We've become quite addicted to cruising, but this cruise really burst our bubble. Embarkation in Tianjin Port was chaotic at the time we arrived, due to long holdups on the highway from Beijing and buses arriving at the same time - the trip took 4.5 hours. However once inside the terminal building embarkation proceeded smoothly. It probably would have been better to start the cruise at our first port of call, Osaka.
There was sickness with coughs and colds on board right from the start, probably from the Beijing smog and many people caught caught the bug twice. The ports were excellent, however there was no port lecturer on board till after Hong Kong, the Captain Circle rep was disembarked early in the cruise, leaving the future cruise rep to wear both hats for the remainder of the trip. The queues at guest services were inordinately long due to the ship being understaffed at the beginning.
The food in the MDR was uninspiring with a heavy bias towards seafood. We didn't eat there a lot of the time. However, the menu did improve after new supplies were taken on in Darwin. We loved the International Cafe, but would like to see coffee machines in more than one location.
The ship leaked. We spoke to people with leaks on decks 5, 11 and 12. We were at trivia one morning and the Vista lounge was leaking from above in several places.
There are no deck chairs on the promenade deck, the the public spaces inside were always crowded. This could have been alleviated if the art people did not rope off the Explorer's Lounge for hours at a time. We love Princess Hapy Hours, but the small size of the Wheelhouse Bar made afternoon happy hours chaotic. Most were getting their drinks "to go", there were not enough placs to sit.
There was a constant changeover of staff early on, but things had settled down by the time we reached Australia. The entertainment, apart from just a few acts, was extremely poor, the worst we have encountered. Movies were often repeated. Daily activities in the Patter were poorly co-ordinated, with events overlapping at times.
We booked a mini suite this time, and spent more time than normal in the cabin and on the balcony, largely due to the lack of available quiet space.
We were lucky to have good seas, new destinations to see, and we met some wonderful fellow cruisers. The captain kept us informed of events each midday, and was very good at informing us of other events such as medical evacuations. There was a pilot on board through the Barrier Reef and his talks were very informative and interesting. Trivia was always fun and the crossing of the Equator Ceremony was well done and not overly drawn out.
This is our thrid repositioning cruise but we will not do another one at the end of the Asian season to Australia. The organisation for the transition was not handled well. We have another repositioning cruise booked on the Golden, but given our experiences we have decided to cancel.
We have been here before. We caught the train to Kobe, then stopped at Umeda and Namba on the way back to the ship. There is a shopping centre right where the ship docks and the train station about 500m away.
We caught a shuttle bus to Diamond Hill and visited the free Chi Lin Nunnery and adjacent and delightful Nan Lian Garden. We had lunch at the garden's vegetarian restaurant under the waterfall.
A repeat visit. We went ashore for a massage $US12.50 for two of us, one hour each.
Berthed at Fisherman's Island, miles from everywhere. The shuttle into town was $12 each way per person. Cheaper than a taxi
Disembarkation in Sydney was a breeze.
We caught a local bus to Jiufen, about 40 minutes ride from Keelung. It is a beautiful village nestled on the hillside full of little alleyways and interesting shops. The views out to sea were breathtaking. Cost was around $2.50 each.