Adventure to the Far East – Part 4 Singapore

Thursday 23 November was our last day at sea on the way to Singapore where we would disembark the ship and enjoy a few days in the city before returning home. We had a leisurely breakfast in our suite supplied by the butler then completed the laundry / packing and lounged around by the pool. We had a late lunch at the Grill then enjoyed the sights as we pulled into Singapore right next to Sentosa Island and under the cable car. There was a lot of ships and again, another very tight manoeuvre into the slip, but it was all done perfectly. Great job!

In the afternoon we had a snooze before getting ready to go ashore for our final excursion. We had to clear immigration first so went quite early to meet our group. We were then taken into the City and did a short river cruise – was lovely to see it all lit up.

After the river cruise we headed back on the coach to the Gardens by the Bay where we were wowed by the music and light show amidst their Supertrees – was absolutely fantastic! Leaving the magical trees behind we headed to the Fullerton Hotel for a Singapore Sling and then taken back to the ship. All the while we were in the coach we were treated to a cultural chat so that was very interesting too to find out how this island nation works.

Back on the ship we found that Christmas had arrived – the staff had obviously been very busy in our absence. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving Buffet dinner in the main restaurant before retiring to the bar to catch up with friends as we would be saying sad farewells to them in the morning.

Back in the cabin with finalised our packing and put our cases out to be collected with the supplied labels – all in different colours – had a final drink on our balcony and retired for the night.

Friday morning we were up very early and headed to the main restaurant for breakfast. All the time we were waiting to be called to disembark – our tags were light blue – and then around 9.00 am it was our turn. We headed off the ship saying goodbye to the staff who had looked after us so well during our time onboard, collected our bags, cleared customs and immigration and got picked up in a very nice Mercedes. We arrived at the hotel and were completely blown away by it – the Parkroyal Collection, Marina Bay. OMG it was just stunning. For those of you that don’t know Singapore is known as the Garden City and, when this hotel had been renovated, they had decided to bring the outside in. It had to be seen to be believed!

We checked in – got an upgrade, an early check in and a late check-out, and went to our room to explore. Very nice it was too with spectacular views over the water.

We then decided to go and explore – not wanting to waste a moment of our time – so walked to the National Museum enjoying being in the sun, although the humidity made the stroll more of a trek LOL. We were lucky that there was going to be an English-speaking tour of the Museum within 10 minutes of our arrival so we waited for that and enjoyed being shown around. This took almost an hour and was very informative.

After the tour we walked to the tube station and picked up our travel cards which you can easily top up in machines at every station. Got a map and worked out how to return to the hotel which happened to be linked to the Marina Mall. In the mall we were tempted by the street food on offer so had a late lunch, and delicious it was too.

Quite tired now we headed back to our room and had a snooze before luxuriating in the fabulous shower and then got ready to go out again. This time we headed over to the Bay Sands area and wandered the crazy mall first – lots of Christmas trees and high-end shops – clearly where the Crazy Rich Asians go to shop LOL. Anyway we wandered down to see Spectra, the light and water show, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Amazing! After the light show we headed off on the tube again to China town and had some dinner before returning to the hotel for a last glass of wine before retiring for the night.

Saturday morning we walked to the Singapore Flyer and purchased tickets. We were then shown into our own pod – totally unexpected – and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the area. And of course we had to get a silly souvenir photo.

Afterwards we walked along the waterfront to Raffles and queued to get into the Long Bar. This had been renovated and wasn’t quite as authentic as before especially with the music being played – who goes to a 1900s colonial bar to listen to Guns and Roses?!? Anyway we enjoyed our Singapore slings and the peanuts were great. There is something very decadent about just dropping all the casings on the table / floor LOL.

After Raffles we walked to Clarke’s Quay and, of course, it started raining, hard! So we popped into an Indian restaurant and sat on the waterfront enjoying a very early supper of curry and Tiger Beers. Very nice it was too. After our time in the Quay, and in a break from the rain, we headed to the nearest tube station and headed back to the mall. We picked up a couple of bottles of wine and returned to our hotel and room where we watched the light show again over the Bay before settling down to a quiet night in with movies and wine.

Sunday morning after a nice hotel breakfast, we got a tube to Chinatown to explore more thoroughly, before then heading onwards to Little India. We enjoyed the sights and sounds very much but again got a bit defeated by the humidity. We then returned to the hotel by tube and spent a few hours by the pool and enjoyed just relaxing inbetween rain showers.

In the evening we headed out again and went to the Marina Bay Sands area – last time we were in Singapore we found a fabulous champagne bar on the top with great views. But, of course, the weather didn’t want to play ball so we just ended up in a top level bar and Richard braved the elements for the required photo!

Afterwards we headed to Satay Street for dinner – but, this time, satay didn’t appeal in the rain so we ate in the attached food hall and had an Indian Thali dinner. Looked great but sadly wasn’t that good…..oh well, never mind.

After dinner we returned to the hotel, had a drink in the lovely bar, and then returned to relax in our room once again before bed.

Monday morning was our last day so we spent the time by the pool relaxing and then returned to the room to finish packing up. We checked out at 3pm then relaxed in the hotel before being picked up to go to the airport for our late evening flight home to London. We had thought we’d return to the Mall for more street food but were completely blown away by the robot deliveries of food so decided to stay put and had our lunch delivered. Such fun!

Later on we headed down to collect our bags from the concierge and waited for our car – the time came and went and no-one was seen. Hmmmm….not what you need….so I decided to go outside and check on a couple of vehicles that were parked up. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, one of them was our transport. Don’t know whey he didn’t let us know he was there but never mind we arrived at the airport in good time. Checking in was a breeze as we had done it on line in advance, bags were deposited, and we took ourselves off to sit and relax in Changi Airport before boarding the plane.

The Singapore Airlines plane turned up promptly, we got a notification that our bags were loaded on (how good is that!), and we boarded. We had lovely seats and great service. What a way to end the most fantastic adventure. Hope you have enoyed travelling along with us.

Our next adventure is to South Africa and Zimbabwe so will blog again after that. So all there is left to say is Happy New Year to you all. Hope it is full of good health, happiness and love. Take care.

Bye for now, Jan

Adventure to the Far East – Part 3 Da Nang, Ha Long Bay and Nha Trang, Vietnam

Thursday 16 November was another day at sea. Sadly the predicted storm had materialised and it just rained and rained and rained….. In between biblical showers we did find some time to have bubbles in the jacuzzi but that was about it for the day in between chatting to cruisers that we had become friendly with. We had lunch in the buffet restaurant and later on headed for dinner in the Grill. We managed to get a table undercover but it wasn’t great – the food was good – but there was a chilly wind blowing. So we headed down to the fifth floor bar and enjoyed catching up with Robert and Nanette (Canada) and Craig and Leanne (Australia) along with others from time to time. The pianist / singer in the bar was great and we enjoyed listening to her quite extensive repertoire.

We then decided to call it a day – the weather had certainly put paid to lots of fun this evening – so headed back to our cabin where we did a storm watch. We had 50 knots of breeze and the waves were crashing over our balcony and up to the sixth floor above so we got soaked but thoroughly enjoyed it! It was a pretty bumpy night overall to be fair. And yes everyone thought we were mad when we said we had a great time LOL.

Friday we pulled into Da Nang and yes it was still raining….sigh…. We had an excursion to Marble Beach but cancelled as there was no point sitting under an umbrella on the beach getting cold LOL. We had a leisurely breakfast and morning and, finally, the rain stopped around 11 am. So we hopped on a shuttle bus into town and went for a wander – we enjoyed seeing the statues / the Dragon bridge and the local markets. But we were pretty worn out in the very high temperatures and humidity so stopped at a local pavement cafe for lunch. We were the only ‘almond eyes’ in there and luckily they had a menu with pictures so we could pick something out. We had two dishes to share and you could see the gazes of the locals on us. Clearly this was not a place that saw tourists very often but they were very friendly and we were given lots of nods and smiles as we ate. Was really good food. The bill was a ridiculously cheap £5 so we tipped the guy and OMG you would have thought they had won the lottery. He showed all the staff and they all smiled and bowed to us as we left. Was a humbling experience and we were certainly glad to get off the beaten track.

Back on the bus we headed back to the boat for a rest. We went to the 5th floor bar before dinner and headed to the Show Lounge to watch the Vietnamese show put on by local artists. This was fun and then, with Robert, Nanette, Craig and Leanne, we all headed to dinner in the main restaurant. We had a lovely meal and enjoyed socialising with them all. We then headed back to the bar for more after-dinner drinks before heading to bed. So what had started out as a bit of a damp squib turned into a good day.

Saturday was another day at sea. The day started cloudy so we headed to breakfast having first put some clothes in the washing machines. We then put it in the driers and headed back to our room to hang it all up. By now the sun had eventually come out so we spent the rest of the day by the pool. Sadly I had stomach problems at this point so guess that meal the day before hadn’t been so good after all…..

This was not advertised as a formal night on the ship but, as we were booked into La Dame (the up-market French restaurant on board that had an upcharge) we decided to go for it. On arrival in the bar we met up with Robert and Nanette – don’t we all scrub up lovely! We then rendezvoused with Larry and Elaine (from Kent) who we had met previously in Singapore and Bangkok whom we had arranged to have dinner with.

Anyway to La Dame – we had very high expectations of this restaurant, particularly as the service on the ship was so good, and this was supposed to be the best of the best. Well we were sat down by the French Maitre’D and immediately given the menus and served champagne and water whilst we perused them. The first thing we all noticed was the upgraded linen, glassware and cutlery to the rest of the ship so all good so far. When we disclosed we were happy with the ship’s normal wine list and did not wish to upgrade by hundreds of dollars a bottle the service suddenly changed. Hmm……wonder if he gets commission on how many bottles he sells? Anyway we chose our meal from the fancy menu and settled down to enjoy it. It was lots of theatre with cloche-covered food being delivered and then all the cloches being removed at once by four waiters. So great in that respect.

But the Maitre’D spent all his time schmoozing the others guest who had clearly purchased very expensive wine while we waited to be served with more….. Oh well, never mind. Overall we had a good time – the food itself was excellent – and we had great company but this lack of attentive service was a real disappointment. Oh yes, the dress code was strictly adhered to everywhere on the ship – the main restaurant even had a supply of jackets for men that turned up without wearing one – but not here. It seems that the more money you have and the higher status of your suite entitles you to do just what you like….. Rant over!

Sunday we knew that we would be pulling into Halong Bay and this was going to be one of the highlights of our trip. So we got up very early and watched as the ship made its way through the fantastic scenery as the sun came up…. Words cannot describe how beautiful this was.

Having tied up alongside a behemoth cruise ship we got ourselves ready to depart the ship. We walked the dock and got onto our allocated Junk Boat – along with Craig and Leanne who were also booked on this excursion. We motored around this stunning area until we arrived at Sung Sot Cave along with hundreds of other tourists.

The entry to the cave is one way only and up a very steep row of steps – so Craig sat this one out on the boat – whilst we got up and started the trek. It was very tough but actually the tourists slowed down the procession so I didn’t feel too rushed to keep up as I picked my way carefully. Felt a bit like climbing Everest – check out the queue LOL.

The cave did not disappoint – absolutely beautiful – and the views from the exit point were amazing. We then got back on the boat and headed back to the ship through the stunning scenery. So I’ll let the photos do the talking….

Back on board we spent the afternoon by the pool and then decided to sit on our balcony for the sailaway. At this point others that had been on different excursions returned and took some photos of us so we have this moment captured for prosperity LOL.

Most people were back on board by now although there were a few that cut it very fine in terms of timing with some anxious crew pacing the dock. Finally the ship’s gangway was pulled up and we were ready. At this point a gaggle of influencers turned up and started their poses, videos etc. Clearly trying to make out they were getting on the ship and departing. Was hysterical to watch – check out the weird outfits too.

Finally we set sail so got cleaned up and headed to the main restaurant for dinner and, sadly to say, this was the worst meal of the trip. Or rather I chose badly. We absolutely loved the soup so had that for starters then I chose a Vietnamese dish off the ‘local’ menu. OMG it was so strongly flavoured with ginger it nearly made me cry….got Richard to taste it too just in case it was me and he said he couldn’t eat it either. When I put my spoon and fork down the waiter rushed over to check and I said, sorry, not to my taste. At this point he wanted to feed me so bad but I resisted everything on offer (it took a couple of glasses of water to even get rid of the taste) but eventually gave in to some hand-made chocolates at the end of the meal LOL

Monday was another day at sea where we backtracked down the coast of Vietnam towards Nha Trang. We had a leisurely breakfast in the main restaurant and then spent the day by the pool – but it was very windy and chilly although, thankfully, it had stopped raining. But we perserved and, when we got too cold, we just went and sat in the jacuzzi for a while to warm up LOL. We had a Chinese buffet lunch and then gave up on our sunbeds – by which time we had bumped into Robert and Nanette again (not difficult on a ship with capacity for only 392 guests) – so spent a very jolly time in / out of the jacuzzi and in the pool bar keeping hydrated. After resting up in our cabin we had a few drinks in the bar before taking ourselves off to the main restaurant for dinner again. This time I played safe and had a beautiful steak whilst Richard enjoyed the lobster. Again the food was fantastic.

Tuesday morning we awoke to the sounds of the anchor chain being deployed as we had arrived into Nha Trang. As we had to go ashore by tender – the first and only time on this cruise – and needed to be ashore by 8am we decided to have breakfast in our room. So ordered it for 6am and, on the dot, our butler was there with our order. Such a great service, certainly takes the pressure off when you need to be somewhere.

The excursions were very organised – as we were going off via tender – we had to meet up in the show lounge so we could all be taken together and filled up a whole tender with the same tour group. Worked really well. Ashore we met our tour guide, got on the coach and were taken to a local place to pick up our Pedi-Cabs. These are individual (motorised) cycles ridden by locals who took us through the sights and sounds of Nha Trang. OMG it was so funny watching the locals react to us as well as trying to keep an eye on Richard who was ahead of me – most of the time – as his driver was speedier than mine. Although, at the end, he was puffed out and my driver had to push him along instead LOL. Was a real fun excursion.

After getting off our respective pedi-cabs we visited a local market and had a soft drink whilst waiting for everyone else who was clearly spending the last of their Vietnamese currency on anything they could get their hands on LOL. Back to the boat we got the tender that was organised and waiting for us. Back on board we had lunch and sat outside on the deck at La Terrazza for the sailaway (and yes it was raining again). As we pulled away we said our sad farewells to Vietnam. Had been an amazing experience and we definitely would like to return to explore another day.

After lunch we were going to sunbathe and enjoy the pool area but, guess what, it rained hard again. So we decamped to the pool bar and chatted to others while we tried to stay dry. The weather certainly hadn’t been our friend on this trip…..

That evening we went to our final dinner at The Grill and, this time, we used the Hot Rocks to cook our food. Richard’s steak wasn’t too good – think he chose the wrong cut – but mine was fabulous especially twinned with a jacket potato and some salad. Sometimes you just want simple fare!

We decided to have an early night and headed back to our balcony for another night watch before turning in as the ship moved towards our final destination, Singapore.

Wednesday was a sea day – another lumpy one with big seas. We had a leisurely morning doing a bit of packing and planned an afternoon by the pool but, unfortunately, it rained again. Oh well, never mind, time for more laundry LOL. This was our final night at sea and was another formal night – so we headed to the bar and then to dinner with Mo and Jo at La Terrazza. This was lovely and we then headed back to the Observation Lounge for an evening of frivolity. Mo and Jo were determined that we were going to keep the bar open late so we joined in with the karoake and continued partying and dancing to the DJ’s tunes. Was a lot of fun!

And that’s the end of Part 3 of our Far East Adventure. Come back soon for the next instalment.