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Everything posted by terry&mike

  1. I used them to plan a day tour for a group of 30 in Kyoto, from Osaka port, and then a day tour and transfer from Yokohama port to Tokyo. They also offer port to airport transfers, and hotel to airport transfers. Very possibly they would put together something for you, depending on your needs. Have you looked at the offerings from Klook.com? They are kind of like the Asian equivalent of Viator, with lots of different tour options by lots of different vendors. I used them for Big Buddha tickets in Lantau (Hong Kong), and for a Sumo Championship tour in Tokyo.
  2. There was a temporary currency exchange counter set up inside the cruise terminal, manned with 2 live people, right when you exited the ship for ship passengers, no passport needed. I didn't use it as we had gotten a bit of local currency in advance for each country. A friend tried to exchange money out in the town when they ran low, but were unable to, as they didn't have their actual passport with them; I sold them some currency and all worked out. By the way, this same booth had a sign up that they will buy the currency back at the end of the day.
  3. There were many taxis in town, but not many taxis out at the port. We used Uber while in Hong Kong to the port and back, and metro system around town and out to Lantau Island/Big Buddha, and were happy with that choice.
  4. We paid cash for our taxi in Singapore $, but there are several that take credit cards, just be sure to confirm with the driver before you get in.
  5. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: no visa needed for Japan for US citizens. Money: Japanese Yen JPY, and credit cards, although it is a heavily cash society. Average Temperatures in January: 37-49 degrees. Special Notes: Tipping is not the custom in Japan, and can even be regarded as offensive. Arrival: Disembarkation Day. The ship will dock in Yokohama at Osanbashi Cruise Terminal, about 45 minutes from the city of Tokyo. You will be disembarking the ship today, and you can plan to be off around 8:00a or thereabouts. Transfer & Tour Option: I have made arrangements for a private small group transfer & tour with Green Tomato Travel, from the port in Yokohama into the city of Tokyo, and a general tour of Tokyo. The bus will take you and your luggage from the Yokohama port into central Tokyo, and will depart the pier around 8:30am. The tour will visit Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble Crossing to witness this organized chaos, Meiji Shrine, which is largest shrine in Tokyo, Takeshita Street, the trendy pop culture area, and Asakusa, the traditional area of Tokyo and and it's wondrous temple here. The tour will end around 5:00pm with a drop off of you and your luggage at Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. Please let me know if you would like to join this tour. For extra spending money, you will need to come prepared with JPY Japanese Yen cash, as many places in Tokyo are cash only. For those who want to transfer into Tokyo via DIY: A taxi into Tokyo is expensive, running approximately $160-$200+ usd. Public transportation via Metro and train is the most efficient and cheapest option, although it will be crowded and may be challenging with your luggage (another good reason to pack light!). Consider buying a Suica card for 1 day pass, or buy individual tickets as you go, from machine. Also look into the Tokyo Metro Pass/Tokyo Subway Pass, comes in 24 hour 800 yen, 48 hour 1200 yen, and 72 hour 1500 yen versions, and can be used on Toei Subway and Tokyo Metro lines; must have passport to purchase and can be bought in subway from counter, at BIC Camera Stores, or Laox Stores. You will walk straight down the cruise terminal ramp into Yokohama, and at the second intersection turn right. In the middle of the block in a brown brick building is the Nihon-Odori Metro station, on the Minatomirai Line. Go down the escalator to the ticket level and buy a one-way ticket to Shibuya from the vending machine. Go through the turnstile and down to the platform for trains going to Yokohama and Shibuya. You will travel on the Minatomirai/Tokyu Toyoko Line, and should not have to make a transfer at Yokohama station. Look for Express or Limited Express, which are more direct. At Shibuya station you will be on the B1 level. Depending on your hotel location, you may want a different route. Use the very helpful HyperDia to plan route. If you plan to DIY, some of these tips may be helpful: Seeing the sights: Tokyo is an easy DIY, but there are many tour companies with every type and style of tour you can think of such as walking tours, food tours, shopping tours, history tours, Geisha experiences, pub crawls with karaoke, and on and on. Hiring a guide may be the most efficient use of your time. If you want to organize a small group tour and want to invite others to join you to help share the costs, I am happy to provide contact information or pass along details. Head to Shibuya station and watch the pedestrian scramble which is best viewed from the Starbucks 2nd story window in the Tsutaya Building. Good shopping in this area. Visit the Hachiko Memorial Statue. Go to Harajuku station and walk down Takeshita Street to see pop culture and stylish teens. Good place to eat gyoza (dumplings), or try poterico, a potato snack made fresh at Calbee Store (or buy packaged in convenience stores). Possibly visit a hedgehog cafe'. Wander through Yoyogi Park and up to Meiji Jingu Shrine for a visit. Walk through the Akihabara area for insane electronics shopping, crazy collectibles stores, and interesting cafe's such as Cat Cafe's, Maid's Cafe's, and so on. Metro up to the Asakusa area which feels more like "Old Tokyo", and visit the Senso-Ji Temple, (use the nearby fountain in a hand washing ritual before entering the temple), and wander down Kannonura Street behind the temple, keeping an eye out for Geisha. Visit the street market here - good shopping. Try some sake, sushi, or sweets along the way. The famous Tsukiji Fish Market where the tuna auctions were held moved in October, 2018, to the outskirts of the city, (the new location is not open to the public), so you won't be able to see this wonder, but you can still visit the many popular restaurants and food stalls located here for amazingly fresh sushi; Sushitomi is extremely popular. Some visitors may enjoy Skytree Tower, the tallest observation tower in Japan, you can go up for the great views for approximately $40 usd Restaurants: Midori Sushi with locations in Ginza, Akasaka, and Shibuya is popular with the locals for having reasonable prices and some of the best sushi in Tokyo. Wako Tonkatsu is a small chain of restaurants serving fried katsu-style meats, seafood items, and veggies, the prices are inexpensive and the food is well loved. If you stay on an additional day, you may want to visit the Imperial Palace, although you can only tour the grounds and gardens, not the inside. If you want the free 90 minute tour, you'll want to book your tickets in advance, beginning Dec. 1, 2019; or wander the East Gardens on your own, which are free and open to the public. Closed on Mondays. One of the largest Sumo Tournaments of the year will be held during our visit, and may be worth scoring tickets to see this impressive sight of sport and flesh. The tournament dates are January 12-26, 2020, at Ryogoku Kokugikan, and tickets will go on sale December 7, 2019, with information here Sumo Tickets Mike and I are attending on January 21, and have purchased a Sumo tour with Chanko pot dinner (from Shinkjuku) from Klook. And if you stay on even longer, you may want to get out to see the Snow Monkeys bathing in the hot springs at Jigokudani Park, about 2 hours outside of Tokyo. Hotels - I will be staying at the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, known as "the Godzilla hotel" for the statue on the roof; it is centrally located and well rated. Many hotels in Japan do not open reservations until 6 months beforehand. If you would like to join my port transfer and Tokyo tour, and do not want to stay at the hotel I am reserved at, please try to stay in the Shinjuku area for easy access via walking or taxi. Transfer Hotel to Airport: there are several options, with a taxi being quite expensive at $200-$250 usd. The Airport Limousine Bus, takes approx 2 hours to Narita, is 3100 yen pp, and has a stop at the Shinjuku Station West Exit. The Narita Express Train, N'EX, takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to Narita, and costs 3190 or 4730 yen pp, depending on class of service, and has a stop at Shinjuku Station. The Green Tomato Airport Shuttle can pick up at the hotel and take you to Narita for 5600 yen pp, reservations needed, book in advance on their web site https://www.greentomato-j.com/eng/ Transfer Ship to Airport: If you are flying out on the day of disembarkation, you have a couple of options. Princess offers a Disembarkation Tour & Transfer to the Airport package, their notes say this is for flights after 6:00pm. They also offer a Ship to Airport transfer (without tour), good for any flights after noon. Local company Iruka Shuttle also has options of Tour & Transfer, or Transfer only. Book all directly.
  6. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: not needed for Japan for US citizens. Money: Japanese Yen JPY and credit cards accepted, but it's more of a cash society. Average temperatures in January: 36-47 degrees. Special Notes: tipping not the custom in Japan, and it can even be seen as offensive. Arrival: the dock is walking distance to town. Seeing the sights: Toba is a small town popular as a tourist destination with locals. It is the home of the Ama, a community of fisherwomen who have practiced "pearl diving" for more than 1,000 years. These women go into the water and dive without equipment for shellfish and pearls. Walk over the small bridge to Mikimoto Pearl Island, where you can witness the divers in action, and tour the large pearl museum, approx. $14 usd. Wander around town. Possibly visit Toba Aquarium, Toba Observatory, or Shinmei Shrine. Take a walk up the hill to the castle ruins, and for a good view over harbor. Enjoy grilled oysters and seafood at one of the many small restaurants. This is a small port and a small town. I plan to DIY in this port, and will be checking out the pearl divers, probably the pearl museum, and wandering about.
  7. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: no visa needed for Japan for US citizens. Money: Japanese Yen JPY and some credit cards, but is mostly a cash society. Average temperatures in January: 35-48 degrees. Arrival: the ship will dock at Tempozan Passenger Terminal, which is a couple of blocks north of the nearest subway stop, which is Osakako Station, C11, on the Chuo (Green) Line. The Metro has a very helpful web site at Osaka Metro Seeing the sights: you will either want to focus on Kyoto, which is more traditional "Old World" Japan, about 50 minutes away from the port by subway and train, or focus on Osaka, which is like a mini Tokyo, a 10 minute subway ride from the port. I have information below on both. They can easily be done on your own, or there are many tours available both privately or through the ship. If you want to arrange a private tour, I can highly recommend Japan Wonder Travel, they are very helpful and well rated. Consider buying a train and/or metro day pass. Tour Option: I have organized a small group tour to visit old world Kyoto through Green Tomato Travel. We will picked be up outside the port gates in Osaka and driven to Kyoto. The tour will visit Fushimi Inari Shrine and see the hundreds of tori gates and the lovely park here. We will continue to Nishiki Market, a giant local food and wares market. We will have a full Kyoto Style Japanese Food Buffet lunch. We will continue on to the very traditional Gion District, with its lovely wooden bridges, paper walled homes and zen feel, in the hopes of spotting a Geisha. If you 'd like to DIY in this port, here are some helpful tips: Kyoto - Walk to Osakako station, and take subway to Hommachi station on green line, then swap to red line to Shin-Osaka station (about 30 minutes total), then take Shinkansen (bullet) train from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto station (about 15 minutes). Take a taxi to the Gojo-Kawaramachi intersection, or a bus to the Gojozaka stop. Walk up Gojo-zaka, which is the main street that leads east, up the hill, to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Most likely, you can just follow the people. Halfway up, you can bear right up Chawan-zaka, which gets you away from most of the cars and buses. Enter the temple and fully explore the temple. Don’t forget to visit the wonderful Tainai-Meguri. After exploring Kiyomizu-dera, exit via the front of the temple and walk down Matsubara-dori Street (lined with shops) to reach the lovely preserved district of Sannen-zaka Hill. Continue down the street to where it flattens out and then go a bit further and take a right down into Ninnen-zaka, another lovely preserved district. You will come to a larger cross street with cars. Go left down the hill then quickly turn right into Nene-no-Michi, which is mostly free from cars. Follow this north, with one quick right-left jog to reach Maruyama-koen Park. Exit the north side of Maruyama-koen and follow the street north to the impressive main gate of Chion-in Temple. Climb the steep steps and enter the wide courtyard of Chion-in. Return down the steps and continue north. You’ll soon pass the enormous camphor trees in front of Shoren-in Temple. Enter the temple and enjoy a nice cup of green tea and a sweet while looking out over the garden. Walk south down west side of park, keeping park on your left, to Chion-in-michi Street and turn right. Continue walking and walk through Gion Shirakawa area keeping a lookout for Geishas. When you come to the large Kamo-gawa River, turn left to head towards Shijo-dori Street and cross over on this bridge. Note: If you want to use the metro to get here, get off at Shiyakushomae station on Tozai (east-west)) line. Follow map to Nishiki Market, to east end where it joins the Teramachi Shopping Arcade, and walk through market. After you emerge from the west end of Nishiki, continue straight for a block and you’ll see Daimaru Department Store on your left. Go down the stairs in front of the entrance and enter the food floor. Explore the food floor and be sure to check out the Japanese sweets and tea section, it should be about 2:30p now. Exit Daimaru via the main entrance onto Shijo-dori Street. Walk east on Shijo-dori, across the Kamo-gawa River, and walk downstairs into Gion-Shijo Station. Take the private Keihan Electric Railway Line south to Fushimi-Inari Station (all trains EXCEPT the limited express stop at Fushimi-Inari). The way to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine is clearly marked from the station. Walk out of the station, take a left and walk up the hill, crossing the JR tracks. After crossing one relatively major street, you will see the first torii (gate) of the shrine. Walk up through this and you’ll shortly get to the main precinct of the shrine. Stroll up to the Shin-ike Pond. Walk over to the JR Inari station on the JR Nara line, and take the train 2 stops north to Kyoto station, and then take bullet train back to Shin-Osaka station, then take metro retracing route back to the port. If time allows, after Nishiki Market and the department store, see Nijo Castle and/or Kyoto Imperial Palace. Very popular sights that are worth seeing but located on the edges of the city center are the Golden Pavilion, and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Feel free to use this map of a walking route I put together, it is about 3 miles, Kyoto Walk Osaka - Consider buying Osaka Amazing Pass (approx. $23, unlimited subway and some free entries), or consider Osaka Wonder Loop with subway & boat (Hop On/Hop Off with great web site and good value). Visit Osaka Castle, walk around park, consider visit to Castle Museum (approx. $6), lots of walking. Visit Maysuyamachi area, street of samurai with armor, old shops, candy stores. Then go to Shinsaibashi station (exit 6 from station) and explore and wander, lots of covered alleyway shopping, heading towards Namba, where there are several luxury purse re-sale shops, and many other stores. Visit Dotonbori Riverwalk area, great for food, but best in evening. Consider visiting tiny Hozenji Yokocho Shrine nearby. Other places you may find worthwhile are Umeda Sky Building, a very tall tower in the north of the city, or a Tambori River Cruise. Feel free to use this map of a walking route I put together, it is about 3 miles, Osaka Walk The Japan National Tourism Organization has a great pamphlet on all the sights with maps and explanations, you can access it here Osaka Tourist Information Return to port area and ride Tempozan Ferris Wheel or visit Tempozan Marketplace.
  8. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: No visa needed for US citizens. Money: the Taiwanese Dollar TWD is the currency, and you'll need mostly local cash. Average temperatures in January: 57-66 degrees. Special Notes: tipping is not widely done, only sometimes in small amounts. Bargaining in general is not done. Arrival: We port in Keelung, in walking distance to the town which boasts a few interesting sights and a vibrant night market. Or head into Taipei, about 45 minutes away. Seeing the sights: Many visitors will use this port to head into the bustling city of Taipei, which can be reached by bus, or train & MRT in about 45-50 minutes; or by private tour company or ship excursion. Things to see in Taipei include watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the National Revolutionary Martyr's Shrine, at the top of the hour every hour between 9a-4p. Other things to do include visiting impressive Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, then walk to Ximending, a shopping district, and explore the alleys and lanes including Little Hong Kong, Tattoo Street, and American Street. You may also want to consider staying in Keelung, and seeing what it has to offer, as I plan to do as a DIY day. Keelung is a small, walk-able town, built on the harbor, with homes going up into the hill. Visit Zhongzheng (Chung Chang) Park for temples, shrines and pavilions. Walk up to Khoo Tsu-song Old Mansion (Qingyu Hall), located above Keelung's Night Market, and wander through an abandoned grand home from the 1930's. On your way get lost in the meandering stairways and alleyways going up the hill. Miaokou Night Market opens around 5p, some days earlier, and is a very atmospheric food market popular with the locals where you can watch all types of interesting food items getting served up, as well as do a bit of shopping. (Taxis were readily available at the port to hire for the half day or full day. We hired a taxi for a long and full day to go up to the precious mountain town of Jiufen, which was a highlight, and then to all the main sights in Taipei, to a great local restaurant, to the main sights in Keelung, and to drop us at the local market. For 6 of us, the cost for the full day was $200 usd and worth every penny – fabulous day!)
  9. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: Visa not needed for Hong Kong for US citizens. Money: Hong Kong Dollar HKD and credit cards widely accepted. Average Temperatures in January: 58-67 degrees. Special Notes: Tipping is a growing trend, with 10% being the average. Bargaining is the norm in the markets. Keep a watch out for pickpockets in street markets, crowded tourist places, and the metro. Arrival: Hong Kong is basically 2 land areas separated by a harbor, the Kowloon (mainland) Peninsula and Hong Kong Island. We will port on the Kowloon side, most likely at Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, a 10 minute shuttle or taxi ride (about $13 usd) to the Star Ferry pier and waterfront action of Kowloon. If we port at Ocean Terminal, we can walk directly off the ship into the Kowloon harbor action. Buy MTR Tourist Ticket Day Pass, $65 HKD for 24 hours use on metro system. Seeing the Sights: Okay, wow, Hong Kong is truly a wow! There are a great many things to see and do here, in addition to being a shopping and foodie wonderland, there is history, culture, arts, nature, and more - did I mention shopping and food? It is a simple city to navigate on your own, but if you prefer an organized tour, your options are many and varied. The tourist board has a great website at Discover Hong Kong with loads of information. You can also book a tour through the cruise ship, or book a tour through a local operator - Tripadvisor, Tours by Locals, and Viator will give you some ideas - this may be the best way to maximize your time. The Big Bus Tour has good reviews in Hong Kong, and is a great way to see the sites, get on and off as you like, and not walk yourself silly. You may enjoy the Eat Like a Local Whampoa Food Tour by Humid with a Chance of Fishballs at 3:00p. Or take your own food tour and try: bbq ribs, chicken wings, fish balls, Beggar's Chicken, stinky tofu, egg tarts, pineapple buns, wife cake, mini egg puffs, put chai ko (sticky rice pudding), white sugar cake, local beers and milk tea. Dim Sum: popular items to order are Ha Gau or Har Gau (shrimp dumplings), Siu Mai (open top dumplings with pork or shrimp), Cheung Fan (thin rolled flour wrap with shrimp, beef or pork), Char Siu Bao (bbq pork bun), steamed beef ball (minced), Lai Wong Bao (custard filled bun), Ma Lai Go (yellow fluffy cake), Daan Taat (egg tart). For 2 people order total of 5 dim sum plus dessert, with good Chinese tea; can add a plate of vegetables and fried rice/noodles for filling if need be. Some other suggestions for your time: Consider taking a taxi out to visit the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden, and Kowloon Walled City. Or, cruise past the Floating Fishing Village at Aberdeen, maybe dine on the famous Jumbo Floating Restaurant docked near there. An organized bike tour out to the New Territories will get you into the woodlands and to see elaborate temples. Or, visit Hong Kong Disneyland on Lantau Island. Macau, "Asia's Las Vegas", is a 1 hour jetfoil boat ride away, and has a large Portuguese influence in architecture and food. Go on a shopping spree. Or, just wander back to places you want to spend more time in. Nightlife is abundant on both sides of the harbor, but two places that catch my eye are Bao Bei Bar & Restaurant, serving themed food and drinks, in LKF/Soho (Lan Kwai Fong area), and Tung Po Restaurant, a fun, loud place known for serving beer in porcelain bowls and great local seafood. For you lovers of High Tea, there are two very good options in Hong Kong, the Peninsula Hotel and The Langham Hotel; reservations are required. You can also DIY in Hong Kong, with some serious walking to cover it all, and a bit of public transportation and the occasional taxi thrown in. Below is a route you can follow. Plan is to hit all, or at least most, of this on Day 1, and then use Day 2 to go to Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island during the first half of the day, and go back to anything you missed, or to places you want to spend more time, in the 2nd half of the day. Plan on an exhausting 2 days. Day 1 - Take a taxi or shuttle about 10 minutes from Kai Tak Cruise Terminal to the Star Ferry Pier in the Tsim Sha Tsui area, and take the Star Ferry for the short ride across the harbor to Hong Kong Island. Passing by Exchange Square, walk to The Peak Terminus on Garden Rd. and take the funicular up to Victoria Peak. Take the Peak Circle Walk, about 45 minutes. Take funicular back down and walk through Central to the Mid-Levels Escalators and take a short ride, they run uphill beginning at 10:00a (escalators getting refurbished until 2022). Taking in the shops on Hollywood Rd., visit the Man Mo Temple, and continue walking to Hollywood Road Park/Possession Point. Walk on down to the Western Market, consider have a dim sum lunch, see notes below, in this area (Tim Ho Wan Restaurant, or Tao Heung at Silvercord Mall on Carnavon Rd). Then head back to the pier and ferry back, or take MTR under harbor back, to Kowloon. Take some photos as you stroll past the Clock Tower, 1881 Heritage (the cool Shanghai Tang store is here), and The Peninsula Hotel. Wander up Nathan Road, home of fast and fine custom tailors like Sam's Tailors, and into Kowloon Park to the Sculpture Walk to see local artists (consider visiting this early in the morning on Day 2 to watch locals doing Tai Chi). Next it's up to Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, 8a-6p, (Prince Edward MTR) where locals bring their pet birds for walks. Working back down, it's time for more markets. Wander through the Flower Market, the Goldfish Market, the Fa Yuen Sneaker Street Market, and the Ladies Market which springs up in the afternoon along Tung Choi St. Walk down Nathan Road, or hop on MTR and get off at Jordan, for a walk through the Tin Hau Temple fortune tellers, the Jade Market (lots of fakes, bargain hard; more real stuff is at Chinese Arts & Crafts on Salisbury Rd.), and the Temple Street Night Market. MTR back to Tsim Sha Tsui and find a good viewing spot along the waterfront for the Symphony of Lights show on the buildings of Hong Kong Island at 8:00p. Return to ship exhausted. This may be as much as 9 miles of walking, depending on the use of public transportation. Day 2 - go to Kowloon Park early to see locals practicing Tai Chi, then travel over to Lantau Island to climb up the Tian Tan Buddha, the largest sitting Buddha in the world. Take MTR Tung Chung (orange) Line from Kowloon station 6 stops to Tung Chung station, leave via Exit B; or take Tsuen Wan (red) Line from Tsim Sha Tsui station 9 stops to Lai King station, and change to Tung Chung (orange) Line for 3 stops, getting off at Tung Chung station, leave via Exit B, 27 minutes. Take Nyong Ping Cable Car from Tung Chung station to Nyong Ping town, at base of Buddha, 25 minutes. Buy tickets 14 days in advance from np360 for Crystal Car (glass bottom) cable car, round trip 290 HKD, for approx 10:15am. Tour Po Lin Monastery, Grand Hall of 10,000 Buddhas, then climb 268 steps up to Buddha. Check out small town, and return via same route. Allow 4-5 hours total.
  10. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visas: the ship will acquire a visa for you and charge your stateroom account $56 pp. Money: US Dollars widely accepted, please bring smaller bills. Average Temperatures in January: 66-77 degrees. Arrival: the ship will be docking in Chan May, approximately 1.5 hours from Da Nang or Hoi An. Seeing the Sites: the most interesting sites are in the charming town of Hoi An, or in vibrant Da Nang. There are many tour operators here who can put together special interest tours for you, the ship has several tours available to book, you can go it on your own, or join my small group tour below. Tour Option: Similar to my plan in Ho Chi Minh City, this is another port where I have planned a small group tour to make the best use of my time, due to the distance from where the ship is docked to the interesting sites. As in HCMC, I will again be using Xuan Le (pronounced Soon), for a full day tour that will begin with pickup at the dock, touring in Hoi An and Da Nang, and return to the dock at the end of the day. The highlight of this tour will be the ancient town of HoiAn, we can also visit Marble Mountain to see its brilliant caves and statues OR take a basket boat ride, as well as other interesting stops such as China Beach.
  11. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: The ship will acquire a visa for you and charge your stateroom account $56 pp. Money: US Dollars widely accepted, please bring small bills. Average Temperatures in January: 70-81 degrees. Special Notes: Bargaining in acceptable and common. Beware of purse snatchers on scooters and pick pockets, especially in crowded places. Arrival: We will dock at Cau Da Port Pier. Just outside the port gates several vendors are set up offering a good place to buy souvenirs. There is also a small Oceanographic Museum near the dock. Take a taxi (make sure they use the meter) approximately 4 miles to beach area, or approximately 7 miles to city; ship may offer a shuttle service. (We were able to negotiate for a group of 6 to be taken from the port to the beach for $10 total, and then later from the beach back to the port with a different driver for $5 total.) Seeing the sites: Nha Trang is a popular seaside town. Visit the palm lined sea front with white sand beaches, small shops and food stalls and stroll around. Make your way to Cho Dam Market, the city's main market, a large 3 story building packed with food, housewares, and souvenir vendors. Po-Nagar, an ancient tower in Cham Towers temple, is nearby, just north by the river mouth. A great map is here: Nha Trang Map (A great seaside town. We took a walk on the boardwalk, had a fabulous lunch, enjoyed a few glasses of rose’ wine, and had very inexpensive spa treatments in one of the many places along the main beach road.) Or book a tour through the cruise line, or through a local tour operator. Feel free to ask others in the group to join you to help share tour costs.
  12. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visas: Visa needed for US citizens in Vietnam. Princess Cruises will handle this for you once on board for $56 per person; it appears you will no longer need to bring a passport size photo for each traveler. Money: U.S. Dollars widely accepted, please bring smaller bills. Tipping is a growing custom here, with about 10% being appreciated. Average Temperatures in January: 72-89 degrees. Arrival: The ship is actually docked in Phu My, approximately 1.5 hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Seeing the sights: You can make your way from Phu My to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) via a taxi at the port, or the cruise line will probably have a round trip shuttle option, or by purchasing a tour from the cruise line or from a local tour company. There are some public transportation options, including one by speedboat, but they are very time consuming and not as reliable, you'll want to ensure you do not miss returning to the ship in time. Tour Option: This is one of the few ports where I have organized a small group tour, given the distance of the port to the sights in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), for efficient use of time. I have paid a deposit and reserved Xuan Le, a highly rated and popular guide, for the day. He will pick us up at the port, give us a tour of several sights in HCMC including temples, markets, historic buildings, places of interest, and arrange a tri-shaw ride. He will return us to the port at the end of the day.
  13. I just returned from taking a group of 29 clients on a Diamond Princess Southeast Asia & Japan cruise. Below is information from a web site I set up for the group, to provide them with information. Now that the trip is over, I wanted to pass this information along, in case it is of help to other travelers. Visa: No visa needed for US citizens. Money: Singapore Dollar SGD and credit cards accepted. Tipping is not usual practice. Average Temperatures in January: 77-86 degrees. Special Notes: No eating or drinking (including water) on public transport; no chewing gum. Arrival: There are several ways to get into the city from Changi Airport, including taxi, airport shuttle bus, MRT rail, and regular bus, they are all explained in detail here Airport Transfers. Given you may be tired from travel and dealing with luggage, a taxi may be your simplest option, running approximately $20-$40 usd (although USD not accepted) depending on time of day and destination; taxis in Singapore are metered and honest. Hotels: I am booked at the Pan Pacific Singapore. For an airport hotel, I can personally recommend the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport. Seeing the sites: you may want to use the "Visit Singapore Travel Guide" or "Citymapper" app to plan your time. If you like paper maps, Lonely Planet Singapore City Map is a good one and includes suggested walking routes. There is a popular Hop On/Hop Off bus in Singapore, and there are many organized tours for many different interests. Good sites for locating tour options are Tripadvisor, Tours by Locals, Viator, etc. For a great food tour to sample street food from several vendors, hire William from withlocals.com Personable and interesting. I plan to "DIY" here and see the city on foot, with the addition of an occasional subway ride. I have put together some walking routes below, and you are welcome to follow them on your own. Sun., 1/5, Day 1 Walk, approximately 4 miles, walk from hotel over Helix Bridge, to Gardens by the Bay (just walk around outside part for free, or do OCBC Skywalk for approx. $7, maybe visit Heritage Garden or Cooled Conservatories), view Marina Sands Hotel (possibly visit Shoppes here for free, or can go up to Skypark for about $17 usd, buying tickets in advance is better), view Merlion, past Fullerton Hotel, over Cavenaugh Bridge (oldest bridge), to Boat Quay, then to Yueh Hai Ching Temple. Can consider adding in Chinatown and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple if up to it. 6:30p or after go to Lau Pa Sat/Telok Ayer Market to eat, order chicken rice, chicken & pork satay, “carrot cake” (carrot & radish dish), bring own napkins. View amazing light show at 7:45p & 8:45p from Supertree Grove. The view from the Lantern Bar on the roof of the Fullerton Bay Hotel is fabulous. Mon., 1/6, Day 2 Walk, approximately 3 miles, walk past Raffles Hotel, through Kampong Glam/Arab Street area, through Little India, and to Orchard Road area to window shop (maybe visit ION Orchard underground). Board Diamond Princess, between noon and 2p, sails at 4p; official Check In start time is scheduled for 12:30p. Should be docked at Marina Bay Cruise Centre, 61 Marina Coastal Dr., 5 minutes from downtown, access via metro or approx $19 usd taxi ride. Possibly ship could be moved to Singapore Cruise Center at Harbourfront Centre. Public transportation available to both piers, but taxi may be simplest.
  14. I wanted to post in regards to the driver/guide in Bali, Dewa - he is fantastic! I used him for a full day tour from Seminyak to the interior on January 2, and some clients of mine used him for a similar day tour a few days before me, and all of us were delighted. Dewa is a joy to spend the day with and he really enjoys showing you the best of Bali. He is on WhatsApp at +6285238493089 and I believe his web site is https://dewadriverinbali.blogspot.com/ Highly recommend booking him well in advance.
  15. We are paying $200 per year per couple for the Essential plan, you can get the upgraded plan, called Choice, with more coverage for $370 per year per couple. The rate may be age dependent though, so costs could differ. It does not go by calendar year, but by when you start the coverage.
  16. We have an annual policy, it is a multi trip policy by Geoblue Trekker. Keep in mind that we are only interested in medical care or emergency evacuation. If you are interested in covering trip loss expenses, then this is not for you. I don't buy insurance for things that I can afford to lose, but more things that can put a significant ding in my finances.
  17. Some of the small luxury lines, such as Ponant, will use charters on occasion to more remote places, such as from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, or from Svalbard to Oslo, but major carrier cruise ships in the premium category line do not use charter flights any longer. I was not aware of the LAX to Tahiti flight last year with HAL. This reminds me of sailing Renaissance in Tahiti, before they went belly up several years ago, they had great deals on charter flights they ran between LAX and Papeete. I loved that service.
  18. Yes, there is, and it is limited occupancy so you'll want to reserve your space. It generally runs $15 per visit, or buy a package of 5 visits for $60, but the price can be adjusted on a sailing.
  19. If you spend less than $20 for 2 gold bracelets, then yes, definitely, it is not true solid gold. I've never heard them tell anyone that gold overlay products they sell by the inch are solid 14k (or 18K, or whatever) on a ship. They are always very honest. They are selling a gold product, it is a gold overlay product.
  20. Even once your flights are ticketed, I find that BA generally charges for seat selection, even in Business class. If you flight is an AA number but operated by BA, usually same case.
  21. If you bought something, and the item was sold as non-refundable, it does not matter if you didn't take possession of it then, if it was not sized yet, if it had not been delivered yet. If you bought something that was non-refundable, you are not due a refund. The item is yours. Best to find a way to enjoy it.
  22. I had a client make a 10:35a out of FCO after disembarking a few months ago. They did self disembark, had limited luggage so they could move quickly, and had a car and driver arranged. They made the flight, but said they had little room to spare as the airport ate up a lot of their time standing in lines. They said the stress that morning was high and they probably would not attempt it again.
  23. On 2 separate tickets you will need to also pass through security again once you recheck your bags. I personally would not be comfortable with this amount of time for what you are trying to do.
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