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Speechless

Yet another ridiculously long review - Diamond Princess Mexican Riviera

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The review page is taking too long so i'll post it when i have 4 hours to spare.

Anyways, this is for the Feb 5-12 sailing and I would be happy to help anyone if they have any questions.

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Just back from an awesome 7 day cruise on the Diamond Princess – Mexican Riviera Feb 5-12. To start off, this is our 3rd cruise (myself and my wife), and our second on Princess.

 

First off, EMBARKATION was immediate – thanks in part to the fact that we arrived at the check-in at san pedro pier one hour before the cruise departed (4pm). I assume the lines would have been longer had we arrived earlier.

 

FIRST IMPRESSION, beautiful ship, clean and elegant, and huge. While the ship is definitely stunning, don’t expect too many surprises if you have already sailed on Grand Class ships. As much as we love grand class, we sometimes felt like we were on the exact same ship and longed for a change of scenery. The overall look, layout and themes are very similar. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the ship and our family was thoroughly impressed.

 

My wife, myself, our brother and sister in law (and son) had our own inside CABINS which were expectedly basic, yet comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing. Wood grain and mirrors makes it look luxurious and larger than it really is.

 

Our parents (in laws) had an outside cabin with balcony and it was similar to our inside cabins except for the verandah. And boy what a difference it makes. We’ll definitely try a balcony room next time.

Our rooms were all on Caribe deck 11 – aft location. Which meant the balcony was part uncovered and part covered and larger than most standard balconies. The larger size and ability to choose between sitting in the shade and in the sun was a convenient feature. My wife and I often borrowed the balcony for some tanning.

The aft location however, meant that for perhaps 3 of the 7 nights there was some noticeable engine vibration going on and the motion of the waves were more noticeable than at mid-ship. The men of our group enjoy the fact that we are constantly reminded of being on water. Although it was still pretty mild, women tend to be more sensitive to it our wives did not sleep as comfortably on those days. But it was certainly not enough to dampen our spirits and spoil anyone’s cruise.

 

PUBLIC ROOMS were as usual, clean and elegant. As with grand class ships, there is an emphasis on breaking down large spaces to subtly give the impression of smaller intimate spaces as you see on smaller ships. The effect is pulled off well, and it’s easy to forget that there are almost 2800 other passengers on your sailing. A place that does this particularly well is the International dining room. The ceiling is not high, and the massive space is broken down into small sections containing 3 or 4 large tables. You get a feeling of comfortable intimacy instead of overwhelming size and chaos.

The explorer’s lounge is one of our favourite hangouts. Again, very similar in décor and layout to other grand class ships. I found that I still preferred Grand Princess’ version slightly better than the diamond because it was darker and overall added a better mood to the room.

Skywalkers nightclub is a very cool place with an exciting disco-ey yet sophisticated atmosphere. Which is a shame because a typical night was pretty much dead except for 5 or so people, and the standard drunk lady with big hair who flirts with all the servers.

The only place that got crowded was the photo gallery but don’t go at peak times and you’ll be fine. It only gets cumbersome if you are passing through to get somewhere else.

The horizon buffet saw a lot of traffic, but I honestly can’t say it got more traffic than any large buffet restaurant. Sometimes you’d have to look longer or walk farther for a table, but it rarely ever took longer than 3 minutes to find one.

The gym and facilities are actually quite good. I wouldn’t dare go at peak times, due to high traffic, but at other times, it was relaxed and never a problem getting a machine.

 

Now for the important part – THE FOOD. I really can’t understand people who can’t find something to eat on a cruise. Perhaps the problem is when people book a 4-star cruise, pay 4-star pricing, but expect 5-star food.

Truth is, since Princess is on the high end of the 4-star scale, the food is actually excellent compared to many other lines in this class.

It’s not quite beluga caviar, Dom Perignon and white gloves. But the food is unmistakably fine dining, elegant and delicious.

We did the traditional dining but also opted for some items on the alternative menus.

Some favourites were the veal chops, red snapper (lunch), new york steak, lobster, escargots, seafood avocado boat, scallops, duck cold cuts (I forgot the name), new york cheesecake, baked alaska, tiramisu (from main dining or the buffet – always a treat).

Too many to remember. Only once, I found my dish was only lukewarm instead of hot. Which is a common complaint of mega ships/kitchens.

While a tiny handful of dinner items missed the mark, no one in our group ever had a lousy meal. If we weren’t crazy about something we simply requested another dish.

The pizza and burgers from the trident grill were simple but delicious. (the pizza is actually much better than many nationwide chains).

The horizon court had a decent selection (better than royal carribean at least) and the culturally themed lunches are surprisingly good (Mexican, American, asian….). Naturally, buffets contain more hits and misses – for example, the pancakes were rock hard one morning, the bacon at times was too crispy and stuck together, but the great thing about buffets is if something sucks, there’s a billion other things to try. The seafood selection was usually good, the salad bar is fantastic (tons of choices), eggs benedict were good, I. I find the horizon buffet to be at par or better than some local buffets at home. Breakfast here was good, and lunch was even better.

Princess did seem however, to overlook that on Ash Wednesday, there was very little fish all day and the sterling steakhouse was the alternative menu was for that evening. Understandably they can’t favour certain religions, but for such a large number of Catholic passengers, they sure missed the boat on that one.

 

About service, our cabin steward was friendly, and did his job wonderfully. Our room was always perfect when we returned. We did not make any special requests, nor did he really do anything above and beyond, so we felt his auto tip was well deserved, but did not feel the need to tip further.

Our dining staff on the other hand, a young waiter (Marelda from S. Africa) and ass’t waiter (Emil from the Philippines) were another story. Both young, energetic, and entertaining, they worked beautifully as a team and kept us laughing. You could tell they even got along quite well. They even pampered and played around with our 3 yr old nephew. Their service was top knotch, fulfilling some of our very unique requests without hesitation, and on the last night, Emil arranged to have a special Philippino dish prepared just for our table by the chef and it was a hit. (We simply joked about it one night, but he insisted on arranging it and it really made our night). If you get either if these folks on a future cruise, you will be very lucky. Emil serenaded us and had us in tears with laughter. We were very fond of them both and all said good-byes with hugs. Needless to say, for a thrifty family, we tipped each of them generously.

They were even planning to visit our cabins personally on the last day for final goodbyes but something came up. We did however get a fond farewell on our cabin phone.

 

OTHER SERVICE (bars, lounges, purser’s desk, photo gallery etc…) were all satisfactory. We never had a negative experience, and if something wasn’t right – they were eager to accommodate.

 

I didn’t expect much from CRUISE DIRECTOR Billy Hygate, as I heard some not so flattering reviews, but instead I found him to be funny and entertaining. He was quite visible and dynamic.

 

The assistant CD (I forgot his name) and some of the other entertainment crew (Good ol’ Stu and Donna) deserved their good reputations and were quite entertaining.

 

One criticism I often hear is how heavily marketed to some people feel. Some people are just too sensitive. Aside from ONE photo being taken during dinner, and the standard gangway photo, there were no sales pitches. And yes, newsflash – cruiselines DO sell souvenirs on board.

 

Unless you consider the sale of the cookbook and wine tasting a sales pitch. There was no high pressure to buy into these. In fact, I feel there’s a genuine interest on the part of passengers for these items and Princess would be silly not to offer them.

 

Which leads us to the wine tasting. Of course, if you are an experienced wine connoisseur and know your stuff, this is too basic to be worth your time. However, for the rest of us who aren’t pros, this is a great way to sample about 5 different wines, with an insightful commentary on each describing different varieties and tasting methods as well as that particular wine. The cost to participate was $7. (combined, the amount of wine you get is comparable to one glass of wine – sold on board for $6.50). Plus you keep a souvenir glass and $5 off your next bottle of wine. A pretty good value if you ask me. There was a large audience and we all seemed to enjoy it.

 

The cooking demo and galley tour was free. It was pretty funny and entertaining. The galley was big, but not as huge as I imagined. They must really operate like clockwork.

 

We watched the main SHOWS on half of the 7 nights. The comedian Mark Pitta is absolutely hilarious. Our family watched the other comedian and said he was not nearly as funny as Mark.

The stage shows were as usual, cheesy and amateurish. I have come to expect this from my little cruise experience, but I still admit to enjoying them. Even if their rendition of “Crazy in love” by Destiny’s Child was embarrassing to watch.

The stage production - Piano Man however changed my perception completely, and for once I saw some very professional effects, costumes and dancing/choreography. I really enjoyed the music and singing even if I am too young to appreciate the featured songs by Barry Manilow, Elton John, Billy Joel etc…. It almost reminded me of “Mamma Mia”. All the rave reviews of Piano Man are well deserved. If they spent all their effort on this production at the expense of the others, it was well worth it.

 

Our family members had fun playing bingo and watching the horse races. It’s not for me, but I did observe, and the cruise director’s staff made them very lively and funny.

 

Island night – or excuse me “Fiesta night” was a blast. Previously we couldn’t find a decent party on the ship. However, island night out on the rear deck was hilarious with Good Ol’ Stu and Donna hosting the party and people were dancing and laughing all night. The all male dancing contest was just plain stupid fun.

 

The captain’s cocktail party was not as jam packed as we have experienced before. It was actually worth attending and we had no problem summoning free booze. No elbows or elbowing other passengers, people were in a good mood.

On formal night everyone looked great. Some men in tuxedos, most in suits and ties.

In case you were wondering, the vast majority of passengers do take formal night seriously.

 

The PORTS of call were great. Here’s a quick rundown on each.

Puerto Vallarta – we took a cab to downtown. DO make sure to confirm price first - $6 per car either way is OK. Going there was fine, but finding a cabbie to agree to that price to return to the ship required a few tries. The cathedral is beautiful. The shops sell the usual trinkets, vanilla, liquor and the boardwalk (el malecon) is a nice walk along the beach and shops are just across the street. Vendors aren’t too aggressive but plentiful.

Once you get over the bridge, the scene becomes less lively and not so clean.

Bars and restaurants along the boardwalk are great places to have a drink and people watch. Walmart and Sam’s club across the pier is a good place to stock up on supplies.

 

Mazatlan – we did the city tour with Mazatlan Frank. After nothing but good reviews I decided to give Frank a try. After our experience, I would recommend Frank to everybody. Frank is very friendly, and funny – and he teaches you some history and fascinating facts about Mazatlan. The stops and scenery were all worthwhile. We saw a cliff dive, the cathedral, some art, shopping, downtown scenery, the golden zone. Frank was not able to get the van that we were hoping for, but instead the open trolley. This turned out to be a perfect way to enjoy the comfortable & warm (but not too hot) weather.

Mazatlan is a beautiful and interesting city don’t expect to see much on your own. An experienced guide will make it worthwhile. Let’s just say, booking Frank worked out great for me because I got all the credit for finding such a great tour guide.

He did not require an initial deposit (simply pay at the end of the tour) and he seemed genuinely unconcerned about money. He did not charge us extra even though we exceeded our time allotment. And at the end of the tour we pretty much had to remind him that we owed him money, he seemed more concerned that we were enjoying ourselves.

Shopping was not much different from other ports in that they sold pretty much the same stuff. They sell mostly trinkets, vanilla, silver and liquor and it’s hard to find meaningful souvenirs for that special someone. The vendors in Mazatlan were the most aggressive that we experienced. However still nothing to be afraid of. A simple no thank you or keep walking is enough. They may be persistent, but we never felt harassed.

If you do like souvenirs, this is the place to buy them. We felt the prices and variety were the best here and you can definitely bargain some good deals.

 

Cabo San Lucas – is a beautiful place in a different way. The boardwalk along the Marina is very clean, and with a more American flavour. Nice shops and cafes. You can tell the rich like to hang out here. The shopping here was most overpriced and the vendors were less willing to bargain. However you can still find good deals if you find the right vendors – particularly by venturing outside the marina and mall area and into the downtown markets. Since this is an unusually short port day (7am to 1:30 pm) there wasn’t much to do except hit Cabo Wabo for some drinks. Nice huge place. We’re not huge tequila drinkers, but we each did a shot of the Cabo Wabo (white) tequila, and I thought it was fantastic. The strawberry margaritas were good and I had the Waborita (house specialty lime margarita) which to put it plainly – was nothing special and undeservingly small. Even the margaritas on ship were better.

I think we could have enjoyed Cabo more with a guided tour, or if we had longer to stay.

 

Overall it was fun to watch whales in the distance while on deck and a massive school of dolphins jumping alongside the ship. They were popping out everywhere in the hundreds.

They were small – possibly baby dolphins, although I hear Mexican dolphins are not quite as big as ones in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, spotting sea mammals are always a highlight.

 

Debarkation was ridiculously slow and after sitting in a crowded lounge, we decided to rest at Churchill’s lounge which was practically empty. Turned out for the better because we waited another 2 hours. I’m not too surprised because we had low priority (having driven in from San Diego) but once we were on our way out, it was still a long and slow line up (Unlike port everglades where you practically walk out).

 

In conclusion, I guess we learn that personal reviews should not be taken too seriously.

Of all the negative ones I’ve heard, I cannot substantiate any personally.

We all had a great attitude and were a mixture of 3 experienced cruises and 4 first timers – and we equally enjoyed ourselves.

And perhaps some things we found acceptable are not so acceptable to others.

Like a group I observed who complained loudly that they were not among the first to board a tender even though they were able to board the next one 5 minutes later.

My biggest complaint was that the cruise was too short, but what can I do? I only paid for 7 days and that’s not Princess’ fault at all.

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Thank you Speechless for your comprehensive review!

 

We are sailing the Diamond in 6 weeks and we are SO excited! I try to take all reviews with a "grain of salt", especially dismissing the ones that are over the top either way - positive or negative. Yours seemed "fair and balanced" and seems to match the way we felt about our first cruise last summer, on the Caribbean Princess. We are hoping for the same (or even better, if that's possible) experience on the Diamond.

 

Thanks again for taking the time to post your review!

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One of the most unjudgemental and fair reviews I have read in a long time..Good work! Can't wait till I can make my own in a few months..

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I really enjoyed reading your review. Thanks for taking the time to write such a nice trip report. We'll be on the Diamond in a few weeks. Sounds like we'll have a great cruise!!:D

 

Laura

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Many thanks for a wonderful review - it was worth the effort! :D

 

Andy.

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I just wanted to add my thanks for a very thorough review. We were on the Diamond over the New Year's cruise and had a 10-dayer - which is MUCH nicer than 7 days. We even got a longer day at Cabo. We also toured with Frank (our second time with him) - and think of him as our friend. Unfortunately, we didn't get much time in Mazatlan, since we traveled to Copala - but that was our choice. Loved the Diamond and her staff. We especially enjoyed going to the extra ports of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo and being on the Diamond when she was decorated up with holiday decor and "Christmas" trees.

 

Shar

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Great review! We were on at the same time and ,also, had a wonderful time!

We had the BEST room steward (Leonil) and he really made our stay wonderful. We were able to book the , much-praised E-728, a mini-suite with a really large balcony furthiset aft on E deck. It was AWSOME! balcony was almost twice as large as the regular mini-suites. I really would recomened it to anyone else who is thinnking of sailing the Diamond.

We went to Sabatinis one night and thought it was well worth the extra money. The only thing we were dissapinted in was that the "cold waster lobster tails" were NOT! They were carribian lobster tails and small ones at that. Of couse by that time we were so full of all the other good stuff they give you that were didn't care, and on the second formal night our "twin lobster tails" in Vavaldi therned into triplet lobster tails without us even having to ask, thanks to our wonderful waiter Antonio, abllily assised by his wonderful assistant Randy.

We can hardly wait to be back on the Diamond to Alaska in June !

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Thanks -- for your well-written review!

 

We sailed on the Diamond in September on a repositioning cruise, and decided to come back this April (your itinerary).

 

With so many ships out there, we like to jump around to sample as many as possible. We have returned to a previously-sailed ship after a year or two, but only after trying several others in between.

 

We enjoyed the Diamond enough to book two-in-a-row.

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Thanks for the review. We leave in a week.

 

Do you remember what night Piano Man was? I'd like to see the whole thing...on my last cruise we were late and only saw part of it.

 

I've always liked Billy Hygate, from the time he was a "featured singer" back in the 1980's. Definitely someone who worked his way up. I love the way he "tells stories" when he's MC-ing.

 

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Speechless... Great review. My wife and I also were on the same cruise. I wrote a review but they haven't posted it yet. I'd post here but you summed it up pretty good. Hightlights for us? Piano Man, Princess Idol (we're suckers for the karaoke group they're fun to watch). By the way all week long were amatuers and they were all beaten out by a professional on the last night (pretty lame on Princess's part). And last but not least "Good Ole Stu and gang. They kept us entertained all week. They deserve more money! This wasn't our first or last cruise with Princess.

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Thanks for the time to post a great review! I'm counting down the days to our cruise in November...so far away!! How many passengers did the trolley hold for your tour in Mazatlan? We have a group wanting to do an excursion together and this may be the perfect day!

 

Thanks again for the GREAT review!!

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Thanks for all your positive comments. I enjoyed writing the review.

 

Let's see.

 

Mindy - I may not be 100% correct, but to my recollection - I believe Piano Man was on Tuesday at 8:30 and 10:30. Then a repeat showing (due to popular demand) on Wednesday at 9:30.

 

Liner - I wish I had a photo of the trolley, but it was about 2/3rd the length of a standard schoolbus. I think it could have seated anywhere betwen 25-30 people. Frank's website has a photo (but doesn't show how many seats).

http://www.mazatlan-frank.com/FrankEng.html

 

We were lucky to have Frank and the trolley all to ourselves (family of 7).

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Speechless... if you don't mind, could you let me know which two nights were the formal nights on this voyage? (Just trying to complete my planning, as we are off in 5 weeks!)

 

Thanks!

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Thanks for the great review. We were on the Nov. 27 sailing and felt the same way you did. A wonderful cruise with no major complaints. Will be on the Sapphire in May and can't wait!

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Wow, i'm already jealous of you future passengers.

 

ca2ga2000: geez I had such a good time, my memory is a little fuzzy.

Again, I may not be 100% correct, but I think formal nights were on Monday (day 3) and Thursday (day 6).

Another recent passenger can hopefully answer more confidently.

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A GREAT REVIEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are cruising on the Sapphire Princess in December so I like to read all reviews about the Mexican Riveria that I can. Yours was extremely helpful.....

 

I am glad that you had a great time.

 

How far in advance did you book with Frank and does he have a certain number of passengers that you have to have???? Would you care to share how much Frank charged???

 

Again thanks for the great review.......

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Thank you and you're welcome.

 

We booked with Frank about 2 1/2 weeks in advance.

He did not specify a minimum number of passengers. I guess it all depends on his availability. If another group has booked for that day, you might have the option of joining the other group.

 

We paid the price advertised on his website. (3 1/2 hr city tour)

http://www.mazatlan-frank.com/CITY.html

(flat fee - no extra charges or taxes)

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