The idea of a holiday on a cruise ship is massively divisive. People seem to either love the idea or hate it!!
The four of us, Mr D, Oaks (9 years old) The D-Man (5 years old) & myself recently took the plunge & booked ourselves on a 10 day Cruise on the Diamond Princess with an itinerary that took us from Singapore to Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Phuket & back to Singapore.
Here’s how we chose this cruise & what we thought of it!
Number 1 – Cost
There was method to the madness in the cruise we chose. Firstly, cost.
We only spent a day in each port. Staying overnight in port incurs port fees which bump up the cost of the cruise – you will need to take into consideration the destinations you’re travelling to & whether one day is enough in each place. In this instance, it was for us & that was a great cost cutter.
And All-Inclusive means you can budget – you know exactly what you’ve paid for & how much you have left over to spend.
Number 2 – Location
We wanted to avoid cabin fever & sea sickness at all costs so we made sure we researched the weather & ocean waters before we chose the cruise. Warm weather means plenty of time outside by the pool & keeping close to islands & away from open water meant calmer seas. We did take the risk of travelling in rainy season, another cost cutter, but we really only experienced one wet day during our cruise & we were fairly restricted by wanting to travel during school holidays.
Number 3 – Itinerary
We figured 10 days would be plenty. We had also been to all of the destinations on offer, knew what to expect from each place & could plan ahead what we’d like to get out of each destination.
We also wanted warm weather so we could get the maximum use of the pools & our days off ship! Warm weather & an island based itinerary also generally means calmer seas!
We also chose a cruise which left from Singapore. We spent a fun couple of days in Singapore before the cruise staying on Sentosa. Although there’s no time difference from Perth to Singapore, it gave us time to settle into holiday mode, stretch our legs for a few days before boarding the ship & it meant we could board easily without being held to flight time restraints.
And even though we moved country to country, no immigration, no packing, no dramas!!! The ship even organised tours for you.
Leaving from Singapore also meant that the ship was totally multi-cultural! The passengers were from all over the world & although most of the families appeared to be Australian, we were not the majority. The kids & I loved eaves dropping on the different accents on board & engaging with people who wanted to know all about where we were from.
The Diamond Princess has 2670 guests, a crew of 1,100 & was last refurbished in 2014. I’m told it’s due for another reno but to be honest, it still looks ok. There’s certainly no Scandi Minimalist décor here, the interior did remind me of a fancy caravan, but it was neat & clean & very, very shiny!! What amazed me the most, was that at no time at all did I feel like there were 2000 people on that ship. There was so much to do & places to go on board that we all had plenty of space. Brilliant!
Our stateroom was roomy & provided everything we could need. We had a balcony room which although we didn’t use a lot, I’m glad we had it. It’s nice to be able to let some fresh air into the room & sit outside before bed & gaze out into the darkness. The kids loved watching the comings & goings as we arrived & departed from each port too.
We chose the Anytime Dining option. This means you can eat in any of the dining rooms/restaurants anytime you like, with other guests or on your own. Traditional Dining is your other option & this means you are given a set time to eat your evening meal, either 5.30pm or 7.30pm & you always sit at the same table, again with the same guests or at your own table. Travelling with children meant the Anytime Dining option was the only one that was really going to work for us & in the end, got us away from that whole “cruise” vibe & felt more like we were just eating out.
The restaurants were all lovely & the food gorgeous & variable. It is easy to overeat! There is no limit on how many entrees, mains & desserts you order!
Mr D & I ate breakfast in one of the dining rooms without the kids one morning & decided that we’d share a table instead of sitting on our own. We sat with a lovely American & Canadian couple & we had a great time chatting with them. We didn’t realise how much food they were going to order though! Mr D & I sat through them all eating 2 starters, a fruit plate & then porridge. Then came the main course, the bacon & eggs, the French toast – the omelette! And here we were with our 2 eggs on toast & a cup of tea! (I can’t drink the American coffee they serve!) Put simply, you can eat however much as you like!
There is of course, the buffet option as well. Horizon Court is pretty much always open in some capacity & again, the food was much better than I thought it would be. Cleanliness is paramount & each person was required to sanitise their hands as they entered the Buffet. Weird at first, but after a while a very welcome addition with that many people around all that food all day every day!
There’s also Specialty Dining, Sabatini’s, Sterling Steakhouse & Kai Sushi. You pay a cover charge to eat here & you need to make a booking like you would a restaurant at home. We ate at all of them & they made a nice change from the usual dining rooms & buffet.
Out by the pool were more dining options – the Trident Grill cooking up burgers, hotdogs & chips fresh in front of you as you order them (loved this!), Prego Pizzeria – wood fired fresh pizza by the slice & all you can eat ice-cream. Yes, from 11am everyday, soft serve on tap! Thankfully it’s a manned stall, you don’t help yourself otherwise our kids would have come home with a massive dairy intolerance!!
The kids & I did a tour of the main Galley during the cruise & it was really interesting to hear the Chef tell us about the logistics of catering to a cruise ship of this size. Approximately 2000 eggs a day! 60 dedicated dish washing staff!! All the bread, rolls, pastry & pasta is freshly made. So are the sauces & gravies. Amazing!
I was really happy with the quality & variety of the food. And you’ll be glad to know, no gastro!
Alcohol & Beverages
Tea, coffee, lemonade, water & juice were the drinks included in our price. Everything else was extra.
Mr D being the border line alcoholic that he is (joking people, I’m joking!) was given the heads up by a friend who’d recently completed a cruise to purchase the additional Drunks, sorry, did I say that? Drinks Package!! For about $60/day, he could order whatever drinks he liked, including regular coffees, beer, spirits, wine, soft drinks & fresh juices for the one set price. We did wrought the system a little & he often ordered me drinks on his package, but not very often I promise!! It also allowed you 40% off bottled wine which for us was worth the cost alone!
Each time you make a drinks purchase your Room card, which is your room key, your identification & your payment system while you are on board is scanned & added to your bill. This is a great system as you don’t need to carry cash with you while you’re on the ship.
If you were a fan of The Love Boat like I was, you’d know that a Cruise Director just like Julie manages all the fun activities on board – designed with something to suit everyone! Each night a nItinerary for the next day’s activities is delivered to your room & you can pick & choose what you’d like to do. Or not do! Simple!
The kids & I did a Zumba class each morning we were at sea & Mr D used the gym & paid for extra speciality workouts every day.
Our kids didn’t spend as much time at Kids Club as we would’ve liked, but if you know my kids that’s no offence to the actual facility. In fact, while they were there they loved it.
Mr D & I attended a Wine Tasting Session which was fun & interesting. We played a round of Trivia as a family & realised that we know nothing about anything!
We saw a show in the theatre! How could you not on a cruise ship? All singing, all dancing & lots of fun!
We loved the Movies by the Sea most of all. Movies played on the big screen by the pool was a definite highlight & we spent many a night under the stars watching the big screen. (Before the movie starts the staff add day bed cushions & blankets to all the sun lounges for maximum movie comfort!). There’s a popcorn stand too!
My kids also loved using the Basketball court – the highest point on the ship thank you very much! Needless to say I didn’t spend a lot of time up there with them!
There was an indoor & an outdoor pool. Adult only areas & pools & spas. The Lotus Day Spa & the Izumi Japanese baths!
But really, so much to do ALL the time.
I must admit, having a rambunctious 5 year old did make me a little uneasy initially being on a ship. The reality is the ship is an extremely safe place. The railings are high & it would be near impossible for a child to scale them. That’s not to say we weren’t cautious. Watching smaller children at all times is imperative & we were careful that we’d explained the hazards to our kids of being on their own & the consequences of falling into the sea – nothing like a bit of fear to keep them in line! But I would like to allay any fears you may have of children falling overboard, it shouldn’t be a factor in your decision of whether to cruise or not.
I loved this cruise & yes, I would cruise again. As the kids get older they will have more freedom & responsibility on the ship which would make the experience even more enjoyable for all of us.
I didn’t at any time feel overcrowded or surrounded by people I didn’t like.
Our room was great, I have stayed in much smaller & less equipped in my years of travel.
The food was lovely & the staff gorgeous! The Staff are from all over the world & totally well trained at being upbeat & amazingly helpful at all times. Their name tags tell you which country they are from which is very interesting – oh to be a fly on the wall down in their cabins once their shifts are over!!
There is something magical about a cruise. It’s easy to forget you’re on a ship at times but at others, the feeling of being completely removed from the rest of the world floating out in the middle of the sea is amazing!
The bottom line. It was easy. And when I want to relax & unwind, easy is essential.