Embarkation was changed from Bangkok to Singapore due to unrest in the Thai capital earlier this year. Unfortunately for many this was an inconvenient to change to their travel arrangements. As destination Singapore is a beautiful city but does not work too well as a departure port for a ship the size of the Diamond. Hotels in Singapore are quite expensive but we were able to secure a great price through on line bidding for rooms so stayed at the beautiful Conrad. This hotel is wonderful and for a few dollars more upgrade to the executive floors with its private members area, free drinks and wonderful snacks. Embarkation was a bit of a mess with the departure day clashing with the Singapore Marathon..the F1 Pit area was the end point for the marathon and so the area was still clogged with competitors closed streets etc. as we were all arriving to check in. Many without priority waited a considerable time and I did not feel comfortable just dumping bags outside without visable security etc.
We were then taken by bus to the container port to board the ship once onboard things went smoothly and we were quickly checking out our minisuite on D405. I will post pictures of this cabin and the various cabins of some of the roll call for future reference. The AA minisuite was well located just a few cabins from the main mid ship elevators. Very quiet, large uncovered balcony with 4 chairs and table, sitting area and twin or queen sized bed, large (by cruise ship standards bathroom with shower over the tub. Plenty of storage.
Due to the chaos at the check in point the ship was more than two hours late leaving which caused our masked sailaway party to the less well attended than usual..it took quite a while to get all the luggage to all the cabins as the container port is quite a distance from the check in.
Tips for Singapore...use the MRT very cheap and the tickets give you a refund when you have finished your journey..see the automatic ticketing for details.
Use Priceline to get a great hotel at a good price. Easy safe city to get around many lovely malls and fabulous restaurants. Breakfast with the Orangutans at Singapore Zoo is a great way to start the day.
First port of call was Ho Chi Min City or Saigon as it is still called by the locals. Warning if you decide to visit Saigon it is a two and half hour journey by bus through crowded and poorly made roads each way from the port. Many chose to visit the closer towns of Baria and Vung Tau and the ships shuttle only went to Baria.We reboarded after a hot, dusty and very bumpy ride back to the ship and jumped into a welcome cocktail in Skywalkers. The platinum and Elite cruisers had pre dinner drinks and nibbles in Skywalkers most nights. A great way to start your evening and the drink of the day was a very reasonable $2.99. Wonderful views from Skywalkers.
New to the ship since my last cruise on her are MUTS, we had a fair amount of rain but the new movies under the stars was popular on the warm days and nights. Comfortable covers are put over the sunlounges and you can sit back with a pizza and free popcorn to enjoy the movies.
A sanctuary area has been added to what was previously the basketball court. A friend visted and was quite impressed. $10 per half day 8 to 12.30 or 1 to 5. Another welcome addition was new mattresses...so much better! According to other guests not all the mattresses have been changed yet but they had been in D405 plus quality linens and towels.
The ship was beautifully dressed for the Holiday season with Christmas Trees in abundance.
Next stop was Nha Trang..a pretty little seaside town. It's wet season so we weren't seeing it at is best but a very enjoyable stop with some good bargain shopping and plenty of local sights. The embroidery factory was a popular choice and we also visited temples, had a river cruise and a local meal.
Next stop was Benoa in Bali..a new destination for me. Wonderful buzzing tourist island, great bargains, nice beaches, exotic temples, chaotic traffic. This is a tender port and with an early departure time we again had problems getting everyone back on board as many did not return from their tours until late in afternoon and the jam of passengers waiting for tenders back to the ship caused us to be late leaving. We organised a private tour through CC members and it was great value. Photos and details will be posted later.
Tip for Benoa...bargaining is the name of the game, USD ok, somewhere around a 1/4 to 1/2 of the opening price is about right.
A couple of sea days and then Darwin Australia...not a tender port. A short shuttle into the city centre. Many great tours on offer, jumping crocodiles is highly recommended but you can visit a crocodile exhibition right in the centre of town and even have a cage in the water with the croc experience. For a short stop it is really too far in my opinion to visit Litchfield Park even though it is wonderful scenery and aboriginal rock art. We took a trip around town in the amphibious duck, great fun with a cruise on Fanny Bay thrown in..good value.
Will post photos.
Next Stop was Port Douglas..after some pretty rainy days Port Douglas turned on a prefect tropical day, sunny and hot! Popular choices here are a trip down the coast to Cairns/Kuranda or up to Mossman Gorge for a swim in the rock pools and a walk in the rainforest. This is another tender in and then a short shuttle into town.
Unfortunately or Airlie Beach stop was cancelled due to inclement weather and as it is another tender port, the captain decided that the sea conditions were too rough for safe operations. Disappointing as many of us had intended to visit the Great Barrier Reef..but could not be helped.
And finally back to Sydney for a glorious sail into the heart of Sydney. Disembarkation was pretty quick and well controlled...please when you collect your bags move to the side so others can get through. Tip. Go to top level for the fastest way to catch a taxi, queues much shorter than down below..there is a a lift.
Overall impressions, ship is looking fine...food is great as usual, lobsters were lovely and well cooked. Staff attentive and friendly. Couple of minor gripes..Sabatinis on the Diamond is not as nice as others I have experienced..no music, staff a bit here and there and far too quick to start packing up around you. Took four calls and more than a week to get the light on our balcony fixed. Heard lots of mumbles about the entertainment..the Cruise Director was not much in evidence and compared to Adam Goder and his team last year..not nearly as involved or energetic. Vibe on the ship was much quieter than last year but was not helped by the weather. Formal nights were well attended with the majority taking the opportunity to dress up. Short stops and lots of tender ports caused more than a few headaches all round.
Another great trip on the Diamond I am sure she will continue to have many fans.
Top tip, chose new taxis, all taxis are cheap but the new ones seem to have drivers who speak English and better airconditioning.