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17 Asia Expedition Cruise Reviews

Started in Singapore and ended in Venice on two segments of their World Cruise, now referred to as extend explorations. This was our longest cruise and the first time on Seabourn, were not sure about a smaller ship, but once on board it ... Read More
Started in Singapore and ended in Venice on two segments of their World Cruise, now referred to as extend explorations. This was our longest cruise and the first time on Seabourn, were not sure about a smaller ship, but once on board it feels much larger. We had been on Regent and Crystal in the past year. We fell out of love with Regent and in love with Crystal (both separate reviews) we were looking for another luxury cruise line and Seabourn had an interesting itinerary. With all the issues in Egypt, they had to make some changes to the itinerary, the back up choices were nice options. The embarkation at the old port in Singapore was not impressive, the disembarkation in Venice was flawless in the newer port. Once on board you start to experience why Seabourn is different, yes the ship is beautiful but it is the crew that really stand out. We were far forward on Deck 7, and a little concerned about the ship rocking. It is the most stable ship we have ever experienced. Although we had good weather and calm seas for most of the trip, the few times we experienced wind, rain and swells, the ship felt amazingly steady. Captain Dexter was the best we have seen, out and about every day, talking to people, keeping us informed of important issues in the most charming way. The crew participates in lots of fun activities on board, the Caviar in the Surf party was delightful and fun. You could often meet the Captain in the Seabourn Square, a wonderful large area deck 7 aft, where you could get a great cup of coffee, a snack, read a book, play cards, meet with the guest relations/destinations team and read a worldwide choice of daily newspapers all loaded onto an IPad with a stand. They offer paper newspapers and very comfortable chairs and plenty of computers for personal access. Their internet plan was very affordable too, after a couple of bumpy starts we got some technical help from the team and we were great for the rest of the trip. More ships have laundry rooms which is great when your are in a warm climate and want to pack lighter. Sojourn has two laundry rooms with two washers, two dryers and two ironing boards in each, no charge for machine or soap. They probably could use a better process for passengers to wash since everyone seemed to go there often around the same time. It was cooperative and polite, no one left laundry long after it was done and I was surprised to see how many people iron, no wonder it was a well dressed looking group. The Cruise Director Jan and her team, Heather and Sophie were amazing. The best of the best on the high seas.They planned all the activities, participated in many, sang like professionals and connected with the passengers in such a personal and friendly way. Many great speakers to fill the sea days and a great dance and singing team at night to finish the day. All these crew members worked tirelessly at all events, tours and functions, and were at the exit after their show to personally thank you for attending, a first for us. Initially we were frantic about 14 of the 33 days were at sea. They had so many wonderful options (many loved the trivia) that the port days seemed less interesting, never thought I would feel that way. At the end of this cruise we knew more of the crew than in all of our more than 20 cruises, and they knew us by name. Restaurants and food were a pleasant surprise. The Colonnade was the main casual dining area on deck 8 for all meals, they offered daily specials along with the buffet and had themed luncheons, all beautifully presented and served, with the evening meals made more upscale. The Patio Grill by the pool was open for lunch and dinner, a great choice for outside dining with the same top level of preparation and service. The main formal dining area Restaurant on deck 4 was contemporary and offered a great choice, amazing service and the best Maitre D on the high seas, Antonio. He knew our name from day one. They walk each person to their table, a lovely way to start an elegant meal. My favorite was Restaurant 2, small intimate dining of about 40, done in black white and red, a feeling of being in a Cabaret at sea. The team of Bart and Sylvia will take you on a gastronomic journey. The menu changes every couple of days with about seven different menus. It is a nine course tasting meal, beautifully prepared and served, your pallet will go crazy if you like unusual combinations of tasty morsels. Also, don't miss the High Tea service every afternoon on the forward deck, the best scones and view. Chef Graeme Cockburn was an amazing person, we went on a shopping tour with him and learned so much about fish, fruits, herbs and the entire process of food preparation, especially during his food demonstration classes. This was not just a tasting experience, he shares all sorts of handy tips and he has the best personality and team. They created an Easter Brunch spread out over the entire main dining room and the galley that was a visual and tasty feast. Their on-deck theme parties were stunning, the decoration and food to complement the evening were breathtaking. Be prepared to dress in the local outfits, it was so much fun and so many people participated. We heard there was a Seabourn club and newcomers did not feel welcome. In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth, we were greeted warmly by past and new guests alike, we met many interesting and notable people on board. As the cruise went on the tables for dinner got larger and larger but you could always get a table for two or four. There are also several dress codes, the usual of no shorts and tank tops at dinner. Most of the days were smart casual or elegant casual. On the formal nights some opted for tuxedo and gowns but many wore nice suits, dresses and cocktail attire on those evening. They offered two other dining options if you chose to be relaxed. The ship has several bars and very attentive bartenders, they know how to make any drink you can request and most remembered your preferences or offered something fun and new, especially during the day by the pool. To work off that extra food and drinking, the spa and exercise facility was nicely appointed. No ship has a large exercise areas but the Sojourn has two facilities, one with equipment and some weights, the other for mostly yoga, Pilates and stretch. Jordan teaches all the classes, usually 30 minutes and you must sign up for each class, he is a popular guy and the classes fill up since the space limits about 10 participants. The spa was beautiful and serene with a private sitting and hot tub area. We purchased several tours and all were executed nicely, the team really knows how to get you off the ship and on to a clean bus/boat with the best tour guides. Several events that were hosted by Seabourn offsite as part of their special experience in which all the passengers are treated to a tour were also perfectly managed. On several occasions they had the large welcome home parties with music, drinks and cheers. For going ashore there was always plenty of water, umbrellas, hand sanitizer, towels, sunblock, glass cleaner and even sandwiches and cookies on days where you may miss lunch. They think of everything, the ship runs like a fine Swiss watch. Two areas we were less impressed with, we had great dance lessons from Kelly and Artem, but no place to practice, it is not a ship that focuses on ballroom dancing. The second part was the Grand Salon, it has a low ceiling and way too many large posts which block your view. They are building a new and larger ship for 2016, we are hoping they will have a larger and better designed Salon, more dance floor space and perhaps a golf simulator, but those are our personal preferences. Would we go on Seabourn again, Absolutely Yes.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
We chose this cruise because of the ports of call and wanted to try our luck with Celebrity. Plus we liked that the ship stayed in ports for multiple days. This was our 7th cruise (first with Celebrity) and we have traveled extensively. ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the ports of call and wanted to try our luck with Celebrity. Plus we liked that the ship stayed in ports for multiple days. This was our 7th cruise (first with Celebrity) and we have traveled extensively. Staff on the ship was friendly, courteous and very attentive! Our state room attendant Schubert and his assistant were excellent and seemed like genuinely good guys! Embarkation and disembarkation was a breeze. This was a Christmas cruise and the ship did a very good job providing for the kids. Both our Kids 5 and 9 years old had a fun vacation. Ship layout was easy to navigate and possessed the usual cruise ship flair. The ship is bit old and shows its age. Our room was 9156, a family veranda with an extended balcony. It was spacious with a separate sleeping area for our 2 children which included an extra television. We would have been quite happy. However, the room was infested with bed bugs. Many of them were mature and we were all badly bitten. We were immediately removed from the room. All of our luggage and clothing was put in plastic and taken away to be cleaned. We were moved to a much smaller room. We were told our original room would be ready in a few hours. A day later, our clothes were delivered to the smaller room without an explanation. After several calls to guest services, we were informed our room would not be ready. Then only after complaining, we were offered 2 rooms side by side but not connecting. I would have preferred that our family be together in the same room but at least we were comfortable. The new rooms were clean and serviceable. Our new rooms were 6027 & 6029. 9156 was offered back to us after a few days but we elected to stay as packing up again didn't appeal to us. We essentially missed a day and a half. The ports of call were amazing cities! We had prepared for the long distance 2 - 3 hours bus or car rides each way but many were complaining. More time to compensate could have solved the problem. The ship was in port overnight on many of these occasions. We spent 2 nights in a private hotel in Bangkok. We wished we had done the same thing in Saigon. Hanoi needs an extra day. We missed the port at Da Nang because of inclement weather. The food at the restaurant was generally OK. There were some disappointments. The food at the buffet was not good. Snack food was terrible. Everyone at our dinner table liked our head waiter Alberto. His assistant Nadan was also extremely nice and should be recognized for giving outstanding service! We didn't eat at any of the specialty restaurants. The shows and entertainment are exactly what you should expect on a cruise ship. The lounge acts were marginal at best with the exception of the one man guitarist/singer who plays in the main foyer. He was exceptional! We had our issues. None which we didn't overcome. We met some very nice people and had a nice time. Somehow we expected more...   Read Less
Sail Date December 2013
Our total trip, land + river, was 12 days. A viking representative met us at the airport in Shanghai and from that point on we were superbly cared for until a Viking rep dropped us at the airport in Beijing. The attention to detail, the ... Read More
Our total trip, land + river, was 12 days. A viking representative met us at the airport in Shanghai and from that point on we were superbly cared for until a Viking rep dropped us at the airport in Beijing. The attention to detail, the very personal care, the knowledge of our guide, the friendships we made - all exceptional. Quality 5 Star hotels, no cuing in lines for tourist sites, spectacular World Heritage tours. The Viking ship, Emerald, was good - not great....it's a little tired and could use some updating, but again the service of the Viking employees was exceptional. Breakfast and lunch buffet were excellent, but chef could use a course in preparation of western cuisine. When local fare was prepared, it was wonderful, but the kitchen struggled a bit with anything out of their traditional comfort zone (Chilean Sea Bass cooked till dry as wood chips) And cookies! How difficult would it be to offer a simple Toll House Chocolate Chip instead of dried compressed sawdust. But if those are the only two things that weren't up to par they were more than compensated for by the overall excellence of our experience. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Just briefly, this is a hard working vacation to get to see as much as one can when leaving the ship. We used several private tours companies which gave us the advantage of having a smaller van, our own group, guide, driver but at half ... Read More
Just briefly, this is a hard working vacation to get to see as much as one can when leaving the ship. We used several private tours companies which gave us the advantage of having a smaller van, our own group, guide, driver but at half the cost. For Beijing and Shanghai we used Beijing Tours, S. Korea Novaland and Taiwan, Have Fun Travel. All were waiting for us when we got off the ship and came back when we wanted to. The Asian style lunches were fit for emperors although some of our taste buds did not appreciate all choices. It was exciting and an adventure. We were surprised at how much we all said we would revisit S. Korea. The people are great and there is so much to see. As for the Millenium,it is a tired ship, but fine. It's missing the glitz and glamor of the other ships. But something is right on board. First, embarkation in Hong Kong was a nightmare. We were all lined up for 3 hours without a drink, cookie or kind words. This did not put us in a good mood. Next, the waiters did not give us their pampering, like other ships until I complained to the front desk. No one noticed that meals were uneaten or seemed to care if we liked it. At the end, they plates were then carried away. I wonder if by prepaying tips, they know they don't have to try. Anyway, it was a wonderful time with great friends and good memories. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
I am finally getting to write my review of our cruise. We traveled with the large group of 40 along with our travel agent, which was very nice because all our tours were preplanned and prepaid. Below you will find the brief description by ... Read More
I am finally getting to write my review of our cruise. We traveled with the large group of 40 along with our travel agent, which was very nice because all our tours were preplanned and prepaid. Below you will find the brief description by category, which might or might not help future cruisers because everyone's feedback is different and can vary significantly. Here is our's: Destination / ports of call: we sailed from Hong Kong to Shanghai. Loved every port, enjoyed the tours, lot's of walking. Amazing sights. Cruise Ship: this is our second time on Celebrity and we were not very impressed. Everyone were saying that it is better than Princess but we didn't think so. Embarkation in Hong Kong: very disorganized, took a long time. Cabin: we were in Aqua Class and it was great. The cabin was nice, our room steward was very attentive, can't be better. Food: average to say the least. Lunch buffet was terrible, dinner was so-so even in Blue, menu not interesting. Service was poor both in the dining room and in the Blue, extremely slow, although, personnel was friendly. Spa area: very good, enjoyed it a lot. Overall the ship did not look renovated. The main atrium was not very impressive. They could do much better on the refurbishing. Read Less
Sail Date April 2013
After our comfortable flight with Emirates to Osaka we had a night to relax in our hotel.transfer to the port of Kobe seemed to be well organised but on arrival at the embarkation it was absolute chaos.It took nearly 90minutes to board ... Read More
After our comfortable flight with Emirates to Osaka we had a night to relax in our hotel.transfer to the port of Kobe seemed to be well organised but on arrival at the embarkation it was absolute chaos.It took nearly 90minutes to board .endless queuing despite documents being in order.Not a good start to a 5 Star Cruise! Our stateroom on the Verandah deck was as expected.our stewards were extremely helpful. No complaints. However the food in the Rotterdam and the Lido were not of the same quality we had on previous cruises.we had fixed dining in the Rotterdam every night and soon discovered that the food was not served hot . We complained to the maitre d and had a very indifferent reply .(how dare you !) The stewards were very efficient being let down by the kitchen. Entertainment was ok nothing outstanding .daily activities were adequate . Travel guide information was good but information for the independent traveller was not very forthcoming .many of our fellow passengers did not like to be herded in large groups on shore excursions .The prices were so inflated too. Nagasaki was ideal to explore on your own using public transport.the ship docked conveniently within walking distance. Shanghai was the best port of call.We docked opposite the Pearl Tower. A fantastic view from our stateroom. We choose HAL because the smaller ships can dock in places not suitable for larger vessels. However Hong Kong was The Great Anti climax.instead of the Ocean Terminal we docked at a container port without any facilities. Not only were we robbed of the spectacular entry into Hong Kong Harbour but wevended up in a backyard! The cruise information on your webside tells you that ships are docking at the Ocean Terminal,Downtown. As a result disembarkation was a debacle. No taxis were available and your choice was you and your luggage were transferred to the Ocean Terminal.What a joke! The second choice an overpriced bus transfer to your hotel ($34 per head !) costcutting by HAL and a further opportunity of taking money of its passengers Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
After reading some quite negative reviews my partner asked me to pen something in the hope that future cruisers may get some good feedback. We are a couple of older working people who looked forward to this cruise for 9 months from the ... Read More
After reading some quite negative reviews my partner asked me to pen something in the hope that future cruisers may get some good feedback. We are a couple of older working people who looked forward to this cruise for 9 months from the time it was booked - they say anticipation is half the fun and it sure was. We spent a lot of time checking out the RCL site and lots of review and information sites so we could make our holiday a memorable one. We booked all our excursions, restaurant bookings and wine package so they were paid for before we left dry land. We spent a couple of days in Perth prior to the cruise and this was a really lovely wind-down from work time, we arrived at the terminal in Fremantle and were not surprised at having a wait - there were so many people all wanting to board so we sat and people watched - always a good pastime. After we boarded it was very easy to find our way to our stateroom (we had looked at the deck plans online) and after leaving our carry-on bags went to explore. The Promenade was a good place to start so we had a look around and settled in with a welcome drink. After that we went and explored then went back to our cabin - our luggage had arrived so we unpacked and as we had booked dinner in Portofino for the first night headed there and what a lovely experience to start the cruise with - beautiful food and wine, fantastic service - perfect. We then went back to our stateroom in time for departure and watched the farewell in the balmy night air. The whole of the trip up the east coast of Australia was so calm, you hardly knew you were afloat. Food in the Main Dining Room was very good, there were plenty of selections and things to try and if you couldn't decide on what you wanted our cheeky waiter bought both things. Our wait staff were fantastic and always ready for a chat about our day and how we were enjoying ourselves. We ate in the main dining room most nights and although we had asked for a small table found ourselves sitting with some really nice people - all around our ages so we had things in common to talk about. We ate in Johnny Rockets twice and the food was good and it was a lot of fun, the lip syncing/dancing staff are a treat to watch. We had breakfast and lunch at both Windjammer and the main dining room, every time the food was plentiful, staff attentive and the only concern was too many choices! On board every day there was so much to do if you wanted to, we were both unwell for a couple of days - nothing serious - and staying in the stateroom wasn't a hardship at all. The library was a great bolt hole for me - I curled up with a book on quite a few occasions - something I never have time for at home. We went to a lot of the shows and for the most part they were very good - good entertainers and plenty of variety as well. We went to a lot of other things like Trivia quizzes etc - these were a bit of fun. We sampled the Cocktail of the Day quite often and enjoyed them - we had bought a wine package and found plenty of selection on it to have a bottle of wine with our dinner - we had one bottle undrunk on the last night so took it with us and enjoyed it back on land in Singapore. The bars provided a really good selection of cocktails and spirits and were very generous with their serves. The land tours we booked online before the cruise and were all very well organised and managed - the only problem was there was always "that couple" who help everybody up by not being at the appointed place on time, no fault of the tour guides or organisation - that part was excellent, really well executed, no real hold ups and smooth on and off the ship for each tour. The cool cloths waiting when we got back to the ship were terrific - it was very hot and humid on land but that's Asia for you. We really enjoyed the Solarium (adults only) area with pool and hot tubs, we didn't go to swim at the main pools - we left them to the families to enjoy. We used the fitness centre as well and this was very well equipped - every type of machine you could want is provided. I went for a massage and this was probably the only disappointment for me, the masseuse was very ineffective and I really felt no benefit, I have had massages in Asia before and they always left you feeling relaxed and wonderfully calm. So all in all, one disappointment in 14 days - the weather was fantastic, the seas like a millpond and the facilities and staff on board always helpful and happy to accommodate our needs. Forget the whingers, I truly believe they would be unhappy in any situation they were in. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
Where do you begin exactly....check-in. Chaos, nightmare....and it all went downhill there after. It took around 2 hours to be herded through checkin, it felt more like passing through some boot camp rather than starting a relaxing ... Read More
Where do you begin exactly....check-in. Chaos, nightmare....and it all went downhill there after. It took around 2 hours to be herded through checkin, it felt more like passing through some boot camp rather than starting a relaxing upmarket vacation, it was hot, uncomfortable and totally lacked any form of organisation or privacy for the weary traveller. Having survived this ordeal it was time to set foot on ship....and oh what a warm welcome there was NOT to be had, not a single HAL representative to meet and greet, just the security team. Overall a very good first impression. A Travel Lodge would do better. Food! Spectacular only by its awfulness, bland, always over cooked, meat without fail was tough. Plates were cold and food often little more than warm. HAL should feel thoroughly ashamed at what arrives on the plate and the fact that animals died in vain to produce it. A major part of our cruising enjoyment comes from the dining experience, however after several table changes and the fact that the food was so poor for the first time in 13 cruises we were prepared to opt out of evening dining, sadly the lido was on a par with a works canteen and there was no real alternative. Thankfully we were able to savour some exceptional local food during our shore excursions or we would have returned home having lost weight! Another bone of contention was that of feeling constantly hounded to spend money...this started as we arrived in the stateroom to find a mountain of info re treatments, sales and special offers. It was hard to sit quietly in the public area without being repeatedly asked for a bar order...why is it not possible for staff to hover rather than hound.....after all any decent hotel manages to achieve this balance the world over. Another HAL initiative is charging for after dinner cappuccino this is apparently because they are now using a better quality coffee, not just adding frothy milk.... The latest HAL earner seems to be the charges for the shuttle buses.....come on now surely we have paid to travel to a destination so why is this cost not factored into the overall holiday price? And as for scrimping on the port fees and docking in Hong Kong's freight dock that surely will take some beating, the hours travel we were forced to endure to get us where we should have arrived in the first place was just the final nail in HALs coffin as far as we are concerned. Oh and finally HAL staff were there to thank us for sailing with them etc etc...again NOT Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
Hats off to Viking River Boat cruises for designing and flawlessly carrying out the most amazing trip of a lifetime. From the time we arrived at the airport in Shanghai till we bid farewell for our return flight back to the US from Hong ... Read More
Hats off to Viking River Boat cruises for designing and flawlessly carrying out the most amazing trip of a lifetime. From the time we arrived at the airport in Shanghai till we bid farewell for our return flight back to the US from Hong Kong we were accompanied by a phenomenal guide named Peter who gave us every possible consideration. We saw and experienced so much that upon return and reviewing our photos it would be hard to imagine we could have been that many places, experienced that many things in such a short time. We spent a variety of days before and after our actual cruise in exquisite five star hotels in Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Guilan and HongKong all included and arranged in the Viking trip plan. We boarded the actual river boat in Wuhan and disembarked in Chongking. This was not a trip for anyone looking to rest and dally along the way. We were in movement and experiencing the many flavors, sights and sounds of this country I really knew very little about. The food was great, the included tours delightful and the sights will probably not be measured against anything I've ever experienced before. If you have the chance do not miss this trip. Probably the only change i would make knowing what I know now is the time of the year weather wise. We didn't have rain but every day was either 100 or close and very high humidity. Knowing what I know now, I probably would recommend making this trip in September. But whenever you go, it will rank as a trip of a lifetime... Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
Now we have experienced an Orion Expedition, we won't be going back to a large cruise line! The Orion II reminded me of a grand, old lady -- elegant, stylish, but still warm and inviting. The cabins were luxurious and exceptionally ... Read More
Now we have experienced an Orion Expedition, we won't be going back to a large cruise line! The Orion II reminded me of a grand, old lady -- elegant, stylish, but still warm and inviting. The cabins were luxurious and exceptionally comfortable. The availability of a connecting cabin was much appreciated especially travelling as a family with teenage children. The restaurant was cheerfully chic, and the food simply amazing every single day; second to none. We certainly made use of the gym (to run off those calories consumed -- the desserts were superb!) and various family members enjoyed the offerings of the ship's boutique and gift shop, and the pampering room for a facial and a massage. Yoga sessions run by Ewa, the ship's resident yoga instructor, were a wonderful way to start the day if one was up early. The Ship's management and engineering crew were professional and proficient in their duties, but added to the convivial atmosphere in all interactions with passengers; we were in expert care. Housekeeping, Galley, Restaurant and Bar staff were warm, welcoming, caring and incredibly efficient. Our head Chef always put in a personal appearance at dinner time and usually had an anecdote or two from his experiences at the local markets in obtaining our very enjoyable dishes. The crew member heading up the entertainment amazed us with his versatility and broad repertoire on the piano, in song and trivia. Despite children being relatively uncommon passengers on the Orion II, with the usual passenger range somewhere between 35-75 years, every member of the crew made my children feel welcome. With accommodation for around 100 guests this smaller expedition ship was able to visit places not accessible to larger cruise ships, which only added to the sense of adventure and exploration. Zodiac excursions were a highlight ensuring 'up close and personal' interactions with places of interest and wildlife. The Expedition team were experienced professionals with a huge wealth of travel, photography, flora and wildlife experience between them. Expedition team members were resourceful and flexible in adapting day activity plans around weather conditions when necessary, exceeding the options on the original travel itinerary. The guest lecturer and photographer, Nick Rains, was extremely generous in his time and expertise. We also had the pleasure and hidden gem of Sue Flood, a world renown photographer and wildlife film-maker, who captivated audiences with her lectures and behind the scenes in the making of some of the BBC greats Planet Earth and The Blue Planet. It was our first visit to Vietnam, and our first cruise with the Orion Expeditions. We look forward to exploring more destinations around Australia and New Zealand coast and beyond, with our first choice being Orion Expeditions, which offers value for money considering the exceptional experiences.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We were on the 28 day cruise - Singapore - Hong Kong via Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. This cruise was advertised as a Collectors cruise. To our disappointment this was a back - back cruise. With that concept we were ... Read More
We were on the 28 day cruise - Singapore - Hong Kong via Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. This cruise was advertised as a Collectors cruise. To our disappointment this was a back - back cruise. With that concept we were subjected to the same food selections in the dinning room, and repeat entertainment (the ships singers & dancers) on the second segment of the cruise. Having experienced this syndrome before we would not have picked this cruise. We were duped by the phrase "Collectors" a grand substitute for back to back. Embarkation and immigration Not good, in fact down right bad in Singapore. Total chaos, took us almost 2 hours to embark. China ( Beijing) was a disaster. Took us 3 hours to be cleared and a delay of 5 and a half hours to leave. No explanation was ever offered. Had us concerned. HAL appears to be struggling to get ASIA right. The ship and cabin The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. We literally froze for the 3 days in Beijing, extra blankets, placing towels against the door, socks to bed etc, made little difference. The cabin was clean but dated. The fabrics faded and the toilet was smelling (In spite of the cabin steward's efforts). This ship is well past its prime according to other Holland America cruisers. The lighting was poor, a hardship as we were constantly filling immigration related forms. Service Superb. Many staff we encountered only briefly, addressed us by name and were always ready to go the extra mile to help. In fact they made up for the many inconsistencies and irritants on this cruise. We must note HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have more to do with less, explains the delays in the dinning room and the room stewards, rushing like crazy. The entertainment Mediocre, sufficient maybe for this port intensive cruise. Some of the headliners were pathetic, basing their acts more on action and antics as opposed to content and quality. Annie Francis and Vincenzo Gentiles were outstanding. The Adagio strings were exceptional, the piano bar entertainment was very good. Our pet peeve and disappointment was the music in the Ocean Bar. This is the one place dedicated to and advertised as the place for 'Ballroom Dancing'. The floor was good, the music was beyond bad. It was a jazz club (not a good one either), with a rude and sometimes down right snaky leader ( Mark Dunn). He would not play music you could dance to. When requested he invited the requesting guests to take themselves to the rock band (was referring to the HAL cats in the Crows Nest?). We brought this music fiasco to the attention of management days into the cruise, no improvement. We stopped patronizing the Ocean bar. The various workshops were well presented. The Digital Photography workshops very good. Kristen was remarkable in her knowledge and presentation skills. The Library dated. We missed the guest speakers to talk about the history of the places we visited. Travel Guide, Spencer Brown was excellent and unbiased and dealt mostly with what to see, do, avoid and how to get about. Mariners recognition - a PR disaster. What was HAL thinking when they selected a few and ignored the rest to invite for the captain's reception, some were awarded medals for 100 days, others ignored, some had over 200 Days. There are lots of things that must be improved if HAL expects to stay competitive and to keep its loyal customers. We were disappointed, tried hard not to let them spoil our trip to an unforgettable part of the world. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience. GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn ... Read More
Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience. GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn interiors (and even ship's exterior) so I won't repeat those criticisms. CUISINE: Expected excellent cuisine but this was not the case. Menus repeated in second 14 day segment which was was not consistent with the way the "Explorer" format was explained. Very good food and wait staff in the 2 specialty restaurants but at these prices, meals should be of higher culinary and creative quality throughout ship. Desserts in MDR and Lido looked good, hyper infused with sugar, and unexciting in taste. The six people at our table often omitted desserts or took only a few bites. COST CUTTING MEASURES: *Wait staff were so downsized, meals were sometimes served very slowly. At one to point we were rushed along to finish and leave so the next dinner seating could occur. The problem was not that we were slow eaters, but the food service was extremely slow. *Adequate planning did not occur to enable smooth customs clearances at several ports. We were held aboard while procedures were worked out. Having traveled to many of these same countries before, I don't understand the reason for such delays. *Someone made a decision to turn down the heat in dining rooms, spa, and staterooms. This cost saving strategy was reversed only when the front desk was stormed by angry, freezing passengers. A trip to the medical clinic proved interesting. Many passengers AND crew were being treated for colds and respiratory symptoms and no wonder! * Educational lectures on history, culture, politics did not occur. For us, learning new things about countries we visit is part of the cruise experience we have enjoyed most but such learning opportunities did not exist INACCESSIBILITY OF EXECUTIVE PERSONNEL: We asked to meet with the Hotel Manager at one point, and we made our request quietly and tactfully. Our request was deflected by other front office staff and ultimately we were refused. What kind of an organization is this? HAL if you think you are above meeting such requests, your business and PR will suffer greatly. On other cruises the Captain was highly visible. Such was not the case on either segment of this 28 day cruiseSHORE EXCURSIONS: Very worthwhile in every port although the majority of passengers we met arranged independent tours because, as they explained, the costs were "too dear". CABIN ATTENDANTS: Were fabulous, attentive, eager to please, and over-worked although they would never have admitted this. Our pair of attendants were assigned 29 rooms to clean daily! WILL WE GIVE HAL ANOTHER TRY? Think once was enough, too bad! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We decided to go a little further afield and do the 16 day Southeast Asia and China cruise, accompanied by the same couple with whom we have done all our previous trips. We booked the entire package directly with Princess, including an ... Read More
We decided to go a little further afield and do the 16 day Southeast Asia and China cruise, accompanied by the same couple with whom we have done all our previous trips. We booked the entire package directly with Princess, including an extra three days in Beijing and one night in Singapore. We didn't like the initial air routing which would have required us to pass through US customs and immigration twice, as well as one extra stop en route. Since Air Canada flies direct from Toronto to several China destinations, we asked Princess to arrange one of these for us. Our contact at Princess, Denise Hogan, was able to secure a routing which avoided transiting the US. In fact, she was super about staying in contact with us by phone and e-mail, ensuring that we were kept advised of any changes, helping us arrange payments, ensuring that we were aware of visa requirements, etc. It was great to have someone right at the cruise line that we could contact whenever a question or problem arose. The hotel used in Beijing was the 5-star Marriott City Wall. The hotel was beautiful and for the most part, the service was at the level expected. However, there was one major problem: the elevators in the main tower were completely inadequate during times of peak traffic, such as when all the tour buses returned to the hotel at the end of the day. At the end of the first day, when I approached the elevator lobby, the line extended out of the lobby and for some distance down the hall. I noted the time and it took 17 minutes until I actually got into an elevator--and there were still a considerable number of people behind me in the line. There were also problems in the dining room for breakfast and it took three days for the hotel to figure out how to cope with several hundred people arriving and wanting to eat within a very short space of time. We had the same English speaking tour guide for all three days and had a great time. The only thing that marred this period was the presence of two very lackadaisical couples who seemed completely unable to read watches and whose benchmark for being "on time" was to be no more than 15 minutes late. At every stop, the bus was kept waiting for these four people and on several occasions the tour guide had to go searching for them. The three lunches included in the tour package were: OK; less than OK; and superb. While there we booked a last minute evening package of an acrobatic stage show with dinner prior. The stage show was terrific, the dinner inedible, service even worse. Embarkation (once past the Chinese checkpoint) was fast and easy, as we have come to expect from Princess. Problems were due to Chinese authorities who, despite the cavernous nature of the terminal, set up security inspection just inside the front door, forcing several hundred passengers to stand outside where the wind-chill was just below freezing. We had booked a restricted ocean-view cabin, but a month before departure, we received a complimentary upgrade to an ocean-view balcony cabin. This was nice of Princess, but we were not able to use it to advantage. The first five days were far too cold (although I walked three miles on the Promenade deck each morning before breakfast) while the last four were far too hot and humid. I did sit out and read for a few hours, and we did sit out and enjoy wine and cheese on our traveling partners' balcony departing Hong Kong harbour during the middle of the nightly light show. We had two cabin stewards (the first was tour-expired at the end of the first week aboard) and both were first class. We prefer traditional dining, and had the early sitting in the International. We had a terrific set of waiters and can't praise them highly enough. The food was generally well prepared and well presented, but there were some problems. I suspect the beef being used was Australian, which is not as well finished as what we are used to in North America. Thus, while it was flavourful, it was a bit on the tough side. The range of choices was adequate. Breakfast and Lunch were taken in Horizon Court and the general impression of our party was that the overall quality was not as good as on our two previous trips with Princess. However, the main problem was related to seating. The first five days out of Beijing were too cold to use a significant chunk of the seating area, which made it difficult to find somewhere to sit once you had your food, and many passengers simply took their plates back to their cabins. A further complication was the fact that there were several marathon mah jong and card games that seemed to start after breakfast and went to mid-afternoon, occupying tables that were intended for dining! Staff should have nipped this in the bud on day one. We did not eat in any specialty restaurants which did not, in any case, seem very well patronized. One of them is simply a roped off area in Horizon Court and since there is zero additional ambience, the food and service would have to be awfully good to justify the surcharge. Speaking of ambience, Princess policy states that t-shirts and shorts are not to be worn in the dining rooms yet for some diners t-shirts, ripped and faded dungarees and flip-flops were their standard dress. The ship either has a policy or it doesn't! Another questionable policy relates to smoking, which is supposed to be prohibited in cabins and on balconies. From our balcony on deck 12, one can see directly down into those on decks 9 and 10. On one occasion when I stood out on our balcony there were three smokers within view: one woman with a cigarette and an ashtray in her hand, one gent with a large cigar, the stub of which he flicked over the side when done, and a woman on his balcony with a cigarette who was using an ashtray sitting on the balcony table, I found the on-board entertainment a bit spotty. Princess has obviously invested a considerable amount of money in its on-board song-and-dance troupe. The costumes and sets are the most elaborate I have seen and while the members may lack a bit of skill, they make up for it with energy and enthusiasm. Several critics have complained about the poor skills of the singers and dancers, probably because they expect the quality of a hit Broadway show. The latter would cost more for orchestra seats than the complainers paid per day for their cabin and meals. The other entertainers were hit and miss, but I think too many people expect far too high a level of entertainment. I am sure Princess could book "A-list" entertainment---but not at what most passengers paid for this cruise! The on-board education programme was great. The port speaker, Hutch, was a bit full of himself, but was a welcome change from the usual sales pitches for Diamonds International, etc. His information on museums, public transit, taxis, local scams, markets, etc. was very useful in planning what to do ashore if you weren't taking a shore excursion. The historian, Dr. Freedman, gave a great background on each country stretching from paleolithic to modern eras and nicely complemented Hutch's presentation of what the city is like today. Mr. Maxtone-Graham's history of cruising was very interesting, particularly his large array of vintage photographs of some of the great liners of the early 20th century. His last presentation, a set of skits with his wife, fell a bit flat but, hey, five out of six ain't bad! I was disappointed to see that Princess is still running its art auction sham. I say "sham" rather than "scam" because although they are not doing anything illegal, I believe many of the practices cross ethical boundaries. I attended all four auction and while somewhere around 20 pieces were sold to passengers, not one of them was actually auctioned. Instead, buyers simply paid the reserve price, which purports to represent a significant saving off what I feel is a somewhat inflated appraised value. What clients don't realize is that they are actually buying a very nice, and expensive, frame with a bit of art (usually a reproduction) thrown in as a bonus. Normally, we don't take ship's tours which, if you read the back of your tour coupon, aren't really ship's tours because Princess is only acting as an agent for shore-based companies. However, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck........... In this case, we did book two excursions: Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, largely because these cities are 2-2.5 hrs by bus away from the dock site and you can't "...get there from here..." without booking a trip through the ship. Being to some extent forced into accepting this option, we felt that these excursions provided acceptable value for the cost---although not as much as the trip we arranged through Cruise Critic in Nha Trang. The main advantage (in addition to cost) of arranging your own excursions is that you don't have to cope with the chaos that results from 10 busloads of passengers descending on the same location simultaneously, particularly when that location is really not geared to handling more than perhaps 25 or 30 people at one time. My wife tried to use the fitness centre but found it difficult first thing in the morning. Although the instructions say use of the exercise machines is limited to 30 minutes if other users are waiting, many users ignore this dictum and do so with impunity because there was no on-site supervision. She found it was easy to get a machine later in the day---but only if you are willing to give up something else in the programme. The laundromats are a great idea and are in constant use. I suspect that the ship may make more money off these than it does from the specialty restaurants. It would be really great if they could be converted to use your cruise card rather than having to feed them copious numbers of quarters. The bottom line is that we had a great time both on-board and during the port stops, felt that we got excellent value for the cost, and feel that Princess continues to offer great service and value (after all, we have stayed with them after trying their major competitors). Now, if they would just tweak those areas in which they are a bit weak...... Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Others have already given detailed descriptions of cruising the Sap and Mekong Rivers on the Amalotus; what I want to do here is provide my amateur assessment. First, some background. We did the full package: two nights in Hanoi at ... Read More
Others have already given detailed descriptions of cruising the Sap and Mekong Rivers on the Amalotus; what I want to do here is provide my amateur assessment. First, some background. We did the full package: two nights in Hanoi at the Sofitel Legend; one night on a junk in Ha Long Bay; three nights at the Sofitel in Siem Reap; seven nights on the Tonle level of the Amalotus; and two nights at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza in Ho Chi Minh City. What works well: The hotels were all gorgeous and luxurious, and the accommodations on the junk and the Amalotus were first class and beautiful. Both ships had rich, dark wood paneling and the facilities were excellent. We couldn't be happier with the rooms we had. The excursions were well-thought out and well organized. We really got a feel both for rural life in Cambodia and Vietnam, and for the urban life in cities such as Hanoi, Saigon, and Phnom Penh. The guides and tour director were all very helpful and informative. They spoke clearly enough that my father, who has trouble with accents, was still able to understand them. What doesn't work so well: Tipping. We were advised to bring plenty of small bills. We thought we brought enough, but we were wrong. Most of the American guests were unprepared for the number of small tips ($1s and $2s) they needed to make (I emphasize American, since the Australians traveling with APT had their tips included in their price). We were tipping so many people, so many times a day, that by the time we reached Siem Reap, we broke $60 in twenties into singles. It still wasn't enough. So what should you do? I would strongly recommend that anyone doing this cruise bring $100 in singles and $150 in fives. The tip for the ship's crew (recommended: $10 a day for 8 days) can be put on your bill, but I think they would prefer cash, so plan ahead. Food on the ship. Do not expect the same quality and variety of food that you would find on a European river cruise. At least part of the problem may be the availability of high-quality, hygienic food. If the choice is between variety of offerings and the health of the passengers, the cruise line has understandably chosen to emphasize the latter. I also suspect, but don't know for sure, that they may also have a legal obligation to use locally produced food rather than imported (e.g., Cambodian-produced ice cream rather than imported). I found the best food on the ship to be the fresh fruit and the fish. The meat tended to be tough. The worst, in my opinion, were the desserts (with the exception of the fruit). Another problem was the cruise line's policy of dividing the passengers into defined and permanent groups. This policy seems to be driven by the issue of tipping: 1) since guides may serve for a number of days and only be tipped at the end, it was important that each guide receive the proper amount of tips to reflect the work; and 2) since the Australians already had tips included in their price, they needed to stay with their already-tipped guides. So why was this a problem? Well, in our group alone, there were at least three people with mobility issues. Since the cruise line couldn't offer a "slow-walkers group," their only options were to either choose not to go on an excursion or to try to keep up at the best of their ability, which was sometimes difficult. Some people made friends with people in other groups, but they were not permitted to do excursions together, since any movement of people from one group to another would throw off the balance of tips. Finally, and I'll have to put this delicately, there were some strong personalities on our cruise. By being kept together for the length of the trip, one might be trapped for 15 days with someone who one didn't merely dislike but was unable to stand. What I would recommend to AMAWaterways is that they can solve many of these problems by making most tips inclusive in the price. This would diminish the need to bring a small suitcase of ones and fives and permit them to tailor excursions by ability. Please do not take these criticisms and suggestions as unhappiness with our cruise experience; my father and I greatly enjoyed our cruise experience and do not regret our decision to go. I would only suggest that future passengers adjust their expectations to the reality of the experience on the ground. Cambodia is still a relatively new tourist destination and one shouldn't go expecting the Danube. One last issue: this really isn't a solvable problem, but some guests were annoyed that due to lower water in the Tonle Sap lake, our transfer to the boat involved a 5.5 hour bus ride. This is what happens when one sails in the dry season, but it came as a surprise to some guests. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Embarkation: The ship was not anchored at the usual cruise terminal in Singapore, and we were only apprised of that fact a few weeks before traveling. It was great fortune, though, to board our shuttle from the convention center at the ... Read More
Embarkation: The ship was not anchored at the usual cruise terminal in Singapore, and we were only apprised of that fact a few weeks before traveling. It was great fortune, though, to board our shuttle from the convention center at the absolutely incredible and fantastic Marina Sands Resort. The boarding was orderly and the shuttle trip took us through the largest, never-ending container port imaginable. There is nothing like it anywhere I have ever seen. Boarding the ship and getting to our room to unpack was a breeze, except for some minor queues that are of course expected with such a huge number of guests. Ship: The ship is huge, 2700 passengers I was told. It's a beautifully appointed and mostly convenient, except for the long, long walk from "fore" (the entertainment) to "aft" (the food). The gym, as is typical on most ships, was too small to accommodate all those wishing to utilize the facilities. The buffet court, as is also typical, was always too crowded and always presented a challenge in finding a table. Stateroom: We booked an inside cabin because we don't like spending time in the room other than for sleeping and showering, and also because on one cruise we met a retired Royal Caribbean Captain and his wife, who said they always choose the inside cabins because they sleep better in total darkness and they think the outside cabins and suites are a waste of money that could better spent on excursions and entertainment/food in port. Our cabin was small, comfortable and, most important, quiet and dark. The bathroom was tight, but serviceable, with a shower curtain instead of a glass door, which was not a huge deal. There was plenty of closet space, shelf space, and drawer space. The safe and TV were fine for our needs. Lectures: Cultural lecturer was excellent, providing great insights into history, culture and recent politics in each of the countries visited. It was educational for us Americans to visit three of the countries that we have previously bombed. All I can say is that the Vietnamese seem to be very forgiving. The port lecturer was helpful except for the final port, which I will describe later under "Disembarkation." Live Entertainment: After a less-than-stellar first show, the ship's singers and dancers were excellent in the two subsequent large productions we saw. General Entertainment: The several entertainers that we saw were not really our style. Pianists, comedians, and vocalists were OK, but not electrifying. Food: We ate half our meals in the International Dining Room and half in the Horizon Court Buffet. The dining room was satisfactory (we are both vegetarian and always have to navigate the menu carefully). The service in the main dining is always slower on any ship, so when we want to do other activities, it's nice to be able to use the buffet for a quick in-and-out meal (if you can locate a table). Service: The staff was accommodating and pleasant in all areas of the ship. Laundry: We normally pack only one carry-on bag for each of us. We adopted that strategy after Delta Airlines lost our luggage at the beginning of a two-week Mediterranean Cruise. We had to borrow clothes from our teenage relatives for the entire two weeks, because the other older males on the family cruise were much larger than we are and their clothes wouldn't fit us. Of course we looked like members of an aging punk-rock band. On board the Diamond Princess we were grateful for the convenient Laundromat on our floor, and we washed clothes twice during the voyage. Excursions: It was disappointing to find that this ship is too large to moor at some of the usual passenger terminals. Therefore, we sometimes had to take a free shuttle for quite a long distance (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Busan) or a tender (Nha Trang) or sometimes we had to pay for one of the ship's "On-your-own" excursions just to get into town (Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City). I don't think Princess should advertise cruises to ports which are not really accessible unless you book an excursion or take a long, long taxi ride. It was two hours going and two hours returning Kia Pools, deck seating: We only used the Jacuzzi and occasionally the deck chairs in the enclosed pool area and on the rear pool area. We had no problem with finding lounge chairs, possibly because the weather during the second week was a bit colder than the first week as we traveled northward on the map. Crowd: I believe we had a good mix of ages, with a slight preponderance of retirees. I would estimate one-fifth Brits, one-fifth Aussies, one-fifth Canadians, one-fifth American (we are), and one-fifth native Asians and assorted Russians, Europeans, and Latin Americans. We are very sociable and always manage to meet huge numbers of our fellow cruise-mates. It's rare for us not to like almost everyone we converse with. We made many temporary and long-time friends on this trip. We are a "Gay couple," married, and together a total of 26 years. We net no form of discrimination or antipathy from anyone on board, whether guests or crew. Ports of Call: What can I say? We loved every port, although for different reasons. This was for us a chance to get a taste of new cultures and to decide which ones deserve a closer look. Our favorites were Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. If you don't like the site of poverty and of cultures quite different from your own, you should perhaps book a different cruise. I am truly grateful for the exposure to both the developed and the underdeveloped areas on this itinerary. Disembarking: The final port, Tianjin, was the most challenging, and I lay most of the blame on Princess for not provided adequate information or assistance for getting from the port terminal to Beijing, unless of course, one signs on to one of their after-cruise excursions ($80-$160/pp). We always prefer to go on our own. It was insane at the terminal's taxi stand. There was no help at the port for securing a taxi, no information about how to pay, or how much to pay, or for finding out how to use the train system once we reached either Tianjin Station or Tanggu Station. It was pure chaos from the terminal exit till we got to the train station in Tianjin. Everyone who was traveling unassisted, as we were, had to navigate the Chinese taxi drivers (who I really think just pretend to speak no English) and who make every attempt to cheat the tourists. This failure to assist passengers at the terminal is my greatest criticism of the Princess Line and of this particular cruise. I will post my suggestions for successfully managing the port-to-city transfer on "Cruise Critic" for assistance to future travelers with similar Tianjin-Beijing itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
I have to start ou by saying that the Viking River Cruise Roof of the World is not just a cruise, but a land expedition as well. This is NOT a trip for anyone who has trouble walking or is disabled. China is NOT a handicapped accessible ... Read More
I have to start ou by saying that the Viking River Cruise Roof of the World is not just a cruise, but a land expedition as well. This is NOT a trip for anyone who has trouble walking or is disabled. China is NOT a handicapped accessible country. We started out with a grueling 16 hour flight from the New York area and flew into Beijing. We were met by our Viking Guide, Terry Lei and I cannot say enough good things about our guide! His English was flawless, his sense of humor great and his knowledge astounding. We had three days in Beijing where. We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City there was a alot of walking and then after a local lunch we went to the Summer Palace which was incredible but entailed a lot more walking. That night we had dinner in our hotel and I should mention all our hotels were 5 star hotels and simply the best after walking all day! With the exception of your hotels, you MUST carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you at all times! Restaurants, public buildings, etc DO NOT have toilet paper, and often did not have soap or paper towels to dry your hands. Up early the next day and off to The Great Wall at Badaling and much to my surprise involved walking up lots of steps and very steep inclines. The wall offers incredible views and it was just amazing ro see. Another local lunch and then we went to the Ming tombs started in 1436 there are 36 huge stone statues. You walk the length of the Sacred Way. Yes, there has been lots of walking! Dinner was Peking Duck and then the Peking Opera. Fantastic! Net day up early once again to the Hutong Alleys, we rode a rickshaw and had a lovely visit with a local family. we saw the Great Wall- which had a considerable amount of walking mostly uphill and up fairly steep stairs. We also visited Tianamin Square and the forbidden CityThen we flew about 1 /2 hours to Xian. here we finally had a few hours to rest before we went to dinner and saw the Tang Dynasty Show. Another wonder experience. Up early and off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.I cannot even begin to tell you how fantastic this was and the buildings housing the warriors are HUGE! Local dim sum dinner and then off to Xian's night market. Back at our hotel quite late but had to get up at 4:30AM to catch our flight to Lhasa, Tibet. A 4 1/2 hour flight later saw us land in Lhasa. We were told to take diamox (prescription) 48 hours before getting to Tibet, some did, some did not, we all felt the altitude. Two people in our group needed medical assistance ( our guide Terry) was on call for all of us 24/7. The next morning all but one of our 16 were able to ontinue. But you DO KNOW you are not breathing right. Hotels have oxygen in all the rooms. To Jokhang Square and the Palace. More walking and we all were going slow do to the elevation. It is. 12500 feet. Highest city in the world. Lots of great shopping for prayer wheels, prayer beads and scarves. then to the Sera Monestary some of our group opted to stay in the bus rather than walk up the steep hill to the monastery itself. Lots of pilgrims and monks here. Dinner at the Mad Yak where we were treated to another show that was quite interesting. Net day the Potola Palace once home of the Dali Lama. Beautiful building with 365 steep steps o the top. Lots of our group did not make it, steps were steep, uneven and you were constantly short of breath due to the elevation. Got to relax at a local families home where we were served yak butter tea and snacks. Then off to the Museum. Now we fly 3 hours to Chongquing where we board our cruise down the Yangtze River. Now here is where I get a bit critical. once the bus stops, you take your carry ons and climb down 86or so steps to the water level then you walk across floating pontoons to board the ship. REALLY. the locals actually carry your suitcases on their backs, one at a time down the steps and across the pontoons to the ship. Honestly, there must be a better way! The Emerald ship itself was fine, staterooms were fairly roomy and every room has a balcony. I was a bit disappointed in the cruise lines dinner selections, we had already had several days of local Chinese food and I had hoped that there would be more food to choose from they did offer chicken Breast, but other than that food served was Chinese. (not Americanized Chinese food either). The cruise was relaxing and every day we had some shore tour, temples, schools, three gorges dam and locks, a secondary cruise on the Daning River. Our guide stayed with us the entire cruise also. The cruise part was five days and we ended the cruise in Wushan and then flew to Shanghai. Shanghai was one of the highlights that I did not expect. Just and incredible city. We extended our cruise with a side trip with Viking and our tour guide also. Flew to Guilin where we went on another river trip on the Li River. Then we flew to Hong Kong. 21 days and 9 flights later we were tired and ready to head home. The trip was fatastic and I think everyone that is able bodied should do this. But there is a LOT of walking a LOT of steps and the altitude posed a problem for everyone in our group some more than others but we all felt it! Would go on another Viking Tour in a minute. Loved Viking! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Discovery is a little old lady, 21,000 tons 650 pax, 34 years old. She has the classic lines of a traditional cruise liner, & she's been kept tolerably up-together and clean, but never been decently updated. If she were a chair, ... Read More
Discovery is a little old lady, 21,000 tons 650 pax, 34 years old. She has the classic lines of a traditional cruise liner, & she's been kept tolerably up-together and clean, but never been decently updated. If she were a chair, she'd be grandad's big comfy old over-stuffed leather armchair with brass pins, leather arm patches and a corduroy antimacassar. Conveniently, and in the nicest possible way, this also describes many of the pax ;-) Think retired bank branch managers and university lecturers, with a sprinkling of old money. Mainly Brits, but with more than a few Americans, Canadians & antipodeans. The ship has a very very strong & loyal following. Over half were regulars, & some had been aboard for 2 months. Thankfully most were blase about their cruising life-style, and were friendly & chatty even though they weren't my usual sort of company. In fact apart from a few, just a few, frosties - the type who perhaps feel that you are invading THEIR ship - it was a very very friendly ship, and we enjoyed many independent shore trips with a crowd of new UK & US friends. Whilst the average age was pretty high, I'd guess most over 60 and many much older -- I never once saw a wheelchair or zimmer. A pretty fit bunch Lots of minuses. But lots of plusses too. Let's start with the negatives: Rather disjointed public areas, though no great matter as distances on the ship are small... The Lido is a disaster zone. With an early design of sliding roof (which has always leaked like a sieve), it's dreary even with the roof open and used exclusively for buffet lunches & teas, with what appear to be the original canteen-style serveries, hot water boilers etc, and a mix of vaguely-presentable slatted wooden and seriously un-presentable plastic dining furniture. In the middle of this sits an incongruous small round pool, set way below deck-level so that swimmers (I only ever saw two) disappear into a black hole An odd-shaped similarly-designed pool disgraces the otherwise very attractive main stern deck, which leads from the main lounge/bar and is well-sheltered by wings of the prom deck. Swimmers will be bitterly disappointed. Most cabins, though well-kept, are way too small for cat-swingers, beds can only sensibly be two singles, no tea/coffee, no fridge, acceptable bathroom (shower, no bath). No live TV. That's right, none. Anywhere. Plenty of DVD channels, all on daily continuous loop. Decent selection of films, usually one or more associated with ports-of-call, and re-runs of port & other lectures. Plus a rather pointless ceefax-style page of news, repeating the daily "Britain Today" single sheet newspaper. Never thought I'd wish for CNN. Gym/spa has very basic equipment Excursions expensive, even compared to other cruise lines. On the plus side: Plenty of both sunny & shady deck-space and sunbeds despite excluding the lido. Classic wooden steamer chairs along the promenade deck and sunbeds elsewhere - other than up on the exhilarating front of deck 9, far too breezy for furniture. This deck is over the bridge, looking down on the flying bridges, which are separated from the promenade deck by simple two-bar waist-high gates. There's not many ships where you can chat to the captain as you head into port, or hear him swearing under his breath at the efforts of the pilot boat helmsman. And if that's not close enough, you can take a free bridge tour. Lots of odd little deck areas, and a couple of good jacuzzis (rarely both in use at the same time) on a high deck overlooking the stern. Decent little shop, reception area and a number of little hidden-away corners inside & out. Abundance of chilled drinking water on deck & dining table, and 24 hr tea/coffee. Drinks prices in line with UK pubs, that's about a third of prices on main-stream US cruise-lines. sterling as on-board currency. Entertainment is very very limited. Good but small ensemble of singers, dancers, band, but no stage sets or effects. Small classical group. Occasional knees-ups in the lounge. One or two generally good lectures per day, mainly about destination countries & ports. Well-stocked library, internet room, quiet lounge and bridge room. Are you getting the picture? Minor daytime quizzes, deck games etc. Dance lessons, cookery/cocktail demos, jigsaws (I kid thee not). The theatre will seat more than half her passengers, but usually uncrowded so no real problem with the many pillars. The cinema doubles as a lecture room, there's just one good-sized main bar/lounge, plus occasionally the little shack on the main stern deck and the little hideaway bar Ship nearly always sleeping before midnight. Boring & disappointing to start, but pretty hectic shore days & I was eventually content to also turn-in early. Oh my, haven't I aged. A few other standard cruise factors were missing. Casino. Art auctions. Bingo. Canned music. Hard-sell. Excessive tannoy announcements. Intrusive photographers. Babies. Kids. Teenagers. Yobs. Drunks . Brilliant crew, every man-jack of them, from captain to officers to hotel staff to deck crew. A happy & friendly bunch, & nothing was too much trouble. Basic tips included in the cruise ticket price but I doubt anyone failed to also put their hands in their wallets at goodbye time. They all knew my name, drinks preferences, even cabin number, within a couple of days. Dining -- good Main Dining Room, free Yacht Club speciality restaurant (one visit pw), and that god-awful lido for decent buffets & teas. Plus sea-day deck barbies & regular midnight buffets. Excellent food & decent menu choice for dinner, but dress codes in MDR & Yacht Club and no alternative evening dining. Mainly smart casual on port days (quite right too), informal on sea days (who in hell wants to wear a jacket & tie in the tropics?) and one formal evening pw in the MRD - you can guess my attitude toward penguin suits, plus the Yacht Club is closed that evening. So once a week its penguin suit or starve. Next time, I'll starve. Dinner at fixed seating (various table sizes) in two sittings, we were on a table of eight. Such dining risks being sat with the wrong sort of company. And there were a few on board. Mebbe we were lucky, or mebbe the Maitre D was a genius, we had great company for both legs of our cruise and dinner was a pleasure. Excellent waiter (Roberto), efficient, unobtrusive, but a wicked sense of humour and a 6th sense of what folk wanted. By contrast, I found the Yacht Club service fussy & pretentious (and I'm not a complete pleb) . Itinerary. This little lady goes where the floating resort-hotels can't -- and possibly don't want to go. She doesn't have a repeat schedule, she wanders the seas & passengers join for one or more 14 day legs. Our two legs covered Singapore, Bali, Komodo, Java, Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangkok, Saigon, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Ha Long Bay (for Hanoi), Hong Kong. This includes overnights at important stops, though as always time is the enemy of cruising. Rather too many stops were ashore by tender, and although tendering was quick & efficient due to her small size & efficient tender crews, priority to ship's excursions did limit time ashore for we independently-minded travellers. Bali. (2 days) At anchor, Padangbai. Overwhelmingly Hindu, contrasting with the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim. At the jetty, cheap & easy to hire a minibus/driver/guide at around $50 per day. Yes, $50 total per day. Day one - more temples than you can shake a stick at, we visited a small selection. Then woodcraft workshops & on to the volcano & lake at Kedisan (rather spoilt by rain & mist), on the way back down an open-fronted restaurant with excellent elevated views over paddyfields. $12 buffet, but very good. And we fed their pet fruit-bats, hanging by the front door! Historic Hall of Justice at Semarapura on the way back. Day two - Monkey Forest Sanctuary at Ubud. And a long road of tourist-orientated shops adjacent, very pleasant browsing environment. Goa Lawah Bat cave & temple on the way back. Overall a friendly, religious & cheap island but the artistry & craftsmanship of the islanders is what really grabbed me. Great days. Komodo. 1/2 day at anchor. Ship advised that "on the instructions of the nature reserve staff" we would only be tendered ashore if on their excursion. We all meekly booked at £45 pp for a 90 minute walk (ker...ching). (Am I being cynical? see Semarang, below) But at least we saw the famous dragons. Reference threads about the danger on cruisecritic's forums ..... what danger???? They were clearly well-fed & disinterested in us. Java. Docked at Semarang. Worst port of the cruise, poor weather didn't help. Negotiated a minibus - more hard-nosed bargaining than Bali, ended up agreeing about $80 between 8 of us for the day. Headed for the railway station/museum at Ambarawa, together with others agreed with railway staff about $350 dollars to hire a train (cost about $15 each) Then after the ship's excursion group had arrived & set off on their train trip, suddenly they couldn't fit a train in for us. Had the ship's agent (Inter-cruises) put a spoke in our wheel? Very probably. No matter, such is the lot of the independent excursionist, & we set off for a coffee plantation instead, & ended the day in a modern shopping mall in Semerang. Not a day to remember. Malaysia. Docked at Port Gelong, nr Balok (for Kuantan) Another minibus hiring, about $100 for 10 of us. Malaysia is a tiger economy, much more developed than Indonesia, but currently that excellent blend of western comforts and asian charm. Chara Cave (reclining buddha), former tin-mining town / free mining museum at Sungai Lembing and interesting chinese village via the "hanging bridge", rubber plantation, super waterfall at Sungai Pandan, quick zip around Kuantan and fishing village. Finally a quick beach stop, with a monkey colony. Great day Cambodia. At anchor off Sihanoukville. Advised last-minute that we couldn't dock due to a broken-down ferry at out berth so we'd have to tender. Shame, cos we were due to leave at 11pm but with the last tender before dark that screwed up our planned evening ashore. We later learned that the ferry had been there for over a year !! No wonder Cambodia's economy is a mess - all our wining & dining budget was spent aboard that evening! Sihanoukville is mainly quite modern, it's Phnom Penh's playground. Today's minibus was about $80, we went to Ream Nat Park, via a beautiful waterfall. Super visitor area under construction, with a lot of artistic cement carving going on. Also hired a boat across to the small idyllic back-packer island of Kaoh Ruessei - beach, bar, shacks for rent. A great place to get away from it all. Boat was about $4 each. Finally, a small fishing village on the southern outskirts of Sihanoukville - the one bit of old artisan Cambodia - and a bit of an eye-opener - not to be missed. Great day. Bangkok. Docked 6pm at the ferry terminal (not cruise terminal) at Laem Chabang. 2 days. About 75 miles/ up to 2 hrs from Bangkok. Closed-shop franchised taxi service at the quay, long long way from dock gates, bus routes, & civilisation. Unsurprisingly taxis were expensive. Bangkok folk were having to pay around £70 one-way, including unwanted tour. Equally unsurprising then, that ship's staff got a lot of stick about taxis from pax. Took a 20 min taxi ride at $10 return pp to Pattaya. Very very lively, not my scene, but worth checking out. Early next morning, just the two of us took a taxi to meet a private tour-bus at Bang Pa In summer palace (beautiful), on with the tour-bus to Ayuttaya (impressive) then motor launch down the river to Bangkok (great way to enter the city), with good buffet lunch etc. aboard. About $45pp. From the same quay, we hired a long-tailed boat for an hour around the klongs ($20 the boat). Tuk-tuk to Patong for the evening & where we'd booked Rose Hotel (very acceptable small modern hotel, excellent location, about $40 the room). Next morning, tuk-tuk back to the river & express boat up-river to Grand Palace. We'd screwed-up! Palace closed for the morning for an event, so we toured chinatown. Very interesting. Then back to hotel for taxi, arranged by hotel, back to Laem Chabang. Driver turned out to be a former cruise-ship barman! Taxi cost about $37 (remember, taxi from quay to Bangkok quoted at $70!!) Great 2 days. Saigon. Docked Ben Nha Rong, 1 1/2 days. Super sail up the Saigon River, docked a (traffic-hazardous) 10 - 15 min walk from centre. Afternoon 6 of us touring the compact city centre by pedicab. Great time, but grief over the cost at the end. Cardinal sin, hadn't agreed a price! They'd "leave it up to us, pay what you like", then at the end they suddenly produced a "fare chart". We didn't fall for it, during our tour we'd checked with Tourist Info at the Post Office, who'd told us $2 to $3 per hour. Having offered the equiv of $4 per hour we held firm & walked off. Shame, cos it left a bad taste, but sadly its the sort of thing that happens a lot in Vietnam. Tour included Ho Chi Minh Mueeum, Re-unification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Post Office, Notre Dame, market. Next day, a pre-booked (but not pre-paid) speedboat for 8 of us to Cu Chi tunnels. That's the way to travel, & same 90 min journey time e/w as by congested roads. There's a lot more to the tunnels than tunnels - quite an eye-opener, guided tour 2 hrs, $5 or thereabouts admission. Stops on the way back at a pretty awful but interesting market, a resort with crocodile enclosure & pontoon bar (boat driver's choice, guess its a commission-earner LOL) and "tourist village" at Binh Quoi - beautiful area of landscaped gardens, pavilions etc. We counted about 8 wedding parties! Trip cost about $68 each - same as ship's non-stop minibus, though others took taxis at $30 the vehicle. Speedboat was easily best experience/value. That evening, authentic vietnamese meal (Ugh, but at $1 per dish it had to be tried & a great experience) then water puppets at the Golden Dragon. Brilliant performance, super band. 2 great days. Nha Trang. Berthed by cable-car, 1/2 day. Just the morning. Took the cable car over the bay (& ship) to Vinpearl resort island. Funfair (rollercoaster, gallopers, etc), excellent aquarium with walk-thru main tank, great water-park, great little beach. $15 pp all-in. Shame it was only a morning. OK, its not Vietnam, but we reckoned we'd earned a morning away from sight-seeing. One disconcerting note - shortly after we left the cable car to return to the ship, it stopped. Complete with folk in the cars. It started again as the ship was leaving. No pax left behind. Phew!! Great morning. Da Nang. Berthed Nui Son Tra (close to town) Took a minbus, 12 of us, $80. To Hoi An, super little low-rise ancient city, very laid-back, then via China Beach to Marble Mountain (well worth the modrate climb), then giant new Buddha. Great day. HaLong Bay. Anchored off Ha Long City, 1 1/2 days. Super morning sail-in on main passage thru the karsts. Having decided against long road trip to Hanoi, & to take a full-day junk cruise, we were at a loose end for the 1st afternoon so had arranged a private city tour. Even at $27 pp for the two of us it was a waste of time, the city has little to offer. Some you win, some you lose. Next day 8 of us hired a junk (capacity mebbe 30)for 6 hours, $90 total. Others hired junks for 4 hours for $60. Six hours was about right. Bay was misty, as usual this time of year - didn't spoil it, added to the eerie mystery of the place. You need to experience it to understand. Overall, 2 great days. Hong Kong. Berthed at cruise terminal by Star Ferry / Salisbury Hotel. Total 4 1/2 days, 3 nights at the Salisbury - super value harbour-view room. It's a YMCA hotel, next door to the Peninsula Hotel, which I think is a little more expensive LOL. Just love the ferries & trams. Plus funicular to Peak, bus to Stanley Market, bus to Aberdeen for the Jumbo junk restaurant - over-priced tourist honeypot, just as we'd been advised, but worth the experience. A day in the New Territories to my childhood home in the army village of Shek Kong (now Chinese army. A day-tour (group visa) to Guangzhou (Canton) in mainland China. Enjoyed it 10 years ago, but my how things have changed. Gone are the paddyfields & villages, in their place are wall-to-wall factories, high-rises and traffic jams. All the way. Brings me onto my final comment - the pollution. Never a clear day. No rain. Not the hottest of weather but no clouds. Yet hardly saw the sun. Or the Peak from the harbour or the harbour from the Peak. Remember LA 20/30 years ago? Or London in the '50s ? China /HK urgently need to sort themselves out, its not a pleasant place to be. Been as objective as I can, warts and all. Just my opinions, others may differ. Would we cruise with Discovery again? I certainly wouldn't rule it out. Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Read Less
Sail Date January 2010

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