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AJB1970

Recommendations for ports of call in Asia

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Hi everyone

 

We're looking to cruise around Asia early in 2020 (don't tell anyone but one of us will be celebrating a special birthday...), so would like to have your recommendations for ports of call.  We've decided we'd like to stay in Singapore first, so we're looking at cruises that depart from there .  We've never visited this region before so don't have any clue about what to expect, or what is a must see, and as it may be our one and only visit, don't want to miss out on anything.

 

Looking forward to hearing your feedback 🙂

 

Many thanks

Amanda

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Hello.  

 

First off what are your expectations?  Your likes and dislikes?  Like crowds?  Are you adventurous in trying different types of food, from Michelin starred to a street stall serving up deep fried beetles or scorpions*?   Have a good mobile data plan for that translation app?


 

 

*Even the locals don't partake; it's mainly for tourists or folks that had a few too many 😎

Edited by Philob

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Hi, Amanda,

 

The most popular itineraries on sailings from Singapore, and offered by a number of cruise lines, are 11 to 14 day one-way cruises which include Bangkok, Sihanouville (Cambodia), Saigon (HCMC), Hue/Danang,  Halong Bay / Hanoi, and Hong Kong. Some might also include ports like Phuket or Nha Rong or Chania.

 

What appear to be near-identical cruises can be very different, mainly because of the ports used and the times in port......

 

Bangkok is worth several days, and many cruises include an overnite (some two overnites).

But on some itineraries it's just one port-of-call day and that's woefully inadequate

Additionally your time in the city is foreshortened by the distance from the port of Laem Chabang which is used by the vast majority of cruise ships because they're too big to berth in Bangkok. There's no public transport between Laem Chabang and Bangkok, and taxis available on-spec at the port are a cartel who will squeeze as much as they can from you - so pre-book a ship's transfer or a private transfer or a transfer shared via the cruise RollCall. It's a  bare minimum 90 minute drive, and you need to allow 2.5 hours to get back before your latest back-on-board time.That's four hours out of your Bangkok day.

When choosing a cruise with an overnite many of us book a hotel in Bangkok for that night - it halves the total travel time and gives us an evening in the city. A hotel by the river or in Sukumvit would be ideal. 

Some smaller ships berth in Bangkok, at the mouth of the Chayo Phrya river - much more convenient.

 

For Saigon, most ships have to berth at Phu My, something over an hour from Saigon.

Saigon's a fabulously interesting city, but again some ships berth at Phu My for just the one inadequate day.

Smaller ships, like Azmara's, can sail up the Saigon River and berth in the city.

 

Da Nang is used by smaller ships, some a little bigger berth at nearby Tien Sa. Large ships berth at Chan May - tolerably convenient for Hue,  less convenient for Hoi An or China Beach or the Marble Mountain

 

Halong Bay is pretty unique - you can take a junk cruise and get lost amongst the limestone karsts. The mists that frequent the bay actually add to the eerie atmosphere - it's like a watery moonscape.

Halong Bay is also advertised as "Hanoi" - but it's about a 3.5 hour drive in each direction

 

So be sure to carefully check the names of the PORTS, not just the cities. And the time that the ship is in port.

And do add a few days in your departure and disembarkation ports - especially if one is Hong Kong.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Edited by John Bull

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Posted (edited)

There is a cruise departing Singapore on the 23rd March 2020 on Cunards Queen Elizabeth which would tick all of your boxes. It departs Singapore and goes onto Vietnam, Shanghai, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan - you can vary the length to suit your requirements eg Singapore/Hong Kong or Singapore/Tokyo. You would be very well catered for with a great choice of excursions and you can add on extra days at the beginning in Singapore before joining the ship.

Edited by Morgans

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On 2/28/2019 at 8:13 PM, Philob said:

Hello.  

 

First off what are your expectations?  Your likes and dislikes?  Like crowds?  Are you adventurous in trying different types of food, from Michelin starred to a street stall serving up deep fried beetles or scorpions*?   Have a good mobile data plan for that translation app?


 

 

*Even the locals don't partake; it's mainly for tourists or folks that had a few too many 😎

Hi Philob

 

This is the thing, we don't have any real expectations, but you've asked some good questions for us to consider.  I particularly like the one about the mobile data - luckily, I've just upgraded my plan to a whopping 30GB of data, so I have my fingers crossed that my provider covers the areas we hope to visit 🙂

 

Many thanks

 

Amanda

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On 2/28/2019 at 11:29 PM, John Bull said:

Hi, Amanda,

 

The most popular itineraries on sailings from Singapore, and offered by a number of cruise lines, are 11 to 14 day one-way cruises which include Bangkok, Sihanouville (Cambodia), Saigon (HCMC), Hue/Danang,  Halong Bay / Hanoi, and Hong Kong. Some might also include ports like Phuket or Nha Rong or Chania.

 

What appear to be near-identical cruises can be very different, mainly because of the ports used and the times in port......

 

Bangkok is worth several days, and many cruises include an overnite (some two overnites).

But on some itineraries it's just one port-of-call day and that's woefully inadequate

Additionally your time in the city is foreshortened by the distance from the port of Laem Chabang which is used by the vast majority of cruise ships because they're too big to berth in Bangkok. There's no public transport between Laem Chabang and Bangkok, and taxis available on-spec at the port are a cartel who will squeeze as much as they can from you - so pre-book a ship's transfer or a private transfer or a transfer shared via the cruise RollCall. It's a  bare minimum 90 minute drive, and you need to allow 2.5 hours to get back before your latest back-on-board time.That's four hours out of your Bangkok day.

When choosing a cruise with an overnite many of us book a hotel in Bangkok for that night - it halves the total travel time and gives us an evening in the city. A hotel by the river or in Sukumvit would be ideal. 

Some smaller ships berth in Bangkok, at the mouth of the Chayo Phrya river - much more convenient.

 

For Saigon, most ships have to berth at Phu My, something over an hour from Saigon.

Saigon's a fabulously interesting city, but again some ships berth at Phu My for just the one inadequate day.

Smaller ships, like Azmara's, can sail up the Saigon River and berth in the city.

 

Da Nang is used by smaller ships, some a little bigger berth at nearby Tien Sa. Large ships berth at Chan May - tolerably convenient for Hue,  less convenient for Hoi An or China Beach or the Marble Mountain

 

Halong Bay is pretty unique - you can take a junk cruise and get lost amongst the limestone karsts. The mists that frequent the bay actually add to the eerie atmosphere - it's like a watery moonscape.

Halong Bay is also advertised as "Hanoi" - but it's about a 3.5 hour drive in each direction

 

So be sure to carefully check the names of the PORTS, not just the cities. And the time that the ship is in port.

And do add a few days in your departure and disembarkation ports - especially if one is Hong Kong.

 

JB :classic_smile:

Hi John

 

Many thanks for all the information about the ports - this is something we'd been told by family who have visited the area and said that the distances between port/city are fairly substantial and often you can't just get off ship and have a wander around.  Think I'm gonna find a map online and check out ports and city locations as you've suggested.

 

Thanks again

Amanda

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On 3/1/2019 at 7:31 AM, Morgans said:

There is a cruise departing Singapore on the 23rd March 2020 on Cunards Queen Elizabeth which would tick all of your boxes. It departs Singapore and goes onto Vietnam, Shanghai, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan - you can vary the length to suit your requirements eg Singapore/Hong Kong or Singapore/Tokyo. You would be very well catered for with a great choice of excursions and you can add on extra days at the beginning in Singapore before joining the ship.

Hi Morgans

 

Many thanks for the info about this cruise - I'll take a look!! 🙂

 

Amanda

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18 minutes ago, AJB1970 said:

Hi Morgans

 

Many thanks for the info about this cruise - I'll take a look!! 🙂

 

Amanda

 

We booked this a while ago - still trying to choose a hotel for Singapore! Good luck with your search....(perhaps see you on board!)

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Singapore is great place to start a Southeast Asia cruise. Singapore is a nice city and close to Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and India.
I have done a number of cruises out of Singapore - Below links to reviews from two of my cruises as well as a link to a cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong end of March.
My favourites are Penang in Malaysia. Bali and all Vietnam ports.
Hope you can find some inspiration.

 

Celebrity Millennium cruise from Singapore
Links to videos and pictures from all ports of call and Celebrity Millennium.
Cruise Ports:
Departing from Singapore; Lombok, Indonesia; Komodo, Indonesia; Benoa, Bali, Indonesia; Port Klang, Malaysia; Penang, Malaysia; Phuket, Thailand; Singapore.

Repositioning from Singapore to Barcelona  - Spice route and Suez Canal.
The ports of call did include Singapore, George Town, Penang, Malaysia; Cochin and Mumbai in India; Dubai; Cruising Suez Canal; Piraeus, Greece; and Valletta, Malta; and Barcelona.
Review has  links to additional information about sights, and shopping in ports of call.

 

Eight night Singapore to Hong Kong cruise with Voyager of the Seas.
Four stops in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Nha Trang, Hue/Danang (Chan May) and Hanoi (Halong Bay).
I hope to update my blog daily with with my daily activities, photos and videos.
After the cruise I will make a full review with pictures and videos.
 

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On 3/1/2019 at 1:29 AM, John Bull said:

Hi, Amanda,

 

What appear to be near-identical cruises can be very different, mainly because of the ports used and the times in port......

 

Bangkok is worth several days, and many cruises include an overnite (some two overnites).

But on some itineraries it's just one port-of-call day and that's woefully inadequate

Additionally your time in the city is foreshortened by the distance from the port of Laem Chabang which is used by the vast majority of cruise ships because they're too big to berth in Bangkok. There's no public transport between Laem Chabang and Bangkok, - so pre-book a ship's transfer or a private transfer or a transfer shared via the cruise RollCall. It's a  bare minimum 90 minute drive, and you need to allow 2.5 hours to get back before your latest back-on-board time.That's four hours out of your Bangkok day.

When choosing a cruise with an overnite many of us book a hotel in Bangkok for that night - it halves the total travel time and gives us an evening in the city. A hotel by the river or in Sukumvit would be ideal. 

 

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

The private transfer through our roll call was 24$ pp return -- a bargain.

Also, we booked the Chatrium Riverside for the night in Bangkok, right by the river, handy for visiting by boat most of the attractions. Awesome hotel, value for money.

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We have not done an Asian cruise but we have spent winters travelling through Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc for the past five years. 

 

Bangkok...after multiple stays in  four and five stars we also think that Chatrium Riverside is the best.  Especially their corner, river view suites. We stayed there in January-it was perfect in all respects.

 

i would suggest you take a hard look at each stop to determine where the ship actually docks vs where the attractions are.  Add travel time, time to disembark, plus some extra time so that you are not boarding at the last minute.  Then determine how much ‘useful’ time you will actually have in port.  Don’t be fooled by distances.  The roads can be one lane, very busy, and sometimes slow moving in countries like Vietnam.  Some towns like Hoi An take on a very different look after sunset when the lanterns are lit. 

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On 3/2/2019 at 2:22 PM, dani negreanu said:

 

The private transfer through our roll call was 24$ pp return -- a bargain.

Also, we booked the Chatrium Riverside for the night in Bangkok, right by the river, handy for visiting by boat most of the attractions. Awesome hotel, value for money.

 

Looks like your RollCall crew have got it sussed. :classic_smile:

 

Must admit $24pp return transfer sounds exceptionally cheap.

Is this L/C to Bangkok? 

Large bus?

I'm way out of date on L/C transfers -  for a car I'd have been very happy with double that, and the cowboys at the pier probably want around 3 - 4 times as much. 

 

One time we lodged in a Sheraton Royal Orchid river-view room, sounds very similar to Chatrium Riverside.

Could've happily spent a day in the room just watching the river traffic.

Yes, the boats (express ferries are cheap, or the ho-ho boats are reasonably-priced for the woosies) can take you to places like Chinatown, the Grand Palace,  Wat Arun, the Flower Market etc.  And do take a long-tail boat ride through the canals (klongs) - available by asking at most ferry piers.

 

JB :classic_smile:

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4 hours ago, John Bull said:

 

Looks like your RollCall crew have got it sussed. :classic_smile:

 

Must admit $24pp return transfer sounds exceptionally cheap.

Is this L/C to Bangkok?  Yes. Company name Oriental Escape/Mehke.

Large bus? Toyota Family Van for 12 persons, but we were 10, since the lady who organized it wanted space for shopping.

One time we lodged in a Sheraton Royal Orchid river-view room, sounds very similar to Chatrium Riverside.

The Sheraton was offered by X for overnighters from the ship. Those who stayed at both, raved about the Chatrium.

JB :classic_smile:

 

We had an amazingly active roll call. Beside the BK transfer, tours for Saigon, Hue and Halong Bay were also organized in small vans.

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We just booked a cruise that looks awesome on Crystal.  It leaves March 1st from Singapore to Hong Kong for 15 nights, and fares start at an amazing $4500 pp, which includes all drinks and tips too.  It stops at Ko Samui (an island in Thailand), then Bangkok (port is apparently about 2 hours away) overnight, so we will stay in Bangkok that night.  It then goes to Sihanoukville Cambodia, which is the kickoff to Angkor Wat but you have to fly (a 50 minute flight).  Crystal wants a lot of money for the 2 night excursion so we will do it on our own.  We will stay one night in Angkor Wat, where the hotels look awesome and cheap, then the second day we will fly in the afternoon to Saigon and stay one night in a hotel there so as to have more time there.  The ship tour stays 2 nights at Angkor Wat and flies to Saigon the third day and takes you to the ship, but this really limits your time in Saigon where there is a lot to do.  The 3 way flight seems to be about $350-400.  I think we can have an afternoon and the next morning at Angkor Wat before flying out in the afternoon as the airport is close.  

 

Then the cruise continues through Vietnam, going to Danang (from which you can go to either Hoi An or Hue for the day), then overnight in Hongai, which they call Hanoi but is actually somewhere between 2 1/2 and 4 hours from Hanoi. It is right in Ha Long Bay though, but doesn't arrive till 1 pm and leaves the next evening.  Hopefully the ship will have excursions that will include a boat trip through Ha Long Bay and a trip to Hanoi, because both seem difficult to do on your own with those time constraints.  Finally it ends up in Hong Kong.  There are several sea days, but you  miss one if you go to Angkor Wat.  

Hope to see you there -we can't wait!

 

 

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Disclaimerg I didn't read thru this whole thread so maybe this has been discussed.

 

We believe that the MOST important thing about Asian cruises to consider is the distance between where the ship ports and the cities/sights you want to visit.  MANY of the ports are 2+ hours away from the ship, so you're wasting half of a day trip going to and from.  That is the reason there are so many overnights on these itineraries - you take the long journey to the city once, stay overnight (in a hotel at your cost), then return to the ship 1-2 days later.  

 

This was a huge turnoff for us.  Hence, we have done much of Asia by land (Singapore. Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and China).  We are very unlikely to do Vietnam by cruise for this reason.  Japan by cruise was reasonable.  Most of the ports are close with good access to cities/sites of interest.  The marvelous Japanese public transportation system helps A LOT.

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Crimlaw - just a heads-up if you don't already know...................

 

For ports in Vietnam, ships usually provide visas on-board - you need do nothing in advance except (if asked) provide two passport-size photos.

But they're not regular tourist visas, they're only good for disembarking / re-boarding the ship.

Since you'll be flying Cambodia to Vietnam you'll need pukka tourist visas. I can't imagine the ship fixing them up for you, and I don't know whether they can be bought on arrival or how you get them in advance. 

 

JB :classic_smile:


 

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Thanks JB - that is on my list to figure out about visas!  And vaccinations.  I usually do my research on destinations first & figure out what I  want to see,  and then book hotels and guides, then get to the more mundane things like visas!

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8 hours ago, crimlaw@ecentral.com said:

Thanks JB - that is on my list to figure out about visas!  And vaccinations.  I usually do my research on destinations first & figure out what I  want to see,  and then book hotels and guides, then get to the more mundane things like visas!

 

There are no mandatory vaccinations for this itinerary, but your doctor may suggest advisory vaccinations, depending on your age, medical history etc., and of course your doctor is the person to give that advice rather than us barrack-room doctors on Cruise Critic.

 

Just a thought, depending on your time available and whether you've yet bought your air tickets ............. -

Have you considered Angkor Wat pre-cruise?

I reckon it'd keep life simple and save you money, and more importantly it'd give you as long in Angkor Wat as you wanted & you'd not miss out on your time on the ship or in Sihanoukville.

 

Sihanoukville is a bit of an eye-opener - it's living in a time-warp & by far the most backward port on the cruise. Parts, including a little fishing village nearby, are both anachronistic and grubby.

Some folk fear it and stay on the ship altho there's nothing to fear. It's a place for the "traveller" rather than the "tourist", we loved it and it'd be a shame to miss it. Just MHO

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

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Posted (edited)

We typically pick up last minute cruises as part of a land trip.  After spending five winters in SE Asia we have not picked up one.  

 

The primary reason is port stops.  They have either been in places we do not care to visit again (such as Phuket) or the ship docks miles from the attractions.  It is not just the distance, it is often the time to get there, plus the time to get off the ship and enough time to get back before sailing.  So we stuck to land travel.  I realize that there is a huge difference, especially if you are still working.  But you should take a hard look at each cruise, understand the time in port, and the distance and time required to get to the sites.

 

One more thing.  Costs in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia are much less than North America and Europe.   This includes transportation, private tours, food, air..etc.    This is an added bonus for us to spent winters here instead of Florida, etc. The ship excursion prices, transfer prices, and pre/post hotel prices are outrageous compared to the normal in country prices.  I have no doubt that they prey on North Americans concern about being in a foreign land.

Edited by iancal

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On 4/19/2019 at 10:06 AM, iancal said:

We typically pick up last minute cruises as part of a land trip.  After spending five winters in SE Asia we have not picked up one.  

 

The primary reason is port stops.  They have either been in places we do not care to visit again (such as Phuket) or the ship docks miles from the attractions.  It is not just the distance, it is often the time to get there, plus the time to get off the ship and enough time to get back before sailing.  So we stuck to land travel.  I realize that there is a huge difference, especially if you are still working.  But you should take a hard look at each cruise, understand the time in port, and the distance and time required to get to the sites.

 

One more thing.  Costs in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia are much less than North America and Europe.   This includes transportation, private tours, food, air..etc.    This is an added bonus for us to spent winters here instead of Florida, etc. The ship excursion prices, transfer prices, and pre/post hotel prices are outrageous compared to the normal in country prices.  I have no doubt that they prey on North Americans concern about being in a foreign land.

Have you booked your land excursion on your own, or do you travel as part of a group? Any tips for planning a land journey, or pitfalls to avoid? Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

Our first trip after retiring was on a whim. Saw a good air price so we booked.  Nine days later were in Bangkok.

 

We travel independently, on our own.  We do the usual research...travel books, tripadvisor, web blogs, you name it.    Now we are fairly spontaneous.  We book air going and coming home (sometimes only going).  Pitfalls might be believing all of the tripadvisor reviews and not being thorough enough so DW double checks those.  We now avoid the usual tourist areas in favour of where the locals vacation.  Other pitfalls would be keep loose, be flexible, eat where the locals eat.  The local food is wonderful, people are friendly, beaches are great, ocean is great. So much to see and do.  That is why we will be going back for our sixth winter next Jan!  Thailand and Vietman are our favourtites.

Edited by iancal

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