Japan Cruise 2013

Sun Princess Japan Cruise
Sun Princess


  • April 27: Yokohama, Japan
  • April 28: Hiroshima, Japan
  • April 29: Hiroshima, Japan
  • May 1: Nagasaki, Japan
  • May 2: Busan, South Korea
  • May 3: Hakata (Fukuoka), Japan
  • May 4: Hakata (Fukuoka), Japan
  • May 5: At Sea
  • May 6: Yokohama, Japan

Quick Review

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Chris and I had the pleasure of sailing Sun Princess on her inaugural Japanese passenger-targeted cruise. Being the guinea pigs for this cruise, I wanted to share my quick, initial thoughts and experience for those interested.

Overall, the cruise was excellent! The passengers were almost all Japanese. I believe it was just a couple of hundred non-Japanese passengers on our cruise from what the crew told me. We saw the same people on our tours over and over again since they only offered 1 or 2 English tours at each port. There were a few hiccups with getting important docs in Japanese in our cabin (we almost missed immigration!!) but it went better than we expected!

OMG! The sailaway from Yokohama was fantastic. On the pier, they had a school band playing music, balloon release, Princess handed out flags, and people were camping out just see us sailaway. The fanfare was amazing! We also had a Japanese TV crew onboard the whole time.

Most of the crew was still non-Japanese but they would greet us in Japanese since we’re Asian-American and would be relieved to hear us speak English. All of the crew speaks English but most of them do not speak Japanese. The crew was fantastic. Same great service and you could tell they were trying really hard with adjusting to the Japanese passengers. We had a great time chatting with many of them about learning about the Japanese culture as we went along!

The food was decent but worse than previous Princess cruises. Prior to the cruise, we heard a lot of hype that the cruise would have a lot of Japanese cuisine options and we were actually very excited about that because we love Japanese food. However, there was only 1 Japanese entree each day on the dinner menu and it was never really exciting/interesting (e.g. teriyaki chicken). Otherwise, it was the usual menu items and the food wasn’t great in general. There were fewer and fewer people in the dining room each night because everyone preferred the buffet. The buffet also had more Japanese choices, such as ramen and soba during lunch, which I did like. We ate our 8-person table alone twice before we finally moved to another table for the last 2 nights! I also felt like the portions were smaller (perhaps Japanese-sized portions?).

Princess raised the prices on everything too. They re-printed everything in Japanese and English. Sometimes we were accidentally given the “old” English price lists and the new prices were always higher. Chris and I also stumbled upon the crew raising the prices for the laundry detergent by a quarter in the laundromat! LOL One of the shop employees said all of the gifts and souvenirs were re-stickered with higher prices. I don’t think the Japanese knew/cared. I noticed that most of them were first-time cruisers (blue card), while most of the English speakers were repeat cruisers (lots of Plat and Elite) so they knew the prices were higher since they cruise so much.

The Japanese passengers were also very nice to travel with. They are very polite and respectful. You’ll learn a few interesting things about their culture just be observing them. WARNING: They have no problems waiting in a long line or crowding an elevator. Their “personal space” size is much smaller than ours so don’t be too surprised if you’re smashed in a crowd with them. They are BIG on shopping, especially for gifts for loved ones back home. Before and after dining times were extremely crowded at the shops so do your shopping in the day or during a dinner seating.

The ship is not one of my favorites. She got a new Coach Store the sailing before ours but you could see her age all over the ship, especially inside the cabins. I disappointed that the shower didn’t have a removable shower head. Our toilet was also very weak and we’d have to flush multiple times just to get down liquids & toilet paper. I understand the ship will be refurbished again but I only heard about the public spaces being updated. I hope they update the cabins too. We also got disoriented a few times when walking around the ship because we’re used to the buffet being aft but the buffet was forward on this ship. I did like the smaller size of the ship though. Nothing ever seemed far away like on larger ships.

All in all, I’d definitely do it again. Here are some lessons learned for future cruisers:

  • If you get a doc in your stateroom in Japanese, immediately call Guest Services / Purser’s Office for an English version.
  • Book your excursions early. There were only a handful of English-guided tours and some were sold out before the cruise began.
  • Learn a few key phrases in Japanese so you can do some basic interaction with Japanese passengers: Hello, Thank You, and Excuse Me
  • Cut the crew some slack. This is new to them too and they are doing the best they can.

I’m hoping to do a more in-depth trip report in the future but wanted to pass along at least some of my experience in the meantime.

See all photos from my Japan cruise

12 thoughts on “Japan Cruise 2013”

  1. Thanks for the review. We are taking the Tokyo to Hong Kong cruise departing July 23rd and you answered some of our questions. Did you stop in Taiwan and if so do you have a land tour to recommend there? What about Kagoshima? Do any of the ports require using tenders or were you able to walk off in Osaka, Kagoshima, and Taiwan?

    1. This cruise did not go to Taiwan but I sailed Ocean Princess from Hong Kong to Shanghai in 2010 which stopped in Keelung, Taiwan. We took the ship’s tour “Yang Ming Shan Hot Springs & Yehliu Geographic Park” and enjoyed it very much! I don’t have a review of that cruise but you can see my Flick album. No tender in Keelung and the port is walkable to shops and cafes, as well as the train station. I also spent 3 days in Hong Kong prior to boarding that cruise. You can see my Hong Kong photo album. Unfortunately, I did not visit Osaka or Kagoshima. Our cruise was supposed to leave from Osaka two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami so all of our Japanese ports were cancelled and we left from Hong Kong instead. I’m glad I finally got to visit Japan this time around!

    2. The booking confirmation sheet for the 23 July cruise Yokohama to Singapore shows that a tender is required at Hong Kong and Nha Trang. We will be joining you on this cruise. There are 3 of us. I emailed “Ask Dad” about another van for the Taiwan excursion but he does not think it is possible for them to arrange it. If I come up with any ideas I will let you know. Regards Glenda [email protected]

  2. I’m interested in doing a Sun Princess Japan cruise next year. I’m a Japanese-American but I can’t speak the language so my question is was evening entertainment in Japanese?

    1. No. The entertainment was in English since nearly all of the entertainers are English-speaking. There were some exceptions of traditional, cultural performances, such as folk dancing and opera, that were in Japanese, as would be expected.

  3. Thank you for your review! We are going on a Japan cruise in 2014, but on the Diamond. I assume the experience will be similar to what you described.

    On other Princess ships we have been on, the ship’s currency was USD. Is this the same for the Japan cruises? Thanks.

  4. Rebecca, thanks very much for your posting. My wife and I are sailing on the July 2 cruise from Kobe to Yokohama. I was concerned about the Japanese menu for which I was looking forward. I am sorry to learn about the limited selection. I tried to get more information from Princess to no avail. I appreciate your site and will use it as a reference in the future.

  5. Is the port rt starboard side better? Was your Itinerary Hokodate, Muroran, Kushiro, Abashiri and Korsakov, Russia?

    1. Sorry, we did not go to any of those ports. We went to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Busan, and Hakata. Generally, the rule of thumb is picking the side of the ship that will be facing Japan the most, depending on your itinerary.

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