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11 Day Alaska Cruise Review - Princess Cruise Review By a California Mom

Posted by San Luis Obispo Mom on Thursday, June 27, 2024 Under: Cruise Review
Alaska Cruise Review

We went on a summer vacation to Alaska and Canada by a going on a cruise ship on the Crown Princess Cruise Ship that traveled from San Francisco Pier between June 17 - June 28, 2024. It stopped at 5 different ports; 4 of them in Alaska and one in Canada.

Crown Princess Cruise Ship Pictures

It was a wonderful way to travel for our family without having to hop on a plane since San Francisco is just usually only a 4 hour drive from San Luis Obispo (county that I live in) on a smooth traffic day.

Port of San Francisco Sign Picture

This was my 6th cruise vacation within a span of 12 years! However, this was my very first time on a Princess cruise ship. I couldn't help but compare my experience on my first Princess cruise to the other 5 cruise vacations that I've been on. Thus far, I've been on a Disney Cruise once, Royal Caribbean Cruises thrice, and a Carnival cruise once before I went on this Princess Cruise so I have a lot of things to compare to. All in all, I would say the other cruises that I've been on before were more kid-centered. To be clear, this Crown Princess Cruise Ship was still kid-friendly with a kid's club, pools, and some family friendly activities on the itinerary. However, this Princess Cruise definitely had a higher ratio for adult per child. The cost and the length of this cruise could also be factors because it's an 11 day cruise!

While hanging out on this cruise ship, there were a number of things that we missed from our typical cruise vacation. However, the beautiful nature views of our destinations in Alaska supersedes any negative points about this cruise and it is my favorite destination by cruise among the others I've been on, by far!

Noticeable Differences Between this Princess Cruise Compared to My Other Cruises on Other Cruise Lines

There were definitely a few obvious differences between this cruise compared to the other ones that I've been on.

  • First and foremost, there was no lifeguard on duty by the pools on the Crown Princess Cruise! As a matter of fact, there was no personnel monitoring safety around the pool areas and no one was enforcing the rules that were listed along the walls near the pools. Kids were jumping and diving in the pool and some were in the pool without parent supervision. There were obvious "No Jumping" and "No Diving" signs up and it seems like the parents did not reprimand any of the kids when they did that. It was appalling as Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruises were both very strict about enforcing these rules when we went on those cruises. Therefore, please be wary of that. If your child gets hurt, there would be no staff to be there to be ready to help them. Now, I don't know if that is the same for Princess Cruises or if it's just on this one cruise (Crown Princess) that did not have a lifeguard on duty. I still had fun sitting by the pool and ordering drinks from the Princess Cruises app without leaving my seat so that I could keep a good eye on my kids. This was the very time I used a cruise app to order drinks on any cruise as I'd usually just go to the bar. However, since there was a lack of supervision due to no lifeguard on duty and other parents just leaving their kids at the pool and wandering off, I wanted to glue myself to be as close to the pool as possible so it encouraged me to utilize the food delivery system that they already had as a great service on their app. When you order food and drinks form your phone for delivery on the Princess Cruises App while you're on your cruise, they will bring your order to you using your medallion as a tracker.
    Crown Princess Ship Pool PicturesCrown Princess Cruise Ship Pictures
  • There were no water slides nor a toddler-friendly splash pad on the Crown Princess Cruise Ship. The other cruise ships had water slides and a designated area for babies and little ones to play in as a great option. My kids are not so little anymore so I wouldn't have been able to utilize a toddler section for water play but I thought I'd note this for readers of babies and toddlers so that they know that they didn't have it on this particular cruise ship. So, if your little ones want to be in the pool, you'd have to hold on to them or have them use a provided life safety jacket that were hung by the pool areas and watch them closely.
  • I don't know if it's because it's post-pandemic but the Crown Princess didn't have a self-serve ice cream station on the Crown Princess ship. If you want a serving of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, you'd have to go to the counter, next to the pizza area, and ask them for an ice cream treat. A simple serving of ice cream for vanilla, chocolate or a swirl of both is complimentary but unlike the other cruise ships that I've been on, you can't use the machine yourself. I actually like this process better. Sometimes kids leave a mess on the self-serve ice cream machines on other cruise ships and it makes it less appetizing.
  • There was no sushi restaurant on board on the Crown Princess Cruise Ship. I remember always seeing a sushi or a Japanese restaurant with sushi on the menu on the other cruise ships so I was expecting to see sushi offered here as well. I was very surprised! I know that I could have looked at the map and studied all of the menus beforehand but I didn't realize how much I missed having sushi on a cruise ship until I got on the ship and realized the option wasn't available to me. **Read about my sushi review on the Carnival cruise ship on this blog entry.
  • The only night that we had a fun animal towel art in our stateroom was on the 2nd to last night of our cruise. This was drastically different from the other cruises that I've been on. I think we received an animal towel art in our stateroom every night or at least every other night. I guess I was spoiled by my past cruise experiences, but if this was the very first cruise I've ever been on, I wouldn't care about it so much. However, the kids enjoy the 2 animal towel art that we received from our stateroom attendant. One was a bald eagle and the other one was a polar bear! Very appropriate for this Alaska cruise!
    Animal Towel Art at Crown Princess Cruise
  • Instead of a key card to access the stateroom and charge for additional services, Princess cruises gave us and all the other tourists there a medallion to wear on a lanyard. It felt like everyone was a convention or trade show attendee. It was hilarious to me when I looked around the room and my kids looked like they're going to a trade show meeting because of the lanyards they were wearing with their medallions! I do like the medallion on a lanyard idea because if you don't have pockets, this is very practical when moving around the cruise ship and it's less clunky than a plastic card.

Beautiful Alaska Stops on Crown Princess

View of Alaska Snow Caps from CruiseAlaska Cruise Pictures
Although there were some amenities and services that I wished the Crown Princess had, I still had a great time visiting Alaska! My most favorite sight was the Glacier Bay Natural Park & Preserve (our third stop on this cruise)! It's so beautiful and too perfect that my pictures looked photoshopped when I snapped pictures, but it's all real and unedited! Alaska is pristine and was exactly what I imagined it would look like and more! Here are more videos and pictures that I took during our cruise through Glacier Bay Natural Park & Preserve in Alaska. The blue iconic ice is what most people came on the cruise for!

I also especially enjoyed my day at Juneau, Alaska (our first stop on this cruise) very much as we went on a whale watching boat trip and saw many humpback whales, large sea lions, cute sea otters and majestic bald eagles. Here is a video that I recorded while watching a humpback whale in Juneau!

The whale watching excursion in Juneau was the only excursion we took for this cruise and I'm so glad we picked that one for that particular stop!
Whale Watching Excursion in JuneauJuneau Things to Do in Alaska
I loved that we were given a lot of time to explore here in Juneau, Alaska. After whale watching, we got quintessential king crab legs at Tracy's Crab Shack 2! We originally went in line for the original Tracy's Crab Shack but the line was so long that we decided to walk another 15 minutes to go to their second location. It was a smart move because we were literally next in line when we got there to order our crab legs. I think that if we had stayed in the original line at the original location near the cruise ship, we would probably still be in a long line. It's pricey but it's so worth it! We ordered 3 pounds of king crab and ate all of it!

My least favorite stop was Skagway in Alaska. They replicated the streets to look like the older days and it definitely had a western feel but there wasn't a lot to do besides look at shops or go on a train ride. I felt like I could do the same thing in California. I live by the train tracks on the Central Coast of California and we have many nearby cities with an old western look. At Skagway, we stretched our legs and walked around for about an hour and then just walked back on the cruise ship. It sprinkled on and off that day. Here are a couple of pictures that I took at Skagway.
Skagway Alaska PicturesSkagway Port Review

Ketchikan, Alaska definitely had the big town vibe. With a lot of restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and blocks of exploring in downtown, I felt like a tourist could spend the whole day there without going on an excursion and still have fun. As mentioned earlier, we only went on one excursion trip for this cruise and it was a whale watching activity in Juneau. There were many excursions to pick from in Ketchikan, but we decided to not do any of them. My kids were getting really exhausted on this day so we bought some souvenirs, cut our walk short and walked back to the cruise ship after walking several blocks. I was really glad that I waited until I got here at Ketchikan, Alaska (our 4th stop on our cruise) to buy an "Alaska" cap as a souvenir for myself because it was the best hat that I liked and It was under $20. Here are a couple of pictures of Ketchikan that I took during our visit here.
Ketchikan PicturesKetchikan Alaska Port Stop Pictures

Overeating on the Cruise

I typically gain 10 pounds after going on a cruise vacation. However, with this cruise being 11 days, I not only gained that weight but I also started feeling like my blood sugar and cholesterol were hugely affected by the second day on the cruise. I could feel the buffet food creating a reaction to my body as as as I was digesting it and eating breakfast. I wonder if there were any MSG added to the food? Anyway, with the kids being much bigger and more mature now, my husband watched them without my help during this trip so, to my surprise I was actually able to go attend three different Zumba classes, 2 pilates classes and walked on the treadmill a couple of times during the duration of this 11 day cruise. They were all in the morning before my kids woke up. Being able to make a bigger effort to be more active on this cruise than the previous cruises made a difference to my body. It helped reset my day and get my digestive system working better since I was able to allot time to do something active in the morning, before intaking more food again on the cruise!

Activities on the Crown Princess Cruise Ship

Fortunately, the ship's daily itinerary was packed full of things to do from morning to night. There were less activities planned when we had port stops but when we were out at sea, there was always something to do.

My family attended several trivia games and took a couple of origami classes. I had mentioned above that I was able to have some "me time" and went to a few Zumba classes and utilized the fitness center. Here's a couple of pictures that I took while enjoying some exercise.
Zumba Classes on Princess CruisesFitness Center on Princess Cruises
Working out at the fitness center on Deck 16 on the Crown Princess was memorable and special because I got to see the view of Alaska through the windows as I was walking on the treadmill one morning. It was incredible! See my view of the snow on the mountains above.

For kids activities, my kids went to The Lodge, a kids club for ages 8 - 12 years old, every day on the Crown Princess Ship on Deck 16. They really enjoyed creating crafts and participating in active activities that they had every day on their itinerary! Here's a glimpse of our itinerary for the kids at the kids club. Like the other cruise ship, you need to register them there before they can participate. Because of my kids' ages, they were put in the middle group that was in between the little ones and teenagers.

There were some special themed days too at the kids club. One day, they had a pirate theme where they created pirate crafts and costumes. Another day was a carnival theme day where they played different games to win raffle tickets. On the very last night, they had a Pajama Party where they wore pajamas and watched the Sonic movie. All of the kids activities that I mentioned took place in their kids club, which had great adult supervision by Princess Cruises' professional childcare staff. You drop them off, the childcare staff supervises them, then, you pick them up before they close for the session. In fact, parents are not allowed inside at the kids club once they are checked in so that their team could provide undistracted care for all the kids and the kids can socialize and play with each other. I really liked how the kids club had amazing organization but the staff didn't pressure kids if they didn't want to do a particular activity on their agenda. They had morning, afternoon and evening sessions that the kids could attend. You can pick one, two or all sessions. They close for breaks in between the sessions so you just have to make sure to pick them up before they close for each session. Kids club childcare is complimentary for kids on the cruise.

Besides the kids club, we also took the kids to the arcade on Deck 6 on the Crown Princess Cruise Ship.
Arcade on Crown Princess Picture
I didn't like to take them there too many times because it was located next to the casino and the casino was one of the few places where people could smoke, so it just smelled like cigarettes on half of that level! I could definitely smell some of the smoke while in the arcade that was overflowing from the casino. Nonetheless, it's a nice incentive for the kids to play some games there to promote good behavior so we went there a few times during our 11 day cruise.

Three Main Dining Rooms for Dinners on the Crown Princess

We typically go to the buffet for breakfast and lunch every day on our 11 day cruise but for dinners, we liked to sit in the dining room and enjoy the wonderful service for an hour to an hour and a half. The main dining rooms were complimentary on the cruise to dine as a great option. They had a few items that were extra charge but for the most part, I felt that it's usually unnecessary to spend extra on those since there were a lot of complimentary choices. On the Crown Princess Cruise Ship, there were three main dining rooms that you could pick from: Michelangelo Dining Room, Da Vinci Dining Room and Botticelli Dinings Room. My top favorite entrees and dishes in the main dinings rooms during this cruise included: beef wellington, creme brûlée, oxtail soup and more. Sometimes the servers would surprise us and bring us extra starters and desserts to try. See a few pictures of the dishes that I had from the main dining room below.
Dining Room Review on Crown PrincessPictures of Food from Main Dining Room on Princess CruisesOxtail Soup from Main Room on Crown PrincessDesserts from Crown Princess Cruise PicturesPictures of Desserts from Crown Princess Main Dining Room

Specialty Dining: Crown Grill (Extra Charge)

With the premier package, we were able to pick Crown Grill as one of our selection for specialty dining. It's typically an extra cover charge but with the premier package, this steak house was included. We decided to take advantage of it and booked a reservation for a dinner there. Before entering Crown Grill, I thought that it probably wasn't necessary for us to go since the main dining rooms offered so many great selections every night. But after being seated, I knew right away that this was an elevation from the main dining rooms by many notches!
Crown Grill Review on Princess Cruises
Our server was professional, posh and bright. Everything that I ordered, from my appetizer, then steak and lobster (another $10 charge for the lobster, by the way) to an even better creme brûlée for dessert was superb. I was super impressed! Here are the pictures of my entrees before I ate them.
Crown Grill Food Pictures on CruiseLobster at Crown Grill on Princess CruisesDesserts on Princess Cruises at Crown Grill

Specialty Dining: Sabatini's Italian Trattoria (Extra Charge)

Regrettably, I was so excited by my food and daunted by the classy atmosphere, I didn't want to be the one weirdo taking pictures of all of my food at Sabatini's when my husband took me there for an extra special dining adventure with 5 courses. So, I didn't take any pictures of my first 4 courses but I did take a picture of dessert! They were dessert samplers that my husband and I shared and the presentation was just beautiful.
Sabatini's Restaurant Review on Princess Cruise
Sabatini's probably served the best Italian food that I've ever had. What I noticed as I'm navigating through life is that at almost all of the fine dining restaurants that I've been to in California and on this cruise ship, most higher class individuals typically don't take pictures of the food they have been served. It's definitely those who did not come from old money and/or are not used to this type of specialty dining (like me) who are inclined to want to take pictures to remember them. As a premier package perk, this specialty restaurant was also included to dine at under one of our allotment so the typical cover charge was covered by our pre-paid premier package on our cruise.

Is Premier Package Worth it on Crown Princess Cruise?

With two specialty restaurants dining experience included, up to 15 alcoholic or special beverages like lattes every day, a photo package, pre-paid tips to our attendants and more, I really felt purchasing the premier package for our Princess Cruise was worth it.
Latte on Crown Princess Cruise
Just a photo package is worth hundreds of dollars alone! The other cruise lines don't offer this type of elite package with this many perks so it was a real treat to be able to have a package so robust for the amount that we paid. Cruise ship amenities and cruise details often change over time so I'm hoping Princess Cruises will not change the premier package too much later on.

The Crown Princess Cruise Ship also had a wine bar called Vines and it had a bigger selection for wines, with many not offered anywhere else on the ship. While we were visiting there to try their special wines, we took advantage of the charcuterie board that you could only get there, and nowhere else on this cruise ship. If you order a charcuterie board there with a premier package, it is complimentary. Otherwise, it would be an extra charge. This is what the wine attendant served us for charcuterie. He also surprised us with chocolate truffles which were also complimentary for premier package holders!

We ate everything! And, we went to dinner a couple of hours after that! You can imagine how much I kept eating on the cruise!

Tips for Preparing for the Alaska Cruise

Back View of Crown Princess Cruise Ship
  • We went to Alaska in June, summer time, and there were times on our way there at sea when it got pretty cold. One day can be drastically different than the next. Check the weather in accordance to when you get there. Many weather websites and apps do 10 day forecasts so you can utilize that tool to figure out what to expect when you arrive at the stops. Even for the summer, I packed a lightweight Cotopaxi jacket and a beanie that I wore like a third of the time when I was on the cruise! Not only did my Cotopaxi jacket kept me warm for when temperatures got low as I'm walking outside on the deck but it was so easy to put in my backpack for when the sun comes out for a couple hours a day. 
  • Don't be fooled by the cloudy weather, you can still can a sunburn if you're outside for hours at excursions in Alaska. Pack some sunscreen and bring a pair of sunglasses for when that sun does decide to make its appearance. For sunscreen, I like to pick ones that are made for sensitive skin because my older son does break out in hives from the regular sunscreens. 
  • If you're a military veteran, you can get credit for your stateroom! I found out on Day 10 because an ad popped up on my instagram knowing that I talked about Princess Cruises and it mentioned that a veteran can get up to $250 credited to their room! I mentioned this to my husband, who's a military veteran, and he beelined to the guest services desk. The credit depends on the length of your cruise and since ours was just 11 days, they credited $100. We almost walked out of our vacation losing out on that credit! We got really lucky. So make sure you mention this to guest services when you are on board if you're a veteran. You do need to show them proof and thankfully, my husband had it an electronic version of his DD 214 on his phone and he just had to show it to them at guest services. Within a day, the credit showed up on our folio of our room!

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In : Cruise Review 


Tags: crown princess alaska cruise review  princess cruise reviews  cruise comparison  princess cruise versus carnival  port of san francisco review 

About Me


San Luis Obispo Mom Originally from San Diego, California, I'm a San Diego State University alumna, veteran's wife and mom of two kids who were born two years apart. After living on the East Coast for 6 years, we now reside in San Luis Obispo County and here, the exploration continues.
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