Background, I am 26 years old, been cruising for 11 years, Carnival, RCI and Princess. This was my first solo cruise, first small ship cruise and first time in Asia. I'm going to split the review into general sections.
I flew from Guangzhou to Shanghai Saturday Jan 22 on China Eastern Airlines, good flight, but about 20 minutes late which is what reviews told me to expect. I had a a car service take me to my hotel, Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, near the Bund, which put it about 5-8 minutes away from the cruise port. Lovely hotel, would easily encourage others to stay there, and I would stay there again if I found myself in Shanghai.
Embarkation - documents stated it started at 12:30, I arrived at 12 and found out it didn't start until 1 pm. Not a big deal. There was a convenience store and coffee shop in the terminal and chairs. Went through customs and on board and in my stateroom by 1:30. No dining room lunch today, since no one was on the ship before 1:30 really.
Stateroom- I booked an inside gty, and ended up with cabin 7071. I was close to the laundry room, but nothing like the diagram had it. It was also only 2 floors up to Lido and 2 floors down to deck 5 (main deck with shops, cabaret lounge, restaurant etc). Excellent location, good size, I loved having the small love seat in the room. No complaints about my cabin at all. I also had a fabulous room steward who was friendly and attentive.
Staff - Just about everyone I dealt with was friendly and efficient. Some way more than others, but no on was ever rude to me or wouldn't help me out. The cruise director, Susan Rawlings, was nice. He cruise staff (also the Dancers) were a great bunch of people. Very friendly and attentive to their jobs. My waitstaff in the dining room were great, service always seemed to flow nicely. Food was the right temperature for me. The captain, Stefano Ravera was a fabulous man. I think I spoke with him almost everyday. It seems that Princess captains make time to walk about and chat with the passengers. On other cruise lines I never saw the captain. I would love to sail with Captain Stefano Ravera again.
Activities- I need stuff to do. I found there was a daily low from about 5:30-7 pm every night where there was nothing to do. No live music, no activities nothing. I normally have first seating dinner, which is why I probably don't notice said low other times, but I had late seating this time and found myself bored and getting ready for dinner way to early. I did sometimes watch movies in my cabin, but I liked to leave by 7 pm at the absolute latest to let my cabin steward do his job. During the day, and after dinner there was always entertainment in several spots and I was up listening to music or 'dancing' until 11:30 pm at the earliest and most nights closer to midnight. Great time. There were some activities during the day that no one would show up to, so they got cancelled. I was talking to one of the cruise staff about this (as he offered to run the activity with me alone, but I declined) and he said some people were complaining about the lack of activities, but then a bunch no one shows up to. Can't please everyone.
Entertainment- The BEST piano player ever, Daniel Oliver. I listened to him just about every night. He was funny and very talented. We also had 4 production shows (cinematastic, gotta sing gotta dance, ports of call and motor city) I enjoyed them all, but my favourites were Motor City and Cinematastic. We had Trevor Knight (Australian singer/horse whisperer), Glenn Amer (very talented singer pianist) and Lenny Windsor (comedian/worked with Benny Hill) and Sean Alexander (Magician/illusionist) as the guest entertainers. They were all good. Like I said, the nightlight was never boring on this cruise.
Scholarship @ sea- We had Deborah Fraioli as our port lecturer (I caught most of her stuff on the tv in cabin, she was pretty good). Claude Tremblay was the Bridge Lecturer (I don't know how to play bridge, and cannot comment on him) and Dr. John Freedman was the enrichment lecturer, who did talks about the history of each port of call. He was good, but I was hoping to have someone doing enrichment lecture topics on something completely different. There was some overlap between his talks and Deborah's, but not too much.
Spa- I only went for a tour, and got a free sampler massage, which was great. And then I booked a haircut and style. My stylist was great, friendly and did a fantastic job on my hair. (I had about 8 inches cut off -so a real hair cut) and the facilities looked great. I just didn't pack running shoes, so I didn't use them.
Food- subjective, I know, but I found just about everything I ate to be from good to delicious. I ate in the dining room every night for dinner, a couple of times for lunch, 1 time for tea. I ate the rest of my meals from the buffet or continental breakfast in my room. There was so much seafood on this cruise. 3 times in the buffet at lunch there were lobster claws, 2 times there was a seafood buffet with lobster tails, claws, crab claws and jumbo black tiger shrimp. Lobster tail was served 2 times in the dining room the first paired with a crab cake, the second with the tiger shrimp. I definitely had my fill of seafood, but the cuts of beef I had were also delicious. I always got my food cooked to order the way I liked it, and it always was at the correct temperature for my liking.
Ports of call - details can be found in my thread on the Princess boards. My favourite stops were Hong Kong and Thailand. I cannot wait to go back to Thailand.
(embarkation) Shanghai, China
Okinawa, Japan -
Hong Kong (overnight)
Chan May, Vietnam
Phu My, Vietnam
Laem Chabang, Thailand
Ko Samui, Thailand
Ship Atmosphere- at times this felt like a ghost ship. I would be on deck 5, and it was me and the shop staff. you honestly never saw the ship crowded except for port days in the buffet at breakfast. Shows were never full (at least the second sitting ones weren't). Nothing ever felt busy. The people I met were fabulous, and I was chatting with people all the time, so I never felt lonely (which is good, as I was concerned travelling solo). My table mates were some of the best I've ever had, and most people on this cruise seemed friendly and talkative.
Overall - Great cruise, great staff, interesting excursions (I booked mainly Princess excursions). I cannot wait to cruise with Princess again, and would love to sail on this Beautiful White Lady again.