They refer to the rest of America as the lower 48. Almost like it’s another country, foreign, and on the other side of the world. And to add to this idea of being so far away and separated in more ways than one, visitors from southern states would even ask if they need a passport to go there. This is Alaska, America’s most raw and untouched territory where bears still roam free and bald eagles are as common as pigeons. An ideal way to take in the best of what this exciting destination has to offer is with a voyage from Princess Cruises.
As far as cruises in America, it simply does not get much better than an Alaska cruise. This nature and scenery is unrivaled, with soaring mountains, glaciers, lush rainforests, and from rugged mountains to crystal-clear fjords and wildlife so abundant it bursts at the seams. The Princess Alaska Voyage of the Glaciers Cruise is a seven-day cruise departing from Vancouver and terminating in Anchorage (Whittier) Alaska. Other cruises vary in length as well as itineraries that go in reverse, starting in Whittier and terminating in Vancouver or that depart from Seattle as well.
Along the way, the seven-day cruise stops in three historically rich cities including Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway as well as the embarkation and debarkation where guests can explore Vancouver and Anchorage. The voyage included two glacier-viewing experiences at Glacier Bay National Park and the College Fjord along with the untouched natural beauty of ‘The Last Frontier’ and so much more.
Cruising with Princess
Although this may be a new experience for the passengers, Princess has been at this for a long time. They’ve been cruising to Alaska for 55 years and know this region well. The cruise runs like clockwork with each port and the offering of excursions well planned out and ensuring guests get the most out of the experience. Beyond Alaska, Princess is one of the early pioneers of cruise travel. Their ships provide luxurious accommodations, world-class dining, and a range of onboard entertainment options while they traverse the pristine Alaskan landscape.
For a generation, the first exposure that we had to cruises was through the Love Boat. Captain Stubin, Julie, and Isaac came into our homes each week with stories about passengers exploring exciting destinations on the high seas and finding love along the way. Well, this ship may not be so much about finding new love as it is about celebrating love and relationships. Many on the ship were celebrating special occasions with loved ones including couples celebrating their 50th anniversary and a few couples who got married by the captain on the ship. Many others were romantic couples on an exciting holiday while others were multigenerational families making memories to be cherished for a lifetime.
The purpose of the trip is to explore Alaska and all of its glory including its turn-of-the-century gold rush towns but more importantly its vast wildness. This is an endless expanse of nature untouched or developed by man. Away from the shore, cruisers explore Alaska’s incredible glaciers with none ever the same differing in color form, and size. Guests will spend hours riveted to the views, from their cabin deck or the outside decks. The sights of the Alaska wilderness constantly change but consistently mesmerize for the entire cruise from the pine tree-covered mountain to the glaciers or the waterfalls gushing into the fjords below.
One is always on the lookout for wildlife in the thick forests, hiding unseen, undoubtedly peering out at the massive white ships passing by. Beyond the landscapes, there is always something to look for in these waters as well. Precocious sea otters frolicking and then diving below the surface for the day’s meal, or the plentiful seals spotted along the way. Alaska is also well known for its bald eagles. As hard as it may be to believe, there are so many that after the first few days, the sighting becomes somewhat routine. And then there are the whales and the chance to see humpback whales, orcas, and gray and blue whales up close. The excitement of seeing the spotting where they exhale water and air descending deep into the sea. It is their lives that are the most anticipated where you’ll have the treasure of seeing the tail for a brief moment before it goes out of view many to be seen again a few minutes later or perhaps never again.
Alaska is probably best known for bears and of course salmon. Bear sightings a frequent with grizzly and black bears that you’ll see along the coast as well as in some of the tours offered as an excursion. Salmon is a particular aspect of the Alaskan experience and there are various kinds; some of the highest quality while others are destined to be sold in a tin can. They are fascinating, their life begins in the freshwater rivers of Alsaka with adulthood at sea and then return to the place they were spawned to reproduce and end their cycle of life. The rivers and waterways are filled with them, fascinating to watch or tasty as well as a meal, for both man, eagle, and the bears.
The glaciers are magnificent as well. These massive blocks of ice and snow are ever-changing: growing or breaking away and crumbling into the sea. The sound is shocking as well, the closest reference being thunder or a giant tree cracking and then falling in the woods. Guests are also on the lookout to see a carving where three-story high cliffs of ice, crack and breakoff before tumbling into the sea.
Guests can take in the massive glaciers of College Fjord, named for the Harriman Expedition of 1899 which named the glaciers after East Coast universities. You’ll also see Glacier Bay National Park and a front-row seat to the awe-inspiring natural wonder. Along the way, there are several excursions as well where guests to see the glaciers, including the Mendenhall Glacier with a visit to the national park and spellbinding views of the glacier while on nature walks and from across a lake.
Ports of call
The northbound itinerary begins in Vancouver which is Canada’s third-largest city and is worth a few days to explore before the cruise. The cruise terminates in Wittier which is a 90-minute bus ride to Anchorage where guests fly out or others continue their adventure with a train ride to Denali.
Another fascinating aspect of the cruise is the chance to visit the old towns that were a resting place for the expeditions and the gold rush of centuries past. Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway are rich in colorful history and folklore with their old general shops, cafes, and old saloons that look like a scene from the Wild West. One can almost envision a sheriff in a shoot-out with an outlaw right there on the street.
There are three ports of call along the way. On the northbound itinerary, Ketchikan is the first stop. This picturesque town is known as the first Alaska City as well as the Salmon Capital of the World. Throughout the town are the historical buildings now mainly covered into shops selling tourist items and jewelry as well as restaurants catering to tourists. The other thing you’ll see is the totem poles up to three stories high that tell stories of the indigenous people. The town has a section known as Creek Street which used to be the red light district filled with brothels awaiting explorers and gold miners cashed up and ready to spend. Today it’s filled with shops and ideal viewing of the salmon by the thousands that fill the creek en route to their spawning fields.
There are many exciting tours in Ketchikan, one is the nature hike that takes an adventure through a forest and a park where they can see black bears. Along the way, there are places to see and learn about salmon. The tour also includes a visit to see locals carving totem poles as well as a nature talk to hear about the eagles, hawks, and owls of the area.
The next port is Juneu. This gold rush town is a fascinating place to visit and also happens to be the state capital. Other fun facts are that at 3250 square miles, it is the second largest city by size in the US yet the population is only 33,000 people. It is also the only state capital that borders a foreign country. In the city, you’ll find modern buildings but also places where remnants of the Old West remain. One place that is a must to visit there is the Red Dog Saloon. It’s easy to find with its bright red exterior and usually a line of patrons waiting to enter through its swinging door. Once inside the floor is vintage, tacky, and old west combined in one with sawdust on the floor, stuffed bears, mounted Mooseheads and other trophies, and a bunch of historic photos and rusty memorabilia. There’s often live music played by the talent that has as much character as the place itself, belting out old country music ballads.
The tours from Juneu are just as memorable with a boat ride through the fjords and close-up views of alpine landscapes and the gushing waterfalls along the way. The destination is the Mendenhall Glacier. After a short hike across the rugged riverbed, visitors get close to the glacier to see its cracks and crevasses and the sheer mass of it from a closer distance.
The third port of call is Skagway. This town is most known for the Gold Rush and there are still adventures in the area panning for gold to this day. The town has the iconic architecture of the Old West and woodboard sidewalks as well. The town is rich in history and one can spend hours visiting its landmarks, quaint shops, and museums.
Princess offers several ships and itineraries taking guests on an epic adventure in Alaska. The Princess Sapphire is as beautiful as it is daunting. This massive vessel is 17 floors high with an elegant grand atrium with spiral staircases, and chandeliers where live music plays throughout the day.
Elsewhere are theaters, countless restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, a spa, and a casino. Throughout the ship, there are sublime outdoor spaces, observation decks, and promenades- perfect places for fresh air and to take in the views or perhaps snooze off while reading a book.
And of course, there are tastefully designed accommodations that range from modest inside cabins to suites with spacious layouts, sitting areas, bathrooms with full baths, and an outdoor veranda. The balcony rooms offer a comfortable living space with all the amenities you’ll need for a memorable cruise. The ships are high-tech with in-room entertainment from a library movies music as well as information on the ship’s ports of call and activities for the day. Guests can even order room service through the system and in about 25 minutes your meal arrives.
As delightful as the accommodations may be the big deal here is the unobstructed views from the balcony. This is your front-row seat to mountains, waterfalls, icebergs wildlife, and some of the most fascinating scenery in the world. For many to see Alaska is a bucket list adventure and when you finally see it, it is all that you could have imagined and so much more.
Abundant eating and cruising seem to go hand in hand and in this Princess Sapphire does not disappoint. The dining experience is exceptional with a dynamic offering of meat, poultry, and vegan dishes. And of course, Alsaka is about salmon cooked with created techniques to accentuate. There are multiple culinary experiences offered from burgers and pizza to a buffet, or the option to sit down and be waited at a specialty restaurant.
Sabatini’s is their Italian restaurant serving signature pasta and traditional Italian dishes complimented by Italian wines. Their other special restaurant is Sterling Steakhouse which offers a juicy selection of the highest quality cuts of premium, grain-fed beef including New York strip steak, Porterhouse, and Filet Mignon.
Their World Fresh Marketplace offers an endless buffet of international cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and onboard room service is available 24 hours a day. The ship offers casual dining experiences including Gigi’s Pizzeria, Salty Dog Grill serving hamburgers and hot dogs by the pool, and Swirls serving soft ice cream.
Rejuvenation and Spa
Aboard the ship, there are indoor and outdoor pools. The Sanctuary is a less crowded area and adults-only pool offering a day of relaxation at sea with chaise lounges, relaxing music, a spa menu, or perhaps a massage in a private cabana. This serene and peaceful hideaway offers the ideal place to take a dip and then relax the day away on a chaise lounge.
The ship offers a suite of pampering services in its Lotus Spa and Fitness Center. The facility offers a range of rejuvenating treatments from aroma stone therapy to detoxifying ocean wrap as well as fitness classes. The Enclave is their thermal suite that offers rejuvenation in their hydrotherapy pool with a cascading rain shower and therapeutic air jets, heated stone beds, soothing water beds, and a Turkish-style steam bath. A focal point is the Caldarium which is a light steam chamber infused with herbal aromas and the Laconium, which is a heated, dry chamber that purifies and detoxs the body.
There is so much going on during the cruise that one never has to worry about getting bored. The ship’s entertainment options cover a wide spectrum, ensuring that passengers of all tastes and ages find something to delight in. From Broadway-style shows to live music performances, the ship’s theaters and lounges come alive with creativity and talent, making every evening onboard a special occasion.
Alaska is arguably the destination that offers the most untouched natural beauty in the US. From its daunting glaciers and crystal clear fjords to its abundant wildlife with whale sitings, where bears roam free as well as countless eagles and salmon. Exploring this destination with a Princess cruise offers the chance to take in all of Alaska’s natural glory, and visit its most iconic cities. The Princess Sapphire is the ideal base to explore it all while providing all the creature comforts, amenities, dining, and services that provide an adventure to be treasured long after the bags are unpacked back home