Sail Date: January 2015
Coral Princess in the Caribbean----The Good, Bad and the Ugly. Really like the layout of this ship and enjoyed the cruise with one big first time noticeable exception, which I hated to see since we are close to achieving 600 days of ... Read More
Coral Princess in the Caribbean----The Good, Bad and the Ugly. Really like the layout of this ship and enjoyed the cruise with one big first time noticeable exception, which I hated to see since we are close to achieving 600 days of sailing. VERY GOOD: ---We found the Coral Princess to be a vessel I really like, particularly the decor throughout most of the public space and lounges, sea and marine pictures everywhere, dark rich oak beams and molding backed up with lighter backgrounds. I'm tired of pastels and nonsensical modern art hung everywhere on ships. Excellent lounges, lots of room with rich furniture where peace and quiet is found, which makes it a simple enjoyment just to sit and relax in one. Also, super is the abundance of getaway nooks and crannies throughout the ship. The passenger to space ration is great but actually is even better than the numbers suggest. Nice to have some elbow room for a change, for instance the three elevator and stair towers were not ever crowded, even during the first boarding day. Contrast this to the new Royal Princess, where the stairway towers were claustrophobic with consistently long elevator waits; for instance a midship public stair case is non existent. Maybe Princess should begin having the French build and design their ships (Coral) rather than Italians (Royal). Like the good old days of yore, the Coral has a complete wrap around teak promenade deck, fairly wide in many stretches where old fashion reclining deck chairs are provided. The two level Lotus Spar area is great at no extra charge, two well heated hot tubs by the pool and lots of quiet areas above and below, to read and relax in. GOOD: ---The specialty restaurants, particularly Sabatini's, but also the Bayou Cafe and its special "Crab Shack" luncheon were exquisite. Meals in these venues, which you pay extra for, represent top of the line gourmet dining. Well staffed by knowledgeable and friendly personnel and your dining experience takes place in a wonderful, quiet, well decorated environment. Unfortunately, the main dining room(s), are not so good, stink. ---Ample public hot tubs, five in all, the three by the main pool though were usually a little on the cool side and occasionally youngsters using them as swimming pools was not good. ---We had a mini-suite, nice decor and fairly large balcony on deck nine. Our cabin attendant was pretty good and very amenable and friendly even though he was probably burden by way too many cabins to service which often does not translate into fine personal service. Complimentary laundry service was excellent. ---Staff, for the most part were very friendly all over the ship and tried to help, whatever the need or problem. Unfortunately, some areas like in the main dining room, were grossly understaffed. ---Horizon Court, the main buffet area had adequate seating, unlike on the new larger ships, Regal and Royal. Food was mediocre but the friendly and helpful staff partially made up for lack of exceptional quality food. In this case the buffet did not appear to be understaffed, so, in all, it made for a worthwhile dining experience. In fact, out of frustration we abandoned using the Main Dining Room and chose this venue for dinner instead whenever we decided not to eat in the specialty restaurants. ---TV--Nice to have MSNBC and BBS and not just FOX News--One of the things we like about Princess they understand not all guests are cut out of the same political persuasion cloth. ---Internet and library--Very fast and ample bandwidth and easy to use, staffed by an internet guy who knows his stuff. Wish the rates were lower but then, not all that bad if you are an elite like we are as you get some free time plus a good deal on more time if you buy it the first day or so. Library is very large for the size of ship, perfect layout for an exploration type voyaging ship. ---Interdenominational Church Services---Two Sunday services on sea days this voyage. Really enjoyed both, thanks so much for the opportunity to fellowship, Princess. ---Enrichment lectures---One of the things I like best about cruising is the theme lecturers the three lines we frequent usually have on board. Princess used to be super great at this, slipping a little though as of late. During this cruise they had---Dr. Dean Papavassiliou, an historical expert on the Caribbean as well as the famous Pacific navigators, his presentations brought on an impressive crowd. But the only other lecturer they had was a half retired airline captain---Captain Ted McCourt---His subject was not anywhere close to the theme of the voyage, so why was he there? Perhaps because everybody, almost, had to fly to get to or from the ship, so maybe it was an okay subject for some, attendance indicated few were interested though. For me, I was born and raised and made my career in the airplane game, so I found his lectures of interest. His creditability could be challenged from time to time due factual errors, but then subjects this complex are very hard to make a delivery on without making mistakes here and there. Other than that, I learned a bit, would dearly have loved to hear a rebuttal though to some of his points as they were certainly argumentative. In short, his presentations were not ideally suited for the average cruiser booking this voyage. Only a few guests are airplane buffs, industry types and age old pilots like myself. Princess should have put on another cruise specific lecture, instead. ---Shore excursions--We booked a Princess excursion at every port. As usual for Princess, the guides and quality of excursion were top rate. Guides spoke well and were very knowledgeable about the subject they were task with, and coaches were top rated from a vehicle and driver standpoint. Only complaint is that I recall, at least I think I do, the day when Princess didn't pack the coach up to 100% full, which they came close to doing at each port and excursion on this cruise. BAD: ---Theater, okay for daytime lectures, I attended many in the theater, but that is it. For evening shows, count us out. No balcony but good steep stadium seating, unfortunately all isles have only two stairways so that those wanting to sit in the higher levels at mid-theatre had to tip-toe past up to 12 already seated if they were caught having to work into the middle of a row. First comers for the evening shows usually showed up very early, then they took the isle seats and were generally "very" reluctant to even standup in order to allow somebody else to occupy a vacant seat beyond them in the same isle. One nice feature was the little tables on each seat which pulled up, sort of like some first class airline seats do, don't know what they were there for though unless you brought your own drink, no service and hard to get to if there were waiters. All in all, for the big shows, the theater was terrible, we never did take in a top line performance due to this jumble, too bad as some shows were pretty good, we were told. ---Over the last 15 months we have been on 5 cruises counting this one, Regent, HAL, Princess, Regent, Princess, 115 sailing days. 5 captains. Coincidentally, on each voyage unique circumstances developed, such as man overboard one time, un-commanded turn on another requiring emergency reverse thrust and dropping the anchor to avoid hitting the beach, etc. The situation was somewhat the same on this voyage as a lady went missing for the better part of a day, the crew scoured the vessel, of course all passengers were aware due all the announcements asking her to call. Turned out she had been hiding. Anyway, except for this captain, the other four captains were exemplary in their efforts to familiarize the guests with all developments thusly reducing the anxiety factor, such as occurred in this instance which originated over concern for a fellow passenger. This captain was anything but a plethora of information. A day after the lady was found the ships grapevine made everybody aware she had not went overboard. On other occasions the captain would come on and attempt to explain what was going on with missed ports, etc. but most often one had to read between the lines in order to figure out what he wanted to say and what had happened. Very nice person if you meet him at a Captain's Circle event but he needs to do a lot of work on articulation and diplomacy. Perhaps, put him under the tutelage of the captain who commanded the Royal Princess in September 2014, for a stint. ---Princess has now completely adopted the business model of all the large mainstream cruise lines, we are witnessing what is either going to be the success or the degradation of this trend. From a profit motive standpoint it is likely to last. The concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers, the Coral, about 2000, to procure a vessel like these huge investment dollars are required. In order to fill up these ships most lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Then charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas, also there are pizzerias and hamburger grills with no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something. By cutting down the size of, quality of, and service within the main dining rooms and other no extra charge areas, guests are more or less forcibly channeled into the nickel and dime game. UGLY: ----Up until this voyage the Main Dining Room (MDR) on Princess was still tolerable, this time though, either we experienced a fluke or cost cutting has caught up with Princess rendering their product in the MDR undesirable for us. We have never ran into a situation like this before even though the "hand writing was on the wall" that it was bound to come. In my opinion this results from understaffing of both service and kitchen personnel. Each time we tried to use the MDR we were told there was a 40 minute wait time. They gave us a pager, but on the three occasions we decided to carry on and eat in the MDR the wait was only 10-15 minutes, which was not a problem. We don't like traditional seating for a variety of reasons, one of which is we dislike being relegated to eating at either 5:30 PM or 7:45 PM., even if we secure a table for two. Normally nowadays we usually try to get there by 6:30 using anytime dining. Our principal problem(s) trying to eat dinner in the MDR was the lack of service and poor quality meals. For instance, there used to be a sommelier to take your wine order immediately after being seated, this practice gave way to no sommelier--instead, head waiters were given extra training in wine selection, then that gave way to what you have now, wine only if you are lucky enough to get someone's attention and forget about ordering a bottle to be carried over for the following evening, they will lose it for sure. You usually sit there waiting and watching a harried flurry of activity by the understaffed help forging a losing battle trying to keep up. Made dressing up in my tux on formal nights and trying to dine there a joke. So, in order to continue enjoying the cruise we made do, by booking dinner in one of the excellent specialty restaurants on board whenever we felt inclined to really enjoy dinner, if not, simply going up to the Horizon Court buffet. I have a theory that there will be a drift completely away from providing MDR service on the major cruise lines in the future. Instead cruisers will experience more of and larger specialty extra charge venues and expanded no extra charge buffet area service. We only use Princess, HAL and Regent. Regent being an all inclusive voyage, but ironically, the food and service in the specialty restaurants on HAL and Princess are much better than those on Regent which you can hardly ever get into due no extra charge. However, the MDR on Regent is far superior to those on HAL and Princess."   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2013
Coral Princess Cruise Report Panama Canal (partial) Dec 28, 2013 ARRIVAL – Ft Lauderdale is a zoo, perhaps it was just because it was holiday season or because it was a Saturday Cruise day departure (several boats in port) or maybe ... Read More
Coral Princess Cruise Report Panama Canal (partial) Dec 28, 2013 ARRIVAL – Ft Lauderdale is a zoo, perhaps it was just because it was holiday season or because it was a Saturday Cruise day departure (several boats in port) or maybe this is normal. Shuttle busses ever where with little trailer in tow for the luggage. We got a shuttle from our hotel, (candlewood suites) the scheduled “All Stars Shuttle Service” appeared at the holiday inn express next to us but did not stop at our hotel for some reason even though we book this the night before with the reception desk. 15 minutes later the clerk called and they had another shuttle picking up a group at another hotel and they just stuffed us in there. Ok here the shocker, as we were first on the new shuttle our luggage was on first, when we were dropped off at the terminal we were second to get out and the traffic was too complex for the driver to drop the other people off first. So getting to our stud he was climbing over other peoples luggage and jumping up and down on somebody’s else’s bag… thinking of the four bottles of wine and the bathroom toiletries in our luggage we were speechless. This goes back to be careful what you put into your bags. DEPARTURE – speaking of wine, we had four bottles one in each of our four checked bottles of luggage, we were prepared to pay the corkage, nope not a notice of it. We enjoyed the bottle of champagne New Years Eve and the others in our room. Ok poured it in our room and took it on deck. We got there on our 10:00 shuttle at 11:30 and was loaded on the ship about 12:10, quick easy and seamless, avoided the first waive of photos. Wanted to bring in a case of Water and Diet Pepsi but got turned around and never got a chance to purchase it, was planning on putting in my carry on. Could have taped together and checked it. THE ROOM – Ours was a mini suite, mid aft deck 9th deck D606 and was awesome. Although the buffet was 4 decks up and ½ a km forward, a lap of the ship is under a km or 1/3 mile (more on this later). Metal walls so bring magnets to hold up your notices and such, bathroom hangers to put in the toiletries. Safe was small but sufficient and easy to program great for cash, wallets and passports. Loads of hangers, was surprised as we brought extra but not necessary. An absence of drawers but there were shelves in the closet that worked out fine, bags under the bed and we were off to explore. DAY 1 THE SHIP – you are accosted the first day with buy a coffee card or a pop card or the ultimate ++ smoothie card, and wine package. We got the silver wine package for 10 bottles AWESOME DEAL, got the Coffee card as I like the good coffee, AWESOME DEAL and spouse got the pop/smoothie card,,, not so much a good deal. With shore days and recovery days she found herself ordering more then she wanted just to get her value and that was a lot of extra calories that she had to pay penance for. First thing first get a bucket of beer and make sure you have a full beverage for the 3:00 mandatory muster meeting. Yep I was the envy of the entire group, didn’t mind it at all. SCOOTERS VS STROLERS – Tons of silver hair, blue hair and no hair (the last would be me) but being on the younger side of the 50+ crowd. There was an absence of kids this event but it seemed that what once they made their appearance at the pool their parents were nowhere to be found, I get it kids will be kids but without parents there, they became nutbars. If you really choose to bring your kids on a cruise, do not let them run amuck so you can have your “me time”, that is what a Disney Cruise line is for. THE POOL - I know the chair game and will play along but seriously one couple had a set of chairs in the pool area, the shade and then under MUTS… seriously reserved 6 chairs for two people, this was not an isolated incident. Sea days at the pool is like a collage kegger, save some aggravation book the Sanctuary on Dec 15, peaceful bliss. HOWEVER on a port day the pool deck is awesome, we chose to stay back one day and it was empty and perfect. Until 3:00pm when the parentless kids started to show up… UGH DINNER/FOOD – the horizon buffet was just the worst choice you could make, the food was intuitional, don’t get me wrong, it was edible, but it was steam tray food made for the masses. The Main Dinning Room, this is where you need to eat breakfast and lunch, food was fresh made to order and very nice. We chose early seating traditional with 8 person table. Our table mates were incredible and very interesting the food was spectacular and we often doubled up on appetizers and deserts, a few people doubled on entrees and shared the extra. There was always something interesting on the menu. The share an intimate evening we also dined at Sabatini;s and the Bayou Café, both a premium price of $20 each and worth it. Service and food was impeccable and worth the extra coin. The late night pizza hit the right spot watching the movies under the stars. Breakfest room service… AWESOME…. Tried to do the chef’s table but it was a no go as there was not enough interest. PET PEEVE PRINCESS--- stop jacking up the prices and then don’t put it on because there is not enough interest… SERIOUSLY think that one through… JERKS… ENTERTAINMENT – Stand up productions shown, well worth attending all of them, enjoyed them immensely. We also hit the bingo, a spousal mandatory function, why I’m not so sure. And I hit the texas hold’em tourney. With only one table this was sold out in a line 15 minutes before signup was open, needless to say we did it only once. The feature of the cruise was MUTS movies under the stars, this was a really cool way to wind down the evening. Football game on the big screen was perfect with a bucket of beer and mucho fans. Never got to the wheelhouse bar but heard it was nicknamed the “wheelchair bar” not sure appropriate but a little funny. Had a martini (or two) at Crooners and the choices were fantastic. Had a grey goose dirty with blue cheese stuffed olives…. to die for… was cool listening to the music in the atrium, very classy. We did an art auction but bailed 10 minutes into it, thank goodness Wanted to have a cigar in the Churchill Lounge but it was seriously over crowded, seen smokers out on deck 7, could not blame them, ventilation in the little lounge was sub par at best. Or you could have a smoke in early morning but it’s not the same. EXCURSIONS – we did a private trip in Aruba tried to get on the trikes but that was sold out. Booked Madi’s tour, she was awesome but it’s not a recommend or a repeat. Booded the Princess canal tour to the pacific and that is a MUST DO… there was something about being able to touch the canal locks as we descended to the Pacific Ocean. Booked the Hacienda tour in Costa Rica, as a photographer have never seen so much eye candy, I could have spent days there. The traditional methods of agriculture were shown, bananas, macadamia nuts, coffee, and sugar cane… well worth this sleeper trip. LOTUS SPA – Booked two appointments there a double close shave and scalp treatment for me and some therapy facial thing for her. Ok for a guy’s point of vie who has not paid more then $20 at a barber, this was pretty cool, the whole hot towel thing, the face paste and scalp message was very relaxing, not sure it was worth the coin but well worth the life experience. Spouse was very satisfied with her treatment, didn’t go into details, don’t need to know. Afterwards we were presented a list of absolutely need to have products, I was recommended the guck for puffy eyes and shaving oil scalp treatment and $550 later, it was all so necessary. After I regained my breath from choking and laughing at the same time I passed on the offer to purchase, Spouse got a $440 sell up which she passed on as well. DOWNERS- did I mention the Chef’s table or lack there of… Parentless kids, Greedy lounge hoggers at the pool, $12 per person per day auto tips +15% of anything we purchased, then the bill presented to you to offer another gratuity on top of all that. Overselling products at the spa after a treatment, still have a pulled muscle from all the laughing and choking on that one. Way too many photo options at steep prices UPPERS – Our room steward Nick… awesome job dude, slipped him a $20 for a job well done. The 24 hour international Café, perfect coffee and snacks and free herbal tea for the spouse… Breakfast room service on time, every time, the entire friendly staff, OVERALL IMPRESSION – very happy to have selected the Princess Cruise Lines, not sure I will hit the 50 cruise mark, would like to do the Alaskan cruise next but that’s a few years out….   Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
We have cruised on princess before and have been very happy with them. The ship had just been back from dry dock, they changed the Horizon Court to a very nice spacious dining area. Food choices were very good! They also added an ... Read More
We have cruised on princess before and have been very happy with them. The ship had just been back from dry dock, they changed the Horizon Court to a very nice spacious dining area. Food choices were very good! They also added an international cafe which we found nice for a snack after the show. The room was ok and our stewart did what he had t o do but nothing like we have had before! We had scheduled early seating and had two waiters. We think they have decreased the help in the dining Room because although we were there at the 5:45pm time we never got out until 7:20pm. We were always the last to get our food even though we got there before the other tables even had guests there. We had a very slow service. The Head waiter was very nice but the wait staff were slow! The food was ok they try and make it too fancy and ruin a great meal. Very salty the soups and gravies as well. The entertainment was so so. The singers and dancers were not very good! The movies under the stars was great although it got very windy one night and alot of people left. You very rarely saw the cruise director out an about, I think we saw him twice! We enjoyed meeting alot of people, especially in Trivia!! I wish they would have more of that on board! The family Feud game was great! All in all we had a great time and would cruise again on Princess. P.S Have only cruised 14 times but we have never sailed the same ship twice! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
My husband and I are in our mid-50's and were 1st time cruisers. We decided to take a 4 day land tour prior to our 7 day cruise. Everything we did was booked thru Princess as we felt more secure that way. From the time we landed in ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid-50's and were 1st time cruisers. We decided to take a 4 day land tour prior to our 7 day cruise. Everything we did was booked thru Princess as we felt more secure that way. From the time we landed in Anchorage until we arrived at the Vancouver airport to depart, Princess handled our luggage and had it at our doorstep at each point along the way. This alone is amazing as they have several land tours that go in different (crossing) directions but all end up on the same cruise! Our first 2 nights were at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. We are east coast residents and chose to fly in a day early to allow for the 4 hr time difference and to see some of Anchorage. The hotel was as expected from the various reviews I read. There are plenty of those so I won't go any farther with that. We took the Explore Anchorage tour which was $59/ea - not really worth it. I recommend taking the local trolley tour (ask the hotel desk) and also spending 3-4 hrs at the Anchorage Museum. This is a WONDERFUL museum with lots of history on the native people and the city of Anchorage. We ate at the Snow City Cafe and the Sandwich Deck for breakfasts - I would recommend either. Snow City is a bit more trendy while Sandwich Deck is basic breakfast food. OH, and while in Anchorage try the Alaskan Amber Ale - if you are a beer drinker, you'll enjoy this one! Our 1st tour stop was Mt McKinley - very nice lodge, mountain was out in full view and everyone was friendly and helpful. A bonus to traveling in May is that you are the first customers of the season and everyone you meet is eager to please. Although some are new and the resorts just opened for the season so there were a few small hitches. But worth it to be welcome guests. Next on to Denali - a larger property but lovely all the same. The tour of the park that is included was nice and enough. Were lucky enough to see Dall sheep, caribou and moose in the park. We took the ATV excursion which for an additional $10 per person included dinner. You won't find food any cheaper!! The meal was pretty good too. Next day was a 9 hr train trip to the port of Whittier. It was on the double-decker train we've all see in brochures. The dining car was wonderful (if a bit pricey - captive audience!). Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the ship was a lovely site. We were lucky enough to have our cabin upgraded at the last minute so we enjoy the additional space a great deal. We also had a balcony. Many said that would not be worth it in Alaska as it's cold in May. True, it was cold but totally worth it any way. We were able to view the glaciers on our balcony without being crowded and enjoy ALL of the views from inside our cabin thru the full glass door. I would be hard pressed to not have a balcony next time. They keep the ship spotless and the service was excellent. There were plenty of electrical plugs and hangers in our room although that may vary by room size. I did take a couple of those plastic hangers that bras come on and used them to hang a couple of things I hand washed so they were handy and small/light to pack. 1st port: Skagway. We took the White Pass Railroad (all day) trip. The Yukon scenery was worth it all! Lunch was pretty good and the town we stopped in (Carcross) was unique. Didn't get to see much of Skagway itself as the tour took up all of our time there. 2nd port: Juneau. We took the Northstar Trekking helicopter flight/hike to Mendenhall Glacier. WOW!! Very expensive but I would have passed on all other excursions and done this one if cost were a big concern. The young people who worked there were delightful and very helpful/accommodating. The flight was amazing as was the time on the glacier. 3rd port: Ketchikan. We took the Kart Adventure excursion here as my husband loves to drive fast. :) It was a bit scary for me (I just rode) but he loved it. I enjoyed the totems in Ketchikan and heard the trips to see them were good. The weather was mid-50's. We did wear long underwear to the glacier and on the ATV and Kart rides. Otherwise 2 light layers under a coat were more than fine. It was mostly windy which made it feel colder. I had read all of the forums and reviews before so there wasn't anything that I felt surprised me. The formal nights had some in long dresses and tuxes and others in much less formal wear. So don't feel you have to go all out - pack what fits in the suitcase as you will only wear it once or twice. All in all it was just as wonderful as we expected. Princess did a great job of getting us and our luggage where we needed to be. I'm glad we went in May. Many in AK said May was the best time to come - although, they may say that to everyone no matter when they come! HA! We did purchase and take a netbook computer to download our pictures on each day. That was a great decision as we enjoyed doing this and we didn't have to worry about extra digital cards, etc for the cameras. Plus when you are waiting at the airport or on the land tour, you can use the wi-fi. I hope you enjoy your trip to Alaska as much as we did. Bon Voyage!! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
We are experienced cruisers (17 cruises total; 10 with Princess) who had done the Alaska coastal cruise once previously, about 14 years ago. This was our first opportunity to add on the inland cruisetour portion of the trip. I would HIGHLY ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers (17 cruises total; 10 with Princess) who had done the Alaska coastal cruise once previously, about 14 years ago. This was our first opportunity to add on the inland cruisetour portion of the trip. I would HIGHLY recommend the cruisetour to anyone considering an Alaskan trip. Inland Alaska is very different from the coastal ports...each unique in their own way and all worth seeing! AIR ARRANGEMENTS While this review is going to be 90% positive, I will go ahead and get the negative out of the way now. Princess' "EZ Air" program seems to be anything but easy. This is the second time we have booked air through Princess and we have had dismal experiences both times. In each instance we had delayed and/or canceled flights on our first outbound leg from our home city, causing the airline to reroute us with other carriers so that we wouldn't miss the ship. We finally made it to Vancouver, but it was a real nail biter as to whether we were going to make it in time. And this was only a three-hour flight from L.A.! We had a similar experience on our last cruise from Rome to Venice. Once again we had a delayed flight that would have caused us to miss our connection, which resulted in us being rerouted to a different airline. We definitely would have missed that cruise except that a group of 160 passengers on a Princess flight from England was even later than we were, therefore they held the ship for them. If it had just been the two of us, we would have been left watching the ship sail away! By booking air with Princess you are guaranteed that they will get you to the next port at their expense, but it would not be an ideal way to begin a journey. The Princess Air flight times also seem to be less than desirable and often laden with multiple connections. In the future we are going to 1) book our own air arrangements and 2) book a hotel in the departure city for one or two days prior to avoid these hair-raising experiences. Actually, we are going to wipe out the need for airlines altogether on our next cruise. We're sailing from LA to Hawaii round trip! EMBARKATION Once we finally made it to Vancouver, we had a great bus driver who pretty much gave us a city tour as we travelled from the airport to the port. He was informative and witty. Boarding the ship was a snap. Princess seems to have embarkation process down to a well-oiled machine. We had beautiful, sunny weather for our sail away party from a truly beautiful city. STATEROOM We travelled with our adult son and his girlfriend. We each booked balcony cabins and opted to get them on the same deck, but opposite sides of the ship (one port, one starboard). Our thinking was that this arrangement would give us all privacy, but since we are all avid photographers, it also allowed us to have balconies on BOTH sides of the ship. So whenever whales were spotted or the scenery was better on one side than the other we would call the others over to share the view and they did likewise. It was a really great arrangement that I would highly recommend whenever traveling with multiple parties. Our balcony cabins were just fine. Carbon copies of every other Princess balcony cabin we've ever had, with a minor exception that the Emerald deck had larger balconies than others we've had in the past. Our balcony accommodated four chairs and a small table; we were used to two chairs and a mini table on balconies we'd had in the past (generally on Aloha or Baja decks). The queen size bed was comfortable and there is plenty of storage for both hanging and folded clothes. The in-room safe is great. While not large, we find that it holds what we need it to. SERVICE Our cabin steward, Jeffrey, was fantastic. I like an extra towel for my hair after showering. I only had to ask once and then every day thereafter received at least 3 (sometimes 4) towels. Our cabin was always cleaned quickly and efficiently. DINING We found the service in most of the dining venues to be excellent. We had somewhat slow service the first evening in the Bordeaux Dining Room but after that it was fine. We had Anytime Dining and never had to wait for a table the entire cruise. We had dinner one night in Sabatini's and once in the Bayou Cafe (specialty restaurants). We had great service in both venues and found the food to be excellent in both. In general, I am in agreement with those who feel that the quality of the food in the main dining rooms on all cruise lines has deteriorated in the past ten years. You now have to pay extra at a specialty dining room to get the quality you once received in the main dining rooms for the price of the cruise. That said, we feel that the food in the specialty restaurants is excellent. The steaks in the Bayou Cafe (or Sterling Steakhouse/Crown Grill on some other Princess ships) are of the same quality you'd find at Ruth's Chris or Morton's. The Bayou Cafe also had live jazz, which added a nice touch. THE HORIZON COURT BUFFET This is one of the areas that Princess seriously needs to work on. Because all the food is in one concentrated (small) area, it seems to always be chaotic on both the starboard and port sides of the buffet. They attempt (with signs) to get passengers to go in from one side and come out the other, but people seem to ignore this and so you have diners moving in both directions in what should be a one-way cafeteria style situation. It is also very difficult to find seating during prime meal hours. We recently took a brief three-day specialty (baseball) cruise with Carnival (the parent company of Princess) and while I prefer Princess in most other regards, Carnival does seem to have improved greatly on the buffet experience by spreading the various food options around into smaller "serving stations." For example, soups & salads are in one area. Main courses are in a different location. Desserts are in still another location. All of these stations are in the same general area, so it isn't difficult to move from one to another, but it definitely seems to spread out the number of passengers in any given place. It cuts down on the chaos considerably. We also never had a problem finding a table. Princess: PLEASE consider this when designing new ships and/or redesigning your existing ones! SHORE EXCURSIONS We had an amazing vacation and I think a big contributor to that was the excursions. On our first trip to Alaska, we mostly went into the towns on our own and just walked around. This time we did many more excursions and it was worth the cost. Among our favorites: --Whale watching - got to see many Orcas and humpbacks. Even got to see a group of humpbacks "bubble feed". It was amazing. --Dog sledding - we flew by helicopter up to the nearby glacier and were then able to take turns driving a dog sled, with the help of an experienced musher. We had off an on rain that day and most of the groups earlier in the day got rained out and couldn't go. Somehow, our 2 p.m. tour was one of only a handful that made it out that day. We felt very privileged to have experienced this great adventure with amazing animals. --White Pass Yukon Railroad - great scenery! It's also amazing to watch the views change as you ascend/descend through about three different micro-climates. CRUISETOUR Princess definitely has its act together when coordinating moving large numbers of passengers from the cruise ship to their waiting train cars for the inland portion of the cruisetour. Despite arriving in Whittier during a howling rain storm (we're told that the town motto is "Welcome to Whittier, where the weather couldn't be ****ier!") we found that Princess has almost the entire route between the ship and train connected with a covered walkway. It helped immensely. They have assigned seating on the train and each group of four gets a table and four seats in the upper level dome car. On the lower level is an open area where you can experience the brisk temperatures and get some terrific photos. There is also an enclosed dining area on the lower level of the cars where you can have a sit-down meal if you wish. The whole process went very smoothly and the scenery was stunning. Each train car has a Princess guide, who gives you some occasional commentary about the areas you're viewing. There is also a dedicated wait staff in each car, with full meal and bar service available at an extra cost. (Once you leave the ship and are on the land portion of your tour, it's just like being on any other land based vacation. You pay for your meals/drinks, etc. No more cruise card!) We spent two nights at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, two nights at the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge and two nights at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge. I would highly recommend spending two nights at whichever lodges you choose. Spending only one night at each hardly gives you time to get the flavor of the place. Of the three lodges we visited, Mt. McKinley Lodge was my favorite. It's definitely off the beaten path (about an hour outside Talkeetna), but that's part of the beauty. It's just a gorgeous place with a huge deck for enjoying wine or cocktails with your travel companions. The lodge itself is beautiful as well, with very nicely appointed rooms and good restaurants. We were able to attend a "slide symphony" of Northern Lights photography set to music and then enjoy a talk by the photographer. Highly recommended. While at this lodge we enjoyed a horseback riding trip and an ATV adventure...both were lots of fun. The Denali Princess Lodge is just outside the gates of Denali National Park, but is in a much more commercialized area. Lots of touristy t-shirt shops, etc. across the street so you don't really feel like you're in the wilderness. The rooms here were also older. If we visited here again, we'd ask to be placed in one of the newer buildings closer to the river. We took a Park Service Natural History Tour bus trip into the national park with a highly experience guide as our driver. We saw two sets of mother/baby moose and caribou. Off in the (very far) distance we saw some Dall sheep grazing on a mountainside. Also while at this lodge we took in "The Music of Denali" dinner/theater show. It's family style dinner served on long rows of picnic tables. The waiters later turn out to be the singers/actors. It's a kitschy show, but still fun. At the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge we took a float trip down the river. This was okay, but we had a half-insane guide in whom we didn't have much confidence. Princess includes a trip on a paddle-wheel riverboat as part of the cruise tour. We thought this would be boring, but it turned out to be extremely well produced. The family that runs the operation has set up presentations by a float-plane pilot (who lands and takes off on the river next to the boat), a dogsledding kennel, and native Americans who demonstrate how they filet a salmon. The presenters use microphone headsets so you can hear them on shore (or in the cockpit of their plane) without having to get off the riverboat. At the conclusion of the tour you have lunch (family style) in a dining room on the pier. The Fairbanks Princess Lodge also has a nice deck looking out over the river...very pleasant place to have a cocktail while watching people canoe or kayak by. The cruisetour portion of the trip adds quite a bit to the cost of the overall cruise, but it is well worth it. Inland Alaska is very different from coastal Alaska. This gave us an opportunity to view both and I would absolutely do it again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
Room #C204 AF (mini suite, no balcony) CategoryEmbarkation: We flew from Tijuana (we live in San Diego) to Acapulco on Volaris Air. This was a nice experience (great price, too!) even though practically none of the employees spoke ... Read More
Room #C204 AF (mini suite, no balcony) CategoryEmbarkation: We flew from Tijuana (we live in San Diego) to Acapulco on Volaris Air. This was a nice experience (great price, too!) even though practically none of the employees spoke English. The airplane was clean and the seats were comfortable (leather). We took the red eye flight from Tijuana to ACA; landed at 6:30 AM and had a tour / airport pick up scheduled with Rudy (www.tourbyvan.com). What a GREAT choice!! Rudy had Roger waiting for us at the airport, with our names on a sign, right on time. Roger was smiling and patient with us, even though it was so early in the morning and he had worked late the night before. He took us to Super Wal-Mart to stock up on bottled water and additional supplies before meeting up w/ the rest of our group for the tour.If you are in Acapulco, you simply MUST book Rudy and his company, for a tour. This is the best way to spend a day!Embarkation: We arrived at the ACA terminal around 3:30 PM. There were no lines, at all, and we were greeted with a cold towel. We were literally on the ship in under 7 minutes flat! Also, our bags were waiting for us as soon as we arrived at our cabin. This is the 1st time my luggage has arrived at the cabin before I did! Nice touch, Princess! We also brought on a box of wine (Black Box is the brand and it is quite yummy!) and Princess didn't even blink an eye. I LOVE that Princess is not as strict on alcohol/wine as all the other major main lines are... This is a BIG plus in my book!Room: We had a mini-suite, category AE, no balcony. Nice size, overall. We were in C204, which is all the way forward. Having only stayed mid-ship and AFT, I wasn't sure how this would be in regard to feeling lots of movement. That was a non-issue. Also, it was nice having the 'secret door' right outside our cabin to enjoy the large deck since our cabin did not have a balcony. There was decent storage and the bathroom was OK in size. I must comment that if Princess does NOT get the smoking issue under control, I fear that many of us will not cruise with them again. Our cabin was filled with the stench of what smelled like old cigarette smoke. Since there was no balcony door to open, we had no choice but to request that the walls be scrubbed down, the drapes drycleaned and the carpets steam cleaned. That helped, but since our next door neighbors were smoking, the smell was always lingering. This was a common complaint throughout the ship. Princess -- if you are reading this, take note of how your competitors handle this issue. Smokers have a choice of to smoke or not to smoke, non-smokers don't have a choice on whether they breathe or not! The casino was VERY smoky, which was GREAT, since it kept me out of there (Princess -- are you taking note of lost revenue here??!!). Hallways smelled smoky, too. I must also comment on Princess' movie choice, Black Swan. Truly, this was NOT appropriate for a group/mixed company setting. For those of you who have not viewed this film, just know that it is barely one step above pornography! How embarrassing to be with a group of new friends, taking in a movie, where it is so uncomfortable, you wish could just disappear! Princess -- shame on you!! If you insist on showing such a naughty/explicit film, please, have the courtesy to edit it (like the airlines do) before subjecting your passengers to it in a group setting. I am NOT a prude, at all, but this made all of our group very uncomfortable and we all walked out (as did lots of other passengers, shaking their heads on the way out of the theater). The MUTS selection was very slim (but at least those movies weren't pornographic!), and I know that Princess could do much better with their selection. Perhaps they should take a note from HAL's screening rooms? Dining: We had early seating at 5:30 PM. Princess -- I really enjoyed that dinner is at 5:30 PM instead of 6:00. That gives us extra time to make the earlier shows. Thanks!! The menu was OK... I, of course, enjoyed the fettuccini alfredo (had grilled chicken added) and it was good (heavy, but good). I must comment that Princess' dessert selection is quite awful when compared to Celebrity or HAL. The ice cream consistently tastes like a science experiment (picture heavy, day old cream with very little sweetness to it and touch of freezer burn!). When I ordered the Volcano dessert, all I can say is YUCK! That was nothing but a giant bowl of whipped cream/chocolate sauce, banana (this was the ONLY place we found bananas on our trip!...the boat was out of bananas the entire time!) and the tiniest scoop of chocolate ice cream you have ever seen. Truly awful tasting, unless you love whipped cream swimming in chocolate sauce and no ice cream. I am not sure why the Volcano has such a following on Cruise Critic... Maybe I just had a bad one? I guess that Princess did us a favor by not having great desserts since we did not gain any weight on this journey!Service in all areas was superb! Waiters are very nice and prompt. Pursers desk attendants are always kind and helpful. You are constantly greeted with a big smile and a "good morning/afternoon/evening" by all crew members. The singers/dancers did an EXCELLENT job! I definitely think they had better performances that the Celebrity Solstice performers. I thoroughly enjoyed each "Broadway" style show. Also, we enjoyed the production shows that were in the Universe Lounge. The stage has different 'elevator levels' that really adds to the feel of the show. Also, getting to sit so close to the performers was great!Disembarkation: On the last night, we put our bags outside our cabin door by 9:30 PM and they were never picked up! They sat in the hall, all night, unsecure. Then, on disembarkation day, we had the 'pleasure' of hauling off 6 bags with no help! Nice touch, Princess! I know that our cabin steward knew the bags were there, since he reached across the bags to pick up an extra gratuity that we gave him! Also, I must comment on how pathetic it is that Princess did not make Panama City a port of call, for Panama on this cruise. Instead, we docked in Colon, Panama. We were told, constantly and consistently, to NOT leave the razor wire area for fear that we would be mugged/robbed or worse! Huh? Why on Earth would Princess pass up an amazing city (picture New York City meets Chicago skyline!!) like Panama City, for a dump and unsafe place like Colon? The Panama Canal is definitely a cruise/experience that everyone should see. It is no wonder to me, that this is the 8th Wonder Of The World. Truly, an experience that I will treasure for a long time!Our boat also came down, with some sort of gastro Virus. There were so many passengers that were ill and quarantined. It was so odd to not be able to have any salt/pepper shakers on the tables, no touching of anything in the buffet line (coffee cups, stir sticks, nothing!), but even with all the sickness, you would still see people coughing/sneezing and not covering the mouths, yet, the Princess reps said nothing. When we asked them why they were forcing hand sanitizer on us, as often as possible (which we were thankful they did), but did not tell people to cover their mouths when coughing/sneezing, they answered that they would get in trouble if they said something like that. Wow... Perhaps our politically correct society has finally gone too far? We are currently booked in the Grand Suite on Sapphire for Sept. 2012/Alaska, and I am really going to have to give this some thought whether or not to cancel. If Princess does not get their smoking policy more in line with Celebrity, as well as improve the quality of their food (especially desserts!!), then I will probably jump ship and go with a slightly smaller suite and know that I will have more of an "A" experience.All in all, this was a "B+" cruise... Not an "A", but with a major improvement in the smoking policy and raising the quality of the food, Princess could easily slip into the "A" category.I really want to emphasize, that what Princess really brings to the party, is their amazing and friendly staff! We truly, truly loved the big smiles and warm, welcoming ways of all the staff that we interacted with. I know that those nice folks work about 80 hours a week and I am always amazed how they keep smiling and always bust their chops to take good care of us. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2010
We had taken the Coral on the 10 day Panama Canal a couple of years ago. She was a good size to do Alaska, since she was able to get pretty close to the glaciers compared to the larger ships. I organized our own pre-cruise portion and that ... Read More
We had taken the Coral on the 10 day Panama Canal a couple of years ago. She was a good size to do Alaska, since she was able to get pretty close to the glaciers compared to the larger ships. I organized our own pre-cruise portion and that worked out well taking the Alaska Railroad. I bought the Alaska TourSaver coupon book, which saved a lot of money. I also booked all of our tours online about a year in advance to make sure to get the times I needed to fit it all in. We had a small but mighty roll call for this trip and many of us met at various tours along the way. General impressions: The cruise and ports were all great, but do think some time spent on land is a must. Weather seems to be ever changing and not that predictable, so layering is key. At one time or another we wore everything from under layers of Winter Silk, fleece lined tights, fleece pants or jeans, long sleeved tees under outer shirt, fleece jackets and water/wind proof jackets and pants to capris, shorts and tee shirts. Gloves, ear warmers, scarves, hats helped for the glacier viewing. A bathing suit for covered pool or hot tubs and your covered. Seeing wildlife of course is luck of the draw, but devoting time and excursions to viewing is also a must if you want a better chance at seeing it. On glacier days we spend hours and hours out on deck with binoculars to see whales, seals, otters, sea lions, puffins eagles, and other birds as well as the sights and sounds of the calving of the glaciers. In Denali we went into the park as early as we could and spent all day into the early evening there. We were rewarded with many moose, wolves, Grizzly bears, foxes, caribou, Dall sheep, ptarmigan, snowshoe hares, Merlins, Eagles (Golden and Bald), and Marmots. Other people we talked to visiting the park within days of each other all saw a lot of wildlife. I have a loooooong review mainly so I can remember what we did as time passes, but tried to make notes of where we used the TourSaver and where we stayed at each stop and tour operators used in case it will help others planning their trips. I've broken it down into segments so you can easily move on if that part isn't of interest. Pre Cruise 7 days on land: Seattle: Saturday July 24 we flew to Fairbanks with a long layover in Seattle. We stored our carryon bags at Ken's Storage between carousels 12 & 13 under the escalators ($5-$9 per item) and took the Light Rail from Sea-Tac to Westlake Center where we grabbed the monorail to the Space Needle where we had reservations for brunch at the revolving restaurant. The reservation includes the cost of the elevator to the top (and eliminates the long wait in line) The views of the city were amazing as was the food. There were 3 courses with several choices in each category. We made several revolutions around as we ate. We took the monorail back to West Lake center and then walked to Pike's Market and took in the sights and smells. Fresh flowers, fish market (yes, they tossed the fish), various food stalls and souvenir shops. Still full from brunch we grabbed 2 of the largest peaches I have ever seen (over a half pound each!) and took them for dessert for after whatever we found at the airport for a light dinner. Walked back to West Lake center and took the light rail back to Sea-Tac. Arrived in Fairbanks late that night and called for the free shuttle to Pike's Lodge where we spent 3 nites (1 nite free with coupon) in one of their cabins. (at this point we had been awake longer than 24 hours and we got a couple hours sleep before having to get up for our 7:36a flight to Barrow.) It was a nice clean well appointed cabin, with our only complaint being the cabin was hot! Seemed there were heaters to keep pipes from freezing or something and an open window would have been welcome if they opened. I imagine most times of the year it's not an issue. It was a convenient place to stay and very nice. Barrow: We booked the tour through Northern Alaska Tours which included the transportation on Alaska Air and the city tour with a local company. We made a stop at Prudhoe Bay (Dead Horse) for fuel and to drop off supplies as our plane was half cargo and half passengers. Then a short time later we were in Barrow which is the most northern town is the U.S. Had a fantastic local tour guide Eli for the day who showed us the sites and entertained us with stories and history about the area. Stopped at the Arctic Ocean where we dipped our fingers in...burrrrr. We saw a couple of snowy owls, a seal, loons, ducks and other birds. We stopped at Pepes North of the Border for a pretty good Mexican lunch where we received our Arctic Circle Crossing certificates. Then finished our day tour which included a stop to see Inupiat Eskimos performing traditional dancing and the blanket toss. There are normally more there to perform, but their Olympics were being held in Fairbanks and most were there. A nice museum there and some locals selling their crafts. I bought a cute pair of earrings made of seal fur and skin from a local artist. The Inupiats in Barrow are a whaling community and there were huge bowhead whale jaws to stand in and get photo ops. 2 people on the tour decided they wanted to join the Polar Bear Club and took a dip in the Artic Ocean. Water was in the range of 0* or low negatives. Burrr. They had no bathing suits so they went in their underwear. To earn the certificate they had to completely submerge and stay under for I think 30 seconds. It's not something I could have done, but was a great photo op! The lady who did it had me take pictures with her camera and my husband also got some great shots that we will email to her. A very nice day here. (record heat for the area---still cool for my standards) We stopped at the local supermarket to pick up something to eat while waiting for our return flight. (no food at their small airport and it was dinner time) Everyone on the tour was getting a kick out of the high prices in the market. Everything has to be flown in so of course it's expensive. Got some cheese and crackers and enjoyed them while we waited for our flight---that was quite late and we had time to walk around town some more. So, already going on next to NO sleep we arrived in Fairbanks around 11:00p instead of 9:20. We rented a car for the next day and went back to the lodge. Fairbanks: We were able to get a bit more sleep as our Riverboat Discovery tour (2 for 1 coupon) didn't start until 8:45. It was just a short drive from the lodge and was another lovely day. The sternwheeler was a fantastic trip with stops at Susan Butcher's dog camp (her husband now runs it), and various displays and demonstrations of reindeer, furs and native ways of life. We saw Beavers in the water as well as birds here. They had samples of smoked salmon made in a cream cheese spread that was to die for. Of course you just HAD to buy some of the salmon to have shipped home. After that we drove to the Chowder house and had a couple of delicious chowders. One was a smoked salmon chowder (our favorite) and the other halibut & corn chowder. We then headed off to find the Pipeline visitor's center. We drove right by it, but had a lovely drive until we were to be at the El Dorado Gold Mine Train (2 for 1 coupon) at 3:00. It was on the Tana Valley Railroad and there was someone singing and playing fiddle and banjo. We went through a permafrost tunnel and had a walking tour of the mining camp. We panned for gold and had it weighed but didn't have it put into any jewelry. Did enjoy the hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. Then we drove back to the Pipeline Visitor's center to check that out. We then drove to a town called North Pole and saw their reindeer and shopped in Santa's village. Drove back to Fairbanks and grabbed a quick dinner and returned our rental car and took the free shuttle back to Pike's Lodge and walked around their grounds, had some Huckelberry ice cream and Blueberry cheesecake ice cream before heading off to get a bit of sleep. Next day we took their shuttle to the train station and headed for Denali. The Riverboat Discovery and El Dorado tours were both quite well done. Denali National Park: We had Gold Star service on the train (private dining car and the domed windows) All segments were 2 for 1 with coupon. We ate breakfast there and enjoyed reindeer sausage served in omelets and croissants. We enjoyed the scenery and spent a lot of time outside on the viewing area between cars. A moose was spotted and Greg saw a dead moose beside the tracks. We had a great sighting of a golden eagle sitting by the tracks, beaver dams and lodges and lots of other birds. Arrived in Denali at 12:15 and we took the park shuttle to the Denali Princess Lodge. Went across the street and ate at Great Alaska Fish & Chips Co. Had 1 Cod and 1 Haddock with fries and sweet potato fries. Really good food! We went to the Toklat Visitor's center and the Wilderness Access center and looked around and watched the movie. Went back to the lodge and checked in and our bags were waiting. (and someone else's bag had been left there as well). Luckily, it belonged to our neighbor and not to someone who had already left on the train. We walked across the street and had dinner at the Salmon Bake restaurant. We had made reservations prior to the trip and got right in. Really good food. We had the elk sliders for the appetizer and had an Asiago & Parmesan crusted Halibut and King Crab Chimichangas. Greg had a sampler of the local beers. We then shopped for something to take for lunch the next day at a local market. Cheese crackers and some sliced Salami and some oreos and sodas were easy enough to pack in the little soft sided cooler we brought. Found some more ice cream to try the local flavors. Next morning we got up very early for our 6:00 Eilson Shuttle. We found out that Princess shuttles don't run that early so we walked from the lodge to the Wilderness Access Center. We had picked up a couple of yummy cinnamon rolls at the lodge the night before and we ate them on the shuttle. Wildlife sighted on our shuttle was 11 moose, 2 sets of mama grizzly bears with 2 cubs each, male and female caribou, 2 foxes, a ptarmigan, a couple of golden eagles, a few Dall Sheep, 2 snowshoe hares, Marmots, a juvenile Merlin, ravens, and a pack of wolves with at least 15 of them with their young. Though I can't be sure it looked like they had made a kill as I saw a large animal with huge antlers on the ground and they were gathered around. They all howled (the bus got very quiet to listen to this) and we got pictures in that classic howling pose. The shuttle driver said he has only heard them howl now twice in his life. We got to Eilson center and had our lunch and watched the movie on hiking McKinley. We then went to hike a short trail, but were quickly called back as they were closing the trail due to a bear in the area. We had time so we upgraded our ticket to continue onto Wonder Lake. The terrain is really different during that part of the drive and not really much wildlife sited during this portion (except mosquitoes and a fox) The lake was beautiful and we picked wild blueberries. The Ultrathon insect repellant really worked and we weren't bitten by the swarms of mosquitoes. We then did the ride back stopping for animal sightings. We did get a few glimpses of Denali as the clouds were ever moving and we got lucky and just happened to look at the right time to see the peak. We got back with barely enough time to make the 8:30 Cabin Nite Dinner theater. (2 for 1) We met up with a couple from our roll call who were traveling on a different schedule on their land portion, but we found ourselves here at the same time and met for dinner & the show. The Cabin Nite was nice enough, but in hindsight, we wished we had skipped that and spent longer in the park. (another full day here would have been really great!) The Princess Lodge was nice enough with one interesting feature.....the bathroom door auto closes and it was like a meat locker in there. We had to prop open the door to let some heat in. Denali to Talkeetna: Finally, we got to get nearly a full night's sleep! The train doesn't leave until 12:25 so we slept in and walked across the street to have breakfast at the Salmon Bake. Really good blueberry cinnamon bread French Toast with fresh berries and anything you want from their "toppings bar". Another enjoyable train ride to Talkeetna. A bear was sited and we saw some swans. I can't say enough about the hospitality of the folks in Talkeetna. We stayed at Denali Fireside Cabins and the owner picked us up at the train station. She gave us a mini tour of the town and checked us into our cabin and then she knew we wanted to grab a quick dinner and head to our 7:00p Mckinley flight with Talkeetna Air Taxi (2 for 1 coupon) so she drove us to Mountain High Pizza Pie where we had a wonderful reindeer sausage, pepperoni, onion and roasted garlic pizza and as we were leaving the restaurant the owner of the cabins was there to pick us up and take us to the airport for our flight. She wanted to wait for us as the weather was pretty cloudy and not looking like we would be able to go, but she had been invited to dinner by friends and we said it was no problem, it really was just a short walk to anywhere around town. Our flight was canceled. Our friends that we met up with at Cabin Nite said they got their flight, but no landing. They said they would do their best to reschedule us the next day. We had a 7:00a 4 hour river float with Talkeetna River Guides (2 for 1 coupon) so we rescheduled for just after that. It was raining as we walked to meet at the yurt for our ride to the river float. We had time to grab some fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls at the Roadhouse. We jumped into the vehicle with the river guides who chatted and ate their breakfast on the drive there. Everyone else on the tour had stayed at the Princess McKinley Lodge or other so we met a few people there. We were first to arrive and donned our "Groton's Fishermans" outfits. Bright yellow rubber overalls and long jacket and boots. If you didn't dress appropriately they had lots of fleece jackets etc for you to wear as well. The float trip was amazing. So serene floating down the river and we saw at least 15 eagles along the way, both juveniles and adults. The weather cleared and the sun came out and it got down right hot in all that gear! It also gave us beautiful views of the mountains. It was looking good for our flight to go! We had time to grab a quick lunch at the Roadhouse and had some tasty pasties. One reindeer pastie and the other pulled pork. We stopped for some Hot Licks ice cream at the store next door to wear we stayed and owned by the same people. Best ice cream EVER! Loved the dark chocolate. We walked to the airport and we got our flight and the landing at the base of McKinely! (couldn't use the coupon due to the rescheduling, but they gave us a discount) The landing was really cool as the plane skids to a stop on it's skis on the glacier. So quiet and beautiful up there! I ate glacier snow. We got a few glimpses of McKinley out. Beautiful views from up there and landing on the glacier was fantastic! The people from TAT offered to drive us to the train station first stopping at the lodge to pick up our luggage. Did I say I couldn't say enough great things about the hospitality of the people there? Would highly recommend the Denali Fireside Cabins, The river float and the McKinley flight! We enjoyed the pizza place and the food at the Roadhouse. Back on the train. Phew! We had some leftover pizza. (that the owner of the lodge took from us and put it on a plate and dropped it by our cabin and put it in the fridge for us while we did our plane flight.) Beautiful views on this segment as well. A moose was sited. There had been an aviation accident that had part of the tracks shut down while it was under FAA investigation so we had to get off the train and be bussed the rest of the way to Anchorage about an hour out. It was all handled very efficiently and only added about 30 minutes to the length of the trip. Got checked into the Historic Anchorage Hotel which was very nice. It would have been a short walk from the train station, but it was raining pretty good so we grabbed a cab. (less than $5.00!) We then set out to find a light snack and some ice cream. Found the lady with the reindeer hot dog stand by the Federal Building and caught her just as she was closing up. For $6.00 got a dog, chips and a soda. It seems I can't get enough of reindeer since I first tried it last year in Stockholm. YUM! Then, walked around a bit and found an ice cream place open. Cruise portion: Up early for our transportation to Whittier on Alaska Leopard Comedy tour. Just 6 of us in the van and was good cheap transportation to get to Whittier. Comedy is dismal at best, but great views out the window. It was cool and rainy and so we didn't spend much time out viewing the sites where we stopped. We got to the cruise terminal early and knew we would have to wait a bit to check in and board. However, what we weren't prepared for was NOT being able to drop off our luggage. We were first to check in around 11:00a but couldn't board as we had to stay with our luggage until the union luggage guys started at 1:00! Not an issue if you used a bus or train to get there as they check the luggage for you directly to the ship. Considering this drawback, I think Alaskan Leopard is a good means of transportation leaving the ship at the end of a cruise, but not beneficial for arriving there unless you want to sit for hours and watch everyone else get on the ship while you sit with your luggage. We had a Prince William Sound Glacier cruise scheduled with Prince William sound Glacier Cruises and found out they would have picked us up and stored our luggage for us. Weather was misty and rainy for the start of the PWS cruise, but eventually cleared and we got some great views of glaciers. We saw lots of sea otters, 3 eagles, a black bear by a stream on the mountain, many harbor seals and some huge jellyfish. Saw and heard our first glacier calving. AMAZING! Beautiful waterfalls and scenery. Would have loved the 6 hour tour here, but only did the 4 hour. (2 for 1 coupon) Being that close to the glaciers was really a treat. Included crabcake lunch and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Finally got on board the ship and found our cabin with luggage waiting. We got unpacked and met our friends for dinner, which was open seating that first night. We skipped the show that evening and just chilled out. Early to bed for a full night of sleep. The first full night since we started this vacation. Hubbard Glacier: I slept in and Greg got up and exercised. Showered and had a light late breakfast and headed for the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the Wheelhouse Bar at 11:00. It was fun to meet the people we had chatted with over the months before the cruise on the boards. We all exchanged stories of our vacation so far. Most had done land portions before the cruise. Then it was off to lunch in the dining room. Then back to the room to bundle up for the glacier viewing. We headed forward on the Caribe Deck to the "secret balcony" It never got crowded out there and you could hear the commentary. We spent the whole day out there. Saw seals, otters and quite a bit of calving and icebergs. Just amazing. Had a late dinner in the dining room and went to the evening entertainment. Glacier Bay: Slept in and had breakfast before heading out on the same deck for the viewing today. Again, we spent the whole day out there taking a quick break for the seafood buffet on deck for lunch and a quick change for dinner and then changed back to warm clothes and back out on deck for some whale watching. In the day time we saw a couple of Orcas on the sail in to Glacier Bay, later we saw otters, puffins, harbor seals, and after dinner we saw humpback whale tails and one thumped it's tail about 20 times in a row. Skipped the show & got to bed for a bit of sleep before our day in Skagway. Skagway: Booked with Dyea Dave and our van was all cruise critic friends and not crowded at all. Dave was great. With all the reviews about him, I was prepared for a long day of groans with bad tired jokes. Maybe he was on his best behavior that day, but we all really enjoyed him as a tour guide. He really took every effort to keep ahead of the big tour buses and to stop at just the right spot for the perfect photo ops. He was very knowledgeable and informative on our ride to the Yukon. Highly recommend him! We did see a black bear beside the road, a marmot, magpies and Canadian Geese. The drive was beautiful and we stopped at Carcross to buy our White Pass Railroad tickets from Fraser back to Skagway. Unfortunately the Cinnamon Cache had closed and she was trying to sell her business. We ate at the Spirit Lake Lodge, which was an experience in itself. Dave warned us about the owner. Said she liked things to go her own way and as long as we all did as we were told everything would be fine. Let's just say that the experience had us all remembering the Seinfeld episode of the "Soup Nazi" We would have loved to have tried the Dutch pancakes, but we were all told we could not order off the menu and could choose from the pre-made sandwiches, soup and pie. The pie was very good and it definitely was an interesting dining experience. (chalked it up to the local "charm") As much as we hated to leave Dave we opted for the White Pass Railroad back to Skagway. It was a fun experience on the narrow gauge tracks and we spent the whole trip outside on the viewing platforms. Beautiful views! Dave had already given us a tour of the town and was waiting for us as we got off the train. He then would take us back to the ship or drop us in town. We opted to stay in town, found some ice cream and made our way to the Red Onion Saloon. Very enjoyable day here with great weather! Juneau: We booked a whale watch tour with Chris at Rum Runners who was willing to go out for a 7:00a tour on his 6 person boat joined by 2 other Cruise Critic couples. Highly recommend his company! Only 6 of us on the boat with Captain Chris and his mate a nice young guy who was very informative. Oh, and his adorable dog Autumn Moon who seemed to know when the whales would surface. We were lucky enough to watch a pod of Humpbacks bubble net feeding. A group of whales working together will dive under schools of herring, one whale will swim in a circle while blowing bubbles under the herring. When the bubbles rise they form a net and scare the herring into a tight ball in the center. The whales then come up through the middle with their mouths open, capturing large amounts food. Just awesome! Saw lots of mouths open, tails, dorsal and pectoral fins and spray from the blowholes. We estimated there were at least 11 whales doing this and we saw a few single whales as well. After watching this for some time he took us to see some Steller Sea Lions hanging out on a buoy. We saw 3 eagles on the ride. Hated to see it end, but as promised Captain Chris got us back to the dock in time for meeting our next excursion. Knowing we didn't have much time between excursions we made some sandwiches from the buffet the night before and put a few cookies in a baggie and we ate those on the bus ride to the airport. We had a little time to walk the town before meeting the van for ERA helicopter and dog sledding adventure. I must say they run a fine operation and it was fun to watch the helicopters take off and land 6 at a time taking off or landing right after the other. Scenery was breathtaking! Then it was time to land on the glacier and we could see these dots down there that eventually turned out to be the Dalton Gang dog camp. They have about 150 dogs that rotate doing the tours. There was plenty of time to interact with the dogs before embarking on the dog sled ride. Each of us got a chance to stand on the back and help work the brakes and then switched to ride in the seats of the sled. Interesting perspective from both of the positions. More time to pet the dogs and talk with Dave Dalton about sledding and racing. On the flight we saw many glaciers including Taku the largest one in the Juneau Icefield. We saw a seal in the water and 9 eagles. Another awesome experience! We even purchased the picture they took up on the glacier. We had a bit of time before boarding the ship and we walked down to the Red Dog Saloon where Greg sampled more of the local beers. Fantastic day in Juneau! Ketchikan: We had a little time to walk the town before our first tour. We booked a Misty Fjords floatplane trip with Michelle at Island Wings. It was a clear and hot day so no mist, but fantastic views. We were on her Beaver with another CC couple and with only 4 of us we each got our own rows on the plane. Perhaps Michelle isn't a morning person, but we found her a bit "bristly". She pointed out the salmon jumping and Greg asked what kind as we had learned there are 5 kinds of salmon and she answered "Salmon, didn't I say salmon?" I was looking out the window and listening to her commentary and I turned to look at her as she was very interesting. She says to me and not in a "nice way" that I should be looking out the window at the beautiful scenery instead of watching her, "after all you paid a lot of money to go on this tour" She pointed out some mountain goats that I didn't see. (I think the wing was blocking my view) Since I didn't see them I used my binoculars to try to find them. She says the reason I can't find them is because I'm trying to use binoculars and they are useless in a plane. So, she makes another pass and says if you don't see them now you should get your eyesight checked. They were there, but really just dots with the naked eye-----our pictures with super zoom did confirm they were indeed mountain goats. One of the other passengers was making too much noise with his mouthpiece and she just said "whoever is doing that it's not acceptable". She did seem to warm as the flight went on and we felt safe and the views were awesome. The landing was fun and we got to get out and walk around. We picked some blueberries and salmonberries and Michelle took photos with our cameras of both couples. We then headed to the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's boat. I don't think there is a bad seat on the boat as they make sure you all get to see everything. Very fun and interesting. Even if you don't watch Deadliest Catch I'm sure it would be of interest. They told lots of stories of the boat and crabbing and showed us samples of each type of fishing. There was a box crab that they passed around and they let us pose next to the King Crab one of the deck hands held. They let you hold the snow crab. They also had brought up a couple of octopus and a sunflower sea star that was really cool. We saw about 20 eagles, some Dall's purpose, jellyfish and lots of salmon jumping. Very good time. Finally, a relaxing sea day! This was Greg's birthday and I had chocolate covered strawberries delivered to the cabin. We played bingo in the morning and headed to the Pub lunch served in the Bayou Cafe. Had a couple orders of fish and chips and bangers and mash. Delish as always! Got our things packed for disembarkation the next day and headed to the final bingo session. We had skipped bingo the other days as viewing the glaciers and wildlife had us ignoring the usual things to do around the ship. Drum roll please......I won the final jackpot of $1,750.00!!!!!! Boy, did that top off an already great vacation! That evening we had reservations for the Bayou Cafe for Greg's birthday. I guess I should have reminded them when we made the reservation as they didn't acknowledge it. He did get balloons by our cabin door. The food was as fantastic as we remembered, except for the chocolate pecan dessert which was hard and dry. It was moist and fudgy last time and to die for. The steak and the lobster were superb and the appetizer sampler platter very tasty. We attended the evening's entertainment which was good. Vancouver: Disembarkation went well (though it's never pleasant ending your cruise). We walked to the Hotel le Soleil where we spent 2 nights with our luggage in the gentle rain. It was a very nice hotel and there was an included continental breakfast. We had them hold our bags and headed out and bought transportation tickets for the next 3 days. Even though it was misting or raining we walked to Stanley Park and walked along the sea wall for a while instead of taking the bus. Wildlife today was a black squirrel, Canadian Geese, swans and other sea birds. It was frustrating trying to find the park shuttle as all that came by were the HOHO tours. (in hindsight that would have worked better) We finally gave up waiting when we found the sign saying they didn't start until 11:00 and walked to the Fish House for lunch. Had salmon cakes and a haddock burger that were quite good. They told us where to get the shuttle. They actually directed us to where the HOHO buses come by and we walked back to the other stop after waiting for half an hour without one coming by. The HOHO drivers all said it would be by soon. Finally, we get on the park shuttle and bought our tickets and stopped at the rose garden, first nations exhibit, totem poles and a couple of other viewing spots and also had a beaver tail as a snack. It proceeded to rain all day and evening here. We skipped Granville Island since we lost so much time this morning. Took the bus to Gas Town and China Town. The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen garden was still open, but we missed the last guided tour and walked around on our own. It was time to find some dinner and we made our way to Shanghai Chinese Bistro which had about an hour wait so we put in our names and went elsewhere to grab a drink and wait since it was so crowded there and there was no place to wait. Had a wonderful meal and were surprised to find 2 CC couples that we had done the whale watch with just getting seated as we were starting our meal. Too funny. Lots of places to eat there...what are the odds? Day 2 in Vancouver: we had booked an all day tour with Prince of Whales. (highly recommend) Met them at the Sea Bus station on Waterfront. On the way to Victoria we had a whale watch and saw a couple different pods of Orcas. One was a family with a baby that was very playful. Actually all the Orcas were quite playful. Lots of great whale viewing. We also saw seals lying on logs being transported via barge, harbor seals, 4 eagles, lots of interesting things being transported by barge and many sea birds. We arrived at Victoria and were headed to Barb's fish & chips, but the crew told us that Red Fish Blue Fish was closer and very good. So, we waited over an hour in line to order our fish and chips, which we enjoyed while sitting on the dock and listening to a guy performing there for tips. The sun had come out and it was a beautiful day. We had no time left to tour the town as we wanted to spend at least 2 hours at Butchart Gardens. Grabbed the bus there and the gardens are beyond description. Just breathtaking! We wished we could have spent a couple more hours here. In hindsight we wished we had skipped day 1 in Vancouver and spent the night on Victoria. At 5:30 we headed to the dock at the gardens for our 2 hour boat ride back to Vancouver. Dropped some things off at the hotel and grabbed a bus to Robson street to find a late dinner. Found Hon's Chinese food and while a different atmosphere than the Shanghai Bistro the food was quite good. Then happened upon a Gelato place that had the best gelato we have had since we were in Italy. An article on the wall said they originated in Rome. Back to the hotel to pack up and check out the next morning. Day 3 in Vancouver: Again, the hotel stored our luggage as we headed out to the sea bus to the North Shore to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was a fun experience and a nice little park with a short nature walk. We then grabbed the bus and went to find the Capilano Fish Hatchery. It was supposed to be a short walk...but ended up being quite a bit longer than the 1 kilometer stated. The salmon weren't jumping the ladder, but a few were resting there. It was a lovely park and a great place to spend a whole day. With only a short time to spend there, we should have skipped it and went straight to Grouse Mountain. It started to pour rain during our walk and despite the low visibility we took the skyride to the top. Actually, the mist was kinda cool and towards the top it was starting to clear. We grabbed a quick lunch here and wandered out to see the sights. There was a small wild deer that was attracting a lot of attention and posed for a lot of pictures. I think it was too scared to move as some kids were kind of boxing it in. We took lots of pictures of the beautiful tree trunk carvings. The 2 bears were sleeping, we watched a very nice bird show. We watched part of one of the movies before it was time to take the ride down. The skies cleared and we got very nice views of the city. We stopped at Londsdale Quay for a snack at Beaver Tails. The chocolate hazelnut pastries were to die for! Very nice market here with lots of international cuisine. Took the Sea Bus back and Greg left me at the train station while he went to collect our luggage. We took the train to the airport and had time to grab dinner. Had a short flight to Seattle and Customs was a breeze. Had a couple hour layover in Seattle. We went to board the plane and were told to speak to an agent. We booked seats well in advance and checked in several hours before the flight, but they gave one of our seats away. We booked an isle and a window in the same row. (I get up a lot and don't like to walk over other people). We were told about 3 different excuses of what happened. One said, there was a 1 year old they had to accommodate, one said it was a computer glitch, and another said it was to accommodate someone with an injury. The person who had Greg's seat was traveling with a dog and no one in either of our rows was a child or had an injury. Greg got one guy to trade with me so he could have my window seat and I took his middle seat to sit next to Greg. The woman with the dog had demanded the isle seat, but the under-seat space is smaller there and her dog didn't fit very well. The flight attendant kept telling her to keep it completely under the seat. She left it out and since there was no room for her feet she spent the whole trip with her legs spread on either side of it which of course was in my space and the isle. She actually took the dog out of the carrier and held it for a while making smooching noises and the dog dives towards me. It was a small dog and it only made a few whimpers, but the woman loudly shooshed it waking me up several times. It was a redeye and I really wanted to sleep. Ah well, only s small sour note to end a fabulous trip! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
We have been on over 12 cruises over the years. 6 with Princess. Overall the cruise was nice. We had problem with check in and had to wait for 3 hours to board because of a virus on the previous cruise. That was fine and nobody on the ... Read More
We have been on over 12 cruises over the years. 6 with Princess. Overall the cruise was nice. We had problem with check in and had to wait for 3 hours to board because of a virus on the previous cruise. That was fine and nobody on the cruise got sick. We had our children with us and when we booked our trip, we were told there were no rooms available for 4 people so they said we had to book two rooms. We booked a mini suite for ourselves and they assured us the kids room would be assigned nearby. Our room was the very front of the ship on deck 11. Their room was the very back room on deck 8. To say the least we were not happy. My wife talked to the front desk and they first suggested we all share the same room. This after we were told we could not do that when we booked the trip. She explained we can not have our children that far away from us. They ended up giving us the mini suite next door, and I will say I was pleased with the way it ended up. When we booked the cruise, we asked for a mini suite. They informed us there were none left with decks, but the mini suites had floor to ceiling windows. We felt that would be fine. We had a standard outside window and was not as advertised. The mini suites were roomy, but nothing special. None of the amenities we have come to expect with a mini suite. The cruise was very nice and we enjoyed great service for dining staff and our room steward. Our largest disappointment was the end of the cruise. We had a noon flight and when we got our bag tags, we would be the third group off the ship. I went to the desk 2 times the day prior to departure and asked if we could get on an earlier group. They assured me we would have no problem at all getting to our flight. We arrived in port. We were required to go though customs at 6:45 am. I stood in a long line until 8:30 am when they finally showed up. There we no chairs for the elderly. No beverages offered. It was frustrating for all. After we completed that, we went to wait for our group to be called. Usually, they cannot wait to get you off the ship, but we were still on board at 10:00 am. They said they were having some difficulties, no official explanation, just rumors and different information from different staff members. Again, I went to the desk to see if we could get off with an earlier group. They again said we would have no problem making our flight. They finally let the first group go. Then there was a delay of about a half hour. Again, no explanation. We knew it would go quickly once they started calling groups. We could not have been more wrong. The next group they called were the people booked for local tours. They were originally scheduled near the end. They called the next group at about 11:00 am. We were still 2 groups away. We were finely able to get tags so we could leave the ship. When we got to the baggage claim, it was organized and our bags were easy to find. Then the nightmare began. Once outside, there was a mass of people waiting for transportation. We were instructed to stand in line for a taxi which were in short supply. We waited patiently, got near the front at which time the sheriff came and said what was the front is now the back of the line. I finally had to hold up a $ 20.00 bribe to get a taxi as all organization was gone and it was a free for all. We got to the airport and missed our flight by 7 minutes. We ended up stranded for 4 hours waiting on standby, and not getting on. We then spent $ 200.00 for a hotel. Food etc. We ended up spending about an additional $ 500.00. We also lost a vacation day from work and our children missed another day of school. We bought the insurance, but we were informed it only covered getting to the cruise, not home. Princess was absolutely NO HELP. In summation, loyalty means nothing to Princess. They spend a fortune to get us there in the form of advertising. Once they let you off board, they could care less. They do a good job of getting people on board and directing traffic on board. Could they not take the next step and provide organization for the trip home? It's like getting a date, enjoying all they can and being dropped off in the country once they get what they want. My wife and I are in sales. It takes a lot to get a new customer. You would think they would want to retain as many customers as possible. A good experience is shared with few. Bad shared with many. Out of 6 cruises with Princess, 4 were very good. 2 left us feeling upset. We take one or two cruises per year. We even picked out our next cruise with Princess prior to leaving the ship. We may sale with Princess again, but it will have to be the best deal going. There are many many lines out there other then princess and sister lines. We have tried to be loyal customers, but no more. We will no longer let them redirect their problems as ours. We spent over $12000.00 with them for this trip and have referred many new cruiser in their direction. No more. Saintjon Read Less
Sail Date: July 2003
This is my review of our 7/7 land tour #22 and southbound coral cruise 7/12. We are 50 year olds, this was our 6th cruise, 3rd on Princess. This is only my opinion, hope you enjoy. I am doing a day by day review, (land first then the ... Read More
This is my review of our 7/7 land tour #22 and southbound coral cruise 7/12. We are 50 year olds, this was our 6th cruise, 3rd on Princess. This is only my opinion, hope you enjoy. I am doing a day by day review, (land first then the cruise). Day 1- 7/7. Flight- Northwest NY to Minn.- Minn. to Fairbanks. The flight left on time landed at 1:45PM local time, connection left at 2:30PM, ran across the terminal about 8 miles (felt like it). Had just enough time to grab food from Burger King and take it on board. Plane left on time. Can't believe there was no movie on a 5 hour flight. Arrived Fairbanks on time. Met the Princess person and was given information envelope with room keys, etc. Took the bus to the Princess Riverside Lodge. All luggage was delivered to the room, we went to eat at Trackers grill, very good then to sleep. (Note: It never got dark. We knew about midnight sun and all, but it says sunset at 12:30 am and sunrise at 3:40am. But it NEVER got dark. The sun goes just below the horizon and the sky still is bright, like just at dusk. Strange. Day 2- 7/8. Woke up early (very), took a walk and a few pictures. Beautiful day, sunny going to be in the 80s. We ate in the Edgewater restaurant for breakfast, (OK). Off to the riverboat Discovery. It's a nice trip quiet and calm with beautiful scenery. Had a look at Mt. McKinley from 200 miles away. Saw dog sled exhibit from Susan Butcher, the dogs are real funny. Bus back to the hotel for lunch. Now off to the Gold Mine, to pay for the trip. LOL. Well back from the gold mine, I will have to go back to work after all. They said we had $24 worth of gold, they sell jewelry to put it in if you want, had a good time. Stopped at the Alaska pipeline, amazing. Then went through downtown Fairbanks. Time to shower and eat. We went to Pikes Landing for dinner, just down the road from the hotel. Sat on the deck overlooking the river. The food was very good, nice and relaxing. Went back to the room repacked all luggage, sent 2 bags direct to the ship, others to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge. Had to have luggage outside room by 5:30 am. Time to sleep again. Day 3- 7/9. Woke up early, (beginning to see a pattern here). Bus leaves at 7:15am to the Midnight Sun Train. Again expecting a beautiful day. We are on the train now, it left right on time. There is a tour operator on the train to book for next lodge. We then went to the dinning car for breakfast, it was very good. Great looking train cars. Not really much to see, lots of trees, trees and then some more trees. Towards the end of the ride (last hour or so) the view gets better with high mountains, a river, got some nice shots. Finally arrived at Denali Princess Lodge, we had about 45 minutes to eat lunch (we ate Lynx Pizza, so-so). Then we boarded school bus for the Denali tour. Great scenery, go to a zoo if you want to see animals. We saw 1 caribou at about 100 yards, 1 snow hare. Back to Denali lodge to pick up our coach to Mt. McKinley lodge. Nice looking lodge with large deck, great room. Ate at Grizzly's Bar, on deck, good food. You could just see the mountain, hopefully better tomorrow. Bedtime. Day 4-7/10. Woke up to cloudy sky and drizzle. Had a good breakfast at the lodge, waiting to see if the summit flight tour would be cancelled or not. Not cancelled yet so we took the bus to Talkeetna (1 hour plus). Went to K2 Aviation and were told it was cancelled. Walked around downtown Talkeetna, not much to see. Waiting for the bus back to lodge. There was a large female moose on the side of the road. Cloudy all day with no view of the mountain. Just hung out for the rest of the day. Getting ready for dinner with another couple we met (nice people). We ate at the Mountain View restaurant, wonderful food and company. Very strange, 10:30pm and still light. Day 5- 7/11. Woke up to rain. We have the Jeep Safari booked for today, so quick breakfast and pack bags again. They had to be outside the door before we go on the tour. The Jeep tour was great, lots of fun. Now bus to the train again, Midnight Sun to Anchorage. No problems, got to the hotel about 8:00pm and went to our room at the Hilton. Took a stroll around the area, pretty with lots of flowers and gift shops. Sleep time. Day 6- 7/12. Woke up early, had to have luggage out by 8:00am. Went downstairs for breakfast, very good but expensive (what else is new). The bus to Seward is very nice, pretty views with a few stops for pictures. (Tip- sit on the right side of the bus, you see the water most of the way). Can't wait to unpack on the ship and leave it for a week. We arrived about 1:00pm, picked up cruise card and was onboard in 15 minutes. Eating in 10 minutes. lol. Tip. If you go off the ship again in Seward, be sure to take cruise card and picture ID to get back on , you have to go through security again. That's it for the land portion of this, if you have any questions about lodges, tours or whatever ask away. Thanks for reading this, the cruise is next Mark This is part 2, life on the ship, Coral Princess 7 night southbound Alaska. Day 1 Seward. We went to the horizon buffet to grab lunch. The food was very good, it was nice to eat and not get a bill after (like on the land). We did laundry as we planned. The bags we sent from Fairbanks came first, unpacked them, then, headed into town for some soda. The rest of our bags were delivered, so now we were free. Went exploring the ship, it's very nice looking and clean. The first night onboard everyone has to eat 1st or 2nd seating dinner (no PC). They give you a ticket as to which seating to go to. They handed my wife one for early seating, she asked for late seating. It took them a while but finally got the right one for us. The reason for no PC dinning is Safety Drill (muster) is at 8:15pm. By the time we finished the drill and returned life vest to the room, it was after 9:00pm. We went to eat, I was mad that the ship sailed while we were still eating. After we finished we went up on deck, WOW. We enter College Fjord at 6:30am, so off to bed we go. Day 2 College Fjord. Woke up very early (5:00am), it's a beautiful sunny day. It feels cold, of course I'm in my underwear on the balcony, lol. Waiting for 6:00am room service. Food came right on time, a quick cup of coffee and bagel and off the see the show. What a show it is. It was quite cold, so I put on several layers and off we went. Sailed up College Fjord, just amazing. The Glaciers are coming down from the mountains to the water. (Tip- Get the highest magnification binoculars you can. With my zoom lens on my camera, the ice looks like a carpet but with the binoculars you can see the rows of ice). After a while the ship turns around and goes out the same way it went in, so you don't have to be there at 6:30 if you don't want to see everything twice. Saw a few otters from a bit of a distance. Going to get a real breakfast now. Spent some time in the sun looking for wildlife, saw a whale but again far away. Went to bingo (lost), went to the casino for a while (lost) see a pattern here (lol). Later today we sailed into a fog bank and the temp. dropped and was cloudy the rest of the day. We made dinner plans with the couple we met on the train. Very nice English couple now living in Orlando Fl. Tonight is the first formal night, Captain cocktail party at 7:45pm then dinner. After dinner we went to the show Dance. Typical cruise show, good music, dancing and costume changes. Went back to the casino, won a little of my money back. Sleep. Day 3 Glacier Bay. Slept in today, 9:00am. Buffet breakfast, as we are starting to sail into Glacier Bay. It is very cold out, gray, cloudy low 50s and windy. We got dressed, I was wearing long sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, waterproof jacket with fleece lining, hat and gloves. We got 2 lounge chairs right in the front of the ship up on deck 15 and watched as we sailed into the bay. After a while my wife went and got 2 blankets (the ship had these on deck 14 at the pool, which you sign out then return, free). We viewed a few glaciers as we sailed up the tar inlet, now the sun started to break thru the clouds. As the sun got stronger, the layers started coming off. The temperature must have risen 20 degrees at least. Anyway back to the glaciers. At the end of the tar inlet is the Margerie Glacier. This is the one you see in all the TV and ads, very high, with white and blue ice. Just as we approached it a piece broke off (calved) but we were still pretty far away. The ship stops right there nice and close. There were 2 small calving, not much but better then nothing. After a while the ship turns so the other side balcony's can view it. My Balcony was on this side so I ran to my room to watch it. All the balcony's on this side were full (hope the ship doesn't roll over, ha ha). Just as the ship started to leave we said it's now or never. And as if on cue we heard a crack and a large piece fell right in front of us, awesome. This is what everyone came here for. I had called room service as soon as I got to the room, ordered 2 hot dogs and french fries. So I ate lunch watching the glacier as we sailed away. My wife and I went up to the hot tub for a while, (very nice). Went to dinner, and the show, comedian Sarge (he was pretty funny). Hit the casino again (broke even) and now time to sleep. Day 4 Skagway. Had room service breakfast, we had the Yukon bus and White Pass Train tour. Today is a mix of sun and clouds, we started up the mountains and it was very foggy for a while. There is some very nice scenery, large drop off the side of the road, lots of lakes and mountains. We go to Carcross (could have skipped this) for lunch, which is 2 little pieces of chicken, bread and coleslaw. There are some live animals in pens and 2 plastic dall sheep in the mountain behind everything (tacky). Back on the bus after lunch and then down to the train. Right at the train depot we saw a large bear in the grass at the end of the parking lot. We were about 100 feet away or less, got some good pictures. We thought it was a grizzly but the train conductor said it was a cinnamon black bear. Took the train back to Skagway, great views on the train. Did a little shopping and back to the ship for FOOD, I was as hungry as a bear, Lol. Just relaxed on the balcony for a while looking for whales. Time for dinner and the show, (Curtain Up) enjoyable like the other one. Stopped at the casino (lost) and bed. Day 5 Juneau. Woke up and called the tour desk to check about helicopter dogsled tour, (foggy out). They said go to the pier and see, we did and they cancelled it (S#+T). We were able to get on the 11:30am whale watching tour so we did it. My wife went to get a manicure while we killed time. I went to the tour desk and switched our Ketchikan tour as we had booked a boat tour there. (didn't want to do same thing). Had late breakfast and off to the whales, I hope. Well we did see whales, actually 6 humpbacks were doing what is called bubble feeding, very cool. We saw a few harbor seals and eagles. So it wasn't a waste of time, (still would have rather been yelling mush mush, lol. Going to dinner soon and the comedian Scott Wyler, he was very funny. Went to the casino and made another deposit. Bed time. Day 6 Ketchikan. We had changed our tour yesterday from boat cruise to a seaplane to Misty Fjord and cruise. I like to do different kinds of things on these trips, and had never been in a small plane. The plane ride was really fun beautiful area, we landed on the water and transferred to the boat. It was OK, we saw lots of working fishing boats. Returned to the ship, tonight is the captain's club cocktail party. So were getting ready for dinner early also the 2nd formal night. Had the usual lobster tails tonight. Off to the show Tribute, very good music (Beatles, Beach Boys etc.) After the show I'm planning on going to the casino to get all my money back, didn't happen. See ya. Day 7 At Sea. Had a very sunny and warm day. Slept in late 9:00am. Also turned the clocks ahead 1 hour during the night. Had the casino tournaments today (slot and blackjack, I know I will get my money back now, lol) didn't win. We ate lunch and sat by the pool for a while. Went to the BIG BINGO game, $2000 prize (by now you know what's going to happen) right I didn't win. HAHA. We also packed all our bags during the slow time this afternoon so we wouldn't have to rush tonight. There was a pre-dinner comedy show with both comedians, a riot. We had dinner a kind of sad time, as you know it's all over. One last time to see my money, waved goodbye and back to room to sleep. We also put all of the luggage outside our door at 8:00pm. Day 8 Disembarking. Woke up early had breakfast in the Horizon Court, packed our carry on bags and said goodbye to our friends, and waited to leave the ship. We had a 10:30 am flight to Toronto on Air Canada. We had to get all of our bags and go to customs, they sent us the wrong way out and had to go back to find a bus to airport. The bus didn't leave till almost 9:00 am, the airport is about a half hour away from the dock. Getting short on time. Arrived at 9:30, got bags from the bus, got a cart and into the airport we go (a mad house). People everywhere. They tell you to use a machine to get your boarding pass, but the machine said see attendant. Wait no another line, finally there and the person is typing like I am now. (thought, she was writing a book). Checked bags, went to another machine to pay leaving tax $10 PP (?), now to security line. Of course they had to open all carry on bags, look at camera binoculars etc. At last we get to the gate and they are already boarding the plane. But this is the way to fly, a nice new big plane with a movie and free headsets. Landed on time in Toronto and this place is nuts too. Because this is an international flight, we had to get all our luggage (another cart), go to US customs, long line and go to security again. Re check luggage in and go to gate. Of course they stopped my wife and went through her carry on and purse. They wouldn't let her take the can of bug spray on board. (a gift to the inspector) and off we go. Arrived on time and our son was there to take us home. Day 9 Laundry HA HA. Hate this part of vacation. General Information and Opinions : I now know why Northwest is called northworst by people on these boards. The land tour is exhausting. Beautiful land and a great way to see much of it, glad we booked it with Princess for our first visit. If I go back I will do my own thing. Princess does an amazing job of moving you and your luggage all over the place and on schedule. The cruise was great, the ship is beautiful, I like this size ( I have been on smaller, Dawn and larger, Grand). All the entertainment on the ship was very enjoyable, good music and dancing, the comedians were very good too. The food was good in the dinning room and Horizon Court. Breakfast has the same food everyday, lunch buffet was very good. Pizza was OK, hot dogs had a funny taste to me, burgers were all overcooked for my taste. Dinner was a little to fancy for my taste (as are most cruises). But they always had steak or chicken available. I was very disappointed in the animal viewing, I know it is very hit or miss but I kept missing. Weather is unpredictable, the two tours we really wanted to do were both cancelled due to weather so keep an open mind and be flexible. All the Princess staff, bus/tour guides, hotel staff, cruise crew etc. were top notch and very friendly. We will cruise with Princess again, and again. Overall we had a wonderful trip, met many nice people and you can't believe the land of Alaska. If anyone has any questions about specific things, just respond to this and I will try to answer them as best as I can. Thank you for taking the time to read this, I know it was long but I felt that I couldn't get enough information before I went. Thanks and happy cruising Read Less
Coral Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.1
Family 5.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 3.0 4.0
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

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