We normally sail out of the Los Angeles area and drive to the port so this would be a cruise of several "firsts" for us. While not our first Princess cruise it would be our first trip to Alaska; we have sailed on the Sapphire Princess many times, but this would be our first time on the smaller Sea Princess; because we would need to fly to SFO we decided to use the Princess transfer program, another first for us... We were NOT disappointed with any of these first time experiences! From the time we arrived at baggage claim at SFO and were greeted by a warm, friendly Princess representative to the moment we were assisted to the curb side check in for our flight home Princess lived up to her motto of being the "Consummate Host".
The Ship: we had carefully checked the deck plans for the Sea Princess many months before when we booked our cruise and felt we already knew the ship. Yes, it is smaller than the Sapphire so there were fewer venues and most were smaller, but all were clean and well cared for. Our room was located just off the forward atrium elevators on deck 8 starboard just steps from the rear entrance to the Cafe Corniche. Even though we had requested the beds be put together they had been left as twins and we actually felt it allowed more room to move about, so had our steward leave them that way for the duration of the trip. We had been told the room had a fully obstructed view; however we discovered that only a portion of the window was actually blocked by the back end of the life boat and a service platform next to it was open to provide a reasonable view of the scenery. Like most cabins in the "economy" category our bathroom was tiny, but functional; the closets provided more space and hangers than we actually needed and the pull out basket storage below the shelves allowed me to use the vanity and night stands for stuff other than clothing. Because I have COPD and travel with an oxygen concentrator that must be plugged in at night the limited outlets are always a drawback.
The Food: our boarding process went so quick and smoothly we found ourselves in the Horizon Court before noon on the first day! Only one side was open at that time and the food was just put out so it was nicely displayed and reasonably warm. Many choice tables were available to enjoy lunch while looking at the wonderful sky line of San Francisco and someone was quickly table-side to take our beverage orders. I wish I could say this was the norm for the rest of the trip, but sadly things went downhill quickly after we set sail, in our opinion, at the buffet. The Terrace Grill was calling me to try the hamburger and fries, but I think the cooks working it that first day were new to the assignment as it took forever and the burger was overcooked and the fries underdone. We tried the grill later in the cruise and, again, were not thrilled with the meal. Service in the Horizon Court was horrid after that first day with tables being left uncleared and passengers resorting to self service for water, ice tea, and other beverages. Many of the crew were simply standing around the carts chatting with each other as people walked by with full plates of food looking for places to sit. An especially large tour group seemed to take over the buffet early in the day and then use the area for games, reading, visiting and a general meeting place even during the busy breakfast and lunch "rushes" We checked the MDR menu each afternoon but really didn't find the food choices all that impressive. During the entire cruise we actually only used the MDR two nights and did the Sterling Steakhouse for Father's Day dinner with friends. We did use the buffet for dinner once but found the food, atmosphere, and attitudes of Cafe Corniche our favorite place to eat.
The Entertainment: we attended the lectures by the naturalist and enjoyed all the information she shared about Alaska (even the day her computer messed up and she had to wing it with an off topic presentation it was fun). As the contact person, aka hostess, for the M&G it was wonderful to have Captain Street, Hotel GM Richard Harry, Customer Services Director Robert Moik and Cruise Director Neil Rose join us in Razzmatazz our first day at sea. The Princess Patter had posted our little activity and we had a nice turn out, even though we were competing with several high venue activities that morning. Looking at the Patter each morning we found few activities that interested us and not being "night owls" didn't attend any of the major productions or entertainment. Larry Dunsmore was performing in Crooner's and that was where we could be found until he took his first break about 10:30... then it was off to our comfy beds for us. Between the cold and not a big fan of movies we avoided the MUTS. The few times we were on deck to enjoy the scenery and people watch the constant bombardment of sound and flashing pictures was NOT relaxing! Between our Kindles, people watching, visiting with friends and enjoying the scenery we had all the entertainment we wanted or needed. And, isn't that what a cruise is all about? Doing what you want, when you want, how you want and this trip on the Sea Princess allowed us to do just that!
The Staff: except for our dismay over what was being allowed to happen in the Horizon Court when we were there the staff on this cruise was fantastic. Our room steward was excellent, friendly, helpful and always polite. We had a favorite server in Crooners who knew just what we liked and seemed to truly enjoy his job and the people he worked with as well as the passengers. My trips to the front desk with my "silly questions" were always met with smiles, positive helpful responses, and kindness. After attending our M&G Captain Street and the other officers who attended made it a point to ask how things were going when our paths crossed during the trip.
FYI: Princess laundry rooms have been a big, positive feature for us, allowing us to travel "light" knowing we can do a quick load or two during the week. As it was our first trip to Alaska we had packed light on many items to allow room for the winter weight items we knew we would need. We DID NOT KNOW that from Juneau until after we left Glacier Bay the laundry would be closed! This also applies to the ship's laundry, so we saw more use of paper napkins instead of cloth in the casual dining options and our room steward mentioned that while there were ample linens he appreciated the fact that we used our towels for more than one time and didn't "demand" fresh sheets every day...
Looking Forward: Although Sea Princess will not be back in these waters next year when we return to Alaska we look forward to sailing again with Princess and will have to find some new "firsts" to try, because we will be returning to both Alaska and Princess!