Again we chose this back-to-back cruise primarily because of the most interesting itinerary. This cruise started in Shanghai, China, and ended in Yokohama Japan. The Orient was new for us and it was a " port intensive " sailing ... Read More
Again we chose this back-to-back cruise primarily because of the most interesting itinerary. This cruise started in Shanghai, China, and ended in Yokohama Japan. The Orient was new for us and it was a " port intensive " sailing visiting 7 port cities in Japan, and 3 in China with only 2 sea days. The Japanese ports of Shimizu and Yokohama were the only duplicates from the first itinerary. In Shanghai and Beijing we enjoyed overnight stays and two days in each city. The Great Wall and Tianjin square were easily accessible.
The oriental cultures have a tremendous respect for nature represented through their religions of Shinto & Buddhism. We learned much about the origins, overlaps, and uniquenesses of the Eastern cultures. Broadening our horizons we have learnt Japan is not one island, but rather consists of 7,000 islands ! The cruise was enjoyable, and cabins and ship clean,it is dated and wear is showing.... It is scheduled for a major drydock retrofit in October 2018.
Food was reasonable throughout the variety of ship restaurants. We noticed most restaurant food was only warm - the exception being the Garden Cafe immediately upon opening. One of the most significant concerns remains " head office control " limiting the chefs ability to vary menus, and provide culinary cuisine more reflective of the Asian area of travel. While it is nice to not deal with the logistics of transport, and accommodation in this variety of cities, we did miss out on experiencing the local oriental cuisines in more depth.
Overall entertainment quality and variety was good with one exception that should have been thrown overboard. However the absence of any entertainment reflective of the oriental culture, " enrichment programs " cultural , basic language , or port information was disappointing. Onboard activities have been severely curtailed, and many services had very limited hours. The focus was clearly on NCL Shore excursions, and selling additional spa, dining, or health services. For example the library only opened for one hour most days, and although a quiet spot to read it smelled of smoke. Shore excursions desk was also only open briefly, and there were often significant lines. We guess they are trying to embrace the more cost effective electronic culture and encourage you to book that way.
Most shore excursions were full bus loads. Ironically we found the variety, quality, and execution of the tours in China to be considerably better than Japan. Rather than being limited to traditional sightseeing tours for example we were able to spend several hours in a traditional Chinese family home, and rural visits to better experience the culture. Does China have more experience with tourism than Japan ? Tour guides were clearly more experienced and professional.
As all locations were new to us, and due to the language and cultural challenges, we booked mostly NCL excursions. Increasingly we discovered more guests successfully using independent guides, or venturing out on their own with taxis, and they were reporting much more satisfying experiences.
The assembly process of participants in the ship theatre, disembarkation & load the tour buses continued to be chaotic, with clients arriving late, not queuing respectfully, & not following instructions. Frankly this waiting and disorganization caused many tours to be less than enjoyable.
In Sakaiminato the ship was docked and cleared for several hours before shore tour participants were allowed off this resulted in a 1.5 hour backlog at customs and tour agendas curtailed and cut short as a result. Communication issues with customs & immigration , & embarkation processes, were experienced, but to be expected with many new ports, and several foreign countries.
Using the walking or jogging track you also encounter “ smoking areas “ where your exercise and fresh air experience was dampened.
For the most part staff were genuine and helpful, however there were several encounters were it was obvious staff were not allowed to think, and responded accordingly with a " standard answer " even when it made absolutely no sense in the circumstances.
Upon disembarkation in Tokyo we had a week to explore and experience the world famous quality from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Kawasawki, Yamaha, Suzuki, Toshiba, Canon, Sony, Panasonic. Japan taught the world " just-in-time " manufacturing, and that organizations should value their employees. We enjoyed Golden Week, Fruhlings Fest, and the Port festivals and activities while there. Read Less