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Majestic Princess from Seattle to Alaska 9/5-12 daily trip report

Majestic Princess from Seattle to Alaska 9/5-12 daily trip report

Old Sep 14th, 2021, 02:44 PM
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Majestic Princess from Seattle to Alaska 9/5-12 daily trip report

Returned home 9/12 from our Majestic Princess cruise to Alaska. This trip report has been posted already elsewhere in slightly different form. I'll be posting it here also. Be warned it's long. I've been warned by my proofreader (wife) that some of it is written in present tense and some in past tense. I've chosen to leave it that way. I hope it doesn't put anyone off too much when they read it. To anybody who reads it, thanks very much and hope you enjoy.
Monday-9/6/’21-We are on morning one having left Seattle last night. On our way to three Alaska ports-Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway. Our second time with Princess-also only our second cruise. In the weeks and days leading up to our departure from Seattle, we encountered some frustrating and some pleasant interaction with Princess. I won’t detail all that here but I will say this-be prepared, whether it’s staffing, Covid or whatever related, to have problems with their app and being given different info on how to handle issues such as excursions, upgrades, and using onboard credits. Customer service response by email and phone is quite slow.



Being fully vaccinated and having gotten our negative Covid test back 72 hours beforehand (this has now changed to 48 hours I’m told) we arrived at the dock well before our scheduled embarkation time thinking that the wait to get through both medical and security screening would possibly be lengthy. We had learned from our previous trip that letting your luggage go to be delivered to your cabin later can lead to some challenges. As does leaving it out for collection at the end. So, we politely told many folks on arrival that we’d would keep them with us. Upon entering the arrival hall, we found a good number of people already in line but not as many as we feared. The line snaked towards what looked like about 12+- stations of employees behind tablets checking all passengers paper work. Surprisingly to me, there were no temperature checks. Really thought that was a no-brainer. After about a 30-minute period in line we reached our very nice checkpoint person. We were asked to show vaccine cards, negative test result papers, and our passports. Know before you go that Princess has a good amount of details that they require you to fill out through their app before you reach the dock. And they are serious about it being done, to the point of emailing to remind you to finish it. After being processed here, you head up a long escalator towards security. Less invasive IMO, than airports, we just emptied our pockets either in a bowl or into your bag, sent bags through the machine and strolled through a metal detector. Did not see any extra security screening going on or people having to open bags. Much more civilized. Then we were ready to board the ship, even being quite a bit earlier than our scheduled boarding time. Could not have been easier, if you are properly prepared.

Once we boarded, we hustled over to the excursion desk (with no wait at all to speak to someone) so we could attempt to join and excursion we were interested in but could not access from home due to constant error messages both on the app and the website. Our plan was to use our onboard credits to pay for the majority of this. That plan turned out to be one of the frustrations of dealing with Princess as we were told by a phone agent you could not do this before departure while the website clearly stated, and gave instructions for, how to attempt this. But it just was not to be from home. So fortunately, the very pleasant young man at the excursion desk made it happen in about 5 minutes. Feelin’ good so far.

But this is where things bogged down unfortunately. We had been presented with an upgrade offer at a nice price before departure to a mini-suite. A bit larger room with a sitting area partitioned off for some extra space and privacy. While still at home, there were again some communications difficulties with Princess on confirming and paying for the upgrade. This involved some significant phone hold time but it was eventually resolved. So, we were looking forward to this.

We arrived at our cabin to find it as advertised. But, somehow, either through miscommunication or poor detailing on our part, the view from our balcony was of the outside and underside of the skywalk that jutted out from the deck above over the water. Leaving a very narrow, basically terrible, view of anything on our side of the ship. Since this trip was for my wife’s birthday, and seeing the views in Alaska is a big draw, this was not going to work for us. Leaving the bags unpacked, we headed for guest services. This area was gradually filling up with passengers but the lines were still pretty short. We were very fortunate to be helped by a young man from South Africa named Damien. I hope everyone gets a guy like this in a situation like this. He was so patient and customer service oriented. We explained our dilemma and he went to work. Now this was a complicated issue I’m sure and it took a good portion of time for him to come up with an available comparable room. And once he did, unfortunately, we had to go back to our original room so it knew we were there then leave again to navigate over to the other room so we could determine if it was to our liking. As it turned out, the view was better BUT it was an adjoining room and we could already hear a good bit of noise coming from behind the other door. So, we felt that was not a workable solution around possible sleeping disturbance. So back down to customer service. Fortunately for us, Damien had made it clear we did not have to wait through the line but just come to his station and he would continue to assist us. Again, we explained our dilemma and again he pleasantly went to work looking for a different room for us in the same class. Nice to feel like someone wanted to help. Another room was found, again we had to enter first room before heading to new option. The new cabin was on the same floor but on the other side of the ship-not our preference. But after close to 90 minutes of this issue we decided this one would work. Back to see Damien to finalize the new room, then back to the old room to move our belongings into the new room. Once that was done, we were finally able to unpack. Little did we know that this move would create some drama soon. That will be in the next post.

Last edited by melproffit; Sep 14th, 2021 at 03:11 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:12 PM
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Day One-part two-Once we’re settled into the final choice of cabin, we did some unpacking. The cabin has significant storage for your items, including some shelves in a closet/cabinet, a nice space with hangers to hang clothing, and a good size shelf above the hanging area. There is a safe also. The sitting and sleeping area has two nightstands each with two drawers, another larger version in the sitting area again with two drawers plus a desk style area with three drawers, three small shelves, and an area above to place some items that is enclosed by a small rail to prevent falling in rough seas. Plenty of lighting, two TVs and a very pleasant balcony with two chairs and a table. The darkening curtains to the outside work well and the curtains between sitting and sleeping areas are a welcome appointment. The bathroom is cozy but put together efficiently. Two bathrobes provided a nice touch. Ready to explore.

As the day progressed we noticed that it felt significantly less crowded this trip compared to our other cruise, which was on a sister to the Majestic Princess, Regal Princess. The crew all seemed happy to have a trip to serve on and there were many welcome back banners throughout the ship. We were even greeted with applause and shouts of “welcome” when we boarded. Everything sparkles with cleanliness and smells fresh. Numerous hand sanitizer stations about.

After our long process to get our room squared away, the wife wanted to sit still and cool off for a bit but I felt the need to explore. So off I went to look at what was what on a Covid controlled cruise. Masks are mandatory all the time for crew and inside for passengers. Outdoors they are only recommended for travelers. As the ship filled, I started to see people grabbing lunch, ordering colorful beverages, and even hit the pools and hot tubs. Most of the configuration and location of things here on this ship were identical to our last Princess sailing. One big difference is that on our previous trip, there was an indoor, adults only pool area that I believe was an extra charge. On the Majestic, this is called the Hollywood Pool Club and is open to all. It has a decent sized pool, a hot tub, and some fairly private “cabana” style spaces for two or more that look out at the sea. On a poor weather day in Alaska, these could be quite nice to spend some time in. We’ll see.



The horn sounded for embarkation time and out came the entertainment staff to begin the party. The cruise director and his staff plus some dancers and singers took their places around the pool deck and began a short show. Good fun. The cruise director-Kevin-gave a little spiel regarding the trip, the fun, the shows, etc. Interestingly, he mentioned that our passenger count was about 2100 on a capacity of 3560. So about 70%. With a staff count of 1300. So looks to be it will be relatively uncrowded. One thing we have definitely noticed is a distinct lack of children. A perk of cruising just as schools get back in session. It’s a blessing space and noise wise. Soon thereafter we were underway. And soon after that the pool and deck areas became almost completely deserted. Like they all disappeared. Kind of eerie. I guess it was back to your room to round up your bags and get ready for the evening or in to guest services to address concerns and needs. Seeing as it was my wife’s birthday today, we had made a reservation at one of the specialty dining spots, Sur La Mer. French cuisine with a seafood focus. So, we retired to our cabin to clean up and dress up.



Sur la Mer ($29 up-charge) is a well-appointed dining space with a white jacketed host and white table cloths. The one drawback to the space, and we had read of this on reviews prior to departure, is that it is an “open” floor plan instead of being an enclosed restaurant type space. So, we had passengers not dining walking through the area and you could hear all the music and noise going on throughout the center atrium area of the ship. It wasn’t a great setup but could have been worse. It’s very clear that the gentleman who led us through our dining experience were well trained and experienced. The menu consisted of an included starter of a small portion of polenta “fries” with a tomato relish and some very unique goat cheese “olives” with a pesto sauce. These olives were actually goat cheese rolled in a small ball then dipped in a jelly flavored with olive juice. When chilled it created what looked like an actual, perfect olive. If you like goat cheese and olives it’s delicious. Personally, I liked the polenta fries better. Hot, light, and fluffy. Also served a bread basket with options of a brioche stick (okay) and mini French baguettes (outstanding).

You next had the option of about 5 different actual starters off the menu. I chose a pate surrounded by a pastry crust served with a fig and apricot jam and my wife chose the smoked salmon which was served with chopped tomatoes, radicchio, and something similar to a Parmesan nest. The fish was delicious but the accompaniments, especially the cheese which had no flavor, were poorly executed IMO. For our entrees, I chose the fresh fish recommended by our server. This was a grilled sea bass with a lemon butter beurre-blanc. This was topped with an odd slice of paper-thin bread, toasted and that reminded me of a zwieback cracker. Like the cheese served with my wife’s salmon, it was flavorless and served no purpose. The fish also had a swirl of spinach purée on the side that was quite bland. But the fish and buerre-blanc was so perfect it made up for other short comings of the dish. My wife chose the grilled beef filet served with an onion compote. This added a touch of sweetness to the perfectly grilled meat. Just the right amount of pink and very tender. She pronounced it delicious. On to dessert.

As we looked over the menu, our waiter made some recommendations from the half dozen choices. After giving him our order, as we waited, he brought over a lovely looking little dish with what looked like a chocolate sculpture. Since my wife had chosen the chocolate ”bar” from the menu as her choice, we thought this was it. Surprisingly, our server along with 3-4 other folks came over and he announced that they had heard it was her birthday, the dessert was a birthday treat, and they were going to sing happy birthday to her. This made her very happy. But then the waiter brought over both of our actual dessert orders!!! So now we have three desserts in front of us! And then on top of that, he brought a fourth which was one he had recommended but we chose not to order! Dessert-a-palooza! In order, they were: first was a mousse and cake square coated with ganache with walls of very thin crispy dark chocolate. The cake was dry the rest was quite tasty. The chocolate bar was more mousse enrobed in chocolate and nuts. Not too bad. The item I chose was a creation that looked like a bee hive. Chestnut purée was the main ingredient in the outer hive with a lemon and blueberry pudding like textured filling on top of a shortbread type cookie. Not popular with either of us. And the dish the waiter added on they he felt we had to try was an egg white meringue decorated with a sculpture made from confectioners’ sugar sitting in a sauce of lemon and lime. Sauce was okay but the rest of it was just plain boring. All in all, somewhat disappointing from a ship that we were told was famous for its pastry chef.

Once dinner was done, we really felt like we needed to have some help from someone in their computer area due to our phones having tremendous difficulty staying online and getting any meaningful use out of the app. Just another exercise in frustration watching a gentlemen play with our phones, ask questions, blame the number of people on the internet, and tell us something in the phone might be the problem be prepared for this type of difficulty with the Princess app. Then, after looking at the Princess Patter daily schedule, decided to take in one of the onboard trivia game shows that we find fun then off to the main theater for a voice impressionist whose name I won’t pass on since he was, in our opinion, really poor quality. Not funny, poor singer. We left before it was over. The end of a very long day and the trip has just begun. I will be attempting to add shorter reports as days go on.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:12 PM
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DAY TWO report-after a pretty decent night’s sleep on day one, day two is a day at sea. Our cabin was quiet and peaceful but I found the mattress to be pretty hard, especially with back issues. It hasn’t taken long to confirm that the upgrade to the mini-suite was the right call. With the two of us having such different sleep patterns, having the seating area separated has been very useful. The couch is surprisingly comfortable and spacious. Our day dawned grey and wet. Seems to have rained overnight. Combine that with what appears to be a full mop down of the decks for health and cleanliness reasons and you have puddles and streams of water all over. Along with caution signs. My explorations yesterday were mainly solo so we spent time together moving through the ship to locate where things were. Another visit to the Hollywood Pool Club confirmed my thought that it is a very peaceful and quiet spot to get easy from a crowd. I don’t think I mentioned previously that there is a bar in this space and it’s easily the easiest spot I’ve seen to just walk up, chat with the bartender, and quickly get a drink. Add in the more private spaces, the great views, and the stylish and comfortable furniture and I think we will spend some sea time here.

The atrium area in the center of the ship, which rises three decks-#5,6,7-is a really beautiful space, with blue, white, and silver decor to represent the sea along with white marble and gold accents throughout. Very similar to our last Princess experience. Lots of seating, a band stage for music performances during the voyage and glass elevators add to the ambiance. Even as early as we were about today there were folks chatting, drinking, and even playing cards. It is a hub of activity as the upper levels of the atrium are where you find most of the shopping opportunities. But how does the small convenience store not carry any razors?

Decided to check out the buffet for breakfast today, mainly due to the length of the wait at the small coffee shop/bakery that serves other breakfast type items. It’s a very popular place for light meals, and we learned on our previous cruise. When we approached the entrance, a steward pointed us in the direction of either the hand washing station or the hand sanitizer post. Everyone we saw complied without hesitation to one of these. The first thing you notice upon entering is that one half of the space set up to serve the buffets is not being used at all. A statement on the needs of a ship at only 70%+- capacity this voyage. And even without it, the buffet area did not seem crowded or particularly difficult to find a nice window table for your meal. I won’t try to go into all the variety available at lunch but you really could have nearly anything you want. Salad station, pasta dishes, Indian or Asian cuisine, French dip special today, or a nice meats and cheeses plate. The bakery area had a great looking selection of treats but we found the brownies to be more like a dry thin slice of cake and the blueberry cobbler to just be a cup of pie filling with some dry cookies crumbled on top. It may just be my changing tastes or Covid restart issues, but I’m less happy with the food we’ve come across than I remember being last time.

Once we had finished lunch, we strolled over to check out the putting competition. While on our last voyage-in warmer climates-this was held out on an upper deck that had an actual hole to putt into. Today, it was in the hall in front of some elevators, into a cup taped to the floor. I do not know if this was due to weather or lack of a “real” golf hole but it was poorly executed this way. I think scrubbing this idea would be best. As anyone who has cruised knows, the ships do all they can to provide something to do, especially on sea days. Beauty care lectures, arts and crafts, game shows, art auctions, etc. Also, guest lecturers seem to be popular. We have two on our ship. One is a naturalist focusing on the areas of Alaska we will be visiting and the other is an author/adventurer named Susan Conrad who ten years ago did a solo kayak trip 1600 miles from Washington State to Juneau Alaska. As we watched her speak, it felt like 1) she really needed a better script writer or an update from a decade ago and 2) this was just a come on to sell books. Some outstanding phots accompanied her talk. In a couple of days, we will have an Iditarod dog musher onboard with one of their dogs. Look forward to that. Once we finished that it was time to head down for a little rest, clean up, and get ready for dinner.

We adjusted this evening’s dinner reservations so as to maximize our activity time after our meal. The Allegro dining room is one of the included dining spots in our fare-no up-charge. A nice high end feeling space with white table cloths and personable waitstaff. The menu consisted of three choices of starters, some choices of salads and soups you could mix and match and half a dozen main course entrees to choose from. Our waiter was from Indonesia-Bali-which we visited in 2019. This info started a nice conversation about his home and our visit. My wife even happened to have some pictures on her phone to share. He proceeded to give his recommendations for the evening as he offered us breads from the basket. Delicious Cuban rolls this evening. Wife chose a goat cheese and roasted walnut salad to begin while I picked the pate with French bread and capers. When these arrived, it was very clear that our portions were going to be even smaller in this dining room that our meals last night in the up-charged space last night. Her salad was on a small plate with two grape tomatoes and a nickel sized disc of goat cheese. And my pate was about the size of a Triscuit with a thin round slice of baguette that seemed to have been left out to get stale and that crumbled the minute you tried to spread anything on it. Very disappointing. Add that the pate/liver mousse was not chilled and a sour liver taste and it was clear I’d made a poor choice. I had also chosen the French onion soup to add to my meal and while not outstanding, it wasn’t Campbells either. The soup was not too salty and had excellent flavor but it was short on the traditional cheese topping and the bread on top was mushy.

Entree choices of medallion of beef and grilled prawns with coconut rice were then served and again looked to me like a kid’s portion. I know a medallion is not large but this was again just larger than a cracker with a potato “pancake” that was neither warm enough or remotely crispy. The beef was cooked very nicely and was flavorful. My wife’s dish seemed more like an appetizer with a small round layer of rice topped with four small shrimp with three or four small chunks of bok choy. She pronounced it ”fine”. I brought the Luke warm potatoes to the waiter’s attention and he apologized profusely, offering to bring a different serving. I chose to just jump to dessert. This ship-and possibly other Princess-have what they call a Chocolate Journey program. This has been created in consultation with master chocolatier Norman Love and promised to be special. My wife is a confessed chocoholic so that was an easy choice for her. I chose our waiters recommendation, the Bananas Foster Flambé with Caramel Cookie. This again was a disappointment to me as I had an expectation, possibly unrealistic, that they would actually flambé the dish at my table, but not to be. There small slices of banana surrounding a disc of a cookie that was pretty flavorless topped with some vanilla ice cream. The sauce tasted of brown sugar and butter and was the best part of the dish. My wife’s Chocolate dish was similar, yet tastier than the bar dessert she chose at Sur La Mer yesterday. Mousse enrobed in dark chocolate. Very nice.

Our timing for dinner would allow us to enjoy two cruise crew games in the Princess Live theater before going to the big show of the evening presented by the entertainment staff-singers and dancers with a guest soprano, Barbi McCulloch. The first game was a music trivia game hosted by a young woman from the UK. Many of the staff we have encountered in the games are from UK or South Africa. Many more than the staff on our previous cruise. Once that was done, the next event was the Yes/No game show, where passengers attempted to not say any version of yes or no during a three minute interview by the cruise director or his co-hostess. This is one of the games that has actual production values and can be watched back later on your in room tv. It’s fun to watch but hard to win. Only two winners during about 45 minutes of game. Lots of laughs as the hosts set up the contestants to fail.

Our final event was the production show Encore in the large main theater. Four main singers we now know by name, 6-7 backup singers/dancers, and the aforementioned soprano. A nice 8-piece orchestra complimented them. This performance focused on movie & theatre music. It was pretty good with a couple of exceptions. Some of the dancing needed some rehearsal time and the soprano, while obviously very talented, may need to tone it down a notch IMO. A decent way to end our first full day at sea. Heading through the Inside Passage tomorrow into Juneau. These posts may be a bit late and shorter going forward as we will be busier I think. But I’ll try to keep up.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:13 PM
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Day Three-first port-Juneau-The ship seems very quiet this morning. Maybe too many revelers last night. I am very impressed with the amount of cleaning I am seeing at all times of the day aboard this vessel. It appears to be going on constantly on all decks. Nothing stays unwiped, unmapped, or uncleared for more than a couple of minutes. This goes for the steward on our floor who is also constantly cleaning either in the hall areas or the rooms. It’s actually very reassuring. Light breakfast in the buffet this am. Fruit and cereal. Been indulging too much. We discovered that you can have omelets made to order and brought to you by a dining steward! Will try that tomorrow. We the chose to pick a spot, first outside then after getting too cold inside, to watch the landscape of water, islands, and mountains go by. Cloudy with slashes of sun through the clouds. Even a small sized rainbow appeared. A naturalist on board was providing commentary over the PA as we cruise through the Northwest Passage. We see signs of habitation on land-islands and mainland-along with fishing boats dotting the horizon here and there. Just before lunch, the naturalist was giving a presentation in the theater about Alaska wildlife. A lot of the info was not new to us from our two previous visits but some of what he was saying seemed a little unorthodox. Might be due to his living alone on an island up here for so long. Great photos though. Lunch was a quickie at the coffee shop with a couple of quite tasty pesto caprese sandwiches and a bit of Italian pasta salad with salami. Good to go for heading into Juneau.



The town has many opportunities for shore excursions including a gondola to the top of a mountain (not recommended on a cloudy day) helicopter flight seeing, fishing and our choice, visiting the Mendenhall Glacier. The only glacier in North America you can drive too. It is very close to town and there are many options, with many different prices, as to how to get there. We chose not to do this through an overpriced-IMO-cruise excursion or the cheap but time-consuming city bus from which you still have to walk a mile to get to the visitor’s center. We chose a commercial operation called The Blue Bus. This is an express ride from just outside the cruise ship dock directly to the parking lot at the visitor’s center. It is a repurposed school bus painted blue and runs two buses on the route. You can reserve online for the day but not a specific time. Just show up then you’ll depart on the half hour. Not sure how they would handle a walk up but if you want to pay them, I bet they’ll get you on! Driver provides a few brief facts and some jokes along the way and in about twenty minutes you looking at a huge Alaska glacier, the Mendenhall.



I won’t try and give details or facts and figures here about the glacier but it is huge, astounding, and has receded a great distance over the last 100+ years. There are numerous hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty levels throughout the area. I don’t think there is one that lets you walk onto the glacier but I cannot say that for a fact. You can land on it with a very expensive chopper ride if you like. We decided to do two easy but enjoyable trails. One to a photo point for the perfect view of the glacier to take numerous pictures. The other is about 30 minutes each way out to Nugget Falls, a tremendous wall of water pouring down the mountain into Mendenhall Lake. At the end of this trail, you are right at the base of the falls and much closer to the glacier but your view is fairly blocked by hills and greenery. You will also probably see some “icebergs” floating in the lake-chunks of the glacier calved off and moving around the lake. Makes for some great pictures, especially with a bit of sun, which we had to begin but it soon turned to pretty heavy rain and cloud cover. No fun hiking back to the start in the rain. At the Visitors Center you can see some displays about the area, pick up some maps or trinkets and watch a 15 minute film Landscape of Change about mainly the geological history of the area. There are also huge picture windows from which to marvel at the glacier from out of the rain. Watched the film as we dried out a bit before the next Blue Bus departure. The rain increased as we headed back into Juneau.

The city is the capital of Alaska, located in an area with no roads in or out. Only accessible by plane or boat. Fishing and government are the large employers in the area. And tourism-cruising-really keeps it alive. Pays for many, many municipal expenditures. Everyone we saw in town was very glad to finally have ships coming into port. Early dinner at the famous Red Dog Saloon which was quite busy with passengers from our ship. Three delicious dishes were shared between the two of us-local smoked salmon dip, a wonderful clam and smoked salmon chowder, and another local item-a reindeer sausage. This tasted a lot like a good kielbasa and was served on a roll with grilled onions along with some well-made fries. Everything was very good, the service was good considering how busy they were and we were kept entertained by a crusty old singer with a keyboard and all the eclectic and interesting decor items throughout the place. Highly recommended if you hit Juneau. Before returning to the ship, we looked over the Princess Patter schedule and decided to enjoy a night in and entertain ourselves with a movie or something through my tablet. Tomorrow it’s Skagway’s turn to impress us. We arrive early AM and then we are doing a combo hike and river float excursion.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:13 PM
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Day FOUR-Skagway port-Part one-woke this morning in the small town of Skagway. We look to be the only ship in port today so that bodes well for ease of exploring around town and participation in our excursion for today. Signed up when boarding the ship for a Chilkoot Trail Hike and Taiya River Float. This trip includes a drive to the trailhead along the Skagway River with a bit of Klondike gold rush history talk, a 2-mile hike, and an easy float of around 45 minutes back to the trailhead. Float is mainly on the Taiya which is a tributary of the Skagway. After a quick, nondescript, buffet breakfast, we easily disembarked the ship and also very easily found the young man holding the sign for the excursion company. After a brief wait for other participants (our greeter had originally said total of 9 but four never showed up), we clambered aboard a well-loved van for the drive out. Moving through some town neighborhoods then joining a mainly dirt and rutted road we listened to our driver/greeter/guide Joe tell us about what to expect, some pertinent history spots, and some natural facts about flora, fauna, and tides. After about twenty minutes Joe announced there was a bald eagle in a tree beside the road. We slowed to admire this large bird on a branch just off the road and just a few feet above eye level. As I attempted to take a photo from the wrong side of the car Joe told us we could get out and take the pictures. Great news as this was probably the closest, I’d ever been to a bald eagle and was able to get some great shots of him. A big movement caught my eye just below the edge of the road and I looked down to see a juvenile eagle, still covered in mainly brown feathers with just a hint of white (they get white head and tail plumage at five years) sitting on a low branch. The youngster was much more nervous than the adult and didn’t stick around long, gliding off his perch and soaring down toward the river below. As we continued on our drive Joe pointed out numerous more eagles either in the trees or perched on stumps or snags along the river waiting to snatch up a fish. Very cool.



The hike was going to cover a couple of miles of the Chilkoot Trail, used in the late 1890 by folks arriving in the Skagway area from all over the US to begin the long journey to the gold strikes in the Klondike area of Yukon Territory, Canada. Tons of historic information out there about just how hard this was to do and the hardships of this route and others. Skagway and the National Park Service have done a great job providing info in town. Our section of the trail hike was described as moderate and I think I’d agree. First section-a little under a mile-has a pretty good elevation gain over lots of rocks, holes, and roots. I’d advise sturdy shoes and possibly the hiking poles offered at the trailhead. You are in a rain forest so things will be wet & slippery most certainly. Though today during our trip no rain fell and Joe pronounced it a “glorious” day. Lots of beautiful greenery, some views, and an amazing array of fungi everywhere, especially many sizes and colors of mushrooms. Joe was very patient and said don’t worry about taking time for pics or if you walk slower than others. Fortunately, our fellow hikers were just as interested in pictures and as slow as us so. No problem there.

After the uphill section, we went through a shorter downhill with just as many rocks and roots. It was during this portion of the hike we were shown the first of what turned out to be many piles of bear scat right on the trail. Some of which Joe pronounced as being “pretty fresh”. We were given a primer on what to do if we happened to encounter a bear while on the trail and Joe said bears are seen here during the summer differing numbers of times. Some summers lots, some less. He told a story of a fellow guide that had a scarily close encounter while on a hike with customers a few summers before. Not a full attack but it would get your heart rate up for sure.

Once on flat land it was a leisurely walk in a beautiful forest until we reached the boat put-in on the edge of the river. Milky looking water-from glacial silt-moving quickly but no rapids or whitewater. The company offered rubber boots for all to wear while in the boat, flotation vests, and a large dry bag to carry our shoes and any bags we wanted safe. Our vessel was a large inflatable river raft with space to sit and hold onto on the edge with Joe rowing from a seat in the middle. Glad we had only the five of us, not 9 or the 11 that we were told was the max. Three smaller folks in front, wife and I in back, and we shoved off. While the river looked fairly fast, the boat just felt like it was meandering along giving us lots of opportunity to enjoy the scenery and look for more eagles and other possible wildlife. Did see more eagles but nothing else. We heard from Joe that there have been bear sightings from the raft on numerous occasions. In a couple of places, the boat picked up steam as the channel we rode in narrowed. But as I said, no rapids or white water.

After about 45 minutes of hearing about the area from Joe and time on the water, we reached the pull out at the trailhead where we had begun. Another guide was there to help us exit the raft and collect boots. Also, to request help carrying the raft from the river to the trailer. A surprise but no big deal. Enjoyed a brief water and cookie break, then joined Joe in the van for the run back to town. He offered to takes straight back to the dock or to drop anywhere in town to dine and explore. We chose to be dropped in town rather than back at the dock, which is about 1/2 mile walk or shuttle ride away. More in Part two.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:14 PM
  #6  
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Day Four-Skagway port-PART two-our guide Joe had mentioned a good place for lunch would be the Skagway Brewing Company just off the main drag so that is where we asked him to drop us off. Typical pub fair for the most part with typical Alaska high prices. I know it’s more expensive here than the lower 48 all around, but for things more easily accessible here, like local seafood, places still want to charge outrageous prices. Not a fan. I chose the fried halibut sandwich and wife chose halibut fish and chips. Fish was hot and flaky, fries were fresh and delicious, and the tartar sauce here is unique and very good. A sturdier bun would be nice with the sandwich. They have a homemade ginger soda on the menu that was very refreshing. Can’t comment on the beer personally but Joe said the Spruce Tip Ale was his favorite beer ever. Overpriced meal but what can you do.

The town of Skagway has a year-round population of between 800 & 900 people. This doubles during summer/cruise season. The town has preserved many Gold Rush era buildings and restored others, including many with period accurate facades along the main drag. Eateries, saloons, tourist shops, and a way too large number of jewelry stores (we saw this in Juneau also-wonder why) are main places to browse as you walk the town. Also, there are locations managed by the NPS as part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park. My wife had just finished a book on the subject so we searched out the main visitor’s center for the park, to pick up info and a stamp for her NPS passport. Nicely put together center with a very eager young ranger wanting very badly to discuss all things gold rush with us. I’m thinking they haven’t had many visitors over the last 18 months! Alas, due to Covid, the recommended film on the Klondike was not running. So, we did some more exploring and trinket browsing before deciding to walk back to the port. Along the way, found a small viewing spot looking down into one of the streams into that carrying salmon on their trip home from the sea to spawn. Sure enough, we saw numerous rather sad, beat up looking salmon swimming below. Along with some carcasses of recently expired fish. First salmon we’ve seen so far.



From there we headed towards the dock, only to be stopped by a local in his car and informed we had joined the wrong road and had to back track a bit to get there. Very hospitable. Rejoining the ship requires scanning our medallion not once but twice, going through an airport style X-ray machine with your bags and a walk-through metal detector. I understand why but it is an annoyance as you wait for folks to get through the process. It was now around 4pm so it was rest up and clean up before going to dinner.



I’ll mention a few more things about the ship here. We definitely feel well taken care of by the large number of crew. The want to help with anything they can and you will hear “Can I help you?” all over the ship. It’s nice but can feel overbearing at times. Have still yet to see any kids which as I said before we are fond of for many reasons. The ship was originally built to serve the SE Asia market and mainly Chinese travelers. There are signs and information all throughout the boat written in what I believe are Mandarin characters. Since the boat has been moved to serve other areas, it’s a unique aspect of this trip. One of the surcharge dining rooms has an exclusively Asian menu and decor still has some remnants of Asian influence which we think are beautiful. Also, on the pool deck, one of the dining counters offers a selection of Asian noodle dishes. Definitely different from our previous cruise. In our room, it’s been surprisingly easy to adjust the temperature, more so than in many hotel rooms we have stayed in. The water in the shower has a pretty weak stream but there has been no problem getting it nice and hot. My wife even enjoyed a lovely bath. Lastly, the nightly movies under the stars look great on the huge screen above the pool. Wish the weather was more conducive to being out there watching them.



No dinner reservation for tonight so we chose to hit the casual Italian spot Alfredo’s for something easy. Pastas, pizzas, salads and the like were on the menu. Along with some Italian appetizers. More pizza than anything else. I chose a antipasto appetizer of sliced meats, shrimp salad, and greens under a balsamic vinegar drizzle to begin and we both chose the Mista salad-mixed greens with tomato and cucumber with a balsamic dressing. The appetizer was a major disappointment-one slice of salami, one large slice of mortadella cut in two, a small amount of greens and what was ridiculously called shrimp salad. A small ramekin style dish with exactly two shrimp mixed with carrot, maybe a bit of other veg, and covered in what tasted like Mayo. All of which would have fit into a baking tablespoon. It was disappointing to say the least. The Mista salad was pretty good except the dressing was strangely light on flavor and a bit watery. Strange especially since the balsamic drizzle on the other greens was fully flavored like a reduction. For our main courses we both chose a pasta-Agnolotti (small ravioli) filled with veal, covered with a veal cream sauce and cheese then placed under a broiler to melt the cheese (gratineed). It sounded tasty and upon its arrival looked great. We were admonished by our server “don’t touch the dish” it was that hot. As I have definitely mentioned previously, I was immediately disappointed by the portion size. This was smaller than your average frozen dinner portion. I know the issues with food waste and yes, I probably could have asked for another but I assumed they would be enough for your typical-at least in my family-adult meal. The pizzas I had seen would have been the perfect size. Need to be prepared for this for the rest of the trip. I will say that once it was cool enough to eat, the dish was very tasty. Pasta was cooked perfectly and the sauce was delicious. Deep and rich like a veal sauce should be. More sauce than anything else, the server was kind enough to ask the chefs to provide us with some bread to mop up that sauce. We both were happy with this dish.

Dessert, perhaps not surprisingly, was another disappointment. Two choices, Tiramisu and Apple Tart, so we chose one of each. Tiny triangle of tiramisu with a bit of cream on the side was very much lacking in any flavor and the tart did not taste or look as the menu description led you to believe. Much to my surprise, because this venue has no freezer, we were told that it wasn’t possible to serve the tart ala mode. Somehow Princess should rectify this as it might save the dish.

After dinner this evening we chose to skip the Mentalist show due to our poor experience with the vocalist/impressionist a few nights ago. Instead, we raced to the Princess Live theater to take part in music lyric trivia. At which we won a bottle of champagne!! So much fun. Almost got a perfect score but the Country category threw us off. Directly after that, we stayed and also joined in to the Fill In The Blank game. This was three entertainment staff-with a fourth as host-being given a phrase with a empty spot where they would fill in the blank with a word or phrase. Audience would also do this and if you match someone you get a point. Also, the funniest non matching answer the host found got a point. Went from g rated to almost r rated pretty quick. Very funny though. We did not do well. Once this was over, it was time for some shut eye before a possible early rise to see the glory of Glacier Bay National Park. And if we are lucky, glaciers calving and some whales. More to come.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:15 PM
  #7  
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Day FOUR-part 2.5-at sea-well we just experienced every cruiser’s nightmare. Maybe nightmare is too strong a word but since it interrupted our sleep I’ll call it that. Suddenly while snoozed, a screeching blast woke us immediately. And a voice came over the ship PA-“man overboard starboard side, man overboard starboard side”. Well, we sure weren’t sleeping now. We knew immediately that this was going to elicit some type of procedure to attempt a rescue and to account for passengers onboard. After a brief wait another PA message, this time from the captain telling us that it was a crew member that was suspected to be overboard and that a rescue craft was in the water. He also asked all passengers to return to their cabins immediately so a count could be taken. The noise level in the halls then increased dramatically as people did as they were instructed. We waited some time before our next dinging of the bells to announce another message from our captain, this one to announce that to fully determine if all passengers were accounted for, we were instructed to dress and immediately report to our assigned muster stations-you know the ones we all have to report to for safety info prior to departure. (There is a story about that I forgot to mention earlier and will add to next post). Interestingly, he mentioned that the passengers who had been asked to “isolate or quarantine” did not have to report. This is new info and brings up so many other questions. May decide to ask about that situation.

So at about 1:30 am we left our cozy beds, dressed and headed to our assigned station, the VIP casino. As we departed our cabin, the floor stewards were placing bright yellow notifications on our door handle announcing the cabin was clear. Our cabin is on deck 15 and the casino is on deck 6, but unexpectedly we were directed by crew in full life jacket, yellow safety caps, and whistles that the elevators were only being used by passengers with mobility issues. Scooters, wheelchairs, etc. Makes sense but the grumbling was very audible as people moved down the stairs. Arriving at the casino, we were scanned in to account for our presence, pointed towards where they wanted us to sit and began the wait. Our captain announced that he was sorry for the inconvenience but that this was the best way to determine if anyone was missing. As we waited, the people watching became a decent way to pass the time. It’s quite interesting what people will grab to wear in this situation, anything from pj’s and Princess bath robes to complete daytime clothes. Plus a few that looked to be wearing the outfits they had on while enjoying the nightlife when the first alert was broadcast. We also heard a fair amount of complaining as we waited.

Mercifully, the time in muster was only approximately 30 minutes before the captain announced that all passengers and crew were accounted for and it appeared to be an inaccurate report that someone had gone into the water. So, everyone headed back out the stairs and elevators to return to their rooms. And the hope of getting more sleep before our early am arrival in Glacier Bay NP.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:15 PM
  #8  
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Day FIVE-at sea/Glacier Bay National Park-after sleeping in later than planned before our misadventure last night, we woke to rain, fluffy fog, and icebergs. Yes, various size chunks of ice floating by from the calving of the glaciers. We were working our way north through Glacier Bay National Park. We had been given some info about our visit such as a NPS map of the park, a brochure with info about the park’s sites, and a timeline from Princess about when we were expected to arrive where in the park. This was all very helpful. So after a quick buffet breakfast amongst a few other bleary eyed passengers, we set out to determine where we wanted to spend some time viewing all the bay had to offer.

We had seen previously the “cabana” style spaces in the Hollywood Pool Club area and thought that might be nice with the large view windows. But I was sure that we would be too late. But fortunately for us, we found one space with loungers, a table, some blankets, and the really nice view. Add in quick access to the outside and a bar and we were set. Or so we thought.

The ship picked up NPS rangers in the wee hours of the morning. They were brought out by boat to the ship and then climbed a rope ladder on board! I have no idea how they could have done this with all the things they had set up in their space just around the corner from our cabana. Did they bring this stuff on board in Seattle before departure? Never know. They had an easel holding a whiteboard showing which glaciers we would see, the schedule of their events-talks and such-and the weather forecast. Also, they had a table of NPS items to buy such as shirts, books, and pins. They had also set up a table for passengers to get a stamp for their Park Service Passport books which made my wife very happy. Additionally, there was a table staffed by Alaska Geographic to ply their wares.

There were four rangers, three roaming around with the passengers plus one on the bridge who narrating while we cruised through the bay. She was also to serve as an “eye in the sky” to assist us while we scanned the area for wildlife. Whales, porpoises, seals, bears, etc. And it wasn’t long before she pointed out the first animals-white mountain goats that looked like white dots high up a hillside. Fairly easy to see with our very nice binoculars. Shortly thereafter another announcement came from the bridge that we had a bear sighting onshore at the in-flow area from a river. As I looked though the binocs I saw that there were actually three bears that appeared to be foraging, either for fish or possibly some shellfish where the two waters came together. I was able to snap off one good full zoom photo of the closest bear.

As we moved closer to our first glaciers-Margerie and Grand Pacific-the icebergs started to get bigger and more numerous. We also noted just how close we were getting to the Canadian Border. Been a long time since we visited there. Our ranger mentioned that it was thought that the Grand Pacific was the glacier that had formed the bay but it had retreated a loooong way over the years. The two glaciers could not have looked more different. Margerie was what most folks would think of as a glacier-high cliffs of ice that were the source of the floating chunks. Grand Pacific no longer reached the water and was significantly dirtier. As we viewed the Margerie, the captain moved the ship around for all to get a look. Unfortunately, our viewing area, while great for one side of the ship, but being indoors was not conducive to taking good pictures. So, it was bundle up and head out on to the deck for better opportunities. The low fog and mist obscured the top edge of the stark white glacier, making for a narrow band to view above the water. Our narrator pointed our gaze towards some smallish dark spots on the leading edge of the broken-up ice in front of the glacier. This turned out to be 10 or 12 harbor seals hauled out. Suddenly we heard a loud noise, like the report from a gun, and all eyes turned toward the glacier. By the time we looked over, there was falling ice and then a large splash of water and ice leapt from the bay. It was awesome. This would be the only calving we saw while viewing any of the glaciers today. Even as the visibility worsened seeing this huge strip of ice was a view I will never forget.

At this point the ship headed back south towards our next glacier, Johns Hopkins, which as it turned out we could only see from a distance of many miles. A bit disappointing. Then, while moving to our next glacier, Lamplugh, we were rewarded with sightings of multiple sea otters! Singles, pairs, whole rafts of otters plus some who had sprang onto some small icebergs. These were awesome animals. So damn cute. Lamplugh glacier looked a lot like a wide super highway covered in ice and dirt. Not pretty but still spectacular. From there it was a medium speed cruise southward back the way we came. We headed toward the stern of the boat to attempt some last-minute scenery pics and we noticed some folks with binoculars pointed astern. They let me know that some whale spouts had been sighted a significant distance behind us. And sure enough there were probably two whales spouting sporadically and appearing to head towards us. But there was no way they’d catch us and shortly disappeared. A beautiful, awe-inspiring visit to an area I really hope to return to for more time in a smaller vessel. More on today later.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:16 PM
  #9  
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Day FIVE-sea day/Glacier Bay NP-part two-our time in front of the glaciers was relatively short and this only makes one think of how much more there is to see in this area with more time. Many other arms and bays and glaciers to explore. We saw a couple of smaller passenger ships and I’m guessing they spend more than two hours in the bay. As we headed out through Icy Strait-the entrance to the park, we were alerted to a pod of porpoise a good bit off in the distance. They were racing the other direction of the ship. Too far for a photo I’m afraid. This was an all too brief visit to a spectacular area.

We opted for a lazy afternoon in-not much interesting on the afternoon schedule. Looking at the evenings games and shows, our dinner reservation time was going to cut into our preferred activities so I reached out to the Dining Reservations desk to see about adjusting them. During our previous pre-Covid cruise on Princess, this had been a problem due to the fullness of the boat and there first seating/second seating set up. It was very off putting. But today, it was simple to move the reservation earlier. We were dining in the Concerto dining room tonight which shares a menu and an ambience with Allegro and Symphony. Very nice but again we had an overabundance of lackluster food. While my wife enjoyed her escargot (really just a delivery mechanism for butter and garlic) I found my smoked salmon appetizer a strange combo of ingredients. A couple of strips of smoked salmon on top of what tasted like unflavored orzo with two thin slices of cucumber and some dots of sweet chili sauce. The salmon was good at least. The Caesar salads we chose lacked much flavor in the dressing. A special on the menu this evening was grilled lobster tail with a citrus risotto. Loving lobster like I do, and having difficulties with portion size before, I chose to order two of this special and was happily informed “ no problem sir”. The wife chose just one. The dishes were served shortly thereafter and as expected they were small tails. Unexpectedly, there was no sign of any grilling being done. Probably too much to expect that on a ship. Both the tails and the risotto were quite tasty and one of the better entrees we’ve had onboard. There was a Norman Love Chocolatier dessert on the menu tonight and it sounded very similar to a dessert we had enjoyed on our previous voyage. The chocolate pistachio dome was a small dome of chocolate mousse filled with pistachio cream on top of a shortbread style cookie and covered in dark chocolate. While it was good, it wasn’t how we remembered it. And contrary to past desserts where we felt they suffered from being refrigerated for too long, this felt the opposite as the mousse lacked the full, firm airiness other mousse desserts had. It was almost runny.



Our evening continued with a pair of game shows in the Princess Live studio, one to be filmed for the onboard tv system. The first was a James Bond Trivia focusing mainly on music from the films. We didn’t do so well here. The next was Marriage Match which is very similar to The Newlywed Game. We had found this very, very funny on our previous cruise. And you get to enjoy again later if you want. They did it twice a night so watching the one you didn’t attend can be fun also. Three couples at various stages of marriage are chosen from those that signup beforehand and placed on lip shaped couches in front of the audience. The newlywed young couple were an American and his young wife from the Dominican Republic (possibly a 90 Day Fiancé type situation?), a couple from Maui with a native husband and a non-native wife (easy to tell who wore the pants in that pair), and a couple married 51 years (very cute). Questions asked by host and answers have to match for points. Quite funny but not as much drama as the last cruise.

Once these were done, we moved to the Princess Theater for the production show “Sweet Soul Music”. One of my wife’s favorite genres of music. This show was much more enjoyable that the last as the band was very good, the dancing was mostly better, and the singers did well with the chosen songs. Upon returning to our cabin, I stepped out on the balcony to see just how dark it was. As I stared out, I started to notice a few white-ish shapes appearing then disappearing in front of me. I watched further and sure enough what first looked like fireflies showed themselves to be birds flying alongside the ship. One or two, then six or eight, then none. The coloring on the feathers seemed to have maybe some bioluminescence or maybe just reflecting the light from the ship, they really seemed to disappear as they moved away from my view. We were later told they were probably Arctic Terns. A nice way to end our Glacier Bay day.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:17 PM
  #10  
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Day SIX-Ketchikan port day-Woke this am pulling into Ketchikan to see nothing but gray skies and pouring rain. And the forecast says more of the same all day. This is the only real city we will see on the cruise, with Juneau and Skagway being towns IMO. Ketchikan is on an island and has a robust fishing industry in place. The city is the southern entrance of the Inside Passage and is a place of heavy Alaska Native influence. And in the city, they have the largest collection of original carved totem poles, many from the 19th century and rescued from ruin after being removed from abandoned coastal villages. Definitely one of the up things we hope to see today. But before that, we are taking an excursion we booked using our shipboard credits (and then some) on a boat trip up to and into Misty Fjord National Monument and Redyard Bay about an hour by boat from Ketchikan. This is marketed as a wilderness explorer tour with the chance to see marine wildlife. But of course, that part is not guaranteed.



We pushed away from the Ketchikan dock area in continuing wet and windy conditions. We have a naturalist/guide onboard who will be imparting area details to us as we cruise, three or four deckhands running about doing things, and a small galley for snacks and drinks and trinkets. Also, set up in one corner, is a native artist selling his wares and scheduled to tell some history of the area during the trip. We have included in our trip a nice warm cup of clam chowder or veggie chili which based on the weather will be most welcome on the return run. The boat-the Melinda Leigh-is an aluminum catamaran with quite the history, including leaving the ownership of our cruise company, who built it, and its eventual return after seeing some other parts of the world. It seats probably about 150 on upper and lower levels and we have about two dozen onboard today. The seating is quite comfortable with high back padded individual seats along with table area in front. Small crowds = plenty of space.



The trip starts slowly as we leave the city port area and the surrounding habitation. Our guide gives us some interesting detail about the city history, the details of the salmon industry, and facts about the native tribes that are the historical residents along Ketchikan Creek. Once clear of this area, the captain kicks in the engines and we are soon traveling about 25 knots per hour. We are passing through a section of the Tongass National Forest and through the rain, viewing numerous steep sided islands and the shore of the island Ketchikan is located on. Not much in the way of beaches here, just rocky shorelines strewn with logs. The shorelines have forest just about right up to the edge of the water. Our guide describes the four or five major species of tree and how they provide different things for the forest. We travel quite near land on one side of the boat but it’s mainly open ocean on the other side. The weather starts to break slightly as we reach an area where the naturalist wants to show us some natural things. He begins to point out different types of rock the islands are made from, the historic tide lines, and an abundance of sea stars that have rebounded from a troubling recent die-off. Almost everyone heads out on deck to view the beautiful surroundings. The area we are traveling through has a strong resemblance to the San Juan Islands near where we are from, right down to the rain and fog. We move on and pickup speed heading toward Redyard Bay which is the main destination of the trip.

Up to now we’ve seen no wildlife other than birds and sea stars. So, our naturalist does point out two or three bald eagles flying by and in the trees. This turn out to be the only wildlife we see. No whales, seals, otters, orcas, nothing. While we enjoy the scenery it does become something of a disappointment but to always a crapshoot on this type of trip. When it is announced we are entering Redyard Bay, the water immediately becomes calmer. Almost glass smooth. We begin to see tall granite walls and knobs reminiscent of Yosemite NP. Many of these have water streaming down the faces, ribbon waterfall totally fueled by rain. Some trickle but some are really powerful, running through forested cracks in the landscape. Very beautiful, almost mystical. Above us on some if the cliff faces, there are gaps that our naturalist calls “hanging valleys”. They look totally mysterious like a place that could still be inhabited by unknown natives or wildlife. When I mentioned to the naturalist I would love to get up there he even stated “yeah maybe find some dinosaurs”. It was surreal. Everywhere we looked there was another waterfall or forested rock face shrouded in misty clouds. This place is just really fantastic. I’d love to be able to pilot a boat through here for a few days. I’m guessing that during normal times it’s much more active with ships than us and one other small excursion ship.

As the captain turned the boat around to exit the bay, we encountered some rougher water as we moved out into more open ocean. The wind has kicked up and it will be a bit rougher trip going back. But the wind has also cleared a good bit of the clouds and rain so we are actually treated to a bit of the “golden orb” as my wife likes to call it. Soon we see a rainbow low against the forested backdrop. Very faint. Our travel back to Ketchikan follows the same route as our way out so besides hoping to see marine life, it’s pretty but repetitive. It doesn’t take long after the rainbow sighting that the weather goes right back to windy, gray, and wet. Not what we’d hoped for to explore the city upon our return.

And that was exactly how it was on our return to shore. The plan was to head to the ship and drop off some things before heading out. But just going the first few yards from the boat we were close to drenched. Had to duck in to a shop to drip dry for a few minutes. Once we reached the ship, everyone was peeling off layers of wet clothes as they went through the security screening. It was a hard decision but the weather was so poor with the forecast telling us to expect more of the same so we chose to stay in the rest of the afternoon. This would mean not only missing the totems and the historic area along Creek Street, an antique boardwalk on wooden pilings above Ketchikan Creek. This is where there are many of the best eating and shopping opportunities are along with some history of the fishing industry and the red-light district in town. It would have been pretty miserable trying to enjoy these things in a downpour. So, it was another quiet afternoon in.

We chose to do a lazy dinner option, heading for the buffet. It was very quiet there, with only one section open. My wife enjoyed her main dish, the prime rib with mashed potatoes and gravy. I tried small quantities of many different things-calamari steak (not good), shrimp cooked in some type of southern spice that were good alone and better dropped into the cup of gumbo I got at another station. The chicken-thigh meat cooked in a delicious rosemary seasoned sauce was great. Also tried a beef slider with cheese and onions served on a soft roll used the evenings prime rib that was good and the big surprise of the evening was the fried cod taco that was very flavorful with the addition of a southern slaw and corn salsa. The dessert choices were a chocolate peanut butter cake tasting mainly of peanut butter but dry cake. Also tried a vanilla cream fruit tart the had slices of strawberry, pineapple, kiwi, and cantaloupe. It was okay except the cantaloupe-too hard.

Our evening consisted of three game shows with the entertainment staff, one of which was filmed. The Liars Club (filmed) was a game with three staff being given an obscure word by the host and two of them had to make up a definition and one tells the truth. It quickly deteriorated into the staff telling long jokes that eventually described their definition. Most were pretty funny. We also participated in a first-time game created by the host Christiane. It was a music game with four passengers making guesses to music questions. Let’s just say it needs work. The other game was called Survey It that was basically Family Feud. Crew surveyed with questions and guests had to match the top five answers. But with a timer that decreases each round. Fun.

Tomorrow is the last day-a sea only day-as we cruise south towards Seattle. We’ll see what the crew has in store to entertain us.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:17 PM
  #11  
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Day SEVEN-at sea-almost home-today is Sept 11. 20 years ago today we were in Yellowstone National Park when we heard a Denver radio station say that the World Trade Center towers were gone. Needless to say, the world changed that day. It was an interesting and stressful next few days. But that's another story. Today we are cruising off the western coast of Vancouver Island heading home. Though I could not confirm this, our cruise would normally have a stop in Victoria, BC or Vancouver during normal times. This is why the last day is spent traveling through this area very slowly. our day at sea begins with calm water and the sun peeking through the clouds. There are a large list of activities going on all day all over the ship for those who are looking for things to pass your time.

We chose for the first time to enjoy a sit down, order from the menu breakfast today. This happens in only one of the dining rooms onboard. The menu was limited with all the usual items and todays specials of Maine Blueberry Pancakes or an Alaskan Smoked Salmon scramble. My wife chose a fruit plate and standard pancakes while I went with an omelette of ham, cheddar, and mushrooms. We were also presented by some roving servers with a tray to choose pastries and breads from. Bran muffin for her and a banana nut muffin & a slice of hazelnut bread. We've found these types of items much fresher and tastier than the majority of the sweet items offered throughout the ship. When the pancakes arrived, it was impossible to miss the fact that looked really undercooked. virtually white, not golden brown. As it was the last day and just pancakes, my wife chose not to address it but enjoyed them as is. The fruit was very nice. My omelette was delicious, piping hot and perfectly cooked. Not sure if I mentioned this before but we found that the best way to get a hot breakfast seems to be to order omelettes. In the buffet or the sit-down location. They will make them to your specifications and bring them to you. Nice touch that I wish I'd figured out sooner. Once finished it was back to the room to set up our day.

First up, our only visit to the pool. The Hollywood Pool Club's indoor pool always looked inviting when were in there so we said let's give it a try. The calm, warm, sparsely attended area turned out to be just the thing this morning. It amazes us that more people don't spend time in this area. The pool water sloshes back and forth to the ship's rocking and it's tough to really swim a lap. But it was so comfortable and soothing that I was sorry this was our only time. I wish I'd gone for a swim while we were in Glacier Bay because than I could have told friends and family that "I swam in Glacier Bay".

After our swim, the sun had come out enough for folks to be out on deck using hot tubs & lounging in swimwear. My wife is a big fan of natural vitamin D so we changed and headed up to this area so she could soak some up while I worked on my trip report. This was another great, relaxing way to spend our sea day. Eventually it got to be lunch time so we weighed our options and chose an al fresco meal from the burger and lobster roll shop alongside the pool deck. The lobster rolls were an additional $15 upcharge so we skipped those and went with burgers. They must have had quite a few orders before us because it took what seemed like a long time before our food was ready. When they arrived the burgers were good enough but they were served on a cold bun (I assume because they throw them on the grill for a few seconds then they sit outside before being served) and came with a very paltry IMO amount of fries served luke-warm. Again, especially with the previous long wait, we chose to power through the meal.

Next, we attended a talk in one of the venues called Life At Sea. This was presented by the cruise director Kevin and one of his staff. It turned out to be quite informative about crew hiring and training, living and eating conditions, and how staff are assigned to a ship. This is something that people were very interested in hearing about and I think they may have taken questions towards the end but we chose to leave early so my wife could attend the one and only line dancing class offered this trip. These went on every day on our previous cruise. May be Covid related reasons for why only one here. I skipped this and chose to attend another trivia and then watch bingo while my wife did some cooling off after the class. There was also an ice carving demonstration we missed and a culinary demonstration with the chef and his boss that was reported to be very funny.

Our problems with the Medallion app were never resolved so ordering food/room service was not available to us. Or so I thought until I was told you could use the house phone to call guest services and ask to be connect to room service then tell them where you were-say one of the theaters-and it would come to you there. I should have figured that out earlier but the chips, salsa, and guacamole were a nice compliment to trivia and my daquiri.

I will mention here that the cruise entertainment staff were universally personable, and approachable throughout the voyage. They seemed to really be enjoying their work and not taking themselves too seriously. We were treated to a lot of laughs by Kevin, Karen, Christiane, Giana, Ellie, and Lauren. Kevin especially took part in many games and shows and seemed much more interested in this type of fun than the cruise director on our previous Princess cruise.

Late in the afternoon came one of the, if not THE, most exciting thing on the trip. We heard Kevin's voice come over the PA announcing that there were "whales breaching on the starboard side". Everyone around me who heard this rushed to find a door to the outside to see this. No whales had been sighted as far as we knew at any time previous so this was a big deal. Right away upon stepping outside you could see two or three spouts and backs as they swam by. The captain then announced over the PA that some were also on the other side. So now the whale aerobics begin as everyone races to the other side of the ship. Even more blows were able to be seen on this side and as we looked towards the back of the ship, there were 5 or 6 or 7 going up at the same time! My wife reported seeing back and even tail flukes as they broke the surface to take their breaths. We appeared to have traveled through a pod of either grey or humpback whales off the coast of Vancouver Island. Even unable to take any photos it was very cool experience.

For our last night’s dinner on the ship, we had made reservations at the Crown Grill, the onboard steakhouse. This would turn out to be a great choice. During one of the gameshows we had won a bottle of (American) champagne. Not the highest quality to be sure but bubbly nonetheless. Yesterday afternoon I had conferred with the hostess if it was okay for me to bring the bottle down a couple of hours before our reservation time so that the bottle could be chilled before we ate. She told me no problem and made a note of it in their system. Well, it slipped my mind until about an hour before dinner but it zipped down with the bottle and it was till no problem for them. It was placed on ice in a champagne bucket and was nice and cold upon our arrival. A very nice touch. by the way, earlier in our trip we were told that if you caught or bought any fish while ashore, the kitchen would cook it to your liking for your meal onboard. Surprised me.

The Crown Grill has an old wood and brass style decor like many steakhouses in America. Our server, Misha from Ukraine, was very funny with a dry sense of humor. He quickly brought around a basket of different rolls to choose from. Bread has been pretty good all-around onboard. The menu was more expansive than others we had seen during our voyage. Choices of appetizers, soups and salads, numerous meat options such as a NY or Ribeye steaks, a veal chop, or NZ lambchops. Even a 22 oz porterhouse. additionally, they had an Alaskan seafood menu that included clams, halibut, Copper River salmon, and surprisingly wild White Salmon. This last item rarely appears on menus in the states and considered quite the delicacy. Dinner consisted of:

Appetizers of tiger prawns atop a salmon tartare with papaya and seared scallops with salmon caviar and herb beurre blanc. The prawn dish was outstanding and the mustard seed aioli added a bit of a kick. The scallops were a bit fishy and the salmon caviar had no flavor at all. The sauce added a lot to the dish.

salads: baby spinach with marinated goat cheese and tomato pus beets and a basil dressing. my wife was able to find four crouton size pieces of beet in this and a pretty measly portion of goat cheese sprinkled on top. But she did enjoy it. My choice was the Grill salad with greens, roasted red peppers, avocado and a grape balsamic dressing. Easily the best salad I had on the cruise.

for our main courses, my wife chose her favorite, the 8 oz. Filet Mignon. All the protein portions listed the ounce weight on the menu. I chose the 14 oz Ribeye with a mental plan to have some leftovers because I also wanted to order the White Salmon. In The Crown grill, you can order a second entrée for an additional $10. I don't think there is any way I could purchase a 6oz. portion of this fish at any fishmonger even if I could find it. So, I would enjoy some of the steak before asking to have the fish brought to the table.

The beef for both of us was really perfect, just the way we asked for it. Three different salts-Himalayan Pink, smoked, and Hawaiian black were served in small portions to accent the flavor of the beef. There were many different sides available and we chose grilled asparagus and sautéed mushrooms. Good asparagus but the mushrooms had seen better days. Also, with both the steaks. a potato side was served-roasted bone marrow and shallot crusted potatoes. A unique "disc" of baked potato with a pool of what looked to be melted butter and bone marrow. Never really noticed any shallots. This was not the best potato I've ever had. The insides went everywhere when cut up and the potato itself was undercooked for my taste. All this was not a distraction from the outstanding beef.

Once I had enjoyed about half my steak, I set it aside to bring on the salmon. Served with a small portion of fried onion rice and some drawn butter, this again was a delicious preparation. Firm but flaky and very very flavorful. The kitchen in the Crown Grill knows what they are doing. I ate every bite. It was at this point we learned an interesting tidbit of information. I spoke with Misha before dessert and asked if we could have a small box to take our remaining beef home, especially since it was our last night. we were informed that the health rules prohibit any food being sent out of the restaurant in a takeaway container. But they could replate anything you might still want and have it delivered to your room. So I asked for that to be done to both the remaining steaks.

Desserts were a Key Lime Bar with a date pecan crust, puffs of toasted meringue, and some raspberry coulis. My wife enjoyed it but I thought it was light on flavor. Mine was from the Norman Love Chocolatier collection-a Warm Chocolate Mousse Trifle. This consisted of cinnamon sponge cake covered with a warm chocolate mousse, spiced whipped cream, some cookie crumbles and a small scoop of vanilla gelato. Oddly, at least IMO, there were also slices of pink grapefruit in this. Which I promptly removed. Strange choice. Anyway, this was very possibly the best dessert I had on the cruise. Everything was fresh tasting and the warm mousse softened the gelato and the whole thing became an ooey gooey bowl of deliciousness. I loved it. I think Crown Grill is worth every extra dollar for the upcharge and if you have the interest and the appetite, the additional charge for a second entrée is a great value.

After our outstanding meal, we chose to waddle over to the Princess Live Theater to watch a very silly game involving all the entertainment staff called Hollywood Hiccups. The staff members put on costumes to act out well known scenes from blockbuster movies, then hostess Lauren would ask the audience two trivia questions about each movie. It was easy to determine the films acted out, but they were so hilariously acted out and had such cheesy "production values" that each one was funnier than the last. Especially the sketching scene from Titanic and the pottery wheel scene from Ghost. A really fun way to say goodbye to these hard-working folks. Finally, up to the pool deck to watch the color and music fountain show featuring Michael Jackson tonight. The incoming fog added something to the water and color. But the sudden fog horn from the ship made us jump. We returned then to our room, only to find no steak waiting at our door (we had been told it would arrive in 30 minutes). This disappointed me a bit thinking we could enjoy the rest. Miraculously, very soon after we entered the room, there was a knock and a dining attendant with a plate on which rested a whole, freshly cooked, ribeye steak! Bigger than the one I was served in the restaurant! Still no Filet for my wife though. Not sure if I misunderstood what Misha told us they could do or if the kitchen realized too late that we had wanted to keep our leftovers. No matter, it's steak quesadillas after we get home.

I'm going to read over all my reports and post a wrap up with anything I think is worthwhile that I missed hopefully tomorrow. Thanks to anyone who read any or all of these reports.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:19 PM
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final wrap up notes from our cruise. I mentioned in a previous post a story regarding the muster drill. On our previous cruise, we had been told to report to our muster stations on arrival where we were given a life jacket to wear while we sat and listened to the safety briefing. This was extremely uncomfortable and very annoying. Anyone who has been through this on other voyages knows just what I mean. Now, to streamline the process, once onboard you can watch a safety briefing on the in-room video system then report to your assigned muster station to be scanned in with your Medallion app. And we were given a nice window of time to accomplish this. A much more civilized approach.

I also noted in a previous post the details of the atrium area as being through decks 3, 4, & 5. It is actually decks 5, 6, & 7.

It appears that just after Labor Day may be a good target for future cruises as our voyage was reported by staff as having 0 children. Destination may be a part of this but it sure beats the situation we had on our Caribbean cruise.

Very curious if any Alaska or cruising experts on the forums know the reason behind all the jewelry stores in the small port towns. This was quite unexpected and so surprising to us.
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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 03:24 PM
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Pictures-









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Old Sep 14th, 2021, 08:16 PM
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Wonderful! Loved your photos too. My only previous Alaska cruise was about the same time of year (it was the last cruise of the season before the ship repositioned) and we had similar weather. Hopefully my next one will be earlier in the summer. But being a totally inside passage cruise we had more port stops and of course having no covid restrictions, we could enter Canada.

Sounds like Princess' 'soft product' (meals/entertainment/etc) is really good.
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Old Sep 15th, 2021, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Wonderful! Loved your photos too. My only previous Alaska cruise was about the same time of year (it was the last cruise of the season before the ship repositioned) and we had similar weather. Hopefully my next one will be earlier in the summer. But being a totally inside passage cruise we had more port stops and of course having no covid restrictions, we could enter Canada.

Sounds like Princess' 'soft product' (meals/entertainment/etc) is really good.
thanks for the kind words. i must say the food left me more than a little disappointed in many ways. especially compare dot our previous Princess voyage. but there were some standouts. i'd do Crown Grill much more on another trip. but that won't be for awhile. did enjoy almost al the entertainment
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Old Sep 15th, 2021, 09:56 AM
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Thank you very much for taking time to write such a nice, detailed report. I read and enjoyed every word.
Did you ever ask about the isolated or quarantined passengers?
You mentioned all the cleaning, and I must say that we have cruised on Princess ships four times and it was always like that. It seemed as if all one person did all day was clean and polish brass hand rails. Service was great and staff was wonderful.
We thought the food was really good on our first cruises, probably around 14 years ago, but it is certainly not as good as it used to be - applies to other cruises too. The more they standardize across the line, the lower the quality. I also think a lot of attempts to fancy up the looks with sauces, etc. ruins what could be basically good dishes. I know visual appeal is important, but should not be at the expense of good preparation. A lot of desserts were as you described, either dry or tasteless. They should have fewer choices, and make them great. Pre-covid, there were often better choices at the buffets. Sometimes, the more description they provide of a dish or dessert, the worse the dish is. I do not even try the fancy stuff anymore. There are always a few reliable, basic things and I stick with them.
I am glad you enjoyed the games and entertainment. That is another thing that I find less interesting than it used to be and the singing on several cruises was just horrible, as well as too amped up to be comfortable. We have had amazing, spectacular performers on some cruise lines. I absolutely love Princess ships, especially the slightly older ones like Crown Princess with the wide, around the ship, promenade, so the ship itself is a draw. We did a TA on it. When traveling with our DD and GD, other things become more important.
Your descriptions of tours and towns was great!
I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your thorough report. It is extremely helpful in making decisions about future cruises.
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Old Sep 15th, 2021, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Sassafrass View Post
Thank you very much for taking time to write such a nice, detailed report. I read and enjoyed every word.
Did you ever ask about the isolated or quarantined passengers?
You mentioned all the cleaning, and I must say that we have cruised on Princess ships four times and it was always like that. It seemed as if all one person did all day was clean and polish brass hand rails. Service was great and staff was wonderful.
We thought the food was really good on our first cruises, probably around 14 years ago, but it is certainly not as good as it used to be - applies to other cruises too. The more they standardize across the line, the lower the quality. I also think a lot of attempts to fancy up the looks with sauces, etc. ruins what could be basically good dishes. I know visual appeal is important, but should not be at the expense of good preparation. A lot of desserts were as you described, either dry or tasteless. They should have fewer choices, and make them great. Pre-covid, there were often better choices at the buffets. Sometimes, the more description they provide of a dish or dessert, the worse the dish is. I do not even try the fancy stuff anymore. There are always a few reliable, basic things and I stick with them.
I am glad you enjoyed the games and entertainment. That is another thing that I find less interesting than it used to be and the singing on several cruises was just horrible, as well as too amped up to be comfortable. We have had amazing, spectacular performers on some cruise lines. I absolutely love Princess ships, especially the slightly older ones like Crown Princess with the wide, around the ship, promenade, so the ship itself is a draw. We did a TA on it. When traveling with our DD and GD, other things become more important.
Your descriptions of tours and towns was great!
I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your thorough report. It is extremely helpful in making decisions about future cruises.
Sassafrass-Thanks very much for the kind words. No we never did try to clarify the quarantine issue. It certainly never seemed to be acknowledged or talked about gong forward. Our only other cruse was on Princess in March 2020 and the difference in the food (negative) and the entertainment (positive) was dramatic. The quality and variety in the buffet was so different, which I chalk up to Covid and the reduced number of passengers. Staffing could have been an issue in regards to things being prepped, plated, and refrigerated ahead of time but it was reported that we had 1330 staff to 2100 passengers so that seems unlikely. We did have some very enjoyable dishes but the majority of the time something was "off" in the meal to bring down our pleasure-which I'm pretty sure I made clear
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Old Sep 15th, 2021, 10:35 PM
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What a great report! And those photos are awesome. That pic of the eagle is "OMG!"
Thanks for sharing your trip.
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Old Sep 16th, 2021, 07:23 AM
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Thank you for detailed report! Assured me that even during the pandemic, with masks on, it's still possible to fully enjoy the cruising. Very nice photos, thank you, Melproffit.
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Old Sep 16th, 2021, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jasonwalkerjk View Post
I know a medallion is not large but this was again just larger than a cracker with a potato “pancake” that was neither warm enough or remotely crispy. The beef was cooked very nicely and was flavorful. My wife’s dish seemed more like an appetizer with a small round layer of rice topped with four small shrimp with three or four small chunks of bok choy. She pronounced it ”fine”. I brought the Luke warm potatoes to the waiter’s attention and he apologized profusely, offering to bring a different serving.
???
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