We have cruised 16 times, 4 of those on RCL and the first on VOTS. We flew from Sydney to Beijing and spent 4 nights at Kempinski Hotel which was excellent. It was national holidays so Beijing was very crowded but we enjoyed what we did, although dealing with local customs and manners was a challenge!! We arranged a private car transfer to Tianjin which was a good option as it when well. The terminal is fairly new and well organised so after filling out all the paperwork we were on board within an hour. We went direct to our cabin, 6668 dropped our gear and headed off for a look around and have some lunch.
The ship is large but fairly easy to get around and looking closely it is in need of an upgrade which I believe is happening in May 2014, that will make this a very nice and modern ship. Our cabin on deck 6 was very average as it was aft and the corridor always seemed musty and there was regular very nasty smells out on the balcony and our neighbours had the same experience.
We left Beijing on time and off to 3 ports in Japan and all of these were excellent, very clean cities and well organised ship tours although you could do your own thing. Then to Hong Kong at the new terminal which is very new and not finished yet. Getting to the city from is here is easy and cheap on your own. Then to Saigon but that is over 2 hours away from where we docked so a challenge for many. This was an overnight stay so many stayed overnight in the city. Then to Bangkok again an overnight stay so many stayed there overnight as it is over 2 hours from the ship. Next to Singapore and the end for us and many others.
In summary a wonderful cruise with great ports and smooth sailing. There are always some negatives on cruises so for balance I will state what they were in our opinion and from feedback on board many other people. We changed cruise directors from a chinese guy to a british guy after a few days and he said the entertainment for the whole cruise had been prebooked so he couldn't change much and that was a big problem as the programs and standard was terrible. The cruise visited some very interesting and I particularly enjoy destination talks regarding the history of these places plus general lectures on interesting world history. The presenters here struggled with English and just read from notes, very disappointing and I did feel sorry for these people as they were doing their best but the delivery was terrible and of no interest. The new cruise director did a couple of these himself and that was much better but as he said that is not his job these should be presented by professional speakers and/or historians. The entertainment overall was very poor as were daily activities and clearly poor planning was the reason for this. The Captain told us there were 55 nationalities on board and very few chinese so they should have know what to plan for. Food in the restaurant was always very good as was the service. The buffet was always average to good but not to HAL or Celebrity standard. Staff as usual were excellent in all areas, the casino was dated and poorly laid out. I believe this will be an excellent ship after the upgrade so we will give it another go the.