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Age: 58

Occupation:retired engineer

Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Diamond Princess

Sailing Date: October 23rd, 2004

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera

I am attempting to give a review and not a diary but sometimes it may appear to be a diary as it is necessary to help. I have separated it into categories for quick reference. I will try to avoid personal opinions because that is subjective. I don’t like the phrase “To die for”. There is nothing to die for. Although there are times that I am dying for a beer. And I guess that it is something that I will die for because my drinking will eventually kill me. I have calculated that if I drink a six pack a day for the next 100 years chances are that I will die. There will be a lot of tips that may be helpful and maybe that information is straying away from a review. If you do not want to read the whole “review” here is a quick one. If you are the type that judges a ship by carpet stains and stuff being worn out this ship will make you happy. You will have the opportunity to make the first stain. The ship was still in new condition. You could still see some carpet fuzzies, and it is not due to lack of vacuuming. It was a diverse group of passengers and age ranged from young to old with the majority being over 40. The crew is friendly. So please treat them as human beings and not a whipping pole. I have found that you can get better results with a smile and a Smith and Wesson than with just a Smith and Wesson. If you do not enjoy this cruise than you have a problem and should start to lighten up and enjoy life. Basically it is a typical Princess cruise.

Getting There
We took the air package from Princess. Was disappointed because we did not get direct flights. Leaving out of Detroit there are plenty of flights that are direct. We were booked on Delta with a change in Cincinnati and on the way back Northwest with a stop in Minnesota. We left for the airport at 3:30 am. ET. Our flight was at 6:00. It made a long day. Needless to say we were dead tired around dinner time, 6:00 pm PT. Would recommend getting your own air package and getting there a day early. This gives you more control; a cheaper price and you will be more rested for the first day on board.

L. A.
We arrived at 10:00 am PT. Had to wait 45 minutes to get on the bus. Princess charges $25 pp one-way. The ride is about 30 minutes. I don’t know if there is a cheaper way to get from the airport. The process was very organized. There were reps that told us where to put our luggage and we never seen it again until it was delivered to our cabin. We did not have to deal with any of the baggage bandits that always have their hand out demanding a TIP.

We got to the terminal before noon and were given a card with a number on it as we walked in. Ours was 546. This is used for order of boarding. We were able to check in at the Platinum counter. The process was very fast. Be sure to do your paper work on line. The way things are today I would recommend getting a passport. It will make traveling easier for you. We were told on the bus not to take any pictures inside due to security reasons? They try to make it like the place really secured; but for some reason people were coming and going thru non-secured exit only doors. Everything was organized until the boarding process. At 1:00 they called for anyone with Princess platinum or above membership, suite passengers and those with special needs to start boarding. It did not matter what number you had. We went to the boarding gate. What a cluster muster. Everyone was rushing to the gate. There was no line. We finally got to the front. They would let about 10 people in at a time because you had to go thru screening. There was a special line for passengers in a wheel chair. The gatekeeper will let those go thru first. This is ok but it gets abused. One passenger in a wheel chair was upset and caused a big delay because the group of twenty plus people with him could not cut in front of everyone else. The gatekeeper asked if anyone else had special needs. I said I did. I was thirsty alcoholic and needed to get to a bar fast. It did not work. After the initial rush I think that the crowd thins out. If you have a choice don’t get to the terminal until 2:00 and you will not have to wait in lines.

On Board
We finally got on. There are crewmembers that “direct” you towards your cabin. Pack a carry on with a change of cloths, swimsuit, shorts, etc because it may take a while to get your luggage and you will want to change out of your traveling clothes. The buffet, pools, and bars are open. Get a brochure or look on line before hand to become familiar with the ship’s layout before the cruise.

First things first. Go to your room, dump your stuff, make dinner reservations for the first night, and then go to the buffet. The good times are now starting.

In your cabin is a Princess book that has information about everything on the ship. Read it ASAP.

The Cabin
Our room was a mini suite on the starboard side (right side) on the Dolphin deck (deck 9). This was the side against the port and was in the sun. You can sit on your balcony and watch the people boarding. The cabin looks exactly as shown in the brochure. The beds are made up according to your request, either as twins or a queen. There was a bowl of fruit, 2 cookies, and a flower arrangement from our TA. The robes were in the room as requested. They are about one step above a hospital gown. It states a walk in closet but it is only 3 feet deep. There is a sofa bed, a chair, coffee table, and 2 TV’s. Plenty of room. The lamps are bolted to the tables. You cannot move them. I guess there were anticipating a thief problem. There is a refrigerator but it is not stocked as a mini bar so you can store stuff in it. It does not get very cold. If you want to keep something cold I would recommend taking a small soft-sided cooler and having the room steward keep it filled with ice. There is a safe about 1ft x 1 ft. You key in a 4-digit code every time you lock it. Use a number that you can remember. There must be a bypass on it because it you locked it the last day of the cruise how would the next person get it open? The safe is in a closet that is blocked from view by the opened bathroom door. We accidentally left the safe and closet door open when we went to dinner one night because of this. The room steward did not bother anything. There are two hair driers. One is electric and is over the desk/make up table. The other was on the balcony. Stick your head over the rail and let the wind dry it. This is how the Princess got the idea for their sea witch logo.

The Bathroom
My wife used the bathroom before I did. When she hung up the towel it covered the sign that said to close the cover before flushing. After using the toilet I could not see anything to flush the toilet. There was a chrome cylinder with a handle along side of it. I pushed and pulled and it came out. It was a brush. I finally asked my wife how to flush it. She said to push the button. I could not find it. She said I needed to put the seat cover down. Ok. I guess a woman must have designed these bathrooms and figured out a way to get the men to put the seat down when done. I fixed this problem. The button is square and behind the seat. I saw a spare box of facial tissue that looked about the right size to fit behind the cover and was at the right height to hit the button. I could now push the cover back and flush the toilet. Mistake. I was sitting on the pot and accidentally lean back on the cover. WHOA MA MA!!. Do not do this unless you are constipated.

The room is supplied with soap bars, and squeeze packets of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.

The bathtub is another experience. The mini suite has a bathtub shower combo. The bathroom floor is elevated about 4 inches and the tub is elevated another 4inches so there is about 6’-1’ clearance inside the tub. If you are taller you will be banging your head on the ceiling. There are also more levers and knobs than on a Japanese stereo. There are 2 faucets, a large and small (?), a diverter, and a temperature knob that has the degrees marked on it and a flow control knob. If you wear glasses and do not become familiar with the controls before hand you will not figure it out. Also be sure to open the little packs of shampoo and conditioner before your hands get wet. Scissors or a knife helps.

My wife wanted to check out the spa while I took a shower. I did not become familiar with the tub layout and got in with out my glasses. What an experience. I turned the knobs and the water would get hot, get cold, came on and went off. It is not too complicated if you can see. I finally got it figured out and then the fun began. I seen a cord that I thought was to close the shower curtain. It did not close so I kept pulling on it. Suddenly the room steward appeared. I had almost had a heart attack. It was a good thing that I had that toilet experience. He wanted to know if I was all right? I said that was a dumb question since he just knocked a few years off of my life; but since he was here he needs to fix cord because the shower curtain will not close. He said that the cord was there to grab when I fell. I told him that if I fell I would grab onto one of those chrome handles that I keep banging my elbow on and not that flimsy cord. He said that the cord was to be pulled after I fell to call for assistance. I than asked the purpose of the chrome bell at the top of the tub. He said it was a cloths line to hang my wet clothes on. I said well they will be wet if I hang them in the bathtub and if it was ok with him I will use the closet. He said that it was for the bathing suits after swimming. We finally were getting on the same page when he asked why I had the toilet brush in the bathtub. Well that explains why the brush was on the other side of the toilet. DO NOT USE THE BRUSH FOR YOUR BACK AND DO NOT PULL THE CORD. I finally got everything figured out except for the magnets on the bottom of the shower curtain in a plastic tub. They did not keep the curtain from being sucked into the shower. The other is the 2 glass knick-knack shelves in the shower.

The regular size balcony is approximately 4 ft x 8 ft. They have 2 plastic armchairs and a plastic table. The mini suites are 8 ft x 8 ft and have 2 plastic armchairs, and 2 plastic armchairs with cushions that recline. The suites are 16 ft x 8 ft and have 2 cushioned teak wood chairs, 2 cushioned teak wood chaise lounges, and teak wood tables. Some suites have larger balconies if at the bow or stern. The doors are sliding and I do not think they controlled the HVAC when left open.

Aloha deck. All balconies 4 x 8 and are covered plus another 4 ft overhang from the deck above

Baha deck. All balconies are 4 x 8 and are covered by the deck above. I think there are a few that may be a little longer.

Caribe deck. All balconies are either suite or mini suite. They are ½ covered by the deck above and ½ is exposed.

Dolphin deck. All balconies are mini suites and extend from the side of the ship. There is no cover over them. They are fully exposed.

Emerald deck.
The mini suites at the stern are fully covered by the deck above

We had a mini suite on the Dolphin deck. I enjoyed not having a cover over the top. I could recline and get a good view of the stars. The balcony lights are not very bright so they do not cause much light pollution if another balcony has it on. One drawback was it did not provide any protection from rain. It rained a few nights and cut into our balcony time. Nothing romantic about sitting in the rain plus it dilutes the drinks. With no overhead cover the furniture and cushions get wet but they can be dried with towels. Privacy was not really a issue. I guess if it is you could take a 8 ft x 8 ft tarp with some rope and string it across the bulkheads. It did get rather cool at night and was very windy on the return. There was plenty of room to spread out breakfast and enjoy the sunrise or watch the world go by.

Cruise and charge Card
At check in you are given a plastic card about the size of a credit card. This is used as a room key, charge card while on board and as you ID to get on and off the ship. I wanted to exchange cards with my wife before getting back on board to see if they really noticed a difference but I forgot about it. At the end of the cruise you are given a statement with all of your charges on in. Each person gets their own statement. If you have any concerns you have to take it up with the purser before you leave. The daily TIPS are included at $10 per day per passenger and is broken down to room, $6.45 and meals, $3.45. If you agree and have express check out you don’t have to do anything. It is advised to get a copy before Friday and check it to avoid the long line on the last day. Keep all receipts in a envelop for reference.

The Restaurants
We had personal choice dining. There are 4 theme restaurants that you dine in if you are using personal choice. The restaurants take reservations up to 24 hours in advance or from 7:00 am the day before. I advise to make reservations. Use the phone in your room to do this. Each one has its own menu that never changes and the menu from the main dining room that changes daily. The choices of restaurants are Mexican, Italian, Oriental, and American (Steakhouse). . The theme does not really mean anything except for the setting and their standard theme menu. The theme menu is very limited. If you have traditional dining you will get the main menu, and a daily rotation of menus from the theme restaurants. You could eat in the same restaurant every evening and just pick from the main menu. There are also some standard entrees that are always available. The first night we ate in the Sterling Steak House (American). My wife had a steak. The knife that they served with it could have been used in the movie Gladiator. The knife was not an indication of the steak; it could be cut with the standard knife that had a serrated edge. We always reserved a table for two. The problem is these are always along the wall where one person is sitting on the bench and the other is in a chair facing a wall or mirror. I don’t think they really reserve a certain table they just give you one that is available.

The first day at sea we ate lunch in the main dining room. Lots of luck finding it. The layout of the ship is not very user friendly. We were seated at a table with 3 older couples that were traveling together. Thru the whole lunch they complained. I finally said that I have had enough and I cannot take anymore. One lady said that I should complain to the waiter and I would get the lunch for free. She said that she complains about the food at every meal and has never been charged for her dinners when cruising.

I did not want to get involved explaining it to her. Found out they were from Florida. No wonder they have voting problems there. That was the only time we had lunch there. The buffet was more convenient.

The only beverages available for free at the self-serve stations are: coffee, water, and hot and cold tea. In the dining room you have to ask. The servers normally do not volunteer the free beverages. Milk and juice are provided but not at the self serve stations. Bottled water has a charge. Make sure you say regular water when in a restaurant unless you want to pay for bottled. The tap water is safe to drink. It is distilled seawater.

Room Service
It is available 24 hours. We only used it for breakfast. We would have room service for breakfast every day while sitting on the balcony. You are provided with a card the night before to fill out and hang it on the door before retiring if room service is requested. Delivery is really close to the time that you mark. Be aware of all the time changes while on board. We got surprised one morning. We would write in items and got them even though the items were not on the card. Coffee is served in a pot and juice comes in a 4 oz glass. If you ask for 2 coffees you get 2 pots. The server has a card that they want you to sign upon delivery. It has an area that they want the time of delivery, your signature and a line that says TIP. I think the TIP line is the one that they are really concerned about. They are happy with a buck or two. They advertise a Special Champagne Breakfast for Two @ $25. in your stateroom. You get a half bottle of champagne, smoked salmon and quiche. I don’t know who gets the other half of the bottle. For $25 you could get a bucket of beer and have regular room service with change to spare.

There are many opportunities for having your picture taken. You do not pay to have your photo taken. Remember what time you came on the ship, dining room you were in or what the background was. This will make finding your photo easier. I am sure you will run across many people that are asking “How do we know what pictures are ours?” The photos are $21.95 each. I think they would sell more if the prices were cheaper. The majority ends up being tossed.

We took a bottle of Crown in our luggage. No problem. We then found that you can purchase booze for in room consumption by the bottle. It is not worth the hassle of taking your own. We paid $22.00 (liquor controlled by the state) for the Crown in Mi.
A liter on board for room use was $25. Grey Goose is $29 for a liter and it costs $30 in Mi for a fifth. The prices are in the book in the room. They do not offer Kahlua so you may want to take your own or get it at Puerta Vallarta

When in Puerta Vallarta I bought two 6 packs of beer and carried them in my arms thru the metal detector with no problem. We also bought a bottle of Kahlua for $9.70 and took that on board in our backpack.

The ship sells duty free booze on board and claims to have the cheapest price. If you can prove it to be cheaper somewhere else they will match it. Kahlua was $11. plus on board and I showed them the receipt and got it for $9.70. If you are planning on buying on board do it early because they run out fast. I got the last bottle of Kahlua. Saved a whopping $10 compared to the prices at home. I was really counting on this great savings to help pay for the trip. I had this great plan of paying for the trip by doing this. I was calculating that if I bought 400 bottles and paid the duty the savings would be about $3800. Than I would have to buy another 400 for the savings to offset the cost of first 400. If I kept buying more to cover the cost of the booze the law of diminishing returns should take effect and the trip and booze would be free. Some how the math did not work out. In reality what you save on a bottle is not worth the hassle if you are traveling by air.

The pools and whirlpools are fresh water and are always open. There are pools for kids, adult, and combined. Never had a problem with getting a chair. If one pool is crowded go to another. The water was warm. You have to bring a pool towel from your room; none are provided at the pool area. There is no topless bathing area but the beaches in Mexico are.

Lounges and Bars
There are plenty of them. You never have to be concerned about getting a drink. I think the servers follow the photographers. It seems as if you are always being asked if you want a drink or have your picture taken.

The Wake View Bar is anything but. You really have to look for the bar and the wake. The view is thru a couple of portholes when kneeling on the bench along the wall. If you want a quiet private place this is it. Usually there is no bar service and the place is deserted. Skywalkers bar is also dead during the daytime.

Sports bar. This also serves as the cigar bar. Enough said. The place reeks of stale smoke.

Martini bar: A great place to try different martinis at reasonable prices. All martinis are $5 unless you want a souvenir glass. Not bad considering some hot spots at home charge $10 plus. I bought deck of cards that consisted of 52 martini recipes for $6. Got home and seen a offer for a free disk that had 8400 martini recipes from Van Gogh Vodka.

Explorer lounge: this serves as an alternate show room. It was also our muster station. I guess the cruise line does not want to miss out on any opportunity to sell you a drink- Hey everyone this is the last call before the ship sinks. They did not mention at the drill if you needed your cruise and charge card to get off the ship but I would make sure to have it just incase you wanted last call.

There are a lot of other bars and lounges. Beers range from $3.25 to $3.50. You can also get a bucket of 5 for the price of 4. I asked the bartender if I could have the free 5th one after 4 were sold. He said it did not work that way. Cocktails and liquors range from $3.50 to $6.00. 15% gratuity is added to this. This is reasonable. The TIP amounts $.53 for a bottle of beer. Beats giving them a five spot and telling them to keep the change.

You have to go thru the casino to get from the restaurants to the theater. It is always smoky. Did not play there. Vegas is always a separate business trip that I take to visit my investments. The casino owners are using my investments wisely. Vegas is booming.
There are also some machines in the Club Fusion.

Internet Café
It seemed to be closed most of the time for servicing. There is a Coffee bar in there that has the best cookies on board. They on under a glass cover on the counter and are free but the coffee is not.

Smoking Policy
Smoking is only allowed in certain places. The ship was for the most part smoke free if that is a concern to the non-smokers.

Princess Patter
This is the daily newsletter that Princess delivers to your room every night. It has the next day’s activities listed. I would like to see it a few days in advance so dinner reservations could be made accordingly. There was one left in our room from the prior week’s cruise. Everything was the same except for the date. Take some different color hi light markers to mark the activities you want to attend. You can also pick up an extra at the main desk.

Shows and Entertainment
The Princess Theater holds 700 people. The ship can accommodate 2800. Do your math. If you want to see a show be there at least 30 minutes early to guarantee a seat. There is no seat reserving and it is strictly enforced. I am listing the main things so you can make dinner reservations. The seats in the lower sections are on a slanted floor. This makes the seats and backs lean forward because the bases were made for a level floor. If you do not want to get a wedgey while in the theater sit in the areas with the level floor surface. It is not really necessary to sit that close anyways. Sitting back further gives you a nice overall view.

8:15 and 10:30 Welcome Aboard Show. Did not attend because we were dead tired.

Formal night

5:30 and 7:45 Captains Cocktail Party. A chance to get free drinks. Martinis, manhattans, rum punch. All you can drink for 30 minutes.

8:15 and 10:30 Piano Man. A song and dance show consisting of words and music of Billy Joel, Sedaka, Manilow, Liberace, and Elton John. It is a good show if you relate to them. The younger crowd was not too impressed. There is an encore performance the next night.

8:30 and 10:45 comedy show in Explorer Lounge. Comedian Don Fiesen.

Movie night 6:00 and 10:30. The Terminal was shown in the Theater

8:15 and 10:30 Cabaret Showtime. Explorer Lounge. Jim McDonald. Comedian from Showtime and MTV

9:15 Piano Man encore

8:15 and 10:30 Celebrity Showtime. Tony Tillman. Played at Caesar’s Palace for many years. Great high energy entertainer.

10:30 late night movie in Explorers lounge. Troy was shown

8:15 and 10:30 Comedy and Magic Show. Lorenzo Clark. From Magic Castle. He told jokes and did some tricks. Put two hankies into a hat, one red and one yellow. He then made the red change into yellow and the yellow into red. He also got some cigarettes from a passenger. He made them go up into smoke. Amazing

10:30 late night movie in Explorers lounge. Manchurian Candidate 2004 was shown

Formal Night

Past guest Party 5:30 and 7:30. Another chance for free drinks

8:15 and 10:30 Undercover. Dance and song by the Princess Dancers. I fell asleep.

8:30 and 10:45 Comedy Showtime in the Explorer lounge. Another guest Comedian. Don Ware. Writer of the Cosby Show

11:30 Champagne Waterfall. Nice to see if it is your first cruise. You also get free Champagne but it is not worth the cost.

6:30 Movie night. Princess theater. Stepford Wife’s

9:15 Undercover encore.

10:15 late night movie. Explorer Lounge. Spiderman 2

I know that the entertainers and Movies will not be the same but the times and representations should be. I have only listed the main things going on. There are always dance bands and other activities at night. None of the comics were vulgar or used foul language. The movies are also shown on the ship’s television network but the times and dates are hit and miss.

Fun Stuff
Pool parties, dance lessons, karaoke, Princess Idol competition, singles dance party, table tennis tournaments, trivia games, basketball shoot out, scrabble tournament, pool Olympics, weakest one contest, flip, flop, and fly contest, shuffle board tournament, water volleyball, golf tournament, pictionary, Mr. sexy legs contest, Princess Jeopardy.
Bonus: winter Olympics started in 1924, and the largest lake is the Caspian Sea.

Puerto Vallarta
We were facing the bay and not the dock. It was funny to watch the tour boats come into the bay and circle the ship. Looked like hyenas waiting for the kill. Then it became like the piped piper. Each boat started playing their party music trying to entice people to come on board. It became the battle of the amps with each trying to be louder than the other. Most left fairly empty.

We were docked 3 miles from town; but there were 2 large souvenir stores across the road from the dock. One was called Walmart and the other was Sam’s Club; good prices, but you had to have a membership card to get inside.

We walked to town. It was about a 6 beer walk. You can buy a beer for under a dollar at any store and drink in public. I always take a foam can cover with me to help keep the beer cold. Use this on board also.

We were planning on eating some good real authentic Mexican food but we could not find that famous place that is always advertised called Taco Bell, so we settled for a margarita in town. It was 2 for 1 and cost $3 including tip. If you want to drink and don’t like the ship’s prices do it here. Did not take any tours or buy anything else. Been there before.

We were facing the port here. It is an industrial dock. It was not a warm feeling to see 2 guards with automatics standing by an empty cargo container near the gangplank. I don’t know what they were protecting but I have a feeling that the container was used for a jail.

It is a $20 dollar cab ride to town. If you just want shop in town save your cab fare buy from the stores by the dock. You have to take a free tram to get out of the dock area. At the main entrance there is a little mall with shops, a couple of bars and restaurants.

The dock area was full of new cars that were being loaded on transport trucks. I don’t know who was buying all the cars but the blanket business must be booming. This is confusing to me because I don’t understand why someone would buy a blanket from a person that lives in one of the hottest places on earth. If I wanted a blanket I think that I would buy it from a person that lived in a cold place like Alaska.

Cabo San Lucas
Not much time spent here. You tender to the dock. The tender process is very organized. When you are ready to leave you go to the Explorer Lounge. You are then put into a group and taken to the tender. It is about a 10 to 15 minute wait. Don’t be in a rush to get to town. Nothing opens until 9:00.

We went to Sammy Haggar’s Cabo Wabo club and had a Margarita. Had to do this. Not worth the money, but can say that we did it.

Going Home
You are given numbered colored tags to put on your luggage on Friday night. Pack your bags and have them outside your room before midnight. Disembarkation started at 8:30. We had breakfast and then went back to our room to get our carry on bags. We stayed there until our color number was called. You can hear the PA in your room. Do not try to get off until your color and number is called. In the terminal there are rooms that are color coded according to the luggage in them. It was fast and organized. After getting our luggage we went thru customs and got on the bus to the airport. Got to the airport by 9:30 and was able to change to an earlier non-stop flight home.

The passengers were a diverse group that was mostly over 40. The majority was polite and not the pushy, inconsiderate, rude Condo Commandos that you usually encounter on cruises that leave out of Florida. All of the crewmembers were friendly and helpful. The ship is very smooth and most times you forget that you are on a ship. One night it was a little rough and there was some ship movement. The passengers in the cabin next to us must have been scared because we could hear them praying oh god, oh GOD, OH GOD. Would I take this cruise again? No, only because there are too many other ships and places that I have not been on or to. But yes I would recommend it.

Feel free to Email if you have any questions

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