I would like to thank everyone who helped with my trip planning. I appreciate all input. I am starting this report with cruise only and then will add more to this thread as I complete the DIY land tour report.
July 8, 2012
Left home at 6:08, arrived at Boston Logan International Airport about 8:30.
Pleasantly surprised at no lines at security and went through easy as pie. The downside is that Air Canada's terminal B suite is just that. An L- shaped suite with 3 gates. There is no food other than a small kiosk with fruits, yogurt, coffee, muffins and prepackaged sandwiches. If you need to eat a meal before your flight, I advise picking up food before going into security. It was ok to bring in food from an airport restaurant, according to TSA.
When we checked our bags we were told that we would have to retrieve our own luggage at Toronto, our connecting city.Huh?
Arrived at Toronto and missed our flight. We really shouldn't have missed our flight but Air Canada booked our connection way too tight. We booked directly with Air Canada. They neglected to tell us that after disembarking flight #1, we would not only have to go through customs ( we thought we would have to do that at our final destination) , but we would have to retrieve our luggage for the connection and recheck our luggage after going through customs. This, unfortunately, left us with a very tight connection. When we arrived at customs at 1:30 for our 2PM flight we were directed to a not so friendly fellow whose initial contact was quite rude. He told us we would not be able to make our 2 PM flight and proceeded to rebook us on a 5 PM flight. He lightened up a bit and was just shooting the breeze with us, as we now knew that we had 3 hours to wait for our next flight. Upon arriving at the gate at our original flight was pulling away from the gate. We finally arrived at the gate about 2:15 and our originally booked flight was just pulling away from the gate. Now, if our rebooking person had not taken his sweet time on the computer and lessened the small talk, in our estimation, they should have been able to hold that flight for all those people on the Bos-Tor flight heading to Vancouver. I am sorry to say, that everyone we had verbal contact with at the Toronto Airport, were very unfriendly and in some cases, quite rude.
Pros of Air Canada:
Fairly comfy seats
Decent leg room
Computers on the back of each seat.
If an on-seat computer has a glitch they gave free earplugs .Movies are free but you can’t watch them uninterrupted.
Maybe we will get to Vancouver today. Tomorrow has to be less stressful.
We arrived in Vancouver finally about 7PM. While the 4 of us were waiting for our luggage I went outside (about a 50 ft walk) to check out transportation options. We planned to take a cab but Aeroshuttle services had a stretch limo right there and empty. The 4 of us and our combined 13 bags were transported to the Pan Pacific for $50. We thought that was a great deal and made the transport so much less stressful after a frustrating Air Canada experience. When we checked into Pan Pacific we were told that we were lucky that Air Canada didn't lose our luggage. Evidently they have a reputation for this.
We spent the night at the Pan Pacific hotel. This was the best decision we could have made. We asked to borrow a stapler from the desk to attach our princess luggage tags. The room was fine, very clean; internet access is available on a pay basis. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom is good size with a lighted make up mirror. We had a complimentary breakfast buffet. This morning I woke at my usual 4 AM. Funny how that works when you travel west into an earlier 3 hour time zone. Planned a lively jaunt through the Canadian trail a few times but we were stopped by the sight of the Coral Princess coming into the harbor from the SB cruise.
We watched the ship dock and then got ready for breakfast. Breakfast at the Cafe Pacifico was very good. Lots of choices, many different types of fresh cut fruit, more than the usual on a restaurant buffet. There was eggs Benedict and scrambled eggs as well as potatoes, bacon, etc. After breakfast, we took the obligatory walk to Harbor Centre on West Hastings St to buy a couple of bottles of wine for our room. We found the type of wine we prefer. (Rosemont) the cost was the same as the regular cost in NH but it is often on sale in NH. We returned the hotel and called for the bellman to take our bags downstairs to the Coral Princess. He was very good and made sure that we had not put our passports or boarding passes into the checked luggage. He told us that customs has opened and that we were welcome to proceed to check into the ship. We then checked out and proceeded in the elevator to the cruise ship level and went through customs, security and then get processed with princess. They took us right up front since we stayed at the Pan Pacific and sat us in a corralled .They told us we would be the first on board. They had water for refreshments while we waited for the ship to be ready to be boarded.
Princess is extremely organized in the check in process. Embarkation was flawless. We were boarded very quickly, with the exception of the ship photographer taking the welcome aboard photo. That always slows the process up, of course.
Once on board we went directly to our cabin on the Baja deck. The cabin was located in the mishap bump out and was right at the elevator. Surprisingly, we heard no noise from the elevator. In fact, we heard no noise at all, not even from our friends next door when they had the TV on. Speaking of TV is sure to turn the TV to the ship channel, to see the progression and location of the cruise in real time. There are maps that show where we are located which is very helpful. The room was quite roomy, in comparison to inside cabins that we have had on previous cruises, comparing to RCCL, as that is the only other cruise line we have been on. The egg crate I ordered was not on the bed. When we met Alvin, our very friendly cabin steward, he told me that instead of the egg crate he substituted it with a pillow top pad. I would not call this a pillow top pad. It was more like a thick-ish mattress pad. Because DH has a history of back surgery, we requested the egg crate in addition and Alvin was pleased to comply with our request. They egg crate is no more than in inch thick. It helped a little, but when you are used to memory foam on top of a tempurpedic mattress, there is nothing that will compare. You can easily fit several suitcases under the bed. The closet was very spacious and they supply a plentiful number of wood hangers and lots of shelving. Each night stand has 2 drawers we had brought an extension cord to use in the event that the plug was too far away for a CPAP to reach we were pleased that the machine cord did reach the plug and thus only needed the extra cord to charge the iPad,computer,phones or camera batteries. We requested a top sheet (I really don’t understand why they don’t automatically place a top sheet on the bed to begin with) and a second bathrobe..
Lunch on embarkation day was in the Horizon Court for the Buffett. The main dining rooms were not open for lunch. The climate control in Horizon Court is not good. It was quite warm and there were so many people and very low ceilings on one end. Great ocean view, only so-so food. Plenty of choices but much of it was very cafeteria-like. We hoped that the dinner in the main dining room would be better, and it certainly turned out to be the case. Interestingly, the food did seem to improve in the Horizon court each day that we partook. Maybe we had the leftovers from the SB cruise.
We easily found the "secret" Baja deck on the bow. It was perfect to watch the sunset that evening. A crew member did come out at one time and we asked him if it was, indeed okay to be out there. He assured us that this was a public viewing area. Each night we toasted on the secret deck as our ship left port.
There was a little too much marketing on board. Many “talks” were followed by book/cd sales.
Laundromat is on the aft end of the ship. On the Baja deck there were 6 washers and dryers.
Ports of call
Ketchikan: in port about 6 hours. We were bombarded at debarkation with vendors selling their tours. We were approached by a rep from Tanguay air services, selling flight-seeing tours. When we asked the simple question of what the cost would be the man would not say right away, we kept asking us irrelevant questions and refused to tell the cost until we finally ended it and walked away. He was very rude. We then decided to hire a local cab driver, Renee, to give us a personalized tour of the area that would be away from the crowds. She was a wealth of local knowledge and took us about 6-8 miles outside of town, showing us different spots where the locals fish and where we could see lots of eagles as well as salmon jumping. It was great. She charged us an hourly rate but when we hit it off so well, she ended up charging us for only the initial hour.
Juneau: whale watch at 8:30with Harv and Marv. Met "cruisealex" from the UK on the same trip. Tim, who met us was great, as well as RoseMarie, our shuttle driver. Had Captain Liz on our small boat , just 6 of us. We saw about 8 or 9 whales. Lots of blows. We understand that in the afternoon of that same day, the whales were more active. They stop at Mendenhall Glacier for about 30 minutes. You can stay there if you chose and take the blue shuttle bus back to port. Watch the times of the last shuttle. it seems to vary day by day. That particular day, the last shuttle was at 4:30 PM.
Skagway: rented a car from Avis ( short walk from the docks) and drove to Emerald Lake. White Pass was totally socked in with fog and clouds, as well as some rain. Once we got into British Columbia, the weather and visibility improved and we could see more of the scenery. We felt badly for anyone taking the railroad, as there were no scenic views to be had. On the way through the Yukon, we came across a black bear mama and her 3 cubs, meandering along the edge of the road. The cubs were cinnamon colored. We stopped in the tiny town of Carcross and chatted at length with a nice lady at the visitor’s center and took a walking tour of the town and shops and then headed to Emerald Lake. We were picturing a different setting for Emerald Lake. It was bigger than I expected and the color of the water was spectacular. I can only imagine how colorful it must look if the sun were out. We returned back to Skagway about 4:30, did some shopping and headed to the ship for a light snack before our dinner reservation.
Glacier Bay..Sunshine and bright skies, Glacier Bay is beyond gorgeous. The ship spent a lot of time at Margerie Glacier and repositioned the boat so that those on either side of the ship, on their balconies, could have equal time. While our side was positioned for the Port side, we were entertained by a grizzly bear on the beach in front of us. We did spend some time on the secret forward deck and the aft deck. The forward deck can be very windy so bundle up! Listen for white thunder..incredible.
Naturalist: The Naturalist on board was Kathy. She was really good with the history of the area but we would have liked more info on glaciers, how they form, move, etc, as well as whales and wildlife. Kathy is a good historian but not exactly what I would can a naturalist. She did a good job peddling her books after presentation.
Dining : We had Anytime Dining in the Bordeaux dining room. We requested a specific dinner time almost each night, and ended up lucky enough to get the same window view table each night. We were told that we could reserve a table as long as it was up until 5:45 and after 7:15. Staff: Alvin , Dalibor , Carlos and Marius- anytime dining. We befriended the 2 head waiters, Carlos and Marius. Carlos send us a special "extra" appetizer each night and the requested escargot was presented to us on Saturday night.They chose Saturday night so as to not bring it to the attention of other cruisers, or at least that is what they told us. Wow..Great service, friendly faces, very attentive.
We brought wine from our room to dinner almost every night, no questions asked. We had fresh wine glasses in our room daily. At times, they would take the wind from my hand and carried to the table for me.
Seafood buffet lunch was held on the Lido deck towards the end of the week. The food was excellent
Afternoon tea is a fun thing to do. We met a lot of nice people.
Grill & Pizza: I personally did not use either of these venues. One of our parties did use the grill and he felt that the hamburgers were cafeteria like and tough.
Specialty dining: did not use any of these. I don’t believe in the extra charges..It was the principal.
There were 2 wine tasting events. The first one was offered at $25pp. We did not attend that. Towards the end of the week, they offered another wine tasting event, this one more reasonably priced at $9.95 pp. We did partake in this one, ended up buying a wine for the table that was excellent.
Ice cream was available daily, and this was high quality soft serve. I know this because we used to own a soft serve ice cream shop and it was considered the best soft serve in our area. The Princess soft serve was very much like it.
Sanctuary: walked through to see what it was like. Very rarely saw anyone using it. I don’t agree with a fee for this.
Jean Mac- terrific jazz singer in the Bayou bar, who took a liking to us and chatted with us every time we were there. I was sad for her that more people did not come to listen. It was here I was introduced to the Monte-Chocsco . Hot chocolate, Grand Marnier and Kahlua…so good on a cold Alaskan night!
Epiphany- musical group that was very versatile and fun to listen to. We were dismayed at how poorly attended the lounges were with these singers.
Welcome aboard show: very boring. The cruise director tried to entertain. Kudos for trying.
Comedy of Sarge: this fellow was hilarious, our jaws were aching from so much laughter. We was definitely a bit politically incorrect, but hilarious. We attended 3 different shows and each one was new material. The man is gifted . Our jaws were aching from laughing. He got a standing ovation.
On the Bayou:Very entertaining.
Magician: we skipped this one but our traveling buddy couple attended and found it boring.
Best entertainment was a humpback calf breaching outside of our dining window at dinner one evening.
Fitness: I was already to join in Zumba, but there were no Zumba classes offered. I had every good intention of using the fitness Center but ended up walking loops around the Promenade deck early each morning. We would walk for about an hour. Each 2.5 loops equaled a mile, according to the signage.
Staff: Alvin - room steward. Very nice, attentive and prompt to our needs and request. At the end of the cruise, we had to have our bags out the night before. This included DH’s sleep pad. Alvin was able to accommodate by replacing his bed pad with a double egg crate which worked out well
DIY Land tour report to follow