Princess Cruises - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Princess Cruises

Diamond Princess
by Gayle K
Alaska
April 22, 2004

We have always wanted to cruise to Alaska and decided in September 2003 that 2004 was the year to do it! After all, mom's not getting any younger. Then again, neither am I! LOL. One of the things that had always held us back from Alaska was having to go to Canada to start the cruise. The air fare was prohibitive. But, now that the cruise lines are leaving out of Seattle we decided this was the time to do it! I started the ball rolling by contacting my cruise agent pal Fred Lanyard on September 8, 2003. Since we had cruised on Princess (Star Princess) for the LCGC in November of 2002 and had really liked the line, we decided to go with them again. My friend Harriet, who had cruised with us in 1988, asked if she could join us since Alaska has been a dream of hers as well. We said sure and are ready for fun! So, it's mom (88), Harriet (80) and me (57 -- the kid) and I'm sure I'm gonna have trouble with both of them since neither one of 'em behaves! And, now all of a sudden I've become the tour director of this trip -- they claimed there was a vote but I didn't hear about it! IT'S GONNA COST 'EM BIG TIME!

Booking
On September 16 we asked Fred to get in contact with Princess to definitely book a cabin and I also contacted United Airlines to book our air. I think we got a pretty good rate at $271.50 rt per person to Seattle. We booked a mini-suite with a balcony on the ship since there are three of us. We requested and were given category AD cabin E712 (Emerald deck 8). This cabin is near the stern and we're hoping we won't get too much motion since Harriet is prone to seasickness. I suggested she stock up on powdered ginger so we'll find out how that works. Let's hope we don't get too much noise either!

I found a hotel on the internet (Sutton Suites) for an incredible price and they will pick you up at the airport (free) and shuttle you to the pier ($25 for up to four people) for the cruise the next day.

Here we go!!

Friday, May 21 -- Seattle
Our flight is scheduled to leave Milwaukee at 9:00 am which means we must be at the airport at 7:00 am for the security check-in. UGH!! Here comes Limousine Services to deliver us to the airport (10 minutes early)!

As I said, our flight was originally scheduled to take off at 9 but rescheduled to 9:10 am. At 8:55 they still hadn't started boarding. They started at 9:00 and when the plane was about half full they stopped! Uh Oh! We were in the middle of a thunderstorm and the airport was completely shut down due to lightning and horizontal (yes -- horizontal) rain. Thank goodness we were still in the terminal instead of being stuck on the runway in that stuffy plane! When our plane finally left we experienced some pretty good turbulence and also missed our connection in Denver by 10 minutes. United put us on the next flight (2:10 pm) getting us into Seattle about 4:10. Since our ship was supposed to leave Seattle at 4:00, if we had flown out the same day as the cruise, we would have missed the ship! This is why we ALWAYS leave the day before!

We called the shuttle for the hotel (Sutton Suites and extended Stay Hotel) from the airport and they were there in 10 minutes. The hotel was not the best -- the drapes were badly frayed, the shower didn't work at all and the drain in the sink didn't lift unless we pulled it up with our fingernails. And they were full so we couldn't be moved. Never try washing your hair in a hotel bathroom sink? Not easy!! I complained at the desk when we checked out and they credited the bill a whole $10. Big whoop!! Won't ever stay thre again! The one good thing about the hotel was the Chinese Restaurant (Hong Kong Palace) that was attached. It was by far the best Chinese food we've ever had!

Saturday, May 22 -- Embarkation Day
Wake up call at 7:99. The hotel provided a free continental breakfast. It wasn't the best but it was food. We took their shuttle to the pier. One of the other people on the shuttle said he heard on tv that our ship had hit the pier in Victoria BC the night before. When we got to the Diamond Princess, we found out that we weren't gonna be boarding any time soon. They took our luggage and bussed us to the Seattle City Center to be checked in.

On the way to the City Center we were given a tour of Seattle by our bus driver and given a little history of the area. It was very interesting and I discovered that Seattle is VERY hilly! I hadn't known that. We saw the coffee house that they based Café Nervosa in Frasier on.

We were given a numbered card (ours was #8) when we arrived and after check-in we were turned loose in the area and told to be back about 4:30 for further information. There was plenty to do: the Space Needle was there, a museum, a pretty park and a food court. Since it was pretty rainy and foggy we didn't go up in the needle 'cause we figured we wouldn't be able to see anything. By now we were hungry so we hit the food court. In the middle of our meal THE FIRE ALARM WENT OFF!! What next? Sooo, hundreds of people schlepped their trays outside in the drizzle. It was quite funny to see.

At 4:00 when we should have been leaving Seattle we were still at the City Center. I do have to give Princess a lot of credit, though. I thought they did a pretty good job of keeping us informed about the situation. Others didn't seem to think so. About 5:00 they announced that we would finally be taken to the ship according to our check-in numbers. We were on the ship and in our cabin by 6:30. Hooray!

It was a very nice cabin -- roomier than we expected. There were two single beds, a sofa bed, 2 tvs, and a lot of storage. The bathroom had a tub/shower combination with a very friendly shower curtain!

After meeting our stewardess Mariana (she was a gem) we toddled off to the International Dining Room for dinner. We were Personal Choice but this night everyone was in the International. Food was pretty good.

I had Crispy Spring Roll in Honey, Soy, Sesame & Mustard Seed Sauce; Iced Piña Colada Cream Soup Splashed with Rum served in a Piña Colada glass; and Lemon Scented Salmon Filet and a baked potato. Harriet went back to the cabin while mom and I went to the Welcome Aboard Show. Our cruise director was Billy Hygate who we had on the LCGC two years ago. Ventriloquist Dan Horn put on a 15 minute show as a teaser for later in the week. We thought he was hilarious.

When we got back to the cabin about midnight all our luggage had shown up! Hooray! We were asleep by 12:30 and the next day heard that the ship didn't leave Seattle until about 1:04 am. We also found out that we wouldn't be going to Juneau (1st port) or Victoria (last port) because of the delays. Each person was given a $250 credit on their cruise cards. They had said $500 per cabin so we thought we'd be splitting that three ways but we each got $250. That wasn't too bad -- bought me some nice jewelry.

Sunday, May 23 -- At Sea
We slept very soundly and were awakened by the announcement of the Safety Drill in 20 minutes. I think they should have given us more warning. Many people went to bed before the Princess Patter was distributed. Boy, did we have to scramble! We saw a couple of people in their pj's and robes. Good reason for not sleepin' nekkid! LOL

I do like the way Princess handles the Safety Drill -- ours was in Club Fusion and we didn't put our life vests on till the end. Never stepped outside.

After a late breakfast we checked out the shops. I bought a gold whale tail pendant and a gorgeous tanzanite pendant and earrings. We just roamed around getting to know the ship and enjoying the beautiful snow capped mountains off in the distance.

We were assigned Personal Choice dining so I made reservations for the Pacific Moon Dining Room (Asian fusion style food). Try the Dim Sum sampler and the 5 Spice Mandarin Duck. Delicious! The Chocolate Hazelnut Souffle with Sabayon for dessert was fantastic.

We all went to see the first production show "Piano Man" featuring the music of Neil Sedaka, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Liberace and Elton John. It was good but LOUD!

We had to turn our clocks back one hour so we'd be on Alaska time for the next day.

Monday, May 24 -- At Sea (Should have been Juneau)
Up for breakfast -- wandered around the ship for a while. We all bought watches at the sale. We saw an interesting talk on the Alaskan wild life with naturalist Michael Modzelewski. He had a great speaking style and we could have listened to him for hours. We bought two of his books which he autographed for us. I'm half through the first one and it's really good.

Bought the first of the cruise photos -- 8 x 6's (stock as well as posed photos) were $7.00 each or 6 for $20 (duh, buy six -- 3 are free!) The boarding and formal photos are $21.95 each. That's a little pricey and I think they'd sell more if they lowered the price.

Bingo -- 2 numbers from winning. Darn!!

Dinner this evening was in the Santa Fe (Southwestern) Dining Room and we ordered from both menus. I had Escargot Bourguignonne, French Onion Soup, Fajitas and Raspberry Creme Brulee (so good).

Entertainment tonight was the full show with ventriloquist Dan Horn. He was really funny!

Tuesday, May 25 -- Skagway
When our wake up call came at 6:30 we downed a quick breakfast and then headed out for our White Pass & Yukon Railway shore tour. We boarded our bus for the first leg of the tour. Our driver and guide -- Timbo -- was terrific. He was funny, knowledgeable and just plain nuts. If you're lucky enough to get him, ask him to do his mosquito impersonation.

The scenery was absolutely incredible! I've never imagined anything like this. We saw many glacier fed lakes with VERY cold water -- I know 'cause I fell in with a foot and leg. The ground wasn't very solid and I lost my balance. Luckily, I didn't fall in completely. Thanks Timbo who turned the heat up in the bus and I dried in a couple of hours.

While we were riding around we saw 2 eagles, 2 black bear and someone on the bus said he saw dall sheep on the mountainside.

After a delicious bbq chicken dinner (baked tater, cole slaw, roll and homemade donut) in Carcross (Caribou Crossing) we headed back to catch the White Pass Railway portion of the tour. The scenery was unbelievably beautiful! If you've never taken the White Pass trip -- DO IT! The combined bus/train trip is the most scenic.

After we were dropped off in Skagway we did some shopping before we took the city bus ($1.50 pp) back to the ship.

Since we didn't know what time we'd get back to the ship we hadn't made any dinner reservations, so we ate in the Horizon Court. It was okay. They announced several cases of Norovirus were on board so all the buffet items were served by dining room people. They also had hand cleaners stationed at all the entrances to the buffet area. Some people griped (there's always an idiot) but I would prefer not to get sick and be confined to my cabin.

While we were at dinner the captain announced that since we had made up some of our time we would be going to Victoria. Yay!

As we were getting ready to leave Skagway we experienced a minor problem with one of the engines so departure was delayed about two hours. Oh well. I've got about six lemons ready for that lemonade!!

We didn't do any show tonight since we were beat. We just relaxed in the cabin and watched a little tv. Kinda nice for a change.

Wednesday, May 26 -- Cruising Tracy Arm
Well, this cruise is just not going the way it's supposed to! While we were in the beginning of the arm enjoying the scenery, the naturalist came on the loudspeaker and announced that due to excessive ice in the bay we would not be able to go in. Darn! What we did see was absolutely spectacular. We didn't see any major ice but we did see lots of small bergs that really are as blue as they look in the pictures. I think people don't believe the color until they see it in person. Unfortunately it rained most of the time we were there -- sometimes pretty hard. We did see some more eagles.

After we left the "armlet" the weather turned nice, but chilly, when the sun finally decided to shine.

Michael gave a talk on glaciers that was interesting and well attended. I had a chance to talk privately with him for a while and enjoyed it immensely. He said that this was his favorite route and when the ship can enter the arm fully it's incredible.

We hit the shops again and got some really cute beaded tops. After that, I made my annual pilgrimage to the casino to leave my donation. No big wins.

Tonight we ate in the Vivaldi Dining Room but I can't remember what I had.

On the way to see the entertainment we stopped by to listen to Bert Stratton for a while. He's as good as we've heard in previous reviews. The main entertainment was the interactive comedy of Dave Orion (Jerry Seinfeld's opening act). He was totally crazy -- we laughed till we ached.

Thursday, May 27 -- Ketchikan (2nd Formal Night)
We arrived in Ketchikan and after breakfast left for our Saxman Village Tour. It was interesting to see the Tlingit (klink-it) native dancing and totem carving. The totems were beautiful. Got a few bucks? You can commission a totem for between $500 and $2500 per foot. Yup, that's per foot!!

After the tour we were dropped back at the ship with only 20 minutes to shop before we had to board. It didn't even pay to try. I'd like to see the Ketchikan stop lengthened by at least 4 hours. We didn't even get to see Creek Street!

Back to the ship for lunch and 12:30 sail away. Actually, we left after 1:00 'cause people were still boarding at 12:30. The line was huge!!

Tonight is the second formal night and it's LOBSTER night! Yay! I had a huge one and it was delicious and done perfectly!

The entertainment tonight was the new production show "Curtain Up." Pretty good show.

Friday, May 28 -- Victoria, B.C.
This morning we decided to eat breakfast in the International Dining Room for a change. It was nice to be waited on and I had a delicious omelette.

Michael gave his last talk this morning and then we went back to the cabin to attempt to pack. I know all this stuff fit in the suitcase when we came! Guess we bought too much stuff! We had so much stuff that I had to toss my deodorant, shower gel, shower scrubbie and a few other things 'cause there just wasn't any room in the suitcases or carry-ons. Guess we brought too many clothes with us and bought too much in Alaska. Next time we'll bring less stuff with us!!

As we could see Victoria in the distance while we were eating early dinner the captain announced that the winds were too high and we'd have to try the second port. Half an hour later he announced that we wouldn't be able to go into Victoria because of the winds! Rats! I just have one question -- WHAT WINDS? I heard from a crew member that the ship makes this port only about 40% of the time. Maybe they should find a different "foreign" port.

Saturday, May 29 -- Disembarkation
Phooey! Time to leave!

After breakfast we headed to the Crooner's Lounge till we could leave the ship. We left the ship about 11:00 and by the time we picked up our luggage it was close to 12:00. Our flight was scheduled for 2:10 so we were getting a little nervous. Of course, the bus had to drop some very slow moving people off at a hotel before taking us to the airport in slow moving traffic. By the time we got to the airport it was 12:30 and we still hadn't checked in. I went to check in at one of the kiosks and the screen said "See an attendant!" That didn't bode well. The attendant told us we had been moved to an earlier flight at 1:55, to Denver instead of Chicago, so we really had to hustle to the gate. Have you ever tried to hustle with 88 and 80 year olds? Very slow hustle. We made it to the gate just as they started to announce our names. Because of the inconvenience (or something) we were upgraded to Business Class. Very comfy seats and a nice (free) cheese tray snack while the folks in economy had to pay for their meal! The flight was a little rocky but okay. On the Denver to Milwaukee leg there was major turbulence and even the flight attendants had to be seated.

Back in Milwaukee at 10:10 pm, luggage at 10:20; shuttle to the house at 10:40. In the house at 11:10 and bed at 11:30!

The cruise is over till next year (hopefully).

Would we cruise Princess again? You bet! We're talking about going back to Alaska to see what we missed -- only later in the season. Maybe June or July.

Will we travel with Harriet again? NO! She turned out to be a real pain in the button on the cruise. She's in the cabin EVERY night but the first right after dinner. Her excuse? "I want to give you and your mother time together." Excuse me?? WE FREAKING LIVE TOGETHER!!!! She also complained almost non-stop! That's the last trip we'll take with her.