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Shore Excursions
Mark Crossman

Age: 45


Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Diamond Princess

Sailing Date: 2009-08-14

Itinerary: Alaska

This was my first cruise. You need to know that I brought by daughters (12 and 14) and had two adjoining balcony staterooms-port side, upper decks (Aloha). My family and I very much enjoyed the cruise. If you've never been crusing before, it is largely what you have heard. There are a lot of seniors and the general vibe on the boat leans that way.

The entertainment is good-fun dance shows etc. - but again, it is the sort of thing you would expect on a cruise ship. I'm not putting it down, its just that if you go onboard expecting it to be beyond your wildest dreams, like any other trip, it will let you down.

I wouldn't recommend the casino as the slots are set at payoff levels that are really low. I liked the in house band. They did a lot of covers of rock songs that were sort of cheesy, but fun to listen to. The dance show we went to was good, but clearly aimed at an older crowd. It was a history of dance and ends it with the seventies and disco (my kids noticed that hip hop was missing and, to be fair, it is big omission). But, again, who really cares? If you are getting on a ship expecting to see the finals of So You Think You Can Dance - you are asking more than they can provide unless you want to double your passage. There is so much to do during the day for kids that if you have a family I think it is definitely worth taking them. The 10-12 group was especially good. They might think about doing a 13-15 and 15-17 group because the 13-17 group makes it difficult for the kids at both ends of that age group to relate (big developmental differences). Meaning, my 12 year old loved her group - my 14 year old not so much.

I was blown away by the quality of service. We had any time dining but ended up in the Sante Fe room where the waiters new our names, remembered what we ordered the night before.

I didn't care for the check in process of embarkation, but it wasn't the Princess end of it so much as it was American immigration in Vancouver (you have to go back through INS because you are heading to Alaska from Canada). That is more a problem with the nonsense of US law than a fault of Princess. If you have the cash, however, I would recommend spending the night in Vancouver before boarding. We muscled it out and flew from LA to Seatle to Vancouver and the journey started at 3:00 Am, we were a bit fried by the time we got on the boat.

The food is good, often very good (they do a crab and lobster night); but you won't find a lot of serious spice or anything that really grabes the taste buds (I would imagine the general demographic would have a problem with a lot of spice). Like you've heard, there is a lot of it - almost to the point of being gross. In the buffet they serve it up on platters. We did the premium Italian one night (you pay an extra 20 per person), and it was very good as well. There were multiple courses and excellent service. We also did both wine tastings. They will try to sell you the wine and, frankly, the prices aren't bad for the high end stuff, but we just tasted. It was still fun and interesting. Like I said above, my perception was that they really could have a few dishes that have some serious kick to them (but I'm a spice head).

If you are still active, there is a gym on board. I ran the deck, it was great because you get your work out in and still get to see all of the cool stuff.

The rooms were great! They had comfortable beds (like a very good hotel - not high end, but very good). The bathrooms are not huge, but very adequate. There is great water pressure in the shower (I know that sounds trivial but if you travel a lot you know what I mean). Our room steward (hey Leno) was excellent. The bed was mysteriously turned down each night. He kept the rooms clean without lurking around. The balcony made the room for me. I had no problem with sea sickness, despite a couple of rocky nights (they pick up the speed at night to get to the next port and the ocean, while very calm in this area, was choppy enough to rock the boat a bit). I think being able to have an open balcony helps with that. A tip-I would reserve on Aloha or one below if I was going for the balcony again because the balcony is covered by the floor above. The lower deck balconies are exposed and it will rain in that area from time to time.

BTW-the Port side actually seemed to be better for viewing. The captain will turn the ship for both sides to view glaciers, but they seemed to naturally come up on the Port side more on the Northern passage. I was concerned that Port wouldn't be as good.

If you are really tight on funds, I wouldn't do a cruise. The cost will be too dear and you will, therefore, expect more than anything they can offer. The booze is extra, and there are some things to buy on board that will catch the eye. I think it is possible to just do the ship and not excursions. I know my parents who did this in their seventies didn't do excursions.

I really enjoyed the shore excursions-particularly the Iditarod Dog camp in Juneau. Yes, everything is a bit pricey, but not unreasonably so in my view. If you have the funds (and this one was pretty cheap) to do the Rainforest tour in Ketchikan. You'll see bears, reindeer, eagles and you will get wet. Additoinally, you will be simply blown away by the glaciers and wild life that surround the boat. We had killer whales and hump backs right off of our rooms on many occasions.

We did:

Juneau Dog Sleds-

We loved this, but you need to love dogs. These are real dogs, and they smell and howl and pull you and you get to see dogs the way the are supposed to be: active and real and slightly uncivilized. You get to hold the pupies at the end.

Rainforest Expedition-

We loved it despite being drenched.

Whale Watching in Skagway with Salmon Feed (best meal of the trip-out door) -

Saw many, many whales and the Salmon Feed was excellent.

Eagle Santuary Jet Boat Adventure-

This was very cool. You really get back into the woods and see eagles. Everything else was hiding. It was fun to talk to the guys who work there and hear about living in Alaska, one of the last free places.

Overall: if you have the cash and aren't looking for perfection go for it. If you are looking to be annoyed, it won't matter where you are, you are there. It is an awesome experience. I think the crew generally goes out of their way to be helpful. There are lines at the purser's desk from time to time. It's good to be flexible. I would definitely cruise with Princess again. BTW, the Holland American ship left Vancouver with us and followed us around. By comparision, I felt sorry for the Holland American passengers. The Diamond was really the best looking ship out there and seemed to have priorty docking (front docking) at the ports we were in.

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