Legend of the Seas 11th March 2012
Legend of the Seas Saigon Port
So here we go again on the Legend. Two families of friends who had not cruised before wanted to try a cruise. I suggested the Legend as we knew the ship and it was a short cruise of 5 nights.
Two families decided to get from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore by train. As KTMB http://www.ktmb.com.my/ offer half price to seniors, including foreigners. We opted for two standard sleeping berths for RM27 each (upper berth) for the trip from KL to Woodlands in Singapore.
We always enjoy Malaysian train trips, however our friends booked the first class suite and were bitterly disappointed. Would have been a lot cheaper and happier in standard berths.
Malaysian Immigration still get it right and an officer comes on board, initials and dates passports at the stop in Johor Baru. Then cross over to Singapore where the nightmare starts. Immigration is slow and tedious and once you emerge into the early morning light…where to go and what to do? Happily we found one railway official who helpfully pointed to where we could catch a 911 bus to Woodlands bus and MTR station. The MTR was unmanned and so we had absolutely no idea how to get to Harbour Front by train. We discovered that the 963 bus would take us to within a short walk (but up over a pedestrian walkway with suitcases) into the Harbour Front complex.
Seems to go with Singapore architecture
See what I mean?
Baggage check-in area was having renovations done so Royal Caribbean had to make the best of a bad situation and relieved us of baggage. The check-in was very well organised and painless and we ran the gauntlet of photographers and “seapass” identi-photo to get on-board for lunch.
The Legend appears to have had an upgrade in the last 2 years and looked tidy, clean and staff who knew what they are doing. Food is to their usual standard (not quite up to Princess or Costa, but still very good). happily there was a greater selection of Asian dishes available and while not all could be called genuine, most were more than passable. Two years ago Asians had to eat western food and put up with it. With 1789 passengers, the make up was almost all Asian (and Australasian) topped by Malaysians over 700, Australians, Singaporeans, Indonesians, Japanese, Chinese etc. The dining room is still very good, nice choice of menu and included at least 1 Asian and vegetarian dish each night.
Centrum from on high
The ships berth for Ho Chee Minh …still called Saigon is up the Saigon River from Vung Tau. Google maps are so woefully out of date, (by decades) that I had no hope of pin pointing, exactly the end of the earth container terminal where we were deposited, but probably in the region of Tan Cang ? Lai. Choice is corrupt uniformed officials by the berth, a very expensive ships tour (US$46 just to get to Saigon and back pp) or the mafia outside the port gate. We opted for the later, as we felt we could at least negotiate with the gang land boys and got the price into Vung Tau, an hour away, from US$120 for a 7 seat taxi down to US$80. The driver, who says nothing and accepts the gang is in control, actually put his meter on and worked out the meter price round trip was US$72 so we did a good deal. Mind as one of our friends wife is Vietnamese, it did make life easier, although my wife was the get tough in your face negotiator.
So rather than sightseeing, we went to Vung Tau to see our friends Mum, who had travelled up from Can Tho (see Can Tho blog) with baskets full of fresh produce from their farms. As usual a feast was prepared including Vietnamese steam-boat and mountains of roast pork, kampong chicken, fruit and even mangoes as good as Australian Bowen mangoes. (and looked and tasted the same and were huge)
First serving Vietnamese style
Too many cooks spoil nothing!
The trip to Vung Tau was so different from 2 years ago. The road almost all now a 4 lane highway (tollbooths being built), with lovely centre and side gardens being laid and almost no rubbish to be seen. I didn’t recognise it, the change was so great.
We staggered back on board ship in time to wait for the inevitable late arrivals arguing with Vietnamese officials while the ships horn blasted in justifiable agitation. Cast off and we slid down the river with the odd horn blast in darkness for our next port Nha Trang.
Still an exquisite bay with the high mountain backdrop, the cable car to Vinh Nguyen Island. Holland America, and Silversea ships were berthed alongside and we anchored out in deep water again. There was a holdup with officials and the ship only got to use its own shuttle boats with no local boats, so unloading was painfully slow for those who went ashore. Having been there before, we opted to stay on-board, but we have very fond memories of this very beautiful town and surrounds.
Nha Trang in the distance
Some of the beautiful mountains
Busy ships boats
Feeling at one with the region, I decided to do 2.5 miles around the walking track with camera and soak in the scenery snapping shots as took my fancy.
Although a new cruise entertainment director now, I was pleased to see the adults only quest programme had been retained and we enjoyed ourselves equally as much as last time making fools of ourselves. The ships singers and dances were the most polished I have seen on any ship and had us enthralled the 2 nights they performed.
Some of ships singers and dancers
The ship actually got a berth at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong instead of out is the wilderness container terminal as last time. I have never worked out why ships actually ask you at what time you want to disembark, as they will tell you when you WILL get off anyway. If you say 0900 hrs, you can bet they want you lined up to jump ship at 0730 hrs. Oh well!!
Our friends decided to stay 4 nights in HK, but then blinked at the astronomical price of everything there, especially hotels. We had booked the evening plane back to KL and only succumbed to one HKD40 for a cup of coffee our friend shouted us. Actually be warned. Get bottled water at 7-eleven or similar at about HK4 a 600ml bottle whereas at the airport its HK14 the same bottle (or HK10 “on special”). Frankly I don’t like the place much. The prices not justifiable and the attitude is “high nose” as Chinese would say.
We did kill time in Kowloon park again. We did this last time with newfound shipboard friends and really enjoyed that. We also made the mistake of deciding to walk to Kowloon station which has a direct express train to the airport. Well its all building site ‘init? Not a sightseeing delight, but super once you get down to the station area…with its almost total lack if signage for tourists…and its supposed to be for tourists!!
Allow lots of time, not only to get to the airport and check-in, but as we had to go to terminal 2 we had to take 2 trains within the airport. Don’t worry about buying duty free as that's only the sign on the shop and we found prices averaged about 50% more than on our recent trip to Langkawi.