Grand Alaska July 27-Aug 6 2017: Report & AMA

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216 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
I hate to start a redundant thread, but I wanted to report on my experience of my recent cruise to Alaska, and the previous thread just didn't focus on the things that people find important:

  • Butter was present on the table in the MDR without asking, at both lunch and dinner
  • Several of our waiters had and used crumbers
  • Blue bag was in our room at the first night's turndown
  • Most people dressed for formal night (Anytime dining). Saw a couple of tuxes but mostly suits. One or two shirtsleeves, but at least one of them was clearly mobility challenged.
Okay, enough with the board's peccadilloes. As reported elsewhere, this cruise was the one to pick, as we had dry and usually sunny weather at every port. We had wishlist excursions planned at each stop, with the expectation that at least one would be canceled, but we got to do everything:

Juneau: Helicopter dogsled tour. By far the most expensive, but worth it for the unique experience of mushing on proper sleds. Also, the puppies were too cute for words.

Note that we booked this through Princess because we were scheduled to tender at this port, but for some reason we displaced the Island Princess and got their berth. Poor Island passengers walked off and had to tender back.

Glacier Bay: The highlight of the cruise, and the reason we chose this sailing. By all accounts, a better and longer glacier experience than the other itineraries. Plus, since it's a national park, you get rangers on board. Again, the weather cooperated: it was so clear and sunny that I got a slight sunburn. Margerie glacier was kind enough to calve several times for us.

Haines: Did not see much of Haines because we took the ferry to Skagway for the White Pass train, which was more fun than we expected. Lots of interesting gold rush stories, beautiful scenery, and impressive engineering.

Skagway was very crowded, but we lucked out and hit between the crowds at Olivia's for lunch. Recommend the reindeer sausage.

Had just enough time back in Haines to walk by, but not go in, the Hammer Museum. Cute from the outside.

Ketchikan: We waited until almost too late to book our floatplane trip to Misty Fjords. Had to call around to several companies before we found an opening, but thanks to CC had several recommended companies to choose from. Ended up with Carlin Air, and were very pleased. Particularly enjoyed the stop in the middle where we could enjoy the quiet and the beautiful scenery.

Also want to second all the recommendations for Burger Queen, which was in sight of our berth (3). As Samuel L. Jackson might say, "Mmm, this is a tasty burger!"

Victoria: Butchart Gardens is the must-see, and for good reason. This day was so warm, I was in shorts and a t-shirt.

As for the ship, while it was not the focus of our trip (as obvious from the above, we were all about the ports), we liked it a lot. I generally agree with the other reports I've seen from this sailing, but let me add my two cents on a few points:

Crew: Excellent. We had no bad crew encounters, and several standouts.

Food: Good. I think a lot of it depends on expectations. I go into a cruise expecting the MDR to be good banquet food, and it did not disappoint. On several occasions, there were standout dishes, but generally there was something of interest that we each enjoyed. Note that I'm focusing on dinner in the MDR: Breakfast was utilitarian, and lunch generally okay. We did not use the buffet much except for breakfast, but found it fine when we did. Because of our satisfaction with the MDR, felt no reason to try the specialty restaurants.

Entertainment: We didn't use this much, as we were generally in bed early so we could be up at dawn. (Dawn is early in Alaska!) Saw one comedian, who was amusing but definitely a cruise ship comedian. Naturalist lectures were interesting if a bit quirky. Guest lecturer Libby Riddles (first female iditarod winner) had an interesting story, but it felt like she'd told it too many times. Park Ranger presentation was good.

Ship condition: Good. Compared to some of the reports I've heard, great. We did NOT see: rust, broken doors, leaks, creaks, elevators out of service for unreasonable periods, unacceptable conditions in public restrooms, or any of the other complaints I've seen. There was visible, regular maintenance (painting, cleaning, fixing) and overall conditions seemed good for a ship half her age (in my not-too-expert opinion, this being only my fourth cruise, and first on Princess).

As some have noted, you could sometimes detect smoke from the casino out at the passenger services desk, but on this cruise it was sporadic and mild (and I'm pretty sensitive to smoke). I suspect we may have just had fewer smokers on this trip, by luck of the draw.

In short: Would definitely recommend, though one can't expect the weather to cooperate this well. (Report from a fellow passenger doing a B2B, the previous sailing it rained everywhere so hard you couldn't see the mountains.)

I'm happy to answer questions, to the extent I'm able.
Cincinnati. OH-Go Reds
5,620 Posts
Joined Mar 2007

Thanks for the great review. I agree with you dog sleds on Mendenhall Glacier was worth the price of admission. Grandkids had a ball
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216 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
You're all welcome, and to those going in the future: best of luck with the weather and happy cruising no matter what the weather!
Chico, California
9,479 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
Cruised Alaska twice. Once was 10 round trip from SF in 2011 and second time was 7 day southbound after a 6 day connoisseur land tour in 2016. Both times we had fantastic weather. Just returned from a 7 week (and 2 days) land trip that went from Northern California to Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana (5 days at Glacier National Park in Montana) and then into Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska. It rained something like 4 out of every 7 days. Of course this time we were mostly camping. D'Oh!

Thanks for the report. Glad you had a great cruise and great weather to go with it. It's sooooooooo much more enjoyable when you have good weather.
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Not Elite but having fun working on it...

Ballinger - Bucks UK
796 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Originally posted by Yosef42
You're all welcome, and to those going in the future: best of luck with the weather and happy cruising no matter what the weather!

Thanks for your report. I am doing Vancouver round trip on Island Princess on 13th September. Really looking forward to it.
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Sailed - Regent Seven Seas 8 cruises, Seabourn Odyssey, Pullmantur, Crown Princess, Celebrity Eclipse, P& O Arcadia, Cunard Queen Victoria (2), Queen Elizabeth (Round the World,) Queen Mary 2 (Transatlantic)