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Explore the world with Pete & Judy on the 2018 Holland America Grand World Voyage

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Day 61, Manila, Philippines - March 6

 

Shopping Malls

 

Today was our second and final day in Manila. There are plenty of opportunities for shopping here with several large malls within a few miles of the ship. The port provided a shuttle bus to the nearby Robinson Place Mall, which is huge (2.6 million sq feet) and only slightly smaller than the largest mall in the USA in Minnesota – the Mall of America (2.8 million sq feet). The Mall of America is the 36th largest mall in the world. The West Edmonton Mall, in Edmonton, Canada, is the largest mall in North America (23rd in the world at 3.8 million sq feet)

 

The largest mall in the Philippines, and the sixth largest in the world is the SM City North Mall (5.4 million sq feet) located about 6 miles north of the ship. The largest mall in the world is the South China Mall in Dongguan China with over 7 million sq feet of leasable space.

 

Manila-Map.jpg

 

The Plan

 

I didn’t want to spend much time in vehicles today, so I planned a trip to a few nearby spots:

  • A walking tour thru nearby Intramuros (Inside the walls) – Old Town Manila
  • Singing Cooks and Waiters – a interesting spot for lunch
  • The Upside Down Museum for some fun photos

Manila for a Day

 

A company called “Manila for a Day” caught my eye, offering private walking tours for small groups with a fixed price (about $40 USD per person) for up to 5 people. The 3G tour, “God, Gold and Glory – Extended” would cover Filipino history from Magellan to WW II and promised to offer insight to the Filipino people and what shapes their current culture and attitudes. I always enjoy opportunities to learn more about different cultures and what has shaped their thinking over the years. More info HERE

 

Arranging the tour was easy and their emails prompt and easy to understand. Full payment was required in advance and based on their outstanding reviews didn’t pose a problem.

 

Our tour started at 8:15 AM outside the St Agustin Church and Museum and would end up at Fort Santiago at 12:45 PM about ¾ of a mile away.

 

Even though our starting point was about 1 mile from the ship I decided to arrange for a driver, instead of walking, to take us there and to support the following schedule:

8 am: Ship to San Agustin Church and Museum for walking tour

1 pm: Fort Santiago to Singing Cooks and Waiters Restaurant

2:30 pm: Singing Cooks and Waiters to Upside Down Museum

3:30 pm: Upside Down Museum to Ship

 

 

Manila Stay, the same company I used yesterday, was able to arrange these transfers for us for about $50 total. Today, the driver knew our pick-up location and he arrived promptly after I gave him a call to tell him we were ready.

 

 

San Agustin Museum

 

Dustin, from Manila for a Day, met us promptly at 8:15 to start our tour. We spent the first 2 ½ hours walking through the San Agustin Museum where we moved slowly through various exhibits while he explained the influence of Magellan and his explorers, followed by more Spanish and the influence of the Catholic Church. Dustin was able to skillfully weave events from centuries ago and how they shaped the Filipino attitudes still prevalent today.

 

I initially expected the tour to take place outside while we would slowly walk from building to building toward Fort Santiago. As it turned out, most of the tour would take place in air-conditioned buildings with very little walking outside in the heat. This was a nice surprise as I didn’t look forward to hours standing outside in the hot sun.

 

Dustin’s English is perfect and this coupled with his superb presentation skills along with a very pleasant demeanor made the time fly by. Five is about the perfect group size for this tour, but you could probably go up to 7 or 8 without detracting too much from the experience.

 

Casa Manila

 

Following our tour through San Agustin Museum we walked a short block over to the Casa Manila Museum, which is a copy of the 1850’s San Nicolas House that was once located in Calle Jaboneros. Rather than simply describe the house and its architecture, Dustin explains the lifestyle and attitudes of the occupants and the Filipino people in the mid 1800’s.

 

Halo Halo

 

Our next stop was a nearby restaurant where we sampled a traditional Filipino desert called a “Halo Halo”. This is a basically a combination of a snow-cone and a banana split and features a variety of fruits served in a large glass sundae. It was very good and every Filipino we spoke with later were all familiar with this treat and they enjoyed them very much whenever they were back home.

 

Fort Santiago

 

After we finished our Halo Halo’s we were given the option to either walk about ½ mile to Fort Santiago or take a pedicab. We chose the pedicab option and for 50 pesos per person ($1 USD) we were on our way, avoiding the walk in the hot sun.

 

While I remembered that Gen Macarthur pledged “I shall return” when he left the Philippines, I didn’t appreciate the battle that led to the liberation of the Philippines in 1945. Dustin described the fighting here at Fort Santiago and how this pivotal event shaped the relationship between the Filipino people and the USA for years to come.

 

The 3G - Extended Walking tour exceeded our expectations and I highly recommend Dustin and Manila for a Day to anyone who is interested in gaining a greater appreciation of the rich history of the Philippines.

Our driver picked us up at Fort Santiago about 1:15 and we headed off to Lunch at the restaurant “Singing Cooks and Waiters” a few miles south.

 

Singing Cooks and Waiters

 

The restaurant is on the second floor of a building on a crowded block and was almost empty when we arrived. The “cooks and waiters” were performing constantly on a small area adjacent to the tables in the main dining area. Audience participation is appreciated and we all took turns singing and dancing as the talented crew sang a variety of pop tunes. The food was just OK, but you don’t come here for that, but for the entertainment and good times, of which there is plenty.

 

Upside Down Museum

 

After our late lunch we piled into our waiting van for the short drive to the “Upside Down” museum. We all qualified for a senior discount which was 330 pesos. They don’t take USD or credit cards, so make sure you have enough pesos if you plan to visit.

 

Once inside there are probably about 10 sets that you can use to photograph yourselves in various poses that give the illusion you are in a room or location that is upside down. There are staff members available to help you pose in a way to get the best effect and they will also take the pictures with your cameras. We only had 30 minutes here, so we had to rush, and we had to skip a few of the sets at the end. I would plan on spending 60-90 minutes here if you wanted to take advantage of all the sets and not feel rushed. This is a great activity for a small group and is highly recommended.

 

Our driver was waiting for us and we were back on the ship by 4 PM with the all aboard at 4:30.

 

Evening aboard

 

After we sailed away, we spotted the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) anchored off in the distance. More about this ship HERE.

 

Dinner tonight featured a selection of Filipino favorites including: Lechon (Filipino Style Roasted Suckling Pig), Fried Pork Lumpia with Pickled Papaya and Shrimp Ginataan with Calabasa.

 

Giovanni was the guest entertainer this evening and he put on another good show that would be improved by singing a few more songs and with shorter song introductions.

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Appreciate your details re tours! The food sounds very interesting! I can’t imagine the size of those malls! West Ed leaves me exhausted.

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I know exactly what to do next time I’m in Manila. I will keep The Manila For A Day info handy. Thanks for sharing!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Day 62 - At Sea, March 7th 2018

 

Roll, Pitch and Heave

 

There wasn’t any mention of heavy weather on the horizon as we left Manila, but very early this morning, the ship experienced significant deck motion in all directions, roll, pitch and heave, indicating the combination of swell and wave action exceeded the limits of the ships stabilizers. There was also over 40 knots of relative wind over the deck and the temperatures dropped considerably since we left Manila. Rain was in the forecast for Hong Kong, along with cooler temperatures. The cooler temperatures were fine, but rain would put a damper on our planned excursion to Macau.

 

Coffee Chat

 

Singer Toni Warne was the guest at Coffee Chat this morning. She has been singing since she was a small girl and her mother encouraged the development of his musical talent. While she received a big boost in notoriety after her appearance on the UK Version of the Voice, she had been singing professionally for years before she appeared on the show.

 

HAL Singers and Dancers

 

The Holland America singers and dancers hosted another Q and A session this morning. A few members of the cast had traveled with the touring Broadway Shows and they commented how they prefer the cruise ship gig since they have an opportunity to perform a wider variety of shows rather than the same show 8 times a week. Even the pay on cruise ships is now comparable to working on some Broadway or West End shows and more and more singers and dancers are sticking with cruise ships as their primary venue.

 

Afternoon

 

During the Captain’s noon update, he mentioned that the heavier seas were not forecast and that we should expect to see conditions improve as we close on Hong Kong.

 

During drawing class today Ben gave an overview of the Chinese Dynasties and the art that is associated with each one.

The Craft today was to string Millefiori beads into a one of a kind Millefiori Necklace. Judy’s kit was green and red beads that she’ll wear for Christmas.

 

They spent some time today touching up the paint on our balcony.

 

Evening

 

Tonight’s dinner them was a Secret Garden Dinner “Enjoy the Mystery and Wonderment of this floral inspired dinner”. Each table had a 5 foot vase as a center piece complete with a wonderful arrangement. Eddie and Calista – the resident florists – were busy scurrying about tending to the dozens of arrangements on every table. Although none of the vases toppled, the ships motions now and then had everyone ready to reach out and grab one if it started to tip.

 

Bernie Fields, the virtuoso harmonica musician joined us for dinner. We learned that he uses music written for the flute or violin as the foundation of his arrangements. He also carries two spare harmonicas in his pocket in the event of a malfunction – which while rare, does happen from time to time.

 

Toni Warne was in the Queen’s Lounge for her second show. She wowed the crowd with her powerful voice singing such hits as Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Tina Turners “Proud Mary”

 

Toni.jpg

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Day 63, March 8th - Hong Kong

 

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson – 1997

 

When Mike Tyson was asked by a reporter whether he was worried about Evander Holyfield and his fight plan he answered with the above quote. While I wasn’t preparing for a prize fight, I did develop a very nice plan for our day trip to Macau. Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s cool temperatures, wind and rain, punched my plan in the mouth and we were forced to adapt on the fly. More on that later.

 

Arrival

 

Wind and rain greeted us as we sailed into Hong Kong which put a big damper on the normally scenic and festive sail-in. We will be going to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which was built on the same site as the old Hong Kong airport. According to my sources, Holland America is now committed to using the Kai Tak Cruise terminal for all future Hong Kong visits for financial reasons. Berthing at Kai Tak must offer a significant price savings over the much preferable Harbour City location to justify the inconvenience of this location and the bare bones facilities inside the terminal.

 

There was a free shuttle bus offered to the Peninsula Hotel, but a taxi to the same location cost about $95 HKD or $13 USD per cab. If you share this with a few people, the price is reasonable, and it beats having to deal with the shuttle bus. Another plus is that unless you are going to the Peninsula hotel, you can avoid more walking and have the taxi take you directly to your destination.

 

Macau Day Trip

 

A few days before we arrived, we received a questionnaire asking us if we planned to leave Hong Kong to visit Macau so we could get an individual visa instead of the group visa. There wasn’t any extra charge for this visa, but the ship needed to know so they could separate our passports and process them separately.

 

The night before we arrived, we were instructed to be in the Wajang Theatre at 7:45 am in the morning to collect our passports go ashore to clear immigration. After we had our passports, we went ashore and proceeded thru typical immigration kiosks where the officials looked at our passports and gave us a loose sticker which represented our arrival visa. We were on our way to the taxi stand by 8:30 AM.

 

NOTE: The rest of the ship wasn’t cleared for several hours so the lesson here is if you want to leave the ship early tell the ship you are heading to Macau and you will likely be processed as soon as you arrive. However, once you say you are going to Macau, you MUST leave the ship early and can’t get back on for several hours. Also, the people who went to Macau had an earlier all aboard time since we had to clear immigration again in the Hudson Room on the way out.

 

Taxi to China Ferry Terminal

 

There was only a short taxi line and one arrived in about 10 minutes. Hong Kong has taxis that can hold either 4 or 5 people and they all display a placard on the bumper near the front license plate that shows the authorized capacity. There were 5 of us in our group, so we had to take a pass on the first taxi and wait for the next taxi, which had a 5-passenger placard. I considered using UBER, but the nearest UBER was 15 minutes away, so the taxis were faster. However, with the taxis you need to have Hong Kong Dollars available – and in smaller denominations – as many taxis don’t take credit cards (but some do – so ask).

There was a helpful person working the taxi line and she gave us a card we could use for our return trip that indicated we wanted to go to the Kai Tak Cruise terminal. She also circled our destination, written in Chinese, on a brochure that we could show the driver to avoid confusion. Most drivers understand some English, but having your destination written down in Chinese is recommended.

 

It took about 30 minutes to travel the 6 miles to the China Ferry Terminal in the morning rush hour traffic.

 

China Ferry Terminal

 

Once inside the terminal, the signs to the ticket offices and ferries are well marked in English. Since we had our tickets printed out in advance, we proceeded directly to a gate marked with the time of our ferry and the ferry company’s name.

 

Macau Ferry Options

 

Let me pause for a second to review the options for getting to Macau.

 

There are two ferry terminals in Hong Kong/Kowloon:

  1. Hong Kong-Macau Ferry Terminal on Hong Kong
  2. China Ferry Terminal on Kowloon.

There are two ferry terminals in Macau:

  1. Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal – Near the newer casinos
  2. Macau Outer Harbor Ferry Terminal – Near the older casinos and more tourist attractions.

Macau is not that big, so it doesn’t matter that much which Macau Ferry terminal you use. We chose the Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal as it was closer to the Wynn Palace where we would be ending our day trip.

There are two major ferry companies:

  1. Turbo Jet
  2. Cotai jet

Cotai Jet Ferry

 

We chose Cotai Jet since it leaves from the closer (to Kai tak) China Ferry Terminal. However, Cotai Jet only has departures about once per hour from Kowloon while Turbo Jet has departures every 15 minutes from Hong Kong. Fares and service are similar, so I would pick based on schedule and your preference of ferry terminal, both from Hong Kong/Kowloon and Macau.

Unless you are travelling on a weekend, you won’t need a reservation and you don’t need to buy a ticket in advance. We bought our tickets online in advance, so we could avoid waiting in the ticket line and go directly to the boarding gates. As it turned out, the lines were not very long, so if you don’t buy a ticket in advance, don’t be concerned. We paid the extra $12.00 each for first-class tickets. That gave us front-of-line for immigration in Macau and Hong Kong. As it turned out the lines weren’t that long, so you could probably avoid this extra expense unless you were travelling on a weekend when everything is much busier. First class also includes a complimentary beverage and snack.

 

The ferry has two levels with the entire upper level dedicated to first class and economy class restricted to the first level. There were probably 10 people with us in first class with a capacity of over 100 – there was about 75 people in economy.

 

The ferry left on time and the ride was smooth all the way across except for a few bumpy spots about ½ way. Walking from the ferry to immigration was about ¼ mile and we cleared immigration quickly.

 

Arrival Macau

 

Once inside the terminal we went to the tourist information center to get a local map before heading outside to grab a free casino shuttle bus the Wynn Macau. If you are in a hurry you may want to take a taxi directly to your destination since the free shuttle bus ended up (they have free Wi-Fi onboard) taking about 45 minutes – probably twice as long as a taxi would have taken.

 

Wynn Macau

 

It was raining, cold and windy when he got off the shuttle bus at the Wynn Macau. Our original plan was to take a taxi to the Ruins of St Paul, spend a few minutes exploring the area, and then slowly walk the 1 mile back to the Wynn via some tourist spots. The weather was miserable enough that we decided to cancel our outdoor activities and spend most of our time in the various Casinos.

 

 

Wynn.jpg

 

We ducked inside the Wynn Macau to get out of the rain and we happened to be in the perfect spot to watch one of two amazing shows inside the Rotunda. The two shows are called “Dragon of Fortune” and “Tree of Prosperity” which alternate and one or the other is shown every 15 minutes. Each show is about 5 minutes. Here is a description of the two shows from the Wynn website:

 

Tree of Prosperity

“This wondrous combination of music, video and lights starts as the golden dome above opens to reveal a spectacular 11-meter chandelier crafted of 21,000 illuminated crystals. At almost the same moment, an 11-meter tree ascends from the floor, with each of its 60 limbs composed of more than 2,000 branches and 98,000 leaves embellished with both 24-karat gold and brass leaf. As the tree gracefully spins, state-of-the-art video technology creates the illusion of changing seasons, from a vibrant green for spring to a golden summer, deep red for fall, and finally, an icy winter”.

Dragon of Fortune

“A magnificent sculpture embellished with gold leaf, which rises from its jade-like base amid a rolling fog, accompanied by grand music tailor-made for such a dazzling entrance. As the 28-foot Dragon with its glowing eyes slowly turns, affording each audience member a perfect view, a 12-foot lotus blossom gracefully opens at its center. Each of these traditional symbols was designed to pay tribute to the rich lore and culture of China.”

 

After the shows we walked through the casino to see what games they had and pick up some chips to keep as souvenirs. Unlike the casinos in Las Vegas, you don’t have to walk thru the gaming area to get to anyplace else as they are segregated by security checkpoints with guards and arches that look like metal detectors, but they don’t require you to remove anything from your pockets or have your bags inspected. You must remove your hat and men are not allowed to wear shorts – other than that, the dress of everyone inside was casual. While they don’t permit photography inside the gaming area, they didn’t have a problem with my camera being slung over my shoulder while inside. There wasn’t any problem taking photos anywhere else inside the hotels.

 

Gambling in Macau

 

Aside from the size differences, the casinos in Macau all had the same games in the same proportions. Over 70% of the gaming area is dedicated to Baccarat with $500 HKD (about $64 USD) as the most common table minimum. The second most popular game was a dice game using three dice call Sic Bo – More HERE. The remainder of the floor space was spread amongst a variety of games including Blackjack. There was no drinking or smoking while playing at any of the table games. There were small rooms with glass walls for smokers. The casinos were all brightly lit, spotless and smoke free.

 

We watched as people played Baccarat and were surprised that they dealt the cards face down and the players would slowly expose their cards by bending the edges sharply enough to crease the card – ruining it for further play. This was to maximize their anticipation and delay the exposure of their hand, good or bad. After about 5 seconds, with their cards known to them, the player would fling them toward the dealer who would neatly position them on the board while the rest of the hand played out. We watched as someone came in and plopped down $200,000 Hong Kong dollars ($25,000 USD) and proceeded to lose it all in 4 hands after which he got up and left.

 

In addition to the table games, there was a wide variety of slot machines like you would find at any other casino anywhere in the world. We didn’t play any of the games, but the pit bosses were friendly and a few spoke good English and they were quite happy to explain the games and the casino customs.

 

Hotel Lisboa

 

After we left the Wynn, we headed over to the original Macau Casino, The Hotel Lisboa, which was much smaller than the Wynn, but had a certain elegance that was missing from the newer, glitzier casinos.

 

Margaret's Cafe

 

The rain stopped as we left the Hotel Lisboa so we decided to walk a few blocks to Margaret’s Café, which is known for its Egg Tarts, variations of which you will find all over Macau. In addition to the Egg Tarts, they serve a variety of meats and cheeses on various types of bread. There is a large menu board over a counter/deli case and when you get to the front of the line, you tell the person behind counter what type of bread you would like along with the meat and other toppings. I chose ham and cheese, but it turned out to be chopped up ham and cheese prepared like a tuna salad filling, instead of slices of ham and cheese.

After they hand you your sandwich wrapped in clear plastic wrap, you can order some egg tarts from a woman guarding them as they sit on trays in pastry racks, next to the meat counter. I ordered two and she wrapped them up, but she refused to hand them to me until I paid for everything at the cashier only a few feet away. I gathered they had problems with people dashing out the door once they had the egg tarts in hand.

 

There wasn’t any place to sit inside but we found some spots on a picnic table outside under an awning. In a few minutes we were joined by a Japanese couple, but it turned out that the man was from San Jose, California, and the woman from Tokyo. They only met earlier that day on an app called “Tinder”.

 

Wynn Palace

 

We headed back to the Wynn Macau and caught their shuttle bus to the Wynn Palace and spent about 30 minutes browsing some of their shops and picking up some more gambling chips for souvenirs. All the casinos have free and fast Wi-Fi.

Each casino has their own shuttle bus, but they only connect their casino to the airport or ferry terminal and their other properties. The exception is the Cotai shuttle which travels in a big loop around the major casinos on Cotai.

 

After we finished exploring the Wynn Palace, we got on the Cotai Shuttle and headed over to the Galaxy Hotel and Casino. We browsed the shops and stopped by the Starbucks to pick up some souvenir coffee mugs before heading back to the Cotai Shuttle to head to the Venetian Hotel and casino.

 

Back to Hong Kong

 

We were only in the Venetian long enough to pick up some gambling chips for souvenirs before we headed out to the shuttle buses to catch a bus back to the Taipa Ferry Terminal. We just missed the earlier bus, so we had to wait 15 minutes for the next one and we arrived at the terminal 10 minutes later at 6:45 pm, one hour before departure. This was the last Cotai Jet ferry from Taipa this evening. Other companies have ferries leaving later, but they may leave from the other Macau Ferry Terminal.

 

Our ferry left on time and one hour later we were back in Kowloon. There wasn’t much of a line for immigration and we were down on the street in the taxi line in a few minutes. There was only a short wait for a 5-passenger taxi and we were back in the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in 17 minutes and $100 HKD ($14 USD) later. It took us 15 minutes to walk from the taxi drop off spot to the ship. This is a big terminal and they seem to snake you all around on your way back to the ship.

We ordered room service for dinner.

 

Back on the Ship

 

There was a Chinese Cultural Show in the Queen’s Lounge, but it started at 9:30 PM and we didn’t get back on the ship until 9:45 PM so we missed it.

 

The Original Plan

 

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we had a wonderful plan for our day trip, but we chose to abandon the plan because we didn’t feel like walking around in the rain. We will save this plan for a future trip to Macau.

Here was our original plan for our Macau Day Trip for the benefit of future travelers. If anyone follows this plan for their own trip, shoot me an email and let me know how it worked out.

8:30 - Taxi or Uber to Hong Kong Ferry Terminal

9:15 - Arrive China Ferry Terminal – Coatai Water Jet

10:15 - Ferry Departs

11:15 - Arrive Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal

11:45 - Clear Immigration/Customs

12:00 - Taxi to Ruins of St. Paul

Walk 1 mile to Wynn Casino (2 hours budgeted) thru cultural/historic district

  • Museum of Macau (optional)
  • Lou Kau Mansion & Visit 15 minutes
  • Senado Square – Center of old Macau
  • Margaret’s Café for Egg Tarts and snack

Famous for Egg Tarts

  • Lisboa Casino – one of Macau’s original Casinos
  • Fountain Show at Wynn Casino
  • Wynn Casino

2:00 PM Taxi to Taipa Village – More info HERE

If you are travelling by taxi, please tell the driver to drop off at Rua do Regedor Taxi Station. (地堡街的士站 – 黑橋巴士站對面)

2:15 PM Arrive Taipa VIllage

Explore Taipa Village for 2 Hours

“Taipa village is the historical part of Taipa and the best-preserved area in the south of the island. It used to be a fisherman village in Taipa catered for local residents who made a living through fishing, firecrackers production and other handicraft professions”.

Suggested Eating Spots

Cafe Tai Lei Loi Kei

Rua Correria da Silva, No 35, Taipa,

Famous Macau Street Food “Pork Chop in a Bun”

Tian Mo Fang Dessert

Egg Tarts served in egg shells

16:30 Depart Taipa Village

Walk to Venetian Hotel Casino - ½ mile

Walk Thru Venetian Hotel

Lord Stow Bakery – snack – Famous for Egg Tarts

Most Consider Lord Stow the best bakery in Macau

Walk to City of Dreams Hotel Casino or take Cotai Connection

Explore City of Dreams

Take Cotai Connection to Wynn Palace

Walk Thru Wynn Palace

Watch Fountain Show at Wynn Macau Performance Lake

18:45 Take Taxi or Shuttle back to Ferry Terminal

19:00 Arrive Macau Taipai Ferry Terminal

19:45 Depart Macau Taipa Ferry Terminal

20:45 Arrive China Ferry Terminal

21:00 Depart China Ferry Terminal via Taxi/Uber

21:45 Arrive Kat Tak Cruise Terminal

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So how did your self directed tour differ from what the ship offered? I’m betting there’s a huge price differential.

 

 

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So how did your self directed tour differ from what the ship offered? I’m betting there’s a huge price differential.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

Our trip to Macau cost $100 per person. The ship tour was $200 pp but included a guided tour. We could have added a guided tour for about $30 per person. The ship tour wasn't a bad price considering the convenience you of not having to plan anything out yourself.

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Day 64 - March 9th - Hong Kong

 

The weather was as nice today as it was bad yesterday. Gray skies with threats of rain were replaced by clear blue skies and pleasant temperatures.

 

Heading to Hong Kong Island

 

Around 10:30 AM we headed down to the taxi line to grab a cab over to the Hong Kong side. The ship is connected to the Kai Tak terminal by a scissors type jet way bridge that consists of 5 switchbacks with 35 steps per switchback. Consequently, it takes over 175 steps simply to get into the terminal followed by another 5-7-minute walk to get to the taxi stand. As I noted in yesterday’s post it took us almost 15 minutes (probably close to ½ mile) to walk back to the ship from the taxi drop off spot due to the very circuitous routing thru the terminal when returning.

 

Bottom line: Be prepared to walk more than you may expect to get to any tour bus or taxi when you are berthed at the Kai Tak cruise terminal.

 

It was only a short wait for a taxi and I had our destination, The International Finance Center 2, (located above Hong Kong’s Central Station) saved as a screen shot on my phone so I could show it to our driver to confirm our destination. As it turned out, his English was good enough and our destination was well known enough so it probably wasn’t necessary, but I always try to have my destination in writing when travelling in China.

 

International Finance Center

 

The International Finance Center is home to the large IFC shopping mall and the second tallest building in Hong Kong – over 1300 feet high.

 

Our plan today was to visit one of the Tim Ho Wan Dim-Sum restaurant, advertised as the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant. Tim Ho Wan, famous for years in Hong Kong, now has 45 locations around the world. The original location is in Hong-Kong’s Mongkok area but there are 5 others around Hong Kong. There are two in the USA – New York City (East Village) and Honolulu (Waikiki). If your cruise doesn’t visit Hong Kong, you can find Tim Ho Wan restaurants in Singapore and Australia among other locations in Asia.

 

The taxi to the IFC cost $170 HKD or about $22 USD and took about 35 minutes in light traffic. You could also get to the IFC by taking the ship’s shuttle bus to the Peninsula Hotel, walking to the Star Ferry and taking it to Hong Kong, then walking across the pedestrian bridge to the IFC. If you have plenty of time and want to ride the Star Ferry (which everyone should do at least once) this would be a nice adventure unto itself.

 

There is a large Apple Store in the IFC mall and we stopped by to take advantage of their fast & free

Wi-Fi to get all our apple devices synched and download the updates to various installed apps.

 

Tim Ho Wan

 

The Tim Ho Wan restaurant is located on Podium Level 1 in the IFC Mall and is nestled in amongst other stores and restaurants, but you will be able to spot it from a distance as it is the only shop with a huge line outside. Finding it can be a little tricky as the various levels can be confused with the levels that are part of the Hong Kong Central Station Metro station. Once you get in the mall, ask a passersby for directions.

 

We arrived around 12:30 PM and the line was switched back and forth about 4 times. It took about 20 minutes to get seated. The line was shorter after we left, so I think we got there at one of the busiest periods. While waiting in line, we were handed a menu/order slip which lists everything they have along with an English description, the price and a box to indicate the quantity of each item desired. The place mat has pictures of many items, but you can’t see that until you are already seated.

 

Once at the head of the line, the hostess will ask how many are in your party and will then seat you when the next set of seats for your party size open. The seats are close together and you will be seated with others if that’s the only space available. After you are seated, you hand your menu/order form to the waitress and your food will arrive in waves whenever it is ready. Tea is included and served automatically. Mineral water and soft drinks are available, and you order them on the same card as the rest of your food. This is not a restaurant for a leisurely meal. Service will be fast, and you are expected to eat and get out.

 

If you plan to come here, take some time in advance to study the menu online, and read some reviews of what other people enjoyed.

 

We ordered:

  • Baked Buns w/BBQ – each order has 3 small buns. Very Good
  • Sweet black sticky rice cream w/corn – OK – would not order again
  • Steamed egg cake – OK
  • Steamed rice rolls stuffed w/ BB Pork – Very Good
  • Pan Fried Spring Dumpling w/salad dressing – OK
  • Glutinous Rice Dumplings – We didn’t like the texture – would not order again.

Central - Mid Level Escalators

 

After lunch we went up to the second level of the IFC mall, which is the level where you will find all the pedestrian bridges crossing over the streets below. Our destination was the Central – Mid Level Escalator system, which is a series of 20 escalators and 3 inclined moving walkways that opened in 1993. They cover a horizontal distance of about ½ mile and rise about 450 feet. Connected in places by footbridges, and with 14 entrances and exits, it takes about 20/25 minutes to ride the complete length of the escalator system one-way.

 

More HERE

 

The escalators run from Queen’s Road Central to Conduit Road in Mid-Levels. They travel downwards from Mid-Levels from 6am to 10am daily and then reverse traveling uphill until midnight.

 

The beginning of the escalator system can be accessed from 100 Queens Road Central or the elevated walkway system over Queens Road Central or Cochrane Street.

 

Along the way you can take a side trip down one of the many streets you will pass if something catches your eye on the way to the top. After each escalator, you may have to cross a street or take a connecting switchback bridge to get to the next escalator.

We only ventured off the escalators a few times to check out some nearby stores since we had to be back on the ship by 3:30 pm. With more time, we could spend several hours exploring the various neighborhoods at each level.

 

The escalators are in the middle of a major renovation project, so we had to walk up the adjacent steps for one segment since the escalator was out of service.

 

The escalators end on Conduit street. I had originally planned to hail an Uber since I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get a taxi there quickly. As it turned out, taxis were whizzing by every 30 seconds and it was easy to flag one down and head back to the ship. The card we received from the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal taxi stand was invaluable as the driver’s English was not very good and he wasn’t that familiar with the location of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. He paused for a second to consult his map book and then realized it was the location of the old airport and then he knew exactly where to go.

 

Back on the Ship

 

After we arrived at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal we discovered that there is a park on the top of the cruise terminal. We spent about 20 minutes up here exploring and enjoying the nice views. It turns out that we were at about the same level as the Lido Deck.

 

Once we were back on the ship, we were instructed to go to the Hudson room to clear Hong Kong immigration since we went to Macau. Clearing immigration consisted of turning in our passport. We didn’t have to talk to any of the immigration agents who were busy working at nearby tables.

 

The weather was beautiful for the sail-away and we enjoyed chatting with Bill and Mary Ann for a bit as we waited for a wonderful sunset.

 

Queen's Lounge

 

Laurie Ashworth and Spencer Moran of “Eterni Amici” – meaning Forever Friends in Italian - were the headliners in the Queen’s Lounge this evening. They sang a collection of hits from musicals and pop songs including: Memories, Let it Be, Don’t Rain on My Parade and Beauty and the Beast. Laurie and Spencer dazzled with their amazing performance of “I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It” from Phantom of the Opera. Laurie put on a dazzling display of her vocal range when she hit the incredibly high note toward the end of the song. Don’t miss this talented duo if you are lucky enough to have them performing nearby.

 

 

Laurie-Ashworth.jpg

 

Pillow Gifts

 

Back in the room we found two carry-on size roller bags as our latest “pillow gifts.” You can find pictures of all the pillow gifts on the blog under 2018 World Cruise Reference Items.

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We met Kate on 2016 World Cruise. We are looking forward to seeing her again.

 

 

 

Please give her a hug for me :)

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Day 65 March 10th – At Sea

 

Two sea days on in front of us before we arrive in Phu My, Vietnam where we will start our first overland adventure to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We went to Angkor Wat on the 2016 world cruise and we enjoyed it so much we decided to make a second visit. The ship sent out a questionnaire about our travel plans in Vietnam to determine if we needed an individual visa or if the group visa would be sufficient. The cost for the individual visa was $75 and was cheaper than what the visa services were charging and even cheaper than if we mailed our passport to the Vietnam embassy in Washington DC.

 

There are some exceptions, most notably the Australian ETA, but as a general rule, allowing the ship to get your visas if they are able to is usually the best bet.

 

Meet and Greet

 

There was another cruise critic meet and greet today – the third one of the cruise. Jerry and Kathy organized another slot pull and some other folks started to set up a cabin crawl.

 

Afternoon on the ship

 

Not a good day for me in the Casino – played 3 Hold’em tournaments and lost them all.

 

Judy continues with her drawing class where Ben talked about the values of tone that can be found in the shadows of an object.

Today’s craft project was constructing a Chinese Good Fortune Bracelet. Judy got four extra beads to make the bracelet big enough to fit her wrist.

 

Captain's Dinner

 

Tonight, was our turn for the Captain’s Dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. We arrived at 6:30 and posed for a picture with Captain Jonathan. Everyone who is on the full world cruise gets invited to one dinner. Notification of our dinner was sent out during the first week of the cruise. They will consider rescheduling if you are off the ship for an overland excursion and for no other reason. There is always some gift distributed during dinner and you will received this gift even if you can’t make the dinner. They don’t send out reminders, so you must make sure you remember your date on your own.

 

Each table of 6 -7 people will have a single officer has a host. We were seated with 2 other couples along with Ed, the Chief Electrical Officer. The Captain hosts a table for 6 near the front door. The people sitting at his table didn’t have any special status that we could determine, so it’s not clear how tables are assigned.

 

Here is the menu – there aren’t any choices unless you let them know ahead of time that you were allergic to something they planned on serving.

 

2018 GRAND WORLD VOYAGE CAPTAIN'S DINNER

  • SMOKED DUCK
  • CREAM OF CORN
  • SEARED TUNA *
  • BEEF AND SHRIMP *

Desert

  • SNICKERS BAR

Wine

  • BERINGER PINOT GRIGIO, CALIFORNIA
  • TAPENA TEMPRANILLO, SPAIN

The food was delicious and the service outstanding. We had an enjoyable time learning more about Ed’s duties aboard the Amsterdam as well as more about our tablemates.

Our dinner gift was a very nice tulip vase.

 

After dinner we stopped by the main dining room to visit with our friends at Table 303 and enjoy some coffee and tea when they brought desert.

 

Emergency at Sea

 

While everyone was enjoying desert, the First Stage Emergency Alarm sounded at 9:22 PM. We knew this wasn’t a drill, and shortly afterwards there was an announcement that there was a report of smoke in the incinerator. The Captain came on the public-address system shortly thereafter and announced that everyone was responding per their training and there was nothing to be concerned about now.

 

 

The captain made several follow up announcements keeping us informed about the status before his final announcement at 9:47 that the situation was under control and no further action would be necessary.

 

Queen's Lounge

 

We went to the Queen’s lounge a few minutes before 10 PM to catch the show with concert pianist Tomono Kawamura. She put on a marvelous show and played an original composition she wrote when she was 12 which she performed for the Prime Minister of Israel.

 

 

T-player-3.jpg

 

Flooding

 

Our cabin is on Deck 6 and when were heading back to our cabin, we passed through the casino and learned that our deck was flooded, and we may have difficulty getting to our cabin. I scurried up to Deck 6 and was relieved to learn that the flooding was limited to cabins on the port side and since we are on the starboard side we were unaffected. We talked to some guests in the port side cabins later and they said that the water came from the center core of the ship and their cabins were not seriously affected. They did pull up the carpet and replaced it the next day.

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I've been following on your website and just found this on Cruise Critic. Your pics and info are amazing. I like how you are going for the local culture and flavor. Thanks for sharing this wonderful trip with us.

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Just started reading your blog yesterday. Trying to read 7 or so days of it at a time. I am having an amazing time on your adventure.

I have a quick question. You mentioned early on in the blog that you would follow up this Grand World Voyage with a Panama Canal cruise on (I believe) Crystal. You also mentioned that you lived quite near the San Diego port. I also noticed that the Canal cruise terminates in L.A. after a visit in San Diego. Are you able to debark in San Diego or must you finish the cruise in L.A. (as I believe the Passenger Service Act covers)?

After I finish your current blog, I am going to have to look for some of your others.

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Just started reading your blog yesterday. Trying to read 7 or so days of it at a time. I am having an amazing time on your adventure.

 

 

 

I have a quick question. You mentioned early on in the blog that you would follow up this Grand World Voyage with a Panama Canal cruise on (I believe) Crystal. You also mentioned that you lived quite near the San Diego port. I also noticed that the Canal cruise terminates in L.A. after a visit in San Diego. Are you able to debark in San Diego or must you finish the cruise in L.A. (as I believe the Passenger Service Act covers)?

 

 

 

After I finish your current blog, I am going to have to look for some of your others.

 

 

 

We could disembark in San but we will ride up to LA and rent a car to go home.

 

All my other cruises are on my blog with links in the drop down menus.

 

http://www.theinsidecabin.com

 

 

http://www.theinsidecabin.com

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