Recently back from the 14 night Gems of SE Asia (6th -- 20th Jan) cruise and since this is a new itinerary I wanted to share some information for future cruisers.
This was our 7th (but first celebrity) cruise and in summary I can say we truly enjoyed every minute of it and will most definitely book with Celebrity again. We booked this cruise for the interesting itinerary.
We flew into Singapore on the 6th Jan from London Heathrow. Changi airport is wonderful, we cleared immigration and obtained our cases quickly. Our TA had booked a private transfer from the airport to the Marina Bay cruise terminal. Our driver was waiting for us as we come through arrivals and in next to no time we were on our way to the port.
When we arrived at the cruise centre, we handed our cases over to a porter and were directed inside. Due to our early arrival we did have several hours to wait before check in opened. Check in was efficient when it opened around 11.30am and boarding started at around 12:15pm. As we boarded we were given a glass of wine and directed to the Oceanview cafe for lunch. There were plenty of tables free but they did get taken fairly quickly. After lunch we explored the ship until the cabins became available (around 2.15pm). We then decided to have a few hours sleep.
We had a balcony stateroom on deck 8, which we were very pleased with. Our cabin steward kept it clean and tidy at all times.
Overall the ship is in good condition; public areas looked nice and were well kept.
Staff were great, very friendly, cheerful, approachable and helpful. The staff always made us feel welcome. Every time we boarded the ship, staff were at the pier with cold flannels and cold drink to welcome us back on board.
Food I thought, in general was good to really good.
MDR -- We were on select dining and eat in the MDR most nights. We were always seated within a few minutes of arriving at the dining room. There was a good variety of food and we found all meals plentiful, hot, tasty and well present.
Oceanview cafe -- we thought the food in here was good and there were no complaints with anything we tried. There was a good variety of dishes available (but the menu did seem to stay the same each day).
Room service -- we had breakfast delivered to our room on a couple occasions, service was prompt and food was ok.
There was a good range of activities on throughout the day/night (dance, trivia, exercise programs, ports of calls talks, interactive theme parties, galley tour, officers vs guest volley ball, scrape booking, cooking demonstrations etc).
All the events that I went to I thought were really good (we saw 3 production shows, acts from the quest performing artists -- Singer -- Chris Powley, illusionist -- JC Sum and magic babe Ning and the instrumentalist David Meyers).
I also found most of the live music good and on a couple of occasions arrangements were made for a local Balinese and Thai performance act to come on board. I missed both of these but caught some of the show on TV.
The cruise director 'Steve' was good and one of my favourite activities on sea days was the 'battle of the sexes' quiz with Tiffany.
Day 1 (6th Jan) -- we booked the ship excursion, Singapore night at a glance tour. This trip was well organised and good value for money. Highlights of this trip -- we were taken to Clarke Quay where we boarded a bum boat for a river trip that gave us some lovely views of the city and Merlion statue. We disembarked the bum boat near the Marina bay shopping centre, where we had some free time (approx 20 mins) to explore or shop. We then all gathered to watch the laser light and fountain show which lasted approx. 15 mins (there are 2 shows/night the shows are free and are worth seeing if you are in the area). After the show we walked through the shopping centre and took the lift to the sky park (observation deck on the 56th floor) where we had 1hr to enjoy the views and a drink.
Day 2 (7th Jan). We decided to go to the Garden by the bay. We only had a few hours; everyone had to be back on board by 12pm. The Marina bay cruise centre is not close to anything. From the cruise centre we could either take a taxi (fare quoted was Singapore $50) that was for the terminal staff to call us a cab or take a bus. The number 402 bus stops in the car parking area at the cruise terminal and runs every 15 -- 20 mins. So we decided to take the bus to the marina bay MRT station and then take the circle line to Bayfront MRT station. The garden by the bay and marina bay shopping centre were sign posted at the MRT. Bus fare from cruise terminal to Marina bay MRT station = S$1.5 pp no change given on bus if you do not have exact change. MRT return fare = S$2.50 pp. The gardens and lake area are free to wander around but if you chose to go in the domes (flower dome and cloud forest) or on the sky walk there is a fee of S$12 for one or S$20 for both domes and a fee of S$5 for the sky walk. Opening times for the sky walk and domes were 9am.
Indonesian visa (Covers stops in Lombok, Komodo and Bali):
This was organised by Celebrity. At check in guests were given a card for the Indonesian visa, these needed to be filled in and handed in with your passport prior to the ship departing Singapore on the 7th Jan. collection of passports was well organised, we were informed to go to Cosmos lounge on deck 11 between 8am -- 12pm (passengers on trips were informed they would have their passports collected at the gangway as they boarded the ship). At the Cosmos lounge our sea passes were scanned, visa card and passport was checked and a receipt for passport was given to us. The visa cost US$25 and was charged to room account. A visa was required for all passengers on board (except those of Asian national and certain South American citizens. The visa was mandatory and was needed to be completed whether you intended to go ashore or not.
For people booked on ship excursions tendering ashore was well organised. We were told to meet in the theatre at a given time, we were then given a sticker with a number on it, when that number was called we went to the tender.
Passengers not on ship excursions but with independent arrangements were also able to tender early (not sure if this was well organised/efficient as we never used this system), their system was to go to the rendezvous lounge and obtain a tender ticket and when the number was called they could proceed to the tender.
Passengers that were in no rush to go ashore were asked to tender later. Each day announcements were made that informed passengers when tender tickets were no longer needed, at this point passengers could just go to the tender point.
Lombok -- approx. 25 mins one way
Komodo -- approx. 20 mins one way
Bali -- approx. 40 mins one way
Phuket -- approx. 25 mins one way
But on each occasion tendering generally took less time.
Tendering back to the ship -- this ranged from organised chaos to efficient.
Lombok -- There were long queues at this port and the process took a fair bit of time, as all trips arrived back at the port at the same time and it appeared that only 2 tender boats were in operation. Other than a small market area and a few seats under some tarpaulin there are no facilities or enclosed area at this port. The locals will pester you to buy their goods but several polite no thank you's did eventually do the trick. Children however will take no notice and just continuously ask you for money.
Komodo -- Was organised and efficient.
Bali -- variable. Celebrity had made arrangements with local companies and had 2 large boats doing the tendering. These large boats ferried passengers backwards and forwards all day. There was a problem with the tender process on day 1 and on one occasion tendering took 1.5hrs, first the boat had problems getting alongside the Millennium (sea was quite choppy so it may have been the cause) and then I heard reports that a rope snapped. The boats used were spacious, had plenty of comfortable seats and drinks were available to purchase, so in general I personally didn't think the process was too bad.
Phuket -- well organised and efficient. Celebrity again had arrangements with some local large boats and the process looked like it was working well.
Ports of call/trips:
We booked the Sasak native village and Katu beach tour. Overall this trip did provide a good opportunity to get out and see some of the island and culture, but I did think the trip was a bit dragged out and overpriced.
Highlights of the trip - We boarded the bus and was taken to a pottery shop, where we boarded a Cidomo (horse drawn cart) and travelled to a traditional Lombok village where the pottery is crafted. As we walked through the village local people demonstrated how the pottery was crafted, we were then invited to have a go at making a pot. Our next stop was at a traditional hand weaving store. Local women demonstrated how fabrics were woven on a back strap loom and then we were invited to have a go at weaving. We were then taken to a hotel for a buffet lunch, beach/pool chill out. Hotel was a nice place to chill out in for a couple of hours. Food was ok (but we did get a call from guest relations 2 days after the trip asking if we were well as several guest on this trip had become unwell).
After leaving the hotel we went to the village with 100 traditional Sasak houses. We walked through the village meeting the local people; we stopped and went inside one of the houses, where we were given an insight into how the people lived.
We did not book a trip, we decided to just go ashore and wander around the ranger's house, beach and market area. There is a US$25 fee to step foot on the island, as you get off the tender there is an official sitting at a desk; you need to register with the official and pay the fee. A guide will show you where to walk. We saw 2 dragons and several deer's in the areas we walked. You do need to be on you guard whilst walking around and at one point when we were waiting at the pier we witnessed a dragon charge and chase a deer down onto the beach. Safety advice given out by Celebrity informed us that the Komodo dragons are extremely sensitive to blood and the slightest trace of it is picked up and causes the dragons to respond in a an excited/agitated manner, as a safety precaution it is advised that anyone with wounds (even if covered or bandaged) or menstruating women should not go ashore.
We arrived 1pm and stayed overnight with departure at 5pm the following day.
One thing to note with the tour buses in Bali is they have free Wi-Fi. Log in and passwords are displayed on a notice at the front of the bus.
Day 1 -- We booked the cultural performance excursion, this tour was well organised and good value. Highlights of the trip -- the tour started with a visit to Celuk a place which specialises in making gold/silver handicrafts. Our stop was at a shop which displayed and sold the handicrafts they made. The shop is set in some lovely grounds which you can wander around; there was also a small area in the complex where 3 or 4 people demonstrated the crafting of their items. We then proceeded to Batuan temple (beautiful historic temple) where we were given free time to wander. There was a festival going on and the temple was being dressed up for the celebration. Everybody entering the temple are required to wear a sarong (you can either bring your own or wear one that is provided by the temple). After leaving the temple we went to a place that specialises in wood carving, as we entered the complex there was a group of carvers who demonstrated their skills to us, we then had some free time to view the beautiful items in the shop.
Our last stop was at a temple in Kedewatan village to watch an evening performance of the Barong dance (a performance that represents the eternal fight between good and evil). The show was good and seemed to be enjoyed by everyone.
Day2 -- We booked the Balinese way of life tour, which again I thought was well organised and good value. We started the tour going to the same silver/gold shop in Celuk that I went to yesterday (I knew this when I booked and was not bothered about going there again), we then continued to another temple (Kehen) and then visited a lovely village called Penglipuran where we had free time to wander around the village. The local people were very friendly and keen to show us their homes and tell us about their life and culture.
After leaving the village we headed north to the village of Kintamani where we stopped for a Balinese buffet lunch. The restaurant was clean, food was hot and tasty. We had beautiful views of the volcano and lake (Mt Batur) so after lunch we had some free time to wander the terrace/garden area. There are some local people here who will pester you to buy things and in my opinion I thought they were a little aggressive (block your way/try and prevent you getting past them).
After lunch we headed to Ubud and saw some lovely countryside/villages/rice fields on the way. We made stops at a Balinese art gallery and Batik show room. Both shops had some really beautiful pieces of work for sale.
When we returned to the pier it was raining heavy and people were being organised off the buses so no --one got soaked. In the terminal there was a short wait before we got on the tender and returning to the Millennium was better than the previous day.
This is the gateway to Kuala Lumpur (KL), which is approx. 90 mins away. The ship docked here. We booked the best of KL tour; again I thought this was well organised and good value.
Our first stop was a photo stop for viewing the Petronas tower; we were then taken to the KL tower where we went up to the observation deck and got some spectacular views of the city. Next we were taken to a restaurant/hotel for a buffet lunch; the food was good, hot and tasty. After lunch we stopped at Central market where we were given free time (approx. 1 hr) to shop. Central market was interesting and stall holders did not pester you. We then took a short walk from the market to Independence square where we had time to photograph the Sultan Abdul Samad buildings and Royal Selangor buildings. Our last stop was the National museum where we had free time to view the interesting exhibits on Malaysian history.
The ship docked here, the port was very close town and many people just walked from the ship to town. We booked the Penang grand tour, this tour was well organised and good value. Our first stop was at the beautiful Chinese Kek Lok Si temple, it is built on a hill (note: the climb may be difficult for people with mobility problems). The temple is large and really impressive with lots of beautiful features and views. We spent about 1hr here and felt time was rushed. After leaving the temple we went to a Thai Buddhist temple which houses the 4th largest reclining Buddha in the world and a Burmese Buddhist temple (both these temples are across the road from each other). Both temples were different and good to visit.
Our next stop was at the Golden Sands hotel for a buffet lunch, Food was good, tasty and hot. After lunch we went to the Penang butterfly farm where we wandered around the lovely butterfly aviary and saw lots of different species of lovely butterflies and plants, there is also an interesting area with some strange species of insects and reptiles. On our drive back to port we stopped at a local fruit and spice stall, where we were shown durian fruit and other local produce (beware durian fruit has a strong offensive smell), next we had a short photo stop a tranquil Malay village and beach stop for views of the Penang bridge.
Our last port of call. We booked the Phang Nga bay tour. This was well organised and good value.
Boats tendered to a wooden pier on Patong beach. The coach transfer from Patong beach to Phang Nga bay was about 1 hr, upon arrival at Phang Nga bay national park we boarded a motor boat and began a cruise through the national park. The scenery is really beautiful in this area. We cruise passed the limestone island known as James Bond Island (featured in the movie - man with the golden gun). We then went to the water village of Koh Panyi, where we got off the boat and had some free time to wander around the village and visit the local school.
After the cruise we had a Thai buffet lunch at a hotel. Food was good. After lunch we visited a cave temple (Suwan Khuha temple). On our return to port we stopped at a local handicraft/jewellery shop.
Traffic in Phuket was very heavy and the return trip to port did take a considerable amount of time. When we got back to Patong beach we had a short amount of time to have a quick drink/shop.
Currencies/money changing facilities:
Indonesia (Lombok, Komodo and Bali) -- Indonesian Rupiah or US$ were widely accepted.
Malaysia -- Malaysian Ringitt
Phuket -- Thai Baht or (US$ were accepted at the market on Patong beach).
Singapore -- Singapore dollar.
Changing money into the different currencies was easy, there were facilities at guest relation desk for changing money. In addition we also saw money changing places in the cruise terminal in Singapore, Benoa port -- Bali and Phuket --several places were seen along the street (I can't remember whether there were any places at port Klang.
Passports were returned to us on the last sea day. Instructions were left in our cabin, giving information of where and when to collect them. We were asked to take the passport receipt when collecting them. This was organised and there was no queue what so ever when I collected my passports.
Disembarkation was smooth and well organised. As you disembark you clear customs and immigrations. We found our cases very quickly. There is no duty free allowance on cigarettes so before we went through the nothing to declare section we went to the counter and paid the stamp duty on the few packs of cigarettes my husband had.
As we cleared customs our transfer driver was waiting to take us to the airport. Check in was quick and efficient and before we knew it, we were on our way back to a cold and snowy London.