In June we made 12 day Mediterranean Cruise with Star Princess and had a wonderful time.
We ended up with approximately 2000 passengers. There were about 900 from the USA, 700 from Canada and 400 from Great Britain. There also appeared to be a pretty large contingent of Russian and Asian speaking passengers.We were quite aft and never felt any motion from the ship. That, of course, could be due to the fact that we had perfect weather the entire cruise. Our cruise docs said that embarkation started at 5pm. I sure didn't believe that. Since we had been in Barcelona a day early, we arrived at the ship at 2pm. There was no one in line and we got on the ship within 3 minutes. The next day, while looking at embarkation pictures, I noticed that they had them categorized by time of embarkation and it looks like passengers had been arriving since 11am.Barcelona - We stayed at the Regencia De Colon hotel. It is a sister hotel to the Colon, both which sit at the foot of the Cathedral and a 2 minute walk from La Rambla.
The room wassmall, but well appointed in a great location. We had to go to the Colon to get ice for our drinks. We had dinner at Neya's. A small tapas bar 1 1/2 blocks from the hotel. The food was great-tapas and paella. and very inexpensive.We really enjoyed the city. La Rambla is maybe 6 blocks long and activity abounds! We spent much of the time just watching the street mimes. They get dressed up in amazing costumes and hold perfectly still till you come up to have your picture taken..then they go into action! Quite a site to see. La Rambla is also lined with plenty of street vendors, artists etc. But they even have street vendors that are pet shops along with the normal florists and trinket sellers. We had sangria at a street side cafe. Ugh...it was thick and really sweet and reminded us more of children's cough syrup than a cocktail.On the day of embarkation we took the hop off/hop on bus. We took the north route to catch all of the architecture and it really was a beautiful ride. It did, however, take the entire morning as the traffic in the city was really bad. We bought a one day ticket that would have allowed us to take the south route if we had the time. Two day tickets are also available. Cash only, but you purchase the tickets at the boarding stops. We thought Barcelona was beautiful, we were pleasantly surprised. It is a very easy city to do on your own.Cabs are very easy to get either in the city or at the pier. It is about 10-15 E from the pier to the close end of La Rambla. Make sure and negotiate price before you get in.We had late seating, traditional dining. We love traditional dining, however, due to the lateness of some of the tours we ate every night at 8:45 pm. That's pretty late even for folks who like to have prolonged cocktail hours! We were rarely finished with dinner by 11pm. I won't comment too much on food...but...all of the soups were absolutely fantastic. we never had a bad one. Many of the nights I had a hard time choosing which entree to select as none of them completely excited me, but they were all good.
Sail away was also our 1st formal night.We never had any pomp or circumstance for any of the sail ways. I find that disappointing..I really used to love watching the bands or school children perform as we sailed away.PORTS OF CALL :* Monte Carlo: We took the ship tour of the medieval village of Eze. It was a beautiful little village..lots of steps with a cactus garden at the top..not what I would have expected for a Mediterranean town! The drive to the town was spectacular and the guide pointed out the homes of Bill Gates, Tina Turner and Bono from U2. * Livorno : After much deliberating we took the Princess transfers into Florence instead of trying the train. There was just too much at risk if the trains went on strike. The transfer was pleasant and the guide gave us a nice history/cultural lesson on the area. It was 1 ½ hours by bus and then a 5 minute walk from the drop off point into the city.The queue for Uffuzi is very misleading. They have a sign out front telling you how long the outside queue is, but there is also a queue once you get inside. We got in line before the gallery even opened, but still had to wait almost an hour before we were admitted. There are 4 or 5 very long/steep sets of stairs to climb before you even get to the showrooms. Also, the showrooms are very poorly labeled. A good guide book of the gallery is a must or you could wander for hours aimlessly. Unless you're really into the masters..I'd pass. It was also hot in the building.The open air leather market had spectacular shopping, but it was very crowded. If you're willing to pay cash versus credit card you have more price bartering ground to work with.We loved the food markets and bought 6 bottles of Tuscan wine (red and white) for 5 euros each. When our waiter wanted to charge us corkage we jokingly stated that we hadn't been charged in the past. This was the first time that the new ownership was mentioned to us.they said that the new policy no longer allows for waiters' discretion on charging corkage. Oh well..we figured with such inexpensive wine we were still way ahead based on the wines Princess offers. Oh..and the local wine was superb.The street cafes had big umbrellas for blocking the sun and we had a great lunch. Everyone we encountered spoke good English. The bus picked us up at 3:15 for the transfer back to the ship.
Four passengers did not make it back to the ship before we sailed. Never found out what happened to them.* Civitavecchia : Civitavecchia is a nice port town in its own right and some who had seen Rome just stayed there. We had a private driver to take us to Rome for a General Audience with the Pope (he does these Wednesdays). Very nice. Many taxis at the port and prices are not bad. A free shuttle takes you to the train station and its about an hour into town. The Vatican by itself took us all day. Museum, Cistene Chapel, and St Peters are all breathtaking. If you want to see more than a couple of sights take the city tour. The distances via the subway or on foot are too far. You need to buy subway tickets at a tabak or newspaper shop with a "T" sign.
* Naples : We used Marcello Maresca from See Sorrento - www.seesorrento.com Our trip included a visit to Pompeii, Pompei is amazing, a not to miss site. I had no idea how huge the city was and how well preserved it is. You can still see many frescos. The walking is extensive on very uneven cobblestones and it was HOT. We found that in all of the sites where we visited ruins (Ephesus, Acropolis, Pompei) that it was always hot.up on a hill, no trees for shade. Be prepared to wear as little clothing as possible and carry water bottles. * Athens: We used Spiros from www.athenstaxi.net He is very reasonable. He took us to
Acropolis and Plaka. Acropolis is really really really crowded and the stairs up and down are narrow. You can have quite a queue just getting up and down. Great food (I'm Greek) and great shopping. I got lots of kisses from the older ladies when they found out I was Greek.sure didn't help get me any better prices tho'!* Kusadasi: For the Ephesus Tour, we used Shorex Turkey - www.shorexturkey.co.nr We had a fantastic guide with great knowledge. We were so thrilled to make it to Turkey and they were thrilled to have us. This was definitely the highlight of the trip. What amazed us all was how clean and beautiful Turkey was. No garbage in the streets, beautiful parks and landscaping everywhere. And the architecture wow. * Venice: We did Venice on our own for both days. Princess offered a free boat shuttle from the pier to the city..took about an half an hour and dropped you at San Marco. Get a good street map..we used Streetwise. It was a lifesaver. Prices for glass are the same in Murano as they are in the city and there is very little bartering. We bought lamps for our screen porch, Christmas decorations and quite a spectacular statue that is being shipped.Everyone spoke great English. We had an early evening flight out to London. The last Princess transfer to the airport left at 3pm. Perfect for us. Even though it was more expensive than a cab, it was well worth the money as they held our luggage for us. So..we were able to spend the day of disembarkation touring (without worrying about what to do with our luggage) and then get to the airport in a timely fashion.ENTERTAINMENTLest you think we completely skipped the entertainment on the ship, we did eventually catch some shows. We really loved DANCE! and Give My Regards was also good, two Vegas-style shows on the Star. The singers and dancers were top-notch and very enjoyable. We skipped "Da Beat", as we didn't want to see the same entertainers three nights in a row. Maverick the magician was excellent and the comedian Jim McDonald was great too. The only entertainment that was bad at any time was the passengers attempting Karaoke, which was not fault of Princess! Be sure to arrive early for shows. most let you sit a half hour before showtime, and some even earlier. We were turned away from the Princess Theater when attempting to see DANCE! on the second night, arriving 15 minutes prior to showtime we were told it was already full. The two showrooms are very impressive. The Princess Theatre is situated like a normal theatre with rows and rows of seats. Its big and impressive, the stage moves and drops as impressively as any big production stage you would see elsewhere. It is at the extreme fore of the ship. The Vista Showlounge is at the aft and is designed like a Las Vegas showlounge with rows of little tables for two with chairs next to them. Behind each set of chairs and tables is a custioned bench seat with more small drink tables. Both venues work well.
THE LOTUS SPAI had two treatments in the spa while on the Star. I was very pleased with the standard facial. Upon embarking there was a coupon for $15 off any hour long spa treatment on an in-port day found in my shore excursion ticket envelope. The facial was very relaxing and the lady was very nice. The other treatment was a head and shoulder massage called Frangipangi Conditioning and Scalp Ritual, found in the Salon brochure. What I found weird about this, is that on the Star they didn't do it exactly as advertised in the brochure. One of the best parts of this ritual is getting your head wrapped in a steaming towel, which they didn't plan to do. Also, rather than just applying massage oil to my scalp to massage it, the lady slopped oil all through my very long hair, which I could NOT get out on my own. She did say I could come back and get it shampood out if I wanted later. which I did end up doing a couple days later. Her explanation as to why the ritual was different on the Star than what I had experienced on another Princess ship is that they do it a little different on every ship. I think that's a lousy policy if they use the same advertising brochure / explanation on all of the ships! I guess I just suggest you ask ahead, because I LOVED this treatment on my last Princess cruise.. its only $26! LAUNDROMATOn the Star the self-service laundry is not free. You can buy individually boxed soap in a dispenser for $1 each, or a liquid one-dose in the gift shop for a few cents over a dollar. The washers cost $1 a load and the dryers are $.50 a load.. both high capacity. And just FYI.. Princess casino .25 tokens work the same as quarters in the washer and dryer (a great way to get rid of any you find in your pocket at the end of the cruise). We found the laundry facilities busy all the time and had a hard time getting in. I was quite bummed after hearing that they were lightly used by many frequent cruisers. I ended up doing laundry late at night on the first formal night and during the prime dinner hour a few nights later, as I couldn't get in there during the day. The laundry rooms are different sizes on different decks. We were on Baja, which had the laundry room at the aft (a far hike for us) and with only two washers and dryers on each hallway. The laundry rooms were bigger on the Caribe deck below us, and they were closer to amidships there. There are free ironing boards and irons in the laundry facilities, but they are also very busy.. especially on the formal nights. Try to plan ahead and go at an off hour if you want to use these too. Done with the generalities of Star. on to the specific sights and ports!... In conclusion.no problems, no complaints. Yes, I would've liked a bigger cabin and yes, I would've liked the wait staff to be better, but all in all.we had a lovely time.Enjoy your cruise !
Just completed an 18 day cruise from Sydney Austrilia to Bangkok Thialand aboard the star.The ship is very clean,well managed,polite crew. The food overall was good and the buffet serves a very good varity of food for all three meals. The enterainment was standard cruise line stuff. Some good and some not so good. A couple of the tours provided by princess lines had much room for improvement.
The great barrer reef was the worst tour for $150.00. There was no color to the coral and four hours out at the pontoon was to long.The only major complaints were that they changed the schedule of stops and didnt notify us and the worst is we paid top dollor for a mine-sweet on the 9th deck with a balcony, and they did not advertise the fact that the balconys on the 9th deck are not covered.Could not use the balcony because of the hot weather and rain.
We started this cruise from Vancouver with a shuttle ride to Seattle to catch the Star Princess. The bus was full of other people going there along with about 25 other buses heading to 2 other cruise ships in Seattle.Took about 2 hours at the border before we were let go and on our way to the ship.
Upon arrival we were amazed to find a very long line up at Pier 30 that stretched around the building about halfway down. Thank God for the beautiful Seattle sunshine and warmth or this would have been a wet experience since the line was only tented part way. Surprisingly, the line moved quite well and we were on the ship within 1 hour,an amazing job by Princess considering the length of the lineup.
At the reception we were happily informed we had been upgraded as we are past Princess guests. We were given this wonderful balcony stateroom on Deck 11 - Baja deck - amidships. It is impressive how they have designed their staterooms to be so perfectly functional. Marilyn , our cabin attendant was excellent and kept everything neat and clean. We neversaw her in our cabin but it was always made up when we first left for breakfast. Wow.
This is a fantastic ship, clean, large and very well laid out. We had no real problems finding anything once we oriented ourselves to where we were on the ship. A lot of walking was done on this 4 day mini cruise to Ketchikan as the elevator service for a ship this size is not worth waiting for. Those elevator doors are the slowest closing doors I have ever seen. It did, however, keep us in shape and we always looked forward to our next meal.
Our favourite dining room for dinner was the Capri as it opened earlier and by the time we went to dinner there was never a lineup. Service is very perfunctory and none of the staff go out of their way to be friendly or welcoming. No suggestions, no questions other than the necessary ones and the staff keep busy chatting among themselves when there is slack time.
We tried the Horizon court once, but found it too frustrating with the little service islands which were slammed from all sides by passengers. No control from Princess staff at anytime.
Portofino dining room for breakfast and lunch was fine. Staff are polite and efficient but nothing more.
Prego pizza is excellent.
Coffee is horrible except one morning in the dining room. Princess could copy NCL for better coffee.
The show " Dance " by the Star Princess performers was excellent. Broadway quality show except for a minor technical breakdown which was rectified quickly. The Princess theatre fills up very quickly for the early show but usually has seats for the late show.Comedian Kevin Hughes was great.
Formal night was a blast with all the picture taking stations that were available. Excellent job.
The menu on this ship needs review. There were strange choices of meals of so, so quality. An example would be, the swordfish was served and tasted like chicken and even looked like pressed chicken breast . Food was never really hot as they bring in out, keep it covered and serve it to you as you finish your courses.
The entertainment in the various lounges was quite good and they even had a band named " Derringer" doing great country music. Skywalkers disco at night is a sight to behold and enjoy.
I found that this was the first ship that I enjoyed myself in the swimming pool when I used it. The pool at the stern was excellent and can be reached by walking aft on Deck 12 to the end and up the little set of stairs. It is covered by Skywalkers and you never have to get wet.
Disembarkation in Vancouver went smoothly, instructions were clear and concise at all times. Once our color was called we whizzed through the pier and customs in no time flat.
This was an excellent cruise with Princess and I would definitely travel with them again on the beautiful Star Princess. This ship is so big and tall that it has a tendency to rock sideways in only light swells, so beware anyone that is apt to be seasick from this rocking motion.
To our great surprise, the cruise far exceeded expectations. The stateroom was reasonably sized, the ship's service was excellent, and the food was very good. We chose the open seating option, which gave us the choice of three dining rooms in which to take our meals when we wanted and to sit wherever we wanted. In one of the two formal open-seating dining rooms, we found such a terrific waitress at one of the few tables for two, that we reserved this table for the bulk of the cruise, saving breakfasts and lunches to dine with larger groups.
At most of the ports, the Star Princess was able to dock pier-side, and disembarking and embarking was a piece of cake. On those two or three occasions when tenders were necessary, getting 2600 people on and off the ship was a nightmare. For those of us who were able to get on the ship early in Bangkok, getting through the embarkation process went smoothly and quickly. For those poor souls who arrived later in the day, it was a horrendous crush, with people standing in the sun on the pier in 97degree heat for over an hour.
We had signed up for several of the ship's excursions, but were fortunate one night in meeting a passenger couple who were travel agents and had booked vans (with English-speaking guides) in key ports for trips to Petra, Luxor, and Cairo. In addition, we went with them and took taxis in other ports and canceled all of our Star Princess Excursions. This not only saved us hundred of dollars, but spared us from the disaster awaiting the several hundred passengers who took the Princess buses and had to stand for over an hour waiting to get back on board after returning from a long day's excursion. We would recommend that future passenger try to book their own vans or taxis in port.
Entertainment on the Star Princess seemed to be everywhere in the evening, with music, dancing, and performers in a half-dozen different venues, including two main theaters. One very enjoyable feature was a string quartet which performed in the atrium three times each day, for an hour per performance.
While this was a great cruise, and we would recommend Princess to our friends, our own inclination is to sail on a much smaller ship, with less than 500 passengers.
After a week in the 'Outback' of Australia via Rent-a Car; the send-off from Sydney Harbor with the Opera House and Bridge as backdrops was simply magical. The Star is large-very large as cruise ships go. We found the ship to be spic-n-span and quite fresh and the itinerary was wonderful!! Where to start? Itinerary: As we drove ourself into the Outback for a week; ours was not a typical sojourn; i.e. motorcoaches, guided tours etc. The Blue Mts. just beyond Sydney are similar to the Great Smokies of the USA. Melbourne has wonderful vineyard tours and Wildlife parks to visits as does Adelaide. Hobart, Tasmania has very green forested environs and a great chance to get up close and personal with sheep shearers etc. The Fiordland of New Zealand was quite spectacular w/misty waterfalls; and the voyage across the Tasman Sea was surprisingly calm. All of New Zealand is scenic in that Ireland/Scotland sort of way...settled but yet quite rural. Shipwise:
The Star was just fine amenities-wise. We liked it. It does NOT have a high-end $$ boutique formal ambiance, but rather a middle of the road style for a middle-of-the-roadclientele that reminds one of being in a Hyatt or Radisson Hotel with water all round!! Food for 2600 passengers' tastes would be a challenge for anyone methinks, but again- think Hyatt brunch or a Morton's Steakhouse experience at best. 'Nuff said there. The swimming pools were all heated and the spas were about 99 to 100 F. Poolside weather was good to very good. Beer and coolers were cold and service was A-OK. Nighttime entertainment catered to the typical retired Anglo crowd, with a good Italian singer Mauricio, ala Elton John/Englebert for good measure in the piano bar. The Big stage-show 'Da Beat' was very good. A Jazz/Swing flavor that nearly everyone said was a cut above most. Now, So what's Not to like?? Big ships are not big for our benefit (in my humble opinion). Economics and Bottom-line profit dictates a trend to Big....Real Big.. We always carried a map of the ship with us. Want a High-dollar $$, more intimate experience? Go Crystal or Seven Seas. Want to actually 'afford' it? and have money left over for a new Chevy Tahoe when you get home?? Then this Star Princess version of cruising should suit you. But if you need to talk shop about Lear-jets and Rolls- Royces with people of similar tastes..No. One more Negative here before closing. The baggage and Airport Security and transfers and waiting and papers and tickets and waiting and more security; you get the picture, is getting burdensome especially for the elderly as I saw it. I am willing to put up with it; but many appeared exhausted if not outright bewildered. But hey, I and my wife had a great time and that's what mattered to us!!!
This was our first cruise and my DW and I have prepared for months reading and trying to absorb any and all details about the ship and the trip. Both of us are in our late 50's and were totally excited about this adventure. We went with her two sisters and their husbands both from Cleveland, Ohio, where we originally came form prior to relocating to south central Kentucky in 1982.
Start of Planning
We started planning the trip in April and my sister in law was going to make all the arrangements for us through AAA in Cleveland. After hearing the cost at $4800/ couple for a balcony stateroom on the 11th deck for cruise and air I became a little concerned. The AAA agent wanted us to fly to Cleveland for an additional $600 round trip so we could travel with the in-laws or she would not be able to arrange the trip. I basically told my sister in law that I'd make our arrangements and we'd meet them in Seattle a day early so we could site see and not be so tired from the flights. Asit turned out the in-laws didn't even fly together and one couple had to go to Newark, NJ, and then to Seattle leaving Cleveland at 6:20 a.m. We picked a flight that left at 9:05 a.m. from Nashville since we have an hour and a half drive to the airport.
Went online through Travelocity and booked the balcony stateroom right next to theirs for $3440 for the seven night cruise. Our cabin number was B330. A stateroom with a balcony on the Baja deck. I also checked the box which kept us in mind for upgrades. Secured airfare on Orbitz for both of us via American Airlines for $370 round trip from Nashville to Seattle via Dallas. So our trip at that time was $3,820 vs there's at $4,800.
Kept checking every week by logging in at the princess web site and filled out all the immigration paperwork etc there and had us ready for all the particulars. In early May while checking the site I noticed that our cabin had been changed to a larger balcony cabin on the Carbide Deck. I called Princess and explained that we wanted to stay together as a group with the in-laws. The Princess rep advised me to call my TA because another upgrade might be possible. I called and after holding for about 10 minutes she came back and said "I've got good news and more good news!". "I've got you a mini suite on the Dolphin deck". I again explained we wanted to be with the in-laws and she said "the other good news is it's $400 less than the balcony state room and about twice as big ". I said "I'LL TAKE IT!" So we are in a mini suite for $3,040 plus the air at $370 or a new total of $3,410 and now the wait begins.
August 23, 2003
We got to the dock at about 11:45 a.m. and the ship was still disembarking passengers with what appeared to be alot of confusion. We had stayed at the Holiday Inn at SeaTac and the cab ride to the dock was $30 with the tip. We took our luggage and gave it to a baggage handler and saw it again in about 3 hours in our mini suite. The check in process went fine with about 20-30 minutes to get through. When we started in line there were only 5 people checking in passengers. but at 12:00 p.m. four more came out and the process went very smoothly. They opened the roll up door and the stampede began. First a picture of the two of us for purchase later and then the wait to go through the next set of doors and through the xray machines. Total time for this process maybe 10-15 minutes max.
Walked up the gangway to the ship, slipped our cruise card in the picture making equipment and we were officially on the ship and cruising. Well, maybe not cruising yet, but the journey had begun. Found our room D-620 on deck 9 the Dolphin deck easily, should have been easy I could probably have walked through the ship blind folded I'd seen most every nick and cranny in the thing for the past 4 months while investigating the ship and trip. The room was immaculate even though some other couple had been in it no more than two hours earlier.
Our suitcases hadn't arrived yet, but a knock on the door produced our cabin steward named Alvin. I requested a foam egg crate mattress pad that Alvin said would be no problem and he gave us a quick tour of our mini suite. The bed mattress felt fine, but the egg crate made it feel real good. This was a tip we read in a cruise review. We also had our bathrobes waiting that I requested via their web site. Alvin never really appeared in the cabin again although we would see him in the hall and speak several times daily. Alvin kept our cabin immaculate always.
August 23, 2003 Lunch in the Horizon Food Court
In a word CHAOS. The Horizon has two sides, but only one was opened and several hundred people were trying to get in it at once. The food court needs better supervision or at least traffic control on the first day. However, I told the DW that this was going to happen based on all the reviews I'd read so we were prepared. Food was excellent and service was fine for the first time. Everyone had a major learning curve the first day at the Horizon. No problems at all after that.
After lunch we toured the ship and watched other passengers get directions from the crew and staff that were basically everywhere to help people find their staterooms. We walked most of the this mammoth ship finally seeing with my own eyes areas I'd only seen via others pictures or in advertisements. In a word the ship is "BEAUTIFUL". It is also as clean as a whistle. During the cruise it was common in almost every area to see a crew member cleaning something and I'm talking about on their hands and knees to make sure the ship was spotless.
Our Mini Suite
We got back and unpacked all of our luggage and and had plenty of room in the hugh closet and wardrobe that were right by the bathroom. We also had at least 8-10 other drawers in the tables and desk to store items. Our room was never cluttered. Having the couch, chair, and coffee table was really great and worth the extra expense to have a separate room for lounging in. In fact even when the in-laws came in to the room you still didn't feel cramped at all.
We brought an extension cord along to plug in the charger for the camera, cell charger, curling iron etc. In reading reviews people had said that only one 110 outlet in the room was available. In the mini suite we had two by the TV's, two more by the desk, and one in the bathroom. Therefore, the extension really wasn't needed.
Our in-laws said they had a bottle of champagne on ice courtesy of AAA waiting for them in their room which we later found out was just a hoax. We had (2) bottles of wine and Princess tote bags from Travelocity which were for real. The in-laws weren't real happy campers for what they had spent for there facilities .
There was only one occasion during the entire journey of over 2,000 nautical miles that we ever felt the ship rocking or rolling and that was as we were going toward Victoria in the inland passage and came upon a point where the Pacific was rolling in as the water in the inland passage was going I guess in an opposite way that gave us some rolling and rocking for about and hour. I believe the captain slowed the ship from 20 knots to 8 knots to avoid any serious discomfort.
The weather in all ports of call was absolutely perfect picture post card weather 62-68 degrees, very little wind, and plenty of sunshine. The only rain we experienced was for about two hours on Sunday on at sea day and except for some periods of fog the weather was great.
The day we cruised Tracy's Arm to see the glacier it was overcast which according to the naturalist was perfect for viewing the blues of the glacier. He was right. Water temperature was 38 degrees and the outside air temperature was only 45 degrees and we were on our balcony and it was COLD! We put on gloves, hats, and wrapped in a blanket and the scenery was breathtaking. How the captain got that hugh ship in there through all those ice bergs is beyond me, but I'm sure glad he did because it was absolutely awesome.
We took excursions in Juneau and Skagway. In Juneau we went out on a jet boat whale watching. The jet boat held about 40 people and had an open area as well as enclosed area with rest room facilities on board. We found several hump back whales and were even able to watch them feed which was really exciting. We also saw many eagles and sea lions on this excursion. This trip ended with a bus ride to the Mendenhall Glacier which is a beautiful site to see. I took several post card quality Camera shots at this site. We highly recommend this trip which I believe was around $129.00 each. No Bears!
In Skagway we boarded another boat and traveled to Haines, Alaska, to a wildlife preserve we had a weenie roast and chili for lunch which was provided prior to getting on flat bottom twin engine boat for our river wildlife quest. We went up and down that river for about 30-45 minutes and the only wildlife we saw were several eagles and a couple of salmon a fisherman had caught. This trip was nice and the scenery from the river was beautiful, but for the price $159 each I wouldn't recommend it. No Bears!
Ship Board Activities and Entertainment
There were lots of things to do while the ship was sailing between ports from bingo, to an excellent casino, pools, hot tubs, basketball, putt putt, etc. and we did all of them at least once. The entertainment in the evening was good and we especially enjoyed the live broadway type show in the Princess Theater except the audio was entirely to loud.
Our in-laws enjoyed the comedians in both theaters especially the juggler who somehow and please don't try this at home sucked(litterally) five ping pong balls into his mouth and juggled them by inhaling and exhaling as he juggled items with his hands on a unicycle.
Shipboard activities for each day were very clearly explained in the daily newsletter called the patter. Also the cruise director reiterated activities at the theaters and via the closed circuit TV channels. We enjoyed keeping up with where we were via the room TV and the ships own private TV channel.
We elected to go personal choice dining and although I've never done the 6 or 8 routine I'm sure the flexibility of PC is the only way to go. On Tuesday we were seated at a table waited on by a beautiful little Romanian girl named Georgetta. She was absolutely excellent and I reserved her table every evening there after in the Portofino restaurant for 8 or 8:15 p.m. We never waited more than 2-4 minutes anytime we went for meals at either the Portofino or Capri restaurants whether it be lunch or dinner. For lunch in the Portofino we sat with Horacio who was from Mexico via Samoa. Horacio was alot of fun and also an excellent waiter.
I guess the one thing that really surprised us was that out of 1,100 crew members only 11 were from the U.S.
We had two formal nights where the men wore tuxedos or suits and the women wore more formal attire. In my judgment no more than 20% of the men wore tuxedos and we went through most parts of the ship on each night. Did not see anyone dressed in anything other than a suit or tux in the dining rooms.
After dinner at the shows at least 70% of the men had changed into more casual attire or at a minimum took off their ties and jackets. In the atrium areas formal attire was more prevalent than in other public areas of the ship. However, that amount of people didn't represent more than 2-5% of the ships population. I wore a dark suit at dinner and changed into smart casual attire for the 10:30 p.m. comedy show in the Princess theater which a lot of the men did.
They need some help here. Went in at least six to eight times and at best 4-5 machines of about 30 were working. Heard alot of disgruntled passengers as they couldn't log in or the machine wasn't even on. The rate was only $.35/min which was fine and the speed was comparable to a standard modem. I got all the information about my business in a sit down each day and the total bill was just over $10.00. The problem was sitting down and getting a machine that worked. The Internet is a way of life with lots of us and even though we are on vacation from our business, it will still be there when we get back and information on current activities is vital.
We have a local company here in Kentucky, but clarity was fine in all the ports of call and connecting was just like dialing a long distance number at home. The easiest way to tell if you had cell connection was to watch the TV and see if they had there cable channels. If the ship had the cable channels, chances were pretty good you have cell connection and Internet connection as well.
The disembarking process was done by color code and ran about 10-15 minutes behind the assigned schedule. I'm sure one of the problems was that the Amsterdam uses the same terminal for customs as Princess and that ship was disembarking at the same time as the Star. We went through customs found our bags in our color coded row and went out side the terminal. Then chaos broke loose again. Outside the terminal were buses for Princess furnished transportation, a cab row, and family members pickup all together.
We grabbed a cab that was the sixth one in what was supposed to be a line and our guy headed out of the mess. The pick up and drop off process could be greatly improved with some simple signage and a traffic control. We had no problem, but did get cussed out by some people waiting for a cab that we had no idea what they were waiting for.
Our total time to disembark and travel back to the Holiday at Sea Tac was only one hour and another $30 dollar cab ride. Our total cost for lodging and transportation for the two days was $184.00. The in-laws cost was $290.00 and they finally got to their hotel at 1:30 p.m. total time of 2 hours and 30 minutes.
In summary, we would rate this experience a four out of five and enjoyed it very much. We definitely recommend that you spend the time prior to the cruise researching everything you can find about your ship, itinerary, port of calls, etc so surprises are kept to a minimum. We even called back home and had our girls at our place of business see us on the ships web cam in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria. Granted we were real small, maybe 2-3 pixels, but that was fun too.
But still NO BEARS! Well, I guess we'll just have to come back and find those bears on another cruise to Alaska.
Borrowing some words from John Denver to start my review!
Goin' up to Alaska, up to the land of the Midnight Sun where the whale and polar bear run o'er the icy blue sea Goin' up to Alaska, up to the north and the pioneer life where courage and strength still survive and a man can be free Men can be free Goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska
A year ago in Hawaii on the other Star (Norwegian Star) we were on the promenade deck having coffee with another passenger. It was early morning and we were watching the sunrise as we were sailing into Lahania Maui...We had a peaceful and serene view of the port and the hills of that island. We were remarking how beautiful we thought Hawaii was. Our fellow passenger told us..yes, Hawaii is pretty, but if you want to see REAL beauty..go to Alaska. So that is how this trip came to be .. within 2 weeks of returning from Hawaii..we were booked to sail on the Diamond Princess. An Alaskan Dream was born!!
Our inside quad cabin on theDiamond was booked even before we had a brochure to show it's location-we finally had a brochure with the deck plan in early Sept. 2002 and could start the many months of planning that we wanted to do. This was a big trip for us. Our son's ages 12 & 15 have limited years left for 'family' trips..so we had this one planned as one of the last 'big' ones. one that we hoped they would remember in years to come. In Oct. the news that the Diamond was damaged by a fire while under construction was a shock. Being so far away from sailing we had not made any other arrangements for the trip yet. Princess moved us to the Star Princess which had the same itinerary and would just go out of Seattle 1 day earlier. Slightly disappointed we would not be on the brand new ship as planned we adjusted and Princess gave us $25pp shipboard credit when we made the switch. Our voyage would be sailing on August 9, 2003. My sister , her husband and daughters 22 and 24 decide to join us.. We will have 8 of us going on this adventure..and lucky me gets to be the tour guide/cruise planner and problem solver.
Spring 2003 we get the trip into full gear mode. Purchase our airline tickets on United. (Baltimore - Seattle) The Iraq war and impact on airlines especially United with the bankruptcy status made us a bit nervous.. Final Payment comes in May and the credit card statement makes it all seem real. I start my intense information gathering on the internet, visit the cruise message boards constantly, order books from the library, brochures from the chamber of commerce's.check out the Princess shore excursions and start getting geared up for the trip to come. Precruise documents come and we get our excursions planned thru Princess set. do the online documentation. Our travel agent had called us in May to see if we would want to switch to 2 outside cabins instead of our quad inside cabin. we would pay about $250 more for the outside 2 cabins than the quad inside.good deal..we went for it.. It was the RIGHT decision!!!! We ended up on Emerald Deck, cabins 8209 and 8211..both with some obstructions from lifeboats and deck supports..but still could see plenty and had the bonus of getting out on the 'smile' deck..more on that later.
I make a great countdown calendar in June to mark off the days left until our trip.the pictures of snow covered mountains, glaciers, whales are shaping the dreams we have at night..this is going to be a fantastic trip! Make the car rental arrangements, hotel reservations, plan out the time in Seattle,,, devour every morsel of information that the previous cruisers have posted on the cruise boards..finally it is August..we can start the countdown for real..SDM-single digit midgets. each day drags by and we start packing, packing and packing. It appears the 4 of us are going to bring just about every stitch of clothing we own! 4 suitcases, a garment bag and duffel later we are ready to roll. It is August 6th and today is the day. It is finally our turn..we are Goin' to Alaska!!!!!
Slight delays in Baltimore leaving but make the tight 40 minute connection in Chicago.. arrive Sea Tac after mid-night their time..feels like 3AM to us East Coasters. Wind thru the confusing airport, pick up luggage and finally find the place 'Island 3" where we call our hotel-Ramada Inn and Suites to pick us up. Luckily they arrive 5 minutes later..we do a quick check in and drag our weary bodies to bed. We made it this far ..so far so good!
Thursday August 7, 2003
Up early for Seattle.. 7AM or so..glad to see the sun to greet our day. We have the skimpy continental (FREE) breakfast at the hotel and pack up for our day in Seattle. We had purchased ahead of time Visitor's Bus Passes to use ($5) for the day..included bus and trolley, water taxi transportation. Pick up was at the hotel next door.. long long ride into city. bus 174 was not the express route. Probably took us about 45 minutes to make it to the Westlake center. We take our trusty Seattle map and head down to the Pikes Market. Beautiful flowers, many displays..we wind around before we spot the crowd that is hanging by the fish stall waiting for their show. They take a group of tourists and place them near the ice where the fish are 'chillin' Next they call out and then throw some large fish with guts trailing out over the tourists. It was funny to watch.but not all that it was hyped up to be. Rachel the brass pig was nearby for a quick pat for good luck. Picked up some coffee and donuts then headed down to the water. Glorious day in Seattle..sunny and mid 70's . Find some fish and chips for lunch nearby , then head on the trolley car to Pioneer Square. We wind around the square (with many unsavory homeless beggars) to the place to meet up with the Underground tour. get our tickets, have an ice cream cone then join the 2PM tour led by Terry Lynn. good information and interesting walk underground Seattle. City built up a level by building retaining walls on sidewalks, sending silt down mountains to raise the ground level..objective was to provide place for the sewers, water system for 'indoor plumbing' Yep, thanks to Thomas Crapper..Seattle now has flush toilets! After tour we take the Elliott Bay water taxi for a QUICK ride back and forth across the bay. Talk to some Seattle natives about the city. Then we decide to separate for rest of afternoon . Sister and her family head to Seattle center to go up Space Needle. We go to the Seattle aquarium. Aquarium was not as spectacular as the one we have here in Baltimore..but decent displays and information about the sealife on the west coast. Nice place to bring the boys. Trolley up Alaskan Way to the end of the line and then hike UP to the top of the hill to the Seattle Center. Our son's enjoy going on a couple of the rip off amusement rides there.. shop a bit in the stores next to the space needle and then meet up with my sister's group. Boy's favorite activity of the day was playing in the strange space capsule shaped fountain near the space needle.. I let my one son strip down to shorts and enjoy the spray. Find a restaurant for dinner..Irish pub restaurant-hard for us to find a place that is 'kid friendly' and has a menu acceptable to everyone (and within budget!) we will be glad to have the cruise ship make that 3x's (or more) a day decision for us! Take the monorail back to Westlake center.. walk around the block trying to find the bus stop for our return to hotel stop..finally ask a bus driver where to meet our return bus toward SeaTac. wait there for some long near hour time before squeezing onto the bus for the long ride back to hotel. Another late night, probably 11PM before we make it to the hotel, have tired feet from the walking downtown, just want SLEEP. nighty night.
Friday August 8th, 2003
Start day around 7AM with another not memorable breakfast in hotel, head to airport on shuttle to the Alamo car rental for our Toyota corolla we have reserved for the day. Head north from airport to make Everett,, where they have the Boeing Plant. We have tickets for the 11AM tour there. Arrive a bit early and are switched to the 10:30 tour instead. Tickets can be reserved ahead of time for $10 per person.. you can try to get in person at reduced rates $5 adults, $3 children but you may not get the time you want or they can be sold out for the day. See excellent movie in the theater there showing the history of the plant and the overall process. Load us on a bus to drive over to the huge assembly building. Largest building by volume in the world! HUGE..they say that Disneyland would fit inside it. Our tour guide takes us down the steps and up the elevator into the plant. We see dozens of workers (from the near 20,000 total employees on 3 shifts) working on airplane wings. It is an incredible site-they have bicycles 13,000 of them to help the workers go from one part of the plant to the other. We can see 1 of the 3 assembly lines, where the large 2 aisle 747 aircraft are assembled. 11 month process of about 200 million and up cost per airplane. Back on the bus they take us to where they are painted and tested. About 7 airplanes are in this area waiting the last steps til the delivery to the customer. Our guide stated that delivery day is a very special one, they take the buyer's pilot on a special 3 hr flight, transfer all papers in a ceremony and then the plane is flown out by the buyer. We were told that usually these aircraft are instantly put into service as a 'revenue' flight. within hours is the time frame they told us. I guess I would prefer a more 'seasoned' aircraft for my flights if possible!!! We take our rental car down to the ferry at Milketo to do the short crossing over to Clinton on Whidbey Island. Have about a 15 min wait til we are efficiently brought on the ferry. These are impressive transportation vehicles, very clean and comfortable with large reasonable priced snack bars in the middle. We have popcorn and drinks and go outside for a glimpse from the back of the ferry. Only a 20 min ride we were enjoying it and wished it could have been longer. Off on the island we circle down to a cute town of Langley and pick up some goodies from the bakery there. Next stop is the Whidbey Island State Park where we hike down to a little beach there, return up the hill and share our bakery goodies at the picnic tables. Off on the main island roads..I am surprised by the large size of these islands, what looked like maybe 10 miles or so on a map is more like 20+ miles.. Final destination on Island was Deception Pass State Park. You can walk out in the middle of the bridge and look down at the swirling currents between the islands..and look towards the San Juan Islands. That view made the day for me. Beautiful!! Long haul back to Seattle, we seem to be arriving just as the Friday afternoon rush hour comes to a peak. We are lucky to qualify for the HOV carpool lanes with our 4 occupants in the car. We circle a bit to find our hotel and relax for awhile. Boys hit the indoor pool and we order them pizza from pizza hut. After that arrives husband and I go to Denny's down the street for some 'couple' time. pick up some beer from the gas station convience store next door, back to hotel for the evening. Do a quick load of laundry so we can board the star with all ready for the week. My sister and family return to hotel about 8PM. They had gone south to Mt. Ranier for the day. Enjoyed several hikes there including one to a waterfall. One negative experience they had was they had stopped by airport to return rental car to Alamo so they wouldn't have to worry about it the next day. Alamo wanted to charge them a $160 day rate instead of the $17 internet rate we had booked for returning the car early. After a major fight with the rental clerk they did get that charge adjusted. They did get hit up for the full tank of gas ($31) since they had signed up for it that morning that way. We all chatted about our day..and toasted our beers to the voyage to come -TOMORROW, the day we have been waiting for ..the day we sail off on the Star Princess.
Saturday August 9th, 2003
Husband Paul is up early and has the Seattle paper to read with his coffee. When I join him downstairs he calmly asks me if our ship is named the Star Princess. I reply yes (tho he has been told this information maybe a dozen times by now!) he shows me the 2 column article about the Norwalk Virus causing illness to over 100 passengers and crew last week.. Oh boy was that just what I DIDN'T want to hear right before getting on the ship. I tried to rationalize in my head that 100 passengers out of 2800 passengers just wasn't some huge outbreak but the worry was hard to shake. We repack our luggage and check out of the hotel around 10:30AM. Our limo driver arrives about 10:45-this is our first limo experience for myself and our boys so they were enjoying touching every button, taking pictures and chatting happily on the ride down to the pier. First view of the ship on our left..HUGE..then we see the TV cameras waiting to interview the returning passengers. Drag out the luggage and take it to the check in area. Wait about 15 min before they move us into terminal to load the bags on the xray conveyor. Move over to the ticketing area and have about 30 people in line ahead of us. There is a separate line for platinum ticket holders, no express line. We are given a 1 page letter explaining that the embarkation will be delayed til 7PM,sailing til 9PM while they will be disinfecting the ship to prevent any further illness from the virus. They outlined a $50 per cabin, shipboard credit, that they would provide transportation to a hotel downtown and that Princess would provide hospitality suites there for passengers. I was not totally surprised by this news but still disappointed. To be at the port early is one of my goals,, I love the time on the ship when it is still fairly vacant to explore and find all the hidden treasures. Lunch aboard then relaxing, unpacking and getting that first drink to celebrate the trip to come is all part of the top 10 favorite cruise experiences for me.. not this trip. Ok..we find seats in the waiting area and try to plan our out unexpected free time in Seattle. After about an hour we are loaded on buses and taken downtown to 3 different hotels. Inside our hotel, the Hyatt, (nice!) Princess had a large hospitality room, with sodas, water , coffee, there are 2 representatives there with brochures for different Seattle attractions. We settle in with our drinks and decide to hit one of the movies from the theaters down the street here. The hotel concierge gives us a nice printout with movie times - we decide to go next door to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch - we were told to return no later than 7PM to return to the ship. ( I guess the question should have been how EARLY can we board the Star.. some passengers were able to get on at 4PM ) Wait a bit for our lunch at Cheesecake factory...Unfortunately I was feeling headachy and stomach flip flopping all day so it was not as enjoyable as it could have been. For me to turn down any cheesecake is a sign that all was not WELL. We walk down the street fair where Tyler (12) does the golf putting and gets an impressive hole in one! They reward him with a beer glass (?) music performers, little exhibits, we wander into the shopping mall Brookstone store and waste time playing with all the gadgets there. 4PM we go to our movies. Seabiscuit, Pirates of Caribbean and Freaky Friday were the choices for the 8 in our group. After the shows we meet again and head back up street to the Hyatt. There is a short line getting on the bus. Head back to the pier. It's after 7:30PM when we are finally ON the Star. We head up to the Emerald deck, walk forward on the Starboard (right) side and find the 2 cabins that will be HOME SWEET HOME for us this week. Put the boys in 8209 with the 2 twins beds, large 12 inch deck support is blocking some of the view from their large window. We are next door in 8211, has a nice queen bed, and some part of window blocked by lifeboat #1. We really liked this cabin arrangement. First one of our 12 cruises with the separate hallway for the closet. This prevents that problem of doors banging into each other from bathroom and closet that we have had previously. Our cabin Steward Augustino from Portugal introduces himself and shows us the important things about our cabin. Meanwhile they make the first announcement that muster drill will be held at 8:15PM. I am trying to hustle everyone so we can be in the dining room before that stops everything..but no luck. By the time our group is ready, passengers are going down to the promenade deck with their life jackets. Dinner will have to wait. I had made all the compromises I wanted to for that day, I was ready for a temper tantrum! I really feel that this drill could have been postponed til Sunday or at least delayed until the passengers who didn't get on the Star until after 7PM could have had their dinner in the dining room. I know the buffet is opened 24 hrs. and there is room service..but I had expectations for being served and wanted that more pampered experience. The rest of the group went to muster and for the first time in 12 cruises I skipped the drill. I was ready in the cabin if our steward requested that I go..but meanwhile used the nice quiet all alone time to unpack and have a few minutes to finally take a deep breath..we were on the STAR at last. Drill over, our family speed down the stairs and made it to the Capri dining room before they closed for the night at 9:30PM. Ok Sailaway menu. (flourless chocolate cake a disappointment,, NCL has this one beat by a mile!) We were on the port side of the dining room and could see the ship start to move by the passing of the orange cranes lighted in the night. I would have liked to be up on the top deck watching the lights of the Seattle skyline fade into the distance. I heard later that there was no real fanfare up top. No band playing, no sounding of the ship's horn. Off to Alaska! Our first dinner over..finish the unpacking for the boys. My sister knocks on the door to see if we want to go to the 10PM show in the Princess Theater. We join them and find some seats off the entrance on deck 7. Nice comfortable lounge, long aisle seats like in a stadium movie theatre. Seems to be too small for the size of this ship. Often crowded and problems with saving seats by some people. Not too many waiters available for drink service. Show introduction by Billy Hygate, older 60 ish?? Man with decent voice, seasoned cruise director, he has his job down and can smooze the passengers with ease. He introduces the cruise activity staff,,,much older than ones we have had on other cruise lines, the dance team does a number to welcome us for the week, then we are treated to the humor of Kevin Hughes. He is just what this weary sailor needed for the night. His on target assessment of men and women relationships had just been played out in real life for us that day. I laughed and laughed. It was a delightful end to a difficult day. Off for the first night to sleep on the Star. gentle rocking motion of the sea sending us off to dream land.only negative was the ROCK hard pillows provided by Princess. I think even prisoners are given better padding in their cells! My sister had the cabin attendant give them substitute ones for the week. I was saved by my 'squish' pillow that I always bring from home-good planning on my part.
Personal Choice Dining-- We had chosen Personal Choice Dining for this cruise based on the time we would be in port. We thought it would be better to be able to dine when we wanted instead of being locked into a set dining time. We had 3 prior trips on Norwegian Cruise Line with freestyle dining and had enjoyed how well that worked on their ships. On the Star I would rename the personal choice dining,, IMPERSONAL choice dining. I will give them points for fast and efficient moving of people in and out of the dining room What is lost in this process is the pampering and usual friendly greetings from the host/hostess and wait staff. The usual greeting entering the dining room was barked at us with the words "How Many?" and then "Is everyone with you?" I understand the need for Princess to try to reduce the waiting time at the dining rooms but we have had this same set up on Norwegian and they handled things efficiently as well as with a touch of 'class'. how about changing that greeting to ."Welcome to the Capri Dining room. How many will have the pleasure of dining with us this evening??" It bothered me every time we would go to either dinning room. One night my husband tried to get the name of one of the host staff to have for my comment form as he was especially nasty (the night we were going to Victoria) and he barked back Damon at him.so watch out if you see him at the door! We had most of our meals-breakfast , lunch and dinner in either the Capri or Portofino dining rooms. Service about the same in each one. We tried on 2 occasions to get the waiter Dennis in Capri that someone had mentioned was exceptional. He always had tables reserved ahead of time. The wait staff we had continued with the rushed and impersonal service. I would say maybe 4 waiters out of the 2 dozen or so meals in the dining room that week took the time to introduce themselves and talk about the menu for the night. Most rushed to hand us the menus, came back to take the order.. This was the first ship that did not have the usual array of silverware on the table. Maybe it was a sanitation thing, for the most part it was ok. You didn't have to think about..gee what fork am I supposed to use since there was only 1 fork available! Sometimes however your fork had disappeared with the prior course and you would not have one to use until you could grab the waiter to bring you another one. Coffee was available with dinner but it usually arrived just as you were finishing the dessert. Cappuccino which used to be a complementary beverage is now an extra charge. (Carnival and Norwegian have it complementary in dining room) I was not impressed and this dining experience ranks bottom out of the 12 cruises we have had. Food quality ok, sometimes we had difficulty finding choices that appealed to us. The waiters were good about asking if you would like a replacement entrée for something you did not care for. We didn't think the desserts for the week were worth the calories. The exceptions are the chocolate silk pie available for lunch midweek, the duet of chocolate mousse (Thurs) , and the love boat dream dessert. (Fri) We had some good meals, especially the lobster and crab legs - but most were not that impressive especially with the less than remarkable service.
Horizon Court dining- We used the buffet for several breakfasts. had pizza from the mid-deck café..both had adequate food. The buffet has little 'island's with the food which may prevent lines but has the passengers groping about trying to hit everything. It was a hunt to find the butter, the jelly etc. none near the bread items as you might expect. This food court was open 24 hrs per day. We did visit 2 late nights around midnight for a snack. Food looked like most items on the regular evening menu on the buffet. My son did eat a pile of shrimp one night that they had peeled ready to eat in a large shell bowl! Ice cream without an extra charge is only available in dining room or for 1 hour in the buffet 3:30-4:30 each day. We finally found it one afternoon and thought the quality was poor. Store brand ice cream at best. There is a nice ice cream café mid-deck near the pool called scoops.bring your ship card because you have to pay for ice cream from here. We have always had decent ice cream and access to soft serve on the other ships we sailed without charge so we did not feel the extra charge on Princess was acceptable. I had read about the coffee being made from a syrup..I asked my husband if he noticed any difference, I am not a big coffee drinker. After that he kept saying that the coffee tasted weird ..I should have kept my mouth shut! Star Princess was the first cruise we had been on that did not have special midnight food offering or a grand midnight buffet. I guess this is a cruise line wide policy... we usually only go to look at the magnificent food displays , just another not as expected event of the week. No biggie.certainly don't need those extra calories! At breakfast they had some premade omelets available in the buffet line..but no omelet man or waffle man as usual on our other trips. Again, don't know if maybe they are making changes due to health reasons or maybe it is not the usual on Princess. Just little things we had before missing on this trip. Most first time cruisers would not see the subtle differences, for us it was hard not to compare.
Sunday August 10th, 2003 At Sea en route to Juneau
Wake up to dense fog outside our window. Can hear the fog horn sound from time to time. Squeeze into the shower..experience the nice little packets of shampoo/conditioner (Kevin Hughes comedian claim they are unopenable..it is a bit tough) off for breakfast..eggs benedict in the dining room. We take time afterward to tour the ship as we had missed out on that on Saturday. We especially liked the 'secret' emergency door forward on deck 8 starboard side where we could go thru the double doors and go out on the nice 'smile' deck in the bow of the Star. Nice but usually windy view. There was a bench that was sheltered near the stairs that we would sit on for hours gazing at the beauty of Alaska. Usually very private, it was like having your own HUGE bow balcony! Loved it and was only a minute escape from our cabin when we would see something especially lovely to view outside. Checked out the other decks, lounges, pools, etc. think we found everything except the Almalfi dining room someplace on Deck 6. I don't know where this room is hidden but we never discovered it that week. Maybe if we had traditional dining we would have lost 5 lbs instead of gaining it-not being able to locate the room all week! Go to Princess theater at 10 to hear the naturalist Michael Modzelewski. I enjoyed his lectures. Sure I think if you hooked a lie detector up to him it would be off of the charts with his stories.but he is entertaining and gets you in the Alaska mode with his tales of wildlife and escape from the world. I didn't buy his book on ship..too cheap to pay that price. Found it on amazon used for $1.47 plus shipping so if you are frugal like me wait and get it for cheap. Good slides of Alaska to highlight his talks..we usually went to his shows or caught them on the TV later all week long. Sign the boys up for their respective kid's clubs for the week. Was great for Tyler (12) who made dozens of friends all week and had a great time. The older son PJ (15) didn't get to mix in that first night and never really made a 'connection' all week. Oh well, 1 happy out of 2 is not bad. PJ was happy going to shows with us, movies on his own, or watching TV in cabin when we were out and about. Have lunch in dining room then meet in Skywalker Lounge the cruise critics that have been corresponding for the months prior to our trip. This was our back up meeting time..good planning on Vicki's part since our original 3PM Saturday sailaway meeting never came to be with our delayed sailing. Beautiful lounge with full 360 viewing from the top of the ship. We were lucky to have fairly calm seas, sunshine and nice conversation together. I especially enjoyed meeting Janet and her husband Bob as we had jointly obsessed for the past month via email all of the little decisions about our trip to come.
Sea days are great..somehow this one evaporated like they all do. Blur of food, activity and just some sit out and watch the water sail by time. See 2 weeks notice movie in Princess Theater. Formal night. We all get ready..protests from the boys about the ties/belts/dress shoes but manage to survive. Have a couple FREE drinks in the Promenade lounge for the 'captain's party' before dinner. Salmon for dinner was tasty. Decide to go to 8:30 Juggle show..interesting and funny, ping pong balls popping, unicycle riding very talented man. On way back to cabin we are hooked into listening to Bert Stratton. His voice carries in the atrium. Excellent pianist and wonderful voice. He has a crowd hanging on the rails of the lounge and all seats but 2 taken. We grab those seats and join in the singing and clapping. GREAT show..one of the best we have had on our many cruises. Thank you BERT. Head up to deck 14 and drag our son Tyler out of the pool there, he eats a pile of shrimp and down we go to sleep again for another gently rocking night on the way to Juneau. Midnight.
Monday August 11th, 2003
Princess Patter for the day has a special yellow sheet outlining the canceled excursions and ones that have times changed. This is our first knowledge of the late arrival in Juneau. I had naively thought the ship would be able to make up the lost 4 hrs and arrive on time. This has changed our plans for Juneau. I am scheduled with my son PJ to go on a whale watching trip with Captain Larry at 2PM .. we had arranged for pick up at glacier. My husband and son Tyler are on a princess tour to the mendenhall glacier via canoe..that trip time changed from 11:30AM to now 6PM.. We adjust the day and eat breakfast in the Lido..watch some amazing scenery outside the window and then head to our front 'bow' location to watch most of the morning. See some little porpoises playing in the water ahead of the ship as we sail along. It is a beautiful day..warmish 50'60's out front.. sunny and clear! Thank you God for this beautiful day, this beautiful ship and all healthy on board! Busy at lunch in Portofino which is the only dining room open. (seating around maybe 500 in that room, backed up several times during week for lunch as this was the only choice besides buffet) Wait in room for announcement that the ship is cleared. Juneau is big time busy. Float planes flying, 2 other ships in port.. crowds on the street going to shops. My husband spots the passengers leaving the ship so we join in the long line headed to the gangway. Off around 2:30PM , husband and son Tyler go shopping, PJ and I head to the Orca Enterprises office across from the tramway entrance to see what was happening with our whale watch. Somehow Orca had found out about the delayed arrival of the Star and had been able to move our group of 4 to the later whale watch trip. Because of the juggling , our original plan to go to the mendenhall glacier and have a pick up there could not be done. With only 1 ½ hrs before our tour it was too close a time frame to do it on our own. We decide to head across the street and go up the tramway in the meantime. HOT..the temps in Juneau are upper 70's and we are layered in long sleeves, sweatshirts, windbreakers, leggings and windpants. We peeled off a bit and joined the ticket line at the tram way. I asked the wait time to go up and down on the tram. The girl estimated 20 min wait to go up and didn't know the wait to come back down..with our 90 min time window shrinking fast before our whale watch we decide to just spend the time available in the stores. Great shopping in town..reminds us of the Caribbean with the many vendors. Most have the same assortment of tee shirts, ulu knives, totem poles, stuffed animals.. we join in the buying frenzy and have several large bags to tote to the Orca office. Get a quick photo of the Red Dog saloon and head back for the tour office. They kindly agree to hold our shopping buys..load us into the little bus and head us out to the marina. Nice driver gives us a mini tour of Juneau, he stops at the parking lot that has a wonderful field of wildflowers framed by the Mendenhall glacier and also mountain peaks on the side. Postcard perfect we jump out and snap some photos. 10 min later we are at the marina and can see the Awesome orca coming into dock. The prior tour (our tour!) exits the boat all raving about the whale experience they just had. We hope we will be as lucky. Captain Larry welcomes us aboard and the 23 or so of us squeeze into the bench inside seating. Captain Larry gets on the microphone and introduces himself and the 'naturalist' Susan for our tour. He does most of the commentary for our trip.. A little information about the area, the boat and what we hope to see there this beautiful afternoon. Boat speeds out to the whale habitat in about 15 minutes. almost instantly we spot the 'blow' of a whale near the shoreline - Soon after we see a pod of about 7 whales doing bubble net feeding. The camera is not cooperating with snapping the pictures as instantly as is needed to capture their brief time above the water. We see this several times over. The binoculars are helpful.what I like most is the 'surprise' factor.. the whales will spout, feed and then return under the water for 4-7 minutes..you watch for the seagulls to circle over head and then surprise..up pops a HUGE whale and then others in succession. It was a visual thrill every time. We experienced this pod bubble feeding about 5-6 times and also saw another pod of 4 whales further in the distance. It was exciting. I asked Larry how he would rate this trip we experienced on a scale of 1-10..and he said he would give it a 12! I don't know if it was truth or not but seeing those huge mammals in the wild was one of my favorite Alaskan memories for sure! All too soon we were heading towards an island, spotted some harbor seals lazing in the sunshine, some oyster catcher birds. Sped us back to the dock, Susan served juice, water , crackers, cheese-coffee to Captain Larry. I had the feeling she was more his 'girlfriend' than his naturalist?? Maybe she did some whale talks on the back deck that I didn't hear .. otherwise the information was shared by Larry. I found him comfortable to talk to as long as you were the one with the questions. Back to the marina and bus back to the port. Nice day in Juneau, I was anxious to hear how my husband fared on his canoe excursion. We had a nice dinner in the dining room, joined by 3 generations of women from Tucson-I go out on Promenade afterward to wait for the canoe trip to return. They were scheduled to be back at 10PM..the same time as sailaway from Juneau. They arrive just in time for them to disassemble the gangway and we head up to the lido for their late dinner snack. They both loved the excursion. Only 10 passengers, 1 guide on the canoe. Paddled out to the glacier, then to a nearby waterfall, got out and had a nice snack of salmon spread, hot cider. They both had a great time and enjoyed every minute of it. I was happy it went well and shared my whale tales too. Great memories of Juneau. Sunny skies, whales, canoes to paddle, souviners bought, photos to remind us of all the wonders of that day. Ship sails on north to Skagway and we head to bed, whale tails, glacier views are the last thoughts as we drift off. gently rocking along with the Star. Good night.
Tuesday August 12th, 2003 Skagway
Another good nights sleep on the Star. Wake up and then start to worry that maybe the Avis car rental office might not hold our rental. We had reserved for 7am and would be more like 9am when we would make it to the office. I jump into the shower and head off ship with my husband to make a call to their office. Again Paul's shipboard card buzzes instead of 'dings' when he puts the card in the slot before leaving the ship. Mine is fine. The gangway attendant acts like this is the first time this has ever happened and tries unsuccessfully to use the card which continues to buzz every time. Paul is sent down to another gangway,and then to the purser's desk where they claim to have fixed the card. This happened at every port every time when Paul would try to exit the ship..it even happened when we were going off for final disembarkation in Seattle!!! Tho this time they put his name on a paper and didn't make him go up and down decks to get it straightened out. Just a nuisance!!!!! No luck getting the avis office to answer. We go on ship and get everyone ready for breakfast. I head off again and this time get an answer at Avis, they are fine with the 9AM pickup so we relax and have an nice meal in the dining room before heading out. Take the rip off $1.50pp bus less than mile to the first town drop off. Head down the street to the Avis office. My brother in law Kevin checks in first and gets a free upgrade to a Nissan Pathfinder. boo! I made these reservations and had gone off ship twice that AM to hold things and they get the better car! We decided to give them Tyler as a passenger as punishment. We get the grand am (better gas mileage) car that we had reserved. Head up the road to the Yukon.. first stop cemetery and Reid's falls. Off to Canada. The road climbs steadily, we pass the US custom's checkpoint. Across the valley we can see the tracks for the train. For us the car rental made sense..for about $65 for the day plus gas the 4 of us will have most of the same scenery as the $92 pp train ride.. Plus we get to stop for photos every time we get the urge. The mountain vistas, blue lakes , green growth everywhere give us a visual treat around every turn, Tooshi Lake, Bove Island it all seems too pretty to be part of this earth. I can't understand all this 'waterfront' property being unclaimed. sure the water and winters are cold but awesome awesome world to wake up to. I can't begin to describe in words the immense beauty of it all. We stop every five miles or so for photos, and make the trip (65 miles) to Carcross Canada in about 2 1/2hours. They have a nice visitor's center there with great restrooms,, we are given directions to the gold panning place. Have a nice ice cream at the store across the street and walk up the road to 'top of the world' the gold shop where Edgar will show you how to pan for gold for $5 American. Our boys both grab a pile of dirt and follow the instructions from Edgar. It is a multistep process which finally yields small flecks of gold. They put the shiny mini nuggets into tiny vials and thank Edgar for his help finding GOLD..None of the lunch places in Carcross sound that appealing, we head up to Emerald lake (another 10 miles or so) varied shades of green across this picturesque lake. too darn beautiful here in Canada.. I would move if the climate was more 'friendly' to warm blooded people like me! Get a photo of the carcross desert and stop at the gas, convience store for snacks for our ride back down to Skagway. My mistake was using a $20 American bill to pay and get a fist full of canadian dollars and change in return. I ask them to 'convert' back to American for me..but the owner claims he only knows how to convert from American to Canadian..not Canadian to American.I decide not to fight the twisted logic of it all and figure we can spend the extra in Victoria Friday night. (anyone want some Canadian currency still on hand???) Drunk Native American Angus is verbally assaulting customers so we decide to exit south and head back down to the USA! US customs gives our passports a very careful look see and then they send us on our way. Drive down the Dyea road to the nice overlook over Skagway. Fill up the tank at over $2 per gallon..nice to have a better mileage car after all!!! Paul and PJ head to take the car back, I go off with Tyler in town and get a few more Alaskan goodies to bring home for the folks back home. We walk back to the wrong dock, and then cut thru the marina to the railroad dock where the Star is waiting to welcome us back. Weather for the day was mostly cloudy. then breaking to sunshine in Canada.., back to cloudy in Skagway. Temps in the 60's in town, dipping to 50's up on the high elevations, with a bit of wind. Our niece had stayed on the ship when we were touring Canada. She had hopes to go on the glacier dogsled scheduled for 1:15PM.. unfortunately conditions on glacier were not safe the the tour was canceled. It was a big let down for her and she ended up staying on ship ordering room service, watching a movie til we returned.. Plans off course again..it is hard not to feel this trip has a curse on it! Off for Italian night in the dining room.. Eggplant Parmesan is delicious, good shrimp flambe diablo, tried the cheesecake for dessert.. good meal overall. We head out to watch the ship sail away from Skagway from our Emerald deck bow bench. Cold and a bit nippy, follow the Coral Princess up the passage and see the lights of Haines ####### in the night before we head up to get some hot chocolate (brought packets from home) with hot water from lido upstairs. Early to bed tonight.have Tracey Arm tomorrow at 6AM and don't want to miss a minute of it. Dreams of the lakes in the Yukon are with us as we drift off to sleep.
Wednesday August 13th, 2003 Tracey Arm Fjord
Wake up early this am around 5 am , shower and head up to lido for breakfast.lots of early risers today we are lucky to grab a starboard table to watch outside. See the Star turn into the fjord for Tracey Arm. We will follow this narrow passageway until we reach the South Sawyer Glacier. Already there are wonderful jagged mountains and waterfalls on both sides of the ship. We spot our first icebergs floating in the water.. see the ice blue color we will come to know so well. At about 7AM we bundle up and go out on Emerald bow deck to see the sights unobstructed by glass. It's a breezy 46 degrees and we are glad we had brought the wool knitted hats, and gloves for our morning on the glacier. Wow Wow Wow..these views are so incredible that you can't believe your eyes. You want to burn these visual images into your brain so that you can retrieve that beauty in the depths of winter sludge in Maryland. So many little blue ice bergs, then you see a glimpse of the glacier around the next bend of the fjiord. Michael is narrating the voyage down to the glacier with his verbal explosions of wonder like he is seeing this for the first time. Waterfalls on both sides of the mountains, the huge blue glacier comes into view. All icebergs sculpted by nature just floating by as you glide closer the amazing jagged edge of the glacier. See several small calvings of ice drop into the water to form new ice bergs along the edge of the glacier. Little seals have found their space on the ice, some with their own personal sized ice bed to sleep on. The star launches a small photo boat that goes along shooting pictures of passengers along the rail..the tiny boat looks like an insect in the water next to that large glacier mass of ice. Bring out the video camera to capture some of this beauty. Stay here for over an hour, the ship turning slowly to provide all sides of ship an equal view. The clouds are hovering but Michael says it is perfect for glacier viewing..the sun washes out the intense blue color and you will not get the same visual effect. Clouds hang at the tops of the mountains it is all so intensly beautiful..we stay til we are too cold to enjoy it any longer then retreat for warm up in our cabin. Have a decent lunch in the dining room. Go to the standing room only lecture in Princess Theater by Michael with his talk about Glaciers and Tracey Arm. Good slides to highlight the morning we just experienced. Head to cabin for a nap to recover from early morning wakeup but can't get off to sleep. Bundle up in the robe that our cabin attendant Augustino brought on request over bathing suit and head up to indoor pool mid deck 14. Nice WARM fresh water pools.most excellent memory-this was our first fresh water pool experience on a cruise ship..had only used the hot tubs prior..nice touch Princess. too bad they have that stingy have to bring up from your cabin towel policy! Maybe they think that prevents the chair hogs from reserving chairs?? Find the free ice cream in the Lido (3:30-4:30, pretty tasteless Ice cream tho) Brother in law Kevin hits big on slot machine in Casino +$250 so he is a happy cruiser! Dinner in dining room , try Capri this time. Good menu.. Alaskan crab legs..nice being already split in ½ so that it is easy to retrieve the crabmeat. Head to the Princess Theater for Kevin Hughes 'relationship' show.. Favorite comedian of all of our 12 cruises. GREAT job Kevin. loved your insights into the male/female head games..you are on target! Ventriloquist in Vista lounge not to our taste..decide to head out after 10 min or so.. Too crowded to hear Bert without having to deal with the mob scene there on promenade lounge. Head to bed early after our predawn wake up. Ice bergs floating by in rainbow colors fill our dreams this night on the Star.
Thursday August 14th, 2002 Ketchikan
Last stop in Alaska..our short port day that starts early. We are up and eating in dining room around 7AM. Have the strange english breakfast which includes baked beans! I think that is a once in lifetime experience for me. Weather is cloudy, bit misty with rain and not too pretty. They say it is typical Ketchikan..tho they had just had 10 days of sunshine..a drought for them! Stop in the green visitors' building for the check in for the 'duck' tour.. booked online independently for myself and Tyler. We also had the lumberjack show at 8:20 on our plan. My husband and son PJ along with niece will be doing the princess snorkeling tour here. Do some quick shopping before heading out to the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. This tour had been highly recommended on the cruise critic Alaskan board so we were anticipating a good show. They kept us waiting in the drizzle and rain til the last minute for our 8:20 show. Once inside I was surprised to see the banners for the Iron Jack/ Iron Jill competion and the TV cameras in view. They announced we were 'lucky' to be here for the world competition for the iron jills.hey wait a minute..I wanted to see lumber JACKS not jills..this was not what we had paid for. It did turn out to be an interesting competition, I especially liked the one lumber JACK pole climbing activity.. but it was not as advertised and I couldn't help feeling they only cared about the cameras filming away not the audience who had paid for this experience that morning. Show ended, can't remember who won...but I can say it was a girl! And then headed towards the ship where we would be meeting the duck tour. Hit a few shops on the way. Nice little amphibious vehicle especially made for Alaska our's called Koby for the tour. Has seats for 48 inside. There were Plexiglas walls put up to keep out the rain of the day .. little portholes could be opened for photographs. Blankets on each seat for warmth if needed. Our guide cracked some silly jokes but gave us a nice commentary as we rode the streets (and boardwalks) of Ketchikan, up to the Totem Heritage Center, to the creek with the Salmon swimming upstream, down to Dolly's house..over thru the tunnel into the harbor. The Duck vehicle just goes down the ramp and becomes a watercraft. We see several float planes land and take off, The fish cannery has a fisherman who comes out holding his catch of the day. Many fishing boats in port ready for their next trip. Good information, nice 90 minute tour.good choice for our limited time in Ketchikan. We return to the Star just in time to board before the 12PM sail away. My husband and son PJ were back from their snorkeling trip. It was another great excursion..reasonable for Alaska at $79pp. They were fitted into wetsuits and entered the waters near Ketchikan where they discovered many interesting starfish, sea urchins, a large sunflower starfish. From what they said the operators of this tour do a fantastic time. They felt well cared for every step of the way and also that the marine life of the area was treated with respect. Good photos from the cheap fuji underwater camera testify to this great Alaskan memory. It was nice to have such happy cruisers on the ship that aftternoon. Big LONG line for the only open dining room Portofino after we board the ship. Decide to wait it out til 1PM and still have a 15 min or so wait til we are seating in the dining room. This is one thing that Princess should think about. when all are getting aboard at noon and are hungry..the one dining room and buffet are not enough to manage the 2800 passengers wanting lunch.they really need to think about opening a 2nd dining room that day for sure. Nice filling lunch. Head up to skywalker lounge to meet with fellow cruise critic Janet and her husband Bob. This is their first cruise experience and it is intersting to get a new perspective from their point of view. Enjoy the Princess Colada drink (watch out strong!), and all the views as we sail off south towards Victoria. Stop by the shore excursions desk later when they are opened from 4-6PM. Talk to Elke about the disappointment with our lumber 'jill' show. She seems surprised to hear we didn't like it.. said the passengers who booked onboard the Star were given the information that the show had been changed to the TV taping..she gave us passenger comment forms to fill out. We stated we felt that the show was not as advertised, that the events listed in the show brochure were not ones we saw that morning and requested that Princess refund our tour price. (not talking big $$ here, my ticket $29, my son's ticket $14.50..but for an hour show that was not as advertised too much to just drop easily) back to cabin I get a phone call from someone named David Williams who wants to argue with me over the number of events that we saw and what is outlined in the brochure. I didn't care for his less than customer friendly attitude. He said Princess would investigate the excursion and send us a letter before we would disembark on sat.. I dropped the pamphlet with the events listed off at the shore excursion desk-we later got a letter signed by the shore excursion manager stating we would not be refunded despite the show being 'lumber jills' instead of lumber jacks, they claim we saw the events listed in the Princess tour book and since we stayed for the show we are not due a refund. There is an address and phone number for follow up and I will be attempting to get that office to refund us as we requested. I was surprised at their lack of understanding.The issue is how our precious time in Ketchikan was used -we made a decision to go to a lumber jack show, we should have been provided the same information about the change in the show contestants as passengers who booked on the ship. Formal night again. we dress and head to Portofino at 6:15. Have an excellent meal. Lobster and our favorite chocolate dessert of the week, The chocolate mousse duet..white and dark chocolate mousse. YUM YUM>>> Go to the Princess Theater for Da Beat Dance show afterward. I didn't care for the music selections, costumes ugly with neon accents. I guess we have been spoiled with the dancers on our other trips. Just OK> Take a nap before trying to go see the Champange Waterfall in the Atrium. Wake up right at 11:30 but feel too tired to try to fight the crowd there.decide to head off to dream land instead. Have to set clocks up ahead an hour tonight.
Friday August 15th, 2003 Victoria will not happen
Fairly calm seas thru the night, had a bit of choppy ones mid afternoon yesterday so am glad we had a peaceful night. Last full day aboard the Star and I am already fighting that vacation is almost over depression that is setting in. Foggy and overcast out our window. Shower and head to breakfast , meet with a couple from Califorina. Lots of west coast passengers, some from Australia, and lots of Asians on this voyage. Have eggs Benedict again. Stop by photo store and redeem the vouchers we have for free photos! Yeah..nice bonus! Funny culinary show in Vista Lounge at 10:15..have recipes for some yummy dishes..hope to make that shrimp diablo sometime. Have quick glance at galley..really not much to see besides miles of gleaming stainless steel refrigerators, tables etc. Good lunch in dining room then head up to deck 15 hot tubs near the shuffleboard court. Glorious warm water to soak in with the misty fog surrounding us, peaceful and relaxing. Have it to ourselves for awhile then are joined by John who is full of tales of his work life and plans to buy an engagement ring at good Canadian prices in Victoria that evening. Cloudy and cool when we get in the hot tub..the sun come out and it turns into a perfect summer day. Find out John lives in Mt. Airy Maryland about 10 miles away from our home.. Small world out there! Another couple from California joins us and gives us information about Victoria. We are sad to be leaving the Star tomorrow but having the port ahead to distract us makes this day go so very fast. Head to cabin, change and then start the most hated chore of the week..trying to repack all the clothes etc into our luggage. I was smart enough to bring some nice garbage bags will pull ties on top for the dirty clothes, had an extra light weight dufel bag and stuffed that full - put the new AQUA 1 tags on and finshed with the rest of the repacking. I don't know how our clothing has expanded (along with our waistlines!) on this trip but now the 7 bags were needed to hold what came aboard in just 6. Remember to put all the film and cameras in the carryon luggage so it will not be ruined by the airport Xray machines. Put out clothes and shoes for last morning..it is sad to be thinking of getting off this beautiful ship in the morning..this week went way TOO fast. Made reservations at 5:15 in Capri dining room so we could escape the rush trying to eat before the port stop in Victoria. Wind is blowing strong outside and there are whitecaps on the water but we can see the other ships along the docks of Victoria so have no clue of the changes to come. Nice table for 8 mid dining room. Good food, especially enjoy the cute love boat dream heart shaped dessert. I can see the ship moving then stopping then moving again. I can't figure it out but to me it seems the ship is sailing in circles. My intuition is sending red flags but my brain is not catching on.. Outside the dining room there are many passengers lined up to get off the ship when it docks. We head up to gather our backpacks to join them and on my way down the hall I overheard another room steward saying the ship has tried to dock 2 times and has not been successful. He says there is no official word yet but he expects we will not be docking in Victoria. I want to scream NO.. I can't believe this is going to happen to this voyage already with the many changes in plans from what we had scheduled so carefully. A few minutes later the captain comes on in halting English to say that the wind and rough seas will not allow us to dock this evening. The other ships in port had managed to make it into port before the weather changes .blah blah blah. I didn't really care what he had to say at that point. I was just plain angry that this was another let down that happened on this trip. Walked down to the promenade deck and it was so frustrating to be able to see clearly into the city there..can SEE those 2 other cruise ships that somehow made the port ok.even tho the Amsterdam was right beside us in Ketchikan the day before somehow that old tub made the trip faster and was able to dock?? I glanced back at the cabinets holding the life jackets and had a moment of insanity..I wanted to pluck those orange lifevests into the water as an act of revenge against this ship that had let me down.I was clear headed enough to stop at that impulse but the feeling of cruise rage was there big time! I was next to the purser's desk and could hear the voices of the passengers with major problems caused by this change in itinerary. Passengers had been given permission to disembark in Victoria instead of Seattle the next morning..another mother was there asking what would happen to her son who had missed the ship in Ketchikan (along with 4 others I had heard) and was supposed to reboard and meet the family in Victoria. I felt the very unhelpful answers and lack of any understanding over this impact on the people requesting help was inexcusable. I was glad I only had to deal with the disappointment over missing Victoria not any logistical nightmares caused by that change. Billy Hygate cruise director announced a new show in the Princess theater, combination comedy act from the entertainers that had performed earlier in the week. 2 shows..that was the only gesture of compensation offered by Princess. I think an hour of open bar could have extended a bit of goodwill that could have turned some passengers around from their disappointment. I know all the fine print in the cruise contract allows Princess to change port and offer nothing for the inconvenience. but even their parent company Carnival gives $20pp shipboard credit as a courtesy. Went to Skywalker for a drink of the day..strawberry colada..where we had a nice view of Victoria. Looks rather pretty at night from that perspective. It may end up being as close as I ever get to experience that unique city. (and I still have that Canadian money to spend I got stuck with in Carcross!) Headed to the Princess theater at 8 to get into the show at 8:15. every seat was filled except for the ones being saved by passengers for other passgengers. We decided to wait it out til the later 10PM show. Listen to duet in Tequila's restaurant a bit., cash traveler's checks at the purser's desk, lose $5 in the casino slot machines that they graciously opened along with the shops so we could 'enjoy' this bonus our last night at Sea in Victoria. The ship anchored there for the usual port time 7PM til 12 AM. I guess this meets the requirements for the ship to visit a foreign port?? We did get a $4.56 refund on our final statement labeled tax refund,, I imagine this is the port charges for the visit we did not make??? Great show in lounge at 10. Liked the guitar comedy of Elliot Max who we had missed somehow earlier this week. I could have done without the singing by cruise director Billy. His vocals are fine but the Tom Jones wanna be stage show stuff is not for me. The highlight of the night was Kevin Hughes..loved his ribbing on Michael the naturalist. the frank criticism of the captain and the 'doomed' voyage we had had all week. I forgot to mention the 'assessment party' announcement one late night - found out about a fire in the restaurant Sabatini's one night mid week. yes it was a challenging trip for the Star Princess that week!!! Thanks for the laughs Kevin..I needed it! We were able to enjoy the last songs of Bert Stratton and his 3 encores in the much larger and nicely furnished Explorers lounge. I don't know why they don't put him here all week. The usual band in this lounge is really bad! Bert's playing and singing that song "Those were the days my friend' will be a lasting memory I will treasure of this voyage on the Star. Great performer BERT.. thank you! Ride up the elevator to Skywalkers to see what is happening. Looks like late teens on the dance floor and techno music. Not to the taste of these old hippies. we stop by the buffet for a little snack and head to cabin 8211 for our last sleep and wake up on the Star. Big time depression is making the fog of sleep hard to come-finally drift off with the rocking for the last time on the rock pillow with the Star enroute to Seattle.
Saturday August 16th 2003 Seattle
This is the day we don't want to wake to the sunrise. The day our long awaited Alaskan adventure will come to an end. The beauty of the land will stay with us as we fly east but the feeling of return to reality is always a difficult transition for me. Bummed, I answer the call of the alarm clock and do my last squeeze into the shower - look out the window..yep we are in Seattle. Had a dream we had somehow managed to dock in Victoria and we would have a bonus morning there. Not to be. The ugly cranes outside are greeting us just like they were a week ago when we first arrived at this pier. Dining room is only open til 8:30 and we don't want to miss our last chance to be served in style. Group gathers around 7:30 and down to Capri we go for a nice last meal on the Star. I have eggs and french toast.. both good and filling for the long travel day ahead. Pack up the carryon's and head to the Explorers lounge after the breakfast. We are scheduled to be off of the Star at 10:30 am and have arranged for our limo drivers to have 2 limo's waiting for us then. Slowly the different colors are called, CNN is playing on the big screen in the lounge..time drags on. We don't have much to look forward to. 6 hr flying time and several more hours waiting time. then a midnight arrival back in Baltimore. No..this is not a fun day. Our aqua 1 tag color is finally called about 10:45 AM we don't' expect the long slow customs inspection line in the terminal took us over an hour to navigate to the outside. For some reason they are inspecting every passport and ID even tho our ship did not enter a foreign port. We are a bit stressed as noontime approaches.. our limo is not in sight. My sister calls on her cell phone and they say they will be here in 15 minutes. I remember tales of the huge 2 hour security lines at SeaTac on Saturday departures so am wishing we had more of a window to make this plane. 1 Limo arrives in about 10 minutes time. My sister and family climb in. I ask the driver to see when the next Limo will arrive. He says 15 minutes. I don't have another 15 minutes to wait. We decide to take the rest of us in a taxi. End up sending my son Tyler in the limo with my suitcase off to the airport. we arrive some time past noon. United is a busy place. We try the easy (?) eticket check in and it won't allow us to continue. Finally get a gate attendant to pull up our boarding passes and print out the baggage tags. Drag the luggage to the Xray conveyor.Luckily the security line has shrunken to about a10 minute wait.. head down 2 escalators, thru a tram ride and over to gate N1. Have about 15 min til boarding is expected to begin. 3 food choices, bagels, cinnabons, and burger king. As this may be the only food we can get to purchase til we arrive home midnight we opt for the huge..45 minute wait at burger king. Luckily the United flight was just delayed enough to let us grab our food and go. I manage to do some last minute shopping that I didn't accomplish in Victoria at an airport gift shop. Flight to Chicago 4 hrs with 'snack and movie.."down with love" pretty silly but a good time waster. Have time for quick restroom break in Chicago and pizza to go for the short 1 ½ hrs to Baltimore. We have the last 2 rows in the plane and must have the section with the 'germs to go' both my sister and myself have wonderful colds to deal with that we think we have courtesy of the 'friendly skies' Back home,, hot in Baltimore and after we drag all the luggage out to the median to meet our shuttle..it starts POURING..monsoon like..wonderful welcome home greeting! Our shuttle arrives in about 10 minutes and finds a small overhand to park under so we can load the luggage without getting soaked. Stop by my sisters for a minute and pick up our Van. Home about 1AM (only 10PM Seattle time) and our dog Gypsy is happy to see us. Tail wagging jumping for joy..at least someone is happy to be home! We decide to just let the luggage wait til the morning except for my 'squish' pillow that I dig out and bring up to bed. No rocking tonight but the slight afteraffects of our week on the star. Hard to get to sleep with all the time changes and swirling memories of Alaska in our heads. Finally we drift off. thinking of
Goin' up to Alaska, up to the land of the Midnight Sun where the whale and polar bear run o'er the icy blue sea Goin' up to Alaska, up to the north and the pioneer life where courage and strength still survive and a man can be free Men can be free Goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska, goin' up to Alaska
August 19, 2003
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away." Lifes a journey, enjoy the ride."
12 Voyages completed 1999-2003, 64 wonderful days at sea dreaming of .... Majesty of the Seas 10/03 Radiance of Seas 11/03
This was the Star Princes's first Alaska trip of the season. The embarcation process took several hours. It was good that the weather help up in Seattle, because we waited in line with the other 2,000 guests. Once past security and on the ship we headed to see what our inside cabin on Caribe deck looked like. Having not cruised for some time, we were surprised by how small the cabin was. We didn't spend too much time there because we were always on deck or visiting the ports. Our cabin steward, Noel, was the greatest. He took great care of us and our special needs. He got us an extension cord for the heating pad. Our cabin was always kept very clean. I can say the same for the entire ship. It was exceptionally clean. We took Personal Choice dining and always ended up with our "private table" in the Capri dining room next to the window. We had a "excellent" waiter, Errol and junior waiter, Kay.
They took great care of us and would always be right on top of things. Errol was very personable. The food was verygood, especially the breads and desserts. Errol made sure I had several helpings of Alaskan King Crab legs and Lobster tails. We ate breakfast and most lunches in the Horizon Court as it was more convenient. The food was plentiful but not as good as the dining room. The staff was very friendly and would have no problem in making special omelettes for me. They were always eager to please. If they were missing my favorite juice or cereal, they would always go and get it. I cannot say enough about the staff. We did not go to any specialty restaurants or attend any shows. We did see the comedians. One was good and the other was OK. We spent alot of time in the Skywalkers lounge. It was a great place to view where you were going and where you had been. It's the highest place on the ship.
The ports were great and plenty of tours were offered. We booked our tour online before we sailed. We did the whale watching/wildlife quest tour. It was worth the money. I would suggest you take the "Coke card." It is about $20 and you can get a coke anytime you want it on the ship. I would recommend you get the coke directly from the bar as the cocktail waiters are slow to get it for you since they do not get a tip with it. Tracy Arm fjord/Sawyer Glacer was dissapointing. The ship was too large to get close enough to hear the ice breaking apart. The naturalist on board had told us what to expect but we didn't get close enough to experience it. Even though we got into Victoria very late, all the shops were open. THe debarkation process was again not as smooth. We were able to get off the ship quickly, but the busses to the airport filled quickly and you were hunting for an available one to catch your flight. Overall, it was a great experience and we booked to go on the Diamond Princess next year on May 8th to Alaska.
We had a wonderful cruise on Sun Princess northbound from Vancouver to Seward. Let me preface this review by saying that DH and I are quiet and do not do the party life. This was our second cruise; the first was on Carnival. We like Princess much better. Some of the differences we saw could have been attributed to Alaskan vs. Caribbean itineraries, but Princess has a much more refined atmosphere. The Sun Princess was beautiful with a shining brass atrium, but it is not showy like Carnival. There was a casino, bingo, etc., of course, but that wasn't being constantly pushed on us. We only saw one couple who was inebriated enough to disturb other passengers.
We flew into Vancouver the night before and stayed at the Pan Pacific hotel which is right on the dock. It was neat seeing two HAL ships as they sailed the night we got there and then waking up to see the Sun Princess waiting for us. The Pan Pacific is a very nice hotel, but you pay for all these privileges. Next time we'll go somewhere less pricey and take a cab toCanada Place when it is time to board.
Embarkation was very easy. We had Express Check-In since I had filled out all the forms on line. But even those who didn't have the express line didn't have to wait in hours-long lines like we did on Carnival. Princess somehow manages to keep all lines short: embarking, at ports of call, in buffet lines, in the photo shop, disembarking, -everywhere. I think one way they did this was to open more lines and in the photo shop, stay open longer hours so that everyone didn't have to crowd in all at the some time.
Our cabin was small but there was more room than we needed in closets, storage spaces, drawers, etc. You just had to keep picking up and putting away. There was no room to allow a mess to accumulate. When we got to our stateroom, the in-room safe was missing. We reported this, and they brought one up early the next morning. We loved having our own balcony and spent a lot of time sitting there watching the beautiful scenery passing by.
Everyone of the crew spoke English very well (not true on Carnival where most could only communicate about what they generally expected to hear while doing their specific job). The whole crew was polite and friendly, and went out of their way to be sure that you were completely happy.
On Carnival I had asked for an alternate salad dressing to what was listed on the menu but was told that only the ones listed were available. I just assumed that would be true industry-wide and didn't even ask on Princess. When I didn't like the dressing on my salad one night on Sun Princess, I thought the wait staff was about to cry, they were so distressed. The assistant waiter called over the waiter and they apologized profusely as if they were somehow to blame. They insisted on bringing me an alternate salad that I would like. They emphasized that if I wanted something different just ask. Their whole reason for being there was to please me. When our waiter found out that I especially like Alaskan King Crab, he brought me seconds without my even asking.
We loved Personal Choice dining. We had the freedom to eat around our activities, rather than plan activities around a meal schedule. After, the salad fiasco, we asked for the same waiter each night and were taken to one of his tables immediately. We never had to wait even though we didn't make reservations. We didn't like the lunch buffet on Horizon Court very well. There wasn't too much that appealed to us available. And desserts are not a Princess specialty.
Being from the deep South, I didn't know what to expect weather wise. I've never heard of having both fall and winter coats. Most people down here don't even have one coat. We were very blessed with cold but beautiful weather. The air temperature ranged from the low to mid forties (a fairly cold winter day for us Southerners). That wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for the constant cold wind. Most of the people we met were from the northern states or Canada. Everyone we saw, including the crew, wore what appeared to my Southern eyes to be warm jackets. The crew's appeared to be down. Everyone wore hats. Get something that covers your ears - it makes a big difference. A hood and/or a scarf were a help. Even with layers, warm jackets, etc., we saw many people with blankets. The public viewing decks were very windy. It was more comfortable on our balcony where we were somewhat protected from the wind. I would suggest zip or button front sweaters. I was constantly pulling off my sweatshirt when we were going to be inside for awhile then putting it back on to go outside again. I wore layers and a down jacket I got on sale from Land's End and still wanted a blanket, but I do get cold easily. DH wore a T-shirt, long sleeve shirt, wool shirt with a quilted lining, and one of those Stearns double layer nylon rain parkas, and a skull cap and was fairly comfortable. In short, IT WAS COLD! But it was fair or sunny the whole week
We saw eagles in Ketchikan but no other wild life until we left Skagway. Then we saw harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, black bears, and both humpback and killer whales. Most of these sightings were in College Fjord. The naturalists' talks were broadcast on channel 35, so we could hear even when we elected to watch from our balcony. Warning though- don't believe the naturalists when they say you'll see the same things going out from the opposite side of the ship. Most of the sightings in College Fjord were on the port (left) side of the ship. Sailing in, the animals were out sunning themselves in the early afternoon sun. Returning later, either the wildlife was no longer out or the naturalist wasn't broadcasting any more to point out where they could be seen. (There are islands, coves, etc. where particular species are often seen.) Also, they describe the scenery going in but don't repeat it going out, so, if you were sitting on your balcony (starboard) expecting to see it on your way out, you didn't know what was what. The best place for wildlife viewing was on the lowest public deck (Promenade on Sun Princess).
Take the helicopter trip and land on a glacier. It was well worth the expense and was the highlight of the trip. A picture just doesn't show how pretty it was to see in person.
We took the train from Seward to Anchorage and were so glad we did. It was very comfortable, and the scenery was beautiful. While part of the trip paralleled the road, part also went inland where we saw scenery not visible from the road. We saw and eagle up close, and mountain goats that looked like they were posing just for us. I saw a moose just as he turned to go back into the woods, but we got another really good view of a moose - in downtown Anchorage. They have so much greenery and parks in Anchorage that moose and, occasionally bears, actually wander around in town. Beware! They are supposedly very irritable and dangerous. The train will either let you off at the airport or take to the Eagan Center where they will hold your luggage while you do some sightseeing. You have to tell Princess where you plan to get off ahead of time though, so your luggage will be waiting for you where you want it.
The tips I picked up off the Message Boards were a big help. One of the best was to order sandwiches from Room Service the night before an excursion. We kept them in the refrigerator over night, and then packed them in a soft sided collapsible cooler to eat lunch when we were away from the ship. (Be sure to take sandwich bags with you.) On both train rides (White Pass out of Skagway and Grandview from Seward to Anchorage) we enjoyed our picnic lunch while everyone else complained of being hungry. On the White Pass train the promised snack consisted of a bottle of water. The Grandview had a sweet roll and water.
The other best tip was to use those bright straps around our luggage. It not only holds it closed, but it provides easy identification. We also tied bright yellow ribbons on each handle. The strap and ribbon were a big help on the airlines baggage turntables. They were an even bigger help when it came to claiming our luggage when we disembarked. Luggage was stacked in many long rows. Of course ours was at the far end of three of these rows. However, as soon as we got close enough to see to the end, we recognized our luggage instantly.
We tied balloons to our balcony rail, so we could find our balcony from shore at our ports of call. It's neat being able to point to our room in our pictures.
They only thing I never found a use for was the duct tape! The balcony door stayed open by itself. The beds stayed together. Our luggage didn't break. The one thing I saw recommended most often was the one thing I didn't use.
This was a wonderful cruise. Alaska is so beautiful. We will definitely cruise with Princess again!
We were 6 email gal pals who met in Seattle to do the first sailing of the Star Princess to Alaska for this year. This was my first cruise on a big new ship. The others in my group are experienced cruisers. We really lucked out with the weather--it was sunny and in the 50s & 60s during most of the trip. Cruising thru Tracy Arm was spectacular--a great morning to spend enjoying the open decks or hanging out on ones balcony.
My roommate and I had an inside cabin. I like being up and out early on the open decks so this worked out fine for me. The cabin was comfortable and our steward was excellent. The rest of the gang in our group had balcony type cabins--the weather on our trip was spectacular and they really seemed to enjoy them.
I was surprised how crowded the inside areas of this ship got on sea days. The Horizon Court (buffet food area) had small signs on the tables asking us cruisers to eat up and move along. The lovely solarium seemed more like a gym workout area than aquiet meditative place to hang out--maybe because it is located right next to the Horizon Court. For those of us who love being outside on the open decks there was plenty of room.
Our group of 6 did PC dining most nights. I thought that most of my meals were pretty good and all the deserts I had were very good. All meat was cooked to order and the pasta dishes were very good. I just had one bad meal--some overcooked salmon on the last night. I really enjoyed the always available cheesecake--glad I discovered it on my last night. I enjoyed eating at the Horizon Court most mornings--lots of choices and lots of fresh fruit. My favorite place to hang out with a cup of coffee was the outside Aft section of this area.
I'd give high marks to the entertainment on this ship. I saw both dance shows, two of the comedians (one good and one not-so-good), and spent time listening to Bert in the Piano bar/lounge-he was fantastic and really got the crowd going. The 'drinks of the day' were offered in the lounges in the evening so I enjoyed a specialty coffee drink each evening while watching the show. I also caught a movie in the Princess Theater--during the movie I forgot I was on a cruise ship. I also hit an afternoon tea one day and caught most of the lectures/presentations by Michael the naturalist--he was wonderful.
The casino on this ship was pretty dead except when I was looking to play the $3 backjack table. I took the backjack lesson and would have liked to take the craps lesson but they were both offered just once at the same time. I also entered the blackjack tournament for the first time--I lost but it was very intense and a lot of fun.
This was my second cruise to Alaska--my first cruise was on a 50 year old ship and this cruise was on a 1 year old ship. I really enjoyed both cruises because, since the ships were so different, the cruises were very different. Loved the time I spent in the ports--in Juneau and Skagway I took the boat trips cause I like to be on the smaller boats checking out the wildlife.