6 Singapore Expedition Cruise Reviews

Started in Singapore and ended in Venice on two segments of their World Cruise, now referred to as extend explorations. This was our longest cruise and the first time on Seabourn, were not sure about a smaller ship, but once on board it ... Read More
Started in Singapore and ended in Venice on two segments of their World Cruise, now referred to as extend explorations. This was our longest cruise and the first time on Seabourn, were not sure about a smaller ship, but once on board it feels much larger. We had been on Regent and Crystal in the past year. We fell out of love with Regent and in love with Crystal (both separate reviews) we were looking for another luxury cruise line and Seabourn had an interesting itinerary. With all the issues in Egypt, they had to make some changes to the itinerary, the back up choices were nice options. The embarkation at the old port in Singapore was not impressive, the disembarkation in Venice was flawless in the newer port. Once on board you start to experience why Seabourn is different, yes the ship is beautiful but it is the crew that really stand out. We were far forward on Deck 7, and a little concerned about the ship rocking. It is the most stable ship we have ever experienced. Although we had good weather and calm seas for most of the trip, the few times we experienced wind, rain and swells, the ship felt amazingly steady. Captain Dexter was the best we have seen, out and about every day, talking to people, keeping us informed of important issues in the most charming way. The crew participates in lots of fun activities on board, the Caviar in the Surf party was delightful and fun. You could often meet the Captain in the Seabourn Square, a wonderful large area deck 7 aft, where you could get a great cup of coffee, a snack, read a book, play cards, meet with the guest relations/destinations team and read a worldwide choice of daily newspapers all loaded onto an IPad with a stand. They offer paper newspapers and very comfortable chairs and plenty of computers for personal access. Their internet plan was very affordable too, after a couple of bumpy starts we got some technical help from the team and we were great for the rest of the trip. More ships have laundry rooms which is great when your are in a warm climate and want to pack lighter. Sojourn has two laundry rooms with two washers, two dryers and two ironing boards in each, no charge for machine or soap. They probably could use a better process for passengers to wash since everyone seemed to go there often around the same time. It was cooperative and polite, no one left laundry long after it was done and I was surprised to see how many people iron, no wonder it was a well dressed looking group. The Cruise Director Jan and her team, Heather and Sophie were amazing. The best of the best on the high seas.They planned all the activities, participated in many, sang like professionals and connected with the passengers in such a personal and friendly way. Many great speakers to fill the sea days and a great dance and singing team at night to finish the day. All these crew members worked tirelessly at all events, tours and functions, and were at the exit after their show to personally thank you for attending, a first for us. Initially we were frantic about 14 of the 33 days were at sea. They had so many wonderful options (many loved the trivia) that the port days seemed less interesting, never thought I would feel that way. At the end of this cruise we knew more of the crew than in all of our more than 20 cruises, and they knew us by name. Restaurants and food were a pleasant surprise. The Colonnade was the main casual dining area on deck 8 for all meals, they offered daily specials along with the buffet and had themed luncheons, all beautifully presented and served, with the evening meals made more upscale. The Patio Grill by the pool was open for lunch and dinner, a great choice for outside dining with the same top level of preparation and service. The main formal dining area Restaurant on deck 4 was contemporary and offered a great choice, amazing service and the best Maitre D on the high seas, Antonio. He knew our name from day one. They walk each person to their table, a lovely way to start an elegant meal. My favorite was Restaurant 2, small intimate dining of about 40, done in black white and red, a feeling of being in a Cabaret at sea. The team of Bart and Sylvia will take you on a gastronomic journey. The menu changes every couple of days with about seven different menus. It is a nine course tasting meal, beautifully prepared and served, your pallet will go crazy if you like unusual combinations of tasty morsels. Also, don't miss the High Tea service every afternoon on the forward deck, the best scones and view. Chef Graeme Cockburn was an amazing person, we went on a shopping tour with him and learned so much about fish, fruits, herbs and the entire process of food preparation, especially during his food demonstration classes. This was not just a tasting experience, he shares all sorts of handy tips and he has the best personality and team. They created an Easter Brunch spread out over the entire main dining room and the galley that was a visual and tasty feast. Their on-deck theme parties were stunning, the decoration and food to complement the evening were breathtaking. Be prepared to dress in the local outfits, it was so much fun and so many people participated. We heard there was a Seabourn club and newcomers did not feel welcome. In our experience, nothing could be further from the truth, we were greeted warmly by past and new guests alike, we met many interesting and notable people on board. As the cruise went on the tables for dinner got larger and larger but you could always get a table for two or four. There are also several dress codes, the usual of no shorts and tank tops at dinner. Most of the days were smart casual or elegant casual. On the formal nights some opted for tuxedo and gowns but many wore nice suits, dresses and cocktail attire on those evening. They offered two other dining options if you chose to be relaxed. The ship has several bars and very attentive bartenders, they know how to make any drink you can request and most remembered your preferences or offered something fun and new, especially during the day by the pool. To work off that extra food and drinking, the spa and exercise facility was nicely appointed. No ship has a large exercise areas but the Sojourn has two facilities, one with equipment and some weights, the other for mostly yoga, Pilates and stretch. Jordan teaches all the classes, usually 30 minutes and you must sign up for each class, he is a popular guy and the classes fill up since the space limits about 10 participants. The spa was beautiful and serene with a private sitting and hot tub area. We purchased several tours and all were executed nicely, the team really knows how to get you off the ship and on to a clean bus/boat with the best tour guides. Several events that were hosted by Seabourn offsite as part of their special experience in which all the passengers are treated to a tour were also perfectly managed. On several occasions they had the large welcome home parties with music, drinks and cheers. For going ashore there was always plenty of water, umbrellas, hand sanitizer, towels, sunblock, glass cleaner and even sandwiches and cookies on days where you may miss lunch. They think of everything, the ship runs like a fine Swiss watch. Two areas we were less impressed with, we had great dance lessons from Kelly and Artem, but no place to practice, it is not a ship that focuses on ballroom dancing. The second part was the Grand Salon, it has a low ceiling and way too many large posts which block your view. They are building a new and larger ship for 2016, we are hoping they will have a larger and better designed Salon, more dance floor space and perhaps a golf simulator, but those are our personal preferences. Would we go on Seabourn again, Absolutely Yes.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
Where do you begin exactly....check-in. Chaos, nightmare....and it all went downhill there after. It took around 2 hours to be herded through checkin, it felt more like passing through some boot camp rather than starting a relaxing ... Read More
Where do you begin exactly....check-in. Chaos, nightmare....and it all went downhill there after. It took around 2 hours to be herded through checkin, it felt more like passing through some boot camp rather than starting a relaxing upmarket vacation, it was hot, uncomfortable and totally lacked any form of organisation or privacy for the weary traveller. Having survived this ordeal it was time to set foot on ship....and oh what a warm welcome there was NOT to be had, not a single HAL representative to meet and greet, just the security team. Overall a very good first impression. A Travel Lodge would do better. Food! Spectacular only by its awfulness, bland, always over cooked, meat without fail was tough. Plates were cold and food often little more than warm. HAL should feel thoroughly ashamed at what arrives on the plate and the fact that animals died in vain to produce it. A major part of our cruising enjoyment comes from the dining experience, however after several table changes and the fact that the food was so poor for the first time in 13 cruises we were prepared to opt out of evening dining, sadly the lido was on a par with a works canteen and there was no real alternative. Thankfully we were able to savour some exceptional local food during our shore excursions or we would have returned home having lost weight! Another bone of contention was that of feeling constantly hounded to spend money...this started as we arrived in the stateroom to find a mountain of info re treatments, sales and special offers. It was hard to sit quietly in the public area without being repeatedly asked for a bar order...why is it not possible for staff to hover rather than hound.....after all any decent hotel manages to achieve this balance the world over. Another HAL initiative is charging for after dinner cappuccino this is apparently because they are now using a better quality coffee, not just adding frothy milk.... The latest HAL earner seems to be the charges for the shuttle buses.....come on now surely we have paid to travel to a destination so why is this cost not factored into the overall holiday price? And as for scrimping on the port fees and docking in Hong Kong's freight dock that surely will take some beating, the hours travel we were forced to endure to get us where we should have arrived in the first place was just the final nail in HALs coffin as far as we are concerned. Oh and finally HAL staff were there to thank us for sailing with them etc etc...again NOT Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
We were on the 28 day cruise - Singapore - Hong Kong via Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. This cruise was advertised as a Collectors cruise. To our disappointment this was a back - back cruise. With that concept we were ... Read More
We were on the 28 day cruise - Singapore - Hong Kong via Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Korea. This cruise was advertised as a Collectors cruise. To our disappointment this was a back - back cruise. With that concept we were subjected to the same food selections in the dinning room, and repeat entertainment (the ships singers & dancers) on the second segment of the cruise. Having experienced this syndrome before we would not have picked this cruise. We were duped by the phrase "Collectors" a grand substitute for back to back. Embarkation and immigration Not good, in fact down right bad in Singapore. Total chaos, took us almost 2 hours to embark. China ( Beijing) was a disaster. Took us 3 hours to be cleared and a delay of 5 and a half hours to leave. No explanation was ever offered. Had us concerned. HAL appears to be struggling to get ASIA right. The ship and cabin The ship and the cabin was extremely cold. We literally froze for the 3 days in Beijing, extra blankets, placing towels against the door, socks to bed etc, made little difference. The cabin was clean but dated. The fabrics faded and the toilet was smelling (In spite of the cabin steward's efforts). This ship is well past its prime according to other Holland America cruisers. The lighting was poor, a hardship as we were constantly filling immigration related forms. Service Superb. Many staff we encountered only briefly, addressed us by name and were always ready to go the extra mile to help. In fact they made up for the many inconsistencies and irritants on this cruise. We must note HAL have cut back on numbers which means their willing staff have more to do with less, explains the delays in the dinning room and the room stewards, rushing like crazy. The entertainment Mediocre, sufficient maybe for this port intensive cruise. Some of the headliners were pathetic, basing their acts more on action and antics as opposed to content and quality. Annie Francis and Vincenzo Gentiles were outstanding. The Adagio strings were exceptional, the piano bar entertainment was very good. Our pet peeve and disappointment was the music in the Ocean Bar. This is the one place dedicated to and advertised as the place for 'Ballroom Dancing'. The floor was good, the music was beyond bad. It was a jazz club (not a good one either), with a rude and sometimes down right snaky leader ( Mark Dunn). He would not play music you could dance to. When requested he invited the requesting guests to take themselves to the rock band (was referring to the HAL cats in the Crows Nest?). We brought this music fiasco to the attention of management days into the cruise, no improvement. We stopped patronizing the Ocean bar. The various workshops were well presented. The Digital Photography workshops very good. Kristen was remarkable in her knowledge and presentation skills. The Library dated. We missed the guest speakers to talk about the history of the places we visited. Travel Guide, Spencer Brown was excellent and unbiased and dealt mostly with what to see, do, avoid and how to get about. Mariners recognition - a PR disaster. What was HAL thinking when they selected a few and ignored the rest to invite for the captain's reception, some were awarded medals for 100 days, others ignored, some had over 200 Days. There are lots of things that must be improved if HAL expects to stay competitive and to keep its loyal customers. We were disappointed, tried hard not to let them spoil our trip to an unforgettable part of the world. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience. GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn ... Read More
Have never before complained about a cruise, but our experience, coupled with comments by veteran HAL cruisers on this same cruise, convinced us this was a disaster experience. GENERAL APPEARANCE of Zaandam: Others commented on worn interiors (and even ship's exterior) so I won't repeat those criticisms. CUISINE: Expected excellent cuisine but this was not the case. Menus repeated in second 14 day segment which was was not consistent with the way the "Explorer" format was explained. Very good food and wait staff in the 2 specialty restaurants but at these prices, meals should be of higher culinary and creative quality throughout ship. Desserts in MDR and Lido looked good, hyper infused with sugar, and unexciting in taste. The six people at our table often omitted desserts or took only a few bites. COST CUTTING MEASURES: *Wait staff were so downsized, meals were sometimes served very slowly. At one to point we were rushed along to finish and leave so the next dinner seating could occur. The problem was not that we were slow eaters, but the food service was extremely slow. *Adequate planning did not occur to enable smooth customs clearances at several ports. We were held aboard while procedures were worked out. Having traveled to many of these same countries before, I don't understand the reason for such delays. *Someone made a decision to turn down the heat in dining rooms, spa, and staterooms. This cost saving strategy was reversed only when the front desk was stormed by angry, freezing passengers. A trip to the medical clinic proved interesting. Many passengers AND crew were being treated for colds and respiratory symptoms and no wonder! * Educational lectures on history, culture, politics did not occur. For us, learning new things about countries we visit is part of the cruise experience we have enjoyed most but such learning opportunities did not exist INACCESSIBILITY OF EXECUTIVE PERSONNEL: We asked to meet with the Hotel Manager at one point, and we made our request quietly and tactfully. Our request was deflected by other front office staff and ultimately we were refused. What kind of an organization is this? HAL if you think you are above meeting such requests, your business and PR will suffer greatly. On other cruises the Captain was highly visible. Such was not the case on either segment of this 28 day cruiseSHORE EXCURSIONS: Very worthwhile in every port although the majority of passengers we met arranged independent tours because, as they explained, the costs were "too dear". CABIN ATTENDANTS: Were fabulous, attentive, eager to please, and over-worked although they would never have admitted this. Our pair of attendants were assigned 29 rooms to clean daily! WILL WE GIVE HAL ANOTHER TRY? Think once was enough, too bad! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Embarkation: The ship was not anchored at the usual cruise terminal in Singapore, and we were only apprised of that fact a few weeks before traveling. It was great fortune, though, to board our shuttle from the convention center at the ... Read More
Embarkation: The ship was not anchored at the usual cruise terminal in Singapore, and we were only apprised of that fact a few weeks before traveling. It was great fortune, though, to board our shuttle from the convention center at the absolutely incredible and fantastic Marina Sands Resort. The boarding was orderly and the shuttle trip took us through the largest, never-ending container port imaginable. There is nothing like it anywhere I have ever seen. Boarding the ship and getting to our room to unpack was a breeze, except for some minor queues that are of course expected with such a huge number of guests. Ship: The ship is huge, 2700 passengers I was told. It's a beautifully appointed and mostly convenient, except for the long, long walk from "fore" (the entertainment) to "aft" (the food). The gym, as is typical on most ships, was too small to accommodate all those wishing to utilize the facilities. The buffet court, as is also typical, was always too crowded and always presented a challenge in finding a table. Stateroom: We booked an inside cabin because we don't like spending time in the room other than for sleeping and showering, and also because on one cruise we met a retired Royal Caribbean Captain and his wife, who said they always choose the inside cabins because they sleep better in total darkness and they think the outside cabins and suites are a waste of money that could better spent on excursions and entertainment/food in port. Our cabin was small, comfortable and, most important, quiet and dark. The bathroom was tight, but serviceable, with a shower curtain instead of a glass door, which was not a huge deal. There was plenty of closet space, shelf space, and drawer space. The safe and TV were fine for our needs. Lectures: Cultural lecturer was excellent, providing great insights into history, culture and recent politics in each of the countries visited. It was educational for us Americans to visit three of the countries that we have previously bombed. All I can say is that the Vietnamese seem to be very forgiving. The port lecturer was helpful except for the final port, which I will describe later under "Disembarkation." Live Entertainment: After a less-than-stellar first show, the ship's singers and dancers were excellent in the two subsequent large productions we saw. General Entertainment: The several entertainers that we saw were not really our style. Pianists, comedians, and vocalists were OK, but not electrifying. Food: We ate half our meals in the International Dining Room and half in the Horizon Court Buffet. The dining room was satisfactory (we are both vegetarian and always have to navigate the menu carefully). The service in the main dining is always slower on any ship, so when we want to do other activities, it's nice to be able to use the buffet for a quick in-and-out meal (if you can locate a table). Service: The staff was accommodating and pleasant in all areas of the ship. Laundry: We normally pack only one carry-on bag for each of us. We adopted that strategy after Delta Airlines lost our luggage at the beginning of a two-week Mediterranean Cruise. We had to borrow clothes from our teenage relatives for the entire two weeks, because the other older males on the family cruise were much larger than we are and their clothes wouldn't fit us. Of course we looked like members of an aging punk-rock band. On board the Diamond Princess we were grateful for the convenient Laundromat on our floor, and we washed clothes twice during the voyage. Excursions: It was disappointing to find that this ship is too large to moor at some of the usual passenger terminals. Therefore, we sometimes had to take a free shuttle for quite a long distance (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Busan) or a tender (Nha Trang) or sometimes we had to pay for one of the ship's "On-your-own" excursions just to get into town (Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City). I don't think Princess should advertise cruises to ports which are not really accessible unless you book an excursion or take a long, long taxi ride. It was two hours going and two hours returning Kia Pools, deck seating: We only used the Jacuzzi and occasionally the deck chairs in the enclosed pool area and on the rear pool area. We had no problem with finding lounge chairs, possibly because the weather during the second week was a bit colder than the first week as we traveled northward on the map. Crowd: I believe we had a good mix of ages, with a slight preponderance of retirees. I would estimate one-fifth Brits, one-fifth Aussies, one-fifth Canadians, one-fifth American (we are), and one-fifth native Asians and assorted Russians, Europeans, and Latin Americans. We are very sociable and always manage to meet huge numbers of our fellow cruise-mates. It's rare for us not to like almost everyone we converse with. We made many temporary and long-time friends on this trip. We are a "Gay couple," married, and together a total of 26 years. We net no form of discrimination or antipathy from anyone on board, whether guests or crew. Ports of Call: What can I say? We loved every port, although for different reasons. This was for us a chance to get a taste of new cultures and to decide which ones deserve a closer look. Our favorites were Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. If you don't like the site of poverty and of cultures quite different from your own, you should perhaps book a different cruise. I am truly grateful for the exposure to both the developed and the underdeveloped areas on this itinerary. Disembarking: The final port, Tianjin, was the most challenging, and I lay most of the blame on Princess for not provided adequate information or assistance for getting from the port terminal to Beijing, unless of course, one signs on to one of their after-cruise excursions ($80-$160/pp). We always prefer to go on our own. It was insane at the terminal's taxi stand. There was no help at the port for securing a taxi, no information about how to pay, or how much to pay, or for finding out how to use the train system once we reached either Tianjin Station or Tanggu Station. It was pure chaos from the terminal exit till we got to the train station in Tianjin. Everyone who was traveling unassisted, as we were, had to navigate the Chinese taxi drivers (who I really think just pretend to speak no English) and who make every attempt to cheat the tourists. This failure to assist passengers at the terminal is my greatest criticism of the Princess Line and of this particular cruise. I will post my suggestions for successfully managing the port-to-city transfer on "Cruise Critic" for assistance to future travelers with similar Tianjin-Beijing itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Discovery is a little old lady, 21,000 tons 650 pax, 34 years old. She has the classic lines of a traditional cruise liner, & she's been kept tolerably up-together and clean, but never been decently updated. If she were a chair, ... Read More
Discovery is a little old lady, 21,000 tons 650 pax, 34 years old. She has the classic lines of a traditional cruise liner, & she's been kept tolerably up-together and clean, but never been decently updated. If she were a chair, she'd be grandad's big comfy old over-stuffed leather armchair with brass pins, leather arm patches and a corduroy antimacassar. Conveniently, and in the nicest possible way, this also describes many of the pax ;-) Think retired bank branch managers and university lecturers, with a sprinkling of old money. Mainly Brits, but with more than a few Americans, Canadians & antipodeans. The ship has a very very strong & loyal following. Over half were regulars, & some had been aboard for 2 months. Thankfully most were blase about their cruising life-style, and were friendly & chatty even though they weren't my usual sort of company. In fact apart from a few, just a few, frosties - the type who perhaps feel that you are invading THEIR ship - it was a very very friendly ship, and we enjoyed many independent shore trips with a crowd of new UK & US friends. Whilst the average age was pretty high, I'd guess most over 60 and many much older -- I never once saw a wheelchair or zimmer. A pretty fit bunch Lots of minuses. But lots of plusses too. Let's start with the negatives: Rather disjointed public areas, though no great matter as distances on the ship are small... The Lido is a disaster zone. With an early design of sliding roof (which has always leaked like a sieve), it's dreary even with the roof open and used exclusively for buffet lunches & teas, with what appear to be the original canteen-style serveries, hot water boilers etc, and a mix of vaguely-presentable slatted wooden and seriously un-presentable plastic dining furniture. In the middle of this sits an incongruous small round pool, set way below deck-level so that swimmers (I only ever saw two) disappear into a black hole An odd-shaped similarly-designed pool disgraces the otherwise very attractive main stern deck, which leads from the main lounge/bar and is well-sheltered by wings of the prom deck. Swimmers will be bitterly disappointed. Most cabins, though well-kept, are way too small for cat-swingers, beds can only sensibly be two singles, no tea/coffee, no fridge, acceptable bathroom (shower, no bath). No live TV. That's right, none. Anywhere. Plenty of DVD channels, all on daily continuous loop. Decent selection of films, usually one or more associated with ports-of-call, and re-runs of port & other lectures. Plus a rather pointless ceefax-style page of news, repeating the daily "Britain Today" single sheet newspaper. Never thought I'd wish for CNN. Gym/spa has very basic equipment Excursions expensive, even compared to other cruise lines. On the plus side: Plenty of both sunny & shady deck-space and sunbeds despite excluding the lido. Classic wooden steamer chairs along the promenade deck and sunbeds elsewhere - other than up on the exhilarating front of deck 9, far too breezy for furniture. This deck is over the bridge, looking down on the flying bridges, which are separated from the promenade deck by simple two-bar waist-high gates. There's not many ships where you can chat to the captain as you head into port, or hear him swearing under his breath at the efforts of the pilot boat helmsman. And if that's not close enough, you can take a free bridge tour. Lots of odd little deck areas, and a couple of good jacuzzis (rarely both in use at the same time) on a high deck overlooking the stern. Decent little shop, reception area and a number of little hidden-away corners inside & out. Abundance of chilled drinking water on deck & dining table, and 24 hr tea/coffee. Drinks prices in line with UK pubs, that's about a third of prices on main-stream US cruise-lines. sterling as on-board currency. Entertainment is very very limited. Good but small ensemble of singers, dancers, band, but no stage sets or effects. Small classical group. Occasional knees-ups in the lounge. One or two generally good lectures per day, mainly about destination countries & ports. Well-stocked library, internet room, quiet lounge and bridge room. Are you getting the picture? Minor daytime quizzes, deck games etc. Dance lessons, cookery/cocktail demos, jigsaws (I kid thee not). The theatre will seat more than half her passengers, but usually uncrowded so no real problem with the many pillars. The cinema doubles as a lecture room, there's just one good-sized main bar/lounge, plus occasionally the little shack on the main stern deck and the little hideaway bar Ship nearly always sleeping before midnight. Boring & disappointing to start, but pretty hectic shore days & I was eventually content to also turn-in early. Oh my, haven't I aged. A few other standard cruise factors were missing. Casino. Art auctions. Bingo. Canned music. Hard-sell. Excessive tannoy announcements. Intrusive photographers. Babies. Kids. Teenagers. Yobs. Drunks . Brilliant crew, every man-jack of them, from captain to officers to hotel staff to deck crew. A happy & friendly bunch, & nothing was too much trouble. Basic tips included in the cruise ticket price but I doubt anyone failed to also put their hands in their wallets at goodbye time. They all knew my name, drinks preferences, even cabin number, within a couple of days. Dining -- good Main Dining Room, free Yacht Club speciality restaurant (one visit pw), and that god-awful lido for decent buffets & teas. Plus sea-day deck barbies & regular midnight buffets. Excellent food & decent menu choice for dinner, but dress codes in MDR & Yacht Club and no alternative evening dining. Mainly smart casual on port days (quite right too), informal on sea days (who in hell wants to wear a jacket & tie in the tropics?) and one formal evening pw in the MRD - you can guess my attitude toward penguin suits, plus the Yacht Club is closed that evening. So once a week its penguin suit or starve. Next time, I'll starve. Dinner at fixed seating (various table sizes) in two sittings, we were on a table of eight. Such dining risks being sat with the wrong sort of company. And there were a few on board. Mebbe we were lucky, or mebbe the Maitre D was a genius, we had great company for both legs of our cruise and dinner was a pleasure. Excellent waiter (Roberto), efficient, unobtrusive, but a wicked sense of humour and a 6th sense of what folk wanted. By contrast, I found the Yacht Club service fussy & pretentious (and I'm not a complete pleb) . Itinerary. This little lady goes where the floating resort-hotels can't -- and possibly don't want to go. She doesn't have a repeat schedule, she wanders the seas & passengers join for one or more 14 day legs. Our two legs covered Singapore, Bali, Komodo, Java, Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangkok, Saigon, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Ha Long Bay (for Hanoi), Hong Kong. This includes overnights at important stops, though as always time is the enemy of cruising. Rather too many stops were ashore by tender, and although tendering was quick & efficient due to her small size & efficient tender crews, priority to ship's excursions did limit time ashore for we independently-minded travellers. Bali. (2 days) At anchor, Padangbai. Overwhelmingly Hindu, contrasting with the rest of Indonesia, which is predominantly Muslim. At the jetty, cheap & easy to hire a minibus/driver/guide at around $50 per day. Yes, $50 total per day. Day one - more temples than you can shake a stick at, we visited a small selection. Then woodcraft workshops & on to the volcano & lake at Kedisan (rather spoilt by rain & mist), on the way back down an open-fronted restaurant with excellent elevated views over paddyfields. $12 buffet, but very good. And we fed their pet fruit-bats, hanging by the front door! Historic Hall of Justice at Semarapura on the way back. Day two - Monkey Forest Sanctuary at Ubud. And a long road of tourist-orientated shops adjacent, very pleasant browsing environment. Goa Lawah Bat cave & temple on the way back. Overall a friendly, religious & cheap island but the artistry & craftsmanship of the islanders is what really grabbed me. Great days. Komodo. 1/2 day at anchor. Ship advised that "on the instructions of the nature reserve staff" we would only be tendered ashore if on their excursion. We all meekly booked at £45 pp for a 90 minute walk (ker...ching). (Am I being cynical? see Semarang, below) But at least we saw the famous dragons. Reference threads about the danger on cruisecritic's forums ..... what danger???? They were clearly well-fed & disinterested in us. Java. Docked at Semarang. Worst port of the cruise, poor weather didn't help. Negotiated a minibus - more hard-nosed bargaining than Bali, ended up agreeing about $80 between 8 of us for the day. Headed for the railway station/museum at Ambarawa, together with others agreed with railway staff about $350 dollars to hire a train (cost about $15 each) Then after the ship's excursion group had arrived & set off on their train trip, suddenly they couldn't fit a train in for us. Had the ship's agent (Inter-cruises) put a spoke in our wheel? Very probably. No matter, such is the lot of the independent excursionist, & we set off for a coffee plantation instead, & ended the day in a modern shopping mall in Semerang. Not a day to remember. Malaysia. Docked at Port Gelong, nr Balok (for Kuantan) Another minibus hiring, about $100 for 10 of us. Malaysia is a tiger economy, much more developed than Indonesia, but currently that excellent blend of western comforts and asian charm. Chara Cave (reclining buddha), former tin-mining town / free mining museum at Sungai Lembing and interesting chinese village via the "hanging bridge", rubber plantation, super waterfall at Sungai Pandan, quick zip around Kuantan and fishing village. Finally a quick beach stop, with a monkey colony. Great day Cambodia. At anchor off Sihanoukville. Advised last-minute that we couldn't dock due to a broken-down ferry at out berth so we'd have to tender. Shame, cos we were due to leave at 11pm but with the last tender before dark that screwed up our planned evening ashore. We later learned that the ferry had been there for over a year !! No wonder Cambodia's economy is a mess - all our wining & dining budget was spent aboard that evening! Sihanoukville is mainly quite modern, it's Phnom Penh's playground. Today's minibus was about $80, we went to Ream Nat Park, via a beautiful waterfall. Super visitor area under construction, with a lot of artistic cement carving going on. Also hired a boat across to the small idyllic back-packer island of Kaoh Ruessei - beach, bar, shacks for rent. A great place to get away from it all. Boat was about $4 each. Finally, a small fishing village on the southern outskirts of Sihanoukville - the one bit of old artisan Cambodia - and a bit of an eye-opener - not to be missed. Great day. Bangkok. Docked 6pm at the ferry terminal (not cruise terminal) at Laem Chabang. 2 days. About 75 miles/ up to 2 hrs from Bangkok. Closed-shop franchised taxi service at the quay, long long way from dock gates, bus routes, & civilisation. Unsurprisingly taxis were expensive. Bangkok folk were having to pay around £70 one-way, including unwanted tour. Equally unsurprising then, that ship's staff got a lot of stick about taxis from pax. Took a 20 min taxi ride at $10 return pp to Pattaya. Very very lively, not my scene, but worth checking out. Early next morning, just the two of us took a taxi to meet a private tour-bus at Bang Pa In summer palace (beautiful), on with the tour-bus to Ayuttaya (impressive) then motor launch down the river to Bangkok (great way to enter the city), with good buffet lunch etc. aboard. About $45pp. From the same quay, we hired a long-tailed boat for an hour around the klongs ($20 the boat). Tuk-tuk to Patong for the evening & where we'd booked Rose Hotel (very acceptable small modern hotel, excellent location, about $40 the room). Next morning, tuk-tuk back to the river & express boat up-river to Grand Palace. We'd screwed-up! Palace closed for the morning for an event, so we toured chinatown. Very interesting. Then back to hotel for taxi, arranged by hotel, back to Laem Chabang. Driver turned out to be a former cruise-ship barman! Taxi cost about $37 (remember, taxi from quay to Bangkok quoted at $70!!) Great 2 days. Saigon. Docked Ben Nha Rong, 1 1/2 days. Super sail up the Saigon River, docked a (traffic-hazardous) 10 - 15 min walk from centre. Afternoon 6 of us touring the compact city centre by pedicab. Great time, but grief over the cost at the end. Cardinal sin, hadn't agreed a price! They'd "leave it up to us, pay what you like", then at the end they suddenly produced a "fare chart". We didn't fall for it, during our tour we'd checked with Tourist Info at the Post Office, who'd told us $2 to $3 per hour. Having offered the equiv of $4 per hour we held firm & walked off. Shame, cos it left a bad taste, but sadly its the sort of thing that happens a lot in Vietnam. Tour included Ho Chi Minh Mueeum, Re-unification Palace, War Remnants Museum, Post Office, Notre Dame, market. Next day, a pre-booked (but not pre-paid) speedboat for 8 of us to Cu Chi tunnels. That's the way to travel, & same 90 min journey time e/w as by congested roads. There's a lot more to the tunnels than tunnels - quite an eye-opener, guided tour 2 hrs, $5 or thereabouts admission. Stops on the way back at a pretty awful but interesting market, a resort with crocodile enclosure & pontoon bar (boat driver's choice, guess its a commission-earner LOL) and "tourist village" at Binh Quoi - beautiful area of landscaped gardens, pavilions etc. We counted about 8 wedding parties! Trip cost about $68 each - same as ship's non-stop minibus, though others took taxis at $30 the vehicle. Speedboat was easily best experience/value. That evening, authentic vietnamese meal (Ugh, but at $1 per dish it had to be tried & a great experience) then water puppets at the Golden Dragon. Brilliant performance, super band. 2 great days. Nha Trang. Berthed by cable-car, 1/2 day. Just the morning. Took the cable car over the bay (& ship) to Vinpearl resort island. Funfair (rollercoaster, gallopers, etc), excellent aquarium with walk-thru main tank, great water-park, great little beach. $15 pp all-in. Shame it was only a morning. OK, its not Vietnam, but we reckoned we'd earned a morning away from sight-seeing. One disconcerting note - shortly after we left the cable car to return to the ship, it stopped. Complete with folk in the cars. It started again as the ship was leaving. No pax left behind. Phew!! Great morning. Da Nang. Berthed Nui Son Tra (close to town) Took a minbus, 12 of us, $80. To Hoi An, super little low-rise ancient city, very laid-back, then via China Beach to Marble Mountain (well worth the modrate climb), then giant new Buddha. Great day. HaLong Bay. Anchored off Ha Long City, 1 1/2 days. Super morning sail-in on main passage thru the karsts. Having decided against long road trip to Hanoi, & to take a full-day junk cruise, we were at a loose end for the 1st afternoon so had arranged a private city tour. Even at $27 pp for the two of us it was a waste of time, the city has little to offer. Some you win, some you lose. Next day 8 of us hired a junk (capacity mebbe 30)for 6 hours, $90 total. Others hired junks for 4 hours for $60. Six hours was about right. Bay was misty, as usual this time of year - didn't spoil it, added to the eerie mystery of the place. You need to experience it to understand. Overall, 2 great days. Hong Kong. Berthed at cruise terminal by Star Ferry / Salisbury Hotel. Total 4 1/2 days, 3 nights at the Salisbury - super value harbour-view room. It's a YMCA hotel, next door to the Peninsula Hotel, which I think is a little more expensive LOL. Just love the ferries & trams. Plus funicular to Peak, bus to Stanley Market, bus to Aberdeen for the Jumbo junk restaurant - over-priced tourist honeypot, just as we'd been advised, but worth the experience. A day in the New Territories to my childhood home in the army village of Shek Kong (now Chinese army. A day-tour (group visa) to Guangzhou (Canton) in mainland China. Enjoyed it 10 years ago, but my how things have changed. Gone are the paddyfields & villages, in their place are wall-to-wall factories, high-rises and traffic jams. All the way. Brings me onto my final comment - the pollution. Never a clear day. No rain. Not the hottest of weather but no clouds. Yet hardly saw the sun. Or the Peak from the harbour or the harbour from the Peak. Remember LA 20/30 years ago? Or London in the '50s ? China /HK urgently need to sort themselves out, its not a pleasant place to be. Been as objective as I can, warts and all. Just my opinions, others may differ. Would we cruise with Discovery again? I certainly wouldn't rule it out. Community Manager's Note: 'This review was written when the ship sailed for Voyages of Discovery. As of February 2013, it is now sailing under the Cruises & Maritime banner" Read Less
Sail Date January 2010

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