The ship is beautiful but very big. The food selection is good and the quality is pretty good considering the volume that is prepared. We were extremely pleased with the cabin and restaurant staff. The very personal service at Sabatini’s was also great. We found the entertainment to be OK (some great – some duds).
Overall, this cruise met our expectations and we had a great time. There were many things that Princess could have done or handled better, however, it would not stop us from cruising Princess again. On the other hand, it did nothing to instill any brand loyalty in us either.
Seattle – We drove to Seattle the night before and found a hotel that would let us leave our car for the week. Woke at 6am and drove down to pier 30 to see the ship. It was enormous. Went back to the hotel, ate breakfast and waited for our ride to the pier.
Embarkation – Arrived at the pier at 10:30am. There was already a line of people who needed to drop off their luggage. However, the receiving door was not open. We noticed that the previous cruise passengers were still disembarking. Since the ship was in port so early this morning I thought we should be boarding soon. However, more and more passengers kept coming off the ship….and our line got longer and longer. The port crew moved people to compact our serpentine line since the newly arriving passengers were now lining up in the parking lot. The first rumors we heard was that the delay was caused by the ship arriving late. We knew that wasn’t correct. Later, we were told that US Immigration delayed the disembarkation. I’m not sure if we really knew why it took so long. Anyway, the baggage door opened around 2pm. We dropped off our luggage and then stood in the ticket line. Got through that line around 2:30pm and then off to the security screening line. Finally got onboard only to stand in the cruise card picture line. Why did we have to stand in four lines? Finally got to our room after 3pm.
The ship – Very big and nicely decorated. Looks just like all the pictures posted on the websites. No big surprises. However, it did take us about a week to remember where everything was located.
Our room – We booked a balcony cabin specifically for Alaska. This was our first balcony and we really enjoyed it, however, we still plan to book inside cabins on some of our future cruises. We left the curtains open and usually woke up before 4am. Spent hours on the balcony watching the inside passage slowly sail by – until shipboard activities started. It was amazing. Our cabin steward was first rate. He always greeted us by name and was always willing to accommodate our needs (which weren’t too many). Our cabin was always made up and organized – which was amazing since we were constantly on the go and we were very messy.
Restaurants – We only at in the International, Santa Fe and Horizon Food Court. We chose Traditional dining – first seating. I think we were really lucky that we booked early because the waitlist for our seating ran into the hundreds. The International dining room menu was pretty much the standard Princess menu. (My only other cruise with Princess was 15 years ago and the menu seemed exactly the same – I was hoping for a little change). On four of the non-formal nights we were also given a chance to order from the other anytime dining restaurants. I found the anytime dining restaurants to have very limited menus, thus, I mainly ordered from the International menu. (I felt that I can cook a steak, prime rib or lobster at home – I wanted dishes that took time to make and were inventive). Overall, I thought the menu selection was good and the food quality pretty good for such a large operation. Our waiters were great and the other restaurant staff very pleasant. The Horizon Court was a different affair. We only ate snacks and a few lunches there. Too many pushy people and the staff were not as attentive. The food selection seemed OK but the quality was just OK.
Entertainment – We really enjoyed some of the shows and were bored with others. Pianoman was very good as was one of the comedians. The other comedian and hypnotist were boring or just OK. We thought the main shows on our NCL cruise last year was much more professional. Several of the lounge acts (singers, piano players, etc.) were also very enjoyable along with a few martinis. The games shows (The Weakest One, The Princess Price Is and Princess Idol) were pretty good. However, with all the sightseeing in the early a.m., some of the contest were a little too late for us.
Ports of call – Juneau was just OK. Walked into town and took the $10 shuttle (school) bus to Mendenhall Glacier. Just did the photo trail and caught the bus back to town. Walked through the shops near the docks and then went back to the ship for dinner.
Skagway was enjoyable because we left town during the busy midday rush. Rented a car from AVIS, drove up the White Pass, through British Columbia to Emerald Lake in the Yukon Territory. It was a very scenic drive with snow covered mountains, frozen and melting lakes and very few tourist. We highly recommend this trip.
Tracy Arm was tremendous. The waterfalls, valleys, snow covered mountains, icebergs and glaciers are very beautiful. We dressed warmly (although it was a clear sunny day) and sat on the balcony for hours. The ship cruised by the scenery about six knots and we had a very relaxing time. Got close enough to the glaciers to see them but the ice kept us from getting much closer.
Ketchikan was a very cute town. Due to the limited time in port, we just walked around the tourist area. Wished we had more time to explore – maybe next time.
Victoria – oops. Our ship was blown into the dockside and was unable to get properly docked. Passengers were not allowed off the ship. We felt really bad for our newly-made friends that had excursions planed. It is such a beautiful city, but since it is only about ten hours from our home we were not bothered by missing this stop.
Debarkation – Wait and more waiting. We went to sleep before we left Victoria so we did not know that our ship would be arriving in Seattle late. Since we drove to Seattle, we were not worried about missing a flight. However, there was a lot of people scrambling to make new arrangements. Left our things in the room and tried to keep entertained during the long, long, long wait. Spent several hours in Skywalkers talking to other passengers. Around 3pm we decided to gather all our things from the room. Noticed that there was a new nameplate under the room number sign. Finally were able to leave the ship and leave the pier around 4pm.
Overall – This cruise met our expectations. We had lots of fun. It was well worth it.
Diamond Princess 05/04 - Alaska
NCL Star 09/03 - Hawaii
I'm just wondering about your Skagway excursion. Why didn't you choose to do the White Pass Railway? I saw your pictures of the Emerald Lake and am now rethinking what I want to do. How much was the car rental? How did you know where to go? What did you see? Any details you can give me would be helpful. This is our first, and probably only, time to Alaska so I want to get it right! Thanks! Kim
Kim - We chose to drive instead of taking the train mainly due to the flexibility and cost. Rented a Toyota Solara from AVIS for $67 and the gas was $15. This drive was just beautiful with many snow capped mountains and beautiful lakes. We were hoping to see some wildlife but didn't. However, we were able to meet Murray who posts as "Yukon" on another cruise website in Carcross. We got a lot of information from his posts before we went on our cruise. We knew where to go and what to look for from the following two websites:
A significant reason to consider the train is scenery, history and engineering. Avis is the only major car rental, there are 2 independents PB Cruises and Sourdough. I recommend on a drive - going 75 miles one way to Emerald Lake and return. Scenery significantly drops off after this point. Stop a the Gold Rush Cemetery and do the drive toward Dyea and stop at the Slide Cemetery. But more important stop at the Park Service visitor center for some good background that will enhance your trip. http://www.nps.gov/klgo/schedule.htm