My wife and I embarked on a 8 day Japanese cruise aboard the Diamond Princess, taking in Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Okinawa and Taipei.
This was our first ever cruise during which time my wife's birthday fell.
We were told beforehand by other cruise passengers that we would have a fantastic experience - but sadly that did not come pass, as you will see detailed below.
At each destination point large numbers of passengers swapped over (passengers leaving the cruise and others joining) which seemed to disrupt the crew as they had to go through first day procedures 5 times. In fact a crew member told me they did not like this particular cruise because of this and that they had to give up their rest periods.
We were allocated to a set dining time, with extremely limited menu options and when the main or entree arrived we felt obliged to push the food around our plates and eat very slowly in order to eek the time out as there was so little food.
A number of the wines shown on the menu were not available and this happened more than once - remembering we visited a number of ports so there was a chance to restock.
There were two gala nights, again something we had been told by previous cruise passengers would be a fantastic experience; not on this trip; the food was like every other night and they allowed passengers into the dining area with jeans and tee-shirts, it somewhat lost any concept of gala.
I mentioned previously that my wife celebrated her birthday during the cruise, a date we had informed Princess Cruises of prior to joining the cruise. Over the days prior to her birthday we noticed other passengers having their birthday celebrated by members of the crew and cards on stateroom doors - this did not happen with us, the event was completely missed.
One morning more than half way through the cruise we received a letter from the pursers office stating that my credit card had been declined, I went to the office and joined a queue to enquire and was told that i would have to contact my bank (really? ship to shore phone call at my expense). I questioned what had happened and was told that they sometimes have a failure and would try again that night - the result? you guessed it, all was ok with my credit card; why not try again automatically rather than assume that I was wrong and telling me to waste money on a phone call? especially as all had been ok on previous days with my credit card..
We had a trip cancelled with next to no notice.
I am not sure what the norm on cruises is (remember this was our first), but the bars all shut at 11pm; there was no late night food; the buffet area used during breakfast and lunch used bakolite / plastic plates and mugs; which is poor and does nothing for the food.
We expected to have the opportunity to try various Japanese dishes but that did not seem to happen.
Whilst on board there were a number of shops selling high quality products, around the central deck area there seemed to be constant sale of clothing, cheap jewellery, watches perfume - something akin to a bazaar; but this seemed to fit in with other things on the ship, so maybe how Princess operates?
I went to the gym one morning and was told Spinning classes were cancelled because of choppy seas - but we were docked in port!
On the day of disembarkation it was chaos, because we had been to Taiwan, we had to reenter Japan and even though we had notified the crew of our flight times we were not allowed to leave the ship until their prescribed time for our deck - something which almost caused us to miss the flight to London.
A couple of good points (really? I hear you say), the entertainment was great and the crew were very helpful, our cabin steward was fantastic, the cabin with a balcony was great with loads of room. Perhaps the higher levels of management are not so good?
The opportunity to see Japan and some of it's cities was fantastic, we were left with thoughts of the friendliness of the Japanese people and their great customs and traditions.
Sadly we were not left with similar thoughts about Princess Cruises, to say our overall impression of the company was poor would be an understatement. We did speak to other passengers who expressed similar thoughts and told us 'not all cruises are like this'. Perhaps in time we will travel with another cruise company, but Princess Cruises will be given a wide berth.
The cabin was excellent.
we only visited Yokohama as an entry and exit point for the cruise