Mom, Dad and 18-year old disgruntled son dragged away from electronic devices for a vacation arrived in Vancouver a day before the cruise left, and spent the day sightseeing, shopping and dining. The bellman from our hotel carted our 6 bags (yes, 6, we overpacked) all the way to the Canada Place luggage drop. He got a very nice tip, as did the disabled man handling the luggage on the pier. (We bypassed the unionized longshoremen.)
Princess really has all its logistics under control. Very impressive, very well thought out. Hotel chains could learn some lessons from Princess.
Our mini-suite on the Island Princess seemed very small at first, so I put our name on a list with the purser for an upgrade to a full suite if one became available. (I think she was humoring me, but politely, as the suites were taken.) After we unloaded our 6 bags, I realized that they could all fit under the bed, and voila, plenty of room.
We were located mid-ship in the "bulge". This would seem to be the best location to avoid the ship's motion. The Island Princess is relatively narrow, and swayed side to side in the calm seas leaving Vancouver, probably due to a cross-wind on the tall superstructure. At certain speeds there was a slight two cycle per second shake to the ship, but since we are from California, it felt like a small earthquake which we could ignore easily.
The bow had a lot of motion when we were in the open seas, so we avoided the theatre. The stern had noise and shook, so we avoided the lounge shows in the stern. Too bad, we missed bingo.
We had the 6 pm seating, which turned out to be the right time for us. We sat with a very pleasant couple. We missed about half of our reserved dinners due to shore excursions, but the food at the 24-hour Horizon Court was just fine.
My wife is a retired executive chef, and thought the food quality and food preparation on the ship, with a few exceptions, was very good. The service was uniformly excellent. We were impressed with the ability of the wait staff in Horizon Court to keep things moving and under control.
A minor point was that the buffet lacked caesar salad dressing. But there was a caesar salad station where a cook would make your salad to order. Very nice, except the dressing at this station wasn't on ice and in fact was near hot food.
We are non-smokers, and were gratified that our stateroom had no left over smoke from any prior occupants. There were only a few places on board where the alarming odor of cigarette smoke was noticeable: near the Churchill Lounge, in the Wheelhouse Bar, the Patisserie, and of course the casino. (Casino usually nearly empty, very tight slots.) Several areas on open deck were unobtrusively set aside for smokers, as signalled by the ashtrays provided.
Best drinks were at the Crooners Bar. On days at sea, we played cards and board games in the card room one deck up, and the waiter would come up to provide service. It was like staying at a new luxury hotel.
We went on shore excursions at every port. Probably pricier than doing it yourself, but again, the logistics went smoothly, and if the official Princess excursion is late returning, they will hold the ship. As it was, the ship left the dock a few minutes early at every port. Helped make the point that we had to be on board on time.
Excursions: salmon fishing (slow day); flying to an island to fly-fish for Dolly Varden trout (highlight of the trip); panning for gold; eagle river jet boat trip; and on the way to Anchorage airport, Portage glacier and wildlife rescue visit. Everyone we talked to enjoyed their excursions.
And we had no rain. None. Mostly cloudy and quite windy, but we had sunny afternoons everywhere, including College Fjord.
We'd do this trip again. I'd leave today in fact, and do it all over again.
Our only real gripe was with the aggressive salesmanship of poor quality jewelry and watches. To be fair, it was worse on shore: every port was thick with jewelry stores selling jewelry of uncertain ancestry. So they must be doing good business, and people on these cruises must buy this stuff. Beat's me why.
Wonderful city to visit. Clean, new, plenty of good restaurants, excellent shopping ala Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Take the tram up Grouse Mountain to see the grizzly bears, and dine in one of their restaurants. The food is excellent (it's not ski area food).
Saw very little of Ketchikan. We had a very short stop, and spent almost all of our time on a shore excursion and had to run to get back on board.
Flew on a de Havilland Beaver float plane from the airport to Chichigof Island for fly fishing. Best part of the trip.
Skagway is a wind tunnel. Historically significant with lots of shops selling that imported costume jewelry. Panning for gold was fun, but the gold was salted into our pans so we were guaranteed to get something for our money. The trainride looked interesting. We took a boat to Haines, then a bus 24 miles upstream to a camp from which we took a jet boat tour of the eagle preserve, and saw eagles and a moose.
We had blue sky and no clouds. They told us the weather is usually terrible here. We took a post-cruise tour which went to Portage Glacier and the wildlife rescue center, before going to the airport. I'd recommend this.