Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Disabled Travelers. Overall Service.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Overall Service. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.
While we have sailed many times, this was our first sailing on the Sapphire Princess and sailing out of Whittier. May we suggest that if you are sailing our of Whittier you fly to Anchorage a few days earlier and enjoy some of Alaska. In the past we have flown into Anchorage and taken a cruise ship out of Seward. Traveling from Anchorage to Whittier will be a great experience. You have several choices on how to get from point A to point B. You can prepay the cruise line for ground transportation and that is not bad as your luggage will be taken care of. There is a train that can be used to get to Whittier or you can pay for taxi, bus or limousine service. Instead of all of these we opted for a rental car. A word of caution -- plan way ahead as there is only one rental car company at this time (Avis) that permits a one way drop from Anchorage to Whittier.
The cost of bus or limousine service is approximately $50 per person. For approximately $250 (plus gas) you can rent avan in Anchorage and drop it off in Whittier. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier is one of the most scenic and most interesting you will find in Alaska. You travel along the coast right next to the ocean. Along the way stop occasionally to see fish being caught by dozens of fishermen and observe the eagles flying in and out of their nest. Don't forget to leave the camera out of your travel bag.
A few miles south of Anchorage there is a roadside park. Take a break and take a look at the old snow blower engine sitting in the park. It's difficult to find one of these in operation in Florida or California!!!
The trip is approximately 60 miles and you will turn off the main highway after about 50 miles and head toward Whittier. Just before the tunnel there is a National Park and information building. It is very nice so take about an hour for a rest break and take in all the info center has to offer. There will be glacier bits floating in the water behind the information center.
Back into your rented vehicle (can't do all this if you are on the bus) and head for Whittier. This was be one of the most interesting few miles you have ever taken. We have traveled extensively throughout Switzerland by car and this segment tops even those road trips.
You will be stopped at the entrance of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a 2-1/2 mile long tunnel that will exit at Whittier. There was a $12 toll fee. Turn your lights on and maintain the required distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. You will literally ride the railroad tracks for 2-1/2 miles. The flow of traffic is reversed every thirty minutes and occasionally car traffic stopped so that a train can travel on the tracks. Don't worry all this is carefully controlled so you don't meet a train in the middle of the tunnel.
When traveling through the tunnel forget using your cell phone and if you are the driver just concentrate on staying on the tracks. The speed of our "caravan" was quite brisk. We exited on the Whittier side and presto there was Whittier. Our first business was to turn our rental car in. The cruise line had a tent set up close to the ship where you could drop your baggage. (TIP: have all your baggage tags completed and drop your baggage and go as there are others waiting).
After dropping the baggage off we headed for the Avis drop off, a small hardware store. All the person wants is your keys, the level of the gas and your contract. They will complete the information and mail you a receipt in about two weeks. This is a no nonsense drop off so don't plan on staying around and talking the morning away.
The town is only 60 miles from Anchorage and you will immediately notice the beauty of Prince William Sound. The Sound is made up of numerous deep fjords with tidewater glaciers that calve right before your eyes. Whittier is also surrounded by the Chugach National Forest. In Whittier there is day cruising, fishing charters, kayak tours and in the winter time many winter activities including cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Thus if you have an early arrival for a late sailing ship you have plenty of time to engage in one of the above activities. You will immediately notice two very large buildings in Whittier. One is now vacant. This area was a secret military base during World War II. One of the buildings is now occupied by local residents and reportedly almost all the town's population now lives in that one building. The port remained an active military installation until 1960. At that time the town had just over 1000 residents. The town was eventually incorporated in 1969.
The brochures tell about a lot of good dining in Whittier. It was time for lunch when it started pouring rain so we decided to head for the ship instead of lunch. Below is a picture of one of the restaurants that was closed when we were there. Looks like a great business venture if you want to relocate to Whittier.
The Sapphire Princess is one of the mega ships in the Princess fleet. Put in service in May 2004, it is capable of carrying 3100 passengers. Our cruise was not totally full however the number onboard was plenty by any standards. A ship 14 years old just has to show some wear and tear, however the crew continues to do a very good job and the public areas as well as the cabins were in good shape and clean.
We have sailed on the Diamond and Grand which are almost identical to the Sapphire. There is also the Golden and the Star which are comparable. This is a large ship that takes a little time to get used to. Public areas are too small for the number of passengers. For example there is a theater that seats less than a thousand yet there could be as many as 3300 on board. Seating for two shows is always a problem. It is not possible to have a single Captain's Reception thus there will be more than one. The common space just isn't there. The ship's designers have foregone the high ceiling two story spiral stair type dining rooms for a more traditional on shore type look for the International Dining seating. Even the other restaurants where you have anytime dining look more like a nice on shore restaurant. Having said this let's look at the rest of the ship.
Dining Got to get this one first since this seems to be the main topic of discussion about one's cruises. We opted for the traditional second seating dining and that was a mistake. We were seated at a table for 6 in a dark corner. Service was poor and we were close to everything you did not want to be close to. Serving stand, dirty dishes, waiters walking back and forth with other table's meals, etc. Dining with the traditional dining service just wasn't what we had in the past.
We tried to get Anytime Dining and found out that the staff does not like to see changes made after you are onboard. However we used Anytime Dining the second night. By getting there early the next four nights we had Anytime Dining in the Santa Fe. It was nice and we all enjoyed some very good dinners.
Breakfast was always in the Horizon Court on the Lido Deck, which leads us to that dining area. There are 11 serving areas in the Horizon Court on the Port side and 11 serving areas on the Starboard Side. This no doubt presents a real problem for many passengers as they just stand and stare at the food. I don't know how many times we witnessed a passenger using the tongs to pick at a particular strawberry only to lay that one down and pick up another. With so many choices it appears some of them just can't make a decision.
The dining in the Horizon Court, which we usually ate breakfast and lunch at, was actually very good. Nothing much has been changed from previous cruises. This is not 5 star restaurant food, however it is good food. You can usually get your food very quickly however finding a place to sit may be difficult. Seems like some passengers tend to hibernate at a table from morning to dark. Some were talking while others were playing cards. Did not matter, as there were many other places on the ship where this could have taken place. You can take your food out to the aft deck, however in Alaska this is sometimes a little cold and windy. There is also the swimming pool areas on the same deck and there were usually several tables available.
Ice Cream There is an ice cream bar on the ship where you can purchase -- yes I said purchase -- sundaes and cones. The prices are in line with those you will pay back home at a similar ice cream store. TIP: There is free ice cream between 3 and 4PM on the Lido Deck and you can add toppings for a sundae. We found a lot of people apparently did not know about this, thus we never found any real long lines. The time period also had a lot to do with this, as days we were at a port a lot of the passengers were still on tours.
Movies There is no dedicated theater on this ship however you can still watch movies. The listing will be in your daily guide. Movies are shown in the large entertainment theater, in the Explorer's Lounge and on your cabin TV. Some showings included current films. We missed the outdoor movies under the stars and the popcorn we have had on other Princess mega ships.
Atrium The ship has a beautiful atrium in the center of the ship that extends up through several of the decks. Surrounding the open center are shops, with perfume, clothes items, etc., souvenir store, purser's desk, tour desk, a store with small drug and candy items. Usually the staff sets up tables on the perimeter where they sell items usually related to the port that is next or the port the ship has just left.
Photos The area around the photo sales area was always crowded. The staff will literally make thousands of photos as they seem to be everywhere. Formal night is especially a challenge as the photo crews will actually block several passage areas to set up their cameras. The candid photos are made using a digital camera from which they print a mass production snapshot. They sell these from formal night shootings as "portraits." Trust me, these are far from being professional portraits. If you must have a snapshot, then spend the $25, however a better option is to have your own digital camera, make several photos and print them on your computer when you return home.
Drink Cards The first day aboard you will be asked (sometimes many times) to purchase an all you can drink soft drink card. They are about $60. If you drink several cokes each day this is a real deal. That's about $9 worth of cokes each day, however at bar prices that may not be all that many. They also sell a coffee card for gourmet coffee such as cappuccinos. I purchased one for $30 and only used it eight times thus my coffee was rather expensive. On a longer than seven day cruise I would have easily used the entire card. I did get a souvenir cup out of the deal though.
Specialty Dining There are a couple of restaurants where you can get specialty dining with special entrees. They are the Sterling Steakhouse and the Sabatini's Trattoria dining room. On this trip we did not eat at either. We really don't like to pay the extra charge associated with this type dining although we must admit we have done it in the past. The restaurants were never full on any evening.
Hot Dogs and Hamburgers Oh yes, there is a place on the ship where you can dine on hamburgers and hot dogs, plus there is pizza available. This is at the end of the pool area. They cook your burger to order while you wait.
Internet One of the nicest internet rooms of any ship we have sailed. There is also a coffee bar in the room. Space was always available on this cruise and the internet connections were excellent. Probably because we were always close to land, either Canada or the United Sates. The staff was very pleasant and helpful. Cost is about the same as on other ships. In our case $100 for 250 minutes. TIP: Sign up the first day aboard and they may give you some additional free minutes. TIP: If you encounter problems with the internet, such as getting several disconnects, etc., ask the attendant to make an adjustment or add the lost minutes. We found them to be accommodating.
Computer at Sea School Don't know how to work with Adobe Photoshop? Then take a couple of classes aboard ship. The classes were almost like having your own personal instructor. Even though I know some about Photoshop and my granddaughter knows a lot, we still took the classes and found them to be well worth the $25 per class. Take three classes and the fourth is free. They give you easy to read handouts and you can also download them from the Princess site when you return home.
Casino This ship is reported to have one of the largest casinos on the seas. There are more than 250 slot machines, including penny machines, two roulette tables, craps tables and blackjack. We found the casino being very well used throughout the cruise.
Art Auction I am still amazed that people go on cruises to attend art auctions and unless I am being conned, there are people actually buying some of the "art." After attending for three days I found the same people attending day after day. If this is your thing go for it, I would not know what I was buying or what it was worth. The auction is held in the Explorer's Lounge.
Golf There is a neat golf putting area on the top deck. The wind and cold will just add to the challenge. We never found more than two or three people on the course partly because it was difficult to find. Take a break from the auctions and bars and go outdoors to the putting area.
Wedding Chapel There is a very nice small wedding chapel on this ship. The door remained locked every time we were in that area however I would imagine it may be used on longer cruises.
Hospital/Sick Bay As is on many new ships, there is a nice looking medical facility. Since we did not have to use the facility (we have on other sister ships) we really can't review the service. On other Princess ships where we have used the service we found professional, courteous personnel and very clean facilities. Expect to pay in full before you leave as they don't accept insurance. You can file a claim against your health care provider when you return home, so be sure and get a detailed receipt of the procedure you used.
Hair Salon My spouse is always a customer whether the cruise is 30 day or 7 days and this cruise was no exception. The service is always good and the prices are always high. Also expect to provide the person with a hefty tip as tips are not added to the bill.
Fitness Center The fitness center is really excellent with lots of the very latest equipment which was in very good condition. We have been on ships where the equipment has been neglected. At times the area was crowded and you have to put your name on a time schedule.
Library There is a very nice library on the ship and it also contains several internet stations. In the same area there is a writing room which is equally nice. Both places are good areas to read a book and just take life easy.
Swimming Pools and Spas They are all over the ship. Some are crowded while others remain mostly empty. Look for the ones where kids are not allowed, otherwise some of the younger kids will run wild around the area with parents nowhere to be found. On this cruise there were plenty of lounge chairs around all the pools.
Children's Area There is a special part of the ship set aside for children of all ages. We had a teenager that went a few times but for the most part opted to stay with the adults. There are games including high tech games in the children's area. When we passed by we always saw the area being adequately supervised by ship's staff.
Outside Basketball & Tennis Court A very nice area that we saw being used quite often. Located on the front of the ship on a top deck.
Shore Tours In the past we booked some of our shore tours on the internet before the cruise. On this trip we did not book one tour until we arrived on board. The tours were plentiful. We had also traveled to Alaska many times thus many sights we had seen on our own. In every port there were several large ships and the crowds on the streets were just more than we cared to handle. We will probably take earlier or later cruises to Alaska in the future in order to avoid the really large crowds on shore. This time though we did take a train out of Skagway. It was very good though a little expensive. In previous shore trips we try to go on our own. Usually we rent a car along with another couple and head for non-tourist sites. We find the cost to be much lower, the freedom to do what you want and seeing sights where tourists don't generally go.
Theater & Entertainment The theater does not adequately seat the number of passengers that want to attend each show. Thus you must arrive very early to get a seat. We found that 45 minutes before the show the theater started filling so we usually arrived about 45 minutes before the show. The shows presented by the entertainers on board were rather good IF you overlook all the errors and mistakes. Just take those with a "grain of salt" and look at the lighting, special effects and costumes. They are really very good -- not Broadway -- but think about it, you are not paying an extra dime for the entertainment. Individual performers in the theater were on a scale of excellent to extremely poor. On the one night where the entertainer was very poor the theater was no more that 60% full. A lot of folks knew something that we did not know.
Arcade Really nice electronic arcade located close to the casino. Lots of nice new machines in the room however we never found anyone using them. If this keeps up that room will someday disappear.
Cabins Our cabin was an outside room on the Emerald Deck. Clean and the cabin steward maintained it that way throughout the cruise. The bed was excellent, bathroom always stocked with supplies and in general we were well pleased with the room. We did not have room service during this short cruise -- we were just too busy. Fresh fruit was brought to our room each day we requested. Just leave the request on the door the evening before. We did not use the laundry service on this cruise however we did use the washer and dryer on our deck. The place was clean and all machines worked. Even the coin machines were in working order. Each evening the ship's paper was delivered to our room and a mint placed on each pillow. We were able to control our temperature in the room exactly as we desired. The TV set was in first class working order. Ice was left in our refrigerator each day and we got clean towels each day.
Dress We normally would not list this as a review section on a cruise however we feel this is becoming a major issue. We are savvy enough to realize that people are going to dress as they please. There were two formal nights on this seven day cruise, however I would challenge anyone to show me which of the nights were those formal nights. At dinner there were many people that came with t-shirts, sport shirts and a form of shorts. Some people appeared to be wearing what they had worn on shore tour rafting. Tennis shoes were all over the place. A very small percentage of passengers were actually in formal clothes. We went to the last entertainment and noticed even some of those returned to their cabin after dinner and changed into sport clothes. Formal night dress meant very little for a great percentage of the travelers on this cruise.
Embarkation We boarded at Whittier and the embarkation was easy, efficient and fast. We arrived at a time when few passengers were arriving (1:00PM). The ship had a departure time of 9:00PM. The staff was most helpful and friendly. We could not have asked for a better experience.
Disembarkation We purchased bus tickets from the ship to Vancouver Airport and that was a great move. We left our luggage outside the door the evening before, and saw it next at the baggage area at the airport. We were among the first to leave the ship and among the first to arrive at the airport. The cost was only $25 per person. We highly recommend this.
We have traveled enough on cruise ships to know that a lot of factors will influence one's perception of the cruise. The observations we post are those of our own and we respect the differences others may have experienced aboard the same cruise. We had a great time and will cruise with Princess again. We trust this review will provide a little insight, especially for those who had not cruised on the Sapphire. Have a great trip.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Dianne T Eastern Caribbean June 4, 2008
This was my 14th cruise on Princess and a HUGE dissappointment.
The food on this ship was awful compared to other Princess cruises I have been on.
The crew had an attitude of indifference. I WAS a real champion of Princess.
I have 2 cruises planned for the next year BUT they will not be on Princess.
A complaint from a member re. the rising costs of cruising:
All the extra charges for dining and other nicities as ice cream, etc. are getting out of hand. You pay a high enough cruise fare and then are expected to pay even more for all of this which is uncalled fro especially with all the new ships coming out. It is nice to goout for a good meal with excellent service etc., but people can get roped into this and then just CHARGE IT UP.
We love cruising think it is the only way to travel meeting alot of nice people, good food and service and much more but cruiseline need to draw the line on this matter. It costs a family $10.00-$15.00 a shot just for icecream and $50.00 a meal it should be BOYCOTTED. Well that's my opinion as well as others I've talked to on the last few cruises we've been on.
This is one of Princess' older ships and it is tired. It needs an overhaul and updating.
The crew was excellent and tried to do the right things, but some of the crew members do not understand English.
There also seems to be a little discontent among the crew and many were unhappy and were planning to leave Princess as their duties have increased with the economic changes in the cruise industry.
Overall this is a good ship and the cruise was OK, but nothing fabulous.
Having cruised on both Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and having heard that Princess was the best cruise line on which to experience Alaska, we went on our 7-day cruise from Vancouver to Whittier with very high expectations. This is probably what led us to be pleased but not amazed by our Princess experience.
The ship itself - The Sapphire was much bigger than the RCCL ship I went on in 2000, but a good deal smaller than the Carnival ship I went on in 2005. The main issue was the fact that it took us a few days to figure out how to navigate the ship. There are a couple decks that are partly closed off, so there's a lot of up and down random sets of stairs if you need to get from one end of the ship to the other. Still, the decor wasn't completely out of date like some cruise ships, and it was always clean. I give it a 4 out of 5.
The room - I would rate our room a 3 out of 5. We had a giant balcony (bigger than that of ourfriends who were two decks above us), but the bed was hard as a rock and the room itself was very small--much smaller than our plain old oceanview room on the Carnival Valor in 2005.
The food - I would probably give the food on this cruise a 3.5 out of 5 rating. It was good--and definitely better than the food on our Carnival cruise--but not as good as the food on my Royal Caribbean cruise. Some meals were absolutely amazing, while others were just okay. We ordered room service for breakfast a couple of times and the only time it actually came when we requested and was good was the morning we cruised Glacier Bay and paid for the champagne breakfast on our balcony.
The spa - I had an amazing facial on the first day of the cruise; later in the week we had an average couples massage. We expected the high prices of the services; that's just the way it is when you're on a cruise. What I can't stand is how pushy they are with the products they try to sell you. There's no "no thank you" and moving on. They push and push and push until you're so frustrated that you no longer feel relaxed at all. Just a warning.
The ports/excursions - We went ziplining in Ketchikan and it was awesome. I've had friends that have gone ziplining in the Caribbean and talked about how they didn't feel very safe. I'm not sure if it was the tour company that we went through, or US regulations, but I felt completely safe the entire time and it was an amazing experience. I definitely suggest the Ketchikan ziplining tour to anyone.
We did one of the Princess-only tours in Juneau--the brewery, Mendenhall Glacier, cooking school one. I really enjoyed this tour, although honestly I think there is probably something else they could have done that would have been a bit more interesting than the cooking school. What was nice was that doing this tour still gave us time to shop in Juneau beforehand and make a stop at the Red Dog Saloon afterward, before we had to get back on the ship.
In Skagway we did the Yukon suspension bridge/Liarsville salmon bake tour. The drive/trip up into the Yukon and the suspension bridge itself left something to be desired, although I have to admit that it's neat to be able to say that I went to Yukon territory. The salmon bake was AMAZING, but in doing this particular tour we had to miss the night they served crab legs at dinner on the ship, which was disappointing. We also did the streetcar tour here in Skagway and that was definitely worth it and a lot of fun.
Glacier Bay was amazing, and again, I definitely suggest doing the champagne brunch on your balcony while the ship is cruising Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, it was very dim the day we went to College Fjord, and so late in the day by the time we got to the areas where there were glaciers, that there wasn't much to see.
Embarkation and Debarkation - It was quick and easy to get on the ship, as we had checked in online and were traveling with a handicapped passenger. Unfortunately, to get off the ship, we were all separated into different groups and they wouldn't change it for us. We were forced to get up ridiculously early, as we were boarding the train for a Princess tour, and then we just sat around for over an hour waiting to get off the ship. It was difficult to meet back up with the others in our party because they had separated us, and our handicapped passenger and his wife, who were elderly, were upset that we weren't allowed to be with or help them.
All in all, we certainly had a great time on our cruise, but some of the experiences (namely the size of the room, the food, and the spa and debarkation issues) left something to be desired. All in all, I would rate the Sapphire Princess and our cruise a 3.5 out of 5.
On May 11, 2008, we embarked on our 1st cruise with Princess cruise lines. We sailed The Star Princess 7 day cruise to Alaska round trip from Seattle. We are Mother and Daughter age 41 and 17, and we have traveled on cruises many times in the past. We took a town car service to and from the airport to the port for $40.00 each way and that's per car, not passenger. The car holds approx 3-4 people.
Embarkation Embarkation was out of Seattle. It was the most disorganized embarkation we've ever experienced. We arrived at the port at 10:45 am; we boarded the ship at 1200 pm. We had booked the penthouse suite for my daughter's graduation and were to have priority check-in; however they started checking in everyone but priority which I felt was rude, and they were very focused on a wedding party that took precedence over everyone else.
Stateroom We opted for a penthouse suite and we were located on Deck 10 (Caribe Deck). The stateroom was great. We had a walk-in closet, a large bathroom with full-size jetted tub, as well as large shower, a small sittingroom with a loveseat, and a nice double balcony with a partial roof covering. I did like some of the suite amenities complimentary such as thermal spa since Alaska is COLD. The downside to the thermal spa is that everyone is sneaking in. Access needs to be better controlled to preserve the experience. Laundry and dry cleaning was free, and daily menus that you can order food from the dinning room to your room were provided. Downside of this is that since Alaska is COLD we ordered hot chocolate off the breakfast menu and they charged us for it daily which, when we were in the dining room, they did not.
Dining We had requested the early traditional dining table for two, however we had a table for four and they were unable to accommodate our request made one year in advance. Therefore we were placed in the Capri dining room with anytime dinning with a set table (#22) for 5:45 every night. This was a table for two. We were very pleased with the food and our wait staff (Bruno and Ricardo, and Alex when Bruno was out sick). We liked several of the meals at dinner such as Alaskan King Crab Legs, Fresh Ketchikan Silver Salmon and dill butter sauce, Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (braised rabbit), Gamberi alla Fra Diavolo (flambéed shrimp). The best dessert was the cheese cake.
All three dining rooms are small and none of them are grand. The positives are that the dining rooms don't get noisy, and it works well with accommodating traditional and open seating passengers. The negatives are that there is no large, grand dining room that you find on non-Princess ships.
Lunch was open seating in the Portofino Dining Room. Our waiters, for the most part, were fast and efficient. Again, the food was good, not great.
Specialty restaurant Sabatini's was terrible -- 8 courses and nothing was good or great. I felt like I spent $40.00 on cheese cake since that was the only food I really enjoyed there.
Afternoon Tea was excellent, and I did like the fact that Princess has this daily.
Drinks were the worst ever; I would rank RC as the best, Carnival 2nd, and Princess as the worst.
Ports Ketchichen: We did the zip line tour and it was great.
Juneau: We did a whale watching tour with ORCA enterprises (1-888-733-6722 -- adult $109.00 each). It is an excellent tour and you can book this online and it is well worth it. The boat is new, with inside bathroom and seating. There are large windows that can be opened to take pictures and then closed again to keep warm. They also provide snacks, and hot and cold drinks which are included with the tour. We saw up close and personal a pod of 7 Orcas, Sea lions, bald eagles, and hump back whales.
Tracy Arm: The was spectacular -- a great morning to spend enjoying the open decks or hanging out on one's balcony.
Skagway: This port involved a boring long walk into town. Take the blue buses into town for $1.50 each way.
Victoria, BC: This is a beautiful city, however, the ship arrives at 5pm at night and leaves at 12 midnight. I would love for this to be a full day port and do away with Skagway if necessary to make up the time.
Entertainment The Star Princess Production Cast are not the most talented group. We had two comedians and they were very good. They had a very talented man named Greg Bonham who was the best I have ever seen on a cruise ship. He sang, danced, and played the trumpet like no other, so all the cruise lines should be booking him.
The casino on this ship was pretty dead.
Disembarkation We decided to haul off our own luggage. With that said we felt that the Captain's Circle and Priority members should have been allowed to leave the ship first with their luggage, which was not the case. There were crowds of people disembarking, not waiting in their areas and it was very difficult to move your luggage off the ship. I feel that Princess needs to address this issue.
Other Comments This cruise did not have a lot of activities compared to other cruise lines. It seemed geared toward the older generations 65 and older. I would have loved to see the indoor pool opened, and it was not. If you are going to Alaska, go around the 3rd week in June to see the salmon run and bears. For the best shopping, go at the end of the season in September since all the shops want to sell off the clothes and gifts since the towns are mostly closed during the winter months.
My husband and two sons, age 13 and 16 years, took our 4th cruise. We booked the Golden Princess, and we were very impressed with the ship. (We have cruised on the Diamond Princess which is similar).
EMBARKATION We arrived early at around 10:30 am at the pier and our bags were taken straight away by a porter. We than waited for half an hour outside the pier and then were shown to another waiting area to find out it would be another hour's wait. After checking in at the terminal, we had to proceed to another waiting area. We finally got to board the ship around 12:30 pm.
CABIN We booked two balcony cabins on Baja deck. The cabins were very clean and spacious. We opened up the balcony door so we could walk between both cabins, which is a great idea if you have children.
DINING We had Anytime Dining, which I think is wonderful because you never know what you're doing late in the afternoon or early evening. So, eating at Anytime Dining worked well with us. We never had to wait long for a table, and could sitwith other guests if we wanted, which we did a couple of times. The food was fantastic, lots of choice, and we had very funny waiters who couldn't do enough for us.
KID'S CLUB Both of our children went to kids' club every night and they enjoyed it. They made some new friends, won prizes, and just had fun.
SHORE EXCURSIONS We booked a few shore tours, which we enjoyed. However, we hated the disembarking at each port. This was very disorganized as you had over 2000 people trying to get off the ship from one exit point. What a mad house! Getting back on the ship at each port was just as bad. Once again only one gang plank to get back on the ship. The only other thing that was annoying on this cruise was that there was way too many old people on the ship -- I'd have to say about 80% were over the age of 75.
SHOPPING Shopping on the ship was fantastic, with lots to choose from, and some really good prices as well.
CASINO We went to the casino every night, won and lost a bit, but it was fun just to do a little gamblinge each night after dinner before the shows.
SUMMARY Overall I love to cruise and I love the Princess cruise ships. You're always treated like royalty onboard them. I just wish you could find out the average age group of passengers before you book.
Looking at booking our fifth cruise. We plan on going to the Caribbean next.
First let me state that I am an Elite member of the Princess Cruise Lines. I have cruised about 35 cruises with Princess and other cruise lines, so I say this to make clear that I do have some experience with most cruise lines. Princess has usually been our favorite, especially in the 80's, but since then we have noticed a decline in service, quality and personnel.
The ships are nicer and larger. The rooms as a whole keep getting smaller. I sailed on the old Crown Princess as well as the new one. I find that most of the staff are just workers, there to do as little as possible. It seems that the best staff members are the ones that make up the rooms.
Food on Crown is nothing to brag on. It does however keep you alive until you arrive back at your beginning point where you can get real food. But it is consistent, it is always cold and tastless. But I will admit that I am a picky eater and I don't eat sea food. I have always made it a point to eat notingthat lives in its bathroom, if you know what I mean. But to be fair, the food on the other cruise lines is about as bad. Carnival is only somewhat better.
But on Princess' behalf, they do have the best getting on and getting off program in the business.
They also have some of the worst destinations. Tortola and Grenada are among the worst places to stop in the Caribbean.
Prices are also higher on Princess than its parent cruise line, "Carnival." I will probably cruise on Princess again, but only if they become more competitive in price with other cruise lines. And by that I mean, some prices may be cheaper than others, but check it out, they make 2 or 3 stops on a 7 day cruise, where Carnival has cruises that make a stop every day of the cruise.
To sum this up, I don't expect anything extra on any cruise. I make no demands on anyone. I would be just fine doing my own room, and waiting on myself in the dining room as well as other places on the ship. A lot of the time the staff are in the way.
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Bogeyjim Eastern Caribbean April 13, 2008
My wife and I, along with another couple who are close friends (mid 50's to early 60's) just returned from a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean on the Caribbean Princess. I have only cruised once before, five years ago on the Celebrity Summit, so I can only compare the performance of the staff to those on that ship.
We chose to take a package with a Saturday night in Ft. Lauderdale, and transfers to the ship and return to the airport at the completion of the cruise. We had a bit of a problem initially at the airport as we could not locate the Princess personnel who were to meet us and provide transportation to the Marriott North. After having them paged, all went smoothly getting us to the hotel. The hotel room was very nice and we were able to relax after the day of travel.
We had concerns about being picked up late in the day on Sunday but those fears were put aside when we were told to be ready in the lobby at 11:30 Sunday morning. Wewere on a bus by noon and on the way to Port Everglades. We arrived at the Princess terminal at about 12:30. The longest wait we had was in going through security, as it turned out two of the three personell performing that task were on lunch break. Once through security we proceeded to the Princess counter for our deck and within approximately 15 minutes were in our staterooms, it could not have gone more efficiently.
The rooms were fine. We had a balcony cabin and our friends an inside cabin, both at the rear of the Aloha deck. Our cabin steward was Rumiel from the Philippines. He was great, attending to every request that was made of him with a smile on his face always. He is truly an asset to Princess. Other staff was very good as well except for a very few exceptions. The wait staff was very good with several of our waiters (we chose anytime dining, and loved it) very friendly and personable. The food was not gourmet, but was very good in the restaurants. We did have dinner one evening at Sabatini's and it was excellent. Our biggest complaint on the whole cruise was the buffet in both the Cafe Caribe and Horizon Court. In a word these areas are "chaotic". There is no rhyme or reason to the lines for selecting your food and people are bumping into each other constantly. Also, no trays to put your plate or glass on, you have to carry them in hand. On the Celebrity ship the buffet was very orderly to the point where personnel were there to take your tray and carry it to your table when you came off the line. There were also occasions where personnel heading back into the kitchen and service areas cut in front of me, which would never have happened on the Celebrity ship, or at least not without an "excuse me". There were also several occasions in the Princess theatre where the cocktail waiters seemed as if they would like to have been somewhere else, instead of waiting on the guests.
The pool areas were very nice, and even on the "at sea" days we were always able to find four lounges next to each other. On the days that the ship visited the ports of call, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and Princess Cays, we stayed on board having visited the first two on our previous cruise, and we had the run of the ship. We would have like to have gone ashore at Princess Cays, but did not reserve cabanas for the beach ahead of time. When hearing that they only have 200 of them, we opted to stay on the ship rather than bake in the sun on the beach.
We saw several shows in the Pricess theare, the best of which was the "Beatlemaniacs". They were terriffic and their show was a trip down memory lane, most of the audience singing along with the group. Bert Stratton's piano/comedy show was also very good, and there was a comedian/magician, Michael James, who was also very entertaining.
I guess the word is that the ship is just about due for a trip to drydock for some rehab after four years of operation. While there were some areas that were showing some wear, overall the ship was kept in excellent condition.
When we returned on Sunday for disembarking, our instructions were to meet in one of the dining rooms at 8:45. We got there early and were released from the ship at about 8:15. It took us about 10-15 minutes to locate our luggage and we were then put right on a bus to the airport. Again, this process went like clockwork.
Overall, while the service level may not be quite up to what we experienced on Celebrity, I would have no second thoughts about taking another cruise on Princess.
This was our 4th cruise with Princess and our first transatlantic. It was also, at 20 days, the longest cruise we had taken. The attraction to this cruise was the itinerary and the price. Princess did a great job of turning a regular transatlantic into a grand adventure. We went to the Caribbean, Devil's Island, Brazil, Senegal, Morroco, Gibraltor, Cannes, Pisa, and then Rome. It was a near sell out.
We only had 2 overcast days and could not tender into Devil's Island. Other than that, the weather was beautiful. The 3 day crossing between Brazil and Senegal was beautiful. We sun bathed all the way into the sea day in the Med.
The Grand is 9 or 10 years old and shows some wear in comparison to our cruise on the brand new Crown Princess. But overall it is still a beautiful ship and more than got the job done. We had a rear facing balcony on Carib deck. We had really looked forward to this but did find it a little noisier than we would have liked. It is a little bouncier over the stern as the propeller shafttends to send the back of the ship sideways and then snaps back. But the views over the wake forgave a lot of the above.
The food was okay. I think Princess is continuing to slide in okayness. The buffet was always bland and predictable. Dinner in the main dining room did offer some exceptions with some very good fish dishes. I think a major weakness are the salads. The cold soups were very good. I thought too many of the entrees had been prepared with alcohol which makes them off limits for me. But overall I ate everything and then wondered if I should stop or not.
The wait staff was excellent. We had anytime dining, but we liked our servers so much we requested tables in their area. This was great and there was never much of a wait, if any. The head waiters always made a fuss over us and always were great with arranging my wife's special, sugar free, desserts. Princess broke out the new china during the cruise and were also preparing to introduce the new menus. We heard this was the first in ten years.
I think we may have had a few of the new items. We also heard that special chefs from corporate hq were onboard to try and bring the food back up to the level it was supposed to be. The staff mentioned that they were inspecting every dish before it got out of the kitchen.
Our room steward was great and really made our cruise special. This is often where a cruise becomes special and that's what a cruise is about. We always were well taken care of and always had fun conversations with him easily 2 or 3 times a day. He was always there when we needed him.
A recommendation would be for the purser's desk to have postage stamps for the countries that the ship is going to stop in. This would go a long way in being able to mail post cards. It has to be with stamps from that country. Brazil and Morrocco visits were on Sundays (post office closed) and Senagal was a walk thru the industrial port and then some.
The onboard future cruise office was slow and with limited hours. The internet host was outwardly rude and the purser's desk said he was going to get canned at the next convenient opportunity, but he was still there at Rome.
The fellow cruisers were the most travelled group I had ever met. This was a great thing about the cruise. Everyone seemed to have been all over the globe. I learned many things from them and had many wonderful conversations. They certainly were an inspiration to keep growing in cruising.
There were about one-third Europeans onboard. Many Dutch. This really added a lot to the cruise. I always enjoy talking to them and hearing their perspectives. Many of their insights are not heard in the United States. Definately a big plus to transatlantics. It really lends a world perspective to life.
I would definately recommend transatlantics. This itinerary will be repeated in reverse this fall. It's like a trip to the edge of the earth.