This was our 11th Alaska cruise and the first one that was all 14 days in Alaska. Actually, the first and last days were in Canada.
We flew to Seattle the day before and stayed at the Grand Hyatt, which we reserved through Priceline at a very favorable price. The room was very nice and the staff very efficient. Our stay here was quite pleasant. The hotel is located in the downtown area close to several large stores and malls. Restaurants are plentiful.
We left the hotel at 11 AM and arrived at the pier about 20 minutes later. Because we were early, we walked right up to the check in booth and were quickly processed. We then waited for about 15 minutes before we were allowed to board the ship. We were aboard by noon and our cabin was ready. We dropped our carry on bags and headed for the main restaurant to have lunch. It should be noted that the main restaurant was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on all days without exception. We like to take all our meals here as opposed to the buffet restaurant, but have been on several ships that don't open the main room on certain days, usually when the ship is in port.
Cabin We had taken an outside guarantee and were assigned one of the lower category outside cabins second from the front of the ship, #4002 on Deck 4. The size and layout of the cabin is superior to those on other Princess ships we have been on, probably because this ship was originally built for another company. The bed was very comfortable. The TV was in a somewhat inconvenient place to be seen easily from the bed, but we managed. There was adequate drawer and closet space for the two of us, but the cabinets beside the beds had shelves instead of drawers. Drawers would have been more convenient. The bathroom had adequate storage space for our personal items. This cabin was directly below the Cabaret Lounge, but we were never bothered by noise from any shows. We are early risers, and so were often asleep by 9 PM and had no idea that a show was going on above us. The major drawback to the cabin location was the thruster engines at the front of the ship. Whenever the ship docked or left a pier, these made a THUNDERING noise. It sounded like the blades of the props were banging against a piece of loose sheet metal. This often happed when the ship left a port late at night of arrived early in the morning. Sometimes the use of the thrusters seemed to last a lot longer than necessary and they would be turned off for a while and then turned on again. We never knew when they were done being used. We would wake with a start and then lay awake wondering whether we could return to a peaceful sleep without being awakened again a few minutes later. The cabin steward did an excellent job during the entire two-week period.
The only problem we had was with our safe. It was locked when we arrived and we immediately called for someone to open it. It took two days and several calls before we got the problem corrected. Also, the instructions for the safe's use were not very well written.
Elite Benefits Being Elite members of the Captain's Circle, we are entitled to certain benefits. Princess asks that we indicate in our Member Profile what kind of items we would like to have in our cabin. Unfortunately, the information from the Profile never seems to make it to the ship.
1. Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up-We are asked what type of drinks we want in the Complimentary Mini Bar Set Up. We have never received what we asked for and always have to call room service to exchange the items
2. Fruit-We asked for specific types of fruit in our Profile, but received a standard assortment that had several items we did not order.
The room service people quickly corrected these first two items.
3. Priorty Disembarkation-We asked at the purser's desk to be on the first bus to the airport, since we had an early flight. We did not get what we wanted and came close to missing our flight. After I arrived home and checked our Elite Benefits, I found that we were supposed to have been contacted by the Circle Host to find out when we wanted to disembark the ship. This never happened. I should have taken a copy of our Elite Member Benefits along and read it during the cruise. Had I done that, I would have contacted the Circle Host instead of the purser.
4. Complimentary Wine Tasting. I am not a wine drinker and have never attended a wine tasting on a Princess ship before. We had nothing better to do on the afternoon of the tasting and decided to attend. I was very happy that we did. Princess did an excellent job and the experience was very entertaining.
5. Complimentary Internet Packages. The ship was having a constant problem with their Internet connection. At least half of our 250 free minutes were used trying to get online or get back online after being bumped off. There was a constant rumble among passengers that were unhappy about the situation. I felt sorry for those that were paying $.75 per minute of the service. They did not get their moneys worth.
All the other Elite Benefits worked out very favorably.
Food The food was excellent in the main dining room throughout the cruise. There was an outstanding selection of entrees each night; more than I remember on other Princess cruises. Most evening, the menus had a selection of at least six items plus those that could be ordered every night. There was also an excellent selection of soup, salads and appetizers. Desserts were not quite as good as we have had on other Princess ships. The quality seemed to vary from night to night. All the breads and rolls were outstanding. The service was always excellent.
We did not take any meals in the buffet restaurant, so can't comment on it, but we noticed many people eating there. We tried the hamburger stand near the pool a couple of times and found them to be very good. The fries were excellent. The food from room service was also very good.
Unfortunately, we did not get the type of table we asked for. We always ask for a table for 6 or 8. We have never received what we asked for on any cruise we have taken. This is not a problem just with Princess. It is true for all the other lines we have used. I often wonder why the travel agents ask for your preference when the cruise line has no intention of using the information.
Entertainment We don't care for the production shows, so did not attend any of them. We did go to all the comedy and magic shows. Unfortunately, there was one comedian/singer that probably should have retired some years ago. He just does not cut the mustard anymore. He did two shows and probably should have done one. Another comedian was far superior, but only did one show. The magician was excellent. A singer/guitar player/comedian put me to sleep and most of his jokes were the latest making the rounds of the Internet. His delivery was not very good and he kept moving away from the microphone so the punch line could not be heard. Because he got no laughs, he chided the audience for not being sophisticated enough to understand his humor. He needs to work on his act. Princess just can't compete with Royal Caribbean when it comes to entertainment.
Ports We enjoy walking through the different ports with no specific plan. Often we just discover some interesting sites that we did not expect. We don't take a lot of tours anymore, since we have take most of them in the past. We did take another whale watch trip in Juneau and managed to see several whales along with seals and lots of eagles. There was even an otter or two, which is apparently a rarity in that area.
In Icy Strait Point, we started walking toward the distant restaurant building and discovered a path that lead along the waters edge and then turned into an exquisite forest trail. It finished up right at the end of the zip line just as the “testers” were making the first run of the day. All the workers here are teenagers from the local village at Hoonah and they are a great bunch of kids. We had a lot of fun chatting with them for about a half hour before their workday started.
In Kodiak, we took the Fort Abercrombie tour and were not disappointed. It starts with a long walk through a very unusual forest filled with moss-covered trees and ends at a bunker left from WW2. The bunker is filled with army equipment from that period and you are immediately taken back in time to another era. This was one of the nicest walks we have had in Alaska.
The day in Glacier Bay was not the best. It was cold and windy on deck, but did not rain. Many passengers braved the cold and had a great time viewing the glaciers and taking pictures. Tracy Arm was much better. The clouds were not as low as they usually are and the mountaintops were visible. The scenery was spectacular all along the fjord. Because there was a great deal of ice in the water, we were not able to get in far enough to see the glacier, but it was still a great day and much enjoyed by all.
At Seward, we went to the Sealife Center for the second time. It had been about 8 years since our last visit and it seemed to be larger this time. We especially enjoyed the bird area and the seal tanks. Watching the Puffins “fly” underwater is great fun.
Captain The Captain did a good job of keeping the passengers informed of the weather ahead. On the evening we were leaving Glacier Bay and headed toward the unprotected Gulf of Alaska, he announced that we would be facing gale-force winds and twenty-foot waves in about an hour. This was during the dinner hour and everyone in the restaurant gasped at the prospect. It did get a little bumpy that night, but we were in dreamland most of the time and were not bothered by the rough seas. The next day, things improved and we had good crossings between Seward and Kodiak and from Kodiak back to Skagway.
Cruise Quality The overall quality of the cruise was very good. The ship is comfortable, the service was excellent and the food was very good. The entertainment could have been better, but Princess does not try to compete in that department.
Our only complaint was with disembarkation. We were over an hour late leaving the ship and afraid that we would miss our flight. The crew kept blaming the port folks for the delay, but we were watching them unload the baggage and the problem was actually with the baggage handlers on the ship. They just were not able to keep up with the guys on the forklifts and the baggage was not off the ship until after 10 AM. We did a little nail biting on our way to the airport, especially when the bus driver said that he would be telling us about the area as we went. He kept slowing down to show us the sights and everyone wanted him to speed up. We made our noon flight, but with little time to spare.
Ship Pros and Cons On any Alaska cruise, we always try to select a ship that has a good viewing lounge at the front of the ship. It can get a little chilly in Alaska and it is nice to be able to sit in a warm room and watch the passing scenery, but still be able to pop outside and take a photo of an interesting scene. Not all ships have these rooms at the front of the ship. The Royal Princess has a very nice and very large room for this purpose.
The main restaurant is in the rear of the ship and has large windows on both sides and across the back. It is nice to be able to keep an eye on the passing scenery during meals. You never know when a group of porpoises or whales might appear around the ship. We did experience some vibration in this restaurant, but it seemed to subside as the cruise progressed. We prefer anytime dining, but it was not available on this ship. They did, however, have open seating at dinner on several days, usually when the ship stayed in port until late at night.
The buffet set up is not the best. It appears crowded and it's inconvenient to move around the room. It does not have an inviting feel to it. There is no desire to linger here during meals. We used it only a couple of times when nothing else was available. Our tablemates had dinner there on one occasion and did not have anything good to say about the food. The shops on board are nicely located and laid out. They have a good assortment of just about everything one might need on a cruise and a lot that one might not need.
The framed art in the hallways and public rooms is a nuisance. It gets in the way of passenger comfort. Art auctions should be done away with on all cruises. It was a bad idea from the beginning and the situation is getting worse.
Summary After reading some of the information presented above, one might get the idea that we did not enjoy this cruise. Quite the contrary, I have only presented the facts as I saw them. We have never been on a cruise we did not enjoy. We always find a way to overcome any inconvenience that we may encounter and ship personnel are usually very efficient in correcting any problems. This cruise was no exception.
Many passengers on this cruise mentioned that the Royal Princess is to be transferred to another line some time in the near future. I have not verified this information.