We took a 10-day Alaska cruise on board the Sea Princess in mid-September 2011. I'm writing from the perspective of a fist-time cruiser and a new parent of a 1-year old son. My wife and I brought him on the cruise, along with a dozen other relatives and extended family members. He was quite the object of attraction for both crew and other passengers, but caring for him in a crowded stateroom was a challenge. No kitchen, dishwasher (hah!), and a bathroom about the size of an airplane stall.
Passengers: average age of 60, and slow-moving. Middle-aged and young people will find themselves stuck behind walkers and wheelchairs, with long waits for elevators.
Embarkation: fine overall. We embarked at Pier 27 in SF, and there was an efficient operation with many parking spaces and porters.
Food: much better than expected. Some of the reviews said the Horizon Court buffet was awful, but I enjoyed it. The pizza restaurant was good, and the burgers were surprisingly More
tasty. The soft-serve ice cream was mediocre. The anytime-dining option at the downstairs restaurant had long wait times except for 5 PM and 8+ PM.
Water: on the first day, the water tasted great. But it seemed to get worse as the cruise went on, so I took to adding a slice of lemon to my water bottle.
Air: the cabin air was driest when we were on the open sea (the first two and last two days).
Beds: were much narrower than twins, and slightly saggy and lumpy.
Seasickness: I wasn't seasick at all, and nor was my toddler. My wife, who once spent a year aboard a hospital ship and has cruised before, was strangely seasick on the open-sea days.
Internet: slow, unreliable, and expensive. $4 one-time registration charge, and 40-70 cents/minute depending on your purchase plan. Fortunately 3G is available near ports, and I found Wi-Fi at these stops:
Juneau: public library (free)
Skagway: Port of Call on 2nd near Broadway ($5/hour)
Ketchikan: Ketchikan Coffee Company, attached to New York Hotel on Stedman St. (Wi-Fi only before 10AM or after 3PM, $5 purchase required for password)
Victoria: cafes with internet were everywhere. I stopped in a cafe on 529pandora which was incidentally the WiFi password.
Laundry: free, but only 2 machines per floor. Not available during certain periods because of environmental regulations. Washer time is 30-60 minutes, but dryers take 2-3 hours, and only run for about 30 minutes before stopping and requiring a button push. Budget a half day each time you want to do laundry.
Ports: monotonous. Every single one had the same stores, owned by the cruise lines. Every street had a dozen jewelry shops.
Playroom: not many kids since school was already in session. Seemed to be well-stocked with activities and video games.
Gym: 2 bikes, 2 recumbent bikes, 5 ellipticals, and 10 treadmills. Plus a few weight machines, dumbbells, and a small aerobics room. I got a fair amount of exercise taking the stairs to skip the elevator (see Passengers above) from our 8th-floor room to the 14th-floor buffet. I took a class on "secrets of a flatter stomach", but it turned out to be a scam sales pitch for algae tablets.
Shows: we saw a show called "Piano Man" which was a song-and-dance mashup of Billy Joel, Elton John, Liberace, and few other pianist-singers I don't remember. It was cheesy and fun. The dancing was not perfectly synchronized, but impressive considering how much the ship was swaying. We saw bits of a Country-Western variety music show, and a show featuring selections from Broadway musicals, neither of which were very good.
Excursions: I didn't go on any, but my wife and other family members did. They were all expensive compared to booking them in town locally.
Communication: it was hard to reach other members in our party because cell phones didn't work in cabins most of the time, except when docked in port. We could call their rooms, but couldn't find them if they were at dinner or another part of the ship.
Disembarkation: we were supposed to be out of our rooms by 8:30AM, but the steward was nice and had no problems when we ran late in packing up. We were scheduled to meet in one of the restaurants at 9:50 to disembark, and we began lining up to the exit by 10:05. Finding our luggage was easy, but getting the car from the long-term lot to the pier took a while. We were on the road by 11:15.
We brought too much of: clothes, books, DVD's, baby toys.
We should have brought: a humidifier, another booklight, a nightlight, a mitten-holder to keep toys from being thrown on the ground, address labels for disembarkation forms, and a nanny to take care of the baby. Less