An Alaskan cruise

It was our first cruise and to be honest, we booked it because it was the only remotely affordable way of seeing Alaskan coastal scenery. We’d scoffed at the cruise scene in the past – we weren’t going to share a ship with a multitude of people and all that tacky glitz and tantara.

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Our ship, the Coral Princess, waiting for us at Whittier, near Alaska’s biggest city, Anchorage.

The coastal scenery was as fantastic as we’d imagined. And it turned out that the cruise experience was pretty damn good too. We’d do it again, though the cruise location would have to appeal in its own right. We’re not ready to cruise just for the sake of cruising. Many people do, though.

It was really relaxing on board – there’s a lot to be said for a week of zero responsibility or pressure.

Well yes, there was some pressure – to be up-sold on goods and services that weren’t included in the basic cruise charge. But it was easy to ignore such blandishments, because what came with our basic cruise fee was fine by us. There were ample opportunities to hugely increase our overall cost but we refused to play the game. Bad cruisers!

We didn’t pay extra to eat in specialty restaurants. We didn’t pay extra for drinks or espresso coffee. We didn’t get spa treatments, turn up for expensive wine tastings, have our photos taken by the ship’s photographer, go to lectures about tanzanite jewels and then buy them, or put Tag Heuer watches on our wrists. Nor did we participate in the art auction for tacky paintings (we walked out of a ridiculous session explaining the auction).

We didn’t even bother with our allocated ‘free’ waiter-service restaurant. We started at the buffet restaurant and stayed there because the food was excellent and there was no waiting for waiters or food delivery.

There were plenty of very expensive shore tours we could have taken. We went on only one special tour – to the mushers’ sled dog camp near Skagway (loved it). We didn’t book it through Princess Lines, which charged more more for the same thing. The rest of our shore time was spent doing long walks, some on routes we’d already researched. We really enjoyed these very non-Kiwi towns.

We shared the Coral Princess with 2000 fellow-passengers, but rarely felt crowded. The ship was big enough to lose them.

We were in a cheaper ‘Oceanview’ cabin* rather than a cabin with an outside balcony. But we had a good one. It was one of a handful in this cabin class that were as big as balcony cabins and had the ocean view on the wall rather than above the bedhead. We had extra seating, including a sofa, and we watched the scenery pass by in some comfort.

*I can’t bring myself to use the inflated cruise industry term, ‘stateroom’. A cabin is a cabin, even if it’s a flash one.

Having no personal outside balcony was no problem to us – it wasn’t tropical lounging weather. There were plenty of other places we could get an outside view.

A potential downside of our cabin location was that it was well forward on the ship, which would have given maximum movement in rough weather. We took the risk and were rewarded with a millpond.

Below are some of the mountains and glaciers included in a a video slideshow I’ve uploaded to YouTube – click here.

Or click here to take a look inside the Coral Princess.

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Pretty nice to wake up to the following morning. On our way to the Hubbard Glacier.

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Hubbard Glacier. Fortunately a nice day, though it was chilly close to the glacier.

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Hubbard Glacier

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Some hardy souls just wore t-shirts.

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Further south we entered the spectacular Bay of Glaciers National Park. We spent most of the time here, at Margerie Glacier. Park Rangers boarded the ship and described the sights in the theatre and out on the deck. The weather was drizzly and cold.

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Margerie Glacier. From time to time we saw and heard chunks of ice ‘calving’ off the face of the glacier.

As well as enjoying the mountain and glacier scenery, we called into three very isolated towns with colourful histories. They included two small towns – Skagway and Ketchikan – and the larger Juneau, with 33,000 people. Juneau is the capital of Alaska. None of these towns can be reached by road.


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The Coral Princess tied up at Skagway. Click here for a video slide show of our visit to this town.

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Ravens welcoming us in the Juneau dock. These birds were huge and they were everywhere. Ravens are big in Native mythology. Click here to see the Juneau video slideshow.

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Parked in Ketchikan, right on the main street. Fortunately our cabin was on the port side of the ship, which on a southward cruise gives the best views. Binoculars are a must for this cruise.  Click here to view the Ketchikan slideshow video.



This entry was posted in Alaska, Cruise holiday, Cruising and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Alaskan cruise

  1. William Carter says:

    These are wonderful photos. They bring Raban’s “Passage to Juneau very much to life.

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