The gray whales are here. This will be the second weekend of the season for scheduled outings on the Victoria Clipper III to search for gray whales between Seattle and Coupeville, on Whidbey Island. The boat transits Possession Sound and Saratoga Passage along the way. The Clipper outings claimed 100 percent whale sightings in 2013, and last…More
Norwegian Cruise Lines has dropped its port calls to Tunisia after the government of the North African country refused to let Israeli passengers disembark from one of its cruise ships. NCL said on Tuesday that its Mediterranean cruises will not include Tunisia after officials wouldn’t allow the Israelis to get off the ship in the port…More
In response to my Sunday article on “The true cost of cruising,” which mentioned a Wenatchee couple who got a cut-rate, last-minute $299-per-person fare for an Alaska cruise, some of you are wondering, “How do I get that deal?”
First, know that there’s no promise that the $299 deal will come up again soon. The cheapest Seattle-to-Alaska cruise I see today (June 17) on the Princess Cruises website is $599 for a 7-day trip leaving July 28. Whether the price continues to drop likely depends on whether the ship is full before it sails. But even $599 is a bargain compared to the advance-sale price currently offered for the same trip at the same time in 2014: $1,099 per person. (Both quotes are for an inside cabin with no windows.)
To find the sale prices,More
So, do I still hate cruising?
If I were sitting with you in a favorite watering hole over beers, the answer might be easier, though probably not shorter. (Some people tend toward glib in the influence of alcohol; I tend to wax philosophical.)
I might do that anyway, but for the record I’m drinking coffee as I write this. Decaf, even.
Also for the record: One cruise does not an expert make. And all my real-life experience with cruise ships has been gained in one week aboard one vessel run by one cruise line, namely Princess.
Cutting to the chase:More
Here are some more of my favorites of the hundreds of photos I shot during my week aboard Star Princess. I’ll make a final blog posting Monday to sum up my thoughts about the cruise — will I do it again? — and respond to some reader questions I didn’t get to. Thanks for…More
Here’s a roundup of cruise FAQs, with my answers alongside some of the standard info from Princess:
Q: How does Internet work onboard?
A: Pretty badly, in my experience. Princess clearly cautions that the ship’s satellite internet is slower than what you’re accustomed to in the city, with pauses akin to the delays you get in satellite phone conversations. My experience was much worse than that. Links could take five or 10 minutes at times – meaning five minutes per click before a Website opened or a link worked. Many times the log-on was unsuccessful. Disconnections were frequent. At sea, some problems are sure forgivable, but for such service passengers were paying through the nose. Princess’s standard price to use the ship’s computers in the Internet café or for wi-fi elsewhere isMore
Onboard entertainment varies from cruise to cruise, ranging from Vegas-style shows in a large theater to piano-bar crooners, comedians and all the way down to passenger talent shows. On the booking circuit, this looks to be about the next notch down from tribal casinos, but hey, it’s all included in the price of your floating hotel.
Here’s a sampling of entertainment this week on Star Princess:
Stage shows: The ship has its own “Star Princess Singers & Dancers” selected in a cattle call from around the world, and some are very good, by an off-off-off Broadway measure. Stage shows have included a “production spectacular” called “Destination Anywhere” with a travel theme; aerial ballet artists Alexander and Evgenia; and an international crew talent show.
Thursday night, I caught the “British Invasion” musical show, elaborately staged with pyrotechnics, an oversize red phone booth, a London bus replica and a real Mini Cooper painted with a Union Jack. Highlights included a rousingMore
If, like me, you’re a cruising skeptic, time on shore in Alaska will be an important component of any cruise you might end up taking (to please your significant other, or because you have no other way to see Glacier Bay, or whatever).
Shore excursions are also a major moneymaker for cruise lines, and this cruise had more than 100 offerings from which to choose along the way. Often, you can arrange shore trips at considerably less expense once you get on shore, but the cruise director on Star Princess offered these arguments for booking with the ship’s excursion office:
- You won’t have to wait in line onshore, where there might be up to five other shiploads of people competing to book tours and trips at private booths. (I didn’t see such lines on our trip, but this was early in the season. Or it might just be that the argument is winning, so most cruisers book outings while on board.)
- You won’t get left behind if you’re on a Princess tour. The ship will wait for its own groups if there’s an unforeseen delay. Depending on
OK, I’m eating crow now, which will probably just make me lose even more weight. Turns out I’ve lost a pound this week while cruising to Alaska on the Star Princess. My final weigh-in, Friday afternoon: 197, down from 198 last Saturday when we left Seattle. We’re home at 7 in the morning Saturday. What can I…More
KETCHIKAN – We had only a morning in port at Alaska’s self-described “First City.” It isn’t called that because it’s largest; with just about 8,000 population in its city limits it is actually the fourth-largest city in Alaska, which says something about the emptiness of this huge state. Ketchikan gets the designation because it’s the first Alaska city you come to as you travel north from the Lower 48.
The name comes from the Tlingit kitcxan, meaning “where the eagle’s wings are.”
Ketchikan is as good an example as any of how the influx of cruise ships has transformed these small Alaskan towns from quiet backwaters defined by their sourdough heritage and native cultural roots to towns defined by the almost 1 million cruise-ship passengers that visit every May to September.
I stepped off the gangplank of Star Princess onto Front Street and joined the parade of thousands of others past endless souvenir shops selling doggie mittens made in China (for your sled-dog back home), along with items such as Husky Poop candy (do you really want to know what’s in it?), all the ulu blades you will never need, and so on. A popcorn emporium also carried those tourist mainstays, fudge and taffy (though I recoiled when I first read the sign as “fudge taffy”).
My Moon guidebook saved me the trouble of counting: The author found 63 jewelry shops in Ketchikan. They cater to cruise passengers fromMore