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Old July 23rd, 2015, 10:49 AM
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Default Part 1 12 Day Alaska Land and Sea Princess Cruise

12 Day Alaska Land and Sea Review with Princess Cruise line Starting June 1st
This will be a longer review since it had a week of land portion as well. If anyone has a question do not hesitate to ask or contact me.
This was a trip of a life time for us , meaning my mother in law and myself. This was my 10th cruise, 3rd with Princess and my MIL has been on 2 previous cruises including one on Princess with us 10 years ago. We booked a mini suite Deck 8 E 728 on Emerald deck near aft side. I picked this cabin specifically due to the larger balcony and it is well worth the extra money.
Our trip started land portion first so I will begin there. I flew out to Anchorage out of Boston through Seattle on Alaska airlines and this was my first time on this airline. WE had booked independant air but with transfers through Princess. Alaska airlines is super and the service was excellent. It was a long flight for me and once I landed in Anchorage I was pretty tired. My MIL flew in from CA and we met at baggage claim where we were also greeted by a friendly Princess representative. Once my bag came Princess put us on a busride to the Hotel Cpt Cook. I was wondering about our room and since we had booked a suite on the ship was under the impression we would get better quarters. Not so on this land trip! Our room was fine nevertheless and we had a view to the water. It is an older hotel but service was fine overall. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and went to bed after that. It was not dark at all since Alaska's sun does not go down until after midnight for just a few short hours. The room had heavy curtains which blocked out the sun. We had gotten a welcome package and were told to have our luggage ready at 6am for pick up. In the morning we went downstairs to get breakfast and it was reasonably priced and uneventful. Lots of people filled the loby going and coming to and from cruises it was a bit hectic. At 9.30 am we were told to board a bus and off we went to our next stop in McKinley The Princess McKinley lodge. The busride was from 930 til 1pm and pretty uneventful. The busdriver was very anoying as he had to mention Sarah P at least 6 times, where she used to live and the busdriver told us when he met her husband for hunting and so on. I guess he did not realize most of us really do not care about this at all. The landscape was getting pretty and we finally arrived at the Lodge. Now the main building sit right in front the mountain and all around are buildings that have rooms. We were brought the furthest and upon entering the room were shocked to see where they put us. Old room, 1 bed <we requested 2 twins for this trip> a TV thats so old I am not sure they still made these and overall just a crappy room, below motel quality I would think. We did not unpack and went back to the lodge with the shuttle that goes around every 10 minutes and is driven by a delightful older lady and very friendly. We straightened out the bed confusion and they put us near the lodge I think building 4 and they had all upgraded rooms and not outdated TV etc. Now the problem is if you dont book an excursion you are stuck for 2 days there. And we did not book any so we ended up mostly in the lodge waiting for the fog to lift to see the mountain , eat, drink coffee, play scrabble. The main lodge has a huge room with a fire place and many people come and go to sit have a glass of wine, look at the mountain. Mainly older people there barely saw anyone under 50. The staff was always very nice and helpful never had any issues at all.My MIL bag did not make into our new room until later that night but my bag was delivered right away. The weather was pretty cold , rainy a lot and looking back a waste of time and money. Food was fine but nothing extrordinary just okay. The second night they put on fires in the fire pits and we purchased some smores for the fire and sat there for a short while until it started raining again. We did for I think 8 $ went on a bus and went to see Talkeetna. This is a small tourist town trap and besides a great cafe that sells a reindeer sausage thats out of this world nothing in this town is worth seeing.
The next morning our next ride came , a bus to Denali ! We left at 1030 am and arrived around 1230 pm. Lots of construction going on there right now so we had a little extra time on the bus.
McKinley Lodge:
Once we arrived it was pretty chaotic. They had given us our room keys and I felt like I was in a South of the Border ghetto place. Our room on the second floor was a motel style room with old interior and nothing worth mentioning. I was actually shocked. I believe you get what you pay for and the land portion of this trip did not justify the enormous cost to stay at this motel. The lobby was a big place that looked worn out and not welcoming. A zillion people as well many busses and so on. Crazy. Getting food was a challenge as well and across the street they have strip of restaurants and shops. I felt like I was in a bad movie. I did complain about the room but was not given anything else. I doubt they have anything else. I found a pizza place and across the street they had a coffee shop with other small foods. Coffee is excellent. We tried the Fish place and all I can say I think I had fish sticks. Service is very friendly though wine comes in a small bottle , cups cost extra. The following day we did the Denali tour for 9 hrs. We had upgraded our excursion for maybe 60$ but I dont remeber exactly how much more we paid. The guide picked us up in an old school bus and off we went. The park is wonderful and our guide I forgot his name but he lives in Vermont during off season was awesome. Very knowledgable and gave us a grand tour with stops and when we saw animals he stopped so we can take pics from the bus. It was a very long trip but well worth it and I recommend it! We saw moose caribou eagles and so on. The following day we paid for an excursion called Safari Powerboat and it was pretty neat. Went gold panning and saw some Reindeers. They took us on a boat and it was nice. Later that afternoon we took a bus ride to Denali State Park again <10 minutes away> and we went to see the State Parks sled dogs and kennels. Awesome place, they explained the dogs to us, we got to touch them and they showed us what happens when they pull a sled. The ranger was super nice and we left with a ton of knowledge about these fury workers! Also stopped at the museum and found some interesting stuff about the mountain, its park and programs. All in all well worth a visit and it is free except the bus ride for a nominal fee. The previous morning the line at the coffee place had about 60 people waiting so I had gotten up early and was only 15th in line to grab a coffee. All snacks are sugary and highly processed so good luck. Yes they had croissants and I purchased 2 only to find out they were hard as a rock. gross. Food there is atrocious and thats saying it mildly. The gift shop was enermous but the coffee place was very small.
The next morning we left at 745am among chaos with people, busses and so on. The ride was only a few minutes and we finally pulled up to our train at 815am. The 295 miles to Whittier took 9 1/4 hrs. We all had reserved seats and we were seated last on a two seater next to the downstairs staircase and it was super cold the entire time. It was so drafty I walked towards the end of the cabins where it was so hot people were breaking out in heat hives. We had an interesting guide and he kept us entertained the entire ride with interresting stories and pointing out wildlife and so on. The bartender was also super nice and she managed to keep everyone happy and delivered drinks and so on. The train had "glass tops" and it was truly a nice ride. Between the trains is a plattform that is open and people took a break there from the inside or make pics. Food was available for purchase and we ate breakfast and later a grinder. Food was just okay but it was on a train after all. After so many hours I was getting restless and was glad when we finally arrived at the Pier where the Star Princess was waiting for us! It took forever to leave the train and we ran through rain across the street to go through security and enter the ship. Before we left the train they checked our passports and gave us our cabin keys.
This is a short summary of our land portion. My MIL and I agreed we would never again spend all this money on the land portion. Inadequate lodging for one thing . We would like to get back to Denali but on our own and explore the wonderful park and its surrounding areas. I truly advise to avoid this part of the trip.
Star Princess 7 day Whittier to Vancouver BC
Upon entering the ship we immediatey went to our cabin to check it out. The bed configuartion was in order however no champagne as advertised or robes as requested. We met our nice cabin steward and we gave him a tip upfront and inquired about the missing items. Promptly he came back with our champagne and we sat on our balcony sipping our drinks. Robes came later the next day as they were being washed first. Our rom steward was the very best and he kept our cabin very clean and we never had any issues. We always saw him working in the hallways and he was very friendly. We unpacked and went to the muster drill which is the usual thing. The ship left late and the first night we ate at the dining room with other passengers. We had opted for anytime dining and I think for this cruise we should of had a set time since there wasnt so much to do. I do not remember all the food. My last cruise on Princess I wasnt impressed and this cruise was no dfferent
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June 1st 2015--- Denali Explorer Cruise on Star Princess!


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Old July 23rd, 2015, 11:09 AM
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Mike M Mike M is offline
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Sue,
I look forward to the next installment. Two friends returned in early June from a Princess cruise tour and their impressions of the lodges were much the same as yours. In their opinion they greatly needed updating. There is a difference between rustic decor and old.

Otherwise they loved the cruise but when they go back they'll do a pre-cruise on their own.

Take care,
Mike
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Old July 23rd, 2015, 06:13 PM
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Sue,
So far, loving your Alaska review....had no idea those hotels were old looking, at the prices they charge, I just figured they were updated and nice....looking forward to the rest..
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