2 Bangkok (Laem Chabang) World Cruise Reviews

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
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was ... Read More
This was our third Princess cruise, having previously visited the Baltic and Mediterranean. We looked upon it as a chance to see many Asian ports briefly and then decide to perhaps revisit one or more for a longer stay eventually. This was a very good Asian sampler, especially with the addition of a Tokyo stopover on the way home. We arrived in Bangkok two days early and would really recommend another day as so many flights arrive near midnight after 20+ hours of flying. Nevertheless, we arranged a private tour through Oriental Express (highly recommended) to begin at 10 am. They picked us up at our hotel (there were 4 of us) and took us to see the Grand Palace, Jade Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, canals cruise (skip this, especially on a hot day!) and the Temple of Dawn, which is visited by boat and includes views of the other temples from the river. It's all very fascinating and beautiful. We also arranged for a "romantic" dinner cruise on the Loy Nava but I would not recommend it. It's an historic rice barge and very pretty but also not air-conditioned and the food was pretty mediocre. While in Bangkok for 2 nights we stayed at the Park Plaza, which was very nice, had free internet, a great breakfast buffet, and all at a very reasonable price. However, it was too far outside the city center. I would recommend staying some place near the river. Also, be advised that taxi drivers throughout Asia do NOT speak English! So have your hotel name printed up in the appropriate language (by the hotel) before arriving. Princess did not sell a port transfer if you were not part of their tour or were not arriving at the airport the day of the cruise, so we arranged transport through our hotel. It took about 1 1/2 hours but was on a Saturday -so allow plenty of time. As usual, we breezed through Princess check-in at approximately 1 pm. We were already pretty familiar with the Diamond after having sailed on the Ruby last year. The only major changes we noted were far fewer machines in the workout area. And, of course, price increases! Photography is so expensive ($25 for basically an enlarged snapshot) that we don't even get our picture taken if we can help it. I can't comment on the entertainment as those types of shows don't really interest me. I did hear that the acrobats were very good but we were not back at the ship in time to see them as it was a late afternoon show. The things we really enjoy onboard are the lectures before each port, high tea, reading on our balcony, and dining with our friends each evening. SINGAPORE is a great port to start with as it is very pretty, easy to navigate, and so clean with lots of green space. Since we were docked at a container port, we took the free shuttle into the city and then took a cab out to the National Orchid Garden. Taxis are VERY cheap. The Garden was interesting but not what I had envisioned. Of course it was very hot and humid so that may have made a difference. From there we headed to the Raffles Hotel for a famous Singapore Sling. The hotel was amazing and the drink was yucky and VERY expensive (I think $28 US). We split one and that was more than enough. But it's the idea - and the Long Bar was beautiful. The guys in our group had requested a ride on the Singapore Flyer, which may be the world's tallest ferris wheel. While not that excited at first, everyone loved the fantastic views from 40 stories up and I highly recommend it. This is one amazing city architecturally. HO CHI MINH CITY (Saigon) was just unbelievable! A crazy mishmash of motor scooters piled high with all kinds of unimaginable things, crazy "spaghetti" wiring everywhere, beautiful buildings next to hovels, women cooking on every sidewalk, and just so many people. It's something that you have to see once. Unfortunately the bus from the port is a 2+ hour ride so bring a book or a friend because you can only look at the scenery (amazing as it is) for so long. As someone who was around during the Vietnam War, it was incredible to see the Rex Hotel and the Reunification Palace - places that we heard about so much. We had an excellent lunch in the dining room of the Rex. Be sure to ask for the Vietnamese menu so you don't have to eat the Vietnamese version of a hamburger! I guarantee that you will be exhausted by the time you return to the ship, so build in time for a nap before dinner. NHA TRANG was really a relief after Ho Chi Minh City. It's a very pretty seaside resort area and most people enjoyed just walking around. My husband and a friend had a great day taking the cable car over to the Vinpearl Water Park. The lecturer did not discuss this as an option but they said it was easy to accomplish. You can clearly see it from the starboard side of the ship. HONG KONG was the reason my husband agreed to this trip and he loved every bit of it - as did we all. The only unfortunate part was the air quality which was partially pollution and partially the result of a terrible dust storm in China. It's still an amazingly beautiful place: 2 islands surrounded by water and with an endless shoreline of gorgeous buildings - all backed by mountains! We took an all day Princess tour which included a harbor cruise, visit to the famous Stanley Market where you can get incredible deals on silk, a trip on the funicular to the top of Victoria Peak for fantastic views - well they would have been if the air had been better. Still very pretty. Lunch was a 10 course affair on the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a tourist trap for sure but the food was fine and it was quite a sight to see. We tended to drink beer at lunch as it gets tiring always drinking bottled water. Beer was very good in all the ports, especially 333 in Vietnam. That evening we ate an early dinner so that we would be ready for the famous harbor light show. The ship leaves the container port and sails right through Victoria Harbor during the light show. A lot of people head to the top of the ship but you could see everything very well if you had a starboard room. The lighting on the buildings is really incredible and it's a sight not to be missed. After the light show, the ship anchored in the harbor and from then on you had to take a 45 minute tender into Hong Kong Island. I think the speed limit in the harbor accounts for the time. The first tender left at about 9:30 pm and we were on it - along with all the young staff going out to party! My husband wanted to see the lights on Nathan Street on Kowloon Island so we set off to find a taxi that would take us through the tunnel to Kowloon. It was not easy (language was always a problem with taxis) but we got there and enjoyed seeing the crazy night life. The lights were fine but nothing spectacular despite what the lecturer said. The next morning we went back to Hong Kong Island just to walk around and check out all the alley markets. Start in the Queen's Road area and you will see hundreds of these tiny markets branching off down "alleyways". They are so marvelous just to look at - especially the foodstuffs. We ate at a local restaurant (we were the only foreigners) recommended by Frommers and it was wonderful - if somewhat hard to find. It's called Luk Yu Tea House. They are well known for their dim sum. I recommend eating upstairs in the more casual - and authentic - part. TAIPEI was really not a port I was looking forward to but it was very enjoyable. Once you take a 30 minute bus to get into town, it's very easy to do on your own. The bus drops you in front of the 101 Tower, the 2nd highest building in the world (depending on who you believe). Anyhow, it's a very interesting and attractive looking building (it's been described as a bunch of bamboo poles tied with ribbon every once in a while). We did not go up because of the air quality problem. We bought an all-day pass on the MRT and set off to see the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial which reminded me of Lincoln's Memorial. We were in time to see the changing of the guard which was cool, with lots of foot stomping and gun twirling. Then we headed to the Grand Hotel which is shaped like a giant pagoda. Had a wonderful lunch there in the Dragon room (not the tourist place). On the way back, we had time (barely) to stop quickly at another temple (I forget the name) before returning to the ship. A fun day but no burning desire to return. OKINAWA was our least favorite port by far. Both tours that our members took were poor. And it was not a place you could visit on your own because it was a short stop and too far away. My husband did the Pacific War tour and had expected to visit actual sites from the Battle of Okinawa. However that was not the case. He felt it was like they wanted to forget it ever happened and they stressed that they were not Japanese at the time of the war. My tour was of Shurijo Castle, which was impressive enough. But none of it is original - not even the furnishings. It was all completely rebuilt after the war. After that we were dropped off in some horrible (and vastly over-priced) shopping district for nearly 2 hours. SHANGHAI was another very new looking Asian city with a very attractive skyline. I have to say that I have never seen such beautiful new buildings in my life as I saw on this trip. No plain glass towers anywhere. We decided to take a Princess tour here since we were once again docked at a container port far from the city center. Our first stop was the Jim Mao Tower which is one of the taller buildings around at 88 stories. The observatory provided breath-taking views of the very pretty city. Our next stop was the YuYuan Garden which is very famous but unlike any garden I have been to before. Not a flower in sight! And precious few trees! It's all about the rocks - and the water to some extent. Lots of pagoda type buildings but VERY crowded with very pushy Chinese. There was a lot of interesting looking street food and we did try a deep fried crab, shell and all. Surprisingly good. After the garden it was on to the silk factory and then several hours on your own to shop or eat lunch. A so-so tour of a so-so city. BEIJING was our final destination on this 16-day odyssey. We were off the boat by 7:30 am on our Princess transfer into "center city" Beijing. Except it wasn't anywhere near the city center. We were dropped at a Holiday Inn where there were no waiting taxis and virtually everyone on the 3 buses needed taxis. We ended having to take a non-metered taxi at an exorbitant rate and were happy to get that. My advice would be to have your hotel or a touring company reserve transportation from the port. We stayed at a Park Plaza once again, not far from Tiananmen Square. That first day we visited the Forbidden City, the square, and the Temple of Heaven. It was a LOT of walking so take the subway when you can. My overall impression of Beijing was one of gloom and not just because the weather was bad. It seemed so dirty and the people not at all friendly like in the other Asian ports we visited. Plus the ever present police and cameras on the light posts were disconcerting. A very paranoid government. Nevertheless we enjoyed the monuments immensely. The next day we arranged for a private tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. We took the cable car up and started climbing! It was surprisingly steep in some parts and often slippery because of a light drizzle. We even had some bits of snow in parts. It was thrilling to finally set foot on the Great Wall and to imagine what it must have been like to build centuries ago. We only climbed to 3 towers as it was too foggy to get much of a view. But it was still an incredible experience. This is supposedly the less touristy part of the wall (less than Badaling) but there were still plenty of hawkers selling "I Climbed the Great Wall" tee shirts! Our guide took us to a small local Chinese restaurant about half way back to Beijing and ordered for us since he was the only one who spoke English. We loved everything about it as that is the kind of experience we are always hoping for. The 6 of us traveling together met up for a fantastic farewell dinner the last night in Beijing. I know this sounds hokey but it was at the highly recommended "Made in China" restaurant in the Grand Hyatt Hotel near The Forbidden City. You have to reserve their famous Peking duck entree ahead of time but it is an amazing experience - and taste! We let our waitress order everything else for us and we were not disappointed. A wonderful way to end a wonderful trip! Read Less
Sail Date March 2010

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