We are a couple in our early 30s who have cruised a few times before. The majority of our cruises have been with RCI. We chose Princess because we wanted to cruise Asia, we needed a route in the Summer holidays and Princess were supposed to be a superior cruise line. This was our first cruise with Princess and probably our last!
The destinations were Bangkok (would return - vibrant), Kuantan (unsure why we stopped here - a beach and that's it), Singapore (would live there), Saigon (the main reason for taking 3 hours to drive from the port is discover the history relating to the war, but this is not mentioned (not PC?) so disappointing), Nha Trang (not a popular stop and not sure why we stop here), Hong Kong (enjoyed this-don't forget about the Botanical gardens), Shanghai (bit dirty and chaotic, but underwater tunnel at the Bund is a must), Nagasaki (very moving - museum exhibits are not for those of a sensitive nature) and Beijing (we stayed on for a couple of days at the Marco Polo - highly recommended). We had to miss out Pusan due to the typhoon. As cruising in Asia at this time of year is in their rainy season (typhoons included!), it is worth taking on board the fact you may have to miss out some ports. Overall, the destinations were fabulous and certainly our favourite cruise ports yet.
Unfortunately, the cruise line did not meet our expectations. Here are just a few points:-
*Lack of cleanliness around the ship and in particular, our cabin. We had the soap remnants from the previous guests in our shower, somebody's fruit chunks stuck to the back of our fridge (we reported this and a new fridge was installed, but no apology, in fact, no communication at all!), rubbish left in the safe and drawers, no clean towels- was the room ever cleaned before we embarked?!
*After the Norwalk virus affecting one of their fleet, you would expect better hygiene and food handling. We received coleslaw from room service that was 'off'(we made them aware of this and nothing was done - no apology), milk that was left out past the time on the labels at the buffet, ice in trays with tongs that had fallen into the tray and therefore had to be 'fished' out (there was no other source of ice at the buffet and the water in the dispensers was warm) and a number of staff with very poor hygiene habits (eg, sneezing, coughing, rubbing their face with their hands in the plastic gloves for serving food). My husband actually suffered mild food poisoning from a crayfish that, part way through his meal, he found was also 'off'. Generally, the hot food items weren't hot enough and the cold ones weren't always stored correctly.
*Food was very poor (a comment echoed by a number of our fellow travellers). We actually left the dining room hungry. Service was poor too, with the waiters at our table not remembering (even after the 15th night!) that a member of our table had a allergy to pepper! Dishes were whisked out and whisked away, meaning that my husband could be on his salad, I'd be on the appetizers and other people on the table could be on the soup. Not the way to promote fine dining. *Overall, there was a poor level of English spoken and understood by the staff, which led to them being quite rude and abrupt (at least I think that was the reason!) We must mention Geoffrey in the Cabaret bar, however, as he was the only member of staff who seemed to know how to treat the guests!
*The Cruise Director (Sammi) was the worst we have encountered. She was ineffective when dealing with a complaint that we had about safety (the outcome being that the reason no staff came to check on a situation was that they were all at lunch from 1-3 pm! Good job we weren't sinking then!) She had an unusual manner (i.e. telling us all at the show to stop spreading rumours about the ports we might have to miss due to the typhoon - it was like being back at school) and on many occasions, kept telling us to stop complaining that the ship wasn't like the Grand Princess, Golden Princess etc. She actually said that Princess knew they weren't the best cruise line, but that they weren't as bad as some! There's a sign of someone who trusts and values their product!
*Disembarkation at Beijing took 3 hours!! plus an hour to get through immigration. Some people missed trips they'd organised in Beijing (we didn't reach our hotel until 3:45 and the Forbidden City closes at 4pm)
*Finally, a word of warning to those of you under 40. DON'T GO!!! unless you look over 40. We got ignored and treated as second class citizens because we weren't older and dripping in gold, diamonds etc. Princess seem to target their cruises at older people, which seems crazy because we are the cruisers of the future. Someone else on Cruise Critic had mentioned a similar problem on one of the other ships.
In closing, this was an expensive cruise and we didn't feel we got value for money from the ship. The facilities on board are VERY limited (if you have children, forget it!) and overall, the service, food and morale of the staff seemed low. There wasn't a sense of 'family' within the staff (although you could at various time in the cruise, clearly overhear the latest love-life of the entertainers!) If you want to cruise Asia, look for another cruise line, or wait until Princess have got their act together.