A great cruise comes down to a few things: quality of the ship/staff, weather, what you do to fill your free time, ports and excursions, and of course, food. On all accounts, I'd give the Star Princess a thumbs up. Here's a little more insight.
We left Seattle at about 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. The process to get on the ship lasted about 90 minutes. Plan on standing in line for quite awhile, but no complaints here.
Our room was E618, which means we supposedly had an obstructed view room on Deck 8. The actual view wasn't that obstructed, and if you look carefully on their deck map, you can tell which rooms on that deck are blocked by a life boat and which ones have a clear view. It's not a balcony, but if you pick carefully, you'll be able to at least have a fairly clear view through a always-closed window, while paying the obstructed view price. It does bring in natural light during the day which is nice and it allows you to check on the weather or port without leaving your room.
The food was excellent, especially in the sit-down restaurants. We went with the anytime plan, which means that we ate in the Capri dining room most evenings. Definitely call to make reservations at 8:00 a.m. each day, especially if you have a large group. It allows you to walk right in, past the people waiting for a table to open. The menu had a nice variety of items all week, the food was presented beautifully and was very tasty. The dinners take round 90 to 120 minutes.
The buffet was good most of the time. It's quick, there are lots of people there, and the food selection is pretty standard. There's also pizza and burgers on deck 14 by the buffet. Be careful with the pizza, it's very hot. I burned my mouth on the second day and had a blister all week. If you don't like the buffet chaos, you can do breakfast and lunch in one of the dining rooms.
We did use the self-service laundry during our cruise. Washing was $2.00, drying was $2.00 and the soap was $1.75. Free irons and ironing boards are also set up in the laundry area. A change machine is in the room if you need quarters. You may need two cycles to dry if it's a big load. It helps packing to know that washing is an option, but keep in mind that they are turned off when you enter Alaskan waters, so wash on Sunday/Monday or Friday/Saturday.
We decided to shop and just walk around in Ketchikan. Plan on buying your gifts and clothing here. You won't find any lower prices or better selection and everything is close to the port. The totem pole museum was nice, but it's quite a hike from the ship.
I can't describe how beautiful the Tracy Arm Fjord is. Get up early and enjoy. The naturalist that they had giving commentary was distracting, overly dramatic and so bad that he drew giggles from many people we were near.
Whale watching in Juneau was terrific. Go if you can. We chose to go with a private company, Weather Permitting Alaska, so check ahead and shop around.
We rented two Avis cars in Skagway and drove into the Yukon. Amazing views at every turn. After lunch in Carcross, we came back to the ship. Bring your passports if you go; you'll need them crossing the borders.
Victoria is so beautiful. I can't understand why the stop is only four hours long. Must be a money or port access thing for Princess. We took a cab into the downtown ($9), walked around and then walked back to the ship (about a 25-30 minute brisk walk). I would say that it's one of the most stunning cities I've ever seen. No need for an excursion if you're able to walk.
The weather really cooperated. We had mid 70's and sunshine in Seattle, 50's and 60's with a mix of clouds and sun for the rest of the trip. Very few rain drops! As you've probably already read, go to Alaska with layers.
The entertainment on the Star Princess was mostly very good. We went to two of the shows in the Princess Theater. The performers were very professional and the pace of the two shows kept things moving right along. One comedian, Timm Metivier, was just weak, but we got to see Kevin Jordan. Very funny guy. He knew how to work the crowd. They also show movies in a variety of settings, both inside and outside. We watched the Hunger Games on Saturday afternoon in the Princess Theater.
If you are into people watching, go to the Piazza on deck 5, grab a bite to eat at the International Grill, and then sit back and soak it all in. Musical groups come and go, food and drink are near, and the 3-story Piazza is spectacular.
Lots of classes, trivia, activites, etc... are available all day. Martyn was our cruise director and did a solid job. He was out and about with the passengers and seemed to be well liked.
We went to the casino a few times. Lots of smoke and we lost money. No surprise there.
The workout facilities were adequate. Six ellipticals, 12 treadmills, some stationary bicycles, a variety of weight machines and smaller free weights. Get there before 7:00 a.m. for a treadmill or elliptical. Free stretching and core classes start at 7:00.
The normal profit-seeking strategies (high alcohol prices/constant attempts by waiters to get you to buy drinks, paparazzi-like photographers, art auctions, bingo, etc...) were visible and a little distracting. Get used to saying, "No thank you." I wish the paradigm for cruising would change to less pressure and more fun. I understand that these tactics produce the most profit and probably keep the rates lower, but they really drive me nuts. I have a feeling that I'm not alone.
I was actually pretty impressed with the Star Princess. The staff/ship were fine and Alaska more than delivered. As you read negative complaints here, keep in mind that some people are so critical or picky that they can gripe about anything. Keep a positive attitude, stay flexible as you travel and everything will work out just fine.