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16 Asia World Cruise Reviews

For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific ... Read More
For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations. Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary. A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved. There would be little jet lag also. Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing. On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey. For us it was the trip of a lifetime. For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage. Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,) Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and San Diego, California. If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences. Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would be together for 78 days. We soon became like a family. The "precious" (HAL's word) staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason. Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises. The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian; there was only one child on board for the complete cruise. Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.) There were so many extras for every passenger. Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,) a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home. Everything was of the highest quality. Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities. I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones. MP3 Players were a quite popular choice. Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls. Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout. Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,) Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner. HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events. All the servers wore themed costumes. Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended. Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet. Other exciting optional events were extra cost. Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise. As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties. The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas. I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea. Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals. For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu. For breakfast crepes were an unusual offering. At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections. Even the room service menu had more choices. Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend. I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality. MDR service was uniformly well-paced. We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.) We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it. We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail. Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations. They were very professional and efficient. Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers. HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily. A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above, the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers. Other minor problems were also fixed after this session. HAL did listen. The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets. There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater. We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled. Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time. I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment. They were always energetic. Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows. The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers. HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well. I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows. I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges. Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin. We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM. It was always fun & games with her. One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars. How romantic was that! We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed. When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next. They were very entertaining as well. Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored. There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all. My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour. I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy. There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited. I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies. A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore. By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator. What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside. Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere. The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline complete with a laser show. The city has a lot to offer visitors. My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons. How many other cruises stop here? We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile. One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was cancelled due to the eminent arrival of a typhoon. The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan. We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind. Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports. Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible. This was a huge help especially for those touring independently. In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles. That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered. Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection. HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all. HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise. We received plenty of port information sheets, maps, ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing suggestions etc. At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words, phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port. It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port. I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise. For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage. I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired. Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses. I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast. I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade. It was just hard to drink the beverage while moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet. A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs. If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you. The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining. In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30 Early Dining Time. I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals. Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams. We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us. It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner. What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area. We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool. Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed. Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship. Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day. We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service. We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom. So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days. Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home. But, that is another review.   Read Less
Sail Date September 2014
We recently returned from our 3rd Azamara Cruise, our second time aboard the Journey. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb 17th for our journey through the China Sea, to Tokyo and finally Shanghai. The Journey had been upgraded since ... Read More
We recently returned from our 3rd Azamara Cruise, our second time aboard the Journey. We boarded the ship in Hong Kong on Feb 17th for our journey through the China Sea, to Tokyo and finally Shanghai. The Journey had been upgraded since our last cruise with new carpets, upholstery, cabins etc., and mirrored the Quest. No matter which ship you are on you feel comfortable and at home. The Journey remained over night in Hong Kong so we were able to see the Hong Kong harbour light show. Breathtaking! The next day we began our Journey, stopping at several islands in the China Sea; Xiamen, Taiwan, Ishigaki and Okinawa. This was our first trip to Asia so we booked Land Discoveries at each of the ports of call. Our guides on the tours were from the same company so we saw them at several of the islands. Their language skills and knowledge were very, very good and we would highly recommend the tours. We arrived in Tokyo on the 25th for a two day stay. Our first night there was our AzAmazing Evening. We were bused to the Japanese Matsuri Gardens, where we were greeted by Kimono clad ladies and music on traditional Japanese 15 string guitars. Lovely venue, lots of walking around room, lots to see & do. Traditional music and dancing, drumming & singing. Local artists created and shaped animal shaped lollipops. Calligraphers did our names in traditional Japanese writing. Sumo wrestlers performed for us. Refreshments were varied and abundant. Truly an AzAmazing Evening. Entering Tokyo harbour the ship hit an underwater obstacle which we later learned damaged the Port propeller. The Captain came on the PA system and told us that we would be proceeding to Osaka Japan with only one propeller so our arrival time would be somewhat later. The next morning Captain Jason gave a full presentation to the guests describing the damage, including underwater pictures of the propeller. While we were in no danger, it was decided that the cruise would end in Osaka as the ship had to proceed to dry dock for repairs. All the Osaka tours were rescheduled to accommodate our late arrival. We were very impressed at how well the Captain and crew kept us informed. Our cruise was scheduled to end in Shanghai two days later. The home office, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines flew a “GO” team of 30+ people to Osaka to ensure that individual arrangements would be made for all the guests. We were flown to Shanghai and put up at the 5 star Hyatt Hotel, on the Bund. This hotel overlooked the beautiful Shanghai harbour that, like Hong Kong, had a fabulous night-time light show. All expenses were covered and the GO Team was there and arranged our private transportation to the Shanghai airport the next day. We were also well compensated by the cruise line for shortening of the cruise and any inconvenience. The ship and its crew continue to exceed our expectations. They go out of their way to make you feel at home, and this is one of the main reasons that we have chosen to cruise with Azamara. Unfortunately we had occasion to make use of the Medical facilities. Dr Dahl and his staff were highly professional and followed up to ensure all was well. From the start of the cruise, Captain Jason and his officers of the ship were out and about every day, talking to guests, answering questions and ensuring that everyone was being taken care of. Chef Fabio’s cuisine was exceptional as usual. Cruise Director Tony kept us informed of all the daily activities and the evening shows were very entertaining. While not as incident free as our previous cruises with Azamara, the way in which the Captain, the crew and Royal Caribbean handled the technical difficulties has reinforced our confidence in and loyalty to Azamara Club Cruises. Cruise #4 is in the works!   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even ... Read More
Positives: Beautiful ship. Very good service by staff and crew. Smooth operation of complicated itinerary. Interesting guest lecturers. Good orientation lectures about each port of call. Flexible dining and always the desired table, even for 2, even with the ship full. You can bring your own wine and champagne on board! ($18 corcage fee if served in a restaurant). Beautiful flower arrangements. Wonderful live classical music daily. Reasonable coffee prices. Good selection of movies in Wajang Theatre, often relevant to the destinations visited. Negatives: Way too many announcements over the PA system, in english and dutch, obtrusive. Insufficient variety in food. Taste of food varying. Melons and watermelons often near to rotten, quality of cut fruits low. Only alibi-sushi (must try the sweet potato fries though!). Few production shows (but fairly good). Many guest entertainers of varying quality, practically all british or irish. And as always on cruise ships: Way too expensive shore excursions, no information about cost of individual transportation, internet rates and speed unacceptable ($0.75/min). It's a small cabin, however with ample drawer space. But I knew this ship, so knew what to expect.  Just want to point out that in the cabin 3387 we experienced noises every night because the galley is just above. Apparently heavy objects are being moved around and bumped on the ground. This must be a permanent situation.In addition, at some point a different type of noise occurred, which turned out to be a malfunction of the steam system (whatever that is). So eventually we had to be given another, inside cabin to sleep for 3 nights, before we were moved to another outside cabin.Our neighbors at cabin 3387 told me they heard these noises as well. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was ... Read More
We joined the Diamond on a wet day after a comfortable bus trip from Anchorage to Whittier. Embarkation services were excellent with time from bus drop off to cabin being 25 minutes. We are Platinum Princess members, but the service was excellent. We checked in at 2.10PM , probably after the initial rush. Cabin 422 ( a suite) was spotless on arrival and we were greeted by our Steward and offered Champagne. It is a large lounge area with a separate large bedroom with King bed, separate bathroom and robe area. We booked the Sterling Steakhouse for the first evening dinner, to overcome what can be difficult dining arrangements as people turn up on the first night. A good decision with a good meal , superb steak , excellent service. We dined most evenings in the Santa Fe dining room and as on previous cruises on the Diamond, experienced excellent service and good quality meals. Entertainment was excellent and production shows very good , although we do notice that the production shows are now of 28-35 minutes duration. Cruise director and his team do a very good job with activities. We ran into 3 days of very heavy weather across the Aleutian islands areas with 2 massive storms, the ship and staff coped well with having all decks and outside activities closed for 3 days. We never really felt crowded, apart from the first show in the theatre. Also the Education lectures were terrific. As experienced cruisers, we have enjoyed several cruises on the Diamond. Yes it is a large ship , but everything works to our satisfaction. This was a repositioning cruise and a means of us travelling from USA to China before flying home from Shanghai to Melbourne , australia. We enjoyed the cruise, met some lovely people, were fed well and entertained. We were very well served. Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
Having previously only done Princess Grill, I was looking forward to experiencing the Cunard experience that most guests book - Britannia. Embarkation in Singapore was a breeze. There were no large queues and I was on board in about 15 ... Read More
Having previously only done Princess Grill, I was looking forward to experiencing the Cunard experience that most guests book - Britannia. Embarkation in Singapore was a breeze. There were no large queues and I was on board in about 15 minutes and my suitcase arrived at my cabin about 10 minutes after I did. I couldn't believe how quick and efficient the embarkation process was. After unpacking I did a quick tour around the ship and was impressed with the maintenance, everything looked spick and span. Cunard is obviously not cutting corners with regards to maintenance. Rather than do a short story on the voyage, I will summarise my observations about various aspects of the voyage: Service: In a word - excellent. The steward who looked after my room did an excellent job. He was always cheerful, friendly and kept my room looking very smart. Our table was served by a sommelier, waiter and assistant waiter. All three were very professional and our table received excellent service; we never had to wait for anything and there were no delays in regards to wine or alcoholic beverages. Our waiter was also very accommodating with requests. On lobster night our table all requested extra lobsters, a request which were happily granted by our waiter. Throughout the ship I encountered many different staff members from various locations (Sir Samuel's, The Commodore Club, Kings Court, Todd English, G32, the photography staff, The Chart Room and the Purser's desk) and they were all great, everyone was polite & friendly and the White Star training really shows. Accommodation: I had a D5 standard inside on deck 5. This was very conveniently located between staircases B & C and decks three & seven. The inside stateroom was very spacious and very well appointed. It was perfect for one person and I never felt claustrophobic. The only issue I had with the room was the engine noise that came through the pillow. The room I was in is located next to a void on the deck plan and I discovered that I was right next to a noisy crew staircase. This must have been the cause of the noise as occupants two staterooms down the corridor reported no noise through their pillows. I solved this problem using earplugs. Food: Again, excellent. I enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Britannia Restaurant and each time I found the food to be of a very high standard. I appreciate that the appetisers are a sensible size as the mains are quite substantial and this combination leaves room for the delicious desserts. I left the table each night feeling comfortably full - not slightly unwell from overeating. I heard some negative comments about the food in Britannia, comments which I cannot understand as the meals I had in Britannia restaurant were excellent. Kings Court was great for a quick snack or an early morning coffee before a shore tour. I found the layout to be relatively easy to follow and the food to be very good. I also had dinner at Todd English one night and was very impressed with the food and service. Having not enjoyed a previous lunch experience at Todd English I wasn't expecting much but boy was I wowed. I certainly recommend dinner at Todd English during your next QM2 voyage. Shore tours: The shore tours in Bangkok and Saigon were okay. There was a two hour drive to each city from the port and the guides ranged from fantastic to good. I found the 'Highlights of Ho Chi Minh city' tour to be boring and wouldn't recommend that tour. The tours were, however, well organised and we left and arrived back at the ship on time. Activities on board: Bingo was a lot of fun and the entertainment staff made it very enjoyable. G32 was it's usual let down, the fact that there was no DJ in residence (we had a fill-in from Vibez) only compounded the problem. The daily activity sheet was filled with many activities and your day can be as busy or as relaxing as you choose. I decided to do very little each day and so can't comment on the lectures or the shows as I pretty much just swam in the pool and went to the gym most days. The Chart Room is a great hang-out for those Britannia guests on late sitting. The room has a great buzz and is a very enjoyable place to meet friends for drinks before dinner. Overall: I very much enjoyed this voyage and would do it again in a heartbeat. The food, accommodation and service were excellent (baring the engine noise through the pillow) and I cannot imagine how Cunard could make it better. The public rooms in the ship are beautiful and certainly convey that 'ocean liner' atmosphere. What makes it all the more real is that QM2 is an actual ocean liner and that is something you don't get on any other ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
PORTS: London-Lisbon-Malaga-Tunis-Malta-Naphlion-Athens-Suez Canal-Safafa-Dubai (2 days)-Abu Dahbi-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Port Blair-Langkawi-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-(Indoneisa) Jakarta-Semerang-Bali (2 ... Read More
PORTS: London-Lisbon-Malaga-Tunis-Malta-Naphlion-Athens-Suez Canal-Safafa-Dubai (2 days)-Abu Dahbi-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Port Blair-Langkawi-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-(Indoneisa) Jakarta-Semerang-Bali (2 days)-Lombok-Komodo-Makassar-Probolingo-Surabaya (Indonesia)-Singapore ITINERARY: 50 wonderful days from Jan-March 2013 sailing from Southhampton, England to Singapore via the Suez Canal with two incredible weeks working our way across just some of the islands of Indonesia - only 6 of the fabled 17,000 islands of this important SE Asian country. This was also home to many of the ship's crew members, whose families joyously were waiting to greet them at the dock. Holland America and the Rotterdam were up to their well-regarded standards from top to bottom and played gracious host to the crew's family members who were invited on board for tours and refreshments. FELLOW PASSENGERS: Cruise Director Glenn was one of the best and along with the rest of the staff easily handled the bi-lingual demands since this cruise carried a very large Dutch-speaking contingent, which the entire staff handled with style, charm and easy humor. We first moved through history of all the major Western civilizations from Portugal, Spain, Carthage, Roman Empire, Greece and Egypt. And then on to the newer global powers of the UAE, India, Malaysia, Singapore and finally got to see both the new and old worlds of fabulous Indonesia. DINING: The ship was in beautiful shape, the food wonderful and dining settings varied for any tastes. The specialty restaurant The Pinnacle provided a very elegant setting also serving specialty night menus from Michelin rated Liberije (sp?) in Holland and Le Cirque in New York. The standard Pinnacle menus for both lunch and dinner were superb. Try them at both times for sure. Sea days breakfast, lunch and tea in the lovely, tall glass windowed main dining room was always a welcomed treat because you can see the waves passing by while you dine, allowing one to really have the sense of being on a ship. The main dining room sparkled elegantly at night with white linens and silver dinner service, but darkness kept those wonderful full window views more obscured during those evening hours in this part of the world. The specialty afternoon teas should not be missed, esp. the Indonesian and Royal Dutch ones. The Lido, Grill and Slice additionally offered a wide variety of foods for all tastes if a more casual setting was desired - with the option of indoor, poolside or outdoor dining, Along with many specialty buffets like crab feasts, Indonesian, Asian, and German sausage tests -- all very good. Wonderful array of cheeses, along with their signature desserts, good ice cream, chocolate chip cookies and the splendid little meringues. ENRICHMENT-SHORE EXCURSIONS: Enrichment lecture speakers were good to excellent and all topical for the areas we were visiting. The only major hassle was Indian immigration which was counter-productive and inefficient. Their constantly changing demands with each Indian port kept the staff up all night meeting trying to get us onshore on time. Staff was brilliant trying to respond to this. Indian regulations and their over-kill make-work officials at each were petty and annoying serving little purpose. India needs to pay attention to this tourist turn-off in the future if they want people to jump through more and more hoops just to enter their country - and enjoy it and spend our money there locally. Shore excursions offered by the ship were all excellent and well worth the prices since we were often in ports that were not used frequently by cruise ships, local traffic was intense, tourism services few to non-existent, and lots of space to cover to get the best feel for the new areas we were visiting. PIRATE PRECAUTIONS: Yes, we did go through pirate precautions that are now standard for all cruises in this Upper Indian/Ocean Red Sea area. In fact, they were less stringent than we experienced on two other cruise lines for this same area. Since this comes with the territory, there should of been no surprises to anyone choosing to travel in this continually unstable area. Can't imagine why any passenger would want to put the ship at risk ignoring these appropriate precautions. No complaints from us. Know before you go. This is not an optional exercise. The Suez Canal passage was just one of the many highlights of this trip. Be sure and bring binoculars and stay outside as much as you can to hear the plaintive Muslim calls to prayers during the day. SMOKING: I for one hope HAL bans smoking all together as it ruins perfectly good public areas for the rest of us with lingering tobacco smells which made the lovely Crows Nest forward viewing lounge almost unusable due to the lingering heavy smoke saturation. That room needs a thorough and deep cleaning and then ban smoking up there entirely, so the rest of the passengers can also enjoy this grand public space. INTERNET: No one expected or got full ship to shore communications traversing this part of the world either. Internet was slow and balky so best to do your emailing when ashore or in the cruise terminal where all the crew members set up their own laptops too. CABIN LOCATION: We tried a lower deck ocean view cabin (Main Deck 2) this time due to the length and price of the trip and found it spacious and accommodating, but missed our balcony. Saving money on the cabin allowed us to enjoy more shore excursions. We were close to open wrap-around walking deck on Deck 3 and found plenty of outdoor and indoor public spaces to enjoy, particularly the wonderfully stocked Rotterdam library and reading room - the Explorations Cafe. OVERALL: Holland America has a winner with this itinerary and the Rotterdam is just the lady to do this special Holland/Indonesia exploration. I hope many can take it for its full 50-90 day length in order to take this fabulous travel through both time and space as one moves from the Old World into the Newer New World - and the global future where over 3 billion people are rapidly moving in to the middle class. Yet while still preserving much of their ancient past and traditions as well. Long being a global traveller with well over 100 countries visited, I realized I had not really fully seen the world until I visited Indonesia - it is a new jewel in the crown of my own family of nations. And we found we loved 50 day cruises too! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is very attentive. The Calypso Pool is an especially cheerful place - beautiful mosaics and dramatic lighting at night. The food was exceptionally good in all venues. We liked the flexibility of Anytime Dining. Cabin Great location - close to the atrium elevators. While Princess calls this a "fully obstructed view" many cruise lines would have called this a "partially obstructed view." We had a good view over the top of the lifeboat. (We could completely see the Sydney Opera House over the lifeboat.) I believe you would be able to see over the lifeboats from almost any of the cabins in this category on deck 8. We also had a small view down to the water, next to the lifeboat. The cabin felt fairly roomy for its size, probably because there was only an armchair, not a settee or sofa. There was a flatscreen TV, about 36", a refrigerator, vanity with 3 small drawers and a desk chair. There was one long closet, about 7' of hanging space, which felt underutilized because it didn't have any shelf space (other than the shelf above the rod in the closet) that some other ships have. The shelves were in a separate closet, about two feet wide, and the safe (which used a keypad entry) occupied one of the shelves. The bathroom was typical in size and had a shower curtain (not doors). We liked most of the ports. The towns of Airlie Beach, Port Douglas, and Darwin, Australia are somewhat similar. There is not a lot to do, especially in Airlie Beach, unless you want to go to the Barrier Reef, which we have already done in the past. Many shore excursions seemed overpriced. Taiwan was a disappointment. We took a shore excursion, but the guide's English skills were poor. The city itself seemed less prosperous than the other cities we visited. Busan, S. Korea was one of the prosperous cities. They have the second largest fish market in the world - really a sight to see! Busan goes out of its way to make cruise ships and passengers feel welcome. Shanghai was wonderful. We toured on our own without a problem. The metro is clean and easy to use, with signage in English. We rode the fastest train in the world, the maglev, from a metro station in Pudong to the airport and back just to experience it --well worth it. We shopped at an underground market at the Science and Technology Museum metro stop, then took the metro to the Bund. The buildings look like something you would expect in Brussels. The promenade along the river goes for many blocks and offers good views of both the Bund and Pudong with its world class skyscrapers and the Pearl Tower. In Dalian, China we took a shore excursion from the ship that featured a visit to the home of a local family. That was one of the highlights of the whole trip. The cruise ended in Tianjin, China, the port for Beijing, about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour bus ride to Beijing. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
I joined Arcadia in Singpore for a very relaxing cruise through Asia visiting Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Phu My, Ha Long Bay, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki, Osaka, Rabaul, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Overall it was an excellent ... Read More
I joined Arcadia in Singpore for a very relaxing cruise through Asia visiting Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Phu My, Ha Long Bay, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki, Osaka, Rabaul, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Overall it was an excellent cruise with some fantastic ports and excellent weather. I really did enjoy the cruise and found it very relaxing and entertaining. It had that laid back type of atmosphere onboard opposed to the fast paced mood of short cruises. Public Rooms - were all clean and well presented. Allot of the lounges and bars were spacious and it was very easy to find a place to sit down and relax and do whatever you wanted to do. Cabin - I had a balcony cabin on A deck which was clean and well presented. There was a little cosmetic wear and tear in the bathroom and on the walls, but there was no more wear and tear than you would find in a standard land based hotel. The cabin is excellent for a ship. It in no way compares to a 5 star hotel and if you wanted to compare it to a land based hotel you would be looking at around a 3 star + hotel. Dining/Food - Food is always subjective to the individual and what they like to eat. What I found on Arcadia was that the food served was far superior to any land based fast food chain like McDonalds, KFC, the average hamburger store, RSL/bowling club type food. If you have eaten at some place more upmarket then you will find the food on Arcadia does not compare to that. I found the Neptune Grill for burgers, hotdogs and fast food outstanding during the day and probably the best for day food on the ship. The Belvedere Buffet Restaurant was great for cold meats and salads but for lunch it was the slops line. Breakfast in the Belvedere was excellent as was Dinner. The Meridian Dining Room was always great and my selection always med with my satisfaction. As said above the food was much better than average land based places but not as good as the more up market places. In the 10 years I have been cruising with P&O the food standard has dropped considerably since the Carnival merger. Entertainment - This was excellent and the Headliners Theatre group always impress. The entertainment was run by a great Cruise Director and team who were very energetic and involved with the passengers. We had random guest entertainers to varied tastes on board. If you liked their style and genre then they were great. If the performer does something that your not interested in then obviously there is no point seeing them as you wont like it. Ship/Facilities - Arcadia is showing a bit of wear and tear. Whilst the public rooms that I described above are acceptable there are some small things that do pose a problem. 1. None of the whirlpool spas/jacuzzi's work at all. None of them blow any bubbles or have any jet pressure. They just dont work. 2. The pools are not being heated to a comfortable level. The Neptune Pool (the covered pool) is not heated due to it being under a closing roof and causing too much humidity when the weather is bad. Unfortnately the pool is unusable in cold climates. 3. Some of the decking is coming apart as well as some areas around the ship have leaks. There are pot holes in some of the carpet from the leaks. It is obvious that there are areas of the ship that need attention. It is not bad enough to ruin a holiday, but the lack of maintenance speaks volumes about the attitude of the management and their upkeep of the ship. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to ... Read More
Mom in 50s, traveling with 18 year old daughter. OK, so we don't really fit the Amsterdam's demographic, but we have traveled on the ms Amsterdam before (to Alaska, and to South America/Antarctica), so we thought we knew what to expect. Our Grand Voyage was a 70 night cruise, visiting many ports in the Far East, Australia, and a bit of the South Pacific. We sailed from our home port of Seattle, which was convenient but enabled us to take far too much luggage. The embarkation procedure was efficient. The ship was just as we remembered it; immaculately clean, an extensive art collection, beautiful floral displays. Our room, on this cruise, was an inside cabin on the Verandah Deck. We had plenty of space for storage and to move about. No noise issues. In the first hours, our Cabin Stewards made sure that they introduced themselves, and that we had everything we needed. In spite of the fact that they are now responsible for many more rooms than in the past, our Cabin Stewards did an amazing job of keeping our room clean. They still took the time to make a towel animal each night, too. We prefer to eat in the Lido, rather than in the LaFontaine Dining Room. We find that the food is just as good, but we have the advantage of being able to mix & match entrees & sides, rather than having the set plate combos that are served in the dining room. The dining room stewards on the Lido are absolutely outstanding! It took only a few days before they called us by name, knew where we preferred to be seated, served our beverages as we liked, etc. Another benefit of eating on the Lido, is that the staff are much more willing to socialize with the guests. We loved the opportunity to learn about Indonesia. On this cruise, we ate a few suppers in the Pinnacle, which we found to be excellent. Although we attended a Le Cirque night, both of us much prefer the Pinnacle's regular menu. Our ports on this cruise were many & varied. We only participated in a couple of excursions, sponsored by HAL, as most were quite overpriced. Before the cruise, I was actively involved in our Roll Call, so I was able to both organize & participate in several Cruise Critic excursions. These were all excellent - and a great value. we had a travel guide, who was supposed to share information about each port. Unfortunately, it became clear that she would sometimes use her role to get people to purchase HAL's shore excursions, rather than supporting people who wanted to visit the ports independently. The evening entertainment was not what it used to be, although there were a few, very good performers. The best shows, were those put on by the crew. We had both an Indonesian & a Filipino Crew Show on this cruise. Day time activities, on sea days, varied minimally from day to day, but there were a wide range of activities available; sports, educational lectures, water color classes, etc. We had 4 guest chefs who were on board at different times during the cruise; all provided excellent demos in the Culinary Arts Center. When we disembarked in Long Beach, CA, the process of leaving the ship was well thought out & organized. Unfortunately, the process fell apart once we were reunited with our baggage. The lack of sufficient porters resulted in mayhem. Our Grand Voyage was exactly that - Grand. We spent 70 indulgent days aboard a beautiful ship, with an entire crew that provided truly loving care. We traveled with a fascinating group of passengers. We were never bored, nor homesick. The only significant disappointment, was having to leave the ship at the end of our cruise. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in ... Read More
At sea for sixty-nine days found the majority of us sad to arrive back in San Diego. Every aspect of this journey was beyond belief. Despite unfavorable weather conditions, our Captain guided this ship around a hurricane in Hong Kong, a volcano in Indonesia, flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we, as passengers, never gave a thought to our safety or to the bad weather we could have encountered. Dinner, dancing, shows were provided nightly. There were many formal nights - reminders of what 'crossings' were to the wealthy of foregone years. Champagne flowed, music drifted from different areas, stellar service in a professional manner was a constant. Yet, there was this feeling of family, of caring. Nothing was too much to ask for - and there was never a tone of any type used, no attitudes possessed this crew. They were there to help and please us in whatever why they possibly could and that is what they did. Oh, and did I mention the smiles -- so many wonderful broad sincere smiles to greet us every place on this ship. The crew were from Indonesia - what a honor they are to their country! Asia and Australia were educational for those of us not visiting these countries before. The Ports of Call worthwhile. So grateful to be able to see these great wonders, such as the Great Barrier Reef and Great Wall of China. Overland in China was fantastic with lovely top-drawer hotel and dining accommodations. At the end of the day, I always go back to thoughts and longings for the ship and its crew who truly provided us with the main ingredients for a beyond belief experience in travel. Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
Background: I tend to be a small ship person so Cunard is a bit of a stretch for me. I first tried a QM2 transatlantic crossing on 2007 and my reaction was "too big and impersonal", but my behavior has not been very consistent ... Read More
Background: I tend to be a small ship person so Cunard is a bit of a stretch for me. I first tried a QM2 transatlantic crossing on 2007 and my reaction was "too big and impersonal", but my behavior has not been very consistent with that assessment. I left the ship with a booking for a crossing on the way home from a vacation I had already booked for Africa the following summer. I booked 2 more crossings as a result of needing to get across the Atlantic in conjunction with other travel plans, and by the time of my 4th crossing decided that like it or not, I was a Cunarder and might as well try a cruise that fit my plans. This voyage, across southern Asia with mostly countries I have never visited before seemed to fit the bill. The Queen Victoria World Cruise encountered a number of problems with snow and norovirus on the transatlantic segment and fog in Shanghai, but by my segment these problems were all a thing of the past. Hotel: In Bangkok I stayed at the excellent Four Seasons which was Cunard's hotel there. I found Cunard's price prohibitive, but my TA booked an attractive rate with airport transfer from the hotel, at I think about $500 below Cunard's price. I spoke with the Hospitality desk and booked a Sightseeing transfer to the ship for about $70. Ship info: The Queen Victoria entered service about 2 years ago, and at about 2000 passengers is smaller than QM2 but still larger than I prefer. Despite Cunard's slogan of "The most famous ocean liners in the world", this is a cruise ship. There is only one ocean liner in service today, and it's the right company but the wrong ship. It is nominally a multi-class ship, but it is really very open. The Queens Grill and Princess Grill passengers dine in their separate restaurants on decks 11 and 12 aft in a relatively small area. All other areas of the ship are open to everyone, there are ample lounges and deck space available to everyone, and the ship is very complete without any need to go near or around the area set aside for the grills, unlike the Grills Lounge and Restaurants on QM2 being on the Promenade deck. Not a real problem on QM2 but there is a bit of inconvenience not having doors to the inside from some sections of that deck. Staterooms: My inside stateroom was compact but more than adequate. I had only a shower but everything was well laid out. Cunard breaks it's rooms into many categories often with less than 10 rooms assigned to a category. Dining: Most passengers are assigned to the Britannia Restaurant on decks 2 and 3 aft. I thought the restaurant decor was a bit drab, but the service and food are excellent. The restaurant maintains traditional early and late dinner seatings around 6 and 8:30pm. Breakfast and lunch are also served there with open seating. Unlike the QM2 and coming Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Victoria does not have a separate Britannia Club restaurant. The Lido restaurant on deck 9 is open 24 hours daily, although the selection at odd hours is limited (I took a test walk through it about 3am and there were fruit and sandwiches but not much else). A more formal theme dinner is typically served in a section of the Lido by reservation, and another section is a typical buffet for dinner. The Lido Pool Grill immediately behind the Lido serves burgers with few side dishes but is close enough to the buffet that a burger can readily be combined with side dishes from there. Lunch is also available in the Golden Lion Pub on deck 2. The Todd English specialty restaurant on deck 2, with a cover charge of $20 lunch and $30 dinner serves superb meals in an intimate setting (No lunch on port days). Activities and entertainment: A wide variety of activities are offered. The Cunard Insights enrichment program is quite strong, with lectures on a variety of topics. At various points of my voyage we had presentations by 2 destination lecturers, a security expert, a chief detective, a hostage negotiator, and a music historian. The spa has a strong program with several fitness sessions and several seminars each day. There are classes in bridge, the arts, and computer usage, various games such as bingo, trivia, and dancing. In the evening there are several venues featuring diverse varieties of musical entertainment, and a daily presentation in the Royal Court Theater. The excellent Royal Cunard Singers and Dancers usually presents about 5 or 6 shows per voyage; on the world voyage they have only a couple of shows per segment with headline entertainers brought in every few days, often doing one show on their own and appearing in a variety show with other acts on another night. Other venues are the Golden Lion Pub and Commodore Cub with pianists, a DJ in Hemispheres, a variety of performers in the Chart Room, and dancing with the Queens Room Orchestra in the Queens Room. Children: There is a children's facility although there were few children present on the World Voyage. Ports will mostly be described at the separate page at the bottom of the review, but it looks like the review format only allows 6 so I'll deal with the first and last here: Ko Samui: This small Thai island (about 10 miles square, population 30,000) has no significant dock, and we anchored about 2 ½ miles from the harbor. My "Around the Island" tour made 4 stops. The first was a Buddhist shrine with 2 buildings, a temple containing the body of a beloved monk and a beautiful temple where new monks are ordained. Our second stop, a very short ride later was a coconut plantation where we learned that the work of harvesting coconuts is done by Macaque monkeys, and observed them in action. The shrine of the Big Buddha, on a hill overlooking the ocean on a platform elevated about 50 feet up a stairway is probably 50 feet high, and there are about 20 bells situated around the platform. Ringing all 20 bells is supposed to be good luck. Our final stop was for lunch at the Chaweng Resort Hotel. Dubai: While not a traditional "port of call" I am treating this as such since we arrived early at our destination and disembarked the following day, with shore excursions offered on the day of arrival. The United Arab Emirates is a union of 7 individual states, each ruled by an Emir. It was formerly a British Protectorate, with the states getting their independence about 1979 and forming a union a year later. It has a population of 4.8 million, 4 million "locals", foreigners admitted for permanent residence and 800,000 citizens. My tour was "Sharjah's East Coast". Sharjah is one of the 7 Emirates comprising the UAE, about a half hour drive from the port. We visited the Arabian Wildlife Center, with a variety of wildlife that can live in a mostly desert area. There are of course fish in the seas and various reptiles, amphibians, and birds near the Wadi's (Oasises), but also quite a variety of mammals. We also stopped at the Maritime museum, with exhibits on the hard life of oyster harvesters and models of a wide variety of dhows. Disembarkation: My segment closed with an overnight in Dubai, and I had a 9:30 flight there was no difficulty disembarking at 5:30am. Summary: This voyage covered an area I had always wanted to see. I am very pleased that I finally got to all these ports, but there are few if any I wish to visit again. Visitors to this area should be well prepared for hot, tropical weather. Cunard provides a refined, quality experience. Expect to be with a very diverse group of passengers representing a wide cross section of the world. On my voyage, about a third of the 1900 passengers were British, a sixth American, and at least 100 each from Germany, Australia, and Canada, and the remainder from 34 other countries. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
There were actually eight ports of call, not six as shown (drop-down list only goes up to six). We had sailed on the QM2 before, on her Maiden Voyage in 2004, so we were looking forward to returning to the Queen of the Seas. This is our ... Read More
There were actually eight ports of call, not six as shown (drop-down list only goes up to six). We had sailed on the QM2 before, on her Maiden Voyage in 2004, so we were looking forward to returning to the Queen of the Seas. This is our 24th cruise in total, and sixth with Cunard. Embarkation at Dubai was pretty straightforward and we were shown to our stateroom on Deck 8 where our luggage arrived pretty much immediately. I was pleased to see that the ship was still her immaculate, beautifully decorated self. Our stateroom was spacious and well appointed; we had a balcony although our view was partially obscured by the lifeboats outside. We ate in the Britannia restaurant and the food and service were nothing short of excellent. A couple of evenings I did miss going up to dinner; not through any fault of the service or the cuisine but because I didn't want to put on any more weight than necessary! For breakfast and lunch we usually just ate in the King's Court buffet, although there were times when I chose the room service breakfast and ate in on our balcony in the balmy, tropical heat. One thing about the room service is that the breakfast was delivered bang on time each morning at the time requested. The entertainment was of a very high standard, with a selection of guest entertainers such as comedians, pianists, opera singers, magicians, dancers and musicians. The only act we were not keen on was a guy who billed himself as a "comedy magician" - I think "children's party entertainer" would have been more appropriate. We also enjoyed the daytime lectures given by guest speakers, who were also of a very high standard. The ship's library is one of the best at sea and I was able to get through a couple of books during the sea days. Our ports of call were: Cochin (India), Phuket (Thailand), Penang (Malaysia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Bangkok (Thailand), Phu My (Viet Nam) and Hong Kong. We stayed in port overnight in Hong Kong then disembarked for a night in a hotel before our long flight home. If I have to complain about anything, it is the absolutely extortionate prices on board the QM2. We have done five previous Cunard cruises, and indeed we are already booked on the new Queen Elizabeth, but we've never really thought that the prices were exorbitant until now. I'm sure they put them up because this was the World Cruise. My advice to anyone is DON'T buy the so-called bargain or sale-price items they try to tout to you, because you will find the items much, much cheaper back home or over the internet. Drinks prices were also way over the top. I will be comparing the QE prices later on, as I'm sure they are not normally this high. All in all though, we had a brilliant time on the ship and visited some very interesting ports of call. Long may the QM2 reign! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
This was a wonderful cruise on a ship that we had been on twice before. This time we avoided the Brittania restaurant - which is good, but has two sittings and is too large - by booking a club balcony cabin, thus having the Brittania Club ... Read More
This was a wonderful cruise on a ship that we had been on twice before. This time we avoided the Brittania restaurant - which is good, but has two sittings and is too large - by booking a club balcony cabin, thus having the Brittania Club restaurant which was just the right size, open dining, and first class service. Our last cruise was in the Queen's Grill, and although excellent, the service we received in the Club restaurant was just as good. The reason for the Queen's Grill was an upgrade due to a golden wedding anniversary. The food was excellent with such a great choice. The cabin was fine with plenty of drawer and cupboard space and the cabin service was excellent. Only complaint was that although the towels are of good quality, the size of the bath towels leave a lot to be desired. The ship was spotlessly clean and all the staff very friendly and helpful, apart from the pursers office where one did not always get the best service. O.K they are the ones who take all the complaints, but they were on several occasions, not the nicest of folk to deal with and gave one the impression of being superior, and not there to serve the guests. Two good things came out of this cruise. You can now buy Gin or Vodka (certain brands)plus 6 cans of tonic for $25 for consumption in your cabin, and they also turn a blind eye to you taking spirits or wine on board. Think they had to do it as P & O were already doing this. The prices charged in the bars and restaurants are exhorbitant especially with the 15% service charge, so we did not use them very much. One only had to look at the tables in the Brittania restaurant in the evening to see that there were not many bottles of wine on the table. They did actually reduce the price of some of their wines when we were aboard, but they need to reduce them even more for us to buy one bottle a day. Other cruise lines do not charge as much. Only did one tour as there again they are much too expensive and as seasoned cruisers we know how to do them much more cheaply. All in all a wonderful cruise, and one will always have some complaints after such a long time. I sincerely hope to rejoin QM2 in Capetown next year for parts of the cruise that I did not do this time! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Recently back from a 6 week Grand Voyage Asia to Africa on the MV Discovery from Hong Kong to Capetown - January to March 2010 DINING: Overall the food was good; with a few deficiencies. BREAKFAST was served in the main dining room ... Read More
Recently back from a 6 week Grand Voyage Asia to Africa on the MV Discovery from Hong Kong to Capetown - January to March 2010 DINING: Overall the food was good; with a few deficiencies. BREAKFAST was served in the main dining room with very nice selections. Buffet was available on the Lido deck and early riser self-serve continental items were available in the indoor Yatch Club dining venue, as well as room service. Just about everything one would want for breakfast was available all days. Eggs cooked to order, pre-cooked, ham, bacon, hot side dishes, oatmeal, cold cereals, cold buffet meat items, yogurts, fresh fruit, granolas, excellent baked goods. No complaints at all about the variety and quality of breakfast. LUNCH: Similar set up: main dining room for multi-course selections, room service and Lido buffet. Salad bar, cold meats and salad accompaniments, hot full lunch buffet items, specialty menus on different days (pub, german, asian, etc). Good variety and good quality ingredients. Lousy hamburgers (if you are an American). Ice cream cart for sundaes and cones - pretty good. Usually 4 or so varieties available each day and changing. TEA: (4-5pm) Tea and biscuits in the Palm Court. Full buffet at the Lido with a sandwich bar and variety of desserts, specialities and scones. Unlike many cruise ships, the desserts often tasted as good as they looked. DINNER: Varied and nicely presented four courses, with meat, fish and pasta choices for entrees. A full four course vegetarian option. Sugar-free (but artificially sweetened) and gluten-free dessert options. Ice cream and sorbets always available, of differing flavors. Appetizers often quite good, sometimes average, soups universally excellent both hot and cold, entrees good except for meat quality too often lacking in flavor, tenderness and menu descriptions which were enticing but not well-executed for the initial descriptive promise. This was the single dining disappointment. Portion size was very sensible and half-size was always available by request which in fact was a even better option due to all the day's accumulated eating, as well as the basically disappointing execution of the main course. LATE BUFFET: Very enticing array of finger foods and hot appetizer items but late hour after busy days and full schedule eatings through out the day left little room for this very lovely offering of both sweets and savories. ROOM SERVICE: Major deficiency. You had to pick from the day's menu which meant you had to go view the menu first at the dining room entrance and then order from that, which did not work if you were feeling sick in your room. Only that day's menu items could be ordered and there was no "sick tummy" type menu or stock items except what were "always available" on the menus (minute steak, chicken breast, salmon, baked potato, Caesar salad). The worst part is that they would only be delivered after the start of each dining room sitting so these could not be ordered at random when the need/desire arose. However, when delivered they were nicely presented and enjoyable. 24 HOUR COFFEE/TEA/HOT CHOCOLATE SELF-SERVICE - Lido deck. DH is a critical coffee fan and claimed the MV Discovery coffee on the Lido deck was the best he ever tasted. I loved the variety of teas - good quality English teas. LONG CRUISES: There was never a feeling of repeated dinner menus though the Lido buffet items were repetitive, but there was so much variety this was not an issue. What became increasingly oppressive was the lack of a flexible, evening "light" dining option. It was the formal dining room four course or the limitations of room service, or else. Plan accordingly. Formal dining room evening dining was a delightful part of the cruise experience and would always be welcome on shorter cruises, but it did become an unwelcome daily requirement on a long cruise. Ideally on the longer cruises, for me I would have preferred taking a larger lunch and then having some lighter, less formal options for the evening. Some took to preparing a good sandwich at the 4-5pm tea for later "dinner" dining in lieu of going to the formal dining room. YATCH CLUB SPECIALTY DINING (No extra charge, but limited reservations to one per week): Some dining menus themes were more successful than others. Both the Jazz (contemporary French) and the SE Asian menus were excellent. The Asian less so and the Italian (tried twice) was downright awful. Nor did the African menu look particularly appealing which was over-booked by the time we tried to make reservations so not sure this was an unfortunate missed opportunity for us or not. The concept is nice, but the Italian menu needs to be totally reworked ..... or avoided. Overall, I would give the MV Discovery a B to a B+ for dining. ON BOARD ACTIVITIES: Usually 4 excellent lectures, including and upcoming port lecture, by distinguished enrichment speakers giving rich historical, cultural, scientific and context content talks about the areas we are visiting. Since we were travelling primarily the Indian Ocean, we had a lot of background on the British Empire trade routes. As most passengers are British and Commonwealth nation residents, the talks assumed you knew your British history and institutions so some of it was a very pleasing stretch of our American memory banks. I found them all intellectually challenging and fascinating. The natural history talks unique to the areas travelling were superb and we all left with an intimate understanding of the geologic history as well as its natural flora and fauna. Including the local industries such as fishing and their impacts on the environment. We had additional talks on health and technology with supportive help for individual technology problems (cameras, computers etc - even a successful request to reprogram a computer program in Polish). There was a volunteer choir that put on a program and had rehearsals. A very active bridge player component with experts and a separate room for playing and instruction. Craft classes changed with each segment, but a few included beading and water color (for beginners). There were Q&A sessions with segments of the staff including the kitchen. If anything, there was too much to do which left little time to just sit outside and watch the world go by, but a lot of people did that too. You could always get the lectures rebroadcast on the cabin closed-circuit TV so missing them live was not a detriment. I almost wished I had done more of that so I could have spent more time just being lazy when the sun was out. There were gaps in the schedules before dinner or before the shows where one could catch up on the televised lectures. The small but highly talented entertainment group was very good. They geared their shows to the age group of the passengers and did so very competently. All shows were very enjoyable. Our talented cruise director Don put on his own solo cabaret show and it again was an excellent offering. Since we were on for three segments we did not go to all the shows at first as there were repeats with each segment, but ultimately saw most of them over our 6 weeks. Staying up late after late dinner seating sometimes was just too much for us. Again, sometimes it would have been better to have made a nice sandwich at tea time to save for an "early dinner" and then see the earlier show on sea days. Port days usually left us ready for early bed. And the beginning and end of each segment was a three day stay in port which was wonderful to have the extra time to explore an area more in depth. We had these in Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Luis, Mauritius and Capetown on our 6 week tour. At first I thought 3 days in Port Luis, Mauritius would be a waste of time, but we ended up finding wonderful things to see and get to know and went back twice to a perfect little courtyard French restaurant "Le Vieux Consiel" that was a little obscure to find and would never have been enjoyed if we just had a day tour. We finally got our credit card bill - lunch for two, appetizer, main course, dessert and drinks were total $80 for those two days. So it paid to do some in depth homework on those three day layover ports between segments. We did dine out for lunch and often for dinner if there was a late departure and enjoyed the change of pace very much. Credit card bill for an excellent local choice in Borneo close to the port was total $ US 6 for two. Sampling local cuisines (with all due precautions) is one of my great travel joys and we were glad the schedules often offered this chance. One problem we did notice as reported and did register as a complaint was the "hogging" of deck chairs. Discovery needs to enforce their own policy more and just clear out all deck chairs that remain empty for over one half hour. And make a few more announcements about this .... on a daily basis particularly at the beginning of each new segment. This is less of a problem when shade is not such a premium as it was on this voyage crossing the equator so much. There are plenty of deck chairs, but most are fully sun exposed so when it is more fun to be in the sun in more temperate climates this is probably less of a problem. Though we never used it as we brought along our own reading material or books on ipods, the ship has a very good library and a loyal daily following who gather there. It was a very pleasant spot and I know I would have enjoyed using it but most of my free time was spent in the lectures and I would have hated to miss any of them. There is a nicely equipped gym with stunning rear ship window views as you jog, row, bike or use ellipticals. Weight machines, roomy saunas for men and women, two hot tubs which were not all that hot but pleasant for warm splashing around and enjoying also the aft deck views. There was a full fitness class program with its own instructor and a variety of group or individual activities and consultations. I got a pedicure in the salon (which sells my favorite Biolage brand of hair care products) which while pricey, was very competently delivered. There were specials from time to time particularly on port days when they were not so busy. Best to bring your own favorite nail polish color, as the choices were limited. The full range of spa services were available - massage, facials and hair. As well as product oriented informational "talks" on various skin care and beauty topics. (Never attended so don't know about these - just that they were available). Obviously, no youth programs on this ship and if anyone was under 45 it would be a surprise though I think there were a (very) few younger people traveling with an older adult relative for a few weeks, but none on the longer cruise programs. Movies in the theater were surprisingly current - we even had a non-3D version of Avatar and there was a very topical selection of older and classic movies on the closed circuit TV that ran continuously - multiple channel choices but none of them live. Daily news abstracts was delivered every day for separate British, Australian and American editions. Just a few headline stories and a lot of sports and some financial news. Just as much as we wanted while we were away from it all. They additionally ran these same stories on a close circuit TV channel. We did not use the internet center but it was in a separate room with several computers and there were wireless hot spots around the ship as well for laptops. I understand the connection was slow which is the complaint I have always heard about ship board internet use. We did not find a lot of internet cafes in port but did finally check in during our 3 day stop over in Mauritius, about more than half way through our trip at a good high speed cafe located at the port. LAYOUT OF THE SHIP: MV Discovery is a smaller, older ship serving approximately 650 passengers. There are no balcony rooms and a limited variety of room size choices. We were on Deck Three - the lowest category rooms with a port hole. The standard rooms on all decks are very small in comparison to mainline cruise ships today, but occasionally due to the configuration of the ship some of the rooms on Deck 3 can be much longer and provide very adequate space extra cabin space. Check the ship deck plan to view this possibility. We felt our choice was excellent, but we also added an extra clothes rack and drying rack and used the tiered coffee table as an additional clothes storage space. Bathroom very small and badly appointed, but with a great shower and endless hot water. Rooms are inside, port-hole or window. Deck 3 and 4 port holes have to be covered up creating a de facto "inside" cabin during rough seas and when traversing the East Indian Ocean pirate zones. Always dreaded hearing the squeak of the closing of these windows next door and loved coming back to finding them re-opened. Took us a while but we learned all activities take place primarily on Deck Six, Lido dining on Deck Nine and the red stair railing were the front of the ship and the gold ones were towards the back of the ship. We needed to orient around the red railings to get to our cabin and all the other activities we liked to attend (Lido dining and Carousel Lounge shows and lectures. Our favorite outdoor decks were the forward Deck 8 sun decks which you had to enter from the red stair cases in the front of the ship. There were no wrap around decks so you had to learn which stair case to use to get to the partial decks you like to visit. Deck 8 also provided the best viewing spots for all the docking and undocking and pilot boat activities because you could look directly down the sides of the ship to the water. The main promenade deck on Deck 7 was set back from the ships side (don't ask me how) so you did not get this direct view down to the water and the dock or the pilot's activities. There were "flying bridges" sticking out from Deck 8 where the captain would be present at dockings and undockings so you could hear and see the real operations of the ship during this time. The main forward viewing deck was on Deck 9 but you could not access it from Deck nine -- you had to go down to deck 8 forward and then take the forward outside staircase up to this forward viewing deck on Deck 9, which overlooked all the captain's docking activities. There was always a friendly gathering here and some fun chat back and forth with the captain at times. This is a ship where the passengers are very engaged in all these docking activities and quite a crowd always gathered to witness the arrival and departure of the pilot. Ship gangway exits typically took place on Deck 4, forward. (Red staircase). Once we figured out the red and gold staircases, it was a lot easier to know which way we needed to go on the ship. Signage on each floor was not as good as it should be or easy to find. Sometimes you had to know the name of the deck (Coral, Riviera, etc) or sometimes the number (3-10). And how the ship was chopped up, sometimes you could not get from forward to aft on the wrong staircase. An annoyance at first, but because it is a small ship with limited activity venues it is fairly easy to learn where and how to get where you want. Though even after 42 days we still kept taking the wrong turn out of the elevators. Which is a good thing - keeps an air of mystery to this small but complex space. The Discovery shows its age, but does not lack in tender loving care. Primarily in the build up of paint jobs and that crusty invasive rust that will in time have the final say. But she was brightly painted and and crews were keeping deck boards in good repair and always clean and orderly. There had been recent decor refurbishments in the public rooms and very successful with a very pleasing sense of traditional elegance, the main dining room particularly. The cabins got brightened up and I think the higher decks had more bathroom refurbishments than our lower Deck 3 - but it all worked. No complaints and we learned how to work around it. Our best extra purchase in Singapore was a folding clothes drying rack the sent up like a two-tiered umbrella of plastic rods and clothes pin racks. It was perfect and we wished we could have packed it up and taken it home and we would have had we not already packed to our luggage limit getting there and had to discard a lot to make room for our souvenir purchases. I donated it to the staff who were very eager to get these things so I hope it finds a happy home for a long time on this ship. We never used the ship laundry and did everything for 42 days in the sink. Because our cabin was so long, there was plenty of room to stick this in a nice corner and out of the way. Not sure how much space would be available in other cabins, but its real virtue was the extension rods folded up so it stored like a pole on its tripod legs. (Like an old home movie screen) We found it in the equivalent of a "dollar store" in the working class neighborhood department store in Singapore. We also added a lot of cheap plastic drawer organizers and baskets for storage and easy retrieval. And a great hanging shoe rack that hung in the closet facing out on velcro loop. That did make it home as it was lightweight and collapsible and unlike anything I have seen in the states. 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
This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, ... Read More
This was a fantastic cruise as we saw so many cultures in a short span of time and learned so much. We essentially cruised for 3 two week segments, back to back. Our fellow cruisers were mainly from the English speaking world-Aussies, Kiwis, from the U.K. and Americans. On the second segment from Sydney to Singapore the Australians were in the majority and many of the entertainers and lecturers were also Australian which made for lots of camaraderie and fun for all the Americans too who were the next largest group. We spent our days on board eating and talking with all the interesting people we met, going to lectures and coffee talks, using the gym, playing bridge, enjoying the cooking presentations and movies, the bars, walking on the promenade deck, and the evening varied entertainment from shows to singers, musicians, magicians, and comedians. Even our religious needs were attended to as every Friday evening we were able to attend services with wine and challah provided and a Rabbi was employed onboard to lead the Passover services.Every staff member was top notch.Our shore excursions varied from those we arranged privately for a small group through cruise critic, to those arranged by the ship. We also took advantage of the free shuttle buses provided by most of the cities and towns from the dock to the center of town or major place of interest. Our only complaint was that the captain frequently shortened the time the ship was in port-making many of the shore excursions rushed. There was so much to see and so little time in port to see it all. Our favorite port was Bali where we employed a private guide with his air-conditioned car for the day. He had worked as a waiter on Holland America so his English was very good. He only charged $60 for the car. As there were 4 of us it came to $15 a person, plus lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking a verdant valley. We treated him also. We saw the bat temple, the purification temple (with naked bathers) the volcano and overlook, the wood carvers and Ubud and Mas etc. What a day. If you would like his email and name please email me. I am ellen@nycap.rr.com. We also used private tours in New Zealand and Australia with fabulous days in these First world countries. Everywhere there was wonderful food, wonderful wine, gorgeous harbors, gardens blooming with flowers, and hillsides dotted with sheep. People are friendly and helpful English speakers. Trams and buses are plentiful for getting around. Unfortunately they drive on the wrong side of the road for American drivers, a learning problem if one wants to rent a car.With the unrest in much of Southeast Asia we felt that ship tours were necessary there for safety. As a whole the ship tours employed comfortable buses and knowledgeable English speaking guides who taught us much about the culture we were seeing. In many of these hot countries, the airconditioning on the buses was a welcome relief. Also the lunches and food to taste on these tours were superb. In Bangkok we lunched at the Mandarin Oriental-probably the best hotel in the city. Also don't miss Nooch Nooch Cultural Village. The elephant show is unbelievable. They have elephants playing soccer, basketball, baseball etc. and walking over people lying on the ground. Wow!!!! Puerto Princesca has Hunda Bay with the most beautiful empty islands with huge starfish and gorgeous big fish that come to be fed if you give them bread. We did the ship's Island Hopping tour. It was a trip to Paradise on little wooden boats skimming over the azure seas. The water was so warm it felt like a bathtub. We did keep our shirts and hats on in the water so as not to get sunburned.Did I mention the Antarctic Center in Christchurch NZ-with simulated frigid conditions? How about the inclined train ride down the side of the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney or the skyride across the rainforest in Cairns to the Aboriginal park with the Creation presentation. We had so many adventures-The Trip of a Lifetime. Yours, Ellen Eisenberg ellen@nycap.rr.com Read Less
Sail Date March 2009

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