About this cruise: We love the itinerary and were blessed with good weather. Temperature was hot and humid as expected but no major tropical storm or typhoon.
We flew to Hong Kong first, spent 3 days there, and then flew to Singapore. We stayed in Ritz-Carlton in Marina Bay for 1 night, and then boarded the ship. Embarkation (around 12:45pm) was smooth and efficient. The pier in Singapore is new, modern and extremely efficient. Staffs greeted us right at the front of the Terminal. Our luggage was taken from us right there and we just had to lineup to check in. We were in our cabin within 30 minutes. The fastest embarkation we ever had.
Since we were booked in the Aqua class, we have a designated restaurant called Blu reserved just for this class with open seating. We love this restaurant and never found their service slow. Their French Onion Soup was the best we ever had on a cruise ship, better than those served on Crystal. For breakfast, we were served at our table (no lineup) and had freshly squeezed orange juice every time. Coffee was good as well. Shower in the cabin was also a lot more enjoyable, with glass shower door instead of shower curtain. Bed was comfortable and the room quite spacious. Unfortunately, this cabin was very noisy at night because it was located right underneath the whirlpool area. We would not choose mid-ship next time on this deck. Our cabin steward, Antonio and his assistant Simeon were absolutely fantastic. Renato, the matre D in Blu was also great. We also enjoyed the Specialty Dining Room Olympic and Qsine. We purchased the 3-night Specialty Dining package, which offered a discounted rate. However, we found out later that we could have negotiated an even better rate once on board, especially on port nights.
Unfortunately, food served in the Oceanview Cafe was mediocre and desserts were unappealing.
Our biggest complaint was the Internet on board which was very unreliable. It only worked half the time. They even closed the I-Lounge on sea day to give ONE customer a private computer lesson! I brought my own laptop but found this very disrespectful to other paying customers who did not have a laptop with them. The staffs there were unhelpful; one was actually downright rude. We did file a complaint against him. This was the only area where we found unhelpful staff.
Entertainment was good most evenings. The Cruise Director on this cruise was Steve Gayda, who was great; very approachable and hard working. He was everywhere. We bumped into him all the time. He really cares if his guests are enjoying themselves. We also love the Solarium and spent as much time there as we could.
The followings are summary of our port visits:
Singapore On the night of arrival, we visited the Night Safari which was highly recommended by friends and visitors from TripAdvisors. It was OK but we were not hugely impressed. A tram took us around the compound, but most animals were asleep. The Night Show was OK, nothing special. We did enjoy our dinner inside the Ulu Ulu Village where there were different types of food stands for us to choose our dinner from. This is a good way to sample local food and the village is very clean. The Night Safari is open from 7:30pm to midnight but the Ulu Ulu Village is open at 6:00pm. We have dinner first, watched the Night Show and then took the tram ride. Sit in the back for the Night Show so you can exit first and be in the front of the line for the tram ride. We went on Saturday so the queue for the tram ride was very long although it kept moving so it was not as bad as it seemed. There are only 2 Night Show per night and the theatre filled up quickly so one way or the other you can't win.
I would recommend visiting the Singapore Zoo first in the day and visit Night Safari at night if you really want to go. This place is far from the city. Travelling from the Marina Bay area takes 30 40 minutes cab ride depending on the traffic and in my opinion is not worth the money and time just to visit Night Safari alone. Cab ride from Mariner Bay costs S$20 one way and admission to Night Safari alone costs S$35. In hindsight, we would have enjoyed our evening more by staying in the Marina Bay area, watched the nightly Light and Water show and toured The Gardens by the Bay for free.
On the embarkation day, we spent the rest of the day exploring the ship, signed up for onboard Internet, booked dinner reservation in Specialty Restaurant and unpacked. On the 2nd day we visited The Gardens by the Bay in the morning. It was way too hot to be outdoor and most eateries were closed. Admission fees to the Conservatories are cheaper for local residents. Visitors have to pay S$28. We did not visit the Conservatory because we did not have a full day.
Laem Chabang, Thailand We took the Princess Excursion for the Nong Nooch Village. We really enjoyed this Excursion which included a Thai Cultural Show & Elephant Show. The Elephant Show was truly amazing.
On the second day, we took the Exotic Bangkok tour. This was a full day tour. The ride into the city took 2 hours but the motor coach was very comfortable. En route, our tour guide talked about the Thai culture, its economy and history. Bottled water was provided along the way. A buffet lunch was included with the tour. It was served in a restaurant called ETC, inside the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel. It was a very good lunch and we enjoyed this tour. It was well paced and was quite relaxing.
Phu My, Vietnam On the first day we took the Vung Tau City Tour which was a half day tour. The tour guide speaks very poor English and we had a hard time understanding him. We visited the White Villa, the Hillside Buddhist Temple, the Whale Temple and the Status of Jesus. It was something to do with the day but was not a great tour.
On the second day, we took the Ho Chi Minh City Highlights, which was a full day tour. We visited the Reunification Hall, the Post Office, drove through Chinatown, the History Museum, Thien Hau Temple and the Minh Phuong Lacquer Factory. A buffet lunch was included with the tour which was served in a restaurant above the An Dong Plaza. It was not as good as the one we had in Thailand but was still OK. They even included a Water Puppet show which was not in the itinerary. The drive to the city was again long (2 hours) but the tour guide speaks good English so we learned something about the Vietnamese culture and economy along the way.
Chan May, Vietnam This is the port of entry to Hue & Danang. Again going into any destination of interest from this port would take at least 2 hour ride on the motor coach. We took the My Son Heritage & Danang Excursion which was an 8 hour tour and took 2 Â½ hour ride one way. We visited My Son, recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site; Central Danang; and Lihn Ung Pagoda. Included in this tour was a stop at Waterfront Restaurant for lunch. This was a really great tour, despite the long ride. My Son, a holy land of Champa Kingdom is really worth visiting. The Quan Yin in Linh Ung Pagoda is huge and breath-taking. She stands guard over the Danang harbour and the view from where she stands are really great. We also enjoyed the lunch very much because we got to try some local food: Hot & Sour soup, satay chicken & pork, curry chicken, BBQ ribs and wonderful fluffy rice grown locally.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO Heritage site. Since we booked the Ha Long Bay by boat tour, we were picked up directly from the ship. We travelled through tranquil water, passed through numerous limestone islets and arrived at a pier where one of the larger caves is located. We needed to climb approximately 120 steps to reach the cave but it was worth it. The climb was slow because there were so many people there, so the climb was easier than I thought. The cave is huge and with all the colour lighting, it is really quite beautiful.
If you don't like the crowd, it is not a bad idea to take the Ha Long Boat tour on the second day. I was told that there were not as many people around.
On the second day, we tendered in and took the Ha Long Countryside & Shopping Tour. We visited Yen Tu Temple, a farmer and his family, and had tea in Halong Plaza Hotel. In my opinion, this tour is not worth the price. I suggest taking a cab to Bay Chay open-air market and spending some time there would be a better choice. The market is quite close to the pier.
Hong Kong - Millennium was the first cruise ship to dock at Kai Tak Terminal in Hong Kong. The terminal was not open officially at the time. This was just a trail run to expose any glitch they might have. Custom Officers landed on the ship in Vietnam to clear custom so we could get off the ship as soon as we arrived. There were Lion Dance welcoming us to Hong Kong and lots of reporters waiting. It was quite exciting. This terminal is not as convenient as the Ocean Terminal. There were no taxi, no MTR and no private cars allowed. We took the complimentary shuttle bus to Kowloon Airport Express station where we were picked up by relatives. The ride to Kowloon Airport Express took 20 25 minutes.
If you are spending some time in Hong Kong, you can get a cab here, or walk (underground) to the MTR Kowloon station. Just follow the sign. From there, you can go anywhere in Hong Kong and Kowloon. Hong Kong is a place where you can shop and dine to your heart's delight. Don't miss the Victoria Peak, Stanley Market and Repulse Bay in Hong Kong; and Ocean Terminal/Harbour City, Nathan Road, Canton Road in Kowloon.
In summary, we had a wonderful time in this cruise. The countries we visited are all great. Unfortunately, in Thailand and Vietnam, all major attractions and cities are quite far from the port which makes a long motor coach ride inevitable. For this reason some people opted to stay overnight in the cities. We spent a total of $1,056 on Princess Excursions alone because all ports are far from the cities. Vietnam has a lot of motor bikes and these bikers are not ordinary bikers. They are reckless and one motor bike sometimes carried 3 4 people, with kid standing on the front of the seat with no helmet on. Some carried all types of merchandise on board. Some fellow travellers just took the motor coach to the city and spend a day there on their own. This is another option if you don't care too much about temples because there are a lot of temples in these tours, a little too much actually.