We arrived in HK 5 days earlier visiting friends and staying in a hotel in Kowloon not far from Harbour City Cruise Terminal. Our 13nt cruise then commenced with a quick embarkation in HK. As we had a late check-out included with our hotel room rate, we decided to leave for the port around 2pm, the first taxi driver shrugged his shoulders when I verbally asked him for transport to the port, even the concierge at the hotel tried communicating with the driver. The concierge then ran around the corner from the hotel and within a couple of minutes a replacement taxi was found, by this time I had found directions/address in Chinese that Azamara had supplied. The taxi took us straight to dockside and to the luggage drop point where porters were waiting. We then put our luggage through the scanners and exited this area into the shopping centre! There were port staff with signage and ten minutes later we were boarding the ship and check-in was in the cabaret lounge complete with sparkling wine.
Staterooms: We were in V2 (7089). We haven’t sailed with Azamara since the refurbishment. I liked the colour scheme overall throughout the ship. However, on looking more closely at our room, the fascia on the wardrobe doors were peeling away, the seal in the bottom of the shower was discoloured (this was later replaced mid-cruise throughout these rooms) and the veranda appeared in poor condition around the metal work where the balcony divider was, drain area and pipes above. Our room had a solid metal divide between our cabin and 7091. This was great for noise insulation and privacy. I would not hesitate in booking this room again. Further down the corridor toward 7095 the stewards parked their trolley all day and appeared to work from this point. Also in this area, beyond the firedoor on the corridor (left open) there was a loud drone when we were under way. We could not hear it in our room at all. The bathroom is as small as ever but overall the room had good facilities. The interative tv worked well.
Improvements? Place soft close shutters on the stateroom doors, why is it other guests allow their doors to slam shut, if they just held the door back from slamming it would make everyone happy!
Bedding... well the bottom sheet on our bed (two beds made into a king) drove us crazy. There wasn’t even a mattress protector and the sheet always came untucked and slid over the pillow top section of the mattress. Our cabin was overall clean. My main concern was on disembarkation day when we went up to breakfast at around 6.20am and upon returning just before 7am the steward had changed the bed linen and made up the bed and then placed our wet washbags, and smaller suitcase back on the clean duvet cover. During our stay, I had suffered from swollen ankles and grazed my leg. I had placed my feet up on the bolster and there were speckles of blood which were visible. The steward had not even changed the cover on the bolster cushion just placed it back on the bed, I turned it over and basically left it out for him to change before we left. During the time we were having breakfast he had cleaned the bathroom and removed the towels and also packed up our last minute toiletries for us on the sink surface! He had left the two face cloths which we had not used so we used this to dry our hands etc. I appreciate how tight changeover day is for the staff, however it wasn’t even 7am.
Food and Drink: Great choice throughout of food and drink. The complimentary list could do with Baileys and Tia-Maria adding (love liquor coffees!) We bought these a couple of times. Some of the beef was very good indeed as was the lamb and fish. The deserts were mainly very, very good although the pastry on the deserts wasn’t that delicate, very often tough to cut. Great gelato and choice of flavours. Breakfast and lunch in Windows had a great choice and staff were always quick with drinks. We really enjoyed the Jazz Brunch in Discoveries too. We tend to drink sparkling water and for the first few days of the cruise the complimentary one was great (pink and blue bottle) with plenty of small bubbles, however as this was depleted the one supplied (dark blue writing on) was flat and had a poor taste. The helpful staff did try to locate some of the older stock for us to no avail.
We ate in Prime C too, the Chateaubriand was superb. Highly recommended. We also ate a couple of evenings on The Patio, the food and service was brilliant and the restaurant has a lovely relaxed atmosphere. Deserts lacked choice but Windows adjacent had plenty. We also ate in Windows one evening, it was Greek night but feel it lacked atmosphere, the lighting was very harsh and wasn’t really what I remember from a previous cruise.
Discoveries restaurant is so well run. After perusing the menu on the stateroom TV before we went down to eat were still always undecided what we were having as we found the choices very broad and appealing. Edward is one of the best waiters there! The only thing to improve here would be the choice of breads in the basket and the dips, it never changed during the cruise. The bread in Prime C was a good change though, and we ate too much of it when we ate there!
The included wines were fine, some were not to our palates but we are easy drinkers. The included rose however was poor – very sweet and at 5% alcohol a poor choice for Azamara to supply. This rose never changed throughout the cruise.
Entertainment: The shows are more cabaret rather than big production shows. We are in our 40’s and most of it did not appeal to us. We thoroughly enjoyed listening to Briona Daugherty singing opera upon the pool deck whilst we were docked in Halong Bay. Our seat for the evening was one of the bird cage seats upon deck 11. We both crammed ourselves into the seat and had a superb view of the concert. Her voice was superb. She was joined by Eric for the finale who also has an amazing voice. This was a very special evening and would have been worthy of a further concert during the cruise. We enjoyed Mel Mellers the magician but Beverley Davison did not appeal to us, she is a great violinist but her rapport with the audience was quite cringe worthy, she appeared to be requesting applause all the time. Other shows were watchable and passed the evening away.
The demographics of the guests on board led to a very quiet ship after 10.30pm with barely anyone in the Living Room for dancing after this time. It really lacked atmosphere on an evening.
The White Night Party on deck was great, however we ate in Discoveries with Edward being our server and had a great meal and superb service before going upto dance and observe!
We did not attend the Azamazing evening as we had booked a private tour that did not return until 8.30pm.
Itinerary: We are happy to have now visited this area of Asia, however, Vietnam is somewhere where we would probably not wish to return to. Hong Kong and Sinapore were superb. We had four sea days and we would not choose another cruise with so many, preferring a more port intensive cruise.
Staying in HK before the cruise we visited friends in Sai Kung, a stunning area of HK, very scenic with superb walks and lovely small town atmosphere. We did a couple of days in the city itself as wells as visiting Lantau Island.
In Vietnam on the first full day, we went on a nine hour cruise around Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay with a great group of 10 we organised privately with CC. We used Indochina Junk, making a booking and payment is very easy. This worked very well and the itinerary worked very well for us. The second half day we took a taxi (negotiate, we paid $10 return) from the tender point up to the market hall where he waited for us. The wet market really is a wet market! The stalls are on rugs on the floor and compared to other markets is quite poor and dirty. My legs were splashed up with goodness knows what, I disinfected by shoes when we returned to ship. We also walked around the residential area by Bay Chai wharf. The houses are very interesting to see and the people friendly.
DeNang Port: We booked the Countryside by Bicycle Tour and Hoi An through Azamara. This was a very good tour. Just 14 participated on the tour, so the numbers worked very well. We saw lots when cycling around the traffic free areas overlooking rice fields, residential area etc. Even seeing a water buffalo with her young calf, a couple plucking and washing ducks in the river, children going to school by boat and people working their crops etc. It stayed fine throughout the cycle tour. Hoi An was badly flooded so we did not see that much of the city unfortunately. Our guide was very good though and was very enthusiastic! The downside to ships tours is time spent shopping, this tour we visited the silk factory, although we did see the process of silk manufacturing and we also visited the marble workshop we would have all preferred to spend more time cycling. The included lunch at a riverside restaurant was very good. The venue was very light and airy and quite grand with lots of space and a view of the river in the unfortunate heavy rain we endured later in the day. We really enjoyed the company of the others guests during lunch.
Ho Chi Min City: Many months before sailing I booked a private tour with a company again found on the internet called ‘Water Buffalo Tours’ . The guide we had called ‘Tang’ was superb, one of the best we had, he was witty, chatty and very caring. Look them up they are great! We never saw any other tourist for the day we spent with him and his driver. We visited a superb market, buying fruit to have with our lunch. He acted as a translator as the market stallholders were asking questions about us to him and vice versa! The driver had parked the van in a side street and the only way we could drive out was though the set up of a wedding, which had not quite started. It was quite comical! We then went cycling and enjoyed a lunch at a home of a local family. We really saw the real Vietnam. Later we went on a short boat trip of the Mekong Delta area. We even changed boat mid stream! A superb day one that we will never forget.
In Bangkok we booked a lady called Pary Happy Tours, who is an independent guide I found on Trip Advisor. Her reviews are superb and I would use her again. The first half-day she met us at the terminal and we travelled in a luxurious van to Ayutthaya. The roads in BKK on a Sunday are relatively quiet and we made good time. We enjoyed a visit to a Buddhist Temple on the way, then visited a couple of archaeological sites, enjoyed a boat trip on the river and watched the sunset over Wat Chaiwattanarm before being taken to a lovely restaurant for the included dinner. She also bought us treats along the way. The driver was very caring with plenty of iced bottled water, cold wipes etc.
The second full day in BKK, we used Pary again for tour of the city using public transport, she met us at the port with a taxi and took us around the temples and China Town before having a great lunch at the Thai Royal Navy Club close to the Grand Palace. There was a good mix of Thais and tourists eating here and we waited briefly for our order whilst the staff provided the food for the Buddist Monks who were eating in a section of the restaurant. Following lunch we took a Klong boat tour, seeing a couple of Monitor Lizards too! We also used a water bus, this is not for the faint hearted as the canal we were on was filthy, but Pary the caring person she is made sure we were sat right at the front to avoid getting splashed, she also dragged the canvas sides up around us too!
The last half-day in BKK we used the Shuttle bus which took us to the Central World Plaza, they ran every 30mins. We walked and went shopping around the area, and took a tuk tuk (negotiate hard for a good price).
Ko Samui: I had originally booked the Island Discovery Tour with Azamara, but we both felt that we had seen more than enough Buddha’s in BKK so 6.30pm the night before we hastily changed it to the 4x4 Eco Safari and elephant ride. I quizzed the LD rep on the desk before booking about the care of the elephants etc and was reassured about it. However, there appeared nothing Eco about the trip only the rainwater harvesting for flushing the toilets at the venue. It was a poor tour and very expensive. The 4X4 vehicles were never even taken off road and were poorly driven. The driver was on his mobile phone quite alot, he used one hand for steering the other permanently being on the gearstick. We also ran over a dog on the way back to port without stopping. The guide appeared quite monotone in her speaking and did not appear happy in her job. The ride to the elephant centre was about 30 mins up the main road from Nathon Pier. The centre is called the Namuang Safari Park (I wish I had had time to research it properly instead of hastily booking it –the reviews are terrible) the centre basically wants to extract as much money from you as possible, with a framed print of you on the elephant for around $10 (we did not to this) or a girl with a fishing net who you hand your camera to with some Baht for her to snap some photos of you on your elephant. They also heavily push for banana sales and then our elephant ‘driver’ upon returning to the debark point said’ Ok you give me good tip, 500 baht!! “ I quickly handed him 200 baht and scarpered, not even a thank you from him. The included lunch at the centre was poorly served, it was buffet and as it was raining there was insufficient seating for everyone, we were all sat amongst other groups, many were smoking too. On the journey back to Nathon Pier for the tender we called at the Coconut Farm and Rubber Farm, which was basically for the benefit of visiting tourists and both did not appear to be fully operational.
Singapore: We stayed in Singapore for just one night. Departing on a late flight home on the 24th December which would arrive to the UK in the early hours of Christmas Day. Singapore is a stunning city, very clean and safe. The humidity was very uncomfortable, but we saw so much in the two full days that we were there. Taxis are cheap and efficient.
Overall, we would choose to cruise with Azamara again. Mainly due to the fact of what is included for the fare paid, no signing for drinks etc. , With their ships being small the ease at which you can get on and off both when docked and on tender is superb with no queuing. The staff really are superb, how they do their job day in day out is unbelievable. All of them bid you good day when you see them around the ship and provide superb service which is genuine and caring. Loved relaxing in the Living Room.
I would stay in this cabin again.
No noise whatsoever from lifts. As you enter the room the bed head is on your right (travelling feet first!!).
Metal solid bulk head on right hand side on balcony. So made it very private and quiet. Super location for two levels down to Mosaiic and Discoveries and two floors upto Windows restaurant.
Paintwork on balcony on the divider and drain on balcony quite rusty but I expect it will be sealed and painted soon!
Great bustling city. MTR, clean and easy to use Worth visiting countryside for walking if have time. Smog/pollution a problem coming from Chinese mainland. Felt safe walking around
one and half days spent here, tendered into Bai Chay Tourist wharf. Worthing doing a full day Bai Tu Long and Halong Bay Tour. Some guests visited Hanoi, but the bus journey is very tedious and long.
Great tour company to use.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Ayutthaya Tour and sunset with dinner. We docked into Klong Toey not Laem Chabang which is central to the city.View All 14 Ayuddhaya Walking Tour Reviews
Toured the main sites, China Town, Tuk Tuk ride, water bus, taxis etc. Saw lots in one very long day.View All 46 City Tour Reviews
Caring guide, knew points where to take photos from and how to avoid the crowds. Very hot and busy here.View All 36 Grand Palace Reviews
Klong Toey after cruise on the main Chao Praya river. Interesting!View All 21 River Cruise Reviews
Went early before the crowds. Worth seeing.View All 24 Wat Po (Reclining Buddha Temple) Reviews
Efficient service. Guide on bus provided maps and answered questions.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Overpriced ship excursion to Namuang Safari Centre. Not a pleasant setting.View All 11 Elephant Trekking Reviews