This was the first cruise I have taken that was for more than 4 nights. I was sick of the food by the 5th day. Not that it was bad, it was just plain. I suppose they have to make food 1. Look nice, 2. Bland enough so to not upset anyone's sensitive stomachs, and 3. Meet budget. I suspect that there is a basic, common ingredient they use in many dishes that they serve that achieves these three goals. Don't cruise this ship if you are looking for great dining experiences (unless you eat in port).
The employees have to be among the best you will find working on a cruise ship. The room managers work hard and always have a smil on their faces, and know how to ask in a genuine manner how your day is going. The bar staff does their job in asking you for your drink order (I don't drink), but don't push them on you. I have been on a Carnival cruise, and it felt like they were hitting you up left and right to order drinks. For that reason alone, I would never cruise on Carnival again. That this cruise was heading to Alaska, after most school sessions have started, there weren't a lot of children running around (another reason I hated the Carnival cruise I went on).
In all fairness, given anything negative I may write, I am not a "cruiser." I only went on this cruise because it was a convenient way to see all of these attractions in Alaska. It was nice kicking back and relaxing for a week, and my opinion was probably affected by the great weather we had at every stop, especially for this time of year. It rained in Ketchikan, but it is a rainforest- what do you expect to incur in a rainforest?
So the rooms were very clean, and the staff was wonderful. Pop cards were $7 the first day, and probably were more after that. I was fine drinking water, iced tea, coffee and hot chocolate all week for no extra charge. The wait staffs at all the restaurants were professional and capable- very friendly. I was put off by their "first run" movies and pro football games only being showed on their pool deck (we're going to Alaska- its cold & windy out on the deck). They could have scheduled these events for the Vista Lounge. Two NFL games were shown in the Explorer's Lounge, but not the Sunday afternoon games. Two new relaese films were shown in the Vista Lounge.
Daily Zumba classes were a hit with my wife, who went all but one day. I can't comment on the pools, I just thought it was too chilly to swim.
Intense waves caused many to have sea sickness one night. I don't think this was any surprise to the staff.
I didn't book any Princess-sponsored excursions. I got off the ship in port, and walked up to the many tour vendors waiting on the dock- you'll save a lot of money doing this (maybe 30%). Here the excursions we took:
1. Juneau- City Tour and Mendenhall Glacier. Just about every tour company waiting for you charges $8 each way for the shuttle to and from the glacier. $30 for a tour guide who takes you to the glacier and in and around Juneau. The guide really was interesting (a Tlingilt sp? tribe member). You might see bears around the glacier- its pretty safe.
2. Skagway- We pre-registered on line with Frontier Excursions for a guided van ride up to Carcross (you go through BC and into the Yukon Territory to get there). They charge just under $100pp, includes a BBQ lunch. You get to see sled dogs - lots of them. You can ride a dog sled here for about $37.75 for 15 minutes and a little more for a half hour. There is a coffee shop, museum and gift store here as well. Take this excursion- you will see many beautiful sites. Many people opt for a train ride - from what I have heard, it is a waste of money. You never get off the train, and it only goes a third of the way as this guided van tour will take you. If you decide to take this Frontier Tours tour, make sure you bring your passport. They take you around Skagway as well.
3. Ketchikan - We got off the ship and was approached by a tour company offering a $50 tour to Saxman Village, and around Ketchikan. They ask "How many in your group?" We said "three." They said, "$45." I said, how about "$40?" They said, "Okay." LOL. The ship charges $59 for the same tour. Keep in mind that this was getting near the end of cruise season for these vendors, so they may not be as negotiable during summer peak season. It was cold, wet and rainy in Ketchikan. It's a rainforest- what do you expect??
4. Victoria- What a joke. Princess docked the boat at 7:00pm (you had to be back by 11:00pm), and the herd goes to wait in a long line of people waiting for a shuttle bus that charges $8 pp each way, to and from town center. Too many people all at once waiting and waiting for these shuttle buses to pick them up. Take my advice and take one of the cabbies waiting nearby. They charge $9 Canadien ($9.50 US). Get someone to go with you and split the fare. It is so unbelievable that I wasted any time on that line. I have to believe that Princess knows it could have gotten there earlier, but due to some unknown reason, they deliberately set out to arrive at 7:00. the town is a nice place, and the people are friendly. Pleanty of street entertainers, gift shops, and pubs & restaurants.
Well, thats my review. If you can stand the plain, same tasting food all week, it is a cruise well worth taking for all you will do and see in Alaska. I would cruise with Princess again if there was a destination I thought it would be best visited via cruise ship.