I am an experienced cruiser, having traveled on Carnival, Disney, Princess and Royal Caribbean with my family in the past. I have just returned from an 11-day land/sea tour , cruising on the Diamond Princess from Whittier to Vancouver. ... Read More
I am an experienced cruiser, having traveled on Carnival, Disney, Princess and Royal Caribbean with my family in the past. I have just returned from an 11-day land/sea tour , cruising on the Diamond Princess from Whittier to Vancouver. Overall, the trip was a fabulous experience, due to the magnificent scenery and the natural beauty of Alaska. However, there were some serious disappointments that would cause me to hesitate to recommend the Diamond Princess to future travelers.
Land Tour Positives: well organized, generally nice hotel facilities, plentiful, good options for excursions, very good, friendly service from Princess hotel staff, bus drivers etc.
Land Tour Negatives: demands for luggage to be out for collection and extremely early hours. They wanted our bags outside our rooms at 6am at the Mt.McKinley Lodge, even though we didn't depart for the day until 11am.
Fairbanks Princess Lodge- lobby not large enough - always very crowded, how about adding an indoor pool? hot tub? game room? something more to do?
Natural History Tour in Denali- some of our group took this included tour, and found it to be too short, and they did not see much of Denali. We were glad to have been "tipped off" in advance via internet blogs that the Tundra Wilderness Tour was much more inclusive of the park and we upgraded to that and enjoyed it very much.
Diamond Princess Cruise Positives:
Good itinerary, nice selection of shore excursions.
We chose this itinerary because it included both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay. Both were magnificent and not to be missed.
Diamond Princess Cruise Negatives:
*Arrival: On board the Princess train to Whittier, our train hostess announced that because our train was nearly 2 hours late coming to the ship, the ship would be having "open seating" in all dining rooms that evening and it would be "come as you are" as far as the dress code. After waiting through a very long line to go through the process of boarding the ship, (600 passengers all arrive at once on the train) we dropped our carry-on bags at our cabins and proceeded to the International Dining Room. We were turned away because it was not our time to dine (5:45 had come and gone) I told them about the "open seating" announcement that had been given and he just said "NO". We were referred to the "anytime" dining rooms, where we were turned away because one in our group was wearing shorts. Obviously, this was not a very warm welcome. When we expressed our concerns on the ship, it only brought about lectures about dress code. We are experienced cruisers and we understand dress code. The point is that their employees gave us erroneous information, and no one felt the need to apologize or adapt to the information that had been given to the passengers.
We were forced to spend our first evening dining in the Horizon Buffet- a very over-heated serving area and dining room. There was a long line- only one side open, and a disorganized arrangement of food and people all bumping into each other.
* As I said above, we chose this itinerary because it was the only one that included both Hubbard Glacier and Glacier bay, but the one big draw back I would say, is that when you arrive so late on the Princess train from the land excursion, you really miss your whole first day of cruising. We normally arrive to a cruise ship about 11am and spend the whole first afternoon exploring the ship, getting oriented etc. In this case, boarding at 7:30m and scrambling to find a place that would welcome us for dinner left us feeling cheated of our normal welcome aboard routine.
* Horizon Buffet - this venue was always too warm. On another occasion, at breakfast, one side of the dining room was closed at 9am, even though this created a huge line on the remaining open side. We were hoping for a quick breakfast so we could explore the port that day, but the staff seemed more intent on "closing up" one area than on serving customers quickly and efficiently. This is only one small indication of an overall feeling we got that the staff was just not that interested in providing flawless customer service.
*International Dining Room- our servers seemed to struggle to keep up with the tables they had. Any special requests took a long time to fulfill because they seemed to be always behind. On past cruises, our friendly servers quickly knew our names and we got to know them a little as well. Other past servers have been very helpful with the menu, and generous, even offering to bring out two appetizers or entrees if there was question about which one to order. These guys were strictly business with no "extra" offers of any kind.
*One very important part of cruise travel that we appreciate, is the ability to travel with a large family group, each member doing their own thing during the day, and then all gathering together for dinner in the evening to share experiences and dining time together. We were traveling with an extended family group of 12. We were told that Princess would not accommodate us dining together at a table that large. Rather we were seated at two tables of 6, next to each other, but with different service staff. They were usually finished well before us, due to their efficient servers.... not much fellowship time together at dinner. I consider this a very significant reason to choose Royal Caribbean or Disney over Princess for our family travels in the future. Our experience with Disney and RCCL in the past was one of the staff going out of their way to accommodate the wishes of the passengers whenever possible. A table for 12 or even 15 is not a problem on those lines. Also, we chose traditional early seating, hoping for our family group to dine together regularly. I would recommend "anytime" dining instead. We missed much of the good viewing of Hubbard Glacier because we were at dinner. Also, some shore excursions run into dining times as well.
*A second very important reason we enjoy family cruising is the variety of activities for all ages on most ships. We were pleased to see that the Diamond Princess had multiple swimming pools and 4 hot tubs, as our teenagers really like to swim (as do we). We were more than disappointed to find that the hot tubs were closed for most of the cruise. We were lucky if there was one open at any given time. The indoor pool was also closed periodically. Again, I spoke up on the board the ship, but was told a variety of "stories" by different staffers. One made up an amusing tale about the fact that they aren't allowed to have the pools open due to the environment in Alaska (???) Others told us the "chlorine was off". There seemed to be very little effort to correct the situation. We paid a huge sum of money to vacation with our family on your ship, and we felt cheated that one of the amenities that was important to us was rarely available. If pools / hot tubs are not generally available in Alaska, then that should be publicized well in advance.
* Shows: we attended the shows in the large theater each evening. They were decent, but you had to arrive early for the first show or the seats would be gone. Other more popular shows in the show lounges also were standing-room only.
*Cabin Steward: our cabin steward was the most friendly staff that we encountered and he kept the room nice and clean. However, on a number of occasions we tried to "page" him as per the instructions by the phone in the cabin and we never got any response to our pages. We were looking to get ice in the room for cold drinks, but that did not happen all week. The only way we finally got ice was by ordering it from room service.
* Food: I usually found one item on the menu each evening that I wanted to order, but no more than that. Many of their selections were just plain "weird". The Alaskan food buffet and a dessert buffet were set up outside on the lido deck two afternoons. They looked great when first presented, but huge crowds of people waiting in long lines quickly devoured these foods and they didn't seem to make any attempt to replenish the foods. The buffet was published to be from 11am-2pm, so we decided to wait until closer to 2pm when we hoped the lines would be down. Surely the lines were down, but the food was wiped out by then as well.
These problem areas might seem small and insignificant, but as a passenger, it's all these small "niceties" that add up to a wonderful cruise experience. Maybe these disappointments were magnified because one of the couples that were traveling with us had never cruised before. We had bragged to them, in advance, how attentive, friendly, and accommodating a cruise staff is normally, making every passenger feel like a "prince" or "princess". Instead, once on board the Diamond Princess we spent much of our time apologizing to these friends that the experience was not as we had described. After our trip on the Star Princess in 2007, followed by two cruises on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, I would have told people that Princess and RCL were about equal in service, food, etc. My opinion has now shifted well in favor of Royal.
Finally, I know Princess doesn't control things at the airports, but I will tell you I would recommend that folks avoid departing through the Vancouver airport if at all possible. Their system was ridiculously complicated. We waited in no less than 7 different lines, showing our documentation over and over again and dragging our luggage with us much of the way. It took over 2 hours to make it through their system and I am told is "quick" for them. We've traveled a whole summer in Europe with less immigration/ security hassle.
Thanks for reading my comments- feel free to email me with any specific questions: email@example.com Read Less