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jstducky

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  1. There is definitely not a duty free shop at Ocean Terminal. I just boarded a cruise there in August. To get to the cruise ship (or get off it, whatever the case may be), you haul your luggage through the middle of a busy mall with local shoppers everywhere. When you reach the far end of the mall, you're directed to where you can drop off luggage. Then you come back in the mall, and go up to the 2nd floor to where the check in area is. Other than the luggage storage and the check in, everything else is the mall. No duty free shops anywhere.
  2. If you didn't want to just do the beach and the markets there are some tourist sights as well - Long Son Pagoda and Ponogar Temple. Both interesting in their own way. Beware of the hawkers, especially at Long Son who follow you all the way up the stairs as you climb to the Buddha. A little pushy!
  3. I can't answer specific for HAL, but if they are like Princess (which I was just on in August), then the answer would be no. It's a long walk, but not so long you couldn't do it if you had to. It's not really recommended though. You're in a complete container port with tons of big rigs with containers loaded on them driving through the parking lot area trying to load or unload their goods. And there is no clear marked path to walk. But the walk isn't that long. I saw people running from their taxi outside the port area (because the taxi couldn't come in) to the ship after they arrived 15 minutes past all aboard time. I'd say, you could walk the distance in about 7 - 10 minutes. Be forewarned though, when we left the port - and I was on a private tour and was the first group to leave the port area - I saw all of 3 taxi's there waiting outside the port for passengers. I really wouldn't suggest you rely on taxi's to take you into HCMC or Vung Tau. Best to book with a private tour guide, or if you must the ship's tours or the ship's HCMC on your own tour.
  4. Sorry, I haven't been checking these boards very often. For us, our cruise ship docked at Phu My. While I guess it would have been possible to walk outside of the container port area, I wouldn't suggest it as it was quite far. Zoom met us in person right at the end of the gangway. The 13 members of our tour group (from 5 different families) had already planned to meet in advance in a certain location before we got off the ship so that we could walk off together. We met Zoom right away and he led us right to his waiting bus and driver. We took a quick group picture with the ship and we were off! We were the first people out of the port. There was one other private tour group that had found their guide, but they weren't yet on their way when we left. The ship tour groups weren't even close to being organized. So that was a huge benefit to having our own group. As far as walking across streets and intersections in Vietnam it wasn't too bad. Any time we needed to cross anywhere, Zoom was with us and he guided us across when it was safe and then remained in the middle of the intersection until we all crossed. I don't think anyone ever felt unsafe crossing. As for the rest of Vietnam, I can't help you out there. The only other stop our cruise ship made in Vietnam was Nha Trang, which isn't one of your stops.
  5. We paid a 50% deposit on the cost of the tour that we agreed to. However, after we made our deposit, we actually had other cruisers join our tour, which lowered our per person price. No worries, that just meant that the remainder we had to pay to Zoom at the end of the tour was much lower than the 50% we had originally thought. That was nice. Zoom is completely trustworthy and you don't have to worry about sending a deposit to him. It was such a fantastic tour and I'm so glad we chose to go with him for HCMC tour.
  6. Phu My will be exactly the same. The distance from Phu My to Saigon/HCMC is about 70 km and will take a good 2-3 hours to drive to and from. RCI should offer a shore excursion called Ho Chi Minh City On Your Own or something similar. They take you from the port to the center of the city and drop you at a designated location. You're then given 3-5 hours on your own (depending on how long you're in port) to do whatever you want on your own. You come back and meet at the designated time and they take you back to the ship. No way this is $10 per person though. On my Princess cruise last month (though we did a private tour), the ship was offering this service for $69 per person
  7. Here's a thread going on about local currencies in Far East ports http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1889651 Having just returned from an Asia cruise that ended in Singapore where we spent a few extra days, and then flying on to Bangkok for a few days on my own, here's what I'd recommend - Singapore - I didn't see a single vendor that accepted USD. Every sign everywhere was for SGD. So, I'd recommend you exchanging into SGD. If you arrive into the new Marina Bay Cruise Center, on the second floor, at the top of the escalator once you pass through customs you'll see a money exchanger and an ATM. Easy way to get SGD. There's also money exchange booths all over town. Thailand - so super touristy places may be willing to take USD, but less likely these days that it used to be in the past. You'd be best to exchange for Thai baht. If you're in Bangkok, you won't find a taxi driver, BTS station or MRT station that will take anything except for Thai baht. There may be rare instances where street stalls take USD, but again, not worth wasting your time searching for places that except USD.
  8. Lots to do and see in Singapore: SkyPark observation deck at the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel Singapore Flyer ferris wheel Merlion Park to see the Merlion Statue and a view of Marina Bay Raffles Hotel Walk Orchard Road See the Night Safari if you are going to the Zoo as well Singapore Botanic Garden - especially the National Orchid Garden Gardens By the Bay - including the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest Walk around the many malls in the city Bumboat River Cruise from Clarke Quay Chinatown Little India Arab Street
  9. #1 is good advice. On one of my trips to BKK 2 years ago, I went to the Grand Palace and someone tried to tell me at a side entrance that the Palace was currently closed for the next few hours and that they could take me on a tour in the meantime and bring me back in time for the Palace opening again after lunch. We didn't believe them and kept walking on to the main entrance to discover that the Palace was full of people and was indeed open! #2 is the advice I'd give a tourist too. The BTS and MRT are convenient and reliable ways to get around BKK to many of the sights. Use them to your advantage! Preferably, get a hotel next to a BTS station or connected to a BTS station so you don't have to bother with taxi's and traffic on the street. I can think of a number of areas where this is possible. There are also hotels that are connected directly to the BTS via elevated walkway, meaning you never have to go down to street level. Super convenient!
  10. There are 7-11's everywhere as well as Watson's Pharmacy. They should have the toiletry supplies you are looking for.
  11. There are a few other major credit cards out there that don't charge a foreign transaction fee --- American Express Platinum and UnitedMileage Explorer Plus from Chase.
  12. I'm not sure that the question was whether the BTS in Bangkok is better or worse than public transportation in other countries/cities. The discussion and mention of BTS is in relation to being a better tourist option for transportation around the city rather than taxis going through the terrible Bangkok traffic.
  13. No, my cruise departed from the old Ocean Terminal right next to the Star Ferry Terminal. Made it very easy to access the star ferry terminal, the bus depot at Tsim Sha Tsui and also the MTR at TST or East TST
  14. I just flew to Hong Kong at the end of July to join a cruise. We used Airport Express and then used their free shuttle service to get to our hotel - the Sheraton Hong Kong, which is across Nathan Road from The Peninsula. If you look at their website, it shows that you can their free shuttle bus K2, and the 4th stop on that bus is The Kowloon Hotel/The Peninsula Hotel The Salisbury is right next to the Peninsula, so it should be ok. And the Salisbury and Peninsula are on the same block, so there's no subway (better known as an underground passage way here in the west) to bother with.
  15. Interesting to read these stories. I received many unrequested emails from tour guides operating in Vietnam for months leading up to my cruise. They found my email address by perusing through the roll call and my past posts. Anyhow, I received an anonymous email from someone slandering Zoom talking about how he was illegal and unlicensed, blah blah blah. I asked Zoom directly about the information in the email he sent me, and Zoom was more than happy to send to me his license information and other materials proving himself as a authorized tour guide, even though I did not ask for this info. I was just sending him the email to tell him that I received a negative email from someone else. I had already decided at this time to take a tour with Zoom. In the end, I'm so glad I did. He was the tour guide for Chelsea Clinton when she was in HMC in 2000 while he was a tour guide for someone else's company before he started his own company. He's legitimate and professional and I couldn't have asked for a better day. I've been on numerous cruises and have done private tours around the world, I can say without hesitation that Zoom's tour was one of the best, most professional tours I've done. We were well taken care of, we saw tons, did lots, and had a fantastic time. Our group of 14 saw more than the ships tour did at half the cost. In fact, our per person cost for the tour was less than the ship's "on your own" tour of HMC. Can't beat that! (and our tour cost included water in the van, drinks at the Rex Hotel, lunch at Pho 2000 - our only out of pocket costs was our own personal shopping)
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