Though Diamond Princess is home to a subdued, quiet atmosphere most of the time, there's a lot going onboard. Daytime fun runs the gamut from trivia and dance classes to art auctions and indoor obstacle races. Once the sun goes down, the ship is all about live music, singing and dancing. Entertainment is offered in both English and Japanese, with some offerings only offered in one language or another.
The Princess Theater, located on decks 6 and 7, serves as the ship's main theater. There, passengers can catch one of the line's traditional song-and-dance production shows. On non-production show nights, Princess offers a variety of other acts. On our sailing, a young Japanese magician performed, as did a juggling comedian, both doing shows that combined English and Japanese. Only on one evening was a show (a traditional Japanese storyteller) offered only in Japanese.
As with most traditional cruise ship entertainment, the quality of any given performer -- whether part of the ship-based troupe or a special act -- was mediocre at best. Dancers aren't always in sync, musicians strain to reach high notes, and one of our dinnermates saw the magician crawling off the stage during his disappearance finale.
Afternoon movies are shown in Princess Theater, alternating daily between English and Japanese.
You can choose to do as much or as little as you want on Diamond Princess, but you probably can't do it all. There's just too much. Trivia sessions are offered two to four times a day at various bars and lounges. Classes on offer just about every day include photography, ballroom or Latin dance, Japanese (or English) language, arts and crafts, hula dancing and even ukulele. Golf putting challenges, Ping-Pong tournaments, 60-second obstacle contests, bingo and poker tournaments are other daytime options, as is Movies Under the Stars (the daytime version), which at times showed movies in English or Japanese, as well as concerts and even round one of the finals of the Australian Rules Football championship. The casino is located on Deck 6.
One offering in which Diamond Princess is sadly lacking is destination lectures. Considering the exotic nature of the cruise itinerary, at least from a Westerner's perspective, a few lectures on the places we were going would have been appreciated.
Music and dancing are where it's at onboard Diamond Princess at night. Virtually every bar and lounge offers some kind of music and space for dancing, from light piano music at Crooners to ballroom and Latin music in Club Fusion and DJ dance music in the Deck 17 Skywalkers Nightclub. Theme nights (think 50s rockabilly, Caribbean deck party and Country & Western) are also common. With such a large Japanese contingent, karaoke is offered at least once most evenings, as are Princess Popstar competition rounds.
Not interested in music? Game time doesn't stop at night. Trivia sessions are frequently offered in the evening and at night, as is the occasional interactive game show ( "Can you tell which entertainment crewmember is lying?" or The Marriage Game).
And, of course, Princess' signature Movie Under the Stars is featured every night (weather permitting) on the Sun Deck. Nightly movies alternate between English and Japanese. Popcorn and blankets are provided free of charge.
Diamond Princess Bars and Lounges
Diamond Princess offers a nice selection of bars and lounges. Not a party ship in any way, Diamond Princess' venues are comfortable, quiet places to read books during the day and easygoing places to chill with cocktails in the evening.
Churchill's Cigar Lounge: This tiny bar, only open in the evening, is where smokers can go to indulge in a cigar and watch sports on TV. Despite attempts at ventilation, Churchill's always smells like smoke.
Club Fusion: Regardless of its techno-sounding name, Club Fusion is actually the place to go on Diamond Princess for ballroom and Latin dancing. A large dance floor is the perfect setting for dance lessons during the day and the best place to test out your new moves at night.
Crooners Martini Bar: A small open bar with limited seating on Deck 7, Crooners gets going in the evening with lively -- and often sing-along -- piano music.
Explorers Lounge: We're not sure how the 20s-era Egyptian explorer decor fits in on the Asian-accented Diamond Princess with its somewhat gauche golden sarcophagi and oversized paintings of Egyptian gods and Greek ruins. But the nightclub-style lounge is a popular place, playing host to a variety of activities. During daylight hours, you'll find trivia, art auctions and language lessons. In the evening, the space is given over to live music and comedy shows.
Lobby Bar: Not the kind of bar you hang out in, the Lobby Bar is simply a place to grab a drink, pastry or cappuccino while hanging in the atrium to watch a demonstration or participate in some interactive fun.
Outdoor Bars: Princess provides a bar at each pool, as well as in outdoor areas with a view. These outdoor spaces include: Outrigger Bar, at the very back of the ship on Deck 14, with views of the ship's wake, just above the aft pool; Calypso Bar on Deck 14 midship, next to the covered Calypso Reef & Pool; Mermaid's Tail Bar, on Deck 14 forward, next to the Neptune Reef & Pool and convenient for Movies Under the Stars; Tradewinds Bar on Deck 15, not far from the Lotus Spa and Pool; and the Oasis Bar, on Deck 16 aft, with a lovely view of both the ship's wake and the outdoor section of Izumi Japanese Bath.
Wake View Bar: A small space all the way aft on Deck 6, Wave View Bar is a secluded spot to relax or chat with friends.
Wheelhouse Bar: A largish lounge on Deck 7, with some of the plushiest leather and upholstered seating on the ship, Wheelhouse Bar features subdued nautical decor, from the captain's wheel outside the lounge to its nautical chart carpeting. In the evening, Wheelhouse is the perfect place to have drinks with new friends or dance with that special someone to light, live music. Occasionally host to nighttime trivia, Wheelhouse is also where you'll find the light sounds of Duo Cinnamon -- our favorite way to wind down after a long day.
Diamond Princess Outside Recreation
Diamond Princess has eight whirlpools and four regular pools, not including those in Japanese Izumi Bath. Of the four, the only indoor pool is the Calypso Reef & Pool, located midship on Deck 14. It gets a little stuffy in this area, but on a rainy day, it's the only place to go for a swim. The nearby Neptune's Reef & Pool is the ship's main pool, with lots of chaise lounge seating. It's right by Movies Under the Stars, so it can be a bit noisy for those just looking to read or fall asleep. The aft pool on Deck 12, is a Princess signature element and a perennial favorite. The swim-against-the-current lap pool in Lotus Spa is for adults only.
A unique bathing option, found only onboard Diamond Princess, is Izumi Japanese Bath. Styled after traditional Japanese public baths, Izumi features two indoor areas and one outdoor hydrotherapy pool. Both indoor areas have four heated whirlpools -- two completely inside and two open-air. One of the indoor sections also has a regular sauna and awesome looking seated waterfalls, called utaseyu, in which the falling water massages your neck and back. The other indoor section has a mist sauna infused with eucalyptus.
In keeping with traditional Japanese baths, to use either of these indoor sections, you must remove all clothing. No bathing suits of any kind are permitted. Because of this, each area switches from day to day from just for men or just for women. The outdoor section, with the hydrotherapy pool and chaise lounges, is unisex, and bathing suits are required. Entry to Izumi costs either $20 for 90 minutes or $80 for five bathing experiences.
Areas to sun yourself can be found on Deck 16 near the Oasis Hot Tubs; Deck 15 above the Neptune Reef & Pool and where Movies Under the Stars is shown; Deck 14, next to Neptune Reef & Pool and aft by Outrigger Bar; and Deck 12 at the aft pool. For kid-free sunning, adults can hit the small sun deck on Deck 15 near the Lotus Pool or pay an extra fee for Deck 16's The Sanctuary.
Diamond Princess has a small sports deck on Deck 18 with a half-sized basketball court; a volleyball net can be strung up there, as well. A nine-hole putting course is on Deck 16 midship, and there's a shuffleboard course on Deck 15.
Diamond Princess Services
Diamond Princess has the usual assortment of cruise ship standards, including an art gallery on Deck 5, photo and video gallery on Deck 7 and four shops spread out over decks 6 and 7. While the shops feature the typical essentials like logo apparel, toiletries, jewelry (costume and gemstone) and perfumes, they also feature high-end fashion items from brands like Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry, Coach and others to appeal to Japanese shoppers.
A small Internet cafe is located on Deck 5, next to the library and across from the atrium. Wi-Fi is available shipwide. Passengers can purchase Internet minutes via the pay-as-you-go option at 70 cents per minute or buy a package: 100 minutes for $69, 200 minutes for $99, 400 minutes for $159 and 600 minutes for $199. If you purchase an Internet package on embarkation day, you'll also receive up to 40 additional minutes for free. On the last full day of a Diamond Princess cruise, you also can purchase a special 15-minute plan for $8.99. As with all Internet at sea, speed is slower than you would get on land, especially during peak times and sea days.
Next to the Internet cafe is the ship's library, with a selection of fiction and nonfiction books in English and Japanese, as well as several board games. All items are free for passengers to borrow on a trust system; there is no sign out. You'll find daily trivia and Sudoku printouts in the library, as well.
Casino-lovers might be a bit disappointed on Diamond Princess, as the casino is relatively small and not overly active, especially on sailings with a majority of Japanese passengers. (Japanese people rarely gamble, and when they did on our sailing, they stuck to roulette and occasionally blackjack.) Additionally, on port-intensive sailings, the casino is closed for long hours; even when the slot machines are open, the table games often remained closed.
Self-service laundry facilities are located on all decks with passenger cabins. Machines are coin operated, and laundry products are available for purchase. Passengers can also use the iron and ironing board in each spot for free.
Cruisers can book shore excursions at the shore excursions desk on Deck 5, one deck beneath the passenger services desk. Those who want to book their next cruise can visit the future cruise sales desk, also on Deck 5.
Diamond Princess offers a Chapel for vow renewals on Deck 6.