Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Island Princess
Sailing Date: n/a
This trip was in celebration of my 50th birthday and what a celebration it was!
Other than problems (I should say nightmares) with our flights, (I would book my own next time, not through Princess) the trip was great!
Yes, it was a long flight, but what do you expect from Philly to Alaska. I suggest giving yourself a few extra days to adjust to the time change. We (there were 9 of us) arrived a day earlier than the tour. The 20 hours of daylight does throw you off a bit!
We started in Fairbanks. Enjoyed talking to the locals (humorous taxi drivers) and hearing their stories. The mosquitos were not bad this time of year. Just a few here and there. We took the Discovery Riverboat Tour. I highly recommend this tour. It gives you an overview of the area, culture and the village was very interesting. We stayed at the Bear Lodge, very nice.
Next day onto Denali via the train. This was a beautiful and restful ride. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast onboard and gorgeous scenery. The staff were excellent.
Denali Wilderness Lodge was home for 1 night. There were a lot of excursions to choose from. Three of us just stayed at the Lodge, enjoyed a leisurely dinner and took in the beautiful views. Again, no mosquitos, but it was May and the weather was cool, 60 degrees.
The next morning we enjoyed the 4 hour bus tour of Denali National Park. I enjoy the history and culture of different areas. Just sit back and appreciate hearing about and seeing the beauty of Alaska. The Park personnel were knowledgeable and the trip enjoyable. We saw dall sheep, moose, caribou, etc. and a lovely presentation by a native Athabaskan women.
We took a bus ride to our next destination - Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge. A rustic lodge with great amenities, lots of excursions to choose from, this was our home for 2 days. We were fortunate to see Mt. McKinley show itself 3 times! We were told that the mountain is not always visible. Each showing was a treat! The rooms were comfortable, the lodge relaxing and the food very good and not over priced. The staff were very accommodating. I skipped any excursions and relaxed for the next two days (I was on vacation, it's good to sit back and relax!)
The last day on land we saw the mountain for the last time and took the bus to Talkeetna. Nice little shops, again, taking in the scenery. We walked to the train station in time to get on the train to take us to Whittier. Unfortunately, Princess must have subcontracted with Alaska Train lines to use their cars, they were dirty, the food service and food were poor and the staff pushed the drinks. Thank goodness for the beautiful scenery and great traveling companions.
Finally, we boarded the Island Princess in Whittier. Embarking was smooth, the staff most helpful when we needed them. Our balcony room was very spacious.
Overall, the next week was fabulous! The food was very good, as was the service. Especially enjoyed the afternoon teas. There is a lot to do onboard, something for everyone.
THe days in College Fjord and Glacier Bay were restful, however, there were activities available. We loved sitting on the balcony, wrapped in blankets and ordering room service as we took in the magnificient glaciers. It is truly a breath taking sight!
Our first port was Skagway. It's a little town, but very interesting history. Several of us enjoyed the Jewell Gardens and a walk through downtown.
The next day was Juneau. We were disappointed in our Taste of Juneau tour. A bit overpriced and the tour guide didn't give enough time to complete the tour. We're still waiting to see if Princess will refund a portion of our money. But, we enjoyed Mendenhall Glacier.
Our last port, Ketchikan, was fun. I took a canoe trip and walk through the rain forest (too short). It was fun, but not worth the money. We walked around town and enjoyed the shops.
There is sooo much to do, so many excursions to choose from. Our group varied in age and interest, so when we got together, it was fun to here about everyone's adventure! Overall, everyone was please with their side trips. Some are priced reasonable, others were overpriced, but that's just the way it is on all cruise lines.
Disembarking was not the greatest. We chose a faster plan, getting our flight boarding passes on the ship for an extra fee. The lines on the ship to pick up your packet were too long. The staff at the port in Vancouver were very slow in getting us to the buses with one person in a wheelchair.
Overall, I was very pleased with Princess. Several of us our planning to do this trip again with Princess. I especially enjoyed the land tour and would extend that next time around.
There was so much we enjoyed and I only shared a small sampling. Take this trip, enjoy Alaska and come away refreshed. It is a truly a unique experience.