My wife and I were trying to get from Europe to Japan mid-October to meet our son for a two week vacation with the least amount of jet lag. This seemed to fit the bill. We could catch the ship in Mumbai, disembark in Hong Kong, spend a ... Read More
My wife and I were trying to get from Europe to Japan mid-October to meet our son for a two week vacation with the least amount of jet lag. This seemed to fit the bill. We could catch the ship in Mumbai, disembark in Hong Kong, spend a week in China before catching a short flight to Tokyo. The ship is beautiful, comfortable cabin, good food, great on board library for readers who like history, memoirs, exploration etc., which I like, not so great for thrillers, romance novels etc. Got to know all the fellow smokers well. Passengers are mostly affluent, retired Americans (I'd guess 80%), the others mostly anglophone from the UK, Australia, NZ. Ports of call and tours were a mixed bag, many at container ports with miles of docklands a long way from anything you'd want to visit, though seeing the container ports themselves was eye-opening, often with beautiful sunsets through the gantries. No way in most places to walk off the ship and explore on your own. Our own favorites were an overnight trip to Kandy (Sri Lanka), Georgetown, Penang, and Viet Nam (Saigon, Da Nang and Hoi An and Halong Bay). The best ports for getting off the ship and exploring on your own are Georgetown, Halong Bay, Singapore and Hong Kong. The port for Bangkok was especially inconvenient, a 2-1/2 hr drive each way in slow traffic. We went in once, spent the second day in port on the ship. In ports like Bangkok and Saigon, where the ship is docked overnight, our advice would be to book a hotel in town and explore on your own.
Our main criticism of the ship-organized tours, which we took in every port, is they left no time for wandering around on your own. In Sihanoukville, where we took a tuk-tuk tour we took things into our own hands and told the driver where we wanted to go (a liquor and cigarette store), after which we lost the rest of the tour group, to our relief. Same with Hoi An, where a large majority of those on the bus rebelled against some cultural stop that hadn't been flagged on the itinerary and asked to be dropped off in town to wander on our own. These turned out the best of the tours.
A lot of passengers complained about Sihanoukville, which is dirty and poor, with little culturally of interest to see, but we found it interesting, the obviously poor public services, the life story of our tour guide, sent to a child labor camp at 6 where many of the children died of starvation, the signs of Chinese investment (billboards promising great new developments, some built, some half-built and abandoned, some just billboards of fabulous things to come). I hope Viking won't drop it from future cruises based on the comments of others. Our guide was grateful for us coming, and I hope others will come in the future.
The ship is beautiful, but not without flaws: it should have teak decks (the rubberized, fake teak decks are deplorable), for cruises in the tropics, there's inadequate shade for the sun deck loungers and after-deck dining, the promenade deck, which is wholly given over to walker, would be much improved if it had deck chairs. The library should have a section of guidebooks to the countries being visited. An ATM onboard dispensing US Dollars, even if not local currency, would also be helpful. Read Less