I recently went on the 7 day Diamond Princess northbound Alaska cruise, from Vancouver to Anchorage on Saturday, May 25, 2013. I had a wonderful time, as did my traveling companion, my 4 year old son.
I used Princess Air, and unfortunately it was not a direct flight. Same for the trip home. Very long day, and I would book a direct flight next time.
Arriving in Vancouver Airport, it was easy to get to the ship via the metro. Huge sign in the airport directing you to the Canada Place skytrain. The Waterport station is the last one and drops you off a block from the cruise ship. I researched how to get to the cruise ship since I didn't want to pay Princess's $29 fare times 2 when a taxi would be half that and I was actually on my way out of the airport to get a taxi, when I saw the huge Canada Line station sign. It was easy to buy a ticket, get on the train with my luggage, get a seat (lots empty) and go.
Boarding was easy, just long lines, but they moved fairly quickly.
The nicest part was unlocking my cabin door. I booked oceanview obstructed and had gotten an email from Princess that I had been upgraded, so I was hoping for plain oceanview. They gave us a balcony! It was wonderful. E732 is at the back of the ship with a big balcony - at least 10 feet long, maybe 8 feet wide? There was more than enough room for my son and I to lie back in our deck chairs and enjoy breakfast or the view. For me, the best part was being able to pop out and take pictures while my son slept. I took a ton of pictures I wouldn't have been able to with an oceanview. And being at the back meant I could see both port and starboard views.
The Diamond Princess is a big ship, but except for a few long buffet lines, it didn't feel crowded. There are lots of small areas, lounges, bars, pools, hot tubs, etc so the crowds get broken up.
I did anytime dining and that is great if you are traveling with a small child. We ate at the buffet which had a wide variety of choices so I could usually find something he would eat. We ate at the Pacific Moon and the Santa Fe room 3 times - the menu was more limited for the kids - hot dog, hamburger, chicken fingers, or spaghetti for the main dishes. By the way, lemonade is free, also apple juice and milk for kids. We had the pizza by the pool a couple times - its thin crust and really good. You can watch the chef making it all day long.
My son loved the Fun Zone, Princess's daycare. The counselors/caretakers were great - Marina, Agnes, Hilda, and all the rest. The 3 to 7 year old set has a big room, with a secure door - you need to get buzzed in, and sign in and out, with id, so I had no security worries. The kids did arts and crafts, colored, played in the jungle gym, they had a wii and a playstation. There were theme days, like pirate day (my son got a hat), or nature day (the park ranger talked about animals and my son got a small stuffed eagle) or birthday bash (my son got a goody bag with small plastic toys). My son took a dislike to watching movies so after a while the counselors were warning me, at 8:30 they were going to turn on The Little Mermaid, so I could expect a page (they give you a pager so if something happens or your child needed you, they could get a hold of you)
I was only planning on using the Fun Zone a couple times, but my son loved playing with his new friends and started requesting it, so I would drop him off for a couple hours to play.
Since my son was entertained, I got a chance to take the photography class - I'm a beginner so I learned a lot. I also went to the culinary tour (most of it, I was paged during it) and one of the evening shows.
Service was good - the room got tidied up twice a day with mints on our pillows each evening.
2 nights before the cruise ended, we got our disembark instructions which were clear about when to put out your luggage and where and when to go in the morning. We took Princess's motorcoach from Whittier port to Anchorage airport and it left promptly at 7 and got us there by 8:30 am or so. Had plenty of time to check in, go through security and find our gate.
All in all, an enjoyable trip I would take again.