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LIVE - Coral Princess - Circle the Pacific - 09-19-2018

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Thank you for keeping us with you on this long journey. We are going to be on Coral for Panama Canal in January and would like to ask the following: have you gone to the specialty restaurants and if so, how was it? Also, did you experience the Chef's table and if so, was it worth the $$? Lastly, how is the food overall, including the buffet, MDR, and the rest. Whenever you find the time to address these, would be greatly appreciated.

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13 hours ago, Maksim said:

Thank you for keeping us with you on this long journey. We are going to be on Coral for Panama Canal in January and would like to ask the following: have you gone to the specialty restaurants and if so, how was it? Also, did you experience the Chef's table and if so, was it worth the $$? Lastly, how is the food overall, including the buffet, MDR, and the rest. Whenever you find the time to address these, would be greatly appreciated.

We have only done the Chef's table so far. It was more than what we expected and in my opinion worth it. Will be doing a balcony dinner on Nov 7.2 and Sabatinis about 4 days from LA. May do stakes in the bayou.

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15 hours ago, Maksim said:

Thank you for keeping us with you on this long journey. We are going to be on Coral for Panama Canal in January and would like to ask the following: have you gone to the specialty restaurants and if so, how was it? Also, did you experience the Chef's table and if so, was it worth the $$? Lastly, how is the food overall, including the buffet, MDR, and the rest. Whenever you find the time to address these, would be greatly appreciated.

I have studiously avoided talking about the food and the entertainment. Basically because we have limited experience in either so far, even 33 days in. The Chef’s table was very good, highly recommended for first timers especially. The Bayou Café was good, but not spectacular like the Island was last October. Have not tried Sabatini’s yet, but will before the end of the cruise.

We no longer eat in the MDR for dinner as it is too late for Judy. (She has to eat dinner no later than 1600 to avoid reflux issues.) Breakfast in the MDR has been hilarious actually. A group of us (6-8) has been eating breakfast together and the days that everyone gets everything they ordered, cooked properly and still warm, has yet to occur in 20+ sea day breakfasts. For the most part its minor easily fixed stuff that causes us to laugh very loudly and cause trouble. Like Marty’s OJ order. Will he get 1, 2, 3 or 5 OJ’s? That is the question! The other issues range from improperly cooked ‘snotty’ eggs over easy or poached, to missing items to Pam getting my jalapenos one day to cold food. The fruits, when available, are typically fresh and good, but its better to order your own mix rather than one plate that they prepare. My favorite is orange segments, banana slices, melon and papaya. Not all are available at all times.

The Horizon Court has ranged from OK to Good. Cold salads continue to be my favorite, but everything else, quite frankly, is same old same old. Fewer and fewer selections as well. Its food. Its nothing to rave about and its not horrible like on the Diamond in April. The pizza, thank goodness, is pretty good with a well seasoned crust and Alfredo’s in Sabatini’s for lunch is a welcome comfortable place to enjoy my favorite pizza.

Burgers are dependent on when you place your order. If you get a fresh burger, which takes a while to prepare, it can be quite good. If you arrive at the end of a sequence and they ‘re-heat’ an older burger patty, then you’re kind of stuck. Same with the fries. When they are cooked and salted properly, they are good. When not, they kind of suck and during busy times the oil loses too much heat and you get soggy underdone fries.

They do have the smokehouse and grill in the evenings, but these are just too late for us and when we tried them several years ago, they were just ok.

Quite frankly, the food on the ship is why we eat more and more off the ship to get that WOW factor meal. I gave up on really great shipboard food many years ago. But I really write it off now, and don’t get too upset about it, because we’ve been cruising a lot over the last year and there are just so many different dishes they can supply. And also, with regard to waistlines, this is not such a bad thing after all!

Likewise, entertainment had been ok so far. Granted, we have not been up late a lot lately. With the rough water during the northern crossing, Judy mainly stayed in bed. Once we hit the ports we were doing 8-10 miles a day and just didn’t have the energy to stay up late to see the various shows or participate in a lot of events. Take last night for example. It was Country Western Night at 2130. But after 10 miles in Taiwan day before yesterday and planning for 10 more miles today in Hong Kong, there is no way we wanted to stay up late last night. But that’s ok for us as well. This is one of our ‘destination’ cruises to see ports and sights we’ve never seen before as well as visit old ports doing newer things. Entertainment on the ship is secondary. On a HI or MR cruise we would be right in the thick of it, staying up late and sleeping late, but not exploring off the ship that much.

So I can’t fairly judge the late night entertainment. We have been to a few comedians, a few jugglers, not production shows, and I have managed to stay awake, barely. But my taste in shows might not reflect others. So its best to just say, try it and see how you like it.

After all, look at it this way, you’ve booked. You are committed. So it will be what it will be. During the first few days you will be able to tell what is good and what is not. You have enough time during your cruise.

For Judy and I, we are sitting in a balcony overlooking Hong Kong harbor at night having snacks and drinks. It is a nice warm night sky with all the skyscrapers lit up on the skyline. I am on my third 7&7 from the  mini-bar and a batch of munchies from the Horizon Court. Finished successfully updating all the electronics about an hour ago on the wifi in the terminal, listened to all the voice mails, called who I needed to call, sampled all the cameras at home, and I am now kicked back watching the world go by without a care in the world. I quite frankly don’t care what the entertainment is like or the food is like right now. I spent the day running around Hong Kong, climbing staircases and seeing the sights and now I am relaxing with the love of my life, who has a cold right now, but I love her anyway – snot nose and all.

It simply doesn’t get any better than this. Period.

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10-24-2018 – At Sea To Ha Long Bay

 

Judy’s cruise cold is a bit worse this morning. Lots of coughing last night. She probably won’t make the Junk cruise in Ha Long bay. We shall see. Nice smooth ride last night and another hour back. After Hong Kong I need a day at sea to rest the weary feet.

 

Hong Kong was interesting from two perspectives. It was my first ‘expedition’ off the ship without Judy. Went with the plan to the Tin Tian Buddha (The Big Buddha on the hill on Lantu Island). Quite frankly, it was rather enjoyable. I didn’t have to worry about her falling or finding a restroom or getting motion sick or getting lost or eating something wrong or drinking enough water or getting run over in the cross walk or kidnapped by aliens (the space type) or getting hit by an asteroid/meteor! I was able to really enjoy the trip over.

 

Now that was an adventure. Shuttle to Diamond Hill. Find the Hong Kong MTR booth and buy the adult 24 hour pass (only good for the metro itself, not busses, not airport high speed, not Disney transfer) for 65 HKD (about 8.50 USD). A bargain. Had to take the green line to the red line to the orange line. Unlike the quick ride the last time, this time I was able to study the system a bit more. The fixed signage does not have a lot of English, but announcements are made in Chinese and English, if you can hear them since these subways are not Tokyo quiet. But the electronic status signs inside the cars are very clear. Follow them for quick transfers. The line direction you are transferring to on the same platform is lit up in green dots on the system display map in every car for the line you are transferring to.

 

For example. I got on the green line at Diamond Hill headed to Whampoa. Last time I was on this kind of transfer, we transferred at Mong Kok (green to red). BUT I noticed, but did not heed the transfer at Prince Edward which showed the red line transfer (to Lai King) that I wanted. Instead I got off at Mong Kok and noticed the red line train on the same platform went to Central (wrong direction). I just had to go up one level to a different platform to catch the red line in the right direction. At Lai King the first train went out of service at Tsing Yi. You could tell because the destination of the next train was Tsing Yi, not Tung Chung (end of the Orange Line). In addition a PA announcement was made before the next train arrived, but you had to be listening carefully to catch it. So I caught the next train to Tung Chung.

 

At the end of the Orange line out on Lantu Island, I strolled over to the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars. Based on a tip from Tripadvisor, I got a Crystal cab roundtrip. The regular car lines were very long, but the Crystal cabs lines were far shorter. And the views were indeed incredible. The cars are well ventilated by open vents, but no A/C and it was an overcast cooler day. I wonder how hot they would get on a sunny day. The trip itself was worth the price of admission. Compared to the 1 hour bumpy, curvy, twisty bus ride, one-way, to the top, the cable cars are worth the trip for sure! Spectacular views and they don’t load up the cable cars unless there are 10 in a party. They typically load 8 at a time. The photos out of the cable cars are affected by reflections and glare, but still spectacular. Very Highly Recommended.

 

The ‘village’ at the top is very ‘touristy’, but still worth visiting. The free WiFi is also very fast and very plentiful. I was able to update my Surface and my two Iphones completely. One of my goals was to climb the stairs to the top and I made it up and back with minimal issues. Its not really that bad, but on a hot and humid day, it would be pretty miserable. Fantastic views from the top and great selfies with the buddha in the background. On a clear day, the photos would be spectacular.

 

There is a lot to do on the top. Shows, walks, all kinds of food and shops. But with Judy back at the ship, I shopped quickly and efficiently and headed back down. Going down I had my own Crystal Cab. Great photos and shots as the clouds had lifted substantially. Great views of the outer harbors, the airport and the island itself, which is not inhabited by much.

 

I retraced my steps to Diamond Hill via the same three lines, using the recommended transfer at Prince Edward. No issues whatsoever.

 

Back at Diamond Hill I decided to have lunch and wandered into the Diamond Hill shopping ‘center’. A typical Asian style multi-story shopping mall with restaurants scattered around. I ended up at Genki sushi. And was pleasantly surprised by the delivery method, speed and quality of the nigiri. You place your order via an IPAD, then wait for the toy train (in the shape of a Shinkansen) to deliver your order to your table or booth. And it comes quick and its fun and unique and really, really tasty. Everything is in English and since Genki Sushi is a chain, we will have to try them in other cities as well.

 

After lunch it was back on the shuttle bus. Now a little bit of a speech here. Many people read my blogs and recommendations. And some don’t get to the recommendation parts. But when I say something is incredible, like the Nan Lian garden, near the Diamond Hill center, I mean it. Several people have now come up to me saying this was one of the highlights of their visit to Hong Kong – even CL said it was the best Chinese Garden he’s ever seen. Even the people that went to it based on second hand knowledge, they heard from a friend that I recommended it, came back WOWed from the visit. And its absolutely FREE to visit as well.

 

So Lessons Learned. See the Nan Lian Gardens in Hong Kong. You will not regret it. Unless you forget your camera or run out of space or batteries. Then you will be upset!

 

Back on board the ship, I checked on Judy and we went out into the terminal to update her phone and IPAD for the last time prior to Vietnam. We went out on the balcony to enjoy the night sky above Hong Kong, hoping to catch some of the laser light show, but it was not visible from the ship. So we ended up sipping drinks, eating some munchies and headed off to bed around 2130. We did fall back an hour last night to prep for Vietnam. Going to make that crossing miserable when we have to give all of those hours back again!

 

Later!

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Poor Judy,  Seems like one of you always gets sick.  You better sleep out on the balcony so you don't get it.  Hope she feels better soon.  Brenda

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3 hours ago, Colo Cruiser said:

Have you seen Duncan Tuck yet?

Duncan Tuck was on from Juneau to Yokohama.  Because of the missed port of Kushiro where he was supposed to leave the ship, he did a short third show as part of a variety show.

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In Hong Kong, we had the 24 hour MRT pass which allowed us to get to Disneyland without additional cost even though we had read that it would not.  In the station, we were able to transfer to the Disney line without going through the turnstyles.  Also, we were able to get back on the MRT with the day pass when we left Disneyland.

 

For seniors 65+, the admission to Disneyland was $100 Hong Kong dollars or $12.76 US.  This price included all rides and attractions.  We had a great time.

 

As usual, we are still hearing “It’s A Small World” in our heads.

Edited by Quartzsite Cruiser

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8 hours ago, Quartzsite Cruiser said:

Duncan Tuck was on from Juneau to Yokohama.  Because of the missed port of Kushiro where he was supposed to leave the ship, he did a short third show as part of a variety show.

Thanks! He is a friend of ours. We enjoy his shows.

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I am loving your trip report!   

 

We will be on a 24 day from Long Beach to Singapore, and am wondering what we should do in Guam.  Don't use your internet time to answer, will just follow along and wait and see.

 

Hope Judy is on the mend.

 

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11 hours ago, Colo Cruiser said:

Thanks! He is a friend of ours. We enjoy his shows.

We met Duncan and his wife three years ago on a cruise at dinner one night.  Then had dinner or visited with them several times.  Also got a chance to visit with him on this cruise.  Always enjoy his shows.

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Ahoy There C & J,

I finally found your "Live From".  CC kept coming back with pages of "Coral","Princess", "Live", "From", but nothing related to this.  So, I finally had a brain explosion and put in ccrain and there it was.  As usual a great blog of the trip.  I have the mascot ready for our April cruise to Hawaii and about 5 folks have said they would join in so far.  Sad, to hear that Elua will be on the Coral  because we will be on the Grand then.  Someday I will get to cruise with them.  J. is really interested in what you do on Guam and if you see Jeff at Jeff's Pirates Cove and say Aloha from Jackie from High School.  We saw him the last time we were in Guam.  Tell Judy to get well and take care both of you.

Holomoku

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It would be nice the 2015 cruise could be a repeat to Hawaii and S. Seas it will go but some of the same people go again for a reunion

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10-26-2018 – At Sea to Phu My For Ho Chi Minh/Saigon

 

Two incredible days in Vietnam so far. Ha Long Bay and Hue. We’ve now been to Vietnam in 2012 and earlier this year in April having done the Vung Tau area, Ho Chi Minh and Nha Trang. I must say Ha Long Bay is simply a stunner and should be on everyone’s must see list. It’s now high on our redo list for sure.

 

Back last year after we had booked this cruise and started the rollcall, Pam (Pamandcookie) started booking tours for many ports. I volunteered to look for a tour guide operator for the Vietnam ports. After extensive research on Tripadvisor and several emails back and forth with several companies I selected Ms. Ngoan Le of Travel Authentic Asia to arrange tours. I wanted small personalized tours with 15 or less people at a reasonable price with pickup inside the port, good busses and good tour guides. As the roll call grew, so did the list of interested people and we ended up with 10 busses and 10 boats in Ha Long Bay with 8 busses in Hue. Ms. Le has continued to add additional interested persons, guides and busses and has been very flexible. (We have 8 busses in Phu My as well going to HCM and Vung Tau.) For much less than $100 per person per tour, Ms. Le took care of everything and so far she has certainly delivered. I actually met her personally in Ha Long Bay. As is typical in Vietnam, she is young and very beautiful, but very capable. Her organization on the pier bettered that of the Princess shore excursions. Her busses were parked closest to the tenders, well signed and well manned to make sure everyone went where they belonged. Same at Chan May. I have not heard of anyone being left behind in either port.

 

First off, in Ha Long Bay we had a junk cruise with lunch. 10 junks.

 

We had a perfect day to visit Ha Long Bay. Sunshine and blue sky. A bit misty in the morning, but that burned on to give us incredibly clear vistas. This was our one and only tender port, so far, on this cruise. The ship also had junk cruises of Ha Long which actually docked to the ship for the excursion and brought people back to the ship in the same manner. Four ships tenders were running as well as shore tenders. Elites, were staged in the Provence Dining Room, independents in Universe Lounge and shore excursions in the theater. Immigration took a while. With a 0700 scheduled arrival, we were feet dry about 0845 on the first set of tenders. The last bus left for the junks about 0915. The tender dock was a temporary construct, awaiting the completion of the large cruise ship dock and terminal, near the Wyndham and Halong Plaza hotels. The junks are based on Cau Tuan Chau Island across the Tuan Chau Bridge. There are dozens of day junks and several overnight and multi-night river boat style cruise ships with balcony cabins, suites and full amenities. A typical day junk was built in Ha Long Bay for the burgeoning tourist trade into the protected areas of the bay. Its about 60 to 75 fee long. 15 to 20 feet wide and comfortably seats 40 people. Yes, 40 people. The max our boats had was 16 people. Yes, 16 people. No A/C, but lots of free flow air through windows the front doors, the back doors as well as rotating fans on the ceiling. The top of our junk was uncovered, but some did provide sun covers. The interior was incredibly rich mahogany type wood. Polished to a mirror finish with matching beautiful furnishing. With two western style, very clean toilets, there was nothing “junk” about this boat!

 

Ha Long Bay is one of the most interesting geologic areas in the world. Basically the area was a limestone plateau uplifted millions of years ago. Over the Millenia caves formed in the limestone underground, then collapsed, leaving all of these smaller “islands” standing. And what Islands! They are covered in a variety of trees and shrubs and are of all shapes and sizes with striking cliff face features and promontories. A different post card picture around every corner. The main highlights of this cruise/tour was Luon Cave (Monkey Cave), Surprise Cave (we skipped the Pearl Museum), lunch and scenic cruising. Lunch was fantastic with local prawns, fish, spring rolls and calamari salad along with the best French fries we’ve had in a long time!

 

The Monkey Cave, Monkey Lagoon or Luon Cave is a tunnel/cave entrance into an interior lagoon area completely surrounded by cliffs. Entrance is by sampan/rowboat or kayak. Once inside, there are monkeys that were banished to this island because they are ‘bad’ monkeys – one’s that attack or steal from tourists on-shore. They are fed everyday by tourists and by the park authorities. And they are very territorial, very loud, very possessive and fun to watch. Our guide brought his flute and played to a packed crowd in the lagoon. Everyone, even the monkeys, quieted down to hear him play. All of our boat chose to be rowed into the lagoon, other boats chose a mix of kayaks and sampans. It was so peaceful and beautiful inside the lagoon. Broken only by chanting on select boats. Apparently it’s a thing. So we sang a couple of verses of row, row, row your boat!

 

The Surprise Cave is a hike up many steps to various landings up in the cave, but with great views back down over the boats parked at the entrance and exit to the cave system. I did not make the hike, as did others, so we relaxed on the boat and watched a Vietnamese version of tender/bumper boat wars! Imagine the tenders wars of Grand Cayman, now take away the prohibition of not only touching boats, but allowing the shoving and bumping of other boats out of the way! This semi-structured organized chaos seems endemic to Vietnam. Especially after witnessing the scooters of Ho Chi Minh city last April. Only now it’s with 20 ton, 75 feet long boats!

 

All of the popular spots involve this constant bumping and shoving around of the boats to get to the landing spots. Its actually fun to watch. We weren’t worried, it wasn’t our boats.

 

But seriously, all of this is secondary, far, far, secondary to the scenery of Ha Long Bay. OMG! Limestone cliffs of all shapes, sizes and geometries against a blue sky background. Colorful fishing villages, fishing boats, elegant river cruise ships, small sampans puttering along. People fishing, swimming, living in such majestic beauty. WOW. That’s the best way to describe it. Youtube videos DO NOT do it justice. Flatscreens simply cannot convey the grandeur. It had to be on everyone’s bucket list for sure.

 

Around the tender dock there is not much to do, but there are taxis to take you anywhere and independent vendors offering Ha Long Bay tours similar to ours, but some shorter and some longer, as well as other sightseeing tours. You can drive to Hanoi, but that is not recommended on a short port day. Figure, safely, a three hour drive each way. And hope for no accidents. They are building a new cruise terminal and cruise dock in the same area, which will make it much easier to disembark quickly.

 

Chan May was an industrial dock and port. From Chan May you have basically two choices – Da Nang or Hue. We chose Hue. Ms. Le did set up one tour to the Da Nang area. Hue is known as the ancient capital of Vietnam. The Chinese influence is significant and very evident in the entire area. The imperial city of Hue is modeled after the Forbidden City itself, as are the tombs. We saw the tombs, visited an incense factory, rode a dragon boat on the Perfume River, visited the original monk’s temple that immolated himself in Vietnam in 1963 to protest the Diem government’s crackdown on Buddhism. His car has been restored and is on the property. His heart was apparently the only part of his body that survived incineration. Went into the Imperial City proper for a really good Vietnamese Lunch at a well known restaurant, rode a Cyclo to the fortress, toured the inner city, hiked back to the bus, collapsed and rested for the hour drive back to the port! And it was HOT. Not as hot as Thailand or Singapore, but plenty HOT. Mid 90’s with humidity in the 70’s.

 

Hue was interesting, especially looking at the similarity due to the Chinese influence in Korea and Vietnam. The cyclo ride was great as was the Dragon Boat ride – in a boat owned by the family and that was their living. The ingenuity, drive and entrepreneurship of the Vietnamese people has no equal in the world. These people are driven in their pursuit of making a living, but the tales of corruption at all levels of government are disheartening to say the least.

 

This was a really great tour and exposed us to a lot of what makes Vietnam tick, especially at the personal level, the farms, the little factories, their faiths, their values – all out in the open. Much more than China or Japan. The stories from the locals, when they stopped trying to sell us stuff long enough, were interesting and revealing.

 

I’m glad we did Hue instead of Da Nang, but Da Nang is on the list the next time we are in Vietnam on the same ports.

 

But Ha Long Bay was the highlight so far. This is a place to seriously consider an overnight or two on the larger boats anchored in amongst the rocks. With a clear sky, the nights would have been fantastic!

 

The tours by Travel Authentic Asia were jam packed, yet flexible enough that we weren’t too hurried. Pacing was up to us and with only 14 to 16 on the tour, the busses were comfortable, the restroom and shopping breaks not too long! I can only compare these tours to Alla, one of the premier cruise shore excursion companies in the Baltic which we visited in 2016. The guides were fantastic, the food very good, the transportation comfortable and air conditioned. Highly recommended.

 

We got word from the Captain that another Typhoon is threatening the Philippines and Manila proper. This may require a significant deviation on our part and would disappoint a majority of the crew, whom are from the Philippines and are looking forward to seeing their family, for some the first time in months! We will keep our fingers crossed.

 

Off to Phu My! Later!

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10-30-2018 – At Sea to Manila (Hopefully!)

 

Typhoon Yutu/Rosarita is headed for Luzon right now, as are we. Current projections show the Typhoon curving north hitting northern Luzon away from Manila, but still close enough to cause some rocking and rolling and gusting winds. Yutu also devasted the Marianas, including Guam. So our itinerary is unclear at the moment. Hopefully everything will be ok. If not, I am cranking up the lemon press! The daily update from the Captain this morning did not indicate any delays getting into Manila tomorrow morning, although it will be overcast and scattered showers and hopefully not as hot!

 

This is probably a good indication that Princess will not repeat this itinerary again. Doing the central pacific during Typhoon season is simply not a good idea. They could, and should, do it in the opposite direction in April (LA, HI, Guam, Manila, Vietnam, China, Korea, Japan, Alaska, LA). They need Alaska as there are very, very few ports in the central pacific – and Alaska is only available during their season (May – October). Everything else is south of the equator and too far away to do a 60 day without a huge number of sea days.

 

Travel Authentic Asia and Ms. Ngoan Le did not disappoint us in Phu My. However, other tours to Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh had issues. I will detail those issues in an email to her and let you all know what her response is. We did dock at a commercial dock and there was an independent shuttle to the port gate, but paying the extra for her to pickup dockside was worth it as we had 3 busses to Vung Tau and 5 busses to Saigon, a whole lot of Princess busses and a long way to the Port gate.

 

Our busses were clearly marked and the guides had lists, but apparently people still got on the wrong bus (apparently the guides were not checking their lists), this happened in Chan May as well, and two did not show up on our bus. The two missing from our bus were late additions, not of the original cruise critic group, so either they got on the wrong bus, came out late or went to the port gate because of the shuttle notice, which did indicate that independents should ride the shuttle. However, in many roll call posts and in the instructions from Ms. Le, pickup inside the port dockside was included in the fare and the busses with their neon colored signs were quite noticeable – but you did have to look for them as they were off to one side away from all the Princess busses.

 

Our guide, Mr. Thong, spoke English and was pretty good at it, but you had to ensure you asked the question properly and didn’t use a lot of slang or conversational English in your question. Tense (past, present, future) was also very important as was possession (mine, yours, theirs) in getting questions across to guides and English had a variety of ways to express tense and possession which can be very confusing. Think about “Tambien” in Spanish and how it is used. But in the end we were able to communicate effectively with him and he was a fount of information. Interestingly enough, his father was South Vietnamese, but his Grandfather was VC. Must have made for interesting family reunions!

 

We were on the Vung Tau tour. We had done Vung Tau in 2012 with Princess, for twice the price, and Saigon last April privately. This time we wanted to repeat Vung Tau because once a year in Saigon is plenty for me.

 

The basic itinerary was to stop at a ‘factory’ that made rice paper, the cracker kind, not the wrapping kind, and rice wine. From there we went downtown to the Christ statue, the Nirvana Temple, lunch, the White Palace, a walk along the waterfront, a real market and then to a fish farm. We left the dock at 0735 and got hung up at the gates because extra people were on one bus, but missing on others – we found out later – and the gate guards wanted to make sure that the proper bribes – err…fees, were paid properly! (Corruption is one of the most common complaints in Vietnam.)

 

On the way to Vung Tau we went through Ba Ria on the way. This is the town that the free shuttle from the ship will drop you off at. Quite frankly if you don’t want to do temples or markets, Ba Ria is not the most exciting stop. Not a lot to see and do there except for temple, markets and since we were there on Sunday – weddings.

 

We did stop outside of Ba Ria for the factory visit. Now a factory in Vietnam is someone’s house or barn. This rice paper was more cracker wafers than paper. And it was delicious. They should have sold the bag of assorted wafers for $1 and made a nice profit. There was rice with sesame, tapioca wafers, plain rice, all hand made on the spot. And of course the rice wine was an ancient looking still in the back of the barn. The rice wine is really a distilled spirit, not ‘wine’ made from rice, using rice as the starch. It can be up to 160 proof. This stuff was about 84 proof. Not bad. A little on the rotgut side, but better than some commercial cheap spirits in the bottle.

 

By the way, the day was hot and humid, and even though it was only in the upper 80’s and 70-80% humidity, there is something about the equatorial region sun that just sucks the life out of you. Thank goodness for fishing shirts, shorts and bus air conditioning!

 

The statue of Jesus Christ is 881 steps to the top of the cliff face and then another 100+ steps inside the statue to the head and shoulders. Several of us stayed at the bottom preferring to not get all hot and sweaty. Ran into another of Ms Le’s group, different bus, at the bottom as well. Several of our group, and their group, made it to the top and back.

 

From there we went to the Nirvana Pagoda. An interesting Buddhist temple on the coast with a reclining Buddha. Here, no shoes and knees and shoulders covered was enforced, so several of us stayed out, admiring the sea view – which was a bit misty. Another of Ms. Le’s 3 busses to Vung Tau showed up while we were wandering around the temple. Its very small and doesn’t take long to visit.

 

From there we went to lunch at Thuc Don – a well known seafood eatery on the shore. Definitely local as there were no Princess tours to this place. Lots of locals. We ate at a table closest to the shore and close to the live tanks of fish and shellfish from which they pull fresh seafood to cook. Clams, crabs, mussels, grouper, sturgeon, rock lobster, scallops, huge prawns, are all in the tanks alive and ready to be scooped up for quick cooking. The main menu as the Seafood menu. One of us was Vegan and had a separate menu, another ate no seafood, so had a pork heavy menu with no seafood. The restaurant was very flexible and accommodating although almost no English was spoken by the staff. Our menu had the Royal Seafood Salad, Shrimp and pork rolls, Baked Oysters with cheese, fried rice, fruit. The food was fantastic. One drink was included, but I decided to treat whomever with some Vietnamese Whiskey – which is rice wine with Coca-Cola. A 500mL water bottle of rice wine, which wasn’t bad by itself, and one can of coke was only 57,000 DONG. Less than $3. So a bunch of us tried it and I shared it over at the other table. Once I got the right rice wine to Coke mix, it wasn’t too bad. Prost!

 

The food was excellent. Hot, properly spiced, tasty and when the thin slices of hot pepper was added, the spice level was fantastic. Vietnamese food is not naturally spicy, the peppers or chilis, small like Thai chilis, or chili paste, is added to increase the spice and they are tasty! The service was quick and friendly and Wanda, the vegan, really enjoyed her meal as the food just kept coming. I had a taste of the pork riblets. Fresh, hot, grilled and slightly spiced, but very, very tasty. This is Asian pork that tastes porky, not the factory farmed ‘other white meat’ we have in the states.

 

After lunch we toured the White Palace, a French mansion on the shore that housed French governors and past Vietnamese Emperors. This was interesting, but pretty much, quite frankly, boring French colonial architecture – you have to travel through other bedrooms to get to yours. The contents of the historical artifacts were far more interesting with a perfect set of African elephant tusks, lots of Ching dynasty pottery and some 100 year old locally carved and sourced hardwood furniture. The views and breezes from the sea in this location were actually more interesting than the building itself. But still worthwhile to visit and see.

 

After a short walk along the beach and park, we went to a local market. A true local market. No cheapy Chinese made souvenirs. The only souvenirs were t-shirts, but sized for the locals. Wanda, who probably weighs 90# soaking wet, had to get a 3XL in order to find something that fit her. Most of the meat, fish and veggies were gone, but there was a lot of jewelry, clothing, packaged foods and sundry items all over the place. No high pressure selling either as all the vendors were taking naps on their tables or in their hammocks. Unfortunately I woke several of them up before I realized what was going on! I deliberately requested a local market to visit for everyone to get a flavor of local life in Vietnam. Local markets are a microcosm of local Vietnamese life – you know, like Walmart is in the states!

 

From there we went to the Song Cha Va inlet under the Cau Cha Va bridge to visit local fish farms. Oysters and fish (Barramundi, Grouper and Corbia) were being farmed in this salt water tidal inlet area. Hundreds of tanks and dozens of fish farms were in the area. We toured the area via a motorized Sampan. The people were very friendly and waved, got their kids out of bed to see the funny foreign tourists,and their dogs barked at us while they fed their fish and gathered a catch to sell or eat. It was very interesting. On the way out they were loading a truck with oyster shells – probably as chicken feed – coarse ground oyster shells are very good for laying hens. Several of us agreed that this was one of our favorite stops. Local lifestyles are always one of our favorite visits and this was about authentic as you can get.

 

After that it was back to the ship by 1700 with a 1730 all aboard. A very hot, hectic but imminently satisfying day ashore in Phu My.

 

You should note that there is essentially nothing in the Phu My area near the dock. This is a commercial container port and they don’t even let you walk to the port gate and all taxis and last minute independent tours are basically on the street outside the port gates. You have to ‘pay’ extra to be picked up inside the gate near the ship. Last April we parked the Diamond in a different dock with a very short walk/ride to the port gate. This time the ship was docked at a different dock and it was quite a ways to the port gate and not a straight shot either.

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Happy Halloween! Could not sleep. We are headed into Manila this morning. Short port day, lots to see and do. Updates later!

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11-02-2018 – At Sea to Guam

 

Manila was interesting. I’m on the fence as to my overall impression. Primarily because of the traffic. Oh geez! Our tour was cut short because of it. Take LA traffic at rush hour, take away the freeways, add in a whole bunch of cycles (motorcycles with side cars), then add a bunch of pedi-cabs and street traffic and you have downtown traffic. Waze was so confused. Time back to the port from the Intramuros was switching between 15 minutes and 30 minutes as the streets turned red, then yellow, then green, then red, all in about 5 seconds.

 

The best way to summarize Manila was that the Filipino crew members were very happy. Many of them got to visit with their families in person for the first time in months. Some of them even had their families join them in prior ports for the voyage to Manila. It was a very heartening to watch the families arrive at the port and rush to see their loved ones with smiles and tears. Lots and lots of smiles all around. We gave our cabin steward the day off and some extra spending money for him and his family. He was so happy when we saw him yesterday.

 

So back to our day. Pam arranged a tour with Yolo Travels. We actually docked at Pier 15 on the south end of the Manila port, not the north side. The ferry terminal had inadequate roadway entrance and parking for the mass of busses waiting on the street to load in 1’s and 2’s. So we had to wait a while for our vans, 5 of them, to pick up us. Toyota vans for 10 in each group. Eric was our driver, Eris was our guide. Always good for groups larger than 6 or 8 to have both a guide and a driver. It allows for the driver to drop and move while the guide tours.

 

On the way out from the port area we saw some of the poorest and most run down housing of the entire trip. Multi-story apartment buildings that looked on the verge of collapse with heaps of garbage around the ground floors almost blocking the entrances. (The very definition of urban blight!) This depressing view changed to more modern and better looking apartments and retail space as we went out from the city center. The further out in the burbs, the newer and more modern and more western/US everything looked. Complete to KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds!

 

We went to Tagaytay in the highlands south of Manila. There we saw a new housing development. Basically a bedroom community for Manila. Some of the more reasonably priced housing on the trip so far. Very modern looking gated communities with retail, entertainment and open space with prices that were under $100k US. Almost exactly the same as you would find in the states, although the homes are a bit smaller and the construction is cinder block, not wood frame stick built. Although the M-16/AR-15 armed security guard did seem just a bit out of place.

 

In the development we went to for a bathroom break they had a koi pond with thousands of fish, which when we started feeding them, the advertised “Extreme Fish Feeding” began! The sound that a thousand koi make swimming on top of each other in a boiling mass all sucking wind and smacking their lips is a sound that was very appropriate for Halloween – that’s for sure. (Still runs shivers up and down my spine!)

 

After the fish feeding we were off to Tagaytay and a stop at a bakery (Rowena’s) to taste some goodies, and buy some Filipino snacks – cheese corn nuts, spicy chicken skins and pork rinds. Yummy! (Makes for great balcony fare with drinks from the mini-bar.) Then to a fruit market to taste that variety of fruits from the local farmers. Mango, mangosteen, dragon fruit, a local distilled spirit from sugar cane – think white rum lightning, pineapple (the small very sweet variety) and other fruits and veggies. It’s a shame we couldn’t purchase a bunch of it to eat. Local fresh fruits and veggies like this are basically non-existent in Colorado! Especially in the wintertime.

 

The Tagaytay highlands are the rim of an ancient volcano overlooking Taal Lake, a crater lake. We went to one of the highest points in the hills. An old half built palace allegedly being built for a visit by President Reagan back in the 80’s by Marcos himself. People’s Palace in the Sky I think is what it was called. We did a Jeepney ride up and down the hill. 10 western butts vs. 20 Filipino butts. Good thing it wasn’t a long ride. The views were incredible from the top, both back to Manila and over the crater lake. And the breeze was welcome. They were restoring/building the palace, but from the looks of the progress this project will take a while. There was, of course, the market stalls down in the basement with all kinds of souvenirs and clothing.

 

Lunch was at an authentic Filipino restaurant in Tagaytay. Don Juan Bulalo on the main road from Manila to Tagaytay. Outdoor covered kitchen with woks, flats and grills. We had a fried local fish, rice, a little slaw, a fried egg, stir fried noodles, stir fried veggies, some rice snacks and fruit. It was a very rustic meal, not fancy, not bad, but very representative of what the Filipinos eat all the time.

 

After lunch the plan was to head to the Intramuros downtown and spend a few hours walking the area. But the traffic would not cooperate. A 1.5 hour ride back to Manila turned into a 2+ hour traffic backup. Not even Waze helped. With a 1530 all aboard time, we wanted to get back to the port around 1500. We were at the Manila cathedral at 1435 with Waze showing 15 to 30 minutes back to the port primarily because the two lane main road past the port entrance was showing red traffic in both directions. So we did a quick photo shoot at the cathedral and a drive by of the church. Too bad we didn’t have an extra hour, even though we didn’t actually leave until 1700.

 

I’m sure we would have enjoyed the Intramuros more had we spent more time there. Unfortunately we went past Corregidor in the dark both ways, so we didn’t get to see it either.

 

So that was our adventure in Manila. And because of the short port day I still have mixed feelings about it. But for now, been there, done that! If we ever get back we will do more of a WWII battlefield tour of the area.

 

Since it was Halloween, the plan for the night was a Halloween party in the Universe. There had to be at least 300+ costumes at the party. Judy and I didn’t even make the first cut up against some of the more elaborate costumes. The ones that were simply the best were the three little pig ghosts. Complete with amplified oinkers. They were a hoot (snort), original, home made and nicely done. The party was fun, but we started losing an hour that night, and will for most of the nights home, so it was after midnight, effectively, when we finally got “home” and collapsed.

 

Next up is Guam. Because Guam is a US port, after several foreign ports, immigration will take time. The schedule delivered last night shows everyone off between 11 and 12 with a 0900 port arrival. We are scheduled in the 1030 ‘sequence’. We shall see how smooth this one goes. We have no plans to speak of except to get off the ship, see what is available as far as shuttles, taxis or pier side tours. It is Sunday, so there is no public transport and most of the off airport rental cars that deliver or pick up are closed. The ship’s tours are extraordinarily expensive. As in really expensive! So we might shuttle to town, taxi to town or grab a pierside excursion. We shall see.

 

Later!

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Ahoy Ccrain,

I have a super cruise ship tracker now and have been following your ship for the past week.  I just checked two ocean sailing weather sites and both show great weather for you to Guam.  Rain in Guam on Sat. and partly cloudy on Sun.  I'm not sure whether or not that is adjusted for the date line.  The wind will be coming mostly from the East at 10 k or so and the waves at 5' or less from the port side all the way.

 

Sounds like traffic was worse in Manila than in Saigon when we were there last April, I thought that was bad!🤔

 

Keep up the good work, your reports are super!😄

 

Holomoku

 

 

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18 hours ago, Holomoku said:

Ahoy Ccrain,

I have a super cruise ship tracker now and have been following your ship for the past week.  I just checked two ocean sailing weather sites and both show great weather for you to Guam.  Rain in Guam on Sat. and partly cloudy on Sun.  I'm not sure whether or not that is adjusted for the date line.  The wind will be coming mostly from the East at 10 k or so and the waves at 5' or less from the port side all the way.

 

Sounds like traffic was worse in Manila than in Saigon when we were there last April, I thought that was bad!🤔

 

Keep up the good work, your reports are super!😄

 

Holomoku

 

 

Tomorrow, the 4th for us, is Guam. Sunday. The date line occurs on the 7th, which we refer to as 7.1 and 7.2. Glad to see the Typhoon is not around any more. Thanks for the update!

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11-03-2018 – At Sea To Guam

 

Miscellaneous information and ramblings from the cruise so far. We are now in store for a lot of sea days back to LA and a lot of losing hours at night, plus an extra day, the 7th, referred to as 7.1 and 7.2. Guam comes up tomorrow, but immigration times are a big unknown. There is reportedly going to be a shuttle from the port to the Premier Outlet Mall. But again, with everyone getting off, how long is the shuttle going to take. Lots of people are renting cars, but the cost of the taxi is now in play versus a tour from the docks. In all DIY situations you have to balance your time against expense. Hong Kong is a good example. The shuttle to Diamond Hill basically was one bus making a roundtrip every hour. Is the 1 hour to 90 minutes lost worth the cost of a taxi both ways? Guam will be the same question, plus throwing in possibly hiring a taxi for a tour the entire day. Split 4 ways, that could be economical in time and in money.

 

A couple of cabin notes. We are in C637, a forward facing bumpout balcony cabin. For an Alaskan or Panama Canal cruise its great. For entering and exiting a harbor, its great. But for open ocean, no way. The balcony funnels wind into the cabin and you could not do a UBD if you were moving due to the wind. The cabin A/C works! Yeah! BUT we are in a starboard cabin, which means on an eastward crossing, the sun, at this time of year, will be on our side of the ship. Forcing the curtains closed during the day and afternoon to prevent the cabin from warming to over 75 due to solar heating. I should have booked a port side cabin because of the ship’s routing. We would have been in the shade the whole trip back.

 

We had the Captain’s Circle party last night. Very interesting. The most traveled on this cruise has over 2100 days at sea. The third most traveled has over 1800. Can you believe that?!? There is no way we will ever, ever get that many. And the real funny part is the comment that ran through the lounge when the most traveled was introduced – ‘OMG they are so young! And they can still walk’!

 

Captain Poggi, whom retires next year, was really forthcoming in his information and even some speculation. He confirms that the Pacific will stay with Princess into the 2021 season. The two new LNG ships will carry over 5000 passengers. (That was met by much grumbling.) But he also talked about Fincanteri building several 1k passenger ships for various lines, including NCL, for delivery in 2023. Unique exploration type ships that can get anywhere. A possible replacement for the Pacific? He said there are no firm plans for Princess to order one, but one never knows. Wouldn’t that be great?

 

Shipboard life has settled into a routine with the Patter not changing schedules a lot. We couldn’t watch MUTS for the first couple of weeks – too darn cold. So now, hopefully, they will start repeating some of those movies on the way back.

 

We really, really miss the Diamond’s VOD (Video On Demand). Unless you time it just right, you’re only going to see parts of the movies or shows on the Coral. Having access to the shows to watch immediately is a great thing. They could even charge $5 a day for VOD and probably make some money on it as well…but don’t tell them I said so!

 

Internet access is interesting. We did get another 500 minutes in Shanghai. When we boarded, we got the first 500 minutes, but I also purchased an extra 200 minutes. When we got to Shanghai, only the daily packages were available for sale, but with 200 to 500MB limits on throughput. No minute packages were available. Quite frankly, paying $20 a day for 200MB and lousy connection speeds would not be my idea of fun. Unless the daily packages are for higher speeds than the standard minutes – which they could throttle down. I’m hoping that when MedallionNet is fully implemented, they increase the package contents as 200MB to 500MB is not that much bandwidth if you think about it.

 

So that’s the basic ramblings for the day. See ya after Guam!

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On 9/23/2018 at 2:17 AM, dale65 said:

Really enjoying your report

My husband and I will take our first cruise ever on the Coral in June 2019 to Alaska. Love all the details.

 

Sent from my SM-N960U using Forums mobile app

 

What sailing will you be on dale65?  My husband and I will be on the Coral for the first time June 12, 2019 as part of a 13 day cruise tour!

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