What a great cruise
Although this was our 1st Cruise together. I cruised around Fiji when I was 18 with some friends but my husband had never cruised before and often said he didn't want to... he has definately changed his mind now.
I am not sure what cruise the last report was on but This was a PERFECT itinerary, for us and also had many other reports saying the same thing, we didn't want a Port intensive cruise which would be tiring, this had enough Ports to see the place and all but one were over 2 days as well as Sea days in between for the rest that we all needed, I don't understand the previous report saying it was a Port Intensive Cruise!!! We all know the itinerary before we cruise!!!
We left Adelaide and flew direct to Singapore arriving around 6pm, we caught a taxi straight to the ship, had a good driver who spoke good English and was a terrific guide. We had been to Singapore many times so didn't want to do a pre cruise night.
The good thing about arriving later was More
that we were the only ones checking in, most people were already on board and enjoying their dinner, so we got straight through. It was a bit confusing in parts, but we got through ok. Being first timers we did not know the procedure and most people presumed you knew what to do - we worked it out though.
The first day was at sea, we departed earlier than expected as everyone was on board. Was a good day to get familiar with everything and meet some people.
We had our Cruise Critic meet and greet, put on by Azamara which was good putting a face to a name, we had champagne and nibbles which were lovely and met all the people that were coming on our tours etc.
We ate in the DiningRoom every night apart from the 2 nights that they sent us to Prime C and Aqualina because the Dining Room was full. Although they were nice, we actually preferred the food in the Dining Room and also the atmosphere was better.
We found the choice was good, one side of the menu being the same every night and the other side was different with great choices and always had something we enjoyed. It must be very hard to please 700 people with taste, there will always be the very few that will complain about the choice. We just enjoyed that someone else was cooking and it was always a 1st class meal.
It is the type of cruise you can join with others if you wish, or you can eat by yourself, a good choice.
We enjoyed the Casual Dining more than getting dressed up every night, we all felt more relaxed and therefore enjoyed the company and the atmosphere. I actually paid no attention to what the people at the next table were wearing as this made no impact to my dining experience and definitly did not make the food taste any different!!! We also liked that we were not on a "SET" time to go for dinner, as we changed it every night, depending on what we were doing in the day, and sometimes we decided to go to the Themed Buffet on Pool deck at the last minute. The freedom to choose when and where we dined and also who with was a highlight and most enjoyable.
All the staff we found to be genuinely happy and more than helpful and always saying hello, could not fault any of them.
The Cafe was a nice meeting place for morning coffee, although could be crowded at times, but was never a problem.
The entertainment was the only thing that was in need of revamping, was a bit on the low side. Jim Badger was good, but didn't want to listen to him every night. We actually enjoyed Dining in the Dining room and then maybe going for a drink in one of the bars with new friends.
One thing that we were very impressed with was the Shuttle Bus at every port. No need to battle with the taxi drivers who don't speak english or want to take you every else expect where you want to go. Azamara have a Free Shuttle bus from the ship to a central location in the city area, going back and forth about every 30 minutes, this was Invaluable.
We realised our cruise experience was determined on our own outloook, we chose to enjoy it and not grizzle and complain out every tiny little insignificant detail, of which there was very few.
Although our cruising is limited, we are not into "comparing" with other cruises or cruiselines as they are all different for different reasons. WE picked this cruise line and WE picked this itinerary, it was up to us to sit back and enjoy it which is what we did, and would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone.
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Port and Shore Excursions
Our first port was Bangkok, we had booked a tour with "Tong Tours" and our guide was Nina - highly recommend this company, it was a good tour. Although we did arrive about 1 hour late in Bangkok which made the tour a bit difficult. The first stop we did was the "Train Market" it was very interesting, people set up their stalls right on the train track and when a train comes they quickly pull it up, let the train pass and put it all back again - check it out on You Tube - but as we were running late we missed the train!! We still got the idea of it all. Next stop was Floating Markets, very glad we experienced this as I have read about it and it is not until you actually do it you really understand it. Boats pushing each other to get through and just when you think the boat is not going to make it… somehow it does!! Definitely worth checking out. Our next stop was the Tiger Temple this was something different, although very commercial like and very touristy was a good experience. You get to walk with the Tiger and get to touch them as well. Timing is important with this as we had to arrive after they had lunch and when they were getting tired ready for a sleep. It was a long way away but if you love tigers - do it - you will enjoy it. Next stop was lunch which was at a nice little restaurant close by, had a nice meal and a relax time. That was basically all we had time for so it was off for the long drive back to the ship - you make your own fun in the van either sleep or have a sing a long - being aussies we did the sing along, was a long trip but fun. Tour with Tong can fit in what you want to do, we didn't pick a tour we created our own and then advertised on Cruise Critic for others to join us, worked well. The bus was very comfy, there were 8 of us and Nina was a good guide. The good thing about 2 days in Port, you can do a full tour like we did and then the next day you can do local sightseeing and shopping which works well. We departed Bangkok at 4pm. The next day was a sea day - a good rest day.
Next port was Danang – only one day in Port here. Our guide met us ( again from VietVision) 8 of us on this tour. This was a really good tour. We drove through the heart of Danang which we were really surprised at its size and modern buildings. We then stopped at a local village where we enjoyed a walk through and experienced the real life of Vietnamese people, the market and their food, they did not know we were coming which made it even more real. we went in a lovely old temple and had the elders greet us and give us history information. we then drove to Hoi An where our guide took us on a walking tour which was very interesting and then we headed for lunch at a lovely restaurant which was all inclusive of the cost. We then had time to ourselves where we could wander around and do shopping and experience this lovely town. We met up again for our journey back to our ship. This was a lovely tour and would highly recommend seeing a local village, most enjoyable.
We didn't go to Hanoi, we only stayed in Halong Bay for this tour. The benefits of having a balcony was we could sit in our own comfort and enjoy the absolutely breathe taking scenery arriving in Halong Bay, it would have to be one of the highlights of the trip. It seemed to go for ever and so many different rock formations. Was good to anchor down and do the tender to shore, was a lovely view from the ship. The first afternoon we took in the local area, market shopping and local walk around. The next day was a tour around Halong Bay on our own boat, again through Viet Vision. We choose the 2nd day to do this as we would have longer around the bay than other tours, and as this was such a beautiful spot it impressed us more than the 3 hour drive there and back to Hanoi. 10 of us joined this tour and was such a lovely relaxing day. We enjoyed a lovely seafood lunch and stopped at many spots along the way. Many photos were taken on this tour. Highly recommend doing this, it wasn't busy at all, and we still had some time after to check out the real life of local people before heading back home ready for sailing.
The next day was interesting arriving in Ho Chi Minh(formerly Saigon) arriving around midday. The sail in is what Captain Smith calls the “Saigon Slalom” as he has to sail through parts of the Mekong Delta which is a zig zag. A must to be on deck to experience this. The ship pulls in the stabilizers and then leans the ship from side to side while zig zagging up the river!! Well done Captain. I also read the other report saying it was disappointing... I think these people must have a very high expectation of most things, as this was a different experience and an enjoyable one. The first thing we did this day was the 4 of us had bags of gifts to take to the Christina Noble Orphanage. We had pre organised for some of the others to donate some things as well as filling one of our suitcases with gifts/clothes etc from friends in Adelaide. It was a real experience and glad we did it, we caught a taxi there and had a small tour of the school/hospital/orphanage – we didn’t see too many kids as they were sleeping, we did see a few of the babies which was great. It is a very good Orphanage with a very good name and we are hoping to set up something for future cruises as well. The rest of the day was local look around and try and beat the traffic – an impossible task – you can either stay in town or go back to the ship for dinner. Day 2 we had a lovely tour of the Mekong Delta – with Viet Vision Travel – all our tours in Vietnam were booked through this company – highly recommend them, they were terrific with all the pre planning, as we again hand picked “what” we did and they accommodated everything. They were well priced with good vehicles and good English speaking guides. They greeted us at every port with our name on a piece of paper and looked after us for the day. It was an early start as it was a full day and the ship was departing at 4pm. We headed to My Tho City when we hopped on a small boat that took us to a small island where we walked around and morning tea with local fruit and a cup of tea along with some traditional folk music from the locals. The next island was where we saw Coconut Candy being made, we then boarded a cart pulled by a donkey around the small town, we then arrived at the small boats that were poled along a small canal, was very peaceful and interesting, at the end of that trip we arrived back at the original boat where we sipped on a coconut while taking us back to the mainland . We then headed off for lunch at a lovely resort where heaps of people were eating. We had a large assortment of food to eat – all local – was a lovely experience. Then it was back to the ship ready to depart. Was a lovely tour and the guide was very good. Off through the zig zag once again and then another relaxing day at sea.
Cruising into Hong Kong early morning was a lovely sight and worth getting up early to experience. We ventured into Shenzen China on day one to get some clothes made by Judy the Tailor. We had already pre ordered our Visas which made it a bit easier. Was a full on day but totally worth it as our clothes are perfect. We stayed in Hong Kong for another 4 days, staying at Marco Polo Hong Kong where our room overlooked the Azamara, was a great view of the ships as well as the Harbour. We enjoyed the days we had in Hong Kong, but would like to go back at another time to experience more.