Singapore – Penang – Langkawi – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore – Lam Chebang [bangkok] – Ko Samui – Singapore
We spent 3 nights prior to the cruise in Singapore staying at the Intercontinental which I could highly recommend. This was our 3rd cruise with Princess [but my first review - sorry if its overlong]. We have twice been on the Diamond and took some comfort in the fact that this cruise was going to be on its sister ship the Sapphire.
Embarkation was every bit the nightmare people have been reporting. We checked in easily enough but then seemed to spend ages awaiting a call from our number to be called for boarding. There is also nothing in terms of being able to purchase refreshments, although I did spot a water fountain [drinking]. When we were called to immigration the queues were ridiculous – but finally we got on board. All this of course is not the fault of Princess but it did not fill us with much confidence as we would be returning to Singapore mid-way through the cruise and also disembarking here.
With much credit to our Steward, our cabin was kept spotless. We did hear some noise from the deck above, scrapping of chairs etc but I could honestly say that this was not an issue, and it wasn’t intrusive. It certainly never woke me up or prevented any sleep. It was also an easy trip to the top deck for drinks etc. Only found out about the door on our deck level to the Outrigger Bay on our last day or I think we would have used this for an early morning swim etc.
Food & Drink
Always a subjective area but we had no issues with the food, finding it of good quality. We had chosen anytime dining and my favourite restaurant was Pacific Moon – it just has a lovely ambiance. We did not dine in any speciality restaurants but have previously done Sabatini’s and found it excellent. On those occasions that we visited the Horizon Court, whilst finding it usually busy the food was good and we had no complaints.
We breakfasted in the MDR as often as possible, except on one morning when we turned up at 9.30 to find it had closed at 9.00. We found breakfast here a delight, not the hurried rush that seems to be the norm in the Horizon Buffett. One morning most of the table opted for the “lumberjack” special which included a minute steak. Can’t tell you how surprised we all were when full sized steaks appeared on our plates. I have to say that it they were also superb if a little unexpected- certainly filled us up for the rest of the day.
We also purchased the unlimited soda package. However, I did find the diet coke was at times vile and I think it surprising that this is the only diet option for the package. We do not drink enough alcohol to make the unlimited beverage package economical. Enjoyed the Margaritas at the Outrigger Bar and particular on the sailaway from Ko Samui – the scenery was really spectacular with a beautiful sunset.
We loved the Atrium Deck 5 which differs from the Diamond. Here you can have a glass of wine at Vines and then next to this our very favourite place – Alfredos. We often had a pizza here with a chilled glass of Bud after a long day tour in the heat of the tropics. We would then saunter over to the other side of the Piazza to the International Café to choose dessert and a cappuccino. We had purchased a coffee card and our first cappuccinos came with little dogs fashioned into the foam. Such care and service was ever present here and we absolutely loved it.
One of the key points we love about Princess is MUTS and we will often be found here on an evening. The warm air in the Far East makes this a very pleasurable experience. Other than this we do like the Trivia Quizzes and so we often ended up in Explorers and on this trip we won bottle of ship champagne and some Princess pens. We also tried out the casino on a couple of nights and found this very enjoyable. We do not play with big stakes and I put $50 down and played roulette for about 1 ½ hours and cashed out with $40 – so not too bad for an evening’s entertainment. We are not one for shows but decide to take in the Piano Man and experience the theatre. I would have to say that the show did not disappoint. A J Clarke, singer and piano player in the Piazza is also very good.
We felt the ship to be well maintained. On sea days we booked loungers in the Sanctuary and found this to be a haven of serenity and calm. Being at the very front of the ship it does suffer from a breeze but this also helps to keep the fierce heat at bay and was perfect for us. We felt the $40 per day to be a bit steep but we would do this again as the time we spent here was so relaxing.
George Town: Little India, Markets and Penang Museum
My original choice for an excursion in Penang had been for a visit to a Batik factory but this was cancelled and we had to choose another tour. We opted for this on the basis that it might offer an opportunity for the purchase of batik, which did not prove to be the case. It also took some time for the tours to disembark as only a few buses at a time could get into the small dock area. Once off the ship and onto the tour bus it was slow progress and the whole of this area just seemed to be one big traffic jam. This tour visited the Penang Museum and the guide takes you around the museum which provided an insight into the history of the island. One downside is that the museum is not air conditioned. The next stop is a Buddhist temple which is beautifully decorated and full of the smell of incense. The guide then takes us on a short tour of Little India, which whilst it has very authentic buildings etc is also very poor and run down. In reality you could have walked into George Town and done this on your own and I don’t think I got a good flavour of Penang from this tour.
Sea Eagle & Mangrove Cruise
The tour commences with a scenic drive to Kilim Marine Park where we boarded a boat/launch for a cruise, stopping at a fish farm. The boat proceeds at a very quick pace that is quite exhilarating. We come to the bay where the sea eagles can be spotted and there are already a number of boats gathered. Once boat will place a chicken skin on the water in an effort to attract the birds and boy are they attracted? I was surprised at how many we actually spotted. The boat then heads out to sea on calm waters to show a series of rock formations which look in profile like a face and one that looks like a tortoise. The scenery is really spectacular – green water, pristine white beaches. We then visit the bat caves. A path winds through the caves which do have hundreds of bats so perhaps not for the faint hearted. Outside the caves is a vast mangrove forest which is home to many monkeys. The tour then moves to a rather plush hotel for a buffet lunch. The final stop is of course for some shopping. A very enjoyable tour which showed off the very beautiful island.
Port Kelang [Kuala Lumpur]
Skybridge, Petronas Towers & City Drive
It takes 1 ½ hours to get into KL due to traffic congestion. First stop is the National Monument which commemorates those who died during WWII and it a quite an impressive sight. Next up is the National Mosque and Independence Square. You also take in the old colonial buildings such as the Railway Station. However, the highlight of today’s trip is the Petronas Towers. We have timed tickets to the observation deck, although on this trip we cannot access the Skybridge which is closed [according to our guide] to undergo checks following a recent earthquake. We have a couple of hours free for shopping etc in the mall below the towers. There is a small shop next to the supermarket in the basement that sells souvenirs of the towers at a much cheaper rate than the official shop. Heading back to the ship there is less traffic and the journey takes 1 hour.
City Drive, Chinatown & National Orchid Garden
We have to go through the immigration rigmarole again – but even if you had chosen to stay on the ship you still had to get off and then go back on – so actually picking up a tour seemed to be the best option. The first stop is at Mount Faber which offered some terrific views over to Sentosa Island. We then had a bit of a city drive arriving at the Botanical Gardens. The tour includes a ticket into the National Orchid Garden. It is incredibly hot, which might be wonderful for the orchids but had me wilting in minutes. Next stop is Chinatown and you can choose between visiting the temple here or the market stalls. Fortunately on our return immigration is not too bad and we are back on the ship quickly
Lam Chebang [bangkok]
Bangkok’s Hidden Treasures with Tuk Tuk Experience
Bangkok is a two hour trip each way and I would say we were at the outskirts of Bangkok before we began to hit serious traffic. First stop is at the Pavilion on Kings Avenue, which is quite beautiful but we only have a quick photo stop here. We drive past the Democracy Monument on our way to Wat Pho Temple with its huge reclining Buddha. You have to take your shoes off here but they provide little bags for you to put them in and carry them with you. Also included in the ticket is a small bottle of water which is handy in the stifling heat. The next stop is at an international hotel for a buffet lunch. There is a wide range of food which is of a good standard. The next part of the trip is definitely the best - our Tuk Tuk experience. Lots of Tuk Tuks line up outside the hotel waiting for us tourists. Me and hubby end off in the lead Tuk Tuk which is great but the leader does tend to stick the vehicle out into oncoming traffic to stop it and to let the other Tuk Tuk’s out – a bit hair raising at times. The ride is truly exhilarating and the highlight of our trip to Bangkok. The ride ends at the What Suthat Temple which is absolutely breathtaking. The final stop is of course a high end jewellery store before the journey back to the ship. There is a comfort stop on the way for those who need it.
Temple of the Big Buddha & Monkey Demonstration
My original choice for an excursion had included the elephant trek, however I cancelled this following the death of a British Man whilst on this elephant trek and opted for this tour instead. The excursion takes in two of Ko Samui’s most important temples and also afforded a scenic drive showing off this lovely island with its pristine beaches. The Big Buddha is exactly what it states- a rather large Buddha with a climb of 61 steps to get to its base. I was really surprised at the numerous people being turned away for being inappropriately dressed though. Shoulders have to be covered as well as knees. Wat Plai Laem is the next temple and is quite impressive with a number of large statues including the eighteen armed “Guanyin”. The lake here is full of big catfish and turtles and you can buy bags of food to feed them. Our final stop is the monkey demonstration. The monkey’s looked tired and the guide tells us that we are the 12th bus that morning – doesn’t make me feel good as a tourist. I do however buy one of the coconuts they have plucked and I am surprised at the amount of liquid its holds – which is also surprisingly warm.
We didn’t actually have to wait too long to disembark after our designated time. However, the queues at Singapore immigration were again long and tedious. Finally after going through immigration and picking up our suitcases and heading for the door – you have to put all your cases through an x-ray machine. Finally after all of this we can leave the terminal. Also be mindful on exiting the terminal as we were approached by someone offering a taxi service. When questioned he was charging S$ 50 for a journey to Marina Bay. He wasn’t too happy when I laughed and said no way. Instead follow the signs for the taxi rank and you will come to a marshalled rank. Our journey to Marina Bay Sands cost approx. S$ 15
Due to flight timings we spent 1 night post cruise in Singapore staying at the Marina Bay Sands. Worth the price just to get into that infinity pool.