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Cruise Summary Grand Princess to Alaska June 9 - 19th


OceanNerd

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We began our vacation on Friday (before Sunday departure) in San Fransisco, staying at Embassy Suites - Airport. The hotel is a little off the beaten path but a much better bargain than hotels closer in to the pier. The hotel does offer a shuttle Friday & Saturday to the Fisherman's Warf area so it only cost us a few extra minutes and saved quite a bit of $$. The hotel was very nice and clean although appeared to be a bit older. (In fact, my mother, who always brings a towel from home to sleep on, said the sheets felt "So clean and fresh"! High praise I assure you.)

 

Friday afternoon was spent just wandering around Pier 39, after buying sweatshirts and jackets. It was very cold and windy during our time in SF. Saturday we took a tour out to the Muir Woods which was a lifelong dream of my Dad's. The only "bad" thing is that we didn't have enough time to fully explore the woods.

 

Sunday, the hotel staff helped us arrange a car service to take us to the cruise terminal. We had thought originally that the shuttle ran all weekend, however it did not run on Sundays. :( We were able to get a limo for about $75 for the 6 of us (cab fair was about $40-$45 and would have taken two cabs)

 

We arrived at the cruise terminal about 12:30 - 1:00 and had absolutely no problems or wait. There were a lot of people milling about outside but we walked straight in, filled out the "I am not sick" card, walked straight to the desk, got our cruise card, had our picture made and boarded. The whole process took less than 30 minutes. This included the time we were "screened" because I forgot I had my mother's bottle of wine in my carry on bag. The bottle was a "gift" from the airline for spilling tomato juice on her white pants during our flight. I had intended on taking it out to "declare" but the boarding process was so quick and smooth that it just got away from me. The security staff just logged our cabin number and said have a great trip!

 

I would not recommend trying to get to the terminal early. As many have posted before, there is virtually no waiting space inside the terminal and since Princess guarantees to have your cabin ready when you board, they have to stick to published boarding times to allow the cabin stewards time to "flip" the rooms.

 

My husband, children & I stayed in Caribe 526 (a balcony upgrade!! :D) and were very pleased with the cabin. The location was equidistant from both midship and aft elevators and we did not experience any noise disturbance. The balcony was FABULOUS!! Especially because we had such perfect weather our entire cruise.

 

The upper berths in this cabin are flush with the ceiling when not in use and completely out of the way. Because of this, the lower beds had to stay in a twin configuration and there were no nightstands. This was indicated in the cruise personalizer as well.

 

My parents were in Emerald 606 (obstructed view upgrade!!) The porthole was between the lifeboats/tenders so the "obstruction" mainly consisted of a few cables. They also greatly enjoyed their cabin and never had a problem with noise.

 

On Embarkation Day, we opted to just go to the buffet (Horizon Court) for lunch. The service was nice, the food was good (not our personal taste of offerings), and our server was most helpful in getting our drink stickers for us. All four of us are big soda drinkers and opted to do two Ultimate Soda and More and two Soda Stickers. The adults had the And More stickers to prevent the kiddos from going nuts with the milkshakes. The Soda stickers came with a thermal cup with the Coca-Cola and Princess logos and the And More came with a double-wall (Tervis type) cup with a twisty straw. This cup had tropical fish and the Princess logo.

 

We spent most of the afternoon just wandering around the ship getting acquainted with where everything was located. We had Anytime Dining and ended up in the Michelangelo dining room. Our experience was perfectly pleasant. The food was very tasty and plentiful. I was remiss in noting our selections or snapping pics of the menus, though. :(

 

Most every other night (except for two when we just didn't feel like "cleaning up" for dinner) we found ourselves in the Da Vinci dining room because of our wonderful servers -- Ferdi and Cristina. Both were absolutely fabulous!!! We felt like we had instant friends in both. Cristina left Princess at the end of our cruise to return home to Romania, and Ferdi is staying on. He is truly a phenomenal person and amazing dining attendant.

 

The evening show was a Princess Sampler and very entertaining. I found the shows overall to be very good but quite short. It seemed they were just getting started and then they were ending. There were three production shows, the best of which was titled "British Invasion" on our last night. We also saw a magician two nights and Sean O'Shay (musical impersonations) two nights. There were also two different comedians performing. There was also a "One Night Only" Crew Talent Show. My parents went to this show and said it was FABULOUS!

 

Our first two days were sea days and the seas were a bit rough. Not so much that we felt ill, but enough to have everyone holding on to rails and walls as we walked about.

 

Our first stop was in Ketchikan. We did not have any tours here but the town is quite charming and quaint. We walked around town and peeked in the shops that make up Creek Street (once known as the "Red Light District"). We found some of the best souvenir prices right off the ship at the first little shop.

 

Next we visited Juneau. We chose the Mendenhall Glacier & Wildlife Quest excursion and WOW!!! The local wildlife can be unpredictable but they were certainly in a cooperative mood during our visit. We saw a group of whales bubble net feeding, several breaches, and a mother and baby playing. We were also treated to a few porpoises and a lot of noisy sea lions! And of course there were eagles. :)

 

Our third stop was in Skagway. Again, a nice little town where we wandered the shops ( I recommend Alaska T-Shirt company) and then had an afternoon excursion to the Musher's Camp & Dogsled Experience. This excursion was very interesting. Musher's bring their dogs here for "summer training" and work at the camp during their off season. Most of the dogs (and all the mushers) race competitively with a large percentage participating in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest. An interesting side note: in one of the jewelry shops we wandered into, we struck up a conversation with the salesperson. As it turned out, she was from our general area and her dad actually works at the same company as my husband!:eek:

 

Next, we had a day of Scenic Cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord. This area was so beautiful! (Of course ALL of Alaska is beautiful but this area was exceptional) The water was a unique color because of the sediment and minerals released from Sawyer Glacier. We went in this area at 5:00am and it is well worth getting up early to see. My dad and I were the only two in our group up at that hour and were treated to all the natural beauty and a grizzly bear sighting. The others were very jealous!

 

Sunday (Father's Day) was another sea day and a lazy day for us. It was nice that the Patter made special mention of Father's Day as did many of the staff. We did participate in several of the on board activities such as trivia, "are you smarter than a crew member?", Pictionary, and Charades. My music loving hubby was most excited about a "finish the lyric" competition.

 

Monday, we spent a few short hours in Victoria, BC. We took a shuttle bus into town as they indicated it was a 40 minute walk from port. The shuttle was $5 for children and seniors and $10 for adults, round trip. However, we ended up walking back to port. Mother was in search of a grocery store for a particular coffee product that is no longer available in the US market but was supposedly available in Canada. We found the supermarket, but not the coffee syrup. The walk was pleasant and not terribly long.

 

Tuesday was another sea day to return to SF. The weather got colder and the seas were rougher this day. We packed up and prepared to return home. Disembarkation was a very simple process for us. We had purchased Princess transfers to SFO for our 1:00pm flight. Since we had an early flight, we were in the first disembarkation group after the walk offs (those who were handling all their own luggage and had their own transportation). All passengers are to be out of their staterooms by 8:00am and we were to gather in the dining room by 8:30. Approximately 8:35 a gentleman came in, announced the group number and said follow me! We walked off, found our luggage, and boarded the bus to the airport. It can be a bit confusing to find your luggage in the crowd but overall the process was quite smooth.

 

We had a wonderful time overall! Some have mentioned that the Grand is "worn out" but we found her to be beautiful. Yes, there are places she is showing her age, but aren't we all? :p There were no issues with the plumbing that we were aware of. The elevators did seem to have a mind of their own, but we were not opposed to taking the stairs most times. The food was delicious especially considering it is "mass produced". We found the sea food to be better than the beef. Also highly recommend the chicken tenders from the children's menu.

 

Alfredo's pizza was great and the International Cafe was divine. The Horizon Court was my least favorite food venue (except for breakfast, yum!) but was still tasty and offered a good variety.

 

This was a trip of a lifetime for us! I hope your experience is as WONDERFUL as ours!! If you have more detailed questions, I will try to answer as best I can. Happy Cruising!!!

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Good review of the trip. I would echo the ease in arriving at the pier, unloading, getting cabin cards and actually boarding the ship. Expecting a nightmare we arrived about 11AM, dropped off the luggage, found the parking garage, got the boarding passes and were dining in the Da Vinci in less than an hour. Other than the first two days the weather was marvelous, with fair skies and moderate winds at the most. We flew into the fjords above Ketchikan and they were spectacular. At Juneau we chartered a small whale watching boat and were really treated to a feeding frenzy among a large group of humpbacks. This made the cruise by itself. Skagway saw us onboard a vintage narrow gage train chugging up the mountain into Canada and then riding back on a bus. Another winner! We arrived at Tracy Arm Fjord shortly after 5AM and foolishly I had to brave the elements (cold) for about four hours to see everything, including several sea lions. Some saw some Orcas. As we neared the glacier it became apparent the Grand wasn't going to reach the glacier, but the captain turned the ship around and backed it up to the point where we could see the glacier, quite an accomplishment with a 950 foot ship. In Victoria we toured the incredible gardens. According to the staff there are 50 full time gardeners and 15 part time. It was beautiful. We also took the Ultimate Ship's Tour --- pricey at $150 each, but ti turned out worth it. Three and a half hours took us through the galley, the innards where food and other necessities are brought onboard, the medical spaces, the laundry, the printing shop, the photo shop, and the bridge where we had champagne and caviar while the captain told us about running the ship. Princess was gracious enough to reward us with several group photos, a beautiful robe, the expensive one, a princess apron, and a nice photo frame. Disembarkation was just as easy as getting on the ship. I wouldn't hesitate to take another cruise out of San Francisco. This makes the third cruise we have taken on the Grand and I guess we kind of feel at home onboard. The staff was great, the food good most of the time, and the piazza with the International Cafe, the Pizza shop, and the two bars was great. The entertainment was so-so. There was a Beatles tribute one afternoon in the piazza --- I was really surprised when it lasted about 5 minutes. Most of the shows I had seen before. One big bummer was the constant lack of satellite communication. I finally asked for a refund from the wifi package because I could never get on the net --- always down. The sum total was positive, with many great memories of Alaska and the Grand Princess.

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...I hope your experience is as WONDERFUL as ours!!

We plan to have as wonderful time as you;) Thanks for the review.

If you could clear up some confusion for us...

 

Folks say that there are no stair mid-ship above deck 7. The deck plans show stairs to deck 15 :confused: Could you confirm one or the other? Thanks.

 

It looks like some boarding issues may have been resolved :)

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We plan to have as wonderful time as you;) Thanks for the review.

If you could clear up some confusion for us...

 

Folks say that there are no stair mid-ship above deck 7. The deck plans show stairs to deck 15 :confused: Could you confirm one or the other? Thanks.

 

It looks like some boarding issues may have been resolved :)

 

 

That is correct. There are no stairs all the way up/down mid ship. There is the Grand Staircase in the Piazza area connecting deck 5-7. Deck 7 is the one deck where you can walk straight from forward to aft without any detours. ;) There is also a set of stairs right outside the Vista Lounge (aft) which only go down to the Botticelli dining room, but they do go up all the way to Horizon Court and beyond. So just a quick tip: if you have to go all the way forward from aft or vice versa, go to deck 7 first then go to the area you need (forward, aft, midship) then go up or down.

 

I believe the stairs on the deck plan are the Emergency Stairways used during the Muster drill and any actual emergencies.

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Great review, thank you. We will be boarding on Saturday and wondering how close to the Sawyer Glaciers were you able to get? Really looking forward to Tracy Arm and those glaciers!

 

 

We were able to get pretty far into the fjord but not "all the way". The captain did an AMAZING job of maneuvering the ship for optimal viewing of the glacier. So very worth getting up early for!

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We were able to get pretty far into the fjord but not "all the way". The captain did an AMAZING job of maneuvering the ship for optimal viewing of the glacier. So very worth getting up early for!

 

Did you get up right about 5:00 that day or earlier? Is 5:00 the time the ship actually enters the fjiord? Was the Horizon Court open that early, and if so, was it really crowded? We are in an inside cabin, so I'm trying to figure out my best options for viewing. Plan to be on deck for most of it, but want some alternatives in case it's really cold or wet!

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Thanks for the nice reviews. I was off Grand Princess on June 9, the day you boarded. Glad the trip was good for you as it was for us. Our stops included Sitka and Haines and I kind of missed Juneau and Skagway. I think the best itinerary would have one "off the beaten path" stop.

And like you I found no ill issues with Grand Princess - she's a beautiful ship.

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We were able to get pretty far into the fjord but not "all the way". The captain did an AMAZING job of maneuvering the ship for optimal viewing of the glacier. So very worth getting up early for!

 

Did you get up right about 5:00 that day or earlier? Is 5:00 the time the ship actually enters the fjiord? Was the Horizon Court open that early, and if so, was it really crowded? We are in an inside cabin, so I'm trying to figure out my best options for viewing. Plan to be on deck for most of it, but want some alternatives in case it's really cold or wet!

 

Thanks for this information. One more "silly" question! Do they have donuts in the IC on this ship??

 

Our itinerary goes to Icy Strait in place of Skagway, and we spend a full day in Juneau. I had hoped that there would be a small boat cruise to Tracy Arm offered as an excursion from the ship while in Juneau, but there isn't one, so I'm happy to know you were able to get close to the glaciers - and had a great Captain! Hope he's still onboard when we leave on Saturday!

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Did you get up right about 5:00 that day or earlier? Is 5:00 the time the ship actually enters the fjiord? Was the Horizon Court open that early, and if so, was it really crowded? We are in an inside cabin, so I'm trying to figure out my best options for viewing. Plan to be on deck for most of it, but want some alternatives in case it's really cold or wet!

 

About 5:00am was when we crossed the bar into the fjord, or so I'm told. ;) Personally I didn't make it up on deck til about 6:30. Others had gotten up about 4:00 to get their chosen viewing spot. However, it really wasn't that crowded. It was very chilly so make sure to wear a coat this day. If there is rain, the best options would be either the Conservatory area on Deck 15 above the Calypso pool or in the 1Five (or was it One 5) lounge.

 

The Horizon Court opened at 6:00 that morning, had to run check my Patter!

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Thanks for this information. One more "silly" question! Do they have donuts in the IC on this ship??

 

Our itinerary goes to Icy Strait in place of Skagway, and we spend a full day in Juneau. I had hoped that there would be a small boat cruise to Tracy Arm offered as an excursion from the ship while in Juneau, but there isn't one, so I'm happy to know you were able to get close to the glaciers - and had a great Captain! Hope he's still onboard when we leave on Saturday!

 

 

There's nothing "silly" about those donuts! :D They are in the IC in the mornings. All the cake type (no yeast style) and had chocolate covered, plain, and my personal fave, custard filled. In the afternoon they switched over to the paninis and salads; but they still had wonderful dessert pastries.

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I just noticed when I checked my Patters for another answer that I forgot to mention that on certain days there is a "Special" buffet set up outside the Horizon Court in the Calypso Pool area. These were listed on the back page of the Patter under dining options where the hours for each dining venue were listed for the day.

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Thanks for the review. We are on the August 8th sailing. Our itinerary includes Glacier Bay and Haines instead of Tracy Arm and Skagway. We are really looking forward to our sailing.

 

In addition, this will be our first cruise on Princess since 2001(also on the Grand Princess). Since that date we have sailed on 6 Hal cruises and 3 on Celebrity. We are interested in how the newly remodeled Grand compares to the other lines.

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There's nothing "silly" about those donuts! :D They are in the IC in the mornings. All the cake type (no yeast style) and had chocolate covered, plain, and my personal fave, custard filled. In the afternoon they switched over to the paninis and salads; but they still had wonderful dessert pastries.

 

LOL! I was on Star Princess for 28 days and never knew that there were donuts in the IC until the last couple of days when someone told me about them! Our cabin was in the aft of the ship, so we always went to the HC for breakfast and no donuts up there. It was always at least noon before we ventured near the IC and by then - no donuts! I'm sure I saved gaining a few more pounds by not knowing how to find them earlier in the cruise! Now I know, and that will be a staple on our cruise coming up! Thanks!

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