Two of us traveled from Orlando (MCO) to San Francisco (SFO) on Southwest Airlines via Las Vegas outbound and Denver homeward. We paid the 10 dollar per segment priority board fee and had aisle seats forward on all four flights. A delay on our return was protected with a later connection in Denver and no lost luggage. We flew Southwest because they still allow 2 free checked bags plus a carry-on and we would be gone a total of 14 days so needed all the bags.
In San Francisco pre-cruise we stayed at Le Meridien on Battery Street for 2 nights and post cruise one night at the Airport Hilton in Burlingame just south of SFO. Both hotels are 4 star properties and we got an excellent rate from Hotwire so no complaints about either place. Extra points to the Hilton who gave us a free split of wine to celebrate my birthday! In the city we ate at the Castle and Elephant pub across from the hotel and the food/service was decent. The next evening we ate at the famous Fog City Diner and were not disappointed. On the return we ate at Kincaids on the water one block from the hotel for my birthday dinner and had a grand time.
Check-in at the pier was moved back to 1230 PM or later due to space constraints and lack of a co-ordinated drop off point for buses, cars and taxis. I must say that the old piers on San Francisco's waterfront are a major disappointment compared to other port's facilities and need to be upgraded . Princess tried to make everything as smooth as possible but physical condition and layout of the pier made it unpleasant. Those passengers in wheelchairs or powered devices had a hard time boarding steep old-fashioned gangways.
Once on board we proceeded to our balcony cabin on Aloha deck. We had received 2 separate upgrades due to my Platinum status , Aloha 538 was 8.5 feet wide tip-to-tip and 17.75 feet long. The balcony was 8.5 by 3.75 with a small round table and two small chairs. The bathroom was the second smallest of any I have ever experienced in 90 cruises and had dimensions of 3.5 by 6 feet. My cabin-mate who is a normal sized 5 ft 4 in woman banged her head twice so I can see where larger passengers would have similar problems. The beds had to be separated as we are not a married couple and as singles were not very comfortable as the mattresses were obviously in need of replacement.We asked for extra pillows and received them in different firmnesses as well. There was plenty of closet, drawer, and shelf space for all our belongings and the nested luggage slid under each bed to add more room.
We choose anytime dining and made reservations every day for our evening meal. Other than the first evening we always had a table for 2 at or near a window. We ate breakfast in the dining room every day because we hate to fight crowds early in the morning for lukewarm food and poorly bussed tables. Most lunches were taken in the dining room as well and we had only one less than favorable experience with strangers at a shared table (they were "The glass is half-empty people" and had way too many complaints about everything). As to the food itself it was perfectly decent good quality "Hotel Banquet " cuisine with occasional flashes of brilliance and we always had servers with a good personality and never a surly attitude. One surprise was there was never Escargots (snails) on any dinner menu. One of the Maitre D's remembered me from a previous trip so Im sure that may have had something to do with it. Also worth mentioning is that the Norovirus outbreak from the May 20th trip continued on our cruise as well. There was no self-serve ever in the Horizon court because of it which led to major backups so that is another reason we ate almost every meal but 2 in the dining rooms. The Pizzeria on deck 8 Atrium was decent as well for a quick bite.
Sailing in the open waters of the Pacific both North and Southbound led to several periods of rough seas and gale force winds but it was not too much of a problem for us. I was sea-sick 24 hours between Ketchikan and Victoria, BC and skipped two meals but none the worse for wear and tear. Some passengers were confined to quarters due to Norovirus or choose to stay hidden due to Mal de Mer so there never seemed to be congestion in any public room except for the normal queues to get meals. We had pre-dinner cocktails at the Wheelhouse bar every evening and had charming bartenders and pleasant entertainment as well.
We had very little rain during this trip and some partly cloudy skies so all ports were fun to be in and walk around in. We walked everywhere in every port! As this was my companions first Alaskan trip I took it upon myself to play tour guide. We docked near downtown in every port except Ketchikan where we tendered to a downtown pier. I must say it is a shame that some of the local ambience has been lost due to the proliferation of chain jewelry stores but we only went to local merchants if we could. the usual quantity of souvenirs were purchased and despite some gorgeous fur coats available in two ports nothing major was obtained. We tried to find local museums and were successful in 3 out of the 4 ports. Glacier Bay provided calving glaciers and wildlife too. We even went to the IGA supermarket in Skagway to get some bottled water cheaper than the tourist stores. Passengers we spoke with who took the ship's excursions seemed to be very satisfied with them as well. We especially were inpressed with Victoria, BC and had a lovely few hours there. Most passengers thought we should have spent more time there rather than as a throw-away port to meet the cabotage laws! Changing and counting Canadian money became our favorite new game.
Back home in San Francisco on my birthday June 9th, the dis-embarkation went smoothly. We were not in a rush to get off so sat in the Platinum lounge provided after breakfast and waited for our tag ( Red 5) to be called. Luggage retrieval was confusing but went ok. However, getting off the pier and to a special cab-hailing line was a chore.
Other things that come to mind are that despite a fairly large amount of children of various ages there were no real noisy ones ruining adults vacations. They all seemed to be under parental control or taught good manners. There were many passengers of Chinese or other Asian nations and some announcements had to be made especially for them. They didnt mingle well with the American family Anglo crowd too well and often pushed to the head of lines or wouldnt step out of your way when approaching each other.
Would I cruise Princess again? Yes. Despite its "Carnivalization" and I have been on 25 Carnival cruises and enjoyed them as well, Princess is still a step above and worth the extra money. Some things could have been better but after 90 cruises and traveling around the world for 60 years ( 25 with a major airline) I can take it all in stride. Just please keep an open mind and dont let one or two less than perfect things ruin your vacation.