The last time I cruised to Alaska was in 1994 on the Regal Princess. We are an older couple in our 60s who were married about four months prior to the cruise. My remembrance of the Regal was all positive and since Diane had never been to Alaska and had never really been on a luxury cruise, we decided to try the Sea Princess out of SF. The trip was selected because of a favorable prior experience with Princess, the fact that it was a round-trip cruise out of an easily accessible city by air (we live in Florida) and most importantly the side trips that were available.
I lived in Alaska for a couple of years so the destinations were familiar territory. However, it was all new to Diane and I wanted her to see wildlife and not tourist havens selling junk. So how did the cruise work out?
First cruising and Alaska have changed rather dramatically. The ship was enjoyable, the food had deteriorated somewhat from the "old days," and the only thing they did not try to sell you were the chandeliers off the ceiling.
It is obvious that accountants and cost centers have taken their toll. The food, while good was certainly not gourmet. However, the service was excellent. They really need to do something about the dress code. Black tie means just that, not sport shirt and slacks with an attitude. Dress was considerably more formal at every meal in the old days.
Our cabin was everything you would expect on a cruise ship without upgrading to a suite.
The side trip I wanted in Juneau was cancelled for a lack of reservations. Diane and I were the only two that signed up. It was a bear trip to a very restricted (24 people per day in season) state sanctuary. Our second choice was booked and we had to settle for our third selection, a whale watching boat ride, which turned out better than expected.
A rafting trip in Haines was done with the same organization I used in 1994, although high water and a lack of eagles (partly due to a poor guide) was a bit of disappointment although I did manage a few good pictures. (Note: I travel with about 40 pounds of camera equipment.)
A bear trip in Ketchikan was superb. Victoria was fine, it is just Victoria. The butterfly gardens are to be recommended but you need more than a half-hour.
Ship's entertainment was again what you would expect on a cruise ship. Las Vegas style on a budget. However, it was entertaining and the comedian was excellent. We bought his CDs.
Would I book with Princess again? Absolutely. In fact we did while we were on the ship. This time a cruise out of England to above the Arctic circle, hopefully to photograph polar bears. It is a smaller ship and likely to be a bit more formal, which is what we are looking for.
One final comment regarding the pictures the ship's photographers take at ever opportunity. They are expensive but worth what you spend. Diane was against purchasing but I overruled. Now she says she is glad we did because they bring back enjoyable memories. Buy as many as you can. You will not regret it six months later.