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8 Whittier to Asia Cruise Reviews

We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was ... Read More
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was excellent. We checked in at 2.10PM , probably after the initial rush. Cabin 422 ( a suite) was spotless on arrival and we were greeted by our Steward and offered Champagne. It is a large lounge area with a separate large bedroom with King bed, separate bathroom and robe area. We booked the Sterling Steakhouse for the first evening dinner, to overcome what can be difficult dining arrangements as people turn up on the first night. A good decision with a good meal , superb steak , excellent service. We dined most evenings in the Santa Fe dining room and as on previous cruises on the Diamond, experienced excellent service and good quality meals. Entertainment was excellent and production shows very good , although we do notice that the production shows are now of 28-35 minutes duration. Cruise director and his team do a very good job with activities. We ran into 3 days of very heavy weather across the Aleutian islands areas with 2 massive storms, the ship and staff coped well with having all decks and outside activities closed for 3 days. We never really felt crowded, apart from the first show in the theatre. Also the Education lectures were terrific. As experienced cruisers, we have enjoyed several cruises on the Diamond. Yes it is a large ship , but everything works to our satisfaction. This was a repositioning cruise and a means of us travelling from USA to China before flying home from Shanghai to Melbourne , australia. We enjoyed the cruise, met some lovely people, were fed well and entertained. We were very well served. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our second cruise on Princess, and better than our first on the Pacific (though the Amazon itinerary was great!). Though the Diamond hadn't been refurbished in dry dock, we enjoyed the ship. Spacious, and always a place to ... Read More
This was our second cruise on Princess, and better than our first on the Pacific (though the Amazon itinerary was great!). Though the Diamond hadn't been refurbished in dry dock, we enjoyed the ship. Spacious, and always a place to hole up and read and relax! We stayed in a Penthouse Suite, mid ship. The service and amenities were fantastic. Loved the suite life! Overnight stay at the Captain Cook was ok. Tired hotel, but good supper in their pub. Transfer service was very good. Coach to Whittier. Our ports of call were in Russia, Japan, South Korea and 3 in China. Several sea days, which we loved. Lotus day spa was just right! We reserved a table for 2 for the early dining, and were given a table in the Savoy. Not really impressed with Princess' culinary and dining room service...however their steakhouse satisfied! In-room dining was good. Enjoyed a couple of evening meals at MUTS and that was fun. Enjoyed our cruise and the staff. Would give the nod to Celebrity for service (where the smiles and attention seem more genuine) and dining in Blue / Specialty venues seem more to our liking. Glad we did this itinerary, finally! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This cruise was a repositioning cruise to Asia after completing its Alaska cruising season. We boarded in Whittier and it only took minutes to get through the boarding process which was quite amazing. I later learned that 1,500 passengers ... Read More
This cruise was a repositioning cruise to Asia after completing its Alaska cruising season. We boarded in Whittier and it only took minutes to get through the boarding process which was quite amazing. I later learned that 1,500 passengers had stayed on the ship and would continue on to Asia with us, therefore, not so many people trying to get on at once. We went directly to our room, which was the Cancun Suite, located at the bow of the ship. Within 45 minutes, we had our luggage in our room, which is something I have never experienced. As we unloaded our luggage, it was obvious that someone had been inside of it. I discovered that our bags had been rifled through by Princess and my one small bottle of gin had been removed. I learned that you are allowed to bring a bottle of wine or Champagne on board, but not a bottle of gin. I must admit, in all my 50+ cruises, I have never had my bags gone through…it was quite disappointing that this line would do this. Food: The food in all the dining rooms was top notch throughout the entire cruise. Last year we did the transatlantic cruise on RCCL and the dining room food was horrible, so this was a great surprise. We had breakfast at Sabatini’s each morning and could not ask for better service, quality and the free Mimosas were a good way to start the day. On our first night we ate at Sabatini’s for dinner. It was good, but nothing I would pay extra for. Our dining room waiter and assistant were fantastic thanks Tommy from Thailand and Jorge from Cozumel, Mexico! Entertainment The entertainment on the ship was average, but what can you do when out to sea for six days in a row. Some great, others okay, but we had no complaints. Good music and dancing in the other lounges, so based on the length of the trip I would say it was excellent. Spa/Gym: There are not enough treadmills on the ship. I actually was told I had to get off of the treadmill while running because I exceeded the 30 minute time limit (which is fair-I just became lost in a movie and forgot time). People were standing around waiting for machines most of the time which was surprising for such a long cruise! The tranquility spa was excellent and having a suite gave us full free access, which we used each day. It has a steam room, hot beds, spa showers with several shower heads that massage you, and sauna. It is really beautiful and pampering. It cost extra if you do not have a suite, but worth a tour to see what you get, and you may want to pay the price if it is along cruise. We actually lost weight on this trip, which was nice. Overall Ship/Crew: The ship is beautiful and kept in immaculate condition. The crew was constantly cleaning and painting and the only thing I saw was the torn carpet on the very top running deck, but that was due to the 90 mile per hour gale force winds we hit on the first and third day at sea….and what a wild ride that was! Other than that (which was nothing) the ship was in perfect condition. The crew was fantastic, friendly and very informative. We got a kick out of the stupid games that we all got into, which were put on by the crew. The Captain actually had a personality and seemed like a professional yet very nice. All good here. Itinerary: It was fantastic! We stopped at Sapporo Japan, Vladivostok Russia, Busan South Korea, Qingdao China, Dalian China and ending in Beijing China. All of the ports with the exception of Russia were fantastic. Spotless, great sights and fantastic friendly people. Conclusion: You cannot go wrong with a repositioning cruise as you get to see places you normally would never go to. We stayed in China another week and toured with a great private company (China Odyssey Tours) and saw the most fantastic sights. What a great vacation and what a great cruise.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We enjoyed this cruise greatly. The Diamond Princess staff was excellent and the room steward was the best we've had in 10 cruises we've taken. It stormed the whole time we crossed the Bering Sea with high seas and high winds for ... Read More
We enjoyed this cruise greatly. The Diamond Princess staff was excellent and the room steward was the best we've had in 10 cruises we've taken. It stormed the whole time we crossed the Bering Sea with high seas and high winds for 5 days. The ship was amazing in that it was fairly stable the whole time and I never lurched into a wall while walking which we have done on cruises venues that included Cabo San Lucas to Los Angeles. While a cough developed on board the staff kept railings sanitized well. (you could smell it) There's no accounting for people though and their rudeness in going out and sharing something that is going around surprises me. Rude passengers is not Princess' fault though. We enjoyed the dining and the entertainment. Entertainment can be repetitive when you cruise frequently with the same cruise line and the Diamond was no different although the quality was high caliber. The only negatives were that this ship's does not have the International Cafe of the caliber of the Sapphire's and the Sterling Grill was in the back portion of the Horizon Court making the ambiance poor. We had planned a night in the Sterling Grill but when we saw the environment we changed plans and stayed in the dining room. Service varied highly from dining room to dining room. We found our niche though and even had servers ask for us to be seated in their section. Positive experiences with Princess keep us coming back. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
My wife and I are frequent and experienced cruisers. As such, while we were somewhat satisfied with our Diamond Princess cruise experience, there are certain factors that should receive Princess attention. The positives first: The ship ... Read More
My wife and I are frequent and experienced cruisers. As such, while we were somewhat satisfied with our Diamond Princess cruise experience, there are certain factors that should receive Princess attention. The positives first: The ship is wonderful: clean, obviously well maintained and efficiently operated (at least from the passengers point of view). Its layout is convenient and provides spaces for virtually any desired activity. Our mini-suite was quite spacious, well designed, well equipped and maintained in a spotlessly clean condition. The only negative associated with our cabin was the continued placement of the stewards unsightly service cart directly opposite our cabin door: this made for a most unattractive sight on exiting the cabin. The entertainment was well above average: the production shows were very good, the performers and costumes excellent. The comedians and magician were very good and enjoyable. The lounge pianist was excellent and affable, making the Crooners Lounge a great place to be (if a seat could be found). The onboard facilities and lounge/cocktail areas are excellent. Again, they are well designed, attractive and comfortable. Our concern, however, is with your reserving such areas as the Skywalkers Lounge for your preferred customers. This is a large negative for me, and smacks of prejudice, as it is unnecessary in view of the size of the lounge. And, why open the lounge to the needle-crafters until 10:00 AM, then close it to all but your Elite or above passengers? You have limited use of the front-of-ship lounge for the extra-cost Sanctuary, and now you have eliminated the only other enclosed viewing lounge: the top-of-ship Skywalkers Lounge. The Library is too small and not well-stocked: the collection is old and shopworn and there are insufficient reference works, maps and guides relating to the ships itineraries. Our main complaint is with the food and food service, and as this is a major marketing component of any cruise line, it deserves renewed company attention, as follows: International Restaurant: Breakfast - Soft-boiled eggs arrived cold and hard-boiled. English bacon arrived greasy and cold. While these were exchanged without fuss, this should not occur. Compared with our experience in 2010 aboard the Coral Princess, the menu was diminished in variety, and showed signs of cost-conscious pruning. Dinner - Service was so rapid and stilted that we did not have time to relax and enjoy courses or shipmates. As we were anytime guests, and arrived around 8:00 PM, there was no need for such rushed service. Horizon Caf: While the selection was broad, there again was evidence of cost-cutting. At breakfast, the scrambled eggs were usually cold to just warm and appeared to be made from an egg substitute (hard and tasteless). The fried eggs were cooked in oil, yielding hard and greasy servings. Bacon was always greasy (frequently not thoroughly cooked), even though posed on bread in an effort to absorb the grease. The sausage was also tasteless and greasy. Even having eggs made to order usually produced unappetizing results. (I did, however, occasionally get soft boiled eggs properly soft boiled.) Milk was available for use with cereal, but not easily for drinking. At lunch, the cheeses were mostly processed, not natural, and selection was limited. Cold cuts were few and inexpensive: Italian salami was offered only once, roast beef (of a poor cut and well done) only twice, etc. The freshly cooked meats were uniformly tough or tasteless, another indication of cost cutting in my opinion. The French fried and baked potatoes were most often cold or lukewarm. In my opinion, some attention should be paid to the steam table/serving process. While most of the food preparation people and table waiters/bus-persons were friendly and helpful, there were several who were obvious in avoiding work. The managers may try their best, but waiting, after ordering, 10 minutes for iced tea or for a table to be cleared and re-set is unacceptable. Specialty dining: Sabatinis was our first attempt at avoiding the International Restaurant. It proved to be a major disappointment. The menu does not indicate that the appetizers are served as mandatory small plates. Though we individually requested that certain items be omitted, no attention was paid to our request. Instead, the automatons served all the appetizers, one after the other, in a rapid-fire manner. The entrees were just acceptable. Certainly nothing to write home about. As only a few customers were dining, the rushed serving pace was unnecessary. We determined that we would not re-visit Sabatinis. The steakhouse was just as disappointing: I ordered a strip steak Pittsburgh or Black and Blue, but received a steak covered with butter showing only lightly cross-hatched grill marks. I sent it back, requesting that it be served better charred and without butter. The steak I finally received was more completely seared (not charred), and still showing evidence of being buttered. Clearly, the kitchen does not have the ability to broil steaks at the high heat required to achieve this common steak-lover request. Even more disappointing was the presence of a lot of gristle. Having taken the time to have the steak re-done, I did not send it back. We determined that we would not re-visit the steakhouse. It is noteworthy that we frequented the specialty dining rooms on our Coral Princess cruise in 2010. Our dinner experience in the Vivaldi dining room was far better: our traveling companions found a quiet table in a back corner attended by an experienced, attentive and caring Ukrainian server and her assistant. They quickly learned our preferences for beverages, and promptly complied with our requests. Dinner was not rushed, but rather served to the pace we desired. While the menu was quite varied, the quality of the food was often not to our expectations. Meat was occasionally tough or tasteless, the lobster was actually over-cooked lobster tails, and several times soups and other dishes were served cold or lukewarm. The exchanged items were usually better, but again these kinds of problems should not occur. Your room service menu options have apparently also been reduced, and charges are now made for items previously provided at no extra charge. I do not understand this change, and feel it is a further example of nickel-and-diming your customers. In conclusion, we believe that the negatives primarily associated with the quality and service of the food and dining offset the positives of the attractive price of this repositioning cruise. We are disappointed, in view of our generally excellent experience aboard the Coral Princess in March, 2010. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
I am going to try and keep this short and sweet so here goes. I was on this cruise from Whittier to Tinjin China with my wife. We have been on three other cruises (2 with Celebrity and one on NCL). In short the trip was nice but as you ... Read More
I am going to try and keep this short and sweet so here goes. I was on this cruise from Whittier to Tinjin China with my wife. We have been on three other cruises (2 with Celebrity and one on NCL). In short the trip was nice but as you might imagine there were some issues that did come up. We arrived in Anchorage two days before the cruise was to start and stayed at the Comfort Inn next to the Alaska Railroad station. It is a nice place with a reasonable price. I recommend the train trip to Whittier, It is a little more expensive than the Princess bus. They also take care of the luggage on the train (You check the baggage in and it is at your stateroom door when you get on the ship). Getting on the ship was not a big deal but if you have sailed on NCL or on Celebrity you will not get a glass of champagne when you board. Someone will point you to the elevator and that is about it. D740 is an aft balcony. The balcony is very large but the room itself is a little smaller that what I have had with the other two cruise lines. A little about the cabin now, everyone raved about getting an aft cabin because you can't feel the movement of the ship as much. I found that is not the case but that just might be me. The ship movement really does not bother me at all but a few rough nights did affect my wife a little. The beds on this Princess ship are terrible. I was told this is a problem on all of the Princess ships. It is bad and very uncomfortable when compared to Celebrity or NCL. This cabin also has a shower and it is as small as all others I have had. I have been trying to figure out why there are magnets on the bottom of the shower curtain though. There is nothing metal for them to attach to and they just ball the whole bottom of the curtain and cause water to go everywhere on the floor of the bathroom. Someone did not think that through very well when that was spec'ed. The food in the buffet is barley OK. I have had better food at Denny's. From cold food to yellow water that is supposed to be orange juice. I was used to the selection juices on Celebrity and was pretty disappointed with what Princess had to offer. I suggest you bring your own coffee with you if you are used to good coffee because the free stuff on the Diamond is worse that burned Folgers. I guess they do this to sell their coffee cards and drink cards. The last thing I will complain about is the passport process. They collected everyone's passport when boarding so they could take care of all the visa issues for the ports. That in itself was not a really bad thing but I was a little upset when they lost my wife's for a while and no one would give me a straight answer. The people working at the guest services desk really need to become problem solvers and not just super polite and not have a clue of what they are doing or talking about. Also be sure to check you onboard account because I was charged for something (It did not specify what the item was just an amount) that was not mine. It was like pulling teeth to get them to take it off even though they could not find an invoice for it. It is stresses like this that kill a vacation fast. One other thing that needs be considered about this process is that in some places you MUST have you passport to change money. A photocopy will not do. I will say that the crew was very helpful and I was very happy with that aspect of the cruise. The stateroom was always clean and in order. The dinning staff was very good also. All in all it was a nice cruise but here were some things that could have been addressed in a better fashion than they were. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
We embarked on the Diamond Princess in Whittier, Alaska and sailed through Asia, ending in Bangkok, Thailand. The itinerary was wonderful and most of the shore excursions were expensive but pretty good. We particularly liked the "home ... Read More
We embarked on the Diamond Princess in Whittier, Alaska and sailed through Asia, ending in Bangkok, Thailand. The itinerary was wonderful and most of the shore excursions were expensive but pretty good. We particularly liked the "home visit" excursions, where we had a chance to meet the local people. The ship was a little large for our liking and it seemed to be too large for the staff as well. We felt that there was an air of chaos on the ship. Part of the problem is that the Passenger Services staff didn't seem to know what was happening or know much about the ship. Most of the information we received from them was incorrect, one time causing us to almost miss a shore excursion. Calls to Passenger Services in the evening were often not answered or answered by someone who was not a Passenger Services staff member. One thing which I really missed is that they didn't have a ship's newspaper. This is the only cruise I've ever been on that didn't have a newspaper available for passengers. The internet wasn't working for the better part of the cruise so we felt cut off from the world. Another thing we missed was having a bedside clock. If you wanted to find out what time is was in the night, you had to get up and go to the desk and turn on the light to see the time on the telephone. On most of the other cruises we've been on, they have had a clock on the bedside table. Several times, I heard the staff in the Skywalker Lounge tell passengers that there was no elevator to get up to the lounge. Of course, there IS an elevator, but be careful in the lounge. Steps in the lounge are marked, but not as clearly as they should be. I saw two elderly passengers fall because they didn't see the step up to another level of the lounge. The service in the Horizon Court was terrible. The staff wandered around the restaurant holding trays and either looking at the ceiling or chatting with each other. Seldom were we offered something to drink and dirty dishes took a long time to be picked up. Managers didn't seem to do any actual managing or going through the restaurant to ask passengers about their meals and the service, as is done on other Princess ships. The stateroom was small, but comfortable. I was surprised, however, when we walked into the room. Immediately upon entering the room, the first thing you see is an open closet - no doors or curtains. It looked more like a college dorm than something belonging on what Princess describes as a "luxury destination". The bed was very comfortable and we enjoyed having a small refrigerator in the cabin. Following the cruise, we took the Princess hotel package. They put us in the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok. It was unbelievable! We were treated like royalty. We had beautiful rooms with a wonderful view looking down the river. The transfer to the airport following our hotel stay was well-organized and efficient. Overall, we didn't think much of the Diamond Princess and we wouldn't want to go back on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My husband Joe and I were excited to take our 7th cruise on Princess. At 31 days, this was also going to be the longest cruise. We wondered how we would spend that much time on board, would we run out of books - all of those piddly ... Read More
My husband Joe and I were excited to take our 7th cruise on Princess. At 31 days, this was also going to be the longest cruise. We wondered how we would spend that much time on board, would we run out of books - all of those piddly questions one must address. Joe travels with an electric wheelchair, not a scooter, so it is always a gamble as to what shape the chair will be in when we get our destination. We left San Antonio, flying to Anchorage. We give United airlines a big thumbs up. The chair arrived in the same shape it was when we boarded it. That's a first for us; this was the first time we've flown United. We got into Anchorage at about 9:15 p.m. Always dress for the destination to which you are going. 100 degree weather in San Antonio doesn't follow you to the far north. The Princess greeters met us efficiently and professionally. As in other Princess embarkations, the ground folks are always surprised that we have confirmed "wheelchair lift" transportation. Everyone was extremely apologetic and after 1 ½ hours sitting in the airport, a van finally arrived. When we got to the Captain Cook hotel, our luggage was waiting and check in was a breeze. We snuggled into a great bed in a great hotel. The next morning we visited a museum quality boutique in the hotel lobby and had time to take a quick spin around the downtown (quick because I hadn't unpacked the sweaters) and then boarded the bus to Whittier. Along the way we stopped at a wild game preserve and had time to snap the reindeer, bison, and bear. There was also the opportunity for the last popcorn for almost 30 days. Then we were off to Whittier, a great place from which to embark, but hardly worth a shore excursion. You can see most of it from the deck. The luggage was delivered in short order, and I had time to unpack before we started off. We had a handicapped room by the elevator. Since we must book this in advance, we cannot take advantage of being upgraded from a lower level. But, the extra turning room and the accessible shower are a must. We were disappointed to see (and this is not the first time) that the people next to us on the first leg were not handicapped. We met a travel agent in the elevator on Princess that explained she always books a handicapped room for her and her customers. They have more room. I think that's a foul on her part and on the part of Princess. We've never cruised Alaska, but the scenery from the ship was incredible. The sunset, glaciers, scenery set the backdrop for our cruise. The first stop was Kodiak Island. We opted to stay on board but some great pictures from our balcony. I'm always really tired the first and second day of a cruise, so I opted to nap. I think it's the knowledge that I have utterly no responsibilities. I love cruising. Six days later, we arrived in Muroran, Japan. A lovely spot to break the sea voyage. We were told that cruise ships only stop twice a year, so the welcome was spectacular. We had the added benefit of a great tenor on some balcony near us, who would break into song. A friend and I took the shuttle into town. There were guides everywhere to answer questions. Plus, a street fair was underway; we assumed for our benefit. We found Japan's answer to the Dollar Store - the 100 yen store and had a great time poking about for bargains. I bought several items I didn't even know I needed. We found in many instances, the shuttle into town was a far better way to visit than the pricey tours offered from Princess. My husband's motto is not to eat or drink anything suspicious, so we didn't immediately offer that we had tried the yakatori, which left us wanting more as well as a great noodle dish. At a passing glance, the hospitality here was memorable. It was even better after we spent the day in Vladivostok. Three more days at sea, and we arrived at Vladivostok. Had we not been able to say that we set foot in Siberia, the port could very well have been omitted. I had the preconceived notion (I have been to Moscow) that everything would be gray and depressed. I was not disappointed. I truly tried to see it in color, but had no luck. The day was cold and dreary. I was tempted to buy a red army fur hat. The travel desk had assured us that my husband could go ashore, so we trundled down the gangway and that's as far as we got. He could not leave the immediate area because of high curbs, steps, etc. We found the travel people generally helpful, but other times really clueless. Joe went back on board, and three of us set out on foot. We had a list of the places on the ship's tour and were able to do them on our own as most of the sights were within walking distance of the ship. The comparison between our welcome at Muroran and Vladivostok was black and white - Muroran being the shining white and Vladivostok a shade of gray. The people were in a hurry to be somewhere other than the service industry. The difference between "haves" and "have nots" was noticeable. We saw many cars with steering wheels on the right side - importing used cars from Japan is a big business. The cross walks were interesting as they cross underground with assorted shops below. We were ready leave. Another day at sea and we docked in Pusan. The sun came out. We took another shuttle into town and immersed ourselves in Korean shopping. We honed our bargaining skills and had varying degrees of success. Friends that took the scheduled tours were generally disappointed. Lots of traffic and minimal time to stroll through the sites or shop. The tours want you to shop at the high end designer stores; in general, I don't believe that's the experience most are looking for. Then, there's always the Princess push to shop in stores they recommend. These are also stores for which they get a kick back for your purchases. The next day was Kagoshima and I opted for a tour. It was worth every penny in my estimation. We visited a Samurai village and gardens and then took a beautiful mountain drive to a resort for a relaxing sand bath (preceded by a sushimi lunch). We stopped along the way to use the facilities and shop. The clerks came out and bowed to us when we left. It took only a few minutes but left us with a good feeling. The sand bath was a great new experience. You don a kimono like robe and are buried up to your neck in the sand. It's warm and relaxing. The pictures show that you are at the ocean side, but since the pictures have been taken, there is a brick wall between the sand and the ocean, I suppose to prevent eroding. Then, there's a hot tub bath to get the sand off, and then you get dressed for the ride to the ship. I slept like a baby. Dalian, China was next. I opted for a walking tour and kite flying. Certainly not worth the money. We walked a little over an hour straight down one street to a large square, then boarded buses to have a drink (closely monitored) and fly kites. The kite flying was fun. We were told we could keep the kites. Wheeee. Surprisingly, they were cheap little nylon kites (made in China). Somehow, my idea of a Chinese kite wasn't that, but I guess it was as advertised. I'd wave off the tour. Strangely, we never did get to shop in a "Chinatown" until we were in Japan. You need to consider that many of the ports are a great distance from the city to which you want to go. Xingang is about two hours from Beijing. Unfortunately, our landing coincided with a national holiday so everything was late and disorganized. They have a ways to go before the Olympics. We opted for the Great Wall. It was disappointing as we went to a very small section where you did not get the long vista of the wall. It was also disappointing in that our guide disappeared as we were getting Joe's manual wheelchair off the bus. We found the entry; Joe had to walk about five steps, which is not easy for him, and I lifted the wheelchair. I will say that on another bus, the guide and driver helped a passenger who was in a wheelchair. The group had disappeared for lunch, which most folks told us mediocre at best. It was not accessible. Most passengers would have opted for more time at the wall and no lunch. I was able to go a ways, but Joe never did see the wall except in a distance. But, we checked that block. Nagasaki was our next port of call. Again, we opted to take the tram to the Peace Garden. We saw everything on the ship's tour. It cost us $4 and the tour group $79. Again, we had time to spend as we wised. The tram ride was easy and cheap. We also had time to shop in Chinatown, although most people directed us to the high end shopping district. Shanghai is a busy, bustling commercial center. Tree-lined boulevards and modern architecture. Joe and I had the address of the Shanghai International Pearl Market, specifically, the Green Lotus Pearls. A friend, who had lived there, had recommended the woman who owns it. We took a taxi (any color but the red ones; the red taxis are not regulated) and had no trouble finding the Market and were not disappointed. There were many Americans there as I believe it is close to an American enclave. Only one scary incident. There was only an escalator to the second floor so two security men (not large) simply put Joe's wheelchair on the escalator and off they went. Double scary on the way down. Shopping was not my main goal, but in Okinawa, we took the free shuttle into town, and shopped a bit. We spent some time in the fish market; it was, after all, air conditioned. You've really got see the decorated pigs' heads to appreciate foreign cuisine. The 100 Yen store is a good place to buy bottled water as it costs - 100 yen. It's much pricier on the ship. The port of Keelung, Taiwan was itself interesting. Many toured the area or went into town on their own. We took the bus to Taipei. We were told we could change money where they dropped us off. Surprise - it was a designer, high-end mall. Things are not cheaper in Asia, and the exchange rate is disastrous for Americans. It's true, you could change money, but you needed your passport. Note to passengers - ALWAYS CARRY A COPY OF YOU PASSPORT WITH YOU. PRINCESS KEPT OUR PASSPORTS THE ENTIRE CRUISE. You can't change money without one. And, the ATMs didn't always work. Friends and I did our own tour in Taipei - we went to the National Palace Museum and the Lingshan Temple. We enjoyed time on our own and time away from a busload of 60 obvious tourists. After two days at sea, we arrived in Hong Kong and Joe and I and friends took a taxi to Stanley Market. We had fun shopping; they don't barter much. It's best to walk around and compare prices though as several merchants sell the same items. I witnessed my first purse snatching. The police were there quickly and were efficient. Joe and I went around the corner to the beach and had a soft drink and relaxed at a covered table. There was a great sign that guaranteed that the sausages had no intestines in them. We passed on the experience. Back in Hong Kong, we found a Citi-Bank within pushing distance of the Silk Emporium and were able to replenish our cash reserves using their ATM and then changing the money to dollars. We did have an account with Citi-Bank, so that was helpful. We left late enough to see the laser light show in the harbor. What a sight! Another day at sea and then two stops in Vietnam. The first was Nha Trang - a lovely seaside town. I took a bus tour, which was probably not worth the cost. We went to the Silk Embroidery Museum, which was well worth the stop. Even if you don't buy anything, the works of art that are displayed were amazing. We made several other stops. There are virtually no cars here or in Saigon. Poverty is everywhere. It seems the prosperity of China and Japan has not yet arrived. We had a private tour to Saigon and weren't sure it was worth it. That is until we returned to the ship on time and those that had taken the ship's tour were delayed up to six hours. We saw the standard sights, including the U.S. Consulate, on the sight of the former Embassy, which has been torn down. Our guide explained that those with cars and houses are generally party bosses or those who smuggle. That was an insight. I took the offered tour to Singapore. It was average and probably worth it as it gave me time on my own. I used the subway and it puts Washington DC to shame. It's well organized, large, user-friendly, bright and clean. We stopped at a famous coffee house, which offered great toast and coffee. (Joe wasn't along to try it). We left from the Duty Free Store, which had some reasonably priced souvenirs. I wandered down to Barnes and Noble, where they were charging nearly $30 for "A Thousand Splendid Suns." I decided to wait til we got home. It was time to go home. We opted for a three-day stay in Bangkok, which was a great idea. One problem. Two days before we disembarked, Princess decided they would not honor the transfers that we had paid for. We were told we were on our own to find wheelchair transportation to Bangkok - a three-hour drive. They finally found a driver, but we had to pay $170 in cash. We were also left on our own to find transportation to the airport - another $60. The driver and guide they found for us are part of their ground service in Bangkok, so what they were objecting to is the cost. Of course, this was never discussed prior to our disembarkation. We still find it ludicrous that they gave us in writing a letter saying they would reimburse us for the charge, but on the day we disembarked changed their mind. Princess finds the matter resolved and will not reimburse us. So, we are voting with our feet after 7 cruises on Princess. Our stay at the Shangri-La was delightful. It is a gorgeous hotel with friendly helpful staff. You can walk around the area where it located (right on the river) and experience much of Bangkok. We were a little put off by the cheapest glass of wine being $20 and the beer, $6.50. Robinson's department store is a couple of blocks away, and they have a super market in the basement. Beer is 50 cents, so we stocked up as there was a refrigerator in the room. We toured the sights and spent the last day around the pool. The pool-side satay was great and the entertainment at night wonderful. Massages are expensive at the hotel. The National Massage School is located at the Wat Po Temple and we booked a masseuse, who came to the hotel. As to the entire experience, we enjoyed it more than we thought we would - despite the cancelled transfer. We developed our own routine on board, exercise, eating, playing trivia, eating, reading - things we do at home. I took too few books and was disappointed that passengers check out six books at a time, leaving few for others. So, if you want to get library books, go before unpacking. We were disappointed with the Princess Theater entertainment because it is the same shows you see on other cruises - "The Piano Man," "Mo-Town," etc. Some individual entertainers were outstanding; the bartenders juggling drinks were better than some of the paid entertainment. You can have good and bad experiences on any ship, but Princess' indifference to our transfers is, in our opinion, unforgivable. Bon Voyage. Lessons Learned: 1. Always carry a copy of your passport. 2. Japan requires careful screening (including body temperature) of those disembarking. This can add to frustrations and cut down touring time. 3. Princess kept our passports for the entire time. See #1. 4. The only local currency on board was Japanese yen. If you have a passport, you can exchange it at major banks. 5. Select tours carefully. Many were expensive and shortened because of red tape or at the discretion of the tour operator. 6. If timing allows, the 3-day after tour is a great way to decompress and take time to see a city. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007

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