Pearls of Southeast Asia: Hong Kong to Bali - Jan 12, 2013 to Jan 29, 2013
'Cruise Ship': Aegean Odyssey
Voyages to Antiquity
There were two parts to our "trip" -- starting with ~2 days in Hong Kong, ending with ~2 days in Bali and the 10 day "cruise" part in the middle.
The land based parts of the trip were quite good, organized by AHI and generally up to the expectations we have experienced in the past for AHI Trips endorsed by UW Alumni Travel.
However, the 10 days "cruise" between Hong Kong and Bali was extremely disappointing and definitely NOT up to AHI promotions or similar endorsement from Wisconsin Alumni Association travel.
Background: On this cruise portion of the trip, there were 5 "excursion" stops (Manila, Philippines; Borneo, Malaysia; Pare Pare, Lombok and Bali, Indonesia) and 5 days "at sea".
At this time of the year darkness starts around 6:00 PM. However, 3 of the 5 excursions had port arrival times at 1:00 or 2:00 PM -- which strategically makes the time for excursion kind of tight (i.e.: delay arriving into port or delay getting onto the buses, cuts into time for excursion).
Overall comments on the Aegean Odyssey part of the trip:
- This ship is promoted as having recently been refitted for "small ship cruising" in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. I would instead think of this ship as "lipstick on a pig", the cosmetics of the ship have been redone attractively, but the inner workings are still those of a Black Sea/Aegean overnight ferry.
o This was the FIRST venture of the Aegean Odyssey into Southeast Asia and the crew seemed to be feeling their way along with slow entries into ports and long delays with local customs clearance.
o The ships engines seemed out of balance and caused a continuous "shudder" throughout the ship when running at full 14.5 kts.
o The engines belched black smoke and black particulates all over the "Terrace Cafe" white canvas seats. Black stripes on the seats and on the passengers rears could be seen throughout. NOTE: all the canvas seats were washed the last evening before arrival into Bali for the next group of passengers.
o The Air conditioning was obviously ill equipped to handle the humidity and temperatures of SE Asia. After leaving Manila, the AC FAILED, leaving the passengers to the mercy of 85-90 F heat and similar levels of humidity. Yes 8 days of NO AC on the cruise -- the closed cabins were, in some cases, unbearable with passengers seeking sleep on the decks or lounge areas. The Observation lounge on the top deck was like the 4th level of hell. The Ambassador lounge (lecture hall and general meeting area) was similarly uncomfortable, which detracted from the lecture series (AHI and V to A lectures).
Worse yet: the Greek Captain made daily announcements that the engineers are working on the AC and will have it operating shortly (delusional). Also, announcements that parts have been flown into the next port (but they were the wrong ones) and that when we returned from excursion, it would be "frigid".
o Comparably minor inconveniences: the Wi-Fi service on board was non-existent or spotty except for the last couple days -- fixed long distance via the UK home base; there was no TV signal for the entire cruise and the daily movies were "hits" from the 60's (e.g.: Around the World in 80 Days -- David Niven version, Bridge over the River Kwai etc.).
- Unbelievably, this Greek Captain arrived in every port (YES every port) at least 1 hour late. This late arrival, in addition to the "amateurish and sometimes snotty" actions of the Shore Excursion director and her novice team led to the excursions being rushed or cut short (sites eliminated from the itinerary).
On the last evening aboard, the Captain announced that we would leave Lombok for Bali at 23:00 and that the AC would be running again by 22:00, with arrival into Bali (only 4 hours away) at 05:00. Pathetically, there was no AC and the ship arrived into Bali at 06:15 with disembarkation started at 09:30 instead of the scheduled 08:00.
- ON THE GOOD SIDE:
The British Hotel Manager and the staff of cabin stewards and the dining room servers were outstanding despite the trying conditions. Many of the passengers sympathized with the wait staff and tipped generously before leaving.
The food was generally quite palatable and of consistently good quality.
The lectures were interesting, but the closed-in lecture hall was very uncomfortable with NO AC.
Free drinks were started after the AC failed.