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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
This was a special cruise as I'm a travel agent and completed Princess' Education Program. For me, it was particularly special as it was my first time back to Vietnam since 1971 when I was there for non-tourist reasons as a ... Read More
This was a special cruise as I'm a travel agent and completed Princess' Education Program. For me, it was particularly special as it was my first time back to Vietnam since 1971 when I was there for non-tourist reasons as a young Navy Sailor. It was also a chance to visit Australia, which I missed in 1970-71 due to my father's illness and death as I went home on Emergency Leave in November/December 1970. The itinerary was perfect, although my Partner Paula found it too long to be away from home and was less enthralled with the sea days. As with most cruises, the time in port was way too short. This was particularly true in Ho Chi Minh City where we had to bus for almost two hours each way, which takes a lot out of a nine hour day. Of course, this makes us want to return to many of the places we saw, particularly Vietnam and Hong Kong. We spent three nights in Beijing pre-cruise and opted to do private transfers from the airport and from hotel to port. We did two tours through Viator and they were great. However, traffic in Beijing put a damper on both the tours (long days) and the trip to the port. We left Beijing at 10:30am and didn't get into our cabin until about 4pm. Most of that was traffic jammed highways and a long wait on the bus once we reached the port before we could get off to check in. There were several ports where Princess contributed to the lack of time as the organization for getting people off the ship for tours and/or tenders was really a challenge with long lines and delays. Overall, however, getting on and off was fairly easy. We chose Anytime Dining and often called for reservations for the time of our choice depending on activities on a given day. Some days, such as late port calls, we were unable to do that (one had to call by 5pm) and we found that a few times we had to wait for a bit to get our chosen table for two. The wait was never overly long, however. The food was very good, although I don't feel it measured up to Celebrity Cruises quality. There was an interesting mix of Asian Fusion and Australia/New Zealand concentrations that often limited the choices outside of those areas. The promised "beef on every menu" in promotional material was too often an "Aussie Burger" which included beets and fried egg. That was a disappointment to me as a beef lover. I never went hungry and only ordered from the daily repeat side of the menu once, orher than for ceasar salad; so I guess it wasn't that bad. The Golden is definitely showing signs of age, but overall is a great ship. Our cabin was small but quite adequate. In the future I will be sure to note my need for an extension cord for my sleep apnea machine as there were none available from the ship and our cabin steward gave up his own so that I could use my CPAP. That created some anxiety when it turned out he was leaving the ship on finishing his contract mid-cruise but he was able to come up with a replacement just before he left the ship! Service all around was generally excellent. Another bonus of the cruise was that we paid for onboard expenses in Australian dollars which meant that we got about a 25% discount on posted prices. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2016
The itinerary was amazing! We had never been to that part of the world. So, it was a fascinating cruise, except for Darwin. There was not much of anything there to see. The ship is tired! Of all the princess ships we have been on, this was ... Read More
The itinerary was amazing! We had never been to that part of the world. So, it was a fascinating cruise, except for Darwin. There was not much of anything there to see. The ship is tired! Of all the princess ships we have been on, this was our least favorite. The crew was as good as it gets! They are always eager to please. The entertainment was not up to par. The comedian told jokes that were geared for the Aussies. We did not understand them as we are Americans. There was a lack of interesting things to do during the day. We spent more time in our suite on this cruise than any other cruise we have taken. The food in the dining room was not very interesting. Most of what we had was delicious but more variety is needed. I think lamb was on the menu every night. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We typically travel suite class. Because it has been going where we want to go, when we want to go, we've been traveling Princess. The Sapphire Princess is a large ship! The disadvantage is that it often is berthed in a cargo area of ... Read More
We typically travel suite class. Because it has been going where we want to go, when we want to go, we've been traveling Princess. The Sapphire Princess is a large ship! The disadvantage is that it often is berthed in a cargo area of the port Vs. "in/nearer town". Despite the number of passengers, there is enough space on the ship so you don't think it is crowded. The dining rooms serves good food. The alternative dining rooms, additional fee, are fine too. There are formal nights; however, the dress code is slipping (on all the cruise lines). The code is not enforced. Some passengers make a mockery of the code. The ships tours are good. Eliminates the need to arrange for private tours at the various ports (although we have arranged to be met by private tour guides). No matter what category you are traveling on the ship, check-in leaves a lot to be desired. Typically, check-in is the worst part of the cruise. They haven't mastered it yet. Some cabins do not have a separate shower from the tub; ugh! Bottom line: You'll enjoy your Princess Cruise! Late submission due to extensive overseas travel April-July Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
SUMMARY Lovely ship with nice atmosphere being well managed by Captain Roger Bilton and Cruise Director, Brett, who kept everybody informed. Food was good but not up to the standards enjoyed on previous cruises on Sea Princess. ... Read More
SUMMARY Lovely ship with nice atmosphere being well managed by Captain Roger Bilton and Cruise Director, Brett, who kept everybody informed. Food was good but not up to the standards enjoyed on previous cruises on Sea Princess. Entertainment was poor, especially in the theatre, evidently due to excessive cost cutting. Well managed port calls with minimal queues and formalities handled very efficiently. Good mix of passengers (31% UK, 30% USA, 42 nationalities) and friendly staff (50 nationalities with the majority from the Philippines). Great itinerary from Beijing to Bangkok. Avoided the Princess tours as it was easy to get around using the free shuttles. CRUISE In April 2013 my wife and I joined the Diamond Princess in Beijing for a cruise to Bangkok. Having cruised with Princess several times we had priority ("platinum") boarding, which avoided queuing for embarkation after the long flight from London. Previous cruises had been on smaller ships (notably Sea Princess with under 2000 passengers) so we were pleased to find that the Diamond Princess (with 2700 passengers) felt very similar. We had opted for an inside cabin because the first half of the cruise would be cold and the second half too warm to make a balcony useful. This worked well as the cabins were more spacious than the earlier ships. ITINERARY The itinerary had one sea day between most port calls, which worked really well and gave us time to reflect and prepare between busy days in different countries. Princess handled all the immigration formalities with amazing efficiency, which avoided queuing delays and the need to carry passports. Having previously travelled across most of the countries visited, albeit many years ago, it was fascinating to see how much had changed. We avoided the over-priced tours offered by Princess because the free shuttle buses made it so easy to do our own thing. Travelling on the local trains, buses, ferries and trams was cheap and easy and all the main sights were in easy reach. Passengers who attended the informative port lectures soon realised how easy it was to explore by themselves but some research before joining the cruise is always worthwhile. FOOD AND DRINK We opted for fixed dining, which worked really well on our table of eight. We also used the same (International) dining room for breakfast and lunch to avoid the busy Horizon self service on deck 14. We also took afternoon tea on occasions but found that the waiters tended to rush everybody through this rather than serve at a relaxed pace. Food was generally good but not up to the standards we have enjoyed on previous Princess cruises in terms of both choice and presentation. We were well fed but none of the dishes had that "special touch" to make them memorable. Choice of desserts was disappointing and even the souffles were rather boring. We appreciate that this is mass catering on a large scale but have enjoyed better. Wine prices appear to have increased by 50% over the past 2 years and drink prices seemed rather high, with no Happy Hour on this cruise. Princess coffee has never been great, as they encourage you to buy their speciality coffee. We did not try the Italian style Sabatinis (or the other small speciality eating places) because we were already eating too much and felt no need to pay the 25 USD per head surcharge. ENTERTAINMENT We have enjoyed some great entertainment on all previous Princess cruises but can only describe the theatre entertainment as poor. The theatre seated about 1000 passengers but was seldom full because the 30 minute shows had a single act with third rate, mainly Australian, artists. We walked out of a couple of shows, as did others, because they were so bad. The on board song and dance team produced five shows but they were low budget versions of tired shows, like The Piano Man, which were much better 5 years ago. The theatre was packed on two occasions, the first being a welcome back show by 5 and 6 year old children at Nagasaki, where the Diamond Princess was built. The children were amazing and must have rehearsed for months. The staff show on the final night was packed, as usual, with everybody behaving like juveniles and having a good time. Entertainment in the various lounges was better but often far too loud. One singer/comedian, who was actually one of the cruise staff, (Jamie something) was tremendous and a great entertainer. Trivia was as popular and competitive as ever with keen competition for worthless prizes. We won several times but there was no "bubbly" to celebrate with the team members, as enjoyed previously. The scavenger hunt lasted several days but timing tended to clash with other activities. The egg drop competition was fun but had few competitors. Bingo seemed as popular as ever but those playing commented that they felt cost was too high. The art lectures were interesting but poorly attended because passengers evidently preferred the sun deck. PLACES VISITED We did not see much of China because we opted for just an over-night stop in Beijing then the Shanghai port call was cancelled due to high winds. Others, who stayed longer, endured the smog and chilly weather to make quick trips to the Forbidden City and The Great Wall, which was barely visible. After a day at sea, we reached Busan in South Korea. The Jagalchi Fish Market was fascinating and the BIFF area featuring Asian movie stars was worth a visit. The smart roof area on the Lotte department store provides great views and their food hall is superb. The following day we stopped at Nagasaki, where, like most passengers, we visited the Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Museum. Ships dock right in the town, where the Glover Garden and Catholic Church are just across the road. The Captain was obliged to avoid the long estuary to Shanghai, where the port was closed due to high winds. This gave us an extra day in Hong Kong, which we loved, after three days at sea. We avoided the busy and misty Victoria Peak and used all forms of public transport, using an Octopus Card, to get around. Watching the nightly 8pm light show, around the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade area, from the ship as we departed was a bonus. We had two consecutive stops in Vietnam, the first being Nha Trang. The Long Son Pagoda, with its huge white Buddha and the reclining Buddha can be reached on foot from the shuttle stop, as could the smelly Cho Dam market. Ho Chi Minh city was only reachable on a tour because the ship docks at the Phu My container port, which is 2.5 hours drive. Ho Chi Minh is a vibrant unspoilt place with plenty to see. Singapore has become increasingly smart and, in our opinion, lost much of its charm, especially in China Town and Little India. The buildings get ever higher as more land is reclaimed. We finished the cruise in Bangkok with a busy day visiting the Grand Palace, Wat Trimitr, Wat Pra Keo and a river cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2013
We have just returned from a Southeast Asia cruise on the Diamond Princess. The cruise was very good overall, but unfortunately we did not get to see Shanghai due to bad weather. The captain only told us two hours beforehand at ... Read More
We have just returned from a Southeast Asia cruise on the Diamond Princess. The cruise was very good overall, but unfortunately we did not get to see Shanghai due to bad weather. The captain only told us two hours beforehand at approximately 6am that we were unable to dock at Shanghai as the port was closed due to bad weather. We therefore remained at sea for three days and missed a very popular port that we were all looking forward to visit. To add insult to our disappointment, in the captain's final speech before disembarkation he mentioned our cruise "... had beaten the record of eating the most food on board". Perhaps missing a port on our itinerary and three consecutive days at sea drove us to comfort eating! I agree with other passengers reviews regarding the many problems on the Diamond Princess e.g. the ships mechanical vibration, the $25 per head dining surcharge, the expensive shore excursions, the mediocre entertainment and food to name a few. Furthermore, the gym was small for the size of ship and the classes almost non-existent e.g. the spinning only lasted for a couple of classes until the instructor disembarked at Hong Kong and was never replaced. The Skywalkers Nightclub was a waste of time and could do with an injection of someone like Jamie from the cruise staff. Diamond Princess has poor sanitation control and does not do enough to stop passengers bringing bacteria onto the ship. Most of the passengers had bad coughs by the end of the cruise. Don't bother complaining to the Princess Cruises customer services as they will only quote you their t&c's and then hope you will travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
My wife and I, with two friends, had a great time on the Diamond Princess as we toured SE Asia. This was our ninth cruise, but our first with Princess. Overall, the trip was fantastic, but there are a few items I feel Princess could ... Read More
My wife and I, with two friends, had a great time on the Diamond Princess as we toured SE Asia. This was our ninth cruise, but our first with Princess. Overall, the trip was fantastic, but there are a few items I feel Princess could improve on. I will start with the few negatives and then move on to the many positives. Over the past year, we have been on three cruises. The other two were on Carnival to New England, and Holland America to the Western Caribbean. I know it might sound crazy, but for us, Carnival had the best food of the three cruises. For the sake of brevity, I won't get into specifics, but the Carnival food was outstanding. Sadly, the Diamond food came in last. It is not that the food was bad, for us, it was just not special. Believe me, we did not go hungry, and the temps were always fine. Also, dinner was not a quick process. We had the 8:15 seating in the International Dinning Room. I guess it is my misunderstanding, but I thought the idea was to have 8:15 dinner and then make the 10:15 show. That did not work out for us, and it was not because of our talking. It took a long time to get the food and we typically did not leave the dining room until 10:15 or later. We learned to go to the 7:00 show and then to dinner. Oh yes, the shows were fine. There was a comedian who was very good, a juggler who was remarkable, and a very good Barbara Streisand like singer on the last night whose performance was way too short. Our room steward was the worst we ever had on any cruise. We had an Inside on Caribe, and while the basics were done, I had to call and ask for ice virtually every day. In fact, I just started getting it myself as it was too much of a hassle calling. Then, in Singapore, our steward changed, and the new one never introduced himself. The whole room steward thing was a little odd, but the beds were always made, the room cleaned, and the basics were taken care of in good order. Finally, the casino was the worst anywhere I have been. I found a few of the blackjack dealers to be as cold as machines. It was really bad and the casino was usually dead. In short, it was not fun at all. I got to a point were I broke even, left, and I never went back. In the end, I probably saved a lot of money. Now, with all that rubbish out of the way, everything else was amazing. The ship was roomy, clean, and beautiful. We never felt crowded, and at times, it felt deserted. The SE Asian ports were phenomenal. We feel so lucky to have had an opportunity to visit them. Oh yes, we took the Princess tours in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and they were expensive and not so good. My suggestion is to book your own tours with companies or individuals you can find on the message boards. We did this at the other ports and they were much cheaper and far superior. That really surprised us that Princess tours were so bad, especially for what they charge. Someone in charge at Princess really needs to review the tours they offer and experience the tours offered by the competition. As for some of the staff, the people at the Passenger Services desk were outstanding. We had a few issues to work through, largely involving leaving the ship for two days to visit Angkor Wat, and they were outstanding in how they helped us work through the details. Also, the activities guy, I think from Jamaica, the Cruise Director, and all the others who put on the activities were outstanding. They did a great job making the cruise a lot of fun. On a positive note, the photographers were there to take your picture if you wanted that, but they were not in your face all the time. They provided a nice service, but were not at all pushy. I think my review is beginning to get a little long, so I will bring it to an end. However, I really want to say thank you to the Cruise Critic friends we made before and during the cruise. We knew the cruise would be fantastic, but the CC group made it extraordinary. The worst part of the post cruise is that we miss our new friends so much. Do yourself a favor. If you are reading the reviews to help plan for this cruise, and if you do indeed take this wonderful adventure, get involved with the message boards. I promise, you will not regret you did, and your adventure will be all the more memorable. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
I sailed on the Diamond Princess from BeiJing to Vancouver in 2012. The distance sailed was 11277 kilometers. It was a very nice experience. Pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/dp2012 I call this cruise my re-enactment of my ... Read More
I sailed on the Diamond Princess from BeiJing to Vancouver in 2012. The distance sailed was 11277 kilometers. It was a very nice experience. Pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/dp2012 I call this cruise my re-enactment of my father's sailing to Gold Mountain. Chinese call the USA Gold Mountain. I was five-months old when he sailed from Shanghai to San Francisco. I know of no cruise for that route these days and this cruise was the closest I found. While for me this cruise was hedonistic enjoyment on a familiar ship and lifestyle, I think my father's cruise was quite different. He had just sent his wife and son to GuangZhou to live with his father. At 37 he was seeking a new life in an unfamiliar culture. Meanwhile his old world was changing as the Communists came to power in China. I would think it was a time of uncertainty and anxiety. On this cruise the Diamond became Chinatown. Cantonese was heard everywhere. Menus were printed in Chinese although the translation was often incorrect. I even heard an announcement in Chinese. I organized a Meet and Greet for the folks on board from Cruise Critic and most of the senior staff came, the Captain, the Staff Captain, the Cruise Director and his deputy, the Hotel Manager, the Customer Service Manager plus some underlings. 1. Embarkation The cruise terminal at TianJin, the Cruise Ship Home Port, is only about two years old. It is huge. It is about 45 km from the center of TianJin. Just about the only alternative to Princess's transfer is a similar one run by Tour Beijing. Their bus run from the International Hotel, a major landmark and a short walk from Beijing's main train station. http://www.tour-beijing.com/xingang_beijing/cruise_coach_transfer.php#2 To book by credit card you need to send them an image of both sides of your credit card. To book via PayPal you need money already on deposit at PayPal. I got to the International Hotel at about 8:15 am and the buses were already there. Luggage went on a separate van. My suitcase beat me to the cabin. We departed at 10:00 am. May 1 was a major holiday so there was little traffic on the highways. We made excellent time to the TangGu region of Tianjin. Then we stopped because the driver did not know how to reach the pier. I provided two maps [in Chinese] and eventually we reached the pier around 12:40 pm. The cost of the transfer was RMB 376 or US$60, less than the $84 that Princess charges. The cruise terminal has large duty-free shops with a good selection of liquors and some wine. I thought the embarkation process was unduely complicated. People were called by groups. Although drinks and snacks were provided, we waited quite a while to board. 2. Ship condition The ship was in good condition because of the continuous cleaning and fixing. The Diamond does not have an International Cafe nor Crown Grill. All the crew I encountered were courteous and smiling. They work hard to keep the passengers happy. I had an inside cabin. The TV is a flat screen about 21 inches. Everything worked. The gym was open from 7 am to 10 pm. All but one of the machines worked. The aerobic machines have individual TV screens. Movies Under The Stars was continuous, even when temperature was 0 C and the deck iced over. 3. Food Food was good but not great. I had anytime dining and never waited for a table because I share. About seven days into the cruise, the menu began to be repeated. There was no effort to get local specialties. Every other day or so there was a special buffet in the covered pool area. I thought the selection and quality at Horizon Court were very good. Most of the time I found tables difficult to come by. 4. Entertainment There were five production shows on this 20-day cruise. Actually there were two troupes of singers and dancers. One troupe ended their contract half way through and the replacement troupe was already on board, so the new troupe did the last two production shows. In 15 minutes it was obvious that the new troupe was much superior to the old troupe. The last show was done to canned music. Maurizio was on board. Whenever he performed in the atrium, it was completely filled with people dancing and singing. There was a couple who must be in their 80's who danced every song. He made the jerky movement of his arthritic joints a feature! 5. Ports of Call * DaLian was the first port of call. There was a free shuttle into town. There were some young people who served as human arrows to point the way. I found out they have been imported and cannot give directions locally. The shuttle bus went to the Friendship Store. This Friendship Store is an upscale mall. In the basement supermarket I got an expensive bottle of Chinese wine which turned out to be very ordinary. Down a side street there is a local market. Other than that DaLian offers no attractions for me. * Busan The cruise port at Busan is spartan. There are no permanent buildings. But the people in Busan more than make up for it. They provide a free shuttle from the port to the Hotel Phoenix in the center of town. From there all major points of interest are easily reachable. At the dock a bank came in a truck. There are three money changer desks and ATMs. The shuttle to town takes 20 minutes through pretty bad traffic. The free Wi-Fi at the Hotel Phoenix was so busy as to be unusable. I did the kilometer-long underground shopping mall Nampodong. At 10 am therre was not much action. I bought a pair of socks for US$0.50. The seafood market is truly remarkable. There are seafood vendors for blocks around. One can see the seafood being unloaded from ships. On the ground floor of the market there are some 300 stalls. The range and quality are fantastic. One can take the seafood to the second floor and have it cooked. The restaurants on the second floor also sell seafood directly. But all the seating is Korean style. On the fifth floor is OASE seafood buffet restaurant, 26,000 won per person. At lunch the next day a guy told me he plus three friends went to the beach and had two fish for lunch. The bill was US$168. I opted to search for a ginseng chicken for lunch. I found one that has been in business for 55 years [www.nampo-chicken.co.kr]. The menu is only about ten items, various kinds of ginseng with chicken. An array of kim chi comes with it. My chicken soup was 18,000 won [US$16.37]. In Busan I found that the first alley inside from the main street to be the most interesting, full of bars. I found an internet cafe that charge US$0.90 for an hour and did my email. There was a very long queue for the shuttle back to the ship. At the pier there is a stage. Just as we were ready to depart, Korean women came and performed traditional dances for us. I watched from Deck 7. See my pictures and videos. Scheduled departure was 4:30 but some of the Princess excursions did not get back until 5 pm so we were treated to more dances. As we pulled away volunteers held up placards that said "See You Again." It was touching. * Vladivostok Vladivostok was grey and dreadry. My string of 12 sunny days has ended. Vladivostok is the terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Diamond Princess was docked right next to the train station. It turns out the train station is small. The center of town was about a 12-minute walk away. I got some rubles at an ATM. It was Sunday and the moneychangers were nowhere to be found. My objective was to buy vodka and caviar. I accomplished this quickly at a supermarket at the intersection of Svetlanskaya and Aleutskaya. My search for an internet place failed, however. * Muroran US$1 = 76.86 yen The City of Muroran has gone all out to welcome us on the Diamond Princess. We were welcomed with six pages of color maps. There is a free shuttle service, with buses running in two directions. At the four stops there are volunteers who can guide and translate. Even two blocks from Stop 5 there was a lady to guide me into the internet shop. Undeniably though, Muroran is a city in decline. By noon most shops were not open. The Japanese certainly have pride in their cities. Muroran is spotless. At Stop 5 I was in Nagasakiya, a hyper mart, and bought a single piece of tempura ebi (large shrimp) for 50 yens. Had it been piping hot and crispy I would have bought more. Also at Stop 5 I used the internet place Free-Style. You can only use their computers which do not have Skype. It is a semi-private booth with what I consider uncomfortable seating. Half an hour use was 480 yens. For those looking for wine, there is Matsunaga which is right at Stop 4, in the Platto Tetsuichi. They have a large range of wines at all prices. * Seward After six sea days all of us were glad to be on land again. A free shuttle runs from the ship to downtown Seward, about a five-minute drive. The buses also stop at the Tourist Information Center which is immediately adjacent to a huge Safeway with both a Starbucks and a liquor store inside. When we were there the road to Exit Glacier was still closed so a major attraction was unavailable. With only 2,000 people there is not much in Seward. In downtown I entered a bar/liquor store. The lady bartender had to be there with me in the liqour store. The shuttle buses came from Anchorage. The Library in Seward offers free Wi-Fi. They even have some machines of their own for which there was a queue. I was also glad I was there early as the librarians said at 2 pm the place would be filled with kids. With snow on all the nearby hills practically down to sea level, the scenery is spectacular. One of the drivers said this overcast day is the best day they've had in a long time. * Juneau Juneau is the capital of Alaska but the population is only 30,000. It is a short walk into town. I discovered that I had only $20 in my pocket! I spent $5 for an hour of internet and bought a sweatshirt for $10. Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Itidarod sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, came on board to give a talk, show video and meet the passengers. It was a moving and enjoyable time. [http://www.libbyriddles.com] *Ketchikan By now I am tired of the tourist stores which appear to be the same in all the Alaskan ports. I was happy to be in the Tribal Store where for $3.25 I got a latte and internet usage. The Forest Service sent two rangers to give a talk. It was somewhat interesting. There are some national forests bigger than some states. 6. Disembarkation Four ships arrived at Vancouver together. It was long lines and chaos. I was glad to be picked up by relatives. The Chinese food in Vancouver was unbelievably good. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
Before we get into the detail we want you to know we really enjoyed this cruise and would do it again. Our holiday started in Bejing, and we flew from Manchester via Dubai with Emirates on their A480s with 30 Kilos each of luggage ... Read More
Before we get into the detail we want you to know we really enjoyed this cruise and would do it again. Our holiday started in Bejing, and we flew from Manchester via Dubai with Emirates on their A480s with 30 Kilos each of luggage allowed. We had a two nights pre-cruise stay at the Marriott (City Wall) hotel. The hotel has good rooms, a good Pizza restaurant but breakfast (which was provided free) was only so-so (pre-prepared food only warm, not hot and eggs decidedly underdone for us). Note we were there 29 April to 1 May which is a Chinese bank holiday, Beijing was very busy with the world and his wife on holiday there! On the 30th April we walked to the Temple of Heaven (this took us about an hour -- Bejing is a large city and distances on the local maps underplay the distances). We bought a Temple, Gardens and other parts ticket, however did not really understand it as all in Chinese, and one of the buildings within the gardens we then would have had to play extra to go into (so we opted not to). After we left the Temple we went across to the acrobatic theatre and booked tickets for the evening acrobatic show -- only charged us 100 Yuan. It was a warm day so after an ice cream in the local KFC we then got a bus up to Tianamen Square (only 1 Yuan/RMB to travel any distance on the bus) which took about 10 minutes -- the buses have the stop place names in English(ish) as well as Chinese which was useful. After a tour of the square (we had been before on a previous holiday) we caught the bus back to the acrobatic theatre. It was an excellent show, we really do not know how people can be so flexible and strong! Transfer to the cruise ship took around 2 hours (with a 20 minute stop half way), it is amazing how much building work is still going on (and how much the new developments mimic American/European architecture). We were on the Diamond Princess in Cabin D503 -- a very good mini-suite but occasionally we could smell cigarette smoke in the bedroom area, perhaps this is because we were above the starboard promenade deck. Since our last cruise on the Diamond Princess (2009) we found a few changes: - they have introduced discounted drinks for platinum, elite and suite customer in SkyWalkers bar from 17:00 to 19:00 if you have the cocktail of the day (plus canapes/nibbles provided) which we enjoyed most evenings; - In the Horizon Court restaurant the cutlery & napkins are on the tables now, rather than with the trays; - Sabatini's has a new (very good menu). We were "Anytime" dining, and usually ate in the Savoy restaurant -- it is advisable to book a table if you want to eat at a particular time (or if you are a couple and want just a table for 2). Remember that if you are on a large table, you may only want 2 courses but other may want more, and they always serve all the same courses together! The ports we called at on the Asian side of the cruise were Dalian (China), Busan (South Korea), Vladivostock (Russia) Muroran (Japan) -- do read the instructions provided in the cabin regarding your passports and immigration checks as it will save you time in the long run. After Japan we then had 6 days at sea -- every night the clocks went forward an hour, which can interfere with your sleep patterns. We also crossed the International Date Line, so we went from 12 hours in front of the UK to 12 hours behind, and we had 10th May twice! During the sea days there was therefore lots of people doing the on-board activities. We did all of the quizzes (general knowledge, music, movies, theatre and musicals), and although there are prizes for the winners, it really is the winning that counts (as the prizes are really only token gifts - such as lanyards, drinking beakers, keyring lights and fridge magnet clips). We used the internet whilst on board, however as this is via a satellite it is more like a dial up speed rather than broadband There was a storm in the northern pacific, so the captain took a more northerly route into the Bering Sea, before crossing back into the Pacific near Kodiak island, therefore we got to see some of the Aleutian Islands. Due to the Captain's change the Pacific Ocean lived up to its name and most days the ships navigation system recorded the waves as "slight", only once during the entire cruise did the sea look remotely rough and with the ships stabilisers out you really did not feel it. After leaving Muroran the temperature started to drop and the day before we had our first Alaskan port (Seward) it snowed. Many of the passengers (and crew) had never seen snow before and were very excited by this (some of them soon learned that snow is also very slippery, and the outside decks were closed for safety reasons). We were not lucky enough to see any whales during the cruise, but we saw dolphins, seals and sealions. Trips ashore We did the following excursions: Dalian -- City Walk and kite flying. Dalian is a big, modern city. English speaking student guides took us round and were friendly (and you needed them to help crossing the roads, as there was lots of traffic!) midway through the tour we went to a restaurant and were provided with drinks, we chose Beer. Then off to a park for kite flying (cheap kites that you then take home with you), it was a calm day with little breeze so not actually that successful for kite flying. We had lunch back on the boat. Busan -- we went to Yunggungsa Temple, the APEC building and short time around the central market area (not really enough time to shop, but there were shops opposite the ship) Free shuttle into town (not walkable). Vladivostock -- The ship docks pretty much in the centre of town so you can easily walk everywhere. Our trip went to the "Eagles Nest" (a hill overlooking the town), a Russian Orthodox church, the local natural history museum and a submarine. All apart from the Eagles Nest was an easy walk from the boat. For us, not going to the museum would not have been a loss but the submarine was excellent! Next door to the dock was the railway station, which is the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This is well worth a look around (even if you do not like trains). Muroran -- We did the trip to see the Lake and volcano, but if you have been somewhere like Lanzorote then this is not on the scale of what you find there. Muroran is an industrial port town, not really a tourist destination as such. We did go to the big supermarket for Sapporo Beer. There were free shuttle buses that do circular routes around the town, which is quite spread out . You can hop-on/hop off at the designated stops. Seward -- We did our own thing, getting the free shuttle into town. We went to the Aquarium which was interesting, and generally walked around the town (lots of tourist shops there) as well as looking at the Iditarod dog sled trail. We (seemingly like a lot of people) went to Safeways. Other passengers who went on the whale watching trip reported seeing whales etc on that trip. Remember that it can be cold there in May. Juneau -- We went to the Glacier, a rainforest tour and salmon hatchery. The trip did not start until mid morning, so we walked into town first thing (again the ship is moored right in town) and looked around. There was no food provided and no shopping time available after the trip (at the rain forest there was a Cafe, we never made it to the visitors centre at the glacier but probable there are snacks and drinks available there too). As it was not Salmon season (early July they return) there was not really that much to see at the Salmon hatchery! Ketchikan -- The ship is moored right in town. We went on the "Misty Fjords" seaplane trip, great little flight and after landing in one of the fjords we all (6 passengers per plane, everyone gets a window seat) got out and walked on the floats. Amazingly calm and quiet. We had a good walk around the town, again lots of touristy shops! Vancouver -- The only negative comment we have is the final transfer from the ship terminal to the hotel -- getting through customs and immigration was fine, and then we picked up our cases. However once outside it was disorganised chaos, as there then 3 ships berthed all with passengers disembarking and new passengers joining). It took around 20 minutes to get through the formal bits, and then we waited 1hr 40 minutes for the coach to take us to the hotel (the Four seasons) which was literally only a 10 minute walk away. The hotel was good (no food included as part of the stay), and as part of the "Pacific Centre" complex meant you could access the underground shopping network from the hotel. We Walked to Stanley Park, The Vancouver lookout (ticket is for 24 hours, so you can go during the day, leave and then go back at night), and Gas Street. The next day it started to rain, so we first went to the Aquarium by bus (we bought a day pass). It was again a bank holiday weekend, so again things were pretty busy in Vancouver too), then we went back into town and went to the cinema. We checked before we went, but there were no significant theatre/music events on whilst we were there, otherwise we would have booked a show. Princess provided a voucher for the taxi transfer to the airport, we flew home with Air Canada (only 23 Kilos of luggage allowed, if you are over they will charge you $100 Canadian and they were very strict!!). Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
The purpose of this report is to mention some Diamond Princess problems (by the way we have sailed Princess several times before and not encountered these things before). 1. There were no hand sanitizers before you entered the ... Read More
The purpose of this report is to mention some Diamond Princess problems (by the way we have sailed Princess several times before and not encountered these things before). 1. There were no hand sanitizers before you entered the restaurants or buffet. Even when many passengers had colds and flu and the Medical Officer put a report in the bulletin that we should wash our hands because there were alot of people sick on board! In the buffet there was one stand with sanitizer standing hidden by a wall a long way into the buffet but you really had to search to find it. Even the waiters in the Lido weren't sure where it was when I asked! 2. There was a very poor Captain's Party indeed. There were no hors d'oeuvres and very few drinks; some people didn't even receive a drink. The waiters just disappeared and never returned after about 10 minutes. They had a loud band playing - so loud that we couldn't even converse with the couple sitting next to us! Why do they have to play soooo loud? Does no-one control these boys? Do they think we need a "Carnival party atmosphere", or what is this? On a 17 day sailing in February there were no youths or teens on board to appreciate that racket. And the Captain didn't come. The cruise director made announcements and gave the usual presents to long-time members. No handshake with any officers or anything. 3. The Captain did address us for a "welcome" in the Atrium. He stood on a balcony and his words through a microphone into that space were so muffled that no-one could hear what he said. Many people just gave up and started to talk the others beside them, so that didn't help. Fortunately, most people at least got one drink as the waiters continued to circulate with trays for about 1/2 hour. 4. We were constantly pestered to buy stuff, more than usual for Princess. 5. There was no Princess blue bag supplied to take on shore excursions. That was a first for us. We could have brought a day bag from home had we known. 6. They only supplied cheap one-ply toilet paper that tore into bits when you tried to use it. The steward did not provide new kleenex, toilet paper, and soap unless we tracked him down and asked for it. He stopped providing anything fresh 2 days before the end of the cruise. Is this new Princess policy - maybe not. Guess he already had his standard tips by then? He sure didn't get anything extra from us - and we usually give our steward a little more on debarkation day as a thank-you. 7. Stateroom needed attention. There was a sharp needle sticking out of the carpet right in front of the bathroom door where you had to put your foot to enter. I cut my toe on it twice until I learned to put a hand towel over it. Of course every time the steward entered the cabin he took it up and I had to replace it. I must however commend the front office staff. They were terrific, sympathetic and efficient. I had left something important on shore in China and they managed to get it to me at the next Chinese port (albeit at some cost to me). Read Less
Sail Date: May 2011
First time to Beijing and we were very impressed. Very good value with pre-cruise Princess hotel and tour package of 3 days. Two more ports in China, and then Busan and Vladivostok. Went on Princess tour in Busan to the old Silla capital ... Read More
First time to Beijing and we were very impressed. Very good value with pre-cruise Princess hotel and tour package of 3 days. Two more ports in China, and then Busan and Vladivostok. Went on Princess tour in Busan to the old Silla capital and was very interesting. Vladivostok was interesting, just walked around on our own, saw the famous railway station - end of the Trans Siberian Railway, and after that 8 days across the Bering Sea to Alaska. The embarkation went very smoothly and in general staff was very friendly and accommodating. The dining room staff was excellent as well as cruise director and staff. Food was ok. We had mostly all meals in the dining room because the Horizon court was very crowded and it was difficult to find a free table. This could be more so because the weather was too cold for anyone to sit and eat on the open decks. We normally prefer the smaller ships, but the Diamond Princess was definitely a much friendlier ship than say, Crown Princess, and if choosing a big ship, would cruise on her again. For anyone contemplating taking this cruise, please note it is very cold across the ocean, especially in May, and most activities were indoors. Very few people choose to watch "movie under the stars" or any other outside activity. This of course made it a bit crowded inside. The Internet cafe on the Diamond Princess is very pleasant and plenty of computers and relaxing atmosphere. The Internet connection until Alaska was fine, but I felt sorry for those passengers joining in Alaska and who bought an Internet package, because from Whittier to Vancouver there were very few times when Internet was accessible. The Inside Passage ports were very interesting and the highlight of the trip down was the Glacier Bay cruising. We saw quite a lot of sea life and the last evening cruising down the BC coast was very enjoyable, as well as the cruising into beautiful Vancouver harbour. Disembarkation was handled very well. All in all, a good experience, especially if one likes bigger ships and formal dinners. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
Beijing 3 day Pre-tour, staying at Marriott City Wall. This was excellent. We did the pre-arranged day tours, as well as the optional evening tours. Whilst tiring, all the tours were worth it. Just a warning - the hotel is very ... Read More
Beijing 3 day Pre-tour, staying at Marriott City Wall. This was excellent. We did the pre-arranged day tours, as well as the optional evening tours. Whilst tiring, all the tours were worth it. Just a warning - the hotel is very expensive for drinks and food. However, the evening optional tours included an evening meal, making them good value for money. Our guide was excellent and we visited many places, including the Olympic Stadium, Tiannamen Square, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Great Wall, the night market (with all the strange food stalls), as well as an amazing Chinese acrobatic show. Also included was a visit to a local house and a rickshaw ride. The transfer from the airport to the hotel was quick and efficient, as was the transfer to the ship, which was a 2.5 hour drive from Beijing. One word of warning, though, I did have some of my medication stolen from the hotel room (in bedside drawer) ... so best lock yours away if necessary. The hotel was very comfortable and Princess had representatives in the hotel for most of the day. There were several hundred passengers staying at the hotel. We did have the same guide and group for the pre-arranged tours, which was really good, as we got to know quite a few people before embarkation. When we arrived at the ship, our passports were taken for the duration of the voyage. We thought this a bit odd, but they were delivered back to our rooms by the steward when required. Immigration officials were on the boat to deal with all the various stops, so there were no delays getting off for the tours.There was a diverse mix of nationalities on the ship .... from US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, as well as South America, New Zealand and even Russia. There were plenty of activities on both port and sea days and the CD (Dan from Australia) was very good (he was better than some of the professional comedians!!). Ships tours: these were very well organised with few delays. At the tender ports, extra local tenders were put on to get passengers off quickly. It worked well. Also, there were free shuttle buses arranged for all ports, for those who were making their own arrangements.Diamond Princess is an excellent ship. Our room was clean and we had an excellent steward (Danny) who was always smiling and happy to help. We didn't feel that the ship was ever crowded. We did ask for a replacement duvet, as the original one was lumpy - no problem, it was replaced immediately, as were the pillows. Lots of places to get away and relax. Even on sea days there were plenty of sunbeds/loungers available. The Deck Stewards appeared to make sure that loungers were not "saved" and we saw them removing towels from unoccupied loungers on several occasions. All the crew seemed happy - our only complaint would be the lack of information at times from Passenger Services. The internet was very slow and we ended up not using up all our minutes, as a couple of times the internet was down for a couple of days.Dining. We were "Anytime" dining - we never had to wait for more than a few minutes for a table and didn't book at all. The Head Waiter did check the room numbers each time and anyone from Traditional Dining wanting to use the Anytime Dining Rooms were asked to wait until after 08.30, which seemed fair to us. Even the food in Horizon Court was good, although it was sometimes crowded at breakfast time on port days where tours were starting early. The food was good and always hot. We didn't go to many shows - just looked in on some but didn't stay. Formal nights - I don't think we will bother with these in future, especially with the luggage restrictions. Nothing special, apart from the usual champagne waterfall on the first one and a Captain's cocktail party on another. These just seem to be another opportunity to sell formal photographs. On one formal night we went to the Sterling Steakhouse and had an excellent meal. However, despite the dress code being "Smart Casual", DH was asked to change into a long-sleeved shirt (again lack of information), although a tie and/or jacket was not required (strange, as he was wearing a tailored, short-sleeved shirt and smart trousers).Dalian - was dusty and not worth the tour or the stop. If we were doing it again, we would just use the shuttle bus, or even just not get off the ship.Busan, Korea - again, not worth the tour. We didn't get to see Shanghai, as the port was closed (for 2 days as we later found out) because of thick fog, so our double-entry visa was wasted! However, we did have an extra afternoon/evening in Hong Kong which was really good. We got to see the evening light show and have yet another Chinese Dinner.All the other tours were very good. Ho Chi Ming City was a long drive ... about 2.5 hours on bumpy, slow roads. Traffic was horrendous, but it was interesting to see all the motorcycles, scooters, etc. We opted out of going to Bangkok (again a long drive) as by this time we were getting just a bit tired of long bus journeys. Disembarkation in Singapore was quick and efficient. We had a day tour of Singapore, visiting China Town, Raffles Hotel, Orchid Gardens, etc. and lunch (instead of the advertised "Hospitality Room for UK passengers"). Princess needs to be more forthcoming with information about disembarkation to avoid upset passengers. We arrived at the airport at about 18.45 for our flight home, where our luggage was waiting for us (that was a bit of a scrum). Check in was fast and efficient, but be prepared to go through several security checks.MUTS is noisy and not worth it. Not many people watching the evening film.All in all, an excellent cruise. We love the Diamond Princess and would cruise on her again. We did hear from a bar steward that at the next dry dock she would get an International Cafe and Wine Bar, but I don't know how accurate that it (although he did say that it would be situated where the library is at present). Gym - equipment outdated and old fashioned, so didn't bother to use it. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
We flew from Heathrow to Beijing with British Airways. The service was really good (who said BA cabin staff are demoralised?) and the food was excellent!We stayed at Marriott City Wall, a very good hotel except for breakfast when they ... Read More
We flew from Heathrow to Beijing with British Airways. The service was really good (who said BA cabin staff are demoralised?) and the food was excellent!We stayed at Marriott City Wall, a very good hotel except for breakfast when they could not cope with the numbers. There was a long queue to get into the dining room and they kept running out of food and were slow to replenish. Food was good though!We had booked the three day pre-cruise tour and added on two optional evening tours. The daytime tours were excellent and the evening tours worth doing. We had the same guide (Tom) for the daytime tours, he was really good and had very good English. We visited the Olympic Stadium, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Hutong (where we visited an old quadrangle house and had a rickshaw ride), the Summer Palace, The Great Wall of China (the highlight of the holiday) and the Temple of Heaven.All five tours included a Chinese meal and while they were good (especially the Peking Duck lunch) we realised we could easily get tired of Chinese food.Transfers from the airport to the hotel and from Beijing to the ship were efficient. Embarkation was super fast taking less than 30 minutes from coach to cabin.Diamond Princess is a nice ship. It is almost a twin of Ventura (P & O) that we are familiar with so we had little difficulty finding our way about. The ship didn't feel too big - unless you had to get from bow to stern in a hurry! There always seemed to be plenty of room on the ship and sunbeds were always available even on sea days. Our cabin steward was good and always eager to help.We were "anytime dining" for the first time and it suited us well. We didn't book ahead and got straight into our chosen dining room almost every time. On only one occasion did we see a long queue and we moved to another dining room and got straight in. We met lots of interesting people mainly from UK, US and Australia (strangely all the Aussies claimed not to like cricket and didn't want to talk about it!!!) The service was very good in all the dining rooms and the food was of a high standard. The buffet at the Horizon Court was good for breakfast and lunch. The entertainment was mixed, some good, some poor. This was our first cruise with Princess and we were disappointed with some of the shows. Some regular Princess cruisers we met said the same thing. Maybe this is a Far East problem!The ToursDalian: We took the walking tour of the city with kite flying. It wasn't worth doing - there wasn't even enough wind to fly the kites.Shanghai: Unfortunately we missed out on Shanghai as the port was closed due to severe fog.Ho Chi Minh City: We visited a Lacquer Factory and a market and had time in the city on our own. This was a good tour. The journey from the port to HCMC took two and a half hours but it was an interesting journey and the time passed quickly.Bangkok: As we had been to Bangkok before we opted for the Elephant Krall. This was an excellent visit where we learned a lot about elephants and how they are being looked after and had an opportunity to ride on one (and get a photograph).Singapore: We enjoyed a tour of Singapore on the last day even though we were expecting a hospitality room - more later!Shipboard activities: Outside activities like shuffleboard and quoits were very badly organised - Princess could take lessons from P & O. The beer tasting was a complete rip off, $10 for five thimblefuls of beer and a poor talk! The Computers at Sea seemed overpriced at $30 for a 45 minute session on photo editing.We obviously "drew the short straw" as we were booked on Quantas for the return journey Singapore to Heathrow. The service was good but the food was like airline food used to be. I had forgotten how bad that was. The presentation of the food was awful and the taste even worse!Overall impressionsThe pre-cruise tour was superb!The cruise was good and we liked Diamond Princess, the staff and the food.Princess needs to improve its communication with passengers. Between booking the cruise and joining the ship the cruise itinerary changed some seven times and we were only informed about the last two changes. In addition, we were promised a hospitality room on the last day in Singapore. I found out when I received the disembarkation schedule that we were "Late Departing UK Passengers with Tour" i.e. a tour had been substituted for the hospitality room and I had not been informed of the change.A general point: The trend in cruising is to bigger ships. The effect of this can be two fold. Firstly there is more need to use tenders. This is no problem if you have booked an organised tour as you get priority but if you are not on a tour it can take up to three hours to get ashore! Secondly in some cases the bigger ships can only berth in commercial ports that can be up to three hours drive from the visiting city. We encountered both these issues on the cruise. While they did not spoil the holiday it is something we will have to take into account in the future when choosing a cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
I was looking for Mediterranean cruise in April 2011. This cruise popped up and the price was irresistible, booked the cruise 10 days advance only. We had an ocean view cabin 244 on Plaza deck, or 5th floor. Check in at Xin ... Read More
I was looking for Mediterranean cruise in April 2011. This cruise popped up and the price was irresistible, booked the cruise 10 days advance only. We had an ocean view cabin 244 on Plaza deck, or 5th floor. Check in at Xin Gang (Tian Jin) was smooth, nice and new passenger cruise port terminal. No shop, nothing to buy or shop, just coffee and tea counter provided by the ship. The new terminal is a bit far off, we took the High speed train from Beijing at around 13.30 pm. Got there in slightly over an hour. Beware, buy the train ticket in advance, or you may not have a seat. From the train station, we took a cab, they over charged us slightly, but no big deal, understandable because the port is middle of no where. Taxi fee was 100 Yuan. One bad point is no direction to port or terminal at Princess website, nor provided to us by Princess agent in Thailand. A bit difficult to find the port info from Google. The ship departed 2 hours late due to heavy fog and highway accident that clogged the traffic. Passengers were arriving late. The lounge is nice, 3 storey of shiny brasses, glasses and chandelier. The cabin is ok, slightly old. But for foul smell at the fridge. Cabin layout is ok , we liked it. Sheet, mattresses, blankets are ok. Bed cover a bit old. No bed bug. Our cabin attendent is Ronald, a Philippino, he provided good service throughout the cruise. Toilet and toiletries are ok. The toilet flush broke down once , but was repair in a jiffy after a phone call. Food in the buffet is not that good,choices are vary enough, but quality is barely passing. The morning eggs are terrible. Buffet is available 24/7, good point. Coffee is just barely passing, tea bags choices are great. Available 24 hours at the buffet cafe. Dining rooms are nicely decorated, food quality, food choices, service are great. Most dishes are good, but for few. Wine choices and price are OK with us. But fellow passengers complained about the wine price. I love the morning and afternoon waffle, afternoon burger, and soft ice cream. Shows are great, both the stage and performance. Gym and workout facility is OK. Spa is good. Port visits are well organized, courtesy buses at most ports. Except for very bare and dull Phumy port in Vietnam, otherwise all ports are good. We visited Pusan, Nagasaki, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Thang Long, Phumy, Koh Samui, Laem Chabang, Singapore. We are independent travelers,so we didn't buy any port excursion. I would say if you are experienced travelers, been to Asia, you don't need to buy any for these ports of call, but may be Phumy if you wished to visit Ho Chi Min. Or Laem Chabang if you wish to visit Bangkok. It is a bit far off. If you are not familiar with China, cannot communicate in Mandarin, I suggest shore excursion for Shanghai as well. Beware of Shanghai Taxi, very bad indeed. Disembarkation in Singapore is very slow, but not ship fault. Probably due to two ships calling at the same time, and the terminal is very crowded and congested. Taxi queuing line is long. Plenty of taxi though. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2010
Ship size and operating efficiencies are forsemost in the cruise companies minds - but the question is what do we - the cruise passenger - get out of their determination to migrate to bigger and bigger ships? The cruise lines claim our ... Read More
Ship size and operating efficiencies are forsemost in the cruise companies minds - but the question is what do we - the cruise passenger - get out of their determination to migrate to bigger and bigger ships? The cruise lines claim our ultimate benefit is economy. That may be, (and I doubt if it is true anyway) - but if it is - it is false economy - certainly on am itinerary such as the far east Beijing to Singapore. The ship was unable to dock at the cruise terminals close to the ports of call. Too bog!. This necessitated docking at remote container ports, all with the charm of perpetual motion and noise - and necessitated hour long drives to and from the destination. These destinations included Busan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, and Singapore. The biggest problem of the one hour to, and one hour from shuttles is the necessity to add wait times to get a shuttle. So the reader can easily see that a 9-5 port time would effectively become 11-3, an absolute sin in places like Hong Kong! Where the ship tendered the deal for passengers was almost as bad, with long tendering delays. Even Princess acknowledge up to 3 hours to clear the ship, and as with the shuttles, time has to be added to line up for the tenders. So for those hoping to plan a decent day in some wonderful and exotic ports, - think again. And to compound the problems the ships punctuality was very poor - almost always late to arrive - and always on time to leave. Very problematic for those who prefer self-organized tours over the vastly overpriced Princess tours, and thus don't have the guarantee that the ship will wait. The ship was sailing into a refurbishing at Singapore - but didn't think it was in bad shape at all. Nothing looked too tired or shabby. The crew, especially the wait staff, were eager and energetic, if very very green. They seem to be relying heavily an Thai staff these days. Didn't have too much of a problem with this except for the inevitable delays and lateness in the dining room. Food was OK - perhaps a little below Princesses' average - and I attributed this probably to the new cook staff. The only huge problem with the sailing was the internet cafe - and this may have been due to an incredibly rude and ineffective staffer. Photographers seemed to be less of a pest than usual - but keep your eyes open for Princess' new ways to reach into your wallet. Automatic gratuity deductions of up to $11.50 per person per day (easily remedied of course) - but a new wrinkle. Order a drink - and you will be presented with a tab which includes 15% tip, and now includes a new line for you to ADD another gratuity! Same with room service! And careful how you answer when asked (in the dining room) whether you want water! As to the ports. Busan was interesting, but in an industrial sense. Tour guides here are not professional and ours didn't communicate well, and was maybe a bit embarrased by her own ineptitude. Nagasaki was wonderful. Easy to do on your own. An all day tram pass is the key to the city - and the locals went all out to help us with directions. The Atomic Bomb areas were must see - and the trip up, and the view from, Mount Thing were unmissable. Hong Kong, as usual, was a delight - and should have warranted an overnight. Shanghai was smoggy - what else is new - and the Hop on Hop Off bus is the way to go. Take a taxi to the Bund from the shuttle stop (a silk factory) to get to the action. Viet Nam (Nha Trang and Saigon) were for us the stars of the show. Very third world, but very honest and pleasing. probably the best place for shopping. Bangkok and Ko Samui in Thailand were both excellent ports of call - but the long bus rid to Bangkok from the container port was a bit wilting! Singapore is a very interesting city - but very very hot - and very very expensive. But mayve the heat justifies $11 for a cold beer - who knows. Highly recommend the itinerary - but not on the Diamond. Look for this itinerary on the Ocean. A much better time will be had I'm sure! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2009
We were looking forward to our first cruise in the East. We had a wonderful itinerary Beijing to Bangkok. We spent 3 nights in Beijing first then we were due to board the Diamond but the fog in Beijing stopped all the traffic and we were ... Read More
We were looking forward to our first cruise in the East. We had a wonderful itinerary Beijing to Bangkok. We spent 3 nights in Beijing first then we were due to board the Diamond but the fog in Beijing stopped all the traffic and we were stuck in Beijing until they opened the roads - we got to the ship about 4pm and the sailing was delayed for all the other late arrivals. Our embarkation was the quickest we have ever had. It must have been 15 mins in total - very organised and flowed well. We have an inside cabin - it was really good - very roomy. We like the walk in wardrobe/dressing room style. We had booked set dining - second sitting - the first night is a free for all and we had a wonderful waiter and we all had a good laugh. Unfortunately from then on we had our own table - in the cold air of the air conditioning - the slowest head waiter we had ever had. He had 3 tables - and often waited for everyone before putting any orders into the kitchen - by this time we had often been waiting for 15 mins or more - we were always there on time - some people only strolled into the dining room 15 - 20 mins later. Because of this we often ate at the buffet - so we could eat and catch a show. We found the food very good - although maybe not as good as our food on the Star. We left Beijing in thick fog and this continued for about 4 days. We were looking forward to some of the ports - Shanghai - but the fog spoiled this - delayed our arrival. Because we were in such a large ship it had to dock at a container port and meant a 1 and a half hour trip to the town. The fog spoiled any views and then the rain came - so we almost got the return coach back. Okinawa was a lovely day - not much to do there and we only ha half a day. Taiwain was raining but seemed nice - we had children dancing for us on the dock. Hong Kong was wonderful. But again we were in the container port and it was about 30 mins to town on the coach. You had to be back on board by 6pm if you wanted to be aboard for its repositioning - it went through the harbour during the light show and anchors in Junk Bay - there is then a 1 hour tender. Then onto Vietnam - Nha Trang - was a tender - it was really lovely. Then the following day we docked in Phu My - the container port for Ho Chi Minh city - it was about 2 hour drive to HCM - we did a trip down the coast. Singapore next - Another container port - an hours drive to Singapore and then only half a day - so a drink in Raffles and back to the port. Bangkok was also a good hour from the port. It was good to see these places - we could have done with better weather - but that is in the lap of the gods. The down side of the whole cruise was the container ports - due to the size of the ship. If I were to do this cruise again I would choose a smaller ship. We enjoyed the ship. The evening were very quite - the most popular was the piano man. The staff at all the bars were very helpful and friendly. We especially spent a lot of time in the bar next to the piano man. Due to the weather we did not have a single sailaway party. There was a party on the pool deck on warm evening - that was very popular. Also the balloon drop was a popular night but mostly the nights were very quiet and only us at the bars or nightclub. The entertainment team were around during the day but come the evening they did their show and disappeared. The evening entertainment was not too good - the local show was good and the staff show was good - the rest only just ok. The disco was empty every night. We had the same captain that we had had for the Antartic cruise on the Star - he was as unfriendly this time as he was last!! He just about managed to say his speech at the captains party but left as soon as he could. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We were on virtually the same tour as the previous reviewer, but I reckon we must have been in a parallel universe. Firstly may I say that commenting on problems getting visas has nothing to do with Princess, before booking any holiday ... Read More
We were on virtually the same tour as the previous reviewer, but I reckon we must have been in a parallel universe. Firstly may I say that commenting on problems getting visas has nothing to do with Princess, before booking any holiday it is easy to find out what the necessary rules are, and if daunted, don't book. We, and all the friends we made on this trip, researched this aspect thoroughly and had no problems with this whatsoever. The reason that Nagasaki was dropped from the itinerary was due to the protracted process with the Japanese immigration authorities, and due to complaints on previous voyages, Princess acted. Everyone I spoke to agreed that to have gone through the process twice would have been a nightmare. It also meant an overnight in Hong Kong which was the highlight of the cruise for us, and gave us the most wonderful evening sailaway through HK harbor. A shame to miss a port for those already familiar with HK, but still a great treat. The wait to board the ship was not wonderful, but for a large number of people was spent in the embarkation center. Not everyone was outside in the cold, nor on buses, and better that we boarded confident that we were getting on a sanitized ship. It should be pointed out that the ship was sanitized and ready for boarding quite some time before we actually did, due to the Chinese authorities. When we boarded we were met by a very nice steward who escorted us to our cabin. Our luggage was already there waiting for us and we went straight down to a delicious dinner. The so-called curtailments were for everyone's safety. Hand-washing being an example ?!? On all Princess cruises hand sanitizers are provided for use at the eating places, and there are a great number of people who blithely bypass these with the obvious "doesn't apply to me" attitude. Is it any wonder that these bugs flourish on cruise ships ? The use of hand sanitizers was simply more rigorously enforced, and we were all the better for it. I heard of gastric upsets, of course, as is inevitable when people are going to more exotic destinations, but personally heard of no cases of Norovirus on board. As for rudeness, we never encountered this by any member at any time by the Princess crew. We are fervent beer/lager drinkers, and on one occasion only in the 16 days were unable to get Bud Lite and had to make do with Bud - gee that really ruined the whole trip, eh ? Agree completely re entertainment - Princess not renowned for this, most people though were very happy. In bed by 8pm ? obviously no mates to have a laugh with. Bars round edges of rooms ? Get a life. Shore excursions - we mostly did our own thing. Had a wonderful tour in Nha Trang with www.nhatrangrivertours.com, and in Singapore with www.singaporetaxitour.com - both highly recommended. We did go with Princess to Saigon which was not very good and very expensive. Go to Vung Tau instead or even better stay on the ship and relax. Re tender operations - our experience is that on the two occasions we waited not at all for the outbound/5 minutes or so inbound for the first and for the second we were on the first tender (one of our group having went for the tickets at the advertised time - anyone could have done the same), so no waiting time, and 5 minutes or so for the inbound. Have no experience of what the previous reviewer is talking about, the crew were perfectly nice and efficient. One of the officers in charge, in particular, was so charming and helpful. Ignored on the last day ? What exactly do you need the crew for then anyway, other than to serve breakfast ? We were given many friendly goodbyes, and the above-mentioned officer remembered us and came over personally. Regarding future cruise sales, all of the British and Australian people in our little group were invited to obtain the future cruise credit letters by the agent. She sent a letter to our cabin, it took us 10 seconds to fill in the form, and the letter was at our cabin faster than we arrived back. British passengers should not be looking to book on board anyway, they just don't cater for our needs. Get the credit letter and book at home. As regards Princess taking us to Bangkok and putting us into danger, this is preposterous. No-one foresaw that the protestors would take over the airport. In any case, Princess were only responsible for you up to the point of disembarkation - it was the tour companies who were responsible after that if you were booked to have a stayover in Thailand, or indeed you were on your own if you had chosen to do this independently. Thousands of the Princess passengers went straight home/flew to other destinations/carried on cruising with the ship etc etc etc so that comment was plain ridiculous. In any event individuals are responsible for checking the FO advice and if worried in any way, should simply not travel. As regards the great praise heaped upon Tour East, again not our experience. One of them scammed us for money, and someone made a mess of our flight arrangements. This was the case for several of the group, and as Tour East completed the forms on our behalf for Emirates, we can only assume until we hear differently that they made the mistake. Hopefully this gives a different view. If you are booked on this cruise, have no fears - it is a wonderful experience, the ship is fine, don't use the buffet too much as full of ignorant passengers, don't expect great entertainment, make friends and have fun. Use your head re tendering operations, do your own thing ashore, think hard about the transfer time to Saigon, have the sense to know who is responsible for you at the appropriate times, and you will have a ball. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
This is my first Princess Cruise. I have sailed in the past on Celebrity 4 times, Royal Caribbean, Holland American, and others. Although Princess was not a total washout, I was still not satisfied. PRETOUR: This was the best part of the ... Read More
This is my first Princess Cruise. I have sailed in the past on Celebrity 4 times, Royal Caribbean, Holland American, and others. Although Princess was not a total washout, I was still not satisfied. PRETOUR: This was the best part of the whole cruise. I flew out to Beijing on Friday Sept 30. The cruise line put us at The Presidential Hotel in Beijing which was very nice. Package included tours, breakfast and lunch. Saw the Great Wall, Summer Palace, and Forbidden City. EMBARKATION: This was totally messed up. First our bus was lost trying to get to the cruise boat, which resulted in us boarding late. When we arrived, there was no one there to greet us except 2 security people. We had to find our room on our own, realizing at this time the Lifeboat Drill was ending, never repeated for the busloads of people that were brought to the ship on Oct 2. SERVICE: Service on the ship was excellent. Our room steward had our room immaculate at all times. Our wait staff in the SANTE FE dining room was very efficient and pleasant. FOOD: We had chosen early dining requesting a small table (3 of us) which was booked last July. We ended up being placed at a table for 6 people. Luckily, the Matre' D was able to move us into one of the freestyle dining rooms and have a permanent table there. The food selection was poor. There was no options if not happy with food selection on menu. The 24 hr buffet served the same food as the main dining and anytime dining areas had. Pizza and grill all shut down by 6 pm. Ice cream is free only between 3 and 4 pm, after that there is a charge of 3 to 5 dollars. Only beverage available is iced tea, coffee, and water. TOURS: Tours were not very appealing for the price. Port talks were given after the day the tours had to be purchased or traded in. There was no chance for change after hearing the talks. FLIGHTS: Flights were purchased thru Princess Cruise Line. We flew home on a airline where there was very little space to move. Water was poured out of a pitcher instead of a bottle. Food was terrible. Saw very little of the stewards/stewardess on the 12 hour flight. Had only 1 main screen for movie, we were sitting towards the back so we couldn't see anything. SHOWS: On a 14 day cruise, there was only 3 big shows, two nights were a repeat of the acts from previous nights. The shows that were performed by the dancers were excellent and we all enjoyed them. In conclusion, I think Princess should take a little time to research their tours before offering them to the public. They should offer the port talks at a time which would allow passengers to buy the tours they hear about, instead of saying "I would have liked to see this." The food selection at the 24 hr buffet should be offering a different selection of food than what is being served in the dining rooms. Pizza bar should be opened in the evening after shows until midnight to allow people to have snacks. I am not sure I would consider going on another Princess Cruise. I would definitely have to do a little more research. Our favorite cruise line is still CELEBRITY (and so far cannot be beaten). Read Less
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