Find a Cruise

Kenneth Leytem

Age: 65

Occupation:Retired

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Coral Princess

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Alaska


My wife and I are both in our mid-sixties and have been on three prior cruises; two of which were with Princess. We had cruised the Inside Passage six years ago, but wanted to experience the “Alaska Land Tour” portion this time. We celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary August 8 while on this cruise.

We had Princess make our airline reservations. We departed San Francisco International Airport on August 6, 2005 at 8:00 a.m. and arrived at Vancouver at a little after 10:00 a.m. We found the “US Direct Program” at Vancouver Airport extremely beneficial as it allowed as to bypass the usual customs delays. After about an hour we boarded a bus that took us directly to the Port of Vancouver where we arrived just about noon. Since embarkation began at noon, there were very few other passengers waiting to be checked in and we were on board the Coral Princess within twenty minutes.

Since we had been on the Coral Princess two years ago during her maiden voyage through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, we were very familiar with the vessel and did not have to spend a lot of time walking around the ship, orienting ourselves. We went immediately to our mini-suite 709 on Dolphin Deck and found it identical to what we had two years ago. Just as happened on the earlier cruise the beds were not in the configuration we had requested. Rather than twin beds, we found a double bed. I immediately telephoned our cabin steward and he rearranged the beds per our earlier request later that evening.

My wife and I enjoy cruising on Princess and this trip was no exception. However, there were some issues with which we were not pleased. For example, the cabin steward informed us that this was his first cruise in that capacity. (He had several prior years experience with Princess in “Room Service”. He told us his new position as cabin steward was a “promotion”.) He was an extremely nice man, but he made several mistakes. First, even though we had completed a form “on-line” several months before the cruise indicating that my wife wanted fresh fruit delivered to the suite each day, she did not receive any our first full day. When I asked the steward why, he said we needed to complete a form that he had neglected to leave in our suite. I obtained the form from him, filled it out, and the fruit was delivered the next day. However there was no fruit delivered the next day. Again the steward had failed to leave an order form. On the seven day cruise, she only received fresh fruit twice because we were required the complete a form each day and he kept forgetting to leave one even though I told him of her wishes.

On other occasions, he failed to leave a proper complement of linen in the bathroom. On two days, we had no bath “rug’ on which to step when exiting the shower. Another day, we had four hand towels and no wash clothes. Still another, we had only one large bath towel for the two of us. Each time I called these shortages to his attention, he apologized profusely but the service did not improve. The suite was cleaned and the beds made each day without problems. But we never knew what would be missing next.

We were not too pleased with the numerous times we were approached on the first day to purchase a “soda card”. As you may know, the only drinks on the ship for which you are not charged are coffee, tea and tap water. A fee, plus 15% mandatory gratuity, is charged for beer, bar drinks, sodas and bottled water. However, if you purchase a “soda card”, you are given an insulated container with lid and a small decal that is placed on you cruise card (which serves as room key and identification to charge purchases and get on and off the ship). You may then have an unlimited number of sodas in that container during the cruise. It is not an exaggeration to say that we could not walk fifty feet on the Lido deck without a crewmember shoving an insulated container towards us and asking if we wanted to purchase the “soda card”. We also noticed that on our previous 15-day Panama Canal cruise, the “card” was $32.50, while on this 7-day Alaska cruise it was $28.50.

On a couple of occasions during the cruise, we were sitting on the Lido deck and hoping one of the waiters would take our drink order. (There were several walking around carrying serving trays.) However, none came and I had to walk to the bar to get our drinks. But I should add that many of the crew, particularly the hospitality staff were excellent and anxious to assure us a pleasant cruise experience.

My wife and I enjoy the “Traditional” dining in the Provence room. Our waiters, Marius and Dragos, were excellent. As on past Princess cruises, we found the food excellent as to selections and quality. And the desserts “are to die for”. Unfortunately, we each put on several pounds, which we are now trying to lose.

The entertainment in the Princess Theatre and the Universe Lounge was outstanding. Professional singers and dancers who did a marvelous job. We thought this was the best group of entertainers we have seen yet on a cruise. The headline singers were Mary Elizabeth Rich, Lainie Gulliksen, Donnie Marcs and Jeremy Scott. In addition, Jeff Peterson (Comedy Magician) and Don Ware (Comedian) were very entertaining.

There was a wide selection of activities available on the ship ranging from first-rate movies to educational seminars, to cooking and carving demonstrations. In addition, the Coral has both an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, both with spas.

When my wife and I sailed the inside passage exactly six years ago on the Sky Princess, the weather was terrible. Fog and rain at most ports-of-call. However, this time, we had what was probably the best one-week of weather in Alaska so far this year. Instead of rain at Ketchikan, which annually receives over 150 inches, we had 80+-degree sunny weather. The same was true at Juneau and Skagway. There was a good selection of “Shore Excursions” to choose from and we particularly liked the Salmon Bake in Juneau. In addition to visiting a fish hatchery where we saw the “salmon run” (what a remarkable experience), we had a wonderful buffet lunch at the “Salmon Bake”.

Getting off the ships at the several Ports-of-call went very smoothly; however, getting back on is another matter. Due to increased security, it is quite similar to the typical airport security procedures. It actually took us longer to get back on the ship at Ketchikan than it did when we initially got on the Coral at the Port of Vancouver.

The Coral Princess had a “Naturalist” named Barbara Bennett who gave several lectures during the voyage and also got on the ship’s P.A. system whenever we left a port or cruised near glaciers to provide interesting information about the flora and fauna. Her narrations added greatly to the enjoyment of the cruise. We want to mention here that we had excellent bus drivers and tour guides. Many of them were college students who attend school in the lower 48 and return home to Alaska to work during the summer. Polite and knowledgeable.

Since we were going on the five-night Land Tour, we were limited to one piece of luggage for that portion of the trip. We repacked our three pieces of luggage and attached to two of them the “Meet me in Anchorage” tags provided. Those two pieces were transported directly to the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel pending our arrival there four days later. To the third piece we attached the “Take Me Along” tag provided. In addition, we were each allowed one small “carry-on” bag in which we kept our travel documents, passport, medications, etc. We placed all six bags (three apiece) outside our mini-suite the night before disembarkation.

We arrived at Whittier on August 13. The disembarkation process went very smoothly and we rode to Anchorage on a bus. On the way, the bus driver (again a most excellent young man) stopped at an animal preserve where we saw bear (grizzly and black), buffalo, moose, wolves and a porcupine. Anchorage is a very large city of nearly 300,000 population. We stayed at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel (where we found our “Take Me Along” bags waiting for us in our room) and had a wonderful meal at a nearby restaurant. (As you probably already now, all meals on the Land Tour are at you own expense.) It was in Anchorage where we noticed for the first time just how late the sun was setting. 10:00 p.m. with some light until 11:00 p.m. or later.

Each day we were given instructions as to when to have our “Take Me Along” bags ready for pick up and each afternoon, when we arrived at our next destination, the bags would be waiting for us in our assigned hotel/lodge room.

The train ride from Anchorage to Talkeetna took about three hours and was most enjoyable. We chose to eat on the train since it has been years since either of us had previously done so. The food was so-so but it was a worthwhile experience. Since we were still experiencing exceptionally nice weather, the views from the train were great. Rather than take the bus from Talkeetna to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge, we elected to pay for boat trip up the river to the lodge. The boat captain and his naturalist assistant were very personable and professional and made the trip very interesting. We highly recommend this trip.

Since we had had a “run” of beautiful weather, we had very high hopes of seeing Mt. McKinley while on the Land Tour. Unfortunately, smoke from forest fires in Canada and northern Alaska covered the mountain as densely as heavy low clouds. We barely saw it while boating up the river. It was not visible at all from the Lodge.

The next day, we went by Princess bus from Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge to Princess Denali Lodge. Both lodges were very comfortable and had good restaurants. Denali seems to be the older of the two and is much larger. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we were given a bus tour of a portion Denali National Park. We were fortunate to see several moose and mountain goats at a distance.

The next day, we traveled by train from Princess Denali Lodge to Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel. This portion of the train ride was very slow (five miles per hour in some stretches) and rough( i.e., shaky). We were then reunited with all of our luggage. We spent two nights at Fairbanks. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we had two “Shore Excursions”. A short trip up a river on a stern wheel boat where we saw Susan Butcher’s sled dog compound, as well as a replica pf a native village and visit to a gold mine “operation” where we panned for gold.

We were picked up at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel at 6:15 a.m. on Thursday, August 18 and driven a short distance to the Fairbanks Airport. After checking in and waiting a couple of hours for our 8:30 a.m. Alaska Airlines flight, we departed for Anchorage where, unfortunately, we had a five-hour layover. We eventually caught a United Airlines flight at 2:25 p.m. and arrived back at San Francisco International Airport at 8:00 p.m. What really bothered us and several other fellow cruise passengers was that the Alaska Airlines flight we caught at Fairbanks was scheduled for stops at Anchorage, Seattle and San Francisco. Had we been able to stay on that flight, we would have arrived home two and-a-half hours earlier.

All in all, we had a good, if tiring time. There are several mornings when you have to rise rather early (4:00 to 5:00 a.m.) in order to make connections. But we highly recommend this cruise/Land Tour.

My wife and I are both in our mid-sixties and have been on three prior cruises; two of which were with Princess. We had cruised the Inside Passage six years ago, but wanted to experience the “Alaska Land Tour” portion this time. We celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary August 8 while on this cruise.

We had Princess make our airline reservations. We departed San Francisco International Airport on August 6, 2005 at 8:00 a.m. and arrived at Vancouver at a little after 10:00 a.m. We found the “US Direct Program” at Vancouver Airport extremely beneficial as it allowed as to bypass the usual customs delays. After about an hour we boarded a bus that took us directly to the Port of Vancouver where we arrived just about noon. Since embarkation began at noon, there were very few other passengers waiting to be checked in and we were on board the Coral Princess within twenty minutes.

Since we had been on the Coral Princess two years ago during her maiden voyage through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, we were very familiar with the vessel and did not have to spend a lot of time walking around the ship, orienting ourselves. We went immediately to our mini-suite 709 on Dolphin Deck and found it identical to what we had two years ago. Just as happened on the earlier cruise the beds were not in the configuration we had requested. Rather than twin beds, we found a double bed. I immediately telephoned our cabin steward and he rearranged the beds per our earlier request later that evening.

My wife and I enjoy cruising on Princess and this trip was no exception. However, there were some issues with which we were not pleased. For example, the cabin steward informed us that this was his first cruise in that capacity. (He had several prior years experience with Princess in “Room Service”. He told us his new position as cabin steward was a “promotion”.) He was an extremely nice man, but he made several mistakes. First, even though we had completed a form “on-line” several months before the cruise indicating that my wife wanted fresh fruit delivered to the suite each day, she did not receive any our first full day. When I asked the steward why, he said we needed to complete a form that he had neglected to leave in our suite. I obtained the form from him, filled it out, and the fruit was delivered the next day. However there was no fruit delivered the next day. Again the steward had failed to leave an order form. On the seven day cruise, she only received fresh fruit twice because we were required the complete a form each day and he kept forgetting to leave one even though I told him of her wishes.

On other occasions, he failed to leave a proper complement of linen in the bathroom. On two days, we had no bath “rug’ on which to step when exiting the shower. Another day, we had four hand towels and no wash clothes. Still another, we had only one large bath towel for the two of us. Each time I called these shortages to his attention, he apologized profusely but the service did not improve. The suite was cleaned and the beds made each day without problems. But we never knew what would be missing next.

We were not too pleased with the numerous times we were approached on the first day to purchase a “soda card”. As you may know, the only drinks on the ship for which you are not charged are coffee, tea and tap water. A fee, plus 15% mandatory gratuity, is charged for beer, bar drinks, sodas and bottled water. However, if you purchase a “soda card”, you are given an insulated container with lid and a small decal that is placed on you cruise card (which serves as room key and identification to charge purchases and get on and off the ship). You may then have an unlimited number of sodas in that container during the cruise. It is not an exaggeration to say that we could not walk fifty feet on the Lido deck without a crewmember shoving an insulated container towards us and asking if we wanted to purchase the “soda card”. We also noticed that on our previous 15-day Panama Canal cruise, the “card” was $32.50, while on this 7-day Alaska cruise it was $28.50.

On a couple of occasions during the cruise, we were sitting on the Lido deck and hoping one of the waiters would take our drink order. (There were several walking around carrying serving trays.) However, none came and I had to walk to the bar to get our drinks. But I should add that many of the crew, particularly the hospitality staff were excellent and anxious to assure us a pleasant cruise experience.

My wife and I enjoy the “Traditional” dining in the Provence room. Our waiters, Marius and Dragos, were excellent. As on past Princess cruises, we found the food excellent as to selections and quality. And the desserts “are to die for”. Unfortunately, we each put on several pounds, which we are now trying to lose.

The entertainment in the Princess Theatre and the Universe Lounge was outstanding. Professional singers and dancers who did a marvelous job. We thought this was the best group of entertainers we have seen yet on a cruise. The headline singers were Mary Elizabeth Rich, Lainie Gulliksen, Donnie Marcs and Jeremy Scott. In addition, Jeff Peterson (Comedy Magician) and Don Ware (Comedian) were very entertaining.

There was a wide selection of activities available on the ship ranging from first-rate movies to educational seminars, to cooking and carving demonstrations. In addition, the Coral has both an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, both with spas.

When my wife and I sailed the inside passage exactly six years ago on the Sky Princess, the weather was terrible. Fog and rain at most ports-of-call. However, this time, we had what was probably the best one-week of weather in Alaska so far this year. Instead of rain at Ketchikan, which annually receives over 150 inches, we had 80+-degree sunny weather. The same was true at Juneau and Skagway. There was a good selection of “Shore Excursions” to choose from and we particularly liked the Salmon Bake in Juneau. In addition to visiting a fish hatchery where we saw the “salmon run” (what a remarkable experience), we had a wonderful buffet lunch at the “Salmon Bake”.

Getting off the ships at the several Ports-of-call went very smoothly; however, getting back on is another matter. Due to increased security, it is quite similar to the typical airport security procedures. It actually took us longer to get back on the ship at Ketchikan than it did when we initially got on the Coral at the Port of Vancouver.

The Coral Princess had a “Naturalist” named Barbara Bennett who gave several lectures during the voyage and also got on the ship’s P.A. system whenever we left a port or cruised near glaciers to provide interesting information about the flora and fauna. Her narrations added greatly to the enjoyment of the cruise. We want to mention here that we had excellent bus drivers and tour guides. Many of them were college students who attend school in the lower 48 and return home to Alaska to work during the summer. Polite and knowledgeable.

Since we were going on the five-night Land Tour, we were limited to one piece of luggage for that portion of the trip. We repacked our three pieces of luggage and attached to two of them the “Meet me in Anchorage” tags provided. Those two pieces were transported directly to the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel pending our arrival there four days later. To the third piece we attached the “Take Me Along” tag provided. In addition, we were each allowed one small “carry-on” bag in which we kept our travel documents, passport, medications, etc. We placed all six bags (three apiece) outside our mini-suite the night before disembarkation.

We arrived at Whittier on August 13. The disembarkation process went very smoothly and we rode to Anchorage on a bus. On the way, the bus driver (again a most excellent young man) stopped at an animal preserve where we saw bear (grizzly and black), buffalo, moose, wolves and a porcupine. Anchorage is a very large city of nearly 300,000 population. We stayed at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel (where we found our “Take Me Along” bags waiting for us in our room) and had a wonderful meal at a nearby restaurant. (As you probably already now, all meals on the Land Tour are at you own expense.) It was in Anchorage where we noticed for the first time just how late the sun was setting. 10:00 p.m. with some light until 11:00 p.m. or later.

Each day we were given instructions as to when to have our “Take Me Along” bags ready for pick up and each afternoon, when we arrived at our next destination, the bags would be waiting for us in our assigned hotel/lodge room.

The train ride from Anchorage to Talkeetna took about three hours and was most enjoyable. We chose to eat on the train since it has been years since either of us had previously done so. The food was so-so but it was a worthwhile experience. Since we were still experiencing exceptionally nice weather, the views from the train were great. Rather than take the bus from Talkeetna to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge, we elected to pay for boat trip up the river to the lodge. The boat captain and his naturalist assistant were very personable and professional and made the trip very interesting. We highly recommend this trip.

Since we had had a “run” of beautiful weather, we had very high hopes of seeing Mt. McKinley while on the Land Tour. Unfortunately, smoke from forest fires in Canada and northern Alaska covered the mountain as densely as heavy low clouds. We barely saw it while boating up the river. It was not visible at all from the Lodge.

The next day, we went by Princess bus from Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge to Princess Denali Lodge. Both lodges were very comfortable and had good restaurants. Denali seems to be the older of the two and is much larger. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we were given a bus tour of a portion Denali National Park. We were fortunate to see several moose and mountain goats at a distance.

The next day, we traveled by train from Princess Denali Lodge to Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel. This portion of the train ride was very slow (five miles per hour in some stretches) and rough( i.e., shaky). We were then reunited with all of our luggage. We spent two nights at Fairbanks. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we had two “Shore Excursions”. A short trip up a river on a stern wheel boat where we saw Susan Butcher’s sled dog compound, as well as a replica pf a native village and visit to a gold mine “operation” where we panned for gold.

We were picked up at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel at 6:15 a.m. on Thursday, August 18 and driven a short distance to the Fairbanks Airport. After checking in and waiting a couple of hours for our 8:30 a.m. Alaska Airlines flight, we departed for Anchorage where, unfortunately, we had a five-hour layover. We eventually caught a United Airlines flight at 2:25 p.m. and arrived back at San Francisco International Airport at 8:00 p.m. What really bothered us and several other fellow cruise passengers was that the Alaska Airlines flight we caught at Fairbanks was scheduled for stops at Anchorage, Seattle and San Francisco. Had we been able to stay on that flight, we would have arrived home two and-a-half hours earlier.

All in all, we had a good, if tiring time. There are several mornings when you have to rise rather early (4:00 to 5:00 a.m.) in order to make connections. But we highly recommend this cruise/Land Tour.

Was this review helpful?

Yes No Email this review to a friend
 

Ask questions and get advice from other cruisers on our popular discussion board,