I’d never been on a cruise before. I chose Princess Cruises due to recommendations of friends and reading reviews. I wanted to visit Hokkaido as I’d previously visited other parts of Japan. Before the cruise I stayed in Yokohama for a few days. I took the Airport Express Train to Yokohama and stayed in an hotel there and then took a cab to the Cruise Terminal. Embarkation went smoothly. When I walked through the partition I thought “its like the airport” but no, they have a lot more people processing passengers and I was soon at my cabin with my case waiting for me. The cabin was a lot better than I thought it would be. As a solo traveller my budget only allowed for an interior room.
Later on, there was a safety muster and shortly afterwards we were on our way. I didn’t even know the boat was moving and the captain didn’t honk the horn. The only time I heard the horn was when we were in the fog along the western coast of Hokkaido.
I had dinner in the International Dining Room most nights at the late sitting (7.45 pm) with a group of other solo travellers. The wait staff were excellent and would make a larger portion, add cream etc. and even bought one gentleman 2 mains. I also ate at the Horizon Court Buffet for lunch or if I was getting up early. Lovely selection of food and I enjoyed making my own sushi. Of course there is the pizza stand, grill, ice-cream counter if you are out and about and want a snack. I ordered breakfast the night before and had it each morning in my cabin. I called room service a couple of times for coffee. All brought in a timely manner. There was a jug in the room with green tea sachets. There is bottled water for purchase at US$2 plus gratuity .30c.
Each night I went to the show in the theatre. They were great and on most occasions there were people standing in the aisles. They ask people not to save seats but they do, so go a bit early to avoid standing. I also went to a few lectures, learnt a bit of language and watched entertainers and dancing in the atrium which at times got a bit crowded.
Ah… shopping. These days I get more joy putting something out than bringing something in so I only bought a lanyard for my Ship Card. For those who enjoy it there was plenty of shopping, lots of jewellery, artwork etc. and the merchandise on the tables changed regularly.
The laundry was a bit poky and I accidentally knocked someone going in but it has the washers, dryers and ironing equipment. I used it only once. Cost about US$7.50 per load.
On the final evening we were asked to put cases out around 9pm although some did it later and then out of the cabin by 8 am. I did a debark tour which met at about 8.15. I felt a bit rushed. I wandered around and had a look at some of the other cabin types and saw the oceanview obstructed let in quite a bit of light which I’ll be trying next time.
I’m looking forward to my second Princess cruise in Nov/Dec on the Caribbean Princess and will stay in Miami the day the cruise finishes and fly home the next day so I’m not so rushed and repacking/changing some stuff at the airport.
I took 3 Princess Excursions – Kushiro, Korsakov Russia and debark tour in Tokyo.
Kushiro – was a bit disappointing as it was raining. When we went on the walk at the observatory about 2 km or so there and back, quite a few just headed straight for the coffee shop. Don’t blame them, the boardwalk was slippery with lots of fallen leaves and twigs, I had to watch where I was stepping.
A shuttle bus was offered into Kushiro township for US$10 return. The boat sailed at 2pm so not much time to do something on your own.
Korsakov, Russia – I enjoyed this tour. It made 6 stops. The second, bathroom break stop was at a sports centre where they were practising their ice hockey. Locals had a couple of tables of nice Russian souvenirs accepting US$ and JP Yen as well as roubles. With so many stops then you don’t get as much time as I would have liked at various stops. If you didn’t go on the Princess tour you would have needed a Visa. I found “going through customs” on the ship quite novel as well as the ride in the tandem boat.
Tokyo Debark tour – This drove past various sights in Tokyo as well as a visit to the Meiji Shrine and Asakusa Temple and shopping area. It was absolutely packed with people being Japan school holidays but it’s a great place to visit but insufficient time to go up to the observation floor of a nearby building. Then we were dropped off at the airport like dozens of others so the lockers were all full and I had to pay for storage of my case for 3h until check-in opened. One small and one medium bag cost me about AUD$10. I then went to Narita township (1 train stop away) as I’d never been there.
Otaru – I did my own thing. The map Princess gave me was just a mud map and needless to say I got lost on my way on foot to the station which was about 10 mins away (and the rest). A couple I’d asked assistance of actually drove me to the station which was nearly 10 mins in the car! From there I went to Sapporo for the day and came back to Otaru to visit the Canal area. Apparently in one of the tents on the wharf they had good maps.
Hakodate – I did my own thing, assisted by 2 delightful Year 9 schoolgirls who as part of their school project had to assist visitors and practice their English. I have very limited Japanese so that was great. They took me to the PO, put me on a tram to the fortress and made sure I knew how to buy tickets etc. I spent an hour in the gift shop….a group tour would not let me do that! A shuttle bus took passengers into Hakodate for US$10 return. The ship didn’t sail until 11pm.
It was comfortable and had plenty of room for just me. I liked the way the bathroom and wardrobe area were separate. If I wanted to know what the weather was like I just turned on Bridge Cam on the TV. There were also heaps of recent movies but I didn’t watch any. The cabin steward was excellent. The only down side was all the paperwork I had collected, of which I had a draw full and thought would be recycled, is just thrown out with all the other rubbish.