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95 Holland America Hong Kong Cruise Reviews

This cruise was part of a lot her cruise. We got on in Hong Kong, sailing to Kobe. The ship was docked at a freight port. We had a expensive taxi ride and the taxi was not sure where to drop us off. Very nerve wreaking. We later ... Read More
This cruise was part of a lot her cruise. We got on in Hong Kong, sailing to Kobe. The ship was docked at a freight port. We had a expensive taxi ride and the taxi was not sure where to drop us off. Very nerve wreaking. We later heard there was a shuttle bus. The room was ready and the luggage appeared Rey quickly. The closet space was outstanding. We had a nice sail out of Hong Kong. Apparently the front deck was opened but no announcement. We did anytime dining. Never much of a wait. I found the food to be fine but not outstanding. Every night they have a different "crisp", those were great. We did the three bottle of wine deal, seemed like a good approach for the two of us. I would suggest adding a tossed salad and a pasta to the "everyday" menu. The first formal night,the sea was very rough. They even had sickness bags outside the elevators. I must admitt, it got to me. I am not a delicate traveler, it was bad. Perhaps formal night could have been delayed. The on-board activities were fine but a bit repetitive. We happen to like trivia and name. That tune, so we were fine. I found the entertainment to be lacking. We did a number of excursions. All were done professionally. There were free buses into town often, but they stopped running quite early compared to the all abroad time. I am usually a Princess cruise person, I found the entertainment to be quite limited on HAL and the food not as good. The public rooms are about equal. My last cruise, princess had a port advisor that talked about things to do if you did not take the excursion. I found that very interesting. He gave more cultural information about the ports, like bargain, don't bargain, bow or shake hands, Etc. My nephew had not been to Asia and he had an amazing time. I enjoyed the cruise overall. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation ... Read More
This was a great introduction to Asia if you've never been that part of the world before. After spending 3 days in Hong Kong staying at the Salisbury Hotel (excellent, inexpensive and within walking distance to the port)embarkation for us was easy since we arrived early. Fortunately for us, we didn't encounter the chaos that others had. When embarking, make sure you choose group visa if you are not overnighting in any of the ports. There was a woman going around asking if you needed any help deciphering the visa paperwork...You will save money choosing the group visa option! SHIP: Nice vessel -- smaller than some others I have sailed on and food was good -- not great. It was better on some days than others but I got the feeling that was b/c there were some new employees on the ship getting accustomed to their work flow. Our inside cabin was the largest inside cabin we've ever stayed in and we were happy with it and our friendly stewards who were always available when we needed them. Entertainment was a little weak -- and has been better on other ships -- but with all of the touring we did - we were tired by the time shows were on! Gym was good with a decent amount of equipment -- if you are up to getting in a workout! I found the front desk to always be helpful when I needed them and they offered my husband free motion sickness pills as well when he didn't feel well! Their tour mgr Ian was also readily available to answer any questions you may have had on what to do in port on a particular day. Employees in general were very kind and helpful. Plenty to do on the ship during sea days -- depends on your interests. I do think their daily newsletter -- THE EXPLORER -- could be better written or laid out better since some people complained that they had nothing to do on the sea days but I think they just didn't see their options in the newsletter! Plus some people just like to complain! Port Maps -- they were ok and could have been more explicit with better info -- but it didn't really affect me since I booked several independent excursions and I didn't have to rely on the map as I have in the past. Ship was sold out for this sailing and not very many children on board (10 or 11 total). I'd say average age on the ship was 55-65 years old. PORTS: Halong Bay -- nice port -- easy to book a junk on your own. I did a Hanoi tour with SMILE Tours and enjoyed it. Its 3 hrs to Hanoi but they do break the trip down by stopping at different attractions before getting to and returning from Hanoi. After we returned from Hanoi -- we had some time to browse around the market at the port before getting back on the ship. If you choose to do the Hanoi tour -- be prepared for a long but enjoyable day! Da Nang -- we did this port on our own and its very easy to do. You can either book a tour at the port or take the $12 shuttle to town and book a tour there. Make sure to negotiate a good fare! I personally recommend visiting Hoian -- you can spend a day there and if you have time check out the Marble Mtns -- I didn't care much for Da Nang itself. Nha Trang -- went on Dung Pham's tour - great tour -- you see everything the countryside has to offer from conical hat making to the beach! Ho Chi Minh (SAIGON) -- booked SMILE Tours and it was a delight -- we saw everything the ship's tour saw at half the price! We got back to the ship with time to spare! Other passengers on the ship did their (SMILE'S) combination Cuchi and Saigon tour and really enjoyed it as well! It took 2 hrs to get there. Sihanoukville -- we did the Don Bosco tour and we were treated like VIPS! It was great to see how these students are being trained for the hospitality business. We enjoyed this port while others who toured on their own did not enjoy the port as much since Sihanoukville is still working on their tourism and it may not be up to the standards of some... Laem Chabang -- I booked a rt transfer thru Oriental Escape and was able to tour Bangkok on my own at my own pace. I recommend that highly! Since we overnighted at this port I was able to spend the entire day in Bangkok - it took us 2 hrs to get there and 1.5 to return! So we arrived at 11am and returned around midnight to the ship. There is a lot to see in Bangkok and you cannot see everything in one day so pick and choose what you really want to see. We spent the 2nd day in Pattaya (oriental transfer van for the day)and visited Nong Nooch which was a treat, The Sanctuary of Truth (spectacular if you are into architecture/engineering)and Pattaya town -- kind of seedy and not everyone's cup of tea! Koh Samui -- beautiful port that we toured. You can't go wrong with whatever you choose to do here! Singapore -- disembarkation -- a little long but not bad and easy to get around from the cruise terminal. An easy place to tour on your own! If you are willing and able -- this cruise is worthwhile but you may need a vacation from your vacation when you return from all of the travel required to get from the port to your place of interest. You can save some money if you pair up with other cruisers thru the cruise critic message board like we did!! All in all -- highly recommended!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
We have never been to the Far East before and so were very excited about this HAL cruise. We made excellent use to the CC forum and booked all our trips as part of our 51 strong CC group. We found the forum invaluable and made many friends ... Read More
We have never been to the Far East before and so were very excited about this HAL cruise. We made excellent use to the CC forum and booked all our trips as part of our 51 strong CC group. We found the forum invaluable and made many friends on our numerous trips. We flew out to Hong Kong and spent an extra day exploring this fascinating city. Embarkation was very chaotic and as previous reviews have stated the visa process paper the most complicated l have ever seen! You do only need group visas if you are not staying over night anywhere. This will save you loads. Ship is very comfortable and cabin spacious. I especially liked the amount of room in the bathroom. We were worried about being so far aft and wondered if we would hear engine noise. I'm pleased to report that except for 1 night when it was rough and the Captain had his foot down we heard nothing. It was also very handy for stairs to the LP deck at the back. Crew without exception were wonderful and seemed to have time to interact with passengers. The best crew on any ship we have sailed on. Food was very good, ample, hot and tasty. We did not however feel the Pinnacle Grill was worth the extra 50 USD. The steaks were massive and just too much for us. Maybe we just choose wrong on the night. Entertainment was very poor and the worst we've had on any major cruise line. This was the one thing HAL should work on otherwise everything else was excellent.Itinerary was great - full of fascinating ports: Halong Bay - easy to arrange on the day. 4 hours is enough and the caves are really worth seeing. It was a wonderful hot sunny day here which l am told is very rare. We went with 20 other CCs and booked a whole junk with transport to and from the pier for 20 USD each with a guide Saigon - arranged in advance with CCs. Wonderful day out especially enjoyed the water puppets and the sight of all the bikes I think this was 65 USD each Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
Holland America -- Volendam -- 14days Hong Kong to Singapore This is our own views on cruising with Holland America. Being experienced cruisers we take every cruise as our first and try not to compare, as so many try to compare ... Read More
Holland America -- Volendam -- 14days Hong Kong to Singapore This is our own views on cruising with Holland America. Being experienced cruisers we take every cruise as our first and try not to compare, as so many try to compare companies and end up spoiling their trip. We like to cruise on itinerary. Just recently undergone a refurbishment although did look like it had been done quickly and maybe needed a little better finishing touches. Embarkation -- A little chaotic, boarding in Hong Kong is done in the end of a shopping centre, you drop your bags on pier then a longish walk to check-in. It took around 2 hrs. from dropping bags to being on board, at least chairs were supplied so the waiting in lines was limited. The compulsive safety drill was professionally done, being repeated a number of times for passengers went ashore to enjoy Hong Kong due to a late departure. Food overall was very good, the buffet variety was good although at times was not very hot, if brought to the chefs attention they were happy to make sure you were given it hot. We opted for 'any time dining' we never booked or waited to be seated. We were willing to share tables. Menus were always varied and food was well cooked and presented, waiters made sure any changes were done. Although waiting staff seemed to be thin on the ground which at times caused some delays but being on holiday there was no need rush. Entertainment was quite poor, 3 visiting comedians was a bit over the top. The ships own show team seemed not to do a lot, the quality of the singing & dancing was quite amateurish. Cabin was very well kept and maintained to a very good standard, cabin steward worked very hard and seemed to have a lot more cabins too service which may show the reduction in staff. Towels were of a good quality. Bath robes supplied for use. Dis-embarkation was simple from the ship. Long queues for immigration, there are no porters to assist with luggage, one problem was the very long queues for taxis which required a walk through a small shopping area. Taxis were plentiful though one you get to the rank. If you are going to a hotel it is worth have the name & address of the hotel for the taxi driver as many hotel chains may have more than one hotel. If you are an independent and require transfer to the airport take a taxi. On the dis-embarkation information stated $39 each, but on the reverse stated taxis cost around $25 for the cab. If this is you first visit to the area it is worth investing in a guide book to cover the ports of call Currency -- Most ports of call will accept US$, try getting small notes, it worth getting a small amount of local currency in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand & Singapore. Visa's these are issued on board, Holland America adds a large handling fee. These are still cheaper than organising your own. These are charged even if you do not go ashore. Holland America do charge an exorbitant handling charge, for Cambodia we were charged $45 and actual visa cost $20 (making around additional $37,000) Gratuities $11.50 per day per person, you can remove or adjust this amount. Ports Of Call Hong Kong -- If you need to arrange your individual transfer's just head follow the signs for taxis, all are metered & most take credit cards (cost about £20gbp) Hong Kong is very easy city to get round yourselves using the underground/metro. Get yourself a metro map, this way it will show what exit you want from each station saving a great deal of walking. Try to avoid Hong Kong taxis for short journeys as you may be stuck in traffic for long periods. Halong Bay -- Tender Port - Junk trips are easily available on the pier exactly the same as ships tours at a fraction of the cost (around 15-20 US$) plus admission to caves. We actually visited some place the ships tour did not. At the fish farm you could purchase live sea food and the lady of the junk would cook it for you at no cost. A trip to Hanoi is not recommended as it involves a 3-4hr trip each way. Da Nang -- A trip to Hoi An is a must, easy to negotiate an on portside taxi / minibus who will take you to Hoi An with a visit en-route to the Marble Mountain. Marble Mountain is marble statues are produced and shipped all over the world some weighing many tons. You can take the lift up to the top, not actually a mountain, but if you visit on a cruise tour you are expected to walk up or stay on the coach. Hoi An is a trip back in time, one of our favourite places of all. You need to purchase a tourist ticket at one of the booths, this allow you to visit 5 places on the map ranging from temple to restored houses. By doing your own tour will give you a lot longer to visit at your own pace. Nha Trang - the shuttle bus will drop you in the town, not a lot to see in town. Taxis available outside the port gates, bargain hard. Usual tourist sites to see in the town but there are some nice places to visit within a short drive. Phu My - for Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City the port is around 2hrs into the city. There are plenty of Mini buses available portside a seat will cost about 30-35US$, don't be tempted to go outside the port gates these will rip you off and waste your valuable time. Holland America transfer $59 each. The government buildings / museums close for lunch 12.30-14.00. Getting around Saigon is easy, taxis are metered and cheap. Sihanoukville, Cambodia -- shuttle into town supplied free of charge which drops you off near to the central market, a trip back in time sells everything from usual tourist items to live fish. You will be soon surrounded by tut tut drivers, all seem to speak very good English. Slightly different to the usual tut tut, actually motorcycles with a trailer, so make sure you are happy with its condition. Not a lot to see as this is quite a new port of call for cruise ships. Laem Chabang , If you want to organise your own transfer its easy to do, do a Google search for Bangkok airport transfers. A good quality car for 2 cost us 1800baht each way (Bangkok Airport Transfers) Taxi / Minibus available in terminal for Pattaya (30mins) Bangkok (again 2hrs) prices are a bit higher than booking online prior, but allows you get together with others to keep the prices low. Getting around in Bangkok is easy using skytrain or tut tut. Koh Samui -- Tender Port -- Pier is awash with taxis, Koh Samui is a large tourist area and this was evident in the prices, be tough on haggling. The island is not that large and a road runs right round the edge. Singapore - cruise port is easy walking to metro so getting around is very easy. Read Less
Sail Date January 2013
The review by "dockman" is spot on. It's remarkable how sometimes one might think that one is the only person feeling in a certain way when in fact many would be feeling likewise. Like "dockman" I consider it a ... Read More
The review by "dockman" is spot on. It's remarkable how sometimes one might think that one is the only person feeling in a certain way when in fact many would be feeling likewise. Like "dockman" I consider it a pity that much of this review is negative; but I make no apology for this as Holland America has been in this business for over 150 years and should know better than to try to hoodwink its passengers especially those like me who have sailed with them and others scores times. As to the taxi mafia in the ports on this itinerary, Holland America has been to these ports over and over just in the last few months alone so they would be aware of what's going on. They know what's going to happen to us hapless independent cruisers and should use their muscle to protect its customers; rather it fed us to the wolves. It was especially galling when I discovered that in Laem Chebang, Thailand, as the independent cruisers were being ripped off $US50 for a one way trip to Pattaya, (5 or 6 times the taxi meter price) the crew had a special deal and 5 of them could travel by taxi for US20. This is profiteering from secret deals derived from the rip off of the independent cruisers. This is criminal and hurtful. I propose to report this to Better Business Bureau in the USA. I realize that these shady business practices are taking place in foreign ports, but US companies have a responsibility to behave responsibly wherever they operate if they are to uphold their reputations as good corporate citizens. The itinerary This itinerary left a lot to be desired. Spending 8 hours in a bus to achieve 2 hours in Saigon was a joke I refused to be part of. Likewise Bangkok which was described as a 90 minute trip from Laem Chabang "if there is NO traffic". When is there "NO" traffic going into Bangkok. And why did we need TWO visas to get into Vietnam? This was because the ship went from Halong Bay to (Sanya)China and back to Vietnam so two separate entrries. Why couldn't the ship go Hong Kong, Sanya and then Vietnam? The ship The ship itself was fine and the food acceptable. I did point to the head chef wwhile he was running a cookery class that the beautiful aromas he was concocting were decidedly absent from the meals in the dining room, which were on the bland side. Evidently they cook for the digestive systems of eldrly Americans. This needs to change so that people who like spicy foods can get them. Some decks do not have fridges in the staterooms; but you can hire one. I have never heard of anything more ridiculous in my life. Which hotel even in darkest Africa does NOT provide a fridge? Which cruise line? Yet they provide soda cans for purchase in these cabins; do they expect us to drink them warm? I objected and got a fridge. I think that Holland America should state this on their ticket (which it does NOT) as I consider it outside the expectation of any passenger taking a cruise on a recently refurbished Volendam to find that there is no fridge in their stateroom. This is unacceptable and dishonest advertising. The quality and price of the wines are an ongoing sore point with all cruise lines. The $40+ wines are rubbish and you wouldn't drink them if you paid the $5 per bottle they are worth. After trying a few ordinary wine bottles at rip-off prices we gave up and bought good French wine ashore and drank that. From time to time we took a glass with us to the dining room and no one seemed to mind. Holland America Generally I tried to report this by phoning Holland America in Seattle. The Guest Relations person who answered shouldn't be anywhere neqar anything called "Guest Relations". He excuse was that this is an exotic itinerary and HA goes there a "couple of times a year". I couldn't get through to her that the Volendam has probably done this itinerary backwards and forwards half a dozen times this season alone. Holland America has a lot going for it. The crew and staff are usually exceptionally good with people. However I have yet to get off a cruise without thinking, why do they go through so much trouble and then shoot themselves in the foot every time"... Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
It costs around $1000 a night for a deluxe verandah suite on most Holland America ships and, sometimes, an extra .50c for ear plugs to get a decent rest. Due to an original design fault, up to 144 of the most expensive suites on eight ... Read More
It costs around $1000 a night for a deluxe verandah suite on most Holland America ships and, sometimes, an extra .50c for ear plugs to get a decent rest. Due to an original design fault, up to 144 of the most expensive suites on eight HAL ships -- Volendam, Maasdam, Ryandan, Statendam, Veendam, Rotterdam, Zaandam and Amsterdam -- are located directly under the often-noisy pool deck. The sound of deck chairs and tables scraping, running, footsteps and even table tennis can be heard in many staterooms directly below. Guests who complain loudly enough and cannot be switched to quieter suites nearer the bow and aft are offered substantial monetary compensation and other sweeteners. Holland America (HAL) while painfully aware of the problem despite years of investigation and attempts at insulation, adopts a policy of denial in its day-to-day operations. Certainly that was the case on the ms Volendam on which my wife and I recently cruised from Hong Kong to Singapore for 16 nights in suite 7011. From day one we could hear heavy footsteps and scraping noises from overhead which woke us up during afternoon naps and in the early hours of the morning. Initially, complaints were met with feigned wide-eyed surprise. But the cat was out of the bag when a crew member in the Neptune Lounge (for suite guests only) opened a desk drawer and came up with a handful of ear plugs. As the cruise progressed and our stress levels increased, senior officers somewhat reluctantly began to take notice. An angry guest relations person twice burst into our cabin claiming that no one else had complained, and was appalled that I had dared to poll other suite passengers, several of whom, I discovered, were having similar problems, but were reluctant to complain. This guest relations person eventually was persuaded to walk up and down on the pool deck while another crew member stood in our suite below, listening. After switching places, they both agreed, grudgingly, that our complaint was justified. Most damning was a conversation I had with Volendam's Future Cruise Consultant, a no-nonsense veteran of more than 100 cruises. Yes, he said he knew all about the suite deck possible noise problems on the eight "S" and "R" class ships in the 15 vessels of the Holland America fleet. They had all been built with expensive suites right under the pool deck. Later ships were designed with a buffer of cheaper cabins above the suites. No, he said, he didn't specifically warn potential customers, but if they asked which were the best cabins, then he steered them to quieter ones. "But you have to remember", he said, "strange noises are the physical reality of ships". Official written responses included one from Christine Ferris, Special Advisor in the Office of the President (HAL in Seattle, not the White House): "Your concerns are not particularly common on our vessels; however we empathise and understand the resulting discomfort". Julie G. Pineda, Guest Relations Manager on board Volendam suggested that HAL didn't make the noise deliberately just to annoy passengers. She wrote: "It is certainly not our intention for our guests to experience unforseen technical difficulties". By the end of the cruise we had received an offer to move to a lower deck (rejected) a free bottle of wine, $700 in compensation (accepted) -- and tacit confirmation that, yes, HAL does indeed have an elephant in the room. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
I have been on over sixty cruises to include many Holland America Cruises. I will attempt to review this cruise and provide what I hope will be some information to assist other cruisers and perhaps even get Holland to rethink some of ... Read More
I have been on over sixty cruises to include many Holland America Cruises. I will attempt to review this cruise and provide what I hope will be some information to assist other cruisers and perhaps even get Holland to rethink some of their planning for future cruises. The ship: Volendam is a very nice ship that carries 1400 passengers. Our cruise was not full and I would estimate maybe 1200 or so. The ship was recently refurbished with all new softgoods..carpets/upholstery/drapes, beds etc. It is in very good condition and is plenty big without being some 4000 passenger monster. The self service laundry is nice for long trips....wash $2....dry $1 ...us quarters avail at front desk and free soap in machines...good machines. Avoid lines by doing laundry late night or on port days. Typical Holland library with a good selection of books. Internet is available at usual cruise super inflated prices of 75 cents a minute though they do have "plans" that come out cheaper if you buy a block of time. The wifi signal seems to cover the entire ship so if you absolutely MUST surf the web and don't mind the prices you can do it from your stateroom. As usual the Holland Indonesian/Filipino staff is always smiling and provides some of the best most gracious service of any cruise line. And the Dutch officers are their usual efficient selves. The Passengers; One of the YOUNGEST Holland cruises I have experienced. About 80 teens on board with many families with children but were all amazingly well behaved . Much more international than most Holland cruises with perhaps only half of the passengers Americans. Many aussies, kiwis, brits. Euros and even a group of about 40 Russians along with a good size group of Asians from Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. The Food: Typical Holland cruise with good food at the Lido , the two level dining room, the pinnacle (25$) the Italian restaurant which is part of lido (10$). Room service simple quick and good as well. This cruise had only one or two outdoor pool side buffets which seemed strange as the weather was perfect and most Holland cruises have more. You can choose fixed dining times in the top level of the dining room or dine as you wish in the bottom. I never had to wait more than a minute or two for a table as long as you are willing to share. The menu selections were fine but frankly seemed not as varied as other Holland cruises Service was very good all except one night when it was slow.. Nice burgers/tacos/etc available out by the pool. The entertainment: Some of the worst I have seen on a Holland cruise. Most consisted of a single guitar player or sax player or singer which was more suited/expected as a lounge act and certainly not a HEADLINER. Not sure if Holland is trying to skimp but it really was pitiful. The entertainers were reasonably talented but again they seemed more suited to the lounges. Only at Laem Chabang Thailand did they bring on local entertainers who were all adults and seemed to be a hit with the passengers. UNFORTUNATELY in my estimation Holland SHOULD bring on local school kids in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand who would be thrilled to come aboard and sing/dance etc...the kids are dirt poor and it would have been VERY easy for Holland to arrange that via their local port operator and NO DOUBT the passengers would have LOVED it and likely would have been happy to throw a few dollars into a collection to help out some very poor kids. PLEASE Holland consider doing this in the future. The kids might not be as "professional" but that is what makes them so special to see their eyes light up and their pride in performing their local cultures songs/dances...give them a ship tour and let them eat in the buffet line and it would make a big impression on them and the guests. No lectures/professors at all which again seems to be a new skimping by Holland. With all the history of the ports we visited it would have been nice to have a few lectures by a knowledgeable expert .....cost is minimal to Holland and again would have been welcome by the passengers. Best "lecture" was done by the hotel manager who did a one hour presentation with pictures showing how the volendam was refurbished in 14 days which is truly a herculean task...excellent presentation. Other: Seems to me the Holland newsletter has gone downhill...a new format is in place but gives very very little info on the entertainers/staff etc. Typical is the person's name and he is a "guitarist" etc. Surely this can be done better. Port info: As is usual the port info handouts are simply AWFUL. Not so much as the approximate exchange rate is given much less any info as to where to find wifi etc which MANY guests want to know. Very little or NO information as to local transport options. Again it seems to be all about pushing people to buy the Holland tours and be led around like children on some overpriced long bus tour. If you prefer to explore on your own you are truly on your own and should do your own research in advance. Sorry if this review highlights too many negatives as it truly is a wonderful cruise and as an experienced cruiser I am able to navigate around the problems with little or no hassles...but many of the passengers are novice cruisers and the items I mention cause problems and complaints. It certainly does SEEM to me that Holland since being taken over by carnival is more about squeezing every penny more than ever before although in fairness Holland is WAY WAY better at not nickel and diming you to death than royal Caribbean/princess/carnival etc. The Itinerary/Ports: Hong Kong: Flew into Hong Kong two days early. Very easy bus transfer for $5 usd or so that took me right to the Park hotel in Kowloon. Excellent hotel with very very good location. Paid about $165 a night. Only disappointment was they wanted another 20 usd for wifi usage. In fact all over Hong Kong wifi is amazingly NOT EASY to find for free as it is the vast majority of modern cities. Even though McDonalds etc claims free wifi you must have some local Hong Kong system to use it. Did finally find a simple little coffee shop near the hotel that had it. (take back exit turn right and about 50 meters up on left is a coffee shop). Hong Kong has a great subway system and easy to get around. For a treat go to the soho area on Hong Kong island which is built on the side of a cliff and is all bars and restaurants and the main area for expats. Star ferry of course also close by and easy to get to hong kong island. Taxi to the ship was easy and inexpensive. LONG lines to board the ship at 1 pm. For some unknown reason Holland had decided to hand out a one page info sheet regarding the visas you would need for china/Vietnam/Cambodia and Thailand. In all my cruises I have never seen such a poorly written single piece of paper that managed to totally confuse most every single passenger. You had to check if you wanted an "individual or group" visa with no explanation. The group visas were about $20 each cheaper than the individual. In addition they first said you needed a visa for sanya though that was clearly incorrect for most nationalities. Bottom line was I checked group visas and saved about $60 or more usd while those who checked the more OBVIOUS individual visa paid extra and in the end it MADE NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL as I was certainly not a "group" but had no problem. NEVER any explanation or refund to those who checked and paid more for group. Why Holland could not provide the visa info in the online tour docs is a mystery but they sure managed to confuse the hell out of most all passengers and slow down the embarkation as people naturally were confused. All total I ended up paying about $125 for the necessary visas while others paid close to $200. Sailing away from Hong Kong is very beautiful with lots and lots of nice lights. Sanya China: Holland provided a free shuttle into town but did not provide any info as to where the shuttle would go or what might be within walking distance so unfortunately most passengers did not have a clue which way to walk etc. A beautiful beach was only about 7 min walk from the drop point but it seems only a few people actually figured it out which was sad as it was a nice area ...most only found a boring shopping center. The Sanya port has a brand new set of high rise buildings and at night they all light up with a very nice light show. Halong Bay: A major disappointment in scheduling as the ENTIRE reason to go there is to cruise through the limestone formations and enjoy the scenery. For some very strange reason we set anchor at 5 am in pitch dark and then left at 7 pm again in pitch dark so the only part of halong bay visible was near the port. Holland was anxious to sell everyone a shore excursion with a boat ride through the bay which was fine but it would have been NICE if we could have actually also sailed in/out of the bay in DAYLIGHT. Da Nang: The port is about 15 mins from the main part of town. Holland provided a shuttle bus for $12 usd roundtrip that drops near the big markets. Again no real info as to what might be near the drop point but most were able to figure it out. Da nang is a pleasant enough city and the markets are interesting. Tons of motorbikes everywhere and traffic appears to be totally chaos . Lots of little tea/coffee shops to sit and watch the chaos . Free wifi available in lobby of most hotels. Nah Trang: Again Holland offered a shuttle for $12 roundtrip and even though they said it was a 30 minute ride I timed it at 11 minutes. Again no info on what was near shuttle drop but most were able to figure out the beach front promenade and the neighborhoods a block or two back from the beach. A very fast growing beach resort Nah Trang is a pleasant port. Saigon(Ho Chi Min City) The port for Saigon is absolutely nothing but industrial with zero within sight or walking distance. Holland was in full gear pushing overpriced tours to Saigon which is almost 3 HOURS one way. The port is run by a Vietnamese taxi mafia who quoted obscene prices for Saigon and even for the one semi nearby town of Vung Tao (11 kms $100 usd one way). All in all a HORRIBLE port and if you did not buy a Holland tour good luck. I heard more complaints on this port than any other. Shianokville Cambodia: A very interesting port call. Free shuttle by Holland to a chaotic market about 20 mins drive away. From there it was easy to hire a four person tuk tuk for about $5 usd to take you to the beautiful beach areas. Serendipity beach is a long white sand beach lined with chairs/umbrellas and nice clean looking water. It was New Years Eve and the locals were out in force with picnics etc getting ready for a major night time party. Lots and lots of open air bars/restaurants along the beach with bargain prices on drinks and food etc. For some very strange reason we sailed at 7 pm JUST as fireworks were starting up so naturally we missed the entire new year's celebration...Our next port of laem chabang was only 100 miles away (less than five hours sailing time) but rather than stay in port or even cruise off the coast to allow us to watch fireworks at shianokville the ship went out into the darkness where we sailed around in CIRCLES for the next 36 HOURS killing time . Why? Who knows as no explanation. SURELY it would have been cheaper, better to sit at anchor or at dock than to just ride around in circles?? Laem Chabang: The port for Bangkok and pattaya sits 1 ½ hours from Bangkok and about 30 minutes from the beach resort of pattaya. Once again it is an industrial port only and it is over a two mile walk out to the gates / highway...so yet again you are held captive by Holland pushing ridiculously overpriced shore excursions and an even worse taxi mafia than Saigon. Even though all Bangkok and pattaya taxis have meters and USE them naturally at this port they refuse to use the meters and had posted fares of $50 usd one way to pattaya (normally about $12 usd with taxi meter) and over $130 usd one way to Bangkok which is normally about $30. Holland's shuttle to bkk is $60 per person roundtrip....by way of comparison a very nice bus leaves Bangkok/Pattaya every 30 minutes and goes right by laem chabang all the way to pattaya/bkk for $4 usd. How sad that many people simply stayed on the ship in laem chabang rather than hassle with the transport problems. Both Bangkok and pattaya are great places to visit but between the laem chabang taxi mafia and the Holland gouge prices it is just one big hassle. Frankly Holland should either provide reasonably priced shuttle buses or skip both saigon and laem chabang for other ports that are not hours from cities and/or out in middle of nowhere and ruled by local taxi mafias. Ko Samui: Tender to the port of Na Thong (pronounced NATHAN by the Holland travel "expert" who seemed to think we had landed at Nathan road in Hong Kong or perhaps England and who knew less than nothing about Thailand. Easy tender in and tons of metered taxis and even cheaper songtaeows (pick up trucks with seats in the back that serve as local buses) ready to take you anywhere no problems. The port town itself is full of shops and restaurants etc with free wifi etc and is a very pleasant place to roam. Singapore: As expected very neat and tidy city with draconian laws against most anything like litter, chewing gum, jaywalking etc. Fantastic subway system makes getting around very easy. Bit of a hassle as every time you walk on or off ship you MUST go through passport control for some reason. Singapore is an EXPENSIVE city. Paid $12.50 usd for ONE BEER in a nothing special bar/restaurant. Six pack of Beer in a 7/11 is $30 usd. There is a duty free shop as you exit the ship where you can buy beer/wine/booze at much much lower prices. Singapore is not a good place to go pub crawling. We disembarked in Singapore at the same time as a royal Caribbean ship so there were long lines to clear immigration and then a MASSIVE long line to get a taxi to the airport with a wait of an hour or more. Best advice is either get off very early or just WAIT until about 11 am to get off when the line has gone down or just sit in one of the coffee shops and relax rather than stand in line. Taxi fare to airport is only about $15 usd and takes 30 minutes. Holland sells a one way bus ride to the airport at $39 usd. Singapore airport one of the best in the world. Free wifi throughout and plenty of shops/restaurants/comfortable sitting areas etc everywhere. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home ... Read More
I am in my 60's and my wife 50's and travelled with our son 12. We are seasoned cruisers and have been on Carnival, Celebrity and this was the 3rd time on HAL. We lived in Hong Kong and it is only 5 minutes walk from my home to the pier. We booked this cruise through an local agent.On the day of embarkation we met the guide at the pier. Before we checked in we had to carry our luggages to the rear of the pier for collection which is quite a walk. Then we went upstair for checkin. The was a long que and the process took about 30 minutes. The room was ready when we were on board. We booked an outside but were upgraded to a veranda. The cabin was spacious ,similar to the Westerdam we were on 2 years ago. The bathroom was big with a full bathtub. After we unpacked we went to Lido for some food.It was difficult to find a table. The ship was chartered by the Japanese and 90% of the passengers were Japanese. Even the announcements were in English and Japanese. It was a direct cruise from Hong Kong to Kobe without visiting any port. Food in Lido was good. Lots of variations, international and Japanese. However food in MDR was mediocre, cannot compare with Celebrity. But our waiter from Indonisia was excellent. One setback about HAL is their entertainment. We did go the shows every night but found that they are very amateur. I almost fell asleep. The second day we were hit by a big storm with 60mph wind and 8meter wave. About half of the passengers were sick. It lasted for over 10 hours. Surprisingly there was no announcement from the captain. It was pretty bad as we couldn't even walk without holding the wall. I used the gym every day. It is quite spacious with adequate equipments and not crowded. There were 2 ping pong tables and my son spent a lot of time playing with other kids. Zaandam is an old ship but it was kept very well and very clean.We could hardly notice any wear and tear. I was told it will be refitted this Octobein in Vancouver. Disembarkation was a breeze but getting through Japanese immigration was a nightmare.They have only one line for foreigners and it was extremely long. We stayed in Kobe and Osaka for 2 more nights, did sightseeing and flew back to Hong Kong. All in all we enjoyed Zaandam. We loved the library, the pool and the basketball court. All the staffs were so friendly and always with a smile. We definitely will go back if the itinerary is attractive. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We joined Zaandam in Hong Kong. Departure was delayed by 2 hours because a few Russians on board could not understand English & therefore did not go to immigration clearance. After 2 hours of broadcasts looking for those guest the ... Read More
We joined Zaandam in Hong Kong. Departure was delayed by 2 hours because a few Russians on board could not understand English & therefore did not go to immigration clearance. After 2 hours of broadcasts looking for those guest the officials decided to translate the message in Russian & only then we finally set sail. They knew which room numbers were missing, surely they could have made the broadcasts in Russian earlier. In our stateroom on arrival was a notice warning of a vomiting bug on the ship. The sewerage smell mainly on deck 3 was disgusting. This went on for about 7 days. Complaining from numerous passengers got us no where. My husband ended up with a sinus infection & consulted the Doctor onboard, $95.00 USD later & then another $70.00 USD for 14 antibiotic tables ie $5.00 USD per tablet. Absolute daylight robbery. He ordered room service for dinner one night he was particularly sick & it took over 1 hour to arrive cold. No refrigerators in rooms either. Rubber matting to avoid slipping around the pool was way to short. Numerous falls. One lady even broke her ankle. On the whole the food was very plain & mostly cold as was the coffee. Coffee was really only available at the Lido which is 5 levels up or you could purchase it on one of the lower decks. Air-conditioning was either freezing or hot. Stage shows obviously designed for people over 70. Guest artist were good though. Wait staff & room attendants were great. But we will never sail with Holland America Again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Our trip began in Hong Kong after a long flight from Kansas City. We added the extra night at Holland America's hotel of choice which was a great hotel but we were there for a very short time due to travel time that it hardly seemed ... Read More
Our trip began in Hong Kong after a long flight from Kansas City. We added the extra night at Holland America's hotel of choice which was a great hotel but we were there for a very short time due to travel time that it hardly seemed worthwhile. We were at the hotel by midnight and left to go to the ship at noon the next day. Comment about the Zaandam: We think that Holland America and the ship personnel would agree that the ship needs some work to restore and update the ship. A lot of rust, faded carpet in common areas, plumbing issues, safe malfunction, dated decorations, etc. We think that it is scheduled for dry dock in several months... good deal! We loved the size and format of the ship due to it being easy to get around with only 1500 passengers it was not crowded in any of the common areas. The deluxe veranda suite had a awesome veranda. The concierge at the Neptune Lounge could not keep my traveling partner and spouse separate from us so he was constantly referring to me as him and mixing our arrangements. It got more than a little annoying after a awhile. Room Service didn't seem to talk to the concierge very well so our orders for appetizers were mixed up several times. Comments about the Holland America 14 day Asia Explorer itinerary: We enjoyed the itinerary going to Halong Bay in Vietnam, then Sanya, Hanien island China, Nha Trang, Vietnam, My Phu, Vietnam, Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Laem Chabang,(Bangkok), Thailand, Koh Samoi, Thailand, Singapore, Singapore. All of the ports were very interesting with much to see and do. A bit crowded from a Midwesterner's viewpoint but very negotiable. We went on Holland America tours in all of the ports except Saigon, Bangkok, and Singapore. The boat ride and cave in Halong Bay was exceptional. The key sights in Sanya tour was drawm out too long... the tour could have ended after 4 hours instead of the scheduled 7 hours. Nha Trang city tour was great a nice mix of temples, beach, and city tour. Not much to see in Sihanoukville, Cambodia if you are not interested in coconuts, suggest making this a beach day. The elephant village was touristy but very much fun and we wouldn't miss the elephant ride... also a very nice lunch. In the other ports of Saigon, Bangkok, and Singapore we utilized a private guide with a van and driver. This went very well and allowed us to see the sights that we wanted to see at our own pace. The driver usually was able to pick us up at the sight with very little waiting and queuing so familiar to a bus tour. The guide were knowledgeable and spoke good English. The vans were great except for the one in Singapore which was totally unacceptable, due to size and lack of visibility. These tours were arranged by ReadyClickandGo.com. This is a Great Britain company which contracts the guides and vehicle with local companies. This worked OK but I would recommend also talking to the local company representatives to manage the details. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Talking to fellow cruisers as we were transferred from the airport in Hong Kong we felt that the ship was going to be sparkly and exciting, a big step up from our previous cruises (that were both excellent) with Thompsons. Embarkation was ... Read More
Talking to fellow cruisers as we were transferred from the airport in Hong Kong we felt that the ship was going to be sparkly and exciting, a big step up from our previous cruises (that were both excellent) with Thompsons. Embarkation was fast and efficient, but the initial impression of the ship was poor. We were due to sail at 11pm on the following evening, nothing happened till about 12:30 am as some Russians had not cleared customs. Then an extra port charge was added to everyone's onboard account!!! Was this because we had overstayed our time in Hong Kong because of the Russians? I wonder!! Other people have mentioned the cold - we were too hot, obviously the heating had been turned up too far by the time the ship was back in Hong Kong. Others have also mentioned the drabness and overall run down appearance of the ship, I totally agree. They have also mentioned the unexciting menus. I will add that I had always thought you were able to eat whenever you wanted 24 hours a day on a cruise. Not so on this ship. Unless you wanted burgers, cake or ice cream you had no chance as the main dining room closed at 9:30 in the evening for anytime diners, and the Lido closed its hot buffet section at 8pm. Also if you came back onto the ship mid afternoon expecting to get a late lunch the same limited choice was all that was available. The menu changed little from day to day and meat was often well undercooked even if requested as well done.We felt that entertainment could and should have been of a far higher standard. Guest entertainers were excellent, but only performed for about 3/4 of an hour at most so really should have been part of the night's show not the only act. The ship's own singer/dance troupe were very poor, often seeming to mime and when they appeared to be really singing were very out of tune. There was no glamour or glitz to these shows. The best shows were by the Vietnamese artists and the Indonesian staff. Entertainment during the day, even on days at sea was too specialised and had to be hunted down. The band playing on the Lido deck were good, but it was far too hot and humid to sit in there for long. We enjoyed the destinations though many excursions were badly organized as far as getting off the ship to the coach was concerned. The staff at the Front Office did not seem to care or want to help anyone in any way, and there was often a queue of people complaining about something. On the final day our transfer from the port in Singapore to the hotel room we had at the airport was unbelievably bad. We had pink 1 labels, our cases went in the truck labeled pink 1. We were going to The Crown Plaza Hotel at TERMINAL 3. We found the coach with the label for this hotel, sat on it for over half an hour as those in charge rushed around aimlessly. We were then told it was not our coach. The coach we were on was in fact blue 2 (no label to tell us that) so we had to get off and eventually found the right coach(that had no label at al) We were then dropped at Terminal 1 and had to pick up our own cases and get ourselves to the hotel in Terminal 3!!! Such wonderful service and organization has made us decide never to even think about Holland America Cruise Line ever again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We have taken several cruises, all in different parts of the world, as we like to cruise to enjoy different cultures. We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the cruise and stayed in the very convenient Marco Polo Hotel right at the ... Read More
We have taken several cruises, all in different parts of the world, as we like to cruise to enjoy different cultures. We arrived in Hong Kong a few days before the cruise and stayed in the very convenient Marco Polo Hotel right at the cruise terminal. On the morning of embarkation, we arrived at the terminal at 10.30am to find they were already opening up. We were among the first passengers to embark and were on the ship before 11am, in our cabin by 11.30 and shortly afterwards in the dining room enjoying the Marine's Welcome back lunch. The ship sailed 30 minutes late at 11.30pm the following evening due to some Russsian guests not understanding the immigration announcements, but it was a spectacular sail out of the Harbour and the mist that had been around for the last few days cleared so that we could see the lights. The demographics of the passengers on this cruise was different to previous HAL cruises. On the whole, the age group was a lot younger than normal....We in our 60's felt we were some of the older passengers. There were also a lot less US passengers. I believe the makeup of the passengers was approx 500 from UK, 250 Australians, 200 Canadians, and 150 from US, a Russian group and the rest was made up of various nationalities. We chose a verandah stateroom this cruise on the Starboard side...so that land would be on our side most of the time. Our cabin was under the overhang of the Lido, which turned out well as the weather was very hot, so it provided some shade. However, we are not people to sit for long...there is always something interesting to see or do! We have previously cruised on several other HAL ships, and really enjoyed the Zaandam. It was immaculately clean...the crew work 24hours day to keep it that way. We loved the decor of the ship, felt it was very tasteful...the music theme continuing throughout the ship with many valuable relics. We felt that the food on this ship was up with the best we have had on a Holland America Line ship...it was always fresh and served hot in the Main Dining room where we had fixed late dining at a table for two, which we requested when booking. We always feel that if you are hungry on a cruise it is your own fault as there is always somewhere to eat, and plenty of variety!! The crew as always were amazing! Always smiling and helpful. Special mention this cruise to the Front Office staff who were incredibly busy, as there were always long lines of people waiting to change money for the many countries this cruise visited. There always seemed to be a few people there to complain too! I am really not sure what about because we certainly did not find anything to complain about. Our only slightly negative observation was that we didn't feel that the Travel guide on this cruise was as knowledgeable about the ports as she could have been. We did not attend many shows as we have late dinner and after a big day in port 10pm was just too late for us! However the group that was brought on in Saigon for the Vietnamese show were fantastic. We did attend Trivia most days, and did very well with our International team! We did enjoy the ports. However as we have travelled in Asia on land quite extensively before, we did not do any excursions other than the ship's transfers into Bangkok and Saigon. We enjoyed our time wandering, particularly in the local markets. One port that we especially enjoyed was Sanya in China. The shuttle dropped us at an exclusive shopping centre that we had no interest in. However on the way we had seen what looked like a fair or market with several large marquees and many red balloons. It was about 2 km back so we decided to walk back to it as we love seeing local events. It turned out to be some sort of Chinese expo and was great fun see all the demonstrations of products! We even bought a few!! Sihanoukville in Cambodia was another new place for us and after walking around the market, we negotiated with one of the very persistent Tuk tuk drivers who gave us a wonderful tour for over an hour into the countryside and to many of the main sites of the town. The other ports we visited were Halong Bay and Saigon in Vietnam, Bangkok and Koh Sanui in Thailand before arriving in Singapore. Disembarkation went as efficiently as the rest of the cruise, and we stayed in Singapore for a few days afterwards. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
Stayed at Langham Place in Hong Kong prior to cruise for two days, really nice hotel great service and handy to shops etc. First sight of Zaandam and we thought what have we done as its more than showing its age, first part of check in ... Read More
Stayed at Langham Place in Hong Kong prior to cruise for two days, really nice hotel great service and handy to shops etc. First sight of Zaandam and we thought what have we done as its more than showing its age, first part of check in was a breeze but then deteriorated into a free for all to get on board when boarding was announced.No organization just people every where. Once on ship we went to stateroom, four star ship had cracked sink in bathroom, torn valance that stayed on bed the whole cruise even after being pointed out to members of staff, the whole stateroom was tatty, and to top it all off the air conditioner didn't work either really hot, or really cold. Food is subjective and we choose to eat in Lido and the food was always either lukewarm or cold, even after pointing this out to chef no improvement, plus quality has dropped dramatically since we last sailed with Holland. Ports of call Shanghai we missed altogether because of fog,Beijing we did a two day private tour which was great, but there was a debacle over passports with the ship letting people off knowing they needed there passports for hotels,but no information given out. Korea was fine, but once again confusion as they said shuttles would be available when we got ashore none. Overall we paid a premium price for a four star cruise that should be rated two at most,will be complaining to Holland America. Oh nearly forgot they don't change smoke detectors batteries till they go off, so we had screeching noise one night rang reception no answer, so went to front desk who sent some one up to remove battery, this was going on all over the ship. We will never sail with them again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Ship - Internally and externally TIRED. Food - repetitive after first 14 days. Second 14 days food portions in Rotterdam greatly reduced and service also went downhill. Cabin - tired and desperate for re-fit. Bedding needs replacing ... Read More
Ship - Internally and externally TIRED. Food - repetitive after first 14 days. Second 14 days food portions in Rotterdam greatly reduced and service also went downhill. Cabin - tired and desperate for re-fit. Bedding needs replacing asap. Many had air con/heating problems. Main complaints: Ship Freezing for the first 14 days - 13 degrees C. in restaurant - had to wear jackets whenever we went about ship. Management seemed totally incapable in dealing with immigration issues at certain ports, it appeared as though this was a first time experience for them. We never got to Shanghai - sat at sea for a day and a half in 'fog' then told we were going to Shanghai but when we got up next morning realised we were going north!! Beijing - were sent ashore with only passport copies - HAL refused to give us our passports despite being told we were staying in Beijing. Ended up being refused to check in at hotel as we did not have our passports. Tried to resolve this by various telephone calls but ship staff totally unhelpful. Ended up waiting in freezing cold -5 degrees C for first train and taxi back to ship where we received half hearted apology. Never went back as it took us 24 hours to get over the trauma. Guest relations manager would not meet to discuss problems. This totally ruined our holiday as we only booked the first 14 day cruise so that we could visit Beijing and Shanghai. Ship Captain - he made very few announcements - only ship's position and weather every day - never saw him around ship. Cabin and restaurants staff - excellent, shame management did not take some training from them!!! Shore excursions - far too expensive. Entertainment - Third rate - apart from occasional visiting artist. Had much better on other cruise lines. Overall Opinion. Our holiday was totally ruined by the Beijing passport debacle. Not at all impressed by HAL. We were told before we booked that they were the best (5*) I would suggest 2* was a better description. Never again will we go HAL. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We have enjoyed cruising with Cunard and Princess and we were looking forward to the Zaandam for the China/Korea cruise out of Hong Kong. The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. Forget the high quality bedding it is just hype. We ... Read More
We have enjoyed cruising with Cunard and Princess and we were looking forward to the Zaandam for the China/Korea cruise out of Hong Kong. The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. Forget the high quality bedding it is just hype. We borrowed blankets from the pool deck. The cabin is very dated and the toilet was smelling. This ship is well past its prime according to other Holland America cruisers. Having stated that the ships crew were friendly and the food was fine. Comparable to Princess and Cunard. The Pinnacle restaurant is extra cost but worth it once per cruise. In addition the various workshops for sea days were well presented. The Culinary Arts was well received and the Digital Photography workshops were well presented. Others enjoyed other programs The Library is very dated and the magazines offered are rejects from your local dentists office. The shows were very mixed is both quality and in style. Some of the small music groups in the bars were excellent. One of the disappointing features was the person who presented the shore orientation programs. It went like this " My old Computer is acting up, Here are some vague facts" "There is nothing at this port at Jeju "South Korea" In fact most staff and cruisers found it quite delightful and it was easy to walk in into town. There were both weather and immigration issues on this cruise and the captain gave consistently poor information. We were granted "mariners status" although we have not cruised with this line before. The reason I mention it is that we were invited to the Captains lunch. This was a major PR disaster. A few words then run away!!! He had been getting criticism for his poor communication before. If Holland America is asking people to attend this thing then surely the captain and first officer should circulate and talk to the guests. Finally, I will be looking at other cruise lines and please don't use this ship for Alaska you will freeze! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
My wife and I both active seniors were extremely disappointed with the ship and many aspects of the cruise. In our opinion Holland America is no longer a "Premium" line and should cease advertising itself as one! The cruise was ... Read More
My wife and I both active seniors were extremely disappointed with the ship and many aspects of the cruise. In our opinion Holland America is no longer a "Premium" line and should cease advertising itself as one! The cruise was my seventh on HAL and will likely be my last on this line! The ship is in very poor condition, generally dirty, carpets threadbare and badly stained in places. Our stateroom suffered at various time during the voyage from, no heat, no water, no hot water, no toilet, unserviceable DVD player and at times a very bad sewage smell. Bed linen was was worn and at times stained. The whole ship badly needs a refit which apparently is scheduled for October of this year. Our cabin stewards were excellent and made every effort to please and to ensure our comfort. The Indonesian crew members continue to be HAL's best asset. The deck chairs and chez lounges were very dirty and during the whole time aboard the Zaandam I did not anyone cleaning them. The chairs were carefully stacked and secured each night but never cleaned!The food on the ship was at best mediocre. It appears that the food budget continues to be reduced for we sailed last year on the Rotterdam with the same Executive Chef and enjoyed excellent food. Food in the Dining Room was often received cold and the service sometimes good and sometimes poor. I understand that the staff levels had been reduced which might explain the sometimes poor service. The menu was repeated on the second segment of the voyage and became repetitive. The choice of fruit and vegetables was limited, green beans were served night after night! Food handling in the Lido Restaurant should be improved. I saw a number of times under cooked and bloody beef being cut on the same board as chicken and pork and with the same knife. Entertainment was generally of a poor standard in our opinion. I was disappointed to find that there were no educational lectures provided on this cruise, no doubt another cost cutting measure. Too bad really, for we were sailing in an area rich in history and culture. The offered enrichment of "How to decorate your HAL tote bag" and similar was hardly a substitute. The Shore Excursion Department left a lot to be desired. There seemed to be a total lack of organisation and information on the ports visited was lacking in useful detail. The tours we took we found to be overly expensive for what was offered. There was one exception however,the Orchid Sheraton Hotel in Bangkokprovided the best meal of whole cruise! The very limited 'Happy Hour", in one bar, for one hour, at between 4.00 pm and 5.00 pm now charges one dollar for the second drink, nothing appears to be sacred at HAL! Towards to end of the cruise the Captain wrote a letter to each passenger advising that an extra charge of $11.31 would be added to the bill to offset "revisions in government fees and taxes". Front Office staff appeared either unable or unwilling to explain which government increased their charges or how the charge was calculated. Overall, an interesting itinerary but a disappointing cruise experience. I think the Zaandam should be avoided, at least until the refit is completed. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Far East Discovery - HK to Singapore Firstly let me say that this was not our first cruise, having cruised regularly with many cruise companies since the early 1990s.This was our first with HAL and was used due to the area visited. I ... Read More
Far East Discovery - HK to Singapore Firstly let me say that this was not our first cruise, having cruised regularly with many cruise companies since the early 1990s.This was our first with HAL and was used due to the area visited. I have read reviews of the ship/cruise and would agree completely that it is not a 5 star ship following our experience.However - Embarkation Having stayed in HK prior to the cruise we arrived early at the cruise terminal(noon approx). It was organised and our luggage was collected ,receipt given. Later delivered to the cabin in reasonable time. We had "checked in" on line and the process was organised and was not too long. Prior to leaving the UK we had checked that Visa's could be obtained and this was dealt with at check in. We arrived at the cabin and was quite satisfied - an Ocean View. Plenty of space including a spacial Bathroom(A good sized Bath). Bath Robes provided. Restaurants Any Time Dining - Accommodated us as when we arrived.Food pleasant but not the best. One occasion when the main coarse was refused alternative offered. Always had to "push" for coffee and once never delivered. Staff pleasant but overall service very slow.Be careful where you sit, if under the AIR CON it really blows cold. LIDO(Cafeteria)Nothing outstanding and not spoilt for choice. Not the best dining experiences. Specialised Restaurants not used. Room Service included. Excursions Due to Ports of Call Ships Excursions used. Fairly well organised and better organised than some other ships we have been on. Expensive but that seems to be the norm nowadays. Daily Entertainment A choice to keep you busy if you wish but nothing to really grab your interest DVD players in cabins with an extensive FREE DVD library. Book Library is small, so get there early but should be adequate for the ship size. Cinema on board. Port Lecturer Very informative with humour, kept our interest Evening Entertainment Theatre Not bad but not the best seen. Not many ships company shows with guests artistes taking most evenings. Take a "woolly". The Theatre is cold, again the Air Con blowing down. Best views upstairs and as the cruise progressed it would seem many agreed as seats became hard to find. Early Diners making the most. Disembarkation Organised to get us off the ship early in Singapore, however that left us to queue(one only)which was slow. Overall Impression Not a 5 star ship which could improve its dining. It has not put us off going on it again - depends on the itineraries/price. It served us well for an area not previously visited. Niggles but no serious complaints Singapore a place to visit not transit Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in ... Read More
The main reason for this cruise was the fact Chinese New year was celebrated while we were docked in Hong Kong and to celebrate our anniversary with the renewal of vows package. Embarkation was a dream - arrived 11am - checked in immediately - on board - early lunch - room ready around 1pm. We were sent the wrong way around the deck as the entry to the ship was the same as our cabin, and when a steward let us through a doorway back to where we started, the security staff almost screamed at us that we shouldnt do that and "how did we get there !!" When I pointed to the steward, the guard lowered the volume of his voice to the steward and promptly ignored us - charming chap Information for our ROV was not in the cabin as specified and the knock on the cabin door was a steward standing there with the flowers for the ROV. With no info on when it was supposed to be and the fact the flowers for the ceremony had arrived, I hot-footed it to the front desk to enquire when the ROV will be taking place. I was told by the front desk that the flowers were for the room but when I pointed out there was a card with the flowers saying ROV gift he changed his mind and said they were sent in error and an invitation to the ROV will be sent to the cabin when they knew when it was scheduled to take place. Later that evening a letter arrived with the date set for later in the week and to expect an invitation on the day. DW on the day went to the obligatory hairdresser and we both started to preen ourselves for the event and realised there was still no invitation. Hot - footing it down to the front desk with letter, I asked if it was still going ahead and he confirmed that it was and the dept that dealt with the invitation had forgotten to send it out. We arrived in The Crows Nest and were joined by quite a few others with invitations in hand, captain present and chapagne flowing. After about half an hour we realised there was not alot happening regarding the ROV and spoke to another guest if she was waiting to have her vows renewed and replied that she was with a party of 26 there for the captains Dutch cocktail party. I collared a hotel manager, showed him the letter and he started to apologise and said the ROV had been moved to the following week. Uh..Oh, DW rather angry and disappointed at this point, promptly stormed down to front desk and told them how she felt. We had arranged the Pinnacle that evening anyway and thanks to Andrew the manager, he forwarded our distress to people and he certainly gave us a meal to remember. Two days later the front desk manager called and admitted it was all a mistake on their part and would like to make ammends and rebook. The moment had been spoilt but we were offered the ROV, dinners, wine, hairdresser free of charges and in the circumstances couldnt really do anymore so we accepted and she would rebook the Pinnacle for us. A couple of days later we returned there for another meal and thanked Andrew for what he had done but then said "its not over yet" - the restaurant was fully booked and he couldnt fit us in but managed to book Canaletto for us and would send some wine up to compensate. The day finally arrived, hairdresser - preen etc., invitation arrived - off we went. greeted with chapagne and wait..... another hiccup !! The printer for the photographs was broken !! We had a very nice photo album with the ROV certificates and words in there and a CD ROM. The ceremony no doubt was a very nice one and brought DW to tears so no complaints and when finished we went to Canaletto for our meal but guess what? No wine - that had been forgotten too. When we finished the was over half a bottle left so we had it sent to the MDR for the next day, and they even forgot that too. It finally arrived half way through the main course. As mentioned the main reason for our cruise was the CNY celebrations. We left the day free on the day itself as we were not sure of the crowds etc for the night parade that evening so kept things flexible. An announcement over the tannoy at 9.20 that morning saying that the muster drill was at 5pm and that HK immigration needed face to face passport checks meaning we could not leave the ship after the drill. We were disappointed that we would miss the night parade as this was one of the reasons we came. To our disgust it seemed that the excursions arranged by HAL were allowed to come back late and all those who left before the announcement came back after the parade finished too. Thanks HAL. We thought there was something peculiar happening as on embarkation they didnt take our passport as they usually do. The whole pre-cruise experience with HAL was mismanaged especially when in came to Visas - Sanya for instance. The night before Saigon after dinner about 10pm, there were 8, yes eight immigration forms to fill in with the message they had to be handed in by 5pm the following day. We were going to Saigon for the day at 7am therefore they had to be filled in that night or at the crack of dawn, yet the example of how to fill them in had a date of 3 days before. Last minute again. The MM grade cabin quite acceptable with the exception of banging in the night sometimes, sound like something was rolling around. Was informed it was the stabalisers flexing... hmmm. Motor noises quite loud about an hour before we docked and for about an hour after we sailed but we were the last but one cabin at the front on deck 2 and didnt disturb our sleep so was bearable THe food was mediocre and at times not cooked or kept correctly. The exaggerated descriptions tended to excite when reading and dissappoint on arrival , having said that Canaletto and the superb Pinnacle grill to a point compensated The wait staff and stewards we thought were very good indeed, its just a shame that on the questionaire at the end of the cruise, it seems to be geared to critisising them for the trivial of things yet the front desk and management who seem to be at the heart of any problems, dont get a mention. We cancelled our onboard tips in favour of giving to our steward/waiters directly once it was announced that only 70% of what we give, goes to the people it said, and that 30% goes to behind the scenes people. I know tipping is an immotive subject but I will only tip those that have served me in a deserving manner and the "behind the scenes people" who I cannot judge for myself should be paid appropriately by the cruise line. Even at 70% with the cabins our steward has to do, he would make over a $1000 a week. I dont believe HAL or anyone else paying a Phillipino that sort of money, so I pay him myself. Other than any involvement by the front office, the cruise was a nice one. We may go on HAL again but it would only be to the Alaska/Carribean/Americas as they obviously cant cope outside their bubble Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, ... Read More
Our port of embarkation was Hong Kong and the boarding process was good apart from numerous Visa forms we were handed, and which had to be completed (balanced on your knee) prior to boarding. The formal process of checking passports, tickets, credit card details etc etc is always a bit fraught, so when a handful of forms are added to the mix, it's not conducive to you remembering to read all the small print. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that we found out that by signing those documents without question, we were accepting an automatic on board charge for two Vietnamese visa's and a further visa for Cambodia -- regardless of whether we were getting off the ship or not. My annoyance is not in whether the laws of each land visited forced Zaandam to make these charges, it was that the first we knew of it was at embarkation. HAL seriously need to get their act together and provide customers with these details at time of booking. Our cabin was ready as soon as we got on board, and our luggage arrived very soon after. The overall impression of our cabin was one of refined elegance but you couldn't help noticing that the fabrics were in need of upgrading. The balcony was roomier than most I have had in the past with two chairs and a recliner along with a small table. The bed was the comfiest I have experienced on a cruise, and in the bathroom, the shower pressure was just right. I liked the large soap, shampoo and conditioning dispensers on the wall in the bathroom -- saves all that fumbling with small plastic bottles that invariably fall at your feet once opened. One niggle: I have never seen a cabin with so much drawer space -- at least 16 in ours! But not one of them was easy to open -- nail breaking stuff. And once you'd stored items away, it took an age to remember which drawer you'd put them in! That might be age related, but hopefully a re-fit will make the space more user friendly. The only other problem we had was shared by nearly all cabins on the starboard side of Deck 6 and also affected the toilets in public areas. On at least 3 occasions during our cruise, the toilets stopped flushing. Some cabins were even flooded. The problem was addressed and corrected quite quickly each time, but the accompanying smell wasn't nice whilst it lasted. Our first night on board was berthed in Hong Kong harbour. We were lucky enough to be there for Chinese New Year and particularly to enjoy the New Year Parade. On checking our cruise personaliser a couple of months prior to sailing, Zaandam were not offering any tours to the parade, so we (along with quite a large number of fellow Cruise Critic Roll Call members) decided to pre-book with a local HK agent for a tour which included Dinner & reserved seats for the parade which were in close proximity to Ocean Terminal where the ship was berthed and due to sale at 11.00 p.m. the same night. All was fine until we received in our cabin "Special Embarkation Arrangements" informing all passengers that HAL and the Hong Kong authorities required everyone to be on board by 5.00 p.m. on the night of the Parade, so that passports could be checked personally -- deck by deck -- and that once this had been done, nobody would be allowed off the ship. Did I say everyone? Well I should have said everyone EXCEPT all those passengers who had paid for a HAL arranged tour (including a Parade tour which had been organised at the last minute!!). They were allowed to return any time up to 10.00 p.m. !! You can imagine how busy the Front Desk became with irate guests who had similarly made their own plans for their last night in Hong Kong. It was well after midnight and during my fourth trip to the Front Desk that I received a glimmer of hope that our prior made independent arrangements would be honoured and dealt with in the same manner as the HAL trips. All it required was a list of names of the persons on our independent trip and a note of their cabin numbers -- job done. So common sense prevailed at the end of the day, but how many fellow passengers did HAL upset? I definitely got the impression that we were an annoyance to them -- how dare we -- as mere passengers -- interfere with their arrangements. In my opinion, the Zaandam is either being very badly advised, or else HAL as a cruise line feel they no longer need to put their passenger's enjoyment first. Zaandam's staff were great. We couldn't fault their willingness to help and friendliness when called for, but there was just something lacking, compared to staff on other ships we have enjoyed. Maybe HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have less time to pay attention to small detail and interact with passengers. We were "Anytime" dining in the Main Dining Room, but it soon became apparent that the ship isn't built to easily accommodate this system. As on other cruise lines, the system operated when a table is not available when you arrive is to be handed a "buzzer" which shrieks at you when a table of your required size does become free. Unless you are happy to stand around at the entrance to the Dining Room, the closest place to sit and enjoy a pre-dinner drink while you wait is one floor down -- and then it is only a Lounge which requires a further walk towards the Atrium of the ship to obtain drinks. Invariably, by the time we had walked to the Lounge, and then waited for our partners to obtain drinks and return to the Lounge, the "buzzer" would sound! This noise then accompanied you (to the amusement of fellow passengers), whilst you collected your drinks, walked back through the Lounge, up two flights of stairs (or one stop in the lift), and arrived back at the entrance to the Dining Room. Larger and newer ships offering the "anytime" option invariably have bars on the same level and closer to the entrance to the Dining Room -- much better. Our normal practice on any cruise is to pre-purchase & pre-pay for a Wine Package. This we did with HAL -- but beware anyone thinking of doing the same thing. We have no complaints about the choice of wines, nor even the price, but there is a total lack of organisation in being able to obtain a bottle of your pre-paid for wine, and have it delivered to your table anytime sooner than half way through your main meal. Indeed, we were three days into our cruise before we even managed to get a bottle delivered to our table AT ALL ! Yes, we did complain -- in as polite a way as possible so as to not cause embarrassment to fellow diners. We eventually involved the Head Sommelier who personally took our order, and returned just a few minutes later to say that they had run out of our particular choice!!! His replacement recommendation was very good however, so not a real issue. Things were looking up, but because the wine was so late in arriving at our table, we were unable to finish the whole bottle. No problem, we were informed. They just write your cabin number on the bottle and keep it for the next night. Now this system works on every other ship we have been on, but yes you guessed it, it doesn't work to well on Zaandam. It may work on other HAL ships, but this one seems to lack any kind of organisational skills. The staff on the ground are only as good as the organisation behind them, and the food and beverage wait staff are being badly let down. After complaining again to a senior wine waiter on the eighth night of our cruise (and only 3 1/2 bottles into our package!!), we were told that our best course of action in future was to look for him personally each evening and ask him to find our wine. Otherwise, he informed us, you will keep encountering the same problem!! It was nice of him to try and personally avoid any further problems for us, but he shouldn't have to. Instead, we decided to avoid any further angst in the MDR and enjoyed a few evenings in the Buffet Restaurant where we encountered a wonderful wine steward who had no problem finding our wine and delivering it to our table in good time for us to fully enjoy it with our meal -- result! To be fair, the wine steward in the Buffet wasn't exactly overworked, so I put it to you HAL, give your employees sufficient time to do the job correctly and they will. In fact, we found the food served at Dinner in the Buffet Restaurant to be of excellent quality and beautifully presented. Our only complaint in this area was that half of it closed around 7.30 p.m. each evening, and the shutters came down on the remaining half at 8.00 p.m. prompt. I should also mention that we could find no fault with the food served in the MDR. Everything was well cooked and well presented. Having previously cruised on much larger ships than the Zaandam, I was concerned that I would find it too small. This was not the case. I loved the overall feel of the ship which gave an air of refined elegance, with lots of extremely comfortable areas to sit and enjoy a book or just relax looking out to sea. The entertainment wasn't as glitzy as RCI, but it was sufficient for this port intensive cruise. I'm not sure it would be sufficiently stimulating on a longer cruise. We enjoyed the Cinema on a couple of occasions, but beware of the "Popcorn Rush". We were new to HAL, so were not aware of this daily ritual where a tray of popcorn is delivered as the lights go down. Anyone standing in the way would be flattened!!! Our British reserve resulted in no popcorn for us, but we were ready for them on our second visit -- another result !! In summary, we actually enjoyed Zaandam. There are lots of things that could be improved, but we didn't let them spoil our holiday. I'm not sure I would take a lengthy voyage on this ship, and I think HAL is struggling in getting ASIA right. I am more inclined to look at HAL for an Alaska cruise which by all accounts is where they shine best.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Getting there: We left Dallas at 8:30 on Monday, January 22. Thanks to frequent flyer miles we were able to fly executive class, which makes it so much easier on long flights. We flew Dallas to Tokyo, had a layover in Tokyo, and then ... Read More
Getting there: We left Dallas at 8:30 on Monday, January 22. Thanks to frequent flyer miles we were able to fly executive class, which makes it so much easier on long flights. We flew Dallas to Tokyo, had a layover in Tokyo, and then continued to Hong Kong. We arrived in Hong Kong about midnight, caught a quick shuttle bus into town to the Holiday Inn Express Golden Mile, and nearly 24 hours after leaving home, we were in bed again. Embarkation: The next morning we walked around Hong Kong for a few hours, and then at 11:30, made the 15 minute walk to the ship, where we had the fastest embarkation we had ever experienced. As quickly as we could fill out a few forms, we went directly to a check in station, and were on the ship eating lunch in the Lido before noon. Just after noon they announced that the rooms were ready, and we went down, dropped off our carry on, and went off for a day of exploration that included the Chinese New Year's flower garden in Victoria Park, and a display of floats and illuminated laterns in the area near the Star Ferry. Since Chinese New Year is a week long celebration, we saw these decorations at every port we were visited, with the exception of Cambodia. We were back on the ship by 4:00, and went down for our open seating dinner. Only one show that night, at 7:30,a welcome aboard show, so one show and early to bed. We were fortunate to be in Hong Kong for Chinese New Years. We had obtained tickets by booking a tour through Gray Line, so after sleeping in and having breakfast in the MDR the next morning, we met the tour, and spent the day with them, culminating with grandstand viewing seats in the television taping area of the parade. This was HAL's first sailing from Hong Kong, and I don't think they realized that there would be a conflict between the passengers attending the Chinese New Year's parade , the lifeboat drill at 5:00 p.m.and a required face-to-face inspection by Chinese immigration prior to sailing. We sailed at 11:00, but and the all-aboard was at 7:00. Since the parade didn't start until 8:00, people with parade tickets had problems. I to the main desk,and was told not to worry about it, just to be back on board by 10:30 or so to go through immigration. Luckily the grandstand seats were just about 10 minutes from the ship, so we left just as the parade ended and rushed back aboard to meet with immigration. We got there about 10:15, and were no where near being the last on board. After clearing the face to face immigration, we found a note on our bed asking us to show up in the atrium for a mandatory lifeboat briefing the next morning. It was pretty crowded, as a large number of passengers had gone to the parade. Passengers took the briefing seriously, as did the crew, who at one point yelled at passengers who were laughing and talking during the safety drill. The ship: Yes, the ship certainly is ready for dry dock, but it certainly is not falling apart. Some stained carpeting, windows that seemed to be salt etched, rather than dirty, and a few rust stains here and there, did not detract from the fact that this is a beautiful ship. We were disappointed that the room did not contain a refrigerator. The biggest problem we had was with the room was a strange delay in the flushing of the toilet after you pushed the button. The first time it happened I called down and reported it, and then in a few minutes it flushed. The second time I called, I was told it was a ship-wide problem, and would be fixed shortly. This became a daily situation, and we finally stopped calling, because it seemed to fix itself in a few minutes. We also had a fire alarm go off due to a problem in the laundry, and a 24-hour red alert due to a 7 person outbreak of stomach virus. The ship seemed very empty, even though I know that this cruise was sold out. Both my husband and I commented on how empty the lounges and public rooms were. Food and Entertainment: The entertainment was as good as any I have seen on a ship. We especially enjoyed Preston Coe, a tenor from Texas with a beautiful voice. We also enjoyed the comedian, the Viet Namese cultural show, a classically trained hammer zither player and all of the shows done by the ships singers and dancers. There was a magician, but we did not go to that show. The passengers were a mix of north Americans, Brits, Aussies, Asians and Europeans. Americans actually seemed to be in the minority. The food seemed to be designed to meet the needs of the more eclectic passenger list, but over all was as good as you usually get on a cruise ship. I ate a lot of beef, all of which was prepared well. My husband was disappointed that the variety of fresh seafood, was not better, but did enjoy what he had. There were four formal nights, and it seemed to me that people were dressed less formally than usual. It actually seemed that there were more men in tuxes, but the wives were less formal, wearing more after-five outfits and dressy pants suits than long gowns. Excursions: We did a mixture of independent and HAL shore excursions. In every port we found people who spoke English, so going out on our own was never a problem. Our first stop was Ha Long Bay, a tendered port. We took the Red River Delta excursion which took us to Hai Phong, where we visited a pagoda, and a traditional Vietnamese home, and walked around the downtown area before a lunch buffet at a local hotel. At Sanya, we were not sure that we would even get off of the ship, as we were not sure that we could get off without a Chinese visa. The day before we got to Sanya, I went down to the excursion desk and talked to them about getting off. They said that HAL had obtained a group visa, and that everyone would be able to get off of the boat. In addition, HAL provided a free shuttle service to a shopping area in town. We rode the bus to the shopping area, and walked to 2 to 3 miles back to the boat, visiting shops and malls along the way. At Nha Trang we did the Nha Trang Highlights. We visited the Po Nagar Cham Towers, the Long Son Pagoda, an embroidery shop and a beach front cafe. Then on to Phu My, which is the port for Saigon. Those of us on the tour referred to it by the new name of Ho Chi Minh City, until we noticed that the tour guide was calling it Saigon. Someone asked if the name hadn't been changed, and he said that it had, but that the name was just too long and hard to say, so that the locals now call it Saigon again. HAL has an excursion that drives you the 2 hours into Saigon from the port, drops you off at the Rex Hotel downtown, and picks you up about 4 hours later. You are free to explore on your own, and there is plenty to see within walking distance. We visited the market and the reunification hall (the old presidential palace) and walked around the town seeing things such as the city hall, the opera house and the market. There are a number of buildings that show the French influence on the town, and in places the architecture reminded us of New Orleans. Then it was on to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It is never a good sign when part of the shore talk deals with the fact that "you may see things that make you uncomfortable" as far as the level of living goes. This was by far the least economically developed area we visited. There were only 2 ship's excursions offered at this port, and they both involved beach time. Not being beach people, we took the ship's free transfer into the market area of the town. Before the bus stopped the guide gave us a warning about the aggressive tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides who would assail you as you got off of the bus, and he didn't exaggerate. We finally pushed our way through the crowd and made it to the main street, where we walked around just looking at the town. At the shore talk, Michael had mentioned that French wines were well priced in Cambodia, so we stopped at a grocery store and bought several bottles of wine to replenish our supply, and then found an unbelievably cheap internet cafe to supplement the time we had bought aboard ship. The town's market is well worth a visit to get a sense of how the people live, however it deals mostly in the day to day needs of the people, and is not much of a souvenir shopping area. I could hardly wait to reach Laem Chabang, as we had made independent arrangements to spend the night in Bangkok. We found that we could make our own arrangements for less money, and have more time to spend in Bangkok, if we did it ourselves. There was one small glitch in our plans. HAL takes your passport before you reach Laem Chabang, and Thai immigration officials come on board and process all of the visas on the sea day before you reach Thailand. You don't get your passport back for a couple of days, and we realized that we would need documentation to check into our hotel in Bangkok. I checked with the front desk, and they told us that we would not be able to access our passport until late in the day on the first day in Thailand. They did offer to get us a copy of our entry card early on the first port day, and we had the photocopy of our passport that HAL gives you. We checked with our hotel, and they were willing to accept these as documentation for check in. Our limo service was waiting in Laem Chabang when we left the boat at 9:00, and 2 hours later we checked into our hotel in Bangkok. We stayed in Chinatown, because of its proximity to the water taxis, which we utilized frequently as we toured the wats, temples and the Grand Palace. A dinner cruise on a restored antique rice barge, with wonderful Thai food, followed by an exhilarating tuk-tuk ride back to our hotel rounded out the evening. The next morning we spent a few more hours exploring the town, until our limo service picked us up and took us back to the ship. Koh Samui was our last Thailand port. It was a tendered port. None of the excursions interested us, so we walked around town, stopping at a waterside cafe for a local beer. As we were walking, we turned down a small road and walked out into the countryside. We came upon a coconut plantation, and stood and watched the trained monkeys climbing the trees to throw down the ripe coconuts. Disembarkation: Like embarkation, disembarkation was the best I have ever experienced. You turned in a card requesting a disembarkation group. We asked for and, received, group 1. Within 10 minutes of the captain's announcing that we could leave the ship, we had disembarked, claimed our luggage, and cleared customs. We took the metro to the airport, about a 25 minute ride, where we stayed at the Omni Hotel which is attached to the airport. We were there before 10:00 a.m., and they allowed us to check in and go to our room. We caught the metro back out, and spent the day exploring Singapore. We went to Raffles, and then to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, where we ate lunch, visited the Sky Tower, looked at the shops, and walked around the casino. Back at the hotel, we walked around the airport, a destination in itself with a full shopping center and numerous entertainment options. It was early to bed, and then up early to catch a flight back Tokyo, and then on to Dallas. It was really great to have only a 15 minute walk from our hotel to the gate area of the airport. Final Thoughts: I truly enjoyed this cruise. I felt that some of the ports, such as Sanya and Shinoukville had been put in just to give another port stop, but even though there were not a lot of touristy things, i.e. temples, palaces, etc., to see, you could still see the culture and observe how the people lived. To a person, the people at the ports in which we stopped seemed glad to have us there, and were friendly and welcoming. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
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