We arrived in Sydney a few days before our cruise on the Diamond departed on January 28. Sydney is a beautiful city and we enjoyed our pre-cruise stay there but were very much looking forward to boarding the ship. Sail-away day finally arrived and I walked over to Circular Quay on the morning to take a picture before boarding.
The short ride from the Four Seasons Hotel to the pier, provided by Princess, was a bit of a mess. There was no air conditioning on the bus (it’s summer now in Sydney) and when we arrived at the pier there was no place for the bus to park. We sat in the bus under the hot sun with just the door open for a bit of a breeze, for about 15 minutes before a parking space in front of the terminal opened up. Total time from boarding the bus until we offloaded was about 30 minutes. Given that the hotel is almost across the street from the pier, I could have walked there faster.
As full suite passengers we bypassed the other passengers waiting to be cleared by security and went to the head of the Elite line where we were the only passengers. We were through security in just a few minutes and were welcomed aboard around 2:00 p.m. Our last cruise was on the Sapphire in Suite Caribe 407 and this cruise we were in Suite Caribe 408. The two ships are twin sisters so Welcome Home!
Our Steward was Toon and he did a great job freshening up our suite when requested. After we unpacked we walked about the ship stretching our legs. The atrium was as impressive was I remembered from the Sapphire.
We went to an upper deck and enjoyed the view of Sydney Harbor. Afterwards we relaxed in our suite until dinner on Deck 14 at Prego, enjoying freshly made pizza. Before sail-away we went to our muster station for the emergency station drill. Soon enough it was 8:00 p.m. and time for our sail-away, which was breathtaking as the skyline receded and we passed the Opera House.
There was a full slate of activities that evening including a movie at MUTS, singers and musicians in various lounges, and a show in the Princess Theater. It had been a full day for us, however, so we turned in for the night.
The next day was at sea as we sailed to Melbourne and full suite passengers are able to enjoy breakfast at Sabatini’s. My wife had been looking forward to this ever since we booked the cruise and they didn’t disappoint. We had breakfast there almost every morning and our regular waiter Oliver was very professional and a genuinely nice fellow. The maitre d’ is Arturo and he also works as maitre d’ at Sterling Steakhouse in the evenings. He always greeted us with a broad smile and upon learning we were from Texas, a boisterous “Buenos Dias!”
After breakfast I headed back to the suite which had already been freshened by Toon. It was here that I was disappointed to find out that full suite passengers no longer receive free internet access. Being skeptical I paid for 15 minutes and logged on then went to CruiseCritic.com where a bit of searching revealed that Princess changed the policy back in July 2012. My bad for not doing research beforehand. Princess now gives full suite passengers a complimentary dinner in Sterling’s or Sabatini’s but that didn’t come close to being worth what I spend on internet charges.
After breakfast my wife headed to the spa where except for lunch she spent much of the day getting a massage, manicure, a facial, and having her hair done. She came out looking beautiful and carrying an armful of product. She’s an easy sell and doesn’t like saying no to salespeople.
I spent a couple of hours up there as well getting a shave and a mini-facial. I also had my hair washed and Alexsander, the barber, is top notch. This was only his second cruise (he boarded two weeks earlier in Auckland). It’s a lot more than just a shampoo and shave; it’s a double shaving with an extremely luxurious lather followed by a mini-facial, arm and hand massage. Prior to the shave he applied a product to my scalp and let it sit for about twenty minutes under a hair dryer. This was followed by a scalp massage that was so relaxing I fell asleep. Alexsander has the hands of an artist and I went back two more times during the cruise, it was that good. So did my wife for her massages and treatments. Gentlemen, if you’re planning on cruising on the Diamond do yourself a favor and book an appointment with Alexsander in the spa. I believe he also cuts and styles women’s hair.
We had lunch in the International Dining room and all the meals in the main dining rooms were very good. The lasagna is excellent and my wife said some of the desserts were to die for. She is a vegetarian who also eats fish and never had a problem finding something good to eat.
Before dinner we went to Skywalker’s for drinks and nibbles, where we ran into some people we met 18 months ago on our Alaska cruise! Every night there is a different $5 special drink and we went almost every evening. The view is over the stern is very tranquil and we enjoyed catching up with our former cruise-mates. We ate dinner that evening at Sterling Steakhouse. The Kansas City strip was cooked to perfection and my wife’s fish was excellent. Service was at the level I’ve come to expect at the upcharge restaurants.
Melbourne was our port on Day Three and Princess offers a wide variety of land excursions. We enjoyed a four course lunch with wine, beer and a full bar on a colonial tramcar. This tramcar from the 1950’s is tastefully decorated and outfitted with tables seating two or four people and it travels throughout Melbourne for two hours as lunch is served. Traffic brings the tram to a stop quite frequently so there are plenty of opportunities to look out the window and see the sights.
That evening we ate dinner at Sabatini’s. The buffalo mozzarella tomato carpachio was delicious and the veal chop was wonderful. My wife enjoyed her fish. We were too stuffed for dessert and that’s saying something!
Day Four we were at sea. In the morning there was a cooking demonstration in the Princess Theater where the Executive Chef, Maitre’ D, and pastry chef prepared an appetizer, entrees, and a dessert, all which are served nightly in Sterling’s or Sabatini’s. The cooktop was on stage and cameras were placed above the cooktop, transmitting the image to large monitors on the walls. When the chef sautéed garlic in olive oil on the cooktop, the smell wafted throughout the theater and O.M.G. did it smell good.
We arrived at our next port, Hobart, Tasmania, around 8:00 a.m. the morning of Day Five. Another day, another breakfast at Sabatini’s. While Princess offers a wide variety of tours in Hobart, we had chosen several months ago to hire a private tour guide who was highly recommended on Cruise Critic – Judy Livingston of Eye See Tasmania. We were a total of five guests and had a full day, visiting Port Arthur, the site of a penal colony from 1830 to 1877 and afterwards a community of military and free men, and Bonorong Wildlife Park, home to rescued animals including kangaroos, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. I posted a full review of Judy’s tour on Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor Australia and you can read it there. Tasmania is a beautiful country and the terrain we drove through reminded me of Northern California.
We had an enjoyable dinner that evening in one of the main dining rooms. While we chose Anytime Dining we enjoy sitting with other guests and discussing where we’re from and how our trip has been so far. One couple from Auckland we spoke with was on their way home from back-to-back cruises and had made this trip many times. They have been to Australia and all the New Zealand ports and cities many times and don’t even bother getting off the ship any longer; they just enjoy cruising with Princess immensely.
Days 6, 7, and 8 are sea days. On Day Six I had another shave and hair treatment scheduled at 8:00 a.m. so I ate breakfast at the Horizon Court buffet. It’s pretty hard to mess up scrambled eggs and they tasted fine. Corn beef hash was no bad and canned peaches rounded out the meal. All in all, a satisfactory and quick breakfast.
I fell asleep again during the scalp massage, which tickled Alexsander’s funny bone. My wife enjoyed another morning at the spa. That evening we went to the Princess Theater to watch the Diamond Princess Singers & Dancers production show, “I Got The Music.” Too short at only 35 minutes but the production values were high and the cast had three shows to do that evening.
The clocks are pushed back an hour both between Days 5 and 6 and Days 6 and 7. It makes for a groggy morning. Sabatini’s for breakfast, of course, and we enjoy chatting with Oliver. I asked for an Eggs Madison for breakfast (like an Eggs Benedict but with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon) and it came out just right. Day Seven was Super Bowl Sunday and screens were set up on MUTS, the Explorers Lounge, and Churchill’s Bar. We ate a quick lunch before the game and watched the blowout. I had no skin in the game so it didn’t matter much. Dinner tonight was back at Sterling Steakhouse. I had the porterhouse and it wasn’t as tasty as the Kansas City strip I had earlier. We had a special dessert, a big slice of chocolate mousse cake, since last week was my birthday. Yum!!
On Day Eight we awoke to find ourselves surrounded by the cliffs of Fiordland, more specifically, Resolute Island. The ship slowed as we passed by the impressive scenery. At 10:30 Park Ranger Hamish Angus gave a presentation in the Princess Theater on the national park. Meanwhile the daily hum of the ship carries on. Sporting events (Crazy Golf! Carpet Bowling!), music in the atrium by talented performers, lectures on art, and movies are par for the course on the Diamond.
We went to High Tea in the Pacific Moon dining room this afternoon and it was very crowded, probably due to the cooler, grey day. Service was not as good as earlier in the cruise and our table waited quite a bit for tea and sandwiches while waitstaff ran all around us to other tables. After drinks in Skywalker’s this evening we’re heading back to Sabatini’s for dinner.
Well, that’s it for the first eight days of our cruise. I’ll post a second review of the balance of the cruise after we disembark in Auckland.