Princess Cruises Reviews

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.


Princess Cruise Ships

37 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal

Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.

40 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia

Good for: Families. Teens. Children`s Programs.

15 Reviews

Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.

62 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Group.

7 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.

14 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic

Good for: Seniors. Disabled Travelers. Overall Service.

35 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

69 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America

Good for: Families. Overall Service. Seniors.

66 Reviews

Regions:Canada, Caribbean, Europe

Good for: Families. Seniors. First-time Cruisers.

28 Reviews

Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America

Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.

33 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe

Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.

80 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico

Good for: Overall Service. Seniors. Families.

23 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal

Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.

12 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe

3 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii

Good for: Seniors.

12 Reviews


Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.

13 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal

Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.

33 Reviews

Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti

Good for: Overall Service. Disabled Travelers. Seniors.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
from 582 reviews


Service Level

Value for Money

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Kid's Programs

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Alternative Dining

User Reviews

582 User Reviews of Princess Ships
Dictatorial staff and dismissive service
Publication Date: August 11, 2014

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 – 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 don’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 items

quickly finished so we had to be there when the restaurants opened.

Otherwise, the ship is beautiful and the entertainment diverse and of adequate quality.

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Princess Alaska Cruise Tour
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
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. Seemed
like 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.
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Alaska CruiseTour - Off the Beaten Path and Cruise of the Glaciers
Publication Date: July 28, 2014

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. Seemed like 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.


Each lodge had at least a coffee bar of some sort, a casual-ish bar

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What's not true
Publication Date: July 5, 2014

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.

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Royal Caribbean Innaugural Caribbean Oct. 29- Nov. 3 2013 (part 1)
Publication Date: November 26, 2013

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!"
Comments here:

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
we enjoyed them throughout the cruise.

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 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...

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Alaska Land/Sea May, 2013
Publication Date: November 21, 2013

Island Princess/Alaska/Land/Sea

Island Princess
May 15-27, 2013


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 surrounding areas.
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 also waiting.
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 light.
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 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 large herds.
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 1.000.
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 friends.
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 perfect.
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 for pictures.
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 was paramount.
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 zucchini.
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 problem.
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 entertaining us.
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 early alarm.
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.
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Princess needs to get their act together
Publication Date: September 8, 2013

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.


Diamond 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.

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Food and Service was Wonderful. Ship showing it's Age
Publication Date: May 30, 2014

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.



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great time on first cruise
Publication Date: November 21, 2013

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 hope

to 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.

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Mixed feelings
Publication Date: September 28, 2013

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.

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