I knew when I boarded Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan, that the Princess ship would be unlike any of its eight Grand-class sister ships . Although I had never sailed the line before, I had read about all the modifications the company had made during the ship’s recent $30 million refurbishment – and was eager to see the latest touches it had undergone for its primarily Japanese passengers.
Among them: Massive steel sculpture of peacocks (Japan’s national bird), dragons and mermaids now stretch the height of the elevator tubes in the three-deck atrium. There’s also Kai Sushi, the largest (of just two) sushi restaurant in Princess’ fleet, with capacity for 66 diners. And there wasn’t any way to miss the funky Japanese-style toilets in the public and cabin bathrooms with an abundance of switches that require a bit of explanation for Westerners.
Here are some other things I noticed after a few days onboard:
Princess Signatures Remain. At the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet, member Paul said the ship felt intimately familiar to him having been on other Grand-class ships, despite the new spaces. I had to take off my sharply focused mental binoculars to see what he meant. Sure the atrium is dominated by the beautiful Japanese-themed etching, but it’s still Princess’ signature atrium. And Sabatini’s, Sterling Steakhouse, MUTS, Skywalker’s Nightclub and The Sanctuary are all still onboard. So is Horizon Court, the ship’s buffet, though sushi and noodle stations have been added, and miso soup is always on offer.
Izumi Baths. The aft pool, arguably one of Princess’ most popular ship features, is also still present. But right next to it, one level up, is Izumi’s pagoda-covered outdoor hydrotherapy pool — and one of the reasons Diamond Princess really isn’t like any other Grand-class ship.
Perhaps the ship’s most impressive addition, the 8,800-square foot Izumi Japanese Bath is the only Japanese bath system at sea onboard a Western-run cruise line. Within Izumi, a variety of water elements including four whirlpools; a hydrotheraphy pool; two saunas, one traditional and one misted and eucalyptus-infused; massaging waterfalls called Utaseyu, and multiple jetted showers are divided between three sections, two indoors (and segregated by gender) and one unisex outdoor area. There’s an extra fee to use the area.
Higher-end Retail. Japanese shoppers are famous for their love of all that is upscale and branded (Tokyo’s Ginza district is one of the most luxe shopping districts in the world). Only-on-Diamond shops, like Facets (a luxury watch boutique) and Limelight are stocked with all kinds of goodies from Burberry, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Coach, Ralph Lauren, OMEGA, Swarovski and more.
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*Read what Cruise Critic members are saying about the Japanese-centric overhaul to Diamond Princess.