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cougaraz

Live from Grand Princess, Roundtrip San Francisco, 14-24 August 2019

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, The Mikado said:

I think we're done screwing with it this trip. We might try the "anytime" deal next time as 17:00 is a bit early for us and 19:30 is too late. Of course, about 80% of the people on board probably think the same thing.

When we were a group of 6 on Princess we shifted to AT but asked for & got a nightly 'reservation' at 7:30 at the same table. Is that still possible? The AT dining room on the July-August 2019 had 1 side line for AT reserved  ..... can that be 1 reservation for the entire trip or is it a daily thing?

 

I did AT no reservation on my last cruise & it worked but I was a solo willing to share.

Edited by Ombud

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Because I have some physical limitations and need “booster cushions” to reach the table we have always spoken to the MatriDe (spelling 😱) during the embarkation day time and explained the situation.  Even though we use AT dining we have gotten an assigned table for the full cruise in most cases so that they have my cushions handy when we arrive during the time we told them we usually dine.   We always tell our server if we will be going to another venue the next night (like the steak house).  They will hold the table for about a half hour.  Once they get to know us, like the second night, we just go in through the “reserved” side right to our table.

If you call the dine line to make a reservation for AT, there is a line for those WITH reservations and another for those without.  If you like to dine more towards the beginning of the dinner service for AT we strongly suggest the reservation!!  Especially first night!!!!

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1 hour ago, cougaraz said:

It is crab feasting time in Ketchikan. 

20190817_101057.jpg

20190817_101105.jpg

Nice photo.

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Saturday August 17th, in port Ketchikan

 

Good morning and thanks for tuning in to check on our adventures.  This morning found us under cloudy skies and making our way into Ketchikan.  Since we passed into Hecate Strait last night, we have had no seas and winds have died down to just a puff of air.  Temperatures are still very mild, maybe dropping down into the very high 50s overnight and low 60s during the day.

 

Since it was Melissa’s birthday, she got to choose what she wanted to do for pretty much the whole day.  She opted for a trip to the dining room for breakfast and since it was 7:30 and because it was her birthday she got all of Club Class to herself.  An entire seating section, a head waiter and six service staff to wait on her every need.  Giovanni said that it usually gets very busy around 8:30 on sea days, but that any earlier and it is quiet.  In additional acknowledgment of her special status, they put her favorite breakfast food, Eggs Benedict on the menu, so there was no doubt about what her choice would be.  She started with a bowl of cereal and, of course, the obligatory freshly baked pastry.  For me, there was also a bowl of cereal and then a mushroom and cheese omelet made by Giovanni.  With reflection, it probably isn’t necessary to have multiple courses of food at breakfast, but it is a very nice luxury.

 

With the weather finally cooperating, we were able to get in a great walk on the promenade.  Although the full circuit wasn’t available due to high winds on the forward most portion, we were still able to cover a nice amount of ground and get out exercise by making a large horseshoe around the aft 75% of the walking area.  There were some people out and about, but not as many as I would have expected.  Our first stop of the morning was the Princess Theater for the axe throwing challenge.  The ship had brought onboard one of the lumberjacks from the Great Alaskan Lumberjack show in Ketchikan to put on a competition for passengers in axe throwing.  The cruise director Steve also got up and participated.  Overall, it was fun, but I thought it could have been a little better produced and longer.  It seemed a touch of a waste to bring the lumberjack onboard for a 20 minute show.  Our next stop was our first trivia of the cruise in the Vista Lounge and it was a packed house!  I know cruise ship trivia is popular, but this was as many as I have ever seen playing at once.  I really liked the hostess, she was fun, but all business and didn’t waste time repeating questions.  Her trivia was challenging, but not insanely difficult, 17 of 20 was the winning score, and we posted a respectable 14 of 20. (My wife also did an uncharitable scream of delight that startled a lot of the theater when she found out she gave the right answer as to what Company Steve Jobs took public in 1995).

 

Lunch for us was again in the dining room and the offerings were tempting, with a surprise smash hit at the end!  I started with the calamari and they were a very nice way to get the meal going.  They were so lightly battered and served with a little marinara for dipping.  Melissa started with the specialty pasta, which was fusilli in a cream sauce with smoked salmon and her main was the Irish lamb stew.  I though the stew was an interesting riff on the classic which would feature a thicker, heartier gravy style sauce.  In this case, it was huge, tender chunks of lamb, cabbage, potato and carrot in a broth.  Based on her clean bowl and the small taste I was able to sneak, it was delicious.  I had an entrée portion of the pasta and it was so good, it just fit perfectly for a cold, gray day sailing in Alaska.  For dessert, Melissa was torn between the blueberry roulade and the pistachio ice cream.  Of course, when she asked Alberto for a recommendation the only possible outcome was going to be both.  It turns out to have been a good decision, because while the pistachio ice cream was good, the roulade was amazing!  The sponge was soft and caramelized, the cream rich and the blueberry clearly made from fresh berries.  Fake blueberry has such a strange and cloying flavor that the difference is obvious. Melissa promised one day she would even try to bake me one.

After lunch, we decided to get some more exercise by walking through the Horizon Court to see what was being offered in the Mexican Buffett selection of the day. Although we did not partake, the selections including green pork and crispy tacos looked amazing! We also caught a glimpse of the delicious fish tacos being offered at the Salty Dog as part of the 50 years Alaska celebration.

If you have been paying attention at all over the past few days, you know what is coming next….an afternoon nap!  Honestly, we both work stressful and demanding jobs and when we are on a cruise, the opportunity to take a nap is just too good to pass up.  Being the dutiful husband, I did slip out and return to wake Melissa up with a warm scone and some clotted cream from the buffet.  During the time between then and our getting ready for dinner, it became obvious that my poor planning which resulted in not bringing a book was not going to be able to endure.  Melissa had her Kindle and was not too thrilled with me constantly asking about what was next and pestering her with my enthusiasm for just about everything.

 

We showered and dressed for dinner, Melissa in a very nice cocktail dress and me in my kilt.  My family tree has a branch that can be traced to the Isle of Ulva and the MacQuarrie Clan.  Thus, I have a MacQuarrie Modern kilt that was made for me by Gordon Nicolson in Edinburgh.  As The Mikado mentioned about 20% of guests wore formal attire, another 40% in respectable jackets and dresses, and a solid 40% opted for suburban mall Saturday morning casual.  As Melissa observed, whom ever thinks jorts with a suit jacket and suspenders counts as formal gear, was seriously disturbed!

 

 Our first stop of the evening was the Wheelhouse Bar where some members of the Grand Princess Orchestra were holding forth with some great jazz standards from a 5 piece band.  After a nice set, they slimmed down to just a drummer, bass player and pianist and continued to pump out some really great music.  There is a solid contingent who come to dance every night and though we don’t join them, the room is totally civilized and charming.  We were still there when the Captain’s Welcome and Champagne Waterfall event was breaking up and many of the senior officers and their families came in for a drink as well.  The waitress Gladys is all smiles and already knows, after just two nights, that Melissa likes a Sidecar.  I am a bit more unpredictable, preferring to try different things, so I opted for a Manhattan last night.  The bartender was on point and I appreciate that the house version is mixed with Bulleit Bourbon.

 

We arrived at dinner a little later than  on previous evenings and got a great table, right by the window.  I surreptitiously passed a note to Giovanni that it was Melissa’s birthday so he could ensure that appropriate celebratory activities were executed.  We ordered a bottle of the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne, because, well why not?!?!?  It was Melissa’s birthday and we are celebrating 12 years of great cruising adventures together.  I am not a drink snob, I say drink what you like and what makes you happy; however,  for me and my tasting experience, the jump between okay Champagne and good Champagne is a monumental one.  I almost can’t drink the cheap stuff, but the good stuff is a bit of a transcendent experience for the taste buds.  Turning to our meals, we each ordered the crab quiche appetizer and then shared an order of the duck and pork rillette.  The quiche was good and the rillette was surprisingly bursting with flavor and though rich, not overwhelming.  In another top quality customer service move, the chef put Melissa’s favorite soup on the menu for her birthday, so we both enjoyed the French Onion soup.  The broth was delicious and the crouton sinking under a melting island of cheese made for a wholly amazing dish.  For her main, Melissa ordered a lobster tail off of the ala carte options from the Crown Grill and substituted a baked potato for mashed potatoes, which was a great option to have since she could have lobster on the night she chose,  rather than the designated night by the menu rotation.  I opted for the Club Class special which was diver scallops with polenta and a balsamic reduction.  I think that it is fair to say that both mains were very well executed based on the clean plates that were cleared away and the smiles all around. 

The dessert special last night was a flambee, minus the flames of bananas and pineapple with vanilla ice cream.  It was tasty, but not particularly noteworthy.  Of course, to cap off her big day, Melissa was presented with a chocolate on chocolate on chocolate treat with a candle and singing by pretty much the entire Club Class dining crew, which turned Melissa bright red.  It was a supremely enjoyable meal.  The whole team in Club Class, Rachel, Alberto, Ramon, I Wayan, Hari, Giovanni and Milos are absolutely fantastic.

 

Obviously, I post based on what happened yesterday, but as I type this, we are on our balcony, enjoying the gorgeous scenery as we sail out of Ketchikan. We are currently sitting outside at 6 pm on our balcony as we glide by small islands filled with Hemlock and Spruce trees under cloudy skies occasionally interrupted by breaks with brilliant sunshine.  More to come on this topic tomorrow!!

Onward to you know, Juneau!!...

 

Until next time…..

 

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10 hours ago, cougaraz said:

Saturday August 17th, in port Ketchikan

 

 

 

Good morning and thanks for tuning in to check on our adventures.  This morning found us under cloudy skies and making our way into Ketchikan.  Since we passed into Hecate Strait last night, we have had no seas and winds have died down to just a puff of air.  Temperatures are still very mild, maybe dropping down into the very high 50s overnight and low 60s during the day.

 

 

 

Since it was Melissa’s birthday, she got to choose what she wanted to do for pretty much the whole day.  She opted for a trip to the dining room for breakfast and since it was 7:30 and because it was her birthday she got all of Club Class to herself.  An entire seating section, a head waiter and six service staff to wait on her every need.  Giovanni said that it usually gets very busy around 8:30 on sea days, but that any earlier and it is quiet.  In additional acknowledgment of her special status, they put her favorite breakfast food, Eggs Benedict on the menu, so there was no doubt about what her choice would be.  She started with a bowl of cereal and, of course, the obligatory freshly baked pastry.  For me, there was also a bowl of cereal and then a mushroom and cheese omelet made by Giovanni.  With reflection, it probably isn’t necessary to have multiple courses of food at breakfast, but it is a very nice luxury.

 

 

 

With the weather finally cooperating, we were able to get in a great walk on the promenade.  Although the full circuit wasn’t available due to high winds on the forward most portion, we were still able to cover a nice amount of ground and get out exercise by making a large horseshoe around the aft 75% of the walking area.  There were some people out and about, but not as many as I would have expected.  Our first stop of the morning was the Princess Theater for the axe throwing challenge.  The ship had brought onboard one of the lumberjacks from the Great Alaskan Lumberjack show in Ketchikan to put on a competition for passengers in axe throwing.  The cruise director Steve also got up and participated.  Overall, it was fun, but I thought it could have been a little better produced and longer.  It seemed a touch of a waste to bring the lumberjack onboard for a 20 minute show.  Our next stop was our first trivia of the cruise in the Vista Lounge and it was a packed house!  I know cruise ship trivia is popular, but this was as many as I have ever seen playing at once.  I really liked the hostess, she was fun, but all business and didn’t waste time repeating questions.  Her trivia was challenging, but not insanely difficult, 17 of 20 was the winning score, and we posted a respectable 14 of 20. (My wife also did an uncharitable scream of delight that startled a lot of the theater when she found out she gave the right answer as to what Company Steve Jobs took public in 1995).

 

 

 

Lunch for us was again in the dining room and the offerings were tempting, with a surprise smash hit at the end!  I started with the calamari and they were a very nice way to get the meal going.  They were so lightly battered and served with a little marinara for dipping.  Melissa started with the specialty pasta, which was fusilli in a cream sauce with smoked salmon and her main was the Irish lamb stew.  I though the stew was an interesting riff on the classic which would feature a thicker, heartier gravy style sauce.  In this case, it was huge, tender chunks of lamb, cabbage, potato and carrot in a broth.  Based on her clean bowl and the small taste I was able to sneak, it was delicious.  I had an entrée portion of the pasta and it was so good, it just fit perfectly for a cold, gray day sailing in Alaska.  For dessert, Melissa was torn between the blueberry roulade and the pistachio ice cream.  Of course, when she asked Alberto for a recommendation the only possible outcome was going to be both.  It turns out to have been a good decision, because while the pistachio ice cream was good, the roulade was amazing!  The sponge was soft and caramelized, the cream rich and the blueberry clearly made from fresh berries.  Fake blueberry has such a strange and cloying flavor that the difference is obvious. Melissa promised one day she would even try to bake me one.

 

After lunch, we decided to get some more exercise by walking through the Horizon Court to see what was being offered in the Mexican Buffett selection of the day. Although we did not partake, the selections including green pork and crispy tacos looked amazing! We also caught a glimpse of the delicious fish tacos being offered at the Salty Dog as part of the 50 years Alaska celebration.

 

If you have been paying attention at all over the past few days, you know what is coming next….an afternoon nap!  Honestly, we both work stressful and demanding jobs and when we are on a cruise, the opportunity to take a nap is just too good to pass up.  Being the dutiful husband, I did slip out and return to wake Melissa up with a warm scone and some clotted cream from the buffet.  During the time between then and our getting ready for dinner, it became obvious that my poor planning which resulted in not bringing a book was not going to be able to endure.  Melissa had her Kindle and was not too thrilled with me constantly asking about what was next and pestering her with my enthusiasm for just about everything.

 

 

 

We showered and dressed for dinner, Melissa in a very nice cocktail dress and me in my kilt.  My family tree has a branch that can be traced to the Isle of Ulva and the MacQuarrie Clan.  Thus, I have a MacQuarrie Modern kilt that was made for me by Gordon Nicolson in Edinburgh.  As The Mikado mentioned about 20% of guests wore formal attire, another 40% in respectable jackets and dresses, and a solid 40% opted for suburban mall Saturday morning casual.  As Melissa observed, whom ever thinks jorts with a suit jacket and suspenders counts as formal gear, was seriously disturbed!

 

 

 

 Our first stop of the evening was the Wheelhouse Bar where some members of the Grand Princess Orchestra were holding forth with some great jazz standards from a 5 piece band.  After a nice set, they slimmed down to just a drummer, bass player and pianist and continued to pump out some really great music.  There is a solid contingent who come to dance every night and though we don’t join them, the room is totally civilized and charming.  We were still there when the Captain’s Welcome and Champagne Waterfall event was breaking up and many of the senior officers and their families came in for a drink as well.  The waitress Gladys is all smiles and already knows, after just two nights, that Melissa likes a Sidecar.  I am a bit more unpredictable, preferring to try different things, so I opted for a Manhattan last night.  The bartender was on point and I appreciate that the house version is mixed with Bulleit Bourbon.

 

 

 

We arrived at dinner a little later than  on previous evenings and got a great table, right by the window.  I surreptitiously passed a note to Giovanni that it was Melissa’s birthday so he could ensure that appropriate celebratory activities were executed.  We ordered a bottle of the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Champagne, because, well why not?!?!?  It was Melissa’s birthday and we are celebrating 12 years of great cruising adventures together.  I am not a drink snob, I say drink what you like and what makes you happy; however,  for me and my tasting experience, the jump between okay Champagne and good Champagne is a monumental one.  I almost can’t drink the cheap stuff, but the good stuff is a bit of a transcendent experience for the taste buds.  Turning to our meals, we each ordered the crab quiche appetizer and then shared an order of the duck and pork rillette.  The quiche was good and the rillette was surprisingly bursting with flavor and though rich, not overwhelming.  In another top quality customer service move, the chef put Melissa’s favorite soup on the menu for her birthday, so we both enjoyed the French Onion soup.  The broth was delicious and the crouton sinking under a melting island of cheese made for a wholly amazing dish.  For her main, Melissa ordered a lobster tail off of the ala carte options from the Crown Grill and substituted a baked potato for mashed potatoes, which was a great option to have since she could have lobster on the night she chose,  rather than the designated night by the menu rotation.  I opted for the Club Class special which was diver scallops with polenta and a balsamic reduction.  I think that it is fair to say that both mains were very well executed based on the clean plates that were cleared away and the smiles all around. 

 

The dessert special last night was a flambee, minus the flames of bananas and pineapple with vanilla ice cream.  It was tasty, but not particularly noteworthy.  Of course, to cap off her big day, Melissa was presented with a chocolate on chocolate on chocolate treat with a candle and singing by pretty much the entire Club Class dining crew, which turned Melissa bright red.  It was a supremely enjoyable meal.  The whole team in Club Class, Rachel, Alberto, Ramon, I Wayan, Hari, Giovanni and Milos are absolutely fantastic.

 

 

 

Obviously, I post based on what happened yesterday, but as I type this, we are on our balcony, enjoying the gorgeous scenery as we sail out of Ketchikan. We are currently sitting outside at 6 pm on our balcony as we glide by small islands filled with Hemlock and Spruce trees under cloudy skies occasionally interrupted by breaks with brilliant sunshine.  More to come on this topic tomorrow!!

 

Onward to you know, Juneau!!...

 

 

 

Until next time…..

 

 

Great report,sounds like Melissa had a lovely birthday.

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On 8/17/2019 at 1:05 AM, The Mikado said:

A couple of other observations:

 

The TV is awful. Not the programming, although it ain't all that good, either, but the picture quality is like 240 lines of resolution. Sorry, not an EE so I'm not sure of the lingo but the picture is terrible on all channels. I truly hope they don't intend to use this level of video presentation to carry their new Ocean Medallion endeavor.

 

And what's with the ice cream??? The soft-serve at Coffee and Cones is the usual soft-serve but the stuff in the dining room all tastes the same and has the consistency of mushy ice milk. My last cruise was many years ago on X and their ice cream was really nice.

 

The pizza at Alfredo's was very good.

 

The Horizon buffet is about what we expected but it's had some nice hits, too.

 

Pub lunch was good  enough to go back again and try some of the other offerings.

 

Botticelli's MDR: great, great waitstaff but they seem to have a food temp issue. Other than the chicken and leek pot pie last night (which was excellent), everything has been on the cool side of lukewarm.

 

Since we aren't really interested in getting to the theater 60 minutes prior to the curtain to see a cruise ship show, we haven't availed ourselves of the nightly entertainment. We arrived last night to see the "comedy magician" about 20 minutes prior to showtime and there wasn't a seat to be had.

 

Ketchikan tomorrow morning at 06:00.

Thanks for your observations. My understanding was the ice cream in the dining room was made on board.

 

Pub Lunch is an all time favorite of mine!!  Watch for it on your next sea day.  Usually they have it twice on a 10 day voyage.  

 

  Talk to your waiter or the supervisor in the dining room about the lukewarm food . It could be a problem with the guy's running the plates from the galley to the dining room. Food safety is always a concern and that should be resolved quickly.  I'm a loyal Princess traveler and this is # 3 for me this year.  They WANT to get it right; and in order to do so, you must tell them what is wrong.  

 

The Princess Theater ALWAYS fills up early.  You have to get there early; grab a cocktail; bring your book or your i-pad or a deck of cards and entertain and relax before the show. :)  It makes for a much better experience.   Enjoy!

 

Thanks for the Patters photos!!  

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On 8/16/2019 at 11:25 PM, The Mikado said:

Survey says about 20% formal, 40% coat and tie, 40% slob.

 

 

"Slob" is a little harsh, don't you think?

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32 minutes ago, PaperSniper4 said:

 

 

"Slob" is a little harsh, don't you think?

No. 

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Great reviews!  Do either of you have the Club Class dining?  If so, I am trying to decide on a mini-suite with CC.  What are the added menu options? 

 

TIA!  Enjoy the rest of your cruise!

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love club class dining

separate dining area with tables not close together

different linens

beautiful flowers on the table

NO WAITING

personal service 

they know you by first name after the first day

separate dining room entrance 

always a non menu item prepared by the head waiter

much quieter 

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A before and after of Giovanni's penne with puttanesca sauce....it was that good!

20190817_200731.jpg

20190817_201452.jpg

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5 hours ago, szubieta said:

Great reviews!  Do either of you have the Club Class dining?  If so, I am trying to decide on a mini-suite with CC.  What are the added menu options? 

 

TIA!  Enjoy the rest of your cruise!

We are in Club Class and I think each of my reviews has highlighted the specific options in either pasta, an entree or dessert on offer. 

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Sunday August 18th, In Port Juneau

 

Good morning loyal Cruise Critics.  We awoke this morning to howling winds and a very frothy sea as we made our way toward Juneau.  However, as we made the turn up the arm toward Juneau at about 5:45, the winds began to be blocked by the mountains and now, just about two miles from the city, the breezes are slight, the skies are very sunny, with a few widely scattered clouds and temperatures comfortable in the mid to high 50s.  It looks like it is going to be a gorgeous day.

 

Yesterday in Ketchikan, we also enjoyed a spectacular weather day.  While skies were cloudy and threatening throughout the day, we managed to have an entire day ashore in Ketchikan without a drop of rain.  For the uninitiated, that is quite unusual.  This is Melissa and my 5th cruise to Alaska and the first time that part of, or every single minute of, the visit to Ketchikan didn’t have rain.  There were a few unfortunate souls that were a little behind us in their return who did get rained on while waiting to get back on the ship, but overall it was a great weather day.

 

We had an early start to our morning because we had booked an excursion that departed at 7:15AM.  The early hour meant that the Horizon Court was our only viable option for breakfast.  I have a love-hate relationship with buffets in general.  I love the bounty of options and choices, but that often means I end up with a giant plate of mis-matched food in a very strangely composed meal.  I also find that I tend to dramatically overeat at buffets. 

Yesterday, the Horizon court just after 6AM was busy, but not crowded and both lines were open.  They were offering the standard breakfast fair with some decidedly Asian options available as well.  Once again, the biggest downside to the buffet was revealed, which is passengers behaving badly.  Two incidents that bore this out, one, it is not okay to eat with your fingers from your plate while in the buffet and then continue to use the utensils to serve yourself other items.  Does this actually need to be said?  Second, Melissa was getting fried eggs and took the last one on the tray, a replacement tray was ready, in the window, just waiting on someone to bring it and since Melissa wanted two eggs, she was waiting patiently for it to arrive.  In the meantime, the lady next to her proceeded to close inside of the acceptable personal bubble, actually begin making contact with Melissa and was about to start boxing her out like Dennis Rodman fighting for a rebound, all while loudly complaining about the delay.  Are you curious how long this entire episode took?  Less than 60 seconds.  I mean come on people, Princess is going to keep the food coming, there is no need to be rude or start hip checking people to get to the food.  Having safely secured our food, we found a table and enjoyed our breakfast.  I thought the food was good, with my mini onion and mushroom quiche being the standout dish.  We also ran into The Mikado and his lovely wife enjoying their morning before heading ashore.

 

After breakfast, we gathered our things from the room and headed out to meet our tour of the Rainforest, Totems and Crab Feed. Disembarkation was smooth.  The newest cruise card scanning device is extremely fast and efficient.  I still remember the machine that you had to insert your card and how that process slowed things down.  In the latest version, the machine is not any limiting factor, rather the passengers and their readiness to show their card.  Stepping out on Deck 5, we had to negotiate about 20 aluminum steps down to a floating pontoon and then up a ramp to the quay.  At 7AM, the tide was coming to the morning low and it bottomed about around 8:30.  By the time we returned after noon, the high tide was well on its way and it had moderated the slope of the ramp as the pontoon had risen with the tide.  However, since the ship and the pontoon came up together, the stairs remained the same slope.  For those in wheelchairs, there was an additional entrance/exit with a ramp being run on Deck 4.

 

Once ashore, the scene was pretty typical of a large ship arrival in any port with tour guides looking to assemble their groups, local tour operators offering last-minute options and taxis queueing for waiting passengers.  I will say that at around 7AM, the pier area was certainly busy and there were people about, but compared to similar arrivals around the world, the scene was fairly subdued and orderly.  We found our group easily enough and were directed to a waiting bus with our driver Lee.  We were booked on the Rainforest Hike, Totems and Crab Feed tour and it materialized that only 20 of us were on the tour.  This made for a very nice experience as the bus wasn’t crowded, it was easy to reassemble for bus departures and maneuvering the group in and out of locations was quick.  Lee, out driver,  looked like he was about 12 and there were some questions as to his legal status for operating a large bus, but he assured us that he was 21 and had received all the appropriate training and certification to operate a commercial vehicle in Alaska.  In the end, he was an excellent driver and a great guide.  I tend to be pretty tough on tour guides in reviews, but Lee was top notch.  He was knowledgeable across a wide variety of questions that were posed and his driving was cautious, but efficient.

 

Our first stop was the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary which is a preserve located on the site of an old lumber mill.  The area was used for selective lumber cutting of cedar which was milled on site and a large portion of Ketchikan was built with the resulting wood.  Our group of 20 was divided into two groups of 10, each with a guide a commenced a walk through the property.  The trail was wide and in very good condition and the pace was leisurely, but this is not a good tour for people with mobility issues.  We had a chance to see lots of evidence of bears, including scat, scratches on trees and footprints in the mud that were fresh since the tide had gone out, but alas, no actual bears.  We also saw an immature Bald Eagle and plenty of salmon running in the creek.  The property also included visits to the previous saw mill, which still contains the original equipment and is now used for carving of traditional totem poles and a satellite location of the Alaska Raptor Center.  They had two birds on location, Kylie who is a 24 year old red-tailed hawk and Lucy a 5 year old Bald Eagle.  It was pretty amazing to see them as we were just a few feet away.  The last stop on the tour was of course the obligatory gift shop, but outside was a really nice totem garden with about a dozen poles.

 

From there, it was back on the bus and off to the George Inlet Lodge for a crab lunch!  The historic building is just about 15 minutes from Ketchikan and right on the water.  From the parking area, there were 79 steps down to the lodge, but they had a Polaris ATV to take folks who couldn’t make the walk down to the lodge.  We sat next to Jeff and his lovely wife from California and had a really nice conversation.  Lunch included a beverage (water, tea, lemonade, Pepsi products, Alaskan Amber or red or white wine) a small salad, all the Dungeness Crab you could eat in the allotted timeframe and cheesecake with Alaska blueberry topping.  Our hostess Jessica walked us through the finer points of breaking down and eating the Dungeness Crab and then were we off and flinging bits of shell, crab meat and some muttered profanity as we battled our way into the tasty little critters.  The crab was unbelievably fresh, sweet and moist.  So good in fact, that the drawn butter was nice, but kind of gilding on the lily.  Time ran out before I had made a complete glutton of myself, but I managed to pack away two full crabs worth of meat and left entirely satisfied.  Lee made short work of the drive back to town and we were soon at the very busy piers in Ketchikan. 

 

Melissa and I opted for a stroll around town, including a chance to see the salmon swimming their way up the creek beneath the infamous Creek Street.  We also purchased a couple bottles of water and debated at a taxidermy shop downtown the merits of obtaining a bear and/or wolf skin rug for the home.  I believe that I am safe in saying that neither is likely to grace our home in the near future as the CEO of our house made her feelings quite clear on the topic. 

 

Our last stop in Ketchikan was at Parnassus Books.  If you are looking for a book or just want to browse a great bookstore, you should stop in.  It is across the street from the Federal building, right near the top end of Creek Street, with a sign that says “Catch a Good Read Here”.  They have a really nice selection of books written by Alaskan authors, with an obvious strong focus on Alaska in both the fiction and non-fiction realms.

 

Reboarding the ship we settled in for our customary afternoon nap, but not before heading topside for a snack.  We were both a bit peckish, which is just plain wrong, but nonetheless we obtained some loaded fries with cheese and chili and some Stromboli and meatball focaccia from the Salty Dog and Slice.  The fries were made to order and amazing, the Stromboli was very good, but could have been hotter and the meatball focaccia had been good some time previous to our arrival, but had been under a heat lamp a little too long.  Of course, no such visit is complete without a swing by the soft-serve stand for a quick cone. 

 

We continued our new evening tradition of visiting the Wheelhouse Bar for a drink before dinner and were not disappointed.  Holiday Dreams was playing, the usual suspects were dancing, and the cocktails were superb.  Melissa opted for a Cable Car while I had the Speyside Cider.

 

Dinner in the dining room was once again fantastic. Our enjoyment aided by a delicious bottle of The Prisoner red blend from Napa Valley (the wine brand choice may be a reflection of my lost argument at the taxidermy shop).

 

For dinner, I started with the air dried beef and Melissa went with the grilled calamari.  Next, Melissa had the baked potato soup and I opted for Giovanni’s pasta of the day which was penne Puttanesca.  I think it is fair to say that Melissa enjoyed her soup, but had a little pasta envy….it was SOOOOOO good.  For our mains, Melissa had the clam linguini and I had the ribeye.  I have read a lot of Cruise Critic lately about the beef on Princess and have to say last night seemed to bely everything that has been said.  My steak was cooked a perfect medium rare, it as a very nice ribeye, marbled and with decent fat on the cap, but no gristle or tough bits.  I am a bit of a purist and probably would have preferred it didn’t come already sauced, but honestly it was just plain delicious.  For dessert, Melissa ordered the Rocky Road ice cream, which should surprise no one and I went with the chocolate journey, which featured coconut flavors and a really nice creamy texture.  Once again, dinner was a smashing success.

 

Overall, we are enjoying our cruise immensely! We have found the crew extremely friendly and anxious to please.  Similar to past cruises, we often find the best part about the cruise is meeting other fellow cruisers…

 

That just about wraps up this installment.  Up next, adventures in Alaska’s capital city.

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Sunday, August 18, 2019 in Juneau

Good evening fellow Cruise Critic’ers!

This is the wife, Melissa, taking over the blog post this evening to talk about our action-packed day in Juneau. Scott is currently laying in the bed moaning about how he is stuffed from eating too many King Crab legs at dinner (is there such thing) so I decided to take over the pen and share my thoughts about today.  

Currently, the Grand Princess is still docked in Juneau at 8:30 pm and I am writing this post while watching the remaining sunlight dissipate into the night. Our view from our balcony is spectacular. We have a gorgeous view of downtown Juneau and the wharf area.  A National Geographic cruise ship is parked directly across the dock from us. As I am typing, the last trams are coming down Mt. Roberts and Bald Eagles are flying overhead scouring the waters for some easy-to-grab fish. Simply put, Juneau is truly spectacular.

Our departure from Juneau will be in an hour and frankly not sure we will be up then as we both need our rest before we hike the Chilkoot Trail tomorrow in Skagway.

Today was one of those very special days you get only on a cruise. Both of us woke up this morning naturally about 5 am and after some half-hearted attempts to go back to bed, we rose out of bed about 530 am, pulled back the curtains, and truly were blinded by the sheer gorgeousness of Alaska as we sailed by islands, forests, glacial streams, as we transited into Juneau.  Winds were quite heavy initially but as we made our way inland, they started to die down.

Both of us bundled up and spent most of the early morning on our balcony scenery gazing. It helped that we brought along some binoculars as we saw some wildlife. In a move of brilliance, I did order coffee from Room Service and am not lying, when I say that within 2 minutes of hanging up the phone, we had a knock on our door delivering it! Coffee and Scenery –  the early bird really does get the worm!!

After a couple of hours, we hit the Club Class Dining Room at 7:30 read for breakfast. Both of us ordered the tasty Muesli Special (comprised of rolled oats, apples, honey, hazelnuts, shredded coconut and milk) followed by eggs, hash browns and toast!  As usual, out Club Class Dining team went out of their way to ensure we had a wonderful meal!

After breakfast, we walked back to our room, grabbed our backpacks, and then headed out into town for an unknown adventure as we had a few hours to burn before our Salmon Bake tour started at 11:15 am. However, what we failed to remember before we set out, was that today was Sunday, so after traversing through all of downtown Juneau in about 15 minutes only to find closed store after closed store (and some belligerent homeless people), we decided to change tactics and get tickets for the Mt. Roberts tram up the mountain versus walk up and down the street staring in the windows of closed jewelry shops (side note, the amount of jewelry stores is truly staggering. Do that many people buy diamonds to keep all of those places in business; the accountant in me does wonder?)

We arrived at the Mt. Roberts tram ticket station about 9:15 am. Although there were a few people in line, the line moved relatively quickly… and by 9:45 am, we were on top of the mountain! The ride up the mountain was simply gorgeous. Juneau this morning was blessed with crystal blue skies and sun, which made everything (the water, the ships, the mountains, the trees) sparkle on our way up!! In the past, we have done the Tram only to find we can’t see anything on top of the mountain due to the fog or heavy rain clouds. Today, we had unparalleled views!! We could see miles away!

We hit the top of the mountain and after taking a ton of photos, we decided to do some hiking around the top as we still had time to burn. As such, for over an hour, we hiked the Alpine Loop Hike (0.5 mile roundtrip) coupled with a hike to Father Browns Cross (0.5 miles roundtrip) that were spectacular!! We even were able to spot some mountain goats grazing on Mt. Juneau across the way with our binoculars!

This leads me to my first recommendation… if you are ever cruising Juneau and need an idea of something to do, I definitely would advise you to do some hiking on top of Mt. Roberts. It did help that we came prepared. We had on long pants, hiking boots, and jackets. In our backpacks, we had water, extra layers, knit hats, gloves and of course my husband had a first aid kit! We never planned to go hiking, but honestly getting some fresh air and activity felt amazing!!  

After hitting our 10,000 step goal, we decided that it was time to take the tram down the mountain at 11 am as it was time for us to meet at the pier for our Salmon Bake tour. There was absolutely no line on the top for the return tram, so by 11:05 am we were on the pier waiting to depart for the Gold Creek Salmon Bake.  The Gold Creek Salmon Bake is located about 15-20 minutes away from the pier out of Juneau proper closer to Mendenhall. We have done it before and always enjoy attending when we are in Juneau.

The meal and experience isn’t fancy - A re-furbished school bus picks you up on the pier and takes you 15 minutes toward Mendenhall for an outdoor Salmon Bake. The Salmon Bake is located next to a stream that has a beautiful waterfall about 125 steps down the path from the food. The meal is simple but tasty. At the “buffet stand” they serve you Caesar salad, coleslaw, baked beans with reindeer meat, cornbread, real au gratin potatoes (yes, real potatoes and real cheese), clam chowder, followed by coho (silver) salmon that is smoked over an Alderwood fire. The Salmon Bake also offers a delicious brown sugar glaze for the salmon, but I personally just like mine plain! For an extra fee, you can also buy yourself an Alaskan Amber, which we did and didn’t regret it as the beer helps balance the sweetness of the meal!

You can eat as much or as little as you want at the Salmon Bakes. There is also no time limit. Buses depart every 10-15 minutes. After enjoying a leisurely meal, we headed back on the bus into Juneau about 1:30 pm arriving back to the ship about 2 pm!!

When we arrived back to the pier at 2 pm, we arrived to great swarms of people everywhere! While we were gone, the Ovation of the Seas (a 4,900 passenger monstrosity) had docked alongside the Grand Princess, overwhelming much of the pier area. The line for the Mt. Roberts Tram now snaked out for 100-150 yards out the door and all the stores and restaurants were overflowing!

Thankful that we had started our day early, we decided to board the Grand Princess and catch a snooze before dinner!

After a few hours of shut-eye, we snuck up to the Horizon Court about 4:30 pm for a delicious scone (or two),  some clotted cream and a cuppa tea! (One of my favorite things about Princess, definitely are their scones). We did try to get a peanut butter cookie (which are my mother-in-laws favorite) but despite there being a sign that said, Peanut Butter Cookies available upon request, there was no one working behind the counter to serve them to us, which honestly was a good thing, as we were still stuffed full of salmon!

After our tea break, we mozied back to our room, and read on our balcony for a few hours while watching the people on the dock! Honestly, made for some great entertainment.

Around 6:30 pm, we headed downstairs to the Wheelhouse Bar to sip a cocktail before dinner. We decided to skip the Libby Riddles lecture tonight at 7 pm, as we had heard her previously, and the theater was quite packed by 630 (and rightfully so). After a leisurely cocktail, we then headed into the Club Class Dining Room for a wonderful dinner.

Seriously, the issue tonight with the dinner menu, was there was way too many fantastic options… On offer were king crab legs, cioppino, surf and turf, crab and artichoke dip, lobster bisque, and many others.  For Club Class, Giovanni was serving up homemade Caesar Salad, including with anchovies if requested!

Unfortunately, after gorging ourselves with Salmon earlier in the day, dinner tonight was a light-fare for us. We decided for an appetizer, to split one order of the Caesar Salad and Crab and Artichoke Dip. Not sure when Scott ordered the salad that he intended to share it, but  a sign of a good husband is they know when to keep their hands out of the way of my fork!! So share we did… Our waiter also remembered that we love the bread sticks, so they brought us an entire basket of the bread sticks just for our enjoyment.

For dinner, both of us got the King Crab legs, which were superb! Most of the hardwork had already been done on cracking them, so all we had to do was delicately pick out the delicious crab meat and dip it into butter!  The crab was cooked to perfection and fresh, so it made for some tasty eating.

For dessert, we both got coffee. Scott got the burned rhubarb napoleon with nectarine ice cream while I had the apple and walnut spring roles. Both were delicious, but I definitely noticed Scott stopped short of licking the plate when there was no more napoleon left for him to devour!

Pleasantly stuffed, we headed out of the dining room… briefly listened to the musicians play in the piazza midship before heading upstairs to type this post!

Tomorrow we arrive in Skagway for another fun day of hiking!! Can’t wait!

Finally, a few of you have asked us what we recommend to pack for an Alaskan Cruise, so thought I would share a few things I find essential:

1)      Pump Hand Soap for your stateroom bathroom. Using the provided bar soap to wash your paws becomes tedious after awhile. Pack a $2 bottle of pump handsoap… it’s worth it!

2)      Pack light-weight travel blankets that you can use to snuggle up in as you sit on the balcony or read on your bed. The duvet Princess gives you is nice, but it is very warm. We purchased two 50 inch x 60 inch polyester blankets from Amazon Basics before we departed. They pack down to nothing if you use the packable Ziploc bags… but having a blanket to snuggle in, is so very nice!

3)      Metal magnet clips. You can put the clips on the walls (as the walls are magnetic) to hold up your daily Patters and any paperwork you may want to access.  Also, great for holding up notes and reminders.

4)      Small portable hair-dryer. I have the worlds thickest hair and the wall hairdryers the cruise lines offer just don’t cut it for me. I believe most cruise lines now have eliminated their restrictions on home hair-dryers, but I still bring my travel one with me. It is a 1,200 Watt Conair Mini-Pro hair dryer that is a champ and has my hair dried in a few short minutes.

5)      Sturdy walking shoes / pants especially if you plan to do any hiking while in Alaska. Tennis shoes are great, but as it can rain a lot when you’re in Ketchican or get fairly cold in Skagway, my LL Bean leather hiking  style tennis shoes are a tried and true friend!! Not only do they keep your feet warm and dry, but they also keep me upright so I don’t slip!

6)      Binoculars!!

7)      A small fan (about the size of your hand) for your room. Not only does it keep the air circulating in the room but it does provide some nice background noise!

😎      A non-surge protected power strip. Princess now gives you plenty of usb outlets and regular power outlets; however, being able to charge all of your equipment in one place, helps ensure it doesn’t get left behind!

 

That is it for tonight folks!! Can’t wait to tell you all about Skagway.

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4 hours ago, cougaraz said:

Sunday August 18th, In Port Juneau

 

 

 

Good morning loyal Cruise Critics.  We awoke this morning to howling winds and a very frothy sea as we made our way toward Juneau.  However, as we made the turn up the arm toward Juneau at about 5:45, the winds began to be blocked by the mountains and now, just about two miles from the city, the breezes are slight, the skies are very sunny, with a few widely scattered clouds and temperatures comfortable in the mid to high 50s.  It looks like it is going to be a gorgeous day.

 

 

 

Yesterday in Ketchikan, we also enjoyed a spectacular weather day.  While skies were cloudy and threatening throughout the day, we managed to have an entire day ashore in Ketchikan without a drop of rain.  For the uninitiated, that is quite unusual.  This is Melissa and my 5th cruise to Alaska and the first time that part of, or every single minute of, the visit to Ketchikan didn’t have rain.  There were a few unfortunate souls that were a little behind us in their return who did get rained on while waiting to get back on the ship, but overall it was a great weather day.

 

 

 

We had an early start to our morning because we had booked an excursion that departed at 7:15AM.  The early hour meant that the Horizon Court was our only viable option for breakfast.  I have a love-hate relationship with buffets in general.  I love the bounty of options and choices, but that often means I end up with a giant plate of mis-matched food in a very strangely composed meal.  I also find that I tend to dramatically overeat at buffets. 

 

Yesterday, the Horizon court just after 6AM was busy, but not crowded and both lines were open.  They were offering the standard breakfast fair with some decidedly Asian options available as well.  Once again, the biggest downside to the buffet was revealed, which is passengers behaving badly.  Two incidents that bore this out, one, it is not okay to eat with your fingers from your plate while in the buffet and then continue to use the utensils to serve yourself other items.  Does this actually need to be said?  Second, Melissa was getting fried eggs and took the last one on the tray, a replacement tray was ready, in the window, just waiting on someone to bring it and since Melissa wanted two eggs, she was waiting patiently for it to arrive.  In the meantime, the lady next to her proceeded to close inside of the acceptable personal bubble, actually begin making contact with Melissa and was about to start boxing her out like Dennis Rodman fighting for a rebound, all while loudly complaining about the delay.  Are you curious how long this entire episode took?  Less than 60 seconds.  I mean come on people, Princess is going to keep the food coming, there is no need to be rude or start hip checking people to get to the food.  Having safely secured our food, we found a table and enjoyed our breakfast.  I thought the food was good, with my mini onion and mushroom quiche being the standout dish.  We also ran into The Mikado and his lovely wife enjoying their morning before heading ashore.

 

 

 

After breakfast, we gathered our things from the room and headed out to meet our tour of the Rainforest, Totems and Crab Feed. Disembarkation was smooth.  The newest cruise card scanning device is extremely fast and efficient.  I still remember the machine that you had to insert your card and how that process slowed things down.  In the latest version, the machine is not any limiting factor, rather the passengers and their readiness to show their card.  Stepping out on Deck 5, we had to negotiate about 20 aluminum steps down to a floating pontoon and then up a ramp to the quay.  At 7AM, the tide was coming to the morning low and it bottomed about around 8:30.  By the time we returned after noon, the high tide was well on its way and it had moderated the slope of the ramp as the pontoon had risen with the tide.  However, since the ship and the pontoon came up together, the stairs remained the same slope.  For those in wheelchairs, there was an additional entrance/exit with a ramp being run on Deck 4.

 

 

 

Once ashore, the scene was pretty typical of a large ship arrival in any port with tour guides looking to assemble their groups, local tour operators offering last-minute options and taxis queueing for waiting passengers.  I will say that at around 7AM, the pier area was certainly busy and there were people about, but compared to similar arrivals around the world, the scene was fairly subdued and orderly.  We found our group easily enough and were directed to a waiting bus with our driver Lee.  We were booked on the Rainforest Hike, Totems and Crab Feed tour and it materialized that only 20 of us were on the tour.  This made for a very nice experience as the bus wasn’t crowded, it was easy to reassemble for bus departures and maneuvering the group in and out of locations was quick.  Lee, out driver,  looked like he was about 12 and there were some questions as to his legal status for operating a large bus, but he assured us that he was 21 and had received all the appropriate training and certification to operate a commercial vehicle in Alaska.  In the end, he was an excellent driver and a great guide.  I tend to be pretty tough on tour guides in reviews, but Lee was top notch.  He was knowledgeable across a wide variety of questions that were posed and his driving was cautious, but efficient.

 

 

 

Our first stop was the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary which is a preserve located on the site of an old lumber mill.  The area was used for selective lumber cutting of cedar which was milled on site and a large portion of Ketchikan was built with the resulting wood.  Our group of 20 was divided into two groups of 10, each with a guide a commenced a walk through the property.  The trail was wide and in very good condition and the pace was leisurely, but this is not a good tour for people with mobility issues.  We had a chance to see lots of evidence of bears, including scat, scratches on trees and footprints in the mud that were fresh since the tide had gone out, but alas, no actual bears.  We also saw an immature Bald Eagle and plenty of salmon running in the creek.  The property also included visits to the previous saw mill, which still contains the original equipment and is now used for carving of traditional totem poles and a satellite location of the Alaska Raptor Center.  They had two birds on location, Kylie who is a 24 year old red-tailed hawk and Lucy a 5 year old Bald Eagle.  It was pretty amazing to see them as we were just a few feet away.  The last stop on the tour was of course the obligatory gift shop, but outside was a really nice totem garden with about a dozen poles.

 

 

 

From there, it was back on the bus and off to the George Inlet Lodge for a crab lunch!  The historic building is just about 15 minutes from Ketchikan and right on the water.  From the parking area, there were 79 steps down to the lodge, but they had a Polaris ATV to take folks who couldn’t make the walk down to the lodge.  We sat next to Jeff and his lovely wife from California and had a really nice conversation.  Lunch included a beverage (water, tea, lemonade, Pepsi products, Alaskan Amber or red or white wine) a small salad, all the Dungeness Crab you could eat in the allotted timeframe and cheesecake with Alaska blueberry topping.  Our hostess Jessica walked us through the finer points of breaking down and eating the Dungeness Crab and then were we off and flinging bits of shell, crab meat and some muttered profanity as we battled our way into the tasty little critters.  The crab was unbelievably fresh, sweet and moist.  So good in fact, that the drawn butter was nice, but kind of gilding on the lily.  Time ran out before I had made a complete glutton of myself, but I managed to pack away two full crabs worth of meat and left entirely satisfied.  Lee made short work of the drive back to town and we were soon at the very busy piers in Ketchikan. 

 

 

 

Melissa and I opted for a stroll around town, including a chance to see the salmon swimming their way up the creek beneath the infamous Creek Street.  We also purchased a couple bottles of water and debated at a taxidermy shop downtown the merits of obtaining a bear and/or wolf skin rug for the home.  I believe that I am safe in saying that neither is likely to grace our home in the near future as the CEO of our house made her feelings quite clear on the topic. 

 

 

 

Our last stop in Ketchikan was at Parnassus Books.  If you are looking for a book or just want to browse a great bookstore, you should stop in.  It is across the street from the Federal building, right near the top end of Creek Street, with a sign that says “Catch a Good Read Here”.  They have a really nice selection of books written by Alaskan authors, with an obvious strong focus on Alaska in both the fiction and non-fiction realms.

 

 

 

Reboarding the ship we settled in for our customary afternoon nap, but not before heading topside for a snack.  We were both a bit peckish, which is just plain wrong, but nonetheless we obtained some loaded fries with cheese and chili and some Stromboli and meatball focaccia from the Salty Dog and Slice.  The fries were made to order and amazing, the Stromboli was very good, but could have been hotter and the meatball focaccia had been good some time previous to our arrival, but had been under a heat lamp a little too long.  Of course, no such visit is complete without a swing by the soft-serve stand for a quick cone. 

 

 

 

We continued our new evening tradition of visiting the Wheelhouse Bar for a drink before dinner and were not disappointed.  Holiday Dreams was playing, the usual suspects were dancing, and the cocktails were superb.  Melissa opted for a Cable Car while I had the Speyside Cider.

 

 

 

Dinner in the dining room was once again fantastic. Our enjoyment aided by a delicious bottle of The Prisoner red blend from Napa Valley (the wine brand choice may be a reflection of my lost argument at the taxidermy shop).

 

 

 

For dinner, I started with the air dried beef and Melissa went with the grilled calamari.  Next, Melissa had the baked potato soup and I opted for Giovanni’s pasta of the day which was penne Puttanesca.  I think it is fair to say that Melissa enjoyed her soup, but had a little pasta envy….it was SOOOOOO good.  For our mains, Melissa had the clam linguini and I had the ribeye.  I have read a lot of Cruise Critic lately about the beef on Princess and have to say last night seemed to bely everything that has been said.  My steak was cooked a perfect medium rare, it as a very nice ribeye, marbled and with decent fat on the cap, but no gristle or tough bits.  I am a bit of a purist and probably would have preferred it didn’t come already sauced, but honestly it was just plain delicious.  For dessert, Melissa ordered the Rocky Road ice cream, which should surprise no one and I went with the chocolate journey, which featured coconut flavors and a really nice creamy texture.  Once again, dinner was a smashing success.

 

 

 

Overall, we are enjoying our cruise immensely! We have found the crew extremely friendly and anxious to please.  Similar to past cruises, we often find the best part about the cruise is meeting other fellow cruisers…

 

 

 

That just about wraps up this installment.  Up next, adventures in Alaska’s capital city.

 

Excellent read, thank you.

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6 hours ago, cougaraz said:

Sunday, August 18, 2019 in Juneau

 

Good evening fellow Cruise Critic’ers!

 

This is the wife, Melissa, taking over the blog post this evening to talk about our action-packed day in Juneau. Scott is currently laying in the bed moaning about how he is stuffed from eating too many King Crab legs at dinner (is there such thing) so I decided to take over the pen and share my thoughts about today.  

 

Currently, the Grand Princess is still docked in Juneau at 8:30 pm and I am writing this post while watching the remaining sunlight dissipate into the night. Our view from our balcony is spectacular. We have a gorgeous view of downtown Juneau and the wharf area.  A National Geographic cruise ship is parked directly across the dock from us. As I am typing, the last trams are coming down Mt. Roberts and Bald Eagles are flying overhead scouring the waters for some easy-to-grab fish. Simply put, Juneau is truly spectacular.

 

Our departure from Juneau will be in an hour and frankly not sure we will be up then as we both need our rest before we hike the Chilkoot Trail tomorrow in Skagway.

 

Today was one of those very special days you get only on a cruise. Both of us woke up this morning naturally about 5 am and after some half-hearted attempts to go back to bed, we rose out of bed about 530 am, pulled back the curtains, and truly were blinded by the sheer gorgeousness of Alaska as we sailed by islands, forests, glacial streams, as we transited into Juneau.  Winds were quite heavy initially but as we made our way inland, they started to die down.

 

Both of us bundled up and spent most of the early morning on our balcony scenery gazing. It helped that we brought along some binoculars as we saw some wildlife. In a move of brilliance, I did order coffee from Room Service and am not lying, when I say that within 2 minutes of hanging up the phone, we had a knock on our door delivering it! Coffee and Scenery –  the early bird really does get the worm!!

 

After a couple of hours, we hit the Club Class Dining Room at 7:30 read for breakfast. Both of us ordered the tasty Muesli Special (comprised of rolled oats, apples, honey, hazelnuts, shredded coconut and milk) followed by eggs, hash browns and toast!  As usual, out Club Class Dining team went out of their way to ensure we had a wonderful meal!

 

After breakfast, we walked back to our room, grabbed our backpacks, and then headed out into town for an unknown adventure as we had a few hours to burn before our Salmon Bake tour started at 11:15 am. However, what we failed to remember before we set out, was that today was Sunday, so after traversing through all of downtown Juneau in about 15 minutes only to find closed store after closed store (and some belligerent homeless people), we decided to change tactics and get tickets for the Mt. Roberts tram up the mountain versus walk up and down the street staring in the windows of closed jewelry shops (side note, the amount of jewelry stores is truly staggering. Do that many people buy diamonds to keep all of those places in business; the accountant in me does wonder?)

 

We arrived at the Mt. Roberts tram ticket station about 9:15 am. Although there were a few people in line, the line moved relatively quickly… and by 9:45 am, we were on top of the mountain! The ride up the mountain was simply gorgeous. Juneau this morning was blessed with crystal blue skies and sun, which made everything (the water, the ships, the mountains, the trees) sparkle on our way up!! In the past, we have done the Tram only to find we can’t see anything on top of the mountain due to the fog or heavy rain clouds. Today, we had unparalleled views!! We could see miles away!

 

We hit the top of the mountain and after taking a ton of photos, we decided to do some hiking around the top as we still had time to burn. As such, for over an hour, we hiked the Alpine Loop Hike (0.5 mile roundtrip) coupled with a hike to Father Browns Cross (0.5 miles roundtrip) that were spectacular!! We even were able to spot some mountain goats grazing on Mt. Juneau across the way with our binoculars!

 

This leads me to my first recommendation… if you are ever cruising Juneau and need an idea of something to do, I definitely would advise you to do some hiking on top of Mt. Roberts. It did help that we came prepared. We had on long pants, hiking boots, and jackets. In our backpacks, we had water, extra layers, knit hats, gloves and of course my husband had a first aid kit! We never planned to go hiking, but honestly getting some fresh air and activity felt amazing!!  

 

After hitting our 10,000 step goal, we decided that it was time to take the tram down the mountain at 11 am as it was time for us to meet at the pier for our Salmon Bake tour. There was absolutely no line on the top for the return tram, so by 11:05 am we were on the pier waiting to depart for the Gold Creek Salmon Bake.  The Gold Creek Salmon Bake is located about 15-20 minutes away from the pier out of Juneau proper closer to Mendenhall. We have done it before and always enjoy attending when we are in Juneau.

 

The meal and experience isn’t fancy - A re-furbished school bus picks you up on the pier and takes you 15 minutes toward Mendenhall for an outdoor Salmon Bake. The Salmon Bake is located next to a stream that has a beautiful waterfall about 125 steps down the path from the food. The meal is simple but tasty. At the “buffet stand” they serve you Caesar salad, coleslaw, baked beans with reindeer meat, cornbread, real au gratin potatoes (yes, real potatoes and real cheese), clam chowder, followed by coho (silver) salmon that is smoked over an Alderwood fire. The Salmon Bake also offers a delicious brown sugar glaze for the salmon, but I personally just like mine plain! For an extra fee, you can also buy yourself an Alaskan Amber, which we did and didn’t regret it as the beer helps balance the sweetness of the meal!

 

You can eat as much or as little as you want at the Salmon Bakes. There is also no time limit. Buses depart every 10-15 minutes. After enjoying a leisurely meal, we headed back on the bus into Juneau about 1:30 pm arriving back to the ship about 2 pm!!

 

When we arrived back to the pier at 2 pm, we arrived to great swarms of people everywhere! While we were gone, the Ovation of the Seas (a 4,900 passenger monstrosity) had docked alongside the Grand Princess, overwhelming much of the pier area. The line for the Mt. Roberts Tram now snaked out for 100-150 yards out the door and all the stores and restaurants were overflowing!

 

Thankful that we had started our day early, we decided to board the Grand Princess and catch a snooze before dinner!

 

After a few hours of shut-eye, we snuck up to the Horizon Court about 4:30 pm for a delicious scone (or two),  some clotted cream and a cuppa tea! (One of my favorite things about Princess, definitely are their scones). We did try to get a peanut butter cookie (which are my mother-in-laws favorite) but despite there being a sign that said, Peanut Butter Cookies available upon request, there was no one working behind the counter to serve them to us, which honestly was a good thing, as we were still stuffed full of salmon!

 

After our tea break, we mozied back to our room, and read on our balcony for a few hours while watching the people on the dock! Honestly, made for some great entertainment.

 

Around 6:30 pm, we headed downstairs to the Wheelhouse Bar to sip a cocktail before dinner. We decided to skip the Libby Riddles lecture tonight at 7 pm, as we had heard her previously, and the theater was quite packed by 630 (and rightfully so). After a leisurely cocktail, we then headed into the Club Class Dining Room for a wonderful dinner.

 

Seriously, the issue tonight with the dinner menu, was there was way too many fantastic options… On offer were king crab legs, cioppino, surf and turf, crab and artichoke dip, lobster bisque, and many others.  For Club Class, Giovanni was serving up homemade Caesar Salad, including with anchovies if requested!

 

Unfortunately, after gorging ourselves with Salmon earlier in the day, dinner tonight was a light-fare for us. We decided for an appetizer, to split one order of the Caesar Salad and Crab and Artichoke Dip. Not sure when Scott ordered the salad that he intended to share it, but  a sign of a good husband is they know when to keep their hands out of the way of my fork!! So share we did… Our waiter also remembered that we love the bread sticks, so they brought us an entire basket of the bread sticks just for our enjoyment.

 

For dinner, both of us got the King Crab legs, which were superb! Most of the hardwork had already been done on cracking them, so all we had to do was delicately pick out the delicious crab meat and dip it into butter!  The crab was cooked to perfection and fresh, so it made for some tasty eating.

 

For dessert, we both got coffee. Scott got the burned rhubarb napoleon with nectarine ice cream while I had the apple and walnut spring roles. Both were delicious, but I definitely noticed Scott stopped short of licking the plate when there was no more napoleon left for him to devour!

 

Pleasantly stuffed, we headed out of the dining room… briefly listened to the musicians play in the piazza midship before heading upstairs to type this post!

 

Tomorrow we arrive in Skagway for another fun day of hiking!! Can’t wait!

 

Finally, a few of you have asked us what we recommend to pack for an Alaskan Cruise, so thought I would share a few things I find essential:

 

1)      Pump Hand Soap for your stateroom bathroom. Using the provided bar soap to wash your paws becomes tedious after awhile. Pack a $2 bottle of pump handsoap… it’s worth it!

 

2)      Pack light-weight travel blankets that you can use to snuggle up in as you sit on the balcony or read on your bed. The duvet Princess gives you is nice, but it is very warm. We purchased two 50 inch x 60 inch polyester blankets from Amazon Basics before we departed. They pack down to nothing if you use the packable Ziploc bags… but having a blanket to snuggle in, is so very nice!

 

3)      Metal magnet clips. You can put the clips on the walls (as the walls are magnetic) to hold up your daily Patters and any paperwork you may want to access.  Also, great for holding up notes and reminders.

 

4)      Small portable hair-dryer. I have the worlds thickest hair and the wall hairdryers the cruise lines offer just don’t cut it for me. I believe most cruise lines now have eliminated their restrictions on home hair-dryers, but I still bring my travel one with me. It is a 1,200 Watt Conair Mini-Pro hair dryer that is a champ and has my hair dried in a few short minutes.

 

5)      Sturdy walking shoes / pants especially if you plan to do any hiking while in Alaska. Tennis shoes are great, but as it can rain a lot when you’re in Ketchican or get fairly cold in Skagway, my LL Bean leather hiking  style tennis shoes are a tried and true friend!! Not only do they keep your feet warm and dry, but they also keep me upright so I don’t slip!

 

6)      Binoculars!!

 

7)      A small fan (about the size of your hand) for your room. Not only does it keep the air circulating in the room but it does provide some nice background noise!

 

😎      A non-surge protected power strip. Princess now gives you plenty of usb outlets and regular power outlets; however, being able to charge all of your equipment in one place, helps ensure it doesn’t get left behind!

 

 

 

That is it for tonight folks!! Can’t wait to tell you all about Skagway.

 

Scott's reviews are fantastic and this one was even better.

We have never been to Alaska but your reviews bring it to life.

Graham

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Thanks for such detailed posts Scott and Melissa!!  We are on the Aug 24 sailing and so looking forward to the trip.  Mary / live2skide

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