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lightcruiser28

Golden Princess Alaska Cruise - Newbie Q's

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Hello all - This is my first cruise, and I have a bunch of questions.  I will be traveling with multiple family members (3 generations) with the youngest being 18 months old.  We are staying in normal rooms not suites or anything like that.

 

1.  What is the earliest we can board the cruise ship?  The cruise departs from Whittier, Alaska at 8:30pm. However, it would be preferable to board early so the toddler can eat at 6pm and get to bed by 7:30pm.

 

2.  Do the rooms have metal ceilings?  I read a blog post where they recommended using magnet hooks that stick to the ceiling and hang a curtain to create separation in the room for the toddler.  

 

3.  Any recommendations for excursions on this Alaska cruise suitable for our group that would not require a lot of physical activity?  We will have both old and very young travelers.

 

4.  Does this cruise ship have self-service laundry?  If yes, how much per load?  Any other tips for washing small baby clothing maybe in the sink??

 

5.  What is different about the formal dining nights other than everyone dressing up?  I prefer not to pack formal wear and shoes.  What would I miss by eating else where on those nights?

 

Thanks everyone for your help.  I'm excited for my first cruise.

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  1. When I sailed Golden from Whittier last year check-in and boarding started at 12:30. So if you weren't planning on arriving until a bit before dinner you will be able to walk right on. The Muster Drill will be at approx. 7:45 so I guess the little one's bedtime will be slightly delayed (all souls must attend).
  2. Yes, metal hooks should work. Which category of cabin do you have?
  3. In Juneau you can take a tour that includes Mendenhall Glacier but does not require walking on and off. Ketchikan has the tried and true Lumberjack Show. And the White Pass & Yukon Railway is pretty much a rite of passage from Skagway (if you want the train that stops directly at the cruise terminal you have to book the ship's tour, if booking independently you have a bit of a walk to the station).
  4. Passenger laundry machines are $3 each wash or dry. You buy tokens with your cruise card to use them. Very easy to bring along some Woolite in a TSA-sized bottle to rinse out items in the sink; there is a retractable clothesline in the shower.
  5. Nice slacks and a dress shirt on the men, and "stylish separates or equivalent" (to use another cruise line's wonderfully ridiculous term) for the ladies should grant everyone admission to the dining room on formal night. No one will be looking at your feet.

Enjoy your first cruise. Golden is one of my favorite Princess ships.

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If you arrive at the ship when they first start boarding, you will wait in line.  To avoid the line go later in the afternoon to walk right on to the ship with little delay.  Be aware that although the ship may leave at 8:30, you must be on the ship at least one hour before.  They will lock the doors in the terminal before the ship leaves because they have to submit the manifest of pax to the US government.  

 

The rooms are all metal so magnets work well on the walls, ceiling and doors.  

 

The train ride in Skagway is a must do for first time travelers.  The scenery is magnificent.  In Juneau the glacier is about 10 miles from the port.  Taxis will take you there and you can even ride the city bus but it will drop you off several blocks away.  There is a visitor center at the glacier for viewing and you can hike around the glacier.   Ketchikan receives over 200" of rain each year so go prepared.  Chances are good it will rain.  Since Ketchikan is so small you can do about anything there without a lot of walking.  You do need to get a ride to the different offerings like the state park. 

 

Juneau and Ketchikan are both land locked and are accessible by water or air only.  Skagway has one road that goes up through the pass to Canada.  This is the same pass the train uses but a more scenic route.  

 

Formal night is anything but formal particularly in AK.  Men can get by with a dress shirt and dockers.  Women can simply wear a dark pair of pants and a top.  For footwear I wear my athletic shoes or hiking shoes.  IMO food is better in the MDR rather than the buffet (HC).  Most every deck with cabins has a self service laundry.  Take note however the laundry is closed in port for environmental reasons and in Glacier Bay. 

 

AK can be warm or can be cold.  The key is to wear layers that can be removed or added.  Since it is a bit rugged in AK, bring shoes that will support the feet and can withstand the weather and possible rain.   If you go to Glacier Bay (hopefully you will), you will want to go up to the top open deck to see the glacier break off (calving).  One time we went it was bitter cold (ice all around the ship) and the last time pax were wearing jeans and tshirts because it was so warm.   Alaska is about nature and the outdoors so Alaskans dress accordingly with rugged outdoor clothing in layers of course.    

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Are you doing a land tour first or just the cruise? If cruise-only, you will need to travel from Anchorage (about 1 1/2 - 2 hours away?) to Whittier, either through Princess (bus or train) or independently (train, rental?). The Princess buses (cruisetour or transfer) arrive at various times throughout the afternoon and evening. If you are on board by late afternoon you will have plenty of time to eat. Everyone needs to attend the Passenger Safety (Muster) Drill, which is held about a half hour before sailaway.

 

Skagway is an easy port to just walk around the Main Street area, browse the shops, and such, if there are members of your group who don't want to do the train excursion. I'm thinking the White Pass train might be long for a toddler. I've also read of people renting a car in Skagway.

 

I hope you are not going this summer as it looks like you have a lot of planning ahead! Check out the Alaska board in the Ports forum, tons of information.

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17 hours ago, lightcruiser28 said:

3.  Any recommendations for excursions on this Alaska cruise suitable for our group that would not require a lot of physical activity?  We will have both old and very young travelers.

Congratulations on your first cruise!! 😎  

In Ketchikan, we’ve enjoyed the Duck Tour - the vehicle takes you on a tour around town like a regular vehicle, but it also goes into the water, like a boat. 

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11 hours ago, satxdiver said:

If you arrive at the ship when they first start boarding, you will wait in line.  To avoid the line go later in the afternoon to walk right on to the ship with little delay.  Be aware that although the ship may leave at 8:30, you must be on the ship at least one hour before.  They will lock the doors in the terminal before the ship leaves because they have to submit the manifest of pax to the US government.     

 

The opposite is true when boarding in Whittier. The vast majority arrive after 3:30-4:00 on a bus or train at the conclusion of their pre-cruise land tour. When boarding started at 12:30 on my cruise there were less than 200 people waiting, I am sure they were all onboard in 10-15 minutes tops. And since the ship remains in US waters until the final day of the cruise there are far fewer formalities beyond your passport being scanned. You just have to be onboard in time for the muster drill which should be approx 7:45.

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Thanks everyone for the helpful input.

 

One more first timer question...  I see there are beverage packages for sodas and coffee.  Are those not available for free in the main dining room, buffet or other eating places?  Thanks again!

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Posted (edited)

Coffee, hot tea and iced tea are available from dispensers in the buffet and from your servers in the main dining rooms.

Milk and juices are also served at breakfast.

Lemonade is available from the bar servers in the buffet and pool deck during the daytime. Though on some ships I have seen pitchers of lemonade at the beverage stations in the buffet in the evening. (Do not ask for lemonade in the dining rooms, you will be rebuffed)

Sodas are not included. You can purchase them for $2.00 per can or get the unlimited fountain soda, virgin cocktails, and coffee plan for $10.00/per person/per day (price not including 18% gratuity; must be bought for length of cruise).

There is also a separate Coffee package which includes 15 specialty coffees (from any bar or dining venue) plus unlimited fresh brewed coffee and specialty teas from the International Cafe. Flat price of $31 (plus 18%).

 

So why is there a separate coffee package to purchase when ordinary coffee is included at all dining venues? Because the coffee and iced tea served there are made from reconstituted syrup. Any resemblance to coffee grounds or tea leaves is strictly coincidental.

Edited by fishywood

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Posted (edited)

Soda and bottled water are not included which is a surprise to many new cruisers.  A pleasant surprise is that in the main dining room you can order any item off the menu and as many as you like.  Some people order multiple appetizers,  multiple entrees and/or multiple desserts, it is fine to order as much as you can enjoy.

Edited by happy cruzer

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Check out the Alaska Forum.  Maple Leaves reposts an excellent resource to utilize for all the different excursions and on your own stuff.  Lots of info.

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Posted (edited)

Was on the Golden from Whittier on June 22. My answers to some of your questions and other info you may want to know:

 

1.  What is the earliest we can board the cruise ship?  The cruise departs from Whittier, Alaska at 8:30pm. However, it would be preferable to board early so the toddler can eat at 6pm and get to bed by 7:30pm.

 

You can start checking in at 11:30. Not sure when or how you're getting to Whittier but you should have no problem. It took me longer to wait for others in my group than to wait in the check-in line. Baggage drop-off was a breeze. If you are spending a few days in Anchorage, drop by a Fred Meyer or Costco to buy all the soda/water/gatorade you want, to drop off at the bag drop. Or take advantage of the reasonable package of bottled water Princess has for sale online. Toddler may have to go to bed a bit past 7:30, however. Attendance is mandatory for the ~20 min safety drill that starts at 7:45 or so.

 

2.  Do the rooms have metal ceilings?  I read a blog post where they recommended using magnet hooks that stick to the ceiling and hang a curtain to create separation in the room for the toddler.  

 

Yes, the walls can take magnets. There are limited power outlets in the normal room, only 1 main duo outlet by the desk and 1 outlet  hidden behind the TV. The shelf space for clothes is a bit limited, but the open closet has lots of hangers and is pretty big by cruise ship standards.

 

3.  Any recommendations for excursions on this Alaska cruise suitable for our group that would not require a lot of physical activity?  We will have both old and very young travelers.

 

Alaska is all about the outdoors. While there are excursions that don't require physical activity, they usually require sitting in a transport (train, bus/van, boat) for extended periods of time. There isn't much to do in the actual port areas, except maybe Ketchikan. You can take the tram up Mt. Roberts in Juneau, but that could be a pretty short excursion. Popular first-time excursion for Juneau would be whale watching. If your group is fewer than 9, you could always rent a mini-van near the Juneau port and go at your own pace. Skagway has shops but would highly recommend taking the train (as others mentioned) or a van tour to see the Yukon. 

 

4.  Does this cruise ship have self-service laundry?  If yes, how much per load?  Any other tips for washing small baby clothing maybe in the sink??

 

Yes, they have washing sinks. And best of all, iron and boards to do your own free pressing. Bring Tide pods or similar to save on the laundry cost. Each washing and drying cycle is approx 35 min. Best time to do laundry is at 8 AM or so when the laundry rooms open up.

 

5.  What is different about the formal dining nights other than everyone dressing up?  I prefer not to pack formal wear and shoes.  What would I miss by eating else where on those nights?

 

As long as you don't dress like a slob, don't worry about not being able to use the MDR on formal nights. We had a bigger issue in deciding on attending the 2nd formal night (1st is on the Hubbard Glacier night, 2nd is the Juneau night). That's when they serve Lobster in the MDR, but is also the only night they have the Crab Shack ($29 for adult, $15 for child - you may be able to swing some child rates for the adults if you have a few kids in your group). 

 

Bring cold weather gear even though it's been hot and sunny this summer. Unless you're from Minnesota or Maine :classic_biggrin:That's because it'll be cold and usually windy sailing into and out of Glacier Bay - the best chance for you to sight wildlife on the ship. Hang out by the bow (front part, exit from deck 7) with the naturalist, she's really good as spotting them compared to an inexperienced guest.

 

Hope this helps, pretty sure it'll be a special trip for you and your family!

Edited by vicd1969

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