Alaska travel notes – 1Posted: May 20, 2011
Your faithful correspondent is writing to you from his stateroom on the Island Princess, in port at Ketchikan, soon to be en route to Juneau. On board internet access is expensive, slow, and metered. So my reports to you will be composed offline and uploaded intermittently.
Our story to date:
We had quite a long day on Wednesday, getting up at 4:00 a.m. to take the shuttle from the San Francisco Airport Marriott to the airport for our 7:00 flight. We flew San Francisco to Portland on an Alaska Airlines 737, and then Portland to Vancouver on a Horizon Air puddle jumper. We went through customs at Vancouver and took the charter bus to the port at Canada Place. There we went though customs again, putting us back in U.S. jurisdiction. Must be among the shortest international trips on record, but one made by a lot of people. We then went through security again before boarding the ship. The Princes security people in Vancouver could provide the TSA folks some lessons in friendliness!
After boarding we got lunch in the buffet, took a nap given our early morning, and went up to one of the upper decks and enjoyed the Vancouver skyline as the ship got ready to set sail. We went down to dinner at our assigned early seating and met our table mates. I certainly wouldn't want to characterize them, by any means, but if I were to do so, which I wouldn't, I would use the word "boorish." Fortunately we were able to switch to Anytime Dining.
Thursday was a relaxing day at sea, where we slept in, caught our breath, and watched our shoulders lower. Thursday afternoon we attended a wine tasting at which we discovered that the dining room staff are also entertainers. Thursday dinner was at the Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse, one of the two premium restaurants on board. Marvelous. More on that below.
Today at Ketchikan was an interesting experience. A town very much a part of Alaska's history is today all about tourism. Lots of shops selling everything from souvenirs to necessities one might have forgotten to expensive jewelry. Three ships in port all at once! But then the town has always been about commerce. It's just that it used to be about logging and salmon fishing. Only the nature of the commerce has changed.
- Princess, more than the other cruises we've taken, is about selling you stuff. Whether that be merchandise, a wine tasting, or dinner in one of the premium dining rooms.
- As a newer ship the Island Princess is more stable that other, older ships we've been on. Wednesday night I hardly knew we were at sea.
- There is a tendency to want to tip, but these days tipping is automatic and added to your total bill. The service is very good and friendly, nonetheless.
- I was surprised to see so many people flout the dress code on formal night. And impressed at how great those who didn't looked. (And "flout" is the correct term here, right Pobble? 🙂 )
- It's a wonderful experience to have a delicious Cajun meal, feel the pulse of the engines beneath you, watch the ocean go past, and see the joggers run by on the deck.
- There's a perception, one I've had at least, that Alaska Cruises are primarily taken by the retired set. If that ever were true, it's not so today. While there's plenty of 65-plus folks on board, there are lots of young couple and some families, along with every age in between. And lots of different nationalities as well, as one would expect on a cruise like this.
- Whether it's compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or just the recognition that it's good business, the needs of those with mobility problems are being addressed. I've seen both wheelchairs and motorized scooters on board. Don't think you would have seen that ten years ago. The shore excursion listings are flagged appropriately as well.
That's it for now. Next report whenever it happens.