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Princess ship to Alaska in July

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Need specific suggestions for tours in:
Juneau: whale watching excursion and anything else fun
Skagway- Yukon Jeep Klondike Adventure
Ketchikan: what is there to do? Have climbed glacier in Argentina and have seen glaciers already.

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    We visited Alaska this past July and also did a land tour of Denali prior to our cruise start. We flew into Fairbanks, then took the train to Denali, did an overnight there, then the train to Juneau. We did a trolley tour of Juneau, it was a so so tour. Check your Princess excursions for what to do in Juneau.

    Ketchikan is a very pretty little town w/ a lovely harbor view. We booked a private floatplane tour here and loved it. The tour was 1.5 hrs. and you will see Misty Fjord (spectacular). Our pilot landed the plane on a lake and we saw a grizzly bear coming out of the woods. However, he was spooked by the plane so he took off again. There are lots of shops in Ketchikan where you can buy souvenirs (as well as in Juneau). You should also check out the www.cruisecritic.com website for info on Alaska and tours. There is much more stuff on that website.

    Good luck. You will love Alaska.

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    We are doing the Golden Princess to Alaska in September.

    Juneau - we booked Princess' whale watching tour. Afterward, we'll probably walk the town area and go to the Red Dog Saloon.

    Skagway - We booked the train/bus tour with Chilkoot Charter. We'll probably check out the town and go to the Red Onion Saloon

    Ketchican - We booked the float plane to Misty Fjords with Princess. Not much time at this port. Hoping to see Creek Street and the town also.

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    Just cruised to Alaska last week.

    Juneau: the Taku Lodge feast & floatplane was excellent. Gorgeous scenery, best grilled salmon you'll ever have your whole life.

    Sitka: Bike & Hike was lovely, nice way to break up the gluttony of the cruise. Don't know if they have something like this in Skagway but worth looking into.

    Ketchikan: Highly recommend the Bear Creek Zip Line Adventure. Absolutely beautiful and a LOT of fun.

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    My wife and I just returned today (May 30, 2011) from a 10-day Alaskan cruise aboard the Sea Princess. This was our 10th Princess cruise. We have also cruised with Royal Caribbean and Carnival. Overall, we were disappointed. 1) The ship is getting a little long-of-tooth. For example, some shabbiness is apparent, and the internet café has such poor bandwidth that internet access is extremely slow and difficult. If you are paying for this service, you won’t be happy. 2) Service gets worse with every Princess cruise we take. It’s not that the staff doesn’t work at it, but management sets the bar too low. The “Carnivalization” of Princess some years back started it all off. The automatic tip program encourages mediocrity, and has taken much of the incentive away from staff to “go the extra mile”. Unreplenished tissue and missing towels were repeatedly a problem; personal property was damaged through carelessness. 3) The food is getting really bad. There has always been a big difference between the quality of the food in the “Lido Deck” (buffet) and the dining room. Now the quality of the food in the dining room is mostly fair-poor, and the quality of the food in the buffet is mostly poor-bad. Approximately 35% of the food served is inedible (stale, hard, dry, etc.), and an additional 45% is just of poor quality and taste. That only leaves about 20% of the food as acceptable. A few items within that 20% are quite good, but there are few of those. I have included in these categories breads and deserts. They tend to be in the 20% category...that is, unless they are among the “left overs” from the previous day...which does seem to happen. For example, we both enjoyed eggs benedict one morning in the dining room. Two days later, we say a tray of eggs benedict at the buffet. My wife, who is braver (or more foolish) decided she wanted to repeat her positive experience with the eggs benedict; well...it was not to be. The muffin was cold and hard, I saw her crumble it with her fingers. The egg was hard and plastic, the Hollandaise sauce was crusted and stuck-on. It was a horrible change of quality from two days previous...a good example of the current policy of utilizing “left-overs”. The Alaska passenger-compliment was quite elderly. Perhaps for that reason almost all the food was bland. The few exceptions were usually in the “quite good category” (pepper-pot soup, fresh chicken curry, etc.). The beef, lamb, turkey and pork were all quite tough and mostly tasteless. On our trip home after the cruise, we stopped for lunch at a chain-café we like. My wife and I each ordered green salad and hamburgers. The food was excellent. Much better than anything we had eaten during out 10-day cruise...our meat actually tasted like beef! 4) The mattresses (or some of them) need replacement. Not only are they 2nd rate in style (what, no pillow-top?), but they, like the ship, are a little long-of-tooth. 5) Ship sanitation...what can I say, Sea Princess was hard-hit by Norovirus this trip. My wife and I had never experienced the “adventure” of this illness before. I would rather not again. My case was quite mild, by my poor wife really suffered. The “haz-mat” folks were in every cabin-corridor. The doctor did show up promptly after we called (in response to a public-service announcement); but of course, he charged for the treatment. Staff then modified some of their practices to help prevent infection...crew members handled food-service utensils at the buffet, alcohol-rub was “mandated” (but poorly so) before we could enter the dining room or buffet, etc. My wife started calling it the “poison buffet”; somewhat vitriolic, yes...but she is entitled to her opinions. Public restrooms were sometimes neglected an poorly stocked with toilet paper and such (especially the ones in the vicinity of the theater). And those got quite a workout with so much Noro on board! While awaiting luggage return and departure, my wife saw two large trucks delivering additional medical supplies to the ship. Prudent of course; but would you want your family aboard on the following voyage? 6) The ship’s itinerary was known ahead of time, of course; but Hoonah Village/Icy Point...really? And only a few hours in Victoria? Of course, to those suffering from Norovirus, the ports of call were somewhat irrelevant. Well, I’ve gone on log enough. While we love to cruise, Sea Princess did disappoint.

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    Wow! What a TR. Sorry about the bad time. We have cruised Princess 4 times and CCL twice with the last for each in 2009. Our experiences in all aspects was quite different fortunately. we did a full transit Panama Canal on the island Princess and a Canada/NE cruise on the Triumph and I must say both experiences were quite satisfactory. BTW most cruise lines now do the auto tip. Its been in place for some time and the reason is some passengers would skip the last meal when the tips were passed out so workers were getting stiffed. You can still have it removed if you choose to. We have been very happy with the services we have received so typically we add to the tip at the end of the cruise. Anyway as you have had so many cruises and are so experienced as a traveler I hope this first post is not your last. Cheers, Larry :S-

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    We cruised Princess to Alaska June 2008 with our 2 almost-adult kids. Great time. Perfect? What trip is? Do not share negativity of above poster but I suspect norovirus tends to clouds one opinion of anything.

    As far as service decline, I think this is a product of the "cheaper or else" mentality that also effects the airline industry. Consumers want more for less and less - and if the bottom line is the only thing they respond to, this is what happens. As far as food - the lovely cafe burger place they stopped at on the way home does not serve meals for thousands of people approximately 20 hours/day - and I would be willing to bet that the price they paid per meal was about 1/3 what price per meal would compute as on cruise ship. (as in - you get what you pay for)

    Shore excursions - in Juneau we did the helicopter glacier landing and it was worth the money. Wish I had a bit more time to actually see a bit of the city since the rest of the ports were just t-shirt and jewelry shops. But you indicated you might not be that interested in glaciers. In Ketchikan 2 members of our family did a zipline thing and 2 others did a short narrated hike where we saw wildlife and bears. In Skagway DD and I did a house and garden tour and cooking demonstration by owner of Skagway Inn which was amazing - great stories and insight from someone who actually lives there.

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    Gail: good point about the burger bar.
    Skagway has a great attraction called the White Pass railroad. Its right at the dock and the scenery is, well beautiful Alaska. You have to see it . In Ketchican we did a combo river tour/ totem natl. park excursion. Its was very nice, esp. the river ride. We also took Princess and at the time this excursion included a trip to a closed salmon canning factory. It was OK but not big deal if you missed it.

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    Wow, what a review. We were on the Star Princess in April 2007 and loved it so much especially the food it was the reason we booked Princess again for Alaska. Hope our experience is the same as before.

    Now if you were talking about a Carnival cruise ship, then I would probably agree. Would never get on again and if we find that Princess had Carnivalized itself with this trip, we won't be sailing that line again either.

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    My wife and I have cruised many times, and I cannot recall ever posting a review anywhere before. This time, I'll use more formatting!

    Regarding Norovirus: One suggestion I would/will (comments are apparently solicited by email) give Princess is to implement Norovirus prevention techniques 100% of the time. Whether the virus was previously on board (as the lightening-fast spread of contamination may infer), or brought on board with new passengers, this is a predictable issue for any ship. In my opinion, passengers should NEVER be allowed to handle food-service utensils. Using known anti-noro procedures aboard every-ship, every-time, would be a good business practice; and go a long way towards prevention of illness...and it's certainly little enough to ask of a cruise line like Princess.

    Regarding the food: Bountiful buffets, fabulous food, and regal restaurants are reasons some folks choose to go on a cruise. Depending on your point of view and life-style, you may or may not be disappointed with current cruise practices.

    Gone from Princess are the midnight buffets with the fabulous decorations and special chef creations. And, sadly, gone is most of the tasty food. This seems to be an industry trend, we have noticed the steady degradation of food-service and food-quality for several years.

    Once-upon-a-time, there were "fabulous midnight buffets". These buffets contained ice-sculptures and food-sculptures made from icing, fruits, and such. Passengers were treated to artistic displays of sea-animals and fish, prepared by creative chefs using food and garnish. Passengers were strongly encouraged to come to the buffet to photograph the art, even if they weren't hungry. The food and displays were all edible, and all good. That devolved into plastic sculptures with paste... moulded to look like food. These "food-sculptures" were apparently stored and then dusted-off and reused for each succeeding cruise. I recall one cruise on Royal Caribbean where the fellow in front of me licked the paste-sculpture...yuch!

    Princess used to do a "baked Alaska" march in the dining room one night during each cruise. The dining room lights would dim, and the waiters, assistant waiters and maitre d' would proudly parade though the dining room carrying actual flaming baked Alaska deserts. Immediately afterwards, the baked Alaska would be a desert choice. On this May, 2011 Princess cruise to Alaska, the "baked Alaska" carried (in a lack-luster, desultory fashion) by a reduced complement of waiters, etc., was clearly not food. Perched on top was what appeared to be a battery-operated orange light-bulb to simulate flames. Care to partake?

    Like caviar? I don't, but my wife does. Don't look for it anymore on Princess. Time was when Princess offered 3 kinds: red, black and golden. And for "free", with every meal. Early on, Princess dining included Maitre d' table-side cooking of pasta, caesar salad, etc. We still talk about the pasta quattro formaggio we enjoyed on an early Princess cruise. It was great! Not available anymore.

    It used to be that cruise lines would offer free escorted ship tours of the "working areas", including the bridge and kitchens. No longer on Princess. Pay-to-view only; and since I did not participate, I cannot critique the tour.

    There is also an increasing trend to "nickle-and-dime" passengers for many services and food-items that used to be free. The main-theater entertainment is now usually repeated two-nights running, instead of being fresh daily. Small, but distinct differences.

    Back in the day, the stateroom steward would see my wife coming down the corridor from a day-ashore shopping. The steward would rush to open the door for her and help with packages. Remember the folded-towel bunnies? Artfully arranged pillows? Don't look for those cute touches any longer.

    Don't get me wrong, cruising is still a "good" experience. It allows you to plop your stuff in one place, and have the ship transport you to your chosen destinations. Just be aware that what you experience may not be as "magnificent" (cruise lines like to use that word to describe their product) as it once was. My first Princess cruise to Alaska (this was my 3rd) was far, far different...and need I say, better.

    Will I cruise again, sure...but with increasingly reduced expectations. Bon voyage!

    ------------------------------------

    One other thing about the Norovirus. Some folks are just not going to report their sickness. I called on my wife’s behalf. I didn’t mention my symptoms to the doctor, because while present, they were very, very minor. I am not even 100% sure that I actually had noro, perhaps I just had “food poisoning” (but, boy did my wife get it!!). And the doctor was already treating my wife.

    Maybe passengers don’t report because they don’t want to be confined to their cabin, or maybe because they don’t want to pay for the doctor. Once you’re sick, there’s not that much they can do for you. And, of course, the folks who got sick after arriving home aren’t likely to report. This situation (becoming sick after returning home) argues that the norovirus (according to the CDC, the incubation period for norovirus-associated gastroenteritis in humans is usually between 24 and 48 hours) was “alive and well” far into the cruise. This means Princess sanitation practices were less than perfect.

    At the very least, Princess should re-examine their sanitation procedures...don’t they owe that to their passengers?

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    Wow! You have certainly listed or "formatted" all the changes that practically all cruise lines have seen due to economic downturns that effect all of us globally. I suppose for many including you the glass seems half empty. However if these changes have had such an effect on you as to make things seem so negative than why not travel with the luxury cruise lines such as Silversea, Regent, etc. There are great deals out there to be sure with them now as they too are feeling the pinch and are offering lots of incentives such as two for one fares, free excursions, free air fare and so on. Times have indeed changed as you have noted. If you are new to this forum don't worry. Most here get this point. Its been noted time and time again. I consider myself lucky to be in a position where traveling is a reality, not a dream, especially when so many are out of work.

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    Norovirus ... very avoidable by washing hands often and don't touch the hand rails etc in the public areas.

    Midnight buffet with decorations and all? I don't remember seeing it at all on a regular basis. I might have seen it once or twice on each cruise. The big midnight buffet has been gone for more than 10 years. Most people are eating more healthy and not that late, not by choice.

    The elaborate buffet is still there, usually offered during lunch, on a sea day.

    Quality of food decline is across the baord. As an example, it used be 2 lobster tails on lobster night. It is down to one tail with a few jumbo prawns on Princess. Celebrity? It's down to half a tail and some sea scallops. There have not been "free" caviar on cruise ships for at a very long time. However, it was offered as an appetizer on my last cruise, only once, and it is the cheap big yellow one, not Boluga.

    The cost of cruising has gone down. The cost of fuel and food, and labor has gone up. Something got to give ... and unfortuantely, it's the quality. You got what you paid for. A 14 day Panama Canal crossing in a mini suite was $9,000 in 2001. It was only $3,500 in 2009. Typically per person per day cost was $150 10 years ago. It is about $100 or less now for the inside cabin.

    "nickle and dime" is a state of mind. Is it nickle and diming or is it paying for the optional extras, and have a lower starting "base" price. We don't go to all inclusive resorts as we don't drink to the excess. There are people I know who loves going to all inclusives and drink themselves silly. Should I pay the same price as the person who drinks 50 drinks a day when I only drink maybe 2 or 3 drinks a day? The one who drank 50 drinks a day would say it is nickle and diming when they have to pay for every drink. For me, it's paying for what you want.

    Kitchen and galley tour is still free. It is done after the "cooking show". The bridge and engine room tour, it is "for a fee" as they want to limit the number of people. Could you imagine 1,000 or even 100 people walking through the bridge or the engine room? It is not safe to the people who walks through and not safe for the ship's operation.

    I had an opportunity for a bridge/engine room tour. Only 6 people signe up and "paid" the $100. For the money, they sent you a pile of "free" stuff: including a chef's jacket, a bathrobe (the thick towel ones), an autographed (and framed) picture of you and the ship's officiers, a copy of the ship's log, and much more. If you want to buy those items at the gift shop, the bathrobe was $150, a picture and frame was typically $50. The fee is a deterent to have a large turnout.

    Once you have seen one bridge & one engine room, you have seen them all; unless you are a naval buff or engineer. As to the kitchen tour, I stopped going after the first 2.

    Have you seen how they fold those towel animals? I will not use thsoe towel animals to wipe anything. I want my towels cleaned and hung properly, not man-handled.

    Exceptation is different for everyone. Based on the fare and what you get for the price, it is good value.

    For our last cruise in April, 10 days in the Southern Carribbean, all meals, entertainment included, 7 stops, balcony cabin on Baja deck, less than $2,500 for the two of us. Add on drinks, excursions, tips, $3,500 tops, less than $350 per day for both of us.

    We spent 4 days in Fort Lauderdale (Hollywood beach) after the cruise, hotel rooms ($800) minimal meals ($750) car rental ($250) and no attrations or entertainment (we went shopping at Sawgrass or sat at the beach) it averages out to over $450 a day. The meals were typically pub/lounge fare with a drink and some food: a burger, fish and chips and the like. Not 4 coruse meals with appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. The $450 did not even cover the drinks.

    This past memorial day long weekend, 4 days at New Orleans, almost $3,000 for hotel, meals and taxi. Mind you, it is the Ritz Carlton and mostly meals at fine restaurants in the French Quarter. (Entertianment was free.) It was $700 a day.

    I find it very hard to "complaint" about "value" on a cruise ship, regardless of cruise line, even for my least favorite one (NCL).

    Crusie travel is so much more affordable now that at times, I found flying to the cruise port was more expensive than the cruise itself.

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    The OP question about touring.

    I highly recommend Orca Enterprises for whale watching. 100% sightings of humpbacks.

    I don't recommend most of the jeep tours out of Skagway, at best they are "follow the leader" at very high costs. Very little "off road". An alternative may be just a car rental with Avis, and the purchase, of the "necessary" Murray's Guide.

    Ketchikan, is not "glaciers" and any glaciers you may want to see, are extended flights away. Plenty else to see and do. Lots of native attractions, excellent bear tours, excellent flightseeing. Look over your shore excursion list and narrow down your interests.

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    We just got back from an Island Princess cruise with stops in all three ports.
    1) Zip-lining in Ketchican
    2) Whale watching(small boat), bear hunting (suv), and small plane flight over the Mendenhall glacier in Juneau arranged through Princess (all three for one price)
    3)The White Pass and Yukon railroad up the mountain and the bike ride down in Skagway (arrangements made with Sockeye Cycle Co....not ship)
    These were all wonderful and the highlights of our trip. Have fun!

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    we were in ALaska on Pacific Princess in July 3 years ago and were in Juneau we took the Auck Bay wale watching trip that guarantees you see a whale or $100 back - forget the exact name of the provider but it was a Princess sponsored tour- it was the most wonderful experience we ever had and advise anyone to take that tour

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