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Sail Date: February 2012
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet ... Read More
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet the standards we have experienced on Cunard and Holland America at a cost of only £140 per person per day on a magnificent ship and in a mini suite with one of the largest balconies imaginable. The answer is they can't and they make little pretence of trying to. That is not to say the cruise -- which we thoroughly enjoyed -- wasn't good value. But it's a distinctly downmarket product. One gets a sense of this with the first cup of coffee. The mugs in the Lido (or the Horizon Court as Princess calls it) are melamine, as are the plates. And the coffee is pretty much undrinkable. The food there is however, very good. Bland, of course, but varied and with simple things done well. I would rate their production of breakfast as highly as anything we've experienced at sea with first class eggs, excellent corned beef hash and lean English bacon alongside the crispy American variety. The Lido is really where Princess put most of their catering effort and, in their defence, they are responding to what customers want. Huge portions are the priority and day after day, meal after meal, we watched cruisers fill the enormous oval dinner plates with massive helpings. Not surprisingly, many of the cruisers were as massive as the portions they loaded onto their plates. But in the formal restaurant, things are disappointing. Formal dining may not last much longer on Princess. On the second, 8.15 sitting, we sat in a frequently half full restaurant where the service was very good but where the food was largely mediocre and sometimes simply poor. If only it had matched the quality of the prose on the menu. One night, between Hong Kong and Taiwan, the six of us ordered Rib Eye steaks which were huge in size but with so much gristle that not one of us would have paid for them in a restaurant. The beef was almost always lacking in flavour and the kitchen perpetually struggled to produce steaks or prime rib which met our requirements. One night, medium rare beef would be nearly blue and on another almost well done. Vegetables were sad, the soups inevitably uninspiring and everything was served with far too much salt. We drank so much water at dinner that we always left the table feeling bloated. There are good things about Diamond Princess. The ship is magnificent with six pools and eighteen bars and its size meant that it coped superbly with some unusually difficult weather including, at one point, 30-foot seas and a force ten gale. The staff are always well presented, always wonderfully welcoming, and we found the bar staff outstanding. The Crooners Bar produces Margaritas to die for. But the entertainment was generally very poor with puerile comedians and two Cruise Directors convinced that their job was all about presenting an imbecilic morning show on stateroom TV. Movies Under The Stars provided an exception. The picture quality was good, the sound quality excellent and this was a delightful way to watch the cinema late at night. The cabins are the usual high quality. We had D736 a mini suite but designed for disabled customers and with two beds which would not easily fit together. But by compensation we had a huge bathroom and a magnificent balcony of double the normal size and with views to the rear as well out to sea. We had just one cabin steward who had to cope with twenty rooms on his own and we soon realised that it was impossible for him to respond promptly or sometimes at all to additional requests. The customer base is a little different to our previous experiences on Cunard and Holland America. There was little formality and only a minority of men wore tuxedos on the half dozen formal nights. On the other nights smart casual really meant that anything goes, including shorts and lots of blue denim jeans worn by men who were old enough to know better. Baseball caps in the formal dining room were a common sight. So our verdict on Princess? Good value but this is an economy product. Nothing wrong with that. But if you have enjoyed the standards of lines like Cunard or HAL (even though they might cost more) you'll find Princess seriously lacking. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
This was our first world cruise, and certainly not our last. We are using the words "charmed" and "amazing" to describe our experience. Everything about it was wonderful. Princess treated us like royalty and added so many special ... Read More
This was our first world cruise, and certainly not our last. We are using the words "charmed" and "amazing" to describe our experience. Everything about it was wonderful. Princess treated us like royalty and added so many special touches to our experience. They celebrated every holiday and occasion with decorations, special foods, and much fanfare. After a long shore excursion, we were greeted on the pier by the chef, maitre d', and others with a hearty "welcome home" and a promise that they held dinner for us. The food was perfect; not so rich that you couldn't stand it after a week and never boring. The variety was amazing and always included local specialties. We were so lucky with our weather. Ports were fascinating and we mixed ship tours with cruise critic tours and solo adventures. We even had a world choir for which we practiced on sea days and performed for passengers one evening (2 shows)each segment. Entertainment was varied and very good. We packed perfectly and would share our experience with anyone. We also brought items that made our daily living more pleasurable and comfortable; a calendar for the wall, a world map which we hung and traced our course, and organizers for the bathroom door. We bought a closet extender in San Diego and it will be a permanent item to take on long cruises. This trip could not have been better! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal ... Read More
Day 1 23rd Nov The Radisson was an excellent place to stay prior to a Manchester flight it cost '£89 thro Holiday extras, hotel for one night and APH parking for 28days a bargain. Easy check-in and walk straight into the terminal undercover in two minutes Day 2 24th Nov. We flew with Singapore Airlines, Manchester to Singapore with a short stop for fuel and some more passengers in Munich. Excellent service and food, the seat back entertainment was exceptional over 50 films + comedy shows+games and TV programs on a 10inch screen. Easy on-line check-in 24hrs prior to flight. Day 3 25th Nov .The pick up from the airport was excellent a gent with a board with our name was there, he showed us where to wait whilst he went for his brand new black Mercedes and took us straight to The Traders Hotel, the room was small, as reports had said but was adequate and aircon was good, the pool was excellent, shopping in Orchard rd, shuttle bus to town and routes, we did [a groggy "Orchard Road"] The shops in this city are awesome [not cheap] and everywhere they have Chrissy decorations up, it all looks so good!! Spent some time by the hotel pool in the sun at lunchtime until it clouded over and p-----d down for an hour! Had a meal in Tanglin Mall [attached to the hotel] and bought some food and wine for the evening Day 4 26th Nov. Hippo Bus tour, got over the journey, now up at 7am, today we are doing the hop on hop off bus around all the tourist spots for a quick view of Singapore! This was an excellent way to see the sites in a very short time with a running commentary as to where you were and what to see. We booked this via Viator on the internet and paid '£11pp on the day it would be $S23 It takes 1hr to do each of the two routes, then you can choose where to go and get off at that stop, then rejoin the trip when ready. We had an exceptional meal on Clarke Quay whilst on the route and even though it rained we were under cover and had excellent service and views, had a take away in the room that night and crashed out. Day 5 27th Nov. Lounged in the hotel in the morning chatting to the friendly staff and other people who were going on the cruise, There was one thing to mention, the maid had put a Kitkat on our bill, so we spoke to her and she said we had taken it and that she found the wrapper in the bin! {WE DID NOT HAVE THE KITKAT] so reception removed the charge, as we left the Hotel the next day we noticed a Vodka and Tonic had also disappeared!! Make your own assumptions, then the Taxi to the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre to book in for Transfer to ship [only S$10], this was poorly organised we are Elite so we are supposed not to have to wait but wait we did, in a grotty hall on uncomfortable seats until a bus took us thro a massive container port about 25mins drive away to join the ship, we then booked into the ship had a meal and relaxed. We went for dinner 2nd sitting looking forward to meeting our new companions, they were a gentleman of approx 90yrs by himself and a family of 4 mum, dad and two boys one 9yrs and one 10yrs all from Auss. During the meal the 10yr old was unwell and mum went out with him twice on the 3rd occasion they came back he had the waste bin from the cabin with him! Within 5mins he was being sick in the bucket at the table!!! We resolved to move tables the following day. [And did!] We went to see the show and enjoyed the performance and went to bed! Day 6/1 28th Nov. Day at sea had breakfast on the balcony [room service Free] then decided to spend some time in the sun. It was partial cloud all day so we had a lazy day on deck but unfortunately got a little sunburn. The evening was formal night and Champagne fountain plus our new table [what will we get?] We also had a meet and greet with our friends in the Cruise Critic group at 11am to 12pm for drinks with the Captain, Cruise Director and staff which was good fun followed by another meeting some other good friends we had met on Facebook Rollcall and had had some Video chats with prior to the cruise at 6pm, this went on till Dinner at 8.15 and was an absolute brilliant party!! Then off to dinner at the new table, we couldn't have been more pleased we had a lovely lady from Sydney Sue, and her husband Max[who was Italian and was fluent in many languages] they where a joy to be with. Then another couple from Yorkshire turned up and the table was a delight, pleasant intelligent conversation with a bit of banter all night, then off to the show again till late, then bed. A thoroughly brilliant day!!! Day 7/2 29th Nov Ko Samui. Tendered to the shore for 9.15am which was poorly organised and time consuming then a mini-bus to Chaewang Beach, left to ourselves from 10am to 12am $29 each with Princess. The beach wasn't exceptional, many in the Caribbean and Med are much better, swam and enjoyed an expensive beer and returned on time. Had lunch with some people we had met in the Singapore hotel, it was to hot to sunbathe so we chilled out in the room with a few drinks. Went to dinner enjoyed a pleasant meal with good company then crashed out with a Baileys and brandy. Day 8/3 30th Nov. Bangkok/ Pattaya Took the FREE shuttle bus to Pattaya 45mins, what a brilliant place great shopping right on the beach [not sure about swimming though] spent most of the time spending money and choosing clothes great fun, Sandra bought a silk dress and I bought a pair of trousers. Shuttle back to the ship, crash out and relax with a drink!! Very happy with Pattaya went for dinner with our four companions Sue and Max, Sue and Allen, we have a great time with in depth conversations about just about anything, and we are always the last people out of the dining room. It's a relief to have such good company. Received our first laundry back today all properly cleaned and pressed and free!!! Day 9/4 1st Dec. Day at sea. Woke up this morning the sea is like a millpond not a cloud in the sky, we tried to buy some sunscreen yesterday on the ship but they only had factor 4!! Breakfast on the balcony Spent the day in the sun watched a Movie "Cowboys and Aliens" funny! A few drinks plenty of relaxing. Time for evening meal enjoyable as ever, then off to bed!! Day 10/5 2nd Dec. Vietnam. Decided the 2.5hr drive to Saigon would be to boring [which was confirmed later by people that went] so we took the free shuttle bus to a small town market 45mins away, what a treat, started at a decent supermarket then thought there must be more to see so we walked 2 blocks and found this huge 3 story local market with a food market next door, spent ages routing around clothes shoes belts everything you could think of, all genuine designer goods [not!] I bought an Armarniish belt! Ha Ha. Then off to the food market, OMG fish drying out in the dirt on the pavement, what a stink and flies everywhere, next the Veg. Market what a difference beautiful food everywhere the vendors were the classic ladies sitting amongst the produce sorting, cleaning, peeling and posing for photos, so friendly, indeed everybody was friendly, giggling as we tried to talk to them [apart from the occasional guy pushing sunglasses at you on the street]. A great morning out [except some poor cruisers didn't walk the block and missed all the local stuff, we told a few when we got back to the bus and they them went off to see the local market!] Bought a bottle of wine and twelve cans of coke and tonic with the rest of the Dongs and went back to the ship. Enjoyed the sun and the peace as most had gone to Saigon and we almost had the ship to ourselves! Excellent dinner, had a little argument with Sue who was a NHS worker supporting the strike! So I couldn't let that go and we had a ding dong [which I enjoyed but I don't think she did!] Day 11/6 3rd Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [ Chillin all day!!!] Dinner, atmosphere was ok all forgiven! Day 12/7 4th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 13/8 5th Dec. Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 14/9 6th Dec. Bali Elephant Safari This was great fun, up early tender to the shore was 40mins and it poured down with rain, the people who got on first where on the open top of the tender and got totally soaked!!! Then a 1.5hr drive to Elephant park in the mountains of Bali. First we fed them then had a half hour+ ride on them thro the jungle, it poured down for 10mins, but they gave us capes for that and there where huge spiders all around us in the trees, then an Indonesian meal [not me normally!] but it was very enjoyable! Then an hours drive to a local market [just sold crap!] and back to the ship. A good day out and very enjoyable. Great meal that night and good company, we were late as usual. Day 15/10 Wednesday 7th Dec Day at sea Lovely hot day, too hot went to the room for a drink at 2pm and stayed till 3.30pm sunny on the balcony. Tonight is Captains Circle night so Formal and free drinks should be good!! Plenty of free drinks; the most cruised person was an Aussie who had done 1500 days at sea [over 4yrs at sea] now thats a lot!!! A good meal we don't bother with shows, so a walk around the decks and off to bed! Day 16/11 Thursday 8th Dec Day at sea Getting hotter as we reach the equator, Had to do Aussie customs today before Darwin tomorrow, all done by midday, sunbathe, but so hot, always above 30C we had to retreat to the spar for a break. Day 17/12 Friday 9th Dec Darwin 37C walked off the ship, passed the protected beach [protected from Box jellyfish] to a lift which took us 5 storeys up to the road into town. Walked into town and explored the shops, very pleasant, with lots of shops. Went to buy some wine in Woolworths, they wouldn't let us as we didn't have photo I.D. a friendly Aussie bought 3 bottles for us and we paid him [ace] Day 18/13 Saturday 10th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 19/14 Sunday 11th Dec Day at sea Late breakfast in bed [chillin all day!!!!] Day 20/15 Monday 12th Dec Port Douglas, The Great Barrier Reef We where taken to the port by local tender to join the high speed catamaran for the journey to the Outer Barrier Reef [approx 90 mins] where the boat tied up to a pontoon above the reef, we were then given any equipment we needed [$5 for a latex stinger suit ref the Box jellyfish] and were then free to snorkel in the large protected area. The visibility was about 10 metres, there were plenty of fish large and small, We then had a semi-submersible ride around the reef for about 35mins, next we had a pleasant lunch on the pontoon or in the cat. We the returned to Port Douglas and due to time we where transferred straight back to the ship and missed Port Douglas itself [shame]. A long enjoyable day on a trip that has to be done. Day 21/16 Tuesday 13th Dec Airlie Beach, Daydream Island Resort, The Whitsunday Islands we arrived at 10am and had a right mix up with the tenders from the ship, it seems that they didn't have enough Auss customs officers to do both sides of the ship so we were delayed, we finally went to this beautiful island by cat arrived 12pm and watched the hotel staff feeding the fish on their living reef, it was very hot! We had a look around the 7 pools, it was now lunch time at the Fishbowl Restaurant after 30mins it started to rain slightly, we were sitting with a Scottish couple having a good natter and the wind suddenly changed direction. A mini Cyclone went straight thro the whole resort, smashing tables, glasses, chairs, and taking down a number of large trees, one landed on some sun beds crushed them and fell into the pool!!! It was one of those times when you say Wow! that could have been deadly. Luckily nobody was hurt and the sun came out and we enjoyed the rest off the day, 5pm to 7pm with low cost cocktails $3.99 in Skywalkers, "Rob Roy" was the best [Chivas Regal base] Day 22/17 Wednesday 14th Dec Day at sea This was a lovely day slightly cooler than all the others [we are heading south out of the tropics] still very sunny and warm, sunbathing and a few drinks, we then had a goodbye party with the Facebook crowd at 4pm, till 5pm and cocktails in Skywalkers [Cocktail was "Chairman of the Board", Bombay Sapphire base] next changed for the formal night and free drinks at the captains farewell party, superb beef wellington and great company till late. Day 23/18 Thursday 15th Dec Day at sea Last day of the cruise, weather changed as expected, a lot cooler 20C and cloudy, packing has to be sorted as they take the cases tonight after dinner [or before if you want] sort out all the admin. Day 24/19 Friday 16th Dec Sydney, The Sail into Sydney Harbour to Circular Quay was amazing with fantastic views of the city, the opera house and the bridge! Disembark and get a taxi to the hotel [ only $A15 The 4 Points Sheraton Hotel, This is a lovely hotel, check in was perfect, no effort, bags taken to room. The room was a harbour view with a large picture window overlooking Darling Harbour excellent! That morning we chose to buy a joint ticket to The Aquarium, The Wild Life Adventure and The Sydney Tower. The Aquarium was brilliant with lots of exotic sea creatures that you don't see in the northern hemisphere, The Wildlife Centre was just what we wanted, we stroked Kangaroos, saw a Duck-billed Platypus, a giant crocodile, a Wombat and best of all we cuddled a Koala. Next a short walk, to the Tower fabulous 360 views of Sydney. Finally an evening having a meal and a walk around Darling Harbour, this was amazing, Christmas Tree, Carol singers and buzzing with loads of people having a great time in all the bars, a great day all round. Day25 Saturday 17th Dec Sydney Today we had breakfast in a Restaurant on Darling Harbour, the weather was a little cloudy but warm. At lunch time we decided to take the ferry from the harbour to Manley Beach. This was so easy $13 return every 20 mins, about 30mins to get there, the weather was now brilliant and hot, we were surprised how beautiful the area was, lots of shops, a beautiful prom and a fantastic beach, loads of surfers, people having barbecues on the beach, a market, lots and lots of things going on everywhere! That night we went back to harbourside and had a meal, It was Saturday night and was all set up for a fireworks display so we went back to the hotel to watch from our grandstand view room. It was a brilliant display especially with some chocolate and a bottle of wine. Prior to this we had to call our pick-up for the airport the following day to confirm, when we did we couldn't get thro' so I asked the Concierge to help, he tried and said they were closed, however, he went onto the internet and looked up their web-site, got an out of hours number and confirmed our pick up with them [all without me asking him to do it] absolutely excellent service!!. We then needed to check in to Singapore Airlines and print our boarding cards, I went customer services at the hotel and asked about the printer and the girl on the desk offered to do the whole job for me!! I gave her the flight details and she sorted everything out and printed the boarding passes!!! Another example of fantastic service by the hotel staff. Day 26 Sunday 18th Dec Fly home, We had the morning at leisure as our flight wasn't until 4.15pm, so we strolled around the harbour, had breakfast and did some last minute shopping. We were picked up on time by a company called Sunbuses and taken to the airport. Dropped the bags off waited for the flight to Singapore on the Airbus 380 8hrs, then a 2hr wait in Singapore for a flight to Munich 12hrs, then stay in the plane for an hour whilst some passengers left and others joined and the wings were de-iced then a 2hr flight to Manchester. Day27 Monday 19th Dec collect car Arrive at Manchester call APH, they sent a bus to transfer us to the car park. The car was parked ready to collect then off to home 40mins Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2011
Ok, it wasn't quite perfect. Close but no cigar. From my viewpoint, the food was great. I had one bad meal (Duck-very tough) and that was it. All the desserts were great, the meals were very good to excellent. There was usually a bit ... Read More
Ok, it wasn't quite perfect. Close but no cigar. From my viewpoint, the food was great. I had one bad meal (Duck-very tough) and that was it. All the desserts were great, the meals were very good to excellent. There was usually a bit of a wait for 5:30 seating in the Non traditional dining room, but it went fast. A smile and a thank you went a long way with the Maitre D. He was a bit harassed. The ship was great too. Lots of places to go and relax or not. That's what I love about cruising, the choices are yours to make. Not sure I got my money's worth with the soda package, but it was fine. I didn't get the coffee package because I drink one cup of coffee in the morning and I'm not a gourmet about it. I most often got coffee from room service and had it on my balcony. The bed wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great. A bit hard for me, but not that bad. The Trident Grill was nothing to write home about nor was the Pizza parlor. The ports were fine, although I have no comparison, since this is my first trip to Hawaii. I loved the way they organized the departures for the excursions. It was really well done and absolutely no waiting on a dock to find out where you were going. You waited in the Princess Theater until your group was called, went to the disembarkation deck and got right on the bus or van. It was truly great. They do need more seating in the Princess Theater. I only got to see one show because there was no seating. The 10:30 was too late for me because I get up at 6 am, without an alarm clock. I'm not sure what I missed, but everyone said the shows were great. My only issue was my flight home. When I left, I was flying out on US Air 6344, but when I got to the airport, they said there was no such flight. Finally, I got on a 10:10 flight that took me to Philadelphia. Not my first choice, but at that point I didn't have any choice. I'd have liked to know about the change before I left the ship. I spent money trying to check-in on line. It was frustrating. Can I blame Princess for that snafu? I don't think so, but they should have let me know about the change. US Air's people were great. They helped me all the way along. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2011
This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control ... Read More
This was our third cruise on the Emerald, first being Venice/Greek Isles, second voyage. Nothing is like it was on the first cruise anymore. Princess continues to be the only line that does not take contagious/infectious control seriously, thus the blast of Norovirus on the ship. Granted, the staff worked diligently attempting to serve at the Horizon, but there is, on any day, such lack of control, food arrangement, and direction in Horizon, it is utter chaos. Anger and frustration on the part of passengers did not help.

This is the only line we cruise that does not have someone at every door insisting on hand cleaner prior to entering any common areas.

FOOD: The food was so poor, we stuck to mostly fruit, salad bar vegetables; grain bread and butter, wherever it was hidden. It appeared more people opted for Anytime dining, and lines were staggeringly long waiting to get inside. Service was very slow, and no one ever came back to ask if your meal was OK. Thus, we ate at the Horizon, among dirty plates and no service for even water.

Getting past the poor selections, tough meats, uncooked fish, and service, the biggest problem - and one most anyone over 55 hopes not to experience - was the inedible varieties of foods overwhelmed with salt. Everything had far too much salt in it to taste like anything but salt.

CROWDS: The ship sleeps more than 3000 people; but there just is not enough room in the common areas, the lounges, nor in the theatre when everyone is out and about. To see a show, you needed to be in a seat an hour prior.

Since the ship is so large, you can only get into cargo ports - away from the towns. Shuttles were provided, at a cost each way. Again, we often have shuttles on other lines, but they are provided as a "service" for free.

BEDS: We knew the beds were not great from the first cruise, and made phone arrangements prior to cruising. Sadly, one bed tilted toward the floor; the other sank so deeply in the middle we asked for pillows (6) to fill the gap and sleep on. Minimal response from the ship. Our cabin steward was phenominal in assisting and continually apologizing for the situation.

SMOKE: Hallways were reaking from smoke coming out of cabins. Why they don't designate one side of the ship for smoking makes one wonder. It is not possible to eliminate the odor of smoke by washing down a cabin "when needed".

We were part of 290 CC's, with four M&G with invitations sent to the Captain, etc. We never saw the captain or co-captain; they (unlike other lines for CC) never served appetizers or drinks. Very disappointing as it was obvious we were part of the "masses" and not important as cruisers.

PORTS: The TransAtlantic and ports were the best. The Baltic ports were crunched into short port times, and inability to see as much as desired. St. Petersburg was a delight. Can't say enough about our private tours booked through members of CC, and all the organizing that went into the M&G. The one tour we did with Shore Excursions was simply OK; as usual, huge busloads and wasted time getting on and off for a "photo op".

This 27 day was chosen for the itinerary, not the ship. Those of us who enjoy much longer cruises, and know it is possible to have much more for your money than what we experienced will look elsewhere. For us, three times and we're out.

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Sail Date: February 2011
Embarkation:

We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel ... Read More

Embarkation:

We purchased Princess transfers and were told we'd be taken to the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney and shuttles would run from 11am to 4pm to the pier. That was not the case. We were taken to a dowdy downtown hotel and dumped into a room with not enough seating. We stood for 6 hours with no explanation as to why there were no shuttles nor when there would be any. We were told "soon." Had Princess been honest we would have taken a cab. Finally at 2:30 we were taken to the pier only to have to stand in a horrendous line for 1 1/2 hours. Not a good experience after an 18 hour flight from California. This ranks as one of the worst embarkation experiences in our 22 cruises.

The Diamond Princess is one of the most beautiful ships we've ever seen. Standing on a deck in Sydney Harbor was awesome. We were thrilled to be in Sydney and on the Diamond.

There was a CC Meet and Greet at Skywalkers and then no other CC activities for the duration of the trip. Since there were 127 CC members we were very disappointed that we weren't acknowledged or that anything else was organized for us.

Our port side balcony cabin was nice although there wasn't as much storage as on other cruise lines. As on other ships the cabin steward - Chai - was very helpful and anxious to please.

Unfortunately Princess has a smoking in stateroom policy and, as luck would have it, passengers across from us smoked non-stop and, it seemed, round the clock. Guest Relations would not do anything to help us. I repeatedly asked to be moved, was even willing to give up a balcony for an ocean view, but they refused saying the ship was sold out although I knew for a fact it was not. I suffered from a major sinus infection as a result and my illness went to deaf ears, even to Santa Clarita who obviously does not care about client retention.

For a ship the size of the Diamond the fitness center is inadequate. I love riding the Exercycle in front of a floor to ceiling window overlooking the ocean. That is not the case on the Diamond. There were 3 bikes all facing a wall with weights in front. There was always at least a 30 minute wait for the cycle. The room was always uncomfortably hot. On other cruise ships there were jars of water with lemon or cucumber. No water was offered in the fitness center. The scale was in kilos so I couldn't keep track of weight gain.

This cruise went from Sydney to Beijing and for some reason we always docked far from town and at container ports. Most of us were disappointed that we were always so far from town and had to rely on shuttles to get to town.

Unfortunately the entertainment was mediocre at best. Since the theatre did not accommodate all the passengers each show was repeated. After the first couple of shows we didn't bother going to any more. As for the comedians who appeared in other venues on the ship, the jokes were very old and hadn't been particularly funny in their prime. During the first part of the cruise we had both an Elvis and a Rod Stewart. They appeared a few times during the first few days and then got off the ship. They were quite good and it was fun to watch them. There were 2 or 3 good movies. They should have had more since this was a 23 day cruise. Movies Under the Stars had a few movies and concerts but they should have offered much more.

Dan Styne, the Cruise Director did a good job and there was a variety of activities. Zumba was offered on most sea days and was very popular. We even had horse racing on three days and had a wonderful time. At $3 a race that was a fun and reasonable activity.

We are seasoned travelers and know how challenging it is to feed thousands of people. However, the food in the International Dining Room was not as good as it could have been. The meat, be it beef, pork or lamb, was always dry and overcooked, as was the fish. Luckily I could order gravy and tartar sauce to drown the food. The desserts were very bland. We had pavlovas one night and I used my knife to stab the meringue shell into pieces. It was that hard.

The Horizon Court is very nicely laid out. It has the feel of a restaurant instead of a cafeteria as in most ships. Unfortunately the fare was repetitive and boring after the first few days.

We enjoyed having fish and chips at the English Pub lunch which was offered quite often. There were a few different brews for sale, although at a high price.

The tea at 3:30 every afternoon was very well presented with a nice variety of sandwiches and little cakes.

Wine tasting was very reasonable - $9.50 - and the wines were all quite good.

Our cruise was shortly after Yasi. Port Douglas was still experiencing bad weather. Nevertheless we still snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. Although visibility was poor it still was a wonderful experience. The lunch provided by Quicksilver was wonderful. Because of our late return the ship sailed two hours late.

We took the Elephant Park Safari in Bali. That was one of the high points of our cruise even though it took a couple of hours to get there in very heavy traffic. We were also late getting back and again the ship sailed 2 hours late. We were so glad that we took Princess excursions as the worst thing that could happen is waving to a ship sailing away.

When we docked in Keelung, Taiwan, "bankers" boarded the ship to exchange currency. Sale was from 10:00-12:00, purchase of unused New Taiwan Dollars 3:00-5:00. That was a major disaster. As soon as we got off the ship it started pouring. We could see that the streets across from the pier were dirty, dingy and ugly. We immediately returned to the ship and asked to change the currency back. We were told that we had to wait until 3:00. Luckily I showed up at 2:30 as I knew the lines would be huge. A few people lined up at 3:30 and after waiting 1 1/2 hours, the bankers left at 5:00, leaving those passengers holding useless currency, not accepted anywhere else. There was such a huge uproar that a few days later the ship offered currency exchange services - at a fee, of course. So, my suggestion to everyone, do not exchange any more currency than you can put in coin collections if exchange is not available.

Although I made sure that Express Checkout meant Express Checkout - that turned out not to be the case. A credit balance must be taken care of before disembarkation. This I found out as we were trying to exit the ship when bells clanged. Since it took an hour of waiting in line at Guest Relations to clear up the credit balance I asked for help in finding the Princess transfer. My request was refused. When we arrived in the terminal there were no Princess representatives nor any English speaking people and we couldn't find our Princess transfer to Beijing - 2 1/2 hours away! This was an unbelievably stressful situation which was resolved by a Chinese lady offering assistance. The bus was parked a distance away and we got there within 2 minutes of its leaving. I shudder to think what would have happened if the bus had left and we'd have to take a taxi with no Chinese money and no knowledge of the language. There again voicing concerns to Customer Relations in Santa Clarita fell to deaf ears. They really could care less.

The Diamond crew did not enforce hand sanitizers and when we returned to the ship in many ports there were no sanitizers visible. Many people entered food areas and did not sanitize their hands nor were they encouraged to. I heard that two cabins had been quarantined so I told everyone I met to be sure to wash their hands often and to protect themselves and others. Pity the crew didn't think that was important advice.

So, all in all, the Diamond Princess is a beautiful ship but this is not a ship I would recommend. Nor would I gave any points to Princess for Guest Relations or Customer Service or customer retention.

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Sail Date: September 2010

We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and ... Read More

We booked this cruise for 23 days, but Princess considered it two back to back cruises. That had its advantages and disadvantages. The first cruise, on the 18th of Sept, that went to Vigo Spain, Lisbon Portugal, La Rochelle France, and St. Peters Port embarked with no problems. We had sailed on the Grand before, but still wanted to familiarize ourselves with the ship again before heading for the Horizon Court for lunch. It was like coming home. Later that day and all the next day I noticed that there was a long line at the purser's desk. I asked what that was about and was told that they were all cancelling their automatic gratuities. Talking with our room steward, he said that is a common occurrence when the ship leaves Southampton (the Grand's homeport). I just wonder how many people under-tip or don't tip at all. Anyway, the stops were great except for St. Peter's Port which was cancelled due to high winds. We encountered some strike problems (nothing violent) in La Rochelle, but the tours finally went on. One returning bus was delayed by the strikers and didn't get back until 2 hours after our scheduled departure. I expect the Captain wasn't very happy! On the 25th we departed for the crossing to Ft. Lauderdale...the second back to back cruise for us. Most of the Brits had disembarked and were replaced by primarily Americans and Canadians. We stayed on board to avoid the embarking crowds. I guess the embarking was a nightmare with down computers and too many people arriving at the terminal at the same time. The ports were the main reason we booked this cruise. We went to Bergen, Norway, Shetland Islands, Faroe Islands, two stops in Iceland (we swam in the thermal pools there!), and on to Sydney, Nova Scotia. It rains 300 days a year in Bergen, but not that day. The only rain we got was in Nova Scotia.

INTERNET: Those of us who get free internet were told that we were supposed to get 500 minutes of internet, but in actuality, we only got 400 minutes and even that was a struggle as the system deleted any usable minutes when we started the second cruise and then deleted the entire account. We worked, without much success, with the manager of the Internet Cafe and the Captain's Circle manager, Lola. It was very frustrating, to say the least.

DINING: We had traditional dining in the Botticelli dining room with some great table-mates. The service was impeccable, but I found that the food selections had gone downhill from the Princess cruise we took last summer and the eight others that we had taken in the past. As the Grand is usually home-ported in Southampton, maybe the menus changed to accommodate that clientele. Not sure. The food in the Horizon Court was good, but it is always a hassle to find a table.

LOUNGES: Our favorite lounge was the Wheelhouse Bar. The place is quiet, intimate, and with great service. They also make great martinis! I just wish that they could have found more peanuts to put on the table. The Skywalker Lounge was a great place to read and just watch the water go by. It was quiet during the day and I understand it was even quiet at night on this trip. Every evening they served tapas and discounted drinks of the day to Platinum and Elite members. Loved that.

STATEROOM: Our stateroom, this trip, was an inside one on the Baja Deck. It was perfectly adequate, but we had to ask for a blanket as just the sheet was too cold and the comforter was too warm. Edgar, our room steward, provided great service.

ENTERTAINMENT: We passed on some of the entertainment. A couple of times the cruise director, Billy London, had to cancel performances due to the rocking of the ship and schedule something else. Most of the entertainment was adequate to good in my estimation.

The ship is old and falling apart. The maintenance crews were busy, but nothing was down enough to inconvenience anybody. You can see lots of wear and tear which is why the ship is scheduled for a 6 week, $60 million dry dock this spring. The Captain stated that we will not recognize the ship when she comes back out. We are looking forward to the first trip out of dry dock. I believe it is scheduled to head back to Southampton on 5 May.

NOTE: I noticed that there were more short-tempered passengers on this cruise than on others that we had taken. Spouses were at each other and even strangers were getting testy with other strangers. Most of the passengers were veteran cruisers so there was no explanation (or excuse) for it all. The "Walk-off's" had congregated in the Michelangelo Dining Room for debarkation. When they finally allowed the first group to depart one older man pushed his way to the door and someone pushed him. He came up swinging and apparently connected with the person who pushed him. The fight only lasted seconds, but seems to be typical of the temperament of the people all during the crossing. Maybe these people need to fly next time.

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Sail Date: May 2010
Crown Princess Is Better Than Queen Mary! We departed Ft. Lauderdale on May 1, 2010 on Crown Princess for a 53-day cruise to ten countries arriving Southampton, UK on June 23rd. We boarded the Queen Mary 2 on June 25th for a 6-day crossing ... Read More
Crown Princess Is Better Than Queen Mary! We departed Ft. Lauderdale on May 1, 2010 on Crown Princess for a 53-day cruise to ten countries arriving Southampton, UK on June 23rd. We boarded the Queen Mary 2 on June 25th for a 6-day crossing to New York.

Crown Princess is an excellent ship with great food, service, and entertainment. Our expectations were high that the Queen Mary 2 would be even better. We discovered Crown Princess is better than QM2!!

Food: QM2 food was poor to fair. The maitre D confirmed one entree was an "inedible rubber fish". Also, Venison had no flavor nor texture. Side dishes were strange, e. g. guacamole filled twice-baked potato with re-fried beans. Food was rarely served at the right temperature - entrees were often cool; ice cream arrived half-melted.

The QM2 menu was very small making it difficult to find something I wanted. Buffets served "cafeteria quality food" with extremely limited choices. I tried a cookie and almost broke my teeth.

Food was consistently great/excellent on the Crown Princess. The menu was very large. Food was served at the right temperature and it had great flavor and texture. Compared to QM2's puny buffets, Crown Princess has huge buffets with lots of choices of freshly-prepared, delicious food!

Princess also has well-stocked areas such as the International Cafe with lite fare meals, great snacks, deserts, and an excellent choice of flavored coffees. If you like frozen coffee, Princess serves about six flavors vs. one flavor on QM2. Likewise, there are four types of cookies, freshly baked throughout the day, on Princess vs. one type of cookie (baked weekly?) on Queen Mary. The QM2 buffet has "fake ice cream" from a machine. Princess has "real ice cream" and for $ 1.50 you can buy three scoops of delicious gelato.

A passenger explained, "Of course food is better on Princess, but that's an unfair comparison. Princess has Italian chefs. They're passionate about food and world-renowned as the best. The priority on Princess is food taste/quality. Chefs offer freshly cooked food when passengers want it.

Guess where the chefs are from on Queen Mary? They're Indians. Who ever heard of a world famous Indian chef? On QM2, the priority is cooking schedule. All food is prepared at once and much of it is frozen and reheated with a sauce poured on top. That's why entrees don't have natural juices, just toppings."

At the cooking demonstration, the head Indian chef fried a steak and asked his assistant to taste it. The assistant answered, "I don't eat meat." OMG! The chefs don't taste food as a quality control measure. That's why my venison was tasteless with no texture.

Food Service: Princess food service combines great service and having fun. Waiters are friendly and outgoing. They proudly announce which county they're from, engage passengers, and we become friends sharing stories and laughing together. Waiters are extremely attentive and personally committed to anticipate and immediately respond to passenger needs at the table.

Queen Mary waiters are formal and reserved, limiting their conversation to "good afternoon". Waiters are not involved nor aware of passenger needs at the table. We had to ask, multiple times, for more water, coffee, bread, etc. Food would arrive and waiters didn't know who had ordered it - lots of mistakes and confusion.

Queen Mary only had a few waiters (I think three) at the pub lunch. They couldn't keep up with orders nor bus tables. Princess has the number of waiters needed for quick, efficient service and busing of tables for pub lunch at the Wheelhouse Bar.

Public Area Appearance, Cleanliness, Design, & Layout: Princess is beautiful. Queen Mary is both beautiful and elegant. Both ships have attractive, clean public areas. QM2 even has an automatic wash system to clean dining room windows at sea. Really slick!

Design and layout of public areas on Crown Princess are excellent - thoughtful, practical, and good for mobility-challenged passengers. Facilities are organized logically and centralized at the Piazza with entertainment, the computer center, future cruise booking, lite fare food, a bar, a great coffee shop, wine tasting, deserts, etc. Public spaces are open with lots of seating so it never seems crowded even with 3200 passengers.

Designers of the Queen Mary failed interior design school. Public area design ranges from impractical to just plain stupid. There is no central hub with access to everything. Facilities are scattered all over the ship. You would think this helter-skelter layout would reduce crowding, but the Queen Mary public areas feel crowded with no place to sit even though it has 700 fewer passengers than the Crown Princess.

Bad layout on QM2 is further complicated by different ceiling heights. To achieve a "luxurious feel", designers used 20-foot high ceilings (two-decks) in some areas which connect to two 10-foot ceilings/decks. When you exit the main elevator, you see two sets of stairs. One goes up/down 20-feet, the other goes ten feet.

Queen Mary has manually controlled, tiny wheelchair elevators to go a single-story. They're the width of a wheelchair and deep enough for the chair and a person to push it. I pushed a wheelchair into the elevator. We went up one-story and discovered the manual door was at the other end. I couldn't reach over the person in the chair and couldn't walk beside her to reach the door. A passenger saw our predicament and opened the door.

Another problem ramp-type floor to adjust from a 2-story deck to the adjacent single-story decks. I found it difficult to push a wheelchair up the carpeted ramp.

Queen Mary poses a problem for all passengers trying to find their way around the ship and a special problem for mobility-challenged. Design of the Crown Princess is better because it is simple and intuitive to find your way around the ship and it's handicap-friendly.

Queen Mary has two theaters; both pose problems. The Royal theater has twelve pillars about a foot and a half in diameter that block the view to the stage. Passengers see empty seats from the aisle, walk past seated passengers to the empty seats to discover they can't see anything. Then, they get up, walk past seated passengers again to the aisle. One man started to shout to passengers entering the Royal theater, "You can't see anything from these seats, that's why they're empty". By comparison, Princess has an excellent theater design with no pillars and good viewing from all seats. Acoustics are also better in the Crown Princess theater.

The second theater on Queen Mary is Illusions. It's also the planetarium. A dome in the ceiling is lowered about 10 feet over 150 red color seats. The seats recline by pushing a button, but many are broken so you have to standup, push it back and jump on it quickly to keep it in the reclined position. All lights are turned off so you can watch a 23-minute video projected on the dome.

There are only two, 23-minute computer generated videos using NASA images. The video is slightly blurry. If you like this kind of video, tune your TV to the History channel. They have much better and clearer videos with more information and cover more subjects.

QM2 "hypes" this as the "only planetarium at sea". Other cruise companies are smarter about how they spend money. "Movies under the stars" on Crown Princess is a much better offering that QM2's planetarium.

Embarkation on Queen Mary 2 in Southampton UK vs. Crown Princess in Ft. Lauderdale: Embarkation on Crown Princess ship was efficient and fast. We arrived at 2:00 PM at QM2 to avoid the early boarding crowds while comfortably in time for the 4:30 PM deadline.

The terminal was very crowded and lines were NOT moving. I asked a Cunard employee how long she thought it would take for me to get onto the ship. She said, "Princess Anne was here today and that delayed everything." I said "Ma'am, Princess Anne is not in this terminal, I'm just trying to get past the six couples in front of me to the check-in lady."

She said the problem is that passengers don't have all their documents ready for check-in. I said, "Ma'am, I've timed the process. It takes 15-20 seconds for a passenger to hand documents to the check-in lady and she takes 9 minutes and 45 seconds to complete the check-in. I think there's something wrong with your systems or procedures. It's not like Cunard didn't know my wife and I were coming to board this ship today."

After check-in, I was told I had to wait until number 15 was called and that I should sit down in the terminal which was dirty, hot, crowded and had no air conditioning. The reason was "the gangway is full". I said, "Ma,am I can see the gangway all the way to the top at the ship entrance and there are only a couple of people on it. Why can't I just walk up the gangway to the air conditioned ship?"

She said the gangway is not designed to handle a lot of people. I said, "Ma,am there are only a dozen or so people on that gangway. Princess ships load 3200 passengers and I've seen continuous lines of people on the gangway." She said, "You're in the UK now and this is the way we do it."

I sat down and waited till number 15 was called. There was NO line on the gangway nor at the entrance to the ship. Later, passengers told me the delay in boarding was to give photographers more time to photograph passengers. That's amazing; Princess photographers quickly take photos so as not to inconvenience passengers.

Summary - Why Crown Princess Is a Better Cruise Experience than Queen Mary 2: For Princess, it's all about the passengers. Their ships are beautiful and well-designed with all the creature comforts, services, entertainment, etc. I may want. The entertainment, food, and services are truly exceptional. Our cruise experience on Crown Princess was excellent because their culture of employee commitment involves everyone in a relentless effort to improve customer satisfaction.

For Cunard, it's all about their "regal", $ 800 million ship. They don't realize the interior ship design/layout is impractical because they're pre-occupied with hull design, powerful engines, and ability of QM2 to crash through huge waves at very high speed so all passengers can throw up in a storm. Fortunately, we didn't encounter a storm. Cunard believes passengers are privileged to travel on the Queen Mary and the ship is exempt from critique. They assume I don't know what great food and service are.

Rather than involve employees in a continuous improvement program, Cunard allows employees to distance themselves from customer satisfaction creating an employee culture of excuses explaining away and diminishing passenger problems rather than improving service to fix them.

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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2010
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was ... Read More
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was a very good Asian sampler, especially with the addition of a Tokyo stopover on the way home.

We arrived in Bangkok two days early and would really recommend another day as so many flights arrive near midnight after 20+ hours of flying. Nevertheless, we arranged a private tour through Oriental Express (highly recommended) to begin at 10 am. They picked us up at our hotel (there were 4 of us) and took us to see the Grand Palace, Jade Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, canals cruise (skip this, especially on a hot day!) and the Temple of Dawn, which is visited by boat and includes views of the other temples from the river. It's all very fascinating and beautiful. We also arranged for a "romantic" dinner cruise on the Loy Nava but I would not recommend it. It's an historic rice barge and very pretty but also not air-conditioned and the food was pretty mediocre. While in Bangkok for 2 nights we stayed at the Park Plaza, which was very nice, had free internet, a great breakfast buffet, and all at a very reasonable price. However, it was too far outside the city center. I would recommend staying some place near the river. Also, be advised that taxi drivers throughout Asia do NOT speak English! So have your hotel name printed up in the appropriate language (by the hotel) before arriving. Princess did not sell a port transfer if you were not part of their tour or were not arriving at the airport the day of the cruise, so we arranged transport through our hotel. It took about 1 1/2 hours but was on a Saturday -so allow plenty of time. As usual, we breezed through Princess check-in at approximately 1 pm.

We were already pretty familiar with the Diamond after having sailed on the Ruby last year. The only major changes we noted were far fewer machines in the workout area. And, of course, price increases! Photography is so expensive ($25 for basically an enlarged snapshot) that we don't even get our picture taken if we can help it. I can't comment on the entertainment as those types of shows don't really interest me. I did hear that the acrobats were very good but we were not back at the ship in time to see them as it was a late afternoon show. The things we really enjoy onboard are the lectures before each port, high tea, reading on our balcony, and dining with our friends each evening.

SINGAPORE is a great port to start with as it is very pretty, easy to navigate, and so clean with lots of green space. Since we were docked at a container port, we took the free shuttle into the city and then took a cab out to the National Orchid Garden. Taxis are VERY cheap. The Garden was interesting but not what I had envisioned. Of course it was very hot and humid so that may have made a difference. From there we headed to the Raffles Hotel for a famous Singapore Sling. The hotel was amazing and the drink was yucky and VERY expensive (I think $28 US). We split one and that was more than enough. But it's the idea - and the Long Bar was beautiful. The guys in our group had requested a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which may be the world's tallest ferris wheel. While not that excited at first, everyone loved the fantastic views from 40 stories up and I highly recommend it. This is one amazing city architecturally.

HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon) was just unbelievable! A crazy mishmash of motor scooters piled high with all kinds of unimaginable things, crazy "spaghetti" wiring everywhere, beautiful buildings next to hovels, women cooking on every sidewalk, and just so many people. It's something that you have to see once. Unfortunately the bus from the port is a 2+ hour ride so bring a book or a friend because you can only look at the scenery (amazing as it is) for so long. As someone who was around during the Vietnam War, it was incredible to see the Rex Hotel and the Reunification Palace - places that we heard about so much. We had an excellent lunch in the dining room of the Rex. Be sure to ask for the Vietnamese menu so you don't have to eat the Vietnamese version of a hamburger! I guarantee that you will be exhausted by the time you return to the ship, so build in time for a nap before dinner.

NHA TRANG was really a relief after Ho Chi Minh City. It's a very pretty seaside resort area and most people enjoyed just walking around. My husband and a friend had a great day taking the cable car over to the Vinpearl Water Park. The lecturer did not discuss this as an option but they said it was easy to accomplish. You can clearly see it from the starboard side of the ship.

HONG KONG was the reason my husband agreed to this trip and he loved every bit of it - as did we all. The only unfortunate part was the air quality which was partially pollution and partially the result of a terrible dust storm in China. It's still an amazingly beautiful place: 2 islands surrounded by water and with an endless shoreline of gorgeous buildings - all backed by mountains! We took an all day Princess tour which included a harbor cruise, visit to the famous Stanley Market where you can get incredible deals on silk, a trip on the funicular to the top of Victoria Peak for fantastic views - well they would have been if the air had been better. Still very pretty. Lunch was a 10 course affair on the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a tourist trap for sure but the food was fine and it was quite a sight to see. We tended to drink beer at lunch as it gets tiring always drinking bottled water. Beer was very good in all the ports, especially 333 in Vietnam. That evening we ate an early dinner so that we would be ready for the famous harbor light show. The ship leaves the container port and sails right through Victoria Harbor during the light show. A lot of people head to the top of the ship but you could see everything very well if you had a starboard room. The lighting on the buildings is really incredible and it's a sight not to be missed. After the light show, the ship anchored in the harbor and from then on you had to take a 45 minute tender into Hong Kong Island. I think the speed limit in the harbor accounts for the time. The first tender left at about 9:30 pm and we were on it - along with all the young staff going out to party! My husband wanted to see the lights on Nathan Street on Kowloon Island so we set off to find a taxi that would take us through the tunnel to Kowloon. It was not easy (language was always a problem with taxis) but we got there and enjoyed seeing the crazy night life. The lights were fine but nothing spectacular despite what the lecturer said. The next morning we went back to Hong Kong Island just to walk around and check out all the alley markets. Start in the Queen's Road area and you will see hundreds of these tiny markets branching off down "alleyways". They are so marvelous just to look at - especially the foodstuffs. We ate at a local restaurant (we were the only foreigners) recommended by Frommers and it was wonderful - if somewhat hard to find. It's called Luk Yu Tea House. They are well known for their dim sum. I recommend eating upstairs in the more casual - and authentic - part.

TAIPEI was really not a port I was looking forward to but it was very enjoyable. Once you take a 30 minute bus to get into town, it's very easy to do on your own. The bus drops you in front of the 101 Tower, the 2nd highest building in the world (depending on who you believe). Anyhow, it's a very interesting and attractive looking building (it's been described as a bunch of bamboo poles tied with ribbon every once in a while). We did not go up because of the air quality problem. We bought an all-day pass on the MRT and set off to see the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial which reminded me of Lincoln's Memorial. We were in time to see the changing of the guard which was cool, with lots of foot stomping and gun twirling. Then we headed to the Grand Hotel which is shaped like a giant pagoda. Had a wonderful lunch there in the Dragon room (not the tourist place). On the way back, we had time (barely) to stop quickly at another temple (I forget the name) before returning to the ship. A fun day but no burning desire to return.

OKINAWA was our least favorite port by far. Both tours that our members took were poor. And it was not a place you could visit on your own because it was a short stop and too far away. My husband did the Pacific War tour and had expected to visit actual sites from the Battle of Okinawa. However that was not the case. He felt it was like they wanted to forget it ever happened and they stressed that they were not Japanese at the time of the war. My tour was of Shurijo Castle, which was impressive enough. But none of it is original - not even the furnishings. It was all completely rebuilt after the war. After that we were dropped off in some horrible (and vastly over-priced) shopping district for nearly 2 hours.

SHANGHAI was another very new looking Asian city with a very attractive skyline. I have to say that I have never seen such beautiful new buildings in my life as I saw on this trip. No plain glass towers anywhere. We decided to take a Princess tour here since we were once again docked at a container port far from the city center. Our first stop was the Jim Mao Tower which is one of the taller buildings around at 88 stories. The observatory provided breath-taking views of the very pretty city. Our next stop was the YuYuan Garden which is very famous but unlike any garden I have been to before. Not a flower in sight! And precious few trees! It's all about the rocks - and the water to some extent. Lots of pagoda type buildings but VERY crowded with very pushy Chinese. There was a lot of interesting looking street food and we did try a deep fried crab, shell and all. Surprisingly good. After the garden it was on to the silk factory and then several hours on your own to shop or eat lunch. A so-so tour of a so-so city.

BEIJING was our final destination on this 16-day odyssey. We were off the boat by 7:30 am on our Princess transfer into "center city" Beijing. Except it wasn't anywhere near the city center. We were dropped at a Holiday Inn where there were no waiting taxis and virtually everyone on the 3 buses needed taxis. We ended having to take a non-metered taxi at an exorbitant rate and were happy to get that. My advice would be to have your hotel or a touring company reserve transportation from the port. We stayed at a Park Plaza once again, not far from Tiananmen Square. That first day we visited the Forbidden City, the square, and the Temple of Heaven. It was a LOT of walking so take the subway when you can. My overall impression of Beijing was one of gloom and not just because the weather was bad. It seemed so dirty and the people not at all friendly like in the other Asian ports we visited. Plus the ever present police and cameras on the light posts were disconcerting. A very paranoid government. Nevertheless we enjoyed the monuments immensely. The next day we arranged for a private tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We took the cable car up and started climbing! It was surprisingly steep in some parts and often slippery because of a light drizzle. We even had some bits of snow in parts. It was thrilling to finally set foot on the Great Wall and to imagine what it must have been like to build centuries ago. We only climbed to 3 towers as it was too foggy to get much of a view. But it was still an incredible experience. This is supposedly the less touristy part of the wall (less than Badaling) but there were still plenty of hawkers selling "I Climbed the Great Wall" tee shirts! Our guide took us to a small local Chinese restaurant about half way back to Beijing and ordered for us since he was the only one who spoke English. We loved everything about it as that is the kind of experience we are always hoping for. The 6 of us traveling together met up for a fantastic farewell dinner the last night in Beijing. I know this sounds hokey but it was at the highly recommended "Made in China" restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Hotel near The Forbidden City. You have to reserve their famous Peking duck entree ahead of time but it is an amazing experience - and taste! We let our waitress order everything else for us and we were not disappointed. A wonderful way to end a wonderful trip!

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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2010
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show ... Read More
I just returned from an exhilarating 27 day World Cruise leg from Los Angeles to Sydney on the Pacific Princess. I really enjoyed the cruise and was fascinated by the major dramas at sea. I though I would miss my favorite TV show "Desperate Housewives" and instead I found my own live version right on the ship. The stories I heard were unbelievable. There was a big drama on the ship—and I bet there is one every year—and you are either in the know or being made fun of. It is better to in the know than to be left out of the loop, welcome to Desperate Cruisers!

This ship had just come out of dry dock and it was in good shape, all new carpeting in many rooms and only one elevator was out of service for several weeks. This is the old Renaissance #3 ship for those who are interested in this. The public rooms were beautiful. The elevator in repair was a Godsend, the food was outstanding and plentiful and I needed incentive to walk those stairs. I spent a lot of time in the Pacific Lounge, the Cabaret Lounge, and the Casino Lounge—Steven the bartender in the Casino lounge was very nice, he made a mean virgin Margarita. We had a lot of rough sea days; however once I got my sea legs nothing bothered me. For many days walking through the ship was like snow skiing, rather tiring but great exercise. I also love to walk around sideways; I am really good at it! :)

I stayed in a balcony room by myself and there was plenty of storage for me alone, but sharing this space for a month with my husband might present a challenge because space is much more limited than on a traditional ship. I do need to learn to pack less things, this is the bane of my existence when I travel alone and have to schlep my own stuff around. The bed was very low and a bit hard for me; they don't have real egg crates anymore, only puffy pillow tops which are not as soft as egg crates.

I got one bar set up for 27 days, not the weekly set up I though I was getting. I was a little bummed out to learn this after I had given away all my booze and stuff because I had been told the wrong info by another FCC person on another ship. Live and learn, I though it sounded too generous for Princess to do this but I did not listen to my own instinct. I got one set of shampoo and conditioner and lotion for the whole 27 days, fine by me because I don't like the stuff anyway and I always bring my own. I got a nice array of elite amenities and used them for the boat building contest. I did not get any upgraded towels or bathrobe; I don't know why they bother promising them since I have never gotten them as elite. The occasional thick towel is such a treat!

I had a weird dining experience initially as I was seated with a loud and unpleasant person who was traveling solo like me. Thankfully I was also seated with a couple, Ken and Peter from Australia, who were fantastic and they totally saved an otherwise problematic situation. We got stuck with an unpleasant person who had made no friends on the first leg of the journey and demanded "young" people be seated at the table. This person treated the waiters like they were personal slaves and we all found ourselves getting more and more uncomfortable with this poor behavior. I finally spoke up in front of the group and asked this person to refrain from speaking to the waiters poorly in from of me. Then the whole table ignored this person, and we talked over this person for several days. Finally this person decided to change tables; this was the only way we could get Princess to take action. We could not get Princess to change this mean person's seat for us because nobody in the dining room wanted to sit with them. This person ultimately became a great source of humor for the remainder of the trip, suffice it to say we saw the humor in a bad situation and choose to find the joy rather than the bummers. Nancy No-friends (the name my friend Ken gave her) sat alone every night!

This person terrorized a few individuals on the cruise; Princess did nothing to manage this person because they were bragging about bringing 100 people on the world cruise next year. This was a joke; this person talked a big game but had nothing to back it up with. You know the kind of person who manipulates situations to their advantage. We were all amazed that this person never got booted from the cruise; instead they continue to cause a tremendous amount of trouble for some individuals and a huge annoyance for the rest. If you are going on a segment this year you will meet this person, just don't say I didn't warn you!

The food was great; I really enjoyed the variety and abundance of options available for such a small ship. We had a late dining table that seated up to 10 and we had a few empty spots that we used to invite people to join us, especially after ridding ourselves of our problem tablemate. The MDR was a little more traditional with the Head waiters preparing pasta and pineapple flambe, and the food was truly standout fare. We also loved the Bistro, they had their own menu and you could also order off the main dining room menu and you did not have to dress. A fantastic solution to no anytime dining, we loved the bistro! On port days the buffet stays open for the evening, otherwise it becomes the Bistro. We had a few loud and large dinners there and really enjoyed it. I did not want for anything during the entire cruise, there was more food around than you can possibly imagine on such an intimate ship. I learned a secret; you can order things like Lobster and Filet Mignon in the MDR if you give 24 hours notice on any night. We only had 2 formal nights in the whole 27 days and I guess this reflects a general lack of interest in dressing up when one cruises the World.

I seemed to be the only one who knew about the Elite and Platinum lounge but soon lots of people were frequenting it. I regularly stopped by for nibbles, especially since I had late seating, we didn't usually get served until 9pm thanks to our poorly behaving tablemate. They had a lot of food and drink parties in the Pacific Lounge, with skewers of Pineapple and Shrimp and all sorts of fruits, kind of a happy hour thing with reduced priced drinks and stuff.

Room service was great; I ordered lots of fresh fruit for those late night moments (LOL) where food is necessary. I got to know my morning coffee and toast kid well, he dutifully served me for 26 days and I miss him a lot. I got several trays of fancy strawberries and stuff sent from captain's circle, plus I got to order stuff as an elite perk. This was very nice, and boy did I get spoiled. I had brought my own coffee press and fresh ground Cubita coffee but the press broke in transit and I was not able to get it fixed and then I just got used to the syrup coffee and gave up on brewing my own. I did bring my bag of coffee down to the coffee bar and asked them to brew me a cup which they did, I though that was very nice.

I had issues with some of the waiters in the dining room, one in particular was very petty and mean to me based on who was sitting at my table (mean person) and kept handing me scalding pots of hot milk for my "best friend" (mean person) who quickly became the bane of my existence! I realize that when people are mean to waiters, they can become curt and slow but imagine how it feels to be seated as a solo traveler with someone who is so nasty that their reputation becomes yours! This happens quickly on small ships and I found that I suffered the sins of this mean person, as did my other table mates, until we took control of the situation by making this person go away. Meanwhile, I do think it is dangerous to have waiters who target people, even the bad ones, because my hand got burned badly and I was not able to use it for days. I hope none of you get this waiter and if you email me I will give you his name! I did turn him in but nothing happened to him and he is still in the MDR. Be careful of him.

My room steward Victor was very good, he had 16 rooms to care for and yet he took outstanding care of me. He made me feel safe and secure all the time. He was never obtrusive, always there when I needed him and kept my room clean and tidy. My laundry was handled perfectly; they never lost one single pair of the junky target undies I bought for the purpose of not caring if they lost or damaged them! Go figure...

There were some very interesting lecturers on the ship including an Astronomer, a Middle East Crisis expert, a style adviser, an Academy Award winner, a nice Port Lecturer, and a WWII Historian. We had at least 2 lectures on Sea days. There was also a Water Color paint teacher who gave regular lessons in very high surf! We had Concert Violinists and other wonderful musicians and singers, and we had several dance shows done quite well on the very small stage by the excellent Princess Singers and Dancers. We had several lounge acts, all very talented.

There was a wonderful fitness instructor who taught Yoga and Pilate and she had her Appendix burst while we were in Honolulu so we lost her, she is doing great back in Sydney and getting better. By the time her replacement came several weeks later, I had given up on Yoga and Pilate. Oh well, some things are not meant to be. I got much exercise righting myself on such a rocking ship for almost all of the sea days.

Karaoke was very fun, we got the whole place going one night and it was very fun. My first Karaoke song ever was "Bye Bye Miss American Pie" which is the longest Karaoke in history. I loved it! Sadly there was only 2 Karaoke sessions during the whole 27 day segment and there should have been more!

We had a fantastic crossing of the Equator Ceremony, it was so funny and messy and everybody had a blast. I am no longer a pollywog, now I am a shellback! Many of our sail-a-ways included Champagne although I am not a drinker so I did not have any. The ship building contest was also quite fruitful, all the ships were great and I got to donate all of my "elite amenity items" and my Obama Surfer Bobble head doll to one group who should have won but didn't. Must have been the crappy elite amenity items!

I took a Princess excursion in Vanuatu to see Ekasup Cultural Center, it was nice but limited to that place only. I did not get to sit with the people I went with, this always happens when I take Princess tours. I liked the place we visited, a fake tribe who also appeared on Survivor. Survivor was filmed on this island, on the other side of the island but fairly close to Vila! The port had lots of junk to buy, mostly from China but I did manage to find me some Kava. ;)

I took a Princess excursion in the Bay of Islands to see the Kauri Forest and Glow Worm Caves and that was really fun. We got to see much of the area including some artsy toilets, there was plenty of stops for postcards and junk and opportunities to hike a bit if you wanted to. It was a good excursion.

I took a Princess excursion in Picton to see the area via land and sea and this was a classic bummer made so by an individual who showed up late (they waited) and then who "got lost shopping" at a 10 minute stop and caused another half hour delay, all of this amounting to a shortened excursion. This is why I hate ship excursions. I don't mind so much when we go slower because of handicapped people, but I go crazy when some selfish loon shows up late (duh) or wanders off to shop at a toilet stop!

I took private excursions in all the other locations. In Honolulu we rented a car and spent the day tooling around the North shore and more. It cost 50 bucks for the whole day, plus $15 in gas. Several folks rented cars as well, one man who drove to buy flowers and to see the Diamond Head lookout point later told me he was suffering from Macular Degeneration. Be careful driving when the World Cruise is in town!

In New Caledonia we took one of the petite tour "trains" around on our own and that provided for a nice overview of the Island, which is quite beautiful and civilized if expensive. We were in town late, we got to port at noon and that is when the market closed for the day so we missed that. It is an expensive place, one can hardly afford to blow ones nose at $7 a box of tissues. I did manage to find a jewelry store open and there was this Gold Tiki I could not resist...

We walked on our own in Auckland and Sydney and had a blast. We took local buses and ferries and walked as much as we could. The only HOHO we took was in Sydney Harbor, a boat you could hop on and off but we did not end up using it in that way. The Botanical gardens in Sydney were outstanding, we saw tons of bats just hanging around and mating (flying foxes) and so many different birds, bugs, and butterflies it was amazing. This was a perfect place to end our stay in Sydney. We found a wonderful restaurant 14 years ago in London and were pleased to find it again in Auckland and Sydney, it's called Wagamama and it is well worth a visit. You have to try the Passion Fruit & Lychee Sorbet, with a shot of Sake.

All in all it was a nice cruise, it was just the right amount of time to be away and though I did enjoy the cruise I was ready to get off the ship after so many Sea days. I am not sure I could handle being on such a small ship for such a long period of time (107 days) with the same people and the same staff. While some staff was a delight to be around, others seemed tired and battered and ready for a break. The same was true of the cruisers, many were delightful and happy, but there were the occasional grumps that got grumpier as time moved on. I was happy to leave the mean and the grumpy but very sad to leave the wonderful friends I met on the cruise.

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