We are a couple in our mid fifties on our third only cruise, the first two being on the Costa Deliziosa and the Queen Mary. We choose a cruise mainly on its itinerary and secondly on the quality of the boat. This 16 night cruise through Asia on the Diamond Princess more than satisfied both of our criteria - it was a very good mix of rest and relaxation on a beautiful boat, together with the opportunity to experience short bursts of Asian culture whilst in the various ports.
Embarkation - As instructed by Princess, we were to check in at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre (staggered times between 12noon and 3pm depending on one's stateroom - luckily ours was at 12)and then we were bussed to the Port which was about 30min away. A different experience to walking directly onto the ship, but the process was handled relatively efficiently.
Dining - Lots and lots of choice here!! We found the service in all outlets to be exceptional, as was the quality of food. Of course the food in the serviced dining rooms was a notch or two above the buffet but for buffet food, we had no complaints. We prefer the relaxed pace of eating in the main Dining room compared to the Horizon Court, so whenever possible we ate there as our first choice. For breakfast and lunch, the International Dining Room is Open seating so you can either choose to eat on your own or share a table with others. At all times, we were accommodated at which ever table type we requested, however there didn't appear to be any 'Tables for 2' so if you wanted to eat on your own, they usually sat you at a table for 4 and cleared the other two places. We choose Late Traditional Dining (8:15), again in the International Dining Room, and shared the same table for six each night and received excellent service from our two waiters. We did request if it was possible to try one of the Anytime Dining rooms one night and they said yes, that was fine, so we had one night in the Santa Fe - we found the tables for two to be very close together, the service to be rushed and overall, the experience was not as enjoyable. We know lots of people who do prefer this type of dining, but for us, we prefer the traditional dining. It appeared that you could make reservations at the Anytime Dining rooms on this particular cruise.
The Horizon Court had plenty of selection - particularly loved the premade salads and the make your own version. Lemonade, iced tea, water, tea and coffee where complimentary - also juice at breakfast. We ate here for a few breakfasts and a few lunches and were never disappointed with the food. At times it got noisy and sometimes busy but we discovered that the further back you went to find a table, the less hectic it was.
Pub lunch was served in the Savoy on sea days but we found the menu to be very limited and not to our personal taste - fish and chips, ploughmans lunch, bangers and mash, ..We tried it once but never returned.
We enjoyed a few slices of pizza now and again from the Pizzeria that was open from 11 -11.
We did not feel the need to indulge in a meal at either of the specialty restaurants - the food, service and company of our usual arrangements were already delightful. There was a $20 per person surcharge at these restaurants and we noticed that they were not usually full,however, people that we spoke to that had visited these venues had been happy.
I had room service breakfast once - menu was continental, also had an egg muffin. As a passionate espresso coffee drinker, and wishing to limit my food intake, I spent many mornings just purchasing a cappucino from the lobby bar, and together with a few complimentary mini muffins, relaxed on a promenade deck chair reading and watching the more energic walkers pass by. By the way, the promenade goes all the way around, mostly on Deck 7 but a bit on Deck 8 at the front. Think by memory it said 2 and 1/2 laps = 1 mile. For me it was about 800 steps per lap.
Activities- seemed to be more than enough to satisty any taste! As I look through my Patter from one sea day, here are some of the activities that were on offer - early morning aerobics, yoga, sudoko and puzzles, book club meeting, stitch and chat, bridge lecture/games, tap dancing lessons, free swings at the golf simulator, mahjong, several movies at both MUTS and the indoor theatre, casino gaming lessons, several trivia sessions, enrichment lecture, health seminars, scavenger hunt, boat building challenge, art auction, zumba, blackjack tournament, martini demonstration, craft lessons, board games, poolside music, ballroom dance lessons, jewellery sales, musical melodies, afternoon tea, bingo, spin classes, ...not to mention, many many places to just read a book, listen to some music, lay out by the numerous pools, walk around the promenade, go to the spa, casino..etc, etc..
Evening entertainment - Again, lots of choice. We found the production shows and the specialty entertainers all very good. Music wise, whilst there seemed to be alot of venues offering some sort of music, we found that with the exception of Maurizio, the very effervescent pianist, who usually started around 8pm, there was not alot of atmosphere predinner. We wished there had been at least one upbeat predinner drinks/live dance music venue. That said, there were places that you could listen to more sedate predinner music if that is your preference. We did not ever stay up late enough to partake in the disco in Skywalkers upstairs. Because we had the late dinner sitting, we found that our evening schedule usually consisted of a 6pm entertainment show in Explorers(if offered), followed by drinks in one of the bars (usually Crooners), dinner, then the 10;15 ish show in the theatre. Each night, times, venues and shows varied- just had to pay attention to the daily patter! Sometimes, there was repeats of shows. On some nights we also enjoyed watching the guest Princess Talent Quest show or the karaoke.
Room - Having booked a guaranteed inside, we were very happy to have received two upgrades, eventually landing in a oceanview room on emerald deck. It had a window but looked out onto the promenade, before the sea! As it was, it was perfectly fine, despite having people walking past the window, there were no privacy issues due to the glazed window and sheer curtains. At night, when our lights went on, we simply pulled the full curtain. There was plenty of storage/hanging space and the bathroom, albeit small, was perfectly adequate. Room cleaned twice a day, with chocolates on turn down. There was also a facility to have fresh fruit put in your room on a daily basis - a nice touch.
Facilities - Pool areas - one nice quiet area at the back on two or three levels with 2 small pools and 2 jacuzzis. We loved this area watching the wake of the ship and on port days we always had a drink at the outdoor bar while the ship was pulling away from the port. There were two larger pool areas midship, one indoor with a few jacuzzis,loungers and table area, and one outdoor with the MUTS and plenty of deck chairs both on two levels. Also, a pool area near the spa/sanctuary which whenever I passed never looked busy.. Again, lots of choice depending on your mood and the weather....
Gym - by memory there were about 8 treadmills, 10 or so elliptical machines, but only 2 stationary bikes. Lots of weight machines and free weights. We tried to get to the gym each sea day to work off some of those excess calories! Towels antibacterial wipes and water were provided - take your own water bottle though.
Fitness classes - We did not partake in any of these but there were some free ones (tended to be the stretching or ABS, fitball) and some which had a fee attached (Spin, pilates,yoga) $12 on our cruise. Noticed there was also several free zumba sessions held in the Fusion Bar - think these were on the sea days only.
Spa - didn't use any paid services but looked lovely. There is a steam room and sauna which are complimentary. Also there is a thermal suite. Looking at my patter, the cost for single, unlimited 16 day pass was $199, for unlimited Sea Days only pass $119.
The Sanctuary - We didn't feel we needed to use this as there was lots of other places to relax. On this cruise, it didn't appear to be heavily used. The cost was $10 per half day and $20 full day.
Public rooms - Loved, loved loved all the space - there never seemed to be a crowd in the public areas. There was a plethora of places in which to just sit, read, talk or play a quiet game. The outdoor lounge chairs on the promenade deck were very peaceful too.
Library - Seemed to be a reasonable selection of books - always open for several hours per day, puzzles and sudoku given out each morning, games for loan, some computers in library, but only a few reading chairs.
Internet Cafe - we didn't use. We decided to take our own laptop and tried to source internet availability in each port. ( some successful, some not)
Itinerary and ports - We fortunately were fully aware of the fact that the Diamond, being a large ship, was required to dock some way away from some of the major cities, requiring shuttle services. Because of this awareness, we were not disappointed, just knew to expect that our interaction time in each port was going to be reduced. Overall, we enjoyed all of the ports - we did our own thing in each port, making use of the shuttle services and in Phu MY we did use the Princess Excursion entitled - Ho Chi Minh on your own, so as to ensure we were back on ship in time! In Laem Chabang, we used the shuttle into Pattaya, in Nha Trang we used the shuttle into the market area, in Hong Kong we used the provided shuttle into Kowloon, in Shanghai we used the shuttle into the Silk place, in Nagasaki the port was right in town, and in Busan we used the shuttle into the city. I can see that some may prefer to take a ship that docks more centrally, but for us, the experience matched our expectations. there was one tender port in Nha Trang but organization was done well - after breakfast, we went to the Explorers Lounge to get a ticket number and within 15 minutes or so, were called. I will do more complete port reviews in the relevant area. We have been to some parts of Asia many times, but for first timers to some of these countries, this cruise is a nice way to 'taste' the Asian experience, albeit at times, rushed. Busan was particularly rushed as we only had a few hours there. Each day, prior to a port, a port lecture was given which we found to be very worthwhile and informative. These lectures were repeated on the TV in your room if you missed the actual lecture. Of course there were always several organised Princess excursions and I would imagine that for many people these offer the advantage of ease and ability to see many sights within a short period of time. We just prefer to do our own thing.
Service was always friendly and efficient. It was lovely to be addressed by our names from those staff members who knew us and our drink/food preferences to be remembered by those in the bar and restaurant.
I have my bill infront of me - here are a few prices
Daily gratuity charge per person $11.50
Regular capucino - $2.50 + 15%
Beer $4.95 + 15%
Single serve champagne bottle $7.25 +15%
Champagne cocktail $7.25 + 15%
Glass house white wine $6.25 + 15%
Bottle house white chardonnay $24.95 + 15%
1 photo (10 x 8) $19.99
Disembarkation - A few days prior to finishing, we were given a form on which to indicate our chosen departure time. We were allocated our time of preference and were off the ship within minutes of this and picking up our luggage. Very efficient. We had arranged independent transfers into Beijing.
For us, this cruise suited our needs and wants beautifully as it was a perfect combination of relaxation, socialising and sightseeing.