Diamond Princess North to Alaska August 18 2012
NORTH TO ALASKA
AUGUST 18 TO 25,2012
My traveling companion (TC) Carol and I took our first Princess, first Alaska, cruise August 20, 2011 on the good ship Coral Princess and despite the first 5 days of drizzle, were hooked on Princess and Alaska.
This time we would do the reverse trip- Vancouver to Whittier and on a different ship-the Diamond.
We flew to Vancouver the day before sailing to be fresh-as-daisies on Embarkation Day. We stayed as before in the Pan-Pacific Hotel at Canada Place where the ship would dock early next morning.
Apart from being a first-class hotel with a great restaurant (Five Sails) an advantage is that the bellmen deliver your luggage to the ship on embarkation morning and you next see it in your stateroom.
From our 19th floor room we would have a bird’s eye view of the Diamond when she docked on Saturday morning. When we arrived in our room Friday afternoon the Radiance of the Seas was below us, casting off and we watched her sail away under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Tomorrow it would be our turn!
Next morning, Saturday August 18th I was up at 4.30 to walk the deserted streets of Vancover, camera in hand but just before 6 a.m one of the (many) voices in my head told me to head back to Canada place. At 6.15 I trained my camcorder (Canon HD) on Stanley Park and was rewarded with my first glimpse of the white bow of the Diamond slowly coming into view. The ship approached the dock and then turned to reverse into it's berth. Nice piece of parking!
Once up in the room I was able to look down and see clearly our future home-C757 aft and on the balcony were the people who now had to disembark-in tears no doubt.
Being suite passengers we had priority boarding but had a 30 minute wait for U.S. Customs to clear the ship for embarkation. I had to have my fingerprints scanned, possibly because I have a British passport or maybe it was the harpoons poking out of my carry-on. My TC had wanted to go whalewatching in Juneau but I must have thought she said "whale catching" so I was ready and even had a gigantic frying pan and some olive oil in my luggage.
The Princess part of the boarding operation was swift, efficient and painless indeed.
Once aboard I had a list of things to take care of in order; get my name on the Ultimate Ship Tour ( I was first on the list), book the Sanctuary for the week (check!), book an Ultimate Balcony Dinner for the first formal night (Sunday at sea) and book Sabatini’s for that night’s dinner which was complimentary as a suite perk.
We took the long walk to our aft suite on Caribe, dropped our hand luggage and headed for the International Dining Room for lunch. There were 6 other people in there already. Wonderful lunch and it freed us up to go to our room, freshen up and unpack. There was fruit and canapés in the room to snack on.
Prior to muster drill around 3.30 pm I was by the Tradewinds bar for my first beer of the trip. The server, Juan from Mexico, was a fun guy and introduced me to a new drinks card which when completed after 30 points gained would be entered in a drawing. The winner would have their bar tab paid by Princess on the last day at sea. Count me in! 1 point for a beer, 2 for a cocktail, 3 for a bucket of beer and 6 for a bottle of wine. I wound up with 3 completed cards in the raffle- but didn’t win, alas.
MUTS came to life on the big screen (Movies Under The Stars) and on came one of my favorites-a Bon Jovi concert but alas it was time for muster drill in Club Fusion.
Right on time at 4.30 we sounded the horn and left the quay to head North-to Alaska!!
We enjoyed the sail under the Lion’s Gate Bridge (with 13 ft to spare) and soon it was pedal to the metal on a beautiful 85 degree Vancouver afternoon.
Back on our balcony, watching the wake getting bigger and Vancouver getting smaller our room steward Wee brought champagne. Wee was from Thailand and was a very witty young guy (humor counts for a lot with us as we are not grumpy people) and kept the rooms immaculate all week and worked around our schedule. He took care of our laundry needs and reserved dinner tables in the Savoy dining room, one of 4 Anytime Dining rooms on the ship. He even removed room service dishes if the room service team were not fast enough picking them up.
Our first meal on board since lunch-er, and some snacks on the balcony-oh… and some canapés in Skywalkers an hour before dinner, and as always in Sabatini’s the food and service were fantastic. We enjoyed a bottle of Pinot Grigio and a sea-bass baked in herbed salt to share, brought whole tableside and carved by our Thai waiter Chai. We listened to some karaoke in Club Fusion later. After that it was a walk on deck and a deep first- night’s sleep on a firm Princess bed.......
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Looking forward to your continuing saga - especially with the whale catching!
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Norwegian Dream - Alaska - 2005
Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas - Baja Mexico - 2004
Day at sea.........
HORIZON COURT BUFFET
I had an alarm call at 4.30 as I like to be up before the “sun” (often back-lit cloud cover) and visited the buffet for morning coffee at 5 a.m. A walk on deck then a return to the buffet at 5.30 when the hot food comes out piping-hot and tasty. There were many healthy fruit and cereal choices so I loaded up a plate full of cold meats, corned beef hash, bacon and sausages, more bacon and some hash browns (deliciously crispy) and finally some more bacon. The bread rolls were warm from the ovens. I never went for lunch or dinner nor breakfast when it was busy, nor do I intend to. It’s a nice big room to start the day off in and the table service for drinks and clear-up was very efficient and prompt.
The buffet is situated aft and there are tables set outside but under cover if you want to dine al fresco. Portside tables have ashtrays if you are a smoker, which I am.
I had bought a coffee card on embarkarkation which apart from specialty coffees-espressos, cappucinos etc gets you fresh-brewed coffee but that's served primarily in the deck 5 Piazza coffee bar where the servers are still fast asleep when I need a morning kick-start. They open at 7 a.m.
Second breakfast was Sabatini's after which I fasted for a couple of hours until a delicious Pub Lunch in the Savoy dining room. A very fine steak and kidney pie with chips (fries) and peas. As a Brit I was raised on haute cuisine like steak and kidney pie and , had it been possible back then, would have preferred to nurse on it rather than milk from the baby's bottle.
This is the ship’s daily newsletter-a program of events-so bring your highlighter. One look at it and I get dizzy but my TC, Carol, plans out her day’s schedule while I pop an Advil and start thinking about that 2nd breakfast. The Cruise Director-British born Billy Highgate has a wide range of activities and diversions planned daily. I just go with the flow and my mood and mosey around. If anyone complains about “nothing to do at sea” on a Princess ship then I am speechless. A cruise is what you make it and Princess will help you by giving you a lot of fun, interesting and varied choices. There’s nothing wrong at all with playing cards all day with friends and a drink or board games or just dozing in the sun/mist, depending on your itinerary.
In Alaska it is often misty and raining. Coming from 100 degree days of Chicago heat we looked forward to some “normal” weather, befitting a Temperate Rain Forest topography. Mountains look great in full sun but they look even better with necklaces of cool mist, ever changing shape. I watched big clouds form from the wake of the ship and lie on the water before slowly rising. Something I had never seen happen before.
Luckily, after Millenia of getting drizzled on Man has invented the umbrella and for changing weather the concept of wearing layers of clothing which can be shed or augmented as conditions demand. This was however a warmer and dryer trip than the year previously and there was no discomfort at any time.
At no time did I get wet. It often rained at night, leading to mists and fog on some mornings but days in port were dry.
ULTIMATE BALCONY DINNER
As Sunday the 19th was a sea day it was also the first Formal night and as we don’t pack for it we had arranged, though Room Service, for a private dinner on the balcony at a cost of $100 for two. The meal also includes a cocktail each (Mojito for me), half a bottle of champagne and one of the ship’s photographers to capture the event. You get one 8 x 10 free. The table was set up and dressed and the photographer-Jessica from South Africa, new to Princess- spent 20 mins posing us and clicking away, even though she had a full schedule ahead of her with a deadline. She also suggested we have her paged when the lobster course was served as apparently lobsters like having their photo taken. Who knew?
You won’t find a meal this good on land for $100- trust me I have tried. Drinks, canapés, crab tarts, salad, filet mignon and lobster tails, 4 kinds of chocolate quinelles, cookies with coffee and all while at sea with the backdrop ever-changing as the setting sun paints the sky with pinks and oranges. Impeccable service from two waiters, led by Alexandra from Ukraine.
So we missed the champagne fountain and the presentation of the officers that are a part of the Formal Night festivities but….no regrets.
We attended Princess Pop Star in Explorer's lounge for some entertainment.
There was one particularly good singer called Erin from a family group of 16 traveling together who stood out and we looked forward to hearing her again.
Monday August 20 and I was up early and followed the usual routine. I was on the roof of the bridge to watch us dock around 6 a.m. Precision docking with the Captain, Dino Sagani, at the controls.
Ketchikan was already hosting Norwegian Jewel when we arrived and soon the Volendam would join us as would Seven Seas Navigator. This would be our shortest port visit- from 7 a.m. until our 2p.m. sailing to Juneau. We had one excursion planned at 9.50.
Before then it was time for my 2nd daily breakfast , this time in Sabatini’s which is a perk reserved for people in Suites.
Seldom was there more than 8 people dining at any one time with a staff of four to serve. They have a menu unique to the restaurant but it was no problem for them to get me something from the MDR as I was in the mood for corned beef hash and bacon, after my pastries and yogurt parfait. Cappucinos were good and complimentary so my Coffee Card went unused. Mimosas were also available and I took advantage. The service- particularly from Jonathan of the Philippines was outstanding and something to look forward to even if the food had been rubbish which it certainly wasn’t!
Ketchikan is an eye-candy town, clinging colorfully to the hills at the feet of some misty mountains but we left it behind in a bus to drive maybe 5 miles to a Nature Reserve where we hoped a guide could lead us to see some bears. Did she ever!!
In a rainforest they had some wooden rope-bridges suspended from the trees and from here we saw Black Bears and their cubs walking around in the dense foliage 15 feet below. One mother caught and munched on a salmon from a stream. Cameras and camcorders whirred into action.
We came down from the rope bridge to ground level and watched some bears on a river bank near a salmon hatchery. Our party of 13 made it difficult to get a clear shot so I wandered on a few yards and found a mother and two cubs in the forest. When the group saw me with the camcorder they caught up and we all held our breaths as the trio came towards us…”Don’t move” whispered the guide who was only carrying a sulphur flare as a deterrent . We decided to heed her advice rather than have our asses become the meaty part of a bear-burger. They came within 10 feet and then turned towards the river.
Wow! I could smell their salmony-breath.
We looked in a couple of their day-dens before walking along a boardwalk to watch another bear feed on a salmon. Then we visited some reindeer, which everyone got to pet and feed lettuce to. After that we met a captive bald eagle and a huge owl on the arm of it’s keeper, then watched and talked to a man carving a totem pole . It was a fantastic excursion through Princess and worth the $200 a person.
The ship sailed at 2 p.m. and we were dropped off at the Diamond at 1.15pm.
It was time for a cold beer and a bite to eat as we left port so we headed up to the pool deck (Diamond has 4 freshwater pools and many hot tubs) where the best Pizza at sea was served to Carol while I had my favorite knackwurst, sauerkraut and crispy fries. Deee-liscious! That would have to tide us over for two whole hours as I had ordered afternoon tea on our balcony for 4 p.m.
This is something Princess excels at. Normally served in a dining room by white-gloved wait-staff it is an all-you-can-eat civilized pig-out (or not if you can resist the tasty dainty sandwiches, warm scones with several toppings and fruit tarts and cookies). Hot tea washes it all down.
Food for apparently 4 starving lumberjacks came to our balcony at the time arranged and we were able to sit and munch while watching the land on each side of the ship glide by. A whale breaching in the ship’s wake was an unexpected bonus. Another bonus was seeing the Coral Princess sail by, heading south.
SAVOY DINING ROOM
We chose the Savoy, one of 4 Anytime Dining Rooms mainly for the décor. The other three are defined by their name; the Santa Fe has Southwestern décor, the Vivaldi is Italian and the Pacific Moon has an oriental appearance. Savoy was more anonymous-looking with rich dark woods and brass with less to distract the eye.
In this room we would eat late-any time between 8 and 9 pm and would always request a table for two only. We were able to get the same window seat each time except on the first night which for us was Monday after Ketchikan. Sitting near the entrance but close to a window we were able to observe a chef’s table being served….
This is a culinary splurge costing $95 pp with 8 to 10 diners around a big table being served tableside by the Executive chef who was Jeremy Snowden. He was assisted by the Maitre ‘d and a couple of assistants to help with plating and serving. The Sommelier was there to attend to the wine needs of the guests.
You can find videos of such a gastronomic feasting on youtube. The chef cooks some of the dishes on a hot plate right by the table. There are multiple courses and with each another glass of wine. It’s possible that some of the guests are found under the table after that much wine…
At 2 a.m. we were woken by the Captain's voice in our cabin. He announced that a passenger was going to be taken off the ship by helicopter as they were in need of medical attention. Many cabins on Lido deck had to be evacuated until this had been accomplished and their drowsy occupants had to report to Club Fusion. The helicopter arrived at 4.30 but we were asleep at the time as I had pushed my alarm call back to 5.
Capital city of Alaska reachable only by air or by sea, surrounded by mountains. Two other ships were already in port; Norwegian Jewel and Radiance of the Seas. Not raining.
There are many booths set up quay-side where you can book tours. They are in front of the Mt. Roberts Tramway-a $30 cable car to the top of….well I guess it must be Mt Roberts! It was shrouded in mist at the top so it wasn’t calling my name. On a clear day it provides a stunning birds-eye view of Juneau and the ships 1800 ft below.
We had booked a whale-watching tour with Harv n Marv online. They are a local company who have small boats. The boat held Captain Liz, the two of us and two couples from Radiance.
We saw humpback whales. Lots of them. Auke bay is teaming with them.
Luckily for them I had sprained my harpoon arm earlier lifting a pint of Guinness at the Pub Lunch and had left them to be polished by our room steward, Wee (a suite perk)
After a fantastic, informative 3 hours on a calm sea with the sun shining Harv n Marv took us to Mendenhall Glacier for a 15 minute opportunity to see the glacier close-up. While there we watched some black bears nosing around in the lush undergrowth.
Diamond Princess left port around 8.30 pm and at that time we took our window seat in the Savoy where we met two superb young waiters , both from Thailand- Siwa and Sadudee who worked great as a team and were also blessed with razor-sharp wit-in a foreign language (to them). We had lots of conversation and laughter with them over the next few days as we would from then on request one of their tables.
We ate a lot of it which must mean it is good enough to eat! Yes it is-all over the ship and at every meal. It comes to the table hot and well presented in portions that won’t leave you hungry. You can always double-up on appetizers or entrees or desserts. It’s served (from my experience of 3 Princess cruises in the past 12 months) by people who are good at their job and seem happy in it.
No complaints here.
Wednesday, August 22nd we tied up in Skagway. The White Pass train was waiting to take many passengers on a trip over the mountains that they will never forget but this time we had other plans as Carol wanted to see eagles.
We had booked a Princess excursion which involved a high speed catamaran ferry to Haines where we would find a bus waiting to take us to a jet-boat trip on the Chilkoot river where eagles could be found nesting and going about their eagle business. It was a 6 hour investment of our time.
The ferry left within 5 minutes walk from the Diamond and had passengers from several of the ships in port that day; Norwegian Jewel and Pearl and Radiance of the Seas. It took 40 minutes to sail to Haines where it was drizzling rain. No matter as there was a bus waiting to take us to the Chilkoot river bank a 30 minute scenic drive away. Our driver was very chatty over the PA and very informative.
On arrival at the riverbank we were greeted by a campfire and no rain. There was a barbecue set up so we could cook huge hot dogs over an intense alderwood fire. Buns and fixins, chips and sodas/coffee were provided in a sheltered dining room before we got some extra warm outer jackets, gloves and blankets which we might need out on the glacial waters of the Chilkoot. A couple of boats were to be used to transport the 26 attendees out on the expedition. Luckily we were chosen for the first boat which only had 10 people, plus the Captain.
We had 90 minutes on the water and saw enough eagles in their natural habitat to make it memorable.
It was nice just being out there in a wilderness setting even if we had seen no eagles.
NO MORE PORTS
With Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway under our expanding belts we had nothing left to see except GLACIERS! The ICING on the cake so to speak. The excursions in the three towns had been richly rewarding but now there was nothing left to do but enjoy the ship and then marvel at the glaciers on the way north to Whittier. It’s a hard life.
The ship is kept in immaculate condition considering it is kept working 24 hours a day for the past 8 years. She was last in drydock in Singapore in 2010.
It is a great place to call “home” for a week. The captain and crew are to be commended. That’s it in a nutshell.
It has 17 decks-the 17th being Skywalker’s lounge/disco depending on the time of day. This is a great place for panoramic views while sipping a cocktail.
Promenade deck 7 is where you are likely to spend much of your time as that is where the theaters and showrooms are (Club Fusion, Explorers Lounge, Wheelhouse bar and Princess Theater). There is also the quiet Wake view bar underneath Club Fusion with portholes looking out over the wake. The photo gallery is also on deck 7.
More to come
Still to come when I can find the time to write it; glaciers/Ultimate ship Tour/pop choir/Born to be Wild show/disembarkation in Whittier.
Glaciers -in my face!
Deck 7 also is home to the beautiful, whimsically designed (music motifs) Crooners bar which is the place for a martini and a relaxing evening of piano and song. I have yet to enjoy an evening there but the entertainer, a Scotsman with white hair, drew a good crowd each evening that I passed by on my way somewhere.
The Piazza is the central hub of the ship- three circular decks of shops, cafes, Crooners, shore excursion desk, Future Cruise Sales, Passenger Services and the lowest deck, deck 5 also has a performance space with lots of comfy chairs, where people (seldom me) can relax and listen to a string quartet, a jazz band, a juggler or acrobat, a cocktail mixing demo or a fruit and vegetable carving demonstration. Always something going on here.
Alas the Diamond does not yet have an International Café which was recently installed in her sister ship Sapphire Princess, nor does it have Vines the wine bar and tapas/sushi venue.
Away from the Piazza heading aft (starboard) is the large Internet Café which we didn’t use as for this voyage we had free Internet, subject of controversy this summer as Princess decided to drop that particular suite perk. However we had booked and paid in full before the deadline. I had checked at Passenger Services to make sure we weren’t being charged. We left our mini-laptop at home for this trip and used iPhones instead.
Just off the Piazza, deck 6 is a casino. I don’t gamble but I walked through it most mornings on my way to Churchill’s smoking lounge and enjoyed the unusual décor-great murals of African wildlife scenes; elephants, zebras, leopards and such. The carpet also reflects this safari theme. It will make you smile.
The Casino has at least one non-smoking night so check your Patter.
Churchill’s has it’s own bar for those who like a cocktail with their cigarette or cigar and is well ventilated. Luxurious leather chairs abound and there are many photographs of Winston Churchill on the walls and another touch of whimsy- two pool tables suspended upside down from the ceiling.
The only negative aspect of the design for me were the many flatscreen tvs on the walls showing sports with no way to turn the volume down while alone in there, which I was most of the time as I only visited in the morning.
Two sea days left. The calm waters of the Inside Passage were behind us but the waves in open water were long and rolling, not short and pitching. Movement was just enough to remind you that you were at sea.
I was on deck before 6 a.m. to find we were in thick fog and the Captain (he takes the 4a.m to 8 a.m watch) was sounding the horn every two minutes. After only half an hour the fog began to lift and there was no need for the horn.
There were more people on deck, dressed in layers, this morning. More cameras, camcorders and binoculars hanging from necks.
I always started my day with coffee (syrup) up above the pool under the shelter of the Tradewinds bar, out of the gentle morning drizzle. Each morning there would be an Asian lady close by, using a colorful fan as part of her graceful morning exercise routine. There were a large number of Asian passengers on board as we had set off from Vancouver which is rich in Asian culture.
My sketchy plan for today would include some prime time in the Sanctuary, where loungers had been reserved for us all week. Today they were selling day passes for $60 and there were half a dozen couples who joined us up there later. There was also a Pub Lunch to fit in, oh-and afternoon tea on the balcony, then munchies and drinks in Skywalkers before dinner, then a show in the Princess Theater if I could stay awake long enough and had already baled on a couple of shows resulting in my never seeing Billy Highgate perform all week. Carol saw him and thought him very witty with a good voice and some fine dancing skills.
We passed Norwegian Dawn after breakfast as she headed back out of the bay and then we had the place to ourselves.
The decks began to fill with more and more people. The most popular spot was the roof of the bridge, just below the Sanctuary. Jessica the photographer was out there taking photos with a real Glacier backdrop and not the blown-up photo they used on Embarkation. We had our photo taken by a photographer who was working the Promenade Deck.
Bar waiters were working the area around the Neptune pool, serving hot drinks with liqor-Irish coffees and such from rolling trolleys.
Marjorie Glacier was the main focus today and the ship got very close and spent an hour in front of it, slowly turning so all could have a great view. No rain, no mists hiding parts of it. Brilliant whites, blues and blacks (rock and earth debris)
A naturalist brought on board talked poetically and movingly about what we were seeing. It wasn’t cold today- I didn’t layer-up.
As the ship pivoted so that the stern was facing the glacier we went back to our room and upon opening the door were greeted with wall to wall views of Marjorie.
We stayed there for a while just admiring the view and recording it on video. A bonus was seeing an eagle take off from a floating ice chunk near the stern. You could hear a pin drop back there. Magical moment and another in a long list of highlights on this cruise.
Marjorie- 1 mile wide, 250 feet high and 21 miles long….not a beast like the Hubbard which could easily bench-press 500 lbs (6 miles wide, 400 ft high and 76 miles long!) but a thing of beauty and wonder nonetheless.
Last edited by Bimmer09; September 15th, 2012 at 10:30 AM. Reason: spelling correction
Great review! Thanks for sharing!
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10/10/13 Victory B2B (Victory is Mine)
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11/24/12 Breeze (Feelin' the Breeze)
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1/16/11 Noordam (Smooth Jazz Cruise)
11/08 Westerdam (Dave Koz & Friends)
2008 Caribbean Princess
2002 Costa Cruise Line
Great review! I noticed you stated you had booked the Sanctuary all week...did you get much use out of it? Other posts have indicated that it often isn't open during Alaska cruises due to the weather, except for the glacier viewing days. I'd love to try it sometime and we're leaving on the Sapphire next Saturday.
Dawn Princess - Mexican Riviera 2005
Grand Princess - Western Caribbean 2007
Crown Princess - Western Caribbean 2009
Sapphire Princess - Mexican Riviera 2010
Ruby Princess - Eastern Caribbean 2011
Sapphire Princess - Mexican Riviera April 2011
Sapphire Princess - Mexican Riviera December 2011
Super fun review! Thank you!
Ruby Princess- Caribbean 12/23/12
Victoria Anna- Yangtze River Cruise 7/10/11
Caribbean Princess- Canada/New England 10/02/10
HAL Rotterdam- Alaska 07/10/10
Golden Princess- Alaska 07/11/09
Crown Princess-Baltic 07/09/2008
Several Princess Cruises to Bahamas July 1980s and 1990s
Thanks for taking the time to post your review. I very much enjoyed reading it.....
Future: Star Princess Hawaii R/T From LA 03/14
Future: Royal Princess Med/Trans Atlantic 10/13 Inaugural Crossing
Sapphire Princess Hawaii R/T From LA 03/13 - 14 Days
Ruby Princess Med/Trans Atlantic 10/11 - 18 Days
Golden Princess Hawaii R/T From LA 02/11 -14 Days
Ruby Princess Med/Trans Atlantic 10/09 - 18 Days
Diamond Princess AUS/NZ 01/09 - 12 Days
Emerald Princess Med/Trans Atlantic 10/08 - 18 Days
Celebrity Constellation British Isles/Norway 07/06 - 14 Days
Celebrity Summit Alaska Repo 05/05 -14 Days
Celebrity Summit Panama Canal 10/02 - 14 Days
RCCL Rhapsody OTS Alaska 09/01 - 7 Days
RCCL Splendour OTS Baltic/Northern Europe 09/99 - 12 Days
HAL Veendam Eastern Caribbean 07/96 - 7 Days
Carnival Holiday Western Caribbean 07/93 - 7 Days
169 Days At Sea: 94 Days Princess , 42 Days Celebrity. 19 Days RCCL, 7 Days HAL, 7 Days Carnival.....
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In the Caribbean we get maximum benefit from it.
We like peace and quiet but we are not hermits- we go to the Opera all over the world where we are in a crowd of 3000 or more and we mix and mingle with ease.
Every Sanctuary "serenity steward" has been an exemplary Princess employee and has made it an out-of-the-ordinary experience for city dwellers like us.
I want to thank those of you who have responded favorably to this rambling epic and promise it will end soon!
I have written it to help us recapture our week on the Diamond which like our other (measly) two weeks on Princess ships in the past year has been a revelation in how to run a really good leisure business against stiff competition. I think Princess is remarkably good for the price and hires some amazing staff to serve on some of the most strikingly designed ships afloat.
At one time, just over a year ago Princess was a totally unknown quantity to us but this board and the great people on it made us take the plunge and Princess has our business until such times as we feel the need to try another line.
Our next trip on the Ruby to the E Caribbean gets us to Platinum status which will probably help cement the relationship which to date is a "win-win" for Princess and us.
Can't be bad.
Thanks and thanks again!
I have eaten my Wheaties today and hope to put the rest of it up-well certainly the UST part of it- before the night is over.
Sanctuary in Alaskan weather
In the Caribbean we live there! Service is outstanding.
I would say save the full week for warmer climes.
The Ultimate ULTIMATE SHIP TOUR!
Steaming (er, without steam) out of Glacier Bay we hit the Savoy for another popular Pub Lunch for a steak and kidney pie (his) and a Ploughman’s Lunch (hers) which is a British dish which includes some crusty bread, ham and cheese and a delicious sweet/savory chutney called Branston Pickle (from a jar) which is lipsmackingly good.
Afternoon tea tided us over the next couple of hours until it was time for our daily munchies and cocktails in possibly my favorite place on the ship- Skywalkers where we spent many happy hours relaxing and talking to strangers and looking down on the rest of the ship from on high. There was always a chef serving good snacking food and there were always amazing melon carvings of Alaskan wildlife enriching the presentation. The cheese offerings were always a hit. Not your basic cheddar!
Edwin, a waiter, made it his mission to ensure my lips never had a chance to dry.
There is a nightly half-price cocktail special there and tonight was Mohito night so count me in! ($3.99)
As it was another Formal Night we had booked a table in Sterling Steakhouse which is the back starboard corner of the Horizon Court buffet with a partial curtain around it. We had a window seat which helped make up for the fact that it is no Crown Grill.
When it comes to atmosphere…Crown Grill= mood lighting, rich dark woods, great art on the walls and better steaks too.
It’s a specialty restaurant so there is a $20 pp cover-charge and it is worth the spend if just to escape formal night and photographers interrupting your meal. I had a 22 oz Porterhouse which was decent but lacked a good crispy sear to seal in the juices.
So- a little dry.
Assistant CD Dan was all over the ship so I saw him a few times . He is quick-witted and so good for the Yes-No game and the Newlywed Game- entertainments which may not exist outside of Cruise ships these days although Yes-No was once a Brit tv show in the 60s under a different name I can’t recall. He often played to SRO houses in Club Fusion or Explorers and is not afraid to look or act silly like a fun uncle at a wedding who has had too many ladles of punch. We stopped to enjoy some of his schtick during the Newlywed game in Explores on our way to….
Born to be Wild
A new show in the Princess Theater which lasted about 35 action-packed minutes of song and dance using a giant LED screen as a backdrop and a pink Cadillac on a turntable as one of the few props on stage. A high energy cast of 11 dancers and four lead singers, some of them fantastic, led us on a road trip featuring well-known songs, backed by the hidden but brilliant Diamond Princess “orchestra” (band). Sound and lighting were worthy of Las Vegas showrooms. The LED screen gave the illusion of the Caddy driving along through ever-changing American highway scenery. Fun!
The audience was apparently also born to be wild and were very enthusiastic.
College Fjord next but first….
We both had business to attend to on our last day at sea.
I had put my name down for an Ultimate Ship Tour on boarding and had gone back midweek to check the numbers booked to gauge whether it would happen or be cancelled due to lack of interest. 12 is usually the limit but I only saw 6 names on the list and was prepared to be disappointed.
My mail on Thursday evening included an invitation to tour the ship. I slept like a baby which means I cried a lot and wet the bed. I usually do that anyway.
The tour was set for 9.15 a.m by which time I of course had enjoyed several breakfasts and enough coffee to float one of the ship’s tenders. The letter said it would last two hours-and no photography. But there would be a ship’s photographer coming along and we would get a number of 5 x 7 pics with the officers.
The UST as it is called costs $150.
I pay it gladly as I am a boat-nerd, son of a ship’s captain and have been nosing around ships since I was 5 years old. I was also part of the crew on RCI’s venerable Song of Norway for two years in the mid-eighties so am keen to see behind the scenes.
We were now a group of 8 and led by Jorge from the Cruise staff-a great guy who seemed as excited as the rest of us.
The tour ran to 3 hours and that was mainly because our first stop was the bridge where Captain Sagani waited with a firm handshake and big smile for each of us.
He can talk! So enthusiastic about his ship, his job and his crew. We spent 55 absorbing minutes with him. The bridge was on Lido deck and he has a stateroom and an office on the deck below. We learned that he was the son of a ship’s captain from Trieste and had no interest in the sea until his father told him one summer that he had got Dino a job as a deck boy on a Med oil-tanker. Off Dino went and got all the dirty jobs on the ship- peeling potatoes, painting in port, taking out the trash etc and he found he loved it….and 23 years (and much study and certification) later he is on the Diamond.
He spoke about safety at sea and mentioned Costa Concordia and the Crown Princess listing incident of July 2006 and said that for the past 5 years Princess has a system in place on the Bridge where any decisions the Captain makes can be subject to question by the other two officers always on watch, one being a Navigation Officer. This way rash decisions can be discussed and a consensus reached.
The ship is on auto-pilot at sea and follows a computer course which gets constant updates from the GPS which is those big white round satellite dishes above the pool area, forward. When the computer comes to a change in heading on the course plan it asks the Navigation officer if it is ok to proceed and he has to say "yes" (via a mouse) or “are you nuts?” via shaking it and swearing. The steering wheel or helm sits idle most of the time and is the size of a small racecar wheel.
We spent some time on the starboard bridge wing looking back down the ship over the Dolphin deck cabins. There is also an aft camera for the Captain to use when reversing close to other ships.
Carnival corp uses Princess Captains (in a simulator) to instruct Captains from their other fleets (including Costa) in this “new” ship’s management style Dino had mentioned.
The Captain shook hands with us all, after photographs, and told me I should sail with him to the Far East someday as I had engaged in some “banter” with him. Bucket list!
Way below decks we saw the food storage with the Food and Beverage manager, visited the galley for a tour with the 2nd in command as the Exec. Chef was in the Princess Theater goofing around with the Maitre d’ in front of an audience. Some champagne and sweets- chocolate covered strawberries and such. Great galley tour. The staff were involved in lunch prep but each of them stopped to wave and smile and say hello. One of the bakers (six of them bake around the clock) demonstrated making the crispy bread rolls for us in a decades-old machine, no longer made.
The dining rooms are on decks 5 and 6 and each deck has a galley. All appliances are electric. Many of your entrees (except anything oven roasted or stews) are cooked a la minute- when you order them. Salads are prepared in advance as are soups.
The soups are cooked in enormous cauldrons which are so vast that to stir the broth one of the cooks has the dive into it in SCUBA gear and stir it up with vigorous flipper strokes.
There are two room service shifts, each with only ten people so they must walk a few miles each day. UBDs are prepared in one of the main galleys and moved via the crew elevators at the main elevator banks.
Way down on deck 2 is the laundry where every uniform, sheet, towel, sock on the ship gets washed, pressed and folded in industrial machines, bearing German manufacturer’s names. The folding machines are marvels of ingenuity. Once again the crew down there were smiling and greeting us. I told the Head of Housekeeping I had lost some socks in my dryer at home in Chicago and had no idea where the went-he said “stay right there”, disappeared- and a minute later returned-with my missing socks! That’s Princess service for you!
Some of the rooms are confined spaces hence the tour size limit and they are scattered around on different decks so there is a lot of elevator riding and some crew stairs to negotiate.
The engine control room is where we met the Chief Engineer (British) and is basically a room of laptops hooked up to large overhead monitors. There are also a few CCTV monitors showing the engine room (off-limits) and funnel assembly as they keep an eye out for unexpected smoke there. The engine management software is by Siemens of Germany and shows every mechanical and electric function on the ship.
All the smoke detectors on the ship feed into this system and also show up on the bridge.
A Jr Officer is present at all times going through a check list of observations on all the ship’s engineering functions.
I asked the Chief about the shore-power hookup I saw in Juneau and it turns out that Juneau powers the ship and pays for it while in port. This gives the ship’s engines a chance to rest and have maintenance performed. Less emissions for Juneau, cost savings for PCL.
The Chief described the ship as a “power station with a hotel on top” as the Gas Turbines can produce 66 Million watts of power (more than they ever need).
The ship is propelled by electric motors fed from this grid and that includes the 6 bow/stern thrusters(3 of each)
The Captain had said his favorite part of the job is docking the ship on the morning shift but he often lets the 2nd Officer, Paulo, take the ship away from the dock as she heads to her next port. The 2nd Officer has a Master’s License as all Princess ships have to have two Captain-certified officers on board in case of mishap or illness.
We met Paulo in the mooring room forward where the ship gets very pointy.
The mooring room holds the two anchor winches and the other winches for letting out the big blue mooring ropes. It also has the two mooring doors that are always open upon docking and sailing where the mooring officer can stand out over the sea and look really cool.
We met Paulo later for the funnel tour where we were inside the funnel-warm and noisy up there . I commented to Paulo how clean it was up there-shipshape, out of the gaze of passengers. He runs a tight ship and is a very passionate and personable man. All of the Officers were alike in their passion for the ship and Princess.
Captain Sagani had even mentioned on the bridge that other cruise lines had tried to lure him from Princess but he said “Princess has been very good to me so I am happy where I am “
Photo lab and Print shop both have small staffs ( 3 in each) with a lot of work to do and not a lot of space to work in. I admire the work they both do-everything is done “in house” and to a deadline. Smiling crew in each.
As we were way-over-running our tour time we had to skip the Medical center on deck 4 and we finished up on stage in the Princess Theater where we met two of the dancers who took us down below to the dressing rooms. They have 6 or so people who help them get dressed for the shows and only have a week in Santa Clarita to learn the shows and then a week of rehearsal on board. Again- passionate crew who are happy to be working for Princess. While there we had more champagne and canapés as we hadn’t snacked since the galley an hour ago. Served by my Sanctuary steward who called me by name which was a nice touch.
Later a Princess Chef's jacket, a robe and a pad of personalized writing paper with my name and cabin number on it was delivered to my room along with 7 photos from the tour, Nice souvenirs!
Tour sadly over, but lunch to look forward to in the Savoy then a little Sanctuary before the Pop Choir in the Piazza around 5pm.
Carol has sung in the Pop Choir on Crown Princess to Aruba in January where they had copious rehearsals and 40 people show up to sing.
Alas on the Diamond only 7 brave souls-4 women and 3 men took part and rehearsal, by comparison, was minimal.
Still- she is a trouper and once committed saw it through, led by the energetic Lisa Marie (Ireland) from the Cruise Staff.
They sang well despite the circumstances and a crowd of maybe 250 gave them worthy applause and encouragement.
Last day at sea and after a sail of over 500 miles from Glacier Bay we were due to enter College Fjord around 6 pm…..
Last edited by Bimmer09; September 17th, 2012 at 09:34 PM. Reason: spelling error
Thanks for your enjoyable detailed review and sharing your Ultimate Ultimate Ships Tour.
Princess - Ocean Princess - 2013 - Dover to Iceland and Norway, via Shetland and Faroe Islands (Booked).
Princess - Ocean Princess - 2012 - Singapore to Sydney
Fred Olsen Black Watch - 2012 - The Baltic, with Norway. Dover to St. Petersburg, via Kiel Canal.
Celebrity Century - 2011 - Auckland to Sydney
CTMA Vacancier - 2011 - Montreal to Magdalen Islands. Amtrak - Toronto to New York
MSC - Poesia - 2010 - Kiel, Germany to NY. Amtrak NY to Niagara Falls, VIA Rail Toronto to Vancouver
MSC - Lirica - 2008 - Genoa, Italy to Fort Lauderdale
Royal Caribbean - Rhapsody of the Seas - 2007 - Honolulu to Sydney
Rivers of Holland Cruise - 2003 - to Amsterdam
Alaskan Marine Highway - 2003 - to most Alaskan ports of call
Star Cruises - Superstar Leo - 2003 - Sydney to Darwin
Norwegian Coastal Voyage - Naruik - 2002 - Bergen to Kirkenes
Angelina Lauro - 1971 - Sydney to Perth. Indian Pacific - Perth to Sydney
P & O - Chusan - 1970 - London to Brisbane, via Africa, India and Sri Lanka (Suez closed).
Chandris Lines - Queen Frederica - 1969 - Sydney to London, via Panama, New York and Rotterdam
Last day of our cruise
COLLEGE FJORD AND THE END IS NEAR…
I am aware that in writing this on the Princess Board I am sharing mainly with people who have already been there (Alaska) and done that (sailed the Diamond) and so feel comfortable using Princess shorthand with terms like UBD and UST and expecting that the word “Sanctuary” means something to you. However there seem to be more and more FTCs (First Time Cruisers) on the boards (not just Princess Board) and more people are trying Princess for the first time.
This Cruise Critic board is a great place to learn about Princess and it helped me take the leap of faith just a year ago, in giving Princess our business. No regrets.
My only regret is the fact that the clock keeps ticking from the moment you enter the amazing magical world of cruising (people smiling, saying hello to strangers, being courteous, staff being great at their jobs) and before you know it you realize- this is our last day and begin weeping uncontrollably while loading up a fresh baked scone with cream.
You can see land far away and you’d be quite happy for it to keep it’s distance for a while longer.
Luckily there are things to distract you from the horrors that lie ahead once you walk down the gangway.
Things like College Fjord with a misty drizzle and those low bands of cloud hanging onto the necks of cold hard mountains .
Drizzle sent me up to Skywalkers for a cocktail and a couple of hours in comfort with snacks and good company. Glaciers out every window. Chunks of ice drifting by far down below, a resting place for seals tired from a day’s fishing.
One last look back at the comfortable lounge I enjoyed for the past week as I went out on the vast terrace of the aft decks to join the crowds taking photos. Heard some loud calving from the face of mighty Harvard glacier but couldn’t see it.
Now the pace of life has to quicken- no more “manana” as we had to have dinner, see a show and then pack and get some sound sleep. The ship takes just 4 hours to sail from the Fjord to Whittier.
We were leaving the Fjord just as we sat down to our last supper on board, served by Siwa and Sadudee for the last time in the Savoy, a restaurant I would go back to if on land.
The walk to the Princess Theater, the balloons being tossed and batted around overhead by the festive crowd here for the Crew Show. Everybody happy (distracted!) and having fun for one last time.
A couple of acts into the show I baled out and left Carol to fill in the blanks for me later. The early rising and 10 meals a day were catching up to me and my eye was on the clock as I hadn’t packed a thing. According to Carol later, Billy Highgate came on in disguise and stole the show. Sorry I missed him.
One last walk on the Promenade deck which was empty.
There was work to be done and so I was soon packing so that I could get our luggage (Carol was ahead of the game) into the hallway by midnight.
I was so busy with this task that by the time I had finished it I was ready to sit out on the balcony for a while and when I got out there I saw the lights of Whittier and a team of three on the dockside waiting for the aft mooring ropes.
I took the end of our cruise like a man and went to bed and sobbed into my pillow.
Our one and only MDR breakfast happened next morning-oatmeal and pancakes for me.
We were heading to Anchorage on a Princess coach to book into the Captain Cook hotel for the day as our flight didn’t leave for Chicago until 8pm and we wanted a place to shower, nap and change clothes.
Whittier was basking in the sun and the 90 minute drive was scenic.
In Anchorage we left our luggage for the day in the Egan Center and saw some of the people who were heading down to Whittier to join the Diamond. They were heading no doubt for another fabulous cruise but without us- that hurt!
We had a fine lunch in Simon and Seafort's and then a nap.
All good (and great!) things come to an end and soon we were looking down at Alaska from 35,000 feet which is 34,999 feet too far away if you ask me.
While onboard the ship on Friday I had bought two FCCs (deposits) for a future cruise with Princess, which we booked within two days of getting home- Ruby Princess January 13, 2013 to the Eastern Caribbean in the same cabin we enjoyed on the Crown and Diamond.
So- that is my account of the great time I spent on the Diamond Princess a ship I hope to sail to the Far East some day.
Next time I buy more FCCs as beyond the Ruby trip we have nothing planned at sea. There are some great places to see on land of course and we have been seeing them for many years before getting this cruising bug…3 Princess cruises in the past 12 months with another booked.
Thanks for reading this.....
I don’t agree with Rai Calouri that our attention spans are getting shorter and so we should look forward to more TV movies in our staterooms etc..if I am lucky enough to be at sea on a fabulous ship I will be looking out at the sea, at a menu, at my bar tab (Yikes!) and hopefully talking to complete strangers of all ages, from all walks of life.
The only time we had the TV on in our room was to look at the bridge cam to see what was up ahead.
If any of you should happen to see me on a cruise, please don’t hesitate to come over, say hello and offer to buy me a drink. Just a teensy Mohito maybe?
On dry land
Last edited by Bimmer09; September 18th, 2012 at 03:54 PM. Reason: spelling correction
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