Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Diamond Princess
Sailing Date: May 27th, 2006
Itinerary: New Zealand to Australia
We just finished a Cruise and Land Tour in Alaska on the Diamond Princess. While the itinerary was very good and it seems that only Princess has this itinerary, I would highly recommend another Cruise Line. We attended a sales pitch seminar by Princess and everything we heard at that seminar was far from what we found on our trip. Each day our feelings toward Princess got worse.
Embarkation - Vancouver, BC.
While the Port facilities are very nice this is where the good ends. When you
arrive in the underground parking area there were no signs designating a baggage
check. We asked three different Princess employees where to check our bags and
each sent us to another location. After 20 minutes we finally found someone
loading baggage on a cart and he had us bring our bags to their storage area. We
then were able to get in a joint line with Holland passengers for the security
check. You are then funneled to another holding area where if you aren't paying
attention to the small signs they have designating Holland or Princess you may
wind up in the wrong area like many of our fellow passengers did. After another
20 minute wait we were all sent to another area where there were numerous booths
with the Deck names on them and they did not designate any special lines to form
it was chaos. It did not get any better when we finally got our turn at checking
in - our teller and those around her had no clue what was happening. The room
keys were all messed up so the teller had to go to all of the other tellers and
see where your room key may be. The tellers obviously forgot what to do because
there were numerous passengers who received notices during the cruise to come to
the Purser's desk because they forgot to imprint the credit cards for your
Anytime Dining - pick the traditional dinner times if you have any plans of eating at a decent hour. The sales pitch said that you can either make reservations or just show up at any of the dining rooms when you want. We tried making reservations at 7 AM Sunday morning and the earliest we could get was at 8 PM any night. We tried one night to just stop in and get a table and were rudely told by the Maitre'd in the Santa Fe room that we needed reservations or come back closer to 10pm. We were only able to eat in the dining rooms 3 times, the rest of the time we had to go to the buffet in the Horizon Court.
Food - comparing to past cruises we have taken on RCL the food on Princess is OK at best. The only thing they change on their breakfast buffet menu is what they mix with the eggs. The layout of the Horizon Court Buffet is ridiculous and it leads to mass chaos. There is no way to get in line and go from item to item it is all over and you wind up going in circles, when you finally get your food and go to a table it is cold and it doesn't matter whether which meal it is. We found that the grill and the pizzeria offered better lunches by getting a piece of pizza or a hamburger. In the sales pitch we were told that there was an ice cream bar that was open all day and you could get ice cream whenever you want - what they failed to mention is a cone is $1.50 or a sundae $3.95. There was no Grand Buffet any night like they have on RCL - instead they wasted numerous bottles of Champagne filling a pyramid of glasses.
The ship itself - I guess we are spoiled with RCL we have sailed on the Voyager 2 times and have always been able to get from one end of the ship to another by staying on the same deck. Not possible on the Diamond you have to go up or down to get to the other side. It is very broken up deck plan and we found numerous other passengers besides ourselves that were still getting mixed up on how to get from one area to another after 7 days.
Itinerary - as I said that was the one good thing we did get to see fantastic views. Again I refer to the sales pitch that we were told that Princess had priority docking throughout Alaska, if you take this cruise be prepared to walk as we found out that our ship usually was the farthest from the downtown areas and some of the distances are very long to walk.
Entertainment - we only went to two shows one a Comedian in the lounge that wasn't too bad and the second was a ventriloquist that the majority of the people walked out on complaining, I do have to admit we stayed but wasted our time.
Ship personnel - for the most part the on board personnel were very pleasant. Our Room Steward Paul was very polite and kept our room very well. The bartenders in the Lobby Bar were great as was Peeped in the lounge. The waiters in the Pacific Moon were very unfriendly and never even spoke on 2 different occasions. We did have a waitress Anna Maria in the Santa Fe that was very friendly and accommodating
Shore Excursions - In Ketchikan we did the Totem Poles and Eagles tour - very good time especially if you like to see eagles. In Juneau we did the City highlights, waste of time. We went to a Salmon Hatchery where nothing was going on, a 1,000 ft walk on a path to see native plants, and the State Museum. Skagway we went to the Yukon - can't get any better than that one and our bus driver Carlee was fantastic. If you want to see wildlife, the Continental Divide, and some native heritage that is the trip to take.
Disembarkation - again back to the sales pitch, we were never told that when you do the land tour in conjunction with your cruise you can only take one bag with you the rest you have to send on to your final destination - for us Fairbanks. We set our luggage out the night before and they picked it up right away. For anyone doing the land tour be very careful of what you put in your bags to be sent on. When we got to Fairbanks we found that every piece of luggage from our group of 8 that was sent on was opened and everything had been taken out replaced in a haphazard way and the bags were left partially open. When we questioned the Princess Rep she said that our bags would not have gone through a security check so someone was definitely checking for money or something. We caught our train to start our Land Tour in Whittier.
Land tour - Be prepared to pull out your wallet. And be prepared to sit and waste time waiting for shuttles. The sales pitch did not tell us that once you start your land tour that you pay for all your meals from that point on and they are definitely expensive. Train to McKinley Lodge $2 for 6 oz glass of soda. You have the option of being dropped off in Talkeetna and a shuttle would pick up every hour on the 1/2 hour. We chose to walk around the Town and grab a bite to eat and take the 3:30 Coach to the Lodge. We got to the shuttle stop at 3:05 by 3:30 there were over 100 people waiting for a Coach that only carries 40. The driver filled his bus and told everyone that it would just be 15 minutes for another Coach. Then he said that we had to wait for 1 1/2 hours for 2 coaches to come from the Lodge 60 miles away. One of the group of probably 75 people took a picture of everyone standing in the Sun to send to Princess. The worst part was the driver said they knew how many people were in Town and didn't prepare ahead of time with Coaches to take them to the Lodge. When you arrive at the McKinley Lodge they give you your packet with your room key and a map you are on your own. No one tells you that there is a shuttle that will take you to your room that could be 1/2 mile from the main lodge. We had 4 rooms for our group we had reserved 2 with 2 beds and 2 with one, besides not getting that right they gave us keys that didn't work. It took 30 minutes for someone to show up to take care of the problem and then it was a pool girl. She was very friendly and tried to help but she was just running an errand. One of the rooms had a smoke detector beeping and it took 45 minutes for someone to change the battery. I tried to talk to Lan the Manager about a Hotel problem we were going to face when we got to Fairbanks but his answer was call corporate, He said it is nothing he could do. Meals at the 20320 Grill were ample portions but expensive. The only exception was one night I ordered Jumbo Buffalo Chicken Wings 7 for $9.00. I could not believe my eyes when they delivered them there wasn't a single one longer than 2 inches and wider than 3/4 inch. They honestly had to be Pigeon wings they were that small. Breakfasts were good and plentiful however.
Denali Princess Lodge - again problems with keys - our packet didn't have any, again the rooms were screwed up. After dinner we went back to our rooms in building 11 to find no hot water we called about that. A few minutes later the hall filled with fumes and we called about that. No one ever had the courtesy to come to the room to inform us of what was happening. The next morning at 8 AM the housekeeper was knocking at our door saying he wanted to clean the room. I told him after 11 AM when we had to check out. We went to breakfast and came back to find him in our room at 9:30. You must get your luggage out of your room by 9 and check out by 11. You aren't scheduled to leave on the train until 3:45. So you either have to pay Princess for some more high priced meals or excursions. They do offer a secure baggage check so you don't have to carry your bags with you. Their definition of secure is a little shed like room with 2 overhead doors wide open. I needed something out of my bag so I went with the Concierge to the room, as we approached a construction worker that was doing landscaping came scurrying out of the so called secure area.
We were told at the sales pitch that your tour could be customized in any way we liked. That was a total lie. We knew were were not going to be able to stay the last night in Fairbanks so prior to the cruise I called 1-800-run around. I was told by the Land Tour Rep. to talk to the Manager of the Lodge and they could make the changes. Remember I mentioned Lan at the McKinley Lodge - no help - went so far as to tell me no one else could do anything either. We arrived at the Fairbanks hotel at 9:15 PM and our flight was at 12:30 AM. Come to find out they hadn't even booked us in the Princess Lodge they made accommodations at another motel with cabins. Again they had forgotten the keys and when two reps got on the bus one started handing out the room packets by asking names and when our friend gave her name to the girl the second rep named Kathy called her a troublemaker for talking when she was talking and when I asked a Princess Rep what to do about getting a refund for the night she sent me to the desk to see if the Hotel would give me one. The Hotel sent me back to the Princess Rep who finally called her Manager and said to file under my trip insurance that Princess wouldn't give me one. This was the same time that we found our luggage had been ransacked so they took a report and told me to call it in. The Princess Rep Allison did try to make things right but her hands were tied. She ordered a coach to pick us up at 10:45 PM to take us to the Airport. At 10:50 I went to the desk and spoke to the ever friendly Kathy and she informed me that there was no coach or shuttle coming. A Hotel employee overheard the situation and even though she was getting off duty in 5 minutes offered to take us to the Airport on her time.
Bottom line - Alaska is great but beware of what you are told by Princess. Once you start the Land Tour, by the way you pay more for 4 days on land than your 7 days cruise and meals aren't included and the majority of your time is being hassled out of one location to the next and generally in an area where you can't do anything other than spend more money with Princess. I'll take RCL anytime.