I've traveled pretty much all my life - starting out in the Merchant Marines at 16 (Guam, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam) - had an interesting discussion with my high school vice principal when I returned late for the school year from my first trip. Didn't discover cruise ships until 2000 - and am making up for lost time.
"Great trip on a grand ship (that is waaay overdue for refitting. The good news? She's due for a major refit this year."
A big time bucket-lister - rounding Cape Horn and exploring routes and watering holes of the HMS Beagle. Weather (an essential element of this cruise) was more than doable and often downright spectacular. Rough swells chased us out of the open seas into sheltered passages (got to see more of Darwin's channel than might have been planned - but that was a good thing). Port strikes in Chile made embarkation in Valparaiso a nightmare, and ruined scheduled port tours in Puerto Arenas, Chile - the Crown Princess may have been innocent but it had happened before and they failed to properly inform passengers of what was going on in a timely and credible manner. Three formal nights - but limited access to Captain and staff during these events (a bit truncated and curt).
The Crown Princess is a grand ship - way over due for renovation (we took her again - to South America, when she REALLY needed renovation. Won't take her again in her current condition. The trip itself, from Seattle to Alaska, to Victoria BC, Canada and back to Seattle was great. Rough winds aborted our planned stop in Skagway and ruined scheduled excursions, but the silver lining was an unplanned stop at Haines - as interesting as Skagway - and less visited by cruise ships (and less spoiled). A special plus was a tasting tour of the Port Chilkoot Distillery - a craft distillery promoting in house Vodka, Gin, and even Absinthe (they also sold a "bourbon" and a "rye." The glaciers were incredible.
We love Victoria, but our arrival was a bit late (dusk) - our stay was short (just a few hours) and the port facility was several miles from the action in town.
Everything was soooo easy! Embarkation was doable. Slight delay at the elevators (not bad though) - slight delay getting the luggage delivered - but weren't in a real hurry. Weather was glorious! Incredible views from underneath the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz while sipping champagne. Tried anytime dining for a change - didn't like the lines. Enjoyed the ports of call.
Traveled "Aqua Class" on the Celebrity Solstice - Celebrity was our first cruise line (Century) and has earned a special place in our hearts - although we've since been wooed away by Princess. Round trip to Alaska from Seattle - and Seattle has GOT to be the easiest, fastest and most stress-free port for cruise ship embarkation/disembarkation. We were a bit disappointed with "aqua class" - thought the cabin was small, and the bathroom dinky - but loved the layout of the ship (there was a great library - reaching up through several decks and STOCKED with Audubon journals and texts. The glaciers were spectacular - the wildlife unique and the itineraries did not disappoint. Bring cameras - and binoculars (our cabin provided courtesy binos - but ours were better). I pity the locals - we were one ship among a circus of four or five dumping thousands of tourists in every port of call - locals didn't seem to mind... Loved the specialty restaurants on board!
We loved everything about this cruise. The ship - the itinerary. Everything. Even liked our tablemates. Our cabin steward was excellent - as were our dining room staff. The itinerary was spectacular - loved Scandinavia - loved St. Petersburg. Got a real education in Helsinkii, Rostock and Tallinn.
It's been awhile - I'm writing this years after the fact - but we loved every single bit about the cruise, the ship and the ports of call (those that we actually stopped at). Venice - always a treat - Monte Negro (a first for us) and Malta - spectacular.
We loved everything about this cruise - except maybe embarkation/disembarkation which was a bit rocky at times. Great cabin, friendly outgoing staff - fantastic food (in ALL venues). We enjoyed first seating (our preference) and enjoyed our table mates - two ultra liberal Canadians, two ultra conservative east coasters - and us (somewhere in the middle). The ship was in great condition, the entertainment varied and top notch - and this may have ben the first and last trip I didn't begrudge the tip envelopes at the end. The destinations were fabulous (first time for Grenada - spice island (we had nutmegs for years). The sommeliers still wore silver cups on chains around their necks. Cool.
We loved just about everything about this cruise - The Coral Princess galleys gave Celebrity a run for their money - and Celebrity had one of the best "kitchens" going. Neat midnight buffets - neat demonstrations - neat entertainment.
Favorite part? Hard to say. The ship, service, ports and excursions were memorable. Particularly the ports. Venice, Athens, Corfu. Pompeii was SPECTACULAR. As was Athens.
Great Trip - Lot's of "Firsts" - First time in Costa Rica - First Time in the Canal, First Time for Grand Cayman. Only made if half way through the canal, loitered a bit and retraced our steps - but didn't have time back in those days for the full passage.
Great tour - especially good for first time cruisers who want exotic but not too exotic. The Dawn Princess was in tip top shape - the ports of call clean and unthreatening - the service staff were still waaaay willing to please.
This was our very first cruise with Holland America. Enjoyed it - a smaller ship and quite different from what we'd been used to. Not better or worse - just different. She was only six or so years old - and in great condition. I understand she's undergone major renovations since.
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