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4,779 Asia Cruise Reviews

Our first cruise - and we were prepared not to be impressed. How wrong we were. The ship was huge, spotless and fantastic! CABIN - we were spoilt and had a suite. A separate lounge and diner with balcony, a bedroom with curtains round ... Read More
Our first cruise - and we were prepared not to be impressed. How wrong we were. The ship was huge, spotless and fantastic! CABIN - we were spoilt and had a suite. A separate lounge and diner with balcony, a bedroom with curtains round the bed, and the most fantastic bathroom that was by the window. Jacuzzi bath or a separate shower with floor to ceiling windows - they did promise us that they were one-way glass and that the fishermen in their boats could not see us!! We had a butler on 24 hr call - he was so thoughtful - calling us to remind us that we had not been to breakfast and which restaurants were still open. RESTAURANTS -- Included in the price were a 3 main restaurants or for a small supplement you could eat in one of the a-la-carte ones. There was an Indian, a Teppanyaki, an Italian [complete with Versace plates and genuine art] ... and a host of others. Food quality in all outlets was fantastic. You just looked at the menus for the day and decided which one you wanted to eat at that evening. Also great to see everyone making the effort and dressed up formally for the Captain's Dinner. The best thing about this cruise is that each room had a credit with it of a few hundred Singapore Dollars. The better the room grade, the more credit you got. Therefore you could eat in the a-la-carte outlets and it would not cost you anything - until your credit ran out! ENTERTAINMENT -- There was entertainment every night and a full listing of things to do in the daily newspaper. Admittedly we did not do much apart from sit in the lounges with a glass of champagne and watch the world float by.... The pool area was never crowded - we always got a seat and the two spas were great. At no time did we feel we were being hassled or pushed into buying drinks, photos or trips. PORTS OF CALL -- This was a special 5 day cruise that went to Port Klang [Malaysia] where there is nothing happening but the ship calls there to restock. Kuala Lumpur is about 1 1/2 hrs drive from here. Then on to Penang - well worth a trip to see the old colonial buildings and the fantastically refurbished E&O Hotel. They ran a free bus service from the port to the main town of Georgetown which I thought was good. Finally Phuket - the locals bought their wares to they quayside so you could do all your shopping without the need to travel. Then back to Port Klang and to Singapore. Star cruises are owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines. The ship was spotless, the crew friendly, the weather was fantastic - I could not fault it. They should advertise this cruise more in Europe and America as it is totally recommended!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2003
I'm one of the very happy and satisfied passenger on board the 18-night Sydney to Bangkok cruise (Feb.14-Mar.3) This is my very first cruise holiday experience. I booked this cruise with a girl friend from work 6 months prior to its ... Read More
I'm one of the very happy and satisfied passenger on board the 18-night Sydney to Bangkok cruise (Feb.14-Mar.3) This is my very first cruise holiday experience. I booked this cruise with a girl friend from work 6 months prior to its sail. Being a first timer in cruising, I prepared well on this cruise, read a lot of articles about Princess cruises, passengers review to gain knowledge on what and what not to expect. The STAR PRINCESS made its inaugural sail in Sydney harbour on Nov.26, 2003, en route to a 12-night Sydney to Auckland cruise. This is the biggest ship ever to visit Sydney harbour, so news of its grand arrival were flashed all over the TV and radio. Several thousands of curious onlookers flocked the harbour to have a glimpse of this magnificent megaliner. I'm one of the excited onlooker, and immediately fell in love with this giant beauty. The atmosphere around the harbour during that day factored by a larger crowd beat the excitement generated during the Sydney Olympics 2000 and the welcoming of the millennium. People were just amazed and stunned to watch this beautiful ship all lighted when it departs the harbour at 9 PM boasting a display of fireworks after countdown. Star Princess visited the Sydney harbour 4 times on its repeat Sydney to Auckland and vice versa voyage - Nov.26, Dec.20, Jan.17, Feb.14. I always hang around the harbour on these dates, eagerly waiting for my turn to come, and continuously admiring this beautiful ship. Finally, the big day came - Feb.14, Valentine's day! I checked in a little after 2 PM. It took an hour to complete all embarkation formalities before I finally set foot on the ship. I went to my stateroom straight away, it's in deck Baja. I was greeted by the cabin steward - Luisito, who happens to be a Filipino like myself, and found later on, that Filipino crews are everywhere on board. I start exploring the ship as much as I can, visited the Horizon court, foods are tempting, so I had a quick snack, then at the Lotus Spa and gym. I have to leave the ship to meet my family and friends who have been waiting at the Cruise bar of the Passengers terminal, eagerly waiting for me with my initial feedback about the interior of the ship. I even managed to show them a copy of the Princess Patter I found on my bed, we got all excited to know there will be fireworks when the princess departs. All passengers must be on board at 8:30, so I finally bid farewell. I stayed at the promenade in deck 7 to see my family and friends as they waved goodbye from the top floor of the passengers terminal. Then I went up at the Lido deck where most of the passengers hang around as the ship departs and watched the fireworks. From this vantage, I saw the Sydney harbour bridge and Opera house at its best form. When the Sydney harbour totally disappear from my sight, I went to my stateroom where I met my roommate Ellen. We opted to unpack our luggage, and retire early on our first night. Feb.15 - At sea. Woke up early, around 6 AM, proceed to the Sports deck, and watched the sun rise, jogged a few laps on the jogging track. The atmosphere and feeling is just unbelievable in the open sea and on top of this ship! This is the best time of the day throughout the cruise. We explored the ins and outs of this ship. The whole place is immaculate, spotless. Several workers are everywhere, tirelessly cleaning and maintaining the pleasant surrounding at all times, but still managed to smile, greet us and made us really feel especial. This ship carries 2600 passengers, 1100 crews, but you will never feel crowded. There are varied activities prepared on different times of the day, which suits to anyone's liking and mobility. There is never a dull moment. Every night before we retire, we're always excited to find the Princess Patter which contains all important announcements and activities available the following day, so we can plan our itinerary on the next day. On a typical sea day, I start the day early jogging on the tracks at the sports deck or at the Promenade in deck 7, attend gym classes at 8 and 9, line dancing or culinary art demo, mass, shopping. After lunch, the art auction at the Explorer's lounge is something not to be missed, swim in the pool, sunbaking, spa, then back to the gym to do treadmill and another class. We then prepare for dinner, most of the time on fine dining, then watched 2 shows, at the Princess theatre and the Vista lounge, if we still have the energy, go dancing in one of the many lounges or the Skywalker's disco. We only retire for the day when we dropped dead! On our first formal night, we went to Amalfi, but was turned away since we don't have reserved seating. I requested for a traditional fixed seating at 6 PM when I filled up the passenger information but only found out that night that we were on the waiting list - #125! However, a couple backed out so we were granted 2 seats on a table for 4. Here, we met a nice couple from Alabama - Ging and Barbara. We also met two lovely people from Mexico - Roberto and Marisa, who were assigned on the table allocated for us Both looked after us everytime we had our dinner. The courses served on this restaurant are all mouth-watering and delicious, from the appetizer, salad, soup, main course, dessert. The presentation are very appealing as prepared by top chefs, majority are Italians. The open seating venue, Capri and Portofino offered similar dishes. There's no booking on these venues, one can walk in from 5:30 to 10:00 PM, in most cases there's no queue. Although we have reserved seating at Amalfi, we don't dine there every night, sometimes we opted to have dinner at the Horizon Court or request for room service. The Horizon court is open all the time, breakfast have almost the same selection everyday, but lunch and dinner are varied, so one can never get bored on the foods served here. All dishes are fresh, there is a huge selection of homemade pastries and desserts, taste appeals to everyone's palate. My favorite is ice cream served every night. There's too much food around, one can't avoid the temptation and indulge. Anyone can easily put on extra kilos. My favorite hang out is the gym to burn out easily acquired calories. Our fitness instructors, Graeme and Ross are both very dynamic in handling the classes. Both are quite good looking too, so ladies are inspired and motivated to workout. We have lots of fun on various classes such as Body Express, Aerobic Combat, Fusion, Body Conditioning, Aerobics, Yoga, Pilates. We booked dinner at Sabatini's Trattoria once. This is something not to be missed. There is a cover charge is 20 USD, but it's quite worth it. You have to allow a minimum of 2.5 hours stay here. Sabatini's offers a sensational menu. This unique treat includes a full array of appetizers, a delicious selection of pastas with a variety of sauces, Italian-style entrees from tiger prawn over langoustine to lobster tail and of course, the same irresistible pizzas and mouth watering desserts that Princess passengers have learned to love. We left Sabatini's quite full, and satisfied. Tequila's, is another fine dining with cover charge of 15 USD, where you can have the best steak in town ! Entertainment at night are just superb and quite enjoyable. The shows in Princess Theatre and the Vista Lounge were mostly entertaining. I enjoyed every show performed by the resident singers and the Princess dancers. These young performers are so dynamic and energetic, the shows are Broadway style, everyone is amazed on how quickly they changed the stage setting and their colourful outfit. I enjoyed the Comedy showtime with Paul Romhany, and Spotlight showtime with the master of art and illusion British magical champion Richard Griffin. On Feb.24, we witnessed the "Crossing the Equator Ceremony" - this is a ceremony performed on board ships when members of passengers or crew are crossing the equator for the first time during a voyage. The action was held at the Lido deck where the Cruise staff who acted as pollywogs become "Shellbacks" with King Neptune and his Royal Court. I also attended especial parties such as the Tropical deck party and the Champagne Waterfall Party where the Maitre d'Hotel Mario Propato built a cascading Champagne waterfall. On both occasions, music was provided by the dynamic performer - Maurizio. The shore tours I attended were not very exciting. Lining up on long queues under the sun while waiting for the bus is not a pleasant experience, especially the tours at Cairns and Penang Bay. The 9.5 hours tour to Ho Chi Minh City charged at 107 USD is not well worth it. We were treated to a buffet lunch at a 5-star hotel, but the food I must say, are very much inferior as compared to the ship's food. I could have a better time if I had just stayed on board ! I enjoyed every minute of my stay on this beautiful princess. It's a magical experience of a lifetime and I wish I could share it to everyone. I'm looking forward to my next cruises, on June 13, the brand new Sapphire Princess will make its inaugural sail on a 7-night Alaska Canada cruise, my husband and I will be among the excited passengers on this maiden voyage. Then on Dec.23, the Sapphire princess will make its inaugural sail to Sydney on a 14-night Sydney to Auckland tour, where this time, I will be with my husband, my daughter and her family, and a few friends. Imagine us celebrating Christmas and new Year on this magnificent megaliner ! After this wonderful experience on my first cruise, I cannot opt for another type of holiday except cruising, and of course, there's no other like Princess cruises - where I belong ! Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Considering the luxury experience and the six-star rating it advertises and considering the high prices it charges, we expected only the best from Radisson (and had enjoyed ourselves very much on two prior, one-week Radisson Mariner ... Read More
Considering the luxury experience and the six-star rating it advertises and considering the high prices it charges, we expected only the best from Radisson (and had enjoyed ourselves very much on two prior, one-week Radisson Mariner cruises). Flaws that can be accepted from mass-market cruise lines should be the rare exception on a luxury line. When measured against these standards, on the whole, Radisson and Voyager did not measure up on this cruise. While many aspects of the cruise met at least a five-star standard and some were easily six-star standard, the overall cruise did not provide a truly luxury cruise experience - I would only give it four stars overall. The overwhelming shortcomings to this cruise were the senior on-board hotel staff, the arbitrary changes to an exciting itinerary, and the inconsistent dining. Let's start with my expectations and biases. A cruise line (or anyone else) should provide the product advertised. While some "puffery" is to be expected, and while there can be quibbling over the quality of any aspect of a cruise, the product as a whole should measure up to the advertising. On a "luxury line," I expect (a) consistently excellent continental cuisine, (b) a responsive staff prepared to provide a luxury experience at all levels and to deal with problems quickly and professionally; (c) modern and clean staterooms, (c) well-appointed public areas; (d) unobtrusive service; (e) high quality lecturers, activities, and musical programs; (f) efficient boarding, cabins ready at embarkation; (g) no lining up and waiting for tenders, etc. Where I have not commented here, this ship and line met those expectations fully (e.g., cleanliness, efficient and easy boarding, etc.). The Positive about this cruise. (1) This ship. It is well-designed, new, clean, comfortable, and quite attractive. It is very much in the mold of the new cruise ships (multi-story atrium, etc.) It is clean and very well maintained. The cabins are unusually large and well designed, including a walk-in closet (maid service is excellent). Cabins below the penthouse level are larger and more comfortable than similar accommodations on other lines. The public spaces are attractive and, with a couple of minor exceptions, comfortable and functional. (2) The junior staff (waiters, room stewardesses, bar attendants, etc.) were competent, pleasant, and conversant in English (staffing changes in the last few months may have put this into question). They generally knew what they were doing and worked hard to please. The maintenance staff likewise seemed generally competent, although several requests for repairs (including a ventilation problem) went unanswered for more than 36 hours. (3) The Tour Office staff was exceptional. The three people did an outstanding job of handling ship's tours and private tour arrangements, with unfailing good humor, efficiency, and accuracy. This was particularly difficult in the face of a constantly changing itinerary (see below). (4) Single seating dining and open seating dining are big pluses. The single-seat dining provides much more relaxed, enjoyable dining. While passengers seem to settle in to an individual table after a day or two (a few of them did try to lay claim to window tables), it is nice to have the option of sitting where you want and with whom you want. Service is usually well-paced and there is no pressure to finish so that the next seating can be set up. (5) The inclusion of wine in the dining room in the cruise price is e welcome touch. It is nice not to be nickel-and-dimed and it is nice not to have to worry about signing the chit every night. (The downside, one waiter confided, is that the policy of including wine and drinks seems to consistently attract a certain type of passenger who overdoes the alcohol, especially on cruises of less than 14 days. We did see a couple of instances.) (6) The port lecturer. (7) Latitudes Restaurant. It was too small and crowded for the number of passengers they seated the one night I was able to eat there. This is an almost trivial comment because - although contrived - the theme concept was very well carried-out. The credit for that goes to the exuberant, young, and completely charming serving staff. They made us feel like they were putting on a private theme dinner party for a group of close friends, that they really cared that it be a complete success, and that they did everything possible to make it so. The food, too, was very enjoyable. This was one of the few occasions on this cruise that I felt that I was having a truly good time and that the cruise line really wanted me to have that good time. (8) The advertised itinerary for this trip, Singapore to Tokyo, segments of the 2004 world cruise (actually "Circle Pacific" Cruise), was exciting and enticing. The Negative: (1) RSSC chose to disregard that exciting itinerary. One port (Hong Kong) was extended by a day, two port days were changed altogether, two port stops were shortened (one of them by about 12 hours and one by about 5), and one stop was eliminated altogether. (One additional port was missed because of bad weather.) There were no weather problems or terrorism concerns to justify any one of those unexplained changes. While the schedule changes were bad enough, Radisson compounded the problem. Passenger questions/complaints about these changes were given short shrift by senior staff. As one senior official in the hotel department said to me when I asked what was going on, and this is a direct quote, "We can do whatever we want." While several of the changes were decided by Radisson management days in advance (including changing of two port days), none of them were announced until the last minute. As a result, several passengers missed out some on private sight-seeing that they had arranged. Personally, we missed the opportunity to see a former colleague and friend who only had one day available to see us. Passengers deserve the cruise paid for. When Radisson elected not to deliver that cruise, we deserved two things. First, we deserved prompt notification of the changes. Second, we deserved a clear and compelling explanation for divergence from the schedule or some form of restitution and/or apology. Radisson provided neither. (2) Senior staff problems and attitudes were not limited to the attitude about the schedule. Several of the senior staff on the hotel side, newly promoted to their positions, neither knew nor were prepared for their new jobs and at least one did not seem to care. Senior staff members were not respected by junior staff, although junior staff members were clearly terrified of several of them. Senior staff was generally inaccessible - no response to phone messages, not in their offices or on deck, etc.; the only time that the Hotel Manager's office door was ever open were the days that the President of the company was on board. This is also true on land - Radisson's customer relations person in Florida did not return any one of my four post-cruise telephone calls. Any request other than the most routine was frowned on (and I am not talking about Travel Spies nonsense) and, from what I saw, was not acted on. (3) The overall impression was that the ship was not being run with passenger satisfaction as the goal, but rather that it was run for the convenience of management. Note that I did not have this impression of Radisson on two prior cruises on Mariner. This is the first and only cruise on which I felt that I was merely along for the ride. (4) Dining room food quality and service were inconsistent, lurching from very good at some meals to very mediocre at others. Some nights the dining room was excellent in all respects but, on just as many other nights, it was no better than "good" overall. There were too many lapses - some main dishes were tasteless, particularly meat and poultry (tasteless grilled salmon one night). Oddly, the dining room was consistently better at lunch than at dinner. The service on several nights was painfully slow - 25 minutes wait for the order to be taken one night with no head waiter or maitre d' in sight and bickering waiters another night. While an occasional mistake or oversight is to be expected, the mistakes were too frequent for a luxury cruise (and the ship was no more than about 60 percent full during this segment). (5) Of the two nights I ate in Signatures Restaurant, one night was truly very good. The food was well-prepared and attractively and attentively presented and service was perfect. The food on the other night, unfortunately, even with the identical menu, arrived bland and overcooked. (6) There is far too much vibration on this new ship, particularly in the aft portion when the ship is trying to go fast (above about 20 knots) - unfortunately very noticeable in my cabin. It took four days of requests to be moved to a vacant cabin of the same category. Several other passengers also said that they asked to be moved because of it. Once again, when I first asked what was happening and whether the problem would be fixed or whether we could be moved, the same senior staff member simply dismissed me: "All ships vibrate." The bottom line is simple, if you go on the Voyager, do not get a cabin in the aft portion of the ship. (7) The dance floor in the Lounge is too small - you can't dance on a postage stamp regardless of whether you prefer rock or ballroom. Forget about line dancing. (8) The art auctions. The quality of the "art" was poor (aside from there being just too many mediocre prints of famous pictures) and was too "mass market." It clutters up, cheapens, and detracts from otherwise enjoyable and usable public spaces. Please, let's get rid of art auctions . . . and not just on this ship and this line. (9) Entertainment. Maddeningly inconsistent. The Broadway reviews, comedians, etc. were interchangeable with any other line. The music at the shows was always too loud. There was one very fine classical performer. (10) Passenger evaluation cards are insufficient. They are not designed to uncover deficiencies in performance but seemed designed to elicit favorable reviews. Radisson needs to ask about quality issues, including staff attitudes and responsiveness and knowledge of their jobs, not just about such things as timeliness of baggage handling and whether the bartender smiled. None of the questions on the evaluation picked up the staff problems or the itinerary problems noted above. Second, evaluation cards must be anonymous to be valid. Third, if evaluations are to be taken seriously, there should be a section not just for "comments," but there should be a meaningful attempt to elicit specific praise, complaints, and suggestions for improvement (examples, "Please tell us what you liked about the entertainment" "Please tell use how we might improve the entertainment?" "Please tell us what you disliked on this cruise?" "Please give us three suggestions for things you would like to see on our cruises or activities you would like us to add. Please tell us three things we should eliminate."). SUMMARY - The cruise overall was very mixed. Those things that were done well were exactly as one would expect from a luxury line. However, they were overshadowed by the negative - and, what is worse is that there was absolutely no need for any of the negative to have occurred. Itinerary changes where necessary because of weather or security - and when reasonably announced in advance - are a part of cruising. However, I cannot accept either the arbitrary changes on this cruise or the disdainful attitude of the senior staff and management on this and other issues. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
We got back a couple of days ago from our Asian cruise on the new Pacific Princess. I have not seen very many reviews of this ship or of cruises in this part of the world so I thought I would write up my review as soon as possible to ... Read More
We got back a couple of days ago from our Asian cruise on the new Pacific Princess. I have not seen very many reviews of this ship or of cruises in this part of the world so I thought I would write up my review as soon as possible to provide as many details as I could. To give a little background, my husband and I are in our mid 30s and have cruised quite a few times before, but this was our first trip to Asia (unless you count a stop at Kusadasi on a Med cruise). This was also our first cruise on a ship with fewer than 1,900 passengers. We are not big 'partiers' and prefer port activities to late night discos and sunbathing. The Ship To us this seemed like a very small ship, however Princess did its best to make all of the facilities we were used to available. They were especially good at having multiple uses for certain spaces. For example, this ship does not have a dedicated children's area, but because there were 30 kids (ages 3-17) onboard they had kids' and teens' counselors on board. They conducted their activities in Sabbatini's restaurant during the daytime. Since this was a space that would have otherwise been unused (and was in the upper back corner of the ship) it was a good out of the way place for the kids to have fun without disturbing other passengers. They also used Sabbatini's and Sterling's for computer classes, ceramics and other activities. There was only one pool and 2 hot tubs (unless you could the Thalasso-spa in the Lotus Spa area that costs $15 per day) but it was only on the warmest sea days that it even began to get crowded. Frankly even at the 'crowded' moments it was only because there were young kids splashing around on one side and the older folks all congregated on the other side of the pool. I never had a problem finding a space in the hot tub. We went up to the pool deck every sea day after lunch and while it was sometimes difficult to find a lounge chair in the shade we somehow always managed. There were always plenty available in the sun (it was HOT). The dancers in the shows doubled as cruise staff and ran trivia, dancing lessons, bingo, etc. and were all very personable. There were a few dedicated members of the cruise staff but somehow their activities were not as fun. A couple of the dancers were VERY good-looking and you could tell that the older passengers enjoyed harmlessly flirting with them. :) Generally the entertainment was not as good as I have come to expect from Princess, but I think this is because they do not have the space in the Cabaret Lounge to perform the kind of production shows that Princess is known for (such as Pirates and Glamour). However I was surprised that the outside entertainment was also generally of poor quality. There was a banjo player, a comedian and a magician who were all third rate. The only good entertainer brought onto the ship was an Australian singer named Seamus. She was very good and we enjoyed both shows she gave. There was no movie theatre, however there was a special channel on the TV in the stateroom where Princess ran a movie (a different one each day) multiple times each day. This was in addition to the usual movie channel. The service in the dining room was great and the food was similar to other Princess ships I have been on. There were some very good dishes (such as the soufflEs and pastas), others that might be good or bad (such as the beef and fish) and others that were almost always bad (such as the salads and pre-prepared eggs). Soda cards were available for $32 which was $2 per day. It was well worth it and we never had any problems getting waiters to bring us lots of drinks, even in the dining room! We did not go to Sabbatini's but we did try Sterling's $15 pp charge). The appetizers and entrees were excellent, however the desserts were miserable (and we know because we tried them all). If you did not want to go to the main dining room at night there was an alternative restaurant in the buffet area. This was a sit down restaurant with waiter service but there was no charge. Half of the time it was a pizzeria and the other half of the time it was a bistro (that also had pizza selections on the menu). The pizza there was excellent, the other dishes were similar to the dining room (could be good or bad). The buffet operated from 5 am to 5:30 pm (from 5:30 pm to 12:30 am there was the alternative restaurant, from 12:30 am to 5 am there was no service). The food there was generally blah and we tried to avoid eating there. The lunch pizza provided was not nearly as good as the pizza in the alternative restaurant at night. The big advantage at the buffet is that it was relatively fast, which is particularly important if you want to get off the ship and go into port. We were in a balcony cabin (category BB) and it was just fine for 2 people. The bathroom (as usual) was tiny but useable. The room was a good size and there was plenty of room for our suitcases under the bed. There was enough closet/drawer space for all of our things but I should admit that we are light packers. We didn't have enough hangers but our steward gladly gave us more. The Ports Osaka We embarked in Osaka, Japan. We arrived a few days early and stayed at the Osaka Hyatt. This hotel is very easy to get to from the airport by taking the airport limousine bus. This bus has many routes and stops at many major hotels so investigate it if you plan on doing your own airport transportation. This bus also went straight to the Tempozan Harbor Village (where the Pacific Princess was docked) for 1,300 yen pp which was much less than Princess was charging for the same transfer. We spent 2 days 'commuting' to Kyoto. We would take the subway to Osaka station in the morning and then take a rail train to Kyoto. It was a bit of a trip but not unreasonable. On the first day we took the Johnnie Hillwalker tour. This tour meets outside Kyoto station at 10 am and costs 2,000 yen pp. It is a walking tour that goes through the Southeastern portion of the city and is more of a 'backdoor' tour. We saw a number of small shrines and traditional craftsmens' workshops, as well as some temples, a Shinto cemetery and a traditional Japanese pastry shop. Johnnie gave us some great insight into Japanese religious and cultural traditions and introduced us to the 'everyday man's' life in Kyoto. In contrast, the next day we had signed up for a tour run by JTB ($135 pp paid for before we left the US). This tour met us in Osaka and took us to Kyoto where we boarded a bus. The bus took us to major sights (such as the Golden Pavillion, the Nijo Castle and the Imperial Palace. Then lunch was provided (decent, buffet style with a good amount of choice) and we boarded the bus for an afternoon tour that went to more temples and shrines. Everything we saw was interesting and different. I am glad we took tours in Kyoto because many of the major sites have few tours (usually none in English) and all of the popular sites were awash in tourists (many of them Japanese schoolchildren from around the country). It would have been difficult to navigate on our own. At night on these days we walked around the various shopping/nightlife districts in Osaka (Amerika Mura being the most outrageous). This was fun but really only needs to be done once (unless you are a serious clubber). The third day was embarkation day. We spent the morning at Osaka Castle. Although this is a recreation, it is beautifully done and really looks like the castle surely did in its glory days. The surrounding park is nice and worth a walk. Inside the castle is a somewhat bland museum, but it is worth the entrance fee to go to the observation desk on the top floor where you have a terrific 360 degree view of Osaka. After this we headed to the Pacific Princess. Our first port was supposed to be Hiroshima, Japan, but a typhoon hit just as we were scheduled to leave Osaka, so we delayed our departure until it had passed. This was just enough to cause us to miss our half-day stop at Hiroshima. So we pressed on and went straight to Shanghai, China. We did not get off at this port because between the outrageous cost of the visa and the shore excursions we didn't think it was worth it. We did however enjoy the approach in the morning. For 2 hours before you reach Shanghai the narrow waterway is filled with hundreds of boats of all sizes. Being on a cruise ship was like being on a whale watching all of the smaller fish swimming around you. Very entertaining! Being on ship in port we took advantage of the free time and got discounted spa treatments and did laundry. Okinawa, Japan There was no shuttle into town and the Princess excursion desk gave us vastly over-estimated taxi fares. We took a taxi to Shuri Castle (about 1,300 yen) and got there at 8 am. We walked around it and saw some smaller ruins until 8:30 when they opened the castle park. We walked that until they opened the museum at 9 and then snuck in just before the Princess tours. We finished about 9:30, ran over to the Tamauden (royal tombs) and finished that by 9:50. We hopped a taxi (450 yen) with another couple to the Shuri monorail station and then took the monorail down to the shopping street (Kokusadori I think). Make sure you ride the monorail. The most expensive fare is less than 300 yen and you get a terrific elevated view of the city. We spent some fun time walking the shopping district and then went back to the ship (taxi, 1,000 yen). We only had a half-day but if we had had longer I would have liked to see the Japanese Imperial Navy Underground Headquarters. I heard that this was very good. Okinawa is really like the Japanese Hawaii: warm, tropical and lots of Aloha shirts and US military bases. It was a very interesting atmosphere. I would enjoy going back there on another cruise. Keelung, Taiwan Again it was difficult to get from the port city to the main attraction (Taipei) and Princess did not offer a shuttle or even an On Your Own tour. So we took a shipboard tour which actually wasn't all that expensive (probably because it didn't offer lunch even though it was an all day tour). We drove to Taipei and visited the Chiang Kai Chek Memorial which is also a museum. Although the museum is interesting, the architecture of the memorial was the main attraction. Had we been on our own we would have liked to have spent more time in the gardens. Next was the National Palace Museum, which holds the majority of Chinese art in the world, and lastly we visited the Martyr's Shrine. The tour was nice, but not very exciting. Hong Kong We had a fantastic time here! We were the first to disembark at about 8 am (ship was early). We docked Kowloon side at the Ocean Terminal and were right next to the Star Ferry. It took us 10 minutes to navigate through the Harbor City shopping mall though! It cost us about US$0.40 to take the ferry across to Hong Kong Island (if we had been seniors we would have been free) and it was very fast. When we got off the ferry (at Central) we walked to the Victoria Peak Tram (about 5 minutes walk) and took it up to Victoria Peak (about US$4 round trip). The train was the steepest land vehicle (ie: not suspended) I have ever been in. The views at the top were terrific and as we were getting on the tram to come down we saw all of the Princess Tour Groups coming up. :-) When we got off at the bottom we walked through the middle of uptown to get to the midlevel public escalators. We arrived just at 10 am so they were still going downhill so we rode to the bottom and visited the tourist information booth there for some maps. Then we took the now-reversed escalators to the top! We walked down, meandering through some more 'traditional' shopping areas (Hollywood Rd., Upper Lascar Rd.) seeing the antique and herbal markets and the Man Mo Temple. When we got back to downtown we grabbed a bus to Aberdeen, which is a 'fishing village' on the south side of the island (US$0.60 per person each way). Of course it is more commercial now but this is where you see all of the Chinese boats in the harbour. We were constantly pestered to ride the sampan boats (one saleslady followed us for 10 minutes!) but we took the free boat out to the 'famous' Jumbo Floating Restaurant. We walked around there for 10 minutes (and found the Princess Tour Groups eating lunch) and then took the free boat back. I think we got all of the experience without being ripped off! After walking around Aberdeen a bit more we went back on the bus to Central Hong Kong. We got off and walked to Hong Kong Park, which is very beautiful. It is incredibly landscaped and is in the middle of all of the downtown high rises. They had a fantastic aviary (free) that we went through and an equally interesting conservatory (also free). However the star of the show was the Teaware Museum in the old colonial Flagstaff House (free too), but only because of its fantastic air conditioning. :-) We then wandered back to the Star Ferry and went back across to Kowloon. We went through the landmark Peninsula Hotel and the ritzy Nathan Rd. shopping areas and got to Kowloon Park. This wasn't really worth the trip since it wasn't nearly as nice as the Hong Kong Park. At this point we were exhausted (no lunch, 6.5 miles of walking over 10 hours in 95F heat with 99% humidity) so we went back to the ship. We got back an hour before departure. Vietnam We did the standard Ho Chi Minh City tour (NOT the shopping tour). I strongly recommend that you at least do the On Your Own tour because the city is 1.5-2 hours away from the port along very muddy backwater roads. The Phu My port itself is NOT set up for passengers in any sense and is basically a mud pile where they are loading sand and construction equipment onto barges. It would be nearly impossible (without speaking Vietnamese and having a LOT of patience) to get off the ship and do ANYTHING on your own. There isn't even a town to walk into. Once in Ho Chi Minh there is very little public transportation and taxi drivers do not speak English so be prepared to walk a LOT (if you're not on tour). The tour itself was actually fantastic. It was probably the best ship tour I have ever been on other than perhaps Pompeii and Amalfi Drive. The drive to Saigon (they actually do call it Saigon there, only the government in the north calls it Ho Chi Minh) was very interesting because you really got to see daily life along the roadside the ENTIRE way. I'm talking children running barefoot through the mud, makeshift marketplaces, dusty homes open for all to see, etc. etc. It was very interesting and the first time in a long time where I have really felt WEALTHY as compared to the local populace (and trust me, by US standards we are definitely not rich). First we went to the Vietnam History museum which was not 100% interesting but our guide knew which of the few pieces were worth taking a look at (the mummified woman was the most interesting). We also saw a water puppet show there which was cute and just long enough to appreciate it (not long enough to get dull). After this we went to a lacquer factory. I know what you're thinking and yes, it was a sales/shopping thing but the best one I have ever attended. They took us through the actual factory where people were working and it was very interesting to see things hand-made in every stage of production. The prices at the store were unbelievably cheap (eg: US$24 for HUGE fancy jewelry boxes with mother-of-pearl inlays, includes shipping to the US) but we didn't buy anything simply because there was nothing we wanted/needed. It was very interesting to browse though. After this we went to lunch at an extremely fancy hotel (the Equatorial). They had women in costume lining the stairway and seriously I felt like royalty going up to the ballroom (where lunch was held). In the ballroom on a stage there were people performing traditional dances and playing traditional instruments. Each segment was a few minutes long so it changed rapidly. The food was decent and for dessert there were a number of interesting Asian fruits I tried for the first time (dragonfruit being the most exotic) which was an experience in itself. After lunch we had some free time before getting back on the bus so we decided to walk around the block. We started to walk towards the street when a large number of vendors just swarmed down on us with their souvenirs. It was somewhat overwhelming but we just retreated and went out the side entrance of the hotel and no one bothered us. We walked around the neighborhood and the vendors didn't swarm us again until we were right back at the hotel entrance. By this time there were a number of other tour participants so we weren't overwhelmed and could enjoy the bargains. If you want purses there were BEAUTIFUL silk and/or beaded purses for only $2 or $3 each (depending on how you bargain). They ONLY wanted $US. Bring small bills because I wouldn't trust your getting change. They had other items as well, but the purses were by far the best bargain. After lunch the vendors followed us on their mopeds to the Sea Goddess Temple. This was a beautiful temple hidden away in a ramshackle part of Chinatown and I would never have discovered it on my own. After the temple we stopped at Reunification Hall for a photo op and then went to the Rex Hotel (site of the Friday Night Follies). We had enough time to go upstairs and walk around the rooftop bar (beautiful with great views) and take pictures of the lobby before getting back on the bus. On the way back to the ship we made a 'rest stop' at this strange food store. It had a bunch of tourist souvenirs (and the same kind of pushy vendors only these were selling kimonos for US$5 or less) but also a lot of strange dried Asian foods including whole snakes and bugs. Quite the creepy (yet fascinating) display! back at the ship the entire bus talked about how we had enjoyed the tour so much. This one is DEFINITELY worth going on. Singapore We did this port on our own. The ship docked at the Singapore Cruise Center which is conveniently located between the cable car up Mt. Faber and the Harbourfront MRT station. It is EASY to walk to both. The ship docked late so we scrapped our plan to go up Mt. Faber and instead took the MRT (and then a cheap $4 taxi) to Changi Chapel and Museum. This is a very interesting museum filled with photos and quotations about the POW camps and occupation of Singapore by the Japanese in WWII. It was in-depth without being too technical and I enjoyed the display very much (as much as you can enjoy photos of torture and starvation). Then we took the taxi and MRT down to Fort Canning. We walked through the park and visited the Battle Box, which was the underground headquarters for the British. There was a cheesy tour but the site itself is very interesting and you will learn a lot about the reasons behind the British surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. It was interesting to see things from both the Pacific Theatre and Axis points of view. So in Vietnam we saw evidence of American wartime humiliation and in Singapore we saw evidence of British wartime humiliation. It was actually a terrific experience. Leaving WWII behind we walked over to the Padang area and then took a stroll up to the Raffles Hotel. Being forewarned we were appropriately dressed (no shorts or sandals of any kind, my bare shoulders in my sundress were okay) and let into the lobby, which is beautiful. We did see lots of tourists being turned away for inappropriate dress. We walked through the fancy shops back to the MRT and went to Little India where we wandered through various temples (including the Temple of 1,000 Lights where you will see a giant, garish Buddha whose bottom you can enter to see another Buddha) and took in the atmosphere of the markets. Then we went back to Harbourfront station and took our abbreviated trip up Mt. Faber. The view was nice, but not spectacular and I was a little disappointed, but I suspect this is the kind of thing that HAS to be done when you visit Singapore. All in all it was a terrific port and there were a lot of things we wanted to do but didn't have time for. We could easily spend another few days here too. Total spent (including the Mt. Faber cable car and admission to the Battle Box) was about $60 (Singapore Dollars). It was not expensive at all. Kuantan, Malaysia You probably won't find any port information about this place if you search the internet. This is because I think the PP was the first cruise ship to go there ever. I may be exaggerating, but not by much. The port was 100% a 'working' port. There were no passenger facilities and the buses were driving through a maze of shipping containers to exit the place. There were almost no taxis available at the pier and from what we understand none of the drivers spoke English. However we did talk to a couple who were able to hire a driver for US$20 for the entire day (I don't know how they did this with the communication gap). We had booked the Royal City of Pekan tour. First they drove us on gravel and paved roads for 45 minutes into Kuantan and then we continued to drive further towards Pekan (another 45 minutes). We turned off onto this nearly invisible dirt road that I think had never seen anything bigger than a pickup before (remember we were on a big tour bus) and drove down aways until we got to these wooden huts. One hut was the birthplace of the second prime minister of Malaysia, the hut beside it was a museum of his life. We weren't sure why this was a major site, but after reading on our own through the museum we discovered that this was the guy who was instrumental in obtaining Malaysia's independence from British Colonial Rule. The tour guide did not tell us this. Across the street was a bigger hut-like complex which was a silk factory. I just presumed that this meant a forced shopping excursion. No, just the opposite. We walked over and there were 2 women weaving cloth on old fashioned wooden looms. That's it. No store, no salespeople, nothing, just 2 girls who ignored us while working. It would have been nice if the tour guide had at least explained something about the process but he did not. We walked back across the dirt road and back into our tour bus and drove to the outskirts of Pekan and the royal compound. One of the interesting things the tour guide did tell us is that 9 of 13 of the Malaysian provinces have Sultans. Every 5 years there is an election held by the country to see which Sultan will be King of Malaysia. The King is purely ceremonial. This Sultan (whose compound we were visiting) was not the current King and we couldn't find out from the tour guide if he had ever held the post. Since he was living in his palace we drove up to the front gates and took pictures of the gates. Then we drove by his 2 polo fields. He had a rusty steam train that he had converted into a dressing room at the polo field and we were allowed to get out and take pictures of the outside of the train. The big claim to fame here was that Prince Phillip (UK) had played at this polo field. We also saw the horse stables from the road (they were quite a distance back). Then we got back in the bus and drove to downtown Pekan. It was all of 2 blocks. We got out and walked the 2 blocks and I have to say I was a little frightened. It was obviously an extremely poor area and the locals stared at us with an intensity that I found disconcerting. The 'stores' we passed were pretty meager and everything was filthy, including the one restaurant that had flies swarming all over the 'buffet'. At the end of the 2 blocks was the Sultan's museum. It was in the former British Governor's house. Basically it was a lot of memorabilia of the Sultan and his family and a few old ceramic items of Malaysian Heritage. It was about 30 minutes of interesting items and then 45 minutes of blah. The place was obviously not set up for hordes of tourists. I do have to compliment the Malaysia tour guides on being organized though: they got all 3 tour groups there at different times so that we did not overwhelm the museum. After this we were supposed to go to the watercraft exhibition across the street but it was closed. The guide really had not planned this well because we could have gone there first (while it was still open) and then gone to the museum. So we got back in the bus and drove to Kuantan for lunch. We did not arrive at the restaurant until 1:30 pm so many people were very hungry. The restaurant was in the nicest hotel in Kuantan but it was very spare. After the royal treatment in Ho Chi Minh City I was shocked. There was a linoleum floor and the chairs were all broken. The tables were formica. Let's just say that ambiance was zero. But this can be made up for with a good meal, right? Well they seated 10 people at the tables (which were made for 8) and we were elbow to elbow. ALL the Princess tours were at the same place and the staff were obviously overwhelmed. It took awhile to get served and then they just dropped dishes on our table without telling us what anything was. The food was worse than food court Chinese at home. It was edible but not too tasty. We were trying to identify some of the dishes. Afterward the guide told us that one dish was deer. This didn't bother me so much (I have had venison before) but many people were upset that they have been 'eating Bambi' and were not told about it. Then one lady at our table found a bug in her food. I was across from her so I didn't see it personally but half the table did and they all swore it was a BUG about an inch and a half long. She showed it to the tour guide and waitress and everyone looked shocked (so we know it wasn't some kind of weird Malaysian delicacy). The owner of the restaurant came over and offered the woman a clean plate but understandably she refused to eat any more. Neither did the rest of the table. When we left the restaurant many people were unhappy and the tour guide apologized. Then he said that we were going back to the ship. Some of the passengers got angry because they thought there would be a shopping stop. The guide said there was no time so we went back to the ship. Frankly if we were going straight back to the ship why didn't they skip lunch altogether? I really don't understand this. Anyhow the shopping passengers were very angry. After a number of complaints Princess refunded everyone for the part of their tour cost that covered lunch. Talking to other people back on the ship it is my understanding that the other 2 tours had similar experiences (and of course they had the same lunch). Even the people who took the taxi admitted that there had basically been nothing to see. On our tour the Sultan's palace and part of his museum were interesting, but there was maybe an hour of that during the entire day. Lunch was a disaster and I am angry that we had to pay for that. We are not even sure why Princess stopped here since it is obviously NOT a tourist place in any sense of the phrase. The only insight was that one passenger surmised that they might have stopped for the cheap fuel. Regular unleaded gasoline is about US$0.30 per litre, so it was probably a cheap place for the ship to refuel. I am not sure if this was the reason or not. So my overall view on Kuantan is that you might just want to stay on the boat. Princess should really drop it and either go over to Kuala Lumpur (which would probably add another 2 days to the cruise) or have an overnight in Singapore (which we would have enjoyed). So anyone on the future cruises be warned! Bangkok, Thailand We disembarked the ship in Bangkok and took a Princess tour of some major sights. First we went to the temple of the golden Buddha. This was small, but interesting and the architecture was in the traditional Thai style. It was obviously a major tourist spot and the vendors swarmed over us like flies. Next was the Grand Palace. The palace is actually a compound of many buildings, each more flashy and showy than the next! It is a visual feast. Every building is decorated in pieces of golden mirror (other colors too, but predominantly gold) so the effect is of entire buildings that look like golden disco balls. Definitely a must see. After this we walked a couple of blocks and took a riverboat tour. I wish this had been longer because it was so much fun! Then we were put up overnight at a nice hotel in the city. Because it is halfway around the world almost all international flights leave VERY early in the morning so it is basically impossible for anyone to disembark the ship (which docks around 7 am) and get to the airport in time to take a flight out the same day. So Princess offered an 'operational overnight' which was basically a cheap hotel stay so we could leave super early the next morning. Since we had a few hours before bed we walked down to some local markets for last-minute souvenir shopping. We ended up walking to some fancier malls and eventually wound up in the Siam Discovery Center, which is a very nice indoor shopping mall. We hopped the Skytrain back to the hotel (only 2 stops) and went to bed early to make our 3 am wake-up call. All in all it was a wonderful trip. Although we would have liked to spend longer (days) at some of the ports, the cruise was the best way to see parts of Asia for the first time. Our only real complaint (outside of missing Hiroshima) was that we would have liked a bigger ship (turns out we're big ship snobs : ). But certainly going to this part of the world is a terrific experience and I recommend it to anyone on any ship. Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
Yangtze River, Victoria Queen July 3-7 YiChang to Chungqing I took a four night upstream Yangtze river cruise on the Victoria Queen. The cruise started in YiChang and traveled upstream to Chungqing. I took this cruise as part of an ... Read More
Yangtze River, Victoria Queen July 3-7 YiChang to Chungqing I took a four night upstream Yangtze river cruise on the Victoria Queen. The cruise started in YiChang and traveled upstream to Chungqing. I took this cruise as part of an extensive 22-day adventure tour with Overseas Adventure Travel, which is owned by Grand Circle. As this is a review of the cruise portion of the tour I won't be discussing the details of the land portion of the trip. As there are many choices for travel in China, I would like to point out that if you like traveling off the beaten track, enjoy traveling with a very small group of 16 people or less, are interested in learning first hand about the culture and people and are in fairly good physical condition then you should consider Overseas Adventure Travel. The trip was fantastic. We had 15 travelers and 2 guides and a driver. We all received personal attention from the guides, we could do extra-unplanned activities with the OK of the group and nearly everything was included. The Yangtze River Cruise Ship - The Victoria Queen was rather typical on the exterior of other ships sailing the Yangtze. The Victoria Queen was ~12 years old but had recently been expanded and refurbished for cruising the Yangtze. Everything looked fresh and new. There was no smoking on board except outside on the back of the ship, so there were no bad odors onboard. This ship has five public decks and no elevator. If walking up and down stairs is a problem, then this may not be the ship for you. The dining room is on floor 1, there are rooms on floors 1-4, mini suites on floors 2-4 and suites on floor 2 and an observation deck on floor 5. On floor 3 there is a library/ lecture room. On floor 4 there is a work-out center, card room, beauty parlor, and the Yangtze Club, which is the bar, internet center, entertainment venue and best observation area on the ship. Cabin - I stayed in cabin 303 on the starboard side of the ship. This cabin was right next to the bridge at the front of the ship. The cabin was spacious. I had the cabin to myself and had lots or space. All cabins were at least 210 sq ft and had a balcony, which was the width of the cabin and only two feet deep. Just wide enough for the two patio chairs. I would like to point out that if you have a choice you should try to be on the north side of the ship if you are traveling during the summer. This way you can sit on your balcony in the shade of the ship. China in the summer was hot during the day. It typically reached 95F during the day. It was still comfortable sitting outside during the day as long as you are sitting in the shade. Keep this in mind if you have a cabin choice. The cabin had two comfortable twin beds. Each bed had two fluffy and soft pillows. The sheets were soft and the bed was topped with a duvet. This was the most comfortable bed I slept in, in all of China. The room had great air-conditioning. It didn't seem very adjustable. I kept it on most of the time and was comfortable. The room had a TV with HBO and several other English speaking news channels. The TV was located high up the wall and was viewable from the two beds. There was no refrigerator, but I asked the room stewardess Annie for ice and an ice bucket full of ice appeared and was refilled with ice twice a day throughout the cruise. There was a small closet and bench for placing your suitcase. There weren't many drawers for storage that I can recall. There was a desk and chair. The bathroom was quite large. There was a sink and large countertop, WC and large tub/shower combination. There was always plenty of hot water. The room was supplied with high quality shampoos, shower gels, soaps and lotions. Food - The food was very good. But if you are expecting all the choices, and quantities typical on an ocean cruise then you may be disappointed. Breakfast and lunch were buffets. There were western and Chinese choices and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I always found many things to try and enjoyed most of the selections. Dinners were served family style at the table. Most dishes were Chinese, but I feel that most people would find the food fairly good. There was nothing "unrecognizable, squiggly or slimy". There were also some western items served. There were always ~10-15 different dishes served and no one went hungry. Deserts we not spectacular. Deserts were rather bland or else were fresh watermelon. The meals came with your choice of bottled water, regular Coke, regular Sprite, hot tea or coffee. Beer and wine were available. The selection was sparse and the cost fairly high. I skipped the shipboard offerings and bought the local beer, which I enjoyed on my balcony. My only complaint with the dining room, as they seemed to rush you through meals. Before you were finished they would whisk away your plate, or utensils. It was aggravating. I can understand the employees trying to get their work done so they can have some free time. It just felt very rushed. Hey, I'm on a cruise. I expect to be able to linger over dinner, enjoy desert and a cup of tea. Also note that coffee and tea is available in the Yangtze Club every morning from 6:00 to 7:30 am. I always took advantage of this while checking my email, about 10 feet away at the internet center in the Yangtze Club. Service - The service was fabulous. Everyone was friendly and greeted you as you walked by. The cabin, as well as the entire ship was immaculate. There's not much to say other then it would be difficult to have better service on a ship. Entertainment - There were two cruise directors on the ship, Monika Pichler and Ernie Kemm, two river guides, Jacky Qin and Michael Sun, a kite master, painter, and medical doctor and Tai Chi instructure, Dr Liu. What!? a medical doctor is an entertainer? Yea, sort of, Dr Liu gave a lecture and demonstration of Chinese medical treatments like acupuncture, massage and suction cups. The Chinese medical treatments were available to the passengers as well as western medicine. The lecture from Dr Liu was very interesting. Try to be the person he demonstrates on. Unfortunately I don't think he will demonstrate on you if you are female, as you must remove your shirt! The cruise directors were very friendly and efficient. The Ernie Kemm was a talented singer and piano player and entertained the crowd daily. The Monika Pichler was a wealth of knowledge and very open with information about the ship and the Yangtze. Monika also seems to know the idiosyncrasies of the internet service onboard. She can help you if you are having trouble. The river guides seemed adequate. Maybe it was just me, but I don't need someone to tell me that a rock formation looks like an elephant. There were lots of interesting facts I'm sure. I just avoided listening to the river guides and sat in peaceful quite on my balcony. Tai Chi lessons were given every morning in the Yangtze Club and were well attended. There were lectures and demonstrations by the kite master and painter. I skipped these, so have no comment. Every night there was a show put on the cruise staff. I attended these and even though they were not professionals they were interesting. There were fabulous Chinese costumes, dancing, recorded music and a staff/cruiser talent show. There was the Captain's welcome aboard cocktail party held in the Yangtze club on the first evening, that was very nice. Sparkling wine and hors d'oeuvres were served. We all toasted to an enjoyable cruise and had a great time. Internet - There were four laptops available for internet access in the Yangtze club. The cost was 50 Chinese yuan or $6.00 for the entire cruise. I jumped on this offer and think it was well spent. The service is dialup and could be extremely slow while cruising through the gorges. Never the less I was able to check my email, write a few emails and post to the Cruise Critic board so it met my needs. Since there were so few people on board, computers were always available. I never had to wait for a computer. Access is limited to 20 minutes if people are waiting. But this never occurred on my cruise. Tours- Everyday there was a tour. Everyone left the ship and took the daily tour. The tours were divided up by the groups you were traveling with. So since I was traveling with a group of 15 people, we toured daily with our OAT group and trip leader. The tours were lead by the Victoria Cruise trip guide and a driver. Here is a summary of the three tours I took. 1. Three Gorges Dam - This tour was excellent. We took a bus to an area just river from the spillway. You could see the completed powerhouse, the spillway with the powerful water and mist and the in progress second powerhouse and cofferdam. Next we drove to a lookout point above the dam which had a great model of the river and dam project and a great lookout for taking pictures. While driving to the lookout and back we went over the ship locks which we would be traveling up as soon as we returned to the ship. I purchased a small finely carved beach wood lion at the gift shop at the lookout point for about $6.00 that I really love. Be sure to bargain. 2. Lesser Gorges scenic area - Another excellent trip! We took a boat through the Shennong stream where we saw monkeys and wooden coffins in the walls of the gorge. This was very cool. The walls on both sides are the river are very steep and covered with vegetation...beautiful. After about 40 minutes we got off the large boat and got into small wooden boats. We were dragged upstream by these very buff guys. When we reached the top we turned around and rode the rapids down. Lots of fun and very pretty. We got back on the larger boat, and made the return trip to the Victoria Queen. 3. Wanzhou, Relocation City and the Three Gorges Museum - really lame. This tour took us to the Three Gorges Museum. Not so good. This museum featured the story of the wooden coffins such as we saw in the lesser gorge the previous day. Kind of a let down after seeing the real thing. Next we went to a families apartment. Very uncomfortable experience and not too interesting. Families in old brick primitive structures are forced to relocate to modern, spacious apartments due to the dam. Seemed like a good thing to me. Finally taken to a rip-off store selling silk clothing. Don't buy here. It's about 5X more than you will pay in Hong Kong. I should mention that if stairs are a problem then getting off the ship and climbing up the 300 stairs to get to the tour bus could be an issue. I'm relatively young and in fairly good condition, but I can tell you that going up the 300 steps had me puffing and sweating. Embarkation and Debarkation were not an issue on this ship. You walked on, you walked off. No problem. This was a fabulous trip that I really enjoyed. Hope this review gives you some idea of what a Yangtze River cruise will be like. It was relaxing, interesting, and slow paced. But a Yangtze River cruise is the only way to see this part of China the will be undergoing dramatic changes during the upcoming years. Laura Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
(NOTE: We actually embarked in Tokyo and disembarked in Hong Kong, but neither port was given as an option) What a treat from start to finish. No embarkation hassles - no cattle call in a terminal, we just walked on. A glass of champagne ... Read More
(NOTE: We actually embarked in Tokyo and disembarked in Hong Kong, but neither port was given as an option) What a treat from start to finish. No embarkation hassles - no cattle call in a terminal, we just walked on. A glass of champagne as we walked on. Staff and crew lined up to greet us. Efficient, polite, helpful. All outside balcony cabins. What more could a person ask. We have cruised on four other lines and this surpassed them all. The ship was just over half full so the crew to passenger ratio was 1:1. Most days (excepting lunch time) the pool deck was near empty. The bar waiters were only too happy to do ANYTHING for you. No lineups for dinner at any of the venues. The reservations-only dining rooms were superb in terms of menu and wine lists. Perhaps a little stiff with the dress code and they wouldn't accept last-minute requests for seatings. We never ate in the Compass Rose but we were told that the menus there were also terrific. Afternoon tea was delightful, morning coffee and pastries at the computer area was a must. Cabins were kept spotless and cleaned twice daily. Decent daily schedules with a variety of offerings. Computer education classes every day were well-attended. Often it was a lengthy wait to get near any of the computers, especially days at sea, because everyone is now hooked into the internet. That's when the coffee and danish table came in handy!! The gym is well-equipped and the fitness programs were standard. The library and video selection is good. The in-cabin TV service is just okay. Got a little tired of the Story of Mao and the Biography of Confucious. It was an ambitious itinerary - I think this was the first time in these ports of call (Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Dalian, Tianjin/Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong). The shore excursions were well-organized despite the problems encountered with local authorities in Dalian and a late arrival in Tianjin. The Dalian tours were cut short by at least an hour, which really was no loss. Not much to offer and I think tourism is a new concept for this city. They tried hard, though. We didn't have as much time as we would have like to have in Beijing, particularly at the Forbidden City. We arrived 30 minutes before closing - hardly enough time to take it all in. My only disappointment was that, other than the stage show, there was not much action after dinner as the median age of the clientele seemed to be at least 70+ and all other times the decorum was "veddy prawpah". (older and wealthy). Our group, being younger, received more than a few sideways stares as we tried to enjoy ourselves. As a matter of fact, most of the time you could walk the common areas, lounges, etc. in the evening and not see anyone. So unless this was an anomaly, we wouldn't recommend this particular itinerary to people who want to party hearty. Try Carnival instead!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2004
After 14 days onboard the SEVEN SEAS MARINER, I am having a hard time adjusting to life back on land. No, it was actually not the ship that made it special - I just love cruising on any ship, anywhere in the world. Radisson Seven Seas ... Read More
After 14 days onboard the SEVEN SEAS MARINER, I am having a hard time adjusting to life back on land. No, it was actually not the ship that made it special - I just love cruising on any ship, anywhere in the world. Radisson Seven Seas Cruises trots the globe with a small fleet of luxury ships. Radisson claims to be the company that offers the finest ships afloat. However, after cruises on other lines, namely Crystal Cruises, I have to disagree. The 3-year old, all-suite, all-balcony SEVEN SEAS MARINER is undoubtedly a luxurious, beautiful floating resort. And while there were many positives to rave about, I found just as many negatives to grouse about and those, unfortunately, slanted my view of the cruise overall. Our cruise was 2 weeks in Asia, sailing from Tokyo to Osaka & Hiroshima in Japan, and then on to Dalian, Tianjin/Beijing & Shanghai in China before ending in Hong Kong  (Note: I had to list Yokohama as Embarkation Port in the above field as Tokyo was not given as an option). The ports made the cruise, as each city was beautiful and fascinating. Asia was never high on my list of places to see, but having returned now I cannot wait to go back. Overnight calls in Osaka, Tianjin/Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong were spectacular as we were allowed more time to learn about these cities and experience the nightlife. Onboard ship, the first thing that struck me as being a bit odd was the indifference we experienced from the crew. For every smile we got from a staff member, there were two more in line who acted annoyed and bothered to be there working. The staff at Reception were stone-faced and many wait staff seemed to be distracted and inattentive. We spent many meals in the Compass Rose (the main dining room)waiting for water, drinks and bread, while servers chatted among themselves or disappeared altogether. Radisson has an open-seating policy which I don't care for. You don't get the same servers and, therefore, your dining preferences are not learned and there is no relationship built between guest and server. We had to track down our favorite servers and try to be seated at their station. Many thanks go out to Jerome from Germany and Renata from Hungary who were superstars in the dining room - always had a smile, joke and menu recommendation. We tipped them handsomely despite the line's no tipping policy. The ship itself is a stunning example of contemporary European design, following in the footsteps of older sister SEVEN SEAS NAVIGATOR which I sailed on in 2000. Despite catering to a well-heeled, reserved, 60-year old + crowd, this ship is shockingly modern. The decor is bright and airy and the suites are roomy and gorgeous. Every room is a suite, and every suite has a balcony. And truly, there is just nothing like cruising with a private veranda! This is not a ship to sail on for excitement. In fact, this was the most uneventful environment I had ever seen. Once dinner is over, the ship quiets down for the night. Once 10:30 hits, you can hear a pin drop. I entertained myself at Club.com by checking out the Internet. I am in my 20's, and while I am well-traveled and sail with only the best cruise lines, I found myself trying to stay awake onboard due to lack of activity. Stars, the disco on Deck 6, would blast hot dance tracks all night - only problem is that the only people in there were the lonely bartenders who stood at the bar chatting all night. A younger crowd drunkenly used the room sporadically toward the end of the 2 weeks for Karaoke, but even that was tame by typical standards. The food was a disappointment, I have to admit. While it was perfectly presented, the portions were tiny and tasteless. I usually ordered a BLT or a hamburger for most meals as those were the only substantial items. An amazing appetizer or main course would appear every now and then, but then we were stuck with the appallingly bad desserts and pastries. There are 2 alternative restaurants which were stunning and offered exotic cuisine, but these highlights were not enough to make up for the overall poor culinary quality. One of the two alternative restaurants were turned into a "Roadside Diner" for the last week of the cruise with the worst food I had ever eaten. Europeans really should not try to mimic classic American diner food. It was a cute idea, but poorly done. Entertainment was run-of-the-mill with a big Broadway-style show every few nights, mixed with cheesy variety acts the other nights. The production shows("Thoroughly Modern Broadway", "Beyond Imagination" and a Beatles show) were well-done and high quality. However, the Beatles show was cancelled on our cruise due to production difficulties; i.e. an unprepared dance team. Overall, I enjoyed my time onboard SEVEN SEAS MARINER. It is a gorgeous ship with amazing suites and phenomenal decor. And while there was good service here and there, and good food here and there, the quality level was spotty from day one and atypical of a line of this caliber. Radisson tries to be Crystal, but misses the mark. Asia was the highlight and I will definitely visit there on a cruise again. And despite my complaints, I WILL sail with Radisson again. With a tweak here and there, they have the potential to be as solid as they claim to be. Read Less
Sail Date September 2004
Embarkation in sydney was obviously well streamlined before we embarked in march as we were prepared for a long wait in sydney but only took 40 minutes to board the ship. The sapphire princess was magnificent and the amenities very lovely. ... Read More
Embarkation in sydney was obviously well streamlined before we embarked in march as we were prepared for a long wait in sydney but only took 40 minutes to board the ship. The sapphire princess was magnificent and the amenities very lovely. The only thing we found were the costly prices for onshore excursions compared with local prices and the disorganization of the tour desk on board. Book your tours before you board your cruise to avoid disappointment, though expensive. The staff were very obliging and the dining room staff were better than a 5 star restaurant. We prefer set dining and found out we were allocated to anytime dining when we boarded. This was changed on the second night and was very much appreciated, We spoke to many other passengers whom had their set dining request denied by princess and were quite sure that princess cruises were trying to steer all cruisers to anytime dining as there were many empty seats in the international dining room for the whole cruise. Anytime dining is fine if you wish to queue for a table which we are not used to doing. And people tend to have an infinity for food (especially some older patrons!!!!!) The stateroom was very nice and had plenty of room for our many pieces of luggage(we don't travel light), the balcony was lovely and adequate for two people and we enjoyed morning breakfasts out there on several mornings. Our stateroom attendant was a bit slack and we found had to be asked for the simplest of things that would be placed in your room in any 5 star hotel or ship. Needless to say there was no extra tip for the stateroom attendant. Make sure your departure cards are handed back to you on disembarkation as our passports were and they were not handed back to us. Therefore when we left Bangkok 3 days after the cruise we had to prove how we entered the country and proved a little scary being pulled to one side in a strange country and made wait for 30 minutes till they proved we arrived by ship. (a sapphire princess stamp was in our passports). This was a task not fulfilled by the stateroom attendant as it was his job to collect our passports and arrival cards and return them to us before disembarkation. The shows were worthy of a first class broadway show and the entertainers were first class. Frankie and Allistair the cruise directors were very entertaining and mad everybody feel very at ease. The ship caters to a mainly 65 plus clientele but should remember that there still are many 40 something's who can afford longer cruises also. We didn't mind mixing with the older folk as most were very charming and we met some very nice people and long lasting friends. The days activities were many every day even though we tended to mainly relax for the first week as we came on the cruise to take a break from busy careers. The ports of call were good even though we had to miss Penang due to a faulty gas turbine and were each given $200 US for the trouble of missing a port, Therefore being at sea 5 days instead of 4 from Darwin to Kuala Lumpur. The seas were flat and the days were sunny so we couldn't of asked for nicer weather, luck was on our side with dodging a category 5 cyclone on the top of australia. Never saw it as we were a day or so behind it all the way. We would take another cruise with princess again and would maybe thing about alaska or the Mediterranean. We have both joined the captains circle even though this is my 5th cruise (not with princess) The only thing I must emphasis is that if you are under 65 remember there will only be 10 - 15% of passengers your age but the rest will have some great stories to tell. I forgot to mention the lotus spa, went there for a seaweed wrap and a pamper (yes males do love a pamper too) and it was heaven, well worth the $170 US I paid for the three hours of relaxation. The girls in the spa were very nice and very professional. The gym and classes were very good even though I only attended one yoga class as i think it was a bit rude to charge $10 US a class when all classes should be included in your fare. Charge another $100 and make it all inclusive!!!!!!!!!! Passengers pay a fare and we all know that tipping is extra, (thats ok) but make every class included and then instead of have two people in a class you may get 20. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
We have just returned from a Sapphire Princess Bangkok to Beijing cruise. We enjoyed the cruise but feel that we prefer a smaller ship - distance around the ship is vast and there is the inconvenience of having to go forward for most of ... Read More
We have just returned from a Sapphire Princess Bangkok to Beijing cruise. We enjoyed the cruise but feel that we prefer a smaller ship - distance around the ship is vast and there is the inconvenience of having to go forward for most of the restaurants, atrium etc. We had an aft cabin and this did necessitate long walks through the ship. The waiting service on the ship is excellent and could not be faulted. The International Dining Room and all other restaurants provided excellent service as did Horizon Buffet. The buffet food was much more hygienic and appetizing than usual on these ships. Cabin was in excellent condition with walk in robe, two tvs and a balcony - our room steward very efficient and helpful. However, we could not say the same about the Passenger Services Desk and Tour Desk. On both these desks there appears to be staff with "attitude". Both desks appear to be most disorganized and have no real idea of what is happening - come back again was mostly the comment with queries and they were quite unhelpful. The ship because of its size, docked outside the main area of the city and there were long distances to travel by coach. Passengers were charged for these shuttles - most of the passengers were irate that because of the size of the ship, passengers were penalized for the ship's size and this should have been included in the fare. The ship had a mixed passenger component, but the Americans especially were not at all happy and numerous Platinum cruise card holders were heard to say that they would never against travel with Princes. Disembarkation in Beijing was a nightmare - first passengers called off boat at 7.30 a.m. to no luggage out. Coaches full - people milling around - hardly any help at all from Princess staff. We were transported from ship to transit hotel in Beijing to wait for our luggage. This did not arrive till 3 p.m. - I can tell you there were many livid passengers by then. We enjoyed our cruise but we would hesitate to travel with Princess again. From what we heard, there have been many changes for the worse since Carnival took over the Line and for many people it was a disastrous vacation. We will be looking at Celebrity or Holland America for our cruise in '06. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
Sapphire Princess, Bangkok to Beijing, 26 Mar - 11 Apr 2005. To open, my advice to everyone is to use this resource (Cruise Critic) as much as possible, in particular the roll calls. For a first time Princess cruiser we found this forum ... Read More
Sapphire Princess, Bangkok to Beijing, 26 Mar - 11 Apr 2005. To open, my advice to everyone is to use this resource (Cruise Critic) as much as possible, in particular the roll calls. For a first time Princess cruiser we found this forum invaluable for picking up tips and meeting fellow cruisers prior to departure. On board there are your standard set of serial whingers, the ones that complain about the smallest thing that goes wrong and blame everyone else but themselves. Our advice is - make the best of the dollars you have spent on this dream trip and don't let the little things phase you. Things will go wrong and some things don't live up to expectations. Get over it and enjoy what you have. Incessant complaints are only going to cloud your experience. Remember, you are only one of 2600ish passengers, be considerate and don't reserve seats and lounges when you have no intention of using them immediately, and relinquish them if you are going to leave for any more than 10 minutes. This way there will always be seats available. We will go through the cruise review in sections, in no particular order. Transfers - We always prefer to arrange my own transfers no matter what the mode of travel. We always find this to be most convenient and usually cheaper. This was so in the case of this cruise. We arrived in Bangkok one week prior to the cruise to wind down and prepare for the cruise. We arranged a private car to pick us up at our hotel and take us to the ship. For the private car, hotel to ship, cost us less than 1/3 the price princess was charging. A further advantage is you don't arrive with a bus load of other passengers all trying to get on the ship at the same time as you. Embarkation - There is very little to say other than a very efficient operation. From the time we got out of our car to the time we were in our cabin was 10 minutes. Little else to be said!! Cabin - We were booked in an outside double with balcony (Cat BA) and were assigned C312. The cabins on this deck are a little better than most other outside doubles because they have a double sized balcony - huge. They are better in those on Dolphin deck because they are half covered (by the balcony above) and half open. The ones on Dolphin are completely open to view from the balconies above. The cabin itself is roomy with a queen sized bed, bedside tables either side, and desk for writing. There is a bar refridgerator in the corner and a television on a stand above that. There is sufficient room for moving around without feeling claustrophobic. There is sufficient room under the bed(s) for storing your suitcases. In the dressing area there is sufficient hanging space for even the most cronic overpackers (like ourselves). There is a shelf above that for storing other clothing. There is a cupboard with plenty of shelving and a safe. Your lifejackets are also stored in here. Prior to departure we read a number of complaints about the size of the bathroom. Although it is smallish, there is sufficient room to do all the stuff you have to do in there. The shower is compact but has sufficient room for a largish person (I am 6"1' and 195 pounds and did not have any problems. Television - If you want to escape from the constant activity or just have the desire to watch television then there is a great choice. Kids channels, movie channels, news, discovery and even on onboard channel. You will receive a television guide in your cabin. Public Rooms - All the public rooms are spacious, beautifully decorated and very clean. I would liken them to public rooms in any high standard resort or hotel. There are more bars on the ship than I care to count. They all serve the same stuff, and all the prices are the same all over the ship. I will refer to drink prices in a later section. The advantage of the bars near the pools is they serve draft Budweiser on tap, in a variety of sizes ranging from a standard size glass (at approx US$3) to the large size that must be close on a litre (US$5). Pools and Spas - There is an abundance of pools and spas (Jacuzzis) on the ship. The pools are heated to a comfortable temperature and the spas are really warm. One pool has a roof that closes so there is a place to swim even if the weather outside is less than ideal. Unfortunately there are some passengers who think they are more important than all the others and have more rights. Although the Daily Patter specifically requests passengers to refrain from reserving lounges around the pools, and seats in the Princess Theatre, there are a large number of selfish, inconsiderate people that will get to the pools very early in the morning and place towels and books on lounges. I observed this happening every day and some seats would remain reserved but unused for up to 4 hours at a time - whilst other poor passengers could not get a lounge. The solution is simply move the stuff yourself and refer the culprit to the deck staff if they return and complain, or just ask the deck staff to move the stuff for you. Dining - We opted for anytime dining and highly recommend this option. We don't like having to be fixed in to a dining time and found that a lot of people that were on the traditional dining option did find it occasionally restrictive. If we wanted to dine in a specific restaurant, at a specific time we simply rang the concierge early in the day and booked. We found that we were very rarely unable to book at the time and place we wanted. If you want a particular seat, maybe a window with a view, we recommend booking early in the day or the day before. Most times we walked in we were able to get straight in, if not we usually had a table within 5-10 minutes. If you are a couple you will very easily get a table for two, but let loose and let the maitre'd seat you and share a table with 2 or 4 other people. We found this a great way to meet people and often ended up sitting for hours just chatting with new friends. As you would have found from other reviews, you can eat from the theme menu from the restaurant you are eating in, or from the international menu that the traditional diners are choosing from. Trust us, the options will suit any diet. The Horizon Court buffet is just that - a buffet - don't expect more and you wont be disappointed. The food is good without being fancy. There is a great range from hot foods and carvery, through to fresh salads and cold meats, fresh fruit and a constantly changing variety of desserts. In the quieter times we found that the food can occasionally be a little cold, but otherwise it is okay. It can get real busy in here especially at breakfast and lunch. Once again you may have to cope with less than considerate fellow passengers. You will find 1 or 2 people using a table for 6 (or even 8) whilst other will be strolling the floor trying to find a place to sit. Just join a table that has spare seats and highlight the fact that there or no other seats available while these are vacant. If it is all to hard then there is a good room service menu as well - remember, room service is free. Drink Prices - Not bad. You can pick up a bottle of wine for dinner from about US$19 (plus grat) in the restaurants. Beer prices varied from US$3.50 for US beers, to US$3.75 for imported beers. There is a 5 for the price of 4 offer for Dos Equis (in a bucket) and I have already talked about the draft beer. The Patter has a Cocktail and Mocktail of the day, if you purchase the 'Hurricane" cup deal you get a discount of US$1 on the listed price. There is a comprehensive cocktail list at reasonable prices. If you drink a fair amount of coke/sprite/fanta then it is worth purchasing the coke sticker for your cruise card at the beginning of the cruise. The price for the sticker is dependant on the duration of the cruise (our 16 day cruise cost US$35) and entitles you to unlimited coke/sprite/fanta. Entertainment - If you are looking for Broadway quality entertainment then you are looking in the wrong place - you are not going to find it on a cruise. The entertainers on the ship are there because it is most likely the best gig they could get. If you go with this in mind then you will enjoy the variety of well produced and presented shows. As with the pool, there are a large number of people that will leave their gear on seats hours in advance, or have one person sit and block out 10 seats, even though the Patter requests they not do so. Same approach applies as for the pool - or just sit down in a seat and ignore the protests. Remember they are the ones not doing the right thing!! Princess has a scholarship at sea program which involves presenting informative lectures by various special interest speakers. These will include using computers, port information, aviation, history, psychology etc. We went to a few of these and found them to be interesting. They are limited to 45 min duration so rarely get boring. If you like trivia, then there is up to 4 trivia competitions per day, enough to satisfy even the most avid trivia fan. Julie, Colin and Liam make sure that fun is had by all. You may even win a cheap prize. Remember you are only playing for a luggage tag, or a water bottle, so don't take it too seruiously. The cruise staff are excellent and always have an exhaustive list of activities that you can get involved in. They bend over backwards to get passengers involved in all the fun that is occurring all around the ship. Shuffleboard, table tennis, paddle tennis, bridge, golf just to mention a few. There is so much going on you will always have an option if you want something to do. Join in and have fun!!!! If you like golf, this ship has two of the best golf simulators we have ever seen. Steve and Bill run golf competitions of one type or another every day. Their proactive and innovative approach to these competitions always make them a fun affair. You can also go and play a round on anyone of many famous golf courses around the world. Fitness - The gym is huge and well equipped. There are at least 20 walking machines plus striders, stepper, x trainers and cycles. Every single one has its own plasma screen that can tune to any one of the ships TV channels. So you can hop on a machine, stride away the three desserts you had the night before, while watching the movie of the day. We advise taking you own standard headphones to plug into this system. You can borrow them from the Lotus Spa but good knows who has sweated into them before you. The gym does get busy first thing in the morning and it can occasionally be difficult to get a machine. It seems to quiet down a bit after 9 AM. There are a number of fitness classes run everyday most of which are free. They do however charge for classes such as spin cycling and a few others, I do not understand why? Charging for personal sessions is fair, but $10 per session for a group spin cycle session is a bit steep. Service - Well this really depends on the location and the time of day. Generally it is impeccable, but the occasional lapses let the whole thing down. We found that our room steward (Marius) was excellent, we could not fault his performance. We always had a clean tidy room and fresh towels (twice a day), extra chocolates on the pillow at night time and anything we asked for was provided immediately. Meal service was generally good, but when it got busy, things started to head south. Late in the day and into the evening it seemed like the waiting staff were getting a little tired or bored and the service seem to be a little slow, and sometimes haphazard. During the cruise things would run out, this is understandable. It was usually the better quality or the best value stuff that would run out, again this is understandable. But, to not offer an replacement option at the same price is a little shabby. Example - in the room service menu they offer a wine package - if I recall correctly it was 4 mini bottles of wine for the price of 3 of house red, house white and some other fizzy thing. We rang on a number of occasions to ask for this and was told that it was sold out, when we asked what the replacement offer was we were told there was not. At the margins they charge on this ship surely they could allow some option at a comparable price to ensure that the customer is satisfied. There are other examples but I will not labour the point to far. Ports of Call - This is a big ship and it is understandable that it cannot get into some ports. This is a little bit of a disadvantage because you usually end up berthing in a container terminal some way from town. Firstly, they are usually secure areas so you are dependant on the overpriced shuttle busses that are provided by the port. We believe that Princess could have made better arrangements for the inconvenience caused by not being able to berth closer to town. Only a minor issue and not worth losing sleep over. We lost one port due to circumstances beyond the crew's control. We were compensated with a $250 p/p onboard credit. We don't feel that this really compensates for losing a part of the itinerary that attracted you to the cruise but I refer back to my comment in the opening. Things happen and it is not worth ruining the whole cruise because of it. Disembarkation - Like embarkation, as long as you sit in your cabin watching a movie until your tag colour and number is called you will not have a problem. You have the standard crowd that will get to the gangway as soon as it opens and wait for 3 hours until it is their time to get off - they can have it. Overall - It was a wonderful and memorable cruise. The ship is big and beautiful, the food is good, the beer is cold, there is plenty to do (if you wish), the entertainment is good, and the staff do their best to make sure you have a great time. As long as you go along with a positive attitude and don't let the little things upset you, you will have a great time. Things went wrong - this is a 116 000 ton floating resort, with 2600 passengers and 1800 staff - things will go wrong. But at the end of the day the positive far outweighed the negatives - which results in a positive result. Well done Princess, we will be back (Booked for 2006, Diamond Princess, Sydney to San Francisco) Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
Sapphire Princess—March 26 for 16 days—Bangkok to Beijing, otherwise labeled Laem Chabang to Xingang. Summary: The Sapphire Princess is too big for this itinerary, put your time and money to better use. We'll definitely take the ... Read More
Sapphire Princess—March 26 for 16 days—Bangkok to Beijing, otherwise labeled Laem Chabang to Xingang. Summary: The Sapphire Princess is too big for this itinerary, put your time and money to better use. We'll definitely take the size of the ship into consideration for future cruises. Why? (1) shorter port times for you because of long, tiring transportation times to the sights, and (2) docking at faraway, unattractive, "untourist-friendly" cargo terminals (so far that commercial transportation can't come into the zone if they even know where it is and, in some cases, so secure they couldn't enter if they got there). This was our 13th Princess cruise, all over the world. Pre-cruise: We opted for the stay at the Shangri-La hotel and it was lovely. You're given 2 bottles of water each day in your room and routine American electrical connections are part of the room decor. The "care" service from the contracted Thai tour company was impeccable. We went on an additional countryside tour the first full day and the highlight, a longtail boat ride, is what most previous male visitors ask about. A hint we stumbled upon was to eat at the restaurant on the riverside as it wasn't as costly as the featured dining rooms, it served the same food, and it was quite romantic. Our only regret is that we didn't even try to get my DH a suit; we really should have done this as each day the tour guide would end by recommending a tailor, a spa, etc. It was also suggested that the concierge would probably have recommended a fine tailor in exchange for a tip. Remember to bring regular pants and closed shoes; there was a dress code review in the lobby for a Buddha visit—no Capri pants or open-back shoes. Embarkation: It turned out to not only be a holiday but also the time of year many people visit the gravesites of their relatives so the long ride to Laem Chabang was even longer. It was raining at the Cultural/Elephant Show stop but eventually everyone was persuaded to exit the coaches for the covered structures. The shows were quite good and at the end of the Elephant Show you could interact with the elephants for $2 US (the elephants also eat bunches—not individual--of bananas for $2US each). Lunch was at a hotel where departing Princess passengers were also eating and they told those of us who had followed the ship's turbine problem story in the Australian press that the turbine had not been fixed—look out, skipped ports, ship going too slow for the itinerary. At the terminal people were lined up all the way outside so they kept us on the coach for a while. After watching people arrive on private transportation and streaming in, they had us join the lines. Other than moving to another line when we overheard the fellow in front of us say he had been ill, it was our usual port: wait, wait, wait. (We only heard of four men being ill pre-cruise. Actually, this appeared to be an exceptionally healthy cruise—no noticeable coughing, you saw many of the same people every day, everyone was at dinner each night. In fact, the good health was a commented upon at a group breakfast three days after the cruise.) The Ship: The ship wasn't extraordinary, except maybe in size. We only had rough weather one night and the ship noticeably creaked and shuttered, to the point of questioning whether the top portion of the ship could crack off. Otherwise, wear and tear was already evident in the stateroom and, boy, the shower stall is awfully small. It was a long, long walk toward the traditional dining room from our stateroom near the front of the ship and then you had to find the dining room. After a few days, signs were put up indicating the way because it's essentially only accessible from one stairwell/ elevator bank. A big thank you goes to out to whoever mentioned that the first night line-up at the dining room door might be people trying to change their arrangements because entire foyer was packed and my spouse was reluctant to charge through. Throughout the dinner hour people were still conferring with the maitre d'. Our head waiter didn't make an appearance at our table until the third night. The main showroom wasn't very large, you had to go early. Cruise Directors (CD) spent a lot of time and energy before the shows finding seats for people. One CD said there were 750 seats and the ship had over 2,500 passengers on board. The production talent was exceptional and there were more dancers/singers than usual; good shows, especially Piano Man. The internet cafe was adequate for size but the satellite connection was usually very slow. The guest speakers and ministers were a much appreciated addition considering the number of sea days, and the events that happened (assistant pastry chef apparently committed suicide by jumping overboard and it was the time of Pope John Paul II's funeral). Liquor: The prices at the Hong Kong airport Duty Free were good. On this itinerary don't rely on the ship. This cruise followed the one (same ship) where the Australian press reported they had run out of Australian beer. The 1,000 remaining Australians were still heard bemoaning a shortage of beer on this sojourn. Room service told a Canadian there was no Rye available but a bartender offered to sell him a bottle of Rye by the drink. Supposedly the ship was going to restock in Pusan, Korea. Oh, when they ask you at the Beijing airport whether you have any "Chinese lacquer" they're really inquiring about any kind of liquor; it has to be packaged ($1) and shipped with the luggage. The Food: Nothing much exceptional here either. We ate in the traditional dining room and had an amicable table. My spouse said meats were their forte. The same dish was offered as something else occasionally: the shrimp dish was the same as the scampi dish on the Personal Dining menu, and the pheasant, or whatever they called it, was really chicken, according to a person who had previously eaten the former. Our waitress did a fine job and gained a lot of experience in ice cream sundaes. The Kahlua Crème Brulee was of note and some were reserved for another night, ask for this favor if you like it. Our Journey: Of course, with the gas turbine not functioning the ship was going slower than anticipated and after the pastry chef unexpectedly left us, we were detained from reaching Singapore at the scheduled times and were told that Vietnam would be skipped. However, following the sea search, the turbine did start to operate and the navigator told passengers in a public forum that the Vietnam visit could have been accommodated. The Singapore tours were rearranged and perhaps for the better; we had fun visiting the Raffles Long Bar at night for Singapore Slings and riding a trishaw through some of the night markets. The Princess-corporate Vietnam decision was a big disappointment to the very end and continues. Since there were two days scheduled for Shanghai and that dock was really distant from the city, the more acceptable change may have been to lop off a day there—Princess wishes that too now, since a tanker collided with the bow just before our departure). Three days after the cruise a man who had served in Vietnam told how he had chosen this itinerary because he wanted his wife, also retired military, to see where he had spent an important part of his young life. In addition, there was also a decision to change the Ship Photographer's Photo Opportunity from the UN Cemetery in Korea to a fish market and this offended those veterans who had planned to take back pictures to those with whom they had served in the Korean War. The Tours: We only do ship tours and these were the usual. I did see that people showed up very early for the tours and men, leaving their spouses behind, rushed to the coach. (They didn't burst out until after they exited the usual gathering place, the showroom, because the Princess person stood at the end of the following aisle. Once a woman smashed the Princess person and when he asked her to wait she smashed him again and went anyway.) These men would get on the coach and select a near-front seat and then their wives would saunter on board at their leisure. (See below at Post-Cruise for why you might want to arrive early or late.) I also witnessed what I'll call "digital camera abuse:" 1) persons who didn't have a good window view on a coach hanging over the back of the seat and, with one hand, clicking away out the window behind them indiscriminately (not really appreciated by those seating in the "behind" seat), 2) persons, again with one hand, clicking hither and yon with no photo composition whatsoever, 3) people walking in front of a digital photographer and commenting, "that's what digital cameras are for, you can take another picture." Disembarkation: We personally had a post-cruise package and were first off the ship and put on a nearby coach. After a while it became apparent we would be waiting for a group of coaches before we would leave (we needed our cruise cards to go back on the ship to use the restrooms, it was that long of a wait). In the meanwhile we watched what looked like a big mess dockside. A lot of tour agencies were crowded near the bow with signs trying to match up with their parties. We learned that the luggage was on the dock near the stern of the ship when the tour groups got concerned that they needed to go somewhere to identify their belongings. That was not the case; the luggage went by truck to the hotel. Post-Cruise: We made the Great Wall of China choice and only during the cruise did we find out that there was an offering including both the Wall and the Terra Cotta Warriors (TCWs). We’ll not go back anytime soon and pay for a tour, visas, immunizations, etc., so the government of China would be better served if they persuaded Princess to change the way they present these cruisetours in their brochures/to the Travel Agents. People on the latter choice we’re surprised, however, because they hadn’t realized they would have to surrender their rooms (check their luggage/take an overnight bag) in Beijing while they were gone to the TCWs. The Sheraton Great Wall of China where we stayed wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the Bangkok Shangri-La and they didn’t have American electrical outlets (we burned up a surge protector there, the hotel’s transformer outlet wouldn’t fit an American plug). We had a wonderful tour guide but she usually works in the office of the agency. Another coach in our group had a guide they couldn’t understand and she may not have had the ability either. Eventually our coach was filled to the brim and the third day another guide was provided to that coach. By that time it appeared that the whole group of guides was in some type of “trouble” and on our way to the airport the guide pleaded for understanding when filling out our evaluation forms. In Korea, our guide told us the Asian custom was that the supervisor and the next in charge take the first and last coach of each tour group, so arrive early or late. Beijing was a pleasant surprise with its wide boulevards, elaborate plantings, and many, many new buildings. The Forbidden City, or Palace Museum, is being restored for the 2008 Olympics, as are many other places. Look to October, 2008 to return—on a smaller ship. The dinner show that Princess Air/China Tourism sponsors is fabulous—orchestra, a little bit of opera, cultural dances, karate “dance” (really good), and young children performing adorably (two very good dances). Princess Air: Surprisingly it wasn’t too bad for this trip. Four-hour layovers stateside but otherwise seated together in not too unreasonable seats. Jet Lag: We suffered a really bad case of jet lag, and weird dreams for a while too. The lag lasted almost three weeks. The peculiar dreams happened for almost a week. We had eaten unfamiliar foods on the “swirling” tables during the trip but we also exercised, drank a lot of water, slept well, etc. Last Thought: Since the President/CFO of Pepsico brought it up recently in her speech at Columbia, it comes to mind that you may want to be know that the toilet porcelain-holes-in the ground are encountered during this trip. Many times commodes are available but the wait is, of course, much longer. Rolling up pant legs appeared to be the way many people coped with these occasions. Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
I had a hard time finding previous reviews of this cruise but I am sure others will see that these ports of call are far off and Princess only seems to cruise here 2/3 times a year. My wife and I are in are 40s, have cruised to many ... Read More
I had a hard time finding previous reviews of this cruise but I am sure others will see that these ports of call are far off and Princess only seems to cruise here 2/3 times a year. My wife and I are in are 40s, have cruised to many other destinations, and we did not travel with children- This ship is small compared to other Princess ships with only 650 passengers but that can be better when in port since there are not throngs landing from other ships-but with this closeness you do tend to see the same people over and over, aka forced intimacy! There is only 1 small pool with 2 spas but that seemed fine-Sabatinis and Steak House alternated 3 days off then switched for 3 days on with the same exact wait staff which was kind of weird and the food was ok-the regular seating dinners were easy with the staff allowing to change tables for more guests or locations but a few $5 or $25 casino chips always help! The casino crew and bar staff were the best and made the whole trip great-this cruise had I believe it was 120 Mexican passengers and it seemed they all liked to gamble since I got to meet many of them at the tables. Also met a few very fine Australians who we hung out with. Only downer with the Casino was the slots which had no video poker but lame Australian based slots which everyone including the dealers criticized. The Internet room was usually packed and I think they need to rethink the cost of this use since it is way over priced for what you get (slow connections). The staff and shows were ok, and some of the staff that dance and sing can be seen during the day conducting kids and pool activities doing double duty. A word to those 30/40ish somethings with small children who insist on taking the toddlers and small kids to the late night shows, bingo, and other events and insisting on sitting in the front row-Ok enough already we know you can reproduce and were willing to pay the extra cost to drag them along so please just keep them under control and in your own little world! I didn't think I would travel 3k miles to have that Chucky Cheesey feeling- Food and Wait Staff were great, but to that guy at the 2nd 8:15 seating I know you are on vacation but next time please try and not wear leather flip flops to dinner, then flip them off and have your bare feet out and on your wife's seat, floor, table, for me to see 12 of 16 nights! There was a typhoon heading to China and the Captain decided that nothing would stop him so he just followed behind it for 2 days, and my stomach felt it as well as others- Bangkok- Kind of dirty in the city- Malaysia- went to a fish drying village very hot, smelly, so why? Singapore-Very clean and neat- Saigon-wow talk about going back to the dark ages, very 3rd world- Nha Trang-nice beach area, but ruined by the pushy vendors- Shang Hai-Fun place, and Rolex watches for only $13 US dollars! korea-industrial port, so again why? Bejing-great wall more desperate vendors, view to emerging super power I am sure I am missing a few ports but they all seem to run together after the 4th port! Read Less
Sail Date July 2005
We flew Japan Air which was quite good in business class and we arrived as scheduled. We travelled by private car to the ship, arriving late in the evening, about 8:30 pm. Nevertheless there was someone to greet us at the terminal and we ... Read More
We flew Japan Air which was quite good in business class and we arrived as scheduled. We travelled by private car to the ship, arriving late in the evening, about 8:30 pm. Nevertheless there was someone to greet us at the terminal and we were checked in in 15 minutes or so. We ordered a sandwich from room service, our luggage arrived promptly and we were sound asleep. The next day we did the full day tour of Tokyo and like many organized tours it was informative but not particularly memorable. The next day was at sea and we made our spa reservations, played trivia and bingo, enjoyed tea and so forth. All in all a very pleasant and relaxing day. Mariner's cabins are not as big as the Voyager's and although initially I was disappointed, I got used to it and it was just fine. Nagasaki: we opted to skip the Peace Park and go to Unzen Hell. This was a very bizarre day. Unzen Hell is a group of hot springs and an active volcano. It was interesting for awhile but this trip could have been much shorter and no one would have complained. Then we went to lunch at a BAVARIAN themed restaurant???!! The food was German-like and the Japanese staff were all dressed in dirndls and lederhosen. It was truly weird. Like "Heidi goes to Japan". Next stop China! We LOVED China. Dalian was kinda forgettable. Although we did enjoy flying kites which is one of DH's passions, but otherwise this port is a bit of a mystery to me. But the complimentary excursion to Beijing was a lifetime experience. Radisson Seven Seas provided this to all passengers and it was wonderful. We went to the Great Wall and although very crowded because of a Chinese holiday was nevertheless, just awesome. We stayed at the China World hotel with all others who were going on to Xi'an. The trip to Xi'an to se the Terra Cotta Warriors was an optional trip taken by about 50 of us. Those who were returning to the ship stayed at the ShangriLa. China World was absolutely beautiful. It has an attached shopping mall which includes Ferragamo, Cartier, Bvlgari and the like. I thought "who shops here? Isn't this a Communist country?" After check in we walked a few blocks to Silk Alley. Now THAT is an experience. It is a large indoor flea market kind of place with hundreds of stalls on 3 floors full of sales people whose English consists of "Hey Lady" It was like being in a warehouse full of Jerry Lewises! Once we got past the shock of being grabbed at, it was pretty fun. We got some purses and watches and then went back to the hotel. Outside there were 5 or 6 women selling socks, of all things, who were extremely aggressive but we took it all in stride and had a good time. Dinner was at the hotel and it was very good. It was a buffet but they had a noodle maker present similar to a pasta bar but he was making the noodles from the dough. It was fascinating and very tasty. The next day we went to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Both places were packed. There is a Chinese holiday which lasts from Oct 1 to Oct 7 and we were caught in that but still it was fantastic. The Square was all decorated with banners and the like for the Olympics in 2008. We bought a couple of baseball hats that say Beijing 2008 for a dollar. Then we flew off to Xi'an on China East airlines. This was roughly the equivalent to any US 'no frills" kind of airline. The flight attendants came down the aisle and said "Happy Chinese NAtional Day" to each and presented us with a tote bag. We arrived at the Shangri La hotel and encountered a great deal of confusion with regard to the luggage. To make it worse, for unexplained reasons the excursion to the T'ang Dynasty dinner and show which was to have been the next night was moved up a day and we would be heading out to that within a couple of hours of our arrival. By the time our luggage made it to the room, we had to rush to make the bus. The show was very interesting and we had our picture taken with the troupe but since we had been in the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square earlier this day then flown from Beijing, you can imagine just how exhausted we were! It was difficult to keep our eyes open during the show. The Terra Cotta warriors are an unbelievable experience. They are in 3 pits, the first is the most interesting as it contains many more figures then the other 2 pits. We bought a 3/4 size one for our yard at home. He will arrive by slow boat from China around Christmas. We took an excursion to a mosque in Xi'an. A number of people stayed on the bus. The mosque itself was nothing special, but oh the walk to get to it!! We walked thru a street bazaar filled with Chinese muslims, cooking all kinds of wondrous looking things on open grills. Altho there were open baskets of raw meat and fish, rather than being stinky, it all smelled wonderful! This was like a scene from a movie, kept expecting to see Indiana Jones running by being chased by bad guys with swords! What a hoot! We even stopped into a Chinese pharmacy and were shown the dried scorpions and centipedes etc that constitute Chinese cure-alls, ewww. A really great day. We flew back to the ship, meeting it in Shanghai. The trip back was not as smooth as the trip to Xi'an due to some issues with boarding passes and seat assignments but we all made back to the ship in one piece. We really didn't get to see much of Shanghai because of the Xi'an trip but what we saw was impressive. We went to the Chinese acrobats show which was very cool. Like an entire show of the individual acts you can see at any Cirque Du Soleil show. It was pretty special and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Before we went to Beijing, we had encountered Gordon the cruise director and asked about Karaoke on the ship. My husband really enjoys that and Gordon said "sure that'll be great" but it never happened. Every night the night club featured disco. And every night I would walk by and there would be ABSOLUTELY NO ONE in there. I mean that literally, there was not a soul in the whole place except the bartender and I only saw him once! DH was very disappointed that despite the complete and utter lack of interest in disco and his specific request for something else, the cruise director never responded to our inquiries about when would we get Karaoke. So DH sang a couple of songs on the pool deck with the Mariner Five and was mollified somewhat but still, what's with the disco thing?? Our last port was Hong Kong. The first day we took the ships tour and went to the top of Victoria Peak and stopped at the Stanley Market We disembarked the Mariner the next day without delay. We stayed an extra day at the Peninsula hotel. What a fabulous place. During the day we rode on the Star Ferry and did some (more) shopping. I had bought an extra suitcase at the Stanley Market so we were "good to go". That night we ate at Felix and took pictures in the famous men's room. In the morning we checked out and as previously arranged we took the hotel's Rolls Royce to the airport for roughly $100 USD. A great way to end our trip. The hotel's staff met us at the curb at the terminal and took our luggage for us to the airline counter and waited with us till we had boarding passes and baggage tags. What a level of service! We flew home in the upper deck of a 747 and it was very pleasant flight home. Although we were obviously sick by this time, no one at any airport we were in questioned us. I found this to be a relief on the one hand and troubling on the other, what about this bird flu pandemic?? This was truly a fantastic voyage. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little exotic, totally "foreign" and completely memorable. Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
The cruise took us from Seattle to Alaska to Pusan, Korea, Muroran, Japan, Nagasaki, and finally Osaka. We found the ship and the facilities onboard to be first class. Our mini-suite was just great. The ports visited and the tours in the ... Read More
The cruise took us from Seattle to Alaska to Pusan, Korea, Muroran, Japan, Nagasaki, and finally Osaka. We found the ship and the facilities onboard to be first class. Our mini-suite was just great. The ports visited and the tours in the ports were good, although all of the good tours were booked up weeks before we sailed! Princess needs to provide more tour buses when this happens. The ship sailed beautifully through the rough seas and high winds of the North Pacific. Overall, the food was OK- but charging for soft drinks and ice cream is a bit "chintzy". Our personal choice restaurant was the Vivaldi because the service was excellent. Our cabin service was outstanding. The productions in the Princess Theater were great. The lounge bands were very good. Unfortunately, there were several problems which made the cruise disappointing. Essentially, too many people but not enough ship. The weather was too cool most of the time for the outside pool venues and other activities to be utilized by passengers thereby keeping everyone inside. There is simply not enough interior space to accommodate 2,500 passengers looking for something to do outside their cabins. Too many lounges were used for movies, lectures, paid seminars, jewelry sales and (ugh) art auctions. There were too many "in your face" sales and promotions going on. Other cruise lines, especially Celebrity, have special venues for these activities so lounges and public areas are available for passengers to relax in. The overall service attitude was just indifferent. The Passenger services desk was only fair - with only one or two able to solve any problems. In the Horizon buffet restaurant, most of the wait staff stood around "chatting up" passengers and each other instead of giving service to those whom needed it. The internet service on the ship was a disaster after leaving Ketchikan, Alaska. People spent hours on the computers trying to get online or to get their email Some people got through once and awhile. Many excuses were given for no service - mostly, that the ship was out of their internet satellite range in the North Pacific, etc. but you could make a phone call or send a fax! How could you do this and not get on the Internet? The ship was docked at Pusan and Nagasaki and still the excuses that the internet satellite was out of range! It was so bad that towards the end of the cruise, the price per minute was reduced to 12 cents from 35 cents. Nobody was fooled. The problem was onboard with the ship's internet system and it's servers. We will not be sailing Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
My wife and I are frequent cruisers (#46 so far) traveling on numerous cruise lines. We choose this cruise for its unusual itinerary Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Petropavlovsk, Muroran, Pusan, Nagasaki, Osaka and an extended ... Read More
My wife and I are frequent cruisers (#46 so far) traveling on numerous cruise lines. We choose this cruise for its unusual itinerary Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Petropavlovsk, Muroran, Pusan, Nagasaki, Osaka and an extended stay through Princess in Osaka. We left N.Y. City on 9/24/25 arriving in Seattle the same day. Our transfers were O/K on arriving on the Diamond Princess we found it to be beautiful ship as expected since it is brand new. Our room was nice,we choose a minisuite and was quite satisfied with it. We choose 1st seating for dinner so we could go to the early shows. Here is where our problems started -- on the first night we went to the show and after looking for what seem forever found a seat. The next night we did the same but could not find a seat -- every seat was taken with people sitting on the stairways and exits. We missed the show this went on throughout the entire cruise there was no way you could go to the early sitting for dinner and make the shows. Most people who wanted to see the show had to cut short there dinner to make the show. We found out what the problem was is the theater only sits 750 people that's not even enough to sit the first sitting not even counting open sitting and the buffy so if you wanted to see the show you had to bypass dinner or rush through it. But what really bothered me was the ship's company disregarding all safety concerns for its passengers letting them sit on stairways and exits, many in wheelchairs in the rear of the theater not being able to move because of the number of people there. When I brought my concerns to the ship's company they advised me to go to the later show and totally disregarded my safety concerns for the overcrowding. I also asked them if they would broadcast the shows on the TV in the rooms and public areas and was informed that if they did that no one would go to the shows, What a Laugh. Our next disappointment was after arriving in the Bay of Petropavlovsk, Russia late after 12:30 P.M. and letting a person ashore on a tender who was sick We were informed by the captain that we would not be tendering in, using the excuse that the seas where to rough. I don't know where he was getting his information from if you look at my videos of the bay you would laugh. I believe the only reason he didn't allow the passengers off the ship was because we where surprised to get in port at 11:19 A.M. not 12:30 P.M. and there was no way he could make his departure time of 5:38 P.M. There was no reason to get into port late because we had 4 sea days before our arrival he could of easily made the time up at sea. From past reviews read about the Diamond this has been a problem with bypassing ports. So we spent a total of 7 continues sea days because of missing this port. Everyone that had cruise before couldn't understand why he cancelled the port. Like I said earlier that my wife and I have taken 46 cruses and was really surprised how Princess has started to penny pinch with services on the ship ice cream was free for one hour a day and then you had to pay for it. Also cappuccino coffee at dinner you had to pay for. It seems that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. Throughout the entire cruise the prices they gave out was by far the cheapest piece of junk they wanted to give away. It really surprised me having taken Princess numerous times before. What really made our cruise was the people we meet and the places we go the ship's personnel where very polite and friendly the food was fair not what I expected and service was o/k. As for us we will not take the Diamond or her sister ship the Sapphire again, and as for Princess WHO KNOWS? Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
This was our first cruise on Princess and quite possibly will be our last. Seventeen days from Seattle to Osaka. We chose this cruise primarily because of the destinations, i.e. Petropavlosk, Pusan, Muroran, Sapporo, Nagasaki and Osaka. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Princess and quite possibly will be our last. Seventeen days from Seattle to Osaka. We chose this cruise primarily because of the destinations, i.e. Petropavlosk, Pusan, Muroran, Sapporo, Nagasaki and Osaka. We wanted to see Glacier Bay, but have not done Alaska before, not wanting to be one of ten thousand or so people crowding the towns with four or five cruise ships in port at the same time. This being the last ship of the season meant much smaller crowds, but it was obvious talking to the merchants in Juneau that they were all ready for the cruise season to be over. We never touched land in Petropavlosk. EMBARKATION: Got to the pier at 11:00 AM. After reading some of the reviews we thought about arriving later. We parked at a friend's house and she gave us a ride to the pier. When we got there there were hardly any people waiting. We got checked in right away and then had to wait for about 30 minutes in the holding tank before we were allowed to board. We were on the boat so fast we could hardly believe it. After our last cruise from San Juan on Royal Caribbean where it took four hours to board and 10 deboard we were half expecting another nightmare. SHIP: Our initial impression was that it was a nice ship, but as time went by we began to have many misgivings about it. On another itinerary it would probably be fine, but on this cruise where there are so many sea days it just didn't have enough public spaces to accommodate all of the passengers. This ship was designed to maximize revenue. Maximum balconies, minimum public spaces. To get into the theater to see a show you had to get there 35-40 minutes in advance in order to get a seat. Not that we were really into the exercise thing other than lifting our forks frequently and a few dozen trips around the deck, but we heard stories of having to get a reservation to even use the exercise machines!!! sightliness in the lounges were generally poor and in the case of the Explorer's Lounge you not only had a large smoking section, right next to the bar of course, stinking up the room, but behind the hallway in the back of the room was Crooners Bar, the piano bar. Hard to imagine calling it a piano bar though. Perhaps seven tables with a piano at one end and a bar at the other. In addition to three of the tables being smoking tables the sound of the big mouth smokers/drinkers carried into the Explorers Lounge. Smokers drink more. Maximize that revenue. You had to walk that gauntlet to get from one end of the ship to the other on the Promenade deck. Forget about trying to find a seat somewhere where you could just sit and watch the ocean, unless you had an outside or balcony cabin. The good seats filled up fast and stayed that way. Single story dining room so no parade of waiters and assistants with the baked Alaska. No midnight buffet. No ice or fruit/vegetable carvings. No towel animals in your stateroom. Instead you get "hot air" Jose the maitre d' pouring Champagne into a pyramid of Champagne glasses. They tried to create a party atmosphere on a ship that just wasn't capable of accommodating it. Standing room only for a digital photography seminar in the Wheelhouse Bar and pillars everywhere. The casino was pretty much empty every time we passed through it. I usually donate $20 to a dollar slot machine in order to obtain a dollar token which I use for a golf ball marker. I put my 20 in and 19 pulls later I had my dollar token and nothing else. Later I donated $10 to a quarter machine. Same results. CABIN: We booked a mini-suite which was quite nice. Got a great deal at the cruise show because our travel agent reserved a block of cabins so we ended up paying less than for an outside cabin without a balcony. The only problem with this class of cabin is that the balcony was not covered and everyone above you could look down onto your balcony. Not that we were planning on doing any nude sunbathing and other than when we left Seattle and while cruising Glacier Bay not too many people even seemed to be using their balconies. DINING: We signed up for Personal Choice Dining because we were told that we would be able to eat whenever and wherever we wanted and would have four themed restaurants to choose from with different menus. This proved to not be the case. All four had the same menu. The southwest restaurant, did offer chips and salsa but that was the only difference that I was aware of. After finding out from Cruise Critic members that the menus were not going to be different we decided to try to switch to traditional dining. It didn't seem possible when I read that people were on a list that numbered in the hundreds. I tried calling Princess and was told that there was no way that we could switch. When we boarded I found the maitre d' or someone posing as the maitre d' and asked to be switched to traditional dining. After getting the "why in the world would you want to switch look" he put us on the list. After our first experience with Personal Choice Dining we decided that it was pretty much the way to go. Not that we have anything against old people, in fact I see one every time I look in the mirror, but the average age on this ship must have been somewhere in the '70s and we didn't want to get stuck at a table with a bunch of fossils talking about their grandchildren and complaining about their hemorrhoids and arthritis the entire meal. The next day, much to our surprise, we got a note that we had been switched to traditional dining. Well......Now what do we do???? We decided to see what our table was like, then if we didn't like it, we would go back to Personal Choice. When we got to our table we were the only ones there, and there were other empty tables. We were joined by another couple from Vancouver, BC who had gotten switched the same way that we had. The next night we were joined by another couple, also from Vancouver who had met the first couple on the ship. After that we were joined by a couple of elderly ladies, also from Vancouver who had met the second couple on a cruise in Hawaii two years earlier. They never officially got switched to our table, but even though the table was supposed to be full no one else ever showed up. We had a great time and this was certainly one of the highlights of our cruise. Our waiter was Manuel from the Philippines and our assistant was Marian from Romania. They were both great. FOOD: In general the food was quite good although there were some notable exceptions. Baked goods: consistently excellent rolls and breads Appetizers: nothing special, in fact I can't recall any that were particularly noteworthy. Avoid the mussels. Salads: not bad if you love radicchio because there was LOTS of it. Some salads suffered from brown and limp lettuce with there being no correlation to what day of the cruise we were on. Almost seemed more likely to get crisp green lettuce later in the cruise. Soups: varied from ok to horrible, the low point being something that was supposedly a mussel spinach soup. Our entire table managed to consume perhaps one spoonful total before we all had it taken away. I have tasted better vomit. Entrees: generally very good with many excellent entrees. Princess does a very good job with pasta and meat. We had some great pastas, beef and lamb. When in doubt you can always order beef along with several other entrees from the menu and the beef tournedos were excellent. Perhaps the dining highlight of the cruise for me was the lobster thermidor, the second night of the cruise. We had lobster two more nights. Princess was not stingy with the lobster tails either. 6,000 per lobster night according to the executive chef. Our table alone probably consumed close to 25 on the second lobster night and we had to turn down more that were offered. We would quite often order entrees and desserts for the entire table and share them. No problem. Dessert: not bad, but in general desserts looked better than they tasted. One thing that we discovered is that the ice cream was quite often the best choice. There were several that were excellent. Same with the sorbets. SABATINI'S: We made reservation for our anniversary which was on the first formal night. While everyone else was eating lobster we had what was probably the worst meal that we have ever had on a cruise ship. The service was fine but the food was not. I am sure that it would have been a whole lot better if it had been served perhaps a couple of hours or perhaps days earlier? A lot of the appetizers looked like that had been sitting in the sun for a couple of hours and tasted like it too. Avoid the mussels. The pasta was quite good. To make matters worse we ended up sitting next to two Japanese women, a mother and daughter. They were fine, but 15 minutes into the meal they were joined by an American wearing a skirt (kilt). Why he was wearing it is beyond me. Don't know, don't want to know. Maybe he was from San Francisco. He spent the entire meal hitting on the young woman and making a total ass out of himself. Princess rep at cruise show promised us "free" dinner at Sabatini's for our anniversary. We never saw it. Would have felt ripped off anyway. We didn't try the Sterling Steakhouse, which was in goofy location in a rear corner of the buffet dining room, but we did hear several times from other passengers that the steak was to "die for." WINE: We ordered wine with every meal and the Princess selection was generally pretty good and the prices weren't bad either. Quite often the markup on cruise ships not to mention land restaurants is atrocious but in this case it tended to be surprisingly reasonable, at least for wines that I had knowledge of. I understand that it costs money because of the labor involved, washing and breakage of glassware, etc to serve wine, but to mark up wine 300-350% above retail as is often the case should be a crime. I won't pay it and imagine lots of other people won't either. I identified several bottles on this cruise that were marked up about 200% above Costco prices which are 14-15% above wholesale. We also brought four special bottles with us and didn't have a problem getting them onboard. We had them served with our dinner and were never charged a corkage fee even though the Princess literature stated that we "may" be charged. We attended two wine tastings. They were hosted by Jose, the maitre d'. A word about Jose. Jose is so full of hot air if he wasn't tied down he would probably float away. I don't know, but maybe that is the secret of keeping a ship this size afloat? Rumor has it that Jose wasn't allowed on open air deck for fear that he would float away. Can't say that I learned too much. Jose told us that they were 8.5 million bubbles in a glass of Champagne. By the time he was done talking and we were allowed to taste our Champagne I doubt that there were any bubbles left. Jose told us 8.5 million times how much he loved merlot. He told us that the best wine was what we were drinking and that you could drink any wine with any food that you liked, and then proceeded to tell us which wine to drink when and with which food, and which wine not to drink with which food, etc. The first tasting cost something like $7.50 each and you got $5.00 off a bottle to be served in the dining room if you pre-purchased it at the tasting. The second wine tasting was much more limited in terms of the number of people, in fact they had to have a second session. Appetizers were served, obviously prepared by Sabatini's, and probably leftover from the previous evening, or perhaps the previous cruise. Avoid the mussels. INTERNET: There wasn't any. In spite of the fact that there were computer monitors and keyboards on the ship and they charged you 35 cents a minute to sit in front of them, any connection to the internet was pretty much a fantasy. There was a sign saying that they were experiencing problems and that the internet connection was going to be slow, but that didn't stop people from trying. One of the crew members working in the Internet Cafe said that the connection would be better when we approached Asia, but in reality it was probably just as good in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I suspect that the sign is a permanent fixture on the Diamond Princess. I brought a laptop and decided to try that. They charged something like $12.00 for a card worth 30 minutes of access time. That didn't work either. Right after I bought my card Princess decided cancel all prior internet charges apparently because they had so many complaints. They refunded all but $3.50 for the wireless access cards. Said that they couldn't refund that amount because that was their cost for the cards. They also reduced the internet rate to 6 cents a minute. Still a waste of money. A fellow passenger told me that in the past they had fewer terminals but long lines waiting to use them. So, what is the difference? Long lines and no internet or no lines and no Internet? ENTERTAINMENT: The Princess singers and dancers and the shows were probably as good as any that I have seen at sea. Not that this is my preferred type of entertainment, and not that I have been on enough cruises and cruise lines to consider myself an entertainment critic. But, I would give them two thumbs up. It was pretty much downhill from there. Marvin Lewis did some magic and comedy and I thought he was quite good. Bayne Bacon played piano, guitar and told some jokes. Not bad. There was an impersonator who I won't name that was absolutely terrible. He was so bad that people were literally leaving in droves, in some cases climbing over the seats to get out, rows at a time. The ventriloquist wasn't much better although he did have a good ending where he had audience members on stage and had them equipped with things like a rubber pig snout while he sang Old McDonald Had A Farm. It was funny. Club Fusion had a band that usually played there that was terrible .Again I won't name names. Not one out of the four musicians could sing to save their life. They took requests, but didn't know any of the songs requested. Probably a good thing. If you like The Village People then you might like this group. We were there only because we were waiting for something like trivia. We would go there after dinner because we were too late to get into the theater for the show. There were times when we were the only ones there except for the waiters. They even thanked us once for "hanging with them." The band in the Explorer's Lounge, Liquid Blue was pretty good. Our initial impression when we first heard them was that they were to be avoided, but later when we sat down and listened to them, probably because there wasn't anything else to do, we found that they were worth listening to. They took requests and actually knew most of the songs. PORTS: Alaska wasn't anything special. I've walked on a glacier and I can see Mt. Rainier when I look out my window. Have been rained on too. Went on a gold panning/town tour in Ketchikan. Funny how everyone gets a gold pan full of sand and they all end up with the same amount of gold in the end. After that you can try panning from the stream if your hands don't freeze and fall off, but there doesn't seem to be any gold there. Hmmmmmm. Glacier Bay was spectacular. Forget Petropavlosk: Probably the reason many of the people chose this cruise. The seas were fairly rough crossing the Pacific and we were late arriving. The first announcement from the captain is that the morning excursions were cancelled. Then the afternoon. We were told that the bankers and Russian immigration officials were going to board the boat, then that the immigration officials weren't on the first boat and would be on a later boat. After they did arrive it was becoming apparent that we weren't going to be allowed to go onshore. It was noon and we had to leave at 5:00 PM. The official reason was that the seas were too rough and because the weather forecast was for even rougher seas, it was possible that they would not be able to get the passengers back on board and would have to leave without them. BS. Seven days at sea without a chance to get off of the boat. LOTS of disappointed cruisers. Muroran (Sapporo): Fortunately one of our Canadian dinner-mates was of Japanese descent and spoke fluent Japanese. Having a guide was great and we found a great noodle shop and some great shopping malls to wander around in. Don't plan on buying shoes though unless you have small feet. Just about biggest men's size is size 10. It is amazing how clean the Japanese cities are. Absolutely no garbage on the streets and sidewalks. Pusan: Weren't really prepared for this one. Never seen such a mass of humanity in one place before. We walked into a film festival and when the movie stars showed up there were thousands upon thousands of people everywhere. Could hardly walk. The fish market has to be seen to be believed. Probably 9-12 blocks of vendors with every imaginable and unimaginable type of fish and seafood, hanging from sticks, in tubs and trying to jump out of tubs. Hogs heads. Some of the passengers couldn't take it and had to leave. DISEMBARKATION: Went quite smoothly. They took us to a hotel in Osaka where they provided us with refreshments. We went for a stroll to an outlet mall, but all the shops were the same as you would find in most upscale outlet malls in the US, so that was pretty much a waste of time. There was a department store that was very interesting. Imagine dozens upon dozens of refrigerators , vacuum cleaners and other appliances. Refrigerators about 3/4 the size that we are used to with separate outside pull out drawers for things like produce so that you don't have to open the big door to access the produce. Novel idea. Most people bailed on the hotel early and went to the airport. Too many hours on the plane to LA and then another plane back home to Seattle. SUMMARY: Contrary to what you might think by reading my review we really did have a good time. However the consensus among those at our dinner table is that we would never do another Princess cruise on this class of ship with so many sea days. The food was really quite good, and of course it all depends on what you order. Avoid the mussels. Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
This was the worst possible cruise. They acted like this was the first cruise they had ever hosted. It started in Beijing with a tour bus guide who could not speak English and who did not respond to guest requests. Registering at the ... Read More
This was the worst possible cruise. They acted like this was the first cruise they had ever hosted. It started in Beijing with a tour bus guide who could not speak English and who did not respond to guest requests. Registering at the port was poorly handled. We had to get off the bus, go into the hotel ballroom, register, get back on the bus and wander aimlessly through the port (bus driver was lost). The problems were just beginning. The food was mediocre. Fish was dry, seasoning was bland, meat was tough, desserts were nasty, etc. Service was extremely poor. Indifferent. Try getting a cup of coffee without serving yourself. Wait staff acted like passengers were a true inconvenience to them-rude, rude, rude. We were given information about the ports, but not the information you really needed. You had to watch a poorly produced video to get very meager information. Don't try attending the port information lecture-not enough room for all passengers to attend anything. They had movies in the room-yippee-if you are into sports movies-boxing, football, soccer, hockey. The in-room television service was a joke. The "internet service" worked only periodically and was slow as molasses in January. The ship docked in container ports which were so far out the passengers had to pay $10-20/passenger to take a bus into the city. Some bus rides were as short as 30 minutes but some as long as 2 1/2 hours EACH WAY. With 8-10 hours in a port, a traveller really wants to spend hours and hours on a bus just getting into the city. Getting off the ship followed the same nightmare. What should have taken a couple of hours went on forever. There were too many problems to relate. Never again on Princess. Read Less
Sail Date November 2005
I agree with "cruises two" that a cruise on the Diamond Princess is something to avoid. It was not long after departure that many of us renamed it the "Rhinestone" Princess. We started off with a virus running rampant ... Read More
I agree with "cruises two" that a cruise on the Diamond Princess is something to avoid. It was not long after departure that many of us renamed it the "Rhinestone" Princess. We started off with a virus running rampant throughout the ship. We could not serve ourselves at the buffet; waiters served the items we pointed to. Even with that inconvenience, the buffet remained the best eating place throughout the trip. Service in the restaurants was generally poor to terrible. A before-dinner drink was almost impossible to get. I ordered bourbon and water one evening, and shortly received a bottle of Perrier. I asked about the bourbon. It arrived within minutes in a tall glass without ice. I gave up at that moment and took ice from my water glass and mixed my own drink. My wife got the same treatment the next evening when she ordered a rum and coke. Food quality, despite the service, was up to Princess standards. Hot tubs were "lukewarm" tubs thanks to a purser's fear that we might burn ourselves, and those not lukewarm were closed due to repairs. But the really big crisis of a Diamond cruise is the size of the ship. We never docked where normal cruise ships dock. We had to tie up at container ship ports miles from the places we had paid to see, and then spend hours on shuttle busses, at additional cost, to catch quick glimpses of the wonders of the Far East. We never had access to duty-free shops that you find at most piers. We could never walk from the ship to any sightseeing attraction because the container ship ports have high security. My advice? Never sail on the Diamond Princess, or any ship under the command of Captain Paul Wright. Wright is wrong when it comes to providing a pleasant cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2005
I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds. We were enjoying our ... Read More
I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds. We were enjoying our delicious dinner on the outdoor terrace of Tapas, the ship's Spanish-inspired casual dining restaurant, as we watched the dappled surface of the water reflect the sun's rays that changed from golden to orange to crimson. This was a lovely sight that was repeated many times during our time aboard the Nautica. During our five weeks of cruising, we were blessed by unusually placid waters, the barely noticeable swaying of the ship reminding us that we are at sea during the day and gently rocking us to sleep at night. The days were generally sunny and hot, but the humidity moderate, more temperate than can usually be expected in this part of the world. We marveled at the sights we have seen in Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Thailand, Singapore, India, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and sailing through the Suez Canal. The shore excursions, though a bit pricey, were uniformly excellent. The ship, our "home-away-from-home", was comfortable and beautiful. It has modern amenities in the setting of an 18th century English manor house. This is one of three identical ships operated by Oceania. They are small by today's ship standards, carrying just 680 passengers, and that makes them more intimate and easy to settle into. This was our fourth time on these ships, and they are, by far, our favorites. The entertainment was very good, with singers, magicians, comedy acts, classical pianists, a string quartet, an eight-piece orchestra, lecturers, and various talents from the ship's company adding to the variety. The four restaurants are each beautiful with a wide variety of carefully prepared and beautifully presented food. Often it is a challenge to decide what to select, but the wait staff is always ready to provide assistance. Each restaurant has its own personality and charm; Tapas is the casual dining venue and is also the buffet for breakfast and lunch, Polo is the clubby steakhouse, Toscana is a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, and the beautiful Grand Dining Room serves a wide variety of continental cuisine under a painted domed ceiling. There is an open-seating policy which results in joining different companions for dinner; this leads to interesting discussions about travel experiences and many new friends are made. Of course, many tables for two are also available and we also enjoy that from time to time. Our cabin was cozy and comfortable, with a large verandah that overlooks the stern of the ship. We often sit on our chaise lounges and read during our days at sea, and watch the retreating shoreline as we depart from ports. It was also interesting to look for fish frolicking in our wake, to view passing ships, and to observe the islands we sometimes pass. We have had the same cabin, or the identical one next door, on all four of our voyages on Oceania, so we immediately feel at home. The best part of the cruise experience is contributed by the crew. From the staff in the dining rooms, to the cabin stewards, to the entertainers, the staff is outstanding. They are friendly and helpful, quick with a greeting and a smile, and are a delight to get to know. Over sixty countries are represented, some from places we visited, and we regularly gain more insight into the daily lives of people from the staff than we do from tour guides. We have shared in their excitement as they are able to see their families, and sometimes bring them aboard ship, when we visit their countries. We have gotten to know many of them quite well and will be sad to say goodbye to them, our new friends. Hopefully our paths will cross again. It is remarkable to be able to experience the amazing variety of geography, cultures, and people that God has blessed us to live with on this small, blue planet. We pray that this will give us a broader perspective as He puts new opportunities in our path. But it was good to get home and have a pizza! Read Less
Sail Date March 2006
After a couple of days acclimatizing ourselves to the temperature in Singapore, we embarked Seabourn Spirit on Monday, 3 April, 2006. This was a long-anticipated adventure for our Silver Wedding anniversary, our first cruise with Seabourn ... Read More
After a couple of days acclimatizing ourselves to the temperature in Singapore, we embarked Seabourn Spirit on Monday, 3 April, 2006. This was a long-anticipated adventure for our Silver Wedding anniversary, our first cruise with Seabourn and our first trip of any length without kids in tow  so we were very excited! Embarkation was very smooth, and the service started almost immediately. As soon as one of the ships staff caught sight of us, they immediately took our hand luggage from us (took my husband a bit of persuading to do that  I kept reminding him he had to chill out and switch off for the next 16 nights!), and we were ushered on to the ship and into the Amundsen Lounge for cool drinks and a short wait for check-in. As expected, a white-gloved steward took us and our hand luggage (no fight given this time!) to our suite, where our luggage was waiting. Beautiful suite, just exactly as we had expected, with of course champagne on ice waiting for us. Our stewardess arrived quite quickly with 2 glasses of champagne and canapEs for us  however the service we received from our stewardess was I think the only thing which we marked down on our end of cruise questionnaire. For some reason, this lady was based 2 decks above us, but had 2 suites to attend to on our deck also. This meant that we never saw her, and communicated constantly by note; she was always in a rush on the odd occasion we did bump into her  and this included the welcome she gave us; she obviously had to be somewhere else and we were a bit of a bother to her. Our soaps were practically thrown at us, and then she disappeared! Throughout the rest of the cruise, our suite was always clean and tidy  but we never had any extras  it sounds quite childish, but it was disappointing to return to our cabin at night and never discover the rose petals, towel sculptures etc that we heard friends talking about. Even on the actual day of our anniversary (which was obvious from the cards etc on display), we thought she might make an effort to see us, or do a little extra for us  but no. With that off my chest, its time for the good bits  and every other part of this cruise was fantastic. As promised, by day 2 staff were calling us by name and already knew that if I asked for a glass of wine it was not to be Chardonnay! Service on deck in particular was wonderful  cold towels, fresh lemonade, frozen fruit kebabs, champagne sorbet  it just kept coming. On sea days the Sky Grill offered a great casual dining venue, and the Verandah was heaven after a morning ashore! Breakfasts were usually taken in the Verandah where it was very difficult to stick to the healthy, low fat options we had promised ourselves we would have! On the day of our anniversary we had breakfast delivered to our suite, with a bottle of champagne from friends. As we sat toasting each other the ship was just approaching Cochin, and from our window we could see beautiful white beaches, palm trees and the famous Chinese fishing nets; an unforgettable experience. We also had dinner in our suite one evening (just the room service menu), which again was served with panache and style, and was a lovely way to spend a quiet evening. My husband asked for a glass of red wine to go with his steak, so they just brought the whole bottle! Room service also regularly delivered us mix for bloody marys and olives, for our pre-dinner routine! Dinners, however, were usually in the Restaurant, where we were lucky to be invited to various hosted tables. Although we didnt accept every invitation (and we learned not to answer the phone at about 6.30 pm, and this was usually the Purser trying to fill up tables!), those we did allowed us to meet with some lovely people from all parts of the world and backgrounds. We also ate in the Verandah on a couple of occasions and it was beautiful sitting outside at the back of the ship just watching the stars and the ships wake  and of course eating fabulous food. Food was outstanding in every venue, and the chefs tasting dinners were wonderful in allowing you to choose every course, but not feel you had overdone it! Entertainment was very good. We didnt usually get involved in the daytime activities (we prefer a shady corner with a book), but did attend some port talks, a cookery demonstration by the chef  and my husband golfed every day. In the evening the entertainment was diverse and very good on the whole; we had everything from a classical pianist to a magician, Broadway-style musical evenings to a cellist and a violinist playing classical and pop in the same show (String Fever). The Seabourn Spirit Orchestra was fantastic, and we will never forget the jazz set they did late one night at the Sky Bar. The duo who played in the club at night were also very good, and provided both background and dance music  although The Club was never busy, and most people had retired by around 11.30 pm. The age range of the passengers was quite wide, from a young honeymoon couple to some very elderly people (we are in our mid 40s). I think I heard someone say the average age was about 70  but hey! Age is just a number! It was a good mix and we very quickly made good friends and always found someone to chat to. Ports of call were a heady mix of the exotic! Some we would never wish to visit again and others gave us memories to last a lifetime! We called at Penang (an unforgettable trishaw trip), Colombo (squalor, poverty  and the week after our visit, a suicide bomber), Cochin (a nice introduction to India  and an exciting tuc-tuc trip into town!), Mumbai (beautiful architecture  but oh, the beggars!), Muscat (awesome scenery and a wonderful picnic and swim at an oasis) and Dubai where we disembarked. Dubai was the setting for our Seabourn Experience, which all the staff had told us was one of the best  and they were right. Our kids couldnt believe the pictures of Mum and Dad on camels, getting a henna tattoo, smoking shisha pipes and sand-boarding down a sand dune! We didnt belly dance, but watched someone else doing it instead! Seabourn certainly did us proud; the drink flowed all night and the buffet was a nice mix of local and international to suit all tastes. A fabulous end to a fabulous cruise. Disembarkation next morning was very easy; we were making our own arrangements so were allowed to leave at any time before 9.30 am. So after a leisurely breakfast in the Verandah, we finally left the ship and picked up a car to take us to our friends where we were to spend the next 3 nights before heading home. We will definitely be back on Seabourn in the future  although of course it has to be without children; it did take a while to get used to the constant service and attention, but oh boy was it hard to get back to reality when we got off! I even had to open a door by myself! Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
Just completed June 15, 2006. Pacific Princess Beijing to Bangkok, 16 days. I highly recommend the Princess Pre-Cruise 9 day package which consists of tours of Beijing, flights to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, flight to ... Read More
Just completed June 15, 2006. Pacific Princess Beijing to Bangkok, 16 days. I highly recommend the Princess Pre-Cruise 9 day package which consists of tours of Beijing, flights to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, flight to Chongching to pick up a 3 night riverboat cruise thru the Yangzee River including the Three Gorges Dam. Return flight to Beijing to tour and pick up the ship. This pre-cruise package is a DON'T MISS EXPERIENCE Excellent food and service. Very intimate ship carrying only 690 passengers. Very few small children, but some teens and young adults traveling with their parents. I would highly recommend this ship and it's itinerary. But.....there were some "flaws". 1. The ship does not display fresh flowers, all arrangements are silk, also you cannot order flowers to be delivered to your room unless they are pre-ordered. 2. The ship does not lauder and dry clean. There is one laundromat consisting of 4 washers and 4 dryers. 3. The bedding is in serious need of an upgrade. The pillows, blankets, and sheets are way past their prime. 4. The draperies and slip covers are frayed and colorless and the chair coverings in the main lounges are need of re-covering. 5. The beauty salon does not do acrylic nails (only regular manicures and pedicures). The beauty salon also does not do any face or body waxing. I found this to be a problem for a 16 day cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
Silver Shadow Taste of China and Japan May 2006 Itinerary: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shannon (Beijing), Pusan, Hiroshima, Kobe. (Kyoto), Tokyo Notes: The itinerary is an excellent way to see this part of the world without packing and ... Read More
Silver Shadow Taste of China and Japan May 2006 Itinerary: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shannon (Beijing), Pusan, Hiroshima, Kobe. (Kyoto), Tokyo Notes: The itinerary is an excellent way to see this part of the world without packing and unpacking. Shanghai: The voyage allowed for an overnight in Shanghai and two nights/2.5 days in Beijing. Since Shanghai is a port city there is no need to worry about landside accommodation in order to get the best of the city. Shanghai is a bustling metropolis with all the trendy shops that you may find in any city. Tianjin (Beijing): Tianjin is the port nearest to Beijing. Its about two hours by highway from Tianjin to Beijing. The ship spent two nights at Tianjin but that only equated to two and ½ days. It was necessary to spend one night in Beijing to see as much as you can, but to spend a second night is a waste, as youll need to get up early on the last day for the drive back to the ship. Beijing and its environs offered some great historical sites including the Great Wall. What had to be the most incongruous event in the trip was the visit to the Great Wall. To get to the top we didnt climb steps&we took a roller coaster! It was great fun!! (though very odd!) Departing Tianjin was a challenge. Chinese immigration required all passengers disembark and go to the cruise terminal to exit the country. This entire process delayed the ships departure by 3 hours and was unexpected by the ships company. On the flip side, arriving into China in Shanghai was a breeze. Pusan: This is South Koreas second largest city. nuf said. The Beomosa Buddhist Temple complex however was beautiful. Hiroshima: This is a city reborn. Beautiful in its simplicity; moving in its ways of honoring its past. The ships shuttle bus dropped us downtown and its an easy city to get around. Kobe (Kyoto): The ship spent about 18 hours at the port of Kobe allowing passengers the ability to make their own way or take a ships tour to Kyoto. The shuttle dropped us off at the JR (Japan Rail) station and the limited express train takes less than an hour. You can take the Bullet Train from the Shin-Kobe station if you want the thrill of the ride. If you do Kyoto on your own, make sure you hit the tour of the Imperial Palace. They offered once or twice a day in English and you need to have permission from the Imperial Household Agency, which is granted upon showing your passport, or other government issued ID. Tokyo: We disembarked at Tokyo and stayed one night at the Imperial Hotel. Tokyo was very nice and Im certain one day does not do it justice. Try Pachinko! Even if you dont understand whats going on, its great fun and you can win money! Embarkation: The boarding time for the ship was between 3:00PM and 5:00PM. In order to maximize our time in Hong Kong and at the Peninsula Hotel, we elected to board as close to 5PM as possible. Imagine our surprise when we boarded and the lifeboat drill was already underway! Embarkation was smooth other than the companionways filled with lifejacket bedecked passengers. The lifeboat drill was conducted indoors after we were first shown the muster stations. Disembarkation: As smooth as silk. The cabins had to be vacated by 8:30AM so we went to the Terrace Cafe to enjoy breakfast and relax until we were called to join the bus to the Imperial Hotel. Stewardess service: Invisible! And thats a good thing. Other than the pleasant embarkation day introductions we didnt see the stewardess (es) who made up the cabin each morning and evening. We didnt need anything that wasnt provided as a matter of course so we didnt need to call the stewardess team. The Restaurant Service: Excellent! All levels of service in the Restaurant from the assistant wait staff to the Maitre d met or exceeded our expectations and our past experiences on Silversea. My partner and I traveled with a case (12 bottles) of wine to be consumed during our voyage and we found that the head sommelier and his assistant were both extremely knowledgeable and yet had a thirst for knowledge for these wines that they had not experienced. We never felt rushed during the dinner service nor were we made to wait an extended period of time for the next course to come. One evening one of the folks we were dining with wasnt enjoying his main course. Even though the kitchen was virtually closed, the headwaiter went into the kitchen and returned with a rare piece of prime rib that was prepared to this guests liking&and he liked it! Food: Consistently very good to excellent. A real treat was two nights of Kobe beef. Since Japan currently has an embargo on all USA provided beef, the usual meat was sealed in a freezer and Kobe beef brought aboard. Kobe appeared on the menu the evening we were in that port. We then special ordered a different cut of Kobe the next evening. Both were delicious! Another true highlight in The Restaurant is the pasta. It is superbly prepared and worthy of being special ordered as either an appetizer or main course. A personal favorite was the Pasta Carbonara. Wine Dinner: On every cruise we bring a selection of wines from our cellar to be consumed aboard ship in concert with the food on board ship. A special treat for us is when we get the sommelier and the chef to create a menu that pairs well with some of the wines weve brought along. Heres a link to a report on the wine dinner and how well the chef and sommelier captured the spirit of the wines and found the perfect dishes to enhance them: http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=93698&highlight=Silversea. One minor disappointment was that they didnt print up the menu. On past cruises this was done without us requesting it. La Terrazza This was a true disappointment. We ate there once toward the beginning of the cruise and never darkened their doorway again! The service was lacking and the food completely uninspired. One main course that was offered was Branzino. When it arrived, the folks at the table who ordered it were surprised to see that it was not branzino at all but Chilean Sea Bass. Its poor form to put something on the menu and then do a bait and switch at tableside. The sommelier assigned to La Terrazza was very polite but lacked any skill and knowledge in his assigned tasks. La Champagne We did not eat in La Champagne and the general uptake on that restaurant was low during the cruise. Some nights they had no patrons at all. I think the concept of La Champagne is a good one but the execution may be lacking. The wines that were shown on the menus that would be included in the USD150.00 supplement were not of such extremely high quality as to warrant the cost vs. purchasing wines from the premium wine list or just enjoying the complimentary wines. Bar service Excellent! No matter where I went on the ship, be it The Bar, Panorama Lounge, or The Humidor, the service was outstanding. The team on the Silver Shadow quickly picked up on peoples preferences and anticipated requests in advance. Strong kudos go to the bar staff that uphold the lines dress code. One evening we lingered in The Bar after trivia. Our daywear (shorts) did not meet the dress code for the evening. We lingered so long in the Bar that it reopened at 6PM for the evening and when I went to get a drink the bartender politely reminded me of the dress code after 6PM. Some folks might take offense at this but I applauded it. There was no disdain in the bartenders voice, as a matter of fact just the opposite. He handled this beautifully. I hadnt realized that so much time had passed. I went to the stateroom, changed and came back and passed muster. The Humidor is a wonderful place to relax after dinner. The atmosphere there seems to foster more interesting conversations than you may find in other venues aboard ship. I dont smoke but always looked forward to a port wine or caipirinha in the Humidor. Pool Grille I dont know why, but I just love sitting poolside for lunch and this cruise was no exception. The weather was not always exactly pool weather but that didnt stop me. The pizzas they serve are outstanding. Ships tours: The only ship offered tour we took was in Pusan. We saw the Beomosa Temple and city highlights. We left the tour early and headed back to the ship on our own. There wasnt too much that I found of interest in Pusan other than the temple. We did privately arranged tours in Shanghai and Beijing, and made our own way around Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo. Generally speaking Ive found that privately arranged tours to be better and less costly than the ships tours. The one caveat is that, with a privately arranged tour, if you dont get back to the ship on time shell sail without you. Trivia: The ship offered a team trivia game on sea days. As much as I love trivia it seems to become a blood sport (the cruise directors term!) on ship. Im amazed that a group of players whose combined net worth probably rivals that of many nations can devolve into a screaming match all over a bookmark! It was interesting to watch but, for me not fun to partake in. This isnt peculiar to Silversea though. Reception Desk: The ladies that staffed the reception desk, while professional, did not seem to be as pleasant as the remainder of the crew on the ship. They were appropriate but dour. We asked them to arrange to send invitations to our Wine Dinner to the invitees but managed to send some of the invites to the wrong people. We breathed a sigh of relief when the erroneous invitees called the morning of the dinner to RSVP that they couldnt make it. I brought this error to the attention of the Reception Desk and there wasnt much in the way of an apology. Physical plant: The ship appeared to be very well maintained. I took the galley tour, which brought us below decks to the stores of the ship, and everything seemed very orderly. Stateroom: We had a verandah stateroom that was perfectly comfortable. The ship now has DVD players in the staterooms. Internet connection: We brought our own laptop as well as used the Internet portals in the computer center. The cost for 250 minutes was USD100.00 (0.40/minute). The library, computer center and Panorama are all wireless, which was convenient. Apparently some passengers had troubles in the computer center so much of the computer charges were refunded. Overall impression: This was our fourth Silversea cruise and, as always, we enjoyed it tremendously. The level of service was up to Silverseas usual high standards and the itinerary was fascinating. We look forward to sailing with Silversea again in December and in May of next year. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
We are a couple in our early 30s who have cruised a few times before. The majority of our cruises have been with RCI. We chose Princess because we wanted to cruise Asia, we needed a route in the Summer holidays and Princess were supposed ... Read More
We are a couple in our early 30s who have cruised a few times before. The majority of our cruises have been with RCI. We chose Princess because we wanted to cruise Asia, we needed a route in the Summer holidays and Princess were supposed to be a superior cruise line. This was our first cruise with Princess and probably our last! The destinations were Bangkok (would return - vibrant), Kuantan (unsure why we stopped here - a beach and that's it), Singapore (would live there), Saigon (the main reason for taking 3 hours to drive from the port is discover the history relating to the war, but this is not mentioned (not PC?) so disappointing), Nha Trang (not a popular stop and not sure why we stop here), Hong Kong (enjoyed this-don't forget about the Botanical gardens), Shanghai (bit dirty and chaotic, but underwater tunnel at the Bund is a must), Nagasaki (very moving - museum exhibits are not for those of a sensitive nature) and Beijing (we stayed on for a couple of days at the Marco Polo - highly recommended). We had to miss out Pusan due to the typhoon. As cruising in Asia at this time of year is in their rainy season (typhoons included!), it is worth taking on board the fact you may have to miss out some ports. Overall, the destinations were fabulous and certainly our favourite cruise ports yet. Unfortunately, the cruise line did not meet our expectations. Here are just a few points:- *Lack of cleanliness around the ship and in particular, our cabin. We had the soap remnants from the previous guests in our shower, somebody's fruit chunks stuck to the back of our fridge (we reported this and a new fridge was installed, but no apology, in fact, no communication at all!), rubbish left in the safe and drawers, no clean towels- was the room ever cleaned before we embarked?! *After the Norwalk virus affecting one of their fleet, you would expect better hygiene and food handling. We received coleslaw from room service that was 'off'(we made them aware of this and nothing was done - no apology), milk that was left out past the time on the labels at the buffet, ice in trays with tongs that had fallen into the tray and therefore had to be 'fished' out (there was no other source of ice at the buffet and the water in the dispensers was warm) and a number of staff with very poor hygiene habits (eg, sneezing, coughing, rubbing their face with their hands in the plastic gloves for serving food). My husband actually suffered mild food poisoning from a crayfish that, part way through his meal, he found was also 'off'. Generally, the hot food items weren't hot enough and the cold ones weren't always stored correctly. *Food was very poor (a comment echoed by a number of our fellow travellers). We actually left the dining room hungry. Service was poor too, with the waiters at our table not remembering (even after the 15th night!) that a member of our table had a allergy to pepper! Dishes were whisked out and whisked away, meaning that my husband could be on his salad, I'd be on the appetizers and other people on the table could be on the soup. Not the way to promote fine dining. *Overall, there was a poor level of English spoken and understood by the staff, which led to them being quite rude and abrupt (at least I think that was the reason!) We must mention Geoffrey in the Cabaret bar, however, as he was the only member of staff who seemed to know how to treat the guests! *The Cruise Director (Sammi) was the worst we have encountered. She was ineffective when dealing with a complaint that we had about safety (the outcome being that the reason no staff came to check on a situation was that they were all at lunch from 1-3 pm! Good job we weren't sinking then!) She had an unusual manner (i.e. telling us all at the show to stop spreading rumours about the ports we might have to miss due to the typhoon - it was like being back at school) and on many occasions, kept telling us to stop complaining that the ship wasn't like the Grand Princess, Golden Princess etc. She actually said that Princess knew they weren't the best cruise line, but that they weren't as bad as some! There's a sign of someone who trusts and values their product! *Disembarkation at Beijing took 3 hours!! plus an hour to get through immigration. Some people missed trips they'd organised in Beijing (we didn't reach our hotel until 3:45 and the Forbidden City closes at 4pm) *Finally, a word of warning to those of you under 40. DON'T GO!!! unless you look over 40. We got ignored and treated as second class citizens because we weren't older and dripping in gold, diamonds etc. Princess seem to target their cruises at older people, which seems crazy because we are the cruisers of the future. Someone else on Cruise Critic had mentioned a similar problem on one of the other ships. In closing, this was an expensive cruise and we didn't feel we got value for money from the ship. The facilities on board are VERY limited (if you have children, forget it!) and overall, the service, food and morale of the staff seemed low. There wasn't a sense of 'family' within the staff (although you could at various time in the cruise, clearly overhear the latest love-life of the entertainers!) If you want to cruise Asia, look for another cruise line, or wait until Princess have got their act together. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Day 1  En Route San Francisco to Bangkok The trip started out on a high note by there being barely any traffic over the Altamont, putting us into BART well before 10. We caught the 9:55 train, which dropped us at the International ... Read More
Day 1  En Route San Francisco to Bangkok The trip started out on a high note by there being barely any traffic over the Altamont, putting us into BART well before 10. We caught the 9:55 train, which dropped us at the International terminal at 11:15. We walked just a few feet to the United desk  the very first one in line and got checked in. Didnt have enough points to upgrade, but that was okay. We had some lunch, then walked over to MOMA. After that, we decided it was time to go to our gate, which was the first one and we boarded easily. We were seated the a small business class section (the larger one was behind us) and we met the people behind us  come to find out, they are from Stockton (Walt and Jenny Yourchek) and hes a dermatologist  he immediately picked up on the mole on Chriss forehead and called his office, so that Chris could make an appointment to meet with him upon our return (Im so glad  Ive wanted him to have that thing looked at for ever). They are exceptionally nice people and we had a great time visiting with them. They were also headed to Bangkok  we had hoped on a Princess cruise, but they were going on to Bali. We made plans to meet after the vacations to trade pictures and stories The plane trip was smooth and the food very good  I had a Bento box and Chris had Fillet. We also were served Breakfast  a fruit platter for me and an omelet for Chris. We were both surprised and delighted with the Narita Airport  the lounge was huge and beautifully done. Jenny and I headed off to shop while the guys talked. We had just sat down when it was time to climb onto the next plane. Thankfully, this second leg was all in the dark and both of us slept most of the way. We did, of course, stay awake for the meal  Chris had lamb shank and I had a great (but spicy) chicken curry. The Bangkok airport was all the Narita was not. We had to go down a stairway and were bussed past two miles worth of cargo storage to the airport. We went through passport and customs with no problems, bid our new friends goodbye and went looking for Princess. After a wrong turn, we found them and got to the hotel at about 1 a.m. We both went right to sleep, only to be awoken at 5:50 by a wrong phone number (grrr). Day 2 - Bangkok We decided to get up and I had a lovely bath (brown water, yucka) and we went up to the Executive room for a yummy breakfast. We started with mark melon/orange/banana juice, followed by papaya and dragon fruit (its red and green on the outside, you peel it like and apple and its white with black seeds (like a kiwi). It had the same texture as a kiwi, but little favor. I tried the Bircher muesli (slimy, but yummy) and then we explored more new tastes. There was a roast Roma tomato topped with fresh garlic and herbs, chicken sausage, thyme sautEed mushrooms, muffins with lychee and pear (these were like popovers in that the fruit was in the middle and the muffin puffed up over the top of them). Chris also had some bitter orange marmalade. We called John and Irene to say hello and then Chris headed out to take photos, while I stayed around to start on this. After a little while, we went down to the Princess desk and asked about the gem shop. We ended up and S & J Gems, a locally owned operation. They had an incredible display of all gems, but we were met and asked about sapphires. To make a long story short, we picked three stones, a loose one for about $350, a small one ($60) to replace the darker sapphire in my engagement ring and then, a knuckle buster at (gulp) $4,000. It really is a beautiful ring and I cant believe that I actually own something like this. After that, we headed back to the room. I was feeling a little motion sick because of the crazed ride back, so we rested for a while. After a couple of hours, Chris decided that we had to ride the sky train, which wasnt much of anything, but it did show us some of the city. After that, we came back to the room and relaxed until it was dinnertime. We went to the Madison and had obscene amounts of beef. Chris had a brand of Kobe beef (they shipped several head to Australia, so they are called something else, but its still Kobe beef). I had prime rib that could have fed a small army. I felt so badly that I couldnt eat more, but I just wasnt feeling up to par. I decided to head back to the room and get some rest. Chris sat by the pool for a while and then followed me. I never even heard him come in. Day 3 - Bangkok We had a nice breakfast, nothing really wild today  some cereal and toast. Chris had sweet rolls, sausage and fruit. We then headed down stairs for our first tour. We met all sort of folk, including a couple from New York (George and Marion), a younger couple named Michael and () and some others. Today we headed for Nong Nooch gardens and elephant show. The cultural part of the show was okay, but they really needed a choreographer. The elephant show was too fun. They danced, played football, basketball and bowled. The young ones were especially sweet. I got my picture taken with a leopard. It was great to be that close to a big cat, but I was aghast to see that her teeth had been filed off. She was purring like mad, so she must have been okay overall. The gardens were beautiful, but we didnt stay for very long. Then we went to a hotel in Pataya for lunch (it was okay) and then went to another gem store. It was HUGE, bigger than HUGE, but we got out of there without buying anything. After a very long bus ride back, we decided to stay in and have room service. Chris built his own sandwich and had a great mushroom soup and a lime soda  it came with its own simple syrup and he mixed it as he went. I had a club and some minestrone. Both were very good. I was still exhausted, so I went to bed, but Chris went to the pool. We got packed and sent the bags off. It was a tiring day, but fun. Day 4 - Bangkok Today it the Highlights of Bangkok, with a visit to the Golden Buddha, the Royal palace and a boat ride to lunch. Again, very hot and humid and worse, we had to be fully dressed because of the temples. The Golden Buddha was originally encased in case to save it from being melted down by foreign invaders and everyone forgot about it. When it fell in an accident in 1953, people were amazed that it was solid gold underneath. We saw several kitties at the temple and Christ got a picture of a monk holding a kitten. The Royal Palace is still used for some ceremonies and it was really incredible. The inlay of mosaic tile and jewels and gold leaf was just unbelievable. The temples were ornate and beautiful, but it was so hot, it was hard to enjoy them. After a walk through a bazaar, in which the smell of food just about made me crazy, we got to the river. It was really rough and hard to get on the boat, but we managed. All I can say is thank goodness that the Meclazine is working as well as it is. I didnt have any trouble, although Chris got a little rocky at first. We had lunch at another hotel, it was better than the day before, but I was disturbed at how much food people took and left. We chatted with Darlene and Julie, her daughter. They are very funny and have a fun sense of humor. We also met Burr and his wife. It was so nice to just chat with people and get to know them better. Then it was off to the ship! The ride to the ship was long, but not because it was so long, but because we were in a hurry to see her. We arrived and were ushered in with no wait at all. Our luggage (sans one bag) was at the room when we arrived and we were a little dismayed that the room wasnt as clean as wed hoped, including a dirty towel left hanging on the bathroom door. The assistant room manager came down and was very apologetic. We then met Michael; our steward who had just come on board, between the two, the room was ship shape before muster. Chriss suitcase arrived and we had time to unpack before heading to the dining room. We sat with Burr and his wife, and then stopped off at the bar for a drink to wait out the crowd, only to have Marion and George join us. I came back to the room to work on this and Chris went up to help the captain get the ship out. He came back and we were standing on the balcony when we looked up and saw more people we knew. This is what I like about the smaller ships. So far, this trip has been all Id hoped for. I would like to come back to Bangkok  I feel we only scratched the surface of a very old and diverse city. Our tablemates are very nice: Jim and Edie are from Atlanta, Roy is from Queensland and SJ and Sherri are from Canada. I thought to start off right with some spring rolls, beef broth and Fettuccini Alfredo. Chris has the Shrimp cocktail, mushroom soup and Beef tenderloin. Long day, early night. We had a good chat and went to see the show with Roy. Day 5  At Sea We intended to spend a very quiet day and we did. Walked around a little and got to know the ship. We went to a ports talk by Sammy and got to hear the ins and outs of each port. We napped and just generally kicked back. Chris offered to get lunch and when he returned, he sat in the other deck chair and it collapse beneath him. This resulted in a bottle of wine, two hors d'oeuvre platters and boutonnieres for us. We started to get ready for our first formal night and thats when disaster struck. Chris had not remembered a dress shirt! Thankfully, the purser was able to help and, although we missed the captain cocktail party, we were to dinner on time. It was very good. I had a salad and Rock Cornish game hen. Chris had a seafood turnover. We were both pleased with our choices, but Edie, suffering from a cold, was not been as complimentary. Every night she has gotten something that she hasnt liked, wasnt what she wanted, etc. Oh well, no pleasing everyone It was supposed to be a production show, but one of the singers got sick, so we had an Aussie singer. It was okay, just not what we were expecting. Day 6 - Kuantan, Malaysia We had been warned that this port was small, dirty, isolated, etc. We were delighted to discover while it was indeed small, it was clean and very well run. I was startled by how many jellyfish were in the water and visible from the ship  should tell you how clean the water was. We had been warned that our tour would be awful and we found it delightful. We went on a boat ride up to some mangrove swamps and wandered around the mangroves for a while. The birds and cicadas were deafening. Then we went to a Hindu temple and a Mosque. I stayed on the bus because my back wasnt happy about the mangrove walk. A couple pills and some quiet time and it was ready to go again, just in time for the batik factory. I got a great shirt, a tablecloth, two scarves and a wall hanging. Chris got two shirts, one of which will have to be altered when we get back home  he didnt realize it was long sleeve. We got back around 1:30 and had a bit of a lay down. I did go off the ship to buy some earrings for Ginny and came back to find that my card didnt work. It was fixed in no time, but it was an annoyance. We rested up and then went to dinner. It was Thai night and the food was yummy! I had a cucumber salad with peanuts and chili peppers, chicken and galangal soup, and Khai Yang  bbq chicken garnished with vegetables and fries. It was very good and Rocky Road for dessert. Chris had seafood cakes, chilled yogurt and tamarind soup and sautEed prawns. For dessert he had a meringue tiered chocolate filled tower. It looked deadly. I went to back to the cabin and just relaxed (watched part of Memoirs of a Geisha). Chris walked about the ship and then came back to watch some TV himself. It was a good day and I loved this port. Day 7  Singapore Okay, early start this morning for some reason. We both woke up about 6 or so to watch the ship pull into the dock. We have been in a holding pattern for about half an hour now as we wait for something. Its unclear if its for a berth or to turn the ship. It isnt quite certain what the hold up was. We had to clear customs today, but our tour isnt until this afternoon, so it was a big deal. We went ashore just to check things out and to go through Customs before the mad rush. We walked around a little and changed some money and I bought some postcards. Nothing much else was opened. Heading back to the ship, we could see all the masses of people going off for tours. It felt good to be heading in the opposite direction. I wasnt feeling really great due to my period, so we just hung around the cabin until it was time for lunch. I wrote my postcards and Chris read a little. We had a fast lunch at the buffet and then headed down to meet our tour. Alas, everyone we knew was on Bus 2 and we were on Bus 1. We were doing the Chinatown, Pewter demo, Raffles trip. We headed first for the pewter demo, which was very brief. We saw one person pouring and another person shaping pewter and then it was time for us to try our hand at making a bowl. We each got a sheet of pewter, a couple of hammers and some punches to put whatever we wanted on the bottom of it. Chris put Bangkok to Beijing and I put Pacific Princess  got my initials messed up though, but thats okay. It was fun and we had a couple of bowls to take home. We also bought a vase and a wine corker. Then it was on to Chinatown. Our guide gave us some insight into what it was like to grow up in Chinatown during the Japanese occupation. It was not pretty and the Chinese felt the Japanese deserved the bombs we dropped on them, calling them payback. The museum was tiny and very hard for Chris to maneuver around in, but it was very informative and a little scary to think of people living like that as recently as the 1960s. We also had a little time to shop at the bazaar in Mosque St. I got two beautiful cashmere scarves. Then it was on to Raffles for some liquid refreshment. The hotel was very elegant and looked wonderfully decadent. We walked past people having high tea, all dressed to the nines, and served by waiters wearing white gloves. The Long Bar, where we were bound, was far more casual. We had our drink, Chris had two, in fact, with the younger couple we had met from New Jersey. Then it was on to the shops to try and get rid of the rest of our Singapore money. We bought a poster, a polo shirt and a silver Raffles ornament. Our bus was waiting for us, except it wasnt our bus and we almost ended up at the airport but Fifi (our tour guide) stopped us before we ever got on the bus. We were with a Princess crew person and we thought she knew where she was going. It led to some good laughs. Also discovered that one of the women we were traveling with was from Pleasanton. The world seems to get smaller and smaller the more you travel. We got back to the port with less than an hour to spare. After walking around a little, we decided to just cash the money in and get back on board. I took all the packages and headed form the ship, worried that Chris might get side tracked by all the electronic shops. He didnt and was there just behind me. We had just enough time to change and head for dinner, stopping to chat with Burr and his wife, Amy, as we went. Dinner was very good tonight. I had onion soup, complete with the cheese crust and some duck, which was very good. Chris had a potato/pumpkin soup, followed by a salad followed by the pork loin. For dessert, it was a raspberry crème Brule and I had a sundae. There was a debate about whether or not to go to the production show  Rock and Roll  I decided that it was time for me to go to bed and Chris followed suit, even though I assured him that we was free to attend with Roy, SJ and his wife. Day 8  At Sea We decided to stay the day by having breakfast in the cabin. It was the same for me, cereal, fruit and a bagel, but Chris had a good Denver omelet. The coffee was better than at the buffet, so that was okay by me. After sitting around for a while, we went down to the future cruise desk and signed up for our next cruise  to the British Isles. It was exactly the same trip as the one we were looking at  this one goes to Normandy, but the cruise director said it was because it was a new season and the lists Id been looking at was for this year. As long we hit Edinburgh and Inverness, thats okay by me. Then well be able to say weve been to France. We also talked about Tahiti in 2008, but it was really too far to book anything. We even booked the suite we wanted, so that will be nice. It will be nicer if John and Irene go with us, but its a big decision to make the first time. After that I headed back to the cabin to hang out while Chris prowled the ship. He went to the culinary demo and then came back to collect me for lunch. The afternoon was spent quietly, reading and resting. When we returned from dinner this evening, a lovely meal awaited us. I had Quiche Lorraine, capon broth and Breast of Duckling. Chris has shrimp cocktail, chilled papaya soup and New York Steak. I cant even remember dessert. We returned to our cabin to discover the acknowledgement for our 2007 cruise. We didnt get the cabin we wanted, but its a long way out and were on the waiting list for it, so heres hoping. It was another quiet evening. I dont know what were doing to make us so tired, but again sleep came early. We did hear that the Crown has an Asopod failure and developed a pronounced list, resulting in a shortened trip. People were whining and complaining about it on Cruise Critic, but Princess offered money back and discounts, so I dont really understand what is wrong. There was a message from Tony complaining about the large number of children and Mexicans on board. Im afraid I wasnt very polite in my response to him. Gee, and he didnt want to get together with us for a drink  what a surprise. The more I read about him, the bigger jerk he seems to be. Before I thought he was just pompous, now I know him to be a bigot. Day 9  Vietnam (Phu My) Today was an early beginning, we had a 7:30 start, and so we got up around six and had some breakfast while we sailed into Phu My harbor. We had gotten out visas the night before, so it was a simple matter of having them stamped as we headed out for our highlights and shopping tour. Amy and Burr were on this one, as was Jim and Edie. We started with a two-hour bus ride into Ho Chi Ming City (still called Saigon by most of the people). Our tour guide, Van, was very articulate and personable. He spoke English well and had an extensive knowledge of his countrys history. This was a hard stop for many of our passengers because of course of the Vietnam War. Van spoke dispassionately about the war saying that most of the population doesnt remember it (over 60% of the population is under 30). He says that their feeling is that it happened and now its over, so lets move on. Okay, first impression of Vietnam  this is where all the motorcycles of the world come when theyve finished elsewhere (80 million people and 30 million motorcycles share the roads). It was frightening to wait them weave in and out of traffic. Crossing the streets was also an adventure, but more later. Our fist stop was the Natural History Museum, which gave us about 4000 years of history in 30 minutes. First though were the water puppets. Chris didnt know about this, but it was one of the reasons that I picked this tour. They told three stories, one about two fighting dragons, complete with fire, the next one was about a husband and wife raising ducks and trying to protect them from a fox, who looked an awful lot like a cat to both of us, including climbing a tree, which I didnt think a fox can do. The last was about the four creatures of Vietnam, a dragon, unicorn, phoenix and a snake. It was spirited to say the least. The museum was okay, it gave a little background and displayed some interesting artifacts, the most interesting of which we couldnt take photos of. Then we headed to the post office, where we found some lovely cards. Next it was off to the site of the American Embassy, where we could look, but not take photos, even from the bus. Next was a visit to a lacquer factory, where the 17-step process was explained. I didnt know there were three different styles to this type of lacquer  the painting, egg shell and mother of pearl (or abalone). We bought a long tray, a small saucer and a pair of chopsticks. Then it was on to the museum for lunch. Lunch was an extravagant meal, lots of local dishes, including a very tasty lotus root salad and some deep fried pineapple  they used canned pineapple, which made it even tastier. There was also a display of local song and dance, very interesting and the best buffet lunch so far! After that, it was on to the Rex hotel and Dong St. for some shopping. Okay, this was a real eye opener. There was a fleet of peddlers who follow the bus from stop to stop, but when we hit the street here, it was an all out melee. It was amazing that we purchased as little as we did and Chris bartered like a native. I got a silk scarf for two dollars, my big purchase. It matches my dress for formal night. After that, we headed back to the hotel to rest and get a drink at the bar on the fifth floor. Chris had an Alice; I had an orange soda (again juice with soda water). Then it was back to the bus for another two-hour ride to the ship. We were all beat when we got back just in time to dress for dinner. Crossing the street was a wild adventure or making sure you didnt get flattened. Someone said over 7000 people are killed by motorcycles a year here  ouch! Chris had prime rib, with a scallop Pate and cream of artichoke soup. I had polenta with marinara, duck broth and a pasta dish in a brown sauce. It was tasty, but hard to describe. For dinner we each had tutti fruitti ice cream. Jim fell asleep at the table and we all struggled to stay awake long enough to make it back to our cabins. We are a real party table Ill say that! Day 10  Vietnam (Nhan Trang) We sailed into port today a bit later than the other cities. This is a lovely port with brightly colored houses and boats. Chris said it reminded him of some of the Mexican town we saw on our cruise with Barb and Rod. We didnt have a tour here, so we grabbed the shuttle into the market. Okay, again, wow with the attention. People just descend upon you. We picked up one gentleman who finally gave up. Chris had a running battle with this one old lady who wanted $2 for a spoon and he only wanted to pay $1. He won, but she wasnt happy about it. I bought some glass bracelets, five for $3 and a tee shirt for $3. We also got some fabric for my quilting, hard but successful bargaining and another helper. This time it was a young girl, about 10 or 12, and she would not let us out of her sight. We wandered out of the market and down some streets, got yelled at by a cop for walking in the street (honestly, its hard to tell) and just looked around. We decided it was time to head back to the bus, but not before being hounded by men offering to take us on tours. We declined, got back on our shuttle and headed back. There were several stands open on the dock and I got a necklace and some earrings for Ginny. We headed back to our cabin to discover they were fixing our patio door  it had rusted through its tracks  and replacing a missing light. One thing about maintenance on this ship, they are fast and thorough. We ate again at the buffet and had a nice lay down. There is still talk about what is going to happen with the typhoon and whether or not we will make it to Hong Kong. I am content to leave it in the Captains capable hands. He will pick what is best for the ship and its cargo. Some people are fussing about it, but theres really not much to be done. Weather is the weather. For dinner, I had a leek and potato turnover, roasted duckling broth and Risotto. Chris had cold poached scallop ceviche, chilled pea pod soup and lamb chops. Day 11 - At Sea Finally today was a day to rest up from all the sightseeing. With that in mind, we did very little today besides eat and sleep. We did take in a talk on Pirates  Yesterday and Today. This was pretty interesting. We also watched a bit of Pirates and watched a talk on Hong Kong. That night we got to meet the Captain at the Captains Circle party and we got to see the infamous Tony. He looked smug, pompous and exactly as I pictured him, except a bit younger. I wondered how someone so young could have all this time and money just to sail aimlessly back and forth on the same route. It would see boring to me! After that he headed down to the floorshow, which was the one we missed the fist night - Give My Regards. They managed to hit every musical I hated, even JCS  long tribute to that&sigh I can run, but I cant hide. Day 12  Hong Kong Today came the best news possible  because of Kimai, we will have two days in Hong Kong! What an incredible city to sail into, some buildings are so full of color and yet some are so pastel colored. We sailed into the Bay of Hong Kong  we docked on the Kowloon side and had a few minutes ashore before it was time for the tour  not even time to eat lunch today. We had highlights of Honk Kong, which started with a trip under the bay via one of the three tunnels. Traffic was a bear and our guide, Stella, assured us that this wasnt bad at all. She says that she rides Bus 11, i.e. she walks or takes public transit. First we headed to Aberdeen, where the water people live. The government is trying to get these people out of the water and into low cost housing, but they arent budging. The younger people are willing, but the old people wont leave their sampans. After the water taxi ride, which was a hoot and a little rough, we went to a jewelry store, where I purchased a jade and gold pendent for probably a lot more than it was worth, but I like it and it will go perfectly upon the gold chain that came with the plumeria pendent. After that, we took a hair-raising ride to Stanley Market. I got a little frog, a humming bird and post cards, but the best purchase were the ice creams bars! Anyhow, it was beastly hot and very humid because of the typhoon. We walked the entire market and got back just in time to wait for the bus  we beat the tour guide, who was delighted that we were all together. Next we drove to the top of Victoria Peak eek! I had to take more meclazine, just for the trip, plus my back was just killing me. We got to a shopping center and I got to use the Happy Room (toilet) and we walked around a bit before climbing on board the tram  it went down backwards. There was a massive thunderstorm coming into Hong Kong and we got to watch the lightening for several minutes before the storm hit. What a trip it was down the hill. We reassembled and headed back to ship. Boy, was I glad to see that ship. We had just time to throw our clothes on and head to the dining room. I had a beef Bresaola with arugula and parmesan, corn chowder and veal parmigiana and Chris had a scallop mousse, albondigas soup and Gamberi Saltati alla Aglio (shrimp) Too tired for the floor show, we both went to bed after making plans to meet with S.K. and Shirley to meet the next morning for breakfast and our own tour of Kow Loon. Day 13  Hong Kong We met and decided to head out about 9 a.m.  it was too early, but thats okay. We took a public bus, which was a hoot and got off downtown. Nothing opened until 10:30 or 11, and it was only 9:30. We did a mess of walking and looking around and then Jim decided it was time to go back to Nathan Road for lunch. He and Edie really didnt like the walking at all. We went to a five-story department store and had a tea demo. That was fun and we bought three tea pots/strainers. I also got a puzzle and some cut outs for Julie. Then it was time for some serious lunch. We went to Shamrock Seafood Restaurant and S.K. ordered for us. I thought it was a shame that Jim would only eat the fried rice, but that was his choice. We had some fabulous Char Sui buns, fried rice, chow mien, Shrimp bow, deep fried won tons, egg rolls, chicken soup, it just went on and on. Then, for some reason, both Jim and Edie got a bee in their bonnet about having to get back to the ship as it was going to leave without us  it was 1:30 and we sailed at 6 p.m. but that was okay. We went back to the ship, except Roy, who walked back. The guys and Shirley grabbed a cab to go over to get an English warranty for Jim  he didnt pick one up when we purchased his new camera. I was only back on the ship about ½ an hour before Chris returned, unimpressed, from his visit to Ho Hum. Dinner was pretty good Italian tonight. I had a very good proscuitto and melon with minestrone and a veal chop. Chris had the eggplant parm, with a bean soup and beef stew. The gelato was really good and then, after the captain warned us of high waves that night and for the next day, we all retired to our cabins. I was pooped! Day 14  At Sea It was great to have a quiet day at sea today. I slept 12 hours before reluctantly dragging myself out of bed to face the day. I had taken enough meclazine to offset any wave motion and was pretty comfortable. By 3 p.m. most of the waves had quieted down and we were back to the regular motions. Chris went to a computer class on safety and I went to a talk on Titanic  it was about the filming, which really wasnt that hot. I havent seen the movie and didnt want to see it any more after the talk. Chris spent the afternoon working on a project for people at the table (e mail addresses) and I had a great bath, plus read a bit. Tomorrow is another sea day, so we should be really rested up for Shanghai. We had our second formal dinner tonight and it was the Italian dinner. I had the prosciutto (again), the rustic vegetable minestrone soup and the Pappardelle al Sugo d Lepre (pasta with rabbit) and Chris had baked eggplant, Venetian soup of beans and pasta and the Veal Chop. Day 15  At Sea We are still bouncing around a little because of the typhoon, but not as badly as I thought we would. We had already decided that we werent going to do much of anything today and we really didnt. I went to a lecture on sea myths and also painted a tee shirt. I couldnt get it finished in time, so I brought it down to the cabin to finish up. It was a pre-punched design, but that was okay. It was still fun. We hung around with S.K., Roy, and Shirley quite a bit today, just chatting and enjoying ourselves. Mostly today was just a day of eating and sleeping. Jim seems like hes getting a cold, which is not what you want to happen going into China. Roy is concerned because he only has a single entrance visa and cant come ashore. Dinner was good again, but we are beginning to see a pattern here. I had an asparagus puree, Day 16  Shanghai What a beautiful city this is! So many skyscrapers and they are so unique  not just simple straight lines, but circles, cut-aways and the like. It really is quite incredible. Our tour today was all day long and, boy, was it long. Lots of walking and seeing of things. First we went to the Childrens Museum, a fine arts school, and we got to see young boys (5  12) working at Peking Opera movements and young girls, all younger than seven, dancing to Jingle Bells. The school was three stories and we went up and down a couple of times. We bought two student paintings of kitties. Then it was off to the Jade Buddha Temple, which was lovely, but a lot more standing and standing as our guide explained all about Buddha. We bought a great little kitten cut out. Then it was time for lunch. What a spread Shanghai set out for us. Favorites for us were the sweet fish lemon pickles and in fact all the pickles were good, and the soup, chicken egg drop with corn. We had such a large number of dishes and they just kept coming. Everything was very good, although it did give me indigestion later that afternoon. I took a pain pill and soldiered on to the next sight, the Yu Gardens. On the way there, we saw a little kitten crying for mom. I would have taken him back to the ship if I could have. The gardens were really crowded and I wasnt feeling well at all  a combination of the sun, indigestion and back pain. After we finished the garden, which would have been nicer if it wasnt so crowded, we wandered around the market for a little bit, but I just didnt have my heart into shopping, so we went into DQ, got something cold to drink and just sat until it was time for the bus. More walking, five blocks, back to the bus, among all the professional beggars, vendors and people just out enjoying the blue sky. We got to the Shanghai Museum and it really was great, there was a costume and mask display on the top floor that was very nice and I really enjoyed the paintings, but my pain pill had worn off and I was not very happy. Then we headed to a silk factory, but I stayed on the bus along with a couple of other passengers. We got back to the ship too late for dinner, so we went up to the bistro and had some pizza. Chris went down to see our tablemates and I went right to bed. What a long day! Day 17  At Sea. Thank goodness we have a day to sleep in and relax a little. When I met the tablemates for breakfast, they presented us with a beautiful embroidered kitten picture. Roy, Shirley and S.K. had had a great day just walking a bit and shopping. Wished we gone with them in hindsight. I did go and paint a ceramic tile for Julie and take a long hot bath. The back isnt happy, but its okay. Chris went to a computer class and I watched a couple of movies. It was just a day to not do much of anything. This was also our last formal night. I had roasted grouse, Chris had fish  for some reason, there is not a menu for this dinner - and it was met with the obligatory march of the Baked Alaskas. Dinner was good, but not spectacular. We are seeing a lot of repeats during this cruise. Day 18  Nagasaki I can only say that I wish we had more time in this port. We took a brief tour of the city and even that was too long to allow us any time to get back out into the city. This was the cleanest and most demur of cities, as I would expect from Japan. The memorial at ground zero was nice and well cared for. We found a little gift shop and the rest rooms and that was about it. We got back on the bus and that was it, our grand tour. The bell ringers from one of the local schools came on board and played for us. That was pretty and the Tai Koh Drummers sent us off. The captain is really having to put his foot down to get us back to Beijing on time. Had a rattlely cabin all night because of this. Again, it was a quiet afternoon of sleeping and reading  actually I have been working to finish the applique on Amys baby blanket. Again, we seem to be missing the menu for this evening and the food completely escapes me except to note that nearly every item on the menu had been served before. Hmm, this is a little odd. Day 19  Last Day at Sea We spent today packing and getting ready for the disembarkation in Beijing. There are a total of 11 people on our land tour. I hope they are nice and fun to be with. We decided to bring down the bottle of wine we got to the table for dinner, which is down home food  turkey and dressing, prime rib, that sort of thing. Its hard to believe that 16 days have gone by on this cruise. They really went like a snap of the fingers. We spent so much time with our tablemates and they were really a lot of fun. Mostly, its hard to believe all the stuff we bought! I dont remember buying some of it, so its okay. Today I picked up a chain for my locket and some tee shirts. This afternoon, we sailed through a huge fog bank  it was very eerie, then suddenly we popped out to great weather and the coast of China. Now we just have to get up to Beijing. Its has really been a great cruise and the trip of a lifetime. We did so much that we both remark much of it seems like a dream. We exchanged addresses all the way around and left the table a little misty eyed. Its hard to think we will never see these people again. Guess thats a little how life is though. Im just glad we were able to do it. I dont know if I will have time to actually do anything once we get on the land tour, but I will try. Dinner was an odd assortment of items. I had an asparagus soup with tapioca and Prime rib. Chris had Oranges with mint and grand Marnier, a chilled pumpkin soup and turkey. There was an incredible series of storms at sea this evening. Chris called to tell me about the first one and then I woke up for the next two  or it could have just been one really long shower. With no clock in the room, its hard to tell the passage of time. Day 20  Beijing We made plans to have breakfast together and it was a teary event. These people had grown very close to me during the trip and I will miss them. The only thing I didnt get was my tile. I am going to contact Princess when I get home to see if they will ship it to me. I really wanted it for Julie, but at least I got photos of it. Our disembarkation went smoothly enough until we got to Customs, and then we got hung up when they put a large group through just before us. Thankfully the bus waited for us. Our guide is Jackie and hes from Beijing. He reminds a lot of Kenichi when he talks. We have a small group of people, just 11, and I will try to do a recap of them. There is Fran and Jim Yost, whom we met at Bangkok. There is Charlie and Connie from Montreal, Jim and Sandy Carpenter from Washington DC, (I think), Then there are Doris and Wally and Doris sister, Janice, from Michigan. It is a diverse group and we get along pretty well. Im glad its an older group, as I would have problems keeping up with younger people. Jim has had lots of surgeries and walks with a pronounced limp. Connie uses a crutch, so I felt right at home with them. I admire them both for trying this trip We had a two-hour ride into the city from the port area and that was pretty. China has done a lot of beautification, I think mostly because of the Olympics in 2008. Beijing is interesting in that the streets are very wide and they dont permit left turns  go figure! Jackie had suggested that we skip Tiananmen Square until later in the trip and at night so that it would be cooler, but we discovered we had lunch there. After a buffet lunch, (Connie went t back to the hotel because there were no wheelchair access to the Forbidden City we walked out to the square for about 15 minutes and then hit the Forbidden City. Big, enormous, huge, gigantic, none of these words come close to describing the size of it. We walked over three miles in it and didnt even scratch the surface. Jackie said that if you were to sleep in a different room every night, it would take you 27 years to do it. It was a very long day and the hardest part of the whole trip was when we had to wait and wait for the bus. The Crown Plaza is a beautiful hotel and we had a great room, even though we only had time for a quick shower and change before going out to dinner to a banquet. The food was great and we ended up sitting with a family we knew from the ship. They were very funny and the youngest girl was quite the hoot. She and I had a great chat. After dinner, the children put on a show for us, three dances and then they came out to the audience to meet us  they were so cute and the dances were very long and difficult for such young children, but they did a great job. We got back to the hotel at about 9:30 and fell asleep almost instantly. Day 21  Xian This was a day of mishaps, such as Wally losing his backpack and Charlie having a tiny pocketknife in his pouch. Hed flown all the way here with it, but was never stopped. Beijing Airport is huge, but much like any airport once you get use to the mass of people. We got on our plane with no trouble, only to hold for a passenger  for an hour! We were not happy campers. I was afraid this would cut into our time with the warriors, but Jackie assured us it would not. Our guide here is Tony and he has a bedroom voice. I loved listening to him. He was very knowledgeable and was a fountain of information about the area and the various dynasties around Xian. We had a lovely cloudy and cool day to do the figures and it was perfect. The terra cotta warriors were awe-inspiring. What a sight Building One was with its rows and rows of figures! China had a lot of foresight in constructing the area and making sure that it could hold massive amounts of people before they started digging. It was quite well thought out and we had a wonderful time at the site. We got a book signed by one of the farmers who discovered the figures, and I got some tee shirts, figures and a magnet for George. We headed in to Xian, which is a lovely city and went to the hotel  the name eludes me at the moment. It is new and still working the kinks out. Jim and Sandys shower leaked, our toilet plugged up at a very bad time and Janice was given a room with someone in it. That all being said, the bed sure felt good that night. We had dinner at a theater and saw a show. Most people went ohh and ahh, but I wasnt as impressed. I think theater has been forever ruined for me. The costumes were great and the food very good. Day 22  Xian to Chongquin Another early morning of 6:30 a.m. to catch all that we needed to see in Xian before flying out. We saw the bell tower and went to the city wall. They have four gates, but 11 entrances. The city fathers are thinking about tearing it down for more room, but we told Tony that we thought it should stay. He agreed with us. Xian has been the home of many dynasties and has seen a great many battles, but no one has ever gotten over the moat or through the wall. Then we went to a jade factory and I got jade for every one back home, Chris got a pendant for Elaine and we nearly bought a beautiful needle work cat  looked just like Nosh  but the asking price of $5,000 was a bit steep. We did get them down to $2600, but Jackie told us to pay no more than $2500 for it. We left it there. Then we headed for the City museum, which was very lovely. We took it on our own and had a great time of it, even visiting a side building that had nothing but Chinese signs. It had lovely scrollwork and landscapes, as well as some recent finds. We were now seriously ahead of schedule, so Tony urged us to take our time at lunch. We didnt, but kill some extra time by shopping. I got a shirt (surprise) and some bottle covers. We headed to the airport and again had to wait for passengers  six this time. However, they came right along and we even took off early. The flight to Chongquin was pretty short and we had no trouble with our luggage or getting to our bus. The ride wasnt too bad, but we were tired and just wanted to be there. The boat, the Victoria Star, is very nice and we had to the chance to upgrade to a suite. Its very lovely and has a huge balcony facing front. Chris really enjoyed it and spent lots of time out there. Because we were so tired, the ship actually served us dinner and we set sail at about 9:15. Aside from nearly falling out of bed once (the ship occasionally leans side to side), we slept fine. Day 22  Feng Du I have wanted to visit this city for a long time and was very excited to get the chance. It was another early morning of 6:30, but it was good that we took the excursion early to keep as cool as possible. We took the chair lift up and I had no problems negotiating the steps. Again, Connie couldnt go because this place definitely wasnt ADA compliant! Still it was fascinating and we learned a lot about Hell. We had to pass three tests on our way in, walk over the center of three bridges in three steps, cross over the threshold to hell and balance on a rock. The last one about did my back in, but that was okay. The pantheon of ghosts and demons were very different from ours  there was the Good Ghost, who looked after all the animals, the ghost that killed bad babies, the ghost who punished people for reading too much  figure that one out  and just a host more, the far and neared sighted ghosts, the horny ghost, etc. The tour was great because we would walk a bit, then Summer would talk, then wed walk a bit. There were a total of about 250 steps throughout the temple, but I did okay. I was tired though. We spent a quiet and restful afternoon and then went to the Captains reception. It was better than Princesss do. The champagne poured freely and the apps were great. Dinner times vary depending upon where we are in the river. Tonight it was at 7; yesterday it was at 7:30. My poor body is so messed up now. Chris went to the fashion show, but I went to bed. Chris came back and sat on the deck only to discover that they chain the door shut after 10. Thankfully, we are just under the bridge and he was able to attract attention to get the doors unlocked. Day 23  The Three Gorges It was yet another early morning as we hit the first and most dramatic of the Gorges at 6 a.m. We watched it and then went to breakfast before boarding a smaller ship for the four-hour trip to the lesser gorges. The ride in was just breath taking and its impossible to describe just how beautiful it is. We saw the hanging coffins and lots of monkeys  I liked the yellow birds that flew around everywhere. Then we got into small sampans and went up yet another river  this one was called Ma Tu, Horses Knees, because it was so shallow. Now it is 20 feet deep and the water level is due to rise again on the first of September. It was very pretty and quite a trip for my birthday. That night at dinner, there was a surprise in that everyone with birthdays on the cruise were given a lovely painting of the Three Gorges and, similar to the big ships, the dining room staff paraded with cakes to each table. It was nice and a very special way to remember this day. There was a talent show for this evening, but we opted to watch the locks instead. Of course, it was nearly 9:30 before we got to one. Id been have intestinal problems mostly due to my pain medication and it really cut loose today, no pun intended, so much so that I had a pretty rocky night, but Chris slept well. Day 24  Yichang to Wuhan. And guess what time we got up today? Yup, 6:30 again. Chris has gone on a tour of the dam, but I stayed behind due to the aforementioned intestinal reasons. Its better, but I didnt want to chance a squat toilet today. Chris came back to report western toilets a plenty, but I just didnt want to take the risk. He said I would have been bored with the tour and I had had a feeling that it would e the case. Anyhow, he had fun and that was all that counted. We spent a quiet morning and sailed through the last lock at lunchtime. It was a very bizarre sight to watch the ship going down while we were eating. It started to rain as we left the ship, but we hadnt brought anything except hats  it was okay, we didnt melt. Then we left for the four-hour ride to Wuhan. No matter how you slice it, it was long. We stopped at another road-side happy room. Again, this was a sensory adventure. Our guide, Sammy, was interesting and talked a lot about what made Wuhan different from other cities  mostly its their aggressiveness. It looked much like all the other cities wed been to, but armed to the teeth with Citrons. Apparently, Wuhan is the manufacturing capital for this type of car and nearly even one you see in the city is a Citron. We had dinner at the hotel and got to know Jackie a little more as he opened up about his childhood and school days. He was the classic example of bad boy making good. It was interesting to see how very little difference there really is between us. Day 25  Beijing We flew back to Beijing today and it was an okay trip. At least we didnt have to wait for anyone and the trip went quickly. Charlie got to pick his knife back up at the airport and we quickly left for a tour of the Temple of Heaven. It was where the farmers went to pray for a good harvest. It was big, laid out much like the Forbidden City. It was okay, but had to confess to being really tired of temples at this point. We headed back to the hotel to pick up our checked luggage and a night to ourselves. We waited for the luggage to arrive and then headed out to shop. There was a huge street that was blocked form traffic. We checked out two bookstores, but found nothing that would work for John. For dinner, while many of our other traveling companions ate at the hotel, we ate at the Outback. It tastes just like home and, boy, was that good many of them complained that we didnt tell them, but we were ready for some us time. Day 26  Beijing. Today was the Day for the Great Wall. We stopped at a pearl factory on the way out and I got a nice necklace, as well as some earrings for Ginny. The Great Wall was something else and we bucked the norm and headed left, for the more difficult climb. There were fewer people and I made it to the first tower. I then waited for Chris to walk up two more before he caught sight of a tourist in a thong hiking in front of him and he called it quits. One of our members, the highest maintenance one, didnt make the trip, as she was sick with a pre-existing condition. Now why she didnt bring medicine along was anyones guess. Her husband and sister seemed to get along fine without her, so we werent worry, since they werent. We had lunch at the Friendship store, which was okay. It certainly wasnt the best, but also not the worse. The bathrooms were a challenge, but thats okay too. Its our last day here, so I can cope. Bought a bunch of stuff for people back home and then we headed for Mings tomb. This was an okay stop, certainly much smaller than the Summer Palace and I hit the jackpot by finding not only a four-star bathroom, but also four squished penny machines for Julie. It was a major coup. Back at the hotel, Marion was no better and Chris and Jackie went out to look for Gatorade. They found a powder that did the same thing and left it with her. She never even said thank you to them. Made me more than a little mad. We left a little late for our Peking Duck dinner. It was clear across town and I couldnt help but think we could have chosen one closer to the hotel. The dinner was okay, but I thought the hullabaloo about the duck wasnt worth the end result. It was okay, but nothing great. The skin was okay, but greasy. We both tried duck feet, which were okay too. Mostly I was ready to get back to the room and sleep a little. Day 27/28 Homeward bound. Beijing to San Francisco Its time to say goodbye to China and while we had a great time here, I was ready for home. We had a bit of trouble with Security trying to take my little scissors, but I prevailed. We waited in the business lounge and Chris went off to spend the rest of the Yuen he had. Got a bunch of chocolate-cookie things. The flight was pretty smooth, despite the incoming storms. I spelt nearly all the way back, waking just for a midnight snack and then breakfast. It didnt help the jet lag much, but you do what you can. It was worth every minute of travel and effort to do this. I certainly came away with a better understanding of the people and the country. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006

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