Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Today, Princess Cruises’ Star Princess is docked in Ketchikan, Alaska. As you might expect, the city’s famous “liquid sunshine” is living up to its name. But almost incredibly, today is the first day of rain we’ve had here after nine stunning days in Alaska on our Princess Denali Explorer cruisetour that began last Tuesday in Anchorage.
Princess offers 18 different land-and-crise tour options in Alaska, with another multitude of possible combinations, including having the land-tour portion happen before or after your cruise. You can also choose your level of guiding, from fully-escorted “Connoisseur” cruisetours to more self-guided options that merely include transportation and accommodations, but leave it up to guests as to what – and how much – they’d like to do.
Our itinerary has taken us from Anchorage to the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge and then on to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Denali National Park for a two-night stay. Following that, we rode the rails aboard Princess Cruises’ exclusive domed rail cars south to Whittier, where the 2002-built, 2600-guest Star Princess was waiting for us.
Once onboard Star Princess, we set sail for College Fjord, Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Juneau, and now Ketchikan. In two days’ time, we’ll dock in Vancouver, and our Voyage of the Glaciers will come to a close.
It’s been a heck of a journey. The continuity between ship and shore has been better than I expected. If you’ve sailed with Princess in the past to Alaska – as I have – you’ll no doubt be interested in the line’s new North to Alaska partnerships. There’s a renewed focus on locally-sourced food onboard, and locally-inspired spirits, cocktails and beers. There are Klondike Festivals and Midnight Sun parties out on deck. Real Alaskans – from Iditarod Musher Libby Riddles to storyteller Steve Hites – come onboard to entertain and enrich guests. You can even participate in a Deadliest Catch-style crab sorting tournament in the atrium!
Speaking of the famous reality TV show, Princess’s new Discovery at Sea partnership plays a huge part in the new Princess experience in Alaska. There’s Discovery Channel-themed shore excursions, recommended for their historical or local interest potential.
But Princess is also pulling out all the stops for another reason: they’re celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. Fifty years is a long time in the cruise industry, and Princess has been sailing to Alaska right from the start.
Even the Star Princess is in tip-top shape. There are a lot of things onboard that impress me, from the newly-laid carpeting in the stairwells and atrium that sports a brand-new colour scheme that gives the ship a younger and more modern appearance; to the redesigned Princess Patter daily programs; the installation of do-it-yourself onboard account kiosks; and the gorgeous refit work conducted a few years ago that saw the addition of Vines Wine Bar, the International Café, and the reconfigured Piazza Atrium.
There’s been a lot to see and do over the course of the last week and a half- and the honest truth is we just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and post it all! But our regular day-by-day posts will begin this coming Monday, June 29, where they will run continuously for 12 days. And there’s a world of adventure out there to share with you.
It’s my ninth voyage to Alaska – and I’m continually finding new places and experiences that move me in this great state. If you’ve never been to Alaska before, stay tuned. If you have – well, chances are good that I’ll be preaching to the choir.
I know Princess doesn’t use the old “Escape Completely” tag line anymore, but that is exactly what these past few days have been: a complete departure from anything even remotely normal.
Because there’s nothing quite like a cruise to Alaska:
|Day 1 & 2||Anchorage & Mt. McKinley|
|Day 3||Denali National Park|
|Day 4||Double Denali|
|Day 5||Boarding the Star Princess|
|Day 6||Hubbard Glacier|
|Day 7||Glacier Bay|