Having cruised on both Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and having heard that Princess was the best cruise line on which to experience Alaska, we went on our 7-day cruise from Vancouver to Whittier with very high expectations. This is probably what led us to be pleased but not amazed by our Princess experience.
The ship itself - The Sapphire was much bigger than the RCCL ship I went on in 2000, but a good deal smaller than the Carnival ship I went on in 2005. The main issue was the fact that it took us a few days to figure out how to navigate the ship. There are a couple decks that are partly closed off, so there's a lot of up and down random sets of stairs if you need to get from one end of the ship to the other. Still, the decor wasn't completely out of date like some cruise ships, and it was always clean. I give it a 4 out of 5.
The room - I would rate our room a 3 out of 5. We had a giant balcony (bigger than that of our friends who were two decks above us), but the bed was hard as a rock and the room itself was very small--much smaller than our plain old oceanview room on the Carnival Valor in 2005.
The food - I would probably give the food on this cruise a 3.5 out of 5 rating. It was good--and definitely better than the food on our Carnival cruise--but not as good as the food on my Royal Caribbean cruise. Some meals were absolutely amazing, while others were just okay. We ordered room service for breakfast a couple of times and the only time it actually came when we requested and was good was the morning we cruised Glacier Bay and paid for the champagne breakfast on our balcony.
The spa - I had an amazing facial on the first day of the cruise; later in the week we had an average couples massage. We expected the high prices of the services; that's just the way it is when you're on a cruise. What I can't stand is how pushy they are with the products they try to sell you. There's no "no thank you" and moving on. They push and push and push until you're so frustrated that you no longer feel relaxed at all. Just a warning.
The ports/excursions - We went ziplining in Ketchikan and it was awesome. I've had friends that have gone ziplining in the Caribbean and talked about how they didn't feel very safe. I'm not sure if it was the tour company that we went through, or US regulations, but I felt completely safe the entire time and it was an amazing experience. I definitely suggest the Ketchikan ziplining tour to anyone.
We did one of the Princess-only tours in Juneau--the brewery, Mendenhall Glacier, cooking school one. I really enjoyed this tour, although honestly I think there is probably something else they could have done that would have been a bit more interesting than the cooking school. What was nice was that doing this tour still gave us time to shop in Juneau beforehand and make a stop at the Red Dog Saloon afterward, before we had to get back on the ship.
In Skagway we did the Yukon suspension bridge/Liarsville salmon bake tour. The drive/trip up into the Yukon and the suspension bridge itself left something to be desired, although I have to admit that it's neat to be able to say that I went to Yukon territory. The salmon bake was AMAZING, but in doing this particular tour we had to miss the night they served crab legs at dinner on the ship, which was disappointing. We also did the streetcar tour here in Skagway and that was definitely worth it and a lot of fun.
Glacier Bay was amazing, and again, I definitely suggest doing the champagne brunch on your balcony while the ship is cruising Glacier Bay. Unfortunately, it was very dim the day we went to College Fjord, and so late in the day by the time we got to the areas where there were glaciers, that there wasn't much to see.
Embarkation and Debarkation - It was quick and easy to get on the ship, as we had checked in online and were traveling with a handicapped passenger. Unfortunately, to get off the ship, we were all separated into different groups and they wouldn't change it for us. We were forced to get up ridiculously early, as we were boarding the train for a Princess tour, and then we just sat around for over an hour waiting to get off the ship. It was difficult to meet back up with the others in our party because they had separated us, and our handicapped passenger and his wife, who were elderly, were upset that we weren't allowed to be with or help them.
All in all, we certainly had a great time on our cruise, but some of the experiences (namely the size of the room, the food, and the spa and debarkation issues) left something to be desired. All in all, I would rate the Sapphire Princess and our cruise a 3.5 out of 5.