Number of Cruises: 10
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Diamond Princess
Sailing Date: February 3rd, 2007
Itinerary: Mexican Riviera
I was on the Diamond Princess for its February 3 week-long voyage to the Mexican Riviera. I hope you will find this report as comprehensive as you will find online and will be happy to answer any unanswered questions.
I booked this trip about 6 weeks prior to the voyage and got a $2200 trip for $700, plus an upgrade to a mini-suite. Additionally, I was traveling solo, so clearly this was an amazing deal (as us TA’s tend to get!). My e-mail is at the bottom if you wish to contact me.
I arrived at the port on Saturday around 2:30pm (I live in Los Angeles so the trip to San Pedro Harbor was very easy) and walked right in, filled out my declaration, went through security, sat for 15 minutes for my number to be called, and walked right onto the ship, no issue. Also, please note I smuggled 2 cases of beer and 4 bottles of wine in a duffle bag through security without issue, other than the woman behind the X-ray machine giving me a funny look and asking if I really needed that much alcohol.
I went to my suite, emptied the booze into the fridge/counter, and proceeded to walk around the ship. I feel I have pretty good taste, and I can tell you this ship was not tacky in the slightest. You now how sometimes you walk onto a ship and feel you entered a Las Vegas stage show? Not this ship. Brass and class everywhere! Music was playing in the atrium lobby, people were scurrying about, and it was clear after walking around the ship I was proud to call it home for a week.
After exploring a little bit, we were notified that we would be participating in the muster drill very shortly after embarking. The muster drill was 20 minutes of standing in one place, inside the ship (surprisingly), so please ensure you wear comfortable shoes when you prepare for the muster drill. Additionally, the area we were in got a little stuffy due to the number of bodies, so keep that in mind.
Soon after, we sailed. Clearly people on board were ready to have a good time because the drinks were flowing, the kids were giggling, and all those on board young and old were excited for the adventure.
I received my bag and golf clubs without issue. No damage, not a long wait. Unpacking was a breeze. While I was unpacking I met my cabin steward, a delightful young man from Acapulco named Francisco. Oh, I should mention I was on the Emerald Deck. He was polite, always smiling, catered to anything I needed, and if he couldn’t get or do it, made positive suggestions. Very impressive.
Upon finishing my unpacking, I got dressed and went to dinner. Traditional dining, late seating. The dining room is well laid-out, classy, meticulously maintained. Interestingly, each person walking in is expected to “scrub in” with the use of an antibacterial gel (this was prevalent throughout the ship, as well as re-embarking from ports). I guess it goes without saying why they insist upon this. If there was Norovirus or anything else on this ship, all preventative measures were being taken. I was at an 8-person table with a lovely couple from Des Moines, another lovely couple from San Francisco, and a mother and 2 daughters around my age from Maryland. Needless to say the daughters were my primary traveling companions throughout the cruise. Our food server, Susan, and assistant, Eddie, were terrific. Such great personalities, always smiled, never said no, catered to all of our wishes. I won’t go into too much detail about the food, but I will say that the non-seafood items far outshined the seafood ones, except for the crustaceans. Mahi Mahi, Salmon, and Turbot were overcooked or lacked flavor. The good thing is I was able to switch them out for other items without issue. The King Crab Legs were delicious, as was the prime rib. Caesar Salad and Shrimp Cocktail was definitely a favorite, and both soups I had were great (a chowder and the oxtail). Please do not take my review of the seafood as gospel, but please keep this in mind when ordering.
After dinner, I went to explore more of this ship as well as visit the casino. Casino is nice, surprisingly not too smoky, and very friendly dealers and staff. Typical games such as Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Three Card Poker, Caribbean Stud Poker, and the like. They also had one Texas Hold ‘em Table. I can’t say the casino got so crowded that I couldn’t find a table to play on throughout the trip. The fact that it wasn’t real smoky was a real nice treat as I am heavy allergic to smoke.
Please note that I didn’t see any of the shows because they really didn’t strike my fancy. I’m not a fan of stand-up comedy and as I tried to sit through the comedians “R” rated show I lasted 10 minutes and left. Just not my thing.
I visited Skywalkers and Club Fusion, which were both dead throughout the cruise. There weren’t really a lot of “young people” (I’ll define 25 and under as young) on this trip, so those you would expect to patronize these two places were not on board to do so. Essex (I believe that was the name/spelling), the Calipso band I found to be terrible. They also played on deck which I tried to avoid. The male singer was especially bad and sounded like an Asian tourist trying to sing American songs (he was black, by the way). The deejay at Skywalkers, DJ Eric, was also lousy, as he seemed to care less what was happening on (or not happening for that matter) on the dance floor. He would play a song then turnaround and watch Sports Center. I don’t exactly expect him to stand back there and do handstands, but come on… Plus his song selection was mediocre at best. Maybe this would have improved with more people, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
Next day was a great day at sea. Breakfast was good, buffet was well stocked, had to scrub in again (with pleasure)… Only big issue was finding seating, as there were plenty of people with the same idea as me. Walked around a little bit and found a table, no problem, but it does take a small amount of effort.
Weather was beautiful and the decks/pools were hopping with people sunning. If you wanted to lie in the sun and catch some rays, plenty of space was available; if you wanted to be poolside and avoid the sun’s rays, there’s a pool inside of a tinted glass enclosure so you could still be out at the pool and not worry about burning. There were also plenty of activities throughout the ship, or there were people just lounging about reading a book. You could do as much as you wanted or as little as you wanted, it didn’t matter. This was each individual’s vacation and everyone hopefully got out of it whatever they wanted.
The sushi was nothing to get excited about. The line was long and the sushi was highly average.
Formal night was elegant. Everyone dressed up appropriately, except for a couple people who didn’t and were turned away. I wore a dark suit and tie and felt extremely comfortable with everyone else. A tuxedo is nice but certainly not a necessity; I think the days of FORMAL cruising are coming to an end.
First port was Puerto Vallarta which gave me my first golf opportunity. El Tigre golf course, beautiful, challenging, fun as hell. My only complaint is that the golf “pro”, Rob, is a jackass. He did absolutely nothing to make my golf experience any better (not any worse either, but that’s not the point). He “graced” us with his presence by playing a couple holes with us, smoke a cigar, and then went to play with another group. In all honesty, a chimp could have done his job. This was also the case at El Cid, the course I played in Mazatlan. Don’t be afraid to chop their gratuity; I sure had no problem doing it. I can tell you the people at my table throughout the trip enjoyed every excursion they did. Sounds like a pretty good sign to me!
Getting off and on the ship from port to port was a breeze. Make sure you keep your ship ID card as well as your ID (passport, DL, whatever) on you when you disembark.
As far as disembarking goes, it’s a bit of a free for all, but find a nice quiet corner, read a book or magazine, and just relax. You’ll get off the ship in good time and it’s a very easy process. Don’t get frustrated, just realize it’s not the most fun thing you’ll do that week. Also, do the auto-payment function for your shipboard account. You’ll still be able to review the bill and can make adjustments if necessary. Otherwise, the line to pay your bill is NOT fun. I did auto-pay and it was as easy as could be. I was even able to drop the golf pro’s tip without issue.
I would also like to add that I had the privilege of attending a Cruise Critic gathering on the first “official” day, and let me say it was really nice to meet people on board so quickly. The group was friendly, from all over the globe, and I recommend checking out the roll call for your upcoming sailing.
A couple of strange occurrences:
The first night a 48 year old man dropped dead of a heart attack in his room. Thoughts and prayers to his family.
During the Super Bowl, a fight broke out at one of the bars. Apparently a guy broke another guy’s nose defending the honor of his wife. Good for him, sounds like the guy deserved it. The guy who did the punching was not taken off the ship; the guy who got punched I never saw, perhaps he did.
I didn’t eat at either Sterling or Sabattini’s. Neither made sense to me since a great meal awaited me in the dining room every night at no additional cost. Besides, how much better could the food be at either restaurant? I also heard from a couple who tried the food there that it was NOTHING to get excited about.
If you can avoid it, don’t use the on board Internet Café. $.50 a minute adds up quick, and I wouldn’t exactly call it high speed. There’s plenty of Internet Café’s at each port and will cost you $1.50 to $2.00 for 30 minutes, plus packages for more minutes if needed.
Bring your own booze. You’ll save a ton. Just be discrete. Additionally, don’t be afraid to crack a bottle of wine in your room and bring it to your table. They didn’t charge me any corkage. Just establish a relationship with them the first night by being polite and you’ll be fine.
If you don’t like smoke, don’t worry, you’ll likely barely notice it. I came home and none of my clothes smelled like smoke. If you do smoke, there are areas designated for you. And don’t bring up that “smoker’s rights” line. It will fall on deaf ears.
For the February 3 voyage the demo was heavy on the 40 and over crowd, couples, some honeymooners. Seemed to be a lot of non-US travelers. Not a lot of children. But there was definitely friends to be made by anyone on board, including yours truly. Princess makes it easy for people to meet others and in my book that’s a major positive aspect of cruising.
From where I come from I didn’t find the drinks that expensive, but in LA drinks tend to run on the high side, so don’t be surprised if the drinks are more expensive than where you live. Also, the beer selection isn’t the greatest. But the specialty drink selection is vast as well as strong, so have fun!
Go with the mindset that you will have a good time no matter what. There is nothing on this ship that you won’t be able to enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy one thing, I guarantee you’ll find another.
I hope you will find this a comprehensive review of the Diamond Princess. I’ll be glad to answer any questions, as well as give you information on how to become a travel agent as well so you can take advantage of this and many other incredible money-saving vacations, rental cars, hotels, etc. around the world. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.