This was our family's first cruise on a Princess ship, having previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Norwegian. Some deep discounts offered a few weeks before departure convinced us that a cruise was a better way to travel to a conference in Anchorage than by plane.
We embarked in Vancouver from the Canada Place pier after arriving at 12:30pm. Luggage drop-off was a bit chaotic but then we made our way through the lenghty security line-up relatively quickly, and through the U.S. Customs line-up even more quickly.
Everything was going according to plan until the U.S. Customs Agent asked me why I gave him an expried passport. I had assumed the job of carrying passports for my wife and 28 month-old daughter and made sure I had taken 3 passports out of my luggage before checking it moments earlier. However, it turns out I somehow managed to grab my expired passport as well as my current passport, and my daughter's. Regreatably, this mean I had inadvertently left my wife's passport in my checked bag and this meant she could not board the ship. Of course, this meant the rest of us weren't going anywhere either.
Stress levels started rising, but eventually we were able to find a Princess Cruise representative who made arrangements to have longshoremen start looking for my checked luggage. About 90 minutes later, my luggage was located and brought to us where we were told to wait. To our immense relief, my wife's passport was indeed inside my luggage (I was 85% sure it would be in there).
We weren't required to find our actual lifeboat location (which I think is a mistake) but we were required to wear life jackets, which is an improvement over our last cruise which was on a Celebrity ship in 2012 where we didn't even have to find or put on our life jackets.
Overall, the Island Princess is in very good to excellent condition. It has been well looked after and does not look its age.There are very few signs of wear and tear, except at the front of the buffet area (Horizon Court) beneath the windows which could use some work, and under the window where we had most of our dinners in the Bourdeaux Dining Room (rust stain was visible).
We found the layout of the ship somewhat confusing and even after 7 days were not always sure which way to go to find certain restaurants or lounges. Similar-sized vessels like the Millenium and Radiance-class ships seem to have public spaces that flow together more logically or intuitively.
The main theatre is smaller (without an upper balcony) than many others I have seen on cruise ships, but at the other end of the ship is the Universe Lounge which has tables and has a nicer atmosphere. This room wasn't used every night, which is unfortunate. It is really quite fantastic and looks like new.
Our "obstructed view" cabin on Deck 8 (E622 - Emerald Deck) actually provided a fairly decent view, so we could tell what the weather was like or what was passing us by as we sailed along. The room itself was comfortable enough in terms of size and had plenty of storage space, but I think the shower was the smallest I have ever encountered on a cruise ship.The shower curtain would somehow get sucked by air pressure into the small shower stall, allowing water to occasionally splash out underneath the curtain onto the floor of the bathroom. Also, the toilet sometimes took several minutes to flush - there seemed to be a delayed reaction with the vaccum system - but eventually it would work. Our room attendant was terrific.
The children's club was something that our daughter enjoyed. There were between 10-15 other children of various ages that I saw in the club from time to time.
We were assigned to the Bordeaux Dining Room for 5:15pm every evening, which seemed a bit early but most nights that was okay with us. The dining room felt more intimate than the larger, more visually stunning dining rooms on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships. The food was generally very good and the service was prompt, but our assistant waiter seemed less than friendly and it at times felt uncomfortable to have the waiters standing so close by, just watching us and seemingly listening to our conversations. Unlike on some other cruises, the servers did not seem to make it a priority to remember our names.
The buffet (Horizon Court) provided adequate food, but overall it was not our favourite place to eat. Compared to other buffets on other some other ships, the layout and organization could use improvement.
We tried one speciality restaurant (Bayou) for $20 per person. My filet mignon was terrific, although my wife said the lobster she ordered was somewhat over cooked. Service was great and our 28 month-old daughter was well attended to and enjoyed the food too.
In Skagway, we rented a car from Avis and drove 75 minutes to Carcross, Yukon. Scenery was fantastic, we could stop where we wanted and it was more economical than many other excursion options.
Some shows were better than others. Although there isn't much of a plot, the show called The Bayou was the best one during the cruise. Unfortunately, there was no grand finale show on the last night as we had expected.
The gym had 6 elliptical machines which were often busy, as well as other cardio equipment, light weights and pulleys, etc. The air conditioning was not completely effective and the gym felt stuffy.
We had sunshine and mild temperatures while cruising in Glacier Bay and near Whittier. Sightseeing was first class.
This went smoothly in Whittier. We arranged transportation to Anchorage on our own.
We spent some time walking around this rather unique (some would say strange) town, and visited the building which houses almost the entire population. There are beautiful waterfalls visible from most vantage points.
We had a very enjoyable time. The scenery and price could not have been better, and most of the crew we encountered were very friendly. Some friends and family joined us on the cruise, and for them it was their first. They said it won't be their last.