Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Diamond Princess
Sailing Date: September 11th, 2004
We arrived in Seattle 3 days before the cruise and it turned out to be a very beautiful city with lots to do. On the first day we toured the city on the local buses, went to the needle and Seattle centre, took a duck ride by the needle and had a pleasant evening meal in the Queen Anne suburbs which is where our hotel (Homewood Suites by Hilton) was based. On the second day we took an excursion to Mt. Rainier which was an excellent trip. The views were superb (being a clear day) and the guide provided us with a wealth of information about the area and also about life in Seattle.
The following day we took a shuttle bus from the hotel to the pier at around 10.30. Embarkation was very efficient and by 11.30 we were in our cabins. We had a balcony cabin on the Baha deck (deck 11) towards the centre of the ship. It was a beautiful cabin almost similar in layout to the bacony cabin we had in Zuiderdam last year except that the bathroom was much smaller. There was only a shower and no bath. Apart from that, the room was clean, comfortable and well laid out.
After unpacking, we left for lunch which was being served in the horizon court. It was OK (not as good as Zuiderdam) but sufficient. We then had a tour round the ship which was gigantic to say the least. Most of the bars and restaurants were located on the lower decks whereas the pools, health club, discotheque were on the upper decks. Very well furnished and everything looked immaculate. The casino had an african theme to it and looked very nice. The main dining room and the 4 other dining rooms were much smaller than many cruiselines but felt very cosy with tables well spaced out. Plenty of tables for 2s, 4s and 6s.
There were 4 pools and lots of spas. The health club had a gym, sauna, steam rooms and other beauty therapy rooms. Gym and use of Sauna/Steam was complimentary. On the whole, the ship had a very rich look however in comparison to Zuiderdam this ship lacked its own individual character.
Dining was a great experience. Personal choice dining is an excellent idea as you can dine with whom you want at the time of your choice. However if you want to dine at peak time (between 6 and 8), its best to make a reservation in advance. Food was quite good and had plenty of vegetarian choice but once again not as well presented or served as Zuiderdam.
The ports of call were all very interesting. First stop was Juneau - a beautiful town and the ship docked right next to the cable car which took you up the mountain and gave you a fabulous view of the place. Unfortunately it rained most of the morning and hence we did some shopping. In the afternoon, when the weather started clearing up, we went up the cable car and got a beautiful view of the ship from above.
The next stop was Skagway. We had brilliant weather. Mostly sunny all day and quite warm too, being September. In the morning we did a jeep safari excursion which was very interesting. We entered Canada and drove up to Yukon which was extremely beautiful. Words cannot simply describe the beauty of the place. You've got to be there to get the feel of the surroundings. We got back to the ship by lunchtime. Had lunch on-board and went into Skagway downtown thereafter. Once again a very pretty town surrounded by mountains. Quite small though, there are only 800 residents in town who live all year around. After our tour of the town we boarded the White Pass railway which took us at great heights and gave us fabulous views of the area.
The following day was cruising through Tracy arm which was an experience in itself. We decided to have breakfast on our balcony and I'm glad we did that as whilst having our breakfast we managed to see a school of humpback whales right next to the ship. Everybody on board seemed to have come to this side of the ship to see the whales and were delighted with excitement. There was cheering and screaming from the decks but the whales seemed to love it and followed the ship for quite a long way. Many icebergs followed as we moved into the heart of tracy arm. Unfortunately it had been a very hot summer and hence some massive icebergs blocked our route to the glacier. Due to safety reasons, the captain decided to turn the ship around and hence we couldn't see the glacier. However the whales and the beauty of Tracy arm more than made up for the day.
The next stop was in Ketchikan where we went to see the totem poles. Once again a very beautiful town- infact the best out of the 3 we had visited. Apparently it rains here on most days but we got a lovely sunny day. After our short tour of the town, we shopped most morning.
The last stop was Victoria which was a wasted stop as we docked at 7 in the evening when everything got dark and hence couldn't see much. Personally I would have rather spent a full day at Ketchikan and avoided the Victoria stop.
Debarkation was slightly delayed as some fisherman had laid nets around the docking area as part of some protest. However as soon as the nets were removed, we docked (around 9.30am) and debarkation occured very smoothly thereafter. Luckily our flight was in the evening and hence we were in no rush to get to the airport. Princess let us stay in our cabins right till the very end which was nice of them.
On the whole, it was a wonderful cruise, one of the best holidays of my life. The surrounding of Alaska and a great ship made it all the better. However on comparison to Zuiderdam this ship lacked in service and entertainment but the beauty of Alaska more than made up for that. Would I travel on princess again? Yes I would, if I got a good deal but if I got a better deal on a HAL ship I'd go for that.