We took a 7 day Alaska cruise on the Coral Princess in May of 2004. We had a great time but were not overly impressed with Princess. We had a balcony cabin and the cabin itself was very nice. Our biggest complaint was the main dining room. The service left much to be desired and the food was not all that great. If you ordered herbal tea you got regular tea. Send it back and you got coffee. The staff never had it together. We gave up, ended up eating at the buffet most of the time, a very big disappointment.
We did nothing but compare this cruise with our only prior cruise, a Carnival Spirit West Carribbean cruise. This is what we think....
Embarkation on the Princess Coral was unorganized and slow, Carnival's was very quick and professionally run. This was the first cruise of the season in a brand new port for Princesss, so we have to cut them some slack here.
Rooms on the Coral were more spacious, balcony larger, shower was much much smaller than Carnival. Cabin steward - comparable - both excellent! (missed the towel animals though that Carnival provided nightly!). Room amenities - better on Carnival. Robes better on Carnival.
Gym - much better on Carnival (saunas and steam room not free on Coral).
Entertainment much much better on Princess.
Food (main dining room) - Carnival Spirit far superior quality, presentation and service (desserts were excellent!) We did like the personal choice dining concept on the Coral. Buffet food was superior on the Coral. Buffet food was luke warm on both ships. Pizza - superior on Coral however not available 24 hours. Hamburger stand on Coral - so so (even though we didn't try it on the Spirit). Ice cream - Spirit 24 hour soft serve free. Coral - sundae bar between 3-5pm. No free soft serve.
Coral crew overall seemed friendlier.
Swimming pools much better on the Coral, deeper.
The Coral had far fewer PA announcements.
We enjoyed our Princess cruise. We would go on both ships again, though we would be concerned about the dining room food on a Princess cruise.
If you are driving to or from Whittier, you will have to cross this tunnel, the largest one that passes through a mountain in North America. You can only cross for 15 minutes every hour, but the crossing is smooth and on time. The entrance towards Whittier is at Portage, on the Seward Highway. Once inside the tunnel, the drive takes about 10 minutes. From Anchorage you take the train or buses. There aren't many departures! Or you can rent a car at Whittier or at Seward or Anchorage and return it in Whittier.
The road/tunnel into Whittier is one way, so be sure to find out the schedule ahead of time. There is a 15 minute direction time for each lane of traffic. You can find out Hours of Operation and Schedules of the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel at this site: http://www.dot.state.ak.us/creg/whittiertunnel/schedule.htm
Some of the Alaskan cruisings makes a port of call in Whittier. These enormous ships bring bunch of tourists (up to 4000) to a small tiny villages along the coast line of Alaska.