertisements in the cabin every day. However, I didn’t go to any of the schedules “activities” that are really sales pitches in disguise. In Skagway, I did a van tour up to the Klondike/Yukon. It was my least favorite excursion. The weather didn’t help at all as it was very windy and raining. The various stops for photos weren’t much fun because of that. However, the tour guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the Gold Rush and I learned a lot. In the afternoon I took the tour to Kroschel’s Wildlife Center. Other than the rudeness of some of the fellow passengers, I loved the tour. Very interesting and loved seeing the animals. However, some of the passengers were very rude about trying to get their photographs. Obviously everyone wants to get a good photograph, but I had people pushing in front of me and elbowing me aside as they zoomed in with their $5,000 lens, which in theory, would have enabled them to get the shot from a quarter of a mile away. The drive along the Chilkoot River in Haines to the center was absolutely beautiful. The fall colors in Skagway, Haines, and Juneau were spectacular. In Juneau, I went on the photo tour that included a whale watch and the Mendenhall Glacier. This is offered by Gastineau Guiding Company, although I purchased it through Princess. It was an excellent tour with only 13 people. The guide, (Brian, I think) gave a wonderful lecture on photography (i.e., taking your camera off the auto setting) with powerpoint presentation while we were enroute to the whale watching boat. That was followed with a DVD at the end which included the same information for home reference. The whale watching boat had windows that swung up and out so that your picture taking wasn’t impeded by the windows. We saw a lot of whales, but at a distance. I was having a lot of problems with my camera, so I didn’t get very good whale pictures, but others did. We also saw porpoises and Stellar sea lions. I had been more excited about the whale watch than about the Mendenhall Glacier, but I underestimated the glacier. It was very enjoyable and I wish we had more time there than the allotted 75 minutes. We walked the “Trail of Time” to the glacier. It is a beautiful walk. There was a rainbow over the glacier and while we were taking pictures of that, a black bear walked out of the woods. After the tour, I ate at Tracy’s King Crab Shack – yum. Then just wandered around the souvenir stores. Lots of good deals on T-shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts. Ketchikan was the big splurge day- two flight seeing trips. We were lucky enough to have a rare sunny day in Ketchikan. The morning trip was to Neets Bay to see black bears. I had never been in a float plane before. I loved it. When we arrived at Neets Bay, we were greeted by a salmon hatchery employee who showed us the hatchery and explained how it works, as she led us out to the stream where the bears are. When we got there, there was nothing but seagulls and eagles. You are very close to the stream and there aren’t any fences or walls to keep the bears and people apart. After about 10 minutes a bear appeared, waded into the stream, and immediately caught a salmon. Altogether there were 3 bears, which isn’t a lot, but it was incredible to be so close to them and to watch them. I got fantastic pictures. On the trail back to the float plane, we saw a bear den, a tree with bear claw marks, as well as fresh scat and gnawed up salmon carcasses, so you really do have bears all around you. The afternoon trip was flight seeing the Misty Fjords. It was also a great trip. This one was Taquan Air, where the Neets Bay was ProMech. Both flights were very smooth and the pilots both skilled and personable. On the Misty Fjords flight, the plane lands in a fjord and you have the opportunity to scramble out and stand on the pontoon, which was a lot of fun. Unfortunately there were a lot of sick people throughout the cruise tour. We didn’t have Norovirus or any other type of stomach virus, but a lot of people arrived on the cruise tour with colds, which was frustrating. I spent a lot of time fighting off a cold after being around people on buses and trains that were sneezing and coughing. Once I got home, I did get sick. On the ship, Princess did what they could; they had hand sanitizers everywhere and enforced their use in the buffet and dining rooms. I overheard talk that some passengers with fevers had been quarantined. We had to answer a questionnaire before boarding about our health; obviously some people were fibbing. I know that you don’t want to cancel a big trip because you have a cold, but it’s certainly annoying for other people that don’t want to become ill and are basically trapped in close quarters, such as an all day motor coach ride, where you can’t get away from all the viruses being spread by the non-stop sneezing and coughing. We disembarked in Vancouver. I had been told not to make a flight reservation that was earlier than 3.5 hours after disembarkation and I quickly saw why. Vancouver doesn’t have freeways, so the coach ride from the pier to the airport, in morning rush hour traffic, took about 45 minutes. There was a long wait to get your luggage as Princess unloaded it, but in their usual fashion, it was very organized. You were queued up a long time as they allowed each disembarkment group (you’re grouped by color codes) to go in their turn, but that did mean that once it was your turn to find your luggage, you were only looking through a few dozen bags instead of hundreds. I was able to clear Canadian customs while on the ship, but getting through check in (even with a pre-printed boarding pass) and then security and then US customs, was probably over an hour. For Vancouver flights into the US, you don’t drop your bags with the airline. You have to have the airline staff look at your boarding pass and ID, then you have to go past the airline counter, with your bags and take them to security. Once through security, you put your bags into a big scanning machine to be checked and then you head to US customs. Altogether it took about 3.5 hours from walking off ship to arriving at the airplane gate. It was annoyingly slow, but people should realize that when there are multiple cruise ships disembarking 2000+ passengers at the same time, that it is going to clog up the airport. Same thing with the luggage. No matter when you put your luggage out that final night, they still can’t begin offloading it until they arrive in Vancouver (which was about 7:00 am), so your bags aren’t going to be available the minute you get off the ship. Overall, it was the trip of a lifetime. Princess was extremely organized throughout. I had no problems with them. All the tour guides were very good and provided lots of information. I enjoyed all the tours, all the lodges, and the ship. I am glad that I chose to do the land tour first and then the cruise. While the scenery gets better as you cruise north, I felt that was outweighed by getting on the ship after a busy week on land. It would have felt more disruptive to me to have to start packing bags, putting bags outside, and moving from lodge to lodge after the week of cruising. It was also great to have the two sea days to start the cruise and have a chance to unwind after all the activities I did on the land tour. I won’t hesitate to cruise on Princess again. I’m already thinking of doing Alaska again next year. Read Less
Sail Date September 2015
We did a land tour first and then a seven night cruise southwards of the Inside Passage on the Pacific Princess. This was our first cruise and we are now hooked. The land tour which was also organised by Princess was well planned, we had a ... Read More
We did a land tour first and then a seven night cruise southwards of the Inside Passage on the Pacific Princess. This was our first cruise and we are now hooked. The land tour which was also organised by Princess was well planned, we had a great Tour Director with us who was very knowledgable and helpful, and we felt we learned a great deal about life in Alaska. The boarding process at Anchorage was well organised and we enjoyed being on a smaller ship of 670 passengers and around 300 crew. Food was excellent, particularly the buffet, the staff were attentive and cheerful, entertainment and presentations were also great and there were also lots of viewing areas on the boat without feeling too crowded. Our inside cabin 8036 was also great, plenty of storage, quiet, comfy bed and pillows and a lovely cabin steward. Good value for money as we were only in it to sleep. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on Pacific Princess and would recommend to others. Read Less
Sail Date August 2015
This cruise was part of a land tour/cruise package from Princess. We had planned on a cheaper cruise in September, but fortunately booked this cruise while on another Princess Cruise. The Future Cruise Host on that ship quickly convinced ... Read More
This cruise was part of a land tour/cruise package from Princess. We had planned on a cheaper cruise in September, but fortunately booked this cruise while on another Princess Cruise. The Future Cruise Host on that ship quickly convinced us we were far better off taking this earlier cruise. The land portion of our tour was eight days, two each in four different Princess lodges. I will not review it here, as this is a cruise review, but I will say it was absolutely outstanding, and we hope to do it again. We boarded the Coral in Whittier, AK, with almost no wait. It was about 11:30, so we headed straight to Horizons for a buffet lunch. Princess has spent a great deal of thought and money in improving their buffet on the Royal and Regal, but I could not tell for sure if they had done the same on the Coral. The food was above average for buffet food. By 12:30 we were able to get into our stateroom, D726 on Dolphin Deck, deck 9. We wanted a balcony on the port side for views during our cruise south, and this was the last available when we booked. I guess I should say this was our 9th cruise with Princess, on many different ships. The Coral was the smallest we had been aboard, and one of the oldest. But the ship, like every Princess ship we have been aboard, was immaculately maintained and gave no clue of her age. Our steward, Jimmy, was one of the best we’ve ever had, but I caution that stewards come and go, future cruisers may not get him. But, that said of our 9 previous Princess cruises we have only gotten one steward who did not deserve an extra tip in my opinion. The room was a standard Princess Mini Suite, clean and well maintained. A bonus was our proximity to a deck spanning the entire ship at the rear, just outside our stateroom. The ship itself gave us no feeling of being any smaller than the Crown or Royal series of ships. Princess is outstanding in providing no sense of being crowded, even on a fully booked ship, as this was. We found the public areas and restaurants to be open and airy. We selected Any Time Dining, and only had to wait for seating one time, and then for about 15 minutes. The food was perhaps the best we have ever experienced on Princess, honestly a rare feat since Princess generally does a good job in the food department. I believe it was the Executive Chef who made the difference. It was obvious he liked his staff, and they liked him. They were really committed to excellence. The one disappointment out of 24 meals was with their eggs benedict, which had been under the heat lamp so long to the point where the hollandaise was dry. The Matre D wine tasting was unusual in that two of the wines sampled were in the $100 per bottle range. This is an extra cost event, generally $25 per person, but with a coupon giving a 20% discount in the coupon book in your room on check-in. What made this so unusual is that Princess offered a package of a bottle each of the last three wines tasted for $139. The price list showed these wines normally going for $237! They were excellent! When combined with Princess’ policy of storing wine for you and delivering your bottles to any dining room, any time, at no charge, this was a great deal. In Glacier Bay, Princess boarded Park Rangers to give talks and answer questions, along with narrating the views and spotting wildlife while in the park. They were excellent, and really enhanced the experience. I should note that Princess is careful to turn the ship so each side gets a great view of the scenery. We spotted seals and whales in abundance. The ports were all interesting and unique. Skagway could easily be a movie set. The ship docks within easy walking distance from downtown, although a shuttle is available a $2 p/p each way, or $5 p/p for a day pass for unlimited use. Our excursion for the day was the railroad trip, which was great, with outstanding views. Juneau is bigger, but stores are right off the ship. Our excursion here was the Mendenhall Glacier Park, a fish hatchery, and a salmon bake. The glacier and hatchery did not disappoint. The salmon bake fell a little short in my opinion, but was still an experience I would recommend. Ketchikan was our final stop. There we took a boat trip into a wildlife park, including a demonstration of how Dungeness crabs are caught. The weather wasn’t very cooperative, but the bald eagles sure were. We saw more there that the rest of the trip combined. The crab fest included was simply sensational! It was easy to walk around the downtown area, and the stores are worth checking out. When the dreaded night came, the night we had to pack for departure, Princess used their usual efficiency in providing clear written instructions. This is the time for special commendations for crewmembers and leaving special tips. Princess adds $12 p/p per day for mini-suite and above passengers for general tips (alcohol has its own 15% added to each bill for wine stewards and bar tenders). I think the crew works very hard for their respective shares and consider this a baseline amount at best. Disembarkation in Vancouver could not have been easier. This is not surprising given Princess’ attention to details. Our group was scheduled to leave the ship at 9:40, and we were right on time. From the time we left the lounge until we had cleared customs and collected our luggage was about 15 minutes. My wife and I have agreed this is a cruise we will repeat in the future, definitely with Princess, hopefully on the Coral. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
Our 4th cruise to Alaska and we stayed prior to our sail date in Anchorage at the Captain Cook Hotel as part of our Princess package with hotel and transfers to the ship. The hotel was very nice, Anchorage is an easy town to walk about and ... Read More
Our 4th cruise to Alaska and we stayed prior to our sail date in Anchorage at the Captain Cook Hotel as part of our Princess package with hotel and transfers to the ship. The hotel was very nice, Anchorage is an easy town to walk about and the transfer to the ship was well organized. We arrived in Whittier about 1:00 and went thru the Preferred Boarding area in less than 10 minutes. We were in e728, Emerald deck, mini suite w/ extended balcony port side. The cabin is a standard Princess mini suite and though clean, the furniture has definitely seen better days. The furniture on the balcony was a mishmash collection of different styles and shapes. The food on the ship in the main dining rooms was good and we have the only time we had issues with the food on Princess was aboard the Royal. We chose traditional dining at 7:45 in the Botticelli dining room and the wait service was impressive. We also had the usual Horizon Court fare, pizza from Alfredo's and burgers and dogs from the grill. Overall the staff on this ship was accommodating and friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed our trip back to Alaska. Skagway - We have done most of the excursions here before so we just shopped and had a great lunch of halibut at the Skagway Fish Company restaurant located next to the cruise dock. Ketchikan - Shopped and went to the Lumberjack show. We just enjoy this show so much and it never disappoints. Juneau- Took the Mendenhall Glacier tour, salmon hatchery and Glacier gardens. Very interesting and our bus driver / guide was the best! The itinerary of this cruise was nice. Long days in the ports and just an overall nice experience. The Grand is still a solid ship but is showing her age here and there however we would not hesitate to sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was my first cruise on Princess and my first trip to Alaska. I am a middle-aged female and was traveling with a middle-aged female friend. We selected Princess based upon my travel agent's recommendation. We decided on the ... Read More
This was my first cruise on Princess and my first trip to Alaska. I am a middle-aged female and was traveling with a middle-aged female friend. We selected Princess based upon my travel agent's recommendation. We decided on the Pacific Princess for its small size - approximately 680 passengers. We flew to Anchorage on July 1, 2015 and landed at 10:30 p.m. The Princess rep was waiting for us at baggage claim and we, along with others, were transported to the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. The hotel is conveniently located in downtown Anchorage and there is complementary wi-fi. Our room, with two queen beds, was extremely comfortable and we had a view of downtown Anchorage. We were very pleased with our room and service at this hotel. We had arranged for an extra night in Anchorage to sightsee in Anchorage on July 2nd. Two restaurant recommendations in Anchorage: Breakfast - The Red Chair Café, 337 E. 4th Avenue and Dinner - The Rustic Goat, 2800 Turnagan Street. You can walk to The Red Chair Café from the hotel, but you will need transportation from the hotel (and reservations) for The Rustic Goat. July 3rd we departed on a Princess land tour for the next three days - DIY (Do It Yourself). On this land tour, Princess provides the transportation and lodging and one is responsible for paying for food and arranging for excursions, if desired, although Princess does provide a selection of excursions from which to choose. We stayed at the Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge (one night) and the Princess Denali Lodge (two nights). The lodges were magnificent and the food prices reasonable. We booked through Princess the Sun Dog Kennel excursion in Talkeetna and the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali National Park and enjoyed both excursions. We boarded the Pacific Princess at approximately 4 p.m. on July 6th in Whittier after arriving via a Princess coach. Embarkation was quick and efficient. The Pacific Princess is a lovely small ship and I knew as soon as I boarded, this would be a special cruise. The ship is quite easy to learn due to its size. It's comfortable and I soon found that one of my favorite places during the cruise was the Pacific Lounge, on Deck 10, where I could occasionally sit and watch the scenery as well as listen to the naturalist's commentary (which was able to be heard here, outside on Decks 9 and 10 and in your cabin via the television). The naturalist on board as well as the enrichment activities really made this cruise special. Understanding and receiving information on what we were seeing made this cruise so much more enjoyable than just watching the scenery as we sailed. Additionally, when we cruised through Glacier Bay National Park, park rangers were onboard with commentary and activities. Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod, came onboard in Juneau and gave an hour lecture. Jeff Schultz, the Official Iditarod Photographer, was also onboard. The enrichment activities available were outstanding. As this is a small ship, there is only one main dining room and it is traditional seating only, at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. We had the first seating and I was very pleased with the service and the food in the main dining room. We were at a table for six. I had dinner in the main dining room and two breakfasts and did not go to either of the specialty dining venues, Sabatini's (Italian/Mediterranean) and Cagney's (steak). The food the two days I ate at the Panorama Buffet for lunch was good. Pizza is available from a small pizzeria counter in the buffet area and there are hamburgers, etc. available from a grill outside on Deck 9. I did not visit these venues, nor did I go to afternoon tea which is available every afternoon. The entertainment is in the Cabaret Lounge. I enjoyed the entertainment which was a few small production shows, a comedian, instrumentalist and a comedian/juggler. The quality of entertainment was good for the size of the ship, demographics on the ship and the space size. There was also a singer/musician , "Yukon Jerry" who performed in some of the smaller areas of the ship and was popular with the passengers. Activities on the ship were the standard cruise ship activities, ballroom and line dancing lessons, bingo, etc. There was a Klondike party and a 50's-60's party in the Pacific Lounge two evening which were fun and I attended both. There is a small casino on Deck 5 that I passed through occasionally, but didn't spend any time there. There is a spa on board and I used the thalassotherapy pool to soak in one day. It was too cold for the main pool to be used, although I did see a few children in it one day when it was in the low 60's as well as a few adults in the hot tubs. There are fitness classes available and a jogging track which I used to walk and get some exercise. The ports were Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. I did a shore excursion through Princess at each port: Skagway: White Pass & Yukon Route Railway Juneau: Mendenhall Glacier, Salmon Hatchery and Salmon Bake Ketchikan: Totem Bight State Park and Lumberjack Show All of the excursions were excellent and also allowed me to spend additional time in each port. The demographics on this ship was 50+ There were only a handful of children on board. I can't comment on the children's program (if any), but this ship is not really focused on activities for children and a different ship would probably be a better choice for children. Disembarkation was by color coded tags that were placed on luggage the night before. It was very efficient and quick. We transferred via Princess coach to the Westin Bayshore in Vancouver as we had a two night post-cruise Vancouver/Victoria package with Princess. Summary: It was all about the destination for me -Alaska! Loved this cruise, the service and ship. I would sail with Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
This was our 4th Princess cruise, 9th overall. After a 4 night Alaska land tour, we boarded the ship in Whittier. A unique experience was having "Princess Cruise Ladies" board the train from Denali and process our documents so ... Read More
This was our 4th Princess cruise, 9th overall. After a 4 night Alaska land tour, we boarded the ship in Whittier. A unique experience was having "Princess Cruise Ladies" board the train from Denali and process our documents so when we arrived at Whittier, our cruise cards were delivered (before we exited the train) and we walked directly onto the ship. We loved the new Royal Princess but we like smaller ships that have the "old cruising feel". The ship was nicely decorated (not over the top glitzy), and it was easy to find our way around. Our favorite viewing spot was forward deck 11 (just below the bridge) where the naturalist often reported from. We had late seating in Provence dining room by the window - fabulous service, fun new friends, and beautiful scenery (we had to close the curtains sometimes because the sun was so high and strong even at 8:30). The food was very good to fabulous. I have never had king crab legs slit in half making it too easy to enjoy 2 plates. We went to all the shows and enjoyed all of them (3 big shows, magician, comedian). Being fans of nature and wildlife, we also went to all the naturalist talks and special guest talks. Sea days were fabulous for glacier viewing and wildlife. We watched from our balcony when our side of the ship was turned toward the glaciers (with our TV set to channel 41 so we could hear naturalist Mark Harris commentating), then went to the front of deck 11 when the ship was turned so the other side faced the glaciers. Binoculars are a must for this cruise. Excursions We research and use local tour providers when cost is less and/or tour groups are smaller. In Skagway, we booked with Chilkoot Tours for a White Pass Railway/van trip to Yukon. I can't speak highly enough about this tour! We had our own railway car with 4 others then a van trip continuing on into the Yukon, lunch and trip back to Skagway. Using local, smaller tours allow the driver/guide to stop for a bear and personal preferences. In Juneau, Harv & Marv Whale Watching provided a small (6 passenger) boat for the same trip as the cruise ship big boat whale watching trips. My only complaint was the shorter time in Juneau so that we did not get enough time at Mendenhall Glacier. If you want this tour, book EARLY in the day for whale watching so you will have time to stay at the glacier afterwards. We wished the ship was in port LONGER! Ketchikan - best souvenir shopping (we had heard this and it was true). Big splurge for us - Alaska Seaplane to Misty Fjord! Absolutely wonderful bucket list experience. It was not scary, just beautiful. We landed on a lake with a loon and bear tracks on the shore. Disembarkation in Vancouver Since we were taking a red eye to Atlanta at 10:00pm, we took a Princess Stanley Park/Canyon Walk excursion and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Having been to Vancouver MANY years ago, we concentrated on the park. If you haven't been to Vancouver before, there are many other choices to see this beautiful city and surrounding area as well. Random comments - Do land tour first!!! Loved Mt. McKinley Lodge and Chulitna River Raft! Upgrade Denali tour to 8 hour tour from 4 hour tour to see wildlife and scenery (Denali Subway is open 24 hours a day so you can order lunch for the tour). Read Less
Sail Date July 2015
The grandparents offered to watch the kids so my husband and I could go on a vacation this summer. We've been on several cruises, and my husband has never been to Alaska, so we figured it was time. We flew into the Anchorage airport ... Read More
The grandparents offered to watch the kids so my husband and I could go on a vacation this summer. We've been on several cruises, and my husband has never been to Alaska, so we figured it was time. We flew into the Anchorage airport the morning before the cruise. It's a small but lovely airport. Friends who were visiting Anchorage for several weeks picked us up from the airport later in the morning and we had a wonderful drive, where we stopped to see Dall sheep up in the mountains, got photos of Turnagain Arm, and visited Potter Marsh. As we drew closer to Whittier, one of our friends' children pointed out a glacier, which was actually Portage Glacier. We stopped and walked on a wonderful trail, saw a beautiful creek, and got closer to the glacier. Finally, we arrived at the Whittier Tunnel. It's $12 to get through and we waited about 20 minutes. It was a non-cruise day, so it was pretty quiet. We had booked a room at the Inn at Whittier because we were a bit nervous about any airplane connection issues. We arrived into the town around 12:00, so we enjoyed a lunch with our friends in the Inn. The views from the restaurant are lovely and the food was plentiful and very good. All of the restaurants in town cost more than what you'll find in most towns in the lower 48. We walked around town with our friends and visited the little museum over by the Anchor Inn. In addition, we found a really lovely waterfall and rushing creek, up past the Begich Towers. Our friends left after a while, and we checked into the hotel. It's a lovely exterior, with excellent views of the mountains and the Prince William Sound. The price was very reasonable compared to Anchorage hotels. The rooms are average, but very clean, and the bathroom was nice. It's a very quiet hotel, and the town is incredibly quiet. You might get bored, but we enjoyed sleeping, watching the trains come in and walking around the tiny town. They have free wi-fi for guests, and we were able to go back in after checking out to check our internet. The cruise terminal is right next to the hotel, just past the creek. You can walk to the ship from the hotel, pulling your bags. We were actually the second people to check in, around 12:15 was when they let us check-in. You do not drop off luggage like at Miami or Ft. Lauderdale; rather you walk it to a "drop" or just take it right onto the ship, which we did (maybe because there was really nobody in front of us). They had a nice lunch buffet ready when we got on to the ship. It was surprisingly quiet during the embarkation time. For the first day, we were being pushed to buy wine packages, drink packages and other things. It died down by the end of the second day. I had heard it was really bad, but honestly, once you got through the first day, it was better. All rooms are ready for guests by the time they start check-in. We were able to get off of the ship after checking in. The ship didn't leave until around 8 pm. The ship is a pretty good size. It's not enormous like the huge RCL ships, but was big enough that people were not on top of one another. It was very clean throughout. I found it to be a bit dated in some places, although I am pretty sure it was refurbished just a few years ago. I noticed some rust in a few spots, more so than I saw on our last cruise. In addition, there appeared to be a couple of leaks in the conservatory pool area. Crew members were constantly wiping down and cleaning the public areas. It seems like different lines draw different people. This particular ship had a surprising number of families; nothing like RCL or Carnival’s longer cruises, but there were many more than when I went to Alaska years ago. Dining in the main dining rooms was very casual the first night. It was open seating, and people were wearing shorts and jeans. However, on following nights, people dressed up more in the dining room. Formal night was very dressy; not tuxes or anything, but no sloppiness, and many pretty dresses and nice suits. A lot of people wore jeans during the day. It’s chilly out there, and jeans are comfortable. The crowd was somewhat older, like people who are just retiring or nearing retirement. This crowd was not as advanced in age as HAL. We saw some multigenerational families. Most of the people are very nice and happy to be on the cruise. They tended to be really positive; not too many grouches, though one older guy was upset he had to wait in line for ice cream and another woman was in a tizzy in the dining room about something. This cruise attracts some people who appear to be from Asian countries, and some of them were pretty pushy, and they didn’t really acknowledge others. However, I think that part of that is cultural. People, including myself, did get annoyed by the pushiness, however. If you are a party animal, I’d suggest going for something like Carnival. If you want lots and lots of families, then maybe Royal Caribbean or Disney. However, it really was a good mix of people, and was a nice well -mannered group, overall. There was a very large number of bars, which to me, is unnecessary. The casino was terribly smoky, and there was even an outdoor smoking area. That seemed to be over the top to me. Probably the main thing I disliked on this cruise was the smoke that seemed to permeate in various areas of the ship. The air on the ship seemed to be very dry, especially in the cabins. My husband and I had sore throats and coughed a lot in our room, especially if the heat was on. Maybe it’s because I live in south Florida, I don’t know. They had a few spots where it was like a “dead end,” which was kind of strange. I think it was due to the layout of the dining rooms. There were at least four pools, and several hot tubs, which is a plus on an Alaskan cruise. Our rooms was just down the hall from the laundromat, and so we did a couple of loads of laundry on the trip, which helps, since you have to pack heavier clothing. It’s $2 for a wash, and $2 for dry. The drier didn’t get everything very dry one of the times. It seemed better to have MORE clothes in it, rather than less. They will give you change at the front desk; the change machine didn’t work for me. Bring clips to air dry any clothes on the clothes line in the shower, or just hang the damp items on the hanger, and they’ll get dry pretty quick with all that dry air. I thought that they had a laundry list of activities. At least, that’s how the daily informational brochure appeared to me. Lots of trivia, karaoke, practices for a flute group, practices for a guest singing group, , et. Unlike a line such as Carnival, there were no hairy chest competitions or great leg competitions. I really didn’t participate in activities because there was a lot to see when cruising, and when we were in a town, we went out on the town. One activity I always enjoy is the galley tour. They had a really good cooking show in the Princess Theater immediately before the galley tour. The show was very entertaining with the head chef and head maître d cooking and bantering back and forth. The maître d was hilarious. The galley tour walked us through a very clean, very large kitchen. It was not nearly as interesting to go through as the one I went on when I travelled with Holland America. However, it was a free activity, while some ships actually now charge. There was a good bit of “enrichment,” as one might call it. The naturalist on board did an excellent job. She gave a couple of presentations, and advertised when she’d be outside on the front of the ship for nature watching. During those times, people would look out for various animals, point them out, and she’d talk about them, along with the area itself. They had some rangers come on board during a day at sea, and they presented a program, and were available during our time there in Glacier Bay. They even had a Jr. Ranger program for the kids and youth. My husband and I found the service to be excellent. Our room steward, Jimmy M., was probably one of the best we have had out of our 14 or so cruises together. He quickly learned when we’d be in or out of the room, and followed the schedule and just did a lovely job. No towel animals here, just a heads up! Dining Room service in the Botticelli, where we ate each night was excellent. Our waiter, Amado, and assistant waiter, John, were both great. They learned in a day what we liked and brought it almost immediately. They were very friendly, and efficient. We like to take our time on a cruise, so the timing of each course was really good. I never felt “forgotten” witht hem. What I liked on this cruise was that ALL of the waiters in our dining area were friendly, and I noticed that they helped one another out when needed. Sometimes, on some ships, if a server is not assigned to you, then he or she just totally ignored you. However, on this ship, they were extremely friendly. Service in the buffet area was good. They brought your drink to you during lunchtime; we never ate there for dinner. Sometimes, I got my own refills from the server’s station. Another thing that really stood out was the headwaiters in the dining rooms of the ships. Antonio, our headwaiter in the Botticelli, always came through and checked on each table, every night. He had a good sense of humor, and seemed to communicate with the servers well. Arturo, the headwaiter in the DaVinci, where breakfast and lunch were (open seating) learned that my husband likes a “table for two,” and was very nice about remembering that and making sure we got one. He was really funny and I saw him smooth the ruffled feathers of a couple of grouchy guests, without embarrassing the servers. The service seemed rather slow at the guest services desk. It was often covered by three workers, when there was a very long line there. They might want to talk with Holland America about keeping that line moving better. Overall, great service on the ship, though. The itinerary was wonderful on this trip. We had two days at sea, but there’s so much to see! First, there was the Hubbard Glacier, where our ship went up as close as possible. We spent THREE hours outside as the ship drew nearer and nearer and eventually idled near the glacier. We saw a few seals, some ice floes, and a little bit of “calving.” The glacier had beautiful colors and was massive. The naturalist was there, sharing the whole time. For the day in Glacier Bay, we went to Margarie Glacier, which was smaller, but I got great photos. There was a lot of calving at this glacier. We saw kayakers, a whale on the way there, otters, a few seals, and several eagles. The panoramic views were outstanding. When we went to the John Hopkins Inlet, there are five glaciers there, though some are receding. They don’t get very close to John Hopkins glacier, due to the seals living there. Lamplugh Glacier had a lot of silt. There were many pretty waterfalls in the area, and some beautiful rock formations. Be sure to have layers to wear when near the glaciers, as it can get very chilly, especially at Hubbard Glacier. Skagway was the first port we stopped in. There are some nice trails here that are easily accessible. In addition, there are lots and lots of lovely flowers and gardens. Be sure to go by the Naitonal Park Service Visitor Center for information. I actually printed out a map and walking tour online before leaving for our trip, which was helpful. It’s a nice town to walk through. A lot of people went on the train and raved about it. The people working in Skagway were very positive and nice. In Juneau, we were docked at the A&J Dock, which was the furthest from town, so it’s a good 15 minute walk into town. If you are not a strong walker, or get tired, I’d suggest the $3 all day shuttle. We just walked, but if we had our kids, we might have sprung for the shuttle. We saw several eagles, and gargantuan crows/ravens as we walked into town. I would highly recommend going to Mendenhall Glacier while in Juneau. It’s very lovely and quite impressive. You can get a shuttle, $10 per person each way, for about a 20 minute ride. Or, if you want to pinch pennies, get a city bus, $2 per person each way for about a 45 minutes ride. Only problem with that is you will walk 1.5 miles from the bus stop to the glacier visitors’ center. We did the city bus in and shuttle out. Some of the people of Juneau seemed sort of depressed or down on their luck. Ketchikan was our favorite town to visit. Our ship was right in town, at Berth 1. If you like walking a town, go to the Visitor Center at 131 Front Street. You’ll go through an area where they sell tours, and at the other end, find the desk where people work for the visitor center, and will give you a really nice walking tour map. They were happy to give us information. I really wanted to go to Totem Bight State Park ($2 all day city bus pass; 20 minute ride to the park) but we didn’t. I was there years ago and loved it. You can find a nice trail/totem guide for the park on their website. Anyhow, we did a lot of the local walking tour, and got SO much exercise. We walked up a 45 degree steep hill (not on the walking tour) WHEW! St. John’s Episcopal was part of the tour and has pretty stain glass and interesting history. The Waterfront promenade trail has really nice views. The city park is pretty and small, and used to be part of the salmon hatchery. Whale park is a small, very pretty park with cute benches and lovely flowers. There are lots of totem poles throughout the town. Grant Street trestle was a pretty interesting architectural marvel. The creek overlook and salmon ladder are both pretty and interesting. There is a “tunnel” (that’s what it’s called) that is worth seeing. Supposedly, it’s one of a kind. Houses appear to be on top of the tunnel. People working in the town are very friendly and very helpful. Prices at the stores were reasonable. We got our kids’ gifts here (hoodies for two and jewelry for one). Sockeye Sam’s had nice quality clothes with good prices. Talbot’s had some good deals; I think it said “Outlet” above the store. The Salmon Shop area had free wifi. The creek Street area was very busy; I was there years ago, and just walked along a little bit of it. Lots of interesting history in this town. We were at sea on Friday, and I saw three whales, some dolphins and very pretty views. The Seymour Narrows are a narrow passage that the ship goes through. Lots of nice landmarks to see. Vancouver is where we disembarked, and it’s really a beautiful city; think Portland or Seattle. We really enjoyed our cabin. A lot of people insist on getting a balcony cabin on an Alaskan cruise. However, we didn’t feel like spending that much money, and we like to walk a lot. So, we originally booked a comparably cheap inside cabin. Then, the prices dropped on outside cabins; specially “obstructed view” cabins. We had the choice of two, and upon selecting one, discovered, based on the ship diagram, it was between two lifeboats. The diagram was true to the ship itself, so E231 had a nice view, actually. I definitely recommend at least getting a room with some type of view. As I was getting ready one evening, I saw a whale outside the window. The bed was a queen sized bed. The room was very clean and comfy. Bed had a duvet, four fluffy sturdy pillows. There were 2 nightstands with 2 drawers and a shelf on each. A lamp was on each, but not a “reading light.” There was only one closet, with no door. It had space on the floor for shoes. There was a narrow closet with six shelves and a safe. So, not quite as much storage space as some ships I’ve been on, but it worked fine for us, because we brought a limited amount of stuff and did two loads of laundry. There is a vanity by the bed, with a phone and hairdrier and three small drawers. There are only 2 plugs . There was a chair at the desk and a cushioned chair by the window. The bathroom was nice, and tiled. It wasn’t super fancy. The shower was small, like a typical cruise room shower. Carpeting was in good, clean condition. The room seemed a tiny bit dated to me. There is a flat screen television with movies and shows; of course, “The Love Boat.” The room has a frig, a small glass table and heavy curtains. Water in the shower was either too cool or a bit too hot, and there was good pressure. There’s a small sink with three glass shelves. As far as the view, there was a boat a few feet to the right of the window and another about 6 feet to the left. There were a couple of thin metal posts and cables, but you could still see a lot. It was a very quiet room, with the exception of some of the time when we were in port and they were doing work around the lifeboats. Really be sure to check the diagram and look at the ship pictures before booking an “OW” cabin. Some of them are actually just above the walkway. This one was not, but a couple of times, workers were outside of it on the scaffolding. The dining room at dinner time was excellent. It was some of the best cruise food I have had. My husband loves seafood and was thrilled with all of the seafood that was available each night, and with its quality. I especially enjoyed the desserts, especially the chocolate desserts. They were incredible! They always had beef and poultry available, along with a vegetarian dish. We had breakfast there each morning. My husband enjoys lox and bagels, so that’s why we went there. I found the breakfast to be good, but the menu was not quite as extensive as some other ships I’ve been on. Lunch in the dining rooms was very good. The buffet was okay. The quality of food was good, but the selection was nothing outstanding. We found that the buffet line was pretty long during at sea days, so we only went there on in port days, where it was very quiet. At the grill, they had hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, with fries. On a couple of previous cruises, this area was more “specialized,” like on Holland America and Carnival’s Guy’s Burger Joint. I don’t really enjoy that kind of food anyhow, so I didn’t get it. They have a special recipe each day there. One day, it was crabcakes, and another, it was fish tacos, while another, halibut sandwiches. My husband LOVED those lunches. There is a pizza place up by the grill, with large cheese or pepperoni pizzas. They serve you by the slice, and the pizza was some of the best cruise pizza I have had. It had a very thin, but crispy crust. Each day, they had a specialty pizza, too. There is an “International Café,” next to the coffee bar, where you can get premade sandwiches for lunch, egg muffin sandwiches and yogurt parfaits for breakfast, and desserts and pastries. I did get breakfast parfaits a couple of times, and tiramisus and mousses there. They were excellent. The doughnut my husband got was good but too greasy. Alfredo’s pizza is near the Café, and we ate there for lunch twice. We were able to sit by the window. The pizza was cooked in a wood fired oven and was delicious. We did not eat in ANY of the restaurants where you pay extra. Honestly, the dining room food pleased us well enough. Our children did not come on this cruise. I spoke with kids and parents and grandparents who were all a part of the children’s clubs, and they had nothing but positive things to say about them. We didn’t take in too much entertainment. The “Princess singers and Dancers” were the typical cruise show. I was not really impressed at all. They shows always seem cheesy to me. Every so often, they’d have entertainment in the open area of the ship. The flamenco dancers were quite entertaining. A guy named Liam Ryder played in a few venues. He was a singer/pianist and had an excellent voice. The two Irish performers were really good. I never actually saw the comedian’s show, but heard that he was hilarious. I did meet him out on the deck and visited with him for quite a while. He was singing as I walked along; apparently, he used to be a backup singer. Anyhow, in person, he was very nice and really funny. Disembarkation was in Vancouver, BC. We had breakfast in a very busy dining room. We had to be out of our rooms by 8 am, which is fairly typical. There were a lot of people standing in line with their suitcases, and the halls became terribly congested. We hung out with our tour group in the casino starting at 8:20. People were nice and we visited. We were supposed to start our Vancouver tour at 9 am, but things got behind all around, and we didn’t actually board our bus until 9:40. Originally, we were going to take an 11:30 am flight. I don’t know how easy it would have been to get there with the delays in the cruise terminal. Since we had a very late flight, we took the tour, which was nice. It was supposed to be three hours, but we lost some time, due to the late start. You can actually take a tram or train thing from the cruise port to the airport, which I didn’t realize. Our bus just dropped us off at the airport. Honestly, if I didn’t have kids waiting at home, I probably would have booked two nights in a hotel to see more of the town, because it’s awfully pretty. My husband and I had a wonderful time on our cruise. The main negative was the terrible amount of smoke and the very dry air in the rooms. In addition, the condition of the ship was not quite a nice as a couple of the more recent cruises I’ve taken. The positives were the dining room food was delicious, the itinerary was wonderful, and our service was very good. I can't give it a 4.5, so I'm rounding up to the five star, because we really loved our time on the cruise, and in the ports. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
This was our third cruise with Princess and first to Alaska. Neither disappointed. The Star is similar in size and layout to many of the other Princess ships. It is by no means a luxury ship, but the ship is not the star here. This ... Read More
This was our third cruise with Princess and first to Alaska. Neither disappointed. The Star is similar in size and layout to many of the other Princess ships. It is by no means a luxury ship, but the ship is not the star here. This cruise is all about the itinerary. The highlight, Glacier Bay, is breathtaking. College Fjord was beautiful as well, as was just sailing the inside passage out of Vancouver. We saw lots of wildlife from the ship, including humpback whales, seals, and bald eagles. There was not much to do in Ketichkian, but the shopping there was definitely the best of the trip. So we picked up some cheap t-shirts, hats, and mugs for family back home. The Yukon bus tour we took out of Skagway was great. Juneau is the best of the ports, with lots to do. We did whale watching and went to the Mendenhall Glacier, which was a great way to spend the day. The service and food was top-notch, as we come to expect from Princess. Entertainment was surprisingly good, and we were pleasantly surprised to see Princess legend Bert Stratton on the ship. Bert is not performing as much these days, so it was a special treat to have him aboard. We were fortunate to spend a couple of days in Vancouver before embarkation. Vancouver is a beautiful city, and well worth some time to explore before getting on the ship. We also spent several days exploring Alaska by land on our own (not through a Princess land tour, which I find to be too expensive). The city of Anchorage is nothing to write home about, but the area around Whittier is beautiful, and of course Denali National Park is a must-see. Please do not do a one-way Alaska cruise without spending a day or two at Denali. We stayed at the Princess Mt. McKinley lodge and ate at the Princess Denali lodge. Both were nice, although the Mt. McKinley lodge seemed nicer. This probably was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us, and I am glad we did it with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
I wrote an extensive review on the Princess forum including photos. This will be a summary of our trip. Briefly, this was my 3rd cruise to Alaska. 2 times on the Island Princess. 1st trip my DH and I did the 5 day land tour through ... Read More
I wrote an extensive review on the Princess forum including photos. This will be a summary of our trip. Briefly, this was my 3rd cruise to Alaska. 2 times on the Island Princess. 1st trip my DH and I did the 5 day land tour through Princess, 2nd time we did our own 7 day land tour. This time, due to time constraints, my BFF and I did a 4 day pre-cruise DIY land tour. Upon return of our rental car to the ANC airport, we checked in with the Princess reps located in the Alaskan Air baggage claim area of the airport and received our passes to be on the 1st bus to Whittier, which left at 12 noon (and each hour after that, until I believe, 5 pm). It was a rainy, foggy day, so the ride down the Turnagin Arm did not offer much scenery, but should your day be brighter, the best seat on the bus is on the right side. Embarkation went very quickly and smoothly. The Alaskan cruises have passengers arriving all day long by boat, train and bus, so I don't believe it ever gets chaotically crowded. However, on my 1st trip to Alaska, we came by dome train from the McKinley Lodge and there were over 400 passengers moving from the trains to the terminal, so it did take a bit longer to process through to the ship. Condition of the ship - looked great! I didn't see or experience any infrastructure failures. It appeared to have been painted and I didn't notice any outstanding wear and tear. Staff service - our cabin steward ranked right up to the top! He was one of the most responsive attendants I've experienced! Our MDR staff was "Ok". Our waiter was very friendly and helpful. Our assistant waiter was not a 'communicator', but did his job adequately. Our cruise director (Richard Joseph) and his staff were wonderful! This was my 3rd trip with Rich and he just shows how it's done! His enthusiasm is infectious! Entertainment - Don't miss "On the Bayou" in the Universe Lounge! A GREAT show! The production show that I saw was very well done and the comedian had a dry, wry sense of humor. I enjoyed his 1st show in the Princess Theater more than his 2nd show in the Universe Lounge. Dining - we had 4 meals in the MDR, 1 meal each in Sabatini's & Bayou Café and we did the Crab Shack for lunch. I enjoyed every one of them! I would definitely do the Crab Shack again when offered. I did miss seeing a Pub Lunch offering, however. Disembarkation - it went relatively easy. Some color/number groups were delayed a few minutes from departing due to Canadian customs, but once we located our luggage in the terminal, found our way to the buses to the airport and got on our way, it was home free! One disappointment was not being able to see Hubbard Glacier due to a large (apparently VERY large) storm in the Prince William Sound. At one point the Captain announced we were turning around to head to safe harbor! So, I am 1 for 3. Our 1st trip was cancelled in 2011 due to huge amounts of ice bergs that caused damage to a HAL ship. In 2014, we DID get to see Hubbard (yeah!). I was just sorry my BFF missed seeing it. BUT, Glacier Bay made up for it! Overall, I really enjoyed this trip (again) with Princess and would not hesitate to go on another (do hear me hubby?) Read Less
Sail Date June 2015
After reading some rather poor reviews on this site before our trip, I was somewhat concerned about the trip, but there was no need to be. We had a 14 day trip that combined Princess lodges at Fairbanks, Denali, and McKinley pretrip, as ... Read More
After reading some rather poor reviews on this site before our trip, I was somewhat concerned about the trip, but there was no need to be. We had a 14 day trip that combined Princess lodges at Fairbanks, Denali, and McKinley pretrip, as well as a Princess arranged stay at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver with Victoria trip afterward. It was all wonderful. We had one bad meal at the Denali Lodge and a driver with a terrible cold at Vancouver but these were small things in an overall good vacation. Our balcony cabin was comfortable with plenty of space for our belongings. We had the steward open the balcony to the next cabin where another couple travelling with was staying. He had to close it due to gale force winds, then reopen it later. My only real complaint is about the early sitting time chane from 5:45 to 5:15. We changed to anytime dining but had to make reservations every night. Reservations are only taken for 5:15, 5:30 and 7:30 or later. The food was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date June 2015

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