When Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess left Australia earlier this year, heading north and returning to its usual off-season home in Japan, it did so for the final time. Princess Cruises was moving in a new direction in terms of its peak season Australian capacity, which will soon be evident with the Sydney arrival of Emerald Princess from the middle of next month.

But for Aussies heading to Asia to cruise with Princess, the 2,670-guest Diamond Princess will continue to sail in this part of the world and provide its usual warm welcome onboard.

The ship, dubbed a “Japanese Princess”, returned to a home market it has occupied for the past three years. It’s no wonder Japanese cruisers have grown to love her, as just prior to its inaugural season, Princess went ahead and spent over thirty million dollars on a major refurbishment to upgrade her to suit their tastes and local customs. But what did they spend that money on and how is she different from every other Princess ship?

The Japanese culture has been bought onboard

As the old saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” and Princess has successfully transplanted large elements of the Japanese culture onboard. Starting with “Kai Sushi”, a new concept for Princess which is a traditional Japanese sushi bar.

Local delights such as fresh sashimi is sourced in every port to ensure quality retention, while every sushi chef has been hand selected from some of the best sushi bars in Japan to ply their trade for Princess and its guests. A wide selection of sake is also available for guests to enjoy in Kai, with Princess claiming it to be the largest selection at sea.

From a rest and relaxation perspective, Princess Cruises has also made some significant changes in this department. The first Japanese onsen at sea features on Diamond Princess. The facility adheres to traditional Japanese social protocols right down to the finest detail, even requesting guests partake in the pools and tubs in the nude – a unique requirement not found aboard any other ship. Both outdoor and indoor pools are featured as part of the experience with alternating sides for ladies and gentlemen.

Guests will also find a number of traditional Japanese ceremonies onboard, such as the breaking of a sake barrel at the start of the voyage to signify good luck. If you’re looking for a dose of culture in your holiday, these rituals and ceremonies are a great way to immerse yourself in the Japanese way of life without having to disembark the ship.

Anytime Dining is not an option

In much the same way that we are disappointed Princess’ signature “Anytime Dining” option doesn’t feature on its local ships Sun Princess, Sea Princess and Dawn Princess, the line also does not offer this flexible dining option on Japanese Diamond Princess sailing.

There is actually quite a simply explanation for this. It is done to make it easy for the varied mix of nationalities onboard to be matched with both waiters and other guests speaking their languages to improve guest relations and communication during dinner service.

Every single onboard activity will be crowded

While some activities on Australian ships can fail to draw crowds at all, you’ll find cruising in Japan attracts an audience who are big participators in the array of scheduled games, seminars and demonstrations.

Everything from calligraphy courses to line dancing classes will be filled to the brim with people. So make sure to get in early if you wish to participate in different activities. In fact, during time we spent onboard recently, a session of karaoke was so popular they moved the event to the 900-seat theatre – filling the space to standing room only!

Outdoor spaces will be deserted

Japanese culture has some significant differences to Australian. One in particular is that guests typically won’t sit for prolonged periods in the sun, with many choosing the indoor pools or “Izumi” bathhouse for their aquatic needs. This makes securing a deck chair for some time by the pool quite simple, with none of the outdoor spaces feeling crowded.

The “thrones” have been upgraded

Rarely the most important part in choosing your cruise ship, the toilets on Diamond Princess are certainly a talking point. Most will be used to the traditional water closet typically found on cruise ships, however Diamond Princess features Japanese style toilets with heated seats and a built in bidet. As such, be careful pushing the button labelled “Flush” – it doesn’t do what you think and your undercarriage may be in for a little surprise.

Most staterooms and public spaces have been upgraded however some interior and ocean view staterooms may retain the traditional vacuum toilets if this may be a concern.

In many ways she’s the same ship we have grown to love in local waters, but Diamond Princess is a trusty favourite which will still deliver a memorable holiday in Japanese waters.