Two weeks on board today, Christmas has come and go and we’ve seen in a New Year. To date the trip has been amazing on many levels, and while I do want to talk about the destinations we’ve visited, there are a few things from the last blog about the ship which I want to share with you.
Firstly, we’ve tried both alternative restaurants and they are both well worth the cover charge….in fact, we enjoyed the steakhouse, Prime C, so much we are spending our last evening on board there. Also, I forgot to mention before that there are no formal nights on Azamara, which will disappoint some cruise fans but for me it’s a blessing, affording me more room in my suitcase for other important clothes! However, as we did celebrate Christmas and NYE on board, everyone made an effort to dress up a bit.
Now to the destinations. A big part of Azamara‘s itineraries is spending more time in ports of call – the company schedules a lot of overnight stays, or late stays, which is not only more relaxing for guests but also affords us more time to explore ashore and enjoy a range of different experiences. On this cruise we’ve had overnight stops in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and today in Halong Bay, with overnight stops also in our embarkation port, Singapore, and our final destination, Hong Kong.
Bangkok was a biggie as it was a two-night-three-day stopover, scheduled over Christmas. We also docked in Khlong Toey, which is in downtown on the Chao Phraya River, rather than the coastal port of Lam Chabang which is a two-hour drive away. The extended stay allowed for shopping, special Christmas Eve and Day dinners, for us a unique bicycle tour of undiscovered Bangkok, and an amazing sail out down the river.
Next we headed for Sihanoukville, Cambodia, for a long-day stay. This place was an eye-opener….very poor, but slowly developing after a bitter internal war which devastated the country and wiped out many of its people. The remnants are there to see….broken down buildings with gunshot holes in the walls, abandoned military equipment, and people missing limbs from land mines – very sad. That said, the country has great spirit, and our exploration of Serendipity Beach, the city market, one of the city’s most holy sites and a local fishing village more than proved that.
Our next sortie was Ho Chi Minh city, a metropolis constantly changing and far from dull. Here we opted to spend the last day of 2010 on a fascinating tour of the Mekong Delta, culminating in a champagne celebration and white night party on board to see in the new year. Hundreds of thousands of people packed the streets beyond us to see the fireworks, which were impressive, and the ship’s crew worked hard to make sure everyone had a good time, from the deck buffet and the festive hats, to the bubbly served at midnight.
Yesterday we were in Danang, Vietnam, where we headed into the old city of Hoi An for a long exploration. This is a fascinating place with an old quarter which forbids cars. We drank Saigon Coffee, which is a rich sweet caffeine fix chilled and served in a long glass with sugar and ice, ate Vietnamese rice pancakes with shrimp, and photograph more people and buildings than we can remember. The only near mishap was getting caught up in a big of a bingle….two teens lost control of a bike at high speed in a narrow, busy street, crashing into a moped, and causing another to swerve, hit another moped which hit us…no real damage sustained except for a bike handle poking me hard in the elbow, but it could have been so much worse!!
Today we are docked at a port in Halong Bay and it’s cold! The temperature dropped overnight and although the ship’s thermometer is reporting 18C I reckon its chillier than that by a long way – which is a shock after the heat and humidity of all our other destinations! We are here overnight, and tomorrow we head off for a long, 12-hour tour to the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. Then we have a sea day and arrive in Hong Kong where this amazing cruise will be over. I am trying not to think about that yet….but that’s the reality. As the saying goes, all good things have to come to an end…next week’s blog will wrap up our last few days on board, and our thoughts overall. Happy Cruising!