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8 Seattle to Asia Cruise Reviews

For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific ... Read More
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary. A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved. There would be little jet lag also. Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing. On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey. For us it was the trip of a lifetime. For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage. Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,) Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and San Diego, California. If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences. Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would be together for 78 days. We soon became like a family. The "precious" (HAL's word) staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason. Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises. The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian; there was only one child on board for the complete cruise. Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.) There were so many extras for every passenger. Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,) a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home. Everything was of the highest quality. Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities. I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones. MP3 Players were a quite popular choice. Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls. Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout. Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,) Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner. HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events. All the servers wore themed costumes. Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended. Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet. Other exciting optional events were extra cost. Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise. As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties. The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas. I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea. Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals. For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu. For breakfast crepes were an unusual offering. At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections. Even the room service menu had more choices. Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend. I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality. MDR service was uniformly well-paced. We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.) We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers. HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily. A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above, the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers. Other minor problems were also fixed after this session. HAL did listen. The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets. There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater. We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled. Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time. I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment. They were always energetic. Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows. The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers. HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well. I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows. I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges. Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin. We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM. It was always fun & games with her. One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars. How romantic was that! We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed. When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next. They were very entertaining as well. Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored. There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all. My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour. I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy. There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited. I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies. A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore. By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator. What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside. Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere. The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline complete with a laser show. The city has a lot to offer visitors. My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. How many other cruises stop here? We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile. One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was cancelled due to the eminent arrival of a typhoon. The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan. We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind. Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports. Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible. This was a huge help especially for those touring independently. In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles. That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered. Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection. HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all. HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise. We received plenty of port information sheets, maps, ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing suggestions etc. At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words, phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port. It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port. I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise. For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage. I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired. Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses. I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast. I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade. It was just hard to drink the beverage while moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet. A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs. If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you. The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining. In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30 Early Dining Time. I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals. Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams. We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us. It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner. What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area. We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool. Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed. Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship. Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day. We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service. We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom. So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days. Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home. But, that is another review.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in ... Read More
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in Hong Kong, a volcano in Indonesia, flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we, as passengers, never gave a thought to our safety or to the bad weather we could have encountered. Dinner, dancing, shows were provided nightly. There were many formal nights - reminders of what 'crossings' were to the wealthy of foregone years. Champagne flowed, music drifted from different areas, stellar service in a professional manner was a constant. Yet, there was this feeling of family, of caring. Nothing was too much to ask for - and there was never a tone of any type used, no attitudes possessed this crew. They were there to help and please us in whatever why they possibly could and that is what they did. Oh, and did I mention the smiles -- so many wonderful broad sincere smiles to greet us every place on this ship. The crew were from Indonesia - what a honor they are to their country! Asia and Australia were educational for those of us not visiting these countries before. The Ports of Call worthwhile. So grateful to be able to see these great wonders, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Great Wall of China. Overland in China was fantastic with lovely top-drawer hotel and dining accommodations. At the end of the day, I always go back to thoughts and longings for the ship and its crew who truly provided us with the main ingredients for a beyond belief experience in travel. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
My husband and I are seasoned cruisers and we aim to cross as many major lines of latitude and longitude on a ship as possible, so we were excited by this one as it meant crossing the International Date Line and indeed (from leaving home ... Read More
My husband and I are seasoned cruisers and we aim to cross as many major lines of latitude and longitude on a ship as possible, so we were excited by this one as it meant crossing the International Date Line and indeed (from leaving home in the UK to arriving back) circumnavigating the globe. Whilst this was our 23rd cruise it was our first time with Holland America Line. The embarkation process at Seattle was very efficient and streamlined, and we boarded in time for a buffet lunch in the Lido restaurant which we ate by the pool - a place we were to frequent regularly. Our cabin was a twin-bedded one on the Main Deck (Deck 2) right at the starboard bow of the vessel. It was very quiet and comfortable and we were served by Choky, our very pleasant Indonesian cabin steward. Our first impressions of Holland America's "signature of excellence" were not brilliant. On the first night the service in the Rotterdam Dining Room was extremely slow (we still hadn't finished after two hours at the table) and, for the first three nights, our waiter either forgot to bring courses or brought the wrong thing. This rapidly improved, however, once one of the ship's officers joined our table for dinner. Also, for the first night the cabin steward did not do the evening "turn down" in our cabin, although to be fair this was the only time he forgot and the rest of the voyage the service was impeccable. The quality, selections and presentation of the food I found to be excellent. Also the selection and range of drinks and cocktails, although I did find the bar prices to be extortionate compared to say, P & O or Fred Olsen. I found the evening entertainment in the Frans Hals showlounge to be pretty average. The show company was good but nothing exceptional. The guest performers were aimed more at the 60+ age group; there was a bloke who played the clarinet (who was pretty good), a fairly run-of-the-mill female singer, a cellist (boring) a pianist (who was good) a comedian (good if you could understand the transatlantic humour!) and a pretty average magician. We spent nearly all our evenings, after dinner, in the Crow's Nest, which was the ship's version of a night club. It offered discos, karaoke on some nights, dancing, live music and sometimes a Wii challenge! :-) The cruise director, Jimmy and the DJ/compere, Drew were really friendly guys who we got to know quite well as we were "regulars" in the Crow's Nest. It takes nine full days and nights to cross the Pacific ocean so it certainly isn't recommended for first time cruisers or those who don't like to spend a lot of time at sea. It can also be very disorientating as, for the first 10 days of our trip, we were never in the same time zone two days running. It was a strange phenomenon completely missing out a day when we crossed the International Date Line, for which we received a certificate. Also, the north Pacific ocean is certainly not aptly named as we encountered winds between Force 8 and Force 10, and sometimes a 12 foot swell, so it was fairly rough. All part of the adventure though! Once we reached Japan we visited Hakodate, Otaru, Aomori and Kobe. We had originally planned an overnight-in-port stay at Yokahama in order to explore Tokyo, but as this was right in the path of Hurricane Melor this port of call was, unfortunately, cancelled and the ship changed course. However, the ports of call were very interesting and Kobe was a fantastic city; it's amazing to see how they have built it up again after the dreadful 1995 earthquake. All in all, we had a really good time and would probably cruise with HAL again if the itinerary was to our liking. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
My wife and I are frequent cruisers (#46 so far) traveling on numerous cruise lines. We choose this cruise for its unusual itinerary Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Petropavlovsk, Muroran, Pusan, Nagasaki, Osaka and an extended ... Read More
My wife and I are frequent cruisers (#46 so far) traveling on numerous cruise lines. We choose this cruise for its unusual itinerary Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Glacier Bay, Petropavlovsk, Muroran, Pusan, Nagasaki, Osaka and an extended stay through Princess in Osaka. We left N.Y. City on 9/24/25 arriving in Seattle the same day. Our transfers were O/K on arriving on the Diamond Princess we found it to be beautiful ship as expected since it is brand new. Our room was nice,we choose a minisuite and was quite satisfied with it. We choose 1st seating for dinner so we could go to the early shows. Here is where our problems started -- on the first night we went to the show and after looking for what seem forever found a seat. The next night we did the same but could not find a seat -- every seat was taken with people sitting on the stairways and exits. We missed the show this went on throughout the entire cruise there was no way you could go to the early sitting for dinner and make the shows. Most people who wanted to see the show had to cut short there dinner to make the show. We found out what the problem was is the theater only sits 750 people that's not even enough to sit the first sitting not even counting open sitting and the buffy so if you wanted to see the show you had to bypass dinner or rush through it. But what really bothered me was the ship's company disregarding all safety concerns for its passengers letting them sit on stairways and exits, many in wheelchairs in the rear of the theater not being able to move because of the number of people there. When I brought my concerns to the ship's company they advised me to go to the later show and totally disregarded my safety concerns for the overcrowding. I also asked them if they would broadcast the shows on the TV in the rooms and public areas and was informed that if they did that no one would go to the shows, What a Laugh. Our next disappointment was after arriving in the Bay of Petropavlovsk, Russia late after 12:30 P.M. and letting a person ashore on a tender who was sick We were informed by the captain that we would not be tendering in, using the excuse that the seas where to rough. I don't know where he was getting his information from if you look at my videos of the bay you would laugh. I believe the only reason he didn't allow the passengers off the ship was because we where surprised to get in port at 11:19 A.M. not 12:30 P.M. and there was no way he could make his departure time of 5:38 P.M. There was no reason to get into port late because we had 4 sea days before our arrival he could of easily made the time up at sea. From past reviews read about the Diamond this has been a problem with bypassing ports. So we spent a total of 7 continues sea days because of missing this port. Everyone that had cruise before couldn't understand why he cancelled the port. Like I said earlier that my wife and I have taken 46 cruses and was really surprised how Princess has started to penny pinch with services on the ship ice cream was free for one hour a day and then you had to pay for it. Also cappuccino coffee at dinner you had to pay for. It seems that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face. Throughout the entire cruise the prices they gave out was by far the cheapest piece of junk they wanted to give away. It really surprised me having taken Princess numerous times before. What really made our cruise was the people we meet and the places we go the ship's personnel where very polite and friendly the food was fair not what I expected and service was o/k. As for us we will not take the Diamond or her sister ship the Sapphire again, and as for Princess WHO KNOWS? Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
This was our first cruise on Princess and quite possibly will be our last. Seventeen days from Seattle to Osaka. We chose this cruise primarily because of the destinations, i.e. Petropavlosk, Pusan, Muroran, Sapporo, Nagasaki and Osaka. We ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Princess and quite possibly will be our last. Seventeen days from Seattle to Osaka. We chose this cruise primarily because of the destinations, i.e. Petropavlosk, Pusan, Muroran, Sapporo, Nagasaki and Osaka. We wanted to see Glacier Bay, but have not done Alaska before, not wanting to be one of ten thousand or so people crowding the towns with four or five cruise ships in port at the same time. This being the last ship of the season meant much smaller crowds, but it was obvious talking to the merchants in Juneau that they were all ready for the cruise season to be over. We never touched land in Petropavlosk. EMBARKATION: Got to the pier at 11:00 AM. After reading some of the reviews we thought about arriving later. We parked at a friend's house and she gave us a ride to the pier. When we got there there were hardly any people waiting. We got checked in right away and then had to wait for about 30 minutes in the holding tank before we were allowed to board. We were on the boat so fast we could hardly believe it. After our last cruise from San Juan on Royal Caribbean where it took four hours to board and 10 deboard we were half expecting another nightmare. SHIP: Our initial impression was that it was a nice ship, but as time went by we began to have many misgivings about it. On another itinerary it would probably be fine, but on this cruise where there are so many sea days it just didn't have enough public spaces to accommodate all of the passengers. This ship was designed to maximize revenue. Maximum balconies, minimum public spaces. To get into the theater to see a show you had to get there 35-40 minutes in advance in order to get a seat. Not that we were really into the exercise thing other than lifting our forks frequently and a few dozen trips around the deck, but we heard stories of having to get a reservation to even use the exercise machines!!! sightliness in the lounges were generally poor and in the case of the Explorer's Lounge you not only had a large smoking section, right next to the bar of course, stinking up the room, but behind the hallway in the back of the room was Crooners Bar, the piano bar. Hard to imagine calling it a piano bar though. Perhaps seven tables with a piano at one end and a bar at the other. In addition to three of the tables being smoking tables the sound of the big mouth smokers/drinkers carried into the Explorers Lounge. Smokers drink more. Maximize that revenue. You had to walk that gauntlet to get from one end of the ship to the other on the Promenade deck. Forget about trying to find a seat somewhere where you could just sit and watch the ocean, unless you had an outside or balcony cabin. The good seats filled up fast and stayed that way. Single story dining room so no parade of waiters and assistants with the baked Alaska. No midnight buffet. No ice or fruit/vegetable carvings. No towel animals in your stateroom. Instead you get "hot air" Jose the maitre d' pouring Champagne into a pyramid of Champagne glasses. They tried to create a party atmosphere on a ship that just wasn't capable of accommodating it. Standing room only for a digital photography seminar in the Wheelhouse Bar and pillars everywhere. The casino was pretty much empty every time we passed through it. I usually donate $20 to a dollar slot machine in order to obtain a dollar token which I use for a golf ball marker. I put my 20 in and 19 pulls later I had my dollar token and nothing else. Later I donated $10 to a quarter machine. Same results. CABIN: We booked a mini-suite which was quite nice. Got a great deal at the cruise show because our travel agent reserved a block of cabins so we ended up paying less than for an outside cabin without a balcony. The only problem with this class of cabin is that the balcony was not covered and everyone above you could look down onto your balcony. Not that we were planning on doing any nude sunbathing and other than when we left Seattle and while cruising Glacier Bay not too many people even seemed to be using their balconies. DINING: We signed up for Personal Choice Dining because we were told that we would be able to eat whenever and wherever we wanted and would have four themed restaurants to choose from with different menus. This proved to not be the case. All four had the same menu. The southwest restaurant, did offer chips and salsa but that was the only difference that I was aware of. After finding out from Cruise Critic members that the menus were not going to be different we decided to try to switch to traditional dining. It didn't seem possible when I read that people were on a list that numbered in the hundreds. I tried calling Princess and was told that there was no way that we could switch. When we boarded I found the maitre d' or someone posing as the maitre d' and asked to be switched to traditional dining. After getting the "why in the world would you want to switch look" he put us on the list. After our first experience with Personal Choice Dining we decided that it was pretty much the way to go. Not that we have anything against old people, in fact I see one every time I look in the mirror, but the average age on this ship must have been somewhere in the '70s and we didn't want to get stuck at a table with a bunch of fossils talking about their grandchildren and complaining about their hemorrhoids and arthritis the entire meal. The next day, much to our surprise, we got a note that we had been switched to traditional dining. Well......Now what do we do???? We decided to see what our table was like, then if we didn't like it, we would go back to Personal Choice. When we got to our table we were the only ones there, and there were other empty tables. We were joined by another couple from Vancouver, BC who had gotten switched the same way that we had. The next night we were joined by another couple, also from Vancouver who had met the first couple on the ship. After that we were joined by a couple of elderly ladies, also from Vancouver who had met the second couple on a cruise in Hawaii two years earlier. They never officially got switched to our table, but even though the table was supposed to be full no one else ever showed up. We had a great time and this was certainly one of the highlights of our cruise. Our waiter was Manuel from the Philippines and our assistant was Marian from Romania. They were both great. FOOD: In general the food was quite good although there were some notable exceptions. Baked goods: consistently excellent rolls and breads Appetizers: nothing special, in fact I can't recall any that were particularly noteworthy. Avoid the mussels. Salads: not bad if you love radicchio because there was LOTS of it. Some salads suffered from brown and limp lettuce with there being no correlation to what day of the cruise we were on. Almost seemed more likely to get crisp green lettuce later in the cruise. Soups: varied from ok to horrible, the low point being something that was supposedly a mussel spinach soup. Our entire table managed to consume perhaps one spoonful total before we all had it taken away. I have tasted better vomit. Entrees: generally very good with many excellent entrees. Princess does a very good job with pasta and meat. We had some great pastas, beef and lamb. When in doubt you can always order beef along with several other entrees from the menu and the beef tournedos were excellent. Perhaps the dining highlight of the cruise for me was the lobster thermidor, the second night of the cruise. We had lobster two more nights. Princess was not stingy with the lobster tails either. 6,000 per lobster night according to the executive chef. Our table alone probably consumed close to 25 on the second lobster night and we had to turn down more that were offered. We would quite often order entrees and desserts for the entire table and share them. No problem. Dessert: not bad, but in general desserts looked better than they tasted. One thing that we discovered is that the ice cream was quite often the best choice. There were several that were excellent. Same with the sorbets. SABATINI'S: We made reservation for our anniversary which was on the first formal night. While everyone else was eating lobster we had what was probably the worst meal that we have ever had on a cruise ship. The service was fine but the food was not. I am sure that it would have been a whole lot better if it had been served perhaps a couple of hours or perhaps days earlier? A lot of the appetizers looked like that had been sitting in the sun for a couple of hours and tasted like it too. Avoid the mussels. The pasta was quite good. To make matters worse we ended up sitting next to two Japanese women, a mother and daughter. They were fine, but 15 minutes into the meal they were joined by an American wearing a skirt (kilt). Why he was wearing it is beyond me. Don't know, don't want to know. Maybe he was from San Francisco. He spent the entire meal hitting on the young woman and making a total ass out of himself. Princess rep at cruise show promised us "free" dinner at Sabatini's for our anniversary. We never saw it. Would have felt ripped off anyway. We didn't try the Sterling Steakhouse, which was in goofy location in a rear corner of the buffet dining room, but we did hear several times from other passengers that the steak was to "die for." WINE: We ordered wine with every meal and the Princess selection was generally pretty good and the prices weren't bad either. Quite often the markup on cruise ships not to mention land restaurants is atrocious but in this case it tended to be surprisingly reasonable, at least for wines that I had knowledge of. I understand that it costs money because of the labor involved, washing and breakage of glassware, etc to serve wine, but to mark up wine 300-350% above retail as is often the case should be a crime. I won't pay it and imagine lots of other people won't either. I identified several bottles on this cruise that were marked up about 200% above Costco prices which are 14-15% above wholesale. We also brought four special bottles with us and didn't have a problem getting them onboard. We had them served with our dinner and were never charged a corkage fee even though the Princess literature stated that we "may" be charged. We attended two wine tastings. They were hosted by Jose, the maitre d'. A word about Jose. Jose is so full of hot air if he wasn't tied down he would probably float away. I don't know, but maybe that is the secret of keeping a ship this size afloat? Rumor has it that Jose wasn't allowed on open air deck for fear that he would float away. Can't say that I learned too much. Jose told us that they were 8.5 million bubbles in a glass of Champagne. By the time he was done talking and we were allowed to taste our Champagne I doubt that there were any bubbles left. Jose told us 8.5 million times how much he loved merlot. He told us that the best wine was what we were drinking and that you could drink any wine with any food that you liked, and then proceeded to tell us which wine to drink when and with which food, and which wine not to drink with which food, etc. The first tasting cost something like $7.50 each and you got $5.00 off a bottle to be served in the dining room if you pre-purchased it at the tasting. The second wine tasting was much more limited in terms of the number of people, in fact they had to have a second session. Appetizers were served, obviously prepared by Sabatini's, and probably leftover from the previous evening, or perhaps the previous cruise. Avoid the mussels. INTERNET: There wasn't any. In spite of the fact that there were computer monitors and keyboards on the ship and they charged you 35 cents a minute to sit in front of them, any connection to the internet was pretty much a fantasy. There was a sign saying that they were experiencing problems and that the internet connection was going to be slow, but that didn't stop people from trying. One of the crew members working in the Internet Cafe said that the connection would be better when we approached Asia, but in reality it was probably just as good in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I suspect that the sign is a permanent fixture on the Diamond Princess. I brought a laptop and decided to try that. They charged something like $12.00 for a card worth 30 minutes of access time. That didn't work either. Right after I bought my card Princess decided cancel all prior internet charges apparently because they had so many complaints. They refunded all but $3.50 for the wireless access cards. Said that they couldn't refund that amount because that was their cost for the cards. They also reduced the internet rate to 6 cents a minute. Still a waste of money. A fellow passenger told me that in the past they had fewer terminals but long lines waiting to use them. So, what is the difference? Long lines and no internet or no lines and no Internet? ENTERTAINMENT: The Princess singers and dancers and the shows were probably as good as any that I have seen at sea. Not that this is my preferred type of entertainment, and not that I have been on enough cruises and cruise lines to consider myself an entertainment critic. But, I would give them two thumbs up. It was pretty much downhill from there. Marvin Lewis did some magic and comedy and I thought he was quite good. Bayne Bacon played piano, guitar and told some jokes. Not bad. There was an impersonator who I won't name that was absolutely terrible. He was so bad that people were literally leaving in droves, in some cases climbing over the seats to get out, rows at a time. The ventriloquist wasn't much better although he did have a good ending where he had audience members on stage and had them equipped with things like a rubber pig snout while he sang Old McDonald Had A Farm. It was funny. Club Fusion had a band that usually played there that was terrible .Again I won't name names. Not one out of the four musicians could sing to save their life. They took requests, but didn't know any of the songs requested. Probably a good thing. If you like The Village People then you might like this group. We were there only because we were waiting for something like trivia. We would go there after dinner because we were too late to get into the theater for the show. There were times when we were the only ones there except for the waiters. They even thanked us once for "hanging with them." The band in the Explorer's Lounge, Liquid Blue was pretty good. Our initial impression when we first heard them was that they were to be avoided, but later when we sat down and listened to them, probably because there wasn't anything else to do, we found that they were worth listening to. They took requests and actually knew most of the songs. PORTS: Alaska wasn't anything special. I've walked on a glacier and I can see Mt. Rainier when I look out my window. Have been rained on too. Went on a gold panning/town tour in Ketchikan. Funny how everyone gets a gold pan full of sand and they all end up with the same amount of gold in the end. After that you can try panning from the stream if your hands don't freeze and fall off, but there doesn't seem to be any gold there. Hmmmmmm. Glacier Bay was spectacular. Forget Petropavlosk: Probably the reason many of the people chose this cruise. The seas were fairly rough crossing the Pacific and we were late arriving. The first announcement from the captain is that the morning excursions were cancelled. Then the afternoon. We were told that the bankers and Russian immigration officials were going to board the boat, then that the immigration officials weren't on the first boat and would be on a later boat. After they did arrive it was becoming apparent that we weren't going to be allowed to go onshore. It was noon and we had to leave at 5:00 PM. The official reason was that the seas were too rough and because the weather forecast was for even rougher seas, it was possible that they would not be able to get the passengers back on board and would have to leave without them. BS. Seven days at sea without a chance to get off of the boat. LOTS of disappointed cruisers. Muroran (Sapporo): Fortunately one of our Canadian dinner-mates was of Japanese descent and spoke fluent Japanese. Having a guide was great and we found a great noodle shop and some great shopping malls to wander around in. Don't plan on buying shoes though unless you have small feet. Just about biggest men's size is size 10. It is amazing how clean the Japanese cities are. Absolutely no garbage on the streets and sidewalks. Pusan: Weren't really prepared for this one. Never seen such a mass of humanity in one place before. We walked into a film festival and when the movie stars showed up there were thousands upon thousands of people everywhere. Could hardly walk. The fish market has to be seen to be believed. Probably 9-12 blocks of vendors with every imaginable and unimaginable type of fish and seafood, hanging from sticks, in tubs and trying to jump out of tubs. Hogs heads. Some of the passengers couldn't take it and had to leave. DISEMBARKATION: Went quite smoothly. They took us to a hotel in Osaka where they provided us with refreshments. We went for a stroll to an outlet mall, but all the shops were the same as you would find in most upscale outlet malls in the US, so that was pretty much a waste of time. There was a department store that was very interesting. Imagine dozens upon dozens of refrigerators , vacuum cleaners and other appliances. Refrigerators about 3/4 the size that we are used to with separate outside pull out drawers for things like produce so that you don't have to open the big door to access the produce. Novel idea. Most people bailed on the hotel early and went to the airport. Too many hours on the plane to LA and then another plane back home to Seattle. SUMMARY: Contrary to what you might think by reading my review we really did have a good time. However the consensus among those at our dinner table is that we would never do another Princess cruise on this class of ship with so many sea days. The food was really quite good, and of course it all depends on what you order. Avoid the mussels. Read Less
Sail Date September 2005
The cruise took us from Seattle to Alaska to Pusan, Korea, Muroran, Japan, Nagasaki, and finally Osaka. We found the ship and the facilities onboard to be first class. Our mini-suite was just great. The ports visited and the tours in the ... Read More
The cruise took us from Seattle to Alaska to Pusan, Korea, Muroran, Japan, Nagasaki, and finally Osaka. We found the ship and the facilities onboard to be first class. Our mini-suite was just great. The ports visited and the tours in the ports were good, although all of the good tours were booked up weeks before we sailed! Princess needs to provide more tour buses when this happens. The ship sailed beautifully through the rough seas and high winds of the North Pacific. Overall, the food was OK- but charging for soft drinks and ice cream is a bit "chintzy". Our personal choice restaurant was the Vivaldi because the service was excellent. Our cabin service was outstanding. The productions in the Princess Theater were great. The lounge bands were very good. Unfortunately, there were several problems which made the cruise disappointing. Essentially, too many people but not enough ship. The weather was too cool most of the time for the outside pool venues and other activities to be utilized by passengers thereby keeping everyone inside. There is simply not enough interior space to accommodate 2,500 passengers looking for something to do outside their cabins. Too many lounges were used for movies, lectures, paid seminars, jewelry sales and (ugh) art auctions. There were too many "in your face" sales and promotions going on. Other cruise lines, especially Celebrity, have special venues for these activities so lounges and public areas are available for passengers to relax in. The overall service attitude was just indifferent. The Passenger services desk was only fair - with only one or two able to solve any problems. In the Horizon buffet restaurant, most of the wait staff stood around "chatting up" passengers and each other instead of giving service to those whom needed it. The internet service on the ship was a disaster after leaving Ketchikan, Alaska. People spent hours on the computers trying to get online or to get their email Some people got through once and awhile. Many excuses were given for no service - mostly, that the ship was out of their internet satellite range in the North Pacific, etc. but you could make a phone call or send a fax! How could you do this and not get on the Internet? The ship was docked at Pusan and Nagasaki and still the excuses that the internet satellite was out of range! It was so bad that towards the end of the cruise, the price per minute was reduced to 12 cents from 35 cents. Nobody was fooled. The problem was onboard with the ship's internet system and it's servers. We will not be sailing Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2005

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