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josher_m

2019 June 25 Grand Princess Alaska review & pics

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We were on the Grand Princess from 6/25 to 7/5 for a 10 day cruise to Alaska with our 2 teens, ages 16 & 17. Our first cruise so we were very excited and Princess did not disappoint from start to finish . . .well except when they kicked us off. Lol

Embarkation was seamless and we got on the ship earlier than our suggested boarding time. We did have a small wait as we got there early but going thru the checkpoints went fast and soon we were eating lunch in the buffet—being as it was our first day we just followed the masses.

First day or two got a little rough at times (enough that one time in the early am hours our lamp shade fell off on it’s own and woke me up) but none of us had any issues with sea sickness but we could definitely feel the rocking occasionally. We stayed in cabin E723, which is an aft mini suite. Highly recommend this cabin. Absolutely no noise from outside or neighbors during the entire time of our stay.

I had booked our cruise almost a year and a half earlier and joined all the Facebook groups and Cruise Critic. Let me just say to those first timers like us: do NOT let the negative keyboard quarterbacks scare you away. Not once did we run into any laundry room fights (we used the facilities twice), seat saving hogs at shows (and we went to them all), elevator shoving, judgmental busy bodies (and if they did, they kept it to themselves as they should!). Not to say we never encountered any rude people—you have to expect on a ship—or anywhere—with thousands of people you WILL run into a few and we did occasionally. But overall, everyone was friendly. We even met our cabin neighbors in the laundry room.

The staff on Princess were most excellent. I have never witnessed or experienced such superior service and now I see/hear why/how they have the reputation they have. I honestly cannot imagine much better service. Every single employee we encountered always had a smile on their face and seemed happy to be there and wanted to make us happy. Our waiters, especially were awesome. So much, that our teens, actually cried on the last night of dinner saying our good byes.

We went to all of the production shows and enjoyed them. The comedians were funny as well. My son did Karaoke for the first time, we played group trivia games, etc. We were hardly in our cabin at all. The food was excellent, for the most part. I wasn’t impressed by the pizza upstairs (it was always a bit burnt on the bottom like they were cooking it too fast to feed the masses). Our son loved being able to order whatever he wanted. We did experience some feet/leg swelling from the salt in the food as we are not used to so much salt, but otherwise the food was very good.

Little blip about dress code. I can’t attest to what other ships are adhering to but I will say on the Grand, pretty much anything went on our ship. I saw everything from jeans, to yoga pants, to shorts and even baseball caps in the MDR. Formal nights were a mixture of proper casual to all out gowns and tuxes.

Ok, on to the Ports of Call.
Juneau: Upon arriving in Juneau we saw whales from the ship! Tons of float planes were leaving within seconds of each other—or so it seemed. We did a whale watching/salmon bake tour in Juneau. We saw many eagles in Juneau. Saw a few whales on our excursion. As you’ll see in one of the pics, another visitor was near the whales (which I did not originally see as I was focused on getting the whale pics).
We were then bussed to Gold Creek for the salmon bake. We heard rave reviews about this but honestly, the food was not great, imo. We did like the cornbread and beans. I don’t eat fish but my husband and son said they had better. But the setting was very pretty and if you go for a very short walk there is a beautiful waterfall as well.
Temps were warm, 84 or so that day and broke a record they said. It’s true what they say about the bugs being bigger, at least from what we saw. I got bit by a horsefly and it was huge and left a welt like a spider bite would. Saw a couple mosquitos as well but nothing too bad. That evening while leaving port, while waiting to depart, we were so lucky and saw a pod of 5 orcas swimming the opposite way. That was amazing!

Skagway: We originally booked the shorter White Pass Rail and changed it to the 7.5 hour ride because I wanted to go to the Yukon. Go big or go home, right? We started on the train and I knew from reading, to get a seat on the left hand side, which we did. The views on this ride were amazing. I went out to the partition between the rail cars many times to get better shots.
Then we boarded a bus and started up to the Yukon. It wasn’t long before we saw a lone bear crossing the road! I didn’t think I got the pic (hard to do on a bus full of people) but when I got home and zoomed in, I got one! The bus driver was knowledgeable about the areas we were traveling through and would stop at scenic sites and took all of our pics. She was awesome! We travelled up to the Yukon to Caribou Trading Post, (this lunch was MUCH better and very good!), saw their petting zoo and taxidermy museum, visited Emerald Lake, then Carcross for another stop before heading back to port for some souvenir shopping.

Glacier Bay: What can I say? Most everyone has seen pics of Glacier Bay. It was beautiful! Temps were again warm. I brought a jacket up on top deck in case it got chilly but it didn’t. This was the first and only time I wore a lightweight long sleeved shirt. All other days we wore short sleeve (or ¾ sleeve) shirts. Never needed jackets/sweatshirts at all as the weather was beautiful for our entire cruise. Did see a huge calving but didn’t get it on video as I was climbing steps to a higher deck but it was phenomenal. I did get a smaller calving on video and lots of scenic pics.
Sitka: We loved Sitka! It just has a very charming feel to it and is beautiful. Our tour didn’t start until 830 so we went to the shop near the pier and overspent since we had an hour to kill. They were so nice and held our bags so we didn’t have to carry them all day.
First stop was Alaska Raptor Center which is a raptor rehabilitation center. We saw so many beautiful birds here.
Second stop was Fortress of the Bears. I could stay here all day. The bears were adorable (I mean, who doesn’t like bears, right?!?!) and were so cute playing in the water.
3rd stop was an aquarium. We weren’t impressed with this stop as the aquarium was tiny (especially if you’ve been to any of the larger aquariums) and the salmon weren’t running for the hatchery so it was a lot of ‘talk’ about the hatchery and what happens when it’s actually running. However, the views of the ocean and marina were amazing.
We then had time to explore on our own and bus driver gave people the option of walking from the last stop or he would drop us off closer to the main area. Sitka offered free shuttles back to the ship (be prepared for long lines tho) so that was nice.

Victoria: last stop was Victoria. We changed our tour to the double decker bus tour. Our driver was great. She knew so much history and took us all over the city, showing us many things we wouldn’t have had time to explore on our own. We also saw deer on this trip. As done in Sitka, once done the driver gave us the option of dropping us off at the pier or in town to explore. We stayed in town. However, not knowing the layout (and always paranoid about getting back to ship early) we made a choice that didn’t allow us as much time as we’d like. We heard Fisherman’s Wharf had many shops and you could see sea lions so of course, we wanted to check that out. Except when we got there, it was early and 99% of the shops didn’t open until 11am. Also no wildlife was seen. So we headed back to the ship early as it would have taken too long to walk back into town (opposite direction) and back again. By then, everyone was tired so we just grabbed an early lunch.

We saw many waterfalls in the crevices in the mountains from far away when we would approach land so if you have a good camera, look for those. Lots of opportunity for wildlife viewing as well. We saw, whales, orcas, eagles, sea lions, deer and various other birds just around town or in or near ports so always keep your eyes open and camera ready!

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Thanks for sharing!!  Great photos and glad you had a great 1st cruise!   Sounds like cruising may have been a great fit for your family!  Enjoy!

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Thank you for your report!  We were on Grand in late May out of SF.  Agree with your assessment of the ship and crew!

 

(Thanks for the laugh—love your term “keyboard quarterbacks”!)

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Great review! We are doing this cruise next summer on the Star and also out of San Francisco (I believe you were on Grand out of SF?).  It will be our fourth time doing the Princess Alaska cruise.  We are bringing extended family along, 16 of us total, like we did a few years ago. Can't wait to see Alaska again and love your photos!  Also thanks for the info about your Sitka excursion, we want to do that one also. 

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I was on the same cruise and agree with your report!

It was so hot in Juneau. We walked to Nugget Falls at Mendenhall Glacier and I was roasting by the time we got back to the bus stop, a little sunburned. It was worth the walk, beautiful! Saw a Porcupine. I am not complaining, it was beautiful and happy for the warm weather! I used my walker and it was a little bumpy at times, especially down by the water, rocks, sand but I did it OK.

We saw so much wildlife from the ship. It was so exciting!

We had a balcony cabin aft on Aloha (A633), Starboard. Last cruise in 2017 we were port side on Aloha and aft (A714). We heard more scraping on this cruise while on our balcony but never heard a thing once inside the cabin.

Having to use a walker on board was a little challenging at times, mostly because of full elevators. People were usually happy to squeeze us in. 

We did two excursions through Princess and both were great! In Skagway we did the Jet Boat Wildlife Excursion in Haines. We took a ferry to Haines which was included. We did not see any moose or bears. The other boat did see a moose but it was gone by the time we got there. The other excursion was in Sitka. Wildlife Quest and Fin Island lodge Feast. This was great, followed a whale, saw otters, sea lions and various birds.  The feast was king crab, bacon, etc. Delicious. This tour was an Allen marine Tour. Loved it! I took my walker on both tours without any issues.

Glacier Bay was amazing. Beautiful scenery cruising through there.

Shows were great, enjoyed the Crew Talent Show, so funny.20190630_120607.thumb.jpg.ddcbc62d3e07db3cffe9c7f347976795.jpg20190626_175444.thumb.jpg.15e79a2752fc10f69f749339a0726410.jpg20190628_160743.thumb.jpg.61b805ea3558de53aaa3a4d5a279e4ae.jpg20190629_110436.thumb.jpg.5ebc04044c09b944ee58fbfd62a4ecac.jpg20190701_082928.thumb.jpg.fc3b8fdc4084d1bd00f514ce564b35c2.jpg20190704_114111.thumb.jpg.c8d27d5930e4143484ed68780f26c09a.jpg20190626_073400.thumb.jpg.e571fdcb5a26cd86789afdc9af94459a.jpg20190704_091545.thumb.jpg.7ce85316f94808bad174518eb533e8dd.jpg1120587907_IMG_20190706_055059_1281.thumb.jpg.0ecc14e0a908eac2cfa9c7df7c54be62.jpg1500887028_20190701_1018481.thumb.jpg.92e193afbdca8942becd798f9c9a1235.jpg185014426_20190701_0908351.thumb.jpg.2f17b201b86925f9573727e4b7ca08c8.jpg

The cruise was wonderful and I was a little emotional having to say good bye.

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Thank you all for the great reviews and photos.  You really lucked out on the weather and wildlife viewing.  We are leaving leaving for Alaska next week.  Hope we get a fraction of your good weather and wildlife.  I've been checking the webcams and it looks like a lot of rain this week.  Fingers crossed 

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