We combined a six day Princess escorted landtour with a seven day cruise. The landtour was before the cruise, which we felt would be more relaxing.
The landtour was wonderful, with stays in Fairbanks, Denali, and McKinley. The
princess lodges were very comfortable and the food very good. Our tour guide (Liz Bell) was great and I highly recommend booking a landtour with her. The tours included with the package were very interesting (gold dredge; Chena Riverboat tour; Denali National Park). The train rides were very comfortable.
We boarded the Sapphire in Whittier, around 7:30 p.m. We stayed in a premium suite, amidship on Deck 10 (Caribe). Beg, borrow, or steal the money because the premium suite is worth every penny! Very large and comfortably appointed. We found the firm mattress very comfortable but several people we befriended found it too hard so I suggested they ask for an egg crate.
The bathroom was huge, with a full-size shower and a whirlpool tub, and a second room with a sink, toilet, and large vanity. Soaps, shampoos, etc., were high quality, according to my wife. Bath towels were large but relatively thin and scratchy. Robes were very comfortable.
The bedroom closet was good size, plenty large enough for us to hang lots of clothes, with several shelves for shoes. Drawer space in the bedroom was very generous. The bedroom also comes with a desk and chair.
The suite portion of the cabin included a desk with chair, sofa, and comfy chair, and a mini-fridge. There were two televisions in the suite, one in each room. The suite has a very large partially covered balcony, with a round table and four chairs, and two thickly padded lounge chairs.
Our steward came to the cabin and introduced himself. We didn't see much of him during the cruise but he made up the room several times during the day. We received a bowl of fresh fruit upon our arrival, and a new bowl of fruit twice during the cruise. The fridge was stocked with 6 soft drinks of our choice and an assortment of eight mini-bottles of booze were set up on the bar counter to the left of the television. Fresh flowers were also placed in the suite for our arrival.
We didn't have time for a sitdown dinner before muster so we grabbed a slice of pizza on Deck 14.
One of the benefits of a premium suite is breakfast in Sabatini's and it was a wonderful way to start the day. Radu, the maitre d', and George and Jane, waiter and waitress, were very friendly. The fresh squeezed OJ was delicious, as was the salmon benedict.
We ate two dinners in Sabatini's. The veal chop was fantastic and for the second dinner we split a striped bass cooked in a sea salt crust. Delicious! Desserts...what can I say? Life is uncertain so eat dessert first.... George was our waiter both nights and he did a great job, making recommendations as to wines and desserts.
We ate several lunches in the main dining rooms and they were good. We became very friendly with four couples during the landtour so for two dinners the ten of us dined together in Pacific Moon. Service was good and the food the first dinner was very good. For the second dinner I had the 10 oz. strip steak; it was the weakest link of the MDR meals I ate. A cheap cut of beef with little flavor. I tried for three nights to get a reservation at Sterling Steakhouse but they were booked. I overheard several passengers saying the meals there were very good.
I was not impressed with the buffet. The flow of diners wasn't bad (contrary to what others have posted) but the food had little flavor. I ate several breakfasts and lunches there and was not impressed. It was less of an issue at breakfast - I mean, what do you expect from scrambled eggs, toast and oatmeal? - but the hot dishes at lunch were lacking flavor.
I was not bothered at all by photographers. They stayed out of the dining rooms and set up station in front of the theater, by several elevators on formal nights, and other public areas. They also took pictures upon boarding but I expected that.
We attended three shows in the theater. Two were from the singing/dancing troupe and they were fantastic. It's a shame the shows were only 30 minutes long. I was told by a crew member they used to offer two shows per night of 40-45 minutes and recently switched to three shows of 30 minutes. Please, bring back the longer shows!
The third show was Dan Horn, a ventriloquist. He's done national TV a number of times but frankly , his show was boring and stale. I left after 15 minutes; my wife stayed for the rest of his show and she said she was sorry she didn't leave with me.
Speaking of my DW, she spent a significant amount of cruising at sea time in the spa, getting her hair done and massages. Not cheap but the therapists and stylists did a GREAT job. My wife visited three times and came back to the suite looking like a million bucks and very relaxed. I treated myself to two shaves with scalp/shoulder massages and a facial. Gina did a great job; guys, do yourself a favor a visit her for a relaxing experience.
I'd estimate the average passenger age to be the mid- to late-60's. I understand in a few weeks that will drop as more kids come on board. MUTS showed movies in the evenings but it was cold and I never saw more than a few people watching.
Had the misfortune to visit sick bay (cotton from a Q-tip came off in my ear!). Very professional staff and I was in and out in under 30 minutes. The doctor said it was not uncommon and they usually treat a half-dozen of these cases every cruise!
We didn't visit any of the nightclubs except for Skywalkers for afternoon drinks and canapes, which are available for suite and elite passengers. Very nice selection of canapes and a beautiful view from Deck 18.
Left a little money behind in the casino. Nicely set up, with friendly dealers. I spent some time in Churchill's, the cigar bar near the casino and the theater. Overstuffed leather chairs, a full bar, and a gazillion televisions tuned to sports. A nice place to spend an hour enjoying the fragrant leaf and a single malt scotch.
Security did a good job getting passengers on and off the ship as fast as possible during port visits.
Every staffer we interacted with, from busboys to housekeepers to wait staff to front desk staff, were very cheerful, friendly, and professional. I was very impressed.
Debarking can be stressful with close to several thousand passengers are leaving in a short period of time but princess did a good job of herding everyone out in an organized manner. We took a bus back to SeaTac from Vancouver, which took about 3 1/2 hours.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would do another Princess cruise in a heartbeat!