Embarkation: I dropped everyone and luggage off curbside; easy, excellent drop-off on the right-hand side of the Embarcadero. Recommend avoiding the beginning of the drop-off zone; go around towards the end where fewer cars are. The Princess-recommended parking garage was professional, reasonably priced ($12/day) and only a two-block walk from the pier. We arrived about an hour after boarding began and there was no wait from curbside to onboard.
Ship: The Sea Princess, like all Princess ships I’ve been on so far, was beautiful and elegant; well-suited for an Alaska cruise with plenty of outdoor rail space to enjoy super-natural sights. I noticed constant maintenance going on around the ship; painting, polishing, laying new carpet, etc. It wasn’t in perfect condition; however, it was clear the crew was working hard to keep it in good shape. The maintenance staff was always friendly as we’d walk by.
Cuisine: Having read several bad reviews regarding the Horizon Court buffet over the last few months, I had cautious expectations. I was pleased to find the Horizon Court cuisine in good order. There was no problem finding adequate amounts of fresh, well-spiced choices. I believe the ship was at or near its capacity for passengers, which meant the busy buffet line often had us feeling like salmon vying for space upstream. For the freshest servings, I recommend avoiding the buffet for the first half-hour and last hour of each service. The varying curries were especially delicious. Dining room (Rigoletto, freestyle) selections were reliably delicious, and, the choice and gravitas of the dishes increased as the cruise progressed. If you’re going to pass up the dining room, it’s better to do it in the first days rather than the last. The traditional lobster tail entree on the second formal night was the highlight (as it usually is for me!). The biggest disappointment was the Sterling Steakhouse carved out of a third of the Horizon Court seating area each evening. The setting, service, steak and menu were of little added value. Having visited several “pay extra” restaurants on cruises before, this experience was the least memorable and should be overhauled. The “Cafe’ Corniche” was a big hit and a great place to enjoy a light pizza (yes, there is such a thing!). The Cafe’ was often packed, so, a technique is to order a pizza (or more) via room service if you’d rather not wait for a table and slower service. Note that there’s a $3 service charge for room service pizza delivery, and, while not clearly stated in the room service menu you can custom order the toppings.
Serving staff: The supervisory staff at all restaurants was professional, friendly and helpful. Our every request was accommodated with a smile. The only area I found lacking was in the wait staff. Since we were in the Anytime Dining section, and, sat in a different section every meal, about 1 in 5 staff members lacked the attitude, attentiveness and professionalism I’ve come to expect on Princess. I’m not sure how or why this was the case; noticeable, but not tragic.
Fun Zone: Having the joy (and challenges) of taking this cruise with my 3-year-old son, it was important for both of us to get some kid and adult time. He became a member of “The Pelicans” (3 to 7-yr-olds) and had a great time. This was mainly due to the very professional, experienced and attentive staff. The first-day stateroom placement of the planned activities for all ten days was very helpful. I’m very grateful Princess does not charge for the Fun Zone, as, it really enhances the enjoyment of the cruise for everyone. The only two things I wish was available were some slides (and other jungle gym equipment) and a toddler pool where he could have had some swim-fun.
Stateroom: We had a budget, inside stateroom which was sufficiently roomy, clean and maintained. The only highlight was the shower which was pleasantly oversized due to its irregular shape. The only negative on the Sea Princess was the lack of US/110v electric outlets. There’s one in the bathroom and one in the room, resulting in a constant change of adapters for shaver, phone, kindle reader, video player (for son), iPod, etc. Next time the Sea Princess is overhauled, more outlets should be installed.
Itinerary: Ours was a near-ideal itinerary: sailing in/out of the San Francisco bay under the Golden Gate bridge, two-days at sea (relax), Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Sitka, day at sea, Victoria, day at sea. The only loss was not getting to see more of the inner passage/coastal areas. The visitation of Glacier Bay was an amazing highlight; well executed by the crew and visiting National Park staff.
Activities: As with most major cruises, there was always more to do than we had time for. From 6AM to midnight you can stay busy doing something (or nothing). If you’re not enjoying your Princess cruise it could only be because you’re not trying! :)
An author, I dropped a paperback copy of my book “Wind to Water” off with the librarian, Maria. I hope she added it to the collection so you can find it there!