Cruise Passenger takes you on one of dreamiest destinations on a voyage to Alaska on the new Discovery Princess

It begins on Day One. We choose the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show followed by an all-you-can-eat Crab Feast.

I almost lose my voice cheering as the handsome lumberjacks hack, slice and saw their way across the stage in an athletic feat to rival gladiators. Thankfully, the hot buttered Alaskan Crab lunch that follows soothes my throat.

I’ve always dreamed of visiting Alaska. So, the chance to explore this enticing destination on the new Discovery Princess literally had me skipping for joy. Princess Cruises has been sailing in Alaska for more than 50 years. And the line even has lodges on shore. Seven of its ships are currently based in these waters. 

The 3660-passenger Discovery Princess has been sailing since 2022 and is the third vessel designed as a MedallionClass ship. It’s the line’s unique coin-sized wearable device that enables everything from touch-free boarding to enhanced service.

I wasn’t expecting the level of luxury this new ship boasts. But what really hit home was the way the Discovery Princess embraces Alaska at all the ports. On, and off the ship.

As I chat with fellow passengers, I realise the number one reason why we are all here. Alaska is a top bucket list part of the world to explore. It represents one of the last frontiers: rugged, pristine and bursting with local culture and wildlife. 

With cruising now back in full swing, Australians are among the many nationalities across the globe who are pouncing on their dream holidays like never before. And Alaska is riding this boom in big holidays. There are more ships than ever in its fjords and sailing its ice packs.

Why do Australians love Alaska?

The Discovery Princess has provided a series of Alaska itineraries that allows guests to explore, climb, sail, dine and fish their way throughout the region. There are a total of 150 different tour excursions catering for every possible whim. 

You’re guaranteed to experience an abundance of true Alaskan life whichever way you turn. Princess’s shore tour manager in Alaska, Lucy chaperones guests into Endicott Arm and Dawe’s Glacier.

“Alaska is definitely the last frontier for the United States. And we want to make the most of our guest’s time here. For the Alaskan itineraries, the tours are the biggest thing. In Juneau, it’s all about the glacier and the whale watching. In Skagway, it’s the train. Ketchikan is about the fishing and the seafood. I feel very lucky to be witnessing how excited the guests are when they come back from their tours.”

And what about the shore excursions?

That’s the tip of the iceberg. There’s dog sledding, heli-tours, totem pole tours, salmon fishing and nature hiking – the list is impressive. 

On day two, we disembark directly onto a warm catamaran bound for Dawes Glacier within Endicott Arm. This is an area teaming with orca whales, sea lions, bears, mountain goats, seals and dolphins. 

Mother Nature got the memo we were coming. Right on cue an enormous chunk of the glacier (the size of a shopping centre) cracks and collapses into the water right before our eyes. Our onboard naturalist, Thomas, captivates us with local wildlife and geological knowledge of the icebergs.

Next on the list is the historic Yukon Expedition and White Pass Rail Journey in Skagway to explore the stunning cliff-hanging views of waterfalls and glaciers from our vintage carriages before enjoying a hearty salmon bake on the Gold Rush Trail past the Klondike Highway. 

While it all sounds incredibly active, the majority of the Discovery Princess guests in Alaska are aged 55 and over, seeking soft adventure, and so are given ample time to relax while the tour operators do all the hard work. 

Even the coach rides are informative with our charming and bubbly drivers Sharyn and DJ providing commentary from a local’s perspective and pointing out facts like the population of Ketchikan comprising 14,000 people and 20,000 bears. 

Princess works hard to bring the essence of Alaska onboard its ships, making a cruise in this region feel very immersive from start to finish. The Discovery is just one year old and has nestled herself beautifully into the waters from Seattle up to the Alaskan ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Endicott Arm, Skagway and into Victoria, British Columbia. 

What’s onboard the Discovery Princess in Alaska?

She still has all the familiar Princess charm, but with new additions that feel like game changers in the world of cruising, many of them nod to the cultures and traditions of native Alaska. 

My stateroom has a very sleek and understated design, with a large private balcony, great wardrobe space, pale muted colours and abstract art. This calm, modern aesthetic is carried right throughout the ship with less brass and dark wood and more white and soft blues. 

There also seems to be more natural light (brightened further by the glaciers and snow-capped mountains outside the windows) within the ship than Princess has done before, with new alfresco dining spaces and floor-to-ceiling windows in the main piazza areas. The Main Dining Rooms on board are named Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, and feature menus designed around the local produce of Alaska where you’ll find lobster, crab and salmon. 

There’s a resident Lumberjack on the ship for talks and interacting with guests and Husky puppies are even brought on board for a rare chance of a cuddle and a pat. 

The ship is at 80 per cent capacity for our sailing and she still feels spacious. There’s a reason for this… if she were to be compared to the length of the Eiffel Tower, they’d be neck and neck. 

This is the direction Princess has chosen for the future: larger ships but without the feeling you are sailing with a crowd. There are no long lines thanks to the introduction of the MedallionClass App. 

How does the MedallionClass App work?

If you’ve never experienced it before, it will really surprise you. There’s zero need to ever put your hand in your pocket for your credit card, your cabin key or even your map of the ship. The Medallion does everything for you. 

Your cabin’s door sensor knows when you’re approaching and automatically unlocks. You can track your kids and in-laws around the ship. And your Princess crew know you by name and personal preferences without you having to say a word. 

But for me, the real additions on board Discovery that give Princess the well-deserved title of my number one choice are the luxurious Enclave within the Lotus Spa and the line’s new dining experience, 360. 

When you enter the Enclave, you may as well be walking into any exclusive five-star hammam or bathhouse in the world. A giant whirlpool with several fancy bubble massage areas and a rain shower take centre stage, surrounded by heated ceramic daybeds. There are three different shower zones, each themed from tropical rainforest to Arctic Siberian jets. Then there are the steam rooms ranging from hot to steam and dry. 

Even the Enclave isn’t a patch on what you’re about to experience when you dine at 360. An exclusive culinary emersion (with seating for limited numbers of up to 20 guests). And so far, only available free of charge for Suite passengers. 360 is a very different dining experience. 

We are serenaded to our seats by a brass band and cared for by individual waiters per guest throughout the 10-course degustation that embodies the best of Greece, France, Italy and Spain. 

It’s not just the dishes, it’s the walls that change along with your interactive place settings with projector imagery and guided commentary with every dish to match every destination. 

This journey has turned out to be the perfect combination of pampering and luxury, combined with relaxed adventure and expedition. I can see exactly why Alaska entices so many visitors from across the globe. Once you arrive you can’t help but want to leave no iceberg unturned.