My husband and I took our first cruise with the Diamond Princess to Mexico in March, 2007. In a word "Wow". We loved it. Princess really did a wonderful job of managing thousands of passengers. Service was friendly and excellent; all areas of the ship including our cabin were tidy and very clean and food was very good. Embarkation and disemabrarkation was a breeze. We never had a line up for anything on the ship. The staff were extremely organized with getting people on and off the ship at the start and end of the cruise but also for tours.
We did two tours: Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. They were professionally done and well worth the money. We arranged these through Princess and were glad we did as it totally took away the stress and hassle of arranging these ourselves.
We really enjoyed such a a large ship with all the amenities and options that were available. We never felt it was too big or difficult to find our way around.
We loved our balcony cabin. It had more room than we expected to have. A balcony is wonderful for sittingout and enjoying the ocean, the sunsets/sunrises and having a meal or snack.
The Captain's announcements were appreciated and humourous. We appreciated staff not using the intercom all the time.
We opted for traditional dining. It was very enjoyable meeting others and having wonderful service with the same staff each night. I would try the anytime dining the next time for comparison. There certainly are enough options for eating on this ship. The buffet was well organized and food always hot, tasty and attractively prepared.
Our only comments for improvements are: the beds and pillows are hard! Also, charging for every pop and coffee is silly and should be included in the cost of the fare.
We highly recommend Princess for a cruise and plan to travel with them again.
We have done only one other cruise, a repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Spirit last year. Myself (43 years old), husband (38 years old) and 14 year old son were on this cruise and had an Inside stateroom Aloha Deck 10330.
We drove to the San Pedro port and self parked ($12.00 a day) and we were parked right in front of our ship, a mere five minute very easy walk from car to ship. Embarkment seemed to be very smooth, a bit of waiting around and then we were on the ship by 1:00. I had seen the ship in my home town and the Diamond had looked very big then. When you get on the ship it is even bigger but laid out very well. I am directionally challenged and by the end of the week I was hardly ever getting lost -- much.
Oh we bought on board four bottles of wine, six pack of beer, some wine coolers, and a 6 pack of water. One of the beer and all the coolers, and one bottle of wine were not drunk. No questions what so ever. Ourluggage arrived in bits and pieces but it did all get to our room.
We had a quick lunch at the smallish buffet but which had a good selection of salads, breads, lunchmeats, and hot entrees, desserts. Our son ate here quite often and we did use the buffet for a quick snack or small meal to tide us over until a later dinner. Had one breakfast here but did not really care for it. One lunch they had an incredible roasted suckling whole pig!!!! It was very good. The chocolate chip cookies were to die for!! I took some back to the cabin with some cartons of milk. They made a great late night snack.
Rooms Our cabin seemed a little bigger then the Spirit with a lot of closet space and hangers, drawer space and shelves inside another closet (this closet had a safe in it). Our cabin slept four, we had twin beds put together to make a queen size bed and two bunk beds that folded up into the roof, and we had the upper bed on the right side put down every night as the left upper bed blocked the TV. Beds were quite comfortable and certainly large enough. We unpacked and threw the suitcases underneath the bed. We asked for bathrobes and more pillows. There was an outlet to plug electrical things into by the desk area. Someone had said to bring a power bar, which we did, but did not use.Staterooms had mini fridges (not stocked), which was well used by us for storing milk, beer, and water. Also each room has blue and white striped pool towels. They were replaced when we bought used ones back from the pool or the ports. Bathroom small but with more then enough room and shelves. Shower pressure was good but the water temperature changed quickly and went from warm to hot or cold, not always nice! Olivia was our cabin attendant and she was quick and so polite. We were always commenting about the long hours she (as well as all of the staff) worked. I hope I never read about anyone ever questioning the tipping procedure on the Princess…The staff works very hard for their money and deserve much more then they get. I had been aware that any extra money we gave her would have to put into communal pot. Hence she would not really be getting more…so I gave her bottles of professional hair care products and such as an extra tip. Friends had a balcony start room on the Baja deck and it was very nice. A little larger then our room and the balcony was wonderful with it’s own table and chairs. Next cruise we are having a balcony. They especially loved their room Stewart and miss him very much…the real world is hard to get back into after a cruise…isn’t it Happyroos?? Internet charges were very slow and expensive at .35 US a minute and it was slow…we did it once to check our email and realized how expensive it was going to be and then saved our emailing for when we were in Ports (usually internet cafes charge 15 pesos an hour).
Staterooms had mini fridges (not stocked), which was well used by us for storing milk, beer, and water. Also each room has blue and white striped pool towels. They were replaced when we brought used ones back from the pool or the ports. Bathroom small but with more then enough room and shelves. Shower pressure was good but the water temperature changed quickly and went from warm to hot or cold, not always nice!
Olivia was our cabin attendant and she was quick and so polite. We were always commenting about the long hours she (as well as all of the staff) worked. I hope I never read about anyone ever questioning the tipping procedure on the Princess. The staff works very hard for their money and deserve much more then they get. I had been aware that any extra money we gave her would have to put into communal pot. Hence she would not really be getting more. So I gave her bottles of professional hair care products and such as an extra tip.
Friends had a balcony stateroom on the Baja deck and it was very nice. A little larger then our room and the balcony was wonderful with it's own table and chairs. Next cruise we are having a balcony. They especially loved their room steward and miss him very much. The real world is hard to get back into after a cruise, isn't it? Happyroos??
Internet was very slow and expensive at .35 US a minute and it was slow. We did it once to check our email and realized how expensive it was going to be and then saved our emailing for when we were in ports (usually internet cafes charge 15 pesos an hour).
Food This is going to be long. We LOVE food. Sorry.
Dining Rooms and Anytime Dining Plan: WONDERFUL. We ate the first night at the Savoy and had a Philippine jr jr server named April. OMG she was a hoot!!! Very good server, and funny. We went back twice more and asked to be in her section, as did other tables around us. I think Elisa was the server. We loved them both especially April, every night she made us the best after dinner cappuccinos!
That first night at Savoy's we dined on an incredible Prime Rib, which was ordered and came medium rare. It was very thick and the baked potatoes that came with it were perfectly cooked.
Mazatland day Savoy's (again) they served Alaskan crab legs as an entree at dinner and rack of lamb. The three of us LOVE both so we asked Elisa/April if we could get a plate of just crab legs for one of our starters and racks of lamb for dinner?? It was all-wonderful J bar none, one of the best meals we have ever eaten. My lamb was a prefect medium rare.
Went to Sante Fe one night. I had the fajitas and they were oily and not good. My husband had and liked it very much. The fettuccini Alfredo is outstanding J YUMMY.
We did eat one night at Sterling's with a group of friends (party of ten including the two teenagers) but to be honest the service was not good and the food was not outstanding. I thought the prime rib at Savoy's the first night to be just as good and Elisa and April's service was much better. We had reserved for Sabitinos the last night but after the dinner at Sterlings we canceled it, the regular dining rooms are wonderful -- all on their own. When we cruised with Norwegian Spirit, we did feel the need to eat (and pay for) their surcharge restaurants, but the food on the Princess was heads above the Norwegian, as was everything else on Princess.
The wine list and the wines by the glass were good and very responsible. We did bring on board four bottles of wine and were charged a $15.00 surcharge with each bottle. Bucket of 5 beer (Becks or Dos Equix) were around $14.00. Basically you got one free as beer went for $3.50 a bottle. Good deal, we got a bucket at the pool one day and took the rest back to our cabins' fridge.
Drinks aboard the ship ranged from $4.50 -- $6.50 more for the Princess Take home glass. We passed. We found the drink prices to be very reasonable.
We love Sushi and were excited about the Sushi bar that they had by the pool one day, sadly the sushi wasn't quite up to par. That said, living here in BC we have some of the best Sushi restaurants around.
I used the Ice Cream Sundae bar by the pool one day and had the best Chocolate Coke float in the world ($3.99) worth every penny. The pools were numerous and we loved the daily activities at the Horizon pool each day. Went swimming a lot, which is unusual for us. Lots of pools to choose from. All wonderful. Loved the Battle between the sexes pool games… LOL. Last day at sea it was so rough that we were joking that they had installed a wave pool at Horizons (deck 14).
Last port day (Cabo) was the last formal night and lobster was served to the delight of many cruisers. The males in my family polished off four each, I had two small tails with my beef Wellington. Once again Elisha and April were wonderful. If you are on the Diamond Princess try to get a section with these two at the Savoy. April urged us to try Lemoncello (a lemon infused after dinner liquor). Very nice, she saw that I enjoyed it and poured me a free refill. The shot glasses were included in the price.
Ports Puerto Vallarta: We had been to Puerto Vallarta last year and had fallen in love with it. PV time is one hour ahead of the ship time so when we left the ship at 7 it was really 8 PV time. We got van from the ship (50 pesos EACH person there ended up being 7 passengers they crammed in). RIP OFF!!!! Go past the vans to the cabs just outside the gates, a cab costs 50 pesos for the whole entire cab. We went to the start of the El Malecon (boardwalk). It was so hot!!! 30 Celsius hitting 40 with humidity. We toured the market in town and the one down by the river (which we prefer) and the huge church. By 11 we were hot and ready for a swim!! First we went to this amazing taco restaurant right below Hooters (located on the El Malecon, best tacos and such in PV and very cheap. YUMMY. After a cheap excellent lunch we cabbed it ($50 pesos) to the Krystal (very close walk to the cruise ship)
Krystal Resort charges $20.00 a day per person (they charged our 14 year old $15.00) to use their pool and such; the $20.00 is applied to be used as a credit towards food and drink at the bar/restaurant. Massive construction, not very clean, indifferent staff, no beach toys, no towels, son ate at the buffet; husband said it didn't look great. Beach wasn't as nice a Nuevo Valletta, in fact, it was quite rocky. To be honest it really wasn't a good deal, I wish we had gone elsewhere. We had great company and really enjoyed our day but I would never go back to the Krystal.
Before the cruise I had contacted Marival where we had stayed last year and they charged $45.00 per person all inclusive -- towels, pools, incredible restaurants, drinks, lots of beach toys including a catamaran, everything included, beach was flat, nice and sandy, staff were incredible J. In hindsight it would have been better to spend more and have spent the day there.
Mazatland: Didn't really like this place. We took a cab downtown and walked around the Golden Zone, we found that the vendors and timeshare salesmen to be worse here then they were in PV or Cabo, they would be driving around and try to get you to go with them! We didn't really like downtown so we got a cab to the cliff divers and sure enough the vendors were trying to sell my husband something even before he got out of the cab! We stayed to watch a diver and tipped him and then got a $10.00 cab back to ship region very close to the Stone Island water taxis (Water taxis is 50 pesos each -- return trip included).
Got off the water Taxis and walked up the beaten path and around the corner to this incredible beach!!!! WOW Many, many restaurants, we found Victor's. Randi and one of her groups (maybe 15-20) were at the next table.
My husband was really not sure about eating here and I had to do some fast-talking!!!! He thought the restrooms were horrible and I thought they were pretty much what I was expecting, maybe the women's are cleaner then the men's?
We had 6 Pacificos, a cola, the shrimp, fish and rib platter, and our son had the fish sticks. YUUMMMMMYYYY!!!!!! Entire bill came to 25 US. We left 35. For $50.00 US the three of us had an incredible seafood lunch and many ice cold beers and lots of relaxing time at the beach. Victor's has boogie boards and such, I forgot to ask for them.
We were there for about 3-4 hours and took advantage of the water, in fact we had to pull our teenager out of the surf at the end, and he did not want to go back to the Diamond.
My husband noticed a very popular restaurant up the beach and I am now wondering if that might have been the other popular restaurant mentioned in the forum???
That said, Victor's rocked.
Oh there was a very skinny dog there who had just had puppies, we fed her and she was so friendly but so skinny. I gave her a liter bottle of water which she guzzled out of my hand. She seemed to like the water more then the food.
We walked back (5 min walk if that) to the taxis around 3 and by 3:20 (alright we got lost and took our first right when it should have been the second right) we were waiting to board the Diamond again.
Cabo: We arrived in Cabo and after a quick breakfast (cornflakes crusted French toast OMG YUMMY). We were tendered into port. Cabo seemed to be the most Americanized of the three ports. I certainly would return to it. We walked around the Marina first thing in the morning and were not troubled too much from time sharers and venders. Cabo is laid out very well and I can certainly see where it could be a fun party town. Cabo Wabo was interesting to go to. UMMMM, the one of the bars in Sammy Hager's Cabo Wabo nightclub had, ummmm, interesting deco.
We had offers to go in the glass bottom boats and around 11 we were ready to take a tour. 5 of us got a boat tour for $8.00 each. Seems that the price goes down around that time. Our boat driver was great and took us around the area for about a one-half hour ride. We saw the sea lions, Los Arcos, Lovers Beach, and so much more. What a great tour. He stopped at Lovers Beach for 20 minutes before we returned back to the Marina so we could swim. Really cool place.) I want to go back soon! We ended our Port day with 12 Coronas, fresh hot chips, colas, incredible guacamole and salsa all for less then $20.00 for the five of us.
It was too bad that the ship left Cabo at 2. I wish that we could have stopped at Cabo first, done a full day here, cruised to PV, done a full day there, done half day in Matazaland and then cruise back to LA.
Teen Program -- Off Limits Our 14 year old son was a little unsure if he would really enjoy this or not. We registered him when we were waiting to embark and we liked Kristen, the woman who signed our son up. We took the activities information brochure that the Diamond had slated for this trip and quickly realized they had put a lot of thought and preparation into making sure that the teenagers would have just as much fun as the adults did. There were over 600 children on board and you would hardly have known it. We had to insist that our son have dinner with us four of the seven nights. The rest of the nights he was at the TC (teen slang for the Teen Center). We would check in periodically and once again cannot stress how pleased we were with the Princess's Teen Program. So much better than the other cruise lines we were on. The teens on board that we met all loved the TC and so did the parents.
Shows and Entertainment We saw two comedians on board and they were very funny without being rude. We took in the cooking tour on the last day and thoroughly enjoyed it; the chef and the Maitre 'd are a riot!!!! The kitchen tour was certainly an eye opener!!! We took lots of pictures. WOW!!!
We partook of the trivia games and my husband won the Ryder's Golf Cup tournament that the ship put on (he won luggage tags). What fun!! We watched the Princess Idol and OM MY!! The woman we saw singing should be on American Idol. What an incredible voice. She was on her honeymoon and we missed the last show (my husband was very seasick the last day and night) but I am sure she must have won it.
What we like so much about the ship was that there was always so much to do if you chose to or nothing at all -- more then lying by the pool, your choice. What is there not to love?? Sorry that the report is so long. I learned a lot from this forum and tried to include information that others might be interested in. We LOVED the Diamond and the only bad thing about a cruise on this ship is having to come home. Princess, thank you so very much. It wa the best holiday this family had ever had. Happyroos Family, we need to start planning the next Princess cruise.
When you check in, you will get a key card (like a credit card) for your cabin. Go to the purser's desk and ask them to punch a hole in it (they do this all the time). Attach a lanyard to it so you can carry it around your neck. This will eliminate any need to carry a purse or wallet, since everything on the ship is purchased by swiping your key card; your credit card will be on file with them. The morning you disembark, you will get an itemized list of your purchases for your records, and they will be charged to your credit card. If you'd prefer, you can give the purser cash when you embark, and spending on your key card will be set to that limit.
Cabin - Our cabin had plenty of storage space. The balcony has a small table and two chairs (not lounge chairs). The door is a very heavy sliding glass door that locks. Shampoo, conditioner, shower cap, soap and lotion are all provided.
The cabin has a small safe about 12 inches square. You select your own four-digit code and itis free.
The Library has many books you can check out, as well as a lot of games, cards and dice.
The ship has a wedding chapel that hosted three weddings on this cruise. The chapel is lovely and they decorate it just before a wedding. The room has a piano and seats 34.
At the Lotus Spa you can get a pass for the week ($70 for one, $109 for two). This will let you into the private area with a pool and hot tub, several saunas, several different showers, and heated stone beds. There is a changing room with lockers, robes, towels. This is all separate from whatever spa treatment you might get.
On our Mexico cruise, the only tender port was Cabo San Lucas. It's a quick little trip to port. I was surprised to find out that the tenders come with the ship. They double as the lifeboats and at the end of the day, they are hauled back on the ship.
Things that cost extra include bar drinks, the casino, specialty drinks, special meals on your balcony, two restaurants (Sabatini's at $20 per person and Sterling Steak House, $15), the ice cream stand, Lotus Spa treatments (or a weekly spa pass), wine in the dining rooms, Internet connections (50 cents a minute), Bingo, use of the laundromat (one on each cabin level), photos taken by the ship's photographers ($20 for each 8x10), and the Arcade.
Free things include food and non-alcoholic drinks from the buffet or dining rooms (you can pop into the buffet anytime for soda, coffee, tea or water); the pizza stand (absolutely delicious, by the way); the hamburger/fries stand; poolside buffets; standard room service; library books or games; afternoon movies.
I took photos of the kids' area. There is one room for ages 3-8 and another for ages up to 17. I do not know if there is any charge here as I didn't have occasion to use it. I rarely saw kids on the ship, because they were kept busy all day with their own activity directors in these rooms. The rooms were really amazing and had all sorts of things to keep the kids busy. I think they had their own little pool also.
The midnight chocolate buffet seems to have been phased out. Instead, they have an afternoon dessert buffet around the main pool area.
This ship had two restaurants that required a surcharge (see above). There was also the Horizon Court Buffet (always available) and five dining rooms available for dinner (all with the same menu). One of those -- the International Dining Room -- was also open for breakfast from 7:30 a.m. until 9 a.m., and for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I tried them once for breakfast (same food as the buffet, except you sit down and they serve you -- less choice, though). I also tried them for lunch, but was quite disappointed in the limited menu choices. The dining rooms all had marvelous food for dinner -- a choice of three appetizers, three soups, one salad, five entrees, and about five desserts. In addition, they had quite a few entrees and desserts that were standard and available all the time.
For medical needs, the liquor store onboard carries small packages of quite a few things, like aspirin, Motrin, Rolaids, Dramamine, etc. Surprisingly, the only thing I did not see was Immodium, or any kind of medicine for the bowels. The doctor onboard will happily give you an injection for about $100, so be sure to bring your own meds for Montezuma's revenge!
The water onboard is probably more pure than any you can get in the world -- bottled or otherwise. It goes through quite a number of filtrations. I took a water bottle and refilled it as necessary to carry around with me. If you take a tour in port, there is always bottled water you can purchase; my tours provided it for free at our stops.
We just returned from a Northbound cruise and Land Tour on the Diamond Princess. For anyone planning to make the trip make sure you read everything you are sent because it most likely will be different than anything you were told when booking.
Embarkation - we have traveled twice on Royal Caribbean and never experienced the confusion present in Vancouver. There were no signs designating baggage check, we asked 3 different Princess workers and all sent us in another direction. Finally found a baggage handler that offered to show us where our bags needed to go. We got in line to find that not only was there Princess passengers but Holland passengers that go through the same security area. Again no formal line delineation everyone just trying to get to the security area. After security you are funneled down a hall with the Holland passengers, we finally saw a sign designating a room for Holland so we assumed the other room was for Princess. We sat in a holding room for about 20 minuets until the check in began. This is where total chaos took over. There were a line of ticketbooths with deck names on them several for each deck but maybe only 1 or 2 tellers for each. Again no line delineation, people were just hustling looking for a short line and got in it. Our teller had no clue what to do she went to every other teller looking for our room keys. She forgot to imprint the credit card so we were called to the pursers desk during the cruise to handle paperwork. All of this and our documentation said we had express check-in.
Ship - we have sailed on the Voyager 2 times and have come to like the ability to stay on one deck and travel from one end of the ship to the other. Don't expect that on the Diamond, to get where you want to go you either go up or down a deck. The deck plan is very chopped up.
Entertainment - we went to one show in the Lounge - a commedian that was enjoyable. We also went to the Princess Theater one night for a Ventriloquist, what a mistake. People were leaving in hordes within 5 minutes. He would have been much better suited on Sesame St.
Dining - if you take no other advice - pick traditional dining. The anytime dining is a joke. We tried to make reservations at 7 AM to find that the earliest we could get reservations was 8PM. We were only able to get reservations 4 of the 7 nights and all were at the earliest time of 8. It was not until the last night that we were told by any of the waiters that there were specials in each room that were not on the menu. Waiters in the Pacific Moon never spoke other than to take an order. as I have read in other reviews we found the Horizon Court food nothing more than basic. It was luke warm at best - the plates were hotter. The layout of the buffet leads to so much cunfusion that by the time you get your lukewarm food plated, it is cold by the time you find a table. The breakfast buffet never changed except what they mixed in the scrambled eggs that day. The pizzeria and the hamburger grill provided some of the best tasting food we had.
Shore excursions - Ketchikan Eagles and Totem Poles was great. Juneau City highlights left much to be desired. The Discover the Yukon in Skagway - the best. Our driver Carlee made it very enjoyable.
Itineray was very good we did see what we went to Alaska to see in the wildlife, glaciers and scenery.
Land tour - I highly suggest that you do the Land Tour first and then head on the Southern cruise. Once we become part of the Princess land tour our trip went downhill. You are constantly being rushed to sit and wait for transportation. You are moving from place to place at a rapid schedule and if you aren't spending money on Princess excursions you are left at the Lodge with nothing to do. We went to the Mt. McKinley lodge for 2 nights from the ship by train. Saw more people being affected by motion on the train than on the ship. Be prepared to pay dearly for anything you may want to eat or drink. You pay more for the 4 days on the land cruise than you do for 7 days on the ship that includes your meals. At the train depot you are given the choice to stay in Talkeetna and take a later shuttle to the Lodge. We chose to stay in Town and catch the 3:30 shuttle to the lodge 50 miles away. Big mistake, We were at the shuttle station at 3:05 by 3:25 there were over 100 people waiting and the shuttle only handled 45. We were left standing in the parking lot for 1 1/2 hours until 2 more coaches arrived from the Loage. The worst part, is the driver said they knew how many people were there but just didn't send any coaches.
Mt. McKinley Lodge - beautiful scenery. By coming in on a later bus, no one told anyone that there were shuttles that would take you to your room that could be up to 1/2 mile away. Two bus loads of passengers wound up hauling their luggage to the rooms, up and down hills. We had 4 rooms for our group, one room got no keys, two rooms had the accomodations screwed up and when we called the lobby to take care of it they sent the pool girl. I tried talking to the manager butto no avail, we made the changes on our own.
Denali - again beautiful scenery, again no keys and screwed up accomodations and again no help from the Lodge, we took care of it ourselves. No hot water that night and fumes filled the hallway. No response from Princess afetr we made calls on each. Be prepared to be rushed here. Our luggage had to be in the hall by 9AM, checkout at 11 train leaves at 3:45. Unless you book another excursion you sit and wait. Worst part is the housekeepers are in such a hurry to get ready for the next passengers that they were knocking on our door at 8:15 saying they wanted to clean our room. After telling them to come back after 11, we went to get coffee and return in 15 minutes to find them in our room. Do not trust the secure baggage check at the Concierge - it is an open shed outside that anyone has access to. In fact we saw a landscaper in the building near the luggage.
Fairbanks - you arrive around 9 PM and have to be out by 9 Am. Be prepared you may not be given a room in the Princess Lodge as the brochure states. We were not able to use 2 of our rooms due to our flight, fortunately for two of the three couples that were caught in an overbooking situation. We tried to talk to the Princess outfitters about getting a refund for the night since we couldn't use the room because of our flight. Got a run around. We also had to file a claim when we found our luggage, that we had to send on from the ship because you can only take one bag on the land tour, had been opened and rummaged through. Princess promised us a shuttle to the airport at 10:45 PM that never showed, fortunately an employee of the sub-contracted lodge overheard the situation and took us herself after she got off work.
Definitely be prepared for the land tour you will not see any attempt to make your trip comfortable. The majority of the Princess workers on the land tour haven't got a clue about customer service. Some were down right rude.
SUMMARY: My wife, Ginny, and I, along with our neighbors, took the first of the 2006 season northward bound Princess CruiseTours to Alaska aboard the Diamond Princess. We recognized that the first trip of the Alaska season was a gamble because of the weather, the "new" route, and the experience/training of the tour staff in Alaska, most of whom are seasonal with many new in their jobs.
The trip did include glitches but they were far outweighed by the enthusiasm of the Princess staff and the incredible displays of nature including scenery and animals. We saw whales, dall sheep, bears, caribou, bald eagles, swans, beavers, porcupine, snowshoe rabbits, sea lions, otters, and numerous smaller animals and birds, all in a setting of mountains, rivers, bays and fjords covered with snow and ice. We went whale watching, sled dog mushing and ATVing. Our comfortable bases for the trip were the large, modern Diamond Princess cruise ship and the Princess lodges at Copper River and Denali, Alaska. Transportation, in Alaska, included Princess buses and Princess observation railroad cars.
EMBARKATION: The biggest glitch of the trip was embarkation. The ship arrived in Vancouver several hours latefrom San Francisco. Instead of boarding around noon we boarded around 7:00 pm. We did go to Vancouver a day early and stayed at the very nice Pan Pacific Hotel, located right at the Canada Center, the cruise ship terminal in Vancouver. The huge advantages were that we were under the care of Princess for the wait. They provided a hospitality room in the hotel with a clear view of the ship, expedited boarding once we were clear and we could walk to the gaslight district of Vancouver ,adjacent to the hotel, while we waited to board the ship.
HINT: Booking a pre-night hotel with the cruise line is a sort of insurance policy that you will be specially treated for embarkation. We always do that and it pays dividends nearly every time.
DISEMBARKATION: We were off the ship in Whittier and ready for our land tour early at about 7:45 a.m. for our catamaran ride from the Whittier port to Valdez. The catamaran was only a short walk from the ship and our bags were delivered for us. The total time was ten minutes.
WEATHER: The temperatures ranged from the 40s to the high 70s. We did experience light rain at a couple of stops but much, much less than we had anticipated. The skies were clear enough to see Mt. McKinley from Denali National Park and Mt. Drum from Copper River plus enjoy our bus and train rides under sunny skies the entire way. The cruise line counsel to dress in layers was excellent. It did get quite cold, especially in the morning and especially on the decks of fast moving boats. HINT: Don't forget gloves and a warm hat.
THE SHIP: The Diamond Princess is relatively new and has most of the amenities of large, modern cruise ships. The staff were excellent for the most part. Our cabin steward was new to his job and struggled for a few days but learned the ropes quickly. The dining rooms for personal choice dining were worth special mention. There were four of them: The Pacific Moon, Santa Fe, Sterling and Vivaldi. All featured the same menu each evening but complemented it with specials unique to their themes like Oriental or Southwestern. These restaurants were excellent and we never made it to the specialty restaurants.
HINT: Dine early and you never need reservations in any of the personal choice restaurants. Early is before 6:30 p.m.
There was plenty of entertainment in the lounges and showroom. The casino was relatively large. The buffet was well organized and the food was very good. The ship featured Alaskan beers and drinks in the bars and lounges.
HINT: Try an O'Reilly made with hot chocolate and Bailey's Irish Crème. Its perfect for glacier viewing.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS: The itinerary included the Alaska ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway along with sailing in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The shore excursions are unique to Alaska and most involve special adventures. Helicopter and float plane rides into the wilderness are at the top of the price list and provide unique experiences. The calm and silent beauty experienced on a remote Alaskan lake is a benefit of one of the aircraft rides. ( We did this on our first cruise to Alaska). The train ride from Skagway to the Klondike is a must for anyone going for the first time. Whale watching is fun! The boat is enclosed so you have protection from the weather but you have the option to be outside. There is a money back guarantee for seeing whales. We saw several , along with eagles, sea lions and bears. Sled dog mushing is a great Alaskan experience. We went by bus to a mushers camp near Skagway and were treated to not only a sled ride but also the experience of seeing hundreds of Alaskan Huskies, listening to an Iditerod race participant, and seeing the magnificient scenery along the way.
Shopping is excellent in the Alaskan ports, especially in Juneau. Many of the same jewelry stores seen in the Caribbean ports are in Alaska but are complemented by stores featuring Alaskan unique art objects, clothing and souvenirs.
HINT: Book "can't miss" shore excursions on line as soon as they are available so you won't be left out. Some do fill completely up.
Although Glacier Bay and College Fjord are not ports they are centerpieces of the Alaskan cruise itinerary. Both offer unique opportunities to see some of the most rugged parts of Alaska from the comfort of the cruise ship. The huge glaciers, some calving ice into the water, are awesome sights and sounds. Glacier Bay takes a large part of the day and the ship spends a long time in front of the biggest glacier, a good opportunity to see mammals on the icebergs and in the ice flows. College Fjord comes at either the end or beginning of the day depending on the ships itinerary. We arrived around dinner time. (nice argument for personal choice dining) HINT: If the ship's College Fjord arrival comes during either breakfast or dinner, which is likely, choose the sightseeing as apriority because the views are spectacular. Food is always available
TRANSPORTATION IN ALASKA: Princess has a big bus fleet in Alaska, well maintained and driven by enthusiastic and competent drivers. We rode a bus from Valdez to Copper River, then from Copper River to Denali. The drives are slow, especially on the Denali Highway, much of which is not paved and is very rough. The drives do allow for animal sightings and scenery watching. There were plenty of each. At the call of "moose" or "caribou" the driver stops for pictures and watching. We also stopped for photos alongside the eight foot snow bank and picturesque waterfalls. The buses are modern and clean. The area is remote. Our bus had a flat tire on the dirt Denali Highway that took an hour and a half to repair. One vehicle came by during the hour and a half. The Princess train cars on the Alaskan Railroad are also very nice. Each car has a domed observation deck that accommodates all the passengers as well as a dining area on the lower deck. Meals are prepared in the car. Each car has several Princess employees to guide and serve the passengers.
We also had a catamaran ride from Whittier, the cruise disembarkation port, to Valdez, the start of the land tour. The ride took us across Prince William Sound, the site of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker grounding and oil spill.
HINT: Booking transportation with the cruise lines is insurance for safe and reliable transportation.
THE LODGES: Princess lodges in Copper River and Denali were very nice and very different from each other. The Princess Copper River Wilderness Lodge sat alone in a beautiful setting above the river and had tremendous views of the mountains and the Wrangell-St.Elias National Park ( The largest park in the U.S. system). The lodge is relatively small with an enthusiastic staff. They welcome the bus and bid goodbye by standing and waving outside the entrance. The restaurants serve good food at decent prices. The Denali lodge is a large complex of log cabin architecture buildings that house restaurants, a theater, shops, crew quarters and guest rooms. It, too, has a beautiful setting and bustles with tourist activities. A bus tour from the lodge to the Denali National Park is included in the tour. Both lodges offer several optional tours, most involving nature. We went ATVing at the Copper River, a trip that took us along the river and to the Aleyska pipeline across some pretty rugged terrain.
HINT: Take mosquito repellant and use it before going into wooded areas with water. The mosquito legends are true in some places. There are a lot of them and they are big.
The Princess lodges feature free internet, a very nice perk from the remote areas. The availability of the computers, two in each lodge, was surprisingly good.
Princess uses the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage. This is a large, modern and well equipped hotel with very good restaurants. It is just a few minutes from the airport. HINT: The lodges and hotel are all available for viewing on line.
CONCLUSION: The first of the year Princess CruiseTour was not a big gamble. The payoff was snow capped scenery and very enthusiastic Princess staff. We were their first visitors of the season, the first bus riders, the first catamaran riders, the first ATV riders, the first sled dog mushers and the enthusiasm of the staff was contagious. The ship's new route for the season resulted in small delays but none that affected the overall quality of our Alaskan CruiseTour adventure.
Firstly, this is my first time cruising with Princess Cruises. I have travel on Royal Carribean (Rhaspody of the seas - ROTS) before this cruise. Compairing the two, Royal Carribean is my favourite but there's a lot to like about the Diamond Princess which Rhapsody didn't have.
I loved the space and how big this ship was, I actually thought it was too big at the start of the 5 day cruise I went on big I got use to it and then wanted it even bigger, haha.
Staff: Majority of the staff were lovely people and polite. My only problem was with some of the staff in the main dining room which were rude and a bit stuck up. I prefered the buffet over the main dining area as I got to pick what I wanted and didn't need to get all dressed up. The cruise director staff (hosts) were excellent onboard. All very friendly and happy to help and join in the activities. The housecleaning people were great too.
Activities/Entertainment: Lots of stuff to do, I never got bored or couldn't find something to do.
Food: Was ok, Some ofthe food in the buffet was only just warm and they had the exact same food almost everyday without changing it up. Unlike on Rhapsody where they had different themes each night and varity in their buffets, I found it much easier to eat on that ship then on Diamond Princess. The high tea on Diamond Princess wasn't that great either and I overheard a few fellow passagers complaining about the food and service they had with the high tea in the main dining area.
Bar: I loved all the bars onboard this ship. My favourite was The Wheelhouse Bar, a nice mostly quiet area and heaps of sitting area. The Explorers Lounge was a good bar area too but I didn't enjoy the bar service there as the bar attaindants were extremely slow and the person I was travelling with had to wait over 30minutes for just a glass of water, that I was not really impressed with. Every other bar was top notch though.
Cabins: I stayed in a inside cabin which I would usually prefer a outside balcony but since it was only a short trip I picked the inside because I didn't care too much. It was prefect and had enough space for me and my travel partner.
We’re frequent cruisers and just completed our first Princess cruise in July (2013), taking the Diamond Princess from Anchorage to Vancouver. Overall, we’d say, regretfully, that the highly touted Diamond did not live up to its rating.
There were many areas where Princess could greatly improve. To start with, check-in was very arduous. It took 45 minutes for my son and me to check in, while other passengers were whizzing through in 3 to 5 minutes. Even my wife and daughter, who had a separate cabin and were helped by a different attendant, got checked in a matter of minutes and had to wait for us. I can only ascribe our misfortune to the particular attendant who was checking us in. She asked for help from a manager and a co-worker, and then still took a long time after those others helped her. Her excuse: our records were not in the computer and had to be re-entered. Twice. Really? Maybe you’ll be lucky and get one of the properly-trained check-in attendants, but why should there even be this kind of glitch? For us this was a really inauspicious start of the journey.
TheDiamond Princess drastically needs to better train its desk staff. It’s our habit to call the desk from our cabin for information - it’s just faster than going down to the desk. But at least 5 times when we called the front desk no one answered, even after up to 15 rings. There was no voicemail system. We found this frustrating, disturbing, and unusual -- on Celebrity or Carnival ships someone picked up the phone within 2 rings. There was one time a staff member did answer the phone and I asked the hours of the child care center. It took the staff member 9 minutes to find out the answer, and the information she gave actually turned out to be incorrect. During the cruise we checked our folio from time to time at the front desk and we found an erroneous charge. It took the desk staff over a day to figure out the issue with the charge. Really? - a one day turnaround time on a 7-day cruise? All in all, desk service was unacceptable.
We had a 5-year old “princess” in our party but there were very few kid-friendly amenities onboard the Diamond Princess. Yes, they did have the child-care service but there was almost nothing a family could do with their young children. Other cruise lines offer miniature golf, water slides, a sprinkler park, even rock-climbing. Carnival has basketball courts and a jogging track. The Diamond Princess had nothing like that besides ping pong and swimming. In our opinion this limited whole family activities significantly.
Princess did get some of the basics down. Cruising through Glacier National Park was memorable, with the innumerable ice floes and glaciers. The weather was so temperate you really did not need a heavy coat to sightsee from the deck. We also greatly enjoyed the food in the main dining room, and the service of our waiters and our cabin steward were unimpeachable. (We’ve also found excellent dining room food and steward service to be the case with Carnival and Celebrity, the other cruise lines we’ve toured with. Cruise lines have this down.) Food in the cafeteria was more limited. Eggs Benedict and a custom noodle bar, which were standard in the Carnival cafeteria, were noticeably missing on the Diamond Princess.
All in all, we probably will not cruise Princess again. They offer nothing beyond the other cruise lines, and were found deficient in a number of areas we feel are very important.
I have mixed feelings about my Jan 2008 cruise on the Diamond Princess. I enjoyed the food and the staff; our steward, and our two waiters were wonderful. But I really didn't care for the ship at all. I was probably most irritated by the Internet Café, which was virtually a waste of time and money. I foolishly bought a nonrefundable $75 package for the internet, not knowing that the ship has a notoriously poor satellite connection. In 85 minutes I was able to send one email. I understand that when you are in the middle of the Pacific sometimes the connection will be slow, but the connection was never good, and as this became increasingly clear to the passengers the internet café eventually became a deserted room and remained so for the length of the cruise. If you are planning on taking a cruise on this ship, you might want to just wait to go to an internet café in port. It's cheaper and faster.
Since it is named the Diamond Princess one might expect the ship would sparkle, but sadly it doesn't. A little bit of spit and polish, somewindow washing and the replacement of some furniture in the Lido buffet would help. It is a huge ship which houses 2,670 passengers but the ship is stingy in the space it allocates in the common areas. The ceilings are low in the seemingly windowless dining rooms. The gym is ridiculously small, claustrophobic. The theatre doesn't have enough seats to accommodate the passengers in two sittings so they offer a matinee performance so everyone has a chance to see a production.
Aside from the string quartet which played in the atrium, this cruise seemed to lack even the marginal shades of elegance I normally associate with cruising. I don't expect to cruise on Princess again, even though this last cruise would entitle me to the next level of benefits for frequent travel. If they had honored my complaint at the purser's desk by giving me some credit for the internet, I might feel differently about Princess. As it stands, I wouldn't recommend this line to anyone.
Left from Los Angeles. Getting on board was fast and easy. We were at the port around noonish. Immediately went to the buffet for lunch and then look around the ship. Buffet was yummy and ship is absolutly beautiful! Room was spacious. We had an obstructed view on the 8th floor, and I have no complaints whatsoever about the size. We had my husband, son, and myself. The bunk wasn't pulled down yet, but was down for turn down service. Lots of storage. Wonder why they don't put clocks in the rooms. Luckily, we cruised with Princess last summer and found this out, so we plugged our clock in and were happy cruisers.
Spend the first two days at sea and then stopped in Puerto Vallerta. Did the pirate ship excursion. Was not all that impressed. Constant action, would have liked a little quiet time. Before we departed, they brought us downstairs for breakfast, it was okay. They didn't ask what we wanted, so we had more food than necessary. Wasteful.
The beach was short lived, as they have to tender you off the pirate ship to the shore. We only goto use 1/3 of the beach, as 1st third was for a private resort there on the cove, 2nd third was for the banana boat and kayakers, and we squished ourselves into the other third. No restrooms available on the beach. Water was warm. Wouldn't snorkel, as they warned of jelly fish in the area, so decided to just hang at beach. It was hot, about 97 degrees and 100 percent humidity. Anyways, spend about an hour or a little longer and then tendered back onto pirate ship for lunch.
Back downstairs. This time there was AC on downstairs, but the rocking made my family a little seasick. Ate fast and went upstairs. Again, wasteful, as too much food and never asked what we actually wanted. Were given bread basket, corn, slab of ribs, chicken, rice and salad. Rode back to Puerto Vallerta and was happy to get back on the ship in the AC and swim at the pool. Won't do this excursion again.
Next day into Mazatlan. Did an AC bus city tour. We were going to do an open air taxi, and was glad it was booked, as it was hot out. The tour was okay, not a big fan of the dancers and flying palenta guys, but it was fine. Would do again. Back to boat and did shopping right there next to the ship. Again, glad to go back on the ship and get in the AC and swim. It was really hot our week there.
Next was Cabo San Lucas. Didn't do an excusion, just went shopping down at the harbor area. It was okay, I wish I had done a city tour to see something else. Next time. Back on ship by 2:00 pm and again glad to be back with the AC. Really hot after sitting on the tender boat going back to the ship. The meals on the ship were good. Nothing outstanding, but good. We ate most lunches at the pizza stand (very good pizza) or the buffet. I ate once at the hamburger stand and was not very impressed with the taste of the meat. Most dinners we ate at the Sante Fe or the Savoy restaurant. Service was outstanding and we really enjoyed the dinners and atmosphere.
My son is 10 and checked himself in and out of the kids center. He enjoyed himself when he went. My hubby and I spend most time by the pool deck reading and relaxing. Went to the horse races, which was fun, throughly enjoyed the three different comedian shows. Music shows were nice too. Room was great, Service by Bell Hop was great, Food was Good, and want to go back when it's a bit cooler, maybe April/May or November. It was a restful vacation and the ship is the best part of the vacation!
EMBARKATION Arrived at the terminal about 2:15pm. Whole check in process to getting to cabin was about 45min. to 1 hr. as we were not in room too long and emergency drill was at 3:30pm. We had Muster station A which met in the Princess Theater.
Captain was Tony Yeomans from England and 2nd in command was Ingerd Klein Olsen from Denmark.
STATEROOM Booked a BC category which is a balcony. This was located starboard toward front. Did not notice much rocking or rolling. At begin of cruise we had 2 white plastic chairs and a high plastic table, but by Wed. am they were removed and replaced on Thurs. am with 2 metal sling back(blue) mesh chairs and a small metal table. This was the whole starboard side of Aloha.
Closet has plenty of wooden hangers and space. Suitcases fit in closet or under bed. Bed(s) had the "new" comforter/duvets. Bathroom door and balcony doors stay open if you want them to.
ACTIVITIES Cruise Director was JJ Ullrich. So much or so little to do, it is up to you!
DINING We had personal choice ANYTIME Dining. Our 1st request was earlyseating and we were on the waitlist and did not clear that list. We could choose from The Pacific Moon, Savoy, Vivaldi, or Santa Fe. We made reservations from our stateroom phone for Sat.-Tues. Then called a few days later for rest of cruise. Our reservations could be made for 5:30pm to 6:20pm or 8pm or after. We tried the Sterling Steakhouse($15. cover) and thought the food was good but the service was lacking. Without going into detail, it was not good. They transform the Horizon Court extra seating into the Steakhouse in the evening.
Horizon Court had a good selection however at times the flow wasn't that good. Only ate here about 2-3 times. Ice Cream is served here I think everyday from 3-4pm with a choice of sprinkles,toppings, etc.
Room service contintal breakfast(complimentary) in stateroom consists of orange,cranberry,tomato, apple, or prune juice. Half of a grapefruit,sliced oranges, bananas, or melon. Plain or fruit yogurt. 7 kinds of cold cereal, herbal tea,hot tea, coffee,decaf. coffee,hot milk, cold milk,cream, or skim milk. Service times are 7:30am to 8am and every half hour increments to 10:30am.
Can also get fruit delivered to your stateroom every afternoon. Choice is apples, bananas, kiwi,oranges, or pears.
24hr room service(complimentary) Choice of 5 kinds of cold sandwiches, 3 kinds of salads, soup of the day, hot dog, grilled ham & cheese, hamburger,cheeseburger, coffee, tea, or milk. Flan, chocolate cake, or chocolate chip cookie. Of course remember to give room service a tip, can be cash.
INTERNATIONAL Dining ROOM Has open seating for breakfast and lunch. Very good sit down service. Hours are port days breakfast 7am to 8:30am and sea days 7:30am to 9:30am. Lunch is noon to 1:30pm everyday.
Afternoon Tea was held in the Pacific Moon from 3:30pm to 4:30pm. Tea, coffee, scones, sandwiches,cream,marmalade,cookies, & little desserts were served. A must do once or as many days as you want.
The VIVALDI dining room on our cruise was used for early seating. So it was available for 8pm or later reservation for ANYTIME DINING. It was a little confusing arriving at this restaurant as there is only one line for walk up & reservations. Most early seating doesn't get done until 8pm or after. Everyone seemend to get seated, but it was confusing.
The 2nd(SUN) & 6TH(THURS) evenings were formal nights. On the 2nd formal night lobster tails and beef wellington were offered.
PUBLIC AREAS All very nice, everywhere seemed really new. Used the laundry(washers/dryers) Very nice and clean room.
SHORE EXCURSIONS Took our own short tour(2-3 hrs) then got back on ship.
ENTERTAINMENT All very good. Went to the Princess Theater every night or the Explorers Lounge. Enjoyed all the acts. Most shows are 8:15pm or 10:15pm in Theater or 8:30pm & 10:30 in the Explorers. On the last night it is 7pm & 9pm.
SHOPS ONBOARD Thought the shops onboard were reasonable and drink prices in the bars/restaurants very comparable to on land prices.
Bring something to decorate your stateroom door. make yours unique.
DISEMBARKATION You will get a sheet delivered to your stateroom on what to do. READ IT! Breakfast in the International dining room last day is 6:30am to 8:30am and the Buffet 6am-9am. We were scheduled to depart(our luggage color) at 9:10am and actually got called at 9:45am. So not too bad. ATE breakfast leisurely at 8:25am til about 9:15am in dining room. We were outside with luggage waiting for a ride at 10:15am. Plently of porters if you need one. So customs & luggage were simple and fairly fast.
I would recommend Princess & the Diamond.