Overall the cruise was great. I went with my husband , 15 year old son and extended family . We stayed on Emerald Deck 8. Our room had a window (partially obstructed view). We were on the lifeboat deck but were located between lifeboats, so the view was still good. We couldn't afford the balcony room, but this allowed natural light in and I didn't feel as claustrophobic. My parents had a balcony room, (Caribe Deck 10), so we took advantage of their room too. Balcony was larger than we expected. It fit a round table and 4 chairs. If you get a balcony, go deck 10 or higher. Deck 9 balconies did not have overhead covering and were exposed to sun/rain. My sister and husband had an inside cabin. All three cabins/bathrooms were the same size. We had a room that could sleep 3-4 persons. Each bed had another that pulled down from ceiling above it to form a bunk bed. Steward will put bunk beds back for you during the day. Room service is included. You can get breakfast delivered to your room - just ask. You can order fruit to be delivered to your room in the afternoon also.
Ask for egg crate foam mattress toppers for the beds and robes (can be ordered online or calling Princess Cruises in advance). We were missing both when we got there but we told the Steward and got them within a day. We didn't have top sheets on our beds and my comforter did not smell like it was freshly washed so we requested the sheets and got them the rest of the week. Do not over pack! They have laundry mats on each deck. $1.00 for washer, $1.00 for 30 minute dryer time (I used two cycles per load, and $1.00 detergent. Change machine was finicky. Had to get quarters at purser's desk. Ironing board and irons also available in laundry room (they were free to use). There were large sinks for hand washables too. When packing - remember - layer, layer, layer. I didn't take enough short sleeve tops. There will be times when you're spending time mostly inside the ship. You can always keep a sweater or jacket with you if you go out on deck.
We had great weather. Every port was sunny and warm (even in September). This is not typical from what we were told, but if you layer, you'll be prepared for any weather. Raincoat with hood is best.
Traditional dining at 5:30 pm worked well for us. Waiters got to know us by name, and anticipated our drink orders and preferences. Get a table by the window if possible. We saw some wonderful views while dining. Buffet was open very early till late at night but we didn't like eating there as much. Waiters were sometimes slow bringing our drink orders. Twice I tried to get a waiter's attention and they acted like they didn't hear me (when it was obvious that they at least saw me trying to flag them down). Drinks that are available anytime are water, unsweetened ice tea, coffee, hot tea, and hot chocolate. My husband and son got the soda sticker for their cards. It totaled $34.00 for the week. It is only available for purchase on the 1st day. A sticker for $9 a day (more like $11.00 when you add the gratuity and taxes), is available for soda, milkshakes and mock cocktails. I didn't end up getting it and was glad I didn't. I don't think I drank enough to justify it.
When choosing room location, I'd recommend the Starboard side (when facing front of ship). The views were best on that side. Also try to be mid to aft of the ship. Most nightclubs/shops/restaurants are located on that end of the ship. The only exception is the theatre which is in the front of the ship. The carpet color is different on the starboard and port sides of ship. This is helpful when returning to your room. Odd and even rooms are on either side of the ship.
Activities are fun. Just make sure you get there about 10 minutes in advance for ballroom and line dancing classes. The instructor always started them early. Shows in Princes theatre are good too, but get there at least 20 minutes in advance to get a seat. Some were standing room only. Naturalist is great. I loved her lectures. She speaks over intercom in common areas while cruising through Tracy Arm Fjord. Trivia was our favorite. We won once and got medals and champagne for a prize. Bingo is expensive - starts at $10 a card. Still popular though. Comedians were very good. Especially like Ron Lucas.
Ports of Call:
All ports have tour information available when you disembark. Ship's excursions are more expensive. There is a large tour building at Ketchikan with every tour available. You can bicker with the operators for a better rate! Tour of Ketchikan cost $50 a piece. My sister managed to get them for $40. My husband, son and I took the Duck tour. It was disappointing. We did get to see some bald eagles up close but wished we had spent more time in the town. Make sure you get to Creek Street. Salmon were spawning on our trip. Very thick in stream and saw them jumping up the falls. Two large seals were feasting on the salmon when we were there. Fun to watch. Lumberjack show a little overrated. Similar to other lumberjack shows that we've seen at local outdoor show. Incline plane to Fox Lodge was a little disappointing too. Not as scenic as I expected.
Juneau - We paid extra for city tour but there wasn't a whole lot to see. Breezed past Capitol building and state buildings. They took us to an island across from it but there wasn't much there. Recommend the bus to Mendenhall Glacier for $7 each way and walking through town on your own. Must see - the Red Dog Saloon. Sky ride was extremely expensive. We opted out.
Skagway was our favorite port but we didn't have enough time there. Shuttle bus to town is $2.00 each way or $5.00 unlimited. White Pass Scenic railway was awesome. If you buy the ticket as an excursion from the cruise line, you have to catch the train at the dock. Would recommend doing the train first and walk through town afterward. We took the afternoon train and had to shuttle to town, and shuttle back to dock to catch the train. Shuttle lines got long at times. More inconvenient. The train followed the trail of the miners during the Yukon Gold rush. Not good if you're afraid of heights. Try to get on the left side of the train (while facing the front of the train). Will change seats with those across the aisle from you at top of mountain, but best narration is on the uphill climb.
Architecture of town was just like the late 1800s. We didn't have time for the museum -very disappointing. Park service offers free tours. We had to leave it midway through to catch the shuttle to the train in time. Must see - Red Onion saloon. You'll feel like you stepped back in time.
Beautiful views on port side of trip after you leave Skagway. Lots of snow peaked mountains/glaciers/waterfalls. Liked it as much as Tracy Arm.
Victoria B.C. is the only place I would recommend getting a cruise excursion. Shuttle to town was inexpensive, but line was very long. We took a taxi for 4 which cost $10 each way. We didn't get to town until 8:00 pm and the stores closed at 9:00 pm! It beautiful to see but there wasn't much we could do at that time of night.
Teen program is great. We went after Labor Day so there were only 5 teens participating (the week before there were 80). They played video and board games/cards together and had karaoke/dance parties. My son loved it.
We began our trip with a few days in Seattle. Stayed at Maxwell hotel. It was close to everything. Don't need to rent a car. Walk to Seattle Center (Space needle/monorail). Monorail is $2.00 each way and will take you to downtown. Free bus service in town until 7pm. Don't miss Pike's Place Market and Underground Tour . Ferry ride is fun too.
Try to take the 10 day cruise if you can. I'm disappointed that we couldn't see Glacier Bay. Even so, it was a great experience overall. All the staff were friendly (not sure if it was sincere sometimes), but they did go out of their way to accommodate us. I've never been so pampered. I would highly recommend it.