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Review of Star Princess Fairbanks to Vancouver Aug. 30 - Sept. 10, 2016


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We were on the Star Princes land/cruise tour southbound staring in Fairbanks and ending in Vancouver from Aug. 30 – Sept. 10, 2016. We had an incredible cruise with nearly perfect weather throughout. We feel very lucky to have been able to see more than we ever expected to see. I’ll be posting very detailed accounts and please feel free to ask any questions. I learned so much from Cruise Critic before my trip, so I’m glad to contribute in any way I can. I’ll be posting day-by-day, so it might take me awhile since I’m back home now and reality has piled up.

Day One: Tues, Aug. 30th:

We had a 7:15 flight out of Cleveland-Hopkins Airport, so we had to get up at 4am. That sounded gruesome at first, but actually wasn’t that bad: We are used to getting up with our new puppy and went to bed early. I was surprised that I actually slept (I’m generally too excited/anxious before a trip to fall asleep), but I woke up rested and raring to go.

Let me start right off saying that the customer service for Delta Airlines was exceptional and started our trip off on a very positive note. There have been lots of complaints about Delta on Cruise Critic, but our experience was excellent! I was struggling with both my suitcase and my husband’s (since he was parking the car), and the Delta representative insisted on helping me with my bags and guiding me through the entire process – and he refused to take a tip! He stated, “You are my customer and we are here to help you out.” That’s something I hear on commercials but rarely find in practice. They allowed me to check in both suitcases even though my husband wasn’t there yet. I asked when I should pay for the baggage (which should have been $25 per bag) and they said that the computer showed that I didn’t owe anything. When I looked puzzled, they said that they had no idea why I wasn’t being charged, but “let’s not look into that too closely and just accept it.” Every single person at Delta was smiling and friendly.

Our big mistake: We booked a flight with 2 stops and only ½ hour to make each connection. In our defense, it was the only decent flight (we didn’t want to get into Fairbanks at 1am). However, it made the stops extremely stressful, especially since both flights were just a little bit late. That gave us about 20 minutes to make the flights – and, of course, the gates were at the opposite sides of the airport. We literally ran, dodging people, from one end of the airport to the other – which, as a 63-year-old who is not in the best shape, was not an easy process. We made it to the gates just as they were doing final boarding. It was a good thing that we ran, since some people on our same flight did not make it on-board and ended up having to sit in the airport and not get into Fairbanks at 1 am.

The flights themselves were smooth, and once we got on the final leg, we could relax. We had brought some granola bars but no real food, and without a minute to spare at the airports, we couldn’t grab lunch or dinner. We resorted to buying food on the plane (sandwiches on one flight, a Crunch Box (salsa, chips, nuts, chocolate on the other). It was completely uninspiring, but kept me from fainting.

We must have lucked out somehow, because we got a gorgeous, huge suite at the Westmark in Fairbanks– and we were just doing a regular land and cruise tour (not the Connoisseur Tour or anything particularly fancy). It had 2 bathrooms, a fancy shower, Jacuzzi, kitchen with microwave, frig, Keurig, etc., dining room and living room, very comfy bed, etc.

We were quite exhausted from the very long day, so we didn’t have energy to do much. We walked around downtown from the hotel, tried a couple of geo-caches (which we failed at since we definitely were not at the top of our game). We went to the Morris Thompson Visitor Center by the Chena River. It was a very nice, small museum that gave a good overview of old-time Alaskan life. Very pleasant!

We took a taxi to the Chena Alaskan Grill and had a lovely, relaxing dinner. We had crab cakes & seafood chowder with blueberry cobbler for dessert – all were very tasty. As a start to our beer comparisons, we tried Kassik’s Dolly Varden Nut Brown Ale (out of Kenai Peninsula) and Silver Gulch Pick-axe Porter. We both preferred the Nut Brown Ale, but that may just be our own personal preferences.

We were amazed that we had lasted as long as we did (given the 4-hour time change), so took a taxi back to our hotel, relaxed some, and went to bed. A lovely, if tiring, beginning to our vacation!

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It’s hard to believe that this is only Day 2 – It already feels like we’ve been on vacation a long time! Princess is like a well-oiled machine: We arrive at one place, get a package with our room keys and all the information we need, our luggage shows up in our room – all very smooth and easy!

Due to the time difference, I was awake at 3:30am. We had grabbed stupid, packaged Danish from the gift shop the night before to tide us over until we could get something on the Riverboat Tour.

I had been concerned that the Riverboat Tour would be too tacky and touristy, but we found it to be very interesting and fun. It helped that it was another gorgeous day, and just cruising up and down the river would have been enough.

But the narration was educational (with only a few corny jokes). I loved the sled dog demonstration – seeing the joy of dogs doing what they were meant to do is always wonderful! Having young native presenters who were proud to share their heritage made the demos and walking through a replica of an Athabaskan Village informative instead of tacky.

They served free blueberry donuts while going downstream and free salmon spread on crackers while going upstream – plenty for everyone to have as much as they wanted. We grabbed reindeer dogs for lunch to avoid the lunch crowds at the restaurant and then got birch ice cream at the gift shop for dessert – very yummy!

We then took a motor coach to the Denali Princess Lodge. We took a little walk and got one geocache (an excellent one with lots of travel bugs). Then we just walked across the street and had dinner at the Salmon Bake Restaurant (not to be confused with the King Salmon Restaurant at the lodge). We had excellent ribs (the meat just fell off the bone) and buffalo chili (with huge chunks of meat). We then went next door and bought some wine (to take on the cruise) at Sled Dog Liquor. They had a wide variety of foods and beverages, so we also got some snacks there.

We were exhausted from getting up so early so we fell asleep at 9:30pm. We got a wake-up call at 11:30 to see the Northern Lights. They were dim but we did get to see them, so I was glad that we had gotten a few hours of sleep beforehand.

Another great day!

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Today I slept a bit later (until 4:30 am!) We ate instant oatmeal in our room (we’d gotten it at Sled Dog Liquor) because we had a very early start for the Kantishna Experience Tour into Denali National Park.

The tour was a fantastic day: 13 hours on a tour bus and it never got tiring! The weather was absolutely perfect yet again. There were plenty of stops for restrooms, photos, etc. and every single minute had fantastic scenery. We got totally spoiled because we could see various views of Denali all day long. Apparently only 30% of visitors get to see Denali at all, and only 10% get to see it in full without clouds covering part of it – we were extremely lucky because it was sunny and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so our views were majestic.

We saw tons of wildlife: Lots of caribou, grizzly bears, & moose, with some of each being up close. We also saw dall sheep, magpies & artic squirrels. The driver was willing to stop every time we spotted something, so there was the thrill of the hunt as well as the pleasure of seeing animals in the wild.

When we first got on the bus there was a bag of snacks and beverages at our seats, then we got wraps at the stop around lunchtime. All in all, it was plenty to see us through the day.

We were again exhausted when we final arrived back at the lodge at 8pm. We went across the street to Prospector’s Pizza – it was busy, but well worth the wait. We had reindeer sausage pizza and tried 49th State Brewery Prospector’s Gold & Borealis Amber. Both were good but we preferred the Amber. We had strawberry shortcake for dessert and then collapsed back in the room.

Every day has been great, but this day captured the beauty and majesty of Alaska – I strongly recommend the longer, Kantishna Experience tour: it was a long day, but the bus was quite comfortable and I wouldn’t have missed one minute. We had been advised to sit on the left side of the bus and that worked well, with better views at the beginning of the tour. However, the views for people on the right side coming back were just as good and we saw just as much wildlife both coming and going, so it really didn’t matter.

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Thanks for doing a review, I remember you and I were looking for the patters from people earlier - can't wait for you to weigh in on the Star Princess, since I won't be doing a land tour, excited to hear about your excursions and the ship :)

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This was a very different, relaxing day. We slept a bit later and didn’t have quite as early a pick-up. We still weren’t interested in a big breakfast, so we grabbed yogurt & granola from the Lodge café.

We took the motor coach for 2 hours to the Princess McKinley Lodge. Pleasant, but nothing remarkable

We had a fancy grilled cheese sandwich for lunch at 20,320 Restaurant – very tasty.

There wasn’t much to do here at the lodge, so we decided to hike the trails. At first I thought that they were going to be just boring trails around the lodge property. However, they turned out to be some very good wilderness trails. It’s amazing how quickly one can leave the touristy area behind and be out in gorgeous wilderness. Some of the trails had been closed due to spotting bears, but we were able to hike 3 out of the 4 trails there. With some of the trails closed, we were not able to find the geocaches there, but we had fun trying.

We took a long nap – it’s surprising how tiring it can be to relax!

There was good wifi at the main lodge and restaurants, which gave us a chance to catch up a bit.

We had dinner at 20,320 Restaurant: Reindeer meatloaf, excellent potatoes and green beans, and a flight of beer: Denali Gold (Princess Signature Beer), Alaskan Amber, Midnight Sun Kodiak Nut Brown, Kassik’s Moose Point Porter. All were excellent. We preferred this Porter to our previous one – it had less of the burnt-toast taste.

There was an amazing sunset with fantastic views of Denali with gorgeous colors. We are so lucky to have had perfect views of Denali every day!

We stayed up to see the Aurora Borealis again and got an even better view. Talk about lucky!

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Thanks for the review! We are doing this cruise tour in May. Any tips you can give a heads up would be appreciated!!

 

After I've finished posting all the days of our trip, let me know any questions you might have. I'm not sure what aspects you'd want tips about, but I'm glad to give my opinions on just about anything!

 

And it doesn't have to be soon - as you get closer to your trip, you'll likely to have lots of questions. Feel free to ask!

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Since we were up early anyway, we took the 7 am bus to Talkeetna.

The first place we went was the Roadhouse for sourdough pancakes. They were huge, very good, and had plenty to share. We also enjoyed the birch syrup.

We walked around some and had no luck at geocaching, but walked to the river and had a nice view.

We did some shopping and got most of our gifts out of the way so we wouldn’t have to rush it later. The open air market was pleasant (although we didn’t end up getting anything there).

By noon, I’d had enough walking, so we headed back to the pick-up point. Conveniently (and good), Shirley’s Burger Barn was right across from the pick-up point. DH had a burger & I just had a bagel with cream cheese.

Then we had a long (5 ½ hours) train ride. Food was served on the train, but we had already had lunch so just got key lime pie – which was surprisingly good. The seating was 4 people around a table, so 2 people had to ride backwards. Luckily, I was able to sit forward the whole time, since I get sick if riding backwards. The ride was scenic but seemed extremely long, so we were glad to get there.

Embarkation was smooth, but it was already so late that we got on board just in time for the muster drill (which was indoors and sit-down, unlike other cruises I’ve taken. We just had time for me to buy my Soda and More Package (since I am a Diet Coke addict) and grab a chicken & pineapple Panini at the International Café. In general, we found the food at the IC to be consistently very good and the lines were never too long.

We went to the Welcome Aboard Show. I was a bit ashamed to laugh at the comedian Scott Wyler, since he was not politically correct – but we enjoyed the show. In general, we found the singers and dancers to be quite good – although we would have liked to see more racial diversity.

After the show, we were very tired. I much prefer boarding a ship around noon so that we can walk the ship and get oriented and figure out how things work. Boarding so late was disorienting and I was starting to get cranky, so we wisely just went to bed.

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Since today was a sea day and the glacier views wouldn’t start until late afternoon, we could sleep as late as we liked and had a relaxing sit down breakfast in the MDR. I had scrambled eggs with asparagus & cheese, Jim had Musli, and I had excellent hot chocolate (I took advantage of my Soda & More Package to have lots of beverages besides my usual Diet Coke).

I decided that yesterday’s embarkation day didn’t count, so I pretended that we had just boarded the ship. We walked all around the various decks of the ship. Since we were exploring the ship anyway, we did the Treasure Hunt, getting stamps at various spots onboard for a later raffle. I did the Spa raffle with no luck. Then we went to the Treasure Hunt raffle – I was ready to leave in the middle of the raffle (since we never win anything anyway), but just as we were leaving we won a private photo session at the fancy black-and-while Platinum Studio (more about that later).

We had the complimentary British pub lunch at the Crown Grill. We had bangers & mash along with steak & kidney pie, with bread and butter pudding for dessert – all excellent and not crowded at all.

Then we went to the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet which was pleasant (if not very lively) and met people who were going on our same kayaking tour in Ketchikan later in the cruise. Thanks to Sheryl for organizing this and joining us on our kayaking adventure!

The highlight of the day, of course, was sailing by the Hubbard Glacier. We started out standing on deck 7 forward on the port side. This worked well since most of the narration was at the beginning of the glacier experience. We got a great spot for viewing but, in retrospect, I think we were a little too dedicated to that one spot. When the naturalist said that there were steller sea lions on the starboard side of the ship, we didn’t go over there because we didn’t want to lose our spot. Later we realized that we could always find a way to see well wherever we went, so from then on, we switched back and forth whenever there was something to see.

After a long time outside, we got cold and uncomfortable, so we retreated to our balcony on the starboard side. The glacier was gorgeous and we saw lots of calving. I loved having the balcony so that we could relax and be comfortable – we could still hear the narration on our TV. Before the cruise, I was disappointed when I found out that our cabin was on the starboard side when port was the favored side, but it worked out just fine for us. The combination of viewing outside and on our balcony seemed ideal for us.

We ate in the Capri (Anytime Dining) Room and were glad to share a table. In fact, we asked to share a table every dinner except when we knew we wanted to eat quickly because there was something else we wanted to get to after dinner. I had fettucini alfredo (as an appetizer, so I didn’t get the parmesan bowl) and shrimp while DH had Barramundi fish. Both meals were very good, but we were blown away by the Hazelnut Chocolate Journey for dessert! It was so good, one of our table-mates who doesn’t even like hazelnuts still loved it.

After dinner, we saw the Stardust show. It was based on 1940’s and 1950’s shows and we enjoyed it a lot. It pays to get to the theater at least 15 minutes early, because we found that if we waited until the last minute, the theater was full. However, 10-15 minutes early seemed like plenty of time to get good seats.

We are ballroom dancers, so we checked out the Wheelhouse Bar that had The Heartbreakers playing live dance music. The dance floor was fairly small but there weren’t a lot of people dancing, so we had a good time dancing there – and the floor wasn’t sticky like most of the dance floors on other cruise ships we’ve sailed. We didn’t have the energy to check out the other dance venues, but knew that we could do that later in the cruise.

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I was very excited to view Glacier Bay. We got up so that we could start viewing at 7am. I got donuts and hot chocolate at the International Café that were excellent. Since the rangers weren’t set to start presenting until later, we settled onto our balcony for early viewing which was very comfortable and gave us excellent views of tons of otters and sea lions plus one whale (which DH missed because he was changing his camera battery – poor thing!)

We chose not to go to the ranger’s indoor presentation because we were having so much fun viewing outdoors. One thing I wish I’d realized earlier was that the naturalist’s presentations were replayed on the TV at various times. Before the cruise, we planned to go to all the naturalist presentations, but got busy with other things (including outdoor viewing) so didn’t make a single one. I should have realized that they would be replayed on the TV but didn’t think about it – if I’d thought of that, I’d have made a point of watching them all. I don’t know whether the ranger’s presentation was also on the TV later (anyone else know?) A TV guide to the programs would have been helpful.

The glaciers were magnificent all through the day. DH had scoffed when I had suggested that we should bring long underwear on this trip, but we both did – and he admitted that he was very glad! We spent so much time outdoors in the wind and cold both today and yesterday. I wore long underwear, a sweater, a fleece jacket, and a down jacket with hat and gloves and I was quite comfortable – next time I’d also bring a winter scarf, since the only part of me that got cold was my face and I’d have liked to wrap a scarf to cover my face at times.

Later in the day was especially exciting: the naturalist got a tip that there were bears on the beach up ahead. We rushed up to Deck 7 forward (we loved the close-up views from there and never even tried higher up). We could easily see 5 bears sauntering along the beach – clearly a mother and 3 cubs, with a larger bear up ahead. Amazing! The naturalist (who had been working Glacier Bay for many, many years) said that she’d never seen such a thing before! We also got good views of mountain goats. I was very happy with my new binoculars that made everything seem up close and personal. I wear eyeglasses and this is the first time I’ve been able to use binoculars without getting headaches.

There was an Alaskan BBQ buffet in the pool area for lunch which was perfect: All types of delicious Alaskan food and quick enough so that we didn’t feel that we were missing too much outdoors. Sure, it was crowded, but people were friendly and we found room to sit. Throughout the cruise, the other cruisers were very friendly and welcoming: Every time we met people at a meal or elsewhere, we then ran into them everywhere on the ship – so by the end of the cruise, it felt like we “knew” tons of people. This was the largest ship we’ve sailed on, but it never felt particularly over-crowded.

We had brought 2 bottles of wine (purchased at Sled Dog Liquors in Glitter Gulch) since there was no charge for doing this. To avoid a corkage fee (we don’t like to waste money), we simply brought a glass of wine with us to dinner. There was absolutely no problem with this – in fact, the hostess (Nataliia) at the Capri Dining Room became one of our favorite people: she recognized us after our first night and was very welcoming and friendly each night. We tended to end up eating early (not long after the 5:30 opening of the dining room) and never had any wait at all.

Our meal at dinner was largely based on Cruise Critic recommendations. The goat cheese soufflé was every bit as wonderful as everyone says it is! I also had scallops for main dish and crème brule for dessert – and the crème brule was also as great as recommended. Another lovely meal!

There were 2 shows that evening. The Motor City (Motown) show was lots of fun and we enjoyed Scott Wyler, the comedian. My kids wouldn’t approve because he isn’t particularly politically correct, but he seemed to make fun of everyone, including himself, and nothing seemed mean-spirited.

Later that evening, we had out free Platinum Studio photo shoot. This was an amazingly lovely experience! Nemo, the photographer, did a fantastic job. We were welcomed with a glass of wine and he spent time chatting and getting to know us so that we were relaxed for the shoot. He did standard photos plus lots of more candid and unusual shots. I am not at all photogenic, but he captured some lovely moments in a very artistic way. Later in the cruise, he spent a full hour with us, going over the photos so that we could choose our free 11 X 14 print. He did plenty of more standard photos, but we picked one that was a bit more unusual which I’m sure we are going to cherish. If anyone wants to go beyond the standard cruise photos (which, after a few cruises, tend to all look alike), I highly recommend the Platinum Studio – especially if you can get Nemo. Sure, he would have liked us to also purchase additional photos – but he wasn’t high-pressured at all and didn’t make us feel bad that we just got our free portrait. I’ve read complaints that Princess is always trying to sell, sell, sell – but that wasn’t our experience at all. Maybe it’s because we spent a lot of time outdoors viewing the scenery and didn’t do the art auction types of events – but we didn’t experience high-pressure sales at all. One discreet question at the beginning of dinner (“Would you like a drink from the bar?”) and that was about it. I’ve felt much more annoyed at high-pressure tactics on other cruises.

It was getting a bit late after the photo shoot, so we just spent a little time dancing again at the Wheelhouse Bar with The Heartbreakers. We stopped by the Vista Lounge which was supposed to have pre-recorded music for dancing, but it was absolutely empty, so we just retired for the night.

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Skagway: This was a very low-key day. We didn’t plan any excursions because we have learned that we do best if every day isn’t jam-packed. We didn’t need to get up at any particular time, so we woke up when we felt like it and had breakfast in the MDR. DH had a ham and cheese omelet and I had a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese. As usual, everything was delicious.

It was the first time on this whole trip that the weather wasn’t perfect. It was a rainy day, but we were well-prepared with our water-proof raincoats (which I much preferred to umbrellas) so we wandered through town. We had packed up our gifts the night before, so we found a convenient post office. Even mailing the packages was fun – we got to listen to all the locals chat in the line, and got even more of a feel for Alaskan life.

We had heard a lot about the Spruce Tips Beer at Skagway Brewing Company, so we had to try it. DH enjoyed his chili dog and I had their crab and spinach dip on focaccia – but I wasn’t a big fan of the Spruce Tips Beer. I’m glad I tried it, however.

We knew that the Skagway Library had free wfif, but the library wasn’t open until much later in the day. We were not the only ones with this idea, however. There was a ring of people sitting all around the library (some in the drizzling rain) using the wifi outside the library. We found a bench protected from the rain and joined the others for a quick check of e-mail.

Then we just wandered around and took in the atmosphere, did a little shopping, and headed back to the ship for a long nap.

Since we wanted to be sure to see the Puppies in the Piazza, we had an early dinner. Appetizers were shrimp cocktail and halibut, main dishes salmon and crab legs. My crab legs were not great, but I was figuring I’d get crab tomorrow at Tracy’s Crab Shack, so I didn’t really care. The dessert was amazing: burnt rhubarb napoleon with nectarine ice cream. Again, if I hadn’t heard this was great on Cruise Critic, I might not have thought to order it - and we were both very glad we did!

Puppies in the Piazza was adorable! Sure, there was a crowd and we had to stand in line to hold a puppy, but I enjoyed watching the puppies the whole time we were waiting (which actually wasn’t long). I didn’t care about the photos they took – I just wanted to cuddle a puppy!

We were enjoying Steven Hite’s “North to Alaska” show – he’s a great story-teller. But we wanted to try dancing to the Star Princess Orchestra at the Wheelhouse Bar, so we left a bit early. As we expected, the Star Princess Orchestra was excellent and fun to dance to. After their set, we stayed and danced again to The Heartbreakers. It’s a small dance floor, but there were never all that many people dancing, so we had a good time.

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Thanks for the review - did you take any pictures of the ship that you can load?

 

No, sorry - We tend to focus on experiencing the moment rather than taking photos. DH likes to take nature photos, but he's more likely to focus on a pretty weed than anything else. It seems like I've seen good photos of the Star Princess, but I'm not sure exactly where.

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Loving your review! This is the exact cruise that we are taking next year (we leave September 2, 2017) and we are planning on doing a land tour on our own a few days before. Therefore, I have very much enjoyed getting a little glimpse into what we might have in store for us! I'm very glad to see that the weather cooperated as well, though we are still for sure taking all of our layers and especially a waterproof one! Can't wait to read the rest!



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Juneau:

We had an early start time, so we grabbed yummy donuts & hot chocolate in the International Café.

We went whale watching with Dolphin Jet Boat Tours. Captain John & the naturalist Ashley did an excellent job. It was an exceptional day! We saw lots of harbor seals & humpback whales. I especially enjoyed a bunch of steller sea lions hanging out on a buoy – one (clearly not alpha) kept trying to get onto the buoy, and the others kept pushing him away. I felt sorry for him, but it was also hilarious to watch. Then Captain John got a tip from his wife in another boat, so we raced off to find a huge pod of orca (killer) whales. We stayed and watched them play fairly close by. Our boat only had 11 people on it and it felt very comfortable. At the end, we got a bagel with salmon spread on it which helped us not get hungry.

After the whale watch, we wandered around town a bit and stopped at Tracy’s Crab Shack for crab bisque. I was planning on trying their crab legs, but I simply wasn’t hungry enough. The crab bisque was excellent and warmed us up (it was a cool, slightly drizzly day).

We stopped at the convenient library for free wifi to check e-mail. They have a very comfortable set-up there and are clearly used to visitors coming in for that purpose and were quite welcoming.

We did a little shopping, then headed back to the ship for, yes, another nap. How luxurious to be able to have exciting adventures, take a refreshing nap, and then have energy for a lovely evening!

Dinner was again excellent: Chilled blackberry soup and an eggplant appetizer, salad & antipasto, roast beef & veal entrees, hazelnut & chocolate pana cotta for dessert.

We saw a bit of the comedy/magic act (Farrell Dillon) which was silly but fun. We would have stayed, but we wanted to hear the Princess Orchestra do a Glen Miller tribute in the Explorer’s Lounge. The band was excellent. There were too few people dancing, but luckily DH had gotten over any qualms about being the only ones dancing by this point in the cruise, so we danced anyway.

We dropped by 50’s & 60’s dance party in the Vista Lounge which had the opposite issue: the band was also good, but this time there were too many people dancing and it was so crowded that were weren’t inspired to join them. So we went back to the Wheelhouse Bar with the Heartbreakers – again, too few people dancing, but at least there was room for us to do our thing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ketchikan:

We had a quick breakfast at the Horizon Court. We hadn’t eaten there much throughout the cruise just because we prefer a sit-down meal whenever possible (and we loved the International Café when we needed a super quick meal on-the-go). But the Horizon Court had plenty of selection (including an array of interesting foods from various cultures), so we were quite satisfied.

For today we had planned a trip doing kayaking in Orca’s Cove with SouthEast Kayaking. When we each picked the one excursion we most wanted to do, I picked whale watching and DH picked sea kayaking. I was a bit leery since I have not had great experiences with kayaking in the past (not having a lot of upper-body strength). However, I wanted DH to get to do what he most wanted and it did sound like a good way to get far away from the crowds, so I decided to give it a try. My concerns turned out to be totally unfounded and we had a fantastic time. Our guide was Rebekka and she made sure that everyone was able to keep up and hear everything she had to say. Our tour only had 3 kayaks with 2 people each plus the guide’s kayak, so it felt very personal. DH was in the back of our kayak so he had to do most of the work plus the steering, but he was fine with that. One of the other couples was about our age (actually a couple that we met due to the Meet and Greet) and the other couple was a young couple, but we all felt very comfortable with the pace. We each got actively involved in spotting wildlife and we saw tons of different animals: brightly-colored sea stars in every possible color, sea anemones, bald eagles, harbor seals, and steller sea lions. We quickly got far away from civilization and felt far away from the cruise ship crowds. I especially liked one secluded cove (Ice Box Cove? Ice House Cove? I can’t quite remember). Since there is a freshwater cove close to the ocean, people could easily sail up, load ice, and sail away – hence, the name.

The tour ended with an exceptional salmon picnic (much better than the previous salmon snacks that we had). We could have as much crackers, cheese, cucumber and yummy salmon as we wanted – all very fresh. This particular salmon was so good that we had to buy some to take home with us before we left.

We were very tired after our tour, so we didn’t do as much running around Ketchikan seeing totem poles as we had planned. We did see the Eagle Totem Pole that was nearby and we had seen many totem poles at a distance during our tour, so we decided that that was enough for us.

We stopped at Annabelle’s for some chowder & carrot cake, then went back to the ship for, yes, another nap.

Dinner was the last formal night and also our anniversary celebration. The food was excellent! The escargot, veal ravioli & lobster tail were all great. There was a special anniversary cake (we asked them not to sing – they seemed relieved). However, the regular dessert was the pistachio dome and it was so wonderful that we didn’t even bother with the anniversary cake (although we appreciated the thought).

In the evening, we enjoyed the British Invasion show – They made some very interesting and bold choices that we very much appreciated.

We also had our viewing of the Platinum Studio portraits. Nemo spent a full hour with us and in a lovely, relaxing atmosphere and we picked one of the more spontaneous, less traditional portraits. The portrait has since arrived at our home and is lovely. Our Platinum Studio experience was exceptional all the way around.

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A very relaxing sea day.

We had breakfast in the main dining room. DH had oatmeal and I had pancakes – both very good.

I had noticed to my surprise that we still had onboard credit to use up before the end of the cruise. This was partly because we had gotten a Referral Credit since this was our first Princess cruise and our friends referred us.

I’ll deviate from my review for just a moment here: If you don’t know about the Referral Credit and you are booking your first Princess cruise, you really should pay attention to this: If you get someone who’s sailed with Princess before to refer you, you get a $25 onboard credit per person and they get a $25 onboard credit per person. It is very simple: All you need to do is give the previous cruiser your name and e-mail address, they go to https://book.princess.com/captaincircle/referralRewards.page

and enter the information, and you both get the credit. The official Princess policy is that this is only for people who have not booked their cruise yet, but I’ve been told by a Princess representative that you can do this through the webpage even after the cruise has been booked (as long as the new Princess cruiser has not yet sailed). I’ve done this multiple times and it has always worked for me. I’d be delighted if someone reading this chooses to have me be their referrer – just send an e-mail to me ( barbpretz at sbcglobal dot net ) with your name and e-mail address. But whether you choose to give me the credit or someone else, do it! I hate to let a freebie go to waste!

Back to my review: Since I found we had some credit that would go to waste, I went to the Lotus Spa and had a wonderful pedicure (which is still in great shape over a month later!) I’ve always had an excellent experience at the spas on cruise ships – and it’s even better when it is paid for mostly by onboard credit!

We had lunch in the Horizon Court, then bought the very brief Internet package so that we could print our boarding passes. The people at the computer center made it very easy to do and it makes me feel more comfortable to know that I’m all ready for my flight. We filled in several recognition cards for the many people who had given us exceptional service. Then we packed and took a pleasant nap.

We relaxed some on our balcony and saw orcas (killer whales) from the balcony – I was extremely glad that we had paid to have a balcony on this trip!

I had wanted to try the afternoon tea in the dining room and it was quite pleasant. There was a good selection of small sandwiches and cakes. As usual, we shared a table and enjoyed good conversation.

We had our last dinner in the main dining room: I had sweetbreads, seafood salad, and strip steak and DH had a watermelon & feta cheese salad, grilled eggplant & zucchini salad, and strip steak. The strip steak was not great (probably our least favorite entrée on the cruise), but we had filled up on the appetizers and salad anyway, so it wasn’t a problem. For dessert we had what they called an ice cream bombe (which was really a fake baked Alaska) & apple pie a la mode.

We went to the magician/comedy show and enjoyed it and then went to bed early since we had to get up early to catch our plane in the morning.

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  • 3 months later...

I was a bit concerned because our flight was leaving from Vancouver Airport at 11:45 am. If we had been flying directly into the US, the earliest flight they would have let us book on EZAir would have been at noon. However, since we were flying from Vancouver to Toronto and then on to Cleveland, Ohio it was considered a domestic Canadian flight and they would let us book as early as 11:30am. That seemed to be cutting it a bit too close for my comfort, but there simply weren't any other flights that would get us into Cleveland at a reasonable time. I decided to just trust Princess and EZAir to make things work and decided not to worry about it. Cruise Critic people had lots of suggestions for how we could take a taxi or rapid transit, etc. and I'm sure that that would have also worked, but that seemed more stressful to me. So I decided to just leave it up to Princess.

 

It turned out that everything worked very smoothly and I had no reason for concern. We just did as we were told, followed instructions, and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare. In addition, the driver who drove us from the cruise terminal to the airport gave us a quick tour of Vancouver along the way which was very pleasant. It was a lovely end to a fantastic cruise!

 

If anyone has any questions, or would like a referral (see my previous post) please don't hesitate to contact me at barbpretz at sbcglobal dot net. Like most of us here at Cruise Critic, I just love to talk about my trips!

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