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Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

Pittsburgh
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Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

We were first time cruisers and did this cruise along with a 3 day prior interior package. We had used Princess air for our flights and had a stressful time getting to Fairbanks. We encountered everthing from bad weather, missed connections, and mixed messages from Princess as to how to proceed. In the end, it worked out but we had only 3 hours sleep before starting our grueling 3 day pre-cruise tour.

I have to say the 3 day land package was my favorite part. The Denali and McKinley Princess Hotels were wonderful, the helicopter glacier landing was spectacular, Mt. McKinley was out in full glory, and the train trips were amazingly relaxing! It was perfect. I was concerned about taking only the Natural History tour in Denali but we saw all kinds of wildlife and our tour guide had just the perfect, almost reverent, attitude.

As to the cruise itself, we loved it. We like buffets but were disappointed in this one as it was a circus...crowded, unorganized and no place to sit. Anytime dining worked great with no waits for a table for two. The food was good but not great. Afternoon tea was something we looked forward to. I had breakfast in bed every morning.

We found the ship to be beautiful and service was excellent. Entertainment was good and we were never bored. The casino was a rip off with very poor payouts on many of the machines. Of course I found myself there too often and too long

We found Skagway the most disappointing part of the vacation. The train was wonderful and filled much of our day. The town itself was awful with 4 big cruise ships in port, shoulder to shoulder tourists, ridiculous prices and lines, and just too "touristy" and fake for our taste. If we hadn't planned on the train ride we would have just gotten back on the ship for the day.

Of course, Glacier Bay was worth the price of the cruise and the best part of the cruise part of the vacation. A balcony in Alaska is a must.

DH and I were concerned about formal night and the snobbery I thought I detected on this site but have to say it worked out great! It really was not hard to dress for and the ship did take on a different, "special" look and feel those nights. When I'm wrong, I'll admit it!

I was also worried about motion sickness as I am very prone to this condition. I was told the seas were extremely smooth but I took one dose of Bonine daily and never once felt any queasiness or side effects. In fact, many of the details I worried about never mattered as things just seemed to work out as we moved along.

Trip home was another mess of late flights and just barely made connections. However, I have come to expect this of flying these days.

Thanks all for your wonderful advice. If I can answer any questions, please ask them.

Chatham, Ontario
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1. Re: Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

JilleeBean - I'm **SO** sad to hear about your flight hassles! After all your concerns and posts, I wanted everything on your first cruise to be perfect for you!

At least you made your connections, but it sounds grueling and exhausting.

Been reading (here and CruiseCritic) buying cruise air no longer guarantees the ship will wait. Ship captains are getting fed up with incompetent front office staff whose choice of cheap flights are doomed not to work from the outset. But for you to barely make your pre-cruise tour sounds...well, I can't use those words in a public forum!

I'm so glad - despite exhaustion - that tour was great. Seems you have to get out of the ports to see the real Alaska. Been told overcrowding isn't just because more ships are doing Alaska, but ships are so much bigger.

At least dress codes didn't cause grief on your trip, and I'm relieved you felt the formal nights were special, not a hassle.

And it's great Bonine did the trick!

Buford, Georgia
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2. Re: Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

Was the train ride you mentioned in Skagway the White Pass rail tour? Did you book it through the cruise ship? I notice there are several different White Pass excursions, which one did you take?

Pittsburgh
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3. Re: Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

Thanks, Fannish. While the flight hassles were more of an "adventure" than I would have liked, they no way spoiled this wonderful vacation.

As for Skagway, yes we took the White Pass train. I had considered booking in on my own but hesitated because we were going later in the day and I had concerns about a breakdown or some reason we couldn't make the ship sailing. I was told that if you are on a Princess sponsored tour, the ship would wait. That was never a problem but I am still glad I booked this one through Princess. The train picked up, and dropped off, Princess passengers right at the ship dock which was a huge convenience as it happened to be cold and windy that day.

Fannish, you are right about the ships. The four ships in port were all huge. You cannot just dump 10,000 people in a small town and not have them feeling like sardines!

Calgary, Canada
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4. Re: Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

Unfortunately, If you have one of the Princess "super ships" and a large Holland America ship in ANY port at the same time, it is 5000 people right there... regardless of any other ships in port

The lines need to pull back their departures... stagger them

Overnight in some ports would NOT be a bad thing, and would clear a lot of the jams

As for air

I am going through this with Holland America right now, in regards to a cruise leaving New York this autumn. Instead of offering me a flight that got in the same day (left 3.5 hours to get from AP to ship... not much, but enough without a drastic delay), Holland gave me one that got in the day prior, and then tried to add on a hotel.

I told them flat out... get me THIS flight, or none

3 days later, they finally confirmed it

The only reason I am staying with them, is that the responsibility is THEIRS if the flight is late (yes my pax have insurance...and will be covered for connections to catch up to the ship...but I would rather Holland America be holding the ball)

So you have to make concessions where necessary

Just remember.. if you book your own air, and are NOT doing a pre night... BUY INTERRUPTION INSURANCE. It is a life saver if you have to catch up to the ship

5. Re: Alaska-Whittier to Vancouver-Princess Saphire 5/26- TR

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