The Voyage to Antiquity cruise/tour was a 31 day, 22 night cruise trip of a lifetime. The ports of call included Hong Kong - 3 nights, Manila Philippines, Sandakan Borneo, Pare Pare Indonesia, Ujung Indonesia, Lombok Indonesia and Bali Indonesia. Some of the passengers left at Bali and a new group came on board for the trip to Bangkok. The next port of call was Semerang Indonesia, Singapore, overnight at Ho chi Minh Vietnam, Sihanoukville Cambodia - Koh Samui Thailand was substituted because of the Cambodian King's funeral, and finally Bangkok. The trip included 2 nights in Bangkok, an overnight trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, one more overnight in Bangkok and then back home.
This was our first experience on a small cruise ship and we were extremely satisfied with a smaller group of passengers. The ship can accommodate 370 passengers, however, I believe that the first leg had about 340 and the second about 320. There always were deck chairs available, seating in the dining rooms was never an issue as well as attending the lectures etc. - always adequate space. The small ship had the ability to sail into ports of call that is not available to larger ships.
The line up of guest speakers was varied and entertaining, many topics pertinent to the upcoming tours. The lectures provided us with insight into these island countries, their development with the spice trade, the strategic development of the towns and cities as well as the cultures and religions that were brought to these parts of the world by these traders - India, China, Britain, Holland, Portugal and the United States all played an important part in the development of these islands.
There were 13 ports of call featured in this trip including Hong Kong, Bangkok and Siem Reap. These were beautiful and diverse places with stunning temples and palaces, fascinating local markets, fishing villages, local cultures, drive to the volcano with its diverse landscape and the modern city of Singapore.
The ship's entertainment included the "Fantasy Trio", a Romanian orchestra group playing the piano, violin and bass. These guys were excellent in their selection of music and formats - formal concerts, classical, jazz etc. Nicki was a soloist pianist/singer, who had a terrific range of music that would please any age. She lined up with the Fantasy Trio on many occasions making for a memorable after dinning evening.
Our Belvedere outside cabin was excellent - it exceeded our expectations. We had a wardrobe, two night stands and a dresser with a mini bar fridge. This allowed us to store our clothes in a manageable fashion. The bathroom was spacious, good shower, hair dryer etc.
The Marco Polo lounge was the more formal dining area; however, you could order the Marco Polo menu a la carte in the Terrace Cafe dining room. The Terrace Dining room had more choices and a more relaxed atmosphere, so it became out dining room of choice. It also allowed us to mingle with other passengers in a more relaxed setting. The food selections and variety were excellent throughout the complete journey.
The Philippine/Indonesian crew were outstanding - they were always smiling, friendly, efficient, professional and willing to take the time to talk about their lives and families. They continued to smile even in the 5 days of adverse conditions with no air conditioning - the cooks continued to make outstanding meals in what appeared to be unbearable conditions.
Were there problems - yes, the first 2 days out to sea were rough and with a smaller ship, many passengers, crew and staff suffered from sea sickness. The weather was relatively cool in the first couple of days (we had the A/C shut-off in our cabin ) and with the air conditioning working, the cabins were home to many of the passengers.
Then the A/C failed as the temperatures and humidity climbed to the mid 30 C and 100% humidity. It rained almost every night in the first week or so, making the day time weather very humid. It appeared that the ship's Chief Engineer and his crew were unable to diagnose the problem and obtain the needed parts. Once in Bali. they were finally able to bring in the parts and the experienced manpower to solve the problem.
The ship has a steam boiler which requires nightly soot blows (not allowed when in port) to minimize any soot during the day. However, depending on wind direction, soot did accumulate on deck chairs and the Terrace Cafe outside dinning chairs. A wipe with the towel ensured that you did not encounter the soot on your cloths or body.
The water on board was considered drinkable however; each time we turned on the cabin tap, the first flow of water had a brown colour - we resorted to bottled water for drinking which we had to purchase.
The new passengers who embarked in Bali brought along a virus that quickly spread amongst the passengers and crew. The Doctor on board was outstanding in dealing with this onslaught of clientele.
Our biggest disappointment was the continuous late arrival at the various ports of call. This became a significant issue when the tour was a half day tour - usually limited to 4 hours because of daylight, so with an hour or more of tardiness, these tours became a rushed encounter barely allowing time for photographs and absorption of the surroundings. This needs to be addressed so that more time is available for these tours.
The smaller number of passengers allowed large tour groups a controlling interest in the overall ability to function on the ship. They had their own private sessions, lectures, functions, tours and bridge playing that would occupy the lounges on the ship. They also would have a larger say in the scheduled activities.
The A/C failure showed the arrogant side of many of the passengers. These passengers were typically from an educated professional background and their screaming and display of poor behaviour toward the the staff was an embarrassment.
In summary we have booked two more future cruises on the Aegean Odyssey, the small cruise ship, its crew, the food selections, atmosphere, lectures etc. far outweigh the issues that were encountered on this trip.