Let me preface this review by saying my husband and I do not consider ourselves to be "Cruise People.' We like to go at our own pace, see as much as we can and go, go, go on our vacations. We RARELY visit the same place twice as we like to visit as many places as we can when we vacation. Simply lounging by a pool on a ship doesn't sound appealing to either of us, especially since we tried a cruise to the Caribbean on celebrity a few years ago and were not impressed.
That being said, we still had an open mind because we have been told that the very best way to tour Alaska is by cruise, so we took the plunge: Cashed in all of our rewards points for a Balcony Mini-Suite on the Diamond Princess that sailed from Vancouver, stopping at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and landing in Whittier(Anchorage).
By day 2 we decided that not only would we repeat this cruise, but we would do it on the exact same ship! A HUGE novelty to us.
The Balcony Mini-Suite was very large by cruising standards, and we could have sufficed with a regular balcony room, as there are only two of us.
The ship itself is stunning. There a sense of elegance that is understated, and not at all cheesy. There's plenty of lounges and places to hang out during cruising days within the ship.They offer plenty of options, our favorite being art auctions, watching karaoke, bingo, and movies under the stars. There's a fantastic screen near one of the pools, and Princess provides blankets for you to bundle up in and watch recent films outside. It was a lot of fun.
The staff were overall fantastic. A few grouches here and there, but they were the exception as opposed to the rule, and overall, everyone was very helpful and friendly. The Naturalist on the ship gave great lectures on what to do in Alaska and wildlife. He would even make announcements from the bridge when he spotted whales to see from the decks!
The Anytime Dining was a huge hit with us. There are several dining room options to choose from, and all serve the same menu each night, with the extra "Restaurant Specific Specialty Dish" available. Every night we were able to walk right in, request a table for two, and were seated alone. No awkward chit chat with strangers or worrying if we were going to be seated with people we have nothing in common with.
As previously mentioned, we only planned to do this once so we went a little overboard with planning excursions: Ziplining and Trolley tour in Ketchikan (would recommend skipping the trolley tour as you can walk through quaint town on your own); Whale Watching Photo Safari and Glacier Trekking in Juneau (this left very little time to explore Juneau, so I'd recommend a shorter whale watching trip, but glacier trekking is a MUST DO!), In Skagway we were scheduled for dog sledding and rock climbing. (Dog Sledding unfortunately got cancelled due to the low cloud coverage and the helicopter not being able to take off, so we opted to take the train ride to the summit instead. Fortunately, the excursion desk was able to sell our rock climbing tickets for us, but I wouldn't recommend relying on this. They were a bit put off, until we explained that since we were heartbroken of our tour being cancelled, the train ride would be our second choice, which would conflict with rock climbing)
All of the excursions were done through Princess, and all were great establishments, with excellent guides and a wealth of information.
On the day we cruised through Glacier Bay, Rangers from the National Park boarded the ship and actually broadcast over the outside deck intercoms about the area. They provided excellent information, and the views were simply stunning.
There were only 66 kids from 0-17 yrs old on this ship, which was a major plus for us. Most of the cruisers were Americans/Canadians, with several folks from China and other Asian countries and a fair number from the UK and Australia. It seemed as though the majority of the people on the ship were in the 50+ age category, so I wouldn't categorize this a s a Spring Break/Party Atmosphere Ship
As for entertainment/food quality, we're from NY, so we have access to Broadway and great restaurants all the time. The shows were ok, a tad cheesy, like seeing high school musicals. The food was decent, but nothing to write home about. But again, we weren't vacationing to be entertained or to eat. It's still worth it.
This was an AMAZING experience. We truly enjoyed the cruise thoroughly and highly recommend doing this cruise on this ship to everyone. We plan on doing it again as soon as possible!