We are in our mid-50's and have cruised before. We like longer cruises but enjoy variety. So we booked two cruises, first Anchorage-Vancouver on the Diamond Princess, then one night in Vancouver, then back to Anchorage on the Holland Zaandam. We chose the Zaandam last primarily because we wanted to end in Seward instead of Whittier.
Before leaving, we purchased a Northern Lights coupon book. Toursavers is very similar. I highly recommend checking them out. We saved hundreds.
In our short time in Anchorage we enjoyed watching the sea planes from the patio of the "Fancy Moose" (at the Millennium hotel). We really liked the Alaskan Native Heritage Center (coupon). We stayed at the Alaskan Frontier Gardens B&B which was good. Renting a car at the airport was a snap.
We used Anchorage Tours and Transfers to travel from Anchorage to Whittier. With the NL coupon it was a great deal, and our driver was a teacher at the University of Alaska. She was adept at More
managing a group and could make complicated information both interesting and understandable. We enjoyed her as much as any tour guide we've had! Embarkation in Whittier was quick and easy.
Our Princess ocean-view cabin was small and obstructed, but we could see quite a lot and were glad we'd gotten the window. With the arrangement of the room, the window would have been much more useable if the beds were left as two twins.
Something we really appreciated about Princess (over Holland) was the presence of a Naturalist onboard. He maybe wasn't the best speaker, but he had some interesting talks. He also would announce in the hallways and public areas when wildlife had been spotted so everyone could go take a look.
Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay were spectacular. Many people commented about our captain's ability to bring the ship up really close to the glaciers, and he did not disappoint. Glacier Bay on the Diamond was a highlight of our cruises!
In Skagway, we rented a car through Avis rather than take the train. We had no problems and enjoyed the drive, but being from Colorado, it wasn't as spectacular as we'd hoped. People who took the train told us it got a little long. We had a beer at the famed Red Onion afterward. (The second time in Skagway, we took the ferry to Haines, rented a car, and went to Kroschel's wildlife center. It was a unique and wonderful experience! Princess offers this as an excursion, and I'd definitely recommend it over the train. If you don't use Princess to book, you need to make reservations well in advance for the ferry, the car, and Kroschels.)
In Juneau, we went fishing with another family on Wolverine Charters. The captain, Jim Lewis, was wonderful. A retired teacher, he was personable and able to relate to adults as well as the child onboard. His boat and equipment were well kept and clean. (The second time we were in Juneau we rented a car and went to Mendenhall and other sites. Be sure to walk to Nugget Falls if you can handle a couple of miles.)
In Ketchikan, we first went to the Lumberjack show. It's cheesey but lots of fun for all ages. Tickets were the same price from the ship in advance as waiting in line for what's left over. In the afternoon we did the Bering Sea Crab Fishing tour. Incredible!!! We booked independently and saved a few dollars compared to the identical tour with princess. It boards literally at the bottom of the gangway, so no transportation is required. You'll see a better eagle show on this excursion than anywhere else. Out of all the excursions we've done, anywhere, this is one of the most memorable! (The second time in Ketchikan we went on the Misty Fjords Flight seeing with Island Wings, booked independently. Also highly recommend!)
Disembarkation was a snap. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which is walkable but uphill from Canada place. The Vancouver Trolley Hop-On-Hop-Off was an easy way to see the city. We enjoyed walking in Stanley park, the seawall near Canada Place, and Granville Island. The very best thing we did was take the shuttle out to the Suspension Bridge Park in the morning before embarking on the Holland Zaandam that afternoon.
The customs line on the American side in Vancouver can be very, very long.
After our week on the Princess Diamond, we boarded the Holland Zaandam and cruised back north, ending in Seward. There we went to Exit Glacier. We used our NL coupons for the Major Marine dinner cruise, which was nice even though we didn't see much wildlife. We went on a float trip down the Kenai out of Cooper Landing with River Drifters (coupon) that was very pleasant. Our only negative experience was a beginners kayaking trip out of Miller's Landing near Seward. We got a newbie guide. Not good, although it seemed like groups with other guides fared better. A real highlight of our trip was the Northwestern Fjords 9 hour trip with Kenai Fjords Tours (coupon). It was absolutely incredible!!! We had an outstanding captain who knew when to turn the motors off and let you enjoy the "national geographic worthy" whale shows and calving glaciers in quiet! We'd go again in a heartbeat!
Overall, we really enjoyed the Princess Diamond, much better than Holland Zaandam. The whole tone of the Diamond was upbeat. There are several dining rooms for any-time dining, and though the menus are the same and equally delicious, we enjoyed the variety. The buffet was good. The singers and dancers were a bit disappointing, but at least their last show was very good. There was a good comedian one night. Service was great. The public spaces in the ship are beautiful, varied, clean, and offer something for everyone. The captain was outstanding. We would look forward to cruising on the Diamond again. Less
E202: Emerald (8th floor) Obstructed Ocean View, but you can still see quite a lot. The window would be more useable if beds were arranged as twins. There are outside stairs near the window that connect the 7th level promenade deck to 8th level bow deck, and you occasionally hear people walk up them. Unfortunately, you have to go down to the 7th floor to access those stairs yourself. Visual privacy would only be an issue if you stood right by the window. Good value, and we'd book it again.