I live in the NYC area so I flew into San Francisco and stayed 4 nights in San Francisco. As many have told me over the years, San Francisco is really a lovely city. I did hop on and off tours, strolled around (up those STEEP hills) and then visited Yosemite in a day (it was one long drive but worth it). I also visited Muir Woods and the Sonoma Wine area. Four day went way too fast. I must return!
I am happy to report that boarding in San Francisco, on this particular sailing, was a breeze! I got to the ship around 11:30 and was on a little after 11:45am in my room! I loved the way Princess had embarkation organized. When we boarded the ship, they had elevators waiting for passengers with a crew member in the elevator operating them. There was no chaos because of this and in no time we were in our cabin.
I booked a guarantee category HH obstructed view room. I was never assigned a room before time but the day before I called Princess and they gave me my assignment. My cabin was D339 on the Dolphin Deck with an obstructed view. I believe this stateroom was a category GG. The room was positioned in such a way that I had a fairly nice view! The cabin was on the small side but what cruise cabin isn't except for suites, of course. The only negative feature about this cabin was that it was across from a crew access area and we heard doors opening and closing almost all the time. Luckily it didn't keep us up and it really didn't bother me but for some it may be an issue. The cabin had a minibar, one outlet, hairdryer and a flat screen TV. Overall, it was a clean and comfortable cabin - what else can you ask for?
The food on board was mediocre to good.
The Horizon Court had buffet fare. The buffet food was decent though I thought the selection, while plentiful, lacked a bit. Hard to explain, but something was missing. Nevertheless I had breakfast and lunch here as well as some dinners.
The Riviera Grill offers hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, fries. I had some lunches here and everything seemed fresh. The grill is open until 7pm so you can have dinner here if you can brave the chill!
There are two main dining rooms: The Triviata (traditional 2 seatings) and the Rigoletto (anytime) I ate in the MDR a few nights. I had anytime dining and unfortunately on my sailing, or possibly this ship, anytime dining was really difficult. The 1st night I could not get in at all and the other nights were hard as well. Turns out you can't reserve a table for 2 only larger tables (4 and up). On other lines, like Royal Caribbean, you can pre-reserve your table for 2. Little bit of a let-down but what can you do. The hostess at the Rigoletto Dining Room was a nice as could be and tried accommodating us some nights. Other nights were just too busy. I had 5 dinners in the MDR. Later in the cruise I found if we showed up after 8pm there was a little wait (like 5 -10 minutes) or we got right in. Otherwise one night we went to the dining room at 10 to seven waited 1 and ½ hours to eat.
Now we could have shared a table, that would have solved our problem, however we did not want to do that. While I, nor my partner, is anti-social we just wanted to dine as a couple. Based on some past experiences we enjoy our own company for dinner. Nevertheless, Since Princess states in their promotional material that anytime dining affords you the ability to eat when and with whomever you feel, I believe Princess should deliver on this statement. Maybe they should be more diligent on the number of people they assign anytime dining to or maybe they need to reconfigure the dining room. NCL and RCI, I notice, have many tables for 2 that the dining staff push together to make tables for 4. This gives them greater flexibility. Maybe Princess should consider this.
Cafe Corniche was the pizza restaurant which was a great spot and kudos to Princess for not charging a fee for this venue. The pizzas where great and we had 2 or 3 dinners here.
There is also the Sterling Steakhouse which is actually part of the Horizon Court. They section off a part of the Horizon Court and create a steakhouse. They charge a $20 or $25 per person surcharge to eat there. One family I spoke with didn't care for it but I did not eat here so I can't speak about it.
I did not attend the shows as I don't particularly care for that type of entertainment however I did see the quartet show and enjoyed the illusionist. I attended some nature lectures by the naturist Alan Kortash, but personally the naturist seemed like he was talking down to people. I gave up on his lectures! Maybe it was just me. I even went to a navigational lecture given by an officer and he was a little snarky too! Maybe it was his humor? Otherwise activities seemed to pick-up as the cruise went on. I felt the first few sea days seemed to be a little more sedate but then I found some fun things to do. Ultimately, my most favorite activity was sitting on the promenade deck listing to the sea against the ship. Thankfully, the Sea Princess has a wraparound traditional promenade deck - something that seems to be disappearing on the new builds.
Alaska is beautiful. I cruised Alaska 10 years ago with my family so I knew what to expect but still seeing it a second time was not enough, I want to go back. The scenery is wonderful and inspiring. Our cruise called in Juneau, Sitka, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Victoria. In Juneau I did Mt. Roberts Tramway and Mendenhall Glacier. Sitka I went on a Sea Otter & wildlife Boat Tour and saw a bear among many other things. Skagway I went on the White Pass Rail up to the Yukon and in Victoria I went to see Butchart Gardens. All the excursions were great. My favorite excursions were the Mendenhall Glacier and the White Pass Rail.
On my last Alaska cruise I visited Hubbard Glacier. On this sailing I got to see Glacier Bay and it was great. We got up close to the Margerie Glacier - what a site. We were very lucky in Juneau, Skagway and Victoria the weather was sunny and warm. In Sitka and Glacier Bay it was cold and cloudy with some drizzle - the usual Alaska weather. Remember if you are going to Alaska dress in layers.
On this sailing the 1st port of call was Juneau. We were set to dock at 1pm but the captain (the day before) informs us that because of strong currents we would arrive Juneau 2 hours late. Then days later, the day before our call in Victoria, the captain stated that we would be 3 hours late to Victoria because one of the four engines was not working. As a result, we arrived Victoria around 11am and left an hour late at 3pm. Barely got to see Victoria however Princess/Carnival Corp flew in a tech from Miami to Victoria they fixed the engine and we were able to make it back to San Francisco relatively on-time. We arrived San Francisco a little over an hour late because we left Victoria an hour later. I guess it was the engine problem all along and it wasn't currents that delayed us at our first port? Whatever the case maybe Princess gave us a 10% discount on our Victoria shore excursion because it was cut short and Princess also gave a $50 per person OBC. I think that was a generous act of good will on Princess's part.
The service on board was mediocre to good. Some crew went out of the way while others seemed bothered by the passengers being there. One crew member giving out plates in the Horizon Court kept shouting out how he hated his life while handing out the breakfast plates! On the other side of the coin I know dealing with people isn't fun. I was a travel agent for 10 years and some clients where not easy to deal with. Imagine working on a ship - you can't even leave the difficult people! Overall, my stateroom steward Dixon was very good and the hostess in the Rigoletto Dining Room was too cute - I never got her name!
Disembarkation was rather painless despite us being a little over an hour late. We had to vacate cabin by 8:30am but our stateroom steward allowed us to leave our bags in there while we ate breakfast. Got off the ship around 9:45ish. Baggage was grouped by color and while it was poky at the San Francisco Terminal all was kept organized and we boarded the Princess transfer bus to SFO. End of another great trip!
Despite some reviews I have read about how the Sea Princess is worn she seemed to be looking good to me. Is she a new ship? No. So there was some wear and tear but nothing significant in my opinion. She is an attractive nicely sized ship. Her interiors in my opinion are classy yet subdued. Now I will sound like a cruising snob, but nothing stood out to me in regards to food, service or even ship design nevertheless I did enjoy my cruise on the Sea Princess. I would return to Princess if they had an itinerary that I enjoyed or maybe to sail a new ship (like the Royal Princess) but I guess my expectations were just a little higher for Princess and found it was a little bit of a let-down (not that it was unenjoyable by any means). I thought the service and food would be similar to other premium cruise lines like Holland America, Celebrity and even Disney but it wasn't. Nevertheless, I am sure I will cruise Princess again and if you want to see Alaska a leisurely way, with many days at sea, on a human scaled ship then you will have a wonderful time on the Sea Princess.