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Sail Date: August 2003
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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2004
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: March 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 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
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 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: September 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: March 2005
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

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