My wife and I had decided to take a retirement trip and although she had done a trip to the pacific islands, I had never been on a passenger ship, despite having been a deep sea captain for over 40 years. We found the ship to be very clean and we had paid a little extra for a mini suite, which was a good choice. It isn't a huge difference in size, just an extra seating area with a 3 seater settee and chair and table, but it seems to make the cabin much more liveable. The balcony is adequate but it does get overlooked by everyone above as it is further out on the ships side and has no cover, on the plus side, we could look straight down the ships side to watch the pilot boats and tenders coming and going. We also got a bath/ shower but only used the shower. You can see the insides on many You Tube videos for more details. We did bring a couple of bottles of wine onboard at Sydney & Darwin. Never questioned when they X-Ray the backpacks so good for a quick drink on the balcony.
We picked the early dining option which gave us more time to go to various venues after dinner, but we tried other dining venues on several occasions.
Get in early for shows and movies in the Princess Theatre as it is usually packed for the first week or two. The extra spend on dining venues such as sabatini is well worth the money. Get a good lounge early for movies under the stars as they are almost always taken, rugs and popcorn are free.
The forward end has a great private child free area which is worth the money. The forward pool is almost always lightly used and feels like more luxury. There are a few mini lounge/ bar areas which were always empty when we went in if you want privacy.
The ship has about 2700 passengers but it doesn't feel like it most of the time onboard but on two occasions in Japan & Korea, there were block long lines waiting for up to 40 minutes for coaches back to the ship, There were lots of coaches but also lots of pax and crew filling them up.
All in all, we had a wonderful time. The crew were all fantastic and did everything they could to make us enjoy the trip. If we had any real gripes, it was that there was so much to do everyday, we couldn't do it all. Sometimes towards the end of the voyage, we were glad to get back to the cabin.
We never took a ships excursion but found plenty to look at walking around by ourselves after the shuttle bus dropped us. They had a lecturer give a lecture in the theatre before every port and this is repeated on the TV.
2 ports not mentioned in the port reviews section, were Kagoshima in Japan (which was a very small port in the extreme south of Japan. They are very close to a volcano which is still active On some days, if the wind is blowing from the volcano, it pushes volcanic dust over the city. There is some good shopping department stores and restaurants but we had some problems getting coaches back to the ship.
We also went to Taipei which is in free China, We took a taxi with a few others and it was very good. Saw lots of places and the driver looked after us well. Bought our currency in Hong Kong and changed it back onboard.
After Japan, we went to Busan in Korea, Lots of shopping and good street markets. More trouble with long lines for the shuttle bus.
We then went to Shanghai in China, Lots of history here. Another town with the "Big Red Bus", Took one to the west side tour, then changed to another route taking in the shopping district. Had a great time here as well but not much time ashore so had to cram it all in quickly.
From there to Dalian, not much here.. some architecture, maybe should have taken the tour. The department store was very expensive but got some silk scarves. Got an early bus back.
Last stop was Beijing where we ended the trip. We had a tour guide company to take us off the ship to our hotel which was the Novotel Peace. It takes 3 hours to get to Beijing from the port. This hotel is within 3 blocks from the forbidden city, close to the big pedestrian shopping street. We got a top floor (9th) with a suite. If you are on the 8th or 9th, you get a free lounge to relax in from 1800 with free snacks and booze and free breakfast each morning.