It was the trip of a lifetime to be sure. My sixteen-year-old daughter and I traveled on Princess Cruises' Star Princess on an epic adventure through Alaska. Our trip began with four days on land, traveling from Anchorage to Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge to Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge where we explored Denali National Park.
The lodges were nicely appointed and impressively staffed. While in Denali, we also did a glacier landing. Yes. We ogled the glaciers from the sky and then landed right on one. It was nothing short of glorious. Then we jumped on the Princess Rail to Whittier to embark on the real journey at hand.
Our seven-day cruise took us from Whittier to Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park for scenic cruising. And then we were off to Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan where we went glacier hiking, flight seeing, and dog sledding before finishing up with some more exceptional scenic cruising, this time through the Inside Passage before arriving in Vancouver from which we journeyed back home.
The days at sea were glorious, taking advantage of the sprawling spa, the Zumba and line dancing classes, the arts and crafts seminars, and other onboard activities, as well as spending hours in the Sanctuary on the top deck with quiet, private viewing of the palatial glaciers. In each port, we took on a crazy adventure, the likes of which neither my daughter nor I have ever taken part in.
And, because it was a cruise, we also did A LOT of eating. There was always plenty of food to be found, buffets of salads and sandwiches and entrees from countries around the world and delicious pizza, as well as burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream poolside.
The culinary highlight is hard to choose. We took part in the extravagant Chef’s Table Lumiere five plus course meal, after which I thought we might never eat again, that was definitely in the running for the best of the best of food onboard. But we also dined in the ships two specialty restaurants, both of which made that pick for highlight exceptionally difficult.
First up, the Crown Grill, which Princess aptly describes as a premium seafood and chop house. The appetizers include black tiger prawn and papaya salpicon, carpaccio of pine nut-coated lamb loin, Mediterranean-style spiny lobster cake, and seared Pacific scallops and smoky bacon crisps. The tiger prawn and lobster cake were easily my favorites. Their soups and salad offerings include shrimp and pancetta bisque, black and blue onion soup, the grill salad, and marinated goat’s cheese and heirloom tomato salad. The bisque was melt in the mouth heaven.
The seafood selections include the mussel pot with white wine, shallots, bay leaf, and garlic bread; Chilean sea bass and brioche-breaded king prawns with leeks and mushroom ragout and champagne mousseline; grilled tiger prawns in whiskey, chili and garlic marinade with fried onion rice; and 4 oz. Maine lobster tails broiled with pepper butter or split and grilled with garlic.
And of course, you can fill your table with sides to share as well, including grilled asparagus; creamed spinach; sautéed wild mushrooms; loaded baked Idaho potato; garlic and herb French fries; and red skin mashed potatoes.
They offer a full menu of chops from a Sterling Silver beef chop to New Zealand double lamb chops to Sterling Silver pork chop to a massive 22 ounce porterhouse.
And for what they are really known for – steak. They offer a 12 ounce New York strip, a 16 ounce Kansas City strip, a 14 ounce rib-eye, and an 8 ounce filet mignon, all served with choice of potato and garden fresh vegetables.
They even offer a unique gourmet salt selection, including Hawaiian Black Salt (Hiwa Kai); Smoked Applewood Salt (Yakima); and Himalayan Mountain Pink Salt.
For dessert guests can choose from molten Dutch chocolate fudge obsession, lemon meringue pudding tart, seven layer s’mores stack, caramel cheesecake parfait, or, if you really want to do it right, you can try the Crown Dependence, which is a sampling of all the executive pastry chef’s featured desserts.
The antipasti menu includes, burrata; thinly sliced chilled veal; calamari fritti; artichoke soufflé, soft shell crab over baby arugula; and tomato soup with grilled shellfish.
Each night, the chef creates a specialty pasta to be enjoyed as either a second or main course. The entrée menu also offers, branzino for two; garlic infused shrimp with cherry tomatoes; lobster three ways (lobster tail, lobster orzotto, and lobster bisque sauce); chicken skewers with soft sage polenta; a 10 ounce strip steak; and a grilled veal chop.
For dessert, guests can choose from artisan cheeses; espresso crème brulee; a citrus tart; an almond, hazelnut, and pecan florentine napoleon; white chocolate mousse with limoncello cream; and whisked marsala foam with ladyfingers.
And although he was not a part of the experience when my daughter and I were onboard, Chef Curtis Stone is now part of the Princess family. All of the Princess ships now have specialty items crafted by Stone and Ruby Princess, Emerald Princess, and Sun Princess have SHARE Restaurants by Curtis Stone onboard.
They have also added the Salty Dog Gastropub by Chef Ernesto Umichuro and “Cook My Catch,” which lets passengers who go on select salmon and halibut fishing trips in Alaska have their catch brought to the ship, cooked up as they wish, and served to them in the dining room. My kind of DIY.
It was a stellar experience in so many ways, not the least of which was sharing such an incredible adventure – culinary and otherwise – with my incredible daughter with whom I share so much, including traveling anywhere and everywhere any time we get the chance.