Having fought the idea of a cruise all my life I was finally persuaded by an old friend and his family who were traveling on the Diamond Princess. From the time I stepped into my stateroom (mini suite) I knew I was converted.
The stateroom on D Deck was marvellous. Spacious, well lit, comfortable bed and lounge, brilliant bathroom and wonderful verandah. The corridor outside was some 400 metres in length so a quick walk from one end starboard side, cross over and back along the port side was almost a kilometre. Great for an early morning exercise before the serious chore of eating.
Embarkation was a breeze assembling at the Marina Bay Sands before being bused through endless containers in the commercial port. But no problem...we were all so excited to finally be going after months of planning.
After the compulsory bouncing on the bed and being introduced to the charming filipino steward, for me it was time to meet my friends in the first of many bars. The lobby bar quickly became our favourite and Christian, the filipino barman was a charmer who extracted zillions out of me so so pleasantly. The central atrium was an incredible affair, lots of chrome and glass but not crass at all.
Then there were the meals. We had settled for late sitting traditional dining with the option to move around when we wished. There was a charming English couple at our table and we quickly became friends. I asked them if they ever used the buffet on lido deck for lunch or dinner, and both looked askance. "On a cruise, we like to dine, not eat" was their reply, and with such magnificent surrounds and attentive wait staff, I quickly followed suit. The dining room staff were quite outstanding, and the menus full of variety and imaginative.
We tried most of the other restaurants over the next 16 days and the favourite was the Savoy which had a lovely atmosphere, and also served High Tea every afternoon.
Upstairs on the Lido, the buffet was always full but I really do not know where people put all the food. I am an early riser and at 5 am I was up and walking.... a cup of coffee and a bagel was fine at that time but to see monstrous plates being carried by (monstrous) people was somewhat offputting!
The morning lectures were excellent, especially the enrichment one given by an American ex diplomat. The entertainment each evening was ok, especially the chinese performers the night before arriving in Shanghai....but I preferred to sit in the bar, relax, have a drink and chat.
Formal nights were great as we all paraded around in penguin suits and ball gowns...I know some people decry these evenings but I think they are great. If you were not interested, there was the option of more overloaded plates on Lido.
Because I live in South East Asia (Thailand) most of the shore excursions did not interest me, and I considered most of them to be very overpriced. To experience 200 people descending on a temple just was not for me. The ship during these day excursions was just wonderful.
Some 50 of the service crew were Thai and once word got out that I had an IPad and each morning downloaded the Bangkok Post, then I had a group around me anxious to learn about the flood situation which was devastating the country during the time of the cruise. I know some thai, but was able to be taught quite a bit more on this trip.
I mulled over going on the Ultimate Ships Tour towards the end of the voyage. It attracted a hefty charge of $150. In the end I relented and afterwards was so glad I did. A marvellous tour from the bakery to the ship's morgue (empty!), from the laundry to the engineroom and finally up to the bridge where the Captain served Piper Heidsek champagne to all of us. And back in our stateroom, a bag of goodies for each participant, the value of which exceeded the amount charged.
Every second morning I fronted up to the customer service desk to ask for my daily heart attack printout - of accumulated charges. This phrase struck the staff as highly amusing and my heart attack was always ready when I appeared. Well for goodness sake, on a cruise, it is not the place to scrimp and be stingy.
Finally disembarkation came all too quickly, and once again, the procedure was smooth and effortless.
Did I say I was a cruise virgin??? Not any more. I will quickly become a cruise junky.