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English Tim

Crystal Symphony Review 23 February, 2017 Bali to Singapore

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My wife, Rosy and I chose this cruise as it guaranteed warm / hot weather and having traveled from Singapore to Hong Kong last year, experiencing cool weather as we moved north, we decided we were more bothered about the weather than the itinerary.

 

We booked a package through a UK TA,including club class flights on Emirates and hotels / transfers in Singapore and Bali. Emirates offer club class pax free luxury transfers to and from home to LHR and from Singapore to hotel and on return from cruise terminal to airport. We booked one night at the Marina Mandarin, in Singapore and two nights at the Conrad Bali. Our package included a club flight on KLM from Singapore to Bali and transfers.

 

 

We flew from LHR to Dubai departing at 19.00 and arriving at around 06.00 the following morning, with a +4hr time difference.We then had a 4 hour layover at Dubai, which turned into 6, due to a late departure to Singapore, due to blocked toilets on the plane. This resulted in a very late arrival at our Singapore hotel, but the adrenalin was with us. We had a restless night, then an early breakfast (excellent), prior to a 20 minute walk to Marina Bay Gardens, visiting the two glass domes (a not to be missed experience, but go early to avoid long lines!).

 

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Ourairport pick up was booked for about 2pm so we headed back to our hotel tocheck out and for Rosy to have a swim in the marvellous hotel pool.

 

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A bumpy flight to Bali, with disappointing food and service, not a patch on Emirates. On arrival at Bali, we were pleased to see our name on a sign, but not so pleased with the welcome. Our bags were taken from us by two other guys and all three escorted us the short distance to the car, before demanding tips. Then a driver and the guide took us to our hotel, with a hard sell on excursions. We had arranged these privately so politely refused and we were reluctantly handed our welcome pack. It was an experience which soured Rosy's impression of the Balinese people, which wasn't about to improve.

 

The currency is very confusing with 100,000IDR amounting to about £6 sterling. All prices in the hotel had three 0's added so 1250,000 was in fact 1250,000.000. I bet you are all confused!

 

We were upgraded from a garden view to an ocean view, so an excellent surprise. It was a fantastic room with every imaginable convenience and comfort.

 

There were wonderful landscaped grounds, c/w several inter-connecting swimming pools, which Rosy made god use of.

 

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We enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast each morning, by this pool.

 

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On our second day, we had arranged a wildlife tour with Kadek Tours, highly recommended on these boards, but alas we had a few issues and after my complaint, Kadek quickly returned to my hotel to offer a refund. I accepted a partial refund, which I thought was fair.

 

We visited a wildlife park/ zoo which we felt was priced like a Disney park at £45 each, but having been driven there we felt obliged to enter. Our card was charged three times, to add insult to injury, so we are now fighting with our bank.

 

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That evening we visited the 'Bali Collection' for dinner. It is a landscaped shopping / eating experience, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of nearby streets.

 

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We enjoyed an enormous seafood extravaganza with a cocktail each, which was very good value for money. They even took us back to our hotel!

 

The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and swim for Rosy, we took a cab to the port. It was really cheap and included the toll for entering the port. We were delighted to embark the ship and had no intention of getting back on Balinese soil.

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Once onboard, we immediately headed to the deserted pool deck for some 'rays' and cocktails.

 

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It soon became too hot to be outside, so we headed for the shade of the Lido Cafe for a light lunch.

 

Next we did our ironing and laundry, unpacked and explored.

 

That night we had an excellent dinner at Prego. As we had booked the cruise late, many preferred dining dates had gone, so we went on first night, which unfortunately meant missing our 'regular' table-mates on our requested table for eight on second sitting.

 

The following morning we were up early for deck walking, me trying Nordic walking, before an early breakfast and our pre-booked private tour of Komodo Island. We were joined by another English couple, Colin and Stephanie, from Christchurch and an American couple who had booked separately. We took the first tender and were met by our guides, who provided water. We hiked up a rugged path to a splendid viewpoint, then lower down to find some dragons.

 

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Difficult to see, but there were three large dragons around the water hole and one smaller one who took a disliking to us and hissed, lunging tward us, to the guides had to fend them it ff with their forked sticks.

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We were going to take a walk along the beach, but a ranger didn't seem happy with this so we returned to the ship.

 

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That night there was a fantastic sunset

 

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That evening we joined our 'regular' table-mates for dinner and were delighted to find Geoff and Angie, an English couple from the neighbouring county and Ken and Michelle, a delightful couple from Miami Beach. The other couple seemed unhappy with something and switched tables. However, they returned a few days later! Geoff was a fellow Somerset cricket follower and also enjoyed non-league football (soccer) so we had much in common.

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Next day was a sea day so mid morning we lounged in the Palm Lounge.

 

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We had both enrolled for Iphone tips and tricks, but the venue was changed and the alternative location was jam-packed. I stood behind the bar to get a better view. It was unsatisfactory. Anyway we learned a lot, so were happy.

 

Rosy also joined the Mahjong group and I did plenty of walking and took advantage of the outdoor exercise equipment.

 

Next day we visited Boracay in the Philippines.

 

We were greeted like royalty, as not many cruise ships call there an on this day we were joined by Regent Seven Seas Voyager, which we cruised on a few years ago.

 

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We took a rather arduous walk to what we thought might be a quiet beach, but it was very windy and the sea rough, which suited the many kite surfers.

 

We quickly decided to cut across to the opposite side of the island and found the gorgeous

White Beach, which provided ideal conditions for many other watersports. We found a nice bar to relax in and have lunch. The couple in the attached picture were having a massage, which we planned to do but they were to busy, so we found a similar facility further along.

 

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After a relaxing massage we took a Tuk Tuk back to the dock.

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Next day we visited another unusual port, Romblon Island, where again ships rarely call. We had a quick walk around and everyone was so friendly, waving to us and greeting us. Tourists were clearly rare sightings and the place was clearly geared up for locals, not visitors. We hoped for another massage, but we were out of luck, so we went back to the ship for lunch in preparation for our one ship's tour, an eco project planting mangrove shoots.

 

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About a dozen of us travelled in two Jitneys (open-sided and back trucks), escorted by the coastguard on mopeds. We were also accompanied by three armed police officers. The local authorities were keen to prove that this was a safe destination and we were treated to a feast of local produce.

 

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Our next port was Kota Kinabulu in Malaysia. The ship docked here and Crystal laid on a shuttle to a nearby shopping mall. We changed some money then set out in search of a local wetlands area. It was hard work climbing this wooden staircase in tropical temperatures and high humidity. My clothes were soon pretty damp!

 

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We walked for about an hour then found the reserve, paid a low entry fee, then walked around the boardwalks, seeing various birds and wildlife, but being ever mindful of biting insects, so we moved quickly. When we left we were a bit lost and some locals took us to the bus stop. We took a local bus back to the shopping mall, then returned to the ship.

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Tim

Enjoying the review and pictures and will be interested in your views on Crystal as well as the local sights that you're commenting on

I think you mean Jeepneys rather than Jitneys @ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeepney - they are quirky local "bus" style transport across the Philippines - they look chaotic but provide a very effective service and of course are cheap transport for the locals

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Our next port and final one before Singapore, was Brunei, quite an upmarket destination, with lots of local improvement works. Apparently the Sultan of Brunei looks after his subjects very well, but some areas looked a bit run down.

 

A local offered us a water taxi ride - there were many water taxis taking clients to the floating market, the Proboscis Monkeys or both. I negotiated for both from Brunei $40 to $30. Incidentally the Brunei and Singapore Dollars were interchangeable at the same rate.

 

His brother drove the boat and was an attentive driver / guide. He gave us life jackets and the boat had a hood for sun protection (other boats were open and vulnerable). He showed us crocodiles, monkeys, birds, etc and Rosy spotted two magnificent Kingfishers. It was well worth the money. He even offered us an umbrella during a brief rain shower.

 

Sorry for no pictures, but I didn't want to risk dropping my smartphone on the unstable boat.

 

On our return, we took a walking tour on a map provided by the shuttle bus guide.

 

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Last Supper

 

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Our in room bar

 

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On our penultimate day we dcked at Singapore at midday. It is a spectacular sail into the Singapore Cruise Port, which is behind Sentosa Island. We visited Sentosa in 1988 and it's now unrecognisable apart from the cable car.

 

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A big negative about Singapore was immigration. Even though we were only visiting we had to line up for over an hour. Others weren't so lucky and it took much longer. Fortunately the following morning, when we disembarked it was much quicker.

 

Please note that there are to Singapore cruise ports, so make sure your driver has the correct address.

 

We had a fantastic cruise and immediately booked another. Every aspect was excellent apart from our grumpy waiter.

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Tim

Enjoying the review and pictures and will be interested in your views on Crystal as well as the local sights that you're commenting on

I think you mean Jeepneys rather than Jitneys @ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeepney - they are quirky local "bus" style transport across the Philippines - they look chaotic but provide a very effective service and of course are cheap transport for the locals

 

Thanks for the correction.

 

I have also submitted a review to CC, based more on the ship. I wish I could copy and paste it, but it hasn't yet appeared. When it does, I'll link to it.

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Thanks for the beautiful pictures parsed by short comments on these places you visited. Looking forward to your CC review when it is posted.

 

We love Singapore and Bali except for the humid heat.

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Excellent narrative, and posts and I appreciate you taking the time to post this.

 

I am glad that you have written a review and look forward to reading it.

 

Keith

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Beautiful pictures. I enjoyed your review very much.

 

Nancy

 

Thank you. Each time I compose a pictorial review, I get very stressed working out how to post the images and this time CC annoyed me with this wretched Capcha stuff, which occasionally lost my posts!

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I have just remembered a conversation I had with the accounts officer, when I enquired what the average onboard account amounted to. I can't remember her answer, but when I received my final account, there were two others with it, for our cabin but on earlier voyages.

 

One account was for $2000 and the other for $5000. Ours was for $200 for future cruise deposits, so I guess if they keep a tally, we'll not be on their Christmas card list.

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Thank you Tim for your detailed review and wonderful photos. We have been loyal to Azamara over the past five years but viewing the itinerary of crystal (Dec 17 - South Africa) just appeals so much that I've booked as my DW will be celebrating a special birthday so any tips for first timers would be appreciated.

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Thank you Tim for your detailed review and wonderful photos. We have been loyal to Azamara over the past five years but viewing the itinerary of crystal (Dec 17 - South Africa) just appeals so much that I've booked as my DW will be celebrating a special birthday so any tips for first timers would be appreciated.

 

Ironically, we've booked Azamara Journey in October and we've not been with Az for quite a while. We tend to look at a time, itinerary and then best price.

 

As for tips for first-timers, all I can say is relax, enjoy, you'l have a wonderful time.

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Keith has a thread on the Crystal page. Thoughts for first time Crystal cruisers. This should answer most of your questions.

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