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TUNNEL VISION ON THE WAY TO ALASKA (Fainaís report June 6-16, 2008 Dawn Princess RT from SF)

TUNNEL VISION ON THE WAY TO ALASKA (Fainaís report June 6-16, 2008 Dawn Princess RT from SF)

Jun 16th, 2008, 06:21 PM
  #1  
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TUNNEL VISION ON THE WAY TO ALASKA (Fainaís report June 6-16, 2008 Dawn Princess RT from SF)

THE EMBARKATION was a breeze. To get a taxi in San Francisco was a bit tricky. Donít know why them, I called DeSoto the day before, and confirmed in the morning my 12-noon reservation. 12 - no taxi. 12.10 - no taxi. 12.15 - called them, the guy said heís still trying to get somebody to reply. 12.20 - no taxi. 12.25 the taxi had finally arrived, and from that point on, no problems whatsoever (for us!)

We tried to roll our suitcase with us - were turned back. You should give the suitcase to the people in bright vests to put through x-rays. Itís all well organized; there are so much Princessí security personnel to answer your questions, to direct you to your cabin.

SPECIAL REQUESTS are either not honored, or not delegated to people who should honor them. Our (and fatherís) request was to have 2 single beds. I marked that on-line, theyíve done it through the travel agent. Both cabins had 2 beds together. They asked the steward to move their beds, weíve decided not to bother. I marked ďvegetarianĒ on Princessí website. On the first night my whole order was from the vegetarian menu. ďAre you a vegetarian?Ē asked the surprised waiter.
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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THE CABIN was ready when we arrived, and the first thing I said opening the door: this cabin is so small! My husband followed me in: oh, I love this room! Yes, the cabin was small, but cozy, and so many places to put your things away: shelves, draws, pullout wire baskets, hangers. If I was sitting by the desk, my husband couldnít use the restroom; I had to get up to let him pass. The closet doors mustíve been closed for him to get to bed. But this was not a big deal.

What we didnít like was the restroom light switch. You open the door, step up, close the door, in the darkness you realize you forgot to switch the light, open the door, step down, close the door - the switch canít be reached if the door is opened! The light switch is on the right side where the hinges are; the door handle is on the left. Why canít Princess engineers turn the door over so that the door handle and the light switch are on the same side?

We had obstructed window. There was a boat outside, with the windows on both sides, so we saw some of the scenery like looking through a tunnel of 3 windows. No, we did not develop tunnel vision. In Sitka the boats were taken off to use as tenders, so we could have a full day of full window views.

Our father had an inside cabin. No windows. I was right picking out at least some daylight and some connection with the outside world, whether liquid or solid. Cannot even sleep with the shutters closed. My husband didnít like inside either. They had the cheapest with upgrade, and got upgraded to the 11th level Aloha. We were on the 8th Dolphin. When the sea was rough going to/from Canada, what a difference those 3 levels had made! Our rocking was not as violent. I didnít need anything more then ginger.

The cabin was clean, nice toiletries placed in the bathroom - not the dispensers as stated on the website, but plastic packages of good quality shampoo, conditioner, lotion - and thank the Travel Gods, easy to open and to squeeze out the content, if you ever stayed in a budget hotel, you know what I mean! Surprise - the curtain did NOT cling to my body!

Lots of mirrors everywhere. Some lights can be turned off while in bed, I liked it. The TV is tiny, and not only that, itís on the upper shelf, so you can watch it only lying down in bed, but itís too far to see, bring strong glasses or binoculars just for the TV! There is another shelf between the fridge and the safe, why canít the TV be moved there? The movie schedule is in the cabin if you decide to stay in.

Ladies, bring warm pajamas if you get chilly at night. The air conditioner was probably set up to change the temperature only by a few degrees, and the nights are cool. Everywhere on the ship itís heavy cotton t-shirt or very light sweater temperature.
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:24 PM
  #3  
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WEATHER AND HEALTH. The sea was violent. One woman at our table said, it was her 3rd cruise to Alaska, and she didnít expect the rocking to be that strong. I am the type who gets sick just by looking at the boats. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it while lying down or sitting, only walking was difficult - I would walk straight, but end up at a wall. Then the opposite wall. Who needs alcohol! After Victoria it was not bad at all! Coming home, maybe we got used to being on the ship, maybe it was not as violent. Probably got used.

My fatherís wife didnít take her medications, and then it was too late. After 3 Bonines failed to help, dad called 911. A nurse came up to the cabin in 3-5 minutes, gave her a shot, and advised on what medications to take. The price was $110. She was fine for the rest of the cruise.

There was a radio announcement that somebody got sick, and people who experience certain symptoms must call 911 immediately for free help. If they fail to get medical help promptly, they will pay the regular price later. Donít know who, how many, and what happened to them. We always rubbed that liquid in front of every eatery, and washed our hands, so we didnít feel like we need anything additional.
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Jun 16th, 2008, 06:25 PM
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SHIP AMENITIES. Somebody on CruiseCritic said the elevators are confusing. Not at all! There are 2 sets of elevators at both ends of every level going up to 14 (buffet - the most important level!). There is also a set of glass elevators going from 5 to 8 in the atrium, like on other ships. Imagine how easy I am to entertain if these glass elevators were fun!

Our cabin was the 2nd door from casino, and my husband still thinks I picked this location just to please him! I worried before the trip, we wonít understand how to play (the payment part), and it would be such a disappointment for him. Like it was in Vegas, cash is used. If you play the penny slots, cash out gives you a bunch of nickels (get a bucket first!), if 2 pennies or higher, you get ship tokens worth a quarter each. No paper tickets. The slot machines are from 1c to $5, some times are busier then other.

Pressing the help button on the slot machines doesnít do any good, they will be blinking all their red and yellow lamps out all they want, no attention. But if you call somebody - drink guy, security, anybody in the uniform - help will be there immediately. The slot machines either need constant repair, or they adjust the percentage of winnings, as we saw a repairman every time we went to/from our cabin.

They have some sales, on the last day it was port t-shirt sale, one couldíve bought even Mexican t-shirts! And from Alaskan ports we hadnít been to on this cruise. Lots of jewelry, perfume, clothing - mostly sport type, also souvenirs and liquor.

There are plenty of cozy armchairs throughout the ship, library, computer room, seats inside and outside, no problem to relax between the activities.
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:26 PM
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ENTERTAINMENT. Doesnít matter what show is there, the seats in the Princess theater get taken up early. Our favorite was the magician, his performance was fun, and the jokes didnít seem stale. There is so much music all over the ship! The string quartet was outstanding, but we liked more when they played in the atrium as compared to their concert in the Vista Lounge - the pieces theyíd picked were too popular for us, not exactly classic.

Bring 2 highlighters - I thought one would be for me, another for my husband. Yellow highlighter worked better on one schedule while the blue one was more visible on the other (daily patter - yellow, list of restaurants times - blue).

There is a choice of things to do, in the patter some events are overlapping, which sometimes was good, for example we didnít care to buy bingo cards. It can get boring too, especially if your English is limited. Sometimes Iíd go off to a lecture while my husband would be in the casino.

Libby Riddles was the first woman ever to win the dogsled competition, interesting lecture/movie despite turning into sale of her book of course.

There were activities targeting certain groups. CruiseCritic meeting was in the patter. Jewish religious services on Friday night. Meetings of Muslims, LGBT, travel conversation. Surprisingly, people at the tables didnít like to talk travel. Food, work, houses, families, shopping - all but travel.

If you canít dance, they will teach you, if you donít know how to gambles, there are classes for that, computer, bridge, ceramics, and what not! I think dancing and gambling lessons were free, or should I say included in the price?

Drinks were offered to buy at dinners, in the casino, in every lounge, but once you said no, they same person would not bother you again. They have good face memory. The only people who annoyed me were the photographers. So Iíd just make a face (is this the smile youíre asking for?) and get it over with.
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Jun 16th, 2008, 06:27 PM
  #6  
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FOOD. It was too cold to spend much time outside, but the pool areas are nice, and they have food and drinks out there, burgers, french fries, boullions, read the patter.

In the buffet, especially on a big wave day, they help carry plates to the tables, bring drinks, ask if people need help. They even walk around with the coffee jars in the morning, and place the cutlery on the tables in the evening. In the restaurants, they try to accommodate you any way they can. The food choice is great - we dined in Venetian, and out of curiosity even went to tea once.

Ice-cream lovers, rejoice! The ice-cream is in the buffet for lunch, in the restaurants for dinner. I donít know how my husband managed to gain only 2 lbs! I am not stepping on the scale for at least 2 weeks, not after those cakes in the buffet at night! And cheese! And those chilled soups in the restaurant, different each night, are to die for (or to diet for later, have you noticed the similar spelling of ďdieĒ and ďdietĒ?)

We enjoyed the different countriesí menus at dinners. Sure, we didnít eat frogs on the French day, but turkey on the US day was good. On the Italian day the waiters wore the striped Venetian gondoliers t-shirts and neck scarves. No, he wouldnít serenade me, the waiter answered my question.

The choice of drinks is limited, sometimes too limited. Juices for breakfast only, coffee is always there except the pizza place. We went there for lunch, the pizza is thin crust, so good! But of all drinks, water only. I couldnít even get a cup of coffee, they said they donít have that. HUH?

There was plenty of food for any taste/palate/diet/restriction. I especially appreciated the choice of fresh and cooked vegetables, fruit - salad or sliced, bread rolls, cheeses, smoked fish and desserts. At dinner, there was a table of cakes in the buffet. And if itís sound surprising, how come I went to a restaurant, and to dinner buffet - we had the early seating at 5.30, ate light, then went up to the buffet for a midnight snack of fruit and coffee. Seriously, it was not too difficult to eat healthy with occasional sweets.
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Jun 16th, 2008, 06:28 PM
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VICTORIA. My biggest regret that the ship was a bit late, or maybe Canadians delayed the clearance, and we took off a bit earlier, so I had to call Meesthare to cancel our GTG. Fodorites, scheduling a meeting, always let each other know how to reach you.

What I didnít read in any report, not even on CruiseCritic, there is a shuttle from the ship to Empress, due to currency situation it was $6 round trip, US $ or Canadian - the same. As there were no taxis in sight, and the line was significant, we took the long winding line to the shuttles. I watched the taxi line - we got on a bus sooner then if weíd been waiting for a taxi.

Empress hotel is very elegant, we looked at the photos, walked over to Miniature World, they have a problem with logic as they have one display about WWII, then something ancient, then again WWII, then WWI, and so on. It would be better to see it all in chronological order. Why did I think itís a place with copies of the world wonders? No, itís a display of everything people can think of - dollhouses, fairy tales, and historic events... too pricey for fun.

The visitor center has a walking map with 3 different routes. Walked around a bit - whatís all that fascination with Britain and the Queen, and a British flag on each tour bus? I can go to London to see it all, show me something Canadian! And not only on t-shirts!! We loved that town, and would spend more time there despite the geographical and political confusion.
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Jun 16th, 2008, 06:29 PM
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KETCHIKAN - we docked right in the middle of everything. Sure, walked the Creek street, the noisy creek is running fast, but mid-June is too early for salmon. We would see it moving up the stream a month later. ďMadame DollyĒ is standing by her house talking to passers by. The funicular to Cape Fox is easy to find, right there on Creek Street. Tongass Museum is interesting.

My father wanted to take a horse-drawn tour, $30 per person on the ship, his choice, we agreed to join him. Itís an OK tour for people with moving difficulties, still felt like highly overpriced, if you can walk, skip it. Pick up the walking booklet at the information center.

SITKA - my impression of this place as of Russian only had quickly evaporated. The local culture of the native people is the best represented at the Sheldon Jackson museum. Out of all places visited, this museum and Tracy Arm were the highlights of this trip. I always try to see anything associated with the natives: museums, parks, monuments. This museum is the best Iíve ever seen. The artifacts, the explanations, the way the rather small building is utilized, and all for the low price of $4, amazingly impressive. By all means, go there! And itís a pleasant walk along the waterfront. The address is College Drive, but itís seen from far away from Lincoln.

Isabelle Miller museum - we made a boo-boo there. Saw the ďmuseumĒ (if you buy something, you donít pay admission), and at the front desk they have a dance schedule. Russian dances: 11 am and 2 pm. Native dances 1 pm. So, without asking, we timed ourselves to be back by 1 pm. Turned out, only Russian dances are in this building, for the Native you can only buy tickets there, then walk across the city to the actual dance place. We wouldnít make it.
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Jun 16th, 2008, 06:30 PM
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JUNEAU. The day was windy and a little rainy, so we didnít go up to the Mt Roberts. Besides, the tram looked a bit scary. We took the $3 shuttle from the ship to the tram, and this shuttle was much quicker then Victorian, and got one of the local tours. The price difference: Princess $39 per person, local $27 per person. We knew there is a shuttle to Mendenhall $7, but we opted for narration, and included city tour. We did make 2 picture stops, and then went to the glacier. Beautiful area, several walking trails, some easier then others, and not overcrowded. By the way, there are 3 ways to get up to the visitorís center: stairs, elevator on the left, and accessible ramp on the right (long walk).

TRACY ARM. Once again, we went too early. July would be better. Our scenic viewing was from 5 am (donít wake up that early, 6 am is fine!) till 8 am, as the captain felt itís unsafe to go any deeper into the fjord. We did see gorgeous mountains, either as monolith or covered with firs and pines, and the ice floating by, white and blue. This is what you bring the winter jackets for. Amazing blue color. We tried to figure out what those pieces of ice remind us of: fish, crocodile, flying saucer, paper boats, so fun and relaxing, also very cold. Just a fantasy game.

MONEY MATTERS. On advice of the seasoned cruisers I made sure the credit of $175 is posted to our account. What I didnít know is how it was posted. Next time, Iíll check both our accounts (husbandís and mine) 2-3 days into the cruise.

We both used the same credit card issued into my name only. The cabin credit was posted this way: -50 for my husband, -125 for me. Every day a charge of $10.50 was posted to each of us for tipping. I made a $20 purchase, so itís pure luck Iíve ended up with zero, or Iíd lose part of the credit, perhaps? Or would have to move charges and credits around, who knows if they would allow me. Or maybe they would add them up into final total?
JUNEAU. The day was windy and a little rainy, so we didnít go up to the Mt Roberts. Besides, the tram looked a bit scary. We took the $3 shuttle from the ship to the tram, and this shuttle was much quicker then Victorian, and got one of the local tours. The price difference: Princess $39 per person, local $27 per person. We knew there is a shuttle to Mendenhall $7, but we opted for narration, and included city tour. We did make 2 picture stops, and then went to the glacier. Beautiful area, several walking trails, some easier then others, and not overcrowded. By the way, there are 3 ways to get up to the visitorís center: stairs, elevator on the left, and accessible ramp on the right (long walk).

TRACY ARM. Once again, we went too early. July would be better. Our scenic viewing was from 5 am (donít wake up that early, 6 am is fine!) till 8 am, as the captain felt itís unsafe to go any deeper into the fjord. We did see gorgeous mountains, either as monolith or covered with firs and pines, and the ice floating by, white and blue. This is what you bring the winter jackets for. Amazing blue color. We tried to figure out what those pieces of ice remind us of: fish, crocodile, flying saucer, paper boats, so fun and relaxing, also very cold. Just a fantasy game.

MONEY MATTERS. On advice of the seasoned cruisers I made sure the credit of $175 is posted to our account. What I didnít know is how it was posted. Next time, Iíll check both our accounts (husbandís and mine) 2-3 days into the cruise.

We both used the same credit card issued into my name only. The cabin credit was posted this way: -50 for my husband, -125 for me. Every day a charge of $10.50 was posted to each of us for tipping. I made a $20 purchase, so itís pure luck Iíve ended up with zero, or Iíd lose part of the credit, perhaps? Or would have to move charges and credits around, who knows if they would allow me. Or maybe they would add them up into final total?
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:32 PM
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DISEMBARKATION was so easy! We took our luggage with us, went to the restaurant to wait, they had 3 walking groups, all went out together. Some people were standing in line, donít waste your time and energy! Sit down till everybodyís moving.

No steps, my husband rolled the suitcase, security people along the way, just say ďtaxiĒ and they will direct you to a numbered pole to wait, we saw a taxi taking off, and another moving in, and this was all it took for us! We were in our San Francisco apartment by 9 am!! And on the way we saw the luggage being put out for people who will pick it up later. And taxis will be waiting for them. For airport transfers, if you bought from Princess, the buses were right there in the terminal.

I never ever have seen that much organization, order, patience, politeness, and readiness to help. Never ever in all my travels. Bravo, Princess! Till the last moment - last breakfast, leaving the ship, taking taxi - very professional help all the way.

My husband started to bug me on day 3 of the cruise to think of another one. Another cruise, that is, not another husband!

What would I do different next time? I would go in July, not in June. I would make sure the cruise ship stops in Skagway to get on the train. And I would fly to Seattle to avoid the somewhat boring sea days.

Do I feel sorry for going on this particular cruise? Absolutely not. My husband loved it, and I didnít ask my father yet, but I know he would not go without me, and at 81 it was so much easier for him to take a taxi to the ship instead of flying.

As for me, I saw Alaska for the first time, I had a relaxing vacation, and I know I love the ocean, even if it gets violent. Spending time just watching the ocean waves is not a waste of time.
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 10:34 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
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Thank you so much for taking the time to post such a wonderfully detailed report. We are thinking of an Alaska cruise for next summer and your tips are most helpful
capetownfolk is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 10:11 AM
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Hi Faina, I've been waiting for your report and was not disappointed. So, when are you going on your next cruse?
Betsy is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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Wow, you didn't even relax and completed the TR right away, I enjoyed all the details and tidbits, thanks very much!
Shanghainese is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 03:54 PM
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Hello dear Faina! I love your report and was happy to find out it was on the Cruise Forum (which makes sense of course) as I couldn't find it on the US Forum.

As always I adore your style of writing, your descriptions and your sense of humor starting with the description of the bathroom door and the lightswitch for the bathroom!

I am sure your father will always remember this cruise and I am happy your husband enjoyed it so much he wants to take another cruise. Good news that! Will talk to you later.


LoveItaly is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 04:18 PM
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Faina Thanks for the TR. It brought back memories of ours this past DEC.

I will never cruise Princess again. We did 3 times and the 3rd was NOT a charm. We thought the quality of food was way off from our other cruises. I'd like to try another cruise company.
Mamaw is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 05:47 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
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We took HAL's Oosterdam, roundtrip from Seattle from May 17th - May 24th and had a FABULOUS time. Our stops were Juneau, Hubbard Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria B.C. and back to Seattle. We had a balcony on Deck 8, their Navigation Deck. Although we were early to see salmon and not lucky enough to see black bears or seals, we did see Orca whales and bald eagles. We signed up for the Mendenhall River Float Trip and Mt Roberts Tramway in Juneau and the Magnificent Misty Fjords by Floatplane Trip in Ketchikan. We were very fortunate that it did not rain during our whole 7-night cruise. The sun was shining on most days and the temperatures were in the high 50's. It was our first cruise and we lucked out picking HAL. I am afraid to think that after one, we are hook on them. A Fall Canadian/East Coast cruise is something we are looking into next.
hawnmom is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 06:14 PM
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Faina, sounds like you had a great trip! Did Mr. Faina have a chance to spend time with the slut machines?
mcnyc is offline  
Jun 17th, 2008, 06:40 PM
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Glad you had a good trip. I had an outside cabin and loved it. It costs more, but after having it, I wouldn't sale without having that sliding door and deck.

I was on a smaller ship that your were. The food was good, the burgers at the pool were great, the deserts in the buffet, not so much, thank goodness. They looked a lot better than they tasted. We did have a lobster night. That was the best and I stuffed myself silly.

We started in Whittier and ended in Vancouver so we really had no open ocean. My brother took the boat from San Francisco, round trip like you did, and they all got sick.

Did you ever feel you were sailing with QVC or HSN? Man, they don't let up for a minute. It was easy to ignor however. Glad you had a great vacation. Great report as always.
crefloors is offline  
Jun 18th, 2008, 07:43 AM
  #19  
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Thank you, all, for comments!

Yes, Mr Again spent some time playing the penny sluts, and he wants to go on another cruise next year. He's not excited hearing "Panama" from me, but I won't give him a choice

I felt them pushing alcohol sales more then anything else. The shopping was on one floor only, easy to avoid.

MamaW, we didn't go to steakhouse or burgers, in other places: Venetian, buffet, pizzeria - we loved the quality of food in comparison to one other cruise and San Francisco restaurants.
FainaAgain is offline  
Jun 18th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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Definitely do a Panama cruise. We came back from a 15 night Panama cruise with Celebrity in late April and had a great time. Our itinerary was from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco - full passage of the Panama Canal, but no docking anywhere in Panama.

Glad to hear there are still penny sluts. There weren't any on my cruise!
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