Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Dawn Princess
Sailing Date: July 10th, 2007
Itinerary: Alaska Inside Pass
My family, two adults and two boys, 15 and 12, shared an ocean view room on a 10 day Alaska trip on the Dawn Princess. It was a very nice trip though we have a few minor gripes.
Our room was a little tight for four adult-sized people (no surprise) but it was fine. There was a good-sized window and an attentive room steward to make up the room and raise/lower the 3rd and 4th beds. The room was pretty well insulated in that we rarely heard noise from the hallway.
The ship itself was very nice. There was a good-sized and well-equipped workout room with a view of the ocean. We used it regularly and it was only crowded early in mornings (e.g. 7 a.m.) early in the trip. The pool area was also very nice. There were two pools adjacent to each other, well heated and decent-sized given that we were on a ship. Beside the pools were two hot tubs that were actually hot. At the rear of the ship were three other adult-only hot tubs. My only gripe was that the pool got a bit dirty toward the end of the day, though by the morning it was cleaned up. There were two ping pong tables which were well-used. Part way through the trip one broke, making it very difficult to get on. We asked that they institute a signup sheet but they didn't do so.
Our cruise was sold out, but except for rare instances it never seemed crowded.
Meals were quite good. There were many choices of generally well-prepared food for all three meals, including a large selection of vegetarian and healthy choices. Dinner was quite good with the serving staff friendly, helpful and accommodating. The casual pizza restaurant was also pretty good with decent pizza, soup and pasta. My only gripe about the food is that they charged you extra for things that should have been included in the cruise price. While I don't have a problem charging for alcohol or even espressos, I think it's chintzy to charge for all soft drinks. It's not a big deal but it's a notable contrasts to the otherwise generous food service.
There was a pretty full schedule of things to do on board: A few interesting lectures, contests, games, demonstrations, shows, movies, bingo. If you wanted to stay in your room there was a full schedule of relatively recently released movies, though the in-room TV was pretty small. Internet access was available, though a little pricey at $0.55 per minute. The casino was good-sized though it wasn't very busy.
We wanted to see Alaska so we made it a point to spend as much time as possible on shore. You won't be surprised that the on-shore area immediately around the cruise docks in Juneau and Skagway was very touristy; we could just as well have been in Maui or Palm Springs as Alaska. There was a huge overabundance of fairly high-pressure jewelry stores. Having said that, it's pretty easy to get away from the tourist areas and see more of authentic Alaska. We took several hikes on our own and saw some beautiful scenery. We can recommend the Mendenhall glacier and the Juneau tram. The Whitepass train ride in Skagway is OK, but be aware that you do not get to get off the train or move between cars. As an alternative, there are several beautiful hikes you can take; directions are easily available at a Forest Service hut near the docks. We wanted to go salmon fishing and arranged for four of us to charter a fishing boat in Juneau. It wasn't cheap ($179 apiece) but would have been well worth it if we had caught some fish. But we didn't. I don't blame our captain, who seemed very knowledgeable and wasted no time getting out to the fishing ground and getting our gear into the water. Of the 9 fishing boats that went out that day only 3 fish were caught! You should probably ask around to see if the fish have been biting before committing half a day and a lot of money to a fishing trip.
The weather during our 10 days was pretty good, though variable. It was drizzly but not cold in Sitka. Juneau and Skagway were mostly sunny and pleasant. It was drizzly, almost rainy, in Victoria.
If you really want to see Alaska a cruise probably isn't the way to do it. But we were surprised how much we enjoyed this cruise. We're a pretty active family so being on board ship for 10 days and four to a cabin could have been an unhappy time. But we found enough to do on board. And by spending the maximum amount of time on shore we felt like we got a decent glimpse of a beautiful state.