My partner chose this cruise as he’s cruised before and it was my first time. We flew from Manchester where the queue for checking in was 2 hours as there were only 2 staff on, someone said there was a staff walkout? It left no time for duty free or any other shopping, my partner had wanted a drink as he thought it would help him sleep on the long night flight, but there was no time. The flight was good, long but Asia’s a long way. Arrived at Cochin, India. This was the first time TUI had flown into Cochin and to be fair probably their last, it cost us £110 each for a visa to set foot in India, we arrived at Cochin airport and queued 2 hours to go through immigration, we got on a coach and drove for 2 hours to get to Cochin sea port, we waited 40 mins on the bus then queued 2 hours to go through immigration to leave India and board the ship. Sadly we paid £220 for this. But to be fair the captain apologised and they obviously were as put out by the experience as we were. The ship was ok, not the lap of luxury I’d been led to expect but certainly not run down at all. Our cabin was big enough, had all we needed and was kept spotless by the cleaning staff who came in at least twice a day. My partner broke the safe and they fixed it within ten mins of asking. The food was a bit disappointing, in the self service Islands restaurant it was often lukewarm rather than hot and a bit samey, but never bad. The staff were ace, friendly, helpful. The Gallery Restaurant was nice, but again samey, the same item appeared on the menu the following night more than once. But the food was good and service excellent. We ate Christmas lunch here and it was perfect, we shared a table, by choice you could eat alone if you wanted, it was very nice. It wasn’t as dressy as I’d have liked but I’m a girlie type and I like getting dressed up at Christmas. I’d have preferred a more formal Christmas lunch, certainly for the later sittings. The entertainment was mixed, we watched most of the shows, some were excellent, some less so, but you can’t expect to like everything and they certainly put their all into it. There was a funny pantomime type first, a couple of pop/rock things which were not really me, mainly because I like the real stuff and it fell short, but it would, the Van gough show had the most fantastic can can in it, well worth seeing just for that alone. The west side story take off was good. On our last night we were in Bangkok and they brought in the Ladyboys of Bangkok to do a show and wow, the place was packed with some standing and it was relayed to the big screen on the pool deck so more could watch up there. It was very good, a great end to our entertainment. In the bars there were quizzes etc, some entertaining, mr and Mrs was funny. There were a number of full time singers/players TUI staff who were ok, not fabulous but certainly ok. TUI brought in guest entertainers, a comedian I didn’t really rate and a pianist who was superb, I’d pay to watch him at home, just out of this world proper first class good. Tom someone, has played with Jooles Holland. As the cruise director said, you can’t please 1800 people all the time but the staff give their all and there has to be something on there you’ll like. I’m picky and I liked enough to be well happy a few times and happy enough mostly, and the bits that weren’t me were still ok. There were a good choice of bars, I liked the little casino bit and the carol service on Christmas Eve with the staff was magic. We stopped in Shi Lanka where we looked around on our own, we were pestered by tuktuk drivers a bit more aggressively than was comfortable and the market we were told was on was closed for that day, we had a drink in a bar, did some shopping and finally took a tuktuk for a whizz round before going back. It was an ok day but could have been better had we known a bit more. I’d look more up next time. Our mistake I think. The tuktuk driver was naughty, we agreed a price for an hour, he kept asking for longer and saying no charge but w stuck to an hour, towards the end he asked if we would go to this gem shop where we would look just for a few mins and he would get a petrol voucher as he had 4 children to feed, so we went, nice for me as my partner bought me a lovely ring, but then he deposited us at a tea place for another voucher and wanted to take us somewhere else but we said no, when he got us back to port he demanded double money as we’d been longer than the hour. We said we’d only been longer because of his petrol voucher but he was quite forceful and it was a bit worrying. My partner wanted to pay him but it was quite a lot £40, so I said no and said he could bring a policeman so he went, but it took the edge off the day a bit. I felt a bit mean but I don’t like being ripped off and we already paid him the original £20 before he wanted another £40. Lesson learned, don’t go over the time even for their benefit. Next stop was Malaysia, sebang, much gentler, we walked miles and shopped a bit and looked at street food and how they lived and had a fantastic day doing nothing other than that. Such lovely people. Nothing fancy, not a thing posh, scary looking fish being cooked, hot and humid but so lovely. Then a day at sea, bit of sunbathing and reading, no trouble getting a subbed, small pool but not crowded. Another good day. Lang Kwai next and we went to the cable car on a trip which encorporated a rice museum. The cable car was fantastic, there wasn’t enough time to do the skywalk due to queues but if we hadn’t done the rice place which I could quite happily have missed, we’d have had time. If you get chance to go don’t do a trip, get a taxi and go under your own steam, there’s enough time and it’s easy. We didn’t know how tricky it would be or how far so took the safer option, but there’s enough time and taxis. It was fabulous. I think we went to Penang next, amazing, busy, bustling but not overpoweringly so. Lots to see, got on a hop on hop off bus, stopped at a shopping center and did a bit of Christmas shopping very very good and sooo cheap, then Penang hill, amazing, saw lots of architecture, a mix of colonial, Asian temples, shacks and modern stuff, I love all that. Then street food in a market, very nice. Another good day. I think we had a couple of days at sea then, one of which was Christmas Day, some people moaned that it wasn’t very Christmassy, but it’s hot and there’s no family so what do you expect, it was nice, we got up and exchanged pressies, had breakfast and sunbathed, it was hot and lovely. We changed for dinner, we’d chosen the middle sitting so ate at 6, the food was excellent and it felt christmassey to me, we had crackers and although I chose scallops rather than turkey I had Christmas pud and enjoyed every bit of what I ate. We visited Singapore, fabulous, waking up there was just out of this world. We did the sea air and road trip and the Singapore flyer was the highlight of my day, you could see everything for miles around. Also I saw the orchid collection, not my other half’s choice but just stunningly beautiful and even he said it was pretty. Interesting loos tho, don’t wear trousers, too tricky. After that we visited 3 places in Thailand and more of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and a trip up the KL Tower and to visit the Petronas Towers. Well worth seeing both. Thailand was beaches and Bangkok, both good, chaweng beach is a trip worth making but we did a trip and I think I’d have preferred to make our own way there and back and have longer, my other half liked the beer and we have several pics of him in various places in Thailand drinking different beers. Mine are good, baby octopus and just gorgeous gorgeous food. Our final trip to Bangkok was my only disappointment, we set of mega early and it was 2 hours away, that was fine, when we got there we were dropped at a huge shopping center and told that it was an hour and a half each way to see anything anyone wanted to see, not cos it was overly far but cos it was gridlocked traffic wise. We went on the sky train to the river and took a river boat trip for an hour and a half, not organised just under our own steam, we saw plenty but nothing at the same time if you know what I mean, I’m glad I went and I enjoyed the river, it was manically busy and we saw the back of huge impressive temples and how people lived, but there wasn’t time for more. The nature of the beast I think, one day in that sort of traffic. We set off back as we were told getting back may take longer than expected and found the skytrain easy enough, not clear signs but I just asked with a map and people were helpful, pointing which platform and which stop. We got back with two hours to kill as the journey was not long and just wandered around quite mundane shops killing time. Not a good trip but maybe that was down to us. That was out last day on board and the cruise director had organised the ladyboys of Bangkok to visit the ship and put on a show. That more than made up for a bit of a let down in the city itself. If I were going again I’d do more research before I went, particularly in Bangkok, a missed opportunity I think. But not a complete flop, the boat was bonkers, a cross between a formula one car and a tractor, driven by a maniac, loud, fast, like a rollercoaster ride on water, good fun. And we did the sky equivalent of the London Underground with no language skills and didn’t get lost. I had a fabulous holiday, saw places I’ve never seen before and was entertained, well fed and felt looked after, the cabin was comfortable and bigger than I expected. But the thing I’ll remember most about the ship is the friendliness of the staff, in 15 days I didn’t pass a single member of the ships staff who didn’t make eye contact and smile, most spoke but no one, not one of them, looked anything other than chuffed to death to smile at me. It was lovely, not always quite me, but lovely non the less.
Great, clean, excellent