This was only our second cruise and our first with Princess. A much better cruise experience this time.
Embarkation/Disembarkation and Transfers- Princess has got this down to a science. All were very smooth, efficient, and relatively painless. There were always Princess reps available to guide us, answer our questions, and see that we got to where we were supposed to go in a friendly manner. Our luggage also always ended up where it was supposed to be in a timely fashion.
The Island Princess- The ship was fairly compact and reasonably well organized. Once you figured out which elevators went to what floors, it was easy to navigate your way around the ship. The outdoor hot tubs could have been a little warmer, but were always relaxing (the indoor ones were generally crowded and noisy).
Stateroom- Our deck 8(Emerald) balcony stateroom was slightly to the rear of midships. It was very quiet without much vibration (some folks we talked to with aft staterooms apparently had vibrating beds when the ship was making good speed). We had a completely covered balcony, so we could be out there in most weather. I'm so glad that we sprung for the balcony because we spent a lot of time out there watching the scenery go by (and isn't the scenery the biggest reason for going to Alaska). Our steward, Rodgie, did a great job of keeping our room clean and well stocked and was never in the way. Any issues we had were handled promptly. My one complaint was that you couldn't hear ships announcements in the room or balcony unless you had the TV on. I may have annoyed my neighbors when I blasted the volume on it when I was on my balcony. Speaking of the TV, the only channel I tuned to was the ships navigation channel, with gave constant updates on wind, weather, and the ships position.
Food- We had anytime dining and were in the dining room for most meals. After consulting the "Patter" and planning our day, we always made reservations for dinner and usually got a time and seating that we wanted. Most of the staff was very good. The food was generally good and well proportioned and there was a decent variety available. As for the food quality, have the fish. I must admit that I'm a Midwesterner and am quite spoiled by the quality of our meat and the abundance of people skilled at preparing it. Some of the beef and pork dishes that I and some table mates had was not of the highest quality, but nearly all of the fish or seafood dishes were excellent. The few times that we ventured into the buffet, it seemed to be organized chaos. But the food choices and quality where fairly good. I recommend the "dessert extravaganza" that they had one of the days. The pizza was always hot, fresh, and available so I grabbed that a few times.
Entertainment- There seemed to almost always something to do somewhere on the ship, if you were looking. We took in several shows, danced a lot (even took some dancing lessons),and even had fun singing in the choir. The culinary demo put on by the head chef and the head waiter was very entertaining and informative. It also included a tour of the ships galley (where 200+ people work hard to keep everyone fed).
For me Glacier Bay was the highlight of the cruise. I spent all day parked on my balcony watching it go by. I even had breakfast and lunch delivered that day because I was afraid I'd miss something. The NPS guide that talked to us all day was very good and pointed out some wildlife that I might have otherwise missed. Besides all the glacier activity, we also saw whales, bears, wolves, sea otters, seals, and many birds.
My only main complaint was the hard sell that seemed to come from all directions. Princess seemed to be trying to make a buck at every turn. From the soda card, the coffee card, the companion books, the photos, and all the various sales, they always seemed to be trying sell you something. The "Ultimate Ship Tour" might have been fun, but I shied away from it due to the high price.