Are you planning to go on a Cruise to Asia? Rick and I did and wanted to review it here. Indeed, we started planning this trip about a year before our departure. Admittedly, we knew it was going to be a trip of a lifetime. Also, as none of us had been there before, we wanted to make sure we would see as much as possible. Naturally, being able to see many cities and countries on a single trip, all while remaining relaxed, is one of the reasons why I love Cruising!
Initial Planning Stage for Our Cruise to Asia
We started planning our Asian Cruise while on-board the Crown Princess (Enroute to Mexico). To begin, we visited the Future Cruise Agent and asked for some tips about Asian cruises. He presented us with a fantastic idea: A back-to-back itinerary, so two great Asian cruises in one. First, we would cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore.
Indeed, the first cruise would be a 14-day sailing from Hong Kong to Singapore. Then, the second Cruise in Asia would be a 5-day roundtrip from Singapore to Thailand and back. This cruise to Asia would be on-board the lovely Sapphire Princess. Combined, it turned out to be a 19-day cruise.
To be sure, booking this Asian Cruise was an easy decision. Indeed, the itinerary was exciting because we were able to see five countries and ten different ports. We booked it instantly.
Budget for Our Asian Cruise Adventure
Indeed, the price of the cruise to Asia was a bit steep. As a result, we opted for an inside cabin hoping for an upgrade. As our readers know, we are successful in getting upgrades, about 60% of the time. Also, we thought that since this Asian cruise would be port-intensive, we would not spend too much time in our cabin as well.
Then, as soon as we returned home from our Mexican cruise, we started the planning process for this cruise to Asia. For example, we knew we wanted to spend a couple of extra nights in Hong Kong before boarding. And ideally, we wanted to visit Macau as well.
Flight Planning – 6 Months Before Our Asian Cruise
About six months before departure, we found an incredible flight! Indeed, it was a Non-stop Vancouver to Hong Kong. Then on the way back, it would be Singapore to Vancouver, with an overnight in Tokyo. Admittedly, this was perfect for us as we had the opportunity to spend one extra night in Tokyo and visit another Asian destination after our cruise. Also, we were able to find a fantastic price for the flight, so we booked it. Indeed, we got premium economy seats on the outbound flight. Then, the return flight in business class from Singapore to Vancouver. How awesome is that?
Planning what to see and do in Hong Kong
As time went on, we became more and more excited! For example, I bought a few different travel guides for every destination and started reading them and making notes.
In Hong Kong, we booked the Ritz Carlton hotel because we knew it would be an experience. Also, the hotel occupies the top floors of the tallest building in the area, the International Commerce Centre. For the most fun, I let every hotel we were staying at that we were celebrating Rick’s birthday. For sure, he got a birthday week!
Our Flight to Hong Kong
Today was boarding day and made our way to the airport. Then, after security, we got comfortable in our seats for our adventure. Undoubtedly, the excitement was very high. Once on the plane, the Captain announced that our flying time was going to be 13 hours and 50 minutes! Wow, we missed that! Indeed, we’re in for a very long flight.
A few hours into the flight, I noticed on the map that we were about to fly over Mount Fuji. I grabbed my camera and looked outside the window and there it was in its splendor!
Arriving in Hong Kong
We landed in the early evening at the Hong Kong International Airport. One of the things we like about flights that land in the evening is that they help avoid jet lag. Then, we took the Airport Express that brought us quickly and efficiently to our hotel, located in the International Commerce Centre. To be sure, the Airport Express is one of the lines along the MTR that links the Airport with Hong Kong and Kowloon.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel – Kowloon
Once we arrived at our metro station, we proceed to take the long elevator ride up to our hotel. We checked in on the 102nd floor. Then, after checking in, we went to our room that was on the 110th floor. And wow, something big awaited us! Surprisingly, the concierge filled our room with magnificent photos of us, a beautiful birthday cake, and a bottle of champagne in ice! Welcome to the Ritz Carlton!!! On top of that, the view from our room on the 110th floor was absolutely stunning. Yes, the arrow below points (approximately) at our room’s location.
We weren’t tired, so we decided to go and check out the Temple St. Night Market. It was great. Then, we stopped for a quick bite to eat, and then we called it a night.
Our First Full Day in Hong Kong
Excitingly, we woke up bright and early, and couldn’t wait to get out and explore this fantastic city. Indeed, we walked a lot that morning – nearly 20,000 steps! There, we started in Kowloon, then crossed the water by the famous Star Ferry to Hong Kong island.
After lunch, we got a bit tired. As a result, we decided to go back to our hotel and checked out the pool on the 118th floor. Interestingly, Rick is ordinarily afraid of heights. Strangely, the view didn’t seem to bother him. On the other hand, I wasn’t as excited about the heights. Though, as long as I was away from the window, I was fine.
The Peak, Hong Kong
After resting for a while, we decided to visit The Peak at night. For sure, the view from there is spectacular. But also, The Peak is famously busy, really busy. There, we took some excellent photos, then made our way back to our hotel. Indeed, we were ready for our next stop on our Asian adventure tomorrow – but no, it wasn’t the cruise!
Tip: When visiting The Peak, I recommend taking a taxi up to the top. Then, if it’s not too late, you can either walk down or take a bus, taxi, or gondola.
Macau: The Other Las Vegas
The next morning, we left bright and early to catch the TurboJet Ferry to Macau. Then, on the ferry, we booked the premier service (It was only USD 60.00 more), and it was terrific. Interestingly, they seemed to treat us like royalty. Very strange, we thought! First, they ushered us to our private room on the ferry. Second, they served us an American breakfast. Then, in Macau, the ferry service guided us to a car, waiting to take us to our hotel. Admittedly, we felt like rockstars!
We booked the Venetian Hotel in Macau. Surprisingly, it was very similar to the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. Lots of Macau reminded us of Las Vegas! Anyway, then, in the room, we found another birthday cake for Rick’s birthday waiting for us. He was no doubt a happy camper!
After checking in, we grabbed a taxi and went to the old Portuguese city. There, we started exploring. For example, we walked the old cobblestones street from Senate Square to the ancient fortress. Honestly, I was amazed at how much this city has maintained its old colonial charm.
Macau: Plan B, Sometimes Things Don’t Go Your Way
After lunch, unfortunately, it started raining quite heavily. So, we decided to go back to our hotel. Sadly, the rain continued all day, and we were not able to go back out and explore anymore. Instead, we stayed inside the enormous shopping mall, located in our hotel. Undeniably, this shopping mall was impressive. For example, it featured all things Venetian. Naturally, there was a canal, gondolas, the Rialto bridge, etc. Of course, all the highest-end brands were found in this shopping labyrinth. Rick and I were pleasantly surprised by how kind and respectful the locals were.
In the evening, we went for a nice dinner at the Golden Peacock, located in our hotel. Admittedly, it was a One Star Michelin-Star Indian Restaurant. To be sure, It was quite an enjoyable experience. Then, after dinner, we went to bed, ready for the next leg of our adventure.
Embarkation Day: Our 19 Day Cruise To Asia Aboard the Sapphire Princess
In the morning, we took the TurboJet ferry back to Hong Kong for embarkation. Unfortunately, the rain did not stop at all.
Then, we arrived at the port of Hong Kong around 3 PM. Yes, we were there for the embarkation of our cruise to Asia. Surprisingly, it took us no time to board as everyone was already on the ship.
Once on-board, we heard that earlier that day, there was big chaos for embarkation. Surprisingly, the port authority started the boarding process before the ship arrived! Then, people had to wait for hours to be able to get on the cruise ship. Indeed, we were fortunate as we arrived in the afternoon. To be sure, we didn’t notice a thing.
What About That Asian Cruise Upgrade?
Remember our hopes for an upgrade? Unfortunately, we did not get the upgrade on this Asian adventure because the cruise ship was full. But, that was okay as we expected to spend the majority of our time outside our room.
The ship stayed in Hong Kong overnight. Indeed, the Sapphire Princess was our 5-star luxury hotel. Amazingly, around 9 PM and from the top deck, we were able to see the Light Show over the Hong Kong skyline.
The morning after, the rain stopped, and we were able to go out and explore Hong Kong some more. We did some last-minute shopping before getting back to the Sapphire Princess and started our Asian Cruise Adventure.
Tip: If you are planning a cruise to Asia, bring sunscreen with you. It is incredibly difficult to find anything below SPF 100 in Asia. We had to buy ours at the ship gift shop ?
Day 3: A Fun Day In the Sun At Sea
Our second day of the cruise in Asia was a sea day. The weather was both pleasant and hot. Indeed, we spent most of it art the pool. I’m happy I brought my Boca Clips and our floaties for the most fun in the sun! Yes, these were just a few of the things I take on a cruise.
Day 4: Cai Lan, Vietnam (For Ha Long Bay)
We arrived in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, early in the morning. The weather was a bit foggy and misty on the 3rd day of our Cruise to Asia.
We booked a scenic cruise on a Junk Boat and visited the Dong Thien Cung caves. To be sure, we booked the excursion onboard with Princess. Surely, Ha Long Bay was one of my bucket list items for a long time, and I was very excited to be finally there.
The Junk Boat was waiting for us at the tender platform on the ship. Then, after boarding, we started sailing among the beautiful rock formations of the bay. Honestly, the view was quite magical. For example, the ocean was incredibly calm and smooth. And, the bay was silent and misty. Also, we passed by many traditional Vietnamese fishing boats. Undeniably, seeing these indigenous fishermen was surreal.
Thien Cung Cave, Vietnam
After about 20 minutes of sailing, we docked by a small island to visit the caves. And of course, this stop treated us to another breathtaking view. There, the caves featured incredible rock formations. Surely, they were lit perfectly with colored lights. Admittedly, we felt like we were in a National Geographic documentary. Here, we had plenty of time to explore the caves and take hundreds of photos.
After getting back on our junk boat, we sailed the bay for a bit longer before going back to the Sapphire Princess, our cruise ship.
In the evening, just before we sailed away from the bay, the fog lifted. Here, we got to see a beautiful glimpse of the rock formations with the sunny sky.
Day 5: Chan May (For Hoi An)
We reached the little port of Chan May in the early afternoon. To be sure, we would be there overnight. Also, on the ship, we booked an excursion to Hoi An that was recommended to us by some friends.
Once in port, we boarded an old bus, and after about an hour, we stopped in the city of Da Nang for a quick visit. Sadly, we did not care for Da Nang. For example, Da Nang is a modern city, and busy with a lot of traffic.
Our next stop was at the Marble Mountains. These hills contain white marble. And, in the area, you can see hundreds of stores that sell white marble statues. Annoyingly, store owners were a bit pushy. But, we did buy some small trinkets from a friendly vendor. Notably, we ended up buying a little white marble laughing Buddha, for luck.
Hoi An – An Ancient City, Just As It was
Forty minutes later, we finally reached our final destination Hoi An. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see. For centuries, the city was an important port for the spice trade. Then, in the 16th century, it was practically abandoned because the port was no more usable.
The city is also known as “The city of lamps” because at night people leave paper lamps in the river to have their wishes come true. For this reason, the city is at its best after sunset. Many people were filling the little streets and the river banks. We wanted to leave a paper lamp on the river as well, so we rented a small boat for about $10.00.
A Traditional Vietnamese Wedding
We were lucky enough to be able to witness a traditional Vietnamese wedding as well by the river bank. The costumes were beautiful. Indeed, it was quite a beautiful sight. And it made our visit even more magical.
By the riverbank, many food vendors were making typical, local, Vietnamese specialties. The smell was terrific, and our mouths were watering. Unfortunately, there wasn’t more time to try some of the delicacies. As a result, we had to go back to our bus and start our journey again to the ship.
Day 6: Chan May Beach resort
The morning after, we were still in the little port of Chan May. Here, we decided to catch the shuttle bus to the beach resort.
The resort charged us a few dollars or a few million Vietnamese Dong to use the pool and the beach. To be sure, everyone is a millionaire in Vietnam! Indeed, we had a relaxing morning in the sun. Also, Rick indulged with a 4-handed poolside massage!
Local Food Is The Best Food!
At lunchtime, we decided to try some local food. We noticed that across the street from the resort, there was a little family restaurant that looked perfect. They did not speak any English, but they were very friendly, and they tried to help us the best they can. The food was delicious and traditional. We were delighted we stopped there and experienced some real Vietnamese dishes.
Day 8: Ho Chi Minh City
After leaving Chan May, we had a calm and relaxing sea day before reaching the port of Phu My, the gateway for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The port is about an hour from the city center. For that reason, we decided to book the Princess Shuttle. As a general rule, we always prefer to use the cruise line excursion if the destination is very far from the port. By doing so, we get peace of mind knowing that if our bus is late (for whatever reason), the ship will wait for us.
The bus dropped us off right in the city center. We decided to walk around and to sightsee ideally off the beaten path. Immediately we faced a problem how to cross the street in the crazy traffic or motorbikes zipping around like maniacs?
Challenge Accepted: Crossing the Street
We spotted an old Vietnamese grandmother with a grocery bag crossing the street, and we decided to follow her and pray! It worked. We soon realized that the only way to pass in Saigon is to start walking while motorbikes are just going around you. Scary, but that is the way to do it.
Once we mastered the crossing, we wandered around the city, and we sincerely enjoyed it. People in Vietnam are incredibly friendly. Everyone is smiling and helpful, even though not many people speak English.
The Best Pho in Ho Chi Minh City is: Pho 2000
We enjoyed getting lost in the city and exploring. We felt incredibly safe and welcomed. At lunchtime, we wanted to try some Pho, and we went to one of the most famous restaurants in the city: Pho 2000. The restaurant became famous because of President Bill Clinton ate there.
After lunch, we wanted to check out the Ben Thanh Market. Here, we found this place full of stores that sell counterfeit EVERYTHING! It was rather comical. Also, it was enjoyable walking around the many stalls selling all kinds of merchandise. At the market, we discovered another Vietnamese specialty: Vietnamese Iced Coffee with condensed milk! Indeed, Vietnamese Iced coffee is lifechanging and really addictive.
It was time for us to make our way back to the bus stop and go back to our ship. Bye-bye Ho Chi Minh City, we enjoyed our visit. Indeed, this was also our last stop in Vietnam, next stop Thailand.
Day 9: Not So Fun Day At Sea – An Asian Tropical Storm!
Our next day was a sea day, a not-so-fun sea day. To be sure, we woke up in the morning. Then, we found the weather cloudy and windy. Though it was no big deal, it was still incredibly hot. Then, at lunchtime, the Captain made an announcement: “Dear passengers we have a tropical storm surrounding us, and we have no way to go other than sailing through it. I’m sorry, prepare for a bumpy ride!” Yes, this was an strange thing to hear on our cruise to Asia.
We did not know what to expect other than wait and see. Later in the afternoon, we were in the storm. The wind was mighty. The ocean was rough (but retrospectively nothing compared to the Drake Passage I was going to experience two years later). What was insane was the rain. We have never seen so much rain. It was a curtain of water surrounding us. Amazingly, the rain came down so hard that it was bouncing off the walkways! Fortunately, the storm did not last very long, and just before dinner, the worst was over.
Day 10 & 11: Laem Chaban (For Bangkok)
Early in the morning, we docked at the port of Laem Chaban, the local port for Bangkok. Here, we were to spend the night. And, because we were spending the night, we decided to book the “Best of Bangkok and spend the night at the hotel in town.” Yes, we were happy we did that because the port is about 2 hours outside the city center. On the bus, our guide told us the story of the Thai Royal Family in in-depth detail. Then, by the time we arrived in the city, we knew a lot of all the 10 King Rama’s.
Then, we checked in to our hotel. Indeed, this wasn’t the same as our Sapphire Princess, but a welcome change on our cruise to Asia. After, we took the boat to the Royal Palace to start our tour. Then, after the Royal Palace, we had a fantastic Thai lunch. And of course, there was the typical stop at a jewelry factory before reaching the Golden Buddha. Regrettably, we did not enjoy the excursion very much. For example, we found it was prolonged, and the stop at the factory was a total waste of time. Fortunately, we had the second day to explore on our own.
Checking in With The Locals in Bangkok
Our guide told us to check out the Patpong Night Market that night. So we did. There, the area is a bit trashy, and we did not care for it. On top of that, we found that tuk-tuk’s and taxi drivers wanted to take advantage of tourists. Unfortunately, they tried charging us twice as much on the way back. Then we paid on the way there.
The morning after, we went to explore some other famous landmarks in the city. First, we started at the Wat Pho that we found surprising.
After that, we went to the Golden Mountain and saw the monks. We then had some delicious street food before making our way back to the ship.
We discovered that we prefer the excursions where we go and explore on our own rather than the group ones.
Day 12: Ko Samui
Our next stop was the island of Ko Samui. Being famous as a beach destination, we decided to spend the day at a beach resort. We had a beautiful morning by the pool, followed by the best Thai meal we have ever had.
In the afternoon, we walked around the little town and checked the stores by the resort.
Late that afternoon, we boarded the tender back to our ship.
Day 14: Singapore- Last Stop on our First Leg of the Cruise to Asia
After leaving Ko Samui, we had another sea day before reaching Singapore. Our ship was having an overnight stay in Singapore, allowing us to explore the city even at night.
We took the subway to get from the port to our first destination Chinatown. Singapore subway is incredible. The cleanest and most organized we have ever seen. It runs perfectly, and it reaches almost every place in Singapore.
After walking in Chinatown, we walked to the Sri Mariamman Temple. This beautiful Hindu temple is fascinating and excellent for photo taking.
Hawker House – The Local Food of Singapore
At lunch, we wanted to experience the famous hawker food. We were very close to the Telok Ayer market hawker house, and we stopped there. The food was fantastic, really flavourful.
In the afternoon, we explored the colonial area of town around the Singapore River. Our last stop before going back to the ship was little India with its colorful streets.
In the evening, after we rested a bit, we went back to Marina Bay to see the famous Spectra light show. This laser and music show is quite remarkable and worth a shot.
By then, we were exhausted from walking, and we went back to the ship.
The morning after, we were still in Singapore. For most passengers, it was disembarkation day, but we had five more days on-board, and we were delighted. We decided not to go out. Instead, we stayed on the ship and rested from all the walking the day before.
Day 16: Kuala Lumpur
We arrived at the port of Kuala Lumpur early in the morning, and we boarded the bus for downtown right away. In my research, I read that a must-see in town was the famous Batu Caves. As a result, we grabbed a taxi there. We were shocked by how efficient the taxi system was in Malaysia. At the Taxi stand, a person asked us our destination he calculated the route and told us how much was going to cost. Then we paid him, and he gave us an invoice with the name and phone number of our driver that was taking there and back. Wow, amazing!
Batu Caves, And Oh, The Stairs!
When we arrived at the cave, we were quite surprised by the beauty of the place. Also, right in front of the mountain, the is the giant statue of the God Murugan.
At the bottom of the stairs, they told us that they were restoring some temples in the caves. As a result, they were asking people to bring up either bring a bucket of sand or some bricks. What a great idea.
The area of the caves is full of monkeys. From far, they looked quite cute. But up close, they were quite mean, and they did not mind showing us their teeth. In the end, we didn’t get too close.
Inside the cave are spectacular. With fantastic rock formation and Hindu temples everywhere. A true photographer paradise.
Next Stop: Chinatown
After visiting the caves, our driver took us to Chinatown, where we started exploring the city. We walked through the market, and slowly we made our way to Little India, where we had a phenomenal Indian lunch.
Overall we were incredibly surprised by how charming, and beautiful Kuala Lumpur was. People were incredibly friendly and thankful. The city felt safe and a pleasure to walk. We sincerely enjoyed it, and I’d love to go back.
Day 17: Georgetown, Penang
I have to say Georgetown was probably one of the highlights of the trip.
We took a taxi at the port (the taxi system was the same as it was in Kuala Lumpur), and we stopped first to visit two temples, a Buddhist one and across the street a Burmese one.
After that, we went to see the famous Kek Lok Si Temple. This Temple is massive, and the view from there is impressive. We spent almost an hour exploring it and taking a lot of photos. It is remarkable, and we genuinely enjoyed it.
After the temple, our taxi took us back to town, where we explored. We stared at the Chew Jetty, where we looked at all the interesting stores and houses on stilts.
We also visited several little Temples, Mosques, and street art in Georgetown.
Kopi Luak: The Worlds Most Expensive Coffee
We spotted a coffee shop that was serving Kopi Luak, also known as Civet coffee. Admittedly, this is something that we have never tried before. Indeed, it made for an exciting stop on our cruise to Asia. You see, Civet Coffee is known as the world’s most expensive coffee. Notably, Kopi Luak is made from coffee cherries that are partially digested by a Civet Cat. No surprise, Rick convinced me to try a cup and to see if it is as amazing as they say it is. Admittedly, for USD 50.00, I didn’t find it better than any other coffee I tried. Maybe, my palate is just not sophisticated enough.
Little India for Local Food
After that, we walked to Little India, where we had another fantastic Indian lunch sitting outside. To be sure, we love the food on our Asian Cruise. Naturally, this restaurant was local. Indeed, it was really basic, and the kitchen was outside right on the street. However, the food was some of the best we ever had. For example, we had some traditional Biriani rice cooked in the clay pot with flavors I’ve never experienced before.
After lunch, we walked in the old colonial town back to our ship.
Day 18: Phuket – The Missed-Port on Our Cruise to Asia
The night before arriving in Phuket, we received a letter that, due to the weather, our excursion to Phi Phi island got canceled. Indeed, this would be a missed port on our cruise to Asia. Then, when we arrived, we found the weather was miserable. Yes, it was raining and very, very wet. So, we stayed on board for a little while to see if the rain would dissipate. After lunch, we decided to take the tender and go ashore. Unfortunately, that was a big disappointment. Then, at the tender port, hundreds of taxi drivers were trying to get us into the town of Phuket. Unfortunately, they were charging an insane amount of money. Sadly, we felt they were trying to take advantage of us. So, we turned around and went back to the ship.
Singapore – The Last Stop on our Asian Cruise
Sadly, our second visit to Singapore marked the end of our cruise to Asia. As a result, we had to disembark. Indeed, it was a bit sad, but we had a great time cruising around Asian countries. Admittedly, we had lots of memories and millions of photos to sort!
As we were disembarking, to our surprise, we found a company at the port, which allowed us to leave our bags with them. Then, they would deliver our bags to us at the airport. Wow, that was an excellent service!
We grabbed the subway and start exploring downtown Singapore again. Then, at noon the temperature was close to 40 C, making walking a bit of a challenge. We then decided to go for lunch and to try another Hawker House. There, the selection was even more significant than the one we had before.
We went to the Old Airport Road Food Center. Yes, it was amazing! There, there was an incredible selection of all sorts of food, and plentiful portions.
Later that afternoon, we made our way to the airport, collected our bag, and boarded our plane to Tokyo.
Tokyo – A Stop Over On the Way Home
We flew from Singapore and landed at Tokyo Narita Airport very early in the morning. Then, we took our bags to the baggage depo and bought the tickets for the Narita Express bus. Undeniably, we were surprised to learn that the Narita Express bus included a 24-hour subway pass. That was handy!
The bus ride was almost 2 hours long. The airport is far from the city! We got dropped off just one short block away from our hotel.
After checking in, we started exploring Tokyo. To begin, we started at the Meiji Jingu Shrine. There, we had our first contact with Japanese culture. Then, we saw a traditional wedding, and it was beautiful. The dress and the ceremony were amazing. I could not stop taking photos.
The Chaotic Shibuya Crossing
From the shrine, we walked to the famous Shibuya Crossing. This area was bustling and different from the Zen quiet park we just visited. We took a few photos and videos of the crossing, and I have to admit it was fun!
For lunch, we opted for Tonkatsu in a nearby restaurant. That was quite delicious. At the restaurant, we came in contact with another Japanese cultural difference: very few people speak English. Everybody is very polite but not helpful to tourists.
After walking around the Shibuya area for a little longer, we caught the subway back to our hotel to rest for a bit.
The Famous Tokyo Cat Cafe
That night we explored the Shinjuku area around our hotel. The first thing we noticed was the “Cat Cafe,” and we immediately run inside to play with the adorable kitties!
We grabbed some dinner in the area and then walked around a little longer before going back to our hotel and rest.
Final Day in Tokyo
In the morning, we had a few hours before getting back to the Airport. We decided to catch the subway to the Senso-Ji Temple. That was my absolute favorite area of the city. The market on the street leading to the Temple was beautiful. They were selling any traditional items or food. I did not even know there were so many different kinds of chopsticks. At the Temple, we saw many people dressed in traditional Kimonos. I was surprised by how well the Japanese kept their traditions.