Hi everybody. My name's Alex and to be honest, this is a first for me. I've never reviewed so much as a toaster before - let alone a 2 week cruise - so you may have to bear with me a little...
Before I start, a little background info. Several years ago I was diagnosed with Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. Although I still look perfectly healthy my mobility is - to my endless annoyance - getting steadily worse year by year. I knew that with regard to disabled access visiting the Far East (especially China) was rapidly turning into a case of now or never. My parents have been cruising for many years but recently my mother had both hips replaced and didn't want to fly long haul any more. My father, however, still wanted to go on holiday... So with the backing of my wonderful wife and 3 young children it was decided that me and dad would do the cruise. (This, of course, was with the understanding that I would bring back many, many presents)
We booked the cruise directly with Celebrity instead of going through a Travel Agent. It was very straightforward to do through their website although if you're disabled you have to discuss it with them over the phone if you want an accessible cabin or suite. Luckily for us there was an Offer at the time of booking for both of us to have the Classic Drinks Package and free shipboard Wi-Fi included in the price. We then booked the flights separately using Travelup.co.uk as they happened to have the best deal on flights. To get a head start on the jetlag (and also see more of Shanghai) we flew out of Heathrow on 28th March giving us a day and a half to see the sights while staying at the Radisson Blu New World as recommended by Celebrity.
This was the last available accessible cabin available for the cruise. According to previous reviews it's the only accessible cabin without a sofa (although it does have an extra wide chair). First the bad - The beds are designed to be either a double or split into singles which makes them rather narrow. Also when the beds are split there is not enough room to get a wheelchair out onto the balcony which rather ruins the idea of having a balcony cabin in the 1st place! Unfortunately no ramps were provided to get over the balcony door frame. The other disadvantage to this cabin is that the balcony is literally 2 feet away from (and in full view of) the glass midship elevator so there is absolutely no privacy whatsoever on the balcony. On the other hand, however, you could have endless fun waving at your fellow cruisers as they glide past... The TV, while a good size, had terrible reception for 90% of the cruise and the films which were advertised as free then asked which account to charge when selected. There was a kettle supplied with tea bags but no coffee or milk which I thought a little strange (athough you can order room serivce for morning coffee to save the scrum in the OV cafe). The mini-bar fridge was just big enough to store our bottled water (although the temperature inside the fridge usually seemed to be identical to the cabin temperature). While many new switches and sockets were added during the refit it seems that they neglected to take the old ones away as there were several mysterious dials and switches that seemed to have no function whatsoever!
However, the many good points were - The post-refit fit and finish of the cabin was excellent with plenty of storage, plug sockets, USB charge points and very comfortable (if narrow) beds. The wet room was very spacious, immaculately clean and supplied with excellent toiletries. The sound insulation was also superb - I never heard a noise from above, below, next door or outside the cabin during the whole two weeks.
Our cabin steward seemed to be on 24 hour duty and was always very busy and unfailingly cheerful and helpful - a credit to Celebrity.
Shanghai is an absolutely amazing place! We got the Maglev direct from the Airport and then straight onto the Metro. All the subway lines are colour-coded so you can't really get lost. We stayed at the Radisson Blu next to People's Park which is pretty much in the middle of the City. Nanjing Rd is very expensive for shopping but a visit to the Jade Bhudda temple and Yu gardens is a must!
Beijing, to a Westener can be a big culture shock! Everytthing is built on a grand scale such as the Forbidden City, the National museum and Tiananmen Square.Again, like Shanghai, the Metro is very easy to use with it's colour coding. The only problem is actually getting there as it's 3 hours by road from where the ship docks at Tianjin. We shared a minibus with 6 other Cruise Criticers which was certainly the cheapest and most convinient way of getting into Beijing. However, also like Shanghai, China is in no way set up for disabled access and only the most modern buildings have elevators - everywhere else you can expect a LOT of steps.
We didn't venture as far a Seoul but got the free shuttle bus into Incheon. Apparently this was the first time that a Cruise ship had used the new Intewrnational terminal. It really is nowhere near Incheon and it takes a fair while to get to downtown on the bus. Once there, disappointingly, there really wasn't much to see and everything seemed rather run down. We were probably in Incheon for an hour or so before returning to the ship.
It was very difficult to tell with Kobe as the 1st day we had planned to travel to Kyoto but immigration took so long that we never got the chance and the queue for the shuttle bus and portliner metro was so long that I had to return to the ship as I can't stand for an decent amount of time. The 2nd day in Kobe it poured with rain so again our plans were totally ruined. I'm sure it's a great place to visit but I remember it most clearly as the port where I nipped off the ship late at night and did my washing at one of the local laundrettes.