Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Star Princess
Sailing Date: August 24, 2002
Itinerary: Alaska Cruisetour
We were on tour 8 which began in Fairbanks and included the Midnight Express Railroad to Anchorage.
Upon arrival in Fairbanks, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that the Princess crew actually claims our luggage for us. They piled all luggage in one section and we just had to make sure that all pieces were accounted for. The luggage was then delivered to the hotel (Bear Lodge). This would have been really wonderful if the luggage had been delivered to the room in a more timely manner. It took several hours and was after midnight by the time we got our luggage. Since our luggage was being picked up at 6 a.m., we weren’t too happy at that point. Another good thing – we had the option to send luggage directly to the ship rather than travel throughout the tour with everything. We knew this in advance and so had packed accordingly.
The train was great and we were pleased to see that Princess’ cars were definitely the best and most modern of all the other cruise lines’ cars. Upon arrival at each stop, we were given a packet containing the keys to our hotel room for that night and any other information we needed regarding land tours and transfers for the next day. The Princess staff was very organized and helpful.
The Princess Denali Lodge was very nice and the tour of Denali quite good. We had booked the dinner theatre, Music of Denali. It was not exactly what we had expected – the food was very poor and the show was cute but long.
The Mt. McKinley Lodge was also nice. I was a bit upset with the Princess guides who told us that Talkeetna was not worth seeing. We decided to spend an hour there and found that we could easily have spent 3 or 4 hours, exploring the stores, having lunch and even exploring a small museum they have. Also, because of the weather, we were not able to see Mt. McKinley at all, which was a big disappointment.
The ship – we chose the Star because of it’s size and the fact that it is brand new. The ship is beautiful. We had a balcony stateroom on the Baja deck. From our balcony we could look down into the balconies of the 2 decks below us, limiting their privacy. The cabin steward was very accommodating. We requested bathrobes on the first day which came in handy for the entire cruise. Birthday or anniversary balloons were put up outside the cabin doors on the day a celebration was requested.
We used Personal Choice dining and were very pleased with it. We were a group of 9 and only had to wait for a table once – for 15 minutes. All other days we were seated immediately. We had several celebrations while on the ship and the waiters in the Capri dining room were truly fantastic. They serenaded us with 6 or 7 singing waiters and one even had a guitar! The food was good, but not fantastic. Our vegetarian was happy with the vegie choices and the rest of us always found something good to eat on the menu. They did have a few items which were available on a daily basis (steak, salmon, shrimp cocktail) and I would have liked to see them add something more for kids’ tastes like chicken nuggets or hamburgers.
We bought soda cards ($20 for unlimited soda for the week). The nice thing about Princess is that they don’t limit the cards to kids and will even give you 2 or 3 sodas with one card.
My complaint regarding drinks on board was that they sold hot chocolate for $2. I felt that, especially in Alaska, this should have been in the same category as coffee and tea, available all the time for free. Our kids don’t drink coffee or tea and for those times on deck, wishing for a hot drink, I resented the $2 for the hot chocolate.
We didn’t participate much in the evening activities. The 2 shows we saw were nice – I’ve seen better but the comedian, Sarge, was terrific. During the day activities were conducted nicely and the announcements were handled well. There was also a naturalist on board who gave a commentary which could be heard over the loudspeakers and on the internal TV, so that we knew where we were, what we were seeing, and she also gave a “heads up” when there was wildlife to be spotted.
All in all, our entire group was thrilled with the Star Princess and would go back again anytime!