Princess does an excellent job at the Vancouver embarkation port. Our cab pulled in to Canada Place underground facility for cruise ships, backed in, and our baggage was unloaded and placed for delivery to our room. After going through customs we went to a staging area where we waited for our group to be called to go to our room. At the staging area we were handed our room packet with keys. Within one hour of our cab arriving, we were in our room and unpacking. After unpacking we hooked up with our friends staying in the balcony cabin next to ours, and we had lunch on the Lido Deck at Horizon Court buffet. The buffet was very good but not excellent. Had to ask for lox and cream cheese for example. A touch below what we were used to on Holland America. Also the Coral Princess seems to have a stange layout where it is difficult to get to Lido Deck without going outside, and walking through common areas. A minor complaint however.
Our cabin on the Emerald deck had a balcony and while we did use it, it was too cold to stay out for long. It was not as useful as it would be if one were going on a Panama Canal Cruise for example, where you could stay out on the balcony for hours. We could have saved ourselves some money by booking an outside stateroom. Alaska also does not have the magnificent ports like those cruising southward. Ketchikan, Juneau, & Skagway are underwelming as ports, so no need to be on your balcony as you come into port like one does on a Panama Canal cruise. The other downside of our cabin was it had no sofa, so all we had were two chairs that were no comfortable to just relax for awhile.
But we didn't book a cruise to sit in our cabins. Coral Princess is a nice ship and has all of the ususal amenities one would expect including shopping and gambling venues, many quiet spaces, a coffee bar, and multiple cocktail lounges where the drinks were excellent and not too pricey. We had drinks in the Crooners lounge, named after the Rat Pack, and the bartender made our drinks perfectly.
We chose the 5:30pm seating at a table for eight and we met up with four new dining companions that made for fun conversation. Our waitstaff was courteous and professional, and went out of their way to ensure we had a pleasant dining experience. The food was good but not great, a notch below Holland America. The variety was good and wine selection was adequate. We had two formal nights but not many wore black tie, mainly sports coats and suits for the men. Don't know why the first seating was at 5:30 instead of 6:00pm. We had dead time between the end of our dinner and the start of the evening entertainlment. If we travel on Princess again we would probably opt for the anytime dining, which we did use one night, when we got back late from our stop in Skagway. Also when we arrived at College Fjord, it was right at 5:30pm so we skipped our sit down dinner and opted for the buffet once we were out of the Fjord. It would have ruined our trip had we missed College Fjord since that was a major highlight.
Princess charges for lattes, so if you want upgraded coffee, it would pay to get one of their coffee cards which can be used on other Princess ships too. Didn't take advantage of that but I should have. Did not drink any soda's so did not need the soda card.
Had the tea service one day in the Provence dining room and it was ok but not up to the standards of a real real British tea shoppe. They used whipped cream rather than clotted cream for example. Still it was worth trying one time.
For breakfast we went about half the time to the buffet and the rest of the time to regular dining room. Preferred the regular dining room where you get waited on and it is more relaxing. The buffet is crowded and hectic but does have a lot of breakfast options. Ask for the lox and they will get it for you.
We shared tables with other people in the buffet but that is part of the fun of cruising. Cruisers are very friendly people.
The excursions we booked through Princess were good. The whale watch in Juneau was excellent in that we saw humpack and orca whales. The salmon bake was forgettable (don't bother), and the Mendenhall glacier has receded to the point where it is no longer a spectacular venue, especially compared to College Fjord. In Skagway, the White Pass railway trip to the border between Alaska and the Yukon was amazing. A lot of spectacular scenary long the way and a fun train trip. That was my wife's favorite excursion.
In Ketchikan we just walked around town and looked in gift shops. Our friends did pick up a couple of nice jackets for only 20.00 each and supposedly they are the best selling jackets in Alaska because of the price. Go to the Tongass shop. And be prepared for rain. Ketchikan is one of the rainiest prices on earth supposedly. We made good use of our rain gear.
Our ship cruised Glacier Bay and it was nice but not as spectacular as College Fjord or last stop. College Fjord was my favorite sight and of course it is the place featured on all of the Alaskan cruise brochures. We arrived right at dinner time so we skipped our regular dining and went to the buffet later.
When we disembarked at Whittier our train was awaiting us to whisk us on a leisurely 10 hour trip to Denali National Park. Princess was well organized throughout the cruise and as long as their baggage tag instructions were followed, baggage handling was a breeze. We would use Princess Cruises again if the price were right.