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hubofhockey

Almost Live - First Time Azamara to Southeast Asia

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This topic might be boring for Azamara regulars or those who have cruised to Southeast Asia.  I hope it will be helpful for those haven’t done either.  We take so much out of Cruise Critic and I want to contribute back.  I’ll try to update with photos.  Next post will be review and photos of Premium Economy for Cathay Pacific long haul BOS-HK and maybe some for Hotel Icon in Kowloon. 

 

This is our first Azamara cruise and an itinerary that we always hoped to do, Southeast Asia.  Previously, we booked a couple of Azamara cruises.  They canceled one (troubles in Turkey) and we canceled another.  In any case, we have never been to Asia (technically, Israel and parts of Istanbul are in Asia) and this is a great way to spend our 25th anniversary.  Our rotation of cruise lines had been Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Celebrity.  When our kids were little, we took a few cruises on Carnival.  We like ships of all sizes and new as well as old, including M Class on Celebrity and even Allure of the Seas.  In fact, the Millennium does a very similar itinerary to the Quest in Southeast Asia.  The dirty little secret about that itinerary is they book 2-3 hour away from in both Saigon and Bangkok.  If you are going to travel to the other side of the planet, we didn’t want 5 days so far away from ports.  Azamara docks right in both cities.  Also, we wanted to give the more upscale ship a shot.  This cruise just seemed right.  Our biggest apprehension is that we could be bored on sea days, but that is such a first wold concern.  How lucky am I to be able to take such a great vacation with this itinerary on an upscale ship?  

 

Many on the Cruise Critic roll call joined early and many had done their homework on these ports and some have been to Southeast Asia before.  The roll call was very active, which surprised me a bit since the ship is 3X smaller than any ship we’ve been on.  There has been extensive tour sharing.  We are doing most on our own but doing sharing in small groups in Bangkok.  Our biggest decision was really about the end of the cruise.  It ends with an overnight in Singapore.  We were either going to stay in Singapore for another night and book the famous Marina Bay Sands or go to Siem Reap for the weekend and see Angkor Wat and that amazing area.  We considered that we may never go to this part of the world again and decided on Angkor Wat.  Another couple on the roll call is doing the same and we’re sharing a day tour there, including Sunrise and the small circuit.  This and an overnight on a junk on a premium junk in Halong Bay.  

 

We originally booked a V3 cabin 7100  and got a good deal with $1700 onboard credit with $900 being refundable and were able to take advantage of a promotion saving $800 on price, but losing $400 of the refundable portion of our OBC.  We got an invitation to bid on an upgrade.  Host Grandma Cruising, who is a great resource on CC for all new Azamara cruisers (I hope the cruise line appreciates her), set up a great spreadsheet which details winning and losing bids.  We thought $80 per day had a good chance of getting it done, based on past wins and losses for the upgrade to the CC suite.  We put in a small cushion to $81 or $1,220 for the 15-night itinerary.  Hey, you only have one 25th anniversary and we now have 8057.

 

We have a 1:50 am flight out direct from Boston to HK on Cathay Pacific.  Got a great deal on Premium Economy with AMEX Platinum.  We will leave home tonight at 9 pm, leave the car in downtown Boston at my office parking deck and take the 10-minute subway ride to Logan.  Our airport isn’t the greatest, but it’s the most convenient.  

 

We like to find value in nice hotels and use TripAdvisor for reviews.  Hong Kong is expensive, but we got a nice deal which include daily breakfast at Hotel Icon in Kowloon (TST).  We have three nights there and arrive 15 hours after take off where local time will be around 5 am in Hong Kong.  The plan is Kowloon on Sunday, ferry to Macau on Monday, and Hong Kong Island (Central) on Tuesday.  We board on Wednesday. For post cruise, we have new Grand Venus in Siem Reap booked.  It's a luxury hotel with great reivews and Siem Reap is so cheap that it's like $50 a night.  

 

I know some canceled this cruise because of the incredible protests in Hong Kong, which even have shut down the city and airport.  We are following it closely.  The State Department is encouraging US citizens to keep a low profile and avoid protest areas.  We were going to do Hong Kong on our own, but given what is going on, booked two tours in Hong Kong with City Unscripted.  Each is private and will help with logistics.  It’s four hours in Kowloon and 8 in HK Island and is so inexpensive ($25 an hour with promotions).  We also booked private transportation to hotel from the airport.  After a 15-hour flight, with a decent amount of luggage, it’s much more convenient than Airport Express with transfer and only $20 to $25 more.  We’ll head to meet driver after picking up Octopus Cards, which every Vlogger and website tells you to get.  Weather calls for some rain on Sunday , but partly cloudy on Monday and Tuesday.  Looking ahead to Halong Bay (north Vietnam), forecast is sunny and 84 both days.  We are in shoulder / late summer season in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.   After Halong Bay, looks like rain in Hoi An, which we fully expected there when we booked this.  Ponchos are packed.  Working from home today and packing electronics and toiletries.  The strategy today is a nap so I can stay awake as long as possible on possible on the flight and try to get on Hong Kong time, which is 12 hours ahead.  

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Cannot wait to hear all your perspectives and experiences

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Following this, at two levels....we did that cruise 5 years ago on Celebrity Millennium and loved it, so an opportunity to reminisce. More importantly, we are soon to be Az first timers and look forward to reading your take as first timers on Az also!

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I too am  looking forward to following along with you as we wish we could have done this cruise.  We will have to wait for future dates on it.  Have a wonderful time.

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Very interested to read this. I was very comfortable in Premium Economy on Cathay last time I flew to HK. At the moment though in NZ we cant get travel insurance to go there, so it's a no go for us! Looking forward to reading about all of your trip!

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You will enjoy Hotel Ikon, the buffet breakfast has much on offer.  I hope the current protest don’t impact your stay in Honkers too much. 

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Thank you for doing this, really interested to read about your travels. I’ll be boarding on the 31st in Singapore for my first Azamara cruise. Any first timer tips will be appreciated!

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We took a 1:50 am direct flight on Cathay Pacific out of Boston and arrived on time at 5:15 am local time.  You can imagine how bad the airport lounge (The Club) at 11 pm).  It was nasty.  Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Class is really nice with good recline, decent food and great service. I've attached a couple of photos.  One shows the leg room with the padded stools and the other shows you can keep your phone charged with a convenient port.   Hong Kong Airport is nice and easy to navigate.  Immigration took 30-40 minutes in line.  It took one hour total to get off plane, go through immigration, and meet our driver.  We did not reserve Octopus Cards ahead of time.  You don’t need to.  The machines are very easy to figure out and we took the minimum $200 HKD on each card. We paid $20 USD more a driver rather than messing with Airport Express in the pouring rain. 

 

Hotel Icon is nice.  Still waiting to get into our rooms, but they provide access to health club, which is nice with beautiful private rain water showers.  

 

Front desk told us that protesters are out more than on weekends, but it’s nonviolent and guests use common sense.  The weather is clearing up and we have a private walking tour with a City Unscripted Guide at 1:30 pm.  First, we’re walking to Goose Manor for an early lunch. Forgot to bring Azamara luggage tags and boarding pass for the cruise.  Will probably print them out on Tuesday at hotel.

 

Tomorrow is our day in Macau with ferry and self guided tour of the old city and then the cirque style show Houses of Dancing Water at City of Dreams.  I’m sure we’ll sleep well tonight and fall asleep before 10 pm.  On Tuesday, some from the cruise are getting together at Ho Lee Fook's in SoHo.  It will either four of us or eight.  Have never met these people, but it's the friendliest roll call in my 13 years on cruise critic (10-11 cruises on various lines).  For a ship with only 700 passengers, having that active of a roll call was a bit of a surprise.

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Have a wonderful cruise! I’m sorry we weren’t able to join you as planned, but look forward to hearing about the cruise. Enjoy!

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1 hour ago, need2cruisesoon said:

Len, Pics didn't work. Glad you had a good flight.

 

I'll have to figure it out on pix.  It's hot, sunny and muggy on Sunday afternoon and we have a 4-hour walking tour.  I'd rather be napping, but you have to fight through the 12-hour time difference.  

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23 hours ago, Jellifer said:

Thank you for doing this, really interested to read about your travels. I’ll be boarding on the 31st in Singapore for my first Azamara cruise. Any first timer tips will be appreciated!

Have you had a look at the sticky topic ‘Tips for Azamara Newbies’ in the main Azamara Forum.

Edited by Host Grandma Cruising

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9 hours ago, hubofhockey said:

 

I'll have to figure it out on pix.  It's hot, sunny and muggy on Sunday afternoon and we have a 4-hour walking tour.  I'd rather be napping, but you have to fight through the 12-hour time difference.  

 

Hub, make sure you hydrate and get some rest. Walking tour in that humidity can be strenuous.

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Went to Goose Manor for roasted goose lunch late Sunday morning.  We used Google Maps for waking directions.  Lunch was great (recommend Goose Manor if staying in Kowloon) but our logistics weren’t. Wound up walking close to 4 miles round trip for a walk that should have been 2.  We still had an hour break before our Kowloon walking tour.  Before going we got into our room on the 20th floor, overlooking the bay and the Hong Kong Island side of HK.  Wow! What a view.  Hong Kong is beautiful.  Icon is a nice hotel.  In any case, our guide met us and it was nice that she would help us out with logistics because the tour would be mainly using the subway system and she knew her way around. First, we went to Nan Lan Garden and then off to Chil Lin Nunnery and Wong Tain Sin Tenple before heading to Mong Kok to do some shopping at the Ladies' Market and then off to Ocean Centre (a huge upscale mall that also houses the cruise port that Azamara uses.  We then walked along the Promenade on the Harborfront back to the hotel.  

 

Our guide was a bit young and inexperienced, but she was VERY local, had participated in three protests and did not hide her enmity for China.  She certainly provided a very local flavor.  To make things more interesting, we did run into a protest (not a major one) with a police confrontation.  It blocked off part of Nathan Road.  Got some pictures, which I’ll try to post on a slow sea day.  I know a limited number of people on our cruise canceled because of what is going on in HK.  I’m glad we didn’t even consider that.  You don’t get the feeling of danger and you do get to see the struggle of the Hong Kongers and how it impacts their young generation.  We had our anniversary dinner at Above & Beyond in the hotel.  It was a nice dinner (great Peking Duck), but, in a day where my phone said we walked 10 miles on the day of fly in, we were physically fried before 9 pm local and conked out early.  Saw the Symphony of Lights from Above & Beyond, which is on the 28th floor (our room is on the 20th) and would have to say, the light show is overrated.  Woke up early today on our Macau Monday, but inching closer to making up the 12 hour time zone difference with Eastern Standard Time in Boston/NY.   Still three hours early and typing (4 am here) and watching NFL RedZone on my phone through our Slingbox.   

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Monday was Macau day.  From the hotel area in TST, you go to the China Ferry Terminal on Canton Road.  Uber is quick and cheap in Hong Kong and we arrived at 8:30 am for our 9:00 am on hour ferry ride to Macau.  A couple from the roll call who wanted to go with us and follow our itinerary, missed the 9 and took the 10:30 and they caught up with us at lunch.  We had toured the old town for two hours in the morning.  It’s very interesting with the patterned cobblestone streets and colorful buildings.  We walked up to the fortress and then down to ruins (façade) of St Paul to the Na Tcha Temple to Senado Square.  We did try to Portuguese egg tarts and the dried meats but made room for lunch.  Our co-cruisers suggested they join us going to the casinos, but we strongly advised them to see old Macau.  The casinos are the Asian version of Vegas.  We agreed they’d meet us at City of Drems where the Cirque style show House of Dancing Water was an hour before the show.  We walked around the Venetian first and it’s similar to the one in Vegas, but seems larger.  Gross revenue is higher in Macau than in Vegas, but it does miss the excitement of Vegas when it comes to entertainment.  The show was really good though.  We took the 9:35 pm ferry back to Kowloon and ended our night with the Uber back to the hotel.

 

Our choice today was Macau or Lantau Island  (Big Buddha, monastery, and fishing village.  I’ve seen the debates on the ports of call boards and believe it’s a matter of taste.  Macau does involve ferries, taxis (cheap in Macau) and passports and immigration.  It’s a minor inconvenience for a nice day.  Tomorrow is an 8-hour tour of HK Island with Peak Tram, Man Mo Temple, riding the Ding Ding, Star Ferry, Hong Kong Park, Central with SoHo.  It’s a pretty touristy day and that’s good with us.  Again, using a guide for local flavor and logistics.  This one gets excellent mention on Trip Advisor.  It will be our last full day and night in Hong Kong before the cruise.

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Thanks Phil.  Taking Star Ferry from TST and Quest is here.  Looks great.  Looking forward til tomorrow.  
 

 

C50A684C-4DE9-4619-B58E-7AD62DCA20B1.jpeg

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What a day in Hong Kong and spent the day doing tourist stuff.  It was all fun.  The guide, Victor from City Unscripted is great (his reviews are the best on Unscripted's HK page) gave us a local taste first, showing us how many in HK live in a poorer section in Kowloon where a family, if they're lucky live in a two BR apartment.  He also took us to a wet market there.  After that, it was Star Ferry to HK Island, bus to Victoria Peak, Peak Tram down, a walk through Hong Kong Park, Man Mo Temple and Sheung Wan area and SoHo, then  a late lunch more touring, and the egg waffles with ice cream at Oddie's (a great trip advisor find after seeing something on Youtube).  We met a couple from the roll call at Ho Lee Fook's, which was fun, funky, and had great food.  They play western music, rock from the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, mainly American and British, but not too loud where you can't have conversation.  The food was great and so was the company.  On to the Quest tomorrow.  

 

I'll miss Hong Kong.  I know some people canceled this cruise because of the protests.  I'd like to think that if they have never been here before, that they made a serious mistake.   There are important things going on in Hong Kong, but it really doesn't impact those from the west.  I hope tourism gets back to where it was.  The Hong Kongese are great and it's a great city.  There was so much to do and I'm a bit worn down.  We have embarkation day followed by a day at sea and I need that time to relax and recharge.  Hope to post tomorrow night about initial reactions to the Quest.  

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9 hours ago, hubofhockey said:

Thanks Phil.  Taking Star Ferry from TST and Quest is here.  Looks great.  Looking forward til tomorrow.  
 

 

C50A684C-4DE9-4619-B58E-7AD62DCA20B1.jpeg

Bit salt encrusted after a very rough night last night, hope that you have a smoother first sea day.

Every thing has been great onboard, unfortunately White night washed out twice as was the AzAmazing Evening although the staff did miracles rearranging things.

Hope you have as good a cruise as we’ve just had.

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Took this one from Victoria Peak.  The Quest looks like a mini model.

 

We got here Sunday and it's rained every morning until 8:30 am and then the rest of each day has been fine.  

EC246EBB-DF11-4247-9EEC-D6578361C724.jpeg

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