Asian Cruise on the Diamond Princess -- Singapore to Beijing
Airport Arrival in Singapore: Our flight arrived around 2am. We had no problem getting a taxi from the airport to our hotel on Orchard Road.
Hotel to Cruise Terminal: We took a taxi.
Cruise Terminal-Check-in: Total chaos. An unorganized mess. We arrived at 2pm, which was our assigned check in time, however, it was clear when we arrived that we were in for quite a long wait because there were still hundreds of people from the 1pm check-in waiting in a holding area to be bussed to the ship. There was a definite lack of employees instructing people of where to go. Once we got to the check-in line, it was moving, just very slowly. After checking in, we were given a numbered ticket to board a bus to ship. This was about a 30-40 minute wait in a very crowded area. Finally, our number was called and people pushed and shoved to get to the busses. Then we drove for about 20 minutes to the container port, and another 15 minute drive through the largest container port you've ever seen. Then we saw the ship, which was exciting, until we saw the huge line of people checking in and the 8 busses waiting in front of our bus. We had to wait on the bus approximately 35-45 minutes before we could get off and wait in another line of people. However, this line did move quickly. It was 4:45pm when we arrived to our stateroom. Just in time for the evacuation drill. Throughout the first evening and few days onboard, the main talk on the ship amongst passengers was regarding the poorly executed check in and transfers to the ship in Singapore.
Activities/Days at Sea: The Princess Patter is full of things like spa lectures, bridge play, check out a board game, watch a movie, trivia, etc. If that's the sort of thing you like, then you'll be happy. If not, then bring a few good books. While in warmer temperatures, the chair hogs were out around the main pool all day, but we had no problem finding chairs elsewhere on the ship.
Port Lectures: The port lecturer was Hutch. His lectures were great. One-on-one, he's not the friendliest person, but the large group presentations were very worth while. It would have been nice to hear these lectures prior to signing up for excursions, so we would have had a better idea of what we wanted to see and do on our own rather than a big tour, but the lectures were helpful and informative nonetheless. Every ship needs a real port lecturer like Hutch, who is knowledgeable about the ports, and not someone pushing shopping venues like we've had on other cruises!
Culture/History Lectures: This lecturer was Teresa. We went to one full lecture. I went alone to half of her second lecture before giving up completely. She was incredibly boring, dry, and read directly from her power point presentation.
Cruise Director: Kelvin Joy. We liked him.
Stateroom: We had a Lido deck room, which was convenient for getting drinks and food. Also, if you enjoy climbing a lot of stairs or long elevator rides, it's a great room location. Our room was exactly what we expected - we had lots of hangers in the closet, not a lot of drawer space, and room under the bed for our suitcases. Our room steward was alright, nothing special.
Food: Totally subjective. I don't like the Princess food, with an exception for their ice cream, which is great! Overall, I think the food is comparable to university dorm food, which I happen to despise. However, my husband thinks the Princess food is just fine. We tried to avoid the buffet whenever possible as the food looked unappealing and was often only luke warm. In the mornings that we were in port, the buffet was extremely crowed as over 2000 people all want breakfast around the same time. We had Anytime dining, which worked out really well on this cruise because of the different times we were in port. We usually went between 5:30-6pm and never had a wait. On days we were in port, we usually ate within an hour of returning to the ship and never had to wait then either. The International Dining room was open every morning; we ate there most mornings and found the food to be much better than the buffet. The International Dining room was also open for lunch on days we were not in port, and again, the food was far superior to what was at the buffet or grill. The grill, pizza, and ice cream on the Lido deck were all open 11am-11pm during our cruise. It was nice to see them open late! The buffet was open from 5:30am-11:30pm.
Evening Entertainment: There were quite a few venues with live music throughout the evening. There was usually a choice between a theater show and a comedian every night. It was nice to have a choice. The first half of the cruise we had no problem getting seats 5-10 minutes before a show, but as the cruise went on you had to be there at least 30 minutes early to claim a seat. We were turned away twice from shows that were too full with no seats or standing room available 10 minutes prior to show time.
Leaving the ship in Tianjin, China: We arrived at our assigned meeting place on time, but then had to wait approximately 30 minutes before our color/number was called to disembark. Once in the terminal, there was no immigration/customs, which surprised us. It was just a matter of then finding our luggage, and then our guide.
Excursions: TIP -- arrive for your excursion 30 minutes prior to the time on your ticket and you'll likely be in the first group for that tour. This will gain you an extra 30-40 minutes of sightseeing time with the other early birds who are typically people who are on time or early back to the bus when given any free time. See more about excursions below.
Money - Local currency is needed for Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, & China. US dollars were widely in Vietnam and Thailand as long as they are in good condition with no marks or tears.
Singapore -- We arrived a day prior to the cruise and used the MRT to get around ourselves. It was very easy to use and reasonably priced.
Bangkok -- We took the all day tour from the port into Bangkok -- tour 100A. It was about a 2 hour bus ride from the port to the city. It was a good tour, but very crowded and very hot. The only thing we didn't like about this tour was that there was that the only shopping on this trip was to a gem/jewelry store at the end of the tour. (There was some shopping available at the cruise terminal when we arrived back from our tour.)
Ho Chi Minh City -- We took the all day tour from the port into Ho Chi Minh City -- tour 100A. It was about a 2 hour bus ride from the port to the city. The tour was very good.
Nha Trang -- We took the half day (although it felt like a full day) tour -- tour 200A. It was a good tour. (There is some shopping available where the tender port is.)
Hong Kong -- We did not take a Princess tour. We used the MRT and busses to get around -- very easy and inexpensive. We went to Lantau Island to see the big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, then to Hong Kong Island to Victoria Peak, and ended our day with a walk through the Temple Street night market.
Shanghai -- We took the all day tour from the port into Shanghai -- tour 100A. It was about a 1 hour bus ride from the port to the city. Looking back at it now, we wished we would have taken tour 180A that went to Yu garden, Jin Mao tower and then gave you time on your own. Our tour went to those places, but also the Shanghai Museum, which was ok, but there was no guided tour of the exhibits. We also went to the Jade Buddha temple, which was also ok, but at this point of the trip we had seen enough temples. The part we hated on our tour was the last stop a silk store where we had to spend over an hour. This was the only shopping during the trip and it wasn't good. (There was no shopping at the cruise terminal in Shanghai when we returned.)
Nagasaki -- We did not take a Princess tour. We used the local tram to get around -- very easy and inexpensive. We went to the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Hypo-center, and Atomic Bomb Museum (and we beat most of the tour groups there!). Then we went up Mt. Inasa for panoramic views of Nagasaki, and we ended our day seeing Spectacles Bridge and a little shopping. We were back on the ship by 2pm. (There was a tiny bit of shopping at the cruise terminal in Nagasaki.)
Busan -- We took the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple tour -- tour 200A. It was a good tour with just enough time at each stop, although, it might be a little fasted paced for some people.
Beijing -- We had arrangements with a local guide to pick us up at the port, transfer us to Beijing and sightseeing. Our second day in Beijing, we had arrangements with another local guide for a full day of sight seeing. In the evening, we used the MRT to get around, it was easy to use and very very inexpensive, but was crowded.