Thoughts on Cruising: Alaska – Trip in Review
Happy New Year! I realized that from this past summer, I did a day-by-day account of our Alaskan cruise, but I never wrapped it up with a trip review. Since this was our first cruise and first time to Alaska, I thought I’d write a little bit about the experience.
I’ll be honest, up until now, I never had a strong desire to go on a cruise. Some of it was bad PR (like the Carnival Triumph “poop cruise”), some of it was outdated thinking on my part (like doing “forced” activities–hey, no one is actually forcing you to do anything!).
But Alaska was on the travel bucket list and we thought doing a cruise sounded like a good way to go!
Selecting our cruise
We ended up choosing Princess Cruises’ round trip from Seattle, primarily for their expertise in Alaska–and Glacier Bay National Park was on the itinerary we selected. I would have loved to have done a land tour too (like Denali) but we couldn’t spare the extra time (hey that gives me an excuse to go again!). Plus, I’d rather do Denali on my own and really spend some time there.
So we opted for the round trip so we could fly into and out of the same place. We chose Seattle as opposed to Vancouver for cheaper air fares. It’s easier for us to get to and we have family in the area.
We booked last Fall and then I spent the rest of the time eagerly reading the Cruise Critic forums and Alaska travel books. It seemed such a long stretch until June. But then, it was time to sail!
Cruise Ship Experience
We were on the Crown Princess, round-trip from Seattle from June 4-11, 2016. The itinerary included Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Victoria BC, plus scenic cruising through Glacier Bay. We spent 3 nights pre-cruise in the Seattle area exploring around.
Embarkation: Pier 91 at Seattle (Smith Cove Cruise Terminal). A smooth experience! Arrived around 12:30pm. Line always kept moving–no more than 30 minutes to get from drop-off to on board the ship. Our room was ready when we got there.
Stateroom: Inside cabin, Riviera 724. We saved money by booking an inside cabin and have no regrets–we spent most of our time exploring the ship anyway! Great location — aft of the ship. Just a few steps and we were at the Terrace pool and bar which was rarely crowded. The room was situated immediately below the buffet—only the occasional minor noise, but nothing that ever caused us to lose sleep. The room itself was more than adequate for the two of us. I thought I might feel claustrophobic, but no worries.
Service: Exceptional. I’m not one who usually goes for being “pampered,” but I felt like a king (or a prince since this is Princess Cruises?). Our steward was helpful and always seemed to be around…but never hovered. Wait staff was amiable and professional. Top notch all around.
Food: Ranged from average to excellent. Two great meals in the Crown Grill (loved the filet mignon!) and had good food in the MDR (hello salmon! And I’m still having dreams about you, Fettuccine Alfredo!). The buffet was fairly standard and what I expect when you try to institutionally service food to 3,000 people. We did Anytime Dining because we didn’t want to stick to a rigid schedule. Well, we learned it really should be called “Anytime Dining but reservations highly encouraged!” So, we decided what time we wanted eat dinner in the morning and made a quick call to the Dine line for reservations.
Facilities: Loved all the open areas, walking around the Promenade Deck, Skywalkers Lounge, Terrace pool area. The piazza (central atrium) is beautiful. Most of the time, the ship never felt crowded (and that’s good because I’m not a “crowds” person). Some issues finding seating in buffet at peak times (mainly from people taking up tables who weren’t actually eating).
Onboard Activities: Alaska is so port-intensive, we were sometimes too tired. But we did go to several performances (“Magic to Do” musical and 70’s music show) and liked them. Tried our hand at trivia…fun, but wow we felt dumb! Did the “treasure hunt” as a first timer…I won something! Went to one of the naturalist presentations about Alaska and a photo presentation on Alaska…both good!Attended the culinary demo and galley tour…fascinating. Watched the finale of “Voice of the Ocean”—some talented passengers on board!
Disembarkation: A bit of zoo, but I guess that’s usual? We did Express Walk Off and would do it again.
Glacier Bay scenic cruising: One word: AMAZING! Remember to get a good spot out on one the high decks then go down to the Promenade Deck to get a change in perspective.
What I learned as a first-time cruiser is that it’s all about options. Don’t like formal night? Don’t have to do it (just stay out of the main dining room). Hungry at 11pm? No problem: Go to the 24 hour cafe. Want to learn something?: Go listen to the naturalist talk. Want to party? Go to the late night DJ. There really is something for everyone!
So, we’re hooked! Doesn’t mean we’ll be cruising multiple times a year, but as soon as we got off the ship, we both agreed: Let’s go somewhere warm next! So, if you have suggestions, let me know!
If you have questions about my trip, don’t hesitate to ask!