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sboh

Diamond Princess 07/17/04-07/24/04 review

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Returned late last night from our first trip to Alaska. As expected, it is an amazing place. My husband and I traveled with our two sons who are 10 & 13. We have spent the last two summers touring this country's great National Parks so we were really looking forward to seeing Alaska. Our only other cruise was to the Caribbean for our honeymoon in 1988.

We flew into Seattle on Thursday evening and since we didn't arrive until 11pm we stayed at one of the airport hotels (Fairfield by Marriott) that offered a free shuttle from the airport and complimentary breakfast. This worked out great. The next morning we took a town car to the Marriott Waterfront Hotel. There is a shuttle that runs between the airport hotels and the downtown hotels but at $10.00pp it was better for us to take the town car offered by the front desk for $35.00 plus tip. Nice ride and no stopping at the other hotels. After we dropped our bags at the Marriott Waterfront we took a cab to the Space Needle and rode the Ducks of Seattle. This was a fun tour (especially for the kids) that gave us a nice overview of the city and took us to places (Pioneer Square and Lake Union) that we would not have had time to get to ourselves. The amphibious part of the tour goes onto Lake Union where the houseboats are, and float planes take-off and land. After the tour we went up the Space Needle which is right across the street. It was a beautiful day, mid-80's and sunny, so we had a great view of Seattle and Mt. Rainer. I would highly recommend the Marriott Waterfront if you're staying in Seattle pre or post cruise. It is a beautiful hotel in a great location. We walked across the street to Anthony's Pier 66 for dinner and on Saturday morning walked to Pike Place Market for coffee at the original Starbuck's and had some wonderful French pastries a few doors down from Starbuck's for breakfast. There is a public elevator just to the right of the Marriott (if you're looking at the hotel) that takes you to a walkway to the edge of the market. The kids got a kick out of watching the "flying" fish.

We left the hotel at 11:15am to go to the ship at Terminal 30 and were walking onboard at 11:55! As reported by others the Diamond is a beautiful ship. We had a mini-suite on Dolphin deck and really thought this was a nice cabin for the four of us. It is listed at 354sf including a 9 X 9 balcony. It had a tub/shower in the bath which made the shower much larger than I remember on my only other cruise. Also, I did not mind the open balcony. I liked the "out there" feeling and also liked being able to look down directly to the water and not other balconies. We ended up with gorgeous weather on this cruise so we used the balcony a lot and even ordered breakfast for the morning we sailed into Tracy Arm (not the champaign breakfast-just some crossants, jam, a pot of coffee and juice and cereal for the kids-it was really nice). We also liked the dining options on this ship. We chose Anytime Dining and ate in the Stering Steakhouse twice (no extra charge on the Diamond), Vivaldi once, and Santa Fe once. We did not do the formal nights so ate in Horizon Court those nights. Overall we thought the food was very good and I especially liked the onion rings, prime rib, and New York steak at Sterling, the ravioli at Vivaldi and the rice pudding dessert at Santa Fe. You can also order anything you want from the traditional menu-don't miss the French Onion soup.

Now on to Alaska! The sail up Puget Sound was very nice-I believe it was the Olympic Mountains we sailed past the first night. When we woke up on Sunday we were in open water and I did not expect to see land that day but by 1:00 in the afternoon we were by land and remainded so until late on the day we left Ketchikan (day 6). It was more distant than when we sailed into Juneau but we definitly saw mountains the whole time (west coast of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, I believe). We also saw several Orca's from the ship this day. Very exciting.

On Monday the scenery was beautiful from the time we woke up until we sailed into Juneau at 11am. We took the Mendenhall Glacier & Wildlife Quest thru Princess and this ended up being my favorite tour. The bus driver was great and pointed out things in Juneau on the way out to Mendenhall. At the glacier we had an hour on our own, which was enough time to take pictures on the Photo Point Trail and see the movie and exhibts in the visitor's center. Then he took us to Auke Bay for the whale watch. I know wildlife is unpredictable but after seeing all we did I would have paid double for this tour. We saw Dall's porpoises, Steller sea lions, Humpback whales, Orca's and many Bald Eagles. There is no way I can describe what it is like to see Humpback whales bubble feed. We stayed with them for at least a half-hour and they even stopped the engines and dropped a microphone so we could hear them. I actually had tears in my eyes. They are just beautiful. After leaving the Humpback's another boat radioed that they had seen some Orca's so we headed over to them and got to see a pod of 5 of them. They aren't in this area everyday so it was a real treat to see them also.

The next day in Skagway we did the Valley of the Glaciers helicopter tour through Temsco in the morning. We booked this ourselves as they gave a half-price discount for our 10 year old that Princess didn't offer. If you book independent you have to get to Temsco on your own and it is a 20-30 minute walk from the ship but as we started out we noticed a city shuttle at the pier and we were able to take it to Temsco for only $1.50pp. Well worth it. The helicopter ride was nice but landing on the glacier was not quite what I expected. We went to a glacier called "No Name" glacier and didn't really get to walk around that much. There were no cravasses and no pools of Windex-blue water I've seen it other people's photos. The boys did get to sit up front though, and thought the ride was awesome. Perhaps Juneau or a pilot's choice tour would have been better? Maybe some of the veterans could address this.

We also took the White Pass and Yukon train and this was my second favorite excursion. The scenery is amazing-you really feel like you are in Alaska. We sat on the left side and since this was the 4:30 train it was not very crowded so we did not have to switch seats on the way down as there was no one sitting opposite us.

The next day we cruised Tracy Arm and we were happy to have a rest from two shore days. Tracy Arm is beautiful. We saw many waterfalls and icebergs. We saw one otter and several more eagles but no other wildlife. It was overcast and cold (in the 50's) but was fun to spend some time up on the deck on top of the bridge as the captain navigated around the icebergs. Unfortunately, we were not able to make the last turn because of all the icebergs so even though we were able to see the glacier we were not able to see where it met the water or to see it calve. On the way out of the arm we did see a large iceberg break in two and one part up-ended itself. We were on our balcony then and it made a hugh noise that had many people scrambling out to see what had happened. It was really cool. In the right place at the right time.

The next day we went to Ketchikan and believe it or not it did not rain. Actually, the weather was really beautiful the whole week. Not too hot like the weather they had for a time in June but some low 70's and sunny during the days. We used the outdoor pools three times. In Ketchikan I took the tour to Saxman through Princess and my husband and they boys went to the lumberjack show. They really enjoyed that. I also enjoyed my tour of Saxman-saw the dancers and also saw carver Nathan Jackson working on a totem pole for the city of Seattle. Our ship left Ketchikan at 12:30pm so we only had a little time to see Creek Street and shop before returning to the ship. A little more time in Ketchikan would be nice but we were happy with our visit. The day sailing out of Ketichkan was very scenic, probably my favorite, until later in the evening when we returned to open water.

After Ketchikan we sailed until 7pm the next day when we stopped in Victoria, B.C. There is a shuttle from the pier to the city (lets off in front of the Empress Hotel) for $5.00pp round-trip or you can catch a cab for $6.00. Cab is nice because there was a long line to catch the shuttle back to the pier but no waiting for a cab. They are also stationed at the Empress. We only spent about two hours in Victoria but did get some chocolates at Roger's (served at the White House and to the Queen of England), stopped at Thunderbird Park to see the totems, and walked along the waterfront where musicians were out playing. We had come to see Alaska so to us even a short visit to Victoria was a bonus.

Wow, sorry, I didn't mean to write this much. We obviously enjoyed our trip and would like to go back in a few years (when our 10 year old is 13 would be perfect I think) to cross the Gulf of Alaska and get to Denali. Until then, our thanks to all who contribute to this board-it really helped us plan and enjoy our trip.

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Thanks for an interesting account of your journey. Hope you get back to Alaska soon.

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Very good review. We have been to Alaska twice and plan to go back next year. We will be on the sister ship, the Sapphire this Oct and we also have a mini-suite so I was very interested in that part of the topic. Again thanks for the review.

 

 

Marilyn

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I loved your informative review - it was great to hear about your wonderful cruise. Did your kids go to the Kid's Club at all? We are taking our 8 year old daughter and 12 year old son - they are very curious about it. We are also doing Anytime dining - did you make your reservations ahead of time? Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience!

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We are also doing Anytime dining - did you make your reservations ahead of time?

We were on the Diamond in June and did the anytime dining, too. We called the first day, right after we boarded, and made reservations for the whole week. A couple of nights we got hungry earlier and showed up, and they were very nice about accommodating us. The Sterling fills up quickly and is the least likely to seat you other than at your specified time. We liked the Santa Fe and the Vivaldi the best.

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Thanks for the info - we are trying to decide how many nights to reserve and where. The Sterling sounds like a great place to start, but we would like to try all of them. Was the wait very long for the ones who didn't reserve?

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emmysmom-my kids did go to the Kid's Club for the icebreaker the first night (at 7pm) and seemed to enjoy it. They give you a list of the activities they are going to be doing at what time for the entire week. They each went back for a few activities the next day which is a sea day but then we had two busy port days (they did all excursions with us) so didn't get back much after that. We did take them to see a movie during the week and to see the magician/comedian at the Princess Theater since it was advertised as fun for all. Also, since we had great weather we were able to use the outdoor pools three times so they really didn't have a lot of free time. They did have a lot of activities listed like crafts, checkers/chess tournaments, putt-putt, ping-pong, etc.

Regarding the dining I made reservations for the first and last night at Sterling as we wanted to dine early (and have steak!) so the kids could get to the icebreaker and the stop in Victoria on the last night is at 7pm. The other nights we just walked in and had no trouble getting a table. I think we went to Vivaldi around 8pm and Santa Fe earlier maybe 6pm.

A note to those with traditional dining-they did adjust the dining time on the last night (5:15 for early sitting and 7:45 for late) due to the port time in Victoria.

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Thank you so much - it is great to get all this information. My kids are asking so many questions about this cruise! My daughter is a social butterfly and loves making new friends - my son is alittle more laid back and takes awhile to get into things. The putt-putt and ping-pong sounds like fun for the whole family.

I was thinking about making dinner reservations for the first few nights and then see how it goes. We also have a mini-suite on the Dolphin deck. It sounds fantastic.

We are really looking forward to our trip and are counting down the days.

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emmysmom-you will enjoy your mini-suite. There are shelves for clothes and plenty of hangers in the closet area plus much more storage space in the cabin itself. The sofa is large (3 cushion size) and two of the cushions come off to make one bed. The other bed folds down from the ceiling (you don't see it during the day-it is flush with the ceiling) and the two beds form a "L". If you push the cocktail table and extra chair all the way forward by the balcony door you can still get in and out of your balcony w/o disturbing the kids. My husband is an early riser and that's where I found him each morning.

There is also a lot of shelf space in the bathroom. The soap (and shampoo and lotion) they give you in the bathroom is from the Lotus Spa and very nice but I did find the shower a little slippery when using the soap so just be careful. I had worried about Norovirus so brought a pump bottle of anti-bacterial soap for us to use in our bathroom and that worked good for hand washing. Also, I overpacked dinner clothes for the kids. I had brought two pairs of Dockers and four shirts (button-down and polo type) for each but since we did Anytime Dining and didn't eat with the same people or in the same place each night one pair of good pants and two shirts would have been enough. Don't know about girls though). The laundry rooms are very nice (8 washers and dryers and 4 ironing boards already set-up). When you put your quarters in ($1.00 per load to wash or dry) the machine tells you how much time it will take so you can just come back.

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I am going on diamond. can you tell me how were the shows on the ship. thanks in advance.

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Well I'm probably the wrong person to ask about that as my husband and I don't go out a lot-dinner and an occasional movie is about it-but we did go to three shows on the Diamond. We saw Duncan Tuck who played guitar (rather well I thought), sang, and told a few jokes. We also saw the production show "Piano Man" which featured the music of Billy Joel, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow, etc., all popular tunes you would recognize. The other show we saw was comedy/magician Jeff Peterson. This was advertised as "fun for everyone" so we took our kids and did have a good time. There were many other things to choose from and a whole page of your daily "patter" will list all shows. I thought the Princess Theater was a very nice venue.

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It was overcast and cold (in the 50's) but was fun to spend some time up on the deck on top of the bridge as the captain navigated around the icebergs. .

 

Where exactly is that? What floor do you get off to be on the deck on top of the bridge? Is that the Skywalk Bar area?

 

We have inside cabins, so I would love to figure out where is the best place on the ship to see Tracey Arms and other wonderful scenery.

 

TIA.

 

Jennifer

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Thanks again for all your info - my kids were thrilled about the bed setup. They each want their own bed! Did you have any problems with sea-sickness? I plan on bringing some Bonine and possibly the wrist bands.

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merela-it was not Skywalkers (although you do get a nice view aft from there) but actually the bridge. It is open to everyone (not inside the bridge but the deck on top of it) and I believe we got to it from a set of stairs on deck 15 or maybe 14. We had seen people up there from our balcony so just walked forward and saw the stairs. It was cold and windy (needed hats and gloves here) but a lot of fun. They were selling hot chocolate and every now and then the man would yell ice cream! or use two glasses as binoculars and pretend to see a bear, etc.

emmysmom-I had brought Bonine too but we had a very smooth cruise, even the first day which is said to be the roughest, so did not need it at all. I would bring just bring it along just in case (I had thought my kids would need it for the helicopter ride but that did not bother them at all so maybe they're just not prone to motion sickness).

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A lot of pax also camped out in the Horizon Court buffet area to watch Tracy Arm from the windows--much warmer in there than outside.

 

Les

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