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9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
" Slow boat " to Japan for the Sakura or Cherry Blossom, and a bit of sightseeing, fine dining and some dancing in between, that was the idea and why not, take 19 nights instead of 9 hours fly direct. It is the journey that ... Read More
" Slow boat " to Japan for the Sakura or Cherry Blossom, and a bit of sightseeing, fine dining and some dancing in between, that was the idea and why not, take 19 nights instead of 9 hours fly direct. It is the journey that matters and something to reminisce in future. See photos. In Nov 2017, we travelled the shinkansen or bullet train around Japan for the autumn foliage and kind of felled in love with the beautiful people, place and views. So this time, we wanted to see the sakura. We experienced sakura in Hirosaki Castle Park in North Honshu. Aomori is the closest big town. ( see photos and separate review on the Diamond Princess ) We sailed QE, Melb to Yokohama for the first leg and switched over to the Diamond Princess to sail around Japan for the 2nd leg for another 9 nights. Thanks Cunard staff for the cabin upgrade. Hundreds of us, had to do the switch over and gladly give the Japanese a chance to enjoy what we did in the last 3 weeks on the QE. The rumour was, 1700 Japanese were getting onboard the QE for the Golden Week ( 4-5 public holidays ). In my past reviews on Cunard voyages, I have commented their excellent ambience, decore, service, food, entertainment and varied activities. Breakfast room service and dining service were excellent, everyday. These high standards continued, in my humble view. Thanks Reynaldo and Alvin for your serving of pistachio souffle which I enjoyed watching more than eating ( I am not a dessert person ). Thank you to our Brissie realtors table companions and making everyone laugh, sometimes in tears, each night. And to Ron and Angela for the many many happy times we had while onboard. On sea days and there were many, Zumba exercises at 9am and line dancing at 10am, ballroom dancing at 11am and in the afternoon, different type of dance lessons and from 7.45pm onwards, ballroom and latin dancing in the Queens Room till midnight and in the Yatch Club, with more pop and disco until the wee morning hours. In QE, you can literally DANCE TILL YOU DROP DEAD. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. Survive I did with a trick, get some rest and catch a nap. We enjoyed dancing but not as dedicated as some others who wake up at the crack of dawn, to practice in the Queens Room. Thanks to the many people we met while dancing like Des and Pauline, Ron n Barb, Arthur n Betty, and Tim n Tima, Mark n Annie, etc.... Life on board the QE includes the pool activities, mahjong, fencing, table tennis, darts, trivia, interesting talks, shows and of course, drinking and fine dining and late night suppers in the Lido after dancing. Following an interesting presentation on the social culture and food aspects of Japan, there was an interesting ceremony on breaking of the sake or wine barrel. The Japanese vintage sake was free flowing and was limitless. It was not a good idea, on an empty stomache and before lunch but life goes on.... Neil, the entertainment director and zumba instructor, was easy, funny and encouraging to many newcomers to zumba. He got my table companions, Steve and Donna, converted. Lesley, did a great job hosting and was ably assisted by the dance hosts like Brian and Sheila, Richard, etc. Much credit is due to our 4 dance instructors who patiently taught many of us, several useful dance moves and techniques to improve ourselves. Recorded music used for dancing was in manyways better than live music on some occassions ( see review on QE to Tasmania and Port Arthur) As for the ports, we were lucky to get some magical views of sunrise over the Sydney Opera House and the ferries darting in and out of Circular Quay ferry terminal. I have lived and worked in Sydney before and this experience is still a treasure. A tip, get the portside cabin when coming into Sydney. We enjoyed strolling along the Royal Botanical Gardens and the views from Mrs Macquaire Chair of QE, Opera Housre and the Harbour Bridge. This must be one of the most beautiful harbour in the world, in my view. In Brisbane, we enjoyed the free shuttle to town centre, free City Hopper ( red coloured ) ferry ride around Southbank and wandered and shop inthe high street. We dropped in a big Commonwealth Bank to do some banking and got free wi-fi and an excellent coffee, on the house. Thank you customer service. That is why banked with you. We skipped visiting Alotaul in PNG as it was so bloody hot and humid but we did our own shore excursion ( aud 45pp for a 2 hour air cond bus tour ) in Rabaul to the Hotsprings, Mt Tavurvur ( pronounced TaVOORvoor) volcano that last erupted 5 years ago in Sep 2014, the Japanese general Yamamoto bunkers, and the Volcano Observatory station. The scientist staff showed us in and explained all the seismological monitoring. You can get some beautiful views of QE in the harbour below and the volcano, too. In Manila, we got a free shuttle to a big shopping complex. We got some currencies and went shopping. I booked and got a nice hair trim by a gorgeous hairdresser and my wife got a manicure done at the same time. You can walk out of QE or port to see Josef Rizal Memorial and Fort Santiago without having to catch the free shuttle. Do that later. Otherwise, it was a 30 min hike back and it can be very sweaty due to its humidity and the pathways are not always clear and smooth. In Nagasaki, we took a tram ride to the nearest station and walked 5 min to the Peace Park and another 5 min walk to centre of the atomic bomb blast. The English tourist brochure on how to ride and pay the tram fare and the direction to the stations is very simple and clear to understand. Remember to change tram at the main station for the next tram and get a transfer ticket from the tram driver before disembaring. This is used for the 2nd and final tram when you exit. Just follow the cruise crowd as nearly all will head in the same direction. It is 50% cheaper to pay on the tram as you exit instead of buying the day pass. You may not have much time visting other places. We window shopping when we return and walked up to the Church which was first used by Portugese inthe 13th-15th century. BTW, you can see the small mountan scenic top from the QE ship portside andyou can catch your own ropeway or cable car up there for a small fee as compared to shore excursion. Yokohama, has a lot ot offer which we will do the next time. This time, we caught the city free shuttle to Sakuragicho station. We have a Suica card from previous visit and we avoided the very long queue to buy a train ticket to Central Tokyo or Shinjuku or Akihabara in our case. We caught the unreserved seating JR Keihin- Tohuku for Omiya direction express train direct to Akihabara for under 600 yen or usd 6 or aud 9. Incredibly cheap and quite fast if you know how and do your homework. Use hyperdia.com website. Otherwise, Cunard transfer will be aud 100 plus. Hopefully, my table companions took up my suggestion,if not for the money, at least, just for the experience. In conclusion, we were very happy overall with the voyage and the many people we met, dined and danced with and highly recommend this ship and voyage especially for the Pollywogs who have never crossed the Equator. You get a big colorful Cunard map of the world certificate with your name on it for crossing the Equator. Nice surprise. Looking forward to the next Med cruise in Sept. Hopefully, you enjoyed reading the review and got something out of it in some little ways. Well, at least enjoy the photos. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: April 2016
We are frequent cruisers with Princess (this was our 15th cruise overall) and have taken 2 days cruises in the past on other ships in the fleet so knew what to expect from this one. Having travelled on the Diamond Princess in the past I ... Read More
We are frequent cruisers with Princess (this was our 15th cruise overall) and have taken 2 days cruises in the past on other ships in the fleet so knew what to expect from this one. Having travelled on the Diamond Princess in the past I was excited to cruise on the Golden Princess which is also a Grand class ship but built in Italy not Japan. The decor and design were the major differences with the Diamond being changed for the Asian market. We normally book an aft balcony suite as have found the lifts and access better from there. On this cruise we booked a guaranteed Window Suite after researching and finding this unusual suite without a balcony but at a lower price than a full suite. It offered full suite amenities and was conveniently placed on Deck 6 between the Service Desk and the Princess Theatre. It was accessed by a separate hallway and we had no noise issues from people passing by. We ended up with an accessible suite with a large shower instead of the separate spa bath and shower in a normal Window Suite. The room was a great sanctuary to escape to and very convenient, as mid ship, for stops in between activities or forgotten items. Loved the size of the room and the lounge area which was great as we were travelling with family. The priority boarding, welcome glass of champagne and canapes, mini bar and suite toiletries were also excellent. We didn't access the free laundry or afternoon tea in the suite due to the short cruise. We were travelling with our 25 year old daughter and her friend who were upgraded from a twin guaranteed obstructed ocean view to a balcony cabin on Caribe deck and they really appreciated the balcony. After exploring the ship we headed to the forward adults only pool which was protected from the wind and located outside the Lotus Spa. There is no thermal suite on this ship something we normally access when available. We used our robes another suite perk. It has two spas as well as separate male and female steam rooms and saunas. It was very relaxing and a great place to wind down after the delayed boarding and waiting for cabins to be available due to ship and terminal disinfection. As soon as we boarded I booked the Crown Grill specialty restaurant for dinner on the first night and we were not disappointed. The menu was varied, steaks cooked as requested and large servings particularly the lobster. As always the vegetables sides were varied and plentiful. The desserts were delicious also. Given a choice I would eat at the specialty restaurants every night as really enjoy the food and the main dining room choices were limited when we attended on the second night. After dinner we headed to the Explorers Lounge to the Karaoke with our daughter. She was very disappointed to find there was no book available to view song choices and that they had to be selected with a crew member on the computer. The song choices available were also limited. Apart from this it was enjoyable entertainment with many people participating. We returned to the Explorers the following night where she was able to sing with a live band at "Rockstar". For breakfast the first morning we were able to avoid the long queues that my daughter experienced at the dining room by taking advantage of the suite breakfast available at Sabatini's where we were plied with food,pastries, coffee and mimosas. Really enjoyed this suite perk. We attended trivia then more exploring and relaxing in the Skywalkers Nightclub. A great spot to read during the day and for the Cocktails and canapes for Platinum, Elite & Suite at night and to watch the sun set. We didn't go to the nightclub at night but will check this out next time. We attended a show on the second night which was entertaining but the Princess Theatre seating options and single level were not as good as some of the other ships we have cruised on. On the final morning we ate at the dining room with only a short wait to be seated. The embarkation lounge for Platinum, Elite and Suite in the Explorers Lounge provided a place to relax until it was time for us to leave for our booked transport. It also offered pastries,tea, coffee and juice. The crew member who was looking after us was very entertaining and knowledgeable and was able to view the gangway and advise when to leave without delays. I thought this ship offered plenty of options to get away from others and venues with ample seating. At no stage did I think it was overcrowded even though there were 2600 passengers.The decor was dated and typically Italian. There were numerous renovations being undertaken and limited shopping available as a result. I liked this ship and can see how I would use the spaces on a longer cruise. I can recommend this ship and definitely book the Window Suite if you get the chance (loved the suite perks). We are planning to return so we can fully appreciate it when we are cruising alone. The only negative on this cruise was lack of availability of the cabin crew. We know there have been staff cuts and higher work loads for the cabin stewards and that you can no longer see them in the hallways during the day. We have had great service in the past, always tip our cabin stewards at the beginning and the end and normally don't require anything extra. On this occasion my daughter had contacted her cabin steward for an adapter (there are no Australian power points in the cabin) by ringing the number on the telephone. After one hour no response. We rang our cabin steward with the same result. After two visits to the service desk (conveniently located one door away) and after initially being told they would contact them hours later we were advised conflicting information that our cabin steward was in a meeting and not available until after 6pm. Is this code for a reduction in the workforce, cost cutting and split shifts in place? We didn't get the adapter or any response at all from either steward. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
We flew to Sydney in readiness for this cruise, and stayed at the Sir Stamford Hotel, great hotel and great location, a few minutes' walk to board our cruise ship. The Diamond Princess met most expectations, beautifully maintained, ... Read More
We flew to Sydney in readiness for this cruise, and stayed at the Sir Stamford Hotel, great hotel and great location, a few minutes' walk to board our cruise ship. The Diamond Princess met most expectations, beautifully maintained, elegant decor, many pool areas and places to relax. Great selection of movies under the stars on the big screen, good variety of entertainment, plenty of varied options of things to do on sea days. The anytime dining was a great choice, eat where you liked, when you liked, and with whom you liked. The food was good, plenty of variety. The staffs were exceptional, helpful, friendly, and nothing was a bother, a pleasure to get to know them. Our mini suite was good but had a very small bathroom compared to others we have had. Just a shower over the bath. Great balcony, but no privacy as they are tiered, those above you looked directly down on you!!! The itinerary was great and at all stops things ran very smoothly. Our ports of call were Airlie Beach, Port Douglas, Darwin, then Hong Kong, all very enjoyable and in perfect weather. Sam pan ride and trip to the Peak in Hong Kong were great fun. Our good weather came to a stop in the Taiwan Straits, but once in the South China Sea it improved and we arrived in Keelung. We went to Taipei for the day; it was ok but nothing exciting and not as friendly as the ports that followed. Nagasaki was next and we had a wonderful welcome from their dancers and orchestra. A beautiful clean city with a sad past the atomic bomb etc., friendly, interesting and welcoming. On to bus to South Korea another great welcome, lovely city and they certainly know how to look after their tourists, great place. Missed Shanghai, due to illness, but those who went said it was great, especially the Bund. China next the city of Dalian and then on to Tianjin, a couple of hours drive to Beijing. Amazing hotel the KEMPINSKI great location to everything. Beijing was definitely the high light of this cruise. The panda bears, Forbidden city, Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace and The Great Wall of China. How incredible all this was, we had our own private car and an English speaking guide for all these trips, fantastic. We flew home with Air China. This part was all organised by our travel agent Flight Centre for a very reasonable price, it was just fabulous. Now to the issue that put a damper on our cruise. PRINCESS SMOKING POLICY. There were 3 areas allotted to smokers. 1. Port side deck 7 where the walking track is, so snide remarks and rudeness from the non-smokers. 2. One small section port side deck 14, and as this was in the area for lunch time entertainment, the non-smokers wanted it, so once again snide comments and rude remarks everyday. 3. The Churchill lounge, a small bar room inside the ship. This room was not serviced during the day, only when the bar opened in the evenings. This resulted in overflowing ashtrays, and coffee cups, the many crews who smoked also used this room. This room also posed a problem, passing wingers complained and so we had to be shut in, doors all shut. So to sum this up you could say we had about 4% of the ship to use if wanting a smoke. We pay big dollars for mini suites with balcony for our comfort and now we cannot smoke on these balconies. So we and many others had no alternative but to put up with these rude arrogant people every day of the cruise. Whilst we appreciate Princess cannot be responsible for their nonsense, they will certainly need to re-think how they implement their policy. We and many others will certainly not be going ahead with the future cruises we have booked with Princess. Why would any sane person pay thousands of dollars to put up with that sort of crap? Read Less

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