My DH, 2 DS ( ages 9 and 8) and myself recently returned from our first cruise. I have to admit that it was fabulous! We sailed the Coral Princess from Vancouver to Alaska and it met or exceeded our expectations in every way. We booked our hotels and the cruise through a travel agent whom was recommended to use as a large percentage of her business is Princess cruises. As for our air travel, we did our own research and booked that on our own. Given that this was our first cruise, we took our TA's advise and arrived in Vancouver early. We actually arrived 2 days early, on June 16, which, was my younger son's 8th birthday. Our flight on Alaskan Air from SFO to Vancouver was uneventful (the best kind) and we made it through customs in about 15 minutes. We then got a cab from the airport to take us to our hotel, the Marriott Pinnacle in downtown Vancouver. The hotel was very nice and we enjoyed our stay there alot. As we were checking in, my 8 year old asked the woman checking us in if she knew what was special about today. When she had no clue, my DS told her that it was his birthday. She then asked us if we would be in our room for a while, which we told her that we needed to go for dinner, so she offered to have a piece of cake sent up for his birthday at 7:30 giving us enough time to go for a quick bite. We thought that was very nice. Well, about 7:40, room service shows up with: 2 bottles of water, 2 chocolate chip cookies, 2 brownies, 2 gelatin type candies and 4 chocolate covered strawberries! It really made my son's day! We were really appreciative of there gesture. This was pretty much the attitude for the duration. My DH is allergic to feathers, and Marriott uses feather pillows and duvets. When called, they were at our room in a couple minutes changing everything for him. The Marriott was also a bit on the pricey side, but it also included full buffet breakfast. At first we were told for only my DH and myself, BUT the maitre'd checked for us and told us that the kids were free as well.
OK, Saturday, our full day in Vancouver. We first walked down to Canada Place as we wanted to show the kids a cruise ship as they were not sure what to expect. We then spent the day in Stanley Park. If you ever have the opportunity to go there, it is definitely worth the time--make sure you see the totem poles. Unfortunately, after 5 hours of walking, we were a bit too tired to do the aquarium. Monday, we checked out of our hotel and made our way to Canada Place. My first impression of the Coral was "wow" it was much prettier than the ship we saw the day before. Boarding did not take more than 20 minutes from the time we got in line to go through security until we were on the ship. We found our mini-suite easily and met our steward, Ramon. Ramon was very helpful and already had the 2 twins converted to a queen for us. He also added the egg crate to our bed. We then went up to the Horizon for lunch, which was good. Afterwards, the 4 of us walked around a got our bearings. My DH kept annoying me because I told him we set sail at 4:30, and when it didn't happen, he kept asking me when. (I told him to go ask the captain). We then went for an early dinner as we had anytime dining, which I really enjoyed, especially with the kids!
Tuesday, the ride was a bit rough. My poor 8 year old was a bit green until I have him some Dramamine then he was fine. My 9 yo did not have any issues. Tuesday the kids started going to the funzone and absolutely loved it!!! They asked to go all the time. On the last day of the cruise they even got a visit from the captain. The funzone was not just a place to play video games, but they had a lot of activities for the as well, including a junior ranger program and dinner with their friends one evening. Throughout the cruise, we ended up eating most of our lunches and all of our dinners in the dining room, but only 1 breakfast in the dining room. We really liked the Horizon court for breakfast, especially the made to order omelettes. As for the dining room food, it was good, some food was better than others. I think that the children's menu could have included something like mac and cheese or cold sandwiches, but this is more because a little more variety on a 7 day cruise would have been nice. As for entertainment, the comedian was ok. My DH and I spent some time in the casino and played bingo one afternoon. I really enjoyed the country night. We even took the kids swimming in the lotus pool, which was very nice. Ports. Well, Ketchikan it rained most of the day. We didn't have any organized tour scheduled so we hired a cab for 2 hours and he took us to the rainforest and Totem Bight State Park. The rainforest was ok, nice views, but the kids especially liked the totems. There was a tour guide with a group, and she invited us to join her in the clan house to hear her talk. We thought that was very nice. We also got to see some bald eagles and a deer. When we got back to town, we were looking for a totem pole for my 9 yo, which we eventually found one to his liking. The next day was Juneau. We walked around all morning, it is an interesting town, and headed back to the ship for lunch. After lunch, we went on a whale watching excursion (ship sponsored). My 9yo was a little bored as he wanted more action. My DH, 8 yo and myself really enjoyed it. We even had one juvenile whale perform for us for about 20 minutes. During this trip, we also saw bears and sealions. The naturalist was very knowledgeable and very approachable.
The next day we were in Skagway. Again, we walked around the town before returning to the ship for lunch. After lunch, we took a helicopter/glacier walkabout tour. This was absolutely amazing! The 4 of us absolutely loved this. The only thing that could have been better on this was our pilot was fairly new there and he set us down in an area which did not give us a lot of walking space, other than that, it was fantastic.
The next 2 days, we went through Glacier Bay and College Fjords. We were lucky enough to see a calving glacier twice. Unfortunately, apparently there were some prime whale viewing which my DH and I missed as the ocean put us right to sleep. I guess we had too much fun!
Once we disembarked in Whittier, we took the Princess bus to Anchorage. I think that the customer service there was not as knowledgeable as it could have been. However, if I went outside to where Princess reps were unloading passengers, they were much more helpful. That night we stayed at the Voyager hotel. It definitely was not the Marriott, but it was clean and a large room. We did not have a car, so we walked to the visitor center and caught a shuttle to the ulu factory. From there we walked to a mushing show. If you are in Anchorage, especially with kids, this is well worth the trip! It is put on by a family whose grandfather helped develop the first Iditorod and most of the family is competing to this day. After the show, you were able to go back and pet and hold baby musher pups. The next day, we returned to California and I am so ready to go again!