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HAL in Asia -feedback wanted


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We recently booked a 27 day HAL cruise on the Noordam which starts in Singapore and ands in Tokyo (Yokohama).  We're pretty excited about it-it covers a lot of places that we have always wanted to visit.  Would love feedback from anyone who has cruised in this area.  Stops include Koh Samui, overnight Bangkok, Sihanoukville, Phu My, Ma Trang, overnight Hue, Halong Bay , Hong Kong, Siamen, overnight Shanghai, Nagasaki, Cheju, Busan, Hiroshima, Kochi, and Yokohama (Tokyo).  We'll be on the Noordam.  Hope to spend a week in Singapore pre-cruise and a week in Tokyo post-cruise if I can finagle stays with my hotel points (we have a plethora).  

Edited by Bxianesq
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Will do-thanks! Posted here to see if anyone could comment on the overall experience of a longer cruise in Asia.  I am on the cusp of semi-retirement, and have never had the opportunity to cruise for longer than 11 days. 

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We were on the Maasdam this year in February/March for a 3 week SE Asia cruise beginning and ending in Singapore, and it was wonderful.  We joined the roll call for the cruise and took part in private shore excursions which ranged from 4 to 12 people, rather than a bus load.  Hubby doesn't often talk about re-doing a cruise, but he has really talked up this itinerary, so it's a possibility we might return to the area. 

 

I'm happy to see you're spending a week prior in Singapore, we only had 48 hours and that left us wanting more - and more - and more! 

 

Smooth Sailing!   🙂🙂🙂

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10 hours ago, Bxianesq said:

We recently booked a 27 day HAL cruise on the Noordam which starts in Singapore and ands in Tokyo (Yokohama).  We're pretty excited about it-it covers a lot of places that we have always wanted to visit.  Would love feedback from anyone who has cruised in this area.  Stops include Koh Samui, overnight Bangkok, Sihanoukville, Phu My, Ma Trang, overnight Hue, Halong Bay , Hong Kong, Siamen, overnight Shanghai, Nagasaki, Cheju, Busan, Hiroshima, Kochi, and Yokohama (Tokyo).  We'll be on the Noordam.  Hope to spend a week in Singapore pre-cruise and a week in Tokyo post-cruise if I can finagle stays with my hotel points (we have a plethora).  

To offer a few more possibilities to your plethora: A week in Singapore precruise is a perfect idea. Do not forget to have at least a lunch in one of the two one star Michelin hawker stalls 🙂. Try to be among the first in row (before f.e. the chickens are all sold 🙂 ). 

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken and Noodle

335 Smith St | #02-127 Chinatown Food Complex  and/or

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle   (#01-12 Blk 466, Tai Hwa Eating House, Crawford Lane - 190465 Singapore)

Koh Samui: temples, temples and temples, but quite interesting.

Cambodja: if you like cooking: buy best quality Kampot pepper you can get. Buy the logest HAL excursion you can afford and look, look and listen.

Laem Chabang: Think about visiting The Sanctuary of Truth (Google and you will be surprised). We visited in 2017 (Volendam February-april) and 2019 (Maasdam February-March), marvelous woodwork of hundreds of artists that still continues. Taxi from Laem Chabang to temple and back. We used  www.JOETAXITHAI.com   Good alternative if you already know Bangkok or for the 2nd day.

Hue: 1 day Hoi An, 1 day Hue 

Halong Bay: Boattrip (we did this in 2017) an absolute "must do". If not: 2 days Hanoi is a very interesting alternative (we in 2019; pity and interesting because the meeting Kim/Trump was on one of our 2 days….).

Shanghai: pity that ship will not dock at the Bund, but see as much as you can: fascinating town.

Nagasaki: Book a very early excursion in the hope you will pass the border police in time…. Especially for dutch guests: walk to Decima for a visit. Very interesting.

Tokyo: if you leave Tokyo by plane from Narita airport in the morning: carefully check the possibilities to be there in time if you stay in a hotel in the center of town.  Suggestion: book the Nikko Narita hotel for the last night. Nikko is very close to the airport and railway station(shuttle bus from the hotel, 600 meters). Rooms twice the size as in center Tokyo. Or book an extra night and visit the village of Narita itself. 

Enjoy

 

 

Edited by MAVIP
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Don't be in a hurry to leave the airport in Singapore; they just opened a rain forest display at the airport.  https://www.scmp.com/magazines/style/tech-design/article/3007786/inside-singapores-changi-airport-jewel-rainforest-40

 

Be sure to at least watch the movie of CRAZY RICH ASIANS before you go.  Reading the book would be even better.  You will recognize all kinds of scenes from the movie as you go around town.  BTW, the hawker center (food court) scene was filmed at the Newton Center, which is super easy to access from the subway station of that name, and the food is great (although the characters in the book do not agree.)

 

Great mass transit in Singapore makes it easy to get around.  

 

The botanical garden is incredible.  I could have spent two days there.  Most of it is free; there is a fee for the extensive orchid collection.  

 

The evening music/light show at Gardens by the Bay was the best I have ever seen, and I've been to all the Disney World shows.  But it changes regularly so you will see something different.  They repeat it twice each evening, and there is a hawker center right onsite https://www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en/dining/satay-by-the-bay.html, so you can eat and then follow the crowds to the trees.  It is free to walk around Gardens by the Bay; but the enclosures and skyway between the trees have a fee.  

 

Most hotels lend you a cellphone with tourist info preloaded, so no need to find a SIM card after landing.  And since Singapore is very digitally plugged in, lots of tourist info available online.  And of course English is one of the official languages, so very easy that way.  

 

The most exciting thing to me:  Singapore has some of the cleanest tap water in the world.   You can drink it, brush your teeth with it, cook with it.  Such luxury!  (Okay, that probably isn't anything to a first-worlder, but it was a big thrill for me, since my island is not quite as progressive.)

 

Have a great trip!

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I did the 80- and 82-day Grand Asias the last two years. The cruise critic rollcall may get busy, but it will be a great resource.

 

In Singapore, book lunch at Spagos (Wolfgang Puck) on top of the Marina Bay Sands. It's 45 Singapore Dollars, I think, 3 courses and well worth it.

 

I loved the Food and Win-sponsored HAL foodie tour in Shanghai. Of course the best is the view at night from the ship...

 

 

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 We went to Thailand on a whim six  years ago.  We liked S/E Asia so much, especially Thailand and Vietnam, so much that we decide to spent the next four snowbird winters there!  And we may be back again this year.  Enjoy

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Wow-thanks so much for all the great ideas and for confirming that my Singapore pre-cruise plan  is a good idea.  Saw Crazy Rich Asians-but what really made me want to go to Singapore was the Lonely Planet guide that I spied in the Oceania Insignia library on the last night of our recent Oceania cruise.  Oceania has an amazing library on its ships-perhaps the old HAL (pre-dates me) did as well.  As I browsed through the guidebook, I saw many, many things that I wanted to do in Singapore.  The suggestions that you all have provided are great-we are foodies and can't wait to visit the hawker stands.  Will look for the Food and Wine tours as well. I also have had Changi on my bucket list-my husband and I are points and miles collectors, and other "travel hackers" have always rhapsodized about the wonders of that airport.  It sounds like we need 1 day just for that-although I am sure we will be quire jet-lagged when we arrive.  

 

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While in Singapore, go to the Marina Bay Sands hotel (it's one of the stops on the HO HO bus route).  You can pay $23 SGD and go to the top observation deck, or you can pay $25 SGD by telling them you're going to the bar, where for that price, you will also get a drink.  You can then enjoy the view from the bar, rather than just standing on the observation deck.  We joined another couple we met on the way up in the elevator, and spent a delightful hour and a half visiting with them,  taking in the vistas from our bar stools.

 

Smooth Sailing!  🙂🙂🙂

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We were there Aug 2019...

In Tokyo used 

Sheraton Yokahama as base for five nights using points.    Book 5 nights get one free.

Across the road from Sheraton there is a huge mall with big name Japanese stores with also hundreds of other stores.   Lots of places to eat reasonable there or take a train to China Town.

 

Do not confuse Yokohama station with Shin Yokohama Stations the latter is only JR where get Shinkansen.  Shin Yokohama is a few stops from Yokohama station.

 

You can get Shinkansen pass but you need to get the voucher from US (is this your home?) and redeem at JR station when get to Japan.  The pass will allow you to reserve JR Narita Express to Narita.  You can catch the express right in Yokohama (not the Shin station)  station.

We also got the JR ICOCA Prepaid debit travel card which you can tap and go at the various stations and buses.

Two of the nights we used JR Shinkansen with light luggage to go to Kyoto and stayed two nights in a luxury lodge.

Be mindful that there are a lot of tourists around so you may not get to see everything.

 

Some things to see

Kyoto:   Gold Pavilion,  Silver Pavillion,  Bamboo Forest,  Many Temples, Shrines and old area downtown including Geisha area.

Tokyo and nearby:   Shinjiku, Ueno Park,   Emperor Gardens,  Great Buddha of Kamakura,  Nikko

 

 

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With port visits in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, I'd suggest that you consider a visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum in both of these cities.  I visited the one in Hiroshima and did not do so in Nagasaki.  Comparing my experiences with those who visited the Museum in Nagasaki during my Asia Pacific cruise on the Volendam, our views differed as to how the different Museums portrayed these horrific events in 1945.  It's a contradiction that I have yet been able to confirm for myself.  

 

Singapore is a fascinating city with its Hop On/Off bus routes so easy to use.  I have done all of them and some routes more than once because they get me to where I want to do easily from my hotel.  The Botanical Gardens:  WOW!  

 

Touring the ancient city of Hue, traveling from the ship's port, my tour went two different routes:  one route was overland giving me a view of the countryside and a return route through a tunnel than shortened the return to the port.  Hue was a very interesting stop for me.

 

Halong Bay:  it's scenic.  The tour of the cave was interesting.  But, unless they have made major improvements in the guests' ability to access the tour boats in order to return to the ship, I cannot suggest anyone try this unless you are able to walk across a narrow wooden plank of wood to the tour boat after negotiating many very narrow steps down to the plank.  I was able to do it in 2002;  I would not be able to do so in 2019 without being injured. 

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