With an unusually cold winter in Alaska, we decided to do our first cruise. I wasn't sure how the bidding wars went on websites, so I did the safe thing and booked directly with Princess. They were great to work with and answered any questions I had along the way. We booked the shuttle pickup at Miami (that's where Alaska Airlines lands) with Princess & were picked up right away and taken to the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Hotel (associated with Princess). We had a wonderful beach view and nice infinity pool to swim in and beach walks along the sand--to get us unwound from the -60 temps we came from.
We were loaded on a bus and embarkation went very quickly, hardly a line. Then we were on our first cruise ship! Our Mini-suite was a good space. My 6'1" husband could stretch out on the couch, had a coffee table and a chair. The balcony had very nice reclining chairs with stools that we used quite a bit. For this trip, our Dolphin Port side cabin was great to watch the ports of call come by us. Beautiful views off our balcony. The bathroom had plenty of space to store the necessities on shelves and under the sink. The closet and shelves for clothes, again, plenty of space and I had 2 huge suitcases of clothes (and one for shoes :) George, our room steward, came and went cleaning up and adding towels and ice. He served us a glass of champagne when we arrived and quietly did a great job all week. All staffing we saw and talked to said a friendly hello and some stopped to chat a little.
Went to a Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. It was so nice seeing the folks who had been on the chat board. Nice folks and some of the crew was in attendance. Thanks Barb for setting this up!
We had anytime dining and really liked it. We ate each night at Michael Angelos. On the first night we had Bebe, our head waiter. He was wonderful for me, as I have severe shrimp, crab, lobster allergies and have a very difficult time dining with cross contamination in the kitchens. Bebe worked with me each meal and I didn't have one allergy issue! He suggested wonderful wine and the food was always good. I wouldn't say excellent, but very good. We also had Pizza at Alfredo's and it was excellent.
We loved the deli with the desserts and had tea served to us in the Atrium in the evenings. Internet access was sooooo slow. I bought a package, but was so annoyed with it, didn't use it all.
Entertainment was quite good. It has to be difficult to put on a production like they do. Billy Hygate was the Cruise Director and his sidekick Dave, I think. Both were a lot of fun.
As far as bands, Opus played the Sail Away, which was fun on deck. Opus was a great party band with great songs. We went to a deck party and tons of people were dancing, went to a 50's/60's dance in Explorers and they had everybody dancing. Just made for a great time and we haven't danced for a few years.
Last stop was Princess Cays. I thought we'd be bored, but we got a clam shell (get one!) and laid in the shade and cooled off in the water all day. It was a nice day to end our trip.
Overall, cruising is different than what we are use to. We fly and drive all over the place (Europe, New Zealand, Hawaii, etc) I probably won't be the once a year cruiser, but I will definitely cruise again.