Our cruise was Hokkaido and Kyushu, although we cruised around the south island, Kyushu, first and the north island, Hokkaido, second. We chose this cruise because of both timing and the itinerary. We have cruised several times with Princess and have noticed some things slipping. That said, we enjoyed the cruise overall. We began with 10 days on land on a guided tour ending in Tokyo. The Green Tomato shuttle service from our central Tokyo hotel to the pier in Yokohama was efficient and cost effective. Embarkation was a breeze, we didn't wait at all and our bags were delivered within 30 minutes. We were disappointed to note that there were a few things wrong in our cabin (curtain pull rods on the floor, bathroom shelves not wiped) but these things were corrected after we reported them. The television often did not work and calls to Passenger Services gave us only the information that it was system-wide and they were working on it. We don't watch television much on the cruise but we do like to see information about the ports and the navigation information, and watch the occasional movie. We had a leak in the ceiling of the bathroom on our last sea day, which was fixed within a couple of hours. Still, not what we would expect from Princess. Our cabin steward worked hard to meet all our needs and his service was great.
The drill was doubly long as all announcements (for the entire cruise) were in English and then in Japanese (or vice versa).
We have always done anytime dining, but on this cruise only traditional dining was offered. Our table mates were funny and interesting so that went well, thankfully. The service was somewhat slow, although I don't know if it was because of the wait staff or because of the kitchen. With only traditional dining and half the ship eating at the same time I can imagine it creating a backlog. The food was good, but the menu from the first week was repeated exactly during the second week. This did not make us happy. The entertainment was also repetitious, with the same production shows repeated each week and the same contract entertainers providing most of the other entertainment. They only brought on a few outside entertainers for two nights each. Again, the entertainers needed to speak both English and Japanese, so I imagine the choices are limited. The performers were all talented. We were hoping for more cultural presentations, but only one night (our last one, as it happens) did they bring on a local cultural performance and it was an early show; our excursion did not return in time to catch either of the scheduled performances.
As for the ports and excursions, we mainly took Princess excursions because there did not seem to be local tours for most of the ports, they are mostly quite small. I enjoyed the Japanese meals we had on these excursions, but many people did not seem willing to try unusual things. Their loss! Although I do understand. The first week of our cruise we went south and visited Busan, South Korea as one of the ports. There was some immigration bureaucracy to deal with both before and after the non-Japanese port but it was handled efficiently without long waits. This half of the cruise was mainly Australian passengers (some 1500 out of 2700 total). The second half of our cruise went north, around the island of Hokkaido, which to the Japanese is like the West to Americans. The passenger mix reversed, with most of Aussies leaving and an almost equal number of Japanese embarking. One of our ports, Korsakov, is on a Russian island, so again the immigration thing before and after took some time. This was more interesting than I expected, but it is the port I would change if I could for another one in Japan. In all the ports (except for Korsakov) we had Japanese tour guides that spoke English well. Excursions were well organized and for the most part as described. A word of warning: Japan is NOT friendly for those with mobility issues. It pays to carefully check those tickets they give you as sometimes things are printed on them that did not appear on the website. If in doubt, verify with the Excursions desk before the 48 hour cancellation period is up.
Disembarkation was smooth. We are Platinum and so could wait in one of the dining rooms with coffee, juice and pastry, which made the wait easier. We purchased the Princess transfer to the airport and that, as usual, went well.
Overall, I was pleased enough with the cruise. I would take the cruise again if I had it to do over.
Our cabin was on Emerald deck, one above the Promenade deck. It was great not needing to take the elevator most of the time to get to the public rooms. We did take the elevator to the Lido deck (Horizon Court buffet, pools, etc.) or to Skywalkers but really that was all. There were a few things needing minor repairs.