Our Cruise holiday began with an overnight stay in Beijing at the Double Tree Hilton, this is a great high standard hotel with good food and a lovely room with a huge bed which is very welcome when you have travelled so far. The Princess staff were always around to give information and as soon as we entered the hotel we were offered trips for that day and the following day and although we were all very tired, we had come so far to see the city that most people were happy to take them. The afternoon trip in Beijing on the day we arrived was excellent, we were taken to the Hutong district, had a ride on a Rickshaw, driven to a Jade Factory which was lovely and taken to a "tea" display which sounds quite boring but in fact was very good, we tasted different Chinese teas and could then purchase them for ourselves. Although a little expensive I am so pleased that we did buy some as it really is delicious. After this we were taken to a lovely restaurant where Peking Duck is their speciality. It was superb and great to sit down and chat with fellow travellers.
The next day we were taken on a half day trip to see the great wall of China, there were other trips available if you preferred. We really wanted to see the Wall and we were not disappointed. After which we were driven to the port to embark the Diamond Princess.
A beautiful ship with many facilities it's impossible to be bored, day and night. During sea days we attended the art exhibitions which we found really interesting and did actually make some purchases which we are pleased with. Dan, who is in charge of the Art Department, and his staff are very informative.
Other classes included - exercise, dance, well being and also fun activities such as singing competitions and "boat" making!!, but there were many more.
We also found Hutch (who had daily conferences regarding the next port of call) invaluable. He provided us with lots of information regarding currency, where to shop, how to stay safe, how to interact with the locals etc. etc. and would also outline historical events and explanations of the trips off shore. Don't worry if you miss his conference in person, you can watch it on your stateroom TV.
We were anytime diners and to be honest enjoyed all of the restaurants as the food is excellent where ever you dine. However, after a short while we discovered that the Vivaldi Restaurant was our favourite and there on after Franco, the Head Waiter would ensure that our table was free each evening as long as we came within a given time. This was fine by us as we found we were so comfortable in this restaurant and were lucky enough to have been placed on a table where we were waited on by Bym from Thailand and Jason from the Philippines who made each meal so special for us. Franco is a brilliant Head Waiter, preparing a fantastic dish just for us one evening and this along with Victor who makes the most wonderful Pasta made us want to dine here forever more. So if you are lucky enough to dine in the Vivaldi Restaurant I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.
To be honest all of the ship's staff are excellent and so efficient it would be impossible to complain about any one of them.
I think however, you do become closer to some of them quite naturally and I would advise anyone to check out Ashley who tends the bar on the Promenade Deck as he is so comical and friendly and also Tawit from Thailand who tends the bar in the Casino who is friendly,informative and good fun. We didn't use the Casino facilities, but enjoyed his company so much we used his bar.
Our Stateroom was kept immaculate by Anchana from Thailand and although we were sad to see her leave at Laem Chabang to go home for a couple of months before returning to duty, we were so pleased for her too, as we saw just how hard she worked.
I would also like to mention that during our last formal evening whilst in the dining room there was an incident which was tackled with great efficiency. Apparently one of the dishwashers on deck 6 had set alight and fire fighters had to be called upon. The Captain told us exactly what was happening and asked the ship's crew to leave their duties and attend emergency stations. Therefore we were all left in the dining room with Franco who explained the situation. This he did very well and at no point did I, my husband or anyone else panic. Franco donned his life jacket along with the rest of the crew and they were all lined up outside of the restaurant ready to take us to safety should the situation have got out of hand. Fortunately, this did not happen, the fire was quickly tackled and order was resumed very quickly. The ship's crew removed their life jackets and returned to duty and within minutes they were serving up delicious food again. Incredible!! My husband was really impressed that I didn't panic - I do normally - but I have to say that because all of the crew were so calm and seemed to know exactly what to do in this situation, and because we had Franco assuring us throughout I didn't feel there was ever anything to panic about.
All in all this was a wonderful holiday, one which we shall not forget in a hurry. At all times we felt well cared for and nothing was too much trouble for anyone.
The shows were very good and we went to every one for the first week or so, but did find the latter ones not to our taste. This was fine as there was always the group singing in one bar (who were very good) and also Funge was great who played piano and sang in the promenade bars. I would also recommend the "Movie under the Stars" experience. We thoroughly enjoyed this. Extra cushions and blankets are laid on the sunbeds and you can sit with popcorn and a nice glass of wine watching the movies.
All of the trips are run like clockwork, but even if you aren't taking a trip, Princess provide a shuttle bus into town for a wander around if you so wish. Also when the ship can't get close enough to port i.e. Na Trang, Vietnam a tender is provided to get you to port and then a shuttle bus into town. They do a very good job and if you are happy to wait a while to disembark, like we did, you won't have to queue up for the tender.
This was a special holiday for us as my husband surprised me with this for our 25th wedding anniversary and we loved every minute of it.
The only fault I would have would be that the Spa personnel are a little pushy when trying to get you to purchase their products and it was a little embarrassing when you are asked to add a tip to the bill. Apparently they aren't included in the eleven fifty dollars per person that you pay directly daily to the ship and having explained that we were already paying tips directly we were told that they aren't included so you feel obliged to make extra contributions to them. We found the Spa very expensive to start with so wasn't too impressed. A friend that we met on board had gone for a "shave of a lifetime" which he admitted was excellent, but had been advised to purchase the products used and was shocked when he looked at the bill and found it to be over three hundred dollars.
My husband and I went into Bangkok and found a fantastic Spa and had a great massage for under thirty pounds each, so we were quite smug.
Everyone we spoke to had enjoyed the trips as we had. Although we didn't take a trip at every port. Nagasaki is a wonderful place and the ship docks really close to the town centre, so we were happy to wander around ourselves and loved taking a walk in the little park at the side of the port.
We also took the ship's shuttle into Busan and simply enjoyed wandering around the markets for a couple of hours.
We did enjoy our trip to Shuzhou whilst docked at Shanghai, where they took us along the river on a little boat, to an embroidery factory and then to The Humble Administrator Gardens. Although it was a little rushed due to heavy traffic.
Hong Kong was fantastic, we took a Harbour cruise, a look around a jewellery factory, a walk around Stanley Market and a tram ride down the Victoria Peak, which was very exciting.
We used the ship's shuttles for Na Trang and Phu My, but we wished we had taken the Ho Chi Minh City trip. Apparently the tunnels are amazing and everyone we spoke to said it was a very interesting trip.
We took the "Bangkok on your own" trip which I would recommend to anyone, we were dropped off at the Asia Hotel and were advised to take a hotel card so that we could find our way back,and we had a great time. As I said earlier, we asked a Tuk Tuk driver to take us to a reputable spa for a massage, and it was amazing. We had a walk around Bangkok - it was by now early evening and a very interesting, busy city to see at night. We loved the Tuk Tuk so much we took another back to the hotel to meet the coach for the ship and although you are driven through very busy city roads it's such fun I would recommend it. We did apparently leave just in time though before the floods arrived and couldn't get anywhere near China Town because it was already flooded.
We finished our holiday after disembarking at Singapore with a couple of extra nights at the Miramar Hotel which was great. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Singapore and tried to make the most of this wonderful place. Raffles is a must, although very expensive, it's good fun and a great atmosphere in the Long Bar.
We ate at the Quays on several occasions, which provides delicious and varied food restaurants along the river and walked so much our feet hurt, but there is so much to see we could have spent a week there easily.
A word of advise - don't pre book your taxi if you are independent travellers leaving the ship, the taxi's are very fair priced and cost us only $7.80 from the cruise centre to our hotel, whereas others had pre booked theirs at a huge cost.
However, Singapore is quite expensive and you have to remember that everything you purchase has two extra taxes added to it which can bump up the price quite a lot. Having said that it's a thoroughly enjoyable, safe and beautiful city, well worth the money you spend.
So all in all we feel we have seen and learned quite a lot about a part of the world that we thought we would never visit. I have learned that the Asian people are proud of their part of the world, very friendly and only too pleased to let us see how they live.