This was our fourth cruise on Seabourn and we're planning our fifth for Alaska, so I think you can tell we are sold on the company. More on that later.
This cruise starts in Hong Kong, touches china at Xiamen, goes down through the Phillipines, Malaysia in Borneo, Turns at Singapore, Up to Thailand, Cambodia, then up through Vietnam including Halong Bay and then back to Hong Kong. As many people do, we got off in Sihanoukville to fly to Angkor Wat for two nights before rejoining the ship in Ho Chi Mihn City.
Because my wife has substantial difficulty with stairs, we arranged private excursions for many of the ports and had our own guide and driver for Angkor Wat. So this time around, I have experience with only a few of the shore excursions.
The Phillipine stops were largely Phillipine tourist locations. Hundred Islands is interesting geography with lousy snorkeling, Coron on the other hand was brilliant snorkeling, some of the best coral ever, not to be missed. Boracay was very touristed because of Chinese New Year, but pleasant if crowded. Singapore is a delightful stop and would have made a good place to start or stop. Cooking class in Hoi An (Danang) was excellent. Photos of Halong Bay is the way I finally convinced my wife of this cruise. It is beautiful, but all the tourist boats go (with some 6,000 people per day) to the same locations, so it's also a little packed.
If you can afford Seabourn, you should. I can't actually speak to the peer cruise lines, since we chose Seabourn at the start and never left. But this one is great. Tips are "neither necessary or expected", but this is a staff that operates like one working for tips. They are constantly friendly, helpful, and engaging.
We enjoy cruising in part because of the social aspect. It pays to be a little bit forward and not shy in introducing yourself to others, but we've always found it easy. With 450 passengers, we keep running into the people we've met, but we also arrange to meet folks for drinks and dinner. At dinner in the main restaurant you can ask to be seated with others and you will be put at a table for six, which makes for pretty good conversation. There are no assigned seats or times, just show up when you want between 7:00 and 9:00.
We are quite found of Restaurant 2, which provides a fixed tasting menu each night. Some feel it's a little pretentious, but I think it's just pretentious enough. No extra charge, but you do need reservations and it tends to be fully booked by the middle of a cruise. So reserve early.
We have room service breakfast each morning, in part to avoid the calorie menace of a breakfast buffet. Ordered the night before, it is almost always delivered right at the start of their 15 minute window. of 26 breakfasts, one was late, causing us to gulp it down in order to make our excursion. That evening, there was a plate of chocolate truffles and two glasses of champagne along with a nice note of apology for our inconvenience.
The food on Seabourn is outstanding. We met friends on this cruise who are vegan, they felt very well served. Each night they discussed the menu for the next day with the staff and they got generally excellent meals. If you can make good food for vegans, how much better for we sensible carnivores. The house wines are good with alternative wines both for white and red. The only problem is the magic Seabourn wine glass which is always full.
The demographic on Seabourn is American/British/Australian with a smattering of others. The ship runs in English, with a crew drawn from across the world. The passengers are older, the majority retired. On this cruise the age range included some middle aged folks, matching some of the photos in the brochures. There were no children, and this would not be the cruise for them. The bottom of the age range is about 40.
One of the things we love about the Seabourn ships are the suite layouts. Large with both a tub and shower (didn't use the tub this time), two sinks, and a walk-in closet. We've always had a Veranda and appreciated it.
The entertainment is solid. We like the staff singers and dancers. Seabourn has often brought a local group on board to perform, those are some of the best. The lectures on this cruise (Seabourn calls them "conversations" but they are lectures) were from good to great.
Hong Kong is a fine place to start and end a cruise. We had 2 nights before the cruise and 4 after. If you're there, go to Sam's Tailor for a custom suit.
Standard Seabourn Suites are essentially all the same layout, which we love. Verandas on decks 5 and above. There are larger suites, but we like the standard.
From a cruise, this is a 2 night departure from the ship, at a substantial extra cost. Angkor Wat is an amazing, huge temple. Siem Reap is a very touristy town, but very pleasantly touristy with some very good restaurants. If you are fans of ecclectic dance, find an Aspara dance performance.
Sihanoukville has a nice temple. The reptile house is actually a pretty depressing zoo, I wouldn't recommend it. We used it as the place to fly to Siem Reap
The War Museum, although clearly having a point of view, is definitely worth a visit. I found the old presidential palace not so interesting. The market has some outstanding street food.
Hoi An is reached by a 40 minute bus ride past China Beach (for those of us of a certain age). Hoi An is a preserved (partly) older town that has a vibrant market and a pile of tourist shops. Many restaurants offer cooking classes. Ours was very good (I just 30 minutes ago made Vietnamese fresh spring rolls as taught in class).View All undefined undefined Reviews
We took a cab to the Botanical Garden - Orchid Garden. It was stunning. The variety of orchids and the composition with which they have been put together is fantastic. Very much recommended.
We then took an Uber to a Hawker Center for lunch. The hawker centers is what Singapore has done to try to improve the safety of it's street food. Think of it as street food turned into an outdoor food court. Excellent duck. Plenty of choices.
The river tourist cruise is 45 minutes, which is just about right. This is not a must-see, but if you're in the mood.
Finished with the Night Safari, which is a zoo that opens at dark. Not really nocturnal animals, but everything is cleverly lighted, and everyone is cleverly fed to get them where you can see them. This is a Disney style zoo, with a tram that takes you around and paths that you can also walk on. It's fine, but it is crowded and packaged.
First, Halong Bay is just as beautiful as the photos show, but not as sunny.
Second, what the photos don't show is the armada of tourist boats that occupy the bay. There is one location where you can kayak into a bay surrounded by islands with the only opening being a large tunnel. Only kayaks and rowed tourist boats can enter. It's good, but the kayaking is bumped around by the speed boats delivering tourists to the rowed boats. Very close to this location is a large cave, with lots of steps, but an otherwise easy walk as there is a concrete path through the whole thing. Just don't expect to be out exploring the islands in peace. No reason that private boats couldn't go elsewhere, and maybe they do, but the main tourist excursions seem to all go to pretty much the same place.