I went on my first cruise on the Grand Princess to Alaska in July 2014 and overall had a very good experience. However, the cruise fell short in a number of really important ways so for our next cruise we will try another line.
We left from Seattle on July 6th and the embarcation process was flawless. From the moment we arrived at Pier 91 until we were in our cabin, things were organized and even enjoyable. We found our balcony stateroom in good condition and felt welcomed by staff. So far, so good.
Our first hiccup came at dinner. The Grand Princess has two main dining rooms for "anytime diners"; the Da Vinci and the Michelangelo. The "green jackets" in the Da Vinci dining room seemed really grumpy and unwelcoming. (I think the green jackets were the head waiters.) I can understand if someone is a little grumpy once in a while but this caught us off guard BUT we decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, their treatment of guests was consistent throughout the cruise. We started going to the Michelangelo dining room whenever possible and had just the opposite experience; head waiters and all staff were friendly and fun to be around. I have no idea what was going on behind the scenes but it colored our cruise experience considerably.
Here are some favorable observations of the Grand Princess cruise to Alaska:
--The on-board naturalist (Mark) was magnificent. His commentaries really added to cruise experience.
--Shore excursions were well organized and reasonably priced.
--Our experiences at each port of call was very, very good (easy on, easy off); this cruise stopped at Kechican, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria.
--The food was good in the dining rooms, at the buffet, and at the other venues.
--Front line staff were excellent all around the ship.
Here some areas where the cruise didn't measure up:
--Head Waiters in the Da Vinci dining room.
--Constant sales pitches for wine tastings, refillable drink containers, coffee packages. (They even enlist the wait staff to try to sell you things during your meal!)
--Constant interruptions to take your picture with ridiculously costumed characters.
--Too much paper! Every day we had a stack of papers in our stateroom "mail box". This has to be costly for the cruise line and very wasteful.
As I said, I'm a first time cruiser so maybe this is the way all cruises are run but I'm going to check out some other lines when planning our next cruise.
Good luck and Happy Sailing!