Finding time to blog has been a challenge. Maybe cause I’m new to it. I am not a writer by nature. Whatever it is, I’ll get better, promise. I am here now so I better get going. This blog post will be about my travels to Alaska via the Ruby Princess. If you have never cruised before, it’s a unique experience. It’s not for everyone, but what I can tell you is that it’s definitely for me. With that said, Let’s Go!
Alaska has never been on my radar as a travel destination, at least not right now. When I think of Alaska, I think of something down the road after retirement. I am far from retirement which is why it has never entered my mind. But my family told me it would be much more enjoyable to visit now when we are still young and active. Good point!
Going to Alaska, there are mainly to ways to get there. You can plan everything yourself and do it alone OR take a cruise. I think most people take cruises for multiple reasons.
- It’s easy, get on the ship and you’re off. Nothing else to worry about other than what you plan to eat at the buffet (I say that jokingly).
- Get to see many points of interest under a short duration (I took a 7 day cruise).
- The value for what you pay for is unbelievable.
Just those points above is reason enough to choose a cruise. It’s suppose to be a vacation, rest and relaxation right…? I didn’t want to worry and plan too much. With that said, I did some research and decided to cruise with Princess Cruise Line. It was a tough choice since I’ve never cruised with Princess before. Nevertheless, the Ruby Princess seemed like a good fit so I decided to book it.
Getting to Alaska meant I had to fly to Seattle. Most cruises set sail around 5PM local time so make sure you get there and don’t miss the boat, pun intended.
Pro Tip #1 – To remove all anxiety about delays and missing your sail-away, I always like to go the night before. It gives you the opportunity to get there at a relaxed pace and get on the ship nice and early which brings us to our next tip.
Pro Tip #2 – Even though most ships set sail at 5PM local time, you can board much earlier (whaaat, isn’t that cheating ;). I usually like to get on the ship around 11:30AM! You heard it, 11:30AM. This give me the opportunity to get some lunch and explore the ships layout way before the majority of cruisers are onboard.
If you get in early enough, the ship will be empty. Well, not empty per se, maybe 20% full. Typically, your room is NOT ready until later, so you can head directly to your first meal! Most of your meals will be in the form of a buffet. It won’t be like you local buffet back home, it will be steps above so don’t you worry about quality.
Pro Tip #3 – You’re going to be on this cruise for 7, 10 or 12 days. Make sure you pace yourself. This is not an eating competition! No need to eat the entire buffet in one go! You’ll have plenty of time to eat and try everything, I promise you that! 🙂
Since we are talking about food, let’s talk about food, my favorite subject.
Breakfast (Buffet)- You can have a breakfast buffet daily if you wish. You will have all your usual options and much more. They rotate additional cuisines for the wide array of travelers on board (Asian, Hispanic, etc…). Personally, I like dining at the Horizon Court for breakfast. You pick your food and sit down, simple as that.
Breakfast (Traditional Dining) – You also have the option to dine at a Traditional Dining Room. It’s in a traditional setting, you are taken to a table (sometime you share a table with others) and order from a menu. The options are different, you can get Egg’s Benedict for example but I rather go the buffet route as it’s more casual and gives me the freedom to get what I want. I would at least suggest you try the traditional breakfast option at least once, but make sure you get there early enough as it closes much earlier.
Lunch – Lunch is mainly served in the Horizon Court (main buffet). It will have everything that you want, plenty of options. There will be multiple serving stations, make sure you look around before piling your plate. And if you didn’t get the chance to try everything you wanted, don’t worry, there’s always tomorrow!
Pro tip #4 – The Buffet area is broken into two areas, the main dining area (Horizon Court) and a smaller area (Cafe Caribe). Finding a table can be a challenge in the main area, so I say get your food and go directly to the other side! People will figure this out maybe 3 days in so get a jump on this little secret.
Dinner – Three complementary options available. Buffet (Horizon Court), Traditional Dining or Anytime Dining. Buffet, you’re already a Pro here so no need to explain further. The selection is very similar to the main dining rooms + more options.
Traditional Dining – You pick a set time (either early or late, two choices) for the entire week and you have a reserved table waiting for you. Personally, I don’t opt for this option since time is not flexible. This is a deal breaker for me. The only plus is that with this option you get to visit different themed restaurants (same food as Anytime Dining) + same waitstaff throughout. I always feel gypped when I opt out of the Traditional, not sure why. Maybe I feel I am missing out of a unique dining experience? Whatever it is, it’s something I don’t go for anymore.
Anytime Dining – Self explanatory, doors open at 5PM and stops at 9PM. I usually ask for the same table or area so I can get the same wait staff. Makes the experience more personable.
Pro Tip #5 – Anytime Dining is great, but it does get busy, there will be a line! So, I suggest making a “reservation” for a specific time and change daily as needed. If you can’t make it, fine, no harm no foul. You also can request your own table too, which for me is huge. When was the last time you wanted to sit with strangers? Exactly. But if you dine early enough on a daily basis, you will get everything you want so no worries.
Pro Tip #6 – If you want to try more than one item, you can. I rarely do for entrees BUT on a rare occasion when I want more of something, I would politely ask the head waiter for it. I have done this for Lobster Tails and Alaska King Crab. Don’t forget this.
Specialty Restaurants – For those who want to spend a few extra bucks to have a specialty meal or something from the norm you can do that too. There are many different options aboard. There are Gastropubs, Seafood Night, Chef Curtis Restaurant, etc. Me personally, I didn’t get a chance to try any of these places. The food served at the complimentary restaurants was good enough for me!
Snacks – There are a few options for quick snacks. My favorite hands down was the Pizzeria Stand. The pizza is hand made and thrown in a hot oven non stop. If you like MOD Pizza, you’re gonna love this. It has the same type of texture and taste coming out of the oven, just wonderful. If pizza is not what you want, there is a small International Cafe on one of the main floor. They serve sandwiches, desserts and other various items. There is also Trident Grill, a place to get hot dogs, burgers, etc, everyday. You can also get soft serve ice cream, it’s served almost all day from 10-10. And finally, if you’re still hungry, they have 24-hr Room Service. This time around, I didn’t try this service but the menu looked good. As I said, plenty of food option onboard so enjoy!
OK, let’s talk about on-board entertainment. There’s lots to do. You won’t be bored. You have to open yourself to try new things if you want to be fully entertained during the entire duration of your voyage. If you do that, I truly believe you will have a good time. Now, if all you want to do is get some R&R, you can do that too. Just remember, you paid for this experience, I highly recommend you utilize everything it has to offer, at least once, just so you know what you may or may not be missing.
Back to entertainment, there are many things going on, you have the following:
Professional Broadway Style Production Shows (Must Watch!). Not gonna lie, they were all VERY good. The singing, dancing, comedy, all super entertaining! The only act I didn’t love was the Magic Show sadly. The Magician was outdated, luckily the act incorporated some singing and dancing which helped me from falling asleep. Overall, highly rated in my book.
Pro Tip #7 – Get to the shows 15 mins early at the very least. All venues fill up and difficult to find open seats. So grab that cookie and go!
Want to read a book or play a board game in a quiet place, you can do that.
Play Tennis, Basketball or even workout? All are options. Mini-golf too!
Don’t forget the Kids
If you do have kids, you have to register them so they can utilize all the activities available to them. There were many kids on board, which was a bit surprising. I heard the Princess has more kids than other Alaskan bound ships, which didn’t bother me. One of the workers told me the average age on “other” ships is around 60+. I’m glad I picked the right ship 🙂
Other things you can do on-board are:
- Art gallery viewing
- Wine Tasting
- Hot Tubs
- Movies Under the Stars
- Ping Pong
- Golf Driving Range
- Dance Classes
- Karaoke (They hosted a The Voice competition)
- Much Much More
As for Wellness related activities, there are a few options.
THE SANCTUARY – (Adults Only Retreat) – A luxurious spa-inspired top deck retreat, reserved just for adults. The Sanctuary features plush lounge furniture, attentive Serenity Steward service, soothing music, healthy beverages and spa fare, and even an open-air massage in your own private cabana! How does that sound?
The Lotus Spa – Yes, there is a Spa onsite. This is a fee based service but if you want this, you can get it. Massage, Facial, etc. all available. So go spoil yourself.
Lotus Spa Fitness Center – When you’re not eating, head out over to the Fitness Center. Surprising there were many people here, so if you are looking for company come join the fun.
We booked this very last second and there were basically one room left. Just one on a 3,000 passenger ship! We didn’t do this for cost saving, it just worked out that way. With that said, I didn’t have any options on the type of room or what floor I wanted to be on. Luckily I am not too picky. I typically tend to get a basic inside stateroom which is exactly what it was. The way I see it, you’re only here to sleep and if you have a bed, it’s good enough for me.
Ports of Call
Even though you’re having a good time onboard, don’t forget you’re here for a reason, to explore Alaska’s natural beauty. There are a few notable Ports of Call on the itinerary, them being the following:
Glacier Bay – Here you will travel through the inside passage of the Glacier Bay National Park, home of icy mountain tops, mossy forests, wildlife and spectacular views! Here I saw whales from a distant and mountain goats moving through the forest. It was a breathtaking experience like no other. The ship never docks, but moves at a very slow pace to ensure you have enough time to enjoy the full experience.
One of the coolest moments on the cruise was when we were viewing the Margerie Glacier. During this time, there was ice calving or aka White Thunder. As a glacier calves it makes sounds similar to gunshots from the cracking of the ice and the release of trapped air, then a roaring boom as the ice tumbles down into the sea. It happened within a few seconds so I didn’t get it in video.
Juneau – Juneau is the capitol of Alaska, did you know that? We docked here pretty early and had most of the day to explore. We had decided to take an excursion to see one of the most famous glaciers in the world, Mendenhall Glacier. To get there, we took a guided tour bus which was very nice. On arrival, you can visit the Visitors Center, which has a mini museum, movie room and gift shop.
We also opted to hike to Nugget Falls as well. It’s actually a decent hike, maybe 1.5 – 2 miles away. But if you come this far, it’s a must see.
One of the highlight of the trip was to eat Alaskan King Crab locally sourced and fresh daily. I did some homework and went to a place called Tracy’s King Crab Shack. It was a tad busy but not packed. We ordered a some King Crab Legs, Crab Cakes and some soup, did not disappoint!
It was truly a dream come true, there is nothing better that Alaskan King Crab (bucket list checked).
Skagway – Here in Skagway, we opted for a tour up the Klondike Summit. It was raining and the views were obstructed with fog, wasn’t the greatest, wasn’t the worse. The tour guide was helpful, felt like he’s been doing this forever as he wouldn’t stop talking.
Ketchikan – Nice little town. The only problem I had was I felt I was in the Caribbean with all your standard tourist shops like Diamonds International and such. When I spoke to a person, he said the town shuts down once the tourist season is over. And this was for most of the Ports of Call. Regardless, we were near the end of our journey in Alaska so I had to up my souvenir game. But if you peel back what’s on the surface, it was a nice little town. You can spend all day here if you wanted. No excursions for us, just sightseeing and some shopping.
Victoria – This is typically the most depressing part of any cruise, the last night on the ship! On this night, we were to dock around 6PM local time. That didn’t give you much time to explore since we had to return ship @ 11PM. We basically had a plan, grab a $12 Taxi ride to Chinatown (oldest in Canada) and walk our way back to downtown (1 mile away). There, we would stroll downtown and visit two main attractions, the Empress Hotel and the British Parliament Building.
It was a nice easy walk from Chinatown. Got the chance to walk through Fan Tan Alley (the narrowest alley in North America, 28″).
This was the last night of our cruise. We got back to the ship around 10:30 PM which was surprising. If we has some excursions, not sure how we could have pulled it off as time was tight. I think the Victoria stop was a added bonus which was fine to me.
As I like to think of all cruises, it give you the best opportunity to see a lot under a short amount of time. It’s really a taste of something, and if you like it, come back for more. Alaska in this case was the perfect example. I am not sure how I would be able to do all this under 7 days of travel, seems impossible. The accommodations, service and overall quality was great. Oh, I just wanted to make a point here. Most of the workers are from foreign countries. They come on board, work 6 -8 months literally non stop day and night. I was truly impressed with their attitude and overall service of excellence. So, when you leave, make sure you give them a bigger tip than normal, they truly do deserve it.
At this point, I’ll close out this blog noting that my Alaskan Journey aboard the Ruby Princess was pretty awesome. I would highly recommend to anyone. It was a great experience that I will always remember (of course I will, I have over 2,000 pictures to prove it :-).
If you been to Alaska before or cruised on the Ruby Princess, make sure you leave me a comment. Thanks for reading.
Until Next Time,