I have been cruising for several years, but this is the first one on Princess. I will try and give you a personal review of what I encountered. So let’s go.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE Before you leave there are some things that you will need. First you must have a current passport. After December, 2005, you must have a current passport to travel. So get this first. Next, the Diamond Princess (DP for short) has only limited outlets in the room. Think about bringing an electrical strip with 4-5 outlets. This will help you if you have several things that need charging.
THE SHIP The ship is large, but getting around is very simple. You will be provided a map of the ship when you get to your stateroom. Really, the only thing that you need to remember is if you want to eat deck 14, if you want to see the ship start on deck 6 and go to the middle. All of the areas are either a deck above you or below you. Not being on a Princess line before, I was not really sure what to expect. I was disappointed when we arrived and found out the average age group was in the senior age. My wife and I are in the 50’s and there was nothing for our age group. Most of the entertainment was geared around the seniors. The highlight was needle point and how to make your needle point impressive. Bingo was another highlight, won $200.00 and thought I was going to get mugged. The point is, when making your reservation, find out from other people what age group are expected, you may want to change to another line. The ship is very clean. This is where DP excels, most cruise line clean during the day. You have to move out of the way so that they can clean. DP cleans at night when most people are asleep. Good job.
EMPARKATION WOW, the only thing I can say is patients, patients, patients. Remember that you are only one of 2000-3000 people that are trying to check in. You will have lines to deal with. Princess did move them along, but patients, you will get onboard. Keep in mind, once you fill out all of the forms online, the paperwork you will receive will say Express Check In. This is true for all that are sailing expect those that stay overnight in Seattle and drive to the port. So don’t think that you will get through faster, you won’t. If you arrive by plane, go to baggage check and turn left and go to door 00. There will be a Princess person there and drop off your luggage. Again get in line and wait. You will be sharing the line with Holland American. On to the buses and wait again. You will see your luggage by your stateroom. By the way don’t look at the way they load your luggage into the trucks. This will make your heart sink when you see your luggage being tossed like a shot-put in Olympic Games. So if you have breakables, protect them.
STATEROOM We had a balcony on Dolphin room 212. This is an AB mini-suite. On deck 9, 10 there is no privacy from deck 11, 12. I found this out the hard way. On the second day of the cruise, I wanted to have my coffee and smoke outside. Well I have read the reviews and just forgot so I went outside in my underwear and was greeted by a “good morning”. Being retired from the military, I snapped to attention made an about face (my drill sergeant would have been proud of me) and proceeded back to the room. Put on a pair of shorts and T shirt and proceeded back out where I responded with a “good morning”. Wherein laugher then broke out. She was a great lady with a good sense of humor. So if you need to go outside, check above and you might what to put some clothes on. The room is nice and enough room for the luggage that we brought. The room also had 2 TV’s. This really made no since to me, both TV’s were beside each other. So when I wanted to get the sports up date, my wife turned up her volume and I lost the battle. The TV is good to get updates on the cruise but that is about it. When you go into the stateroom the bathroom is located on the left. If you have not used the toilet before on a cruise, flush first so that you don’t get scared and run away. Also the shower is a tub; this will cause some problems for those that can not raise there leg very high. So care will have to be used. Also there is a cord on the side wall. Don’t make the mistake that I did. When I took a shower, the cord was just hanging there, so I tied it up to the rail on the back of the shower. Well I guess I tied it to tight, next thing everyone but the captain was at my door and the phone ringing. Come to find out this was an emergency signal for help. It worked! Didn’t touch it again. The beds were put together to make a queen bed for us. The only thing that they didn’t tell us when they put the bed together; there was a ridge right in the middle the size of the Rocky Mountains. Snuggling became a new art. We both agree it would have been easier to sleep on single beds. Over all the room was kept clean and neat the turned down when we retired
ENTERTAINMENT This was a great disappointment. Princess like other cruise line try to bring quality entertainment to there passenger. DP failed in this very bad. Having cruised many times, all of the cruise line books both comedian and magician and sold as “Opened at Las Vegas, HBO etc.” On this cruise the comedian was so bad that we left ten minutes into the show and so did several hundred passengers. The only ones left were either to drunk to know what they were laughing at or too stupid to care. The magician also was in the same category. Rumor has it that when we got to Juneau Alaska, they were removed from the ship. I did not see them again. One spotlight of the cruise was the Piano Man. This is a must see try not to miss it.
DINING This is going to take some time. I will try to make it short. First on deck 14 is the Horizon Court. This is where the buffet is. Don’t expect very much there. The food is the quality of a local restaurant. Breakfast is nothing more then fast food quality. Lunch does have a little more to offer. Diner is the same. One problem is the way it is laid out. This is very poor. People have no idea were to enter the buffet and wondered around like ants. (At least ants have some organization) Depending on the time that you got there you will have some gridlock. If DP wants to know how to run a buffet, they need to talk to Disney. Disney has taken cruising to a new level and if you get a chance take a cruise and you will see. We selected traditional dining. Now here is a secret that they don’t tell you. DON’T TAKE ANYTIME DINING! This is not anytime you want to eat but anytime they have room or when they can fit you in. By taking traditional dining you know when you are going to eat. If you miss your time then go to any of the dining hall and they will still admit you. This was a major problem with formal night. Many of the passengers who took anytime dining wound up in the Horizon Buffet because they had no room. Also the food and menu is the same through out the ship. So no manner which dining hall you go, you will have the same that everyone else has. We did go to the Sterling Steak house. This is a great deal. For a $15.00 cover charge, I got a 22oz steak that was great, and wine and excellent meal. I wish I went each night. You can’t beat this at any restaurant that you might go to. So run don’t walk you will have a great meal. Overall, the food is not the quality that I expected on a major cruise line. I can get better at Hooters, IHOP or Denny’s. Don’t expect a lot you will not get it. The service was good though. And both of the waiter and assistance were very nice and if you had a problem with something that you ordered, ask them to send it back. My wife did this expecting a problem and they smile and brought back her meal with the changes. This was nice. Now if you want a good pizza and hamburger, deck 13 by the pool makes homemade pizza which was great. Right next to it is where you can get a good burger. So if you have a need for fast food, this is the place.
SHORE TOURS Princess offers a variety of shore tours and it depends on your taste. I do recommend doing the glaciers tours. You need to see this up close to take in the beauty of them. If you want to take a helicopter ride to the glaciers, don’t book it through the cruise line. Get on line and book the tour directly with the company. You have a copy of the tour in your book that was sent to you. If you don’t have it, you can Google helicopter tour Alaska and you will find it. The cost is cheaper and the tour is identical to the one from the ship. We took the Great White Rail tour, it was great. This is a long tour (8 hours), with a bus ride and lunch. We went to the Yukon and just wonderful. Then we went on the train. One note here, water is provided at the back of your state car. Pick them up when you get on, if not there will not be any left. Some people don’t understand what sharing is. Several people took 3-4 bottles for them self and water ran out fast. Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway were ok, nothing to brag about. You will find many stores selling the same. One thing that you need to be careful about, we did find many stores that said that they sold Alaska products but these items where only made overseas and not made at all in Alaska. So check very carefully when you purchase an item. We didn’t take any other tour so we walked around each stop.
GETTING OFF THE SHIP
Well time flies and it was time to leave the ship. If you have a flight when you get into port, make sure that you contact the front desk when you get on board. We found out for some reason, Princess communication process does not work. We called Princess directly and gave them our flight number and departure information. This was not communicated to the ship. (Big surprise) When you get onboard, make sure that the front desk knows what time your flight is, this will be important when you dock. Princess has a color code system. Each color is a time you can expect to leave the ship. One note here make sure that you keep the stub from your luggage tag. I did see several people turned away and told to wait until there color was called. You will receive a color and a list of times that you will be off of the ship. Make sure that you look at the times so you don’t miss your flight. We got off early and going through customs was very easy. Finding our luggage was a pain, but not to bad. The entire luggage was in a central area, just a matter of looking. Transfer to the airport was simple also.
The trip was nice and we did have a good time. I don’t know if I will go again on a Princess cruise. I don’t mind the laid back slow pace attitude that Princess demonstrated on this cruise, but you have to have something that will inspire you to want to come back. I did not see it on this one. I keep an open mind and maybe try it again in a couple of years; right now I am off again in July on a Carnival Cruise from Port Canaveral. If you have any question you can e-mail me directly, I will try and help with any question that you might have so please let me know. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org I hope that you find this helpful and take care and keep cruising.