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Sail Date: November 2012
Booking our own air and using air miles to get bulkhead and exit rows was a great idea. Being 6/4, I needed the leg room on the long 14 hour flights from NYC to Beijing and return via Tokyo. Along with the extra leg room, we also scored ... Read More
Booking our own air and using air miles to get bulkhead and exit rows was a great idea. Being 6/4, I needed the leg room on the long 14 hour flights from NYC to Beijing and return via Tokyo. Along with the extra leg room, we also scored free passes to United lounges between flights. After flawless transfers, we spent 3 days touring Beijing and staying at the Marriott Wall with tours each day including breakfast at the hotel and lunch during the tours (all excellent including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City). This package was booked with Princess. The Marriott Wall is an excellent hotel with an excellent spa and fitness center and had a great complimentaryy breakfast. We also ate the dinner buffet. Two glitches occurred upon our arrival - 1)my wife's luggage was lost and after 3 days of promises from United, she finally purchased clothing for the cruise. Of course, the lost bag arrived later that night! We're awaiting United's response to the claim for replacement clothing expense. 2) Upon our arrival, we were advised the ship had been contaminated with a virus and that the embarkation would be delayed 6 hours. Because of rough seas, we finally sailed a day late and thanks to Princess's lack of communication our ports of call remained a mystery for another day when informed that we would skip our first port - Nagasaki, Japan. Unfortunately, "poor communication" seems to be standard with Princess, since there was no newsletter (newsletters were available on 8 previous cruises with Norwegian, Celebrity,Azamara, and even Carnival) with major world events available for the entire cruise. Generally, the food was good, however, the 4 restaurants had the same menu!! Why? The fitness center was small for the size of the ship and lacked some basic equipment - 2 stationary bikes for 2500 passengers!The solarium roof also leaked during rain. Entertainment was terrible, except for the casino where a Royal Flush paid for the cruise! The entire staff was very attentive, pleasant, and professional. Thankfully, there was no viral outbreak probably because of an excellent cleaning and adherence to strict health practices by the crew! Once the slow disembarkations were accomplished, all the excursions booked through Princess were flawless - Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Viet Nam,and Thailand were fascinating with great meals and guides. Thanks to the itinerary, it was a great experience - despite the glitches and lackluster cruise aboard the Diamond Princess. Other passengers who had cruised aboard other Princess ships remarked it was substandard by comparison.It was our first with Princess and probably our last! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION Princess deserve a gold star for the smooth embarkation and disembarkation -- we received an email when we were in Beijing before the cruise advising that embarkation had been delayed until 6pm rather than ... Read More
EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION Princess deserve a gold star for the smooth embarkation and disembarkation -- we received an email when we were in Beijing before the cruise advising that embarkation had been delayed until 6pm rather than the 12 noon as planned. We were able to alter our travel arrangements (bullet train) and arrived at the port at approximately 5.45pm -- it was so easy to check in, we were offered food and drinks while waiting and when we reached our cabin 45 minutes later our luggage was already there !! On disembarkation day we had booked a Princess transfer to the airport and it ran very smoothly (except for the people who had to be first on the bus and wouldn't stay in line) and we were at the airport by 9.30am where our luggage was waiting for us. STATEROOM: Our stateroom (obstructed view) was excellent -- the obstruction was very minor - the room was clean and plenty of space for hanging/storing clothes -- our steward kept the room to a good standard however we could never work out when he would be cleaning -- minor detail but a bit annoying at times. DINING: We chose 'Anytime Dining' -- for us this worked really well -- we tried several of the dining rooms but felt that the Savoy was by far the best re service etc. Food was great, fairly varied and enough of it -- it was a little odd to see asparagus every night. We were fortunate to dine with a wide range of people and it was most enjoyable to meet many other passengers. We dined in the Sterling Steakhouse one evening and it was superb -- definitely worth the cover charge. Breakfast we went to the International Dining Room rather than the buffet -- excellent choice. Lunch we either went to the buffet or had pizza etc on the deck -- all good food. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows and entertainers were of a good standard although some of the shows were very short. Good range of entertainment, including the films and various ice carving etc. PORT LECTURER: We went to a couple of talks which were interesting, however Hutch lost us when he gave a 20 minute diatribe of the Vietnam war (a very US slanted view) and promised that he would talk more about the war the following day. A lot of people walked out of the theatre during his 'talk' and many other people were talking among themselves and getting quite annoyed -- we were there to hear about the port and points of interest, not the war -- very bad choice. PORTS: Unfortunately due to the harbor being closed because of bad weather, we spent our first day berthed at Tianjin !! The captain was most apologetic and explained that it was the call of the harbormaster. Due to leaving 26 hours late we were then unable to visit Nagasaki which was disappointing for a lot of passengers. BUSAN: We loved this port from their warm welcome, the money exchange on the wharf, to the fireworks display as we left -- we took the shuttle into town and then caught a city tour bus -- great way to get a snapshot of the city. We found out later that there was an excellent Maritime Museum and aquarium near the wharf -- it would have been good if Hutch could have mentioned this during his talk rather than promoting Princess tours! SHANGHAI: Due to missing Nagasaki we were able to have longer in Shanghai which was a bonus -- we did a Princess tour to enable us to ride the Maglev train -- we also visited the observation deck on the 88th floor of a building (I have forgotten the name of the building) -- then at the request of many of the passengers we were dropped off at The Bund (where the shuttle ran from) which enabled us to explore this wonderful area. We felt that this Princess tour was value for money as it would have been difficult to get to the Maglev train on our own, however this was the only Princess tour we took as we felt that in the main they were expensive and not value for money. HONG KONG: Great place to visit and we did our own thing as HK is very easy to get around -- we caught a bus to Stanley Market and back -- it was overcast so not worth going to the peak. The ship sailed into the harbor when we left and we were able to see the laser show which was interesting. NA TRANG: This was a tender port and Princess did an excellent job of getting everyone off quickly -- we took the shuttle into town and wandered through the markets etc, resisting the hawkers selling everything imaginable. There was a market on the wharf which was the best of the whole trip -- overall this was a great port to visit and it would have been great to have longer to enable passengers to see more of the sights. HO CHI MINH: We have previously been to Ho Chi Minh (and loved it), however we were not prepared to spend at least 4 hours in a bus so opted to take the shuttle to a nearby town -- what a waste of time -- constantly harassed by hawkers and only 1/3rd of the market was open. Princess need to make a serious decision about visiting this port -- the ship is too big to get up the river -- we would have preferred to go to another port in Vietnam -- maybe Da Nang even if it was a tender port. Where the ship docked is a new container port in the middle of nowhere so the option of just going for a walk was not possible -- very disappointing. SINGAPORE: Great port and so easy to get around -- getting off was a bit of a 'bun fight' due to staff changing procedure from what had been announced in the newsletter. OVERALL: We really enjoyed our trip, but felt that there were some areas that could be improved. Due to an outbreak of Noravirus on the previous cruise, passengers were not allowed to serve themselves at all -- we did not have a problem with this having contracted Noravirus on another cruise, however it was disappointing that there were not hand sanitisers in more of the public areas on the ship -- they were only outside the dining rooms and often ran out. Money exchange was disgraceful - $4.50 US charge to change money via the machines and the machines didn't stock currency for all of the ports we visited. Princess would buy back any left over currency at very low rates, plus a service charge -- total rip off -- we kept our money and changed it all in Singapore. I think there were 3 machines on the ship, however there was always 1 or 2 of them out of order even on the mornings we had arrived in ports -- not good enough really. My final comment would be that Princess seems to have dropped their standards a little, and there was inconsistency with many things. We found that the crew were happy, smiling and friendly at most times. We felt that the ship was a little elitist -- often finding areas closed off for functions for Platinum members etc -- these people actually pay less that the Gold & Blue class passengers so why do they need special events ?? My opinion only!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post ... Read More
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise. Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats their passengers). Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left). The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather. The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619). ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft. The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats. Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop. After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents. After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc). The Shangri-La hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the frenzy of the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review). The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection. It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post ... Read More
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise. Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats their passengers). Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left). The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather. The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619). ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft. The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats. Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop. After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents. After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc). The Shangri-La Hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review). The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection. It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
The princess package included flights from the UK, 1 night pre and post cruise hotel in Beijing and Bangkok. The excellent ports of call and a reasonable price attracted us to this cruise. We added a further 2 nights hotel in Beijing, and ... Read More
The princess package included flights from the UK, 1 night pre and post cruise hotel in Beijing and Bangkok. The excellent ports of call and a reasonable price attracted us to this cruise. We added a further 2 nights hotel in Beijing, and wish we had done the same in Bangkok! The Doubletree in Beijing was great. Nice room and good facilities. It was easy to get around Beijing using taxis. Transfer to the cruise and boarding was efficient. We were surprised at the quality of our cabin (Plaza deck ocean view). It was roomy and well laid out. Bearing in mind we were on the lowest passenger deck, this was in a good position. Near the lifts and stairs, short walk to the Atrium, 2 decks to the promenade and same deck as most public areas. Noise was not a problem. All the areas of the ship were spacious, we never had any problems getting a seat in any of the bars or public areas. In fact some evenings it was almost like a ghost ship. There was never any more than a couple of dozen people in The Wheelhouse, Club Fusion and Skywalkers in the evenings. Where was everyone? Because of this we felt the evenings in general lacked atmosphere. The entertainment, in our opinion, could have been much better. The shows in the theatre and Explorers only lasted 30 mins each time, yes thirty minutes for a main evening show. These shows were then repeated in the venues every 45 mins. No wonder the place seemed empty, I think they all went to bed at 9.30 pm! The show team and productions lacked the professionalism we have seen on P&O and Thomson. Also, some of the guest acts were dire. During the daytime I was disappointed that there were no interesting lecturers. I think there were only 2 lectures all cruise. (Not including the selling presentations)! The food was in general very good. We had anytime dining for the first time and found it great for this type of cruise. It wa good having the choice of four main dining venues as well as the Horizon buffet. My main critisism of the food is that there was hardly and potatoes and vegetables served with the main course. Maybe this is just expected more by us Brits, we like something to eat our meat with! I got in the habit of asking the waiter for a side portion of veg. This was never any problem for them, they seemed happy to make us happy. This goes for the ships company in general. I have never sailed with what seemed a happier crew, very willing, always smiling and chatting when they saw us. They are a credit to the industry. The excursions we did were in a word, poor. We only did two, Hongkong and Shanghai. We cancelled the rest we had booked and ventured out on our own. We had pre booked a private excursion with two other CC couples in Siagon. This was brilliant. Good fun, informative and much cheaper than Princess. It did seem that Princess was money grabbing. Money exchange for port visits was by machine. This gave terrible exchange rates and charged a set 4USD per transaction. Bear in mind that we needed six different currencies during the cruise. I hope telling you all this is not giving the wrong impression of a Princess cruise, these are all just niggles that I think could be put right easily. They in no way spoilt, what to us was probably the best cruise we have been on. The things that made this cruise great were: The happy helpful crew, Loverly ship, the itinerary, the weather and meeting all the nice people inboard. (In particular our CC roll call friends. ) We would not hesitate in cruising on Diamond Princess in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
My wife and I, with two friends, had a great time on the Diamond Princess as we toured SE Asia. This was our ninth cruise, but our first with Princess. Overall, the trip was fantastic, but there are a few items I feel Princess could ... Read More
My wife and I, with two friends, had a great time on the Diamond Princess as we toured SE Asia. This was our ninth cruise, but our first with Princess. Overall, the trip was fantastic, but there are a few items I feel Princess could improve on. I will start with the few negatives and then move on to the many positives. Over the past year, we have been on three cruises. The other two were on Carnival to New England, and Holland America to the Western Caribbean. I know it might sound crazy, but for us, Carnival had the best food of the three cruises. For the sake of brevity, I won't get into specifics, but the Carnival food was outstanding. Sadly, the Diamond food came in last. It is not that the food was bad, for us, it was just not special. Believe me, we did not go hungry, and the temps were always fine. Also, dinner was not a quick process. We had the 8:15 seating in the International Dinning Room. I guess it is my misunderstanding, but I thought the idea was to have 8:15 dinner and then make the 10:15 show. That did not work out for us, and it was not because of our talking. It took a long time to get the food and we typically did not leave the dining room until 10:15 or later. We learned to go to the 7:00 show and then to dinner. Oh yes, the shows were fine. There was a comedian who was very good, a juggler who was remarkable, and a very good Barbara Streisand like singer on the last night whose performance was way too short. Our room steward was the worst we ever had on any cruise. We had an Inside on Caribe, and while the basics were done, I had to call and ask for ice virtually every day. In fact, I just started getting it myself as it was too much of a hassle calling. Then, in Singapore, our steward changed, and the new one never introduced himself. The whole room steward thing was a little odd, but the beds were always made, the room cleaned, and the basics were taken care of in good order. Finally, the casino was the worst anywhere I have been. I found a few of the blackjack dealers to be as cold as machines. It was really bad and the casino was usually dead. In short, it was not fun at all. I got to a point were I broke even, left, and I never went back. In the end, I probably saved a lot of money. Now, with all that rubbish out of the way, everything else was amazing. The ship was roomy, clean, and beautiful. We never felt crowded, and at times, it felt deserted. The SE Asian ports were phenomenal. We feel so lucky to have had an opportunity to visit them. Oh yes, we took the Princess tours in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and they were expensive and not so good. My suggestion is to book your own tours with companies or individuals you can find on the message boards. We did this at the other ports and they were much cheaper and far superior. That really surprised us that Princess tours were so bad, especially for what they charge. Someone in charge at Princess really needs to review the tours they offer and experience the tours offered by the competition. As for some of the staff, the people at the Passenger Services desk were outstanding. We had a few issues to work through, largely involving leaving the ship for two days to visit Angkor Wat, and they were outstanding in how they helped us work through the details. Also, the activities guy, I think from Jamaica, the Cruise Director, and all the others who put on the activities were outstanding. They did a great job making the cruise a lot of fun. On a positive note, the photographers were there to take your picture if you wanted that, but they were not in your face all the time. They provided a nice service, but were not at all pushy. I think my review is beginning to get a little long, so I will bring it to an end. However, I really want to say thank you to the Cruise Critic friends we made before and during the cruise. We knew the cruise would be fantastic, but the CC group made it extraordinary. The worst part of the post cruise is that we miss our new friends so much. Do yourself a favor. If you are reading the reviews to help plan for this cruise, and if you do indeed take this wonderful adventure, get involved with the message boards. I promise, you will not regret you did, and your adventure will be all the more memorable. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
I sailed on the Diamond Princess from BeiJing to Vancouver in 2012. The distance sailed was 11277 kilometers. It was a very nice experience. Pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/dp2012 I call this cruise my re-enactment of my ... Read More
I sailed on the Diamond Princess from BeiJing to Vancouver in 2012. The distance sailed was 11277 kilometers. It was a very nice experience. Pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/dp2012 I call this cruise my re-enactment of my father's sailing to Gold Mountain. Chinese call the USA Gold Mountain. I was five-months old when he sailed from Shanghai to San Francisco. I know of no cruise for that route these days and this cruise was the closest I found. While for me this cruise was hedonistic enjoyment on a familiar ship and lifestyle, I think my father's cruise was quite different. He had just sent his wife and son to GuangZhou to live with his father. At 37 he was seeking a new life in an unfamiliar culture. Meanwhile his old world was changing as the Communists came to power in China. I would think it was a time of uncertainty and anxiety. On this cruise the Diamond became Chinatown. Cantonese was heard everywhere. Menus were printed in Chinese although the translation was often incorrect. I even heard an announcement in Chinese. I organized a Meet and Greet for the folks on board from Cruise Critic and most of the senior staff came, the Captain, the Staff Captain, the Cruise Director and his deputy, the Hotel Manager, the Customer Service Manager plus some underlings. 1. Embarkation The cruise terminal at TianJin, the Cruise Ship Home Port, is only about two years old. It is huge. It is about 45 km from the center of TianJin. Just about the only alternative to Princess's transfer is a similar one run by Tour Beijing. Their bus run from the International Hotel, a major landmark and a short walk from Beijing's main train station. http://www.tour-beijing.com/xingang_beijing/cruise_coach_transfer.php#2 To book by credit card you need to send them an image of both sides of your credit card. To book via PayPal you need money already on deposit at PayPal. I got to the International Hotel at about 8:15 am and the buses were already there. Luggage went on a separate van. My suitcase beat me to the cabin. We departed at 10:00 am. May 1 was a major holiday so there was little traffic on the highways. We made excellent time to the TangGu region of Tianjin. Then we stopped because the driver did not know how to reach the pier. I provided two maps [in Chinese] and eventually we reached the pier around 12:40 pm. The cost of the transfer was RMB 376 or US$60, less than the $84 that Princess charges. The cruise terminal has large duty-free shops with a good selection of liquors and some wine. I thought the embarkation process was unduely complicated. People were called by groups. Although drinks and snacks were provided, we waited quite a while to board. 2. Ship condition The ship was in good condition because of the continuous cleaning and fixing. The Diamond does not have an International Cafe nor Crown Grill. All the crew I encountered were courteous and smiling. They work hard to keep the passengers happy. I had an inside cabin. The TV is a flat screen about 21 inches. Everything worked. The gym was open from 7 am to 10 pm. All but one of the machines worked. The aerobic machines have individual TV screens. Movies Under The Stars was continuous, even when temperature was 0 C and the deck iced over. 3. Food Food was good but not great. I had anytime dining and never waited for a table because I share. About seven days into the cruise, the menu began to be repeated. There was no effort to get local specialties. Every other day or so there was a special buffet in the covered pool area. I thought the selection and quality at Horizon Court were very good. Most of the time I found tables difficult to come by. 4. Entertainment There were five production shows on this 20-day cruise. Actually there were two troupes of singers and dancers. One troupe ended their contract half way through and the replacement troupe was already on board, so the new troupe did the last two production shows. In 15 minutes it was obvious that the new troupe was much superior to the old troupe. The last show was done to canned music. Maurizio was on board. Whenever he performed in the atrium, it was completely filled with people dancing and singing. There was a couple who must be in their 80's who danced every song. He made the jerky movement of his arthritic joints a feature! 5. Ports of Call * DaLian was the first port of call. There was a free shuttle into town. There were some young people who served as human arrows to point the way. I found out they have been imported and cannot give directions locally. The shuttle bus went to the Friendship Store. This Friendship Store is an upscale mall. In the basement supermarket I got an expensive bottle of Chinese wine which turned out to be very ordinary. Down a side street there is a local market. Other than that DaLian offers no attractions for me. * Busan The cruise port at Busan is spartan. There are no permanent buildings. But the people in Busan more than make up for it. They provide a free shuttle from the port to the Hotel Phoenix in the center of town. From there all major points of interest are easily reachable. At the dock a bank came in a truck. There are three money changer desks and ATMs. The shuttle to town takes 20 minutes through pretty bad traffic. The free Wi-Fi at the Hotel Phoenix was so busy as to be unusable. I did the kilometer-long underground shopping mall Nampodong. At 10 am therre was not much action. I bought a pair of socks for US$0.50. The seafood market is truly remarkable. There are seafood vendors for blocks around. One can see the seafood being unloaded from ships. On the ground floor of the market there are some 300 stalls. The range and quality are fantastic. One can take the seafood to the second floor and have it cooked. The restaurants on the second floor also sell seafood directly. But all the seating is Korean style. On the fifth floor is OASE seafood buffet restaurant, 26,000 won per person. At lunch the next day a guy told me he plus three friends went to the beach and had two fish for lunch. The bill was US$168. I opted to search for a ginseng chicken for lunch. I found one that has been in business for 55 years [www.nampo-chicken.co.kr]. The menu is only about ten items, various kinds of ginseng with chicken. An array of kim chi comes with it. My chicken soup was 18,000 won [US$16.37]. In Busan I found that the first alley inside from the main street to be the most interesting, full of bars. I found an internet cafe that charge US$0.90 for an hour and did my email. There was a very long queue for the shuttle back to the ship. At the pier there is a stage. Just as we were ready to depart, Korean women came and performed traditional dances for us. I watched from Deck 7. See my pictures and videos. Scheduled departure was 4:30 but some of the Princess excursions did not get back until 5 pm so we were treated to more dances. As we pulled away volunteers held up placards that said "See You Again." It was touching. * Vladivostok Vladivostok was grey and dreadry. My string of 12 sunny days has ended. Vladivostok is the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Diamond Princess was docked right next to the train station. It turns out the train station is small. The center of town was about a 12-minute walk away. I got some rubles at an ATM. It was Sunday and the moneychangers were nowhere to be found. My objective was to buy vodka and caviar. I accomplished this quickly at a supermarket at the intersection of Svetlanskaya and Aleutskaya. My search for an internet place failed, however. * Muroran US$1 = 76.86 yen The City of Muroran has gone all out to welcome us on the Diamond Princess. We were welcomed with six pages of color maps. There is a free shuttle service, with buses running in two directions. At the four stops there are volunteers who can guide and translate. Even two blocks from Stop 5 there was a lady to guide me into the internet shop. Undeniably though, Muroran is a city in decline. By noon most shops were not open. The Japanese certainly have pride in their cities. Muroran is spotless. At Stop 5 I was in Nagasakiya, a hyper mart, and bought a single piece of tempura ebi (large shrimp) for 50 yens. Had it been piping hot and crispy I would have bought more. Also at Stop 5 I used the internet place Free-Style. You can only use their computers which do not have Skype. It is a semi-private booth with what I consider uncomfortable seating. Half an hour use was 480 yens. For those looking for wine, there is Matsunaga which is right at Stop 4, in the Platto Tetsuichi. They have a large range of wines at all prices. * Seward After six sea days all of us were glad to be on land again. A free shuttle runs from the ship to downtown Seward, about a five-minute drive. The buses also stop at the Tourist Information Center which is immediately adjacent to a huge Safeway with both a Starbucks and a liquor store inside. When we were there the road to Exit Glacier was still closed so a major attraction was unavailable. With only 2,000 people there is not much in Seward. In downtown I entered a bar/liquor store. The lady bartender had to be there with me in the liqour store. The shuttle buses came from Anchorage. The Library in Seward offers free Wi-Fi. They even have some machines of their own for which there was a queue. I was also glad I was there early as the librarians said at 2 pm the place would be filled with kids. With snow on all the nearby hills practically down to sea level, the scenery is spectacular. One of the drivers said this overcast day is the best day they've had in a long time. * Juneau Juneau is the capital of Alaska but the population is only 30,000. It is a short walk into town. I discovered that I had only $20 in my pocket! I spent $5 for an hour of internet and bought a sweatshirt for $10. Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Itidarod sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, came on board to give a talk, show video and meet the passengers. It was a moving and enjoyable time. [http://www.libbyriddles.com] *Ketchikan By now I am tired of the tourist stores which appear to be the same in all the Alaskan ports. I was happy to be in the Tribal Store where for $3.25 I got a latte and internet usage. The Forest Service sent two rangers to give a talk. It was somewhat interesting. There are some national forests bigger than some states. 6. Disembarkation Four ships arrived at Vancouver together. It was long lines and chaos. I was glad to be picked up by relatives. The Chinese food in Vancouver was unbelievably good. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
Before we get into the detail we want you to know we really enjoyed this cruise and would do it again. Our holiday started in Bejing, and we flew from Manchester via Dubai with Emirates on their A480s with 30 Kilos each of luggage ... Read More
Before we get into the detail we want you to know we really enjoyed this cruise and would do it again. Our holiday started in Bejing, and we flew from Manchester via Dubai with Emirates on their A480s with 30 Kilos each of luggage allowed. We had a two nights pre-cruise stay at the Marriott (City Wall) hotel. The hotel has good rooms, a good Pizza restaurant but breakfast (which was provided free) was only so-so (pre-prepared food only warm, not hot and eggs decidedly underdone for us). Note we were there 29 April to 1 May which is a Chinese bank holiday, Beijing was very busy with the world and his wife on holiday there! On the 30th April we walked to the Temple of Heaven (this took us about an hour -- Bejing is a large city and distances on the local maps underplay the distances). We bought a Temple, Gardens and other parts ticket, however did not really understand it as all in Chinese, and one of the buildings within the gardens we then would have had to play extra to go into (so we opted not to). After we left the Temple we went across to the acrobatic theatre and booked tickets for the evening acrobatic show -- only charged us 100 Yuan. It was a warm day so after an ice cream in the local KFC we then got a bus up to Tianamen Square (only 1 Yuan/RMB to travel any distance on the bus) which took about 10 minutes -- the buses have the stop place names in English(ish) as well as Chinese which was useful. After a tour of the square (we had been before on a previous holiday) we caught the bus back to the acrobatic theatre. It was an excellent show, we really do not know how people can be so flexible and strong! Transfer to the cruise ship took around 2 hours (with a 20 minute stop half way), it is amazing how much building work is still going on (and how much the new developments mimic American/European architecture). We were on the Diamond Princess in Cabin D503 -- a very good mini-suite but occasionally we could smell cigarette smoke in the bedroom area, perhaps this is because we were above the starboard promenade deck. Since our last cruise on the Diamond Princess (2009) we found a few changes: - they have introduced discounted drinks for platinum, elite and suite customer in SkyWalkers bar from 17:00 to 19:00 if you have the cocktail of the day (plus canapes/nibbles provided) which we enjoyed most evenings; - In the Horizon Court restaurant the cutlery & napkins are on the tables now, rather than with the trays; - Sabatini's has a new (very good menu). We were "Anytime" dining, and usually ate in the Savoy restaurant -- it is advisable to book a table if you want to eat at a particular time (or if you are a couple and want just a table for 2). Remember that if you are on a large table, you may only want 2 courses but other may want more, and they always serve all the same courses together! The ports we called at on the Asian side of the cruise were Dalian (China), Busan (South Korea), Vladivostock (Russia) Muroran (Japan) -- do read the instructions provided in the cabin regarding your passports and immigration checks as it will save you time in the long run. After Japan we then had 6 days at sea -- every night the clocks went forward an hour, which can interfere with your sleep patterns. We also crossed the International Date Line, so we went from 12 hours in front of the UK to 12 hours behind, and we had 10th May twice! During the sea days there was therefore lots of people doing the on-board activities. We did all of the quizzes (general knowledge, music, movies, theatre and musicals), and although there are prizes for the winners, it really is the winning that counts (as the prizes are really only token gifts - such as lanyards, drinking beakers, keyring lights and fridge magnet clips). We used the internet whilst on board, however as this is via a satellite it is more like a dial up speed rather than broadband There was a storm in the northern pacific, so the captain took a more northerly route into the Bering Sea, before crossing back into the Pacific near Kodiak island, therefore we got to see some of the Aleutian Islands. Due to the Captain's change the Pacific Ocean lived up to its name and most days the ships navigation system recorded the waves as "slight", only once during the entire cruise did the sea look remotely rough and with the ships stabilisers out you really did not feel it. After leaving Muroran the temperature started to drop and the day before we had our first Alaskan port (Seward) it snowed. Many of the passengers (and crew) had never seen snow before and were very excited by this (some of them soon learned that snow is also very slippery, and the outside decks were closed for safety reasons). We were not lucky enough to see any whales during the cruise, but we saw dolphins, seals and sealions. Trips ashore We did the following excursions: Dalian -- City Walk and kite flying. Dalian is a big, modern city. English speaking student guides took us round and were friendly (and you needed them to help crossing the roads, as there was lots of traffic!) midway through the tour we went to a restaurant and were provided with drinks, we chose Beer. Then off to a park for kite flying (cheap kites that you then take home with you), it was a calm day with little breeze so not actually that successful for kite flying. We had lunch back on the boat. Busan -- we went to Yunggungsa Temple, the APEC building and short time around the central market area (not really enough time to shop, but there were shops opposite the ship) Free shuttle into town (not walkable). Vladivostock -- The ship docks pretty much in the centre of town so you can easily walk everywhere. Our trip went to the "Eagles Nest" (a hill overlooking the town), a Russian Orthodox church, the local natural history museum and a submarine. All apart from the Eagles Nest was an easy walk from the boat. For us, not going to the museum would not have been a loss but the submarine was excellent! Next door to the dock was the railway station, which is the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This is well worth a look around (even if you do not like trains). Muroran -- We did the trip to see the Lake and volcano, but if you have been somewhere like Lanzorote then this is not on the scale of what you find there. Muroran is an industrial port town, not really a tourist destination as such. We did go to the big supermarket for Sapporo Beer. There were free shuttle buses that do circular routes around the town, which is quite spread out . You can hop-on/hop off at the designated stops. Seward -- We did our own thing, getting the free shuttle into town. We went to the Aquarium which was interesting, and generally walked around the town (lots of tourist shops there) as well as looking at the Iditarod dog sled trail. We (seemingly like a lot of people) went to Safeways. Other passengers who went on the whale watching trip reported seeing whales etc on that trip. Remember that it can be cold there in May. Juneau -- We went to the Glacier, a rainforest tour and salmon hatchery. The trip did not start until mid morning, so we walked into town first thing (again the ship is moored right in town) and looked around. There was no food provided and no shopping time available after the trip (at the rain forest there was a Cafe, we never made it to the visitors centre at the glacier but probable there are snacks and drinks available there too). As it was not Salmon season (early July they return) there was not really that much to see at the Salmon hatchery! Ketchikan -- The ship is moored right in town. We went on the "Misty Fjords" seaplane trip, great little flight and after landing in one of the fjords we all (6 passengers per plane, everyone gets a window seat) got out and walked on the floats. Amazingly calm and quiet. We had a good walk around the town, again lots of touristy shops! Vancouver -- The only negative comment we have is the final transfer from the ship terminal to the hotel -- getting through customs and immigration was fine, and then we picked up our cases. However once outside it was disorganised chaos, as there then 3 ships berthed all with passengers disembarking and new passengers joining). It took around 20 minutes to get through the formal bits, and then we waited 1hr 40 minutes for the coach to take us to the hotel (the Four seasons) which was literally only a 10 minute walk away. The hotel was good (no food included as part of the stay), and as part of the "Pacific Centre" complex meant you could access the underground shopping network from the hotel. We Walked to Stanley Park, The Vancouver lookout (ticket is for 24 hours, so you can go during the day, leave and then go back at night), and Gas Street. The next day it started to rain, so we first went to the Aquarium by bus (we bought a day pass). It was again a bank holiday weekend, so again things were pretty busy in Vancouver too), then we went back into town and went to the cinema. We checked before we went, but there were no significant theatre/music events on whilst we were there, otherwise we would have booked a show. Princess provided a voucher for the taxi transfer to the airport, we flew home with Air Canada (only 23 Kilos of luggage allowed, if you are over they will charge you $100 Canadian and they were very strict!!). Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We had taken this cruise in the fall Singapore to Beijing, and loved it so much that we had to come back for a second go round. Both times, we did a princess tour in Beijing and Xian arrived two days before the start of the tours The pre ... Read More
We had taken this cruise in the fall Singapore to Beijing, and loved it so much that we had to come back for a second go round. Both times, we did a princess tour in Beijing and Xian arrived two days before the start of the tours The pre cruise on this trip was great. Had an excellent guide. We did skip some of the tours to get in more shopping in Beijing. We used the subway to get around, very easy to do. The DIAMOND PRINCESS has to be the best of the princess ship, very professional operated. Food was good, could always find something to eat, I'm a picky eater. Ports: Busan took the free shuttle into the centre of the town. Used the subway, to get around, though harder to do the Beijing. Nagasaski, paid for an all day tram ticket 500 yen. Went to a three temples, and the gardens. Shanghai, took the free shuttle in to the city. Used the subway to get around, easy to use, English, and Chinese. Saw the Jade Buddah Temple and the Ye Gardens, also walked in the old town, and along the Bund. Hong Kong, Again took the free shuttle into the town, Walked thru the Ocean Centre and boarded the Star Ferry. Walked to the Tram to Victoria's Peak. Rode the tram up walked around and rode the tram back down. Took the subway to Ladies Market and the walked around Nathan road. Nha Trang, went with friend, we got a van and saw the major sites and did some shopping the central market. Ho Chi Minh City. Used the Princess shuttle not free to go into the city. Again we went shopping a the market area. Ride into the city is about 1 and half hours. Laem Chaban, (Bangkok) Took a private tour that saw the major sites, good. Since we did not sail until 12 o clock, took the free Princess shuttle to Pattaya to look around. Singapore, we stayed on for another day. Since we had been here for two days in the fall, we had seen the major sites. Did ride the Singapore Flyer, bigger than the London Eye, rode the subway around here, again easy to do. Also went to the night at the Zoo, used the subway to get there also. With a little work on the internet you can print out maps of the cities and how to use the subway and their maps. Loved this so much that we are doing it again in the fall. Yes, we cruise other place too. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
The purpose of this report is to mention some Diamond Princess problems (by the way we have sailed Princess several times before and not encountered these things before). 1. There were no hand sanitizers before you entered the ... Read More
The purpose of this report is to mention some Diamond Princess problems (by the way we have sailed Princess several times before and not encountered these things before). 1. There were no hand sanitizers before you entered the restaurants or buffet. Even when many passengers had colds and flu and the Medical Officer put a report in the bulletin that we should wash our hands because there were alot of people sick on board! In the buffet there was one stand with sanitizer standing hidden by a wall a long way into the buffet but you really had to search to find it. Even the waiters in the Lido weren't sure where it was when I asked! 2. There was a very poor Captain's Party indeed. There were no hors d'oeuvres and very few drinks; some people didn't even receive a drink. The waiters just disappeared and never returned after about 10 minutes. They had a loud band playing - so loud that we couldn't even converse with the couple sitting next to us! Why do they have to play soooo loud? Does no-one control these boys? Do they think we need a "Carnival party atmosphere", or what is this? On a 17 day sailing in February there were no youths or teens on board to appreciate that racket. And the Captain didn't come. The cruise director made announcements and gave the usual presents to long-time members. No handshake with any officers or anything. 3. The Captain did address us for a "welcome" in the Atrium. He stood on a balcony and his words through a microphone into that space were so muffled that no-one could hear what he said. Many people just gave up and started to talk the others beside them, so that didn't help. Fortunately, most people at least got one drink as the waiters continued to circulate with trays for about 1/2 hour. 4. We were constantly pestered to buy stuff, more than usual for Princess. 5. There was no Princess blue bag supplied to take on shore excursions. That was a first for us. We could have brought a day bag from home had we known. 6. They only supplied cheap one-ply toilet paper that tore into bits when you tried to use it. The steward did not provide new kleenex, toilet paper, and soap unless we tracked him down and asked for it. He stopped providing anything fresh 2 days before the end of the cruise. Is this new Princess policy - maybe not. Guess he already had his standard tips by then? He sure didn't get anything extra from us - and we usually give our steward a little more on debarkation day as a thank-you. 7. Stateroom needed attention. There was a sharp needle sticking out of the carpet right in front of the bathroom door where you had to put your foot to enter. I cut my toe on it twice until I learned to put a hand towel over it. Of course every time the steward entered the cabin he took it up and I had to replace it. I must however commend the front office staff. They were terrific, sympathetic and efficient. I had left something important on shore in China and they managed to get it to me at the next Chinese port (albeit at some cost to me). Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
First time to Beijing and we were very impressed. Very good value with pre-cruise Princess hotel and tour package of 3 days. Two more ports in China, and then Busan and Vladivostok. Went on Princess tour in Busan to the old Silla capital ... Read More
First time to Beijing and we were very impressed. Very good value with pre-cruise Princess hotel and tour package of 3 days. Two more ports in China, and then Busan and Vladivostok. Went on Princess tour in Busan to the old Silla capital and was very interesting. Vladivostok was interesting, just walked around on our own, saw the famous railway station - end of the Trans Siberian Railway, and after that 8 days across the Bering Sea to Alaska. The embarkation went very smoothly and in general staff was very friendly and accommodating. The dining room staff was excellent as well as cruise director and staff. Food was ok. We had mostly all meals in the dining room because the Horizon court was very crowded and it was difficult to find a free table. This could be more so because the weather was too cold for anyone to sit and eat on the open decks. We normally prefer the smaller ships, but the Diamond Princess was definitely a much friendlier ship than say, Crown Princess, and if choosing a big ship, would cruise on her again. For anyone contemplating taking this cruise, please note it is very cold across the ocean, especially in May, and most activities were indoors. Very few people choose to watch "movie under the stars" or any other outside activity. This of course made it a bit crowded inside. The Internet cafe on the Diamond Princess is very pleasant and plenty of computers and relaxing atmosphere. The Internet connection until Alaska was fine, but I felt sorry for those passengers joining in Alaska and who bought an Internet package, because from Whittier to Vancouver there were very few times when Internet was accessible. The Inside Passage ports were very interesting and the highlight of the trip down was the Glacier Bay cruising. We saw quite a lot of sea life and the last evening cruising down the BC coast was very enjoyable, as well as the cruising into beautiful Vancouver harbour. Disembarkation was handled very well. All in all, a good experience, especially if one likes bigger ships and formal dinners. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
Beijing 3 day Pre-tour, staying at Marriott City Wall. This was excellent. We did the pre-arranged day tours, as well as the optional evening tours. Whilst tiring, all the tours were worth it. Just a warning - the hotel is very ... Read More
Beijing 3 day Pre-tour, staying at Marriott City Wall. This was excellent. We did the pre-arranged day tours, as well as the optional evening tours. Whilst tiring, all the tours were worth it. Just a warning - the hotel is very expensive for drinks and food. However, the evening optional tours included an evening meal, making them good value for money. Our guide was excellent and we visited many places, including the Olympic Stadium, Tiannamen Square, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Great Wall, the night market (with all the strange food stalls), as well as an amazing Chinese acrobatic show. Also included was a visit to a local house and a rickshaw ride. The transfer from the airport to the hotel was quick and efficient, as was the transfer to the ship, which was a 2.5 hour drive from Beijing. One word of warning, though, I did have some of my medication stolen from the hotel room (in bedside drawer) ... so best lock yours away if necessary. The hotel was very comfortable and Princess had representatives in the hotel for most of the day. There were several hundred passengers staying at the hotel. We did have the same guide and group for the pre-arranged tours, which was really good, as we got to know quite a few people before embarkation. When we arrived at the ship, our passports were taken for the duration of the voyage. We thought this a bit odd, but they were delivered back to our rooms by the steward when required. Immigration officials were on the boat to deal with all the various stops, so there were no delays getting off for the tours.There was a diverse mix of nationalities on the ship .... from US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, as well as South America, New Zealand and even Russia. There were plenty of activities on both port and sea days and the CD (Dan from Australia) was very good (he was better than some of the professional comedians!!). Ships tours: these were very well organised with few delays. At the tender ports, extra local tenders were put on to get passengers off quickly. It worked well. Also, there were free shuttle buses arranged for all ports, for those who were making their own arrangements.Diamond Princess is an excellent ship. Our room was clean and we had an excellent steward (Danny) who was always smiling and happy to help. We didn't feel that the ship was ever crowded. We did ask for a replacement duvet, as the original one was lumpy - no problem, it was replaced immediately, as were the pillows. Lots of places to get away and relax. Even on sea days there were plenty of sunbeds/loungers available. The Deck Stewards appeared to make sure that loungers were not "saved" and we saw them removing towels from unoccupied loungers on several occasions. All the crew seemed happy - our only complaint would be the lack of information at times from Passenger Services. The internet was very slow and we ended up not using up all our minutes, as a couple of times the internet was down for a couple of days.Dining. We were "Anytime" dining - we never had to wait for more than a few minutes for a table and didn't book at all. The Head Waiter did check the room numbers each time and anyone from Traditional Dining wanting to use the Anytime Dining Rooms were asked to wait until after 08.30, which seemed fair to us. Even the food in Horizon Court was good, although it was sometimes crowded at breakfast time on port days where tours were starting early. The food was good and always hot. We didn't go to many shows - just looked in on some but didn't stay. Formal nights - I don't think we will bother with these in future, especially with the luggage restrictions. Nothing special, apart from the usual champagne waterfall on the first one and a Captain's cocktail party on another. These just seem to be another opportunity to sell formal photographs. On one formal night we went to the Sterling Steakhouse and had an excellent meal. However, despite the dress code being "Smart Casual", DH was asked to change into a long-sleeved shirt (again lack of information), although a tie and/or jacket was not required (strange, as he was wearing a tailored, short-sleeved shirt and smart trousers).Dalian - was dusty and not worth the tour or the stop. If we were doing it again, we would just use the shuttle bus, or even just not get off the ship.Busan, Korea - again, not worth the tour. We didn't get to see Shanghai, as the port was closed (for 2 days as we later found out) because of thick fog, so our double-entry visa was wasted! However, we did have an extra afternoon/evening in Hong Kong which was really good. We got to see the evening light show and have yet another Chinese Dinner.All the other tours were very good. Ho Chi Ming City was a long drive ... about 2.5 hours on bumpy, slow roads. Traffic was horrendous, but it was interesting to see all the motorcycles, scooters, etc. We opted out of going to Bangkok (again a long drive) as by this time we were getting just a bit tired of long bus journeys. Disembarkation in Singapore was quick and efficient. We had a day tour of Singapore, visiting China Town, Raffles Hotel, Orchid Gardens, etc. and lunch (instead of the advertised "Hospitality Room for UK passengers"). Princess needs to be more forthcoming with information about disembarkation to avoid upset passengers. We arrived at the airport at about 18.45 for our flight home, where our luggage was waiting for us (that was a bit of a scrum). Check in was fast and efficient, but be prepared to go through several security checks.MUTS is noisy and not worth it. Not many people watching the evening film.All in all, an excellent cruise. We love the Diamond Princess and would cruise on her again. We did hear from a bar steward that at the next dry dock she would get an International Cafe and Wine Bar, but I don't know how accurate that it (although he did say that it would be situated where the library is at present). Gym - equipment outdated and old fashioned, so didn't bother to use it. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
We flew from Heathrow to Beijing with British Airways. The service was really good (who said BA cabin staff are demoralised?) and the food was excellent!We stayed at Marriott City Wall, a very good hotel except for breakfast when they ... Read More
We flew from Heathrow to Beijing with British Airways. The service was really good (who said BA cabin staff are demoralised?) and the food was excellent!We stayed at Marriott City Wall, a very good hotel except for breakfast when they could not cope with the numbers. There was a long queue to get into the dining room and they kept running out of food and were slow to replenish. Food was good though!We had booked the three day pre-cruise tour and added on two optional evening tours. The daytime tours were excellent and the evening tours worth doing. We had the same guide (Tom) for the daytime tours, he was really good and had very good English. We visited the Olympic Stadium, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Hutong (where we visited an old quadrangle house and had a rickshaw ride), the Summer Palace, The Great Wall of China (the highlight of the holiday) and the Temple of Heaven.All five tours included a Chinese meal and while they were good (especially the Peking Duck lunch) we realised we could easily get tired of Chinese food.Transfers from the airport to the hotel and from Beijing to the ship were efficient. Embarkation was super fast taking less than 30 minutes from coach to cabin.Diamond Princess is a nice ship. It is almost a twin of Ventura (P & O) that we are familiar with so we had little difficulty finding our way about. The ship didn't feel too big - unless you had to get from bow to stern in a hurry! There always seemed to be plenty of room on the ship and sunbeds were always available even on sea days. Our cabin steward was good and always eager to help.We were "anytime dining" for the first time and it suited us well. We didn't book ahead and got straight into our chosen dining room almost every time. On only one occasion did we see a long queue and we moved to another dining room and got straight in. We met lots of interesting people mainly from UK, US and Australia (strangely all the Aussies claimed not to like cricket and didn't want to talk about it!!!) The service was very good in all the dining rooms and the food was of a high standard. The buffet at the Horizon Court was good for breakfast and lunch. The entertainment was mixed, some good, some poor. This was our first cruise with Princess and we were disappointed with some of the shows. Some regular Princess cruisers we met said the same thing. Maybe this is a Far East problem!The ToursDalian: We took the walking tour of the city with kite flying. It wasn't worth doing - there wasn't even enough wind to fly the kites.Shanghai: Unfortunately we missed out on Shanghai as the port was closed due to severe fog.Ho Chi Minh City: We visited a Lacquer Factory and a market and had time in the city on our own. This was a good tour. The journey from the port to HCMC took two and a half hours but it was an interesting journey and the time passed quickly.Bangkok: As we had been to Bangkok before we opted for the Elephant Krall. This was an excellent visit where we learned a lot about elephants and how they are being looked after and had an opportunity to ride on one (and get a photograph).Singapore: We enjoyed a tour of Singapore on the last day even though we were expecting a hospitality room - more later!Shipboard activities: Outside activities like shuffleboard and quoits were very badly organised - Princess could take lessons from P & O. The beer tasting was a complete rip off, $10 for five thimblefuls of beer and a poor talk! The Computers at Sea seemed overpriced at $30 for a 45 minute session on photo editing.We obviously "drew the short straw" as we were booked on Quantas for the return journey Singapore to Heathrow. The service was good but the food was like airline food used to be. I had forgotten how bad that was. The presentation of the food was awful and the taste even worse!Overall impressionsThe pre-cruise tour was superb!The cruise was good and we liked Diamond Princess, the staff and the food.Princess needs to improve its communication with passengers. Between booking the cruise and joining the ship the cruise itinerary changed some seven times and we were only informed about the last two changes. In addition, we were promised a hospitality room on the last day in Singapore. I found out when I received the disembarkation schedule that we were "Late Departing UK Passengers with Tour" i.e. a tour had been substituted for the hospitality room and I had not been informed of the change.A general point: The trend in cruising is to bigger ships. The effect of this can be two fold. Firstly there is more need to use tenders. This is no problem if you have booked an organised tour as you get priority but if you are not on a tour it can take up to three hours to get ashore! Secondly in some cases the bigger ships can only berth in commercial ports that can be up to three hours drive from the visiting city. We encountered both these issues on the cruise. While they did not spoil the holiday it is something we will have to take into account in the future when choosing a cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
First let me give you the positive aspects of this cruise. The itinerary is fantastic, an equal amount of time at sea and exposure to different cultures within Southeast Asia. And if you are a shopper, you could definitely shop until you ... Read More
First let me give you the positive aspects of this cruise. The itinerary is fantastic, an equal amount of time at sea and exposure to different cultures within Southeast Asia. And if you are a shopper, you could definitely shop until you drop. For a cruise of this length we booked a mini-suite, giving us that all important extra bit of space which we both appreciated while on the ship for over 16 days. Our room steward was great, quickly catching on to our patterns and always willing to do the room around our schedule, not his. As in previous cruises with Princess, we bought coffee cards, entitling us do specialty coffees at the Plaza coffee bar and the young woman working in that area was more than willing to experiment for me, making me a London Fog (not on the menu). The comedians on board were fair to great (the ventriloquist was great). The negatives unfortunately were numerous. We knew that this was a large ship that would have to dock at container terminals at most destinations thanks to other postings on Cruise Critic. What didn't come through the postings was just how inconvenient this made getting to anywhere, using up much of the precious shore time. Whether people were booked with an organized excursion or independently going ashore didn't seem to make much difference in the time delay. We did both and found the excuses and lack of communication from staff very frustrating. In Shanghai, we actually spent well over 90 minutes waiting to disembark to get to our tour, cutting the tour short by over one hour. And that was with an extension of time provided by the Chinese officials for us to leave port. If you had decided to stay on board to relax, the environs were not really conducive to that as the ports were working container terminals (i.e read noisy and smelly). Princess still has not made the casinos smoke free despite the fact that even in Vegas the casinos are smoke free. Probably our biggest disappointment was in the food service. The buffet was poorly organized. The only truly 'hot' food I found was the soups. Generally I would grade the buffet a 2 out of 5 and the dining rooms a 3 out of 5. After being on other Princess ships, the food was definitely disappointing. As well the buffet seemed poorly set up, causing a lot of problems with congestion in the food service areas. There was no 'occupied' marking system as we have had on other Princess cruise ships. We didn't find out until 2 days before the end of the cruise that the omelette station was at the Trident Grill (the other end of the Lido Deck from the rest of the morning breakfast buffet). Disembarkation at the end of this trip was a nightmare for anyone traveling independently. We were late getting off the ship and when we arrived (by bus) at the pick up spot for our suitcases, they were not there and took over another hour to arrive. Many people were experiencing the same frustration with one member of the party standing in a very long taxi line while other members of the party searched fruitlessly for suitcases that had not yet arrived. All in all, for this type of itinerary, Princess should consider using one of the smaller vessels that can access the cruise ship terminals. As well, food services need to be reviewed as does the public smoking policies of Princess. At the end of this journey, we have decided to explore other cruise lines. This Diamond did not shine for us. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2011
First the good (and there was a lot of good): The hospitality staff treated us very well (apart from a couple of situations to be described below). The quality of the cabins was normal standard, with a good layout, very comfortable bed, as ... Read More
First the good (and there was a lot of good): The hospitality staff treated us very well (apart from a couple of situations to be described below). The quality of the cabins was normal standard, with a good layout, very comfortable bed, as much room as we expected in the circumstances, and everything worked (though the a/c struggled to keep the temperature low enough, and there was an annoying handle in the middle of the shower back that took 422 off the depth). We heard no noise from adjacent cabins, and the cabin steward was remarkable, achieving the correct balance that made us feel very welcome, without being in any way pushy. The food was excellent, with sensible quantities in the dining rooms, and as much as you wanted in the buffet - my word, can't Americans eat! We chose "Anytime Dining" which meant we turned up at a dining room pretty much when we felt like it and asked either for a table for two, or to join a group. Joining a table for four or six is a great way to meet interesting people, and this was almost always our choice. However the tables for two were so close together, they may as well have been joined. Companions of ours chose set dining, and after an excursion made them 15 minutes late for their table, they were refused entry, and had to go to the buffet! The procedures for joining the ship, immigration for excursions, and leaving the ship at the end all worked well, though the timings for the last gradually slipped because the ship was docked in a container port around 14 miles away from the luggage hall, through quite heavy traffic.There was a typical mixture of entertainment - dance and song shows, acts such as a juggler, a ventriloquist, string quartet, pianist, local entertainers from port cities, quizzes, craft activities, a good selection of films, a reasonably stocked library, blah blah blah. There was absolutely no excuse to be bored! One innovation was "Movies under the Stars", where a huge screen on an upper open deck screened films, pop videos or live recordings, or just rolling scenery to accompany music tracks. This worked well apart from for the films - there were always people talking in loud voices scattered around the deck. We left "True Grit" after 20 minutes, as it was impossible to follow. Headphones should be available. Diamond Princess is a very large ship. We had an altered itinerary due to the political situation in South Korea. Our first stop out of Beijing should have been Busan, South Korea, followed by Nagasaki, with a full day in each. Instead we sailed directly to Nagasaki, arriving shortly before noon of the first cruise day and leaving early evening. This was simply not enough time, and many people were unable to complete the tours they had paid for. Subsequently all stops were a day early, with a full day and night in Singapore at the end to take up the slack. For every port visit apart from Nagasaki we tied up in container ports. I estimated the following distances to areas of tourist interest: Shanghai 15 miles, Hong Kong 7 miles, Ho Chi Minh City 40 miles, Bangkok 70 miles), Singapore 12 miles (my first view of Singapore being an oil refinery). Quite apart from the time and distance, it meant we could not stroll off the ship and into town at will, because of standard port security; instead a mandatory coach shuttle was needed. Bangkok involved 5 hours of travel, the Mekong Delta tunnels four hours, Singapore about two hours. I don't know if this was because of the size of the ship, because the itinerary had changed, or because of the cost of tying up in a cruise terminal, but it was completely unacceptable. As for the Nagasaki debacle, we should have had an extra day at sea to replace of Busan, and then had the full day in Japan. (This was before the awful earthquake, by the way.) Unlike P&O, there is a strong and relentless desire to sell to the passengers - alcoholic drinks, coffees, expensive waters, discount cards. Even after a (very brief and largely pointless) trip through a galley, we exited via a lounge full of sale merchandise. As each main course dish was placed in front of us, someone would dive in with a massive pepper grinder, and the cry "Would you some like pepper". This was before we had time to smell, let alone taste the food. I wanted a baseball cap with the words "Just Leave Me Alone" on the peak - but amongst all the other items, this was not available. I could, however, have bought an insulated mug for $20, and I think that well illustrates the inflated prices of most things. We were appalled to learn that the corkage price for our own wine would be $15, while Princess would charge over $20 for an $8 bottle of their own.When my wife suffered a tooth abscess, the service desk were very off-hand, though the doctor, once contacted, was very efficient (apart from initially only giving half the medication charged for and not marking the required dose on the packaging).There seemed nowhere on the ship free of background music. Even the library had an ever-open door, so the clamour and musak from the atrium couldn't be escaped there.Apart from the constant selling, the pepper grinder (and the service desk), the hotel staff treated us very well. In the face of a lot of rudeness from a few passengers, they kept their dignity and politeness in a way that I could never do. When there was a whiff of norovirus, a presumably well-rehearsed plan went into action, and there was no spread - despite some passengers objecting to the simple routine hygiene measures.There were a few significant delays caused by tardy passengers, and the captain and tour manager were far too forgiving. I was delayed leaving on one trip for 45 minutes due to late passengers, that weren't even allocated to my coach. This will not do.Sadly, for me the negatives outweighed the positives, and though overall I had a good time, I will not be sailing with Princess again unless they can convince me that attitudes have changed in significant areas. I will certainly avoid a ship this large. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
We started with a couple of days in a freezing cold but sunny Beijing to see the Great Wall and all the other Great Sights, including the excellent Silk Road Market,all brilliant!! We had a 2.5 hour car ride to the container port at ... Read More
We started with a couple of days in a freezing cold but sunny Beijing to see the Great Wall and all the other Great Sights, including the excellent Silk Road Market,all brilliant!! We had a 2.5 hour car ride to the container port at Tianjin, but found the embarkation process quick and easy compared to our last experience in Miami.Our cabin was about what we expected, but the bonus was a super comfortable bed. We were on the top deck (Baha deck 12)and had been warned that we should expect some noise from the pool/buffet deck above early in the morning when chairs got moved around, but we had no disturbance at all. Only draw back was being charged for waterWe thought the organised excursions were overpriced, but the daily port lectures by the excellent Elizabeth Moran meant you could "do your own thing" with confidence, and far cheaper.We couldn't go to Busan, S. Korea as advertised because of local issues with the North, but the extra day in Singapore more than made up for it. Nagasaki and it's people were lovely. Shanghai - unbelievably good. Ditto Hong Kong, although we were the 3 years ago, still plenty to do. You needed to be a bit street wise in Nha Trang. Saigon excellent. Didn't do Bangkok having been before, went to a very tacky Pattaya instead. Kho Samui OK. Singapore; top of the order.On Board we had formal dining almost every night sharing our table with a great family from Canada with whom we had great fun throughout the cruise.Food was excellent at all times, and the Crew and Staff dealt with a Norovirus outbreak very efficiently. Plenty to do on sea days, if you want to. Drink prices seemed reasonable and the "cocktail of the day" was judged a bargain!Watching a movie at night out on deck under blankets - tip top. Great party night. In fact from the Skipper right down to our steward, you could not find fault with anyone.Everyone was so helpful and made the trip fun. The earthquake in Japan happened 4 days after we had been there, and some guests were concerned about a tsunami, but the Captain kept us informed at all times and so "no worries"Others have made comments about the size of the ship means docking in really boring, miles from anywhere, container ports. As a result you have to be bussed or tendered in to anywhere decent, which can impact on your time ashore. It is certainly a pain, but did not spoil our overall enjoyment of the cruise.Finally, disembarkation at Singapore was reasonably smooth, a slight delay of 20 minutes from schedule.We could do it all again tomorrow!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
I was looking for Mediterranean cruise in April 2011. This cruise popped up and the price was irresistible, booked the cruise 10 days advance only. We had an ocean view cabin 244 on Plaza deck, or 5th floor. Check in at Xin ... Read More
I was looking for Mediterranean cruise in April 2011. This cruise popped up and the price was irresistible, booked the cruise 10 days advance only. We had an ocean view cabin 244 on Plaza deck, or 5th floor. Check in at Xin Gang (Tian Jin) was smooth, nice and new passenger cruise port terminal. No shop, nothing to buy or shop, just coffee and tea counter provided by the ship. The new terminal is a bit far off, we took the High speed train from Beijing at around 13.30 pm. Got there in slightly over an hour. Beware, buy the train ticket in advance, or you may not have a seat. From the train station, we took a cab, they over charged us slightly, but no big deal, understandable because the port is middle of no where. Taxi fee was 100 Yuan. One bad point is no direction to port or terminal at Princess website, nor provided to us by Princess agent in Thailand. A bit difficult to find the port info from Google. The ship departed 2 hours late due to heavy fog and highway accident that clogged the traffic. Passengers were arriving late. The lounge is nice, 3 storey of shiny brasses, glasses and chandelier. The cabin is ok, slightly old. But for foul smell at the fridge. Cabin layout is ok , we liked it. Sheet, mattresses, blankets are ok. Bed cover a bit old. No bed bug. Our cabin attendent is Ronald, a Philippino, he provided good service throughout the cruise. Toilet and toiletries are ok. The toilet flush broke down once , but was repair in a jiffy after a phone call. Food in the buffet is not that good,choices are vary enough, but quality is barely passing. The morning eggs are terrible. Buffet is available 24/7, good point. Coffee is just barely passing, tea bags choices are great. Available 24 hours at the buffet cafe. Dining rooms are nicely decorated, food quality, food choices, service are great. Most dishes are good, but for few. Wine choices and price are OK with us. But fellow passengers complained about the wine price. I love the morning and afternoon waffle, afternoon burger, and soft ice cream. Shows are great, both the stage and performance. Gym and workout facility is OK. Spa is good. Port visits are well organized, courtesy buses at most ports. Except for very bare and dull Phumy port in Vietnam, otherwise all ports are good. We visited Pusan, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Thang Long, Phumy, Koh Samui, Laem Chabang, Singapore. We are independent travelers,so we didn't buy any port excursion. I would say if you are experienced travelers, been to Asia, you don't need to buy any for these ports of call, but may be Phumy if you wished to visit Ho Chi Min. Or Laem Chabang if you wish to visit Bangkok. It is a bit far off. If you are not familiar with China, cannot communicate in Mandarin, I suggest shore excursion for Shanghai as well. Beware of Shanghai Taxi, very bad indeed. Disembarkation in Singapore is very slow, but not ship fault. Probably due to two ships calling at the same time, and the terminal is very crowded and congested. Taxi queuing line is long. Plenty of taxi though. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
Ship size and operating efficiencies are forsemost in the cruise companies minds - but the question is what do we - the cruise passenger - get out of their determination to migrate to bigger and bigger ships? The cruise lines claim our ... Read More
Ship size and operating efficiencies are forsemost in the cruise companies minds - but the question is what do we - the cruise passenger - get out of their determination to migrate to bigger and bigger ships? The cruise lines claim our ultimate benefit is economy. That may be, (and I doubt if it is true anyway) - but if it is - it is false economy - certainly on am itinerary such as the far east Beijing to Singapore. The ship was unable to dock at the cruise terminals close to the ports of call. Too bog!. This necessitated docking at remote container ports, all with the charm of perpetual motion and noise - and necessitated hour long drives to and from the destination. These destinations included Busan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Singapore. The biggest problem of the one hour to, and one hour from shuttles is the necessity to add wait times to get a shuttle. So the reader can easily see that a 9-5 port time would effectively become 11-3, an absolute sin in places like Hong Kong! Where the ship tendered the deal for passengers was almost as bad, with long tendering delays. Even Princess acknowledge up to 3 hours to clear the ship, and as with the shuttles, time has to be added to line up for the tenders. So for those hoping to plan a decent day in some wonderful and exotic ports, - think again. And to compound the problems the ships punctuality was very poor - almost always late to arrive - and always on time to leave. Very problematic for those who prefer self-organized tours over the vastly overpriced Princess tours, and thus don't have the guarantee that the ship will wait. The ship was sailing into a refurbishing at Singapore - but didn't think it was in bad shape at all. Nothing looked too tired or shabby. The crew, especially the wait staff, were eager and energetic, if very very green. They seem to be relying heavily an Thai staff these days. Didn't have too much of a problem with this except for the inevitable delays and lateness in the dining room. Food was OK - perhaps a little below Princesses' average - and I attributed this probably to the new cook staff. The only huge problem with the sailing was the internet cafe - and this may have been due to an incredibly rude and ineffective staffer. Photographers seemed to be less of a pest than usual - but keep your eyes open for Princess' new ways to reach into your wallet. Automatic gratuity deductions of up to $11.50 per person per day (easily remedied of course) - but a new wrinkle. Order a drink - and you will be presented with a tab which includes 15% tip, and now includes a new line for you to ADD another gratuity! Same with room service! And careful how you answer when asked (in the dining room) whether you want water! As to the ports. Busan was interesting, but in an industrial sense. Tour guides here are not professional and ours didn't communicate well, and was maybe a bit embarrased by her own ineptitude. Nagasaki was wonderful. Easy to do on your own. An all day tram pass is the key to the city - and the locals went all out to help us with directions. The Atomic Bomb areas were must see - and the trip up, and the view from, Mount Thing were unmissable. Hong Kong, as usual, was a delight - and should have warranted an overnight. Shanghai was smoggy - what else is new - and the Hop on Hop Off bus is the way to go. Take a taxi to the Bund from the shuttle stop (a silk factory) to get to the action. Viet Nam (Nha Trang and Saigon) were for us the stars of the show. Very third world, but very honest and pleasing. probably the best place for shopping. Bangkok and Ko Samui in Thailand were both excellent ports of call - but the long bus rid to Bangkok from the container port was a bit wilting! Singapore is a very interesting city - but very very hot - and very very expensive. But mayve the heat justifies $11 for a cold beer - who knows. Highly recommend the itinerary - but not on the Diamond. Look for this itinerary on the Ocean. A much better time will be had I'm sure! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
My wife and I decided in November 2009 that we wanted to take a cruise of Asia. Being that we are Elite (18+cruises) with Princess, it seemed logical to take this cruise line. We elected to take the Pre-Cruise package which gave us 4 days ... Read More
My wife and I decided in November 2009 that we wanted to take a cruise of Asia. Being that we are Elite (18+cruises) with Princess, it seemed logical to take this cruise line. We elected to take the Pre-Cruise package which gave us 4 days and three nights in Beijing since we had never been to Asia. We decided to use our own air miles to go to and return from this cruise. Our problems began with our arrival in China. At the airport, we had expected to see someone from Princess to meet us, as has always been done, since we had paid for the Pre-Cruise at $650.00 per person which included pickup from the airport, a 3 night stay at the Ramada Inn in Beijing, tours, some meals, and, transport of ourselves and luggage to the ship on sailing day, from the Hotel. When we arrived, no one from Princess was there to meet us. We strolled around the airport and after approx. 1/2 hour, found a gentleman who was holding a Princess Cruises sign facing his chest and not looking for us, but, for other people on another plane. I happened to get a glimpse of the sign and since we have been with Princess many times, recognized it immediately. I stopped the gentlemen and told him that we were looking for him and he was completely shocked. He did not have our name on the list of people to meet nor did he have our flight information. There were several other passengers that we found in the same situation. After a long flight to Beijing, not having anyone meet us, we then had to produce Princess documents to prove that we had paid for the pre-cruise trip and transfer, then, wait an additional 4 hours at the airport, while the gentlemen found others that he had a listing of to meet, before we got a bus for a 2 hour ride to the Ramada Hotel in Beijing. No, not finished. We arrived at the hotel and went to the hospitality room only to find out that we were not shown on the tour and that there was not hotel room reserved for us. After an additional hour and much checking by the tour group in charge (with Princess signs) we were given a room and we collapsed thinking that this nightmare was over. No, not over yet. We went on the tours for the three days (one day totally lost at the airport and hotel - 7 hours) and did enjoy these tours. The evening before the third day, we were instructed to have all of our luggage out in the hallway of the hotel by 11 p.m. so that it could be picked up during the night for transfer to the ship. Now, guess what. We had our luggage out over 1 hour before the expected time and when we walked out of the room in the morning our luggage was still sitting in the hall, not picked up. Since the buses were loading to go on the short tour, Peking Duck luncheon and the two hour drive to the port, we had to go down to the lobby, find a representative, and tell them the problem (we really wanted our luggage on the cruise). They did not have our name or room number on the pickup list, so we again showed our Princess documents and someone came to the hallway to pickup the luggage and put it on the bus with us for transfer to the port. At least I knew that our luggage was going to arrive at the port. No, the nightmare continues. At the port, all of us were taken off the bus for embarkation onto the ship. Well, most of us anyway. Our luggage had to be taken off the bus, and since there was about 500 people in the parking lot to board with more arriving all the time, our luggage was placed on the ground out in the parking area. No one was available to help with the luggage which we had dealt with the aid of luggage carts, and no luggage carts to be seen. Gee, I wounder if they expected us to arrive without all of our luggage. Our tour guide lead all the people to the boarding area and after about 1/2 hour, returned to the bus area to find us trying to get help with the luggage (4 pieces + carryon's)in getting it to the ship. He neither offered his help or advice until by wife became involved and asked him to help or get someone to help us. Again, over 1 1/2 hour delay at the pier just in getting on the ship as we now had to go to the back of a line that consisted of all the passengers that arrived after we did. Our group had already boarded and were probably having a cool drink in the lounge. On-board, we finally got to our room only to find out that the delays meant that we had just a few minutes to go to dinner, without changing clothes. We knew that we were booked on first seating, had been confirmed, and had requested a large table of 8-10. We grabbed our cruise card only to see that we did not have a preference dining and no table number. After a discussion with the head waiter, we were placed at a table for 6 and figured the torment was finally over. We walked to the table only to find that it was currently occupied by others. OK, back to the head waiter for clarification ? He determined that the other party was not supposed to be at that table and he escorted them to another table. Anyway, we finished with a table of 4, ourselves and another couple who had also requested a large table. As it turned out, we were extremely happy with the other couple and we had a great time with a table for 4. Over you say? Lets not be hasty. During the 16 day cruise, I ordered a couple of bottle of red wine as did our table mates for the 4 of us to share. About 8 days into the cruise my wife happened to be at the Purser's Office to get some foreign money and asked for a bill of charges so far on the cruise. She got the bill and we noticed a charge of $59.00 for two bottles of white wine on dates when neither of us, our table mates or ourselves, ordered wine. My wife asked for the original bill, which the Purser's office obtained, and found our name on the bill, but, signed by someone else (unknown - at that time). They told us that they would check it out and get back to us (that's wishful thinking). At dinner that night, we mentioned this to the waiter who notified the head waiter who came directly to our table and assured us that "he would personally take care of this, and that our bill would be corrected tonight". Felt good and decided that everything was taken care of (wrong again). After three days, we pulled another copy of our bill to assure ourselves that everything was OK, only to find that the original charge was not corrected, but, guess what? Two more bottles of white wine for additional dates were now listed in addition. We had now been charged over $130.00 for wine that I had not even ordered, drank or enjoyed. Again, the head waiter was contacted and his first remark was "Did you see that I had taken care of the 2 bottles of wine on your account?". He was told "NO" and was then showed the additional charges for wine not ordered. To make a long story short, I went to the Purser direct and explained the situation. He tried, and was not successful, to locate the additional two charges, and I was told that he would "be back to me by tomorrow". Guess what, no call, no nothing, just silence. Again pulled my statement on the 13th, and everything was shown corrected. Seems the party that sat in my seat on the second sitting ordered the wine and he was finally charged. I think what irritated me more than anything was absolutely NO COMMUNICATION FROM EITHER THE PRINCESS MEMBERSHIP DESK (ON THE PROBLEMS ON THE PRE-CRUISE) TO NO COMMUNICATION FROM THE PURSER'S OFFICE OR ANYONE ON THE PROBLEMS WITH MY BILL. After all of this, it should be noted that the high lite of the cruise was the individuals that we met on Cruise Critic, the tours that we put together and the promptness of the tour operators that we contracted with. I would highly recommend the following for anyone taking a trip to Asia: In Singapore, MR. WILLIAM SOH AT "wsoh19@yahoo.com (Right on time, wonderful tour, great english and highly recommended); In Saigon, Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City) MS. THI at Thi_travel@yahoo.com part of Smile Tours Service Int. Co., Ltd. (Right on time, great tour, good english and highly recommended); In Nha Trang, Vietnam, MR. DUNG at "GlobalTravel.com" (on time, great tour, good english and highly recommended); In Shanghai, MR. NELSON ZHU at "nelsonzi@hotmail.com" (on time, great tour, highly changeable to our wants, great english and very highly recommended; In Taiwan, MR. MICHAEL YAU at "yau1230@yahoo.com.tw" ( On time, Great tour, good english, very flexible and highly recommended). We organized our own tours, outside of the ship tours, and found them to be less than half the costs of tours offered by the cruise line. Believe it or not, I did totally enjoy the itinerary of the ship. I think the pre-cruise deal is not a deal in that you donot get 4 days in Beijing (unless you count a day at the airport a day), really only 2 1/2 days since the 4th (?) day consisted of a trip to a Princess Factory tour, a Peking Duck lunch and a long 2 hour ride to the ship. This should be billed as a 2 day tour not a 4 day 3 night pre-cruise tour. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Thursday evening March 28th. We left home about 8: 30pm. Our daughter Allyson drove us to Sydney airport, where we stayed overnight in the Formula One Hotel. A truly very basic hotel but our room was spotlessly clean and the bed was very ... Read More
Thursday evening March 28th. We left home about 8: 30pm. Our daughter Allyson drove us to Sydney airport, where we stayed overnight in the Formula One Hotel. A truly very basic hotel but our room was spotlessly clean and the bed was very comfortable. We both slept well until 5am, and then boarded the 5:30am shuttle for the short drive to the airport. Check-in was quick and easy, (we'd used the internet check-in, so we already had our boarding passes. Our Singapore Airlines flight left on time and our eight hour fight to Singapore was very comfortable. The three hour lay-over in Singapore passed quickly and our Singapore flight to Beijing also left on time, arriving in Beijing just over five hours later. We found Customs and Immigration extremely efficient and our bags were already on the carousel waiting collection. After a very long day, it was really nice to see the familiar face of our tour guide Bevis waiting for us at the gate. The journey from the airport to the Novotel Peace Hotel was very quick as it was past midnight and there was not a lot of traffic. Our room was very much to our satisfaction located on the 17th floor (Premier level) and we both enjoyed a very good sleep that night. Sat. March 27th. While eating our breakfast, Jeff and Colleen, our friends from Canada who were on a cruise with us almost twelve months ago joined us. It was very exciting seeing them again. As arranged, at 8:30am we all left the hotel with our guide Bevis for a tour of the Heavenly Palace and Llama Temple. We then returned to the Hotel, where Russell and Louise, (two friends from Melbourne), whom we also met on a cruise last year, were waiting. Bevis then took us all to the Pearl & Silk Market. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel in need of some R & R and Bevis escorted Jeff, Colleen, Russell and Louise to a Dinner and Show. We decided to take advantage of our Premier Status, complimentary drinks and snacks in the 19th floor lounge! Actually the snacks, as we've discovered before, more than satisfy our appetite for a dinner. While we were there a group of Australians invited us to join their party and we had a great time sharing experiences in China with them. Sunday March 28th. The six of us met in the lobby with another four members of our C.C. Roll Call group, Brenda and Harry from Vancouver and Ann and Ryan from Canberra, at 9:00am we left the hotel with Bevis for a tour of:- Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. Changling Tombs. Lunch in a Chinese Restaurant. Badaling Great Wall. Photo stop at the Birds Nest and Water Cube. After what was considered a very satisfying day, we returned to the hotel. We repeated the events of the previous evening and ate dinner in the Premier Lounge. Monday March 29th. I had asked Bevis to arrange our transfer from the hotel to the ship, together with twelve other members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call. The journey lasted three hours, but after arriving at the Cruise Terminal we found the boarding procedures to be very much improved since our last cruise from Beijing and we were in our cabin in a very short time. Our cabin was very well located in a very quiet area, Aft on the Starboard side. Our first two days were "sea days" providing us the opportunity for rest and relaxation. On the second day we attended our Cruise Critic Roll Call members Meet and Greet, organized by our friend Russell. It was very well attended and everyone enjoyed getting acquainted. We also had the first of our Formal Nights on the second day. We chose to dine with Russell, Louise, Jeff and Colleen in the Savoy Dining Room at Noel and Boom's table; they gave us excellent service when we were cruising on the Diamond Princess last Oct/Nov. and later in January 2010. Thursday April 1st. The weather was very foggy when we arrived at the Shanghai Harbour Pilot station and we were told that the Port was closed. We remained adrift until midday when, after boarding the Pilot, we continued on our way to the dockside in Shanghai, arriving about 4pm. The ship docked almost an hour drive from the city centre, same place as in 2006. Due to the delay the Captain decided to extend our stay in Shanghai overnight and leave at 7pm. the next day. This necessitated a change to our itinerary with only one day in Hong Kong, instead of two. Many of the passengers decided to take a ride into Shanghai as soon as they were allowed to go ashore, but we waited until the next day. Nevertheless, our day in Shanghai was really enjoyable. We took advantage of the complimentary shuttle service, which took us to the Silk Market where we spent some time, when we visited Shanghai four years ago. This time, we took a leisurely walk through the Peoples Park, down the Pedestrian Mall to The Bund where we saw the preparations for the 2010 World Fair in May. Like everything the Chinese government does, it looked that it would be an outstanding event. Unlike last time, which coincided with a special holiday, the Mall was absolutely packed with people. This time, the area was quite comfortable to navigate. The Chinese people were extremely friendly, many stopping to chat with us. They spoke good English and appeared to have a good understanding of Australia. April 3rd. Easter Saturday This was a "sea day" so we had more time to enjoy the onboard activities including a game of Trivia, (which our team won) and catch up on some sleep. April 4th. Easter Sunday We arrived in Okinawa, Japan at 7am. Unfortunately, although it was much warmer than the previous week, it was raining. Again we made use of the complimentary shuttle service, but after walking around for only a short time, we returned to the ship in time for lunch. After lunch, we went to the movies to see The Boys Are Back. It was very good. After boarding the ship we were also glad to discover there was a Catholic Priest on board to help us celebrate Easter and the cruise staff created a wonderful display of Easter decorations in the Atrium, to keep us fully aware of the special time of year. April 5th. Easter Monday We arrived in Keelung Harbour, Taiwan, where downtown is only five minutes' walk away. Most of the cruise passengers went to see all the tourist attractions in Taipei, a thirty-five minute coach ride from the ship. Many set out for the 101 building which until recently, was the tallest building in the world. We were in Taipei (the capital city of Taiwan), four years ago, so we decided to explore the many tourist attractions in and around Keelung. This didn't happen because we wanted to buy a mouse for the netbook computer first; the touch pad had been causing us both too much frustration. We disembarked at about 10:00am and discovered the main shops didn't open until 11:00am! After walking around for about two hours, exploring the very narrow streets of downtown Keelung and coping with the unpredictable uneven footpaths, (worried that one of us would trip and end up injured), we returned to the comfort of the beautiful Diamond Princess, mouse in hand. After a delicious lunch in The International Dining Room, we saw the movie, "An Education" starring Emma Thompson. Wednesday April 7th. Our day in Hong Kong was very interesting. Although it was raining, unlike most passengers we did not find it too cold. Again, we made use of the free shuttle to Hong Kong's largest shopping mall, Harbour City. Once there, we got the feeling that we could be shopping in a mall in the USA or most international cities in the world, so we walked a very short distance to Nathan Street. We had spent some time shopping in Nathan Street when we visited Hong Kong with the family in 1978 but things have changed since then! We found a jewellery shop that was prepared to swap old jewellery for new, so I've now got a lovely gold bangle. Don't worry; I only swapped a broken bangle and some gold ear rings I bought a long time ago. Friday April 9th. This was our first visit to Nha Trang in Vietnam. I'd arranged a "4 Island Boat Trip" which cost $US10.00 PP and included lunch! Too good to be true? That's what we thought and we were right. The boat was filled with mostly non English speaking passengers and the 'English speaking guide" was unintelligible. We had invited our room steward's wife and three children to join us for the day. They boarded the ship in Hongkong. It was the first time they had been on a cruise ship and were very much looking forward to snorkelling on one of the Islands. This did not happen, the first Island was of little interest and we all felt uneasy. We were told we would be back by 3:30pm but many of the other passengers were told the tour finished at 4:30pm. Worried we'd not get back to the port on time for the last Tender at 4:30pm, our group made arrangements to return to the mainland. When we arrived, we took the free shuttle to town where there were lots of new high rise buildings, International Hotels and a long narrow white sand beach. We thought that this place was a Surfers Paradise in the making. Saturday April 10th We docked in Phu My, a container dock two hour's drive from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). It was very hot, 36 degrees on the centigrade scale and very humid. We had been to Saigon last Nov, so we decided to take the complimentary shuttle and take a short stroll around the local market, the bus drive to the market lasted about forty minutes. We passed lots of very poor looking homes and an occasional decent looking two story home, increasing our awareness of the poverty in Vietnam. As soon as we got off the bus at the market, I was immediately surrounded by vendors desperate to sell their souvenirs. Although there wasn't anything I really needed, I bought a few items to make them smile and then we returned to the air conditioned comfort of the coach and ship. Sunday April 11th. Another lovely "Sea Day" to enjoy the activities on the Diamond Princess, followed by our third "Formal Night". Monday April 12th. We had a lovely day in Singapore. The complimentary shuttle took us to the main shopping area, Orchard Rd. We then walked a short distance to the "Underground Railway" where we caught a train to Chinatown. Approx ninety minutes later, we decided to return to Orchard Rd where we enjoyed more retail therapy in Marks and Spencer's, one of my favourite stores. Tuesday April 13th. Another "Sea day"; also the last day of our cruise. We packed our bags in the morning and joined about forty of our C C Roll Call members for lunch in the International Dining Room. We all agreed the cruise was truly fantastic and we heard absolutely no complaints whatsoever. The atmosphere around the ship was very relaxed and friendly, the food delicious and the entertainment really good. Our cabin was also very well located in a very quiet area, Aft on the Starboard side. The bands played music we like, and we enjoyed a dance or two before dinner. Most evenings we enjoyed dinner with Russell, Louise, Colleen and Jeff in the Savoy Dining Room. Noel and Boom were our favourite table stewards. Our table in the Savoy Dining Room seated ten, allowing us to share dinner with other members of the Roll Call, which often included Brian and Allan from the UK and Susan, Ray and Adam from the USA. Wednesday April 13th. Disembarkation was very easy and our bags were ready for collection at the Cruise Terminal. Nickie and Paul C C Roll Call Members had arranged a Minivan for our transfer to Bangkok for $25US per couple. Judy and Fritz joined us for the transfer to our hotel, the Grand Millenium. I'd booked the hotel on Wotif at the bargain price of about $Aus 87.00 then upgraded to the Premier floor for an extra $Aus 50.00. Excellent value, considering it's a five star hotel and only three years old. The upgrade gave us upgraded rooms on the 24th.to 28th. floors, full Buffet breakfast, Beverages and Snacks in the lounge from 10:00am to 8:00pm and Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. (with free wine!). Our stay in Bangkok. We had booked three nights in Bangkok but the "Red Shirt" protests which were active in Bangkok for several weeks before our arrival had us a little concerned, fortunately the ship kept us advised of the situation and we felt we were in good hands. As it happened, we were not a bit inconvenienced by their protests. We used Taxis for transport because the drivers knew the hot spots and avoided them. Taxi fares are very cheap in Thailand, the normal journey cost us about $US3.00 including the tip. It was the Thai New Year and a public holiday for the whole three days we were in Bangkok so the traffic was lighter than usual, by using taxis we avoided the trouble spots and saved our energy for shopping! We thoroughly enjoyed the three days we had in Bangkok and were sad to leave but I think it was a good time to leave when we did. Saturday April 17th. I was not feeling good when I got up, suspecting the chicken dish I'd eaten the evening before may have given me food poisoning. We got a taxi to the airport and was still not feeling the best when it was time to board our flight to Singapore, it was some consolation when our overweight bags were accepted when we checked in. The bags weighed exactly 40kg when we booked in at Sydney Airport, so we didn't buy any bulky items, except for a new keyboard, and we managed to fit that into our hand luggage. I decided to only have fluids on the flights and stuck to water and ginger ale. Fortunately, one of the three seats in our row was vacant so I was able to lay down for most of the flight. I felt quite miserable for the remainder of our journey home. The flight from Singapore to Sydney was in an A380 Airbus carrying over five hundred passengers, it was full, so I didn't get to lie down and found great relief when we finally landed in Sydney. Robert our son-in-law met us at the terminal, it was Sunday, and we were home in less than forty-five minutes Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Our first cruise ever it was on the Diamond Princess for our 16 day Asia trip, Before the cruised we stayed 4 nights in China at the Novotel Peace Hotel which was very central and easy to get around. We were not sure when we made the ... Read More
Our first cruise ever it was on the Diamond Princess for our 16 day Asia trip, Before the cruised we stayed 4 nights in China at the Novotel Peace Hotel which was very central and easy to get around. We were not sure when we made the booking if the 16 days would be too many for our first cruise but it turned out that we could have done with more days. The trip to ship took about 2 and a half hours we had a personal driver who was very good and took us to the port and helped with our luggage. The wait to board the ship was only about 1 hour and went very smoothly Princess also had food and drink for all of us while we waited to embark which was nice as I think most of us were hungry and thirsty we did not expect this it was a nice touch, we arrived to our state room the luggage was already there which was great all we had to do was unpack and then explore this beautiful ship, we did leave port later than expected as some people were arriving late but it was nice just to sit on our balcony and take it all in . The ports that we called to were great and we loved them, the weather proved to be a problem with us not staying over night in Hong Kong but we were not worried by this as it was some thing that was beyond any one's control.all the entertainment was really good,especially the shows in princess theatre. We had a good time also doing a lot of the trivia days. There was always something to do with all the on board activities. The staff on the ship were really great and could not do enough for us and all the other passengers nothing was too much trouble for them the bar stewards were amazing 1 in particular (Elleute)each time he saw us he would come strait over and would know what we both drank and this was only on the second meeting with him he had remembered from the first time we had got a drink from him ( not that we are big drinkers)there was not a thing i could find fault with the staff or the cruise itself, The diamond Princess is a beautiful ship, Large in size but never crowed with people,even though our particular cruise was full not a spare cabin to be had 2600 people. We will cruise again with Princess for sure they know how to treat people .Also the food was the best we have come across in a long time of traveling ,the ship was beautifully maintained and constantly being maintained,painted,cleaned. Our room was better than we expected.The disembark was as smooth as when we embarked, there was also a 2 hour drive by bus which we arranged with princess to our hotel in Thailand we stayed at the Siam @Siam hotel in Thailand which was nice. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Midday on Thursday the 25th March found us landing at Beijing Airport after two Emirates flights from the UK totalling over 17 hours. The flight from Dubai was quite an occurrence as we were seated amongst a group of itinerate Chinese ... Read More
Midday on Thursday the 25th March found us landing at Beijing Airport after two Emirates flights from the UK totalling over 17 hours. The flight from Dubai was quite an occurrence as we were seated amongst a group of itinerate Chinese workers returning home, and the whole experience could be likened to a Sunday School outing of excited children who wanted to talk with everyone and would just not sit down. The highlight of the flight being the spectacular views we had flying over the Himalayas. Arriving at our Hotel in Bangkok, the superbly located Novatel Peace, we were warmly and efficiently greeted and checked in. Waking early the following morning we were met with clear blue sky, none of the smog for which Beijing is renowned. After a super 'western' breakfast (which was replicated for the duration of our stay) we set out on our first tour, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Far better descriptions of these than I could possibly give can be found elsewhere. Sufficient to say it was a marvellous experience. What was a little surprising and somewhat unnerving at first was the number of Chinese who approached Maureen and I requesting to have their photos taking with us. We now know how Posh & Becks must feel. Another early breakfast and we were boarding our coach to the Great Wall at Badaling, Nothing can prepare you for the wonderful sight of the wall stretching up and away into the distance; and the bragging rights that I climbed on the Great Wall of China will be with me forever. We then sped off back towards Beijing to visit the Summer Palace, returning knackered to our hotel mid evening. Sunday was a rest day; however a friend, a Secretary at the Embassy took us out to see the Olympic Stadium, visit a Hutong where we were transported around on a rickshaw, sampled the fantastic metro system, and dined in a local's restaurant. A cold cloudy Monday morning saw us leaving Beijing for our 3 hour journey to join the Diamond Princess at Xingang. Despite our driver getting lost and having to enlist the help of a local taxi we arrived at the Port early but with just a half hour wait before boarding. Leaving Xingang that evening we set off towards the Yellow Sea for our two day sail to Shanghai. Unfortunately the weather did not improve, but became increasingly foggy. We now had found our way around the Diamond, met our dining companions, Kevin & Sue from Yorkshire and Jim & Gloria from Florida. Nestor our Cabin Steward was a friendly and efficient guy who just got on with things without any fuss. The trio, Phoenix Rising played our sort of music in the Wheelhouse Bar; IMHO a much superior venue than it cousin Ramblas on Ventura. Once gain we found the cosmopolitan feel and can do attitude of Princess much to ourliking. Early Thursday morning we found ourselves adrift at the Pilot boarding ground some 40 miles from Shanghai. Having been informed that the Port had been closed because of the fog, It was not until late in the afternoon that we eventually berthed. By this time Princess with its customary efficiency had arranged night time tours and a shuttle bus (40 minutes) into town. BIG mistake! We decided to stay on board and missed out on Shanghai at night. The following day we took a tour into this fascinating and very modern city, visiting amongst other things the Jin Mao Tower. Having spent an extra day in Shanghai, there was much speculation as to what would happen with the rest of our itinerary. The hope amongst the Brits was that we would not call into Okinawa. However Princess decided that we would only now be calling into Hong Kong for one day only. This on reflection was the correct decision as there were many war vets onboard to whom the Okinawa call was important. Saying this Okinawa proved disappointing with a high street resembling Blackpool and given we was to leave around 2.00 pm, not enough time to chance doing your own thing. Monday we arrived in Keelung, Taiwan a tatty port town. By this time the weather was improving a little and we set out for Taipei. The first surprise on leaving Keelung was the rich tropical vegetation and the pretty undulating countryside. Taipei is a wonderful modern city with wide boulevards and fine squares where we watched the changing of the guard at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The one place we really wanted to visit on this cruise was Hong Kong as our sons had built up our expectations. Unfortunately it rained for most of the day and the cloud level was only a few hundred feet. Despite this we took the shuttle bus from the container port where we were berthed to the Ocean Terminal. Then, flashing our pension books got a free ride on the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island with the intention of taking the open top bus tour and a cable car up to the top of Victoria Heights. At this point a friendly local we got chatting to said that we would be wasting our time and money as the bad weather was set for the day. Returning to Kowloon we went shopping in Nathan Road and replenished my Gin stock. Again the weather spoilt things as the Captain informed us that the pilot would not take the Diamond out through the channel between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island and we would therefore miss the spectacular light show. It was now Thursday of the second week and we were tendering to Nha Trang in Vietnam, the place where the American soldiers enjoyed their R&R. Hurrah! today was hot and sunny at last so we decided on a 'Caribbean' beach day. We found a quiet spot where a delightful lady said we could rent two loungers and a umbrella for only $4. Now what I hate is being pestered by beach vendors, but these lovely people managed to relieve us of $40 for a load of the usual junk, but it didn't seem to matter, we shared such a delightful day. Returning to the tender station I managed to purchase a 'genuine' Omega Seamaster watch for only $15 before returning to our ship. Another early start, unfortunately after a late night, saw us leaving the port of Phu My for our tour of Saigon. A two hour drive over dusty bumpy roads with a hangover. I don't know what I expected of Saigon but I didn't expect the French boulevard , the number of 5 star hotels, the head post office which looked as though it had been designed as a railway station, Notre Dame Church where the local wedding groups came to be photographed, irrespective of whether or not they were being married there. We lunched in an excellent restaurant, very cosmopolitan which could have been in London or New York other than the price was two thirds lower. This is probably an opportune moment to consider in a little more detail the Diamond Princess. She is very similar in size and construction to Ventura, which we last sailed on in November. However with one big difference; she has one deck less off passenger cabins so consequently carries 500 less passengers, but with the same public spaces dining areas etc. It was most noticeable when using the buffet restaurant, finding a table never presented us with a problem, likewise finding a sun bed was never something to concern us. The menus this time had quite an Oriental slant, not surprising considering our destinations, and the number of folk of Asian descent on board. Again it was noticeable that the food budget appeared higher than that of P&O. Unfortunately the ubiquitous Norovirus hit the ship, but the outbreak was well handled and quickly brought under control. As for the Entertainment, the shows are very similar to P&O so for the most part we gave them a miss. The bands that played in the lounges were a league above those found on P&O with the exception of Natural High and Caravan. The guest entertainers? well it's all down to personal taste, however, we did enjoy Linda Genteel "The Piano Princess" Liberace was quoted in 1986 as saying: "Linda plays as beautifully as she looks!" For us the thing for us that's sets Princess apart the positive attitude and friendly approach of the staff. Like P&O, Princess also host a lunch with the captain and senior officers, but only for the 40 most travelled passengers, this is still a silver service affair. It was now Monday 12th April and our last port of call, Singapore. Once again we docked in a container terminal, a massive pristine facility where one could imagine that a dirty container would be refused and put back on the ship. This terminal is so large that a system of traffic lights is in place to control the traffic. It was in Singapore where the heat and humidity really started to get to us, we aborted our walk to Raffells and ended up with Maureen buying clothes in M&S. Our last night on board was a really enjoyable affair with our table companions and other friends all getting today to round off what had been a super cruise. Embarkation in Laem Chabang Thailand was a painless event and after identifying our luggage and we were soon setting off on our 3 hour coach journey into Bangkok. Our first and only(at that time) full day in Bangkok entailed our River Kwai tour, again a very early start and a two hour drive to the JEATH museum inside Wat Chai Chumpho, this has been constructed largely in the form of an Allied Prisoner of War camp which is managed by a Thai monk. The thatched detention hut with cramped, elevated bamboo bunks contains photographic, pictorial and physical memorabilia dating from the Second World War. We then visited the immaculately maintained Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. It is located opposite Kanchanaburi's Railway Station where we caught a train taking us over the River Kwai Bridge and North to for lunch and a ride on the elephants. It was on arriving back at our hotel and checking the BBC World Service that we realised the ASH CLOUD had struck and we were not going home the next day. What followed were many days of uncertainty, as our first estimate of a return date was the 7th May. However our tour company Spectrum Cruises and there local Agents Tour East worked tirelessly in our interests. Initially to confirm that our hotel costs would be covered and then to get us home ASAP. Not wishing to sit on our hands for the next week or so the group went about organising its own excursions, and we had the delight of visiting many of the cultural, historical and nature-based sites. The most impressive being the Bang Pa In, summer palace of the kings of Thailand. By that time the riots were starting to kick off again, the Consulate was visiting us at the hotel , and some of our group had a lucky escape when one of the rocket fired grenades hit just yard from where they were imbibing. It was on the Friday morning, nine days after we had checked in, that we were informed that Emirates was running an extra flight the following morning to London Gatwick and we were booked on. We departed Suvarnabhume Airport about midday landing Gatwick late evening where Spectrum again stepped up to the plate and had representatives and a coach waiting to transport us back to Manchester England. All said a holiday in a lifetime which we would recommend to anyone. Ray & Maureen Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2009
We were looking forward to our first cruise in the East. We had a wonderful itinerary Beijing to Bangkok. We spent 3 nights in Beijing first then we were due to board the Diamond but the fog in Beijing stopped all the traffic and we were ... Read More
We were looking forward to our first cruise in the East. We had a wonderful itinerary Beijing to Bangkok. We spent 3 nights in Beijing first then we were due to board the Diamond but the fog in Beijing stopped all the traffic and we were stuck in Beijing until they opened the roads - we got to the ship about 4pm and the sailing was delayed for all the other late arrivals. Our embarkation was the quickest we have ever had. It must have been 15 mins in total - very organised and flowed well. We have an inside cabin - it was really good - very roomy. We like the walk in wardrobe/dressing room style. We had booked set dining - second sitting - the first night is a free for all and we had a wonderful waiter and we all had a good laugh. Unfortunately from then on we had our own table - in the cold air of the air conditioning - the slowest head waiter we had ever had. He had 3 tables - and often waited for everyone before putting any orders into the kitchen - by this time we had often been waiting for 15 mins or more - we were always there on time - some people only strolled into the dining room 15 - 20 mins later. Because of this we often ate at the buffet - so we could eat and catch a show. We found the food very good - although maybe not as good as our food on the Star. We left Beijing in thick fog and this continued for about 4 days. We were looking forward to some of the ports - Shanghai - but the fog spoiled this - delayed our arrival. Because we were in such a large ship it had to dock at a container port and meant a 1 and a half hour trip to the town. The fog spoiled any views and then the rain came - so we almost got the return coach back. Okinawa was a lovely day - not much to do there and we only ha half a day. Taiwain was raining but seemed nice - we had children dancing for us on the dock. Hong Kong was wonderful. But again we were in the container port and it was about 30 mins to town on the coach. You had to be back on board by 6pm if you wanted to be aboard for its repositioning - it went through the harbour during the light show and anchors in Junk Bay - there is then a 1 hour tender. Then onto Vietnam - Nha Trang - was a tender - it was really lovely. Then the following day we docked in Phu My - the container port for Ho Chi Minh city - it was about 2 hour drive to HCM - we did a trip down the coast. Singapore next - Another container port - an hours drive to Singapore and then only half a day - so a drink in Raffles and back to the port. Bangkok was also a good hour from the port. It was good to see these places - we could have done with better weather - but that is in the lap of the gods. The down side of the whole cruise was the container ports - due to the size of the ship. If I were to do this cruise again I would choose a smaller ship. We enjoyed the ship. The evening were very quite - the most popular was the piano man. The staff at all the bars were very helpful and friendly. We especially spent a lot of time in the bar next to the piano man. Due to the weather we did not have a single sailaway party. There was a party on the pool deck on warm evening - that was very popular. Also the balloon drop was a popular night but mostly the nights were very quiet and only us at the bars or nightclub. The entertainment team were around during the day but come the evening they did their show and disappeared. The evening entertainment was not too good - the local show was good and the staff show was good - the rest only just ok. The disco was empty every night. We had the same captain that we had had for the Antartic cruise on the Star - he was as unfriendly this time as he was last!! He just about managed to say his speech at the captains party but left as soon as he could. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
My partner- we are both in our 40's- and my mum and dad- 60's went on this holiday. It started off with chaos trying to sort out visa's for china/ japan and then one of the destinations in japan was cancelled for ... Read More
My partner- we are both in our 40's- and my mum and dad- 60's went on this holiday. It started off with chaos trying to sort out visa's for china/ japan and then one of the destinations in japan was cancelled for embarkation problems- not a good start we arrived in beijing staying in a good hotel for a few days with our rep John who was a great guy very helpful and informative- beijing was a great experience because of him and Tour East as a company in general. On the night before we were due to board the Diamond Princess one of our party had a text from home to say that the Norwalk virus was prevalent on ship and had made national press in the uk- we were a bit concerned but John assured us he had no information that we couldn't proceed which we did- luckily early. when we arrived at the port armed security guards were blocking the entrance but john walked us into the terminal- we were the first ones there. Previous passengers were getting off and being bused away all shaking their heads at us- one lady put her hand to her neck as if to show she was cutting her throat!. We registered and went to get on board only then being told to wait as we couldn't board. All this time, coachloads of passengers were being bused into the terminal and either had to wait outside in the bitter cold or in buses -some in hotels- we waited over 4 hours with no information or anyone in any form of authority giving us a clear idea of what was going on other than the ship was being cleaned- water and crisps were provided and eventually tea and coffee- the hot water was in the toilet area of the terminus- Norwalk virus be damned! Steve and i eventually found our room- no help from crew - to find a phone message for the previous occupant that her quarantine was now up and she could leave- that made me very nervous to even be in the room. because of the Norwalk virus, certain necessary curtailments were in place- hand washing- no salt/pepper cellars- and no self service personally, i found that the buffet room serving staff were incredibly rude- i literally had a serving of butter thrown at me- i run a service business and always make sure i am overly polite to waiting/cleaning staff because of it- this was hell- we were made to feel as if we weren't entitled to anything the public rooms were very comfortable on board although alot of bars were placed around the edges of the interior- like a waiting room and walking past it sometimes felt as if it was god's waiting room! unfortunately, the bars were not adequately stocked with beers/lagers meaning on many days they ran out of stock completely- even after ports- this wasn't good entertainment- dear heaven it was dire!- so antiquated it belonged on the ark!- origami/ envelope decorating- plate painting and a talent show for passengers of a certain age - we saw a few shows, a couple of films that we'd missed on the plane and was in bed by 8pm every night- it was that bad!!! ports of call we are independent travellers and don't opt for organized trips- these were incredibly expensive!- and poor quality!- one couple went on a hot springs and botanical garden tour and ended up in a hotel sauna walking around the hotels grounds for a whopping $300!- be warned. embarkation was a fiasco and people were getting angry at the sheer incompetence of the staff- they guided you the wrong way- the tannoy system changed in mid stream it was utter chaos every time- we waited once over 3 hours to get a tender simply because they wouldn't lower another boat- on the 2 occasions a tender was used, they broke down (apparently)- princess staff always blame the port authorities but in reality it is them who are totally incapable. its basically a money making system on board- as long as your spending they are happy- the moment you don't your cast aside- steve is a sauna lover and on the first day went to locate the sauna- we knew there was one somewhere- he asked a member of staff who ignoring the free one, immediately tried to sign him up for $150 to use the spa sauna- luckily a fellow passenger intervened and showed him the way- it left a bad taste that. on the day we thankfully left the boat- we were all counting down the days- it was like we didn't exist- the staff simply ignored you- "ive had your money now go away" attitude- we did ask on board about the costing of a cruise to the Antarctic ( our honeymoon) details were supposed to have been given before we left ship but 2 weeks on i am still waiting and with all thats happened i am now in two minds our last destination was bangkok in thailand at the holiday inn we had 2 great tour reps again supplied by tour east- charlie and wanna and spent 2 great days with them being shown around- nothing was too much trouble for them. now, bearing in mind that princess cancelled a stop in japan for embarkation problems you would have thought that they would have been monitoring the foreign office websites and looking into bangkok: but not a bit of it because they sent us there- charlie and wanna on hearing there may be problems at the airport got us there really early but too late to be of any good to us and we were caught in the protests out there- it wasn't anyones fault just sheer bad luck- these two to our great appreciation recalled the buses, negotiated with the holiday inn and retrieved us after only a few hours- their only contractual obligation was to have taken us to the airport- these two are worthy in my book of a medal! so we spent a few more days in thailand managing eventually to get out overland and via an obscure airport in the north at chaing mai- one bus broke down another caught fire en route whilst we were out there it was disclosed by the acting british ambassador that the foreign office website was citing caution re bangkok as long ago as august- and that in october there had been bloodshed between the two opposing factions- princess altered its itinerary to suit its own needs but didn't alter it to safeguard our lives princess cruises now own almost every cruise company afloat with the exception of royal Caribbean carnival- use them not princess- the more i think about the total lack of care from embarkation to finishing the holiday the more angry i am becoming the only saving grace from this holiday have been the ports of call and the good companions that thailand have now brought- please be very careful and take responsibility for checking out with the foreign office each destination before you book Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We were on virtually the same tour as the previous reviewer, but I reckon we must have been in a parallel universe. Firstly may I say that commenting on problems getting visas has nothing to do with Princess, before booking any holiday ... Read More
We were on virtually the same tour as the previous reviewer, but I reckon we must have been in a parallel universe. Firstly may I say that commenting on problems getting visas has nothing to do with Princess, before booking any holiday it is easy to find out what the necessary rules are, and if daunted, don't book. We, and all the friends we made on this trip, researched this aspect thoroughly and had no problems with this whatsoever. The reason that Nagasaki was dropped from the itinerary was due to the protracted process with the Japanese immigration authorities, and due to complaints on previous voyages, Princess acted. Everyone I spoke to agreed that to have gone through the process twice would have been a nightmare. It also meant an overnight in Hong Kong which was the highlight of the cruise for us, and gave us the most wonderful evening sailaway through HK harbor. A shame to miss a port for those already familiar with HK, but still a great treat. The wait to board the ship was not wonderful, but for a large number of people was spent in the embarkation center. Not everyone was outside in the cold, nor on buses, and better that we boarded confident that we were getting on a sanitized ship. It should be pointed out that the ship was sanitized and ready for boarding quite some time before we actually did, due to the Chinese authorities. When we boarded we were met by a very nice steward who escorted us to our cabin. Our luggage was already there waiting for us and we went straight down to a delicious dinner. The so-called curtailments were for everyone's safety. Hand-washing being an example ?!? On all Princess cruises hand sanitizers are provided for use at the eating places, and there are a great number of people who blithely bypass these with the obvious "doesn't apply to me" attitude. Is it any wonder that these bugs flourish on cruise ships ? The use of hand sanitizers was simply more rigorously enforced, and we were all the better for it. I heard of gastric upsets, of course, as is inevitable when people are going to more exotic destinations, but personally heard of no cases of Norovirus on board. As for rudeness, we never encountered this by any member at any time by the Princess crew. We are fervent beer/lager drinkers, and on one occasion only in the 16 days were unable to get Bud Lite and had to make do with Bud - gee that really ruined the whole trip, eh ? Agree completely re entertainment - Princess not renowned for this, most people though were very happy. In bed by 8pm ? obviously no mates to have a laugh with. Bars round edges of rooms ? Get a life. Shore excursions - we mostly did our own thing. Had a wonderful tour in Nha Trang with www.nhatrangrivertours.com, and in Singapore with www.singaporetaxitour.com - both highly recommended. We did go with Princess to Saigon which was not very good and very expensive. Go to Vung Tau instead or even better stay on the ship and relax. Re tender operations - our experience is that on the two occasions we waited not at all for the outbound/5 minutes or so inbound for the first and for the second we were on the first tender (one of our group having went for the tickets at the advertised time - anyone could have done the same), so no waiting time, and 5 minutes or so for the inbound. Have no experience of what the previous reviewer is talking about, the crew were perfectly nice and efficient. One of the officers in charge, in particular, was so charming and helpful. Ignored on the last day ? What exactly do you need the crew for then anyway, other than to serve breakfast ? We were given many friendly goodbyes, and the above-mentioned officer remembered us and came over personally. Regarding future cruise sales, all of the British and Australian people in our little group were invited to obtain the future cruise credit letters by the agent. She sent a letter to our cabin, it took us 10 seconds to fill in the form, and the letter was at our cabin faster than we arrived back. British passengers should not be looking to book on board anyway, they just don't cater for our needs. Get the credit letter and book at home. As regards Princess taking us to Bangkok and putting us into danger, this is preposterous. No-one foresaw that the protestors would take over the airport. In any case, Princess were only responsible for you up to the point of disembarkation - it was the tour companies who were responsible after that if you were booked to have a stayover in Thailand, or indeed you were on your own if you had chosen to do this independently. Thousands of the Princess passengers went straight home/flew to other destinations/carried on cruising with the ship etc etc etc so that comment was plain ridiculous. In any event individuals are responsible for checking the FO advice and if worried in any way, should simply not travel. As regards the great praise heaped upon Tour East, again not our experience. One of them scammed us for money, and someone made a mess of our flight arrangements. This was the case for several of the group, and as Tour East completed the forms on our behalf for Emirates, we can only assume until we hear differently that they made the mistake. Hopefully this gives a different view. If you are booked on this cruise, have no fears - it is a wonderful experience, the ship is fine, don't use the buffet too much as full of ignorant passengers, don't expect great entertainment, make friends and have fun. Use your head re tendering operations, do your own thing ashore, think hard about the transfer time to Saigon, have the sense to know who is responsible for you at the appropriate times, and you will have a ball. Read Less
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