This was my first cruise with Princess; I have sailed with Carnival and NCL in the past. We traveled from Las Vegas to Seattle on the morning of the cruise, we were on the Golden Princess 5/9/09 sailing for Alaska. I had arranged for Shuttle Express for the R/T to and from Pier 91 and found the service to be just fine and the price great, I would recommend them to anyone looking for reasonable transportation to and from the Pier. We did arrive around 930 am and did not have the return flight until 345 on the return leg so we allowed plenty of time and did not feel rushed.Embarkation: I would say that when you travel that patience is a virtue, and if people would just relax things would go a lot smoother, the lines we not clearly defined when you were outside and when they took your baggage that was not done well, the lines for check in itself were fine, we did throw the agent a curve because we did not have our passports, since we were before the June 1st deadline, we decided to wait to get them at a later date, the agent did not know how to check us in, but she was very nice. We then waited to board the ship, but the lines again were not defined. The whole process took about 1 1/2 hours and I was still impressed that for the first day at that pier that Princess did so well, everyone was very courteous even though people were complaining, I look at this way, what's the hurry? The food and your cabin will be there when you get on board!!Cabin: we had a balcony cabin on the Caribe deck Forward Starboard side, and it was my first balcony and I don't think that I could ever go back to anything else now! I could not believe the storage space! More than you could use and I packed way too much!! We faxed in a request for an egg crate topper and extra pillows and both were there, however the bed had not been replaced and it was in a sad way, very hard and lumpy and sagging in the middle, we asked our cabin steward for another topper (The one that was on the bed was a thin piece of foam, not and egg crate) and some more pillows and robes, and everything was there when we returned a few hours later. The new flat panels TVs are very nice, you just need to learn the trick to the remote, hold at an angle and hold down the buttons, when you turned on the bridge cam channel they had beautiful relaxing music playing and we found that very nice sometimes to have on softly in the background. I can't really comment on the TV channels, sometimes we had a lot, sometimes we lost the signal, but there were always movies to watch, and who cares if you can't get the TV?Our air conditioning did not work well at all, and after we told the room steward and nothing was done the first day, we just left the balcony door open after that and enjoyed the cool ocean air and the sound of the waves against the ship, if we were in a hotter climate it would have been a problem. There was also loud gurgling rumbling sounds coming from the bathroom wall behind the toilet 24 hours a day, I think it must has been a huge water heater for the floor, or a main pipe that ran behind that wall, it was annoying and there was an occasional faint sewer smell that came from the bathroom, but I brought bath spray and again having the balcony door open the sound of the waves drowned out the gurgling pipes.At one point when the cabin steward was making up the room and we were out on the balcony and the wind vortex was so strong from having the cabin and balcony door open at the same time it pulled up our ceiling by the cabin door 3-4 inches- that was kind of scary, but one call to the pursers desk and the head housekeeper was there in ten minutes and she said she would call the carpenters. I wasn't sure what that meant, but when we came back from our shore excursions, the ceiling was fixed!!!
The fridge did a good job of keeping everything cold, and light switches by the bed were very convenient, also the dimmers on the bedside lamps were a nice touch. The bathroom amenities of Lotus Spa products were very nice if you enjoy eucalyptus scent, and our room steward refilled them with new ones anytime we used even a little bit of the products.
Activities and shows: we did not participate in a lot of these, we were more into the food, the relaxing on our balcony and the beauty of Alaska and the ports, and to be honest, when you live in Las Vegas, it really would not be fair for me to judge the shows since we have some of the best entertainment and shows in the world, but we did enjoy the Galley tour and our Meet and Greet with all the fellow members of this board. Also the Champagne waterfall was very nice and I did not expect to have appetizers and Champagne passed out during the first formal, which was very enjoyable.Service: I thought that Princess Service was fantastic; we had anytime dining and found that after a couple days we found a waiter we really enjoyed and asked for a table in his section every night, it was never a problem and we took care of him and his assistant at the end of the week. Most all of the employees were very courteous and treated us with respect and graciousness all week.I did have a problem when I lost my cruise card the second to the last day and had to wait in a 45 min line to get it replaced, I was very grateful that no one used it and that our cabin was fine, but I had also picked up a copy of our charges and found an inaccurate charge and they made me wait in that line all over again to have the charge removed, oh well, could have been much worse!
Dining: One of my favorite parts of the cruise!! We thought that the food was wonderful every night, I loved the medallions of beef and all the fish was great, I have never had a warm soufflE' before this cruise and now I'm hooked, wow they were good!! The Crab, Lobster, everything I thought was very well done; we ate in the dining room every night and the horizon court for breakfast every morning. The Belgium waffles that were being made fresh at breakfast were yummy.I noticed in the Horizon court that all kinds of flavors of tea and coffee were available all the time, and on deck throughout the ship they had hot chocolate almost always. And whatever you do, try the pizza!! That was our favorite spot, the crust is thin and the sauce spicy and it was great!! They did not however have a sail away seafood buffet as I have heard they do on some ships, and the International Cafe did not have the Chocolate fondue I have heard about either, but the fresh mozzarella tomato and basil Panini was very good. The Crown Grill was not open yet so we skipped the old steak house in the Horizon court.
The ship: we thought that it was beautiful, very elegant and tastefully done, the Piazza was one of our favorite places to be, they had a string quartet and a grand piano player and a juggler that were all very entertaining, the pools and Jacuzzis were nice, but they were closed a lot of the time. We really liked Sky walkers lounge, beautiful view during the day and 80's neon lighting at night, very cool. It was like being on a new ship, the new cabins, Crown grill and Chapel were not opened yet, but the construction was kept at a minimum. The ship was very clean.
In Juneau we took the whale watch tour with Alaska galore tours, they are the ones in the Tour saver book, and I have mixed reviews about them, the ship was very small and there were only 6 of us, but not enough space for all of us to sit down, the boat did have a bathroom and the captain was very welcoming. However between the small boat and rough water it made for a very rough ride, it felt like we were airborne a couple times and even when we were just floating along it made it impossible to take pictures of the whales, I did get good video however. I'm not sure if I would tour with them again, last time I went with Orca enterprises and I think I prefer a slightly larger ship. That's just MHO. We had the driver drop us off at Mendenhall Glacier and it was a spectacular sunny day and the glacier was beautiful, we went up into the visitor center but did not have time to walk to the water fall, we then took the blue bus for $7 pp back to the port and used the Tour saver coupon for the Tram- They didn't even know about the coupon and we had to wait while they called a couple people to verify that it could be used, but they accepted it, and wow what a view it is!! We loved it up there, we played in the snow and saw the Eagle that they rescued and nursed back to health that was shot twice by some jerk. I would highly recommend all the attractions that we went to if time permits. We also managed a small amount of shopping.
First off Princess was docked farthest from town and if walking is any kind of problem take the shuttle bus, $2 each way or a $5 pass for the full day, we walked into town and I have an unhappy back and it was too much, bus for us the rest of the day- We of course did the train and we booked it ourselves, saved $25-30 dollars over what the ship charges and the good part is that if you book yourselves, you don't ride in the same cars as the cruise ship passengers, which is good because their cars were packed, there was only 14 people total in our car, so we could move about freely. We loved the train, and did not find the beautiful scenery for three hours boring in the least, lots of great pics and video and we were in the front car so when the engines changed position at the top we were looking right out the back with no obstructions. When we got near the top it snowed on us, it's wonderful!!. Back in town and for most of the ride it was sunny and on the warm side. After the train we took the shuttle bus to the Jewel Gardens, there was a coupon in the tour saver book for a two for one, however they were not aware of the coupon either and it took awhile for them to figure it out. It was $12 with the 2-1 and the only good part was the glassblowers just happened to be making apiece while we were there and we got to watch, if it wasn't for that it would have been a waste of time, and money, to be honest they should not have even had the gardens open, there was nothing in bloom, but it was awesome to see glass blowing, and we bought a bowl while we were there, they called the shuttle and it came back and picked us up, we shopped in town and I was looking at jewelry and the sales people were very pushy, actually in all the ports all the jewelry stores were very pushy to the point of embarrassing at times, a simple no thank you was not sufficient and at times we had to walk out while they were still trying to sell us items.
Ketchikan is a quaint little town and I love it, my one complaint is that there was not enough time to do everything we wanted to do, we were there from 6-1 but had to be back on board by 1145 for some reason. We took a float plane ride over the Fjords with Family Air and Captain Dave- this is my second trip with him and I can't say enough good things about his operation, he is family owned and operated and he has a small plane with all window seats, he really cares about people and the tours that he gives, he is not there for the money he is there because it makes him happy to show off his beautiful city and to make people happy, he takes a longer path to and from the Fjords than other companies do and he lands and lets you get out and walk around on the land for about 15-20 minutes, sometimes he fishes, sometimes he collects rocks for his pathway for his home, I can't say enough good things about his tour and would recommend it to all. Tell him Vegas Red sent you!!
Cruising Tracy Arm: was an incredible experience, the water was like glass and the reflection of the snow cap mountains was mirrored perfectly in the water. There were so many pieces of beautiful glacier ice in the water all different shades of blue and waterfalls everywhere you looked, our balcony was worth every penny on this day alone and we ordered room service and stayed out there all day. The best spot on the ship, and we had great neighbors, no kids, no smokers and quiet!! It was a heavenly day and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world breathing in the freshest air.
This port of call I think Princess dropped the ball a little- we were there from 7-12 midnight so everyone wanted to have dinner before they left the ship and the dining rooms did not open up until 530 pm, this created a long line and overworked staff and a kitchen that was very slow due to the heavy volume of patrons that all arrived at the same time, IMHO Princess should have opened the dining rooms about 430-5 pm to avoid most of this. When it was time to leave the ship, Princess had only one gangway opened on the Piazza level, there was no crowd control and it was complete chaos, people shoving and pushing and you could hardly even move, they finally opened up another gangway on deck 4, and when we went down there to leave the ship my new sign and sail card that I had just been given didn't work, the security officer wanted me to go back to the pursers desk to straighten it out, I explained that I had just been given this card and it was working for my cabin and that if he sent me back to the pursers desk I would miss my Princess excursion, after going back and forth with him for a minute or so, he called over another guard who showed him how to look me up by name and photo and he saw that it was me and let us off the ship, it didn't help him that I had a very impatient woman behind me that was raising her voice to me and to the guard because she was held up for two minutes. Patience.
We did do the Butchart Gardens tour through Princess and it was unfortunate because of all the delays we left about 45 min late and when we got there we had only about 20 minutes of daylight left and we saw most of the gardens at night. I would still advise anyone that loves peace and tranquility and flowers to do this tour!! Words cannot really describe the feeling you have while strolling these magnificent gardens.
When we got back to port there were three ships docked including ours, and the ships lined up all lit up was an amazing sight.
As I mentioned earlier we had a flight that didn't leave until 345, so we left our cabin, enjoyed a nice breakfast on deck and then just relaxed for a couple hours and soaked in all we could of the ship before we left, we just hung around even after our group was called and we were probably in the last group to leave, but by then we found our luggage right away and only had to wait for the shuttle express for 20 minutes.
Sorry for the long review, but I wanted to give an accurate account of all things as seen through our eyes. We loved this cruise and the Golden Princess and any small problem that we encountered was just that to us, small. Was it perfect? No. But it was the best cruise I have ever taken and we for the most part felt like we were treated like a king and queen for the week. I am a Princess convert!!! Read Less