I had been advised to cruise with Princess because they "did" Alaska the best. I must say I agree. This was our first Cruise with Princess and we were favorably impressed. We found it to be less of a party atmosphere than other cruises we have been on.
We stayed in a balcony room on the Lido deck port side. The room was very clean and nicely appointed, not really different from other balcony rooms we have stayed in. We certainly used our balcony quite a bit to watch the scenery and wildlife. The balcony was covered, which is nice when it rained. The only drawback was we did hear people walking on the deck above the balcony occasionally, however, it was nice to be so close the the pool and eating areas on the Lido deck. It didn't matter much which side of the ship your balcony room was on, as the ship turns around in the fjords and ports so that you eventually end up seeing what was on the other side. Our cabin steward was excellent, very friendly and pleasant.
We thought the food was slightly better on this cruise than others we have been on. We were so busy we usually ate at the Horizon court buffet, poolside grill or pizza spot. We chose anytime dining but only visited one of the regular dining rooms (Pacific Moon) one night. We especially enjoyed all the fresh seafood they served. Several afternoons, there were special buffets in mid-afternoon set up by the pools. The service of the food staff was excellent. Be advised that antibacterial lotion is offered at the entrance of all dining rooms and buffets, manned by waitstaff, who make sure everyone uses it before entering. Hand sanitation is a real priority, and they remind you often.
We enjoyed the Princess theater shows, especially the comedians and illusionist. The entertainment staff was very good and there is a great variety of things to do. We did Movies Under the Stars some nights,and you are provided with blankets to stay warm under.
We chose to fly into Fairbanks. It was unusually rainy for Fairbanks while we were there. We stayed in Wedgewood Resorts Bear Lodge. It is a little older hotel than we usually stay in, but was very clean and nicely done. The service staff was very good and very friendly. There is a restaurant on site, and the gift shop has a snack bar that serves desserts, sandwiches and some breakfast items as well as candy and snacks. We ate at the dining room only once for a breakfast buffet which was very good but pricey. The snack bar was good and much more affordable but there are few places to sit. The resort itself has many things to see and do. There is an antique car museum and wildlife observatory. While in Fairbanks, we took the Wedgewood resort free trolley to many spots in Fairbanks, such as museums, downtown, Pioneer Park and shopping areas. There is a wonderful Migratory Bird Sanctuary there, however, the birds have been slow in coming this year, so we didn't see much. We chose to take a late evening Hummer tour, which was great fun, but unfortunately, we weren't able to see much except the Alaskan Pipeline because it was so unusually foggy and rainy. Our guide was awesome.
The next day we took the Princess train to Denali National Park. We ate breakfast on the train, on the second story observation car. The food was great, especially the reindeer sausage. There is a bar on board and a guide who was great!
Once in Denali, we stayed at the Princess Wilderness Lodge. It was beautiful, with great rooms, views and food! There is a free trolley to take you anywhere on the property. There are several great restaurants, even a pizza spot and coffee bars. Service was excellent.
We took the Denali Back-country tour through Shoretrips.com. This tour gives you a school bus ride thru the park all the way to the end of the road in Kashtina. We had a wonderful driver who had lots of information on the park. We saw grizzlies, moose, caribou, eagles and a fox. The scenery is unbelievably beautiful. There are several pit stops at Park visitor areas and snacks and drinks are provided. A delicious lunch is served at the Kashtina Roadhouse ( there are awesome cabins there too). It really does take all day to do this tour, but well worth it. We had heard from several other guests how good the trails and hiking are there in the park. We also did Canyon Run whitewater rafting thru Shoretrips on the nearby Neanana River. The water is 32 degrees, so they put you in dry suits, which really do keep you dry, but be sure to wear really warm clothing and socks underneath it. We went through Class 2, 3 and 4 rapids. What a blast! Our guides were so awesome!
The next day, we went by bus to Whitter, where we met the ship. For lunch, we stopped in Anchorage, where we could go wherever we wanted for lunch. We chose to go the the Captain Cook hotel and had an excellent seafood lunch. Afterwards, we went to a great street fair held on Saturdays in Anchorage. Our bus driver was very friendly and informative. Embarkation was fast and effortless.
The next day we visited Hubbard Glacier. There was a naturalist on board who broadcasts from the bridge on wildlife sightings. I don't get cold easily but it would be wise to bring a substantial waterproof coat and waterproof shoes, hat and gloves if you plan to be out on the deck for wildlife viewing in the glacial areas! The rest of the time, we wore polar fleece jackets with a rain shell if needed. The next day, we visited Glacier Bay. Park rangers board the boat, and have presentations and wildlife viewing. Bring your really good binoculars and long lens cameras. We saw puffins, whales, harbor seals and dolphins.
After visiting Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, we left the ship in beautiful Vancouver. We had transfers to the airport, and debarkation is a little slower than doing it yourself, but not too tedious.