My wife and I took the southbound cruise with a two day poststay in Vancouver.
LAND PORTION: We began our 4 day land stay in Fairbanks and worked south. All of the properties were very good. Fairbanks was a short stop with the Riverboat Discovery tour which was a good introduction to Alaska. We stayed at the River's Edge in Fairbanks for one night. The luggage was moved seamlessly from one stop to another. At Denali, take the extended Tundra Wilderness tour if you want to see the wildlife. Our guide said studies have been completed and only 7% of the wildlife sightings occur on the shorter version. Also, it's important to plan your trip depending on what you want to see. The bears in Denali eat berries, not salmon. So they really don't show up well until August when the blueberries ripen. Also, if you go in May, you may not see bear or moose because they are both in the forest--one to give birth and the other to find the young ones for food. Talkeetna is a quaint town. The box lunch provided by the park service is horrid. Pack some snacks. We did a float trip in Talkeetna which was relaxing, but no wildlife. The town is neat. The scenery is great, however. We went from Denali to McKinley on the train. Great scenery, but 4 hours is about all I wanted. The train hauled Princess, Royal Carib, and Holland cars.
EMBARKATION: Don't believe what you read about an easy entry to the ship from the train in Whittier. Ours was a 5 hour ride to get there from Talkeetna. Princess does check you in on board, but we had over a one hour wait for security once we got there. The Captain was calling for muster as we walked on board. I would opt for a motor coach transfer instead of the train. It's quicker and will get you there sooner.
CRUISE: The cabin was smaller than most, and I hate shower curtains! I'm 5'10", 185 and could hardly function in the shower. I never got soap below my knees all week! We were on Baja deck with a balcony. For dinner,we had fixed seating. To do it again, I would opt for anytime dining because you never know when you might want to be out for scenery or wildlife (although not much wildlife to see). We seemed to be dining whenever something was spotted. We should have used that as an opportunity to get away from our server. She was not pleasant to have, so we only ate in the dining room on three nights. I thought the food was good, but the Horizon Court selections have gone down since our last Princess cruise in terms of quality and variety.
Unless you plan on shore excursions that MAY see wildlife, you won't see much on the cruise unless you are good at spotting something moving about two miles away. We saw whales spouting and a few porpoise for all week. Even the comedian made fun of the naturalist's sightings.
SKAGWAY, JUNEAU, KETCHIKAN: Each was remarkably different than the other. We enjoyed the city of Skagway most for walking around. I don't know how anyone can live in Ketchikan. It's the fourth wettest place on the face of the earth. Any tour you take there will be hindered by rain, clouds and mist. They don't call it Misty Fjords for nothing. We took the Eagle Preserve trip in Skagway. Quite expensive at $199 each to see three eagles and a few salmon. Our whale watching in Juneau was the best. Lots of humpbacks and more eagles than we saw on the Eagle Preserve in Skagway. However, whales are not easily seen until mid-July or later due to their food source not being around yet. HINT: If your tour voucher says Wildlife Not Guaranteed, you won't see much, if any. Princess does some misleading wording in describing their excursions, so buyer beware. The whale watching offered $100 back if no whales.
DISEMBARK AND VANCOUVER: Disembarking was smooth, but we had to wait 45 minutes for the bus to our hotel. We stayed at the Westin Bayshore which is a great location.
All in all, if you want to go to Alaska for the scenery, go for it. If you want wildlife, head to Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain National Park.