After 17 cruises this was our first cruise on Princess. Overall an impressive line and ship. The outside cabin we elected was spacious with an unusual twist of a large open closet across from the bathroom and parallel to the cabin door instead of being located just instead the cabin behind the open door. It made for easier access and larger space. The food was on par with most other cruise lines. A minor exception was a choice of ice or hot tea and coffee are the only no additional cost beverages that appear to be on offer. But like In-N-Out Burger there are off menu items available if you ask. I saw cranberry juice and lemonade requests satisfied with no problem. The ice cream station was a big bonus on this ship. Always available at the appropriate time and not crowded. Movies under the stars with the big screen above the pool with popcorn available was also a big hit.
This ship has several smaller dining rooms instead of the usual 2 large ones. We had some mixed feelings on this. Apparently Princess was trying out some different ship features when this ship was built. I heard from a well renown ship historian aboard, the Skywalkers Lounge area above the rear of the vessel did not meet expectations and is being dismantled on this class of ships. Hopefully "The Sanctuary" will meet the same fate. You will be required to use alcohol based hand rub as you enter the Horizon Grill. It's really a good thing as some lady named Nora is out there potentially spreading a nasty virus that has dry docked several cruise ships in the past!
The cleanliness and the decor of the ship was superb. Not bright or garish, but simple and elegant. Tours were well organized by the staff. The tender service was very efficient despite the size of the ship. The staff were very cordial and helpful. The Cruise Director Warren and his Assistant Matt were like a comedy duo. The best pairing I've seen to date.
The only negatives I have of this ship is the size of the gym or fitness area is very small for this size ship. Passengers were routinely waiting for treadmills. On the New Zealand/Australia itinerary it was cool or cold with high winds across the decks, making the normal alternative of walking around the promenade deck discouraging. The hours of the gym were also very limited with an opening time of 7 AM. Several of the most popular tours started before 7 AM. Early morning workouts are one of the most popular times for many passengers. The spin classes offered were exceptional with a great recreational staff leading them. The "Sanctuary Area" established above the spa-fitness area of the ship probably by some marketing guru at Santa Clarita for a fee of $10 -$20 day or half day is underutilized. I personally hate the decision the cruise lines are making toward putting in these cordoned off areas. If I pay the price to be on the cruise ship, I should have access to all public areas without an additional fee. I suggest on the next refurbishment of the ship, the fitness area should be expanded and the Sanctuary dismantled or at least greatly downsized.
The other negative feature is the main showroom is too small to accommodate all the passengers wanting to see the early seating of their production shows. You have to arrive around 20 to 30 minutes early or you will be standing. At least 50 were standing for every show we attended. I heard this complaint from several passengers. The issue I think is with the advent of anytime dining and the prevailing age of the passengers on this ship and itinerary, most will attend the first seating. However It's a very nicely designed theater with no columns. But one of the first I have seen in years on a ship this size lacking a balcony. They need to add about another 25 seats perhaps on each side . Maybe another consideration when the ship is in for refurbishment.
A few other tips about the Diamond Princess. As she typically makes long Pacific rim cruises, so very considerate of the passengers need to clean their clothing during these long voyages, there are laundromats handily available on most decks. The machines take US quarters, but there is a $1 bill changer machine in the laundry. The Washing machines are $2, the dryer is $2 , and detergent is$1.25. It will take 2 cycles of the dryer to get your clothes dry. So plan on $7.25 to wash a load of clothes. Bring several singles to avoid going to the purser. There are also 4 no charge irons and ironing boards in the laundry. There was 2 currency changing machines aboard. The exchange rate fee was about $4.50. We typically used the ATMs on shore as advised by most travel books to convert currency. US swipe designed credit cards were not an issue in New Zealand or Australia like they are becoming in Europe.
In our cabin there was a wall mounted hair dryer and 2 additional 110 volt plugs. Also a small refrigerator that you could put your own drinks in. There was a 19 inch flat panel TV where you could access the line in plugs to check you camera photos or video. Standard Carnival Corporation internet packages were available, with a strong enough WiFi capability to use your laptop or iPad in your cabin. But we supplemented that with Internet cafes on shore when time permitted. The ship even had a get together listed for iPad users.
I did not mention the ports on my review because this ship calls at numerous ports throughout the Pacific rim. But as others have mentioned crossing the Tasmanian Sea between New Zealand and Australia can be rough. True to form, it was so rough on our crossing the Captain had to cancel our last port of call in Southern New Zealand divert North about 800 nautical miles to the Cook's Straight between the North and South Islands in New Zealand to avoid potential 30 foot swells. As it turns out we hit three low pressure cells with the last one producing 100 MPH gale force winds and 30 foot swells outside of Hobart Tasmania. The Captain had to reduce the ship's speed to 1-3 knots at times. For a short time the ship was actually moving backwards at -0.2 knots, delaying our arrival into Hobart about 6 hours But the Captain extended our time in Hobart the lost amount and got us through a bad storm.
Disembarkation was a breeze like embarkation.
All in all a great cruise experience on Princess!