Jump to content
ccrain

Live From March 22, 2018 Diamond - 22 Days SYD to Tokyo

Recommended Posts

March 22, 2018 – Turn Around Day – Sydney

 

And still this morning she is rocking and rolling. Calmed down a bit last night in time for Judy to get out a bit and see the show. The Tasman Sea is not friendly to cruise ships that’s for sure. It wasn’t the size of the swell, or the wind, it was the weird directionless nature of the swell. The ship would pitch up and down, then roll a bit, do the hokey pokey turn itself about, do a loop de loop, then shudder, then smooth out for 20 to 30 seconds, then do it all over again in random order. We’ve been around the horn, through the drake passage, to HI and back several times, a couple of transatlantics, back and forth across the med, up and down the CA coast, around the North Sea, and through the Caribbean countless times, but never experienced this kind of weird motion.

 

They had a variety show put on by the cruise staff and the dance troupe, plus the orchestra. Finally someone in corporate may be reading my pleadings! They turned the dancers and singers loose. We had a flamenco/tango couple, a vocal duet, a jazz dance quartet, a three way cha cha/vocal, complete with a wardrobe malfunction – when he caught her, her dress got tangled in his shirt or necklace – and a stunning exhibition of gymnastic type dance with incredible strength, grace and beauty – the lifts were simply astounding. This was interspersed with cruise staff skits and ended with If I Were Not Upon the Sea. On other ships this would probably have been the International Crew Show, but on this ship they decided on a different format and it was GREAT! The best show of the cruise, hands down, for me. The production shows can be really good, but it’s the talent and creativity of the staff that makes or breaks the show – and I bet this one didn’t cost them millions either!

 

Oh yeah, Marcus, the CD, announced at the show that the Diamond would remain in Japan till 2021. I have only seen her schedule to November 2019, so that means the new schedules are about to be released.

 

BTW – On the subject of the pats of butter controversy. We’ve had a couple of breakfasts and lunches in the MDR and there has been no lack of butter. 2 butter balls per cover was the normal number I saw on the tables and more was brought when asked. Still not sure about dinner as we have not done dinner in the MDR yet.

 

So let’s preview our 22 day cruise to Tokyo. Lots of sea days. Ports in Darwin, Kunta Kinabalu, Phu My, Nha Trang, Hong Kong, Osaka, Shimizu and Tokyo. We have a mix of private, princess tours and DIYs depending on the port.

 

Our new cruise director is Lynn Van Vorce.

 

So now, back to the ship. Here is some info from the first patter of the cruise. For those of you keeping track we have Gennaro Arma as Captain, Craig Dauphinee as Hotel General Manager, Caroline Desbuquois as Entertainment Director, Lynn Van Vorce as Cruise Director, Maarit AArtoaho as Customer Services Director, Steve Reynolds as Food and Beverage Manager, Dirk Daumichen as Executive Chef, Adrian Cristian as Maitre’d.

 

We have 4 formal nights, one tender port (Na Trang), 4 hours back (30 minutes for Darwin), then 2 hours forward.

 

Bravo, I Got The Music, Piano Man, Born to Be Wild are the production shows.

 

Lots more stuff that I will post later, but now we have to get ready to get off and go shopping and sightseeing for the last time in Sydney.

 

Later…

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was on the Diamond for the 12 day cruise around New Zealand and noticed very little motion. Looking forward to this cruise. I hope people don’t get the wrong impression.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I got behind in reading your Live From so I just enjoyed following along on your New Zealand cruise. We did that cruise twice late last year with spectacular weather on one cruise and not quite so nice on the other, but we were lucky to see Milford Sound on a dry early morning and a wet afternoon with those gorgeous waterfalls. I think I preferred all the waterfalls...

 

From here on out I will be taking notes as we are considering cruising to some of the ports you’ll visit on your next leg. I wish you calm seas and sunny skies. Thanks for posting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 23, 2018 – At Sea To Darwin

 

Day 1 of 5 days at sea to Darwin and still the Tasman Sea will not let us sleep. Several times last night I woke up being tossed around the bed. More than I ever have before – and we have, now, over 550 days at sea. Looks like another Judy on Deck 5 or in bed day for sure.

 

But it was an exhausting day in Sydney. Fish market for breakfast – we found even better grilled baby octopus and fried calamari, plus nigiri. Used the last of our Iventure card at the Sydney Eye to see the city in noon day sun. Rode the light rail, the ferry, the train, shopped and talked to some very friendly people. In general had a blast! Sydney is a very tourist friendly city with lots to see and experience. And a lot of it very reasonably priced or even free. I can see why a lot of backpackers come to this city. We will be back to see more of the country – we hope.

 

They did take our passports upon boarding. We had that happen on the last Asia cruise as well. Still makes you feel a bit funny. We boarded a little after 1400 and had minor lines at the entrance and security.

 

The BOGO coupon book paid off again last night as we had dinner with Barbara and Peter, from the UK, our upcoming tour ‘buddies’ in Vietnam and Japan. Dinner at Sabatini’s was very good, although Judy did not care for her lobster (bug) that much. The braised short rib pasta was very good, as was my veal. The new menu at Sabatini’s at least doesn’t have them rolling you out after dinner – the smaller portions are greatly appreciated. It was a great dinner with very good conversation. We talked and ate for almost 3 hours, having only conversed via email over the past 9 months!

 

This morning (1100) is the formal CC meet and greet in Skywalkers. Judy will most likely not attend if the sea keeps kicking us around like this.

 

From the first patter – we have Scott Williams (Comedy Variety), Ivor Richards (Comedian), Beven Addinsail (Vocalist), Buddy Holly Tribute act, Adam Dean (Comedy/ Magic), Flamenco Express, Kikyo Brothers (Juggler), Daniel and Kimberly Craig (Comedy Variety). Theme nights include Rock and Roll, Country Western – probably the Love Boat Disco Deck Party. The Domino Duo is in the Wheelhouse, Euphoria is the party band, Jon Persson is the Atrium Pianist, Laurier Lachance is the Crooner’s Pianist, the Angelic Dreams Duo are the strings and David Barrett is the solo guitarist.

 

The strings Duo is phenomenal and David Barrett’s guitar work is pretty good as well. We’ve sat and listened to him a lot on the past cruise and the girls on the duo light up the atrium with their music.

 

Look like there will be a folkloric show in Hong Kong – masters of Harmonica with Cy Leo. Luca De Pasquale will be the destination expert, Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson is one of the enrichment lecturers and Caroline and Christian Helm are the others.

 

Well, that’s a quick overview. Now having my coffee with Joana and Anna in the atrium. Sure nice to see their smiling faces again. Always cheery, happy and energetic!

 

Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So pleased to hear you enjoyed Sydney and plan to come back and visit our country.

 

Enjoying reading your updates and hearing about familiar crew. So glad to hear they are looking after you.

 

Luca is a lovely destination expert.

 

You will certainly be getting great coffees Joana - what a gem she is.

 

Hopefully the weather will improve for you. The weather bureau is currently watching a cyclone in North Queensland.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 24, 2018 – At Sea(2) To Darwin

 

Very good day at sea yesterday. The seas starting calming and by this morning, they are back to their usual slightness. No bumps in the road last night and if there were, we were pretty exhausted. Since no port for 5 days we enjoyed the ship board amenities. Already knew about David Barret in the wheelhouse, but he started at 1700 yesterday and we needed some dance time. Domino Duo took over at 1900. Good music, good company, great dancing, a whole lot of fun, but very exhausting…

 

The CC Meet and Greet was yesterday as well in Skywalkers. This group is very lively and we have several people that were on the last cruise as well. Our new cruise director Lyn Van Vorce showed up – she just got promoted to CD and this is her first ship as CD. She gets supplemented at Hong Kong by the new Japanese cruise director who will be with her during the Japanese season. Frenchy is still ED and a new Assistant Food and Beverage director was there also. Then the Captain showed up as well. The dashingly handsome Italian captain was asked if he was single – and apparently he gets asked that a lot – as he shared his wife’s instructions to hold the microphone in his left hand with his ring finger wrapped prominently around it!

 

There will be a crossing the line ceremony as Judy and I are already shellbacks and nearly Golden Shellbacks from the 28 day Tahiti cruise in which I participated in the Crossing the line ceremony with Kelvin Lee.

 

The International Dining Room (Deck 6 Aft) is open for breakfast as lunch and has become our dining venue of choice with the rough seas, but the food seems to be a little better seasoned and tastier, so we’ve been doing that a lot for breakfast instead of the HC. I tried one of the Pies at the Grill yesterday. Never again for that flavor. I had the meat, cheese and potato. But the cheese was that nasty canned nacho sauce concoction. Not even up to Velveeta standards. On the other hand the pizza was very well done and very tasty with the margherita pizza the best with just the right amount of salt in the crust and cooked perfectly with the right chew vs crunch. Princess pizza, when done right, is pretty darn tasty. I wish they took a page from the Island and made Sabatini’s Alfredo’s for lunch instead of crab shack. We liked being able to sit and enjoy a hand crafted pizza in comfortable surroundings with a glass of wine or a beer that didn’t get warm too fast!

 

Just breaking daylight and its cloudy out. Getting much warmer and more humid. Sea state is near perfect now with a light pitch and roll, just a hint of wind. Great cruising weather! Nice cup of white chocolate latte, Judy is up and functioning and we surprised Anna with an assortment of chocolate easter eggs from our Sydney shopping excursion.

 

Today is the first formal night and a time change back one hour. Looks like they will have an escape room this cruise. So we will definitely sign up for this one. They are a blast! And a flashmob as well. There goes the afternoon power nap!

 

Finally – wandering around Oceania – Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking forward to the rest of your report and weboard Diamond Princess in Tokyo. First time on Princess, so soaking up the information.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are on this cruise as well as the previous one. The most striking positive so far has been the service. From dining room service to our room steward it has been exceptional. Room service has been the fastest and friendliest we have ever seen. Never taking more than 10 minutes from call to knock on the door. After all the Princess cruises we have sailed I finally realized I could call for things that aren’t on the card I put on the door. Been enjoying a veggie omelet and hash browns. Filled out the survey for the previous cruise with lots of 10s and positive comments. Also noted that we don’t miss BOGO at all. I did suggest BOGO might have been better if it had been available at all bars like Celebrity or if they replaced it with a 5 bottle wine package like NCL.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looking forward to following your Live from. We loved the Diamond when we sailed her last October around Japan. Actually we loved it so much we are rebooked to return October 2019. Our next cruise we will head to northern Japan.

Enjoy your cruise!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Looking forward to the rest of your report and weboard Diamond Princess in Tokyo. First time on Princess, so soaking up the information.

I think you will really like the Diamond Princess, although I think she is a bit different than the other Princess ships. She definitely has more of a Japanese feel. I am one that thinks there are definitely some big differences between HAL and Princess but we really liked Princess and I think you will too :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think you will really like the Diamond Princess, although I think she is a bit different than the other Princess ships. She definitely has more of a Japanese feel. I am one that thinks there are definitely some big differences between HAL and Princess but we really liked Princess and I think you will too :-)

We expect to, although it will be a bit of a crash from 4 star to no star ;)

 

BTW had a lovely lunch with James & Aileen Deering while at a seminar in Tokyo last month. And we will see them again when we return next month. Lovely people and James looks great!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We are on this cruise as well as the previous one. The most striking positive so far has been the service. From dining room service to our room steward it has been exceptional. Room service has been the fastest and friendliest we have ever seen. Never taking more than 10 minutes from call to knock on the door. After all the Princess cruises we have sailed I finally realized I could call for things that aren’t on the card I put on the door. Been enjoying a veggie omelet and hash browns. Filled out the survey for the previous cruise with lots of 10s and positive comments. Also noted that we don’t miss BOGO at all. I did suggest BOGO might have been better if it had been available at all bars like Celebrity or if they replaced it with a 5 bottle wine package like NCL.

 

I have to agree. Service has been second to none on this cruise. All the bar staff, the wait staff, room steward - excellent!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 25, 2018 – At Sea To Darwin – Day 3

 

The sea has really calmed down a lot. Perfect sailing weather, just a little to rock you to sleep instead of toss you around in the shower. A bit cloudy, a lot more heat and humidity than the South Island for sure. Talking to one of the cleaning crew this morning he did not get an extra hours sleep last night. That must have sucked. Working at 2 in the morning and then suddenly its one and you get to work an extra hour! Anna and Joanna enjoyed their extra hours sleep, as did we. Now its coffee time. Caramel this morning I think. MMMM good!

 

We will be doing the escape room this morning and signed up for the flash mob as well. Seems we will have several deck parties over this cruise including the crossing the line deck party and probably the love boat disco deck party as well.

 

Lots more platinums and elites on this cruise. The Elite lounge is packed at night. They had to call in extra staff from the casino bar to handle the rush. No delays in laundry though, typically second day service in the evening but we have gotten some things back on the second day in the morning. Still putting those stickers on elastic seams! Lots of clothes will not being going home with us from this cruise – but it beats doing laundry for sure.

 

We had a chance to talk to Lyn, the CD. She has been a CD on the Pacific before, a dancer and is pretty fluent in Japanese. And she has enough energy to run ship. OMG! Keeping up with her must be a challenge to anyone.

 

We did have breakfast in the MDR again. Sat down and had a very nice discussion with some people from the UK. Food and service was good, with plenty of butter for all. Still have not gone to the MDR for dinner. Trying to avoid eating too much bread – but boy is it good!

 

TVs are still not working properly. If ours doesn’t come up, we unplug the main power cord and do a power on reset for the entire cabin system. That usually works. So we go another $50 credit each! Nice.

 

Off to breakfast! Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have to agree. Service has been second to none on this cruise. All the bar staff, the wait staff, room steward - excellent!

 

 

 

We did the 20 days before the ship left for Japan and we agree. Whatever they are doing on the Diamond needs to be studied and implemented fleet wide.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We expect to, although it will be a bit of a crash from 4 star to no star ;)

 

BTW had a lovely lunch with James & Aileen Deering while at a seminar in Tokyo last month. And we will see them again when we return next month. Lovely people and James looks great!

:-D:D:D I heard, ;-) I am a bit jealous lol

I so want to go back to Japan this year but too many other plans, just not enough vacation time. Tom retires next year but with working two full time jobs I do not see retiring anytime soon.

Other than no laundry like 4 star I do not think over all you will feel much difference. Service was really good. But with one of my jobs it gives me the advantage of being Elite although we have done a few Princess cruises. We are actually going to sail on the Ruby in November for a California Coastal.

So not to take up this thread if you want to chat my email is my handle name aol.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 26, 2018 – At Sea To Darwin – Day 4

 

A bit cloudy yesterday with breaks now and again. Going through the interior channels on the great barrier reef. Probably what is helping the sea state as it is near motionless now. Hot and humid as well. Just breaking daylight and it looks a bit cloudy today as well.

 

Judy has her ‘sushi’ massage this morning. The one with the seaweed wrap. We usually splurge on at least one per cruise sequence. With all the different and new ports on this cruise, she can’t do one on a port day, so we will have to pay full price on this one – ouch!

 

We saw Ivor Richards (comedian) last night. Very good. A one liner standup comedian in the old style. If this one doesn’t work, the next one will. Rapid fire and a heavy Liverpool accent. I had to dial in as did Judy and even a couple of Aussies behind us - so I didn’t feel too left out. Once again the 1930 show was packed by 1915 with only a few seats left. We got there early and sipped a couple of Fosters while doing some light reading. Electronics are the best way to pass time in the theater.

 

They scheduled the Domino Duo into Fusion last night. Fusion has the best dance floor in the fleet. Lots of room, but lots of dancers as well. Princess looks like they still have the most dance venues on their Grand and SuperGrand ships than any other ships – and they use them. (We do not like the Royal class because of the lack of dance venues with proper dance flooring. Dancing on concrete tiles in the Atrium – Royal, Regal, Majestic - does not make for happy ankles and knees!)

 

Had breakfast with couples from Australia and New Zealand (Napier) yesterday. I got a big laugh in the hallway later as we talked to Barbara (UK) about liking to dine with people from other countries. I think my comment was that we didn’t want to eat with boring Americans…I mean we live with them most of our lives! The great thing is that we talked over breakfast for over an hour about everything under the sun except for my two ‘do not go there’ topics on cruises – politics and religion – although talking about ABC’s, religious piles of rocks, temples, and stuff like that is just fine…I especially enjoyed talking about Napier and the Art Deco theme the entire town embraces.

 

Lunch buffet was actually really good yesterday. A really nicely fried catfish with a corn meal crust, a couple of really good cold salads, a great spaghetti carbonara and a tasty chili. I did solve the issue with the boring cheese rotation in the Elite Lounge. Last night was Sushi night, but very lacking compared to past lounges. Only 4 different types of rolls, no nigiri, no seaweed (red or green), so separate mixing bowls for the soy and wasabi, and basically the same cheeses as before, smoked gouda, a cheddar and a jack, only packaged crackers. So went to down to the HC and made up my own plate of cheeses and snacks from down there. Blue cheese, pepper jack, swiss, salami, gherkins, grapes, slices of rye bread, salami, etc. Bring back to the lounge and enjoy. Got several funny ‘hungry’ looks from others eyeing my blue cheese and salami…hey its just 4 floors down!

 

We are having a most traveled luncheon and we did make the cut. This time tomorrow in Sabatini’s. Looking forward to it. Love the luncheons! It will be interesting to see which table we get. The table order indicates your ranking in the top 40. On the Panama cruise last year we actually made the 3rd highest and got to sit with the Captain and the top 2. I would imagine we aren’t in the top 3 this time, not with top couples having over 1000 days as of late, but we are slowly climbing up the tables!

 

Learning our flashmob steps from Lyn as well. We will be doing the flashmob during the Crossing the Line Deck party.

 

Having a real issue with the A/C in the cabin. (Had a similar problem on the Island last year that they could not fix at all.) It would not cool down past 73F yesterday and gets up to 77F in the afternoon when the sun hits that side of the ship. They’ve been trying to fix it by adjusting the thermostat, but I think its more of an airflow issue as the bathroom air vent is barely pushing air and the central air vent is dropping cold air, but at not a lot of volume. Interesting enough there are corridors on the ship that are very cool, while ours is really hot almost all day. I wonder if there is a fan/coil unit out in our part of the ship that is limiting air flow into the corridors and the rooms. Usually you can hear the air in the hallways, but not in our section. In any event this is going to get even more miserable as we get higher heat loads in the tropics. No relief in sight until Hong Kong!

 

Not sure if I mentioned it or not, but because of Princess’s change in excursion policy, pre-pay, and their prices, we are venturing out into some CC member’s private tours on this cruise. Although Darwin and Kota Kinabalu will be Princess tours, we will be doing private tours in Vietnam (both ports), Hong Kong, Osaka and Tokyo. DIY is planned for Shimizu – a train ride to the temple area and a stroll around the shopping area and fish market. I already have over 20 Trip Advisor reviews written for our past travels, this will definitely add some more.

 

Internet is slllloooooooowwwwww. Especially after 0700 in the morning as more and more people log in. Even at 0500 this morning, it was painful, but having cut my teeth on 150 BAUD dial-up, I can at least appreciate the slow speed connecting to servers halfway around the world. Now if only we could get rid of all of this video and photo webpage garbage that clogs the system – remember the days when you could turn off all this junk and grey out the photo boxes and just read the text? That would help speed things immensely!

 

So later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great blog, enjoying it. Thanks and safe travels.:p

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 27, 2018 – At Sea to Darwin (Day 5)

 

Still too dark to see the weather this morning. A little bouncy, but not bad. Another fully day at sea before hitting Darwin. Big event for the day is the Top 40 luncheon in Sabatini’s. They always do a great job on the food for that event. Looking forward to it.

 

So as far as the great Candy controversy, for this crew, there is no controversy. They love chocolate most of all! We bought some assorted Cadbury chocolate eggs in Sydney (on sale at Woolworths) in a nice large plastic egg. We have been passing out assorted candies in little snack bags the entire cruise, but decided to treat the cruise staff by giving Frenchie the entire egg to pass out from her desk. We are going to try and find some Tamarind candy in Kota Kinabalu as it is a favorite of the Philipinos on board and while they do love their chocolate as well, we want to give them a little taste of home.

 

The passage through the many little islands and the reef system yesterday was pretty cool. At noon there was only 6 meters under the keel as we buzzed along at 19 or 20 knots. The wind was whipping the water up a bit, but you could see the distinct outlines of the lighter sand bottom vs the darker coral bottom with the occasional shark fin. The passage is heavily trafficked with shipping and there are a whole bunch of islands of all shapes and sizes on both sides – some as close as 1km. Had the wind not been whipping up the water, it would have been near perfect viewing conditions of a very interesting area.

 

It is lightening up a bit and it looks still a bit overcast with patches of blue. We have slowed significantly this morning so there is very little motion here on Deck 5.

 

Tonight is the ½ hour back for Darwin. Instead of the one button hour back or hour forward, it’s 30 of the minute button. Although my hiking watch might have a preset for Darwin. We’ll see.

 

There is a notice in the patter about the Vietnamese Visa. Apparently everyone will be charged the VISA fee unless you show them you have an existing valid VISA or are from a VISA free country. Passengers have until 4/1 to get that straightened around with the front desk.

 

The Diamond has the Wakeview bar, which is accessed via a stairwell at the back side of Fusion near the bandstand. (Most Fusions on a Fincanteri SuperGrand have a bandstand and a seating area. The Diamond has the bandstand where the seating area would be and the staircase where the bandstand would be.) However, it has been closed the entire trip so far and is not registered in the patter as an active bar. I wonder if they have just closed it off due to lack of interest.

 

Lots of sea days means lots of work for the staff. The passengers can’t wait for Darwin to get off the ship. The crew can’t wait for Darwin to catch up on a few hours of extra sleep. To give you an idea of the activities on board during the day, I’ll give you a quick rundown.

 

In the morning there is Zumba – Trivia - an event like carpet bowling, golf chipping, thong toss (flip flops for those of you from the US), bean bags, etc. – a destination lecture – a enrichment lecture – a couple of unhosted events put on by passengers like crafters or games like bridge or mahjong or bible study or a book clug – a MUTS movie – Tai Chi – seminars like photography, jewelry, weight loss, beauty tips, casino game tutorials – an art auction or two – hosted crafting classes by the cruise staff like fashion designer, drawings, watercoloring – future cruise presentations – and bingo.

 

In the afternoon there is dance classes – line and ballroom – an enrichment lecture – a couple of hosted arts and crafts classes – pool games – trivia – MUTS – bingo - seminars like photography, jewelry, weight loss, beauty tips, casino game tutorials – afternoon tea – and shuffleboard.

 

In the evening there is typically a major event in the theater like a production show or a guest entertainer, vocalist, comedian or variety act. There is always a secondary event in Explorer’s like a comedian or a gameshow mixed with a trivia in Explorer’s or Fusion. Fusion has a mix of recorded music dancing, transitioning to a event area in the case of a theme night like Rock and Roll, Country Western, Disco or a deck party that got moved down from the open decks. The resident party band will move between Fusion and Explorer’s filling in the time with live music and then settle in one for late night music. There is the major MUTS movie, which then becomes available on the TV VOD the next day. The Wheelhouse typically will have music the entire evening. A soloist guitar(or two) or piano player will mix with the ‘ballroom dance band’ for the evening’s entertainment. The dance band can be a duo, trio, or quartet. Sometimes the ship’s orchestra will do a themed set in the Wheelhouse or Explorer’s as well like Big Band era or Jazz. Skywalkers opens up for the Party Crowd at 2200 with DJ’ed music. Crooners will typically have the resident piano headliner start around 2000 and switch up with the other piano player on board during the evening. In the Atrium there will typically be a Strings duo or trio starting around 1700 switching off and on with the secondary piano player or one of the soloist guitar players.

 

For dancers, like us, there are three decent dance floors (wooden), wheelhouse, explorers and Fusion, with, on this cruise, four different music entertainment choices – the Party Band (rock and roll), the wheelhouse duo, trio or quartet, the soloist guitar player and recorded music. We have always been able to find something to dance to or enjoy. Last night, for example, we started in Fusion and sat down for a few minutes in Explorer’s (but the volume was cranked to an uncomfortable level to dance to), and then went to wheelhouse to listen to David, the soloist guitar player. Tonight Domino starts at 1700 in wheelhouse, so we get to start early. BTW, even though Princess advertises the Atrium, with its concrete flooring, and Skywalkers, with its glass floor, as dance venues, these, for us, are limited to free style type dancing. Twirling or turning on concrete or glass just doesn’t agree with older knees and ankles! Our dance sneaks work perfectly on wooden floors.

 

Because the Diamond, and Sapphire, has the 5 main dining rooms, their functions and times are a bit staggered. The International, Deck 6 aft, is for breakfast, lunch and traditional dining. Santa Fe is set aside for Club Class dining all day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – but also allows anytime dinner dining. Savoy and Pacific Moon are anytime dining all the time. Vivaldi is early first seating, transitioning to anytime dining after the first seating is complete.

 

Horizon Court shuts down at 2300 and does not open until 0500. That means a whole 6 hours without food on the ship! The grill and the Pizza joint are open from 1100 to 2200.

 

Anyway, I hope that gives you an idea of what happens during these sea days. There are plenty of things to do and there is always the number one favorite – the afternoon power nap!

 

Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again, question if I may...

 

1st seating traditional in International MDR, normally 6pm, but have Princess pulled it back to 5.45pm or 5.30pm even? Detail should be in Patter, thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Horizon Court shuts down at 2300 and does not open until 0500. That means a whole 6 hours without food on the ship!

 

I assume that room service can provide sustenance so you can survive from 2300 to 0500.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks again, question if I may...

 

 

 

1st seating traditional in International MDR, normally 6pm, but have Princess pulled it back to 5.45pm or 5.30pm even? Detail should be in Patter, thanks.

 

First seating is at 5:30 pm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 28, 2018 – Darwin

 

Another smooth night last night. Barely rocking at all. I see the lights of Darwin up ahead as we round the point into the harbor. Today we see the crocodiles jump. We had chosen the early tour, but they switched us to the mid-day tour, which does screw up our afternoon plans in Darwin. But it is supposed to be 95F today. Hot, humid and a killer sun – so that means sweating and gooping up with that sunscreen – although the alternative is far less attractive. Hoping to get to a store and stock up on some more water and ‘stuff’, but might not.

 

We did the ½ hour back last night. Now our watches and phones are so screwed up!

 

The highlight of yesterday was the top 40 cocktail party. Don’t know the actual numbers, but our 550ish days got us on Table 5 out of 6. But with the South African Doctor. Turns out the medical response on the 12 day New Zealand that we watched during sailaway was a real call out. I told him how impressed I was – and his requirements from the company are impressive as well. First of all, the first EMT responder, with a backpack full of IVs, defib, first aid, etc. has to be on scene within 3 or 6 minutes – I forget which. The second EMT within 6 minutes and the rest of the staff within 10 minutes. The requirements, which they drill at and are tested every few weeks, are very impressive.

 

Another thing I was not aware of was that Princess, and now Holland America, are two of the only lines he knows of that have strict doctor certification requirements. He has 4, South Africa, US, UK and Canada. Princess requires him to be certified in at least US, UK and Canada. Other lines do not have that certification requirement. His nurses have to be RN’s and his EMT’s have to be certified as well. He stated quite frankly that Princess ships are the best place to have a heart attack – outside a hospital room – period. Very nice discussion with him. Enjoyed it immensely.

 

The food was fantastic. A seafood appetizer in the shape of a lobster with lobster meat, scallops, shrimp – followed by a champagne sorbet – followed by beef tenderloin or halibut or pasta – followed by a chocolate journeys dessert and bite size pettifors. The halibut was excellent. Judy, my pastaholic, did not care for the pasta. She should have stuck with the beef or fish.

 

Last night the Domino Duo started early at 1700 so we started dancing with them in wheelhouse. Ivor Richards had his final comedy show in Explorer’s. And it was great. We laughed until our cheeks hurt.

 

More dancing rounded out the night for us.

 

Now its coffee and getting ready for Darwin.

 

Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 29, 2018 – At Sea to Kota Kinabalu

 

Gorgeous morning. Puffy clouds, blue sky, calm seas. The heat is on as we enter the tropics and probably won’t get relief until Hong Kong.

 

Yesterday was a great day in Darwin. It is a fantastic cruise port. With the new bridge access via the skywalk and elevators it’s a simple 10-15 minute walk into the CBD. Lots of people carrying cases of water and soda back on the ship from Coles. The immediate area around the cruise terminal has restaurants, free wifi, shops, including a convenience store, souvenir shops and a fantastic, and safe, lagoon to swim in. A beach, some grass, some shade, cool water. This would be a fantastic place for a picnic and a swim.

 

While it was hot and humid, it was not Bangkok hot. Noticeable, but not miserable. Modern day wicking fabrics, my fishing shirts especially, are great for this kind of heat. They dry quickly and coolly. Our Tilley hats are essential in this kind of sunshine. I used to have the solid kind, but it was way too hot. Now we have the ventilated kind and they are fantastic for keeping the sun off your ears and the top of your head, while not sweating you do death!

 

The CBD is compact, easy to get around, except for all the construction getting rid of the downed trees from Cyclone Marcus, nice parks and open spaces, gorgeous views out over the ocean. Someone needs to remind me why Melbourne is considered the most livable city in Australia? This place is fantastic!

 

One reason might be the price of housing. OMG! 3 bedroom house - $600 to $750k (AUD)! Wow! That is NOT cheap for sure! (So much for retiring to Darwin!)

 

But the highlight of the day was the Princess jumping crocodile cruise excursion which included a stop at the world famous Humpty Doo Hotel, Bar, (Tire Center and Hair Care Salon)…The cruise was fantastic. To see these animals in their native habitat, to hear the stories of Stumpy, Trevor and Candy, to watch them lift themselves out of the water with just a single sweep of their tail, to marvel in their coloring and actually go eye to eye with a hungry croc at 5 feet – just a once in a lifetime experience. This is an absolute must do, period, dot, exclamation point!

 

They have several different size boats, some single row, some double row, sit up on the front row to get real close, but you will be in the sun, so wear sunscreen and a hat. In the front rows you will not be able to stand. No need to. In the second rows there is shade, and the captain will let you stand to see the crocs, but you won’t be able to see the whites of their eyes! You get about 90 minutes on the river and will play with 2-3 crocs. The captain will entertain you about the history of the crocs in the area, they are all named, except for the new yearling we saw along the bank – soon to be a meal for Stumpy if she is not careful. You’ll hear a lot about the biology as well. A very well rounded presentation – and oh BTW, crocs love red and pink!

 

They did offer water and sodas at the boat dock. So we guzzled a couple of bottles on the boat and took a couple more back to the bus. The drive out and back was interesting as well. Lots of different mango orchards, bush, swampy areas, birds and a rather interesting RF listening post in middle of nowhere with every kind of LF and HF antenna known to mankind. There were several buffalo, the water kind, not the bison kind, surrounded by egrets as well. Very green as we were in the latter part of the wet season. Not to mention that Cyclone Marcus dumped a bunch of rain on the area. There were a lot of African Mahogany trees uprooted along the routes. The settlers planted them for shade, but they are shallow rooted and the Cyclone winds, only a CAT II, toppled them.

 

After the cruise we stopped at the Humpty Doo Hotel and Bar for a bag of chips (crisps) and a nice cold Northern Territory Original brew. Best beer on the trip so far. Not hoppy at all, which according to Chris, our guide, is typically of the northern territory beers in general. One could have ordered food at the bar, we had about 45 minutes, and they were quick if you ordered upon arrival. Several people ordered burgers. The locals were quite amused with all of us, but very friendly and open.

 

It was so good that when we went to lunch in the cruise terminal area, we had more – well Judy had another and I had a couple more! Fish and Chips, a burger, fries, topped off with some ice cream finished us on-shore. It was time to take a shower and try out another treat in the Atrium.

 

They have ‘hand-crafted’ iced tea infusions in the Atrium menu. Because it was so hot during the day we wanted to try them, but the decaf versions. So I had the Minty Apple Tea and Judy had the Citrus Spiced Tea. Both were very nice and decaf. Both would be great with a shot of booze as well! Spiced rum in the Citrus and Sour Apple Vodka in the Minty Apple! Got to try that one day.

 

So off to breakfast! Later…

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 30, 2018 – At Sea to Kota Kinabalu (Day 2)

 

Another basically flat calm day, overcast, warm, humid, daylight at 0530, which I haven’t seen for a while. We went another hour back last night. Yesterday was a pretty typical day at sea with jam packed stuff going on all the time. Frenchie and Lynn try to use all the venues all the time with something. The Captain was observing one in Explorer’s and Judy got a hug from the Captain.

 

David Barret, the soloist guitarist, was in fine fettle last night as we were able to dance to several of his numbers with a variety of dances – nightclub, rhumba, foxtrot, hustle and even a waltz. It was nice not having to remember the steps and try not to stumble when the ship moved. Basically you couldn’t tell you were on a ship it was that calm.

 

Liar’s club was last night and we won! It was a 4 way tie with 3 correct answers out of 4, and Judy got the tie breaker (the collective ages of the three panelists – 104) perfectly correct. I was guessing 98. One bottle of Shampoo! Although we do not normally do trivia, we sat through the 80’s trivia with Ian, but did not play, we did play the Travel Trivia. 40 questions, some with multiple answers, on airlines, destinations, flags and geography. The winner got 38. Judy and I got 29. It was one of the more enjoyable trivia as all of us were giving Andrew a hard time. After all, he was the stuckee demonstrating chubble for liar’s club – while Ian was demonstrating how frustrating a stuck zipper on a pair of trousers can be!

 

Still trying to get the cabin A/C sorted out. Gets up to 28C in the cabin in the afternoon so we have to go somewhere else cooler on the lower decks. Yesterday it was the library.

 

Today is the crossing the line ceremony and tonight is the crossing the line deck party. Big events. The one in which I participated, put together by Kelvin and Matais, was memorable. This is a once in a lifetime event for Pollywogs and I hope a lot ‘kiss the fish’!

 

The atrium is laid out in Easter decorations this morning. A whole bunch of large handcrafted chocolate easter eggs are on display in the atrium and there are pink, yellow, green and blue pastel balloons and ribbons everywhere. (Or at least I think they are chocolate and not plastic!) Maybe they will pass them out later.

 

One of the benefits of long cruises (or B2B’s) is getting to know the staff quite well, and they get to know you as well. It becomes an almost family situation. Heck we’ve already adopted Lynn – nice to be known as Mom and Dad instead of Grandma and Grandpa! Would love to take some of these guys and girls home to the states – they would be killer in the service industries and end up running hotels or restaurants. In just the first couple of days of this cruise Joana, the barista in the Atrium bar in the morning, already knew most of her regulars by name and what their preferences were. She greets almost everyone by name and asks if they want the usual. Anna is so perky – the minute Judy walks into the Atrium, Ana gets her coffee, hot water and lemon ready. And the really great thing is that in all the mornings we’ve had coffee, there has not been one grumpy passenger to spoil the mornings.

 

So off to prep the cameras for King Neptune’s arrival!

 

Later…

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 31, 2018 – At Sea to Kota Kinabalu (Day 3)

 

Its mostly cloudy this morning. Seas are slight and its warm and humid. White chocolate latte, a smile from Anna and Joana and I’m set for some writing in corner of the atrium looking out over the foam from the bow wake. Yesterday morning we were treated with displays of flying fish darting out from the wake. This morning it’s probably a bit too choppy to see flying fish.

 

Yesterday was the crossing the line ceremony. Lynn ran 4 groups of a dozen each passengers through the ritual and one group of 14 crew including a cadet in her all white uniform that was brownish red by the time the ceremony was over. We got there early and snagged a shady spot under the MUTS screen. By the end of the ceremony, the shade was gone as both the ship and the sun moved, but on deck 15 that was the only shady spot available. The ritual was not all whipped cream, eggs and jello, but also had a gross smelly concoction that got poured over everyone.

 

I really like this captain. He came out for the ceremony and stayed, standing in the hot sun, for the whole ceremony. He didn’t have to, but he did anyway. Frenchie got a bit uppity with King Neptune and ended up in the pool, tossed by one of the enforcers, the male adagio dancer who could have probably tossed her across the pool! All in all it was a great ceremony and we now have our second crossing the line certificate.

 

Last night was the King Neptune deck party. And it rained, actually poured, before the party and showered during the party. It was great dancing in the rain! Nice and cool in the wind and rain. The flashmob was actually a surprise to some people! It was to a partial thriller soundtrack and we did the basic thriller dance - head shuffle, stomp, monster claws, forward step with head toss and mummy back step - three times. Lynn is in constant motion. She is one of those people who are doing 90mph at all times. Turn her loose on the dance floor and she’s a maniac! We danced for quite a while until the ankle alarm went off and I had to call it for the evening. Got a lot of walking to do in the upcoming ports and we don’t want to hobble through them.

 

I have to talk to the front desk again this morning. It was 78 in the cabin when we got back last night and only got down to 74 this morning. Its just too hot. We need a fan or something since they can’t seem to fix it the airflow in the cabin.

 

So interesting news, Hong Kong is going to be a major crew swap. Princess probably gets good rates on consolidator air tickets from Hong Kong. Our room steward is leaving, Frenchie and Andrew are leaving. Kelvin Joy is joining the ship as ED. Last time we sailed with him he was CD - and his chubble demonstration still stands as the best ever. A lot of the older CDs are shifting over to the ED position it appears with a lot of new talent moving up into the CD slots. By using 90 mph people in the CD slot, like Lynn, Princess can also save substantially on fuel bills by plugging them in over night to the ship’s power grid! Seriously though, I think the ED/CD split is working out rather well. The CD is much more visible during the cruise and actually has some time to talk instead of rushing to the next meeting or answering that incessant pager. Being able to talk to Frenchie during her morning desk hours is nice as well. She has taken all of our suggestions seriously and implemented those she could.

 

Nothing significant planned for the day…just staying out of trouble.

 

Later all!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just curious...

Did you need to get a visa for Kota Kinabalu before boarding in SYD or does Princess process any required visa's like they do for Vietnam onboard ?

 

 





Enjoying your reports

Srpilo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just curious...

Did you need to get a visa for Kota Kinabalu before boarding in SYD or does Princess process any required visa's like they do for Vietnam onboard ?

 

 

 





Enjoying your reports

Srpilo

 

Nothing special that we've been notified of. There is a landing card we have to fill out for Hong Kong. We got an immigration information sheet so I will try and post some information from that later on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

April 1, 2018 – At Sea To Kota Kinabalu (Day 4)

 

Happy Easter and April Fool’s Day – all in one – from the seas around Malaysia. Partly cloudy, some blue sky, slight seas, warm, humid. They gave us a stand fan yesterday. Even though the room stays between 74 and 77, at least the fan provides a cooling breeze. We can now definitely make it to Hong Kong. Good thing the fan plugs into the new 220V outlet above the desk. Otherwise it would take up one of the two power plugs near the telephone.

 

I continue to be more impressed with this Captain as he is much more approachable and available and visible than any other Captain we’ve sailed with. Not only was he up on the deck during the entire Crossing the Line Ceremony, he was up yesterday observing the crew tug of war competition. And boy did the crew take this one seriously. It was not a half hearted, entertain the passengers and get back to work game, they came to win! The overall winner were the Spartans, the Galley crew, complete with togas, spears and helmets. They put down the Engine crew for the win. The crowd favorite were the girls from the shops – the Sharks, or Shoppies – who won against the Spa, then lost to the Engine – but the cutest was when they allowed all the shoppies on deck, about 20 of them, to grab the rope and walk all over the 8 burley guys from the engine room. This was a lot of fun for all of us. The 8 team members each got a day off and a meal at a specialty restaurant. No wonder they were all so enthusiastic!

 

With the hectic nature of the last couple of cruises, we did not attend a lot of specialty events, saving those for this cruise. Last night they actually had the Captains Circle party on a casual night – so we attended. Now everyone knows the drinks are a bit watered down, so the key is to zero in on the drink you want and then go looking for it during the mingling time and stock up! (They close the bar after the last speech!) I found a rather interesting drink that I still do not know what it was, but it was pretty good and I snagged three of them before they shut the bar down. The only thing of interest was that the 2019/2020 Australia/New Zealand season goes on sale around the 18th of April.

 

We then watched Dancing with the ST...AFF. It was a hoot and very well done. Its hard to describe. You don’t have to know how to dance, you just have to have fun, and the more fun you have, the more likely you are to win! 3 ladies and 3 gents are paired with staff, most are part of the dance troupe. Three staff members provide the judge’s critiques. All are part of the entertainment staff or dance troupe. There is then a group dance in a certain dance style – cha cha, waltz, etc. in3 rounds in which one couple is eliminated in each round, then interviewed backstage by cruise staff on the TV screen. When only three are left, the host announces a fusion type dance for each couple – salsa/irish, tango/jive, etc. One couple is then eliminated. The last two go head to head in a freestyle to a song chosen by the host – Time of Our Life, for example – and the winner is selected by audience acclaim. Great idea, great show.

 

Tomorrow – Land!

 

Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am sorry if I missed this but who is the Captain? Is it Todd McBain by chance? We really liked him when we sailed on the Diamond.

 

Thanks,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I am sorry if I missed this but who is the Captain? Is it Todd McBain by chance? We really liked him when we sailed on the Diamond.

 

Thanks,

 

Gennaro, otherwise known as 'Captain Speaking From the Bridge'!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

March 3, 2018 – At Sea to Phu My

 

An exciting April fools day. From the Great Easter Egg Hunt to the ‘move to the Port side of the ship’ to the all too real First Stage Response at 0330 prior to KK, it has been an interesting couple of days.

 

The Easter egg was a lot of fun. We came in third by missing the ‘blood, sweat and toil’ clue which we thought was the gym, then the chapel, forgetting about Churchhill’s bar! Who needed Zumba scouring the ship taking photographs of bunny prints from top to bottom. A really good time.

 

I tried to get Akane on an April Fool’s but she was already primed and ready to go. Oh well. So the Captain gets on the horn in the late afternoon talking about turning the ship into a certain strait and a certain current and could everyone please move to the port side of the ship! So we are listening to people scramble to our side of the ship in our hallway. We knew what it was from the get go, but it was still pretty funny to hear everyone’s reaction in the hallway when he April Fooled them.

 

Of course the 0330 in the morning First Stage response was no April Fools joke. Someone tripped a bell box near our cabin where there is a room service pantry. There was a fire, but either the assessment party or the First Stagers got it under control. There was a lot of running around outside our door for a while though and when they restarted the ventilation system, the smell of burning plastic was evident. Three separate announcements, one calling for the first stage and two from the captain. We did get a little dozing in after that, but not much.

 

So now to Kota Kinabalu, or KK. We booked the zoo and museum half day Princess tour. Not a good tour, partially because of circumstances outside Princess’ control and some because of poor planning on their part. Our guide was very good, with good English and an understanding of what tourists like to know about a country. Prices of housing, fuel, cars, income levels, political structure, etc.

 

The ride from the ship to the zoo took about an hour. The zoo was supposed to open early for us, but did not. We only got an hour at the zoo, which is far too short a time. In order to see all the animals and at least be able to photograph them, you need a minimum of 2 hours, 3 would be better. Also, while Princess limited the tour group sizes, they don’t limit the number of tour groups, so we had 5 bus loads show up at the same time, which overloaded the viewing platforms and slowed everything down. Interestingly enough, at 1000, everybody was well into the loop and as we headed back to the bus, there was almost no one at the major attraction areas.

 

The zoo itself is quite nice and interesting. (Although there was a severely injured deer that they really needed to isolate from the herd and treat. Not a pretty sight.) There are elephants (pygmy), monkeys, orangutans, birds, a tiger and several species of deer in large fenced pens, aviaries and limited cages. The wildlife displayed at the zoo changes as they do rescue and release some of the species.

 

It’s a very nice walk around the zoo, the trail is paved, but uneven. The area is heavily shaded which is very nice in the equatorial sun. Viewing platforms for the major exhibits do get a bit crowded when tour groups go through, but they provide a nice place to just sit and observe the animals if you have the time.

 

Bottom line – the zoo is highly recommended, but not on a Princess tour. Grab a cab at the port. There is a taxi stand at the zoo for the return.

 

From the zoo we went to the Museum. The replica houses of the natives were interesting, but very hot. The Museum itself was pretty much a mess. The power had been shut off – part of a brownout apparently. So you could not even see the exhibits in the darkened hallways. Only the emergency lights were on and those were running out of juice. Even the gift shop was in the dark. All in all, I don’t know enough to recommend the museum or not, but its pretty big and you should expect to spend at least 2-3 hours there. There is a taxi stand as well.

 

Our most fun, honestly, was after the excursion. We rode the shuttle into KK from the pier - $8 AUS each way each person. (We guzzled 6 bottles of water during the zoo and the museum, so no walking in that hot sun!) The shuttle dropped us off in front the major shopping mall. A 7 story monstrosity with shops, restaurants, fast food and our favorite excursion – a grocery store! We shopped for candy, some toiletries (running out of toothpaste and mouthwash) and looked at all the cool stuff. The store was well organized, clean, well signed and had a lot of Japanese products. A real Asian selection of fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses. But no Easter candy sales and very little chocolates and lollypops! A whole aisle of cookies (biscuits) and crackers. Soft drinks of all types of fruits and vegetables. This was really cool.

 

After shopping we found a Thai restaurant in the mall across from the grocery store. OMG it was so good. Simple, cheap, tasty, fresh. Had a noodle dish and a sweet and sour fish and rice dish. Not too spicy, but spicy enough to perk the taste buds. I almost ended up at McDonalds, just to try it out, but common sense prevailed and we just had to try Thai with a Malay influence.

 

Last night we did attend the ‘You Be The Judge’ gameshow. A lot of fun. At this point in time in this cruise, the cruise staff almost knows you by name, and we all know them and their quirks and pet peeves. Its almost like a family get together at these games. It was fun…

 

Lots to do to prepare for Vietnam. Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Phu My today and Nha Trang tomorrow with all day private tours. Might not get a chance to update in a couple of days. Probably day before Hong Kong. Very busy port schedule the rest of the cruise.

 

Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Really enjoying your cruise :)

 

 

Looking forward to your Vietnam reports

Srpilo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

April 6, 2018 – At Sea to Hong Kong

 

Overcast, warm with just a slight swell this morning. A few bumps in the night. A really good nights sleep with the fan blowing air over us. We should start to cool down in the cabin soon as we head further north.

 

While we have been to Vung Tau before off of Phu My, we had not been to Saigon, so this was our first time. I will not ever drive in Saigon or ride a motorbike or bicycle and may not ever walk across a street there! It is an experience all in itself. But you have to see it once yourself – even if you see nothing else, you must see this city in action.

 

Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, is very hard to describe except as semi-organized chaos. From the traffic to the buildings, to the street wiring, to the motorbikes, to the cars, it’s just overwhelming to the senses. The wiring in the city is such a good analogy – there are rat’s nests of power, telephone and cable on every pole – almost as if someone tried, but failed to sort it out, and just ran another wire rather than untangle the mess. Functionality overlaid on chaos – that’s what I mean by semi-organized chaos! At the basic level, it works.

 

Barbara booked a tour for both ports in Vietnam via My Way Travel. It was great. Our guide, Lou, spoke excellent English, our driver, Duc, drove through stuff that made your hair stand on end. The van was a 12 seat Ford Sporter style for the 6 of us with great A/C. Very comfortable.

 

We did the central square in Saigon, saw the various new and old buildings, stopping at a small market on the way and trying out cured meats, Jade Emperor Pagoda, the Post Office, lunch (Pho) and the Ben Thanh market. By mutual agreement we skipped the war museum to spend more time at the market and start back to the ship earlier. Only in the central square were things less hectic. We actually had a nice stroll up the square looking at various historic buildings. Then we started crossing streets with Lou. Once we even used a blind person’s crossing up the street to stop all the traffic so we could negotiate across with less stress!

 

Ever seen an UBER motorbike? Complete with mounted smartphone? Saigon has them.

 

The architecture ranges from functional but non-descript Soviet style apartments, to restored French colonial, to modern high rise to re-purposed, but neglected, colonial apartment multi-story stores. All in one mile! The people remind me of Singapore. Driven. Always a serious look on their face as they dash about their daily lives. A weekend would have been interesting to see if they transition to a more care free state like Singapore. During lunch, they do seem to let up a bit. The street corner side walk restaurants are filled with people eating lunch, laughing, talking, watching us tourists watching them.

 

Lunch was good and authentic, although I do wish the table was a bit cleaner. The plates of additional herbs of basil, cilantro, bean sprouts and other greens was great. The chili sauces were hot and spicy. I had the beef Pho, Judy had the chicken Pho. The broth was well done. Italians have their red gravy, French have their sauces, but Asian have broth down pat.

 

The market was interesting, but in order to find things of better quality, you really need to spend the time there. Good thing we opted for a longer stay at the market. I was able to find the requisite magnets and tamarind candy, but the hand fans were of poor quality and we skipped those. In the market, the outer ring of stores are the government stores that do not bargain. Inside the market are the vendors that do bargain. But not that much. Some will come down as much as 25%, but their prices are inflated to begin with. And some become pretty irate when you try and lowball them too much. The government stores have a higher quality product, but even there, and with the vendors, you need to check seams of the clothing carefully, and that takes time. (Flaws are everywhere.) Our group stuck to candy, carved figures and fridge magnets. However, given time, and a fitting room, the Vietnamese style dresses are gorgeous. Very colorful.

 

All aboard on the ship was 1730 and we wanted to time it to arrive back by 1600. However, traffic and the possibility of an accident, which happened just a few days before and closed the main highway for hours, made us want to head back earlier before rush hour. So we left Saigon about 1400 and headed back to arrive around 1530. It was a really good day in Saigon.

 

A couple of practical notes. Upon arrival we had to shuttle out to the port gates, but coming back we walked to the ship since there was no shuttle. About 500 yards from the gate to the ship. Some tours will charge to pick up and drop off inside the gates – the government charges them a fee to enter. Some will not enter at all. For mobility challenged, you should get picked up as the ground is uneven for walkers, scooters and wheelchairs. It was hot and in full sun, so sunscreen is an absolute necessity in this port. As is LOTS of water.

 

Nha Trang was a tender port. I missed getting off the ship the last time we were here. This time we were determined to see the town. Nha Trang was a bit less chaos, a bit more organized, but just a bit, a really little bit, especially around lunch time. Same tour company, John was the guide this time, Duc, different guy, was the driver. This van was a 9 seat Ford Sporter van. Lots of room for the 6 of us, great A/C.

 

We did the oceanographic institute, next to the tender dock. It was very crowded, but John took us to the end and we did it backwards and missed the majority of the crowds. The aquarium displays of fish are interesting and varied. None of the huge tanks you would see at the larger aquariums, but still interesting. A large pool held sea turtles. The aquarium is right next to the tender dock and is an easy DIY, but limited.

 

After the aquarium we went to the Long Son Pagoda, home of the giant statue on the hill and the reclining buddha on the way up. As in most Buddhist temples, your knees and shoulders must be covered, your shoes and hat off before you can enter. Gorgeous architecture and statuary. From there its 154 steps to the top of the hill, which can also be reached via taxi, to see the gleaming white Buddha. The statue’s base has reliefs of the monks whom immolated themselves during the protest against the Diem government’s crack down on Buddism during the Vietnam War. The door to the back of the statue is guarded by the evil warrior god, angry face, and the good warrior god, smiling face. The grounds around the statue contain rows and rows of burial shelves for cremated remains. Like wall after wall of post office boxes. Very good views and photographs from the top of the hill.

 

From there we crossed the river to the Cham Towers. One of those very interesting historical mysteries. Lots of interesting stuff here. The Cham Towers are Hindu, built by Indian migrants as they settled the region over 700 years ago. Abandoned or pushed out by the Buddhist expansion, the towers, and the temples, were abandoned and fell into ruin until uncovered by the French in 1938. The design and architecture is fascinating as the towers and temples were built with red brick, placed while wet, but fired in-situ to create an incredibly strong and mortar free set of buildings. Restoration efforts have to resort to fired brick, thin set mortar and steel shims to achieve the same strengths. The temples are clearly Hindu, with Vishnu, Shiva and Elephants in base reliefs. The story of these towers, unfortunately, has been lost to history or destroyed by the successive kings of the area. If the Towers could talk though…

 

Crossing the river on the Xom Bong bridge and viewing the brightly blue colored fishing boats, painted in blue whale ‘blue’ for luck, was interesting. But sadly, the river and beach under the bridges were garbage dumps with all manner of trash covering the white sand and floating in the water. Remnants of Durian fruit were everywhere and the sickly sweet smell of Durian was in the air. Not exactly appetizing or appealing when walking through the fruit vendors under the bridge.

 

We did lunch at a ‘steak house’ – Mama Moo’s. We had Pho, spring rolls, rice and salad. Excellent meal and the place was very clean. Once again the broth in the Pho was great and the plates of herbs to add to the Pho was great. Topped off with a beer! The star though was the spring rolls. Could have eaten a dozen each of those tasty little snacks.

 

We did make it to the Dam market as well. Here there did not appear to be any government stores and the bargaining was heated and intense, as well as high sales pressure, although not pushy like the pressure in the Great Bazaar in Turkey. Bargaining extremes ranged from screaming in frustration to tears. Quite interesting. Once again the fans were very low quality and we passed, but did pick up the required fridge magnet.

 

We went back to the dock to tender back to the ship. Although the line was quite long, it only took about 15 minutes to get on the tender and head to the ship. Once again though, the sun was very hot and sunscreen was an absolute necessity.

 

A whirlwind couple of days in Vietnam. And an absolute bargain in terms of costs. For the 2 of us, both ports, was $70 each. $280 USD total. Half the price of comparable Princess excursions with 1/5 as many people in the group.

 

Now its time to recharge prior to Hong Kong!

 

Later!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
April 6, 2018 – At Sea to Hong Kong

 

. . . Saigon, Ho Chi Minh, is very hard to describe except as semi-organized chaos. From the traffic to the buildings, to the street wiring, to the motorbikes, to the cars, it’s just overwhelming to the senses. The wiring in the city is such a good analogy – there are rat’s nests of power, telephone and cable on every pole – almost as if someone tried, but failed to sort it out, and just ran another wire rather than untangle the mess. Functionality overlaid on chaos – that’s what I mean by semi-organized chaos! At the basic level, it works. . .

 

 

Ever seen an UBER motorbike? Complete with mounted smartphone? Saigon has them.

Very accurate description of Saigon I was there in 2003 and did ride with a local graduate student all over Saigon. After clutching my seat for about 5 minutes I decided to relax and enjoy it. Waved at the little kids. Learned fast that the key to crossing the street is just to step out, do not make eye contact and keep a steady pace no matter what. You will, most likely, survive. A fellow tourer had to take a "honda" (they are all called that) to get across Central Square LOL. Not surprised about Uber "hondas."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Victory Cruise Lines Sweepstakes - Enter now for a chance to win a free 9-night cruise on Victory II
      • Holiday Exchange - Jingle and Mingle 2018
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Community Contests
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×