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and art auctions.
The Grand Casino features slot machines (5 cent, 25 cent, $1 and $5) and roulette, black jack, craps and Caribbean stud tables.
The new Internet Cafe -- there's no food or drink -- offers 22 stations for a flat charge of 35 cents per minute (the industry's lowest) and no discount packages.
At night, Sun Princess has two show lounges. In the Princess Theater the Sun Princess Singers and Dancers may put on a production show while in the Vista Lounge there is a cabaret act (juggler, comedian, singer). Princess also brings aboard in port folklorists and lecturers and, since the line has so many ships in Alaska during summer, the line actually exchanges entertainers midweek with others in the fleet.
Our trip shore excursions were exceptional. Princess owns tour operators in Alaska, and as such, Princess' buses, rail cars and lodges dot the landscape. In Alaska, where getting in touch with nature is the main goal, Princess offers excursions to glaciers, in search of wildlife and for wilderness fishing. The excursions are expensive because they involve helicopters, small planes and individual guides, but they are worth the money. I heard not one complaint about a shore excursion. Wonder if they're fairly priced? The White Pass & Yukon Railway trip is the most popular excursion in Alaska. Princess sells it for $97, and the train picks you up shipside. Walk the half mile into town and you can buy a ticket at the station for $89: not much of a markup.
Fitness & Recreation
On the main pool deck there are two central pools (these get crowded in good weather). A third, a splash pool, is located behind the fitness center, surrounded by sunning decks and serviced by an outdoor Splash Bar (open in good weather); there are ample sun loungers. The topmost passenger deck, Sun Deck, is divided into two portions. The aft portion of Sun Deck is available for sports activities like shuffleboard, basketball and paddle tennis. Other recreational features include a a golf simulator and quoits.
The Lotus Spa, with its attractive Asian themed decor, offers numerous treatments for men, women and even teens. The adjacent workout room features the latest machines and weights with piped music and (silent) TV screens (one nice touch: While the ship was sailing the College Fjords, the spinning class was brought outdoors.) There is a carpeted space for yoga, aerobics and Pilates (extra charge).
My cruise had hundreds of children on board, but I was aware of them only rarely (I came upon the younger group coloring in one of the stairwells and upon the older group at a pizza party).
The Fun Zone is divided by ages between 3 and 7, and 8 and 12. Off Limits is for teenagers 13 to 17 and features a video arcade, soft furniture and foosball. I stopped by several times, and it was always empty. I did, however, see well-behaved groups of teenagers at many of the adult activities.
Children's activities are scheduled morning, noon and night, but parents are expected to take their children for meals. Also, Princess does not provide private babysitting, and group sitting ends at midnight.
While the ship attracted a majority of Americans, there were groups from Japan, Britain, Australia and Europe. Ages ranged from infants in arms to nonagenarians. Most passengers were middle aged or older. There were several multi-generational families. Announcements were few (for a mass-market ship) and only in English. (There was one channel of Spanish language programming and one of German on the in-cabin TV.) Of nearly 2,000 passengers on board only 10 percent had traveled with Princess before.
Casual dress is the rule. Alaskan weather dictates layering, as the days can be quite warm and the evenings cool. The ship's newsletter suggests attire for the evening. Two nights are "formal," but most passengers do not wear black tie, suit or long dress; five nights are "smart casual." Shorts and T-shirts are prohibited in the dining rooms for dinner, but welcome in the Trattoria and Horizon Court.
Princess charges $10 per person, per day to shipboard accounts, which is divided among service personnel. Fifteen percent is added to wine and bar bills. Tipping in the spa/salon/gym is left to the individual. Passengers may raise, lower or eliminate the service charge, but tips given out in cash are pooled up to the standard service charge. Only above that amount do stewards and stewardesses get to keep their tips.