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taxatty

Diamond 6/19 Review (Long and Belated--Part I)

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Friday, June 18th—a little background info first. DW and I are forty-something seasoned travelers in the USA and Western Europe by train and car, but our only prior cruise was a recent 3 day quickie on the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas with our kids from our hometown of Miami. Even though that was an older boat, we greatly enjoyed that ship’s above average food and superb cabin and dining room service. Only issue was an outside room which was barely big enough to allow a change of mind. Since we decided as a result of that trip we liked cruising, we booked the DP. I do all of our own trip planning on the Internet, with extensive research, price checking, etc. Frankly, we haven't had good experiences using TAs, although maybe we just haven't found the right one yet. Doing it yourself does necessitate a working knowledge of Internet travel sites and a considerable number of hours on the computer. However, I like doing it. If you don’t want to bother doing this use a TA. We generally travel on a 4* level, sometimes 3* and rarely 5*.

 

Sorry for that longwinded statement, but forgive me, I’m an attorney (you can probably tell from “taxatty”)—I can’t help it.

 

I booked the cruise for DW and I (no kids this time) last December as one of the “Specials” on the Princess web site. I only intended to get an outside balcony room, which is what I first booked. However, the next day, in checking the Princess web site again for laughs (to be repeated about 500 times until we left) a minisuite offer for the same cruise showed up at only around $100 PP more than the balcony, so I called Princess and upgraded our reservation. We started as an AD, and ended up an AC (D203 on the starboard side) a few days later. No further visits from the upgrade fairy, despite checking numerous times, prayers, and sacrificing a chicken.

 

The only nonstop flight from Miami to Seattle is the Alaska Air 8:00 AM daily flight. (Nothing like a 3000 mile trip to take a cruise—our last trip to jump on a ship was about 10 miles). However, the mountains in Alaska are slightly higher than those in South Florida, where a 2 foot hill gives a panoramic view. Left a little late, but we arrived at Sea-Tac Airport around 11:30 AM and caught a cab to the Marriott Waterfront—about a 20 minute ride and a $30 fare plus tip. The Marriott is a very nice, new hotel directly across the street from Pier 66. We got a $169 rate through AAA. (Alas, Celebrity and Norwegian leave from Pier 66—Princess and HAL leave from Pier 30 well down the street). The room was quite good with a view of the waterfront.

 

We spent most of the day walking around Pike Place Market, with lunch at Lowell’s (good sandwiches—reasonable prices, water view), followed by a bus ride (monorail down due to recent fire) to Seattle Center to see the Experience Music Project. Museum. I am a huge 1950’s -1970’s music fan, but I would only rate the EMP slightly above average. The Northwest Music, Beatles, Milestones, and Jimi Hendrix exhibits were interesting, and it was great to see the original cheesy Batman, Robin, and Superman costumes (don’t ask me what they have to do with music.) Fortunately, the adjoining Science Fiction Museum grand opening was today, so we got to see it as well for a total price of $12.95. It was also about average, but worth the price of admission to see Captain Kirk’s original chair from the Star Trek TV show and the robot from Lost in Space.

 

Dinner across the street from the hotel at Anthony’s Bell Street Diner (the downstairs casual restaurant.) Delicious hot creamy seafood dip, halibut and salmon, and reasonable prices.

 

Saturday, June 19th—I woke up early to try to see the DP pass by. However, at 6:10 AM, she was already docked, as I could see from the front of the hotel. We took a Marriott limo to Pier 30 ($10, much cheaper than a Princess transfer)—looks like a brand new facility. We arrived around 10:10 AM, only waited around 10 minutes to check in through a short line. The girl at the counter said boarding would begin around 12 noon. However (maybe because the ship arrived early), boarding started shortly after 11, and we were on board by 11:45 as probably one of the first hundred or so to get on. While we were waiting in line, we happened to meet Julie (Lovin Life on this board) who was leading a group of 153 people. Julie warned us that 50 or so of her group were running late due to a late flight out of Chicago.

 

Our D203 minisuite is huge and beautiful. The large open Dolphin Deck balcony that many here seem to dislike is fine with us. It holds a small table big enough for two to eat on, and four chairs, two which recline and have cushions. The room is more than double the size of the one on our last cruise, and in fact is bigger than some of the expensive hotel rooms we have stayed in over the years. The closet is quite big and comes with a lot of wooden hangers. There are several small drawers and a lot of shelf space. The desk is good sized (typing this now on it), as is the bathroom. The bathroom has very nice green and white tile everywhere, a large counter (but with only one sink), two small shelves on the side of the sink and in the shower. The tub/shower is plenty big with sufficient hot water and pressure, but I’m six feet even, and my head is very close to the top. Having a tub (only in a minisuite or suite on the DP) is welcome. Lotus Spa soaps, shampoo, conditioner and lotion are supplied. Two large towels for the pool are set out separately. Two TVs, but not sure why, since they are close together with no way to close off the sitting area. The bed has a firm mattress and is very comfortable. The sofa bed is good-sized. A berth folds out in this room above the sofa bed. This room would be plenty big enough for us and our kids (14 and 13) if they were here, and didn’t mind sharing one bathroom. One suggestion to Princess--it would have been nice if there had been a screen or some other way to close of the area between the beds and the sitting area to allow for more privacy and the simultaneous use of the TVs, but none exists.

 

Note—at least from our view, the balconies on the Dolphin and Caribe decks seemed significantly larger (deeper) than the ones on the decks above.

 

Our cabin steward is Noel, and his service was exceptional. We asked for robes and got them immediately, and he got our safe open, which the prior inconsiderate room occupant left closed.

 

For dining, we booked traditional second seating—I wanted late seating since we would be doing late-running shore excursions this trip. After checking the stateroom, we walked down to Sabatini’s to make dinner reservations for next Friday night at 6:00, our anniversary (early dinner that night to try to spend some time in Victoria, if we make it there). We were the first people there, and the process took about 10 seconds. After walking around the ship for a few minutes, I then remembered that I wanted to see if we could switch to Sterling for one night (we are steak/prime rib people). One phone call to the Concierge Service did this, but for 6:20 instead of our desired 7:00. Beware—this was only about ½ an hour after we boarded, so book early.

 

Lunch at the Horizon Court was a decent 6 on a 10 scale. It has a fairly small selection for a buffet, but decent quality. The rockfish and cold roast beef were particularly good. People seemed confused on how to enter the buffet, and find seats, but thanks to this board we knew we could start at any station and find plenty of seats towards the back. Later in the afternoon, we had a slice of pepperoni pizza from Prego on Deck 14—fresh, hot and good flavor but underdone crust.

 

A nice Princess Person, Mandy, gave us a tour of the ship with about 15 others. This ship is G-I-G-A-N-T-I-C! It is absolutely beautiful from what we have seen so far. As Julie warned us the boat left about 45 minutes late per Captain Pickford’s announcement due to the late-arriving passengers.

 

Dinner at the International Dining Room was above average—excellent service from our Polish waiter and assistant—Adam and Magdalena. Not so great watery shrimp cocktail, but good onion rings (from tonight’s “extra” menu—Sterling), prime rib and strudel for dessert. The evening ended with a decent Welcome Aboard show with singer/comedian Duncan Tuck, a talented guitarist as well.

 

Getting to this dining room is the only convoluted how-to-get-there issue on the DP. If you take stairs instead of the aft elevators, you have to go up and down a couple of decks to get there—just follow the signs. We were told that the location of the central kitchen causes this situation.

 

Pea soup fog around 10:30 PM (with a loud foghorn) at bedtime, and it’s cold on the balcony!

 

More to come.

 

Les

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Les,

 

Thanks for part 1 of your review. Very enjoyable. Looking forward to part 2.

Lynda

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Great review! Since I won't be able to go to Alaska for some time, I am living vicariously through these reviews.

 

JON

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No further visits from the upgrade fairy, despite checking numerous times, prayers, and sacrificing a chicken.

Next time, try leaving some Beluga caviar and a bottle of Cristal Champagne out for the Upgrade Fairy. I've been told that is the preferred bait.

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Upgrade fairy is an ulgy nautical myth, she has never put one pixie dust sprinkled toe near my cabin, so.... pBBBBBBBBBt.

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