Year Started: 1965
Ships in Fleet: 18
Summary: Princess is one of the most consistently excellent cruise lines in the upper mainstream to premium group. All the diversity of larger ships but personalized service.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Disabled Travelers. Overall Service.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.
Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Overall Service. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Good for: Seniors.
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.
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.
Royal Princess Inaugural Caribbean Cruise Oct.29- Nov. 3, 2013
There is nothing like the excitement of arriving at a cruise port on sailing day, and looking for that first glimpse of your ship through the shuttle bus window. "There she is," we all exclaimed on the bus, "she is so big!"
We arrived on the morning of October 29 at approximately 10 a.m. There were no line-ups, and surprisingly, we were processed through security, registration desk and up into the waiting lounge in less than half an hour. After about an hour's wait, our Platinum status allowed us to be one of the first to board the Royal Princess, and first impressions were she was lovely! The magnificent atrium area, called the Piazza, was beautiful, classy, and the columns of light on either side of the stairways were breathtaking.
There was a very good band playing to welcome passengers with some Caribbean music. They were called "Steele" and
The first order of business as usual was lunch! We made our way up to Deck 16 to the Horizon Court Bistro where tantalizing reats awaited. My first discovery, situated between the two halves of the buffet area was called The Pastry Shop. Oh my, the heavenly smells that emanated from there! I had to walk through and goggle at the all the delectable treats, even though I could not eat most of them. I was pleasantly surprised though to discover that each day, at least one gluten-free dessert was offered, and they were always delicious!
After a lovely first lunch we embarked on a "Treasure Hunt". At boarding, we were given cards featuring many of the shops and specialty areas on the ship, and were encouraged to find these places, collect a stamp at each one, then drop the card into a box for a raffle prize draw at sailaway. I thought it was a great way to discover the ship, find our way around, meet the staff, and encourage people to attend the sailaway party.
One of our first stops on the treasure hunt was The Sanctuary, located on Deck 17 forward. First you come to the Retreat Pool, a fairly large rectangular pool surrounded by lounge chairs and tented cabanas.The pool and regular chairs were free to use, but the cabanas had to be rented at $50 for a half day or $80 for a full day.
Then, into the private entrance of The Sanctuary,where things got even more expensive. Beautiful cushioned lounge chairs could be rented, as well as tented cabanas and what looked like mini apartments,complete with comfortable couches, lounges, flat screen TVs, and mini bar, all tastefully decorated, comfortable and very private. There were also smaller rooms available for massage treatments and total relaxation.
People were lined up to book their time in TheSanctuary, but were told they had to come every morning around 8:30 to book for that day. Beautiful as it was, we never did go back as it was totally out of our price range.
After touring the ship and collecting our treasure hunt stamps, we made our way to our cabin on Baha Deck 11, midship.This proved to be a fortunate location because we were in close walking distance to the main midship elevators. Unfortunately, there were no staircases located midship, only forward and aft, so even if you wanted to walk up or down a floor or two, you always had to wait for the elevator. This was the first of many design flaws we were to find on the ship.
Our cabin was ready by the time we got there at 1:30; nicely decorated, comfortable if a bit small, but it had plenty of storage space with a large open double closet and many drawers situated in the bedside tables and desk.
Ours was a balcony cabin and the balcony was tiny, barely fitting the two chairs and tiny table.
The bathroom was even smaller. As someone later pointed out, if you were to take the shower out of the bathroom, the remaining space was no bigger than an airline toilet. I often kept the door open while in the bathroom because not only did it make me feel claustrophobic, but I kept banging my elbow on the door while standing at the counter. Come to think of it, another reason for keeping the door open was the fact that there was no exhaust fan in the tiny room, so it very quickly steamed up if the shower was on. Oh, and I mustn't forget design flaw #2: the toilet roll holder. Every single person I talked to over the course of the two weeks we spent on the ship said the same thing; "what's with the placement of the toilet roll holder?" If you were seated, the toilet roll with its annoying metal flap cover was situated behind you and under the sink counter, so that you almost needed to be a contortionist to reach it, and being cheap thin paper, it often ripped off in little bits several times before you got enough to use. Speaking of cheap and thin, the towels fell into that category as well. I thought for a beautiful big new ship like the Royal Princess, we would have luxurious "royal" towels, but the towels and facecloths were thin, and had the texture of fine sandpaper.
After unpacking and settling in, the inevitable muster drill was called around 3:15 p.m. Our muster station was in a main thoroughfare area outside Princess Live! television studio on Deck 7. We had to drag our life jackets down the stairs far far down the hall, and line up in very cramped quarters for the demonstrations and announcements. At least it was air conditioned...one step above being lined up on a hot deck outdoors.
This was followed by the Sailaway party on Lido deck 16 by the main pool. Another very good band called "The Volume" were playing by the pool, and all the entertainment staff were in attendance, encouraging people to dance and also giving out raffle prizes from the treasure hunt. Sadly, I didn't win anything. At this point, we found our friends who were traveling with us on this cruise and we celebrated sailaway with a couple of drinks and a heartfelt "Cheers".
When it was time to actually depart, the Royal Princess's horn announced her departure with a tooting rendition of "The Love Boat Theme". We were on our way!
Following the sailaway, where we had filmed our departure from the upper pool deck, we were coming down the outside stairs back to the pool deck, when I missed the last step and fell down the stairs. Nobody's fault but mine, I just didn't see the last step. I fell heavily on my bad hip, and smacked my shin bone on the bottom step, never dropping the two plastic glasses I was carrying! Back in the cabin I had to ice the injury for awhile, the swelling and bruising was extensive.
By 6:30 I was recovered enough to go to dinner.We had chosen "Anytime Dining", so were directed to the Symphony Dining Room. It was spacious, beautiful, and I loved the entrance decor of what resembled silver and gold Christmas balls.
Our waiter that first night was James "007", who was very funny and gave us great friendly service. Our first meal consisted of grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans for me, and leek & cheese tart, shrimp cocktail and mushroom soup for James, all was very good. Dessert was a delicious creme brule, and flourless (gluten-free) chocolate cake.
A very good dinner was followed by a very good Welcome Aboard show in the Princess Theatre. It was extremely packed by 8:30 when we got there, and we were lucky to get seats, because it was soon full.
The Princess singers and dancers were fabulous; energetic, talented, and they put on a good show. Our cruise director Sam Hawker-Thompson introduced herself and her entertainment staff, and she and they proved to be personable and funny. The headlining comedian of the week, Carlos Oscar, did a short act that had me in tears, I was laughing so hard. We looked forward to seeing more of him later in the week.
Despite the fact it had been a very long and busy day, we still had time and energy for one more bit of entertainment before bedtime - Trivia in the Princess Live! TV studio. This theatre is a new endeavour for Princess, and was the focus spot for karaoke, interactive trivia, game shows, and daily live television broadcasts of the Wake Show hosted by the cruise director Sam and her sidekick Deputy Dan.
All in all, a very successful first day, toilet roll holder aside, and we were off to bed looking forward to Day 2 in Princess Cays...
We’re frequent cruisers and just completed our first Princess cruise in July (2013), taking the Diamond Princess from Anchorage to Vancouver. Overall, we’d say, regretfully, that the highly touted Diamond did not live up to its rating.
There were many areas where Princess could greatly improve. To start with, check-in was very arduous. It took 45 minutes for my son and me to check in, while other passengers were whizzing through in 3 to 5 minutes. Even my wife and daughter, who had a separate cabin and were helped by a different attendant, got checked in a matter of minutes and had to wait for us. I can only ascribe our misfortune to the particular attendant who was checking us in. She asked for help from a manager and a co-worker, and then still took a long time after those others helped her. Her excuse: our records were not in the computer and had to be re-entered. Twice. Really? Maybe you’ll be lucky and get one of the properly-trained check-in attendants, but why should there even be this kind of glitch? For us this was a really inauspicious start of the journey.
TheDiamond Princess drastically needs to better train its desk staff. It’s our habit to call the desk from our cabin for information - it’s just faster than going down to the desk. But at least 5 times when we called the front desk no one answered, even after up to 15 rings. There was no voicemail system. We found this frustrating, disturbing, and unusual -- on Celebrity or Carnival ships someone picked up the phone within 2 rings. There was one time a staff member did answer the phone and I asked the hours of the child care center. It took the staff member 9 minutes to find out the answer, and the information she gave actually turned out to be incorrect. During the cruise we checked our folio from time to time at the front desk and we found an erroneous charge. It took the desk staff over a day to figure out the issue with the charge. Really? - a one day turnaround time on a 7-day cruise? All in all, desk service was unacceptable.
We had a 5-year old “princess” in our party but there were very few kid-friendly amenities onboard the Diamond Princess. Yes, they did have the child-care service but there was almost nothing a family could do with their young children. Other cruise lines offer miniature golf, water slides, a sprinkler park, even rock-climbing. Carnival has basketball courts and a jogging track. The Diamond Princess had nothing like that besides ping pong and swimming. In our opinion this limited whole family activities significantly.
Princess did get some of the basics down. Cruising through Glacier National Park was memorable, with the innumerable ice floes and glaciers. The weather was so temperate you really did not need a heavy coat to sightsee from the deck. We also greatly enjoyed the food in the main dining room, and the service of our waiters and our cabin steward were unimpeachable. (We’ve also found excellent dining room food and steward service to be the case with Carnival and Celebrity, the other cruise lines we’ve toured with. Cruise lines have this down.) Food in the cafeteria was more limited. Eggs Benedict and a custom noodle bar, which were standard in the Carnival cafeteria, were noticeably missing on the Diamond Princess.
All in all, we probably will not cruise Princess again. They offer nothing beyond the other cruise lines, and were found deficient in a number of areas we feel are very important.
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.
This was my very first time ever on any Cruise Ship and it was on the Ruby my dad and a friend of ours in the family went with us and we had the time of our lives.
We left Dec 2nd 2012 for Princess Cays we did a tour there and it was so much fun - I have never seen the whole island before and it was a experience for us.
The next day we were at sea and it was so much fun being on a ship for the first time in one whole day I met alot of new people i went swimming and it was wonderful, the next day we went to st Maarten and did a tour there to that was alot of fun then the next day we went to st thomas the island was so beautiful i have never been there before i did a tour there to but don't remember what it was but it was so much fun. the last stop was the grand turks seeing the island was alot of fun the tour was awesome and hopeto go back there sometime soon.
The last day we were at sea and there was a pool party and a band from England played they were my favorite the whole Cruise i saw them like more then once and count how many times but it was plenty they knew me by name and i keep in contact with once of them they were very sweet girls. All in all the first time on my first cruise will be something i will always remember it was hard to leave everyone because they were so nice.
Plus - Allan and La Donna they get into the swing of the passengers
Negative - Shrimp cocktail with tomato ketchup and a hint of horse raddish flavour (not) as a sauce, followed by ribs with BBQ sauce (tomato ketchup with hint of Worcestershire sauce) Sorry chef get your sauces sorted.