This SE Asia cruise has had mixed reviews over the past few weeks but I have to say at the outset that the critics are obviously very hard to please people in light of my experience and that of my wife. We can only say that we had a wonderful time and would do the trip all over again. Sure, the excursions in some ports are long due to the travelling time to and from some of the major destinations in that part of the world, but if you didn't know that before booking the excursions then I'm afraid you don't know your Geography or indeed much about the infrastructure of the countries you are visiting.
We stayed in Hong Kong for 4 days before boarding the ship. We were a bit disappointed to be informed by email that the ship would depart from the new Kai Tak Terminal rather than from Ocean Terminal as this meant a 20-30 minute transfer by coach from Kowloon Station to the point of embarkation. Kai Tak is still under construction and it was obvious that we were 'guinea pigs' as our cruise was the first to depart from there, a piece of history I suppose. However, Kai Tak is 'out of town' and the old Ocean Terminal, still in use, is a much better point of departure as the ship sails straight past Hong Kong Island on it's way to the open sea. Millenium has long lost it's 'wow' factor but is still a well appointed ship which has benefited from refurbishment. As we were Aqua Class we dined in Blu and I have to say that the food was delicious, imaginatively presented and that the staff there were, in the main, excellent without being overbearing as can often be the case.
After departing Hong Kong our sea day was pleasant with plenty of activities around the ship to keep everyone happy and able to take on the day at their chosen pace. Dinner in Blu was a treat as was the Celebrity Theatre Show 'Simply Ballroom'. The next day was an early start as we had to be in the theatre for 7.30am for our excursion to Hanoi ('Past and Present'). The day did not begin well as room service breakfast was not up to Celebrity standards and the coffee and tea were cold and literally undrinkable. After a short tender ride to the quayside the bus left on time (8.15am) for Hanoi. The guide was terrific and very informative. The journey was long but relatively comfortable and we duly arrived in Hanoi at 11.30am. After a short drive through the French Quarter we had a tour of Hao Lo Prison (the 'Hanoi Hilton') followed by a pleasant lunch at a nearby restaurant. Onward to Hai Ba Trung Temple where the equivalent of harvest festival was taking place which meant for several interesting photo opportunities. This was followed by a trip to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, his stilt house and the One Pillar Pagoda, Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of Hanoi and a ride through the old centre of Hanoi on an 'electric tram' making for a superb end to our visit to this fascinating city. We returned to the ship and were back on board at 9.00pm.
The following day, we had a half day boat trip in Halong Bay. Although the skies were overcast, the scenery in the Bay was amazing and was worth the early start - not to be missed on any visit to Vietnam. The sail away from Halong Bay was magnificent and we followed this up with a visit to Cosmos Lounge for the 'Captain's Club' cocktail party with the officers of the ship.
We docked early in Chan May the following day and departed at 8.00am for our excursion to the ancient trading port of Hoi An. The town of Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heratage Site and lives up to it's billing. Our tour took in the Japanese Covered Bridge, a Japanese trader's house, Quang Trieu Assembly Hall, Quan Tang Temple and the Central Market followed by lunch at Nung Hai Restaurant.On the way back to the ship we stopped in Danang at China Beach which is absolutely stunning.
The next day was a welcome sea day after three busy but extemely satisfying days. Again, the range of activities on board was enough for most tastes and the 'Boogie Nights' show in the Celebrity Theatre was very good.
The ship docked at Phu My the following morning and we departed at 7.30am for our excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was and enjoyable and very informative day out and despite the long 3 hour drive it was well worth it. We returned to the ship at 5.00pm and had a nice early dinner in Blu followed by an entertaining magic show in the theatre with Singaporeans, JC Sun and Magic Ning Babe.
The excursion to Saigon the following day was one of the highlights of our cruise. After a 2 hour drive to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, we visited the museum and the water puppet theatre. This low key and somewhat boring start to the day was soon forgotten after our visits to Notre Dame Cathedral, City Square, the Presidential Palace, China Town and lunch at the Windsor Hotel. All in all a wonderful day out and an enlightening experience.
After another sea day we arrived at Laem Chabang, Thailand and proceeded to the city of Bangkok for a terrific day of touring the Grand Palace, the Temple of Dawn, The Royal Barges and a short River Cruise. This 12 hour day (7.30am 'til 7.30pm) can be gruelling for some but having been to Bangkok on two separate occasions in the past we were compelled to go back to this amazing, seething metropolis. Again, somewhere not to be missed on this cruise. The short 30 minute drive to Pattaya the following day at 8.30am was a breeze in comparison, but apart from souvenir shopping and a pleasant enough promenade and beach, there is little to commend Pattaya although I do believe it 'comes alive' after dark.
Singapore, the final stop on this cruise, is another fascinating place. Having visited before, we left the ship at 4.00pm, took the 402 bus from the terminal to Marina Bay SMRT station and took it from there. Once you have accessed the SMRT system you have the city of Singapore 'cracked' as it were as every point of interest is well served by this clean, fast and efficient Mass Transit system. After a pleasant evening in the city and the light show etc in the Marina District we returned to the ship, tired but fulfilled at about 10.30pm in order to get some sleep before an early flight the following day.