Booking our own air and using air miles to get bulkhead and exit rows was a great idea. Being 6/4, I needed the leg room on the long 14 hour flights from NYC to Beijing and return via Tokyo. Along with the extra leg room, we also scored free passes to United lounges between flights. After flawless transfers, we spent 3 days touring Beijing and staying at the Marriott Wall with tours each day including breakfast at the hotel and lunch during the tours (all excellent including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City). This package was booked with Princess. The Marriott Wall is an excellent hotel with an excellent spa and fitness center and had a great complimentaryy breakfast. We also ate the dinner buffet.
Two glitches occurred upon our arrival - 1)my wife's luggage was lost and after 3 days of promises from United, she finally purchased clothing for the cruise. Of course, the lost bag arrived later that night! We're awaiting United's response to the claim for replacement clothing expense. 2) Upon our arrival, we were advised the ship had been contaminated with a virus and that the embarkation would be delayed 6 hours. Because of rough seas, we finally sailed a day late and thanks to Princess's lack of communication our ports of call remained a mystery for another day when informed that we would skip our first port - Nagasaki, Japan. Unfortunately, "poor communication" seems to be standard with Princess, since there was no newsletter (newsletters were available on 8 previous cruises with Norwegian, Celebrity,Azamara, and even Carnival) with major world events available for the entire cruise.
Generally, the food was good, however, the 4 restaurants had the same menu!! Why? The fitness center was small for the size of the ship and lacked some basic equipment - 2 stationary bikes for 2500 passengers!The solarium roof also leaked during rain. Entertainment was terrible, except for the casino where a Royal Flush paid for the cruise! The entire staff was very attentive, pleasant, and professional. Thankfully, there was no viral outbreak probably because of an excellent cleaning and adherence to strict health practices by the crew!
Once the slow disembarkations were accomplished, all the excursions booked through Princess were flawless - Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Viet Nam,and Thailand were fascinating with great meals and guides. Thanks to the itinerary, it was a great experience - despite the glitches and lackluster cruise aboard the Diamond Princess. Other passengers who had cruised aboard other Princess ships remarked it was substandard by comparison.It was our first with Princess and probably our last!