Singapore to Hong Kong – Outstanding Cruise - February 2017: Celebrity Millennium Cruise Review by BSinPNS

Celebrity Millennium 5
BSinPNS
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Singapore to Hong Kong – Outstanding Cruise - February 2017

Sail Date: February 2017
Destination: Asia
Embarkation: Singapore
The crew was tremendous. The outgoing nature of the master, Captain Nikolaos Christodoulakis, was adopted by virtually all crew members from top to bottom. Even the steward relegated to cleaning the handrails in the stairwells took time to look at us and ask how we were enjoying the cruise. Senior officer were very visible around the ship talking with passengers, not just amongst themselves. The crew actively sought our feedback to help resolve any issues.

About us. Active 70-somethings who enjoy seeing different parts of the world and like the convenience of large ship cruising as a basis for exploring. This was our seventeenth cruise mostly with Celebrity and a few HAL and RCCL thrown in.

We did anytime dining and had the same great wait team, Carmo and Roel, every evening. One day my wife did not feel well and stayed aboard while I went with a group to Hanoi. Both of them were concerned that she was eating alone and one offered to sit with her until it got busy. More She declined, but it was the thought. There were very good menu options every evening that included beef, pork, chicken, fish, lamb, veal and vegetarian. Usually we had to decide between two or three items that we would have liked. French Onion Soup, escargot, and Cesar salad were always available. There was always steak, but there were some additional new items rotating there also. One evening we were very late coming back and had a tasty Indian dish in Oceanview. Of course, Carmo and Roel wanted to know if there was a problem with the menu that evening.

We were in cabin 3114, one of the oceanviews added during a recent yard period. It was in very good condition and had a huge window since it formerly had been part of the conference area. Our room steward, Armando, always greeted us when he saw us and took care of our every need in the room.

Entertainment was very good with three cast shows and a variety of visiting entertainers ranging from singers to magicians. On most sea days, there was usually a matinee performance with two of the guest performers from previous evenings. The seven piece Celebrity orchestra provided live music to accompany all shows in the theatre. We particularly enjoyed guest lecturers, Francis O'Donnell and his presentation Retracing the Steps of Marco Polo and Ken Williams who provided lots of information about the sites we would be visiting. Trivia drew good sized audiences and was challenging. Cruise Director, Mark Western, did a great job coordinating all this and was visible around the ship and willing to talk. Captain’s Club host, Graeme Kelleher, was his usual upbeat talkative self while making the rounds to meet with everyone at Captain’s Club events. We even got to meet his wife, Amy, who is the stage manager onboard.

The ship itself was in superb condition for a piece of steel exposed to salt air for 17 years. The bosuns were busy caring for the exterior, chipping, priming and painting every day. If you wanted to find fault you could search and find some rust (but not much), furnishings that are not the latest style, etc. We really didn't have time for that.

We even found the Guest Relations staff to be friendly and helpful. Since we booked all private excursions, we did not deal with the excursions staff. We arrived early and were cleared early at each port and our travel group were among the first 20 or so off the ship. Even tendering in Halong Bay did not provide any problems with being off first to meet our guides.

Singapore. We arrived three days early and spent a day with Wei, from Indie Singapore touring Chinatown and Kampong Glam, areas we would not have attempted on our own. Singapore is very easy to tour on your own, but we found the insights Wei provided about his country and citizens quite valuable. The subway (MRT) is super-efficient with trains running every two minutes during rush hours and slowing to 4 to 5 minutes in off peak times.

Bangkok. Four of us toured with BKK Tours and had a great experience. Ms. Air was our guide and again provided an abundance of information. I am not sure how we saw so much in just two days including a 2.5 hour transit to/from the port. With the exception of our hotel, breakfast and dinner, everything was included – two boat rides, tuk-tuk ride, multiple temples and markets and so much more. Total cost was less than $200 per person. We pre-booked one night with the Hilton Millennium.

Vietnam – Saigon, Hue, Halong Bay, Hanoi. All booked with Handspan Tours. Transit time from the port to the cities ranged from 2.5 to 4+ hours each way. Driving in Vietnam is the craziest I have experienced. Most signs are advisory in nature (or at least that is how the locals view it). The law of gross tonnage applies – the bigger vehicle has the right of way even when passing with oncoming traffic. Be prepared or save your eye mask from the flight.

Hong Kong. Booked two days of tours and post-cruise hotel through China Odyssey, a private Chinese tour company that we used previously in Shanghai and Beijing. They provided Ms. Ceci Mak, an excellent guide who again provided lots of side information and visits to unusual places off the normal tourist route.

Guilin, China. We had been told of the beauty of the Li River Valley and rice terraces so we booked a three day trip from HKG to Guilin. China Odyssey provided all the arrangements including air travel, hotels, and an exceptional guide, Robin Shao.

As you can tell it was a wonderful trip which we will talk about for years. Please feel free to ask questions and I will do my best to respond. Less


Published 03/30/17
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Cabin review: 063114 Ocean View 6

One of the oceanviews added during a recent yard period. It was in very good condition and had a huge window since it formerly had been part of the conference area. Our room steward, Armando, always greeted us when he saw us and took care of our every need in the room.

Read All Ocean View 6 (06) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions


Four of us toured with BKK Tours and had a great experience. Ms. Air was our guide and again provided an abundance of information. I am not sure how we saw so much in just two days including a 2.5 hour transit to/from the port. With the exception of our hotel, breakfast and dinner, everything was included – two boat rides, tuk-tuk ride, multiple temples and markets and so much more. Total cost was less than $200 per person. We pre-booked one night with the Hilton Millennium.

We were the first ones off the ship, passing through Vietnamese immigration to get our landing cards stamped and made our way to the port gate where we waited for our guide to arrive. We had been warned that there would be lots of road time since our ports would be distant from the main cities. Along the way, we saw lotus and rice fields, beautiful pagodas including an all white one, decorations from the New Year celebration, many different types of stores including furniture (reminiscent of Taipei), and trees with numbers painted on them. Except on the toll roads, we were surrounded by many motorbikes and cars. Traffic is governed largely by the law of gross tonnage. The larger vehicle gets the right of way with the motorbike being at the bottom of the mixture. Amazingly, we only saw one accident. Our guide said that unless there was significant damage or injury, someone says sorry and then all move on. We travelled about two hours before stopping for a break which included a drink consisting of fresh milled sugar cane, a citrus fruit and some water. Our next stop, the Cu Chi Tunnel Complex, was an hour away. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Viet Nam War, and were the Viet Cong's base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. It was interesting to get the "official" representation about the tunnels from our guide, but some research revealed that the tunnels were filled with vermin and other bugs that ensured that most of the Viet Cong were sick with malaria and other illness. We toured the area with several members of our group crawling through a small portion of the tunnels and checking out camouflage hiding areas. In the distance we could hear some visitors firing weapons which provided an interesting backdrop. We drove for over an hour back to Saigon where we had a delicious lunch at the Viet Village consisting deep fried crab cake, legume soup with minced pork, sautéed chicken with lemongrass, braised pork with pepper, and sautéed broccoli with garlic followed by dessert of watermelon and dragon fruit. Boarding our van, we made our way through heavy traffic to Reunification Palace, what we knew as Independence Palace, the headquarters of the South Vietnamese Republic. Originally built as Norodom Palace by the French, it was bombed by rebellious pilots in 1962 and rebuilt by President Diem. Most of us remember the iconic photos of a line of people trying to board a Huey helicopter on the rooftop as a North Vietnamese tank burst through the gate on April 30, 1975. Now serving as a tourist attraction, we viewed many of the rooms with placards of important meetings between the Vietnamese president, Henry Kissinger and others; saw a Huey sitting on the rooftop; and walked thorough the command center in the basement. Our final stop in Hanoi was at the Hit Xoan Deo 2 gift shop (with clean restrooms and coffee).

Our first stop was at the Dong Ba market where the ladies did some shopping while we wandered past the many stalls. Thien Mu (Heavenly Lady) pagoda constructed in 1601 was our next stop. Huan said that most people are becoming less religious, but those who do practice Buddhism go to the temple about twice a month and only eat vegetarian items on those days. He remarked that this year, the year of the rooster, was his year and that if he were superstitious he would avoid major actions such as marriage, building a home, etc. during this year along with the year before and after. We boarded a small boat that appeared to be operated by a husband and wife team for the trip down the Mekong from the temple to the Imperial Citadel. Boarding the boat was a bit of a challenge, but disembarking directly on the river bank was even more fun. It appears the wives help run the boat, sell a variety of souvenirs and even do the washing while waiting for the next customers. The Imperial Citadel consists of three rings of walls with a moat outside each. Within the outer circle lived most of the community, with the officers living in the middle ring and the center ring reserved for royalty. We entered through the Ng Mon (main square entrance) and walked through the Than Hoa Palace (or forbidden purple city) exiting at the back to meet our driver. Huan said that this complex was similar in size to the Forbidden City in Beijing. Our delicious lunch at the Les Jardins de la Carambole French-Vietnamese restaurant consisted of crab soup, spring rolls, green mango salad, rice cakes with shrimp and pork, grilled chicken with lemongrass and chili, steamed rice, followed by passionfruit ice cream. We then visited the tombs of two emperors. Emperor Tu Duc was the longest serving ruling from 1848-1883. Since he was unable to bear a son with one of his over 100 wives and concubines, it fell on him to plan and construct his tomb which he started in 1864 and completed three years later. He later added several buildings in the area since the site also served as his summer palace. Our final stop was the tomb of Khai Dinh, the last emperor who assumed the throne in 1916 and worked closely with the French and toured there a few years before his death explaining the French influence in the designs. Although the surface area is smaller, there are 129 steps to climb to see the ornate mausoleum. On the way back to Millennium, we saw the only serious road accident of our time in Vietnam and a large monument to those Viet Cong who lost their lives in the War.

We arrived three days early and spent a day with Wei, from Indie Singapore touring Chinatown and Kampong Glam, areas we would not have attempted on our own. Singapore is very easy to tour on your own, but we found the insights Wei provided about his country and citizens quite valuable. The subway (MRT) is super-efficient with trains running every two minutes during rush hours and slowing to 4 to 5 minutes in off peak times.

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BSinPNS
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