Our entire family was able to go on this trip. It was my husband, Mike, our two kiddos ages 19 and 16 and myself. We flew out of Phoenix to Seattle. Since there is no Park & Relax in Phoenix, we opted for way.com. This is a program that utilizes hotels near the airport that offer free shuttles to the airport for parking. We parked at the Crown Plaza (which has covered parking) and cost about $40 for our 10-day trip.
Upon arrival in Seattle, our Uber XL ride to our hotel in downtown ran us about $50. We stayed for 2 nights at the Westin Seattle. This was a superb hotel that was built into two towers so there is virtually a view from any room in the towers. We were in the south tower and were able to see Pier 91 (our ship’s port) from our room on the 18th floor. However, we were positioned in such a way that the Space Needle was completely blocked from our view by one building. That was disappointing. We did have a bird’s-eye view of a roof-top dog park of the apartment complex next to us and the elevated rail system. The downtown area was very clean and well maintained. There didn’t seem to be a problem with panhandling at all. We felt very safe while walking around the downtown area.
We visited Pike Place and the surrounding area and had a wonderful time snacking at local hotspots. Our Uber XL to the port was $32 and took about 8 minutes.
We sailed on the Ruby Princess for 7 nights to Alaska through the Inside Passage. We had one full day at sea then ported in Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. We spent another day at sea visiting Glacier Bay and then ported in Victoria, British Columbia before returning to Seattle. We were the first scheduled group to embark on the ship and found our cabins with no problem. We decided to eat lunch on the ship since the buffet was open. When we went back to our cabins our luggage had been delivered to our stateroom.
We had two cabins, so we had a little more space which we were grateful for. Mike and I had a balcony on the starboard side of Deck 10 and the kids were in an inside cabin just across the hall from us. We noticed quickly that our balcony was larger in depth that those above and below us. I am unsure if Deck 10 is the only one with this provision, but it was very nice in the sense that we had a little bit of coverage from the overhang from the deck above that gave us some protection when it was raining. This was very nice as it enabled us to enjoy our balcony a little more without being exposed to the elements.
Being our first cruise, we were not aware of how the dining program worked. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner in the buffet area because we were under the impression that the formal (not specialty) dining rooms were for use on formal nights only. We did eat in a formal dining room on our first formal night, but not again until the night before our second formal night. We were very grateful to know we had this option on non-formal nights since the food was a significant upgrade from the buffet. It wasn’t until our second to last day that we learned that the formal dining rooms were open for breakfast and lunch as well. This would have been very nice to know since the cuisine was, again, much nicer than what was offered in the buffet.
We pre-purchased our excursions through ShoreTrips and were very pleased with the suppliers they used, and the clarity of instruction relayed to us to make sure we had all the information we needed to find our guides easily and know what to expect on our excursions.
Our second day was at sea and brought us our first formal night. It was such fun to see everyone dressed up and all the pomp and circumstance of the occasion!
When we ported in Juneau we were surprised and disheartened at the long lines and length of time that it took to get off the ship once we arrived at port. It took us nearly 40 minutes to disembark in Juneau. This is a picture of the line that went all the way around and through the Piazza then through the casino and down the hallways of the ship.
Once we were off the ship, we made our way to our meeting point for our pre-booked, excursion combo to see Mendenhall Glacier and Whale Watching. We visited the glacier first and it was magnificent. We were able to walk on a path all the way to Nugget Falls which was about three-quarters of a mile from the visitor’s center and as close as you can get to the glacier by foot. We had about 15 minutes to explore around the falls and along the shoreline before we had to walk briskly back to the visitor’s center to resume our excursion to see the whales.
I was advised by a ShoreTrips associate that there was not a lot to do in Skagway. Per his recommendation we booked multiple excursions here to avoid boredom. This was to our detriment as we would have liked to have had more time to walk around this quaint little town and experience it a little more. Having said that, we were very pleased with our excursions.
We did a roundtrip train ride in the White Pass Train. It took us up through the mountains and through tunnels to the US/Canada border. We did not get off the train, so passports were not required on this excursion. When we returned we had time to board the ship for lunch. Our second excursion was a hike and float trip with Skagway Float Tours. Alyssa was our guide and she was fantastic. Our hike felt like we were in a Hobbit’s forest fairytale. Our guide was knowledgeable about the area and foliage. We even snacked on forest food along the way (a variety of leaves). Our float was scenic and relaxing to say the least. Our guide did all the paddling and narrated along the way. We enjoyed a local snack of cheese, salmon jerky, crackers and beverages at the end before our drive back to the pier just in time to pull out of port.
This was our favorite Alaskan town. We do plan to revisit this port as they have an airport large enough for commercial jets to land and is the salmon capital of the world! We will take advantage of the fishing on our next visit.
This port found us on a zipline tour with Southeast Exposure. Our guides were Tyler and Peter. They were fun and carefree but made sure we were all well versed on the safety as we were responsible for attaching ourselves to the cables at many points of the adventure. We zipped a total of 9 lines, of which landed us on a 50’ platform over the ocean! There was even a challenge course in the middle of the adventure that takes you on a series of high ropes, steps and logs where you are encouraged to go hands-free! YIKES!!
This was a very short port of call with barely enough time to complete the excursion and no time to visit the town. Hence our desire to go back.
Grateful we had a balcony! This was something I had no expectations about. There was a park ranger on board giving lectures on the top decks about the glaciers. We elected to enjoy it from our balcony which enabled us to hear the “white thunder” (sounds the glaciers make when they are shifting and breaking). We got a wealth of information from the “Princess Patter” information pamphlet we received daily in our doorbox that detailed the day’s activities. We visited Marjorie glacier and were able to see it calve. We heard a lot of white thunder and were mesmerized by it all. We were supposed to visit a second glacier but never did.
Since this was a “day at sea” I decided to utilize a Commodore perk and I ordered Afternoon Tea to be delivered to our stateroom. It was abundant and wonderful, served with a linen tablecloth.
We can’t wait to return to this area! This was an unspeakably beautiful community. Even the convenience stores were little Victorian houses and every yard was adorned with the most stunning plants and florals I have ever seen. Our port here was the briefest of all. A mere 3 hours on land. We took a leisurely stroll to Beacon Hill Park to explore for about an hour. We had just enough time to make the mile and a half walk back to the ship.
What to take onboard
I highly recommend taking your own refillable travel mug or cup with you on your cruise for your beverages. The size will be much larger than what they use onboard, so you won’t need to ask for as many refills and have to wait 10 minutes for each one. You can also take your drink with you when you’re finished dining. This will also eliminate and trouble if you cruise to Glacier Bay where disposable cups are forbidden to prevent flyaways from entering the ocean. And given recent effort to eliminate plastic straws, you’ll have one of those too!
One benefit of being a Commodore was an invite to a cocktail reception each evening. They offered appetizers presented in a beautiful display and discounted signature alcoholic beverages which were delightful. One of the evenings was the Welcome Back Reception for all returning Princess guests. This was a neat event that covered current and upcoming promotions and where you were able to meet the Captain and other senior staff members.
Due to my Commodore status, we were gifted 150 minutes of WiFi. We used it sparingly but didn’t find the need for it too much as Princess offered Cellular at Sea. This is a wonderful onboard service that they provide which allows you to communicate with other individuals that you are on the ship with and it doesn’t cost anything, nor does it count against your WiFi minutes, should you have them. You simply click on the “Messenger” tab at the bottom and you can message anyone that you have set up communication with.
The only issue we had with the program is that you do not receive a notification if someone messages you. You have to open the program and check to see if you have any messages.
I was very disappointed with the Soda Package that we got for the kids and the beverage provisions in general. They make it very difficult to get soda and it was not easy getting refills either. It seemed as though the only places they were able to get a drink was in the dining rooms or the bars (which they were not in due to age). None of the outdoor or pool locations offered soda. I was fine with the tea and lemonade they offered complimentary, however I was told they did not offer lemonade in any of the main dining rooms, so I settled for tea. The only time and place I was able to order lemonade was during breakfast in the buffet dining room.
Princess advertises their hot chocolate as “creamy”. You can see by the picture that it was anything but. It was a VERY watered down cheap hot chocolate that tasted awful! We were also told the only mocktails available were a strawberry daiquiri or a pina colada. The other mocktails that are mentioned such as he Sunshine Daiquiri, the Fruity Rita or the No-jito on the website were not available.