We purchased the airport to ship transfer ($29) and it worked out well. Embarkation at Pier 91 went smoothly for us as I am a Platinum member with Princess and had preferred boarding. Most folks I talked to waited 2 hours in line to board the ship. The ship is large and it will take 2 or 3 days to figure out where you are going or where you need to be. 2700 passengers! This ship had a good mix of ages, including 300 kids. There are plenty of elevators and the wait was never that long although different elevators go to different floors- it was odd.
I had been upgraded from a balcony suite to a mini-suite which I was thrilled about until we saw the room. I knew it was the last room at the back of the ship - D732. I looked at the images Princess provides on their website of mini suites and I was excited. Once we got to the room, it was not as pictured- the twin beds could not be converted into a queen- no bath tub, and no wet bar as the photo showed. It appeared to be a handi-capped room that could accommodate a wheel chair in the room and the shower, etc. Although I could not figure out why they would put a handi-capped person all the way to the back of the ship - not really close to the elevators. The hallways are very narrow and there were always housekeeping carts making it even more challenging to get around. Our cabin steward who had a name I could not pronounce was ok- nothing special and mini suite passengers pay more in tips than the other rooms. Other passengers had said they were getting a different "towel" animal in their rooms everyday and their ice buckets were always filled. The rooms have small refrigerators and they stock them with a few items that you will pay for if you drink it. The list shows coke, diet coke, and bottled water. We only had coke and water in ours.
My brother-in-law and his son were in an outside cabin E317 - showed an obstructed view- all they could see was a light bulb- the lifeboat totally obstructed the view.
We were given a nice table for 4 by a window in the Almafi dining room at the 8pm seating. The menus had a decent variety and a list of "always available" items if you did not want to go with the theme. Our waiter and bus boy were very good - if you ask for something the first night, they remember and ask you first thing if you want it every evening after that. We were not shy in ordering things to try or seconds of something if we enjoyed it, and they were more than happy to accommodate. My husband works construction and hates to dress up- as does my 12 year old nephew. I told them of the dress code and they reluctantly dressed for dinner each night. I was surprised to see that the head Mtr'd allowed sweats, ball caps, and hockey jerseys into the dining room - "smart casual"? I was given a ration of it by my family. I think they should have sent those folks to the buffet- back in the day they would have.
Although the mandatory tips include the wait staff, we wanted to give ours something extra- it was unfortunate that our bus boy was missing the final night - we were told he was somewhere else and went looking, but never found him. Your cruise card shows your dining time, place and table number -for Dinner.
Breakfast and lunch we did at the buffet - the sit down dining was in a different restaurant- and I did not go looking for it- the buffet had plenty to eat and a variety- it may have seemed to look the same everyday, but it is breakfast- and you have choices. Lunch was different everyday- although I did not try it I heard from many that the Mexican buffet was to greasy-and salty.
They also have a hotdog, hamburger, place, a pizza place, an ice cream place all close by to the buffet out on deck if you just want to grab something different. The staff on the ship is mainly filipino and at times there was a language barrier.
Inside there was the international cafe which had good sandwiches, soup, salads and desserts. I never saw anyone in the wine bar or the chocolate store.
Drinks are not cheap- ice tea, water and coffee are free. I bought my nephew a soda card- otherwise they were $1.95 each. Beer and wine were $6.50 + tax + tip (and they add a gratuity line in case you think they need more). Drinks were $7 or $8 ++. No one is in a hurry to wait on you or to pour you a drink- not very friendly either. My luggage got through with wine, but my brother in laws luggage had 3 bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne and he had to pay $15 for the one extra bottle - (They allow 1 bottle for each adult-so he said he had ours in his luggage).
The entertainment was so so- some first run movies in the theaters (Identity Theft), older movies playing on your stateroom TV and out on the Big Screen on deck. ( Back to the future, Mama Mia type movies). They also did movies under the stars on deck, had a piano bar, jazz band, rock/roll band, in different lounges throughout the ship. The vantrillaqest and comedian were good, the talent shows okay, the naturalist was great, the juggler was obnoxious. Lots to do all day long and they make sure you have an itinerary of all the events going on. The majority of things are free, others have a charge- I was handed a sheet offering 5 wine tastings with food pairings - I was told to sign up as seating would be limited- once I did, I was told it was $25 per person- I cancelled.
The ports are small and time allowed us to see most everything- Juneau, Skagway, Ketchican, and Victoria, BC. Mostly souvenir and jewelery shops. We did the whale watching in Juneau and it was spectacular-Dog sledding in Skagway-3 and half hour tour and we might have been on the dog sled for 3 minutes. We just walked thru Ketchican, and with only 4 or so hours in Victoria not enough time to do much of anything. Tracy arm was gorgeous - definitely a chamber of commerce picture day and the naturalist up on the bridge pointing everything out did an outstanding job!
Our weather was fabulous- shorts and T-shirts most of the trip-
Ended back in Seattle and had no flight to catch so we were the lasts ones off the ship (9:30am) - We stayed overnight at the Silver Cloud Stadium Hotel - just feet from the Mariners and Seahawk Stadiums- free shuttle from the hotel picked us up at the port and took us to the major attractions in Seattle.
I don't think we really had a true Alaskan experience- (came home with a tan) - but I can't complain about the weather- it was wonderful.