Embarkation: The ship was not anchored at the usual cruise terminal in Singapore, and we were only apprised of that fact a few weeks before traveling. It was great fortune, though, to board our shuttle from the convention center at the absolutely incredible and fantastic Marina Sands Resort. The boarding was orderly and the shuttle trip took us through the largest, never-ending container port imaginable. There is nothing like it anywhere I have ever seen. Boarding the ship and getting to our room to unpack was a breeze, except for some minor queues that are of course expected with such a huge number of guests.
Ship: The ship is huge, 2700 passengers I was told. It's a beautifully appointed and mostly convenient, except for the long, long walk from "fore" (the entertainment) to "aft" (the food). The gym, as is typical on most ships, was too small to accommodate all those wishing to utilize the facilities. The buffet court, as is also typical, was always too crowded and always presented a challenge in finding a table.
Stateroom: We booked an inside cabin because we don't like spending time in the room other than for sleeping and showering, and also because on one cruise we met a retired Royal Caribbean Captain and his wife, who said they always choose the inside cabins because they sleep better in total darkness and they think the outside cabins and suites are a waste of money that could better spent on excursions and entertainment/food in port. Our cabin was small, comfortable and, most important, quiet and dark. The bathroom was tight, but serviceable, with a shower curtain instead of a glass door, which was not a huge deal. There was plenty of closet space, shelf space, and drawer space. The safe and TV were fine for our needs.
Lectures: Cultural lecturer was excellent, providing great insights into history, culture and recent politics in each of the countries visited. It was educational for us Americans to visit three of the countries that we have previously bombed. All I can say is that the Vietnamese seem to be very forgiving. The port lecturer was helpful except for the final port, which I will describe later under "Disembarkation."
Live Entertainment: After a less-than-stellar first show, the ship's singers and dancers were excellent in the two subsequent large productions we saw.
General Entertainment: The several entertainers that we saw were not really our style. Pianists, comedians, and vocalists were OK, but not electrifying.
Food: We ate half our meals in the International Dining Room and half in the Horizon Court Buffet. The dining room was satisfactory (we are both vegetarian and always have to navigate the menu carefully). The service in the main dining is always slower on any ship, so when we want to do other activities, it's nice to be able to use the buffet for a quick in-and-out meal (if you can locate a table).
Service: The staff was accommodating and pleasant in all areas of the ship.
Laundry: We normally pack only one carry-on bag for each of us. We adopted that strategy after Delta Airlines lost our luggage at the beginning of a two-week Mediterranean Cruise. We had to borrow clothes from our teenage relatives for the entire two weeks, because the other older males on the family cruise were much larger than we are and their clothes wouldn't fit us. Of course we looked like members of an aging punk-rock band. On board the Diamond Princess we were grateful for the convenient Laundromat on our floor, and we washed clothes twice during the voyage.
Excursions: It was disappointing to find that this ship is too large to moor at some of the usual passenger terminals. Therefore, we sometimes had to take a free shuttle for quite a long distance (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Busan) or a tender (Nha Trang) or sometimes we had to pay for one of the ship's "On-your-own" excursions just to get into town (Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City). I don't think Princess should advertise cruises to ports which are not really accessible unless you book an excursion or take a long, long taxi ride. It was two hours going and two hours returning Kia
Pools, deck seating: We only used the Jacuzzi and occasionally the deck chairs in the enclosed pool area and on the rear pool area. We had no problem with finding lounge chairs, possibly because the weather during the second week was a bit colder than the first week as we traveled northward on the map.
Crowd: I believe we had a good mix of ages, with a slight preponderance of retirees. I would estimate one-fifth Brits, one-fifth Aussies, one-fifth Canadians, one-fifth American (we are), and one-fifth native Asians and assorted Russians, Europeans, and Latin Americans. We are very sociable and always manage to meet huge numbers of our fellow cruise-mates. It's rare for us not to like almost everyone we converse with. We made many temporary and long-time friends on this trip. We are a "Gay couple," married, and together a total of 26 years. We net no form of discrimination or antipathy from anyone on board, whether guests or crew.
Ports of Call: What can I say? We loved every port, although for different reasons. This was for us a chance to get a taste of new cultures and to decide which ones deserve a closer look. Our favorites were Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. If you don't like the site of poverty and of cultures quite different from your own, you should perhaps book a different cruise. I am truly grateful for the exposure to both the developed and the underdeveloped areas on this itinerary.
Disembarking: The final port, Tianjin, was the most challenging, and I lay most of the blame on Princess for not provided adequate information or assistance for getting from the port terminal to Beijing, unless of course, one signs on to one of their after-cruise excursions ($80-$160/pp). We always prefer to go on our own. It was insane at the terminal's taxi stand. There was no help at the port for securing a taxi, no information about how to pay, or how much to pay, or for finding out how to use the train system once we reached either Tianjin Station or Tanggu Station. It was pure chaos from the terminal exit till we got to the train station in Tianjin. Everyone who was traveling unassisted, as we were, had to navigate the Chinese taxi drivers (who I really think just pretend to speak no English) and who make every attempt to cheat the tourists. This failure to assist passengers at the terminal is my greatest criticism of the Princess Line and of this particular cruise. I will post my suggestions for successfully managing the port-to-city transfer on "Cruise Critic" for assistance to future travelers with similar Tianjin-Beijing itineraries.