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Cruise Review: Island Princess Alaska 5/19/08-5/26/08

Cruise Review: Island Princess Alaska 5/19/08-5/26/08

May 30th, 2008, 05:38 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 485
Cruise Review: Island Princess Alaska 5/19/08-5/26/08

This year I finally got to visit Alaska, and decided to do so via a cruise on Princess Cruise Lines Island Princess. Three of us went- myself and my parents. This cruise was a one way cruise departing from Vancouver and ending in Whittier, Alaska. However, we decided to fly to Seattle a few days early and then drive up to Vancouver to board the ship.

Day 1 (Friday)
We departed Boston on Jetblue leaving 7:15pm. We opted for Jetblue over Alaska Air due to the fact that you can get more leg room and that they have the seat back televisions which we have enjoyed on previous flights. We landed in Seattle around 10:15pm local time. We had to wait about 30 min for the luggage carousel to start, so by the time we collected the luggage and took the 15 min cab ride (approx $29) to the hotel it was around 11:00pm. The hotel we selected was the Inn at the Market—located on Pine Street right at the Pike Place Market. We really loved the hotel right from the start. The efficient staff, well kept appearance and central location to sight seeing attractions such as Pike Place Market, the waterfront, Seattle Art Museum and Pioneer Square make this hotel a winner. They also have a lovely roof-top deck which is open 24hrs and we enjoyed going out there most mornings and evenings and enjoying the view of the market below. In the mornings it was fun to sit and watch the stands set up their wares and in the evening it was nice to just sit and enjoy the night air. I might add, we were in Seattle during a brief heat wave—it reached into the upper 80s during the day before dipping to the upper 50s at night. We had adjoining rooms 406 & 408 and both were of good size with large bathrooms; these are rooms facing the courtyard and are decorated in a beige color scheme with wood accents. The hotel restaurants are Campagne and Cafe Campagne—we did not try either one during our stay, but both offer an outdoor seating area in addition to indoors.

Day 2 (Saturday)
I woke up and was out in the Market by about 7:30am. At this hour, the free standing stores are still closed and the fish, flowers and produce vendors are just opening. As a first timer, I found the layout of the Market to be very confusing. There is an information booth where I thought maps were available, but when I looked I didn’t see any, so I was glad I had thought ahead and printed a map from the Pike Place website (www.pikeplacemarket.org). I found it helpful to have studied the map ahead of time and made a basic listing of the vendors that interested me the most. The layout and variety of the Market can be over-whelming if you don’t have any idea of what is available. I opted to first stop at Three Girls Bakery and purchased a pecan bar for breakfast. I am not normally a breakfast person and don’t like very many typical breakfast foods, so the Three Girls was a good choice for me, as they had traditional breakfast items such as muffins, cinnamon rolls etc alongside their usual dessert items such as bars and cookies, which were available in the early morning hours to purchase alongside the traditional breakfast items. After this I walked down 1st Ave to the Harbor Steps, where I stopped at Tully’s Coffee and got a Mocha Bellaccino. This drink is very similar to Starbuck’s Frappuccino, but it seemed a little sweeter. I liked it and wouldn’t mind trying some of the other flavors. The Harbor Steps are quite pretty, with plantings and fountains cascading down. I then backtracked and walked to see the Hammering Man statue in front of the Seattle Art Museum and then walked up Spring Street (relatively steep hill) to the Seattle Central Library. The library is a modern, glassy, oddly shaped building. I then circled around down the hill and went back to the Harbor Steps to take them down to the waterfront. I turned right and walked along the waterfront enjoying the views of Elliott Bay, as it was a relatively clear day, en route to the Olympic Sculpture Park. Next I decided it was time to go eat lunch, so I backtracked and re-entered the Market via the Pike Place Hill Climb steps. By now the Market was extremely busy and it was difficult to move in some areas. The problem is if you go too early, there is no action yet, but if you get there mid-day then it is crowded! I watched the fishmongers throwing the fish around, but only got to see one large fish fly by, as you need to wait until someone buys something to see it fly by. The flower stands were the highlight of the Market for me. They were beautiful, with so many varieties and colors. The prices were good too. They had gorgeous $10-$15 bouquets which would have cost probably $25 at home.

For lunch I went to Beecher’s Cheese and got the Macaroni and Cheese which was firm and cheesy with a robust flavor. For dessert I walked over to The Confectional and got 3 little bite sized cheesecakes to split with my parents: we got Mochacino, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Mint Chocolate Cookie.

After lunch I met up with my parents who had been touring around Seattle on their own that morning and we walked over to Pioneer Square for the 1pm Seattle Underground Tour. The tour lasts 90 min and they suggest that you get there approx 30 min early to purchase your tickets (cash only). The first 20 min of the tour is an introduction during which you are seated. After the intro you are broken up into tour groups and visit 3-4 underground stops. We enjoyed the tour and found the information interesting. After a quick stop at Cow Chip Cookies (the chocolate chip cookies were a little too doughy/undercooked for our taste), we then headed over to Hertz at the Hyatt to pick up a rental car.

First we drove to the REI flagship store. I always enjoy shopping REI stores at home and was very impressed with the store in Seattle; it has little hiking and bike trails landscaped off the front of it, with a backdrop of a waterfall. Second of all, it is a very large store with lots of merchandise and a wide selection. They have way more items of all varieties in that store (gear and apparel) than we have in any of the stores near my house.

The next stop in our car was supposed to be Chittenden Locks. However, we drove over there and they had the streets all blocked off for some kind of festival, so we were unable to get through. Instead we drove over the Evergreen Point floating bridge to Bellvue and then back over the Lake Washington floating bridge and onto Mercer Island and finally back into downtown Seattle.

Dinner tonight was at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, along the waterfront at Pier 55. We were seated after about a 15 min wait. I had the Raspberry Lime-Aid and A1 Peppercorn Burger 9. My mother had the Freckled Lemonade and a Classic Cheeseburger and my father had the Guacamole Burger and a Heineken. The food was tasty and plentiful (free refills on all non-alcoholic drinks and on the steak fries that come with the burgers), but the service was extremely slow.

Miramar is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 05:41 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 485
Day 3 (Sunday)
Today I got up early again to walk around the Market and then we went to Le Panier for a quick breakfast of Chocotine (sp?) and Almondine pastries. These were very tasty pastries, somewhat like a criossant, but moister.

Next we got into the rental car and drove North on I-5 to Everett, WA for the Boeing Future of Flight Tour (approx 30 min drive). We had booked the 9:30am tour, but since we arrived early they were able to accommodate us on the 9am tour instead. You are not allowed to bring any bags, cameras, cell phone etc into the tour, but lockers are available if needed. The tour begins with a brief movie and then you get on a bus to view the production bays for the 747, 767, 777 and 787. We all enjoyed the tour and found it very informative. We were there on a Sunday so the factory was not in full production—only a skeleton crew was working overtime to finish various orders.

After finishing the tour, we drove North on I-5 to Vancouver, where we crossed into Canada at the Peace Arch crossing. This point is going to be in construction much of the summer, so they were saying on the news to expect lines over the next few weeks. Thankfully, we missed the construction and did not have any wait to cross. We drove North to Vancouver and checked into the Blue Horizon Hotel on Robson St. This is more of a high rise hotel, but there are very few rooms on each floor and the way it is designed allows each room to be on a corner and have a small balcony. While the hotel was okay, it had a more motel-like, sterile feel to the rooms and hallway. Also the AC did not work in the first room we were given, so they had to move us next door and while that AC worked okay, it was not great. Again the room was relatively large.

We walked over to the Canada Place cruise terminal and saw that 2 ships were in port: HAL Volendam and NCL Sun. We watched the ships prepare to leave the port in anticipation of our own cruise to begin the next day. Next we walked through Gastown and ate dinner at Al Porto, an Italian restaurant. It is in the lower level of a building and you can see the pier if you can look over the freight trains parked outside. Our meal here was delicious. I had Frisee Salad (frisee, garlic vinigrette, gorgonzola and candied walnuts), Veal Piccata and Chocolate Ganache Torte. My mother had the Veal Marsala and my father had the Wild Salmon.

After dinner we walked down Robson Street from the hotel to the Lost Lagoon of Stanley Park. Many people were still out and about in the park, even at 9pm, due to how long it stays light.

Day 4 (Monday)
For breakfast today we went to Tim Horton’s. The doughnuts were tasty and we enjoyed a plain donut, chocolate coconut crunch and chocolate walnut. After this, we walked around the West End residential area, which we thought was really lovely. We liked all the flowers and plantings and also liked the fact that all the buildings did not look generic. Overall, we thought Vancouver was a very pretty city and loved the backdrop of the mountains. We walked to English Bay Beach and Alexandra Park as well.
After this tour, we split up and then met back at the hotel at noon to get a taxi to the ship. Luck was on our side, as there was a minivan cab dropping someone off outside when we arrived so we snagged it for ourselves. Many of the cabs in Vancouver were of the small variety—such as a Toyota Prius, so if you have 3 large bags like we did, you will need to find or call for a larger cab. We arrived at the pier around 12:30pm and found the terminal and embarkation process to be very quick and efficient. When we arrived there were not a lot of people milling around and we were able to walk right into the the terminal to begin the embarkation process. There were not many other people boarding and there was no wait at any of the check points (customs, security or getting your stateroom key). From the time we got out of the cab to the time we were on the ship was about 15 min.

This was my 7th cruise and my 5th on Princess, but I’ve always cruised to the Caribbean or Bahamas, so I knew this would be a different experience, more focused on scenery and wildlife, which I enjoy. My only reservation going into this cruise was that there a more “sea days” than port days and I really prefer time in port. However, since cruising Alaska from Vancouver is not cruising out on the open ocean and there is constantly something to look at, I knew it would be okay for me anyway.

After dropping our carry-on items at our Stateroom D421- Maldives Suite we went directly up to the Horizon Court for lunch. For those not familiar with Princess, the Horizon Court is the buffet area. One of the things we like about the buffet on Princess is that there is not just one long line which snakes along. The buffet is set up in stations and you simply move to whatever station you want (salad, pasta, hot entrees, cold cuts, dessert etc). It also makes it very easy to wander through and see what is available on any given day before committing to any food.

After the Muster drill which was at 3:45pm, we watched the Sail-away from Deck 15. The Sail-away from Vancouver was nice—more festive and pretty then the other ports I’ve sailed from so far, in that if you are docked at Canada Place like we were, there are always people and passersby standing on the pier to see you off and it’s nice to see Stanley Park and the Vancouver skyline in the background as the cruise slips beneath the Lions Gate Bridge.

We always book Anytime Dining. This is one of the many reasons we like Princess—we are able to get a table for just our party and we don’t have to eat at the same time each night if there is something going on that we want to see. Tonight we went to the Bordeaux Dining Room at 6:30pm, but we had a approx 30 min wait for a table so we went to the Patisserie Bar to have drinks (Jack Daniels, Loco Coco and Toasted Almond Martini). Tonight was the Sail-Away Menu and since the Island Princess has not yet received the new menus or china (being rolled out fleet wide) as of this writing, we pretty much knew what we’d be having, as there have been only minor changes to the menus since our last cruise 4 years ago.
Miramar is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 05:42 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 485
Day 5 (Tuesday)
Usually we eat breakfast in the Horizon Court, but since this was a sea day, we were not in hurry so we decided to eat breakfast in the Bordeaux dining room. We got a nice table right by the window, so we were able to get a nice view as we ate.

After breakfast we went to sit in the Lotus Pool (enclosed pool) area, as it was relatively warm, out of the wind and the chairs are comfortable to enjoy the view. Today was also the fruit and vegetable carving demonstration and martini demonstration and I attended both in the Atrium on Deck 5. For the fruit carving they have 2 employees carving fruits/vegetables and showing you how they put them together to create some of those wonderful displays they have in the Horizon Court. It always amazes me what they can make with fruit and this day was no exception— a rabbit, duckling and elephant among others. The martini demo held shortly after the carving consisted of a bartender showing guests how they create 5 of the popular martinis on board. This demo also included guest participation with some of the shaking—those who participated got to sample the concoctions.

Again, since we were not in a rush today, we ate lunch in the Bordeaux dining room. For me this consisted of the Sicilian Rice Croquets, Rigatoni Carbonara and Rocky Road Ice Cream. I have always enjoyed the pasta carbonara and today was no exception, but the sauce was a little thin for my taste. The Sicilian Rice croquettes were very good, but I would swear the menu said there were mushrooms in them and instead I found peas. My parents also enjoyed their selections as well.

In the late afternoon we attended a lecture in the Princess Theater given by the onboard naturalist Dr. Bruce Bauerle. The topic was whales and other sea life and basically gave a good over view of the sea life we could expect to see on the cruise and locations where we were most likely to see it. We found the lecture very interesting and found it worthwhile to attend.

Dinner tonight was the first formal night and for us it was in the Bayou Cafe (for those eating in the Main Dining Rooms, it was the Captain’s Welcome menu). Formal night on this cruise was the most informal I have experienced on any of my cruises to date. I only saw 1 or 2 tuxedos and 1 floor length gown between the 2 formal nights. Many people were simply dressed in what I would characterize as nice clothes or “Sunday Best”—suit or sport jacket, or sweater and nice pants for men and women wore moderately dressy suits, nice pants or nice skirt. I saw some cocktail dresses, but not as many compared to other cruises I’ve been on. Formal night was down-played on this cruise in my observation.
Anyway, our reservation in the Bayou was for 6:30pm and we arrived promptly. Dinner in the Bayou Cafe includes Mardi Gras beads at each place setting—we decided to be festive and put them on. We enjoyed the included starters of cheese biscuits and corn muffins. They also served pickled turnips. For our meals we had the following—myself: chocolate martini, salad with roasted red pepper dressing, carpetbagger filet and chocolate pecan cake. The filet was very tender and quite good. The cake was more like a chocolate mousse with pecans stuck into the top and was very good. My mother had a chocolate martini, sausage grillades with cheese grits, carpetbagger filet and sweet potato pie. My father had a Jack Daniels, sausage grillades, catfish, salad with red pepper dressing and the fried peach pie.

After dinner we walked around the promenade deck and spotted several whales feeding. First we saw a whole flock of birds right over the water and then the whale came up; the birds were following the whale, hoping to pick up any fish/scraps it left behind in the water.

Day 6 (Wednesday)
Today was our day in Ketchikan and we woke up at 5am to watch the ship pull in. Shortly after we pulled up, 3 other ships joined us in port—HAL Amsterdam, Celebrity Infinity and Dawn Princess.
I got off the ship at 7:30am in order to meet my excursion booked through Princess: Misty Fjords and Wilderness Explorer. We met up on the dock and the greeter walked us down the street to the dock where the tour boat was. The tour also included people from the Dawn Princess. The boat had 3 levels- an enclosed lower level, enclosed upper level with outdoor deck on the stern and an open upper level. The top deck is only opened when you get to the Fjords and are cruising slowly among them, as it is quite windy and can be rocky. On the way to/from the Fjords we saw several eagles—both flying and in trees, porpoises and seals. Misty Fjords was very pretty with the cliffs shrouded in mist and waterfalls cascading down their faces. I took many pictures, but the photos simply don’t do justice to such a vast, majestic area.
The tour got back to the dock at 12:30pm. This gave me one hour to walk back into town and check out Ketchikan, as we were asked to be back at the ship by 1:30pm. I rushed through town viewing the Creek Street, which is the former red light district back from when Ketchikan was in its heyday and this district continued up until the 1950s. I also walked a short distance on the so called Married Men’s Trail, which was the path men going to Creek Street used to use, so that nobody would see them.

Lunch was a slice of lasagna bolognese and a very dry, tasteless brownie from the Horizon Court and a slice of pepperoni pizza from Princess Pizza. I always find the pizza to be quite good—not dry and just enough sauce, cheese and toppings. After lunch we went to another wildlife lecture given by the naturalist. This one contained information about plants, animals and glaciers.

Tonight we went to dinner at 5:45pm and there was no wait—it didn’t seem to fill up until 6:30pm or so. The menu tonight was Italian night and it was one of the best menus of the trip in my opinion; it was better than I remembered it. We really enjoyed our wait team tonight- John and Piotr (sp?) at table 42. They were very efficient, pleasant and friendly without being obtrusive. I had a toasted almond martini, pasta arrabiatta (not listed on menu—waiter said head waiter was making it tonight), spinach salad, veal marsala, tiramisu and a shot of lemoncello. My mother had a black star liner martini, eggplant parmesan, spinach salad, veal marsala, peach stuffed almond soufflé with vanilla sauce and lemoncello. My father had a glass of wine, prosciutto with melon, spinach salad, rabbit, amaretto cookies and lemoncello.
Miramar is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 05:44 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 485
Day 7 (Thursday)
We pulled in Juneau at 6am and after breakfast in the Horizon Court, got off the ship at 8:30am. There were 3 other ships in port with us and we were in a berth were it was approx 8 minute walk to town. We met our whale watch tour at 9am. We set this up independently with Harv and Marv (wwwharvandmarvs.com). The van was not there when we arrived, but it pulled up shortly after and was right where they said they would be. This is a true family run business. Sandy, who is Eileen’s father (Eileen is the one who handles the reservations) drives the van and gives a brief commentary on the approx 20 min drive to the boats docked at Auke Bay. They run 4 tours per day and have 2 small boats which seat 6 people apiece, not including the driver (2 morning boats and then the boats go out again in the afternoon). Both boats in the morning were full. Pete and Jay (married to Eileen) drive the boats. They explained to us that the names Harv and Marv came from a movie they had seen in younger days. I can’t remember which one calls himself Harv and which one is Marv. We boarded the boats after a brief opportunity to visit the restroom. We had Pete for our driver of the blue boat. We did not see as much wildlife on our tour as some people we have read about have seen. We saw an eagle, porpoises swimming very briefly beside the boat, a sea lion eating/destroying a fish, sea lions swimming next to the boat and on a buoy and humpback whales including a mother with baby. We re-boarded the van at approx 12:30pm and drove to Mendenhall Glacier where you may either choose to be dropped off and make your own way back to town, or Sandy will wait 15 min while you observe the glacier briefly and then pick you back up. We choose to stay only the 15 minutes and then he drove us back to the ship with a brief tour around the back of the town. We enjoyed our tour and had the ability to view some of the larger outfits out on the water as well. I think no matter what company you choose to go with you will have a nice time. We were out there viewing the same whales as the people on the bigger boats. While our boat had fewer people, it was also closer to water level than the larger vessels, so you don’t get a higher view of the water.
After lunch I went back into town and rode the Mount Roberts Tram (about a 5 min ride). Your $24.95 ticket is good for unlimited rides that day. There is a good view from the top of the channel and town. There is also a restaurant, gift shop, theater showing a Tlingit film and nature center with eagle on display. There are also hiking trails normally available, but they still had a lot of snow up there and all the trails were closed—still covered in a few feet of snow.

I was back on the ship by 4:30pm for the presentation by Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod Dog Sled race. The lecture/slide show was wonderful; it was extremely informative and interesting, allowing you to learn a lot about dog sledding and the life style. After the lecture there was a table set up outside the Universe Lounge, where you could purchase one of her books (or other books about dog sledding) and then have her sign it. I took advantage of this and purchased Race Across Alaska for the signing. If you have any interest in dog sledding at all and what it is about, I highly recommend this presentation.

Tonight we had dinner around 6:15pm and the dining room was empty. We think it was due to the fact that the ship was not due to sail until 9pm, so a lot of people were on excursions or eating at salmon bakes. Tonight was Continental night menu. I had a toasted almond martini, fruit appetizer, french onion soup, beef tournedos with peppercorn sauce (off the always available menu) and the Love Boat Dream.
My mother had toasted almond martini, fruit, onion soup, lamb chops with mustard crust and raspberry creme brulee. My father had wine, fruit, corn chowder, duck al’orange and maple pecan ice cream with chocolate sauce.

Day 8 (Friday)
After breakfast in the Horizon Court we got off the ship at 7;15am to meet our independently booked excursion with Chilkoot Charters and Tours. We booked the 7 hr Yukon Bus and Rail Excursion on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. We arrived on the pier before the mini bus did, so we waited and looked for the driver. When they arrived, we checked in and boarded the mini bus for the short 2 min drive to the train depot. I’ve read Chilkoot normally has their own private rail car, but for some reason we were sharing with another non-Chilkoot group. The train car was still not completely full though—close but not quite. We were very lucky in that we had a completely clear and sunny day. The bus driver kept commenting on how rare that was. It was wonderful for viewing the scenery and taking photos. For the best viewing of scenery on the train on the way up to Fraser, sit on the left side. People on the right hand side had to stand up and look over the left side to see some the sights. One nice thing is also once the train starts moving they open up the outdoor viewing platforms between the cars and you can stand out there. Our car was the second one from the front of the train I believe, and those seated in cars farther back had the small advantage of being able to take photos of the train rounding some of the turns.

Once we arrived in Fraser, British Columbia, we were instructed to remain onboard the train until a Canadian customs agent had cleared us. Once you were cleared you were free to de-train. We arrived in Fraser before our mini bus did, so at first it was confusing because another Chilkoot bus was there to drop people off and it was confusing as to which bus was which. Once the bus situation was sorted out we boarded and headed off to Caribou Crossing in the Yukon. We made several stops along the way including Tutshi Lake, Windy Arm/Tagish Lake and Emerald Lake. Prior to arrival at Caribou Crossing, you are given a sticker which indicates you are paid up and eligible for lunch and to view the museum etc. If you have opted to do the dog sled add-on, they give you a sticker for that as well. I believe 4 people from our bus did the dog sled ride (actually a cart with wheels, since there is no snow on ground). The lunch was served very quickly and efficiently and consisted of BBQ chicken, cole slaw and donut. After lunch we had about 45-60 min to look in the gift shop, wildlife museum (taxidermy museum) and pat the puppies. There is also a store which sells ice cream. After re-boarding the bus we made several other stops including Carcross, the entering Yukon sign, entering Alaska sign. In addition we saw a black bear from the bus; someone on the bus spotted it and we had already driven by, but due to our small bus size, the driver was able to turn around and go back so that we could see it. This was one advantage to booking a smaller outfit in this case as opposed to booking through the ship and being on a full size bus. We returned to Skagway about 3:30pm and you could either get dropped in town (which we did) or back at the ship. We walked around town for about and hour, following a walking tour we had printed from (www.skagway.com) which pointed out what all the old buildings were.

Tonight we went to dinner at 6pm and the menu was Alaskan night. I had a strawberry margarita, pineapple with pistachios, apple/berry soup (which I didn’t like at all—it didn’t taste like I expected and didn’t even really taste like fruit), chicken kiev, fettuccine alfredo (I loved this and it was served in a delicious parmesan bowl) and the Love Boat Dream with butter toffee ice cream. My father had the smoked salmon appetizer, halibut, salad and black forest cake. My mother had a black star liner martini, pineapple with pistachios, salad, beef tournedos (off the always available menu), rhubarb napoleon and coffee soufflé.

Tonight from 8-10pm up in the Horizon Court they had a Chocolate Buffet. It was wonderful. In my opinion, they had some of the best chocolate desserts of the cruise on this buffet—all types of cakes, etc and at the end they had strawberries and bananas that they would dip in dark, creamy chocolate for you. I wish all the normal desserts measured up to some of these items.
Miramar is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 05:47 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 485
Day 9 (Saturday)
Today we woke up at 5:30am in anticipation of our entry into Glacier Bay. We were up in time to see the park rangers board the ship, though they did so on the port side, while our room was starboard. In the Patter they tell you what the hours for cruising Glacier Bay are, but they are not clear as to what time the commentary on the open decks will begin. So, being first timers on this itinerary to Alaska, we were out on deck by 7am. It turns out, the commentary and most of the more interesting scenery does not start until 8:30ish. It was relatively cold and windy but it was sunny, so began to feel warmer as the day went on. We had put on all our warmest clothes and were glad we did. People start lining up along the rail about 8:30 and there were a few chairs set up along the rail as well. The port side seems to be the side to be on for entry into Glacier Bay. Around 10am we arrived at the first glaciers, Margerie Glacier and Grand Pacific Glacier. They pivoted the ship so that both sides were able to get a good view of the glacier. There were also seals laying on the ice that had fallen and floated into the water. I saw a small piece of the glacier calve, but you really had to watch it like a hawk or you’d miss it. After spending time at these glaciers, we left and went to view the Johns Hopkins Glacier. Around 3:30pm we exited Glacier Bay.

Tonight we had made a reservation for dinner at 6pm. At first they told us that they don’t take reservations between 6-8pm (which we knew), but when we asked what about priority dining for suite passengers then they let us make one for 6pm. We enjoyed the service of John and Piotr at table 42 Bordeaux again. I think this was the Captain’s Gala menu I had a raspberry martini, the golden fruit, banana pineapple soup, salad with caramelized onion vinaigrette, veal ravioli, Love Boat Dream and a cappuccino. My mother had a toasted almond martini, golden fruit, banana pineapple soup, salad, beef wellington and honey almond parfait. My father had a martini, shrimp cocktail, corn chowder, salad with cumberland dressing, veal ravioli, and honey almond parfait.

Tonight was the Champagne Waterfall. For those unfamiliar with Princess, this usually occurs on the 2nd formal night (for 7 day cruises, may be different for longer ones) and consists of the Maitre D’ building a pyramid out of champagne glasses in the center of the atrium. Everyone gathers in the atrium, along the stairs overlooking it and you are given streamers. There is a count down and then everyone throws the streamers etc and they play music. You then have the opportunity to have your photo taken assisting the Maitre D in pouring the champagne. Music is played throughout the event and guests and wait staff from the dining rooms all dance.

Day 10 (Sunday)
This was the last full day of the cruise and it was cold and windy, but sunny. This morning we received our disembarkation tags for our luggage and found they had assigned us a time of 8:30am for disembarkation, when we needed to be off by 7:30am (independent arrangements). So, 2 of us went down to the Pursers desk to straighten it out and the rep we got was extremely unhelpful and obstructive to any resolution. He claimed that we would not be allowed off the ship any earlier that 8:30am and that was that—we could not change the color of our tags (some of the other color tags began disembarking at 6:30am). We asked about doing self disembarkation and carrying our own bags off the ship, but he said we couldn’t do that. So we shuffled off to discuss this development with the 3rd person in our party. While we were discussing this, another man overheard us and said the same thing happened to him and he got no resolution either. Anyway, our party discussed among ourselves and then went back to the Pursers desk to try and speak with a different rep. This time we got someone else who was willing to help us. This representative too, claimed that self disembarkation was not an option for this cruise. We explained our situation, she looked at our tags and brought them to the back room and then returned saying we could depart the ship anytime we wanted and we would have no problem. Though she did not change the color of the tags we had, she did assure us we would be able to leave the ship at whatever time of our choosing. Since this was the best we were going to do, we left and hoped what she said would be correct.

After this event, we attended the culinary demo and galley tour in the Universe Lounge. This is when the Maitre D’ and head chef prepare several dishes as you watch—a seafood dish, caeser salad and black forest cake. They also take this opportunity to plug the Princess cookbook. After the demo there is a walk through of the galley.

Of course seeing as this was the last day of the cruise, it figures that I would only today discover the availability of warm cookies in the Horizon Court during the late afternoon. I knew about the availability of ice cream in the Horizon Court each day from 3:30-4:30pm from previous Princess cruises, but the cookies were new to me. There were about 3 varieties of warm, delicious cookies offered with milk.
Around 5pm we entered the beginning of College Fjord and commentary from the naturalist started about 5:30pm. We spent until around 8:30pm in the Fjord and saw several glaciers such as Harvard, Yale and Wellesley and many sea otters.

At 8:30pm we went to dinner and since it was busy we had to wait 30 min for a table for 3. However, it was fine with us because it gave us the chance to sit at a window table in the Patisserie bar and enjoy a cocktail. We also lucked out once we were seated in the dining room and got a table right next to the window. Tonight was the Landfall dinner menu and I had Fettucine Alfredo (off the always available menu—no parmesan bowl tonight!), prime rib and chocolate marquis (very good chocolate mousse). My mother had salad and prime rib and my father had the avocado boat, salad and turkey dinner.

We pulled into Whittier around 11:30pm and docked.

Day 11 (Monday)
Today was the final day and after a quick breakfast in the Horizon Court, we had to disembark the ship by 7:30am in order to pick up our Avis rental car in time to make the 9am opening of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. The tunnel connects Whittier to the Seward highway and is only one lane wide—so times when it is open to traffic in either direction alternates. The tunnel is also used by trains. So timing is critical if you want to aim to be somewhere by a certain time. We wanted to get an early start on our drive toward Anchorage in order to fit in the maximum amount of sight seeing before our flight at 3:20pm.

So after our adventures with the Pursers desk yesterday, we went ahead and disembarked at 7:30am which is the time we wanted to get off. Nobody looked at what color tags we had (in the past we’ve found they don’t check either, but I think one time they did check tags as people were getting off). So we entered the terminal and found our luggage and left one person in the terminal with the bags while 2 of us went to get the rental car. The Harbor Store is the Avis facility (5 min walk) and it opens at 8am each day. We wanted to be first in line to collect our car when he opened, as with 3 people and 3 regular sized bags, we needed to make sure we got a car with a decent size trunk. It turned out that there were plenty of cars—surprising for such a small facility. We collected our Toyota Camry went back to get the rest of our party to begin our drive to Anchorage.

We drove to the tunnel to line up for the 9am opening. Some buses and trucks were already there, but we were first in one of the car lines. At 9am, they let the bus lane #5 go through first and they meter the traffic as you enter the tunnel to try to avoid cars traveling too close together. After we got through the tunnel, we made several stops on the way to Anchorage including the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is a drive through park that has animals native to Alaska in enclosures such as Moose, Sitka Deer, Brown bears, Black Bears. You can get out and park anywhere along the route and walk up to the fence to take a closer look. After spending about 60-90 min here we continued on and stopped at several other scenic overlooks along the way. At one, there was a man who was a wildlife watcher hobbiest and he had a telescope set up and was letting people look through it as he had found a mountain goat and group of 3 bears. That was nice to get to see those animals. We also saw a moose walking in a swampy area by the side of the road.

We arrived at the airport around 1:00pm and returned the rental car. There were no lines so it did not take long. Next we went to check in at Alaska Air. We used the kiosk which was simple enough, but then there was a short wait to check bags, but not too bad. We had never flown Alaska Air so were not sure what to expect. They were not bad. While the seats are the normal small airline seats with no leg room, they are leather seats and you can rent a movie player for $10. Though I still favor Jet Blue for their leg room, snacks and seat back TV, I thought having the ability to rent a player onboard was a nice touch (I didn’t take advantage of it though as I was trying to sleep since our connection in Seattle was an overnight flight).

We really enjoyed our trip to Alaska. This was a trip I had been thinking of taking for several years and I’m glad I booked it. However, I think I’d like to try a land based trip there as well. For me, I discovered that for cruising I prefer warm weather destinations. There is just something about being on the ship, sitting by the pool in my bathing suit and listening to the pool band, that I found I missed. That being said, we were very lucky with our weather. It was raining in Vancouver on embarkation day, but that was the last we saw of rain for the whole trip. Tues, Wed, Thurs were overcast, But Fri, Sat, Sun and Mon were sunny and it was actually quite warm in Skagway. Alaska really is the “last frontier”—so vast, remote, rough and unspoiled. The open space just goes on for miles, uninterrupted by civilization.

If seeing wildlife is very important to you, bring good binoculars and a good telephoto lens for your camera if you are serious about capturing impressive wildlife shots. Often times the distances at which you are viewing the animals are so far, you won’t capture anything if you don’t have a strong telephoto.

I know I will return to Alaska again; there is just so much to see, you can’t possibly cover it all in one short trip. So, I look forward to the day I go “North to Alaska” again.
Miramar is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 02:38 PM
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Miramar, thank you so much! Didn't read it all being at work, but seen good advices already. Printed out for "bedtime" reading and highlighting!

I'm going next Friday on Dawn.
FainaAgain is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 03:26 PM
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Thanks for all the details! We're taking this same cruise (but on the Coral) later this summer and can hardly wait after reading your great review!
football is offline  
May 30th, 2008, 03:55 PM
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FainaAgain and football: I hope you both as as nice a time as we did!
Miramar is offline  
Jun 1st, 2008, 06:48 AM
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Sounds like it was a wonderful trip. Tim Horton for donuts? How does it compare to Krispy Kreams?

Princess is known for their soufflés. For FainaAgain & Football, make sure you have the soufflé when they are on the menu.

They do have a second variation of soufflé on the menu now but your will know which one I am talking about.

On our Alaskan cruise last year, we too got up early as well and watch the ship gliding through the channels in the dark (and light mist) and fianlly into the harbour at Ketchikan. A light from a house here and there sparsely dotted the coast line. It was memorable. We thought we were the only one stupid enough to be up at that early.

We planned to take another Alaskan cruise and and take on different shore excursions. Thanks to your post, we have a few different ideas now.
Eschew is offline  
Jun 1st, 2008, 12:12 PM
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Hard for me to compare Tim Horton's with Krispy Kreme, as at Krispy Kreme, I used to get the basic glazed and at Tim Horton's I got a chocolate based donut. Different, but equally good in my opinion.
Miramar is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 05:27 AM
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Enjoyed your report! So glad you enjoyed your cruise!
We will be on our second cruise to Alaska in Aug and will be doing some of the same excursions you enjoyed. We are really looking forward to Harv and Marv's whale watch. Everyone raves about it so I hope it meets our expectations.

A question about your Misty Fjords trip..was that run by Major Marine? They are the vendor for our cruise on HA.
katybird is online now  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 06:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Enjoyed reading your review. We too have loved cruising Alaska. We loved the Alaskan King Crab legs we had at dinners. Were you able to enjoy this on Princess? It is my favorite. Thanks for taking the time to write such a great review. I hope you've posted this on Cruisecritic.com as well.
patsy120 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 07:20 AM
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Katybird: our Misty Fjords trip was run by Allen Marine. We enjoyed our Harv and Marv whale watch so I hope you do too!

Patsy120: I think there were probably crab legs-- I'm not sure though, as I don't eat seafood. But there was a seafood buffett one day, so they may have been served on that.
Yup, I posted on CC as well
Miramar is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 08:56 AM
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Miramar, or anybody who's reading this, I've never been to a Champagne event, and it's not clear from your report, is it only the fun, or have you imbibed

My question is: after the pyramid is full with liquid, you threw the streamers, and that's it? Nobody gets free champagne?

Is it a free tasting event, or is it for entertainment only?
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 11:11 AM
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FainaAgain: well, they do pass out free champagne (or it's probably sparkling wine) after the streamers are thrown, but it is not the best quality. You can get refills as well, as there are typically servers circulating. I mostly just go for the festive-ness of it. If you've never been and are not totally exhausted from a day of sight seeing (it starts at 11:30pm) I think it would be something interesting to see.
Miramar is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 01:28 PM
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Thank you! I don't know how to survive the 4 days before the cruise
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 09:31 PM
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FainaAgain, just rest up. You won't be sleeping for 7 days and 7 nights while you are on the cruise.

There is so much to see and so much to do. You don't want to miss a thing.

Re Misty Fjord. We took in eagle watching and guard island tour. We will be investigating the Misty Fjord next time around.

One mistake we made is we did not spend enough time in Ketchinkan, espcially the old town.

PS Ketchinkan has cheapest gift shops comapre to Juneau and Skagway.
Eschew is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 10:02 PM
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Thank you so much for taking the time to post a report. We sailed the Caribbean with Princess two years ago and have another Princess Caribbean cruise planned for this Christmas.

I am very keen to do an Alaskan trip and would possibly want to take a land cruise type. Were there many children on board. If we sail next summer ours will be 17 and 13. The christmas Caribbean cruises have many youngsters on board so mine are happy, but I am not sure how the Alaskan tour would be.
capetownfolk is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2008, 06:42 AM
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Capetownfolk: on our sailing there were very few children. I saw maybe 10 the whole cruise (ranging in age from infants to approx 12 yrs old). However, we sailed early season for Alaska, so many children are not yet out of school. If you sail later in the summer you may have more kids aboard.
Miramar is offline  
Jun 10th, 2008, 06:02 PM
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If the Ballard section of town on the way to the Chittenden Locks is blocked by a seafood festival, you can also access the locks by going over the Ballard bridge (go south) and go through Fishermans' Terminal, follow the signs to the locks. Admiral Way is the street. Parking is easier also.

Enjoyed your report!
edfran is offline  

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