This will be long I will give our experience in order of cruise, ports of call, and landtour. I will start with the embarkation at Canada Place,
Vancouver: We stayed in Vancouver for two nights before the cruise at the Renaissance Harbourside Hotel, the Hotel was very nice and the weather cooperated enough that we used the windows and Juliet balcony every evening, our room faced the harbor and we enjoyed the sites and sounds (cruise ship horns!) of the harbor. We try to make our Embarkation Port a part of our vacation every cruise, we do not fly in and get on the ship the same day but like to enjoy the port city as tourist. Vancouver did not disappoint, this is a lovely city with very friendly locals who made us feel right at home. Vancouver is a very clean, walkable safe city, when we ask for help with directions the Canadians were very helpful and very sweet. We visited Queen Elizabeth Park and Stanley Park along with private city tours that were very informative. I actually loved Vancouver and would visit again. I also would stay in the same Hotel again.
Port of Vancouver. Princess embarkation is a well oiled machine. Yes, you will stand in line but the line moves efficiently through the building; step by step you move quickly. Princess gets five stars for embarkation. We immediately were allowed into our rooms.
We had a choice of three different venues for eating. 1. Horizon Court Buffet, 2. One MDR selection 3. International Cafe. We chose the Horizon Court Buffet. The buffet was crowded but they handled the crowds and had enough staff.
The ship was clean and efficient however we quickly realized the itinerary would be the memorable part of this trip. The ship was fine, and we never felt crowded or like we were in a big crowd. Our stateroom was fine, except the bed needed to be replaced about 5 years ago. It had the body impressions with hard spots at the hips. I do not mean stiff spots I mean hard like hip on cardboard or something. -1 for my half of the lumpy bed.
Our ports were Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.
Ketchikan: We did a walking tour with Joe Williams, a Tlingit Indian and past Mayor of Ketchikan. He was informative and fun. Ketchikan looks just like the pictures and we really enjoyed our day there. We decided after walking through Ketchikan with Joe we would catch the lumberjack show. It was a little corny but loads of fun. The bleachers around the area were heated which made sitting on bleachers tolerable on a dreary COLD Alaska day.
Juneau: Juneau was beautiful! We pre-booked through Princess the Taku River Salmon Feast and 5 Glacier Viewing. Can you say WOW!! Outstanding and worth every $$$ we spent on the fare.
Skagway: Skagway is known for the White Pass Railroad so off we went on the scenic Railroad trip. This place is beyond beautiful and we enjoyed our time on the train. I stayed on the platform outside trying to capture the beautiful Pass and Summit with my camera.
After three back to back ports we enjoyed being mystified by the majestic beauty of Glacier Bay National Park. I can not do it justice with my words. You must see it to appreciate it - awe inspiring.
Now to the rest of the story. The mean age of the passengers was in my estimate 65-70 years old, therefore everything (music, trivia, live shows) is geared toward their taste. We are early 50s and felt like the young crowd on the ship 85% of the time. Therefore entertainment gets a 2. It was severely lacking.
The eateries were efficient but the food was just good. Nothing made me think WoW !! There is plenty of it and nothing was bad but nothing was excellent either. We loved our room steward and our wait staff in MDR but also encountered some less than helpful staff in other areas. There seemed to be a morale problem in the bar staff and crew members at the service desk.
Landtour: Disembarkation was as smooth as boarding the ship. We had to separate our bags with tags: Meet Me in Anchorage and Meet Me Tonight. All the bags were moved for us at every stop. I was impressed with that. Very efficient and helpful. The glass dome train ride is very scenic and nice. It is nine hours long and we were definitely ready to get off asap when it stopped. The food was OK on the train but very pricey, as was anything in Denali or McKinley. They know you are captive and you will pay for it.
Denali Princess Lodge: The lodge and facilities were nice but our room was under the stairs, so absolutely no view and the room was small. The room is like a Holiday Inn Express only in beautiful setting with more facilities. It was very clean.
Mt McKinley Lodge: The rooms are much larger but ours was dirty, We got into it 1.5 hours after check in time and was told to sit and wait in the lodge while it was being cleaned, the management staff had an attitude. I mentioned it was dirty and she cut me off - we had 1/2 used toiletries in our bathroom from previous guest and the dust was in the room was thick. (Total disappointment) All the literature mentions Talkeetna but that is an extra fee per person and another 2 hour round trip to get there so we hung out at the lodge and watched for the Great McKinley to show and yes she did show in all her snow covered glory!
Everything you do in the lodges has a fee attached. Every single thing, you get nothing complimentary - just realize that before you get there. We knew it but expected some Princess treats of some sort (there are NON Princess guest there also). We did not know Talkeetna was an extra fee or 2 hours more on a bus to get there. In 24 hours we had spent 9 hours on a train and 7 hours or so on a bus so we skipped it!
Anchorage was our final leg in the journey. We spent 2 nights in Captain Cook which is a fine Anchorage hotel. There is plenty around Anchorage to do. We ate at the Glacier Brewhouse and Humpys in Anchorage. Both places are good. Brewhouse is a tad bit upscale, Humpies is Cheers- Alaska.
We had a great time and were awed by the natural beauty of Alaska. I think it was a good value even though some areas were not great. We attributed part of that to being early in the season and staff trying to learn as they go. We did not let that slow down the fun; we just think they need to improve.