We flew Japan Air which was quite good in business class and we arrived as scheduled. We travelled by private car to the ship, arriving late in the evening, about 8:30 pm. Nevertheless there was someone to greet us at the terminal and we were checked in in 15 minutes or so. We ordered a sandwich from room service, our luggage arrived promptly and we were sound asleep.
The next day we did the full day tour of Tokyo and like many organized tours it was informative but not particularly memorable. The next day was at sea and we made our spa reservations, played trivia and bingo, enjoyed tea and so forth. All in all a very pleasant and relaxing day. Mariner's cabins are not as big as the Voyager's and although initially I was disappointed, I got used to it and it was just fine. Nagasaki: we opted to skip the Peace Park and go to Unzen Hell. This was a very bizarre day. Unzen Hell is a group of hot springs and an active volcano. It was interesting for awhile but this trip could have been much shorter and no one would have complained. Then we went to lunch at a BAVARIAN themed restaurant???!! The food was German-like and the Japanese staff were all dressed in dirndls and lederhosen. It was truly weird. Like "Heidi goes to Japan".
Next stop China! We LOVED China. Dalian was kinda forgettable. Although we did enjoy flying kites which is one of DH's passions, but otherwise this port is a bit of a mystery to me. But the complimentary excursion to Beijing was a lifetime experience. Radisson Seven Seas provided this to all passengers and it was wonderful. We went to the Great Wall and although very crowded because of a Chinese holiday was nevertheless, just awesome. We stayed at the China World hotel with all others who were going on to Xi'an. The trip to Xi'an to se the Terra Cotta Warriors was an optional trip taken by about 50 of us. Those who were returning to the ship stayed at the ShangriLa. China World was absolutely beautiful. It has an attached shopping mall which includes Ferragamo, Cartier, Bvlgari and the like. I thought "who shops here? Isn't this a Communist country?"
After check in we walked a few blocks to Silk Alley. Now THAT is an experience. It is a large indoor flea market kind of place with hundreds of stalls on 3 floors full of sales people whose English consists of "Hey Lady" It was like being in a warehouse full of Jerry Lewises! Once we got past the shock of being grabbed at, it was pretty fun. We got some purses and watches and then went back to the hotel. Outside there were 5 or 6 women selling socks, of all things, who were extremely aggressive but we took it all in stride and had a good time.
Dinner was at the hotel and it was very good. It was a buffet but they had a noodle maker present similar to a pasta bar but he was making the noodles from the dough. It was fascinating and very tasty. The next day we went to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Both places were packed. There is a Chinese holiday which lasts from Oct 1 to Oct 7 and we were caught in that but still it was fantastic. The Square was all decorated with banners and the like for the Olympics in 2008. We bought a couple of baseball hats that say Beijing 2008 for a dollar. Then we flew off to Xi'an on China East airlines. This was roughly the equivalent to any US 'no frills" kind of airline. The flight attendants came down the aisle and said "Happy Chinese NAtional Day" to each and presented us with a tote bag.
We arrived at the Shangri La hotel and encountered a great deal of confusion with regard to the luggage. To make it worse, for unexplained reasons the excursion to the T'ang Dynasty dinner and show which was to have been the next night was moved up a day and we would be heading out to that within a couple of hours of our arrival. By the time our luggage made it to the room, we had to rush to make the bus. The show was very interesting and we had our picture taken with the troupe but since we had been in the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square earlier this day then flown from Beijing, you can imagine just how exhausted we were! It was difficult to keep our eyes open during the show. The Terra Cotta warriors are an unbelievable experience. They are in 3 pits, the first is the most interesting as it contains many more figures then the other 2 pits. We bought a 3/4 size one for our yard at home. He will arrive by slow boat from China around Christmas.
We took an excursion to a mosque in Xi'an. A number of people stayed on the bus. The mosque itself was nothing special, but oh the walk to get to it!! We walked thru a street bazaar filled with Chinese muslims, cooking all kinds of wondrous looking things on open grills. Altho there were open baskets of raw meat and fish, rather than being stinky, it all smelled wonderful! This was like a scene from a movie, kept expecting to see Indiana Jones running by being chased by bad guys with swords! What a hoot! We even stopped into a Chinese pharmacy and were shown the dried scorpions and centipedes etc that constitute Chinese cure-alls, ewww. A really great day. We flew back to the ship, meeting it in Shanghai. The trip back was not as smooth as the trip to Xi'an due to some issues with boarding passes and seat assignments but we all made back to the ship in one piece. We really didn't get to see much of Shanghai because of the Xi'an trip but what we saw was impressive.
We went to the Chinese acrobats show which was very cool. Like an entire show of the individual acts you can see at any Cirque Du Soleil show. It was pretty special and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Before we went to Beijing, we had encountered Gordon the cruise director and asked about Karaoke on the ship. My husband really enjoys that and Gordon said "sure that'll be great" but it never happened. Every night the night club featured disco. And every night I would walk by and there would be ABSOLUTELY NO ONE in there. I mean that literally, there was not a soul in the whole place except the bartender and I only saw him once! DH was very disappointed that despite the complete and utter lack of interest in disco and his specific request for something else, the cruise director never responded to our inquiries about when would we get Karaoke. So DH sang a couple of songs on the pool deck with the Mariner Five and was mollified somewhat but still, what's with the disco thing??
Our last port was Hong Kong. The first day we took the ships tour and went to the top of Victoria Peak and stopped at the Stanley Market We disembarked the Mariner the next day without delay. We stayed an extra day at the Peninsula hotel. What a fabulous place. During the day we rode on the Star Ferry and did some (more) shopping. I had bought an extra suitcase at the Stanley Market so we were "good to go". That night we ate at Felix and took pictures in the famous men's room. In the morning we checked out and as previously arranged we took the hotel's Rolls Royce to the airport for roughly $100 USD. A great way to end our trip. The hotel's staff met us at the curb at the terminal and took our luggage for us to the airline counter and waited with us till we had boarding passes and baggage tags. What a level of service! We flew home in the upper deck of a 747 and it was very pleasant flight home. Although we were obviously sick by this time, no one at any airport we were in questioned us. I found this to be a relief on the one hand and troubling on the other, what about this bird flu pandemic?? This was truly a fantastic voyage. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little exotic, totally "foreign" and completely memorable.