CRUISING ASIA WITH PRINCESS
By Dallas Sherringham
Exploring Asia with Princess Cruises is the best way to see a multitude of exotic destinations in a short amount of time.
I recently spent 23 nights aboard Diamond Princess, cruising from Japan to Sydney via Osaka, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Bali and Darwin.
Now, cruising Asia is a far different proposition to a normal laid back South Pacific idyll, but it has many bonuses providing you do some forward planning and allow yourself to take it all in.
I flew to Tokyo and met the ship in Yokohama on a rainy afternoon and immediately set out exploring the 115,000 tonne luxury floating resort. Diamond Princess is a very generous ship in every way – plenty of space, a choice of indoor and outdoor pools and dining and entertainment options galore.
I have done a lot of Princess cruises and I like the familiar feel of going aboard a ship and knowing what you are going to get. This is especially important when cruising in new waters and this was my first Asian cruise...
So what’s it like? Well, Princess specialize in mature travelers with most passengers 40 plus and everyone seems to get along very well. The cruise line knows what its passengers want for their buck and they deliver.
Good food, fun entertainment, relaxing bars and a general feeling of relaxation and friendship were the order of the day.
The fact that we were visiting so many countries in such a short amount of time, I arranged local currency well in advance. However credit cards were universally accepted.
I booked shore tours in most places because I like to be chaperoned in comfort in places I don’t know.
I need to share a quick tip with you regarding shore tours. The shore tours tended to concentrate on ancient monuments and artwork outlets and didn’t give you time to go shopping. They tended to steer away from the main shopping areas. Now, this is a plus for many people so if you want to shop or take in a good restaurant in town, get a taxi.
I always recommend to cruise lines that they have an information desk operating on shore beside the gang plank for those going ashore independently, but it doesn’t seem to happen.
Osaka was our first port of call and it was an interesting place, which like a lot of Japan has traditional areas perched right beside modern developments. Imposing Osaka Castle was the highlight of the day.
Like all of Japan, people were very friendly and courteous and love the fact that you are paying the compliment of seeing their country.
Xiamen in China is one of the fastest growing cities on earth but the air pollution was dreadful. I went to old Canton for a shore tour which was interesting and showed what the real China is like. The people seemed not to notice we were there and the language and cultural barrier was very evident.
Hong Kong – what a great day. They really know how to do things when hosting tourists. They are in another world of friendliness compared to mainland China.
Na Trang, the old American R & R beach, is now a bustling modern strip of luxury resorts and stunning restaurants and bars. However you need to be very wary of who is around you and don’t go swimming and leave your stuff unguarded.
Saigon was a real eye opener. I guess I expected it to be like one of those old Vietnam War movies, but it reminded me of a modern Australian city. We were hosted to a lavish dinner and cultural show and I took a liking to the local brew.
Singapore was stunning. One of the great cities of the world these days, just looking at the designer shops and outlets for luxury cars in Orchard Rd was a real lesson in buying extra Lotto tickets.
In Bali I had a lovely smorgasbord lunch perched beside a slumbering volcano and arriving in Darwin, it was great to be greeted with a warm “G’day”.
I had a balcony cabin aboard Diamond Princess and I would highly recommend you pay the extra and enjoy the experience.
Lastly, I would highly recommend a Princess cruise for anyone wanting to see the world in comfort and in the company of fun loving Aussies.
For more information contact your travel agent, phone 132488 or visit www.princess.com