This was our 15th Princess Cruise, our 6th Alaska Cruise and I have at least 6 cruises each on HAL and Celebrity. I arrived a day early on a non stop flight from Cleveland on Continental. After being screwed by the cruise lines for over 10 years, I do all my own arrangements. Stayed at Holiday Inn Express (Priory Club member)at airport and was upgraded to a suite at no extra cost. Enjoyed the stay and free breakfast. Free transfers to airport.
Went to airport with bags. Princess wanted $18 for one way transfer, told them no thanks and proceeded to Gray line booth near end of baggage area. Purchased a round trip ticket for me and my wife for $20 each on cruise express. Waited 15 minutes for bus, transferred Downtown to different bus and proceed to port with 8 on board.
Embarkation: Only 2 got off at Princess. They took bag immediately. Had to stand in line till I got to door and showed them my Platinum embark. Was taken to desk right away and was on ship in 10 minutes. The Platinum Captain's Circle check-in is a great time saver.
Cabins: The cabin C612 (cat. BA) was attractively decorated and good sized for the price. The balcony, while large, offers little privacy if your cabin is on Caribe deck. Another design flaw is the shower, much smaller than Celebrity and you get a bath/shower on HAL in this category. It also has a fixed shower head, instead of a hose and wand arrangement like Celebrity offers. Toilet would not flush two time and was fixed within hours. Cabin service was efficient and unobtrusive.
Public Areas: The public areas are nice and never feel crowded. The ship doesn't feel 113,000 grt. Enjoyed the small intimate bars. Met numerous passenger that I had talked with previously on the internet. We had a small party for 6 couples on the second day in the Promenade bar where we spent two hours talking. They had good shows on board and the comedians were great. Had a Platinum Cocktail party with the Captain and officers in wheel house bar. It was great I met some more good people and got a free picture with Captain. The bars had a buy 5, pay for four Becks light special on the Lido bars. I got this all cruise long and put them in the cabin fridge. Bring a can opener if you want this as these are not twist off caps. The bar did not want to give me can opener, I went to front desk and they were no help as the found that the room steward wound not give me one either. The shop wanted $7.00 and I know I could not get that one on plane. I took beer back to bar and asked for money back and he then gave me a can opener that I used all cruise long and left in room. The can opener had a cork screw that worked on the free bottle of wine I got.
Dining: I requested 2nd seating traditional dining when I booked and was told it was guaranted, wrong. I went to find what table they had me assigned and found they had put me in Personal Choice. I raised a stink and got table 44 2nd seating traditional. I had the best tablemates of any of my 31 cruises and a good waiter too. We ate all our meals here except when we took the Bucthart garden tour we go back to the ship and had to eat in the Lido. It was a jungle with total disorganization. There were A LOT of dining options including personal choice dining in one of the three main dining rooms. I heard numerous complaints about the personal choice dining where you could not get times requested and were rushed so they could get more in. Open seatings for breakfast and lunch in the International Dining room was easy no lines and no wait. Interestingly, the attendance in the main dining rooms was far less that capacity. Probably due to the number of choices. Had pizza and burgers several times. The afternoon tea in Pacific Moon dining room was the worst I ever attended. They served me tea and no body brought me anything to eat so I left after a half hour, they had no scones any way so how can they call it a tea. All the restaurants were nicely decorated and the food in the International Dining room was good, but not up to Celebrity standards. The food in other areas was like a cheap cafeteria. They did have free ice cream in the Lido at 3:45 and I enjoyed it for three day and others discovered it and the lines became too long.
Tours: We schedule nothing in Ketchikan as we had been there before so we shopped and found some bargains. In Juneau we scheduled whale watching. We were supposed to dock at 2:30, but the Coral didn't leave till 4:00 and we docked at 5:00. The tour was at 3:30 and I got a tender ticket before 2:30. The tendering was a disaster. They did not take the tours first and they got to my number at 3:45 and sent everyone down at once. My wife was pushed into wall and injured her knee. When in got on shore at 4:00 and the tour had left, I got my money back with me being bitter and having an injured wife. In Skagway we did the train ride and it is a must do. Victoria was another disaster- we were doing the Butchart Gardens. We had done them on Celebrity two years earlier and had 3 hours at the gardens and an air conditioned bus. Leaving the ship was a disaster as they let everyone off at once, we stood in the longest line I have ever seen for an hour. The buses were WWII double decker that used to be in London during the war. The seats were small, I had to stand. They were hot and barely made it up the hills. It took an hour to get to and from the gardened in these saunas on wheels. You only had an hour and a half in the gardens and I consider this tour a waste of money for the time you get and how you go. The gardens are wonderful, but Princess let me down.
Disembarkation: This was smooth. They had a the Wheel house bars set up for suite, platinum and elite members and it was great. The had coffee, juice and pastries and papers to read. The put me on a Gray line bus quickly and I got to the airport faster going than coming. Overall, I was satisfied. The gave us a nice little gift on last day and I got my elite pin. I put a $200 deposit down on a future cruise. Some on the problems were first cruise jitters. Princess will get a complaint letter on some of the problems mentioned above, but I will sail them again. They do have the most balcony's, give good value and their people are friendly.