The Princess Cruise Line treats you like royalty

Karl & Michelle Teel

The Grand Princess.

Come back refreshed in heart, mind, and soul

Pampering, relaxation, and adventure are all hallmarks of a cruising vacation. But, first, there are decisions to be made. Which cruise line? Which ship? Which itineraries? Our cruise on the Princess Cruise Lines Grand Princess, embarking from San Francisco to Alaska, proved to be an excellent choice.

It was our first time on a Princess ship and we wanted to sample the line’s offerings. We found it to be clearly a cut above the mainstream cruise lines, but not priced commensurately higher. The overall tone of the ship was elegant and subdued. It wasn’t overly flashy or loud; just the right balance of comfort that left you feeling like royalty. 

The Grand Princess.
The Grand Princess.

Make sure to take advantage of the adults-only pool and hot tub area in the nose of the ship, a great follow-up to the spa, where we enjoyed a hot stone couple’s massage. Or, try “The Sanctuary,” the ultimate experience in pampering on board, which offers an exclusive retreat for just $20 per half day or $40 for the full day, with a spacious retreat and comfortable upscale lounge chairs and catered services. 

Insider tip: The best deals on spa services are offered on embarkation day and also at the end of the cruise.

Dining is always a highlight of a cruise, and this ship is no exception. Options include the trendy anytime dining, where you can arrive at any time and get to meet a variety of your fellow passengers, or the traditional fixed schedule dining where friendships are made with your tablemates. Upscale options are also well worth the nominal charge. Select from a high-end steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, or an upscale Italian restaurant where you’ll enjoy five-course dining that may run in the range of $300 per couple at home for just a $29 per person upcharge on board.

Insider tip: Plan ahead to reserve your table. Take the time when you first board to look at your schedule and make your reservations for days at sea so you don’t compromise port time. You may also wish to avoid scheduling during the main dining’s formal or seafood dinner nights.

Speaking of all of that dining, there is a gym that has all the state-of-the-art exercise machines, weight machines, and free weights, as well as free classes, such as Zumba and yoga. Taking the stairs, walking laps on the Promenade deck, and hitting the gym are all great ways to stay fit and counterbalance the almost impossible-to-resist additional calories that the delicious food and beverages supply.

Golden Gate Bridge Crossing.
Golden Gate Bridge Crossing.

A cruise is a great way to unplug and truly relax, but if you need technology, Princess has it. The line has its own free website, which gives you access to the entertainment and dining schedules. You can also text other cruisers — once again, at no cost.

Princess even uses technology to make dealing with your bill easier. Why stand in line when you can, at any time, walk by a kiosk, swipe your room card, and print out your current statement of charges? Take it back to your room and review at your leisure. The ships have satellite Wi-Fi so you can keep up with your email (for a fee). One of the benefits of an Alaska cruise is that you can get free Internet and phone service while in port since are all in the U.S. (except for Victoria, British Columbia).

The sail out of San Francisco Bay is beautiful and exciting. As the ship cruises past Alcatraz Island, the bay is full of sailboats plying the sparkling water, while the passage under the Golden Gate Bridge is so much fun. The horn blasts to the cheers of those walking over the bridge and the passengers who are setting sail for an exciting Alaska adventure.

 

Ports of call

The towns along the Alaskan coast have much in common, although each has its unique personality, as well. All are part of a temperate tropical rain forest, lush with green growth and relatively mild winters, far different than what most minds conjure up when thinking of Alaska.

Unlike the interior of the state, weather-wise, they are far more affected by the ocean. The coastal towns do have some interesting elements due to their northern location. There are dramatic 25-foot tide changes. During the five hours we were in Ketchikan, the tide changed by a whopping 12 feet.

Daylight changes are dramatic as well. Our visit in late May, a full month prior to the summer solstice, had sunsets well after 10:00pm. Even then, it never fully set. It only went to a prolonged dusk.

Ketchikan, at first glance, appears to be the town out of the old TV sitcom series Northern Exposure. It’s one of those places where, the deeper you dig, the more fascinating it becomes. On our last visit there, we took a float plane into the interior and enjoyed the scenic majesty of Misty Fiords National Monument. This time, we hung out in town and really got to know it.

We loved hiking up Creek Street with its shops and a flavor that hailed back to the days of the gold rush. You can still see the old brothel located next door to the preacher’s house. The creek is a great salmon spawning area and if you arrive anywhere from mid-July through September it’s an amazing sight to see. More salmon than you have ever seen in your life will fight to reach their original spawning grounds. Ketchikan is a great jumping-off point to take any number of excursions.

Juneau has the distinction of being the only capital city — and perhaps one of the only non-island cities in the country — that is only reachable by air or boat. No roads lead into or out of Juneau, as it is pocketed into a coastal mountainside. Within the city, the longest road is a mere 35 miles and the city has fewer than 100 miles of roads in total. However, there are 200 miles of hiking trails and another 100 miles of mining tunnels.Ketchikan

The city’s new cruise terminal is convenient and well thought out, yet captures the flavor of the town. Don’t miss a visit to Mendenhall Glacier (via helicopter is best), or a tram ride up the mountain for scenic views. Whale-sighting excursions are another highlight of this port.

Skagway — a town that lives up to the roots of its Indian name, “Winds From the North” — began as a port to service the Klondike gold rush. The town itself can be walked in minutes, but there is so much more to do.

Without a doubt, take a tour that includes a train trip through the White Mountain Pass. Try to record your memories with pictures but, frankly, unless you view them on a gazillion-inch screen, it will never do the scenery justice. Your mind will try to absorb the stories of these hardy prospectors in this harsh yet beautiful environment, and will leave you with memories full of wonder at the adventurers who braved the harsh elements in order to stake a claim. The land is lush with wildlife (we saw two black bears on the hillside and loads of bald eagles), scenic vistas, and little towns that take you back in time, as well as share the rich culture of the First Nations people.

Cruising glaciers is a best-of-both-worlds opportunity, with the relaxed atmosphere and joys of a sea day, but the beauty and scenery of a port day. Get your cameras ready and select from a mix of views from a balcony, the upper deck, The Sanctuary, or the interior warmth and services of a restaurant while watching magnificent glaciers. If you’re in luck, you’ll also sight whales spouting or sea lions and seals resting on icebergs.

Victoria is a magnificent island and home to The Butchart Gardens, formerly a quarry and now 55 acres of the most manicured gardens imaginable. This is a must-see in Victoria, and during the half-hour ride to and from the gardens, you’ll also get a glimpse of key sites such as the Parliament, the Royal Museum, and the Empress Hotel.

A variety of sightseeing tours and whale-watching tours are available. The city is very walkable or bikeable, and filled with parks and lovely older homes, as well as restaurants and food trucks. It’s famous for the flowering hanging baskets everywhere.

San Francisco and other U.S. cities are available for points of departure to Alaska, as well as one-way itineraries allowing you to explore these towns.

 

Yukon Territory

Alaskan cruises offer the ideal mix of port days and sea days. The sea days allow you to sleep in without missing anything, to spend time at the gym to work off those dinner calories, or to attend relaxing yet informative seminars on a variety of topics. Sea days are also a fantastic time to book spa services. The Pacific Ocean is quite calm and is full of sea life. Princess has a naturalist on board who points out wildlife along the way. We saw whales as we were leaving the San Francisco harbor.

Are you ready to book your trip? If you want more information on other ships and itineraries, visit princess.com, call 800-PRINCESS, or see your travel agent.

Pampering, relaxation, and adventure are all hallmarks of a cruising vacation. But, first, there are decisions to be made. Which cruise line? Which ship? Which itineraries? Our latest cruise, on the Princess Cruise Lines Grand Princess, embarking from San Francisco to Alaska, proved to be an excellent choice.

It was our first time on a Princess ship and we wanted to sample the line’s offerings. We found it to be clearly a cut above the mainstream cruise lines, but not priced commensurately higher. The overall tone of the ship was elegant and subdued. It wasn’t overly flashy or loud; just the right balance of comfort that left you feeling like royalty.

Make sure to take advantage of the adults-only pool and hot tub area in the nose of the ship, a great follow-up to the spa, where we enjoyed a hot stone couple’s massage. Or, try “The Sanctuary,” the ultimate experience in pampering on board, which offers an exclusive retreat for just $20 per half day or $40 for the full day, with a spacious retreat and comfortable upscale lounge chairs and catered services. (See our photo gallery online.)

Insider tip: The best deals on spa services are offered on embarkation day and also at the end of the cruise.

Dining is always a highlight of a cruise, and this ship is no exception. Options include the trendy anytime dining, where you can arrive at any time and get to meet a variety of your fellow passengers, or the traditional fixed schedule dining where friendships are made with your tablemates. Upscale options are also well worth the nominal charge. Select from a high-end steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, or an upscale Italian restaurant where you’ll enjoy five-course dining that may run in the range of $300 per couple at home for just a $29 per person upcharge on board.

Insider tip: Plan ahead to reserve your table. Take the time when you first board to look at your schedule and make your reservations for days at sea so you don’t compromise port time. You may also wish to avoid scheduling during the main dining’s formal or seafood dinner nights.

Speaking of all of that dining, there is a gym that has all the state-of-the-art exercise machines, weight machines, and free weights, as well as free classes, such as Zumba and yoga. Taking the stairs, walking laps on the Promenade deck, and hitting the gym are all great ways to stay fit and counterbalance the almost impossible-to-resist additional calories that the delicious food and beverages supply.

A cruise is a great way to unplug and truly relax, but if you need technology, Princess has it. The line has its own free website, which gives you access to the entertainment and dining schedules. You can also text other cruisers — once again, at no cost.

Princess even uses technology to make dealing with your bill easier. Why stand in line when you can, at any time, walk by a kiosk, swipe your room card, and print out your current statement of charges? Take it back to your room and review at your leisure. The ships have satellite Wi-Fi so you can keep up with your email (for a fee). One of the benefits of an Alaska cruise is that you can get free Internet and phone service while in port since are all in the U.S. (except for Victoria, British Columbia).

The sail out of San Francisco Bay is beautiful and exciting. As the ship cruises past Alcatraz Island, the bay is full of sailboats plying the sparkling water, while the passage under the Golden Gate Bridge is so much fun. The horn blasts to the cheers of those walking over the bridge and the passengers who are setting sail for an exciting Alaska adventure.

 

 

Days at sea

Alaskan cruises offer the ideal mix of port days and sea days. The sea days allow you to sleep in without missing anything, to spend time at the gym to work off those dinner calories, or to attend relaxing yet informative seminars on a variety of topics. Sea days are also a fantastic time to book spa services. The Pacific Ocean is quite calm and is full of sea life. Princess has a naturalist on board who points out wildlife along the way. We saw whales as we were leaving the San Francisco harbor.

Are you ready to book your trip? If you want more information on other ships and itineraries, visit princess.com, call 800-PRINCESS, or see your travel agent.

 

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