1. The day before the cruise a Typhoon hit Tokyo. We understand that you cannot do anything when mother nature hits but there was no communication, no notifications or emails from Princess explaining that there is a delay in the cruise ship coming back into port due to the Typhoon and that there was any delay in embarkation. There should have been an initial email warning of the approaching Typhoon and a subsequent email stating the delay on embankment. In this case we could have spent the day doing other things than sitting around a hot and sticky cruise terminal from 10am until 6pm waiting to embark.
2. The conditions while waiting at the cruise terminal was appalling. There was no air-conditioning. If there was, it was negated by the opened front doors as you approached being left open bringing in the hot air. There was no airflow once inside and the air was stale, hot and sticky. I nearly passed out from the heat and I even witnessed a few older people passing out. To me this is simply unacceptable. It could be likened to a scene from a war camp!
3. There was no offer of any water, wet towels or anything to help with coping in these conditions. It made the wait very uncomfortable and upsetting for everyone there. This was a cruise we were really looking forward to but so far the disappointment and state of the organisation of the cruise was the start of the cruise from hell.
4. Once we finally got onboard, we were then told that there would be a delay in departure until later that night. Then we were told that they could not organise a pilot or tug until 2am at this time we were starting to get fed up and just wanted to get back off the ship in disgust. We were then informed that we would be departing at 6am the next morning and that they were still waiting on 250 cruise passengers and 30 staff members to arrive at the port.
5. This meant that we had to miss the first stop at Ishinomaki which we were really looking forward to and it meant yet another day at sea. We were very disappointed with the way this was handled.
6. The days at sea were really long. The princess patters on the days were filled with activities that did not appeal to the majority of the Caucasians that were on the ship. My father (72 years old) who was travelling with us was so bored during the sea days that all he did was sit around the explorers lounge and drink. The only highlight of the day was the trivia and even then it was not that exciting to talk home about.
7. Our first port stay in Hakodate started off terrible. What we were not informed about is that the ship itself was docked so far away from the main attraction areas that you had to purchase a shuttle ticket of USD$15.00 per person, get in a cab or just fork out on a tour. This was the common theme for all the port stays ahead and with 4 people to pay for, it ended up being a very expensive cost which was not factored into our budget. This was really upsetting.
8. We were highly disgusted at the decline on services provided from our last cruise with the Diamond Princess which had free shuttle buses, offered bottles of water as you got off the ship to explore for the day and bottles of water on return back to the ship. The location of the ports was in walking distance of all the main attractions in Japan and you did not have to keep putting your hand in your pocket to pay for the shuttle services or cab fare. This particular cruise was a real letdown and we felt we were getting ripped off at every place we visited.
9. The most stressful part of the cruise was the time it took to get through immigration. Standing in queues in the heat for hours with no water or wet towels offered, just to get a passport stamped was not pleasant and cut majorly into the time we had at the ports. The worst locations were in Busan and Hiroshima. Hiroshima had the time scheduled from 7am until 6pm. They were late in setting up the immigration in the makeshift terminal (which looked like worn out abandoned warehouses), as such, we were unable to step onto the port to get through immigration until 10am. By the time we got through immigration it was 12pm then we had to make a mad dash to Hiroshima (which took another 20 mins via cab and train) to try and see anything before we had to turn around and be back on the ship before 5:30pm. At this point, the cruise itself felt so disorganised and we were really stressed that we just wanted to get off the ship and demand our money back.
10. In Hiroshima, there is a cruise terminal right in heart of Hiroshima that has the trams and buses just outside the cruise terminal door and access to Hiroshima and all the sight seeing is plentiful. We wondered why they parked at a port so far away from the Main station at first but we soon realised that Princess would not make any money from the Shuttle buses or ship tours if moored in the main terminal. This just made us more and more furious.
11. As previously stated, we have cruised on the same ship before and thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and stress free cruise from Singapore to Yokohama. We never had the immigration issues that we had this time. Never had to wait in queues and had more time in ports because the process was different. On the last cruise we handed our passports to the cabin staff for immigration to be done and we simply showed our cruise card as we went off and back onto the ship. I am not too sure what has happened to change the way the immigration is done but to say I was disgusted in the current process is an understatement. I would liken the current process to Faulty Towers.
12. Another sticking point was the length of time at each port. Some of the port stops had very little to do with long port stops while other ports had heaps to do but very limited time to do it. The length of stay in Hakodate was from 10am until 11pm which was far too long to stay in the township which you can complete in half a day. As we had already been at this location before we can attest to that.
13. Maizuru is also a port that has nothing to do unless you fork out a tonne of money to travel or go on a tour. We were struggling to find something interesting to do at the port for the 10 hours we were there but in the end we ended up looking through a red brick museum telling us the history of how red bricks are made and looking through a few odd shops and returning really early to the ship. Really, really boring port. It would be better if the port stay was somewhere like Kanazawa where you have more interesting things to see and do.
14. The one good part of the trip was the port stay in Busan. We chose to go on a ship tour here and went to the UN cemetery and Museum.
15. The letdown about the ship tour in Busan was the length of the tour. It was too short. We would have liked to spend more time in the museum to learn about the wars and conflicts that South Korea went through but instead the tour guide was only interested on telling us about how the country was formed and what they are doing now. When I asked about seeing the war history. The guide stated that they “do not talk about that” and purposely walked us past all the rooms that contained the war history. We were stunned at the response and upset that we could not see what we came to see. The guide also took us to the Lotte Shopping Centre which was not what we wanted to do and we sat around for an hour and a half waiting to get back on the bus to return to the ship. We were informed the next day from other passengers that the shuttle bus was free. This is the only port where there was a free shuttle bus but no one was informed of this at the time and knowing that we could have re-visited the museum later in the day at no extra cost made us very angry as there was no communication and no proper direction given from staff at the time we were in port.
16. We were also rather unimpressed by the food selection available on the ship. It appeared to be roughly the same menu everyday with minor adjustments here and there. Not very appetizing and the taste was lacking. Our family went to the Steakhouse one night for dinner which made a pleasant change but everywhere else the food just did not rate. We were bitterly disappointed with the food on this cruise compared to the previous princess cruise which was 100 times better, with tastier food and more food selection.
17. On the final day we were so happy to be finally off the cruise from hell that we had our bags packed the night before and was excited to leave the ship for good.
Because we were so distraught, stressed and disappointed with the whole cruise we are now reluctant to go back on a princess cruise again.
The whole experience was so horrific and it is a cruise we will never forget and not in a good way.