We are not frequent cruisers and this trip was decided because we had to spend time in San Francisco for family reasons. We got a good price on an S6 Vista Suite which is aft and has a balcony over the stern. We liked this because it afforded us 180 degree views and we were not windblown on our balcony.
The boarding was smooth. We only had one little glitch that showed up later. I brought 4 bottles of wine aboard in a shipper and it got past the wine check-in so I had to deal with it later.
We made a solemn blood oath to each other to never go to the buffet, which we were able to keep, so I won't be reviewing that. We found the dining room for lunch on embarkation day. We were very impressed with our waiter and went to the Matre d' and requested a table with Rey which was assigned to us. Luigi, the Matre d' came to our table at Sabatini's (on embarkation day suite passengers get a free meal at one of the premium restaurants)to re-assign us.
We originally had More
an early seating at a table for 8. We were now assigned a table for 4 and had no dinner mates which is a mixed blessing - the privacy is nice, but making friends is nice too!
We met Brando, our cabin steward, who was a gem. We had made a good choice of tables because our waitstaff, Rey and his junior waiter Mario, supervised by Head Waiter Jack Martins were a GREAT team. We had impeccable service throughout.
The next day we had a Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in the one-five lounge. It was interesting and we really enjoyed both the staff that showed up and our fellow CCers. This lounge was also the "elite lounge" for canapes before dinner.
The stops were as expected. It was mostly overcast, rained in Ketchikan in the afternoon, was actually sunny in Juneau. We did not get to dock at our third stop, Skagway, due to high winds and put into Haines instead. Haines seemed a rather dismal place. Many passengers took a ferry to Skagway. Victoria was lovely but the stop was too brief to really do much.
My personal highlight was dogsledding in Juneau. A word about this. We like to book shore excursions through the ship even though it is a bit more costly because of the safety of not being stranded. This was a helicopter ride to a dog sledding camp on the Mendenhall Glacier a bit north of Juneau. The morning trip was cancelled becuause of fog on the glacier and I rescheduled at 3:30. With the sun shining, I was informed that the afternoon trip was also cancelled. This was important to me so I ran to the tramway where they had a bunch of booths with people selling tours. There was one guy left in one booth and wouldn't you know, he had two seats left on the last tour. Turns out this tour went to a different glacier and the weather was fine. What a trip! So don't give up if you have problems with your shore excursion!
Because I wanted to eat well, I made sure to boycott the elevators as well as the buffet. It has been said before and it is almost irrelevant now since the ship is a few rides away from drydock, but parts of the ship were pretty shabby. The carpeting on the stairways was practically threadbare in places and yes, there was rust which should never exist on a well maintained cruise ship.
But the bones were good, and it was a comfortable suite and a nice ride. The food in the dining room was mixed - most of the soups were great, the salads not so much. We almost always found something we liked and the fettuccine Alfredo was always a tasty option.
We ate dinner once in Sabatinis and once in the Crown and did not think either restaurant was worth the extra money. However, the suite breakfast in Sabitini's was great as was the "Pub Lunch" in the Crown. As others have said, the Pizza at Alfredo's was great (but why can't you take out?) and the International Cafe was very good.
We liked the Princess experience so much we gave them a "future cruise" deposit. Less
Vista Suite - aft. Nice balcony but there is a beam (didn't bother us). The bathroom is excellent. The bed was comfy, perfect for us, bigger than a queen. More storage space than we needed - don't forget - store suitcases under your bed!