We were on our first cruise, to Alaska, on HAL, last month but it was up and back. We had a verandah room on the starboard side and I loved it because we saw a lot of the actual mainland. My recommendation would be to book a port side (since you're going south) because of that. Again, bear in mind that we were first-timers; perhaps someone with more experience has a better idea. In any case, have a great time!
We were northbound and had a starboard cabin, but I'm not really sure if there is really much of a difference. Most of the time there was no real difference between the 2 sides of the ship and when we went through Glacier Bay, the Captain made sure that both sides of the ship saw everything equally well. Anywhere your cabin is, an Alaskan cruise is fabulous.
Aft gets raves but it is poor for marine wildlife viewing- for that you want the animals coming toward you and continued tracking ability. They are quickly gone viewing aft. I can't stress enough- get out of your cabin at least part of glacier viewing day- the brief views from the turns is only a small fraction of what is possible. AND my 9-03 sailing in Glacier Bay - starboard side had NO VIEWS of Grand Pacific or Margerie. The ship just made a starboard turn and LEFT, no 360+180.
Must be a Captains choice or something,,on our 8-04 sailing,,the port had no view of the Margerie or the grand Pacific,,and I know because my balcony was on the port side. I whole hartedly agree with Karen16,,,get out of the cabin,,easier to track anything plus you get to really feel the COLD,,really quite invigerating and makes hot coffee and chocolate oh so much better!!!!
Most people assume that when you cruise Northbound you should be on the right side and when you cruise Southbound you should be on left side. The fact of the matter is, the majority of the cruise its traveling in the Inside Passage, between fjords and islands and so land is on both sides of the ship.
My best suggestion is to get up early the morning you sail into Vancouver. Traveling under the Lion's Gate Bridge, seeing Stanley Park and the six sails of Canada Place with the sun rising in the background is beautiful! Take a from a local.
Definitely port side. We did this a year ago and all the whales, wildlife etc were on our side (apparently they like been near shore) The balcony was wonderful! When we cruised glacier Bay, Princess offered a special champagne brunch. we sat out on our balcony, turned on the tv and listened to the naturalist . Didn't miss a thing!
Our TA highly recommended a balcony for our first cruise ever. She said the balcony is not worth it in the Caribbean, but essential in Alaska. Ours was starboard midship. We spent little time in our cabin, but checked the view just before going to bed and first thing in the morning. The cabin paid for itself in Tracy Arm. After two hours in heavy drizzle on deck, our water resistant togs were wet. We went to our cabin to dry off and discovered our balcony was dry even though the rain was getting heavier. We and our buddies spent the rest of the time in Tracy Arm on the balcony with the naturalist's commentary coming through the TV. Of course, Tracy Arm is a turn around route so we saw both sides of the Arm.