My wife and I have sailed to or from Alaska nine times since 1996. You can easily conclude that it is our favorite cruise. We have journeyed on ships from four different cruise lines. There are things we have liked about each one. We chose the particular thirteen night cruisetour that went from July 30 to August 12 because Princess made an offer that was irresistible. We had gone with Princess once before in 2002. It was not not quite on par with some of our previous cruises; but we had read positive reviews on Cruise Critic for the Coral Princess, so we took it. We were pleasantly surprised.
There were some things that could were rather average, such as the buffet and the service in the dining rooms. Furthermore, the ship itself is showing a little wear and tear. However, the rest of the experience was wonderful enough to entice us back.
You might ask why anyone would cruise to Alaska nine different times. Of course, my first response is to ask why someone would sail to the Caribbean year after year. We go because we love what Alaska has to offer. It's not just a bunch of water with a few ports sprinkled in. It's something to see virtually all the time. We love whales, sea otters, seals, porpoises, eagles, glaciers, towering mountains, thundering waterfalls, bears, moose, caribou, etc., etc.--not to mention cooler weather! Again, we saw all of the above on this cruise. Throw in two days at heavenly McKinley Princess lodge where the mountain was in perfect view, plus a rare gray wolf walking beside our bus in Denali for a five full minutes, and it was quite the trip. I have always been amused by people who complain that they saw no whales on their cruise. After probing the matter further, I have typically discovered that they basically expected the whales to jump up right outside their balcony while they were sipping coffee. Good things come to those who watch...and watch...and watch! And good things came to us on this cruise. In a 55 minute span one afternoon, we saw 11 humpbacks from our balcony--just to give one of many possible examples.
Of course, that kind of thing can be experienced on any Alaska cruise. Why do I say that our sailing on the Coral Princess was such a pleasant surprise? here goes:
1. The captain clearly loved Alaska, and clearly loved Glacier Bay and College Fjord, and he made sure we got the most out of the hours there.
2. The naturalist was the best we have ever had. She was alert to wildlife, very-well prepared for her presentations, and very approachable.
3. Our stateroom steward was the most courteous and attentive we have had in over ten years.
4. The entertainment, which has not always been rated highly on this ship, was some of the best we have enjoyed in 16 total sailings. The magician was incredible; the show with Adrian Zmed was top shelf; and the production shows with the singers and dancers were simply excellent.
5. The ship really doesn't feel crowded. Enough of the rooms had families in them on our sailing that they reported over 2,100 passengers. Yet, we always had ample elbow room and got our food immediately in the Horizon Court. There were always chairs with good views available.
6. Embarkation, debarkation, and getting on and off at each port was smooth and simple, and the people were very courteous at the security area.
7. You were given all the time you needed at each port to get a full experience.
8. The captain truly sailed the inside passage and not a pseudo-inside passage where you are basically out to sea for much of your first full day at sea.
All in all, I'd sure encourage someone to give this cruise a shot, so long as the captain, the naturalist, and the cruise director remain with the Coral Princess. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!