I recently returned from a "Grand Voyage," which is really a way of saying I took back-to-back cruises. The first part of the cruise started in Bangkok with stops in Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. The second part started and ended in Singapore with stops in more of Malaysia and Thailand as well as exotic Burma.
I have been on this ship before and enjoy the focus on seeing and learning about places. Yes, many of the rooms are small and there are no casinos or fancy entertainment (though there was an excellent trio of classical musicians), but that is not what I am looking for. I first traveled on the ship three years ago and am impressed on how well it has been maintained.
The food is excellent. Better, in my opinion, than I have had on Princess, Holland America, or any of the several river cruise lines I have sailed on. The room stewards, reception staff, and dining room staff are superb.
One of the highlights of this ship are the lectures by well-qualified speakers who also, for the most part, presented their topics well and with humor. And the topics, which ranged from politics to history to geology to peoples to literature all related to the places visited.
Over the course of the cruise I visited the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat and Bagan. I witness extremes varying from the poverty of Cambodia and Burma to the opulence of Brunei and Singapore. I saw stunning modern architecture in Saigon, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore as well as British colonial architecture throughout the region. There were also visits to several excellent museums that highlighted the history and culture of the regions visited.
There were several sea days on the cruise, and I was apprehensive about the number. However, the shore visits took place n hot and humid weather that left me drained, So, the days to relax were what I needed. Also, they contained lectures and assorted other activities that took up parts of these days. When there was nothing to do I found a place to read a book or surfed the Internet, which always worked well. However, for some reason, the TV reception seldom worked.
So, what could have been better? During the first part of the trip, the seas were quite rough. In fact, we missed the port of Kota Kinabalu because we could not get there in time. Also, the water in my room (and everyone else's) ran a light brown. The must have flushed the tanks in Singapore as it was crystal clear the last half of the trip.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment involved the shore excursions and visits, which I had thoroughly enjoyed on previous cruises on this ship in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. They were not quite as good this cruise. The port times were shorter, and the shore excursions seemed more rushed. We also were sometimes docked a good ways from the cities visited. This necessitated some longer times on buses than I like as well as the inability to easily walk through the cities. However, there were exception. For example, in Saigon and Yangon, we were docked right in the heart of town.
The long distance to travel between ports in Asia also meant that we left most ports before dinner. It was nice in Europe to have evenings to see the cities by night and perhaps have dinner at a local restaurant.
Finally, the shore excursion staff did not seem up to an Asian trip. They frequently could not answer questions, probably because most of them had never been to these ports before. There also was a lot a misinformation about use of US dollars. They were used almost universally, despite what we were told. This staff was pleasant enough and got us on are buses in an organized fashion, but the trip would have been much better, in my opinion, if they had included people familiar with Asia. This lapse in planning by V2A is the reason I have only rated this cruise a 4.