This was my second cruise on the Diamond Princess. I cruised around Hokkaido in Aug 2017 and liked it so much that I decided I’d like to cruise around the other islands.
This cruise was advertised as 13 days but it was 2 cruises (8 days/5days). Embarkation was very efficient but somehow my luggage tag came off and despite having a name tag, I was told my surname was common so they did not attempt to find the owner just left my case near the passenger services desk until some hours later I came looking for it. I took it myself half way round the ship to my room to be sure.
One improvement was that I didn’t have to take my life jacket to muster and I thoroughly enjoyed the safety video featuring the cast of the “Love Boat”.
No rush really as we spent almost another day sitting in Yokohama port as the pilots deemed it unsafe for the ship to leave Tokyo Bay as there were 5 metre swells out in the open sea after the typhoon passed by. The Captain was very good in keeping the passengers informed. So it was decided we would not be going ashore at Ishinomaki but straight to Hakodate. On the way there an earthquake occurred in Hokkaido, so there was no power etc. and the port was shut so we sailed on. It would have been good if the ship just pulled in somewhere else but that’s the too hard basket. Anyway, our first stop was Akita and then onto Busan, S. Korea. Customs for leaving Japan was done on the ship. I was on a shore excursion in Busan and it left on time. Then the disembark nightmare began...
I thought waiting to get off at Kagoshima was bad……..45 mins in the theatre and then 30 mins getting through Immigration but Yokkaichi was way over the top. The ship docked at 8 am. I had a letter stating I could get off the ship at 11:05 am. Why so long?? Down I go at 11 am to find the line snaking from the lifts in the atrium into the casino, round the tables, out another door, back to the lifts, into the dining room, round the tables to find about 7 or 8 Customs Officers processing passports. Unbelievable! Of course everyone apologised for the delay but so what. They do the run over to Busan all the time so should have been organised for it. Once off the ship there were long lines in the sun to get on the shuttle bus. Fortunately being the last day I had just decided to go into town for a look but if you’d planned to go say to Nagoya your plans would have been absolutely ruined. Even the second day in Busan where I had decided to look round town myself, I still had to wait awhile as I had ticket no.926 on the shuttle bus.
I’ve written more about the ports in that section.
I like the Diamond, it has a good vibe, but never again would I go where Customs is involved. Last year, going in and out of Korsokov, Russia was a breeze, all done on the ship at your leisure, 5 or 10 minute wait max. I feel I paid a lot of money to skip ports or stand in line.
The “at sea” experience was excellent. I liked the shows (even though I’d seen them before) and other entertainers. I went to Movies under the Stars, Japanese language classes, Port information and even though it was cloudy I still enjoyed the Stargazing at Sea and the demo of the app of the Night Sky. There was certainly more info available on ports than last time. I like sitting on the promenade deck and reading. The cabin steward, wait staff and others were polite, cheerful, helpful and professional and seem to work hard most of the time. Being 2 cruises some activities and menu items were repeated. Plenty to choose from so not a problem for me. I had lunch at the Crab Shack at Sabatini’s one day. Scrumptious.
Between cruises I became a Platinum member and got some free Internet, I liked that. The Captain was actually there to greet people at his cocktail party. It was at 7pm and I just had dinner so I wasn’t hungry. It went for about 45 mins with a band and a few people dancing. I had one cocktail although the guy next to me had 4. Apparently there were 339 Platinum members and 135 Elite members on board and most at the party. Yes, I like the free Internet!
On the first 8 days, it seemed the Japanese were in the minority. On the 5 day cruise it was mainly Japanese all eager to get over to the shops including the Lotte dept store in Busan and bring back bags and bags of goodies. Not many children around as its not school holidays.
Compensation. We were given US$50 for missing the ports and refunded the port fees of approx. $5 and $15.
I was given 8:45am for my transfer to Narita. US$49 for a seat in coach transfer. Of course, the lockers were full so I put my bags in the storage for about AUD$10 and I was off to Narita township for a nice day out before my flight at 8 pm.
As a solo traveller, my budget only extends to an interior cabin. When I booked I could only reserve a cabin category. I'd never been at the back of the boat before and I liked how it rocked me to sleep! The bed was comfy and I slept very well. The cabin steward was excellent and room service were cheerful as they brought me my breakfast each morning. I like how you can order breakfast on your phone. The room was plenty big enough for one person. I inspected the room carefully. It was very clean and tidy and all I could find were a few paint chips on the architrave in the bathroom and a small tear about an inch long near the seam of the doona. I pointed this out to the cabin steward who tore the cover so it would not be used again and replaced it. Once I'm dressed I usually don't spend much time in the cabin.
On my port day in Yokohama, I visited Sankeien Garden. It takes about 20-25 mins to get there on the No. 8 bus a few blocks from the port. The Tourist Info in the Cruise Terminal are wonderful. They have maps, leaflets, costs, things written down in Japanese etc. The port is very close to some attractions so you can get of the ship and just walk around. Cruise terminal has free wifi.
On the final day after transferring to Narita, I took the train (Keisei Line, 480yen return, 3 trains an hour, 1 stop from terminal 2) and wandered along a delightful old shopping street to Narita-San Temple which has quite a large collection of buildings and nice gardens. Its also wheelchair accessible so after climbing all those steps, I came back down using various lifts and ramps. I'm so glad I did this as I'd felt robbed of time onshore during the cruise.
On my first visit to Busan, I took the shore excursion to the Tongdosa Temple and the United Nations Cemetery. We drove through the different areas of Busan out to the north, so I had a good view of the suburbs, then up into the hills to the temple. We also stopped at the UN Cemetery. We had a Korean veteran on board from the UK. We got to visit our own countries section and saw a short film.
The second time to Busan was late afternoon. The shuttle bus (US$10) dropped us off in front of the Foret Hotel which is near the fish market and shopping area. There is many modern shops and lots of food vendor stalls. I also wandered up to the nearby park and went up the observation tower (US$8). Escalators take you up into the park but you have to walk down the steps.
Cruise terminal has free wifi. There was also a free shuttle that took you to the train station which was fairly close by if you wanted to take a train or do the hop on hop off bus. There was a white van just outside the terminal that had an ATM or you could change money. I changed some yen but they had a board up with about 10 major currencies that they exchanged.
I went on the shore excursion that visited the samurai gardens in Chiran and the Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots. Although many exhibits were in Japanese, they had translated some of the letters, poems etc, that the pilots wrote before they flew off to their death and there was a short film in English.
Kagoshima looked a very scenic port and I would have liked to have spent more time there. Cruise terminal has free wifi.
The shuttle bus (US$10) dropped people off at the Dolphin Port where quite a few took the ferry across to Sakurajima, the active volcano. This is much cheaper than doing the shore excursion.You can see it puffing out ash from the ship if its clear.