This was my 10th cruise overall and my 5th Princess cruise.
I had been to Alaska once before back in May of 1999 on the Sea Princess (a sister ship to the Dawn.) This time I did the Anchorage to Vancouver route.
I spent two days in Anchorage pre-cruise, arriving in the afternoon of 7/24. I had booked the Hotel Captain Cook on line seperately from the cruise and I received one of the prime rooms on the 18th floor of Tower 2 with both a mountain view and inlet view. The sunsets viewed from my room were amazing.
On the 25th, I took the Alaska RR from Anchorage to Talkeetna. I ended up doing a jet boat excursion on the Talkeetna, Chilitna and Little and Big Susitna rivers. This also included a slow paced nature hike on one of the river islands which was very informative.
On Monday the 26th, I took the bus transfer from Anchorage to Whittier. I am a hearty Wisconsite, so when it was drizzling and 60 in Anchorage, I thought nothing of it.......and I packed my jacket..............a big mistake!!!!!
On the way from Anchorage to Seward the weather got progressively worse....by the time I arrived in Whittier it was pouring rain, 50 degrees and gale force winds. Getting on board the ship with the uncovered gangway was an adventure in itself. Once onboard, it felt like I was home again as the Dawn was laid out almost identically to the Sea.
I met up with my friends who were arriving at all different times. The lifeboat drill was scheduled for 8:00pm - between early and late seatings. The weather had not improved one bit, in fact it might have gotten a little worse. After the drill, the Captain came on the speaker and said that because of sea and wind conditions, out 9:00pm departure from Whittier was going to be delayed until he felt we could safely depart the dock. If we were unable to depart before 3:30am, we would skip College Fjord and head straight to Glacier Bay. There were the beginings of some rumblings, but for the most part, my fellow passengers were pretty understanding.
College Fjord - I missed it! The ship left the dock between 12:30 and 1:00am.....thus we did go to College Fjord, but I slept through it! According to my friends, I did not miss much. It was very foggy and not very good picture taking weather. The last time I was in College Fjord the weather was perfect, so I didn't mind too much sleeping through it.
Glacier Bay - the weather was partly to mostly cloudy with occasional sprinkles; the closer we got to the glaciers, the colder it became. We did see some minor calving at Margerie Glacier. The Captain did turn the ship twice so all could see the glacier more than once. We then sailed out of Glacier Bay and headed on to Juneau.
Skagway - weather was a little better - cloudy and a little drizzly early in the day in Skagway. Did the Yukon Expedition and White Pass Railroad excursion. Took a bus up the highway into the Yukon - went up to Carcross, came back to Fraser and boarded the White Pass Train and went back down to Skagway. This trip took about 8 hours. I recommend everyone do it at least once. The scenery up in NW British Columbia and the Yukon is absolutely spectacular - ranging from the desolate Tormented Valley to the Mountains and emerlad lakes of the Yukon. The train ride down to Skagway is awesome. It was the second time I have done the Yukon and White Pass Railroad. 26.3 miles from the summit down to Skagway......a drop in elevation of a little more than 2000 feet.
Juneau - our group privately booked a whale watch tour with Captain Larry and Orca Enterprises. We left the offices by the dock at 9:00 and headed to Auke Bay to embark the Awesome Orca. On our way out, we say eagles and harbor seals. While we were watching the harbor seals, Captain Larry was looking for whales, so when we left we headed towards where he had spotted some signs of whales. What happened for the next 2 1/2 hours was one of the absolute highlights of my life. We came across a temporary pod of 9 humpback whales who were bubble feeding. We watched them for the rest of our allotted time - 2 1/2 hours! One time they surfaced about 30 feet from the side of our boat. Another time they surfaced abotu 20 feet from the other Orca Enterprises boat....we heard the yelling and shouting.....we all got some great pics that day. Even Captain Larry said that he does this every day and that day was an absolutely incredible one, even for him. I highly recommend Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry. The cruise ship excursion boats came and went within 15 minutes; we stayed the whole time....that is the difference! The cruise ship excursions had a set timetable; we had a time limit but could spend the time the way WE wanted to. Next time I go back to Juneau I will book with Orca Enterprises again. Ketchikan - Absolutely gorgeous weather!! Sunny and low 70's with a fresh breeze - and not a drop of rain in sight! Did no ship excursion here, but ended up doing a local tour around Ketchikan, watching the King salmon spawn and down to Saxman Totem Park. Then back to the ship to relax in the hot tubs before they got crowded.
Inside Passage cruising - another gorgeous day and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous....saw many small villages on the small islands of the Inside Passage - even saw some orcas.
Vancouver - sailed under the Lion's Gate Bridge about 6:30 - just prior to that there was a large pod of orcas playing along side the ship. What a way to end the cruise.
Some random notes on the Dawn Princess:
We did traditional late seating and our service was impeccable. We had a table of 11 and the waiter and asst. waiter were up to the challenge of us! We love to have fun and they joined right in. The Food was very good - some dishes were better than others, but the always available fettucine alfredo was as good as ever.
There were a lot of families with kids on this cruise........and for the most part they were well behaved and the parents kept them under control. There were a few that decided that hallways were for running no matter how crowded they were. And there were some that hogged attention in one of the shops - couldn't make up their mind on anything and held up the check out lines more than once. And there were some that decided the adult only pool was for them.........early in the cruise it was not a problem, but as the weather got better, there were some complaints about hte kids in there...and of course mommy and daddy wouldn't say anything, so the staff had to become involved. The instances were few and far between, but I do remember why I like to cruise during the school year when schools are in session. I like kids, I really do, I just prefer to not be around so many (estimated that there were almost 350 kids on our cruise.) Family cruising is great - but all have to learn to coexist and respect the areas on the ship that are for adults only to escape to.
This was a great cruise, made better by the fact that I was able to experience Alaska again - this time with good friends!