We chose this based on the advice of friend, its price point and the destinations in Japan. It was a back to back cruise, therefore two cruises, not made clear to me before we sailed. Not sure yet if it qualifies me for two cruises for the purpose of obtaining points to upgrade my Princess premium status, or one. We were in cabin B710 with a balcony, nicely appointed. Cabin staff was excellent, thanks Hector. They were attentive, thorough and available, even when I locked myself out of my room. Since our friends were in the next cabin the opening of the door between us allowed us extra space on the balcony.
But the ship, although clean, had a dated drab living room appearance, similar to what my grandma might have had (though I am myself elderly now 71). One of the bars, the Wake (did I name it correctly?) below the aft decks, was closed the entire voyage and not announced at any time. There were three onboard additional choices besides the dining rooms and the buffets, of which we tried two of which neither were very good. One, the Crab Shack, was only open one night of the 12 we were onboard and consisted of tables sectioned off at the tail end of the buffet. Food was just plain awful, too salty and not tender. Lack of taste to the shrimp. the touted "king crab" was not from Alaska and we were later informed it came frozen from Maine. They baked it with cheese - ouch! The other was Sabatini's, an Italian cafe. Veal was less than tender and overcooked. The lobster wasn't fresh either and my wife left it on her plate. Princess would do better than to charge the $29 per plate in these "specialty" restaurants rather than promote them separately. I'd frankly like the money back.
Food in the buffet and dining room was just average, the too often roast beef either undercooked or overcooked, looking too raw to be appetizing. Some of the fruit wasn't fresh, most of it out of season or tasteless. Only one main choice though many extra stews, etc. Bread was fresh. In the dining room the portions were small, perhaps to cater to the Japanese tastes of which there were more than enough on the boat, the cruise originating in Japan, moving south toward Japanese ports, then Miyakajima, Okinawa and Taiwan. Dining staff also excellent and one night we asked for Southern Fried Chicken which was arranged for a lunch - the best meal on the trip, a thanks to Mark the maitre'd.
Entertainment was lacking for anyone under 30. The shows were repeated such that of twelve nights we only saw four shows. A pretty lady opera virtuoso from the Phillipines was starring and no fault can be attributed to her opera choices. But as a pop star or when belting out standards she left something to be desired. Other shows were just average, the dancing OK and lead singers the same. Boat's orchestra, however, was one of the best I've heard aboard a cruise ship. Last night's entertainment was the Craigs, a duo of a strongman and former Olympian doing gymnastic gyrations and comedic oratory. Just plain amateurish, including an almost ten minute intro where nothing occurred onstage. I felt that they lacked sufficient material for a forty minute show. Not to mention that the local high schoolers could do more and better at that. Sorry Craigs, after 5000 performances and an appearance on Ellen it's time to retire.
Why the boat docked in Miyakajima for six or eight hours (I forget) is still a mystery to me. Nothing exotic or different there except . . . maybe . .. the snorkeling. Taxiing to the supposedly best beach on the island I did snorkel for about forty minutes. The fish were good and it was better than average, water warm with a $15 charge for the gear. Still we waited almost an hour to board a tender to the dock (insufficient number of boats for the passengers) and another 40 minutes for a taxi (not enough of those on the island either - no busses as they run only every four hours) in front of the local dockside hotel which posted a "no cruise passenger" sign. I mean really, Miyakajima?
Other ports of call were worth the visit - we sailed to see Japan and we did see it. But of twelve days at sea only nine were on land, including three coming and going ( we embarked, stopped and re-embarked from Kobe before returning there). An extra day in Keelung might have been a better choice. So only three ports the second leg and three the first, again wishing I had known it was back to back departures.
Last there was the ocean itself. We were told (by bridge officers) that the ride south was a rarity, great warm weather and calm seas. But the ride back (and I'm a deep water sailor since boyhood) was quite rough; 40+ knot winds with high seas with 7 - 10 foot swells shaking the boat for two days and one night.
Overall Princess has fallen down: older ship (built in 2004), food off the mark and Miyakajima do not make for a luxury cruise. I was pleased that the highlight of this voyage was a private tour of the bridge, occasioned by Third Officer Brandon, so thanks again for that. But would I take this boat again? I'd say that since Princess was acquired by Caravan that they have fallen down ( we are premium members after six or eight cruises with them since 1992). Too much emphasis on profit and not enough on the passengers.
If you want to see Japan, try a land trip and go by rail.