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Princess Cruises: Sea Princess

Fodorite Reviews

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Oct 1, 2004

Mexican Riviera

This cruise was 10 nights long and it was absolutely WONDERFUL! We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and this ship sailed from Pier 35 in San Francisco. This is the very first cruise that we didn't have to fly to our destination. Yeah! We were on board the Sapphire Princess around 11:20 a.m. The first thing we did was check out our Mini-Suite D730

on the Dolphin Deck aft. The suite was nice and roomy. We had originally booked a regular balcony, then our FANASTIC TA told us about a "Flash Sale" regarding the mini-suite so we upgraded. We couldn't pass up the price! Later when prices began to rise, and while monitoring the web for availability I was dumbfounded to see internet pricing for INSIDE ROOMS more expensive than our mini-suite. In reality though, next time I would save the money and stick with a balcony. The balconies were on the higher decks. Our mini-suite's deck was completely open. The first morning after the evening of sail I walked out on our deck around 7:00 am to check out the views and the weather. I heard a very LOUD "Good Morning" from one of our neighbors on a higher deck. There is no way you could walk around au natural. Ha ha! The ship itself is absolutely gorgeous, and HUGE. This was our 17th cruise, so I have been on a lot of nice ships, but this one just blew all the others away. Food: 5 stars The eats were outstanding, especially the BREADS, pasta's and hot soups. Be sure to try the Warm Rice Pudding, with a Creme Bulee Topping in he Santa Fe Restaurant. It is heavenly. Although we wanted Traditional Seating (like almost everyone else on this ship) we ended up with Personal Choice Dining. There are 4 restaurants to chose from. We like to eat early so the first 2 days we just walked right up and got in right away. The 3rd day I called to make a reservation at one of the restaurants and the concierge service told me all 4 restaurants were RESERVED until 10:00 p.m. that night! After that fiasco, I called & booked the reservations for the rest of the cruise all at one time. They do hold 10-20% of the tables vacant for WALK-IN'S for the 5:30 time frame, but after that you will need to sit and wait. Service: 5 stars for the Cabin Steward ---- 4 stars for the Waiters & Assistant Waiters Ports: 5 stars for all. Catalina Island, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas, San Diego Catalina Island: It was our third time there so we walked to the Casino, and down the seaside front where there are lots of cutesy shops. Catalina is a very charming town, and not to be missed. Puerto Vallarta: It was a very HOT, OVERCAST, and Muggy. We took the ship's off the Beaten Track Tour. I had taken this last October with my Mom and our driver at that time took us up into the hills to see where the RICH & FABULOUSLY WEALTHY LIVE, then we went shopping where the locals go. That trip was much better. This time our driver did nothing special. Just took us down the waterfront, Casa Kimberly where Richard Burton and Liz Taylor lived, and shopping where the tourists hang out. I was disappointed. Having said that P.V. is a beautiful place. Mazatlan: This was the highlight of our trip. I had booked an independent tour via internet with Frank of Mazatlan Tours/Ole Tours. I had advertised on the cruise msg boards for others to join us, and were fortunate enough to have 5 other people hook up with us on this journey. Frank met us at the cruise terminal. He took us all around the island, and showed us "The Real Mexico" with all its points of interest. He has a dynamite personality, and made the tour not only fascinating, but LOTS OF FUN AS WELL. He charged us $40 p/p and it included a great lunch at a Mexican Cafe. Everyone had a terrific time, and we were all sorry to say goodbye to our new amigo Frank. For those interested I highly recommend him. Check out www.mazatlan-tours.com. His personal e-mail is fkole2000@hotmail.com Cabo San Lucas: It was boiling hot, humid, and totally sunny. My husband was getting overheated so we just walked around down the main drag. Cabo is a lovely city, we have been to this port twice before so we just bummed it. San Diego/La Jolla: We did the ship's excursion called Diego & La Jolla Highlights Tour. This tour is fantastic, we drove around for about 4 hours with a few stops in between. The scenery is breathtaking. San Diego and La Jolla have excellent weather year round, and our day there was a perfect one. If you want a good time, kick up your heels in old town. Disembarkation: The best we have ever experienced. Princess has instituted a winner in creating "Express Checkout." We left our bags in our room and walked off the ship with them at 7:30 a.m. Hailed a cab, got on Cal-Train and walked through our front door at 10:15 a.m. Summary - LOVED THE SHIP, THE FOOD, and PORTS.

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Mar 15, 2003

Southern Caribbean

I had the BEST time in my life. From Puerto Rico to Aruba to Grenada to Dominica to St, Thomas and Back to Puerto Rico. Everything was perfect. I just couldn't believe how great the food the staff to the excursions. My five friends had the best time. I myself felt like I was A Queen. Never felt that special before. The only bad thing was that it had to end and we had to come home. But we are already planning on going again in March

2004.

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Nov 10, 2001

Los Angeles - Mexico - Los Angeles

This was our second cruise with the first on Celebrity - Infinity during August (2001) of this year where we cruised Alaska. We live on Vancouver Island in Victoria, BC, Canada. This was the year we decided to split our vacation from work into two sections and experience cruising. I'm hooked and once my wife Elizabeth felt the warmth on a private balcony with her morning coffee cruising down the Baja coast line, that was it. Day

of departure: Saturday We were up at 3 am to check in at 4:30am for a 6 am flight to Seattle and an 8:45 flight to Los Angeles with arrival at 11:20am. Security wise, allow at least 2 hours between flights just in case something goes wrong. In Victoria they made sure my palm pilot worked and took my picture with my camera to ensure it worked. That was my first picture at 5:10am. We landed in SeaTac via Horizon about 6:40am, through customs and immigration, took about 30 minutes and transferred our bags with ship tags on in clear plastic tape for LA Alaska flight. Went though another security check even though we were still in a secured area and up to S terminal for a transfer bus , that runs between terminals on the tarmac. We were going from S to D concourse. Reminders in airport to not leave your bags alone, people called for random carryon checks, picture id and ticket check can occur random and everybody prior to boarding. Flight was nice, arrived at LA about 11:30am, at baggage pickup around 11:50am. Princess rep present with clipboard to check off you arrived and another to direct us where to leave bags. Bags not off belt till about 12:15 pm. We had Princess voucher to pier from airport. We then waited for another xn flights to arrive prior to them calling a bus. On bus about 1:15pm, arrive at pier about 1:55pm. Regardless if you checked in on the web, we now had to wait for a single rep to review our tickets and ensure we filled it out on the bus. All 40 or so of us. Off the bus around 2:30 and into terminal, another round of airport style security and into two lines. Those with suites, those without or seemed like. Another 30 minutes and surprise, you are on the computer all checked in. Whew, we now have our precious sailing card , another picture and on board for the sailing card check in and picture.  Its about 3:15pm, we have been up for twelve hours, traveled about 1,200 miles though numerous security checkpoints and are only 1 hour 45 minutes away from departure. Yea.. its time to relax No one takes you to your cabin but people point you to the elevator and down the hall, we are on Deck 10 BAJA B515, an outside balcony. A small room but enough closet space for two adults and bags under the bed. Our steward 'Narciso' checks in with us within 5 minutes, we ensure our lifeboat drill on deck 7 Promenade at Rocky’s Disco is known for 4:30 and we are off to the Horizon Court Buffet on deck 14 LIDO. Its about 3:30pm and we are starved. Ah, relaxing , have a drink , some hot food and watch the LA waterfront. We locate Rocky's disco and we did grab the Princess Platter before we left our room and we did agree on the safe combination and left everything in the safe prior. Walk around a bit, back to cabin , get our life belts and over to Rocky's for the life belt / boat drill. It all over about 4:50pm and we go on deck to watch the Sea Princess depart LA at dusk on schedule. Beautiful and chilling that evening though. We have late seating , so we go back to our cabin and find our bags. Watch the coast guard sail with us until out of the harbor. Our late seating is 'traditional' so its of to the Sicilian Dining room on deck 6 EMERALD which is mid ship towards the stern You either take the stairs or go forward and get the lifts. We arrive dressed as smart casual for table 188 and discover its for overflow dining from the Princess Choice Neapolitan Room on deck 5 PLAZA. Course the waiters have to look at our cards and cannot believe it does say 188. We stand in the entrance for about 10 minutes, felt like it , wondering, do I need this, I just paid for this cruise and want to eat. The staff did reset the table just for us as we discovered and we dined in quiet splendour at a table for eight. In the meantime they took my sailing card and re-issued a new table 160 for us, which turned out with great dining mates. We slept like babies that night and woke up to 66 degree temperature the next morning and a beautiful sunrise. Sea Days. Sunday and Monday It just got better and better ,of course warmer. We are now up in the 70- 8-'s. We ate at the buffet and ordered in breakfast two days, continental style. We read on our balcony , brought coffee and pastries down from the Horizon court with my Cruise Addict mugs Went swimming on the LIDO deck in the adult only pool all 4 feet deep, watched the folks around and walked on the teak Promenade deck 7. Discovered the shops on deck 6 EMERALD , in time to rectify a small emergency when yours truly had not packed one item of a 3 piece silk dress for my spouse. I just pack what I see, not question what I see.!.. We bought Elizabeth a nice black knit number and she was now ready for the 1st formal night which is on Sunday. That evening we went down to the Wheel house Bar on deck 7 Promenade for our 730 to 830 pre supper drink after having had our 4pm tea time on our balcony. We decided this was a great place and met our constant server from Scotland "Krista" who even gave me a menu to take home. We decided to try a new drink every evening. the wheel house bar is just before the Princess Theatre where one of the nightly shows are. Its very comfortable in British or men’s club style and ship motives, nightly dancing, music is played from 50-60;s, line dancing et cert., go figure. We met our new table mates at table 160 and discovered two couples had gone to the Sterling Steak House on deck 15, so it was just the four of us, Pictures were taken but nobody pushed you to buy and it was your choice to get formal photos taken in the Atrium Lounge or area between deck 5 & 7. Tuesday, it must be Puerto Vallarta We docked with a beautiful sunrise and in our case took an excursion of the city and countryside. Price included a drink at The Kliffe. We had a nice trip and were back on board in time for a 1pm lunch. By this time I've now discovered the Patisserie area and ordered a coffee with Irish Cream, am on vacation so do not have to worry about driving. Watch the ship depart on schedule at 6pm , as our Captain said with good British humor, as we did dock fine today we should be able to move away with no problems. Wednesday, it must be Mazatlan Another beautiful sunrise, a more complex docking as the channel is narrow and surprise we do not have to tender today as we are docking in the industrial area beside the shrimp boats and cars from Korea. Today we took a walking tour of the old city, a new tour, from about 8:30 at the ship till about 1:30pm when we returned. Our guide Juan Carlos was excellent and took us to family shops, bakery, bar, museum of culture, opera house, market place and around the small streets themselves. We also saw a cliff diver and had a rest / drink break every 60- 90 minutes. It was about 91 degrees but heat was not over powering. He took us to places a bus would not have been able to, the group was about 20 folks including Jason from Princess lines who helped ensure we did not forget someone. We got back to the ship in time for a late buffet and did our usual exploration of more spots on the ship and relaxed. Again we left at 6pm with the entire cruise guide's waving to us as we left and the town folks waving to us as we left on the piers. Thursday, it is Cabo San Lucas The waters off this area are just beautiful and the sunrise again was wonderful. This port is a tender port from 7am - 1pm and we elect to relax and stay on the ship. Up to deck 15a for deck chairs nobody knows about including a small pool overlooking the bow and the crews pool down on deck9. If you go towards the stern on deck 12 Riviera, another pool and deck chairs. Ah.,, serious reading now, and then to lunch. The coast as we depart and come on the pacific side of the Baja coast line is wonderful. It is warm and the swells are starting but a good book and a drink are a good combination. Thursday afternoon till Saturday AM Sea days. Thursday evening is the last formal night and now they take your table picture also. Friday is a great sea day , a bit up and down , depending where you sit but nothing one can not enjoy. Bags have to be ready by supper time (yours ) or at latest by 10pm I had gone to pursers second day with my flight tickets as we had a 12:41pm flight out of LA for SeaTAC and onwards to Victoria. Saturday, LA Into harbor San Pedro area about 6am as its foggy and we docked about 7am with customs on board about 730am. We were up at 5am, breakfast at 6am, customs and Immigration at 7:45 - 8am and finally off ship at 9:20am. We had Green 1 tags and were on our bus with our bags within 15- 20 minutes. Time to walk off ship, pickup bags , walk to bus area and get on bus. At the airport about 10:30am More security but Alaska Air lines were not crowded as in other terminals we passed. Princess deserves top marks for how they handled us and the speed in getting to our buses. It was worth the $21 US or $31 CDN for bus voucher especially as taxis and private cars can get stopped at LA security outside. The best past was for us Canadians because of security going through the International check in line for Mexico and Canada instead of domestic lines even though we were in transit. Mind you Horizon checked all Elizabeth's carryon including nightie in SeaTAC to go on our flight to Victoria. SEA Princess gets a 9 out of 10 in our eyes and we will do it again but on a ten day cruise. Oh , yes, the entertainment staff are great and 'Billie' the cruise host did a great job with his Mexican party time on deck 14 at 11pm one night. The bull fight and the Senor contest were just out of this world. I've not laughed so much. Cheers and gracias. Rob Holloway

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Jun 29, 2001

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.

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May 18, 2001

Northbound Voyage of the Glaciers

We sailed on the Sea Princess 19 – 26 May 2001 on the Northbound Voyage of the Glaciers cruise. During this review (or novella), I’ll try to accomplish two things. First is to relate our experiences on the cruise, and secondly to relate our personal experiences regarding the many questions that we, and many others, have had on the cruise forums. I’ll summarize these at the end of the review. Without the great folks who participate in these forums,

the planning and the actual cruise would have been less than what we joyfully experienced. ABOUT US We are a 50 and 55-year-old couple living in Riverside, CA. I’m a program manager for US Navy contracts, and she is a manager for a federal service agency. This was our second cruise. The first was a west coast cruise on Royal Caribbean to Mexico. We had talked for several years about her idea of going on an Alaska cruise. I reckon timing is everything. In mid-April I completed a contract commuting from Riverside, CA to Panama City, FL. She was having a birthday on 21 May. Downtime and celebration were certainly in order. My task, if I chose to do so (SHE SAID I CHOSE TO DO SO) was to research on the Web somewhere to go to rest and celebrate. PLANNING AND SELECTION The first part was easy. It would be Alaska since we had talked so much about it. Since Alaska cruises are famous for the scenery, we thought a balcony cabin was important (you can read “it’s cold outside”). Lastly, she loves ports, and I love sea days, so the search was based on these ideas. I spent the next couple of days doing web searches on these criteria. Princess Cruise Line kept coming up over and over again. After deciding on Princess, I searched for balcony rates since we didn’t have a TA that we use all the time. Here, luck was really with us. We found a special on balcony cabins from GalaxSea Cruise and Tours. I called the 800 number and spoke to Elaine Wheeler. After talking to her for just a few minutes, I booked the cruise. For Judy’s birthday, I also booked the “Special Occasions” package. A strange thing here is that after searching all over the country on the web, Elaine’s office is in Pomona, CA. This is very close to our place. Go figure. Elaine did a fantastic job for us. Phone calls and e-mails were always promptly returned. This seems to be something that several people on the cruise forums didn’t experience with the TA’s they found on the web. The northbound itinerary was the last, perfect match. Travel and check on-board Saturday followed by a sea day. Then 3 port days, followed by two sea days cruising Glacier Bay and College Fiord. Finally fly back home the following Saturday. Another way to say this is travel/boat, rest, run – run – run, rest, rest, and travel. Yep, that makes seven days! This really met both our ideas of a perfect cruise. We also booked air and transfers with Princess. We booked too late for air deviations, so I was concerned about that part. More on this later. I put together a computer spreadsheet that outlined the itinerary day by day. It included where we were each day, arrival/departure times, and the evening dress code. Room was available to identify clothes wanted for each day, and all the other stuff we wanted to take without forgetting something. It also contained the TA, Princess, and family emergency numbers we thought we needed. This worked out great. We just left a copy with our house setter and family so that they had it available. All this planning was based on our previous cruise experience. I found that being waited on “hand and foot” made it almost impossible to generate an original thought during the cruise. For the most part, this proved once again to be true. Finally, a little info about the forums. During my research for this trip, I came across the cruise forums. These interchanges between cruisers covered virtually every question and answer you could imagine. Getting answers from folks who have “been there” was absolutely invaluable in the planning and pre-cruise portion of this adventure. They are also a heck of a fun way to spend your time prior to departure. I suspect most of us become consumed with the trip prior to leaving, and the forums are a way to begin the fun before you sail. TICKETING, TRAVEL, AND EMBARKATION Two days after I booked the cruise by phone we received our pre-cruise package from our TA. (Just a note, we booked a specific cabin instead of run of the ship, or category guarantee.) This included the Princess pre-cruise information form; the Princess survey form, the Princess Alaska brochure, a cruise answer book, an excursion booklet, formal wear rental information, and the cruise cost verification form from our TA. The cover letter explained everything. That day I filled out the forms, made copies, and mailed them out. I also filled out the forms on-line at www.princess.com. The next day I was able to access our booking on-line at the Princess web site. I checked every day hoping the upgrade fairy was around. I think he/she died since wishing and prayer didn’t do any good. We didn’t book excursions on-line since we planned on booking direct with the tour operator. Those that did had their tickets in their cabin when they arrived. We received our final ticket package about 9 days prior to departure. Our ticket packages were a clear plastic envelope containing our airline tickets; six color coded luggage tags each, and our cruise ticket book. There was a separate ticket package for each of us since the forms and tickets are for each traveler. Our packages had an orange sticker on the outside indicating, “express check-in”. This program started on our 19 May cruise according to Princess. Princess says that this means that they have received and processed all the required information early enough to have it all pre-printed in the ticket book. As I said earlier, Princess made our air reservations. They had us flying direct to Seattle, WA, and then the motor coach to Ballentyne Pier in Vancouver. On the big day, we caught an Alaska Airline flight at 6:30 AM from Ontario, CA direct to Seattle, WA. We arrived in Seattle at about 9:00 AM. I had previously called Elaine on what would occur in Seattle to get us to the ship, and this too proved to be correct. We immediately went to the announced baggage claim area. No Princess rep was there, but no big deal. By the time the luggage came down, several reps where there. I claimed our bags and took them to the rep. It was the last time we saw them until our cabin that night. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry, Princess would have gathered them up off of the carousel (make sure you have the Princess tags filled out and on your bags) and transferred them without my needing to do anything. The Princess rep then gathered all of us up and escorted us to the Princess motor coach gate. Our ticket books had a transfer ticket in them. We tore those out and exchanged them for a color-coded pass for our bus. At 10:00 AM our color was called and we were escorted to the bus. This was our least favorite part of the trip. It was a two-hour flight of 1000 miles followed by a four and a half hour trip of 120 miles. The bus was slow, and the scenery not all that great. I really feel that paying for an air deviation for a direct flight to Vancouver would have been well worth the $35. Better yet if you can, make your own air, and arrive a day early. This really would leave you well rested and prepared for the first day. Here is the fun part. When we arrived at Ballentyne Pier in Vancouver at about 2:30 PM. We went into the clearly marked express check-in line for our deck (Aloha 620). Because of the postings on this forum prior to our cruise I decided to time it just for fun. The only thing you need to fill out is the on-board charge/credit card coupons (located in each traveler's ticket package) and sign the cards. We did this before we left home. We walked to the desk, showed the Princess rep our express check-in sticker, and handed her the completed credit card coupon (nothing else!). She smiled, welcomed us aboard, and handed us our cruise cards. Then she pointed us in the direction of our loading gangway. The whole embarkation thing took about 45 seconds. FANTASTIC !!! We walked through a display for our obligatory boarding picture in the terminal area, and then went on- board the Sea Princess. There is security set up as you enter the ship. We passed our bags through a magnetic airport style detector prior to crossing the gangway. Once you board, just follow the roped in area to the interior entrance. At the door is a small computer check-in station. You slide your cruise card in it, the machine beeps, and you’re logged on-board. This happens every time you depart or arrive on the ship. It gives the ship an exact list by name, and head count of who’s there, or who’s not. The Cruise - FINALLY DAY 1: The easiest way to say it is that this is one big and beautiful ship. It’s 857 feet long with passenger areas from Deck 5 up to deck 15. You get to walk up from 14 to 15. By the way, there is no deck 13. As big as the ship is, surprisingly everything is close and convenient. We never had the feeling of being swallowed up by the size. The ship is maintained immaculately. It’s clean and pristine everywhere you go. Some folks we talked to said they actually saw people cleaning. We must have gone to bed way too early and slept way too late to see any of this. Getting around is very easy if you remember a couple of things. Even number cabins are on the port (left) side of the ship looking forward. Odd number cabins are on the starboard (right) side facing the pointy end (front of the boat). The glass in the center elevators in the atrium always face forward (thank God they stay that way) and go from decks 5 thru 8. The rear and forward elevators go from deck 7 to 14. Simple isn’t it! It really is simple once you’ve been there. By the way, the elevators talk to you, telling you which floor you’re stopping at. The stairways are easy to walk up and down in lieu of the elevators. I’ve put a deck-by-deck review at the end of this missive, so I’m not going to do it here. The focal point of the passenger area is the atrium. This is an absolutely beautiful area rising 4 decks from deck 5 through 8. To give this some kind of scale, there were over 2000 passengers (32 countries) and 850 crew (30 countries) on-board for our cruise. For us, English is our only language. We didn’t encounter any problems with this. The only time we ever experienced anything like a crowd was leaving the Princess Theatre one night after a show. Once we got into the ship, crewmembers directed us to the proper elevators for our cabin deck. Crewmembers also operated the elevators during the embarkation phase of the trip, after that you get to drive them yourself. If you are in a suite or mini-suite, or handicapped, you are personally escorted to your stateroom. This would be unrealistic for over 2000 passengers. Of special note, I heard a gentleman in a wheelchair say how handicapped friendly the Sea Princess was for him. CABIN: Our cabin was a category BB balcony stateroom on the portside, Aloha deck (A620). After reading reviews and comments on the forum of how small these cabins are, we were very surprised at how well they worked out for us on the cruise. While they are not “suite-size” it was very comfortable. And we spent a lot of time in the cabin during the cruise. (Don’t get any ideas; it was mostly relaxing, reading, and scenery viewing.) The cabin is about 9 feet wide by about 15 feet long with a balcony 9 feet wide by 3 foot deep. If you’re traveling with a group, your stateroom steward can unlock the balcony divider for a longer balcony deck. We had our stateroom configured for a queen size bed, so there was plenty of walk-around the bed space. The bed was very firm just like we like it. The whole balcony end is glass and the sliding door. This really gave the impression of space. Heavy curtains did block out the light. This is important in Alaska. On our final night at sea, it was broad daylight until 11:00 PM and the sun was up at about 3:45 AM. The balcony had two plastic chairs and a round plastic table. There was plenty of room for the two of us. We even brought the table into the cabin, covered it with a blue and white Princess pool towel, and had our champagne breakfast on it. The balcony railings on the Aloha and Baja decks are solid steel for a foot and a half up, then small bars up another two feet capped with a wooden rail. It did not obstruct our view while setting in the cabin. This might be different on lower deck balconies. On the balcony end of the cabin is a small stand with shelves. It surrounds a small refrigerator and holds the TV. Our refrigerator held at one time a six-pack of soda, a twelve pack of beer, the ice container, and a small box of milk. This might give you an idea of size. Across from that was a small desk with six drawers to store items. There is also a small stool and trashcan. There is one chair at that end of the cabin. I usually sat on the bed. The blow dryer is built in above the desk. IMPORTANT: Bring at least a six-foot extension cord with 3 outlets. The only plug in the main area of the cabin is above the desk. Also, there is only one hanging hook on the opposite side of the bed from the desk. We brought a suction cup hook to put on the door if we had to remove clothing wrinkles with the steamer. Fortunately we didn’t need it. Storage was just fine. There are three closets inside the cabin door with lots of hangers. One is full length, a bar in the center divides one, and the third is shelving and pullout baskets. The safe is in this closet. It’s a small safe, but I was able to get a 4” x 8” jewelry folder in it. The lifejackets were also stored here. There was plenty of room for everything we brought. Our large suitcases, folding bag, and shoes fit easily under the bed. The bathroom is definitely a one-person affair. There are three small shelves by the sink, and an outlet labeled “shavers only”. I’ve never figured that label out in all my travels. The shower was small but adequate. It had fantastic water pressure and temperature control. There was soap, shampoo, conditioner, and facial tissues in the bathroom. The two pool towels in the room are assigned to your steward. If you use them, you need to bring them back to your cabin and exchange them. On the inside of the cabin door is instructions for your lifejacket, and the assigned muster station. Believe me, it took a lot longer to describe it than it did to become familiar with the cabin. I ranted on, because there have been so many questions about the balcony staterooms. Outside our stateroom was a plastic holder that was used like a mailbox. This is where the Princess Patter and the NY Times excerpt pages where delivered. Your names are located under your mailbox. Because I notified Princess of Judy’s birthday during the pre-cruise registration, they had balloons and a Happy Birthday sign on the door. This stayed up from her birthday throughout the entire cruise. She also received a birthday card signed by the Captain. If you didn’t plan for the balloons during your registration, just tell your steward and he’ll take care of it. WARNING GUYS: Nothing could ruin the cruise faster than NOT having the balloons for your anniversary or her birthday, especially since everyone else has them. Anyway, very shortly after arriving in the cabin our stateroom steward came by and introduced himself. Rod is from the Philippines and was our primary source of getting anything that we wanted. He did a fantastic job. Rod showed us how everything worked in the cabin and showed us how to get a hold of him at anytime. Each steward has a pager number to call. We did that twice, and he got back to us in less than 5 minutes. During his cabin overview, we finalized the dates and times for the items in the “special occasions” package for Judy’s birthday. We requested our robes, and informed Rod of our dining schedule. This was important so that Rod knew when to turn down the beds and put out the Princess chocolates on the pillow. For Personal Choice Dining, all we had to do was put out the sign saying “Please Make Up Stateroom”. The room was always done when we returned. There are also slips in the cabin daily to order fruit plates, and continental breakfast the next morning. My personal favorite was room service. We used this all the time for coffee and snacks. Again, it never took longer than 5 minutes. The soundproofing in the cabin was excellent. You could hear loud, happy people right outside the cabin, but that was about it. We never heard noise from the cabins on either side of us, or from the pool deck above us. After finding the cabin and doing the stateroom review, we set out to explore the ship. Again, I can’t express how beautiful and well laid out the Sea Princess is. We had plenty of time before the lifeboat muster drill to explore most of the ship. The lifeboat muster drill was scheduled for 4:45 PM. Several announcements were made regarding the pending drill. All muster stations were in large rooms inside the ship on deck 7. Our station was the Vista Lounge. Most passengers were at the muster stations with their lifejackets prior to the drill. Crewmembers were located throughout the ship to guide you to the muster station. They wore yellow ball caps with the word “Guide” on the hat, DUH! An assistant cruise director from London named Gavin conducted our muster. Gavin was very entertaining and informative during the drill. Attendance was done by counting empty seats rather than calling names. Gavin then demonstrated how to don the life jacket, and explained the safety features contained on them. The whole thing to 20 minutes then we were back on vacation. This was the only drill all week. Here’s a word on intercomm announcements all week. They were held to an absolute minimum. The Captain gave an update everyday. The Cruise Director outlined daily activities, and announced changes in activity schedules. While in Glacier Bay and College Fiord, park rangers and a naturalist gave a running commentary of what to see and general info on the area. To hear them from your stateroom, you had to turn on your TV to the Princess channels. The exception would have been emergency announcements. These would be broadcast to all areas of the ship. Dinner that night was casual, and yes we saw a lot of blue jeans. Dockers’ style pants for the guys were the norm. We had requested first seating, but we were waitlisted for this seating. The place on our cruise card for seating and table was blank. I asked at the Information desk about this, and was told it would be taken care of the next day, so if we didn’t mind, we should use Personal Choice in the Neapolitan dining room. We didn’t have a problem with that so away we went. We were seated with 4 ladies, and had a great time. This proved to be true throughout the cruise. It was prime rib night, and it was excellent. Portions were large, but if we wanted more, all we had to do was ask. The waiters and servers in Personal Choice were very attentive and entertaining, so we never thought we were missing something. After dinner, we went to the Patisserie lounge to have a couple of toddy’s and watch the ship get underway. This became our lounge of choice for the entire cruise. We were a little late getting underway while waiting for luggage and a load of supplies. This was Captain David Christies problem, not ours. WE”RE ON VACATION! And yes, they do play the “Love Boat” theme while getting underway. At 8:00 PM we went to the Princess Theatre for the “Grand Adventure Variety Showtime”. The host was our Cruise Director, Billy Hygate. There was a dance number by the Sea Princess dancers, then a comedian, Adam Leslie. He was a riot. I thought Judy was going to hurt herself from laughing so hard. Then the very talented Billy came out and kept the show going. He introduced all of his assistant cruise directors, and they explained their role on the ship in a very entertaining way. What a great show. After the show we stopped by the Wheelhouse Bar for a drink and listened to the music until time to head up to the cabin. With traveling and all, this can be a long day. DAY 2: Today was a sea day steaming through the Inland Passage. We woke up and opened the curtain. WOW! The scenery was magnificent. Snow-covered mountains with about a billion trees everywhere you looked. We never tired of this view. I moved Judy’s birthday up one day so that she (we) could enjoy the champagne breakfast on this sea day. I love giving her presents that I get to share. As I previously said, we brought in the balcony table, covered it with a blue and white pool towel, and pigged out. We ordered enough food for the rest of the cruise, and scarily we ate it all. There was nothing like sitting around in our robes, eating breakfast, and watching the scenery go by. It was so relaxing that we even opened up the bottle of wine from our TA. And that folks was our entire morning. Needless to say we didn’t need lunch. We eventually got dressed and went for a walk around the ship. We checked out that night’s menu, and sat around the Patisserie lounge, people watching and talking, until time to get ready for the Captains Reception in the atrium. This was also the first of the golf putting tournaments held right in the Grand Atrium. This was a whole lot of fun to watch. This was the first formal night. Judy brought two evening dresses for these nights, and I rented the combo Tuxedo package as my contribution. A NOTE FOR THE GUYS: I ordered the tuxes from the brochure in our pre-cruise package directly on the web. We followed the measuring instructions, then in the note block I put in the sizes that I normally wear. They were in our cabin when we got on-board. I tried them on and they fit perfectly. Make sure you try them on right away. Princess does have extras on-board in limited supplies if the fit is bad. The tuxedos are yours for the entire cruise, and are picked up by your steward the morning after the last formal night. We enjoy the formal nights and dress for each other, and also to get into the cruise thing. You forum folks keep duking it out. Those posts are fun to read. The mix seemed to be about 25% tuxedos and evening gowns, 74% suits and nice outfits, and 1% jeans. What the hell, it’s their vacation too. We don’t let small stuff like that bother us. After Miss Judy and her Ogre got dolled up, we went down to the Atrium for the Captain’s Reception, which went from 5:15 to 8:15 PM to accommodate both dinner sittings. We had photographs taken at different spots for the different backgrounds. They had champagne for $2 and waiters strolling with canapés. We weren’t sure what the $2 was all about. It appeared to get you the champagne glass which they kept refilling the whole time. Go figure? Captain Christie addressed the passenger twice, again to accommodate both dinner sittings, and then we strolled around talking to other passengers. I think cruising folks are unique. They leave all their “personal” baggage on the pier and will talk to anyone about anything. This is a fun part of cruising. After the reception, we did Personal Choice again in the Neapolitan dining room. Without a reservation, we walked right in and got a table for two. I don’t remember what we ate but it must have been good or else I’d still be complaining. After dinner we got up and left the dining room. To our utter surprise, the Maitre’ D ran out and caught us. He dragged us back to our table so Judy could have her “Princess Birthday” dessert and have the waiters sing Happy Birthday to her. They must have overheard us talking and took their own initiative to recognize her special day. This was way too cool! After dinner, we hoofed it back to the Vista Lounge to watch ‘Cabaret Showtime” with singer Mark Donoghue. This was another really good show. Unlike the Princess Theatre, the Vista Lounge serves drinks during their shows. After the show, it was back to the cabin and bed. What a great day, again. DAY 3: Today is our first port visit in Ketchikan. We arrived and tied up between 6 and 6:30 AM. We tied up right downtown. Ketchikan is a small town, and very easy to walk around. It was 48.2 degrees in port, and drizzly rain. This isn’t too big of a shock since Ketchikan measures their rain in feet rather than inches. We had breakfast in the dining room before heading out. In the cabin, there was a coupon book for the shops in each of the ports visited. There are some pretty good deals in this book, and I know we hit every shop listed. Plus, I’m sure we also hit every shop with a door. Judy will probably disagree with that statement, but I’ll stand by it till my grave. After breakfast, we hit the beach. This was our first real good view of the Sea Princess from the outside. Being an old Navy guy, all I can say once again is that she’s one big, beautiful ship. Getting lost in town was not a problem since Sea Princess was by far the biggest building in Ketchikan. On the pier, we booked our first tour of the trip. It was the horse drawn trolley tour of Ketchikan run by Seahorse tours. Their ticket office is right on the pier and was only $20 apiece. Our tour guide was a young lady named Dani, our driver was Fred, and our companion was a husky named “Nook”. This two horsepower tour lasted a little over an hour. It went all over Ketchikan at a very tranquil pace. Dani did a fantastic job explaining the past and present of this part of Alaska and the town. We stopped at various Totem poles while she explained the story behind them. She also gave a mini-biology lesson on the habits of the salmon. Besides the locals, we saw our first Alaskan wildlife right after starting the tour. On top of the climbing pole at the lumberjack show sight was a Bald Eagle. We figured he had to be the dumbest eagle in the world since he was sitting in the only spot those really big guys with sharp stuff went up to do their job. After the tour we went into the trading post to buy a couple of pair of 8X binoculars that were on sale in our discount book. Being the man of the house, I wasn’t going to ask where they were located in the store. After a long, fruitless search on the lower level we went upstairs. We ended up by a checkout counter with two ladies standing behind it. By now I’m getting “That Look” from Judy so I broke down and asked where they had the binoculars. Without a word, one of the ladies pointed right behind me. If I had stepped back a foot, I would have had binocular marks on my butt. Ain’t this always the case? Now here’s where I really take the big hit. The ladies at the counter apparently didn’t recognize that Judy and I were together. They asked her if she was ready to check out. What does my queen say? You got it. She said, and I quote “No, I’m with Stupid!” Those ladies had a massive shocked looked on their faces at the rudeness of this cruise passenger. After I quipped back some inane comment, they realized we were together and broke out laughing. After the instant female bonding thing, “stupid” and “her highness” got personal service from the store staff. I guess it’s the little things that make cruising memorable. After this debacle (my word, not hers) we stopped by the liquor store on the pier and bought beer and soda and ran it back to our cabin. Again, Princess has no problem bringing refreshments on-board for use in the cabin. We then went back in town for some heavy shopping and a walkabout tour of the town. A “don’t miss” is a walk down Creek Street. It’s a boardwalk and buildings on stilts over the creek. I’ve seen hundreds of pictures of it whenever Alaska is shown, but never knew where it was. In the early years it was the “red-light” district. Another don’t miss on Creek Street is Dolly’s house. I’m not going to say anymore except this was one hard working lady. The weather was bad enough that the helicopter tours were cancelled. Princess refunded the money immediately to those who booked. Other tours we heard about from other passengers were the salmon hatchery, kayaking, and salmon fishing. Everyone seemed to enjoy them. After running around town in the afternoon, we went back to the ship. We got underway at 3:00 PM. Tonight was the semi-formal night in the dining room. There were a lot of suits and sports jackets among the guys, with a few blue jeans to keep the forum folks happy. Again, we didn’t care. I tried the slots in the casino, but it would have been almost as fast, and just a lucrative to throw the cash over the side so the whales had some pocket money. By this time we decided Personal Choice was for us. I don’t remember the menu for this meal. Judy had some kind of seafood and liked it. Nothing on the menu blew up my skirt, so I ordered the “always available” Angus steak with a Caesar salad. It was fantastic. I’ll digress, regress, or talk out of order here. Whatever? Traditionalists like their sittings because they get to become very friendly with their tablemates and waiter staff throughout the cruise. We agree with that, but we never did get our seating straightened out. We stayed Personal Choice Dining throughout the cruise, and we really enjoyed it. We ate at different times, with different folks, and enjoyed excellent service. Without exception, our tablemates were very enjoyable. Maybe we were lucky, but we got to meet a lot more folks that way. We certainly haven’t made a solid opinion of which way is better or worse, they are just different. A word on automatic tipping. We also didn’t have a problem here since the service we received was well worth the $6.50 a day per person. This is the same either in traditional seating or personal choice. It didn’t appear to affect the service. If you don’t like this form of tipping, just tell them at the information (purser) desk, and they’ll stop it. OK, back on track. After dinner we went and had more photos taken. This is not vanity by the way. “Miss Beautiful” looks great in every shot, but it takes a lot of pictures of the Ogre before one is found that won’t scare ten lives out of our cat. We went back to Patisserie’s for an after dinner cocktail while waiting for the evenings show in the Princess Theatre. The show that night was “Rhythms of the City”. It was a musical production show that Judy loved, and I was ambivalent about. I’ll sure give them an A+ for energy though. After the show, it was back to our favorite lounge for some final scenery and a nightcap before bed. DAY 4: Today we pulled into Juneau at about 7:30 AM. We were up early, so we called room service for a pot of coffee and some Danishes and toast. We did this most mornings. We were tied up .2-miles from the towns’ information center. The weather was 48.2 degrees (yeah, Alaska was definitely in a temperature rut). It rained off and on with gusty winds all day. Getting off the ship, we had a “Princess” opportunity to have our pictures taken with crewmembers dressed like a moose and a bear. This was to good to pass up. I now know how to deal with a bear encounter. Just grab them, give them a hug, and somewhere deep inside their head you’ll hear a soft “GRRRR, eat you up”. That will keep a smile on your face all day! Princess ran shuttle buses the .2-mile for $1 each all day with unlimited trips. Most of the tours had buses and shuttles to pick up their passengers right on the pier. We decided that we wanted to take the Mt Roberts Tram to the top of the peak and then just walk around town all day. Princess had a ticket booth on the pier that sold the shuttle tickets, and all day passes for the Mt Roberts Tram. The shuttle took cash, but we put the $20 per person tram tickets on our cruise card. My real boss decided that the .2-mile walk to the information center/tram house wasn’t too far to walk, so I agreed and off we went. I’m glad we did because just off the pointy end off the ship there were 8 – 10 Bald Eagles flying around and landing in the trees right by our walkway. The Mt Roberts Tram was fantastic. It’s a 2000-foot ride straight up the mountain to the upper station. What a fantastic view. I’m sure I’ll say that more than once. When you get off the tram, you are in an enclosed walkway into the gift shop and restaurant. There are windows in the walkway giving more spectacular views. After walking around the gift shop (of course), we went outside. There was snow all over the place. We hiked around the trails and took pictures of each other with the mountains and valleys as backdrops. Golf shoes would have been better than our tennis shoes for snow hiking, but with a little slipping and sliding we made it. One of the trails takes off by the heritage house. Our favorite sign of the trip was hung outside on a bulletin board. It said what to do if you encounter a bear. Number 1 read something like “Make sure to identify yourself as human, and make sure the bear knows you’re a person”. This was too much for my wise mouth to hold in. What in the world were we supposed to do? Walk up to the bear, shake hands, and say, “HI, I’m a human. Now please set down while I give you a slide show differentiating my 190 pound bald, person body, and your 500 pound fur coat with teeth.” I was almost afraid if we did encounter a bear that I’d be tempted to walk toward it with my hand out and a bunch of presentation slides. Enough of that one, too. There are also observation decks overhanging the side of the mountain. From these we got phenomenal aerial views of the Sea Princess, Juneau, and a long view of the waterway leading into the city. It was breathtaking in the beauty of it all. Once down from the mountain, we walked back to the ship for lunch. Judy was hungry for a hamburger, so to the dining room we went. We sat with two couples and had a great lunch with great burgers. After lunch, it was back to town for power shopping with “Superwoman”. It was really getting cold and windy, so we were really glad we had gotten the shuttle tickets. After 4 days of shopping that afternoon, I was finally given permission to escort my sweetie back to the ship. Again, another great port visit. The ship got underway at about 8:00 PM. It was casual night for dinner. Neither of us found anything on the menu that blew up either of our skirts (even if we both had pants on). We both had Caesar salads, she had the chicken breast, and I had the steak again. Both meals were very good. After dinner, we walked around the ship then stopped by the photo gallery to look at our pictures up to this time. She was great in them all, but the cat was still in danger. Oh well, I just had to keep trying. From there it was back to Patisserie for drinks until show time, again. The show that night was the “Pub Night Comedy Show” in the Vista Lounge. Since this was our first Princess cruise, we had not seen it. The cruise director, Billy Hygate, and his staff did routines and audience participation skits that were absolutely hilarious. After the show, she decided we were tired, so we went to the cabin and watched a movie and drank room service coffee and hot chocolate. Sometime during the movie, the crew must have gassed us because I have no memory of the movie or the rest of the evening. DAY 5: We pulled into Skagway at 6:30 this morning. Yep, it was 48.2 degrees. We were already up having our room service coffee, Danish, and toast. The ship was moored a good hike from town, but right alongside a siding for the White Pass Railway. Those that took that tour went off the boat right onto the train. We didn’t take any tours in Skagway, so can’t comment on how they were. It must have been a good flying day because there were more helicopters and planes flying around than since I left Vietnam. After getting ready, we walked into town. Skagway doesn’t look a whole lot different that it did during the gold rush. I believe quaint is the word. It only has 700 permanent residents. There were four cruise ships in that day, so we certainly could have conducted a successful coup if we wanted to. In town, all we did was walk around and shop. With my “queens” urging and permission, we were able to break the 12-day shopping spree that day in two. No offense to Princess, but we had the best meal of the cruise in Skagway. We stopped in the Northern Lights Pizzeria specializing in Italian and Mexican food. That got my sick sense of humor going again. My burrito platter and her enchilada platter were to die for, and we live in southern California! After seeing my 12 millionth ULU knife, and wooden train whistle, we headed back to the ship. Somewhere between getting back aboard and dinner, I’m sure there were a nap and a stop at Patisseries’. I just don’t remember because we’re in full cruise mode now. Dinner was casual that night. Judy had a seafood thing that she said was very good, but I still had a breeze up my skirt from the menu that night, so I had the steak again. It’s still good. After dinner, we went back to the photo gallery to see if her other half had improved in the last two days. No joy! We did pick up the bear and moose picture though. My bear sure had a cute growl. We did some stuff around the ship that probably had something to do with alcohol and scenery while waiting for the show to start. The show that night in the Princess Theatre was “Words and Music”. It was a production song and dance show of Broadway tunes. This was another really good show. It was back for a nightcap, and off to bed. DAY 6: Today is a sea day sailing in Glacier Bay. The ship stopped at about 6:00 AM to pick up park rangers who would narrate during our day in this stunning area. I can’t do justice with words of the beauty of this place, so I won’t even try. (And no, you don’t get off that easy; I still have some things to say.) We had our room service stuff, and then bundled up and went on deck. Here is where you want to have your camera and binoculars ready. About three hours up Glacier Bay, we came upon two huge brown bears at the side of the bay. The Captain slowed way down for about a half an hour so everyone could watch these magnificent animals. They were too far away to see well without binoculars, but there was sharing among some of the passengers. Again, what great folks cruisers are. After the bears, we steamed on up to Marjorie Glacier. The Captain stopped the ship very close port (left) side to the glacier. We sat there a long time with the rangers telling us all about glaciers. You could hear the glacier snapping and popping all the time, and dropping off small pieces. It sounds like a summer thunderstorm. Then we got really lucky. With a massive roar of that thunder sound, a large side of the glacier calved into the bay. Absolutely unbelievable! A huge cheer and applause went up all over the ship. It goes to show that we never get too old to be awed by something that spectacular. After that sight, a large cave in the side of the glacier started spewing broken ice like an out of control, huge slot machine. Each time it did this, you could hear a roar inside the glacier, and then watch the jackpot! During this time, another large brown bear walked around the right side of the glacier and did whatever bears do. After about 15 minutes, he walked back around the side of the glacier to continue his bear thing out of sight. The Captain then turned the right side of the ship to the glacier so everyone gets a chance to see it. Those of us on deck just walked to the other side and continued watching this splendor. After leaving the glacier we headed back out of Glacier Bay. The Captain heard that a whale watching tour boat had spotted a large group of humpback whales. He modified our cruising scheduled and headed into the sighting area. We again were lucky. We watched a large number of whales blowing and swimming in the area. The Captain stayed in the area for about 45 minutes. He even adjusted the ships events so that everyone had a chance to see the whales if they so chose to. Tonight was the last formal night, and the last chance to get a formal portrait that wouldn’t kill my cat. Once again the “doll” got all dolled up, and I put on my other tux. We went down to get more pictures taken, and then back to the Patisserie to relive the day over drinks. Even though it was lobster and Beef Wellington night, for some reason we decided to skip dinner. So, she sat there looking good with me while we continued to talk and watch the scenery and people. We tried the show in the Princess Theatre, but it wasn’t for us so we snuck out. We decided to go to Rocky’s’ Disco for karaoke. This was a whole lot of fun, and we saw the best-dressed good and bad singers we’d ever seen. About 1:00 AM we decided we’d had enough fun and went to bed. DAY 7: This was our last cruise day, with the afternoon steaming around College Fiord. We slept in late, ate in the room, and then got dressed. Judy stayed in the cabin reading while I went to the casino. If I followed my own advice, there would be some pretty well off whales out there. The disembarkation package was delivered that morning. It contained complete instructions and luggage tags color-coded for our estimated departure time of 6:45 AM. Disembarking is based on your travel arrangements. Our flight was at 12:10 PM out of Anchorage the next day, so we had to catch the bus early in Seward to make it. Once we got up into College Fiord, my “she bear” came out of hibernation and we went up on deck. Whew, was it cold out there that day. We went to the Riviera Grill and got coffee and hamburgers, and ate until we got up to the glaciers. Again, they were indescribably beautiful. Here, the ship started out left side to the glaciers. We stayed on deck until the Captain turned the ship around. At that point we went to the cabin for coffee and rolls, and spent the rest of the day in the cabin and on the balcony watching the sites. Because Princess wants the majority of your bags outside the cabin before dinner, we went ahead and packed everything but what we were going to wear, and our overnight necessities. That stuff went into our carry-on. We also filled out the tip envelope for our stateroom steward, Rod. We presented it to him personally so that we could thank him for helping to make this a great vacation. Before dinner, we went down to the Photo Gallery hoping to save my kitty’s life. He’s one lucky feline, as the last night’s formal pictures turned out to be the keepers. Dinner that night was obviously casual with everyone’s bags packed and gone. It was prime rib night again, and we had two tremendous couples for our table companions that night. What a great night to end the cruise. We made one stop after dinner at the Patisserie for a farewell drink, and to say goodbye to some of the Princess folks we got to know on the cruise. After that, we went back to our cabin, ordered room service coffee one last time, and watched a movie before turning in. DISEMBARKATION: The night before I made a wake-up call using the ship’s automated system. It worked just fine. We docked in Seward about 2:30 AM. We didn’t hear a thing from our cabin so that wasn’t a problem. We got our wake-up call at 5:00 AM, got up and dressed, and packed our final items. Horizon Court and one of the dining rooms opened at 5:15 AM for breakfast. Our color was called at 6:30. We grabbed our carry-on and departed the ship. From there, we walked to a metal building on the pier. Inside they had all the luggage sorted by our disembarkation color. We gathered it up with no problem and took it all of 20 feet to the Alaska Airlines counters. Here we checked in for our flights, and checked our bags with the airline. This is a great service. After that, we gave our transfer coupon to the rep, and were taken to our motor coach for the 3-hour ride to Anchorage. Just as we were leaving for the trip, we saw a baby moose running through the yards in town. The Seward Highway is a beautiful trip. We went straight to the airport, boarded the plane, and got home about 9:00 PM. To sum it up, this was a fantastic cruise, and a fantastic cruise line. It was a 7 day, 1801 nautical mile wonder. If there were any problems, they were so small as to be unimportant. Both Judy and I are ready to go again anytime. Forum Stuff – things I didn’t really discuss above AGE OF PASSENGERS: It was definitely an older crowd on this cruise as a whole. There were a few kids around; they seemed to be having a good time. ATM’s: The ship didn’t have an ATM, but they are plentiful in each port. COFFEE: Dining room and room service coffee was wonderful in our opinion. Coffee in the lounges will have you upside down on the ceiling. It was really strong. PACKING: Take clothes you can layer with a outer waterproof jacket. To prevent wrinkling, we packed each item in dry cleaner bags, and they came through with no problem. Remember the extension cord for your cabin. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SHIP STAFF: They were always shooting pictures, but they were never pushy to either take the picture or sell you the picture. It was very unobtrusive. ALARM CLOCK: There are no clocks in the cabins, so we took a travel alarm that worked great. PRINCESS PATTER: This is the daily event publication delivered to your room. THE SEA PRINCESS – Deck by Deck DECK 5: Starting on the Plaza Deck the atrium at this level has the Grand Plaza. This area has several seats and sofas for relaxing, or a meeting point for groups. On two days of our cruise, it was even the site of golf tournaments run by the cruise director staff. They were really just putting contests with a putting cup and plastic hazards, but a whole bunch of folks participated while everyone cheered. Winners received Gold medals for there skill. This deck also contains the purser’s desk (labeled Information). Here’s where to go for answers to your questions about the ship and such. The shore excursion desk is located across from the information desk. They’ll answer any tour question you may have. One benefit of visiting here periodically is the excursion-board they maintain there. It lists the all of the Princess sponsored tours and indicates their availability. I wouldn’t depend on a specific tour being available, but it’s the place to check. The Neapolitan Dining Room is located on this deck. This dining room was used for Personal Choice dining. I discussed this during the review of the cruise, but they do display the day’s menus on a stand right outside the dining room. Lastly, we come to the Patisserie Lounge. This is where Judy and I spent a lot of time. Large windows and comfortable seating made this our favorite place for coffee, and later cocktails. We would set and talk, and just watch the stunning scenery go by. It was also a great place to meet others on the ship and compare notes. DECK 6: Up the stairs (or elevator) is the Emerald Deck. The Sicilian Dining Room is located on this deck. This dining room was used for the two settings of traditional dining. There was also a stand displaying the day’s menus. (It’s the same menu as Personal Choice in the Neapolitan). On each side of the ship sit the Reflections and Latitudes boutique and shopping areas. If we didn’t get enough shopping in port, here was another chance. These shops were mostly clothing and jewelry boutiques with one shop for general goods such as souvenirs, postcards, over-the-counter medicines, and such. Nope, didn’t have a liquor store. We had to bring that on in port. Again, there was no problem doing this for cabin consumption. DECK 7: Up one more deck, and you’re on the Promenade Deck. We looked on deck 7 as the main deck of the ship. The front and back elevators end on this floor. All of the lifeboat muster stations are also on this deck. Three laps around the outside deck equaled one mile. Going forward from the atrium on this level takes you into the Wheelhouse Bar. This is a beautifully appointed bar with wood covered walls and ceilings. Ship’s models and nautical paraphernalia decorate this area. Every night different bands played here. Most nights it was a rotation between two groups playing big band and swing. One night it was used for the country western night. Passing forward through the Wheelhouse Bar is the Princess Theatre. This showroom was used for the larger production shows during the cruise. Going aft from the atrium on the left side is Rocky’s Disco. This was the home of DJ Ed and Karaoke. Those nights were crazy fun. While we couldn’t sing nearly as good as a few of our fellow passengers, if we had the guts we good hold our own with the worst of them. On the right was a small area called Entre Nous. We never went in, but we think this is the wine and caviar bar. Just back from this area is the photo gallery. All the pictures taken are displayed here for you took look at. If you want a specific picture, just take it to their shop and pay for it. Otherwise there is no obligation to buy. You can also get your film developed here. We thought the cost was a little high, but if you can’t wait, here’s the place. On the left side of the ship is a small game room for cards and the available board games you can checkout. Next to the game room is the library. There are plentiful books to check out. The room is comfortable with ocean view windows. Bring your favorite CD’s to listen to. The chairs have built in players. All the way back on this deck is the Vista Lounge. The name is accurate. It has a lounge layout of tables and sofas, with drink service. Shows played in there every night. DECK 8: The Dolphin deck is home to the Casino and Lagos Pizzaria. The casino has several slot machines. There are a couple of nickel machines, several dollar machines, and a whole bunch of quarter machines. There are also a few blackjack tables and a crap table. Lagos makes whole pizzas from scratch. They also have corezones on the menu. It takes about 20 minutes for the pizza, but it’s worth the wait. DECK 9: Caribe deck is cabins only. DECK 10: Baja deck is cabins only. DECK 11: Aloha deck is cabins with a small viewing deck aft. This was also our home deck. DECK 12: The Riviera deck has pools and spas. The fresh water pools were at 94 degrees, and the spas were at 100 degrees. Believe or not, people do use them on the Alaska cruise. An outside bar is also located on this deck along with deck chairs for sunning and viewing. Aft on this deck is located the beauty parlor, gymnasium, video game room, and the kids zone area. Port side amidships is a small room containing a virtual reality golf course. For those who haven’t tried this, you hit real golf balls with real clubs against a screen showing various golf courses around the world. A computer calculates where you hit the ball, and away you go. I believe it costs $20 for a half an hour, and reservations are highly recommended. DECK 14: The Lido deck has a spa, the Riviera Grill, and the Horizon Court buffet. The Riviera Grill is an outdoor spot for hamburgers, hotdogs, and brats. The Horizon Court is the 24 Hour food and drink area on the Sea Princess. I guess it takes the place of the midnight buffet. During dinner hours, Horizon Court becomes the Bistro. They serve the same food as the dining rooms, but it is very casual. The Sabantini Steak House is also located in the same area as the Horizon Court. There is an $8 per person charge to eat here, and reservations are highly recommended. Deck 15: The Sun deck has a splash pool, outside bar, and the table tennis courts.

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May 8, 2001

Hawaii

Every day at breakfast and lunch it was nigh impossible to get cream for the coffee. The waiter and server would bring milk even after 3-4 tries asking to get us cream, half & half. It was definitely not a language barrier. The dinner staff always provided cream. The staff service an the ship was up to Princess standards. The cruise staff and ships personnel are always friendly and helpful and we have always been very pleased to sail

with Princess until now. We sailed on the Ocean Princess to Alaska last September and all the meals were of excellent quality. What has happened to the Princess quality control? Best regards, William L. James

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Apr 13, 2001

Panama Canal

The ship and our room The ship is wonderful!  As beautiful and lovely as it was in 1999.  Captain David Christie is still in command of the ship and I have little doubt that the cleanliness of the ship and the attitude of the crew are a direct reflection of his leadership.  The Sea Princess is about as close to spotless as any ship which is 3 years old transporting 2,000 passengers every week of the year can be.  There

is an ambience of comfort, class and reflection throughout the ship.  The ship is incredibly well designed.  There are very, very few moments during the cruise when you have any sense that there are approximately 2,000 other passengers sharing the experience with you.  The dining rooms are designed with dividers and level changes mixing tables of different sizes to create a feeling of intimacy even though there are about 500 other diners present. We were on the Caribe deck, Cabin C606 which is a balcony room.  The room is small but, considering the amount of time you spend in your room, more than adequate.  The room can be made up into a Queen bed or twin beds.  The beds are very comfortable.  After storing 18 days of clothing from our Alaska trip in an identical room we knew we wouldn’t have any storage problems.  The suitcases fit under the bed and there is ample closet and drawer space for clothing. Each room has a television with a decent variety of programming including recurring programs on the ports, shopping and excursions.  There is a safe in the closet, a mini-refrigerator, desk and hair dryer.  Be forewarned, for some reason there is no standard outlet in the bathroom.  The standard outlets are located in the room.  The ship is 857 feet long.  After looking at the hallway outside of your room and realizing how many times you are going to walk that hallway it is advantageous to spend some time considering your room location before booking your cruise. There is a laundry room on each floor.  These get plenty of use.  Make sure you do not book a room across the hall from the laundry room.  Each laundry room has two washers, two dryers, an ironing board and an iron.  They are so busy that you also cannot get the use of a laundry room until midnight!  Nothing like a late night pizza while doing laundry. Food We were satisfied with the food on our cruise to Alaska.  The food on that cruise was so much better than the food we had on Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the food had markedly improved from our Alaska cruise.  There is little doubt that this improvement is the result of naming Michael Borns, Executive Chef of the ship. There was an excellent variety on the menu every night and all of it was very well prepared.  The improvement in the food extended to breakfast and lunch in the dining room.  There are only so many things you can do for breakfast but each day the kitchen staff was able to come up with something new and interesting on the breakfast menu. The menu for lunch included fuller meals that would be considered dinner as well as contemporary lunch items.  Again, the variety was excellent and the food was well prepared.  To be honest the service at breakfast and lunch was not the same quality as the dinner service. The Horizon Court is a buffet which is virtually open around the clock.  It was okay but we didn’t think it was anything special.  We only ate in the Horizon Court when scheduling required it.  The Riviera Grill is located outside above the main pool.  It served grilled items hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst etc.  We only ate there once and it was fine.  The Riviera Grill closes at 5:00 p.m. so that it can be transformed into the Sterling Steakhouse.  I have a philosophical problem with the idea of paying for a dinner that should be included in the price of the cruise.  Nevertheless, we anted up the $8.00 apiece to eat at the steakhouse one evening.  The steaks were wonderful and as good as the steaks offered at top steak restaurants.  It was also pleasantly refreshing to eat outside.  The problem is that the service was lousy!  I don’t care how good the steaks are, why should I pay $8.00 for lousy service when there is an excellent meal with fantastic service waiting for me in the dining room? Lago’s Pizzeria serves a very nice pizza.  I have to wonder why they don’t have a standard Italian sausage pizza.  There are signs on the table saying that take outs are not allowed (I have no idea why they have such a stupid rule) but there was no problem in telling them you wanted a pizza to take somewhere else.  This is exactly what we did when we couldn’t get into the laundry room until midnight. Service Fantastic is the only way I can describe the overall service.  Tony was our room steward and he was efficient, friendly and terribly helpful.  Andre was our waiter assisted by Szylvester, the assistant waiter.  They were superlative.  When anyone at the table was interested in a menu item it appeared on the table.  Andre made sure that everyone had all of the lobster tails and crab legs that they wanted.  They exhibited a sense of humor and, as is always the case, made the cruise something very special. I must mention our dinner companions: Gil & Sheryl and Kate & Pauline.  They were absolutely wonderful!  We wound up touring Cartagena and Acapulco with Gil & Sheryl.  Each of them were very helpful later in the cruise when my wife had her problem. The casino personnel were also friendly and helpful.  We made several excellent friends over the course of the cruise.  Bibi, who worked the casino and each bingo session, was an absolute sweetheart.  We still correspond with her. Often overlooked are the personnel working the Purser’s Desk.  These people were always friendly and helpful.  There was one sore head we encountered.  More on him later. Excursions Princess changed the process for booking excursions in 1999. About six weeks before the cruise, Princess sends a list of all available excursions.  You can book your excursions at that time (by mail, facsimile or over the internet).  We booked our excursions on the Princess home page and our excursion tickets were included with our cruise tickets which arrived about two weeks prior to the cruise. Many cruisers talk about booking excursions independently. We explored the possibility of doing independent excursions in Alaska and decided to stick with Princess.  On this cruise we again considered touring independently and tried it at two ports with excellent results.  If you are considering a tour of a town or a tourist site that carries no risk and can be easily reached by taxi, you may want to consider touring independently.  Alternatively, if the tour is unusual or runs the risk of delay or physical injury, you should consider booking with Princess.  If something goes wrong, and you are on a Princess excursion, Princess will work it out.  If you are on an independent tour and something goes wrong you are on your own.  However, when the risk is minimal or non-existent, the Princess excursion will cost you more; it will be less personal; and, the delays will be exasperating.  We learned that when the situation is right we can see more of what we want to see in less time with a lot less aggravation at a much better price by touring independently. If you cannot decide whether to book a Princess excursion or to tour independently, you can book the Princess excursion and cancel onboard if you choose to tour independently.  If cancelled in time there is no penalty.  We wound up canceling our Acapulco excursion when we had an enjoyable time touring independently in Cartagena. Entertainment Billy Hygate was the Cruise Director.  He was efficient and entertaining.  His jokes were either extremely lame or quite dated but could he sing!  I wondered why he even bothered with the jokes when he had a voice that was professional in quality. The entertainment is constantly changing so I am not going to identify the shows that were offered. Overall we thought the entertainment was great.  Some nights were better than others but that is to be expected.  The Sea Princess has two entertainment areas with the Princess Theater being the formal theater and the Vista Lounge being a more casual multi-purpose facility.  There were two shows each night to accommodate both dinner seatings.  Many of the shows were repeated so that you could see all of the shows.  By scheduling in this manner there was less pressure to see a particular show at a specific time yet there was a constant rotation so you had a different show to attend each night.  By scheduling this way there was always a seat available. After leaving Ft. Lauderdale we spent a day sailing to Jamaica.  I had intended on spending a lot of time reading during our days at sea.  As it turned out, there was so much to do that often the day passed before I realized it.  I did do a little reading but a lot less than I had intended.  Each day at sea there were two sessions of bingo.  The basic pack of cards ran $20 per session.  The sessions get more and more crowded as the cruise goes on because of a roll-over on the last bingo game.  The prize reached $4400 before someone won it.  By the last session it was practically standing room only!  The hype concerning the art auctions was greatly reduced from the prior cruise. It is troubling to have the millions of dollars of art which decorates the ship hidden behind the art items available at the art auctions.  These pieces do not even compare to those pieces decorating the ship yet they constantly were covering up the “good stuff”. Ocho Rios, Jamaica It has been more than 10 years since I last visited Ocho Rios.  My visit was a stop on a Caribbean cruise.  I was pleased to see that several things had changed at the port.  There is a new pier but we docked at the old phosphate dock.  The last time I was there, the police/military were inside the fence with AK-47s.  Outside of the fence, it looked like the entire island had come to greet the ship.  There were hundreds of people hanging on the fence and calling out to the passengers.  Cabs clogged the road at the port.  All of that is gone.  Thank goodness!  The tour vehicles are inside the fence.  Awnings have been constructed to cover the lines waiting for the tours.  There are still taxis available but not in the numbers or in the disorganized fashion that previously had existed. We booked the tour of the Prospect Plantation and Dunn’s River Falls.  The plantation tour is an informative and entertaining tour of what had previously been an operating plantation.  It is now run by a trust and has a school for boys on the property.  The students serve as tour guides and do a very good job. We were unaware of the fact that the Monday following Easter is a holiday in much of the world including Jamaica.  It appeared that every Jamaican on that side of the island decided to spend the holiday at Dunn’s River Falls!  The experience was further lessened by having to wait on the bus for 45 minutes in the parking lot because 3 passengers were dawdling at souvenir shops!  This is the type of experience that has caused us to begin touring independently. It was rumored that Princess will reduce its stops in Ocho Rios when routing in the future. We spent a day at sea before arriving at . . . . Oranjestad, Aruba My mental picture of Aruba was a glorious tropical island.  I have no idea how this mental picture was created but it was dramatically altered after taking the Aruba See and Sea Tour.  The tour itself wasn’t that bad.  It covered the highlights in the time available.  One problem was the tour guide who was more interested in hearing herself talk about things that interested her than in what interested her tourists.  The bus driver had to stop and wait several times for her to realize that we were at a spot which needed to be described for us. The other problem was Aruba itself.  As many of the cruise passengers said: if you have been to Arizona, you know what Aruba looks like.  One side of the island is rugged coastline with a certain rugged austere beauty to it.  The interior of the island is arid.  Lots and lots of cactus.  There are some interesting rock formations.  To our surprise the island was dirty.  Our experience has been that the term "scrubby Dutch" had truth-in-fact.  The previous Dutch islands we visited had been very clean and neat.  In Aruba there were papers and plastic bags blowing in the breeze, caught on the cacti, and intertwined in the scrub along the side of the road.  There was also an assortment of other trash on the sides of the roads.  Pretty disappointing. The coast on the other side of the island is where the resorts are located.  The large resorts have casinos attached.  The beaches are all public and very nice.  In the bay, there is a WWII German freighter which was scuttled at the beginning of World War II.  It provides a habitat for fish and is a popular dive attraction.  There is a semi-submersible vessel that allows for underwater viewing of the wreck and sea life. We were glad that we visited the island but we don’t have any desire to return. We left Aruba at 1:15 p.m. to sail to . . . . Cartagena, Colombia My wife and I were a little apprehensive about touring alone in Colombia.  However, we had read so many reviews that said hiring a cab to tour was the way to go that we decided to do it. Fortunately, Gil & Sheryl joined us and we received excellent information from Kate on how to go about hiring a taxi.   It was a wonderful experience.  Cartagena is a city with a lot of similarities to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Both are old Spanish cities where the old city was walled and protected by forts.  New cities have grown up around each of them.  I found Cartagena to be friendlier, cleaner and more enjoyable than Puerto Rico.  An American living there told us that it was a very safe place to live. The people were friendly and the handmade items showed excellent work and care by the craftsperson. There are really three areas for tourists to see: the fort, the monastery, and the old city.  The forts in San Juan were better but the monastery, with its location above the city, was awesome.  The old city of Cartagena was much nicer than the old city of San Juan.  The negative of Cartagena are the street merchants.  The street merchants are more aggressive than anywhere we have ever been. Once you get by the street merchants, Cartagena is a very pleasant place. If you are expecting hot deals on emeralds or jewelry you will probably be disappointed.  Neither my wife nor I are world class jewelry buyers but we have spent a decent amount of time in the stores in the Caribbean.  From our limited experience there just did not seem to be the value that is to be found elsewhere.  This is not to say that a good deal on a quality gem or piece of jewelry couldn’t be found.  Its just that they are not as easy to find as other places. We left Cartagena at 3:00 p.m. sailing for the Panama Canal. Panama Canal We were very fortunate in that it did not rain during our transit (in fact, during the 4,895 nautical miles we traveled, we did not experience any rain) and it was overcast.  The overcast condition was less than ideal for pictures but it significantly reduced the heat and the dangers from extended exposure to the sun.  Ships can schedule a time for transit through the Canal.  Cruise ships have priority.  Cruises through the Panama Canal are of two varieties:  a transit entirely through the Canal or a cruise where you go through the first set of locks to Gatun Lake sail around the lake and return through the same set of locks to the Caribbean. There are six locks to transit entirely through the Canal.  Due to the shape of the isthmus, the Canal is located in a basically North to South orientation.  The highest point of the trip is 85 feet above sea level which is Gatun Lake created by the damming of the Chagres River.  The water from the lake is what is used to raise the ships through the Gatun Locks and the Don Pietro Locks. A much smaller lake, the Miraflores Lake, is use to raise the ships through the Miraflores locks. It takes a full day to pass through the Canal.  We were told the Panama Canal is the only place where pilots actually take control of the ship during its passage. We arrived in Limon Bay at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal at about 6:50 a.m.  The bay narrows into a discernable channel much like a funnel.  A short distance into the channel there is a noticeable cut on the right side which is the old French cut and is about the only discernible French work which can be seen.  After traveling a distance down the channel, the Gatun locks come into view.  There are three locks set together meaning you move from one lock into the second lock and from the second lock into the third lock.  From the third lock you sail onto Gatun Lake.  The total raise from when the ship enters the first lock until it sails out of the third lock onto Gatun lake is 85 feet.  It is an awesome sight to be on either side of the three locks and look at a ship on the opposite side seeing it sit so far above or below your position! The Sea Princess is one of the largest vessels to pass through the locks.  There is only four feet of clearance when the ship is in the locks (the locks are 110 feet wide and the breadth of the Sea Princess is 105.8 feet).  There are large rubber rollers at the entrance to protect the corners of the locks.  There is only four inches of clearance on the rollers.  Try to imagine trying to put something as big as a cruise ship through the eye of a needle!  The sister ship, the Sun Princess, docked in Cartagena while our ship was in port.  It had just come through the Canal.  The sides were scraped and blackened from the rubber bumpers as a result of its passage.  After it had docked, the crew was immediately out painting the sides to cover the marks. After crossing Gatun Lake (32 miles) you again enter a narrow channel.  This is the passage across the continental divide.  The narrowest area going through the divide is known as the Gaillard Cut or the Culebra Cut (8+ miles).  It was in this area that massive land slides continually haunted the project.  The cut is so narrow that only one ship makes the passage at a time.  On the Pacific side of the Gaillard Cut, the first set of locks for the step down to the Pacific Ocean is the Piedro Miguel locks.  Unlike the Gatun locks there is only one lock at this point of the passage.  This lock steps the ship down 31 feet to the Miraflores Lake.  The Miraflores lake is a very small lake that provides water for lock operations on the southern end of the Canal and it also provides a holding area for ships waiting passage.  At the Southern end of Miraflores Lake, the last set of two locks is found.  These are the Miraflores Locks and they lower the ship 54 feet to sea level.  Due to   the huge tides on the Pacific side (over 20 feet of tidal change), the largest set of lock doors is found on the Miraflores Locks. After being lowered to sea level the channel widens and the Bridge of the Americas carrying the IntraAmerican highway can be seen arching over the channel.  We docked at Balboa at 5:00 p.m.  The passage was a truly marvelous experience and particularly amazing when you stop to consider the engineering genius to put it together in a manner that has been operating almost flawlessly for over 90 years and can accommodate today ships the size of which could not have been contemplated when the locks were designed.   If you have any interest concerning the history or the building of the canal I consider "The Path Between the Seas: the Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870 - 1914" by David McCullough to be a must read before a trip to or through the canal.  It is a fantastic book. Balboa was an unscheduled stop and we were advised not to go into town.  Local vendors set up on the pier next to the ship.  The ship refueled in Balboa and it took until midnight to complete the process.  At 12:15 a.m. we set sail for Costa Rica. The next day was a sea day before we arrived at 2:30 a.m. in the port of . . . . Puntarenas, Costa Rica We really liked Costa Rica and plan on returning there in the near future.  The Pacific side of the country is the dry side as compared to the Caribbean side which is the wet side.  We were on the dry side during the dry season.  Even at that we found it beautiful with broad vistas of rolling plains bordered by mountains.  We signed up for the Princess Coribici River excursion.  All of the information concerning this excursion stated that it was strenuous and you had to be in good physical condition.  The video played in the room contained the same warning and showed participants in helmets.  My wife was very concerned and one of the participants said his wife refused to go based on the warnings.  The warnings were grossly overdone!  This was a float trip.  An easy drift down a shallow river in an inflatable raft.  It was wet but it wasn’t the least bit strenuous. There were only 20 of us so it was a very pleasant experience.  The variety of birds was less than we had anticipated but the Howler and White Faced monkeys made up for it.  Costa Rica is a very poor country and the poverty is evident.  However, it is somehow different than the poverty experienced in other Caribbean countries.  Perhaps it is in the pride of the people.  Perhaps it is their industrious nature.  Whatever it is, it is palpably different than the feeling one gets in other countries. Costa Rica has fantastic coffee.  There was a form on the ship to order coffee to be sent home at a very good price.  We placed our order only to have it returned to us after we set sail.  We were informed that we had turned the form in too late.  There was no time for returning the form printed on it and no deadline was mentioned during the port lecture.  The prices on the form were available until the end of the month and could be faxed to the supplier.  We would not be home before the end of the month.  We happened to run into Mark Lewis Jones, the Port Lecturer, and I asked him what had happened to the coffee orders.  Wow, was that a mistake!  A few of his “better” comments were, “I’ve been on this ship for 7 months.  Do you think I have time to worry about everyone’s coffee.”  “Take the form to the Business Center.  I will only cost you about $10.00 to fax it.”  “I don’t make a penny selling this coffee and everyone has questions about it.”  “What do you think, that I have a fax machine in my room?  Well I don’t and I don’t have an account to use one.”  Now from these comments you would expect we were engaged in a heated exchanged.  We weren’t!  His outburst was totally one sided.  I had merely asked a question in a neutral manner.  Mark Lewis Jones is the one person who has no business in the cruise business and is the only person who was terribly negative. Two days at sea and we arrived at . . . . Acapulco, Mexico Our experience hiring a cab for touring was so pleasant in Cartagena that we decided to do it again in Acapulco.  As we were going to get into the cab, my wife step off of the curb and fell to her knees.  She refused to go back on ship for medical attention even though her ankles were swelling rapidly.  The one thing she wanted to do on the cruise was to see the cliff divers.  After getting a bag of ice for her ankles, we toured the city, we shopped the stores and she did get to see the cliff divers although not from the most ideal location because she simply could not navigate to get there. Jewelry bargains can be found in Acapulco.  You have to bargain hard for them.  You have to be able to walk away.  But if you can bargain as hard as the merchants, there are some great deals available. Acapulco is very nice and it is an interesting city.  It is a big city with big city amenities including big time night life (although we were not there to participate in any of it and couldn't even if we had been there).  It has a beautiful view; gorgeous resorts; plenty of activities; and, is tourist friendly.  It is another place we will be going back to if for no other reason than to let my wife experience the place without pain. Upon returning to the ship we immediately went to the ship's doctor.  We had heard some bad things about ship's doctors but it certainly was not true aboard the Sea Princess.  She received better emergency care than she would have received at home.  The doctor told her that she had definitely broken her right ankle and there was a possibility that her left ankle was also broken.  He electronically sent the x-rays to England for review and put a cast on the right ankle.  After reviewing the x-rays in England they doubted that the left ankle was broken rather she had pulled her tendons and ligaments. We were surprised to find how accessible the ship was to a wheelchair bound person.  My wife had very little problem going anywhere she wanted to go.  Our room was not handicap accessible and she was able to get around in it okay.  The biggest problem was the bathroom with its step up.  Tony, our room steward, was absolutely wonderful.  Whenever he saw us coming, he opened the door and assisted us in getting my wife into the room.  The wheelchair could not be used in the room. Likewise, when we arrived at the main doors to the dining room someone always took my wife and assisted her to the table where she was assisted by Andre and Szylvester.  They just couldn’t have been more helpful.  In the casino, when my wife wanted to move and I wasn’t immediately available, the casino staff assisted her.  Everyone was just wonderful.  They made a potentially disastrous incident into a situation which did not markedly diminish our adventure.  We couldn’t have been more thankful. Another day at sea before we arrive in . . . . Cabo San Lucas I had independently chartered a fishing boat to take us deep sea fishing.  I was going to cancel the charter but my wife said she would be fine in the cabin.  The charter was a bomb except that we observed and fished next to a pod (if that is the correct term) of bottle-nosed dolphin.  There had to be hundreds of them surfacing and jumping.  A school of tuna was following the dolphin and I caught about 8 twenty pounders. Cabo San Lucas was another place I had heard much about but I was not that impressed with the place. From what I saw, if you have seen the picture of the rocks at Cabo you have seen Cabo. A final day sailing before we arrived in . . . . San Diego Debarkation seemed to move relatively smoothly.  We asked for wheelchair assistance and were told to be ready at 7:30 a.m.  There were plenty of attendants available at that time but we were told that we had to wait until our group was called.  The attendants did not return after assisting passengers to disembark and by the time our group was called there were no attendants.  After waiting for two more groups to disembark I asked for assistance and was told someone would be there to help us.  No one came so I eventually found where the wheelchair bound passengers were being taken off the ship. It was not a pleasant experience!  By the time we arrived in the port facilities there was hardly any baggage left which made locating our bags very easy. We were going to spend 5 days in San Diego but after getting off the ship and driving to our hotel we decided that we needed to get home.  The exploration of San Diego would have to wait for another day.  We can't say enough about Southwest Airlines and the assistance they provided to us in getting home.  They were absolutely fantastic.  At home, the orthopedic surgeon said everything was done fine and the ankle looked good. Conclusion The Sea Princess is a wonderful ship!  She has been tastefully appointed with an understated elegance. The staff is friendly, efficient, and first class.  If the opportunity presents itself, we would certainly cruise on the Sea Princess again.  The same holds true for Princess.  A wonderful cruise line which does so many things right.  When you spend as much money as you do on a cruise and take hard earned vacation time you expect the experience to be something very special.  Princess understands this and does not disappoint. We would be happy to answer any questions. Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz

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Nov 18, 2000

7 day cruise western carribean

Our cruise to the Caribbean was great! It took only about 5 minutes to get on the boat when we got there. The food was great. All of the staff were kind and served you anything. You could Get pizza anytime for free about 1 foot long. That was the best pizza I’ve ever had. Me and my family of 20 enjoyed the cruise a lot! Every room was always clean from the servants who cleaned them. After every dinner you would come to find chocolate on your

bed pillow. You could have room delivery anytime and the food was great that they delivered. You could also have fruits delivered and breakfast in the morning at any time you wish. The movies were great. There were two theaters. In the library they had chairs that had computer build into them. you could plug headphones into them and listen to any book you choose from the library. They had magic shows and dancing shows a lot. every day  you would get a newspaper that said everything that went on that day. The princess cays were our favorite. You could go water skiing, snorkeling, horseback riding in water, and much more! I went snorkeling and there were tons of fish. I saw one fish about 3 feet long go under me once. You could almost grab the fish. They were not scared of you at all. They had a 2 storied casino where you could gamble all night. On the top of the boat where the smoke pipes were there was a sports court. They had activities daily and you could play soccer, basketball, and other sorts of sports in it any time of day. I would prefer you go on this cruise. Best of luck to you!

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Aug 31, 1999

Alaska

ALASKA - North to South Introduction My wife and I are 50 years old. This was my fourth cruise. It was my wife’s second cruise. All of our prior cruises have been on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (see our review of the Monarch from 1997). It is difficult to compare one ship to another ship because of personnel (which always change) and itinerary. It is even more difficult to compare one cruise line to another cruise line because of

the myriad number of differences involved in such a comparison. Nevertheless, it is our experience that Princess is far superior to Royal Caribbean when general comparisons are made concerning friendliness of staff, quality of food, scheduling of excursions and satisfaction from the experience. We were pleasantly surprised at how courteous, polite, pleasant and helpful all of the Princess employees were especially at the end of a long season. I doubt that we encountered even a half dozen grumps employed by Princess during the whole trip. This review concerns Princess CruiseTour 13 with the added excursion to Kotzebue and Nome. The CruiseTour began on September 3, 1999, and ended on September 18, 1999. The land portion was taken at the beginning and the cruise at the end. I wouldn’t do it any other way since it involved 1 ship, 2 other boats, 3 trains, 11 airplanes and 27 motor coaches! During the first three days we were on 5 airplanes and 6 motor coaches. During the first 8 nights we only slept in the same bed 2 nights in a row. It was definitely not relaxing, however, it was throughly enjoyable. I would certainly advise taking the land portion before the cruise. Fall Travel - We had initially planned to take this trip in July but for a variety of reasons we put it back to September.  We were very happy to have delayed the trip.  Ours was the next to last cruise.  The families on vacation were minimal which translate into smaller crowds and fewer children.  The weather was fine.  No rain and very little cloud cover during the land portion.  Rain and overcast during the cruise portion.  Generally speaking, 50's during the day and lower 40's at night.  No mosquitoes.  The colors were changing at the higher elevations and the animals were moving getting ready for winter.  Finally, there is a better price for the package. Luggage - I think this is the appropriate time to mention luggage handling.  Princess was absolutely fantastic handling our luggage!  All of our luggage initially arrived at the Anchorage Hilton.  Princess does not do a very good job of describing in advance how your luggage is handled for the pre-cruise portion of the trip.  As you move from place to place they do a very good job of describing your options with respect to luggage handling.  We returned to the Anchorage Hilton after each segment of our touring except the final leg.  I suspect the same is true for those staying in other hotels (Captain Cook and the Anchorage Sheraton).  This allows you to store the luggage you do not need for that leg of the tour at the hotel.  You designate what luggage you want to be transported on each leg of the tour and Princess will take it from your hotel room to that location.  You can designate the luggage you do not want to take on that leg for storage and it will return to your hotel room when you return.  You can also designate the luggage you want to be taken directly to the ship and Princess will take care of that.  Consequently, we had luggage going directly to the ship; we had luggage stored at the hotel; we had luggage moving with us; and, we had luggage hopscotching to the next destination.  Believe it or not it all arrived at the correct place on time.  It was amazing!  The only word of caution is that luggage handling in Seattle is notably bad according to the luggage handlers with whom I spoke.  This statement was verified when on the trip home TWA misplaced a piece of luggage on the non-stop flight from Seattle to St. Louis.  It arrived four days later Excursions - This year Princess changed the process for booking excursions.  Ignore all of the complaining you read about booking excursions on prior Alaska Princess cruise reviews.  About four weeks before the cruise, Princess sends an excursion list for booking excursions.  You can book your excursions at that time and the tickets will be waiting in your ship cabin room when you embark.  Many cruisers talk about booking excursions independently.  At every stop there are tour operators available to book excursions right on the pier or immediately off the pier.  We decided to go with the Princess excursions for two reasons:  they have lined up the most popular excursions and, if something goes wrong, Princess will work it out.  A glacier helicopter excursion in Juneau off the Crown Princess immediate prior to our arrival developed problems and everyone had to spend the night on the glacier with a survival team brought in to take care of them.  If you had booked that excursion independently getting back on the ship would have been your responsibility and Princess would not have had any responsibility for assisting.  We felt the added cost was worth it for the more adventurous excursions. Food - Food is not included in the land portion of the package even when staying in the Princess facilities.  Dinner meals run about $25.00 per person for the entree.  At each Princess facility you can sign up to have a credit card cover your expenses, just like on the ship, but it has to be done at each separate Princess location. Kotzebue and Nome The added excursion to Kotzebue and Nome is actually provided by Alaska Airlines and is their Arctic Adventure.  The transition at Anchorage airport from Princess to Alaska Airlines could have been smoother.  We had no idea that we were going to be turned over from Princess to Alaska Airlines.  There was a bit of uncertainty at the Alaska Airlines counter and no Princess person was present to smooth the way.  After we became knowledgeable about what was transpiring everything went fine until we returned to Anchorage and there was no one from Princess to meet us.  We were directed onto a Princess motor coach that took us to our hotel.  Since we were hand carrying our luggage and kept our itinerary handy there was not a problem but it was disconcerting. Kotzebue is an Eskimo community of about 3500 located north of the Arctic Circle.  For the most part the community practices a modified subsistence life style.  It is not a pretty place.  It is a good place to learn about the life style of Native Alaskans first hand.  The presentations by the children at the Living Museum of the Arctic were very good.  My wife thought Kotzebue was depressing because of the subsistence nature of living.  I do not disagree with her but I was glad we visited and experienced the Native Alaskan style of life. Late in the afternoon we flew from Kotzebue to Nome and had a quick tour of the city before being checked into the Nome Nugget Inn.  One family runs the show for the Nome excursion.  They own the tour company, the Nome Nugget Inn and the Little Creek Station which is a tourist stop where we panned for gold.  Nome was a gold rush town and the history of the gold rush still permeates the town.  It still looks and feels like a frontier town. The Nome Nugget Inn is a cute little place with an eclectic assortment of memorabilia decorating the premises.  The rooms are small and clean with twin beds.  The restaurants in Nome leave a lot to be desired both in quality and in service.  The next day we witnessed a sled dog demonstration and visited with the driver.  He explained sled dog racing, the Iditarod, and his kennel.  We then toured the town and the area before winding up at the Little Creek Station for a video presentation and gold panning.  We then flew back to Anchorage. Anchorage Anchorage has some fine restaurants.  Two that we particularly enjoyed were the Marx Brothers Café and Simon & Seafords.  I would rank these restaurants with the better restaurants in Chicago or St. Louis.  If you eat before 7:00 p.m. getting a table didn’t seem to be a problem.  Anytime after 7:00 and you definitely need a reservation.  If you like Caesar’s salad, don’t miss it at Marx Brothers Café! On the way to the Kenai Princess Lodge, the motor coach conducted a city tour of Anchorage .  The tour included the new Alaska Native Heritage Center, Earthquake Park, Lake Hood seaplane base and sights in the city.  We stopped at Portage Glacier for lunch and sightseeing.  Unfortunately, we arrived at the Kenai Princess Lodge so late that tours available that evening had been sold out and the tours for the following day were somewhat limited. Kenai Princess Lodge The lodge sits in a remote setting up above the Kenai River.  It is a relaxing, pleasant setting.  There is a main lodge building, the mandatory souvenir shop and long buildings containing four to six cabins in each building.  The cabins are comfortable and attractive.  They have a bedroom area, bath and living room area with a porch.  Each cabin has a wood burning stove.  The restaurant is rustic with good views and a very good menu selection.  The meals were very good. I went fishing on the Kenai River while my wife relaxed.  If you are expecting a secluded fishing trip in the wilderness, the Kenai River is not the place to find it.  This is not a river to attempt to fish without a guide.  It is fast and it is deep enough to get a wader into serious trouble.  The manner of fly fishing was different due to the swift current of the river.  Kip Pfortmiller of Alaska Troutfitters was excellent in providing me with a superb day of fishing with the high point being a trophy class Dolly Varden in the 8 to 10 lb. range. On the trip back to Anchorage the bus stopped at the Big Game Park for an up close experience with Alaskan big game being rehabilitated or transitioned back to the wild.  We stopped at the Alyeska Resort for a tram ride and lunch at the top of the mountain.  There were awesome views on the bright, clear day when we visited. Denali Princess Lodge The next day we boarded the Midnight Sun Express, the rail cars which are owned by Princess, for the trip to Denali National Park.  The upper level of the cars is divided into booths.  Four people are assigned to each booth.  The only storage is under the seat.  You are told to take a carry-on bag for your stay at the Denali Princess Lodge (I am not sure about the luggage arrangements with respect to the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge).  My wife and I each took a small carry-on bag and they both fit under the seat.  However, any of the larger carry-on bags you normally see on airplanes probably would not fit if you tried to put more than the single bag under the seat. There is a bar on the upper level of each car.  Princess has a bartender and a host or hostess on the upper level of each car.  They both work the tables and provide information on points of interest during the trip.  The lower level contains restrooms, an observation deck, the mandatory souvenir shop (one per four cars), and the dining area.  It was reported to us that breakfast was very good.  Our lunch was very good.  The dinners ranged from good to terrible.  The quality of the dinner on the train was definitely below the quality we experienced at all of the other Princess facilities.  The dining area is nicely appointed with china and linen.  You are assigned the shift during which you will be called to eat.  If you receive the last call, you might be quite rushed as the dining room attendants want to have their work done before they arrive at the next station. The main seating area of the train has windows that curve up and over the top of the train.  This makes photography relatively easy.  A bright, sunny day can also cause the brightness to be uncomfortable.  The regulation of temperature did not seem to be a problem but I wonder if air conditioning might be a problem on very warm days with all of the glass up above. The train moves very slowly.  The scenery varied from boring to spectacular.  We had hoped to see some wildlife but we did not see any wildlife during the train ride.  The train stopped at Talkeetna just long enough to exchange passengers.  Those passengers staying at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge get off at Talkeetna.  The Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge is suppose to have a spectacular view of Mt. McKinley.  In fact, the main lodge was designed so that its massive windows frame Mt. McKinley.  There is a list of excursions available at the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, however, the lodge is over 100 miles from the entrance to Denali National Park.  We wanted to tour Denali National Park so we stayed at the Denali Princess Lodge.  The railroad stop after Talkeetna is Denali. Denali Princess Lodge is a rustic facility built of logs with several buildings.  There is a dinner theater type of building, the main lodge, several restaurants, and many buildings containing the rooms.  The rooms are standard motel fare.  The draw to the area is not the lodge but rather Denali National Park. Denali National Park has a single road that runs into the park.  Generally speaking, private vehicles are not allowed on the road.  Only buses are allowed on the road.  Princess offered an excursion into the park which was 8 hours in length.  At the time it was listed as Tour “J”.  However, getting Tour “J” was a problem.  The excursions from both Mt. McKinley and Denali Princess Lodges are handled on the train.  Tour “J” was not listed and the train tour director was of no help.  After we arrived at the Denali Princess Lodge, the tour office said there was no problem in arranging the tour through them and they booked us for the tour the next morning. It was clear and beautiful when we arrived at the lodge so we decided to take a flight seeing tour of Mt. McKinley after we arrived.  We arranged this through the Princess tour desk.  Denali Air provided the tour and it was the most outstanding excursion we took on the entire trip!  You cannot see Mt. McKinley from the Denali Princess Lodge or from anywhere at the entrance to Denali National Park.  The only way to see the mountain is to take a bus trip back into the park or take a flight seeing excursion.  Phil from Denali Air was fantastic.  He positioned the plane for maximum photographic advantage.  He narrated the trip in an excellent manner.  And he took us to within 150 feet of Denali!  It was awesome! The next day we took the 8 hour excursion into Denali National Park.  On the way to pick up the tour, the van almost hit a young moose crossing the road.  The buses used in the park are school buses with seats that have been made slightly more comfortable.  The trip was fantastic.  The scenery was spectacular and we saw all of the large animals: brown bear at a great distance, lots of Dall sheep, caribou, moose both bull and cow, fox and even a couple of wolves!  The bus makes several rest stops with facilities available.  A box lunch was included. After the excursion we boarded the train for the trip to Fairbanks. Fairbanks  We arrived late in Fairbanks but took the hotel shuttle to see the town.  Fairbanks is a boom or bust town.  From my observation the main town is currently in a downward cycle.  The next morning we took the “Discovery” riverboat trip.  A sternwheel paddle boat cruises down the Chena and Tanana Rivers.  A professional narrator makes the trip very enjoyable.  A representative rural Alaskan village has been recreated on the shore of the Chena river.  The riverboat stops at the village for about an hour during which time interpretive tours are given in the village.  We enjoyed the riverboat and the tour of Chena Village. Upon completing the riverboat tour, we boarded a motorcoach for the trip to the airport and the flight to Anchorage.  We had a chartered flight on Reid Aleutian Airlines.  The pilot received clearance to fly us around Mt. McKinley which was a pleasant little extra on the flight.  In Anchorage you board another motorcoach for the trip to Seward.  Unfortunately, our motorcoach driver was so slow that we had no time to explore Seward upon our arrival. Sea Princess Embarkation was smooth in Seward.  The personnel were friendly and efficient.  However, the port facility was much more primitive than any port facility we have previously encountered. The Sea Princess is a wonderful ship!  It was practically new having only been in operation for 10 months.  The staff was friendly, efficient, and first class.  The passenger load is 2270 with 800 crew.  If the ship was full it certainly did not seem like it.  This is as about as big a ship as we care to cruise on because it is our experience that when you get much bigger you lose virtually all personal service.  The ship has been tastefully appointed with an understated elegance.  Generally speaking the ship is well designed.  My only reservation is that it is somewhat difficult to get to the Horizon Court without going outside.  The Horizon Court is the alternative dining room which has 24 hour service.  It is located on the top at the front of the ship and it seemed that we almost always wound up outside when trying to get to it. I found the Sea Princess to be amazingly stable.  The Gulf of Alaska was extremely rough.  It was so rough that the shows were canceled one evening because they did not want the entertainers to get hurt.  During that night the winds reached 84 knots which border on hurricane force and the sea had 20 to 30 foot waves!  You would think that it would be almost impossible to walk with sea conditions that rough but it was not.  You certainly reached for a stable object on occasion and moved in directions that you did not plan at times but you were able to do just about anything you wanted which I found to be amazing. Room - We opted to pay the additional amount for a balcony.  Unfortunately, the weather was too bad to fully enjoy the balcony.  Likewise, I demanded the port side on the southbound cruise and refused an upgrade to stay on the port side.  I do not believe the port side was as important as I had thought it would be.  It appeared as if the scenery was similar on both sides of the ship.  The balcony would have been very nice for viewing purposes had the weather been better.  Considering the cost of a balcony room, if I booked this trip again I might book an upper outside room and hope for an upgrade rather than pay extra for a balcony. The room was very nice.  Plenty of room under the bed for 4 very large suitcases.  A full length closet, two half length closets, a swing-out shelving unit, plus shelves and a safe provide more than adequate storage.  The bathroom was adequate with a shower that was larger than I had expected.  The placement of the commode was a bit uncomfortable. Dining Room - There are 2 dining rooms that are nicely designed with a mix of 4, 6 & 8 person tables.  Each waiter and assistant waiter have responsible for 18 persons.  Unlike Royal Caribbean, the head waiter is actively involved in the dinner.  He made dessert for his tables on two evenings and prepared a pasta dish on another evening.  The food was far superior to the food served on our last Royal Caribbean cruise.  I would describe the food as ranging from very good to excellent.  I do not believe we had any dinner serving that I would describe as average. Princess has done away with the midnight buffet.  The alternative is the 24 hour restaurant.  In addition to the dining rooms and the Horizon Court, the ship has a pizzeria, a grill, an ice cream sundae bar and room service.  The rich heritage of eating while cruising has not been diminished by the loss of the midnight buffet. Entertainment - The evening shows was pretty good.  We did not get to all of the shows because of the cancellations one night with schedule rearranging the following nights, second seating and an affinity for the casino.  What we did see was certainly entertaining. The cruise director was constantly on the go.  He always seemed to be moving from one activity to another.  His manner of calling the horse races was hilarious and almost made you believe you were at a live race! I found the art auction and selling to be pushy.  The Park West art folks on the Royal Caribbean line were so much better than what is presented by Princess.  As Royal Caribbean was subtle, informational and low key, Princess was pushy, hawkish and in-your-face.  Park West seemed to have a much better handle on the audience in terms of their interests, taste, price and the manner of selling to them.  The Princess people seemed much more interested in making a score than in addressing the interests of their audience. A naturalist came on board for the trip through College Fjord and Park Rangers come on board for the trip through Glacier Bay.  I found the naturalist to be nauseating.  She was more interested in expounding spirituality of the event than in describing what we were observing.  The Park Rangers were not a whole lot better.  Their problem was that they were flat.  It takes a certain mix of personality, showmanship and unique knowledge to be a good narrator. The casino was never really crowded.  Perhaps it was the age of the passengers or there were fewer than normal passengers gambling.  Whatever the reason, it made for a more enjoyable trip for those of us who frequented the casino.  The casino was comfortable with good personnel working the tables.  Typical of cruise ships, the slots were very tight. Skagway  Skagway is a really small town.  There are only 700 year round residents.  The town has one main street that is about 5 blocks in length.  It is a cute little place but I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like if there are more than 2 cruise ships in port! We took the Yukon Expedition & White Pass Scenic Railway excursion.  It was too long by at least 1 hour!  You start with a motor coach tour that takes you into Yukon Territory, Canada.  The tour goes through Carcross and stops outside of town for lunch at Frontierland which is a neat little place with a museum of taxidermy representing the local large animals.  The scenery is interesting.  You then travel back to Fraser, Canada and get on the White Pass railroad for the ride back to Skagway.  The problem is that the motorcoach stops way too many times for photo opportunities allowing everyone to get off the bus.  Getting the people back on the bus gets to be aggravating.  I am a train junkie so I enjoyed the train ride.  There was rain and fog ruining the sightseeing during the train ride.  Even at that I enjoyed the ride.  If you are not a train junkie or a history buff, I would suggest avoiding this excursion. Juneau  Juneau is a real city with a real downtown.  It was rainy and foggy while we were in Juneau so we did not go on the Mt. Roberts Tram.  The main downtown area is easily done on foot.  There is a wide variety of activities available in Juneau.  We booked the Wildlife Sightseeing Tour and we were not disappointed.  The tour is aboard a medium sized sightseeing vessel.  The crew was excellent in describing the sights, locating the wildlife, and trying to make sure everyone has an opportunity to observe.  We were able to observe Bald Eagles, Stellar Sea lions, Harbor Seals, and lots of breeching humpback whales.  My wife and I thought this excursions was really worth the price. Ketchikan  Ketchikan is really a neat tourist city.  Unfortunately we did not have enough time to really explore it as we took 2 tours at this port of call.  Ketchikan is the one of the wettest places on the North American continent.  They get something like 170 inches of rain a year.  We had really nice weather while visiting.  No fog and no rain. The first excursion we took was Alaska Bear Watching.  It was really great!  The bear watching takes place at a salmon hatchery.  The bear work the stream next to the hatchery.  There were about 9 bear moving in and out of the forest while we were there.  The people running the hatchery and conducting the tours say they have never had a problem with the bears and the tourists.  This is pretty amazing as the bear and the tourists can be virtually next to one another!  In fact, there was a bear not much more than 30 feet away from us.  At no time did we feel as if we were in danger.  It was really exciting to watch the bear fish in their natural environment. The second excursion we took was Misty Fjords Wilderness & Flight.  What a disappointment.  The scenery was very pretty but we had a heck of a time seeing it because of the incompetence of the pilot.  We could have been on a commercial flight for all of the consideration the pilot gave to his passengers: no narration, no positioning of the plane for photographs, no turning of the plane for both sides to see the sights.  I am sure the excursion would be much more enjoyable if you had a pilot such as Phil from Denali Air.  Without consideration from the pilot, you are paying a lot of money for very little enjoyment.  I would avoid this excursion. We disembarked in Vancouver.  Debarkation went very smoothly.  We were booked on Air Canada to Seattle.  Air Canada had only 2 counter attendants on duty for all of the buses that were bringing passengers to the Air Canada counter.  The backup was horrendous.  If you have not been through Vancouver get a cart even if you have wheeled luggage.  You have to move your luggage from the bus to the counter; from the counter to the Customs post; and, from the Customs post to the luggage center.  You will receive no assistance.  Trying to manage 4 wheeled pieces of luggage is really more difficult than you imagine.  The carts are free and they eliminate a major hassle. Alaska is big, beautiful and rugged.  For touring, Princess is definitely the company to use.  This was our first trip to Alaska and our first cruise on Princess.  It will not be our last visit to Alaska and our next cruise will definitely be on Princess.  We would be happy to answer any questions.  Just drop us an E-mail. Bill & Lu Schwartz

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Nov 30, -0001

Quebec - Florida

We made our own flight arrangements but utilized Princess pre-cruise and post-cruise, hotel bookings for 2 days prior to and after the cruise. In Quebec City we were booked into the Sherry Frontenac; our initial room was on the 3rd floor with the window view looking at a wall several feet from the window. We immediately contacted the Princess people who contacted the VP who made a room change for us to the 7th floor after advising that

the room that we were originally assigned to was the level of room for which Princess had contracted. We have made many cruises with Princess and have found that they normally book at a very high acceptable level; possibly because of the reputation of the Sherry Frontenac associated with a high rate structure that they acquiesced to a lower level of room. In either case, we were changed to a room on the 7th floor; which while being acceptable, was far from being anything about a 3 star level. Check in on board was exceptionally easy due to our Captain’s Circle Elite membership. We were booked on Aloha deck (11th) in cabin A521 with balcony; this was an exceptionally small cabin; in fact it was probably the smallest cabin we have encountered since our 1st cruise approximately 45 years ago! Alternate Dining system in NOT THE SAME on all Princess Ships; we had booked 1st seating and had been advised that we could utilize the alternate dining as we saw fit; this was not the same as alternate dining on the Sapphire or as on Oceania cruises. The alternate dining all had the same menu except for the Steak House; when the steak in the main dining room is tough, why would one want to spend an additional $ 15.00 ea to eat in the Steak Room; it appeared to me due to the excessive attempts to sell the Steak House that this added expense has not been very successful as they appeared to be constant hawking for the Steak Room! The service at dinner time in the main dining room was excellent; the main dinning room and the pizza room were the only locations on board ship where there was good food service. The buffets were lacking in space, seating, and service. There appeared to be no assistance for the handicapped to carry the trays to a table! Due to some virus problems on board all food service in the buffets were changed to the staff to be serving the food which included bread, coffee, etc. etc.; the coffee line as times was 8 to 10 people long; lines ran from right to left yet at the juice machines while the line ran to the left the juice glasses were 5 to 6 feet on the wrong size of the machine causing people to wait in line; then walk past the machines and come back to them…completely inefficient layout! While the lines were long and people had to go back to the machines for a 2nd cup of coffee or tea as they was no personnel walking around offering 2nd cups of coffee except on very rare occasion. This ship was recently purchased back from P & O; it appeared to me that the personnel came with the ship as the service was not the normal Princess service; the food menus were limited and the meat always appeared to be tough! Simply stated it appeared to be geared to the English who, by the way, were approximately 60% of the passengers and the majority of whom were not aware that the ship had been sold to Princess; many of them were complaining as they lost their privileges that they had on P & O. The only thing that seemed to salvage this trip was the fact that we were Captain Circle Elite members which offered us free laundry, free dry cleaning, free internet, and fast embarkation and disembarkation. The itinerary was good although a couple of the initial stops in Newfoundland could be questioned. This cruise was far below the normal standard of Princess and I surely would NOT recommend cruising on the Sea Princess.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

This cruise was one of the best we have taken. We had a balcony room (503B, Baja deck. room was small but well designed. We really enjoyed the balcony. Our room steward and all personnel were very accommodating. This is a very elegant ship, 1st class all the way, except for a few annoying things. # l . Don't charge for a soft drink! just add 20.00 to the cruise price and no one will ever notice or care.... #2. Give a good quality

ice cream in the dining room and do away w/ the Häagen-Dazs for 2.00 a pop. Loosen up the slots, you'll have a lot more traffic in the casino. Those are my complaints, as it cheapens the ships image. I really enjoyed the food in all the different dining places, however I didn't think the beef dishes were up to par. The seafood, crab and lobster were very good, as were the soups and salads. Overall I would go again in a New York minute. and I would definitely recommend Princess Cruise lines to all cruisers. Bon Voyage.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

If you like to be on ship, this is a good cruise. Bridge, dancing, bingo, entertainment, movies.; all good. Stops (Skagway, Juneau, Sitka ) were just expensive tourist traps with China made nick nack. The side trips were hipped twice and cost twice what they were. Raft trip at Juneau promised glacier and wild life. We put in well below the glacier and rafted thru town. The only wild life was a 6 year old girl at a house.

Train ride at Skagway was nice. Every time you turn around, they are trying to sell you more; bloody Marys at 10:00 am, constantly offering you drinks all the time, taking your photo all the time, selling trashy gifts, ice cream at $2 a scoop was the last straw. Only got within 6 miles of Hubbard glacier. 40 of the 60 people I asked we disappointed. I talked to the purser about my complaints. His attitude was - we have your money and we don't care. If you don't like the prices, don't buy. We are here to make a profit. No engineer would make themselves available to answer questions about the ship. 9 of 10 deserts were BAD. Very disappointed, No hot Fudge ever though it was on the menu. Hot chocolate was just a powdered mix with hot water for a $1. The restaurant food was great, the buffet food was OK. The steak house was $8 extra but worth it. I never had such good meat. Other things such as bridge classes were not offered on days when in port to help force you to buy the over priced excursions. Lots of coffee but it was made with very cheap beans. All staff was the very best; the steward, dance instructor, bridge instructor, restaurant staff. They took care of our every need. The officers hid and were never available. Over all, it should have been a good trip but all of this cheapness added up over 7 days and left me with a cheated feeling. We did pay for a room with a balcony and it was well worth it.

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Nov 30, -0001

Coastal Cruise

Why I booked this cruise:        When I booked my cruise on the Sea Princess, it was for a couple reasons. We have some friends that had gone on Princess before, and they loved it. We looked on the Internet and found a great deal on Princess. The places it went to were really neat places. The pictures and reviews on the Internet were pleasing. Things that pleased me:         I loved the food on this ship.

It was delicious, but extremely gourmet. They had many things for the children and teens. The staff was very friendly. The cruise director was always happy and there. The shows were excellent. There was always something planned. Things I disliked:         I didn’t dislike much, except we went in September, so it was cool. When we went swimming, people would not get out of the spa. We would wait for a couple of hours and then leave, very rude. Entertainment:         The shows were very good. They had a musical every night, which were excellent. They also had a comedian who was hilarious. There was also a juggler who was very talented. They had a cooking demonstration that was real funny. The two theaters were very comfortable. There were a couple movies a day in the theater, and movies playing non-stop in your cabin. They had some nightclubs, but we did not go there. Stores:         You could a coke card for $10.00, which gave you all the coke you wanted on the cruise. Everything else on the ship was very expensive. Stops and Excursions:         We only stopped at San Francisco, California. I was fun for everyone. We went to Alcatraz as our excursion. It was interesting, but eerie. There were lots of people trying to sell you stuff on the streets for real cheap. We got a picture drawn of my two daughters for $5.00 each. We were going to go on the trolley, but the line was at least an hour long. We also went to Fisherman’s Warf and Pier 39. We all enjoyed it. We missed dinner, but the buffet was delicious. Rooms:         The rooms were very comfortable. They were pretty large. We got an outside room, which was nice to have. The cabin steward was very neat and cleaned real nice. We enjoyed it.          All together we enjoyed our Princess cruise and will book another for sure. Out of five stars, I would probably give it four stars.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We were met at the airport by a Princess representative asked a couple of questions about our luggage  (did we have them tagged with the Princess tags, etc), and boarded a bus to be taken to the ship. About a 15 to 20 minute ride. Didn't see our luggage from the time we boarded the plane until about an hour after we boarded. We received our cabin key after standing in line a very short time and we were on our way onto the ship. As

soon as we stepped onto the Sea Princess we were escorted to our cabin. We booked a Cat. AA Suite and it couldn't have been nicer. Very large with a wonderful BIG balcony at the rear of the ship. (Photos I put on a page http://www.geocities.com/martymoo42/cruise1.html ) We ate dinner in the Sicilian dining room and had a wonderful waiter named Constantin, from Romania. He saw to our every need. The Horizon Court restaurant was open 24 hours a day and had wonderful buffets of fruits, vegetables and hot foods. Even a Sushi Bar on certain days. The food was very great, we were never disappointed. We took only one shore excursion, the Stingray City excursion in Grand Cayman. It was to say the least, a fantastic experience. We didn't go ashore and stay to long in any of the ports, we enjoyed having the ship to ourselves. The Sea Princess is a fairly new ship and we found her to very beautiful, lots of wonderful art work hanging all over the ship. The crew could not have been friendlier or  more attentive. Always a smiling face to bid you a good day. Their creed is , "Never Say No". and they don't. All in all  our anniversary cruise was FANTASTIC. I would recommend Princess Cruise Lines and the Sea Princess very highly and can't wait to book our next cruise. Perhaps The Grand Princess next time.

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Nov 30, -0001

Norwegian Fjords and North Cape

Review of MS Sea Princess Cruise – Norwegian Fjords & North Cape June 18 to July 2, 2005 Southampton, Stavanger, Trondheim, Tromso, Magdalena Fjord, Ny Alesund, Honningsvag, Geiranger, Bergen, Southampton This cruise marked our thirty second cruise together, with four others taken separately. This was our second sailing with Princess Cruises, both on the Sea Princess. The earlier Sea Princess cruise was before the ship was transferred

to P&O Cruises, from Princess. Earlier this year, the Sea Princess was returned to her original home line. The main impetus for choosing this cruise line/ship was the unique itinerary. We have wanted to cruise Norway’s North Cape, and this cruise also offered the opportunity to land on the archipelago of Spitsbergen (also known as the Svalbard Islands), within 700 miles of the North Pole. Some of the details and our impressions of the ship and the cruise experience will be presented (sort of) in the following manner: Pre-cruise; Embarkation; Ship; Ports of call; Dining; Service; Final Wrap-up. Apologies are offered in advance for what promises to be a quite lengthy review. Pre Pre-cruise: As mentioned, this is an itinerary that we have wanted to do for some time. Not many cruise lines offer the full coastal experience, and those that do usually only offer it once a year. When we saw this itinerary in September of 2004, we decided that 2005 would be our year to make this cruise. We contacted our travel agent had him send our deposit and we were booked. Being owners of the requisite number of shares of Carnival Corporation stock, we also sent the documentation for the Shareholder Benefit (cabin credit based on length of cruise). We were very surprised when in November, 2004 we received notification from Princess Cruises offices in California that our Shareholder Benefit would not be honored, since our travel agent had arranged for us to receive a $100 USD cabin credit for the booking. The notice from Princess said that only one cabin credit can be used per cruise. They were canceling our $250 USD credit and allowing us the $100 USD credit. We told our travel agent and he immediately started a long series of back-and-forth e-mails and telephone calls attempting to resolve this issue. We have previously received the Shareholder Benefit, in addition to other cabin credits, on other Carnival brands in the past via our travel agent. When he got nowhere with the Princess representative, he asked for her contact at Carnival and made his/our case anew. The person at Carnival agreed that both credits should be honored and that all would be taken care of. The Princess rep was new to Carnival’s Shareholder benefit program. Case Closed! Or, so we thought. When our travel documents arrived, the flight information page showed an On-Board Credit of $250 USD. Another series of e-mails and telephone conversations resulted in the rep at Princess suggesting that we were lying about having received both credits in the past. When asked about the "resolution" back in November, the rep at Princess stated that the person at Carnival was not familiar with Carnival’s policies, and in any ev ent, Princess is it own company. She also stated that the person at Carnival should have told us that the Princess interpretation of the policy would be the binding one. The person at Carnival, when asked about this, confirmed that Princess will have the final say on their ships. More on this later. Prior to this cruise, we had found a roll call thread, for this sailing, on the Cruise Critic Bulletin Board website. Over a period of a few months we had formed a small but dedicated group, of mostly seasoned cruisers. Besides the normal "chit-chat" that goes back and forth, we decided to try and meet for lunch, at noon, on the first sea day. One of the couples agreed to speak with the head waiter in charge at the Dining Room that day and request a table for the eleven of us. They set us off in a corner by ourselves and we had such a wonderful time that we agreed to make it a standing reservation, at the same time and place, for each of the sea days, with no pressure if someone decided to do something else at that time. "The Dirty Dozen, minus one" managed to meet each of the scheduled times. These luncheons, that occasionally almost ran into tea time, turned out to be one of the highlights of this cruise for us. What a wonderful group of old friends that we had met for the first time. Pre-cruise, London (Day 1): Due to the spanning of a number of time zones, we opted to leave early and spend two nights in London, pre-cruise, to allow time for our biological clocks to reset. By means of a Cruise Critic posting board, for a different cruise that we will be taking later this year, we became somewhat (in a cyber-space manner) acquainted with a couple who lives north of London. As circumstances presented themselves we were able to join them for dinner the last evening before leaving for Southampton. Sylvia and Niels are originally from Belgium and introduced us to a wonderful Belgian restaurant (Belgo Centraal) in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood. We were fortunate to be joined by our good friend George, who lives in California, for both the dinner and the cruise. Our flight to London was uneventful , after boarding the plane and then waiting at the gate for an hour and forty minutes for, "paperwork to be completed". We normally make our own air travel arrangements, but this trip decided to use Princess’ Air Package, which included transfers from airport to hotel , to ship, to airport. As it turned out, we would have probably been on the same plane if we had made our own air travel arrangements. Due to our ‘paperwork’ delay, we arrived in London about one and one-half hours after George, instead of the originally scheduled ten minutes. George had patiently waited for us at the luggage claim area. When we claimed our luggage and proceeded to find the Princess representative, she informed George that they had originally had a separate car waiting for him since they knew about our delayed arrival. However, she reluctantly made arrangements to place George with us in the same transport to the hotel. At the hotel, we were informed that our rooms were ready, except for a "final inspection". Our wait was about 15-20 minutes, which we spent getting caught up on happenings since our last previous get together. After dropping off our carry-on bags in our rooms, we set about to explore a bit of London (George’s first trip across the ‘pond’), despite some intermittent showers. We strolled to the Covent Garden area to verify the location of Belgo, and we had lunch at a delightful place in Covent Garden Market. We then checked out the theaters in the area and finally a look at Trafalgar Square before heading back to the hotel for some rest. We took a nap and then decided to go back out for some additional sightseeing. Since George had and additional three time zones to adjust to, we allowed him to get additional sleep time, agreeing to meet for breakfast the next morning. After our nap, we headed out toward St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Millennium Bridge. We got to the area just as a fund-raising walk staged by London’s newspapers, for funds toward the restoration of Big Ben, and the clock, was in its final stages. This added an extra level of festivity to the early evening. We walked across the Millennium Bridge over to the Globe Theatre replica, just as the evening performance crowd was assembling. We were tempted to see if we could still get tickets, but decided not to try for fear of getting tickets and then falling asleep during the show, after our long travel day, nap notwithstanding. We walked about some more and then grabbed a light supper before returning to our hotel for a full night’s sleep. Pre-Cruise, London (Day 2): We arose early and met a well rested George and went to breakfast in the hotel restaurant. After breakfast, we all agreed that George’s desire to see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace was worth the try. Since the weather was, for London in June, unusually warm and sunny, with only moderate humidity levels, we set out on a walking route, which took us through Whitehall and onto Marlborough Road. While traversing Marlborough Road, we noticed the guard preparing for their march to Buckingham Palace. We decided to remain there and had a front row view of the formation of the Color Guard, the band, and the guard contingent itself. While we did not see the actual changing ceremonies, we did get an extremely close-up view (less than 10 feet at one time), and listen to a preview of the band playing. We then followed the ‘parade’ down the Mall toward Buckingham Palace, where the crowds were much larger. We all agreed that we had a great view and probably saw more than if we had continued directly to the palace. After reaching the Queen Victoria Monument and watching the Mounted Guard ride by and the relieved guard unit return to St. James Palace, we took Birdcage Walk toward the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. We then headed along Victoria Embankment to Waterloo Bridge and then back toward the Strand and a lunch of some ‘pub grub’. We then followed the route of the previous evening so that George could experience the Millennium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner at Belgo; a wonderful time was had by all. Belgo is a wonderful restaurant, the mussels are outstanding, the beer selection enormous, the desserts decadent, but by far, the camaraderie was what made the evening so memorable. Embarkation: As per instructions from the Princess representative, we placed our luggage outside our rooms by 0730, the hotel staff then collected them and we next saw them in our cabins on the ship. Then it was off to breakfast at the Pearl restaurant in the hotel – a bit pricey, but superb food and service. After checking out from the hotel, we boarded busses to the port at about 1000. Due to heavy traffic, the supposed two hour trip took closer to three hours. The wonderful weather had many locals heading for the beaches, according to our driver. Check in was reasonably quick (about 30 minutes) and painless; passport checked, tickets taken, cruise card given and its use explained, signature authorizing charging of shipboard purchases, directed to gangway. We had completed all the required immigration information on-line prior to leaving home which helped speed things along. The "Welcome Aboard" photo was handled professionally and with great dispatch, a harbinger of more good things to follow? One last stop prior to boarding; one has to stand at a pre-determined spot and place your cruise card into a slot and be photographed for the ships security system. Each time we subsequently left and returned to the ship, we had to insert our cruise card and the security officer could compare the photo with the passenger, while the ship’s computer tracked the coming/going. Finally, on board! We were met in the lobby by a crew member who checked our cruise card and directed us to an elevator and told us, "go up to Baja Deck 10". When we got off at Baja Deck, another crew person looked at our cards and pointed us toward a hall way and said, "go to the left and look for your stateroom on the right". We found B-618 easily enough, but missed the pampered feeling that one gets on Celebrity or Holland American while being escorted to your stateroom. After disposing of our carry-on bags, we set out to search out our cyber cruisemates, explore the ship and partake of some lunch. Lunch was available in the Horizon Court and the Riviera Grill. We opted for the Horizon Court Buffet (more on this later). After lunch, we stopped back at our cabin prior to exploring the ship (mainly to pick up the pocket sized deck plans that we forgot to take with us). Some of our luggage had arrived, and we met Gonzaldo, our very pleasant cabin steward. Gonzaldo introduced himself and showed us the location of our life jackets, explained the operation of the room safe, the temperature controls, the various knobs/dials in the bathroom, pointed out the refrigerator, and told us how to contact him if we wanted anything. For the Passenger Muster Exercise, we carried (as instructed) our life jackets to our Muster Station (Vista Lounge). The room was quite full and I was grateful not to have to be in such close quarters wearing life jackets. It appeared very disorganized, but the crew person in charged got everyone seated and explained the emergency procedures, then with the help of additional crew members made sure that all present donned life jackets properly. No roll call was taken, but it was explained that while we were at our muster stations, crew members were making a sweep of all staterooms, to make sure all were unoccupied, just as they would do in an actual emergency. We felt comfortable that this exercise was competently handled, and the process is sound. Ship Particulars: The Sea Princess was built at the Fincantieri Shipyards (Italy) in 1998; she is 857 feet in length and 106 feet wide, with a G.R.T. of 77,499 tons, and a double occupancy Passenger capacity of 1,950, carrying a crew of 900. The propulsion is Diesel Electric; there are 2 stabilizers; bow and stern thrusters obviate the need of tugs (in all but most severe conditions); cruising speed is approximately 20 knots, top speed is 21.6 knots. The Sea Princess had just undergone a dry-docking and partial refurbishment during its transition from P&O Cruises to back to Princess Cruise Line. Stateroom: We were on Baja Deck (10) cabin B618 (Outside Double with Balcony, port side, just a bit aft of midship). This location is directly above and below staterooms on Decks 9 and 11. There was no discernible noise from either , nor from the cabins on either side of ours. The stateroom was about 21 feet by 11 feet, including the bathroom and closets (listed as 179 sq. ft. In brochure); the balcony was a cozy 4 feet by 11 feet. This is small, but adequate for sitting with a book or having a light breakfast or lunch/snack from room service, and not much else. The two beds were made up in a queen size configuration, as requested, and were quite comfortable. There was one full length closet, one that had two bars each providing enough length for shirts/blouses, or pants hung over the bar of a suit hanger (the top bar would be difficult to reach for someone less than about 5 feet 6 inches tall; the remaining closet had three fixed selves (one mostly taken by the safe) and three wire baskets that swiveled out for access. There was ample room at the bottom of the closets even for all of Janet’s shoes; the desk/dressing table and the night stand contained ample drawer/shelf space for the remainder of our clothes (we do not travel light when we cruise). There was no difficulty placing the empty suitcases under the bed. The bathroom was adequately sized and the shower was large, by cruise ship standards; it would have been even nicer if it had been equipped with a hand held option as many ships now provide. No problems with amount of hot water and/or pressure, at any time. Temperature control was easy to maintain/change, as desired, which was helpful due to the varying temperatures we encountered on this itinerary. Also, on this itinerary we were to have six days where the sun would not set, and a number of others where we would have 18 to 21 hours of daylight. Fortunately, the drapes were sufficiently thick to keep the cabin dark enough to provide for a full night of sleep, if that was your preferenc e. Our Cabin Steward, Gonzaldo, was most pleasant and willing to please, and had that knack that the true professionals have of never being in the way, but always there when needed. Everything was maintained to our preferences. Princess has a process where each passenger has a fresh beach/pool towel placed in their cabin each day, or more frequently if needed; at one point we had six towels in our cabin and had to ask Gonzaldo to please not leave any more, unless we requested them. Princess also supplies robes in each stateroom for passengers use. When we first boarded, we did not see any robes in our cabin and thought perhaps this policy had been changed. When we later met Gonzaldo, he apologized and assured us that he would make sure that they were in our cabin as soon as possible. They were there within 15 minutes, and were brand new. Public Areas: This a fairly large ship, with a total passenger capacity of 2270, with slightly over 2000 on this cruise, but the only times we saw any real congestion was in the Horizon Court buffet and just prior to the opening of the Traviata Dining Room at dinner. The congestion at the entrance to the dining room is easy to resolve, remain seated in one of the lounges until the "hungry hordes" get in, then leisurely stroll to one’s own table. There is some congestion in the area of the on-board shops when the tables are placed in the walkways for the sale promotions. In a sense of fairness, we need to note that we did not spend a lot of time taking notes in all the public areas. In most cases our opinions are based on casual observations while moving about the ship at different times of day/night. Horizon Court: The congestion in the buffet area, in the Horizon Court, is more problematic. Before getting to the buffet lines, each passenger must stop and use the hand sanitizing solution dispensers. Early in the cruise the staff was quite adamant about enforcing this, but their resolve seemed to weaken during the latter stages of the cruise. There are two buffet lines, one on starboard side, the other on the port side; both are set up identically. They are further sub-divided with a hot buffet on one side, cold buffet on the other; the middle area is set up with salads and/or other incidentals, depending on the meal being served. The salad station is comprised of two smaller islands. Unfortunately the lettuce and salad dressings are located at the first island and the rest of the salad ingredients are at the second island. This requires moving back against the flow, if one wishes to add the salad dressing on top of the completed salad. The beverage station is at the end of the cold buffet side; the desserts are in the center of the cold buffet side. You can imagine the congestion as passengers move from side to side, or stop in the middle area, especially to get desserts or beverages while those in line on that side of the buffet are attempting to finish their movement through the area. We did not partake on the Sterling Steakhouse offering in the Horizon Court, which is a casual dining alternative available each evening from 6:30 to 10:00PM, at an additional charge (if memory serves us correctly, the charge was $15.00 USD per person). The buffet lines are open for pastries and beverages, breakfast, lunch, light snacks, dinner buffets, and Bistro and late snacks, with minimal closures for change-over. This arrangement allows for availability of food 24 hours/day. This over and above that available from room service. Princess Theater (Promenade Deck 7, Forward): This is the primary showroom; it is also used for movies, but no popcorn. It is set up like a land-based theater, with decent sight lines and acoustics. We attended a few of the shows here, and found the room adequate. One aspect of this venue that we found somewhat irksome is that there are no aisles along the walls of the theater; late arriving guests have to make their way to the extreme left/right seats by passing in front of all those already seated in the center portion of the seats. We don’t cruise for the entertainment, but Ray does enjoy watching the dance routines (an effort to relive earlier thespian days?). Also with the timing of late seating and the start times for the shows, we found it practically impossible to find seats in this small venue theater, competing with those passengers who were coming from Personal Choice (earlier) dinner seating. This will continue to be a problem for those who prefer late dining, since enlarging the room does not seem feasible, or even possible. One curious tidbit was that during the dry dock some of the carpeting seems to have been replaced on the steps in the aisles used for entering and leaving the theater. That wasn’t what was curious, but some of the new carpeting had obvious holes cut out and patched (and not always competently) which made for a tacky appearance. Vista Lounge (Promenade Deck 7, Aft): This is the secondary show lounge, more of a cabaret venue; also used for movies (still no popcorn) and lectures. This smaller configuration leaves some less than ideal sight lines, not a big deal for a stand up comedian or lecturer, but critical for sight gags and projected images, or production shows. Princess should be applauded for trying to spread out the passengers in to different venues, especially since none of those they have can accommodate sufficient numbers at one time. Not one of our favorite rooms. Also a frequent home to "Bingo!" Premier Cru Bar (Promenade Deck 7, Midship): A smallish, but comfortable, champagne and caviar bar; of course, other types of libations were also available. Music from Crooner’s Lounge drifted back here, but was muted enough not to be disturbing. This turned out to be our favorite pre-dinner place to enjoy a cocktail and "people watch". It was a bit confusing the first few times this venue was mentioned by Cruise Director, or other staff members, since it sounds the same as "Crew Bar". Razzmatazz (Promenade Deck 7, Midship): This is the ship’s dance club, and seemed quite lively most nights. This isn’t our type of venue, so we can only comment that those we saw in there each night, as we strolled the deck before turning in, seemed to be having a fine time. Some of our new friends from Cruise Critic seemed to enjoy it enough to be there until closing most nights. This is also where they held Karaoke Explorer’s Bar (Plaza Deck 5, Atrium): An intimate little niche bar that only seemed to attract folks while they were waiting for their Rigoletto Dining Room times, or perhaps an after dinner drink. We had also noticed some passengers having pots of tea in this area, on a few afternoons. Crooner’s Lounge (Promenade Deck 7, Atrium): This lounge billed as a tribute to Frank Sinatra & The Rat Pack, proved to be a popular spot at most times of the day. This was home to the "Trivia" challenges, piano sing-a-longs, before/after dinner dancing, afternoon relaxation, also a good people-watching spot. Wheelhouse Bar (Promenade Deck 7, Forward): This proved to be our favorite after dinner/late night watering hole. The dark paneling, nautical paintings and memorabilia, and views out on to the Promenade Deck, gives this room the real feeling of being on a ship rather than in a resort hotel. Due to the layout of the ship, this room gets more than necessary (sometimes distracting) amount of traffic with passengers going to/from the Princess Theater. This is one of those design features that not much can be done about at this point. In my opinion this is the only thing that keeps me from rating this room "Outstanding"; it is very nice, but could be better. This room is also the usual home to the "ever popular" Art Auctions (there were six of them for this twelve day cruise). Sundaes Ice Cream Bar (Riviera Deck 12): Hagen Daz ice cream, but be sure to have your cruise charge card with you, treats here are not included in cruise fare. Did not ever seem to be crowded ( we wondered if they include a 15% gratuity? We never found out). Pizzeria (Dolphin Deck 8, Atrium): Surrounds the top of the Atrium (2/3 of the way around). This room seemed to be a popular stop for passengers of all ages, but especially for families with youngsters. Pizza was pretty good and made to order, which predicated ordering a whole pie (approximately 9 inches) of whatever type topping you wanted. It was here that we experienced a strange bit of "pleasing the customer". Ray had ordered a Boddington beer with his pizza and the server returned a very blank look and stated, "We don’t carry that brand", despite the fact that table menu lists it as being available. Ray asked if she could please check; a second person (supervisor?) came out and told us that they just started carrying that brand on this cruise, but they had sold out already. This was the second full day of the cruise! Other bars did have it in stock and so did the Pizzeria, a couple of days later. The pasta dishes here were also excellent. This made for a good place to stop after returning from shore excursions. Grand Casino (Dolphin Deck 8, Midship): Not one of our usual haunts on a cruise, so we can’t comment too much on this room. We did wander in to take a look around and it seemed typically like most other ship’s casinos. The Sea Princess is a bit different from many cruise ships that we’ve been on in that you do not have to walk through the Casino to get to other public spaces on the ship. This is especially good news to those extremely bothered by cigarette smoke; casinos tend to be rather smoky, even on newer ships. The entrance to the Casino is located just across the Atrium from Pizzeria. Seaview Spa, Gymnasium, Beauty Salon, Card Room, Library, Pool Decks Bars, Boutiques on Board: These were all similar to what one might find on any modern cruise ship with nothing special to make them memorable. Dining: We had selected late seating (our norm) and were assigned to the Traviata Dining Room on Plaza Deck 5, at a table for six. On the first evening the table was set for seven, but the other two passengers never showed up and the table was then set for five the remainder of the cruise. Our waiter, Vincenzo, and his assistant, Kamil, provided us with service that was fairly well paced and efficient, without ever feeling hurried. This was important since we and our tablemates enjoyed each other’s company and were always one of the last groups to leave the Dining Room. Kamil was quick to ascertain everyone’s beverage preferences and deliver them at the desired times. We found the food to be of good quality and preparation and presentation was fine. Ordering multiple appetizers, or entrees, or desserts was not a problem, nor was ordering appetizer sized portions of the evening’s pasta presentation. We were a bunch of experienced cruisers who knew what we wanted/expected, and Vincenzo and Kamil delivered. Princess line does not have wine stewards in the Dining Rooms; we ordered our wine each evening usually through Vincenzo. The advantage to this is that service seemed to be quicker than on ships where 3 or 4 wine stewards had to cover the entire dining room; there is also the option of telephoning your wine order earlier in the day and having the wine waiting at your table. The disadvantage of no wine stewards is that it is nice having someone knowledgeable of the wines in the ship’s cellar, in case one wants to try something new/different. Of course, that assumes the wine steward is knowledgeable, regrettably not always a safe assumption. Breakfast and lunch in the Dining Room, usually only the Traviata Dining Room, on Emerald Deck 6, was open seating. At breakfast, the other options are Room Service, or the buffet in the Horizon Court. We had room service with light breakfast on our verandah a couple of mornings, and the food arrived promptly as scheduled and quite hot. The breakfast buffet was normal, nothing special, and one had to contend with the poor traffic flow mentioned earlier. We tried the buffet when under time constraints, but preferred the service of the dining room. Selection in both venues was adequate. Lunch time options, other than dining room were the Horizon Court buffet and/or Riviera Grill (hot dogs, burgers, etc.), and of course room service. Shore Excursions: The ports visited on this cruise are ones we had never visited in the past, and this was a primary motivation for booking this itinerary. We will share some of our experiences at the ports we visited. If you have no interest in these ports, feel free to skip ahead to the rest of our review. Stavanger: This was one of only two ports where we had purchased ship’s excursion packages. We chose the Sightseeing Cruise Along Lysefjord (3 ½ hours). We had to meet in the Princess Theater and receive our numbered bus passes, and then off to the bus for a short ride to our cruise boat. These boats were catamaran jet boats with seating arrangements that resembled an airplane passenger cabin, only much roomier. While Lysefjord extends some 50 miles inland, we traversed only about 22 miles of the route. The cruise was well narrated and many points of interest were explained from their historical/geological/folklore perspectives. We also had a stop at a lovely beach area under the overhang of one of the cliffs at Helleren, where we were treated to a snack of local waffles and beverages, served in the atmosphere of rustic log cabin type pavilions. While the weather was cloudy, with some rain and fog as we left the ship, the fog lifted during our cruise, and the rain reduced to only a few intermittent showers. One highlight, for us, was to see Pulpit Rock. We had seen many pictures of the formation and were really surprised at what a different perspective one gets when viewing it from water level and gazing up the 600 meter height. We also stopped at the base of a waterfall where crew members extended a bucket on the end of a boat gaff to collect water for anyone who wanted to taste this recently melted ice. Trondheim: Where we were docked here was about two miles from the center of town. Princess provided shuttle bus service, at the price of $4.00 USD per person each way. Never having been to this port, we opted for the shuttle into town, but decided to walk back since it did not seem to actually be two miles. It is an easy walk, and Princess was willing to refund the costs on any unused shuttle tickets. The shuttle dropped us off near the main square in town, where there was an open air market with a number of booths selling Norwegian wares and also fresh fruit and flowers. We are not sure if this was a normal event, or something prompted by the cruise ship being in port. The main shopping area of town surrounds the square. Only a short walk from the square is the Nidaros Cathedral, built beginning in 1070 by King Olav III Kyrre. This cathedral served as the coronation church until after the Reformation, but none since 1906. It is still considered a national sanctuary, by many people, and perhaps the most impressive building in Norway. There is a small admission fee (40 NOK), and flash photography is not permitted inside the cathedral. Instead of waiting for the tour to top of the steeple in the cathedral we decided to further explore the town and perhaps stop back. We ran into a couple from our Cruise Critic Group who suggested we may wish to hike up to to the fort on top of the hill for some very nice views. It is not a very long walk (about ¾ mile) but the road is very steep. In our estimation it is worth the effort. In addition to the wonderful views (high above the top of the cathedral), there is a small museum (we did not enter since it was close to closing time) and a small refreshment area. On the way to and from the fort, one crosses over the arched bridge named Gamle Bybro, from which you can see the picturesque wharves and warehouses on stilts along the waterfront. Many of these building have been converted into restaurants, clubs and galleries. At Sea: The noteworthy aspect of this day at sea was when we crossed the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees, 33.0 minutes North. The crossing took place at 08:23 AM, but no announcement was made at that time. We had seen other reviews where a recognition event took place during the crossing, and had looked forward to marking the actual crossing. Later in the cruise, passengers received in their cabins certificates, signed by the Captain and the Navigator, announcing that we, "became a member of the most honourable Order of Bluenoses" when the Sea Princess crossed the Arctic Circle. Tromso: This was another port where Princess offered their, $4.00 USD per person each way, shuttle service to the center of town (about two miles), with refunds for unused tickets. On our trip into town, our driver showed us the underground route, which included two underground traffic circles (round-a -bouts). He also offered advice on how to use the public busses to reach various tourist attractions. In subsequent conversations with other passengers, most of the other drivers were not as accommodating. Two of our "must do" activities for this port were the cable car ride to the top of the mountain and the Arctic Cathedral. Since both are reasonably close to each other, but across the harbor from the town center, we opted for the local bus (Route 26) to the cable car station. One can purchase their cable car ticket directly from the bus driver and the return trip bus transportation is included in the cost (80 NOK per adult). At the top of the mountain, there is the ubiquitous souvenir shop and also a restaurant, along with some spectacular views. It was raining a bit while we waited for the cable car, one leaves about every seven-eight minutes (actual trip is four minutes), but had stopped prior to our ascent. The day was still somewhat overcast, but the views were still quite impressive. After descending from the mountain top by cable car (there are also hiking trails for those so inclined), we chose to walk the quarter mile, or thereabouts, down the hill to the Arctic Cathedral. The design is somewhat reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House, only instead of sails, the design here is evocative of an iceberg or mountain crest. The primary building materials are concrete and stained glass. After viewing the church and purchasing some postcards depicting the winter views, we headed out to the bus stop and recrossed the harbor bridge to the center of town, where we continued our tourist explorations. Unfortunately, we felt that we did not have enough time to visit the Polaria, Tromso’s museum of the Arctic, with it’s exhibit on life in Svalbard, our next port. Perhaps next time? Because of the uncertainty of the weather cooperating, and unsure of the exact route to follow, we chose to take the shuttle back to the ship. The return trip was via the overland route, and we were confident that we had made the right decision in taking the shuttle. Magdalena Fjord/Ny Alesund: This was another of the ports that convinced us to take this cruise. We definitely wanted to go to the North Cape of Europe, but when we saw that this cruise included a stop at Ny Alesund on the island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago, that sealed the deal. Spitsbergen is the most northerly place on the globe where people live year-round. Spitsbergen, which is located at a latitude of 79 degrees North, was the departure point for many of the more important polar explorations, including those of: Edward Parry; Dr. Fridtjof Nansen; Adm. Stefan Makarov; Robert E. Peary; Ronald Amundsen; Richard Byrd; Lincoln Ellsworth; General Umberto Nobile, and others. At Ny Alesund there was a thriving coal mining operation from about 1916 (although the coal vein was first discovered by whalers in 1612) until a tragic accident in the 1960’s. Today the remaining 60 buildings, situated at about 765 miles from the North Pole, are used primarily for research facilities and their associated infrastructure. There is however, a Post Office, a souvenir/general store, a museum, and even a hotel. There are raised walkways and roads where all traffic is directed due to the fragile nature of the arctic tundra. This area is also a bird sanctuary and arctic terns can be seen nesting almost everywhere, even right next to the roads/walkways. You do not have to look for them, they will fund you and let you know that you are encroaching upon their space. A hat is an extremely good idea, as is carrying a stick which you raise if the terns get too territorial; they will usually attack the highest point of their percieved intruder. We did not find them to be much of a danger, more a nuisance, and only a very few were more than slightly aggressive. The only downside to this port visit was that due to wind and sea conditions, and the port authorities only allowing the ship to use one docking berth for the tenders, the tendering operation was painfully slow, despite having five tenders in the w ater. After about two hours, the port authorities allowed the captain to position the ship closer to the island, and while this shortened the distance of the trip, the one tender berth did not allow for shortening the time of the trip by very much. The result was that we had less time ashore that we would have liked, despite the Captain moving the departure time to later. However, while we were still ashore the Captain began sounding the ship’s horn letting everyone know he was going to depart at the revised time and wait no later than that time. Despite the bumps in the road, it was a very worthwhile ‘excursion’. We had been to "Fin del Mundo" (End of the World) at Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern most city in the world, and now to the most northerly place of year-round habitation on the globe. Honningsvag: This was the only other port where we had pre-booked an excursion. We booked a tour to the North Cape, acclaimed as the northern most point on the European Continent, although we learned that the acclamation is not undisputed. Knivskjelodden, which is about 9 km away is technically further north than the marker at the North Cape Hall. We figured it was not worth splitting hairs since we had been to Svalbard two days earlier. This far North, the midnight sun shines from mid-May until the end of July. Of course, the midnight sun was only a rumor this morning; rain and fog were the predominate weather characteristics. However, we had an early morning tour booked, so off we trudged. By the time the bus was heading out of town the ground fog had begun to lift, but the rain continued. On our trip north, the rain became intermittent and the fog was only seen at the upper reaches of the mountains. By the time we had traversed the long winding road to the upper plateau of the North Cape, both rain and fog were gone, but the sky remained overcast. Our driver slowed/stopped a few times to allow passengers to take photos of groups of reindeer grazing with their owners’ initials/symbols spray painted on their sides. By the time we reached the North Cape Hall, the weather had improved significantly. We viewed the video explaining the history of the area and then set out to explore. There are a number of exhibits relating to the history along the tunnel through the mountain leading to the Grotten Bar, including a hewn out chapel. The Grotten Bar is a large event venue which could accommodate 300-400 (our estimate), which , by way of floor to ceiling windows and a doorway opens out onto a large outdoor deck-type area that overlooks the cliffs, called the Royal Box. Once back above ground on the plateau, there are walking areas to allow for closer looks at the cliffs and the Arctic Ocean 1,000 feet below. There is also a large metal sculpture representing a globe that seems to require visitors to climb its base to pose for that "once in a lifetime" photo opportunity. Of course we did! There is also a sculpture "Verdens Barn (the Children of the World)" dedicated to Peace which has six discs, each of which were designed by children from different countries around the world; these discs are being viewed by a woman and a child. The statements on each disc is simple and yet touching. Based on other reviews we had read, we were expecting that the weather could be very cool, windy, rainy, and possibly foggy. Fortunately, it was not any of these. Of course, there is also a very large souvenir shop at the North Cape Hall, with its own post office. Once back in town there is little to occupy one’s time, just a few tourist type stores and a number of stores providing the necessities for the local inhabitants, and a few restaurants. The tourist type stores are mainly located in the area of the ferry dock, a couple of blocks from the cruise ship pier. This was one stop we had been anxiously awaiting, and we were not disappointed. Geiranger: This was another port where it is most advantageous to be out on a balcony, or open deck, while traversing the fjord heading into the anchorage area. The scenery is well worth the effort, even though you will travel the same route on the way out of the fjord. By way of personal observation, it seemed the better viewing was on the port side heading into the fjord and starboard leaving the fjord (that would place you on the side of the seven sisters waterfall). We were scheduled to arrive in Geiranger earlier in the cruise, but on our first day, we were advised of a change in itinerary. The main road into the town was closed due to the danger of avalanches. Fortunately, they were able to remove the threat via induced/controlled slides, and re-open the road. Geiranger is another tender port; hopefully things will flow smoother than at Ny Alesund. Happily, the tendering operation worked well, except that everyone could not be in the first tender. We had not booked any excursions, so we were in no hurry. We picked up our tender tickets and waited on deck until our number was called (about twenty minutes. While tendering did not pose problems for those on excursions, a "computer glitch" did . Apparently Princess’ computer was telling the tour department that there were 251 people booked for the bus tour to the top of Mt. Dalsnibba, when there were really five hundred, and they only had capacity for about three hundred. It was too late to get more busses on site and many passengers were told "We’re sorry", even some who had booked well before the cruise. This made for quite a few ‘unhappy campers’, despite the tour department’s apologies and complimentary bottles of wine, in addition to a refund of the cost of the tour. The weather was spectacular! Skies were cloudless, allowing for full sunlight and air temperatures in low 70’s. We walked up the rather steep hillside road to a small local church and then up to the Fjord Center and Museum. One of the guides at the museum store told us that this was the best weather day that they had seen since April. We then walked back down the hill to the main part of town and did a bit of shopping and stopped for ice cream. Standing in the warm sunshine it was hard to believe that just four days earlier, the road was closed for fear of avalanches, although snow was quite visible on the higher mountain elevations. Bergen: Our last port of call and another spectacular weather day; sunny cloudless skies and mild temperatures starting in mid 50’s to about 70 degrees. The weather is worth noting since Bergen typically has rain 300 days a year. The walk from cruise terminal to the fish market at Torget is about 15 minutes, at a leisurely tourist pace, if one doesn’t stop at one or more of the interesting shops/attractions along the way. We again had no excursions booked, but did want to ride the funicular up/down Mt. .Floyen, so we headed directly there. We were seconds too late to make the train that was in the station when we arrived, so we had about a ten minute wait. The views from the area surrounding the upper station are quite magnificent. Also at the top there is a snack bar, souvenir shop, and a restaurant. On the roof of the overhang above the entrance to the souvenir shop, there is a scale model of the funicular cars which shows where they are in their transit; this would help one decide if they needed to head for the station. If one is not that schedule driven, the cars run about every ten minutes, or thereabouts. When we came down the funicular, the queue waiting to go up stretched back outside the building on to the sidewalk; our estimate was about a 45 to 60 minute wait. We then walked about Torget and through the fish market, and surrounding shops; we even stopped to watch a five feet tall, cello playing, penguin! Then it was on to Bryggen, the restored timbered buildings that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. While many of these original buildings have been ravaged by fire over the centuries, they have been restored using materials and techniques harkening back to the original specifications, albeit with modern updates, like electricity, and modern plumbing. Wandering the historic back alleyways of this area is quite fascinating and interesting. After a while, Ray who was feeling a bit out of sorts, headed back to the ship while Janet and George went on to explore Hakon’s Hall and the Rosenkrantz Tower, which they enjoyed very much, except for maybe the climb up the very narrow winding stone staircase to the upper reaches of the Tower, although the view was very nice. This being our last stop in Norway, Princess had arranged for Norwegian Tax-free representatives to be on board to process tax refunds for purchases made in Norway, during the cruise. One foggy day at sea was all that remained before our return to Southampton. Entertainment: This is not an aspect of a cruise that will usually determine whether or not we have a great cruise experience. We attended a couple of the headlined shows and they were very good to exceptional. Beyond the usual production (song and dance) shows, there were comedians, magician/illusionist, and of course the passenger talent show. The music in the various lounges/bars was pretty good, based on our somewhat limited movements beyond Crooner’s lounge, and The Wheelhouse. We did not attend any of the Movies Under The Stars (MUTS), but did walk by a few times and were amazed at how bright the picture was even when there was no sunset for about one half of our cruise days. Each passenger is provided with a personal wireless receiving unit and ear phones for use during day time viewing; these were delivered to your cabin and collected at the end of the cruise. Thankfully, Princess does not subscribe to the "singing/parading waiters" in the Dining Room, under the guise of ‘dinner entertainment’. The lone exception is the traditional parade of the Baked Alaska. Overall Ambiance: As mentioned earlier, this was our second cruise on the Sea Princess. What we again were able to observe was a crew that was warm and friendly, whether they be Officers, service staff, or deck hands. Everyone would smile and exchange greetings, even if my assumptions are correct, that they did not always understand what was being said, due to language differences. This cruise was different from others we have taken in that the passenger make up was predominately British (about 1300+ of the slightly over 2000 passengers), with approximately 450 U.S., and the rest comprised of small numbers from Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Korea, South Africa, Australia, and a number of other countries. This was actually refreshing in that the Brits seemed to treat dining a bit more formally than the ultra casual affair that dining seems to be evolving into on cruises with a predominately North American passenger clientele. We cannot recall seeing any jeans in the Dining Room on any evening, and saw many men wearing ties almost every evening. One exception to the usual wanting to please the customer attitude was the Future Cruise Sales Consultant. We mentioned the difference of opinion we had with Princess prior to this cruise over the Shareholder’s Benefit available through Carnival Corporation, parent company of Princess Cruise Lines. Ray stopped by to see Kimberley one day and inquired about a couple of possible future cruises. When the topic if the Shareholder’s Benefit came up, Ray was told that the onboard credit for booking while on a cruise would be deducted from the Shareholder Benefit, as per the policy. Ray stated that he had never encountered that with any of the other Carnival family of cruise lines; Kimberley replied, "We are not Carnival, Princess has its own standards that will never change". We also have standards, and unless they are offering an outstanding unique itinerary, we may not see cruise number three on Princess. There are a number of other cruise lines out there. Another enjoyable aspect of this cruise was the photography (Did we really say that?). The photographers were extremely professional, one might even say magical, since they managed to make us look good on a few occasions. They were at the gangway at some, but not all, port stops, but were not "in-your-face" to pose. In the dining room, one of them even took time to have folks straighten ties, brush back hair, and was content to wait while we decided what groupings we might want. Since their cameras are now all digital, they perform a quick check and can redo obvious ‘misses’. This is a far cry from the "smile... good bye" rushing one usually sees. Public address announcements were kept to an appreciated minimum. While Princess is still not our favorite cruise line, we were suitably impressed, in all but one aspect. Good Job !

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean-Princess Cays; Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel

We took a small group a few weeks back on a 1 week cruise on the new Sea Princess. All I can say is Spectacular ! The ship was about 3 months old at the time, and she is grand in every way. The crew was very accommodating and extremely pleasant. Our cabin was on Caribe deck and had a balcony, which added to our pleasant experience. The food was excellent, and included caviar; Alaskan King Crab Legs; Lobster Tails

and many other delicious dishes. The Horizon Court Buffet was superb as well. Our Head Waiter, Vincenzo couldn't do enough for us. Coincidently, we recognized Vincenzo as a waiter from the Oceanic, when Home Lines was still in business over 20 years ago! The atrium was beautiful and spacious, as were all the public lounges. Princess Cays was beautiful as well as fun. The BBQ and beach party was great. The rest of the ports were fun, especially Cozumel. We strongly recommend Princess Cruise Lines and especially, the Sea Princess. We enjoyed it so much, we are thinking of going again in November !!

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

I went with my husband on a 7-day Caribbean Cruise to celebrate our third anniversary. We basically selected the Sea Princess because of its itinerary, which included Venezuela and Aruba--two places that we really wanted to visit. Due to the political instability in Venezuela, the cruise line decided to skip Venezuela, and instead of stopping at a different island (there are only 20 more to choose from), they gave us a day at sea. We

did not even get a credit for that. The rooms were pretty small, but did not care much because we thought we wouldn't spend much time there. We were so wrong. It was very difficult to find a good show or something fun to do at night. The shows were mediocre, the disco was always empty and the ambiance at the Wheelhouse Bar was almost like being in a nursing home. We ended up going to see a movie (twice), watching movies in our room, and going to bed early. We are both Latinos, and the music and shows geared to us just suck! They had a Latin night up on deck and it was miserable. My husband and I won the meringue contest and we had to claim our prizes to a member of the senior staff because we were promised they would be delivered to the room, and it didn't happen. On the positive side, the food was quite good, the pizza is excellent, and the prices at the shops were not too high. (With the exception of the hair salon, where I paid $45 for a blow dry and I have short hair) Overall, we had a less than ok time, would never recommend it and most definitely would never sail on it again.

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Nov 30, -0001

NOT FOUND

This was my fifth cruise, (two previously on Princess and two on Celebrity) but first visit to the Caribbean. With me was my 73-year old Mom who has somewhat limited mobility. Our plan was to escape the winter in Philadelphia and spend a week relaxing in the Caribbean warmth. We had no quests for adventure and the Sea Princess itinerary seemed perfect for our plan.  We booked air travel through Princess and were quite satisfied. We had a

morning flight out of Philadelphia that brought us to Ft. Lauderdale by 1:00PM. The Princess ground staff was easy to find and we were on our motorcoach for the short (ten minute) transfer to the pier. At the pier, check-in went very smoothly, not more than ten minutes. So, by 1:30, we were in our stateroom. We had a category BA cabin, deluxe outside, meaning that it had a private balcony. We were on deck twelve, Riviera 324, a few steps away from the bridge. (Although a closed door restricted passage down the corridor to the bridge...but we knew it was there.) The cabin was by far the tiniest, most cramped cabin I’ve seen yet. By comparison, the Crown and Regal Princess cabins now seem like suites! When I say the cabin was tiny, of course, you’ll know that the bathroom was REALLY tiny. My biggest complaint was that there were no drawers in or near the closet. There were two wire bins, but they were only useful for a few pairs of socks or other small, squishable items. The closet did have plenty of hangers, so perhaps that explains the lack of drawers. I’ve cruised before, so I know that the "two lower berths" are not actually twin size beds, but I swear that the berths in this cabin were even smaller, just barely wider than a cot. And, the nightstand between them was barely 10 inches wide! (I’d never seen such a tiny piece of furniture!) The result, of course, is that you’ll be sleeping extremely close to your cabinmate, just barely 10 inches apart. A corner unit held the refrigerator and tv. A small vanity with a small wooden stool had six mini-drawers that held odds and ends for us. There was just one small sitting chair. Then, the sliding glass door to the balcony which offered a small round plastic table and two very tiny plastic chairs. This was my first balcony experience, so I can’t make comparisons, but I can tell you that the chairs were not intended to invite relaxation. As a result, we never spent more than a few minutes at a time on the balcony. The big perk, of course, is the sound and smell of the ocean right in the cabin. In some ways, a window that opens would have done the trick. We did have a wonderful stewardess, Zaneta from Poland, who provided wonderful, efficient service all week long. The ship itself is gorgeous. The public spaces are spectacular. In particular, let me echo the other reviews and say that the promenade deck is awesome! The wooden deck chairs were my heavenly escape! We were assigned to the Sicilian dining room, table 120, second seating. Our waiter was Artur from Poland, assisted by Christina from Romania. They provided wonderful service for our dinners all week. Something a bit unusual: breakfast and lunch in the dining room is always open seating, even on sea days. So, as a result I never had service from Artur for breakfast or lunch. And, also, of course, we were continually meeting new tablemates. While it’s lovely to meet new people on cruises, towards the end of the week, it gets kind of tiresome to still have to be making the same introductions. I developed a little script and just kept reciting it. Think about it...seven breakfasts, plus seven lunches...that’s fourteen times I’d have to be making my introductory remarks to a new group of tablemates. Needless to say, we limited our trips to the dining room. The Horizon Court buffet on the Lido Deck was also lovely so we started going there for most breakfasts and some lunches. We were docked in Ft. Lauderdale until 8:15PM Saturday, delayed while we waited for some flights to arrive. The next morning we docked in Nassau, Bahamas. (An unexpected stop: we had expected to spend the day on the private Princess island but technical difficulties intervened. Didn’t matter to me where we went, and they gave us a $50 per person shipboard credit in exchange for the inconvenience.) We took a taxi to the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island and spent a few hours exploring. (Be forewarned: the marine park costs $25 per adult. We decided not to bother and went to the casino instead, where I actually won $75!) Monday was our day at sea. Tuesday morning we arrived at Ocho Rios. We opted to stay on the ship and admire Jamaica from afar. I spent a few hours parked on a deck chair on the promenade, enjoying an awesome view of the gorgeous island, while not actually experiencing the legendary annoyances of the island. On Wednesday , we anchored off the shore of Grand Cayman Island. We tendered over and walked around town, shopping a bit in the duty-free stores. Then, we took a Princess Excursion tour (C-2) which took us on a comfortable mini-bus to see 7 Mile Beach (just look at it), then to Hell (rock formation/tourist trap), and then to the Sea Turtle Hatchery. All were short, pleasant stops. Then, the bus dropped us at the pier where we boarded a semi-submarine that took us underwater to see hard coral reefs, fish, and shipwrecks. Overall, a pleasant excursion, well-suited to lazy folks like us. On Thursday , we docked in Cozumel, Mexico. Some ambitious folks went off to explore Mayan ruins, but we just walked around town and did a little shopping. Friday was another sea day and then, Saturday, by 5:30AM, we were docked in Ft. Lauderdale again. Disembarkation went very quickly and we were at the airport by 9:00AM, even though our flight wasn’t until noon. (Another forewarning: Ft. Lauderdale airport is undergoing renovation and expansion, but, so far, it’s still quite limited in its services and offerings.) Some random, overall observations: Don’t miss Pete Matthews’ performance! He’s hysterical. This cruise provided the best production number I’ve ever seen on a cruise ("Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance!") while also, with the same singers and dancers mind you, providing me with the worst production number I’ve ever seen ("Glamour.") While not as gourmet as Celebrity, the food on the Sea Princess never disappointed. There were plenty of wonderful choices. The cruise director and staff did not impress me. There was one guy (an assistant cruise director) in particular who was awful. We had awesome weather, glorious every day. There’s an ice cream sundae bar on the Riviera Deck that serves Hagan Dazs ...for a small fee. It’s less expensive than a land-based Hagan Dazs shop, so I doubt there’s much profit associated with it. Will I cruise Princess again? ABSOLUTELY. I love their civility. Will I cruise Sea Princess (and/or her sisters Sun, Dawn, and Ocean)? I’m torn. The public spaces are awesome, but the cabin was so tiny. I guess the attitude is that you don’t spend much time in your cabin, so why waste space there. But, I am supposed to sleep there and my berth shouldn’t be less comfortable than the deck chairs! Feel free to contact me if I can answer any questions about Sea Princess or this itinerary. Karen Elinich

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska Inside Passage

Departure Dates: June 8th, 2002 I went on the Sea Princess June 8th to June 15th. I had a great time. You can never have a bad time in Alaska. This was my second time on the Sea Princess and she still looks the same. Its still very clean for being a few years old. The ship is the perfect size not to big not to small. The Star Princess was with us at one port and the entire deck was filled with people. Its just so much more crowded

than the Sea Princess. The Sea Princes has more deck space compared to the Star. That's very important if your up in Alaska. My cabin was B216 an inside cabin on deck 10. That is near the front. I got a cheaper price because of the inside, but what's cool on the Sea is that on deck 9,10,11 you can go out on a small deck in the front. Where my cabin was located I was just 3 cabins from it so it seemed that I was not in the inside cabin. Not to many people know about this so it wont be to crowded if your near a glacier. Also, it has some covering if its raining. I would stand out here before I went to bed. There are so many spots to look out on the Sea princess. This ship is perfect for Alaska. FOOD The food was just ok this time. Breakfast in the Lido deck (Horizon Court) was great. They always had different items to choose from unlike other cruise lines. Lunch in the Horizon Court was just ok. It has been better before. This is my 4th cruise with Princess and it just seems like they have down graded their food a tad. It could be just the cook or the ship? I did go down to the dining room for lunch once and its was pretty good. I love pasta and that's why I like Princess so much. For some reason they had more of the red source that was a little spicy for me and also, they would have deer and rabbit in the pasta. (Don't like) They also have hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken hamburgers that are very tasty located outside of Horizon Court. Dinner was good. It's very comparable to Royal Caribbean. Just want to mention something. During dinner at the Horizon Court on one side they have a dinner buffet which I always went to after my dinning room dinner. It stays open to 10:30 PM. That is nice because on Royal Caribbean it only stayed open to 8:30 PM. Not only is there a dinner buffet, but beside the buffet is a sit down where you pay $8 for a big steak dinner that comes with salad, appetizer and desert. The steak was so awesome. Its like the ones you get in a nice restaurant such as the Claim Jumper restaurant. The portion is huge unlike what you get at the dining room. Its not crowded at all and is more peaceful and enjoyable. Its totally worth the price at least for one or two nights. Entertainment The entertainment is ok. Royal Caribbean is so much better. But if your in Alaska your entertainment is outside. (The beauty of Alaska) Princess is not known for good entertainment. Out of my four cruise with Princes only one cruise had great entertainment. It seems that the average age is around 30 and above. You always do have an older crowd in Alaska no matter what cruise line you go on which I like anyways. Its a good verity of ages. The only bad thing about this cruise was Princess was pushing the drinks on everyone. Usually Princess dose not pressure you in buying drinks, but this cruise they were. Maybe they want more money since 9-11? (So that sucked) I felt like I was on carnival again. You will have fun on this ship. Alaska is just an incredible place. This is my 5th time to Alaska and I never get tired of it. So much to see and do. I have always gone in June and the weather has always been nice. I only had 4 days out of 35 days on five cruises that it rained. Maybe I have been very lucky. One thing you need to know about Alaska. It may be nice one minute and within 20 minutes it could be terrible. It is very unpredictable predict. So bring everything from winter, rain gear and shorts. I had a great time on this ship and will love to go on it again. Though, it is leaving soon along with the Ocean. But, the Dawn and Sun look exactly like the Sea which I have also been on. The complaint that I had was we only stayed in Sitka for 5 hrs and there is so much to do there. One more thing, If you want to see wild life, then you need to spend time outside. Sit on a deck chair on life boat deck and you will see a whale. If not, then look to your right and there you go. (Kidding) One more thing. At the glacier go to the front of the ship for a few minutes to see the whole view, but then go to the life boat deck and most likely you will be by your self. Everyone is on the top front decks, but the better view is on life boat deck. Your closer to the water where you can see and hear ice hitting the ship and making popping sounds. You will see the glacier on both sides because the captain turns the ship in a circle. Its just so crowded up on front and is not enjoyable. Also, on life boat deck you could just sit in a nice chair and have lunch. Thanks Brian Lashchuk

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Our trip started off on the right foot when Princess called us the day before we left and offered us one cruise fare credit in return for moving from a balcony room to a outside room. We ended up in room 211 on the Baja deck. This is the very first cabin at the front of the ship. We were a little nervous about getting motion sick, but it turned out to be a great room. Someone else who had a similar room gave us great advice to go to

the front deck right on that floor. We saw lots of gorgeous sunrises, sunsets and starry skies from a very private spot! We chose Princess partly because of the personal choice dining. We didn't want to eat dinner with people we didn't know. We were on the Grand last year and had no problem getting a table for two every night. We were surprised on our first night on the Sea Princess to immediately be seated at a table for 8! We had said 2 people, but we meant a table for 2! After the initial shock, we sat down and enjoyed a nice dinner and met some wonderful people! After that night we made sure to say table for 2! However, on the second formal night, the maitre d' said it would be an hour wait for a table for two. Again we sat at a table for 8 and had a wonderful time (and must have eaten over 20 lobster tails between the 8 of us!) The bottom line is that although we were initially a little disappointed about the seating, it turned out well and we met some great people. We really enjoyed our excursions, so I am going to focus on them. Barbados: 5-Star Catamaran with turtles and lunch. It was a beautiful day in Barbados and we climbed on to the Tiami for a wonderful sail. While riding at the front of the catamaran, we saw several flying fish. If you have never seen one, they are amazing and they do really look like they are flying!! We sailed for about an hour out to where the turtles have been spotted. Everyone received a mask and snorkel (no fins to protect the turtles). We saw several turtles although the water was a little murky. After coming out of the water, there was a delicious lunch waiting for us with: fish, chicken, rice, potato salad and green salad. After lunch we headed for the beach. The boat anchored just of the shore. Some people went snorkeling and others just relaxed on the beach. The crew was so friendly and attentive, no one went without food or drink for long. They really made the difference. St. Lucia: We spent the day at Sandals Golf Resort. You can get a day pass for $40/per person and have complete access to everything including food and drinks! Taxi ride was $12/each way. After a wild taxi ride up to Sandals, we checked in and quickly found a hammock for two to relax in. We then headed to the beach area to take out a Hobie cat (sailboat). We got a quick lesson and headed out. It was so beautiful being out on the water on our own. The winds were pretty strong and it got a little hairy when one of the other boats tipped over! At that point we got a nervous and headed in. We cooled off in one of the beautiful pools and enjoyed a drink at the swim up bar. We had a buffet lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool and at the beach. St. Maarten: One of our favorite days! We did the America's Cup regatta - which was a fantastic excursion. I was selected as Captain of one of the boats. Our team picked a Stars and Stripes boat. There were 21 people on the boat (including 3 real crew members). As we tendered out the boats, the crew assigned us jobs and once we got to the boat they showed us the ropes (literally!). My husband was a main grinder and I was a backup primary grinder. The main grinders control the sail in the back and the primary grinders control the front sail. We practiced a while and quickly realized how much work and fun we were going to have. The actual race was great and we won by a hair thanks to the strength of a few strong grinders! I would highly recommend this excursion if you are thinking about it! Not to be missed. Tortola: We took the ferry to Virgin Gorda and went to the Baths. It was another beautiful day and a beautiful location. If you do go to the Baths and make it to Devils Bay, make sure you take some time to keep going past the beach and explore the coves and paths. We saw lots of lizards and even a lost chicken! St. Thomas: We woke up early to go through immigration thinking we would be the first ones there. Wrong!! The line went from the Vista Lounge all the way to the Atrium. It looked overwhelming, but I timed it and it only took 10 minutes to get through once the line started moving. I splurged on a Chakra Stone massage while Bill went to do some shopping. The massage was really wonderful, but not really worth the money. We met back up and took the Tramway up to get a wonderful view of the harbor. There was a really nice bird show that started just after we arrived. Definitely worth watching (for free!), if you are there and like animals. In the afternoon, we took the New Waves snorkel trip with Captain Nautica to St. John. There were only 11 people on the boat (including 2 crew members), so we got lots of space and time in the water. The ride over was a thrill, it is a hard bottom inflatable boat that really flies!! Our first stop was Christmas Cove, where we snorkeled for about an hour. There were tons of fish and some rays and turtles have been spotted there, but we didn't see any. The next stop was Honeymoon Beach on St. John. It was just picture perfect and we had it almost to ourselves. A beautiful way to finish a wonderful vacation. We had a wonderful time and would do it again in a minute. There were a few negatives. As we walked around the ship, we sometimes noticed that there was a sewer-like smell towards the back of the ship. It wasn't there all the time, but when it was there, it was pretty nasty. The internet access was pretty slow and they definitely need more terminals or more hours because there was always a line.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

My wife and I live in New Smyrna Beach, Florida and are able to drive to the port. We arrived at the pier in Miami at 12:30. We parked, checked in at the Sea Princess terminal and we were in our cabin by 1:05. The entire check in experience was the smoothest and most professionally handled of any of our cruises. Everyone was very polite and very attentive and tried to please us in every way. We boarded the ship with a real good feeling; a wonderful

way to start a cruise. We are first going to tell you about the negative aspects of our trip. During the ensuing week these negative feelings were completely reversed by the overwhelming friendliness and attentiveness of the entire crew of the Sea Princess, and it turned out to be one of the best and happiest of our cruise experiences. FIRST, THE NEGATIVES: CABIN: Our cabin, D 740, had a huge window that almost extended from floor to ceiling that made it possible to have a wonderful view of the ocean. It was well appointed but quite small. Later, after our luggage arrived, when we put our things away we realized that the closet was also small and just about adequate. The drawer space was also limited. We looked around for our coffee table and realized that the bench type seat by the desk was our coffee table. Also by the side of the mirror at the desk, was a hair dryer, almost obscured by the window curtains. We thought this kind of strange but we soon found out why when we looked at the bathroom. There was no room for a hair-dryer. The shower and bathroom were very small and we barely had room for our bath articles. It was so small they had to put the hair dryer by the desk. It became smaller when we hung the heavy white bathrobes they gave us, on the hooks on back of the bathroom door. When I sat on the john, my head was touching the robes. The shower was also very tight quarters. I told Mary, I better be careful about putting on weight because if I gained another five lbs. I might have to take a sponge bath instead of a shower. POOL SERVICE NEGATIVE: After making a get acquainted tour of the ship, we decided to attend the sail away party on the pool deck. We ordered a drink but weren't served any napkins. I asked the bartender for napkins and he handed me a box of Kleenex. I said I didn't need a Kleenex, I wanted napkins. He then informed me they didn't use napkins but used Kleenex instead. At first I thought they hadn't gotten their supply of napkins and were doing the best they could by using Kleenex, but that wasn't the case. Every bar on the ship had bar napkins except for all the pool areas, where you got Kleenex. This policy continued throughout the cruise. SHOWROOM NEGATIVE: The main showroom itself was a major disappointment. It is laid out like a movie theater, without a balcony, with almost the same type seats. The seats were arranged approximately 20 seats in a row and very little isle space in front of the seats. Mary & I usually order an after dinner drink while waiting for the show to start. We were surprised to find here was no drink service in the entire showroom. If you wanted a drink you had to get up and find the nearest bar and get it yourself. Mary is petite and I try to get her an isle seat, which lessens the chance of her being blocked out by the person in front. We got an isle seat, but with this type seating, every time someone wanted to sit in our isle, we had to stand in order for them to get by. It seemed every few minutes we had to stand to let people in and then had to stand again when they wanted get out. The arm rests of the seats had a retractable table on one side, to be used as a place to put one's drinks, like the airlines do. It really is a Mickey Mouse arrangement. When the people who got their own drinks were finished, they usually put them underneath their seats on the floor. There must be a better way. Princess sacrificed the normal comfortably spaced seats and convenient cocktail tables when they eliminated the balcony and condensed the seating to one level in order to accommodate more people. . Our first night's experience in the show room left us with a very bad impression of the Princess Line. It made us feel they were willing to sacrifice passenger comfort for a few additional seats. A very poor arrangement. THINGS TAKE A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER: After experiencing the above negatives the first day of our cruise, I thought we made a huge mistake in booking Princess. In fact, I told my wife that as soon as we got home, I was going to call our cruise agent Gari Senderoff of South Beach Cruises, and cancel the cruise on the Grand Princess we had booked for May 7th, 2000. I'm happy to say, this wasn't necessary because of the 13 cruises we have taken in the last 3 ½ years, this cruise aboard the Sea Princess turned out to be one of our BEST. DINING ROOM: As I usually do, as soon as he was available I checked with the head Maitre `d to verify our dining room seating. We always request a table for two. Unfortunately, our cruise agent for this cruise did not give the dining room manager our preference soon enough and when we got our dining room assignment we were seated at a table of 6. The line waiting to have their table assignment changed, was very long. When my turn came, I explained my problem to the Maitre `d and showed him the fax that was sent, even though it had the late postmark. As odd as it may seem the Princess table assignments are done in their home office in California, which makes it very difficult to make many changes in Miami. The Maitre `d went out of his way and arranged for us to have a table for two. He said it wasn't a very good location, but it was the best he could do. I accepted it. The dining rooms are the best laid out dining rooms we have seen on any of our past cruises. Princess did an exceptional job. The tables are of varying sizes and shapes. Square, round and oblong. And they are so arranged that they create separate, private, dining areas. Many of the tables have a glass petition between them which cuts down on the usual noise. Very innovative. FOOD: The food is just average. The menu was generally weak, especially the first two nights. But despite this, we eagerly looked forward to dinner every night. That is because we had a trio of help that made each evening meal very special. Our waiter was Merito, our asst. waiter Rey, and our Maitre d` was Vincenzo. Usually, we don't see the Maitre d` till the end of the dinner when he usually stops by and says hello and welcomes us and makes sure you know who he is so he will get tipped at the end of the cruise. Not Vincenzo! Our first night in the dining room he came by our table and introduced himself and told us he wanted to make this trip special for us and to please let him know what he could do for us. My wife loves pasta, so she asked Vincenzo if it was possible to have a little pasta as an appetizer. When Vincenzo heard this his eyes lit up and he said to leave everything up to him.. Every night after that, Vincenzo cooked a different pasta appetizer for us. He made Pasta Marinara, Pasta Puntenesca, Pasta Carbonaro, cheese & meat Ravioli and on the last night he even made us an Antipasto. We couldn't believe it. We enjoyed the pasta so much that we seldom finished our main course, which was just as well, because it wasn't that good. Vincenzo, Merito and Rey gave us so much personal attention and service that we completely overlooked the negatives and had a truly wonderful dining experience. In fact, the third night, the Head Maitre`d came by and said he could now move us and give us one of the better locations in the dining room, but we told him, no thanks. We were so pleased with the service at our table, we didn't want to change. At the end of the cruise I gave Vincenzo the biggest tip I have ever given a cruise Maitre `d and he deserved every penny of it.. Because of the special attention and exceptional service we received from our group of servers and the overall atmosphere of congeniality of the dining room setting, we began to mellow and to see everything in a different perspective. We have never seen a happier crew and it was reflected in all their actions.. We noticed that every time we passed a crew member, wherever it might be, they would acknowledge us with a smile. If we asked a question of one of them, they would eagerly respond and were very helpful. They seemed to go out of their way to pamper and cater to us. This is really what cruising is all about. Being pampered and catered too. THE SEA PRINCESS: The sea Princess is a beautiful ship. It has two stunning atriums with floating stairways and outside elevators and all the many amenities that the newer ships have. The floating stairways intertwine with each other and present the guests with all kinds of exciting and interesting views. One of the major differences with other cruise lines, is how Princess use's these area. They use these areas as activity centers for all kinds of various entertainment and as the focal point of the ship. Wherever we wanted to go, we first went to the atrium nearest our level and then decided how we would get to our destination. As we did this, we witnessed all kind of different activities going on. Sometimes, small intimate, groups of people being entertained by Paul Burton, maybe singing the Gershwin classics or maybe some Broadway Show tune. While on another level of the same atrium, a member of the entertainment staff would be hosting a game quiz for a group of passengers. And then on another level, groups of people shopping at a table sale. And on all the levels many beautiful seating areas where people can sit and relax while watching all the activities. There is even a cappuccino bar on one of the levels. The atriums seem to be a meeting place, like a town square, where people come to congregate and meet other people. On the last formal night of the cruise at the Grand Plaza Atrium, a huge crowd gathered to watch, Maitre d`Hotel, Beniamino Acler, assemble some 600 champagne glasses in pyramid form and then pour champagne into the top glass of the pyramid, creating a spectacular champagne waterfall. The Atriums are truly two beautiful areas. WHEELHOUSE LOUNGE: Each evening before dinner, after walking to the main atrium and viewing all the scenes I have just mentioned, we would then continue on to the Wheelhouse Lounge. This was a delightful lounge, appointed in old style, deep rich mahogany panels, highlighted by soft over all lighting and low table lamps and a 10 ft. Model of an old ocean liner in a glass case. A really beautiful room and our favorite. We love to dance and the duo of Phil and Nancy played much of the music of yesteryear that are our favorites. Nancy had a great voice and played the songs people wanted to hear. We looked forward to going there each evening before and sometimes after dinner. THE HORIZON LUNCH AREA LOUNGE: We seldom attended the usual Sock Hop night on past cruises. But we decided to join in on the Sock Hop which was to take place in the Horizon Court. The Horizon court is the Sea Princess lunch room. It is a ell appointed room in a beautiful setting. At night, the central part of the room which has a bandstand and a large circular dance floor is used for dancing. The music is furnished by Pele & Company, a very accomplished and versatile group, that produced a very good beat. We had a great time and even joined in dancing some rock' and roll, which we had never done. We can't believe we did it, but it was a lot of fun and we had a great time. THE ENTERTAINMENT: I first must comment on the Cruise Director Alastair Green. We have been fortunate to have had a number of top Cruise Directors on our previous cruises but none can equal the energy and creativeness and enthusiasm of Alastair Green. He was dynamic. He seemed to be all over the ship. When you awoke in the morning he was on the TV, with his staff member, Lucia, hosting a two hour wake up show. It was not only remarkable that after seeing him at 1:30 in the morning that he was once again his cheerful and delightfully amusing self, but you could tell he was totally enjoying himself. He always had just the right words when introducing an act of when he was ad- lobbing or when he was performing. He is an exceptional talent and he helped make our cruise memorable. Needless to say, Cruise Director Alastair Green's entire staff was exceptional. He seemed to impart the same enthusiasm to each and every member of his staff. We never saw any signs of one of his staff trying to outdo the other. Everyone of them, regardless of what they were doing, worked as a team to do the very best job possible to ensure that the passengers would have a great cruise. He should be commended for molding such a productive & entertaining group. THE PRODUCTION SHOW ‘GLAMOUR' in the main showroom were just average. We thought we would like the second production show, ‘Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance,' because it was billed as the songs of famous Broadway Shows and we very much enjoy listening to the hit tunes from the great Broadway Musicals. Unfortunately, they really missed the mark. Out of the thirty some odd songs that were used, we only knew four of them. The majority of the songs were not the hits that we know, but the secondary songs of the musicals, that are seldom if ever heard. We mentioned this to other people to see if we were the only ones who felt this way, and they all agreed with us that they didn't know the songs either. THE VISTA LOUNGE : The Sea Princess has an alternate show room, called the Vista Lounge. It has everything the main show room is lacking. An intimate setting, very comfortable seating, good drink service and very good lighting and sound. Where we felt the production shows were just average, the single performer acts were exceptional. If ever you have a chance to see Greg Bienheim perform, don't miss the opportunity. He is a dynamic performer from Australia. Mary & I were privileged to have been in the audience at the Copacabana, in N.Y.C. , when Tom Jones was at his very peak and we both feel that Greg Bonham is even more exciting. His voice is unusual in the fact that he can hit the highest of notes and the lowest of notes with equal ease. And his selection of songs was very different and unique and most appealing. He also played the trumpet and I do mean played. If you closed your eyes you would think you were listening to Doc Severson. We feel he is one of the best single acts we have ever seen. Another great act was Peter Matthews. He is really an off the wall entertainer. If you have seen his act you will know what I mean. He is a comedian, juggler. For the first 10 minutes we thought him boring and crass but as he continued on we became fascinated with his character. We realized not only didn't we know what he was doing, but he didn't know what he was doing either and that was the strength of his act. He actually made most of it up as he went along. Using the audience members and the isles and the walls of the room as his props. He had a great wit and was very entertaining. The comedian Glenn Hirsch also did a very nice job. He had a disarming delivery and was most enjoyable. We should also mention that the Sea Princess has two show orchestras. One for the main showroom and one for the Vista Lounge and they both were exceptional. A very talented group of musicians. COZUMEL: I am only going to mention one port, the port of Cozumel. We have been to the western Caribbean at least six times in the last 3½ years but we have never gone into the shopping center, San Miguel. We enjoy the beach and when we arrive in Cozumel we usually pay a hotel that has a pool and beach access and serves food, for the use of their facilities. This time it was a little cool and we decided to go into town for the first time It was a delightful experience. We were really surprised at the beautiful shopping areas. We enjoyed walking along the main street and seeing the many different Mexican items for sale. After awhile, just off the main street, we came upon a beautiful indoor-outdoor Mexican restaurant. We sat outside in the tiled patio area, with a number of Psalm trees shading the area, while a group of musicians, played romantic Mexican music, serenaded us. It was a very special, romantic lunch. Mary purchased a beautiful hand painted Mexican dress. We will again be going to Cozumel on the Grand Voyager this coming Valentines day. Mary is going to wear her Mexican dress when we go ashore and we intend to have a wonderful lunch in the same restaurant. CONCLUSION: We thought it important to let people know of the exceptional service we received on our recent cruise aboard the Sea Princess. Speaking of service I must mention our cabin steward Armando. He kept our cabin in immaculate order and catered to our every need. They don't come any more efficient than this young man. The caliber of service on this ship reflects mightily on Princess management. It is obvious from what we observed that Princess puts a very high premium on training their personal in all aspects of catering and pampering their guests. It shows in every area. Exceptional service converted a potentially dissatisfied customer, like Mary & I, into an advocate of the Princess line. We are now eagerly looking forward to our May cruise aboard the Grand Princess to the Eastern Caribbean. We would be happy to answer and questions you might have, especially those from first time cruisers. May your next cruise be your best, Happy cruising, Tom & Mary Milano TomandMaryMilano@Yahoo.com

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

About This Review This review is the result of 76 travel professionals that sailed on the Sea Princess in 2 separate groups on October 20th and November 10th, 2001 and represents an attempt to answer many questions about Sea Princess and her Mexican Riviera itinerary. This review is broken into 3 distinct areas; The Ship , a look at the Sea Princess, The Cruise , an overview

look at the ports and cruise, FAQ about the Sea Princess. Getting to the Ship The Sea Princess is berthed at pier 92 in San Pedro, California and is an easy 90-minute drive from my ranch in San Diego. There is ample parking at the terminal but since September 11th, 2001 the farthest lot is used for long-term parking to avoid having any cars close to the ships. There is a shuttle that picks you up at your car and delivers you to the terminal entrance. Parking for the week is $70.00 and only cash is accepted, no credit cards or checks are allowed. Those that pre registered by faxing in the passenger information form that was included with their documents were allowed to enter the pre registration line and were through the boarding process in ten minutes or less. Those not pre registered took about 30 minutes to conclude the boarding process so it would definitely be to your benefit to complete the pre registration form and fax it to Princess as this will save you a good amount of time. About Security I intended to make a big deal about the security that cruise lines have implemented since the events of September 11th, 2001 but was completely surprised at the effectiveness of the cruise lines in dealing with the increased security. While there are a good number of additional folks taking part in the boarding process and the additional security is obvious, one doesn’t get the feeling as if the cruise lines are at all concerned. I suspect that this is because of the tight security cruise ships have always enforced. Surveillance, policing, profiling and enforcement have long been common on cruise ships long before 9/11. The additional elements of security have been assimilated into everyday life to a point where there is hardly any notice of the changes. However, rest assured that security is quite tight and just about every conceivable possibility for any kind of problem has been slammed shut. I felt safer on the Sea Princess than I do at home. The Second Cruise Reinforced the Need for Travel Insurance! I escort 15 to 20 cruises a year and invariably someone gets hurt or sick once or twice a year. It is always a tragedy and always a financial strain. At the very least, one’s cruise is ruined and the experience lost to a more trying time. On the departure evening of the second cruise, one of our group members had chest pains that the ship’s doctor was afraid may have been a mild heart attack. The gentleman was held in the infirmary for almost 3 days until we arrived in Puerto Vallarta. Even though he felt fine, he was disembarked in Puerto Vallarta and transported to the hospital for treatment and the return to their home in the United States. This couple had purchased a Travel Guard travel insurance program and the entire event was totally covered by their policy. Had they not had insurance it would have run into the thousands of dollars (potentially, tens of thousands of dollars) to get home safely. While this is a non-commercial web site and does not accept any advertising…a testimonial is indeed a word of confidence passed on. For what it is worth, the consensus on the ship and among the travel agents was that Travel Guard Insurance is the best choice a consumer can make as they pay off when they are needed without question and this is exactly what happened in this instance. Please, please purchase travel insurance to cover these types of mishaps even if you believe it could never happen to you. The Ship The Sea Princess is a large ship at 77,499 gross tons, 857 feet long, 105.8 feet wide and carries 2,270 lucky guests. She is basically the same as her sister ships the Sun Princess and the Dawn Princess. Her funnel is distinctive and gives her a modern look that promises a unique quality and experience. She carries through on the promise and is indeed a wonderful ship for the Mexican Riviera itinerary that she cruises. She offers ample cabin space with myriad venues for entertainment and relaxation. With two main showrooms (both offering different acts simultaneously), 10 bars, several pool and Jacuzzi areas, shopping and lots going on day and night one cannot easily get bored. Following is a breakdown of the ship. The Cabins : Our groups both had outside mid category staterooms with an ocean view picture window. Our first sailing was on the Caribe Deck (9) and the second group was on the Dolphin Deck (8). The cabins were of generous size and well appointed with plenty of closet and drawer space. There was a “black out” curtain so that one could close the daylight out if one wanted darkness during the daytime. Next to the window was a large desktop that included a set of six drawers for storing clothing. There is only one 110v outlet at the desk and it also comes with a stool just the right height for using a notebook computer. There is a hair dryer to use as well adjoining the desk. Across the cabin is a refrigerator and televisions set with excellent programs (including many first run movies, CNN and others) in addition to the ship’s programming…shelves are also included for more storage. On one sailing my cabin had a queen-sized bed and on the other two singles, both configurations allowed for ample cabin space with plenty of space around the beds to navigate the cabin with ease. The bedding was very comfortable and there was a nightstand with a drawer and shelves for more storage. The air conditioning offered excellent room control and was sensitive to minor changes when requested. Next to the door to the rest room was a shelf and the entire wall on one side of the cabin was made up of mirrors to give the room an expansive feel. There were three closets (one full length, one with two levels for suits and shirts and the other with shelving and storage baskets. There is also a personal safe in this closet as well. The bathroom was typical of cruise ships offering a shower (with excellent temperature and water volume controls) toilet, sink with mirror and three shelves for storing toiletries. I always use a hanging toiletry bag and would suggest one be used for each person in the cabin to avoid clutter in the bathroom. All in all, the cabin was especially comfortable and met every one of my needs. HINT: Be sure to bring a multi outlet extension cord as there is only one 110/60 outlet in the cabin and if you want to operate more than one appliance at a time it will be necessary. A Tour of the Ship Deck 16: Way up on top of the ship and forward is a large sunning area with the Splash Pool. While this area is forward and exposed to the wind on sea days there are excellent wind deflectors that make laying out by the Splash Pool very comfortable even when people on the deck below you are being blown around. It was never crowded and was always a nice quiet place to relax when the other pools are crowded. Just keep going forward from the Sun Deck and climb stairs whenever they are presented. It is worth the hike if you want some quiet time on days at sea. Deck 15, The Sun Deck : Forward on Deck 15 is another excellent place to lie out in the sun. There are several areas blocked by wind deflectors where you can have some privacy and peace and quiet. There are more lounges the entire length of the Sun Deck with full sun exposure and few crowds. Topsail’s Bar : This nice outside bar overlooks the entire pool area of the Sea Princess and is open when weather permits during the daytime. Nice place to simply watch the day go by. Sports Court: Around the funnel of the Sea Princess is an excellent sports court that has a full size basketball half court. Deck 14, Lido Deck: Yet another outside deck is forward on the Lido and along the sides overlooking the main pool. Horizon Court: This is the main buffet on the Sea Princess and is open 24 hours a day for the entire cruise. The food is excellent and plentiful. Sushi is served on many days and was my favorite for lunch. Every morning saw fresh fruit, yogurt and lots of healthy choices along with traditional breakfast dishes as well. Lunch always found at least 2 different fresh vegetables, a vegetarian choice, a salad bar and several cold salads to boot. There was always a fish entrée choice as well. I didn’t eat dinner in the Horizon Court but I did notice that many on the cruise elected to dine there rather than any of the other restaurants. Hours of operation for the Horizon Court are as follows: Pastries and Beverages 4:00 am to 6:00 am Breakfast Buffet 6:00 am to 11:30 am Luncheon Buffet 11:30 am to 5:30 pm Dinner Buffet 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm Bistro 10:30 pm to 4:00 am Riviera Grill and The Sterling Steak House: This venue serves two purposes. During the day (11:00 am to 5:00 pm) it serves hamburgers, hot dogs and the like for the pool crowd. At 6:30 pm until 9:30 pm it turns into the ship’s alternate restaurant the “Sterling Steak House.” This al fresco steak house is an excellent choice if you like your steaks big and juicy. The menu consists of steaks like filets, Porterhouse (24 oz.) and other choice cuts of beef. There is an $8.00 cover charge per person (in addition to the normal gratuities) and reservations are a must. Seaview Bar: Here is yet another separate sunning area with its own bar, several Jacuzzis and a small pool. This is a great place to relax with a “drink of the day” and get some sun as well. Deck 12, Riviera Deck: The Riviera Pools and Bar : This is the main pool area on the Sea Princess. It offers an elaborate bar that serves the entire pool area. The pool area consists of a main pool (open to everyone) and an adult’s pool (finally a cruise line understands many adults want an adult atmosphere) there is also an adult’s only Jacuzzi by the adult’s pool and another Jacuzzi by the other pool. All in all, the pool area offers many excellent areas for sunning and does not have that “crowded” feeling one gets in the pool areas on many ships. Unique to Princess is the practice of issuing towels to your cabin for pool use. There are no towels poolside so you must remember to bring your beach/pool towel from your cabin. Fresh towels are made available daily in your cabin and are used for the pool and shore side. Aft of the main pool area is the ice cream parlor where Hagen Das ice cream is offered for sale. Some folks felt the ice cream should have been included in the price of the cruise however; this seems to be the trend on all cruise lines. On the starboard side just aft of the main pool is a wonderful little tyke’s recreation area that is completely enclosed. It offers a small pool and several interesting little areas that small children would find fascinating. The Fun Zone, Links, Wired and The Business Center: Aft of the pool are a number of attractions of special interest to passengers. The Fun Zone is the kid’s video game room and offers a good number of games. The Links is the room offering s golf simulator where one can play golf in a surreal environment. The Business Center offers computers to access the Internet and while a nice feature, there are only 4 personal computers that are available limited hours (about 6 hours per day.) Princess charges $7.50 for 15 minutes, which is not expensive compared with most ships, but access is painfully slow and there are always people waiting to get a computer. In my opinion Princess has missed a huge profit opportunity here as most other cruise lines have 24/7 access with a good number of computers and offer a flat rate…..let's see, 800 passengers paying $79 per week X 52 weeks…..that is over 3 million in lost revenue. If it were my ship, I would go purchase a few P.C.s. Beauty Salon and Spa: Further aft is the Beauty Salon that offers full services to the Sea’s passengers. While I didn’t use the salon’s services, many of the ladies that did felt the surroundings and services were excellent. The Spa offers full Steiner services that most cruisers are familiar with and seemed to be consistent with other Steiner spas on cruise ships. The Gym: This was a large disappointment to me. The gym offered a Universal machine with 5 stations (the kind you would find in most small hotel gyms) and a few dumbbells. There was an incline and horizontal weight bench…and that’s about it. The Universal machine was in need of attention and I decided not to work out for the entire cruise because of the nature of the equipment. There was also some cardio equipment as well. The gym was so off-the-mark that I believe it would cost Princess revenue, as folks that like to maintain their workout would certainly select another ship with a more substantial gymnasium. I would urge Princess to use the Universal Machine as an extra anchor and replace it with Cybex machines. Specifically, a chest press, butterfly, lats rowing, biceps curl, triceps push down, leg curl, leg lift and an ab crunch machine at the minimum. This would represent a nominal investment and would certainly bring the gym up to minimum competitive standards. Adjoining the gym was a large aerobic area that offered the classes that took place everyday. In the center of the gym/aerobic area accessed from both areas and also from deck 14 was a pool and two Jacuzzis. This level was a part of the pool/Jacuzzi complex surrounding the Seaview Bar and was an excellent place to relax. Deck 11, 10 and 9, Aloha, Baja and Caribe Decks: These three decks are all passenger cabins. On the first cruise our group was on the Caribe deck from forward to aft. Deck 8, Dolphin Deck: The Dolphin deck offers passenger cabins from mid ship aft and all the way forward. Our group on the second cruise was all located on this deck. The cabins offer LARGE picture windows. The Casino: The Sea Princess offers a nice set up for the casino. It is located one deck above the main entertainment deck and is out of the way offering gamers privacy while they enjoy their sport. Most ship’s casinos are located directly in the pathway of traffic as it flows through the ship, I prefer this set up much better as those gambling get much more privacy and those not, are not constantly exposed to it. The casino had numerous slot machines and a good number of table games. There is also a large bar in the casino that also serves coffee in the morning (a hint for those on deck 8, aft.) Lago’s Pizzeria: Here is a casual restaurant often overlooked because of its out-of-the-way location on deck 8. The Pizzeria offers pizza from 11 am in the morning until 4 pm in the afternoon and then adds Trattoria Service to its menu from 6:30 pm until 1:00 am. Everyone that ate at the Pizzeria gave it high marks and many folks took a majority of their evening meals there as well. Deck, 7, Promenade Deck: The Promenade deck is the main entertainment deck on the Sea Princess. It offers quiet deck chairs around its wrapping promenade on the outside and lots of things to do on the inside. Starting aft here are the venues. Vista Lounge: This is one of two main entertainment venues on the Sea Princess. Generally, this lounge is used for smaller acts such as comedians, jugglers and the like. It offers a good number of seats with excellent views of the stage and a full bar with numerous attendants working the room. Checkers Card Room and The Library: Quite a nice sized card room that is heavily used. This is also home for the future cruise consultant who has regular hours of operation. The Library offers quiet solitude with an ample amount of chairs and reading material. The Photo Shop: The Sea Princess Photo Shop is quite large and well stocked. The ship’s photos are displayed every evening and the shop does a booming business. However, I had a very difficult time trying to arrange for group photos for our groups. The only time that they would allow us to gather for a photo was late in the evening. On the first group we were able to pull it off (but many did not make it) and on the second group I had to call the shot off as dinner tables were in various stages of completing either their dinner or dessert and it would have been invasive to try and take the shot. I see this as a lost revenue opportunity for Princess as while it may take a bit longer to arrange a group photo than it does a portrait, they can sell so many more photos once the shot is taken. I have never had this kind of problem before on a ship and think the Sea Princess needs to review its group photo policies. Rocky’s Disco: This is the Sea’s disco and it sees quite a bit of action in the late evening. We used Rocky’s as our seminar venue and it worked out quite well. Rocky’s is located off the main corridor that leads the entire length of the ship but is isolated from the flow of traffic and is a rather intimate area to meet. Entre Nous: This is the Sea’s wine and champagne bar and the place where we met nightly for pre dinner cocktails. There is a bar with 6 or 8 stools and several small areas with chairs to enjoy. There is a solo entertainer playing soothing music each evening and it is an excellent place to relax either before or after dinner. Entre Nous offers some popular wines by the glass and also by the bottle. Atrium Lounge and Bar: The Atrium Lounge features a piano bar and a good number of sitting places for folks to relax and enjoy the entertainment. There is also a complete bar with several stools and small tables to enjoy. I found the area a bit disruptive as the normal flow of passenger traffic goes right through he heart of the bar and between the entertainer and the audience. Wheelhouse Bar: I really liked this bar. It is the Sea’s other main dance venue and also has a large number of sitting areas to enjoy. It is separated into two rooms, one with the bar and dance floor with open tables and the other with more intimate tables for those wanting to sit and talk rather than dance. There are two bands that trade off sets so that there is never a period without music. It is done very well and I give the Wheelhouse high marks as one of my favorite lounges on any ship. Princess Theater: This is the main entertainment venue for the ship’s reviews and other large shows. It is quite an elaborate theater and offers excellent views of the ship’s main productions. Deck 6, Emerald Deck Sicilian Restaurant: This is the traditional dining restaurant that offers main and late seating (6:15 pm and 8:30 pm) dining. It is a lovely restaurant with excellent service. We had approximately that same tables on both cruises (114-120) and consistently enjoyed excellent service. The Boutiques: The Sea Princess offers a number of shops offering great deals on liquor, perfume, and jewelry, Princess signature items and much more. They also have the proverbial “general store” that can fill whatever needs you have for the items you may have forgotten to pack. Deck 5, Plaza Deck Neapolitan Restaurant: This is the ship’s Personal Choice Restaurant where if you select Personal Choice Dining you may come when and with whom you wish for dinner. A group of us tried this restaurant one evening and found it to offer a high level of service and wonderful dining experience. The restaurant offers seating for 2 on up to 12 so it is a great choice if you want to experience intimate dining as a couple, 2 couples or any other combination that are traveling together. The Atrium, Reception Desk, Tour Offi ce, Patisserie and Grand Plaza: This is the main floor of the Atrium and is quite stunning. Here you will find the purser’s office, tour desk, a great bar serving treats and the main center of the Atrium, the Grand Plaza. The infirmary is down one flight of stairs on deck 4. The Cruise Since these were two separate cruises almost back to back, I will not go into the day-to-day itineraries but simply go into the details of the cruise. The Sea Princess itinerary to the Mexican Riviera departs San Pedro at 5 pm followed by two days at sea before arriving in Puerto Vallarta at 8 am the third day out. Leaving at 6 pm in the evening she overnights to Mazatlan where she spends the next full day until 6 pm. From Mazatlan she makes her way for an early morning arrival in Cabo San Lucas (before 7:30 am) where she spends the morning and then departs for San Pedro promptly at 1:30 pm arriving back early in the morning after a day and one half at sea. All in all, it is a very relaxing itinerary with lots of time to enjoy the sunshine or the Sea’s onboard activities. The Food: Everyone found the food on the Sea Princess excellent. For me, there were always healthy choices at every meal. I especially enjoyed the sushi bar that was set up in the Horizon Court during many lunches, the fresh vegetables every lunch and the papaya (along with other fruit) in the morning. I couldn’t have been happier. During the second formal night those that selected lobster were treated to an unlimited serving. After the initial two lobster tails the waiter came around with more and offered them to everyone that wanted them and kept coming back until everyone was completely satisfied. This is a treat not usually found on most ships since food costs have been the focus of the cruise lines. Every meal offered a seafood selection as well as several meats but gone is the “pasta prepared at your table” course the Princess used to offer. However, no one missed it, as the servings were always large and prepared wonderfully. The service in the dining rooms is still the same high quality Princess is known for. Ditto for the Personal Choice and alternate Restaurants. The Bars and Lounges: For the most part the service in the bars was excellent with the exception of a sour puss faced gentleman that worked in the pool bar during the day. I forgot his name (James, I think) but this guy was horrible. He would be washing glasses while you stood there waiting to order a drink and when he finally decided to pay attention to you, would treat everyone in a condescending manner. I watched as one lady ordered a glass of water…you would have thought she was committing a sin. On the other hand, the staff at Entre Nous was as professional, friendly and accommodating as one could possibly imagine. The Entertainment: Once again, everyone raved about the entertainment with only minor exceptions. The Princess Cruises production shows were fabulous! The level of energy in the singing and dancing was simply wonderful as was the choreography, stage props and costumes. Folks were missing dinner to see the same show twice, Of special note were Bert and Howie on the first cruise. While I have seen Bert and Howie a number of times their act simply gets better and better with age. If you are fortunate enough to be on a cruise where they are performing, you will have the time of your life! Go Howie, Go Howie. If you can’t find something to do in the evening that meets your taste on the Sea Princess, then probably don’t belong on a cruise ship. The entertainment venues and acts themselves are excellent. The Days at Sea: With 3 ½ days at sea, much of the cruise is spent entertaining one’s self with the myriad of choices of activities made available in the Princess Patter (the Sea Princess’ daily newsletter.) Princess does an excellent job of offering several different choices of activities all day long so that one could never become bored. I choose to enjoy the sunshine we were blessed with and found peace and quiet by the splash pool that was never crowded. Even the main pool area never got that crowded and I was always able to find a lounge chair to reside in for a few hours. During the second cruise some of the ladies in our group had purchased one of the “race horses” and invited me to join them in the “owners box” for champagne and pre race activities. It was quite fun and as luck would have it they won several hundred dollars. There are numerous places on the Sea Princess to escape to if you want to spend the afternoon relaxing with a book and enjoying the fresh air as well. The Promenade deck offered many such places. Laundry Facilities: In addition to excellent room service for dry cleaning and laundry, the Sea offers a coin operated Laundromat on each passenger deck floor. Note that the iron is free to use, as is the ironing board. This was a lifesaver for me. The Ports: Puerto Vallarta resides in the depth of Banderas Bay, a huge bay that encompasses dozens of miles of somewhat protected coastline. There is much to do in Puerto Vallarta and with just one day in port it is hard to decide what to do. The Sea Princess docks in the heart of Puerto Vallarta and the main downtown shopping area is only a $2.00 ($22 peso) cab ride away. Downtown is excellent for shopping and dining (I like the shrimp at Hamburgers in Paradise and a libation at Café Without a Name.) Princess offers many shore excursions from treks into the pine covered mountains behind Puerto Vallarta, to horseback riding in the jungle, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, beach trips and so on. If you have never been to Puerto Vallarta take a city tour and then have them drop you off downtown for some shopping and walk back to the ship along the beach (takes an hour or so.) Here are my favorite things to do in Puerto Vallarta. For families; go to Los Veneros on Punta De Mita (about 30 minutes north of the ship) Here you have a great beach with few people on it, a beach club with 2 swimming pools, a little kids water park, a swim-up bar and restaurant. There are also shops selling local art and a tropical bird show if you are interested. It is a great day for families because everyone has something to do and it isn’t commercial or crowded. There is also an excellent right reef/point surf spot just north of Los Veneros. For those that like quaint Mexican villages and fabulous beaches, take a cab to Sayulita (about 45 minutes north of the ship on the Pacific coast.) Here you will find quaint palapa restaurants serving fish, shrimp and other treats from the ocean, a sleepy little Mexican village that is extremely friendly, some shopping and a simply gorgeous palm tree lined cove that is the essence of tropical Mexico. It is to die for (I should also mention that Sayulita has excellent surf (both a quality right and river mouth left.) The port in Mazatlan is alongside the main industrial area of the city. While the coast is only ½ mile or so away, you would think you are back in San Pedro. Mazatlan is a bustling port city in Mexico but also offers some interesting sites. Key things to do in Mazatlan are visiting the Golden Zone (a heavily commercialized tourist zone with lots of hotels, restaurants and shops), getting wild and crazy at Senior Frogs (a bar catering to tourists famous for its rowdiness) visiting the flea market downtown and enjoying the older section of downtown and its wonderful coastline with its cliff divers that perform for the never ending tourists arriving on tour buses. Princess offers a number of city, shopping and sightseeing tours as well as a trek up into the Sierra Madre’s pine covered forests and culture. If you want to go sport fishing, Mazatlan is the place to do it. Be aware however, that bait, tips and other services are not included in the initial price. Bait fishing will produce better results and count on spending $2.00 per live bait. If you are lucky enough to catch a fish and want it released, be sure to make it known before you leave the dock as a condition of the trip. My favorite thing to do in Mazatlan is to walk around the old section’s maze of streets to the flea market and then along the oceanfront walkway down to Cannon’s Point (crowded surf spot) and back. There is a local restaurant about 4 blocks north of the gate to the port that has some of the best shrimp I have ever eaten, however you had better know enough Spanish to get your order across or you will never know what you are served. Cabo San Lucas is a wonderful little town right at land’s end on the Baja Peninsula. The Sea Princess anchors up right in the lee of “Los Arcos” or The Arches at land’s end and it is a wonderful site to behold. Everyone must tender into Cabo San Lucas and process is executed by using tender tickets that are obtained when you are ready to go ashore. Those on Princess shore excursions have priority over those that are not on shore excursions so Cabo is an excellent place to take a shore excursion if you have never been there before. HINT: the Sea Princess usually sends one or two tenders in first thing in the morning before the shore excursion people are ready to leave. If you want to go ashore early to maximize your short stay in Cabo, be ready to disembark when the first tender is launched (around 7:00 am or so) Princess offers a myriad of shore excursions in Cabo San Lucas that include boat sightseeing around Land’s End, horseback riding on the beach, city sightseeing tours, sport fishing, diving and snorkeling, ecological tours and more. I would suggest taking the first sightseeing tour and then being dropped off downtown in Cabo for shopping and an early lunch. Also, The Giggling Marlin is another famous watering hole in Cabo and while it is too early for a libation, you can get a photo of yourself (or a loved one) hanging upside down on the Giggling Marlin fish display area. My favorite thing to do in Cabo is to grab a taxi down to Costa Azul (a surfing beach with great surf) and either surf or just hang out at the beach. Costa Azul is about 15 miles east of Cabo (almost into San Jose Del Cabo) and is a very pretty beach with some restaurants and shops. If you haven’t been to Cabo before or don’t like the beach/surf crowd then visiting Cabo San Lucas would be the best choice. Hints on Visiting Mexico: Mexico is a wonderful country full of loving, giving and friendly people. To open up their culture you must meet them half way. Please learn a few phrases and words in Spanish. Even if you mispronounce them terribly, if you follow it with a smile and another try at it, you will be rewarded with a new friendship and someone willing to speak the perfect English practically every Mexican speaks. Have fun negotiating: Mexicans love to negotiate and it is a fun thing to do. You are under no obligation to purchase anything so have fun in the negotiation. Complement your opponent on their negotiating skills when it is all over whether you buy or not. If you are subject of an unwanted solicitation simply smile and say calmly “no, gracias amigo” and they will go away. If you shout at them or act irritated they will continue. Use TelMex Prepaid Telephone Cards: Oh man, when you see a telephone offering service to the U.S. watch out! Some telephones can cost you US$50.00 simply for the connection, not to mention the time you speak. Even communication centers can be very expensive. Your best bet is to purchase prepaid telephone cards that operate in the TelMex phones. The come in different denominations and the best value is the 100 peso (about US$11.00) for 15 minutes or so. Once you have purchased the card simply insert it into the telephone and dial the country code (United States is 001) and then the area code and then the telephone number. It is that easy and you will save a fortune. Get to Know Your Taxi Driver: If you negotiate a taxi to take you around for a few hours part of the charm of the experience is getting to know him or her. They will gladly share their life and family experiences and reward you with colorful stories. Once you have befriended your taxi driver you can have him take you to his favorite spots and you can bet it will a great experience. Frequently Asked Questions Do I need a passport for this cruise? I would suggest everyone obtain a passport but it is not necessary for this cruise. You can provide a certified copy of your birth certificate instead. The more Identification you have (such as a driver’s license) the better. You may have a difficult time reentering the U.S. without proper identification. Is it safe to eat the food in Mexico? Avoid drinking water, eating unpeeled fruit or vegetables, salads and any other food that may contain or been exposed to, unpurified water. Drink bottled water (or beer) and eat only foods cooked properly and you will have no problem whatsoever. Use common sense. I always keep my hepatitis A & B shots current and this is the best way to protect your self while traveling or even when you at home. Do I need to be able tp speak Spanish Practically everyone in the cities visited on this itinersry speak perfect English. However they appreciate your attempt at speaking Spanish and will enjoy your attempts rewarding them with open discussions in English. If nothing else, learn a few key phrases and words to use while in Mexico.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

TrvlJrnlst@aol.com   Departure Dates: October 20th, 2001 Embarkation: We arrived via a Princess transfer bus from LAX. After retrieving our luggage, we waited over 45 minutes for a bus at the airport. The greeter from Princess was very apologetic and indicated that this was highly unusual. Once the bus arrived at the terminal, we were subjected to sitting on the bus for about another hour, before we were able

enter the terminal and check-in. This was my first cruise from the west coast, so I do not know if this is typical of Los Angeles embarkation, or possibly due to the heightened  security after Sept. 11.  Regarding security, I was reassured by the extra measures in place. Checking-in at the terminal was much like airport security. I was required to show my ID 3 times before boarding. When we were ready to set sail, I felt secure with the number of highly visible National Guardsmen on board, as well as the secure waterways. I had pre-registered on line before the cruise and this process was flawless. The line for pre-registrants was short and moved very quickly. The Princess representative who processed me was exceptionally friendly, and when she discovered I was a travel agent, she was very helpful about giving me some little tips to make my trip more enjoyable. Our luggage arrived in record time -- less than an hour after we boarded. The Ship: The Sea Princess is a sleek and stylish ship. Its focal point is the 4 deck Plaza Atrium with lots of greenery, glass, and marble. It, along with the other public areas, I found to be comfortable and tastefully appointed. The ship had a pleasant ambiance, but I felt it lacked a personality of its own. It reminded me of any nice hotel in a major city. My favorite public room was the Wheelhouse Bar. With its rich, dark wood and deep, comfortable furniture, arranged in many small conversational nooks, it was a room that made me feel most at home. One important note about many of the public rooms, particularly the 2 showrooms, is that they were often very cold. It was a stark contrast to the pleasant outside temperatures, so ladies make sure you bring a sweater or light jacket if you wish to enjoy the shows.  My outside cabin, on Caribe Deck, was very nice and had ample closet and storage space for a week long cruise. The bathroom was small, but adequate. (I did have trouble shaving my legs in the shower, but, by the end of the week, I discovered a technique that worked). My roommate and I had the 2 twin bed configuration. Visiting the cabins of others in our group, I noticed having the beds pushed together to provide a queen configuration provided more space (or at least the illusion of more space). The lighting in the cabin was very well designed. The cabin could be brightly lit when needed, but there were many soft lighting options. The reading lamps over the bed , with dimmer switches, were particularly nice when one person in the cabin wanted to read, while the other wanted to sleep. The hair dryer was another bonus. Although many ships now come equipped with hair dryers in the cabin, this was the first one I encountered that actually worked well.  My room steward, Arthur, was efficient and friendly. He also garnered my roommate and I Princess bathrobes to use during the cruise. My only complaint would be the stewards maintenance carts were left in the hallways all day. It was often parked right outside my door and Arthur had a unique way of making annoying, paper/plastic shaking sounds each morning. When you would emerge from the cabin, he would greet you with a huge smile and friendly good morning . I think the noise was his subtle way of getting me up and out for the day, so he could clean my cabin.  The pool areas were quite nice. The water in the pools was exceptionally warm (almost too warm), and the Jacuzzis surrounding the pools were perfect. Many of the games and activities I have seen on other ships being held poolside (i.e. horseracing) were held in a variety of other locations aboard the ship. This made lounging in the sun very relaxing end enjoyable. The Sun Deck forward, near the splash pool, is a super spot for getting a nice breeze and enjoying a fantastic view while perfecting your tan. If you enjoy walking, or jogging, the Promenade Deck offers an unobstructed and covered track that circles the ship. It also has some great chairs for lounging, reading, or napping in relatively quiet solitude.  I do not gamble, but my roommate does, and she found the casino to be adequate. It is not exceptionally large, and was relatively quiet most nights. It did have all the requisite games to keep gamblers happy, and there were enough slots willing to eat her money.  Food and Entertainment: I found the food to be good, but not outstanding. The selections were varied, but being a meat and potatoes Midwesterner, some of the choices were too gourmet for my liking. Although such things as steak, chicken breast, and fettuccine Alfredo were available at every dinner meal, I do try to expand my taste buds while cruising, so I went for some choices I may not have tried at home, and was not overly impressed. Those who have a broader palate than mine seemed to be quite content. Desserts were again good, but not outstanding. I am not sure they were worth the extra calories they cost me.  The wait staff was efficient and attentive, but not obtrusive. I enjoyed eating at the second seating, assigned dining. It gave me an opportunity to meet and develop friendships with some great NACTA members. Some of the group chose the "personal choice" dining and seemed to like the option. I heard The Sterling Steakhouse, which is really a portion of the Lido Deck overlooking the pool, was outstanding. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of dining there and I'll have to make sure I try it next time.  The Horizon Court buffet had standard breakfast and lunch choices, as well as some occasional tasty surprises. However, as is typical of my cruise experiences, the hot foods were usually lukewarm. I did enjoy the fruit selection, and there were some nice choices at lunch time that were of the light snack variety. The Horizon Court had one major flaw: the traffic flow. There were 2 lone beverage stations on each side causing serious congestion. They would have been better suited outside the food stations to allow for easier access.  The production shows were excellent. As a Broadway musical lover, I was impressed by the lavish costuming (particularly in "C'est Magnifique") and the lead singers. The male lead, Dan O'Brien, was very talented, and far superior to most production singers I have heard on cruises. I was particularly impressed with the dancers rendition of the "can-can". The comedy jugglers were fun to watch and the snippets of a performance I heard by a guest vocalist, Jacqi Michaels, were exceptional. On the flip side, I was not as impressed with the other onboard entertainers. The house musicians and singers performing in the lounges and poolside were mediocre at best. They seemed to have a very limited repertoire and were somewhat bland. I found myself visiting the disco more often than usual, just to get a little variety in my listening pleasure.  Overall Experience: I have never taken a bad cruise, just being onboard thrills me. With that said, I have tried to be objective and offer personal impressions. Although I truly enjoyed the cruise and the ship, there seemed to be some downsizing of onboard amenities. As this is the first cruise I have taken since Sept. 11, it will be my goal to cruise more frequently so that I can determine if cutbacks are a pattern we will see on all cruise lines in the future, or if it is just a change in the Princess product.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

About Us: My wife (Julianne) is thirty-eight, a director in the Property and Casualty division of a local insurance company. I am forty-one and train students on Java, Visual Basic and COBOL mainframe computer programming at the same company. We have cruised seven times and this was our fourth with Princess. Precruise: When we left home at 6:00am it was 27 degrees, when we arrived in Fort Lauderdale early in the afternoon it

was 79 degrees. What a difference a thousand miles makes in March! We stayed at AmeriSuites the day before the cruise. Nice place that will pick you up at the airport and take you to the cruise port.  They even dropped us off (and picked up) at the 15th St. Fisheries for dinner. This was an awesome place for seafood dining. My wife said this was the best dinner she has ever had. The rooms at AmeriSuites are roomy, nice location (great place to walk) and price includes continental breakfast. We'll be staying here on our next visit. Overview of the ship: The condition of the Sea was immaculate everywhere we looked (similar to the Sun and Star Princess and Celebrity Century). True to the Princess creed, the cruise staff was very friendly and except for one employee, they never said 'no' to any of our requests. A comfortable area for lunch and snacks was the 24-hour Horizon Court. The Terrace Grill outside the Horizon court served up cheeseburgers, ballpark hotdogs and fries. The Pizzeria was open afternoons and evenings and served great pizza. Overall the food was excellent in the dining room for breakfast and dinner. The coffee was better than expected at all serving locations throughout the ship (hint - the La Pattiserie serves fresh brewed coffee at no charge, its made from coffee beans by the pot). The huge deck area included ping-pong tables, shuffleboard and basketball. Freshwater swimming pools and hot tubs are open 24-hours a day. Overall the entertainment was very good to excellent. The use of two full sized show-rooms and lounges provides everyone a variety of entertainment each night. I would estimate 50% of the passengers on the ship were from America, and 40% were from Canada (official spring break in Canada). As with our prior Princess cruise, the average age of the passengers was very mixed. My passengers age barometer: older than Carnival, younger than Celebrity and RCI. The cruise was sold out and we never felt crowded or stood in long lines. The longest wait for a tender was only ten minutes. Our day by day review: Saturday, March 10 - Weather: Partly Sunny / 73 degrees - Sea: Slight We arrived at the port around 10:00 am for embarkation at 11:45am. It took less than five minutes for check-in, which included processing of ship charge card and checking all paper work. The normal 'Welcome Aboard' picture, then up the escalator and a brief two minute wait and then one more picture (ship security) and finally onto the ship. We had an inside room, rear Aloha deck. The room was very appropriate for our needs. With suitcases unpacked, we still had empty drawers and closet space to spare. The room was very quite and only on occasion did we hear anything other than chatter in the hallways during busy periods. We met our room steward who was not happy to see us. They had a problem that caused most of the staff to lose two hours of work that morning. Without going into detail, this was the first and only problem we had faced with a Princess employee. He still did a good job cleaning our room and the problem was dealt with later in the week. The afternoon was consumed quickly inspecting the ship and then eating some pizza. Someone walked by and said 'are you Jody Brown' and with a puzzled face (how could someone know me so far away from home?) I said yes. It was TinaLee (from Cruise Critics Message Board) and her family. She stopped and chatted for a few minutes. We saw each other almost every day all week and had a great time with them. Our luggage arrived around 4:00 and after unpacking, we had the Muster drill at 5:30 p.m. We had a table of ten for dinner and met our fellow cruisemates for the week. The table consisted of eight woman and two men. The dining room looked amazingly small and quiet. Princess has done a wonderful job arranging this room into 'small areas' to achieve this feeling. Our waiter, asst waiter and of course the food were all excellent! We attended the Welcome Aboard Show hosted by the cruise director Peter Tredgett. He and his staff did an exceptional job all week. Hint - check him out on 'Must Sea TV' in the mornings from 6 -10. It's a fifteen minute (continually repeated) show where they review the Princess Patter. Very, very funny! Sunday, March 11 - Weather: Sunny / 78 degrees - Sea: Slight While waiting for the ship to arrive at Princess Cays, Bahamas, we did the trivia challenge. We had fun and finished second. At 10:30 we went to Princess Cays. This is a private island that Princess has developed into an enjoyable beach area for passengers. We relaxed on the beach the rest of the morning on hammocks (next to TinaLee) and stayed for lunch early in the afternoon. This evening was formal dress and the Captains welcome aboard party in the atrium. Our dinner was as good as the previous night. One note on the dinner selections: every night Princess offers an 'always available' choice of dinner selections. This is a great for passengers who don't like all or part of the menu on certain evenings. In the Princess Theater we saw 'Rhythm of the City', my wife thought it was very good. We then went to Rockys Night Club for Karaoke and had a great time. Monday, March 12 - Weather: Sunny / 80 degrees - Sea: Slight A day at sea and the sun was simply glorious! We did morning Trivia again and then hit the poll area for sun (pool area was packed!). In the afternoon we participated in the 'Newlywed Not So Newlywed Gameshow' hosted by Peter and 'Vanna' Martin. It was a great time, and again we finished second (is everyone starting to see a trend here?!?). Later in the week Martin told us we were the best couple (by that he meant FUNNY) he had seen in a long time. For rest of the week, people would stop us and tell us what a riot we were! Dinner (semi-formal) was again excellent, followed up by a lazy evening of simply having a drink in the Wheelhouse Bar and then laying under the stars in a hot tub. Tuesday, March 13 - Weather: Sunny / 84 degrees - Sea: Slight We awoke to a beautiful morning in Ocho Rios (that was the highlight of this port). We were here three years ago and had no problems at all. We walked to the two main shopping areas and I honestly can't think of a single minute when we weren't approached for a taxi, have hair braided, purchase a Red Stripe beer or even some 'smoke'. It was tiring and thankfully Princess is pulling out of Jamaica and we won't be 'tempted' to get off the ship here anymore. Dinner (Tropical/casual) was again excellent, followed-up by comedian Kier. Wednesday, March 14 - Weather: Sunny / 82 degrees - Sea: Slight Another picture perfect morning, this time in Grand Caymans. After an excellent breakfast we tendered to the shopping district of George Town for some shopping (rum cake!). They have a new La Casa Del Habano here, so I spent quite a bit of time looking over cigars and drinking wonderful Cuban Coffee. Grand Cayman is a beautiful, clean, wealthy island. This ended up being our busiest evening on the ship. We attended the Captains Circle Club party and then to dinner (formal) which was excellent and then a brief fifteen minute round of roulette in the casino (won $117). Next was an excellent show "C'est Magnifique" in the Vista Lounge. Then to Rockys Night Club for Karaoke, followed up by the midnight Champagne Waterfall in the atrium. That was one of the best days at sea I can remember! Thursday, March 15 - Weather: Sunny / 86 degrees - Sea: Slight Again, a picture perfect day, with a nice tropical breeze in Cozumel. We arrived at the new pier and shopped for three hours (great prices on several items) and finished the morning at Carlos & Charlie's for lunch and adult beverages. The island was very clean and the people who worked here were kind and helpful. We soaked up the sun by the pool in the afternoon and consumed more adult beverages. Dinner was great, our lobster was 'fab', and probably the best we ever have eaten. After dinner we went to see 'Words and Music' in the Princess Theater. I thought it was very good, my wife said it was excellent. Julianne was very tired, so we missed the 'Pub Night Comedy Show', which we heard the next day, was awesome. Friday, March 16 - Weather: Sunny / 84 degrees - Sea: Slight This was our last day at sea. My wife spent most of the day relaxing by the pool and saying goodbye to new friends met throughout the week. We did manage to play both morning and afternoon rounds of trivia and my wife played bingo. I played in the blackjack tournament and finished third at my table. I packed late in the afternoon, but did manage to see a dolphin by the side of the ship.  My wife took advantage of our last day at sea and laid out by the back of the pool.  Dinner was excellent (again) and we went to the Vista Lounge to see Dave Heenan. He puts on a great comedy show and even though we have seen him three times, his material has always been new each time. Saturday, March 17 Disembarkation was quick and smooth. Our four pieces of luggage were all together in the same row (first for us!). We boarded a bus to the airport and said goodbye to a great cruise! Overall: This cruise was our second favorite (9.75 on a 10 scale), closely behind a perfect cruise a few years ago on the Star Princess. We would highly recommend both Princess and the Sea Princess for anyone who enjoys great service, very good food and a relaxing atmosphere. We booked a cruise next March on the Dawn Princess on the ship. Highlights: - Peter (CD) and the staff (special praise to Martin) were great. - The food was excellent every day, without a doubt the best we've had on a cruise. - Our dinner tablemates were a 'hoot'! We had a great time each night with them. - The ship was clean everywhere, all the time. - Paul at the La Pattiserie (I think of this as the news center of the ship, if you wanted to know what's going on, hang around this place for an hour or so in the morning) was great to talk with during our morning coffee breaks. - Dave Heenan was great with the guests all week. We had coffee with him almost everyday and he told some great stories and jokes. Improvements: - Need to have more TV channels and movies on all day. If anyone would like more information or have questions answered, please send us an e-mail, we would be happy to help. Jody and Julianne Brown

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Nov 30, -0001

Ft. Lauderdale, Princess

This was my 7th cruise and my wife’s 9th, our second on Princess. We sailed on the Sun three years ago, and felt like we were on the same ship again…only the artwork differed. It’s a beautiful ship, and we were duly impressed again. Having booked our air through Princess with a $35 deviation per person, we also had purchased transfers to the ship. However, since we landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 10:15, we ignored our transfers

and took a cab to the ship for $10 plus tip. Glad we did, too, since we were aboard at 12:30 and ate in the Horizon Court. Our checked baggage arrived at 2:00 pm…..the earliest of any cruise so far. We were completely unpacked by 3:00. How nice! We had the entire afternoon to explore the ship and show it off to my daughter and her husband. It was their first cruise, and they loved it! The service and staff also reminded us of the Sun Princess, since very little was different. We felt that the staff was courteous enough, but that the smiles, etc. weren’t all that sincere. They seemed rather “put on” to us. For example, when we saw a member of the cruise director’s staff, they always avoided eye contact with us unless we specifically addressed them. When we did that, we saw a seemingly-forced smile and heard a courteous reply, but our overall impression was that the staff just didn’t care to have any more passenger contact than was absolutely necessary. (That contrasts vividly with our cruises on Royal Caribbean, where the CD’s staff was genuinely friendly.)  The dining room food was much like we experienced on the Sun Princess: some very good menu items, but overall a menu which we found very difficult, at times, finding something that we really wanted to order. Very heavy with veal and lamb, which we don’t care for. I had absolutely outstanding prime rib, whereas the lobster was dry and overcooked. I never got a bad shrimp dish, though. Whether in a shrimp cocktail or cooked in a seafood entrée, it was always fresh, tasty, and cooked to perfection. The baby lettuce salad was identical to the one we had on the Sun, and was excellent. The pasta dishes were outstanding. However, the fish dishes were monotonously strong-smelling and not very good. The Eggs Benedict were awful, but the fresh papaya and pineapple were great. Lots of contrasts in the quality of menu items. The chocolate fudge ice cream in the dining room was superb, as were most of the other home-made ice creams and sorbets they served. We refused to pay extra for the Haagen Das, but didn’t miss it. Of course, if we didn’t like any of the special entrees, we had the option every evening of the alternative chicken, salmon, or sirloin steak. My wife ordered the salmon and the chicken once, and I ordered salmon once. The salmon and chicken were dry and overcooked…too long under a heat lamp, probably. We did have an excellent waiter and headwaiter in the dining room, but our assistant waiter, although fairly efficient, had absolutely no personality. Dining room service, overall, was great. The Horizon Court food wasn’t bad at all, especially at breakfast and lunch. We never ate dinner there, but enjoyed most of the lunches and breakfasts. On the other hand, service in the Horizon Court left much to be desired. For example, I was a klutz one morning and spilled my glass of orange juice all over my plate and my lap while sitting down to eat. A waiter magically appeared, and asked, “And how did you enjoy your orange juice this morning?” It was probably an attempt at humor, but in view of the fact that he merely smiled and made no attempt to assist me, I did not think it at all amusing. I had to take the plate to a busboy station myself. That wasn’t typical of the service in the Horizon Court, but the service was never what we would consider good, either. The Pizzaria was just as lousy on the Sea Princess as it had been on the Sun. In fact, we seldom saw more than two people eating pizza at any given time, and the Pizzaria was usually empty. Afternoon tea has been moved from the Atrium and other, small, semi-private areas into the dining room. Not a good way to do it….we felt like we were in a cattle car, just being herded along. Our stateroom was identical to the one we had on the Sun Princess, but was considerably smaller than a Category D on RCI’s newer ships. We did use the small balcony a few times, but mostly it was a convenient place to hang a clothesline to dry my dive gear and our swimsuits. Our room was extremely quiet, and the only problems we encountered were (1) a slight urine smell when we first arrived (a can of Lysol spray took care of that) and a shower that didn’t drain very well (the cabin steward fixed that). Overall, we enjoyed the room. The entertainment wasn’t very good. They had the same comedian for two evenings, although I understand that his material was different for the second performance…we didn’t go the second time. Then, on the next three consecutive evenings, they had the same two shows. No problem for the first two nights, for we could switch off. The third time, however, repetition was inevitable. We felt that Princess should have booked more entertainers for the 7-day cruise. The private “island” was still very nice, and they had done a very good job of cleaning up after the hurricanes…even including bringing in more sand for the beach. We had an excellent barbecue buffet on the island. The day at sea was nice. We laid out and got some sun, although we had to go up to the little splash pool topside to get deck chairs. Oh…for those of you wondering about what looked like a car on the Grand Princess bridgecam, it was. There was one up by the splash pool on the Sea Princess, too. It seems that each Princess ship has a new Toyota that they’re giving away, along with a free 7-day cruise, to one of their passengers. All passengers through the end of the year who are U.S. citizens are automatically entered in the drawing. Although my wife and I had visited and disliked Ocho Rios twice before, we thoroughly enjoyed the shore excursion we took this time. We booked the combination sea kayak and Dunns River Falls trip for $69 each, and it was really a hoot! We then walked from the ship to the Taj Mahal shopping area and back, and no one harrassed us at all. Nice day. The Splendour of the Seas was the only other ship in port. In Grand Cayman, I did two scuba dives (Robert’s Wall and Stingray Alley) while my wife did a small load of laundry and shopped in town. We then met in our room and went back to town for about 45 minutes. Nice day there, too. We were in port with the Carnival Triumph (I think) and the HAL Veendam (I think).  In Cozumel, on Thanksgiving Day, I dived again, and my wife shopped.. In order to save money, Princess had us ride on a slow dive boat for 40 minutes to the dive shop instead of spending a little cab fare, which would have gotten us there in less than 10 minutes …same thing on the way back. Pretty cheap and inefficient, if you ask me….and the Princess New Waves staff member on our dive agreed. I paid an extra $55 for a video of the dive, but it wasn’t delivered to the ship before we sailed at 7:00. I hope it comes in the mail, but I’m not holding my breath. Princess was using a new dive operation, and they really want to get the contract, so it might still show up. The dives were great: Palancar Gardens and Paradise North. After I got back to the ship, we went into San Miguel to shop, snack, and suck up some margaritas. The one I had at Pancho’s Backyard was horrid, but we went to another nice restaurant and had great (and great big) ones! Then back to the ship, with me slightly soused, singing Bob Marley’s “One Love” all the way back. GOOD margaritas! Probably a good thing I didn’t order another one when we went into Carlos n’ Charlie’s.. The last day at sea was again nice. We found some deck chairs on the top deck aft, overlooking the small pool and hot tubs, and  “vegged” again. Bar service was just OK…not very many bar waiters to take orders; we had to go to the bar and order our own.  No real problem, but not the greatest service, either. This occurred throughout the cruise. I had forgotten how small the onboard shops were, and I was very disappointed in their limited merchandise. There is no liquor store onboard, although they did put some bottles out on tables on the last night. I like to buy a coffee mug with the name of each ship I’ve been on, but there were NO ship-specific souvenirs to be had other than caps and shirts. They had lots of millennium mugs and Princess Cruise Line mugs, but nothing with the name of the ship on it. Their tee shirts and sweatshirts were very limited in size, too. For example, my daughter wanted to buy a sweatshirt, but all they had were S and XL. One tee I liked was available only in S and L….and that was on the first day! On debarkation day, we had to stand in line for an hour to do a pre-check-in with our airline. Then, once we got off the ship, all we had to do was claim our luggage and have it taken to the Delta truck. Pretty easy once we left the ship, but a real pain having to stand in line that long at 6:15 am. Oh, well….  There was absolutely no hassle for us to get out of our cabin by a certain time, etc. Other cruise lines should take a lesson from Princess in this regard! This review probably seems to imply that we had a terrible time. We didn’t. My wife and I enjoyed the cruise, and my daughter and son-in-law had a great time. Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d have to think long and hard before I’d do it on a Princess ship. We simply prefer the RCI way of doing things. When I sailed on the Sun Princess, all I had to compare it to was NCL, so I naturally liked it. Having been on two RCI cruises since the Sun, though, I just don’t think that either the Sun or the Sea Princess come even close to measuring up to RCI.,,,,but it was still a nice cruise!

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

Introduction This review concerns the Sea Princess Alaska northbound cruise tour 1C with a three-day pre-cruise visit to Vancouver and Victoria. This was our first cruise, but it certainly won’t be our last, as the ship and Princess personnel (on land and at sea) totally exceeded our expectations. Everyone we encountered was personable, courteous, and helpful. Kudos to Princess for this exceptional group of employees. We booked the entire

trip and all our shore excursions through Princess and were very pleased with the way Princess handled luggage, hotel check-in, and transportation. We chose to handle our own air arrangements so that we could use frequent flyer miles. This worked well for us, since we could choose our airline and flight times. Day 1 – Vancouver We arrived in Vancouver on June 15th at about 1:30 in the afternoon following a long flight from Houston with a layover in Minneapolis. The Vancouver airport is beautiful, but be prepared for a LONG walk from your plane to immigration. Surprisingly, immigration was very slow, even with every line open. Several international flights arrived at the same time, and it took us 45 minutes to creep through the line. We then had a scare at baggage claim when NONE of our four suitcases showed up on the designated carousel. As we were in the process of filing our claim, another passenger suggested we check in a different location, and sure enough, our luggage was waiting for us. Seems that they had this problem several times on the day we arrived. Once we had our bags, we walked right through customs with no delay, and met the Princess representative. She escorted us out to the passenger pick-up area, and within five minutes we were in a taxi on our way to the Westin Bayshore. The Westin Bayshore is a newly renovated resort hotel in the West End of downtown Vancouver, adjacent to Stanley Park. It is modern and beautifully decorated, with a large spacious lobby. The main public areas include two restaurants, a Starbucks coffee shop, and several boutiques. The hotel has a small indoor pool, a hot tub, and a sauna in the athletic facility (free to guests), and a large heated pool outdoors overlooking the marina. Guestrooms are not large, but are very comfortable with brand new furniture and fabrics. Sliding glass doors and a wall of windows let in lots of fresh air and a great view! We freshened up from the long trip, and walked over to Canada Place to watch the Nieuw Amsterdam sail for Alaska. Vancouver is a beautiful city, and the weather was perfect – about 70 degrees with not a cloud in the sky and no humidity. The weather was a real treat for us, since Houston has been scorchingly hot since the beginning of May. After leaving Canada Place, we walked around Gastown, saw the famous steam clock, smelled food cooking, and hunger pains set in. Since we weren’t able to find a restaurant without a long wait, we walked back to the Westin and ate at the Seawall Bistro. The food was surprisingly good, and we ate outside on the deck where we could watch the boats come and go in the marina. Very relaxing after a long, tiring travel day! Day 2 – Victoria We boarded a Gray Line bus for our day trip to Victoria at 8:45 a.m. After picking up passengers from other cruise lines, we headed for the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. Our bus driver was very entertaining, and he pointed out sights throughout the ride. I was surprised that our whole bus went on the ferry, but it was a very efficient way to make the crossing to Vancouver Island. We remained with our bus and driver throughout the day. The British Columbia Ferries are a great operation! There is a cafeteria and buffet restaurant on board. We ate lunch on the ferry so we wouldn't have to take time out from touring Butchart Gardens to eat. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating on the ferry – a real plus when the weather cooperates! We were able to sit outside and enjoy the scenery on both crossings. The ferry route is dotted with islands, and we had a sensational view of Mount Baker in Washington State throughout the trip. Our first stop in Victoria was Butchart Gardens. They are spectacular and immaculate. I took a ton of pictures of every kind of flower and tree imaginable. Our group then drove to downtown Victoria. It is a beautiful city with a definite British "feel" to it. Flowers were in bloom everywhere you looked, including the lawn in front of the Parliament Buildings where red blooms spelled out "Welcome to Victoria". At the recommendation of our driver, we purchased sandwiches at Sam’s Deli for the trip back to Vancouver. We weren’t disappointed; the sandwiches were huge and delicious! We arrived back at the Westin about 9:30 p.m. It was a thoroughly enjoyable but exhausting day. Day 3 – Vancouver and Aboard the Sea Princess Woke up early and grabbed my camera to get my first glimpse of the Sea Princess. At about 6:15 a.m., she sailed silently into the harbor, followed by the Rhapsody of the Seas and the Westerdam. What a sight…a parade of three huge cruise ships! We tagged all our luggage (including carry on bags) for a 9:00 pick up, and headed off to Stanley Park. The park has a seawall path that runs around the entire perimeter along the water. We walked as far as the Lion’s Gate Bridge; then backtracked to the aquarium. We didn’t have time to go in, but there are large windows along a path in the park overlooking a tank where we were able to view the seals and see the Beluga Whales performing. We stopped on the way back to the hotel to purchase Cokes and water for the ship, which cleaned out every last penny of our Canadian currency. We couldn’t have done better if we’d tried! Our Princess transfer to the ship left the Westin about 1:15. At 1:30, we arrived at Ballantyne Pier. The Sea Princess looked huge to us! If you’ve never cruised before, it’s hard to envision the ship ahead of time. Embarkation was a snap. Princess had registration desks set up by deck and cabin number. Our credit card information was taken  and we immediately received our shipboard cards. These are neat cards with a picture of the ship, your dining room assignment, and your cabin number imprinted on them. The card is used for shipboard credit, as a room key, and to get on and off the ship while you’re in port. Up an escalator, smile for the photographers, and we were on board within 10 minutes of our arrival at the pier! Our cabin steward, Eddie introduced himself, and we were off to explore the ship. The Ship The Sea Princess is a wonderful ship! It is elegantly and tastefully decorated, with ample use of wood, brass, and glass throughout. The ship was spotlessly clean, and crewmembers were constantly cleaning or painting something throughout the voyage. The centerpiece of the Sea Princess is the atrium, which spans four decks and features a double spiral staircase and two panoramic elevators. The lower two levels of the atrium are floored in beautiful polished marble with inlaid designs. The ship’s boutiques are on Emerald Deck 6 in the atrium. Deck 7 was the location of one of our favorite places, the Atrium Lounge, where you could sit in a love seat nestled in a bay window and watch the scenery pass by outside or the people pass by inside. Dolphin Deck 8 of the atrium held the Pizzeria, which was decorated to look like a southern Italian villa and was furnished with checkerboard tables for four. Sea Princess has two theatres, one at either end of Promenade Deck 7. The Princess Theatre is upholstered and carpeted in dark burgundy with traditional tiered seating for 500. The décor is somewhat art deco. At the aft end of deck 7, the Vista Lounge is more of a "Vegas" showroom with bar service. It is furnished with round glass tables, swivel chairs, and couches. A "starlit" ceiling, walls of picture windows, and light colored upholstery and carpet give this room an airy, open feeling. The ship also has two dining rooms, each capable of seating 500 passengers in dining alcoves. The Sicilian Dining Room on deck 6 and the Neapolitan Dining Room on deck 5 are identically furnished with comfortable upholstered armchairs. Curved half-walls of wood and etched glass divide the room into groups of 18 diners at tables for 2, 4, 6, or 8. The dining rooms span the width of the ship and are lined with large windows on each side. Both rooms have the same "starlit" ceiling found in the Vista Lounge. The Promenade Deck on the Sea Princess encircles the entire ship, although it is closed in at the bow. The teak deck is lined with old-fashioned steamer chairs topped with thick blue cushions. A great place to sit and relax! Another beautiful room is the Wheelhouse Bar. The Wheelhouse looks like an exclusive country club, with dark wood and lots of leather. Decorations in the lounge and the adjacent passageway are nautical memorabilia from old P&O ships and some personal items of famous former passengers. The casino was reached using a spiral staircase from the Promenade Deck. The casino held several gaming tables, and slot machines and video poker lined both sides of the room. Rocky’s Disco is also located on the Promenade Deck. This is a unique room, with a glass block dance floor and a video wall. More rooms found on Promenade Deck are the photo shop, library, and a small card room. The exercise facilities on Riviera Deck 12 are spectacular. Walls of windows overlook the back and sides of the ship in the fitness area. A curved wall gives you a peek at passengers lounging in hot tubs…a bit different than the view in most gyms! Also on Riviera Deck are three heated freshwater pools, five hot tubs, the beauty parlor and spa, children’s facilities, virtual golf, and a poolside bar. Lido Deck 14 features the Horizon Court, a 24-hour buffet and restaurant. 270-degree windows overlook the front and sides of the ship, and passengers serve themselves from two separate buffet areas. Each contains a hot food line, a cold food line, and a drink station. The Riviera Grill for hamburgers and hot dogs is located just outside the Horizon Court. Lounge chairs line both sides of the ship on this deck, and plexiglass walls provide some protection from the wind. Aft on Lido Deck is the Seaview Bar and another hot tub with great views off the starboard side and stern of the ship. Another pool is available forward on the Sun Deck. Topsails Bar is located here, and overlooks the main pool areas below. We were amazed to discover there were 2,100 passengers on the Sea Princess during our sailing. We never experienced a crowd at any time during the week, and the only time we waited in a line was to have our picture taken on formal nights. The ship is designed with many diversions, and absorbs the people very well. Even the Horizon Court never had a line, and we were always able to get a table right away. Our Cabin We chose to select our cabin rather than take our chances with a category guarantee. We used a 3 category upgrade coupon when we booked, and chose A-545, an Aloha Deck balcony cabin located midship on the starboard side. We loved our cabin! It was not large, but very adequate for the two of us with plenty of storage space. Three closets (one with shelves, swing out wire baskets, and a safe, one for long hanging garments, and one for shorter hanging clothes) held most of our clothes, and drawer space took care of the rest. All our luggage (4 big suitcases and 2 large carry-ons) fit under the bed. After the lifeboat drill we added the life jackets to our under-the-bed storage and forgot about all of it for the week. The cabin was nicely appointed, with oak furniture and pastel upholstery and carpet. Amenities included terry cloth robes, a bowl of fruit, a mini refrigerator, the room safe, and a hairdryer. The hairdryer didn’t have much power, so I had to use the travel dryer I brought. Our bathroom was compact but well designed. Three shelves next to the sink held toiletries, so we didn’t have to live out of our travel bags for a whole week. The shower was one of the best I’ve had anywhere! You could set the water to the exact temperature you wanted, and the water pressure was fantastic. I did notice, however, that the water must have had a lot of chlorine in it, because my skin and hair started to feel very dry by the end of the week. The balcony was wonderful! Again, it wasn’t big (only about 3 feet deep x the width of the cabin), but we used it constantly and had the door open for most of the trip. There’s nothing like fresh sea air and the sound of the ship cutting through waves to put you right to sleep each night! Day 3 Continued – Sailing from Vancouver After we explored the ship and ate lunch in the Horizon Court, we unpacked and went to the lifeboat drill. We actually had quite a bit of time before we sailed, since the ship waited for a late arriving flight with 30 cruisers on it. I would have been having a fit it I was on that flight! I will probably always travel to my departure port a day or two before sailing, unless it’s a lot closer to home than Vancouver is. We went up on deck for sail away as soon as we saw the last passengers embark. While we were walking forward, we were surprised to look out and discover the ship was moving! The Sea Princess is so smooth and stable you have very little sense of movement unless you look at the horizon. I had been worried about seasickness, and armed myself with Sea Bands, Bonine, and ginger capsules. We took the ginger every morning as a precaution, and never touched the other stuff. I don’t know if the ginger helped or we’re just not prone to seasickness, but it didn’t have any negative side effects so we stuck with the regimen. Late seating dinner was at 8:00 on this trip. We were assigned to table 165 in the Sicilian Dining Room. We were initially disappointed with our table for 6, which wasn’t near a window, but we ended up with great tablemates and had a fun time all week. Our waiter, Eduardo (from Mexico) and assistant waiter, Witek (from Poland) were both very pleasant young men who took excellent care of our table the entire week. I thought the food in the dining room was very good to excellent all week. We certainly ate enough of it! The menu for each meal had healthy choice selections, vegetarian selections, an "always available" section (steak, salmon, chicken, and Caesar salad) and the main choices for the evening. There were always three appetizers, three soups, a salad course, a pasta course, and five entrees, which included your choice of beef, poultry, lamb, pork, fish, or seafood. The dessert menu was separate, and had three selections, a variety of ice creams and cheeses, after dinner drinks, and several "always available" items. There was no show or entertainment for us tonight – we were too tired! I finished putting things away and fell asleep to the sound and smell of the ocean. Day 4 – At Sea in the Inside Passage The weather today is in the 50’s and sunny! We started the day with a nice long workout in the crowded aerobics room. Megan Dickens is the "Cruisercise" Manager on the Sea Princess, and she made the workout enjoyable for people of all ability levels. Lunch was in the dining room with an Australian couple. We like the food and service in the dining room better than the buffet. In the afternoon, we sat in the Vista Lounge and watched Killer Whales surface just off the starboard side of the ship. The first formal night was tonight. Attire was dressier than I expected from what I had read. At the second seating, almost all the women wore long gowns, and the majority of the men were in tuxes. Very classy! At the Captain’s Cocktail Party, we met a lovely couple from England whose favorite spot in America is Bethel, Maine, where my father went to high school. What a small world! After dinner we attended a comedy and impressions show in the Vista Lounge. I thought the show was average. We saw the Canadian Pilots disembark the Sea Princess at about 12:30 a.m. We’re getting close to Alaska! Day 5 – Ketchikan Our luck has run out…today it is misty/rainy, and the temperature is in the low 50’s. We went on a mountain bike tour today from 8:00-11:00. Luckily, the tour operator (Southeast Exposure) provided raingear, because we needed it! We had fun and enjoyed ourselves despite the weather. The shopping was great in Ketchikan, and we returned to the ship at 1:00 somewhat poorer than we were in the morning! Back on board, we met a couple we’d gotten to know in Vancouver for lunch at the pizzeria. The pizza and calzones were excellent. After lunch, it was back up on deck to watch the Sea Princess leave Ketchikan in the (still) rainy weather. Once we left port, we participated in the perfect rainy day activity – a nap! Tonight’s dinner was semi-formal, and again dressier than I expected it to be. Most of the ladies were in dressy pants suits or cocktail dresses, and the men wore suits or nice sports coats. The show tonight was a musical, "Rhythms of the City". The performances were good, but the one hour show didn’t have much of a plot. Day 6 – Juneau Woke up to rain and fog in Juneau. The temperature was 48 degrees. Not a good start! Surprisingly, our Wildlife Cruise was outstanding. Once we were underway, the skies cleared in Auke Bay and we had an excellent view of the Chilkat Mountains. We saw tons of wildlife on this excursion…Harbor Seals, Steller Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, deer, Dall’s Porpoises, and a playful humpback whale that dove for us three times. Got some great photos! After a quick lunch in the Horizon Court, our second excursion was the Mendenhall Glacier and Gastineau Hatchery Tour, which included a stop at the Chapel by the Lake. The glacier was great, but there wasn’t anything to see at the hatchery since the salmon aren’t spawning yet. The weather was also good at the glacier, but it was raining in downtown Juneau all day. Apparently, downtown Juneau gets twice as much rain as nearby areas. After our second tour, we walked around town a bit, but we were cold, wet, and miserable so we returned to the ship at 5:00. We caught Pete Matthews’ comedy juggling show before dinner this evening. This is a don’t miss! Pete was hysterical. We laughed so hard it hurt. Tonight was Italian night in the dining room, complete with waiter costumes and flags on the tables. The food was terrific, especially the Pasta y Fagoli soup. I asked for the recipe, which the maitre ‘d provided the next day. We caught "Pub Night" after dinner. This show is put on by the cruise staff and there is only one performance. The Cruise Director on the Sea Princess, Alistair Greener and his staff are wonderfully entertaining and humorous. We’re glad we made the effort to see the show because we laughed until we cried. Day 7 – Skagway We took a seven-hour excursion by bus to the Yukon Territory of Canada today. The route traced the path taken by the gold seekers on their way to Dawson. The weather in Skagway was overcast and windy, but as we got further inland, the weather improved, and by the time we stopped for lunch it was clear and sunny. Our bus driver, Clayton, was fantastic. He enlivened the trip by quoting Jack London and Robert Service, as well as playing music that fit the scenery. Quite a character! The scenery on this drive was awesome – totally different than anything we’ve ever seen. It looked like what I imagine the moon to look like…barren and strewn with boulders at the summit. We were lucky with wildlife sightings on this trip, as we saw a cow moose, a mama black bear with her two cubs, a single black bear, and Dall Sheep. Lunch was provided at a place called Frontierland, which had a taxidermy museum and gift shop. After lunch, we drove to Emerald Lake to view the turquoise water, and to the Carcross Desert. This was a quite a strange sight, a desert in the middle of the Yukon! We also stopped at the town of Carcross at the head of Lake Bennett, which is where the gold rushers launched their boats for the gold fields. On the way back, we again ran into cloudy weather. While we were in Skagway we used our Sea Princess I.D.’s to walk around the Regal. It was a nice ship, but we didn’t feel like the Regal had the same attention to detail that we liked so much on the Sea Princess. The main public areas were decorated with the same fabrics and woods used on our ship, but the stateroom corridors and staircases were very plain. Also in port today were the Rhapsody of the Seas and the Norwegian Sky – a busy day in Skagway! There were 9 buses at Frontierland (8 Princess, 1 RCI). After we toured the Regal we walked around Skagway and shopped. In my opinion, the shops had nicer stuff than we saw in Juneau, and the prices were better. Dinner was French night. The food was excellent. We didn’t attend a show tonight, but Jim did go to the casino and make a donation to Princess Cruises! Day 8 – At Sea in Glacier Bay National Park Got up early and did some laundry. Glad I did, since the tiny laundromat was packed all day. There are two washers and two dryers on each cabin deck…$1.00 for the washer, $.50 for the dryer. Detergent and fabric softener are available at an additional cost. The laundry room also has an iron and ironing board. We sailed into Glacier Bay National Park at 6:00 this morning. A park ranger and a naturalist came on board and explained the important sights. The narration was broadcast on the open decks. You could also hear the narration in your stateroom by setting your T.V. to the "webcam" channel. The glaciers were awesome! The noise the glaciers make is unbelievable. They make a sound like cracks of thunder as they grind their way towards the ocean. Unfortunately, we saw only minor calving today. The weather has improved…it started out cloudy, but the sunshine increased as the day progressed. We attended an aerobics class this afternoon after we left the bay. Unfortunately it was hard to concentrate on exercise since the class kept being interrupted by whale sightings! Late this afternoon we sailed by the Fairweather Range. These mountains are beautiful! Mount Fairweather soars to almost 16,000 feet above sea level. Otters swimming on their backs near the ship completed the picture. Tonight was formal night. We had lobster and Beef Wellington for dinner. After dinner we attended the magic and illusion show (just O.K.) followed by the champagne waterfall. The waiters set up a pyramid of 13 layers of glasses and then pour champagne from the top to create a "waterfall". When the champagne is poured, everyone throws streamers from the upper decks of the atrium. This event was fun but corny…like something you’d see on The Love Boat! Tonight is the only night we’ve noticed any rocking of the ship at all. We’re out in the Gulf of Alaska, without the protection we had in the Inside Passage. Still, it’s not uncomfortable at all. Disembarkation information awaited us when we returned to our stateroom. We’re assigned to the third group and will leave the ship between 7-7:15 Saturday morning.Tipping guidelines are included in the disembarkation information, but no envelopes. Very unobtrusive and low-key. Day 9 – At Sea and Cruising College Fjord Today was the kind of day for cruise companies to take brochure pictures! Our trip into College Fjord was perfect. The fjord was choked with ice, and many of the icebergs had seals lounging on them. We saw many otters today…they like to swim on their backs close to the ship. Spent some time in the hot tub soaking up the sunshine with the ice and snow everywhere you looked. It’s really funny to see people sunbathing when you’re surrounded by winter wonders. We tried our hand at that quintessential cruise activity today…jackpot bingo! Unfortunately, we will be paying for the entire trip, since we were big losers in the luck department. I attended a fun "ceremony" in the aerobics room this afternoon. There was a contest, but in the end everyone was a winner and received a "gold" medal, a Princess key chain, and a certificate. We also collected extra "Cruisercise" coupons so we could pick up lots of cheap merchandise to add to our suitcases! Our farewell dinner in the dining room was American night, featuring the traditional Baked Alaska Parade. Since we’d never seen it before, we thought it was fun. Day 10 – Seward Disembarkation & Fairbanks We were rudely awoken at 2:30 a.m. by the sound of longshoremen taking luggage off the ship. Closed the sliding door and the curtains and slept until 5:30. TOO EARLY! We grabbed a quick breakfast and said good bye to the beautiful Sea Princess at 7:15. Our transfer to Anchorage was lovely, with the Alaska Range visible for much of the drive. We stopped at a wildlife preserve and saw moose, reindeer, buffalo, boars, and an eagle. We also stopped at a jade store in Girdwood (good prices), and took a 15-minute break at Lake Hood in Anchorage to watch the seaplanes take off and land. Our motorcoach delivered us right to the door of our ERA charter flight to Fairbanks. We flew in a Convair 580, which is a twin turbo prop. We had a majestic view of Mount McKinley and the entire Alaska Range for most of the flight. We got lunch on the one-hour flight, which was typical airline food…back to reality! We stayed at the Bear Lodge (part of the Wedgewood "Resort") in Fairbanks. The hotel was comfortable, but it is not near anything. I heard the same complaint about location from travelers staying at the Fairbanks Princess Hotel and Pike’s Lodge. We took the hotel shuttle ($2.00) to Alaskaland. It’s a definite miss unless you are attending the Salmon Bake. I heard the salmon dinner was very good, but if you weren’t attending that there really wasn’t anything to see. Back at the hotel, we opted for dinner in the hotel bar. The food was pretty good, and the prices were reasonable, but the service was pathetic. It took our waitress an hour and a half to serve our light meal. The same thing happened at the breakfast buffet the next morning…by the time we were offered coffee, we had finished our meal and were ready to leave. Day 12 – Fairbanks We took two tours today. Both were included in the price of our tour. Our bus driver, Bob, was outstanding and informative. Tour #1 was to the El Dorado Gold Mine. We rode a train through a permafrost tunnel and received a demonstration at the sluice box of the process of finding gold in the pay dirt. Then we were each given a "poke" and tried our hand at finding our own gold. We wound up with $24.00 worth of flakes. Then we took our gold to the gift shop and bought a pendant to put the gold in. The pendant cost more than the value of the gold we found! Still, this was a fun trip and something we’ll probably never do again. On the way back to town, we stopped at the Trans Alaska Pipeline. We received a very interesting explanation of the difficulties of building the line in the permafrost areas. Tour #2 was on the Riverboat Discovery, which took us down the Chena and Tenana Rivers. We saw a bush plane, Susan Butcher’s Iditarod sled dogs, a fish camp, and spent an hour ashore at a recreated Athabascan Indian village. Even though all the sights we saw were staged, the trip was very enjoyable and informative. One very unique thing about the Tenana River is that it is a braided river, just like the Yukon. The water is all glacial run off, and it is very silty and rapid. The current is so strong in the Tenana that there’s a clear line where the Chena meets the Tenana. The two rivers have two totally different colors of water. We ate dinner tonight at Geraldo’s Italian Restaurant near the Bear Lodge. The food was very good and reasonably priced. We’re glad to be leaving Fairbanks early tomorrow morning. Although both tours today were very interesting, there isn’t much to see or do in Fairbanks. The town itself looks very run down. We wouldn’t come back to Fairbanks. Day 13 – Midnight Sun Express & Denali National Park We boarded the Midnight Sun Express (Princess railcars pulled by the Alaska Railroad) at 7:30 this morning. The train is very comfortable and pleasant. You are assigned to a booth for four people in the upstairs dome. Each dome car has a bartender and a host/hostess during the trip. We took advantage of breakfast on the train. The food was excellent and not too expensive. The train cars also have a gift shop (of course!) and outside viewing platforms. We arrived at Denali National Park around noon. The Denali Princess Hotel is located on the Nenana River adjacent to the park entrance. Guestrooms are in long buildings that surround the main lodge. Two restaurants and a snack bar are available, but food is expensive. This was the only location where we felt that prices were unreasonably high. With the exception of Denali, we didn’t pay any more for restaurant food in Alaska than you would expect to pay in the lower 48. Guestrooms are typical motel style with a rustic feel. Beware…this is not a quiet location because of the large numbers of guests staying at the lodge. Park tours start early in the morning and end late in the evening, so there are always people moving around. We left at 2:20 for the Tundra Wildlife Search on a school bus. Our driver was very knowledgeable but didn’t have much of a personality, which made this a very long, uncomfortable journey. We saw some breathtaking scenery, and during the second half of the trip three bears very close (one walked right up to the buses!), a caribou just in front of us walking up the road, and finally at about 9:30 we saw the elusive Mt. McKinley. We had to take our pictures from the bus windows because there was a Grizzly Bear on the other side of the street! The drive through Polychrome Pass was hair-raisingly narrow, with steep cliffs just outside the bus. This is not a ride for the faint of heart! We also saw quite a few Dall Sheep, but they were all at a distance, and alas, no moose on this ride. Day 14 – Denali, Midnight Sun Express, & Anchorage We went for a hike this morning over at Horseshoe Lake. Couldn’t stay too long since we had to be ready to transfer to the train at 11:30. We saw a couple of big rabbits, but the moose are still avoiding us. The train ride to Anchorage was long, but very enjoyable. Our tablemates on the train were very entertaining, and the host and bartender were excellent. They sang and recited poetry during the trip. The scenery on the trip from Denali to Anchorage is beautiful, and I imagine it would be tremendous if it was clear. As it was, we had limited views and Mt. McKinley wasn’t visible. Our best views of the mountain were from the plane on Saturday, so I’m glad we saw it then. Jim finally spotted a bull moose close to the train, which I announced to the whole car. Dinner on the train was great! The Prime Rib was cooked perfectly, and was way too much food. We arrived in Anchorage on time and transferred to the Captain Cook Hotel, about five minutes from the train station. The Captain Cook is a luxury hotel with many amenities and facilities. I’m glad that Anchorage will be our last impression of Alaska, not Fairbanks. Day 15 – Anchorage & Home We took an Anchorage City tour that spent two hours at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The center was excellent, and we could have spent more time there. The rest of the tour was just so-so; not one of the better ones we had taken. The bus stopped near Earthquake Park before returning to the hotel, where we were able to get some great pictures of the city across Cook Inlet. We’re glad we booked our own air for this trip, since our flight doesn’t leave Anchorage until the evening. The people that had flights booked by Princess left early in the morning, so they didn’t have an opportunity to see Anchorage. We arrived at the airport at 8:00 for a 9:00 flight. Anchorage Airport is under construction, and was a real mess. Continental check-in took 30 minutes, so don’t cut it close! Our flight was full and uncomfortable, but I was so tired I slept a good part of the trip. It’s hot and humid in Houston…vacation is definitely over! Some Observations from a "First Timer" I can’t say enough nice things about Princess Cruises and Princess Tours. The employees were friendly and helpful at every stage of the trip. We didn’t encounter a grouch the whole two weeks! They are also the most organized people I have ever seen! This summer, Princess offered almost 40 tours to all parts of Alaska and Canada.That translates to thousands of people going in every direction, all the time. Princess makes it look easy! Our luggage was taken care of, and we were met at each destination with an envelope containing our hotel key and tour tickets. Those services really eliminate a lot of the "hassle" of travel. Princess is really a top-notch operation. The Sea Princess is a fabulous ship, and has something for everyone. Don’t try to do everything, because it’s not even remotely possible. Read the reviews (like this one!) with a grain of salt. I was worried about all kinds of things, and none of them happened! I think a person would have to work hard to have a bad time on the Sea Princess! Vancouver is a great city. We had perfect weather in Vancouver and Victoria. We would encourage anyone cruising to Alaska to take the time to visit these cities. I wouldn’t want the stress of being on a late flight the day of my cruise. There were 30 passengers on a flight that was delayed four hours by weather in Dallas. The ship waited for them, but… Finally, some thoughts about taking the land tour pre- or post-cruise. Many people had said that the land tour was very tiring and should be taken pre-cruise so you can rest on the ship. I didn’t feel that it made a big difference, because we didn’t get much rest on the cruise either, and the port days were very tiring. However, it was a rude awakening to be whisked from my luxury cruise ship to a motel in Fairbanks. I had gotten spoiled, and kind of came back to earth with a thud! Cindy Rouse

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By Wes _CR

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Nov 30, -0001

The Sea Princess is a beautiful and well maintained ship.  Walking around, day or night, there are crew members washing, cleaning or polishing something.  The day of sailing, the Sea was inspected and received a score of 97, and the Captain, Andrew Proctor, commended  his staff and crew for doing such a good job.  All the public areas, from the lounges and bars, the 4 pools, the theater, to the various restaurants were soft and attractive. 

This used to be considered a mega-ship, but now, at 77,000 grt., she’s about the average size for most of the newer ships.  Outwardly, the Sea Princess looks like a hugh ship, but once on board, it feels like a smaller one. CABINS:   Our cabin, A412 (cat. BA), is a balcony cabin.  The size was a little small, but functional.  There was adequate storage for a 7 day cruise, but one might find space lacking on longer voyages.  The bathroom reminded this cruiser of the ‘soap-on-a-rope’ days; again, tight quarters, but it suited its purpose. The balcony was also small, in comparison with the Grand Class ships, with 2 small, straight-backed poly chairs and a table. There wasn’t much moveability, but all the balconies were pretty much the same size (except for minisuites and suites).  DINING:   We had assigned seating for early dining in the Sicilian Dining Room (Neapolitan being its twin, one deck below Sicilian).  Again, the dining room was very attractive and sectioned off to give it a bit of an intimate feeling.  Seating upwards of 1100 per dining room, one would expect some noise, and there was a little, but not to a point of displeasure.  It was mostly tables being bussed by the waiters and assistant waiters - kind or normal restaurant noise. The main dining rooms are open for breakfast, lunch (open seating) and dinner (assigned seating).  But for breakfast, we chose the Horizon Court buffet.  The selections were plentiful, from fresh fruits and fruit salad, to a variety of cold (1 hot) cereals and yogurts, pastries, breads, bagels, rolls, toast, meats, fish, potatoes, pancakes, French toast, and eggs done 4-5 different ways, including fried, done to order, and omelets with all the fixings done to order.  For lunch, we frequented the bountiful buffet in the Horizon Court and every other day had a pizza in Lago’s Pizzeria.  Princess probably makes the best pizza afloat. Unfortunately for those doing the Grand Princess, if you want a whole pizza rather than a slice, it costs an arm and a leg (Lago’s suggested gratuity is $1.00 per person;  GP’s cover charge is/was $15.00 per person).  Then if you are still able to eat, there’s always the Riviera Grill for hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, and the like.  Princess ships also have an ice cream bar, called Sundaes, but this is also at an added cost. Food aboard the Sea Princess is excellent.  We’ve found this to be true with all the Princess ships that we’ve sailed.  While RCI may be a step up as far as cabin accommodations are concerned, Princess wins the food quality race. ITINERARY:   Princess Cays, Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.  Princess Cays is, by far, the nicest beach day a cruiser could have.  Princess Cruises is constantly improving and expanding this ‘island paradise.’  It is clean, has plenty of sun and shade, ample lounges, water sports and toys to rent, water coolers spaced thoughout, open showers, clean restrooms, some shops and local vendors, and a nice BBQ in the early afternoon.  Once it gets started, tender service to/from the ship runs every 10-15 minutes. We didn’t get off the ship in Ocho Rios because of its reputation, so we used this as a day at sea.  And since we’ve been to Grand Cayman and Cozumel several times, we didn’t do much here either - just shopped for lightweight cotton clothing, i.e., Bye-Bye, Peer, Miro.  But, for first-time cruisers, or those who haven’t done them, we’d recommend these tours:  In Ocho Rios, the Dunn’s River Falls and/or rafting down the Martha Brae.  In Grand Cayman, we’ve done, and enjoyed the ‘See and Sea’ tour, Stingray City, and the semi-submarine.  In Cozumel, we’ve done the tour for San Gervasio Ruins and Playa sol Beach, and the Cozumel Beach Break at the Reef Club Isla Cozumel.  Other cruisers have raved about the Tulum Mayan Ruins. There are always a bump or two with any vacation or cruise.  This one was no exception.  Days 1, 2 and 3 we, as well as many other guests and crew, experienced foul air coming from the air conditioning system.  It smelled like a sewer backup.  After numerous complaints from us and others, including crew members, the problem was rectified sometime Tuesday.  It took awhile, but they finally got some good air circulating again.  The only other minor blips were our waiter and assistant waiter.  We can’t say they were bad, but probably just average, or so-so.  It was a bit of a letdown coming off two pleasurable experiences with the dining room staff on the Grand Princess. Members of the Princess crew that did shine, were our cabin steward, the Cruise Director (the youngest we’ve seen so far) and his assistants, and the casino staff.   And everyone had a genuine smile and  friendly hello.  Another change that has been made with Princess policy is they don’t sell liquor in the on board shops for in-room consumption.  The least expensive way is to purchase liquor at kiosk in the port terminal and on the islands. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION:   Princess has this down to a science.  They start boarding guests close to noon, and as long as people have all their paperwork ready, it’s as smooth as silk.  The same is true with the end of the cruise - everyone leaves the ship according to color luggage tags and move on down the gangway in an orderly fashion. The Sea Princess was a pleasure we wouldn’t hesitate cruising her again.  We’ve done one of her other sisters, the Dawn, but have yet to try the Sun or Ocean.  Some day.  There’s still plenty of time. If anyone has any questions or comments, feel free to reply.  We always say, the next best thing to cruising is talking about it. Wes & Barb Carter 14 cruises ......and counting

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

2001 t will probably help to know a little about us before you read our review of this cruise in order to get a better feel for our experience because there is no doubt that everyone looks upon their cruise experience in a unique way. This was only our fourth cruise, and our first on Princess.  Previous cruises include: Carnival Inspiration - Southern Caribbean, HAL Veendam - Western Caribbean, and HAL Veendam - Alaska Inside

Passage.  Our previous cruise experiences were wonderful, but we were excited to try Princess, and would still like to try Celebrity and Royal Caribbean.  We have friends that swear by both of these other lines. I approached this cruise with a desire to compare it to our previous experiences with HAL. Especially since we had cruised this same itinerary on HAL.  So I looked for some definite comparisons. My bottom-line conclusion: Princess offers a great cruise experience, especially if you do not mind the larger ships.  I suspect that when cruising was invented, the Princess experience is what they had in mind.  Nevertheless, we probably prefer HAL because of the smaller ships.  We will however, never hesitate to cruise Princess again. Air Travel: We booked our air through the cruise line so that if we had any problems along the way, it would be their problem.  We always fly in a day early, which I would recommend to anyone.  We will never fly in the day of the cruise again.  We also booked a hotel package through Princess.  The whole family was going, so there were three of us were flying Delta from Tulsa through Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, and our two college kids were flying Delta from Salt Lake through Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale.  The SLC kids made it fine.  Our Delta flight in Tulsa was canceled, (won’t it be nice when Delta gets back to normal) so they switched us over to Continental and we connected through Houston.  This only cost us an hour, so we feel very fortunate.  We met up with our two kids at the Fort Lauderdale airport and easily found the Princess rep and our baggage.  She led the group to the bus to the Embassy Suites Hotel.  This hotel is in a nice location, only five minutes from the pier and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance. Embarkation: In the morning, our bags were to be left in the living room of our suites by 10:00 a.m.  These were picked up and taken to the bus for us to identify before boarding at 11:30 a.m.  The bus left the hotel at 11:30 a.m. and we were in our staterooms by noon.  This was easily the quickest and most painless embarkation we have ever experienced.  The Princess staff were well prepared and helpful in every way.  Things were starting out well. The Ship: The Sea Princess - as beautiful as the HAL ships are, the Sea Princess is a cut above.  This is a beautiful ship.  The Atrium area is spectacular and the public rooms are comfortable and tasteful. The stateroom hallways are light and seem much more inviting and elegant.  All around, I give Princess the edge for attractiveness, even though we found the Inspiration and Veendam to be beautiful ships.  Since there were five of us, we had two Inside Staterooms on the Caribe Deck (C708 and C716).  The Inside rooms on the main hallways are smaller, but comfortable and efficient.  I think all of the triples and quads are in these main hallways.  If there are only two of you, I would suggest trying for one of the Inside rooms on the smaller halls that run perpendicular to these main halls.  They are a true rectangle shape and appear to be noticeably larger.   This was our first cruise with an inside cabin, and I’m not sure I will ever book an outside or balcony suite again.  We found them very comfortable.  The bathrooms are small, but functional, although a larger person might have an awkward time in the shower.  There was plenty of drawer and closet space for a 7 day cruise.  If you have larger bags though, be advised that they don’t stow them.  You have to keep them in the room and they may not fit under the bed.  Our room steward was excellent, but this ship more closely resembles a nice hotel with the stewards maintenance carts in the hallways almost all day, every day.  I can’t remember this happening on other cruises.  (Okay, so I notice small things.)  It was a nice touch to see your names posted nicely on the stateroom, and there is a nice holder for the Princess Patter and other information being delivered to the room, rather than simply sliding it under your door. Probably my biggest complaint about the ship is its overall size.  I really prefer the smaller HAL ships which only hold 1300 - 1400 passengers.  The Sea Princess had in excess of 2000 passengers and this made for some crowding and difficulties.  Crowds were noticeable in the Horizon Court for Breakfast and Lunch, trying to get a seat at one of the entertainment venues, passing through the Photo area, the shopping area and getting a tender at Princess Cays.  And don’t even think of finding a decent deck chair on the sea days.  People show up at 8:00 a.m. and put their book and towel in place to hold the chair, even though they may not show up for hours and then leave for several hours while their stuff continues to hold the chair.  About the only place you can find a deck chair is up front on the top deck, and here it is generally very windy.  I suppose this is the nature of the larger ships, because we never had this problem on the smaller HAL ships.  We could always find a nice deck chair on HAL.   I also wonder what will happen to these quaint Carribean Islands as the ships get bigger and bigger and dump more and more passengers in the ports every day.  It was one thing to have three cruise ships at a port when they were the smaller ships.  But with the mega-liners now here, can these islands really accommodate that many people without eroding the overall experience.  I don’t think so. Everyone I know that has cruised the mega-liners love them, but its not for me.  Even this ship was larger than I prefer. Eating: Dining Room - the Sea Princess has two main dining rooms(Sicilian and Neapolitan) on the Emerald Deck.  Both are beautiful and the table separation is close but acceptable.  In my opinion, the food on the Sea Princess was superior to the food we have had on both the Veendam and the Inspiration.  Dinner selections included 3 appetizers, 2 soups, 1 salad and generally 4 -5 entrees, including a featured pasta.  In addition, they have several items available on any given night in case you don’t like the featured items.  Don’t pass on the soups.  Everyone was excellent.  We never ate in the dining room for breakfast or lunch, but we heard a lot of positive comments.  The service was excellent, but we felt we had equally good service on HAL and Carnival.  We were pleased that there were several Eastern European staff members on this ship. Our head waiter was from the Philippines, but the assistant waiter was from Hungary.  There also appeared to be many more female staff members on Princess.  We had 2 - formal nights, 1 - semi-formal night, and 4 casual nights, one of which was designated as a “tropical dress” night.   Horizon Court - the comments we read in other reviews were correct.  This is the most illogical and dysfunctional set-up If you get there at a busy time, be prepared for chaos as items are located on different buffet pods and you must go back and forth against traffic and then there is only one small machine for drinks and ice, the line to which backs up into the food buffets.  The food was fair to good, but the set-up really is inconvenient.  In addition, it is quite often difficult to find a table unless you are eating well before or after the main rush.  Come early, come late, or be flexible.  We tend to be flexible, so we got by, but this area really needs to be redesigned.  Other - above the Atrium Lounge on the Dolphin Deck, there is a pizzeria (Lago’s) that makes excellent pizza.  We ate lunch in their twice and were very pleased.  Its worth the stop and was never crowded or rushed.  We also tried the burgers out near the pool at the Riviera Grill, but would only rate these fair.  The barbecue on Princess Cays also rates fair, except that they serve a lot of great fruit.  If you like ice cream, order it as a dessert at dinner, because the Ice Cream shop on the ship is an extra charge.  We didn’t try room service, so I can’t help you there. Entertainment: Sea Princess has two show areas - the Princess Theater near the bow on the Promenade Deck, where they show their featured presentations, and the Vista Lounge in the aft portion of the same deck, which is more of a large club and stage setting.  We were able to see the premier of a new show “Words and Music” which is a salute to American Broadway composers as well as several other shows.  (The lead singers, Casey Daniel and James Campbell are terrific.)  They were enjoyable and the cast seem talented, but I did not enjoy them as much as the HAL shows.  This will certainly come down to taste, but if I made a comparison, I would say that the Princess shows are more New York, Cabaret and Costumes, while the HAL shows are Los Angeles, Energy and Pop.  It would probably not be fair to say one is better than the other because both are excellent, it would just be a matter of personal taste and interest.  In addition to the dancers and singers, we also had an illusionist, hypnotist and comedian.  The comedian, Dave Heenan, performed three times and was excellent.  Apparently, he runs Rodney Dangerfield’s in New York.  We also enjoyed the illusionist, Gaetano, but passed on the hypnotist.  Please note, because this is a larger ship, you better get a seat early because they go fast and many people are turned away. Spa Facilities: Beautiful spa area with excellent equipment.  Plenty of stair climbers and treadmills.  This is also the best place to sit in the whirlpool.  There are others by the pool, but these are best, especially the one located above the spa area on the Lido Deck.  What a great place to sit early in the morning with the cool air and warm water.  There are two others down in the shade and out of the wind.  There is also a cool pool to get in and then go back to the whirlpool.  The steam room is always one of my favorite spots, and I love the steam room on HAL.  The steam room on the Sea Princess is quite a bit smaller and never got hot enough.  They also have a dry sauna which I did not try.  Nor did we try any of the spa services, but I heard a lot of positive comments. Other Facilities: The Sea Princess has a Business Center back by the Spa with four computers and access to the Web.  The system runs a little slow, so I would use it only sparingly.  The library on the Promenade Deck is beautiful and don’t forget to bring your favorite CD and headphones, as each library chair has a CD player to plug in and listen.  The Wheelhouse Bar is as nice a setting as we’ve seen on a ship, but I wonder how they got so much furniture into one room.  Lots of couches and stuffed chairs.  Rocky’s is the lounge and karaoke bar.  Our kids loved the karaoke and the staff made this a fun show.  It’s a louder bar and quite different from the Wheelhouse Bar which is dark wood and overstuffed chairs.  We don’t gamble, so I can’t tell you anything about the casino, other than that they have one and I’ve walked through it many times.  Princess Cays: Our first Island was the Princess private island of Princess Cays.  You have to tender into the island which is beautiful and has plenty of beach chairs and lots to do.  If you want to avoid the crowds, go to the right side of the island away from the shops and eating facilities.  Hardly anybody went over there.  Unfortunately, if you want to eat, shop or snorkel you need to be on the left side.  The snorkeling on this island was excellent, certainly better than that offered on HAL’s island.  There is a beautiful beach, but also a lot, and I mean a lot of people.  The beach to the left is very crowded and snorkeling can also get crowded.  We rented snorkeling gear through the ship at $18 per person, including vest.  You pick up the equipment on the island. This second day of the cruise, Sunday, January 29th was Superbowl Sunday, and I want to give kudos to Princess for their efforts on this.  They arranged with ESPN to broadcast the game and they even set up extra TV’s in the Wheelhouse.  We grabbed a seat in Rocky’s and they set up snacks and burgers for all those that wanted to watch the game.  It was even a formal night, so I didn’t have to dress up and still got dinner while we watched the game.  Princess really went all out on this and they did a great job in letting us not have to miss the big one. Jamaica: This was our second trip to Jamaica, and it is much better than it was two years ago.  We were pleasantly surprised that they have just about eliminated the “gauntlet” of insistent cab drivers waiting just off the ship.  Some are still there, but it isn’t anything like it used to be.  We walked to the Taj Mahal shopping center, then walked through town to Soni Plaza and also shopped at the downtown flea market.  All without any problems, other than the occasional insistent hair braider.  That afternoon we caught a cab and went to Dunn Rivers Falls.  We have always done this on our own to avoid the crowds of the tours and their insistence that you hold hands while climbing the Falls.  How dumb is that!  The can ride is a set fare of $20 for 4.  Entrance into the falls is $6 pp.  What a beautiful adventure.  Better yet, we discovered from chatting on the net that you can by-pass the exit through the “gauntlet” of kiosks, by staying to the left at the exit and going out the same way you came in.  They may say something to you, but just keep going. Grand Cayman: Again, this was our second time here and we booked the Catamaran Sting Ray City tour.  Last time we went on the regular Sting Ray City tour.  We enjoyed the Catamaran ride and rather than giving you one piece of squid, they put an entire bucket in the water for you to use as desired to feed the Sting Rays.  The sting rays recognize the bucket and crowd around it, so if you want the “up close and personal” experience, that is where you hang out.  We love this experience, and I still have the bruise and hickey on my wrist where the sting ray over shot my hand and went after my wrist.  It hurt a bit, but I wear it proudly.  In my opinion, do something fun on Grand Cayman. Shopping here is a waste of time. Cozumel: This was actually our third visit to Cozumel, and my son and I did the Novice Scuba dive through the ship.  I had done this before and enjoyed the trip again.  If you’ve never done scuba, this is a great way to try it without certifying.  30 minutes of instruction and you are in the water doing scuba at 30 feet.  Great experience!!  We always like to shop in Cozumel, and recommend you walk several blocks East and South of the main plaza to the local market.  This gets you away from the tourist area and into the real local experience. Disembarkation: As simple and quick as embarkation.  We were up and having breakfast when they called our color.  A quick walk down the gangplank, through a customs checkpoint and into the luggage area.  Bags are separated by an assigned color.  Once you grab your bag they direct you to the appropriate shuttle and off we were to the Miami airport for the ride home.  As painless as painless can be.   Needless to say, this was a great cruising experience, and we are already planning our next cruise.  I would like to try a 10 + day cruise, because I’m just not ready to go home after only 7 days.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Panama Canal cruise aboard The Sea Princess Panama Canal cruise aboard The Sea Princess We’re the Binders from Philadelphia. Joe is 54 and Nancy (that’s me!) is 50 This was our second cruise, and second with Princess. (Our first was to Alaska on the Dawn Princess in July 1997.) This was an 11-day cruise aboard the new Sea Princess, from April 24 to May 5, traveling through the Panama Canal. Pre-Cruise We like to arrive a day early for our

cruises both to relax and also to give us a "cushion" just in case we run into any travel problems along the way. Princess representatives met us at the airport and shuttled us to our hotel from the airport. I would recommend the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale to anyone thinking of doing the same. It’s nice to have a living room AND bedroom plus they offer a lovely pool, beautiful central atrium, as well as complimentary happy hour and breakfast buffet. We also ate dinner at their Italian restaurant and were very pleased with the food. Traveling Companions One of the things that made this trip so special was sharing the experience with our dear friends John and Rosemarie, who are from Cardiff, South Wales. We met them on our first cruise on the Dawn Princess to Alaska. We have been corresponding regularly ever since, with emails and a few phone calls in between, and visited them in Wales in August 1998. I can happily say that the budding friendship that started on the Dawn Princess has blossomed into something much deeper, a relationship that I know will be lifelong. Since the Panama Canal was our mutual first choice for our next cruise destination, we decided to go together! Another thing that made this cruise so much fun was hooking up with a group of people on the Internet who were sailing on the same cruise. We met about 10-12 couples on various cruise boards and eventually set up a List devoted to the Sea Princess and our specific cruise at OneList.com. After setting up our list, each member could send an email to the entire group by addressing it to SeaPrincess@onelist.com. For about six weeks before we cruised, we chatted back and forth about what to pack, how many bags we needed, shore excursions, weather, and where we would meet. It really made the weeks before the cruise much more fun and we bonded as a group rather quickly. Everyone turned out to be friendly, helpful, and fun to be with which really added something special to this cruise. All I can say is that you meet the nicest people on cruise ships! Embarkation Princess provided a shuttle bus from the hotel to the dock and embarkation was a breeze. Just be sure to have all your documents filled out before you arrive and you’ll be on your way in a matter of minutes! The ship was absolutely gorgeous and since it is the twin sister of the Dawn, it was a little easier to find our way around. Our luggage arrived within the hour. After doing some unpacking, exploring our mini-suite, and signing up for shore excursions, we met our One List group for the first time in the Wheelhouse Bar. We were SO lucky to have met this great group of people and our emails before the trip really helped to keep us occupied while counting down the minutes ‘til we sailed. Food I’ll start with the Horizon Food Court which is probably my favorite place to eat in the whole world! We ate almost every breakfast and lunch in the food court because the food is always fresh, delicious, AND the variety is astounding. I especially love tasting 4 or 5 different desserts at lunch time! Yum! Dinners were always excellent also My favorite dinner on both cruises was the Swordfish—excellent! Joe is a pizza fanatic and LOVES Princess’ pizzeria. My way of thinking is that I can always eat pizza and I would prefer the variety available at the Food Court. We had a formal breakfast in the dining room one day because of an early shore excursion, and also had a champagne breakfast on our balcony one morning. Joe sampled the cheeseburgers at the grille by the pool area and said they were great. There are no midnight buffets on Princess, but since we chose late seating (8:15 pm), I don’t think we could have stuffed any more food into us by midnight. We prefer late seating because 1) it allows you more time to return from a long shore excursion and relax before dinner, and 2) it seems more festive and appropriate on formal nights especially to dine later and then see the show. We ordered room service three times—our champagne breakfast, plus two light lunches when we were too tired after shore excursions to venture down to the Food Court. Service was prompt, courteous, plus the food was hot and well prepared. Dinner companions can either make or break a meal. Though we were less worried about our table this time because we knew we’d have John and Rosemarie for companionship, we were hoping for a pleasant group. But it was somewhat of a mixed success this time. One couple was a disappointment, but our other dinner companions made up for it by being so special. Gloria Simpson, from Oklahoma City, and her son David, from California, helped make our dinners more fun with their friendly conversation. We enjoyed their company so much that we usually joined them for the shows after dinner as well. One $ Bills One suggestion. Before you leave get $30 or $40 worth of $1 bills. They are convenient for tips for drinks, room service, or for bus drivers/guides on shore excursions. It is not mandatory to tip some of these people, but where else can you make someone’s day by giving them a dollar? Come to think of it, a roll of quarters is a good idea if you plan to use the ship’s launderettes. There are change machines, but many times, they are empty and you need to go to one on another floor. The launderette is also equipped with an iron and ironing board in case you needed to get rid of any wrinkles caused by packing. There were 2-3 washers and the same amount of dryers, each costing $1 in quarters and then soap powder was 50 cents Cabins On the Dawn Princess we had booked a mini-suite but were upgraded at the last minute to a full suite! (A bad way to start your cruising experience, because there is nowhere to go but down!) We had a mini-suite on the Sea Princess (no surprise upgrades) and were very pleased with everything about it. There is a small living room area separated from the bedroom by a draped archway. There was a TV in both rooms and our balcony had 2 lounge chairs as well as a round table and 2 chairs. The bathrooms in the suites and mini-suites are one of the best features. There is a tub with a jacuzzi, a stall shower with a glass door, and a separate small room for the toilet and sink. (In the suite, there was a sink in EACH of the bathroom areas.) There was also a walk-in closet plus drawer space and a desk area. Suitcases (we had 6!) can be stored easily under the bed. Our largest suitcase was stored by our cabin steward—you are given a receipt and use that to get your suitcase when the cruise is over. We hosted a party for our OneList group (about 20 people) and while it was a bit tight, we managed to fit everyone in. While we would love to get a mini-suite each time we cruise, we know the reality is that we will have to economize if we want to take more frequent cruises. We also saw John and Rosemarie’s Outside Double with a Balcony (Category BD). It was a very lovely room with a balcony about half the size of ours, but all in all very comfortable. We decided that this would be an acceptable cabin if we feel the need to economize. The feature that I would miss most is the stall shower with the glass door! It would be hard going back to a plastic shower curtain. Renewal of Vows Ceremony Joe and I and John and Rosemarie decided to renew our wedding vows on the ship. Joe and I were celebrating 27 years and John and Rosemarie 34! The ceremony took place in the Captain’s private quarters and was so lovely and memorable. The Captain, David Christie, is witty, charming and super friendly and is an absolute delight. We asked that our ceremonies be scheduled back-to-back so that we could be the witnesses for each other’s vows. We also invited 2 of our new OneList friends, Barry and Bev Kelly from Ludington, Michigan. For those romantics out there who are thinking of doing the same thing, I would highly recommend one of Princess’ Renewal of Vows packages. They provide beautiful bouquets for the "brides" and there are lots of extras too. We had the Deluxe Renewal of Vows which included canapes delivered to our cabin every night, an 8 x 10 photograph, a massage or facial, and a set of Princess robes to take home with us! Our ceremony took place before the Captain’s Cocktail Party and dinner and Rosemarie and I were the center of attention with our bouquets and white gowns. We both felt very special with people coming up to contratulate us and asking about the ceremony. Ports of Call/Shore Excursions Usually we sign up for the Princess-run shore excursions. We realize that we end up paying more for the same tour, but we have the peace of mind knowing that if our bus breaks down, the ship will wait for us. Or in an area where safety is an issue, that the tour company has been checked out by Princess. By the way, if you have your heart set on a certain tour, make sure that a visit to the tour desk is one of your first priorities when you board the ship. I had filled out the tour form by 3 p.m. on the day of embarkation and still was disappointed that one of the tours I wanted was sold out! Luckily there was a similar tour that I was able to book as my second choice. In a port that is relatively safe, however, or one which you have past experience with, it can be much cheaper to take a cab and sightsee on your own. Grand Cayman This charming British-influenced island was our favorite port. In the morning Joe and I did the snorkeling at Stingray Sandbar via a Snorkel Boat ($44 each). The water is not quite waist deep so you really don’t have to snorkel if you don’t want and it was fine for a non-swimmer such as myself. The stingrays are friendly creatures and feel as soft as velvet when they swim up next to your legs. I even fed one! There is a bucket of squid and you just put your hand (fingers carefully tucked inside, of course!) under the water until one approaches and sucks out the food like a powerful vacuum cleaner. (The snorkel boat had warm showers available, so I was able to shower and change from my bathing suit in the restroom so that I would be more comfortable for my afternoon tour.) Joe went back to the ship in the afternoon, but I took the Island Highlights tour—this one to the Turtle farm (where I held a turtle), the town of Hell (where you can send a postcard to a friend or relative that says "Go to Hell" complete with a postmark from Hell), and finally on a semi-submersible where we could view the stingrays from under the water while a scuba diver fed them. The scuba diver had names for the various stingrays and could actually tell them apart by body markings. He even trained one to "kiss" him on his scuba mouthpiece! John went scuba diving here and really enjoyed the crystal clear waters Ocho Rios, Jamaica Jamaica is said to be one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful isles. We took a 75 ft. yacht, the Sundancer to Dunn’s River Falls ($39 per person). We climbed the adjacent stone staircase instead of attempting the Falls. We were almost at the top of the Falls when we decided we had seen enough and went down again. This turned out to be a good thing because apparently there were vendors and a craft market at the very top and high-pressure was the name of the game. We enjoyed the boat ride on the Sundancer and the views of the Falls, but Jamaica was nothing special to us. I had 10 braids put in my hair! ($20 on shore—Yes, I should have negotiated the price better, but I really wanted braids and only one person approached me!!) Also found out on the trip back that the staff on the Sundancer would have braided my hair at a better price, I’m sure. Tonight was Island Night on the Sea Princess and there was dancing out by the pool area, music, conga lines, etc. This was my favorite night on the ship—we were up until about 2 a.m. just dancing and having a great time. There was also a special fruit and dessert buffet set up out by the pool. Cartagena, Columbia This port was a pleasant surprise and ended up being our second favorite. We weren’t sure if we should even get off the ship in this port because of all you read about Columbia, but Cartagena was a popular port with our fellow cruise passengers. We took the Cartagena Shopping and La Popa Monastery tour ($42 each). The quaint narrow streets with balconied houses and hanging flower baskets were somewhat reminiscent of New Orleans, and the newer part of the city with it’s tall buildings was very impressive. The biggest thrill for me was a chance to hold a three-toed sloth. (His owner charges $3 for you to pose with Pepe and take a picture—with your own camera) Transit Panama Canal We have read so much about what an exciting event this is. It seemed like a perfect time for our trip because in December, 1999, control of the canal reverts from U.S. control to Panamanian control. So it felt like being part of history. History abounds along every mile of this engineering marvel. It is quite an experience as the ship is raised and lowered through an extraordinary system of lakes and locks. Water for the locks (around 52 million gallons per transit) is supplied by Gatun Lake, an immense artificial reservoir of 168 square miles. This was the Sea Princess’ first journey through the Canal and she was the largest ship ever to go through it! We also had an added bonus because the ship had to refuel after making its way through the Canal, so we were able to disembark in Panama where the Kuna Indians had set up a flea market of their hand-made souvenirs. Costa Rica Rapidly becoming one of the world’s premiere travel destinations, Costa Rica offers luxuriant tropical vegetation, 13,000-foot mountains, long stretches of white, sandy beaches and abundant wildlife. We docked in Puntarenas and did an 8 ½ hour land tour here, the Carara Biological Reserve/Villa Lapas, Kingdom of Nature tour ($89 per person). There was a 2 ½ hour nature walk in the morning, then lunch at a lovely Hotel (Villa Lapas), then another nature walk in the afternoon. There were fleeting glimpses of birds, iguanas, coati mundis, and cappuchine monkeys, but "fleeting" was the key word. Be prepared for hot, humid conditions, however, you are advised to wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants (and plenty of bug spray!). The paths are also VERY muddy. I wore an old pair of sneakers that were ready for the trash and just tossed them when I got back to the ship. (The mud also splattered up on my slacks, so I would advise an old pair of slacks in case they get stained.) Glad we did it once, but wouldn’t want to do it again! Huatulco, Mexico South of Acapulco lies Huatulco, one of the Mexican Riviera’s newest attractions. Again Joe decided to stay on the ship, while John, Rosemarie and I took the Huatulco Resort tour. This was a very pretty place and when they have finished building the resorts, I imagine it will be a popular vacation spot. This tour (Huatulco Resort and La Crucesita) cost $39 and we found out later that we could have hired a cab for all 3 of us at the cost of $2 and seen virtually the same thing! Usually we tend to book the Princess tours, for convenience and safety. You pay a bit more, but usually you are satisfied with the value. This was the one exception. It seems to be a safe place and if we returned, I’d take the cab and walk around the shopping area. Days at Sea (our favorite!) Joe and I REALLY enjoyed the days at sea. There was so much to do such as: sunning and swimming at the pool, aerobic classes, reading, relaxing, horseracing and bingo games, trivia, plus golfing competitions, visits to the casino, line dancing, afternoon tea, movies, etc. We’d like to do a Trans-Atlantic cruise one day with 8 days at sea! Acapulco, Mexico We only had a quick peek at Acapulco on the way to the airport as we left to catch our flights home again. However, we awoke this morning to the sounds of shouting outside our balcony. We walked out to see what it was and found that children had swam a great distance out to the ship and were calling up to the cabins to "throw money!". Some people obliged and they dove into the ocean to retrieve the coins. Somehow, I didn’t feel badly missing this city. Disembarkation/Customs & Immigration Princess handled disembarkation as efficiently as ever. However the airport at Acapulco left much to be desired....no real P.A. system (they used bullhorns to announce the next flight!....just the bare minimum of air conditioning....and having to climb down a set of steps and go onto the tarmac to take a bus to our plane. Then you must go through Customs/Immigration at the first American city you land in—in our case, Dallas/Ft. Worth. We leave the plane, go through Customs where we encountered an EXTREMELY rude and arrogant Customs Agent who was on a real power trip, yelling at people, telling Joe to "remove his shades", etc. Poor John and Rosemarie were told that they didn’t have all the necessary papers since they were NOT U.S. citizens and were told they must go up the escalator to another area. Rosemarie explained that they were traveling with friends from America and explained she was afraid to miss her flight and the Customs Agent basically told her "tough luck". Luckily there was a nice Agent along the side and he told us that they would be exiting into the same area as we would, so we could easily meet up with them after they filled out their forms. We then unloaded our luggage and theirs from the baggage claim carousel (as they hurried into the area). Then after checking in our baggage once again for our next flight (luggage was not examined at all!), we ran like hell through the airport to make our connecting flight (felt like those old O.J. Simpson rent-a-car commercials). We made it with just 5 minutes to spare! Special People Who Catered to our Every Need We can’t overlook the staff of the Sea Princess, who all help to make each cruise memorable. We already mentioned Captain David Christie, but he really deserves special praise. On the last night of the cruise, he personally stopped at each dining table and thanked people for cruising with him! He’s the best captain I can imagine. Alastair, the Cruise Director, was wonderful, as was his assistant Peter. Their energy level was inspiring and their enthusiasm for each activity was contagious. Gianni, our head waiter, was fantastic! So friendly and a delight to watch as he prepared Cherries Jubilee or a special Pasta. And he arranged for a very special cake after our Vows ceremony to help our table celebrate. And who can forget Mario, our waiter from Mexico, and Gabor, our assistant waiter, from Hungary. They made a great team and catered to our every whim. Special thanks also go to Edgar, our wonderful Cabin Steward, from the Philippines. Rating this cruise On a scale of 1-10, this would get a 10+. It was absolute perfection! Having cruised with Princess twice, we find it hard to even consider another cruise line. Princess is so organized with no minor details overlooked. They are the greatest! It was also nice to be on an 11-day cruise rather than a 7-day one. But I’m so greedy—it still wasn’t long enough for me! The days at sea were also very special—there is so much to do on the ship and to have the whole day to just do as you please with no pressures to tour a new port are wonderful. Please visit my webpage, The Realm of the Dawn Princess, to see this review complete with photographs, as well as reviews of our Alaskan cruise on the Dawn Princess and other travels. Nancy Binder

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