Coral Princess Alaska 6/24-7/1 (plus pre and post-cruise shenanigans)

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#1
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
This is my trip report of our recent cruise to Alaska aboard the Coral Princess. The cruise consisted of myself (48), hubby (42) and hubby’s parents (MIL and FIL, 68 and 71). This cruise was to celebrate the IL’s 50th wedding anniversary and since they wanted to celebrate it with us, they paid for our entire trip (um yeah, I have the best in-laws ever!)

This trip was a year of planning in the making and of course CC played a major role and was a huge help in just about every aspect of our planning. This was my third cruise, hubby’s fifth and the IL’s first, and a first for all of us on Princess and to Alaska. As this was a special occasion, we had two Vista suites on the Dolphin deck (D703 and 704) which we chose specifically for the covered balcony. Best.Decision.Ever. I mean, I guess there must be a reason to choose an uncovered balcony on an Alaskan cruise, but I for one don’t know what that reason would be. Having a covered balcony was awesomesauce. We chose two suites directly across from one another so we could alternate sides of the ship depending on who had the better view. Hubby and I had never cruised in a suite before and I for one could not wait for my Sabatini’s breakfast, thermal spa pass, and afternoon tea in our room.

We debated itineraries and the pros and cons of each (I won’t bore everyone with those discussions) before deciding on the one-way Northbound "Voyage of the Glaciers" from Vancouver with two days in Seattle prior to the cruise and three nights in Alaska in Seward after the cruise. We originally considered Holland America as well as Princess but at the time, HAL allowed smoking on balconies (that policy has now changed) so that caused us to settle on Princess in the end. We ended up on the Coral specifically due to dates—we chose this cruise because it began on my IL’s actual anniversary. Once I found out how much everyone loved the Coral, I was so happy that it had all worked out this way.

So with the cruise picked, it was on to plan the details which I tackled with great abandon. For me, the planning is as much fun as the vacation itself and I poured over excursions, travel guides, restaurant choices, binocular reviews, what to pack and “Is the Serenity worth it?” discussions, and read every trip report and Alaska blog I could find. Since I am the planner, at any moment of “What do we do now?” during the vacation, all eyes were going to turn to me and I wanted to be ready. I would not let my family down, I tell you!

I did have one huge post-cruise vacation planning fail that I worried about for months but we’ll get to that much later. First up, getting to Seattle from Dallas.
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#2
COLORADO
59,527 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
Love the Coral. Thanks for taking the time to post your experience.
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Keith
Princess Elite Member
57 Princess Cruises



USNS HARKNESS T-AGS 32
#3
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Before I get started with the review, I'll preview what I will cover in case you want to skip some of it and come back later. This will be a long one.

Two nights in Seattle at the Maxwell Hotel
One night in Vancouver at the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront and our visit to Stanley Park
Ketchikan: Misty Fjords Wilderness Cruise
Juneau: Shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier and Taku Lodge
Skagway: Chilkoot Yukon Rail and Bus
Glacier Bay and College Fjord
Disembarking in Whittier, drive Turnagain Arm, and two nights in Seward at the Bell in the Woods B&B (Kenai Fjords 6-hour boat tour, Exit Glacier, Byron Glacier)

I kept the Patters but will not post them as another reviewer posted them previously. I am happy to answer any questions though.

Also I am going to start here with the things I bought for the cruise, what I packed, what was useful and what wasn't, etc. since I know all these questions are asked a lot by first-time Alaska cruisers and were the same questions I had myself.

In Dallas, we run the AC from about April to October. And we are inside for most of those months. I have a winter coat I might wear twice each year, some gloves I wear even less, and a pair of Nikes. Since we vacation mostly in Hawaii and the Caribbean, my vacation clothing consists of shorts, bathing suits, flowy sundresses and flip flops. So I felt I needed to get Alaska-ready and that meant buying some new stuff.

While I am not advocating outfitting yourself with a new wardrobe for what may very well be a one-time trip, some purchases can be useful and definitely money well spent. During our visit, temps were in the mid-50's in port and 40's by the glaciers, some days there was wind and misting or a light rain, but it never poured.

Rain gear: I bought a cheap $20 pair of Magellan rain pants and a not-so-cheap Marmot rain jacket (which I justified by planning to use in Seattle if needed and I can wear on future vacations also). Both were great and worn many times. I swear once I didn't even know it was raining. So rain gear: Yes, bring it.

We did see the Alaska rain jackets in Ketchikan for $20. I bought one for my dad. They had heavier ones too on sale for $23 which was an awesome deal.

North Face water repellant hiking pants: Bought on sale and I wore them several times usually with a pair of leggings underneath.

North Face Mossbud reversible jacket: I tried this on at Academy and knew I had to have it. This jacket was like magic. When I was cold, it kept me warm yet I could also wear it on just a slightly cool day without getting too warm. I got a pink one on Amazon and the matching hat. I got it specifically for glacier viewing but wore them both at almost every port.

Hubby got a heavy jacket/rain jacket combo. He was ok with this but sometimes when it was raining, the heavy jacket was too heavy. I had tried to talk him into a cheap rain jacket also and still maintain this would have been a good idea. He also brought a knit hat and wore it almost every day.

We also brought gloves which we wore several times. So heavy jacket, gloves and a hat: yes, bring them.

Hiking shoes: I bought a pair of Keens on sale for $50 and it was money well spent. I wore them everywhere, they were comfortable, and they kept my feet warm which tennis shoes do not (my husband even wore two pairs of socks one day). I didn't care if they got muddy or wet, they were great. The other great thing about hiking shoes is they provide good ankle support which I need since I'm somewhat of an ankle roller. My husband wore his Vans and was miserable so switched to his Nikes that are specifically for walking and was fine. Hiking shoes: worth the investment if you will do a lot of walking but you can get by with tennis shoes.

Binoculars: We decided to skimp here and bought $12 Taskos. They were serviceable and that's about it. We had a better pair on the Misty Fjords cruise and saw the difference. I wouldn't spend hundreds but would definitely up your binocular game a little.

Heavy sweatshirt: I bought an Alaska Chicks sweatshirt online. I would wear this with a pair of leggings to sit out on the balcony and I also wore it in Seward. I also brought a lighter sweatshirt that I wore once.

Thermal undershirts and leggings: brought several and wore them every day underneath long sleeved shirts and pants. I also brought one pair of jeans and wore those twice.

I brought two long-sleeved shirts and bought one on the ship at the gift shop. I wore all 3 several times.

Hubby wore jeans and long sleeved shirts most days. He is very warm-natured so occasionally got by with a T-shirt and a hoodie.

What I packed and did not use: T-shirts, the one pair of shorts I brought, short workout pants (I worked out once on the ship--I did wear long workout pants in Skagway though), hiking sandals, short dress with cardigan, second formal dress.

For dinner in the dining room, I dressed the first formal night and the rest of the time wore leggings with a knit shirt and cardigan. I brought several I could mix and match. The second formal night, we ate at Bayou Café. This was my third cruise and for the third time, I was too tired to dress up the second formal night. One formal night is all I have in me I guess.

I hope this helps others with their Alaska packing list! Now on to the review!
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#5
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Day one: Travel to Seattle

Our day began at 5:30 am as we had to be at the in-laws' house for our 8:00 shuttle to DFW. We had an uneventful flight where I watched LaLa Land. I liked it a lot. Very good story and the acting was great.

Here is our plane selfie in case you are tired of reading already and just want to see pictures.



I got a great shot of Mt Rainier from the plane. We had beautiful weather and the mountain was out our entire trip.



We landed around 12:30 and took a Lyft SUV to the hotel. The four of us had ALOT of luggage. My husband is still having nightmares about it since he had to do all the loading/unloading. I would love to say I brought a backpack and a carryon for a two-week vacation but I will just never be that person.

We were allowed to check in when we arrived at the Maxwell. I gave my MIL the choice of Maxwell or the Mayflower downtown and she chose the Maxwell because she liked that it was quirky and sort of art-deco. It was fine for two nights but I kind of wished we had stayed downtown instead.



We had barely set the bags down when hubby decided to go all Zeke Elliott on me and somehow convinced his mom to go with him. Oh well, when in Rome. I unpacked and took a snooze while they roamed the streets of Seattle.

We took the hotel shuttle to the waterfront and had dinner at Ivar's. I got fish tacos and a berry salad which was good but hubby got something called the grilled trio which was delicious.

Picture of the ferris wheel along the waterfront.



ETA: Is it just me or are these pictures huge? I will work on resizing them.
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#6
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Seattle cont.

After dinner, we Lyfted back to the hotel and since the Space Needle was just a short walk away, walked over. Of course I wanted to see it since it's what you do when you go to Seattle, but honestly, I could have skipped it. It was expensive for all four of us, it was windy, crowded, there were kids everywhere, and a 10-minute line for a bottle of water--it was just sort of a clustery mess. I took a picture or two and that's about it. Been there, done that I guess.



Once we got back to the hotel, the IL's were ready to go back to the room to relax and unpack so hubby and I decided to do the 20-minute walk to Kerry Park from our hotel so I could get the picture of the skyline at sunset. That's 20 minutes uphill by the way. This was my Seattle bucket-list item. By the end of it, I was hoping it would be worth it. Of all the walking we did during the two weeks, this was definitely the hardest.

But it was worth it!





After we got back, we had a drink in the hotel and called it a night.
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#7
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Day two Seattle

Our plan for today was to have breakfast at Pike Place Market and see the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPoP), and maybe have lunch or dinner with a view somewhere. We only had two days so we just planned to hit the touristy highlights.

We had a beautiful, sunny, 73-degree day in Seattle--so perfect!

We took the hotel shuttle to the market and had a breakfast of pastries at Le Panier. We walked all through the market, saw the fish-throwers, etc. We also walked down to the waterfront.







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#8
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Somehow the subject of where to find the best lobster roll in Seattle came up. I consulted Google and found a place called Bar Harbor near Lake Union. So I suggested we go there and then walk over to Lake Union Park to see the seaplanes. We decided to walk all the way from the market--I'm not sure what we were thinking when we did this as it was a long walk! Hubby was stoked to find a local beer he had always wanted to try on the beer menu as well.







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#9
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
We took a Lyft back to the hotel and all had a rest before going over to the MoPop Museum for about 2 hours. It was interesting and there was a lot of cool stuff in there.

We had dinner at the pizza place in our hotel. The IL's were ready to call it a day but I told hubby we had to get some steps in after all that pizza. So we Googled nearby parks we could walk to and found one called Bhy Krak Park which also had a view of the skyline. It was a pretty good walk, although nothing like the Kerry Park walk the day before.



So that was it for the Seattle part of our vacation. Tomorrow we would be taking the train from Seattle to Vancouver and then boarding the Coral the next day!
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#10
Concord, CA
93 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
Enjoying reading so far. Just booked a Vista Suite for next summer to Alaska so looking forward to hearing about the ship, your cabins and the trip in general
#11
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Vancouver and Stanley Park

We all met in the lobby at 6:00 am since we had to be at the train station by 7:15.

We had the business-class seats and sat on the left side of the train sinceI had read it had the best views of the coast. The right side did have nice views also though. However, the right side of the train only had single seats so that is something to think about if you plan to take the train.

Train selfie!





I tried to get some pictures on the way of the scenery.





The four hour train ride went by pretty fast. They had breakfast items on the train and they weren't bad. Once we got off the train and got our luggage, we caught a cab to our hotel, the Pinnacle Hotel Harbourfront. We had king rooms with a view of the harbor. Only one room was ready so hubby and I took that one and stored everyone's luggage there so we could be on our way.

Our view:



I had lots of places on my list to eat where there would be a view, but we were all hungry so we just decided to eat at the hotel. There was a little view there also so it was fine. It was just more convenient this way. got a salmon salad and it was yummy.

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#12
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
After lunch, we got a cab to Stanley Park. We could have walked from our hotel but we would be doing a lot of walking inside the park so we thought a cab would be easier for the ILs. We planned to see the Rose Garden and walk along the seawall and see the Lost Lagoon. We instructed the driver to drop us at the entrance, however, he chose to drop us off at the Aquarium instead. Which was a problem because now we didn't have a map and we didn't know how to get anywhere. I was really missing Lyft and Uber at that moment.

So I told hubby, try and map us on your phone to the Rose Garden so we couldat least see that. We finally made it there but it took some doing and alot of walking.





We made it back to the information booth after that where we spotted the horse carriage tour. The ILs were about done at this point and we had hardly seen anything so I suggested we take the tour so we could at least see some of the park. This ended up being really nice and it did make a couple of stops where we could take some pictures.






At one of the stops, you had to choose between the water or the totem poles. So hubby and I took pics of the skyline, and the ILs went to the totem poles.



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#13
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
More of the park:










We made it back to the Aquarium where we called a cab to take us tot he hotel. We all had a rest and cleaned up before our dinner at Five Sails.
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#14
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Picture of hubby and me before dinner:



I had read a great review of Five Sails at Canada Place in a trip report so I chose that restaurant for my IL's wedding anniversary dinner which was our gift to them. I made the reservation the first day I could on Opentable and also emailed the restaurant to make sure they had the reservation and received a nice email back. Of course they said they couldn't guarantee a window table but we had a great table with a lovely view.



I got a salad and sea bass and hubby got the lobster bisque and then lobster as an entrée.





We got the grand marnier soufflé for dessert.



The food was great and service pretty good although we did have empty water glasses at one time and also they forgot my husband's port and still charged us for it. But they did wish my ILs happy anniversary and gave them an extra dessert. Overall, it was a lovely meal.


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#15
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
After dinner, we walked around Canada Place and took pictures.





Once back at the hotel, we said good night to the ILs and hubby and I had a drink at the bar at the hotel. It was then I got the idea to track the ship and maybe see if we could get up early enough to watch it come in. We got really confused tracking the ship on the website, at one point it looked like the Coral would be late getting in. But I think we were just misreading it.

Hubby got up early to make sure it was on its way and woke me up at 5:00 am so we could see it come in. I threw on some clothes and we walked down to Canada Place to watch it which was really fun! We actually just made it in time!







I also stopped on the way back and took a picture with the Olympic Cauldron.



Back in the room, hubby went to the gym and I took a soak in the tub--my legs were aching from all the walking we had done in just 3 days!

Hubby and I had a nice breakfast in the hotel and we all met up in the lobby at 10:00 to make our way to Canada Place. We called a cab and the driver took one look at our luggage and shook his head no! But hubby convinced him it would all fit in the oversized Prius since we had done it once already. He was pretty surly until he dropped us off and got his tip. Sheesh, do I miss Lyft!

By 11:00 am we were seated in the elite embarkation area and at 11:40, they lined us up to board!
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#17
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
We were able to go straight to our room once we boarded. We loved our wonderful room and covered balcony!









We met our wonderful steward. I can't remember how he spelled his name but it was pronounced "Can-Knit". He was so great, we loved him. He always seemed to know our schedule, it was like he had a crystal ball. We gave him the biggest tip we have ever given a steward and I can't wait to write on the survey about how great he was.



We went to the IL's room and the flowers we had ordered for them were there.

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#18
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
Then we all sat together and set up the Princess at Sea messenger thingy so that we could all stay somewhat connected since none of us would have the internet package.

We left the ILs to get settled and went to make our free reservation for that evening at Bayou Café.



We then went to see about getting our stickers for the thermal suite but everyone was still in a meeting at the spa so hubby and I went for a slice of pizza on the pool deck. I liked the pizza actually. Unfortunately I liked it so much that I ate a ton of it throughout the week! It was the best cruise ship pizza I've had.

We were never able to use the pool because it was too cold the entire cruise (although hubby did brave the hot tub one day) and the covered Lotus pool was a screaming madhouse of kids and adults everywhere so it was never peaceful. So no pool and hot tub on this cruise but at least we had the thermal suite.



Hubby and I continued making the rounds checking out the Sanctuary and the fitness center.





We decided against the Sanctuary and I couldn't see myself using it on an Alaskan cruise. And honestly, I was a little miffed that there was no free adults-only area. I decided that was a dealbreaker for me and wouldn't sail again on a Princess ship that didn't have one unless it was to Alaska again.

We met up with the ILs and made it to the spa to get our stickers and got a brief tour of the area. The poor spa girl was so sad when she realized we were suite guests and wouldn't be buying a thermal spa pass! The other spa lady didn't even wait until we were out the door to ask her if she sold a pass which I thought was a little unprofessional.

We continued our walk around and the ILs went to the pool grill to have hamburgers which they liked. It was pretty crowded up there. I was bummed we missed lunch in the MDR but pizza and hamburgers fit the bill.

Hubby and I had a drink at Crooners where we met our favorite waiter. We tried to sit in his section every night.



Back to the room, Can-Knit had brought our champagne and the ILs had chocolate covered strawberries so we all had those.

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#19
DFW
972 Posts
Joined Sep 2014
At some point, the ILs were on the elevator with Captain Michele. They chatted with him and he asked all about them and why they were here and said he would announce their anniversary which he did right before sailaway! They had their picture taken with him too. He was a wonderful captain and just FYI, he announced at a morning chat session he will be on Coral until July 11 when he will go back to the Star. We were so lucky to have him!

At the room, we found out some passengers were delayed so both muster and sail-away were delayed about 15 minutes. After muster, we had our luggage and unpacked until sailaway which we watched from Deck 14. The weather was sunny and 68 degrees and beautiful!







So I'm stopping here for now and will pick up again tomorrow.
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#20
Cincinnati. OH-Go Reds
5,620 Posts
Joined Mar 2007
What a great review and perfect pictures. You are a true star. I do have three questions. 1. As a suite guest did you receive a pair of binoculars in your cabin; and how many rainjackets/coats did you pack? I was confused reading your first post.3. What was your fav thing about pop culture museum? I leave tomorrow 7 Jul for Seattle. Thanks
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