Aboard Princess, you get a lot of bang for your buck, attractively packaged and well executed. Although its ships serve every corner of the globe, nowhere is the Princess presence more visible than in Alaska, where it will have seven ships in 2012 -- the same as sister line Holland America. Through its affiliate, Princess Tours, it owns wilderness lodges, motorcoaches, and railcars in the 49th state, making it one of the major players in the Alaska cruise market, alongside Holland America.
Princess passengers can expect enough onboard activities to keep them going morning to night, if they've a mind to, and enough nooks and crannies to allow them to do absolutely nothing if that's their thing. Kids are well taken care of, with especially large children's playrooms. On shore, the line's shore excursion staff gets big points for efficiency. Passengers have the option of eating dinner at a set time (early and late seating) or dining in the "anytime dining" room, at any time.
Princess offers the standard 7-night Inside Passage cruises and 7-night Gulf of Alaska cruises, as well as 10-night Inside Passage cruises from San Francisco.
Passenger Profile -- Typical Princess passengers are likely to be between 50 and 65. They are experienced cruisers who know what they want and are prepared to pay for it. Recent additional emphasis on its youth and children's facilities has begun to attract a bigger share of the family market.
Ships -- Princess's diverse fleet in Alaska comprises seven ships, six of which are new since the millennium. The fleet includes the Diamond and Sapphire, which were completed in 2004; the Coral and Island, of 2003 vintage; and the Golden and Star, built in 2001 and 2002, respectively. The Sea Princess, which was built in 1998 and served in the British P&O Cruises fleet until joining Princess after a major refit in 2005, rounds out the company's Alaska lineup for 2012. The ships generally are pretty but not stunning, bright but not gaudy, spacious but not overwhelmingly so, and decorated in a comfortable, restrained style that's a combination of classic and modern. They're a great choice when you want a step up from Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL but aren't interested in the slightly more chic ambience of Celebrity, or the luxury of Regent Seven Seas. Sample nightly rates per person: lowest-price inside cabin $109, lowest outside cabin $139, lowest suite $185 for a 7-night cruise.