First Alaskan cruise after two Caribbean trips. TERRIFIC! In so many respects. We went almost 1800 miles, and I'd say at least 90% of the way we were passing snow capped mts., often on both sides. The ride was incredibly smooth, not surprising with the "inner" channels predominant. Even the windier days with choppier waters had us with a VERY smooth ride - NO rocking. This ship rides so smooth.
It is also one of the prettiest ships I've seen, so nice with the wood, marble and brick effects. The shops were fair, but we shop offship mainly anyway.
The embarkation was quick, though they really needed better signs to direct traffic. We were on by 12:30 and were eating lunch immediatly.
Quite good. The 24 hour buffet was terrific, sometimes with choices like Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, a big bowl of peeled shrimp, beef, chicken and more, all at one time! The pastries were a little weak for my style (I like the sugary ones like doughnuts). But the fruits and veggies seemed quite fresh. My wife just oozed over the cantelopes. So, the 24-hour buffet gets high marks. The formal dining room was good, and the portions were larger than the last two cruise lines we've been on. The beef was variable, but the rest was quite good. More "anytime" dishes always meant they have something we like. At least the dining room wasn't over the engines like on the Celebrity Century. Never got to the Lido grille because everything else was so good, but people raved about the pizza.
Quite good. This ship has TWO auditoriums in a sense, though one is more informal, but still large. That means many show choices.
ROOM: Mini-suite, because, it was only about $50 more than a regular balcony. This ship has almost all balconies anyway. B431 is the perfect room, because the balcony rail bends around to the front allowing a view FORWARD! (It is on the end of the section).It really was a dream. The mini-suite (1st one we ever had) has the most reasonal price that can be imagined, esp. compared to other lines.
Ketchikan - took float plane to a lodge for meal and then back. WONDERFUL. There are longer flights possible. Shopping was almost the best of all ports there to me, though Skagway wasn't bad, it seemed that there were just almost all jewelry stores out there. Did Salmon Bake and Mendenhall Glacier at Juneau - very nice. Train to White Pass at Skagway. A long but scenic ride. Since it was May, the snow was incredible up at the top. Very deep. They even had an avalanche the week or so before and they had to stop the runs until it was cleared.
SERVICE: Room steward - okay, not remarkable. Dining waitress - outstanding. I guess it just depends on who you get. Did NOT constantly have people selling drink or taking pictures. Not bad.
TRIP TO ANCHORAGE - you have to get a ride from Whittier to Anchorage, a significant trip. Princess will bus you there for about $55, but I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't rather take the Comedy Tour bus by Alaskan Leopard - http://www.alaskanleopard.com/Tours/
for about the same amount or less, and get a tour of Portage Glacier, Portage Lake, an animal reserve, and more, in a quite small but nice vehicle (water and snacks included). The video show and humor was great. I am glad we discovered this alternate transportation.
The weather was strangely good - fair and mild with little rain (mainly overnight or early on). Temps were in the 50s, 60s, and even 70s the farther we went. Take your binoculars. If you're looking for the big Carnival "festive" atmosphere don't do this, but if you want and wonderful, scenic ride with an older group of travelers, then this is it. I could hardly take in all the constant beauty during the trip. I imagine a bit of this would be weather dependent, though. We had incredible visibilities - 50 mile views at times. Princess did well. The ship never seemed crowded, and even the buffet never had long lines. I'm trying to think of complaints, but they must be so small, I can't remember them now. Well, I think they should've had more chocolate, but that's just me. Happy cruising!