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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2015
We had an enjoyable time on our first Princess cruise. The staff, the food, the entertainment and the Lectures were all 100%. However when first using the potable water in our cabin it was brown and had small black particles in it. One ... Read More
We had an enjoyable time on our first Princess cruise. The staff, the food, the entertainment and the Lectures were all 100%. However when first using the potable water in our cabin it was brown and had small black particles in it. One is always wary of health hazards on a ship and this was reported immediately but the situation continued for 6 days - the Asst Customer Services lady took some interest but there was no resolution nor any information as to what the contaminant was - it was intimated that it may be the residue from the pipes following maintenance (about which we had not been warned or advised!). On the final day the Customer Services Director contacted us by phone but had no answers - throughout the cruise he, like the General manager, had been conspicuous by their absence - what do they do - where do they hide? One passenger had a Pomeranian dog in a buggy (complete with rattles and other toy like adornments) and constantly wheeled it around the ship - and was allowed into eating areas where she and others fed it 'tit bits' - most objectionable - many other passengers were similarly disgusted - a dog in areas serving food! Unacceptable. The internet did not work which bearing in mind this was a 19 day cruise was annoying but this may not have been due to the ship or the company - we know that satellite comms can be unreliable. The SOLAS briefing was good but distraction arose from crew members talking and a supervisor giving Muster crew their instructions whilst the commentary was underway. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2013
I have taken a number of cruises over the years with Princess Cruises, ranging from their original Sea Princess and Island Princess in the 1980s, through to their larger Coral Princess and Dawn Princess right through to 2012. I am quite a ... Read More
I have taken a number of cruises over the years with Princess Cruises, ranging from their original Sea Princess and Island Princess in the 1980s, through to their larger Coral Princess and Dawn Princess right through to 2012. I am quite a fan of the line, as they consistently offer good service, excellent food, and modern ships with a traditional cruise experience. It was with this in mind that we wanted to try one of their smaller ships, as well as cruise in the Asian region. When the chance came up to join a segment of the Pacific Princess' world cruise from Sydney to Hong Kong, we jumped at the chance to sail on this smaller vessel in the region we wanted to. Pacific Princess compares well to her fleetmates, and despite her smaller size (30,000GRT) she gives little away to her fleetmates in terms of facilities. The alternate restaurants, Sabatini's and Sterling Steakhouse are there, the pool area is spacious and the gym is almost the same size as her big sisters. Having sailed in 2012 on the Coral Princess, she felt very much like a condensed version of that ship. The main facility that we missed is the fully encircling Promenade Deck; Pacific Princess only offering two separate Promenades down each side of the ship, which do not link fore and aft. That said, a dedicated jogging track is provided at the top of the ship to compensate. Pacific Princess also has a very attractive and quite large observation lounge atop the ship (similar to the Crows Nests on HAL ships), which was a relatively under-used feature. We found this a great place to have pre-dinner drinks and watch the sun set. Pacific Princess is a very comfortable ship, with a well designed layout. Being smaller in size, it never takes more than 5 minutes to get from anywhere to anywhere else, a refreshing change from the mega-ships! Decor throughout is very club-like, and we could always find a space wherever we wanted it. In fact, most of the time we wondered where the rest of the passengers were; this ship never felt crowded. There is an atrium on Pacific Princess, though it is nowhere near a large as those on the bigger Princesses. Unlike those ships, it is underused as a public space. The bigger Princess ships often have a pianist or group providing music that filters through the public spaces connected to the atrium. This is something that Pacific Princess could benefit from too, and the spaces on Deck 4 could be used to accommodate a piano. Related to this, we found there was a "dead hour" between 6 and 7pm when there was no music scheduled. As we were on second seating for dinner (at 8pm) it would have been nice to have something going on at this time. We thoroughly enjoyed the ship and the onboard ambience. Crew were very attentive, and the food was consistently excellent. In fact the Panorama Buffet was outstanding. The food here outshone that of the big Princesses we have been on as did the displays, which differed virtually every day. Additionally, being positioned aft meant that it had an outdoor deck overlooking the stern given over to tables. This was our favourite place to have breakfast and lunch. In feel she was very consistent with her fleetmates. We enjoyed the more intimate atmosphere of a smaller ship, and the fact that there were never crowds. It is a pity that Princess are introducing ever-larger ships such as the new Royal Princess; hopefully they may also build some ships in the 30,000- 60,000 GRT range also to continue to cater for those who enjoy small/medium ships such a as Pacific Princess which offer a traditional shipboard ambience without the crowds. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2006
Returning from our cruise on Pacific Princess, I would like to give some feedback. As in my previous business life, feedback should be taken as learning opportunity and starting point for improvement. Without critic we will never see ... Read More
Returning from our cruise on Pacific Princess, I would like to give some feedback. As in my previous business life, feedback should be taken as learning opportunity and starting point for improvement. Without critic we will never see improvement and growth. I had this summary sent via two different travel agencies to Princess Cruises, however, no answer since 3 months.

Our trip started at Frankfurt (Germany) with a 2 day pre-program in Mumbai. The time spent in the city as well as in the vicinity was worth the money. Hotel (Taj President) and sightseeing were well organized and professionally conducted. Mumbai is the city with the largest contrast between poor and rich we ever saw.

We embarked on Sept. 1, 2006 in Mumbai (Bombay) and disembarked on Sept 15, 2006 in Bangkok. Despite the monsoon season we had sunny to fair weather condition and an almost mirror flat sea, besides some tropical rain at noon or night.

The ports of call had been changed after we booked. Colombo was dropped for safety reasons, added Mangalore instead, which was no adequate replacement at al. All other ports of call had interesting points to visit and included Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Ship:

Positive items first:

- Food at dinner time was excellent, high quality, nice presentation, sufficient list of different items to select from,

- Service at dining area very friendly and supportive with an excellent taste

- Stateroom steward provided all help needed in due time and kept our room tidy and clean.

- The stateroom itself included a balcony, which used at night time in these tropical nights, the room itself provided more than sufficient storage capacity, everything ok

- Service at bar areas friendly and quick, not urging or pressing

- Very fast check-in process at Mumbai, very well organized disembarkation in Bangkok

- Some performances at show time had been extremely good (e.g. Piano & Banjo)

- Pacific Princess offers two speciality restaurants, however, because of the quality of the standard dining restaurant we did not use them.

Items to improve:

- Embarkation process lacks positive moments like a welcome glass of Champaign, or someone guiding us personally to the stateroom.

-Service and environment in breakfast/lunch buffet area was somewhat strange:

- The starboard side of the buffet restaurant is close to the centrally located dish washing facilities, emitting an extreme noise at each opening of the doors,loudly rumbling carts are used to transport plates and silver ware in and out of cleaning area

- cleaning of garbage cans and pulling sacks filled with garbage or dirty table cloths in the midst of the area where people are sitting for either lunch or breakfast.All men assigned to this job express their hate of both the work and the guests sitting there.

- plastic chairs at outside areas are dirty with spilled coffee and food stains, cleaning frequency far too low, no seat covers,

- coffee supply the worst I ever met (lousy quality, only two self service filling stations and one cart for direct service, nobody looking for refills,therefore coffee on cart luke warm. Compared to any coffee shop just unacceptable),

- no fresh fruit juices or fresh milk supplied at breakfast buffet.

- Food at breakfast buffet somewhat boring, every day same fruit selection, egg station was not able to produce a decent omelette or fried eggs, used partly eggs with an extreme pale yolk without any taste. However, very good and tasty selection of bread. As a tip, the guy at the hamburger station (pool area) produces really good fried eggs and omelettes to your choice during morning hours. - Pool was closed for maintenance for about a week, while we had bright sunshine (however, it will be always at the wrong time anyway)

- Lift system is used for transport of cleaning personal with their respective carts and utilities at the time passengers are heading for dinner, keeping passengers waiting. (Should be kept in background anyway)

- The restroom check system is nicely set up, but does not function too well, more than once we observed sign-off at the door w/o checking the facilities

Show time events had a good variety of events. The dancers and singers might need a new choreograph and some singers need refreshing training on how to hit the right tone. The announcement and the introduction of performing persons are far too exaggerating, thus, they can never meet the raised expectations. It is a question of taste, but joke telling should never disrespect minorities.

Shore excursions, as far as we joined them, are basically ok and well organized. However, all excursions land at sales points. At that cruise price level this needs to be restricted to true value sites, and, then, need more time in those cases (e.g. Kuala Lumpur Jewelry and Silk/Batik). We observed in Vietnam at planned restroom stops at different places where the same dealers were aggressively selling low value offers, and the identical cripples begging for money.

At a ship, which wants to maintain 4+ stars someone might want to teach the waiters the basic rules of serving at the table like:

- serve ladies first - don't over-fill a wine glass - don't start clearing the tables for next sitting while guests are still at the table - don't rush, no loud chats among waiters.

While we observed some best of the best we also saw quite a few worst of the worst. This needs attention of and training by the supervisors.

Directly booking gratuity might be helpful to have a balanced distribution system. However, it seems to be a contribution of the passengers to adjust for low wages. Eventually, this socialized system disconnects pay from performance. I did not observe the leaders of the crew personally checking their staff's performance and using weaknesses as training and coaching opportunities. My tip: have all automated gratuity re-booked, and use the amount where you are really satisfied with the service. My gut feeling: Some of the leaders are complacent and far too long in their position.

In average lowest service standard compared to NCL, Celebrity, Trans Ocean, and Costa, however, average is unfair because we experienced some best of the best who were outbalanced by a good share of the worst of the worst. Good quality does not only mean in average good; the spread between outstanding and low performance needs to be managed.

Day time attire of service personal needs improvement (worn out, dirty and scratched tennis shoes; someone, not color blind, should look at shirt and short/skirt colors)

Summing up all experiences, Princess might want to have a very close look at the Pacific Princess, or the rating as a high class ship will be lost. We do not want to miss the experience of this cruise, however, for the time being, we will not recommend this ship to friends.


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Sail Date: July 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.

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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.

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Sail Date: May 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.

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Sail Date: July 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!

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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


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.


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.


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.

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