(11:30 a.m. EDT) - Diamond Princess is undergoing a refurbishment in Singapore designed to make the Princess ship even more appealing to the growing Japanese cruise market, adding a bath area modeled after a traditional onsen, a new sushi restaurant and more luxury shops.
The $30 million drydock is scheduled to be finished April 2. Princess is documenting the changes with daily updates on its online photo gallery.
The new Japanese bath and garden complex will be 8,800 square feet, with both indoor and outdoor spaces. An open-air hydrotherapy pool will be unisex, while two indoor baths with sea views will be separated by gender. Other features include an ocean-view sauna with an open air skylight, a dry sauna, a gentle mist sauna and a stone bath with an utaseyu, a cascade of hot water that is often found in traditional onsens.
The sushi restaurant will be an expanded version of Kai Sushi, currently on Sun Princess. It will have table seating and a sushi bar, as well as a variety of regional sakes.
New shops onboard will include a luxury watch boutique, anchored by Omega, a fragrance bar, and boutiques with designer brands such as Burberry, Fendi and Salvatore Ferragamo.
Other changes include updates to the ship's buffet, Horizon Court, 14 new cabins, a sports court, a revitalized photo gallery and remodeled casino.
When the drydock is done, Diamond Princess will embark on its second season of sailings around Japan, homeporting in Tokyo. Ports include 15 spots in Japan, as well as stops in Taiwan, South Korea and Russia. The 2,670-passenger ship will also celebrate its 10th anniversary in Nagasaki, where the vessel was built.
Princess has been investing in the Japanese market for the past few years, leading the charge with Sun Princess in 2013. It's all part of an overall trend within the cruise industry, where different lines are staking claims in various Asian markets, said Cruise Critic Editor-in-Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown.
“Asia, Asia, Asia is all we've been hearing,” she said. What's interesting now is that lines such as Princess are adding traditional Asian customs and touches to its ship, rather than simply placing customers in an “American bubble.”
--By Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor