Number of Cruises: 12+
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Sea Princess
Sailing Date: June 30th, 2001
Itinerary: Northbound Alaska
As always, I want to first start our by saying that this review is my opinion. As you will read in my review, there were some very good aspects of the cruise as well as some not so good experiences and on a scale from 1-10, I would give it a 4.
The day before – We flew into Vancouver the day before and I would recommend that everyone do this if you live on the east cost as we do. It is a long flight and a three hour time change to get use to so the extra day is a nice start. We stayed at the downtown Marriott and it was one of the nicest Marriott’s I have stayed in. In my opinion, the rate was very reasonable for the level of hotel it was.
Embarkation – Quick and efficient as always with Princess. We went to the port around 10:30 and they were still getting the other passengers off the ship so we waited about 20 minutes to drop off our luggage. We then went to the hotel to get our wives and went to explore Vancouver a little. I would say we probably got back to the ship around 2:00pm and there was no line at all for check in. We were in our rooms 20 minutes later. I really like Princess’s boarding process.
The ship – We have been on this ship once before as well as the Sun and Ocean Princess’s in the past so we were pretty familiar with the layout. I think I like the layout of these ships more than any other because no matter where you are, it never seems crowded even though there are 2000+ people aboard. We have been on the Grand Princess and Explorer of the Seas and both seemed to have areas where people seemed to bunch up but not on the Sun class ships. The ship was in very good shape with no noticeable wear what we could see except for the weight room which some of the equipment could use some maintenance. Pretty understandable in that it gets used pretty extensively every week. Other than that, it felt like a new ship.
Dining Service – This is where the review takes a downturn. We had chosen the traditional 2nd seating and were put in the personal choice dining room with a really bad waiter and assistant waiter. Not to get into too many details, we were extremely upset and promptly complained to the head waiter the next day and was assigned to another table with a wonderful waitress. They did a great job of rectifying a problem which had the potential of ruining the entire cruise for us in that were in a party of 9 and looked forward to getting together at night for dinner.
Room Steward – Well, I have a mixed opinion about this one. One of the couples we were traveling with got a suite right next to us and had the same room Steward as we did. They expected additional services from him as well as a butler that they were unaware Princess did away with them in the beginning of the year. Needless to say, that put a bad taste in their mouths and they were constantly giving the room steward a hard time for not being at their beck and call. I somewhat see their point and blame their travel agent for not telling them that a suite only gets you a bigger room and nothing else. A lot of the other cruise lines have ‘perks’ that come with the suites and that is what they were expecting. Right or wrong, who’s to say but they paid 3 times more than we did for our outside room with a balcony and the only advantage they had was a bigger room so I’m not sure the suites are worth the extra money. Anyway, the room steward did a great job for us although I think he was becoming very upset with our friends in the suite and since we were associated with them, he started giving us a little attitude. Not enough to get me upset, but you could tell he was frustrated.
Shows – Anyone who has read any of my past reviews knows that I’m not into the ship board entertainment and this cruise was no exception. We didn’t make any of the shows so I can’t say if they were bad or good. One of the couples we were with went every night and said they were great if that helps.
Ports of Call – Another downturn in this review. Let me start off by saying that I wasn’t extremely excited about going to Alaska in the first place. I love the Caribbean and would be perfectly happy if every cruise I went on was there, but we travel with a group so majority ruled this time. The weather was ok in most of the ports although, is usually drizzled at some point during the day. The ports were good to site see in, but we really aren’t into that and would rather do something more active. Sight seeing is ok for a while, but we started getting board towards the end of the cruise. Again, this is only my opinion and some people loved the site seeing tours. We didn’t take any of the helicopter or float plane tours for two reasons. First, cost. They are not cheap and second, I didn’t want to pay that kind of money to be sick the whole flight. I get motion sickness very easily and it is almost a guarantee that I would have in those little planes or helicopters. We did take a few tours to the glaciers and did some hiking on our own, but that was about the extent of our shore excursions.
Glacier site seeing – For 2 days, we cruise around the glaciers which were great to see. We got a lot closer to them than I thought we would. It was nice, but not extremely exciting. I was waiting for one of the chucks of the glaciers fall off and hit the ship. That would have livened things up a bit. ;)
Disembarkation – Very good. We basically woke up, got dressed and walked off the ship like any other port we stopped at. I think the difference was that we didn’t have to go through customs so we were able to leave the ship whenever we wanted. Usually on a Caribbean cruise, we are always bunched up in the atrium waiting for our tag color to be called.
Post trip stay in Anchorage – We rented a car in Seward and drove up to Anchorage. Just a note to anyone that is doing this, be sure you get the right color luggage tags because we also purchased transfers on the bus to Anchorage because we made the car rental decision at the last minute so when we tagged our luggage the night before, the tags we got were for the bus transfer. So the luggage was put on the bus and taken to Anchorage which wasn’t that bad since we didn’t have to lug it up there in the rental, but we were thinking about if it made it or not the whole day. When we got to Anchorage, we went to the Princess holding center downtown and picked it up. One of our friends suitcase was missing, but was delivered to the hotel later that night. The next day, we toured anchorage a little, but there really wasn’t much to see in town and we didn’t venture out because it was raining pretty hard. The following day, we caught a plane back to DC and I would encourage everyone to use their frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class because it is a long flight back to the east coast.
Conclusion – Glad we got to see Alaska, but I don’t think I would do it again. Just not my idea of the ideal vacation. I’ve been spoiled by the Caribbean. There wasn’t much of a night life either which didn’t come as a surprise to me based on the reviews I read before hand, but at about 11:00pm, there was nobody was to be found which was odd. I did have some good conversations with the Bar staff and they gave me some good tips on what to do the next day. It was also more expensive for both the cruise itself and the shore excursions. The glaciers are great to see up close, but give me the beach and warm weather for our next cruise.