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:Canada, Caribbean, Europe
Good for: Families. First-time Cruisers. Overall Service.
Regions:Alaska, California Coastal, Panama Canal
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, South America
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Good for: Group. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Asia & Africa, Australia
Good for: 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:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Alaska, California, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Singles.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Europe, Hawaii
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Value for Money. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Europe, Transatlantic
Good for: Overall Service. Teens. Children`s Programs.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, Mexico
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, Panama Canal
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Alaska, California, Hawaii, South America
Good for: Families. Overall Service. Teens.
Regions:Asia & Africa, Australia, South Pacific, Tahiti
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
the cruise was awesome the ship was great the staff were excellent but the food was terrible .It was cold not well presented in the buffet areas . We tied the restaurants and not much better.the internet service was horrible ,never worked very slow When I got back I phoned Princess about this cruise and complained . They gave me no satisfactory reason for this bad food and internet service , so I asked for some rebate of my fare. they told me to seek legal council. Not a great pr move on their part, so I guess it is buyer beware . Plus we had an outbreak(supposedly) of noro virus on board, 50 sick out of 2600+crew. I really do not think it was noro virus ,since this spreads very quickly. My thoughts are with food poisoning because of cold food. Hopefully cruisemates will be unbiased and release this review
My husband and I absolutely loved this cruise and will do it again in a couple of years. It was second time on the Dawn Princess we did an island south pacific cruise in October 2011. The ship was going into dry dock when we got back to Australia and needed it. The ship is looking decidedly tired and in need of a makeover.
We could not fault the service by the crew but Princess do seem to not be organised well when dealing with US immigration day for all the passengers. Princess need to have more control over passengers when these days occur and also when there are people who line up for whatever reason.
Other than that the cruise was wonderful and the ship covered all our needs, with entertainment and things to do. I did the watercolour classes and Ian enjoyed the competitions for golf etc. As we have just completed our third cruise with Princess I would like to see less of the same people who entertain, and some are below standard.
We have had the same comedian on all cruises and he not that good, and hestates the same jokes for at least half his routine. The shows are great by the dancers and singers but again they need a bit more of a change as we have seen some twice and as we would like to do more Princess cruises would like to know we get variation. This also applies to the movies in the theatre, more variety and more up todate would be good as I do not see many back home and this is one of my things I enjoy on the cruise.
Will probably go with Princess again due to coming out of Sydney so much but will also look at some of the others for a change. Library was good, internet expensive and naturally depending on signal can be a pain, deck chairs need an upgrade some very grubby and old looking, clean otherwise on ship, and most service was great.
GRAND PRINCESS Southern Caribbean Cruise March 17-24, 2012 By Mary & Vincent Finelli
When the Grand Princess entered Venice, Italy in 1998 for the first time, it was said: That the only thing more brilliant than the sight of the Grand Princess on the Venetian Lagoon is the sunrise! She was truly innovative then and now; even though her spoiler has been removed, she still is a splendid sight. The spoiler once held the lively Skywalker Nightclub; suspended high above the ship and the sea, cruisers danced the night away among the stars. Reached only by elevator and escalator, it was a veritable gorgeous crow's nest.
This was our third cruise aboard the Grand and she is just as lovely now as on our first trip during her inaugural year. This cruise is billed "Discover Old World Charm:" and there's plenty of it from the hub of the Piazza (Square) with "Vines" and its fine wine selection to the new "Alfredo's Pizzeria." The marvelous continuous entertainment in the Piazza was headlined every afternoon by guitarist Ron Steta. Then of course between 3:30 and 4:30pm, there is High Tea in the Da Vinci DiningRoom. Fit for a queen, with the whole gamut: from water cress sandwiches to fresh hot scones --- all served with white gloves. Captain Anthony Herriot (England) and Hotel General Manager Richard Harry (England) are the two men on board who are the keepers of "Old World Charm."
Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is easily accessed from I-95 after a short ride from Boca Raton. We arrived at 12:45pm and dropped off our luggage curbside. We were through check in and on board in less than ten minutes. This is an excellent use of deck by deck boarding and priority boarding for elite members. Our cabin was ready, and we left our hand luggage and were off to the Welcome Aboard Buffet.
We wrote a review on the Grand during her inaugural year; wherein we described her deck by deck in detail, so this review will center on the general ambiance and the many on board possibilities. The Grand was built in 1998 and refurbished in 2011. She is 109,900 tons and registered in Bermuda. Her length is 951 ft. and beam is 118 ft.. She has a passenger capacity of 2,600 and a crew of 1,200 (an excellent passenger to crew ratio). There is a total of 372 inside cabins and 928 outside cabins of which 710 have verandahs. There are 215 suites. There are three dinner seatings: 5:30pm, 6:00pm and 8:15pm. We were in the first seating and found 5:30pm a bit too early even for us to dine. Especially after tea at 4:00pm There are 12 Bars & Lounges, a Casino and Chapel and 12 elevators plus on board self service laundromats. There are a library, where tea is also served, a theater, a giant outdoor screen for "Movies under the Stars", on board shops, a health spa and a video arcade. The physical fitness facilities include basket ball, golf simulation, a jogging track, four swimming pools (one heated) and eight whirlpools. There are children's facilities including a playroom, kiddie pool, youth program and teen center.
Our wheelchair accessible cabin #A304 was on Aloha Deck 12. When entering on the right is a triple armoire: two sections are for hanging clothes and the third has a personal safe and six shelves. Next, there is a TV and a refrigerator with a complimentary bar set up for Elite Members of the "Captain's Circle." Then, there is a long desk/vanity with lighted mirror and four drawers.
When entering on the left, there is a huge bathroom with an extra large shower 4'X 4' with a folding seat. There is a single sink with mirror and several shelves for sundries. Next is the king size bed (at just the right height) flanked by night stands, each with a reading lamp a top shelf and four drawers. There is an upholstered barrel chair, a desk chair and a small wood and glass coffee table.
The far wall has a sliding glass door to the balcony -- on which are two chairs, a table and a chaise which Dixon, our excellent steward, added for Vincent. Housekeeper Violetta Cecane was very courteous and helpful and made sure that the service remained excellent throughout the cruise. The interior of the stateroom is mostly beige trimmed nicely in walnut wood. The carpet is a diamond patterned burnished red. There is one huge picture of a small row boat with its reflection sharply delineated in the clear water of a bay. In the background, there is a small whitewashed town and a hill. The drapes and the headboard of the bed are a soft blue accented by a beige trellis pattern. All pleasant and comforting.
FOOD & SERVICE
We always say the quality of the service filters down from the top -- Capt. Herriott and Hotel General Manager Richard Harry set the very British tone and it is terrific. As elite passengers (more than 15 cruises), many things are gratis: complimentary bar set up, laundry, shoe shines, afternoon tea in the cabin, etc....
Vincent took advantage of the the laundry service and was very satisfied. Mary took advantage of the afternoon tea served in the cabin and made a standing order for all week. Which she later modified, since on the first afternoon the Bell Box waiter arrived with a full High Tea for Two: Two pots of hot water, a sampling of 12 types of tea, two plates of dainty sandwiches, eight scones with whipped cream and raspberry preserves, eight pastries and eight fruit concoctions. This is as close to heaven as it gets! Needless to say, Mary modified the order to just tea and scones for the rest of the week: Excellent and only available on the Princess ships. The butler will also stay and serve if one desires. Next time we travel with friends, tea will be at the top of our agenda.
Breakfast -- we always have in our stateroom. We complete the selections the night before and hang the menu on our door knob. The next morning at 7:00am promptly it arrives. There is an English muffin sandwich: fried egg, Canadian bacon and cheese, very nice. We also selected coffee, hot chocolate, orange juice and half of a grapefruit, cold cereal, yogurt, plain or fruited, rolls, toast, croissants and brioches are all available. Or just go up to the buffet or down to the Da Vinci Dining Room, from 7:30 to 9:30, for sit down service.
Luncheon on the Princess has a full menu -- including pasta courses (Amatriciana, Carbonara, Puttanesca, etc...). Every day fried calamari are available. Some of the lunch items are usually dinner items on other lines: Vitello tonnato, mixed English grill (tiny lamb chops, bangers, veal kidney and beef medallions). Our favorite place for lunch was Alfredo's Pizzeria, where personal pizzas were created for each diner.
Dinner was exceptional every evening. The courteous and friendly Maitre D' Fabio Marcotti assigned us an easily accessible table #01, near the entrance of the Michelangelo Dining Room, which was very much appreciated by Mary who could park her wheelchair within a few step from it. Head Waiter Antoine and Head Waiter Victor saw that service was snappy and courteous. Our waitress Elena was from Romania; she was fast and flawless. Her assistant was Franco from Mexico and he couldn't be nicer.
Service and food on board are excellent.
Cruise Director Billy London has things well in hand and the "Princess Patter" lists the myriad of activities available daily. From Trivia Games, Bingo, Movies, and live entertainment to Wine Tasting with the Sommelier on board, there is much to do. The entertainment in the Piazza lends the atmosphere of "Old World Charm." Ship's musicians, comedians and variety entertainers performed throughout the day in the Piazza. Most of them were good, but our favorite was the guitarist Ron Steta, who had a lovely repertoire of old popular and classic melodies. He performed at least once a day throughout the week.
Enchanted Evening entertainment is emphasized mainly in "Showtime" presented in the Princess Theater and/or the Vista Lounge, twice each night, at 8:15 and 10:15 to accommodate first and second dinner seatings. Showtime consisted of a couple of Las Vegas type shows, several comedy shows and concerts with the Moonlight String Quartet, with guitarist Ron Seta and the Grand Princess Orchestra and with a solo pianist entertainer Alan Shiels. In addition there are some variety shows with a hypnotist and two jugglers.
"Movies under the Stars" is also a popular venue in the morning, afternoon and evening for those who enjoy open air entertainment. Concerts, documentaries and movies are usually shown in the morning; then in the afternoon there are Matinee movies; and in the evening, a main feature movie is projected along with the typical popcorn treat. There is fun for the whole family and everybody else.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Sail Away 4:15pm
Day 2. At Sea
Day 3. AT Sea
Day 4. Oranjestad, Aruba Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm
Day 5. Willemstad, Curacao Arrive 7:00am Depart 1:00pm
Day 6. At Sea
Day 7. Princess Cays, Bahamas Arrive 8:30am Depart 3:30pm
Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL Arrive 7:00am
This was a snap. Those needing wheelchair assistance met in the Casino. There was a steward to accompany us to baggage pick up and from there a porter assisted us through customs and passport check. The whole procedure took 15 minutes. Excellent!
This was our seventeenth cruise on Princess ships and the third on the Grand, and again a wonderful one. It feels nice to be pampered and appreciated. We enjoy the freebies reserved for the Captain's Circle Elite members, thus we plan to cruise more frequently on Princess. The only difference we noticed between our first cruise on the Grand and this one was our difficulty accessing certain areas, such as the Promenade and the Pool, since now both of us have limited mobility; before, when at least one of us was able and strong, we could open the heavy doors, but now we have to wait for some other person to hold the doors for us. However, on the newer Princess ships, we have noticed the improvements toward making a more wheelchair friendly environment, with automatic door openers and smoother thresholds. Thanks, Princess for listening to our suggestion. We have already booked a future cruise on the Ruby Princess for November 4, 2012. Happy Cruising!
GRAND PRINCESS EASTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE
This was my third Princess and my tenth cruise overall. For my friend Jan, it was her first ever cruise and she couldn't have been more impressed. We left the hubbies home for a girls' week of fun. Stayed at the Embassy Suites 1 day pre-cruise which was an excellent choice. We had booked Princess transfers and the move from the airport to the hotel was seamless. Our room wasn't ready so we left our bags with the bell desk and set off in search of lunch since breakfast had been at the airport around 6:30 AM. Jan had some recommendations from a co-worker who had lived in Ft. Lauderdale so we chose Anthony's oven-fired pizza. Not knowing where it was, we took the shuttle for $3/pp. It turned out not to be very far from the hotel.
We decided on sharing a large salad and ordered a personal pizza each. It was way too much for us to finish so we took the leftovers with us. The shuttle driver had given us his card so we could call for a pickup but he was stuckin a traffic jam on RT 75. Looking at the street signs, I figured out that we were only a few blocks from 17th Street so we walked back to the hotel w/o any problems. There was a CVS pharmacy right on the corner which was great since I had forgotten a few personal items.
Back at the hotel, our room was ready so we were happy to sit down in the air-conditioning and put our feet up for a few minutes. I don't know what it was, but we both were complaining of swollen feet which made walking around rather uncomfortable. After a brief rest, we took off in search of the Total Wine shop. Everyone said it was right behind the hotel but what they don't say is that there is quite a nice strip mall there and the wine store was in the far left corner. I even had some coupons to use. Purchasing one bottle apiece seemed to be the limit of our alcohol consumption.
Proceeding to the Dollar Store which is kitty-corner from the front of the hotel in another strip mall, we got gift bags for our Meet and Greet gift exchange. At this point, it was getting dark and we were getting tired. I was cranky because my feet hurt so we headed back to the hotel for the free evening cocktail hour. One drink each seemed to satisfy our thirst and made us very relaxed. Still full from the pizza, we opted out of dinner and headed back to our room for a shower and bed.
Setting the wake up call for 8 AM, we were up early and started getting cleaned up for breakfast. Our breakfast was great with made to order omelets and other things. The letter from the cruise line told us to have our bags outside our rooms by 10 AM and be in the lobby at noon for check in with the Princess reps. They were late so everyone was milling around getting antsy to leave. General chaos reigned as everyone tried to get their health forms and to identify their luggage for transport. This was the only problem with using the Princess transfers. Once the buses arrived and everyone had their luggage loaded, it was much better. Dropped us at the correct pier where we took our carry-ons through Security and checked in to receive our room keycards. We stopped for the boarding photo and then went up the correct ramp according to our cabin number. Found our room without any problem and dropped our stuff.
Our cabin attendant was Savone from VietNam and he got everything we asked for; robes, top sheets, extra hangers, 2 tote bags. He was quick with cleaning the room when we were at breakfast and did a superb job.
We were in Caribe 308. The room looked identical to the one I had previously on the Grand in 2008. I was disappointed in the balcony. Although it was quite spacious, there was no rubber matting and the 2 chairs were recliners but no foot stools so they were actually not very comfortable. The reason that was given to other cruisers for the lack of matting was weight which is ridiculous when you realize the ship lost 4 Tons with the removal of Skywalkers. What was 113,000 RT in 2008, is now 109,000 RT. The probable reason is cost cutting.
Jan wanted to do the "Treasure Hunt" card we were given upon boarding. It required you to find different departments on the ship and receive a stamp for each one. We dropped the cards into a box by the pool for a drawing. The nice thing about it was it makes you become familiar with the ship. Jan was totally blown away by the beauty and size of the Grand. She kept saying she felt she was in the first class section of the Titanic! This was the only frame of reference that she had to cruising. We ran up to the Sanctuary to reserve some space for a sea day only to be told we had to be there @ 8 AM on the day desired. International Cafe won our lunch choice for shrimp and chicken salad.
While eating we heard the first announcement for the muster drill telling us to bring our life jackets with us. When we got to our room, the luggage was there so we dragged it in and got ready for the muster drill. With the Costa Concordia disaster so fresh in everyone's minds, I have to say this was the most attentive muster drill I have ever attended. Next up was the sail away by the pool with the band and lots of fun and excitement. Our names were not drawn for the Treasure Hunt but it was fun anyway. Got our specialty drinks and watched the ship leave the pier.
Back to the room to unpack and clean up for dinner. We had Anytime Dining and this was the first time I had tried it. I think it worked very well and I would do it again. First night at 7:00 was very busy but we got a pager and only had to wait 20 minutes. We agreed to share a table at every dinner and met lots of very nice people. I was wondering how Jan would like the menus as she is a picky eater. Princess now has "Down-home" entrees on the menu and Jan ate them at least 3 times.
There was quite a range of ages onboard from a 6 month old baby on up. It was nice because the late night activities were well attended. The Princess Pop Star competition was quite good and we really enjoyed attending it. Some very talented people were there. We went to the casino and I started out with a bang by winning almost $200. Jan won $30 on the slots.
Sunday was a sea day and One5 was the location for our CC meeting. The Meet and Greet was a big success. We met the Captain, Purser, Maitre'd, Executive Chef and Trent, Customer Relations. ( A real cutie!) Jan and I got our pictures taken with Captain Bilton who was so nice and accommodating. We met lots of nice people and loved crossing paths with them all during the trip. Tried the pool that day but it was rather windy and had some sprinkles. Of course we went to Bingo at least 5 times and never did win but we had fun anyway. Our first formal night we had to wait a short time with the pager but sat in the Piazza and watched the fashion show. Turned out we got a table for 2! Lots of jokes about our "romantic" dinner. Saw the comedian show and it was ok. Lots of people were walking out. Back to the casino and I won big again. Jan hit the slots for $65.
Monday was a partial sea/tour day. We arrived in San Juan @ 4 PM and we had planned a tour. Jan had never been to any of these places so we did a tour at each stop. In SJ, we went to San Cristobal fort for a self-guided tour and then a short stop in Old SJ for shopping. Jan loves to shop so she was in hog heaven in every port. Back to the ship for dinner and see a show but don't remember which one. We were too pooped to stay up too late and the casino did not open until 11 PM. Saw the first part of Princess Pop Star and thought it was very entertaining.
Tuesday was St. Maarten and this was the best tour we took. Booked the Orient Beach stop with lunch which was very good and 2 drinks. The beach was very nice and the water had big waves which I love!. I was sorry I didn't have a boogie board to ride them. We come from Chicago where not only is our land flat but so is our water. Lake Michigan is not known for it's surf. LOL! Going back to the ship we could have gotten off the bus to go shopping but we had done some with the local vendors and were anxious to get the sand out of our bathing suits. Another nice dinner and back to the casino again. This time Jan won $300 on the slots and I didn't know when to quit when I had doubled my money and had a loss.
Wednesday was St. Thomas and we thought we were being so good to get up at 6:30 to we could eat breakfast before going on our tour to Magen's Bay. Thinking we had lots of time, we decided to go to the dining room for breakfast and as usual, were chatting away with our table mates while eating our meal. Excused ourselves to go back to the room and get our suits on for the tour. Looking at my watch, I was shocked to see it was 8:39 as our tour left at 8:20! We threw on our suits and ran off the ship to see no one waiting for us. Jan was for grabbing a cab to Magen's Bay and catching up with the tour. At this point, it started raining and I was not too keen on that idea. Back to the Shore Excursion desk where they were so kind to book us on another tour leaving in an hour.
Changed out of our suits and were on time for this tour which took us around part of the island and to Blackbeard's castle and it's 99 steps down to street level. From there we hit street level and all the shops in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Our best stop was Mr. Tablecloth where we both scored great Christmas linens. Jan really wanted to go to the flea market to score some deals and I was ok for a while but, still suffering with swollen feet I headed back to the ship by taxi. I sat on the balcony and finally opened up my bottle of wine. Jan came back just long enough to get more cash and run back to the shops on the pier to make one more purchase. We stood on our balcony and watched the Eurodam back out first while we waited our turn. Hearing some cries of "wait, wait, don't leave without us" directed our attention to the entrance to the pier to see several young women running to our ship. I heard someone on a balcony above us saying she heard the ship was missing 6 passengers. The "missing" made it to the gangplank where they boarded and were duly checked in. Back to the casino where Jan won another $300 and I was chasing my money. Saw the Motor City show and liked it but everyone who saw the Magician said he was fabulous. Sorry we missed him. Stayed up late to watch a movie in the Vista lounge; "The Debt" which neither of us had seen before.
Thursday was our last sea day and I ran upstairs at 8 AM to reserve our spot in the Sanctuary from 1-5 PM. Jan got her lounger in the sun but I am definitely a shade girl and I had trouble finding and keeping a spot. Most of the loungers are set up for 2 together so the odd single person is hard to accommodate. Everyone talked about how great the service was up there but honestly, no one came around with water spritzers, I-pods or menus. I asked for a menu and finally got one. Jan and I both ordered something and waited quite a while for it to arrive. Turns out one of the waiters dropped a whole tray full of lunches and they had to re-make everything. I wanted the tuna pate with pita bread but the "tuna" was not what I received. Vlade from Macedonia was knocking himself out to please us. I mentioned the food error and he went to get us 2 additional entrees as well as to replace my mistaken order. We ended up with 3 lunches!
We went to the Captain's Circle cocktail party in the Vista lounge that I was invited to as a repeat cruiser and got a free drink and snacks. I have learned not to accept the drinks the bar staff is pushing at these things and wait for someone to ask me what I want. The Captain was very welcoming and mentioned that there were so many repeaters so they had 3 of these meetings scheduled. Off to our last formal night and sat with one couple from Texas and 2 couples from Canada. There were 7 lobster dinners and 1 short ribs. (guess who?) I was very disappointed in this meal as I think they feel that the lobster is the star of the plate. It was served with white rice and carrots. This is an elegant dinner? I thought the presentation was not that great. There was a sorbet for the Chef's Special night which I passed on as I am diabetic and thought it would be too sweet. No one at the table liked the combination of flavors, especially with a sprig of thyme in it.
Back to the casino where they finally got us good and we left with our tails between our legs. Saw the show British Invasion and it was not bad but the usual cruise ship show.
Friday was our Princess Cays day and we had rented a bungalow. Unfortunately or not, we slept in and had a late breakfast. Our priority tender tickets were a moot point since almost everyone who wanted to be off the ship was already there. Jan had popped for the Gourmet Lunch which they wanted to serve us immediately. We prevailed upon them to wait a little time. The appetizer alone was enough for a meal. They brought 8 dinner rolls for the 2 of us! Vlade was our server at the bungalow also and brought us plates loaded with everything on the buffet table. There was enough food for 4 people. We had a table with 4 small chairs in the bungalow and 4 loungers outside it. I was never a big fan of the beach there and even though we both had surf shoes we did not really venture too far into the water because of all the rocks. After Orient Beach, this is actually a come-down. Princess really has a huge facility there with 3 different buffet areas, very nice clean bathrooms and some vendors. Jan wanted to do her last bit of shopping so we ventured outside the gates to the small area of vendors there. It was the usual tourist stuff but Jan found some jewelry for her granddaughter. I was all shopped out by that time. The line for the tenders was long but moved fast. It was good to get back on the ship.
Being the last night for our cruise, it was a bittersweet ending. We went for anytime dinner and ended up at a table for 4 which we shared with one of the couples from our first night! We decided to head back to the cabin just to get everything packed so we could enjoy the last evening. Back to the casino for one last chance and joined all the other losers. One of the nice things about playing the table games, you get to know several people because you all are there together every evening. We crashed for the last time and set a wake up time for 7 AM.
Our last breakfast was in the buffet and we shared that with one of the couples from our formal night dinner. Jan had just discovered the chocolate croissants and grabbed one for the wait in the airport. Our disembarkation group met in Explorers lounge and we were only there for about 15 minutes before we were called to disembark. Found our luggage, went through customs and headed for the bus to the airport. While we were sitting waiting for our flight we heard people talking about an outbreak of illness on other ships. So glad it wasn't on the Grand!
Hubby picked us up at Midway Airport and our vacation was over but not forgotten. All in all, we had a great time and Jan can't wait to take her next one. We are hoping to get our nursing school classmates together for a 4-5 day reunion cruise next year.
A Royal Caribbean Fan Impressed by Princess
We (DW & I, 50's), did a Southern Caribbean cruise on Crown Princess (private island of Princess Cays, Curacao, Aruba). Crown Princess, (in our opinion at least), offered a great cruise with nothing lacking.
PRE-CRUISE: We booked Embassy Suites through Princess (included transfers from the airport to the hotel to the ship the next day). No complaints about the hotel itself (Princess arrangements were another story). They had a free manager's reception for two hours Friday night (free drinks, snacks), plus a very nice breakfast the next morning. I would stay at Embassy again, but I probably wouldn't book through Princess. We had to be with our bags in our room at 9AM (they came to take the bags around 9:45), then we had to go to the lobby at 11AM, identify our bags, then check in with a Princess Rep to get a seat on the bus to the Port. That basically blew the whole morning which could have been spent seeing more of the local sites. We were assigned the first of two buses to leave the hotel for a five minute drive.Our luggage has a mind of its own apparently; it decided to take the second bus. By the time we got our bags, tipped the porter for moving them two feet, and approached the embarkation desks, it was after 1PM. I can't really comment about Embarkation itself: it was very easy, but by time we went through the whole process, almost everyone else was onboard.
THE SHIP: Crown Princess: immaculately clean, a very beautiful ship. We had a Caribe Deck Balcony cabin, mid-ship with a large balcony. No towel animals (Does Princess not do this? Talked to others who had none), but a very attentive Room Steward. Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion, along with medium sized soap bars were provided in abundance. CNN and ESPN (but often the International versions) could be found on tv along with numerous other channels. Lacking: many newer ships allow you to view your portfolio on your tv screen (some even offer face-recognition technology for the photos they take of you). Those are not available on Crown Princess; you have to go to the service desk to get a copy of your statement. I was told that they will shortly have self-service kiosks where you'll be able to check by yourself instead of standing in line at the Service Desk. Our balcony had four chairs and a table; some rust was apparent on the balcony, but nothing major. The wooden rail was freshly varnished.
FOOD: We were impressed. I thought the portions in the Dining Room were more than ample; presentation seemed nicely done to me. Let's face it: food is very subjective, and I spoke to another cruiser who said the food quality and presentation was better on her previous Princess cruise. For us we could only compare it to Royal & Celebrity, and, while my pre-cruise expectations were to find food in slightly lesser quality, I feel Princess had a more creative and varied menu. I tried several main courses I never had before in nine cruises and enjoyed them all (strange way of serving cold soups though). Have to mention: I'm not much of a fish eater, but the fish choices looked so interesting I had fish 3 nights in a row (You can always get a good steak somewhere, but unless you live near the ocean, seafood is a different story). One night I had Cioppino, a fish stew. If you had told me before the cruise I'd be eating (and enjoying!) a fish stew, I would've called you a BS'er. Good hamburgers and hot dogs on the pool deck (also grilled chicken, more). Best pizza I've ever had on a cruise ship. Free ice cream on the pool deck (soft or hard). I had the deluxe soda card (included virgin drinks and shakes); DW went for the regular. Iced Tea was a little hard to find, but bartenders or waiters would usually honor a request for Iced Tea even if the buffet area was closed.
The buffet: food quality equal to other ships, but Royal and Celebrity have a better system. Crown's buffet area seems too crowded. We had fish & chips at the Wheelhouse Bar (offered for lunch twice this cruise), had one DR breakfast, and had many snacks on Deck 5 at the little cafÃ© there. We did not try the specialty restaurants (we were very happy with the main DR); spoke to some who did and raved about them. There are many complaints on CC about coffee. I found it okay; so did our table mates. . We had the Botticelli DR, late seating (8;15PM). To me the late seating interfered with some activities we wanted to see, and most cruisers seemed to think Anytime Dining was the way to go.
The Pool areas were nice (larger pools than many ships). We looked at The Sanctuary, never felt a need to book it - plenty of space near the pools on most days. Some people complain MUTS is distracting. You have your choice of several other pools without MUTS, so that's not a valid complaint. We wanted to see a movie on MUTS, but late dinners and a few cold nights prevented us. I like the concept though. Another case of misleading info on CC: The Theater - many posts about it always being overcrowded. Maybe it was because we had the late seating, but we never had trouble finding good seats, and the theater was never full for any shows. The lounges used for comedians, Karaoke and games: Now THOSE tended to get crowded, but we never missed anything.
CRUISE DIRECTOR STAFF: Lisa Ball did an excellent job in our opinion. She and her assistant Chris hosted a slide show of "Behind the Scenes" crew areas and spent an hour answering questions about Ship Life. She was also visibly present after every theater show. And Chris (Deputy CD) is certainly capable of having a ship of his own some day soon.
ENTERTAINERS: Crown had a very good mix. Wayne Hoffman, a mentalist, had a bizarre (meant as a compliment) show. James Michael offered a "Hello Kitty" segment in his act; it was funny but I'm trying to keep that mental image out of my head. Phil Tag: hilarious comedy. Good mix of entertainment (even jugglers and more) each day in the Piazza. Not too many cruisers would think a piano player would be an entertainment highlight, but Kory Simon had a last night show that was as entertaining and amusing as anything else we saw. He performed to packed rooms in the Crooner's Bar several nights also.
EXCURSIONS: On Princess Cays I rented a Kayak. Fun, but in retrospect I'd spend a few more bucks and rent a Hobie Cat Trimaran - more speed and fun, less work. In Curacao we did the Sunset Cruise - disappointing, (there was no Sunset!). The catamaran took us out to sea (always trolling speed), returned to shore 5 minutes before the sun set. On top of that I just found out we actually returned 45 minutes earlier than scheduled; therefore, no reason to miss it. In Aruba we did our own thing: local bus to Palm Beach, rented two loungers for $5 each, rented a float for $5, had lunch at Senor Frogs.
This is only to inform you that the Coral Photo Mugs we got in the Calypso Cove leak liquids through the sides of the mugs. This could be dangerous. They leak at a rapid rate and are not useable.
On Oct 1, 2011 we sailed from San Pedro on a 7 day California Coastal Cruise to Santa Barbara, San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada Mexico. Prior to the cruise we did a two day pre-cruise at the Hyatt Long Beach for the purpose of visiting the Queen Mary. They serve large helpings of nostalgia at no cost when you visit her. We found out First Class Staterooms cost $1000 or more back in the 30's. Our first port was Santa Barbara. We took the Trolly tour and found this to be a beautiful, but expensive place to live. A brief stop was made at Mission Santa Barbara. We visited Stearns Wharf and it being Sunday there was an Artists and Crafts show all along the beach. The day was sunny and warm. We had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge and sailing under it at dawn was something that will live long in our memories. I could write a full review on San Francisco alone. We took the 5 hour Princess tour which included Alcatraz and the the many local sights. A word of caution ! If you planto visit Alcatraz buy your own tickets online. We had less than an hour and a half on the "Rock" where you need two to two and half hours to do it right. By all means do the Audio Tour. The stories you hear from the prisoners and guards are chilling. We did did get a chance to visit Pier 69 and Fisherman's Wharf after the tour. The one thing we really wanted to do was ride the Trolley's but we ran out of time. We had a great time and about 10:30pm again sailed under the Golden Gate in a light rain. Magnificent ! May I mention at this point that our two days at sea were on a very smooth Pacific Ocean. Next port was San Diego. We had been there before so we opted for the two hour Harbor Tour. It was well worth the money. Again a warm sunny day. By the time we visited Seaport Village we did not have time to tour the carrier Midway. Next time for sure. Last port was Ensenada. We have seen many bad reviews of this port but were pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the town. We are not fans of Mexico ports anymore so we stayed on the pier and visited the nice small shopping plaza. We were entertained by a whole bunch of barking, smelly, Sea lions. Passengers who took the shuttle to town experienced no problems. Too soon we disembarked Sapphire and due to an early flight from LAX we took a cab. The cost was $57 + tip. Sapphire Princess has been reviewed many times on these boards so we will only say that everything was fine. No complaints in any area. We have booked this same cruise for Oct 6, 2012. Thank you for your time reading this review !
Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess by Trish New England June 22, 2011
BEWARE OF BOOKING WITH PRINCESS CRUISE LINES
We were booked on a New York to New York, New England cruise and wanted to get off in Rhode Island and visit with our friends as this was the last port before the end of the cruise which was the next day in New York.
We were told we were not allowed to and we would be fined $300.00 each plus $1,000.00 each, they claimed there were no immigration people to handle us which I told them can't be true as they have crew and entertainers leaving the ship constantly.
I suggested getting off in Boston in a larger port and they again said no way.
Yesterday Princess called us directly and told us we were not welcome on their ship and they would only refund our cruise costs nothing else, as they did not want us to talk to any other passengers and felt we would be a detriment to the ship.
We are Platnuim with Princess and do three to four cruises a year and have done over thirty cruises.
So please bewarebefore you book a Princess cruise Thank goodness there are other great cruise lines to choose from.
Remember the Jones Act that Princess likes to use.
Sincerely, A fellow world traveller
ISLAND PRINCESS ~ 10 Voyage to the Glaciers ~ June 1-11, 2011
Itinerary: Vancouver-Ketchikan-Juneau-Skagway-Glacier Bay-College Fjord-Whittier-Denali-Talkeetna-Anchorage
If you're reading this then you may be debating whether or not to take this cruise. Sea Dawg says you should because it promises to be among the most scenic of cruises available. Compare to discover how this is not the same as an inside passage cruise. Or you may have already booked and now you might be wondering whether or not you messed up. Sea Dawg predicts this is the cruise you'll want to take again. Princess is the cruise industry leader in Alaska.
Or you might be hoping to learn a few things from a salty dawg. Sea Dawg will try to do just that. Is Sea Dawg critical? You betcha. I call it like I see it. Criticism, if any, should not be equated with dislike of cruises. You should know ahead that I am an ex-Loyal Royal Caribbean diamond member.
ARRIVAL: Since we had a long flight to Vancouver we decided to arrive a day early and rode the free shuttle to our hotel. We toured this beautiful city via the subway interestingly namedSky Train. A main hub is Waterpark - very near the cruise ship port. We took the hop on/hop off trolley tour of Vancouver and especially recommend at least a drive through Stanley Park. We caught our hotel shuttle back to the airport to connect with the Princess shuttle to the port terminal.
EMBARKATION: We arrived at the terminal after 1pm and following the initial noon check-in crush. Prior online check-in expedited our process. Most dawgs knew to have their passports, travel documents, completed forms and credit card in hand as we were herded through security screenings then customs then Princess check-in. What threatened to be a hour long test of patience took less than 15 minutes we had our Cruise Card and packets and we were aboard. We have never experienced a more organized and efficient boarding process.
PHOTOGRAPHS: Photographers will greet you throughout the cruise. You should know in advance that these photographs are not complimentary or cheap. But you are not obligated to buy. If interested, stop and pose. If not, say, "no thanks" and be on your way. Sea Dawg has experienced a few times when photos go on sale or can be bargained down in price near the end of the cruise.
WELCOME ABOARD: Island Princess, (2003), mid-size class (92,000 tons - 964 ft. length) shows few signs of anticipated wear and tear. The interior is sleek and sophisticated. The ship has a welcomed intimacy without the overcrowded feeling. Sea Dawg's megaship experiences have been bigger is not always better. Most appealing to me was the quality of life aboard the Island Princess. Gone were the incessant "Bingo Time" and swimming pool water temperature announcements. I was aboard to experience Alaska, and Princess offered cruise dawgs a series of outstanding programs from naturalists, park rangers and an Iditarod race winner. In place of barmaids constantly hustling drinks by the pool, we had a crew lady politely offering warm cookies. Rather than a long hike aft, fresh pizza and hot sandwich venues were convenient to the pools and lounge areas.
You may have learned that sodas and alcoholic drinks are available for a price. But on Princess you are allowed to bring your own sodas aboard, but not alcohol. And on Princess you don't need an overpriced beverage card to receive fruit or vegetable juices! Thank you Princess! RCCL will nickel & dime dawgs at every turn and the cruise ends up more expensive than Princess.
CABIN: This is one cruise dawgs WILL want a balcony. Most cruises offer horizons of ocean for views at sea, but this cruise offers mountain and wildlife scenary almost everyday so bring good binoculars. Sea Dawg recommends selecting starboard (right) odd numbered cabins for northbound and port (left) even numbered cabins southbound. Order room service and brunch on your private balcony. We are not ones to spend much time in the stateroom. Our stateroom was small but efficient. Two people had to choreograph moves to navigate the tiny floor space. One person standing in front of the closet could be caged in if another opened the bathroom door. The bathroom was something like an airplane restroom with a tight don't-drop-the-soap shower. Sorry, no bathtub except in suites. Sea Dawg says it is a good idea to pack your own soap and specialty shampoo. Be forewarned - hot water might be in short supply during peak shower usage times. We find that we keep a small stateroom neater than a larger one - have to or else the accumulated clutter immobilizes us.
A Day 1 Princess Patter listed all the ongoing activities, information and suggestions. The lifeboat muster station location is posted. Take but do not wear life jackets to the mandatory muster drill. Muts need to be warned not to skip drill because staff is checking your name on their roll.
AROUND THE SHIP: Take time to explore the ship. If you have time, try to locate places where events happen. My advice is start at the top Sports Deck 15 and work down using the stairs. You should at least know where the medical facility is (Deck 4). You might want to inquire if your medical insurance covers you - in most cases it won't.
Sun Deck 15 is open to the sky, makes a good observation deck, and is surrounded by blue tinted glass wind screens. But camera hounds needing clear vistas were challenged here. You'll find the Cyber-Golf simulator midship.
Lido Deck 14 is home to Horizon Court and the pools. Horizon Court is the Deck 14 buffet restaurant offering panoramic views forward. You can also spot chow hounds loading plates like they're about to be stranded on Mt. McKinley for a month - only to eat half of it. And few appreciate line crashing hyenas who snatch away all the remaining servings forcing those whose mothers taught them better to wait until another tray arrives from the kitchen. Incredibly, I witnessed one Saint Bernard actually pick up the entire serving tray of pastries and arrogantly haul it to his table! Deck 14 is home to the open Lido Pool and enclosed Lotus Pool. Locate the ice cream bar. Chow hounds know to get cones and milkshakes here! The Lotus spa and gym is here. Astern is the Sanctuary, a retreat for adults that is a perk for pedigrees, available for a fee to hounds.
Aloha Deck 12 (there is no Deck identified 13) is primarily a cabin deck, but the Sanctuary and Youth Centers are astern.
Baja Deck 11, Caribe Deck 10, Dolphin Deck 9 and Emerald Deck 8 are cabin decks. Outside cabins mid-deck 8 have obstructed (by lifeboats) views though fortunate dawgs taking shoulder season cruises may get upgraded if space is available. The Library, Card Room and internet cafe is on Deck 8 at the top of the atrium.
Promenade Deck 7 is the main activity deck. As the name implies, this is the strolling deck. It's poor design is quite apparant as you stroll through a narrow hallway forward. Dawgs debating selecting a deck 8 cabin should anticipate noise coming from below. The Wheelhouse Bar and Crooner's Bar are here. There are two theaters that make for packed audiences: the upper levels of the Princess Theater forward and Universe Lounge stage aft. Two premium restaurants, Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe are well worth your consideration. The art gallery is worth a look but sharp dawgs know to compare print prices online before purchasing.
Fiesta Deck 6 features Provence (traditional) Main Dining, the Casino, Explorer's Lounge, specialty shops, photo shop, and lower levels of the theaters.
The main dining room, has two levels: Bordeaux (anytime) Deck 5 and Provence Deck 6. Sea Dawg prefers traditional because the wait staff learns your preferences and can better prepare for your pleasant dining experience. At this time of year, the sun goes down late so there's not much advantage to early or late seating.
As for shopping aboard, think of pricey little shops at upscale hotels and you'll have the right idea. Resist the temptation and don't pay "retail" early in the cruise. There are usually "sales" throughout the cruise and a few good values might be found.
Thoughtful design permits dawgs to traverse Deck 6 fore to aft without obligatory navigation through the Casino. By far the largest cash intake comes from the gaming. House odds are higher aboard than at Las Vegas. In other words, there are greater odds you will lose. So consider money lost gambling the cost of entertainment. To that end there are free gaming lessons offered. Be careful, the ATM machine is here, too.
Plaza Deck 5 is where Passenger Services, Tour Desk and Future Cruise Sales are located. Some cabins are located aft. Curiously and inconveniently, the Atrium elevators do not left all the way to the top decks. Our cruise was not fully booked, so we were pleased few experienced long waits for an elevator. Even so, we found the stairs quicker at peak times. The majority of passengers were mature dawgs 50 years up. School was still in session and there weren't many pups or frisky college canines. Not to worry, we had our share of incredibly rude, line crashing, seat saving Japanese Shiba Inus aboard.
DINNER: I've read some Cruise Critics comments from Pedigrees about dinners and I have to reply that it is completely unrealistic to expect 5-star dinners at Princess' moderate prices. Sea Dawg found the quality and quantity of the prepared food consistently very good. No, it's not the best culinary offerings the cruise industry has to offer. - and while some other cruise lines lower qulity to drive patrons into premium restuarants, Princess still serves lobster. Pedigrees who want 5-star cuisine should book luxury cruise lines and pay their premium prices. For the rest of us, this is a chance to sample cuisine we don't often enjoy. If it's not to your liking, your waiter will bring you something else. Chow hounds can order a second entrée if they like. I feasted on duck, lamb, veal, salmon and prime rib. And, yes, you could order steak or shrimp cocktail every night. Vegetarian, "lite" and Asian offerings were usually available.
Dinners are an event that Sea Dawg doesn't like to rush. If you are in a hurry, do your tablemates and waiters a favor and eat at Horizon Court. If you want to know the chef's secrets, you can purchase the recipes. Waiters come from all over the world. Their English proficiency varies but is generally merely functional. Most try very hard to please you and really do earn their tips. Wit and humor were in ample supply at our table and any pretense of formality fortunately disappeared the first night. Dinnertime became an enjoyable highlight of this cruise.
Dancing Under the Stars: Romantic sounding isn't it? Weather dictates outside activities aboard. Unfortunately, on this cruise there were only limited opportunities in the clubs for romantic dancing and dance floors are small. Dances advertised as "ball room" were mostly loud rock or jazz. Never learned how to dance? There are free ballroom dance classes available. Our instructors were excellent and attentive.
Weather: Fortunately our cruise experienced mostly fair weather. This is Alaska and cloudy, rainy days are normal. Mornings are chilly and afternoons can get almost hot. Dressing in layers is necessary. Dawgs, especially shoulder season cruisers, are wise to pack hooded water-proof jackets. But also pack swim suits (for hot tubs) and sunglasses (for snow glare).
Day 1 - Vancouver If you've never seen Vancouver don't miss this opportunity. We arrived a day early to tour this beautiful city. See Cruise Critic port reviews. Once aboard, plan to take part in the sailaway party. If you pre-reserved shore excursions online, your tickets should be in or shortly delivered to your stateroom.
Day 2 - At Sea This usually means out in the open water with nothing but waves and ocean horizon in view. Island Princess transits the Straight of Georgia along the scenic coast of Vancouver Island then heads across Queen Charlotte Sound.
The Shows Current and classic movies are shown on the outdoor big screen overlooking the Lido Pool. There are two venues for stage shows, but limited seating. The Princess productions proved to be better than theme park shows. To their credit, the shows were performed live to music provided by a live band. However the sound tech preferred the volume loud and distorted. Headliner guests were hit and miss. Your cruise will probably feature different entertainers. Few presentations had show dawgs streaming out the exits mid performance.
Tonight was the first of two formal nights in main dining. Some pedigrees were dressed to the nines, but most wore their "Sunday best". A word about expensive jewelry and valuables. Leave them at home! There are personal safes in the cabin, but a master code to open them is known to more than a few. Sharp dawgs use the ship safe available through Passenger Relations to store truly valuable items. New U.S. federal law mandates the FBI be promptly contacted to investigate serious shipboard crimes for all ships that enter/depart any U.S. port.
Day 3 - Ketchikan I was up early and watched the ship navigate the Tongass Narrows toward Ketchikan. At first I thought I was in the Caribbean! Salty Dawgs promptly growled at the immediate presence of Carnival's and Royal Caribbean's Diamonds International, Tanzanite International and other cruiseline venues. But this is America and local retailers exercised their right to advertise they are independent of the cruise lines!
The Misty Fjords & Wildlife Explorer excursion is deservedly popular. Independent dawgs should stop by the Ketchikan Visitor's Bureau near the ship and pick up a free walking tour map. Hop a ride on their free shuttle and ride up the hillside to the Totem Heritage Center and walk downhill on Creek Street or on Married Man's Trail along Ketchikan Creek on down to Dolly's.
A word about shopping: make your shopping list before you leave home. Too often dawgs purchase items on a cruise destined for a yard sale. Record the local or internet price so you'll know whether you are getting a bargain. U.S. citizens who booked flights on a Canadian airline should bone up on custom limitations before you leave or you might find yourself in the dawghouse.
All dawgs had to be onboard by 1:30pm for an early afternoon departure. Unless you are on a Princess Shore Excursion the ship will not wait for stray dawgs! The ship sailed north through scenic Clarence Straight.
Day 4 - Juneau Juneau is reached by sailing up and down the Gastineau Channel. The ship arrives at 8am and departs at 8:30pm and the sun is up longer as we reach higher latitudes. So plan a full day ashore. The Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest (guaranteed sightings) is highly recommended and fills quickly. Independent dawgs will be rewarded to take the "blue" Glacier Express bus from the Visitor Center parking lot to enjoy at their own pace Mendenhall Glacier, the lake and huge waterfall! It was only $16 (sixteen) round trip and rates as one of the great values of the entire cruise. The bus driver can tell you about some other value excursions their independent company offers. And what dawg would miss the infamous Red Dog Saloon? Yes it's a tourist trap but a howling good time!
Day 5 - Skagway Skayway is reached by sailing up and down scenic Taiya Inlet and Lynn Canal. Snow-capped peaks and numerous cascading waterfalls reward watchful dawgs on a fair weather day. Our ship arrived at the railroad dock near 7am and departed near 8pm on this last port of call before reaching Whittier. The little town of Skagway exists because of the railroad and any of the White Pass & Yukon Route narrow guage train ride tours takes you to heaven and is highly recommended. Another way to be taken to heaven is to stop by the Red Onion Saloon.
Day 6 - At Sea "At Sea" would technically be correct. But this is Alaska and Princess arranges to be one of only two cruise ships allowed to enter Glacier Bay National Park a day. "Scenic day Cruising Glacier Bay" is an understatement. Remember to charge up (or put in fresh) camera batteries! Several NP Rangers provide commentary as the ship slowly sails past towering snow covered mountains and through ice strewn Tarr Inlet to the foot of Grand Pacific and Margerie Glaciers. About every twenty minutes there is the sharp crack and thunder heralding another calving. Then the ship sailed up John Hopkins Inlet and rounded Jaw (as in jaw dropping) Point to view John Hopkins Glacier. We were truly blessed to have incredibly clear and sunny weather! Every photo we took could be a post card.
Tonight was the second of two formal nights in main dining. It was also lobster with giant prawns night. For Sea Dawg is was a perfect ending to a perfect day!
Day 7 - At Sea Today we sailed across the Gulf of Alaska toward College Fjord, and salty dawgs know to anticipate a sea day. The weather turned cold, windy and rainy. Long but narrow beamed Island Princess (designed to cross the Panama Canal) gently rolled through moderate seas. It wasn't so rough that seasick bags for green dawgs appeared, but dawgs sensitive to motion sickness should be prepared to medicate before crossing this open expanse of water.
College Fjord was socked in with cloudy weather and some showers. We could not see the mountaintops but could discern the beautiful glaciers through the mists.
CHECK OUT: You'll receive a bill for $11.50 ($12.00 if in a suite) per person/per day gratuity, any shore excursions and any other expenses you put on your Cruise Card. That's when many discover their bar tab, purchases, casino gaming and excursions cost more than the stateroom! Even though we had Express Departure, we checked our account for charges and accuracy at Passenger Relations before the crowd formed a long line.
You'll receive a comment card. My thinking is that if you mark everything "excellent" then Princess will have no incentive to improve anything. But what most cruise dawgs want to improve is not even on the comment card. You'll have to write in comments like "enforce the rules", "need more crew checking Cruise Cards and attending the Passenger Relations Desk", etc. yourself.
We packed our suitcases and affixed the proper "Meet Us Tonight in Denali" tags.
Day 8 - DISEMBARKATION and Bus to DENALI We ate a final breakfast then got to our assigned departure meeting place.
Departure went well. Princess has this well-organized so there were few rude line-breakers trying to beat the system. I can't figure out why line-breakers think they're the only ones in a hurry or why they are more important than anyone else in the scheme of things.
Post-cruise plans vary. Some catch a flight home from Anchorage. But most continue north either by train or by bus. We were placed on a bus and spent the day going up Alaska 3 to Denali. We had high hopes of seeing some wildlife and maybe a glimpse of the elusive, cloud shrouded Mt. McKinley along the way. We saw neither. The harsh reality of the end of the cruise stared back at us as we looked at the menu prices at the Denali Princess Lodge. The Denali Princess Lodge is fairly rustic and informed dawgs were glad they heeded the advice to pack powerful bug repellent. Sunset at midnight. Sunrise at 3am. No night - just twilight.
Day 9 - Talkeetna The next day we rode the free shuttle to Denali National and took their free park tour. We saw some wildlife in the distance but no Mt. McKinley. Here Sea Dawg made a quick change in plans. Princess had us scheduled to ride the bus from Denali to Talkeetna, but I decided to buy the inexpensive Alaska Railroad ticket to ride the Denali Star to Talkeetna instead. I called Princess from the Denali rail station (right by the Denali NP Visitor Center) and made arrangements. Princess agreed with absolutely no hassles to shuttle us to McKinley Wilderness Lodge along with other Princess passengers on their private cars on the train. Our luggage would be waiting for us in our room. It was among the best decisions of the vacation. Though we were "Adventure" class and not "Gold", Alaska Railroad has several cars for passengers to use including a dining car and, on our train, a domed car! Though the rail trip followed the same highway we traversed the day before it was far superior in scenery and comfort to the bus trip. We saw a lot of wildlife, some close to the tracks, but still no Mt. McKinley.
Arrival at Talkeetna Depot happened much too soon. Princess put us aboard their shuttle to McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We checked into our room and our luggage was awaiting us inside the door. How's that for great service? Princess has Alaska cruising and vacationing buttoned down!
McKinley Wilderness Lodge is so remote it generates its own electricity. Even so, there are hot tubs with a view here! We found the 20320 (twenty-three-twenty - named for the height of Mt. McKinley) Restaurant to be fairly reasonably priced and serving Alaska sized meals. But be prepared to wait for a table. We made arrangements for a "Mountain Out" call before we collapsed into bed.
Day 10 - Anchorage We were sound asleep when the almost midnight "Mountain is out" call came. We scurried out with bug repellent and camera in hand to join the sleepy-eyed "30% Club" of tourists who actually get to see the cloud-free and beautiful Mt. McKinley as the sun slowly set behind it. We gawked at the mountain in the comfy chairs of the main lodge until we both were nodding off to sleep. We retired to bed a second time - another perfect end to another perfect day.
The sun was high in the sky when we woke up - at 8am. Princess had us scheduled for a train trip from Talkeetna to Anchorage that afternoon. After breakfast we affixed "Meet Us in Anchorage" tags to our luggage and caught the free shuttle to spend the day in tiny Talkeetna. This is a town that exists on the tourist trade. Locals know the McKinley Wilderness Lodge prices and charge accordingly. We found the best priced food in town to be at the Roadhouse that has catered to mountain climbers for decades.
Soon we were aboard the train in the Princess private domed car taking a scenic rail to Anchorage. The bottom level of the car is where the kitchen and dining are located. We spotted numerous moose in the afternoon, especially as we neared Anchorage. I have to admit that I preferred Alaska Railroad's Adventure class.
We arrived at the Anchorage Depot and had a 5 minute shuttle to the Captain Cook Hotel. We opened the door and our luggage was already there. Our room was an absolutely luxurious suite! Thank you, Princess! We had an early flight from Anchorage to home. Princess was there again for us to the very end as a Princess representative greeted us to bid us farewell as we caught a very early shuttle to the airport.
Should You Take This Cruise? My recommendation is an unqualified yes.
We just completed a short three (3) day cruise up the Pacific Coast on the Golden Princess which we had booked for our wedding anniversary (May 11) while on the Sea Princess in November last year. The cruise was from Los Angeles USA to Vancouver BC Canada and was May 11 - 14, 2011.
As we live in Victoria British Columbia , Vancouver Island Canada I arranged for us to fly Victoria via Vancouver to Los Angeles the day prior to the cruise and fly from Vancouver to Victoria the day after the cruise.
If I say so myself that was a wise (Owl pun of course) move as when we docked in Vancouver on May 14, 2011 another four ships also docked at the same time. Instant pandemonium had by all who were waiting for taxis and busses including the ones arriving to get on these ships.
As we got off the ship, I saw a person with a shuttle bus sign to hotels or airports so was able to get the shuttle in about 45 minutes later and in our hotel by about 11:30 am while our friends were backat the terminal still waiting for the ferry bus to Vancouver Island at 1pm. We did stay at a boutique hotel (Sutton Place) in Vancouver that for dinner also had a Chocolate Fountain Buffet and all the sins you could eat. My wife was very excited.
Back to going down to LA. We flew to Vancouver then went to USA pre-clearance where they showed us our luggage on the computer screen in colour to verify it was ours, nifty as we did not have to transfer then between fights.
We must have been asked five times for our passports and boarding cards while going through Homeland security area and I got moved aside for extra wand checking where it beeped on top of my bald head and my shoeless feet. Give me a break.
We flew on an Embrer I90 , about a 2 hours 30 minutes flight into LAX and our bags arrived on time but to get to the pickup area you have to walk by where all the outbound security are is, a tight squeeze.
We took a taxi to Long Beach where our Hotel Hyatt Regency is located as were told more shops existed in that area as I originally wanted to stay at the Queen Mary Hotel . The taxi ride was about $65 US and the ride from that hotel the next day to San Pedro for Princess cruise port was about $30 US.
WE took a walk around the Hotel which is lovely but went the wrong direction as the next four blocks were all dining or fast food places, no shops or malls in sight. Had we gone the other direction we would have seen the marina and shops and the beach but we had fun. The staff at the hotel are very nice and say hello, it is a clean and safe hotel but no safe in the room for passports and tickets and they charge for WiFi. Otherwise we had a good time and used room service for our supper while in the morning we had coffee and muffins in thr lobby then they ordered a taxi for us to the pier. Next time I might use the hotels in San Pedro but taxi costs will still be about the same.
If you use a taxi, tell then you want to pay by CC when you get in and they do not carry change over $5 US. I elected to get cash prior to our trip.
Finally , we got to the ship about 12:30pm and boarded in about 30 - 45 minutes. I tipped the porter who I had to find as our taxi dropped us off behind a pile of bus passengers, she was only a few feet away, gave her $5 or two bags and she just smiled at me called me "dear' and pointed to where I should go and promised my bags would be on the ship. At least I made her day.
Go in the terminal, a pile of people , a lot of families with children from Disney World and five bus loads of folks from Las Vegas, Lots of Canadians on this trip. Quite a mixed bag of cultures onboard.
It was a sunny day, left port on time and averaged 20.7 knots for 2,700 kilometers from Wednesday afternoon to Saturday Am at 7am.
It was all sea days and the dress code was smart casual , staff were fine considering they would only know us for a few days and we had a mini-suite with two TV's but the remote batteries were weak so one had to stretch to adjust the controls. Balcony was fully out from the ship , not enclosed but the weather of course dropped into the fifties F so we did not sit out a lot but we could have course enjoy the breeze and the sea.
We had swells such at lunch the MDR windows were clear from middle of MDR and then the you could see the swell come up halfway in the window. Stabilizers help and one lady ssaid as she walked , I've not had anything to drink.
We were at a table for eight for 1st seating (6pm) but felt like Mum and Dad . One were a young couple in twenties, other a brother and sister (she left hubby and son at home) in thirties and another couple who must have just got connected (fifties) as he fed her food all the time and she just smiled and said nice things. They were great to know as we all got to know each other but we were a diverse table.
Service was very good and prompt as we got to see the shows this time and our wine when ordered was delivered on time. Lately I noticed on last two Princess Ships you have to remind staff in MDR to give you your receipts while elsewhere not an issue. Front desk and cabin staff were great but the Library has been reduced to about three chairs inside the Internet Cafe which as usual has it often slow moments.
Casino was running all day and night as we were cruising for three days and it was doing a good business , course on the Golden Princess you still have to walk through the casino to move from stern to bow and the MDR you have to walk down the photshop deck to use the stairs to get to the MDR as the kitchens are in the middle.
Art Auctions was doing a great business and people were buying anything for hundreds of dollars in a fast pace, still amazes me. One day they had a Trivia contest in the main bar while we sat near the windows reading as my E-Book (a Kobo) while Liz shuffled her paperback and tried to prevent ourselves from yelling out the answers.
All the meals were great including room service and we really had no complaints but you do notice a slight difference when on a short re-positioning cruise in that all of a sudden you have to pack on the third evening and Princess has not yet gotten to the point where you can stay in your cabin till your number is called as we had to leave the cabin by 8am Saturday. We met in the Vista room for a scheduled 9:05 am departure but did not leave till 9:40am approx. as Canada Customs had only assigned four staff to the 2,800 people leaving our ship.
All in all we had a great time and going back to my earlier entry in this post, 'Owl' made a very wise decision to book a hotel for the night after arriving in Vancouver and getting the Shuttle Bus to the Hotels instead of a taxi.
The lesson here is that if five ships are unloading passengers in Vancouver and getting new passengers on the same day be prepared for a wait or find alternatives as in take a cruise ship bus to the airport or a post cruise hotel to bypass and relax as you deserve it.
Cheers Rob (aka robh) (aka Owl)