We booked the first 16 days of the Far East Discovery because of the amazing itinerary and we were not disappointed. From Singapore to Hong Kong, every port had something wonderful to offer. This was our 8th cruise and our first on Holland America.
Unfortunately, the embarkation was horrible. We had a 12:00 check in but had to wait about two hours in the cruise terminal before we could check in. We were denied access to the Orange Club line because it wasn’t printed on our cruise documents and by the time we checked in and then straightened out the Orange Club situation, it was 3:00 and we were hungry. Luckily, the hamburgers out by the pool are delicious, but we were pretty upset that we spent our first day onboard straightening out problems and waiting for service. Luckily, the cruise improved after that.
Our cabin was 7147, an aft verandah cabin. It was very spacious with a comfortable bed, a couch with a table, and a desk. The shower was in a small bathtub and was much more roomy than what we’ve experienced on other ships. There was plenty of storage, oodles of hangers, and nice verandah chairs with footstools. With a large TV, access to a few tv stations and many movies, it was a comfortable place to hang out on sea days or when tired. Our steward kept us well supplied with ice and fresh towels throughout our cruise.
Ship Activities and Entertainment
The public spaces are very comfortable, with nice chairs and comfortable bar areas. The Gallery Bar is especially pretty. The drinks in the bars were not especially good, even a basic dirty Vodka martini just didn’t taste right and the glasses never matched the drinks appropriately. It was weird. Luckily, we had pre-ordered a bottle of vodka and some tonic so our best drinks were those we mixed in our cabin for the first week of the cruise. During the second week, we took advantage of Happy Hour when you can get two identical drinks by paying for the first and just $2 for the second.
We were disappointed with the activities and entertainment aboard. It seems that Holland caters to an older crowd than we are used to and the only “fresh” entertainment every night was the chamber music in the Lincoln Center, which was always well attended. We hoped to find BB King’s Blues Club to be a regular stop, but after a few nights it seemed the program didn’t vary much and since each set was only a half hour, we found ourselves going there less and less.
We did enjoy the wine tastings and were disappointed when the third wine tasting that had the best wines was cancelled due to a low turnout caused by conflicting popular activities. The port talks were very good but you had to arrive early because the theater was filled every time. We wanted to experience the test kitchen where the chef was preparing local dishes, but never could find a seat. It was immensely popular. I was hoping for a little more destination related travel and we did enjoy the Thai dancing, even though it was only a half hour.
One of our favorite days was the day we booked a cabana. We arrived after breakfast to find that the cabana attendant would have served us that too! We were able to enjoy the heat of the day while lounging around reading and playing on the internet. The attendant brought us lunch and also some fruit and Prosecco in the afternoon. Only about four cabanas were booked so we had the deck almost to ourselves. It was very relaxing.
We ate most of our meals in the Main Dining Room. Each meal was beautifully presented and there was always a choice of fish, chicken, red meat, and pasta, with two or three choices of some on many nights. Most dinners were prepared with sauces and by the end of the cruise, I was yearning for some simpler fare. The breads were especially delicious. We took advantage of the Cellar Packages and found #1 to have enough good wines to meet our needs at a wonderfully reduced price compared to buying a bottle at a time.
We had one meal at the Pinnacle Grill on the Rudi’s Sel de Mer night. The food was very good, but honestly, the service in the MDR was much more attentive. We enjoyed our special night and decided to stick with the dining room after that.
We ate a few lunches and breakfasts in the buffet. There was a huge selection and everything we ate was very tasty. It was hard to keep a full cup of coffee in the morning and a lot of tables sat empty with dirty dishes. The atmosphere just wasn’t that great.
Our favorite thing was room service breakfast. The menu was very large and we had to stop ourselves from overeating! As part of the Orange Club, the choices included mimosas and smoothies and we took advantage of both several times.
We were offered a discount on the Orange Club the week before the cruise and we decided to try it. As already mentioned, it was a bit of a trial to get the recognition and appropriate key card. The first night we did not get the Orange Menu in the dining room. (I think a lot of the crew were new.) We didn’t have robes in our room. No one seemed to know about the welcome glass of bubbly. It seemed like no one knew what the Orange Club was all about and we had to advocate pretty heavily for ourselves.
But after the first day we enjoyed our in-room breakfast choices, ate in our Orange Club robes, used the Orange Club priority lines at Guest Services and the MDR, and were treated very well. Most nights we were seated at a window and the host remembered us by name and room number within three days. We only tried one or two of the Orange Club dinners because the choices on the main menu were so good. We were also treated to a tour of the galleys and store rooms which were amazing. For a first time Holland Guest, it gave us a few of the perks more frequent cruisers enjoy. It was nice.
Ports and Excursions
We arrived three days before the cruise which gave us some time to adjust to the time change. We stayed at the Amoy Hotel near Chinatown which offered an airport pickup. It was just across the street from an MRT station and was the perfect spot to explore Singapore. Glad we took the three days.
Nathon (Koh Samui), Thailand
We booked the EXC Explore Buddhist Temples tour which included four different stops at Buddhist temples, each quite different. At the Big Buddha there was an opportunity for some shopping, some of the best of the whole trip. It was a great introduction to Buddhism in Thailand.
Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand
We were here for two days and quite a few people took advantage of the opportunity to stay overnight in Bangkok, which is nearly two hours from the port. We did not. The first day we took the EXC Hidden Treasures with Tuk Tuk tour because I wanted to see the large reclining Buddha. We also visited other temples and Elizabeth Hall. The tuk tuk ride was surprisingly fun. The tour included a lunch of pad thai and other Thai foods. Delicious!
The second day we booked the EXC Footsteps of Pad Thai tour that took us into the Nam Tan Sat village, a sugar palm plantation where we watched the farmer scale the palm tree, the Golden Temple with a Standing Buddha, the Wat Pho Bang Kla temple with bats, an organic Botanical Garden with delicious Thai snacks (practically a meal), and a cooking demonstration for Pad Thai and Papaya Salad. It was a super busy day which also included a ride in a long tail boat from the Golden Temple to Wat Pho Bang Kla. We really felt like we saw some authentic Thai life on this tour and were happy to support the local businesses.
Tip: Carry toilet paper. The bathrooms do not have it.
This top was both the best and the worst. We took a cooking class I found on TripAdvisor and with only two of us in the class, we had four hours to talk with the chef and learn all about life in Cambodia in a very intimate way. On the other hand, Sihanoukville as a city is a mess and the tuk tuk ride to the class was bumpy and very uncomfortable. I wouldn’t do anything in Sihanoukville without a tour.
Phu My (Saigon), Vietnam
We booked a private tour with ITourVietnam and it was fantastic. Part Foodie Tour and part History Tour, we were treated to sights, sounds, and tastes all day long. It was a chance to really get into the market and check “eating pho in Vietnam” off the bucket list.
Nha Trang, Vietnam
We took the EXC Cooking Class in Nha Trang which included a chance to learn to make spring rolls, banana flower salad, and cabbage package soup before we ate the chef prepared lunch of the same dishes. In addition, we got to walk through a dry and wet market (very quickly!) and see some Cham art at the resort where the class was held.
This was a two day stop so the first day I booked a tour from TripAdvisor that included My Son, the Marble Mountain, and the Lady Buddha. It was a lot of walking and climbing, probably our most intensely physical day. We stopped for noodles at a local shop and they were delicious.
The second day we joined a Cruise Critic group for Hoi An, the Marble Mountain, and the Cham Museum. Hoi An was primarily an opportunity for shopping and we skipped going into the Marble Mountain since our thighs were still sore from the day before. The Cham Museum was incredibly interesting and really added to our understanding of what we had seen the first day.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
This was our favorite port. We joined a Cruise Critic group and spent the entire day cruising the beautiful karsts. We also saw a remote fishing village and a pearl farm which were both very interesting. After the hustle and bustle of all the surprisingly large cities of the Far East, this opportunity for relaxation and nature was a real treat.
I had booked a hotel near the airport so we took advantage of the EXC Hong Kong Tour with Airport Transfer. Disembarkation was very easy and well organized. The tour itself wasn’t really very good, but it did give us a chance to see Victoria Peak and Aberdeen. The fishing village was really just a marina around the Jumbo restaurant and the jewelry factory was a jewelry store where we were trapped for about a half hour.
After being dropped at the airport, we took the Novotel Citygate shuttle to the hotel, which was great. The hotel is connected to the Citygate mall and also provided easy access to the transportation hub of Lantau Island. We stayed two nights and made the trip up to Tian Tan (Big Buddha), which made for a perfect final day.
Our first cruise with Holland was a success, primarily because the itinerary was so interesting. The service aboard was fantastic and we were able to name several of our favorites in our survey because they provided such great service. The rooms were comfortable; the food was good. Even still, we probably we wait a few years before we cruise Holland again so that we can age into what they offer. For now, we still like a ship with a little more vibrancy.
The cabin was very spacious with a comfortable bed, a couch with a table, and a desk. The shower was in a small bathtub and was much more roomy than what we’ve experienced on other ships. There was plenty of storage, oodles of hangers, and nice veranda chairs with footstools. With a large TV, access to a few tv stations and many movies, it was a comfortable place to hang out on sea days or when tired.
We booked a Flavors of Singapore tour independently and were treated to tastes of Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam near the Bugis metro station. We also walked through markets and learned about the history of Singapore. By the end of the tour we were stuffed.View All 9 Private Tour Reviews
This tour included four different stops at Buddhist temples, each quite different. It also included a drive that basically circumscribed the island. At the Big Buddha there was an opportunity for some excellent shopping where the vendors were eager to bargain. It was a good introduction to Buddhism and temples.View All undefined undefined Reviews
The "Bankok's Hidden Treasures with Tuk Tuk Ride" took us to three Buddhist temples, including Wat Po. We also saw the Elizabeth Hall and had a delicious lunch in a Bangkok hotel. The surprising part of the day was how fun the tuk tuk ride to the restaurant was, careening through the streets with the rest of the tour like a crazy tuk tuk gang, jostling for position in the traffic, and laughing the whole time.View All 24 Wat Po (Reclining Buddha Temple) Reviews
Though Sihanoukville isn't much as a port, the cooking class we took from a local chef was fantastic. We went to her home via tuk tuk through the dirty construction of the town and found ourselves down an alley and up three floors to an open air kitchen where we made and consumed a delicious Cambodian lunch. The port was redeemed by the class.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We took the ship's excursion, Nha Trang cooking class which included a chance to make spring rolls, banana flower salad, and cabbage package soup before consuming a lunch prepared by the chef of the same dishes. The meal was preceded by a walk through the local market and the resort where we took the class also included a little Cham arts village that was very interesting.
We visited the Cham museum with a group organized by Cruise Critic. It was fascinating to see the treasures from the site we had visited the previous day.View All 3 Cham Museum Reviews
This tour was mostly about walking through the streets and picking up goodies. I was disappointed that I didn't find any silk by the meter to buy. The silk was all in shops for tailoring.View All 35 Hoi An Walking Tour Reviews
We booked a private tour with Andy Tours and after a bit of trouble hooking up with our guide, we had a fabulous day at My Son, Marble Mountain, and the Lady Buddha, all places chosen by me and designed by the tour company. Our guide was a wealth of knowledge and we enjoyed sharing lunch over a bowl of noodles with him and our driver. It was an exhausting day with many steps to climbs, but well worth it.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This wasn't what I expected and when the rest of the people on the tour didn't want to pay the $6 to ride the sampan, it was nearly a disaster. In the end, we rode the sampan through a fishing village that was only mildly interesting and right in the middle of the city.View All 7 Aberdeen Reviews
We booked the tour that included an airport transport because we knew it would be our only chance to see the two major Hong Kong islands. The guide was not very good and other than Victoria Peak, we didn't see anything memorable. The worst was that it included a visit to a jewelry "factory" that was really just a jewelry store in an industrial building. Horrible. At least we got the airport transfer and the guide was helpful getting us into the airport during the heightened security.View All 45 City Tour Reviews
We actually visited the monastery and Big Buddha on our own by riding the bus from the Citygate station. The Buddha is amazing and the entire grounds are beautiful and peaceful. It was a wonderful day. Not to be missed.View All 8 Po Lin Monastery Reviews
This was part of our airport transfer tour and while I wanted to see Victoria Peak, it was a misty day and the view wasn't that great. We stayed much too long, ostensibly to shop but all the stores were closed for the New Year. So we stood around in the cold waiting for the appointed time to continue.View All 28 Victoria Peak Reviews