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Diamond Princess, 2005

 

Saturday, February 19, 2005

 

 

12:40 pm

 

There’s that moment all cruisers experience—craning your neck to see out the car window to catch that first glimpse of your ship. We’ve just experienced this. There she is—big, sparkling, and ours. Soon, we will be aboard the beautiful Diamond Princess.

 

2:15 pm

 

Embarkation was the smoothest we’ve had to date. We entered the cruise terminal at 12:55 pm and were onboard by 1:15. One of our four bags was already waiting for us, and the other three arrived by 1:45. The cabin is lovely. Our balcony—our first—accommodates a dining table, three chairs, and two lounging chairs. We are now at the Welcome Aboard buffet, and I hope to take a ship tour at 2:30. So far, I am enjoying this ship.

 

10:15 pm

 

This is a large ship (115,000 gross tons), yet it doesn’t feel crowded. Even in the photo gallery tonight, I did not have to contend with hordes of impatient passengers looking for their photographs. We are enroute to Puerto Vallarta, where we will arrive Tuesday morning, approximately 55 hours from now.

 

 

Sunday, February 20, 2005

 

11:15 am

 

After a nice night’s sleep in the comfortable beds, we have decided to take it easy today. All I have planned is afternoon tea at 3:30. This morning, we had breakfast in the dining room, walked together about the ship (I purchased a small handbag), and Neil and Marty had a light snack in the Lido (named Horizon Court).

 

I am presently sitting at the table on our balcony enjoying a cup of Earl Grey. We’ve never had a private balcony, and I rather like this one. It appears to be 8 feet in both length and width. One half is covered by the balcony above, while the other half is open. Looking below, I can see the fully-exposed balconies of the mini-suites on Dolphin Deck. This is nice as it mitigates my fear of heights.

 

The seas are extremely smooth. There is no evidence of the rainstorms that have been plaguing this part of the Pacific Ocean during the past week. There is a chill in the air, however, requiring a sweater. I do not mind in the least. There are few things more wonderful than sipping a cup of tea while overlooking the ocean on a cruise ship or liner in transit.

 

1:00 pm

 

One advantage of open-sitting lunch is meeting new people, especially those with whom we have something in common. We lunched today with a family of three who live in Queens, yet the Mom grew up on B—Avenue, not far from where Neil and I lived as children. Our other dining companions were a mother and young adult son; she is a social sciences teacher.

 

Our day of doing nothing is going quite well. I am writing this from Skywalker’s Disco, way atop ship on Deck 18. While disco by night, this is a peaceful room by day, offering panoramic views of the ocean. I am now facing aft, looking at the wake. Occasionally, we will spot a dolphin at play. Neil and Marty have gone to examine the basketball court forward, and will rejoin me soon.

 

11:20 pm

 

I skipped tea today in lieu of an afternoon nap. We then dressed for the Captain’s Welcome Aboard party, which was held on all three decks of the atrium. This was quite nice, and a welcomed alternative to the parties held in crowded show lounges. Captain Tony Yeomans addressed the gathering from one of the tiers overlooking the atrium. Very nice, indeed.

 

We enjoyed another fine dinner with our travel companions C, J, E, and O. I ordered a duck appetizer, capon broth, and mahi mahi, which was tender and flavorful. After dinner, our group went to the production show, Piano Man. It repeats tomorrow evening, and we may decide to see it again. We also had quick drinks in the Wheelhouse Bar, a gorgeous wood-paneled room with wingback chairs, leather sofas, and a nautical motif. The band was good, and we enjoyed watching people do the waltz and other dances I hope to master someday.

 

 

Monday, February 21, 2005

8:30 am

 

I returned an hour ago from my walk-a-mile about the ship’s promenade deck. This is my favorite activity on any cruise. On this particular trip, two circuits equals one-half mile, and I completed three laps—so I suppose I did a walk-a-mile-and-a-half instead.

 

A highlight of this morning’s walk was spotting a group of dolphins. I estimate there were a dozen, making their graceful continuous dives through the ocean. The Baja coast was in the distance. I wish I’d had my camera, although this is one of those scenes that becomes etched in one’s mind forever.

 

4:00 pm

 

For the second consecutive day, we did not follow any pre-planned ship activities. After a quick breakfast in the Lido, Neil and Marty swam in the midship pool on Lido Deck while I sunbathed one deck above. We had a very casual casual lunch (pizza/burger/veggie burger) and then napped. At about 2:00, I went to the gym to work out on the weight machines. Neil took Marty to the kids club for T-shirt painting.

 

There have been numerous marine animal sightings as we head down and beyond the Baja coast. In addition to the dolphins I saw this morning, Neil saw a whale, and people in the cabins above just shouted that they noticed a shark.

 

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

5:30 pm

 

Another lovely day in paradise, as the locals say. It is now 5:30 and we are readying for dinner after spending some time in the onboard swimming pools. In a nutshell, our day thus far was:

 

7:15-7:45: breakfast in Lido

8:00-roughly noon: Puerto Vallarta City and Coastal Drive tour

12:15-1:30: lunch in dining room (wonderful perch)

1:30-3:00: nap

3:30-4:15: afternoon tea

4:30-5:15: swimming

 

There is so much to do in Puerto Vallarta that we opted for a sightseeing tour for this, our first, visit. Among the sites we saw through the bus windows were the Rio Cuale, Mismaloya (where Night of the Iguana was filmed), and much of the Malecon (promenade by the sea, with many statues). We stopped to take photographs of the statues, and to stroll the Malecon. We also stopped at la Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, a beautiful cathedral, and the natural rock formation called Los Arcos. (Different form the ones we will see in Cabo San Lucas, these are two large rocks with small tunnels carved through them by the pounding surf of the Pacific.) We also made a quick refreshment stop, adjacent to a crafts market, where we bought a few bags of tschakes for US$10.

 

9:30 pm

 

We just saw an excellent juggler—Dan Bennett. He combined entertaining juggling—basketballs, tennis rackets, rings, plungers, etc.—with a repertoire that included dry comedy and scientific lingo such as axis of rotation and atom-splitting.

 

 

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

6:00 am

 

I am sitting on our balcony as we enter Mazatlan harbor. As we pass a small village at the foot of a mountain, I believe I hear roosters. As far as the eye can see, there is mountain layered upon mountain.

 

Several minutes have since elapsed, and we are approaching an industrial area. I believe this is where we will dock. Quite a contrast, yet I can think of few places I’d rather be at 6:30 on a Wednesday morning. It’s now approaching 7:00 am, and as we prepare to dock, I see another cruise ship off in the distance. I wonder who it will be today. So far, we’ve seen Carnival Paradise in Long Beach (where we stayed pre-cruise) and Norwegian Star yesterday.

 

(Noted in the margin later that day: The other ship was Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas.)

 

10:45 pm

 

We left Mazatlan about six hours ago and are headed for Cabo San Lucas, where we will anchor at approximately 7:00 am tomorrow.

 

Today was a most wonderful tour—Colonial Villages, visiting three villages in the Sierra Madres. Our first stop was an area in Mazatlan where bricks are made manually. We watched as a man made the mixture (water, clay soil, manure, and sawdust) and folded it into a grid-like wooden mold, and as another man stacked the bricks that had dried. According to our guide, drying takes about a day, and the bricks may be used in about a week.

 

From there, we made the long drive to the village of Malpica, where we saw artisans create floor tiles (US$2 each; we bought five), and where we stopped at a bakery for wonderful treats. Then, it was onto Concordia, where we saw cedar furniture being made in a large hut. Further into Concordia, we had a drink at a restaurant that had a nice courtyard and colorful interior, and walked about the town square.

 

Then it was back onto the bus for the 50-minute drive back to Mazatlan. The highlight was a performance by the Paplanta Flyers. We watched in awe as each of four men made 13 revolutions from a rope suspended from a pole (total of 52 represents the number of weeks in the year), while a fifth man kept a beat with a drum and flute. Watching these men spiral downward from a 75-foot pole was breathtaking.

 

 

Thursday, February 24, 2005

11:10 pm

 

It was an early day today, as we awoke by 5:30 am in order to make a 6:50 tour. The tour was excellent. We boarded a large catamaran—Cabo Ray—and had a 45-minute cruise around Los Arcos, the impressive rock formation at the foot of the Baja Peninsula. During this tour, there were a few seals in sight, some frolicking in the water, some basking in the sun. After returning to the mainland, we were bused to the Hotel Hacienda Beach Club, where we stayed from approximately 9:00-11:00 am. Our son spent nearly all that time playing in the water. He was nicknamed “Water Rat” by another passenger.

 

The highlight of the day was our renewal of vows at 6:15 pm. Captain Tony Yeomans officiated. He didn’t seem to mind when our son wanted to be with us on the stage of the wedding chapel. Princess went all out—I recewived a lovely bouquet (orchids, I believe), and Neil received a boutonnière (white rose). Our package also included a bottle of Moet & Chandon with two glasses, that should hopefully make the trip home unscathed (they did), and a cake presented to us at dinner. My dear friend C (nicknamed Hucc) was official witness to the ceremony, and we received an official certificate signed by him and the Captain.

 

Other highlights of the evening were a fabulous production show, Undercover, and club hopping on the ship with C, J, and E. We just set our clocks back to Pacific time, which gives us an extra hour of needed sleep tonight.

 

 

Friday, February 25, 2005

6:55 am

 

I continue to be amazed by the quality of production shows on cruise ships. Last night’s show was easily among the top five we’ve seen in our 19 cruises. Called “Undercover,” the theme was entertainment related to spies. Among the highlights was a colorful depiction of “Green Hornet,” which was done against a black backdrop, making it appear that the brightly clad performers were flying. I also enjoyed “Clue,” done to a backdrop of the board game, in which singers played the roles of Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Miss White, and Mrs. Peacock while shadows in the background showed the victim getting hit with the wrench, shot with the pistol, etc. Also, I have never seen such elaborate sets change so frequently during a performance.

 

10:30 am

 

It is bright and sunny, although the outdoor temperature has turned cooler as we head north to Los Angeles. I am sitting on our balcony—and glad to have bought a sweater—while our son is in the cabin watching TV and Neil is on a galley tour.

 

The service on Diamond Princess has been impeccable. This started with our quick embarkation last Saturday and has extended nearly flawlessly throughout. Our cabin stewardess is a real gem. She knows our schedule, and is lightning fast with servicing the cabin while we are out. One evening, as I returned alone to the cabin, she was outside and asked for my key card so that she could open the cabin door for me. These little things may seem trivial, yet are nice touches that show one’s pride in his or her work.

 

Our assistant waitress exemplifies the main reason I enjoy an assigned table in the dining room. After the first evening, she knew I enjoyed a cup of Earl Grey after the main course at dinner, so I have not had to request it all week.

 

 

Saturday, February 26, 2005

 

1:30 am

 

Debarkation will occur in approximately seven hours. I packed all four suitcases by 10:00 pm and Neil just completed our carry-on items.

 

This was another day of taking it easy. After a “Meet the Captain” Q&A session, I went to the gym for a weight circuit. Dinner was good once again—I had prime rib that was very tasty, yet too large to finish. After dinner, we purchased our renewal of vows photos—four in all. J helped me select them. Then, Neil and Marty caught the encore performance of “Undercover” while I packed.

 

Our travel companions joined us in Club Fusion to watch the final round of “Princess Idol,” modeled after the television program, “American Idol,” in which performers compete in singing ability. A gentleman who did a fabulous rendition of “That’s Life” was the winner by a large margin, earning perfect 10s from all three judges and high marks from audience members. To get to this point, we had to endure off-key versions of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Shout” by other contestants.

 

Prior to the show, O (age 9) began breakdancing on the floor while the DJ played, and Marty followed with a breakdance of his own. All of us were in stitches. Fortunately, I had the camera.

 

6:00 am

 

We are approaching the San Pedro terminal. All in all, this has been a very good cruise. We came to relax, and in that respect it was highly successful. I never even set my alarm to welcome a sunrise, which I believe may have been a first.

 

While it is always sad to debark a ship—and I very much enjoyed Diamond Princess—it is not the same level of sadness I experienced while leaving several other ships. Of course, those particular ships were due to exit service soon thereafter or within the next few years—SS Norway, Regal Empress, Queen Elizabeth 2. Diamond Princess, at just under 12 months old, will be around for a while, and there are several sister- or near-sister ships in the fleet. I am hopeful we will return to one of these ships as we had such a wonderful time on this cruise.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Lisa  

 

 

 

In loving memory of Hucc, who continues to inspire me to embrace life’s every moment.