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Summer Cruise Dispatch: Star Princess Alaskan Cruise

When Travelocity’s Vice President for cruises, Matt Lee, returned from his recent Alaskan Cruise, the first thing he did was open the laptop and write down his experience.  It takes a cruise of epic proportions to impress an industry expert like Matt, and it sounds like the Star Princess Alaskan Cruise is just that.  Read Matt’s first-person account of his four days at sea after the jump.

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A Whale of a Tourist Attraction

Last week, a star performer at SeaWorld tragically killed its trainer before a live audience. The star in question was a killer whale named Tilikum, who was captured in the wild off the coast of Iceland many years ago. Since his capture, he has been made to perform for audiences in theme parks in Canada and the United States. While debates may rage about whether or not creatures like killer whales should be kept in captivity and turned into performers, there’s no question that seeing such an animal in its natural habitat is an incomparable—and elusive—experience.

Alaska: See the Midnight Sun or the Northern Lights?

Alaska has been on my list of my top five dream destinations for years, and my plan is to finally explore the Last Frontier in 2010. The question I can’t seem to settle on, though, is when in 2010? Known for both its sun- and ship-drenched summers and its star-bright winters, Alaska has proven a challenge to my decision-making skills.

Highlights of a summer trip would be long days spent hiking green hills, kayaking the Inside Passage, sipping a local Summer Ale, and spotting wildlife in Denali National Park (where visitor services drop off dramatically after mid-September).

Airline Customer Service: When It’s Good, You’ve Won Me Over

It’s no secret that flying today often ranks somewhere between getting a root canal and slamming your finger in the car door, but a few months ago, I posted about the surprisingly excellent customer service I received—apparently apropos of nothing—on Alaska Airlines. The entire incident, in fact, served to restore my faith in current-day air travel and reminded me of how little we passengers actually need to feel understood and taken care of.

And then, of course, it was back to the usual delays and—hurrah!—a whole new host of fees.

Last week, however, I flew with Air Berlin, and was absolutely bowled over by the superior customer service, the calm and pre-emptive professionalism, and the (utterly novel!) way each passenger was treated like a human being rather than a warm body in a seat.

Fur Rondy? Fur Real

I grew up in Panama City, Florida, one of the weirdest corners of America, a place where we boil peanuts and signs read, “No shirt. No shoes. No problem!” When I travel I’m much more likely to choose Dollywood over Hollywood, Austin over Dallas, or Versailles (pronounced ver-sails), Kentucky over that silly palace in France.

Maybe that’s why I love Alaska. Recently I had the opportunity to see how life is lived in this rugged state. Around every corner awaited a new oddball thrill. I’ll never forget when our tour director gleefully pointed out the town of Wasilla. Among its many attributes, Wasilla was the 2003 Duct Tape Capital of the World, consuming more tape per capita than anywhere else. Plus, each year there is a Duct Tape Ball (moved to Anchorage due to popularity) where Alaskans show their passion for the silvery stuff by making gala duds out of tape.