We just returned from a Northbound cruise and Land Tour on the Diamond Princess. For anyone planning to make the trip make sure you read everything you are sent because it most likely will be different than anything you were told when booking.
we have traveled twice on Royal Caribbean and never experienced the confusion present in Vancouver. There were no signs designating baggage check, we asked 3 different Princess workers and all sent us in another direction. Finally found a baggage handler that offered to show us where our bags needed to go. We got in line to find that not only was there Princess passengers but Holland passengers that go through the same security area. Again no formal line delineation everyone just trying to get to the security area. After security you are funneled down a hall with the Holland passengers, we finally saw a sign designating a room for Holland so we assumed the other room was for Princess. We sat in a holding room for about 20 minuets until the check in began. This is where total chaos took over. There were a line of ticket booths with deck names on them several for each deck but maybe only 1 or 2 tellers for each. Again no line delineation, people were just hustling looking for a short line and got in it. Our teller had no clue what to do she went to every other teller looking for our room keys. She forgot to imprint the credit card so we were called to the pursers desk during the cruise to handle paperwork. All of this and our documentation said we had express check-in.
we have sailed on the Voyager 2 times and have come to like the ability to stay on one deck and travel from one end of the ship to the other. Don't expect that on the Diamond, to get where you want to go you either go up or down a deck. The deck plan is very chopped up.
we went to one show in the Lounge - a commedian that was enjoyable. We also went to the Princess Theater one night for a Ventriloquist, what a mistake. People were leaving in hordes within 5 minutes. He would have been much better suited on Sesame St.
if you take no other advice - pick traditional dining. The anytime dining is a joke. We tried to make reservations at 7 AM to find that the earliest we could get reservations was 8PM. We were only able to get reservations 4 of the 7 nights and all were at the earliest time of 8. It was not until the last night that we were told by any of the waiters that there were specials in each room that were not on the menu. Waiters in the Pacific Moon never spoke other than to take an order. as I have read in other reviews we found the Horizon Court food nothing more than basic. It was luke warm at best - the plates were hotter. The layout of the buffet leads to so much cunfusion that by the time you get your lukewarm food plated, it is cold by the time you find a table. The breakfast buffet never changed except what they mixed in the scrambled eggs that day. The pizzeria and the hamburger grill provided some of the best tasting food we had.
Shore excursions -
Ketchikan Eagles and Totem Poles was great. Juneau City highlights left much to be desired. The Discover the Yukon in Skagway - the best. Our driver Carlee made it very enjoyable.
Itineray was very good we did see what we went to Alaska to see in the wildlife, glaciers and scenery.
Land tour -
I highly suggest that you do the Land Tour first and then head on the Southern cruise. Once we become part of the Princess land tour our trip went downhill. You are constantly being rushed to sit and wait for transportation. You are moving from place to place at a rapid schedule and if you aren't spending money on Princess excursions you are left at the Lodge with nothing to do. We went to the Mt. McKinley lodge for 2 nights from the ship by train. Saw more people being affected by motion on the train than on the ship. Be prepared to pay dearly for anything you may want to eat or drink. You pay more for the 4 days on the land cruise than you do for 7 days on the ship that includes your meals. At the train depot you are given the choice to stay in Talkeetna and take a later shuttle to the Lodge. We chose to stay in Town and catch the 3:30 shuttle to the lodge 50 miles away. Big mistake, We were at the shuttle station at 3:05 by 3:25 there were over 100 people waiting and the shuttle only handled 45. We were left standing in the parking lot for 1 1/2 hours until 2 more coaches arrived from the Loage. The worst part, is the driver said they knew how many people were there but just didn't send any coaches.
Mt. McKinley Lodge -
beautiful scenery. By coming in on a later bus, no one told anyone that there were shuttles that would take you to your room that could be up to 1/2 mile away. Two bus loads of passengers wound up hauling their luggage to the rooms, up and down hills. We had 4 rooms for our group, one room got no keys, two rooms had the accomodations screwed up and when we called the lobby to take care of it they sent the pool girl. I tried talking to the manager butto no avail, we made the changes on our own.
again beautiful scenery, again no keys and screwed up accomodations and again no help from the Lodge, we took care of it ourselves. No hot water that night and fumes filled the hallway. No response from Princess afetr we made calls on each. Be prepared to be rushed here. Our luggage had to be in the hall by 9AM, checkout at 11 train leaves at 3:45. Unless you book another excursion you sit and wait. Worst part is the housekeepers are in such a hurry to get ready for the next passengers that they were knocking on our door at 8:15 saying they wanted to clean our room. After telling them to come back after 11, we went to get coffee and return in 15 minutes to find them in our room. Do not trust the secure baggage check at the Concierge - it is an open shed outside that anyone has access to. In fact we saw a landscaper in the building near the luggage.
you arrive around 9 PM and have to be out by 9 Am. Be prepared you may not be given a room in the Princess Lodge as the brochure states. We were not able to use 2 of our rooms due to our flight, fortunately for two of the three couples that were caught in an overbooking situation. We tried to talk to the Princess outfitters about getting a refund for the night since we couldn't use the room because of our flight. Got a run around. We also had to file a claim when we found our luggage, that we had to send on from the ship because you can only take one bag on the land tour, had been opened and rummaged through. Princess promised us a shuttle to the airport at 10:45 PM that never showed, fortunately an employee of the sub-contracted lodge overheard the situation and took us herself after she got off work.
Definitely be prepared for the land tour you will not see any attempt to make your trip comfortable. The majority of the Princess workers on the land tour haven't got a clue about customer service. Some were down right rude.