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Reviewed August 9, 2012

This 12 day cruise and land tour booked through Princess Cruises was a winner! We took the package that offered a 7 day cruise northbound from Vancouver, BC following the inside passage along the Alaskan coast, with stops at Ketchikan, Juneau (the smallest capital city in the U.S. at only 14,000 population), and Skagway. The last two days were at sea, visiting Glacier Bay National Park and College Fyord, with stunning views of many glaciers and snow-capped mountains. Awe-inspiring!

The Princess Sapphire is one of the larger of their fleet, holding about 2,600 of us. Yet seldom did we feel crowded or have to wait in lines. They are extremely well organized and their service is truly outstanding. Smiling faces from many nations greeted us throughout the ship. The food was plentiful at numerous restaurants, and the quality was good, but not outstanding. We did not try the extra price venues. The entertainment was as good as always (can you tell we have cruised many times?), the illusionist and the comedian were really good. Since the big draw on these Alaskan cruises is the scenery, we thoroughly enjoyed the naturalist who was on board for the whole cruise. Sandra Schempp spoke several times at length in the main theatre about local customs of the native groups, flora and fauna of the area, and helped us spot whales, sea otters, and other sea life. And she knew her stuff, and where we would see each of the wildlife species day by day. Yet she was also very personable and engaging, too. High marks to her -- she added much to our enjoyment of the cruise. There were also park rangers who came on board just for a few hours as we approached Glacier Bay. They were great, too.

The weather was quite cool the whole week, (40-60) and generally overcast and drizzly, not what you might expect for early July, though it sometimes is very warm. Typical changeable weather like in NW U.S., we understand. Still, the scenery was stunning and the shipboard activities never stopped, so it was a memorable cruise.

As for the ports, Ketchikan was a quaint little town with the usual gift shops and old time bars and restaurants. One fun activity there was the Lumberjack Show, during which young and athletic competitors go at chopping wood, climbing poles, log rolling, etc, while the emcee gets the crowd involved by cheering and booing for their team. Very funny and entertaining 2 hour show.

Juneau has a small government area downtown that is not too interesting, but has two great things to do. First, be sure to take a bus/taxi/tour to Mendenhall Glacier, and watch the stunning video (helicopter ride just over mountain peaks and glaciers) at the visitors center and then walk over to the falls, where you get a close up view of the big blue glacier itself. It is the only glacier that is slowly melting into a fresh water lake. Beautiful! Then, later on, take the Mt. Roberts Tramway 1,700 feet up the side of a mountain for some more activities and shopping. A really good family band played and sang while we were up there.

Skagway keeps its gold rush history alive in many ways, but for a cool and snowy ride, take the White Pass and Yukon Railroad into the mountains. Great scenery and narration.

The cruise ends at Whittier, Alaska, and the add-on land tour (2 to 5 extra days) begins. We opted for the max, and we're glad we did. Princess has its own large, comfortable tour busses, and the three guide/drivers we had for the first three days were outstanding in knowledge, courtesy, and story-telling abilities. The miles sped by with the guys enthralling us with facts, info, and tales of the areas. We stayed in Anchorage one night, after seeing a game preserve for injured wildlife. Then on to the two lodges owned by Princess for a night each. The sun finally came out for us at the McKinley Lodge and we saw Mt. McKinley (which only 30 percent get to see because of the cloud cover and normally misty weather there). All 20,320 feet of it! The next two days were at the Denali National Park, where we went to see the nice visitor center (another great video about the park) and a sled dog kennels nearby in the park, and a 5 hour tour of the park with another fabulous driver/guide, Steve, who really knows his stuff, having given this tour for 16 years!

A Princess train took us on to Fairbanks the next day for 2 nights at the Bear Lodge, a delightful place. They have their own shuttle all around town (free), so we saw the sights (especially The Museum of the North). Also had included tours of the Chena River on a stern wheeler riverboat, visited a gold dredging operation, and stood beside the Alaskan Pipeline as a guide told us all about it --actually quite a feat building it. We flew home (almost 24 hours), and somewhere along the way, I lost my camera and about 500 photos... Luckily my wife also took 200 on her camera!

Altogether a wonderful time -- highly recommended!

Date of experience: July 2012
14  Thank ArchieGoodwin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 2, 2012

The Zuiderdam is over 12 years old and is starting to show its age. The door separating the veranda rooms banged all night due to the strong winds until it finally broke open. The casino smelled of smoke and there was mostly action at the blackjack games.
The food was really pedestrian and the could not seem to get the drink orders out before the dinners arrived.
However, the views of the Alaska coast were fantastic.

Date of experience: July 2012
7  Thank 610JW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2012

In June 2012 I cruised the Inside Passage on the Celebrity Infinity. It was evening and the sun did not set until 10:30 PM. In addition to the spectacular scenery we saw fantastic cloud formations that offered great photo opportunities. The snow capped mountains reach 11,000 ft. and the glaciers made the trip so memorable. Several sea lions provided entertainment.

This part of Alaska must be seen, along with the magnificent Tracy Arm Fjord we experienced several days prior. We spent the whole passage in the outside bar on the stern of the ship. Weather was clear and brisk.

WOW!

Date of experience: June 2012
5  Thank Tiburon09
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 20, 2012

We just returned from the inside passage cruise aboard the Star Princess. What a beautiful experience. We were fortunate to have excellent weather. The scenery is just stunning. Wildlife is abundant, eagles, whales, seals, porpoise...just keep an eye out you will see them all. Waterfalls everywhere, magical glaciers, blue ice that you really can't believe until you see it in person.

This was our first cruise and we were not disappointed. The rooms were nicer than i anticipated, the staff was fabulous --how will i live without my afternoon cookie and turn down service :)--food was excellent---make the effort to eat in the dining room for dinner!

We did not do any "official" shore excursions , rather we researched ahead of time and had a game plan for each port...many of the same attractions can be visited for a fraction of the cost using local transport services and tour operators.

We spent alot of our shipboard time watching the scenery which is just spectacular...it is hard to know where to point the camera next! Wildlife is abundant if you are looking.

A few tips, pack light...you need less than you think and your room will be more comfortable.
Bring binoculars for everyone...and extra SD cards for your camera. Most ports have some wifi available and cell phone service
wake up early and get outside on Tracey Arm fjord day...you'll be glad you did.
take the ship tour the 1st day so you know where things are and read the daily info letter that gets delivered.

Be nice to the staff. they've been here before and can be really helpful with tips about the ports etc

We brought power strips because others suggested it. our room had 2 outlets in the desk area and 1 in bathroom...so although we used the power strip prob. not entirely necessary.

We did dress up for formal night...but not extreme,,,ladies a nice dress or black pants dressy top seemed fine,,,men suit jacket dress pants (tie optional) there seemed to be everything from tuxes and ball gowns to dress shirts/slacks and pantsuits

Lots of great short hikes in and around each of the port cities if that seems more appealing than shopping. Most of the ports have the same items for sale so, if you didn't buy salmon in Ketchikan, don't fret you can get it in Skagway.

As nice as the ship is the real star of this trip is Alaska itself...enjoy

Date of experience: July 2012
16  Thank taylorbrock
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 2, 2012

I thought perhaps there would be ordinary islands that didn't have anything special about them around us as we sailed through the inside passage but I'm so glad I was wrong! We were surrounded by mountains that seemed to just rise out of the ocean. Completely amazing! We saw a fair amount of whales and porpoises etc. too. Bundle up and spend some time out on your cruise ship deck and just enjoy the beautiful view.

Date of experience: June 2012
7  Thank oregontraveler85
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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