To cruise or not

Loretta and I finally went on a cruise. After years of contemplating this and after much hesitation from me we did it. An 11-day Alaskan cruise on Princess this past July.

We sailed from San Francisco on the beautiful, huge Star Princess. As with most ships this size, it is basically a floating resort…several pools, lots of hot tubs, many restaurants and cocktail lounges, shops, shows, and so on.

We chose a balcony stateroom which, in my opinion, is the only way to go. Much of our sightseeing was done from the comfort of our own private patio. And although we did go on a few shore excursions, our favorite times were spent on the ship.

Briefly, our itinerary was as follows: San Francisco to Ketchikan, Ketchikan to Tracy Arm fjord, Tracy Arm to Juneau, Juneau to Icy Straight Point, Icy Straight Point to Victoria, Victoria to San Francisco. There were several days at sea in both direction and an entire day cruise the Tracy Arm fjord. The weather was incredible the whole trip, especially when we were in port. Out on the bounding main, it did get a bit rough at times, however, for the most part, it was a smooth sailing.

Underway, and getting ready to go under the GGB.
Underway, and getting ready to go under the GGB.
Sailing party on deck.
Sailing party on deck.
The adult pool.  It was much to cool and windy at sea to strip down for a swim here.
The adult pool. It was much too cool and windy at sea to strip down for a swim here.
Our ship while on a tour of Ketchikan.
Our ship while on a tour of Ketchikan.
Heading for Tracy Arm fjord.
Heading for Tracy Arm fjord.

Since this was our first cruise, I have no way to compare cruise lines or other ships. Let me say this, I would highly recommend The Star Princess. It was very comfortable. Our stateroom, though small, was very cozy. You have the same steward the whole time. He was very accommodating, courteous, and efficient. Room service was lightning fast.

The Tracy Arm fjord.  Sawyer glacier in the background.
The Tracy Arm fjord. Sawyer glacier in the background.
Sawyer glacier.
Sawyer glacier.
Our captain sailed this huge ship all the way up the fjord.  Then, "spun" it around to steam back out.  Incredible.
Our captain sailed this huge ship all the way up the fjord. Then, “spun” it around to steam back out. Incredible.
Icy Point Straight.
Icy Point Straight.
Loretta at the Mendenhall glacier outside Juneau.
Loretta at the Mendenhall glacier outside Juneau.
Overlooking Juneau.
Overlooking Juneau.

Overall, the food was not bad. We mostly ate in one of two buffet rooms, but we also tried each of the restaurants including the two fine dining restaurants (requiring a cover charge). Food is always available and is part of the faire. Alcohol and soft drinks are extra as well as couple of special seafood buffets that were offered. Wait and service staff were abundant and very friendly and helpful.

Humpback whales...and more whales near Ice Straight Point.
Humpback whales…and more whales near Ice Straight Point.

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Spectacular scenes like these were common.
Spectacular scenes like these were common.

Regarding things to do, there were many things scheduled each day…too many to go into here. A 2-page brochure was delivered to our room nightly outlining the next days activities including the shows. We attended several stage show productions as well as a couple of comedian shows. They were all very entertaining.

One of the buffet areas.
One of the buffet areas.
The indoor pool.
The indoor pool.
The "Piazza".
The “Piazza”.
Another view of the Piazza.
Another view of the Piazza.
Harbor, Victoria, B.C.
Harbor, Victoria, B.C.
The B.C.parliament building, downtown Victoria.
The B.C.parliament building, downtown Victoria.
The Star Princess docked at Victoria.
The Star Princess docked at Victoria.

There were really no negatives or big surprises to mention, except, perhaps, when we received our final bill! The cruise was paid in advance, but all on ship spending is added to an account attached to your credit card. No cash is ever exchanged on the ship. Every other expense such as alcohol, soft drinks, shopping purchases, casino gambling, and shore excursions are charged to your room account. So, they make it quite easy to over indulge and over spend. So be it.

Getting on and off the ship before, during, and after is very organized and efficient. Of course, there are times when it gets crowded disembarking or coming back…we managed to avoid most by going early and coming back early. FYI – getting on a off the ship involves TSA-type screening, though it goes a lot fast than at the airport.

The "crowd" trying to get back on the ship after a half day in Victoria.  We came back early.  Timing is everything.
The “crowd” trying to get back on the ship after a half day in Victoria. We came back early. Timing is everything.
5 am, last day.  Sailing into S.F. Bay
5 am, last day. Sailing into S.F. Bay
Under the G.G. Bridge.
Under the G.G. Bridge.
Almost home.
Almost home.
Getting ready to parallel park a 900 foot cruise ship...no tugs!
Getting ready to parallel park a 900 foot cruise ship…no tugs!

We did book a future (undetermined) cruise with Princess while onboard as the deposit is greatly reduced and fully refundable for 2 years. We plan to go somewhere in January but haven’t quite decided where. We had thought about the 10 day Mexican Riviera thing, but have kind of decided against it. Perhaps the Caribbean.  Needless to say, it is difficult to decide which photos to post, especially when I took over 1500 of them. Check out more Alaska cruise photos HERE.

Simple pleasures.  Cruising is a great way to go.
Simple pleasures. Cruising is a great way to go.

Of course we are going again, maybe even Alaska again as there are many other ports to visit. The scenery is breathtaking to say the least!