Why are we blogging?

We thoroughly enjoyed the blogs from those on the World Cruise 2010. They were so useful and some were also very entertaining and so we we started our own, late 2010, ready for the 2011 cruise(s).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Diamond Princess or Dawn Princess? Final thoughts.

With Princess, there are obvious structures that just roll over from one ship to another, regardless of size, but having spent enough time on these two to form some opinions, with several people pestering us for our opinions, so here goes.

 

Firstly, the basic facts on the two ships, Diamond first:

 

Built:  2004  vs  1994 ; Built in Japan (Mitsubishi) vs Italy.  Do you notice ten years difference? Not really though the Dawn is due  a partial refurbishment shortly.  On both ships, the staff are constantly painting the exteriors, varnishing the handrails, replacing astro-turf, replacing carpets etc.

Verdict:  A slight win to the Diamond.  The Dawn is showing its age in places.

 

Size: 113,000 tonnes 2,700 passengers, 77,000 tonnes 1,950 passengers.

Verdict:  Well you’ll have to wait until the summary to see whether bigger is better!

 

Balconies:  The Diamond has three different balcony structures.  Decks 11 & 12 appear to be standard cabins with a small balcony, the same as the Dawn, but unlike the Dawn, the cabins on the two decks below (mini-suites) have larger balconies – and it looks as though they are updating the balcony chairs – but they had only got as far as deck 10... The downside on the Diamond is that from the upper decks, you can’t see the dock side as well.

Verdict:  A draw.  The lack of privacy for those on decks 9 & 10 on the Diamond, even though  there are so many extra mini suites, and the fact that decks 11 & 12 have lost a better view of the dockside, evens this out.

 

Cabins:  The layout of the Diamond’s walk in wardrobe scores here, but the bathroom is similar (tiny shower).  The TV is set higher which is better for watching TV from the bed.  The Dawn is Australian based so does have one Australian electrical socket per cabin plus one US.  The Diamond only has US sockets.  Incidentally, our fridge in cabin 702 on the Diamond didn’t have an air vent above it, but 706 did...  Cabin 702 had no print on the wall but 706 did!  Strange.

The dividing walls between the cabins are steel, so ideal for attaching magnets, but the wall alongside the bed is steel on the Dawn but not the   Diamond.

Verdict:  Marginally a win for the Diamond.

 

Swimming: This is a real win for the Diamond as it has an excellent covered swimming pool in the centre of the lido deck, whereas the Dawn has nothing more than a canopy over the small rear pool for shelter.  The sanctuary pool up at the front of the Diamond, seemed OK, but we weren’t too sure whether it was for sanctuary passengers only!

Verdict:  Definitely a win for the Diamond

 

Atrium: Somewhat surprisingly, the Dawn atrium works a lot better than the Diamond.  The evenings with Alan & Alana both quizzing and for dancing on level 7 works well.  On the Diamond, the ‘Crooners Bar’ has the pianist tucked into a corner and even though he was brilliant (Maurizio), there was nowhere to dance and nowhere enough seating.  When he played downstairs on level 5, the sound went right through the whole atrium and it wasn’t easy to get a quiet place to relax.

Verdict: A win to the Dawn and helped by –

 

Coffee: One would think that with 30% more passengers there would be at least 30% more coffee outlets on the Diamond.  (That means barista coffee.)  Somewhat surprisingly, apart from the bar down on deck 5, the only other public coffee outlet appeared to be at the calypso bar – and the coffee machine was out of sight in a back room – and they didn’t have the larger cappuccino cups!  I think Sabatinis restaurant had coffee but, that is hardly public.   Whether this is because it is an American ship, people are happy with filter coffee, I really don’t know.

The Dawn not only had the deck 5 atrium coffee, but it was also available at the bar on deck 7, the buffet bar and the ice cream parlour.

Verdict: A resounding win to the Dawn.  

 

Food & Dining:  This is interesting as opinions may well differ and I may resort to being a bit picky.  Firstly, the pizzeria on the Dawn is a free, an excellent viable alternative to the buffet or the dining room, as they cook individual pizzas and calzone (yum!) to order, which means your own choice of toppings.  The Diamond has a small pizza bar that simply churns out rather lack lustre pizzas and you simply get a slice or as many slices as you want.

The buffets on both ships are excellent but being picky again, the Dawn breakfast options were more limited, but the scrambled eggs were always served just right, even if they were ‘straight’. The Diamond generally had plain scrambled eggs but also another tray, enlivened by either cheese, salmon, mushrooms etc, but they always seemed a bit overcooked.  In fact, quite a few of the Diamond’s dishes appeared a little overcooked.

The layout of the Diamond buffet didn’t work very well as it was similar in size to the Dawn, but cramming in potentially 800 extra diners with poor flow, doesn’t  work well.  Getting fresh toast wasn’t that easy and the omelettes and presumably poached eggs were cooked to order which is fine, but having to walk well away for the breakfast waffles and also the speciality lunches meant that it was somewhat disjointed and inconvenient.  Having said that, there were plenty of seats – always, and you could take food out onto the back deck.

However, the biggest disappointment of all for me, was that all forms of doughnuts (chocolate, white chocolate, apricot jam, custard, etc ) seem to have been withdrawn on instructions from head office!  Why????  If you want to get fat, there are 100’s of desserts, fried foods and other calorie laden options.   The small (mini) chocolate doughnuts did appear just once in the atrium.

Overall the dining room food I thought was a tad better on the Dawn.  Often, mains seemed incomplete or a bit lacking in finesse.  But as I said,  I am being a bit picky.  We didn’t try the Sterling Steakhouse nor the grill bar, so I can’t comment on them, but I didn’t see the kebabs on the Diamond.

Verdict: The Dawn by a reasonable margin – but as always, very much a personal view.

 

Deck 7 - the entertainment & promenade deck.  Arguably, this is the central deck on both ships.  You have the theatre at the front on both ships and a ‘Wheelhouse Bar’.  The Diamond has a small pipe and cigar smoker’s lounge bar, between the Wheelhouse and the theatre. Quite why they thought it necessary to leave the doors permanently open, is one of those dumb concession to smokers that just annoys everyone else. Yeuk.

Coming backwards, you hit the atrium and on the Dawn, it is an excellent relaxing environment but on the Diamond, half of it is shops, making it neither one thing nor the other.  Moving back on the Dawn, it is through the small ‘art gallery and Magnums bar and the infamous ‘Jammers Nightclub’, but on the Diamond, you come across what is best described as ‘the extra section’.  If you took the Dawn, cut it in half and popped an extra section in, on the lido deck it incorporates the indoor pool, but on deck 7, they have slotted in an extra entertainment venue.  This is the ‘Explorers Lounge’ where the guest entertainer snot in the theatre, perform nightly – or three times nightly.

Whoever designed this as a venue needs sorting out. Put simply, if you have a magician or a juggler, you normally need to see him/her from head to foot, but this venue has one level of seating on the stage/dance floor, then a flat raised platform for most of the table and seats.  This means that it is not tiered and viewing is therefore very poor.  On the positive side, the sound system is good.

Moving back on both ships, we have the photo galleries but on the Diamond, they take up a narrow space, sharing it  with the entrance to the Internet cafe and Sabatinis restaurant.

Right at the rear on both ships, you have another entertainment lounge.  On the Dawn, this is the Vista lounge, a bright tiered venue with good natural light until the curtains are closed, their second entertainment venue.  On the Diamond, this is “Club Fusion”.   It may have been planned (rather than designed...) as the second venue as this is quite hi tech, with a full wall screen above the staircase that leads down stairs to the small cosy bar. But it is another viewing disaster with dark heavy pillars everywhere, but with four closed circuit TV sets wrapped around each one, so you end up watching the TV rather than whatever is on the small stage, as once again, this is a flat floor and not tiered...  Talking to one of the regular entertainers, somewhat unsurprisingly he claimed that all the entertainers refused to work in it!

Outside, this is the walking or promenade deck, but on the Diamond, there are stairs at the front end so doing ‘laps’ is not quite so easy for the hobblers an wobblers.

Verdict: Despite the new and larger Diamond and ten extra years of technology, the appalling secondary venues are a huge disappointment, so for us, the Dawn wins here hands down.

 

This is by no means a comprehensive look at the ships, but it is what stands out.  We haven’t mentioned the more open smoking policy on the Diamond, where the Casino backs on to the front desk, once again with permanently open doors – and smoking is often allowed, so it permeates the atrium.  The smoking policy will have changed by the time you read this as smoking is now banned in the cabins and on the balconies, but they haven’t stated what the policy is for the casino...

Our overall verdict?  The Dawn wins - for us...  The Diamond is still a nice ship and nothing I have written should put anyone off, but the Dawn is to us, just the right size.  Not too big, not too small and a fantastic atmosphere, certainly for a longer cruise.

Yes we have booked again for 2012 and also for 2013 – on the Dawn.  Doesn’t that tell you something?  The new blog link should now be in the panel to the left, but nothing much of cruising interest will happen until July, but check it out before then, as we are travelling...

Thank you for the positive comments, both on the blog and via email and although it has been difficult keeping up at times, I hope the effort was worthwhile.  I do know that several family and friends found it useful  - and it saved me sending them identical emails!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 35 - Auckland and home! Dec 29th

We woke about 6:20am – but we had already docked in downtown Auckland, with two other cruise ships following us in.  This is one of the better port locations as not only is is it a real port rather than a container terminal, but those enjoying the various tourism options only have to stroll to the ferry terminal (ferry boats in the photograph), the train station or the bus station or stroll up to the Sky tower.
All that remained for us was to take a pic or two, grab a quick bite from the buffet, empty the safe and say a few farewells en route to the atrium at 7:55am, staggering under the weight of Paula’s dolphin carving..
As before, we saw there was no queue so although we had specified an 8:25am disembarkation,  we shook hand with dance teacher Paul and entertainment staffer Nicole and just walked straight off.  Locating the baggage was easy and we simply headed to the taxi rank, loaded up and we were home at 8:25am, $40 lighter and looking at the miserable weather for the first time since the heavy shower in Singapore.

So that was, in Princess terminology, our 4th cruise with them, but in reality, just two lots of two.  Once at home, the email hiccup was still around but magically, after an email and a call to my provider, things returned to normal. 

All that remains now is a comparison of the Dawn Princess and the Diamond Princess as we look forward to an exciting 2012 (and 2013!) and I have already initiated a new blog...  So, just one more episode of this marathon to go.


Day 34 - Tauranga - with family! Dec 28th

For some strange reason, the ship had a bit of a mild vibration over night and all that seemed to do was shake up the innards, so we kept waking up and made more than the usual overnight single trip to the bathroom! Paula was up early for the sail in to Mt Maunganui, whilst I tried to get more sleep, but I was still out of bed at 7:15.  Although we’d told Julie not to have breakfast, we did manage a quick snack to tide us over.
We walked off about 8:15 and met Julie & Stephen at the dock security gate where the security officer struggled to find both their names on his list, but let them in anyway.  We picked up their security passes in exchange for their passports and headed to the buffet via the cabin.
They enjoyed a Princess breakfast but were ecstatic at the Belgian waffle with stewed apple and cream from the ice cream kiosk!
An enjoyable swim and spa after a wander through the ship and then an early lunch before we all went ashore at 12:30.

Paula and I walked along the beach road and back via the main street of Mt Maunganui with a coffee en route. (This was the most expensive coffee of the whole trip $5.70!)    At this time of the year, (approaching New Year’s eve) the beach is a favourite place for teenagers so the roads were extremely busy with holidaymakers – especially with the baseball cap on backwards brigade in their noisy Rotary engined cars.

No trivia win to polish off the trip but we confused the waiters by changing seats every time their backs were turned...   Childish – but fun.
The Explorers entertainer was once again, Bayne Bacon but we always enjoy his performances.  For the last time, Greg dragged us up to the buffet.  As is usual for Princess, you put your tagged cases outside the cabin before dinner so you have to be careful to make sure you have left out clothes and wash gear for the morning.   I accidentally packed my wallet as it was still in my shorts...

Day 33 - Our last sea day - Dec 27th

A better night – presumably as we didn’t surface until after 9am!  The weather was quite pleasant so we took our breakfasts out on the rear deck.

Trivia score is irrelevant as we didn’t win – what a surprise...  A leisurely lunch with Cath & Greg, then we played “Cheat” up in Skywalkers before getting up to date (a little) with the blog (not that it means much as I was running so late anyway – and still am...).

This was the last formal night but we are over them anyway so just our normal 5:30pm meal with our usual companions.  I had the beef Wellington (a day late?) but the pastry was a bit soggy but assisted Paula by demolishing her lobster, whilst she dealt to the prawns.

Explorers lounge was comedian Darren Sanders - again, but the previous night was better.

We corrupted C & G by dragging them downstairs for a coffee and they retaliated by dragging us upstairs (kicking and screaming) to the buffet – yet again.   The beef Wellington on offer looked better than what we had eaten earlier!

Meanwhile, we had a message that our Auckland friends who were due to be in Tauranga tomorrow, are still in Auckland as their daughter hadn’t headed north camping as planned, as the weather was so bad up there!  We had sought special permission to have Paula’s daughter and number 3 grandson come aboard in Tauranga as Julie has never been on a cruise ship before and much to our surprise, the request was granted.  Looking forwards to tomorrow...