4 of us flew into SF a day ahead of time for the May 12-23, 11 day AK cruise. Had booked a car service, Pleasant Limo, from airport to hotel for $90, tip included for 4 people plus luggage. It was efficient and would book them again. Stayed near Union Square at the Kensington Park Hotel and walked to Johns Grill for dinner. Both outstanding!
Embarkation: next day we took a $30 cab ride to Pier 35 & checked our luggage in. Boarding however proved to be problematic. We were told that our cabin A507 was one of 25 that flooded and we should "go over there to wait" to see if we would be boarded, because " some people will not be sailing". Eeeek!!! We told the agent that our booking was linked with our friends, one of whom is blind, and they needed us to help them travel on their first cruise. And we had all flown in together from the East Coast, so 2 of us not sailing wasn't an option. They talked to a supervisor who gave us permission to board with our friends (whose D mini suite cabin was not affected). So now at 12:30 we r on board with no cabin, and our luggage going to a flooded room. Got our friends settled in and we all ate lunch in the dining room and it was fine. Checked back with passenger services at 3:30 for a room assignment, and to find our luggage. No room yet but they told us to go to muster drill. Uhhhh.... With no cabin, ergo no life jackets, where were we supposed to go? So they assigned us a temporary room & we mustered. A few misplaced papers in wrong mail boxes and no luggage till 9:30pm the first day, but 2 days into the cruise we got our original cabin back, re-carpeted and good as new, with a $150 OBC for the inconvenience of having to move.
Dining: went to Portofino for anytime dining and explained our friend's eyesight problem, and they assigned us a table close to the door with no steps for the whole cruise. Very professional and accommodating. Food in dining room was better than average. Service was impeccable with Amin and Marianna catering to our sight-impaired friend. They got the 10 bottle Gold Wine Pkg and were very happy w the wine selection. DH got the all-inclusive beverage pkg and felt he got his money's worth with all the espressos, beer, soda, glasses of wine, and occasional martini, along with at least 2 large bottles of water every day. Also got water to take on excursions. Horizon Court is never our favorite, but we go for breakfast - made to order omelettes, fruit, waffles, smoked salmon, Earl Grey tea.. Everything looked fresh and hot. Separate dessert/pastry/croissant station is a nice addition. Again service was outstanding here, u never had to wait for anything. Intl Cafe became a favorite for our cruising newbies. Paninis, salads, desserts and specialty coffees were our staples for lunch. No charge yet for room service on this ship. Promotional Complimentary dinner at Sabatinis was good, Crowne Grill lobster and filets were better. Pizza on pool deck is as good as ever! Did not try any burgers or dogs. Note that Purell hand stations were everywhere & staff was standing there suggesting people use it. Never heard of any Noro on our trip.
Entertainment: one of the better cruises for this. Bobby Brooks Wilson son of Jackie Wilson was a headliner and he rocked it!! 2 shows, Stardust and British Invasion were also lively and entertaining. Lounge acts were about normal. Movies showing in Princess theater were Nebraska and 12 Years a Slave. Did not do trivia, bingo, game shows etc. Aside from the 1 day that several unsupervised children ran around screaming for 10 minutes, Skywalkers continues to be a peaceful noise-free respite during the day for reading, whale watching, ocean-viewing & relaxing. Several people had binoculars, and when a whale was sighted, everyone ran to the window and we were all able to see several pods.
Ports: In Glacier Bay u need to be on deck to experience the sound, or if you have a balcony, watch the calving from there until the ship rotates. Plenty of places to view from inside if you get cold, and they serve free hot chocolate in Horizon Court. Also make sure u catch the Naturalist Lectures, very informative. We had been to all the ports before, but booked the train in Skagway again to do with our friends. I would not recommend the ship tour as you can walk to the Kiosk and buy your own tix and do the same thing for less money, and WAY less waiting around. In Juneau we again walked to a kiosk and bought tix $10 each way shuttle to Mendenhall Glacier, same as ship, less waiting, more flexibility. Afterwards they dropped us off in town for some shopping and we walked back to the ship. In Ketchikan we walked the boardwalk, ate a lite lunch at Annabelle's, and shopped. Had taken the Crab Fishing tour before and recommended it, but it was too much for our friends this time. In Victoria, we took the ship shuttle to town and walked to street beside the legislature bldg & booked a true 45 min horse drawn carriage ride. $75per couple, and it was just the 4 of us going thru the park and historic district. I felt this was also much better than the ship tour which picked you up at the pier and held 10-12 people. Then we meandered up Government St to Irish Times for Happy Hour 4-6. Really nice Irish bar, lots of atmosphere, good food, and would def go there again. Friends stopped at a nice tobacco store near Irish Times for some Cubans to smoke back on the Ship at Shooters Cigar Bar. Did not have to be on board until 10:30 pm so we bundled up, and walked the harbor til 8, then caught the shuttle back for a late bite in the dining room.
Debarkation: something new! They sent immigration forms to your room 4 days before the end of the cruise, you filled them out and returned them to Front Desk. Unless you got a letter saying there was a problem, THAT was immigration!!! It was not done at disembarkation which really speeded things up. We did express walkoff and were on the street hailing a cab by 8:20am. BEST DEBARKATION EVER!!!
Overall impression: ship is in good shape and service was outstanding throughout. Food & entertainment was better than average. Staff all seemed happy and refreshed. Ports had lots to offer, food, shopping and scenic tours. Captain was warm and informative, coming over the speakers with info and humorous anecdotes. Favorite thing was the new easy immigration and walkoff. Our friends loved their first cruise and r ready to do it again.
These are my personal opinions, others may have differing views. If I did not mention a venue or attraction, I didn't do it or see it. Hope this is helpful to anyone cruising on the Star to AK soon.