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Embarkation/disembarkation: generally quite smooth. Embarkation took a bit longer than other cruises I had been on, but it may be due to the departure procedure in Singapore. Dining: Lido buffet and Main Dining Room In general, the food was over-salted, so much so that I had to ask for half a cup of soup and added a half cup of hot water to make it edible. You can do that to liquids, but there is very little you can do to other dishes. Why can’t they be a little easy on the salt, and let those guests who prefer otherwise add their own salt at the table? The way they served soup (in dining room as well as buffet) seemed a little odd to me. They put a few cold ingredients, for example, pastas, vegetables, in the bowl and ladled hot soup over them, instantly lowering the soup’s temperature. I have honestly never seen anyone do this and find it quite strange. I wish they would do as most do at home: just cook the ingredients in the soup to the correct serving temperature. Most meats were quite dry and seafood tended to be overcooked. The only things they did well, in my opinion, were poultry. The Asian food department is not up to standard at all. I thought that the cruise, starting/ending in Singapore, would stock some shredded pork floss, the one ingredient essential to congee, and for which Singapore is famous. The ship: It is small, with 1850 guests at full capacity. In this voyage, when the ship was in the South China Sea, approaching and leaving Hong Kong, it rocked very badly. Many got seasick. I am not complaining about getting seasick. HAL had anti-seasickness pills, but, strangely, they never told us. I ran into officers a few times and we talked about the ship rocking, but none had informed me they had remedies at Guest Services. I found out from fellow cruisers when it was too late. How hard was it to just announce it and make the voyage a little better for most people? The ports: Koh Samui The port does not seem ready for cruise ships. After a ride on the tender boats for 25 minutes, you arrive at a pier and are bombarded by tour venders and taxi drivers. The port is quite ugly and dirty. Laem Chabang The ship tries to tell you that this is the port for Bangkok, but in fact it’s a 2 ½ hr drive to Bangkok. Public transportation is complicated and takes even longer. So if you don’t want to stay on the ship, you have no choice but to book an excursion, organize your own tour, or use a taxi. The ship’s excursion is expectedly over-priced. We joined a one-day tour organized through Cruise Critic roll call. This has to be done ahead of time. The tour was OK except it was a very long day with the 5 hr travelling time. The port is a cargo port and there’s no port facilities. The nearest shopping mall is almost two miles away. Travelling by bus or taxi to Pattaya is another option. Leisurely wandering around the port area is not. Sihanoukville, Cambodia This port is a joke. There is zero port facilities, except a shuttle bus that takes you to downtown Sihanoukville. We were dropped off in a dirty, ugly and chaotic open air market. Walking on what looks like a sidewalk is downright dangerous because it’s uneven and muddy; motor bikes and scooters can travel anywhere they like, including sidewalks. Before you even get off the bus, tour venders bombard you with local tours. But with the chaotic traffic, how would I know that they could bring us back before the ship departs? Many of our fellow cruisers didn’t even get off the shuttle bus. Some were a little braver and took a walk for several blocks before getting the next available bus back to the ship. This port is totally unprepared for cruise passengers, and they don’t even seem to care. As I said, it’s a joke, and it’s an expensive joke at that, since most passengers have to pay for a visa, even if they decide to stay on the ship the whole time. Phu My It’s a cargo port and there’s nothing to see around the port area. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is over an hour away. Again, the ship offers excursions to Saigon, but it’s better if you organize your own. Plan ahead and use roll call on Cruise Critic to gather a group and book a tour together. That’s what we did, and we ended up with something very similar to what the ship offered and paid less than half of what the ship charged. Saigon is quite an interesting city with lots to see, but because it’s so far away, public transportation may not be the most efficient use of the limited time in port. Da Nang The ship offered a shuttle bus to downtown Da Nang, but in my opinion, there are more interesting places farther away. We booked a tour to Bana Hill and Hoi An, through a local tour company, Andy. There are other choices such as Hue and Marble Mountain, but one must pick and choose since there’s just one day in port. Hoi An can be done easily by taxi, if that’s the only place you want to visit. We went there later in the afternoon and stayed till sunset to enjoy the lighting of the lanterns in the Old Town. Our ship did not leave until 11:00 pm that night. Halong Bay Beautiful destination. Again, we joined an organized boat tour through Cruise Critic to see Halong Bay up close, including one of the caves with a huge chamber and interesting rock formations. Hong Kong Here some of our fellow cruisers disembarked. For us, it’s a long day in port since we would be back on board for the next leg of our SE Asia cruise. Among all the ports we visited on this cruise, I would say Hong Kong is the most prepared for cruise ships: modern, clean, and efficient. There is a large park on the roof of the cruise terminal building, with a nice view of the Hong Kong skyline. Lots of transportation options to choose from. I don’t know about other cruise lines, but one thing HAL told us about this port needs to be clarified here. In their onboard talks about Hong Kong, one thing they tried very hard to do is to persuade people to buy the ship’s transfers. They showed us a picture of a couple hundred people at the taxi stand with no taxi in sight. They claimed that taxi drivers don’t like to go into the cruise terminal and so the only other option is their shuttles to the airport or to the airport express station in town. Well, they may be right about fewer taxi drivers wanting to come into the terminal, but they also conveniently omitted an option that all local people know about, which is also on the website of the Kai Tak cruise terminal – a free shuttle that takes you to two of the closest MTR (subway) stations. Even after I asked, they tried to tell me that the free shuttles do not allow you to take your luggage. That was a blatant lie. The driver does not help you load your bags onto the bus, but you can definitely take them with you. Lots of people have done that. I have done that. I understand that this may not be for everybody, but it is a viable option that should not be omitted in any port talk. It does require a bit of planning and research, and you must have some local currency with you, and you must be able to handle your luggage by yourselves, but it’s totally doable and can save you significant amount of money, depending on where you want to go and how many are in your party. Once you get to an MTR station, you have the options of using public transportation or taxi. Hong Kong has many, many interesting places reachable using the MTR, which is fast, clean and efficient. Naha, Japan We went to two gardens and a walking street. Fukushu-en, walkable from the cruise port, is larger and more beautiful than the Y200 entrance fee suggests. So it’s a delightful surprise. Shikina-en is another ½ hour walk from the last station on the YUI rail. The entrance is double that of Fukushu-en, but on the whole, we enjoy it less. It may be the time of year, but there’s not much to see. Both gardens offer a nice and serene space to take a leisurely walk. Lastly, we went to Kokusai-dori, the famous shopping street. There are some interesting things there, but we are not shopping people, and it didn’t really appeal to us too much. The time in port was short, and we did not have time for anything else. On the whole, we enjoyed our stay. The town was clean and orderly, and people were friendly. Not many spoke English, but between gesturing, a map, and a few Japanese phrases here and there, we managed. Ishigaki, Japan There is a free shuttle from the port to the pier (to other islands), which is close to downtown. We just took a walk to a temple, and a few tourist sites. We enjoyed a leisurely day. Keelung, Taiwan There is not much to see in the port area, but it is very close to the train station. Train to Taipei takes about 50 minutes and NT$42. We took the train to Taipei and got a day pass for the metro, which we used to go to a few famous sites. The port stop in Keelung is too short, not enough for even just Taipei. There are other interesting towns we would love to visit, but did not have enough time. Kaohsiung, Taiwan Kaohsiung has a pretty extensive subway system that will get you to most touristy places. You can also use the ferry to get to Cijun Island for street food and open air market. Manila, Philippines As soon as we got off the ship, we were bombarded by tour venders who tried to tell you how far Intramuros is. It is not far at all, easily walkable, but the traffic in that area is kind of chaotic. So one needs to be careful when crossing the street. Our ship had a free shuttle that takes us to Robinson Place Mall, in the modern downtown area of Manila. After visiting the mall, we walked back to the ship through Rizal Park, a large urban park with a Chinese garden and a Japanese garden inside. It is quite a nice space in very busy and noisy Manila. Although there are numerous banks around, you can’t exchange foreign currency unless you have an account with them. This is not very helpful to tourists. So exchange your money ahead of time, or look for a money changer.

Disappointing SE Asian Cruise in Many Ways

Westerdam Cruise Review by monalisa115

11 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: November 2018
  • Destination: Asia
  • Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Embarkation/disembarkation: generally quite smooth. Embarkation took a bit longer than other cruises I had been on, but it may be due to the departure procedure in Singapore.

Dining: Lido buffet and Main Dining Room

In general, the food was over-salted, so much so that I had to ask for half a cup of soup and added a half cup of hot water to make it edible. You can do that to liquids, but there is very little you can do to other dishes. Why can’t they be a little easy on the salt, and let those guests who prefer otherwise add their own salt at the table?

The way they served soup (in dining room as well as buffet) seemed a little odd to me. They put a few cold ingredients, for example, pastas, vegetables, in the bowl and ladled hot soup over them, instantly lowering the soup’s temperature. I have honestly never seen anyone do this and find it quite strange. I wish they would do as most do at home: just cook the ingredients in the soup to the correct serving temperature.

Most meats were quite dry and seafood tended to be overcooked. The only things they did well, in my opinion, were poultry. The Asian food department is not up to standard at all. I thought that the cruise, starting/ending in Singapore, would stock some shredded pork floss, the one ingredient essential to congee, and for which Singapore is famous.

The ship: It is small, with 1850 guests at full capacity. In this voyage, when the ship was in the South China Sea, approaching and leaving Hong Kong, it rocked very badly. Many got seasick. I am not complaining about getting seasick. HAL had anti-seasickness pills, but, strangely, they never told us. I ran into officers a few times and we talked about the ship rocking, but none had informed me they had remedies at Guest Services. I found out from fellow cruisers when it was too late. How hard was it to just announce it and make the voyage a little better for most people?

The ports:

Koh Samui

The port does not seem ready for cruise ships. After a ride on the tender boats for 25 minutes, you arrive at a pier and are bombarded by tour venders and taxi drivers. The port is quite ugly and dirty.

Laem Chabang

The ship tries to tell you that this is the port for Bangkok, but in fact it’s a 2 ½ hr drive to Bangkok. Public transportation is complicated and takes even longer. So if you don’t want to stay on the ship, you have no choice but to book an excursion, organize your own tour, or use a taxi. The ship’s excursion is expectedly over-priced. We joined a one-day tour organized through Cruise Critic roll call. This has to be done ahead of time. The tour was OK except it was a very long day with the 5 hr travelling time.

The port is a cargo port and there’s no port facilities. The nearest shopping mall is almost two miles away. Travelling by bus or taxi to Pattaya is another option. Leisurely wandering around the port area is not.

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

This port is a joke. There is zero port facilities, except a shuttle bus that takes you to downtown Sihanoukville. We were dropped off in a dirty, ugly and chaotic open air market. Walking on what looks like a sidewalk is downright dangerous because it’s uneven and muddy; motor bikes and scooters can travel anywhere they like, including sidewalks. Before you even get off the bus, tour venders bombard you with local tours. But with the chaotic traffic, how would I know that they could bring us back before the ship departs? Many of our fellow cruisers didn’t even get off the shuttle bus. Some were a little braver and took a walk for several blocks before getting the next available bus back to the ship. This port is totally unprepared for cruise passengers, and they don’t even seem to care. As I said, it’s a joke, and it’s an expensive joke at that, since most passengers have to pay for a visa, even if they decide to stay on the ship the whole time.

Phu My

It’s a cargo port and there’s nothing to see around the port area. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is over an hour away. Again, the ship offers excursions to Saigon, but it’s better if you organize your own. Plan ahead and use roll call on Cruise Critic to gather a group and book a tour together. That’s what we did, and we ended up with something very similar to what the ship offered and paid less than half of what the ship charged.

Saigon is quite an interesting city with lots to see, but because it’s so far away, public transportation may not be the most efficient use of the limited time in port.

Da Nang

The ship offered a shuttle bus to downtown Da Nang, but in my opinion, there are more interesting places farther away. We booked a tour to Bana Hill and Hoi An, through a local tour company, Andy. There are other choices such as Hue and Marble Mountain, but one must pick and choose since there’s just one day in port. Hoi An can be done easily by taxi, if that’s the only place you want to visit. We went there later in the afternoon and stayed till sunset to enjoy the lighting of the lanterns in the Old Town. Our ship did not leave until 11:00 pm that night.

Halong Bay

Beautiful destination. Again, we joined an organized boat tour through Cruise Critic to see Halong Bay up close, including one of the caves with a huge chamber and interesting rock formations.

Hong Kong

Here some of our fellow cruisers disembarked. For us, it’s a long day in port since we would be back on board for the next leg of our SE Asia cruise.

Among all the ports we visited on this cruise, I would say Hong Kong is the most prepared for cruise ships: modern, clean, and efficient. There is a large park on the roof of the cruise terminal building, with a nice view of the Hong Kong skyline. Lots of transportation options to choose from.

I don’t know about other cruise lines, but one thing HAL told us about this port needs to be clarified here. In their onboard talks about Hong Kong, one thing they tried very hard to do is to persuade people to buy the ship’s transfers. They showed us a picture of a couple hundred people at the taxi stand with no taxi in sight. They claimed that taxi drivers don’t like to go into the cruise terminal and so the only other option is their shuttles to the airport or to the airport express station in town. Well, they may be right about fewer taxi drivers wanting to come into the terminal, but they also conveniently omitted an option that all local people know about, which is also on the website of the Kai Tak cruise terminal – a free shuttle that takes you to two of the closest MTR (subway) stations. Even after I asked, they tried to tell me that the free shuttles do not allow you to take your luggage. That was a blatant lie. The driver does not help you load your bags onto the bus, but you can definitely take them with you. Lots of people have done that. I have done that.

I understand that this may not be for everybody, but it is a viable option that should not be omitted in any port talk. It does require a bit of planning and research, and you must have some local currency with you, and you must be able to handle your luggage by yourselves, but it’s totally doable and can save you significant amount of money, depending on where you want to go and how many are in your party. Once you get to an MTR station, you have the options of using public transportation or taxi.

Hong Kong has many, many interesting places reachable using the MTR, which is fast, clean and efficient.

Naha, Japan

We went to two gardens and a walking street. Fukushu-en, walkable from the cruise port, is larger and more beautiful than the Y200 entrance fee suggests. So it’s a delightful surprise. Shikina-en is another ½ hour walk from the last station on the YUI rail. The entrance is double that of Fukushu-en, but on the whole, we enjoy it less. It may be the time of year, but there’s not much to see. Both gardens offer a nice and serene space to take a leisurely walk. Lastly, we went to Kokusai-dori, the famous shopping street. There are some interesting things there, but we are not shopping people, and it didn’t really appeal to us too much. The time in port was short, and we did not have time for anything else. On the whole, we enjoyed our stay. The town was clean and orderly, and people were friendly. Not many spoke English, but between gesturing, a map, and a few Japanese phrases here and there, we managed.

Ishigaki, Japan

There is a free shuttle from the port to the pier (to other islands), which is close to downtown. We just took a walk to a temple, and a few tourist sites. We enjoyed a leisurely day.

Keelung, Taiwan

There is not much to see in the port area, but it is very close to the train station. Train to Taipei takes about 50 minutes and NT$42. We took the train to Taipei and got a day pass for the metro, which we used to go to a few famous sites.

The port stop in Keelung is too short, not enough for even just Taipei. There are other interesting towns we would love to visit, but did not have enough time.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Kaohsiung has a pretty extensive subway system that will get you to most touristy places. You can also use the ferry to get to Cijun Island for street food and open air market.

Manila, Philippines

As soon as we got off the ship, we were bombarded by tour venders who tried to tell you how far Intramuros is. It is not far at all, easily walkable, but the traffic in that area is kind of chaotic. So one needs to be careful when crossing the street.

Our ship had a free shuttle that takes us to Robinson Place Mall, in the modern downtown area of Manila. After visiting the mall, we walked back to the ship through Rizal Park, a large urban park with a Chinese garden and a Japanese garden inside. It is quite a nice space in very busy and noisy Manila.

Although there are numerous banks around, you can’t exchange foreign currency unless you have an account with them. This is not very helpful to tourists. So exchange your money ahead of time, or look for a money changer.
monalisa115’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Embarkation
Dining
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Cabin Review

Deluxe Ocean-View Verandah Stateroom
Cabin VH
Cabin: good sized balcony cabin. Stewards were very good, clean, detail-oriented and tried their best to be helpful. Like their colleagues on other HAL ships I had been on in the past, our stewards were hardworking and offered very good service.
Upper Promenade Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Bangkok (Laem Chabang)
    The ship tries to tell you that Laem Chabang is the port for Bangkok, but in fact it’s a 2 ½ hr drive to Bangkok. Public transportation is complicated and takes even longer. So if you don’t want to stay on the ship, you have no choice but to book an excursion, organize your own tour, or use a taxi. The ship’s excursion is expectedly over-priced. We joined a one-day tour organized through Cruise Critic roll call. This has to be done ahead of time. The tour was OK except it was a very long day with the 5 hr travelling time.
    The port is a cargo port and there’s no port facilities. The nearest shopping mall is almost two miles away. Travelling by bus or taxi to Pattaya is another option. Leisurely wandering around the port area is not.
    View All 208 Bangkok (Laem Chabang) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Bangkok (Laem Chabang) Cruise Port Review
  • Da Nang
    The ship offered a shuttle bus to downtown Da Nang, but in my opinion, there are more interesting places farther away. We booked a tour to Bana Hill and Hoi An, through a local tour company, Andy. There are other choices such as Hue and Marble Mountain, but one must pick and choose since there’s just one day in port. Hoi An can be done easily by taxi, if that’s the only place you want to visit. We went there later in the afternoon and stayed till sunset to enjoy the lighting of the lanterns in the Old Town. Our ship did not leave until 11:00 pm that night.
    View All 88 Da Nang Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Da Nang Cruise Port Review
  • Halong Bay
    Beautiful destination. Again, we joined an organized boat tour through Cruise Critic to see Halong Bay up close, including one of the caves with a huge chamber and interesting rock formations.
    View All 40 Halong Bay Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Halong Bay Cruise Port Review
  • Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
    It’s a cargo port and there’s nothing to see around the port area. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is over an hour away. Again, the ship offers excursions to Saigon, but it’s better if you organize your own. Plan ahead and use roll call on Cruise Critic to gather a group and book a tour together. That’s what we did, and we ended up with something very similar to what the ship offered and paid less than half of what the ship charged.
    Saigon is quite an interesting city with lots to see, but because it’s so far away, public transportation may not be the most efficient use of the limited time in port.
    View All 161 Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Cruise Port Review
  • Hong Kong
    Here some of our fellow cruisers disembarked. For us, it’s a long day in port since we would be back on board for the next leg of our SE Asia cruise.
    Among all the ports we visited on this cruise, I would say Hong Kong is the most prepared for cruise ships: modern, clean, and efficient. There is a large park on the roof of the cruise terminal building, with a nice view of the Hong Kong skyline. Lots of transportation options to choose from.
    I don’t know about other cruise lines, but one thing HAL told us about this port needs to be clarified here. In their onboard talks about Hong Kong, one thing they tried very hard to do is to persuade people to buy the ship’s transfers. They showed us a picture of a couple hundred people at the taxi stand with no taxi in sight. They claimed that taxi drivers don’t like to go into the cruise terminal and so the only other option is their shuttles to the airport or to the airport express station in town. Well, they may be right about fewer taxi drivers wanting to come into the terminal, but they also conveniently omitted an option that all local people know about, which is also on the website of the Kai Tak cruise terminal – a free shuttle that takes you to two of the closest MTR (subway) stations. Even after I asked, they tried to tell me that the free shuttles do not allow you to take your luggage. That was a blatant lie. The driver does not help you load your bags onto the bus, but you can definitely take them with you. Lots of people have done that. I have done that.
    I understand that this may not be for everybody, but it is a viable option that should not be omitted in any port talk. It does require a bit of planning and research, and you must have some local currency with you, and you must be able to handle your luggage by yourselves, but it’s totally doable and can save you significant amount of money, depending on where you want to go and how many are in your party. Once you get to an MTR station, you have the options of using public transportation or taxi.
    Hong Kong has many, many interesting places reachable using the MTR, which is fast, clean and efficient.
    View All 307 Hong Kong Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Hong Kong Cruise Port Review
  • Koh Samui
    Koh Samui does not seem ready for cruise ships. After a ride on the tender boats for 25 minutes, you arrive at a pier and are bombarded by tour venders and taxi drivers. The port is quite ugly and dirty.
    View All 92 Koh Samui Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Koh Samui Cruise Port Review
  • Sihanoukville
    This port is a joke. There is zero port facilities, except a shuttle bus that takes you to downtown Sihanoukville. We were dropped off in a dirty, ugly and chaotic open air market. Walking on what looks like a sidewalk is downright dangerous because it’s uneven and muddy; motor bikes and scooters can travel anywhere they like, including sidewalks. Before you even get off the bus, tour venders bombard you with local tours. But with the chaotic traffic, how would I know that they could bring us back before the ship departs? Many of our fellow cruisers didn’t even get off the shuttle bus. Some were a little braver and took a walk for several blocks before getting the next available bus back to the ship. This port is totally unprepared for cruise passengers, and they don’t even seem to care. As I said, it’s a joke, and it’s an expensive joke at that, since most passengers have to pay for a visa, even if they decide to stay on the ship the whole time.
    View All 55 Sihanoukville Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Sihanoukville Cruise Port Review
  • Singapore
    Singapore can be done easily on our own. The MRT is clean, efficient, with frequent service and clear signage, and very user-friendly. We enjoyed the Botanic Gardens, especially the National Orchid Garden and Marina Bay.
    View All 558 Singapore Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Singapore Cruise Port Review