Just a little background- my husband and I are both 28 years old, from South Florida, and have been on 13 cruises prior to this: Royal Caribbean (8), Carnival (4), and NCL (1). Alaska was one of the "pre-baby bucket list" items we wanted to check off before we think about having children.
We planned to walk to the Alaska Railroad from our hotel (Comfort Inn Ship Creek), but the shuttle driver offered to drop us off. It was literally a 5 minute walk- maybe more with our 3 suitcases. He loaded up our things- drove us across the street and unloaded our belongings. There is a large, permanent, tent to the right of the building. This is where you drop off luggage. There was a rep from Princess there who tagged our bags and loaded them in to a van. We proceeded in to the depot for check-in. We purchased the tickets ahead of time through the Alaska Railroad company website ($30 less per person than the train transfer offered through Princess- same train though). The train leaves Anchorage at 10:00am and arrives in Whittier at 12:05. Great way to travel to the ship as there are only two options- bus or train. The buses are timed due to the tunnel in Whittier being one way and shared by cars & train! It was a beautiful two hour ride along the coast, winding around the mountain edges.
Caution- Whittier is rainy and foggy more frequently than not! We emerged from the tunnel in Whittier and could barely see the ship even though it wasn't far in front of us. We came prepared with good rain coats. It never poured, just a constantly heavy drizzle ALL DAY.
Coral Princess- I'd have to say it was a great ship but certain things are in desperate need of dry-docking! The material paneling inside the stateroom just above the bed/headboard was worn and yellow. I have a picture with my husband and it's almost embarrassing to show... The carpets were worn as well. I could feel that there was no padding left, they were all rather flat and hard under my feet. This made the children who ran down the hall multiple times per day even louder than normal cruise-ship-running-children. Our balcony was rusty- but that's hard to combat being on the water constantly. Otherwise all else was in great shape. The size of the ship was perfect- not too big and not too small. There is a smaller passenger capacity on this ship than most others of the same size. It never felt crowded unless you were looking for a table in Horizon Court at breakfast. Nobody ever sat outside on the Lido deck area due to constant rain throughout this trip and colder than usual temperatures.
This was my first Princess experience. People always talk about Princess Pizza and I always brushed it off and thought- ugh how good can cruise ship pizza really be?!? Okay, I will admit- I was addicted to it. It's real thin crust NY style pizza! We had it many times on this trip. Always hot and delicious!
Service- Everyone was friendly and attentive onboard! Everyone- they all smiled and helped us any time we asked.
I love the layout of the cabin: a closet area with the bathroom being somewhat like a separate area for changing and such. However this was the smallest shower I had ever been in. I am fairly small- short and thin. I did not fit in the shower... I was unable to shave my legs without getting out of the shower completely. Good thing I was in Alaska and wearing long pants all the time ;)
Sabatini's- I had no idea what I was in for. The food was amazing- and so much of it! It was a 15 course meal. Go hungry- Skip lunch that day! It's worth it in the end. We didn't heed the advice of the waitress that booked us and I couldn't even look at my meal once it came. I was completely stuffed!
Our first stop was Skagway- we chose to go to a Musher's Camp there. Fabulous experience. We booked both excursions through the ship because we couldn't find anything similar on the independent tour companies. After the Musher's Camp we had lunch at Skagway Brewing and walked around the small town.
Juneau- We had scheduled a Helicopter tour to a glacier with an hour hike on the glacier. We toured Juneau on our own for a few hours in the morning then went to the shore excursion guides at the end of the dock. Bad news- 90% of the flightseeing excursions were cancelled due to fog that day. I was very upset as this was to be the highlight of our trip. We went to the Princess booth at the end of the dock and asked to be sure that our tour would not be charged to the bill. The lady was amazingly helpful and said that she was not going to let us walk away unhappy. She searched through the excursion log and called up another company to arrange for us to go on a helicopter ride. Era Flightseeing hadn't cancelled any of their tours because they fly to a different glacier and this was in the direction away from the fog and rain! She immediately assigned us to that tour :) After all was said and done- you can't go to Alaska without taking a helicopter ride to a glacier!! Greatest experience of my life :) I was very happy that the Princess Shore Excursion rep quickly fixed that glitch.
Ketchikan- We chose not to do a tour here. We printed out maps of the city and chose to venture out on our own. This was the most disappointing day of all. First we went to Saxman Totem Park. In all honesty I wouldn't recommend it. It's about the size of a basketball court or two. They charge $5 to walk on the property. The local bus only comes once an hour. This left us waiting for 55 minutes because it takes 5 minutes to explore. There was no dance show, no carving show, and nobody explain anything on this day. A big let down. Once we got back in to town we walked through Creek Street and then basically back to the ship.
Onboard Activities- I don't know if this was because it was Alaska and it tends to have an older crowd or if all Princess cruises are like this. We found few things to do onboard that met our interests. It was always too cold and rainy to ever use Movie Under the Stars. The "nightclub" didn't play music we could really get in to. There was a lot of ballroom dancing- which is great if you know what you're doing! We did enjoy Ceramics @ Sea. We started our pieces on the first sea day, they told us it would be offered throughout the week so we could finish it when we please. But the only other time it was offered was when we were on the helicopter in Juneau! We got our pieces back on Friday afternoon and they looked like junk because we didn't get a chance to finish :( I enjoyed the lectures, but my husband did not. He can't stay focused and fell asleep on my shoulder during the first one. I didn't make him come back to the others with me. We found ourselves back in our cabin on most nights watching the scenery go by and watching movies. There was a good selection of channels and we found a new movie to watch each night.
Dining- We chose anytime dining and never had a wait. Service was not as personal as on other cruises, but we realize that is because we had anytime and there isn't time to make a connection when there is a different waiter each evening. The buffet was great- a lot of very unique options. We didn't feel like we were eating at all the other cruise ship buffets!
Cabin- We had a category BA on the Caribe deck. Loved the balcony!! Loved the "closet" for our clothes. Smallest shower I have ever been in. Plenty of TV channels. Good movie selections on the TV. We spent a lot of time in the cabin because we had a great balcony and there were two whole days of scenic cruising.
Passenger Mix- There were many people older than us, which is what we expected. There were few to none in our age group. There were A LOT of families with children. A total shocker to me. This was a very expensive trip and I was truly surprised that people spent even more to bring huge families. This was the first cruise I had been on in which kids were unruly. 80% (or so) were well behaved. But there was a decent sized group of kids that ran down the halls multiple times per day. One kid used the ship's rail and Lotus pool as his monkey bars. The staff onboard kept asking him to stop and the parents completely ignored the behavior and requests from the staff. I am not here to complain about children- I teach elementary school, so I am totally used to child behavior. I just expected something different on this ship/ itinerary.
In Vancouver we opted for the Sky Train to get to the airport. $2.50 per person to get from Canada Place to the airport. Great deal :)