We (my husband, stepdaughter, and I) cruised aboard the Diamond Princess last summer - we did a cruisetour from Fairbanks to Anchorage, followed by the cruise. The experience was a wonderful one - I would highly recommend Alaska to anyone. It is a truly unique cruise and we met many repeaters, including one couple who do a form of the cruise/cruisetour every summer.
The Diamond is lovely - new and exactly what you would expect from Princess. She is a large ship, and we were not sailing completely full.
There were a few glitches on the cruisetour part of the vacation, mostly due to the lack of personnel in Princess Lodges...service at the restaurants was excruciatingly slow, b/c they didn't have nearly enough help(although the food quality was satisfactory), and there was a mix-up with our room in Denali, but this was quickly remedied by the front desk, since the hotel was no where near capacity, since it was mid-June and fairly early in the season. If you adjust your expectations and allow enough time for meals, you will not be disappointed. We did some wonderful excursions - let me know if you want me to elaborate.
By all means do the cruisetour FIRST!! The land travelling - packing and unpacking multiple times - is a little rigorous compared to the luxury of unpacking once for the cruise vacation, and it is nice to be settled in for the week of cruising and relax after the land part of the vacation.
I would recommend spending a couple of days in Vancouver (or Seattle) if that is where you disembark...depending on where you are from and how far you have travelled, it is worth the extra time, if you haven't seen the area. We were in Vancouver and made a day trip to Victoria (we booked it on our own at our hotel), which was a lovely end to our 2 weeks.
There are a lot of options - have fun deciding!
"I must go down to the sea again"
I went to the TA today a picked up brochures for cruisetours, Princess, RC, HA, Carnival and Celebrity. Lots to read and compare. But Princess is my first choice. Right now looking at My husband, me, our 30 yr son and his best friend from school, my mom, my sister, and her 30 yr old son, and 2-4 more couples. 5-7 cabins or is 8 for the group rate?
Yes I would love to hear about you excurisons, please feel free to elaborate.