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Diamond Review - Mexican Riviera - 26 March 2005

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Diamond Princess Review - Mexican Riviera

26 March 2005 - 2 April 2005

 

Part 1

 

It's hard to believe that after reading every review I could get my hands on before our cruise that it's now my turn to give back. Before we went I liked to read long and detaild reviews with personal stories and information so that's how mine will be. I suppose it's not only a review of the Diamond Princess but also my experiences of going on my first cruise. That means this review will be shamefully long. I wasn't able to find too many reviews from the perspective of families traveling with young children so I hope to be able to answer a lot of questions for other families in that regard. My situation is a little bit different in that I am a younger widow (my sweet husband died of cancer last year) so essentially a single parent (I'm sorry I have a hard time labeling myself as a widow let alone a single parent - double parent seems more fitting) traveling with two girls, ages 6 and 8. This was our very first cruise and even under a difficult and emotional situation, the cruise was absolutely wonderful, it was the perfect trip for the girls and I to take at this time in our lives. One of my greatest hopes was that we would be able to relax together and even though I had a hard time relaxing when I was alone, I felt like the girls saw me as being more relaxed. We were able to accomplish this because of being able to spend lots of time together balanced with being able to make use of the wonderful children's program that Princess offers.

 

Let me start off by saying that one of my biggest fears was sea-sickness. You have to understand that I get sick just watching my girls twirl around :) so I was very worried about being on a ship. My husband and I never considered cruising because of this very reason, he would have been perfectly fine but I was not willing to chance it. I get sick being the passenger in a car and I always have to take something when I fly. I tried Bonine a couple of weeks before we left and it didn't do a thing to help me with motion sickness except make me very tired, I'm glad I tried it before hand because now I know it dosen't work for me. I wore the patch for the plane trip and wound up ripping it off half way through the flight because the side effects were so terrible. Of course the drug was in my system for quite awhile so I did fine with the flight but was very concerned about what I was going to do for the cruise. We stayed near San Diego for a few days then I arranged for a driver to take us from the hotel to the pier at San Pedro. I had to put the patch on for the drive as I knew I would get car sick especially being in the back of the car but once again I wound up ripping the patch off half way there, it just made me feel really lousy.

 

We arrived a the pier at 11:30 a.m. with our mouths hanging open at the sight of the ship, it's a pretty awesome thing to see. As soon as we got out of the car, there was someone there to take our bags, I tipped them and off they went. Once we filled out the "sickness" forms we walked into the terminal. Before we went up the escalator we were handed a boarding card that was number 850 something. The terminal was hustling and bustling even at 11:30 a.m. so I'm glad we arrived when we did. The girls stayed close by me as we made our way to check-in. There was no line at all and we walked right up to the counter that we were told to go to for our deck which was Caribe. The process happened very quickly and after we received our cards we went to find a place to sit down. Even with all the reading I did before hand I was unaware that there was a lounge for those with platinum status or those booked in a suite so we didn't go there. This was the beginning of my week long elusive search to find out what ammenties came with staying in a suite! The boarding area was so packed that the girls and I found a place to sit on the floor in the main area but no sooner had we planted ourselves down then we were called to board so we went up and got in line. Before I knew it we were through the x-ray machines and then getting our picture taken and basically in awe of seeing this majestic ship up close. The whole process from arriving at the pier and walking into our cabin took less than an hour.

 

We went straight up to the cabin, it was ready and waiting for us and we walked into our beautiful suite for the first time. We went right out onto the balcony and the first thing my youngest did was start hauling a chair up to the railing so that she could get a better view! Well, that was the last time she did that! I told both of them with all the seriousness that I could muster that they were to never pull a chair or a table up to the railing and after that they never did. There was a whole discussion on the family board that I participated in about our worries about our younger children hurling themselves off the ship:eek: but once you are on board you realize that it's just not a problem and even on the balcony the railing is very high.

 

The girls were busy investigating every inch of the cabin when I started to feel slightly horrified. As hard as this is going to believe I started to feel nauseated! The ship hadn't even sailed and I was feeling yucky!! I began to wonder what the heck I was going to do for a whole week and pictured myself feeling like this the whole trip. This is what it feels like to be super sensitive to motion sickness and believe me it is very real. Even though the ship had not sailed I could tell that I was no longer on land and obviously so could my body. I laid down and that seemed to help. So, here I am less than an hour on the ship and unable to do much else but lay down. I am VERY happy to report that after that first day I did not have any problems whatsoever! I felt great the next day and the saying of "getting your sealegs" really applied to me. Everyday I would celebrate because I didn't feel sick. I did not take any medication or put a patch on and I felt good. I even did okay during the last two days of the cruise when the sea got a little rougher and there was more movement on the boat. There were times I felt uncomfortable during those days but I did not get sea-sick. The first night I felt like the movement of the ship was more side to side but when it got rough near the end it moved more up and down. I really noticed it when I dropped the girls off at the kids zone near the end of the cruise and thought I wouldn't do well if I had to stay in there for very long. My girls had no problems whatsoever with sea-sickness.

 

Another thing you won't believe, is that I broke "the" cardinal rule which I learned on the boards and that is you make dinner reservations the moment you get to your cabin. I had gone with Personal Choice Dining and I just had no idea how things would work out with the kids zone and the girls, and when we would want to eat so I didn't made reservations plus I wasn't feeling good. Of course you can all imagine what happened when I finally figured out a routine the next day and tried to book a table for 3 at The Sterling for the first formal night at 6:00 p.m.! They told me that the only opening for that night in The Sterling was at 10:00 p.m. and when I tried to book the other nights for the same dining room she said they were all booked until about the same time. We did get a table for 6:00 p.m. in the Pacific Moon for the first formal night and there always seemed to be openings in the Santa Fe - guess that's not the most popular restaurant on the ship :).

 

Part 2 coming up.....

 

Summer

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Part 2

 

For those cruising with young kids, I will try and cover everything I remember about the children's center. Even though I wasn't feeling very well I hightailed it up to the kids zone about 2:00 p.m. that first day to sign my girls up. There had been a lot of talk on the family boards about having to get up there at a certain time or you would be shut out until the next time to register. Perhaps they have changed their policy or they change things with each cruise because there was no specific time for sign-up. In the paperwork that I received later, it did say that the open house and registration was from noon to 5 p.m. on the first day but I noticed for the next day or so that parents were signing up at anytime of day or in the evening with no problenm at all. When I signed my girls up, I was told by the youth counsellor that there were over 850 kids on board but almost 500 of that number were teenagers. Because the numbers were so high they divided the age groups into smaller groupings which I was very happy about because it meant that my girls could be together. The youngest group met in the other room and they were ages 3 - 5. My girls were in the Princess Pelicans group ages 6 - 9. I'm afraid that I didn't pay much attention at all to anything about the older groups. There were 153 kids registered for the 6-9 group but I never, ever saw that many kids. One of the counsellers told me that there were times when there were 65 kids in there at the same time but usually it was 40 or less. Never once did I feel like the center was over-crowded or chaotic when I dropped the girls off or picked them up. Just like many other areas of the ship, the rooms and public spaces seem to absorb a lot of people. The center is bright and big. There is a very large room that had a long table in it with fun chairs where the kids would do arts and crafts. Whenever I dropped my girls off the counsellors had everything very organized if they were doing a craft, everything laid out and ready for the kids. There was one wall with computers and what looked to be play station type games, my girls don't play those type of games but I think that's what they were - I always saw plenty of boy enjoying those. There was an outdoor play area with a basketball hoop, ping pong table and such. There was another indoor play type area kind of like the inside of a McDonalds play area only not as big but my girls loved it and always seem to gravitate towards that first thing. Then there was a half circle type area with large tiered steps that the kids would sit or lay on to watch a movie on the nights that a movie was scheduled, always at the end of the night. There were bathrooms for the kids too. The kids center was open from 9 a.m to noon. 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. Those times changed when the ship was in port. The girls and I only got off the ship in one port which was Mazatlan to go horseback riding. On the other port days I had to schedule the day before if I wanted the girls to have some time in the kids center. They are very strict about this and if you don't register the day before, your kids can't be in there. Even though I signed the girls up for a few hours they really didn't spend much time in there on the port days. We spent those days together a lot taking it easy in the morning, hanging out around the ship and in our beautiful room, swimming and enjoying having the ship all to ourselves :p.

 

My girls absolutely loved the kids center, absolutely loved it! At first I kind of had more control over when the girls would go because they didn't know it was basically open so much of the time ;). But, as they made freinds and learned that that they were doing things at certain times in the center, they always wanted to be there on time. I leanred that my girls didn't like to show up late for something and miss out on the acitivity like making beaded necklaces (now that I think of it, I wonder what the boys were doing when the girls were busy making beaded jewelery?). They also didn't like it if I showed up an hour early in the evening or even 15 minutes early especially if they were watching a movie, for obvious reasons. I would come early to sign the girls out so that I didn't hold the counsellors up and then I would sit and wait until the movie was over. On the first day I received a packet that had all the information about the kids center and each days activities, kind of like a Princess Patter for kids. So, every night the girls and I would go over things for the next day and they were always very excited about what they were doing, but honestly, they just loved being there no matter what they were doing. They did arts and crafts, games, ice cream parties, mini olympics, treasure hunts, easter related stuff, they painted Princess t-shirts, one night they went up to the teen center and sang and danced - you name it, they did it. When I picked the girls up one night my oldest was as proud as she could be because she won a medal from a lego building contest. Another night she won a stuffed moose and my other daughter won a toy. I am not very good with computers or I would scan the acitivity sheets in but I would really be more than happy to make copies of the sheets and mail them to anyone who would like to have them. I am also more than willing to try and answer any questions.

 

The youth counselors were mostly from Canada and Australia. There was one cousellor, I think she was the head one, she was the one that kept the parents in line and I could always tell when some parents must have picked their kids up late because she would be very testy, she always wanted us to be there atleast 15 minutes early. Well, you can imagine that the counsellors only get the two hour break in between periods and they didn't want to be sitting there waiting for parents to pick up their kids and not get much time for their lunch and dinner. I always felt bad when my girls and I would bump into the counselors at the buffet because I felt like they needed a break from for heavens sake from the kids and my girls would always want to talk with them! I was always more than happy to comply with their request to show up on time or even a bit early. I think it was the second day and I came just a minute (if that) late and I got a steely look from the head counsellor and I learned not to do that again! She was also the one that I noticed would discipline the kids or let the parents know if there was any problems so I think she had to shoulder a lot of the responsilibity so maybe that's why she seemed a little stressed at times, I never sensed that from any of the other counselers. But, my girls really liked her an all the other counselors as well. There was one male counselor from Canada and the rest were young women. They were very particular about security. The handle on the door to get out of the room was very high so that the kids couldn't even reach it. You always had to sign them in and sign them out and show picture ID even once they got to know you. There was always one person to sign the kids out and look at your I.D. and another person standing at the door. It was all very organized, safe and surprisingly smooth considering the amount of kids and there was never a really long line to sign them in or out. The children's center gets a huge A+ from all of us!

 

Moving on to part 3......

 

Summer

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Part 3

 

The next thing I should mention is our cabin steward. I'm sad to report that he wasn't very good but it certainly didn't ruin our cruise by any means. He was a nice enough person, he didn't speak english very well and as hard as I tried, I could barely understand him but even harder, he couldn't understand me. I have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but hoping to get a different result :rolleyes: . That's what I thought of whenever I tried to ask him a question. He would stare at me and I would stare at him and I'd make some kind of charade type gesture and say the word over and over and he'd just look at me and round and round we'd go. I finally gave up. Mostly the problem was he didn't seem to understand that there was a difference in the ammenities that came with the suite. Everytime I tried to ask him something that I knew was available he would give me a blank look. I received a welcoming type letter in my mailbox one night and it explained that there was a book in the room explaining the ammenities for the suite but I looked and there was no such book. So, the next day I went down to the pursers office and explained that I didn't have a book and they said they would make sure to get one to me later that day but it never did arrive until much later in the cruise. If I asked the steward to do anything that was a bit out of the oridinary he seemed kind of miffed. The beds were in a twin configuration and I wanted the bed to be a queen and have the girls sleep on the sofa bed so I asked him to change it and he was somewhat reluctant to do so. I dug my heels in on that one since I knew lots of people on the boards said thev'e asked to have that done without any problems. I sleep on a water bed at home so any regular bed seems hard to me so I asked him after the first night if he could add a pad, again I was met with "the look". I am happy to say that he did put the pad on and it made a big difference and I slept pretty well. Honestly, the only things I would push with the cabin steward were the things I was absolutely sure about from hearing about it on these boards. Like the dry cleaning and laundry. I knew it was free with the suite so I just kept insisting with the steward that I could have it done and for free. I did take full advantage of that particular service because we had been in San Diego for a few days before the cruise and the girls especially had dirty laundry that I needed to have cleaned so that they could wear those clothes. I also had a lot of stuff ironed and a couple of things dry cleaned. Everything came back beautifully cleaned and pressed. It's my own fault that I gave up on asking him things and I'm sure that the experience could have been very different with a good cabin steward. I kept trying to ask him if I could get anything different for breakfast and he would point to the card he would leave in the evening and say that was my only choice but I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case. I thought I also had a greater choice of things I could order in the evening but again he didn't know and I didn't have the book telling me otherwise. I tried to find out as much information as I could before we went on the cruise from these boards and the Princess website but when you go on your first cruise there is so much to remember and it all seems so new and I wasn't in the frame of mind to keep pushing it with the steward and sadly I just gave up. I guess I am a little surprised that Princess would have someone who seemed so ill-informed about the suites, working as a cabin steward over them. I have read that a great cabin steward can make the world of difference.

 

The suite was beautiful and very spacious, oodles of room for clothes since it has like a small walk-in closet. There was tons of room in the bathroom with a glass enclosed shower, a jacuzzi tub and a seperate large sink area. It had a living room area with the sofa and a chair and a wet-bar area and a t.v. (this is as good as time as any to mention that there are two cartoon type channels that run all day long and my kids would often come back from the kids zone and just want to veg for a few minutes and there was always something on they could watch, one of the channels was called Boomerang and the kids thought the old type cartoons were funny) The balcony was to me, the most marvelous thing about the suite - it was huge. It had two teak lounge chairs and small table and then a seperate table with 4 chairs for eating on - heaven! The living room area and the bedroom area both had doors to the balcony. We loved spending time out there and really enjoyed that it was half covered and half opened, it felt very private and yet it got the sun too. I spent alot of time out there alone when the girls were asleep and those were the only times I really just let go and relaxed. The girls and I enjoyed the chocolate covered strawberries and the canapes that I could order each evening. There was so much food on the ship that I am embarrassed to say that on the last night when they brought the strawberries without me ordering them, they went uneaten because we were all so full, how sad is that :(. Whenever we did order room service it would always come quicker than they quoted me on the phone and hot! One of the servers told me that the room service galley is on that floor and I believe it!

 

Which brings me to the next subject of food :). I thought the food was wonderful through-out the whole ship! My girls loved the buffet and I enjoyed it too. The only time I didn't care for some of the things was the first time we went in the afternoon on the first day. That was also one of the times I noticed the ship was really crowded but that's understandable since everyone is trying to eat at the buffet once they get on board. I also wasn't feeling very well so that might have had something to do with it. Other than that first time, it was great. There were things I didn't care for each day but there was such a variety that I could always find plenty that I liked. The girls tended to gravitate towards the same things they they liked which thankfully they were always serving at lunch or dinner, things like mash potatoes and gravy. I was thrilled the day they had shrimp - it was so gorgeous and the fried shrimp was just as good. I always left the buffet on the days they served shrimp way too full! When the buffet was busy it was kind of chaotic and disorganized as far as the line goes. They could do with having more space in the food area that's forsure. If I was on my own, it wouldn't have mattered at all. I want you to picture going through the line with two girls and being a parent who is very aware of them staying by me and not being in other people's way. So, I'm balancing my own plate, my youngest daughters plate and trying to tell my other daughter to make sure and hold her plate straight so that her food wouldn't all come sliding off which is threatened to do many times. I'm trying to dish out food for both of them and keep an eye on them so they wouldn't be touching food that they wouldn't take. There were times that I felt like I needed four pairs of eyes in my head and three sets of arms. There were many times like this when I would miss my husband even more and wonder what the heck I was doing going on a trip on my own. My children are younger so I didn't feel comfortable leaving them at the table while I got my own dinner. I finally learned to eat with them but not eat myself, that was far more relaxing. Then I only had to worry about two plates and their food. Then after they would eat and go to the kids zone then I would go back and enjoy a quiet lunch to myself. That became our routine in the morning as well. Some days I would order room service for them at breakfast and after they went to the kids center I would go to the buffet and enjoy a lovely quiet breakfast in a quiet corner and look out to sea. I think I would have to say that my favourite time at the buffet was breakfast. I really loved all the fresh fruit and of all things - the pancakes (go figure). I tended to avoid the bacon, it looked a little greasy and limp and I like it overdone and crispy. I would usually grab an egg which they happen to cook just the way I like them - runny. A toasted bagel with cream cheese and apricot jam and I was happy. I don't drink coffee so I can't comment there but I did enjoy the different juices. I did get a soda card for me which I really shouldn't have since I think I only had 5 sprites the whole time on the cruise. We discovered the ice-cream place near the Neptune's reef and pool, too late in the cruise. I didn't mind splurging for ice cream once in awhile and let me tell you it was good. The girls loved being able to chose the different toppings. I had heard that they serve ice-cream for free at a certain time of day but I never quite got it figured out and the one time I heard about it the kids were in the center so it didn't work out. We tried the pizza one day and it was fine, not especially fantastic in my eyes but perfectly fine and the girls loved it. I wanted to try the afternoon tea but I was never hungry at the time of day that it was served. It seemed that my biggest challenge on the cruise was trying to feel hungry so that I could enjoy all the yummy food :rolleyes:.

 

Well, the other chapters will have to wait until tomorow, I'm so tired and off to bed :)

 

Summer

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Summer, we will be on the Diamond in Alaska this June with our 8 and 10 year old daughters. I am really enjoying your trip review especially all the kid related items like the cartoon channels. It sounds like your family enjoyed the trip and certainly deserved pampering yourselves. Your suite sounded wonderful. We have also had room stewards in the past who just did the minimum and others who have been fantastic. Who knows what your next cruise will bring? Once you have cruised there is always a next one! I look forward to the rest of your review. Thanks.

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Thanks for your very informative review - glad you and your girls had a great first cruise. We enjoyed the Diamond last August and will again this August. My daughter is nine and fell in love with the Kid's Club too - :) She cannot wait to go back! Looking forward to the rest of your review.

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Great Review..Can you tell what cabin you had and do you have any pictures you can post??

 

 

Thanks

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Summer, I look forward to the rest of your review. My 10 year old son and I'll be doing Mexican Riviera in December on the sister ship Sapphire Princess. My son has enjoyed the Kids Zone a lot.

 

I'm glad you guys had fun.

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Great Review..Can you tell what cabin you had and do you have any pictures you can post??

 

 

Thanks

 

We were in C421 which is a PH suite - it was beautiful. I did take some pictures but I have no brain when it comes to the computer so I wouldn't have a clue how to scan them in - sorry :(.

 

Summer

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Part 4

 

The first formal night was also the first night that the girls and I ate in one of the restaurants (Pacific Moon) and it wasn't the best experience. I think I might have been stressed about the girls and how they would do for such a long time in a dining room. If there is only one good thing, or one way I can help another family by this review it would be to tell you that if you're stressed about your kids and the cruise - just relax and enjoy the wonderful experience of being together. I took too much of what was said on the boards regarding children - negative stuff and I let it stress me out. I think the parents who let their kids run wild and do whatever they want are probably not the ones participating on these boards and certainly aren't the ones that need to be told to be considerate of others. Before I left I was was scared to even show up in a dining room with my kids! I am very aware of how my children are behaving whether we are traveling or not so I always make sure if we're dining out and they get bored that I have colouring books or something for my 8 year old to read.

 

Our waiter that night just wasn't very attentive and I think once he figured out that there wouldn't be any alcohol at our table he didn't seem to be very interested in serving us. I actually noticed his demeanor completely change when he greeted the table of guests next to us who were busy ordering drinks and wine for their dinner. That night the food I ordered for my main entree was the only dish I didn't like the whole cruise - it was pork on the bone with asparagus and crab on top and it sounded really good but it was very fatty so not enjoyable for me, I didn't eat more than a bite of it. My daughter was very happy with her dessert which was called the Volcano - I couldn't believe how much ice cream,whip cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles they managed to get in one bowl! She ordered that again another night and still talks about it - how she managed to finish the whole thing I'll never know. So, after our first night out I didn't have such a good expereince but I figured there were plenty of nights left and as I learned from the board, you eat at different restaurants and you keep trying with other waiters and there is plenty of yummy food to be had.

 

The next couple of nights I just ate at the buffet after I dropped the girls off at the kids zone but on one night I felt sad sitting there. I thought here I was on this beautiful ship filled with great restaurants and I was eating at the buffet every night. Well, I left without eating and went back to my room and got dressed up and was determined that as hard as it was going to be that I would eat out that night even if it meant eating alone. I didn't have reservations but I went to The Sterling and asked the Maitre'd if there was any chance of me getting a table.........for 1. He looked at me and said very kindly "why is it that such a beautiful women such as yourself is dining alone?" I just kind of stammered and stuttered and stood there and was totally taken off guard. I finally got myself together and asked him if he really wanted me to answer that question. Then I just told him that my husband died and this was my first trip without him and I was with my girls. I could tell immediately that he felt terrible and apologized for asking the question but I told him no apology was necessary, I just wanted to have a nice meal. So, he fussed at his screen, told me he would take care of me and if I could just wait a minute he would look. He went out into the restaurant and came back and asked me to follow him as he leads me to a table along the back wall. There were groupings of 5 or so tables of 2 and I was seated in the middle of all of these and in front of a couple of larger groups of tables. I sat down and immediately felt un-comfortable. The waiter looked at me and didn't come over right away, I'm sure he thought my husband had just gone to the restroom and he would join me any minute (I wear my wedding bands). Well, I suppose a minute went by but it felt like one of the longest minutes of my life. You would think that with everything I've had to go through this past year that I could handle eating out on my own but I just couldn't. It was like my life was flashing before my eyes and I felt so embarrassed sitting there alone, thoughts starting running through my head like what was I thinking going on this cruise and how much I was missing my husband and now I'm sitting here looking like a complete idiot all on my own, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb! I knew I had to get out of there before I lost it, so I quietly and calmly got up and walked away in hopes that no one would notice. Once I started to clear the front of the restaurant I let the tears finally spill out. I felt so foolish for even trying to eat out, foolish for dressing up and foolish for trying to think my life is normal when it's nothing but. Just then Franco the Maitre'd comes running out after me "what's wrong, what's wrong, why are you leaving?" I turned around and he could see that I was upset and he felt terrible and I told him that I made a mistake and I would just go back to my room and order room service. He wouldn't hear of it, he didn't want me to leave, he felt that it was his fault for seating me at a table where I was surrounded by other couples, he insisted that he could find the perfect table for me and please, please would I stay. I told him that I just couldn't and I wasn't about to walk back into a restaurant that I had just left from! Well, we went back and forth like this for a few minutes and I finally let him convince me to try again. So, I waited for a few minutes while he looked in the restaurant and then Anna came and took me by the arm and sat me at the most PERFECT table for my situation. It was table 252 which has a kind of half wall/seperation between the other diners and it's really tucked away in the corner of the restaurant and behind the waiters station so for most people I suspect it would not be a desirable table but for me it was just perfect. It was private and I felt myself relaxing even as I was sitting down. Franco and Anna checked on me several times to see if I was okay and to make sure that everything was going well. The waiter and his assistance were perfectly wonderful and the food was so good and such a nice change from the buffet. Anna came by again and I asked her if it was possible for me to get this table each night, she said that she would arrange everything and I would be welcome at that table for the rest of the cruise. She even did the impossible and arranged for the table right next to mine for the girls and I to come together on the last formal night. They said they all looked forward to meeting my girls and when we came on that night, they made such a fuss over all of us and treated my girls very special. Franco proceded to do a trick with my youngest girls glass that night - I'm not sure I've ever seen her eyes go that wide before :p. That first night when I passed by Franco as I left I told him I was so grateful that he had not given up on me. I can truly say that they made all the difference and because of ther kindness and willingness to go out of their way and find me just the right table, I had lovely dining experiences the rest of the cruise. It was still hard for me to eat alone but I didn't feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb and I enjoyed the food and was greeted warmly each evening. I learned to go with whatever my waiter suggested for the evening and was never dissappointed. I do remember that on the french night he suggested the raspberry creme broulee for dessert. It was by far the best dessert I've ever had!! I would go back on Princess just so I could eat that dessert again. I never did see any sighting of the infamous love boat dessert and neither had anyone in the group I met during horseback riding. The best dining experience I had was on the last night of the ship. I met up with the 3 couples from the horseback riding trip and they very kindly let me join them for dinner. It was wonderful to sit with other adults and carry on adult conversations and such a nice change from eating alone. It was also great to ask them all sorts of question about their experiences on the cruise. They all agreed that the food had been wonderful for each of them too. I thought it quite enjoyable to watch one of the men order and eat a couple or several things from each course! I was usually too full to have anything other than a main dish and dessert so I thought it was great to watch someone else really eat and enjoy it all the while! What wonderful people they all were, so kind and genuinely interesting to tallk to. Had we not linked up on the roll call thread before our cruise I don't think we would have really met one another. It was fun to commiserate with each other about how sore we were from horseback riding (well, all the women were willing to admit that they were sore, didn't here a peep out of the men ;))

 

Mazatlan was the only time the girls and I got off in port. I had arranged through the internet to ride with Randi's Happy Horses. I had hooked up with one of the couples through our cruise role call and found out that they were also doing the horseback riding through Randi. Sure enough as soon as we approached the shuttle to take us to the terminal, a nice man introduced himself as the person I had corresponded with on the board. I met his wonderful wife and the two other couples who were traveling with them. It took me all day to finally figure out who went with who in this group of very kind and funny people but I think I finally got it figured out! I can say without a doubt that they really made the excursion extra special for the girls and I. After we met up with Randi at ther terminal she had us go with Tony who was going to be in charge of our group. Randi was staying behind to meet up with another group of riders from a ship that was coming in later and it all worked out for the best. Tony and the other guides were great. I was prepared for the authentic experience we would have getting to Stone Island but it's amazing just how truly authentic it is from the back of a pick-up to a very.....well, at best rickety boat ride from a true fishing pier and then a tractor ride once you have arrived at the island. My girls had a blast paritcipating in all of this and I did too. It's kind of crazy that you're in the back of a pick-up truck going 70 miles per hour with no seat belts but on this boat we were given life jackets to wear:rolleyes: and since I'm talking irony here, let me just digress a little and say that I could have been as careful as can be on the ship as far as germs go but really, I lost track of that whole issue the minute we came into contact with all the stuff in Mazatlan from the fishing pier to the life jackets that looked like they were 50 years old and well handled, to my girls touching every little thing on the truck, boat, tractor, dogs, horses, restrooms with no sinks, beach and restaurant. I had to just get over it and hope and pray that we wern't going to be sick because no amount of hand sanitizer was going to help me on that excursion :) Anyway, we arrived at a home and were given the opportunity to drop off all of our bags with things we would need once the ride was over and we were at Victor's on the beach. The girls made sure to pet all of the stray dogs on our way to the horses. They were also able to pet the new foal that was born recently. Each of us was then hand-picked depending on our riding ability or in my case, lack of, to go with each horse. My girls were so enthusiastic that they were matched up first thing and sitting proudly on their horses. I should point out that neither of my girls have riden horses before unless you count riding the ponies at our local fair that go round and round a pole at maybe 200 ft. per hour. I got on top of my horse and wondered who's idea this was and what in the heck was I thinking! I was the one that was scared and the girls were as relaxed and happy as can be. No one should hesitate taking children on this ride, they can be matched up with smaller horses and ride slow if they want. What shocked me was my girls didn't exhibit any kind of worry or distress and they certainly didn't feel the need to ride beside me. After we started off I lost sight of them! They were happy to be with the guide and with the others going at a faster pace - my youngest apparently was at the head of the group the whole way! I tell ya, that girl has no fear. We rode through mango trees and then out on the beach which was so beautiful. Several of the people in the group were more accomplished riders and one of the men would ride back to where I was and tell me that the girls were happy and doing just great. I was glad that someone was looking after them because I couldn't even see them! To be honest I would have been happy to have my horse walk the whole way but I was so behind that I had to go faster to try and keep up and let me tell you, I was sore! Let me point out a few things that wern't brought up on the boards before we left which I now deem worthy of mentioning. 1) Number one rule which I did pay attention to is to WEAR a sports bra. 2) Bring a fanny pack instead of using a small over the shoulder bag. Mine was just a teeny tiny purse I put over my shoulder that held my money, cruise card etc. but it was bothersome as I was trying to ride and the strap kept rubbing on my neck and after awhile it was uncomfortable. Having a fanny pack and having your hands completely free is the way to go. 3) Only bring a small camera. The biggest mistake I made was bringing my good/heavy/long lens 35 mm. camera. It's what I use but on this excursion it nearly did me in. I had bruises on my side for a week after we got home from the camera banging agaisnt my side. I tried to hold it and stop it from banging as I was riding but I was also trying to stay on the horse. We stopped on the beach and the guides took our pictures and I was able to meet up with my girls again! The whole cruise seemed worth it when I saw the smile on my oldest daughters face, I don't think I've seen her smile like that in over a year. After riding on the beach the horses went faster the closer they got to home and I was so sore! Next time I go horseback riding I'm going to work out extra at the gym beforehand! The next day I o'd on advil just so I could move. It was my back and bum that were both sore and my girls thought it was pretty funny to listen to me moan and groan whenever I tried to sit down. After the horseback ride we were taken to Victor's on the beach. I had read that Randi keeps the vendor's away from the restuarant for the first while when you eat but that wasn't the case with us and they swarmed all over us the whole time. You get use to saying no but it isn't very enjoyable. I wasn't hungry since it was only 10:30 a.m. but I ordered guacamoli and chips and the others ordered garlic shrimp, it was all good. The new freinds that we met were so kind to my girls and played with them out near the water and then the husbands decided to go for a swim and my girls went with them and they had such a blast playing with them in the ocean, Afterwards the girls decided to roll around in the sand and they were covered from head to toe. I was still getting sand out of their hair two days later but they had so much fun. My girls talk about riding the horses a lot and it was definately a highlight for them and for me it was wonderful just to see them so happy, never mind that I couldn't sit down for two days :).

 

Part 5 coming up.

 

Summer

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I don't blame you for being sad at the table situation. I'm surprised that they couldn't find a table to share with other singles. We were talking to my mother-in-law, who last her husband last September, about taking a cruise. She said she would need to go with a friend.

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Part 5

 

Back on the ship, when the girls were in the children's area I would often spend the mornings walking about the ship and trying to get to know her. The ship is so huge and it took me a good 3 days to feel like I knew where I was going when I left our cabin. Whenever I got lost I would go back to our floor and start again from there. Our cabin was exactly in the middle of the ship right next to the main elevators so that was very convienant. Funny thing is, we really didn't use those much since our daily path was to go completely aft and take those set of elevators to get to the kids zone or Horizon court. I was glad we got some exercise on the ship! I was amazed that there were certain places on the ship where I felt that I was the only person on board. I walked around the promenade deck one morning, it was a peaceful, glorious walk and I had the whole deck to myself except for an older gentleman who was enjoying his power-walk. One afternoon I had my camera with me and as I was walking outside, the bridge came over the loud speaker and told us that there were whales breeching portside. I walked right over to that side on the promanade deck and was able to see them. Since I had my camera I was able to zoom in and get quite a good look at them, that was a really neat moment. The times when I noticed there were a lot of people on the cruise was whenever I walked by the pool areas. They were very crowded and happily being used. I can't imagine how anyone found a deck chair near the pool on a warm day. I was so glad that I made the decision to stay on board for the other two days in port because we were able to have the ship all to ourselves and even more amazing the pool all to ourselves, what fun! It was more important for me to hang out with my girls and relax on the ship than try and do excursions which I felt they were too young to enjoy. On the first port day we had the Neptune pool completely to ourselves, can you imagine? The three of us frolicked and swam for a very long time and it was always just the three of us. I should mention that the two pools in the middle of the ship are over 7 feet deep and they don't have a shallow end - it's all that depth. My youngest dosen't know how to swim so she had to cling to the side most of the time and since I couldn't even reach the bottom, I couldn't hold her and play. She still had fun but on the Cabo day we found the pool near the Horizon court that is 4 ft something deep, both my girls could touch the bottom so it was even more fun for them. This pool is small but since it was a port day it wasn't busy. I loved that pool because it has wood all around the sides so I would could lay on the side of the pool in the warm sun and blissfully just turn my head to keep an eye on the girls and I was right there if they needed me. Once in awhile I would fall in and cool off and then get back out and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I got burnt that day because it didn't feel very hot and we were having so much fun that we stayed out such a long time.

 

It's pretty amazing that a ship so full of people and with so many kids on board didn't feel over-fun with them, well, it didn't to me but I realize that my two kids were contributing to that number. It was to our advantage to cruise during spring break because it meant there were lots of kids for my girls to play with in the children's center. But, if I wasn't traveling with children and I wanted a quieter cruise I would definately NOT go during spring break. I did notice a lot of teenagers but never noticed any disruptive behaviour, well, I shouldn't say never because a few of them must have gotten bored at the end of the cruise because the last two nights I was awakened in the middle of the night by some kids who were door knocking. The freinds I met and had dinner with commented that there were some problems with teenagers and loud parties near their cabins. Other than the door knocking incident, the teenagers I ran into were having a great time, happy, friendly and courteous. There were lots of security men walking around with bright yellow shirts on that said "youth security".

 

I can honestly say that if we did not have a balcony, I would have thought that no one was in the cabins on either side of us. Not once did I ever hear so much as one sound coming from the cabins next door from inside our cabin. When I opened the balcony door it was like a whole other world out there. You could easily hear sound from anyone all around if they were out on their balcony. Usually in the afternoon it was pretty noisy from the sound of the activities coming from pool area 3 decks above. I was amazed that all I had to do was shut the door to the balcony and it was so quiet. Our deck was so huge and wonderful. I loved having it half covered and half exposed. I admit that I would not like to sit out on a deck that was all exposed, just not enough privacy for me. Whenever I was leaning out on the railing and I would notice that the people below me were out, I would step back to give them their privacy. Of course my girls were much more friendly and liked to wave at anyone they saw when they were out on the balcony. I did notice that the people below us were smokers and I had read some pretty awful experiences on this board about being bothered by smoke out on a balcony. I guess the air never drifited upwards because never once did I smell smoke or be bothered by it and I'm pretty sensitive to cigarette smoke. There was one day when I laying out on the balcony and I missed being doused by water from above! I had just gotten up from the lounge chair and went inside to get my sunglasses when I heard the sound of water and my chair was drenched. I have no idea where the water came from although it sounded like the cabin steward was sweeping off the balcony with water on the deck above me - I didn't dare look up and get hit in the face with water. I don't know, now that I recall that incident it seems funny to me and amazing that it happened just after I got up but I think if I had been covered in dirty water at the time it wouldn't have been so funny. The family next to us liked to sit out on their balcony a lot and play games, sometimes they would be out in the evening as well which was of course perfectly fine by me. Sometimes I would smile at the sounds of a family spending quality time together. There were plenty of nights when they were gone and their balcony light was off and so it would be very quiet and private for me. I loved to lay out in the evening and listen to the sound of the waves and stare up at the stars, what an awesome sight. I got the suite mostly because I knew I would be spending a lot of time in my cabin and even more, out on the balcony. I wasn't up for socializing too much and this trip was about being with my girls and time alone out on that balcony.

 

Well, I'm signing off again for the night, it's sleep time. For those that have managed to stay awake listening to my ramblings and want it to be over with :rolleyes: my last installment should be posted tomorrow evening.

 

Take care,

Summer

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What a spectacular review... I think this may be the first time on these boards that I've been moved, almost to tears. I'm so glad you had a positive experience, and I'm terribly sorry that your husband wasn't able to be with you. How happy he must be knowing you summoned the courage to head back into that dining room.

 

Your girls are lucky to have you.

 

Now... to plan your NEXT cruise. I promise you'll have a better steward!

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Summer, thank you for a fantastic review! I'm eagerly anticipating the remaining chapters!

 

(and allow me to echo the previous poster's comments...)

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Summertime~what a wonderful review. Are you you a writer in your "real world" life? Seriously, you made me feel like I was onboard with you.

 

I'm very grateful for your indepth review on the children's program and how your kids fared on their cruise. We're bringing our DS (5) on his first cruise in October (Sapphire/Mex Riv) and by your thoughtful reviews you made a nervous mother feel more at ease.

 

Finally, although you may not feel it at the moment you are truly amazing and your strength shines through your writings. I wish you nothing but the best in all you do.

 

Take care.

Lynn

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Summertime~what a wonderful review. Are you you a writer in your "real world" life? Seriously, you made me feel like I was onboard with you.

 

I'm very grateful for your indepth review on the children's program and how your kids fared on their cruise. We're bringing our DS (5) on his first cruise in October (Sapphire/Mex Riv) and by your thoughtful reviews you made a nervous mother feel more at ease.

 

Finally, although you may not feel it at the moment you are truly amazing and your strength shines through your writings. I wish you nothing but the best in all you do.

 

Take care.

Lynn

 

Hi Lynn, I remember you from the family board before we left. I had it in the back of my mind to get in touch with you and let you know that I wrote a review so I'm glad you found it.

 

Thank you so much for your kind words, no, I am not a writer, just someone who likes the small details in life and tends to ramble :). I don't even want to go back and read what I've posted since I'm sure it's full of many spelling errors (maybe there is a spell check and I just haven't found it) but my heart has been in it and that seems more important.

 

Thank you again for your kindness and I'm right here if you ever have any questions about your up-coming cruise - I just know you're going to have a wonderful time with your son and he's going to love the kids program. From what I remember your son is a little shy so it may take a little while for him to warm up to being at the kids zone but I bet after he sees all the fun activities to do and meets another friend he'll be as happy as can be!

 

Take good care,

Summer

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Summertime,

 

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your review. It is so easy to read and I feel as though I am along with you every step of the way.

 

I also want to tell you how moved I was with your words. I too lost my husband many years ago at 34 and was left with two children. I wish I had had the guts to take a wonderful vacation as you did. Not many people know but it takes real effort to decide to go somewhere alone. All you really focus on are happy families. I never had the nerve to go anywhere and I applaud your effort.

 

You probably don't realize it but this is the start of a new life for you and your girls.

 

You go girl!!!!! :D :D :D

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Part 6

 

Other little tid-bits. I used the internet one day because I had forgotten what time I was suppose to meet the people from Randi's Happy Horses. It was rather handy to get on-line and find out the time. I had no problem at all logging on and the speed was quick. Considering the service was free because I was in a suite, I felt bad that I didn't use it more. Never had any problems with towels, I left a couple out on the balcony over my lounge chair and they were replaced the next day with three more even though I had the extra's outside. I browsed in the shops one day and bought a couple of bracelets as gifts, I thought this one shop had a really pretty selection of jewelery. Since we only went off the ship once I didn't buy anything from Mexico other than a bracelet from one of the locals at the restaurant in Mazatlan. We did walk through the shopping area right by the port in Mazatlan after our excursion but the girls were sandy and tired and I wasn't in the mood to try and shop with them. I only went to one show - Piano Man. It was very good but too many of the songs reminded me of my husband so that was hard. It was formal night so I stayed in my formal dress as did most other people and it was absolutely packed, not a seat left in the house I don't think. I enjoyed wandering through the atrium area many times during the cruise and listening to the different musicians that were playing there. One night I really enjoyed a small band that did dixie type jazz music and another evening near the end of the cruise, a man played the guitar solo, spanish type music and it was lovely. The weather was warm and beautiful, especially the closer we got to Mexico. The sailing was very smooth except for the last couple of days. I had read on the boards that it can get rougher coming back after Cabo because the ship is sailing at a faster speed to get back to LA. This seemed very true as it did get rougher and cooler, sniff, sniff. The only other time after the first day that I had a problem with feeling nauseated was when the girls and I visited with our freinds that we had met during horseback riding. They wanted to see my cabin and I wanted to see theirs. They had an inside cabin and after visiting with them for a few minutes and being that the ship was sailing in rougher waters I started to feel sick. After they saw the size of my cabin I wished I had invited them up several nights before, we could have had a little party out on the balcony and they could have helped me enjoy the canapes and chocolate covered strawberries! Formal nights were formal so I was glad I brought along two formal dresses for myself and the girls. I was also glad that I wore my tighter fitting dress the first formal night. My only complaint about cruising was I ate too much! Food was everywhere and yes it's hard to resist. And last but not least the only thing I could not get use to on the ship was the toilets! I always felt like someone had left the seat up and I was sitting on a hard rim - just never got use to that and my youngest was terrified of the sound it made when it flushed. She would always make me flush it for her and then she'd run away as fast as she could with her hands over her ears :eek:. After awhile we joked that the noise sounded like a barking seal with an attitude.

 

I had some hard moments on this trip but I expected that - I have a lot of hard moments at home but atleast on the ship I could go out on the balcony and cry out into the ocean. I had times like when all the paperwork arrived for dis-embarkment and I felt overwhelmed with trying to get that filled out and finish packing. When you cruise for the first time, absolutely everything is new and although there is really fun element of surprise and delight in that, there were times it did feel overwhelming (perhaps that had more to do with my circumstances). There are a lot of details with cruising that after just one time I feel more familiar with and I think our next cruise will be even more relaxing. I'm tempted to do the exact same cruise and on the same ship, that way I wouldn't have to spend much time trying to get my bearings, we could just get on the ship and enjoy.

 

The morning we dis-embarked I was worried about trying to keep my girls occupied for the many hours ahead of us. We left our room around 8, went and had breakfast in Horizon Court which was understandably a zoo. I was so grateful that I knew about the lounge for Platinum or suite passengers, that was a wonderful perk. We were one of the last to get off the ship because our flight wasn't until after 4:00 p.m. The lounge didn't have a lot of people in it and I found a place for us to sit way off in a corner so that the girls could play and not bother anyone. We arrived in the lounge around 9ish and we didn't get off until 11:30 a.m. We actually could have gotten off a little sooner but the line was so long outside to go through customs that I decided I would rather sit on the ship than wait outside and there wasn't any hurry for us to get to the airport. I had a passport so we were able to get in that line but really the other line moved just as fast if not faster than ours. Other than the long wait, it went very smoothly. The customs officer asked my girls a lot of questions just to confirm that I was their Mommy but I was comforted by such a high level of security. When we went to find our luggage, ours was just about the last piece of luggage in the room! We took the Princess shuttle to LAX and there were only 6 other people on the bus. We had another long wait at the airport and let me tell you when we got home I slept well that night, I was exhausted. I would try and get an earlier flight next time as it made for such a long day.

 

Will we go on another cruise - absolutely yes! I have nothing to compare the Diamond too but I thought the ship was beautiful and elegant. For years I have seen pictures of the insides of ships and thought they looked kind of garish but the Diamond was nothing like that. It seems to me that it is one of the best possible ways to travel with children. They had a fantastic time in the kids center, we had lots of fun, together hours and days and I had plenty of moments for quiet reflection and for taking in the wonder of it all.

 

"A common symptom of modern life is that there is no time for thought, or even letting the impressions of the day sink in. Yet it is only when the world enters the heart that it can be made into soul. The vessel in which soulmaking takes place is an inner container, scooped out by reflection and wonder." Thomas Moore

 

 

Summer

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Summer, I look forward to the rest of your review. My 10 year old son and I'll be doing Mexican Riviera in December on the sister ship Sapphire Princess. My son has enjoyed the Kids Zone a lot.

 

I'm glad you guys had fun.

Hi there,

When will you be on the Sapphire? I am sending my 9 year old son and parents on the ship over Christmas.

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Summertime,

 

May God bless you and your daughters on the next steps of your life journey. Showing your daughters that stepping out of your comfort zone and taking chances on new things is an important element to LIVING.

 

Congratulations.

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Hi there,

When will you be on the Sapphire? I am sending my 9 year old son and parents on the ship over Christmas.

We're doing 12/17/05 sailing on Sapphire Princess.

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Hi,

 

Can you tell us who the Cruise Director and deputy were on your trip?

 

Thanks

 

The cruise director was Billy Hygate - sorry but I don't know who the deputy was. The captain was Tony Yeomans. I felt a little badly because I zipped right past the captain in my haste to get a seat at the Piano man show.

 

Summer

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