June 2016 - 10 Night Alaska Inside Passage With Tracy Arm Fjord (San Francisco Roundtrip) Cruise on Grand Princess
My 2nd cruise, wife's 1st. I'd give it a 3.7, she a 4.7
Nearly fine-dining in the dining room, better than average food in the buffet, with some of it very good. Fresh fruit always, plenty of fish, vegetarian options always. Lots of comfort food, dessert always available and often quite good, I kept looking for their dynamite flourless chocolate cake to reappear, it never did. Pizza, and a grill always available, plus a sit down pizzeria that crept into the good range.
The ships musicians are very good, the sextet, the violin trio, and the jazz combo were strong, pretty good piano lounge singer. I thought the Blue Jade lead singer was a miss but others liked her. I caught every one of their last sets after she went to rest her foot. Wendi sang in her place and had a superior jazz voice and could be strong with some development. The most fun was Steve's sextet, and when some of the ships musicians sat in with Blue Jade. The comedy and pianist leads were strong in the Princess Theater, the 'magician' pretty weak. TinTin, Sam and the rest of entertainment hosting were outstanding. Very warm and welcoming, They made you feel at home, with just enough 'Let's put on a show!' mixed in with the versatility, energy and professionalism to make everybody want to play along.
In general, knowing just how hard and long all of the crew works, and how many rules they have to follow, I was amazed by the energy, enthusiasm, friendliness, and forbearance when dealing with rude passengers they were. It was an incredibly smooth experience.
Now to the negatives. The Captain made a conscientious decision not to go up the Tracy Arm for our "Scenic Cruise" day, substituting a scenic, but very short side trip up to a small glacier. Anyone who slept in (9 AM) would have missed it. That scenic cruise was the day I was most looking forward to and one of the biggest factors in upgrading to a balcony room. That there was not a better contingency plan than that for those of us who were waiting for thrilling Alaskan scenery is criminal.
The stop at 'Icy Strait' was pretty disappointing as well. A zipline and a poorly staged cultural show, plus disappointing food and a 30 minute museum were pretty much it. A small uncomfortable beach, a nothing nature trail through second growth, and a shoreline that might be nice to walk, but is closed to guests. Those I talked to who booked excursions were pretty lukewarm about it too.
Food - If you want your beef done the way you like it, order it done more than you like. Medium gets you a pretty good medium-rare. Medium rare is cool in the middle.
The ice cream was not worth eating. Their Limoncello Sorbet was absolutely divine. Every other dish of ice cream I ordered was uneaten (and I love anything cold and frozen.) Pineapple sorbet, rhubarb ice cream, rum raisin - not a one of them had any distinguishable flavor to them- and I tried to find some subtle flavor. I saw a LOT of uneaten ice cream in the dining hall.
Finally- I was sold the wrong excursion on board. I had picked the Mendenhall Lake kayak excursion from the Princess web site, but did not book until I decided it probably wouldn't downpour on me. The tall blonde woman who helped me either didn't know her product, or lied to me. She sold me a "Mendenhall View" kayak excursion. I repeatedly asked her if it was the one where you kayak'd to the base of the glacier. She told me there was only one kind of trip. When she gave me the price, I told her it sounded too low, that it was $40 more when I looked at pre-booking it. She asked if that was the Princess site and I told her it was. It just didn't feel right and I asked her several times if she was sure. She just kept repeating that there was only one trip and that it said 'Glacier View'. I ended up paddling around in an estuary at the edge of some mud flats with a friendly and game, but amateurish outfitter, with my 'glacier view' from a couple miles away. Plus, despite being asked three times if my wife was going along and my answering with a story about how she can't get in and out of a canoe, let alone a kayak, she sold me two tickets. I didn't figure that out til the day of the outing. Thankfully the refund for the second ticket was seamlessly and automatically credited back to my account with no effort on my part, even though it was partly my fault for not seeing the second ticket wasn't a return ticket or receipt as I thought, but had my wife's name on it. Thank you.
I would definitely cruise Princess again, just not on this itinerary.