We flew into Hong Kong on a very long flight from San Francisco and arrived at 5:30 pm the day of sailing. Our embarkation was handled by many efficient young women, but only two laptops and not organization of the line until the milling about became a mess. I don't know what Hong Kong was thinking, but you walk through a maze of shopping floors for a million miles before getting to the ship. Our luggage got to the cabin at the same time as we did so that was very nice.
The ship, while certainly not new was kept very clean. The cabin had the most comfortable "pillow top" king size mattress that I have ever had onboard a ship. There was a DVD player with the thin flat screen TV, very nice towels and "spa" shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc., were constantly replaced as used. A professional hair dryer was furnished to augment the lousy one in the bathroom—I wouldn't have had to bring my own. Thank goodness we were on Holland America with their roomy cabins in all categories. We had an upholstered loveseat and side chair with a coffee table that could be raised to table height. When you read on you will realize why the size of the cabin was so important.
Our Captain was Frans Consen a really funny guy. His daily announcements and appearances at the Captain's Welcome Aboard party etc. were enjoyable. We experienced none of the problems complained about on earlier weeks on the Statendam. Even the toilets which have always been a problem on the Statendam performed well for us.
The Cruise Director Susan Wood must not have slept for the entire two weeks as she was every where at all times with a great attitude. Her jokes were well accepted. The shows were very good although I will be happy when the current fad of dancing and singing like they are on a fast track is over.
We had three lecturers on board. The best in my opinion was Dr. Jim Logan from NASA speaking on space. There were many war veterans on board and I am sure they enjoyed the lectures on WW II.
The Port Lecturer did an excellent job of acquainting us with the ports before arrival. We like to go off on our own and visit cities much like we enjoy our home cities. The market places in our ports were what we wanted to see and the FREE shuttle busses into the center of each of the cities were great.
Shore Excursions were pretty much a necessity in Beijing. We were in port for two days so scheduled Ming's Tomb and The Great Wall for the first day. The ship docked in Xingang which is over two hours from Beijing. The ride in and out on the bus each of the two days took over two hours each way so the tours were 11 ½ hours long. Each day we were served a Chinese lunch in huge dining rooms with large round tables. In spite of serving massive numbers of people they were done quite well. The second day we toured The Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven. Tours move at the speed of the slowest person so these were leisurely. I think we could have seen all we wanted on a private tour in one day. I tried to schedule that but with not knowing just when the ship would be cleared the first morning and wanting to be sure not to miss the ship on the second evening we signed up for the tours $199 each for each day. There was an overnight tour that would have avoided the bus ride in and out once, but packing for a hotel for one night kind of defeats the purpose of a cruise where you unpack once and sleep in your own bed for the cruise. The overnight was $639 each.
The Fish Market in Busan (Pusan) Korea was amazing. That and the International Market were within short blocks from the shuttle bus stop.
Nagasaki offered an all day streetcar pass for $5 each and we road three lines from end to end on clean comfortable trolleys. We were able to get off and on when we saw something we wanted to see (the shopping mall was vast and beautiful) and observed the people on their ordinary day.
The highlight of the trip in my estimation was the day cruising the inland passage of Japan. There were constant islands on either side, a great deal of boat traffic and three of the most impressive bridges one would ever want to see. The final bridge we passed under was the lighted longest suspension bridge in the world—two miles long.
As we docked in Osaka there was the largest Ferris wheel in the world right next to the ship. Pictures taken from the top deck of the ship showed we weren't even ¼ the way up the side of the wheel. A "free" tour of Osaka was included in our ship provided transportation to the airport. It was a delightful tour and served to get us off the ship early.
Our room steward was great and something happened that I think would be interesting to pass on. I developed the "Viral Gastroenteritis...Norwalk-Like Virus" our third night out. I experienced diarrhea and vomiting. We had been told to report it immediately which we did. A nurse came promptly and gave me Imodium for the diarrhea and Dramamine for the vomiting. They worked, but we had to be quarantined for 48 hours from the last occurrence. If we didn't stay in our cabin (yes, my husband also though he did not get sick) we would risk being put off the ship! Special crews with masks and gloves came twice a day to clean and disinfect our cabin. We were able to order anything to eat or drink at any time. The ship offered six pages of DVD's, playing cards and puzzles. The television had two current movie channels, two classic movie channels, Discovery Channel, CNN World News, and the usual channels on board. My husband and I played over fifty games of Gin Rummy. It is good we get along well and can amuse ourselves. For complying with the ships rules on quarantine we were compensated with $150 each per day (2 days for us) however, we missed the two days in Shanghai. I don't know how I got it. I am a very healthy person and wash my hands constantly. The ship had hand cleaning liquid all over the ship and you couldn't enter the dining room without using it.
We ate nearly all meals in the dining room. The food was very good, the service efficient and smooth, and the presentation of the food was beautiful. The two days of room service food was well served and prompt.
All of China, Korea and Japan surprised me with the architecture, cleanliness, beautiful flowers along the sidewalks, modern clean busses with seat belts, and friendly happy people.