Pre-Cruise: We spent 3 nights in Shanghai at Les Suites Orient on the Bund. Great hotel, and amazing views of the Bund from the 20th floor. If you stay there, I recommend a high-floor, Bund view Deluxe room. Shanghai is an amazing city. ... Read More
Pre-Cruise: We spent 3 nights in Shanghai at Les Suites Orient on the Bund. Great hotel, and amazing views of the Bund from the 20th floor. If you stay there, I recommend a high-floor, Bund view Deluxe room. Shanghai is an amazing city. Very clean. Super modern. No horns honking ($30 fine). Chinese food and drink surprisingly poor with some exceptions, but we had a fantastic time. Did some private tours that really made the experience enjoyable.
Transportation: I recommend that you get around by taxi. We took a taxi to the port and it was maybe $25-$30 USD and a similar price from the port back to the airport. You'll probably want to have instructions in Chinese, as most drivers don't speak/read English, but this was convenient and the price was quite fair for the distances involved.
Embarkation: Kind of a disaster, really. No porter (we don't travel light), very hot, sweated like crazy, which is not the way I want to start my cruise. Huge lines and the staff outside of the port spoke very little English. They initially directed me to the "foreign passengers" line, which was so long and moved so slowly. Then I saw a line for suites and Jr. suites, so they directed me there, but sent me to the Golden suites line, then shuffled me around some more. A slow, long, hot, uncomfortable and unpleasant experience. Highly disorganized and needs substantial improvement.
The Ship: Very clean and modern. Not "elegant" like some of MSC's newer ships, but nice with a lot of technology. Maintenance was quite good. I didn't love the layout of the ship, and maybe it needed more than 2 elevator banks. I only used the ship's Wi-Fi for a day, but it was fast and fairly priced. There was a lot of focus on upsetting, which got pretty annoying. Sanitation was a focal point, which I appreciated.
Activities: They offered things like indoor skydiving and Northstar, but with an extra cost, which I didn't love. Otherwise, there weren't a lot of things to do that we were interested in.
Entertainment: Limited and not the best. We attended a high-tech show at Two70 which started off bad, but was good in the end. The sound and special effects were as good as I've seen. Quality of performers was good but not great. Overall, not as many quality entertainment offerings as I'd like to see.
Passengers: Mostly Chinese, but more Americans, Aussies and Brits than normal. The menu and experience was definitely geared towards the Chinese passengers.
Food: Mixed and mostly not in a good way. We had dinner in the Suite restaurant Coastal Kitchen every night. Most of the food was pretty good, but I'd still say below my expectations. The rack of lamb was quite good. Veggies and such, basic and so-so. The same for desserts. They did not often rotate the menu. For example, they used the same menu the first 3 nights and then switched back to it. Sirloin steak mediocre. Ahi Salad had maybe 3 tiny cubes of ahi surrounded by iceberg lettuce. While there's no lobster night (bummer) we ordered it at an extra cost and it was quite good.
The food in the main dining rooms was poor. We only ate there for breakfast and lunch, but offerings were quite basic and really outshined by the Windjammer Cafe buffet, which was a surprise. Not only was the food not great, but again, the menu often was not rotated. While we had a nice time, I think it's fair to say the food was below expectations, especially in terms of lunch and breakfast. Lines in the main dining rooms were very long and very slow and all of this wait for a rather mediocre offering without proper menu rotation. Needs improvement.
I might also add that there was no coffee in the room. Only 2 bags of Green Tea and sugar. $7.95 charge for room service, which I didn't love.
Ports: Only 1 or zero shore excursions offered for most ports. We hired 2 private guides and did the Osaka ship's tour, which we enjoyed a lot. Hard to figure out why they didn't offer many tours.
The ports themselves were quite good. We got a hotel and spent the night in Tokyo. But getting off the ship in the first port, Osaka, was a bit of a nightmare, as you have to clear Japanese Immigration, which is quite slow. My suggestions is to try to do the ship's tour on the first Japan stop, as you'll get your immigration clearances done and you'll be the first off the ship. Also, bring a clear copy of your passport because you'll need it. Also, I recommend that you get your cash (Yen) at the 7-11 shops, which are everywhere.
Staff: Super friendly and super nice. Great experience with the crew. They have some good people working on this ship.
Disembarkation: Far better than embarkation. Waits were reasonable, and fairly well organized, although the taxi situation was a bit disorganized.
Overall: We really had a lot of fun. While I've shared some criticisms, I think we got a nice cabin at a fair price and we enjoyed the heck out of ourselves. This cruise truly is a cultural experience. It's not the typical cruise where you go to the Caribbean and pound down rum drinks, but I learned a lot and had a super time. Read Less