We flew from Toronto Ontario to Vancouver Airport where we checked in with the Princess Hostess for our transfer to the ship. We collected our luggage from the airport carousel, walked twenty steps to turn it over to the the Princess Representative, and never saw our bags again until they arrived outside our stateroom shortly after we boarded Diamond Princess This was probably the greatest feature of using Princess transfers. No luggage to haul from airport to bus, and from bus to pier.
We arrived at the Port of Vancouver to be directed into a line with thousands of other passengers waiting to board either Diamond Princess or a HAL ship also sailing that same day. We shuffled along at a snails pace for the better part of two hours. First going through a Security check and then clearance by U.S. Customs. This was so unlike the usually efficient and relatively trouble free boarding process we encountered on our 12 other cruises. Never again will we sail out of Vancouver until someone assures me that the broken boarding process has been fixed!!!
Having sailed a number of times with Princess, we pretty well knew what to expect insofar as stateroom accommodations are concerned. Our ocean view stateroom was the usual compact 180 square feet, (more or less), but was so well laid out that, much to my surprise, we did not need all of the storage space provided. The hard working stateroom steward provided the usually friendly and efficient Princess service. I also want to take this opportunity to thank and applaud all of the staff and crew aboard Diamond Princess. These folks go out of their way to accommodate their guests in every way possible. No request seems too great or unusual that they don't find a way to fulfill it.
We ate our dinners in the dining room and our meals at breakfast and lunch were almost equally divided between the dinning room and the Horizon Court buffet area. The meals in the dining room were not of the caliber served in a Five Star restaurant, but they were certainly the equal of any good mid-priced restaurant ashore in either Canada, or the U.S. In my opinion, the selection was varied enough to satisfy all but the most picky eaters. Because I like my meals hot, I was pleasantly surprised to find exactly that in the Horizon Court. While past shipboard buffet products were, at best, warm, Princess has, for the most part, figured out a way to keep food hot in the buffet areas. The outdoor grill serving hot dogs and hamburgs however seemed to have a real problem serving a "hot" hot dog. After the first "cold dog" I always asked them to put it on the grill for a few more minutes. When hot, the "dogs" are delicious. The pizza station, not far from the grill, served a reasonably tasty product, and we went back a number of times. It was also a treat to find Diamond Princess serving draft beer. After all, a cold draft is an almost essential accompaniment to pizza or hot dogs.
The entertainment in the Princess Theater provided the usual variety of production shows by the Princess ensemble of singers and dancers. The remaining entertainment in the Theater included several stand up comedians. Although two of the three were very entertaining, these guys should get together to talk about their act. After hearing a very humorous description of his stateroom and the unique toilets used on the ship from the first comedian, it became quite stale by the time the third guy did almost the same routine several days later. The final production show had to be cancelled because of an equipment malfunction. Instead, all of the performers collaborated to put on a multi-act cabaret type show. It was by far the best entertainment of the voyage. One disappointment though was the length of the production shows, which lasted barely 30 minutes. On Golden Princess in February, 2012 the production shows put on by the Princess singers and dancers lasted 45 to 60 minutes. I hope this shorter program is not going to become a Princess standard!
Alaska is an amazing place that everyone should visit at least once. We stopped at KETCHICAN where we toured the town; SKAGWAY, where we rode the White Pass and Yukon Railway, (a must do!!!); and JUNEAU where we rented a car and drove the 25 or so miles to the end of the road, stopped to see some of the sights and visited the "Big W boutique", (Walmart), to pick up some sundries and souvenirs. I don't know how an isolated state capital, with no road in or out, manages to function, but they do. GLACIER BAY and COLLEGE FJORD, both with an abundance of glaciers, were breathtakingly beautiful.
Our cruise ended in Whittier Alaska, where we had an orderly and efficient disembarkation. Because we had purchased "Princess Transfers" buses were waiting to take us on the 90 minute trip to Anchorage airport. Our luggage was handled somewhat like the transfer from the airport at the beginning of the cruise. We left our luggage outside our room the previous night, and did not see it again until we picked it up from a secure room at Anchorage airport. Great program!!!