I chose Princess Cruises based on the strength of the cruiseline's reputation and the many glowing recommendations of my travel agent and friends. I was incredibly disappointed in the land portion (7 days) of our Cruisetour that preceded the actual cruise which probably set us up for a disappointing experience on the ship. Princess has been doing this a long time and this shows in the seamless embarkation, disembarkation, and handling of our luggage. These things went extremely well. However, so many other things that COULD have gone well didn't... and I attribute this to the volume of business Princess handles. The excursions staff are poorly trained and so when things don't go as planned, no one knows how to handle the situation. Missing buses, mis-handled excursions, and incorrect billing are all things that happen... but they also need to be remedied and not addressed with a shoulder shrug.
Amenities should also be as advertised. The "Fun Zone" was closed on the ship, the video arcade removed, and the space where Princess Links was supposed to be located was nothing more than some old astro turf with a few cup holes. Kid-friendly really means "kid-tolerant" as there was nothing for my young boys to actually do that was age appropriate aside from parking them at the Kids Club. (Needless to say, they aren't anxious to cruise with Princess again although we might be able to get them on a Disney ship.) NOTE: I spent a lot of time walking around the ship to entertain my boys and our favorite game became spot the broken stuff. The busted and missing railings count was up to 7 when I disembarked.
As for the food. I don't understand why so many people rave about it. The Horizon buffet is mediocre and there is so much sodium in the food, it make me feel sick. We had dinner at the Crown Grill which was delicious (which should be with the extra charge!), but our celebratory Wedding Dinner at Sabatini's could have been bested by The Olive Garden. Our main courses were simply inedible, overcooked to the point where we couldn't even cut the shrimp. The special Crab Shack night was fun, but definitely not worth the $29 cover charge per person. Fortunately we tried Donatello's and it proved to be the best choice; so we dined well here for the remainder of the week.
What did got well was the attentive service by staff in the bars and restaurants. These members of the staff work incredibly long hours and they make an effort to ensure the passengers are having a good experience. The same can be said for the Steward who cared for our suite.
There were plenty of entertainment choices for the varied tastes of my family members (Bingo and the game show style events were our favorites), but the Lotus Spa (which I really looked forward to) was a bit of a disappointment. Services were of average quality (mani/pedi, massages, facial, blow out, and a shave were all had by my family) for premium prices which was expected, but the hard sell of products by the staff was extremely distasteful. The adjoining Fitness Center was also a bit of disappointment as hygiene wasn't a concern. I showed up for the yoga class which was held in the same area as spin class... and the instructor didn't even pretend to clean the gross floor before rolling out a bunch of dirty mats for the passengers. I have never felt so ripped off for the $17 I spent for the class.
If you have read my review and gotten to this point, I do want to say that a lot of people around us LOVED the cruise. I can see how a lot of people wouldn't have cared about any of the things I mentioned. If you don't have young children, have low expectations for the quality of your meals, and just want to be on a floating hotel where you can drink, be entertained, and see some sights in Alaska, then a Princess cruise IS for you.
Well-appointed suite. We ended up needing the extra space so my young sons had an area to play. Since the Larger bed is really just 2 beds pushed together, it isn't the most comfortable but there is a topper added which helps. We also liked having a tub.
The timing of our arrival enabled us to have a relatively quick embarkation.
We explored on our own taking local transportation and had a wonderful day.
The highlight of our cruise was the up close view of the glaciers.