Diamond Prncss Asia TrnsPacific - Sept 18 - Oct 4, 2010

Diamond Princess
Asian Transpacific

Sept 17 - Oct 4, 2010
(cruise is Sept 18 - Oct 4th)

Bob & Debe
For the first time, we take an adventure into Asian territory. But, we board the ship in the good ole USA. So from Alaska to China and all in between aboard the beautiful Diamond Princess. This cruise would be 15 days followed by a few days in Beijing/Xian, China. But we will only cover the 15 days on the ship in this blog. So off with the shorts and on with the coats. (many of these photos will be small - so if you would like to see them larger, go ahead and click on the photo. Just remember to click on the back button to get back to the blog)
First stop was Anchorage Alaska via American Airlines. We stayed at the Spring hill Suites (part of the Marriott Chain) in a very nice hotel. We ordered Stromboli's delivered to the room and tried to catch up on sleep which meant adjusting to what will be a massive time change. The next morning, we were picked up by Magic Bus Shuttle Company which was our transportation from Anchorage to Whittier - the cruise port. The shuttle cost us $40 per person and it had great views from the windows to see the trees changing colors. But our driver was the best. She pulled over for us to see wild goats and took us to the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. We saw orphaned bears (grizzly, brown and black) injured elks, and some animals that they were just trying to increase the herds. (buffalo, muskoxen, caribou to name a few). The drive was absolutely stunning with its beauty.
We also had stops to see a beautiful lake made from glacier melt off along with a creek filled with the newly salmon spawning. It took three times in Alaska for us to catch this. lol Along the banks were many half eaten salmon left by the bears who come there to feed.
And finally a stop at the Begigh, Boggs Vistor Center for a very interesting video and exhibits before lining up for the tunnel. Yes, we would have to travel through a 2 1/2 mile tunnel that was built with only one lane. Once used only by train, now you can drive through it. But you have to be sure you hit it at the right time. You see the tunnel opens to one side for only a certain amount of time before closing and allowing the other side to travel through it. Very interesting.
Once through the tunnel, you arrive in Whittier. A very small port surrounded by mountains covered in glacier ice and waterfalls. More beauty of Alaska. The city itself would be shutting down for the winter. There is only one hotel (very small) and one residential building. The grocery stays open year round. The single building school house has an underground tunnel used from the apartment building for the kids. This city goes from a busy fishing port to nearly abandoned for the winter. And I wouldn't want to be one that stayed. (below is also a photo of the train that comes in and out of Whittier from Anchorage)

Since this would be the Diamond Princess's last voyage out of Whittier for the year - we had a very nice send off of fireworks. Quickly we ran into fog and missed all of the beautiful sites we had heard about when you sail out of Whittier. Oh well, time to have fun with 6 days at sea. But first - time to make our cabin - home for 15 days.

During these six days at sea we enjoyed two formal nights. We began with the three couples in the left photo. (Bridget, George, Bob , Me, Ken & Mary Kay) Later we added another couple, Ken & Jean. In the right photo Ken & Jean joined us but Bridget & George missed this formal dinner.

Another very exciting thing we did was Cross the International Dateline. We felt like we lost part of our life though. lol Saying that, we were so messed up on our time change we were waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. each morning and wondering what to do. The gym didn't even open until 7 a.m.
We attended the normal Meet & Greet with our fellow CC members but I organized a CC Luncheon at Sea. It was themed "fall" since we would be on the ship the first day of fall. The only problem was on the first day of fall we would be crossing the dateline and losing that day so we had to plan the luncheon for the day after or what would be the 23rd. (I know - confusing) We had a great turnout of 80 out of the registered 82. The tables were decorated with fall color m&ms and napkins. We had a couple prizes of wine and a CC tshirt - both donated. And the dining room staff did a great job serving us in one of their private dining rooms. Great FUN.
Another thing enjoyed was the every other day English Pub. It was served in one of the dining rooms normally closed off for lunch. Very good.
Finally land. I couldn't believe how excited over 3000 people could get. Including us. We had prebooked a tour ($70 US per person) set up by two CC members, David and Yolanda who had been on this tour 2 or 3 times. Muroran, (Hokkaido) Japan was an industrial port so it was great to have a tour. Bob and I were up early to watch the sunrise over the Hakucho Suspension Bridge. After breakfast it was off the ship and on our tour.
Our first stop on the tour was to Ainu Village, a historical village which shows the cultural and lifestyle of the Ainu People. What I learned the most there was that you will find machines every where filled with all kinds of drinks including coffees. Oh, and my first experience with the Asian Toilets. Seems that in the Asia culture, the toilets are just flat on the ground. Some have stalls, some not. Most have no toilet paper and unless you have strong legs - you might better wait until you have to go, before you go. Yes, another thing to mark off my "I don't like" list. At least the first toilet I saw gave instructions how to use it. Otherwise, I might have stood backwards. lol Again, bring your own toilet paper because your legs may give out using the drip and dry method. I don't want to think of what you would do for #2.

Finally we made it to Sapporo, Japan. Our drop off spot was the Famous TV Tower. As we arrived, the rain stopped. The huge TV Tower sit right at the end of Odori Park which was having their Autumn Festival Event. Underneath this Park is an underground mall that runs for blocks. But we chose to head to the covered shopping/restaurants that ran for blocks. We were ready for lunch so we found a great restaurant. Bob, Ken & Mary Kay had Noodles while I had Tempura Shrimp that was so good. Oh, and no silverware. lol I had never heard of pachino but they had buildings filled with people playing these machines like the US has slot machines.

The Sapporo Clock Tower was a huge attraction. Seems everyone had to get their photo made at it so we did also. The Clock tower opened in 1876 and the mechanics came from Boston. It still runs today. After a wonderful day in Sapporo it was back to the long drive to the ship. As we saw on the way to Sapporo, we passed the active volcano on Mount Usu. As you can tell in the below photo - it has smoke clouds constantly coming from it. After boarding the ship - the Japanese kids team performed for us before we sailed away. What a great port to visit.

A day at sea then another country. Yes, from Japan to Russia. The ship docked in the Golden Horn Bay in Vladivostok, Russia. A huge city and some things can be seen just within walking distance of the ship. (shopping, train station, many monuments) We had prebooked a tour as part of Peters Group. The cost was $58 per person and would include eating at a Dacha. Since I am a picky eater - I was worried. (and even more worried about what the bathroom situation would be in Russia)
This tour took us to the C56 Submarine monument which was next to the small church in the below photo, also the Arch of Triumph. Then we headed to the top of the hillside to the birds nest overlook (and you could see the bridge being built for the upcoming 2012 Apec meetings). .

Below photo is Mary Kay and myself up at the Birds Nest with our ship in the distance behind us as it set in Golden Harbour Bay. Next to the ship were many military ships.

This sitting area is also found up at the highest point - The Birds Nest.
Another stop on the tour was at the Train Station. This Train Station has the mural ceilings and luxury look to it. Its trains run to Moscow, St Petersburg among other places. It also has the Trans Siberian train which is the longest train ride in the world. In the lower section of the Train Station you will find the old Steam Engine. It was built in America and was given to Russia in the Lend/Lease Act on June 11, 1942. (below is a photo of the steam engine and our CC group photo which was taken just across from the old steam engine)

The typical Dacha for lunch seems to be small and most serve caviar as part of the menu. All of them grow their own food that is served. Our dacha was a small two bedroom (as you can see this table had to seat 11 people and took up the entire kitchen) and it seemed to be in disrepair (which might be normal there). We are so glad we did it but I personally wouldn't do it again. Many people (including my husband) loved the food but I was a little to picky. Thank goodness they had mashed potatoes and a plate with some ham and cheese on it. lol I survived on that. Since we didn't speak Russian and they didn't speak English - the social part of being with a Russian Family was missed in my eyes. But the visual part of it was a learning experience.
From Russia, with love and on to Busan, South Korea - with hopes. Yes, we had high hopes visiting South Korea and we can say - it was more than we could ever imagine. Since the port offered a free shuttle to town (and the hop on hop off buses run very close to the port) we chose not to book a tour. Bob, Me, Ken and Mary Kay headed off on the shuttle and were dropped off at the Phoenix Hotel. This hotel was just across the street from Chagali Chi Fish Market and just a block from Piff Market which we walked thru but didn't buy anything. (but I sure wanted to) From here - we were off on our own.
With a tower as high as Busan Tower - we figured that would be easy to find. But we did have trouble since the buildings all around us blocked our sight of it. Once we found it, it was a must to go to the top. It is located in Yongdusan Park and cost $4 USD each. The view of the city from the top is spectacular and so worth it. And of course, the two representatives up there can help you find anything. And she doesn't mind taking your photo at the photo area they have provided. We could see the huge famous fish market from there along with the bridges over to Veongdo Island. Busan's port is the fifth largest container port in the World. What a spectacular view.
From there it was off to catch the Hop on Hop off bus - Haeundae Course. This course would take us all around the city. We saw the Aquarium, Worlds largest department store, Trump Bldgs, Bexco Art Museum, Gwangan Bridge which we drove across, and the Haeundae Beach. We also went by the building called Nurimaru bldg, built for the 2005 Apec meeting held here.

The only time we got off the HOHO bus was to visit the United Nations Memorial Cemetery for the Korea War. This was the most stunning cemetery I have ever seen. Since the USA never leaves a fallen soldier - no casulaties during the war were buried there. The US had the second most people to lose their lives in this war but only 36 people are buried there. Those are all soldiers who married and/or lived in South Korea after the war and chose to be buried there. Each country has its own section marked off with its flag. A great tribute to the families of those fallen and/or served in that war.
After changing routes on the HOHO bus, we were able to arrive back to the ship. Sitting at the port, the below drums, were used for a show that was performed as we prepared to sailaway. I do want to mention how the people treated us in this country. They were the most friendly, helpful people I have ever met. If they could not speak english, they would use their cell phone to help get someone who did. It seems they went out of their way to be helpful to everyone. At the UN Cemetery - we were treated like royalty. They seem to be so appreciative for our help in that war. I would love to revisit South Korea in the future.
With only two China stops in the next two days - the ship had its third, and final formal night. This time everyone was there.
Finally - to China. Our first stop would be Qingdao, China. A huge city of about 8 million. And our first site of China. Where are the rickshaws, bikes, etc. China isn't what you see in movies. We decided to prebook a tour with our CC friends Yolanda and David again. This tour would include a family style chinese lunch which we heard is great. So for $70 per person, we figured tour/lunch was worth it. But first - off to visit some sites. I do want to say that Oct 1st, 2010 is the 61st anniversary of the New Republic of China. They celebrate for a week. And this is China's National holiday and biggest holiday of the year. So we would encounter a lot of people and surprisingly - many weddings. Seems many people get married during this holiday week. Their tradition of attaching a huge wreath of flowers to the hood of the "couples" car and everyone flowering in a parade was so neat. The following cars all usually matched so a lot of rented cars. Same color, same car, and same color ribbons on the windows. Very neat.
Below you can see all the people on Zhan Qiao Pier. This place was packed with people. In the bottom right photo is me at the Siaoyushan Hill (Small Fish Hill) with the Lanchao Pavillion behind me. This Pavillon (along with two other pavillions - Bibo and Yongcui) overlook Number One Bathing Beach, Zhan Bridge, Small Qingdao Island, Lu Xun Park, and other spectacular views.

From Small Fish Hill, it was off to two more places to tour. First, the Governors Mansion which was his summer palace. (packed and boring) Then to Tsingtao Beer Brewery. Being non-drinkers, we just tagged along and listened. Everyone that did drink enjoyed the pitchers of beer at the end compared to other breweries that everyone says you just get a taste of the beer.

Enough touring - time to eat. Family style meant you have a lazy susy in the middle of the table and they bring plate after plate of food that will be placed on the lazy susy and passed around. The problem, you don't know when the best things will come and if the plate of food isn't placed in front of you - well, it could be empty by the time it gets to you. No seconds except rice. They eat a lot of tofu in their meals, very little meat in others, and many vegetable dishes. Guess that explains why most chinese people are so thin and healthy. Very very good but didn't get enough of the dish that we liked. lol

After lunch - why not go to the Darling Harbour for some walking time. This harbour was home to the Sailing competitions in the Olympics back in 2008. It was a very busy, buzzing harbour this day with so many people there for the holiday week.
Back at the ship it was back through immigrations as you entered the ship. Our ship was docked in a very busy port but also a military port used alot of the area. The military base seems to have ships, submarines and an entire section of a small penisula that extended out from the dock. One of my favorite things at the harbour/port/pier was the cool light house tower in the below photo.
After a needed night of resting the legs and sleep - it was up again for Dalian, China. This port has about 6 million people and again - holiday season here. Because of this holiday season, our tour (thanks to Yolanda and David again - $50 per person) would have lunch at just a hotel. Most of the venues were taken with weddings. So off the ship and on the bus. Unlike our last ports - we were docked at a not so impressive place.
It seems that China loves its "squares!" We passed through Zhongshan Square which was impressive with all its wonderful buildings that are banks and financial institutions. The below left photo is a monument in Friendship Square. Many people go to this area to shop at the Friendship Store but we just drove through. One of my biggest regrets is not doing more visiting at the largest square in Dalian - Xinghai Square. This square was very popular for the weddings parties that drove around the square continually. So much there to see but we had so little time. There is a monument close by that is an open book with no words. It has a walkway up to it that has feet print that starts with large feet until baby feet. This monument represents the book of the future that hasn't been written yet. We missed seeing that except from the bus. (bathroom break took our time) But this Square (below right photo) was so beautiful with its totem poles and flowers.)

From Xinghai Square we took Binhai's scenic road. Unfortunately, we were sitting on the wrong side of the bus. ;( We visited Tiger Beach where it has the below sculpture in its park.
After a buffet lunch at the Holiday Inn Express - it was off to Russian Street for last minute shopping. Prices are all negotiable but the windy, cold, drizzling day wasn't the best for shopping.
Our day in Dalian was short so back on the ship and time to clean up, go to our last dinner and get packed. We would hit Beijing port the next morning and it would be time to disembark the ship. After a good night of sleep - we met up with our friends, Ken, Mary Kay, Susie and Ken for our last breakfast. We all because great friends on this trip. (Mary Kay and Ken were also on the Egypt cruise back in Nov 2009 that we were on)
After one day in Alaska, six days crossing the Pacific, ports of call in Japan, Russia and South Korea, and then entering ports of Qingdao and Dalian in China - it was now time to start the next segment of our trip. Experiencing China for a few days by land. We will be staying in Bejing before hopping a train to Xian only to jump back on the train to go back to Beijing. A lot to see in a little bit of time. But we won't cover that here on this blog - stay tuned for my next blog that will cover China. Until then - happy cruising and rest up those sea legs.
(Beijing/Xian Oct 4 - 10th, 2010)


  1. Hi Debe, I just was able to get on your blog. How do I keep track of the different cruises you will be traveling. We are always looking for some great times. Like the way you booked all of your excursions.

    P.S. This is Jean from the Jean & Ken on the Alaska/China cruis. Looking forward to hearing from you. www.funtime23@frontier.com

  2. Hey Jean.

    I sent an email. Hopefully that will help you. We had a great time on that cruise. A lot of fun and hope to run into many of the other cruisers on future cruises. We had a great bunch of people on the Alaska/China cruise for sure.


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