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Sail Date: October 2013
My wife and I decided to take the Wine Country Coastal about 2 weeks before sailing. We decided to take an ocean view obstructed on Emerald deck. The price was irresistable compared to the balconies which were almost sold out except for ... Read More
My wife and I decided to take the Wine Country Coastal about 2 weeks before sailing. We decided to take an ocean view obstructed on Emerald deck. The price was irresistable compared to the balconies which were almost sold out except for the most expensive ones. Given that this cruise was not in warm weather for a lot of the sail, we felt happy with our choice. As it turned out, the view was not obstructed at all because the tender in front of us was a low profile design and there was no obstruction at all so are view was wonderful. The room, while not large was very space efficient and the bed was against the window which meant there was no wasted space width wise. The desk is much wider with this design and more useful. My only complaint was the edge of the desk seemed marred and scarred and while my wife felt I was being overly critical, I felt that it was not commensurate with the quality of the rest of the ship. I have been on 4 Princess cruises and my wife 8 therefore she is a platinum loyalty member. We embarked Vancouver and even though we are Canadians we felt that the embarkation is much better and smoother ex LA and Port Everglades. The lineup to go through security was very long and we felt that there should be separate lines for platinum and elite status as there is in the US ports mentioned. We don't feel like we are any better or worse than anyone else just that what is the value of loyalty to the cruise line? Once onboard we went to Skywalker's to watch the ship navigate to sea. There was a nice buffet for elite and platinum guests and a reserved area for us to watch the ship leave the Burrard Inlet. There was biblical rains off and on from Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. We didn't get off the ship in Victoria because of the wind and rain and we were so glad we did not book any excursions. We did watch the brave souls getting off the ship and although we admired there moxy, we were content to enjoy life shipboard. We tied up in Seattle and the sun did appear off and on so we got off the ship and jumped on the shuttle which was nice because you can put the fare on your cruise card. We have been in Seattle before so we just walked around downtown a little before we headed back to the pier. That night the swell was 8 meters from the side and I almost slid out of bed several times. A few times I wondered if the ship was going to rollover. I was seasick that day and the next day but managed to drag myself to the traditional dining late seating. Lately we have used the anytime dining but my wife especially on cruises with her girlfriend lately have switched back to traditional. If you enjoy your tablemates you get to know your wait staff and they get to know you which I find more enjoyable. As well, the late seating is less busy, meaning your wait staff is more attentive and the service faster. We found our wait staff excellent and the food was excellent. As good as we have had on Princess no complaints. We tend to use the dining room for as many meals as possible as we like the table service and the cook to order althought the Horizon Court is great too. Some people complain about the variety or the quality but I find it just fine and more than ample. Sometimes I wonder if the complainers eat peanut butter sandwiches at home. We really enjoy the Wake Show on TV. It is usually very funny and gives you a glimpse into operations on the ship that you are not aware of. We skipped Astoria due to weather which was disappointing but that is life and life is what you make it. You are on the ocean on an amazing ship so how bad is life compared to life elsewhere i.e. typhoons, tsunamis etc. San Francisco was wonderful and the weather sunny and warmer. It was nice to be able to walk along Fisherman's Wharf and we took the trolley around downtown which was pretty interesting. We tend not to eat off ship because we don't see the point when you have paid for meals onboard. Next port was Santa Barbara, nice and warm and a nice stroll along the beach. We took a downtown amphiduck tour which eventually after driving around takes you out in the harbour which was very pleasant. Next stop LA which was the smoothest fastest disembarkation ever. We do the walkoff with luggage and it so fast! Hats off to Princess! Would we do this particular cruise again? Unlikely because of the weather prevalent at this time. We thoroughly enjoyed it however, and getting seasick here and there is just part of life at sea and at no time does it dampen my enthusiasm or ejoyment of cruising.   Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2013
I have taken ten cruises on eight different ships and 6 different lines and I can say that the staff on a recent Sapphire Princess cruise to Alaska was the most efficient and courteous I have experienced to date. The ship was spotless, the ... Read More
I have taken ten cruises on eight different ships and 6 different lines and I can say that the staff on a recent Sapphire Princess cruise to Alaska was the most efficient and courteous I have experienced to date. The ship was spotless, the cabin clean and well maintained, and the cabin steward outstanding, as were every one of the dining room staff that we had contact with. The food, while not the best we have ever had was very good nonetheless. Disembarkation in Vancouver was the most relaxing and stress free we have ever experienced and the one problem we had in regards to faulty bookkeeping & billing was resolved immediately and efficiently. it has been our experience that Buffets are always a problematic experience on every ship but on the Sapphire we were always able to immediately get a table, were constantly attended to by the serving staff, and never experienced the kind of crowding, noise, and anxiety levels that we have had in buffets on other ships.The only substantive complaint we have is that the entertainment in the theatre and throughout the other venues was substandard and a real disappointment. I have trouble understanding some of the complaints I have read regarding the staff but as a former tour guide I know that there are those that seem to obtain some sort of satisfaction from complaining about any experiences they have and/or in finding fault where none really exists. My wife (who was a travel consultant for twenty-five years) and I have travelled extensively and have always found that with rare exceptions if you treat service staff with respect and courtesy you will receive the same in return. Treat them condescendingly and rudely and you might not get quite the level of service you would otherwise. Some travelers never seem to learn this lesson. Ray & Judy Arnold Richmond, B.C. canada Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
We have never been on cruise in which we've had a bad time. Cost & value is always a consideration for us and we rarely pay for any optional services or meals onboard. We treat the ship as a floating hotel and book based mainly on ... Read More
We have never been on cruise in which we've had a bad time. Cost & value is always a consideration for us and we rarely pay for any optional services or meals onboard. We treat the ship as a floating hotel and book based mainly on itinerary. When reading reviews I realize they are opinions and to decipher how they will affect us is sometimes difficult. I have 35+ years experience in customer service, restaurant, & convention service so I may be more critical in those areas. Embarkation: We arrived at noon and the lines were long but moving. It took us a hour to get onboard and we didn't have to go through US customs as the next port was Victoria. Everyone was in good spirits. Stateroom: Lido 257 was an excellent location. It was a short walk to the Spa/gym, buffet, outdoor eating areas, MUTTS, and pools. The steward was not as efficient and detail oriented as ones we've had in the past. Dining: Breakfast was your standard pre-cooked fare with made to order omelet's delivered to your table. Lox, papaya, and mango were available upon request. No dining rooms were available for breakfast at anytime which led to limited seating. Many ate in the cooler observatory area. .Lunch was uneventful buffet food as dining rooms were only opened on the sea day for a pub lunch. Dinner was anytime seating at the various MDRs. The food was pretty poor the first 2 nights but improved dramatically as the cruise went on. Each dining room had a "specialty dish" and we tried the Teriyaki Noodle (not good) at the Pacific Moon and the Osso Bucco (very good) at the Vivaldi. Memorable meals were Lobster tail plus prawns, Beef Wellington, Beef tenderloin medallions, and the Fettuccine Alfredo. Don't order the Veal Scallopine unless you like leather. Service was not very organized and meals always took over 2+ hours. They should just put pepper mills on the table instead of the constant "pepper spiel". I didn't find the staff very enthusiastic. We brought our own wine and were charged a $15 corkage fee. My $25 wine + fee was better than anything they had on the wine list for less than $55+. Other Dining: Alfredo's pizza on Princess are the best that I have had on a cruise. A good tasty crust and ample toppings made to order. The offerings at the International Cafe were good as well. The burgers and pizza on Lido deck hit the spot while watching MUTTS. Coffee and Ice Tea was inconsistent in dispensing a quality product. Strength of the beverage varied at all times. It is because Princess uses a liquid coffee and ice tea concentrate Cruise staff: This is the 2nd Princess cruise in a row in which I found the cruise staff average and indifferent at best. My DW wants Elite status or I would consider going back to NCL. Activities and lectures: With the cruise being port intensive activities were lacking. I thought with the poor weather and cancelled port a back-up plan would be at the ready. The $10 wine tasting was very good value but the $25 tasting was lacking in expected quality. The free chef's demonstration and galley tour in the theater was great. Thermal Spa: We made the decision to buy the $100 exclusive "limited to 40" thermal Spa pass for the duration of the cruise as the weather forecast was expected to be poor. The eucalyptus steam bath felt great and really helped my DW who wears the seasickness patch. I would definitely do this again in poor weather or extensive sea days. Disembarkment: It was well organized at San Pedro and we got off efficiently and was shuttled to LAX in no time. Ports of Call: Victoria With the heavy rain, we decided to skip Victoria as we have been there many times. Many people that we spoke to went to Buchart Gardens and were very impressed. The inner harbour, Royal BC museum, and parliment buildings are our usual haunts. Seattle We walked 5 minutes to the Magnolia Bridge and took the $2 bus #24 westbound to the $17 underground tour. We asked for a transfer which was good for 2.5 hours. After the underground tour we walked to the wharf area and ate at Ivar's. From there it was a short walk to Pikes Place market to watch the fish tossing. As we've been to the market before, we used our transfers on the #24 eastbound to Seattle center and went to the $19 Chihully Gardens. There was a dual Space Needle and Chihully pass for a little more. We then took the #24 eastbound back to the bridge stop. Astoria We were scheduled to tender at Astora but the seas were too rough. Astoria only has one pier and the Celebrity Century was scheduled for it. San Francisco With the government shutdown, Alcareaz and Muirwoods was closed for tours. We took the $2 F Market bus to Union Square and Chinatown. From Chinatown you can catch the cable car back to the Fisherman's Wharf area if you wish. We spent the rest of our visit around the wharf area. Santa Barbara We took the $.50 shuttle ($.25 if you're 62+) to the top of State St. and took the $1.75 #11 bus to Pueblo St. and walked the 4 blocks to the Old Mission. We then walked around the block to the Museum of Natural Science. It reminded me of those old museums I used to visit with my school as the displays were mainly taxidermy. We headed back to town and spent some time tasting on the "Urban Wine Trail". As the shuttles were packed with cruisers, we walked back to the ship. If you want to take the shuttle back to the ship, catch it on it's way up State St. as it will be full coming down State St.. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
We sailed on the 9-7-2013 "Voyage of the Glaciers" from Vancouver to Whittier. Overall, the experience was a good one, but there were some significant "problems." However, as the saying goes, "even the worst day ... Read More
We sailed on the 9-7-2013 "Voyage of the Glaciers" from Vancouver to Whittier. Overall, the experience was a good one, but there were some significant "problems." However, as the saying goes, "even the worst day at sea is better than the best day on land." While this quote may not be literally true, the spirit of it is. The Good: Princess was remarkable with both embarkation and disembarkation. In Vancouver we arrived around 11:15, and we were on Sapphire at just a few minutes after 12. The boarding process was very efficient. Disembarkation was even better. I have been somewhat displeased by disembarkation on each of my previous five cruises (because it always seemed that people just left whenever they wanted and not in any type of order). In Whittier, my group left exactly when it was suppose to, we were sent right onto the train to Anchorage, and we were off. No fuss, no muss. The ship itself was another positive. I agree with the people who say that the ship seems uncrowded. It was also very well maintained. I saw no significant maintenance issues. Ultimate Ship Tour: yes it's expensive at $150 per person, but we thought it was worth it (at least once). We're the people who always wonder what it's like "down below" on the ship. In our three hour tour (insert Gilligan's Island theme here) we saw the print shop, photo lab, laundry, backstage at the theater, rope room (you know, where those big mooring ropes live), the engine room control center (not where those big engines actually live, but the room where they are controlled), the galley, and the bridge. We got to chat with the chief engineer, who was clearly happy to tell us about his "beautiful ladies." We chatted with the head chef in the galley, and we met the captain on the bridge, but the bridge part of the tour was handled by the 3rd mate, who was really nice and answered everyone's questions. All in all, it was absolutely fascinating. Excursions: we booked one through Princess, the Haines Wilderness Adventure, which was very cool. The Not-So Good: This was our fourth cruise (2 Celebrity, 1 Royal Caribbean, 2nd on Princess, and 1 HAL). Up until this cruise, I have never had reason to find fault with a staff member on any of the ships. However, this time I was disappointed. We ate in The International dining room, and the waitstaff appeared poorly trained. One of them was often whistling during dinner; another kept breaking into song (badly). Yet another young man started cleaning menus about two feet from our table. These young men meant well, but I was disappointed by the overly informal atmosphere. I'm not looking for "stuffy," but whoever was in charge did not seem to be paying attention. This was also the first time I felt I was being a "burden" to food service staff on a cruise ship. We went to the MDR for lunch of embarkation day. From the maitre d' who made it obvious that he would rather we be elsewhere to the food servers who rushed us, it was an uncomfortable experience. The staff at the Pub Lunch was just as bad. We could not get water refills even though the event seemed overstaffed; no one asked us how the food was. I had to say "excuse me" several times before I could get anyone's attention (and they were just standing around). We also found our cabin steward to be somewhat untrained. She was very nice and very accommodating, but the room was never 100% clean (especially the bathroom). This is not something I would have ever added to a review until now. We were also annoyed that there were cleaning carts in the hallway nearly all day. It just didn't look nice, but they were there from about 5am to 9pm. I wasn't all that fond of our naturalist either. She was a rambler. She would tell us about a particular glacier and end up going off track. She did not seem able to discuss one thing clearly and concisely. The park rangers, on the other hand, were wonderful. I could have done without the spiritual poetry additions, but whatever. Were any of these issues terrible? Did any ruin my vacation? No, of course not. However, I was really surprised, as I have never seen these types of issues before. The Bad: food. I know a lot of people rave about the food on Princess, and I am really glad they like it. However, with respect, I honestly do not understand how anyone could consider this food "good." The food, both in the buffet and in the dining room, was cafeteria grade at best. The buffet was, frankly, not as good as an MCL Cafeteria. The food at Denney's is significantly better. I am not a gourmet; I am surprisingly easy to please when it comes to food, but I did not have one really good meal. The 'best' was the pub lunch, but Long John Silver's is better. What was my problem with it? It was utterly bland. The meats had little or no taste. The only taste came from whatever sauce they were using, and a little salt and pepper would have helped a lot. Nearly every night I thought to myself, "did the head chef really taste this? Did he really consider this ok?" I have always looked forward to meals on other lines, but not Princess. I would describe a majority of dishes I tried as "textured, calorie-laden air." I will say, however, that the pizza on deck 14 was consistently good. I know this because I ended up there nearly every night after dinner. The breads were always fresh, which was nice. And, the curries were always tasty. Go figure. One more food note: I live in Las Vegas, land of the buffet. I realize how difficult it is to please everyone. It can, however, be done. Final Thoughts: I don't think I'll be sailing with Princess again, unless the deal is too good to pass up. It's fine, but I want more than just a "fine" or "ok" cruise. All things being equal (price, itinerary, etc), I'll opt for Celebrity or HAL. I haven't tried NCL; maybe I'll like them too. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2013
This was my first cruise on Princess and my wife's first cruise ever. My wife was very impressed with her first cruise experience and now has a better understanding of why I love it so much. The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship ... Read More
This was my first cruise on Princess and my wife's first cruise ever. My wife was very impressed with her first cruise experience and now has a better understanding of why I love it so much. The Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship with excellent amenities. My wife uses a wheelchair full time so we booked an interior handicap room and I was so excited when we first stepped into E-310 and found it to be double the size of the stateroom I had as a solo, At 318 sq ft it is like being in a suite.The accessibility features (such as the roll-in shower and lowered clothes closet) were better that most handicap hotel rooms that we have stayed in and she had little trouble getting around and was quite comfortable living in the room for the week. The food in the MDR was quite good (not great) for me but my wife is vegetarian and her meal selections were quite limited and the food she was served was inferior in terms of quality and taste. We particularly enjoyed the Piazza with Alfredo's Pizzaria where we ate lunch 3 times. Soooooo much nicer than the buffet. Entertainment on board was also quite good with nice music in the Piazza and impressive talent from the singers and dancers in the Princess Theater. The Pacific Coast itinerary was not one that I would care to repeat. The weather was too cool and rainy in Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle and we did not stop in Astoria because of the weather. California weather was nice enough but not as nice as the Caribbean. This first cruise on Princess was nice overall but did not exceed my expectations. Having cruised a couple times on Celebrity I thought this would be a similar experience. Based on this cruise Princess falls below Celebrity in terms of food and entertainment. This cruise was more like Carnival (which I do like because it is an excellent value for the price) but on a more tastefully decorated ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
Took our third cruise so far and first to Alaska on Sapphire Princess departing the 7th of September. Not to downgrade Princess but Alaska would at least be a 10 on a tug boat. We ran out of adjectives to describe the awesomeness and ... Read More
Took our third cruise so far and first to Alaska on Sapphire Princess departing the 7th of September. Not to downgrade Princess but Alaska would at least be a 10 on a tug boat. We ran out of adjectives to describe the awesomeness and beauty of the entire trip. However, we really liked the Sapphire. We haven't taken a ship as big as this one and wondered if we'd feel crowded. Never once did this happen. We even enjoyed the food, though I shouldn't have tried the steak. Everything else was great. The service was terrific. The ship seemed to have plenty of employees and they actually all seemed happy to be there. I love to people watch and after awhile you can catch glimpses of how people are feeling. They actually seemed to be enjoying interracting with the passengers and fellow employees. They are a long ways from home and family so if you take a minute and talk with them you'll learn a lot! The only down side was the entertainment. The shows weren't very well done and the acts they had were actually lousy! Was very surprised. However, some of the musicians in the bars were very good, especially Tempo Quatro. I really enjoyed them! Enjoyed watching some NFL football on Sunday on the BIG SCREEN outside even though it was chilly and damp. Just go dwon to deck 5 and get a vanilla bean latte and you'll warm up quickly! The room was small as usual but you spend very little time there. Why they put a stupid little table in there I don't know. There is NO room for it. I also asked for an egg crate for the mattress which was put on the first day and it worked great to alleviate the hard mattress. My little secret, if you go to Alaska on the Sapphire or one of her sister ships, go up to Skywalkers Lounge on the top aft portion of the boat early and get the seats next to the side windows. We did this both days and the views were amazing. We didn't have to fight the crowds along the railings but could go out on the back of the boat to take pics now and then. I'd definitely take the Sapphire on another cruise without quesiton. AND I'd take another cruise to Alaska tomorrow!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
We were first time cruisers, at least on a big ship. We?d previously only gone on windjammers, so our expectation of amenities was not that high. Service was a different story. We had been told Princess was top shelf among the cruise ... Read More
We were first time cruisers, at least on a big ship. We?d previously only gone on windjammers, so our expectation of amenities was not that high. Service was a different story. We had been told Princess was top shelf among the cruise lines. ARRIVAL: We boarded at Vancouver. The US Direct program was a big disappointment. Technically, we got through customs faster; however any time we saved, and more, was spent waiting for the coach. The actual embarkation process was smooth except for Security. I have stainless steel hips so I always get special attention. At least the TSA has optional body scanners. Only one of our bags made it to the stateroom. Due to the flimsy baggage tags Princess has its customers print and attach, I feared the other bag (mine) might be lost. We went looking for a baggage steward and found him amidships on our deck. He had a card, which would have eventually made it to our aft stateroom, stating that the bag was being held in Security. That area on Deck 4 is not accessible from the stern. Unfamiliar with the ship and trying to find Security, we were misdirected by a restaurant staffer to the Customer Service desk. After waiting in line we were escorted to Security where my bag had been held because it contained the allowed bottles of wine and had a TSA-approved lock. Did Princess personnel think I was trying to smuggle two bottles of vodka on board? LAUNDROMAT: Located near our stateroom, it contained irons, coin-operated washers with coin-operated dryers above, detergent and fabric softener vending machines, a TV tuned to Fox News, and a bill changer which said it accepted $1s, $5s, and $10s but really only accepted $1 bills. PUBLIC AREAS: The Plaza, where live entertainment the Captain's champagne waterfall took place, was pleasant, open space with the International Cafe on one side and Vines and Antonio's Pizza on the other. DINING: The Anytime Dining restaurants and Horizon Buffet were OK. We're not gourmands and we were not disappointed with the offerings, although we did not go on this cruise for the food. Service was good, including the beverage service at the Horizon Buffet, except for one instance at the latter where a server snapped at my wife when she renewed her request for hot tea at breakfast. At our first dinner, a helpful Peruvian waitress at the Santa Fe suggested a Premium Coffee Card when I ordered a cappuccino after our first dinner onboard, and it turned out to be the best extra I could have purchased. It entitles one to 15 specialty coffees (espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, latte, and various excellent iced blends) as well as unlimited regular or decaf REAL coffee at the International Cafe. (The complimentary coffee served at the Horizon Buffet and presumably the restaurants is made from a concentrate, one notch above instant.) If you're a coffee lover, get the Coffee Card. The International Cafe is supposedly open 24/7, although I did not put this to the test. Their snacks and deserts were quite good. ENTERTAINMENT & SPA: We did not partake of much of the entertainment. We watched one of the "Movies Under the Stars" and a show with chefs creating animals from fruits and vegetables. We also attended two of the naturalist's talks in the theater. Despite including a pitch for her book, the talks and slides were informative. Glacier viewing was outstanding. I called the spa to take advantage of a "special" advertised in the Princess Patter and was placed on hold for a good while when Damkerng knocked. I hung up and didn't bother to call back. I see from other reviews that I didn't miss much. SHIP DEPARTURE AND LAND PORTION: Disembarkation was scheduled too early to enjoy a breakfast in the International Dining Room, our usual haunt. The bus ride to Princess Denali Lodge included a very early (10:30 ish) stop for lunch at a shopping plaza at which the best choice was the deli in a mega-mart. Arrival at the lodge was late enough that few excursions were practical. Departure the next day required bags to be packed, tagged, and outside the room before our return from breakfast, a major inconvenience given the size of the allowed carry-on. We learned that only the train from Princess Denali Lodge to Talkeenta (McKinley Princess Lodge) is limited to 17"X14"X4" for carry-ons. The coaches had ample luggage compartments for airline-sized carry-ons. Fortunately we hadn't booked any Talkeenta excursions as it rained all morning and the jet boat ride we would have booked would have been unpleasant. Our train table companions, hunters dubbed Hawkeye and Eagle Eye, spotted wildlife that others at the front of the car missed, which made the train ride from Talkeenta to Anchorage much more interesting. Their presence made up for having to ride facing the back of the train. Tip: Get to your train coach early if you want first choice of seats at your numbered table. Food on the train was OK; not gourmet but we had no complaints. FINAL NIGHT: The Captain Cook Hotel was excellent, and I would book there again in a heartbeat. Princess, on the other hand, gets a generous "C" for failing to inform us that the coach to the airport was canceled. I only found out when I visited the Princess desk in the hotel that evening (which I almost omitted, wanting to retire early) to inquire as to whether my carry-on would need to be tagged and available at 3:30 AM along with the two large bags. The staff did a fast shuffle and arranged for a taxi voucher to be slipped under our door in the early AM. The Captain Cook Porter's Desk was excellent, going so far as to confirm we had our taxi voucher, calling the taxi, and handling our bags with aplomb. CONCLUSIONS: If your schedule allows, arrive and depart a few days before and/or after your cruise. Book your own air travel (if necessary), accommodations, and transfers. For port calls, you can do better on your own, as another reviewer (danaruns) has pointed out. (EntryID=103243) This probably also applies to visiting Denali or Talkeenta. At least you'll be able to stop and stretch your legs, take photographs, or visit any interesting place along the way on your own schedule without the time spent getting on and off a full bus. If you do decide to Cruise Tour, choose one that includes more than one day at the lodge(s). Bottom line: If I/we ever cruise again (not a sure bet), I see no reason not to try another line. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2013
Our Dr. told us to take this cruise., and it was seconded by another Dr. too. We had a particularly challenging year with health issues and the Dr.s were right- we needed a vacation! It was a last minute idea to take the cruise and we were ... Read More
Our Dr. told us to take this cruise., and it was seconded by another Dr. too. We had a particularly challenging year with health issues and the Dr.s were right- we needed a vacation! It was a last minute idea to take the cruise and we were treated great by Princess Cruises when we booked. We were able to get a handicap accessible room that was everything we needed. I prearranged for a mobility scooter that was delivered to our state room and could be left there at the end of the cruise to be picked up by the rental company. This made it possible for me to get around the ship easily. We were disappointed to not be able to get assigned seating for diners because we booked late, but the food in the buffet for breakfast and lunch was more than adequate and very good. Dinners in the other restaurants was very very good. We loved that we could buy a bottle of wine in one restaurant and they would keep it for us to have in another restaurant on another night. Sitting with other people was fun and we got to know people from all over the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Australia. Embarking was well arranged but required WAY to much walking and waiting in line. Embarking involved travelers for two cruise lines at the same time and that further complicated the process. STRONGLY recommend that anyone who is handicapped to take them up on the offer of a wheelchair! Disembarking was also well arranged and again involved a lot of walking! I took the wheelchair offered and thought the poor guy pushing it was going to wind up in a different zip code by the time we got to the bus! The only problem with the cruise was it was too short! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
Cruising Alaska was magical. Cruising it on the Sapphire Princess was a mixed bag. Here are my grades. Buffet " C-" Our hearts sank when we ate our first lunch on board. It was awful and the buffet space is small and sterile ... Read More
Cruising Alaska was magical. Cruising it on the Sapphire Princess was a mixed bag. Here are my grades. Buffet " C-" Our hearts sank when we ate our first lunch on board. It was awful and the buffet space is small and sterile feeling. But the window seats toward the back of the ship are wonderful and you are somewhat separate from the masses. Dining Room Food "A" So surprising that the dining rooms could put out such delicious food when the buffet was so bad. We had fixed dining at first then changed to anytime dining for a party of six. Never had trouble getting a table and all of the dining rooms were charming. Alfredos Pizza and International Cafe "A" two great places to grab lunch in a relaxed, intimate, but easy setting. A couple of the waiters were kind of rude to my elderly parents, however, the only rude people on the entire ship. Spa "D-" Worst massage and spa experience of my life and I love a good massage and spa. I've never had someone try to sell me products while they are giving me a massage. The receptionist also tricked us into a more expensive massage than we had asked for. And I say "tricked" because she did the same routine to my sister-in-law the next day so it wasn't an accident. The locker room is tiny on this ship and they won't let you wear the spa robes to your room, so you have to change in the middle of a tiny locker room with 20 other women in the room...no changing rooms. Very stressful after a massage. The massage was even worse but I won't go in to more detail. Just VERY disappointed by the spa facilities and this may affect whether or not I ever sail on another Princess ship. Staterooms "B" We had balcony guarantees for three couples. They gave us all handicapped rooms on the Baja deck. The large rooms, balconies, and showers were great, but the cabins showed signs of wear and tear. This ship generally showed the most wear and tear of any ship I've sailed on. Not sure if the handicapped rooms receive more abuse than another room. These rooms were right by the elevator which my parents loved and my brother-in-law freaked out about. Turned out that noise from the elevators was not an issue, we all slept well every night. Entertainment "B" It was just okay. We did enjoy the comedian quite a bit and the former Lettermen singer had a fantastic voice. Really enjoyed the band that played in Club Fusion. Excursions "A" This grade is in no way dependent on Princess. In fact, we were able to book the same excursions offered by the ship at the dock, often at more convenient times. We absolutely loved the Taku Lodge Float Plane excursion and lunch in Juneau and the The Glacier Point Wilderness Safari in Skagway. The Sanctuary on Glacier Bay day "A+" We reserved our front of the ship loungers in this "extra fee" space just for the day we would be in Glacier Bay. The staff was excellent, plying us with drinks hot and cold, food, goodies, free photos, all the blankets you needed. It was just a magical way to spend the day in Glacier Bay. Absolutely recommend it. And if the weather is bad, you can cancel your reservation the morning of glacier day. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2013
This is our 2nd cruise with Princess and 6th cruise overall. My wife and I traveled with our two older (20 and 22) children. This was our first cruise to Alaska. All of our other cruises have been in the Caribbean. We booked the 14 day Off ... Read More
This is our 2nd cruise with Princess and 6th cruise overall. My wife and I traveled with our two older (20 and 22) children. This was our first cruise to Alaska. All of our other cruises have been in the Caribbean. We booked the 14 day Off the Beaten Path cruisetour, of which the 7 day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise was the first week. Getting there. We flew into Vancouver the day before the cruise to avoid any potential conflicts on cruise day. Vancouver was very nice and we wished that we had come a day earlier to spend some quality time there. As it was, we had an enjoyable short visit. We stayed at the Century Plaza Hotel and Spa. The hotel was nice enough and in a good location. Since we got there early, they were nice enough to hold our luggage for us until the rooms were ready. We were within easy walking distance of downtown. Definitely could've spent more time there as the limited time held us back from doing anything time consuming. Embarkation: This was very easy as time from getting out of the taxi to in the room was 30 minutes or so. I have to give it to Princess; they have people moving down to a science. They keep everyone moving to the point where we were only waiting about 5 or 10 minutes. The rest of the time we were moving, going through customs, getting our cruise cards, etc. The ship: Sapphire Princess is a beautiful ship. Even though there were thousands on board, the ship seemed small and I never got the feeling that it was crowded. The only time we waited in line was the first day at the Horizon Court for lunch. Other than that, we pretty much went in to each place without much wait. There are lots of pools and hot tubs on the ship in various locations. The weather was never very good so we only used the outdoor hot tubs a couple times. We didn't use the spa. I did go to the gym once and it was very crowded early in the morning. Overall, there are only a few places where the ship is showing some age. Even in the lousy weather, the crew was constantly cleaning the outside areas. My only complaint is that smoking is allowed in the casino which means that even on "no smoking days" the casino smells of cigarettes. Service: The service on the ship was exemplary. From Joel our room steward to the many waiters we encountered, everyone went above and beyond to make our trip enjoyable. The service on the land tour was equally outstanding, and all tried to make the various trips and excursions interesting and enjoyable, despite the weather. Food: I have to break this down into ship and land. On the ship, I thought the food was outstanding. I had read many reviews that indicated the buffet food was so-so, but I found it to be better than I expected. There was a lot of variety. In the main dining areas, we had chosen anytime dining, which worked out pretty well. The first night we had to wait 15 minutes for a table, but other than that we were able to walk in to any of the 3 dining rooms that had anytime dining and get a table right away. We used the main dining rooms for breakfast and lunch several times. I will say that the food from the MDR is better than the buffet, but not because the buffet food is bad. We didn't try Sterling steakhouse or Sabatini's as there were just oo many other choices that did't require an upcharge. On the land side, the food was good but very expensive. We did some exploration of non-Princess eating places, but in some areas there were none. Weather: Alaska should come with a warning: Be prepared for foul weather. Between fog socking us in completely on the sea day, to constant rain throughout the land tour, there were few sunny days during which we could really enjoy the wondrous outdoors and nature. It made the bus trips and train trip very tedious when we couldn't see much. On the other hand, when the sun was out in Glacier Bay and on Mendenhall Glacier, it was stunning. Logistics and port excursions: As I said above, Princess does an outstanding job of moving people. Only once were we almost late back to the ship from an excursion, and that was more the driver's fault for not knowing the ship's all aboard time. We booked a lot of excursions on this trip, all from Princess. I know the general consensus is to book from port locals, but we didn't spend a lot of time in any of the ports and didn't feel the cost savings justified the time risk. For other's benefit, there are booths in all of the ports with local excursions. You can probably save a lot of money by utilizing them, but keep in mind that you're not in some of the ports for very long. On board activities: Since the weather prevented many outside activities, we did partake of many of the various activities inside. We enjoyed the various trivia games and contests. We didn't do any of the bingo or other upcharge activities. There was usually no shortage of things to do and we usually had to plan our day around what each of us wanted to do. Stateroom: We had upgraded to a mini-suite when a large price drop occurred a couple months before the cruise. This turned out to be a good decision since the mini-suites have full tub/showers in them. One thing is if you are 6'3" or taller, you cannot stand up fully in the tub/shower. It was a small inconvenience, though, given that this was immensely better than the body hugging showers we would've had. The bed was very comfortable and the balcony spacious. We were able to get a small door opened between our balcony and our kids adjoining balcony. I would've liked to have the whole partition removed and just make one big balcony, but that wasn't an option on Dolphin deck. It looked like it was an option on the Emerald deck above us. Guides and excursion operators. I haven't seen commentary on this in other reviews, so I thought I would add it. One thing that was very different about many of the trips was just the passion of some of the people that work on these excursions. For the most part they are younger folks working in the summer in Alaska. Their stories are very interesting and you can see how the land has changed them. You know some of them do the same excursion 4 or 5 times a week and to see them get excited over something makes you realize that you have seen something special. I really enjoyed interacting with many of the drivers, guides, etc. There were some real characters. Entertainment: I had read that the entertainment was so-so and that proved to be true. It's definitely an older audience on the ship, but the entertainment was for an older generation than my 55 years. Billy the cruise director was funny and for the most part enjoyable, but when he went into his Tom Jones impersonation, it was a bit much. Ports: Ketchikan was nice and actually one of the few sunny days we had. We did the Eagle Island kayaking, which allowed us to see eagles in the wild for the first time. We also saw an eaglet. This was all we had time to do, however, because we were in port for such a short amount of time. In Juneau we took the helicopter excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. This was also one of the clear days and probably the best excursion we took. Flying over one ridge and coming out with that view of the glacier and surrounding snow-capped mountains was just stunning. One warning- no matter how warm it is in Juneau, dress for a windchill below freezing when you're on the glacier. We also went on a whale watching excursion in the evening where we saw a complete breech of a humpback whale. In Skagway we took the Yukon expedition followed by the White Pass train back. We enjoyed the bus ride, but we didn't really stop long enough anywhere to enjoy the area. I will mention that the place we stopped for lunch was very good- Caribou Crossing. The ability to interact with the dogs and puppies was very cool. The train ride was great if you can get on early enough to get on the right side of the train. Otherwise, you are stuck trying to get to the open air platform to take pictures. All in all, though, it was a great excursion. In both Juneau and Skagway, we were in port long enough for both a long excursion and time on the town. We pretty much avoided the Princess sponsored shops as all ports have Alaskan owned shops. They made a point of putting "Alaskan Owned" signs in the shop windows. Land tour: Too much time on motor coaches. I think the idea is that you're not supposed to notice how much time you spend on motor coaches because the scenery is so beautiful. However, if it is foggy and rainy, you can't see anything so the time on the motor coaches is very boring even with the drivers trying to make it interesting. After 3 or 4 trips, hearing again the fireweed story gets very old. Even though you leave early from some areas, they purposefully delay you getting to your next destination hotel in order to give the hotel time to get rooms ready. We basically spent 3 days on motor coaches of the 7 day land tour. Although Princess advertises rail travel as part of the adventure, we only road the train once between Mt McKinley and Denali. Disembarkation: As with everything else involving mass movement of people, Princess was outstanding in this area as well. We gathered in one place and left the ship and got on to our bus to Kenai. We had time for a leisurely breakfast and were not rushed at all. I did note that disembarkation began at 6 AM for some, so not everyone had as leisurely time as we did. Summary: I would give the cruise a 4.5 out of 5 with the only negative being the short time in Ketchikan and the so-so entertainment. I would give the land portion a 3 out of 5 with points off for too much bus travel and too limited/expensive food.. Had the weather cooperated, I might have been more generous on the land tour. I think the bad weather had an immense impact on the land portion as we missed out on seeing so much of Alaska due to rain. When we did see it, the vistas and views were stunning. Everyone we encountered were extremely friendly and helpful. All in all, it was a great trip. I would do the cruise again in a heartbeat. I wouldn't do the land tour again, though. There are too many other places I want to see. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2013
We took a couple days before the cruise to tour the Vancouver, BC area. We arrive from Chicago to a lovely airport about 1 hour from Canada Place ' the cruise dock. We took a private car from Aero shuttle Curb-side, to the right of ... Read More
We took a couple days before the cruise to tour the Vancouver, BC area. We arrive from Chicago to a lovely airport about 1 hour from Canada Place ' the cruise dock. We took a private car from Aero shuttle Curb-side, to the right of the glass doors. Look for the brown podium. $60 for limo, $50 for SUV going to Canada Place. Very nice driver. Took about 1 hour with heavy traffic and lots of red lights. Took credit card with hand-held device, very easy. For 4 of us it was cheaper than the train, but the train might have been faster. Fairmont Waterfront Hotel Nicole was very nice in check in. 'rented' bikes and toured Stanley Park and waterfront from Canada Place. The concierge, Lucas, was very helpful with locating a correct cell phone charger for us. Check out and luggage service to the cruise ship was fast and efficient. Tyler, bell hop was super nice. He comes in and checks your boarding pass and passports, helps with tags, and takes the luggage in a truck through customs for you. He said they would arrive on board about 3pm, it was 4-ish. When we checked out the bill amount was different than my reservation. When I asked at the front desk what the difference was she said it was an additional tax of $5/day. They also round up. They don't give you back or except 1 cent coins. So if the bill was .99 and you gave them a dollar bill, you would not get back the penny. I guess with the additional tax we are paying for their national health care system. Steamworks Restaurant Nice location, walked from Canada Place. Had a window view which was lovely. Good seafood chowder. Very good burger, really good and large. The staff is friendly. Fly Over Canada Similar to California Adventure at Disney. After multiple lines and long waits you are ushered into a 10 minute standing multi-screened slide and movie presentation on two walls in a large room. Flashing mini lights can't help this weirdly compiled films of men jumping off buildings, walking through woods, a little girl in a wheat field with her grandfather, and a group of folk singers. What do they have in common? Nothing! What a waste of time Then you walk into another staging area to line up on circles and see a safety video on the mail fly over presentation. You walk either up 10 stairs or down and sit in a suspended seat. You are buckled in. It is very well done. This portion is like Disney. Great scenery ' it is Canada! But they failed to show some truly spectacular areas, like Banff, Jasper, Calgary, and the Alberta Mountains. It is not worth $22. Prince of Whales Ultimate Day Tour Check in at 8am. 90% of the group was there on time. Wilma, our naturalist, did wait for a family that was late, to start the briefing in the lounge area of the Westin Bayshore, down the hall from their office. The lemon infused water in the lobby was fantastic. The boat pushed off on time. In the bay they gave us a safety briefing. After the no-wake zone it was full speed ahead into the wind and even though there were no waves it was very bumpy. It stayed bumpy and cold (upper deck) for the 2 hour crossing, until you get between the islands. Then another 2 hours of cold, breezy ride. It got colder as we reached Victoria and a large fog bank. We did not see any whale, but the captain, Gavin, tired very hard to locate a Minke whale he heard about by Trails point. The boat was very clean Anthony, Wilma and Gavin were genuinely friendly and kind and tried to locate wildlife along the way. But, it was cold despite our layering of clothing and the 70 degree temps and sunny skies. At Victoria we opted to take the second, 2:20 bus. We walked (15 minutes) to Fisherman's Wharf as they said there was a fish and chips place. Barb's Fish and chips had a 25 minute long wait in line, so we ate next door at the Fish Store and got an excellent piece of halibut, fried, coleslaw in about 10 minutes. Also the Mexican place was very good with each dish made to order, from scratch. Ordered chicken and cheese burritos which was very good. You eat outside on picnic benches. Some of took the $5 shuttle back to 'downtown' and some walked quickly back to catch the 2:20 bus. We found Victoria not as pretty as imagined and very crowded. The waterfront was a mix of junkie vendors, cheap crafts with tents, and old, (not well maintained) buildings. The drive through downtown was like any bug city. There were beautiful baskets of flowers on every lamppost, but it was just a city. The double decker bus was clean but the driver was dull and boring. 75% of the bus feel asleep on the way to Butchart Gardens. Butchart Gardens was wonderful. For those who said 45 minutes was enough time to see the gardens are crazy. We strolled through the entire gardens with an occasional stop to smell the roses and pose for photos or 50, and it took longer than 45 minutes. It was hot in the rose garden, but we found shade and cooler temps the rest of the way. The sunken garden and Japanese were our favorites. Everyone said it wasn't a busy day, and there wasn't a parade of people on the path, so it was much more enjoyable than some visits. Just amazing flowers, shrubs trees, paths and waterfalls. Make sure to pick up a product guide. In late July almost every flower in the guide was in bloom. The boat ride back was not as crowded. Thinking it was going to be bumpy and cold we opted for seats inside the boat. WRONG. It was such a smooth ride!!! And we saw Orcas. The captain said if no one had to catch a flight he could go a little bit out of the way to locate Orcas. The crew really wanted us to see the whales. We were not disappointed. About 45 minutes back a pod of 5 entertained us for about 20 minutes. There were 5 other boasts floating along the same area of straight watching the family. A male, female and 1 year olds were swimming powerfully through the area. It was fantastic!! One hour later we were back at the marina, by 7:40pm. The crew were genuinely happy for us, that we got to see the whales. Anthony said he would e-mail us some of the photos he took of the whales from our trip, and he did. When I got home Anthony's e-mail was waiting for me. Thank you!!! Capilano Bridge Took a taxi to get there before the free bus loads arrived. Well worth the money. We had the place to ourselves for about 1 hour. Especially walking across the suspension bridge. There was a long line to just get on the bridge as we were leaving. Start at the back and work forward. We did have a wait at the cliffwalk but you can loop around and the second time was less crowded. A must see. Al Porto Ristorante Half way down an ally in the basement of a building is a charming restaurant with really pompous staff. We had a window view of the train tracks and the engine of the 6:20 train to Seattle. Food was mediocre. Pasta served is al dente whether you like it crunchy or not. Prices weren't bad and the bread was good. Hudson House Souvenirs Thought I would try the Canada True Dark chocolate Icewine because of it's history. Had to have been at least a year old chocolate bar. $4.99 plus 25% GST tax = $5.24 and tasted terrible. Beware of old candy. Pita Express ' food court Downstairs of Fairmont Waterfront was the best breakfast food around. It is a little hard to find. It is tucked into a corner around from McDonald's; towards the Canada Place underground walkway. Real eggs, any way you want them with fresh fruit ' berries, melon all for $7.95.The man was always pleasant and accommodating. He even sold us a case of water when the other stores in the area said no! He tape it us for us to ship with our bags to the cruise ship. Sapphire Princess SATURDAY - We walked across the street to the terminal at 11:30am and was through customs, health card form, re-check of boarding passes and passports, room key and map distribution, cruise photo, room key photo and security swiping the card in less than one hour. All inside with lots of places to sit ' if needed. Jerry, our steward, was supper nice and explained the room. The bathroom is tiny. The closet spans the entire length of the bed wall ' huge! Hidden shelves behind a full length mirror with a large safe. Phone, hair dryer on the desk. We had aft room A751 and A749 so he put the divider down between the room on the balcony. Deck chairs were very uncomfortable. They were either too far back or straight up and down for weird back support. We explored the ship. Very clean, and every crew member was friendly. Especially the first day they would ask if they could assist us' we must have looked lost. At the Horizon Buffet there was mandatory hand sanitizer stations, with crew watching before entering. A couple of stations for hot meat, sides and cold salads and toppings. Fruit which was always delicious and a separate dessert buffet with cakes, pies, puddings, etc. We had a muster drill at 3:15pm on deck 7F. All very professional and serious with our safety in mind. Lots of crew around for questions and very organized. They checked everyone's room key to make sure you attend. There is another muster drill for those who may have missed this one later in the day. The luggage arrived while we were out. Jerry also put egg cartons on our beds, re-making them for us and left two chocolates on the pillows. We unpacked in about one hour with plenty of hangars in the closet, shelves and drawers. We found there was enough shelves and counter space in the bathroom. We brought anti-slip material for the table tops and counters. We also brought two extension cords to be able to charge phones and camera batteries. One by the TV and one on the desk to run an alarm clock. We had signed up for 5:30pm dinner seating for 4 (with friends) in the International DR. By 6pm they had not taken our order. By 6:30pm our appetizers and salads had only arrived. Looking at the others in the dining room, most were finishing their main entrees. We didn't want to miss sail-away so we informed Benjamen and Marco to cover our meal when it did arrive. We returned to find others at the table had finished their entr'e and ours was still warm. It was very good, but we could not understand why it would take 1 ' hours to get a meal. We were here to see the scenery, not the inside of a dining room. They apologized and continued to give multiple excuses. As the sun set the sky turned pink and house lights on the islands started to lit up the dark forests. SUNDAY ' We knew the sailing day would be boring, unless you wanted to see demonstrations, talks, jewelry shows, eat or go to the casino. We walked a mile on the promenade deck, keeping watch for whales, eagles, seals. We did see a family of porpoises, orcas and lots of loons. We went for breakfast in the International DR, but sat by the window. Order off the menu and again waited 45 minutes to be served. OK ' we learned our lesson. Even when it is not busy it's a leisurely meal. For some that is just fine, but for us it was a waste of time. Lunch we sat by the window in the Horizon Buffet. I think the food is good. Tried the chocolate sauce over a brownie ' to die for!! Continually watching for wildlife, it turned cloudy, foggy, misty and chilly. The boat does rock even though it is in the inner passage. It is more like short shakes like airplane turbulence; not the up and down, nauseous kind of movement. MONDAY ' Ketchikan ' Sunny! Wow! Arrived on time and departed to wait for Family Air excursion to Anan Creek and bear watching. We arranged this on our own, not through Princess. W called Dave Rocke at 6:30am to let him know we were early. No answer on the phone, but went to voice mail. He didn't call back. At 7:15am, the scheduled pick up time we called again, and it went to voice mail. Just as I was leaving a message the van pulled up. It drove right past us. So we walked back towards the boat to get in. If they had answered or listened to thei messages, they would have know it us the four of us on the street corner waiting for them. It took longer to get into the SUV then to drive to their office. It was 50 yards from the front of our boat. Took off for a quick 45 minute flight to Anan Creek. Landed and got the safety briefing from the National Forest Ranger. A beautiful 20 minute hike through a lush rain forest to the observation deck. It would have been a more enjoyable walk if we could have stopped to listen to nature, but not knowing of there was a bear around the corner you have to keep moving and make noise the entire time. Once there you have the option to sing up for 30 minute time slots for the lower observation deck. We actually saw more bear activity on the upper deck then below. But if a bear does come to feed in the stream below, you are right on top of them in the lower blind. Also the eagle activity from the upper deck is unbelievable. The eagles fly right up the stream, all day long, feeding, flying, fighting, perching on rocks and trees, right in front of you. There were over 10 eagles in the area at one time. All morning long! We saw 10 black bears with a new female that the rangers had never seen before. There was also a brown female, Bridget, with her 2 cubs playing near the mouth of the creek, in a flat sandy area where there was a another 6 eagles. Right at 11:45am (on time) Dave showed up and we flew back to Ketchikan. After we arrived we asked if they could drop us off at Creek Street. We quickly walked up and down the famous street, saw salmon activity and made it to the ship for 1:30 all aboard. We found the staff of Family Air not very friendly or extra helpful or informative, but were flown to Anan Creek safely and on time. The National Forest Rangers were careful and observant of our safety and bear activity. They made sure we could get to the outhouse safely, if needed. Sapphire Princess Ship In General I can't find a lot of bad things to say about the ship or the crew. The minute you get on board you know you made the right decision. Very clean, everything sparkles, no worn carpeting. Friendly and helpful crew. Jerry, our steward, a gem! We did find the deck chairs uncomfortable and at first glance the stateroom very small. Again, first cruise, comparing it to hotel rooms. After a week it didn't seem so small and we were not in the room that much. Loved the AFT views from our own private balcony. We didn't have to stand elbow to elbow with strangers on the deck. We could see from side to side as well as behind when looking for whales. There was never a breeze to cool you (in Alaska a good thing), we were protected from the cold air as the boat moved. We saw both sides of the channel and cruising North the moon glow (looking South) over the water at night was beautiful. By the third day we were experts on finding the right deck and elevator/stairway to use. The toilet is an air pressure system. It sucks everything down the drain. We never found the stateroom or bathroom smelly. We feel they could have made the shower a little bigger and the shower curtain a couple inches wider. We did bring clips to weigh down the bottom of the shower curtain and it stayed in the stall better Water pressure was good as well as temperature setting with the lower nozzle. The refrigerator in the cabinet with the door attached makes it hard for the unit to cool itself. There is no circulation of cooler air or holes for the heat to escape from inside the cabinet. We brought two extension cords. One was very helpful as we used it to plug in a cell phone we used as an alarm clock. One on the desk and one behind the TV for charging batteries. We chose 5:30pm dinner seating in the International Dining Room. A few times that time conflicted with the best times to view whales or scenery. But we didn't want to eat at 8pm because it is too late. A lot of times we just ate at the Horizon Buffet. They served a lot of the same entrees as the sit down places and we could eat as quickly or slowly as we wanted and still could see outside. I now know I could never go on an over the ocean cruise. Two days at sea was plenty for me. The over night sailing from glacier Bay to College Fjords (by afternoon) was too rocky. The ship swayed and it wasn't even high seas. I did not get sick, it was just a light headed feeling as the boat swayed. I think it was Thursday dinner there was three forms of veal. That was over kill on veal really didn't leave room for another option in meat in the trays at the buffet. That was a salad night for us. Friday's lunch at the Horizon buffet had over ten types of fish. Spicy salmon dip on crackers, mousses, white salmon, king salmon, red, fried, smoked, baked, saut'ed, hot or cold and a sushi bar. That was my favorite lunch. Tried everything and everything was fantastic! We tried the pizza. It was ok, but not over the top great as some described. The wildlife and scenery were our entertainment. We did not go to any shows in the evening. Thursday night we saw multiple breaching whales and tail slapping. We did scan the horizon for hours, that was our entertainment. If I cruise again, I would get a min-suite. There would then be more room to sit inside. It also looks like they have nicer lounge chairs outside. I did like the AFT balcony views. When leaving a port, the bays or fjords we had a personalized view of the scene. We didn't have to stand shoulder to shoulder on the cold decks to see the view. If it is rainy you also have that protection to see the view. TUES ' Juneau The boat arrived early. Juneau Rental Car Nice customer service. Easy to walk to from the dock and had no problems with the car. A little old model year car, but clean and worked fine. Mendenhall Glacier The visitor center had a really nice movie with great photos. Nice presentations and displays of wildlife, glacier facts and you were allowed to touch a 200 year old piece of ice. They 'harvest' it about every other day and display it to touch. There is an admission fee and you are given a wristband. I did notice some people did not pay and were not wearing a band to walk on the paths. Really people?? Shame on you! The paths were well maintained. The path to Nugget Falls turned into sand and seemed to be the more popular hike. The end opens up into a large sandy beach right next to the falls. Some people climbed on the rocks next to the falls, or just lounged in the sand. Great view of the glacier from across the water. The buses started to arrive as we were leaving and it was getting more crowded. Go early because it is a very popular place. Shrine of St. Therese The entire area was peaceful and spiritual. The chapel was beautiful. We walked the stations of the cross and each was well appointed in their 'own space'. Around rocks and trees, with great views of the bay. Huge evergreen trees surrounding the area. We walked along the coast as we heard their was whale sightings in the channel. We did not spot any of them. Eagle Beach Drove to Eagle Beach. The tide was low and the shore was really far out ' away from the parking lot. So the birds were a long distance away from the street. With binoculars we saw eagles. Some flew over us to get to the trees on the other side of the highway. It was worth the drive out there. Wish we could have stayed longer or had time to hike the shoreline. Udder Culture Lunch at Utter Culture. Great homemade old-fashioned chicken noodle soup and Potato Chowder. The chili dogs were huge and loaded with toppings. The ham and swiss cheese sandwiches were very good. You get free refills on fountain drinks. The staff was very friendly. It was kind of hard to find. There is not a sign on top of the building only in the window which you can not see from the road. Look for the library sign. It was busy with a steady stream of customers, mostly locals. Nothing fancy, but good food. Macauley Salmon Hatchery This was a very interesting stop on our touring of Juneau. Outside were fish ladders that salmon jump up to be counted, harvested or released, dependent on the type of salmon they are. there were thousands waiting their chance to swim up the ladder. Most are released back into the ocean to return back next year. Inside the hatchery they had a large Alaskan fish aquarium and gift shop with samples. Worth a quick stop. Drove across the bridge to Douglas Island to take photos of Mendenhall Glacier and Juneau from across the channel. Water Flume Trail Hike Wound our way up the streets of Juneau to Bristol Road to the water flume trail hike. Wonderful stands of trees shading an easy, flat, planked trail, except where nature has covered it with rock slides. Peaceful, delicate waterfalls join the stream below with tinkling sounds among the quiet of nature only a couple blocks from downtown Juneau. I am sure it is different in the spring with water running down the steep hillside under the flume. The flume is covered with huge boards that form the trail. WED ' Skagway We had an 8:30am Skagway Yellow Taxi tour. Our driver and tour director was Charity. Charity was an actress, dressed up in old fashioned clothes who gave the running commentary of the tour. Charity was very likeable and friendly, but her 'schtick' didn't sit well with us. We didn't find her humor funny. We wished the 90 minutes was filled with more facts and less jokes. We first viewed the other docks on the bay for 10 minutes, which was a waste of time. Then RV Parks ' who cares? Main Street was fine. Overlook was ok. You could see the very cute town below with their international airport. Her house ' again, who cares? It was one of the nicer homes in town, so she must get good tips. She did tell us of their winter activities which was perfect because that is the kind of stuff you can't get in books. But 90 minutes is way too long. The Gold Rush Cemetery had hokey speeches on the crooks buried there. Way too much drama for our taste. The vehicle was clean and well maintained. You couldn't take a photo of any of the buildings because she drove to fast past them. Take a walking tour instead; the town isn't that big. We bought tickets for the 12:30 train of the White Pass Yukon Railway. We bought our tickets on line and it said to pick them up that morning. We walked the 20 minutes to the train station from our ship that morning. We waited in line to find out you needed your passport to pick up the tickets. It did not state anywhere in the paperwork to bring the passports to PICK UP the tickets. We understood we needed it for the trip, but not to pick up the tickets. The train station was way too confusing. No one knew anything. With three different trains leaving at almost the same time and tour groups with different colors trying to stay together it was unorganized. Who is in charge? They said they would make an announcement at 12:15 for the 12:30 train. There were blue groups, purple groups, etc. signs and announcements, but no sign for the White Pass Frasier Rail ticket holders. After asking 4 of the staff, one finally said to stand at Purple. Just put it on the ticket and we would wait where you wanted us to wait. It was a beautiful sunny day to take the train trip. The train was clean and comfortable. They handed out cool bottled water to anyone who wanted it. We saw mountain peaks of every possible mountain around. Our platform was the most crowded of the ones we could see. Men standing in everyone's way, and refusing to move. The vistas were great. I can see why this is the most popular attraction. A couple of steps and you just sit there! It was interesting to see the original trail of the Gold Rush. How difficult the terrain was for those men on foot. The photo platforms need to be 3 times as large. We were glad we didn't do the round trip (Beyond Skagway driving tour on way back). The commentary was excellent with the upcoming views and the voice was very understandable and clear. When I called Beyond Skagway Tours they suggested we take the train up to Frasier and drive to the Yukon and back to Skagway. What a great idea! After the train ride up to Frasier Kevin picked us up as planned and drove us to Emerald Lake, past Carcross and over the Yukon border. Kevin was a delight! A truly genuine nice guy. Very informative with interesting tidbits and fun facts. We stopped at all the turnouts worth stopping for photographs of the beautiful vistas. He patiently took photos of our group as many times as we wanted. Great scenery, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, flowers! Definitely the way to see beyond Skagway. Kevin drove us back down toward Skayway, almost to Dyea to see if the whales were in the channel. Just a couple of seals, but no whales. The 5 hours flew by. Kevin was safe, respectful, funny, friendly and got us through customs (twice) fast. We can't say enough good things about him and our tour with him. He told us about the hikes he has been on, his aspirations, and his many projects on his house and property. A real down to earth guy and we wish him the very best!!! SATURDAY Debarkation was well organized. The night before you receive instructions on luggage tags and times/location. Everything from 6:15am to 9:45am you may have to be leaving the ship. You must leave your room by 8am. You also receive your final statement. You can print out a statement at any time from the kiosk near the customer service desk. Our scheduled time was 8:45am in the Savoy dinning room. The room was right next to the exit ramp. We arrived about 8:15am and it was half filled. About 8:50 they called our group, scanned our cards at security and ran through the sheets of rain to get to the first covered walkway. It was raining sideways in Whittier. I guess this is a normal occurrence. You will get wet even if you are prepared. The walkway is not 100% covered ' not with the rain and wind we had. You then enter a large building and look for your sign. They check you off another list and assign you a bus. Off to our land portion of the trip. LAND PORTION Kaitlyn was our perky coach driver/ tour guide. We got a safety briefing on the motor coach and we were off to wait in line for the tunnel. 20 minutes after we got through the tunnel we stopped at the Wildlife Conservation Area. What a nice surprise. Moose, bear, elk, lynx, eagles all close up. A must stop even in the rain! 90 minutes after that we arrived at Kenai Princess Lodge and met the manager. He hops on the bus to welcome us and explains the set up of the lodge. He was very nice and it was a nice personal touch. The lodge is situated on 40 acres above the Kenai River. Buildings 100 to 700 are up one lane. Rooms 800 and up are scattered up the hill. We were in room 805. It was a great suite. Clean, comfy sofa and chairs and a table. The furniture was rustic looking but new. There was a free standing fireplace with plenty of wood provided. The room smelled of cedar. The nicest room we will have for the all of the Princess hotels. The hotel is isolated and in the middle of nowhere. There are two nature trails. One is 5 mile long and the other one 1 mile. There is another hike down to the river with a couple vantage points coming off the main trail. We had lunch at Eagles Crest Restaurant. Kyle and Jessie waited on us promptly with a smile. Good food. Huge burger, large portion of salmon sliders and halibut tacos. Dinner at Rafter's Lounge. The half portion salad was enough for a light dinner. The KPL salad and panzanella salad and Caesar salads with grilled shrimp were good too. The bison chili came in a huge bowl. Calamari appetizer was very good. If it had been warmer and sunnier we would have eaten on the deck. Oh and their Alaskan mixed drinks ' virgin or not ' were good too. SUNDAY ' Kenai Fjords tour The bus left at 9am for a one hour ride to Seward. It was raining but the town was very cute with a seaside main street. Clean cute stores lined the marina with a mix of fishing boats, sailboats and tour boats. We were assigned the Glacier Explorer. Two decks with comfortable chairs with tables. 11am we push off. About one hour into the cruise they serve chicken Caesar wraps, carrots and a granola bar. Later we got free hot chocolate (or coffee) and fresh baked cookies. Snacks, candy and other drinks were reasonably priced. It was cold and rainy with low clouds all day. We never saw the tops of any mountains. We did see humpback whales, sea otters, harbor seals, all sorts of birds and of course the glaciers at the end of the fjords. The crew, Kate, Tommy, Nick and the captain Steve did a good job to make us feel safe and welcome. We felt Captain Steve truly loved his job and tried his best to locate whales, etc. for us to see. Dinner at Eagles Restaurant was fantastic. Halibut (2 different ways), seared scallops were excellent. 3 different types of sauces for each dish. Amazing! Salmon chowder was great! Way too much food to have room for dessert ' even though the blackberry pie sounded delicious! MONDAY Breakfast at Eagle's Crest. The waiter was half asleep and not very accommodating. Same old selections. Bus pulled up at 8:45am. Most of us were lined up at 8:30am, ready to leave. Kind of a too quiet hotel. Very clean and nice but too remote. Dan came on the bus with his dog, Bella, to say good-bye. Left at 9am with a 2 hour drive to Anchorage. 2 hours to spend in Anchorage, and then 3 hour drive to McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We arrived at 4pm. We stopped at 11:45 in Anchorage in front of the Egan Center. Right across from the Town Square, a small park with beautiful flowers and fountains. We walked to Alaska Experience and saw two shows. Alaska Experience and Earthquake of 1965. Both were just okay. Nice scenery in the Alaska movie. The earthquake experience was strange. The mounted seats were more annoying than adding anything to the movie. We did see the beginning of the Northern Lights movie, and that looked more enjoyable. The displays were the most interesting. Viewed some murals along the walk back to the bus. The 2 hours went quickly. We had time to eat in the foodcourt of the 5th Avenue Mall. There was everything. Had a quick look in the store, Alaska Wildberry, but the line was too long and we didn't have the time. Easy check in at the McKinley Wilderness Lodge. The room was very nice (1602), very clean. Did find a mosquito, or did the Mosquito find me? in the room. We got a welcome package with the itinerary for tomorrow and the train assignment. Building 1600 is right along the road to leave the lodge. All the buses, trucks, cars drove by, all evening long. Dinner at 20,320. Pizza was good. Veggie panini was good too. Berry pie was good but not home-made. The registration desk was loaded so I went to the Tour Desk. Aaron Snyder said they don't handle the Denali call list, but called the desk for me after I told him the line at the front desk was 30 deep. That was above and beyond his duties. Thank you! Also found out that a large camera bag will fit under the train seat. We sat on the deck waiting for the mountain to show. Interesting to hear other's stories on whether they have seen it or not? Will it show tonight? We also sat around the fire pit. That was fun. Can buy marshmallows for toasting! TUESDAY The morning (7am) was very foggy and chilly. The bags needed to be out by 7:30 even though they weren't picked up until 8:30. Breakfast was good; veggie omelet with fresh spinach. The juice glasses were larger, like a medium size milk glass compared to the previous lodge (and ship) for the same price. Denali, the mountain, finally started to appear, just as we needed to board the bus to Talkeetna and the train. The station is a small building on a long paved roadway about 1 hour away. We waited for the train about 55 minutes. We would have preferred to wait on the deck of the lodge and the beautiful vista than along a roadway with bus fumes. Boarding the train was easy as seats were already assigned. Had to show a photo ID to board. Drink service was at your seats. Meal service by appointment was downstairs. Live commentary for the entire trip by Helen. She had fun stories to tell. They did not allow the large camera bag on board with a couple of other larger rollies. They stowed them in a small compartment right by the door. We had Chena Club car ' Row 16 ABCD. The car was actually Holland's car, not Princess. So far the left side, seats AB, were the better side for sites along the river. The windows are large and you can see views from either side. The ride was fairly smooth and quiet with a large comfortable area for your legs and feet. There was the ability to climb over the person sitting next to you without disturbing them. We did notice that towards the back of the car it was nosier with plate/meal service noise. And towards the front the blender noise for mixed drinks was prominent. Abby was our drink server. Smoothies were $4.75 and very good. There is a total of 22 rows, 4 across. Clyde and Mary Lovels have lived in the middle of nowhere for decades. They still come out to wave to the train as we pass. Mary has written two books on her life in the wilderness and can be purchased on the train. The buses to the Denali Lodge took just minutes. We got the welcome package on the train. We walked to Wolf H 206. They give you a map of the complex. The stairs to the second floor were worn and very dirty. The keys did not work for the east side of the complex. Quickly rectified by a cheerful woman from the first floor office area. Thank you! The rooms had new carpets, but the rooms keep getting smaller. The window was large and opened fully. If I was not on a tour, I do not know if I would book a room here. The next room's shower (as yours is) is right on your wall with little insulation between. So you hear when they are taking a shower ' and it is loud. The doors close automatically so they slam shut. The grounds are beautiful and clean, but the buildings are right on the highway so you get road noise, even though the highway wasn't that busy. If your building is near the lodge you get bus engine and back up noises. And what I really did not like was there was only one wastebasket in the room. I know! Really??? The shopping and hotel area was safe with walking paths to the main lodge, etc. Dinner at King Salmon Restaurant. Huge restaurant with pleasant views. Justin was our really fun and funny waiter. Food was excellent. Halibut was great, coconut halibut appetizer was very good ' huge portion for an appetizer. Salmon salad was huge. Sirloin tasty and not fatty. Ate too much for dessert. WEDNESDAY Breakfast at the King Salmon Restaurant took forever. Michele finally came to our table 10 minutes after we were seated, with no water, no coffee, no juice. Menus is the same as other Princess breakfast menus. NO surprises, good food. They had no regular tea. The entire complex was out of regular tea. Then it took 10 minutes for Michelle to take payment after we were done. 1 hour for breakfast? 10 minutes for the first greeting? We saw other waiters at their tables. Where did Michelle hide? Noticed a tear in my luggage. I had duct tape so I patched it. Then when I went to pick up the bag I noticed that the top handle was torn off. The front desk gave me a claim form to contact Princess when I returned home. This wasn't a good morning at the Denali Princess Lodge. Luggage was suppose to be out at 8:30; picked up at 9:35. This was okay with us. We could finish breakfast, brush our teeth and pack the brushes back in the luggage. Eielsen Shuttle in Denali National Park Took the Denali Taxi at 5:30am to the Wilderness Access Center in Denali NP. The driver was on time and very talkative. The 6am shuttle to Eielsen Visitor Center left on time. We opted out of the Princess Natural History (see nothing) tour of Denali. It was $99 and only went 17 miles into the park. Our original schedule trip was for 1pm. Wanting to see as many animals as possible we knew the early bus was the way to go. The shuttle was $44 each and we got to see 66 beautiful miles in the cool morning. We saw ' in order of appearance ' a porcupine, ptarmigan, moose, bear, momma brown bear and cubs carefree running in the meadow, caribou and wolf (wolf stalking the caribou) more caribou, more bears. All animals were within 100 yeards of the road (except for momma bear and cubs). We also saw Dall sheep up on the mountain tops (tiny dots). As we heard the Princess tour only saw a moose. Polychrome Overlook was fantastic with the morning sun enhancing the colors of the hills. And Stony Hill, our first great view of the mountain, was magnificent. Breath-taking views! The mountain stayed fairly clear for us the entire time we were at the Eielsen Visitor Center. What great viewpoints and display at the center. Wish we could have stayed here all day. But, after a quick bite to eat (brought our own sandwiches) in an inside eating area, we were back on the bus (#559 with Mike Riggenbach) for the journey back. Mike was very good with pointing out the campgrounds, stream crossings, mountains in the distance and updates on how long until the next stop. 1 hour and 20 minutes goes by fast. He was patient to let us view and photograph the animals and when others did not return on time. He was courteous, friendly, polite and safe and very likeable. It is very important to go early ' you can sleep at home. We saw 7 moose in one spot, but on the way back (in the afternoon) there were not any. The day we were there was sunny and dry, which makes the road very dusty. If you plan to hike along the road you may want to be prepared for the dry, dusty conditions. The bus seats were comfortable, not like school bus bench seats. I did not like the rooms in the lodges did not have irons. With all this packing and unpacking things get wrinkled. Overall, the staff was very friendly and helpful ' waiters, drivers, tourguides, bell hops, not a dull one in the bunch. They all seem to love what they do and living in Alaska! THURSDAY Bus to Fairbanks was on time with Jeff as the driver. An unexpected stop at Neenana Cultural Center, gift shops, and bathrooms for 20 minutes (turned out to be 30 minutes). Then we got dropped off downtown Fairbanks, not the hotel. Stopped at Golden Heart Plaza for one hour. We ate at the River City Caf' and sat outside. You can access it from either street. Good soup and meatball sandwich and French dip. Desserts looked really good. Walked towards the river walk and Yukon Quest. It was really nice and informative for a quick stop. The staff love their dogs and were very friendly. You can meet the mushers, and sled dogs. You can donate money and buy a dog shoe and they will tell you which team will be wearing your shoe. Good Luck!! Run Fast!! Arrived at the Princess Fairbanks Lodge. Looked new from the outside. This lodge is least 'Alaskan' of the 4 Princess lodges we stayed at. It is bright and cheery on the inside. The room was simple but clean. Larger, much larger than the Denali PL. New carpet, old and low light lamps. No overhead light in the main area of the room. Fairly small window, but did open up to a green area. At 10:30pm heard a helicopter land. Then a few minutes later a small plane taking off. But the window was open. When we closed the window it was quieter from the airport noises. But at 6am heard a jet engine taking off. We didn't hang around the hotel much. The sitting area was in front, by the parking lot and bus drop off area. UAF Museum of the North Excellent historical and art museum. Great displays ' some hands-on. The sounds of the day room was a very interesting experience. Great views with the university being built on a hill overlooking the beautiful valley. Haze from the wild fires made it difficult to see the mountains in the distance. This museum is not for the very young and please don't bring them as it spoils the experience for others. Gambardellas Terrible service, okay food. This place was recommended by the driver and we were so disappointed. 20 minutes to get a drink order and bread, even though the waiter saying it was coming. Good salad and mediocre pizza. Good halibut and seafood pasta. We sat outside, it was a beautiful evening. Occasionally you would hear a bus rumble by. It took another 10 minutes to get the check picked up. Nice guy, but overwhelmed with just ' tables filled. Pioneer Park Sad to say but the previous reviews were right on. A nice piece of property that is under used. Less then 20 cars in the parking lot and they were having a car show the afternoon we went. The Salmon Bake did not look like it was worth the $29 charge. It was more picnic fare. It is kind of different to sit outside on picnic benches around large tables with strangers. Hertz Fairbanks Airport The counter woman was very good. Helpful, friendly. Felt like we were gold members, FRIDAY Bus to the Riverboat/Gold Dredge day left on time. Jill was our driver. Talked about the Riverboat staff really enjoying their jobs. The fire from the Steward River 2 by the Chena Hot Springs caused such a large smoke cloud that the sun was cut out this morning. The Gold Dredge and Riverboat is owned by the same person, Charles M. Brinkley. They try to keep up high standards. It is called 'touristy but not cheesy.' George was our tour director on the train that takes you to the gold dredge area. George has been with them for 14 years, and 18 years in Fairbanks. The train ride was short and very interesting. You learn about the gold extracting history of the area. George was a great aerator and host of our group. You could tell he loves his summer job. We had a couple of hours to pan for gold, shop, eat free cookies and hot beverages, tour on our own the gold dredge itself and the old appliances around the building. Mikayla helped us ship a couple things home that we purchased. Our suitcases were too filled for anything else, so this worked out great. (And they did arrive home!) We also got information on the pipeline that runs through the property. I learned a lot that I didn't know about the oil pipeline itself and its impact on the Alaskan economy. We then took a bus ride to the Riverboat. When we got to the Riverboat loading area we were served lunch family style of cheese ale soup, beef stew, rolls, butter, pasta salad, brownie, water or ice tea. Our hustling waitress, Becca, re-filled buckets of stew and rolls as well as pitchers of tea. She never stopped moving! It is all-you-can-eat. It was very good. We bought a few t-shirts and the girl that helped us was very personable. Very nice, not just a cashier which was a nice change of pace. Then off to the Riverboat. I was so surprised ' I actually liked this! A nice, smooth ride down the Chena River. Viewing beautiful houses, a float plane demonstration, and the Susan Butcher dog kennel. The riverboat turns around where the Tenana River and Chena Rover converge. The boat stops at the Athabascan Village. The boat splits up into three separate groups that view 3 different parts of the Athabascan history. Darcy, an 18 year old Athabascan and Alaskan Eskimo, made the demonstrations fun and entertaining. She was so poised and intelligent. Easy to immediately like her! There were husky puppies to pet, caribou to view, and Susan Butcher's husband, David Monson, sat and signed their book. Such a touching story. This is not a tour for the young. They cannot run around anywhere and need to be silent so others can enjoy the commentary. But I ate my words. I can't believe I had a great time today in Fairbanks! The Charles Binkley family does a fantastic job, on all levels, on the excursions!! Cookie Jar Restaurant Off the beaten track and kind of out of the way but it is worth the drive. Extensive menu and this evening they had halibut that had not been frozen. As a special. Excellent! The halibut burger had two filets on a bun, beef stroganoff was good and a huge chef's salad. We feel bad that we didn't get a dessert. The home-made chocolates looked delicious and large selection of DARK chocolate pieces. Alaskan Tails of Tundra with Mary Shields Mary Shields came to Alaska at 21 and tells of her life and love of dogs in her garden and home. She was honest and unassuming, peaceful and pleasant, and very interesting. First she introduces you to her dogs (and puppies). They run around and jump all over the kids in the group. She shows you her garden and kennels. She invites you into her lovely home for cake and punch and tells of her tales of Alaska. Her adventures sound magnificent! A not to be missed adventure in Fairbanks. It is hard to find her home, but harder to leave. She makes you feel so welcome and she is so interesting! Large Animal Research Station (LARS) We made the 12:00 tour. It was interesting but kind of lame and not worth the $10 entrance fee. Other than you get to get close to the animals and the money does go towards the care of them. Not a good place for photographs. There are 2 sets of fences between you and the musk oxen and caribou. Chena Hot Springs Well worth the drive on a nicely surfaced road through a State Park. The grounds were beautiful. There were flowers and gardens everywhere. Take the paths around the hot springs area, in back. Very pretty. There were a lot of Japanese tour groups. The signs were in Japanese and English. The ice museum was very cold (they give you coats to wear) but small and disappointing. Buy the postcard instead. The hot springs was very warm and sometimes too hot in places. The locker rooms were clean. There are lockers for rental to keep your clothes. There was a nice adult area. The other pools were too crowded with screaming unattended children. The restaurants had GREAT salads. The clam chowder was more like a clam stew ' thick, rich and creamy. The halibut was too large of a portion to finish. The burger was excellent beef. There was a long wait to get in. We actually left and came back one hour later, and got in. the staff was pleasant. Take a look at some of the interesting tables. We drove back to Fairbanks with plenty of time to spare for our late evening plane. Our bags were on the curb waiting for us when we arrived at the airport. One young man was watching them. If you time it right it won't take long to pick them up. Just don't arrive when a bus lets people off.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
Dining: marginally adequate, asked waiter when we were going to have T-bone steak and he said I had to go to the speciality restaurant. I read where one could have NY strip on request on Cruisecritic but it was disallowed. Celebrity and ... Read More
Dining: marginally adequate, asked waiter when we were going to have T-bone steak and he said I had to go to the speciality restaurant. I read where one could have NY strip on request on Cruisecritic but it was disallowed. Celebrity and Carnival Spirit had NY strip on request. Sapphire food generally tasteless and mediocre. New York Strip served on last evening meal wasn't as good as I've had at chain restaurants. Other passengers made similar comments in conversations as lacking in quality and taste. Baked Alaska? Not creamy and as tasty as on other cruise lines, desserts in general tasteless and bland with the exception of the banana creame pie on last evening meal. Pizza not prepared to our taste, pizza bought at grocery stores and taken home for baking more suitable for consumption. Ate in International Dining Room on 2 Aug and fried fish not crisp, tarter sauce loose and runny. French fries hot and tasty. Cole slaw apparently very expensive based on the amount received with fried perch meal. I ate until I ran out of slaw and pushed the plate aside due to poor taste. There should be ample servings of each food ordered to last the entire meal and tartar sauce should have body, not too thick and not too loose. The fish should be cooked crisp but not dry and when served should be free of unnecessary grease. The Horizon Court Buffet would do well to post a lunch and dinner menu for guests to read prior to deciding where one wants to dine-perhaps that is the plan to keep guests guessing where the best meal might be served? Our cabin was adequate, had everything we possibly need or want including room service. Cabin Steward kept room clean but was somewhat difficult to reach to turn in a form that was assigned to another passenger/room but delivered by error to our room. Again on the route back to Vancouver the wrong folio with $500 deposited to our Excursion Account that sadly we had to turn in at the Passenger Assist Desk for appropriate disposition. Perhaps it wasn't the steward but someone from passenger services? Extremely difficult to find photos in the Photo Gallery, it would be beneficial if the photos had a number assigned to each photo or belonged to such-and-such room to make it easier for guests to find their pictures. I and another guest were commenting on the difficulty. Explorers Lounge 1030 on4 Aug-Morning Trivia-why does the MC (Mark) have to use the term "fart?" This in in front of all ages from small children to elderly and is inappropriate. Sure some children use the term, we hear it in movies but does that make it "cultured" or proper? Where is the Princess civility? This is our first and last trip with Princess, other cruise lines offer more for the dollar and we received far less than expected. If we wanted to enter the "Sanctuary" there was a fee of $60 per person? Other passengers were commenting on the additional cost of the cruise in certain areas and the poor quality of prepared food. Enter the Horizon late and the food in some hot pans were nearly empty and the food was dried. I have worked with several chefs and the food served late should be as fresh as it was when the serving line opened. Summarization: The crew was overall excellent and to a person were polite and considerate. They provided everything they could that the cruise line would allow. The ship contrary to what others have commented on was in good shape and crew worked diligently keeping it clean. However, Princess Cruise Line has cut corners to cut costs and in so doing have alienated many potential future customers. I would have to put Princess on a par with The smaller ships in the Carnival line. Even NCL is somewhat better than Princess. Princess attempts to pawn and foist eye of round off for filet migon and the astute traveler can quickly discern what is in their plate. However, one thing that Princess does well and that is the nearly grease-free french fries -every other food item looks better than they taste which is a waste of time when one either dresses up for one of the dining rooms or stands in line at the Horizon Court. Based on food repetition and use of leftovers, it would do Princess Lines well to eliminate the Chef and have the first and second cooks plan and supervise food preparation if they continue as they are-food prep is repetitious and rote, they don't need to pay a "chef," they'd save even more money by eliminating his job. The cooks know what they have to do-all season and beyond. I enjoy the food on most cruises but the food on Princess as they say in England, "took the biscuit." Princess has nearly convinced both the wife and I to not take another cruise but after talking to other passengers we'll try Holland America Lines someday but not in the near future, it's gonna be along time. I have sent part of this assessment to Princess Cruise Lines but don't know if they'll answer and I don't particularly care. Sent from my iPad   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
My husband and I have always been reluctant to cruise but decided to try an Alaskan cruise with friends. We tend to be independent travelers and like to wander through towns taking in the sights in a leisurely fashion. We always thought ... Read More
My husband and I have always been reluctant to cruise but decided to try an Alaskan cruise with friends. We tend to be independent travelers and like to wander through towns taking in the sights in a leisurely fashion. We always thought that cruises would be too restrictive and that we would feel captive to a boat, surrounded by thousands of fellow travelers. However, we loved the cruise and will cruise again. The Sapphire Princess is designed in such a way that we never felt overwhelmed with other passengers. In fact, the settings feel intimate, particularly in the dining areas. We booked a mini suite, which was on the Dolphin deck. We were surprised at the spaciousness of the room. The sitting area had a couch that was a large as a king-sized bed and an additional chair. Our friends booked rooms with balconies which only had one chair and were cramped. Our deck was twice the size of theirs. While the dolphin deck has no cover and is open to all the above decks, passengers above are looking at the scenery and not the lower desk, so that did not bother us. Princess is a model of efficiency with respect to luggage transport, embarkation and disembarkation. All the Princess staff were friendly and helpful. We discovered that you can get a cooked to order omelet in the buffet for breakfast. We had fresh salmon omelettes every day that were superb. I thought the food on the ship was good but not great. The buffet gives you healthy dining options, like fresh fruit and veggies. The Park Service Rangers were on board during the Glacier Bay cruise and were very willing to answer questions and were informative. The three stops in the towns of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway were ok but the towns are full of junky shops. We tried to get off the beaten track in each. We took a taxi to Bight State Totem Park in Ketchikan and that was fun. We booked a tour through the ship in Juneau to go whale watching and to see the Mendenhall Glacier. We booked a private tour in Skagway with Beyond Skagway Tours and drove into the Yukon Territory, taking the White Pass and Yukon railroad back into town. I would highly recommend Beyond Skagway Tours. We also took the land tour through Princess up to Denali and Mt. McKinley. That was an additional 4 nights. We did not care for the Princess Denali Lodge but loved the Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge. If we had it to do over, we would rent a car in Whittier at the end of the cruise and drive to Denali and Mt. McKinley. We wasted a lot of time riding a train for 9.5 hrs from Whittier to Denali (broken bathroom which smelled!) and couldn't stop to enjoy the scenery like we could have with a car. We rode a bus from Denali to McKinley and from McKinley to Anchorage. We could have travelled more economically on our own and stopped to enjoy Alaska. If you go to Anchorage, be sure to see the Aurora borealis show at the Performing Arts Center. It is worth the price of admission. Also, if you are in Denali, the Jeff King Husky Homestead tour was fun. What could be better than cuddling a Husky puppy that's handed to you when you get off the bus. The town of Talkeetna, about 45-60 min from the Princess McKinley lodge is not worth the bus trip. It is full of junky shops, most of which are probably owned or subsidized by the cruise lines, with a few authentic places tucked in here and there. There was a nice microbrewery in town. The walk to the river through town was short and we had a nice view of Mt. McKinley. All in all, it was a great cruise and trip! Read Less
Sail Date: July 2013
We just returned from a 14 day cruise to Alaska on the Sapphire and were so impressed with the ship. Since we live in Vancouver this was our 5th trip to Alaska so the trip was more about the cruise than the ports, therefore I will limit ... Read More
We just returned from a 14 day cruise to Alaska on the Sapphire and were so impressed with the ship. Since we live in Vancouver this was our 5th trip to Alaska so the trip was more about the cruise than the ports, therefore I will limit my review to the ship experience. We have sailed the Sapphire twice before, but I think their have been some improvements since we were wowed by the ship and the service. New to the ship is the International Cafe which provides specialty coffees (at a cost) along with delicious pastries, soups and snacks. This was our choice for breakfast each morning and a tea break in the p.m. We felt the coffee card was excellent value Also on the fifth floor is Alfredo's pizza where you can order thin crust pizza in a more Italian style. We lunched here twice. It is a very elegant venue. Food was excellent no matter what venue you chose, and we felt that the quality of the food has greatly improved. We preferred the Savoy and Pacific Moon for anytime dining, the Santa Fe was a bit too dark for our liking. Service everywhere was friendly, helpful with many staff going the extra mile, this is the first voyage we have been on where we never met a visibly unhappy staff member. Entertainment was good but we felt the production shows could have been better, the singers seemed to have trouble coordinating with the orchestra. Other acts were better, especially the comedian (Steve) who was hilarious. The cabin was a big bonus for us since we were upgraded to a deluxe oceanview from an obstructed view. We had a balcony at the front of the ship which was available to us when we were in port (too windy while underway). The ship is in very good condition and cleaning is constant. I am an early riser and this is when you see many staff busy cleaning everywhere. All in all, an excellent cruise and we will be looking to see where else the Sapphire is sailing. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
Traveled with my Mom (60) me (35).  Arrived in Vancouver the day before the cruise and spent the day sightseeing with a rental car. Vancouver is a beautiful City with lots to see and do. Wish we had a few days here. We stayed at "The ... Read More
Traveled with my Mom (60) me (35).  Arrived in Vancouver the day before the cruise and spent the day sightseeing with a rental car. Vancouver is a beautiful City with lots to see and do. Wish we had a few days here. We stayed at "The Hotel at Terminal City Club" which was right downtown and two blocks from Canada Place. We actually had a room that we could see 1/2 of the cruise terminal from. We were within walking distance to Gastown as well. The next morning we awoke to see from our hotel room window the Sapphire Princess coming into the harbour. We walked with our luggage in tow the two blocks down to the Canada Place and we found the check in process to be very easy and quick. We found we were on board the Sapphire in no time. We had a balcony room and unlike our other cruises in the Caribbean, we were allowed to go directly to our room as soon as we boarded. The ship was beautiful and clean the staff were very friendly and courteous. We had the early seating for supper (5:30pm) and actually found that to be a little troublesome as we were still in port at that time most days or there was something going on outside to see. If we did it over again we would either do the late seating or the any time dining. We found the dining room food to be very good and had the most amazing server by the name of Serafin, he alone was worth going to the dining room for. The best server I have had on any of my cruises so far. The food in the buffet was also very good. Our first port was Ketchikan which we loved unfortunately we ran out of time and wished we had just a few more hours here. We did one of the float plane tours which was amazing. By the time we got back form the tour we only had 1/2 hour before we had to be back on board so we were able to run over and take a walk down Creek Street which was a really neat place but wish we had time to check out the buildings. Our second stop was Juneau. We were suppose to do the helicopter glacier dog sledding tour but they cancelled it due to a low cloud ceiling that day. They instead switched us to a helicopter tour and landing on a glacier which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. It was amazing to take a helicopter up to this massive glacier and then land on it and get to go out and walk around on it. It was like being on the moon. Words cannot describe it. When we returned we went to the Red Dog Saloon and had a quick bite and then tried to do a bit of shopping but got caught in a downpour. Our last official port was Skagway. We did the White Pass Rail, gold mining and lunch. We took a bus up the Klondike Highway and stopped shortly outside of the townsite to do some gold panning. A little cheesy experience but hey it was fun anyways. We finished our ride on the Klondike Highway just on the other side of Fraser, BC Canada where we were to board the train that would take us back to Skagway. The train run was fun and a little heart pounding at times when you looked over the edge to see that you were just perching on the side of the mountain. Beautiful scenery though. We spent the rest of the time shopping and wondering around the town site and dropped in the Red Onion Saloon for a quick bite and a drink. The next day we arrived in Glacier Bay which was beautiful. We spent pretty much the entire day out on deck while we transited up and back down the Bay. The glaciers were beautiful and the Marjorie Glacier did not disappoint and it calved several huge chunks of ice while we were there. The captain had the port side facing the glacier for 1/2 an hour and then turned so the starboard side could sit facing the glacier for 1/2 an hour. We saw lots of wildife right off the ship while looking off our balcony or out on deck. We saw humpback whales, sea otters, porpoises, seals, bald eagles and a bear! We found the shows very good but short. For the trip I found I wore a range of clothing some times it was beautiful and just a light long sleeve shirt and capris were good enough, other days like Glacier Bay I was bundled up with a winter coat, hat and mitts! Our last day we did scenic cruising through the College Fjord. Lots of glaciers to see there and lots of big chunky icebergs that we floated by. Within a couple of hours after leaving the College Fjord we arrived in Whitter to end our cruise. Can't believe the week went by that fast. We went to bed that night in preparation to leave the ship the next morning. We had arranged a transfer with Princess via bus to the Anchorage Airport where we were to pick up a rental car. When we departed the ship we were pleasantly surprised to learn we didn't have to worry about our luggage. Princess would take our luggage directly to the airport for us and hold it in a room there until as late at 7pm that night for us free of charge! The bus ride from Whitter to Anchorage only took us about 45 minutes and we picked up our rental car. Anchorage was bigger than I expected. We went to the local Anchorage Farmer's Market downtown which was great! So many neat things to see and so much good food to eat! We then did a few of the touristy stops and did some shopping on their main road downtown. We found the start of the Ididarod dog race marked by a bronze statue of a dog. We headed back to the airport in the evening. The line up at the security check in gets long and it's a little slow so don't leave it too late as we saw a few panicked travelers about to miss their flight! Overall it was an amazing trip and we can't wait to go back and do it again. Alaska is amazing and its so hard to describe unless you see it for yourself. There was so much to see and do I feel we only scratched the surface. I was on the Ruby Princess a few years ago and did not like our cruise and said I wouldn't go back on Princess again. However the Sapphire Princess and her crew completely changed my mind about Princess Cruises. They completely WOW-ed me this time around. If you have any questions I can try and answer them for you. You can email me at angela.dicesare@hotmail.com Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
Sat . June 15 Vancouver We had half day to see the city.The hop-on hop-off bus cost $37 pp for seniors; I chose instead to get a $7.50 pp all day bus pass. Took a us to Stanley Park, but found the park too large to see by foot. Got back on ... Read More
Sat . June 15 Vancouver We had half day to see the city.The hop-on hop-off bus cost $37 pp for seniors; I chose instead to get a $7.50 pp all day bus pass. Took a us to Stanley Park, but found the park too large to see by foot. Got back on the local bus and spent an hour going to the end of the route, through Chinatown, old and new business areas, fancy and run down residential areas, and suburbs to another bus/train station at the city’s edge. Found an elevated train (Skyway) back to the motel by two p.m., and that was our somewhat disappointing superficial visit to Vancouver. Took a shuttle to the Sapphire Princesss and had fast efficient boarding, thanks to my Preferred Boarding Pass as a Platinum Captain’s Circle veteran cruiser and the fact that we both walk with canes. We have our usual good comparatively unobstructed lower cost “obstructed” outside cabin, E425 on the Emerald deck 8 amidships, up one from the Promenade (deck 7) and relatively close to everything. Layout is similar to other Princess ships, and so familiar to us. Had usual visit with Maitre D to get assigned early seating. Theoretically one can do this in advance, but Princess usually makes this impossible, sending us notices we have “chosen anytime seating,” which is a lie. They force “anytime” on us, & we have to see the maitre D almost every time. At least we now have this wonderful feeling that for the next week we need not worry about where to sleep, where or what to eat, what connection we have to make, or any of the other frustrations of independent travel. We can relax. Sun. June 16. At sea. I spent some time in the “Sanctuary,” napping, writing these entries, and reading an excellent book, Wade Davis Light at the Edge of the World, A Journey through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures, about numerous societies and languages in S. America, the arctic, New Guinea, Africa, etc. The book had a lot of beautiful photos. Voodoo in Haiti, coca among the Incas in Peru, canoe people in Venezuela, eupiak in the arctic, others in Sumatra and Borneo, far more than i had realized. Basically, the cultures have been the victims of modern commercial culture: gas, oil, and lumber. Skimmed/read another book, an odd one by Sylvia Brown titled Secret Societies, supposedly telling the truth about Skull and Bones (Yale), the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Comm., the Bilderberg Group, Freemasons, the Knights Templar and Malta, the Rosicrucians (Yeats belonged), the Priory of Sion, the Opus Dei, New World, the Illuminati, and Gnostics, with a chapter on “Lies about Christ and the Vatican.” A weird book that cited a few sources and had some convincing info. but relied extensively on her “Spiritual Adviser” Francine. Mon. June 17 Ketchikan. Been here before. Not a lot to see or do. Wandered around the town and took a local bus to a beautiful new library with current papers and magazines. Tue. June 18 Juneau. Took an independent whale watching trip ($125 each) which I had scheduled in advance. They guaranteed we’d see whales (though later in the season trips may take longer), and we did indeed see a lot of humpbacks, to the right of us, to the left of us, all around us, some in bunches (almost colliding), a few w/babies. Found out later Princess had cancelled their whale watching excursion (cost $199 each) because of “rough seas.” Ours was a bumpy ride out and back, but we had wonderful views of many whales. I believe there is a lesson here. Then took an $8 bus ride out to Mendenhall Glacier ($8 return). Excellent visitor center (free w/Golden Passport):detailed exhibits, especially on retreating glaciers due to climate change. A good day. We’ve had some very good song and dance shows, better than on other Princess cruises, though still too loud, with bright strobe lights that annoy everyone we’ve talked with. Wed.. June 19. Skagway. My companion took the White Horse/Yukon train up the narrow, beautiful route the gold miners had used, with tales of their strains and suffering and of many dead horses. She had a long walk and wait in the hot sun and felt the ads, info, and planning were lousy, though the trip was an interesting one through beautiful scenery. I’d been there, done that, so spent some time on the computer and wrote my notes here. Thu. June 20. A day of cruising Glacier Bay. Several forest rangers came on board; we heard one good lecture on the history and nature of glaciers including the effects of climate change on them. We spent the time leaning on the rail and looking at the mix of beautiful blue and white ice as well as the old dirty parts; taking photos, eating, napping, reading. Fri. June 21 Summer Solstice Sunrise 4:10 a.m. Sunset 11:28 p.m. Over 19 hours of daylight! Basically, another day at sea, with a brief cruise into College Fjord to see a few more glaciers, one quite large and beautiful. Also a goof in my planning. We had only three ports on this “7-day” cruise (actually 6). Some cruises stop at four ports, including Sitka, a very interesting one. I had volunteered for the Passenger Talent Show. Signed up, but did not have any audition and never heard anything more. Went to the location at the time of the show, and they called my name to perform. Fortunately, I had brought my copy of “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “performed” it to considerable applause and positive comments. Spent the rest of the day resting, reading, writing in here. There’s a lot we did not do: attend the art auction, drink the expensive cocktails they pedal at all hours, use the hot tubs, watch the movies, play ping pong or bridge, solve the sudoku puzzles, take rhumba lessons, look at the thousands of posted photos, pay for Pilates, eat reindeer chili, play trivia or Bingo, gamble, take afternoon tea, have our tongue or pulse analyzed with Chinese herbal medicine, play croquet, or dance the night away. We did chat with some interesting guests, ate many good meals, and spent a lot of time napping and relaxing. Sat. June 22 Docked in Whittier, near Anchorage, around 1 a.m. We disembarked and set off on a land tour, at the mercy of Princess. We had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get to our “staging area” (our Santa Fe restaurant) by 6:00 to wait until 6:30 with a couple hundred others, like cattle, to a waiting train car #3, table #15, to sit facing backward with another couple (facing forward) for the trip to Talkeetna, arriving around 4 p.m. Dumpy sort of train, not at all like the luxury of the Rocky Mountaineer. I had tried several times to get more info from Princess about this part of the trip: whether we had reserved seats, any choice of where we sat, whether all seats faced forward and/or reclined. I prefer to see where I am going to, not where I have been. I never got answers. Either they did not know, or, more likely, did not want us to know. We were then transferred to coaches (had the option of staying several hours in Talkeetna for an extra charge). Tired, we went on to the Princess McKinley Wilderness Lodge on a hilltop with an excellent view of the highest mountain in North America.. Word is that the peak is enshrouded in clouds six days out of seven, but for all three days we were in the area we had wonderful views of the mountain in all its glory and majesty. Also some good photos and postcards . We are, however, in the clutches of Princess. Nothing at all nearby to get anything to eat other than their expensive restaurants. I talked a bartender into a glass of milk ($2.50) so we could eat some cereal with a banana we had snitched from the ship. Sun. June 23 Motor coach to the Denali Princess Lodge, in the small town with a Subway across the street. We have been surprised at the large numbers of people from China, Japan, and India on these cruises and tours, probably because we left from the west coast. The Subway was so jammed that we settled for tuna sandwiches from a nearby gas station. Our tour included a four or five hour bus trip through Denali National Park and Preserve, where one hopes to see the “big five”: bear, caribou, moose, antelope, and wolf. The best time to do that is early morning. Our tour went at 2:30 p.m. (Princess chose the time) and was, I believe, billed as a “landscape tour.” We had only a distant view of a caribou and a moose or two. In the evening, we saw (extra cost) a hokey, home-written hill-billy type play about the first climb of Mt. McKinley. Mon. June 24 Motor coach to Fairbanks. Not a lot of fun. Some lovely mountain scenery, and then a long ride through flatlands with one-way, dusty, bumpy road construction and orange barrels, just like home. After a four hour ride to the outskirts Fairbanks, we had a good paddle wheel boat ride lasting several hours. It included views of riverside shanties and mansions, a famous sled-dog training farm, some float plane docks and a plane taking off and landing beside the boat, and a stop of several hours at a park with lectures and exhibits of the earlier ways of life here: processing and smoking salmon, making of fur and other clothing, song and dance, mostly by natives from Alaskan villages. I found it sad, though, that none of the young lecturers could recite a poem in any native language. All spoke the English that the missionaries had taught their parents or grandparents. And though in some villages there are old folk willing to teach the young ones the language that their grandparents spoke. Most of the youth, as in Ireland, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places, want to speak the current lingua franca (an odd Latin/french phrase that now refers to English). Alas. Tue. June 25 Fairbanks Spent last night at the Princess Riverside Inn near the airport, and today is the official end of the Princess tour. We have two more days on our own in Fairbanks. Tried to use the free (for seniors) local bus service. Had to deal with long waits and walks and missed or late buses. Found a good, reasonable downtown hotel, the Bridgewater, and rented a car from AK rental. The logistics of this Princess tour are, on the one hand, highly complex and efficient, but, on the other, very frustrating. After we got off the train from the ship, another whole group of passengers boarded to get back to the ship for a departure that afternoon. The bus from Denali to Fairbanks then took other passengers from Fairbanks to Denali. We never had to show tickets. Someone from Princess appeared at the right coach or train with a manifest, and checked off our names as we got on. And there always was someone at the right place at the right time, at least in our experience. So someone at Princess must have known all these details, yet they refused to share them with us passengers. We did not know what time the bus would leave until the day or night before; we did not know what time we would arrive somewhere until we boarded the train or bus and asked. We did not know when our tour of Denali would be until the night before. And we as individuals have no knowledge or control of the specifics until shortly before or until they happen. The agents in the hotels or those who answer the 800 numbers either do not know or are forbidden to tell. They seem dumb, or perhaps are under orders to act dumb. I found this lack of information very annoying. I heard some passengers complain a lot about being in an annex some distance away from rather than in the main hotel at Denali, but they got no satisfaction. Wed. June 26 My companion wanted to drive to the arctic circle, about 7-8 hours on a dirt road (illegal to do w/our rental) past mostly monotonous tundra and then 8 hours back. We chose not to go. In the morning, I had a wonderful experience. On an earlier visit to AK to visit my brother, I had called a float plane instructor about a lesson. He said he would give me one, except that the lake was frozen and the plan on skis. So I had a ski plane lesson instead. This time I had called another instructor. We drove to his hangar and plane on a big old quarry next to the Fairbanks airport. I sat in the left seat (primary pilot), he on the right with dual controls. He took off and then said “the plane is yours. He directed me over a pass in the mountains. I kept us straight and level on the course he directed to some lakes. Practiced some steep turns and a 360 turn. He landed the plane, had me take off, fly around, land, and take off again. A challenge, but I did OK, and can add that to the list of types I have flown (a T-6 WW II 400 hp trainer; the ski plane, an aerobatic one w/a few lessons, and a glider). All challenges and fun. We spent the rest of the day at the excellent University of Alaska museum, a mixture of anthropology, natural history, art, sculpture, and more. Driving in Fairbanks was confusing and frustrating: not to scale maps and inadequate road and street signs. There is a large animal research center where we hoped to get the close-up views of moose, bear, and antelopes that we had missed at Denali. We found it at closing time and had only a distant view of something we could not identify. Thu. June 27 Took the day to get away from the metropolis of Fairbanks and headed into the boonies 25 miles or so northwest toward the arctic. Found an exhibit where the AK pipeline was exposed and explained. Saw intersecting hills with countless pine trees, some clear spots with heavy equipment, and every few miles a mailbox at a lane where some lone souls of the pioneer type probably live alone. Returned the rental car in time to make an 8 p.m. United red eye flight to Chicago. Fri. June 28 Arrived in Chicago late enough to miss our connection to Dayton. We got home tired and bleary-eyed, an OK end to a wonderful adventure. This was my companion’s first trip to AK and, if she were a few decades younger, she’d be ready to move there. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2013
We flew into Vancouver the day before our cruise. We stayed downtown and enjoyed viewing the city. Vancouver is a very bustling and vibrant city with a lot of activity. Embarkation at Canada Place was organized and easy. We embarked ... Read More
We flew into Vancouver the day before our cruise. We stayed downtown and enjoyed viewing the city. Vancouver is a very bustling and vibrant city with a lot of activity. Embarkation at Canada Place was organized and easy. We embarked around 1pm and had no problems, just a few short waits in line. The entire process took less than 30 minutes. When I got to the cabin, I was warmly greeted by Roland my cabin steward who was outstanding for the entire trip. There were several issues as far as special requests that were not completed properly. It took going through two supervisory levels and insisting that things be done right before they were. I was very disappointed in their lack of awareness as it relates to this specific situation. There was also an issue with a door repair that took two different engineers to come up and look it, including having to wait one day for 6 hours (while there were other activities I wanted to participate in that I missed). I waited because I wanted to make sure it was done right the second time. They improved the situation but it was still difficult to get the door to work properly. After addressing these issues and one other issue, things went better but it was a real tough start to the trip. As far as the entertainment, I did not attend the evening shows as we were more focused on the wildlife and scenery. I did attend a couple of the daytime events during at sea days and found them to have a lot of cheesey humor. I wasn't a big fan but it seemed as though all of these shows were pretty well attended. The naturalist Sandra was very knowledgeable and her presentations while very fast paced were informative. The food was probably a 2.5/5. It was just okay. The servers were not very knowledgeable about the menu and weren't able to answer questions on it. The two exceptions to this were Loretto, who was a real stand out and Waldo. Alaska, though, was absolutely incredible. The ports - Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan worked out well as did Glacier Bay and College Fjord. We got to see wildlife including humpback whales and seals from the ship which was great. On the whole, I would give Princess a 6.5/10 and Alaska a 10/10.   Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
We stayed the night before the cruise at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. On the morning of the cruise the hotel staff collects your luggage and you don't see it again until you enter your cabin on the ship. No charge. We tipped. ... Read More
We stayed the night before the cruise at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver. On the morning of the cruise the hotel staff collects your luggage and you don't see it again until you enter your cabin on the ship. No charge. We tipped. So convenient.Embarkation:This was a little confusing because a Holland America ship was embarking at the same time. At one point, we ended up in the wrong line. There were long lines at 1:30 but they moved quickly.Alcohol Policy:The policy was strictly enforced. We carried one bottle of wine per person in our carry on bags. After having them scanned by security, we had to report to a separate table where they inspected our bottles and recorded the number of bottles on a register with our cabin number.Dining:We had decided not to take formal clothing because we had to pack such a verity of both winter and summer clothes. We opted for "anytime dining" because we didn't want to be tied up eating for two hours and miss any of the scenery. We ended up eating only one time in the dining room. We were happy to eat at the buffet and have the freedom to spend so much time on the open deck and on our balconies. We particularly enjoyed the pub lunch - especially the cottage pie (shepherd's pie) and we also like the reindeer chili which was served on the pool deck for lunch one day.Entertainment:The production shows were outstanding and the other entertainers were very good.Pools:There were a few hardy souls in the outdoor pool and a few more in the indoor pool. My bathing suit was the only article of clothing that I didn't wear during the trip.Activities on the ship: The naturalist's presentations were informative. We also went to the cooking show, back stage tour, and played a few trivia games. For the most part, we stayed outside to watch the scenery. I always left the curtains open so I wouldn't miss anything. One night I stayed on the balcony until 4 AM. Once we reached Alaska, we had no darkness.Weather:The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It was cool but sunny the entire time - even in Ketchikan!Excursions:Ketchikan - We took the ship's excursion to the Lumberjack Show and Totem Bight Park. The show was corny but we enjoyed it. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to explore Creek Street.Juneau - This was our busiest day. We took the Mt. Robert's Tramway because the weather was beautiful. We saw the bald eagle and enjoyed the informative talk in the theater which was presented by a Tlingit woman. The hiking trails were closed due to snow but we're not hikers. Next, we took the $8.00 bus to Mendenhall Glacier. It was our first glacier, so we were fascinated. Go to the visitors' center and watch the documentary. The park rangers were very informative. For lunch, we ate at the Red Dog Saloon. It was expensive but entertaining. In the afternoon, we took an Orca Enterprises whale watch boat tour. We were very lucky because we had heard that previous trips had been cancelled due to rough waters. We saw numerous orca whales and humpback whales. We even saw a humpback whale breach right near our boat.Skagway - We booked a private tour for the four of us to the Yukon with Frontier Enterprises. Our tour guide was excellent. We saw the Carcross desert, a black bear alongside the road, and Emerald Lake. He drove us to the top of Jubilee Mountain and we had many photo opportunities.Glacier Bay - We stood on the front of the ship for hours in our "seven layers of clothing". It was very windy and cold but definitely worth it. When the ship turned, we went to our balcony to view the glacier and enjoy the calving with a mug of hot chocolate. (Hot chocolate was provided free in the Horizon Court buffet located at the dessert station.)College Fjord - This was a wonderful surprise. There are five large glaciers and also smaller ones. The scenery was gorgeous and we actually all agreed that we liked College Fjord more than Glacier Bay.Disembarkation: No problems. We disembarked and joined our group for the land tour. We were on the "Off the Beaten Path" seven day tour to Kenai, McKinley, Denali, and Fairbanks. Check the Alaska port of call board and I will write a review for that part of our trip.Special note:When asked which cruise has been my favorite, I always reply, "The last one I was on..." However, this Alaska cruise might just continue to be my favorite one. Alaska is majestic. It's a jaw-dropping experience!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
May 18th - 25th  Voyage of the Glaciers (Northbound) VancouverFirst off, our cruise was not normal as everyone that worked on the ship kept stating to us, we has clear beautiful weather the whole trip!We were definitely spoiled.We are in ... Read More
May 18th - 25th  Voyage of the Glaciers (Northbound) VancouverFirst off, our cruise was not normal as everyone that worked on the ship kept stating to us, we has clear beautiful weather the whole trip!We were definitely spoiled.We are in our late 40'sBOAT:Having been on the Princess before, we are use to the ships layout. The nice thing is that you are allowed to bring bottles of wine on board. No hard stuff, I put a small mickey in my suit case and it was taken out. (Never returned, or asked to be picked up at the end of the cruise)ROOM: We lucked out in getting a mini-suite. Loved it! It was at the back of the boat though, so the first night/day at sea and they really motor, it was a little rocky and my partner did get slightly sea sick.FOOD: We booked the Sterling Steakhouse on the fist sea day. (Birthday) What I dont like about this boat is that it is not its own restarant. They actually section off, (there are doors) the buffet dining room, and make this into the restaurant. Yes, they spiff it up with nice tables and all. But still, it seems like I am in a buffet... The food was really good, my steak (rib eye) was cooked perfect! We ate a couple of times in the dining room, as well as the buffet. Both were ok. I had their pork roast in the buffet, and it was extremely tender, wanted more. The Alaskan afternoon lunch special that they served out on the indoor pool deck was ok. Everything was salmon, no shrimp, no crab. If you dont like salmon dont bother waiting the 40 minutes in line for this.The scrambled eggs are horid! Stay away (I think they are powered). Order an omlet, or have the pouched eggs.POOL/GYM/HOTTUB: Well you are in Alaska, so no the pool was NEVER in use. Even the indoor one. But, we did use the hottub, and really enjoyed it in Juneau as we sat in the hot tub at the back of the boat and just looked at the scenery, and enjoyed the fresh air. We also, did the same thing when we were College Fjord. They stayed so long there, that a after taking pictures up on deck we went into the hottub as well. I worked out once in the gym, (glad they put extra machines in the gym area) but then the knees really started to bother me, could be from the beds that were alittle to firm. We did take advantage of the spa. we totally enjoyed the vapor sauna, showers, and warm stone loungers! Well worth the money, and I think a had a quick 10-15 minute nap every time. Totally relaxed!SHOWS: This is the first time we had no interest in taking in the shows. (except the cooking show on the last day at sea, that was good and some good chuckles)INTERNET: expensive as always. Bought 100 minutes for I think $69. MAKE SURE YOU LOG OUT! I had two browsers open, and when I hit the log out button, it did not stop counting minutes! Not impressed, then had to argue with them regarding this. CASINO: Never used once, dont smoke, dont like the smell, even on their "non-smoking" nights, still stunk.ROOMSERVICE: We ordered coffee every morning. Good way to start the day. Ordered GREAT pizza at night, but there is a 3$ charge for that.PORTS:We did not book any tours from the boat, perfered to do the research on trip advisor and book local.KETCHIKAN: Did the THE BERING SEA CRAB FISHERMEN'S TOURThis was ok, the crew were fantastic and spoke really well, but it kinda was hocky. Meaning, that everything was staged. Same crab pots in the same spot with the same crab in the pot from one tour to the next. They put the crab back into the pots. It was really neat to see how they work, and the stop for the eagle feedings was amazing! But, we did not get to eat any crab :( ( Next time I would book the Crab feast) I wanted to do both, but we had a short day there so we could not.Get your souvenirs here, they seem to be the cheapest.JUNEAU:Unfortunately, our whale watching tour with "Harv and Marv's" was cancelled! We were extremely disapointed as I ended up NOT seeing any whales at all, the entire trip.The water was too choppy, turns out we spoke to others later on on another tour and they said they went out with their tour, but the water was basically slapping up against the windows and they felt like they were in a washing machine. Then they turned around after an hour and cancelled the tour.So, we walked the town, and took a transfer to Mendenhall glacier for $8 /one way, walked to the huge waterfall, took some good pictures. Stopped A COUPLE of times at Red Dog Saloon for beers, the old guy playing piano and singing songs was a hoot, had the whole bar singing. Stayed away from the tram, as from what I heard, most of the trails were closed up there, so for $30/pp you are paying for a ride to the top to take a picture.SKAGWAY:Chilkoot Charters & Tours: WHITE PASS SUMMIT BUS & RAIL EXCURSIONThis was fantastic. Small bus, only 8 on it. So, he picks you up and then takes you to the train. You take the train, and catch the bus down so you see different scenery going up and down. Liked the fact that you can get out of your seat and take pictures outside on the the platform while the train is moving. Saw a mother and her two cubs. The change in scenery as you go from Skagway up into the mountains was beautiful. They only disappointment I had was that our tour guide had to rush down becuase a couple did not consider that it may run alittle late, and had to board their boat... But, our tour guide did drive back up and show us other locations because of this. Then dropped us off at the Red Onion Saloon, which is really nothing more than a bar. They should take lessons from The Red Onion Saloon...GLACIER BAY:Tune your tv into the narrative cast of the Glaciers. (what they are saying over the speakers)AMAZING! Get up early, go to the buffet, and grab a great table.Takes all day. The ride to the Glacier starts out nice, then as you get close it starts to get really windy and cold, I guess from the way the wind comes down the mountains.So dress warm from the start. Some people are rude, and just hog the railing and dont let anyone else in. :( We were lucky to have a balcony, so as the ship turned around we went down to our room, and had our own personal view. Opened up a bottle of champagn and enjoyed!And they really are right, ignore anyone talking to you, if you hear the crack then look, you will miss a beautiful "calving" of the glacier. I was able to get one on video.COLLEGE FJORD:Again, this takes a while to do, and Princess spends a great deal of time there. So, you have lots of time to take pictures.Not as good as Glacier Bay, because they can not get that close to the glaciers, but this little inlet has 10 glaciers feeding into it.WHITTIER:Take shuttle out of there. There is nothing in Whittier. Only 200 people live there, and they all live in the same building. Most often it is in a fog, because of how the clouds basically end there because of the mountains.We took a shuttle that had a stop at the Wilderness Conservation Park via: Anchorage Tours and Transfers.First off, remember, the opening through the tunnel is on the hour every hour. So, if you miss the 9:00 opening you are waiting until 10 am. This is what happened to us. (Issue with the driver...) Then, they let the BIG buses through first. Then the cars, then mini-buses. So, we never got through the tunnel until 10.20.If you have a zoo, that has moose, bear, buffalo, and elk just take the shuttle directly to Anchorage, and do something there. Or if you already seen these animals on your Voyage skip it. Yes, it is good that they do this, but, we thought it was a bit lame.HOTEL: Hotel Captain HookIf only staying for one night, don't bother. Yes, it is a REALLY nice hotel. But, too expensive. We wanted to relax in a hot tub, but their hot tub in in the "Fitness Center" and yep, looks like a Olympic pool. Pool and hot tub, surrounded by cement walls. Nothing relaxing about that. Plus, no complementary breakfast, and shuttle is 12/pp to airport.FOOD: Took cab to Moose's Tooth Pub and BreweryAWESOME pizza! Yes, you will probably have to wait, but well worth it!Glacier Brewhouse: Stopped and had lunch here. Great fish and chips, and really nice atmosphere!WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENT:We would take the same trip! Loved the stops.Buy more in souvenirs in Ketchikan, NOT do the the Bering Sea crab tour. (I guess it is a been there done that now) Book the Alaskan Crab bake tour.Still book the Whale watching tour! Really disappointed we did not.Rent a RV in Anchorage for a week after and really enjoy Alaska. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
We live in Vancouver so choosing to go to Alaska from here was a no brainer. We are sliding into retirement and currently live close to the sky train line so we just packed some big heavy bags and hopped on the sky train. We left just ... Read More
We live in Vancouver so choosing to go to Alaska from here was a no brainer. We are sliding into retirement and currently live close to the sky train line so we just packed some big heavy bags and hopped on the sky train. We left just before noon and the line up when we got to Canada Place was already started but moving well. It went smoothly and we were having lunch in the International dining room before 1:00 pm. Our bags were at the cabin door when we got back from lunch so we did some unpacking. The cabins have a lot of storage space. We had room to spare by the time we were finished. Our cabin was an e type with an obstructed view on the emerald deck. We chose any time dining because we prefer the flexibility and usually took our breakfast and lunch in the International dining room. Dinner we had in the Santa Fe or the oriental dining room and found the staff in both the be nice and attentive. We also checked out the Pizza place on the Piazza for lunch and thought it was very tasty. Overall the food was very good everywhere we went on the ship. Afternoon soft ice cream with sprinkles! I joined the Princess pop choir. I have never seen this offered before so it was a delightful bonus to be able to sing in a group. We also played bridge a couple of times and this seemed to work OK except there was no staff supervision. It didn't seem to matter though because the groups playing were friendly. Beyond that the trivia games are always fun and we took in quite a few of them. Staff were always polite and well trained. Our cabin steward was warm and welcoming and did his work well. I notice Princess doesn't do the towel animals but I don't care about that. We had all our needs cared for and that was important. The restaurant staff was also very efficient. I The entertainment was really good. I appreciate it when they mix it up with some song and dance productions and comedy in between. Because we were doing back to back cruises there was a bit of duplication in the song and dance shows but they were done so well we didn't mind We also went to the cooking show with the chief chef and the maitre'D. That was fun because they had a nice comedy routine worked out. The kitchen tour did seem to be mostly set up to sell cookbooks. We also did the back stage tour which was very informative. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
We took a 7 night repo cruise out of Vancouver. Embarkation was a breeze we were on the ship before noon. We usually get a mini suite but decided to get a balcony since we didn't think we would need a whole lot of space on a seven ... Read More
We took a 7 night repo cruise out of Vancouver. Embarkation was a breeze we were on the ship before noon. We usually get a mini suite but decided to get a balcony since we didn't think we would need a whole lot of space on a seven day cruise, never again. Princess balcony cabins don't have small couches like other cruise lines we have been on, only one chair. We did our last Princess cruise over a year ago and noticed that the quality of food had gone down quite a bit. We found the food to be without flavour. We did the buffet only once and it was for breakfast. They have done away with small milk cartons for cereal, so it was a juggling act to get some fruit, cereal and pour your milk into your bowl for your cereal, and forget coffee or juice unless you go put your plate and bowl down then go get your beverage. If you are going to do things like this Princess, then bring back the trays. We did both Sterlings Steak and Sabatini's for specialty dining. Sterlings was no where near as good as the Crown Grill on other ships. I honestly believe Sterlings was an after thought as they transformed part of the Horizon buffet area into Sterlings at night. Sabatini's has had a menu change and not for the better. Used to be you would only have to choose your entree and they would come around with a little sampling of everything else. The service in both restaurants was very good. We ate all other dinners in the dining room where we were anytime dining and tried all the different dining rooms. Food was not very good and usually cold by the time we got it. Even the crew in the buffet said all they are told is to cut, cut, and it is really showing. Billy Hygate was the cruise director and not once did we ever see him out and about the ship, only time we saw him was if we put the morning show on the tv. I really think he should do the morning announcement since the person doing them you couldn't understand. On two separate occasions we had room service and neither time our room steward took away the tray after doing our room in the evening. As shareholders we feel that Princess is going in the wrong direction. We did a cruise in May on the NCL Star and it had Princess beat in all aspects hands down. We would like to pay more and have the quality of food back and the sail away parties back as we'll. Since we left Vancouver then did two Canadian ports when we got to San Francisco we had to clear customs before we could get off for the day. I had called Princess before leaving on the cruise asking if we would be clearing customs in SF and were given three different answers, but not one said we would be clearing in SF, one even said we would clear in LA and we would just be in transit. Princess think about what you are doing with your cut backs, it's not for the good. How this ship got one of the highest ratings of all the Princess we will never understand. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2012
We picked Princess because a number of friends had enjoyed the line. We enjoyed a day before and a day after in Vancouver which is a lovely small/large city. Embarkation was very organized and moved along quickly. We found our stateroom ... Read More
We picked Princess because a number of friends had enjoyed the line. We enjoyed a day before and a day after in Vancouver which is a lovely small/large city. Embarkation was very organized and moved along quickly. We found our stateroom and appreciated the fact that it was immediately available. The rooms are smaller than other lines but perfectly adequate for 2 people. The closet/bathroom space I thought was generous and well organized. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the MDR and then explored the ship. our luggage was in our room when we returned from exploring. We thought the inside was tasteful and like the compact three story atrium. We seemed to gravitate there in the late afternoon every day to enjoy food, drink, music and people watching. I appreciated the cruise line's policy of allowing passenger's to bring a couple bottles of wine on board at embarkation and at ports as we could spend time on our balcony watching the world go by and sipping wine. The smoking policy is fairly rigid and my husband never did find out where he could relax and smoke his vacation cigar so it went back home with him. I think he missed being able to sit on the balcony after dinner mid-cruise, watch the wake and enjoy that once a year cigar. The only downside to September Alaska trips, we found, was the early sunset. Leaving Vancouver you miss most all of the inland passage to Charlotte Sound because of the darkness. We arrived in Juneau at 1:00 and leaving the ship was painless, quick and easy. We had adequate time to get out to Mendenhall and hike plus hit a store or two with several hours to spare. The other two ports we arrived early and left around the early dinner time. We rented a car in Skagway and enjoyed the fall color out to Emerald Lake and back. We had plenty of time to walk up and down the Skagway business district. We spent all day in Glacier Bay. The bridge was very informative the entire day with several naturalists on board. Our weather was quite good. With the exception of Glacier Bay we had beautiful sunrises and rain, when it came, was at the end of the day and didn't interfere with our port time. Glacier Bay was overcast but fortunately that is the light you want to see the beautiful color in the glaciers. That was the only day I would call "cold", all the other days were typical fall 50 degree days. We tried all the dining rooms and our wine bottles seemed to follow us with no problems. We also were able to have a table for two most often by a window which we loved. Only once did we wait and it was easy to walk next door and order a glass of wine while we were waiting. Alcohol seemed to be priced fairly and we didn't feel gouged. We did not find the quality of the food in the specialty restaurants measurably better from the other dining rooms but the cost is low it was not a concern. The wait staff in each restaurant always made recommendations for the evening food and we tended to follow their recommendations. We enjoyed the International Cafe immediately after coming ashore for a quick pick me up bite. We loved how the buffet was organized, how they had waitstaff to help you find a table, help you with your beverage and give you silverware. The pizza restaurant was a nice change of pace one night from the dining rooms and rich food. Since this trip was in late September there were few children aboard. Most of the passengers were in our age group and the ship was quiet after midnight and lively in the morning with runners, joggers and people getting breakfast and coffee. There was also a nice mix of nationalities among the passengers. Again the last night heading back to Vancouver you are in darkness during a beautiful part of the trip, but the moon was full and we sat outside finishing our dinner bottle of wine quite late. Leaving the ship was very organized in the morning and we never felt we were in a cattle herd. We were assigned a "spot" in one of the bars and they had coffee which was a pleasant way to spend the half hour before you left the ship. All in all, we were very pleased with the ship and the service and look forward to another trip with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2012
This was an additional week, cheap add on, due to big, later booking discounts with Princess. My orginal plans were for 4 weeks in Alaska, so this made it 5. This was trip 31 for me, to Alaska. Cruise 76. Princess does a fantastic job ... Read More
This was an additional week, cheap add on, due to big, later booking discounts with Princess. My orginal plans were for 4 weeks in Alaska, so this made it 5. This was trip 31 for me, to Alaska. Cruise 76. Princess does a fantastic job with Alaska cruises, and have superb itineraries with great port times and two glacier sailing days. I find it "interesting" people's reports that one direction/timeframe etc. is "better" than others when they have done one trip. Bottom line- Alaska isn't a one time trip. :) There is so much to see and do, it never gets old for me. Each direction offers an excellent adventure!!!! I went on this trip with my husband and two nephews. We stayed in Seattle for a few days prior, took Amtrak, day of embarkment to Vancouver. We had anytime dining but ate in the dining room only twice, food is a low priority for me on Alaska cruises, same with entertainment- I attend nothing on the ship. Alaska is my "entertainment". :) I greatly enjoy my time out on deck and spending full days in port. Service was excellent with the ship staff always helpful and friendly. Ketchikan was the first port, earlier on the sea day, I had excellent sightings of humpbacks and scenic sailing. In Ketchikan, my usual vender, Southeast Aviation, attempted a Misty Fiords flight, but had to turn back due to no visability. Salmon was not running, so I took my nephews on a walking tour. Juneau was sunny and warm, I had booked my nephews with ERA for a helicoptor flight, which they fully enjoyed. I drove to the Salmon Hatchery with a peak salmon run, my nephews enjoyed this very much. I then continued on to Mendenhall Glacier and we walked the Nugget Falls trail and saw bears under the creek walkway next to the parking lot. Spent a couple hours here. Final activity was a spectacular whale watch with my long time vendor- Orca Enterprises. Bubble net feeding, and excellent orca sightings. Skagway. I rented a car with Avis and drove to Whitehorse, as always, an excellent scenic adventure, with many stops along the way. Murray's Guide- a MUST. :) Glacier Bay, another sunny day, with excellent wildlife sightings, as I am always up real early, 4:30am. I want to get as much Icy Strait sailing time as possible. Excellent humpback and sea otter viewings. Glaciers were spectacular- per usual. On the way out, I saw orcas, which the onboard naturalist, initially missed. This was still in glacier bay, so sea lions were all hauled out, with great sighings, loads of sea otters, and humpbacks, as well as a brown bear sighting. Plenty to see for hours, with me staying out until almost dusk. College Fjords was another sunny scenic day. In Whittier, we were the last group off the ship. Enjoyed a Blackstone Glacier boat tour with Major Marine and then a PJ's taxi pick up for a transfer to Seward. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: July 2012
We had always wanted to visit Alaska and we were not disappointed. The cruise up the inside passage is fantastic and the trips into Glacier Bay and College Fjord are awesome. The ship goes right up to the Glaciers through icebergs and ... Read More
We had always wanted to visit Alaska and we were not disappointed. The cruise up the inside passage is fantastic and the trips into Glacier Bay and College Fjord are awesome. The ship goes right up to the Glaciers through icebergs and you see icebergs being calved off the glacier. Also we say countless whales - the naturalist on board gives a running commentary in the areas that whales are expected. One tip- on the north bound trip starboard cabins have the best views. Princess booked us into the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver and this set the excellent standard for the trip. Cruise representatives check you in on the morning of the trip, your bags are collected from the room and after a short shuttle trip to the dock you board straight onto the ship with only minor formalities. Service on board was excellent - all staff were helpful and friendly. The cabin steward was great with lots of advice. The ship had recently been refurbished so all public areas were immaculate. We ate in Sabatini's for breakfast and on our first evening - perks with the cabin. Good quality food and service. Italian music could be a bit quieter. All other nights we ate in the Savoy restaurant. We asked for a quiet table with a sea view and he had a super table for 4 (but just us two) in a quiet corner next to a window. The service was attentive and good. We enjoyed it so much that we booked "our table" every night. It is worth booking a time and table in advance.We usually had lunch in the Atrium either sandwiches of pizzas. We tried the buffet a couple of times - it was so so - I expected to see a bigger variety of international dishes. The soda card is a good deal at $7 per day. One card covered us both and includes all soft drinks including non-alcoholic cocktails. However for some strange reason it does not include iced tea. The ship never felt crowded and once you had orientated your self was easy to navigate. There is various styles of entertainment going on throughout the day from full blown productions to solo artists in various bars. There are numerous attempts to get more money out of you but none of the these was over obtrusive. Good talks by the on-board naturalist, by a officer on the running of the ship and entertaining demonstration by the head chef. We continued in land to Denali. Two nights at the Denali lodge and two nights at the Mount McKinley lodge. Both are owned by Princess and are in superb locations. You courier meets you disembarkation at Whittier and stays with you for the full trip. Do take the full day trip into Denali park - wonderful wilderness and we saw bears, moose and caribou. However be aware that the train trips are long (+9 hours to Denali and 6 hours Denali to McKinley) - I would recommend you opt for the bus instead: its quicker and you get more time at your destinations. We were lucky and had full views of Mount McKinley but apparently there is only a 30% chance. We finished in Anchorage - the Captain Cook hotel is fine with excellent views across the city to the mountains. Do take the 1 hour tram tour - fascinating insight into city life and the 1964 earthquake. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
Ship: The extensive Winter 2012 facelift for the Sapphire Princess was a big plus. The ship looked sharp and well maintained. The update gave the Sapphire most of the innovations found on the newer Princess ships (the International ... Read More
Ship: The extensive Winter 2012 facelift for the Sapphire Princess was a big plus. The ship looked sharp and well maintained. The update gave the Sapphire most of the innovations found on the newer Princess ships (the International Cafe, Movie Under the Stars, etc.) and, in addition, a sit-down Pizzeria (Alfredo's, a favorite of ours) and the nicest computer center of any Princess ship we've seen. Since the Sapphire now offers practically everything you can find on the newest Princess ships (but not everything: the Sapphire's Sterling Steakhouse still does not have its own dedicated space -- they just cordon off a portion of the Horizon Court) and with only 2,670 passengers at capacity, you can enjoy the ship's facilities with 400 or so less passengers than the newer Princess megaships. Right now, the Sapphire is my favorite among the Princess ships. Stateroom: We got a mini-suite and enjoyed the extra space and larger balcony. It will be hard to go back to a regular stateroom. Everything was in the stateroom was in good working order and well maintained. Our room attendant did a good job of keeping the room clean and tidy. All of our service requests were fulfilled promptly. Dining: I thought that the quality of the Horizon Court buffet facilities and food had been upgraded. We ate there for breakfast and lunch each day and enjoyed the variety of offerings. On the other hand, the variety and quantity of food in the main dining room (MDR) has, in my opinion, stood still. The MDR menus struck me as being almost identical to those on our last Caribbean cruise. We were never offered king crab legs as an entree; something I expect on an Alaskan cruise. While our waistlines didn't need them, we never offered seconds on an entree or an extra dessert. Don't get me wrong, the MDR food was fine and there was something I enjoyed every night, but it was clear to me that Princess is economizing on its MDR offerings. This was demonstrated on our last night. They dimmed the lights and we had the march of the assistant waiters carrying large half beach ball-sized Baked Alaskas. When our desserts arrived, however, we were served a small slice of what I called "Baked Alaska loaf," which obviously did not come from a full-sized Baked Alaska. I shook my head to think that the waiters marched around the room with fake Baked Alaskas. Excursions: I took one Princess organized excursion, the Whale Watching & Mendenhall Glacier Photo Safari in Juneau (JNU-700), which was operated by Gastineau Guiding. Our group agreed that this was the highlight of our cruise. Our guide, Adriane, was simply great. She worked patiently with all the amateur photographers on the excursion to help them get the best shots with the proper camera settings. She also provided enjoyable commentary while whale watching and along the trail at the Mendenhall Glacier. There were only 13 in our tour group (max is 14; other excursions can have up to 50 people), so we were not crowded or at a loss to find a good spot to take pictures. Traveling among the majestic mountains rimming Auck Bay in a boat far smaller than any humpback whale (yes, we saw several and bald eagles, seals, sea lions and an otter as well) was an experience I'll never forget. In Skagway, I booked a Chilkoot Trail Hike and Float tour through viator.com. Everything went smoothly. Viator promptly refunded the tour charge for one member of our group when she decided to take another excursion. I wouldn't hesitate booking with them again. The fact that the cost of their excursion (operated by Skagway Float Tours) was 25% less than the same excursion through the ship was a real bonus. Itinerary: Our cruise hit all the high points on an Alaskan cruise -- Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and College Fjord. We appreciated the fact that we stayed in Juneau and Skagway until 8:30 pm or so, which allowed a more leisurely schedule in port. On the other hand, we departed from Ketchikan at 2 pm, which was too short a stay in port. Odds and ends: If we have the choice, we would take an Anchorage to Vancouver cruise the next time. Due the distances and time zone differences, we had to fly from Anchorage to Seattle and then catch a red-eye flight back to the eastern US. We really suffered from jet lag for the following week. With a southbound Alaska cruise, we would be able to catch a flight at the end of the cruise that would let us sleep in our own beds that night. Since you are traveling the Inner Passage with all that majestic scenery so close to the ship, this is one cruise to get a balcony. Boarding the ship in Vancouver took quite a while because we had to clear US customs before boarding. Two members of our group arrived at 2:30 PM and reported much shorter lines. So, it really does pay to arrive later for boarding in Vancouver. Read Less
Sapphire Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.6
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 5.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 5.0 3.7
Enrichment 4.0 3.6
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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