We originally only planned one cruise this year, and chose Azamara for an August cruise from Venice, through Croatia and the Amalfi coast to Rome, because of it's wonderful itinerary. We had never heard of Azamara before that, and loved the cruise and everything about it -- ship, room, food, service, ports, etc.
One month later, my husband got an email from Azamara highlighting this Asian cruise and said "We have to go. It's the cruise of a lifetime!" I originally thought he was crazy since we already did our "big" vacation in August, but eventually, he talked me into it, and boy am I glad he did!
Our August cruise was 7 ports in 7 days, and while wonderful, was tiring not to have time to rest before the next port. This cruise was 13 days, but it had 4 days at sea in between, and more overnight stops, so the pace was easier.
We started in Hong Kong (loved it. It also reminded us a lot of NYC, where we live, but it had the best fried rice and bar-b-que pork we ever had.) Day 2 was at sea, which was great.
Then we had 2 nights at Halong Bay -- the most beautiful bay area we've ever seen. On day 1 we did the ship's tour to Hanoi (it was a 12 hour tour, with 3+1/2 hours each way and 5 hours in Hanoi itself). We're glad we did it, but wouldn't go through it again -- too much travelling back and forth. On day 2, we did a ship's tour of Halong Bay. Magnificent! I skipped the cave, because it was 200 steps (too much for me), but my husband went and took great pictures. If you're physiclaly able, you should visit the cave.
Day 5 - We got a private tour guide to visit Da Nang and Hoi An. Her name was Xuan Tu, and she was amazing. Her contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org and I would highly recommend her. She was adorable and had a very bubbly personality, and was an excellent guide. She took us to a special tea room in Hoi An, run by people who could not speak, and it was an amazing experience. She found other unusual places to take us, like a Vietnamese sandwich place that Anthony Bourdain raved about. It was fantastic!
Day 6 was at sea.
Day 7 was Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by the locals), and again we hired a private guide. Her name was Diem Kieu (email@example.com), and we got her through Bao Loc (firstname.lastname@example.org). We opted to do the Meking Delta boat tour, rather than the Saigon city tour, but Diem Kieu managed to show us both places. She was excellent. Very warm, and friendly and kind, with a true love of her city and her people.
Day 8 was at sea again -- a welcome day of relaxation!
Days 9, 10, 11 we docked at Bangkok:
Day 9 - we did the Azamara free "Azamazing Evening" - a free ship's tour, where we went to the ancient city at night, which was spectactularly lit up, saw a private show of Thai dancers and boxers, and then had a candle-lit ceremony where we lit candles and set them off on the water to "float away" our negative thoughts/experiences. The evening was truly amazing.
Day 10 - we did a private tour of Bangkok with "Chob@thaitourguide.com" and chose Ms. Joy from their huge array of tour guides, based on past reviews. We chose well. Ms. Joy was a joy to work with, going above and beyond, when we asked if she could find us something for bug bites, and helping my husband print and scan and email something he needed to do for a client. And she bought us a souvenir "longtail boat", to remember our boat trip with her. Ms. Joy's contact info is email@example.com
With Joy's help, we visited the Grand Palace and grounds -- with each building/setting more beautiful than the next, and the flower garden.
Day 11 - we did another tour with Ms. Joy and saw the Railroad market, which I would highly recommend. This market existed for a long time. Then the railroad came and insisted that the train needed to go where the market was, and the market people refused to move. So the railroad built the tracks in the middle of the market. So 4x/day when the train comes through, the people get a warning signal, and must move the produce, etc. off the tracks, wait for the train to leave, and put it back. It was amazing to see. In the afternoon, we saw the floating market, which was really neat.
Day 12 - was 1/2 day at Ko Samui, Thailand. We just walked around the port a bit and had a relaxing time.
Day 13 was at sea -- a welcome, relaxing day (except for having to pack to leave the boat the next day.
Day 14 we arrived at Singapore, and left the ship with 1/2 day ship's tour of Singapore, which I would highly recommend.
In Singapore, we would recommend the Orchid Gardens in the Botanical Gardens, and the Zoo. We did the "Night Safari" at the zoo, which shows the nocturnal animals all lit up, and included the Asian buffet, which was excellent.
So we chose this cruise, again because of the itinerary, but also because we already knew we loved the ship and the crew and everything else about Azamara. They are a first class company!
This was a great cabin. On our first cruise, we had an outside cabin, but no veranda, and it was really nice. This time, we had a veranda room, and it really added something, to have such large floor to ceiling windows -- even when we didn't actually sit in the veranda.
Also the room was on the right side of the ship, and hugged the shoreline as we came into each of our ports. The views were lovely. The layout was better than our last cabin, since the table was near the window, instead of near the door, so it was easier getting in and out of the cabin. Also, they had plenty of nooks and crannies to store all of our stuff, and we had a lot!
Went up the the World's steepest funicular railway, the Peak Tram. Saw where Aberdeen, the famous fishing village was, but the government made them move, so not too much to see. Did a 20 minute sampan ride (cost extra, but not much) and was very nice. We thought we were going on the Star Ferry, but instead they took us to a gem shop, which we didn't appreciate. Big Sales pitch.
Then went to Stanley Market. Very good for shopping.View All 45 City Tour Reviews
I gave this a 3 rating, only because the trip to get there was 3+1/2 hours each way, so it was a very long day. 12 hours altogether: 7 travelling, and 5 in Hanoi. But the time in Hanoi was really good, and seeing and walking among all the motor bikes was amazing, and we did see some interesting rice paddies and animals on the way to Hanoi. Tour guide was excellent.View All 30 City Tour Reviews
Excellent tour, with beautiful scenery and a stop at a beautiful cave. Too many steps for me to visit the cave (200 steps), but my husband went and took great pictures.View All 65 Halong Bay Reviews
Excellent tour and tour guide. See my notes in general areaView All 28 Mekong Delta Cruise Reviews
Booked independent tour with Thaitourguide, and chose Ms. Joy as our guide. She was excellent! Saw The Grand Palace and grounds -- each thing more beautiful than the next, and then more of Bangkok. Went on another tour with Ms. Joy of the Railroad market, which I would highly recommend, and the floating market.View All 36 Grand Palace Reviews
No tour and not much time to be there, but was nice walking around port, and sitting down and having some coffee, and looking for souvenirs, etc. and able to use WIFI at most places. Port is very close to where
We booked a private tour with Xuan Tu, who was an amazing guide. Her contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a bundle of energy and has a fantastic personality. She really knows her way around and took us to some out of the way places. She took us on a combination tour of DaNang and Hoi An. DaNang was nice but Hoi An was the highlight. They had some flooding there from prior rains, but Xuan Tu found us some lovely places to visit. One of them was a rustic tea room, run by deaf mutes, that was lovely. Xuan Tu had great reviews, and now we know why. She was just delightful!View All 35 Hoi An Walking Tour Reviews
This was a really good tour. We saw the amazing orchid gardens in the botanical gardens of Singapore. We also visited Chinatown and Orchard Road. And the tour guide took us to a historical museum and went in with us and gave us a private
roadView All 38 City Tour Reviews