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Princess Cruises to Alaska: The Pros and Cons


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If you are considering a cruise to Alaska, the first cruise line that may come to mind is Princess Cruises. You’ve seen the advertisements and marketing campaigns, but are they really the best cruise line in Alaska? Well, we’ve just returned from our 5th Alaska cruise, 2nd with Princess, and want to share our thoughts with you. In this post, we detail the pros and cons of sailing Princess Cruises to Alaska.

Princess Cruises to Alaska: The Pros and Cons

It’s true that Princess Cruises has earned quite the reputation when it comes to cruising in Alaska. And for good reason, as there are several pros of sailing Princess Cruises to Alaska.

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Pros of Sailing Princess Cruises to Alaska

Number of Ships

If you look at the sheer number of vessels cruising in the region, Princess Cruises comes out on top with seven ships. This number is matched only by Holland America Line which comes in a close second place with six ships in Alaska this season.

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Even within the Princess fleet, there is variety in the ship’s cruising to Alaska in terms of size, age, and amenities. If you enjoy mega-ships, there’s a ship for you. If you’d prefer a smaller, more intimate experience, there’s also a ship for you. Perhaps, you love that new ship smell. Lucky for you, the cruise line’s new Discovery Princess is cruising Alaska as well.

Cruisers have the choice between Discovery Princess, Majestic Princess, Crown Princess, Sapphire Princess, Royal Princess, Grand Princess, and Ruby Princess in 2023 and 2024.

Discovery, Majestic, and Royal all belong to Princess Cruises’ largest class of ships to date, the Royal Class. At over 140K gross tons, these are some of the largest vessels that cruise the region. Crown, Sapphire, and Ruby Princess are similar in size at around 113-115K. Grand is the smallest Princess ship cruising to Alaska at around 107K; yet all four of these ships belong to the same class, the Grand Class.

The ranking of these Princess ships in Alaska from newest to oldest is: Discovery, Majestic, Royal, Ruby Crown, Sapphire, Grand. Discovery Princess launched in 2022, while Grand Princess debuted in 1998.

Variety of Itineraries

Given the number of Princess Cruises ships sailing to Alaska, this allows the cruise line to offer a variety of itineraries. Princess Cruises offers roundtrip sailings that depart from Seattle, Vancouver, and even San Francisco. The cruise line also features one-way sailings from Anchorage (Whittier) to Vancouver and vice versa.

While most of our cruises have been roundtrip from Seattle or Vancouver, our recent Majestic Princess cruise was our first one-way sailing. We really enjoyed getting to experience a bit more of the region with this itinerary.

Given the number of ships and departure points, this allows the cruise line to offer a variety of cruise lengths as well beyond the traditional 7-day cruise. Guests even have the option to extend the cruise with a land tour, but more on that in a bit.

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The good news is that no matter which ship or itinerary you choose, all Princess Cruises to Alaska include at least one day of glacier viewing. Many of these itineraries include scenic cruising through Glacier Bay National Park, which we highly recommend. Select sailings even include a visit to both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay.

New Alaska Food and Beverage Offerings

One of the reasons we couldn’t wait to hop onboard Princess Cruises to Alaska this year was to check out the new Alaska food and beverage offerings.

New for 2023, Princess is offering an expanded Wild for Alaska Seafood menu. Guests can expect a rotation of fresh Alaska seafood dishes in the main dining room as well as the World Fresh Marketplace. Some of the dishes on the MDR menus included Wild Alaskan Salmon, Bering Seafood Stew, Alaskan Ale-Braised Short Ribs, Alaska Crab Cake or Salmon Cake, Alaskan-Caught Halibut, Cod, or Tuna, and more.

Along with all the locally sourced food selections, Princess Cruises plans to feature destination-inspired cocktails. While promotional materials indicate there will be special hot chocolate-based creations, themed frozen drinks, and cocktails made with local spirits, they were not yet available on Majestic Princess. However, there were Alaska wines, Alaska beer, and a few spirits sourced from local distilleries like an Anchorage whiskey.

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Not to mention, Majestic Princess is now home to a brand new specialty restaurant. Replacing Bistro Sur La Mer, The Catch by Rudi is the first Princess restaurant primarily devoted to seafood. The creative dishes and attractive price of $39 per person will lure you in.

We had a chance to dine at The Catch during our sailing and really enjoyed it. While not much has changed in terms of theming in the venue, the food selections were certainly a step above the former Bistro Sur La Mer.

MedallionClass Experience

Another pro of sailing with Princess Cruises to Alaska is the MedallionClass experience that its ships offer. This technology is aimed at making your vacation more personalized and contactless.

One of the highlights of MedallionClass is OceanNow where you can order food and drinks anywhere on the ship. Whether you want to order a latte or cappuccino to your stateroom while you are scouting wildlife from your balcony or a pina colada while lounging in the solarium, you can do so through the app.

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Other benefits are the wearable technology and keyless stateroom entry. We love the fact that we don’t have to carry around a room keycard. Your Princess Medallion can be worn in a watch band, a belt clip, a bracelet, or a necklace for added convenience. As you approach your stateroom, there is no need to fumble for your keycard as the technology will sense your Medallion and unlock your door for you.

Your Medallion can even be used to pay ashore in select destinations. Further, you can locate your friends and family onboard the ship, watch your digital muster drill, and much more. How’s that for convenience?

Extended Time in Port

Regardless of the cruise line or itinerary, you can expect a pretty typical line-up of Southeastern Alaska ports of call on most contemporary ships. These ports include Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway, with Icy Strait Point or Sitka sometimes replacing one of the options. Roundtrip sailings will usually include a call into Victoria, B.C. as well.

What does differentiate Princess from some of the competition is its extended time in port and preferential docking locations. For instance, NCL docks at Ward Cove in Ketchikan which requires transportation to get to the Downtown area unlike other cruise lines who dock closer.

On our recent Majestic Princess sailing, we were literally in port ALL DAY. In Icy Strait Point, we were docked from 6 AM to 7 PM. We were in Juneau from 6:30 AM to 5 PM and in Ketchikan from 10 AM to 6 PM. This is in contrast to other ships that may only dock from 7 AM to 1 PM in Juneau or Ketchikan or for 4-5 hours in Victoria in the evening.

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While ashore, Princess also offers cruisers a variety of shore excursions for all types of travelers. Some of these activities are created in partnership with Animal Planet and/or Discovery. Some may also boast small groups or local connections to get you closer to your destinations.

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North to Alaska Programming

While most cruise lines do offer onboard enrichment opportunities when cruising to Alaska, Princess Cruises features an entire North to Alaska program of specially curated activities. These opportunities usually include talks by locals and experts on topics such as history, Alaskan culture, and wildlife of the region.

Some exclusives include Alaskan lumberjacks, Deadliest Catch, and Libby Riddles who is a retired dog musher. We had the opportunity to listen to Libby Riddles share her story and road to victory in the Iditarod race.

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Other onboard events include “Puppies in the Piazza” during your visit to Skagway (which we did not get to experience as our ship did not call into this port), a Night at the Klondike, the Midnight Sun Experience, and more.

Further, during the scenic cruising through Glacier Bay National Park, a park ranger will come onboard the ship to provide real time narration, Additionally, they will offer a formal presentation in the main theater with more in-depth information. This should not be missed during your Princess cruise to Alaska.

Traditional Cruise Experience

When sailing Princess Cruises to Alaska, your cruise ship will provide the perfect backdrop to your majestic destinations. In general, Alaska cruises are more relaxed. But, on Princess Cruises, you won’t feel overwhelmed by trying to do everything on the ship as well as while ashore.

That’s not to say that you will be bored on the ship though. You will still find all the traditional elements of a cruise vacation like pools, bars and lounges, restaurants, and entertainment spaces to keep you occupied between ports of call.

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All the usual cruise activities like nightly production shows in the main theater, trivia, game shows, Bingo, Movies Under the Stars, and live music will still occur. You can also find a spa, fitness center, and casino onboard Princess ships. Though, you won’t find all the flashy bells and whistles found on some other cruise lines. In a sense, Princess Cruises provides a more classic cruise experience.

Further, Princess does still offer kids programming to ensure Alaska cruises are fun and engaging for multi-generational families as well.

Best Pizza at Sea

What Princess Cruises lacks when it comes to racetracks and virtual reality arcades, it makes up for with pizza!

Princess Cruises has been consistently voted as having the best pizza at sea, and we agree. On many ships in the fleet, Alfredo’s or Gigi’s serves up delicious handmade pies in a sit-down restaurant setting that is completely complimentary. There’s also a poolside pizzeria on most ships serving up quick grab and go slices.

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When devouring your pizza, be sure to save some room for dessert. Princess Cruises now features premium desserts, with and without alcohol. These desserts are included in the Princess Plus and Princess Premier fares or can be purchased a la carte otherwise. These Italian-inspired gelato treats are definitely instagram-worthy.

New Inclusive Fare Options

Like most contemporary cruise lines, Princess Cruises’ standard fare includes most onboard amenities. Still, there are additional services and amenities not covered in this cruise price. To offer more “all-inclusive” cruise vacations, Princess Cruises has rolled out its Princess Plus and Princess Premier pricing options. These options might make sailing with Princess Cruises to Alaska a bit more attractive for those worried about “nickel and diming” on a cruise.

Guests can upgrade from the Princess Standard fare to the Princess Plus package for $60 per person, per day. This package includes the crew incentive (also known as gratuities), WiFi for one device per guest, and the Plus Beverage package. New in 2023, the Princess Plus package also features two premium desserts per cruise, two fitness classes per cruise, and an unlimited juice bar.

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Princess Cruises has also added a third pricing option, Princess Premier. The Princess Premier package is the most inclusive offering and is $80 per person, per day to upgrade. This package includes the Premier Beverage Package, WiFi for 4 devices per guest, Crew Appreciation, and two specialty dining meals per guest. 

With this fare, guests also get a photo package, unlimited premium desserts, unlimited fitness classes, unlimited juice bar, a Medallion accessory, reserved seating in the theater, and entries to win Princess Prizes.

Cruisetours and Lodges in Alaska

In conjunction with your Alaska cruise vacation, Princess Cruises also offers cruisetours and lodges to extend your stay in the Last Frontier. In fact, another differentiating factor is that Princess owns and operates five wilderness lodge properties and several luxury railcars. This makes Princess an easy choice if you are considering adding a land-portion to your Alaska cruise.

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These unique cruisetours combine a 7-day Voyage of the Glaciers Alaska cruise with scenic rail travel from the ship to the lodge via exclusive Direct-to-the-Wilderness rail service. During the land portion of these cruisetours, travelers can visit some of the state’s most popular areas that are not accessible by cruise ship, spending three or more nights on land at Princess Wilderness Lodges. Further, every cruisetour visits Denali National Park.

The five Princess Lodges include: Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, Fairbanks Princess Riverside Lodge, Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, and Copper River Princess Wilderness Lodge.

Cons of Sailing Princess Cruises to Alaska

While there are many pros of sailing Princess Cruises to Alaska, there are also some cons of which to be aware.

Fewer Bells and Whistles

If you usually cruise newer ships in the Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line fleet but were considering Princess for your Alaska cruise, you may be disappointed in the onboard offerings. While Princess cruise ships do feature all the cruise staples, you won’t find any bells and whistles on its ships.

This means that you won’t find sky diving simulators or bumper cars like on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. You also won’t find a race track, laser tag, or a VR complex like on NCL’s Norwegian Encore. If these types of signature attractions are a must for your kids and teens, you should probably consider another cruise line.

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Along the same lines, you won’t find Broadway shows on Princess ships either. While some Royal Caribbean and NCL ships feature signature entertainment venues and shows, Princess productions are more akin to traditional cruise ship revue shows.

Further, you won’t find any over-the-top theming at the bars and lounges or any high energy nightlife. In fact, most bars close by 11 PM.

Of course, Alaska cruises are more about the destination than they are the ship anyway.

Lackluster Entry Level Staterooms

Personally, one of our biggest cons of sailing with Princess Cruises to Alaska is the lackluster entry level staterooms. After 65 cruises with various cruise lines, there are some things that we have come to expect in our usual balcony cabins. Yet, they are missing with Princess. This means that you might need to upgrade your accommodations which can increase your Alaska cruise costs. We upgraded to a premium deluxe balcony cabin.

In particular, a sofa or loveseat which comes standard in many competitor cruise lines’ cabins does not with Princess Cruises. Specifically, cruisers will need to upgrade to a deluxe balcony or mini-suite in order to get a sitting area in their stateroom. With more and more travelers never fully disconnecting on vacation and even working remotely, we think the extra seating area is essential.

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Further, cruisers who have sailed with other lines might be surprised that even the newer ships in the Princess fleet still feature shower curtains in the bathroom. Yes, that means the dreaded clingy shower curtain while you are trying to bathe. While showering on a cruise ship is never ideal, this makes the situation even worse.

Thankfully, Princess has finally listened, and the new Sun Princess debuting next year will fix both of these issues!

Fewer Dining Options

Compared to some other ships cruising the region, Princess ships tend to have fewer dining options. Of course, Princess Cruises has main dining rooms that offer multi-course meals each evening with some featured “Local Eats Alaska Flavors”.

There’s also the World Fresh Marketplace/Horizon Court. This buffet serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday; however, the venue is not well laid-out in our experience. This made it rather congested at peak meal times during our recent Majestic Princess sailing.

In terms of other casual dining, there’s a sit-down pizza venue on some ships (which we love) and the International Café serving some quick grab and go items. Outdoors, there’s a grill and a pizzeria (or Noodle Bar on Majestic Princess). Though, we were not impressed with the quality or preparation of the grill items during our visits.

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In terms of specialty restaurants, there are also fewer options than many mega-ships from competitor brands. On most of the Princess ships sailing Alaska, you will only find a Sabatini’s Trattoria and a Crown Grill steakhouse. Majestic Princess does feature a brand new seafood restaurant, The Catch, which is also coming to Discovery Princess soon. However, you will not find a hibachi restaurant, a sports pub, a Mexican restaurant, etc.

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More Alaska Cruise Tips

If you are planning your Alaska cruise and need more tips, we have you covered. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Comments

Have you sailed with Princess Cruises to Alaska? What are some of your pros and cons for sailing with this cruise line? Drop us an anchor below to share your recent Alaska cruise reviews.

The post Princess Cruises to Alaska: The Pros and Cons appeared first on EatSleepCruise.com.

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