What a great trip! Of all the cruises we have been on, this one certainly topped them all. I am sure it was a combination of factors, including the fact that our kids are now 16 & 18 and can look after themselves. But from beginning to end, this was a perfect cruise for our family. San Francisco is an amazingly friendly port and I found the Boarding the ship was so much easier than any other location we have used in the past. Disembarkation was a breeze, no customs form, no passport. I walked down the gangplank and within 3 minutes we had spotted our luggage, gave them to a porter and was sitting on the bus awaiting our transfer to the airport.
The food was tremendous on this trip. We ate at the Crown Gill one night, had breakfasts at Sabatini's, had an amazing meal at the Chef's Table, and loved the Pub Lunch. Also thought that the food on the Horizon Court Buffet was much better than on past cruises, with many tasty entrees and the pasta was usually very well prepared. Also ate at Anytime Dining and only had one mediocre meal, but that was because I chose poorly - the calamari steak is really something I would avoid in the future. But no matter where we went the food was great and the service was very fine. The wait staff was attentive but not overbearing. Also love the Piazza and International Cafe and many a night managed to squeeze in a pizza at Alfredo's.
The entertainment was also better than usual. Led by the Hungarian Classical group, The Rhapsody Trio, the overall quality of the entertainment was much better than on past cruises. The Trio routinely packed the Atrium when they performed 3 times per day, and for anyone traveling on the Grand we were informed that they will be there for another 4-5 months. Also enjoyed the group Volume who performed in the Explorers Lounge, and Martin Lewis the British comedy-magician.
We used Princess Cruise tours and had no problems. My wife and son loved their helicopter flight and glacier walk in Juneau, while my daughter and I had fun on the Dogsled Adventure. We took the railway trip in Skagway to the Yukon Pass and it was a crystal clear day with amazing views. Ketchikan was the Duck Boat tour - what a hoot! - along with the Lumberjack Competition, while Victoria was shopping and realizing that our trip was almost over. No problems with tours other than in Juneau where the weather was foggy and we arrived and hour late and it was a chaotic mob getting off the boat to find the busses for the tours.
Played trivia, and loved the Vista Lounge. So much nicer than Club Fusion. Also got to a few Art Auctions and if you have never been to one you should stop by. The Art Directors are very knowledgeable and there truly is something for every price range.
My biggest criticism is with the Princess Theater which really could use about 3-4 more inches on the width of their seats. Having a bit of a knee problem it is hard to squeeze into those seats and one poor lady fell down when her seat cushion failed to open when she sat down.
My kids had a great time on their own, and it was fun seeing them really enjoy the ship in its entirety. For us there were no negatives about the Grand Princess or the itinerary. We liked the port of San Francisco so much that we booked a Hawaiian Christmas cruise that will depart from SF instead of leaving from LA as we did in the past. The Princess transfer system worked well and no bags were lost and it just seemed to us that the folks in San Francisco really have this system down pat and there were no long lines to board, no long waits at the airport and that is really appreciated when one is flying in on the day of the cruise. I also wanted to commend the Captain's Circle Host who we met on the last day, but who was so very charming to deal with and who straightened out a few problems that had cropped up regarding my sons Princess account.
All in all, our best family cruise vacation and we cannot wait to cruise with Princess in the future!