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Paul Bjorlin

Age: 48

Occupation:Computer Operations

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Dawn Princess

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Vancouver to Seward and back

Alaska back to back Cruise Dawn Princess May 26, 2001 and June 02, 2001.

We had used our own air and an overnight stay in Vancouver before boarding the Dawn Princess for a back to back cruise of Alaska. We boarded the Dawn Princess May 26, 2001 in Vancouver for the first 7-day cruise and would stay on in Seward June 02, 2001 for the return 7-day cruise.

We had signed up well in advance and had expected getting a sticker for priority boarding but did not receive one. This meant we had been put in the line for normal boarding. This was no problem because this line was much shorter than the priority boarding line. We were the first ones in line for our stateroom numbers. When we talked to the girl behind the counter she had to go to the priority counters because our room keys were there because we were supposed to be in priority boarding. This was no problem because everything still only took about 5 minutes. She took our tickets and ran an imprint of our credit card and off we went to board the ship.

We went to our room, which was an inside room on deck 12. We had requested inside rooms. Our second room for the return trip was on deck 5. The room was small but it was nice and had more than enough storage for everything we had brought and more. We read the Princess Patter and other information left in the room and started to check out the ship. We had sailed on the Sun Princess before so we did have an idea of where things were, but you still have to check things out.

We did go to the dining room where you could try to change your dinner seating. We had requested traditional dining early seating in advance and had been told this is what we had, even on our tickets, however they had placed us in the personal choice dining room. Many people seemed to like personal choice but it is not for my wife or me. We were told they would try to change it for the following night. They did get it changed and notified us with a note the following day. The first night of cruising whether you have traditional or personal choice dining you sit where you want within your dining room. You do not sit at your designated table until the second night, at least on the Dawn Princess.

Later that evening we did meet our room steward Victor when our luggage arrived. Victor did an exceptional job for us the whole week we were in this room. We did have a few problems with a light switch and the television remote and he made sure they were taken care of immediately. He was very polite and easy to talk to and get along with. He always had a smile and wished us a good day whenever we saw him regardless of where we saw him. When we would change rooms at the end of the first stretch of our trip he made sure everything was taken care of, like the transfer of our things to the next room. He made sure the next room steward, which would be Ronald, knew of how we liked things, such as fruit in the room and robes for the pools. Ronald would do an exceptional job for us also and he was just as nice as Victor was.

Seeing we were on a back to back cruise we also had two different sets of dining room staff. Our first ones were the headwaiter Cheseppe, waiter Luis and assistant Kristina. Cheseppe was very good but all business. Luis was an excellent waiter but he admitted he was a little tired and only had one week left before he was going home. Kristina was great. She worked very hard and was always smiling and really seemed to love what she was doing. She made sure you were never out of water or had any dirty dishes or were waiting for anything. She also loved to hear about your day and was genuinely excited for you if you had a good day.

Our second group to take care of us in the dining room were headwaiter Pepe, waiter Francisco and assistant Reynaldo. Pepe was very good as a headwaiter and a little more personable than Cheseppe had been, keep in mind I have no complaints about how Cheseppe did his job. Francisco was very outgoing and very attentive. He made sure if he knew you liked something that he would bring extra, as he did when my wife had lobster and crab legs. Reynaldo was good but they had him working extra tables so we did not see as much of him. When he was there he did his best to make sure you were kept happy.

As far as food goes in the dining room, I will admit I did not think the food was as good as the last time I sailed with Princess. The food was good, I just did not think it was as good as the last time. I did eat breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court buffet. The only thing I did not care for in the buffet were their scrambled eggs. They were very watery which I do not care for. We did have pizza several times. I have heard and read of people who think their pizza is great. It is pretty good but I do not think it is great. I have had better and even made better but it still is worth having. We also ate at the hamburger grill while watching glaciers. This was good but nothing to brag about.

I really do not think I can comment too much on the shows. I only went to a couple comedy shows. The comedy shows were a standup comedian and a juggler-comedian. They were fair. Both acts were leaving the ship at the end of the trip. We did go to one musical show. It was supposed to be a French musical review. It was extremely bad. Many people walked out before it was over including my wife and myself. The male singer was mechanical and the dancers looked like they had never done the dances before. I do understand other musical shows were much better but I did not go to these shows, I just heard about them from other passengers.

The ship is beautiful. It has been well taken care of. You saw people cleaning or painting every day. I did see regular cleaning of the pools every day also. There was always a pool or whirlpool open but they would shut down one pool or another at different times for cleaning every day. As always the one problem on a ship is waiting for elevators. They always seem to be slow and always on the wrong floor. If my wife wasn’t handicapped and I didn’t have such bad knees I would have walked the stairs more than waited for an elevator. The only elevators that seemed fairly quick were the glass elevators in the atrium but they only go from deck 5 to 8.

My favorite places on the ship were the atrium lounge and the wheelhouse lounge. I did spend a considerable amount of time in these areas when I wasn’t watching whales or glaciers.

One interesting thing I will note and this I found out because I was on a back to back cruise is that the sales they put on are different each direction. I am talking about sales of specific items, such as t-shirts or watches, the little things they put out in the isles outside the shops. The sale prices on the items were different from one week to the next. The sale items were cheaper on the way north for the same items that were on sale both directions.

Now I will talk about some of the tours we did. All tours were taken from the cruise line except a whale watch in Juneau that we took through Orca Enterprises with Capt. Larry. In Ketchikan, as in all the towns, we took one tour on the way up and one on the way back. First in Ketchikan we took a kayak tour of Tatoosh islands. This was our first time in a kayak and most likely our last. The trip was nice. It was raining and the water was calm but with my wife’s bad legs and hip and my bad knees it was too uncomfortable for us. Our guides, Lisa and Marvin, were great. We did see some seals while in the kayak it was just to uncomfortable when you have bad knees and legs. On the return we took the boat tour of Ketchikan. This was very informative and we felt much better than the land tour we had taken back in 97. It was well worth the money.

In Juneau we took the whale watch with Capt. Larry, which we had booked on our own. This was incredible. We were fortunate to see a large group of humpback whales feeding. We also saw a large pod of killer whales. We did have the killer whales come right up to the boat and I was able to look right into the eye of one of the whales. We got some outstanding pictures and video. Capt. Larry gets on the radio and than goes to where the whales are. He did an excellent job of finding whales and an excellent job of positioning the boat for some great pictures. I highly recommend taking this tour. Just so you know many of the naturalists from the ship go with Capt. Larry. We had some on our trip and the one from our ship was scheduled to be with him on the tour after us. The other tour we took in Juneau was the float down Mendenhall River. This was fun but just a little long. There were some small rapids at the start, which were great but after the rapids it was a slow ride. I am glad I did the tour but would not do it again.

In Skagway we took the White Pass Railway ride. This has exceptional scenery and more than worth the price. I would highly recommend this trip. We took the historic tour of Haines on the return. This was extremely disappointing. There are a few things of interest to see in Haines but you do not get time to look at those things. Do not waste money on this trip unless they make some big changes to it. There were other Haines tours that may have been better.

When in Glacier Bay, Marjorie glacier was very active in both directions. We saw a lot of calving. The calving was of some very big ice chunks breaking off. This also provided some great pictures and video. On this trip this was really one of the great highlights of the trip. College Fjord was nice but kind of a letdown after Glacier Bay. In Seward, our turn around day, we took a wildlife tour with Kenai Fjords Tours. The one complaint I have with this tour is they would not vary their route. Now this would have been fine except that the Capt. kept telling us I have a report of whales in another place but we will look here or there is a report of puffins in another place but we will look here. We spent a lot of time looking at rocks and when we finally got to where there were some sea lions we were out of time and had to head back. I will say that we were fortunate to see a pod of killer whales on the return and the Capt. did stop and head in late. The whales came in a group of four right up to the boat dive under us and come up on the other side, this is called a mugging. Again we got great pictures and video. So I will give the Capt. credit for staying a little longer so we would have that experience, however it would have been more enjoyable for the rest of the trip if he had not told us he knew where things were but did not go there.

Some final thoughts. I love being on a cruise ship and this time was no exception to that. Yes we did have too much rain the first week but the second week we had clear weather. Even the rain did not kill the good times we had outside and the fact that we had so many good whale sightings and sightings of calving of the glaciers made this trip exceptional. The minor problems of tours and being sent to personal dining could not even come close to putting a damper on this trip. I will go back to Alaska again and again.

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