We arrived in Singapore a few days before boarding the Diamond Princess. We did a precheck-in the day before which saved some time in the lineups waiting to board the shuttle to the ship. We took a cab from our hotel on Orchard Rd, cabs are cheap. The check in went well, moving 3000 people in such a short time was a good effort. Once on board the crew were helpful in directing us to our cabin.
The cabin was comfortable with penty of storage room for us. It was interesting watching the luggage being stowed on board while we waited for our cases to be delivered to our cabin which did not take very long. Our cabin was on deck 12 "Aloha" with a balcony on the starboard side about 3/4 towards the stern. We were surprised from our observations that not a lot of guests took advantage of their balconies.
We chose anytime dining which suited us perfectly and we met many interesting people while dining. We moved between the 4 dining rooms and found them all good. We never dined in the upmarket restaurants so I can't comment. We had some breakfasts before the shore excursions in the Horizon Buffet but preferred the dining room while at sea.
We took advantage of the back pool deck when the weather was good. This area never felt crowded as did most areas of the ship. It was interesting as the ship cruised up through the South China Sea dodging the long line fishermen, however some time the Diamond Princess went staight through.
We found the shows were all very good and the individual artists changed every couple of days. We were unable to get a seat only once in the Princess theatre. We would usually rock up about 10 minutes before show time.
The lectures before each port visit were good. Our only concern was they tried to steer passengers to the tours offered by Princess, after all that is their business. Passengers were well informed each day by way of the daily newsletter. Also the TV carried daily Australian News. We always found the crew very helpful and the service provided to us was of a high standard.
Ho Samui was a tender port which took a little time to get ashore. We took a big Tuk Tuk which is a pickup truck, this seated 8 people in the covered back. The cost for a 4 hr tour of the island was $60 US.It did not take more than 2 minutes to get 6 others to join us. It was a great fun day and we remained friends with them for the rest of the voyage.
The weather was quite bad so we did not go ashore in Nha Tran, Vietnam which was a little disappointing plus we were stuck with Vietnam Dong. It was a hard slog up to Hong Kong due to fairly rough weather, our stop in HK would proberly have been cut short if we had stopped in Nha Tran.
Shanghai was great. We loved China. Free shuttle into the silk factory (about 30min). From our experience in Singapore we bought a all day ticket on the subway,It was cheap. We took the subway to the station to catch the Maglev Train to the airport. The train travels at over 400kph it cost 20y each. China is miles ahead of us when it comes to trains. We visited a cheap market and got some great bargains for the family. We went up the bottle opener they love building these high buildings where you got a great view of the city although it was a little hazy. We walked around a bit and it was time to catch the shuttle back to the ship.
Next stop was Busan, Korea. Once again it was a lovely city big on ship building and fishing. We took both "free I think" city tours and they took you everywhere. The Korean people we met during our day were really nice people We would have liked more time to visit the UN war cementry but that will have to wait until next time. Note the market people in Busan, Korea do not bargain and get angry when you try.
Dalian was our next stop. This is city on the move with construction everywhere. Free shuttle into the Friendship store. We headed off with our map to the Russian Market about a 15minute walk. We just loved the markets in China. Dalian has a Russian influence as it was "Leased" by Russia for many years.
Our last port of call Xingang.The port is only new and in the middle of nowhere. No sooner do you get on the ship then it is time to get off. We caught a cab to Tianjin 400y (30 min)for up to 4 people that is if you don't have too much luggage.
We then caught a fast train into Beijing South. cost 90Y each and the trains are frequent with plenty of room for luggage and wide comfortable seats. This train only did 320kph. It took about 1hr to get to Beijing. We took a cab to the Novetel Peace Hotel 25y. It is very central close to the Forbidden City etc. We found the Peace to be very good and the buffet breakfasts were great. We stayed 3 nights and the staff were always helpful and the internet was free and the phone was cheap. The Silk Markets were great for knockoffs etc. The subway costs 2y for a journey between any 2 stations and the stations are listed in English so it is easy to find your way around. However if you feel you want to try some local resturants you will need to have what you want written down in Chinese. We loved walking through the Hutons and calling into their little shops. If you or your partner are not into shopping don't go to the markets as they are very pushy. When you reach the lowest price they will sell an item for you must buy it or they can be a little nasty. China is changing so rapidly the major cities will just be like any big city before too long.
We were extremely happy with the quality of food and service provided by Princess and book another cruise this year.