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January 29 ? February 5, 2005
Ports of Call: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas
Cruise Experiences: This was our 17th cruise with Princess (168 days total) and our 44th cruise overall.
This was our first time aboard the magnificent Diamond Princess. Our last Princess sailing was in April of 2004 aboard the Sun Princess. The Diamond Princess is a mega ship checking in at 115,875 gross tons and a passenger capacity of about 2800. She was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagasaki, Japan and was just under a year old when we sailed.
Check in was great for us as Captain?s Club Elite Members (16+ cruises). We were also pleased to see that the rest of our group (36 folks in all) passed through the check in process quite quickly as well. We had traveled by chartered bus from Las Vegas and arrived at the San Pedro World Cruise Center at 1:15PM. Total time from the bus until we were aboard the ship was about 15 minutes.
Disembarking was a whole different story. It took us 45 minutes in line to clear immigration!! The worst mess we have ever seen to disembark a cruise ship. We had expected to have our bus depart at about 10:30; however, the last of our group did not get to the bus until 11:45 and our departure was at noon. Moral: Don?t book an early flight if you are disembarking in San Pedro on a large ship. I did not deduct any points from my overall rating because the delays were not caused by Princess, but by Homeland Security and I cannot fault them for doing their job to protect us.
We had ocean view stateroom #E408 on the Emerald Deck. The room was almost identical the rooms we had aboard the Grand and Golden Princesses. Quite large as cruise ship staterooms go. I really enjoyed the little detailing that was evident in the room. Some of the extra touches included crown molding, a wood trimmed archway between the closet, bathroom area and the bedroom area. I would rate the stateroom as excellent to outstanding. We used the queen bed configuration and there was ample room on both sides of the bed to navigate. Stateroom did include a refrigerator which in our case was stocked at no charge because of Captain?s Club Status. Bathroom was typical of cruise ships except the floor was beautifully tiled rather than the typical institutional look. Shower was small but worked very well. I experienced no change in water temp. Supplied amenities were excellent (Lotus Spa soap, shampoo, conditioner, hand lotion, nail file, Q-tips and cotton balls, etc.) I really don?t know if these were upgraded in any way because of our CC status.
Restaurants and Food:
There are four dining rooms aboard the Diamond each capable of handling several hundred passengers. The main dining room for traditional dining (early and late seatings) is the International Dining Room located on Deck #6 aft. The ?Anytime Dining? took place in the Vivaldi and Sterling Dining Rooms on the Plaza Deck #5 Midship and in the Santa Fe and Pacific Moon Dining Rooms on Fiesta Deck #6 Midship. All of these Dining Rooms featured the same daily menu plus a second ?themed? menu which does not change nightly. The Vivaldi (where our group dined) was themed Italian. The Sterling was a steak house. The Santa Fe was themed Southwestern/Mexican while the Pacific Moon was Asian themed.
Breakfast and lunch were served in the International Dining Room (open seating) and in the Horizon Court Buffet (Deck #14 Midship). The quality and variety of the food was excellent throughout the cruise. We ate all of our dinners in the Vivaldi with the exception of our final night when we visited the Sterling Steak House. Most of our breakfasts and lunches were in the Horizon Court. Selections were all great; however there is no ?cooked to order? egg station. I am no fond of the large oval plastic plates used in place of a tray and smaller dishes. Missed the china used on Celebrity. The coffee all over this ship was outstanding!
There were the usual mix of musical revues and guest entertainers spread throughout the ship in various lounges and of course in the theater. They also had the usual audience participation show (newly wed game, weakest link, etc.). Their show times and locations were quite a challenge to figure out and mad it a job to plan your evening?s entertainment. I felt the Diamond Princess Singers and Dancers did an outstanding job. This troupe was somewhat larger (in number) than we have seen on other ships.
Cruise Director Bill Hygate did a creditable job, but I would not rate him as exceptional. Terry Belanger and the Diamond Princess Orchestra were very, very good.
For an after-show drink and dancing, I would recommend the Wheelhouse Bar. A great, comfortable lounge with fantastic furnishings. The dance floor is exceptional and the music by the Arc Trio and Thelma?s Trio was great.
Club Fusion is not to be missed. Unlike any lounge I have ever seen with 29 large flat screen TV?s and very unique seating selections. The Fusion Band ?Derringer? is very good, but someone needs to tell them there are other settings on their amps besides high! Their music approaches the threshold of pain!
The Grand Casino was the best I have seen on a cruise ship! And, since I live in Las Vegas I?ve seen a lot of casinos! There was actually room to walk around in this casino. They did not cram in all that they could as they do in most shipboard casinos.
Other: The pool areas were great, especially the indoor pool. The exercise room in the Lotus Spas was the best I?ve seen. The ship featured a ?true? internet caf? again the best I?ve seen aboard ship. It even had a Coffee Bar, so you could have your Mocha brought to you computer station.
The gift shops were well stocked and stayed open most nights past 10 PM. The p[photographers were around the ship but never intrusive. Announcements over the ships intercom were kept at a minimum.
Ports of Call:
Since this was our 14th trip to these ports of call, the only shore excursion we took was a Glass Bottom Boat Ride (booked on the pier at Cabo - $12 each). It has been several years since we last did this and we are very glad we did so this time. It is the season for the Gray Whale migration and I got some great video of the whales! At the other ports we simply wandered around on our own and discovered some new spots we had not seen on previous visits.
The Diamond Princess is the most beautiful cruise ship we have ever been on. The attention to detail and the ?fit and finish? is breathtaking! While on board we booked a Panama Canal 15-day cruise aboard the Coral Princess from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco for May 2006. I would rate this ship a 9.7 on a scale of 1 ? 10.