From Anchorage to Vancouver, a Journey through the Heart of Alaska

Our Denali Explorer CruiseTour with Princess will take us from Anchorage to Vancouver. Illustration courtesy of Princess Cruises

Our Denali Explorer CruiseTour with Princess will take us from Anchorage to Vancouver. Illustration courtesy of Princess Cruises

It’s like the March of the Live Voyage Reports here on From the Deck Chair, and we start May off with yet another – this time, to one of my favorite cruise destinations: Alaska.

Every year I swear I won’t go back, and every year I do. Ever since I first sailed here in 1998, Alaska has held me captivated. There’s always something new to see. New experiences to be had. I never find it tough to write about destinations like this that only truly reveal their true nature over repeat visits.

For my ninth outing to The Last Frontier, I’ll be joining Princess Cruises extensive, 11-night Denali Explorer CruiseTour that begins in Anchorage on June 16, 2015 and culminates with a weeklong southbound cruise aboard the 2,600-guest Star Princess as she charts a course for Hubbard Glacier, Glacier Bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, the Inside Passage, and finally, Vancouver.

Golden Princess, sister-ship to Star Princess, backs away from her berth in Skagway, Alaska in August 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Golden Princess, sister-ship to Star Princess, backs away from her berth in Skagway, Alaska in August 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

What’s really cool about this itinerary is that it combines a five-night overland tour with a weeklong post-land-trip cruise. I first did an overland trip two years ago, when I was escorting a group on Princess with Vancouver-based Cruise Experts Travel. Being a cruiser, I’d always wondered what the draw was with these land tours. Now I now.

We begin our tour in Anchorage; flat, sun-splashed and fascinating all at the same time. Anchorage is a world unto its own, and it’s different from cities in Southeast Alaska. It reminds me a bit of a prairie town in the Midwest, but with ocean and mountains as its backdrop.

There is nothing - nothing - like a visit deep into the heart of Alaska's Denali National Park. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There is nothing – nothing – like a visit deep into the heart of Alaska’s Denali National Park. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Then, we’ll continue on to Princess’s exclusive Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge near Talkeetna for an overnight stay in the shadow of Alaska’s most famous mountain.

After that, we’re off to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for two days in breathtaking Denali National Park. This is, without a doubt, my favorite part of Alaska – the landscape is so grand and imposing that it defies words. Load your camera up with memory cards; you’re going to need them here.

After that, we’ll hop onboard Princess’s own branded railcars for the nine-hour journey by train from Denali National Park to Whittier, Alaska. Our train will pull right up next to the Star Princess around 5:30p.m., making embarkation a breeze.

The view from the Dome Car, where everyone had spacious, comfortable seating. Imagine this view changing for four hours. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Riding the rails between Fairbanks and Denali in 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I’m also excited to experience Star Princess for the very first time. Years ago, I sailed aboard sister-ship Golden Princess, but that was before both vessels had their sweeping refurbishments completed in late 2011 that saw the reconfiguration of the original atrium into a Crown Princess-style Piazza; and the addition of Vines, the International Café, the Crown Grill Steakhouse, upgrades to the Horizon Court buffet, and other changes.

The unique "Grand Class" stern of Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess, as seen in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, near sunset. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

The unique “Grand Class” stern of Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess, as seen in Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, near sunset. Golden, Star and Caribbean Princess all boast this arrangement. Grand Princess used to until she had some cosmetic surgery a few years back. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders

I’ve always liked these Grand Class ships. They’re absolutely enormous, yet they offer a surprising amount of space per guest. They also have plenty of hidden, out-of-the-way places: Star Princess still sports Skywalker’s Nightclub high atop her stern on Deck 17, the famous so-called ‘Shopping Cart Handle’ that has become symbolic of these vessels. When I sailed aboard Golden Princess to the Mexican Riviera years ago, Skywalker’s was a bit lost on me. In Alaska – with its long hours of daylight – viewing the scenery with a nightcap in Skywalker’s just might be what the doctor ordered.

Neptune's Reef Pool aboard Sapphire Princess. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Essential in Alaska: the covered Neptune’s Reef Pool aboard Grand-class sibling, Sapphire Princess. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Star Princess also sports other essentials in Alaska. She has a covered Promenade Deck that wraps around the entire ship, from the stem of her bow to the last inches of her stern. This is, I think, one of Princess’s coolest features ever. Star Princess also sports the bowed-out platforms on either side of the forward Promenade Deck that allow for some fantastic views both forward and aft.

Other essentials: a fully-covered swimming pool to complement the Neptune’s Reef pool, which is open to the elements. Should it pour rain, guests can still enjoy a refreshing swim in the Calypso Reef pool, which is sheltered by the glass dome of The Conservatory. Even the aft Terrace Pool is partially covered by the underside of Skywalker’s, some four decks above.

Crown Princess departs Akureyri, Iceland in August 2009. Photo © Aaron Saunders

The promenade deck aboard Crown Princess as she departs Akureyri, Iceland in 2009. Perfect for scenic cruising. Photo © 2009 Aaron Saunders

Because of how well her outer decks are designed, Star Princess and her sisters don’t suffer from the crush of people that race inside on ships with uncovered promenade decks and exposed pool areas when inclement weather hits.

Guests will also find more to do on Princess this year than ever before. In celebration of their 50th Anniversary, Princess is pulling out all the stops in Alaska. The line has partnered with Discovery Communications to showcase reality TV hits like Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush (both of which are filmed in Alaska and the Yukon) onboard their ships in Alaska.

Whale sightings on this cruise have been the best I've ever seen. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Guests admire the view from onboard Coral Princess near Hubbard Glacier. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There’s also an onboard Klondike Festival and a Midnight Sun Party, not to mention three special lectures, one of which will be featured onboard nearly every 2015 Alaska sailing:

  • Tales of the Deadliest Catch – From the popular Discovery Channel program, “The Deadliest Catch”, Captain David Lethin and his shipmates from The Aleutian Ballad relate their true-life adventures and experiences in the Bering Sea in pursuit of crab.
  • Logger Heads – Living Like a Lumberjack
    Guests will be treated to a stimulating and exciting multi-media presentation that reveals the life and adventures of your host, an actual Alaskan Lumberjack, and will include an authentic axe-throwing competition with selected guests.
  • Tales from the Wild – with Nick Jans
    New York Times best-selling author, and renowned storyteller Nick Jans comes aboard to tell his compelling, emotional story of Romeo, the wolf, and the effect he had on the people of Juneau, as told in his book, “A Wolf Called Romeo”.
  • There’s also an onboard Klondike Festival and a Midnight Sun Party, not to mention three special lectures, one of which will be featured onboard nearly every 2015 Alaska sailing:

So join us June 16 – 27 as we explore Alaska with Princess Cruises, on the eve of their 50th Anniversary!

Sunset over Lynn Canal, as seen from onboard Coral Princess in July 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Sunset over Lynn Canal, as seen from onboard Coral Princess in July 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from Princess Cruises Denali Explorer CruiseTour will begin June 16, 2015 from Anchorage, Alaska! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!