Number of Cruises: 12
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Diamond Princess
Sailing Date: July 8th, 2006
My husband and I just returned from our first Princess Alaska cruise. First Princess cruise, first Alaska cruise. Twelfth cruise in all. I’ve always taken Celebrity or Royal Caribbean and loved them, but decided that in Alaska, Princess was king. After reading reviews for months before we went, I was getting worried that we had made a mistake in booking Princess. But now I think maybe more disgruntled passengers write reviews than satisfied ones.
We flew into Seattle the evening before the cruise. Booked our own air and hotel. Spent the night near the airport and returned the next morning to hook up with our Princess transfers to Vancouver. It all went like clockwork. Princess had us on the bus in minutes, and on our way within a half hour. It was a nice, scenic 3 ½ hour ride with one 15 minute potty stop, where we could also buy food. They showed a movie on the bus.
On arrival in Vancouver, our check in to the ship was fast and efficient. We were on in about 20 minutes. Our cabin was an outside cabin with obstructed view. The price was the same as an inside, so why not. There was a lifeboat outside our window, but it was about 10 feet from the window, so we had plenty of view. Rooms are small and efficient. Our cabin steward greeted us and I immediately asked for bathrobes and feather pillows. We had them both by evening.
We had wanted early dining, but were on a waitlist and given “anytime dining:”. I had read horror stories of having to wait an hour for a table, etc. So I made dinner reservations for the first two nights immediately. Then when taking our first tour through the ship, we met the maitre de. He said he’d try to get us on 1st dining and let us know by next day, which he did. But we still were able to get into other restaurants with no wait, which we did on the nights when we were in port late. So if you’re on “anytime” don’t worry. Make reservations when you get on if you want, but it’s not a big deal if you don’t. We thought the Sterling Steakhouse was excellent and worth $15 if you like a good steak. Sabitini’s was a disappointment and not worth $20. Too much seafood and the foods not any better than the regular dining rooms. All in all, the food was excellent. The buffet food was better than any buffet food I’ve had on cruises.
The entertainment was both excellent and horrible. Two performers, a singer and a ventriloquist were very disappointing. The singers and dancers were excellent as were the various comedians.
We did some excellent excursions. I think if you go to Alaska, doing a good shore excursion will enhance your experience tremendously. This is not a time to get cheap. I’d rather save on the room category and spend it on the excursion.
In Ketchikan, my girlfriend and I went snorkeling, while our husbands went sports fishing. The snorkeling was phenomenal. We never expected to see the colors and sea creatures that we saw. They put you in a full wetsuit so temperature's not a factor. The guys loved the fishing and we just received the frozen salmon fillets last week. They cleaned them and shipped via FedEx. Not cheap, but so worth it.
In Juneau, we took the Helicopter Glacier Trek. They dressed us in waterproof outerwear and boots and we flew up to the Mendenhall Glacier. The helicopter ride alone was worth every penny. We had perfect weather and the view was indescribable. We landed on the glacier and were given crampons and an ice pick. The guides then took us hiking on the glacier and taught us the techniques of climbing up and down the ice. It was the experience of a lifetime. And don’t worry, you don’t have to be athletic.
In Skagway we took the White Pass rail trip. Scenic but not too exciting. Not really worth $100 in my estimation. Later in the day, we did the Klondike bike trip. They drive you up the mountain and you bike down for about 70 minutes. Fun, but you have to stay with the group, which meant not stopping to enjoy the view when you wanted to.
We loved the days at the glaciers. Didn’t see wildlife, but the glaciers were quite actively calving. Spent hours out on deck with binoculars and movie camera. Loved sitting in the hot tubs on deck 16 watching the sunset at 11pm. So different from a Caribbean cruise and I think we liked this better. The week went by and we realized we had only been in the casino for 30 minutes all week. Normally we’re there every night!
We disembarked at our leisure because we were renting a car in Whittier for the day. Getting off about 9:00 was fast and easy. My husband walked over to Harleys rent-a-car and picked up our van. Our flight from Anchorage wasn’t until 10PM, so we took our time driving back there. We were able to stop at the visitors center near Whittier, which is like a mini museum. There we took a one mile hiking path to a glacier. Also stopped at the animal conservatory to see grizzlies, moose, etc. There were lots of scenic stops we made along the way and we were so glad we had our own car. Got to Anchorage around 4pm. Shopped, had dinner at the Glacier Brewhouse and headed for the airport. It was a great day, great week and a lifetime of memories. We’re already talking about the next Alaska cruise.