My husband and I took this cruise - our first without our kids who are now both in university. We chose this cruise because we have always wanted to visit Japan but the idea of travelling there on our own was a bit daunting. We have cruised several times before and thought this would be a good introduction to Japan.
We booked this without knowing we'd need a visa for China and truthfully, it might have put us off if we had known. The visa application was very long and expensive - but I'd definitely go through it again.
We flew from London to Shanghai and had one night in Shanghai before the cruise started. We arrived Saturday morning, and after a short food break in the hotel, we walked around for a few hours.
The next day we took a taxi from our hotel to the port in Baoshan. As westerners, we seemed to be ushered into a different line than the Chinese passengers and it was extremely quick (it felt discriminatory if I'm honest). We arrived at the port at 1:30 pm and were on the ship within an hour.
We had booked a junior Silver Suite and it was lovely. We had a bathtub, sink/mirror and separate shower in one room, and a toilet and sink/mirror in another which was ideal. The cabin itself was spacious, tastefully decorated and felt more like a hotel room than any other cabin we'd had before. On the second day I asked our cabin attendant for a feather pillow and was very happy to find one on the bed later that day.
The ship is beautiful, but we were slightly disappointed that the main dining room seemed to lack the "wow factor" of other ships we'd been on; no grand staircase and the decor was a bit plain. That was probably the only part we were disappointed with as there was comfortable, stylish seating all over the ship and finding a quiet spot wasn't difficult. As Silver Suite passengers, we had access to the private solarium which was beautiful, comfortable and very quiet.
We were disappointed that we were not assigned a table in the Main Dining Room for the duration of the cruise as that had been a highlight of past cruises; getting to know our waiters and fellow dining companions. On the first night we sat on our own, although there were 5 couples in all sitting in a row, seated at the same time and served at the same time. It was almost like sitting at a large table, but not quite. We ate twice in the Main Dining Room and twice in the Windjammer and both were OK, but we felt the food was slightly below par compared to other ships we'd been on. As Silver Suite passengers, we had access to the Silver Dining Room (something we didn't really know much about before the cruise started) and the quality here was superior to both Main Dining Room and Windjammer with a buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus an a la carte menu in the evening. The a la carte menu was the same each night, but it was good quality food. We also had a few snacks in Cafe Two70, Sorrento's and Splashaway Cafe as well as special coffees in both Leaf & Bean and La Patisserie and were happy with the quality of all.
Overall we were happy with the quality of the food, but this is mostly due to the Silver Dining Room (seafood lunch buffet on day 7 was a definite highlight) and we both feel the Main Dining Room and Windjammer should have been a bit better.
As a note: the Bionic bartender was super busy on the first night, but really quiet throughout the rest of the cruise, so if you want to try it out (even just for the sake of getting a video) wait until at least the second day. Although there were several available dinner packages for the restaurants with supplements, we did not try any of them.
As for the entertainment, we watched Showgirls, The Silk Road and The Effectors and all were very good, but The Silk Road we especially good - beautiful visuals and lots to look at. We also enjoyed the virtual fireworks and the piano player in the lift was fun, too.
The only on-board activity that we tried was the climbing wall - my husband is a climber, so he had a few goes on several of the days. He found the sea days tended to be much busier than port days.
One of the things I had wanted to hear about in other reviews is what to expect re: Chinese passengers. I have to say that my experience might not have been the norm, but I did not find the Chinese passengers to be rude; I witnessed only one spitting incident (into a bin by the lifts) and two incidents where we had to push past Chinese guests to get off the lift as they had rushed on before we could get off. It might have been that I was bracing myself for the worst, but I think that I was needlessly worried.
I will leave my comments about the ports at the end, I'm not always interested in what people do/think of the port stops, so I'll put them at the end in case you want to finish reading here (presuming you've read this far