We flew from Heathrow to Dubai on the new Airbus 380, a truly magnificent experience, with the plane being half empty, but were quickly brought back down to earth by the normal "heaving" plane from Dubai to Bangkok. Our hotel stay was in The Landmark, Sirkumvit Road,the best hotel we had ever been in, Thai people were so friendly and helpful, we did the usual City & Temple tour and Bridge over the River Kwai, which was moving but also lengthy and arduous. We pre-checked in at our hotel for Diamond Princess and following our journey to the port, our transfer on board, into our cabin took only a mater of minutes. This was our 5th Princess cruise, so we knew what to expect. We always book an Inside Cabin and found this particular cabin to be more than adequate and kept spotlessly clean by our friendly Steward. On this subject of cleanliness we were impressed by the steps taken by Princess to maintain a very high standard of cleanliness in Public Areas, washing down the decks nightly etc and always providing alcohol hand gel outside
Dining Areas. On Board services were good. We were on "Anytime Dining" and had a choice of 4 basic restaurants, each with a slightly different theme. We only used 3, because one was not available until following early fixed dining. We enjoyed the smaller, cozier atmosphere, the waiting staff were excellent and we had absolutely no complaints regarding the quality or quantity of our meals. We never once queued and were happy to share a table, usually with Americans, whose company we prefer for a fun shipboard experience. We used the self service Horizon Court for our breakfasts and again were very content with our experience. Staff were attentive and quickly cleared tables to ensure they were always available for use.
My biggest negative comment for on-board services is concerning the price of drinks. Princess has increased the cost and compounds this by adding a 15% service charge to this cost. It was obvious when one looked round the restaurants, the bars and the Show Lounges, how few people were actually drinking and those who were always had waiters hanging around for repeat business!! How long will it take Princess and other cruise lines to recognize that halving the prices would result in a massive uptake and probably increased profits. The price of photographs was also outrageous and it seems silly to produce thousands of quality prints which are never sold!! The Ship's entertainment was generally very good but I fail to understand why their production shows are repeated 2 nights running other than to save money, they might as well use the theatre for more movies. We used the Gymnasium but, particularly on Sea Days, struggled to access the apparatus due to numbers of bodies and perhaps a re-distribution of space between the gymnasium and the often un-used studio and the addition of more equipment would be a better compromise.
We found the Purser's Service to be satisfactory and the Future Cruise Consultant to be very helpful. We attended the various "drinks welcome parties" but they were rather bland and the drinks served, seemed to be "watered down". Shore Excursions, as usual, were very expensive and with a little homework via the internet we were able to fully negotiate our way round the various ports of call for less than half the price charged by Princess. The ship berthed in most ports, out of town, but free shuttle buses were provided and this was very well received by everybody. All the ports visited had their own highlights with the exception of Okinawa which was somewhat diminished by the extremely lengthy and bureaucratic immigration process which took approx 7 hours to clear all passengers for landing, more time than we actually spent in port!!!! It was a surprise to have our passports literally confiscated by Princess from our arrival on board until our arrival in China, not something I have experienced before. I would thoroughly recommend this cruise and the ports visited, particularly Shanghai. Disembarkation proceeded smoothly and we were in Beijing by lunchtime to spend 3 exhausting days visiting the sights of the city and the Great Wall. China was an amazing experience and I cannot speak too highly of our time there. We had an early morning flight back to the UK with Emirates and the journey was long and arduous. In summary, therefore, well done Princess Cruises and our travel agent Voyana, a holiday to be long remembered with affection.