My Wife and I travelled on the Diamond Princess from Sydney to Beijing in March 13 which was our 2nd cruise with Princess after previously cruising with Royal Caribbean and Holland America. Following experiences with these three cruise liners we would consider that Royal Caribbean to be the better cruise company. Our reasons are as follows:
Little to chose from although the Diamond princess looks a little dated in its decor; needs updating although not a problem.
We found service on the Diamond Princess patchy at best. Service in the dining room in the evening was excellent. However that is where it stops. Service at breakfast was very slow and you often had to request for a additional coffee or request jam as it was not automatically offered. Bar service in the explorers lounge was also a hit and miss experience and on too many occasions I had to go to the bar in order to get a drink after waiting an age for a waiter that never appeared.
Service in the Coffee lounge was generally poor (except when the waitress from Peru was working who was very efficient) When she was not there we found the best way to order a coffee was to go the bar otherwise you were ignored. On one occasion a waitress saw me waving and said she would be right back, she them promptly disappeared and never returned!
There was no service at all on deck 15 and 16 at the back of the ship on sunny sea days by the pool areas; the bar was always closed. Had to walk down to deck 14 to get drinks and bring it back. Service was only provided at the front end of the ship.
In general very good. They did have problems cooking steaks, I like mine rare but it often arrived overcooked and completely burnt on one occasion (must have been an English chef lol) Also on another occasion, chicken ordered by another couple on our table was undercooked which is not safe and had to be replaced. Fish dishes were excellent however.
Again this was a mixed bag. A few good shows but too many indifferent performances in our view which makes you wonder if Princess are cost cutting. The group evolution however were excellent and provided a mainstay for entertainment in the evenings.
Room service/room steward -
Unfortunately not very good. Our steward did the basics most of the time but was the worst we have had on our cruise experiences. We ran out of bath gel after the first week and for about 4 days we used our own before it was restocked. Throughout the cruise we were never supplied with ice in our room or drinks. On one occasion he provided only one bath towel! You could argue that it is all minor gripes but I don't go on expensive holidays to chase after staff to do their jobs. We used the breakfast room service on three occasions, on the 3rd occasion it did not appear at all and we had to go to horizon for breakfast. Room service did apologise afterward once they realised their mistake.
Delivery of fruit to your room stopped after a few days. I would place the card out each evening but no fruit appeared or explanation as to why it was not being delivered. I understood afterwards that it was due to shortages of the fruit I had requested. But to offer no explanation and simply ignore your requests is very poor.
Simply put - overpriced and not very good much better to go with local company or go on your own.
We had a few issues on this cruise the most notable one being the fiasco of the evening tender service from Pier 4 in Hong Kong back to the ship. Service was due to start at 2100hrs but nothing appeared until after 2200 hrs Overall it took over 2 hours to get back on aboard. There was no one from Princess to explain to the long waiting line of passengers what was happening or apologies offered for the delays. I felt particularly sorry for those more elderly passengers who were forced to stand for a very long time.
Port stops -
Good with a few exceptions - Darwin to short a stop preventing anyone going to the national park about 90 minutes drive; a real pity. Dalian - a complete waste of time boring and with few redeeming features. Princess should drop this port of call and stay longer in Shanghai or Darwin. Shanghai liked this city plenty to see and do. Busan - Good place to visit, loved the fish market.