We were first time cruisers and did this cruise along with a 3 day prior interior package. We had used Princess air for our flights and had a stressful time getting to Fairbanks. We encountered everthing from bad weather, missed connections, and mixed messages from Princess as to how to proceed. In the end, it worked out but we had only 3 hours sleep before starting our grueling 3 day pre-cruise tour.
I have to say the 3 day land package was my favorite part. The Denali and McKinley Princess Hotels were wonderful, the helicopter glacier landing was spectacular, Mt. McKinley was out in full glory, and the train trips were amazingly relaxing! It was perfect. I was concerned about taking only the Natural History tour in Denali but we saw all kinds of wildlife and our tour guide had just the perfect, almost reverent, attitude.
As to the cruise itself, we loved it. We like buffets but were disappointed in this one as it was a circus...crowded, unorganized and no place to sit. Anytime dining worked great with no waits for a table for two. The food was good but not great. Afternoon tea was something we looked forward to. I had breakfast in bed every morning.
We found the ship to be beautiful and service was excellent. Entertainment was good and we were never bored. The casino was a rip off with very poor payouts on many of the machines. Of course I found myself there too often and too long
We found Skagway the most disappointing part of the vacation. The train was wonderful and filled much of our day. The town itself was awful with 4 big cruise ships in port, shoulder to shoulder tourists, ridiculous prices and lines, and just too "touristy" and fake for our taste. If we hadn't planned on the train ride we would have just gotten back on the ship for the day.
Of course, Glacier Bay was worth the price of the cruise and the best part of the cruise part of the vacation. A balcony in Alaska is a must.
DH and I were concerned about formal night and the snobbery I thought I detected on this site but have to say it worked out great! It really was not hard to dress for and the ship did take on a different, "special" look and feel those nights. When I'm wrong, I'll admit it!
I was also worried about motion sickness as I am very prone to this condition. I was told the seas were extremely smooth but I took one dose of Bonine daily and never once felt any queasiness or side effects. In fact, many of the details I worried about never mattered as things just seemed to work out as we moved along.
Trip home was another mess of late flights and just barely made connections. However, I have come to expect this of flying these days.
Thanks all for your wonderful advice. If I can answer any questions, please ask them.