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Goodman's Travels

Cruise 2015

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 12 July 2015 | Views [389]

Beer at Happy Valley

Beer at Happy Valley

I was chastised by Wendy one day.

As is normal, I make a throw away comment and she picks up on it.

I was scanning the Sunday papers one day in November 2014 and seen a ‘relocation’ type cruise from Singapore to Sydney that took about 8 days.  It was relatively cheap where they fly you from Sydney to Singapore and you cruise home via Darwin and northern Qld.  It sounded interesting because we haven’t been on a cruise before and this sounded like a good ‘starter’ type cruise to take but I didn’t say anything.

A few weeks later I mentioned it to one of our friends in the Café that it was a good cheap way to test the waters of whether you like cruising or not. Wendy was in the kitchen, overheard and yelled out “Did you book it?”

That was the impetus for us to embark on this type of holiday. So after many hours on the internet, many hours working out how we could take time off from our everyday schedules of work and café we decided on a 14 night cruise from Singapore to Hong Kong. Unfortunately it called into several places we had been before. Ie Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Da Nang and Hanoi however it was also scheduled to stop at Koh Samui, Sihanookville and Nha Trang all of which we hadn’t been before.

We booked through Cruise Republic on the internet. They were helpful at all stages of the process and I’d use them again. We got very good cheap air tickets with Scoot (an offshoot of Singapore Airlines). The seats were good and comfortable and the leg room was better than most other airlines.

So we left Sydney by Scoot on Sunday 29th March 2015, arriving Singapore at about 7.00pm. We were booked into the Leng Lay?? Hotel in the Little India part of town. It was good, clean and cheap.

Boarded the Ms Volendam at about 12.30pm on Monday 30th March. It was a trouble free operation and we went straight into Stateroom 2522. It was an inner stateroom which was small yet comfortable. Settled in nicely and set about looking around the vessel. Ms Volendam is a medium sized passenger liner in the Holland America group. It sleeps 1425 fare paying passengers. The normal amenities of a cruise liner were all there. The Casino, piano lounges, numerous small bars, two swimming pools, sun decks, library and internet area, four large dining rooms and crows nest.




All was going well. Food very good, service excellent and general activities on board were good for people our age and older. We boarded on Monday and on the Thursday, after a day of activities we were walking back to our stateroom when we see near the end of the corridor, two mattresses which were sodden. It wasn’t long before we were told it was our bed. Apparently there had been a massive leak from above our room which landed primarily on our bed and bedside tables. Hence we had to move to another stateroom on the 1st deck. This was an outer stateroom and had a window (which was in very bad need of a clean). The only real damage we sustained was to the Samsung Tablet that was sitting on the bedside table. It got drenched. The steward immediately dried it and plunged it into a bucket of rice. We found out the only benefit of a window is it tells you its morning. We found waking in a dark cabin without a digital clock very difficult. Looking at a watch in darkness doesn’t work.

On the first Good Friday night we were booked into The Pinnacle Restaurant. We had high expectations of the meal that night. It was Good Friday and we paid an extra $49US each for the privilege. What a DISAPPOINTMENT. Whilst the food we had was acceptable and of a good standard, the menu was something we thought Holland America should be ashamed of. There was only one fish dish for an entrée and only one fish dish as a main course on the menu. All other selections were meat. We questioned the staff on this anomaly and were told ‘Le Cirque’ menu on every Holland America ship was the same. That didn’t placate us at all. Soon the head Chef came to our table to apologise and state it was a “le Cirque’ Menu and as such they had to serve it that way. The only fish on the main course menu was ‘black cod’ which we’d never had before but it was very good and presented well.  The next day, one of the supervisors heard of our complaint and offered us a free meal in The Pinnacles Restaurant for another night to make up for our disappointment. We took up that offer. The food was very good. Far better than the ‘Le Cirque’ menu which we paid $98US for. The normal Pinnacles tariff is $29US each and very good value. So good we did it again on the Saturday night before we left ship. The food was good but left us wanting. It wasn’t  as good as we first thought.






The ships first port of call was Koh Samui. Nothing special about Koh Samui. Typical Thai tourist resort although we did have a very memorable ‘pineapple chicken’ dish at a little corner restaurant.

The second port of call was Laem Chabang which services Bangkok. It is about 2 ½ drive from the port into the city. We had been to Bangkok twice before so gave it a miss and decided to take a trip to Pattaya.  We teamed up with a Kiwi couple to share the taxi fare – ripped us off for about $50US but we did have a good meal in a little backstreet café. Probably should have stayed on board for a leisurely day.

The third port of call was Sihanookville. This was a typical Cambodian town that lacks most things. It was reminiscent of Phnom Penh and Siam Reap in the squalor and poverty. The Cambodian people are very hospitable and we were pleased we called there.

We then called into Phu My which is the Port for Ho Chi Minh. We had been to Saigon before and the 2 hour car ride seemed a waste of time so we decided to walk around the port.

Our next port of call was Nha Trang. This proved to be a worthwhile day trip off the boat. Nha Trang is your typical Vietnamese port city. It was clean and worth a few hours walk around and we also hired a car forabout 3 hours so we could get a better appreciation. Nha Trang would be worth another visit if the occasion presented itself.




It was about this time we started to realise cruising was for special people. That is, special people who actually like doing nothing. Whilst the MS Volandam was well equipped and treated us well, sitting on a boat waiting for the next meal or activity is mind numbing. There is a well-equipped Gym on board. You needed to circumnavigate the boat 3 ½ times to clock up a mile. Also mind numbing. However, we did give our best efforts to make ourselves occupied and stimulated. One of the highlights of the day was waiting for the daily spreadsheet of ‘news’ from Australia that was printed every morning.  (things are crook when you eagerly await a spreadsheet with yesterdays news) and then there was the daily crossword……NY Times……

Our next port of call was Ha Long Bay………..the day was miserable and we had previously seen what we believe to be something similar to Ha Long Bay when in Thailand. Phang Gna Bay is just as picturesque. So we decided to go ashore and get a taxi ride around Ha Long Bay. It was an interesting place but nothing special. We thought Nha Trang bay was far more beautiful.

22000 Vietdong to the dollar does tricks to the mind.

From Ha Long Bay we then cruise a couple of days to Hong Kong.

We docked in Hong Kong and decide to take a taxi to our accommodation at The Ibis North Point.

This proved to be very good central accommodation and was very comfortable for the price. It was central to all our needs and proved good for a ‘local feel’ of the atmosphere in Hong Kong. From there we did the normal tourist points, went on a ferry to Kowloon (waste of time) up the cable car to ‘The Peak’  and then the city centre for some ‘hong kong’ shopping. That night we went to Happy Valley Racecourse where we were amazed at the festivities on offer for the night. We bet on some winners, we bet on some losers and we had a great evening just absorbing the atmosphere of the Races.




In all, Hong Kong is a place we could call back on and enjoy the culture….its basically just another large Asian city but then….one worth revisiting

Out flight home turned out to be a logistical problem.  We were booked out early on the morning flight from Hong Kong to Sydney. We had to be at the airport very early.  We got up at 4.00am. Apparently in the most sophisticated Asian city, the trains don’t start till 6.00am. We caught a Taxi at about 4.30am and the driver proved to be very reliable and trustworthy. We ended up getting to the airport with time to spare, he ended up being a good friend and he was given a nice tip for his troubles……without him, we would have missed the flight.

Arrived home in good order and condition.

Next cruise --- ten years time.

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