In light drizzle we dragged our suitcases down Granville Street Vancouver to Canada Place to catch our home for the next 3 weeks on board the Diamond Princess. Strangely it was not Canadian immigration logging us out of Canada, but USA immigration logging into USA...in Canada!!...and with processing 2 ships at once (Holland American ship was in also) it was a very long wait to get through. Hours later we got on board and as cabins were not ready, we went to the “Horizon” buffet to have lunch. This is when the bad manners of poorly trained staff first was noted.
Length 952 feet; Gross Tons 116000 tons; Passengers 2670.
Sister ship Sapphire Princess and my comments about the Diamond is by way of comparison with the Sapphire, which was a well run, well trained and service orientated ship.
While she was superbly sailed, the Diamond by comparison had, on this first week, dreadful entertainment, with an MC of little talent (the best show all week was crew entertainment night); choice of movie channels way less than the Sapphire; no regional news letter so that guests could keep abreast of news from their region; often indifferent food, dried out fish, won ton dumpling turning bad; cabins not properly cleaned upon arrival; cupboard door hinges broken, torn settee upholstery and new badly trained staff who in many cases had an attitude problem as well as bad manners. Others were very nice people but no training in what to actually do. The longer serving staff that had been on various ships before were a breath of fresh air and made the trip worthwhile. Also there was a fixation on extracting every last dollar out of guests. This included an automatic gratuity of US$11.50 per guest per day arbitrarily added much like an automatic Government tax. By the third day the bad service got to us and we requested the gratuity be cancelled. The whole idea of giving a tip (except for the American concept) is that it be given IF and WHEN you receive exceptional service which you wish to acknowledge. Is not and was never meant to be something automatic and in lieu of proper wages. The constant “in your face” promotions by various dining rooms, coffee coupons (to get round the fact the “free” coffee is dreadful), shops, spa's casino and art auctions and worst of all the photographers who hold you up, push you out of the way, block walkways and charge like wounded buffalo ..these idiots really pissed me off and I had to resort to explaining that I didn't want my spirit captured in their little black boxes.
The three biggest sporting events in the world are World Soccer, Olympic Games and World Rugby. While on the trip, the World Rugby championship was being played in New Zealand, yet we were subjected to second rate, early season American football....and that was it. Not even a World Rugby update. One got the feeling that even though it was a Bermudan registered ship with an English skipper, the ship was pandering to the worst of Americana even though they constituted only about a quarter the passengers.
OK finally the trip itself. Its a lovely ship, perfectly sailed, rides well and took the force 12 gale the first night out with ease. (I'm told they had the stabilizers working overtime and also shifted some ships ballast, but so well done passengers were blissfully unaware.) The first 3 ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway are much the same, quaint places which all look the same and live for extracting the dollar out of the the enormous number of cruise ship visitors a season, and all selling the same diamonds and trinkets to the visitors...sort of historic switch natives selling trinkets to the intruders! Frankly once you see one you have seen the lot. All the tours are so grossly overpriced that they are in danger of killing the goose that has laid the golden egg.
Glacier Bay is nice and some wonderful views of rugged terrain, snow capped mountains and glaciers. 90% of all cruises get to see this before dashing back to Vancouver or Seattle....and they miss the very best, Prince William Sound and on up to College Fjord and the 16 odd seas level glaciers including the big mother Harvard glacier. With out a doubt THE highlight of our first week ending in nearby Whittier, which is a quaint little town where everybody seems to own a boat and have a fishing problem.
The weather had been cruel the whole week, with drizzle and usually low cloud that hid so much of the great scenery, but thankfully the sky cleared at College Fjord and we got to see the staggering beauty of this area that appears fully recovered from the tanker Exxon Valdez disaster from years ago. The ship sailed so close to Harvard Glacier we could easily hear the ear splitting cracks as great chunks of glacier dropped off into the bay.
Would we do the trip again? Not unless it included Prince William Sound and not on The Diamond Princess.