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I chose Princess Cruiseline for our Alaskan cruise because of excellent reviews from family members who had done this trip several years ago. Not only was this my first cruise ever, it was my first trip to Alaska as well. My boyfriend and I flew out from JFK (NYC) into Toronto and on to Vancouver the day before the ship's departure. The security process at the Toronto airport was very slow. We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Vancouver-Richmond which offered a free shuttle service between the airport and the hotel. We arranged a taxi through the front desk for transport the next morning to the port ($40). Since it was early Saturday morning, there was no traffic and it was an easy ride. Embarkation was very well organized and pleasant. From dropping off our bags at Point A and through the entire process, things went smoothly. When we asked the baggage handlers what we were supposed to do next, they said "just enjoy yourselves" and pointed to the next entry door. Upon boarding the ship, we went down to Guest Services to reserve our spots on the Ultimate Ship Tour. There is only one tour offered per sailing, with a maximum number of 14 guests. If you've ever wondered about the various departments that help a cruise ship operate, this is a great way to learn about them. We visited the medical clinic, the kitchen, the laundry department, the theater and backstage areas, the engine room and the bridge where we met the captain. Though the cost of $150 per person seemed hefty, we thought it was well worth it. Back to boarding and our stateroom: once on board the ship, we had to wait a few hours before our stateroom was ready so we availed ourselves of the ice cream bar and the other venues. Our balcony stateroom was roomy enough, with space under the bed to stow our suitcases. The bed was comfortable and the room was clean. We were towards the aft of the ship so the vibration from the engines was noticeable as we went out to sea. Once we entered the inside passage, the vibration was less of an issue. Still, I would opt for a mid-ship stateroom next time to avoid that issue. Our only disappointment was the bathrobes we had requested when booking the cruise were not in the stateroom because they were being washed from the last cruise. We got them the next afternoon and made good use of them. As "anytime diners", we ate most of our meals at the buffet. It was convenient, and there was a tremendous array of food available. We did have our final dinner at the Symphony, which was very nice, but the buffet suited us fine. The waitstaff were very attentive and came to our table immediately to take drink orders. We also enjoyed the coffee bar and pastry counter on the Piazza level, and the ice cream, hamburger, and pizza place on the top deck. There were so many nice bars to sit and enjoy a drink. We had opted out of the two formal nights because we didn't want to pack extra clothes, but I would do it next time. It was nice to see people dressed up for the evening, and a sport jacket for men and a short dressy dress for the woman would suffice fine. There was no shortage of entertainment or activities on board the ship. We enjoyed the production "Encore" and the dance band Xcite! had us on the dance floor every night. Presentations by guest lecturers such as Nick Jans filled the theater. We also attended several raffle drawings but did not luck out on any free jewelry or spa services. It was still fun as the excitement is contagious, and since we were on board the ship with nowhere else to be, we figured we'd take our chances. From the food servers to the room stewards (especially the room stewards), we found everyone to be pleasant and welcoming. Our first port was Ketchikan. Since we were only in port for 6 1/2 hours, we chose to walk around on our own. Based on an earlier cruise critic review, we rode the funicular ($3 RT) up to the Cape Fox Lodge, where we took photos with the totem poles on the property. We walked down the Married Man's Trail and into the town. My boyfriend bought the ubiquitous water repellant jacket with the Alaska logo for $24.99 at one of the stores on Creek Street. FYI, the next day we saw them in Juneau for $19.99. Oh well. The next day we docked in Juneau and took a guided hike called Mendenhall Glacier Guide's Choice. We hiked the East Trail (guide's choice based on weather and the group) which was rated a strenuous hike because it went uphill for 2 1/2 miles often climbing tall steps. Our guide Laurie was very knowledgable and made sure we were all doing ok during the hike. It was a gray and drizzly day but the views were spectacular. Between wandering the town of Juneau in the morning and the hike in the afternoon, we put in ten miles of walking. Time to hit the buffet! Our last port was Skagway, again, we walked through the town before embarking on a kayaking trip in Chilkoot Lake. We took a 45 minute ferry ride to Haines to meet our guide Brittany. On our way to the lake, we stopped briefly to watch a grizzly mom bear and her cubs from afar. The kayaking on the lake was my pure Alaska moment. The lake was calm and so quiet. Even if you have never kayaked before, I highly recommend this excursion. The last two days of the cruise were spent causing through Glacier Bay and College Fjord. We had purchased lounge chairs in the Sanctuary for the Glacier Bay day. Was it worth the $60 per person cost? If you prefer not jockeying for position on the upper decks to see the glaciers, then yes, it's worth it. Had it been a sunnier warmer day, I would have enjoyed using the pool and hot tub within the Sanctuary while viewing the glaciers. Disembarkation proceeded as smoothly as embarkation. Before we knew it, we were on board a catamaran for the four hour ride to Valdez. During the ferry ride, we experienced more glacier calving than during our cruise through Glacier Bay. The ferry captain said it was the biggest he had seen in many years. On board the motor coach heading to Copper River, our guide proved to be very informative. In fact, all our coach drivers were very good. We stayed at Copper River Lodge first, it was my favorite because it was one large building with enormous windows in the lobby. There are only two restaurants at the lodge so plan meal times carefully. While at Copper River, we took the "Wild and Scenic River Rafting" excursion. Another great trip, we saw an eagle up close sitting on a tree stump as we rode by on the river. Our guide did the paddling, it is not a white water rafting trip where everyone has to paddle. It is a fast moving river so it provided enough of a rush for me. Our next stop along the Old Denali Highway was Denali Princess Lodge. I was surprised that it was so commercial, with shops on the grounds and a slew of stores across the street. We were in the D building with no view whatsoever. We took long walks across the bridge. We found the bartenders at the Franny Q saloon unfriendly, which was surprising since up until that point, everyone had been very friendly. While at Denali, we did our last excursion which was an ATV tour - a lot of fun! Our guide Keegan was great and made sure I was ok as I had never driven an ATV before. We didn't see any moose or wildlife while out there, but again, the scenery was breath-taking. Last stop, McKinley Princess Lodge. We had wonderful service at the restaurants there and were lucky enough to get a clear day where the "Great One" (Denali) showed herself in all her majesty. While there, we took in a presentation by Todd Husten, the first disabled person to climb Denali. Excellent presentation. We also walked the various trails around the property, including the Tree House trail. Our last afternoon found us in Anchorage. It felt odd to be in a city and staying in a real hotel after days out in the national park. There is a nice waterfront walk if time allows. The view from the rooftop of the 49th State Brewery was great, but the kitchen service was so slow that we ended up leaving. Ditto the breakfast room at the Captain Cook Hotel. We sat for ten minutes - no menu, no coffee - and found a better place down the street where we ordered breakfast at the counter and it was delivered to our table. Despite ending the trip with some poor service, it didn't put a damper on our memories. All in all, a wonderful trip. We would definitely return to Alaska on our own and we would definitely take another Princess Cruise.

From a first time cruiser to Alaska

Royal Princess Cruise Review by Groovincruising

4 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: July 2019
  • Destination: Alaska
  • Cabin Type: Balcony
I chose Princess Cruiseline for our Alaskan cruise because of excellent reviews from family members who had done this trip several years ago. Not only was this my first cruise ever, it was my first trip to Alaska as well. My boyfriend and I flew out from JFK (NYC) into Toronto and on to Vancouver the day before the ship's departure. The security process at the Toronto airport was very slow. We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Vancouver-Richmond which offered a free shuttle service between the airport and the hotel. We arranged a taxi through the front desk for transport the next morning to the port ($40). Since it was early Saturday morning, there was no traffic and it was an easy ride.

Embarkation was very well organized and pleasant. From dropping off our bags at Point A and through the entire process, things went smoothly. When we asked the baggage handlers what we were supposed to do next, they said "just enjoy yourselves" and pointed to the next entry door.

Upon boarding the ship, we went down to Guest Services to reserve our spots on the Ultimate Ship Tour. There is only one tour offered per sailing, with a maximum number of 14 guests. If you've ever wondered about the various departments that help a cruise ship operate, this is a great way to learn about them. We visited the medical clinic, the kitchen, the laundry department, the theater and backstage areas, the engine room and the bridge where we met the captain. Though the cost of $150 per person seemed hefty, we thought it was well worth it.

Back to boarding and our stateroom: once on board the ship, we had to wait a few hours before our stateroom was ready so we availed ourselves of the ice cream bar and the other venues. Our balcony stateroom was roomy enough, with space under the bed to stow our suitcases. The bed was comfortable and the room was clean. We were towards the aft of the ship so the vibration from the engines was noticeable as we went out to sea. Once we entered the inside passage, the vibration was less of an issue. Still, I would opt for a mid-ship stateroom next time to avoid that issue. Our only disappointment was the bathrobes we had requested when booking the cruise were not in the stateroom because they were being washed from the last cruise. We got them the next afternoon and made good use of them.

As "anytime diners", we ate most of our meals at the buffet. It was convenient, and there was a tremendous array of food available. We did have our final dinner at the Symphony, which was very nice, but the buffet suited us fine. The waitstaff were very attentive and came to our table immediately to take drink orders. We also enjoyed the coffee bar and pastry counter on the Piazza level, and the ice cream, hamburger, and pizza place on the top deck. There were so many nice bars to sit and enjoy a drink. We had opted out of the two formal nights because we didn't want to pack extra clothes, but I would do it next time. It was nice to see people dressed up for the evening, and a sport jacket for men and a short dressy dress for the woman would suffice fine.

There was no shortage of entertainment or activities on board the ship. We enjoyed the production "Encore" and the dance band Xcite! had us on the dance floor every night. Presentations by guest lecturers such as Nick Jans filled the theater. We also attended several raffle drawings but did not luck out on any free jewelry or spa services. It was still fun as the excitement is contagious, and since we were on board the ship with nowhere else to be, we figured we'd take our chances.

From the food servers to the room stewards (especially the room stewards), we found everyone to be pleasant and welcoming.

Our first port was Ketchikan. Since we were only in port for 6 1/2 hours, we chose to walk around on our own. Based on an earlier cruise critic review, we rode the funicular ($3 RT) up to the Cape Fox Lodge, where we took photos with the totem poles on the property. We walked down the Married Man's Trail and into the town. My boyfriend bought the ubiquitous water repellant jacket with the Alaska logo for $24.99 at one of the stores on Creek Street. FYI, the next day we saw them in Juneau for $19.99. Oh well.

The next day we docked in Juneau and took a guided hike called Mendenhall Glacier Guide's Choice. We hiked the East Trail (guide's choice based on weather and the group) which was rated a strenuous hike because it went uphill for 2 1/2 miles often climbing tall steps. Our guide Laurie was very knowledgable and made sure we were all doing ok during the hike. It was a gray and drizzly day but the views were spectacular. Between wandering the town of Juneau in the morning and the hike in the afternoon, we put in ten miles of walking. Time to hit the buffet!

Our last port was Skagway, again, we walked through the town before embarking on a kayaking trip in Chilkoot Lake. We took a 45 minute ferry ride to Haines to meet our guide Brittany. On our way to the lake, we stopped briefly to watch a grizzly mom bear and her cubs from afar. The kayaking on the lake was my pure Alaska moment. The lake was calm and so quiet. Even if you have never kayaked before, I highly recommend this excursion.

The last two days of the cruise were spent causing through Glacier Bay and College Fjord. We had purchased lounge chairs in the Sanctuary for the Glacier Bay day. Was it worth the $60 per person cost? If you prefer not jockeying for position on the upper decks to see the glaciers, then yes, it's worth it. Had it been a sunnier warmer day, I would have enjoyed using the pool and hot tub within the Sanctuary while viewing the glaciers.

Disembarkation proceeded as smoothly as embarkation. Before we knew it, we were on board a catamaran for the four hour ride to Valdez. During the ferry ride, we experienced more glacier calving than during our cruise through Glacier Bay. The ferry captain said it was the biggest he had seen in many years.

On board the motor coach heading to Copper River, our guide proved to be very informative. In fact, all our coach drivers were very good.

We stayed at Copper River Lodge first, it was my favorite because it was one large building with enormous windows in the lobby. There are only two restaurants at the lodge so plan meal times carefully. While at Copper River, we took the "Wild and Scenic River Rafting" excursion. Another great trip, we saw an eagle up close sitting on a tree stump as we rode by on the river. Our guide did the paddling, it is not a white water rafting trip where everyone has to paddle. It is a fast moving river so it provided enough of a rush for me.

Our next stop along the Old Denali Highway was Denali Princess Lodge. I was surprised that it was so commercial, with shops on the grounds and a slew of stores across the street. We were in the D building with no view whatsoever. We took long walks across the bridge. We found the bartenders at the Franny Q saloon unfriendly, which was surprising since up until that point, everyone had been very friendly. While at Denali, we did our last excursion which was an ATV tour - a lot of fun! Our guide Keegan was great and made sure I was ok as I had never driven an ATV before. We didn't see any moose or wildlife while out there, but again, the scenery was breath-taking.

Last stop, McKinley Princess Lodge. We had wonderful service at the restaurants there and were lucky enough to get a clear day where the "Great One" (Denali) showed herself in all her majesty. While there, we took in a presentation by Todd Husten, the first disabled person to climb Denali. Excellent presentation. We also walked the various trails around the property, including the Tree House trail.

Our last afternoon found us in Anchorage. It felt odd to be in a city and staying in a real hotel after days out in the national park. There is a nice waterfront walk if time allows. The view from the rooftop of the 49th State Brewery was great, but the kitchen service was so slow that we ended up leaving. Ditto the breakfast room at the Captain Cook Hotel. We sat for ten minutes - no menu, no coffee - and found a better place down the street where we ordered breakfast at the counter and it was delivered to our table. Despite ending the trip with some poor service, it didn't put a damper on our memories.

All in all, a wonderful trip. We would definitely return to Alaska on our own and we would definitely take another Princess Cruise.
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