Took the 14 day leg on the HAL Westerdam from Hong Kong to Singapore chosen due to a great itinerary.
My first ever cruise and I had been told by my companion, a seasoned cruiser, to expect entertainment, activites, music on deck and shows galore. Sadly this was not the case on the Westerdam and the HAL entertainment was very disappointing. Sea days were quiet with very few activities. Those that we did attend, like the Hair Styles or Secret to a Flatter Stomach, were selling sessions to promote products and services like hair creams and derma fillers! No library on board apart from a handful of books on the Exec Deck 10 that I found on the last day, a bit woeful though. I would like there to have been music on deck for a sail away parties, or evening deck entertainment when weather permitted, more dance options. The singers in BB Kings were very good but entertainment finished early and the entire ship seemed to be in bed by 11pm. Drinks were expensive. I should note that Happy Hour is not the usual buy-one-get-one free, happy hour on the Westerdam is buy one and pay US$2 plus service charge for the 2nd drink.
The 2 piano players were good, but the music variety was very old, 1960s stuff to suit the ship's more mature clientele. We did sit there as there wasn’t much else to do. The ship singers and dancers were very good but only on 3 times, would be nice to see them for a few more shows as we didn’t personally find the ventriloquist and magic acts to our taste. English newspapers disappeared very quickly so could be a few more put out please.
We opted for casual dining and never had a problem getting a table in the dining room. The food was OK, seemed to improve on our 2nd week. We used the self-serve Lido Market for breakfast and on the Asian themed night (which was very good). As most of the ship left early for trips you needed 2 or 3 turns of the ship to find a window table regardless of breakfast arrival time. There were 3 gala nights during the 14 days of our cruise, only 1 of which offered surf and turf lobster tail and steak. The steaks and seafood were expensive chargeable extras on the menu or in other dining rooms, not what we were expecting from my companion’s previous cruise experiences.
As a UK citizen we only needed visas for Cambodia (even if you don’t get off the ship) and these were arranged on board efficiently by the ship at $US63 each. Guest services were very helpful.
Jeremy’s talks on each port destination were very informative with information on what to expect at the port gate, transport options and rough costs, hints and tips.
The cruise experience seemed to focus heavily on up-selling with lots of extra hidden costs. Wifi with emails at US$29 per day was extortionate so I opted to find free wifi at locations in port. We took 2 HAL excursions which were extremely expensive, one guide for a whole big coach full of people, rushed and impersonal. The ship team even charged for water as you left the meet point at the main stage! HAL trips were very poor value for money and I wish I had not booked them.
We did however take 4 independent trips, 3 in Vietnam and 1 in Cambodia, arranged with fellow Cruise Critic guests on this website before we even left home all arranged through a Vietnamese travel agent called Travel Authentic Asia. Our contact, a lady called Ngoan, was great. We thoroughly enjoyed our 4 day trips which were small groups limited to just 16 people each with a guide in a mini van, free water, cold towels and lunches included in our full day tours. I need to do a separate review for these trips but would not hesitate to highly recommend TAA.
We chose this cruise for the excellent itinerary which covered Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore in just 14 day. No major complaints, however the ship was far too quiet for us personally and the entertainment lacking, everything seemed to cost extra and so on that basis we would not choose to cruise with HAL again.
Our cabin stewards were very friendly, greeting us by name every day and attending to our room to a very high standard. Cabin VF-8120 aft, port side with balcony. The cabin itself was a little dated and old fashioned but well equipped with a hairdryer, little sofa, TV (with movies), bath with shower and desk. The mirrors in the room had a strange smokey brown tint which were very hard to use when putting on make up. On the whole very happy with the cabin.
Stayed 2 nights in Hong Kong on the Kowloon side before embarking the ship. Took the Star Ferry over to HK Island and went on the Victoria Peak tram and paid the extra to go up to the sky deck. Very good views over HK. Hong Kong has been in the news recently due to the demonstrations and this did not affect our stay at all or put us off visiting.View All 28 Victoria Peak Reviews
Full day boat trip of Halong Bay with a small group of 14 on a boat which had capacity for 40 so it was roomy, intimate and a fabulous day. Booked independently with fellow cruisers on the CC website using Travel Authentic Asia who I would highly recommend. Picked up from the port gate (yellow building which was a few mins walk from docking or shuttle). Great guide, mini bus to the pier then boat around the stunning islands of Halong Bay. Our day included stops to get off and see Sung Sot Cave, next stop Luon Cave where we all got on a row boat to be taken around the lagoon and see the wild monkeys (a few people opted to kayak themselves). Stop at a floating Pearl Farm. Climbed up the steep steps on Ti Tov Island which had the most stunning views. A fabulous lunch was included served on the boat. Taken back to the ship in good time. This day trip was the highlight of my 14 day cruise.
We took 2 trips as we were overnight in Da Nang. One independently and one through the cruise line.
Imperial Hue - booked independently with fellow cruisers on the CC website using Travel Authentic Asia who I would highly recommend. A great guide on a minivan with just 14 people (our groups were limited by TAA to just 16 which was great). Free water and cold towels on the minivan. Boat trip on the Perfume River to the Heavenly Lady Pagoda, fabulous lunch included at a restaurant, trishaw ride through the city streets (must take a US$2 tip per person) ending up at the Imperial Citadel. Final stop at the Tomb of Tu Duc. A lovely day.
The 2nd day we had a morning trip to the town of Hoi An booked through the Holland America cruise line. Expensive. Crowded on a whole big coach of people for 1 guide. I enjoyed the town as it is very photogenic but I would not pay for an overpriced HAL trip again.View All 14 Imperial Hue Reviews
We didn't book any trips as we were only here briefly. We chose to walk around the streets near to the port.
Booked independently with fellow cruisers on the CC website using Travel Authentic Asia who I would highly recommend. This is a very poor part of the world and the litter is an eye opener. The ship sailed that evening so we had a tour of the Silhanoukville area which included two temple stops, working fishing area, waterfall area, beach photo stop, lunch at the Don Bosco Hotel School put on by the students was great, they also danced for us. Market stop and another beach photo opportunity where we had fresh pressed sugar cane juice which was 1US$ for two! Our guide Mr Kimsour was fabulous, funny, informative and very proud of his city. This is a real insight into a developing country and a day I would not have missed for the world.View All 20 Highlights of Silhanoukville Reviews