I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a try.
Neither of us had ever been to Alaska and yes, we both wanted to go but we were planning to wait a few years. However since we really wanted to go on a cruise...off we went.
We flew into Anchorage Saturday night, embarkation was Monday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in mid-town. Very nice hotel, close to a few places to eat and a grocery store with a liquor store if you want to carry on a couple of bottles of wine with you.
They offered a free shuttle which we took advantage of to pick us up at the airport and to take us downtown. Breakfast was really good but the lines to eat were a bit crazy. Between all the people who acted like they have never eaten breakfast in a hotel before and only one person cooking omelets it was at best slow.
Ultimately I think I would stay downtown if we did it again. Close to the market, restaurants, activities, etc.
Embarkation went smooth. We opted to buy transfers from Alaska Cruise Transfer. Went smooth, they picked us up when they said, had some narration on the ride over, Whittier tunnel was neat to see and all at half the price of the cruise ship transfer.
We walked on the ship just after 3pm and everything was ready. Our bags showed up very soon after we got to our cabin.
Cabin A306. Small but worked. To be fair we usually choose at least a mini suite as we like the space they provide. It was quiet had a covered balcony, was close to forward stairs and elevators. Very small shower but great water pressure. Cabin had enough storage and the refrig kept things pretty cool. Beds were horrible in our opinion. Hard...very hard. Oh yes, not one single towel animal either.
We opted for the Horizon court the first night for supper, other than that we only ate breakfast at the buffet two other days and that was it for the buffet. Not that it was bad, we just didn't eat there much.
We went to the welcome aboard show the first night, in fact we basically went to all of the shows that were offered. Sarge the comedian, the illusionist, the hypnotist, and production show Motor City. Yep we went, but basically thought they were all very unimaginative. After looking at scenery all day and having basically nothing else happening on the ship we went for lack of something better. In fact it was very strange. I don't know if it was the type of crowds that generally go on this cruise or what, but there was not a lot of activities to choose from. Stuart the cruise director did not seem to be engaged in the passengers at all.
Hubbard Glacier did not get visited due to weather and too much ice. Glacier Bay was nice and we saw a few glaciers, whales, dolphins, birds. Basically everything you were supposed to see. Commentary from park ranger was fine.
Skagway was an okay stop. We chose to ride the train which was a very nice ride with a lot scenery but looking back at 119 dollars each it was pretty high priced. I would recommend finding something to do that takes you out of town as there isn't much there and you can pretty much see walk it quick. Would also be a good day to see it and then head back to the ship for a massage.
We enjoyed Juneau. We bought through the cruise ship the Taku River Lodge and flightseeing excursion. Fly in a float plane, see several glaciers from above, land on the Taku river, eat fresh grilled salmon, experience a historical lodge, fly back to Juneau. If you are wanting to see some whales this is a good stop to sign up for some whale watching as well.
Ketchikan was our only really rainy day. Other days had a little bit of drizzle at times but also times when it was sunny (Hubbard Glacier day it was very thick fog). We walked around town a bit, did a little shopping, had lunch, bought some canned salmon, a t-shirt, etc. then back to the ship. You can easily walk to the salmon ladder and fish hatchery if you don't want to buy an excursion.
The meals were good, they still had lobster tails one night in the main dining room. Most were the size of a jumbo prawn. We ate at the Bayou Steakhouse one night. Very good and a nice change from the main dining room. 5 extra dollars over the cover charge for a lobster tail but you got a great lobster tail for the money.
Yes as other people said, they were always trying to take your picture. We didn't buy any but thought it was fun to let them take them and look at them later. I always have though if they would lover the price they would just about sell all the pictures they take. As it seems they must throw a lot of them away.
Pub lunch occurred twice during the cruise and we went both times. Fish and Chips were very good. It was a great lunch that I don't think a lot of people knew about because it wasn't busy at all.
We signed up for the ultimate ship tour. We enjoyed this very much. Three hours of going everywhere on the ship you can't normally enter. Bridge, Galley, Engineering, Laundry, etc. If you are interested in the "How" then this is a good tour. If you only care that things just get done and don't care about how it gets to that point, I wouldn't sign up for this.
Disembarkation went very smooth. They do a great job and has to be one of the best we have experienced.
Conclusion, this was our 9th cruise and 2nd with Princess (first on the Crown) and I would rank this toward the top of the bottom third (we are in our mid 30's). For Princess the Crown is still keeping them in the running with us for future cruises. We still have had much better experiences with RCI. We did get a relaxing vacation. I however was also in the mood for a great cruise ship experience and what we really got was a great tour of Alaska instead.