May 2014 - Golden Princess to Alaska - Inside Passage
Who: On this cruise was me (44), my husband (46) and our son (13).
Where: Alaska Inside Passage
When: May 2014
Why: We decided to take a cruise because we thought it would be the best way to experience Alaska and its many cities and give us a chance for an up close view of the many icebergs.
Ship: Golden Princess
Who: This cruise was my husband’s idea and both my son and I were very happy to oblige him. On the cruise the average age seemed to be late 50's. There were a few families, but not many (my son was the only 13 year old male on the ship), but this worked for us because we wanted more family time. There were never any out of control parties or drunken people stumbling on the decks (if you're looking for a party this is not the cruise to take). Every passenger we had an opportunity to speak with was very nice. No complaints at all.
Where: Alaska Inside Passage was everything we expected. We visited Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, Glacier Bay, and Victoria.
Juneau was beautiful and we booked a hiking excursion to see the Mendenhall Glacier. We were informed that the bears are in the process of waking from their hibernation, but we never encountered one (although a few of the passengers that took the hike later in the day had a black bear cross their path). The hike was easy. There were no large hills to hike and it was only about 3/4's of a mile. Once we made it to the glacier there was a beautiful waterfall and a sandy beach to watch the ice float by. We paid $47 per person, but if you wanted to do this without booking an excursion I believe there is a bus that will take you to this area for $10. Just do your researches before you go. I chose to pay for the excursion because it was hassle free.
We were an hour and a half late to port and the ship staff was much unorganized and many passengers became angry for having to wait more than hour in line to get off the ship.
Skagway: An older town with older structures and a lot to see. We decided not to book an excursion and site see on our own. For $5 you can purchase a bus ticket that will drop you off and pick you up at different stops all over town. We found out that there was a graveyard outside of town and decided to hike out there and take a look. This hike was on flat land, no hills, and was about a mile one way. There are excursions that will take you to this gravesite, but we wanted to hike.
We were an hour late to port, but by this time either the staff understood how to organize disembarkation better or the passengers decided to wait to disembark.
Ketchikan: Was so beautiful with many stores and things to do. My husband and son decided they wanted to do the rainforest zip-line adventure. It was a little pricey and $149 a person, but I am glad they did it. Both had a great time and could not so enough about the experience and people running the excursion. I stayed in town and did some shopping. *Keep in mind if you don't venture off the beaten path you will see the same souvenirs in every port.*
Again we were an hour late.
Glacier Bay: We sailed through Glacier Bay and had the opportunity to hear and see the glacier break off and crash into the sea. Like visiting the Grand Canyon and taking in all its beauty this is one of those things that you should experience. The cruise line picked up a few rangers and used the ships load speaker to describe what we were seeing and give us an overview of the area’s history. While cruising through Glacier Bay we had the opportunity to Orca whales. They were very beautiful and majestic. It was a treat to see them in the wild.
Victoria: We had less than two hours and we docked very late in the day (8pm). This did not give us any time to explore the city. We visited one shop and then had to get back on the bus and return to the ship, so unfortunately not much to tell here.
We were an hour late and unfortunately because of this our stay in Victoria was only for an hour.
When: We took this trip in May of 2014 and brought jeans, t-shirts, hoodies and thin thermal sleeveless jackets. This was enough to keep us warm. The temperatures ranged from 45-65 degrees. It did rain on one or two occasions, but we loved it.
Why: Why not. Alaska is a beautiful area of the country and we wanted to see as much of the state as possible without having to pack our bags and hop on a flight every other night.
Ship: We booked the Golden Princess. It is a beautiful ship with many areas to explore. We booked cabin D735. This is a cabin at the back of the ship with a larger than normal balcony and only one cabin on the left side of us. There are large solid partitions that block your neighbors and offer complete privacy. The cabin was small, but we were all very comfortable. The beds were very nice. My son and I fit them perfectly, but my 6'1" husband had a little trouble keeping his toes covered :) There is a small refrigerator, a TV (that airs newer movies), a vanity/desk, a large closet, and a small bathroom with an even smaller shower. Again this all worked for us. Once you figured out how to wash your feet it was easy. We heard the water churn, but we all loved it. It was very soothing. There wasn’t a lot of movement on a regular basis, but one night. We could feel the ship rise and fall. I got a little sea sick, but took some Dramamine and it seemed to pass.
Food: On this ship there is normal dining, a buffet, pizza shop, hamburger and hotdog shop, coffee shop, and ice-cream shop. The food is covered with the cost of the cruise, but the beverages (anything except tap water) are extra. We decided to purchase the Ultimate Beverage Card ($49 per person). This gave us all we could drink (except alcohol and bottled water) for the entire trip. Again this was a cost well worth it. I'm not a big buffet person and I'm not big on formal dinners either. The great thing about a cruise is the choices you have. We did the buffet and food shops more than we did the nightly dinners. I didn't think the food was anything to rave about. It was just ok. If I was on land and had a choice I would not eat on the ship.
Ship Staff: Our cabin steward was the nicest person on the ship. He always had a smile and did what he was supposed to do and did it very well. Unfortunately not all the ship staff wanted to be there. Many seemed unhappy, not willing to smile, and ready to argue if the need arises. For booking this cruise we received two free dinners at one of their specialty restaurants. Unfortunately we could not make the time they booked for us (9pm) so I called the dine-line and was connected to a very rude women who before I was even able to tell I wanted to cancel the dinner gave me a lecture on the fact that there are 1,300 people on the ship and that I couldn't have it my way. After she was done lecturing me I told her all I wanted to do was cancel the reservation so someone else could use it. Her reply was, "I can't help you" and she hung up. Other staff members did their job and for the most part did them well, but they were just not very friendly. For example, my son loved the tropical mock-tale and he decided he wanted another one. He went to the bar tender and asked for a second one. The bartender looked at him rolled his eyes and huffed. I told the bartender if it was too much trouble we could go to the next bar, but my comment was met with silence. I don't expect people to chat me up, but I do expect a smile. The other issues I have with the staff are the managers. You see pictures of them in the daily ship planner, but you never see them moving around the ship. I think this may help with the customer service levels from their direct reports. There was a total of three staff members that we came in contact with that were very nice and looked like they wanted to be there, most of the others were there to do a job and were nothing to criticize or commend.
What I have realized about my family after having taken this cruise is that we are not cruising people. We had a great time together and the ease of not having to move from hotel to hotel is priceless. We like to do things on our own schedule, we like dinning in nice restaurants, and we like being around people that either have a good time at what they do or can fake it. We will probably never take a 7 day Princess cruise again, but we will take a three day cruise or try a different cruise line. Overall I would say this was a great time my family had together playing cards and Ping-Pong.