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

Diamond Princess
by Gayle K
Alaska
June 4, 2005

For the first time since we began cruising, we're taking cruises in two consecutive years. We had always wanted to cruise to Alaska and did so in May 2004. We were on the cruise following the ill fated one where the Diamond Princess hit the pier in Victoria BC the night before we were supposed board. Due to all sorts of problems [we didn't get to board the ship until 6:30, the ship didn't leave Seattle until 1:04 am -- it was supposed to leave at 4:00 pm] we missed two ports (Juneau and Victoria) and didn't get to cruise all the way into Tracy Arm (too much ice). So, while mom's still able to get around pretty well (after all, she's almost 90!) we decided to try Alaska again. Hopefully, this time we'll get to see everything. While we were talking about booking, prices, etc., CruiseCritic came up with terrific prices. Since we've enjoyed the group cruises we've taken in the past (this is our 3rd) I booked us on October 4, 2004. On the same day I booked our airfare (United) and hotel (Red Lion Hotel Seattle South) to make sure everything was a go. CruiseCritic later got a good price at a different hotel so I canceled the Red Lion and booked the Seattle Comfort Suites for less money (more to spend on the cruse). The group prices were really good so we were able to book a mini-suite with a balcony like we had in '04 for less than we paid for 3 people the first time. Since there are two of us it's going to be nice and roomy. Our AC cabin is D224 (Dolphin deck 7). The last time we were in E712 near the stern of the ship. This cabin is nbear the bow of the ship and we don't get seasick so there shouldn't be a problem PLUS there usually isn't too much movement in the Inside Passage. This is the first time we've been so far forward so it'll be interesting if there is a lot of movement.

HERE WE GO!!!

Friday, June 3 -- Seattle, WA
Our flight is scheduled to leave Milwaukee at 9:00 am which means we must be at the airport between 7:00 and 7:30 am for the security check-in. That's a lot better than a 6:30 flight which would mean we'd have to be at the airport at 4:30 am. UGH! Keep your fingers crossed that our flight takes off on time!! Here comes Limousine Services to deliver us to the airport (15 minutes early!)

Our flight left on time and we made our connection in Denver. Since mom can't move as quickly as she used to, I requested a wheel chair for her and wouldn't you know -- we were only four gates from our connecting flight. Oh well.

We arrived in Seattle and, after picking up our luggage, headed for the ground transportation area where we picked up the Seattle Shuttle ($20.25 for two) to the Comfort Suites Hotel near the Space Needle. The hotel had been set up by CruiseCritic and was very nice. We were hungry so I asked at the desk for restaurants in the area. They directed us to one about four blocks away from the hotel but as we left the hotel we smelled the wonderful aroma of barbecued pig so we followed our noses in the other direction. We found a small restaurant called the Steel Pig next to the hotel with the BEST barbecue I've ever had. We went back to the hotel to relax for a little while before heading over to the Pike Place Market where our restaurant for dinner was located.

We took the free hotel shuttle over to PPM and just wandered around for a while. PPM was a lot of fun -- loads of stuff to see. They had the most beautiful floral bouquets for only $15.00 (small ones $7.00) which back home would cost at least $50.00. The produce they had available was incredible!

We started looking for the restaurant, but dumb me, I couldn't remember the name of the place! I'm asking everyone for Ciabatti's and getting blank looks. Finally, I went to the information booth. The girl there didn't know it either so I said "I know it starts with a C." She started naming restaurants and said "Cutters?" That's it! Boy, am I dumb!

We met part of the CC group and enjoyed a great meal with great company. Our waiter was okay but s-l-o-w! It took an hour (I'm not kidding, folks) for him to bring the check when we were finished with the meal.

Then we headed back to the hotel for bed -- it's been a long day!

Saturday, June 4 -- Sailaway
The hotel provided a tasty free breakfast including make your own waffles, cereal, toast, bagels, juice and coffee. The waffles were really good. We were scheduled for the 12:15 shuttle to the ship ($5.00 pp) so we relaxed for a while in the room, then headed off to port. Our luggage went on a separate truck -- piled to the roof (will we ever see our luggage again?) following us. At the pier we were able to do express boarding since our luggage was already there. Very nice and probably took about 45 minutes off the wait in line. From step off the bus to step on the ship it was about 45 minutes. Not too bad! We dropped our carry-ons in the cabin and headed up to eat the first of many meals on board -- burgers and fries. Yum, they have the best fries.

Our luggage showed up before 3:00 -- the fastest ever!

We have a very nice cabin with lots of room. There were two single beds, a couch which opened to a bed if needed, 2 tv's, a small fridge located under one of the tv's and plenty of storage, including a large two shelf area under the other tv. The bathroom had a tub/shower with an unusual shower curtain -- it didn't hug us like they usually do. The only thing was that it's quite a step into and out of the tub! They should put showers in ALL the cabins -- I think it would be safer!

Life boat drill for us was in the Princess Theater at 3:30. I cannot believe that several people blew the whistles on their vest! How dumb can they be? Don't they know how many germs are on those things.

We met the rest of our tablemates in the Savoy Dining Room. They were Caroline (CC host) and her friend Bill; Cynde and her mom Carole; and Diana and her hubby Dannie. Princess has changed the four anytine dining rooms from speciality [Southwestern, Asian Fusion, Italian and Steak House] to regular menus. They did have one entree from each former speciality restaurant but didn't tell anyone. Darn!! Our waiter was Wayne from South Africa and we liked him so much we requested his table for the rest of the nights we ate in the dining room.

After dinner it was off to the Welcome Aboard Show with cruise director Omar Lugo and comic Sheldon Max, who was hysterical. They introduced the cruise staff and I was happy to see that Michael Modzelewski was the naturalist again. He had been on last year's cruise and we really enjoyed him.

Sunday, June 5 -- First formal night; Captain's Welcome Aboard Dinner
We had a CC "Bloody Mary 'n Mimosas" meet and greet this morning but only a few people showed up. Four of us (Jacquie, Caroline, mom and me) played Scrabble for a while which was fun. I haven't played in years and won!

Afterwards, we just roamed around getting reacquainted with the ship. Of course we had to check out the shops. I walked into Facets and the guy from behind the counter remembered me (and what I had bought) last year! I don't know how they do that -- I can't remember things I did last week.

After dinner we went to the production show "Undercover." We weren't too impressed with it. I've seen much better.

Beddy bye with really rough seas! The sun was up till after 11:00 pm. That was hard to get used to.

Monday, June 6 -- Juneau, Alaska
The ship pulled into port about an hour late which goofed up our privately scheduled shore tour. I found out later that the ship is late to this port almost every week. Maybe they should just change the written timetable to reflect this later arrival time. We had scheduled (through CC) Orca Enterprises whale watching with the famous Captain Larry at 1:00. Because we were so late we were rescheduled to go at 6:00 pm instead.

Since we were scheduled for a later tour we roamed around Juneau checking out the shops (as usual) and taking some pictures. Juneau is the capital of Alaska and is really hilly.

The earlier tours saw loads of whales but we only saw a few spouts and parts of a couple of whales. Captain Larry said it was getting too late in the day. We did see bunches of eagles and sea lions.

We got back to the ship about 9:25 and left Juneau at 10:00 pm.

Because we got back so late we went to see comic Sheldon Max before we ate. He was really funny and I'm glad we didn't miss him. There was only a small crowd but very appreciative -- we just howled!! After the show we went to the HC for a very late dinner, then off to bed. Found out later that tonight was the night they had some of my favorites on the dining room menu (escargot, baked French Onion Soup and Duck a l'Orange. Probably missed the Raspberry Creme Brulee too. Rats!

Tuesday, June 7 -- Skagway, Alaska
We pulled into port while we were still asleep! Our ship's tour -- Historic Liarsville and Salmon Bake was scheduled for 12:45 so we relaxed until it was time to leave. It was a nice tour -- we saw where the newspaper people camped out during the gold rush and sent back their "first hand" reports. Thus, the name Liarsville. We had a delicious grilled salmon lunch, saw a fun show and panned for gold. We got a few teeny specks.

After the tour we were left off in town where we did some souvenir shopping. What a surprise! We took the bus back to the pier ($1.50 pp) and then caught the free shuttle to the gangway.

Dinner that night was in the HC with Caroline, Bill, Jacquie and Stan. After dinner we moved to the Solarium and just watched the scenery which was gorgeous! Then bedtime.

Wednesday, June 8 -- Cruising Tracy Arm
We entered Tracy Arm about 9:00 am, so after breakfast we went up to deck 14 at the back of the ship. We found a couple of chairs behind Debbie and Nita (two of our group) and spent hours staring at the incredible scenery. We saw eagles, sea lions and icebergs. Ours was the first ship of the season to go all the way in to see both North and South Sawyer Glaciers. Wow! The Sapphire Princess, which was ahead of us, didn't make it all the way in. While we were cruising Tracy Arm, naturalist Michael was narrating and pointing out various sights. It's hard to describe what we saw -- you have to see it yourself.

Dinner was with our group and then off to see comic Glenn Hirsch. He was funny but not as funny as Sheldon Max.

Thursday, June 9 -- Ketchikan, Alaska
Since we arrived very early in Ketchikan and had only a few hours in port, after breakfast we left the ship to enjoy the shopping. Mom's foot was bothering her so we didn't walk over to Creek Street as planned. Last year we took a tour that only gave us 15 minutes to look around in town. I found a beautiful rainbow topaz and diamond pendant and at another store a matching pair of earrings. We also bought the last of the souvenirs for the guys back home. On the way back to the ship we decided to take the horse drawn trolley tour of Ketchikan. It was very interesting. After the tour we waited in a VERY long line to board the ship.

In the afternoon we (Caroline, mom and I) played Liar's Club and then went to the Trivia Challenge. Liar's Club was a riot -- if you've never seen it you have got to go!

Dinner with the group and then went to see "Piano Man." After that, to the Atrium Lobby to watch the Champagne Waterfall. The seas were rough so it was amazing that they were able to build it at all. I had visions of hundreds of champagne glasses crashing to the floor.

Tomorrow's our last day -- darn!

Friday, June 10 -- At Sea, then Victoria B.C.
Our last day -- no fair!

At 10:00 we went to the culinary demonstration with Executive Chef Guiseppe Pollara and Maitre 'd Hotel Karl Brenner. It was fun and smelled oh so yummy. Wish they would have given us samples. After the demonstration we got a tour of the galley. It was so spotless you could have eaten off the floor!

After the tour we went back to the cabin to pack. I know all this stuff fit when we came!! We arrived in Victoria about an hour late which caused our shore tour to be canceled. We were supposed to take the Enchanting Butchart Gardens tour. The weather was kind of grey and damp so we just decided to stay on the ship.

Suitcases had to be out between 8:00 and 10:00 pm.

Saturday, June 11 -- Disembarkation
Nuts! We're back and on time! We packed the last minute stuff in our carry-ons and went for our only breakfast in the dining room.

Back to the cabin, left an extra tip for our steward Lawrence (who was a dream) and picked up our stuff. Then it's wait-wait-wait until they kick us off the ship. We left the ship about 9:30 and were at the airport by 10:00. Got some lunch at Burger King since we no longer get meals on the planes and we don't get home till 9:55 tonight.

I had requested a wheelchair again for mom in Denver and it was a good thing I had. Denver is huge and our gates were very far apart. We'd never have made it if she would have had to walk.

We arrived back in Milwaukee and it was HOT! Our luggage showed up and we were on our way to get transportation home. We were in the hot house at 10:30.

Would we sail Princess to Alaska again? YES!! Princess is my favorite cruise line even if they're late to certain ports.

Would we sail again with the CruiseCritic group? ABSOLUTELY!! We really enjoyed this group and there's a rumor we might do a reunion sail in 2007. I'm up for it and so is mom if she's able since she'd be almost 92!