This was our fourth trip to the Mexican Riviera, having cruised there previously on Carnival's Elation, Star Princess and Crystal Harmony. We like this venue because it is convenient (we live about 15 miles from San Pedro) and warm.
From our home to our cabin (B316) took about an hour and change. As poster Gayle said, Princess seems to have the embarkation process down pat, and if you are pre-registered and have cruised with Princess before, you sail through (ha, ha!) pretty quickly.
Because we like to sail on new ships (before passengers have a chance to foul the upholstery) we especiallly enjoyed Diamond Princess. Everything was still new (the carpets kept pilling!) and had that smell that you get from a new car. The decor is very understated (take that Joe Farkus!)and Diamond Princess could easily pass as a Holland America or even Crystal ship. Lots of cherry wood paneling, some great art work including murals with a very Japanese theme (Diamond was built by Mitsubishi in Nagasaki).
Of all the ships we have sailed on, including RCCI's Radiance of the Seas, Diamond Princess is by far the smoothest. There were times when you would have sworn you were in a hotel on land. There was no discernible vibration and, thanks to the ships enormous stabilizers, little to no roll. Just wonderful!
If you've been on other Princess ships (and there were plenty of Princess frequent cruisers on board), you know that Princess' favors a small ship concept, dividing up the vessel into many small areas. Thus, on Diamond Princess, which is a lot like Star Princess, there is no single, grand dining room with a cascading staircase and muti-tiered seating. On Diamond Princess, the International Dining Room, the only one with traditional, assigned seating, is the largest of the five free dining rooms and spreads from port to starboard, although it has a low ceiling. The other four Free Style dining rooms are half the size of the International with two (Santa Fe and Pacific Moon) on Deck 6 and two (Vivaldi and Sterling Steak House) directly below on Deck 5. All five share the same kitchen.
Because we booked too late to get a table in the International Dining Room, we reasoned that the Italian-themed Vivaldi would be less popular than say, the Sterling Steak House, and reserved a table there each night except one. After the first evening, the Maitre d' took a shine to us and gave us the same four-person table, set for just the two of us, each night. Nestled in a corner next to a bulkhead, it had a large window, just what we asked for.
Unlike other ships we've been on, the dining rooms on Diamond Princess were staffed by many Poles, which was great because I speak the language fluently. Thus, we got great service and shared a lot of inside jokes in our/their native tongue.
Like the previous poster, Gayle, my wife and I agree that the food on Diamond Princess was just average. Despite what seems like, many choices, the menu is really quite limited (if you like the same kind of food) and toward the end of the cruise we found ourselves running out of options. However, we did enjoy the ship's wines, which were reasonably priced.
On the second sea day, we wisely chose to have lunch, rather than dinner at Sabatini's, the pay restaurant ($20 each). Arriving early, we were seated next to a large window that looked out on Promenade Deck, which afforded us a great view of Cabo San Lucas where we made an unscheduled stop to drop off a sick passenger.
Starting with an impressive list of appetizers, the mostly Italian waiters serve you a multi-course meal that ends up with some delicious tiramissu for dessert. Very filling and worth the twenty bucks.
One note about food: since previous poster, Gayle mentioned pizza, I must throw in my two cents worth. We tried it on the first sea day and found it to be the worst we've ever had on any cruise ship. Like cardboard, and flavorless. Interestingly, the best pizza we've had on board any ship was on Carnival's Elation...
Because we're not much for stage shows, our entertainment consisted of dancing--at the Wheelhouse Bar, our favorite. There were two musical groups that alternated sets, and being older, we preferred the one that played standards, versus more "modern" stuff. That said, neither trio was much to write home about and I thought of contacting the ship's musical director to tell him.
We did, however, enjoy the piano/vocal stylings of Chris Hamilton, a Brit who does mostly Cole Porter, Gerschwin, Noel Coward, and the like. A great pianist and a lively showman.
Because it was Spring Break, we had lots of kids on board, and like Gayle said, they did tend to take over some of the swimming pools and Jacuzzis. But on a ship that's almost 950-feet-long, it wasn't a huge problem.
The bottom line: I'd recommend Diamond Princess for anyone who doesn't mind cruising on a big ship (115,875 gross registered tons) run by one of the major lines. In other words, this ain't Crystal. But it's light years better than the competition (Carnival, RCCI and Norwegian). It's also quite affordable, especially if you book off-season and early.