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lithlith

Diamon Princess Japan - things I wish I would have known ahead of time

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We recently completed a 13 day itinerary on the Diamond Princess out of Japan. It was difficult for me to find the information that I was looking for about this ship and our trip in general before we left for the trip, so I thought others might benefit from our insights. The information below is intended to be an FYI to other westerners sailing on the Diamond Princess out of Japan.

(We booked it as a 13 day, but it was sold separately as a 5 day and 8 day cruise so it was a back to back cruise.)

 

Embarkation in Kobe – we took the subway to the port.  It was great!  Super easy and dropped us right off at the terminal building.

 

On board the Diamond Princess  -

Guests - I had read online going in to this cruise that there would be a lot of Japanese guests. I was even thinking it might be 50-50 on board, but it was more like 85-15 and by that I mean 85% Japanese passengers to 15% westerner passengers.  On the 5 day part of the cruise one of the staff told us that there were only 300 English only speaking guests on board.  This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of ahead of time.

At the captains circle get together, they went through the numbers of how many of each status level they had on board and on both the 5 and 8 day cruises that we were on the number of first time cruisers was close to two-thirds of the ship!  Now for those of us who have cruised a lot, we know that this greatly changes how things operate on board with so many newbies finding their way around.

 

Language & Activities - There were two cruise directors – one for the Japanese and one for the English speakers. This was really unnecessary. The Japanese cruise director spoke English and Japanese so to have an additional cruise director who only spoke English and no Japanese seemed like a waste. All of the entertainment staff (those who help with the trivias and other activities on board all spoke English and Japanese).

All announcements were made in English and then Japanese.  Most of the games and activities were done in both English and Japanese (heads up – this does drag out a trivia game when the question is read in English and then in Japanese, sometimes a 20 question trivia game would last over an hour!)  On some days there were activities or trivias that would be listed as Japanese only or English only, which moved along much quicker.

When you see an activity or show advertised in the princess patter that you want to do, do it then! There were quite a few things that were only offered once during all of our 13 days. For example, a calligraphy lesson was only offered during our 5 day cruise as was getting dressed in a yukata. The Secret of Silk production show was only offered on the 8 day part of our cruise.  

 

Crew - I think that most all of the crew on board the diamond princess have had to learn Japanese to be able to assist guests at dinner, with the cabins, etc.  The crew seemed super happy to see us each day but not so much with the Japanese guests. I’m not sure if it was just us who they liked or were happy to have some English speakers, since for many of the crew English is their second language, and Japanese is now their third language.   I do not think that the Japanese guests treat the crew very well.  In fact we saw multiple instances throughout our 13 days, where we couldn’t understand what was being said in Japanese to the crew, but it was clear from the way the crew would then turn around and act or look that they had just been spoken down to.  There seems to be a hierarchy in the Asian races and culture where the Japanese think they are at the top and that those from the Philippines and Indonesia (where many of the crew are from) are very much below them.  We were quite disgusted with how the Japanese guests were treating the crew, so we stepped up our niceness  :-)

 

Food - Menus were in Japanese and English. Food items on the buffet was maybe one third Japanese type cuisine and two thirds American/Westerner food options. Same for the dinner menu in the dining room.

 

Lines – The Japanese love getting in line. Everyone is very orderly, which is great, but just know going into the cruise to expect lines around the ship – going into the theater, lining up for a sale in the atrium, lining up for the dining room, lining up for karaoke, etc.  And this isn’t just a simple short line…the line for the dining room at breakfast and lunch would sometimes wind up several flights of stairs! And the karaoke line was out the door! Know that the line will move, but if you want to go to a show or have breakfast in the dining room that your timing is everything – get there early and don’t be surprised if there is a significant line that has already formed 45 minutes early.

 

Place there were no line or crowds - We found that very few people were ever out on the Lido deck, most passengers stayed inside all of the time, which made everything feel a little more crowded inside.  The pools and hot tubs were pretty much empty.  If you’re looking to book a spa appointment, no problem, it seems like the Japanese passengers aren’t really into that, so they had tons of openings. If you’re looking for a drink, also no problem, the bar staff was always just standing around and was excited when we would order drinks. We rarely saw Japanese passengers drinking alcohol. We also never saw a line for pizza or at the grill for burgers in our 13 days on board. The casino staff is also just standing around most of the time. With the strict gambling regulations in Japan, the casino was rarely open and when it was open, few people were there.

 

Immigration –  Once the ship stops in another country, then everyone has to go through immigration next time the ship stopped at a Japanese port.  They come on board and have immigration in one of the lounges.  The line was long and immigration took a long time each time we had to do this on our cruise.  Even if you’re booked on an excursion, you might get to bypass some of the line, but for the most part plan on 30-60 minutes of standing in an immigration line.

 

Our ports -

Kobe – embarkation (we took a train from Oksaka airport to our hotel in Kobe)

Busan, South Korea – we took a princess excursion to a temple and then fish market, which was a good tour

Yokkaichi – we took a princess excursion to a ninja museum and castle, it was ok excursion, had I been a 10 year old boy, the ninja stuff might have been more exciting

Yokohama (for Tokyo) – our ship docked at Yokohama at the end of the first 5 days and then again at the end of the next 8 days. Luckily both times, the ship had just docked the previous day in a Japanese port, so we didn’t have to go through the full immigration procedures in Yokohama.  However, all of our documents ahead of time and onboard said that we’re docking at 6am, which was true…however the port workers and small immigration team that work in the building that you have to walk through to exit the ship don’t start work until 7am, so the earliest that anyone can get off the ship in Yokohama is about 7:15am. (This would have been great to know for us ahead of time because both times we docked in Yokohama we were going into Tokyo independently by subway and train and had our day planned out for sightseeing based on being able to leave the ship at 6:15am, which turns out is impossible to do.)  Once we got off the ship in Yokohama, We independently took the subway/train to Tokyo.  We wouldn’t recommend doing this on your own unless you have a cell phone with an unlimited data plan and you are very proficient using google maps, which we had and are good at. You will need to rely on their google maps to navigate the subway, trains, and walking to your sightseeing destinations to be efficient with your time there to see the most you can with your little time in port.

Keelung (Taipei), Taiwan – we took the all day princess excursion of Taipei – excellent tour! Our friends independently went into Taipei taking the train in Keelung and then rode the hop on hop off bus for the day.  We saw way more than our friends did and having a guide who  explained things was worth the price for us with the princess excursion.

Ishigaki – we took a princess excursion here. The glass bottom boat ride that was part of the tour was the best glass bottom boat ride that we’ve ever had anywhere in the world! Our friends booked an independent tour at this port, which turned out tricky to get to because the immigration on the ship was taking so long and then they needed to catch a bus into the city to be able to catch their excursion, which they did end up catching their tour however it was all in Japanese.  Sometimes it is worth paying a little more for a princess tour.

Okinawa – we took the princess battle of Okinawa excursions, which we enjoyed

 

Let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help having just been on the Diamond Princess.

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Thanks for the  outstanding  review. We have considered cruising Japan via Princess. I hope others who have cruished Princess  in Japan  will add their experiences  to this thread,

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Thank you for posting. Details about the long lines is a turnoff for me.

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My experiences to yours over several years doing this ship are significantly different in some areas.

 

First I think they can dispense with the cruse director who only speaks English. They have had excellent native Japanese directors over the years that can fluently speak both languages and do a much better job on their own than acting as an assistant.

 

The one thing that made me scratch my head was the comment about lines "queues" or whatever you want to call them. After at least 6 cruises on that ship in Japan I never encountered anything like the lines you described. Unless you were unfortunate to have an organised group on board most people are far too organised to line up for anything with times staggered accordingly to avoid such congestion. I am beginning to wonder if the people you saw were either an organised tour from Taiwan or China joining in which does happen. Japanese are far too organised to waste time like that. They are precise and will line up if they have to but they will also stagger times to avoid unnecessarily causing a public display of lining up like that. I also worked with multiple Japanese tour groups when they come to Australia for tours around Ayers Rock. When there are multiple organised tours here they go to great extents to time things precisely so that they are not all lining up together or doing things at the same time just to avoid congestion and make things flow more easily.

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10 minutes ago, emmak8 said:

Thank you for posting. Details about the long lines is a turnoff for me.

Read above the lines never happened on any of the cruises I have done there.

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We're doing an 18 day Japan cruise in April.  Your post is very informative.  Thanks!

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There wasn't an IC on the Diamond in October 2017 when I did the CIRCLE OF JAPAN cruise. Is it there now?

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1 hour ago, satxdiver said:

We just spent 28 days on the Sapphire Princess, a sister ship to the Diamond.  The Sapphire had an IC on the piazza so I looked at the Diamond deck diagram on the Princess website and there is no IC listed.  So it appears the answer is no.  Waiting for onsite observation however. 

 

Also not the same but similar experience in Hawaii.  We were going on a dinner cruise.  As we all arrived many oriental people rushed to get into a line which surprised us not to mention confusing.  A gentleman of obvious oriental background told us they were South Koreans and that is how they behaved.  So perhaps the long line of "Japanese" were actually South Koreans.  

 

I certainly do not know the conditions in Japan today since I have not been there.  However in the past first half of the last century, Japan conquered Korea as well as the Philippines and treated them as lesser human beings.   In the USA some still look down on African-Americans and treat them as such after over 100 years of desegregation.  The same may be true in Japan today.  Comments?

He was probably telling you the truth. As I explained above the Japanese are meticulous and they do not form large queues. I even said they may have been Taiwanese or Chinese which is the other major group to come on board in that season. That said there is a reason I keep going back to Diamond Princess every year and that is because the atmosphere on board is far more relaxed, more friendly, and less congested than sailing with Princess in any other part of the world.

 

Having read what you just said about them being South Korean that would not surprise me either as when I have done tours there I found the attractions to be congested with extreme bottlenecks of people all vying to be in the same place at the same time as if there was something super special about it like it would not be there in 5 minutes.

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We did a Diamond cruise a couple of years ago as Japan was at the top of my DH’s bucket list. 

 

Agree very much about being outnumbered by fellow passengers from Asia, but enjoyed the different culture. Don’t remember long lines. The only problem was the lifts where they seemed to “swarm’ in and often exceeded weight limit so didn’t go anywhere.

 

Our reflection was that we should have done a land tour to see the real Japan and not just what seemed to be a tour of commercial ports. Yes I know ships are so large now it’s the only places they can berth.  One guide informed us that in the rush to “modernise” after the end of the war, they realised too late that they were losing a lot of their history. 

 

Our highlights were Nagasaki where we used the local tram, helped by lovely local residents who made sure we got off at the right stop to change trams, to go to the Peace Park which was very moving in spite of the torrential rain and Taiwan, totally different and really enjoyable Princess day tour.

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Thank you for the post. Any comments about the food onboard? 

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Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. Do you know if the Diamond has overcome the issues with her air conditioning in the mid aft cabins?

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9 hours ago, Ombud said:

There wasn't an IC on the Diamond in October 2017 when I did the CIRCLE OF JAPAN cruise. Is it there now?

 

There is still no International Cafe onboard the Diamond Princess.

However, at the buffet area, they have added an extra section just out side of where you enter/exit the actual buffet that has a large case with desserts. In the morning it has croissants and other breakfast like pastries and then switches over more to cakes, pies, cookies, etc at lunch time.

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3 hours ago, sailco said:

Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. Do you know if the Diamond has overcome the issues with her air conditioning in the mid aft cabins?

 

Interesting that you bring this up, we had a balcony room toward the aft, but most often used the mid ship staircase and noticed that when going up the stairs, there is a noticeable humidity and heat change doing from about floor 10 on up in the staircase.  We assumed it was just the heat and humidity coming in from the top of the staircase once you reach the lido deck because there are large automatic doors that open up to lido. We have never experienced anything like it on other ships.

 

Our room was fine temperature-wise. We never had issues getting our room to cool down or heat up.

 

The other place that had air conditioning issues was unfortunately the gym! I only went our first sea day and then gave up after that because of the poor air conditioning.  We did walk by the gym area a few times later in our cruise and it seemed like the problem had been corrected, but it was probably in the mid to upper 70s in the gym when I worked out as well as very high humidity.

 

The heat and humidity in Japan is no joke, especially if you're sailing to some of the southern islands like Okinawa or Ishigaki. The only thing I can compare it to is Florida in the summer, but it was more extreme than that.

 

 

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4 hours ago, JWUC said:

Thank you for the post. Any comments about the food onboard?  

 

To us, it was the average Princess quality and type of food in the dining room and buffet.

 

Dinner in the dining room - There were a few options on the menu each night that had more of a Japanese flare to them and then also a few things that maybe had more of a Japanese sounding name to the dish, but looked identical to the food we had on the Crown Princess last summer in the Mediterranean.

 

If you eat breakfast in the dining room, there is a Japanese option of a breakfast that all comes plated on a large tray. We never ordered it, but that is what most of the guests were eating in the dining room at breakfast.

 

Lunches in the dining room seemed to be the normal Princess lunch menus.

 

At the buffet, there is a huge rice cooker that isn't normally there on your typical Princess cruise, so rice is always available every meal. The standard breakfast, lunch and dinner options are available - pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc., but also there are a few options like fish and a full salad bar out of breakfast.  The lunch and dinner buffets were mostly your normal Princess cruise buffet food options. For soups, miso soup is available all of the time.   Just outside of where you enter/exit the buffet, there is now an additional buffet type area with desserts at lunch and dinner and breads/pastries at breakfast. And this area also has some sort of noddle station where you can select different items to be put in with a bowl of noodles.

 

The pizzaria and grill stations were as they normally are on Princess, just with no line, we could always walk right up to get anything.

 

The ice cream place seemed to have a hard time keeping the ice cream hard enough in the machine to make ice cream cones. I'm not sure if it was the machines, the heat and humidity, or maybe we just caught them at the wrong time after adding the mix to the machines. They have small bowls for the ice cream when it is too soft for to put in the cones. They have the soft serve chocolate, vanilla, and swirl ice cream machine and they have a soft serve green tea, vanilla, and swirl ice cream machine. We gave the green tea ice cream a try, but it just wasn't for us. However, we saw many passengers walking around with it.

 

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As for the additional comments about the lines or queues, I'm not sure what else to say.  I know what we experienced and that's all I can speak to.   Timing is everything. 

 

For example, if the dining room breakfast opened at 7am, we could arrive at 7:30am and walk right in, no line. If we arrived at 8am, the line was stretched through elevator lobby and then was winding up the stairwells. It was crazy. We had never seen anything like it! 

 

For lunch in the dining room, we found that if it opened at noon, we would try to arrive at 11:45 to be near the front of the line to get in and it was no problem, but had we arrived at exactly noon, again the line was stretched through elevator lobby and then was winding up the stairwells.  I think the type of passengers who were on the cruise with us really enjoyed eating in the dining room for every meal.

 

They offered the pub lunch once during our 13 days on board in a different dining room at lunch. We arrived 15 minutes early and the line was already stretched around the entire atrium! We got in the line and ended up being the last set of couples to get a table. As people finished their meals, more were let in, but pub lunch seemed to be way more popular than one might have expected it to be.

 

For the shows in the theater, they would clear the theater from one show and shut the doors before the second show. In the meantime though, people were lining up to get into the second show. All of the theater shows were packed!  For the Secret Silk show (which has a reputation on board as being the best show), we were in line 45 minutes before show time. Anyone who came 30 minute or less before show time likely didn't get a seat.

 

Also, we spent additional time in Japan pre and post cruise and found Japanese people lining up everywhere and it was highly efficient!  It was very different from how we do things in the USA, but it all worked so smoothly. There were lines for getting onto cars on the subway. There were lines within the crowded subway cars while you're riding, there were lines to go up and down escalators, there were lines to take certain photos (like at the Hachiko dog statue in Shibuya Crossing in Toyko). It was different for us, but it all seemed to work really well, so we really weren't too surprised on the ship.  But it is different than your typical Princess cruise elsewhere in the world.

 

The breakdown of passengers on our sailing was approximately: 300 English only speakers, 1800 Japanese only speakers, and 600 other languages and we were told this information through a conversation we had with the cruise director and also reconfirmed by one of our waiter. In taking a Princess cruise like this, you get to be surrounded by another culture all within the safety and security of a typical Princess cruise product.  We enjoyed it and just had to adapt in some instances.

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13 hours ago, lithlith said:

Crew - I think that most all of the crew on board the diamond princess have had to learn Japanese to be able to assist guests at dinner, with the cabins, etc.  The crew seemed super happy to see us each day but not so much with the Japanese guests. I’m not sure if it was just us who they liked or were happy to have some English speakers, since for many of the crew English is their second language, and Japanese is now their third language.   I do not think that the Japanese guests treat the crew very well.  In fact we saw multiple instances throughout our 13 days, where we couldn’t understand what was being said in Japanese to the crew, but it was clear from the way the crew would then turn around and act or look that they had just been spoken down to.  There seems to be a hierarchy in the Asian races and culture where the Japanese think they are at the top and that those from the Philippines and Indonesia (where many of the crew are from) are very much below them.  We were quite disgusted with how the Japanese guests were treating the crew, so we stepped up our niceness  🙂

My biggest pet peeve, especially on ships! That's terrible if the passengers mistreated the crew. Those crew members I have the most respect for on what they do, and now down to them. People are human, and deserve to be treated as one with kindness and respect. I applaud you on your observations and stepping up your niceness. Bring far away from home for months at a time, I've always like to treat the free like family, and they sure do always make me feel like I am.

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13 hours ago, lithlith said:

At the captains circle get together, they went through the numbers of how many of each status level they had on board and on both the 5 and 8 day cruises that we were on the number of first time cruisers was close to two-thirds of the ship!  Now for those of us who have cruised a lot, we know that this greatly changes how things operate on board with so many newbies finding their way around.

 

That's interesting.  How DID having so many newbies affect your cruise?

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Thanks for this great review! I have been considering doing this cruise with my family and your details are very helpful, and things I hadn't even thought of.  

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1 hour ago, bemis12 said:

 

That's interesting.  How DID having so many newbies affect your cruise?

Our answer will probably sound a tad petty, but here are a few of our new cruiser pet peeves. But we all need to remember that each of us was once the newbie, so patience is needed 🙂

 

In general, we've found that things run just a little bit slower everywhere when there are a lot of newbies. 

It takes new people a while to figure out the ship layout and how to get from place to place. There seems to be more indecisiveness onboard. Sometimes new people get on the elevator and have no idea where they want to go, but know they need to be on the elevator to get there. It is quite comical. 

 

We've also found that many new cruisers want to experience it all, making shows, activities, and other venues crowded.

 

Sometimes new cruisers don't know basic cruise etiquette, like that they shouldn't be saving entire rows of seats for their families members who haven't yet made it to the theater.

 

But our number one pet peeve with new cruisers - they don't keep their cruise cards accessible upon exiting and entering the ship or they don't understand that they need to empty their pockets and put all of their bags through the xray machine when we get back onboard, all of which holds up the line.

 

And although we booked a 13 day cruise, it turned out to be sold as a 5 and 8 day cruise, so mid way through the cruise, you've got a whole set of new people joining which also adds to the newbie factor.

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2 hours ago, lithlith said:

Our answer will probably sound a tad petty,

 

 

“A tad”  understates it quite a bit 

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One more thing to add - on the Diamond Princess cruises around Japan there is NO anytime dining. It is early 5:30 or late 8:30 seating only.

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13 hours ago, satxdiver said:

  In the USA some still look down on African-Americans and treat them as such after over 100 years of desegregation.  

What?????

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Thanks for your review, it is good to see something about the Diamond and Japan. We last cruised on the Diamond doing an 8 night Circle Island Japan in October 2017. Many of the things you stated were the same such as having the two Cruise Directors but our 8 day was totally different as for nationality demographics. We were expecting mostly Japanese on our sailing and instead more than 70% were from North America US and Canada. I think there were something like 400+ from Hawaii alone. They had told us that less than 10% of our sailing were from Japan. Before Sail Away they did the Breaking of the Sake Barrel which those announcements were done with the two Cruise Directors first in English then the second in Japanese but that was the very last time we heard any announcements in Japanese the whole cruise the remaining announcements were totally in English.

 

We loved our trip to Japan and sailing on the Diamond Princess, so much so we are returning September 9th for the 9 night on the Diamond. I am hoping for more diverse nationalities. I expect it to be a totally different cruise. We were told last time that it does change drastically from sailing to sailing. Interesting you brought up newbies because our sailing in 2017 had a lot of Captain's Circle members. But I think that was due to being so many from North America. 

 

Over all we found things to be just slightly different than a normal Princess cruise even with so many North America's on board. One big difference is Shore Excursions which is technically not operated by Princess or Princess Crew members but rather Carnival Corporation. even their uniforms and names tags did not say Princess on them.

While it looks like a Princess ship there is that underlining feel that you are not embarking on a normal Princess cruise sailing out of Port Everglades or Port of Los Angeles. One thing not mentioned that I love about the Diamond is that if you book a Mini Suite or higher category they have the Japanese style toilets in the cabins as well as many of the public toilets through out the ship. These are wonderful and one of the things I am looking forward to again. 

We also loved the offerings of more Japanese food in the Horizon Court. The Noodle Bar was good as well as we felt the quality of the vegetables and meats were much better. We found ourselves eating more of all our meals there including the last Formal night. We laughed because we decided not to dress up but eat in the Horizon Court and it was packed including people dressed in formal wear having dinner. Everyone else was also preferring Horizon Court for dining. 

 

Also thanks for the heads up on the Green Tea soft serve ice cream, that they did not have when we were there last and I love Green Tea Ice Cream :classic_biggrin:  

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