First to just get this out of the way. Do not cruise to ASIA in Sept. It was too hot and too humid and we could only stand about 1/3 of the normal time we usually spend siteseeing. Thankfully, public transport, stores and the ship were air conditioned. But it really cut down on our enjoyment for visiting the port sites.
The ship is older but they handled the international passenger list exceptionally well. The buffet was the best of any we have been to. There was a food bar for Japanese sushi, one for Chinese steam buns, pot-stickers, soups, congee, a bar for meditteranean salads and anti-pastas, a bar for English bangers, sausage, etc, a bar for Indian curry dishes, a fresh cooked stir fry, plus American foods, bread bar and dessert bar. We enjoyed all the dishes we ate. And there was food to suit every taste. It is the first time we have preferred eating in the buffet rather than the dining room.
The dining room was too noisy and it was difficult to visit with other guests at the table. But the waiters were quick and efficient and the meal portions perfect. You had to ask for a starch if you wanted one with your meal.
We were disappointed in the port Information kiosks. They were not set up at all in Shanghai to welcome the passengers. That was disappointing. The second day we discovered a Big Red Bus that offered a free shuttle ride into People's Square and then a 2 day HOHO pass if you desired. It would have been nice to know about that. We just happened to notice. The port information booths were not well advertised as to what was available in most of the ports. So it seemed a bit disorganized. Everyone just said, "Take a taxi" but we wanted some information about what to see. The Big Bus would have been ideal.
Having done this trip now, I would recommend that passengers go to the ship's reception desk every night before porting and ask for a city map and information as to what is available besides the shore excursions. They don't seem to offer much, but they do have maps and they help. We did discover that there were things to do on your own--it was hard to communicate with locals and find out anything in China, but you can manage. We started in Beijing. Don't worry as you try to get to the ship at Tenggu Port near Tianjin. It's quite a ride from Beijing--maybe 1 1/2 hr if you take the ships bus. We took the city transport and got a bit concerned when we didn't see the ship or port for quite some time. They built a new port and it is way out away from any shops or city. So many of us passengers were concerned. The embarking is a night mare with all the papers and forms one has to sign, but it is organized and you know exactly what to do. It just takes time.
Our ship was diverted from Seoul because of a typhoon, but here are our recommendations: 1-Shanghai--take the shuttle bus--Big Red Bus outside of port entrance leaves about 9 or 9:30 a.m. The 2 day pass is worth it. Taxi's are cheap but small and you don't see much. If weather is good you can walk the BUND and Nanjing Walking street.
2-Nagasaki--easy to do on your own. Tram pass will get you wherever you want to go. We enjoyed Peace Park and Glover Garden. Ask for Sr. Rates on all public transport and into museums and Garden.
3.--Okinawa--share a taxi if you want to go to Peace Memorial on the end of the island. YOu have time and it is beautiful--the museum is much better than Nagasaki's. It is cooler and more tropical.
4. Taipai, Taiwan--We did the ship 1/2 day to 101 and the Buddhist temple. It was worth the $55/person not to have to exchange money. But there is a train near the ship's port and you can do it all on your own. Very modern city and some English signs help you.
5-Hong KOng--So easy to do on your own. Remember the Star Ferry is free to all tourists and Sr.s All public Transport has Sr. rate. Shopping is O.K. but you can't beat the prices you get at Pearl Market in Beijing or Shanghai. We did the cable car on Lantau Island to the Biggest sitting Buddhai and that was breath taking.
We stayed extra days at Anne Black YWCA in Kowloon and it was great. They had laundry facilities and they are next door to the public library where we used free internet. They are on a great bus line and we enjoyed the simple, clean, ensuite room with air conditioning and onsite restaurant. PErfect for the budget traveler who had been 2 weeks on the cruise and needed laundry facility.
I think it got Asia out of our system. I know if the weather hadn't been so terribly HOT we would have done more and enjoyed it more.