June 2014 - Golden Princess to Alaska - Inside Passage
We are a retired couple in our 70's traveling with our son and his wife. This is our second Princess cruise to Alaska. This cruise went to Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay National Park, Ketchican and Victoria. The last stop was canceled because of unexplained timing problems that they said had to do with the speed of the ship. Members of the crew said it had been canceled before.
The cruise itinerary was great. Glacier Bay is a real treat. The last cruise to Alaska went to Tracy Arm. The Tracy Arm glacier is more striking because of it's blue color and because the bay has large ice bergs floating around with seals on them. Glacier Bay is a grander scale with more glaciers, less color and only small pieces of ice floating around. Both are worth seeing...just make sure you aren't repeating an experience when you might want to see both. We had an outstanding Alaska naturalist, Michael Modzelewski, who gave talks on Alaska and was broadcast throughout the Glacier Bay experience live over the PA describing what we were seeing.
We took the outstanding Glacier Point Wilderness Safari excursion out of Skagway. It is rated the best Princess excursion, deservedly so. We saw numerous whales and seals on our way to the Davidson Glacier. When we arrived at the camp site we were kitted out for the canoe trip to the base of the glacier. We were in 30' canoes, paddling the easy river part and motoring the bay to the glacier, where we waded around at the silted area at the base. Awesome.
In Juneau it is very easy to get the $20 round trip shuttle to the Mendenhall Glacier Park. Walk toward the beginning of the town and it leaves from the parking lot. We took the Nugget Falls hike off the photo point trail. It takes you to the base of the falls, with the glacier right next to it. It is about 3/4 mile easy path each way.
In Ketchikan we took the public serive bus for $1.00 round trip (senior) to Totem Bight Park. The park has good signage. Stop at the office for a map. The park is free and you can do it in less than 2 hours, plus about 1 1/2 hours on the bus total. Ask at the tourist info for the bus stop location on main street before the tunnel.
The Golden Princess was not a particularly comfortable ship. We like a large library space and areas with comfortable seating for reading. The Skywalkers Bar up in the back of the ship is the best place to sit and read, meet friends or look out. This space is not used except when it opens at 10 PM. It is by far the nicest public area on the ship, since their interior public spaces generally have no view, except for the gym.
The pastry cook on board was exceptional compared with other ships. The rest of the food was average to good. If you have anytime dining ask the maitre'd to reserve the table of your choice for you at your choice of time at the beginning of your cruise and you won't have to wait in line. Just call and cancel the reservation if you decide to not eat in the dining room.
Billy Reid was our entertainer of choice...piano and song, engaging the audience well. Princess does not have set, large, comfortable venues for their entertainers. We really prefer the continuity of a set time and place for the performers for the duration of the cruise. It adds to the comfort level.