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|Diamond Princess |
She is the first in a new class with sister ships Sapphire and Caribbean launched in the last months
Jack and Toni White, June 29, 2004
Years ago Marilyn Monroe sang, "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." Now, thanks to Princess Cruise Lines, vacationers can experience a Diamond built in Nagasaki, Japan at a cost of a half billion dollars. She is the first in a new class with sister ships Sapphire and Caribbean launched in the last months. We boarded the Diamond in San Pedro, California for a two-day preview cruise to Ensenada on the Mexican Riviera.
This massive vessel sports 18 decks and carries 2670 passengers plus 1100 crew. Tonnage is 113,000, length is 952 feet, and the beam is 158 feet. The galley contains 268 refrigerators, 68 stoves and utilizes 97,300 dishes and 9,100 linen napkins. The ship operates on diesel and gas turbine propulsion. Low emission power generation systems and the latest low emission waste treatment technology are utilized to improve environmental systems.
The funnel design is distinctive with pods on the side and bridge wings fully enclosed. Luxurious use is made of marble, stainless steel, shiny brass, frosted glass, opulent woods, and granite on this vessel. We appreciated the plush fabrics of muted colors and patterns used throughout and hundreds of overhead pin lights. The Diamond's design offers passengers many options of a large ship, while intimate spaces create the feel of a smaller vessel. We never felt crowded by hundreds of other passengers.
Our Caribe deck stateroom balcony offered privacy, except from cabins directly above, effectively eliminating topless sunbathing. Once passengers experience a veranda, it becomes a "must have." What is nicer than breakfast or a romantic drink on the balcony overlooking the ocean? This ship has an abundance of balcony staterooms to satisfy passenger demand. A vanity/desk with mirror and lights is helpful because the bathroom is miniscule.
Cruise ships have evolved into such glamorous, floating resorts it's difficult to fathom stinting on bathroom size. Since more and more passengers with disabilities are cruising, there are 27 wheelchair accessible cabins.
Amenities include a television, phone, blow dryer, refrigerator and security safe. Storage consists of an open niche for hanging clothes, plus shelves and drawers. A gracious touch is bathrobes supplied upon request.
The Atrium: the soaring atrium features four-glass elevators ornamented with stunning, metal work. As the heartbeat of the ship, it's a splendid meeting place. We sipped drinks while chatting with other passengers, as Mariachis entertained.
The Princess Theater's stadium seating and lack of pillars insures that all 705 seats are excellent. Lifts rise through the stage to deliver entertainers, such as Sheena Easton, the opening headliner. Entertainers and choreographers are recruited from all over the world to insure globally appealing performances. There are 52 shows in the sailing repertoire, each budgeted at half a million dollars. They usually run for three years. Productions usually premiere on new ships.
Dining And Beverages
A variety of themed dining venues break up the mass food chain feeling. A new Princess concierge system permits passengers to book these venues conveniently.
We chose the Horizon Court deck for lunch by the poolside Trident Grill. Why are chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, French fries, and ice tea more delicious when eaten outside near water? The nearby Horizon Court serves a full lunch buffet. One of the few complaints we hear about Princess Cruises regards the charge for ice cream. A reader who booked the owners suite, plus cabins for his family of 22 felt charges of $4 and $5 for sundaes and $2.50 for cones was petty, since ice cream is free on most cruise lines.
The formal International Dining Room is for passengers preferring traditional fixed seating. The Vivaldi ( Italian cuisine), Sterling (steakhouse), Santa Fe (Southwestern), and Pacific Moon (Asian) dining rooms compare favorably with fine restaurants anywhere. Passengers may also order from the formal dining room menu while dining in the specialty venues. Reservations are absolutely required for the alternative restaurant, Sabatinis Trattoria where passengers pay $20 each to revel for hours in an eating orgy. We enjoyed excellent cuisine and service in several venues.
The biggest plus of "Anytime dining" allows passengers to dine when, where and with whom they wish. They are now able to choose from many tables for two or four.
Old-fashioned tables seating ten strangers making stilted conversation are disappearing. Personal choice dining permits a passenger returning late from a shore excursion to nap, stay casually dressed, and hit the pizza bar or buffet for a meal. Many modern cruisers refuse to be herded into set meal times.
We ordered a Continental breakfast from the minimal room service menu. Later we learned that room service will deliver meals ordered from the dining room menu, even for breakfast.
On a tour of the galley we met Chef Antoine who "has been with Princess forever." The stainless steel galley is huge, state-of-the-art, and immaculate. As he plied us with Mimosas, Bloody Marys, tasty bites, and pastries, we observed chefs preparing colored ribbons of marzipan.
A glamorous, cocktail party took place in Skywalkers Nightclub on the top deck reached by elevator or a moving walkway. This venue is about 150 feet above sea level, and fiber optics in varied colors twinkle overhead, along with stars.
Club Fusion was the Vista Lounge on previous ships. This venue was created to coordinate varied entertainment. To insure that the party never ends, 39 plasma TVs take advantage of the popularity of television's American Idol, along with Beatles night and Country Western night.
Explorer Lounge features performances, a dance floor, and art auctions in a jungle motif.
The Wheelhouse, a signature room for Princess, has a masculine club atmosphere, and Crooners Lounge is home to the piano bar. Passengers can imbibe in The Tradewinds, Oasis, Mermaid's Tail, and the Outrigger Bar. The Churchill Lounge permits cigar smoking, as well.
To prevent over-crowding the Diamond has five pools. Before the ship even left port, passengers frolicked in the largest pool, the Neptune, and it's adjoining spas-among eight on the ship. The warm, spa pool has a swimming machine for exercising. A retractable roof for inclement weather covers a serene pool. The conservatory in the balcony above is furnished with wicker furniture creating a delightful, relaxing spot and is used for Scholarship at Sea ceramics painting sessions. The Dolphin sculpture by Weyland is part of a three million dollar art collection aboard.
The Wedding Chapel is a romantic space. Only Princess Captains are permitted to perform a wedding ceremony while the ship is in international waters. Everything for the wedding is available. The web camera allows family and friends of the couple to witness the service on the worldwide web.
An enlarged kids' center provides a pool and teen area at night. There is a colorful fun zone for children 2 to 5. The center has an outside deck, mini theater, sleeping room for tired little ones, low fountains, kiddy size bathrooms, and play stations. The 6 to 9 age group enjoy a mini theater watching movies and cartoons. There is access to a climbing area and ping- pong. The 10 to 13s have use of a free jukebox and their own disco. Passengers 14-17 have their own DJ booth, play stations, and a bartender serving "coketails" in a purple, blue and gold venue. A $20 a pass can be purchased for unlimited soft drinks. Princess makes a major effort to satisfy every age group.
For solitude a well-stocked library provides listening chairs, computer terminals, and a writing room seating 18.
The Internet Café is the largest in the Princess fleet. The 29 computer stations are spaced to afford privacy. Internet access is $.35 a minute. Wireless access accounts are offered at $10.50 for 30 minutes. While surfing the internet, users may purchase coffee and pastries. There is a nearby photo gallery. It's been our experience that cruise ship photographers take especially flattering photographs.
Passengers are indulged in the Steiner operated Lotus Spa. In the future Princess Cruise Lines will operate the spa in-house to retain more control. The Lotus Spa has terrazzo floors, silk wall art, and sliding Asian style doors. Modern pedicure thrones provide a Jacuzzi treatment to tired tootsies. A manicurist, four technicians, and four hair stylists are available by appointment. The gymnasium, surrounded by private consultation rooms and panoramic windows, is well equipped with an arc trainer, numerous bikes, medicine balls, bosu balls, and treadmills. Classes in spinning, pilates, and yoga are available. We were impressed seeing staff assisting a lady from her wheelchair onto a recumbent bike. No one need be inactive on this ship. Fog showers, tropical rain, arometic vapours, hot rock massages, and hydrotherapy baths for two are quickly booked.
For more active passengers, paddle tennis and a basketball court are bounded by a jogging track. Ten laps equal one mile on the sports deck.
Miniature golf is free. A state-of-the-art golf simulator at $20 per 30-minute session may be booked through the concierge.
Passengers can shop in the four boutiques. On cruises we have purchased perfume, glitter t-shirts, beaded evening jackets, purses, jewelry and gifts.
To lure gamblers the spacious Grand Casino is decorated in a jungle theme with fabulous forest design carpeting and coordinating murals of wild animals.
Ports Of Call
Following the inaugural cruise the Diamond Princess sailed from the Port of Los Angeles on 7-day trips to the Mexican Riviera. From May 8 to September 11, 2004 she will sail a 7-day Inside Passage Alaska itinerary before returning to the Mexican Riviera itinerary.
Passengers who can afford to sail with any cruise line choose Princess Cruises for the luxury, cuisine, and variety of activities offered. Now another jewel has been added to the Prince crown, and we hope every cruiser will experience a Diamond in their life at least once.
For further information: Princess Cruises