The Travel Curmudgeon
By Jerry D. Mead
The Travel Curmudgeon (TTC), and the Curmudgeoness, recently did the "Inside Passage"
to Alaska thing. It was our first time to Alaska and our first time with Princess Cruises, specifically the
In typical TTC fashion, we'll give the proverbial pat on the back before delivering the
metaphorical kick to the groin.
Overall, it was a great trip (TTC's lifelong ability to take sunshine with him wherever
he goes worked again...the cruise people kept commenting how it was the most clear days they
had seen all season), and the ship itself is a beauty, large and well appointed, with a variety of
restaurants, theaters, nightclubs and shops.
The casino, however, is a major "gyp-joint" (typical, TTC thinks, of cruise casinos in
general). The poker machines pay the lowest per hand payouts anywhere in the gaming industry
(so one can assume all the slots are equally stingy), and the form of blackjack played is that
sometimes seen in Europe rather than the more player-friendly Nevada style.
The cabins are very roomy, even in the modest sections of the ship where TTC
was situated. Comfortable twin beds, and a well appointed bathroom, desk, tv, refrigerator
and a great picture window instead of a porthole. This window feature being extremely
important on a cruise where virtually every minute of every daylight hour (and there's plenty of
those during the cruise season) offers spectacular scenery from one side of the ship or the other
The side trips arranged by Princess were all professionally operated and interesting. Alas!
We soon learned that the same excursions could have been booked on shore for as little as half as
much as Princess was charging, but paying the cruise ship's mark-up does guarantee you getting
back to the ship if it has to leave without you due to some delay on your side trip.
We did most of the tourist stuff, including the seaplane through the Misty Fjords,
landing on an isolated lake and walking on the pontoons, listening to the dramatic silence broken
only by the occasional call of some distant bird.
The helicopter visit to a real live glacier, landing on same and having the opportunity to
walk around on this thousands of years old giant ice cube on its way to the sea was in a word...
Another visit to a mock mining camp with lunch in a tent followed by a camp show and
the chance to pan for gold was very, very touristy and D-landish, but TTC thought one of the
entertainers was a real cutie... and the Curmudgeoness was heard to mumble something about
"dogs chasing cars..."
The service throughout the ship tended to be cruise ship attentive (a good thing) and
our waiters at both lunch and dinner were outstanding and went out of their way to accommodate.
We were never charged corkage (we had been told there would be a $10 per bottle fee) though
we brought our own wine for virtually every meal.
The food? Adequate, would be TTC's assessment. Imagine an upscale hotel serving
banquet fare to several hundred people at the same time and you get the idea. We're not talking
coffee shop food here, but neither are we talking 50-seat gourmet restaurant style either. And some
dishes were better than others. Rare and even medium rare for red meats seemed an impossible
request, and underdone for fish was out of the question.
All of the above can be forgiven considering the volume, and the basic ingredients
generally tended to be of high quality.
Two things, however, TTC found to be absolutely unforgivable.
Princess serves INSTANT COFFEE, even in its fine dining room and in most of its
bars, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We did discover one lounge across from the hotel main
desk where coffee was actually brewed. It became TTC's breakfast spot, even if there was
nothing but pastries to eat. The instant coffee that Princess serves is not the powdered stuff,
but a liquid concentrate such as Air France and some others use. TTC doesn't even have to
taste it to recognize it...its aroma gives it away every time.
The other unforgivable is some kind of prefab scrambled eggs. I don't know if they're
actually powdered a la the military, or some new kind of institutional liquid or what, but there isn't
anyone back there breaking eggs to scramble, and they have all the taste of wallpaper paste.
The dining room captain insisted you could get the real thing by requesting "two eggs scrambled,
as opposed to scrambled eggs." I didn't feel I should have to bother.
TTC would like to thank the Princess Cruise personnel who facilitated getting wine
onboard for both seminars and personal consumption. Due to Canada being unfriendly toward
American wine, we had to ship much of it all the way to our first port in Alaska to avoid customs
and red tape
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Latest Update: December 10, 1997