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Grand Princess - July 2017 - 10 Days Roundtrip to Alaska from San Francisco
5th Annual West Coast Line Dance Cruise
We picked the 10 day cruise out of San Francisco on the grand princess to Alaska for our annual line dance cruise. It’s still a very wonderful thing to sail out of the Port where you live and that was a big reason for choosing this cruise. The new cruise terminal in San Francisco is fabulous. Checking in and getting on board the ship was very easy & it’s so nice to have a real terminal. Previously, cruise ships used an old dock area with a make shift check in area...not very welcoming.
The ship is pretty and easy to navigate. If you’ve read my previous Princess ship reviews, you’ll know that I’m not a huge fan of Princess and I’m still not. Fortunately there is a cruise line out there for everyone and I won’t avoid sailing on Princess, it’s just not my first choice.
Service...overall, we had great service in the dining room. There were a few weird things, like we’d walk into the dining room with wine glass filled and if we tried to leave after dinner with a filled wine glass, they wanted to pour the wine into a Styrofoam cup. We basically told them “NO”...I brought one in, I’m taking one out. Seems to have been an inventory thing, but still you don’t put wine in a Styrofoam cup!!! We had great waiters that served our 3 group tables.
Our cabin stewardess was wonderful, she took great care of our cabin and was very attentive to any of our needs. Super friendly every time we’d see her in the hallways. She was super cute on Glacier Bay day, she came in to clean our room & we were enjoying our balcony and the glaciers. We invited her to come out to the balcony to take a picture with us, she was thrilled and then wanted a picture on her camera too. When you connect with staff like that, it’s priceless.
In the lounges/bars- well service was lacking. We tried to make friends with the wait staff in the lounge where we knew we’d be most nights and we’d have to waive the down when they were walking right in front of us. It was frustrating, I’m not sure if this is a product of the drink package- perhaps they don’t get tipped the same way, I don’t know. We did have FABULOUS service in the lobby bar from Nelson. He was amazing and has worked with Princess for 20 years! We’d visit him before dinner or after a day in port, he would fill our glasses when we weren’t looking, he always took care of us. He will be a staff member that we remember for years to come. I have told clients who have sailed this summer to “Say hello to Nelson for me”.
Group event staff service was decent, though often times our set up for water and signage for our private event was not set up when it should, so several times I’d have to call to get it set up. They were prompt at coming to get it done, but when this sort of thing is set up months in advance, you’d like for it to run smoothly.
The ship itself, though beautiful did have some areas where it was obvious of wear and tear of an older ship, some of the public bathrooms were stinky (sewage) and/or had tiles that were raised (hazard)...so I think that is the sort of thing that they need to pay better attention to when updating the ship.
Entertainment was good. We never made it to any of the big shows in the theatre, we were more interested in the dancing opportunities and the house band was EXCELLENT. In fact, I think they may have been one of the best cruise bands that we’ve ever seen. They did not repeat any songs until probably the 7th night..I was super impressed with this & they were very good about paying requests too.
Food was fine, really nothing to complain about. I loved having my appetizer portion of the fettuccine Alfredo that is always on the menu. We did dine in the two specialty restaurants & had great service and food in both of those. They were really empty both nights, which was strange. Maybe the idea of paying extra is not appealing to the masses on Princess. Steak house one night & Italian the other night. We did finish off our Italian night with lemoncello, which was delicious.
Itinerary...we visited the ports of Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Victoria and cruised Glacier Bay. This allowed us 5 days of line dance lessons on our “sea days”. We did get off the ship in most ports even though we’ve been to all of them before. In Juneau, we walked around and met up with Pams Path to Travel’s own Camala Umbenhaur who was born in Juneau. She happened to be visiting her family, so we met for lunch with her family & then she was very nice to take my cousin on a personal tour to Mendenhall Glacier since she was sort of regretting not taking an excursion.
In Skagway, we did the White Pass Railway excursion and it was an awesome day. Definitely a popular excursion and well worth the time and money spent. Very scenic and the tour guides were super informative .
In Ketchikan, we had a snafu. We followed the wrong group onto an excursion boat and by the time they realized that they had 2 people who did not belong, our excursion boat had just left the dock. The port staff did their best to find an alternative excursion for us & since my main concern was to see bears, they gave us the option that would provide the best possibiility since bear sightings are not guaranteed. We ended up on a rain forest hike that took you near a salmon hatchery & we did see a bear grazing on the grass (salmon had not hatched yet--usually end of July & that’s when you likely see them in the streams feasting on the fish)...I was thrilled and my day was made!! We finished off the excursion with a visit to a barn where two people were carving a totem pole & then we were shuttled back to the port. We had an afternoon excursion booked to the Lumberjack show which was awesome combined with a trip to the Totem Pole park nearby...it was a nice excursion, though you really can only spend so much time seeing totem poles..we were ready to go back about 45 mminutes earlier than scheduled. Overall, a fun day in Ketchikan.
Victoria, we opted to stay on the ship and sleep in and we did!! We woke up about 1pm because we had non-stop early mornings on this cruise and I am not a morning person at all!
Glacier Bay was beautiful and we were fortunate to catch some of the ice calving. Though I think our experience at Hubbard Glacier was better years ago. Of course, this is always changing with global warming and season to season with different weather patterns. It was also a cold day in Glacier Bay vs. The 80 degree day we had in Hubbard Glacier 7 years ago. But definitely loads better then Tracy Arm. I don’t know why cruise ships waste time going to Tracy Arm, it’s just not a great visit for larger ships.
Overall, we had a great cruise with a fabulous group of dance friends. Everyone got along wonderfully, we shared drinks, laughs, dances, memories and that’s really what it is all about.
You can view my ship pictures of the Grand Princess here. https://www.flickr.com/gp/pamstravel/h87MZh
I stayed up late one night playing in the casino and realized at 3am when I was walking back to my cabin that it was the perfect time to take pictures of all the public spaces without people in them!! Probably the only night in the history of my marriage to Bill that he woke up wondering where I was. I got back to the cabin to an empty cabin and that’s when I saw his text message. He went out looking for me, not sure where he thought I would have gone...afterall, it’s a ship!!