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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We enjoyed the ports on this cruise however the Golden Princess left a lot to be desired. The entertainment was lacking in both quality and quantity. The food and menu were less than average. The wait staff at our table were basically ... Read More
We enjoyed the ports on this cruise however the Golden Princess left a lot to be desired. The entertainment was lacking in both quality and quantity. The food and menu were less than average. The wait staff at our table were basically incompetent. The ship is tired along with the cruise director who has been in the job way too long (19 years). Basic port / shuttle information was missing, and shuttles were a bit of a joke (lots of very unhappy people). Princess Cruises need to get their act together to keep their current customers. There are many other cruise lines offering better value for money. Having said all of that we will stay with Princess - but not this particular ship or staff. We will not sail again on this ship or any cruise that has this cruise director. Had the cruise director done his job properly this would have been a much more enjoyable cruise. Yes, I am sending a list of suggestions to Princess for them to consider (or throw in the bin). Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We chose this cruise as it was a one way trip from Beijing to Australia and it worked well with a land tour of China we had booked. The service was good and overall the meals were great. The ports of call were interesting with stops in ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it was a one way trip from Beijing to Australia and it worked well with a land tour of China we had booked. The service was good and overall the meals were great. The ports of call were interesting with stops in Osaka, Keelung (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Vietnam - Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, Bali ( Benoa), Darwin, Brisbane (where we disembarked), then on to Sydney and Melbourne. However, as there were quite a few sea days and we wished to enjoy the outdoor and promenade areas, we felt that the amount of on-going maintenance on the ship was excessive. The sauna was never operational, both Deck 15 spas were closed for maintenance for half the cruise. There was always maintenance on the promenade deck which meant negotiating trip hazards during our walks, avoiding drips during overhead cleaning or painting, not being able to sit on the benches as they had been relaquered. There was a smoking area on the promenade deck which had to be negotiated when walking and this was constantly in use by both passengers and staff and was most UNSATISFACTORY. Carpets were replaced in foyer and stair areas and mirrors were replaced in bathrooms (on our deck at least). We have not rated the ship excursions as we did not participate in these, instead choosing to do ports on our own or with private excursions. The Princess@sea messenger function available on tablets and phones was very handy for keeping in contact with travelling companions, monitoring account activity and finding out what activities were on (although these did not always agree with those listed in the Princess Patter). We chose the Anytime Dining option which meant that most of our evening meals were taken in the Bernini Dining room, unless dining after 7.30 pm when a second room became available. We were given the option of sharing a table or eating on our own. The sharing option meant the we could be seated immediately. The dining room staff were efficient and personable. Some of the tables were too large (those for 10) and we might as well have been at a table for 4 due to the limited conversation over the noise of the restaurant. The Movies Under the Stars was a great option with lounges and blankets provided for the 2 screenings nightly. The golf putting green area looked sadly neglected and shabby. This was our first Princess cruise, and other passengers suggested that we don't base our opinion of the cruise line just from this ship. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We've become quite addicted to cruising, but this cruise really burst our bubble. Embarkation in Tianjin Port was chaotic at the time we arrived, due to long holdups on the highway from Beijing and buses arriving at the same time - ... Read More
We've become quite addicted to cruising, but this cruise really burst our bubble. Embarkation in Tianjin Port was chaotic at the time we arrived, due to long holdups on the highway from Beijing and buses arriving at the same time - the trip took 4.5 hours. However once inside the terminal building embarkation proceeded smoothly. It probably would have been better to start the cruise at our first port of call, Osaka. There was sickness with coughs and colds on board right from the start, probably from the Beijing smog and many people caught caught the bug twice. The ports were excellent, however there was no port lecturer on board till after Hong Kong, the Captain Circle rep was disembarked early in the cruise, leaving the future cruise rep to wear both hats for the remainder of the trip. The queues at guest services were inordinately long due to the ship being understaffed at the beginning. The food in the MDR was uninspiring with a heavy bias towards seafood. We didn't eat there a lot of the time. However, the menu did improve after new supplies were taken on in Darwin. We loved the International Cafe, but would like to see coffee machines in more than one location. The ship leaked. We spoke to people with leaks on decks 5, 11 and 12. We were at trivia one morning and the Vista lounge was leaking from above in several places. There are no deck chairs on the promenade deck, the the public spaces inside were always crowded. This could have been alleviated if the art people did not rope off the Explorer's Lounge for hours at a time. We love Princess Hapy Hours, but the small size of the Wheelhouse Bar made afternoon happy hours chaotic. Most were getting their drinks "to go", there were not enough placs to sit. There was a constant changeover of staff early on, but things had settled down by the time we reached Australia. The entertainment, apart from just a few acts, was extremely poor, the worst we have encountered. Movies were often repeated. Daily activities in the Patter were poorly co-ordinated, with events overlapping at times. We booked a mini suite this time, and spent more time than normal in the cabin and on the balcony, largely due to the lack of available quiet space. We were lucky to have good seas, new destinations to see, and we met some wonderful fellow cruisers. The captain kept us informed of events each midday, and was very good at informing us of other events such as medical evacuations. There was a pilot on board through the Barrier Reef and his talks were very informative and interesting. Trivia was always fun and the crossing of the Equator Ceremony was well done and not overly drawn out. This is our thrid repositioning cruise but we will not do another one at the end of the Asian season to Australia. The organisation for the transition was not handled well. We have another repositioning cruise booked on the Golden, but given our experiences we have decided to cancel. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2016
This was our first cruise with Princess Cruises and we were very disappointed with the ship. It lacked any wow factor, the entertainment was poor and very repetitive, the food choices weren't great but the quality was fine. There ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess Cruises and we were very disappointed with the ship. It lacked any wow factor, the entertainment was poor and very repetitive, the food choices weren't great but the quality was fine. There were a lot of frequent Princess cruisers on the ship, who told us not to use the Golden Princess as a benchmark for Princess cruises, but first impressions usually stick so it may be a long time before we consider them again. The ports of call were the main reason for our choice and we weren't disappointed with them, although the tendering process for Nha Trang and Bali could have been better. We weren't particularly impressed that there was a charge for a shuttle into Brisbane as the ship was to big and had to dock at FI Grain Terminal. As with most cruise ships the shore excursions were pricey so we were pleased we had managed to book some private tours prior to embarkation. The entertainment needs a complete overhaul, at times it felt like it was the passengers who were the entertainment team. Lacking professionalism the entertainment team spent most time laughing and carrying on between themselves, and organising 'childish' games. On a positive note, we found the cabin steward and most of the waiting staff to be friendly and accommodating. These are the staff that make the cruise worthwhile. The officers however need to be more communicative with the passengers, not just one update by the captain at 12 noon. We had an inside cabin which was adequate, although the beds seem to have seen better days. It was kept clean and refreshed by our cabin steward always, nothing was too much trouble. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
We had a Vista Suite on this Cruise from Beijing to Sydney. We travelled last year on the Diamond Princess from Japan to Sydney and had a wonderful time. Unfortunately the Golden Princess was a not nearly as good as the Diamond. The ... Read More
We had a Vista Suite on this Cruise from Beijing to Sydney. We travelled last year on the Diamond Princess from Japan to Sydney and had a wonderful time. Unfortunately the Golden Princess was a not nearly as good as the Diamond. The Pros The waiter staff in all the food outlets were very good. The waiter staff in Sabatini's were excellent and could not be faulted. A big plus. The food in all venus was of a high and consistant standard and was generally above average. I don't think they repeated a menu during the 25 day cruise. The Cons Unfortunately it was all down hill from there. The ship has seen better days. The promade deck was stained and the decking in places was lifting off. Our balcony had several areas that were badly rusted and had not been repaired. Our cabin looked liked it needed at major facelift. The head boards behind the beds were stained. The lounge was stained and smelt and was difficult to sit on. It looked like it was used as an additional bed. We only sat on it after putting a towel first. The safe was broken and took 3 days to be fixed. Lights wre not working. It took 4 days to get someone to fix the main cabin light. Our cabin steward was lazy, doing only the minium clean. Most days he never made the bed properly, just pulled up the doona over the wrinkled sheets. The laundry was constantly late, with the excuse that there were too many Elite pax who took priority even over full suite pax. The balcony was filthy with paint flakes and lolly wrappers on the floor that were never cleaned during our 25 day trip. We left them there to see if he bothered to clean the balcony. Finally. The entertainment. It was just terrible. Amateur hour at the local club would have been better. Think we will give Princess a miss until they can sent better ships to this part of the world. Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
This was my 8th Princess cruise and probably my worst one. Embarkation was a bit hopeless but that was nothing unusual, Princess contractors and Chinese officialdom are not a good combination. My cabin was clean and the cabin steward, ... Read More
This was my 8th Princess cruise and probably my worst one. Embarkation was a bit hopeless but that was nothing unusual, Princess contractors and Chinese officialdom are not a good combination. My cabin was clean and the cabin steward, Sanny, was excellent as were all other staff on the ship. Some people didn't prefer the CD, Tim Donovan, but I found him OK. Anybody is better than Billy London. The ship was spotless but it does have some issues which I put down to poor or lack of, maintenance. Princess will eventually learn that maintenance does not consist of re-varnishing hand rails or dabbing paint over rust. From my obstructed view cabin I could see 5 easily fixable defects on the bow of the tender outside the window. Chances of these being addressed:- Nil. Compared to a cruise in Feb this year on Dawn Princess (and that ship doesn't get rave reviews) the food on this cruise was mediocre at best. Some dishes were good and others quite poor. It is not rocket science cooking lamb shanks, low and slow till the meat falls off the bone. The majority were uneaten because they were tough and under-cooked. The buffet was similar with some really good food served but there were some dud offerings. Typical Princess entertainment with some good acts and some that were excruciatingly bad, bad enough to sit through to see how bad they could get. As usual some of the staff in The Crew Show were better than the paid acts. Like a lot of things the ports visited are a personal thing and for me they are the alternate to sea days which I prefer. The weather was pretty good and the seas were as flat as a pancake. It could have been a better cruise all up but it is what you make it and I met some fabulous new friends which is what it is all about. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2016
The inside cabin was a bit small compared to other ships we have been on. They could never regulate the air conditioning even though they tried to fix it, they never could. The ship was always cold and most of the passengers were sick ... Read More
The inside cabin was a bit small compared to other ships we have been on. They could never regulate the air conditioning even though they tried to fix it, they never could. The ship was always cold and most of the passengers were sick with sniffles and coughs and the Asian flu. Going from very hot humid weather to freezing cold was ridiculous. The crew and staff were great. The entertainment was mediocre. The food was good as was the service in the dining room. Our waiters were very friendly and went beyond to please us. The ports were excellent. We did most of our excursions off the ship as they were pricey on the ship. These were done prior to boarding. There could have been more activities. The ones offered were okay. The areas where some of the shows were held were small and did not hold very many people. This needs to be planned out better so that more people can attend the entertainment. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2016
Embarkation in Beijing was good,The ship overall was very tired, really in need of a good refit not doing it on the run when you have a ship load of passengers (pulling up and laying carpets) cabin was not the best for cleanliness stains ... Read More
Embarkation in Beijing was good,The ship overall was very tired, really in need of a good refit not doing it on the run when you have a ship load of passengers (pulling up and laying carpets) cabin was not the best for cleanliness stains on carpet,balcony doors that would not open. Dining for us was very much below what we had expected,had cheese roll for dinner twice.The entertainment was very juvenile not what we"re used to on a princess cruise, the cruise director needs to think about the shows he"s putting on and every bar or area you went in the music was so loud you could"nt enjoy it.If this is the sort of offering that princess thinks is ok for the aussie market then i think they will be losing a lot of customers.The staff behind the service counter and the staff overall was good the managers did not seem to care if you made a complaint. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We went with Princess again largely because of the 5-day pre-cruise land content in Beijing (for the Great Wall and other attractions) and Xian (for the Terracota Army). We enjoyed the experience with an excellent guide, top hotel ... Read More
We went with Princess again largely because of the 5-day pre-cruise land content in Beijing (for the Great Wall and other attractions) and Xian (for the Terracota Army). We enjoyed the experience with an excellent guide, top hotel accommodation and many fine meals. Well organised and highly enjoyable, Unfortunately the cruise that followed was not up to our past Princess experiences. High points like the excellent singers and dancers, some fine musicians and interesting ports were offset by poor organisation at times and a general malaise, possibly due to the Sapphire Princess being readied for a new life in the China market. Missing were some of the little touches we enjoy, like the crew show and towel animals in the cabin. The entertainment staff lacked sparkle (we had a change of Cruise Director part-way through), the food was generally good but unadventurous and even some of the waiters lacked flair. There was a general lack of communication aboard the ship (announcements of any kind were rare) and the organisation at some ports left a lot to be desired. Why can't Princess let its own tour groups off and into the coaches before giving the general call to disembark? It would get the tours away on time and save a lot of rushing and jostling (particularly for the elderly and lame). All in all, while we enjoyed the cruise, it was not up to the excellent standard set by the pre-cruise program. Although Princess Platinum members, our next cruise will probably be with another line. Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
Chose cruise for fabulous ITINERARY-Beijing China, Busan South Korea, Nagasaki and Kagoshima Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong China, Ho Chi MInh City (Saigon) Vietnam, Bangkok Thailand and Singapore. Weather changed from 60F to 100F, cool to ... Read More
Chose cruise for fabulous ITINERARY-Beijing China, Busan South Korea, Nagasaki and Kagoshima Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong China, Ho Chi MInh City (Saigon) Vietnam, Bangkok Thailand and Singapore. Weather changed from 60F to 100F, cool to uncomfortably hot and humid, and no rain except in Singapore. Some did pre cruise to Xian and Terracotta warriors but said they were worn out! We had 3 days in Beijing at the Raffles hotel, a superb refuge from culture shock! The breakfast was outstanding. EMBARKATION luggage dump ensure have labels, group numbering broke down, Princess failed to inform we were Platinum grade and so had priority boarding and drinks while waited. Eventually just joined swarm! Luggage arrived at cabin in good time though. CABIN Balcony was fine with reasonable room and storage. Most days was cloudy and misty so balcony and decks little used. (Unfortunately did not dock in Shanghai as port closed due to smog, so had 2 days in Hong Kong instead. Apparently happens often). DINING Anytime in Savoy, Santa Fe and Pacific Moon worked well, we obtained a table for two going early-we are not unsociable, but find sitting on a larger table slows the service.Found menu a bit limited especially desserts, so used Horizon Court buffet some evenings as alternative, though sometimes busy. Food and Service standard very good but need to appreciate that an American ship will cater towards American, Australian and and Oriental tastes on this itinerary. However the buffet with plastic cheese, few grapes, spam ham, just one hot pudding disappointed. There were no theme evenings experienced on other cruise lines.We understand the ship was sailing back with all Chinese guests and signage was being changed accordingly. We avoided speciality dining as we felt the US$25 per person surcharge was excessive, especially as the Sterling Steakhouse and Crab Shack venues were just roped off sections of the Horizon Court. DRINKS were expensive-after spending US$45 on one bottle of wine and one soft drink with 15% service charge added, we limited our drinking! Appeared that most others felt the same and wine waiters in the theatre particularly were unemployed. The Happy Hour in the Wheelhouse Bar with Buy One get One for a dollar was popular, though the 6-8 p.m. timing did not fit with dining. ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES very limited. Just one guest speaker who had very good material, but delivered it too rapidly. Need more speakers over wider subject range. ENTERTAINMENT only used theatre and piazza. Very variable in quality-Violinist, West End man and lady blues singers very good, production shows very average usual energy with electronic scenery and relatively basic costumes, mime artist failed to connect with audience though to not say a word for 40 minutes is not the easiest thing, Chinese folklore performance amateurish, piazza pianist and group good but not outstanding. FITNESS AND RECREATION Gym usual average range of equipment, seemed to lack supervision. Enjoyed Zumba but 9 a.m. clashed with breakfast. Missed whist and bridge director. Usual trivia, bingo, knit and natter, art auctions etc.need some innovation if seasoned cruisers are not to become bored. Galley and stage visits were good. SERVICE largely at an appropriate level without being in your face. For example not too much drink and photo sales pushing. Tipped cabin steward, but found hoovering a bit lacking, then again had 19 cabins to cover. SHORE EXCURSIONS. Usual problems if you wished to do it yourself. Was there a shuttle or not? Was it free? Where did it drop off? What time did shuttles start, when was last one? Princess only gave some information late the night before. Will try and do a separate review on shuttles and specific ports. Early ports we did our own thing-trams and taxis were cheap.There were taxis at all ports and could have done all tours much more cheaply than ship's excursions. However due to our ages &5/68, less stress and that holiday feeling, we decided to pamper ourselves and do a ship's trip on one day in Hong Kong, so we got an overview, and did our own thing the next day. Due to distance from port, high temperatures and humidity took ship's trips in Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok so we had an air conditioned coach and were guaranteed return to the ship. Grand Palace in Bangkok wonderful-but found 5 and a half hour round road trip wearing. (Would just do Pattya next time). Traffic meant real risk of not making it back to boat if did a private tour. SHOPS ON BOARD AND SALES usual expensive stuff. The extensive retail offering of malls and markets onshore satisfied any retail needs! OVERALL enjoyed culture shock experience rated very good, but cruise average. Prefer RC and P and O, but Princess has better itineraries. Entertainment and onboard activities need improvement. A cruise for over 55's not families! Need small notes in local currency otherwise faced queues waiting at terminal ATM's or banks. Good quality notes best and watch switching scam by taxi drivers and traders, as are fakes about. Generally main attractions do not accept credit cards, or US Dollars (except in Vietnam). BEIJING Flew BA direct overnight so managed to fit in visit to Temple of Heaven on first afternoon. Metro cheap but used Taxis also very cheap but need not just Pinyin (anglicised names) but Chinese characters to indicate destinations, even then some were illiterate so pictures of places even better! Pollution bad-a mask essential.Need a good hotel as a refuge! Raffles was nice and central, Concierge John Spooner was most helpful. Scale of city massive, all seemed a bit regimented with loudspeakers and armed soldiers in evidence. Did a whole day private tour Badaling Great Wall in morning as gets busy-used cable car 100 Yen each, then to usual expensive jade jewellery factory, and in afternoon Tiananmen Square, followed by Forbidden City, all quite demanding. Wangfujing Street usual western shops and malls but not on scale to be seen later in cruise! Distance to ship lengthy would advise a private transfer. A number of ports now required variably your passport, a photocopy (supplied by the ship, a landing card/visa, a customs declaration. Found this a bit of a nuisance, but essential to visit these places. BUSAN South Korea. Yeongdo terminal is 3 miles from city where metro and Ho ho bus can be accessed. Princess supplied a free shuttle but did not start till 12.30 p.m. Shuttle drops off near BIFF Square near Nampodong metro stop, and picks up on same side, fairly early 4.30 p.m. as ship left at 6 not 7 as published. Use lights to cross over road and go straight to 6 storey Jagalchi Fish market a must see! If then come out of market front and turn right can visit modern Lotte department store. City walkable. Underground cheaper stall shopping if go down to metro subways. Due to short time in port did not risk taking metro/bus out to Beomosa (mountain) and Haedong Yonggung (seaside) Temples. Ship had expensive tours to these places. Could do if took taxi from ship to nearest metro station. NAGASAKI Japan. Docked at Matsugae terminal. City walkable off ship. Was unclear if could get streetcar Day Pass Y500 without visiting a large hotel or the Rail Station, but there was a desk selling them in the terminal. Decided to walk (slight rise) to Glover Garden 600Y first, (assuming correctly that many would head first to the Peace Park). Was an oasis with Puccini and culinary links, and 9 large expatriate houses to visit. Escalators helped! Walked down to Ouratenshudo-Shita streetcar stop and caught to Matsuya-Machi stop-thence at main street take escalator diagonally opposite up to Peace Park and sculptures. (You will see the hypocentre park to your right, leave till later). Then walk down to hypocentre park, can also visit museum, but having done Auschwitz we were moved enough. Then back on street car to Dejima stop -can tour the reconstructed Protestant Seminary, is also a mall opposite. Can walk or take streetcar back to ship. KAGOSHIMA JAPAN. Princess night before "a local independent shuttle service will operate drop off near Hotel Sunflex. Will commence at 9.45 a.m. and last one 4 p.m." (All aboard 5.30 pm.) We went down at 9 a.m. and was already running! Was free. The Princess map was useless not showing the Hotel Sunflex. In the event was down from Tenmonkan shopping arcades, where can pick up local tram and City Bus tour. We bought a Welcome Cute extended 1 day pass Y1000 in the terminal which covered trams/buses PLUS the Sakurajima Island Ferry and Island View bus etc. We walked to the Sakurajima pier, ferries frequent, but alighting from ferry queues for hourly Island View bus meant once on do not get off! Unfortunately the volcano was shrouded in mist. Walked back to where shuttle dropped us visiting a dolphin display and hot spring foot onsen on way! Lastly took one route on the City view bus, but was single decker and sat down could not see much as people were allowed to stand. Queues for shuttle back to ship, but cleared quickly. Alternative to above was to take taxi from port to Wakita City tram stop, tram then takes to Tenmonkan and on to Sakurajima ferry. SHANGHAI Smog closed Wusongkou port, apparently happens often. Ships horn going most of night! So never landed. Had found impossible to find out if was a FREE local Port Shuttle-even contacting local consular officials to no effect. The night before Princess said "Today a bus service will run from the pier to Huangpu Park on the Bund. Commence approx. 9.30 a.m. last one 7 p.m. Cost US$8 each way". If adventurous could take taxi (16 Yuan) at port gate to Baoyang Road metro station on Line 3 with a 18Yuan day pass! Bus 9 is 2 Yuan if taxi too dear! Cheap and easy into Shanghai. HO CHI MIN CITY (Saigon) No shuttle, only one to local town by local authorities to Bia Ria market 8.30 a.m. start, 4.30 p.m. end. Now getting hot! Took ship's trip for comfort. Visited lacquer factory-expensive but wonderful items-small ones could be bought on local markets heaper. Bin Than market inside but lots of bargains. Toured city seeing sparse cathedral, remarkable Eiffel built Post Office, City Hall, Rex Hotel and Reunification Palace. While ladies shopped at Dong Koi Street I took a taxi to the Jade Emperor Pagoda, dark and dingy with lots of incense but being used! HONG KONG said would be tendered. Never found out where would be tendered to but assumed one of Central Piers on Hong Kong island. In event first day docked at Kai Tak Kowloon terminal with free shuttles to Hollywood Plaza Mall or AMP Mall in East Kowloon, probably provided by retailers. Could access Diamond Hill metro from Hollywood mall, or Kwantong Road metro from AMP Mall. We went to Hollywood Mall then took metro to Sha Tin stop, at front of station down ramp on left along to and left a short way along Pau Tau Street, then sharp left down an alley by a sports court to a sign to the 10,000 Buddahs monastery. 500 steps up but despite wild monkeys worth it. On return near Hollywood mall vsisted the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. Second day docked at Container port (ship moved in the night!) with shuttles to Kowloon Ocean Terminal. Went on ship's trip to quickly get an overview of Hong Kong Island-Victoria Peak and cable car (more mist!), Aberdeen and a sampan harbour cruise, Stanley Market narrow and busy, City skyscrapers.. Good value and relaxing. In afternoon went to Ocean Terminal mall.-then took MTR (bought a Sold Octupus card for MTR etc. travel from station customer services desk-not available from machines, (got a senior discount and deposit balance refunded) crossed to Hong Kong island using Star Ferry, visited IFC Mall and lastly returned to Kowloon and walked Nathan Road and Temple Street night market. Ensure you remember where the shuttle dropped off as these malls all look the same-spent a worried half hour trying to find the drop off point! BANGKOK Again took ship's trip but 3 hours there and 2 and a half hour's coach back was very wearing with temperatures 100F+. Meant we had to be on the coach by 7 a.m. due to likely traffic problems.However the Grand Palace was outstanding, as were the Temples of the Emerald and Gold Buddah's. Chao Praya river trip a little disappointing as tour operator had to cut it short as some heat affected members used a bus rather than walk to the pier, which was delayed by traffic. Excellent lunch at Royal River Hotel included. A long day. Was an independent free shuttle to Pattaya 45 minutes distant start 8.30 a.m. end 4.30 p.m. SINGAPORE Disembarked shared transfer by Wang Express who also returned us efficiently to the airport 2 days later. HIghlights were Botanical Gardens particularly the National Orchid Collection-take taxi to gate near Gleneagles Hospital, as is a big area! Also Gardens by the Bay trees lit up to music 7.45 and 8.45 p.m. each night with a sky walkway not to be missed. Cheap Chinatown market and Marieammen living Temple also good. Stayed at Pan Pacific Orchard hotel-very good breakfast and service. Handy for Orchard Road shopping extravagance with malls galore! Highlight though was afternoon tea and a Singapore Sling at Raffles-not to be missed. Overall a wonderful trip, but not sure want to return unless is cooler and less humid! Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
In keeping with the baby boomer penchant for cruising! and my wife's gentle persuasion(she had done a cruise to Europe);I decided to go on a cruise on the Sapphire Princess in April of 2016! quite a few setbacks e.g. ... Read More
In keeping with the baby boomer penchant for cruising! and my wife's gentle persuasion(she had done a cruise to Europe);I decided to go on a cruise on the Sapphire Princess in April of 2016! quite a few setbacks e.g. embarkation,visa problems,lack of communication, shore excursions. Embarkation: endless wait,form filling;chaotic! a young staff member suffered a seizure! mass confusion! no medical staff(God forbid if a passenger was to suffer a medical episode)!! visa: 24 passengers(including one in a wheel chair and some with infant children) were told to disembark at Nagasaki and rejoin the cruise at Hong Kong,as they did not have multiple entry visas to Shanghai! they hadn't committed a criminal act!! surely they could have been allowed to stay on board? a very stressful experience!!! this was ironic for 2 reasons: a 2 night stop at HK was altered to accommodate a stopover at Shanghai, this was cancelled due to fog(we sailed on to HK)!! as well, those passengers who had to disembark at Nagasaki would have had 'insult added to injury'. A 75 year old friend travelling with us,had to disembark at Bangkok! her visa for Singapore was incorrectly dated!! this ruined the rest of the trip for us!! money exchange: stood in a queue for an hour at quayside Nagasaki, to be told they only dealt in/with US dollars(no Australian or UK exchange)!! Cabin was clean and adequate( however,took 4 days to have a bed inadequacy fixed)! food was good(some dining areas had questionable service) first formal night was to meet with the Captain! after 2 hours,a no-show(had to stay at the helm due to heavy fog); second in command? * Letter of complaint to Sydney office! received an apology! recompense? never heard from (Senior Solutions; Sydney)again My first and possibly,last cruise with Princess Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2015
For the most part, liked the remodeling, especially the closet - more room and ease of unpacking. Did not like losing the hand held shower nozzle though in the tiny shower. Found the food less enjoyable - seemed like too much mushy stuff ... Read More
For the most part, liked the remodeling, especially the closet - more room and ease of unpacking. Did not like losing the hand held shower nozzle though in the tiny shower. Found the food less enjoyable - seemed like too much mushy stuff - though there were a few good nights with prime rib and lobster. Cannot complain about service. Excursions were ok but quite expensive. Drink prices increased by about $2 since 2013 cruise for exact same drinks and self serve laundry cost increased from $2 to $3 per load as well. Internet expensive and unable to get into on many parts of ship. Overall, glad we did this particular cruise but hope Princess is not lowering its gourmet standards as far as food goes. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2015
In Mandarin slang, ma ma hu hu means so so, not very good, or a bit of a mess. This cruise surely met that kind of definition. It ranks in the bottom five of the 40+ cruises we've taken. We joined the ship in Tianjin (aka the ... Read More
In Mandarin slang, ma ma hu hu means so so, not very good, or a bit of a mess. This cruise surely met that kind of definition. It ranks in the bottom five of the 40+ cruises we've taken. We joined the ship in Tianjin (aka the middle of nowhere, at least for now), exhausted and suffering from chest colds, after an outstanding eight-day pre-cruise tour in China. As with most pre-cruise tours offered by cruise lines, we paid too much. But we really enjoyed the experience. Sapphire Princess should be renamed Asian Princess, since this area is now its full-time home. Our 14-day itinerary suffered from the fact that it was the third leg (9+8+14) of a 31-day journey from Singapore to Hong Kong, sold as such to many of those on board. The schedule-maker seemed more intent on saving fuel for Princess (with days spent cruising at 14, 12 and even nine knots) than in providing an enriching experience for the paying customers, particularly since that schedule was thoroughly put out of whack along our way. The ship was clean and well-maintained, the service generally good, our cabin (an upgraded mini-suite) not particularly to my taste but very good nonetheless. The dining-room food was an improvement on recent experience with, again, excellent service. Embarkation was efficient. Mostly downhill from there, I'm afraid. The Horizon Court buffet was the usual mess: planned brilliantly for passengers to go in all directions at once. Buffet food was below standard. So anxious was Princess to appeal to the nine per cent of guests with Chinese passports that food for other palates was noticeably in shorter supply. The entertainment, typically a Princess strength, was mediocre at best. The song-and-dance troupe, new to the ship, needed a lot more practice. The main lounge band, Evolution, featured an excellent female lead singer but her male counterpart was too often off key. With one exception (Irishman Al Brown), the comedians were not memorable; the other featured entertainers hard-working but uninspiring. The activities schedule was clearly set up to make early diners (like the Cruise Director, apparently) happy; people who dined at 8 p.m., as we did, were left out of many evening events, none of which was repeated. Entreaties to the smiley folk at the front desk (or the Captain's Circle lady) achieved nothing, but no big surprise there. The mix of passengers (30% British, 21% American, 15% Aussie, 9% Chinese), many of them not experienced cruisers, meant there was never the sense of community which can make a great cruise when groups are more homogeneous. Princess obviously recruits passengers wherever it can, but one result of such eclectic rosters may well be a reduction in the number of North American cruisers on exotic journeys like this one. Shore excursions were a major weakness on this cruise. In Korea, our guide was so bad that we got a partial refund. In Japan and Taiwan, tour groups were too large for most of us to grasp what we were being told. The blame for that goes not to local guides, but to penny-pinching Princess, which risks losing excursion customers if this kind of performance continues. The weather didn't help: cold and smog and fog most of the way, a day spent at anchor off Shanghai in the murk (as the port was closed until late afternoon), which led (though it needn't have) to cancellation of shore leave in Okinawa. Given the distances between ports, we could easily have spent two days in Shanghai and visited all the other ports on the itinerary. We finally arrived in Hong Kong on April 24, to go through the worst cruise terminal I've ever seen. I get it (without understanding why) that terminal designers everywhere want passengers to walk as far as humanly possible. In Hong Kong, we walked round in a big circle after a zig-zag trip through a loading bridge. No luggage cart was anywhere in sight and porters were scarce as hen's teeth. Shore excursion personnel who could help direct us were notable by their absence. My advice to people who might use this place: please don't. The HK authorities aren't dumb: if passenger numbers go down, they'll fix this mess. By way of compensation (metaphorically speaking) we had our best tour of the cruise en route to the airport. This "kill-time tour" took us to Victoria Peak, an Aberdeen sampan ride and Stanley Market with good commentary from guide Joanna. We arrived at HKG airport (where a new town of half a million people is under construction) ready for the long and cramped flight home. So why, you might ask, does this fella keep cruising with Princess if this cruise wasn't up to snuff? Answer: first, this was the worst of our dozen Princess cruises, but was, we hope, an aberration, probably because head-office attention to detail and quality control was sorely lacking on this trip so far from southern California. Second, Princess gives us free laundry and free Internet, saving $20-$40 per day, and that's not an insignificant incentive. Third, warts and all, we've found Princess to be a better cruise line over the years than its competitors with whom we've traveled. We won't be going to Asia with Princess again, though we wish it well in profiting from that expanding market. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2014
We booked a 9 night cruise from Beijing to Hong Kong via Busan Shanghai and Nagasaki. Unfortunately due to a typhoon we never went to Shanghai and Nagasaki even though the typhoon was nowhere near Shanghai. This decision was made before ... Read More
We booked a 9 night cruise from Beijing to Hong Kong via Busan Shanghai and Nagasaki. Unfortunately due to a typhoon we never went to Shanghai and Nagasaki even though the typhoon was nowhere near Shanghai. This decision was made before we boarded, once installed in our cabin the room attendant introduced himself and informed us of the change. Most passengers were travelling onto Vietnam and Singapore after HKG, but we and a few others were doing only half the cruise. Given that we were doing half the cruise and knowing the decision had been made before we arrived at ship I would have preferred we had been given the choice to cancel and a credit be made towards another cruise, as we had no interest in visiting any of the 3 cities we were now to visit in Taiwan. Princess cruises would have had the opportunity to redeem themselves. If I had seen an ad for a cruise to Taiwan I would have just turned the page. The safety issue was always mentioned which of course is very important, but no one could understand why we bypassed Shanghai on way to Busan. Because no explanation was made then rumours abound, the main one was that Busan was dropped on previous cruise and a deal was made that they would definitely pick up supplies there, so it was full steam ahead (after a late departure from Beijing) all night to Busan, we were sailing so fast our cabin was shaking all night. This was our 5th cruise and overall I was disappointed. We found the constant upselling was tacky and a nuisance. I thought the toiletries were very basic and was glad I bought along my own shampoo and conditioner as I was not going to use the shampoo/conditioner in the pump bottle provided. We ate at different restaurants with anytime dining, and found it didn't matter which restaurant we were sitting in, the menu was basically the same.. Other ships, big and small, have had full production entertainment in main theatre most nights, there was only one show with dancers and singers during our time on board. Luckily we had a very good NZ singer and an excellent Irish comedian. Movies under the Stars was a good idea and we did go to a couple of movies. On a previous cruise I joined the galley tour which was very interesting and the same tour was advertised on this ship so I went along. We met in theatre and it quickly became obvious this was a promotion for Sabadini Restaurant, one of those you pay extra for. When that had finished we then went to an empty galley and as we turned the corner there was a table all set up with goods to buy, olive oil $10, ship cookbook $25, wine pack $150, we then walked through the galley with no explanation of how and what happens and we entered Sante Fe restaurant which just happened to be set up for $10 sale of bags, ties, cufflinks etc etc,. It was a total waste of my time. The best thing I did on board was a photography course with Julia, brilliant. So, all in all, would we cruise with Princess again, no we would not. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2014
We were attracted to this cruise because of the itinerary, and we had an enjoyable cruise previously around the Greek islands on the Ruby Princess. We had a couple of nights in Beijing at the start visiting the Great Wall and Tienanmen ... Read More
We were attracted to this cruise because of the itinerary, and we had an enjoyable cruise previously around the Greek islands on the Ruby Princess. We had a couple of nights in Beijing at the start visiting the Great Wall and Tienanmen Square, which were really interesting, and then transferred to the ship at Tianjin. Embarkation was appalling, much worse than we have ever experienced before, we had a long queue to register, and then had to wait ages for our number to be called. The facilities were extremely poor - no refreshments were provided - and it was very stressful and unpleasant. No reason was given for the delay and the staff treated you as if you were lucky to finally get on the ship! We very much enjoyed the itinerary even though Typhoon Vongfong meant we diverted to Taiwan instead of visiting Nagasaki and Shanghai. We found we enjoyed the Sapphire Princess less than the Ruby Princess even though the ships are virtually identical the Sapphire Princess suffered in comparison, particularly in the standard and quality of the food that was provided. Part of the problem was that half of the menus in the restaurants was given over to Asian dishes, and these are not to our taste, but we also found some nights the choice of the other dishes was poor and the quality of some was also lacking. The ship also seemed badly organised, for example they ran out of some wines right from the start of the cruise, and by the end several were off the menu. They also ran out of diet coke and Boddingtons beer. One area where the Sapphire Princess matched the Ruby was in entertainment however, unfortunately this meant that it was just as bad! Over the whole of the cruise we only found a few shows that we thought worth watching in the theatre, and nothing at all in the other venues. In our experience other cruise lines like NCL for example provide much better entertainment. We also find it baffling that Princess feel its appropriate to run things like hairy chest competitions, which jar with the general ambiance on the ships. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2014
We have sailed on a few of Princess Cruises but it was disappointing this time. The good part was the pre cruise tour we took with Catherine Lu Tours. We stayed at Park Plaza Wangfujing at her recommendation and it was a nice hotel and ... Read More
We have sailed on a few of Princess Cruises but it was disappointing this time. The good part was the pre cruise tour we took with Catherine Lu Tours. We stayed at Park Plaza Wangfujing at her recommendation and it was a nice hotel and good location. We took a private tour bus from the Otani Hotel to the cruise ship at a cost of $45 each with tour-beijing.com. Embarkation was very disorganized and the line ups were terrible. We had already been requested to have photocopies of our passport made prior to the cruise and then they took two more copies at the port and we never needed them. They changed the schedule prior to the cruise for Busan and Nagasaki - switching the dates around. Then according to the Captain- due to typhoon - they cancelled Shanghai and also Nagasaki but included two ports in Taiwan. These would not have been ports of call on our wish list. The ship was clean and the activities adequate. The dining service was not up to par. We went to the Crab Shack one evening and the service was terrible. We were there two hours and had still not finished our meal, we were so disgusted with the service we left. Cabin service was excellent. The entertainment was marginal from other cruises we have been on. Usually, on previous cruises for anytime dining, the menu's have contained one or more different dishes, this time the menu was the same at all restaurants for dinner. One vegetarian plate for a lady sitting nearby consisted of two different rices and no vegetables. I thought it was a terrible presentation to give. The menu almost every evening consisted of an Asian selection and what we would call a Caucasian menu. The Asian menu for appetizers EVERY night was Cucumber Salad, Egg Rolls and one other dish. We were constantly hassled in Horizon Court with people wandering around wishing to sell different packages, eg Wine Pkg, Chefs Dinner pkg, Wine Tasting Pkg.. We felt sorry for some people at the next table to us when they were bothered 5 times during one lunch. (twice by the same girl). Shore excursions were disappointing. Busan, S.Korea you can do on your own as the shuttle bus takes you into town and the fish market is a short walk as is the international market. A large mall is also within walking distance and has free wifi and a clean food court. There is even a TGI Fridays but there are also several nice local cuisine restaurants. Excursions in Korea were not that good. Excursion in Hong Kong was good but it was easy to get around there on your own. Excursion in Ho Chi Min City was terrible but good if you like shopping. Seemed all the tours contained trip to the lacquer factory, then the market at some point. Bangkok is also easy to get around without a tour but not if you wish to do more than the City. Disembarkation was swift and good. Summary, it was disappointing as we had expected a higher standard than what Princess gave this time.   Read Less
Sail Date: October 2014
We chose this cruise for the dream destinations--Beijing and Xi'an, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore. Unfortunately, the itinerary changed three times, the last time being on embarkation day. The first change was ... Read More
We chose this cruise for the dream destinations--Beijing and Xi'an, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore. Unfortunately, the itinerary changed three times, the last time being on embarkation day. The first change was due to the unrest in Bangkok earlier in the year--Bangkok and Singapore were reversed in order. Understandable, but we had already made plans to spend a few days in Thailand after the cruise, and had to cancel that. It also meant that we made a reluctant decision to skip the Angkor Wat extension, for we would not have been able to see any of Bangkok. The second change was minor, changing the order of ports for Busan, Nagasaki, and Shanghai. No reason was given for this. The third change was due to two major typhoons. When I read the ship log at the end of the cruise, I did understand the changes overall--we had two nights with waves 7-8 meters high! While this was understandable, it meant that Nagasaki and Shanghai were cancelled for three, later changed to two, ports in Taiwan. I can understand cancelling Nagasaki, but cannot understand why Shanghai was also cancelled--no explanation was given. Taiwan was OK, but not what we thought we were paying for. We took the pre-cruise tour of Beijing and Xi'an. The hotels were fine. A few people complained about mold in the showers, but we didn't experience that ourselves. Our tour guide was excellent. Our one complaint is that the lunch and supper meals were virtually identical every day--got tiresome. I do think the ships are getting too big. The result is that that more and more often, they have to dock at cargo ports that are up to 2.5 hours away from the destination cities. We took Princess tours at most ports. They were fine, with only one tour guide that we didn't like--she spent quite a bit of time talking about her personal life and views. The food on this cruise was significantly worse than on any previous Princess cruise. There are multiple anytime dining rooms, and it would have been good to have some choices in the menus. Except for one day, they were identical. The menu changed little from day to day--most appetizers and about 1/3 of the entrees were the same every day. They had beef medallions every night with a sauce that changed daily, but really, there was little difference there, either. One night, Beef Wellington was served with a particular sauce; on the same menu were the beef medallions--in the same sauce as the Beef Wellington. When we went to the buffet, we saw many of the same menu items that were available in the dining rooms. We ate in the Sterling Steak House one night. While the $25 upcharge was known, some of the menu items they had included additional charges! We took the Ultimate Ship Tour, and thoroughly enjoyed it. On the tour, someone asked if the menu on the ship is the same on other ships, or if there is variety. The Chef told us that the menus are centrally planned, and therefore mostly the same on every ship. He has some flexibility due to region (we were in Asia, so almost half of the menu was comprised of Asian foods). The entertainment was "OK." The singers and dancers were very good, especially the night I watched them while we were on the outskirts of the typhoon--it took skill to perform their routines on a rocking ship! However, the production numbers are shorter than they used to be. I don't think any ran more than 30 minutes--not quite enough for many of us. The last two productions were truly excellent, and it was a good way to end the cruise. We did not see the other entertainers. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: September 2013
The ship needed to be totally and completely renovated. It was old, the furniture was chipped, carpet was worn out and it smelled old. The crew on the ship were definitely not interested in being there. The service and the restaurants was ... Read More
The ship needed to be totally and completely renovated. It was old, the furniture was chipped, carpet was worn out and it smelled old. The crew on the ship were definitely not interested in being there. The service and the restaurants was horrible maître d''s were just dropping plates on the table, walking away. When I got into my room the sheets on my bed were dirty from the people who stayed there before. When I asked to have them changed they did only to find hair and dirt on the sheets. After a few ports and about 10 days we realize that they had never changed the sheets on our bed since that day we complained about them. When going to the ship's desk to complain about the lack of service in our cabins (they would have a talk with our cabin steward)as well as absolutely no activities by the pool we were told that the weather was not good and they could not offer activities. Keep in mind that we were close to the equator and every day was about 95 Fahrenheit plus with humidity that was about 90%. We have taken many cruises and been to many places in the world and have red many cruise critic reviews as we did prior to taking this cruise. Our thoughts were it's hard to please everybody and maybe just most the people writing these reviews are too picky. Well that's just not the case from 01 to 10 (10 being the best )I would score the ship and its crew no more than two or three only because they were actually standing on the ship, food I would score a four destinations I would score a nine or 10. They do not give you very much time at any of these sports and feel a much better cruise with the 1 1/2 days in each port. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2013
We booked on the Beijing to Bangkok cruise which has some amazing ports of call. We have done several cruises but never have we seen such a serious mechanical vibration which emanated from the engine room on the port side on the Diamond ... Read More
We booked on the Beijing to Bangkok cruise which has some amazing ports of call. We have done several cruises but never have we seen such a serious mechanical vibration which emanated from the engine room on the port side on the Diamond Princess. This spread through all of the decks and caused plates and tableware to rattle constantly. Luckily, our cabin was slightly aft of midships and so the vibration was less, but never the less unacceptable. It was bad enough to vibrate some cutlery and glassware across our table in the steak restaurant on deck 14!! We only ate there once. It was not just when we were moving, it was there all the time. The ship also had "a propulsion failure" during the cruise which caused us to slow down, but this was fixed overnight. Maybe the two are connected. The A/C was patchy with some areas of the ship ice cold. The "Movie under the stars" screen packed in as well. This ship needs some major mechanical repairs. Diamond Princess has poor sanitation control. No sanitizer was provided as we boarded at each port. It seems obvious to me that if you are visiting poor hygiene areas you will carry the bacteria back onto the ship. Lots of passengers had "cold like" symptoms by the end of the cruise. No sanitizers were provided for the restaurants, the only place they were to be found was the Horizon Court buffet on deck 14. Hand wipes were provided in the Internet room but this is a silly idea, hand sanitizers are needed here too, before you enter. We found service on the Diamond Princess very patchy, not what we have experienced on other Princess ships. Service in 2 of the dining rooms in the evenings was excellent, service in the other one was dire. Table service at breakfast was very slow too. Bar service in the Explorers lounge was a hit and miss experience and on too many occasions I had to go to the bar in order to get a drink after waiting ages for a waiter that never appeared. The waiters were just chatting to each other at the bar. This area is badly in need of a sharp supervisor. In the end we stopped going into this lounge. By way of contrast, the service in the Crooners and Wheelhouse lounges was excellent. We enjoyed the port tours with one exception. In Singapore the customs officials insisted on face-to-face passport checks. We were on a 4.5 hour tour starting at 9.30am. We didn't clear customs till 11am. But the tour came back at the normal time and so we lost 1.5hours off our tour. Very poor organisation, Princess should have kept the tour to 4.5 hours. Brett the cruise director and his team were excellent and so was the entertainment. Not all to our taste, but I will say that Sammy Goldstien, the resident singer and entertainer in Crooners, was one of the best that we have ever seen. The Australian comedy magician, Phil "trust me" Cass, was excellent too, as good as we have ever seen on the strip in Las Vegas. The 5 production shows were all new to us and excellent. Finally, the ship ran out of several types of wine. By day 10 we were down to one page of white wines and no rose wines at all!!! We bought a $29 wine package and we ended up with only a choice of lower price wines thereby eroding the so called saving. How can a cruise ship run out of wine? Read Less
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
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 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: November 2006
Ship:Sapphire Princess Dates: November 25 - December 14th 2006 Cruise Length 16 Days Review Date: January 4th 2007 Pre-Cruise Beijing Flight Nov 25th 10:03 AM  Departed Atlanta [ATL] for Chicago [ORD] on time. Arrived early into ... Read More
Ship:Sapphire Princess Dates: November 25 - December 14th 2006 Cruise Length 16 Days Review Date: January 4th 2007 Pre-Cruise Beijing Flight Nov 25th 10:03 AM  Departed Atlanta [ATL] for Chicago [ORD] on time. Arrived early into Chicago and had a sandwich at the Blimpie stand. Flight was nice and uneventful. The flight to Beijing was about the same, except that the plane was an older 747, which lacked individual video screens. We were also seated right next to the galley, which made for increased traffic and cramped quarters. Beijing New Century Hotel Monday Nov 26 - 27th We arrived at the hotel at around 17:00 [5PM] after a pretty smooth transfer process with Princess. The hotel was very nice. As our pre-cruise research had already pointed out, the carpeting was in dire need of replacement, but otherwise a very nice hotel. We were on the 20th floor and had a wonderful view. There are about 4 restaurants in the hotel. We had dinner at one of them and I ordered a club sandwich. It was quite a bit smaller than what I expected and came with fries. The menu price was about 48 Yuan, yet we were charged over twice that amount. I didn't notice until after we had left the restaurant. Maybe this was an honest mistake, maybe not. We rested up a bit and then took a taxi to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City for about 24 Yuan [less than $3.00 US]. These are both in the same area. There were uniformed police or military people all around the place. We looked around for a while and took some photographs. Eventually, the guards started ushering us all towards the outer gates. Closing time, I guess. The next day was our Great Wall Tour. We departed from the hotel around 07:45 after having a very nice breakfast provided by the hotel. The breakfast consisted of American as well as Chinese cuisine in a very large room with multiple buffet stations. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but my wife rated it as average. The ride to the Great Wall took about 30 minutes by bus. Despite all of the hype I had heard in advance, Beijing traffic was really not that bad compared to Atlanta GA. Once at the wall, we were given about 1 hour and 45 minutes before we would need to depart in order to get to the ship on time, which is where the tour ended. I started up the wall and thought I was at the top after about 15 minutes of brisk climbing. Wrong. The way the wall zigzags makes you think you have reached the top at each major peak. I did this about 5 times before actually reaching the top. The total climb took about 45 minutes with no breaks longer than 30 seconds. By the time I reached the top I was seriously hurting. The 30-minute trek down was even worse since by then my legs were noodles. The Great Wall is not for the faint of heart. Only about 5 people from our bus of 50 reached the top. Still, a once in a lifetime opportunity I am glad I didn't miss. It was cold in Beijing. Low 50's at best. Transfer to Ship Nov 27th After a pretty nice lunch at a local restaurant, we were on our way to the Renaissance Hotel [for check in] and then to the ship. Well, not quite. The tour operators took us to a large shop, which we were practically forced to walk through before lunch. The restaurant was in the same building. After lunch we were given time to shop. I bought a few sets of decorative metal balls to be used as gifts when I return home. The ride to the ship was a long one, about 3 hours in all. We had one stop for a bathroom break and arrived at the hotel around 16:30. The word bathroom is in quotes in the previous sentence because in Asia, they have a different idea of what a bathroom should be. I didn't mind the men's accommodations, but my wife was mortified. Ladies, you have been warned. Renaissance Hotel  Check-In The Check in process was not as speedy and well organized as on the Golden Princess, but we were still on our way within about 45 minutes. The ride to the pier took another 20 minutes. After having already waited in lines at the hotel, I was disappointed to find long lines at the pier. This time it was the Chinese government conducting document reviews for health screening and passports. Another 30 minutes in line and we were finally on the ship. I had originally scheduled a meeting of Cruise Critic members for 17:00. We didn't even make it to the ship until about 17:30, so I was glad that my wife had suggested changing this meeting until after the mandatory safety drill. At least I thought the drill was mandatory. By the time we got on board, it was already wrapping up, so we missed it entirely. Not a problem. This being my 8th cruise, I felt safe enough without the drill. Cruise Critic Meeting  Wheelhouse Bar Mon Nov 27th 18:00 The Cruise Critic meeting was a resounding success. There were a few folks missing who had pre-registered, but there were just as many or more in attendance, who had not pre-registered. I believe we had about 28-30 people in all. We sat around and talked about the pre-cruise experience as well as the boarding process and the tours for about 2 hours. I agreed to organize a 2nd meeting later into the cruise. We spent the rest of Monday trying to recover from the jetlag of our 16-hour flight. At Sea - Tuesday Nov 28th We were still wiped out from the flight and spent this day basically wandering around the ship between naps. It was another cold day so no outdoor activities. Pusan S Korea - Wednesday Nov 29th I haven't been to Korea since 1987. Wow, things have changed. I was in Osan at that time, which is a smaller city. Pusan is a very nice and reasonably modern city. When I was here before, I saw mainly American and Japanese cars. Now you see Korean brands primarily such as Hyundai and Kia. With economic success comes affluence. The prices in Pusan were among the highest we encountered on this particular cruise. This was completely unexpected. As an example, they wanted US $7.00 for a can of Gillette shaving cream! I could not bring myself to pay that much. I did manage to find some nice chopsticks in Pusan. I bought several sets for various family and friends. There is only one major problem with the city of Pusan, and that is the smell. The whole place smells like a sewer, but we still had a good time there. The locals were also very friendly and even did a dance show on board before we departed. I missed the show but my wife said it was excellent. Pusan's weather was nice and sunny once the morning fog burned off. Temp was mid 50's. Nagasaki Japan - Thursday Nov 30th Again, I have visited Japan before. During my Navy tenure I spent a full year on Okinawa. I never did make it to the mainland during that time. I would have preferred visiting Tokyo this time around, but Nagasaki is a vibrant and interesting city in its own right. We were feeling brave on this particular day, so we bypassed the Princess tour and bought day passes on the Nagasaki Tram. The tram is old and, while historic, not the most comfortable form of travel. Also, with the crowds, it is rare to get a seat. In any case, we found Nagasaki reasonably easy to navigate. The locals do not speak English so we resorted to showing pictures from the cruise material. This worked well in the rare case we could not find something on our own. Our primary place if interest was the Peace Park. This was easy to find and we had a wonderful time there. Several Japanese school classes were at the park for prayers and lectures. They all appear to wear uniforms here, which made for quite a sight as each class was about 50 strong and there were about 4 classes. This area also contains the Atomic Bomb Museum. We did not go inside, but did take pictures of the surrounding area. The other place we wanted to visit was the Memorial for the 26 Martyred Japanese Saints. We needed a bit of help finding this one, and the locals were very helpful once we produced a picture. The weather was nice in Nagasaki, although a bit on the cool side. I would guess the average temp to have been about 56 F At Sea - Friday Dec 1 Today was a day at sea as we journeyed south towards Shanghai. I decided to use this day for our next Cruise Critic gathering. I had spoken to the Cruise Director [Sammi] yesterday and she agreed to put the meeting in the Princess Patter and have one of her staff attend. We met in the Wake View Bar, which doesn't exist on most other Princess ships to my knowledge. Kevin, of the Cruise Directors staff said this area is usually the officers lounge, but had been converted on the Sapphire. It is hidden behind Club Fusion on the Fiesta deck [6]. The meeting was again a great success. There were even a few new faces who had seen the announcement in the Princess Patter and were curious. Princess was nice enough to provide endless champagne for the event. We started at 17:30. This time the meeting ran into dinnertime, and about 8 of us met for dinner at nearby Vivaldi's. After dinner, a few late night types adjourned to the Skywalkers Lounge to witness the ships midnight arrival at Shanghai Harbor. I am not a night person, but my wife is and was among this group. I returned to my stateroom for some much needed rest. Shanghai - Saturday Dec 2 Our tour guide in Beijing tried to prepare us for Shanghai, but you don't get a real understanding until you see it for yourself. By my estimation, Shanghai is a truly unique city. On the one hand, it easily makes my top 10 list for most beautiful cities in the world. On the other hand, it is hard not to notice the severe over-crowding and poverty that also exists here. Compared to Shanghai, Nagasaki would have to be considered spacious. A complimentary shuttle takes you from the ship to the Julong Silk & Crafts Exhibition Hall. The ride takes about an hour or so. In Shanghai, our main interest was the Yuyuan Garden and Shopping Center. Again, being adventurers, we felt comfortable taking a taxi. As long as you have your destinations written in Chinese, you should be OK taking a taxi for most Shanghai destinations. The ship provided Chinese translations for the most visited attractions. The ride to Yuyuan Garden took about 20 minutes. I have been lots of places, but this shopping center is like none other I have seen. First, it is absolutely huge. There are multiple alleyways and twists to get you quickly confused and lost. There are shops for just about anything you could want within reason. One thing about Shanghai is that the street vendors can be very aggressive. You almost have to be rude to get them to leave you alone. My advice, as I tell my wife, is don't make eye contact unless you want to buy something. For 30 Yuan [about $4.00 US], you can visit the actual garden this place is named for. My wife went inside, but I decided to pass. Later, she also visited the Jade Buddah and Peoples Square. By the time we got to Shanghai, I thought the weather would have improved, but it was still very cold. I wasn't dressed for this, so as soon as I could, I returned to the Julong Silk & Crafts Center via taxi. I had some spare time before the next Princess shuttle back to the ship would arrive, so I went inside seeking warmth. There are some very nice pieces for sale in this store. I bought a nice embroidered rose in glass for my wife. I also bought some postcards from a street vendor, and then headed back to the ship. I had a nice time in Shanghai, but after awhile, the crowds started to get to me. There are so many beautiful buildings all over the place. In most cities, you only see this in a centralized downtown area, but Shanghai has them pretty much everywhere. I took well over 100 photos. As stated earlier, Shanghai was surprisingly cold, low 50's at best. At Sea -Sunday Dec 3 About an hour after lunch yesterday, I began to feel nauseous. At first I didn't think anything of it and tried to just walk it off. I ended up rushing back to my stateroom to involuntarily relieve myself of my lunch. The remainder of the day would consist of a series of trips to the bathroom for various reasons. After a sleepless night also marked by frequent bathroom visits, my wife took me to the medical center. Later, a member of the medical staff visited me in our stateroom and said I had the dreaded Nor virus. She gave me some Imodium tablets and kindly informed me that I would be quarantined for at least 24 hours. I just count myself blessed that this happened on back-to-back sea days, so I did not have to miss any ports. Unfortunately, it did mean that I would miss the 2nd of 3 scheduled formal nights. (We were still too tired from the flight to get dressed up for the first formal night.) The tablets I was given did their job rather quickly and I was a weakened version of myself again within a couple of hours. I needed to exhibit 24 hours of symptom free behavior to gain my release, so I ended up spending Saturday after noon as well as the entire day on Sunday in my stateroom. Apparently, there were a significant number of sick passengers aboard. The staff eventually distributed Health Bulletins to all staterooms warning of proper hand washing techniques and advising passengers not to eat ashore. Additionally, Princess begun having crewmembers serve passengers in Horizon Court instead of the usual self-service policy. Interestingly enough, my wife never got the virus. At Sea -Monday Dec 4 I was released from quarantine around 09:00. I stuck to basic foods until I felt I could tolerate regular meals again. Even then, I tried to use the restaurants whenever possible and avoid Horizon Court altogether. It felt good to be among the living again. We used the remainder of this day to prepare for Hong Kong. Hong Kong -Tuesday Dec 5 I was now 100% and not a moment too soon. Hong Kong was quite a challenging port. The ship docked at 07:00 and we were allowed off at about 08:00. Because of the size of the Sapphire Princess, we were not allowed to dock at Ocean Terminal as the pre-cruise literature had stated we would be doing. Instead, we docked at Harbor City, which is about 30 minutes away from Ocean Terminal. There were free shuttles to the Ocean Terminal area and from there you could catch the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island for $2.20 HK [about 35 cents US]. I don't know why Princess listed Ocean Terminal in their pre-cruise literature, since presumably, the Sapphire Princess has always been the same size she is now. This caused me some difficulty, which I will explain later. My wife did not feel comfortable trying to do Hong Kong on our own as she had several definite places she wanted to visit and was concerned that we might run out of time. On the other hand, I thought it would be easily doable on our own. As we often do in such situations, we made an informal little wager and went our separate ways. She took a Princess tour, which included Stanley Market, the Aberdeen fishing village, Victoria Peak, and a jewelry store. The price of the tour was just under $60.00 US. I headed for Central station and after some initial difficulty, found the #260 bus, which took me to Stanley Market for $7.90 HK [about $1.00 US]. I didn't have exact change, so I ended up paying $10.00 HK for the ride. The ride up can be a bit unsettling since the roads are very narrow and winding. I was frustrated that I could not capture any of the fascinating scenery, as you have to hold on to something to prevent being tossed around the bus. After about 50 minutes, I arrived at Stanley Market. I was not overly impressed with this stop. It was nothing special and not really worth the time it takes to get there in my opinion. No different than any other outdoor shopping area you may have seen, and the prices and selection were not that great either. When we compared notes later, my wife even agreed with me on this point. I met a very nice couple on the bus from Washington State. They gave me the great idea of taking a taxi from Stanley Market to Victoria Peak instead of using the bus. This saved me a good deal of time. Victoria Peak was perhaps the highlight of Hong Kong to me. It is an ultra modern shopping complex with great restaurants for all tastes. As its name suggests, it is situated high above the city. There are viewing terraces atop some of the buildings, which allow for great photos of the Hong Kong area. When I was done here, I was able to take the Peak Tram right back to Central Station. Next I visited beautiful Hong Kong Park. It is a nice little park right in the center of the city, just like New York's Central Park but smaller. It contains a man made lake stocked with various fish and turtles, as well as benches for relaxation and a wonderful array of flowers throughout. After the park, I walked the 15 minutes back to the Star Ferry Terminal. I needed help from several of the locals to accomplish this. Hong Kong is not an easy city to navigate. You have to be very careful crossing the streets. Most major intersections have overpasses for pedestrians, but you have to find them and know where they lead. Back on the ferry, I returned to the Kowloon side and visited some of the electronics shops. I needed to get rid of my remaining HK currency, so I purchased a spare battery for my camera, which will come in handy. After being consumed with navigating Hong Kong all day, I had forgotten the exact location where the Princess shuttle had dropped us off. I returned to Harbor City and looked around. Since Princess had changed the location from what was listed in their pre-cruise literature, I found it less than accommodating for them not to have any signage to remind people where to congregate to catch the shuttle back to the ship. I always leave plenty of time for such eventualities, so I had no cause for alarm, but it was still an unpleasant experience that Princess could have easily prevented. I made it back to the ship at around 15:45. My wife's tour would not return until 17:00, so I went and had a very late lunch in the newly sanitized Horizon Court since none of the dining rooms were yet open. When my wife did return and we compared notes, she awarded me with a rare victory for successfully navigating Hong Kong on my own in less time [and considerably less $$] than her tour could manage. She did get to visit the Aberdeen fishing village, which I bypassed altogether, but I was not rushed at any of the places I visited, and her tour did not include Hong Kong Park. We thoroughly enjoyed Hong Kong and it is highly recommended. At Sea  Wednesday Dec 6th I started this day with a much-needed workout in the ships gym. My wife participated in a complimentary stretch class and went on a walk. After that, we had breakfast in the International Dining room, which is one of our favorites. It now appears to be my wife's turn to be sick. In her case, it is seasickness, a common problem for her. Trooper that she is, she continues to cruise. She took her Sea Bands off to go ashore yesterday and didn't get them back on fast enough when we set sail. She was fine the next day. Nha Trang Vietnam -Thursday Dec 7 Today we had a private tour booked with some of the folks we met on Cruise Critic. Our guide met us at the ship as planned and we were on our way. Tomorrow would not be so smooth, but more on that later. This tour was a wonderful alternative to what Princess tours can offer. Our guide really knew the area and took us to some very remote places. We started in a couple of vans and went to an embroidery shop. We were able to watch the young girls as they hand made some of the finest pieces I have ever seen. Of course, finished products were available for purchase. They were happy to answer any questions we had about their craft. Although embroidery means nothing to me personally, I still thoroughly enjoyed this stop. Next we visited Ponagar Cham Tower where we found several temples. You had to take your shoes off to enter any of them, so I just took in the sights from outside. These were the only 2 stops where we saw Princess tour groups. From here we boarded pontoon boats and cruised the river for about an hour as our guide explained various things about life in Nha Trang, which is primarily a fishing town. We eventually arrived at the private home of a family whose business was weaving various items such as tapestries and place settings for dinner tables. They had some very nice items for sale and even let the ladies take their turn at the weaving machine. My wife loved this. Our guide called this the poor families home and it was indeed beyond modest by Western standards. From here we boarded wooden carriages powered by very small horses. A few from our group did not take to the horses, so motorcycles were substituted. We trekked through the woods and finally arrived at what our guide called the rich families house. Still relatively modest by Western standards, this home belonged to wood workers. There were various pieces of carved wood on display. Most of the pieces were very large, such as tables and chairs. All of them were very well made and beautiful. Here we were served a light snack of various fruits and tea. After my previous bout with illness, I decided not to eat ashore for the remainder of the voyage. After finishing our snacks, we returned to our horse drawn carriages [which were very difficult for people of our size to fit into] and headed to a nice restaurant on the river where we were served beer and lunch. The lunch looked very appetizing and our hosts were extremely hospitable. After lunch we boarded our pontoon boats again and visited another family in the jungle where we were served coconut juice. More accurately, we were served actual coconuts. A young boy climbed one of the trees and pitched down enough for all of us. Again, this family was very nice and seemed genuinely happy to see us. Like the others, they allowed us to take pictures with them and answered any questions as best they could, given the language barrier. This was the last stop on our tour. We returned via pontoon boat to our vans and then to the ship. Our guide was a very nice local entrepreneur who really seemed to enjoy showing us his city. At $20.00 [US] per person, we felt we got a truly unique experience for a fraction of what Princess charged for their tour. Vung Tau - Ho Chi Minh City [Saigon] Vietnam - Friday Dec8 We had another private tour scheduled for Saigon, but as alluded to above, things did not go as planned. When we disembarked the ship, we did not see our tour guide. Initially, we were told that they were not being allowed entry to the port where the ship was docked. Later we were told that since there was no contract signed, our tour had been cancelled. Of course, a representative from their organization told us this and was happy to offer us a new contract at a much higher price. We declined this and all subsequent offers and our group of 18 disbanded to find our own way around this situation. We did not feel we could trust this group and did not want to end up paying a mercenary fee just to get back to the ship. Most of us boarded the Princess shuttle into Vung Tao. After about an hour, we were there. Several members of the group decided to take a hydrofoil [fan boat] across the river to Saigon for about $25.00 [US] per person. My wife and I, along with 6 others, choose to hire taxis instead. We ended up with 2 small SUV's. As we left Vung Tao for Saigon, we quickly noticed that we were heading back towards where the ship was docked [Phu My]. Noting this, we all agreed that we should have the taxi drivers return us to the ship instead of returning to Vung Tao and then doubling back to the ship. With all of the morning's events, we didn't arrive in Saigon until around 12:30. Not wanting to take any chances on missing the ship, we decided we should be on our way back by 14:00, giving us less than 2 hours to explore. We walked around downtown Saigon, checking out all of the hotels and taking photos before heading to the market place. We purchased a few of the standard tourist items here such as hats and T-shirts. After that, we looked for the Reunification Palace. My wife wanted to see this and it was close enough to accomplish in our limited time. We quickly found it, but it was not accessible to the public, so we basically just walked around it and headed back to the Rex hotel, which was our rendezvous point for departure. We had one of the Princess tour bus drivers prepare a crude map for our taxi drivers since they had not picked us up at the point we wanted them to return us to. Even with the map, it eventually became clear to us that they did not know how to get us to the ship. We asked [as best we could] beforehand, and they seemed absolutely sure it would not be a problem. We ended up on a dirt road, which had been heavily saturated with rain by the typhoon from a couple of days before. We tried to warn the drivers not to proceed, but they either did not understand or would not listen. Both taxis were soon stuck in the mud. I tried to push ours out unsuccessfully and even tried maneuvering it out from the drivers seat. Eventually a truck passed by and towed both taxis out for about $4.00. Our driver then hit a large brick or something that was hidden in the mud as he sped away. He also lost his cell phone, probably while trying to help push the taxis free of the mud. This poor guy couldn't have been more than 25 years old. I felt very sorry for him and hoped he had not damaged the taxi. After this adventure, we arrived at the ship, my shoes completely covered with mud, at about 17:00. I cleaned my shoes and we prepared for dinner, bringing a close to our 2nd Vietnam adventure. At Sea  Saturday Dec 9th Nothing much to mention. Just a much needed day of rest and relaxation. Laem Chabang [Bangkok] Thailand -Sunday Dec 10 After the adventures of the previous 2 ports of call, we decided to wimp out and take a Princess tour into Bangkok. Still, we just used their tour for transportation and went our own way once we arrived. The trip took about 2 hours, and for a change, the drive in was uneventful. The Princess tour bus dropped us off at the awesome hotel Shangri La. More on that later. Once in Bangkok, we boarded a boat along with several others from the ship. Our destination was the Grand Palace, but the trip was the highlight for me. It afforded wonderful photo opportunities of the colorful city as we continued on our way. The trip took about 20-25 minutes, and cost about 210 Baht, which is the local currency and the only one accepted in Thailand. As of this writing, that works out to about $6.00 US. As we all left the boat, the attendants asked us for an additional 20 baht per person, which they called a landing fee. Since this fee had not been mentioned at the onset, we judged it a scam and continued on our way. The attendants began yelling something to the effect of cheepie at us. I stand by our decision on this one, as a fee undisclosed amounts to simple extortion in my book. At the Grand Palace, we were immediately besieged by street vendors. While no worse than any other similar city, I have little patience for street vendors altogether. If they would just allow me to peruse the merchandise at my leisure, I would [more than not] probably purchase something. Instead they swarm you as if they are desperate drug addicts and you have their all-important fix, but I digress. Since it was 90 plus degrees in Bangkok, I wore shorts. Shorts are not allowed in the Palace. I knew this in advance and had no interest in actually entering the Palace anyway. Local vendors kept tugging on my shorts and gesturing me that I needed pants. Later I found out they were trying to offer pants that I could rent to get into the Palace. What can I say, that's not something that can be easily communicated with gestures. Anyway, we walked the grounds of the Palace and took pictures. We also did some shopping in the area before contemplating our departure. We had gotten cards from the hotel with its name and address in Thai to assist us in getting back. When I showed the card to the first taxi driver, he just laughed and drove away. The 2nd driver was nice enough not to laugh, but still refused to take us to the hotel. Finally, a local woman took pity on us and explained what we wanted to a 3rd taxi driver. We ended up spending about 150 baht [including tolls] to get back to the hotel and the trip took about 30 minutes. That's a little over $4.00 US. We walked around and did some shopping in this area as well and then went into the hotel to relax. The hotel Shangri La is very nice, 5 star to be sure. Beautifully decorated lobby. Spacious ballrooms. Even the men's room was a work of art. I went into the bar and ordered a beer. It made for a nice waiting room for our return ride to the ship. Other people from the ship were there and we had some fun conversation about our journey thus far. All of this 5 star posh came at a price, however, as my beer cost 220 baht or about $6.30 US. Add to this regular and VAT and you have a $7.00 beer. In Thailand? Oh well. We all boarded our busses for the return trip at about 15:00 [3PM] and were back on the ship shortly after 17:30. The ride back was uneventful, which represented a welcome change from our Vietnam experience. At Sea - Monday Dec 11th This was our last sea day and we looked forward to the formal night, since we had missed the first 2 due to either illness or fatigue. My wife actually had a relapse of seasickness and came very close to missing this one as well. After many days of splendid weather, we finally experienced some rain today. A few of us from Cruise Critic got together for a farewell dinner in the Pacific Moon dining room. Of our original 30 or so people, about 8 of us were in attendance. My wife felt good enough to attend, but did not want to eat anything. We used this time to recap all of our many adventures and to say our formal goodbyes. Tomorrow we are in Malaysia and the next morning, we will end the cruise in Singapore. The dinner was very nice, but it did remind us that the experience would soon end. The wait staff was good enough to take several pictures for all of us with our respective cameras. After dinner we went to see a bit of the evening show and then called it a night. Kemaman Malaysia  Tuesday Dec 12th We all wondered why Princess even bothered to stop at this, our last port before ending the cruise in Singapore. Even our local guide on the shuttle into town said that the presence of the ship would temporarily triple the population here. The shuttle ride took about 20 minutes. The town is really not much more than a moderately sized farmers market, consisting mainly of various types of seafood and meats. What interested me the most about Malaysia was its Muslim government. I had not known in advance that Malaysia was a Muslin nation. I had assumed it was Asian, hence the name Malaysia. On our return shuttle to the ship [about 30 minutes after our arrival] our local guide was a Chinese woman. She said everyone is free here to practice his or her own religion, in her case Buddhism. Still, I saw many Asian women dressed as Muslims. I will be curious now to learn more about the history of this nation. In any case, our time ashore was brief as there was simply not much to see or do here. We were back on the ship in plenty of time for lunch. Getting back so early made this feel like a sea day. After lunch and some relaxation, we went up to deck 14 for the sail away party, which featured the Princess in house band Opus. They played a variety of popular tunes covering genres from Soul to Country. We thoroughly enjoyed their performance. Later we attended our last show on board, which featured a very talented ventriloquist/comedian by the name of Kenny Byrd. I had actually met him up on deck 14 earlier in the day. He talked to me for a while without revealing his identity, and then told me to make a point of not missing the evening show. He then went on to tell me how good this guy was supposed to be. At the end of our conversation, he finally told me that he was the guy. Somehow that made the show all the more enjoyable later. After the show we had dinner and returned to our room to finish our last minute packing. [Disembarkation] Singapore  Wednesday - Dec 13th After a quick breakfast in the International Dining Room, we headed to the Wheelhouse bar to wait for permission to depart the ship. We were on our way to our hotel within 30 minutes. After completing a quick pre check-in routine at the Meritus Mandarin hotel, we wanted to see what we could do with the balance of the day since our flight didn't leave until the next morning. We went to the tour desk and booked a safari for later in the day and then jumped on a hop on hop off bus to see Singapore. The bus cost was 12 Singapore dollars [about $8.00 US], so we needed some local money. We accomplished this by finding the nearest ATM machine, which was no problem since they are plentiful here. Singapore is a beautiful place, reminiscent of San Francisco, with one exception. Singapore is much cleaner and you will not find vagrants on the streets. I wanted to take a closer look at the Funan Digi Mall, which is a shopping mall dedicated to Information Technology. My wife wanted to do some shopping in China town. We accomplished both along with a quick lunch in about 4 hours. We had lunch in Chinatown. I had chicken curry. My wife, being a timid eater, stuck to steamed rice. The food was good, but they leave the bones in the chicken here, which made for a less enjoyable experience for me. Some friends from the cruise who live in Beijing had warned me about this, so it wasn't a complete surprise. We returned to our hotel around 16:00 to rest up for our evening safari. The evening safari [which can be arranged through area hotels] was of limited interest to me because you are not allowed to use flash photography. We boarded a tram and took a leisurely ride along a dark trail. Many interesting animals appeared as we ventured along. In attendance were hippos, tigers, rhinos, and many species of deer just to name a few. For my money, I would have preferred a visit to the zoo, which is located right next to the safari, but most will probably enjoy this venue. It has the look of a Survivor or Jurassic Park set. After riding the tram, you can embark on any of several walking trails to get a closer look at the animals, or you can opt for either the fire show or the animal show, both of which start on the hour. There are also several theme restaurants on the premises, if you don't mind overpriced food. Singapore Flight  Thursday Dec 14th  0830 We knew we were in for a long and exhausting flight home. We left the Meritus Mandarin hotel at 05:00 and arrived at Singapore's Changi airport before 06:00. Security was more intense than what we are used to in the US, but still quick. Our first flight was to Tokyo Narita. This took about 7 hours. There we had a 3-hour layover before boarding the 11-hour flight to Chicago, and in Chicago another 3-hour layover before departing for Atlanta Hartsfield -Jackson. In Chicago, we had a comprehensive, but still relatively quick run through customs. We arrived in Atlanta right on schedule at about 21:30, collected our luggage and were in our house by 23:00, thus ending our longest trip to date. Cruise Experience Ship  The Sapphire Princess is starting to show considerable wear, but is in decent condition overall. It is probably the nicest Princess ship I have sailed on. The new Skywalker Lounge and the bonus Wakeview Bar are nice extras not found on most other Princess vessels. The Sapphire was due in dry dock at the end of our voyage where I am sure she will be made good as new. Staff  As has been the trend with Princess, we found the staff to be pretty lackluster, with a couple of notable exceptions. This was the last cruise of the season, and it showed in the attitudes of many of the cruise staff. A notable exception was Sammi Baker, the Cruise Director. She reminded me of what cruise directors used to be like. Very enthusiastic, and she genuinely loves her job. She even got hit with the Nor Virus a few days after me, but was right back at it a day later. I was also impressed with a few members of the wait staff. Since we prefer anytime dining, I did not really get to know any one team very well, but we did have some very nice experiences. Food No 2 ways about it, the food quality at Princess is at an all time low. As a guy, there's not much I won't eat, but they have managed to reach even my limit. Basically, they will continue putting dishes out until they either expire, or are consumed. So you end up seeing items at the breakfast buffet that most people would never actually eat for breakfast, such as refried beans. Or you see different incarnations of the same food with fancy made up names to lend legitimacy. If Princess is going to continue along these lines, then I think they might as well contract with a shore-based operation such as Ryan's or Golden Corral, both of which might actually do a better job. Also, the Horizon Court area is the same size, no matter the size of the ship, which makes for plenty of elbow bumping on a ship the size of the Sapphire. At the poolside grill, when you ask for a hotdog, you need to request that it actually be cooked, otherwise they may just hand you a raw one from the grill. You also need to get to the grill before 18:00 [6PM] or you will find it closed. The same is true for the pizza ovens. Our advice on Princess dining? Stick to the restaurants as much as possible, and bring some Tums. Entertainment  As with the food experience, Princess has also dropped the ball on entertainment. We heard this observation repeated from countless other passengers, so it's not just our opinion. Most of the feature shows are performed by members of the cruise staff. On sea days, there is pitifully little going on, which we found unforgivable for a 16-day voyage with 7 days at sea. Again, there were exceptions. I thoroughly enjoyed both shows by Australian singer Seamus Earley, and the ventriloquist/comedian Kenny Byrd. Summary Princess continues to have a virtual lock on exotic ports for mid-priced cruise lines. With the onset of the Carnival consortium, they obviously see little incentive to satisfy customers beyond their standard offerings. If you are unhappy with Princess, Carnival knows they have enough member lines to stand a good chance of keeping you in the family, and possibly at an even higher price point should you opt for Windstar or Seabourn. Indeed, cruising has reached a saturation point of sorts, and the industry knows it. Because of this, Princess has chipped away at its product to the point where it is now an embarrassing replica of its former self. Princess has succeeded in making their cruises attainable for most, but at the same time has failed at making them desirable for many. Jan 2007 - John D Phillips Read Less
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