Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 17
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:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
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, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Seniors.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Need major change of design and management Hopefully Regal will be the same design.
Common areas: Super crowded, people everywhere. Not enough table, chairs, plates, green onion, cups, etc. Lines everywhere. To get a table and chair, you have to be there three hours before the event. Should perform flow chart to study work flow, customer flow and crowd control. Lots of things do not make sense at all.
Balcony Rooms: Seems to be 1 to 1.5 feet narrower, no sofa to relax, only two chairs
Wheelhouse Bar: Reduced to 1/10 of the size with dancing floor on the hallway.
Explorer: Gone. Replaced with Princess Live, 1/8 of the size. Low ceiling causes bad sound quality. Feel very cramed. Two big camera block the view. Low cost microphone and little selection of Karaoke songs, lots of malfunctions.
Horizon: Confusing design. Lots of wasted space and yet crowded due to lack of everything from plates to green onion. Need major design changes urgently needed. Have to back track to get plates and food causing accidents. People walking in every directions, including workers. Have to wait 1/2 hour for waffler every morning. Expect to use soiled knifeto stir your coffee. Totally illogical for workers and customers.
Security returning the ship: The lady at the x-ray machine is very demanding and does not know what she is doing but making unreasonable searches.
Vista: Added 3 rows of chairs making it very crowded. The dance floor is super long, only good for line dances, no even for the entertainment crew to use. Again, low ceilings make it sounds bad and difficult to see.
Sabatini: Absolutely no presentation. Every dish comes with stew white beans with no taste. Smelly seafood. Tough commercial grade steak.
Crab Shack: Very salty seafood.
Piazza: Way too small for any activities. Crowded and no space to sit, stand or view.
Entertainment: seems to be lazier than usual and lack of activities. Most shows are talk shows or demonstrations.
Spa: You have to pay a daily expensive charge for the use of steam room or sauna.
We recommend cruises like this one. Even though we prefer smaller ships, this was a decent cruise for us.
We are Elite but hadn't sailed with Princess for about 5 years. For the budget minded, I recommend cruises like this one. Even though I prefer smaller ships, this was a decent cruise for me and I'm certainly not ruling similar ones out in the future.
----This was the largest ship we have sailed on, the 11th largest ship in the world; we recently passed the 1.5 year point of being on the sea in cruise ships. Only one year old and still the entire ship is like brand new, sure nice to have a stateroom that is not worn with stains here and there, for a change. Best balcony we have had, mostly due to the portion of it that looks and faces forward as well as to the side. The balcony size itself is 30% larger than the norm for an equivalent mini-suite stateroom, albeit they gave us one of the better balconies. Some commentators mentioned that they would be returning to other lines as a result of theRoyal's "small" balcony cabins. That piqued my interest as they mentioned Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, so I looked into their cabin specifications, strange, but the Royal Princess balcony cabins and adjacent balcony were slightly larger for the equivalent. We did have a mini-suite with an exceptionally large balcony though.
---This is the first ship we have been on where the heating system/air conditioning has worked almost perfect throughout the entire vessel. It always seems that on most ships the theatre is either too hot or too cold. For the morning lecture in the theatre it almost always is very cool, I can't understand why somebody doesn't turn up the heat before morning events begin. But on this ship they do it right. Also on other ships you continually hear people complaining of stateroom temperatures, we have never really had a problem like that, but our cabin on this ship has been perfect. Also, on this ship the cabins are very quiet, about the best we have ever experienced, and for 3 days the captain ran at over 24 MPH in relatively choppy seas, that's about the fastest we ever have sailed and the ship handled it without much motion.
---Meals were slightly above par for a ship operated by one of the top 11 big mainline mass market cruise lines, in fact, I would say the meals were slightly better on average than even some of those we experience on Regent Seven Seas Cruise's ships, a high end so called luxury line. After a rough start for us getting a table for two in the main dining rooms, second night out, anytime dining for us the rest of the voyage proved excellent and without hardly any wait ever we always got a table for two. Thankfully, Princess and HAL have both got away from "Traditional" only dining, sure makes for a better voyage for us. The specialty extra charge restaurant, Gelato, was very good.
The buffet area on the Lido deck (The word Lido means, open air swimming pool, almost all ships have their main buffet restaurant on the deck where their largest outdoor pool is), called the "Horizon Court/Bistro" also was above par, food quality wise. If you want to go there without all the hustle bustle and difficulty finding a seat, then go at off hours, like early in the morning or after the noon rush. Having suggested that things are a little cramped on the Lido, in fairness one must recognize that outdoor temperatures were slightly cool on that voyage so much so that the outdoor tables were rarely used. During warmer temperatures, things could be entirely different from an available seat standpoint, as, by my estimation, the outdoor seating would add well over 30% to the overall capacity. Also, the Horizon does a late afternoon conversion so that the tables are all set with cloth tablecloth, fine wine glasses, good silverware, etc which makes for a more quiet dining experience.
Of the three lines we cruise on Holland America (HAL) has Princess and Regent beat for making sandwiches or omelettes because they do it while you wait. I'm a sucker for tuna melts and can only get a good one on HAL. Princess annoyingly toasts bread, bagels, English muffins, etc, in advance then stacks dozens of them on heated trays, where they dry out and taste not so good. HAL and Regent prepare toast and these other items while you wait. Princess some times overdoes the military chow line mass feed concept.
We usually utilize the main dining rooms for dinner instead of the Horizon but prefer the Horizon over the dining rooms for breakfast and lunch.
One night we had one of the best meals ever on a voyage. It cost extra but not a lot. They call these meals "Crab Shack" and it is mostly shellfish. They only have them a few times per segment. We had King crab and shrimp mixture, you had to crack it yourself, lots of it. It wasn't crowded and we had a big table all to ourselves. Kind of messy but with all the good appetizers and stuff we were really full when we left. Good job Princess.
---Shore excursions were all pretty good with knowledgeable guides. Exception, motor coaches were filled to 90% of capacity most of the time, the saturation point has obviously went up in recent years. Princess, like HAL currently does, used to keep their loads to around 50-60%. Muster station shore excursion personnel did excellent control, most of the time, and manipulated the masses even though herd instincts motivated guests to cheat, push and rush for the coaches, typical of queues on most all cruises. All in all, I was rather surprised that Princess was able to handle the ports on this voyage when providing quality shore excursions as well, considering the massive size of this vessel and the number of passengers.
---Crew was very friendly in almost all aspects of the ship and voyage, not saying though they were always so knowledgeable pursuant to the subject matter they were suppose to be intimate with. All around service was okay (only one dinner night did the waiters appear to be overwhelmed) and room service, speed wise and otherwise, no better or worse than average.
--Hot tubs on the main pool deck (4 of them) were excellent. Well maintained, water consistently just the right temperature. Wish there were more of them since during good sea conditions there was a lot of demand. The huge, huge, outdoor theatre screen makes taking a hot tub on this ship another experience indeed.
---Great was the ship's multi pitch horn system on the Royal Princess, never heard anything like it, from deep base all the way up to a high pitch, sounding off with a prescribed melody. Princess gets an A plus for this feature. It was a lot of fun when the Royal and a sister, the Ruby crossed paths at the harbor entrance and engaged in a horn duel (When we were leaving Iceland). One of my favorite times on every cruise is the sailaway, this Captain had no compunction using the horns and at most ports we were the final cruise ship of the season and sometimes the largest that had ever visited the port, these were super sailaways. We were getting tired of two Regent ships with their "castrated canary" sounding fog horns (The Mariner's horn is okay though), which they rarely use, probably due embarrassment.
---I do appreciate the excellent large flat T.V.s (2) in our stateroom and the selection of live news and other shows. I particularly like the MSNBC and BBC. For too long with HAL and Regent we were relegated to the extreme right wing TV news source called "FOX News".
---We like attending a protestant church service on Sundays. This is the first of our voyages with Princess where they have really done a good job of putting on a quality service.
---The Royal Princess has an excellent fitness center. 17 deck levels up with plenty of cardio exercise machines and beautiful vistas of the sea from each one. I never was in the gym when it was overcrowded and always found an elliptical to work out on.
---Laundry--First time we had it free. Wife was happy but you had to give them a three day lead. Their were quite a few fairly sizeable groups on this voyage. Another Elite posted that Elite's in those groups were taking on laundry for their non-Elite group colleagues which added to the burden. If that is actually happening it irritates me no end.
---We used Princess hotel, air and transfer packages. Everything went well and without a problem or delay anywhere.
---Princess has now completely adopted the business model of all the large mainstream cruise lines, we are witnessing what is either going to be the success or the degradation of this trend. We shall see. This concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers. A ship's officer reportedly said we were only carrying 3500 this voyage though. In order to fill a three quarter of a billion dollar investment like this ship cost, the lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Then charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas, also there are pizzerias and hamburger grills with no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something.
-----One of the things I like best about cruising is the theme lecturers they usually have on board. This cruise was billed "Iceland
Regal Princess, a big step back
We did the 17 days transatlantic tour on the new Regal Princess leaving Venice on October 17, 2014. We had a mini suite on the Riviera Deck. After the huge advertisement made by Prin-cess for the apparently most beautiful ship, we were very interested to build our own opinion. Here is our report:
When you judge a new ship which according to the advertisement is the best ship which Prin-cess has ever built, you compare it automatically with the older ships, the Ruby class of ships and the Coral/Island class of ships. Generally it can be said that the Regal Princess is a big step back in comparison to those older ships. In detail:
Cabins (Mini Suites)
The new mini suites have a much smaller â€“ about 50 %! - balcony than the minisuites of the older ships. The distance between the wall which separates the bed from the wardrobe is also much smaller. You have to pay attention when you get up in the night in particular older peo-ple. The bathrobes are no more of â€œTerryclothâ€ but of a much worse quality. It positively must be noticedthat Princess offers now a wide variety of new movie films without any costs in all staterooms. A plus is the bigger water basin. We would assess the minisuites of the Regal Princess with three stars versus four stars of the Ruby Class ships.
Generally it can be said that the ratio of the size of the public rooms to the quantity of the passengers is considerably smaller than of the old ships.
About the staircase in the middle of the ship much has already been written. It is true the lack of stairs in the upper part is a catastrophe and you ask yourself how apparently experienced ship planners can make such a great mistake. It does not throw a competent light on the man-agement of Princess Lines. As we could not take the steps from the Riviera Deck to the Hori-zon Court, we always had to use the lift. First thing when you arrive at the lifts in the middle of the ship is running around â€“ when no other waiting passengers have already done so - and to push four times the buttons because the lifts run independently. On average we had to wait during the normal business hours 90 seconds for a ride. One lift out of six was often out of service or reserved. If you have to use the lift 12 times per day which is quite normal, you have to wait 18 minutes per day in front of the lifts. In 17 days that adds up to 306 minutes which is more than 5 hours waiting time. Then you have to add the lift travel time because the lifts stop on nearly all floors due to the fact that the stop order only expires for the lift you have pushed. The other stop orders remain. If in an office building employees would have to wait such a long time during normal labor hours, the employer would be in great trouble. The next problem is that the lifts in the middle are very often overcrowded. This is a wonderful environment for passengers who have a cold to pass their symptoms to other fellow passen-gers. A gold mine for the doctors on board!
The Wheelhouse Bar has shrunk to about one fourth of the size of the older ships. It is not a separate room any more. Room for a band or dancing does not exist anymore. The library does not disserve its name; it has shrunk to the size of a lavatory. The Explorer Lounge has been rationalized away in favor of a TV Studio.
The Atrium of the ship is really beautiful and a plus. The Elite and Platinum lounge is now in the Vista Lounge. It is a big room at the end of the ship which is used as a second theatre; it has nearly no windows and is extremely inpersonal. It is not comparable with the beautiful lounge on the 19th floor of the Ruby class ships.
The Princess Theatre in the front of the ship is too small for the number of passengers. For the great shows (two per evening) not all the passengers found seats which means that they missed the shows. At the end of the cruise they performed three shows per evening to elimi-nate this problem. The Atrium is quite large and beautiful.
There are enough lounges for sunbathing. However, the cabanas in the adult part of the sun deck were never used. Nobody was prepared to pay the $ 40.00 pro cabana per day. One of the new gadgets is the fountain on deck 16 midship which can be operated in many colors and designs in combination with music. The only problem is that this fountain can be hardly oper-ated on sea due to the wind. So at the end it is a waste of space, space which could be used for other purposes. Most passengers would be happy if Princess would built in an indoor pool like on the Coral/Island ships.
The three main restaurants are nicer equipped than the older ships. We ate in the Allegro Res-taurant which is reserved for fixed dinners. It is on deck 6 at the end of the ship. Here you feel and hear the engines of the ship quite well and sometimes we had the feeling that the drive shafts which connect the engines with the shipâ€™s propellers are running untrue. We also ate twice in the Crown Grill. We liked the design of the Crown Grill resp. of the Bayou CafÃ©s in the older ships better than on the Regal. If you have a table near the kitchen and the piano player any decent discussions among the guests are impossible. One of the benches of the ta-ble next to the hostess desk was defective. Nevertheless it was offered to guests but not to the officers of the ship which also eat in the Crown Grill. The quality of the food in the Crown Grill is not better than the dinners in the main restaurant. The portions, however, are bigger. If you want to eat in the Crown Grill insist to be seated next to the windows where the noise is much lower. A definite advantage in comparison to the older ships is the newly laid out Hori-zon Court and Bistro on the 16th deck. However, if you order a freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast it takes the waiter at least ten minutes because the Horizon court has not the ap-propriate machine to squeeze oranges (or other fruits).
Jogging around the complete ship like you can do on the Promenade Deck of the Ruby Class ships is no longer possible. There is a much smaller jogging track on deck 18. A negative point is also that the passengers have no possibility to see the front of the ship when in sea. On the Ruby class of ships you could see the front from the fitness center resp. from front verandas on the Coral/Island ships.
In spite of the beautiful atrium and remodeled Horizon Court we would assess the public rooms with three stars versus four stars of the Ruby Class ships.
Quality of food
Food was good like on the Ruby Class ships. The variety of pastry was greater, which is really a positive point. We would assess the quality of the food with four stars.
The big shows were really fantastic also the bands and singers. Some of the comedians were under average. However, Mark Preston from the former Lettermen and Linda Gentille were absolutely great. We would assess the entertainment with four and a half stars versus four stars of the Ruby Class ships.
The service and the quality of Princess Staff was always excellent. Here no difference can be found between the Regal Princess and the older ships.
What we also found is that Princess is now starting to charge money for any perks for example all transfers from the landing position to the center of the city. Before passengers returned to the ship they received cold fruit punch. This has been deleted. If you bought previously a cof-fee card on the first day of the cruise you received a second coffee card without extra charge. The live musician at the English afternoon tea has been taken away.
We like the older Princess ships and we think that Princess is a fine cruise line which we rec-ommended until now to our friends. But we will never book again the Regal Princess class of ships because they are a big step back. If the management of Princess continues this way, the Company will lose its good reputation and the passengers will change to other cruise lines. The small gap between Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises has with the appearance of the new ships been widened in favor for Celebrity Cruises.
Overall we would assess the complete rating of the Regal Princess with only 3.5 stars in par-ticular due to the very small balconies, the missing staircase in the upper middle of the ship and the smaller resp. missing public rooms. You get the feeling that the Princess management tried to squeeze in this ship the most possible cabins. Our opinion that the new ship is a great step back was shared by many fellow passengers. This ship and the Royal Princess may be a financial success but only with the â€œolderâ€ ships you have still the â€œoldâ€ Princess feeling. But CEO Jan Swartz, you know that the competitors do not sleep and passengers must be newly conquered in every sailing. We will not sail again with this class of ships.
My son and I took Princess Crown Cruise 13 days Alaska Off the Beaten Path - Tour (KA6) starting from May 24, 2014.
This tour start with 7 days on cruise and then follow with 6 days in land. Before the trip, I purchased a blue Armani Jeans brand T-shirt for my son because we thought my son has to wear formal evening dresses for dinner in Specialty Restaurants. I also thought my son is still young and doesn't need to wear suit and tie, and T-shirts looks good enough for young men. He wore it in the cruise. Then we washed our clothes before we left the cruise for our land tour. I went to the laundry room to check my clothes when they were in dryer. I saw one of Princess staff turning his body immediately facing to my dryer and turned on the dryer which had my clothes inside when I opened the door of laundry room. I am one hundred percent sure the dryer I used was started and don't know why he was so scared and awkward. I saw his face, but I didn't havetime to find his name and ID before he ran away. I found many parts of T-shirt faded when I was folding my clothes. And other clothes include my son's red and green color T-shirts were all ok.
I report what happened to one of Princess Staff. But I still thought it is quality problem. So I contacted the Armani store where I purchased the T-shirt after the cruise tour. They checked and told me that is not their problem. They also told me that the T-shirt has cleaner odor which is not detergent for the clothes because we still can smell it on my son's T-shirt. I am shock and very angry. Therefore I believe that Princess staff who ran away using my son's T-shirt to wiping down the metal table in the laundry room. I reported what happened to customer service department of Princess one month later. Now Princess cruise pushes my problem aside and told me they cannot solve the problem because my tour is end. Now almost 3 months is over, nobody in Princess Cruise Company contact to me again. So I have to write my review here to tell everyone how Princess Cruise company treats customer. I would never take Princess Cruises ever again.
My wife and I just completed the Alaskan Inside Passage cruise on Sunday. Had a great time. Only disappointment was our stop in Skagway...not much there at all...big let down after visiting Ketchikan
The captain (Dino Sagani) regularly forced all clients to listen to his irrelevant babbling by transmitting in each state room his loud status reports. It is true that most other cruises don't force paying customers to listen to obscure super-star wannabes, but on the Royal Princess they do things differently! We had the chance to experience the prison-like treatment of having our afternoon sleep rudely interrupted by the captain's many fascinating announcements â€“ we found out the speed of the boat in three measurement units and we were also regularly informed of the depth of the sea! We complained that normal cruises donâ€™t transmit such loud announcement in the staterooms, but the cruise staff quickly dismissed our lack of enthusiasm and our reluctance to embrace the hyperactive vacationing approach. So once you had your tenth supersized extra-strong coffee you're ready to relax on this cruise.
The drills performed on the ship were also a nice occasion to witness frustrated staff yell orders to some disobedient paying customers. Luckily no client was beaten for their lack of immediate compliance with the orders of parking-guard equivalents.
The food was tasty and nicely presented, but some itemsquickly finished so we had to be there when the restaurants opened.
Otherwise, the ship is beautiful and the entertainment diverse and of adequate quality.
This is a review of the Princess CruiseTour we took May 31 – June 14, 2014. The selected tour was a 7-day “Off The Beaten Path” land tour followed by a southbound “Voyage of the Glaciers” on Coral Princess. The selected tour punched our three buttons; Denali National Park, Alaska Railroad and Kenai Peninsula. A similar tour was offered as a Connoisseur tour. We decided the amenities offered were not worth the additional expense. The travelers were my wife and I (mid 50s) and two friends (mid 60s.) This would our first CruiseTour experience. My wife and I were embarking on our fourth Princess cruise, eleventh overall. Our friends were experiencing their first cruise. Overall impressions: Four thumbs up. I am so glad we went to Alaska and spent the time we did on land. Of the land based lodges our favorite was Keani. The best overall experience was at Denali lodge and then the train trip between Denali and Talkeetna. Wish we had given ourselves a little more time to go into Fairbanks. Seemedlike there was much to see there and we were too tired to take advantage of it. They told us there were such things as “sunset” and “sunrise” which may be true but it never really got dark, even when overcast, while with we in the Alaskan mainland. We did see dark again while cruising the inside passage. A word about logistics: We arrived at Fairbanks airport, collected our luggage (at least most of it) and reported to the Princess table next to the baggage claim. We were given an envelope with our room key, luggage tags, and information regarding our stay in Fairbanks. The information sheet had our room number, information about the lodge – map and restaurant hours – and information regarding booked tours, as well as meeting information for our next destination. While the key looks generic it is specific to each lodge, so leave them behind you. The luggage tags included a “meet me on board” tag for a suitcase that would be transported directly to the ship, and a “travel with me” tag for a large bag that would be moved from location to location. There was also a separate tag indicating our next location. As we arrived at each lodge we were met by a Princess employee with similar envelopes containing lodge information and luggage tags for the next destination. (I assume for post-cruse tours you receive your info for your first stop either at embarkation or arrival at the lodge.) I think this is going to be wordy. I have divided the review into four sections; Lodges, Land Activities, Coral Princes, and Bays and Ports. Feel free to skip past sections that are not of interest to you. Lodges: Each lodge had at least a coffee bar of some sort, a casual-ish bar & lounge and a nicer restaurant. There is no particular dress code. You are in Alaska, dress comfortably and warmly. Each lodge also has a tour desk. If you do not pre-book a tour you can work with the tour desk to set something up. Each lodge also had a gift shop, or shops, featuring Alaska snd regional souvenirs as well as warm weather gear for those coming from warmer climes that get taken by surprise that they may not be able work on their tans on this cruise excursion. The service teams were a mix of locals and summer workers – mostly from the US though some from overseas. Fairbanks Riverside Lodge is nestled nicely in a pine and beech grove along the Chena River. It is the most hotel-like of the four lodges described here. It is a single building with three wings. Our room overlooked the parking lot. While in the room we could have been in almost any hotel. The bar had a riverside deck that was not yet open when we were there. The restaurants were nice and service was good and friendly. We had coffee and pastries the first morning, dinner in the Edgewater Restaurant and buffer in Trackers Bar & Grill for breakfast the next morning. The lodge is in Fairbanks though is somewhat isolated. There are a couple of dining options within fairly easy walking distance. Princess also operates an hourly shuttle service for $5 pp. We stayed on site thought with a group of four I thought it might be a tossup whether the shuttle or a taxi would be less expensive. I would have liked to have gotten into Fairbanks but time just did not allow. After a late night arrival and an early morning tour we took a nap instead. I mentioned our room overlooked the parking lot. If you don’t have a good view take a walk around the property. In addition to the river there are a couple of small cabins and a cache on property that make for nice photo ops. Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is a sprawling property along the Nenana River. The lodges consists of several two and three story buildings for lodging, a main lodge with gift shop, tour desk and coffee shop. There are a cluster of specialty shops among the “bunk houses” along with King Salmon Restaurant, Base Camp Bar & Grill and the Denali Dinner Theatre. Lynx Pizza is another Princess restaurant located at the north end of the property. There is another mini-lodge between the A and B buildings at the south end of the property with a morning coffee bar and evening wine bar. This mini-lodge has a wonderful deck overlooking the Nenana as does the Base Camp Bar & Grill. We had lunch at King Salmon – tasty but not cheap, and dinner at the pizza place which was okay. Princess operates a property shuttle from end to end as well as a shuttle to the Denali National Park visitors’ center. Across the Parks Highway, named for Mr. Parks not the national and state parks, are a string of restaurants and shops typical for a tourist area. If you are not out enjoying the wilderness these are worth a check. There are several tour operators located over here. If you do not have a trip booked with Princess and want to go independent, walk across the street and you can have your pick of hikes, flights, tours and rafting trips. We ate dinner the second night at the Salmon Bake. Which was an experience worth having. Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge located to the south of Denali and provides an excellent view of the Great One (when weather permits) and it’s tall neighbors to the east and west. The lodge is spread across several buildings with the main lodge housing the fine dining restaurant, Mountain View Dining Room, a coffee bar, gift shop and tour desk. A large deck with plenty of seating and some of those mounted binoculars, a bar is nearby I’m sure. While we were on site a panoramic presentation on the Aurora was offered at night. It was enjoyable and worth the cost ($8 I think) though the venue was almost too small for the presentation. This show deserves to be seen on a larger screen though I wouldn’t expect Princess to create a new theatre for it. We ate at 20320 (for Denali’s altitude) Alaskan Grill. This venue also had a nice view of the mountains and the food was tasty if not a little expensive. (All the food in Alaska seems to be a little expensive.) The grill was in its own building away from the main lodge. Between the grill and the main lodge you will find the Fireside Patio an nice open air patio with plenty of fires to keep you warm. You can even buy a s’more kit. There are some nice but short hiking trails around the lodge area. We walked the Hill Trail which offered nice views of the mountains and creek below. It was good to get out moving about. There is a complimentary property shuttle and a scheduled shuttle to Talkeetna. The lodge is quite isolated – about 50 minutes from Talkeetna. If you want to do a tour or just look around town I would recommend stopping in Talkeetna when your transportation gives you a chance. Those using Princess transportation are able to take the shuttle from town to the lodge for free (as best as I remember it.) Keani Princess Lodge in Cooper Landing was our favorite of four Princess lodges (We didn’t see Copper Mountain.) The property is spread across the hills of the Keani overlooking the river. Each building had about eight to twelve rooms each having a deck looking downhill so there wasn’t much man made in sight. Cooper Landing is somewhat in the middle of the peninsula so you want to be on the coast this may not be the location for you. The lodge is about two miles up hill from the little town. There is a property shuttle but I don’t remember a shuttle to town. The main lodge hosts Rafters’ Lounge and Eagle’s Crest Dining Room for a nice meal. We enjoyed both. You can also sit on the beautiful deck and enjoy appetizers or a dinner from Rafters. There is a significant downhill path to the river from the main lodge. You can climb back up, I did, or you can use the courtesy phone at the bottom of the hill and have the shuttle pick you up. Another reason this was a favorite, the rooms themselves. These were the largest rooms we had and they included a pot bellied stove and a little table to enjoy the room a little. Activities and transitions: Day 1 - Fairbanks: Our package included the Riverboat Discovery / Gold Dredge 8 excursion and believe me I was not enthused. However, the excursion far exceeded my admittedly low expectations. We had a beautiful morning on the Chena River on the sternwheeler Discovery 3. The narrator was both informative and engaging. On board there was adequate indoor and outdoor seating for our group so you could sit pretty much anywhere you liked. Shortly after leaving the dock we had a bush pilot demonstrate a water take off and landing. A little further down the river we stopped mid-river at the dog camp started by late Iditarod champion Susan Butcher. One of the dog handlers, who will be competing next year, gave us demonstrations of how they begin training the pups and then took a more mature team for a short run around the property. It was amazing to see how those huskies took to the harness. We cruised almost to the confluence of the Chena and Tanana rivers. Our one stop was at a recreated fishing camp. Young Athabaskan Indians provided interpretive lessons on camp and village life. I had to laugh a little, apparently learning about creating house and a village from white man is considered an improvement and the young people had no problems with the terms Indian or Eskimo. So much for my PC fretting. Those interested could also visit with our trainer from the dog camp. After a family style lunch and shopping time at the “Discovery Center” we were bussed up to the Gold Dredge 8. We began with a discussion of the Alaska Pipeline as we had to pass under it to begin our tour. Portions of this “train” trip were informative and others were cheesy. We rode by live demonstrations of early prospecting techniques. Finally as we approached the area of the dredge we began to learn about the hydraulic methods used in and around that area. Very destructive but pretty effective. I’m not sure if the land will ever recover. After an explanation of how the dredge operated we disembarked our train and tried our hand at panning for gold. The place was swarming with helpers and everyone seemed to find a few flakes of gold. I know at least one person who didn’t find any and was given more pay dirt until they struck it rich. Well not very rich. My wife and I had a combined $11 worth of gold. They would have been glad to sell us a $29 trinket to display our gold flecks. Day 2 - Fairbanks to Denali: We took a bus ride from Fairbanks to Denali. The ride is about 4 hours with a snack/potty stop about half way down. You should arrive in Denali by lunch – or at least a late lunch. We stopped in Nenana, home of the Nenana Ice Classic where folks wage when the ice will break up each winter. It is a big fund raiser for the area. Our driver pointed out some white dots on the hill that he said were Dahl Sheep. That seemed to be a trend in Alaska, Dahl Sheep are white dots on the mountain. We arrived at the Denali lodge in the early afternoon. Our buildings were at the south end so we shuttled down there. We found our rooms and then headed out for lunch. The grill was not yet open so we ate in the King Salmon restaurant. In retrospect we should have gone across the street and had a less expensive lunch. I guess that was our splurge here. It was a little drizzly and we had nothing scheduled so we just nosed about the compound, enjoyed some wine while watching the scenery and eventually got some pizza later in the evening. Day 3 - Denali: We awoke this morning to a phone call from the upgrade fairy. Our balcony cabins had just been turned into mini-suites. A nice way to start the day. After a little more sleep we embarked on our Natural History tour in Denali National Park. This five hour tour included a film at the DNP visitors center, a ranger interpretation at a cabin and a talk by an older Athabaskan Indian at Primrose Point. We saw many caribou and moose and we travel. Some folks said they saw a bear way up the hill, though I didn’t see it, I think they skipped the talk, and more dots on the hill. As we didn’t see any sheep up close, and I doubt many do without climbing the mountain, our driver stopped at a point and walked around the bus with a sheep skull complete with horns. It was a bit weird . When at the further point into the park, Primrose, we saw a sliver of white above the closer mountains and below the clouds. We were told we were in the lucky 3 in 10 and that sliver was Denali. I was never quite sure what I was seeing or whether I could count myself lucky. Looking back at photos I can tell where that sliver is and identify it. We had the option of upgrading to the Tundra Tour which is a couple hours longer and goes deeper in the park. After taking to other passengers I would recommend this upgrade. If we make it back to DNP that is the path we will certainly take. Day 4 - Denali to McKinley: Today’s itinerary was; bus, train, bus and the sun was shining. After a short bus ride we arrived at the Denali train station. There we were assigned a car and table number. Each train car was two levels where passengers were assigned a table in the upper domed level. Our car was the caboose which provided some great photos ops off the rear platform. It was sunny so instead of the little sliver we saw in DNP we have clear views from the north, east and south sides of the mountain. It couldn’t be much better without climbing the beast. Each train car had a host letting us know what we were seeing and a steward keeping beverages filled. Of course, Princess had souvenirs to sell. Those who wanted to have lunch in the lower dining car section were assigned a time. After the first couple of groups went they encouraged us to head downstairs. The food was good and actually fairly priced. The train arrived in Talkeetna. Those with prescheduled excursions left there. We were offered the chance to look around town and then take the hourly Princess shuttle later. If you want to do anything in the area take this option. It is almost an hour and ten bucks to come back. Folks disembarking in Talkeetna were able to take the shuttle up to the lodge without additional cost. Day 4 (cont’d) - McKinley: With a mid-afternoon arrival and early morning departure we did not do much here. We took a short walk on the Hill Trail and attended the show on the Aurora. The view of Denali from the south was breathtaking and I think I would have been happy to sit out on the patio grill with an adult beverage and maybe a s’more to enjoy the evening. Day 5 – McKinley to Kenai: We were up and out quickly with a juice and muffin and on the long bus ride to Kenai. We made a short stop somewhere about halfway to Anchorage. We made a short lunch stop in Anchorage. We were pretty much downtown so there were several dining options though not much time to look around. Back on the bus we made the final two hours down to Cooper Landing. We spent quite a bit of time driving past Turnagin Arm and heard about Captain Cook’s failed attempts and finding the elusive Northwest Passage. Our bus driver was pretty entertaining. He was a student at Utah Valley and didn’t get my joke when I asked if they were the UV Rays, oh well maybe I’m the only one who gets it. On arrival at the lodge we learned they did have plenty openings for the cruise through a portion of Kenai Fjords National Park. We were waitlisted for this excursion on the Princess website for months. Ultimately we decided against it. We had enough bus time behind us. We learned this might have been a good choice the waters were pretty rough the next day and many folks got a little green around the gills. We enjoyed the deck and views from the main lodge much of the evening. Day 6 - Kenai (Cooper Landing): Instead of the fjords tour we booked a rafting trip. We spent an nice couple of hours on the Kenai River with someone else doing all the work. The wildlife view was excellent though the salmon were about a week away from beginning their run. I suppose this created a calmer river though it would have been fun to have seen the salmon doing their thing. Rapids were categorized up to Cat 3 though I think that might have been pushing it. We had some rushing water. No one should shy away from this trip for fear of the water. Now if you are looking for a little more action that could be another story. Day 7 - Kenai to Whittier: A largely uneventful bus ride. Your departure time will be designated by an assigned time to pass through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel aka Whittier Tunnel. This could the highlight of the trip. The tunnel is a single lane highway where the road bed is shared by the railroad tracks. The tunnel is over two miles long and connects Whittier with the larger peninsula. When you pass through the tunnel your ship will be in view. Our driver entertained us with the Indiana Jones overture followed by the Love Boat theme as we can to the end of the tunnel and saw the ship. The Cruise begins: Embarkation went smoothly, at least for us. Somehow we got separated from our travel companions. After waiting a while on the other side of security we went ahead and boarded Coral Princess. We had time to enjoy a tasty adult beverage while we waited for our friends to board. Because of the late sailing time and subsequent late muster drill we were assigned an early dining time. Because of our late arrival and lunch buffet we passed on that assigned time and ate dinner for the first time ever on the Horizon Court after we set out. One slight hiccup, our friends “Meet Me Onboard” bag was delivered to our old cabins and I had one that was completely AWOL. Coral Princess, general impressions: Coral Princess is one of two ships built for Princess expressly to be used to transit the Panama Canal. As such she has a narrower beam than other ships we have sailed. For the most part this difference was not noticeable. You could tell the dining rooms, atrium, and big show lounge were a little narrower than the larger Princess ships. This lead to a few interesting navigation challenges. The forward elevator only goes down to deck 7 (to the main theatre) to go down to the promenade you need to go back to the atrium. Likewise, glass elevators in the atrium only go between decks 5 and 8. Our staterooms were aft. The aft elevators go to the Lido deck, but you must either go through the spa or outside to move forward. A nice matter of flow was decks 6 and 7 both went fully fore to aft meaning all passengers weren’t trooping across the same passage. This was the first time we had stayed in a mini-suite. We enjoyed the extra space and the tub. The extra seating was especially nice. I find standard Princess staterooms a little snug. There are two TVs almost back to back. If you are not careful with the remote you might find yourself operating both sets inadvertently. (One TV is angled at the bed, the other towards the couch.) We ate in both the Bayou Café & Steakhouse and Sabatini’s. The service at both restaurants. We all ordered steaks at the Bayou, all were a little overdone. We were offered new steaks but none of us wanted to wait for a new steak. There is a small lounge next to the Bayou that had a really good jazz singer. That made the experience very pleasant. Sabatini’s was excellent all around. Unfortunately, on this trip I became “that guy” who had to make multiple trips to Passenger Services. I won’t go in to the details here. While all associates were pleasant their abilities were certainly varied. They were not very good at following through. There were some items that they were not able to resolve while I was at the desk, no problem there. The problem is they did not reach out to me to let me know the resolution of any issue. I had to return to the desk to follow up. Princess had a naturalist on board throughout the cruise. She did a couple of presentations in the theatre, later shown on TV and provided narration throughout many key portions of the cruise providing insight both the natural beauty that surrounded us as well as life in Alaska. While on board we bought the Alaska Cruise Companion for about $20. This is written very much to go along with a Princess Alaska cruise. There were times it was very helpful and other time it seems to lack the information I was looking for. It is not a very good port guide, it is much better at sea. The book came with a route make with a few insets. The clerk provided us with a second map so we didn’t fight over the map. We gave the second map to our companion and slipped ours into the picture frame nearest the balcony. We generally do not attend the big production shows though we did see Dancing and On the Bayou. Both were very well done and entertaining. One of the singers was particularly excellent and expressive. There was excellent music throughout the ship. It was a bit chilly or Movies Under the Stars though they were shown. I just didn’t think they would have enough blankets up there. Day 8 - Yakutat Bay (Hubbard Glacier): The day began as a typical day at sea, lots of activities scheduled. We entered Yakutat Bay in mid-afternoon. The sky was misty giving the bay an ethereal feel. Soon we were sailing through lots of little ice chunks. Our naturalist was on the loudspeakers and TVs providing commentary as we sailed to the back of the bay to see the Hubbard Glacier. The sun came out as we came to the Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard is rather rare as it is still advancing. It stretches about 76 miles back to its main source and is joined by other smaller glaciers on its way to bay, some of this can be seen from the ship. Its face is several miles wide. The glacier was fabulous. The captain brought the ship parallel to the glacier for about half an hour and then brought her around so the other side of the ship sat parallel to the glacier for the same period of time. Day 9 - Glacier Bay National Park: Glacier Bay was a good day to have breakfast on the balcony. We pulled into the bay around 7:30 and our naturalist began her commentary as we looked for whales (didn’t see any) and other wildlife. About 9:30 we were boarded by two park ranges and a representative of Alaska Geographic. They did presentations for adults and children and then took over commentary duties from the bridge. They also set up an information station in the covered pool area. We received a map of the park in our rooms with the Princess Patter. We spread ours out on the table on the balcony. We sailed past the Reid and Lamplugh Glaciers, were we saw the only other cruise ship in the bay (the Park Service only allows two cruise ships in the bay at a time) as we sailed back to the face of the Grand Pacific Glacier and neighboring Margerie Glacier. The Grand Pacific is the marvelous beast that created Glacier Bay – its face is not very pretty but it is magnificent. Margerie was the star of the show. It is an absolutely beautiful glacier and it put on a show for both sides of the ship calving several times. From our aft balcony we and several others camped out while the captain faced the port side of the ship towards the glacier and returned to our cabin when we were starboard facing. Next we sailed back to Lamplugh to spend a little more time in from of it. Lamplugh had receded a little more and we didn’t seem much in terms of calving. We did see several kayakers in and among the ice floes. We had a bear sighting down on the shore line when transiting between glaciers. Later we sailed back past Reid, returned our rangers and headed off to Skagway. Day 10 - Skagway: It is a short hop from Glacier Bay to Skagway so we were docked by 7AM. We found ourselves looking at the graffiti on the side of a mountain as we began to stir to life. We had no specific plans in port so we took our time this morning. Many of our fellow passengers headed out for a variety of excursions, we heard a lot of positive feedback for the Yukon Railroad trips. After a leisurely breakfast we ambled out to nose around town, basically acting like cruise ship passengers. We watched a short film on the gold rush at the visitors center run by the park service and poked our heads in to the restored saloon, but skipped the Red Onion. We sought out a place known for their “wildlife buffet.” I forget the name but that goes for the meal also, it was largely forgettable. At least it got us away from the crowds for a while. We did see many crewmembers with boxes from Sugar Mama’s. So if you have a sweet tooth you might want to stop there – hopefully security will let you pass with them. Day 11 - Juneau: We had booked a whale watching excursion with a trip to Mendenhall Glacier with Dolphin Jet Boat Tours, through Viator. We were up and out and walked quickly and with purpose to the Roberts Tramway. (If you have not booked a tour in Juneau or want to play it by ear, there are several tour companies with booths either side of the tramway.) From there we bussed up to the bay with an Alaskan version of a “good old boy” providing narration as we went. The whale watching was just what the doctor ordered. We were on a smaller boat with fewer than 40 passengers and three naturalists. We had plenty of time to view the whales, and a group of sea lions hanging around a buoy. We saw several humpbacks showing their flukes as they dove for food. The only disappointing part was none showed off with those spectacular breaching maneuvers. After another short bus ride we had about an hour at Mendenall Glacier. The Parks Service had a nice setup there. There was just enough time to take a brisk hike out to the falls just next to the glacier. I would have like to have spent a little more time on site to explore but I think the time was just right for our friends. Day 12 - Ketchikan: We had a later arrival in Ketchikan, joining three more ships there. Again, we had nothing scheduled but in retrospect I think I would have liked to have done a flight-seeing trip to Misty Fjord. Ketchikan is a picturesque little town, especially around the old Creek Street area. We were about a week ahead of the salmon so Creek Street was not as lively as it could have been. The only jumping we saw was a local young man who decided it was too warm that day, lower 60s, and he needed to jump into the creek from the top of the bridge. Unlike those who do this for touristic purposes he didn’t try to raise any money or a crowd. He just did it because he was young and he could. His buddy did not join him. Again there were several tour operator booths near port and they were offering some pretty good bargains to fill those last trips of the day. Day 13 - Inside Passage: On sailaway from Ketchikan and the next full day on the ship we saw a variety of sea life and had our on-board naturalist provide narration at several points. We had an enjoyable time on our balcony watching this beautiful world pass. We saw a few more humpbacks and our travel partners saw some orcas but I missed them. It was fascinating to pass the big container ships loaded with not just containers but school buses and RVs. Day 14 - Vancouver: We had booked a post cruise excursion we gathered in the explorers lounge with several other groups. Disembarkation went smoothly, gathering luggage and clearing customs until we reached the next step. We did the hop-on hop-off bus with a transfer to the airport. After we cleared customs we stood in a long disorganized line to turn our luggage over to a local company. It didn’t seem like we had enough tags, though in the end it all worked out. We stayed at an airport hotel so our bags were transferred directly to the hotel, waiting for us when we checked in. After turning over our luggage we took a long hike through the terminal/convention center until we reached the beginning of the bus tour. There was a long line and the weather was rather drizzly. This led to a group of concerned passengers. Ultimately we boarded our bus with the freedom to get off and see what we wanted and enjoy our day. The full route included a separate hour tour of Stanley Park. There was only one real stop on this part of the trip, and if you hop off in the part it might be a little tough to hop back on. One key stop for us was the beautiful Chinese Garden. Completing our tour we took the convenient train transfer out the airport. We were all pretty well at the end of our trip so we ate food court food for dinner and called it a vacation.
This is a review of the Princess CruiseTour we took May 31 â€“ June 14, 2014. The selected tour was a 7-day â€œOff The Beaten Pathâ€ land tour followed by a southbound â€œVoyage of the Glaciersâ€ on Coral Princess. The selected tour punched our three buttons; Denali National Park, Alaska Railroad and Kenai Peninsula. A similar tour was offered as a Connoisseur tour. We decided the amenities offered were not worth the additional expense.
The travelers were my wife and I (mid 50s) and two friends (mid 60s.) This would our first CruiseTour experience. My wife and I were embarking on our fourth Princess cruise, eleventh overall. Our friends were experiencing their first cruise.
Overall impressions: Four thumbs up. I am so glad we went to Alaska and spent the time we did on land. Of the land based lodges our favorite was Keani. The best overall experience was at Denali lodge and then the train trip between Denali and Talkeetna. Wish we had given ourselves a little more time to go into Fairbanks. Seemed like there was much to see there and we were too tired to take advantage of it. They toldus there were such things as â€œsunsetâ€ and â€œsunriseâ€ which may be true but it never really got dark, even when overcast, while with we in the Alaskan mainland. We did see dark again while cruising the inside passage.
A word about logistics: We arrived at Fairbanks airport, collected our luggage (at least most of it) and reported to the Princess table next to the baggage claim. We were given an envelope with our room key, luggage tags, and information regarding our stay in Fairbanks. The information sheet had our room number, information about the lodge â€“ map and restaurant hours â€“ and information regarding booked tours, as well as meeting information for our next destination. While the key looks generic it is specific to each lodge, so leave them behind you.
The luggage tags included a â€œmeet me on boardâ€ tag for a suitcase that would be transported directly to the ship, and a â€œtravel with meâ€ tag for a large bag that would be moved from location to location. There was also a separate tag indicating our next location. As we arrived at each lodge we were met by a Princess employee with similar envelopes containing lodge information and luggage tags for the next destination. (I assume for post-cruse tours you receive your info for your first stop either at embarkation or arrival at the lodge.)
I think this is going to be wordy. I have divided the review into four sections; Lodges, Land Activities, Coral Princes, and Bays and Ports. Feel free to skip past sections that are not of interest to you.
Each lodge had at least a coffee bar of some sort, a casual-ish bar
We registered early because of a $25 per person dining promotion. Forget that! Was never received. We paid for dine anytime but to do that you need a reservation and apparently you can't dine anytime. The in room services guide says to push the "Dining Line" button for reservations but there was no button on our phone nor was there a phone number listed to make reservations. So you are on your own. Excursion: Advertisement shows you are on your own 4X4 quad. In reality you are in a Kawasaki Mule with seating for 5. Next the Jeep trip - Good jeep trail but overgrowth so dense that you don't see anything. Other tours we took were satisfactory. Be careful of room upgrade promotions. You could end up on another deck with a location that you may not expect or want. The staff was polite. The food was ok and the ship was exceedingly clean and well appointed.
As advertised Princess does have room serve 24/7 but it comes with a charge. There is also a gratuity added for any purchase. The specialty dining was wonderful but had cover charges. As long as you know this going in it is not a problem. Although it feels at times that you are being "nickel and dimed" at every turn. This ship is still well maintained for the most part, but it is showing it's age and even the mini suite bathroom could use an upgrade in the tile. Some patching apparent and discoloration. Would hope for better in a mini suite or any room for that matter.