Wow! What a trip. Hope you can go and experience exactly what we did.
Family of 6, grandma 78, dad 46, mom 45, teen boys 16, and teen girl 13. Everyone had the trip of a lifetime. Princess is the way to go! I think a lot depends on the weather and we were VERY blessed; not a drop of rain and sunny skies. I love to explore our options so I read every trip advisor/cruise critic I could find on every ship, port, and excursion and I am so glad I did because our trip was PERFECT (okay, I give God the credit for the weather :)
We had 3 cabins on the caribe deck with balconies on the right side of the ship. C515, C519, and C523. Get these cabins! We had our cabins overhang, but there was still one out farther than ours. It was perfect and make sure you get on the RIGHT side of the ship. Starboard? We saw about 50 dolphins swimming with the ship and as we were leaving Alaska, we saw lots of orcas.
When you first get on the ship you'll be offered to buy a soda card, a soda and virgin drink card, or a coffee card. We bought each of our kids the soda/milkshake card. I think it was $70 each. One milkshake was $2.50. We had heard the coffee was bad so my husband brought those Starbucks singles. You could buy a coffee card for special coffees, but it was numbered exactly how many you got. I think 14? Anyway, the coffee was fine to me and my mom. The waiters were very easy going about the soda card, if only one person had theirs', it was still okay for the group. They put a sticker on your room card so it's nothing extra to carry.
We enjoyed the anytime dining. It was easy and the food is the same in all restarants so it's just the atmosphere that's different. The service is amazing and there are many people to help you. The food is really good, especially the seafood. Our boys enjoyed the hamburger and pizza line and at the buffet there was always something for everyone. We were worried about 'resort casual' clothes. Don't worry, we wore jeans and tennis shoes and it was just fine. On formal nights it was neat to see what people wore. There were a lot of people from different countries and their 'formal' clothes were beautiful. The staff has 42 different nationalities. I enjoyed hearing all their accents. High Tea every day was a must! Love those scones.
This cruise is for anyone. We went on a Carnival Cruise when our kids were younger. Seemed there were kids all over the place on that cruise and that it was loud, but we were going to the beach and people were sunbathing at the pools and we were right there with them. On this cruise, it seemed that the folks were older so instead of strollers there were motorized scooters. This was good because the pools weren't overcrowded, there was a kids club and activities for the kids to do. Our boys enjoyed the 'remix' for teens. When we were on the ship, we never saw our boys. They were with their friends or in the remix lounge.
The photographers were fantastic!!! With the unexpected sunny weather, our family all got sunburned and then it turned to tan. Great for a picture. We looked great! The photographers would take their time with you and pose you perfectly and not rush to get to the next person if the line was long. What a treat and at such great prices. Buy all your pictures at the end of your trip though. You might want to switch some out by the end. Also, look around at the back drops. Some were better than others. Also, when you go to port, get a picture taken, it's a darling backdrop and if you don't like it you don't have to buy it. It takes about 2 minutes.
Entertainment? Seems there was something for everyone. We enjoyed Kathy Slamp the naturalist, she grew up in Alaska and knew about everything. She gave 4 seminars and was nice enough to explain to us what we were seeing as we were seeing it. They piped her voice through the TV so we could hear her on our balcony as we went through Tracy Arm.
Tracy Arm - there is no guarantee you will go there or how close you will get. This is important to understand before you go. This is determined by the captain and the ice bergs. We got 4 miles out, I think to Salyer island? The cruise the week before us, got 2 miles closer but looked at the glacier in rain. That rain caused calving which gave us our ice bergs so we couldn't get closer but had clear sunshine to see what we could see. For the first time, Princess offered a little boat trip for $199 each that would take you closer. They got 2 miles closer and saw seals and a bear that we didn't see from the ship.
Do your research on your excursions or just do what we did. Princess offers many and it can be overwhelming. Also, if you book it your self you'll save some money (to spend on pictures - ha). When we got off the ship there were people with a big PRINCESS card in front of a big bus. We went to one person with just our name on the card and we were off. Also, smaller groups are more intimate and you aren't waiting for the 'late' person to leave. But if you book with Princess, they guarentee they won't leave you behind.
Our cruise was fantastic, as we were watching the tutorial on the TV about how to leave the ship, the guy ended with "God Bless". That sealed it for us, Princess is the way to go!