Our 10 day Christmas cruise around Asia, as well as a short Balinese break
  • Day17


    December 29, 2018 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We were hoping for a later sleep-in after our late night but that didn't happen since the Captain did a PA around 7.15am. Ted and I had taken the option to walk off the ship without bag assistance but either way, we needed to be out of our stateroom by 8am. We packed up our final things before heading up to breakfast, with our bags in tow.

    I had booked a day room to use in Singapore which wouldn't be available until 11am, so we didn't rush to disembark. After having a ginger tea in the coffee shop, we left the boat and joined the long immigration line in the terminal. Unfortunately for me, this took a lot longer than planned as the immigration officer couldn't find the entry stamp in my passport. This meant I had to be taken into a back room where another officer gave me the stamp after a few minutes. Needless to say, I thought I was going to be there for hours.

    When we eventually found a wifi area in the cruise terminal, I checked the directions from the Mountbatten station to the hotel. Two train rides later, we headed off to find it. Google clearly lied - instead of 8 minutes, it took 20 minutes in the stifling humidity. Even worse was when the receptionist advised there wasn't a room ready. Fortunately we didn't have to wait too long before one was.

    The room was pretty grubby with an awful bathroom, which was expected considering it only cost $45 in Singapore! We walked down the road for lunch which was very similar to the meal we'd had in Little India - cheap and reasonably good. We didn't end up having a nap as we just needed a shower and change before Ted arranged a Grab ride to Changi airport. We had $16 in cash left. Fortunately the ride cost only $15!

    The airport was a whole other experience! We had been agonising over a decision about which flight to catch - the earlier one that had a chance at Premium Economy seats, or the later one that had a chance at Business Class seats. The magic word here being CHANCE, since things can change so quickly. Before making a decision, we went to a soup restaurant for dumplings since we wouldn't be eating until the flight.

    The airport check-in staff suggested we should try the first flight so we took our upgrade tickets and headed towards our boarding gate. As it turned out, we ran into Ted's friend Gaeton who we seem to bump into many times whilst travelling. He suggested we try for Business Class but we really stressed over the decision, as we were now upgraded to Premium Economy on the first flight.

    After clearing security and just as the flight was boarding, Gaeton then advised us we were highly likely to get Business Class on the later flight. Ted decided we should chance it, so we took our bags and ran all the way to the other gate. Nothing was still guaranteed yet but the agent changed us to the later flight anyway. Yikes!

    As it turned out, our gamble paid off. We were ecstatic to travel back home in the Skybed and the service was wonderful. Sometimes it pays to take a chance.

    Thus ends another wonderful holiday. Until we can save our pennies again, we'll be planning our next trip.
    Read more

  • Day16

    At Sea

    December 28, 2018 ⋅ 🌧 25 °C

    Today was our last day of the cruise before returning to Singapore, so it wasn't too big a day! After a reasonable sleep, our whole day basically involved relaxation, trivia, packing our bags and eating! During both games of trivia, we missed winning by one, but since we can't exactly pack more things it's probably good that we didn't.

    For the first time since Singapore, I was feeling ill today, so I'm grateful we didn't have any big excursions anywhere. At 7pm, we met our LGBT group for final drinks before we all go our separate ways. It was also a good opportunity to have the last beers from my drink package rather than have them go to waste!

    We managed to get one last group photo before some of us went to the Skywalker Bar for a few more beverages. Tomorrow we're back in Singapore, and flying home too!
    Read more

  • Day15

    Koh Samui, Thailand

    December 27, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Today we had another independent organised tour, meaning we needed to wake up at 6.30am (which has been an early start on this holiday)! After going to breakfast, we headed to the Wheelhouse Bar to find Dave, the gent who organised our tour. Since we were standing in different parts of the bar, we eventually found each other, as well as the others who were from the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

    Our tender off the boat was quicker than usual as one of our group had Elite Class with Princess. When we disembarked, I quickly found the lady holding the sign with our tour group name, but lost the tour group in the process! When we eventually found each other, we were surprised to find the van didn't have enough seats for us all, meaning the guide had to sit on a cooler in the back whilst Ted and I sat in the front, sans seat belts.

    Our first stop was at Wat Phra Yai, otherwise known as the Big Buddha Temple. This was definitely popular with tourists all over the island, and there seemed to be a war of mini-vans trying to get a park. Our guide didn't give us much guidance on what we were seeing but it was still pretty spectacular to view and photograph. We managed to get some good pictures without too may tourists blocking them as well.

    Our next stop was Wat Plai Laem which I really liked. It is a big Buddhist temple created recently with huge statues of Guanyin (the "goddess" of compassion and mercy) and Budai in front of the temple. There were so many good photo opportunities here that I would've run out of film with a regular camera.

    We then drove to the Grandpa & Grandma (Hin Ta and Hin Yai) Rocks on the south east coast of the island, known for bearing a resemblance to male and female genitalia. There were plenty of hawkers here offering coconut ice cream to the large throng of tourists around. The Lamai Beach area was beautiful as well, and worth seeing just for the view out to the water.

    Our next stop wasn't one I was so keen on, as it involved monkeys on ropes climbing trees to retrieve coconuts. Even though this is common in Asian countries, it doesn't mean I wanted to see it. Either way, I did enjoy the coconut samples and coconut milk the guides were offering. Animal exploitation is something I don't support.

    Our next stop took us off the beaten track and was totally worth it. We went to the Island View restaurant which was located on the south west coast. There were tables placed on the beach enjoying a spectacular view. We really loved it. The food was also great, as were the beers that accompanied the meal.

    Afterwards we visited the Na Mueang waterfall which was also wonderful. If we'd had more time, Ted and I would've been happy to swim there too as the water was really inviting. Our guide told us it was the best waterfall on the island and she was right. Ted and I climbed to a higher viewpoint to get some better photos but I really wanted to jump into the water too.

    Our last stop was the least interesting - visiting the body of a mummified monk! Whilst it offered a unique insight into Buddhist and Thai culture, it wasn't really something that interested Ted or myself. Once we went back to the cruise ship area, we looked around briefly before taking a Thai boat that was operating as a tender, back to the cruise ship.

    We rested in our room for a short while before I joined the girls from Michigan and guys from Canada on the back deck for drinks. Ted and I then caught up with Chris for "Twisted Trivia" which was fun but left in the middle of the following game show which was pretty boring. Once again, our group went to the Wheelhouse for our usual catch up drinks regimen before heading to bed.
    Read more

  • Day14

    Pattaya, Thailand

    December 26, 2018 in Thailand ⋅ 🌫 30 °C

    We would've enjoyed a sleep-in this morning except that the Captain decided to do a PA which was too early for our liking. I've now reached the part of the cruise (like before) where the thought of having a full on breakfast is less appealing than just having porridge for breakfast. Clearly you can have too much of a good thing!

    Today we'd decided to explore Pattaya on our own, so we waited in the Fusion Bar until we were able to disembark. Once again, the cruise provided the option of a shuttle bus for the half hour drive to Pattaya. After going through the visa and disembarkation process we were finally on our way to the beach side area.

    We were dropped off at a very fancy looking hotel which had clean bathrooms before we headed out. We really didn't have much of an itinerary planned so we just took it easy. Ted was keen to get a massage so after looking unsuccessfully through a shopping centre, we found a reasonably priced one that offered both a back and foot massage. Whilst getting the foot massage it was a good way to relax in air conditioning and use the wifi.

    The back massage however was somewhat different! Unlike the healer I had in Bali, it seemed a tad more aggressive. Also, we were offered an ENDING to the massage that neither of us were HAPPY on getting! We then headed for lunch at a beach-facing restaurant, where the food was actually pretty mediocre.Lucky they had beer!

    I think by this stage we'd had enough of Pattaya so we caught the shuttle back with Mark and Richard. Being back on the boat was more appealing so we got an ice cream and went to trivia (which we finally won). We can never have enough metal drinking bottles!

    We went for dinner with Chris and his family, who had spent the day in Bangkok. They brought back some sticky rice which I had with them. As the name suggests, it was really sweet so I couldn't really finish a whole serve. Ted and I then went back to watch "Crazy Rich Asians" on the in-room movie channel but I thought it was dull. My back is now hurting a bit from that massage - I'm hoping the pain goes and those Thai women haven't permanently damaged me!
    Read more

  • Day13

    At Sea

    December 25, 2018 ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C

    Merry Christmas to us! We weren't really sure what was in store for us as this was our first Christmas on a cruise ship, although Ted and I decided to get into the spirit early by wearing Santa hats to breakfast. It seemed like a great idea since so many people were wearing their Christmas attire last night.

    As it turned out, we were the only ones who were! But we didn't care as it was still the day for a Festive spirit. One of the first things I did this morning was call the restaurant reservations extension to try and guarantee a table sitting for our LGBT group. Getting this arranged for 24 people wasn't difficult so now I could finally breathe easy.

    Today was a nice cruisy (no pun intended) day so I went and relaxed in the coffee shop with a ginger tea waiting for the arrival of Santa. Since Ted and I had already purchased the Santa hats, I thought we should similarly get a photo taken with Saint Nick, as well as a Christmas present photo with two of the Princess Cruise hostesses.

    We relaxed in the covered pool area before having a nap and heading to Christmas music trivia with Chris and his mum Karen. We had less luck this time as the MC kept giving clues to the audience. One cool thing though was when the Captain announced we would be passing another Princess cruise ship which was being sailed by his brother, meaning they would send a toot to each other. We then went back to get ready for our Christmas dinner at the Pacific Moon restaurant.

    Even though they had asked us to arrive at 5.00pm to guarantee tables together, they didn't open their doors until 5.30pm. Thankfully it all worked out fine, although I sat at the table with all girls as there wasn't enough places on the table where Ted was. Just like before, the whole group of us then went for drinks at our favourite haunt, the Wheelhouse Bar. Tomorrow we arrive at Bangkok but since the drive there is so far, we're going to explore nearby Pattaya instead.
    Read more

  • Day12

    Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    December 24, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    Today we got to experience Vietnam again as we visited the capital, Ho Chi Minh City. After a restless sleep, we woke up early to have a smaller breakfast. Since today we were going on an independent organised tour, we waited in the coffee shop area to meet our fellow travellers.

    The rest of our crew were couples from Hawaii, South Africa and Northern Territory. We were supposed to be joined by another couple who never appeared on time. The eight of us departed the ship together and took the shuttle bus to the gates outside of the cruise terminal. This would've been quicker if someone on board the bus hadn't forgotten their bag.

    Once outside the gates, we met our guide Huy, as well as our driver. We all boarded the mini-bus for the 1.5 hour drive into the city. On the drive in, there were lively discussions about what we would like to see, as one lady wanted to do more shopping, whilst one guy wanted to see the War Remnants Museum. Huy was able to provide individual tours for these two so the rest of us still did the main itinerary.

    Our first stop was the fancy Rex Hotel which has a rooftop bar that was a well-known hangout spot for military officials and war correspondents in the 1960's. This was a good starting point to enjoy a coffee, use the wifi and get a great view of the city. The Vietnamese coffee I had was awesome, and so far was the best coffee I've had this holiday.

    After taking a group photo, we walked to the nearby Opera House for some photos. Ted remarked how little traffic there was so we're assuming it's probably due to Christmas being tomorrow. Our next stop was the Thien Hau Temple which is a Chinese-style temple of the sea goddess Mazu. There were plenty of incense burners inside as well as an altar to Mazu. We saw Luc and Adam there too, who were doing a tour with a private guide.

    We had been told that we would be doing a pedicab ride as part of our tour, and I think a lot of us were hesitant about it. We didn't need to be, as it was really fun. Ted and I both liked it as it took you right into the heart of the city where all the action was. Truthfully, I could've done it for longer! Sure it's a tourist trap but when you're having fun, does it matter?

    We then went for a Pho lunch at Pho 2000, which is famous as a place that Bill Clinton went to during a trip to Saigon. Ted mentioned that he hadn't enjoyed Pho before, but this one was really good. I was the only person in our group having vegetarian and I similarly liked it.

    We then headed to the Ben Tranh markets for some retail therapy. Ted and I were pretty much only interested in T-shirts so we managed to barter for a few, however we didn't get as many as we wanted! When it was time to meet up with our driver again, we couldn't find the Hawaiian lady Leilani who had asked to do extra shopping. Fortunately we didn't have to wait too long as we continued on.

    One problem on this tour was that a lot of people disagreed on where we should go. Some wanted to keep touring, whilst others were worried about being late back to the cruise ship with the Vietnamese traffic. We ended up visiting the Minh Phương Art lacquer factory which was more interesting than it sounds. Ted and I were the only ones who listened to the demonstration but it was a shame the artworks were all so damn expensive!

    The rain then started to pour down which wasn't surprising considering the humidity. As it turned out, the traffic wasn't too bad and we arrived back at the cruise ship in plenty of time. Once back to our room, we both had a much needed shower and I did some laundry, which is perfectly located right near our cabin.

    The evening was nice and relaxing as we went to the buffet for dinner, and watched the crew singing Christmas Carols in the Atrium. We caught up with our group in the Wheelhouse Bar for evening drinks again afterwards. Christmas Day tomorrow!
    Read more

  • Day11

    Nha Trang, Vietnam

    December 23, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ 🌧 25 °C

    Today was my first time to Vietnam! Ted has been here previously for work, but this was a whole new experience for me. The day didn't start well though when the Captain did a PA advising of a tsunami that had occurred nearby, affecting the islands of Indonesia causing a lot of fatalities. This left a very sombre mood as we had only been in Indonesia a few days prior.

    After breakfast, we packed up a backpack for our day out. Since this is a tender port, the lifeboat was removed from the front of our cabin window, meaning we finally have a view! At breakfast though, the captain did a PA advising his uncertainties about whether we could disembark due to the weather but fortunately it improved enough to leave.

    Ted and I went downstairs to get a tender ticket and once we arrived onshore, nearly accidentally boarded the bus for a tour instead. We caught the included shuttle to a hotel downtown where there were plenty of hawkers trying to sell tours and taxi rides. Since we already had an itinerary written out, we headed first to Long Son Pagoda.

    The walk was about 25 minutes, and I loved the vibrancy of the city. Even though the streets were hectic, they weren't difficult to cross as you just need to walk and not hesitate. We found the Pagoda quite easily and really liked it. Best of all was the Buddha up the hill so, even though the humidity was high, we made the climb up for a worthwhile view.

    We then headed to the nearby Dam Market, but first Ted was thrilled to buy a bottle of vodka for only $2 on the way. The Dam Market didn't end up being as interesting as we'd hoped but it still provided an opportunity to see daily Vietnamese life. Unfortunately our time in Nha Trang was limited meaning we couldn't also visit the Po Nagar Cham Towers, so they're definitely on the list for our next visit.

    Since we didn't want to wander too far from our departure point, we explored the nearby beachfront as well as a shopping centre. I bought a dragon fruit smoothie which I really liked, although I'm hoping to try durian on this trip too. For lunch we went to a waterfront restaurant with reasonable food and cold beer.

    We then took the shuttle back and had a shower and nap before dinner. Even though we'd missed the afternoon trivia, there was an LGBT trivia which I invited all our group to. That was a good idea because it was a lot of fun, and we met some additional people who didn't make it to the first meeting, We wondered what the rest of the people in the bar thought about the questions though - kinda racy!

    That night we had dinner with Emma and Carmen from New York and talked about all things political. I also spent the evening trying to secure a reservation for our group for Christmas dinner. Easier said than done since the restaurants are only guaranteeing a reservation made on the day. Hopefully it all works out okay.
    Read more

  • Day10

    At Sea

    December 22, 2018, South China Sea ⋅ 🌧 26 °C

    Today was a nice relaxing ship day, which are well spread out on this cruise. We also gained an hour by crossing time zones, meaning the day was even longer! We had breakfast this morning with Mary and Beth from Michigan before I went to try out the coffee bar with a view of the ocean. Unfortunately just like Celebrity, the coffee on this ship is horrible too!

    Ted and I headed up to have some more to eat before going to morning trivia with Chris. The three of us managed to win, and each won a Princess water bottle as a prize (Mary and Beth turned up late and also scored the prize). One bad thing about cruising is that, while the room was being cleaned, we headed back upstairs to eat - even though we weren't hungry!

    We thought we could continue our success by similarly going to afternoon trivia but there were too many players and we weren't successful a second time. When we went for dinner at the buffet that evening, I was able to practice my Spanish with a Mexican waitress who was really helpful.

    Thanks to the on-board messaging system, I was able to organise drinks for our LGBT group back at the Wheelhouse before some of us headed up to the Skywalker Bar afterwards. I didn't enjoy the bar much as the boat was really rocky tonight and the bar was swaying somewhat. I might need an extra day to get my sea legs!
    Read more

  • Day9

    Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

    December 21, 2018 in Malaysia ⋅ ☁️ 32 °C

    This morning I thought we should try the formal breakfast option to see if we would like it. We were seated at a table with couples from Australia, the USA and Switzerland. I liked the breakfast as the setting was relaxed and the food options were varied, but I think Ted preferred the buffet as it is easier for him to find diabetic options.

    We had a later arrival into Kota Kinabalu so I went to morning trivia and lunch before packing a bag to join our day excursion. Our tour was shuffled into the ship's theatre before departing the boat. We boarded a bus before heading first to the Tun Mustapha Tower, and Sabah State Administrative Centre which is a government office complex. They are both examples of modern architecture in the city.

    We then headed to the City Mosque, also known as "The Floating Mosque", as well as the Sabah State Mosque for some impressive outdoor photos. When we were given the option to visit the markets, they didn't look even slightly appealing, so Ted and I decided to hang out at a nearby Starbucks to relax in air conditioning, have a coffee and use the wifi.

    Afterwards we headed to the Sabah Museum which also included an outdoor display of culture and the traditional way of life. We found the outdoor display much more interesting as it included a blow dart display and the types of housing the natives used, and decided to forego the museum altogether.

    To be honest, we didn't find Kota Kinabalu particularly interesting, and we were looking forward to re-boarding the boat for a buffet dinner. That evening we tried Movies under the Stars again with the film Tomb Raider. I thought the film was boring but Ted liked it. I headed to a Hollywood Trivia night instead with a group of new-found friends which was a lot more fun. Another ship day tomorrow!
    Read more

  • Day8

    At Sea

    December 20, 2018, Natuna Sea ⋅ 🌧 26 °C

    Today was a great way to settle into the cruise before we arrive at our first port tomorrow. The beds on the cruise are really comfortable, so we both had an amazing sleep last night. We have two independent tours lined up for this cruise but I haven't had the chance to meet the organisers yet, so I left notes for them at their staterooms.

    Breakfast didn't really stack up either, as both of us found few options to eat. When you're vegetarian or diabetic, your options are always limited! Ted was feeling woozy today from the ship movements, so he needed to lie low today. I went to an acupuncture workshop which didn't provide a free session and then headed to trivia which I almost won!

    The ship seemed to be vibrating quite a bit, so after checking out our boarding photo, headed back to the room to relax. The movie under the stars was Black Panther but it wasn't so easy to watch with all the screaming kids in the pool underneath! I had a vege burger at the pool restaurant where we met a couple from the UK, Mark and Richard.

    We went back to trivia in the evening (almost won again!) before trying out the formal dinner. The meal was really quite good, and it removed the temptation to overindulge like we do in the buffet restaurant. But as it turned out, we ended up going back to the buffet later when we were still hungry!
    Read more