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Walt Suminski

Age: 69


Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Coral Princess

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: 12 day Cruise

We returned from our 12 day cruise and land tour on July 16, 2003 on the very pleasant new Coral Princess. Of all the ships we traveled on, this was the smoothest and quietest of them all. It was also the skimpiest on cabin room. We had a veranda room on the Baja deck and there was nothing generous about it. The shower was extremely small and the support handle was placed so that you couldn’t avoid hitting it with your elbow. My elbow still hurts.

When we arrived in Vancouver, we spent a good part of an hour trying to locate our luggage. After asking several people, we were told that our luggage was taken to the ship. Only five months earlier, on our Mexican Riviera cruise (Star Princess), we were required to pick up our luggage. No one told us any different and consequently, we lost valuable time and missed our luncheon aboard ship.

Prior to boarding the ship, we went through pre-boarding and went directly to the area for Captain’s Circle Platinum Member’s Check-In. No one present. Got in line with the rest of the people. Bad vibes.

Went directly to our room and decided to wash up a bit after a long day of travel. No soap in the bathroom. More bad vibes.

After safety session and life preserver orientation, we went back to room to change for dinner. No luggage, went to dinner in our wrinkled traveling clothes. Luggage didn’t arrive until after dinner. Went to bed early and hoped for a fresh start the next day.

We had requested early dining with a table for eight. When we approached the dinning room, we could not be seated because they told us we had open dinning. That was news to us. So we were directed downstairs to the other dining room and the first thing they asked was, “Do you have reservations?” Of coarse we didn’t have reservations, however, after a few moments; they obligingly found us a table. About this time, we felt like second class citizens rather than guests.

The following morning turned out to be the beginning of a very enjoyable cruise. The scenery was spectacular and the various places we stopped at; Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway were everything we had expected. We have found over time that we like to be a little adventuresome and find our own entertainment when going ashore. At Ketchikan we found a young pilot with a bright yellow Piper Super Cub on floats that took us for an awesome plane ride for the most reasonable sum of $30.00. What a bargain! At the other stops, we fared almost equally as well.

After our recent Mexican Riviera cruise, we had decided that we would not go along with automatic tipping ($10.00 per person, per day). So on our second day aboard ship, I went to the purser’s desk and informed them not to apply the automatic tipping to my bill, but rather I would tip according to services rendered. The day before departing, I picked up gratuity envelopes and passed them out as we saw fit. It didn’t cost us much less, but we made sure that those people, who deserved a tip, got it. Just before departing the ship we received our itemized bill which included $140.00 for gratuities. If there was any discrepancies in your billing, they must be corrected before leaving the ship. So a mad dash down to get this correction made before departing.

When waiting at the lower deck before departing the ship, all Captains’ Circle Platinum Members were instructed to wait in the theater lounge, where coffee and beverages would be served. A nice departing touch but no one there. Just empty urns and cups covered in plastic on a tray. Other than a luncheon with the Ships’ Captain (who wasn’t present) the Captain’s Circle Platinum status is of little importance.

We departed the ship at Seward at 6:00 AM, so we didn’t get to see hardly anything of the town. We were bussed to Whittier for a boat trip to Valdez. The boat was a very enjoyable catamaran that was fast and smooth. We were fortunate to see a whale and hundreds of sea lions. This was definitely a nice way to cross that expanse of water. The personnel were very courteous and served a nice breakfast. A very enjoyable trip.

Valdez is an enjoyable town and has some interesting history. After about one hour, we left for the Copper River Lodge and arrived there early in the evening. Unless you sign up for the tours they offer, there is little else to do. We didn’t have an option to be adventurous, nor did we have an option to eat at any other place but their pricey dinning room. I guess we haven’t gotten used to paying $10.00 for a hamburg, and especially when we didn’t realize beforehand that meals were not included with the land tour.

Our trip from Copper River Lodge to Denali was a long and uneventful one. We saw great scenery but nothing else. Rough gravel road most of the way with three stops of minimal interest.

We arrived at Denali late in the day and received our packet for room assignment and instructions for our short stay. Anyone who signed up for a tour had to pack up and be out of their room very early. Arrangements for bag storage were provided and you had to check them in before departing on the tour. Most of the tours ended around noon and upon returning, you had to just hang around for the 3:30 PM bus to the train depot. Our experience was very unpleasant as we were cold and wet and no place to go. The main lobby was packed with people, leaning against walls and sitting on the floor. Surely, they could have made some accommodations for all these people (like a movie theater, game room, etc.) The common question was, “why hasn’t Princess made some kind of provisions for their “guests” after such a long period of time?”

Our train trip from Denali to Fairbanks was an enjoyable experience. The people in charge were friendly and very accommodating: Something we had learned not to expect. They served complimentary beverages and narrated interesting facts about the trip. This was definitely one of the high points of our trip and we would recommend it highly.

When we arrived at Fairbanks it was late in the day and we had time only to grab a bite to eat and hit the sack for an early departure to the airport the next morning. The only part of Fairbanks we saw was on our trip to the lodge and across the road to the airport. Not much planning on this stop either.

In conclusion, I must say that for the cost that we incurred for this cruise/tour, we were treated more like baggage than tourists. The tour is definitely something you want to avoid. A better alternative would be to get off the ship at Seward and plan your own excursions to the places you want to go and to stay for the amount of time you chose.

After taking several cruises with Princess, we can’t help thinking that the ships keep getting better and the services keep declining. Listed below are several suggestions that they could make without breaking the bank or re-inventing the wheel:

Deliver Champagne with glasses.

Don’t charge for bottled water in rooms ($2.95 per bottle).

When calling Room Service, someone should be there to answer the phone.

Wake up calls in the morning should wake you up (ours didn’t)

Television reception should not be seen as a snow storm.

Horizons Court (24 hr. eatery) should concentrate on service, not selling booze.

Servers in Horizons Court should step aside in aisles for guests rather than the other way around.

Platinum Membership should have some benefits rather than just promises.

Don’t charge for juice that is delivered to your room.

And…. Treat us as guests, not baggage!

Our next cruise? I think we’ll check out other cruise lines.

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