This was my second time to Alaska but the first time doing a
Land Tour. My friend Jan had never been to Alaska before and wanted
to see everything. We booked this DIY land/cruise tour in July,
2012 for May, 2013 and decided to fly into Anchorage a day early to
maximize our time. Our TA chose Alaska Airlines because it flew
directly into Anchorage from Chicago-O'Hare. Unfortunately it did
not have a direct flight from Vancouver. More on that later. At our
gate we met 3 ladies from Philly who were all retired teachers and
were on the same tour as us. They had booked the extra day with
Princess so had a Princess transfer waiting for them. We ran into
them several times on land and the ship.
Arrived on time about 1:00 PM in Anchorage on Alaska time
which was 3 hours behind Chicago. Lucky for us, it wasn't so late
that we felt we had wasted the day. Caught a cab ($22 including
tip) to the Captain Cook Hotel where our room was ready for us.
Because we had booked this extra
day independent from Princess we were informed that we had to
re-check in the next morning to start our Princess tour package.
Our "meal" options on the plane had been a selection of snack boxes
which we skipped in favor of our own food.
Given a map of Anchorage at the front desk, we explored our
options for late lunch/early dinner. The Glacier Brewhouse was a
mere block from the hotel (depending which door you exited). The
menu had several good choices. We were prepared for the prices and
the food was good too! The ladies from Philly were in there also
taking their time as their rooms hadn't been ready yet. Jan and I
started wandering down the street to check the out different stores
before we retired back to our room which had a great view of the
Chugach mountains. I forgot to take a picture of them and was sorry
as the next 2 mornings were overcast. We were settled in for the
night after trying to decide if 9:30 was too early to go to sleep!
But with a 4 AM alarm that day, exhaustion won out and we slept in
pretty well to the next morning.
Checking our map we elected to try the Snow City Cafe which
was 2 blocks from the hotel. Great breakfast place but we never had
a chance to check it out for lunch also. It was much colder with
intermittent rain that day and we ran back to the hotel to grab our
umbrellas. First on the agenda was the Anchorage City Trolley Tour.
It was $20 and worth every cent. Our driver was a teacher and she
was a natural story teller and guide. She started with the 1964
earthquake and the changes that affected the downtown and
The Captain Cook was a perfect location as it was central to
the downtown area and convenient to everything we wanted to see.
The hotel had a vintage feel but with all modern amenities. It was
a lovely property. We didn't book any excursions for that day as we
weren't sure if we would have a travel delay. Took our time and
checked out the local shops. I did not want anything made in China!
The Anchorage Museum was a close walk so we spent a few hours in
there being educated about the area. Asked a local man to recommend
a place for a late lunch and he suggested the F Avenue pub and
grill which was just down the street from the trolley. Excellent
food in a casual atmosphere.
When we returned to the Captain Cook we "checked out" of our
room and paid for the night $160+tax. The desk clerk asked how I
had gotten this rate and I told her our TA had reserved it for us.
She told me that summer rates had started on 5/13 and the rate
should have been $260/night! Checked back in for the start of our
Princess Tour. There was a desk set up in another area of the hotel
for the Princess Tour passengers so we checked in with them and
picked up our packet for the next day. There were luggage tags and
instructions for our transfer to McKinley Lodge the next day. Our
bus was #3. The tags were designated as "Join me on board ship" and
"Join me Tonight". There was also one with MPL on it for McKinley
Princess. I knew about this from info I had gleaned online so Jan
and I were prepared with 1 bag packed for each destination.
Decided about 7 PM to go for dinner and we picked Sack's.
Unfortunately, we found out we were still full from lunch. Sack's
was a fine dining place and the menu looked scrumptious but alas,
we settled for soup and an appetizer. I actually filled up on the
soup and just picked at the baked brie. Took it with me for a snack
the next day.
Luggage had to be ready at 6:30 AM for pickup so it was
another early alarm. Thought we would check out the hotel
restaurant for breakfast. Turned out to be a great choice since
about 20 minutes later the place was full and we could see a long
line of people waiting. Went back up to the room for some last
minute clean up and since our bags were still there, we could put
our toiletries in the case for McKinley lodge. The instructions
were to meet in the lobby at 7:45 so we strolled down there at 7:40
to find the place packed and a lady calling for bus M-3. We weren't
sure this was us and said something to some people who said they
were looking for us and our bus was ready to leave! Needless to
say, we hustled outside and announced our arrival. As the last ones
on board they were ready to depart immediately.
Our arrival at McKinley Princess Lodge was scheduled for noon.
There were no stops. Our driver was also our guide and he kept up a
nice level of information on everything we passed. The weather had
turned colder and it was rain mixed with snow when we arrived. An
envelope with our room info and our transfer materials for the next
day was handed to us as we exited the bus.
We were in building #2, Room 110 which was close to the lodge.
There was a shuttle for the more distant buildings and people with
ambulatory issues. I was astonished at the slush on the stairs as
the roads were clear. We stayed only long enough to dump our stuff
and went back to the lodge for lunch. Jan and I had originally
wanted to schedule a flight-seeing tour at this location but
changed our minds when we found out the cost. It turned out all
flights were cancelled due to weather.
On the whole land portion of this trip, we did not see one
deciduous tree with leaves. The news was telling us this was the
longest snow season in history and we were in it. When I had done
the cruise in 2003, we had temps from 50-70's with sunny skies the
whole week. I guess I was hoping for the same thing but Jan had
brought her down coat and boots. I did make use of my silk long
underwear and the great heavy sweatshirt with hood my daughter had
given me for Mother's Day. Was I glad I had brought it along. The
Lodge had several racks of lightweight parkas with a fleece lining
for sale in the gift shop and they sold out several times! Jan
bought one since she didn't have a lighter jacket with her. We saw
those parkas on people throughout the entire trip.
Jan wanted to see Talkeetna so we found the shuttle for the
hour ride into town. The shuttle ran every hour from the same
location. It was a rain/snow mix and I had packed my umbrella in my
suitcase. Luckily, my raincoat had a hood and I was dressed warm
enough. To say Talkeetna was a disappointment is an understatement.
I was picturing a quaint little town with wooden sidewalks and was
shocked to find a bunch of run-down log cabins with a mostly motley
collection of souvenirs. One shop had some quality items. The best
was the cafe where we had hot chocolate and homemade cookies. Their
menu looked really good and our bus driver said that a lot of the
staff from the lodge ate there frequently. Had we known, we could
have skipped the mediocre and pricey lunch at the lodge. We were
definitely back on the bus for the next shuttle.
Back at the lodge, we went downstairs for the Ranger's talk on
bears which was very interesting. The weather was still miserable
so we were not able to enjoy the beautiful deck and mountain view.
Went back to our room to find the luggage waiting for us. Cleaned
up a bit and decided that dinner was a good option at this point so
headed back to the Lodge. I should mention that this was only the
second week the lodge was open and they seemed to be having some
trouble with their Coke dispenser. I kept getting my Diet Coke flat
without the bubbles. Another so-so dinner and we went back to the
room to prepare for another early morning call to put our bags out
for the transfer to Denali Princess Lodge.
Breakfast the next morning was quite bad. My scrambled eggs
were dried out and cold. I ate the biscuit and bacon with my tea
and figured just accept it since I am not one to make a fuss. But
the restaurant manager happened by and asked if everything was ok
so I told him I was unhappy with my food. He wanted to replace the
meal but we had to meet our bus. He comped my meal and apologized.
I did tip the server since it wasn't his fault and we left with a
better feeling about the place.
This next part of our trip was by train. We had to be in the
lodge by 9:15 to board the bus for a 9:30 departure which we almost
missed again! (Foolish us, we expected someone to announce it.)
Since 9:30 came and went, I thought something was fishy so I went
up to the desk and asked about it. The young lady looked panicked
and called the driver on her device so they could come back for us.
As it happened, they were still waiting since there were supposed
to be 24 of us and some were missing. As we ran out, we told the
Princess rep who was boarding people that we expected some kind of
announcement. She went into the lodge and called out the info about
the bus to Talkeetna depot and picked up another couple who was
Finally we were off on a sunny day back to Talkeetna Depot and
were surprised by all the new snow that we saw. The train wasn't
due for about 1/2 hour so we stayed on the bus as it was quite
chilly outside. The Alaska Railroad train arrived pulling cars for
Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess. I wasn't prepared
for the train seating arrangement. The dining car was on the first
level and the passengers sat upstairs sharing a table for four. I
was expecting standard seating next to the panoramic windows. Jan
and I were seated with a couple from Florida who were also going to
be on the ship. We had a great time visiting with them and went
down to lunch together so the time passed quickly.
Arriving at Denali there were the requisite large coaches
waiting for us. It was a short ride to the Denali Wilderness Lodge
where we found bedlam in the lobby. Because of the cold weather,
the pipes in the original lodge which was now Building A were
frozen and a large number of people had to be moved. Our room info
was given to us on the train so we knew our room number in building
J. It was pretty cold to wander about and the last thing I wanted
to do was shop.
We had reserved the 8 PM dinner show for Music of Denali. The
building was directly kitty-corner from ours so it was definitely a
short walk. Since we had 4 hours until then, we elected to have a
light snack. My train lunch had been light so I was ready for
something else. The place was packed but service was good and so
was the food. Back to the room and we had turned up the heat as far
as it would go since the place was really cold. It didn't help that
the room opened directly to the outside like an old-fashioned
motel. (At the McKinley lodge which is newer, the buildings had a
central, heated corridor for the rooms. This also made it more
secure, a plus for two ladies traveling alone.)
Strolled across the lane to the "theater". I think this cost
us $89 each. Your servers are the actors. I would never recommend
this activity to anyone. The show was beyond corny and the food
just average. Giving the actors their due, they put their hearts
into it but nothing could save this show. I could write a better
show. There was plenty of food and it was served family style. If
you wanted more of anything, they brought it out.
Leaving the theater we were surprised by how light it was
outside. I had made sure I dressed much warmer for this day since I
didn't know when the luggage would arrive. A smart move on my part
since it was 10:45 PM before the bags finally made it. No idea what
held them up but the front desk was deluged with complaints. We
wanted to go to bed but had to wait for the luggage with our
nightclothes. Since we didn't have to be up at 5 AM, we finally
crashed about 11:30 and had to pull the drapes to shut out the
Got up and went for breakfast at the Salmon Bake restaurant
which was quite good with a great view. Another sunny, cold day. We
had booked the Husky Homestead Tour through Princess and the bus
for that was about 9:45 AM. It took about 15 minutes to get to the
dog farm. This was the establishment of Jeff King who has won the
Iditarod race 3 times. First off, we got to hold the puppies! Took
lots of pictures and then the talk started. Very informative and
the dogs did not look like the usual Siberian Huskies that they
always show. Great tour and I highly recommend it.
Back to the Lodge for a light lunch before our Tundra
Wilderness Tour at 1:30. I had booked this through
reservedenali.com as the Princess tours were sold out. Originally
we were told we had to walk to the McKinley Chalet resort up the
road at 5:30 AM to be picked up for the tour. This had caused some
anxiety in us as we had no idea where or how far away it was.
Checking all my info before we left, I realized I had booked it for
the wrong date! Called them and they were very accommodating to
change it for me and we ended up with the 1:30 time on 5/19. The
website advised that they would pick us up at the Lodge. One bad
piece of info was that we had to go into the park to the Wilderness
Center to pick up our tickets the day before. Since Princess had a
free shuttle, we thought we could do this. I had mentioned this on
the train and a lady sitting near us overheard me and said that she
had also booked this tour and was told the tickets would be at the
tour desk at the lodge. Sure enough, that is exactly what happened.
Another problem worked out in our favor!
The TWT was scheduled for 5 hours. Our driver/guide Jen was
very good and one of several people who we met who lived in basic
cabins for the summer just to spend the season in Alaska. It was
quite enlightening. Since the weather was outstanding with sunshine
and bright blue sky we anticipated seeing Mt. McKinley. Alas, the
only clouds we saw were covering the mountain. We saw some wildlife
but mostly it was boring. Some people would say we didn't go far
enough into the park but we were limited by the snowfall and the
fact the roads still weren't fully cleared. But our guide informed
us of the number of moose, caribou, wolves and bears in the park
and they are quite small for the amount of territory. It is so
barren that there just isn't a lot of food available to support
It was our last night in Denali and we decided to get pizza
and salad for dinner at the Lynx Creek Pizza place which was on the
property. Time to pack the bags and have them out at 7 AM. Again to
the Salmon Bake for breakfast which we enjoyed. Went up to the
lodge to wait for our bus for the 8 hour drive to Whittier and the
ship. We were once again on bus #3 with a very good driver/guide.
Another clear, sunny day and the temps were up to the 50's. On the
road our driver pointed out that you could see Mt. McKinley very
well. Sure enough, we were able to see both peaks clearly. Finally
I was able to get some great pictures even if we were moving. We
did have a rest stop where we could see the North Peak clearly. The
park tour had informed us that only 30% of people see some of the
mountain and only 10% actually see both peaks. We were batting
A one hour lunch stop in Anchorage gave us the opportunity to
try Humpy's. As much publicity as this place gets I expected a lot
more. Half the menu was mostly salmon (as was every other
restaurant we tried) and we had a salad which was tasteless. The
Glacier Brewhouse was 100% better. We made it to Whittier and went
through the famous tunnel to emerge and see our ship! Got into line
and it moved quickly to check in at 5 PM.
I told Jan that I felt we were finally on vacation! I didn't
realize how much I disliked moving from place to place every day
and living out of a suitcase. Deciding to do the land tour first
was the best idea we had. I felt like I took a big breath when I
got onboard the Island Princess.
Our room was E-726, near the aft elevators with a nice sized
balcony with 2 reclining loungers, 2 regular chairs and a nice size
table. It was still the new, uncomfortable furniture but better
than what we had on the Grand last year. Our luggage was outside
the room when we arrived so we quickly unpacked . Our big bags,
which we last saw in Anchorage, were there to Jan's relief. She was
worried that they would not make it. I was glad to see that my
bottle of wine which I had double-wrapped in bubble wrap and 2
plastic bags had survived the trip. There was a message on our
phone from someone in Security about a bottle of liquid in my
suitcase and please come down to deck 4 about it. Since my
bag was already delivered, I couldn't understand why they
considered this a problem but I schlepped the wine, still all
wrapped up downstairs to Security where they said ok and marked it
off a list.
Jan wanted to do the Scavenger Hunt again so we set off to
visit the different areas on the ship. I was pleased to see that
the Island was identical to the Coral in layout and decor. This is
such a nice ship with a good passenger to space ratio. The decor is
pleasing and comfortable. I had forgotten how long it was compared
to the Grand.
Stopped in Sabatini's to get our cards stamped and to make a
reservation for Wednesday dinner. We could have eaten there that
night as the place was empty but I wanted to be more relaxed so we
could enjoy it. Jan was a bit hesitant to do this but I wanted it
to be my treat. Last year we had booked a bungalow on Princess Cays
and she was talked into purchasing the special lunch without
realizing the BBQ was included.
Talking about food was making us hungry since it was now over
6 hours since our salads in Anchorage. We had Anytime Dining which
had worked pretty well the previous year. I have never walked into
the MDR wearing jeans but figured it might be ok since people were
still boarding. No problem at all. The dining room was not very
busy as they offered us a table for 2 but we asked to join a group.
I knew Prime Rib was on the menu and wanted to get a non-salmon
meal after 5 previous days of it.
We met some nice people and while we were chatting, I looked
out the window and saw the train disembarking passengers. These
were the same people who had left Denali when we did and they were
just arriving! It seems there was a danger of avalanches and the
train could only travel at 35 mph. Our bus trip was about 7-8 hrs
and this was 10.5 hours after they left Denali and they had just
arrived! It was now only 1/2 hour until the Safety Drill and
one couple at our table left without dessert so they could be on
time. We figured we could sneak it in under the wire and lo and
behold, an announcement was made that the Safety Drill and Sailing
were to be postponed due to the late arrival of the last
passengers. So we had our dessert and the drill too.
Off to the first show, a taste of singers and dancers and the
comedian. After that we realized we were sailing and the casino was
open for business. Jan tried some slots and I sat down to chase my
money playing 3 card Poker. Neither lasted very long and we decided
to call it a day. For the first time, we could sleep in without any
plans for the next day. It was heaven!
Tuesday was cruising the Hubbard glacier and lots of
activities around the ship. After breakfast we tried our luck at
Bingo and I won the first pot for $100 which I had to split.
(Little did I know that was the last money I would win while
gambling.) We spent some time on our balcony admiring the scenery
and then went down for the Naturalist's talk on Glacier Bay. The
theater was packed but seats kept opening up as he wasn't a very
dynamic speaker. I heard a few snores around me and we left early
to play Bingo again.
Back in our room, we started watching a movie and fell asleep.
Awakened by someone knocking on the door, it was our cabin steward
looking to make up the room for the evening! We had a good laugh
about this and got ready for formal night. By the time
we cleaned up and went down to dinner it was almost 8 PM. No
problem getting seated for dinner with another group of new
Dinner was about an hour and we had time to make the late show
"Shall We Dance?" which was very good. After that we headed to the
Universe Lounge for the comedian who was pretty funny. Can't
remember his name. I really should bring my Princess Patters home
with me so I can reference them for these reviews! Off to the
Casino again for some "fun" and crashed around midnight.
Wednesday was cruising Glacier Bay. The only things in the
Patter where the times we were arriving at different glaciers. The
Naturalist was on the bow cam station and he discussed what we were
seeing. Our cabin on the port side was really perfect for this
trip. We had breakfast in the MDR that morning for a change of
pace. Much more civilized than the buffet but I do like to graze
the choices. They didn't have Jan's favorite chocolate croissants
so we actually headed up to the Horizon Court in search of them.
Alas, they did not make an appearance until Sunday.
That afternoon we stood on our balcony as we came up to
Margerie (the blue one) glacier right off our port (cabin) side.
Weather was sunny and no breeze so we were comfortable being out
there, albeit in heavy clothing. But no need for gloves or earmuffs
this time. Saw some "calving" but no Titanic-proportion icebergs
out there. Just a lot of small ice pieces breaking away with lots
of noise that sounded like thunder. The glacier was actually very
noisy with pops and cracks. I was glad that I could get some of
this on video.
Before we left, my SIL had recommended getting a bigger memory
card for my camera. I went to the local camera store and the clerk
informed me that I had room for 800 photos or 23 minutes of video.
That seemed like a huge amount of space so I decided against
upgrading. I was sorry later when we went on our 2 amazing
excursions that I will discuss later.
After the Captain started turning the ship around so everyone
could see both glaciers, Jan and I went upstairs and out on the
deck in the sunshine to continue viewing the glorious scenery. As
we walked throughout the ship, we were amazed at how much viewing
space there was inside with huge windows. Outside, we joined
several people on Deck 10 forward to share the experience. Everyone
agreed that this was what we had come to see. It is quintessential
Alaska. I had cruised the inside passage 10 years previously but
had not seen Glacier Bay. Now I saw what I had missed. Do not take
this cruise unless Glacier Bay is on the itinerary. We left Glacier
Bay to head to Skagway, our first port.
There wasn't much to do around the ship so Jan & I headed
back to our room to watch a movie and fell asleep to be again
awakened by our cabin steward knocking on the door! This was our
night to eat in Sabatini's and it was money well spent. Jan was a
little skittish thinking perhaps she would not like the menu since
she is very picky. However, every course was delicious. Jan had the
chicken and I opted for the lobster trilogy. What a nice surprise
as the lobster was a perfect size and delicious. The only thing I
didn't like was their version of a Napoleon for dessert. The creme
brûlée was in a large shot glass and Jan said it was
It did not feel that late as there was still quite a bit of
daylight. Saw the late show "On the Bayou" in the Universe Lounge.
They did this show at least 4 times that night and we were so glad
we saw it. This has to be the best show I have ever seen on my 11
cruises. If you have the chance to see it, don't miss it. A visit
to the casino to chase our money and off to bed.
Thursday was our first stop at Skagway. We had booked the
breakfast/tour to the Red Onion "Brothel" and the Canadian
suspension bridge. This was the only tour we booked through
Princess and we were told to bring our passports. It was quite
chilly and a bit damp on the pier where the mountains shaded the
area. The Golden Princess was docked in front of us and there was
controlled bedlam as all the tour buses arrived. Finally all
boarded for the short ride into town where the sun was shining for
another glorious day.
First stop, the Red Onion for breakfast and a tour of the
"facility". Our hostess was the "Madam", Lacy Knickers. Awaiting us
were a choice of beverages: Mimosa, Bloody Mary, plain orange
juice, coffee or water. The Bloody Mary was our selection and it
was very mild. (Good thing or I would have slept through the rest
of the tour!) Lacy and another madam gave a short history of the
place and the "workers". A good b reakfast was served with
scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuit and sausage gravy on the side.
A walk upstairs to view the remains of the cribs and the madam's
bedroom. Tips were accepted graciously even if you didn't want to
place it in Lacy's cleavage. The ladies were very agreeable to pose
Back on the bus with our driver who was a young woman (can't
remember her name.) who was an Nome, Alaska native who "came South"
to Skagway for the season to make money for college. We hit the
Alaska highway and headed up to the Continental Divide and Canada.
On the way, the driver suddenly slowed down and yelled out "Bears
ahead!" Sure enough, there was a black bear momma and her two cubs
in the middle of the road. Hearing the bus, they started moving
quickly so we had to be fast to get some pictures. At no time was
it suggested we get off the bus. On the land tour we had heard over
and over about not getting near bears and especially cubs. Safety
We had to go through Canadian Customs to enter Canada and a
trooper boarded the bus while everyone held up their passports.
Arriving at the suspension bridge there was a person there who
would stamp our passports for us with a stamp that said "Yukon
Suspension Bridge. The area was set up to show the history of gold
mining and how it was done. Crossing the bridge we found a
facsimile trapper's cabin which was quite compact. There was the
usual opportunity to purchase trinkets and snacks then back on the
bus for our hour trip back to Skagway.
On the way, our road paralleled the train tracks for the White
Pass Railway. Talking to people who had taken this tour we found
that they thought it was pretty boring. Our tour took in all the
same scenery and was much more interesting. We were dropped in
downtown Skagway near the main drag. I had a spa appointment @ 3PM
so I wanted to expedite the souvenir shopping time.
Jan & I were in the Christmas shop checking out Made in
Alaska ornaments when I heard someone say "OMG!" Turned around to
see a former classmate of ours. Cathy had attended one semester of
nursing school and we had lost touch with her for 40 years. She had
found another of our former classmates on Facebook and re-connected
with her in Florida. We saw her at one of our reunions about 5
years ago and had been Facebook friends ever since. Never knew that
she was not only was in Alaska but also on the Island Princess with
her hubby. We made plans to meet for dinner.
Off to my spa appointment of facial, full body massage, and
foot massage. It was a special for people who purchased a Princess
excursion. It was Heaven! I was so relaxed at the end the only
thing that could have made it more perfect is if they could roll me
out of there and dump me in my bed. But we had to meet Cathy &
Dick @ 5:30 so more rest was not possible. Good thing as we
probably would have fallen asleep again!
Back to the Bordeaux dining room and received a table for 4
and it was Italian night. We had a great time catching up with
Cathy & Dick and enjoyed a good dinner at the same time. We
wanted to see the show and they were headed elsewhere so we planned
to dine together one more time and share some wine. I think this
was the night they had the Rock and Roll trivia and dance party
which was well attended and a lot of fun.
At this time, I want to comment on the cruise food. Last year,
I was disappointed in the quality of the entrees and the sides
served, especially the tiny "lobster" and shrimp combo. This year
the lobster was actually a lobster and not a prawn. I did try the
pasta special as an appetizer a few times and enjoyed it. The sides
are still the cheapest veggies you can buy, i.e.; corn and
Friday was Juneau and our whale watching trip @ 10:30 with
Harv and Marv. Jan and I walked into town early only to find the
store she wanted to see was not open yet. The weather was quite
pleasant with some clouds. We got separated and I went back on the
ship to get my phone so I could call her. I hadn't seen anyone with
a sign for Harv and Marv so I was getting concerned. Jan had
inadvertently found our ride at the opposite end of the lot where
we were looking for them. No one else had booked this trip at this
time so we had a private tour! The ride was about 20 minutes to the
other side of Juneau to the public dock. Captain Sean was our guide
for our 3.5 hour tour. Saw 6 whales and with blows and tails and
some sea lions. Alas, no bubble net feeding or breaching. Sean is a
certified cetacean behavior specialist so he was very informative
about what we were seeing. Jan had forgotten her sea-sickness patch
so she took 2 Bonine before we left. The boat was small and could
seat 6-8 but it was ours alone.
We could have gone to see Mendenhall glacier on the way back
to the ship but Jan wanted to find one store and we were sailing @
4:30 PM so just decided to skip it. We were hungry but didn't want
to eat a lot so we went up to the Grill and had hot dogs which were
actually jumbo dogs but we managed to finish without a
Saturday we landed in Ketchikan, our last stop. When we were
getting off the ship, I spotted Cathy & Dick again and we made
a date for the next night to share some wine and have a last dinner
together. Here we had booked the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman's tour
AKA "Deadliest Catch". I had all my paperwork but forgot to print
out the instructions on how to find them. We kept wandering up and
down the area by the pier and getting worried. Jan found their info
in the Tourist building and I called them. I was told to look for
the bright yellow jackets. Sure enough, there he was holding up a
Princess tour sign.
We were directed to walk down the pier and look for the
Aleutian Ballad. The last ones on board, again, and we were off for
the tour. They turned around so we could see a whale. These guys
were the real deal and no B.S. Engaging, funny, personable and
entertaining, they made this is the most outstanding tour I have
ever taken. They demonstrated how they caught a variety of seafood
and not just crab. We went to an island where there were numerous
bald eagles. Fish were chopped up and thrown in the water where the
eagles just swarmed to get it. I wish I had more memory on my
camera so I could have recorded it. We all got to hold crabs and
pose for lots of pictures. The crew was so amiable and agreeable to
take photos with every person.
This port gave us more time to wander around the downtown and
do some last minute shopping. I was in search of a way to send my
kids some fresh salmon which I had done on my last trip. The cost
to ship 1 lb. of salmon by FedEx was $280! No way was I spending
that. I settled on 1 lb. of smoked, sealed salmon that I could take
in my luggage. (They were happy to get it.)
This was the last formal night and we were invited to the Past
Passengers party. We arrived a little early and got into line. Saw
a few tuxes and sequins, mostly on older passengers and an
assortment of nice dressier clothing on others. No one looked
sloppy. The show band played dance tunes and some people danced. I
have learned to ask for the type of cocktail I want instead of
taking the pre-made ones. It was served with a smile and in a
timely manner. The Captain gave the gift to the most travelled
passenger. I think it was 600+ days! After that we headed for our
formal dinner. Jan doesn't eat fish so the job of checking out the
lobster fell to me Last year it was pathetic. This year was a big
improvement. The lobster tail was just about the size of the one I
paid $25 for in Sabatini's. This is where Princess does not
measure up to Celebrity's food. We went to the Universe Lounge for
a show by the piano man in the atrium. He did a decent job of
Sunday was our last day and it was a sea day. Jan & I went
to play Bingo in the morning and wandered around the ship checking
things out and taking pictures. Unfortunately, I found the Library
on this day and was sorry I had missed it earlier. We must have
walked by it dozens of times but on the other side of the
ship. There was a cooking demo in the Universe Lounge
followed by a galley tour.
Did spend a considerable amount of time packing since our
luggage was supposed to be out by 10:00 PM. We went down for the
last Bingo game which of course we did not win. Since I had casino
chips to cash in, I went into the casino for some last minute
action. I actually won a few dollars to be almost even but called
it quits to get ready for dinner.
This was the day we had Cathy & Dick over for some wine on
our balcony before dinner. We all went down for our last dinner and
again shared a large table. Jan & I wanted to see the last show
so we said our goodbyes and went to the theater. After that was
time to put out the luggage and get to sleep early to make our
At the beginning of this review I mentioned that our flight
home was not direct from Vancouver. Our TA had booked us on a 10:30
AM flight from Vancouver to Seattle where we would board our flight
to O'Hare. She had also gotten us a Princess transfer from the pier
to the airport. The early flight cutoff time was 10:15 AM. Posting
this info on the cruise boards got me a lot of flak from people
telling me it would never work even though Princess had given us
the transfer. One person suggested we get Global Entry cards from
the government to facilitate getting through Customs. Jan and I
felt that if spending $100 would help us make our flight, it would
be worth it. One person who had worked as a Princess boarding
agent, spelled out how the process would work and he was the only
one with correct information.
As it happened, Princess has this down to pimple on a gnat's
a$$. A few days before we disembarked, we received a letter in our
mailbox confirming that we were part of this transfer. The night
before there was detailed info with our Red-One luggage tags
assuring us we would have expedited passage through Canadian
Customs. Our luggage would be trucked ahead of us to the American
terminal at YVR.
Jan & I headed to the Buffet for our early breakfast and
where she snagged an extra chocolate croissant for the flight. We
had to meet in the Universe Lounge at 7:30. At 7:40, someone came
to get us and we all trooped up to level 7 and the gangway set up.
Everyone was instructed to have their passports, Canadian customs
forms and the little tag off the luggage tags open and available.
There was some discourse between Canadian Security and our
passenger reps to verify that we were all American citizens going
to American destinations. Off the ship into the terminal where our
passports were scrutinized by Security and the customs forms were
collected. Downstairs to the first bus in line where we showed our
little Red One tag and could put our passports away.
Even though this was Memorial Day for us, it was a regular
Monday morning in Vancouver. The driver said it would be about a 45
minute drive to the airport and he gave us some commentary as we
traveled. We arrived in 30 minutes and a Princess rep boarded the
bus to tell us how to proceed. Dropped at the American terminal, we
were directed to the end of the building where our luggage was
being unloaded. Lucky for us, it was right across from the Alaska
Airlines desk. Once we got our luggage we got in line to check in.
The AA reps came around making the announcement that if you weren't
on the 10:30 or 11:15 flights to go to the end of the line. I think
the only people in line were the ones on our bus! Paid the fees for
the luggage and then headed to Security. Something on my hands lit
up the detector and they had to swab my hands for explosive
residue. It was only hand lotion. Now to US Customs and used our
Global Entry at the kiosk to fly through this station. As it
happened there were only 4 people in line! A longish walk to our
gate and we arrived 1/2 hour before boarding.
It was just a half hour to Seattle on a turbo prop where we
deplaned on the tarmac in the rain. Trying to check in with Alaska
Airlines, we found out our flight was changed to American but at
the same time. (Poor DH at home had a heck of a time trying to find
out if or when we were arriving since the flight number was
changed.) We had a nice lunch at Chili's which was directly across
from our gate and took the leftovers with us for "dinner". Landed
on time at O'Hare, got the luggage quickly, DH was there to pick us
up and our beautiful trip was over.