Subscribe today
Get Cruise Critic in your inbox
Your Ultimate Cruise Guide

Diamond Princess Cruise Review by Duane T: Asia Beijing to Bangkok Cruise: Great Wall was Highlight


Duane T
2 Reviews
Member Since 2007
433 Posts

Member Rating

Cabin 5.0
Dining 5.5
Embarkation 5.5
Enrichment Activities 5.5
Entertainment 5.5
Family & Children Not Rated
Fitness & Recreation 5.0
Public Rooms 5.5
Rates 4.0
Service 5.5
Shore Excursions 4.0
Value for Money 4.0

Compare Prices on Diamond Princess Asia Cruises

Asia Beijing to Bangkok Cruise: Great Wall was Highlight

Sail Date: October 2012
Destination: Asia
Embarkation: Beijing

Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise.

Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats More their passengers).

Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left).

The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather.

The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619).

ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft.

The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats.

Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop.

After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents.

After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc).

The Shangri-La Hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review).

The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection.

It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Less


Read more Diamond Princess cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic's Diamond Princess Review >>

Cabin review: Diamond Princess Oceanview Double with Balcony Caribe A619

Cabin Aloha 619 (A619) is right below the buffet which was convenient to grap a snack or to bring our meals to our room when the buffet was crowded. The laundry room was nearby as well. They changed out our mattresses so that was a welcome site to see new beds being brought in. The TV is new flatscreen LCD type. The shower curtain is still the older vinyl curtain with magnets so water tended to spill out and the curtain will cling to your body. Balcony was clean the railings well kept.

Port and Shore Excursions


City Tour

(3)
Signed on to Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package. The first day was spent mostly in Pattaya south of Bangkok. The part included a folklore show (part of which we missed due to late passengers disembarking from the ship), Elephant show, and botanical garden. Tour guide was not as well organized and the check-in at the hotel was a madhouse. We by-passed the cruise check-in and ended up going to the main lobby to get our room and luggage.

City Tour

(3)
Signed on to Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package. The first day was spent mostly in Pattaya south of Bangkok. The part included a folklore show (part of which we missed due to late passengers disembarking from the ship), Elephant show, and botanical garden. Tour guide was not as well organized and the check-in at the hotel was a madhouse. We by-passed the cruise check-in and ended up going to the main lobby to get our room and luggage.

Grand Palace

(3)
You need to wear long pants that cover your ankles. Shorts/shirts/shoulders must always be covered at the palace and temples. It's a huge complex and being covered up in long pants on hot humid weather was a challenge and not very comfortable. Again, our tour guide talked alot but we could barely concentrate on her with the sun/heat bearing down on us.

Grand Palace

(3)
You need to wear long pants that cover your ankles. Shorts/shirts/shoulders must always be covered at the palace and temples. It's a huge complex and being covered up in long pants on hot humid weather was a challenge and not very comfortable. Again, our tour guide talked alot but we could barely concentrate on her with the sun/heat bearing down on us.

River Cruise

(3)
Cool downed on this which was really appreciated in the heat of the day. Interesting part was when the boat operator handed out bread...I thought for us...it was for feeding carp/fish at the temple.

River Cruise

(3)
Cool downed on this which was really appreciated in the heat of the day. Interesting part was when the boat operator handed out bread...I thought for us...it was for feeding carp/fish at the temple.

Wat Po (Reclining Buddha Temple)

(3)
Temples, temples, temples. After 19 or so days of temples, I was a little numb to viewing any more temples.

Wat Po (Reclining Buddha Temple)

(3)
Temples, temples, temples. After 19 or so days of temples, I was a little numb to viewing any more temples.

(5.5)
We arrived a day ahead the 3-day Princess Pre-Cruise Tour so we spent it walking to the nearby Silk Market, China World Mall, and grocery store. We had great weather and it was very easy to walk around the hotel. Princess Tour Day 1: Tianammen Square, Forbidden City, Jade Factory. All very interesting but the Jade Factory was more for shopping. Princess Tour Day 2: Great Wall of China was the highlight of this trip for us (Bucket List Item #1 for Asia). The Summer Palace tour and boat ride in the afternoon was relaxing. Princess Tour Day 3: Heavenly Palace and Silk Factory were in the morning with a long 3 hour bus ride (one rest stop) to the Port to get on the Diamond Princess. All went smoothly. Note: Our main tour guide on Day 1 had a death in the family but his protege step right in and took over. Very informative and efficiently run tours.
Read 17 Beijing Reviews

City Tour

(3)
Before Saigon, we stopped at the beach city of Nha Trang. Both locations were very hot, humid, sticky. The boat ride in Nha Trang offered some respite from the heat and humidity, but the tour was a little disorganized due to the tender system broke up tour groups. We ended up with a mix of people from different tour groups that got separated during the tendering. Saigon is a long busride from the port. That left less than 4 hours in Saigon itself and we only got to go past alot of key sites instead of going inside to visit.

Aberdeen

(3)
Alot of the old chinese junks and sampans were being replaced in this fishing village. The boat tour was relaxing.

City Tour

(4)
We stopped at Shanghai and Hong Kong in two separate shore excursions. Both cities had massive high-rise growth and their rivalry as economic and commerce centers was evident. Alot of the old chinese symbols (junks, sampans, etc) were being replaced as the city modernizes. The day started off with fog/haze, but ended clear and the Diamond Princess was allowed to go straight through Victoria Harbor for the dazzling light show in Hong Kong at 8:00 PM.

Stanley Market

(4)
Had 45 minutes to wander through the lines of shops...we wish we could've spent more time here shopping.

Victoria Peak

(3)
Day was foggy. Not much to see. The tram ride to the top we entertaining.

Nagasaki Peace Park

(5)
Note: Before Nagasaki, we stopped in Busan, Korea but it was really not that great of a shore excursion. We took the Nagasaki walking tour which was great. It showed us how to get around Nagasaki on our own using their trolley/bus system. The Peace Park was very tranquil...with the Peace Memorial on one end and the monument where the detonation took place on the other end.

The Atomic Bomb Museum

(5)
Excellent Museum. I wished we could've spent more time here. Very intersting and graphic videos, pictures, and exhibition. Japanese School children were everywhere but were very polite and always accomodated our picture taking.

City Tour

(4)
Hot Humid and Sticky....always since 85 miles from the Equator. The new terminal is close by. Massive construction going on....amazing people have adapted to live and thrive in the heat. Good tour of old dwellings.

Thank You For Signing Up!

Please Note: To ensure delivery of your free e-letters, please add news@cruisecritic.com to your address book.
We're committed to protecting your privacy and will not rent or sell your e-mail address. By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.