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ErLee

Trip Report June 12th - 25th, 2019 Princess Connoiseur Cruisetour

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Welcome to my Alaska Trip Report!  I hope it helps you as much as so many others have helped me!

 

Background:  DH and I are in our mid 50s and live about 50 miles outside Atlanta, GA.  In 2014 we celebrated our 20th anniversary, and because our two boys were in their late teens, we decided that rather than a true anniversary trip, we would take our boys to Universal Studios in Florida, because we probably wouldn’t have a lot more opportunities to take family vacations.  We had been to Universal before, but the Harry Potter attractions had opened since we visited, so we were excited to experience that!  As an aside to the Alaska review, if you are a Harry Potter fan, GO TO UNIVERSAL, they have done an amazing job recreating the atmosphere of the movies – it is amazing!

 

A couple of years later, I took DH on a surprise weekend trip to a winery for his birthday, and while on that trip, we talked about what we would want to do for our 25th anniversary in 2019.  We knew that with 2 kids in college, we would have to start saving for the trip if we wanted to be able to really take a big trip that year.  We both agreed that Alaska was one place that was high on both of our lists, and we would set our sights on that.  In the 1990s, when I was in college, I had the opportunity to spend a summer at Denali National Park, but I turned it down, and I have often regretted that decision!

 

So then comes 2017.  On January 2nd of that year, I found out that my mom had ovarian cancer.  I knew then that 2017 was not going to be an easy year for us.  She decided not to treat it, and I spent the next 10 months driving back and forth between my home in GA and her home in FL to spend time with her and help with her care.  We spent a lot of good time with her, but it was a year of emotional stress as we all knew she was dying.  By the time we lost her, on October 14th, 2017, I was exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.  A month later, I lost one of my beloved dogs, adding insult to injury. 

 

As 2018 began, I was convinced and optimistic that it had to be a better year than 2017.  I remembered about the Alaska trip we had dreamed about for 2019, and on January 2nd, I realized that the itineraries would be out and decided to take a look.  At that time, we were thinking of just a cruise with a couple of nights in Vancouver or Seattle.  I wanted to do a land/sea combination trip, but had looked previously and didn’t think we could possibly afford to do that.  While I was looking at the 2019 itineraries, I first looked at NCL, because I had sailed previously on NCL Sun and loved that ship.  DH wasn’t on that trip with me, and I thought he would love the NCL vibe.  Next I looked at HAL, which I had also sailed on without DH (my mom and sisters and I liked to cruise together every couple of years).  I was considering a 5 night HAL cruise followed by a land tour up through the Yukon into Denali.

 

After looking on cruise critic, I knew that I couldn’t book a trip that didn’t include Glacier Bay, so I expanded my search and ended up on Princess.  Here’s where the amazing part happened – I was looking on Princess and came across a 13 day Connoisseur Escorted Tour at an unbelievable and unbeatable price.  It was on June 12 on the Coral Princess, which many people say is their favorite Princess ship for Alaska, and included the trip to Denali that I was so wanting to do.  As I read the description of the trip, a 7 day northbound voyage of the glaciers out of Vancouver followed by a 6 day land tour, I learned that these tours were the top of the line Princess cruisetours and included many extras that appealed to me for our big trip.  When I looked at all the surrounding dates, both before and after June 12th, I saw that the price was much higher, and I really felt like this had to be a mistake!  Or a gift to me on the anniversary of a dreadful day in my life from a year earlier.  At the price that was available, we would be able to afford this trip that was so much more than we had ever imagined.  I knew in my heart that we were meant to be on this trip.  The price was so good that I booked a minisuite and wondered how I could wait the 500+ days until our departure!

 

One way I passed the time was reading reviews and comments on cruise critic.  The information gleaned there is amazing, and despite many, many people talking about DIY being the only way to go for a land tour, I read several glowing reviews of the Connoisseur level trips and knew that I had made the right decision for us.  Because the cruise critic posts were so helpful to me and helped me pass the time, I decided to begin journaling our path to the big Alaskan adventure in February 2018.  

 

By the way, a week after I booked, the price for the minisuite on this trip was $1400 more per person than I paid – in fact the inside cabin price was roughly what I had paid.  It was indeed a gift from God to me after a really crappy 2017, and I was so glad I decided to jump on it when I saw the amazing deal.  Yes, I booked with no promos from Princess, but the price I got was so much lower that it was worth way more than any promo they typically offer!  I also purchased trip insurance from a 3rd party company since it was an expensive trip and we were booking so far in advance.

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Posted (edited)

Fast forward to April 2019.  6 weeks from today we depart!!  Sometime in 2018, another couple decided to join us on our trip and booked a balcony cabin on the Coral.  We’re thrilled to have some longtime friends to enjoy this big adventure with!  They’ll be traveling from NY for the trip and won’t be in Vancouver for our precruise portion, but will be with us for the entire 13 day cruisetour.

 

Here’s a rundown on the plans we’ve made….

We’ll be flying into Vancouver very late on June 10th to spend a day and a half hitting just the highlights of what I’ve heard is a beautiful city.  We’ve taken advice from a very helpful fellow cc member from Vancouver and booked a room at the YWCA downtown.  In the US, staying at the Y isn’t something that seems appealing, but apparently in Vancouver, it’s a clean, modern hotel in a great location and at about ½ the price of other downtown hotels.  It doesn’t have amenities like a restaurant or room service, but we won’t be spending our time lolling about in the room anyway!  With many 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor, it seems like a great way to put our money toward other things!  We’re planning to either rent bikes to get around if the weather is good or use the HOHO bus if it’s rainy or cold.  We’re hoping to at least ride the seawall, see Stanley Park, visit Granville Island, walk the downtown core, eat some oysters,  enjoy a great seafood dinner, and buy some wine to carry on the ship!

 

We will board the Coral on the afternoon of the 12th and meet up with our friends who are flying in the day of the cruise. 

 

Our port plans:

 

Ketchikan – We’ve booked a flightseeing tour over the Misty Fjords directly with Island Wings.  While we’re doing that in the AM, our friends will be doing the Deadliest Catch Excursion through Princess.  Afterwards, we’ll meet up for lunch and to walk around the town.

 

Juneau – Our friends are doing an AM helicopter to the glacier booked through Princess.  We have a rental car reserved to take us to Mendenhall as well as whatever other sights we can fit in before meeting up with our guide for a 2:30 whale watch which the four of us are taking with Jayleen’s Alaska.

 

Skagway – We’ve reserved tickets for the Bennett Scenic Journey through Chilkoot Charters.  That’ll take most of our time in Skagway, but if we have any time leftover, we’ll look around the town before boarding the ship for departure.

 

After cruising beautiful Glacier Bay and College Fjords, we disembark in Whittier on the 19th and board the train for Talkeetna.  Our cruisetour includes 2 nights each at the Princess McKinley Lodge, Denali Lodge and in Fairbanks.  We haven’t yet decided on what to do at McKinley Lodge.  At Denali Lodge the Tundra Wilderness Tour into Denali National Park is included.  In Fairbanks we have an included tour of the pipeline, some gold panning, and the riverboat down the Chena River.  The other cool thing happening there is that we’ll be in town for the Festival of the Midnight Sun which celebrates the Summer Solstice.  It’s a huge street fair with music and food and vendors. We’re planning to go there when we arrive in Fairbanks on the Sunday the 23rd. 

 

After spending so much time planning and anticipating this trip, we couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s almost here!

Edited by ErLee

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I remember when those connoisser tours were such an insane price. In fact, if I remember correctly, at one point they were all the same price no matter how many nights you chose. I figured it was a price glitch. Glad you were able to snag one. 

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Wow, you’ve surely earned this wonderful trip. Looking forward to your reports, and happy 25th! 

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Thank you for starting this report!  We are also going on a Princess Connoisseur Tour (17 day in June 2020) for our 25th Anniversary!

 

Am enthusiastically following your journey!

 

 

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We, too, are on the 6/12/19 sailing of the Coral - celebrating our 35th anniversary and doing the 15 day Connoisseur Tour.  Like the OP, we couldn't believe the price on this cruise - kept waiting for Princess to say that it was a mistake.  Really looking forward to it but must say that packing for the trip is a challenge. 

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WOW that is so fantastic. We did our first cruise to Alaska

15 years ago for our 25th anniversary. In two weeks we will be on the Coral northbound for our 40th. You got an amazing deal. Because of all the outside viewing on the Coral we booked an obstructed ocean view. Two weeks ago we were able to upgrade to a balcony at no extra charge. We sailed on the Coral 5 years ago to Alaska and it was a wonderful trip.

 

We are those people who always do DIY but I can tell you it's not for everyone. I always believe that everyone has a different way to travel and guided tours are great for those who prefer to have everything taken care of. I have even been tempted by the Princess Connoisseur tour it really seems to be the best tour. I will be doing a trip report when we get home or I might even do a live on board. I'll see how things go.  

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On 4/30/2019 at 1:04 PM, Eileen G said:

WOW that is so fantastic. We did our first cruise to Alaska

15 years ago for our 25th anniversary. In two weeks we will be on the Coral northbound for our 40th. You got an amazing deal. Because of all the outside viewing on the Coral we booked an obstructed ocean view. Two weeks ago we were able to upgrade to a balcony at no extra charge. We sailed on the Coral 5 years ago to Alaska and it was a wonderful trip.

 

We are those people who always do DIY but I can tell you it's not for everyone. I always believe that everyone has a different way to travel and guided tours are great for those who prefer to have everything taken care of. I have even been tempted by the Princess Connoisseur tour it really seems to be the best tour. I will be doing a trip report when we get home or I might even do a live on board. I'll see how things go.  

 

Happy 40th!! Enjoy your cruise and I’ll look for your trip report!

 

I am definitely a researcher and a planner, so I’m just the kind of person who could enjoy planning a DIY, but DH is not interested in doing all that driving himself - to him that’s not a relaxing vacation.  And I know it’ll be fantastic!  Maybe DIY next time to see the places we’ll miss this trip 😄

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On 4/30/2019 at 3:48 AM, foggyphils said:

I remember when those connoisser tours were such an insane price. In fact, if I remember correctly, at one point they were all the same price no matter how many nights you chose. I figured it was a price glitch. Glad you were able to snag one. 

 

Yep the 15 day was the same amazing price that week as the 13 day we booked. It was so hard not to pick that one, but I knew I was already pushing it for how many days DH would be willing and able to take off work all in a row. He has a ton of vacation time, but this will be the first time he’s taken more than a week off at a time in 25 years with his company (and in our 25 years of marriage!)

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On 4/30/2019 at 11:19 AM, adkcruiser said:

We, too, are on the 6/12/19 sailing of the Coral - celebrating our 35th anniversary and doing the 15 day Connoisseur Tour.  Like the OP, we couldn't believe the price on this cruise - kept waiting for Princess to say that it was a mistake.  Really looking forward to it but must say that packing for the trip is a challenge. 

 

See you onboard! 🥳🥂

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ErLee,

 

Have a great cruise! My wife and did a 15-day Princess Connoisseur cruisetour in July 2015. Itinerary was very similar to yours. Northbound from Vancouver to Whittier, with the same port stops at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, and then scenic cruising in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Our land lodges were a little bit different: 2-night stays each at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, and Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge.

 

Hope you enjoy it much as I did!

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15 hours ago, RoobyDoo said:

ErLee,

 

Have a great cruise! My wife and did a 15-day Princess Connoisseur cruisetour in July 2015. Itinerary was very similar to yours. Northbound from Vancouver to Whittier, with the same port stops at Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, and then scenic cruising in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. Our land lodges were a little bit different: 2-night stays each at Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, and Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge.

 

Hope you enjoy it much as I did!

 

Thank you! I’m glad to hear it was a good experience for you!

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Can't wait to follow your trip!  At least until we leave for ours on Ovation a week later :)

 

Happy Anniversary!

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Posted (edited)

The day finally arrived this week, and our trip began on Monday the 10th.  We flew from Atlanta to Vancouver Monday night with one stop in Seattle. One piece of advice I have about booking airfare....I booked mine directly with Delta last August just after the flights were open for our dates. I got a decent price and the price was never cheaper, BUT it was also not significantly more expensive either as the months passed. I know because I watched it weekly. The one miscalculation I made was that I should have waited another month till all flights were showing. When I booked there were no nonstops showing from Atlanta to Vancouver...a month later there was one at the same price I had paid, but the change fee was $200 each. This almost cost us our first morning in Vancouver because we nearly missed the connection in Seattle.  Thankfully Delta held the flight and we made it! We arrived at our hotel at 1am which felt like 4am to our tired bodies!

 

We are staying at the YWCA Hotel in downtown Vancouver, and it was a great recommendation over on the Canada board. Coming from the US, I would never think to stay at the Y, but here it’s a regular full service hotel in a good location with a lower price in what is a very expensive city.  It doesn’t have a restaurant or room service, but who wants to eat at the hotel in a city with so many great restaurants? Very clean, comfortable beds, and the friendliest staff I’ve ever encountered!  We have a double double with private bath. Check it out on TripAdvisor if you’re staying overnight in Vancouver - 5 star reviews abound!  

 

Yesterday we used the LandSea Hop on Hop Off to tour this lovely city on a spectacularly gorgeous day.  It worked out great! We were able too see all the different neighborhoods that make up downtown, Stanley Park, and took the ferry to Granville Island which was included with our ticket. It was such a clear day we could see Mt Baker in distant Washington State from Prospect Point at Stanley Park.

 

 At 4pm we hit up Happy Hour at Fanny Bay Oysters for a bottle of wine, oysters, truffle fries, and fish tacos. That served as our dinner which was perfect for our Eastern time zone inner clocks. 

 

We we do not have cell service here so it’s been interesting having to navigate the old fashioned way with a map!l

 

After waking up on and off from 4:30am, I’m up early ready to start embarkation day!  We’re hoping to drop our bags around 10 at the port, walk to Gastown for some more sightseeing and lunch, then stop by the liquor store on the way back to the ship to get wine. Hoping to avoid the huge crush of people boarding at lunchtime on this 3 ship day in Vancouver. Our friends will be arriving today so we’ll see them on the ship.

 

So excited to get to Alaska! A bit of a dreary forecast up there, but I won’t let that dampen my enthusiasm! Bob Voyage to us!

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Edited by ErLee

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I will be following. I have done 4 roundtrips to Alaska.  I have been thinking of a Connoisseur Cruisetour.

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Woot woot! Good tip on the air fare - we are going to Alaska NEXT year for a B2B, and I am still in the planning stages, so your tip is very helpful.

 

Can’t wait to follow along on your journey - have fun!

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17 minutes ago, phabric said:

I will be following. I have done 4 roundtrips to Alaska.  I have been thinking of a Connoisseur Cruisetour. 

This is one reason I want to write this review. There were a few great reviews of the Connoisseur tours, but not many and not super recent. The overwhelming majority of regular posters on this board talk about how doing land DIY is better. I just want to offer a different perspective and report back whether it was great or whether it was not!

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Posted (edited)

Embarkation in Vancouver was a breeze! We took a cab to the port at 10, dropped our bags, went to a very short check in line, and then left to walk around a bit. Spent some time shopping around in Gastown, then decided to head back because our backpacks were heavy and it was pretty hot today. On the way back we stopped at BC liquor store and used the wine bags we brought to buy some wine to carry on board the ship. When we got back to the terminal, we went through customs, took a seat in the waiting area, and within 10 or 15 minutes were on board and in our cabin. We were on board by noon.

 

We booked C217, which is a mini suite, and I love the room! It has a nice size sitting area with a three seater couch and chair, a big bathtub, a spacious closet and plenty of storage. It also has a good size balcony with three chairs and Ottomans and a smallish dining height table. I took pictures before we messied it up!

 

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We toured the whole ship. It’s our first time on the coral princess, and I love the look of the public spaces. Lots of cozy lounges and seating areas. The outside viewing areas are nice open and should be perfect for Alaska! I think we’re gonna have a great week!

 

Back in our room, our steward came in to introduce himself and brought two glasses of champagne.  Great way to start the Cruise!

 

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Edited by ErLee

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9 hours ago, ErLee said:

This is one reason I want to write this review. There were a few great reviews of the Connoisseur tours, but not many and not super recent. The overwhelming majority of regular posters on this board talk about how doing land DIY is better. I just want to offer a different perspective and report back whether it was great or whether it was not!

 

Thanks for doing this. We are doing a cruisetour on Celebrity next year and lime you said most people here recommend DYI, so I appreciate any cruisetour info I can get.

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Thanks for doing a review! We hope to do a Connoisseur tour in a couple of years.

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reading with interest we'll do the  Connoisseur tour next month ( but southbound)

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We are doing a connoisseur tour on the Coral in July, 2020 for our 45th Anniversary.  We are taking our 2 grown daughters to help celebrate.  We have booked 2 club class mini suites for us.  I will be anxiously reading your trip for suggestions and ideas.  We went to Alaska land/cruise in 2012 with friends. We are taking a different route on land this time to change things up 

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1 hour ago, Iamom75 said:

We are doing a connoisseur tour on the Coral in July, 2020 for our 45th Anniversary.  We are taking our 2 grown daughters to help celebrate.  We have booked 2 club class mini suites for us.  I will be anxiously reading your trip for suggestions and ideas.  We went to Alaska land/cruise in 2012 with friends. We are taking a different route on land this time to change things up 

 

So far we are having an amazing trip, stay tuned for all my details! We love the minisuite on Coral, you've made a great choice! Our traveling companions have a regular balcony, and I'm so thankful we're in the minisuite.

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Can’t wait to follow.  We are doing the 15 day Connessiour tour in August for my 50th birthday.  My husband, my sister and myself are doing the 8 day land tour first. Then we are meeting four friends and three grandchildren onboard the Golden.  We board her ON my birthday!

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