Beijing 3 day Pre-tour, staying at Marriott City Wall. This was excellent. We did the pre-arranged day tours, as well as the optional evening tours. Whilst tiring, all the tours were worth it. Just a warning – the hotel is very expensive for drinks and food. However, the evening optional tours included an evening meal, making them good value for money. Our guide was excellent and we visited many places, including the Olympic Stadium, Tiannamen Square, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Great Wall, the night market (with all the strange food stalls), as well as an amazing Chinese acrobatic show. Also included was a visit to a local house and a rickshaw ride. The transfer from the airport to the hotel was quick and efficient, as was the transfer to the ship, which was a 2.5 hour drive from Beijing. One word of warning, though, I did have some of my medication stolen from the hotel room (in bedside drawer) … so best lock yours away if necessary. The hotel was very comfortable and Princess had representatives in the hotel for most of the day. There were several hundred passengers staying at the hotel. We did have the same guide and group for the pre-arranged tours, which was really good, as we got to know quite a few people before embarkation.
When we arrived at the ship, our passports were taken for the duration of the voyage. We thought this a bit odd, but they were delivered back to our rooms by the steward when required. Immigration officials were on the boat to deal with all the various stops, so there were no delays getting off for the tours.
There was a diverse mix of nationalities on the ship …. from US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, as well as South America, New Zealand and even Russia. There were plenty of activities on both port and sea days and the CD (Dan from Australia) was very good (he was better than some of the professional comedians!!).
Ships tours: these were very well organised with few delays. At the tender ports, extra local tenders were put on to get passengers off quickly. It worked well. Also, there were free shuttle buses arranged for all ports, for those who were making their own arrangements.
Diamond Princess is an excellent ship. Our room was clean and we had an excellent steward (Danny) who was always smiling and happy to help. We didn’t feel that the ship was ever crowded. We did ask for a replacement duvet, as the original one was lumpy - no problem, it was replaced immediately, as were the pillows. Lots of places to get away and relax. Even on sea days there were plenty of sunbeds/loungers available. The Deck Stewards appeared to make sure that loungers were not “saved” and we saw them removing towels from unoccupied loungers on several occasions. All the crew seemed happy – our only complaint would be the lack of information at times from Passenger Services. The internet was very slow and we ended up not using up all our minutes, as a couple of times the internet was down for a couple of days.
Dining. We were “Anytime” dining – we never had to wait for more than a few minutes for a table and didn’t book at all. The Head Waiter did check the room numbers each time and anyone from Traditional Dining wanting to use the Anytime Dining Rooms were asked to wait until after 08.30, which seemed fair to us. Even the food in Horizon Court was good, although it was sometimes crowded at breakfast time on port days where tours were starting early. The food was good and always hot.
We didn’t go to many shows – just looked in on some but didn’t stay.
Formal nights – I don’t think we will bother with these in future, especially with the luggage restrictions. Nothing special, apart from the usual champagne waterfall on the first one and a Captain’s cocktail party on another. These just seem to be another opportunity to sell formal photographs. On one formal night we went to the Sterling Steakhouse and had an excellent meal. However, despite the dress code being “Smart Casual”, DH was asked to change into a long-sleeved shirt (again lack of information), although a tie and/or jacket was not required (strange, as he was wearing a tailored, short-sleeved shirt and smart trousers).
Dalian – was dusty and not worth the tour or the stop. If we were doing it again, we would just use the shuttle bus, or even just not get off the ship.
Busan, Korea – again, not worth the tour.
We didn’t get to see Shanghai, as the port was closed (for 2 days as we later found out) because of thick fog, so our double-entry visa was wasted! However, we did have an extra afternoon/evening in Hong Kong which was really good. We got to see the evening light show and have yet another Chinese Dinner.
All the other tours were very good. Ho Chi Ming City was a long drive ... about 2.5 hours on bumpy, slow roads. Traffic was horrendous, but it was interesting to see all the motorcycles, scooters, etc. We opted out of going to Bangkok (again a long drive) as by this time we were getting just a bit tired of long bus journeys.
Disembarkation in Singapore was quick and efficient. We had a day tour of Singapore, visiting China Town, Raffles Hotel, Orchid Gardens, etc. and lunch (instead of the advertised “Hospitality Room for UK passengers”). Princess needs to be more forthcoming with information about disembarkation to avoid upset passengers. We arrived at the airport at about 18.45 for our flight home, where our luggage was waiting for us (that was a bit of a scrum). Check in was fast and efficient, but be prepared to go through several security checks.
MUTS is noisy and not worth it. Not many people watching the evening film.
All in all, an excellent cruise. We love the Diamond Princess and would cruise on her again. We did hear from a bar steward that at the next dry dock she would get an International Café and Wine Bar, but I don’t know how accurate that it (although he did say that it would be situated where the library is at present).
Gym - equipment outdated and old fashioned, so didn't bother to use it.