We have just returned from this trip and had an awful embarkation experience so please be aware that things don't always go smoothly.
The transfer from the airport to the ship should have been 2-3 hours (the actual trip took us 2 hours) but it actually took Princess nearly 10 hours to board us after our 10 hour flight from London.
We were taken off the plane to a hotel that didn't know we were coming and dumped there for 3 hours without seats or refreshments. Some people chose to pay for breakfast even though they had just eaten on the plane just so that they would have a place to sit down. Water was not even provided free of charge for people to refresh themselves.
When we eventually arrived at the terminal we were not allowed to leave the coach for an hour and even then we had an hour's wait in the terminal before we were allowed to board.
On the way to the cruise terminal we were asked if we wanted to use the restrooms and were taken to a brick shed by the side of the road with buckets around the outside and told to squat in front of one another. I have done my fair share of travelling and back-packing and am by no means "precious" but I did choose what I thought was a luxury cruise so that I would have some level of comfort and the sight of the buckets really did shock a lot of the passengers and leave us all very much regretting booking with Princess.
All the British passengers complained because embarkation was so hellish. Most had been travelling in excess of 24 hours (some as long as 30) by the time they boarded and had not been told about the delays to boarding or that we would be dumped at a hotel for 3 hours before even starting on our journey to the cruise terminal. When we all complained it was implied that this is happening whenever people embark in Beijing so I know our group wasn't the only one to have problems with Princess' embarkation of British passengers.
I really felt that whoever had arranged this cruise itinerary had taken no account of how passengers might feel after such a long plane journey (i.e. we all just wanted to the ship) and they didn't really care either.
On the plus side, the staff onboard the Pacific Princess were all excellent but it was definately our worst cruise ever in terms of choice of food, entertainment, embarkation and disembarkation. (Having said that, to be fair, there were 2 good acts on over the 16 days and the onboard entertainers were excellent but really the rest of the entertainment was truly terrible).
So, I'm sorry, but this is my second bad Princess cruise so I won't be returning as a customer. We have taken 7 other fantastic cruises with other companies and I shall be going elsewhere in future.
Sorry the cruise didn't meet your expectations. I understand how you felt after a long International flight. It is not uncommon though to not be able to get on the ship right away after your flight. When I went to Antarctica we were not taken directly to the ship. We were driven around for hours on a "city tour" and taken to a restaurant for lunch. All we wanted to do after our flight was get on the ship and go to sleep. Last year I went on Celebrity's Century out of Amsterdam. Because of the time change I arrived at the airport very early in the morning. The cruise line picked me up and took me to the cruise terminal. I was told embarkation would not start for atleast four hours. So I went out exploring Amsterdam. Albeit very tired. The best thing to do with International cruises is do a pre-cruise. Which is what I did when I went on my Asia cruise. I am doing the Century again Aug 2nd. This year I am flying in two days early. It is much more relaxing.
Food and entertainment is very subjective. I'm sorry it didn't meet your expectations, others probably found it fine.
It sounds like Princess should have done a better job with the hotel you waited at.
Hope you enjoy your next cruise.
We have had embarkation problems before but never of this level and we have never complained before. Unfortunately (or fortunately) all of the British passengers who arrived from the UK on the same flight felt the same so we all complained although we didn't realise that every one of us had complained until a couple of days later when we started talking more to one another.
Because of commitments at home unfortunately the pre-cruise option hadn't been an option for us otherwise I agree it may have made life more bearable at the time. I think Princess were very bad not to have informed us of the transfer time before we travelled or booked as I am not a great long-haul traveller and would never have booked the cruise had I realied the transfer time would be in excess of 9 hours from the plane to the cruise terminal.
We are fortunate in that we are frequent cruisers so we know how much we enjoy cruise holidays and that not all embarkations are as bad as this but there were a couple of people who were new to cruising and this experience has really put them off from cruising again which I think is a real pity.
Next time I'll think I'll choose the Caribbean and any line other than Princess.