My mother wanted to take a cruise to Alaska and offered to pay for my air tickets from Maui. How could I refuse? We booked this cruise strictly on price, I got an inside cabin for $449 75 days prior to embarkation. Last minute, indeed.
I was excited to cruise on Diamond because I had not been on that ship yet. I cruise mainly with Princess and have enjoyed all of my trips with them. That being said, this itinerary was my least favorite, but not because of the ship.
Note to self: Stay in warm climates.
Embarkation in Vancouver was okay. A bit chaotic and a lot of waiting. Mom wanted to board right away in the morning, this was primetime and we did wait for a bit and then were herded far too much for my liking. I had left the ship at 3 pm and noticed the only back up in the afternoon was at customs.
Vancouver is a wonderful city, the Pan Pacific was right on the dock and they take your luggage from your room to the ship. We used LandSea Adventures for a Vancouver city tour and it was worth every penny. The room at Pan Pacific was luxurious with a fabulous view of the harbor and the cruise ships. We also used the free shuttle to Capilano Park, which was amazing.
Our cabin was an interior cabin on the Baja deck. It was in the far front of the ship. I found this to be great access to the Spa, but it was a long walk to anywhere else. It helps if you stay on your own floor and walk to the elevator that is closest to your final destination. You certainly get lost a lot less. The cabin was clean, functional, and served all of our needs perfectly. Our cabin steward was a bit shy and never interacted with us.
We ate at the Horizon Court and the dining rooms. I much prefer the dining room for meals. Breakfast was very relaxed in the International Dining Room and we at dinner at Santa Fe dining room multiple times because Boris, the Maitre D' was so accommodating. We also enjoyed a fantastic dinner at the premium restaurant, Sabatini's. Don't let anyone talk you out of this option. $20 is a great price for a cooked to order multi-course Italian dinner with lobster.
I usually purchase the coffee card, but I did not do that on this cruise. I found that packing Starbucks VIA and a coffee mug was a great option for wonderful coffee. I don't drink the stuff on the ship unless it comes from the deck 5 bar. That's the only place it's fresh brewed with coffee grounds.
Lotus Spa is okay. But let me warn you, I am extremely jaded. I was a Spa Manager and I currently own a massage business so I really prefer a highly skilled massage to a rubdown. I did book a discounted massage in the spa on a port day and I was highly disappointed. I should have taken my $100 and threw it overboard. The spa locker room was trashed and remained that way for most of the time I was in there. The upside is that there is an excellent steam room in the ladies locker room which you can use for free.
While in the locker room the guest who was dressing at the same time as me did remark that she had just had the best massage of her life. So, there you go. Two opinions on opposite ends of the spectrum. Same day. Same spa. Decide for yourself.
It was too cold to use any of the pools, hot tubs or Movies Under the Stars. I pretty much stayed off the deck except for College Fjord. College Fjord was many times more beautiful than Glacier Bay. We did not see much wildlife from the ship, just a few sea otters and a bird or two.
Skywalkers is a great place to watch the ship come into port. It is also a great viewing spot for the days in the glaciers. It's warm and there is a panoramic view.
We attempted to watch some of the entertainment, but I was not impressed. There is a variety, singers and dancers, comedian, ventriloquist, etc. I prefer trivia and bingo. Those events were fun and well run.
Debarkation in all of the port cities was flawless with no issues. Plenty of public transit to get you where you want to go in Ketchikan and Juneau. Skagway is a very small place within walking distance of the ship.
We booked our excursions on our own. Avoid the lumberjack show in Ketchikan if you are as cynical as me. It was silly and stupid. Good for the kids I suppose.
Overall the Diamond Princess did not disappoint. The staff was friendly and accommodating, the food was great, the facilities were in great shape.
Debarkation in Whittier was, again, flawless. Organized chaos and done well. We opted for a ride to the Hospitality Center in Anchorage and then caught an airport shuttle from there. They have luggage check so you can enjoy downtown Anchorage on your own. If you are there on a Saturday and Sunday, the flea market is not to be missed. Some of the best purchases of the whole trip and excellent food. A 5-minute walk from the Hospitality Center.
Anchorage airport is easy, has excellent amenities such as free wifi and was a pleasure.
Enjoy your Alaska cruise. You'll want to go to the Carribean next. :)