Being a past Princess passenger (Caribbean Princess-November 2004) we took advantage of a last minute special on the Dawn Princess. Using frequent fliers we arrived in Anchorage on the 19th. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Anchorage Midtown was our pre-cruise stay. This hotel is new so the rooms and public areas were in excellent shape. Noticed a lot of people using the laundry facilities which would be nice if you have been in Alaska for a few days. Continental breakfast was very nice. While this hotel is not located close to a lot of restaurants, we did find a convenience store to walk to.
Embarkation Day: Took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to board the Princess buses to Whittier. On the way we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, our bus had an extra 30 minutes before we had to be at the Whittier Tunnel so the bus stopped here. The Whittier Tunnel is one way and used by both the cars, buses, and trains. Once you come out of the tunnel the Dawn is setting at the Marina. Embarkation went very quickly and we were on board by 1:30pm. After lunch at the Horizon court, we walked thru the little town of Whittier. While the town is small, there are a few small shops and restaurants. Back on board, we were on deck when the Princess train came thru the tunnel with the passengers that had taken the land portion. The train looked like a lot of fun and all week I didn't talk to anyone that did not enjoy their land portion.
Ship/Crew/Food/Spa: The Dawn is in excellent condition. While the Princess Theater and Vista Lounge did get crowded, if you got there 10 minutes before show time you could find two empty seats together. We had Personal Choice dining, so we ate in the Florentine Dining Room and found the food and wait staff to both be excellent. A few mornings and lunch we ate in the Horizon court, which again, food and wait service was excellent. The Pizzeria was located off the atrium on Deck 8, we never did eat here, but I loved the set-up inside the ship and you sat at tables. The spa had the normal exercise equipment and classes, but we walked the Promenade Deck for exercise since there was always beautiful scenery and I don't recall it ever getting dark. I did win a spa treatment and that was scheduled for our only sea day. Our inside room was located on the Dolphin Deck, one deck above the Promenade, so it was always easy to get outside to look at the scenery. Our room steward did a wonderful job all week not only with the room but keeping us up to date on whales, sea lions, and sea otters.
Entertainment: The nightly shows in the Princess Theater were very good. Some were repeated the next evening and I heard several people say they went both times. There was also jugglers, magicians, and my favorite the Ventriloquist. The on board naturalist gave several presentations in various locations on the ship, and I truly enjoyed her presentations on Alaska and the narration she gave while we were in the Fjords and Glacier Bay. The day we were in Juneau Libby Riddles gave a presentation on her victory in the Iditarod and gave an excellent presentation on the sport. Princess does limit the amount of activities when the Park Rangers are on board but there still was plenty to do.
Ports: We had beautiful weather in every port. When we were in the Fjords the naturalist pointed out the wonderful reflections in the water, and now that I have my pictures back I can really appreciate the wonderful weather. While there was no calving in Glacier Bay, I stilled enjoyed the wonderful views from the top of the ship. In fact, this is the only picture we purchased from the ship. In Skagway, we visited the Mushers Camp. I would recommend this trip to anyone wanting to learn more about the Iditarod and see what these dogs are capable of, a wonderful morning. The afternoon in Skagway was spent walking around town and thru the little park close to the ship. In Juneau we took the Goldmine Tour (Thane Mine). Being from a mining area this was a good opportunity to learn more about the mining industry. Shopping in Juneau looked about the same as Skagway except you are on the waterfront in Juneau. In Ketchikan we did the Totem Pole (Totem Bight) and city tour. Shopping was a little more scenic especially around Ketchigan Creek. Since we had an extra day in Vancouver, we scheduled a 5 hour city tour. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be in Vancouver, they are already building a second convention center right next to Canada Place where the ship docks. My favorite stops on the tour were Stanley Park, Grouse Mountain, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. The tour drops off at the airport or any downtown hotel. The Vancouver Marriott downtown was our last overnight stay and then it was back to the midwest and the hot, humid weather.
Alaska makes a truly magnificent cruise destination. Whenever you walk out on deck, there's scenery of some type be it Fjords, Glaciers, snow covered mountains, or small villages. The ship speed is slow enough so you can enjoy the voyage and not feel like the ship is hurrying to make up time to get to the next port. The long day light hours also gives you lots of time to spend on deck. While I loved all my Caribbean cruises, Alaska has become my favorite cruise destination.