We have cruised on many ships mostly in 700-900 range, so perhaps it is not fair for comparison with ship of this size? But I think objective comparison can be made in major areas.
We boarded this ship in Yokohama with two 9 day cruise itineraries back to back, first segment covering the northern Island of Hokkaido, then western region of Japan in Sea of Japan.
We elected to sail on Princess due to it's new itinerary covering most of the Island with one port in Russia and one in Korea.
Embarkation was pretty smooth, we chose private van to Yokohama, sharing the cost with our travel companions for very reasonable price. It would have been difficult to wrestle with our bags on a train which would have been cheaper, but it was worth the hassle free transfer, right to the cruise terminal in Yokohama, about 45" drive.
Our mini suit cabin was available for occupancy within 5-10" of embarkation procedure and shockingly our bags were in our cabin ahead of us!
In our many years of cruising, this has never happened, even on-board luxury cruise liner. Now comes the dreaded but necessary emergency drill and this one was extremely long, because English/Japanese version presented?
The ship departed Yokohama on schedule and we had our first dinner at International Dinning Room. This 18 day cruise did not offer any-time dinning option and four of us assigned to 745pm sitting with group of unknown fellow passengers. We were not accustomed to this style of dinning, we had a chat with our Head Waiter and he was able to assign us to a table for four of us and same waiters for 18 days!
I must say we were so lucky to have Mr. Espaniola and his assistant serving us, they certainly enhanced Princess service level.
Our cabin Stewart Orlando also was perfect in every-way! If Princess failed to meet our expectations in other areas, these employees definitely made an effort to keep us happy.
In the area of food on-board, they failed in several areas. First and foremost, their room service menu is very limited and if you decide to eat in, its a big mistake. We ordered once with tomato soup as side dish and it was so watered down, we did not touch it. You may order room service from dinning room menu, but at additional cost of $130? So, you literally had to go and dine at one of dinning venues.
Japanese menu items were pretty basic and specially built Sushi restaurant, never had more than few at any given evenings. Why they would install mediocre sushi restaurant in their backyard is beyond me?
Would you install Italian Specialty restaurant with totally Italian itinerary? I would think Asians would enjoy Western cuisine much more than better cuisine of their own anytime.
The ship's excursions ranged from $15pp to $169pp and covered major attractions, we took advantage of On Your Own bus ride at Russian port ( poor selection and down right depressing ), just to avoid $200 visa fee and the right to claim I was on Russian soil. One excitement was our tender getting lost in a thick fog and could not find our ship!!!!!
We did most of our onshore activities ourselves which we prepared for: Port of Kushiro, we hired private driver to Lake Akan with three couples ($100 per couple ) with visit to Ainu village and crane sanctuary.: Port of Otaru, train to city of Sapporo: Port of Hakkodate, used taxi to visit excursions outlined on ship's excursion ( good way to do it ): Port of Aomori, Garden visit and some museums: Port of Yokohama, visit to China town and gorgeous shopping center within walking distance.
The highlight of our excursions were Maisuru ( Kyoto by train on our own ), ship's excursion wasted too much time stopping for shopping and lunch. It missed couple of the must see sights. Port of Nagasaki was very interesting, because of unintended bombing with atom bomb. The intended bomb sight had cloud covering, so the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki which had opening in a cloud cover. Approximately 75, 000 killed and the Memorial Park and Museum was very interesting ans sobering.
We returned to Yokohama with typhoon on our tail, disembarkation just as smooth and we took ship's transfer to Narita Airport instead of train for the same reason ( too cumbersome ) with bags for $79pp good bargain, taxi would have been $320 minimum for the 2 hour ride.
Would I sail again on Princess doubtful! We have become accustomed to better quality foods, less crowd and not being nickled and dimed to death. As the old saying goes " You get what you paid for " and with summer schedule many kids with parents and grandparents will be traveling. So, for those of us empty-nesters, being with similar age group of people would be more enjoyable! I hope people reading this review would not take it negatively?
This definitely is the cheapest way to see Japan which would be very expensive otherwise!