Well we are just back from the Coral with a 5 day land package. All I can say is it was great. Let me first describe myself. I am a 50 yr old woman with a husband and 2 teenagers. Baby boomers. Want the best and are willing to work for it. I like many of you had a very hard time deciding which Cruise line, what excursions etc. I am glad we picked Princess. It was first class all the way. Years ago we took a Tauk tours of Canada. Tauk is the Cadilac of tours, only top notch. I was very happy when I saw that Tauk booked with all Princess's Lodges. Some were even on the ship.
Anyway, We started in Fairbanks. Not my pick for best city. But if you take the Riverboat and gold mine tours as corney as they sound, you will have a good time. My husband hates tourist things but he got into the riverboat and loved paning for gold. There is very little to do in Fairbanks but if you forgot anything make sure you go to Fred Meyers (their walmart) before you go as there is nothing else along the way. Also be aware that Fairbanks is very dry. My sinuses dried and swelled up and my daughter needed visine thank god Fred Meyers was on the bus route.
The buses bring you right to the train your feet never touch the ground. It was amazing.
The only problem we had was that your large luggage does not accompany you all the way thru. So you really need a wheeled piece. They will store it for you on the viewing platform. We lugged carry ons and it was a drag. A small wheeled piece and a tote for the train is what you need. The train is very nice and all the cruise lines have their own cars. Next stop was Denali. I thought this would be the highlight of the land but it was a disapointment. To really see Denali you need to book the 8hour tour. And after sitting on the train for 4 hours we really did not want to sit again. So we went for the fly over Mount Mckinley. It was awesome. We flew up 9 thousand feet and actually saw the base came for the climbers. We did not book this thru Princess as there are several operators there to choose from. Back on train to Talkeetna and the Mt. Mckinly lodge.
Beautiful area. Really quiet and rustic. Lodge was located on a bluff looking at Mt. Mckinley. Food was Ok. Stick with the outside bar/grill. We also booked privately a Salmon fishing trip. (same company Princess uses) For all you fisherman out there You have got to do this. I caught a 20 pound King and another one in our group caught a 45 pounder. It was great. The guides know where the fish are and take you right to them. No bait, wadders and rain gear provided. Bring exta socks as the water is cold.
Spent 2nights there and back on train to Anchorage. Got in late so did not see much of it. Here something to consider. If you take the Indian Heritage package you leave your hotel at 11:00 am and arrive very late in the afternoon to Seward. If you don't do the tour you leave at 9:00 and arrive in Seward at 1:00. We canceled our Indian pkg and opted for the direct trip. We got right on the ship, freshened up and walked around . Seward is a cute little town and if you are there at 4:00 you will see all the fishing boats come in
The day we where there someone caught a 196 lb Halibut. Got great pictures, met some nice people and all in all it was a great day. The kids even saw sea lion playing on the dock.
The Coral is a beautiful ship and again my husband who is anti social and vowed he would never cruise was like a kid in a candy store. He loved the workings of the ship and was on the front viewing deck all the time. There is so much beauty to see you don't want to miss anything. The first day we were in College Fjord. It was ok and wee did see some Humpbacks. The best was the second day when we did Glacier Bay. The ship gets really close to the Glaciers and spends several hours there. Picture taking time. It was awesome. (they use that word alot in Alaska)
Next day Skagway. Really cute tourist trap. Loved it and again to my surprise my Husand actully want to shop. We did take the Wilderness Safari booked thru Princess and were somewhat disapointed but the guides where great. Most did the Whitepass railroad which I later found out many of the locals do. It is very windy in Skagway so if it is overcast you will need to bring an exta layer. Juneau was next and we whale watched with Captain Larry. Here the thing. You can book thu Princess or thru any of the private tours. They all go to the same spot to view the pods. They radio each other and feed information. Auk bay is full of wildlife and all the captains know where to go.
We saw several Humpbacks, sea lions and eagle there. Shoping wasn't as much fun there as the Cruise companies own many of the same stores in all the ports. Princess has a shopping director who is on the TV each day and is available for questions. It was raining in Jeneau but all the stores are covered.
On to Ketchikan. We booked a salmon fishing charter privately with Northern Lights and Ken was terrific. He met us at the dock and took us right to his boat. We took the girls and he (being the father of teenagers) was great with them. We caught 17 salmon all together which we are having shipped home. He did it all. I will post pictures when I can. Ketchikan was the final shopping town and it was good. I got a Northern Lights ring which is radiated topaz, a silver pendent, candy from Ketchicandy, and some great tee shirts. Creek street has some great handicrafts don't miss the Coho Soho. Prints and tees are one of a kind there. Ship left at 5:45 but I could have shopped more.
Final day was thru British Columbia and was to me the best scenery of all. There where 2 ships going thru with us. One infront and one behind. I really did not want it to be over.
Some notes. If you are a family booking 2 rooms you must really push Princess to put you together. In several lodges we where seperated when we could have had adjoining rooms. Other families had the same problem.
Dress code; let me tell you I really over packed. Jeans and sweatshirts or sweaters are daytime. Evening, some got dressed up some did not. For the formal nite my husband wore a sport jacket and kacki pants. I brought a black pants suit and that was fine. The other nights we dressed down. Next time a denim skirt and sweater and black pants. Ladies, Alaska is very natural. No one wears make up!!! But bring the moisturizers and eye depuffer. You will tend to swell up.
Food.. the buffet was always good. Dining room .. nothing to write home about. Sabitinos resturant excellent. If you choose Personal Choice as we did you can still eat in the dining room. You just need to make reservations.
Lotus spa ... very expensive but I had a relaxing massage and it was great. They have ceramic lounge chairs that are heated and wow they were great. If you want to use the beauty salon you must make appointments as soon as you get on the ship. I wanted to get a manicure but had to wait 3 days.
Service ... all over was great. Dino, our cabin steward was the fastest room cleaner I ever saw. In and out in seconds and we were messy.
I could go on and on so if you have any questions you can email me at email@example.com. or post here.
We will be leaving on the Coral Aug. 23. We were excited before I read your posting, but now I can't wait. I even printed it so my husband could read it also. I hope our experience is a great as yours sounded. You answered many of my questions.
I don't know where you are from but we are from Louisiana, weather shock will set in quickly I'm sure.
Thank you for addressing the clothing issue. I was concerned about it. Sounds much more casual than I thought.
Can't wait to see your pics. Did you use camcorder, digital or regular camera?
Thanks for your info and glad you had a wonderful trip.
Sherry Bruton firstname.lastname@example.org
We're from Alabama and went in May. It will probably be warmer for you, but we found it to be really cold. May was like one of our coldest winter days. There was a constant cold wind, so take something with a hood. I agree with bella c's assessment of Princess - wonderful! We never made reservations for the Personal Choice dining room and never had to wait. Have a great cruise!
We sailed the Dawn Princess July 7 with a pre-cruise land tour and I'd have to agree with the original poster, Alaska is much more casual than you might expect. I always vow to trim back my packing, but ultimately always have more than I need. Especially because in my case I end up buying t-shirts or sweatshirts and all those to my casual daytime wear. As for temperatures. That's a toughie. All of the crew was calling our group "The lucky cruisers" because we had, according to them, THE BEST weather of any cruise thus far this season! So, my sweaters went unused and I was thankful for the shorts I packed! Everyone was joking that we got a Caribbean cruise in Alaska. It was downright HOT in Skagway and we all came back with some sun. I found that for casual daytime touring, the best thing was to dress in layers. The weather can change quickly in Alaska, so you have to plan for that....which means don't forget your shorts, your swimsuit, tees, as well as a jacket. Here's hoping all those who are yet to cruise Alaska this year get the FAB weather we got! Just perfect! Missy
We were nb on the Coral Princess 7/19. Yes, it is a beautiful ship! I second most of the comments by bella c. Food (& menu) in the Bordeaux Room. PC Dining, seemed to improve with each night and some of the waiters weren't too attentive, except Robert. Had lunch the last day in the Bayou Cafe, fun food - too much for us at lunch time. The Horizon Court Buffet was usually pretty good. The Grill outside by the pool was skimpy in the portions - like 7 fries on a plate with a tiny chicken breast sandwich. But one can always suppliment it with fruit (if you wnat to be more healthy) for dessert from the nearby buffet.
Ketchikan has the best prices for the touristy gifts of the 3 ports. We liked Skagway too for it's quaintness and the only thing we enjoyed in Juneau itself was the racous Red Dog Saloon. But our excursions were great. We saw tons of whales (no pun intended) with Captn Larry, humpbacks bubble net feeding, sea lions, Orcas. We enjoyed the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari in Skagway (my 17 yr old son now wants to do that for a living). Plus we flew with Michelle to Misty Fjord. Great times had by all.
It was truly our best vacation ever. Next time we will have to add the land tour part.
Hi - We were on the Coral the beginning of June and also loved it! What caught my eye is that we had Dino as our cabin steward as well and he was an absolute gem! Fun sense of humor as well; we had purchased a stuffed bear in Skagway and every time he cleaned our room, he would sit the bear on the bed with some little goofy addition. Apple on his head, sunglasses on his face, my hat on his head etc. He was gracious and pleasant and a plus for our trip. Glad you enjoyed him as well.
Hi: Loved your review. My husband and I are in our mid-50's and we're booked on the new Island Princess for August 04. We've cruised a lot, but this is our first time to Alaska. We have a four-day land portion first and then the cruise. I'm very excited about this, because it's taken me 30 cruises to talk my husband into going to Alaska. He's always said he didn't want to be cold on a cruise. Your review was very helpful, as I didn't know what to pack. I'm also at a loss for what shore excursions to book. We're also empty nesters. We took our family on a Bermuda cruise, we just back from three weeks, so I can't afford to take them next year to Alaska, but I would sure like to. We were a family of seven on our Bermuda cruise and we had a great time. I'm looking forward to next summer on the Island Princess, but I've got to read everything I can find on Alaska cruising before them. Glad you had a good time and if you can think of any more helpful hints, please let me know.
We returned from the Coral in July. It is a great ship. All 6 of us had a great time. Wait til you see the glass elevator. a nice touch.
you can view my photos on www.webshotscommunity under the user name Emmak114
Hope you have a great time.