We’re 60+ year old Australians with 18 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This 10 night cruise around Japan was our 2nd cruise on the Diamond Princess. Although there was a price drop just before we booked this cruise, the price was not cheap. As we had already booked a cruise to Japan arriving 5 days before this cruise, we decided the opportunity was too good to miss.
After staying 3 nights in Tokyo at the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel in Ginza, we took a very short taxi ride to Central Station followed by a 30 minute train ride down to Yokohama on the morning of the cruise. This was followed by a short taxi ride to board the ship.
Embarkation was a complete shambles! First there were no signs and no Princess staff directing passengers. Then there was a long queue to drop off our suitcases. Hand luggage inspection was disorganized with many people unwittingly jumping the next long line. Also no one checked who was using the preferred boarding line with the result that this line also moved very slowly.
We had finally reached Elite status for this cruise after sailing over 150 days. The final straw was when we were given our cruise cards, they were incorrect level even though on the recent previous cruise we had been reassured by the Captain’s Circle Club representative that Princess would have them correct. Later on board it took over 1 hour to correct the problem with 4 different staff members! The problem was made worse by a very slow queue at the Captain’s Circle Club which was only open from 5.30 pm to 7 pm. As we had early sitting, we had to miss our first night’s dinner in the MDR.
The next morning we had a successful CC Meet & Greet which was attended by Steven Ross, the Customer Services Director.
Diamond Princess is truly a beautiful; and, at 113 000 tons with approx 2600 passengers, a very large ship. The ship has just had a refurbishment for the Japanese market and was celebrating its 10th anniversary. Although the 2 main additions were additional cost venues – Japanese baths & Japanese restaurant.
On this cruise there were a total of only about 1900 passengers with a few hundred more boarding in South Korea later in the cruise. Surprisingly although this cruise was aimed at the Japanese, there were only about 700 of them on-board.
We missed the 4 page daily newspaper that some other cruise lines supply. This was partly compensated by 250 minutes of free internet offered to Platinum/Elite cruisers. Although the service on this cruise was terrible – it took several days to start working and then it was very slow!
In the interest of hygiene, the public toilets had the main door open and/or paper towels supplied to open them.
Our balcony cabin had a large balcony (half shaded) as it was on Caribe deck. Unfortunately as it was cold for most of the cruise, we didn't get much chance to enjoy the generous loungers supplied outside.
The bed was in good condition and well padded. We have noticed that generally the bed improves with the standard of the cabin; that is, balcony cabins have superior (or newer) beds than interior cabins. Also if you want a top sheet, ask for it. Our suitcases fitted under the bed.
Two comfortable chairs & small coffee table are supplied. There was a very large interactive flat-screen TV with free movies on demand. The small fridge was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Lighting is good.
We liked the open style walk-in type robe which had generous hanging space. The ensuite was a reasonable size. The dreaded shower curtain on the fairly compact shower did not suck in as it was weighted.
Food & drinks:
Due to the inclusion of Japanese meals in the main dining room, there was a reduced choice of Western meals with the everyday menu missing. We found the standard of food in the MDR and the buffet to be reasonable. Seafood was always available; with lobster on the last formal night. Portions were noticeably smaller. We were surprised there were no hand sanitizers at the main dining room whereas they were situated at the entrance to the food in Horizon Court where we had most of our other meals. The buffet setup with separate stations was easy to use.
Many passengers were disappointed as anytime dinning wasn't normally available on this cruise even though the ship is well equipped to handle it with 5 free restaurants. We couldn't understand this as on several nights when there were late port departures, this was the only choice offered.
As there isn't an International Café on this ship, sweets are not available with your coffee in the small lobby bar on deck 5.
Wine started at $25 which is cheaper than some other companies.
Staff and service on board:
All announcements were in English & Japanese. Apparently even the crew were learning to speak Japanese. Princess obviously trains their staff well as they were always friendly and polite even at reception.
Since we were Elite we had free laundry but having several coin operated laundrettes on board was a bonus for many passengers
As this was a bilingual cruise, the entertainment was not up to the usual standard. On some nights there were only Japanese entertainers.
As with other cruises, we enjoyed the shows in the Princess Theater - these are the highlight of our evening. The singers & dancers in the 5 different production shows did a superb job. “Born to be Wild” was very spectacular. With Princess’s new Anytime Entertainment, the shows are reduced to just 30 minutes each. We feel this has comprised the quality of the shows. Early in the cruise the 870 seat theater wasn't full but this changed later in the cruise. Overall we found the standard of entertainment to be not as good as Celebrity.
Cruise director, Warren Smith (originally from South Africa) did a good job. There was a 2nd Cruise Director who translated into Japanese after each show.
Disappointingly, there was no port lecturer and the only enrichment lectures were in Japanese! Princess apparently have only one port lecturer for Japan and she was transferred to Sun Princess which is also cruising in these waters.
Shore Excursions & Destinations:
We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive. CC organised private tours work well or we were happy to do our own thing. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explore ourselves. At all Japanese ports the locals were extremely organised with maps & information.
At Aomori & Nagasaki we did our own thing. At Maizuru we took the train to explore amazing Amanohashidate. At Busan in South Korea, the only port outside Japan, we used a free local guide. At Hakata we joined a CC organised tour with a local guide who used public transport for the tour. This tour included a very interesting and unusual cat café – yes, live cats all over the tables, chairs & rafters! At Toyama we stayed onboard as the ship docked at a container port which required a shuttle bus & train to reach the nearest small town.
Free shuttle buses were provided when required at all ports. At many ports the locals organised excellent entertainment on the quayside for the sailaway. There was even a large fireworks display at one of the sailaways!
Everything went smoothly leaving the ship after arriving back in Yokohama, Japan where we caught a free shuttle tram from the port to the train station. Here we took a train back to Tokyo as we were returning to the same hotel, Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Ginza, as pre cruise for 2 nights before flying home to Australia.
In our opinion the service is excellent, with above average food, and below average entertainment. Being a bilingual cruise meant extra costs for Princess; with comprises having to be made in entertainment for both language groups.
Princess proves that you get what you pay for. The company appeals to older passengers and seems to build loyalty by rewarding past passengers. We enjoyed the many benefits of now being Elite for this cruise. We would highly recommend Princess Cruises.
As we have done on previous cruises with Princess, while onboard we took advantage of their Future Cruise Credits scheme. We already have 2 future cruises booked with Princess. As Carnival shareholders, we also receive extra onboard credits.