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 Some of it was bad PR (like the Carnival Triumph “poop cruise”), some of it was outdated thinking on my part (like doing “forced” activities–hey, no one is actually forcing you to do anything!).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!

Crown Princess itinerary, R/T to Alaska from Seattle

Crown Princess itinerary, R/T to Alaska from Seattle

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.

Leaving Seattle on the Crown Princess

Leaving Seattle on the Crown Princess

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.

Dessert in the Crown Grill

Dessert in the Crown Grill

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).

Crown Princess piazza

Crown Princess piazza

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.

Ports

Juneau: Ate at Tracy’s King Crab Shack…loved it! Did Harv & Marv’s whale watching…good time. Went to Mendenhall Glacier: Would have liked to have spent more time there.

Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier

Skagway: Walked around town. Did Frontier Excursion’s Yukon Discovery Tour (about 6.5 hrs)—awesome scenery and didn’t have to do any of the driving!

Yukon - Large than Life

Yukon – Large than Life

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.

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay scenic cruising

Margerie Glacier, Glacier Bay scenic cruising

Ketchikan: Wish we had more time here. Did Island Wings floatplane sightseeing over Misty Fjords—an experience I’ll never forget.

Nooya Lake. Misty Fjords

Nooya Lake. Misty Fjords

Victoria BC: Again, wish we had more time here. Lovely city. Walked around downtown. Great meal and friendly service at a restaurant called The Docks.

BC Parliament Buildings

BC Parliament Buildings

Post-Cruise Thoughts

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!

Crown Princess

Crown Princess

 

5 Comments on “Thoughts on Cruising: Alaska – Trip in Review

  1. Hey how are you doing ? Your blog was nice and helped me a lot but there is some details that I don’t understand yet.

    1. Do you choose your activities (on land) and do you have o pay for it ?
    2. Did you guys get to see Bears fishing salmon and can you do it ?
    3. Is Denali possible with Princess Cruise ?
    4. How much did you spend for the whole trip once on board (for food,activities and stuf…)

    Thank you very much. I plan to go there in June or July of this year 2017 with my girlfriend. We are both from Paris and Work for Disney World and this is going to be our final trip before heading back to Europe. So I really want to be sure this is what we are looking for.

    Like

    • Hello! To answer your questions:

      1. We chose our land activities before we went on the cruise. We booked most of our activities independently (not through the cruise company), but you can also book similar tours through the cruise company. It’s personal preference. You do need to pay for these activities. However, if you are on a budget, you can just walk around the various ports-of-call for free if you would like.

      2. We saw bears, but did not see them fishing for salmon. We were a bit too early in the summer for that when we went. I think July is a better time to view the bears catching salmon.

      3. Denali is possible with Princess Cruises–they have many different package tours available on their website. You would do a 1-way cruise. Either start in Alaska and do Denali and then cruise down to either Seattle or Vancouver, or do the reverse: start in Seattle or Vancouver cruise up to Alaska and then do Denali.

      4. Once on board, the only extra money we spent was for 2 dinners in one of the specialty restaurants (around $30 per person). Otherwise, most other food options are included in the prince of the cruise.

      We loved Princess. Here’s their 2017 Alaska video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2psudTbwtdQ

      ..but some of the other cruise lines will be just as good. Compare prices and itineraries and choose the one that matches your interests!

      Like

  2. Loved your blog and the level of detail you provided really helped with planning our trip to Alaska. We leave in a few weeks and we’ve booked almost an identical itinerary with most of the same excursions. Thank you for publishing this!

    Like

  3. Pingback: The Cruise Bug Has Bit Again! | Travel on the Side

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