We flew into Seattle, WA the day before the cruise and arrived early enough to take a 3 hour city tour with Tours Northwest. It was a very nice tour and we got to see a lot of Seattle so, the day wasn't wasted. The only negative was that the tour dropped us off for an hour in an old part of Seattle, which really didn't have that much to see or do there. I would have preferred to have been dropped off at the waterfront or the market place.
We stayed overnight at the Doubletree Sea-Tac Hotel. I booked the hotel and transfers directly through Princess Cruises. It was well worth the money! We were met at the airport baggage claim area by a Princess Cruise Rep. who showed us where to go to get the shuttle to the hotel. Our room was located in the tower and was very clean, spacious and quiet even though our room faced the airport. We utilized their restaurant for dinner. The food was very good, but very expensive, which is expected at any hotel restaurant. We were just so exhausted by the time we got back from our city tour that we thought it would be best just to pay the extra money and eat there instead of dining out someplace else. There really isn't that much as far as restaurants that are close by to the hotel unfortunately. Though we did eat lunch at a Subway across the street.
The morning of embarkation we went downstairs at the Doubletree Sea-Tac Hotel and checked in with the Princess Rep. that was onsite, which was quick and easy. Just show them your boarding pass, passport and fill out a quick health questionnaire and you're done! We then met a motor coach that took us to the Pier 91 for embarkation. We immediately went right to the Princess check-in counter and they printed out our cruise cards for us and we were on our way. The line was a bit long already and the ship didn't start boarding until Noon, but once the line started moving it went fairly quickly.
The Golden Princess was a very nice ship. Some places she is showing her age, but all in all it was nice and clean. The only negative that I can report on is that I'm not sure why they put the Cigar Lounge between the Casino and the Princess Theater. Even though the door was kept shut every time we walked to go to the Princess Theater it smelled so bad of cigar and cigarette smoke. I also noticed that they made the smoking area of the ship underneath the covered pool area. I would have thought that it would have been better to have a smoking area that was not enclosed, but that's just my opinion of course.
We did get a lot of employees approaching us about the wine tastings and trying to push coffee on us quite often, which got a little old after awhile. Since we spent quite a bit of time on ship we did see most of the shows, which were really good. I used the internet cafe a few times to check email and it worked really well and was easy to log in and use, but of course a bit pricey.
Our cabin was mid-ship on the Caribe deck. Very clean and quiet room. I do enjoy the Caribe deck because of the balconies being larger and half covered for privacy. We did spend a lot of time out on our balcony when the weather was nice so, it was definitely worth the extra money.
The food that we had was very good in the Horizon Court, Pizzeria and the main dining room. We didn't try any of the specialty restaurants, but did end up in the Horizon Court one evening for dinner due to coming back late from an excursion and needless to say I wouldn't do the Horizon Court again for dinner.
Our first stop in Juneau we did the whale watching, salmon bake & Mendenhall glacier excursion. I was very disappointed in the whale watching tour only because we seen maybe 4-6 humpback whales and that was it. I've seen more whales outside of Boston, MA then I did in Alaska. It could be because of the time of year and maybe the whales were heading back down South already for the winter months. The salmon bake was very nice and the Mendenhall glacier was well worth the visit. I just wish we would have had more time to spend there. You're kind of rushing around to see and explore everything there in an hour that was given.
Our second stop was Skagway and we did the Yukon Railway into Canada, then a motor couch down the Klondike Highway and gold panning. The railway was very interesting, but needless to say it was raining out and the windows inside the train were constantly fogging up. They had a heater in each rail car, but no dehumidifier, which would have been nice. We just grabbed some paper towels out of the restroom on board and used them to keep our window somewhat clear for photos. The motor couch ride down the Klondike Highway was very nice and we made a few stops for photos along the way. The gold panning was fun, but we felt a bit rushed. There were quite a few tour buses doing the excursion at the same time so, trying to get the gold that you found weighed and stuff took awhile.
Our third stop was scenic cruising in Tracy Arm Fjord. I would have to say this was probably the most exciting part of the cruise for me. It was beyond beautiful. We seen a ton of icebergs and were able to get pretty close to the Sawyer Glacier. The naturalist that they had on board was just amazing!! We lucked out with perfect weather.
Our fourth stop was Ketchikan where we did the all terrain vehicles. This was a very short stop and I heard a lot of people complaining that they really would have loved to have stayed in this port for a longer amount of time. We had about an hour or so to do some souvenir shopping then we did our all terrain vehicle excursion then had to hop on the ship to leave so, that port stop kind of flew by. The all terrain vehicle excursion was a lot of fun. I'd highly recommend it. Though the cost is a bit high since it is per person and not per buggy.
The last stop was in Victoria, B.C. We were only here for a short amount of time at night, but did the excursion that goes to the castle there and sightseeing about town in a motor coach. It was very interesting and nice, but I wish I could have seen it during the day instead. From what we were told the only reason the ship stops there is so that they can have an International crew on board the ship. For the consumer it wasn't that great of a stop because you're only there for 4 hours during the evening.
Disembarkation was very easy and flowed well. We had purchased the transfers to the airport from the Pier 91 through Princess. It worked seamlessly! Also, I would highly recommend paying for the EZ Check that Princess offers. They pick up your bags the night before and you don't have to worry about them until you get to your home airport that way you don't have to lug bags around with you. It was only $ 20.00 per person and well worth the money.
All in all is was a very pleasant, relaxing cruise. We enjoyed seeing Alaska, but are not the type of people that would go back multiple times. Once was enough for us, but I'd highly recommend it to people to see at least once in a lifetime and Princess Cruises is a very nice way to go.