This was our second cruise and our first with Princess; our first cruise was with RCI. My spouse, two kids and I traveled with my sister and her husband.
Embarktation in Seattle went well and we were aboard within an hour. Once onboard, you'd never know you were on a ship of her size, since the words "understated elegance" kept popping into my head. I will confess we all missed the outside light and drama we experienced in the Centrum of RCI's Radiance of the Seas. The Sapphire Princess Atrium was just three decks high and while it was quite tastefully done, it just didn't compare. It should be noted that the public area musicians on Sapphire were better - the string quartet in the Atrium was quite good, as was the piano player.
The balcony cabins were well-designed in soothing colors, though I agree with reviewers of her sister ship Diamond Princess that they should have sprung for closet doors. Beyond that, though, the rooms were well-appointed and thoughtfully designed even to the point that the headboards were padded so you could sit up in bed to read -- nice touch. Cabin stewards were great and worthy of extra tips.
Kudos to the purser's staff for their reaction to our travel agent's mistake in booking us into a triple cabin instead of a quad: While the mistake was apparently not their fault (I'll spare you the details), Princess moved us up two decks to two vacant double cabins. We ended up with two rooms instead of one, with the balcony door between the cabins open. It was the perfect solution, and we were delighted with the service of Leah and Richard in helping take care of it. We did feel bad for the poor family that had originally booked those cabins -- the ship was at capacity but apparently they had been denied boarding due to a virus. It was good to know Princess takes such things seriously to protect their passengers and crew, though.
Sail-away was fun, with good music blasting on the upper decks such as "North to Alaska" and "Rock the Boat."
We chose Personal Choice dining, which was unspectacular. In the future we would choose traditional dining. The best of the Personal Choice restaurants was Sterling, but make your reservations for the entire cruise early if you want to get in there! The decor and food in Sterling was the best onboard. Horizon Court wasn't up to the quality and organization we experienced with RCI's buffet, although the hand sanitation dispensers were a good touch. The pizza out by the pool is great. In general, we found the wait staff to be inconsistent in service...some were super (especially Santa Fe) and others appeared indifferent.
Entertainment was fabulous, and our Cruise Director Alistair, with assistant "Hollywood," were fun. Don't miss their morning "Gem TV" show, which covers events for the day in a fun and lighthearted format. Alistair would refer to passengers by the names of famous people they (remotely) resembled, so it was great fun for me to discover I was actually married to David Hasselhof! Don't miss Kevin Hughes, the comedian - he will have you snorting with laughter. My spouse especially enjoyed "Liquid Blue," though I suspect their cute outfits and dance moves had as much to do with it as their music!
Of course, the scenery was breathtaking. We were fortunate to have 100% sunny weather, but make sure to get up early the day you cruise Tracy Arm so as to not miss any of it. It was the highlight of the cruise. We also appreciated the naturalist onboard, Mary; her lectures and announcements helped make the cruise a learning experience as well as an enjoyable one.
There was one rather crabby woman in security who was checking cruise cards at the gangway in port...several times we noticed that she was sorely in need of a happy pill or something.
Disembarkation was well-organized and quick.
We would sail with Princess again, but I do have to agree with a reviewer of her sister ship, the Diamond, that the ship was missing something. Still, we had a wonderful time and feel that for an inaugural it went well.