Japan has been near the top of my husband's bucket list for many years, so this year we booked a B2B cruise on Diamond Princess, it coincided with a special birthday. I had read a few reviews so thought I had a good understanding of what to expect, i.e. the majority of passengers would be Japanese. We arrived in Tokyo 2 days in advance and quickly realised it was not what we were expecting. It is a modern city with, from what we saw, very little traditional or historical culture. We stayed in a beautiful hotel, the New Otani which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Embarkation in Yokohama went very smoothly and we were quickly on the ship. We had a balcony cabin on B deck. Typical B class cabin, with the addition of a kettle which we greatly appreciated. Wouldn't have thought it beyond the realms of Princess' thinking to provide their western guests with a mug or cup and saucer for their drinks rather than the tiny Japanese cups with no handles. As usual, we packed two mugs (usually used for early morning room service) and with tea bags and milk from the Horizon Court, managed very well.
Our only complaint was the pillows, one was too low and two you were almost sitting up. They were also rock hard. Rod our steward found a smaller one so that solved that problem.
Dining in the MDR was OK. Have much smaller portions than on other ships which suited us fine. The problem with a B2B was that the menu was repeated the second week. The final night I thought I would try the Tofu which I had never had before. Thought it was a joke when it came. Approximately 1.5 ins x 4 ins. swimming in a watery, very salty "sauce". That was it. Looked like a Creme Caramel dessert.
Only did two shows, walked out of the first when we realised we had seen it on numerous occasions and it hadn't improved. The other was the magician who did that much prancing around, you wanted to shout "get on with it". He wasn't all that good.
We loved the quizzes - mainly two types, one English and one Japanese, but occasionally a bi-lingual one which was more general question on perhaps geography, than the others.
Also very much enjoyed learning the hula dance with Lokelina who had a wonderful calming voice. Also learned to write our name in Japanese.
The Diamond Princess has a strange accounting system. The tours are on one page and other drinks, purchases, etc. are shown separately. There is a note that tours and shuttle tickets are organised/payment taken by Carnival Japan. We had a reasonable amount of OBC which we usually used to offset some of the cost of the tours. On the account at the end of the first week it appeared that some of our OBC would be refunded to us and the non-refundable would be lost. Was assured that this wouldn't happen, that the OBC could be used in this way, just that the accounting system didn't show it. I was told the same thing twice but, at the present time, it's not showing up on our credit card so will have to wait.
We did three tours with Princess including the debark tour. The one to Taipei was excellent. Such a lovely city. The debark tour left at 7.50 with arrival at the airport just before 2.00. Our flight out wasn't until 23.40. There were a lot on our bus with very late flights. Couldn't Princess have let us leave later, we had to supply details of our flights so sure something could have been done.
Our main disappointment with the cruise was the ports. Container ports (yes I know large ships are usually berthed in such ports in Asia). With only a couple of exceptions it was necessary to either go on a tour or use the shuttle bus to get anywhere. We honestly felt that all we saw of Japan was containers and billions of tons of concrete, either bridges, flyovers, roads and large featureless buildings. Where were the places we have seen on TV and what we expected to see.
Princess is keen on expanding its customer base in Asia. What they seem to have forgotten is that the cruises are also sold to westerners. Having spoken to other passengers, it felt as if we were being treated as second class citizens. English announcements usually lasted seconds but the Japanese went on for ever. It can't have been the same wording.
Make your mind up Princess do you want us to go on these cruises, then please try treating us better.
Typical balcony cabin on Princess ships
We bought a day pass on the local tram and used it to go to the Peace Park. Very easy from the ship and cost about £7.50 for the two of us. On the 9th of each month, there is a peace vigil to remember those killed and also to promote the disbandonment of atomic bombs. School children were also there to pay their homage. Found the whole thing very moving even if we did get back to the ship looking like drowned rats.
Took the highlight excursion to Taipei. Had a really lovely day. There was some character to this city unlike others we had visited. Would recommend visiting from Keelung, either by yourself or with an excursion.