Nice but not great
Grand Princess Cruise Review to Alaska - Inside Passage
Sail Date: June 08, 2014
Ship: Grand Princess
Cabin Type: Oceanview
Cabin Number: E230
Traveled As: Family (older children)
Reviewed: 3 years ago
Overall, we had a great time. Check in was fairly easy. I think it could have been more streamlined, but everyone was very helpful in directing you where to go. Once onboard, I felt things were disorganized and crew members we asked about where to eat were not helpful. I felt like the Grand Princess was an older ship in need of sprucing up. We were upgraded from an oceanview room to a balcony room. I highly recommend a balcony room on this particular voyage because there is so much scenery to view while cruising. It's also nice for the fresh air. The balcony room was not as large as expected. Our last cruise was on Disney and their balcony room is much larger and nicer.
Dining - For the first 2 days, everytime we sat down anywhere, we were asked to buy something. Soda packages, coffee packages, insulated coffee mug, etc. It was annoying! I also think that having to pay extra for soda on any cruise is crazy. $2 for a can of coke and 15% gratuity automatically included. Disney has a drink bar set up at all times and you can get what you want, when you want. The food was okay. Nice dinners in the dining room, but typical buffet food which got old by the end of the cruise. Good pizza and burgers out by the pool. We chose anytime seating which worked great for us. We only had to wait to be seated the first night. We did miss having the same wait staff each night, but it was like going to any restaurant.
I had a teenage daughter(17) with me. We went to the teen lounge the first evening to sign up. She was not impressed and she didn't go back. It was dark and small. The kids were younger and playing board games and video games. She was very disappointed because she was comparing it to the teen lounge on Disney. There was no comparison.
Excursions - In Ketchikan we went to the Totem Bight State Park and the Lumberjack Show. Definitely enjoyed the Lumberjack Show. The Park was okay. We were expecting a lot more totem poles. It was a walking tour and the guide told interesting stories. We were just expecting more. In Juneau we did the whale watching and Mendenhall Glacier tour. The whale watching tour guides were great. Upbeat, nice and answered all questions. We did see whales, porpoises and sea lions. We were on the water several hours on a gorgeous day. The whale watching was a little disappointing because you could only see their backs and tails when they came up for air. I feel like if we had been on a smaller vessel that we may could have gotten closer and seen more of the whales bodies. We only had about an hour at the glacier. For us, that was enough time because we didn't want to hike up further to get better views. For hikers, it wasn't enough time. The glacier was cool (no pun intended) and the center there was interesting although it closed while we were there. We used their viewers to spot mountain goats and to get a better view of the glaciers and the kayakers. This tour did not allow for very much time to shop in Juneau. We barely had enough time to go to the Red Dog Saloon to get souvenirs. In Skagway, we did the White Pass train. Our train was packed full. About 15 mins into the trip they have engine trouble. We had to pull over on a side track to let 2 other trains pass (which were not full at all) while we waited for another engine. It took about 15 minutes to switch engines and then we were on our way. This is a beautiful scenic trip. Lots of picture opportunities. Make sure you do not sit in the first car or last car of the train. First car going up is right behind the engine. Coming down, the last car becomes the first car and you are right behind the engine. Very strong diesel smell which made me headachy and nauseous. Loved the cute town of Skagway. Had plenty of time to walk around town, shop and get ice cream. In Victoria, we were going to go to Buchart Gardens because it was highly recommended to me but my mom was having trouble walking by the end of the cruise so we opted for a city tour. It was easy to exchange the two excursions. We went on a double decker bus thru the city. We were able to get off at the Empress Hotel for about 20 minutes or so and look around the hotel. Our guide was great. I thought Victoria was a quaint city with pretty architecture, clean and bustling. It was a Sat. night so lots of people out walking the streets. Someone was playing the bagpipes on a street corner down by the water. I wish we would have had more time in Victoria to explore. May have to go back there.
In Seattle, we stayed near the airport the night before the cruise and the night after. Since you get off the boat so early (easy process), we had all day to spend in Seattle. Our hotel stored our luggage and took us to the rail station since the shuttle was making a trip to the airport. We rode the light rail from the airport to the University Place stop, walked a couple of blocks and were at Pike's Place Market. We were starving so we ate at Hard Rock before we went into the market. It was delish, but I was sorry that we were so full because there were lots of goodies to try at the market. We did buy some sweets to take back to the hotel. We saw the first Starbucks, fish throwing, lots of fresh flowers, fruits and veggies. Lots of people on a beautiful day. I know we didn't cover it all. We rode the light rail back to the airport (approx. $2.50pp each way), walked to ground transportation and called our hotel for the shuttle. Easy and cheap way to get around.
Activities on board - we enjoyed the shows, comedians, crew and passenger talent shows, trivia contests, ping pong tournaments and movies. At the outdoor movies, they provide blankets. Get to the shows early to get a seat. The marriage game show was standing room only.
All in all, it was a great trip. We were there to celebrate my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. They had balloons on their door with a Congratulations certificate and they got a special dessert one night. Mostly an older crowd but there were a good amount of kids and teens onboard since it was summer. Definitely a once in a lifetime trip.