1. Home
  2. Cruise Lines
  3. Princess Cruises
  4. Princess Cruises Cruise Reviews
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
Reading other reviews I'm beginning to think I was on a different ship. Maybe we were just lucky but our cabin was beautiful, comfortable and clean. You could get food 24 hours a day and was delicious. Some cruise lines (P and O ... Read More
Reading other reviews I'm beginning to think I was on a different ship. Maybe we were just lucky but our cabin was beautiful, comfortable and clean. You could get food 24 hours a day and was delicious. Some cruise lines (P and O take note) charge for ice cream, fruit juice, and room service, Princess doesn't. I have been on many cruise lines (including Cunard) and Princess is the best. Of course there are little niggles, like long queues at passenger services, and no Australian newspapers, but to complain about no green tea bags - what - bring your own! Embarkation was a bit slow, but it was Beijing. Disembarkation in Sydney was a breeze, five minutes at the most. Couldn't fault the staff. They were all happy and helpful. There were so many activities I only managed to get to the pool once. The theme nights were fun and some passengers went out of their way to make it even more so. Will only ever travel Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2016
BEEN ON OTHER CRUISE COMPANIESO SO WANTED TO TRY IT OUT THE SHIP GAVE AN MIDDLE CLASS FEELING IN COMPARISON TO P&O SHIPS THE OLD RATING OF CRUISE SHIPS WERE TOURIST CLASS***MIDDLE CLASS***FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS SO I RATE ... Read More
BEEN ON OTHER CRUISE COMPANIESO SO WANTED TO TRY IT OUT THE SHIP GAVE AN MIDDLE CLASS FEELING IN COMPARISON TO P&O SHIPS THE OLD RATING OF CRUISE SHIPS WERE TOURIST CLASS***MIDDLE CLASS***FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS SO I RATE GOLDERN PRINCESS AS MIDDLE CLASS EXCEPTING WHEN ON SHORT CRUISES WHICH SEEM TO ATTRACT TOURIST CLASS PEOPLE AND HEAVY DRINKERS ( TO BE CLEAR I AM A TOURIST PERSON MYSELF) BUT CRINGE WHEN I SEE YOBOS CARRING ON WHEN ON THIS SHIP THE SHIPS STAFF SEEM TO BE BETTER TRAINED AND SELECTED FOR THEIR RESPESTED POSITIONS The food court was one of the best we have experienced. THE SHIPS POOLS ARE A1 WELL DESIGNED AND GOOD SIZE THE NIGHT CLUB AT THE REAR OF THE SHIP IS ABSOLUTLY FANTASIC LIKE BEING AT A NIGHT CLUB IN SINGAPORE BUT BE WARNED DONT SAIL ON SHORT CRUISES UNLESS U WANT THE PUB EXPERIENCE ITS A SHAME AS THIS SHIP IS GREAT Read Less
Sail Date: November 2014
After a few days in Beijing at the Grand Mercure (very nice quiet room and great buffet breakfast) and a transfer to the port (Both not booked with Princess) we were onboard without too much waiting and straight to our cabin, which was ... Read More
After a few days in Beijing at the Grand Mercure (very nice quiet room and great buffet breakfast) and a transfer to the port (Both not booked with Princess) we were onboard without too much waiting and straight to our cabin, which was clean and comfortable with and excellent steward, The following day we had our CC meet and greet so were able to arrange several trips ashore with fellow passengers. After reading previous reviews of this Asian cruise we were a bit worried about the food, but have to say we had no complaints at all. We had fixed dining. We found there was plenty of choice, yes there was a lot of Asian, but that was a good thing and it was always possible to have a couple of starters. In fact sometimes my husband had 3 as he couldn't make up his mind. There was always a good choice of pasta and soup. Lots of variety and our waiting staff Belinda, Jordan and Sumit were excellent. Always cheerful, helpful and professional. We weren't so pleased with the choices at lunchtime in the dining room so usually used the buffet or pizza bar. Breakfast was also good in the buffet with lots of choice. Did not use the spa facilities or gym but really enjoyed the pools and Jacuzzis and because there were so many of them they were never really crowded. Also the big screen showing films and shows was great. Entertainment - here there was not a great deal of variety. We didn't attend the singing and dancing routines as not our thing, so can't comment on that. The comedian Al Brown was very good and also the male singer who had been in the Lion King in London was great. We did enjoy the onboard activities like Trivia (sometimes 4 a day), Line dancing, Zumba, Photographic sessions, and I thoroughly enjoyed attending the pop Choir. Zoe who got us to the final performance was a star. In fact all the staff we came in contact with from the entertainment crew to the dining room and buffet staff were so pleasant and not pushy in any way. We have been on the Sapphire before in Alaska and noticed a huge difference with the service. This time even the photographers were very low key and not pushy at all and we were very impressed with the talks on the ports given in the theatre. There was so much helpful information for those of us that wanted to do it on our own and unlike the Alaskan cruise there was no pushing for people to join excursions or order drink packages. Disembarkation could not have been easier. To sum up can't really find any fault with this cruise. The ports of call were fantastic and the sea days very enjoyable. Staff were great. Definitely would go on the Sapphire again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2014
We had never cruised in Asia and my husband was a little leery of taking this cruise. But then he did a complete turnaround and decided we had to do it. We loved the cruise itself and our destination port. Beijing we were not enthralled ... Read More
We had never cruised in Asia and my husband was a little leery of taking this cruise. But then he did a complete turnaround and decided we had to do it. We loved the cruise itself and our destination port. Beijing we were not enthralled with. Not a beautiful city. Too many people. Crazy drivers. Our Marriott hotel had hardly anyone working there who could speak English. However we were glad we got to see the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. And we were lucky that we visited during the APEC conference so there were far fewer vehicles on the road and thus less pollution than normal. But getting to the cruise. Somehow we managed to get all the way to the id scanning station onboard the ship before we realized we had managed to bypass the princess checkin. It was a little disconcerting but the security people did not send us back. They got us cards as we stood there and it was all okay. We liked the ship very much. We had great service in the dining room (traditional dining). Our cabin steward was okay. We seemed to get our nighttime chocolates only occasionally, not every night as we used to get. There was a mixup on our first formal night and we almost missed it because the suit we sent to be pressed came back with the wrong jacket. We did make the dinner but we were late. The ports we visited were on and off okay. Busan was not very interesting. Nagasaki was beautiful. We chose a bad tour for Shanghai. Calling the little village we visited the Venice of the East was really a stretch. We loved Hong Kong and Macao. But be forewarned. Getting the Macao visa is a process that does not end with your visit to Macao. We had to cut our sightseeing in Hong Kong short the second day because the day after our Macao visit we had to present ourselves to the Macao officials onboard our ship to complete the visa process! Not just us. Everyone on our tour had to. Really annoying. Loved our extended land tour to Angkor Wat. An unforgettable experience. Not to be missed. Unfortunately we didn't get to see much of Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok because we opted for the land tour but it was worth it. Loved Singapore and plan to go back in 2015. Our cabin was on the eighth deck forward so we had a window with a view. Do not be deterred from choosing a cabin with a window on a promenade deck. I had to press my face against our window to see into the cabin and it was still hard to see in. After I did that I had no hesitation to leave our drapes open. There was an outbreak of norovirus during our cruise. The ship's routine changed a bit because of this. No self service at horizon court. No bread and butter or salt and pepper shakers on the tables at meal time. Service was slower because of so much hand washing and individual service. But we did not get sick and we appreciated how the ship's crew handled everything. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2014
I have recently returned from the Grand Asia tour from Beijing to Singapore. After a tiring day embarking we were informed that our ship would not be calling at Nagasaki or Shanghai due to super cyclone Yongpong heading in south of Japan. ... Read More
I have recently returned from the Grand Asia tour from Beijing to Singapore. After a tiring day embarking we were informed that our ship would not be calling at Nagasaki or Shanghai due to super cyclone Yongpong heading in south of Japan. After initial disappointment we realised it is better to be safe than sorry, Later in the cruise after rounding a corner off Taiwan we had a small taste of what a cyclonic sea is like with huge swells and 26 foot waves! After only travelling on smaller cruise ships I was a bit apprehensive about being on such a big liner but people seemed to fit in well in the various rooms. We kept fit by walking 320 steps to the International Dining Room each night from our cabin at the front of the ship. The outside movie screen was of a high quality and we were given excellent care with cookies and milk, pizzas and popcorn whilst relaxing under a warm Asian sky. Cabins had great hanging space and a good area to use as a dressing room. Bathroom was the same as all cruise liners but having a change of towels twice a day was a bonus. The tv screen was of also great quality..the movies were varied and plentiful and we watched one every night. The verandah was roomier than any other ship I have been on and it was a bonus to smell fresh air whenever we wanted! Despite fellow passengers mumbling about the quality of food not being up to scratch I had NO complaints and found it varied and beautifully presented...special mention to the soup and desserts! Congratulations to staff who were always happy and pleasant despite maybe feeling off that day of feeling home-sick. Only complaint is the constant selling promotions.....wine...jewellery...photos..internet...spa.....hairdressers...on and on it goes. If you stay strong you will not die of shock when you get the account on the last day! Well done Sapphire..it was hard to leave you in Singapore as our bus pulled away!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2013
We boarded in Tianjin on Friday May 03 without problems and the cruise through China, South Korea and Japan was very enjoyable in calm conditions with fine warm weather. The ports visited were Dalian (China) Busan (Sth Korea) Osaka and ... Read More
We boarded in Tianjin on Friday May 03 without problems and the cruise through China, South Korea and Japan was very enjoyable in calm conditions with fine warm weather. The ports visited were Dalian (China) Busan (Sth Korea) Osaka and Yokohama (Japan) The only Princess excursion we took was a Temple and Market one at Busan and this was not well run and ended up at the famed ? Fish Market. Really a take it or leave it affair. Strangely vendors at the Markets here tended to run away when approached and it appears that poor English skills may have been responsible. The other ports were quite delightful and we did our own thing often using public transport. There is some satisfaction in hopping on to rail transport and navigating in these large cities. (We took the rail from Yokahama to Tokyo without trouble) The cruise then set sail for Whittier via the Aleutian Islands, spending some time in the Bering Sea and arriving in Whittier on Sat May 18 to a quite magnificent blizzard which kept up most of the day. These 8 days at sea were where I thought Princess completely dropped the ball. I had been looking forward to this sector as little was known about this remote area that has a very rich history.and many Islands are quite spectacular, rising for 4 or 5 thousand feet out of the sea in near perfect snow covered cones. Now, we did a round Australia cruise with Princess some years back and were treated to an extremely interesting series of talks (Scholarships at Sea) about Australian people and history, including Captains Cook and Bligh, these resulted in the Princess Theater being packed out, one had to get there early. Alas for the entire cruise to Whittier we were treated to "the Art Museums of the USA" and "Bridge for Beginners", the popularity of which was shown by a max of 50 or so people in the large Princess Theater. I wrote to the Captain expressing my disappointment and the Bridge Crew did forward me some written information, but nothing for the rest of the passengers. During this sector an unscheduled deviation in course was made to stop in a small harbour on Adak island to offload a sick passenger who was then flown by air ambulance to Anchorage. Adak has an airport originally built during the second world War. Again the chance to discuss this fascinating place was ignored. Passengers were seen congregating around the chart trying to figure out where we has been, (it was midnight during the offload) So Princess, take note and don't bore your passengers during sea days!The sector South to Vancouver was extremely enjoyable with excellent talks and commentary by the State Park rangers and a naturist chipping in. We struck perfect clear weather for the glacier cruise.Vancouver was lovely. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
Stayed 2 nights pre curise at the Mariott City Wall Beijing, lovely hotel. Did Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Great Wall at Mutiyanu all the same day. On reflection we probably should have stayed an extra night, doing the Square, ... Read More
Stayed 2 nights pre curise at the Mariott City Wall Beijing, lovely hotel. Did Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and Great Wall at Mutiyanu all the same day. On reflection we probably should have stayed an extra night, doing the Square, Forbidden City, etc on one day and the Great Wall the next day giving us more time at the Wall. Tianjin the port for Beijing is about a 2.5 hour coach journey. We heard one or two horror stories about people arranging their own transfers. Don't go there! Embarkation was effortless, soon on board watching a Paul McCartney Concert on the big movie screen. Cool beer in hand. Second stop Nagasaki, which turned out to be our favourite port. We did the walking tour which was very interesting and informative, ie Ground Zero, Atomic Bomb Museum. But there was nothing you couldn't do on your own with the minimum of research or a little advice from the Tourist Info at the port building. There was also a money exchange there. If you do nothing else in Nagasaki, don't miss the sail away. We had a high school band and dancers turn out to playH, along with hundreds of locals to wave goodbye, very emotional. Then as the ship sailed under a huge bridge there were lots of people lined up waving us off. Missed out on Shanghai due to bad weather (bad news). Good news we got an overnight stay and an extra day in Hong Kong. If you only have one day in Hong Kong, would recommend the Ho Ho (hop on hop off) bus which takes you virtually everywhere, including peak tram and star ferries. HK is very easy! Vietnam quite difficult to do your own thing, in fact Princess would only let you take their own shuttle into Ho Chi Min City. We did the tunnels excursion which was excellent, very interesting adding a different perspective. Very hot!! In Singapore, Princess provided a shuttle service from port to centre. Very easy to do your own thing here with a little effort and using the Ho Ho bus. Everything we encountered on the ship was superb. We opted for anytime dining, having said that we ended up going to the Sante Fe Dining room every night. We had two excellent waiters, friendly but super efficient. Food was delicious. We did the wine package which saved a lot of money, but towards the end of the cruise, choice got a bit limited. The staff on board were excellent, friendly but not over-familiar. We now ask ourselves, did we pick the best ship and crew and spoil ourselves for any future cruises or are all the ships in the Princess fleet as good as this one? We finished the cruise spending 3 days in Bangkok, where we did a particularly memorable trip to the Bridge on the River Kwai (we booked this tour back in the UK). The tour included the War Museum and a train journey along the banks of the River which followed the route of the original railway. We have booked another cruise with Princess, this time to the Caribbean. If it's as good as this one we will be more than pleased.   Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2013
What a fantastic experience!  Flew Heathrow - Beijing on KLM, via Amsterdam - excellent service and comfortable-ish for long haul cattle class. In Beijing, stayed at the Marriott City walls, which was lovely, although the food was poor ... Read More
What a fantastic experience!  Flew Heathrow - Beijing on KLM, via Amsterdam - excellent service and comfortable-ish for long haul cattle class. In Beijing, stayed at the Marriott City walls, which was lovely, although the food was poor value. Princess offered us several trips, which we took, as they seemed good value (I have reviewed the trips separately on Trip Advisor if you are interested.) Acrobatic show, Great Wall (foggy and cold, sadly), Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, all with great restaurants and local guides(especially the Peking Duck!. We had a 2hr drive to the port to meet the Diamond Princess.) She is beautiful and I can't fault her - service was great, public areas never crowded, shows excellent, and food good (we had anytime dining which gave us more freedom to eat where we liked)Our cabin on B deck was good (I wouldn't have liked lower decks, as they were overlooked, and not undercover from the downpours we had. Mind you, they were better for sunbathing) Catherine our steward was lovely, and when my husband said his back was stiff, she found us a comfortable topper for the mattress. We enjoyed our days at sea. Captain Bilton coped well with problems - an engine played up, a poorly crew member had to be airlifted off the ship at midnight, and Shanghai was too dangerous to dock in due to bad weather.(We had an extra day in Hong Kong instead - yippee!)The port talks by Elizabeth were excellent, and very funny Our first port of call was Busan, South Korea - beautiful city, with fantastic markets (and they don't hound you to buy either!). Nagasaki next, again beautiful and very welcoming - little children came on board to sing and dance. In Hong Kong we had to be tendered on the first day from Junk harbour, but everything was smoothly organised. Leaving Hong Kong, the ship sailed slowly through Victoria Harbour just as the 8pm laser show began - brilliant! In Vietnam, we had 2 port stops and again, we did the organised trips, which we thought were mostly good value, and more relaxed. Loved the country, very interesting -especially the CuChi tunnels, and War zone Singapore was beautiful, although we thought the Botanic Gardens trip would have been easier and a darn sight cheaper to do ourselves. Ended up in the Long Bar at Raffles. Time was wasted in Singapore due to the long immigration process. We disembarked in Bangkok (PhuMi), and did a city and temple tour on our way to the Four Seasons hotel, where we stayed for 3 nights - wonderful. Bangkok is easy to get around so we 'did it ourselves' - what a great city! In all. a fabulous experience - we have just booked for 2015 with Princess on their South America cruise (Rio to Santiago) - can't wait. The ONLY downside were the small groups of whingeing passengers who were vocal about the pettiest things (0ne woman had her passport on a string round her neck, and was reluctant to give it up, as she said she needed to know she would get home - dead or alive!), too little ice/too much, chopsticks in China and Japan - they even asked for forks!!), complained about missing out Shanghai (safety first!) and the very worst were rude and abrupt with the crew members, which is unforgiveable. Carpe Diem and stop moaning! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION Princess deserve a gold star for the smooth embarkation and disembarkation -- we received an email when we were in Beijing before the cruise advising that embarkation had been delayed until 6pm rather than ... Read More
EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION Princess deserve a gold star for the smooth embarkation and disembarkation -- we received an email when we were in Beijing before the cruise advising that embarkation had been delayed until 6pm rather than the 12 noon as planned. We were able to alter our travel arrangements (bullet train) and arrived at the port at approximately 5.45pm -- it was so easy to check in, we were offered food and drinks while waiting and when we reached our cabin 45 minutes later our luggage was already there !! On disembarkation day we had booked a Princess transfer to the airport and it ran very smoothly (except for the people who had to be first on the bus and wouldn't stay in line) and we were at the airport by 9.30am where our luggage was waiting for us. STATEROOM: Our stateroom (obstructed view) was excellent -- the obstruction was very minor - the room was clean and plenty of space for hanging/storing clothes -- our steward kept the room to a good standard however we could never work out when he would be cleaning -- minor detail but a bit annoying at times. DINING: We chose 'Anytime Dining' -- for us this worked really well -- we tried several of the dining rooms but felt that the Savoy was by far the best re service etc. Food was great, fairly varied and enough of it -- it was a little odd to see asparagus every night. We were fortunate to dine with a wide range of people and it was most enjoyable to meet many other passengers. We dined in the Sterling Steakhouse one evening and it was superb -- definitely worth the cover charge. Breakfast we went to the International Dining Room rather than the buffet -- excellent choice. Lunch we either went to the buffet or had pizza etc on the deck -- all good food. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows and entertainers were of a good standard although some of the shows were very short. Good range of entertainment, including the films and various ice carving etc. PORT LECTURER: We went to a couple of talks which were interesting, however Hutch lost us when he gave a 20 minute diatribe of the Vietnam war (a very US slanted view) and promised that he would talk more about the war the following day. A lot of people walked out of the theatre during his 'talk' and many other people were talking among themselves and getting quite annoyed -- we were there to hear about the port and points of interest, not the war -- very bad choice. PORTS: Unfortunately due to the harbor being closed because of bad weather, we spent our first day berthed at Tianjin !! The captain was most apologetic and explained that it was the call of the harbormaster. Due to leaving 26 hours late we were then unable to visit Nagasaki which was disappointing for a lot of passengers. BUSAN: We loved this port from their warm welcome, the money exchange on the wharf, to the fireworks display as we left -- we took the shuttle into town and then caught a city tour bus -- great way to get a snapshot of the city. We found out later that there was an excellent Maritime Museum and aquarium near the wharf -- it would have been good if Hutch could have mentioned this during his talk rather than promoting Princess tours! SHANGHAI: Due to missing Nagasaki we were able to have longer in Shanghai which was a bonus -- we did a Princess tour to enable us to ride the Maglev train -- we also visited the observation deck on the 88th floor of a building (I have forgotten the name of the building) -- then at the request of many of the passengers we were dropped off at The Bund (where the shuttle ran from) which enabled us to explore this wonderful area. We felt that this Princess tour was value for money as it would have been difficult to get to the Maglev train on our own, however this was the only Princess tour we took as we felt that in the main they were expensive and not value for money. HONG KONG: Great place to visit and we did our own thing as HK is very easy to get around -- we caught a bus to Stanley Market and back -- it was overcast so not worth going to the peak. The ship sailed into the harbor when we left and we were able to see the laser show which was interesting. NA TRANG: This was a tender port and Princess did an excellent job of getting everyone off quickly -- we took the shuttle into town and wandered through the markets etc, resisting the hawkers selling everything imaginable. There was a market on the wharf which was the best of the whole trip -- overall this was a great port to visit and it would have been great to have longer to enable passengers to see more of the sights. HO CHI MINH: We have previously been to Ho Chi Minh (and loved it), however we were not prepared to spend at least 4 hours in a bus so opted to take the shuttle to a nearby town -- what a waste of time -- constantly harassed by hawkers and only 1/3rd of the market was open. Princess need to make a serious decision about visiting this port -- the ship is too big to get up the river -- we would have preferred to go to another port in Vietnam -- maybe Da Nang even if it was a tender port. Where the ship docked is a new container port in the middle of nowhere so the option of just going for a walk was not possible -- very disappointing. SINGAPORE: Great port and so easy to get around -- getting off was a bit of a 'bun fight' due to staff changing procedure from what had been announced in the newsletter. OVERALL: We really enjoyed our trip, but felt that there were some areas that could be improved. Due to an outbreak of Noravirus on the previous cruise, passengers were not allowed to serve themselves at all -- we did not have a problem with this having contracted Noravirus on another cruise, however it was disappointing that there were not hand sanitisers in more of the public areas on the ship -- they were only outside the dining rooms and often ran out. Money exchange was disgraceful - $4.50 US charge to change money via the machines and the machines didn't stock currency for all of the ports we visited. Princess would buy back any left over currency at very low rates, plus a service charge -- total rip off -- we kept our money and changed it all in Singapore. I think there were 3 machines on the ship, however there was always 1 or 2 of them out of order even on the mornings we had arrived in ports -- not good enough really. My final comment would be that Princess seems to have dropped their standards a little, and there was inconsistency with many things. We found that the crew were happy, smiling and friendly at most times. We felt that the ship was a little elitist -- often finding areas closed off for functions for Platinum members etc -- these people actually pay less that the Gold & Blue class passengers so why do they need special events ?? My opinion only!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post ... Read More
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise. Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats their passengers). Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left). The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather. The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619). ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft. The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats. Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop. After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents. After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc). The Shangri-La hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the frenzy of the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review). The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection. It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post ... Read More
Asia was our next destination after cruising/vacations to Europe/Mediterranean and Middle East. We chose Princess based on a successful Baltic cruise on the Crown Princess. We chose to use Princess Air, Princess Pre/Post Hotels/Tours/transfers except for and extra night on our own at the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel which we had to make on our own since Princess could not accommodate us with the extra pre-cruise hotel night. In retrospect, we'll go back and do independent air/hotel/tours on our next cruise. Pre-Cruise Travel: On the way to the airport from our home, the taxi driver (small women) could not get our luggage out of the trunk of her taxi. I twisted something in my right arm helping her which rendered my right arm somewhat useless as lifting anything caused discomfort for the next 25 days of the trip (What a way to start). Korean Air was an excellent airline with excellent food, service and comfort (US airlines can relearn from how Korean Air treats their passengers). Upon arrival in Beijing International Airport, we had made independent arrangements with the Beijing Marriott City Wall Hotel to send a driver to pick us up as Princess Cruises had told and written to us that our package would not include the airport-hotel pre-cruise transfer since we were arriving one day early. Not only were we greeted by a Marriott Hotel Meet/Greet limo driver in black suit, but we also saw our hand-written name on a piece of cardboard by a women in a sweater who turned out be the local travel agency Princess uses. We went with the Marriott Hotel limo driver and told the Princess rep we would not need their van (we told her what Princess had communicated with us and she apologized on behalf of Princess and left). The Beijing Marriot Hotel (City Wall location) was a relatively new hotel with excellent service staff, great food/buffet and large clean rooms. I was surprised the rooms were even larger than Marriott hotels in the US with a great view of the city (separate review on TRIPADVISOR.COM). We spent the first day on our own which in Beijing was very easy due to the location of the hotel and nice weather. The Beijing Chinese tour agency that Princess contracts with was excellent. Their organization and guides were well versed in English, very efficient, always on-time and informative/entertaining throughout the 3-day Princess tours. Our primary tour guide (a college professor) had to leave us on the first day due to a family death, but his protege stepped right in and took over. She was just as fluent in English and provided excellent commentaries mixed with some humor. The transfer to the ship went flawlessly and we were off the bus through customs/boarding in less than 10 minutes. Our luggage was waiting for us in the balcony cabin (Aloha 619). ON THE DIAMOND PRINCESS: Our balcony cabin had upgraded LCD Television and everything was what we expected including the older-type shower vinyl curtain, vacuum flush toilets, refrigerator, hairdryer, safe, plenty of storage space/shelves. We even got brand new beds and pillows that they had to unwrap as we watched from the side. Our stateroom attendant (Glennard) was there to greet us and we exchanged information on our dining schedules and requested ice schedule every night. Since the ship was built in 2004 in Nagasaki, Japan, it was still in great shape and we constantly saw crew members repainting metal/wood, floors, and hulls during the entire cruise. The carpets were a little worn, but we saw no spots/discoloration anywhere. We took daily walks on the Promenade (Deck 7) deck that went around the entire ship from the bow to the aft. The Vivaldi Dining Room staff was absolute fantastic. Our waiters Euncil and Fernando remembered our food and wine selections and made recommendations every night. The Diamond Princess Cruise Directors had an absolutely great Entertainment Director. The singers and dancers were top notch performers of a higher quality than what we had experienced on other cruises. We looked forward to the shows in the Diamond Princess Theater and we always got front-row seats. Disembarkation in Bangkok, Thailand was a different ordeal. Since we were on a Princess post-cruise hotel/tour package, for some reason Princess was not as organized and had little or no information on the itinerary. From the moment we walked off the ship, there was some confusion as our group seemed to be made of 130 to 140 people, half spoke English, 25% were Italians and 25% Brazilians/Spanish all directed to 4 buses with no indication of which bus to board. After waiting 55 minutes, we were told we would leave late as our bus had to wait for one couple who woke up late and were still in their cabin. We ultimately left without them. That threw our schedule off and we missed part of the tradition Thai folklore show at our first stop. After a long day hot, humid outdoor viewing of elephants and tropical plants in a sweltering sun, we had lunch and then started a 2.5 hour non-stop bus ride to the Shangri-La hotel in Bangkok. The hotel itself is a top-notch 5-star hotel on the river with its own boat dock. The Princess cruise passengers were directed to a ballroom for check-in where we were greeted by polite hotel staff offering water, a cool sweet ginger drink, and cool towels. It was all well organized as they gathered our passports to match up with welcome packages and hotel check-in documents. After about 75% of our bus was dispatched to their rooms, a crowd of loud, pushy and downright rude Italians and Brazilians barged into the ballroom and immediately swamped the hotel staff and ruined the tranquil atmosphere that hotel staff was trying to methodically maintain. After 45 minutes into the melee, our tour guide returned to the ballroom, saw what was going on jumped into the fray as well and started yelling at the hotel staff to get our rooms assigned. We finally got our room which we found out had a heavy smoking room which was unacceptable. Rather than go back to the ballroom, I went to the main lobby (I had noticed a number of Princess passengers returning to the ballroom complaining of wrong rooms, missing luggage, etc). The Shangri-La Hotel main lobby was a sea of tranquility compared to the ballroom. I was greeted by the Resident Manager Marlon Hirsh who listened to our plight and immediately directed staff to get us a non-smoking room, find our luggage, and within 5 minutes we were taken care of and we settled into our non-smoking room with a great view of the river/city. The staff and service personnel of the Shangri-la Hotel are to be commended for getting everyone, including the loud, pushy, and rude passengers, processed. (See separate TRIPADVISOR.COM on Shangri-La Hotel review). The flight home went smoothly from the hotel to Bangkok Airport. We used United Airlines for the flight home with a connection in Narita (Tokyo), Japan. The (UA) airline attendants were very good but the food and entertainment program was a notch below Korean Airlines in terms of quality and selection. It was a wonderful and memorable experience, but we're glad to be home. Checked off several bucket-list sites to see and do. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
The princess package included flights from the UK, 1 night pre and post cruise hotel in Beijing and Bangkok. The excellent ports of call and a reasonable price attracted us to this cruise. We added a further 2 nights hotel in Beijing, and ... Read More
The princess package included flights from the UK, 1 night pre and post cruise hotel in Beijing and Bangkok. The excellent ports of call and a reasonable price attracted us to this cruise. We added a further 2 nights hotel in Beijing, and wish we had done the same in Bangkok! The Doubletree in Beijing was great. Nice room and good facilities. It was easy to get around Beijing using taxis. Transfer to the cruise and boarding was efficient. We were surprised at the quality of our cabin (Plaza deck ocean view). It was roomy and well laid out. Bearing in mind we were on the lowest passenger deck, this was in a good position. Near the lifts and stairs, short walk to the Atrium, 2 decks to the promenade and same deck as most public areas. Noise was not a problem. All the areas of the ship were spacious, we never had any problems getting a seat in any of the bars or public areas. In fact some evenings it was almost like a ghost ship. There was never any more than a couple of dozen people in The Wheelhouse, Club Fusion and Skywalkers in the evenings. Where was everyone? Because of this we felt the evenings in general lacked atmosphere. The entertainment, in our opinion, could have been much better. The shows in the theatre and Explorers only lasted 30 mins each time, yes thirty minutes for a main evening show. These shows were then repeated in the venues every 45 mins. No wonder the place seemed empty, I think they all went to bed at 9.30 pm! The show team and productions lacked the professionalism we have seen on P&O and Thomson. Also, some of the guest acts were dire. During the daytime I was disappointed that there were no interesting lecturers. I think there were only 2 lectures all cruise. (Not including the selling presentations)! The food was in general very good. We had anytime dining for the first time and found it great for this type of cruise. It wa good having the choice of four main dining venues as well as the Horizon buffet. My main critisism of the food is that there was hardly and potatoes and vegetables served with the main course. Maybe this is just expected more by us Brits, we like something to eat our meat with! I got in the habit of asking the waiter for a side portion of veg. This was never any problem for them, they seemed happy to make us happy. This goes for the ships company in general. I have never sailed with what seemed a happier crew, very willing, always smiling and chatting when they saw us. They are a credit to the industry. The excursions we did were in a word, poor. We only did two, Hongkong and Shanghai. We cancelled the rest we had booked and ventured out on our own. We had pre booked a private excursion with two other CC couples in Siagon. This was brilliant. Good fun, informative and much cheaper than Princess. It did seem that Princess was money grabbing. Money exchange for port visits was by machine. This gave terrible exchange rates and charged a set 4USD per transaction. Bear in mind that we needed six different currencies during the cruise. I hope telling you all this is not giving the wrong impression of a Princess cruise, these are all just niggles that I think could be put right easily. They in no way spoilt, what to us was probably the best cruise we have been on. The things that made this cruise great were: The happy helpful crew, Loverly ship, the itinerary, the weather and meeting all the nice people inboard. (In particular our CC roll call friends. ) We would not hesitate in cruising on Diamond Princess in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We had taken this cruise in the fall Singapore to Beijing, and loved it so much that we had to come back for a second go round. Both times, we did a princess tour in Beijing and Xian arrived two days before the start of the tours The pre ... Read More
We had taken this cruise in the fall Singapore to Beijing, and loved it so much that we had to come back for a second go round. Both times, we did a princess tour in Beijing and Xian arrived two days before the start of the tours The pre cruise on this trip was great. Had an excellent guide. We did skip some of the tours to get in more shopping in Beijing. We used the subway to get around, very easy to do. The DIAMOND PRINCESS has to be the best of the princess ship, very professional operated. Food was good, could always find something to eat, I'm a picky eater. Ports: Busan took the free shuttle into the centre of the town. Used the subway, to get around, though harder to do the Beijing. Nagasaski, paid for an all day tram ticket 500 yen. Went to a three temples, and the gardens. Shanghai, took the free shuttle in to the city. Used the subway to get around, easy to use, English, and Chinese. Saw the Jade Buddah Temple and the Ye Gardens, also walked in the old town, and along the Bund. Hong Kong, Again took the free shuttle into the town, Walked thru the Ocean Centre and boarded the Star Ferry. Walked to the Tram to Victoria's Peak. Rode the tram up walked around and rode the tram back down. Took the subway to Ladies Market and the walked around Nathan road. Nha Trang, went with friend, we got a van and saw the major sites and did some shopping the central market. Ho Chi Minh City. Used the Princess shuttle not free to go into the city. Again we went shopping a the market area. Ride into the city is about 1 and half hours. Laem Chaban, (Bangkok) Took a private tour that saw the major sites, good. Since we did not sail until 12 o clock, took the free Princess shuttle to Pattaya to look around. Singapore, we stayed on for another day. Since we had been here for two days in the fall, we had seen the major sites. Did ride the Singapore Flyer, bigger than the London Eye, rode the subway around here, again easy to do. Also went to the night at the Zoo, used the subway to get there also. With a little work on the internet you can print out maps of the cities and how to use the subway and their maps. Loved this so much that we are doing it again in the fall. Yes, we cruise other place too. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
We started with a couple of days in a freezing cold but sunny Beijing to see the Great Wall and all the other Great Sights, including the excellent Silk Road Market,all brilliant!! We had a 2.5 hour car ride to the container port at ... Read More
We started with a couple of days in a freezing cold but sunny Beijing to see the Great Wall and all the other Great Sights, including the excellent Silk Road Market,all brilliant!! We had a 2.5 hour car ride to the container port at Tianjin, but found the embarkation process quick and easy compared to our last experience in Miami.Our cabin was about what we expected, but the bonus was a super comfortable bed. We were on the top deck (Baha deck 12)and had been warned that we should expect some noise from the pool/buffet deck above early in the morning when chairs got moved around, but we had no disturbance at all. Only draw back was being charged for waterWe thought the organised excursions were overpriced, but the daily port lectures by the excellent Elizabeth Moran meant you could "do your own thing" with confidence, and far cheaper.We couldn't go to Busan, S. Korea as advertised because of local issues with the North, but the extra day in Singapore more than made up for it. Nagasaki and it's people were lovely. Shanghai - unbelievably good. Ditto Hong Kong, although we were the 3 years ago, still plenty to do. You needed to be a bit street wise in Nha Trang. Saigon excellent. Didn't do Bangkok having been before, went to a very tacky Pattaya instead. Kho Samui OK. Singapore; top of the order.On Board we had formal dining almost every night sharing our table with a great family from Canada with whom we had great fun throughout the cruise.Food was excellent at all times, and the Crew and Staff dealt with a Norovirus outbreak very efficiently. Plenty to do on sea days, if you want to. Drink prices seemed reasonable and the "cocktail of the day" was judged a bargain!Watching a movie at night out on deck under blankets - tip top. Great party night. In fact from the Skipper right down to our steward, you could not find fault with anyone.Everyone was so helpful and made the trip fun. The earthquake in Japan happened 4 days after we had been there, and some guests were concerned about a tsunami, but the Captain kept us informed at all times and so "no worries"Others have made comments about the size of the ship means docking in really boring, miles from anywhere, container ports. As a result you have to be bussed or tendered in to anywhere decent, which can impact on your time ashore. It is certainly a pain, but did not spoil our overall enjoyment of the cruise.Finally, disembarkation at Singapore was reasonably smooth, a slight delay of 20 minutes from schedule.We could do it all again tomorrow!! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Thursday evening March 28th. We left home about 8: 30pm. Our daughter Allyson drove us to Sydney airport, where we stayed overnight in the Formula One Hotel. A truly very basic hotel but our room was spotlessly clean and the bed was very ... Read More
Thursday evening March 28th. We left home about 8: 30pm. Our daughter Allyson drove us to Sydney airport, where we stayed overnight in the Formula One Hotel. A truly very basic hotel but our room was spotlessly clean and the bed was very comfortable. We both slept well until 5am, and then boarded the 5:30am shuttle for the short drive to the airport. Check-in was quick and easy, (we'd used the internet check-in, so we already had our boarding passes. Our Singapore Airlines flight left on time and our eight hour fight to Singapore was very comfortable. The three hour lay-over in Singapore passed quickly and our Singapore flight to Beijing also left on time, arriving in Beijing just over five hours later. We found Customs and Immigration extremely efficient and our bags were already on the carousel waiting collection. After a very long day, it was really nice to see the familiar face of our tour guide Bevis waiting for us at the gate. The journey from the airport to the Novotel Peace Hotel was very quick as it was past midnight and there was not a lot of traffic. Our room was very much to our satisfaction located on the 17th floor (Premier level) and we both enjoyed a very good sleep that night. Sat. March 27th. While eating our breakfast, Jeff and Colleen, our friends from Canada who were on a cruise with us almost twelve months ago joined us. It was very exciting seeing them again. As arranged, at 8:30am we all left the hotel with our guide Bevis for a tour of the Heavenly Palace and Llama Temple. We then returned to the Hotel, where Russell and Louise, (two friends from Melbourne), whom we also met on a cruise last year, were waiting. Bevis then took us all to the Pearl & Silk Market. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel in need of some R & R and Bevis escorted Jeff, Colleen, Russell and Louise to a Dinner and Show. We decided to take advantage of our Premier Status, complimentary drinks and snacks in the 19th floor lounge! Actually the snacks, as we've discovered before, more than satisfy our appetite for a dinner. While we were there a group of Australians invited us to join their party and we had a great time sharing experiences in China with them. Sunday March 28th. The six of us met in the lobby with another four members of our C.C. Roll Call group, Brenda and Harry from Vancouver and Ann and Ryan from Canberra, at 9:00am we left the hotel with Bevis for a tour of:- Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. Changling Tombs. Lunch in a Chinese Restaurant. Badaling Great Wall. Photo stop at the Birds Nest and Water Cube. After what was considered a very satisfying day, we returned to the hotel. We repeated the events of the previous evening and ate dinner in the Premier Lounge. Monday March 29th. I had asked Bevis to arrange our transfer from the hotel to the ship, together with twelve other members of our Cruise Critic Roll Call. The journey lasted three hours, but after arriving at the Cruise Terminal we found the boarding procedures to be very much improved since our last cruise from Beijing and we were in our cabin in a very short time. Our cabin was very well located in a very quiet area, Aft on the Starboard side. Our first two days were "sea days" providing us the opportunity for rest and relaxation. On the second day we attended our Cruise Critic Roll Call members Meet and Greet, organized by our friend Russell. It was very well attended and everyone enjoyed getting acquainted. We also had the first of our Formal Nights on the second day. We chose to dine with Russell, Louise, Jeff and Colleen in the Savoy Dining Room at Noel and Boom's table; they gave us excellent service when we were cruising on the Diamond Princess last Oct/Nov. and later in January 2010. Thursday April 1st. The weather was very foggy when we arrived at the Shanghai Harbour Pilot station and we were told that the Port was closed. We remained adrift until midday when, after boarding the Pilot, we continued on our way to the dockside in Shanghai, arriving about 4pm. The ship docked almost an hour drive from the city centre, same place as in 2006. Due to the delay the Captain decided to extend our stay in Shanghai overnight and leave at 7pm. the next day. This necessitated a change to our itinerary with only one day in Hong Kong, instead of two. Many of the passengers decided to take a ride into Shanghai as soon as they were allowed to go ashore, but we waited until the next day. Nevertheless, our day in Shanghai was really enjoyable. We took advantage of the complimentary shuttle service, which took us to the Silk Market where we spent some time, when we visited Shanghai four years ago. This time, we took a leisurely walk through the Peoples Park, down the Pedestrian Mall to The Bund where we saw the preparations for the 2010 World Fair in May. Like everything the Chinese government does, it looked that it would be an outstanding event. Unlike last time, which coincided with a special holiday, the Mall was absolutely packed with people. This time, the area was quite comfortable to navigate. The Chinese people were extremely friendly, many stopping to chat with us. They spoke good English and appeared to have a good understanding of Australia. April 3rd. Easter Saturday This was a "sea day" so we had more time to enjoy the onboard activities including a game of Trivia, (which our team won) and catch up on some sleep. April 4th. Easter Sunday We arrived in Okinawa, Japan at 7am. Unfortunately, although it was much warmer than the previous week, it was raining. Again we made use of the complimentary shuttle service, but after walking around for only a short time, we returned to the ship in time for lunch. After lunch, we went to the movies to see The Boys Are Back. It was very good. After boarding the ship we were also glad to discover there was a Catholic Priest on board to help us celebrate Easter and the cruise staff created a wonderful display of Easter decorations in the Atrium, to keep us fully aware of the special time of year. April 5th. Easter Monday We arrived in Keelung Harbour, Taiwan, where downtown is only five minutes' walk away. Most of the cruise passengers went to see all the tourist attractions in Taipei, a thirty-five minute coach ride from the ship. Many set out for the 101 building which until recently, was the tallest building in the world. We were in Taipei (the capital city of Taiwan), four years ago, so we decided to explore the many tourist attractions in and around Keelung. This didn't happen because we wanted to buy a mouse for the netbook computer first; the touch pad had been causing us both too much frustration. We disembarked at about 10:00am and discovered the main shops didn't open until 11:00am! After walking around for about two hours, exploring the very narrow streets of downtown Keelung and coping with the unpredictable uneven footpaths, (worried that one of us would trip and end up injured), we returned to the comfort of the beautiful Diamond Princess, mouse in hand. After a delicious lunch in The International Dining Room, we saw the movie, "An Education" starring Emma Thompson. Wednesday April 7th. Our day in Hong Kong was very interesting. Although it was raining, unlike most passengers we did not find it too cold. Again, we made use of the free shuttle to Hong Kong's largest shopping mall, Harbour City. Once there, we got the feeling that we could be shopping in a mall in the USA or most international cities in the world, so we walked a very short distance to Nathan Street. We had spent some time shopping in Nathan Street when we visited Hong Kong with the family in 1978 but things have changed since then! We found a jewellery shop that was prepared to swap old jewellery for new, so I've now got a lovely gold bangle. Don't worry; I only swapped a broken bangle and some gold ear rings I bought a long time ago. Friday April 9th. This was our first visit to Nha Trang in Vietnam. I'd arranged a "4 Island Boat Trip" which cost $US10.00 PP and included lunch! Too good to be true? That's what we thought and we were right. The boat was filled with mostly non English speaking passengers and the 'English speaking guide" was unintelligible. We had invited our room steward's wife and three children to join us for the day. They boarded the ship in Hongkong. It was the first time they had been on a cruise ship and were very much looking forward to snorkelling on one of the Islands. This did not happen, the first Island was of little interest and we all felt uneasy. We were told we would be back by 3:30pm but many of the other passengers were told the tour finished at 4:30pm. Worried we'd not get back to the port on time for the last Tender at 4:30pm, our group made arrangements to return to the mainland. When we arrived, we took the free shuttle to town where there were lots of new high rise buildings, International Hotels and a long narrow white sand beach. We thought that this place was a Surfers Paradise in the making. Saturday April 10th We docked in Phu My, a container dock two hour's drive from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). It was very hot, 36 degrees on the centigrade scale and very humid. We had been to Saigon last Nov, so we decided to take the complimentary shuttle and take a short stroll around the local market, the bus drive to the market lasted about forty minutes. We passed lots of very poor looking homes and an occasional decent looking two story home, increasing our awareness of the poverty in Vietnam. As soon as we got off the bus at the market, I was immediately surrounded by vendors desperate to sell their souvenirs. Although there wasn't anything I really needed, I bought a few items to make them smile and then we returned to the air conditioned comfort of the coach and ship. Sunday April 11th. Another lovely "Sea Day" to enjoy the activities on the Diamond Princess, followed by our third "Formal Night". Monday April 12th. We had a lovely day in Singapore. The complimentary shuttle took us to the main shopping area, Orchard Rd. We then walked a short distance to the "Underground Railway" where we caught a train to Chinatown. Approx ninety minutes later, we decided to return to Orchard Rd where we enjoyed more retail therapy in Marks and Spencer's, one of my favourite stores. Tuesday April 13th. Another "Sea day"; also the last day of our cruise. We packed our bags in the morning and joined about forty of our C C Roll Call members for lunch in the International Dining Room. We all agreed the cruise was truly fantastic and we heard absolutely no complaints whatsoever. The atmosphere around the ship was very relaxed and friendly, the food delicious and the entertainment really good. Our cabin was also very well located in a very quiet area, Aft on the Starboard side. The bands played music we like, and we enjoyed a dance or two before dinner. Most evenings we enjoyed dinner with Russell, Louise, Colleen and Jeff in the Savoy Dining Room. Noel and Boom were our favourite table stewards. Our table in the Savoy Dining Room seated ten, allowing us to share dinner with other members of the Roll Call, which often included Brian and Allan from the UK and Susan, Ray and Adam from the USA. Wednesday April 13th. Disembarkation was very easy and our bags were ready for collection at the Cruise Terminal. Nickie and Paul C C Roll Call Members had arranged a Minivan for our transfer to Bangkok for $25US per couple. Judy and Fritz joined us for the transfer to our hotel, the Grand Millenium. I'd booked the hotel on Wotif at the bargain price of about $Aus 87.00 then upgraded to the Premier floor for an extra $Aus 50.00. Excellent value, considering it's a five star hotel and only three years old. The upgrade gave us upgraded rooms on the 24th.to 28th. floors, full Buffet breakfast, Beverages and Snacks in the lounge from 10:00am to 8:00pm and Cocktails and Hors d'oeuvres from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. (with free wine!). Our stay in Bangkok. We had booked three nights in Bangkok but the "Red Shirt" protests which were active in Bangkok for several weeks before our arrival had us a little concerned, fortunately the ship kept us advised of the situation and we felt we were in good hands. As it happened, we were not a bit inconvenienced by their protests. We used Taxis for transport because the drivers knew the hot spots and avoided them. Taxi fares are very cheap in Thailand, the normal journey cost us about $US3.00 including the tip. It was the Thai New Year and a public holiday for the whole three days we were in Bangkok so the traffic was lighter than usual, by using taxis we avoided the trouble spots and saved our energy for shopping! We thoroughly enjoyed the three days we had in Bangkok and were sad to leave but I think it was a good time to leave when we did. Saturday April 17th. I was not feeling good when I got up, suspecting the chicken dish I'd eaten the evening before may have given me food poisoning. We got a taxi to the airport and was still not feeling the best when it was time to board our flight to Singapore, it was some consolation when our overweight bags were accepted when we checked in. The bags weighed exactly 40kg when we booked in at Sydney Airport, so we didn't buy any bulky items, except for a new keyboard, and we managed to fit that into our hand luggage. I decided to only have fluids on the flights and stuck to water and ginger ale. Fortunately, one of the three seats in our row was vacant so I was able to lay down for most of the flight. I felt quite miserable for the remainder of our journey home. The flight from Singapore to Sydney was in an A380 Airbus carrying over five hundred passengers, it was full, so I didn't get to lie down and found great relief when we finally landed in Sydney. Robert our son-in-law met us at the terminal, it was Sunday, and we were home in less than forty-five minutes Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
Our first cruise ever it was on the Diamond Princess for our 16 day Asia trip, Before the cruised we stayed 4 nights in China at the Novotel Peace Hotel which was very central and easy to get around. We were not sure when we made the ... Read More
Our first cruise ever it was on the Diamond Princess for our 16 day Asia trip, Before the cruised we stayed 4 nights in China at the Novotel Peace Hotel which was very central and easy to get around. We were not sure when we made the booking if the 16 days would be too many for our first cruise but it turned out that we could have done with more days. The trip to ship took about 2 and a half hours we had a personal driver who was very good and took us to the port and helped with our luggage. The wait to board the ship was only about 1 hour and went very smoothly Princess also had food and drink for all of us while we waited to embark which was nice as I think most of us were hungry and thirsty we did not expect this it was a nice touch, we arrived to our state room the luggage was already there which was great all we had to do was unpack and then explore this beautiful ship, we did leave port later than expected as some people were arriving late but it was nice just to sit on our balcony and take it all in . The ports that we called to were great and we loved them, the weather proved to be a problem with us not staying over night in Hong Kong but we were not worried by this as it was some thing that was beyond any one's control.all the entertainment was really good,especially the shows in princess theatre. We had a good time also doing a lot of the trivia days. There was always something to do with all the on board activities. The staff on the ship were really great and could not do enough for us and all the other passengers nothing was too much trouble for them the bar stewards were amazing 1 in particular (Elleute)each time he saw us he would come strait over and would know what we both drank and this was only on the second meeting with him he had remembered from the first time we had got a drink from him ( not that we are big drinkers)there was not a thing i could find fault with the staff or the cruise itself, The diamond Princess is a beautiful ship, Large in size but never crowed with people,even though our particular cruise was full not a spare cabin to be had 2600 people. We will cruise again with Princess for sure they know how to treat people .Also the food was the best we have come across in a long time of traveling ,the ship was beautifully maintained and constantly being maintained,painted,cleaned. Our room was better than we expected.The disembark was as smooth as when we embarked, there was also a 2 hour drive by bus which we arranged with princess to our hotel in Thailand we stayed at the Siam @Siam hotel in Thailand which was nice. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Review of our cruise November 2008 - Asia - Diamond Princess My name is Graham, and my wife Susan and I booked the Asian cruise back in August 2007. This was a 16 night cruise out of Beijing, China, visiting Nagasaki (Japan), Shanghai ... Read More
Review of our cruise November 2008 - Asia - Diamond Princess My name is Graham, and my wife Susan and I booked the Asian cruise back in August 2007. This was a 16 night cruise out of Beijing, China, visiting Nagasaki (Japan), Shanghai (China), Okinawa (Japan), Keelung (Taiwan), Hong Kong (China), Singapore and Bangkok (Thailand). We booked a package with 3 day stay in Beijing, 16 night cruise, 3 days in Bangkok, though the land package and transfers were not with Princess but via a UK travel company.These included 4-star hotels, all bus transfers and several trips in Beijing & Bangkok. Much more than "one night in Bangkok". Unfortunately we were caught up in the political protests in Bangkok, which meant an extended stay in Bangkok of over a week rather than 3 days. Luckily the hotel bill was taken care of by the hotel and Thai Government with an £80 a night allowance that took care of the bill. On another count, the airline managed to get us out from a military airport (the day the protests ended, but the International airport would have taken days to return to normal anyway). Enough of that.... It did tarnish the holiday experience somewhat, but on the whole it was an excellent trip, particularly as we had not visited Asia before. We are both interested in seeing as much as possible in all of the ports of call, in the limited time available. In fact it was the varied and interesting itinerary that attracted us to this package, rather than the ship itself, and this is the main reason why we have chosen Princess for the last 3 cruises, as they seem to offer a large choice of interesting and more exotic itineraries than some of the other major cruise lines. Beijing: The stay in Beijing was VERY enjoyable, the reps met us immediately we exited the arrivals and after a short wait escorted us to waiting coaches.(105 persons in our hotel tour group) We arrived afternoon. The Hotel in Beijing was excellent, high quality, large room with many facilities. Beijing itself we found to be quite tidy appearance (post Olympics?), but after a few days the bad air quality was apparent (dry throat, eyes irritating a little, but not a problem, just a little noticeable). We had some tours included, as well as additional tours on offer for a little extra. These included Tianamen Square, The forbidden City,Summer Palace, Temple Of Heaven & The Great Wall at Badaling. The weather was a little warmer than we expected, not like high summer in the UK, more like warm spring. Tip for the Great Wall is to take some extra clothes to wrap up (fleece etc...) as it was a good bit cooler and a little windy. Walked a small section of the wall, VERY steep and it was fairly crowded, but a good experience. Spent around 2-3 hours there. All the above were interesting in their own right, The Summer Palace in particular at sunset was stunning... lakes, the architecture, atmosphere. As additional excursions we chose to go to an evening Chinese Acrobat show, about an hour or so, which we felt was very good followed by a Chinese buffet style meal. We also chose an evening trip to see the Olympic village, including the Birdsnest stadium, Swimming pool (The bubble!). We could not go in to either, but just walking around the wide concourse and seeing the lights was still a good experience. CRUISE: Departed the hotel around 9am ish, and the trip to the port was around 3 hours. TIP: Chinese Toilets are not the best experience - squat over a hole. Not a problem in your hotel, but on the way to the cruise terminal the toilet stop was not pleasant, with many ladies not bothering due to the state they were in. Take your own loo paper/wipes etc..., and hand cleanser is useful. We had a LONG wait at the cruise terminal as Diamond, had a norovirus breakout the previous cruise, and had to be disinfected twice before the Chinese authorities would allow it to sail. We had to wait around 6 hours in the hall of the terminal, though everyone did have a seat and drinks/snacks (crisps) were provided during the wait. Once on board things improved, we had a balcony cabin on deck 12 (Aloha), and all of the balconies on this deck are covered, so no one is looking down from above. Also handy to pop up to deck 14 and the buffet for coffee/tea/snacks and bring back to cabin/balcony. Nice!! Due to the late embarkation, the ship did not sail that evening as planned, and sailed the following morning, though this did not impact on the schedule. Day at sea followed, allowing us to explore the ship and generally relax We have cruised with Princess previously on the Coral and Golden Princess. We found the Diamond, in our opinion the best of the 3 in all aspects. Not perfect from a service perspective and heard a few stories form fellow passengers of some negatives. However, we had no problems. We found the food to be very good to our tastes, though some said it could be much better. Again, of the 3 cruises, we personally found the food to be better than what we had experienced from Princess in the past.(and as good as the other 2 cruise lines we have used) We were booked on the Anytime Dining, and tried all of the 4 anytime dining restaurants. The food choice was the same as the traditional dining, the difference in the theme of the restaurant. We found the Santa Fe to have best service overall on the nights we dined there, followed by the Savoy.You can choose to sit with others on a larger table or choose a table for two but may have to wait 20-30 mins unless this is booked. It was not a problem as we were given a pager, and waited at a nearby bar with drinks (good excuse). One thing to be aware of though is that the tables for two are VERY close together, so conversations are not too private, and you may end up conversing with adjacent couples anyway!! Generally we used the deck 14 buffet for breakfast/lunch and though it was usually very busy, finding a table was not too bad, and only on a couple of occasions did we have a bit of a search around to find a space. We did after that try to avoid the peak times and it was much more pleasant. As described before the food in the buffet was in our opinion very good, with good choices and reasonable quality bearing in mind we were on a cruise ship catering for nearly 3000 passengers. For quite a few days, the food was served by the servers, no doubt due to the previous Norovirus outbreak and there was no fresh salad produce, though stuff like pasta salad was plentiful. After a few days normal service was resumed with the "help yourself" system. We tried Sabatinis and paid the cover charge - found the experience well worth the cost, and the food was VERY plentiful and varied of high quality, and it was good to try samples of different dishes. Also visited the Steakhouse, and again found this exceptional quality. We booked the Ultimate Balcony Dining on an evening at Sea - the cost is 100 dollars,(50 each) but we found this was worth it for the experience. The price includes a choice of a cocktail each, flowers, a photograph, bottle of champagne, and the dinner of Canapes, Starter, Lobster and steak entree and a dessert. The starter was actually as good if not better than the entree!!! (Crab cakes presented in pastry basket). Definitely the culinary highlight of the whole trip!!, all served up by waiter service on your balcony - they bring table/settings and set this up in about 10 mins. Fantastic experience. It can be booked only when you are on board by calling the DINE service on the cabin phone. We booked it the afternoon we arrived for about 1 week into the cruise. We did not bother too much with the evening shows in the Princess theatre - not really our thing. We did attend quite a few of the "talks" including port talks and some nature talks on sea life/coral reefs - all were pretty good. Also most afternoons there is a recent movie showing in the theatre which we watched on a couple of occasions on sea days. The Cruise Director was "JJ" who we had on a previous cruise. Whilst his enthusiasm cannot be faulted, he did come across as a bit over the top sometimes, and his "enthusiasm" coming across as a little false on occasions. During the fruit carving/Sushi demos, I cannot believe that anyone can be really THAT enthused by the demos, particularly when you know its possibly the hundreth time - still his commitment cannot be faulted!! The deck walking area around deck 7 we used on quite a few occasions and was generally fairly quiet. As on previous ships, there are steps at both aft/stern to up then down onto higher levels - so its not a "level" walk all the way around (for those that don`t know). The ships library was OK, not fantastic, but we both chose a few books during the cruise to read when relaxing on sea days - choice was OK, not fantastic - just OK. We used the Internet cafe on a couple of occasions, but it was both in our minds expensive and slow, but then we are at sea and using the internet was very low down on our list of things to do - just checked e-mail a few times for banking and the like. On the occasions we did try it, it was not too busy - though I guess the cost puts many off now!! We did not have cause to use the Passengers Services (Pursers desk!) on many occasions, but did note that this was usually VERY busy with long lines and not generally enough staff - would suggest to avoid unless really necessary. As far as currency exchange goes, we did bring most with us, but there are 2 exchange machines nearby the passenger services desk to change dollars into the currency of the next port of call (small charge of a few dollars to do this), otherwise its the busy desk above!! Overall we loved Diamond Princess, preferring it to Coral/Golden as it seemed to have more character than the Coral Princess, and while similar to the Golden Princess, both the service and the food seemed better. The anytime dining restaurants were better than the Golden Princess, splitting one very large restaurant into 4 smaller restaurants with themes. Each restaurant had a speciality dish related to the theme. PORTS OF CALL.............................. SHANGHAI(CHINA) - As you will most likely be aware, nearly all the ports on this itinerary are industrial container type ports,(or a tender in the case of Vietnam) so expect this. We took a full day princess excursion and had a City tour that included The historical museum at the oriental pearl tower - museum was OK, lots of wax figures and historical scenes of how Shanghai has developed. The tower itself was quite stunning/unusual and just seeing that was for me better than the museum itself. no time to go up the tower though. We visited the waterfront to view the "bund" over the other side, and then another Chinese style buffet lunch (about the 5th after Beijing!!!) These buffet meals vary in quality and how hot the actual food arrives at the table - then its help yourself form the "Lazy susan" revolving "table". Usual Chinese fare Pork/Fish/Chicken/Noodles/Rice/Soup.... in various guises Sweet/Sour, Spicy etc.....Like all Princess excursions they are on the pricey side, but we both like listening to the commentaries about the culture/history of the places, and you know you will get back to the ship on time, or if not, Princess will sort things out (hopefully). After lunch we visited the old Chinatown part of Shanghai, which to me was the highlight. The atmosphere was fantastic, with all the old style buildings merging with the modern and the shops/street sellers, this was what I was expecting of China. Found it a little rushed though, and if doing this independently could have spent more time. Ended with tour of Yu Gardens, with all the pagodas, ponds and statues. Good end to a good day and back to the ship. OKINAWA(JAPAN) - Short stay here - we visited the Castle and the market. The castle was OK, but nothing special to us. The indoor market was enjoyable, just browsing and people (and produce) watching. not the best port of call, but OK. KEELUNG (TAIWAN) - We did a Princess tour visiting the Democracy Hall, Taipie 101 (Photo Stop), Temple. Good interesting tour, quite surprised at the scale of the architecture, was better than expected (not sure what we expected!) - surprise. Taipei 101 - despite been the tallest building in the world (not for much longer) was not really that dramatic from a design/interest point of view. More of a tick the box to say you have seen it! HONG KONG - To me this was going to be one/the highlight, and having two days here and an overnight was a bonus (Nagasaki was cancelled due to immigration hassles). We took Princess tours to visit the Po-Lin monastery and the "Big-Buddha". This was good and a contrast to the city skyscrapers and hustle/bustle we would experience the following day. We visited a fishing village and it was good to just wander around looking at the produce and the way of life - excellent experience. Lunch was a surprisingly good vegetarian meal at the monastery. There was also some time to visits shops near the "Big Buddha" and opportunities to take loads of photos both at and near the largest seated bronze Buddha in the World. The evening was spent on another excursion that included dinner (another chines buffet, but with that speciality Peking Duck - they all say that theirs is the best!!). The highlight was standing on the Hong Kong waterfront, watching the evening lightshow, and then Diamond Princess to sail through the harbor during the light show (it relocated another berth). The light show itself was for me a little disappointing, though the lit up skyline light show or not was impressive. We then visited the famous Temple street Night Market - hundreds of stalls selling everything (and nothing!!), crowded, atmospheric, interesting!! Our 2nd day in Hong Kong was spent in/around the city, with a harbor cruise, a visit to victoria Peak and the fantastic view looking down upon the Hong Kong Skyline. it was then on to yet another Chinese banquet on "Jumbo", the largest floating chinese restaurant in the World, and a trip on a Sampan around the older harbor. Fantastic, if busy 2 days. Was everything expected and more. VIETNAM: Both ports of call were everything we expected really and both VERY enjoyable. Hoi Chi min city was manic with all the scooters and traffic. The architecture interesting. The famous water puppet show to us was a big disappointment though as a few had said this was a highlight - whilst enjoyable (and short), I definitely would not describe it as a highlight. Visiting HCM city itself and seeing the buildings/way of life was the highlight - we had time to wander around for a few hours browsing shops/stalls and general people watch - very interesting. Of course its quite a long bus ride from the port (3 hours ish), but in our mind was well worth the trek to experience this interesting place. Just the sights on the journey were interesting - how many people on one scooter!!.. you can`t carry that on a scooter - oh I see you are - watch out wide load!! Our guide was the "Famous" Jason Superstar of Jason Superstar Services., and he gave very good commentaries (though was a bit full of himself and promoting his web site and travel services business) FANTASTIC buffet meal at hotel in HCM city!! (not Chinese but mix of western with vietnamese influence) The countryside tour the day previous to HCM around Vung Tau area (spelling!?!) was very interesting. We were supposed to have a river cruise but due to flooding a few days previous this could not operate. In its place I think they gave us a much longer tour visiting a Kindergarten, countryside, temple.... very scenic, and saw rice paddies, oxen ploughing, workers..... just as you may expect from documentaries regards rural life. Overall Vietnam WAS the experience we wanted it to be. Tip: Watch for the "1-dollar" crowd selling anything form postcards to hats, they "bother" you everywhere in Vietnam. The same group even followed to coach on scooters to the next stop, so you would see the same people, trying to sell you the same stuff you did not want everytime you got off the coach. Learn to laugh about it and just politely say "no" if there is nothing you wish to buy. A dollar buys a lot here though!! SINGAPORE - Here we visited the Yung Bird Park - The highlight there was the Lori Loft which was a very large walk though aviary with very colorful Australian Lori birds. We were given a cup of syrup, and the birds sat on your hand drinking the syrup. A city tour followed, though this centered more upon the Orchid Gardens which was very pretty, but it would have been nice to seem more of the city. We did catch a glimpse of the famous raffles hotel from the bus, but did not have chance to have that "Singapore Sling" BANGKOK - Again we were met by tour reps (From Tour East) when we disembarked the ship early morning. After finding the suitcases, there was a bit of a wait over an hour or more till everyone in our group was together and the buses left for Bangkok. This was about 3 hours away form the port. We stayed at the Pahumwan Princess hotel in the center of the city. Again an excellent high quality hotel with excellent facilities. We acquainted ourselves with the HUGE MBK shopping center (8 floors) connected to the hotel. The following morning we were up early and off at 07:30 with included excursion to visit The Bridge over the river Kwai. This included stops at the museum and war graves, then onto the bridge itself. There was good opportunity and plenty of time to walk across the bridge, though we did have to wait for a train to cross before we could make our way back. We then had opportunity to ride on a train along the route of the "death railway" and adjacent to the river Kwait. As an extra excursion for £10 each we chose to visit the elephants. This included a full half hour ride on an elephant, which at one point entered the River Kwai for a photo to be taken. Excellent. The 2nd full day in Bangkok was a visit to The Grand Palace and a short city tour (just over half-day). We then entertained ourselves visiting nearby shopping and restaurants - found the Hard Rock Cafe!! We were due to fly home the evening of the following day, but a note under the door at 5am told us otherwise. The PAD protestors had taken over the airport and we could not fly home. The next few days were strange to say the least - not knowing when we could leave the Country. We were advised to stay with the tour group and not to stray too far form the hotel.(keep away form government house area). This advise given by the British consulate we heeded, but we did use the Skytrain monorail to visit nearby shopping and restaurants. I will not go no about the days here as they were simple spent in/around the hotel area, and we were eventually glad to leave. thats not to say Bangkok is not a wonderful place ,it is, but the circumstances for us were not the best from the 3rd day onwards. We have visited Canada/Alaska and South America/Antarctica on previous Princess cruises. These were fantastic experiences, but for the number of different interesting ports of call and "highlights", I have to say this Asian cruise/Land tour experience was as good or better than the two previous travel experiences, for many reasons. One thing to note is that during our month away, I actually lost count of the number of Chinese buffets we ate, and consequently I may not want a Chinese Take-Away back in the UK for some time to come! Hope this is helpful - enjoy your own travels. Graham & Susan Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
We were first time cruisers and apart from what we had read on the roll call and boards we did not know what to expect. We are in our early fifties and were travelling with our 8 year old grandson. Our airline travel to embarkation port ... Read More
We were first time cruisers and apart from what we had read on the roll call and boards we did not know what to expect. We are in our early fifties and were travelling with our 8 year old grandson. Our airline travel to embarkation port was arranged privately as was our three night stopover in Beijing at the Holiday Inn Central Plaza prior to cruise. (We are reviewing this hotel together with our Tokyo hotel on Tripadvisor.) We wanted to make our own way to the port because the Princess transfers were very expensive and also because we have travelled by train in several countries and wanted to experience it in China if only for a relatively short 2 1/2 hour journey. Our stay in Beijing was at the time of the National Holiday week and so everywhere was more crowded and much more difficult to get around timewise. We were assisted with touring in Beijing and buying train tickets by the fantastic guest relations officer, Storm, at the Holiday Inn. Nothing was too much trouble for him and after 3 days he was more like a friend and even travelled down to the port with us and saw us onto the ship. It worked out a fraction of the cost and was a very "interesting" journey. To get a taxi down would also have been quite reasonable only about 700-800 yuan. Embarkation - Unfortunately Princess Cruises did not advise that we needed to check in at a nearby hotel and so when we arrived at the Terminal after a bit of confusion we were finally able to get the porters to take our bags on board and then we had to go on the shuttle bus to the hotel, check-in and then come back to the dock on the shuttle bus. By this time the embarkation line was relatively short as we were probably among the last to board. First impressions - Once on board we knew we were in for a great trip. We had a mini suite and were greeted by our cabin steward with glasses of champagne and the accommodation was just as it was pictured on the Princess website. The bed had been converted into a Queen, there was a sofa bed which the steward made up every night for our grandson and quite a reasonable size bathroom with a bathtub and shower over. The bedding was very comfortable and we were never disturbed by noise in the corridors. Our cabin was on the port side in the aft of the ship. We did have a balcony which was not covered (I have noted complaints from some people about this) but we thought it was fine and if you sat in closer to the door it was reasonably private from above and we liked being able to lean over the railing looking straight out to sea. The public rooms on the ship are very impressive and there is something happening somewhere all the time. We really enjoyed the Art Auctions and enjoyed the free champagne at the first auction and the free wine and cheese get together in the Art Gallery. We didn't buy anything this time because we hadn't done any research on the prices or how relative they were to our own country. We will be more prepared next time. The shows in the Princess Theatre were very good and on the night we stopped over in Shanghai there was an Acrobatic Show in the Princess Theatre which was outstanding. We did not participate in lots of activities on board. There were many shore days on this cruise and we didn't get the time. It was very nice to sit up in the Skywalkers Lounge mid afternoon and enjoy a glass of red wine while looking out to sea. Children's Activities - It had not occurred to us that with 2,500 people on board there may not be many children because it was our country's spring vacation time. We were happy to see that there were about 12 in the 8-12 age group although not all attended the Kids Club. This did not matter because our grandson had a fabulous time and the young people looking after them were great fun and made sure the kids were well entertained with all types of activities. Our grandson made some nice friends and was sad to see the cruise come to an end. He ate only two meals with us in the dining room preferring to go to the 3 dinners which were organized by the Kids Club or have room service before heading to the Kids Club for the 7-10 session. The swimming pools did not interest him as we have a pool at home and it was not a novelty. We prefer the beach. We did not see any children behaving in the manner described on some of the reviews of other cruise lines. We may not get to cruise alone as he is already deciding on "his next cruise". Dining - We chose the Anytime Dining because we thought this would be preferable travelling with a child. There was one traditional dining room and four anytime dining rooms. We went to all and we really enjoyed the opportunity of a different setting each night. Our favorite was the Savoy and we liked the way the tables of two were arranged side by side. It was easy to chat with other diners alongside and we met many different people from all different countries. We did not go to either of the alternate dining rooms. The waiters were very friendly and we received excellent service without resorting to additional tipping over the amount charged to our cabin account. Contrary to another review we found the choices on the menu were very good and the standby dishes which were available every night were also good. The dining room food was very good the only exceptions being the inclination of the kitchen to deep fry some meals and the lobster which was not served until the third last night was very small in quantity and rubbery. We have eaten quite a lot of lobster and crayfish and this was probably the worst we have tasted. Some people later told us they turned it into a surf and turf with the standby steak. Room service was good and punctual. We ate breakfast in the buffet and there were enormous quantities of food. We did not like the bacon as it had been deep fried and was so crunchy and burnt up you could not cut it with a knife. There was a lot of choices and although it was always crowded we never had to wait for a table. In fact the buffet was crowded at all hours of the day and night. We could only manage a slice of pizza from the outside grill for lunch on sea days and on shore days didn't need to eat lunch. Shore Excursions - We had booked what we wanted on the internet before we left and only had to go to the travel desk twice to cancel excursions. Apparently this was not so for the people who had boarded the ship in Canada and there were long lines of very angry people trying to sort out excursions. The hours of the travel counter were inadequate and need to be extended and additional staff on duty. In each port Princess had arranged free shuttle buses to take you into the town. They ran all day and you were advised what time the last shuttle would return to the ship. Each city in China was different. Beijing - we were on our own pre-cruise and went to Badaling and got the cable car up. This was not crowded because most of the Chinese chose not to spend the extra money. We were advised that the ship excursion although it went to Badaling it did not take them to the cable car section and many were unable to make the steep climb. Dalian - We took the shuttle and then walked around and got a taxi to take us to a market. It was a modern city and reminded us of Singapore. Shanghai - The first day we took the shuttle in (it was about 1 1/2 hours into the city). The buildings are very modern some even space age looking. We wanted to try and find another market like the Silk Market in Beijing and had the shuttle guide write down an address for us to give to a taxi driver. We ended up in a very Chinese section of the city where there were lots of shopping centers about 6 storeys high. It was so crowded (probably half of Shanghai)and all Chinese, saw only one western couple. It was not for the faint hearted and when we got out of the taxi we were literally surrounded by about 20 people who walked with us trying to get us to their shops or take some of the profit from our purchases. However, we got lots of bargains and all three of us had great fun bartering. Later we went to the Bund and at dusk went on a river cruise to see the lights before taking the shuttle back to the ship. The next day in Shanghai we had booked ourselves on the Shanghai Sampler tour. The Old City and the gardens were excellent but we could have easily done this ourselves and saved a lot of money. The tour director had no intention of taking us back to the ship and suggested we should all get the shuttle so we left the tour in the Old City and went shopping. It was also really good. We saw the Pearl market but ran out of time and had to spend the balance of our money at the higher priced handcraft center because the money changers had left for the day. Kagoshima - A very nice city. We went on the tour to the Volcano. It was a good tour. It was worth the money because of the transportation convenience between sights. A wonderful dockside farewell from local people. Okinawa - Went to Okinawa world. The cultural dancing was good but the tour was poor value. Pusan - We went on the Bermeosa Temple excursion. The temple was good and the fish market was interesting if only for the unusual sea creatures on sale. It was a Sunday and Pusan was really a pretty ordinary place. Keelung - The shuttle only went into Keelung but we wanted to go to Taipei. There were taxis at the dock and we organized a 5 hour trip for 2,300. Unfortunately just as we had made our deal we met the second good samaritan of our trip, a volunteer named Yi-Min Sun (who speaks English) but the taxi manager would not permit him to take over the trip and so he went with us for free as our guide. We crossed paths with some of the tours and we got to see the whole of the Martyrs Shrine (not just the gates), Sun got us into the Museum for free and we paid all the admissions and snacks at Tapei 101. It was a wonderful day and we also ended up going into a local temple very close to the dockside. Please contact Yi-Min Sun (Mobile 886-935-518367 or 886-2-24625752)We will soon review our train journey from dockside to Tokyo on Tripadvisor. Would we go on another cruise - most definitely. Would we travel with Princess - after the pampering and overall fantastic experience yes without a doubt. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
Our Oriental Holiday - Pre-Cruise, Xi'an and Beijing Sept.24th. - Oct.2nd. Sapphire Princess, Beijing to Osaka Oct 2nd. - Oct 14th. Post Cruise, Singapore, Oct.15th. and 16th. Sunday Sept. 24th After months of research and ... Read More
Our Oriental Holiday - Pre-Cruise, Xi'an and Beijing Sept.24th. - Oct.2nd. Sapphire Princess, Beijing to Osaka Oct 2nd. - Oct 14th. Post Cruise, Singapore, Oct.15th. and 16th. Sunday Sept. 24th After months of research and planning, which included numerous hours on my P.C. (many devoted purely to Cruise Critic.com) and with great excitement, we commenced our journey to the Orient. Robert, our Son-in-law had offered to drive us to the airport and, just as we were about to leave, Susan, our eldest daughter, together with Emma and Jordan, our grandchildren, decided they too wanted to come along for the ride. They were sharing in the excitement of the day, as they would be making the same journey in four days time, to meet up with us in Beijing on Friday the 29th. We were going to be cruising together on the Sapphire Princess, but we had plans to fly to Xi'an to visit the Terracotta Warrior Museum before flying to Beijing. Susan, Rob and family would only have time to visit The Forbidden City and The Great Wall of China before the cruise. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and the drive to the airport was completed in about 40 minutes. We'd printed our Boarding Pass on the Singapore Airlines Internet site, so our check-in was easy. However, we were relieved when both our bags got accepted without us being charged a fee for being overweight! Economy Class flights from Australia to Asia limit checked luggage to 20kg. Each of our bags weighed about 25Kg. but I'd packed lots of paperwork about China, so it could have been removed to reduce the weight if necessary. Our flight to Singapore was extremely smooth and the service was excellent. We had upgraded to Business class for the next leg of our journey from Singapore to Beijing using our Frequent Flyer miles. This provided us with the opportunity, during the three-hour layover, to make use of the Business Class Lounge where there is a free Internet service. Monday Sept. 25th. Once on board our flight to Beijing, sleep came to us both within minutes. The transit through Customs and Immigration at Beijing Airport was one of the best coordinated efforts we'd ever experienced and, after collecting our bags from the carousel, we made our way to the Domestic Terminal where we found the service was also well coordinated. No sign of the crowds of people I'd expected. Maybe this was because it was only 7-30am. Within minutes of us arriving at the gate, I spotted our friend Donna walking towards us. Donna had arrived in Beijing the previous day after flying from California and stayed overnight at a hotel close to the Airport. Before long we were all seated together on China Air, Flight 1209, headed for Xi'an. On arrival at Xi'an, our tour guide Melanie was waiting for us at the gate. Following introductions, we all made our way to our tour vehicle, which was driven by Melanie's husband and parked just outside the terminal doors. Melanie was recommended to us by a Cruise Critic member who had hired her in 2005. This recommendation made our time in Xi'an absolutely wonderful. The weather was over-cast and just before we arrived in Xi'an it started raining and rained continuously for the whole time we were there. However it had no affect on the impact of what we experienced during our stay in Xi'an. We left Melanie in the foyer of the Bell-Tower Hotel after we'd agreed to meet at 8:00am. sharp the next day for our trip to see the Terracotta Warriors. The Bell-Tower Hotel proved to be a very pleasant surprise for us. The location couldn't be better, (the main reason we chose to stay there!). I'd read some not-so-good reports about the rooms at this hotel, but from our experience, we couldn't find anything negative to justify them. We were upgraded to a large suite, overlooking The Bell Tower. In fact we found everything about the hotel far exceeded our expectations and we'd certainly stay there again. Across the street from the hotel is a very large modern multi-story shopping centre, as good as anything we have in Sydney. This was a big surprise to me, somehow I had not expected to find anything like the shops we have in Sydney. There were lots of banners advertising "special deals" in celebration of the October 1st National Holiday, Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China, (1949). We couldn't understand exactly how much reduction was being applied to the merchandise, and the prices appeared expensive so we didn't buy anything. We had dinner at McDonalds that was next door to the shopping centre. At the time this was the safest option for Dennis who has Diabetes and needs to watch his intake of carbohydrates. It was exactly like the McDonalds here in Sydney and the burgers tasted the same! We were both very tired, so we returned to the hotel and had an early night. Tuesday Sept.26th. This was a day that would be forever etched into our hearts. After a very tasty American style breakfast, we met Melanie who was waiting for us in the Hotel Foyer. The drive to the Terracotta Warriors Museum lasted about 50mins during which time we passed many local Chinese on bicycles and tricycles with precariously balanced heavy loads, some with an umbrella to protect them from the rain. The Terracotta Warrior Museum was far more impressive than we'd expected, but this was China! We were so engrossed in the Museum, we lost all concept of time. That's one of the benefits of having a private tour guide, we could spend as much time as we wished at each attraction. Our next stop was at a Factory Museum where souvenir replicas of the Terracotta Warriors are made. Donna made a few purchases, but everything that I liked was far too expensive! We returned to the Bell Tower Hotel mid afternoon and arranged to meet Melanie at 7pm sharp to go to a Tang Dynasty classical music and dance Dinner Show, which she had arranged for us. The Show was fabulous, however the dinner wasn't what we'd expected. If we'd secured a table in the actual show lounge instead of an adjoining room, it may have been different. We were seated at a large table with two strangers from Switzerland and it was too noisy to facilitate a good conversation. However despite this, we all enjoyed the evening. Wednesday Sept. 27th. Melanie's husband was waiting for us in the hotel foyer as arranged at 5-30am for our transfer to the airport. Our first experience in China had proved to be nothing but absolutely fantastic. On arrival in Beijing, we had no trouble meeting our guide Bevis, he was waiting at the gate with a huge smile on his face, my name on a large board in one hand and a big bunch of red roses in the other! He'd remembered we were celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary! Bevis is a professional guide, also recommended to us by the same C.C. member who recommended we hire Melanie. Bevis made a call on his mobile phone and within minutes we were seated comfortably in a nine-seater mini-bus, driven by a very well mannered non-English speaking driver. Our first impression of Beijing was a very pleasant surprise, I don't remember exactly what we expected but in no way did we expect anything like the experiences of the next five days. From the efficiency in the air terminal, to the standard of the roads, the road signs in English and magnificent buildings to the absolutely wonderful polite attitude of the Chinese people. The staff at the Crowne Plaza, Wangfujing provided us with a lovely welcome, and we decided to accept the offer of an upgrade to the Club Floor at a cost no more than two breakfasts, which come free with the upgrade! We said goodbye to Bevis with plans to meet him at 8am Thursday morning. The Crowne Plaza is a lovely hotel, very well located for shopping, and we will certainly stay there again, given the opportunity. After a light lunch in the hotel, we set out to have a look at the shops. We met another family from Sydney who were just as excited as us to be in Beijing. We found crossing the road in Beijing a real challenge. With Traffic police and traffic signals in action at marked road crossings, the drivers still keep going regardless. We later discovered that if you keep walking they go round you, but it takes a bit of nerve to make the first step into a busy thoroughfare! Initially, we planned to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, but after a few drinks and snacks in the Club Lounge, we decided to have an early night, so we would wake refreshed, in readiness for our visit to The Summer Palace. Thursday Sept 28TH. After a delicious full American-style breakfast in the hotel, Bevis met us as planned at 8am. It was a glorious sunny day and we passed many places of interest on the way out of the city. Bevis walked ahead and purchased our tickets when we arrived at the Summer Palace, so we didn't need to queue. We had a lovely morning exploring the grounds, leaving a cruise on the lake until last and we were all ready for a sit down. We had told Bevis our intention was to remain calm and relaxed during our sightseeing and if necessary, we'd rather miss out some of the tourist locations than be rushed. He respected our wishes and at no time tried to hurry us along. It was time for lunch when we left the Summer Palace, so we decided to drive back to the city to where Bevis knew we would find something to our liking for lunch, we ended up at Subways which was just beside the Silk Market. After lunch we spent the remainder of the afternoon shopping! We loved the Silk Market and enjoyed bartering with the friendly vendors. Dennis was interested in buying a digital camera, so we were testing the market and fine honing our bartering techniques. We next went to see an acrobatic show that was absolutely fantastic and so typically Chinese. We returned to the Crown Plaza feeling very satisfied at how the day had developed. Friday Sept. 29th. This day for me was one of the most memorable. The weather remained absolutely glorious and our visit to the Temple of Heaven early in the day just couldn't have been better planned. Seeing the local people so much in tune with their existence was very inspiring. Some were dancing, others were singing, playing games and musical instruments or acting. The ambience of the whole situation touched my heart; I could have stayed there all day. We'd intended to spend the afternoon at The Pearl Market somehow however, we ended up back at the Silk Market! No matter, Dennis got his digital camera. Bevis dropped us off at the Crowne Plaza about 5pm, then returned for me at 7pm to go to meet the Hastings branch of our family at the airport. The timing couldn't have been better. Within thirty minutes of our arrival at the airport, we were on our way back to the Crowne Plaza with Susan, Robert, Emma and Jordan. Everyone was sharing in the excitement of being together in China and looking forward to spending the next day exploring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Saturday September 30th. This was the beginning of an awesome weekend. We all enjoyed breakfast as a family in the hotel. Then, after meeting Bevis and our driver, we set off for Tiananmen Square intending to arrive before the crowds. It was a holiday weekend, the weather was beautiful, so very large crowds were expected. The public holiday was in celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The square was decorated with huge flowerbeds and a miniature reconstruction of the Dali Llama's palace in Lahsa Tibet to commemorate the opening of the Beijing to Llasa railway. The communication through Cruise Critics.com before the cruise had resulted in us getting to know several people who would be cruising with us; one of these people was Gai, who was cruising with her mother. In our discussions before we left Sydney we jokingly said that we would meet in the Forbidden City never for a moment believing it would happen. You can imagine the surprise when, as we made our way through the vast collection of buildings in the Forbidden City, we found ourselves face to face with Gai and her mother. The Forbidden City is much bigger than we had expected, it seemed to go on forever and each building or square was highly decorated in the traditional Chinese way. We were very tired at the end of our day. Sunday October 1st. I believe this day, with our visit to The Great Wall was probably the most exciting of the whole trip. Research told us that a visit to the Mutiangu Section of the Great Wall would be the least crowded and most picturesque; we weren't disappointed. The wall runs along the peaks of the hills and we were relieved to find a chair lift to get us to the entrance. The Hastings family, encouraged by Bevis, managed to walk for a considerable distance along the wall which was very steep in places and the steps were high and frightening to walk up at such a height. Donna, Dennis and I were less ambitious and walked along the easy part where we enjoyed the ambience. On our way to The Great Wall, we had a brief stop at a CloisonnE Factory. Cloisonne is a traditional artform that is only practiced at three factories in China. It is based on the technique of decorating copper vases and dishes with complicated enamel patterns and pictures that are outlined with thin strips of copper. I bought a lovely dish, which now has pride of place on our dining room table. Susan also bought a very nice vase. Although we were told the prices were not negotiable, Bevis managed to get us a favourable discount! Monday September 2nd. The pre-cruise part of our trip was about to end. We were feeling very satisfied with what our guides, Melanie and Bevis had helped us to experience. It was now time to start our cruise on the Sapphire Princess. The Sapphire Princess port of embarkation was Xingang, about 2-3hrs drive from Beijing. Bevis had agreed to travel with us to the ship, this was good insurance since most taxi drivers don't speak English and we wouldn't have had a clue what to do in the case of a traffic hold up or if the taxi driver misunderstood the directions. Fortunately, the journey was without incident but on arrival at the port, we discovered Princess didn't have a passenger embarkation facility at the Port as we had been advised. This didn't pose any real problem, our bags were taken on board and we were taken by coach to a nearby hotel where our cruise cards were issued and without too much ado, we were back on the coach and soon on board the beautiful Sapphire Princess. After checking out our stateroom, we headed for the Horizon court buffet. My mouth waters as I write, thinking of the delicious selection of food. Once we'd satisfied our appetites, we strolled around the ship until it was 3pm, the time arranged for the first C.C. meeting in Skywalkers. Alas, we were the only ones to turn up. No matter, there was another one scheduled on our first sea day, so we returned to our Staterooms and unpacked our bags before attending the mandatory Emergency Drill. After a short nap, we all met for dinner (second sitting) in the International Dining room. Our table was very well located at the rear of the dining room facing the entrance. Diana, our waiter and Sebastion, the assistant waiter, provided us with excellent service from the beginning to the end of the cruise. Tuesday Oct 3rd. We arrived early in Dalian, our first port of call and decided to take the free shuttle into the city centre. The shuttle dropped us off outside a friendship store, we went inside but thought the prices somewhat inflated so didn't buy anything. Dalian was very different to Beijing, it was less busy and appeared to be more affluent; it could have been a financial centre. The roads were wide and tree lined and the traffic was more disciplined. We walked into the central square where we took some photographs and tried a bit of bartering with a streetside seller but it was not very successful so we decided to make our way back to the ship. The sightseeing in Beijing was catching up on us! Wednesday, Oct. 4th. This was our first sea day. At last, a day for rest and relaxation! Susan and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the promenade deck, before breakfast, meeting Gai and her mum Pat doing the same. Unlike our first meeting, there was a very good attendance at the C.C. meeting in the Wheelhouse Bar and we all enjoyed chatting together for quite some time. The ship's boutiques were stocked with some good quality merchandise and I took the opportunity to purchase some lovely Christmas presents. That evening we attended the Captain's welcome aboard cocktail party before dinner; everyone looked especially nice in their formal attire, it's a great chance to get dressed up. Thursday Oct. 5th. Shanghai. The Sapphire Princess docked about 45mins drive from Shanghai, Princess provided a shuttle into the city, free of charge. We chose to take a half-day Shanghai Sampler Tour offered by Princess at a cost of $49 PP, this included a visit to Yu Garden and Old Town. We also got to go up the Jinmao Tower to the observation deck on the 88th. floor. This is the highest and largest observation deck in China. Unfortunately for us, the day was extremely foggy resulting in very poor visibility. The tour ended at a Silk Store, which was the turn around point for the Princess shuttle so we had a brief tour of the Silk Museum attached to the Silk Store, followed by a look around the Silk Store. Susan and Robert took the opportunity to buy three silk duvets. By now the children were feeling tired, so Dennis offered to return with them to the ship, while I stayed with Robert and Susan. We decided to investigate the shopping district along Nanjing road that is the main shopping street in Shanghai. The walk from the Silk Store to Nanjing Road took about fifteen minutes. I have never ever in all my life seen such crowds of people. After about an hour or so we decided to call it a day and return to the ship, with the intention of returning on the free shuttle the next day. Friday Oct 6th. Shanghai Day 2. The children wanted to remain on the ship and I was feeling like I needed some R&R, so I agreed to stay with them, while Dennis went back to Shanghai on the Shuttle with Susan and Robert. We were all extremely impressed with the architecture of the buildings in Shanghai, absolutely magnificent. We were told that most of the high rise buildings had been built in the last fifteen years. There were fewer people shopping along Nanjing road but nobody bought anything, perhaps it was because we had spent up in Beijing. Saturday Oct 7th. Sea Day Our second sea day, so we enjoyed the activities on the ship without the anxieties associated with getting off the ship. The Sapphire Princess is such a large ship with so many activities that you could never get bored. Emma absolutely loved her time in The Kids Club, while also enjoying the deck games and the challenge of Trivia with the family. Jordan didn't find the Teens Club interesting but he too enjoyed the activities on board, and the opportunity to catch up on some reading and movies. Sunday Oct 8th Pusan. South Korea: Pusan is the second largest city in South Korea and the nation's primary seaport. Pusan is locally referred to as Busan, not sure why! While researching I'd discovered that the Metropolitan Transport Org. offered a Busan City Tour at a very reasonable price. http://english.busan.go.kr/culture_tourism/03_03_09.htm We decided to take the free shuttle into the city and walk to the railway station but that was a mistake because the station was within 20mins. walking distance from the ship! After looking around some market stalls we returned to the ship on the shuttle and made our way to the Station. We arrived just in time to see the bus drive away! This meant we only had time to do part of the tour we'd intended to do. However it proved to be good value and something I'd recommend to anyone visiting Busan. The tour bus was very modern, it even had lap-top computers connected to the internet. Jordan, with Grandad seated next to him made good use of the connection. Monday Oct 9th Kagoshima, Japan. We decided not to book a shore excursion with Princess. During my research I discovered it was easy to take a ferry across to Sakurajima where the famous active volcano is located, this volcano has a great history and some interesting places to explore. The weather this day was like every other day of the cruise, absolutely glorious. After arriving in the town on the Princess free shuttle, we walked to the ferry terminal that is located close to the Aquarium. It was interesting to hear the traffic lights make bird sounds to indicate that it was safe to cross, instead of the clicking sound that we are used to. The ferries operate about every fifteen minutes and we found one just about to leave. After spending about two hours exploring the town and coastline, we returned to Kagoshima with the intention of taking a city tour on a trolley bus. Apparently lots of folk from the Sapphire Princess had the same idea, the trolley was packed and was standing room only. As we approached the stop where the Sapphire shuttle left, we thought it was a good idea to get off the trolley and return to the ship. Tuesday Oct 10th. Sea Day. We had another enjoyable day at sea, giving us time to recharge our batteries. Wednesday Oct 11th. Keelung (Taiwan) Keelung is about one hour drive from Taipei, so I arranged a Taipei City Bus Tour with a company called Have Fun Travel a tour provider for Taipei City. At a cost of $1200 NTW (New Taiwan Dollars) = $39US per person. Much less than the cost of a similar tour offered by Princess. A very polite young man named Michael, who was to be our guide, met us at the dockside with the driver of our mini bus who was also very well mannered, however he didn't speak English. We visited the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. It was more of a memorial that contains a bronze statue of the president than a hall. The enclosed area below the main hall houses an exhibition. The most interesting exhibits were the two cars that Chiang Kai Shek used. One of these cars is a Cadillac and the other is an armoured Chrysler. There are soldiers in immaculate uniforms and chrome plated helmets on guard duty, they stand at attention with not the slightest movement. After a slow drive past the Presidential Office Building, the seat of government in Taiwan, we made our way to the Martyrs' Shrine. This is a memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in the founding of the Republic of China and apart from the building itself, the main attraction for us was the changing of the guard. Outside the entrance there are two motionless guards who stand at attention, like the guards in the Chiang Kai Shek memorial, for one hour, after which there is a changing of the guards ceremony and two more take over. These guards wear the same uniform as those in the Chiang Kai Shek memorial but are exposed to the weather. When we were in Taipei the weather was warm and humid but it gets much hotter and the humidity makes it very uncomfortable, even for normal everyday exertion. How these guards stand for so long in direct sunlight and high humidity is hard to understand, perhaps the fact that they are allowed to faint but not move has some bearing! They have a regular spray on the face with water and occasionally someone wipes the perspiration off their faces, which must be some small benefit. When the guard is changed the old guard is replaced in a ceremony that involves some unusual marching which we were told is based on Tai Chi and is intended to stretch the limbs and get the blood flowing into the muscles again. Our next stop was at the Taipei 101 building, the tallest building in the world which has the resemblance of a Chinese pagoda. After our experience waiting in the queue to go up the elevator in the Jinmao Tower Shanghai, we opted not to go inside the building so as to avoid anything that may have caused us to be late arriving back at the ship. Thursday Oct 12th. Okinawa , Japan The Sapphire Princess docked in Naha New Port. This was the only port where Princess didn't provide a free shuttle service; however, we decided not to book a shore excursion and explore on our own. I had read there are many souvenir shops, department stores, clothing stores, hotels, and restaurants on International Street (kokusai-dori) which is the main street in Naha-city so we decided to make our way there. After disembarking the ship, we decided to walk into town instead of waiting in the extremely long queue for a taxi. This proved to be a great decision. It was a lovely sunny warm day with a gentle breeze, so we didn't get too hot. The walk took us over a bridge that stretched a long way over the harbour, and provided us with some magnificent views of Naha City. We walked down some steps at the side of the bridge and made for the city with the help of a very basic map. We noticed that a beach was not far away so we decided to have look; we soon came to Naminoue beach. This is the local beach of Naha and it has lovely blue water and white sand but was very small. Although it was a warm day there were very few people on the beach and on the promenade. As we approached the city centre we came across a monorail station which would have taken us into the city, but we all wanted to keep walking. Eventually we arrived at our intended destination where we enjoyed experiencing the way of life and looking in the shops. After our long walk to get to the shops, we decided to take a taxi back to the ship. Although we felt that we had done very little, the general opinion was that we all thoroughly enjoyed our day in Okinawa. Friday Oct. 13th. This was our last day at sea and it was time to start making plans for our disembarkation, which among other things was to start packing. We decided to do our packing early in the day, and then spend the rest of the time interacting with our newly made cruise friends. Saturday Oct 14th. Osaka, Japan. Our flight to Singapore was scheduled to depart at 5:00pm. so we had quite a lot of time to kill and rather than wait at the airport we decided to book a shore excursion with Princess. We would have to pay for a transfer anyway and if we booked a tour our bags would go to the airport and be waiting when we finished the tour.The Princess deal is that we had to pay $99.00 for the port to airport transfer, in addition to the $72.00 for the tour.After breakfast we said our farewells to the Hastings part of the family and then went to meet Donna. Donna wasn't leaving Osaka until the next day so she also opted to do the tour with us. The overview of Osaka began with a city drive to give us a general orientation of the city's highlights and then took us to the Sumiyoshi Shrine dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. This shrine is one of the most popular Shinto Shrines in Osaka; the main building is designated as a national treasure. The path leading to the main building is lined with stone lanterns donated by sailors and ship owners. We were fortunate to see guests arriving for a wedding, the ladies wearing Kimono's but we had to leave for the rest of our tour before the ceremony started. The next attraction was Osaka Castle - Built by Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi in the late 16th century, the castle tower stands on the top of a hill surrounded by a moat and large park. Arriving at the park, we walked uphill to the base of the castle and then climbed the steps to the entrance. Once inside, we continued our ascent to the observatory at the top where we enjoyed panoramic views of the city. We then toured the museum, which presents the history of the castle through multimedia displays and photographs. On our way to the castle we passed monks lining the drive chanting and holding their begging bowls and a display of large Chrysanthemums. Our tour ended at an airport hotel, where passengers from the Sapphire Princess with late flight departures could have room to relax. We remained on the coach, to be transferred to the airport where our bags were waiting for us. We said goodbye to Donna, who was staying overnight at an hotel connected to the airport and made our way into the airport building to locate our departure gate. Osaka airport terminal is, as I expected, very modern! Our check-in was extremely smooth, with no mention that our bags were overweight! Singapore, Sunday and Monday Oct. 15th and 16th. Our flight to Singapore was without incident, and on arrival, we were very pleased with our choice of the Phoenix Hotel on Orchard Street, it was right next to a Singapore MRT (underground) station and very central for the shops. The Hotel Phoenix had a Smart Card system whereby you could charge your room key with a minimum credit of twenty dollars and use the key as a ticket on the public transport system. We enjoyed travelling around Singapore on the super modern MRT for the next two days. When we checked out of the hotel on Tuesday morning we discovered our cards were still in credit for the amount of fifteen dollars, which was refunded to us, amazing! We spent some of our time walking round the Singapore Chinatown, which is full of bargains. The weather was typically hot and very humid so we stopped for a drink at a place that had tables to rest our weary feet. An incredible thing happened to us while we were having our drink, we asked a couple sitting at the next table, to take a photograph of us both. We started to chat and they told us they were enjoying a stopover while on their way home to England after visiting friends in Newcastle N.S.W. It turned out that the friends they had been visiting were old friends of ours but we had not seen them since we left Newcastle. Even more incredible, we found out that Margaret, the lady was in the same year at school as another friend, who was one of our first friends over forty-two years ago when we first arrived in Australia. It just goes to show - is the world really such a large place? The flight back to Australia was smooth and enjoyable with the high degree of attention that we have come to expect of Singapore Airlines. When we cleared customs at Sydney airport we were pleased to find Raymond, our son-in- law waiting to drive us home. We classed this holiday as one of the best we have had; it was full of pleasant surprises and exciting new experiences. It was made even more enjoyable because we had Susan, Robert and our grandchildren Jordan and Emma along with us on the cruise. All the countries we visited were nothing like we expected, but most of all, China and her people. The standard of the hotels and the service they provided was well above what we would normally expect; where else in the world would you get a blown light bulb replaced within minutes of the phone call to housekeeping? It happened and we enjoyed the service along with the friendly hard working people, who were responsible for keeping us satisfied, they certainly did! There is no doubt that we will return to see and experience more of the Orient. November 2006 Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
Started with a 5 day pre cruise tour. Started in Beijing and stayed at the wonderful Beijing Hotel, stayed 1 night and then flight to Xian and visited the amazing Terracotta warriors. What an experience that was, a very interesting guide ... Read More
Started with a 5 day pre cruise tour. Started in Beijing and stayed at the wonderful Beijing Hotel, stayed 1 night and then flight to Xian and visited the amazing Terracotta warriors. What an experience that was, a very interesting guide gave a very comprehensive insight into the history of the place. Then off a very nice hotel, we thought Beijing was good but this one was even better, pity we only had one night. After a clean up we were off to a Chinese meal and theatre show, good meal and first class entertainment. After a good breakfast we were off to the Giant Goose Pagola another exciting place with loads of history and still a very spiritual place for the Chinese.A visit to a jade factory followed techniques and history fascinating but the long stay and sales pitch were a little off putting. After another excellent Chinese meal, it was on a flight back to Beijing and the Beijing Hotel. Next day we were off to the Great Wall an awe inspiring experience. The final day saw us visiting Tianaman Square and the Forbidden City before a 3 hour journey to embark Sapphire Princess. The embarkation procedure was carried out in a hotel some way from the ship. The queuing was a little tedious, but once into the large hall things went smoothly. Once on board ship, our cases were waiting in our cabin, and before we knew it we were going to safety briefing, once that was out of the way we were off to explore the ship and meet friends who had joined the ship and not been on the tour. Opting for any time dining , we ate at the Sante Fe on the first night and found the table we were given in a very cold spot , so asked to moved this was received with enthusiasm and caused some friction with the head waiter so didn't eat in there again.  Our favorite restaurant was Pacific Moon, so we soon booked the same table for the rest of the cruise and this worked very well. The waiters were very efficient and always had a smile, and the head waiter couldn't have been more helpful. We found the ship very comfortable and the public rooms were very comfortable. In spite of there being 2600 or so passengers it was always easy to find a quiet spot if you needed to or join the many entertainment venues. The shows in the theatre by the ships dancers were excellent, but some of the other entertainment left a bit to be desired. The ports visited were an excellent choice giving a great insight into the Asian culture. We took 3 organized excursions from the ship, although we thought these a little expensive they were well organized. Disembarkation was very organized and the hospitality hotel in Bangkok was 1st class, so was the transfer to the airport and the luggage collection. What a relief to have the luggage meet you at the airport and just check it in and pick it up again at the home airport. Well Done Princess for super cruse and pre cruise tour, we will be back. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
Just completed June 15, 2006. Pacific Princess Beijing to Bangkok, 16 days. I highly recommend the Princess Pre-Cruise 9 day package which consists of tours of Beijing, flights to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, flight to ... Read More
Just completed June 15, 2006. Pacific Princess Beijing to Bangkok, 16 days. I highly recommend the Princess Pre-Cruise 9 day package which consists of tours of Beijing, flights to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, flight to Chongching to pick up a 3 night riverboat cruise thru the Yangzee River including the Three Gorges Dam. Return flight to Beijing to tour and pick up the ship. This pre-cruise package is a DON'T MISS EXPERIENCE Excellent food and service. Very intimate ship carrying only 690 passengers. Very few small children, but some teens and young adults traveling with their parents. I would highly recommend this ship and it's itinerary. But.....there were some "flaws". 1. The ship does not display fresh flowers, all arrangements are silk, also you cannot order flowers to be delivered to your room unless they are pre-ordered. 2. The ship does not lauder and dry clean. There is one laundromat consisting of 4 washers and 4 dryers. 3. The bedding is in serious need of an upgrade. The pillows, blankets, and sheets are way past their prime. 4. The draperies and slip covers are frayed and colorless and the chair coverings in the main lounges are need of re-covering. 5. The beauty salon does not do acrylic nails (only regular manicures and pedicures). The beauty salon also does not do any face or body waxing. I found this to be a problem for a 16 day cruise. Read Less
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
Already Booked?

Get to know who you’ll be sailing with

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise