This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation for us was easy since we arrived early. Fortunately for us, we didn't encounter the chaos that others had. When embarking, make sure you choose group visa if you are not overnighting in any of the ports. There was a woman going around asking if you needed any help deciphering the visa paperwork...You will save money choosing the group visa option!
Nice vessel -- smaller than some others I have sailed on and food was good -- not great. It was better on some days than others but I got the feeling that was b/c there were some new employees on the ship getting accustomed to their work flow.
Our inside cabin was the largest inside cabin we've ever stayed in and we were happy with it and our friendly stewards who were always available when we needed them.
Entertainment was a little weak -- and has been better on other ships -- but with all of the touring we did - we were tired by the time shows were on!
Gym was good with a decent amount of equipment -- if you are up to getting in a workout!
I found the front desk to always be helpful when I needed them and they offered my husband free motion sickness pills as well when he didn't feel well! Their tour mgr Ian was also readily available to answer any questions you may have had on what to do in port on a particular day. Employees in general were very kind and helpful.
Plenty to do on the ship during sea days -- depends on your interests. I do think their daily newsletter -- THE EXPLORER -- could be better written or laid out better since some people complained that they had nothing to do on the sea days but I think they just didn't see their options in the newsletter! Plus some people just like to complain!
Port Maps -- they were ok and could have been more explicit with better info -- but it didn't really affect me since I booked several independent excursions and I didn't have to rely on the map as I have in the past.
Ship was sold out for this sailing and not very many children on board (10 or 11 total). I'd say average age on the ship was 55-65 years old.
Halong Bay -- nice port -- easy to book a junk on your own. I did a Hanoi tour with SMILE Tours and enjoyed it. Its 3 hrs to Hanoi but they do break the trip down by stopping at different attractions before getting to and returning from Hanoi. After we returned from Hanoi -- we had some time to browse around the market at the port before getting back on the ship. If you choose to do the Hanoi tour -- be prepared for a long but enjoyable day!
Da Nang -- we did this port on our own and its very easy to do. You can either book a tour at the port or take the $12 shuttle to town and book a tour there. Make sure to negotiate a good fare! I personally recommend visiting Hoian -- you can spend a day there and if you have time check out the Marble Mtns -- I didn't care much for Da Nang itself.
Nha Trang -- went on Dung Pham's tour - great tour -- you see everything the countryside has to offer from conical hat making to the beach!
Ho Chi Minh (SAIGON) -- booked SMILE Tours and it was a delight -- we saw everything the ship's tour saw at half the price! We got back to the ship with time to spare! Other passengers on the ship did their (SMILE'S) combination Cuchi and Saigon tour and really enjoyed it as well! It took 2 hrs to get there.
Sihanoukville -- we did the Don Bosco tour and we were treated like VIPS! It was great to see how these students are being trained for the hospitality business. We enjoyed this port while others who toured on their own did not enjoy the port as much since Sihanoukville is still working on their tourism and it may not be up to the standards of some...
Laem Chabang -- I booked a rt transfer thru Oriental Escape and was able to tour Bangkok on my own at my own pace. I recommend that highly! Since we overnighted at this port I was able to spend the entire day in Bangkok - it took us 2 hrs to get there and 1.5 to return! So we arrived at 11am and returned around midnight to the ship. There is a lot to see in Bangkok and you cannot see everything in one day so pick and choose what you really want to see. We spent the 2nd day in Pattaya (oriental transfer van for the day)and visited Nong Nooch which was a treat, The Sanctuary of Truth (spectacular if you are into architecture/engineering)and Pattaya town -- kind of seedy and not everyone's cup of tea!
Koh Samui -- beautiful port that we toured. You can't go wrong with whatever you choose to do here!
Singapore -- disembarkation -- a little long but not bad and easy to get around from the cruise terminal. An easy place to tour on your own!
If you are willing and able -- this cruise is worthwhile but you may need a vacation from your vacation when you return from all of the travel required to get from the port to your place of interest. You can save some money if you pair up with other cruisers thru the cruise critic message board like we did!! All in all -- highly recommended!!