This was our third cruise to Alaska and first time embarking from local San Francisco. I was a little apprehensive having read several negative reviews about this ship and tried to temper my expectations.
Overall the cruise far exceeded my expectations. Despite being a smaller ship, I felt that my overall experience more or less on par with previous cruises and if anything the service felt much more personal.
Items of note:
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Amazingly easy both ways.
The Ship: It's smallish for a modern cruise ship but it still felt pretty big to me with lots of areas to walk around and explore. A few complaints: The buffet was small and the seating could be a little dicey at some hours. The theater was also a little small and you had to get there about half an hour early to get a seat (late shows seemed much more open). I also felt the ship lacked a lot of open interior areas where you could enjoy the scenery; most of the windows had you looking into a rail or were slanted and not clear to see through. Otherwise I really don't understand people getting hung up on this ship "being old" or "desperately needing a dry dock". It really seemed fine to me other than a few design issues.
Cabins: As mentioned in the title I was traveling with my wife and 4 small children (ages 2-11). We ended up booking two inside cabins next to each other. 3 in an inside really isn't bad at all and I felt plenty comfortable and slept great. I actually enjoyed just sitting in my cabin and watching a movie while my toddler took a nap. Our cabin steward was absolutely outstanding too.
Food: The first few meals were a little hit or miss but as the cruise progressed we had some outstanding meals. My wife and I did the Chef's Table which was great but unfortunately due to Norovirus, they could not take us into the kitchen. The head chef and maitre'd were extremely courteous. We also took the whole family to Sterling's Steakhouse which was excellent and despite being set in the Horizon buffet was completely cordoned off and felt like it's own restaurant. The buffet itself was kind of pain with Norovirus scares necessitating the staff serve you every single item. The food itself was fine for buffet-fare; some things better than expected. I also highly recommend the Cafe Corniche pizzeria; very good. If you enjoy coffee, get the coffee card. The staff at the Explorer's Bar on deck 5 were great.
Entertainment: Unfortunately I didn't really see any of the big shows; but my wife said she enjoyed them. I really liked the rock group, Prime Tyme which performed a lot in the Wheelhouse Bar (the lead singer is gorgeous).
For kids: The pools were super heated at least into the 90's so the kids could swim in any weather. We loved the pools on this ship. The kids program itself was a little sparse and they seemed understaffed (I think that ship is used to a much older crowd). Since we were cruising in the heart of June, there were TONS of families on board. The Movies Under The Stars was more or less ignored except for a few die-hards or those willing to spend two hours in the pool.
The staff: Super friendly staff compared to previous cruises. Lots of people called me by name and knew my kids. I felt very welcome and pampered.
Laundry: Avoid the self-serve laundry if you can. It's absolutely brutal and will ruin your day dealing with rude passengers and waiting 2-3 hours for an open dryer. It's also closed half the time and no one on board seems to know the actual schedule.
Overall, if you have booked this trip have no fear. The ship is nice and you will have a great experience.