This was my sixth cruise, third on Princess (others on HAL and X), second to Alaska (first was on the X Mercury).
We're a male couple in our 60s, more interested in the outdoors than in drinking and/or shopping. We chose this particular cruise because it was round trip from our hometown, San Francisco, and because we got a pretty good price on an inside cabin.
Embarkation was a breeze. A friend dropped us off at the Embarcadero, and within about a half-hour, we were in our cabin.
The Ship: We'd already been on the Sea's sister ship, the Dawn, and so knew what to expect. For a 12-year-old ship, she's in good shape. She certainly doesn't look brand new, but the only noticeable signs of wear I saw were around the adult pool and in the gym's men's room. The cabin was small but well designed, providing plenty of storage if not a lot of walking-around room. There's no dedicated observation lounge, a minus for Inside Passage cruises. Public rooms were mostly More
pretty but kind of bland, the usual Princess look. I do wish that Princess wouldn't stack for-sale paintings all around the ship, giving the corridors the look of a Salvation Army art department.
Gym: I'd won a gift certificate at sailaway, and did three free "Pilates" core-training classes. I've done a fair amount of Pilates, and though the instructor was helpful and friendly, real Pilates it wasn't. No emphasis on neutral pelvis, breathing, "zipping up" core. Worth the price I paid, though I was glad I was already familiar with Pilates principles. Didn't otherwise work out. The gym was distinctly on the small side, though my partner always was able to get in a decent workout. Sauna and steam were small but adequate, gym showers never seemed to get hot, and the lack of changing-room lockers was a minus.
Enrichment: Unlike the Celebrity Alaska cruise, this one featured actual enrichment lectures by a geologist. I went to several of them, when schedule permitted, and they were interesting and pretty well done. Missed the appearance by the dog-sled-racing woman, though. Not exactly enrichment, but I loved the many trivia games (though Princess really should give away a better variety of swag, the way they used to).
Dining: I was struck by how good the main dining room food was, actually better than I remembered from other Princess cruises. Maybe not gourmet-restaurant quality, but I didn't order a single thing that wasn't tasty, often delicious. Rather interesting menus, appetizers and desserts shone, and, as a hot-food fan, I was gratified to eat a few things that were nice and spicy. HOWEVER, there was a big difference between the good stuff served in the MDR and most of what got dished out at the Horizon Court. Too much of the buffet food was mediocre, some worse than that, and on this just-about-full sailing, it was often a chore to find a place to sit. Night and day. I avoided the buffet whenever possible, and if I'd eaten only in the dining room, I would have given the food a five. Dieted to lose eight pounds before the cruise, managed to happily gain it all back.
Entertainment was OK, but my tastes may not be aligned with most Princess cruisers' - I work part-time at a rock venue, and the week before sailing, I'd seen Dylan, Melissa Etheridge, and the guitarist from Guns N Roses. The dancers worked hard, but with the exception of a couple of numbers in Cinematastic, production shows were so-so at best. The comedy juggler and magician were amusing. Overall, pleasant enough for passing the time between dessert and sleep, but I can't imagine that anyone cruises Princess primarily because of the shows. Movies Under the Stars was more of an irritant than anything else. There were a couple of films during the day I would have liked to see, but the daylight left the image looking alternately too dark and washed out, and when Horizon Court crowding led me to find a table outside, I was blasted by the soundtrack of the middles of movies. Whatever.
Service: Good if unobtrusive steward. He never really checked up to make sure we were OK, he didn't replace the requested wine glasses. But when the toilet stopped working (apparently a special Sea Princess feature) he dealt with it promptly and it was fixed almost instantly. Dining room service was great, though. Our waiter was my favorite of any of my cruises, his assistant was good, too, and I was glad that I'd signed up for late traditional so I could have the same waitstaff (and same great tablemates, comes to that) every night. When we ate in the MDR other times, service was also excellent, friendly and efficient. I really like the level of Princess service, relaxed but attentive. I only heard one service-oriented complaint from fellow cruisers (about a cranky steward).
We managed our own shore excursions, taking a city bus to Totem Bight park in Ketchikan, another bus to the strenuous but great West Glacier Trail at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and walking over to a trail that brought us high above Skagway. Our time in Victoria was too short - heard a number of complaints about that - and iffy weather led us to cancel a trip to Butchart Gardens and go to the B.C. museum instead. Hint: start at the excellent second floor, not the so-so natural history section. We, unfortunately, ran out of time. Tracy Arm made for a decent day. We were able to get pretty close to Sawyer Glacier before bad weather set in, but I was left wishing I'd spent a bit more for an itinerary that included Glacier Bay. Biggest downside of the cruise was a lot of bad weather, but I knew going in that by early September, things were likely to be cold and wet, and - a lot of the time - they were.
All this may make it sound like I had a disappointing cruise, but the overall experience was more than the sum of its parts and my partner and I had a really good time, partly because we met some great CCers to hang out with, partly because I really enjoy the Princess product. And, a plus, though the LGBT meetings were small, the overall vibe was very gay-friendly. So we booked another cruise while onboard, though on a bigger ship and with a warmer itinerary. Less