My husband and I are from Las Vegas - this was our 11th cruise, all on Princess. Typically we travel with another couple from Idaho that also do not have children - we met them on our very first cruise and now we vacation together every year. We usually plan our cruises so far in advance but at the last minute I found this 5-night Alaska Sampler cruise that was too cheap to pass up - unfortunately our friends were not able to go with us.
We had never been to Vancouver before so we were excited to check out a new embarkation city. We arrived late on Saturday night - the cruise was due to depart on Tuesday - to give us time to sightsee. We stayed at The Hotel at Terminal City Club which was downtown about 2 blocks from the cruise ship terminal - turned out to be a great choice and we would stay there again if ever in Vancouver. We had terrific weather and were able to walk around the whole city and even walked to the ship for embarkation. Speaking of, it was hands down the WORST embarkation experience we have ever had! It was like the terminal had never done it before! Long lines for security, long lines for customs, long lines to check in (and no priority check-in for Platinum members which really irritated us) and then they had the nerve to try to stop us for a photo op getting on the ship - yeah, after standing in a line for over 2 hours that's a picture I want to treasure. We finally got on board around 2pm and the dining room was already closed for lunch so the cruise definitely started off on the wrong foot. They had to push back the muster drill because of the boarding delays and during the drill passengers were walking through with their carry-on luggage so apparently they were STILL boarding - I think we finally set sail an hour late. What a mess. Fortunately, the rest of the cruise was wonderful. By the way, don't think about skipping muster drill - you MUST attend because they scan your cruise cards.
Usually we do shore excursions in most ports but since we had shortened stops (just 12noon-6pm) we decided just to do our own thing. It was sunny in Juneau which was a treat - we took the $16 bus to the Mendenhall Glacier to walk around - just spectacular. We also had lunch at Tracy's Crab Shack (found on tripadvisor.com) which was very yummy. Ketchikan had some rain showers more off than on and certainly not enough to ruin the day - we walked around town and had a delicious lunch. The sun came out as we were leaving port and the views were just gorgeous.
We spent so much time out on our balcony hoping to see orcas but unfortunately we did not - we saw tons of eagles, porpoises, seals and a couple of humpback whales in the distance (fortunately we had some good binoculars). There was an on-board naturalist who gave a couple of interesting lectures about Alaska and even was on the bridge making announcements one morning to assist in spotting whales - bummer that everything he spotted that day was on the other side of the ship from our balcony.
Overall the food was pretty good in the dining room - we're never a huge fan of buffets and it was just okay. The pizza was incredible and the fettuccine alfredo never disappoints. We ordered room service a few times and there was always something wrong with the order - nothing tragic, but always something missing or just not quite right.
Our room steward was good - nothing to knock our socks off, but the room was always clean and he was accommodating in that we always ate dinner after 8pm so that probably threw off his cleaning schedule a bit.
Disembarkation was right on time and very smooth. It wasn't our first visit to Seattle but it was the first time that we experienced rain there. But overall we were so lucky with great weather in Alaska that we didn't mind. We rented a car to stow our luggage since we had a late flight and then we went to Pike's Market and walked around the city a bit.
We were worried that a 5-day cruise wouldn't be long enough but with the few days we spent in Vancouver prior to sailing, we had a wonderful vacation week. Time to plan the next trip - we're thinking about the Mediterranean next spring.
Happy sailing to all!