Our cruise holiday started in Sydney Australia. We boarded the Beautiful Diamond Princess on 4 January 2010, bound for Auckland New Zealand. We were totally amazed when the taxi pulled up a the wharf at the sheer size of the ship, the Diamond being much bigger than the ships we previously sailed on. Boarding was to commence at 12.00pm but as we had to check out of our hotel we were able to leave our luggage at 11.00am without any problems. Check in was relatively smooth. It probably took about 45 minutes to board the ship. Before we entered the terminal we were given the forms we needed to fill in. The only small hiccup there was that the lady gave us immigration forms for only the adults and when we got to the customs desks we were told that we needed to fill in an immigration form for the kids as well so we held up the queue slightly while we filled them in.
After going through customs we received our room keys/tags and then after a photo we were able to board the ship. Our luggage was waiting for us in our room when we arrived. My first impression of the ship was that it was absolutely beautiful, extremely well kept and beautifully decorated. The open decks were nice, the pools were lovely, all the bars and lounges were very clean and well decorated. I particularly liked the furnishings in the Wheelhouse Bar. The Atrium was very nice, but if I was to nit-pick I would say I preferred the Atrium on the Sun Princess, as it spanned an extra deck.
We went to the buffet for our first meal on the ship, and it was nice. There was plenty of seating and the layout was good, I never really experienced a long queue at the buffet although my husband and I didn't really use the buffet all that much, but the kids loved it. We had anytime dining and it worked well for us. We tried all of the four anytime dining venuew and only had to wait once in the 12 days. The food was tasty although not quite the quality I would expect in a high end restaurant on land.
We travelled with my mum and our three daughters aged 13, 11 and 7. We met the kids club staff on the first evening. Our oldest daughter, having only just turned 13, was not comfortable in the teens so she was allowed to go into the 10-12 yr group with our second daughter. Both girls had sign out priviledges and we trusted them to come and go as they pleased (with a few rules. Our 7 yr old was in the 7-10 age group. The girls did enjoy the kids club througout the cruise although the older two girls preferred to just meet up with their new friends and then sign out and go to the pools etc. We hardly saw our middle daughter as she much preferred to hang out with her friends.
We went to most of the shows and they were all pretty good. There seemed to be plenty of choice in the day also. I would say though that if you are looking for constant fun, entertainment and night life that P & O Australia is slightly better at engaging the passengers than Princess, probably partly due to the age demographics.