This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, Kiwis, from the U.K. and Americans. On the second segment from Sydney to Singapore the Australians were in the majority and many of the entertainers and lecturers were also Australian which made for lots of camaraderie and fun for all the Americans too who were the next largest group. We spent our days on board eating and talking with all the interesting people we met, going to lectures and coffee talks, using the gym, playing bridge, enjoying the cooking presentations and movies, the bars, walking on the promenade deck, and the evening varied entertainment from shows to singers, musicians, magicians, and comedians. Even our religious needs were attended to as every Friday evening we were able to attend services with wine and challah provided and a Rabbi was employed onboard to lead the Passover services.
Every staff member was top notch.
Our shore excursions varied from those we arranged privately for a small group through cruise critic, to those arranged by the ship. We also took advantage of the free shuttle buses provided by most of the cities and towns from the dock to the center of town or major place of interest. Our only complaint was that the captain frequently shortened the time the ship was in port-making many of the shore excursions rushed. There was so much to see and so little time in port to see it all.
Our favorite port was Bali where we employed a private guide with his air-conditioned car for the day. He had worked as a waiter on Holland America so his English was very good. He only charged $60 for the car. As there were 4 of us it came to $15 a person, plus lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking a verdant valley. We treated him also. We saw the bat temple, the purification temple (with naked bathers) the volcano and overlook, the wood carvers and Ubud and Mas etc. What a day. If you would like his email and name please email me. I am email@example.com.
We also used private tours in New Zealand and Australia with fabulous days in these First world countries. Everywhere there was wonderful food, wonderful wine, gorgeous harbors, gardens blooming with flowers, and hillsides dotted with sheep. People are friendly and helpful English speakers. Trams and buses are plentiful for getting around. Unfortunately they drive on the wrong side of the road for American drivers, a learning problem if one wants to rent a car.
With the unrest in much of Southeast Asia we felt that ship tours were necessary there for safety. As a whole the ship tours employed comfortable buses and knowledgeable English speaking guides who taught us much about the culture we were seeing. In many of these hot countries, the airconditioning on the buses was a welcome relief. Also the lunches and food to taste on these tours were superb. In Bangkok we lunched at the Mandarin Oriental-probably the best hotel in the city. Also don't miss Nooch Nooch Cultural Village. The elephant show is unbelievable. They have elephants playing soccer, basketball, baseball etc. and walking over people lying on the ground. Wow!!!!
Puerto Princesca has Hunda Bay with the most beautiful empty islands with huge starfish and gorgeous big fish that come to be fed if you give them bread. We did the ship's Island Hopping tour. It was a trip to Paradise on little wooden boats skimming over the azure seas. The water was so warm it felt like a bathtub. We did keep our shirts and hats on in the water so as not to get sunburned.
Did I mention the Antarctic Center in Christchurch NZ-with simulated frigid conditions? How about the inclined train ride down the side of the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney or the skyride across the rainforest in Cairns to the Aboriginal park with the Creation presentation. We had so many adventures-The Trip of a Lifetime. Yours, Ellen Eisenberg firstname.lastname@example.org