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  1. Thanks, I did love the land tour, and you are right the long train and the bus were hard back to back. One of the problems with the restaurants is that one of the Princess Lodges ( Kanaii ) got displaced by the fires - so I think they were busier than expected. The tour director wasn;t able to make the reservations because we were getting in late. Then our first night in McKinley we had to share a table. We got the most obnoxious couple imaginable and left early. ( Although our sharing a cruise ship table was much better ). If I ever went again - I would go in reverse !
  2. Views from the balcony were fantastic. Personally I would skimp on anything else and have a balcony. Especially in Alaska. One of the reasons I don;t usually cruise is I get bored looking at the ocean all day. Not in Alaska, lots of scenery. Yes - we went up for the glacier viewing and also just to move around. Both great views We went to Glacier Bay and the ship did a 360. We were fortunate it was a clear and crisp day. If you go - be sure to bring binoculars !
  3. Our Cruise on Aug 31 didn't leave until 1:00 AM ( supposed to leave at 4:00. ) Very disappointing. ( Tide issues )
  4. That was our original intent, but it cost a lot less for us to do it in reverse. ( and fit in better with our schedules )
  5. Hi everyone, here are the details and observations of the land tour. It was a beautiful trip. Background: Princess Cruise / Land Tour – August 19 – Royal Princess. This is a review of the Land Tour – the Cruise report is in an earlier post. We did the Connoisseur escorted tour – 2 nights at Denali, 2 nights Talkeetna and final night in Anchorage Husband and I, mid-fifties. Our first multi night group type tour. Pretty easy-going and manage to have a good time regardless of the circumstance. We prefer vacationing independently; cruising / group touring is not our first choice. We chose this vacation based on itinerary and time frame. Never been to Alaska or Pacific North West. I expect to have a great time on my vacations, but also expect that not everything will go as planned. Being able to roll with the punches and enjoy every moment is important. We thoroughly enjoyed Royal Princess and even with the handful of things I didn’t like I would cruise with them again – and on Royal again. Connoisseur Land Tour Overall what we liked: · Convenient and easy way to see the interior of Alaska · Escorted tour was more expensive – but nice to have prepaid meals and to have someone watching out for you. · Luggage transfers and room transfers handled beautifully · Narrators on all transportation – this was great. However – some folks did talk a LOT which I found tiring. Overall what we didn’t like: · Long transportation days. Very much a drive around on a bus / train type tour. · Became saturated with all the scenery – for us - I think we should have picked a different itinerary and I will discuss below. Special Circumstances · Two things happened which may be influencing my review of this tour. o 1) Upon arrival in Denali we received word from our son that our beloved dog was critically ill and we had to make the decision to euthanize her. o 2) My husband – very healthy never sick - picked up a cold on the last day of the cruise. He continued to get worse with a respiratory type virus. He was diagnosed with Pneumonia the morning after we arrived home. Day 1 – Train to Whittier · Disembarkation was organized and easy. · You send some luggage to your final destination (Anchorage), some luggage to your next night and you can carry 1 piece each with you. Luggage handling was great and always showed up. · Train Ride was long. 9 hours with a motor transfer to lodge. Because we were doing the National Parks Tundra tour the next day – I am not sure it was worth 2 days of scenery. · Meal on train was included and food was good quality and well prepared. · Seating in the dining car was very cramped. I am a larger woman, but not morbidly obese. I am active and fit. I carry my weight in my abdomen. The tables were very narrow and uncomfortable. Denali Park Lodge · We had good cell service · We were in a very nice building with its own lobby, small bar a viewing deck of mountains and river. Room was spacious and clean. However, it was a good walk to the main lobby – but they had plenty of shuttles. · Dining venues were crowded, reservations were needed or a long wait. First night we had no reservations, but tour director made them for second night. We ate at the counter service restaurant first night and it was delicious. The other restaurant we tried was salmon king and it was also very good. · Lodge had a small village of gift shops that were locally owned and fun to browse through. Denali Excursions - The main reason to go here is to go on one of the national park service tours into Denali. A few things to know: · There are two options – the Tundra Tour (8 hours) or the Natural History (4 hours) · We did the Tundra Tour. It was a beautiful day and we saw Denali completely opened up top to bottom. This is very rare to see the entire mountain. Be warned – you may drive for 8 hours and see clouds / fog. · We saw some wildlife. This is a LARGE park and not a zoo. We saw a bear, some moose, caribou, lots of birds and sheep. · Plenty of breaks - but hold off the coffee 😊 · Breaks were quick, I would have like more time to look around. · Viewing was difficult out the bus windows – they had a sash across the middle. · Polychrome Pass – this is very scary. You are driving on a narrow road with 1,200 feet drop and no guard rails. (We have driven mountain ranges in Europe – but this was much scarier) · Looking back - I would have picked either the train or the tundra tour. (Motor Coach is about half the time, but not as scenic). If I took the train – then I would have done the 4-hour Tundra – which also avoided the high pass. · Packed lunch available at the coffee shop for the tour was awful. The tour does provide snacks, we should have just bought a couple extra granola bars. · If you are on the escorted tour, you can use your meal voucher at the coffee stand and get additional snacks etc. this was a great way to get a quick breakfast and some treats for the road. Mt McKinley Lodge · Least favorite property. Parts of the lodge were run down and worn out. I was rather shocked. State of the carpets were appalling.( some were stapled ???? ) · Dining was a step below other venues. Service was inconsistent. Unless you ate at off times, long waits for the restaurants. I preferred the 20320 grill over the finer dining North Fork. · Cloudy and didn’t even get a peek at the mountain, that may have made it more interesting for us. · Extremely hilly although there are shuttles, but you waste a lot of time riding around if you take one. · Only rainy day entire trip and with DH being sick, we took this as a rest day. · It’s in the middle of nowhere. The next hamlet Talkeetna is an hour away. I could not face getting on a bus again for any reason. · There are a few low cost / free activities around the lodge, but again my husband was getting sicker - so we hung out in the room. · Did see the Aurora Symphony – which is a slide show of the Northern Lights set to music. This was boring. However, we did realize that we did not need to spend $$$ to try to see northern lights. If we ever managed it by chance fine. · Best thing here was the fireside hosted patio. It was an outdoor bar with firepits, chairs and a musician. It was wonderful to sit by the fire and have a drink and listen to music. There was a young bald eagle in a nearby tree who kept swooping around. Very cool. Anchorage · We had a bonus stop on our transfer back to the Iditarod headquarters. We took a sled dog ride on the “dirt” sled (cart on wheels) for $10 and saw sled dog puppies. This was great fun, very inexpensive. · Captain Cook Hotel was very nice, we had a room with a view of the bay. Too bad there wasn’t a casual eatery in the hotel since we were tired at this point. · 2 blocks up there was a really good pizza place called Uncle Joe’s eatery. Great pizza, good prices. · Ate dinner at Glacial Brewing Company. Called for a reservation, told me they were full, we went early at 5:30 and ate at the bar with no wait. Delicious food. · Transfer to airport went great. Security was slow in Anchorage - so plan accordingly. Overall great trip. I’d go on another Alaskan cruise, but maybe rethink the land version. If you do go to Alaska be sure to buy trip insurance with medical evacuation included. At times you are far from facilities and may need to be flown to Anchorage for care. Princess did a nice job with the escorted tour. Not our usual way to travel (we tend to center in one town or area for several days and immerse ourselves.) but it was convenient and managed well.
  6. Just posting now in Princess forum. I grew up in WV and graduated from WVU. I thought I knew mountains from West Virginia, wait until you see Alaska.
  7. We were usually going to an early excursion, so didn't think of it. Good idea and I would have if it had occurred to me
  8. We tried to do that, but they were wedged in really tight.
  9. This was a problem on the Royal for me. I have severe sleep apnea (for years). I've traveled internationally and throughout the US and have never ever had an issue with setting my CPAP unit up by the bed. We had to get a big ugly heavy duty extension cord to run across the room at night ! my husband thought it may be fire code - with all the bedding so close.
  10. I played trivia once on RCI. The coordinator said no one had ever been able to answer this question and there would be a special prize. the question : Who said - the best diet tip is never eat more than you can lift. the answer .... my favorite character of all time Miss Piggy !. I got a mug I think or maybe a key chain. I'm great at trivia, but would not be able to deal with these intense type players ! Yikes.
  11. Couldn't find edit - but wanted to add that we thought medallion WiFi worked well. It was slow in our cabin, but much better if we went to a lounge. no real issues.
  12. Just got off the Royal Princess in Alaska. We also did the land tour since we are East Coast and not sure when or if we will make it out there. I'm not a big cruiser and I LOVED Princess. I'm ready to go again. Alaska is so beautiful - I just sat and looked at the scenery.
  13. We sailed once before on RC about 6 years ago. From my general impressions I think princess is a step up. Only thing is that I recall the buffet being really great on Freedom of the seas. it was a traditional set up with long lines - but at least I didn't feel I was on a scavenger hunt for all of my meal !. Oh - and I like RC version of the international cafe better. Sometimes I just wanted a cookie or something quick with my afternoon latte. I had to go to the buffet to find the cookie ( oh the horror ! I know ! )
  14. Just returned from our Alaska Cruise / Land Tour. I am posting my overall impressions ( and hoping that this is in the correct place ). if not - please let me know. Thanks to everyone here who answered our questions. it really helped us have a great trip. Background: Princess Cruise / Land Tour – August 19 – Royal Princess. I’ll review the Land Tour in a separate post Husband and I, mid-fifties. Our second cruise – first was on Royal Caribbean in the Eastern Caribbean. Pretty easy-going and manage to have a good time regardless of the circumstance. We prefer vacationing independently; cruising is not our first choice. We chose this vacation based on itinerary and time frame. Never been to Alaska or Pacific North West. I expect to have a great time on my vacations, but also expect that not everything will go as planned. Being able to roll with the punches and enjoy every moment is important. We thoroughly enjoyed Royal Princess and even with the handful of things I didn’t like I would cruise with them again – and on Royal again. Royal Princess Overall what we liked: · Ship is very beautiful. I found it lovely without being too glitzy. · Loved the Piazza concept with the open lounges. · Ship was super clean. · Staff were very friendly and kind. Service was outstanding with only one exception (Shore desk staff were NOT knowledgeable or helpful about an excursion we had to rebook). · Embarkation was EASY. Not sure what all the medallion fuss is about – but I did it all on my laptop (even though I downloaded apps). I think people forget about customs, that took a bit longer. · Ship DID NOT feel crowded. Could always find a seat in the Piazza. There were times when I asked to join people and it was never a problem. · DH logged my birthday and I had impromptu happy birthday sang to me a few times. I also received a $25 gift card for the shops. Had an excellent cake at dinner. Overall what we didn’t like: · No promenade deck – there are a couple little decks on 7, but no where to really walk outside. I might not sail on her again due to this. I love to walk off my dinner at night. We circled around the Lido deck and climbed stairs, but not the same. · Not a fan of Matt O. some of his assistants did a terrible job with trivia and shows. · Spa sales accosting you right off the elevator on deck 5. We were trying to watch an activity in the Piazza and they were being disruptive. I asked them to please quiet down. · We went to the outlet sale – it was cheesy and very down market. · Art gallery. I love art and visit galleries and museums wherever we travel. This was really awful. Did not attend any events. · There was a naturalist on board, but not a big presence – AND – there was nothing to tell you where we were to assist in wildlife spotting. I expected more from this. Cabin · Mini Suite on Baja Deck. · Quiet, very clean, good location · Mini suite was a splurge for us, but I loved the extra space and spent a lot of time just hanging on the balcony. Glacier Bay Viewing · A front view would have been nice, but I looked at the sanctuary and it was not open – all tinted glass. Not good for photography. · It was crowded, but for the most part polite. People took turns, said excuse me. There are some passengers where culturally personal space is as respected as in the US. So sometimes the folks crowding in aren’t being rude in their culture. Inside Passage · As others on this website have pointed out, the inside passage is more than just the inside of Vancouver Island. It goes all the way up the coast. We went west of that island into the open water. Would have preferred to go inside, but – itineraries on a cruise (or any vacation) can and will change. We sat at lunch with someone who just pitched an ever-loving fit about it. There was so much beautiful scenery, I’m not sure it mattered in the long run. MDR · Fixed MDR, 2nd seating. This was great, as soon as a couple was seated – the waiter started the orders. Our tablemates were great and we enjoyed their company (THIS IS RARE FOR ME – I USUALLY PREFER TO EAT WITH ONLY MY DH). · MDR food was great. We’ve traveled in France – was it comparable – of course not. But I thought it was great for a mass-produced cruise food. · I think the selections seemed limited compared to what I remembered of Royal Caribbean. But I certainly didn’t go hungry. My favorites were the salmon, turkey dinner one night, crab quiche was outstanding! · Food was delivered hot. Salads were fresh, fruit was nicely ripe. · Breakfast in the MDR was delicious and served pretty quickly. · We also ate lunch twice in the MDR – not my favorite – limited choice. Buffet · Ate breakfast twice and dinner once. · Not only was food not hot – it was ice cold on occasion. · Extremely unorganized. For the life of me - I could not figure out the best way to approach it. · Fruit was very repetitive – mostly melon. · At times - spoiled fruit in the baskets. · We ate here on days when we needed to eat early and get off the ship – (cold food problem) or on the one day when we got back too late from our excursion in Juneau to get to the MDR. · Service for coffee and drinks was excellent. We waited less than 5 minutes each meal. · Seating could get crowded, but I always offered other people to share our table. We met a lovely older couple that way who had lived a very interesting life. We met them for coffee a few times. Trident Grill, Slices and Swirls on Lido. · Trident was FANTASTIC. Hot dogs were excellent and hamburgers were great as well. · Slices pizza was very very good. · Swirls – we have great soft serve in new England, this wasn’t worth the calories. Alfredo’s · Did not like the pizza – but the eggplant rollatini was excellent. The dish with the pork and beef pockets (like ravioli) was also great. · Service was a bit spotty here. Movies under the stars · Super fun Spa Tour and Spa Services · Toured the spa and while they explained services did not feel it was overly pushy. · Used some of our OBC to have a couple’s massage. Great massage. Minor upselling. Said thanks for the offer. · I am NOT morbidly obese, but I am a broad shouldered athletic built woman. They did not have a robe that fit me. It was embarrassing and did not enhance the experience. Entertainment · Comedian was good and so was the magician. · Lounge singers were outstanding. · Amethyst trio dance band was excellent. · I’m not a big shopper or gambler – so I ignored those areas. Gift shop however had 75% for end of season. I did buy a lot of gifts there 😊 Excursions: · We originally booked a zodiac and a rainforest hike with Alaska Shore excursions. When we had our day in Ketchikan shortened, they rebooked us to a 12:00 to 4:00. Our all aboard was 4:30. I talked to them and found out they would not bring us right back to the ship, but would drop us at the thermometer in town. Overall this was cutting everything to close and we were berthed pretty far from that spot. · We then refunded that excursion and rebooked something similar with Princess. We get out to the marina to go on our zodiac – and one of the boats was taking on water and they had to send our boat to rescue them. At that point it was too late to do anything but walkaround the town. · Mendenhall Glacier through the cruise ship. We had 2.5 hours at the glacier and it was great. We hiked a few trails and had time to explore a bit. · Took a Whale watch through Dolphin Jet Tours. Great trip – saw 8 whales, seals, eagles. We chased out to where some orcas were – but they had moved. Small boat with 1400 horsepower - so we moved out! Highly recommend. They love the whales and really respect them. · Private tour with beyond Skagway. This made our trip. Went all the way to Emerald Lake in the Yukon. At our own pace – just a lot of fun. Excursion thoughts: · Early morning flightseeing apparently get canceled a lot – you might want to look into afternoons. · I used a combination of Princess, booking company and local vendor for excursions. · The booking company was recommended by my TA. She recommends this company because she has a relationship with them, but also knows they carry insurance and have adequate resources to get folks back to the ship. · I used princess for short days or when I tried to fit something extra in. · I researched Beyond Skagway and since we were in port very late, felt there was little to no risk.
  15. We just got off the Royal and I thought the medallion worked just fine. We embarked very quickly from Vancouver. Going through CUSTOMS took longer but that has nothing to do with the ship. The internet was at times spotty in our rooms but we went to a lounge and had a drink and service seemed better. I only cruised once once before and I liked this better than the cards. Super easy.
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