1998 Feb 26   13° 39' 15" North
18:16:23 UT   67° 27' 30" West

2. Haute Cuisine on the High Seas

Things really started to improve at this point. No more plebeian airports; we were now firmly into First Class. Not only were the reception folks cheerful and friendly and the whole operation efficient and free of snafus but their first act after checking our names off their list was to hand us each a glass of surprisingly good Champagne. We were then personally escorted to our stateroom. Which was already stocked with a variety of liquor, fresh fruit, and chocolate. Even my jet-lagged and generally cynical brain was impressed. The smart thing would have been to immediately go to bed but it was only a mid-evening by California time so we unpacked and explored the ship for a while. The stateroom was only 22 square meters (240 square feet, including the bathroom), tiny by comparison to even the most basic hotel room, but it didn't seem that way at all. Tasteful decoration in light polished wood, lots of storage space and a full width glass door opening onto a little balcony made it wonderfully light and airy and comfortable. Regular architects have a lot to learn from their naval counterparts :-)

Radisson Diamond is perhaps the largest example of the hull design known as SWATH (small waterplane area twin hull). The goal of the design is stability and it works remarkably well. It also makes for a relatively wide and spacious ship for its length. The downside is that its relatively large wetted surface makes it relatively slow (14 knots max) and expensive.

The general routine was that the ship would steam during the night and dock at the next port early in the morning. We then had the whole day to mess around. Then back on the ship for dinner and on to the next port. Eclipse day (Thursday) was entirely at sea. Then a final day in Ponce, Puerto Rico where we stayed on board most of the day just relaxing. Our last stop was San Juan and disembarkation early Saturday morning.

Not that I have a lot of experience with cruise ships but life aboard Radisson Diamond certainly seemed to me to be first class all the way. All the food is "free" (ie included in the overall price) and always plentifully available. Anything from any of the dining rooms is available via room service at no extra charge. You pay only for drinks (at highly inflated rates, but at this point who's counting?). Ordinarily "all you can eat" fare is not worth eating. Not this time! We have been to a lot of nice restaurants but few that match the Radisson Diamond. There are actually two dining rooms aboard. One is the fancy "Grand Dining Room" which is really "just" a floating top of the line Continental restaurant. Most passengers eat there most of the time. The only aspect of it that I didn't like is that it is rather large (seating for at least 150 in several large rooms) but it was not at all crowded and the huge two story glass windows at the stern of the ship are spectacular. Everything we ordered was excellent, the service was fine, the presentation pleasant. And when you're done there's no fussing with the bill :-) The other choice is an Italian bistro with a fixed menu; you get a little of everything, no choices. If that sounds like trouble, note that I am a pretty fussy eater and of the 10 items on the menu I thought 9 were superb and the other one just fine. Breakfast and lunch were equally fine, served either in the Grand Dining room or on deck. And for if you really wanted to escape the gourmet fare for a while they even had good hamburgers.

The only downside of all this, for me, was that there is a fairly draconian dress code for dinner in the Grand Dining Room. Each night was specifically labeled as "casual", "informal" or "Formal". I am a dedicated low life in this respect, I guess. I would have expected those to mean "shoes required", "shirts required" and "long pants required". But in fact it went from "we'll grudgingly let you in without a tie" to "suit and tie required" to "tuxedos only". We ate at the Italian bistro on "formal" night :-)

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Bill Arnett; last updated: 1998 Mar 13