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Darrin

Age: 30

Occupation:Football Coach

Number of Cruises: 4

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Diamond Princess

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Alaska


Arrived Thursday night and stayed at the Ramada Inn on International Blvd. Good overall experience with this hotel as they guided us through Seattle with some good insider information. Purchased a Town Car Limo ($35) to transport us to our downtown Seattle home, The Best Western Pioneer Square. I don’t know what people would think was wrong with this property or the Pioneer Square district. A very nice place to hang out and some great food and shopping. We did all the Seattle tourist things and drank tons of coffee. I would suggest you arrive a day early and take in the sights and settle in before making the giant leap onto the Diamond Princess.

Day #1
Embarkation

This was a snap. Took a taxi from the hotel to Pier 30 around 10:00 am. Arrived at the pier around 10:45 am and proceeded to drop our bags and get in line. The line was short as not many people had arrived at this point and the previous cruise was still debarking. I can truly say the first glimpse of the Diamond sent chills down my entire body. It is an amazing ship.

Arriving this early allowed my wife and me to get into line and get checked in long before the craziness would arrive. A large group (I’m with Max) was already checked in with there snow capped t-shirts. Seemed like a great group of people that had tons of fun on this cruise. Really you would have to try and not have a good time.

Our check in host told us that we would probably be boarding at around 11:30 or so and she was just about right on. My wife and I were lucky to be so close to the entry ramp and were two of the first people to be allowed on the ship. Walking the gangway to get to this massive vessel made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

We were on the ship and in our room about 11:45 am. Dropped our carry on luggage and proceeded to the Horizon Court for the buffet lunch. I will discuss the food later, but have to say that the buffet was much better than people have reported and the lines, even at peak times moved very quickly.

After lunch, my wife and I took in the tour of the spa and all the amenities. Met a very nice girl Katherine from Canada. The spa has an Asian theme and is so peaceful. Spent tons of time in the steam, sauna, and the gym as it was very calming. I would advise everyone to shower as much as you can in the spa area. Huge showers compared to the rooms and all the Lotus Spa amenities.

We also met our room steward Raymund and he was excellent. Did a fantastic job of taking care of all over needs. Always on top of things and always had our room in fantastic shape.

My wife was tired so she slept most of the early afternoon. I spend my time on the balcony of our room (Lido 232) watching Puget Sound go by as we sailed away. Great visuals most of the way up the sound. When she woke up we went to the Horizon Court buffet for dinner. Good amount of selections and overall I would say the food was very good to excellent.

Went to the Kick Off show that evening with the comedy of Eliot Max. He would do a longer show later in the week. He was very funny and a great way to kick off the cruise. I could sense from just the first few hours that this was going to be a tremendous cruise and I would not be wrong.

Took in some coffee after the show and headed off to bed. Some had posted here about the awful taste of the Princess coffee. Just my personal opinion but I felt that the coffee was fairly decent. I was by no means Starbucks or Seattle’s Best. But good standard bulk coffee.

Day #2
At Sea

Woke up very early around 5:00 am as the time change was taking its effect. It turned out to be a gift really as I was able to see the ship arrive in all of our ports. Much cooler than when we left Seattle. The sea was a little choppy as well. Wife and I did our workout in the morning. 7:00 am was a great time to get it going. You need to sign up each day, but truly it was not really that crowded. After working out we headed to the breakfast buffet. Standard breakfast fare but different than our previous cruises with Carnival (Victory & Pride). The buffet changed each day. Different types of meats and different eggs every day added to the almost endless variety of foods being offered. I had Alaskan Deer Sausage that morning which was quite good.

After breakfast I would usually do my steam and sauna and my wife would just relax and watch the ocean from our balcony. I would tell you to spend the extra money if you can on the balcony on this particular route. The views are really incredible. Would do the lunch buffet and in the afternoon watched many whales off in the distance. We personally did not get any close up shots of the whales. Saw some tales and some blow hole water bursts. Really neat to see just that. Definitely take your binoculars with you as the views overall are some of the best you will ever see.

We again did dinner in the Horizon Court. My wife and I are just two regular people and we felt the food was very good. And at times we were just a little too lazy to get ourselves ready for the dining rooms. The really great thing about being on a cruise. Do as much or as little as you like. It was formal night #1 and many had some very nice outfits on. The show that night was Piano Man. A production show by the Princess staff. EXCELLENT is the one word to describe it. These performers put on a great show.

Strolled around up on deck after the show and headed to bed. An early morning rise would be coming. Note that the time went back one hour during the night. As we went north the time spent in daylight increased. It was very different seeing 10:15 pm and the sun still going down.

Day #3
Juneau

Same type of morning for us. Up early to see the sun rise. Of on this day the clouds rise. Workout and breakfast. We would be arriving in Juneau at noon (right on time) and wanted to make sure we had everything in place to get our day started.

Sat of the Starboard side as the boat docked in Juneau. Wife had a Hot Chocolate and we just relaxed and watched the city come into view. What was so great about Juneau is the true Alaska weather experience. It was about 55 and rainy when we arrived. Who could ask for anything more.

Ate lunch at the Horizon Court and got off the ship for our tour after stopping at Juneau Harley Davidson. We chose the Mendenhall Glacier and Salmon Hatchery Tour. Great trip through town and to the Hatchery. Be prepared to see some interesting things at the hatchery. After that we went to the Glacier. Massive is a good word to describe it. Beautiful, awesome, and spectacular would do just as well. Spent about and hour there taking pictures and interacting in the visitors center. The tour left there and headed for the Salmon Bake. Very good salmon (as well as ribs and chicken). If you get the chance go down the back path to the waterfall. Really neat photo opportunities await you.

Left the salmon back and rode back into town. The other ships had arrived and the city was bustling with activity. Typical port city with a bunch of tourist trap shops. The Alaska T Shirt company is huge and has many varieties. Walked around Juneau for a while and headed back to the ship. It was within walking distance. Got back a little later than expected and had dinner in the Horizon again. Again very good. Missed the show tonight and just hung around the balcony and room. Another spectacular day spent on the Inside Passage.

Day #4
Skagway

Arrived about 5:30 am to port. Sleepy little town of about 800 people. Did our regular early morning rituals and then headed out to the town. Again mostly tourist traps and the like. It’s actually a very cool little town with some good shops. Walked around for most of the early morning and afternoon. Took in way to many shops. Looking back we should have done the train trip but planned some other things and did not get to do it. Took a ton of pictures in town and from the ship. The views were fantastic and the weather was great. I would say T Shirt and Jean weather. Probably about 70 and sunny.

The town is a bit farther away from the ship than the other ports. Many taxis and other modes of transportation to get you to and from. In the city you have many opportunities for great photos of the ships and the scenery.

Returned to the ship and had dinner once again in the Horizon Court. Again very good overall. To me it’s just about making the best of whatever is put in front of you. Don’t get me wrong. You will not and probably should not like everything. But I would say about 85% is good to great and the presentation is fantastic.

The show was a British singer and he did a good job. Played songs from many different genres and seemed to have a good time doing it. After a stroll around deck we made it to our room for a much needed night of rest.

Day #5
Tracy Arm

Again awoke very early to the open water and like always just some fantastic scenery. Did our regular early morning routine in anticipation for our arrival in Tracy Arm. No matter what I tell you about Tracy Arm it will not do it any justice. But here goes a try. We arrived at the gates of Tracy Arm at around 9:00 am right on time (many had commented on the late arrivals by Princess and that did not seem to be a problem for this cruise). It takes about two and a half hours to cruise into the fjord and two and half hours to get back. During this entire time you are given the wonderful insight on this magnificent place by the on board naturalist Michael Modzelewski. He is on the bridge and commenting about the trip into the fjord. Michael Modzelewski is one of the most talented and charismatic speakers I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. He pointed out many of the interesting points of the fjord, as well as some of his kayaking adventures in the past on the trek to Sawyer Glacier. Very informative and quite entertaining.

As you are cruising this passage nature is brought to absolute life as you see glacier ice that has broken off and is floating out to sea, waterfall after waterfall, the baby seal on the port side, amazing tree formations, hanging glaciers, and surprisingly enough the Sapphire Princess. She cruises the arm earlier in the morning and you pass them as you are floating to the glacier. Great photo opportunities.

I must comment on the ability of our Captain. He took this massive vessel to the absolute edge and got us closer than anyone has been to Sawyer Glacier this year. We saw both the north and south glacier and everything that was in between. During the last part of the trip the captain steers the ship in a circle and allows all to view each part of the fjord. When they do this they also launch a tender boat to take pictures of the time spent in Tracy Arm.

It was just absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have ever witnessed. Actually with that being said I was without question the most amazing scenery of all time. A land that is so vast, massive, and wonderful that really has not be tarnished by the hands of man. Truly something to see.

I would call this one of the high lights of the entire trip. The incredible scenery, the outstanding commentary by Michael, and the pin point precision cruising by our captain made this just so memorable. It should also be noted that the weather was great. Sunny and a little on the cool side. The sun allowed for the real glacier ice to be seen. That deep blue color that many referred to as that Windex color. It has to be seen to know it.

Our time spent in Tracy Arm was a mere 5 hours. It felt like it lasted 5 minutes. It went so very fast. I would add that you should get the coffee and the deck blankets they offer if you have the balcony. It got a little chilly with the wind and the close proximity to the mountains. No matter what you do make sure you take in the full context of Tracy Arm.

When we left Tracy Arm had a little nibble. The Pizza and Trident Grill (burgers) was also pretty good. My wife enjoyed the Pizza each day. We floated around the ship the rest of the afternoon in anticipation of going to dinner for the first time in the dining rooms.

We spent most of the afternoon at the Lotus spa pool and Jacuzzi. This was a great spot. Never crowded and actually very peaceful with all the Buddhist themes and music.

We chose Personal Choice dining as it would allow us to freely move around and pick the times we wanted. We chose the Sante Fe this evening. Crab Legs were served and they were quite good. They actually cut each leg in half to help you get the full amount of meat from the leg itself. Our wait staff kept bringing more and more legs to us and our neighboring table. We did not even ask it was just done. Just another way Princess stood above the others to make sure your needs were taken care of. The food was excellent and the service very good as well. You should also take the time to fill out the server ratings card. They seems very interested in it and I’m sure it helps them moving up the chain of command in there respective divisions. All the great work, time and effort they put in to making your trip special deserves that little extra recognition.

We went to the comedy show in the theater this evening. Had an unbelievable funny ventriloquist performing that used many different props and really got the audience involved. Actually bringing two passengers up on the stage and doing a hilarious bit with them. Two great sports as they had to be the brunt of many jokes from fellow passengers. I would rate this show very high.

After the show we headed again to bed as we would be arriving early to Ketchikan.

Day #6
Ketchikan

Woke up at 5:00 am and watched the ship cruise into Ketchikan. This was a great little city. You are right up on the action in this town with many things to do and see. We did not have that much time to spend in Ketchikan so we made sure to get up early and start the day off right.

After an early breakfast in the Horizon we had booked the Totem and Town Tour. You get a very informative look at the city of Ketchikan and then you are bused to Totem Bight State Park.

Totem Bight State Park is about 10 miles outside of the city and it’s a pretty good drive, as you get to see many things around this island. The state park is actually very neat with many Totem Poles and a Clan House that is explained by your guide. You also get some great views of the inside passage.

After spending our morning there you are brought back to town and dropped off. It was the worst weather of the trip so far and I was loving it. I would say about 50 and raining. The truest sense to me of what Alaska offered. My wife and I walked around the city for the rest of the morning. Many different tourist shops than in the other ports.

I would say we looked in just about all of them. We made of way back to Creek Street. This is an interesting little neighborhood. Used to brothels and all but now a tourist area. Very quaint and fun to walk through. Different little specialty shops and such. You can get some great views of the ships from here as well.

Because our time was short in Ketchikan we made our way back to the ship. Went and had some lunch and made our way up on deck to get some great photos of float planes taking off and landing right next to the ship. As you can probably tell I took to many pictures. At least my wife thought so.

We ended up doing all our morning activities in the afternoon. The gym was not crowded at all. I would say we went around 1 or 2 and it was pretty much empty.

Tonight is the second of the formal nights and we have decided to give it a go. We had to as this was Lobster night. We made reservations for the Pacific Moon for 8 pm (going crazy and staying up late tonight). Another great experience with great food. Both my wife and I got the lobster and it was very good. My wife also wanted to try the ravioli and said it was some of the best she had tried. Overall another great dining experience.

We decided to that we would go to the 10:00 pm show called Undercover. A tribute to spy movies and TV shows. This was actually better than the Piano Man show. These performers stepped it up yet again. A great overall show.

A late night for this family and we headed to bed after watching the champagne waterfall.

Day #7
Victoria

Slept in a little this morning. Starting to recover from this great week of vacation after staying up a little late for this family. Did all the morning activities.

It was my goal later in the week to get a head start on our next Princess Cruise and I was searching out the cruise planner on board. When I finally put the times together and was able to speak with her she set us up on the brand new Crown Princess on July 2, 2006 out of New York City (hometown Go Yankees!). If you book with Princess on board you get the great savings of around $800 on the down payment and you also get ship board credit for the trip. The Crown will only be operating for its 3rd or 4th week at that time and they will be traveling to Bermuda and Grand Turk (a new port) on this itinerary. We have had such a great time with this trip and with Princess that it was so easy to book early for our next adventure.

Worked out a little bit later than usual and lounged around at the Lotus Pool and Jacuzzi. Met a very nice family from Arizona (originally from Texas) and exchanged ideas for the time to be spent in Victoria.

We arrived to Victoria with plenty of time to spare and could have probably go in early. However that was not to be as the winds were huge at this time. Blowing across the bow of the ship you could see the flags just getting pounded. Instead of trying to get us into a tricky situation they just anchored and waited. After so much time elapsed the captain came over the intercom and said we would not be able to get into port tonight. So it happens I guess. This is not way effected what has been an awesome trip.

We ate dinner again in the Horizon and it was good. As the cruise wraps up the overall quality of presentation and such goes down a little. These workers have to prepare the ship for the next group arriving and its got to be MAGIC all over again so absolutely no harm done.

The cruise director (Omar Lugo) put together a quick show for the night but we did not attend. Choosing to just relax in our room the rest of the night.

Day #8
Debarkation

Woke up early and watched us come into Seattle. It truly has a great sky line and seeing it as the sun comes up it awesome.

Debarkation was a snap. Chose to carry our luggage off the ship and at 7:30 am the call came and we walked off the ship and waved good bye to the greatest vacation we have ever had. I would just like to thank Princess Cruise Lines for such an amazing vacation!

Utilized the Princess transfers to the airport and rented a car. Stayed in Seattle the day and left late that night.

Notes:
• Michael Modzelewski – Awesome speaker (My wife bought me his book Inside Passage on the ship and I am reading it now. It talks of his adventures in the Inside Passage. A great read and signed by him. I would tell you to pick one up as BN and Amazon have it out of print)
• Omar Lugo & Cruise Director Staff – Excellent
• Dining Rooms – Very Good food and excellent service
• Trident Grill & Pizza – Awesome
• Horizon Court – Overall Very enjoyable (Very good selections especially breakfast)
• Raymund – Lido 232 Room Steward was fantastic
• Lotus Spa – Very relaxing and under used in my opinion
• 10 rolls of film taken. I don’t know if I will be able to up load them or not.

About the only thing I would change about this cruise would be the time you spend in Ketchikan. It is such a cool little city and you only get about 6 hours total time. With all the trouble you have getting into Victoria I would think you should just keep the ship in Ketchikan and cut off the Victoria part of it. That would give you another full day at sea and that would be fine.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to ask them and I will do my best to answer. My wife and I are the kind of people that can make the best of any situation. In this case we did not have to. Princess Cruise and the Diamond was 100% top shelf and responsible for our greatest vacation ever. I was a little worried about going to Alaska at first. But in the end I found it to be one of the best places I have ever been. Truly it changed my life.

I can see the ice
A vision like no other
Into my deep soul

Moments in a life
Faster than an eagle flies
Precious as the sun

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