As passengers relax under cozy woolen blankets, glaciers tower before them, crackling occasionally as a piece breaks off in a dramatic "calving." Later, sharp-eyed guests train their binoculars to where their onboard naturalist has spotted a whale. Soon Princess chefs offer up a deckside buffet to complement the scenery with a bounty of local Alaskan flavors, while later local park rangers regale their audience with an entertaining presentation full of insights about "The Great Land."
Alaska offers passengers a thoroughly unique experience in which they can be close to natural wonders and enjoy adventurous activities on shore. But on a Princess ship this summer, travelers can also continue to immerse themselves in the wonders of Alaska even when they return onboard, thanks to a special onboard experience designed to complement the itinerary. Special guests and programs fill the day's program, helping passengers appreciate the richness around them whether they're captivated by local wildlife and scenery, or want to get a closer feel for Alaska Native culture or the favorite local sport of dog mushing. And through it all, the flavors of "The Great Land" come alive as passengers enjoy Princess' Signature Alaskan Cuisine featuring such delicacies as salmon, king crab, venison or even reindeer chili.
"It's very important to us at Princess that we really give passengers a true feel for the rich culture and natural wonders of Alaska," said Rai Caluori,Princess executive vice president of fleet operations. "When our guests join us for a cruise of the 49th state, they'll know they're some place special, and will be able to savor many of the region's delights right onboard."
Starting this May, Princess' specially designed program will offer its passengers a variety of ways to experience Alaska onboard their ship, including:
Meet a Musher - Libby Riddles, the 1985 Iditarod sled dog race champion and first woman ever to win the famous Anchorage to Nome trek, 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 of their own 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.
"North to Alaska" in Skagway - Local historian and performer Steve Hites presents a colorful tribute to the Klondike days during the ship's call in Skagway. This entertaining "North to Alaska" show offers passengers the opportunity to learn more about Alaska's gold rush era through an entertaining mix of song, poetry and folklore.
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.
Glacier Bay Junior Ranger/Teen Explorer - Princess ships also offer special Glacier Bay activities for the ships' younger passengers. The enriching Junior Ranger and Teen Explorer program is designed to bring Glacier Bay and the Alaska wilderness to life for the thousands of children who cruise each summer. This joint effort between Princess and the National Parks Service is designed to encourage young cruisers to explore Glacier Bay's natural and cultural history through fun interactive projects. Children ages 3-12 and teens ages 13-17 can participate in special programs customized for their age group and take home specially developed activity books. Kids who participate in a certain number of events and activities can earn Junior Ranger status, which is commemorated with an official badge and certificate.
Forest Service Presentations in Ketchikan - 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. 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.
Signature Alaskan Cuisine - The enticing flavors of Alaska feature in menus and events throughout Princess' Alaska fleet. Each season chefs create a bounty of flavorful dishes that reflect the state's culinary delights, featuring fresh 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. In the dining rooms, one evening will culminate with a special Chef's Alaskan Dinner featuring fresh and smoked salmon, fresh halibut, loin of venison and king crab. On another day, cruisers will return from port to find a festive poolside fish barbeque serving up such specialties as grilled prawns, halibut brochettes, crab cakes and venison chili. And while ships sail among the stunning scenery of Glacier Bay, a lavish mid-day buffet fuels passengers with choices such as hot and cold smoked and chaud-froid salmon, crab salad, and grilled fish, plus ice carvings and other special dcor. Passenger also might discover a reindeer chili or rockfish chowder cook-off. To top off any meal, diners can wash down their Alaskan feasts with local beers or an Alaskan Hot Toddy.
Glacier Bay Balcony Breakfast - For a more private repast among the scenic ice floes of Glacier Bay, Princess offers guests the opportunity to order a special Glacier Bay champagne breakfast to be served right on their stateroom balcony. This indulgent morning option features fresh pastries, forest berries, Copper River salmon and Alaskan crab quiche to further enhance their cruise through this natural wonder.
Gold Rush Marketplace - For passengers seeking the perfect memento of their Alaskan adventure, Princess ships offer a one-time special event each cruise - the Gold Rush Market Place. This unique shopping opportunity offers a comprehensive collection of exclusive Alaskan merchandise representing the 49th state's many cultures and resources, with items such as gold nuggets and quartz, cozy totem blankets, hand crafted figurines depicting Alaska's natural wildlife, authentic Russian souvenirs from Sitka, Native Alaskan dolls, and totems all manufactured by local Alaskan artisans. Exclusive Alaska apparel represents the rich history and culture of Alaska with designs only available on Princess ships.
Exclusive Cruise Companion Book/Map and Video - A Princess exclusive, the "Alaska Cruise Companion" book and map set was created especially for the line by author and long-time Alaskan Joe Upton. The insightful guide lets passengers follow along on their cruise as the detailed map and information-packed guidebook are organized to fit Princess itineraries. Loaded with facts and colorful stories about each port and coastal features along the way, the set is a favorite with Alaska passengers each year. An accompanying video, also produced by Upton, is shown throughout the cruise in shipboard cabins, following the cruise route with beautiful photography and entertaining narration.
Princess will feature its largest ever Alaska fleet in 2007, with eight ships sailing through the scenic waters of the "Great Land." Passengers can choose from 139 total departures aboard a diverse lineup of vessels that range from 670 passengers to 2,670 passengers. For the first time, the line offers mid-week departures of its popular Gulf of Alaska cruises aboard Pacific Princess. In addition, Golden Princess will make her Alaska debut, adding a new choice and expanding capacity to Princess' popular Inside Passage program. Passengers have more opportunities than ever to visit Glacier Bay in 2007 as Princess ships will sail into the national park a record 78 times, carrying more passengers to this spectacle of ice than any other cruise line.
Additional information about Princess Cruises Alaska programs is available through a professional travel agent, by calling 1-800-PRINCESS, or by visiting www.princess.com.