Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cruise Review- Golden Princess to Alaska Part 1

Each year, our agency puts together a group cruise that many of our clients join us on. This years cruise was on the Golden Princess to Alaska. This was an Inside Passage cruise leaving from Vancouver and disembarking in Seattle. Ports visited were Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Victoria British Columbia and Glaceir Bay.

It is impossible to detail the entire week in a short blog, so to make it easier for our readers, we will split this review into four parts - Part One :pre-cruise, Part Two: The Good, Part Three: The Mediocre and Part Four: The Bad. While it is impossible to "ruin" a cruise to Alaska, as the itinerary is outstanding, there were issues with the ship and some parts of the cruise that we would be remiss in not pointing out.

We arrived one night early and stayed in downtown Vancouver at the Metropolitan Hotel, which was a terrific choice. The staff was outstanding and we really liked the rooms – large, spotless, and with real doorbells at each room.

A week before our cruise, we heard there would be “chaos” in Canada Place, the pier our ship would be leaving from. There would be four ships in port in Vancouver, with three leaving from Canada Place. Having sailed from many ports that have multiple ships leaving on the same day, we were a little surprised at all the media attention to this both on t.v. in the hotel and in the Vancouver newspapers. Dire predictions of cab shortages were on t.v. in the morning before we checked out. We left our rooms shaking our heads trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.

It didn’t take long find out. We checked out of our hotel at about 11:15 AM and the concierge called for a van to take four of us to the pier. (There were another six people in our group at the hotel who opted to do a city tour in the morning and would arrive later at the pier). We waited about 15 minutes for the cab. The driver said that it was a little “crowded” at the terminal. What should have been a $5 four block cab ride turned into $25 ride because the pier was over run with people departing the ships and arriving for new cruises. There was a massive traffic jam caused by hundreds of cabs trying to get passengers in and out of the pier.

What was the problem? Cruise ships piers normally have a separate pier and check in line for each ship. Not Canada Place – there was one line for at least 18,000 passengers getting on and off three ships."Chaos” was the most mild choice of words we heard that day. The line to get on the ship took three hours and up depending on the time you arrived.

I've never heard so many complaints in one place - ever. While Princess was not responsible for the pier only having one line, this was not the first time this happened (nor will it be the last time this cruising season) and they were not prepared. There should have been representatives handing out bottled water and snacks. There should have been some type of seating in various areas for passengers to rest a bit. Alaskan cruisers are generally older is pitifully and unacceptable that passengers as old as 85 had to painfully stand in line with not even a drink of water.

We assumed people arriving a few hours later might be better off as the lines would have shortened with so many passengers already on the ship. That was not so – the later people arrived, the longer they waited. Some passengers arriving after 1 PM did not get on the ship until 6 PM. The only way the wait could have been worse was if it had been raining – which started just after the ship finally left port.

Our ship was scheduled to depart at 4 PM. People were still boarding at 6 PM. After a long day, the ship finally left Vancouver at almost 6:30 in a light rain. We were off to a day of rocking and rolling (literally) on the high seas - and we do mean high seas!

Check here tomorrow for Part Two - "The Good".

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