My wife and I have rececently returned from a 12 night cruise around Japan embarking from Tianjin in China. This was our first cruise and we did all the research and read the all reviews about this, and other big ships, along with Asian Cruising pros and cons. Before heading off we were excited and thought we were prepared for all we might encounter on this cruise. How wrong we were.
Embarkation at Tianjin was realative seamless and we were on board and in our cabin by 1.00pm. Our Balcony Suite was spacious and well maintained for its age. Our cabin attendant Rodger was awsome. Invisible in his service but always available if we needed him, mainly for advice. Our first two sailing days were spent aquainting ouselves with the ship and its facilities and we were pleasantly surprised that the recreation facilities were mostly uncrowded.
We chose My Time dining and our first meal in the dining room was below our expectations. Advertised options were not available and food quality was average at best. The next night we tried the Windjammer, but trying to find a seat was difficult and remained so for the remainder of the cruise. We had four more meals in the Dining Room (including formal nights) which did not improve with most of our meals served either cold, or dried out from spending an excessive amount of time under the heat lamps. Wait staff in the dining room were mostly overbearing in their attempts to seek our favour and upsell us for drinks. For docked days, we ate lunch at traditional Japanese restaurants so as not to rely on the ship for dinner. Often we left the dining room hungry and went to Johhny Rockets for a burger, or Cafe Promenade for a snack afterwards.
Organisation at ports of call was non existant (unless your were booked on an RCCL Tour) . We requested exact port details from RCCL so we could plan to self explore. We docked at different ports in Toyama & Tokyo. The queues for Customs clearance, Guest Relations and Disembarkation were lenghty (often over an hour standing) as passengers largely disregarded crew instructions. Port transport options in Muroran and Busan were sadly lacking resulting in limited available time to explore these ports. The one shore excursion we did book with RCCL to Noribetsu Historical Village was overbooked, overcrowded and overpriced.
Professional entertainment was average. Entertainment and shows by the crew singers and musicians was far better.
Disembarkation at Tianjin at the end of the cruise was also chaotic. We waited for 2 hours at our designated muster point only to find out that the delays were not caused by customs clearance as advised by the crew, but again by wayward passengers disregarding crew instructions. Then a further 1 hour wait standing in a queue on deck to disembark. Our port transfer was subsequently 3 hours late.
Numerous seasoned cruisers advised as not to be disillusioned by our experience on this cruise as it was not representative of a normal cruising experience. We are beginning to explore another cruise option for the future, but I don't think it will be on another large ship or with this cruise line, and certainly another experience like this will turn us off spending our holiday dollars on cruising in future.