Fun fact: The nostalgic hit TV show, The Love Boat (1977-1987), featured the Pacific Princess, which was Princess Cruises’ entree into Hollywood.
🎵 🎵 🎵
Love, exciting and new
Come aboard. we’re expecting you.
Love, life’s sweetest reward.
Let it flow, it floats back to you.
The love boat soon will be making another run
The love boat promises something for everyone
Set a course for adventure,
Your mind on a new romance.
Love won’t hurt anymore
It’s an open smile on a friendly shore.
🎵 🎵 🎵
Being a kid of the 80s, I was filled with excitement to check out what was behind the scenes on the Discovery Princess, which is only about a year on the high seas. I reflected back to watching episodes of The Love Boat when I was a kid, not ever seeing a cruise in my future. Cruising was not as accessible in the 80s as it is now, with larger ships being able to accommodate so many more people. Upon boarding, I was thrilled to know that they were–indeed– expecting me!
Captain Merrill Stubing: The heart of the ship
As a travel writer, here’s what I adore about cruising (on Discovery Princess):
>A one stop shop for adventure with many ports of Discovery. You board, stow your luggage and can see the world without moving a carry-on!
>The week is full of activity, trying new things (pickleball, anyone?), dining on great food, meeting new people, listening to exceptional live music; being as busy as you want to be. …Or, you can rest on a lounger by the pool.
>The world really does feel like it’s your oyster.
The heart of cruising really does lie in the adventure of new towns, getting to know the crew’s personalities and living in a city on the sea!
Cruise Director Julie McCoy: So much to do!
An Alaska cruise through the Inner Passage has been on my bucket list for years. Exploring the coastal towns of Alaska (the only state larger than Texas) was a Discovery like no other. With three ports in Alaska and the final port of Victoria, BC (Canada), the Discovery Princess hit all the right notes.
Here’s a few excursion highlights…
>Ketchikan, known as “Alaska’s first city” with the first paved road in the state, is not only full of jewelry stores, the adorable town also has its fair share of bars. Enjoy walking through Creek Street to view the salmon running (in the summer). In this small town with 14K humans & 14k black bears, salmon fishing and tourism are the top two industries, featuring perfect 65-75 degree summer temps. Cruise ships have ported here for a century to absorb the relaxed way of life. Take an excursion that passes forests of Sitka Spruce, Alaska’s state tree, and jump on a boat that takes you to the crabbing mecca of Ketchikan. If you’re lucky, you’ll watch a pair of bald eagles dive for fish food and a big humpback whale playing in the sunny water. Later, return to the lodge for a delicious crab feast (local beer included).
>Juneau, the state capital, harkens back to the Ice Age with an excursion to the nearby Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. This excursion gets you up bright and early for a boat ride whose destination is the beautiful Dawes Glacier. We were lucky visitors actually getting to observe “calving” of the glacier (ice breaking off in front of our eyes and falling into the freezing water)! Afterwards, amble around town, enjoying a cold beer at either the famous Red Dog Saloon or Alaskan Brewing Company, or both!
>At the farthest point in the journey, Skagway, the Discovery Princess docks in a fjord. Head out on your excursion to All Aboard the White Pass Railroad train. Celebrating its 125th anniversary, the narrator tells of the hardships of the gold miners who took that route in the late 1800s in search of fortune. Against all odds, these foragers schlepped their required ton of goods through these beautiful mountains. The scenery is breathtaking as you traverse through the Pass. Right before you arrive at the Canadian border, you’ll deboard and enjoy the remainder of the day on a bus tour which goes all the way up to the Yukon Territory. Not everyone can say they start the day in Alaska (US), cross through Canada, and arrive in the vast Yukon (truly, the last great frontier).
>Victoria, British Columbia, is one of the most scenic cities in North America. The largest island in the Pacific, Victoria is home to 500k people, features the regal Empress Hotel (from 1908) sitting pretty on the harbor, and you can enjoy an excursion that takes you to the historic Pendray Mansion for tea service. A bus tour through town highlights attractions such as the Parliament building, Chinatown, and the gorgeous harbor.
Bartender Isaac Washington: Food & beverage at the ready
The shining star of F&B aboard the Discovery Princess are the specialty dinners: 360, Winemaker’s Dinner and Chef’s Table (the latter two require an additional fee). If you so choose, you can get on an illustrious waitlist for these dining delicacies once you board.
I absolutely loved Sabbatini’s, Discovery’s Italian restaurant (deliziosa!), the Winemaker’s Dinner featuring Silverado Winery from California, and the intimate Chef’s Table, but 360 was the one to write home about! I can’t tell you too much, since it’s a bit of a speakeasy experience, but it is one of the most divine dining experiences of my life (only open to suite guests, at no extra charge)! The dinner features a trumpet-led parade to a secret location where diners are treated to a journey through many different countries (Greece, Italy, Spain), experiencing a dinner that utilizes all five senses. Cin Cin!
Yeoman Purser Burl “Gopher” Smith: Adventure and/or rest at your command
As mentioned, Princess Cruises makes it possible to be as busy or relaxed as you choose. My favorite aspect of cruising at night is taking in many types of live music and stage entertainment. From piano bar to hits of the 70s/80s to a Broadway caliber show, there’s plenty of activity at your fingertips. Not into live music? Check out trivia shows, poolside movies under the stars, or even the casino rolling along the waves all night long.
Earlier in the day, check out Xponential fitness classes at the gym like stretching (a wonderful way to start the day), cycle or pure barre. Enjoy a therapeutic sports massage at the spa; then spend some time at The Enclave (within the spa) where you can indulge in heated loungers, aromatherapy showers, a hot tub and multiple steam rooms. Spend an afternoon at The Sanctuary, where you’ll have a reserved lounge chair facing the open sea, with servers at your beck and call to deliver snacks, pizzas, afternoon tea or a cold chardonnay- whatever your floating heart desires!
Doctor Adam Bricker: Staying healthy and well
Cruising has made a healthy comeback post-Covid. We all heard the horror stories of cruise ships being quarantined at the height of lockdown. Here we are three years later and ships are doing their part to keep guests healthy (hand washing stations before entering the buffet, signs reminding you to use a paper towel to open the bathroom doors, and loads of instructions on what to do should you feel ill.) Rest assured, these cities on the sea are back better than ever!
Cover Photo Courtesy Discovery Princess Cruises
Marika Flatt, Outstanding Austin Communicator 2021, is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She began her travel writing career in 2002 with a visit to Hawks Cay in the Florida Keys. She can be seen as a contributor on TV shows across Texas, offering travel tips, such as KVUE, Daytime (FOX), San Antonio Living, Good Morning Texas, and KXAN! Marika spent five years as the voice of the “Weekend Trip Tip” on NPR’s Texas Standard.