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Kevin Matson

Age: 48

Occupation:High School Teacher/Coach

Number of Cruises: First Cruise

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Coral Princess

Sailing Date: July 17, 2006

Itinerary: UNKNOWN

SailingDate: July 17th, 2006

This was our first cruise (in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary), so I cannot compare this to others cruises. All I can say is that we must have lucked out – the cruise was spectacular from start to finish.

We flew from the east coast (Providence, RI) to Vancouver the day before the cruise left. In retrospect, it would have been better to go 2 days before the cruise. Vancouver is a wonderful city and we did not have enough time to enjoy it.

Embarkation went smooth as silk. I was worried about this, having read many horror stories about waits. We literally walked on without any long waits and were in our cabin by 11:30am. We were eating in the Horizon Café by noon. The Horizon Café is amazing – this is the buffet restaurant that runs basically 24/7. I think they might shut down for a couple of hours (3am to 5am) to clean and re-stock.

Cabin - our cabin was what we expected. We had a balcony cabin on the starboard side of the ship (Aloha 627). I highly recommend a balcony cabin for an Alaskan cruise – so much to see. The starboard side was particularly attractive on the northbound cruise. The location of the cabin was perfect for us. Even though the cabin was near the Kid’s Center, noise was never an issue. We were one deck below the exercise room and spa, both of which we used frequently. Our cabin steward (Pramote) was pleasant and very accommodating.

Dining – we chose the standard assigned seating option. I realize that there are advantages to both the “anytime” dining and the assigned seating. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the 8:00pm seating. It provided a little structure to our day and it was a pleasure having the same two waiters every night. They were both great and by mid-week they knew what we liked to drink and would have it on the table right after we sat down. Also, we were fortunate that the two other couples that we dined with were great company. The food was excellent. The menu varied every night, yet there were always 4 or 5 standard items that you get anytime. The king crab legs they served on Alaskan night were incredible. We always ate breakfast in the Horizon Café. It was amazing – this buffet had everything you could ask for and more. Because we were so stuffed from breakfast, we only ate lunch twice, but the options were plentiful in a variety of restaurants. What we did do every day was go to the Horizon Café around 5pm to get “munchies” to bring back to the cabin. They always had assorted cheeses, crackers, and cut vegetables out at that time – this made for a great cocktail hour with a bottle of wine on the balcony while cruising past snow-capped mountains. On the last night we opted for Sabattini’s – the Italian themed restaurant with a $20 surcharge – very unique experience, definitely worth the extra $20.

Excursions – you can spend a ton of money or nothing on excursions. Any excursions that you book through the cruise ship tend to be more expensive. Make your life easier – book all excursions before you leave home. If you are willing to do a little internet surfing, you can probably get more “bang for your buck” by booking independently. We did a little of everything. In Ketchican, we opted for the rain forest wildlife canopy zip line trip. It was more of a thrill adventure than a wildlife experience and quite pricey ($155pp booked through Princess). If you are not bothered by heights, it is definitely a good adrenalin rush. In Juneau, we booked a whale watch/Mendenhall glacier trip with Orca Enterprises (Captain Larry). This was a good move. It was cheaper, smaller, and more personal than the cruise line offerings for the same. TIP: Juneau has the best shopping by far - great stores with lots of options. You will find that the prices go down the further away you get from the docks – be patient! The Red Dog Saloon is also a must for a beer or two. In Skagway, we rented a car for $80 and drove through White Pass into the Yukon. We went a little further than Carcross to Emerald Lake – a beautiful lake that gets its’ name from the colored reflection of the calcium carbonate within. The scenery was awesome along the way and we could stop whenever we wanted on the numerous lookouts along the road.

Glacier Bay and College Fjord – sit back with your camera, a good drink and watch and listen. We had a great naturalist on board who frequently spoke over the public address system about the glaciers, the environment, and the history of the area.

Entertainment – remember, you are on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Alaska, not mid-town Manhattan. Do not expect award winning Broadway revues and you will be satisfied. Of the seven nights, we went to 4 or 5 the shows. The variety was good; the energy level and enthusiasm of the entertainers was higher than what I was expecting, so I was quite pleased.

Lounges – plenty of them and never very crowded. I will say that Crooners Lounge has the most incredible martini options. I highly recommend this watering hole before or after dinner.

• There were 1900 passengers on the ship and not once did I feel a sense of being in a crowd.
• The ship is big with lots of options – see the “Princess Patter” every day.
• If you are into working out, try the spinning classes (only $10) – a good way to burn off all those extra calories from the dining areas.
• We also did a couples massage in the Lotus Spa once – talk about being pampered!!
• They do a lot of picture taking, but there is no pressure to buy.
• The chocolate desert buffet at the last lunch was incredible.
• Money saver - they let us bring 1 bottle of wine pp on the ship from the ports of call.
• Tips are automatically added to your account, but we gave our waiters and cabin steward a little extra because we felt they deserved it.

Disembarkation – was a piece of cake for us. We had independent travel plans, so we could leave whenever – no wait.

Thank you Princess – it was superb!


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