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Jasminedog

Diamond Princess Review - Spring Break Sailing

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Our family sailed on the Diamond this past Spring Break (4/10 to 4/17) and all of us had a great time. We are a family of four with kids age 7 and age 13. We are Platinum level returnees and have sailed on the Golden (Caribbean) and the Star (twice to Mexico, once to Alaska). This was our third Mexico cruise in as many years. The ship had over 3,000 passengers and was at capacity, but never felt like it. Here are my general impressions:

1. Mini-Suite - We were on Dolphin D224. Room layout very much like the Grand Class ships - but a larger balcony, padded cushions on the two loungers and a larger sofabed. Room was comfortable and made for a great vacation.

2. Traditional 1st Seating - Food was as good as our Star Princess experience ... very similar menu. The PC dining rooms looked beautiful, but we were glad to have the Traditional 1st. We were able to sample the menu offerings from each of the PC dining room menus when they were offered over the course of the week. Favorite was the catfish from the Santa Fe menu. (Note: although PC diners in each of the four alternative rooms have access to the Traditional Dining menu, the PC menus are not exactly the same and are a slightly "shortened" version from the one offered in Traditional ... I actually compared menus between the two). Baked Alaska procession on our final night was done only for Traditional dining.

3. Children's Program -- the staff said there were over 700 children under 18 sailing this past week! Both of our kids participated in the program daily, usually in the evenings. The four dedicated children's facilities are very much improved over the Star Princess, but the staff seemed a bit less enthusiastic (maybe because of the 700 children on-board). Our pre-teen daughter thought there was too much "free time" (which is fine with the outgoing popular kids, but not as nice for the shyer less popular ones). We thought the LOTS of teens who seemed to be everywhere. There was no arcade, but plenty of Play Station terminals in each age group's rooms.

4. Entertainment - another posting spoke positively of the show entertainment, and we had to agree. This is the first time we actually attended both production shows ("Piano Man" and "Curtain Up") and thought the dancers and singers were all first rate. Also had an on-board first-rate "Princess Idol" contest during the cruise (in-lieu of nightly karaoke). Other options: Line dancing, ballroom dance lessons, craft classes, computer classes, paint-your-own pottery, and the usual bingo, pool games, etc. I liked Club Fusion very much, but think that the casino-fushion part of the concept isn't working.

5. Puerto Vallarta - Spouse and kids participated in the Canopy Tour offered by Princess (Vallarta Canopy Tours). Very scary, almost chickened out, worried about the quality of the cables and harnesses, and dreamt about falling off the platforms, etc. ... but very happy we all did it and would do it again without any hesitation. The Vallarta Canopy Tour workers were very friendly and helpful and were constantly by our side (group of 14 with a team of 5 workers always with us). My daughter (who is not well coordinated) did great and my younger son were scared at spots, but amazed us by their ability and boldness to do it. We are looking forward to the DVD we bought to see what it actually looked like on tape.

6. Matzatlan - We rode with Randi and had a great, great time. Everything positively stated on these boards about her and her horses is true. She and her crew with constantly with us, we had a long ride through the plantation and a beautiful stretch of almost empty beach. The grilled shrimp at Victors is wonderful and (best of all) safe to eat (at least for all of us). Plenty of time to kick it or play in the surf. For our children, this was also a highlight of the week. Highly recommended, even our friend's 6 year old rode on his own with no problem whatsoever.

7. Lotus Spa and Gym - Used the gym five days and thought the best part was having an individual TV monitor at each treadmill or stepper. Weight equipment was Cybex and I found it clunky to use. Worst part was that Princess skimped on having an attendent maintain the changing room and shower area on a regular basis. Someone changed towels, but rarely picked up old soaps, shampoo packets, etc. from the shower stalls. Last 2 days the dry sauna did not work well. Princess could do better here.

8. Public Areas - The entire Atrium area (the shops, the lounges, etc), the Explorer's Lounge, and the photo gallery are nearly identical to the Grand Class ships. But the big improvements: beautiful Internet Cafe (but spotty connections), bigger and more beautiful Wheelhouse Bar, snazzier Club Fusion (now less a show lounge and more of a night club). BTW - friends in mini-suites immediately under Club Fusion confirm that the sound proofing was excellent in their rooms (E719, E721,E725).

I can certainly try to answer any questions.

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Thanks so much for the review, we've been considering that itinerary for quite some time, your impressions take us one step closer

Happy Cruising

Chris

[url="http://www.LifeIsCruising.com"]www.LifeIsCruising.com[/url]

Next up:
Caribbean Princess 06/26/04
Star Princess 10/24/04
Carnival Victory 12/19/04
Carnival Miracle 03/13/05

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Jasminedog,

Thanks so much for doing a review so quick after your return! We are on the Diamond to Alaska on 5/29 with a similar family profile (we have two girls aged 11 and 7). Since our ports are different, are there any "must-dos" or "skip-its" on the ship (i.e. certain shows, spa, meal choices, casino, on board activities, etc.)? We are in quad balcony (non-suite) on Aloha, and a little nervous from these boards about being cramped. Thanks for all of your feedback! [img]http://messages.cruisecritic.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]

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Jasminedog,
Thanks for your review! We'll be taking our first Princess cruise on this ship over Thanksgiving week.
Curious, though:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR> Other options: Line dancing, ballroom dance lessons, craft classes, computer classes, paint-your-own pottery, and the usual bingo, pool games, etc. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
Can you tell me if any of these (or others not mentioned) activities are at an extra charge or are included in cruise fare?
Thanks in advance!

Next up: Diamond Princess 11/20/04!

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Great Review! What were the daily hours of the fitness center? Was it difficult to get time on a tread mill or stepper? Did they offer any group classes? TIA for any info you can pass along. We sail on the Diamond on 5/22/04.

Royal Majesty 93
Celebrity Meridian 97
Carnival Destiny 98
Disney Wonder 2000
NCL Sky 2000
Celebrity Galaxy 2002
Golden Princess 2003

Diamond Princess 5/22/04
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<param name="year" value=2004>
<param name="month" value=5>
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<param name="hour" value=15>
</applet>


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Great review! I was on this sailing too, and I agree with all you said, except about Club Fusion. It didnt make any sense to me, the western theme and all. But that is neither here nor there - I wanted to chime in an mention that I was in E715, and I actually didnt realize we were even below Club Fusion until we got off the ship and I looked at our balcony from the side!!! Totally soundproof, I heard nothing from the Club, not even a peek of a bass thumping. Well done Princess!

Great review again! Thanks for letting me relive the cruise a mere day later. sigh...When is the next one????


Casey

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My schematic drawing show that Emerald deck is above Club Fusion....am I missing something???

Cruising! It's like being in the Garden of Eatin'!

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Glad to hear I'm not going crazy.. [img]http://messages.cruisecritic.com/infopop/emoticons/icon_eek.gif[/img]

We don't sail until February but I am sure looking forward to my time in E731! Did you by chance get to see it??

Cruising! It's like being in the Garden of Eatin'!

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When I would wander down that direction to talk to the steward (who I loved!) they looked nice! All pretty uniform, and I thought I would dislike being so far aft, but I actually loved it! I could dash and be at the internet cafe in less than a minute, and we could hop the elevators up to the aft sunning section, where there was a very warm pool the kids liked and a very cold...er..."refreshing" adults only pool just below us on the staggered decks. Great location with two bars nearby. Horizon court very close as well. Have fun!!!

Casey

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cydspal - We're on the Diamond in Sept, also quad balcony on Aloha. Can you please give me your impressions of the cabin upon your return?

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Thanks for the encouraging comments. Yes, the country western theme was misplaced in Club Fusion ... IMHO it should have been a post modern industrial "underground nightclub" theme. Here are some replies to your questions posted above:

CYDSPAL wrote "Since our ports are different, are there any "must-dos" or "skip-its" on the ship?"

= Everybody has their own take on the must-dos and the skip-its. For me, my must-dos are (a) any activity that helps you meet people like a shore excursion, dance class, cruise staff games, etc.; (b) production shows "Piano Man" and "Curtain Up" were worth a watch; (c) sailaways at sunset on your balcony; (d) buying the soda card on Day 1. My skip-its are (a) art auctions; (b) lotus spa workshops (that inevitably wind up becoming sales pitches on expensive products). Your Aloha Quad will be tight, but still do-able if all you plan to do is use the room to sleep and change. Just be aware your beds might all be singles and cannot be placed together. IMHO if you can do a one-time splurge on a mini-suite for Alaska, I would recommend it for your family. In Alaska, you have to do something extreme beyond in-port shopping or touring on a bus ... we helicoptored to the glaciers in Juneau, did the Chilkoot hike-n-raft in Skagway, flew on a floatplane to an isolated glacier lake in Ketchikan and river rafted in Whistler, BC.

LANDLOCKEDINAZ wrote "Can you tell me if any of these (or others not mentioned) activities are at an extra charge or are included in cruise fare?"

= The extra charges were as follows: computer courses (Excel, Photoshop, Powerpoint) were $25 for a 1 hour class; paint-your-own ceramics cost $14-$40 depending on the piece; VR Golf cost $20 for 30 min; Photographic seminar cost $10 (incl workbook); Internet Cafe cost $0.35 per min (free if you are Platinum or Elite); Slot or Blackjack Tourneys were $20 to play; Needlepoint kits were $7, Lotus Spa specialty workouts were usually $10.

AMYBETH68 wrote "How was the weather and the seas? Rough at all?"

= weather from LA to PV was cool and overcast (mid 60s); PV was sunny 86 degrees; Matz was sunny 75 degrees; Cabo was sunny 80 degrees. Going south was extremely smooth. But returning north back to LA seems to always have much more rocking of the ship this time of year. Arrived in San Pedro Harbor under drizzling rain. We brought light jackets and were glad we did.

HENCOLL wrote "What were the daily hours of the fitness center? Was it difficult to get time on a tread mill or stepper? Did they offer any group classes?"

= The Lotus Spa gym was open from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM everyday (except the final night when it closed at 8:00 PM). Mornings through early afternoon were by far the busiest on sea days and you signed up for a time slot at the entrance to the fitness room. After 3:00 PM, only half of the aerobic machines were used everyday. On Port Days, you had your pick of the litter until sailing time. Group classes offered (free): 7:30 AM stretch; 8:00 AM aerobic or step or kickbo. Periodically there would also be a pulse cycling ($10); yoga or pilates ($10); and a couples massage seminar ($49).

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Seattlekckckc
Who was your steward? Was it Michael. We were on the 3/27 sailing and in that section. He did something that I thought he would get fired for so I am curious as to who you had.

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Hello! I did have Michael, I think he is a really nice guy! I am interested in hearing about what happened, can you email me with details??? Thanks, Casey

[email]kckckc@attglobal.net[/email]

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Yes I will. Rather do that than say something bad on the board. Loved him!! So glad to hear that he was not fired!

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