Southeast Asia and China Cruise March 14-30
We booked this cruise just 6 months prior to embarkation day. Having a great price from a Princess brochure made the decision easy to make. Preparation time was far more consuming than any other cruise we had taken before this one. It helped being a member of Cruise Critic so we could read the boards for information that we could use about this cruise as the time drew near.
We had a pre-cruise package that included 2 nights at Singapore Marriott. It included the cruise check-in procedure being early at the hotel, and our luggage being taken directly from our hotel room to the ship for delivery to our stateroom. We tagged and left luggage in the designated place for the pick-up, however other items in our hotel room were also taken from our room. The luggage holding place in the hotel was not very secure, and we removed the other items before they were taken to the ship. We joined a large group walking out of the hotel for the shuttle bus when the line stopped at the bottom of the escalator. Those of us still on the escalator had to push the line to keep moving for our own safety. Once on the shuttle bus, we had a pleasant ride directly to the ship and walked directly onto the ship.
During the walkon, we were disconcerted by the ship's staff collecting and keeping our passports for the duration of the cruise. This worked well overall, as we were provided with documents and procedural information required at each port of call. We found our stateroom quickly, and headed for lunch in Horizon Court.
Our room steward, Glennard, was in the hall when we arrived. We enjoyed his pleasant and always cheerful greeting each time that we saw him. He quickly and efficiently provided whatever we asked, and kept our room very tidy. We had a stuffed toy animal named K.C. with us, and Glennard took extra good care of her.
Our room was located directly across from a laundry facility. There were four washers and four dryers and a wash basin and an iron and ironing board. There was a USD change machine with quarters and detergent box dispenser. The cost was $2 USD for each wash load and for each drying load. We had planned to use the laundry, and took a bunch of combination washer/dryer sheets and rolls of quarters.
The laundry room was locked between 11PM and 7AM each night. We got to know when 7AM arrived each day as the noise level picked up just outside our room door. It seemed that some people using the laundry tended to hold conversations in the hall.
We were disappointed with the cool temperature in the one hot tube that was working. The other one nearby was shut down through most of the cruise. The air temperature was too cold most days to enjoy the ones in the outdoor areas . Still, there were a few intrepid souls who showed up for hot tub conversation regardless of the conditions.
On the At Sea days, we had breakfast in the International Room. Sharing a table with others was a delightful experience in meeting people from around the world. The slower pace was more relaxing than the usual experience in Horizon Court, which seemed to be always crowded. At times, the pace was too slow and it was difficult to remember what one ordered.
For evening meals, we scheduled the later seating in the International Room. We enjoyed and appreciated the steady and reliable service of waiter Benjamin and assistant waiter Lorena. They ensured that our usual preferences were met, e.g. lemon slices with water, and decaf coffee with dessert. They were very conversational each night and accommodated our occasional requests for items that were not on the menu,, e. g. baked potato with the steak. The dining room manager, Jon, regularly stopped by for a chat and/or pictures. The menu tended to lack variety, such as the sea food tended to be prepared the same every night. The default seafood choice of Salmon cutlet was consistently on the dry side.
We found the performances of the Princess Singers and Dancers to be especially delightful on this cruise. Their performance of "Piano Man" was especially fun. We did not enjoy the evening music entertainment in Explorer's Lounge. It was much too loud for that venue. These shows would have been better for these performers to be in Princess Theater where the sound was not on top of us. Some nights, there would be a comedian in the Princess Theatre at the same time as a singer in Explorer's Lounge. That seemed odd.
A strong distraction during shows in the Princess Theater was by the individuals who used their video equipment to view (record??) the performance. This was not one or two individuals, but several and during all performances. There was an announcement --of sorts -- at the beginning about not recording the performance. While these individuals may not have been actually recording, it sure appeared that way. At other times, individuals regularly took flash photos. All those bright lights here and there in the dark theatre was extremely distracting from the performance. Princess should announce that video equipment of any kind is prohibited (copyright laws?) and using such equipment is distracting to fellow passengers. Theatres throughout the USA will confiscate equipment, and remove patrons who violate such requests.
Then, there was the continual noise of people talking during the performances, and late-comers who walked up and down the aisles looking for places to sit. Many stood in the aisles. This is the first time that we recall there being more individuals in the Princess Theatre than seats available. All this commotion was distracting from enjoying the performance.
We booked a three-day post cruise tour with lodging at Marriott Beijing City Wall Hotel. Our disembarkation from the ship was very quick and we walked directly to waiting busses for the drive to Beijing. There were five such busses that traveled together throughout the three days. Our tour guide on Bus 3, Sara, kept us informed of the scheduled activities and she accommodated our occasional individual needs.
During the cruise, some of us enquired about the agenda for these tours. The ship's staff continually referred us to our Cruise Personalizer, which did indeed have a set agenda for each of the three days. We anticipated, and dressed for a Peking Duck Lunch and tour of Temple of Heaven, then checkin at the hotel. However, as we headed for Bejing, we learned of a different agenda . We went to a crowded Tiananmen Square, with a cold, harsh wind for which many of us were under-dressed and chilled. After the lunch, with minimal amounts of Peking Duck, we toured the crowded and chaotic Forbidden City. In the crowd crush during this tour, individuals fell, and it was very difficult finding the tour guide through the crowded passageways.
The Chinese meals had minimal servings of some food items and were set on "a lazy susan". At times all 10 individuals seated at each table missed some items.
On the morning of our flight home, we had to leave the hotel before the included breakfast. The alternate box breakfast was not memorable, and difficult to manage. The ride to the airport was enhanced by minimal traffic at the early hour, and we found out luggage and completed airport checkin procedures very quickly. We were at the departure gate over two hours early.