Islands to Indochina Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
1/23/2024 to 2/15/2024

 

 

Page 1 – Pre-trip in Singapore
Page 2 – Embarkation; Ship
Page 3 - Cabin, Shows, Activities; Ports of Call:
Muara, Brunei; Kota Kinabalu (Borneo), Malaysia
Page 4 - Ports of Call: Puerto Princesa, Philippines; Coron, Philippines; Manila, Philippines
Page 5 - Ports of Call: Hue (Chan May), Vietnam; Nha Trang, Vietnam; Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand
Page 6 - Ports of Call:  Saigon, Vietnam; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Thailand
Page 7 - Post-trip in Bangkok,,Thailand Days 1 & 2
Page 8
- Post-trip in Bangkok, Thailand Days 3 & 4

 

Preface

After our 2010 cruise on the Azamara Quest to SE Asia, I looked forward to revisiting the area and also exploring new ports .  I booked a cruise with dear friends that included several Asian ports for May 2020 a couple months before I lost my dear Carol.  I had still planned on doing that cruise on my own with my friends, but it was cancelled due to Covid.  Three years later while looking for cruises to go on with Cathy, I found this SE Asia cruise on my favorite ship, the Oceania Riviera.  It had many of the ports that I had wanted to visit, plus two of my favorite cities, Singapore and Bangkok as starting and ending ports which would allow us to spend extra time there. 

 

Pre-Trip in Singapore – Day 1

I found some great flights on Emirates Air from Miami with only one connection in Dubai both ways.  The actual flight time getting to Singapore was 21.5 hours and the return from Bangkok was 24 hours.  With that much airtime, we were thrilled to be able to use miles to get business class seats that laid down so we could sleep easier.  The pods were very comfortable, and the Emirates food was just outstanding.  I had originally been a bit disappointed that our first flight would arrive at around 7:30 PM in Dubai, since I hoped to be able to see the gorgeous skyline from the plane.  To our surprise the flight was an hour early arriving and I was on the right side of the plane to see and take a photo during sunset.  I was glad that I could get the man-made palm shaped islands in the photo along with the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

With our flights arriving in Singapore at 8:30 AM, we would have a full day to enjoy this amazing city.  We downloaded the MyICA app to obtain a Singapore Entry Card well before the flight.  This would allow for speedy immigration entry.  It was so easy and fast.  I felt sorry for the people who weren’t aware of the app and had to fill out all the info before they could enter the country.

My friend, Jim, told me about a transfer service called Welcome Pickups (https://www.welcomepickups.com).  I had planned on using the Uber type service Grab for the transfer from the airport to our hotel, but with the Welcome Pickup only costing $41, it sounded like a great deal.  It was nice to have our driver waiting for us with a sign after getting our baggage.  We were very pleased with the service.

On my first visit to Singapore in 2010, the iconic hotel of the city, the Marina Bay Sands (https://www.marinabaysands.com), was still under construction.  It was two months from being completed and looked amazing with what looked like a ship on top of the three tall towers.  I told myself at that time that one day I want to stay at that hotel.  The time had finally come.  It was much more expensive than any hotel I had even thought of staying at, but it was a once in a lifetime experience to do it.  We were so excited as we drove into the entrance.  It is an impressive hotel.  The below photo is from bay since you can’t see it all from the entrance.

The lobby was gorgeus.  With the Chinese New Year rapidly approaching, there was a dragon statue for the upcoming year of the dragon.

   

As expected, since we were arriving at around 9:30 AM, we would have to wait until later to get our room.  They held our luggage and told us that they would text us when the room was ready for us by 3:00 PM.  They did give us temporary cards so that we could access the large infinity pool on the top of the hotel as well as the Skypark for great views of the city.  The hotel is massive with so much to see and do.  We first went up 57 floors to see the infinity pool.  It is a WOW pool!  From the pool side, we could look out on Marina Bay and the skyline. 

   

   

When we went to the other side of the hotel we could look down on the Gardens by the Bay.  We could see the Supertree Grove where they have a nightly light/music show and the Flower Dome, where we would be having dinner that night, and the Cloud Forest buildings.

   

We next came back to the ground floor to walk around the multilevel shopping area which covers 800,000 sq. ft.  It is so large plus it is very confusing how to get around it, since there are so many different sections. 

We were able to find the area where they have sampan rides along a small canal system.

   

We decided to go outside to look at the hotel grounds near the bay.  Louis Vuitton has a gorgeous store sitting on its own island on the bay.

At one end of the promenade is the Artscience Museum.  The unique shape of the building is an eye catcher.  The lily pond in front of the building is lovely and a great place to just sit and relax taking in the beauty of the area.

   

We went inside to see about getting tickets to go through the museum, but decided to wait until another day, since we were still recovering from the long flights.  Once on the other side, we took a short walk on the Helix pedestrian bridge.  I had seen photos of it illuminated at night and it looked quite stunning.  Unfortunately, we never found time to see it at night.

   

While on one of the bridge’s viewing platforms, I offered to take a photo of a couple posing in front of the museum.  They offered to take ours too.

We also had a nice view of the well-known Fullerton Hotel from there.

I was also able to take a photo of the Merlion way across the bay.  The Merlion is the official mascot of the city.  Being half lion with a body of a fish.  The fish represents the roots of the city being a fishing village.  The city’s original name was Singapura or lion city, hence the head of a lion.

We came back into the hotel to check out more of it.  We came to an attraction called the Digital Light Canvas at one end of the shopping mall.  It was quite attractive with a projected moving image on the floor.

   

To keep ourselves entertained before getting into our room, we decided to go over to see the Merlion.  It had recently been closed off for a few months for renovation and had just reopened the previous week.  It would have been a long walk around the bay to get to it, so we ordered a ride though the Grab app.  There is no Uber or Lyft in Singapore, but Grab does the same thing.  It only cost $5 to get there.  The Merlion is a very popular tourist attraction.  We also had a nice view of the many skyscrapers downtown.

   

   

Since we were on the other side of the bay, we decided to walk over to the famous Raffles Hotel.  It wasn’t a long walk, and we were able to see some other areas of the city.  We had planned on going into their Long Bar and ordering one of their Singapore Sling drinks.  They originated at this hotel.  I had one in 2010 and it was OK, but for $20 it wasn’t a good deal.  With inflation, it is now $40.  I was more interested in showing Cathy the Long Bar itself more than the drink.  When we walked up to the second floor there was a long line of people waiting to get in. 

   

We decided to pass on it and just walk around the hotel.

   

While walking around the grounds, I received a text at 12:45 PM that our room was ready.  We were glad we hadn’t gotten into the Long Bar.  We took another Grab back to the hotel.  This was a longer ride and only cost $6.  Our room was quite nice, but not particularly large. 

   

   

   

The bathroom had a very nice large walk-in shower.

   

Although we didn’t book a more deluxe room, I would have expected it to be a bit more special for the price.  We were also on the 9th floor, so our view from the room was more of the mall across the street than of the bay and skyline.

   

It was well appointed including having an Nespresso machine for coffee.

Our main complaint with the room was that the bed was firmer than we prefer.  The other consideration when booking this hotel is that it is a tourist destination.  This means that there are many more people to contend with than just those in the 2,561 rooms.  There are lots of people enjoying the hotel, so the shopping area, casino and main public areas are crowded at times.  The only area that is exclusive for guests is the swimming pool.  Thank goodness it is, or it would be overrun.  We did take an hour’s nap to be more alert for our evening activities.

That evening we were having dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant that is in the Flower Dome, Margueritte.  A benefit of eating there is that we could enter the Flower Dome for free before dinner.  With the weather being milder than expected and there being no rain, which normally occurs every day in Singapore, we decided to go down early and enjoy the dome.  It isn’t easy to get to from the hotel.  We needed to take an elevator up to cross over a road leading to Gardens by the Bay.  With the hotel being so large, it was a challenge to find the right elevator, but we did.   We then took a path, where we could see the hotel behind us, that led to the domes.

It was a shorter walk than I expected to get to the Flower Dome.  There was an entrance to Margueritte, but it wasn’t open yet, plus we wanted to go to the dome entrance on the other side of the building.

We had a nice view of the Singapore Flyer Ferris wheel, which I had ridden 14 years earlier.

When we got to the ticketing/entry area, there was an interesting display of mean looking animals above a concession area.

When we entered, we could see that it was a very large building with lots of plants.

   

It was nicely laid out with many interesting plants and colorful displays.  With the upcoming Chinese New Year being the year of the Dragon, they had several displays with dragons.

   

It was a very nice garden area that we could have spent a lot more time in, but we had made early reservations, since we assumed that we would be tired from the trip and didn’t want to stay up later than necessary.  The restaurant adjoined the dome rather than actually being in the gardens.  It was still a very nice setting. 

   

The menu is a set tasting menu, which meant that we would have several small items to taste during the meal.  The presentation was just outstanding.  I have included photos of some of the items we had to show how pretty they were.  I would include the descriptions, but that would not do it justice.

   

   

The dinner was quite interesting.  We did enjoy several of the items quite a bit, but it is overpriced for what you receive in my opinion.  As we left the dome, we looked back and saw the illuminated dome.

We also saw the illuminated skyline with the Flyer.

As we got closer to the hotel, its illumination was most impressive.

 

Pre-Trip in Singapore – Day 2

After a very good night’s sleep, we were recovered from our flights.  We went up to the pool deck to see the view in the morning.  It was still amazing.

   

There were so many merchant ships anchored out in the ocean.

We had a big day planned with a private tour guide, Anna Ong.  We found her on Tours by Locals.  It was a good choice.  She did an outstanding job for us and she was a pleasure to spend time with.

We had a van to take us around rather than using public transportation.  We thought it would be much faster and much more refreshing between stops.  Although we were told to expect it to be very hot and rain several times a day, the weather was surprisingly pleasant, and we had no rain the entire time we were in Singapore, other than at night when we were sleeping.  On our way to our first stop, we passed by an attractive building, the National Museum of Singapore.

Our first destination was to the Singapore Botanic Gardens, the first UNESCO heritage site in Singapore.  It is a beautiful place with many different gardens. 

   

   

We were only going to spend time in the National Orchid Garden section, where there are over 1,000 orchid species and 2,000 hybrids on display.  It is quite a place with so many gorgeous flowering orchids. 

   

   

We spent almost an hour there with Anna telling us so much about orchids.  Living in south Florida, we have many orchids around our yard, but we learned so much from her.  The hybrids were quite interesting with many named for famous people including American Presidents, royalty and other celebrities.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.  The below one was for Joe and Jill Biden.

After leaving the gardens, we drove to the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.  It is a Hindu temple in Singapore’s Little India that was opened in 1881.  The exterior certainly gets your attention. 

   

The interior is full of photo opps.  It is a very busy temple with people praying and many tourists taking in the many strange, interesting and beautiful objects all over the interior.

   

   

   

After leaving the temple, it was lunch time.  We went to a market in Chinatown to see the many different items available there.   At one stand I saw my first black chicken.  They are from Indonesia and apparently have many health benefits.  It still doesn’t look that appetizing to me.

Anna stopped at one fruit stand and picked up some fruit for us to try during our lunch.  Two of them were the Queen Mangosteen and Jack Fruit.  Both were quite delicious.

   

We then walked over to a hawker center.  These centers have many different food stalls serving so many different types of foods at very reasonable prices. 

   

Anna showed us some items we might want to try.  The most difficult thing in a hawker center is to find an available table.  They are very popular places.  We found one and sat down while she went and ordered.  We were most fortunate that the weather was in the low 80’s that day with occasional clouds making it very comfortable in the open-air setting.  We just ate a couple of light items, since we would be trying different foods during the tour.

After leaving the hawker center, we passed by some interesting neighborhoods.

   

Anna was taking us to a coffee shop that was supposed to have the best coffee ever.  It was iced coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk.  When we went into the shop, she told us to pick out a couple pastries to have with the coffee.  The small coffee shop was kind of cute.  I liked the stool that looked like it was made with bundles of $100 bills. 

   

When the coffee arrived, it was so good.  We were so glad she recommended it.  Cathy and I split the two little pastries. 

   

Part of the coffee shop is a coffee museum upstairs.  They had some interesting things that Anna pointed out to us.

   

On leaving she pointed out the mural on the building wall with the coffee being poured.  Most appropriate.

We then walked through another covered open-air market.  Everything was so colorful with the approaching Chinese New Year.  I liked the many different types of cookies that were available as well as the bales of multi-colored flowers.

   

Back on the street, Anna wanted to show us more new year decorations.  It was obvious that it was going to be the year of the dragon. 

   

She took us to a street overpass, where we could look down the street at all the decorations. 

When we came down from the overpass, there was another large covered open-air shopping area. 

We then went to a different area where Anna wanted us to try some special ice cream type treat.  She got us two different kinds.  The tall scoop item was more of a very fine ice type dessert.  Quite yummy, as was the other one.  Anna told us that in Singapore, by law, they are not allowed to put too much sugar in their foods.  They weren’t overly sweet, but they were very good.

   

We continued walking around looking at the sights of the area.  She then took us to a different hawker center to try out another local specialty she wanted us to try.  This was becoming more of a food tour, and we were getting full.  We only got one thing that she really wanted us to try.

We next went to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  It is just a stunning place to visit.

The temple has some beautiful rooms, some containing hundreds of small Buddhas.  I liked the mean looking statues on either side of the main Buddha that were the protectors.

   

   

   

After seeing the actual relic on the fourth floor, which we weren’t allowed to photograph, we went back down to the first floor to the Hundred Dragon Hall.  We came in from the back of the room.  The ceiling above the main Buddha and the backdrop were just spectacular.

   

As we moved to the front of the large room, we could see the gorgeous room in all its splendor.

   

There is so much intricate detail to take in.

   

We then went to a different hawker center to try another local delicacy.  We weren’t hungry but did take a few bites to try it out.  They certainly have different foods in Singapore.

Anna then took us back to the hotel.  She had given us a very nice tour and we were able to see and learn so much from her.  The first thing we wanted to do at the hotel was to go up to the Skypark to see the view from the best place in town.  There was a long line of people waiting to go up.  They had to pay 32 Singapore dollars or $24 US to go up.  We were able to go up a much easier way without waiting in line.  Staying at the hotel does have its benefits.  The Skypark is on the 56th floor with a very nice view of the city and Gardens by the Bay.

   

   

We could also look down on the Artscience museum from above.

We planned on going to the light/sound show at the Supertree grove when it got dark, but it was still too early.  We knew that we had no desire for any more food for the day, so we decided to get a drink in one of the many hotel bars.  The setting was quite nice. 

Afterwards we found the shortcut through the hotel to the gardens.  It is confusing since we would have to take an elevator up from the hotel and then another one later to get down to the garden level.  All elevators didn’t go to the same place, which would be a problem later.  But at last, we did get on the path through the gardens.

The view looking back at the hotel was pretty nice.  It is a huge place.

We got to the grove before the light show.  The supertrees still looked very impressive.

   

It wasn’t long before the music started and the lights did their thing.  Most people got to the place earlier and were lying on the ground looking up.  It is certainly the easier way to watch the show.

I was fine standing up and looking around at the different tree displays.  The music and colors were most enjoyable.

   

   

I put in a short video that is more effective in showing what we actually saw than just still photos.

 

After the show it was nice to see some of the city’s illumination.  The hotel was also changing colors.

   

When we got back to the hotel, we somehow took the wrong elevator up to cross over the street.  We ended back in the hotel, but we were unable to get to a different area where we could get to our room.  So, we went back outside to search for the right one.  Someone coming back from the show showed us where the correct one was.  We were so glad they did since we had really gotten turned around to another attraction, the Rain Oculus.  When we had been in the sampan area earlier, the water wasn’t running.  Now it was flowing and looking very cool.  The sanpans also rode around the waterfall.

Here is a video to show how this very cool attraction works.  

                                             

With the hotel water/light show starting at 9:00 PM, we thought it would be nice to see from the Skypark.  We arrived at about 8:45 PM and there weren’t many people there.  I was surprised, since I thought it would be a great place to watch the show from.  This location did not disappoint.

As 9:00 PM approached, they made announcements that the Skypark was closing, and we would have to leave.  Now that was a bummer!  I was surprised it closed so early, but it did explain why we pretty much had the place to ourselves when we got there.  We decided to just go back to the room.  It had been a very full day. We would go to the hotel show the next night on ground level.

 

Pre-Trip in Singapore – Day 3

This would be a totally free day to do whatever we wanted to do.  I figured that we would see whatever we hadn’t seen the previous day and/or something we wanted to go back to.  The first thing we wanted to do was to eat at the Spago Restaurant next to the swimming pool on the top of the hotel.  The view from outside the restaurant was outstanding.

The restaurant spread over a good portion of the back side of deck 57.  They had a very nice buffet breakfast.

   

After breakfast we changed into our bathing suits to finally experience the magnificent infinity pool.  It is a most enjoyable experience.  The pool is only about 4 feet deep, so it is easy to walk around in it.  I took lots of photos from in the pool, since they are quite different from being outside the pool.

   

 

I took a video to really show what it is like.

 

There were lots of folks posing for photos and selfies.  Cathy and I did too.  It’s kind of required.

Although people look at the photos and say they fear the heights and falling from the pool, it is virtually impossible unless you make an effort to jump off.  There is a lot of climbing to get over the real outside edge of the pool deck.

After we had enjoyed our time at the pool, we went back to the room and changed for our next experience, the Cloud Forest.  It is the smaller of the two domes in the Gardens by the Bay.  It was a nice walk to the Cloud Forest.  There was lots to look at on the way.

   

The Cloud Forest is quite different from the Flower Dome we had visited the previous day.  Its main feature is the 138-foot-tall cloud mountain.  It can be accessed by an elevator that will take you to the top where you can walk down on a circular path to the bottom while looking at all the different plants on the mountain. 

   

We first walked around the base seeing what was there.  It was quite a place.  Lots of beauty!

   

They also had a special Machu Picchu exhibit with plants of that region. 

We did enjoy all the beautiful plants and flowers we were seeing. 

   

   

I also liked the different animals they had created that were mounted around the area.

   

We went up the elevator and began our walk around the mountain toward ground level.   It was quite different from walking around on the ground level.  We were thoroughly enjoying it.

   

   

We particularly liked looking down at the 115 – foot waterfall.

We eventually got back down to ground level where there were different displays.

   

When we left the Cloud Forest it was almost 12:30 PM, lunch time.  The only place nearby was the Shake Shack.  It sounded great to both of us, and it was.  After lunch we walked back to the hotel and planned on when we would do our next experience, a river cruise on the Singapore River.  The first day in Singapore, we looked at different river cruise options.  There were several companies, but only one picked up and dropped off at the Marina Bay Sands, Water B River Cruises.  It was a very convenient pick-up location right next to the Artscience Museum.  They had a relatively nice covered open boat that would allow us to look out the sides and be protected from the sun.

   

As we left the dock, we had a different view of the Merlion and the Marina Bay Sands.  I was particularly pleased to be able to get a photo of the Skypark.

   

There were some interesting things to look at along the river.  The Asian Civilizations Museum has a statue of Sir Samford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore.  Unfortunately, we could only see the back of the statue.

   

The supreme court building with what looks like a flying saucer on top is a conversation piece.

As we approached Clark Quay, a very popular nightlife spot, we saw some brightly colored buildings.

   

There was lots to see on both sides of the river.  We had enjoyed the cruise.

   

We went back and took a short nap before heading down to the first floor for dinner.  We chose to go to the Dallas Café & Bar.  Being from Dallas, the name appealed to me, plus their food looked quite tasty.  We ordered a pizza and some fish tacos.  Both just outstanding.

   

After dinner, we walked out to the promenade event plaza where we would be able to watch the hotel’s light/sound show, Spectra.  Others had the same idea.   They have shows at 8:00 PM and 9:00 PM every night, with a 10:00 PM show on weekends.  I enjoyed watching the colorful projections on the two buildings across the bay, the Singapore National Gallery and the Victoria Concert Hall.

   

The crowds were growing and lots of people were sitting on the steps leading down to the bay. 

The show started right on time with music and the 39-foot-tall glass prism out in the bay coming to life.

There was lots of water being sprayed and lights illuminating it.  The music added to the beauty of the show.

   

I have included a short video so that you can better experience what they offer.

 

After the 15-minute show ended, we were ready to go back to our room and pack for our departure from the hotel the next day.  We were looking forward to starting our cruise.

 

 

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