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ceilidh1

Royal Princess to Alaska and Back Aug 3-17 REVIEW

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Just returned today from a 2 week back to back on Royal Princess from Vancouver to Alaska. I vowed I would never sail this ship again after having a less than good experience on her in March to Mexico. However, the pricing for this particular sailing was good and Matt O was back onboard so I decided to give it a second chance. Here are my thoughts/experiences second time around (there is a lot to cover so this will be in installments - feel free to jump in with questions!)

 

Background: This sailing was myself, my mom, DD (12), and DS (8). We have all sailed multiple times before - kids and I are elite on Princess and mom is Platinum. We have sailed Alaska many times and this trip was simply a last minute getaway - it was not booked for the ports, itinerary, or ship (though knowing Matt O was cruise director helped seal the deal). The price was right, the timing worked, and no flights were needed so we booked about a month before sailing!

 

Pre-Cruise: We booked two rooms because there were no rooms to accommodate 3 passengers at the late time we booked. Mom and DS were booked into one room and myself and DD in another. Mom refuses to sail unless she has a balcony so she booked a balcony guarantee. I go for the cheapest option so booked an inside guarantee. Our rooms were not assigned until around 10 days prior to sailing - mom got exactly what she booked, but I was upgraded to a balcony. Our bookings were linked so our rooms ended up being relatively close to one another - mom was A721 and I was B728, both aft. So far, off to a good start!

 

Since this was a full medallion cruise, we downloaded the apps and filled out all the info. Mom lives in the US so was able to order her medallion to be shipped to her. Since the kids and I are in Canada, the only option we had was to pick up at the port. As DS was on mom's booking, I didn't fill out any of his info on the app. Mom's medallion arrived two days before she flew to Vancouver (she arrived a week before the cruise) but when she unboxed it she found that it had DS name on it. She called the medallion folks and they were very confused as they showed that it was her medallion and that DS should not have been sent one given that his info was not complete and that he was in Canada. They told her not to worry and that she could just collect hers at the port. This turned out to be less of an issue than I had envisioned and we did indeed collect all medallions at the port, other the one for DS which was the one that had been mailed. I think there are still some things to be worked out with this medallion concept - I like the idea, but it definitely wasn't as smooth, easy, or user friendly as it should have been!

 

Embark: We live less than a 10 minute walk from the Port of Vancouver but decided to get a cab given the fact that we had so many bags! We left the house at 10:30am, the cab dropped us and bags at 10:40am and we proceeded upstairs to check in. I am very familiar with the port and the process here, since I worked as a pier supervisor for Princess at Canada Place for several years. If you know the process, it is simple. If you don't, it gets a little confusing with all the upstairs and downstairs involved! The first stop after dropping bags is to head upstairs to the Convention Centre where you check in at Hall C - we get priority check in being elite so I followed the signs for this. I completely missed the line (or lack of one) for those that had already filled out the info on the medallion app so not sure what was involved there. Our check in was quick and easy - even with our medallion mix up. From here, you head back downstairs to the main terminal and through security. There was already a line but it moved quickly and we were through in under 10 minutes. Next up is US CBP. This is the point where there are usually long lines and delays, but today was smooth and flowing - it would have been even faster if I had put my glasses on so I could actually read the screen for the customs declaration! By this time it was around 11:20am and the ship wasn't quite ready for boarding so we were ushered into a seating area. There was no elite area so we just filled in the rows as instructed. This was a surprise as Vancouver usually has priority boarding for elite and suite. We sat for around 10 minutes, then we were called to board by row. We were in a row about 20 from the front so it did move pretty fast. We were on the ship by 11:45am.

 

Drink Package: This is the first time I have cruised and not pre-purchased the beverage package for myself or the soda package for the kids. With the recent increase in pricing, I couldn't justify paying almost $1,400 CAD for the beverage package and close to $300CAD each for the kids packages. I figured that we would just drink what we wanted, when we wanted it and if we spent less than $2,000CAD overall then we would be ahead! I did get 2 minibar set ups for being elite and being on for the two weeks and I was given a coffee card to use by someone that wasn't able to use it. I also purchased the 7 bottle wine package on the second night so we could have wine at dinner. I can assure you, we did not even come close to spending what we would have spent on the drink packages!  Even with the kids drinking 2 or 3 mocktails a day, we didn't go over since we had so many port days when we were off the ship! I love the convenience of the drink packages and knowing that there won't be a bill at the end, but the new pricing no longer makes them economical for us.

 

 

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First Day: As soon as we boarded, we headed to Alfredos for lunch (this is a tradition if the ship has it). It did not disappoint! We were delighted to see that ZaZa (spelling?) was still there - she was on when we sailed in March was wonderful! I ordered the usual veal ravioli, which is to die for, and the tuna baguette pizza! Both kids ate a full cheese pizza each (they really love Alfredos pizza) and mom also enjoyed the tuna baguette pizza. I washed down my pizza with an Alaskan White (sadly my traditional Seawitch first beer is no longer available). Some friends who still work at the port stopped by to say hi and it got a little loud with all of our catching up, so we headed down to the Piazza and chatted before they had to go back to work. We decided to head to the room and drop off our bags.

 

I commented many times in March how disorientated this ship made me. I think I got lost more times than I found my way back then. This time, I am happy to say, I nailed it! We headed to deck 7 and made our way aft - as we were passing Princess Live we spotted cruise director Matt O. We had brought him a few gifts so stopped in for a quick chat and to give him his goodies. If you have never sailed with Matt O, you are missing out. He is a ball of energy and is the most personable, fun cruise director I have ever sailed with. He seems to genuinely enjoy his job and his team all work so well with him! After leaving Princess Live, I quickly checked in at Crown Grill and made reservations for dinner that evening as I still had a 2 for 1 coupon from my cruise in March. I'm glad we did this right away as when we tried to make reservations later in the week they were booked solid for every night! We quickly dropped our bags and checked out our rooms.

 

A721/B728: Both balconies at the aft of the ship - one port and one starboard. The rooms were standard balconies - no barrel chair but, honestly, the small room sizes on Royal Class ships would make them a tight squeeze. The round table was in the room but tucked away in the closet, where we left it! Best thing ever - two bathrobes in the room waiting for us! This rarely happens anymore and I am used to having them show up around day 3! I was so happy! Elite minibar was set up, and the gold amenity kit (with ALL the amenities this time) was in the room waiting. To make things even better, mom's room also had the mini bar and the amenity kit, despite the fact that she is not yet elite. When we asked, we were told it was because of DS status - the kids have NEVER had any benefits in the past so this was a nice surprise...even if it's a one off. They also received the elite Internet minutes! The minibar in mom's room did get the alcohol switched out to water since DS is a minor - mom was fine with it since she doesn't drink and didn't expect anything anyways! I called room service and asked that my alcohol be switched out to beer - when we returned to the room later in the day it had been done!

 

First thing we did after dropping our bags in the room was head to guest services to sign up for the ship tour. As pier supervisor, I have been behind the scenes on many ships, but have never done a Royal Class ship. Mom loves stuff like that so we wanted to sign up. There was quite a line up at guest services and I didn't notice a separate line for elite/suite so I just joined the general line. It was only when I got to the front that I noticed a screen in front of the counter at the far left that said elite/suite. Oh well. We ended up here anyway and I recognised the staff member from March. Back then, we spent a lot of time at the front desk trying to sort out problems and this particular staff member was in training with the suite concierge (who was the only person that actually helped us in any way in March). He recognised us immediately (that should give you a clue as to how much time we spent trying to fix things in March) and let us know that we didn't need to wait in line in the future. I joked with him that I wasn't planning on visiting the front desk for the rest of the cruise as it was going to be perfect! We signed up for the tour and were told that, providing it wasn't cancelled. we were guaranteed spots as they were allocated first come/first served. When we did the tour back in 2012 it was a lottery so we were happy we got our names down early this time!

 

We decided to give mom a tour of the ship since she had never been on Royal previously. I didn't get lost once and actually found areas I didn't know existed back in March - lol! The kids, of course, got their obligatory first day ice creams at Swirls! We walked around for a bit, played some ping pong, played some basketball, then headed back to the room to get some of our bags unpacked before muster drill.

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When we got back to the room, the bags had arrived. I was sad to see that my large suitcase had been damaged somehow and one of the wheels had been ripped off. Not sure if it was the baggage guys or Princess but it definitely had 4 wheels when we dropped it off! Luckily, it was old and not expensive so I didn't even bother to submit a claim - I did consider going through my insurance but decided it wasn't worth the paperwork since I would have needed a new case at some point anyways. The kids checked out the movies on demand while I started the process of unpacking. There was plenty of space for the three of us - even with the amount of games and books the kids brought! By the time the bulk of it was put away, I decided to get changed for dinner so I wouldn't need to come back to the room after muster drill. I LOVE that we no longer need to take lifejackets as fighting the crowds to get back to the room after muster is my least favourite thing!

 

MUSTER: Our muster station was in Vista lounge deck 7. Easy walk down the stairs and we found seats near the back for a quick exit. I like the humour Princess has put into the muster drill - I used to hate them but now I kind of enjoy listening to the music and cheesy jokes! There was a group of guys that came in (I assume straight from the pool...) with no shirts and proceeded to talk and drink the entire way through the drill. It was a little distracting (and not in a sexy body kind of way) and I was surprised that none of the staff stepped in to tell them to pay attention! Thankfully, it was over quickly and we headed to the sailaway party.

 

Sailaway: I was disappointed with sailaway in March  - I feel the mood of the cruise gets set at this. If you have a rocking sailaway party then the cruise starts with a great atmosphere. In March, I was on the deck waiting for the party and it just never happened. For this cruise, the sailaway was listed as being in the Piazza - not sure why as the weather was beautiful outside. We decided to check it out anyway. The best thing about the sailaway party is dancing with the cruise staff to the music. This didn't happen! Boo. There was a game show with a character called Fortuna Luck (never quite figured out who/what she is) and she would spin a wheel and if you had something on that the wheel landed on you ran up to the front and got a rubber bracelet. Not really my idea of a rocking sailaway....The dancers and singers did do a couple of numbers, but there wasn't really any chance for the passengers to get involved other than the game show piece. Even mom commented that she preferred the outside line dancing sailaways!

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CROWN GRILL: We made reservations for Crown Grill the first night as I had a 2for1 coupon from my March cruise. DS eats off the kids menu so is free and DD is half price, so we only paid $44 total for the cover. We were seated immediately and our server was excellent, going over the choices and explaining how things would be served. I order a glass of wine and immediately realised that it would have been cheaper to just get the bottle - $14 a glass or $40 for the bottle for this one! Oh well, lesson learned!

 

Our steaks were cooked perfectly - mine and DD medium rare and mom rare. I had the rib eye, which was amazing. DD had the New York Strip, which was bigger than she was! Mom had the filet mignon, which she said was delicious - DD tried it and declared (in her vast steak tasting knowledge) that it was too soft and chewy...lol! We all had the loaded baked potato - honestly, the cover charge is worth it for the potato alone! We were also served all the sides family style. I didn't love the garlic fries - found them very salty, but the asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms were excellent! For dessert, DD and mom had the Chef's Selection, which was a little sample of each dish. I had no interest in the non-chocolate options so went for the lava cake - they were so jealous as it really was the best dessert! DS had cheeseburger and fries from the kids menu and vanilla ice cream for dessert. He is the least adventurous of us and tends to stick to what he knows!

 

When the bill came, both kids had been charged so I pointed out to the waiter that DS had eaten from the kids menu. He seemed confused and said that he would still be charged. However, he checked with the head waiter and he confirmed that, yes, kids eating from the kids menu were free. The bill was quickly fixed and we ended up spending more on drinks than we did on food! We left a nice cash tip for our server and waddled out to check out the entertainment!

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Thanks so much for writing such a detailed review. I look forward to following along with the rest of it. I haven't sailed on Princess before but am book on a Coastal cruise to LA next month. I'm sure I'll learn a lot about the Royal from your review.

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Entertainment: I'm going to lump all of this together as it would take too long to do day by day!

First up, the shows. These were a little disappointing - not because of the quality but because they were not among my favourites! On this sailing we had Sweet Soul Music and Encore - both are ok to see once but no desire to see them again. We skipped both shows. We were meant to have Secret Silk (not my favourite either) but it's been pulled for some reason - not sure why!

 

We had comedian AJ Jamal on both North and South trips plus I saw him in March. We still went to all of his shows as he was still just as funny. We also had comedian/magician Michael Misko who was good, a comedian/juggler Dan Bennett who was great at juggling but his jokes went over my head (mom said you needed to be as old as her to get them), and vocalist Solomon Jaye who we missed but was apparently excellent! Additionally, we had soprano Barbi McCullough (she stars in Encore and also has a solo show) and singer Jennifer Singer. Ray Coussins was in Crooners and ship band was Fee Fee and the Sentiments.

 

There was no shortage of trivia and games on this ship and this was all due to Matt O and the cruise team. I can't tell you how amazing they were. We don't tend to do a lot of activities or game shows, but on this cruise we did everything simply because we enjoyed the cruise staff so much. Absolute must do's if they are offered are Hollywood Hiccups, which is trivia with a twist. The cruise staff re-enact movie scenes and it was hilarious to watch them do Full Monty and Dirty Dancing, among others! Also outstanding were Liars Club and Who's the Cuckoo - both shows had us crying with laughter! We really enjoyed High Seas Heist, which is an ongoing mystery where you have to solve the crime. The only downside was that there is only one game so if you have done it once you automatically know the answer - we played on the northbound but didn't think it fair to participate in the southbound given that we knew who did it! We enjoyed the Horse Racing, though certainly didn't come close to winning or even breaking even and loved all the music themed trivia games.

 

Voice of the Ocean was outstanding on the northbound leg! The contestants were so good that it was hard to choose a favourite - Wayne from Hawaii sang Wanted Dead or Alive and it actually could have been Jon Bon Jovi singing, he was that good. He didn't win but the winner was equally as good! The southbound was just ok - a few contestants had good voices but made really bad song choices in my opinion!

 

We didn't do any of the enrichment lectures, etc because we had done them all previously. There was a lot on offer - Libby Riddles, an Alaskan Olympian, an Alaskan author, park rangers, puppies in the piazza, lots and lots of Alaska based lectures and info!

 

We felt that the northbound passengers were far more sedate and quiet than the southbound. Many times on the northbound journey I wondered where everyone was and what they were doing - trivia and shows were half empty and there were few people to be seen in the hallways or piazza. In contrast, on the southbound journey the trivia and shows were pretty much always full houses and the ship felt more crowded - not that we ever had an issue getting seats, etc, it just felt like there were more people. Ironically, there were apparently over 100 less passengers going south!

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FOOD: This is another big topic as there were many options on this ship! For dinner, we chose early traditional - 5pm is definitely early for us, but 7:30pm is too late for the kids so it was a trade off. We requested a table for 4 and, since our bookings were linked, we got to sit together! We were in Allegro dining room, which is on deck 6 aft and the one everyone gets lost trying to find! I'm happy to say I found it immediately this time around. This was also the dining room we were in on the March cruise and had a horrible experience - luckily, this time around, things went really well! The head waiter for our section was Irina - she was outstanding, checking in on every table twice a night. On some cruises, I've never even seen a head waiter, let alone have them check with us. Irina also asked if we would like our table changed for the second leg of our cruise - our table was fine but we did ask that we would like a window if it was a possibility. Not a problem at all! Our waitstaff were Narong and Itsel - both of whom were great and really good with the kids! We requested to stay in their section for the second leg and we were given a wonderful corner window table where we watched whales and otters while eating dinner! DS was celebrating a birthday so got the cake and the singing - for the first time EVER on a ship, he got a real candle to blow out! He was so excited. The food in the dining room was great for the most part. We had one or two things that were a little salty and mom had steak one night that was medium after she had asked for rare. We never complain or send things back, but our waiter took one look at it when she cut it and whisked it away. He returned with a perfectly cooked filet mignon off the Crown Grill menu (free of charge)! Highlights for food (for me) were the Tri Tip, the Pork Belly, and the Rockfish! I also love the cold soups - particularly the Bellini one!

 

ALFREDOS: I already touched on this earlier - not sure why all ships don't have Alfredos as it is one of the best places! The pizza is outstanding and can be customised as they make it to order. I love the tuna baguette pizza and also the vegetarian. I usually add a few ingredients, which they have no issue with providing they have them on hand. The other must have here is the veal ravioli. It is a small, appie size dish but is so rich that you only need that amount. It is to die for. I've heard the Tiramisu is excellent, but I don't like Tiramisu so never tried it!

 

INTERNATIONAL CAFE: Another favorite - this place is great for a quick breakfast or snack. We enjoy the breakfast muffins and the choocolate croissants were the best I've ever had! The chicken sandwich is also excellent. If you ever see the chocolate mousse (half white chocolate and half milk chocolate) then try it - they have changed it on Royal and had a hazelut version, which was nowhere near as good. The chocolate one is to die for! The coffee bar serves a variety of teas and specialty coffees, all of which you pay extra for. Specialty coffee was $4 small and $5 large. I was given a coffee card so went there for a chai latte each day. The coffee card supposedly covers the cost of a large size, but there were many days when they only had small cups available....not a big deal, but the small was gone in seconds. LoL

 

GELATO: The gelato bar was surprisingly reasonable. My kids loved trying the different flavours and making sundaes, etc. Two scoops with toppings was around $3 and it was actually pretty good gelato. The flavours didn't change so once you had tried them all, that was it. Kids didn't care - I think DS had cookies and cream everytime anyways!

 

BUFFET: I'm not a fan of buffets in general - far too "people-y" for my liking. I get twitchy trying to find a table, look for food, carry it around, and be surrounded by people. It's just me! We didn't eat at the buffet much but a few times went for breakfast and once or twice for lunch. This buffet brought out every feeling of anxiety I had, since it is huge! It was always crowded but we were always able to find a table. The layout is a little overwhelming and I would find that I wandered aimlessly looking at the offerings and then forget where I had seen them. I would return to the table with an empty plate and have to start over. LoL. I also didn't understand the logic of how the food was laid out - it seemed like foods that should go together were at opposite ends of the buffet so I always had to hunt stuff down! For example, I would grab a slice of toast but then there was no butter nearby - the butter was in the centre section on the other side....for lunch one day, I found butter chicken but there was no rice. I finally found it at the other side of the buffet with the mashed potato. Maybe there was a logic, but I sure never found it! Desserts in the buffet were a big disappointment. The pastry shop was another separate area and where the desserts were located - there was usually an assortment of cake, muffins, jello, but none were that great. We usually skipped dessert and grabbed it at International Cafe. The food was ok - buffet quality, usually not that hot, a little salty for my tastes, but really good selection. If you are a buffet person then I'm sure you would love this buffet as it really is huge with something for everyone. I'm not a buffet person so can't say I was overly excited - on the otherhand, it was a million times better than the buffet at Circus Circus (but that's a whole other story...ha ha)

 

CROWN GRILL: I already covered this earlier. Well worth the added charge. Book early or before you even board as it filled up quickly and was full the entire cruise!

 

We didn't try Sabatinis as the menu just didn't appeal to us. We love Italian food, but I guess we like "White People's" Italian food as the food on this menu was definitely more high end than we are used to! We also skipped Ocean Terrace - DD  was excited to go for sushi  but was disappointed to find that this was a "real" seafood bar! No California Roll in sight. LoL

 

AFTERNOON TEA: With an early dinner, it was impossible to fit in afternoon tea, which starts at 3pm. We did squeeze it in once. I both love and hate afternoon tea. I love it as, being a Brit, I grew up with it. This is such a great concept and could really set Princess apart. I hate it because this is one area that Princess really doesn't do well. I don't understand why afternoon tea service isn't a well-oiled machine like dinner service. It just feels so disorganized and haphazard - guests are seated randomly and servers don't have assigned sections. This means that if you are seated in a section that just got served tea 30 seconds before you sat down, you have to wait until that tea server circles back to you. Our one experience of tea this cruise (and this isn't unique to Royal) saw us sit without tea for the first 15 minutes, get served pastries before sandwiches, and actually have to hunt someone down to get scones! We got there right at 3pm when it opened and finally got scones (the reason we were there) at 3:45pm!! They were worth the wait, but it still confuses me why there isn't a better system for afternoon tea! We had considered doing the Royal Tea for an extra charge but was told they were no longer offering it!

 

We had signed up for Breakfast with Stanley pre-cruise. It was listed at being on the second day. When we got on the ship, it was advertised as being the final sea day. Not a problem - or so we thought. Turns out that the ship tour was the same day and time so we had to cancel breakfast. I requested to just move it to the following week but they couldn't do that as they couldn't guarantee that it would happen. They refunded the money to the account as OBC. The following week, the breakfast was advertised so we signed up. Sadly, the day before, we got a message telling us that Stanley was sick so it was cancelled. My guess is that we were the only ones signed up. It really isn't well promoted - there were certainly plenty of kids and families on the ship!

 

PUB LUNCH: We went to this twice and really enjoyed it. My experience with pub lunch in the past has been that passengers start lining up 20 minutes before the dining room opens. Not the case for either time on this sailing. We walked right in both times and service was fast. We had fish and chips both times - very good! I was sad that they have taken trifle off the dessert option - only bread and butter pudding now. Mom said it was very good, but not worth the waste of calories for me. Lunch options were Fish n Chips, Bangers n Mash, Steak n Kidney Pie, and Ploughman's Lunch.

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I'm enjoying your review. I sailed on my first back-to-back Alaskan cruises this summer (on the Island Princess). I'd love living 10 minutes away from the port. Matt O is our favorite as well, but Natalie Costa on the Island is a close second. 

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, ceilidh1 said:

We felt that the northbound passengers were far more sedate and quiet than the southbound. Many times on the northbound journey I wondered where everyone was and what they were doing - trivia and shows were half empty and there were few people to be seen in the hallways or piazza. In contrast, on the southbound journey the trivia and shows were pretty much always full houses and the ship felt more crowded - not that we ever had an issue getting seats, etc, it just felt like there were more people. Ironically, there were apparently over 100 less passengers going south!

Interesting observation --- we did a B2B in June on the Royal to Alaska and felt the same thing about the northbound vs southbound passengers. 

Edited by Italy52

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1 hour ago, Craving A Cruise said:

Enjoying your very detailed review! We sail on Royal in a few weeks 😊. Is there a charge for the ship tour?

The ship tour is $150 per person. It's well worth it in my opinion. Since we are on the subject, I will add this review piece here...

 

We signed up for the tour shortly after boarding - you have to go to passenger services to put your name down. In the past, they have taken as many names as wanted to sign up and then used a lottery system to determine who does the tour if more people sign up then can be accommodated. Now it is first come, first served so if you are among the first 16 people to sign up then you are one the tour (16 was the cut off for this sailing - not sure if it's the same every time). There was no confirmed day/time when we signed up but we expected that it would be a sea day. We received a note in our cabin around day 4 with the info - a waiver to sign, along with the meeting time and place. There was also a list of things not allowed - no open toed shoes or high heels, no cameras or recording devices (though it turned out you ARE permitted to take pictures in some areas with permission from the staff), along with an advisory that there may not be time for bathroom breaks. The tour was to meet at Vines at 8:30am on the last sea day, and was expected to last around 3 hours.

 

Ian, one of the cruise staff, was our tour leader and he was accompanied by a security officer and ship photographer. We started on the bridge and got to meet with the Staff Captain and some of the Watchmen on duty. The Staff Captain was very interesting in her explanations of different instruments and screens on the bridge. It was obvious she knew and loved her job and it was fascinating to see all of the equipment up there and to hear about the day to day operations. The Captain, Nick Nash, did join us a little later and the we had group photos taken. We were told we could take photos in the chair (NOT the Captain's chair but the one next to it) but most of us had left cameras in the room as the note had instructed!

 

Next stop was the theatre - I love seeing the behind the scenes stuff for staging since I work for a large opera company and know a lot of the ins and outs. It's great to see the differences and similarities between shows at sea and shows on land. The tech guy gave us some info about his side of things and the cast manager talked to us about her side. We got to meet and get pictures with two of the dancers and then got a tour of the costume area.

 

From the theatre we headed to the engineer room. This was really fascinating - just to see all the screens, flashing lights, monitors, phones ringing constantly - it really is the heart of the ship and controls everything! The engineer told us a lot of facts, most of which went way over my head as it really was engineer speak but I did learn about how they use the water from the ocean, process it and use it as a coolant for the engines! I was also distracted by all the screens! We then got pictures with the two engineers and headed to the galley.

 

We were handed a fruit drink as we entered the galley and were then taken around to the different areas - prep, soup, dessert, bread, etc. In each section they showed us how they did things and gave us a brief talk. It's a well oiled machine and team work was apparent throughout. From the galley we went to the stores area and saw where they keep all the produce that it loaded every two weeks in Vancouver. That's a lot of potatoes! We also got to walk into the meat freezer - 30 seconds felt like a lifetime....

 

The laundry was the most amazing and this team are definitely the hardest workers on the ship. Just seeing the size of those machines and the amount of laundry they have to deal with made my head spin. Even with the machines, the majority to things are still handled piece by piece - every napkin, for example, is hand fed through the pressing machine. Imagine that. EVERY SINGLE NAPKIN! In addition to the everyday items, they have to deal with crew laundry and passenger laundry. And to think I get mad at doing it twice a week!

 

The printer was also very cool - one machine to print all those Patters and spa notices that appear constantly. The folding machine was broken so the printer explained that every patter is hand folded by the steward. The photography department is just across from the printer and here we got to see all the ways they touch up photos to make us look out best! And to think I thought I actually looked that good naturally! We asked why they don't do the digital rather than waste paper/money on prints that people don't necessarily buy. Apparently they have been trying to go in this direction but passengers didn't like it and also said that it was a privacy concern....we were told that Majestic is digital and likely Sky will be too so definitely heading in the right direction. He would not tell us how the unwanted prints were recycled as this was "classified". Ian did say that over the next 5 years Princess are aiming to eliminate any one-time-use products from their ships. No more balloon drops!!!!

 

The final stop on the tour was the anchor room, where we were once again joined by the Staff Captain. They showed us the procedure of dropping anchor at port and how they fire out the lines. I never realised the size of those anchors before! We had more photos taken and then were taken back upstairs to Crooners where we were served bubbly wine and sodas and snacks.

 

Later, a bag arrived in the room with a bathrobe, personalized notepaper, the photos we had taken, a frame, and an apron. The swag alone likely covered the cost paid but the tour was fascinating. I highly recommend it!

 

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PORTS: Having done Alaska multiple times, we weren't planning on doing any of the big, usual port things. These were the standard port stops - Ketchikan, Skagway, Juneau, Whittier and scenic cruising at Glacier Bay, College Fjord and Hubbard Glacier. We have been to all stops many times.

 

We did book two excursions through Princess - in Skagway we did the Sled Dog Summer Camp. We do this every time we visit as the kids love it and it's a well organised tour. In Whittier we did the 26 Glacier Cruise, simply because it is a long turnaround day and there really isn't a whole lot in Whittier. I wish Princess still offered the option of a bus into Anchorage and back as we have done a few times in the past. Both excursions were booked through cruise personaliser and I used the Best Price Guarantee form to submit lower prices I found online for the same tours. They honoured the lower pricing and we received 110% of the difference in price back as OBC. This worked out to almost $400 for the four of us! I definitely recommend checking pricing if you book through Princess as they do offer the guarantee.

 

Ketchikan: Northbound was a long stop in Ketchikan so we walked around the shops, bought a few goodies from Ketchicandies (of course) and then headed up toward Creek Street. There were very few salmon to be seen which was surprising given the hundreds we spotted at this exact time last year! Just up from Creek Street there is a Salvation Army thrift store that the kids love to check out for toys and books. It didn't disappoint and DS came out armed with a Minecraft figure and DD with a book by an author she likes. We then walked through Creek Street and up Married Men's Trail to the road. There is a bridge that you can cross and follow the road along the river to look for salmon. A little way along there is a dirt road off to the left that has a small pathway that takes you to a little pebble "beach". We discovered this on one of our trips and saw so many salmon spawning as well as finding salmon eggs and watching them hatch. We didn't see eggs this time, but did see some great salmon as well as a few eagles. After about 40 minutes on the "beach" we headed back the way we came. As we were heading down the wooden steps on Married Men's Trail an older lady behind us tripped and fell. She went down with quite a bang and hit her head and bit her lip as she went down. I rushed to help and was amazed to see others just staring or walking past without even checking to see if she was ok. I made sure that she was ok and helped her up, gave her water and kleenex, and got her to a place where she could sit while the husband went in search of ice for her lip. Thankfully, she was shaken but not badly hurt and assured us that she would get checked out when back on the ship (she wasn't on our ship). This took up quite some time so we were starting to get hungry and decided to head back to the ship to eat.

 

Southbound was a shorter stop - cut even shorter by the fact that we needed to leave early to make it back to Vancouver in time to pass under Lions Gate Bridge. Not a huge deal for us, but I did hear some grumblings and some of the excursions had to be cancelled or adjusted. We pretty much did the same thing as the previous week - thrift store, Creek Street, and souvenir shopping.

 

SKAGWAY: Northbound we did the sled dog summer camp. The dogs at the camp are owned by Ryan Reddington, whose grandfather started the Iditarod. Ryan comes on the ship and brings some of the puppies for the puppies in the piazza. The excursion takes you the camp in Dyea where the dogs are trained to be sled dogs. The drive is beautiful and, once there, you board a unimog - some kind of army vehicle with huge wheels - and go uphill almost vertically on the side of a cliff. It's not for the faint of heart. Once at the camp, you board a wheeled sled and the dogs take you on a ride around the trails. The mushers are happy to answer questions and take pictures and the dogs are so happy to be running and working. Once the ride is over you get back on the mog for the downhill ride and then get a little talk about the Iditarod.. Then the highlight of the day - holding, snuggling, petting, playing with the puppies. Some are only 2 weeks old and are just adorable. It's so hard to leave them! There is a nice gift shop, cafe, and bar if you can drag yourself away from the puppies to check them out (spoiler alert - we never can). After this, the bus heads back to Skagway and can drop in town or back at the ship. We went back to the ship as we knew there was nothing in town we wanted!

 

Southbound, we walked out of town toward the airport. It's about a 15 minute easy walk from where Royal docked. Once you pass the airport, you can cross a bridge and walk either left toward Yakutania Point and Smugglers Cove or right to the Pet Cemetary. We decided to head out to Yakutania Point which is a very easy walk with spectacular views. We spotted lots and lots of wooly bear caterpillars, which freaked out the kids a little. After some time at the point we headed to Smugglers Cove. This is more uphill but still easy. It's through the trees so on a hot day was perfect! Nice views and away from the tourist crowds. We still had lots of time so we headed toward the pet cemetary. However, this was quite an uphill hike and mom didn't feel up to it so we headed back to the ship.

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JUNEAU: Northbound, we walked from the ship to the Downtown transit centre, which was about 15 minutes from where Royal docked. We took the #1 Douglas bus - $2 adults/$1 kids each way and crossed to Douglas Island. We rode to the last stop, Savikko Beach. From here, it is a 5 minute walk to the trail for Treadwell Mine. This was probably the best port day of our two weeks. It was a glorious day and the trail was empty. The remains from the mine were fascinating and it was an easy, marked trail. We took our time exploring it all and did it in just over an hour. The trail ends at Sandy Beach, which was an amazing beach looking onto the Gastineau Channel. It was so surreal to be on a beach in Alaska with the sun beating down! We spent the rest of the day at the beach - the kids had a blast. At one point, we spotted a cruise ship in the distance and decided to hang around to watch it come in. It was NCL Bliss and it felt as if you could just reach out and touch it! Such a great day - highly recommend this if you are at a loose end in Juneau! To get back, we just walked back to the same stop and took the same bus!

 

Southbound: We walked around town and picked up some souvenirs. Nothing too exciting.

 

WHITTIER: We walked along the waterfront and picked up some fudge and some souvenirs from the few stores. Then we went to board the boat for the 26 Glaciers Cruise. We had pre-booked this excursion together and our bookings were linked but, for some reason, when we received our assigned seating we were not together. None of the Philips Cruise staff would help us, just shrugged and said "Sorry it's sold out". I explained that I was travelling with kids and it would be really nice to have them close. Nope. Can't help. Oh well. Mom wouldn't have done well sitting with one of the kids, so the kids sat together and mom and I sat together. It turned out fine as a lot of the time we went out on the open deck but it would have been nice to have gotten some assistance in the circumstances. The tour itself was wonderful - up close and personal to the glaciers, saw many otters, porpoise, whales, kittwakes, eagles. The lunch was really great - salmon chowder. We really enjoyed the tour!

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Can I ask about your impressions  of the open deck space for this ship? For the Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay days? Also did you sail east or west of Vancouver Island? And did your children swim in any of the pools?

 

Many thanks

Lou

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1 hour ago, ~*Lou*~ said:

Can I ask about your impressions  of the open deck space for this ship? For the Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay days? Also did you sail east or west of Vancouver Island? And did your children swim in any of the pools?

 

Many thanks

Lou

I was concerned that the outside decks would be crowded since there is no promenade. I can't say that this was the case. On the top deck at the front it was crowded, but there are areas front and aft on deck 7 that were totally empty and perfect for viewing. There were times when we had the area to ourselves! The very forward was also opened up at Glacier Bay so a lot of people went there. I stayed away from where the majority of people congregated - I don't think many people knew about the deck 7 open space!

 

We didn't sail the Inside Passage either north or south. Both ways we sailed outside Vancouver Island! We were sad about tha as its such a beautiful route. Also of note was having to leave Ketchikan early on the southbound voyage so that we could get under Lions Gate at the lowest tide - the captain mentioned that it would be hard to make time back as there was "a bit of a blow" off Vancouver Island. Not sure what that means, but maybe if we were sailing Inside then it would have been quicker?

 

DD swam in the pools a few times - the weather for us was actually hot! In all my trips to Alaska, we have never had weather like this. The pools were actually quite warm (not warm enough for me) but the hot tubs not so much! DS didn't swim this time as he was too busy doing other stuff. There were people (kids and adults) in the pool every day for the 2 weeks! The pools on this ship are not great - the kiddies pool is tiny and the adult pool not much bigger. I'm surprised that the pools were so small for this sized ship. I didn't check out the Retreat Pool at the front - maybe that one is bigger.

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1 hour ago, ~*Lou*~ said:

Can I ask about your impressions  of the open deck space for this ship? For the Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay days?

This was Glacier Bay day - deck 7 aft. We were the only ones out there for a big part of the day!

glacier5.JPG

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Wow, i’m Looking at the deck plan and I can’t even work our where this is, clever you for finding it- do you think Regal or Majestic (other Royal class ships) would have same aft and front access? 

 

Many thanks

Lou 

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I believe Deck 7 aft is a small smoking section, that might be the reason not many were there.

Deck 16 aft is also smoking, and was full when cruising the glaciers

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5 hours ago, blazer58 said:

I believe Deck 7 aft is a small smoking section, that might be the reason not many were there.

Deck 16 aft is also smoking, and was full when cruising the glaciers

Deck 7 aft did have a smoking area on starboard side (not sure about port) but we were out there several times and never saw anyone smoking or otherwise! Deck 7 forward is not a smoking area and it's really hard to find the doors to get out there - they are tucked in around the corner from Effy and from Crooners.....shhhh, don't tell anyone!

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