When Princess Cruises ships launched their Alaska season last weekend, they began offering passengers more local tastes and culture onboard than ever before, giving them a rich “Great Land” experience not only on land, but also while at sea.
“Alaska’s 50th anniversary year is the perfect time to celebrate the wonders of this magnificent state,” said Jan Swartz, Princess executive vice president.
Princess’ extensive onboard Alaska program includes:
-- Sanctuary Glacier Viewing Experience: Aboard Golden Princess, Star Princess and Island Princess, The Sanctuary will become a prime location for glacier viewing of the unforgettable Glacier Bay or Tracy Arm. The exclusive Sanctuary experience will offer passengers a variety of amenities to make their glacier experience comfortable, with deluxe padded lounge chairs, plush fleece blankets, ear muffs and binoculars. Park rangers and naturalists will also provide private commentary for guests in The Sanctuary, and will be available for one-on-one meetings to answer questions. A variety of special food and beverage offerings will be available exclusively in The Sanctuary, including Mimosas and Bloody Marys, specialties such as Alaska Rockfish Chowder and freshly fried "Beaver Tail” pastries.
-- Tastes of Alaska: Passengers can experience the flavors of Alaska with a number of special opportunities to enjoy Princess’ Signature Alaska Cuisine. Throughout the Alaska fleet, chefs will create a bounty of flavorful dishes that reflect the state’s culinary delights, featuring fresh local fish, savory meats, and an assortment of seafood specialties. Passengers will find ample opportunity to sample these treats, with a number of special culinary events throughout the cruise.
-- Glacier Bay Champagne Breakfast: Passengers can enjoy the majestic views of Glacier Bay from the comfort of their private balconies, while indulging in an exquisitely prepared Alaskan breakfast or brunch. The feast includes smoked salmon and an Alaskan crab quiche plus fresh pastries, fruit and forest berries along with a half bottle of champagne, served right on the stateroom balcony as the ship passes breathtaking scenes of this natural wonder.
-- Glacier Bay Gala Buffet: While ships sail among the stunning scenery of Glacier Bay, a lavish lunch buffet fuels passengers with a variety of Alaskan specialties, including hot and cold smoked salmon carved at the buffet, crab salad, and grilled fish, plus ice carvings and other special décor.
-- Alaskan Dinner: In the dining rooms, the special Alaskan Dinner features a number of local tastes and regional influences, including salmon, a celebrated seafood soup and loin of venison.
-- On Deck Fish Barbecue: On one port day, cruisers will return to the ship to find a festive poolside fish barbeque serving up such specialties as grilled prawns on skewers, fresh Alaska halibut brochettes, crab cakes, and venison chili.
-- Reindeer Chili & Rockfish Chowder Cook-off: A sea day cook-off between two chefs gives passengers the opportunity to sample these local tastes.
-- Warm up on Deck: Hot chocolate and mid-morning bouillon are served daily on open deck to help passengers warm up as they take in the scenery.
-- Alaskan Beers/Hot Toddy: To top off any meal, diners can pair their Alaskan feasts with local beers, such as Alaskan Amber and Alaskan Summer Ale, or an Alaskan Hot Toddy. Beers can be served in an exclusive etched pint glass with the Alaskan Brewers and Princess Cruises logos.
-- Chef's Table: The ships’ chefs will be creating special menus for the exclusive Chef’s Table featuring mouth-watering specialties.
-- Culinary Demonstrations: Passengers can learn the tricks of the trade from Princess chefs at a demonstration featuring the flavors of Alaska such as Farfalle Pasta with Hot Smoked Alaskan Salmon.
Local Experts - Passengers can learn about many aspects of life in Alaska and the state’s natural wonders from a variety of special guests onboard:
-- Iditarod Champion Libby Riddles, Sled Dogs and Adventure: Libby Riddles, the 1985 Iditarod sled dog race champion and first woman ever to win the famous Anchorage to Nome trek, will be onboard for her ninth Alaska season. Riddles has become a Princess favorite, enthralling passengers with exploits from her days as a musher. In her exclusive appearances for Princess, Riddles joins each of the line’s Alaska ships during its call in Juneau. Taking passengers behind the scenes into the world of dog mushing, she shares her Iditarod experiences while describing what it’s like to live in a native Inupiat village near Nome. Riddles’ approximately hour-long presentations are held aboard the ship in the afternoon, followed by an opportunity for passengers to ask questions, get autographed copies of her books or pose with her for photos.
-- Alaska Naturalists: On each Alaska sailing, passengers have the benefit of the expert guidance from a dedicated onboard naturalist throughout their cruise. These veteran guides include biologists, writers, adventurers, professors and Alaska Natives, among others, who give informative presentations about local wildlife, glaciers, oceanography, marine life, native Alaskan cultures, history and many other local topics of interest. Naturalists often provide colorful bridge commentary as well and help with spotting wildlife.
-- Park Ranger Programs in Glacier Bay: Park rangers present a variety of programs for passengers of all ages while ships sail among the dramatic ice fields of Glacier Bay National Park. National Park Service rangers join the ship for the day, offering a live commentary from ship’s bridge throughout the visit to Glacier Bay, pointing out the natural wonders and wildlife sightings. Rangers also give an informative shipboard presentation with videos of Glacier Bay’s environment. They also meet with passengers at a dedicated booth, offering reference books and other information to further inform interested visitors about Glacier Bay’s natural and cultural history.
-- USDA Forest Service Partnership, Ketchikan/Misty Fjords: Passengers have the opportunity to learn more about the nation’s largest National Forest–Tongass National Forest–with a special onboard presentation by rangers from the U.S. Forest Service about the resources and management of the forest. A naturalist station will be set up throughout the afternoon each ship is in Ketchikan, and passengers are invited to special presentations for adults and children as the naturalists share information about Southeast Alaska and this important national treasure.
If you plan to cruise in Alaska this summer, you may want to take a look at Cruise Diva's suggestions for Cruising In Cool Places and what to see and do in Alaska Ports of Call. You might also consider picking up a copy of Fodor's Alaska Ports of Call 2009.