We had fun, we LOVED seeing Alaska and our many hikes in the most amazing areas, viewed wildlife, waterfalls, one glacier and met some outstanding people as a result of our itinerary and somewhat because of our choice to partake in the traditional dining option. To that end, I do believe that cruising is great way to see many different aspects of the western Canadian and Alaskan coastal areas. Unfortunately, I think I would have been better off to spend a few hundred dollars more on another cruise line so both our ship time and land time could have contributed equally to a memorable experience.
This cruise was a graduation celebration with my youngest daughter (19 year old). We had a mid-ship balcony room, nice size but nothing spectacular (Baja - starboard side). Disappointingly this was a not quite clean room (some stains that were rather worrisome on bed-skirts, dirt and scuff marks above the bed on the wall) with beds so hard you should just sleep on the floor (except the carpet is so grungy you are afraid of it too). The balcony glass was filthy, not just watermarked, dirty, and the two chairs were both filthy and covered with peeling paint. There was dirty wall paper in all public areas, especially the corridors and overall just a wore-out tired look throughout the ship.
The staff was obviously not motivated to do more than the absolute minimum required of their service type. We never asked for anything, including room service, that we did not have to ask at least twice for the service to actually be provided. We never were waited on in the piazza area and always had to go to the service bar to obtain drinks, refills, etc. I truly believe this is in large part due to forced tipping, although, I have to note, they charge a lot less than I used to pay with traditional end of cruise tipping, so I guess the lack of service could be a reflection of "getting what is paid for..." On a side note, the "special celebration" I arranged for my daughter, turned out to be a teeny frozen cake at dinner one night and a 15% discount offering if she bought a photo book of "our cruise celebrating her achievement". Ahem, I was not amused. We left that congratulations offer where it belonged, in the trash.
Now for the food, oh my gosh has the level of this area gone down since the change of ownership. First the buffets, honestly it was like going to eat at Furr's Cafeteria. Appropriate reuse of leftover's is expected but this was awful. In fact after a couple of aborted efforts to eat this way, we resorted to pastry and coffee on our dirty balcony in the morning because at least no lines and the views were pretty amazing most days (great coffee, pastry, honestly I am pretty sure these come out of a can or are frozen and reheated). We often skipped lunch by having fruit from our stateroom and then eating a whole meal at the late seating traditional dining service. Unfortunately, even formal dining was uninspired, nothing like what I had come to expect from past experiences with Princess. Bland, uninviting, no flavor, just flat boring are all appropriate descriptive of Princess' food offering these days. Oh, and drink services... for the sake of column space, lets just say be prepared to pay for everything, regardless of any of their "special" stickers you purchase the first day.
Finally the entertainment. Sigh, the daytime offerings are all scams to get you to spend money on something else, VERY disappointing. Even the guest naturalist presentations required you sit through a spiel to buy her many books. The evening variety shows, well lackluster pretty much says it all, quality was truly not any better than your typical high school production.
One outstanding note, they had an outbreak of the dreaded Norovirus during our cruise (May 26 - June 2nd, inside passage Tracy Arm Fjord). The medical, room stewards, janitorial and wait staff responded with a very well developed action plan that kept this nasty illness contained to just a very small number of cruisers and staff members. I have to commend them, I know from working in healthcare for 20+ years how quickly this nasty little virus can spread in a clustered situation like a cruise ship, and greatly appreciate their frank communication about what was happening, precautions being taken and appropriate action/responses required by cruisers to successfully contain the outbreak.
So, go cruise Alaska, the higher up into Alaska you can go, the better, but maybe use a different cruise company, Princess will probably leave you wanting for more. Kind of sad from a company that bills itself as the "escape completely" cruise line.