This ship is lovely. Very tastefully done, with light wood and subtle art. Not at all gaudy like other ships (read: Carnival). The Princess embarkation and debarkation processes are a piece of cake. It's a VERY well orchestrated drill with little or no fuss.
The crew -- we primarily interacted with housekeeping and food service -- was good but not great. Probably 98% of the passengers on this cruise were English speaking, but many of us had a lot of difficulty understanding some of the crew members. This is particularly worrisome in case of emergency. In addition, many of them knew next to nothing about the ship itself -- location of restaurants and bars, out-of-cabin restrooms, and surprisingly which way was aft and and which was stern! You could ask three different people and get three different answers.
The sights were magnificent. I've never seen anything like Alaska in my life. Pure, pristine wilderness. During two days at sea the ship got surprisingly close to the Hubbard Glacier, and we had a wonderfully slow venture through Glacier Bay. National Park Service personnel came on board and spent the day on the loudspeaker, telling us all about the flora and fauna.
We took one shore excursion -- they are very expensive and we are a family of five adults. Our excursion was the Mendenhal Glacier Tour and Whale Quest. We went on a tour bus to the local dock in Juneau, where we boarded a much smaller sightseeing boat. The crew, all women, was terrific. It was an absolutely glorious day. We saw seven humpback whales -- such a thrill. And the glacier is beyond amazing. When we stopped to sightsee I took the non-beaten path and went on a short hike to get closer to the glacier and a waterfall. They warned us about bears but it was totally worth it.
The other ports of call -- Skagway and Ketchikan -- are typical cruise ship stopovers. Lots of "local" jewelry, candy, etc. Skagway was the nicest of the two, and we were able to buy a few things in some definitely local stores.
Sadly, the food was only slightly better than mediocre. We opted for the "anytime dining" and the menu was pretty much the same in all 3-4 restaurants. For the most part the food was bland. The Horizon Court is the buffet-style place to eat, and we had breakfast there every day. The best item in the buffet was the soup. The desserts, while nice to look at, were completely tasteless. Seriously. Just sweet, with no flavor at all. Get the brownies if they have them -- that's your best choice.
I'm unsure if I'll take another Princess cruise. I'd like to try a really high-end cruise line, i.e. Regent or Oceana, to determine the difference. We're thinking about a European river cruise next year and I have to imagine that also will be different than living on a ship with 2200 of your closest friends. Maybe we're just not cut out for cruising.