Hello, 你好, ഹലോ, สวัสดี, chào bạ,

Welcome to our latest adventure!

We are off to Southeast Asia on two back-to-back 7-night cruises, roundtrip from Singapore.

After a 3-nt pre-stay in Hong Kong, and a 2-nt stay in Singapore, our cruise aboard Royal Carribbean Cruise Line’s Mariner of the Seas will visit Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

For Holly & I, these are our 24th & 25th cruises together, and our 15th & 16th with Royal Caribbean.

We’ve got our backs against the ocean, it’s just us against the world
~Theory of a Deadman, ‘All or Nothing’, 2008

San Diego  (Day 1)
Friday, January 6, 2017

We departed Lindberg Field (SAN) about 16.30, and began our long trip to Hong Kong.  Burning through a rather large mount of frequent flyer miles to make the journey comfortable, though, came at a price- 3 connections (LAX-SFO-TPE), and an overall trip (departing SAN to arriving HKG) of what is scheduled to have been 28 hours.

Pacific Ocean  (Day 2)
Saturday, January 7, 2017

Today, we departed at 00.05 from SFO, and, by crossing the International Date Line, spent this date inside the plane.

Service on China Airlines (Taiwan) was excellent.  There was rarely a time when an empty glass sat before being cleared or refilled.  Merlot, Coke Zero, and water happened to be my choices tonight.  The food was very fresh, I even enjoyed the Bak Choi (one of those green veggie things) in my soup.

An interesting design on or two this plane are the bathrooms and the snack bar-

The former is the first time we’ve travelled where our airplane’s lavatory had a window (think as you will about that).

The latter is really cool- between the two main meal services, there was an open snack bar in Business Class where you could select interesting goodies and or drinks, and either take it back to your seat, or if an attendant was there, she would bring it back to you on a little individual tray.

The fact that this venue was designed wasn’t the wow part, but the decoration was.  There seemed to be great care taken with the esthetics of this area.  It was just neat.

Tomorrow, we arrive in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong  (Day 3)
Sunday, January 8, 2017

We arrived into TPE at about 05.00, an hour early- and set out to locate our next gate.  When we had that sorted, with a scheduled 4.5 hour layover now still over 5, we visited one of China Airlines’ lounges to chill, sample local foods, and refresh (including shower🙂).

Our 2 hour TPE-HKG flight was nice- China Airlines ran an A333, and in Business, was 2-2-2.  Surprisingly, we were served breakfast on this flight.  We arrived in Hong Kong and took the hotel’s car hire straight to the hotel.  It was a bit pricey, but no fuss, and very comfortable.

After a quick rest, we went to the hotel’s Concierge Lounge, a very nice venue on the 2nd floor.  It overlooks the Lobby Bar and part of Victoria Harbor.  The really cool thing about this place.. about which we had a good laugh- the Diet Coke was served in its own little cooler, as if it were champagne on ice.

We walked around town a bit, checking out Temple Street’s Night Market, but we just browsed.  Back at the hotel, we relaxed until the highlight of the day- the Hong Kong Light Show.  It was very cool, and lasted about 10 minutes.  The nice thing about our room- a fantastic vantage point overlooking the harbor.

Tomorrow, we are in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong  (Day 4)
Monday, January 9, 2017

After breakfast, we headed to the Happiest Place on Earth, albeit the smallest of the 5 ‘Disneylands’ across the world.  This was Holly’s first time here (I was here in Feb 2010 returning from deployment).

Hong Kong Disneyland is exceptionally well themed- it’s just a pretty place to walk around.  Our main focus, other than a general meandering around the park, was to ride on the Jungle River Cruise, Buzz Light Year, and Mystic  Manor.

Mystic Manor is the Hong Kong Disneyland version of Haunted Mansion, in that it is a similar magic or mystical type of adventure, but has a different storyline.  Primarily, instead of haunting ghosts, it is about an unlocked curse (released by a precocious monkey) that brings things (knights, musical instruments, and furniture) to life.

Two days from now (Jan 11), the Iron Man Ride opens, and while it would have been cool to try it, we left the park not-at-all disappointed that we did not.  For us, somewhat Disney  purists, this new attraction, coupled with a gajillion Star Wars examples throughout this park and Disney in general, is just not what Walt would have likely endorsed.

Tomorrow, we are in Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong  (Day 5)
Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Very early this morning, Holly woke up feeling like poop- a result of experimentation with local cuisine.   Her live-in nurse attempted to cool her with cold compresses to her lovely forehead, which, for a majority of the early morning and afternoon- worked in staving off whatever she had caught.

Bedrest until 10.00, she got up, and we went to 1 of the 2 places we’d planned for the morning and early afternoon- Victoria Peak.  The other, Hong Kong Park, was set aside in favor of returning to our room and working on her rest again.

Victoria Peak was not very crowded, though it was overcast and very cool- it was not cold enough or precipitous enough to snow, like our friends in PacNorWest are experiencing at the moment, but too cold to keep Holly outdoors for more time than was necessary to take in the view.

Regrettably, the cool air contributed to a fog that kept Kowloon partially obscured from view, resulting in less-than-desired pictures, but oh well- it was a good reminder that nature is going to do what it wants, about which mere mortals need to be humble.  One can always return to this place in future travels.

A scone and creme were smuggled out of the lounge to appear at Holly’s bedside, a snack well deserved for her.  She hardly complained about being ill.

After a few hours’ rest for Holly, we went out to the Aqua Luna for a sunset cruise.  Aqua Luna is a Junk Boat that sails a few times each day for sunset cruises, dinner cruises, etc.  With Holly bundled up to stay warm, tonight’s cruise was very enjoyable.  While the fog (and/or remnants of this area’s wonderful air quality) had lingered, it cleared mostly, for a time, long enough to enjoy dusk and the city lights taking effect.

Tomorrow, we are off to Singapore.

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Singapore  (Day 6)
Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We got up at the buttcrack of dawn (er, 04.15) to get dressed and head to the airport for our 08.00 flight to Singapore.  Holly is about 70% at this point, still on the mend.

Our flight to SIN was about 3.5 hours, and for economy, SQ (Singapore Airlines) had a very comfortable product.  The seats were decent- we had a little elbow room, as we’d grabbed long ago one of the few 2-seat configurations (their B773-ER is 3-3-3 in Economy in nearly every row).

Upon arrival in Singapore, we took a taxi straight to the hotel, and while we had booked an Exec level room, it was a city view only- upon request, we were told there was a full marina view available soon, as it had just been vacated, but we would have to wait a bit until it was cleaned.  Sheii___t, easy decision.  As soon as we walked into the room, about 45 min later, we were justifiably impressed.  It is one of the best rooms I should think in the hotel.  The view is ridiculous.

Celebrity Cruises fan note:  Moored at the cruise terminal today is the Mein Schiff I, operated by TUI cruises, and part owned by Royal Caribbean.  However, until TUI acquired her in May 2009, she was operated from her inception in Dec 1996 as Celebrity Galaxy.

After settling in, we went to Raffles (across the street from the Fairmont) for a drink at The Long Bar.  Raffles was named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, and opened on 1 December 1887 as a 10-room hotel by the Sarkies Brothers.  The hotel has since been a haunt of adventurers, Bob & Holly, movies stars, authors, and journalists.  The world famous drink Singapore Sling originated here.

Next up, another Singapore tradition- the Toast Box.  It’s a franchise that simple makes its mark selling toast.  There are stores all over the country.

As of this writing, Holly is about 90%.

Tomorrow, we are in Singapore.

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Singapore  (Day 7)
Thursday, January 12, 2017

We started off with breakfast, which ordinarily after a mention or two per blog, doesn’t usually stand out so much as to warrant a mention-  Today was different.  This was our first breakfast at the Fairmont, where an item for the choosing today was yogurt- Aloe Vera-flavored.  Yep.  Holly tried it and was grossed out, while I enjoyed it, with my stomach lining is protected from sunburn as well.

Afterwards, we went to an area of Singapore we haven’t explored yet- Gardens by the Bay.  This area has a diverse range of plants from all over the world, with the highlights being two cool-air greenhouses.

The first, and our favorite of the two, was the Cloud Forest.  This domed structure simulates a cool moist tropical region, and has a magnificent 35 meter (114 ft) waterfall from a mountain of plants as the centerpiece.  It is quite striking as you enter the building.  An elevator takes you up 7 stories so you can wind your way down on an elevated walkway to take in a variety of orchids, ferns and other plant life.  Every couple of hours, misters are set off, creating a cloud like setting, which really adds to the realism of a cool, tropical mountainous region.

The second structure was the Flower Dome, with flowers from around the world.  Unfortunately, the Christmas themed displays were in the process of being taken down, and the Lunar New Year (2017 is the year of the Rooster in case you were wondering) decorations were going up, so there wasn’t a consistent theme.  We enjoyed both attractions and would visit again when we come back.  It does hurt that it was cool inside, compared to a 91F outside.

Next, we went to Chinatown for lunch, and then made our way back to the hotel through in part- an underground mall (many shopping areas in Singapore are underground).

Tomorrow, we board Mariner of the Seas, our home for the following 14 nights 🙂

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All Aboard  (Day 8)
Friday, January 13, 2017

We enjoyed our last sunrise as land dwellers for this vacation, taking in a slight fog-drenched morning over Marina Bay.  I got up about 05.30 to watch Mariner approach, only to discover that she wasn’t actually due to dock until 07.00, and, when she did, wasn’t clearly visible until about a mile out.

Typically, a ship can come earlier than scheduled (my friend Jim and I found that out in Amsterdam, Aug 2016), and when one wants to film or take pictures, or just watch the event, there can be disappointment when it arrives early… So much for that idea… I was very early.

We arrived at the cruise terminal at 09.15, and were probably behind only 20 or so who had preceded us in checking in.  RCCL, and/or the Singapore Port Authority- didn’t run a great plan here.  Once checked in, the waiting area was not arranged in order of boarding, a point only relevant because you had to walk through crowds of others to get aboard.  Whatever, but it could have been set up better.

We were onboard about 11.25, and went straight the the Windjammer.  The food was good (typical hamburgers and fries is always, if available, my ‘all aboard’ lunch choice), and while we were among the first few to arrive, it got crowded in a hurry.

After lunch, we went to check out the changes to a Voyager Class ship now in SE Asia.  We knew that some things would be different, but we wanted to see for ourselves anyhow.  So….

Mariner has had its Ship General Store relegated to kiosks where the Future Cruises used to be;

Vintages Wine Bar (and the car outside it) replaced by a high end jewelry place;

The Casino (We didn’t play tonight, just walked through) has carved about a 10% slice of its floor space into a walled off, private high rollers section.  Sandy and Holly, this lets you gals out :).

Additionally, another small part of it actually has a buffet food stand, for people who need to shove even more in their pieholes while gambling, along a wallspace that no longer has OUR game- ‘$.25 Jacks or Better’ video poker.

We are not enthralled by the design changes- we understand it’s about the region we are in- but RCCL failed to consult us, so what to do.

Dinner was really good.  We have a table for 8, and only one other couple showed up tonight… a slightly older duo, David & Susan, both retired teachers from Australia.

Tomorrow, we are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Kuala Lumpur  (Day 9)
Saturday, January 14, 2017

We began the day with a coffee stop, then made our way to meet our ship’s tour.  Our guide, Mally, was great.

We first went to the Batu Caves, an old monastery inside a mountain, the entrance to which involves a cardio event of 274 steps at a 40° angle, often with monkeys as escorts if one had any hint of food about.  It is an active place of worship, so the thought of a sound overlay of the Rocky theme was dismissed almost as quickly as thought of.

Inside the cave are several temples and carvings, and additional monkeys 🐒🐒.  The stalactites and stalagmites are amazing.  This place is a worthwhile hike to see.

Next, we went to the Royal Selangor Pewter Factory, where we got to see several craftswomen at work.  The Royal Selangor name is one I’ve heard of- it was neat to go to the actual factory and showroom.

Afterwards, we went near to the top of the KL Tower for a panoramic view of the city.  The lift operates at ludicrous speed- ground level to 258m (about 840′) in 58 seconds.  One’s ears can easily pop on this rapid, yet smooth ascent.

We stopped outside Petronas Towers for a photo stop, then went to lunch at Selamat Datang, a nice buffet style restaurant.  The food available (Malay, Indian, Chinese) what we tried of it, was yummie.

Finished the tour at Independence Square, housing a cricket pitch, Hibiscus (National flower) atop street lamps, water fountains, and 32°C direct sunlight.  The aforementioned fountains looked really tempting.

Tomorrow, we are in Penang, Malaysia.

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Penang, Malaysia  (Day 10)
Sunday, January 15, 2017

Penang, an island off the northwestern coast of Malaysia, is influenced by at least 3 distinct cultures- Malay, Chinese & European.  The latter is surprising considering the distance, but certain British colonial influences remain, readily visible in or near the cruise terminal in George Town, Penang, including homes in the Penang hills, and a memorial clock tower near the cruise pier dedicated to Queen Victoria.

The former two (and primary) cultures were certainly evident today, as we arrived during a street fair about which we surprised, held in preparation for Chinese New Year.

When we got off the ship, we had thoughts of heading into the hills about 7 miles away (the main Villa/Hotel for the short-lived British series ‘Indian Summers’ is there), but decided to remain downtown to explore.  Between the site’s ongoing renovation, and our interest in a street fair we hadn’t planned on, we stayed in town to check it out.

The fair provided a little insight into the community.  We saw lots of craftsmakers  selling their creations, local children playing dodgeball, and far too many trishaws in a tiny place.  We tried a few street foods, including a rather interesting smoothie made with Avo-Durian and Avocado.   Avo-Durian is a fruit that tastes ok, but smells like a baby fart that thickens the surrounding air; so much so the the Singapore government bans it from onboard their subway system.

There are a few areas in town, including right across the bay from our cabin, that need upgrading.  The ‘tourist area’ of town needs also some tlc as well, but I’d rather see everyone on the island get a share of any help that government or tourist dollars bring.

Tomorrow, we are in Langkawi, Malaysia.

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Langkawi, Malaysia  (Day 11)
Monday, January 16, 2017

Today’s stop was in Langkawi, a small Malaysian island off the NW mainland coast.  This island is part of a 102-island archipelago that borders Thailand, so the geography is very similar.

Azura, our excursion guide, took us to several stops, the first of which was a marina, not specifically anything Malay about it, but is was pretty.

We then went to a Craft Complex, a large and nicely laid out building featuring many handicrafts from the region, including handwoven baskets, pottery and a large selection of batik- everything from clothing to stuffed animals to wall hangings.  There was a cultural museum on sight with various dioramas depicting early Langkawi history.

Afterwards, we went to a working rice garden, which demonstrated the process of rice cultivation and its history.  The museum there had on hand many of early devices to extract the rice grains and grass, including a thrashing tub, where the workers would basically beat the grains out of the grass with a bamboo stick.  Out in the actual paddies (Padi is the original Malay word), workers were thinning out and replanting some of the new growth.  We also came across the garden’s water buffalo, which are used to pull plows to prepare the soil for planting.

Next, we had a quick stop at a Malaysian coffee and chocolate shop for a little sample.  But, since we didn’t want to to just eat and run, we thought we should at least help out the local economy and purchase some- that may or may not make it home.  One thing that Holly refused to try, was my Iced Durian Coffee Drink.  Substituting avocado for coffee, the result is still smelly 🙂

We also stopped at Underwater World.  It is a nice aquarium with some local species of fish, but like the marina, nothing standing out as particularly Malay (still filmed, but not depicted on this blog).

Tomorrow, we are in Phuket, Thailand 🙂

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Phuket, Thailand  (Day 12)
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Phuket- what a wonder!  I’ve been talking about this place for years to Holly, and now, finally, she has seen it first hand.  “I can truly say pictures just don’t do it any justice”, she said.

We opted for a private tour today to enable us to set the sights and the pace of our day.  I got in line very early to nab a couple of tender tickets to ensure we were on the first boat ashore to meet our guide, Rai.  The purpose of the chartered tour was to take Holly to the places I had visited in Sept 2009, when I had chartered a boat and a few actors make a small film for her.

Once ashore, we were promptly shuttled to the other side of the island to meet our crew.  Our conveyance for the day was a twin engine speedboat, so it was quite an e-ticket ride to our first stop – Ko Ping Gah (Leaning Rock) and Ko Tapu (known as James Bond Island since 1974’s film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’) in Phang Nga Bay.

We rode upfront on the way there, and it was full throttle the full 40 minutes it took to arrive.  It sure was fun, but we might need to find a good chiropractor.  We explored the spectacular limestone rock formation and marveled at the sculpting job Mother Nature has done to create caves, cliffs and boulders precariously hanging on by lord only knows what.  There are hundreds of these upcroppings all over the bay and are really something to see.

Our next stop was a floating market, Ko Panyi, which was more like a market within a village on stilts in the middle of bay.  The village has a good sized mosque as its centerpiece, its guided domes could be seen for quite a distance.  We visited the primary school, sampled some local snacks, and were led through a maze of dwellings, many with tables of handicrafts for sale, before pulling up a chair at the village restaurant for a little lunch.  We tried some garlic and black pepper chicken, sweet and sour prawns and vegetable fried rice- all very tasty.

We are tired and a little sunburned- it was a good day.

Tomorrow, we are in Phuket, Thailand 🙂

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Phuket, Thailand  (Day 13)
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Another wow day.  This morning, it was all about elephants, and as a byproduct, more than a little heartwarming.

After another early start, one due to open tendering that didn’t require a ticket, we left the ship at 05.50 for the 10-min ride to shore.  The ‘hey ma, shocks are optional, yes?’ little truck picked us up about 70 min later for the journey an hour north to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket, a good operation with dedicated areas for feeding, bathing, rinsing and walking the elephants in their charge.

EJS do a very conscientious job in caring for the elephants, and immersing the folks who come to help out.  Purposeful use of an alternate, and exclusion of- the word tourist just occurred in the previous sentence- people who come here with a heart two sizes too small will find it hard not to see it grow, as will folks who come here as caregivers about to be further educated- will easily feel warmer inside for the effort.

This is not a riding facility.  It is one of education, and objectively, one can see their point.  Elephants who are ridden are at legitimate risk of eventually having their spines distorted, a condition extremely difficult to justify for sheer riding ‘tourist’ pleasure.

There are 7 elephants at this facility, ranging from 3 months to 67 years.  Malie, about 30, was the one Holly & I fed the most.  The second youngest, at 7 months, is Cho, the resident little sh_t.  He is all over the place and loves attention, seeking it out when other elephants are being cared for.  Elephants have rather sharp hair, like wire in many areas.  Cho, the aforementioned little bugger, decided he would help brush my leg hair after charging me in the mud bath and grabbing my leg with his.

After a short introduction, we began by preparing food for them, then- well, fed them of course 🙂  This was fun.  Next, very nearly all of us jumped in the mud with them, and gave them a bath, after which, it was time for a rinse, then a shower.  The entire event on site took about 2.5 hours.

I will try to do this every time I come back to Phuket (there is also the main EJS facility in Chiang Mai, Thailand).  Because of the personal experience today with these animals, I will ensure that it’s not another 7 years prior to visiting this wonderful city.

Tonight was Formal Night, and while 30% of the crowd thought shorts or jeans were fine, it was otherwise positive, with our Aussie table mates Susan & David sharing their pictures from a recent Vietnam & Cambodia trip.

Tomorrow, we are at sea.

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At Sea  (Day 14)
Thursday, January 19, 2017

Today was mostly about relaxing, hence, only 4 pictures.

After breakfast at Café Promenade, we played our first game of shuffleboard this week, I won 3-0, only fitting since Holly won during our last cruise 🙂

Later in the morning, we played Pub Trivia at the ‘Wig & Gavel’, and with help from a couple from Scotland, won, out of about 20 people total.  Good stuff, too, not just some often-joked about keychain, but a really nice mesh RCCL ball cap.

Said goodbye at dinner tonight to a really wonderful couple, David & Susan, our tablemates this last week.  They have helped translate Aussie into American over some wonderful dinner conversations.  Emails exchanged- we will definitely keep in touch :).  Susan, having gotten to know me a tad this week, offered a picture of a social media post ‘I live on the wild side, but only until 9pm’.  Heehee, I can relate to that.

Tomorrow, we are in Singapore.

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Singapore  (Day 15)
Friday, January 20, 2017

This was turnover day.  The end of one cruise and the beginning of the second.

We had a very easy time of it on the whole.  We had no where we had to be until 10.00, when we met in the Lotus Lounge (appx 200 folks are doing this back-to-back), and were handed our passports and new SeaPass cards.  Then, we were led by one of the RCCL Officers off the ship, through Customs, back to the waiting room (only about 20 mins here), then BACK to bleeping Customs.  For RCCL’s part, they ran the operation smoothly.  Now then….

Singapore Customs have an opinion not run by me first on how to efficiently do business disembarking/embarking back-to-back passengers.  Like any passenger/crew, one enters Singapore coming off the ship.  In this step, Singapore Customs scans one’s carry-off luggage.  So far, no prob.

If one is going into the city, or just leaving.. bye.. out the terminal and that’s the end of it.

If, though, one is a back-to-back passenger, the process here is to exit the cruise terminal security entry area, just inside the building.  Now, like any oncoming passenger, one’s carry-ons are scanned to obtain permission to enter the terminal main lobby.  Hmmm, #WTH.

Once inside, and the call to board has been announced, then you still go through Customs as a person departing the country again (a third scan).  The issue is with the@$% second scan…unlike an international airport, Singapore Customs have no transit lounge set up at this cruise terminal.

The entire time off ship was about 65 minutes, and once aboard, we ran into Aungzaw, a gentleman from Myanmar, who, like last cruise, works in the Windjammer during lunch.  From day 2 of the cruise, he knew our drinks (Diet Coke & Iced Tea), and would come across the room to just bring it to us.  For avid cruisers, you may note that a buffet-type restaurant’s workers traditionally just bus tables and offer drinks- unlike a dining room or bar staff, there usually isn’t the same type Cheers’ “Norm” familiarity established.  This guy was different- we took are of him on Thursday, and will do so again at the end of this cruise.  We were impressed.

Dinner was ok, we have a new table (5 total at a 6-seater) and wait staff, first impressions of which are just ok.  It’s early days, but we were very very happy to have had both wait staff (the week one waiter, Zhonglei came by to say hello) and awesome mates Susan & David last week…so it’s hard for anyone to measure up.

Tomorrow, we are at sea.

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At Sea  (Day 16)
Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today was a rolling day underway.  The seas were a bit rough, surprising for a 138,000-ton ship.

We had a good view of the action from the Viking Crown Lounge area.  Coffee & a few tasty bits were accompanied by a whistling through the glass door aft of the lounge- it was an interesting time being up there.

We had a Guinness in the Wig & Gavel (Annie thought she was going to the Duck & Dog), as we bounced from one venue to another playing 3 rounds of trivia with the same couple from Scotland with whom we played on Thursday.  We won once (a lanyard).

Pre dinner drinks in Boleros, followed by a very nice dinner.  An easy day.

Tomorrow, we are in Bangkok.

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Bangkok  (Day 17)
Sunday, January 22, 2017

We arrived at Noon in the port of Laem Chabang, about 1.5 hours south of Bangkok.  A ship the size of Mariner cannot fit into the smaller port of Bangkok.

Rather than take a ship tour into the city tomorrow for a full day out (we are here overnight), we opted, thanks to the recommendation of friends, to book the independent tour operator ‘Tour with Tong’ over two days.  6 years ago, our friends were here on an Azamara cruise, and said how good his company was.  That was good enough for us.

We were met by our tour guide ‘Niwat’, who joined the company 5 years ago, at the pier, then driven to Bangkok, and straight into Wat Pho to see the reclining Buddha, as well as the rest of the complex.

Wow.  This place is amazing.  Taking only 17 years to complete, it is a marvel of statues and temples, many housing deceased kings and dignitaries.  Much of the tile work is a fantastically beautiful combination of ceramic and glass shards.

Afterwards, we checked into our hotel for the night, an all-too-brief stayover at a very beautiful property- The Peninsula Hotel.  We had cashed in Chase points for a deluxe suite, but when we arrived, and were told the only available room was on the 4th floor, and an upgrade to a Grand Suite on the 33rd floor was available for $40, we took it.  The view very nearly dispensed with any discussion of frivolity.

Upon the recommendation of Niwat before he dropped us off at the hotel, we took the hotel’s ferry, then a local ferry connection (at Strathorn Pier) to Asiatique, a trendy night market.  It was rather crowded, but the food was amazing.  I had no idea that so many people would be out late on a school night 😜.  One night in Bangkok, indeed.

Tomorrow, we are in Bangkok.

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Bangkok  (Day 18)
Monday, January 23, 2017

We were picked up by Niwat at 7.00, and headed for the Train Market about 75 mins west.  Along the way, we stopped at a Starbucks in an attempt to grab a collector’s mug, but they didn’t have the style Holly wanted.

The Train Market is a functionally surreal place, not to be missed if you, the reader are in Bangkok or, as with us, as much as 3 hrs away from your home base. The market, in operation for over 50 years, is located adjacent to a train station, and stretches about 200 yards west.  Just walking the area was a treat for sight and smell- the freshest fish and goods one could likely imagine.  The twist- much of it makes use of an active train track.

8-10 times a day, a train comes through here, slowly.  In an exceptionally well- rehearsed set of maneuvers, the vendors literally close their awnings, and move any goods away from the train, but just barely.  This is such a precise operation, that food and other items known to be lower than the train are left in place for the train to pass over.  You just have to be here to experience it.

Lastly, we went to the Floating Market, another place quite visually stunning.  Substitute canals and semi-permanent stalls, and, along with pictures, you, can see how interesting this place can be.  This area is definitely more spread out laterally than the Train Market, and has regular places of business to sit and eat.  We took a canal ride, did a little shopping, and sampled the local foods.

We returned to the ship about 14.00, and began to let sink in what a wonderful two days in Bangkok this has been.

Tomorrow, we are at sea.

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At Sea  (Day 19)
Tuesday, January 24, 2017

This was another easygoing day at sea.  We are okay with these.

We began the day with our predictable visit to Cafe Promenade for breakfast, where we got a chance to chat with the Cruise Director, Fang.  I don’t remember him, but last week, Holly mentioned that she did- teaching Origami on Legend of the Seas, on our 2003-2004 New Year’s Eve cruise from Ensenada-Hawaii.  I gave Fang two of the RCCL ‘Shipshape’ dollars (out of circulation for 10+ years) I brought in case I met old timer RCCL cruisers.  He was really shocked to see anyone still had them.

After coffee, we played another round of shuffleboard.  This time, Holly won 3-1.  I can guarantee the reader she will not win any shuffleboard on our next cruise.  Those Solstice Class-knowledgable will get this 🙂

We also played two rounds of trivia today (10.00 and 15.00), and came away with 0 wins. Oh well, it was fun, regardless.

A return to today’s opening thought- it was so easygoing, few things were documented in still picture form.  The active highlight really was the belly flop competition.  Due to a cold, I did not participate, but I was there to watch.

Eight competitors from India, Russia, U.S.A., Scotland, and S. Korea showed off their skill.  The winner was from Russia (U.S.A. finished 2nd).  If you saw the video I shot, you see and hear the guy earn 1st place.  Smack, nearly squared with the water.

We had dinner at Giovanni’s, an Italian specialty restaurant.  It is really good.  Our waiter was Zhonglei, whom the week prior the reader may remember, was our waiter in the main dining room.

Back in the cabin, we were sorting tomorrow’s events, including the funds we were taking.  Neither of us has ever seen so much Dong 😒.

Tomorrow, we are in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Please comment at the bottom of this blog (or on any individual picture) for all to enjoy.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam  (Day 20)
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

We arrived in the port of Phu My just before 8.00, and left on our tour about 8.30 for a 75 min drive to Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon).  With limited Western coverage outside the scope of war-related anecdotes or films, we were pleasantly surprised by most of what we experienced.

Ho Chi Minh, while in scooters and overhead wires makes New York City look comparatively boring, has in many places a visual beauty along with a developing modern infrastructure.  Key word=developing.

Several heavily concentrated areas such as Chinatown and underdeveloped areas of downtown are standouts as eyesores- dilapidated buildings and trash about the streets could use government intervention, in order for the tenants to have an improved quality of life.

A majority of the city, however, is a treat.  Maintained parklands along rivers, modern hotels, good food, and most importantly, a genuine warmth among the people.  There is a good deal of pride in this city, and with the talent we encountered, its easy to see why.  Lacquer work, restaurant and museum workers, tour operators- all can be proud of where their part of Vietnam is today.

Kids are not people.  Well, according to Vietnamese Law, minor children do not count towards the maximum of 2 persons on a motorcycle or scooter, therefore, while 2 adults is the max, katy-bar-the-door, there is no limit of accompanying little ones…usually the ones not even given helmets.

The sheer volume of motor scooters is mind boggling, and the manner in which they are maneuvered is like orchestrated chaos- how they keep from running into each other we cannot even hazard a guess.

Directly contributing to the vastly overwhelming scooter-car ratio is that the former is often a family’s only mode of transportation, so seeing a family of five along with their day’s shopping parcels or a vendor’s entire inventory strapped to any unmoving part of a motorcycle or scooter was not unusual.  Today’s seperate sightings included a guy carrying an estimated 20’ pole, a glass window frame, 10 large wicker baskets, 4 cases of Heineken, and a dog- seemingly quite happy- getting a great deal of wind in his face.  However, today’s most unique cargo sighting was an entire dead pig riding strapped behind the driver, on the way presumingly to become the main course of the upcoming New Year’s celebration.

We visited Reunification Hall (the South Vietnam Presidential Palace until a tank breached the gate in 1975, effectively signaling North Vietnamese victory), then a short stop near an old Post Office (didn’t go inside, as we dashed to find a nearby Starbucks), followed by a hosted lunch, then a history museum, and finally- a lacquer factory.

At Reunification Hall, it was an interesting experience standing in the same room where old Hank Kissinger tried to manage U.S.’ involvement 45 years ago.

The lacquer factory was a real treat- so much craft in the workmanship here, just amazing detail in many of the pieces.

This city deserves another visit one day, most likely on a Western Pacific Rim Celebrity or Azamara cruise.

Tomorrow, we are at sea.

Please comment at the bottom of this blog (or on any individual picture) for all to enjoy.

At Sea  (Day 21)
Thursday, January 26, 2017

Today was our last day of the cruise.  This morning, like any other sea day, began with a trip to Café Promenade and our very cheerful and awesome Barista over the last two weeks- Kexin, from China.  Anyone can pour speciality coffees- Kexin always had a smile and a great personality.

We played our last two rounds of trivia today.  Of the 10 contests waged in the last 14 days, we have won 3 times (with teams of 2-6), garnering a very cool ball cap, and equally awesome lanyard, and pen.  Most of the games have been with our new friends from Scotland, Helen & Billy.  The selfie taken during our last game today came out like crap, and to my regret, I didn’t proof it before we parted- it is the only picture we have of our foursome.

After lunch, we said goodbye to Aungzaw, then went down to the cabin to begin packing.  Taking a break from that, we played our only game of golf this cruise, where I won on the first playoff hole.  The course, not pictured, is woefully in need of repair.  Mariner staff have allowed the astroturf, through sun and use, to peel into several pieces on some of the holes.

Prior to dinner, we went to the Viking Crown Lounge to take in one last view prior to the cruise’s end.  We had a few drinks thanks to Made (the Bartender in Boleros during week 1), and ran into other friends we had made at Boleros during week 1- Kelly, Lyn and Linda (from Tampa and D.C.).  After dinner, we met them back in the lounge to chat, have a few more drinks, and visit with Made one last bit of time.  Second photographical regret this cruise (and date)- proof one’s group photo taken by a no-pain-feeling Aussie who volunteers to hold your camera.

The VCL, by 7.30 pm, was starting to get loud-and-proud with Aussies and non-Aussies celebrating Australia Day.  Oy! Oy! Oy!  Today was great fun.

Tomorrow, we are in Singapore, and headed home.

Please comment at the bottom of this blog (or on any individual picture) for all to enjoy.

(Ship specific unless noted)


  • Crew Service- Dining Rm (week 1);  Windjammer;  Café Promenade;  Boleros (week 1).
  • Kuala Lumpur tour guide
  • Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Phuket
  • Tour with Tong company


  • RCCL inconsistency of product (ship significantly altered for region).  Majority of staff regional in speech- English too often hard to understand, directly contributing to lack of good information flow.
  • Formal Night is a joke.  The company literature says no shorts are allowed in the dining room at dinner, but hasn’t enforced it.  Like the last RCCL cruise, there are about 30-35% of the crowd coming in to dine straight from Walmart.  Even Smart Casual now means that you just say something witty, vice what you wear.
  • Singapore Customs back-to-back processing.


The itineraries were both very good.  Cultural experiences, including playtime with a playful baby elephant, as well as wonderful people we met, will be thought of very fondly.

RCCL, however, have let standards slip, at least on this ship.  Unlike any other of the 20+ ships in her fleet, Mariner, in this region, needs a fair amount of improvement to meet the RCCL standard, or, what it used to be, specifically- in product consistancy.

~Bob & Holly

56 Replies to “Southeast Asia”

  1. Wow … finally spent some time here. I need not travel there now. Thanks

  2. And so another great vacation is entered into the history books. It’s been wonderful being able to follow along with you every day. I’m not really sure what you mean when you say that the ship is “altered for region” but it certainly photographed well. The ports you visited and the excursions you chose were so picturesque and memorable, I’m sure you are well into planning the next venture already. Thank you so much for the work you do on the blog. I am a major fan!

  3. Just got a chance to catch up with your blog after several days away from the computer. What a wonderful style of writing you have. The description of the train market was so vivid no pictures were required although certainly enjoyed. Thanks for taking the time everyday to share prose and pictures.

    MJ and Sterling

  4. Can’t thank you both enough for sharing this wonderful adventure! I have only experienced one cruise so far, and this has prompted my sister and I to plan our 2nd cruise next year! Again, this was beautifully done … felt as if I was right there with you!

    1. Thank you- the comment about differences is spot on. RCCL should probably be saved for that rare itin that fits timing and location (Carribbean).

      Azamara in near future for sure- really want to it.

  5. That market is just amazing. Even though Tim & Perry gave a hint of it- wow, still a huge wow to see it in person.

  6. Bangkok looks like a wonderful place to visit! Appears that you could have used even more time there. Such interesting things to see and do, and lovely digs as well.

  7. Now that we are off our cruise, I was able to take a look at this blog. Quite nice indeed. I will look at it more closely later in the week, since we are touring with Martini Mates for a couple days. I was sorry to see that you didn’t get to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Quite an amazing place; but Bangkok has many amazing places to see. Now you have a reason to return there.

    1. Welcome back from Eclipse! Also, to you and Jim, thanks for the tip about TWT. It was an awesome experience.

      Yes.. several reasons to return!

  8. Just curious about the time difference between Singapore and Washington D.C. Did you get to watch any of the inauguration, or was it in the middle of your night? I feel your pain re losing table mates you so enjoyed. Remember, that happened to us after the Baltic cruise with you kids? We wound up with a bunch of really nice people, but after losing what we all had it seemed so — meh. Enjoy your week. Can’t wait to see the adventures ahead.

    1. Madam….I refused to watch that farce. Very happy to be out of the country, though I could have seen it…nah, on vacation.

  9. Not sure if it was easier but it was just stuff that we knew and had nothing to do with polymer 🙃

    Yes we fly home in a week thank you for pointing that out 😞

    MSP fast trip!

    Could not stream Sherlock. But we’ve 3 eps next Sat to watch 🙂

  10. Thanks. You are up early, as normal. Sorry to hear about the Hawks 🙁

    For some unknown reason, WP not allowing me to reply to your comment of two days ago..

    So, thank you.. the compliment about the photo is especially nice coming form a pro photographer!

  11. Love travelling with y’all vicariously. I’m with most on those stairs. Good job!


  12. And again I say Wow for a lot of reasons. First, you DID climb all those stairs. Good on ya! Second, I am loving all of these photos of places I know I will never see. Such gorgeous depth of colour and texture and a really beautiful part of the world. Third, Mariner appears to be a really good-looking and nicely designed ship. Your dining room table is first-rate! I’m having so much fun on this cruise with you! 🙂

  13. Thanks for the update on the ship. We sailed her several times when she was based in Galveston. High rollers-guess that’s one of the reasons RCI likes to have ships in Asia.

    1. Oh, that’s for certain. We have come to accept that RCCL is no longer interested in a consistent product, in that they really have altered Mariner for this region. An alteration not seen (by us) on any other RCCL product in ANY other region.

  14. Glad to know Holly is feeling better. I’m enjoying following you on your journey as we have never been to Asia and we currently have no short-term plans to go.

  15. Loving your updates on your travels. Hope Holly is back to 100% for the cruise.

  16. Happy for the Galaxy mention- knew you’d like that one. I forgot you had seen her on the last day. That’s neat!

    Yes.. sail tomorrow.

  17. Hi Bob & Holly! Dave and I are really enjoying following along on your trip! We hope to be going to Singapore in October this year, so this is a great preview. I hope Holly is up and running with you soon – it really stinks to not feel well on vacation.
    Wonderful pics (as usual)! Have a wonderful time!

  18. Holly’s malaise worries me. Sickness nearly derailed our October/November holiday. I hope she’s better by morning and ready to kick ass again! Kowloon looks amazing, but it did look a wee bit chilly out on that boat.

  19. Rich and I were suppose to do Asia b2b cruises on Celebrity out of Singapore in February. Cancelled due to Rich’s knee surgery. Would love to follow your travels. Have a wonderful adventure. Sue (recipient of your zoo TP!)

    1. Thanks!

      Sorry you guys aren’t making your cruise next month; I’m sure you’ll make that up when Rich heals.

  20. Everything so far looks fabulous! First class all the way — I love it! And your view is amazing! I almost feel like I’m right there. Well, not right in your room with you but maybe next door. 🙂

  21. Raising a granddaughter I might never get to experience travel such as you and Holly have done. But being able to tag along on you blog, I will get to experience some of the fun you both are having.
    We want to do a cruise but have never done one (except for Mike a NAVY ship) maybe when you get home you can guide us to the things to look for.

  22. So many ‘wows’ here I hardly know where to start. First, 28 hours? You kids are either crazy or heroic, or both. Second, I’m glad you had business class because 12 hours is a long time on one airplane. Third, 16m in the air? I know that’s not metres, so am thinking it’s miles? But doesn’t that put you in outer space? 🙂 Wow! And fourth, the FOOD! It looks worthy of a cruise ship chef! Nice start to a fabulous vacation. Can’t wait to see more.

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