Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Coral Princess
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: 11-day Alaska Cruise/tour
My wife and I traveled with another couple for a 7-day cruise and a 4-day land combination. The 4 of us all had the same ideas at the end of what Princess calls their Tour 1
The northbound cruise from Vancouver with stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway couldn't have been nicer.
In Ketchikan, we took the somewhat expensive ($269 ea) Misty Fjords trip and were mesmerized by the beauty we saw. My wife and I felt what we experienced was worth the money.
In Juneau we did the Mendenhal Glacier and Wildlife boat trip, which we thoroughly enjoyed and thought was well worth the cost. After the tour was over, we walked around and saw the Mt. Roberts tram and thought it would be a fun way to kill the afternoon. When we saw the price of the ticket ($22), we almost changed our minds but decided to do it anyway. Were we glad we did! While the view over the harbor was magnificent (and expected) what we had not expected was the view out back. We discovered a nice quiet place to look at the valley and have a pitcher of beer, which is available from the restaurant there. The view was spectacular and the beer cold (a beautiful partnership).
In Skagway, we did the White pass Railroad, which we all liked, and then had lunch at the Red Onion Saloon, an ex-bordello with waitresses who played saucy wenches (and rather well, I might add).
The cruise then continued for 2 days into Glacier Bay and College Fjord, both of which were magnificent. There were times in each when we just floated, with no engines noticeably propelling us. Floating in front of a 1 1/2 mile wide, 250 ft high glacier, having a drink of the day on your private balcony is not a bad way to spend some time.
The food was outstanding; the service excellent; the drinks reasonably priced; a multitude of tours; and a gorgeous new boat--I can't speak about other Alaska cruise lines, but I can't believe anyone could do it any better. There were just no negatives.
HOWEVER, the land package left us all disappointed. The first day we spent 8 1/2 hours on a bus getting to the first hotel. Even though we had upgraded to a balcony room on the ship (and our companions had gone for a suite), our rooms looked over the parking lot. "Sorry, can't move you; we're full." The next day we took a jet boat tour because our river float was cancelled after one tipped over during a storm the day we arrived. The ride was fast, fun, and informative.
On the next day, we spent a good part of it getting to the hotel between a bus ride, waiting for the train, and a nice train ride. We arrived about 4pm and had the rest of the day to browse. Because we had a tour of the park in the morning, we had to check out and be ready for the bus by 7:55 am. The tour was good; but when we got back to the hotel, we had about 3 hrs to kill and no room. Then we were off to the train again; had dinner on it; viewed lots of tundra, flat lands, and withered trees. By the time we got to our hotel (another parking lot view--"Sorry, can't move you; we're full") and got downstairs for a drink, it was about 10 pm....and we had to up in time for a 5 am transfer to the airport.
The long and the short of it is this: the cruise was a HUGE success and worth the money. None of us felt the land part was worth the money, the time necessary in transporting us, nor the hurried pace required. My suggestion would be to skip the land part or take the cruise/tour southbound if you must do that package. Save the best for last.
I'd say Princess does an outstanding job with their cruise ships; the logistics required moving people from place to place; and all their employees; but we all thought Princess should not try to squeeze in as much as they do on their Tour 1. I'm sure other tours could've been more restful. Since Princess does not provide information about the travel times necessary in their brochures, however, it is impossible to know about it in advance.
Overall, we had a great time and will travel with Princess again, but we would all recommend skipping the land part.