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Carquay

Diamond 8/21 Trip Report

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Passengers: 3 adults, one of them in a wheelchair Cabin: C750 From the eyes of a first-time cruiser:

 

Embarkation - Arrived at Pier 30 at 11AM. There was a long line of taxis and not a lot of instructions. We found a genial porter who took our bags and showed us where to go. There was already a long line at check-in, but we were directed to the wheelchair line where there was only one group ahead of us. There was also no line in the suite line next to us. After checking-in (the only time on the whole cruise that my mother, who does not have a passport, was asked for her birth certificate!) we were directed into another huge shed where easily 500 people were standing facing two doors. There was minimal seating for those who need it, and those chairs were all full. The crowd continued to swell until the doors opened at exactly 11:30 (I checked my watch) then - STAMPEDE!!! Since there were several security lines, that went fairly quickly. I pushed the chair up the long, long ramp, we boarded the faux-wood flooring of the Promenade Deck, smiled for a photo and were in our cabin a bit after noon. Well, not exactly. Our cabin was not yet ready when we arrived, so we had to wait outside for about 10 minutes while the steward finished up. By 2:15 our bags had been delivered to our cabin.

Disembarkation - Claiming our luggage was a free-for-all. We were one of the first groups off, and yet it took us easily a half an hour in the vast luggage barn to find our bags which were not in order. What the h#$ll is Princess thinking??!!

 

Cabin- Our PS category aft suite on the Caribe deck was very comfortable for three people. A small but pretty arrangement of tropical flowers was waiting for us, and we enjoyed their aroma as we watched them gradually fade throughout the week - a symbol that reminded us, day after day, of the passing of our cruise. First Complaint - what's with the odor that comes from the toilets when the lid is open?!! Is it a flaw in their system? And before you blame me for any odors - it was that way when we arrived and all week. I forgot to ask the steward about it. Just keep the lid closed. There were also periodic losses of pressure - and the flushing noise?!! Really loud, even with two doors separating me from it at night.

 

As for being in the suite, thanks to this board I knew what amenities to ask for, but none were ever offered. (Do they know when you are an upgrade, is that why? Or is it just the steward?) No welcome champagne - I did not ask. Unpacking service was not offered and we did not ask. We did take advantage - twice! - of the free laundry, which was really nice. On formal night, one corsage and one boutonniere were delivered, even though there were three of us. Canapes were delivered wach night, and we took advantage of the full breakfast menu and ate on our balcony or in our suite every morning.

 

Our cabin steward was efficient and always worked around our schedule. He was not overly-friendly, but he got the job done. He seemed liked he would rather be somewhere else, as so many of the staff did. perhaps that's because many of them were just past the mid-point of their 10-month stint and wanted to go home. We tipped him when we asked for anything extra.

 

The bathroom (except for the toilet smell) was great. The jacuzzi tub - which I used often - was bigger than my tub at home, which is a good size, and the shower was really roomy. It was really nice, with three of us, to have the baths separate from the toliet/vanity. We LOVED our balcony, which was about 2-times wider than the mini-suite we should have been in. Really awesome. I kept trying to read out there but was interrupted by jumping whales!! We spent a lot of time on our balcony and felt really secluded, also enjoying the sound of the wake. If Princess' goal was to spoil these first-time cruisers, well, mission-accomplished!

 

Dining - I sampled every dining venue except for the hamburger grill. the pizza was fine. On embarkation day, only the Horizon was open for lunch. We tried to get into the Int'l but they said it was closed for a private party. The Horizon was already mobbed by 12:45 of embarkation day! We only ate there one other time - just after leaving Ketchikan on Thursday. Big mistake - big line. Forget any sort of "food stations". They have it set up as a one-way line. The space was cramped, although the variety and quality, when we ate there, were good. hand sanitizers at the entrance. Lunch in the Int'l, though not as varied, was better with a wheelchair and was never crowded on port days.

 

Anytime Dining was generally fine for us. We only had trouble making a rez for the time we wanted once, and even then they just offered us another restaurant, which was fine.

Pacific Moon - our favorite. We really liked the sushi and the service seemed better.

Sterling - Our least favorite. That was the only restaurant where we felt pressured by wine tastings and buying bottled water, etc... Didn't bother me, but the other dining staff was less pushy. One Sterling plus, though - the wine steward suggested we buy a bottle as we could have the unused portion reserved for us for another night in any restaurant. She was the only one to suggest this. Pork chop and Prime rib - excellent. Pina Colada soup tasted like a bar mixer. Beef broth was, well, broth. 3 small onion rings were disappointing.

Sabatinis - we ended up here because my SO made the rez and thought it was Vivaldi! I had not planned for us to eat there, but we went anyway. I was not that impresssed over the other restaurants, but he said it was his best meal all week! this was Monday night and it was barely half full. I only saw it full on Thursday night.

Vivaldi - food and service good. By now, we felt like there was not much difference. Since we had just eaten at Sabatinis the night before, we ordered off the main menu.

Santa Fe - Great guacamole. Service was slower, so we were late for the Thursday night show. The spicy rice pudding really was very good, and is probably what brought us back there again.

Over All Food - we were very happy with it. And I only gained 5 lbs! Avoiding the buffet was a plus. Honestly, walking through there and seeing all those people grazing off of over-flowing plates at any time of day helped to control my appetite. As for the difference in the anytine restaurants, it was so minor that if I did it again, I would just call and say, "Get us a table at any restaurant at 6:20." The Coffee - I love coffee, and I had no problem with the Princess ilk. It was fine by me. Glad I did not bring a pot.

 

Shows - The big shows were great. You really do need to arrive ONE HALF HOUR EARLY. Design flaw - in front of the wheelchair section of the theatre there is a hand rail right at eye level if you're in a chair. Staff plus - they were really good about keeping interlopers out of the disabled seating section. The one-man shows were so-so, but mom seemed to like them, and that's what counted. And I repeat, GET THERE A HALF HOUR EARLY! especially on Thursday night 9 the night Santa fe held us up.) The only daytime stuff we did was Jeopardy which was fun. We did not gamble. The internet lounge was not crowded (and free to suite guests!). One funny thing - I stopped into the Wheelhouse to read and mom took a nap as it was a quiet, secluded oasis. I had not read my patter and gradually it began to fill with a noisy trivia crowd. WARNING: READ YOUR PATTERS!

 

Lotus Spas - we had wonderful massages, mom had her hair done up very nice, the sauna was good and hot - appreciated by this Swede, the weight room was not crowded, the staff was efficient but indifferent (as I said so many were on this ship).

 

The Ship - was beautiful. The decor was understated and classy. I had never travelled with someone in a wheelchair before, so one thing that stood out to me was that the only clear route through the ship at any time when housekeeping carts were in the aisle was on deck 7. We did a lot of going down, crossing the ship, then going down again.

 

On Shore - Juneau: mendenhaal and whale watching tour - could have spent more time at Mendenhaal and less on the catamaran, but we DID see plenty of whales. Skagway - following advice here, we drove the Klondike Hwy to Emerald Lake. I can't even begin to describe the majesty of the landscape, so I won't try. It was fun to see the Whitepass Train across the gorge. This was by far our best day, at least for me. We arrived in Carcross when several Princess tour buses were there. As soon as they left it was a ghost town, with a gift shop and a Haagen Das shop. Yes, we had some ice cream. TIP:The Carcross visitors center is a great place for a restroom break! Yukon Wildlife: A Canada Goose, a gopher, a bumble bee and gnats.

Tracy Arm - breath-taking. we did not even need to be up on deck to enjoy the view. Our aft-balcony was more than adequate. ketchikan - too short a stop, and, just like the others, too full of tacky souvenir shops. I took a walk up in the residential streets above town and enjoyed that more than the commercial streets. Beautiful views and flowers. Carquay recommends - get up early when you arrive in skagway, and be one of the first off the ship. Walk in to town as the Whitepass trains are pulling in, while no one is around on the quiet, peaceful, deserted streets. Get a coffee at Starbucks - yes! - and fell like you have the town to yourself. Believe me, before long the streets will be MOBBED! That early morning walk is a great memory. Scenery - We were awed and would stand for long periods gazing out to sea.. On a spiritual note, I was overwhelmed again by the awesome majesty of this world and every time I travel it enlarges my idea of God.

Coninued...

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continued...

 

 

Final thoughts - This cruise experience was unique and I am still processing it. One of the first impressions I had upon returning was that compared to the many land-based vacations I have been on, staying in houses or hotels, with cruising I lacked a sense of "place." It's hard to describe, but I could not get a mental grasp of a ship as long as three football fields. We reached our cabin at the end of a long, long hall, and our only exterior sense of it was the balcony. Constanly moving and waking up somewhere new contributed to that sense of "placelessness." Maybe that's why I liked the drive into the Yukon so well. Sorry, but I'm still thinking about that sensation so can't describe it well. (we did, however, LOVE, being rocked to sleep each night!) I'm used to staying in a city for a few days, say Rome or a house in Burgundy, and getting a real feel for the place, a sense of what it is like to live and breathe there. But, the cruise experience was, for me on that level, artificial. It felt more like being on a floating amusement park that I slept in. I love amusement parks, but, of course, they are not "real" but idealized versions of real life. I did not feel like I was in life on the cruise, but like I was escaping from it. Maybe that's part of the appeal?

 

 

 

This really hit home the one night we went to see the "Princess Idol" competition. The contestant who was clearly the best in terms of talent and presence made a couple political comments after his act. The whole room went silent, as if politics did not bleong onboard this floating paradise of smiles where everyone gets along and never brings up anything controversial. Very Disney. He was clearly ahead in the running, but following his comments the judges gave the contestant after him - who was clearly the worst of the lot - all 10's and 9.75! It was really obvious that they wanted to keep him away from the mic again. Fortunately, the crowd had 50% of the vote and pushed him over the top! The cruise staff does their best to keep things light and superficial. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if there were more stimulating activities than trivia and ballroom dancing.

 

 

 

Overall, we would cruise again, and I would be happy to choose Princess. Next time, however, I will bring along a group of friends and it will be in Europe. I would love to return to Alaska - not on a cruise - but to explore the places we only got a taste of and try to get a better sense of their "place." I would easily do it again, because Mom loved it. Cruising to Alaska was he lifelong dream, and seeing the smile on her face was alone worth it.

 

 

 

Thanks to all of you who faithfully visit here to answer the same questions over and over again. The info helped me to know what to expect - and to milk that suite for all it was worth! Any questions for me, just ask.

 

 

 

carquay

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Diamond is our gal Carquay, glad you had a chance to try her, I can say this it only gets better with more cruises on her.

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Nice review !

I think that a different level of personal opinion does exist on a ship because it is so contained - so there should be more boundaries in terms of personal expression. On another board (HAL) there was a huge controversy about how one would react should a table mate - on the first night- request that all join hands in prayer. There was a general consensus- with a few loud exceptions- that felt that religion, politics and money were not good choices of conversation with strangers- at least on a ship,

I agree that in general Europe is more of a *cafe society* and topics are more freely discussed.

I do know what you mean about the sense of place- We did a cruise from London to Athens this summer and it could be almost disconcerting to have such a switch in cultures and settings without seeing the lanscape change. That said I LOVE being at see and the painless travel from one port to the next. Its more about BREADTH than depth on a cruise which isnt bad, just different.

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That was a great review of the Diamond, we will be on her in October for the mexican riviera we are booked in a Mini hopeflly we can get lucky like you did.

 

How was the cruise director on the ship? Funny, boring, or just so-so?

 

Thanks

 

Tom M

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Carquay, was the ship able to get close to Sawyer Glacier? I've heard that some of the ships haven't been able to get even close enough to view the North Sawyer Glacier.

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Thanks for the honest review. Sounds like you had a good time overall but also enjoy other types of vacations. The "unpacking" perk for suites has been eliminated. When we were on the Diamond my mom also had a wheelchair for embarkation. She doesn't need on while on the ship although she's getting slower and slower. The staff was absolutley wonderful to us for embarkation. She was met by one of the staff after our porter requested help. The staff member completely took charge and I didn't have to do a thing except follow. She got us through security and check-in very quickly and didn't leave us until we were in our room. I have nothing but compliments for the way we were treated in what was really a mad-house.

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"How was the cruise director on the ship?"

 

I think his name was Billy. He sang one evening at the beginning of a show and had a great voice. Otherwise, we just heard him make announcements so I can't judge his sense of humor. He seemed to be very personable and affable, based on his stage presense. All of his staff was friendly.

 

"Carquay, was the ship able to get close to Sawyer Glacier? I've heard that some of the ships haven't been able to get even close enough to view the North Sawyer Glacier."

 

The ship got as far as a narrower part of Tracy Arm where there is an island, just down from North Sawyer. From that point we could see both glaciers in the distance, though we were still quite a ways off. That was the point where the ise really got thick. I would like to go back there some day in a smaller boat - like we could see in the distance right next to the glacier.

 

 

Wheelchairs - Yes, although I was the primary pusher, I did see others being pushed by Princess staff. Also, at every port, there was the same gentleman who would take her up and down the gangways. I suppose that's because they were steeper. I also saw Princess staff accompanying the disabled through the buffet line, holding their plate.

 

carquay

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Thanks for the review. Glad you enjoyed it. I miss the Diamond alot. We're talking about taking another route in Alaska some day but, I don't know if I could try another ship.

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Thank you for your review! I enjoyed your "to the point" but kind, comments!

 

You painted a beautiful pic of Alaska, and I'm looking forward to our sailing next June! :D

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Embarkation - Arrived at Pier 30 at 11AM.
I know that everyone wants to get on the ship early to start their cruise vacation as soon as possible, but I find that getting to the pier about 60 to 90 minutes after embarkation starts greatly reduces the crowding. It is, of course, a trade off – an extra hour on board or less of a wait pier-side.
and the flushing noise?!! Really loud, even with two doors separating me from it at night.
Welcome to the world of vacuum toilets…and ships.
Disembarkation - Claiming our luggage was a free-for-all. We were one of the first groups off, and yet it took us easily a half an hour in the vast luggage barn to find our bags which were not in order. What the h#$ll is Princess thinking??!!
Seems this is a consistent report in Seattle – but again, a trick that I use is to wait to disembark the ship until a couple of colors have been called after yours. You’ll find your luggage on the pier pretty much alone…makes it a lot easier.

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My husband and I were on the same 8/21 Alaska cruise as Carquay. The weather really cooperated which was great since we were in one of the "uncovered" AB mini-suites. The nice weather also made the ports that much nicer, too. We are Elite and used the free laundry and dry cleaning a couple of times and also the free internet. We never had an odor in our bathroom and never heard any noise from the mini-suites on either side of us. As far as embarkation... we arrived at Pier 30 about 10:30 am and were on the ship at 11:30 pm. We were toward the front of the line but experienced no pushing or shoving and found the boarding process to be easy. Disembarkation was also easy and we found our luggage immediately. Although we had a 12:30 pm flight and were given Red 1 tags (the 1st to be called), disembarkation started early so we waited for 3 or 4 colors to be called before we disembarked, about 8:20 am... and were still at the airport way to early. As far as the food goes, the presentation and taste was very good, just as it was during the inaugural cruise, when we sailed aboard the Diamond on March 13th. The waiters were friendly and concientious, as was everyone throughout the ship. We also rented a car and drove from Skagway to Emerald Lake, armed with Yukon's milespost guide... we actually got to meet him in Carcross. The scenery was spectacular. The morning we cruised Tracy Arm, the Captain sailed the ship as close as he dared. Several of us outside at the bow of the ship, commented how close to the glacier we actually sailed before turning around. With my telephoto lens, I got a great photo of the glacier. As we entered Tracy Arm, the Sapphire was leaving, and we passed very close to each other... a definite photo op as we all waved and shouted to each other. We always enjoy cruises and this one was no exception.

 

Sandy

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Carquay and Sandy R--you made the right move renting a car in Skagway--as you saw the drive to Emerald Lake is spectacular--matches up with scenery anywhere in the world. It was our favorite part of the whole trip.

Les

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Doesn't this sound like a great cruise!?? CC is hosting a cruise to Alaska aboard the Diamond Princess in 2005 departing Seattle June 4th! June is a great time to visit Alaska and this cruise is before the height of the summer season when rates are lower and the towns less crowded (especially Skagway!)... For rates and booking information please follow the link below the signature or email me at carocruiser@aol.com

 

The Diamond Princess cruises Tracy Arm???? Don't you want to see this in person?:)

 

wpeA1.jpg

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