Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Diamond Princess
Sailing Date: May 29th, 2004
This was our First Cruise and we had no idea of what to expect. The greatest help we got was from reading reviews for other travelers.
Patience, Patience, Patience. Almost everyone wanted to be the first to get on the bus and head to port. We actually arrived in Seattle a day early and stayed at an airport hotel (use priceline.com). This allows you to unwind and relax before dealing with the rush to board the ship and takes away the stress of whether your flight will arrive in time. You can actually sleep in that morning!! We had purchased Princess Transfers from the airport to the ship, as a result we took the hotel shuttle to and from the airport. We got to the airport about 10:15a and while it was a little confusing at first, everything went smooth and we were on the bus by 11:15am and on the ship by 12:15pm. There are many busses running and they board using a color system predicated on a First In First Out basis. The Princess transfer was very convenient as they took our luggage at the airport luggage claim area and we didn’t touch it again till it appeared in our cabin about 5pm. We also by-passed the long line of people waiting with luggage and went straight to check-in. From the time we got off the bus till we were in our cabin – 15 minutes. We had lunch at the buffet and then wandered around the ship for several hours.
We selected a mini-suite cabin since we really wanted the extra room and balcony. The room was very clean and moderate in size. It had plenty of closet, drawer and storage space and easily stored all of our belongings. The cabin was neatly decorated in earth tones. There was also a safe in the cabin closet for valuables. The bathroom was also large enough to easily accommodate all of our needs. We booked a guaranteed room (AF) and received an upgrade to an AB category on the Dolphin Deck toward the middle of the ship. The only drawback to the cabin was all of the cabins above us were able to see onto our balcony (No Privacy). This was probably the only thing I really dis-liked about it; however, several of us were able to talk while whale watching from our balconies. The beds in the cabin were pushed together and made up as one queen sized bed. From a comfort perspective, mattresses were ok; about what you would find in an upscale hotel room. Chocolates were placed on our pillows every night along with a form to order breakfast via room service. Upon request, Princess terrycloth robes are provided with room – there is even an option to purchase them. You can control the heat and air in the cabin but we did find that the rooms never got really cold. Hairdryers, a small fridge, two TVs, and safe were also provided in the room. Bottom line – we were glad we paid the extra for this type of cabin – especially on the inside passage. There was always something to see.
We recommend purchasing the soft drink passes for $22.50 per person. With this you were able to get a soft drink from anywhere on the ship by showing your room key. It is well worth the money and aggravation ($1.50 per drink otherwise). From my perspective, the food was very good but not fantastic. The Horizon Court was open 24/7. We ate our breakfast and lunches there and they had a good variety. At peak hours however, tables were hard to come by unless you sat in the aft part of the dining area. There was also a hamburger/pizza bar that we weren’t overly impressed with. There was also an ice cream bar outside the Horizon – but it cost $$.
We liked the idea of personal choices dining and had learned before we left that anytime dining did not mean anytime you show up – it means you make your reservation for when you want to eat and where!! We made reservations for our dining as soon as soon as we got in our cabin at 12:15p. Our favorite(s) were the Sterling and Santa-Fe. We did change our plans one night and tried to eat at another venue and was told there would be no availability for several hours. But after the Host saw the look of disappointment and we weren’t going to argue and complain, he quickly found us a table. The international dining room menu was also offered at each of the dining venues on the ship (except Horizon Court). We had reservations at Sabatinni’s, but cancelled after talking with other passengers whom had dined there. We decided it wasn’t worth the additional $20.00 per person. The Lobster was by far the best meal of the trip; in fact I ate 2-1/2 tails and my wife enjoyed 1-1/2. When I couldn’t make up my mind between 2 deserts, the server brought one of each!! Service was very prompt and the servers were very attentive and courteous to our needs in all of the areas we ate. *Side Note – my wife loved the food, especially lobster and crab. One of the greatest benefits/advantages of PC dining was just my wife and I sat a table. If you would like to have a romantic dinner with your spouse use this option of dining. The biggest disappointment was they did not enforce dress code for smart casual and formal dining.
ACTIVITIES ON BOARD:
There are a lot of choices and should be something to appeal to everyone. We enjoyed things from country line dancing lessons to a cooking lesson with a tour of the ship’s galley. There were games, informational meetings, seminars, golf simulation, workout room (aerobics and weights), walking track, putting green, basketball, spa, shops, casino, hot tubs, pools, movies, music, sightseeing, afternoon tea… and the list goes on. The problem wasn’t finding something to do; it was trying to do everything we wanted. My wife won at the one-arm bandits early on in the cruise but she eventually gave it all back – and had fun doing it. One of our favorite things to do was to sit up at the Skywalkers lounge area on the sky deck, relax and soak in the scenery. We walked around the track on the sports deck and made laps on the Promenade deck along with the weight room to help fulfill our exercise. Our regret – we did not bring swimsuits. This was supposed to be Alaska and cold, but the pools and hot tubs were usually crowded. Check the Patter the night before!! FYI – The Calypso and Reef pool on the Lido Deck is under a retractable glass dome – so you can comfortably swim in there.
Nightly entertainment included shows in the Princess Theatre and games such as the NotSo Newlywed Game, Weakest Link, Family Feud and Princess Idol… in which passengers are selected (volunteer) to compete with one another. All were pretty funny and add that personal touch that is one of the delightful aspects of cruises. We also enjoyed some of the piano music and other bands on board. We made every show at the Princess Theater and all were excellent. We had a great time and for a short period we may have forgotten we were even on a ship. A word to the wise, if you decide to see an 8:00pm show at the Princess Theater be sure to arrive at least 1/2hr early (if not before).
We wanted to just get a taste of Alaska – and we did. Since this was our first time there we spent time walking around the towns and shopping areas.
In Juneau we hiked almost to the top of Mt. Roberts and took some wonderful pictures of the City. We played in the snow as we neared the top and had had a great time. We had an afternoon snack in the Red Dog Saloon (recommended visit) and then wandered through the City. Others who took excursions really enjoyed themselves but they missed the ambiance of Juneau. Yea, yea, yea… we arrived into Juneau late – but no one seemed to mind and it did not disrupt any plans.
In Skagway we rode the White Pass Train. It picks you up in front of the Ship and we took a 4hr roundtrip journey (same track coming and going). There were some great picture opportunities as we traveled the pass. We were allowed to take pictures from standing on the outside of the train. Hind sight though says we should have taken the train up and the bus back – better opportunities to stop and different scenery. We also stopped in town and made several purchases in the Christmas shop. The owner boxed our packages and shipped to us for $11 (to TN), we got the package within a week. Great place to visit. Once again we wandered around town. If you wonder what gifts to buy others – This is the place.
Tracey Arm – We arrived at the glacier at around 7am. We had not read the Patter the night before and woke up too late to see the glacier. We were expecting a later arrival – remember to check the night before so you will know what time you will be cruising the arm. Personally – 7am was to early in the morning to be at the Glacier.
In Ketchikan we wandered the town and soaked in the ambiance. It was sunny and 73 that day so everyone was happy. If you want to shop and haggle – try to know what prices are before you go, especially jewelry. There were some wonderful Mother of Pearl and Gemstone globes for sale in shops that we missed out on – next time we’ll know.
In Vancouver BC we were least enamored with. If you plan on doing anything there – plan an excursion. It was about a 2-mile walk to town and the public bus only ran every 20minutes. There was another ship in port vying for the same bus and the line was long. BC seemed to be well manicured and shops are all the same tourist type shops… next time we’ll either stay on the Ship or take an excursion tour to the gardens.
There are a number of Laundromats provided with self-service washers, dryers, and ironing boards. Boutiques and stores on board have all sorts of items for sale such as clothing, jewellery, jackets, junk food, film and a good assortment of personal items. Prices are a little high for some things but it is convenient. There is a pianist, violin & cello musicians who play in the lobby daily. Nice and peaceful music made for a relaxed atmosphere. A library is available but only open during certain hours and they have a varied assortment of reading material. There is a Wedding Chapel on board but we did not see anyone actually get married on our cruise. It is nicely decorated and appeared to hold about 50-75 people comfortably. There was an art auction and it occurred in the Explorers Lounge during the day. Internet Services were available at the Internet Café for a nominal fee. The TV channels in your cabin have great recent movies that run around the clock and are repeated throughout the week. There was also someone there to take advance booking(s) which would save you $$ if you wanted to sail Princess again. (We did not do that this time but will on our next cruise)
Princess adds $10 per person per day to your onboard account for gratuities. They say that the $10 per day is divided between the dining staff waiter, assistant waiter, headwaiter, maitre’d and cabin steward. You can adjust this amount up or down by going to the pursers desk. The cruise staff are wonderful. They work very hard and are loads of fun. The Ship was always clean, including the public and they are constantly maintaining it to a level of excellence. They were even painting the outside of the Ship while in Port. The TV channels also have a morning show hosted by the cruise director who goes over that day’s event. They also have a channel that shows ship position and distance sailed – real time. Also, when they say to be on board by 8:00, they mean be on board by 8:00. With the exception of Princess purchased excursions running late, the Ship will leave without you. While departing Ketcikan we saw a Coast Guard Cutter chasing us down. We later learned it was a passenger that had missed the ship – I’ll bet it cost him $$$!! When they say the Ship leaves at 8pm sharp – they mean it. They (ship photographers) also takes a lot of pictures throughout the cruise and places them up for sale. The pictures were good but expensive. We did purchase one though.
TAKE BINOCULARS – we almost forgot and we are glad we didn’t. Also take a backpack if you have one, it helps while walking around town. Also you may consider taking Dramamine along – on Sunday we were in 14-16 waves and many people got to feeling a little green. All of the shops sold out of all their motion sickness pills and gadgets. My wife took a couple Dramamine (brought from home) and lay down on the bed. I stood on the nearly vacated deck and enjoyed the ride. The rest of the trip – smooth sailing.
Patience – Patience – Patience. Everyone wants off the ship first, though I don’t know why? The process of disembarking the Ship was very organized and methodical. We had a 12:10pm flight and with the PRINCESS TRANSFERS we were in the airport, checked in and ready to go before 10:30am. They disembark by using a color-coded numbering system. There were people pacing, fretting, sighing… Patience. Enjoy a cup of coffee, breakfast – we had ample time. Our bags were set out the night before and after clearing customs we gathered our bags in the terminal (Sorted by color/number), boarded the bus and went straight to the airport.
Would we travel on Princess again? Yes, We have already booked an Eastern Caribbean cruise for the Fall. Would we do the Alaskan itinerary again? We plan on doing the Princess tour package and start in Fairbanks the next time. Complaints about the Ship? We heard a select few complaining (whining) about the ship – but we had nothing to really complain about (except having to listen to their complaining). After listening to one couple complain, complain, complain about Princess… (we were on the same ship too) they finally concluded they will never sail on Princess again – in my humble opinion, they are doing Princess a favor.
GREAT TRIP!!!! To all of the Diamond Princess Staff and Crew – Thank-you