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cougaraz

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

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Hey Scott and Melissa......loving your “live” reviews......wish I were along!

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I SO appreciate this thread. Trying to decide how to reciprocate. You are amazing. My cruise is 9/3. I’ll follow any direction you advise. 

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Tuesday, August 20, at Sea in Tracey Arm

 

Hello loyal readers and welcome back!  We continue to have absolutely stunning weather and our approach into Tracey Arm this morning was under mostly clear skies with sunshine.  Temperatures were cool during the approaching and dropped as we neared the glaciers into to low 40s or high 30s.  Breezes were very light and the seas were calm as a bathtub.

 

Yesterday we had a fantastic day in Skagway and were once again the beneficiaries of gorgeous weather.  We haven’t seen so much as a drop of rain the entire trip and have had sunshine at least part of every day.  Truth be told, the weather has been so good I am wondering if we are going to arrive in Victoria or San Francisco to find Biblical floods.

 

Grand Princess made a very smooth approach to the Broadway Dock and we were safely alongside very early in the morning.  We headed downstairs to the Da Vinci Dining Room and a hearty breakfast to support our planned day of hiking.   We both opted for fried eggs, over medium and hash-browns and some toast.  Of course, it was accompanied by some juice, a never ending cup of coffee and ice water.  We were discussing just how tasty the hash-browns are and I remarked that it is because they deep fried; how could they not be delicious?  All in, we love breakfast in the dining room, the food is very good, the wait staff are very attentive and it is such a relaxing way to start the day.

 

We were in no rush to get ashore as our tour meeting time was at 9:15.  We grabbed our bags, coats and hats and headed out to the pier.  As the day was clear and no rain was in the forecast, the paint team was hard at work.  It was obvious they had been making good progress since the start of the trip and I am certain that the lovely weather we have been enjoying has given the crew a great opportunity to get some topside preservation done.  I imagine the Alaska cruising season is tough, with lots of rain and lots of sea days complicating the process.  We found our tour group easily enough at the end of the pier.  We were booked on the Chilkoot Trail hike and river float.  This is the third time we have done this excursion and have now done it with two different companies.  On this trip we were with Chilkat Guides, on a previous journey we have been with Skagway Float Tours.  So, let’s talk about the big negative of the trip right up front, our guide Noah had bad B.O., I mean legit gross smell wafting over our entire trip.  I get it, the dude is kind of a granola, crunchy young guy with the long hair and the scraggly beard, but when you are in a customer service job, you need to be good friends with the soap, the shampoo and the deodorant.  To put this in perspective, had he fallen into the Taiya River and been screaming for a life jacket, I think the raft participants would have thrown a bar of Irish Spring and set some conditions for his return.

 

Nonetheless, we headed off on our trip.  The excursion includes a van ride out of town and over to the site of the former town of Dyea.  Early in the gold rush, before the White Pass and Yukon railroad was finished, miners also went to Dyea and then hiked the Chilkoot trail to reach in the Klondike River system.  The trail to the Chilkoot Pass is shorter than the one from Skagway to the White Pass, but the trail is steeper.  In addition, the Taiya River forms a massive tidal estuary near the former town of Dyea, meaning there was no deep water port and a massive pier was required for ships to berth there.  Today, there is literally nothing left of Dyea.  However, as were driving, we saw the first of at least a dozen bald eagles out on the tidal mud flats.  It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Chilkoot trail head with an outhouse that represented the last toilet option other than the facili“trees” for the rest of the trip.  The trail starts just 25 yards from the parking area and goes vertical almost immediately.  Unfortunately, one member of our group was not up to the task, which became apparent in the first few yards.  No shame on her, but perhaps an excursion marked “Strenuous” in more than one place was not the best choice for someone with mobility challenges.  To be fair, I think our guide could have done a quick sanity check and asked everyone about their comfort of climbing steps from the bottom of the ship to the top for 20 minutes straight over broken ground before we left the parking lot.  Still, the company adapted quickly, arranged for the participant and her companion to be driven to our raft entry point and we were soon on our way in a smaller group. 

 

On a dry, sunny, summer day carrying a 15 pound backpack and wrapped in the finest 5.11 and LL Bean gear that money can buy, the start of the Chilkoot Trail, is quite daunting.  The route is steep and while the trail gets lots of foot traffic and is well maintained, the ground is still uneven, broken by tree roots and a challenging non-technical hike.  When one imagines the trail muddy, icy or covered in snow being traversed by miners with heavy loads and dressed in the apparel of the late 19th Century today’s journey feels pretty lazy.  All the more so, because we didn’t even approach the truly challenging part of the trail, nor did we have to make the trip dozens of times.  We were up and down over a large high point called Saintly Hill and mostly climbed for about 75 minutes before reaching level ground and the last 30-40 minutes of hiking were over level ground in the river valley.  Temperatures were mild and a t-shirt and light weight pull-over were more than warm enough.  Upon reaching the river, we donned life jackets and rubber boots to board a raft and float down the river.

 

 I say float because there are no rapids and the 30 minutes to the put out point is a very gentle float.  The river is very low because it is getting so late in the season, just a few weeks ago, it was running 2-3 feet higher through most of the area we were in.  In fact, we were rubbing the bottom several times and the guide’s oars were frequently hitting rocks.  The river is mostly glacial melt, so it is very chalky and visibility is measured in inches.  During our float, we saw several Bald Eagles, some sand pipers, either an otter or a member of the weasel family (he didn’t stick around very long) and a harbor seal.  We landed on a rocky beach and were met by support team who had cold water, hot water (with tea and cocoa packets) and chocolate chip cookies for us.  I mentioned we had done this with another company previously and they take out at the same spot.  There snacks also included cheese and crackers and salmon spread.  You may not always have a choice, but if you do, I recommend Skagway Float Tours.  From the take out point, it was about 30 minutes back to town.  Overall, this was a good excursion and we had a good time, but the guides odor issues definitely put a damper on things!

 

On the drive back, we opted to be dropped off in town with the intention of visiting the Skagway Brewing Company for some loaded tots and a pint of Spruce Tip Ale.  When we were in Skagway five years ago the brewing company was fairly new and they would give you a pint for a baggie of freshly picked spruce tips.  It was a very local feeling place that seemed like the brewery at the end of the world.  That previous location is now the local Mexican restaurant and the Skagway Brewing Company has moved into a new two story location on 4th Avenue just off of Broadway.  We arrived to find it overwhelmed with people (not terribly surprising since there were 10,000 cruise ship passengers in town). However, the general suburban feel and “hostess stand at the front” no longer resembled the last brewery before the wilderness begins. Overall, it feels pretty similar to a lot of the breweries elsewhere in the world with a polished upscale vibe.  I am happy for the success of their business and still think they brew good beer, but we just weren’t interested in waiting a long time for a table or the crushing crowds of the bar, so we wandered on back to the ship and headed to Alfredo’s Pizzeria for lunch.

 

We were a little delayed in getting back onboard because they were moving the gangways around to account for the changing tides.  Honestly, we waited less than 10 minutes and I was impressed that the Staff Captain himself was out and supervising the movement and the preservation efforts.  There is an overarching theme on the Grand Princess right now of obvious involved and engaged leadership which clearly manifests itself in excellent customer service, a very well-maintained ship and food that is above the fleet average.  We found Alfredo’s to have plenty of open tables and it was just a few minutes before one oven fresh pepperoni pizza and an accompanying anchovy, olive and caper pizza were on our table and disappearing fast.  The crust was delicious, the toppings were decadent and we all but inhaled it all!  After some discussion over where exactly we would put the new quilt we were certain to buy if we returned to visit the quilt shop in town, we decided to seek a nap instead. 

 

Shockingly, we returned to our room to find someone else, with their shoes on sleeping in our bed!!  I was so frightened when I entered the room, I told Melissa to stay in the hallway! After some investigation and an elevated heart rate, we discovered that our room steward Jimmy was pranking us.  He had taken the decorative pillows and arranged them under one of the throw blankets we had brought from home, along with a pair of my shoes, a jacket and one of my hats to make it look like someone was asleep.  We had a moment of terror and then a good laugh.  When we saw him later, we thanked him and had another good laugh.  It isn’t something he had to do, probably isn’t even in his job description, but he went the extra mile to make us laugh!

 

What happened next was somewhere between a coma and a nap!  We both crashed out hard and it felt great!  When we woke up to our alarm, there was no hesitation because we were off to the Piazza to meet some new four-legged friends.  Iditarod dog musher Ryan Reddington was onboard with four of his newest puppies.  The little ones were just six weeks old.  Ryan was onboard too and was signing autographs and you could donate to his Iditarod campaign efforts.  We have friends whose kids mush and it is not an easy or inexpensive endeavor.  There was a long line, but it moved quickly and after a quick rub of hand sanitizer, we were on the floor for some play time with Nike.  Nike was a pretty active puppy and gave us a few good sniffs and a couple playful bites, but what he really wanted to do was get away from the people and get back to playing with his siblings.  When our time expired, we got up and moved to the staircase to look down on the Piazza.  By then, Nike was the only one of the four who was not well on the way to dream land.  Three of the four little guys had just met a lot of new friends and were looking to catch some snoozes, big crowd or not. 

 

We headed back to the room for a shower and change before we were off to the Wheelhouse Bar for our customary pre-dinner drink.  I opted for a Dark&Stormy which always reminds me of the time we have spent living on the New England coast and Melissa went for a virgin Piña Colada.  My late father loved a virgin Piña Colada in the Wheelhouse Bar, he never really cared too much for the alcohol, and he loved cruising to Alaska.  Melissa said it was a very Jack moment to watch the sunset in Skagway with a frozen drink in hand.  The usual jazz band wasn’t bumping last night, but there was guitarist and he was okay.  His music is pretty mellow, maybe a little too mellow, but then again, I was listening to live music just steps from where I eat, sleep and play with puppies, so no complaints from me.

 

We had a different waiter than we have had on previous visits to the dining room.  His name was Alfred and he was very efficient and friendly.  Our late lunch at Alfredo’s hadn’t left us starving at dinner, so we did a little sharing of appetizers, one of the goat cheese soufflé (which I am pretty sure I could crush half a dozen of with a big basket of crusty bread and a nice bottle of Riesling) and one of the quail and venison terrines, both of which were totally delectable.  I also had a portion of the potato gnocchi which were served in a very tasty and tangy tomato sauce.  Following the intermezzo of sorbet (which left my palate sparkling clean) Melissa had an entrée portion of the fettuccine Alfredo and I had the seafood stuffed trout.  To be frank, Alfred gave me the raised eyebrow and offered to bring me something different if I didn’t like the trout when I ordered it, but his fears were unwarranted, I was a member of the clean plate club last night.  The trout itself was pink fleshed and delicate, the stuffing was mild and the very bland sounding barley pilaf was in fact delicious.  For dessert, Melissa went with the classic Crème Brulee and I had Giovanni’s freshly prepared Cherries Jubilee with vanilla ice cream.  Neither one survived contact with the spoon and were rapidly enjoyed. We both also enjoyed the “Mignardises” Alfred brought us with our coffee, the best being the chocolate rice krispy treat balls that tasted like Grandma’s homemade fudge.

 

After dinner, we walked through the Piazza to see Stanley (the loveable Princess Bear) dancing with the Grand Princess Dancers. The entertainment was quite fun and engaging.  We also enjoyed listening to the fantastic musicians play in the Piazza.  Finally, although we did not go in, we did enjoy watching hundreds (okay maybe a lot less) of women stuff themselves into the Effy Store to participate in their pink champagne party…  Thankfully, Melissa is quite claustrophobic in high-pressured store sales environments so she decided to not attend!

 

That just about wrapped up our day in Skagway and we were ready for an early morning journey through Tracey Arm.

 

Before we go though, let us revisit another installment of passenger’s behaving badly!  Our first example involves the restrictions on what you can and cannot take ashore.  Every morning before passengers disembark, SEVERAL, announcements are made that you cannot carry food, produce, coffee or agricultural products ashore.  In case you miss the announcement, the staff is nice enough to put the same reminder in the Patter.  It isn’t Princess policy, it is USDA policy and it certainly isn’t the fault of the security guard who tells you that you can’t take your coffee with you, so you don’t need to get angry with him and you certainly don’t need to decide that the appropriate receptacle for your about to be unfinished coffee is the kiosk where he is working despite him directing you to the nearest trash can.  Speaking of appropriate receptacles, the elevator is not a good choice for disposing of your half-eaten ice cream. 

 

And when you decide to get irate with the barista because they won’t serve your latte in a paper cup in Tracey Arm (in accordance with policy) perhaps you should take note of the many people who decide that the entire ship is their trash can. Based off our observation walking on the Promenade, people will deposit any and everything wherever they happen to be standing at the precise moment they decide they no longer require that service item.  Given the amount of plastic mugs on top of cabinets, stashed in angle irons, and just thrown on the deck where they can roll into the sea, it is no wonder they don’t allow paper cups during the cruising in Tracey Arm.  Guess what we discovered today?  When you behave like an adult and take your used service items to literally any of the bars or approach any of the crew members on the ship, they will take them with a smile and ensure they are properly taken care of.  That’s all for now folks, thanks to the 99% of you doing it right, saying please and thank you, sharing a smile and making the 1% who do behave badly look terrible.  We have found that most passengers do it right and are great people, but there are some people who just don’t seem to have any manners.

 

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On our cruise July 25th this year to Alaska on the Grand ....our room steward (suite) said he could not refresh the bed sheets on the day we visited the glaciers ...first time I ever heard that one......he changed the bed linen only once in 10 days ....we are on the Sept. 3rd 2019 cruise to Alaska on the Grand ...same suite, waiting to see if we have the same room steward. Not sure what I should think.....We also love Club class and only use it for diner , as we do room service in the morning. Great staff . 

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12 hours ago, cougaraz said:

Tuesday, August 20, at Sea in Tracey Arm

 

 

  So, let’s talk about the big negative of the trip right up front, our guide Noah had bad B.O., I mean legit gross smell wafting over our entire trip.  I get it, the dude is kind of a granola, crunchy young guy with the long hair and the scraggly beard, but when you are in a customer service job, you need to be good friends with the soap, the shampoo and the deodorant.  To put this in perspective, had he fallen into the Taiya River and been screaming for a life jacket, I think the raft participants would have thrown a bar of Irish Spring and set some conditions for his return.

Oh my goodness you had me rolling with the comment about the Irish Spring.  You had a "real" mountain man running your trip.  I do hope that you filled in a report for Princess. They convey the comments back to the tour operator. 

I really enjoy your detailed trip reviews. You have such a positive spin on things.  You have turned your review into a great travel journal; and it has been fun to read.

I have to agree, there is that terrible 1% who feel entitled to make a mess and think nothing of others having to encounter it until the crew comes along.  I've been on Princess a "couple of times" and always appreciate those deck hands and attendants who tidy the lobbies and elevators etc.   Your cabin steward sounds like he enjoys his job!  

My sister is a "local beer" lover and I will make sure she knows to get to Skagway Brewing Co EARLY !  

Thanks for the reviews!!

Mary/live2skide

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A quick question...

On many of our other Princess cruises we have found the made to order Belgian waffles available at breakfast from the ice cream station outside by the pool.  It was usually posted in the patter on the back page.

Are they offering that on the Grand this cruise?  It was always a well kept secret the first day or so until people saw them coming into the buffet...then the lines became unbelievable...

Another 3 days for us to wait.  

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15 hours ago, cougaraz said:

Tuesday, August 20, at Sea in Tracey Arm

 

 

 

Hello loyal readers and welcome back!  We continue to have absolutely stunning weather and our approach into Tracey Arm this morning was under mostly clear skies with sunshine.  Temperatures were cool during the approaching and dropped as we neared the glaciers into to low 40s or high 30s.  Breezes were very light and the seas were calm as a bathtub.

 

 

 

Yesterday we had a fantastic day in Skagway and were once again the beneficiaries of gorgeous weather.  We haven’t seen so much as a drop of rain the entire trip and have had sunshine at least part of every day.  Truth be told, the weather has been so good I am wondering if we are going to arrive in Victoria or San Francisco to find Biblical floods.

 

 

 

Grand Princess made a very smooth approach to the Broadway Dock and we were safely alongside very early in the morning.  We headed downstairs to the Da Vinci Dining Room and a hearty breakfast to support our planned day of hiking.   We both opted for fried eggs, over medium and hash-browns and some toast.  Of course, it was accompanied by some juice, a never ending cup of coffee and ice water.  We were discussing just how tasty the hash-browns are and I remarked that it is because they deep fried; how could they not be delicious?  All in, we love breakfast in the dining room, the food is very good, the wait staff are very attentive and it is such a relaxing way to start the day.

 

 

 

We were in no rush to get ashore as our tour meeting time was at 9:15.  We grabbed our bags, coats and hats and headed out to the pier.  As the day was clear and no rain was in the forecast, the paint team was hard at work.  It was obvious they had been making good progress since the start of the trip and I am certain that the lovely weather we have been enjoying has given the crew a great opportunity to get some topside preservation done.  I imagine the Alaska cruising season is tough, with lots of rain and lots of sea days complicating the process.  We found our tour group easily enough at the end of the pier.  We were booked on the Chilkoot Trail hike and river float.  This is the third time we have done this excursion and have now done it with two different companies.  On this trip we were with Chilkat Guides, on a previous journey we have been with Skagway Float Tours.  So, let’s talk about the big negative of the trip right up front, our guide Noah had bad B.O., I mean legit gross smell wafting over our entire trip.  I get it, the dude is kind of a granola, crunchy young guy with the long hair and the scraggly beard, but when you are in a customer service job, you need to be good friends with the soap, the shampoo and the deodorant.  To put this in perspective, had he fallen into the Taiya River and been screaming for a life jacket, I think the raft participants would have thrown a bar of Irish Spring and set some conditions for his return.

 

 

 

Nonetheless, we headed off on our trip.  The excursion includes a van ride out of town and over to the site of the former town of Dyea.  Early in the gold rush, before the White Pass and Yukon railroad was finished, miners also went to Dyea and then hiked the Chilkoot trail to reach in the Klondike River system.  The trail to the Chilkoot Pass is shorter than the one from Skagway to the White Pass, but the trail is steeper.  In addition, the Taiya River forms a massive tidal estuary near the former town of Dyea, meaning there was no deep water port and a massive pier was required for ships to berth there.  Today, there is literally nothing left of Dyea.  However, as were driving, we saw the first of at least a dozen bald eagles out on the tidal mud flats.  It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Chilkoot trail head with an outhouse that represented the last toilet option other than the facili“trees” for the rest of the trip.  The trail starts just 25 yards from the parking area and goes vertical almost immediately.  Unfortunately, one member of our group was not up to the task, which became apparent in the first few yards.  No shame on her, but perhaps an excursion marked “Strenuous” in more than one place was not the best choice for someone with mobility challenges.  To be fair, I think our guide could have done a quick sanity check and asked everyone about their comfort of climbing steps from the bottom of the ship to the top for 20 minutes straight over broken ground before we left the parking lot.  Still, the company adapted quickly, arranged for the participant and her companion to be driven to our raft entry point and we were soon on our way in a smaller group. 

 

 

 

On a dry, sunny, summer day carrying a 15 pound backpack and wrapped in the finest 5.11 and LL Bean gear that money can buy, the start of the Chilkoot Trail, is quite daunting.  The route is steep and while the trail gets lots of foot traffic and is well maintained, the ground is still uneven, broken by tree roots and a challenging non-technical hike.  When one imagines the trail muddy, icy or covered in snow being traversed by miners with heavy loads and dressed in the apparel of the late 19th Century today’s journey feels pretty lazy.  All the more so, because we didn’t even approach the truly challenging part of the trail, nor did we have to make the trip dozens of times.  We were up and down over a large high point called Saintly Hill and mostly climbed for about 75 minutes before reaching level ground and the last 30-40 minutes of hiking were over level ground in the river valley.  Temperatures were mild and a t-shirt and light weight pull-over were more than warm enough.  Upon reaching the river, we donned life jackets and rubber boots to board a raft and float down the river.

 

 

 

 I say float because there are no rapids and the 30 minutes to the put out point is a very gentle float.  The river is very low because it is getting so late in the season, just a few weeks ago, it was running 2-3 feet higher through most of the area we were in.  In fact, we were rubbing the bottom several times and the guide’s oars were frequently hitting rocks.  The river is mostly glacial melt, so it is very chalky and visibility is measured in inches.  During our float, we saw several Bald Eagles, some sand pipers, either an otter or a member of the weasel family (he didn’t stick around very long) and a harbor seal.  We landed on a rocky beach and were met by support team who had cold water, hot water (with tea and cocoa packets) and chocolate chip cookies for us.  I mentioned we had done this with another company previously and they take out at the same spot.  There snacks also included cheese and crackers and salmon spread.  You may not always have a choice, but if you do, I recommend Skagway Float Tours.  From the take out point, it was about 30 minutes back to town.  Overall, this was a good excursion and we had a good time, but the guides odor issues definitely put a damper on things!

 

 

 

On the drive back, we opted to be dropped off in town with the intention of visiting the Skagway Brewing Company for some loaded tots and a pint of Spruce Tip Ale.  When we were in Skagway five years ago the brewing company was fairly new and they would give you a pint for a baggie of freshly picked spruce tips.  It was a very local feeling place that seemed like the brewery at the end of the world.  That previous location is now the local Mexican restaurant and the Skagway Brewing Company has moved into a new two story location on 4th Avenue just off of Broadway.  We arrived to find it overwhelmed with people (not terribly surprising since there were 10,000 cruise ship passengers in town). However, the general suburban feel and “hostess stand at the front” no longer resembled the last brewery before the wilderness begins. Overall, it feels pretty similar to a lot of the breweries elsewhere in the world with a polished upscale vibe.  I am happy for the success of their business and still think they brew good beer, but we just weren’t interested in waiting a long time for a table or the crushing crowds of the bar, so we wandered on back to the ship and headed to Alfredo’s Pizzeria for lunch.

 

 

 

We were a little delayed in getting back onboard because they were moving the gangways around to account for the changing tides.  Honestly, we waited less than 10 minutes and I was impressed that the Staff Captain himself was out and supervising the movement and the preservation efforts.  There is an overarching theme on the Grand Princess right now of obvious involved and engaged leadership which clearly manifests itself in excellent customer service, a very well-maintained ship and food that is above the fleet average.  We found Alfredo’s to have plenty of open tables and it was just a few minutes before one oven fresh pepperoni pizza and an accompanying anchovy, olive and caper pizza were on our table and disappearing fast.  The crust was delicious, the toppings were decadent and we all but inhaled it all!  After some discussion over where exactly we would put the new quilt we were certain to buy if we returned to visit the quilt shop in town, we decided to seek a nap instead. 

 

 

 

Shockingly, we returned to our room to find someone else, with their shoes on sleeping in our bed!!  I was so frightened when I entered the room, I told Melissa to stay in the hallway! After some investigation and an elevated heart rate, we discovered that our room steward Jimmy was pranking us.  He had taken the decorative pillows and arranged them under one of the throw blankets we had brought from home, along with a pair of my shoes, a jacket and one of my hats to make it look like someone was asleep.  We had a moment of terror and then a good laugh.  When we saw him later, we thanked him and had another good laugh.  It isn’t something he had to do, probably isn’t even in his job description, but he went the extra mile to make us laugh!

 

 

 

What happened next was somewhere between a coma and a nap!  We both crashed out hard and it felt great!  When we woke up to our alarm, there was no hesitation because we were off to the Piazza to meet some new four-legged friends.  Iditarod dog musher Ryan Reddington was onboard with four of his newest puppies.  The little ones were just six weeks old.  Ryan was onboard too and was signing autographs and you could donate to his Iditarod campaign efforts.  We have friends whose kids mush and it is not an easy or inexpensive endeavor.  There was a long line, but it moved quickly and after a quick rub of hand sanitizer, we were on the floor for some play time with Nike.  Nike was a pretty active puppy and gave us a few good sniffs and a couple playful bites, but what he really wanted to do was get away from the people and get back to playing with his siblings.  When our time expired, we got up and moved to the staircase to look down on the Piazza.  By then, Nike was the only one of the four who was not well on the way to dream land.  Three of the four little guys had just met a lot of new friends and were looking to catch some snoozes, big crowd or not. 

 

 

 

We headed back to the room for a shower and change before we were off to the Wheelhouse Bar for our customary pre-dinner drink.  I opted for a Dark&Stormy which always reminds me of the time we have spent living on the New England coast and Melissa went for a virgin Piña Colada.  My late father loved a virgin Piña Colada in the Wheelhouse Bar, he never really cared too much for the alcohol, and he loved cruising to Alaska.  Melissa said it was a very Jack moment to watch the sunset in Skagway with a frozen drink in hand.  The usual jazz band wasn’t bumping last night, but there was guitarist and he was okay.  His music is pretty mellow, maybe a little too mellow, but then again, I was listening to live music just steps from where I eat, sleep and play with puppies, so no complaints from me.

 

 

 

We had a different waiter than we have had on previous visits to the dining room.  His name was Alfred and he was very efficient and friendly.  Our late lunch at Alfredo’s hadn’t left us starving at dinner, so we did a little sharing of appetizers, one of the goat cheese soufflé (which I am pretty sure I could crush half a dozen of with a big basket of crusty bread and a nice bottle of Riesling) and one of the quail and venison terrines, both of which were totally delectable.  I also had a portion of the potato gnocchi which were served in a very tasty and tangy tomato sauce.  Following the intermezzo of sorbet (which left my palate sparkling clean) Melissa had an entrée portion of the fettuccine Alfredo and I had the seafood stuffed trout.  To be frank, Alfred gave me the raised eyebrow and offered to bring me something different if I didn’t like the trout when I ordered it, but his fears were unwarranted, I was a member of the clean plate club last night.  The trout itself was pink fleshed and delicate, the stuffing was mild and the very bland sounding barley pilaf was in fact delicious.  For dessert, Melissa went with the classic Crème Brulee and I had Giovanni’s freshly prepared Cherries Jubilee with vanilla ice cream.  Neither one survived contact with the spoon and were rapidly enjoyed. We both also enjoyed the “Mignardises” Alfred brought us with our coffee, the best being the chocolate rice krispy treat balls that tasted like Grandma’s homemade fudge.

 

 

 

After dinner, we walked through the Piazza to see Stanley (the loveable Princess Bear) dancing with the Grand Princess Dancers. The entertainment was quite fun and engaging.  We also enjoyed listening to the fantastic musicians play in the Piazza.  Finally, although we did not go in, we did enjoy watching hundreds (okay maybe a lot less) of women stuff themselves into the Effy Store to participate in their pink champagne party…  Thankfully, Melissa is quite claustrophobic in high-pressured store sales environments so she decided to not attend!

 

 

 

That just about wrapped up our day in Skagway and we were ready for an early morning journey through Tracey Arm.

 

 

 

Before we go though, let us revisit another installment of passenger’s behaving badly!  Our first example involves the restrictions on what you can and cannot take ashore.  Every morning before passengers disembark, SEVERAL, announcements are made that you cannot carry food, produce, coffee or agricultural products ashore.  In case you miss the announcement, the staff is nice enough to put the same reminder in the Patter.  It isn’t Princess policy, it is USDA policy and it certainly isn’t the fault of the security guard who tells you that you can’t take your coffee with you, so you don’t need to get angry with him and you certainly don’t need to decide that the appropriate receptacle for your about to be unfinished coffee is the kiosk where he is working despite him directing you to the nearest trash can.  Speaking of appropriate receptacles, the elevator is not a good choice for disposing of your half-eaten ice cream. 

 

 

 

And when you decide to get irate with the barista because they won’t serve your latte in a paper cup in Tracey Arm (in accordance with policy) perhaps you should take note of the many people who decide that the entire ship is their trash can. Based off our observation walking on the Promenade, people will deposit any and everything wherever they happen to be standing at the precise moment they decide they no longer require that service item.  Given the amount of plastic mugs on top of cabinets, stashed in angle irons, and just thrown on the deck where they can roll into the sea, it is no wonder they don’t allow paper cups during the cruising in Tracey Arm.  Guess what we discovered today?  When you behave like an adult and take your used service items to literally any of the bars or approach any of the crew members on the ship, they will take them with a smile and ensure they are properly taken care of.  That’s all for now folks, thanks to the 99% of you doing it right, saying please and thank you, sharing a smile and making the 1% who do behave badly look terrible.  We have found that most passengers do it right and are great people, but there are some people who just don’t seem to have any manners.

 

Another great instalment, fantastic story.

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On 8/13/2019 at 2:33 PM, cougaraz said:

We were under weight on each bag, but we did not pack lightly. 

20190813_134413.jpg

As you began your travel to Paradise, the preparation and all, I began to get antsy to be off and gone, as well.  I take the same cruise on 18 November and wish my bags were going aboard right now.  First time for me on Princess and new to Grand, as well.  I am hoping your coverage (text and photos) will be as complete as you have already texted.  Jack Morris - Cabin 424, Carrib Deck.

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Wednesday August 21st, At Sea en route Victoria

 

This morning we are sailing on a choppy, gray sea.  As we exited Frederick Sound yesterday, it began to rain and as that afternoon wore on and we moved into the open sea, the waves and swell began to build.  By dinner time, the white caps were everywhere and the ship was rocking and rolling a fair amount.  Given my Navy background and plenty of cruising experience, I would say that it was a cruise ship weather severity of about 6/10 and a global sea-going weather severity of about 4/10.  The reality is that this ship is so well designed and rides so well that it was still a very pleasant ride.  That being said, for me, the motion of the ship is like an extra-strength Ambien, it just makes me want to curl up and go to sleep.  As I type this almost 24 hours later, the seas are moderating, skies are clearing and temperatures remain in the mid-50s with strong winds.

 

We made a very early start of our day in Tracey Arm yesterday.  Before retiring for the night Monday , we had opened the drapes on our balcony so we could have the natural light wake us up.  We had also set an alarm, but the sun and scenery had us out of bed earlier.  We were up around 530ish and were already being treated to gorgeous scenery as we transited through the narrow fjord.  Yesterday was a perfect day for Tracey Arm, with clear skies, lots of sunshine and very little breeze.  Still, temperatures were cool and we were wearing a base layer, mid layer, wind-proof outer jacket and fleece hats and gloves.  Melissa also wrapped herself up like a burrito in her blanket. The dolphin deck mini-suites are completely uncovered so we do get a little more weather exposure, but we also get unobstructed towering views that include the sky. 

 

We set up a little camp on our balcony including the GoPro, a stand alone camera and multiple cell phone cameras to capture all the gorgeous action.  Later in the day as we sailed closer to the glacier and most balconies were full you could hear the cell phone and digital cameras clicking and beeping away with fierce some regularity.  Unfortunately, some people also didn’t put their phones into airplane mode or turn off the notifications so you could also hear their text alerts going off.  Please note, our phones were out solely because they have very good built in cameras, we had no interest in texting, emailing, calling or checking in with anyone yesterday!

 

From the time we stepped on our balcony on Tuesday right through until around noon, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.  With great weather conditions, the blues, grays and greens were explosive and completely surround the ship.  The sheer walls stretch up right from the water and frame every sight line in a way that makes this ship and the viewer feel very small.  There isn’t a whole lot for me to tell you, I will post photos and videos when we get home, but needless to say, we spent the morning enjoying the scenery, snapping tons of photos and just delighting in being surrounded by such majestic beauty!

 

We did order some room service breakfast, which was originally intended to be our meal for the morning, but as it turned out, it was a bit more of a snack than anything else.  It is important to be very specific when you order, because despite putting that we were dining for 2, the pastry and croissant check boxes being ticked resulted in one croissant and one Danish pastry.  No big deal and I am certain had we written 9 in the line instead of a tick mark they would have been happy to have buried our little table in baked goods.  However, as a result of the lighter than expected tray, after the ship had loitered in front of the South Sawyer Glacier and we had seen several Dahl Sheep as we commenced the return transit out of Tracey Arm, we headed down to the Da Vinci Dining Room for a more substantial breakfast.  I dined on a Giovanni made ham and cheese omelet while Melissa opted for her favorite fried eggs.  Of course, as expected it was all delicious.

 

Returning to our room, we spent the balance of the morning lounging and enjoying the scenery as it slid by.  Upon waking from a little snooze, we found ourselves in whale heaven.  Melissa looked out the window and started squealing and sure enough there was one or more pods of whales swimming by and for about 15 to 20 minutes of sailing we could consistently see multiple whales, spouting, breaching, flipping their tales and frolicking.  This all happened in Frederick Sound which is a well-known spot for whale sightings.  With such great landscapes surrounding the ship and in anticipation of Italian night, we opted to skip lunch in the dining room and instead visited the Salty Dog Grill for a burger.  There have been some changes since our last Princess cruise, including an expanded menu and the patties are now being cooked fresh as opposed to waiting in a hotel pan on the grill.  There are also expanded options for toppings, including multiple types of cheese and fry toppings as well.  Finally, they have taken to using a buzzer system for receiving your order as it takes a few moments to cook.  We waited about five minutes, just enough time to purchase an Alaskan Amber from the bar and find a table.  Our burgers were hot off the grill, juicy and flavorful, the fries were straight out of the fryer and delicious.  It was all gone and enjoyed in a surprisingly short period of time.

 

Those of you who have been reading know that we love to walk and so after lunch we headed down to the Promenade Deck and commenced a very nice walk.  The entire deck was open, so we were able to make the complete circuit.  We did so seven times (2 1/3 miles) in about an hour.  That is a very leisurely pace for us, but there was plenty to look at and  we didn’t hesitate to pause for photos and videos especially when more whales started to breach!  It started to sprinkle as we were finishing our walk and by the time we got back up to the room it was a full on downpour that lasted for several hours.  As the rain fell, the seas built and conditions deteriorated into a small storm.

 

After changing, we made our way down to the Wheelhouse Bar for our traditional pre-dinner drink.  It was the classic choice for both of us, a Sidecar for Melissa and a Manhattan for me.  There was once again live music and the regular crowd was gathered.  We really like the Wheelhouse bar, the drinks are great, the wait staff and bartender are always on point and it is a great way to get the evening started. 

 

Dinner last night was Italian night and it was a feast for all of the senses.  When we sat down we knew we were in for a real treat!  We asked Giovanni to recommend a bottle of Italian red wine and he suggested the Donnafugata Nero D’avola (Of course he did, he is Sicilian!).  It was a great medium-bodied wine that went very well with the entire meal.  Melissa and I both started with the prosciutto and melon.  I had this combination for the first time on a cruise and it is such an unlikely, but delicious pairing with the salty and savory prosciutto being balanced by the sweet flavor and soft texture of the cantaloupe.  Next, Melissa had the Minestrone soup and I had the eggplant parmigiana.  I really like the current chef’s take on the eggplant because it isn’t just swimming in melted cheese (not that there is anything wrong with that) and the red sauce has some really well-developed flavors.  The pasta course last night was the big hit, with Giovanni making Penne Arrabiata!  It was amazing.  The pasta was al dente, the sauce was bursting with bright flavors and the heat level was perfect, not a punch in the face, but a nice playful slap on the cheek.  On Giovanni’s recommendation, Melissa had the Brasato di Manzo al Barolo, Italian beef pot roast with polenta and vegetables.  He also recommended she order some extra sauce on the side.  Holy cow was he right.  Literally cow as Melissa’s portion was a respectable fraction of a cow and the sauce was delicious, but the portion was more than anyone could have eaten.  I had the Club Class special which was veal cutlets served over risotto.  My main was very nice and I enjoyed it, but the pot roast was the better meal and probably not a dish either of us would have chosen without a recommendation.  For dessert, Melissa opted for the Cassata ala Sicilian and I had the tiramisu.  Both were excellent and a perfect way to cap off a great meal.  From start to finish, the service, the food and the wine were outstanding. 

 

We were stuffed and sleepy after dinner, so we joined our fellow passengers who were swaying and stumbling just a bit as they tried to negotiate the ship in the choppy seas.  With the mighty waves to rock us to sleep, we were soon in dream land, probably planning our next cruise.

 

Overall, if you take one thing away from this post my recommendation is plan to get up at 5:30 am for Tracey Arm. The scenery is well worth it.

 

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2 hours ago, Retired Educator said:

A quick question...

On many of our other Princess cruises we have found the made to order Belgian waffles available at breakfast from the ice cream station outside by the pool.  It was usually posted in the patter on the back page.

Are they offering that on the Grand this cruise?  It was always a well kept secret the first day or so until people saw them coming into the buffet...then the lines became unbelievable...

Another 3 days for us to wait.  

I have not seen the waffles or any such notes in the Patter, but that doesn't mean it isn't available.  I will try to look and see.

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16 hours ago, LazyMary said:

On our cruise July 25th this year to Alaska on the Grand ....our room steward (suite) said he could not refresh the bed sheets on the day we visited the glaciers ...first time I ever heard that one......he changed the bed linen only once in 10 days ....we are on the Sept. 3rd 2019 cruise to Alaska on the Grand ...same suite, waiting to see if we have the same room steward. Not sure what I should think.....We also love Club class and only use it for diner , as we do room service in the morning. Great staff . 

On board laundry also unavailable in Glacier Bay.

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3 hours ago, grapau27 said:

Based off our observation walking on the Promenade, people will deposit any and everything wherever they happen to be standing at the precise moment they decide they no longer require that service item. 

What a shame.  I won't be rude about it, but if I see anyone doing that I will say something. Unfortunately, I think most who do it, do it when nobody can see them. Proving they know it's wrong to do.  

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Thank you so much to both of you for doing this live thread.  It is the highlight of my day to read the updates.  We board the Grand on October 13th.  We are really looking forward to Club Class Dining now!  We hope Giovanni is still onboard in October.  Enjoy the rest of your cruise!!

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3 hours ago, judyjudy56 said:

Thank you so much to both of you for doing this live thread.  It is the highlight of my day to read the updates.  We board the Grand on October 13th.  We are really looking forward to Club Class Dining now!  We hope Giovanni is still onboard in October.  Enjoy the rest of your cruise!!

I am glad you are enjoying it!

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12 hours ago, Retired Educator said:

A quick question...

On many of our other Princess cruises we have found the made to order Belgian waffles available at breakfast from the ice cream station outside by the pool.  It was usually posted in the patter on the back page.

Are they offering that on the Grand this cruise?  It was always a well kept secret the first day or so until people saw them coming into the buffet...then the lines became unbelievable...

Another 3 days for us to wait.  

 

The waffles are now served in the Horizon Court at the desert station. 

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12 hours ago, SmilesYourWay said:

What a shame.  I won't be rude about it, but if I see anyone doing that I will say something. Unfortunately, I think most who do it, do it when nobody can see them. Proving they know it's wrong to do.  

This wasn't my post.

Regards Grapau27

Graham.

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On 8/14/2019 at 1:32 PM, grapau27 said:

Looking forward to your review.

We are departing on the Grand from SF in November to Hawaii and keen to hear about SF and the ship.

Graham.

November 3rd?

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Thursday 22 August, In Port Victoria      

 

We awoke this morning to find that Grand Princess was gliding through the placid waters of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and making her approach to the pier in Victoria under rapidly clearing skies that would give way to brilliant sunshine.  Later in the day, during our visit to the Royal Museum of British Columbia, we would learn that one of the missions of George Vancouver during his journeys to what would later become British Columbia was to negotiate the limiting of Spanish claims in the Pacific Northwest.  Thus, and through the foresight of William Seward, it was the British and Americans who came to dominate the areas we have been sailing, rather than the Spanish and the Russians.

 

Yesterday we woke up late to a different scene, of continued rough seas and strong winds.  However, that was not going to put any kind of damper on our fun!  First of all, the rocking of the ship and occasional shudder while plowing into a big wall of water is my surest guarantee to a visit with Morpheus.

 

And second, after spending my entire adult life working on ships that do not ride nearly as comfortably as the Grand Princess, I am always amazed at how gracefully these big ships slide through the churning ocean like it is hardly even there.  I have sailed the seas on cruisers, destroyers, minesweepers and even was a subject in the effects of heavy seas on humans in an experimental Navy ship, but none of them prioritized comfort over performance the way Grand Princess does.  Unfortunately, the distributive water systems on the graceful lady paid some debts to two decades of work during our recent 24 hours in heavy seas.  Water pipes have sprung leaks on Dolphin Deck port side in multiple locations aft of midships, requiring industrial fans and carpet cleaning in some staterooms and the passageway.  Also, the Horizon Court had a major leak in the overhead spaces on the starboard side, between the buffet line and the covered pool area.  The result is the overhead just aft of the hand washing station has had all electrical connections, including lighting secured and the overhead is open and rather looks like it has suffered some battle damage.  The service line remains unaffected, but there has been some loss of seating and the area is decidedly darker than the surrounding seating.  I have no personal or direct knowledge, but I would also guess that some of the carpet cleaning we have seen in staterooms is related to passengers who may not have enjoyed the bouncing, rolling and pitching quite as much as Melissa and I have.

 

After sleeping in until almost eight, we headed down to the dining room for some breakfast.  The special of the day was another twist of Muesli, this time of the Swiss orientation as opposed to Dr. Bircher’s twist on the dish from earlier in the cruise.  Unfortunately, for me, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.  Don’t get me wrong, what came on the plate was tasty, but it was just two fried eggs on a folded tortilla with a side of Pico de Gallo.  Silly me, after all this cruising, you would think I would know better.  Still, it tasted good and I was sure that if I really, really tried hard I could make it to the next meal before I got too hungry!  Melissa opted for her favorite, fried eggs and toast.  After breakfast, we were headed up to the room for me to type up my notes about Tracey Arm and read a bit, that was accomplished, but someone may have also knocked out a little napping.  I finished my second book of the cruise yesterday.  The first was an Alaska mystery, called A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow and yesterday I wrapped up Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.  In very different ways, they were both excellent reads.  It seems appropriate to me, since I like to drink local, to read local while I am traveling.

 

A rigorous morning of ready, napping and typing behind us, we managed to drag our nutrient starved bodies down to the Da Vinci Dining Room for lunch.  Of course, Giovanni was preparing pasta.  I have eaten more pasta in the past 8 days in the previous 8 months combined.  I am not complaining, but I secretly think that his goal is to see exactly how much weight he can get the passengers in his section to gain during the course of their cruise.  I mean he doesn’t force it on you, he just stands there with homemade pesto sauce, coating freshly cooked linguine like the Italian uncle you never had, then he puts parmesan cheese on top, one more, oooh just a little more, bene, molto bene!!  So, we indulged, Melissa started with the goulash soup and then had the linguine for her main.  I had a smaller portion of the linguine for my starter and then a cheeseburger and fries.  None of the mains were really speaking to me and I was interested to compare the dining room burger versus the Salty Dog.  In a head to head battle for burger supremacy, the Salty Dog wins for hot, fresh and cooked to order burger, but the dining room is a much nicer environment so I think you really can’t go wrong.   In the first of two stunning decisions taken yesterday afternoon, we opted for no dessert.  I know, you are all staring at your computers and phones wondering what was wrong, are we okay, did the Club Class section of Grand Princess find itself in a wormhole and it has been transported to an alternate dimension where cruise ship passengers voluntarily skip entire courses?!?!  Fear not, we were just full and saving up for a great meal on formal night.

 

After a little more reading and snoozing we then embarked on a second stunning decision.  After 17 years, 16 cruises and 124 nights on Princess I finally went to the gym and worked out!  That’s right, off to the gym to put in a little sweat equity.  Actually, we are big walkers and love to get in our steps at home, plus it keeps our dog sane.  The gym onboard is actually pretty nicely equipped and since the Promenade was still closed due to high winds and heavy seas, it was the only viable option to hit our step goal.  The one downside is that the gym was very warm.  It is located high in the ship, has lots of floor to ceiling windows and is full of people working out.  So, no worries with working up a sweat, but it is clean and it was a good decision.  So, you are onboard, you just worked out, didn’t have dessert with lunch and are hot and sweaty, what do you do next?  Duh!  You go to Coffee and Cones and get a little soft-serve to cool down.  Probably not what anyone working in the fitness center recommends, but this is my story.

 

After showers and getting dressed for formal night, we headed down to the Wheelhouse Bar for a cocktail before dinner.  We enjoyed the musical stylings of Irish vocalist and guitar player James Guilmartin while we plotted future adventures.  Then it was off to the dining room for a fantastic feast.  We had great service last night, primarily from Ramon and Tyrone, drank a very nice bottle of Sancerre and ate like royalty.  The first surprise of the evening was the cured salmon on a crab and shrimp salad base.  The crab and shrimp were dressed with mayo and a hint of curry, resulting in a dramatic color and amazing flavor.  So good, in fact, that Melissa had originally not ordered one, but ended up with one of her own after sampling mine.  Of course, we both indulged in the escargots.  I like the snails, but really it is just a classy way to take a freshly baked crusty roll and dip it is melted garlic butter in the most civilized way.  Melissa did try the tomato soup and enjoyed it, but the star of the show last night was our ocean-dwelling friend the lobster.  For Melissa, it was a simple tail over risotto and for me it was the lobster thermidor.  Both were succulent and delectable and didn’t last very long on the table.  For dessert, we both opted for the Peach Melba offering that Giovanni was preparing.  I loved mine, but Melissa found the sweetness overwhelming and didn’t prefer it.  However, when the petit fors arrived and she discovered the Rocky Road chocolate bite, it was on like Donkey Kong.

 

That is about all for this installment. Another lovely day at sea onboard Grand Princess.  A couple of other notes.  First, we burned out a light bulb in a bedside lamp yesterday and it killed all the power to the lighting circuit in our room by tripping the breaker.  We called guest services and restoration took less than 15 minutes.  Also, two nights ago Melissa forgot her purse in the dining room when we left.  Upon discovering it missing the following evening (it was so important that she didn’t notice in the intervening 24 hours) she called guest services and they had it secured at the Passenger Services desk.  Everything inside was still there and after a quick signature on a form back in her possession.  Third, the ship has moved to primarily paper straws for drinks and for a few days all the coffee lids were also paper.  Neither product is yet truly comparable to their plastic counterpart, but we didn’t really mind too much.  Finally, the location of the casino on the Grand and its proximity to Piazza makes the smoking in the casino substantially more problematic than on other ships.  Deck 6 in particular, but at times the entire Piazza often smells strongly of cigarette smoke.  It is 2019 and high time for indoor smoking on cruise ships to become a relic of history.  The air handling systems are incapable of preventing passengers and crew from being exposed to second hand smoke.

 

See you all tomorrow!

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