Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Island Princess
Sailing Date: August 7th, 2006
We sailed on the Island Princess to Alaska as
our first cruise. My wife and I and our two kids, ages 13 and 11, we had a good
experience and I would recommend this cruise to anyone. We enjoyed the scenery,
despite the weather. The shore excursions which we took were certainly
worthwhile, from the beginning, the staff on board was courteous and
cooperative. In general, the sailing was very smooth although on two different
occasions, when we we were in open water, the boat was rocky enough to make
walking a bit unstable. Our stateroom, was an outside cabin with a balcony, it
was very nice although with all four of us, I found it to be quite crowded. We
did expect that thogh. We had signed up for personal choice dining and ate most
of our meals in the buffet. The food here and in the dining room was adequate
but by no means spectacular. In fact, some times it was disappointing. There was
always enough to eat and enough variety but not always the quality one would
have expected from such a cruise. The best food, we thought, was the pizza
available at poolside which was superb. The entertainment on board was also OK
but nothing spectacular.
On the occasions in which we were sailing through scenic areas (college fjord and Glacier Bay), the on board commentary was great especially when the National Park Service rangers did the commentary. We stopped in three ports: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway and each was a good experience in its own way. My wife and our son did the zipline challenge in Ketchikan and loved it. My daughter and I chickened out at the last minute and unfortunately, they wouldn't give us a refund but we did enjoy walking around the grounds in the zipline area. In Juneau we did the "best of Juneau" which included whale watching, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Salmon Bake. That was possibly the best of the three shore excursions, it was fantastic. In Skagway, we went rock climbing which was a lot of fun and very professionally handled. In each of the cities we had time to look around a bit and in Skagway even had time to return to the ship for lunch before heading back out to walk through this delightful little town. All in all, a good experience for a first cruise.
We were not at all happy with the post-cruise tour through Princess. We left Whittier on the train to Denali and found that the train while a beautiful way to see the scenery was just too slow and too long a ride (almost 9 hours). When we arrived in Denali, we stayed at the Princess Wilderness Lodge which was not a bad place to stay but terribly expensive in terms of food. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali and loved it. We arranged for a whitewater trip through Denali Outdoor Center over the Internet and that was a lot of fun. The next day, though, our trip really went downhill. We took the train to Fairbanks and that ride was horrible. The Princess guide on the train talked non-stop in a sing- songy voice and just drove everyone crazy with her constant trivia questions and joke telling contests. The dinner served on the train was terribly overpriced and when we arrived in Fairbanks, at close to 9, we were taken to Bear Lodge which sounds good but is really an apartment complex in a residential neighborhood. The room was nice but it seemed like being in a condomonium complex rather than a hotel. We had arranged for a tour of our own through Alaska Airlines to Barrow on the Northern tip of Alaska (a trip I would definitely recommend to the adventurous) and it is lucky we did because I can not imagine spending the day in that hotel. We passed up the two tours that were part of the tour (Riverboat and Gold Panning) but I hear from those who took them that they weren't impressed. We really wish we had left the cruise in Whittier, rented a car and driven our way across to Fairbanks or to Denali and back to Anchorage. People discouraged us from doing it and the train was a real draw but in retrospect, I think we would have saved a lot of money and enjoyed our time more had we done that.