Occupation:software tech support
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sapphire Princess
Sailing Date: NOT FOUND
This was only my second cruise, the first having been years ago to the Caribbean on Carnival.
Boarding was a snap. We had booked our own flights so we could get in a day early in order to make sure we were there (were flying from Pennsylvania and didn’t want to chance flying in same day) and have a little time to see Seattle. They say boarding begins at noon, but I had read some reviews that said you could board sooner so we were there about 11:30 and were, in fact, able to board. We were in our room by a little after 12.
The room was quite nice. We had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck that had a balcony. The bathroom had a tub with a shower that was quite nice to use: good water pressure and lots of hot water. There was enough closet space and shelves to store clothing for 3 people. The one thing about Dolphin deck is that the balconies are all totally exposed. That may be nice in the sunny Caribbean, but in Alaska, where it rains quite a bit, it makes the balcony less usable.
When we booked, we only had the choice of the late seating at dinner or the anytime dining. We picked the late seating but gave up on that after one dinner there. It was just too late for our tastes; you end up not getting done eating until almost 9:30 and if you aren't night owls, well then you're going to bed on a full stomach. We ended up just eating in the Horizon Cafe buffet instead for all our meals. The food there was generally pretty decent with a good assortment, but hey, it's a buffet. We got bombarded with requests for the soda deal the minute we got on board. They stress that it works out to $4 a day, but a glass of soda cost's $1 and a can costs $1.50. Since the most I drink is 1, maybe 2, I just stuck to the free iced tea. We did attend the tea offered in the Pacific Moon dining room a couple of times; it was quite nice but they tend to sort of hurry you along instead of letting you linger.
I was aware that they will automatically charge a $10 a day gratuity per person for everyone (even children), which you have the option of changing to a different amount or just not doing it at all. My sister had left her purse in the room that first night when we went to dinner. When we got back and discovered they had been in to turn down the beds, she checked her purse and determined that she had money missing from it - about $20 she thought. As a result of that, she had the desk cancel any gratuities, which she found was very easy to do. I should add that neither my mother nor I cancelled ours; I wasn't totally convinced that any theft had occurred and that my sister hadn't just gotten mixed-up about what money she had where in her purse. So maybe a theft did occur, and maybe it didn't. Just a warning.
We took a lot of excursions through the ship and enjoyed every one of them. In Ketchikan we toured both the Saxman Indian Village and the Rainforest (both were fabulous in spite of the rain). For Juneau, we had signed up for the Taku Lodge excursion in Juneau, but had cancelled it after an all day rain in our previous port, convinced we wouldn't be able to see anything due to cloud cover. As it turns out, that excursion was cancelled for everyone due to the weather, as were all flight excursions for the day. Apparently that happens a lot in Alaska because the weather can be so lousy, so be prepared to be disappointed if you want to do something like that. Instead we just took a tour offered by an independent there on the docks; there are lots of them there and you can get away with $5 each way if you just want to catch a bus to Mendenhall. We didn’t do the Mount Roberts tramway for 2 reasons: there really wasn’t time and we probably wouldn’t have seen anything but clouds anyway. In Skagway, we took the White Pass train to the summit and then had the tea at Jewell Gardens. The train was a not to be missed ride, but one word of warning: they tell you that every seat is a good one because they make you switch sides after you reach the summit so everyone gets to look out the good side. However, on the trip up, while there was a clear view of everything, near the top it started raining and by the time we came back down, the higher elevations were socked in with fog, giving us a view of nothing. So if it looks clear on your way up, grab a seat on the left hand side. Jewell Gardens is quite charming and beautiful and the tea and food quite delicious though not an ooooh and ahhhhh sort of excursion. In Victoria, we did the Butchart Gardens Wine and Chocolate Tour. The only negative was the Wine part of the tour; the wine was pretty bad (I'm not a big wine drinker but that was the general consensus I was getting from everyone in our bus) and the time it took to go to the winery to sample it just took away from seeing Butchart Gardens, especially given that we didn't get in to Victoria until 4 and daylight was in short supply. I thought we'd go to the gardens first and then taste the wine but no, we went to the winery first. Definitely Butchart Gardens is a must see, but I'd just go there and skip the wine and chocolate. Victoria looked quite charming and I’m sorry we didn’t have more time there
We didn’t get any time to really explore Ketchikan because of our tours. While the tours were great, I am disappointed not to have been able to at least check out Creek St. It’s a trade-off you have to fight with when on a cruise: exploring the town vs. taking tours. Juneau was interesting but not necessarily very charming. Skagway was our favorite though I’m sure the sunny weather we had there plays a role in that.
On board, we attended a lot of the talks by the on board naturalist; I believe her name was Pat Kramer. She was very informative and we really enjoyed all of her presentations. We weren't really into any of the games or even the shows so can't comment on them. They show a lot of fairly new movies, both on tv and in the Princess theatre. My only complaint would be about the times of the movies in the Princess theatre; either they were late at night (starting at 11:00pm) or during the day when you're in port and probably out on excursions or checking out towns, etc.
Disembarking was also fairly smooth though you do a lot of hurry up and waiting. As I said, we had booked our own flights, though we did use Princess to get us to the airport. They assign you a disembarking time based on your flight plans/time. We were scheduled to disembark at 9; we didn't get to the airport until 10:45 so use that as a gauge for your own timing. That was plenty of time for us, as our flight didn't leave until 10:15PM. We didn't take the post-cruise tour of Seattle simply because we had already seen everything it covered.
The ship is beautiful but it’s big! We took a tour of the ship that was offered the first day and good thing; it really helped us find our way even though we still got lost occasionally. Since my previous cruise was so many years ago, it’s hard to compare, but I don’t remember them charging you for anything on board, even soda. I think that would be my main complaint; I was expecting everything to be included and instead found all these hidden fees I wasn’t prepared for. It made me leery of doing things on board.