Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra days in HKG at the new W Hotel and it is high tech in everyway. In fact we had some problem figuring out how to operate room amenities. The view was partial harbor view, since there are couple of luxury condos in front. The hotel with the best view is the Intercontinental bar none. One unique feature of this cruise was that Mariner made 1 1/2 day ports of call at major destinations. HKG, Hong Gai Vietnam, Hue, Saigon, BKK and overnight in Singapore where we disembarked. This allowed us to participate more in depth excursions. Cruise provided one complimentary 4 hours cruise of Halong Bay onboard typical Junk which was very relaxing and beautiful.
I arranged my Vietnam tours with local agency and it worked out fine, plus 50% saving compared to what was offered by the cruiseline. Our tours were private with driver and an English speaking guides. Transaction involving fees for the tours went without a hitch. Deposit and balance paid on arrival. What was most important was that dockside meet was arranged in advance by obtaining permit from the government which is included in the price. This was part of their Asia Golden Circle Cruise for the total of 102 days, but you can cruise on various segments you found interesting.
The crew was very attentive as usual, good room service menu and best of all it is all inclusive. There is absolutely nothing to pay, unless you purchase premium beverages or make other onboard purchases(photos,boutique). Cabin is spacious and all have balcony, no inside cabins, free do it yourself laundry facility with ironing board, automatic detergent injection system. Our cabin was close to 400SQ, walk-in closet, mini bar provisioned with mixes, soft drinks and beer. You can also request 2 bottles of liquor for your room per cabin and bottle of champaign during embarkation. Tray of fruits always replenished daily, nightly turn-down service. I also would like to mention that under your bed has enough space to store 4-5 various size empty bags which really helps out. The ship departed HKG at 11PM on the second day and I must say the departure from HKG at night is spectacular. Most beautiful second to none, maybe Sydney?
Our first ports of call was Hong Gai which is the closest port to Hanoi, very interesting city, if you can master navigating massive traffic congestion. It is most difficult to cross those street with hundreds of scooters and aiming right at you. The secret, our guide showed us, is stepping off the curb(not many traffic lights)maintaining steady pace(not slowing down or speeding up) which gives drivers to anticipate your movement which prevents surprises and prevents hitting you. Trick is to do it, but its hard stepping off the curb into on coming traffic. But it works and we did fine with no injuries(I'm 69 and my wife 59). Hue was very interesting, you have a choice of visiting Citadels and Temples in Hue or head out to HoiAn UNESCO Heritage Site. We went to HoiAn combined with Marble Mountain and Da Nang. Good choice, we thought.
Onboard you have a choice of dinning venues, Signature, CompassRose, La Veranda and Latitude. We were not disappointed with any of them with few exceptions. Latitude menu was OK, but not thrilled with it(Indian, then Thai), I think many felt that way. We loved CompassRose, food was consistently good with variety, Signature over-rated, La Veranda(always casual)always had interesting menu selection. In defense of Latitude, they are replacing it with a Steak House, when the ship enters dry-dock at the end of this cruise cycle. We took breakfasts and one dinner in our cabin and both were on time, good presentation and full table cloth service. We ordered dinner with wine selection and two bottles were delivered with dinner. Breakfast was buffet, but you could request items at your table without serving yourself, same for Lunch. There were several poolside dinning with extravagant offering of lobsters, premium meats and numerous other premium seafoods, Mexican menu and even pizza. Absolutely no complaint with their foods and quality. Todays restaurant prices would command $50 per plate easily for what they were offering.
The entertainment was fine, very quaint venue with variety of entertainment, nothing outstanding , since I'm very critical. But it is what is expected of cruiseship entertainment. Variety shows, singer, solo pianist accompanied by Regent's own band, small trio and solo instrumentalists at lounges. Done in good taste. We had 3 formal nights which I'm not too thrilled about, but ship of this class, you can always expect it. I prefer all country casual type of dress code for every functions, but the I feel that type of passengers this class of ship caters to demands it which is part in parcel of traveling on luxury liners. We participated on 2 nights, but decided on La Veranda instead on the last one which was fine. The ship enforces dress code for the evening very close.
HCMC was very orderly compared to Hanoi, ship provided free shuttle service to Rex Hotel(one of the finest in Saigon with history). Because of our size we were able to navigate up the Saigon River for 4 hours to be much closer to city center. Mega cruise-ships on the other hand had to dock nearly 3 hours away, because of much deeper draft. This prevented excursions of any meaning, especially if they were scheduled for one day call at Saigon. Thailand was just as chaotic, but very interesting place to visit. Called on Ko Samui and BKK, spent one night BKK, because the drive into BKK was 2 1/2 hours again. Finally two days at see and arrived in Singapore on Nov 1 and disembarked on the morning of Nov 2. We stayed in Singapore for additional 2 days. Very clean and organized city, we can all learn from them. But the laws they enforce on their citizens can not be imposed in this country, because of ACLU and other organization. However, there are no homeless on the streets, no beggars, trash or graffiti and crimes are virtually none. If you are going to do some shopping get them done in Vietnam or Thailand, because Singapore is expensive and they don't bargain as much.