Ricki Lynn ==>
We did the Alaska cruise last May for our anniversary...and it was fabulous. You can see pictures of our trip in the Photo Gallery...Alaska - May 2001. The pics will give you some idea of what you'll see off a balcony if you choose to go for it. Personally, we won't sail without that chance to step outside and watch the world go by. I can stand for hours just watching the open sea.
We originally planned to go on Holland America but switched to Princess. It all depends on what you want. Both offer white glove service, good to excellent food, etc. Princess tends to be a bit more laid back on board. It also has a huge array of excursions. Their excursions tend to be a bit pricey. You can do better on your own. First thing to do is get the Official Alaska State Vacation Planner...lists all sorts of tours, etc. with their web sites.
No, you never have time to take all the excursions but there's time to see a lot. None of the towns in Alaska are that big that you can't walk them easily. It's the tours out of town that take time. Even those excursions not linked to the cruise line try to gear their timing to cruise sailings. It's something you have to check on yourself.
Hidden charges...aren't they everywhere? :>) On Princess we had tips deducted for the dining room staff whether we ate in the dining room or not. All in all, we haven't found cruise lines charging "hidden charges" that we wouldn't have paid anyway. We just would like to make our own decisions.
Alaska is absolutely gorgeous...where else can you see mountains rising out of the sea up to 15,000 feet...where else can you look at the shoreline and see no roads, no condominiums, to telephone poles. And then there's the wildlife...traffic backed up because a moose stopped in the middle of the road...sheep scampering over the rocks above you. Where else will you see sunlight shining on the mountains...at 11:00 at night?
It's to die for...you can't help but enjoy it.