10 Day Asia Cruise
Mariner of the Seas
Shanghai, China to Singapore
September 01 - 10 2017

Mariner of the Seas

 

This cruise was booked about 6 weeks out from departure because of an email I received from Royal Caribbean cruise line.
The email was as follows:

price

 

Seeing a price like this gets your attention, and it needs to be noted that the above prices are in USD. The first thought is it even feasible because the cost of air.  The air would be an open jaw ticket from Vancouver to Shanghai then Singapore to Vancouver. The all in price came to just over $1000 CAD pp including air, cruise and taxes.

I sent out an email to friends and it didn't take long before there were 3 other couples interested.

 

The next hurdle was dealing with a Visa for China. You see there are several options for China depending on how long one to go for. Since we were going to Shanghai for 3 nights before the cruise we could use the 144 hour Visa for Shanghai that is issued at the airport upon arrival. This Visa allows one to Visit Shanghai for a period of 144 hours but not visit other places in China. There are a few other rules for this visa which caused one of the couples to have problems getting to China.
The Visa for Vietnam would be issued on the ship for $5.00 USD.  

 

We all booked the SSW Boutique Hotel in Shanghai not far from the Bund. We managed to book this Hotel for a little under a $100 CAD a night. This included Breakfast every morning and a small snack after 10 PM every night. There was also a stocked mini bar in the fridge that was refilled daily.

 

It was decided that we would all book a Shore Excursion for Saigon from the ship as the ship docked about 1.5 t0 2 hours from Saigon and we did not want to chance missing the ship. The decider was the shore excursion was just $45.00 CAD pp. How can you turn this down for 10 hours.

 

The group were planning to remain in Singapore for up to 3 nights after the cruise.

 

The cruise was as posted:
September 1   Shanghai, China 4:30pm
September 2   At Sea
September 3   Okinawa (Naha), Japan 7:00am 4:00pm
September 4   At Sea
September 5   Hong Kong 10:00am 8:00pm
September 6   At Sea
September 7   At Sea
September 8   Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My), Vietnam 7:00am 7:00pm
September 9   At Sea
September 10 Singapore 8:00am

 

 

From the time of booking until we departed was roughly 6 weeks.
It was then I realized that my passport was a few days short of the 6 months required to be away had to be renewed.  
This renewal was soon done. The 6 weeks went quickly and during this time it appeared a few hurdles were in play. There were the two Hurricanes that hit Florida and then Texas. We then had a Super Typhoon hit Hong Kong 10 days before departure.

 

We were scheduled to depart August 28th and planned to stay at The River Rock near the Airport the night before.
I had checked into United Airlines in the afternoon and all was good except United bounced our Passports because we did not have a Visa to enter the USA. Canadians don't need a Visa to enter the USA but United said otherwise. I was about ready to leave for the River Rock when I got an email from United saying that our flight was going to be late. We were scheduled to fly Vancouver to San Francisco then San Francisco to Shanghai.
The flight to San Francisco was the one that was late because it originated in San Antonio to Denver to Vancouver then San Francisco. Since Harvey had been through Texas days before it made sense as to why our flight was delayed. The problem was United gave me 3 options to deal with our flights. One was stay as is (which really wasn't an option because we would miss our flight to China), the next was to delay our flights and arrive Friday night AFTER our cruise left Shanghai or a full refund.
It is a good thing I have a sister who worked for United for many years and I know how United worked.
I started looking for other ways to get to China and nothing clicked before my ride to the hotel arrived.

 

Upon arriving at the hotel just after 7 PM I pulled my netbook out and started to look for ways. Since United is part of Star Alliance I looked at Air Canada. I found a flight for 8:50 AM the next morning which would allow us about 4 hours before the China flight.
I then called United and was on hold for about an hour before I got a nice lady called Brenda who started to look and could not find anything to get us to China in time for the cruise. The thing is it is Sunday and Brenda could find nothing to get us there before Fridays departure, this didn't sound right.
I then mentioned the code share flight with Air Canada the next morning but Brenda had to pull this up on a different screen. Once she saw there were 2 seats left she grabbed them then went to work confirming this. This would require us to be on hold for about 40 minutes while she confirmed with Air Canada we would not be bumped and be confirmed. The downside is we didn't have seats together but I didn't care, we were on the flight. Once done we were very relieved that things were back in order.

 

I then called our friends and warned them that our flight was changed as they were doing the same flights the next day as well.

 

Arriving in San Francisco is always interesting as we had to change terminals and time to kill.

 

I found out in San Francisco that we would not be able to use Google or Gmail while in China as they were blocked. I had to use a VPN service I was told by my friend Terry on Facebook. Terry directed me to Express VPN which I tried to sign up for but my credit card decided to do a fraud check and it called my home number, of course I was not home. I tried to use Paypal and it decided to do the same thing.

 

For the China flight I booked an aisle seat for each of us in the center section of the 787 leaving the middle seat open hoping it would remain open for the flight. I have been lucky doing this before and once again lucked out again. Some say this is the poor mans Business Class way of doing things.
It was when we were boarding that we finally got asked about our Chinese Visa and I mentioned we were doing the 144 hour Visa and we had to show out cruise tickets to prove we were leaving before the 144 hours were up.

 

The flight to Shanghai was another long one. I managed to watch 4 movies before we landed in Shanghai around 830 PM the next day.

 

It took forever to walk to Customs in Shanghai and then entering the area we had to find the counter where we could get our 144 hour Visa. We soon saw it and there were only 2 people ahead of us. We were given a different form from the one we were given on the plane to fill out. The whole process took about 20 minutes and a 144 visa was fixed to our passports.

 

The neat thing about the hotel we booked is they sent us an email advising us what the Taxi would cost us from the airport to the hotel. It should be about 180 Yuan to the hotel. While walking to the taxi we ran the gauntlet of people trying to sell us rides to the city for much higher prices but we just continued on our way. We got to the top of the escalator and we were told that they would drive us for 250 Yuan and no waiting as we would have to wait about 45 minutes downstairs.
We didn't budge and went downstairs to find a line that was 5 minutes tops. The one thing you have to do in China is make sure you have the hotel name and address in Mandarin to stop any confusion. The hotel sent us this information when we made our reservation. It took another driver to explain to our driver where our hotel was.
After the 45 minute taxi ride into the city and hotel we arrived and paid out driver and were issued a receipt.

 

Arriving in the hotel the check-in was quick and painless. The Clerk advised us our friends were checked in and waiting for us to call them. The clerk then made a call to their room to advise them of our arrival.

They soon met us in the lobby and we headed to our room where we dropped off our cases. They advised us that there was a small snack available down on the third floor that closed soon. We then headed back out.

 

We discussed meeting time for the morning and after finishing we headed back to room and bed.

This worked out well for us as it was now about 1030 PM and we were ready for bed.

 

We met our friends for Breakfast and discussed the plans for the day which would consist of a walk down to the Bund area along the river and to a local shopping area.

 

Leaving the hotel the clerk made sure we had a Hotel Card with the hotel information printed in Mandarin on it in case we needed it. I also had my portable GPS with me and had marked the hotel location on it.

 

As we left the hotel headed down the street we soon learned that all scooters are Electric and you can't hear them coming up behind you. We also noticed the buses are Electric as well. They are not trolley bus like we have in Vancouver or other cites in the world.

It appeared like 1 in 4 cars were Tesla's and and 1 in 5 were Buicks with the rest being Taxis or high end cars.

 

We found Shanghai easy to get around with most signs in English as well. This is a far contrast from back home in Richmond near the Vancouver Airport where the signs are in Chinese and no English.

 

We found Shanghai to be a very interesting city that is well laid out and easy to find you way around. The architecture is very modern in areas with other areas done in old Chinese style. We found the people to be very friendly.

 

Walking down the road to the Bund we were walking through the Financial District and came across The Arts and Cultural Centre which looks like a pipe organ. It was not until we got up close that we found out that the pipes were moving and the building appearance was always changing. I have to say it was one of the more interesting buildings I have ever seen in my travels.

Arts and Cultural Centre

 

We arrived at the walkway that follows the river that is referred to as the Bund. Walking down it was very interesting with families sitting along the bench's that lined the walkway. Stopping along the way to look across the river at the buildings there was very interesting.

 

 

We decided to continue down the Bund so I could get a Geocache at a weather tower.

 

Bund Weather Tower
Looking down the Bund with the Weather Tower on left.

 

As we arrived near the Geocache I was about to cross a small lane when all hell broke loose behind me. I turned around to see a Chinese family grabbing the other 3 trying to sit them on a bench nearby. They said they were okay so I continued to find the Geocache which was insight of them. Once I signed the log and returned the cache I walked over to the bench. I was then gathered up by the family and asked to stand in the back while the pictures were taken.
Once this was done the family presented us with a loaf of bread thanking us for the photos.

 

family

 

It was not until a short time later we found out why this happened and that was because the Lady's had blond hair and it is revered as good luck in Chinese Culture. It was short time later when a young Chinese Girl grabbed one of the ladies and took a selfie with her. The lady never asked or anything, she just did it and left.
We stopped a short time later to grab a Pepsi from one of the carts along the Bund and sit and take in the view. I then asked the rest of the group what was missing from this picture. No one could figure it out until I said there is no birds. We all looked and could not see any. We then said that we had not seen any all day.

 

river from Bund

 

We headed back through an area called Yixiulou next to Yu gardens. We walked around the ponds which was surrounded by places to eat and shopping. This was when I noticed how many KFC's there are in Shanghai along with Dairy Queen.

 

shopping

 


Yu Garden Area

 

Yu Garden

From here we headed back towards our hotel as we were meeting our friends for drinks next to the hotel.
This was when I found out our other friends that were a day behind us from Vancouver also had a late departure from Vancouver and thus missed their flight to Shanghai. They talked to our Travel Agent who worked with United and managed to get them on a code share flight to Tokyo and onto to Shanghai. Great we thought until the next email saying they had made it to Tokyo but pulled off the flight to Shanghai because they didn't have a proper Visa. You see no one asked about a Visa to this point until they were on the plane and United figured out they could not use the 144 hour Visa because the Visa says you can not travel from Japan to Shanghai back to Japan. You see the ships first port of call is Okinawa, Japan which means no 144 hour Visa.
They would now be put up by United Airlines for a couple of nights in Tokyo then flown down to Okinawa for a couple of nights where they had to pay for the hotel there. They had never been to Japan before so this was a free treat in a way as they had been to Shanghai before.
They would board the ship in Okinawa.

I have to admit that I read the Visa requirements but some how I either missed this part or didn't understand it. I will say if my option to get to China via Tokyo was offered by United I would have likely taken it not thinking twice about it.
It goes to show read and understand the Visa requirements.

 

After the drinks we parted ways and headed back to the hotel before heading back Yixiulou for dinner. There was the 4 of us that boarded the elevator plus a Chinese lady. I was busy talking to our friends using my arm pointing at then when all of a sudden the Chinese lady reached over and started running her hand up and down my arm. The conversation suddenly stopped and the wondering of what the hell was going on.
It turns out after the fact that we found out that she wanted to feel the hair on my arm as Chinese men don't have hair on their arms.

 

The lesson for today was the Chinese just do things and don't ask. For us from the western world likely would never run up and just take a selfie and I am pretty damn sure that if I walked up to a women and felt her arm or grabbed her and took a selfie I am sure it would not end well.

 

We soon departed for dinner and the walk was in twilight walking back through one of the Gardens on the way.

 

Arriving at Yixiulou we walked around for a bit to take in the area at night now and noticed how different it was to the daytime with the buildings lit up and outlines in lights. What was also noticeable was the different smells of many food venders we passed, some very interesting and some not so interesting.

 

We came across what we would call a food fair back in North America and went in for a look. It did not take long before we took our chances and went in for food. Hey what is the worst that could happen, we don't like the food we go to KFC around the corner.

Food Fair Enterance
Entrance into Food Fair


All turned out good and the one thing that we did notice is there is no flavour to the food period. There is no use of things such as garlic, onions or ginger or seasoning for that matter. It appears they doctor up the food after they get it with things like hot sauce etc.

 

chinese food
just a small sample of what we brought back to the table.

 

We departed after dinner around 9 PM and headed back to the hotel. Walking through a park nearby proved interesting beyond all belief. The park was filled with locals dancing to music. What I mean here there were about 10 groups all dancing to different music, for each group with one person bringing a portable PA system to play the music. This was not just any dancing this was Ballroom Dancing complete with the right dress for both Men and Women and the right shoes.
We sat down for a period of time and watched.
We soon departed and got back to the hotel around 10 PM.

 

We woke the following morning being Thursday now and went downstairs for breakfast.
It was decided that we would head over to People's Square and then who knows where from there.

 

After Breakfast we headed towards Peoples Square. Shortly after arriving here was the first time we had run into people begging for money.
There is a large park area in the middle with the Shanghai Museum on one side and The Shanghai Municipal Government Mansion on the other side.
The other reason we stopped by was the fact there was a Virtual Geocache here. A Virtual is where one must answer questions about what is here.

 

Shanghai Municpal Government
 The Shanghai Municipal Government Mansion in Peoples Square

 

After leaving here we headed towards Nanjing Road which is a pedestrian mall trying to find the M&M Store on it. Arriving at where where my GPS showed it was we could not locate it. The one thing I hate to do is pull out a tourist map when I am away. It shows your lost and a tourist, but really does that matter when you are white and in China anyways? You still stick out like a tourist.

 

It did not take long before a older man approached and offered us some help. The hotel had notices up in the Lobby saying no Chinese people will go out of their way and offer you help and if they do be very careful. I had heard that sometimes Chinese will approach you just to talk to you to practice their English, was that the case here?
Well we tried to brush this man off after he offered his help but he was having nothing to do with this.
He insisted on taking us to a large Grocery store up the street on the Mall. We followed wondering about his motives. There was some talk about where we could find Shanghai Noodles and he said that on the top floor of the Grocery store there was a Shanghai Noodle Restaurant. On the escalator up we started to noticed fewer and fewer people and someone said this just feel right. Our "Guide" was about to board the next up escalator when we decide to board the next down escalator and get out of the store.
We had no idea what his motive was but we were not going to let ourselves get trapped.
We disappeared down the mall into another large store to wait some time out. I mean how hard can it be to see 4 white people in a group of Chinese?

 

Nanjing Road
Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road

We went into a department store to do some "baby" shopping as I was going to become a Grandpa in a few weeks. It did not take long before a nice sleeper was located. The weird part is every store has clerks all over the place wanting to help you. Once you select the item the clerk takes it from you gives you a piece of paper to go pay the Central Cashier and you bring back his paper work and give it to the clerk who in turns gives you the bag with your goods in it. I guess that is one way to have work for the Chinese. 

 

We spent the next few hours wandering in and out of stores learning one could get anything they wanted in the form of knockoffs.

 

Once done here we walked back to our hotel via side streets that had some very weird smells coming from the shops.

 

side street
Side Street

 

Getting back to the hotel we got cleaned up and headed out to the Yixiulou District for food. Arriving there we found many places lined up and we opted for the food court again but this time it was a Vegetable Soup dish.

 

dinner

 

You select a dish with the contents in it then take it up to a lady who then adds boiling hot broth to it and you let it sit for 5 minutes while it cooks. I mean what could possibly go wrong with this idea?

We left dinner and went into small store that sold many varied items and I do mean varied. Being a pilot I saw something that caught my eye, it was a model of a F-16 made out of bullet casings. I talked with the group and all said it is a real conversation piece, and I agreed. Then it came down to how do I get it home? I can't carry it on the plane or I can put it in my case and put it in the hold. I mean what is the worst that can happen if they x-ray my case either in Singapore or San Francisco? Everyone said they will just take it away and I thought about it and said yes and then I can hear that rubber glove now. I decided to not get it.

 

tank
You can see the nose of the plane on the lower shelf. You get the idea with the tank.

 

So after the shopping it was a slow stroll back to the hotel with a stop again in the park to watch the dancing.

 

Once arriving back at the hotel it was time to arrange for a Bus to take us (6) to the ship tomorrow at about 10 AM. This was done in short order at a fixed cost that worked out to about $15 USD each.

September 01 2017 - Depart Shanghai, China

 

Waking the next morning we went for breakfast and our last few hours before we were off on our next part of the trip.
The group soon assembled in the lobby and had a short wait for our bus/driver to arrive.
Loading up the bus was interesting as I wanted to see how we were going to add 2 more people and luggage at our next stop.
The next stop was soon upon us and we managed to load the next two and their luggage but not before having to have a small case on my lap.

 

Arriving at the port about an hour later was quick. We took our luggage to the drop-off area and were given a series of forums to fill out.
There was this nice immigration form we had to fill out and then hand in our Yellow Card we were given at the Airport for our 144 Hour Visa, the problem was they took it away and gave us a Blue form at the Airport.
Arriving at Immigration with Blue form in hand with Passports proved that yes China Immigration does not know what to do with said Blue form and the Visa pasted inside ones passport. They was a huddle between Officers as they tried to figure things out. They wrote our information in a book and we were good to go.

 

While boarding the ship I had this not well feeling and just could not figure what it was about. 

 

It was upstairs to the Windjammer for some lunch as we waited for our cabins to be ready.

 

This is the 3rd ship in this Class of Ship I have been on and while it had the same layout as prior ships in this class there were some changes made to the Mariner when she was sent to the Asian Market. Many high end stores were added to the Mall and the ships store was moved downstairs and has an area of about for about 3 shelves.

 

Walking into the Windjammer they have given it a Asian feeling with Pink trees lining the entrance. There is the walk in past the bar where the first smells hit you of grease, the front end is all Asian Food on both sides. As you get to the rear  you get a more western choice of food and a Indian Food section as well.
I tried to see what the Asian section had but it was the smell of the grease that just put me off from trying anything.

 

Our cabins were soon ready and we were off to see what our cabin had in-store for us. 

 

The next thing was making sure our dinner time was correct as we had bought the Specialty Dining Package which allowed us to eat in Chops or Portofino's and enjoy 40% off bottles of wine under $100 dollars and eat lunch here on sea days.
This would pay for itself after 2 dinners and 1 lunch.
The six of us had a dinner reservation for 8 PM in Chops tonight and then 8 PM in Portofino's tomorrow night.

 

There was the mandatory lifeboat drill which of course we attended. This proved to be a long drawn out drill as it was conducted in 3 languages being English, Mandarin and German. This was likely the longest drill I have attended.

 

After the drill it was off to find a few beverages through the Diamond Lounge.
For those that don't cruise much, cruise lines have frequent cruiser perks like air miles. As you go up levels you get different perks and once you reach Diamond Status on Royal Caribbean and above there is a lounge called the Diamond Lounge where you can get free Cocktails from 5 PM to 8:30 PM. If you choose not to go to the Diamond Lounge then you get 3 free drinks attached to your cabin card daily.

 

We all arrived at Chops at the appointed time and were given a nice round table to sit at. It was interesting to sit there and have staff come up and say I remember you from the Legend Cruise last March.
We would soon hear that a lot as we walked around the ship.

 

Chops was its usual great steak. I knew that I was going to try things on the menu I would not otherwise try as we ate between the 2 restaurants every night.

 

After dinner it was a walk around the ship to see some of the changes and work our way back to the cabin.
Once back to the cabin it was time to retire for the night.

 

September 2 2017 - At Sea

I have to say this day isn't starting out well for me as I woke about 3 AM feeling horrible and needing a visit to the bathroom. That feeling I had yesterday that I wasn't feeling well now had taken a turn south and I wasn't really feeling well.
The continued trips to the bathroom has made me decide to stay in the cabin for the day, a sort of self imposed cabin lock down. I was also into my Imodium tablet supply and it appeared to be having little effect.

 

Carol left me on my own to visit friends and enjoy the ship.

 

I have to say after spending the day in the Cabin I was ready to get out of it for our dinner at 8 PM. I was feeling much better now and figured I would go to dinner and see how I felt.

 

Seeing the menu and the food I wanted to eat so I thought just try a little of something which I did and enjoyed.

 

Because of our late dinner we missed the show for tonight.

 

September 3 2017 - Okinawa, Japan

Let's say that last nights sleep was interrupted by a 3 AM visit to the bathroom and a couple more of Imodium. Lets also say dinner might not have been a good idea either.  Isn't hindsight always great....
Also Carol was now visiting the bathroom on a more than regular bases.

 

Visiting our friends we stayed with in China we find out that one of them also was not doing well either. That was 3 of 4 now not doing well, was it that meal we ate the last night in China? Was it something we touched? Either way it was not good.

 

We would depart the ship just after nine as we had to clear Japanese Customs which required us to carry a photo copy of our passport and a sticker they would attach to it.
Arriving at Customs we could hear this screaming of our names, it was our friends who missed the ship/China who got a free trip to Japan. There were 5 others with them.

 

We were off to the train station to take the train to Shurijo Castle which is the end of the line for the train and a short walk to the Castle. I am not sure what happened but the 4 of us somehow got talked at the exit to the port into taking a taxi to Shurijo Castle for what we were told was less than the train.
Arriving just after 10 at the entrance to Shurijo Castle we realized this was going to be a VERY HOT and ugly day. All those Japanese people using umbrellas were not doing so because it was raining, because it was not raining but very hot and sunny and humid!
We never did complete seeing the Castle as the humidity was killing us. 

 

Shurijo Castle

 

Gardens
Gardens around the Castle.

 

We soon headed back towards the train to catch it back to Naha and try and find a mall to keep cool in. We had no problem buying tickets as the machines do do English, but you can end up with some weird coins as a result.

 

Arriving back in the mall area we departed the train with Carol starting to not feel good in the heat. Carol and I boarded the train and decided to ride it to the airport to cool down.
Having to get off the train at the airport I looked a my GPS to see we were very near a Geocache. It was downstairs so we headed out and signed the log. That knocks Japan off the list of Countries. Back on the train and headed back to town we we departed the train for a walk around the city and towards the ship. Walking around we saw all those smart Japanese people holding umbrellas while we roasted trying to go from shade to shade as we walked around.
This soon resulted in stopping at 7-11 for water. There was a couple more stops to grab Geocaches before getting back to the ship mid afternoon.
The plan was to do conveyor belt Sushi here but based on how we both felt that just didn't look like the smartest thing to do today.

 

We later all (8 of us) met upstairs by the pool for drinks. While departing Okinawa we had this magnificent thunder and lightening show. 

 

Rob and I got to talking about Okinawa and the movie we both watched on the flight to China called Hacksaw Ridge which won 2 Academy Awards. It was a true story of a decenter in WWII that became a medic during a major battle at Okinawa. We were looking at the different mountains we could see wondering where the actual battle took place

 

September 4 2017 - At Sea

I had a rough night last night and it appears what ever I caught on the first day of the cruise has now come back for round two or it never really left.....

 

I visited the Doctor first thing this morning and I played 60 questions with Him and the Nurse. Good to see even the Medical Room has Trivia on a cruise.
The result was I was now confined to my room for at least 24 hours and don't try and leave your cabin. We have deactivated your room key card and we get a message if you try and use it. I get Free Room Service from a "Special Menu" with items such as rice, bananas, apple sauce and water. I also get free movies which later turned out to not be available due to system problems in my part of the ship.

I can say this an inside cabin with no movies sure can drive one nuts. Good thing I had my tablet and could listen to my Single A Baseball Team the Vancouver Canadian's in the playoffs.

 

Then it was sleep time...eat rice and a banana, and Imodium then more sleep. Oh and case you wanted to know there are 9 drawers in my cabin.....

 

September 5 2017 - Hong Kong

Waking around this morning I was feeling pretty good. No problems through the night so it appeared I was doing okay.

The phone rang about 9 am and it was the nurse who played 20 questions with me and said I was cleared to go ashore. I had been released.

 

We met with friends shortly thereafter and headed to get something to eat. I decided to stick to a banana and go ashore.

 

Once off the ship and in the terminal we caught a free bus to the train station where we had planned to catch the train to Victoria Peak.
It should be noted we were docked at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal which is located on the old runway of the Kai Tak Airport which was noted for one of the hairiest approaches in the world. Standing there and looking at the buildings I could see why.

 

We arrived at the station and the next task was buy a all day pass. That didn't turn out as easy as we thought it might be as we found out we could not do it from a kiosk but had to do it from an agent. This is to stop locals from buying/using it.

 

We had two station changes on the way and when we got off we were told we could walk to the bottom of the Peak and catch the 125 year old tram to the top.
Well this didn't turn out as planned as we ended up on the bus to the top. This was no regular bus but a double decker. We sat on the top for the best view but I soon saw that climbing up the winding road was hairy. If a bus comes the other way there are places where they can not pass each other.
It was worth the trip up and glad we did it.

 

On the top there are path ways where you can walk through the gardens which we did to locate a few Geocaches. From there we paid to go to the look-out platform and the views were amazing from what we could see. This was in part due to the cloud that was present as there was another approaching Typhoon for tomorrow.

 

 

viewing platform
The viewing platform complete with a mall inside.

 

view from the platform
View from the top of Hong Kong our ship is in the upper right in the distance

 

tram
The Tram we caught back to the bottom

 

another angle of the view

 

After leaving the top we took the tram down. I must say be prepared for upwards on an hour wait to descend.

We walked to the train station from the bottom to find we were at the wrong station and needed to catch a bus to our station.

We arrived back where the bus dropped us this morning which also had a mall attached to it. We walked around the mall but didn't see much that we either wanted or needed.

Arriving downstairs to the queue we soon learned that even though there was roped off area to queue up that some of our fellow Asians would have nothing to do with this. We had been warned that this would be the norm and it was just that. After standing for 30 minutes before a bus arrived and finding we would not be on it things got a little pushy. We had many Asians trying to push in front of us that had just arrived and I was about to tell them behind us when a fellow Asian Passenger got very vocal and sorted things out.

 

Kai Tak Garden
On top of the Kai Tak cruise terminal and the green space on the roof. also a few Geocaches up here.

 

We were setting sail at 8 PM tonight at the time we would be starting dinner in Chops. The Captain came on the PA and welcomed us on board and said the next hour was going to be interesting because we were leaving at the right time because another Typhoon was coming in and another Thunder and Lightening storm was going to be in order.

 

scallops
Tonight's starter

 

September 6 2017 - At Sea

The weather has been getting warmer as we head south towards the Equator, meaning we can sit outside by the pool.

 

Today we would have a Ice Show at 2 PM in Studio B. This ship is one of a few that have a ice arena built into the ship. Yes there is Public Skating free of charge almost daily.

 

For me it was more about trying to get better as I still wasn't up to par.

 

As our dinner time has been around 8 PM nightly we have missed most of the shows onboard. Tonight was Monique Dehaney a Jamaican Lady singing Reggie, Soul and Funk.

 

At 1015 PM there was the Love and Marriage Game show which on past cruises is almost always standing room only and not to miss.
There has never been a problem trying to get couples to take part except tonight. What can I say there are maybe 50 in the Theatre and that is it. They were pretty much begging people to come up and take part.
I suspect that because of all the Asian passengers on the ship this isn't their thing or for more to the point in a language they can understand.
Needless to say this wasn't a great show.

September 7 2017 - At Sea

Today was another day of rest by the pool.

 

Tonight we decided to have dinner early at about 630 PM so we could go to the show tonight and retire early because tomorrow is a long day in Saigon.

 

shrimp cocktail

Shrimp Cocktail

 

Tuna
Tuna

 

Short Ribs
Short Ribs

 

Chocolate Cake

 

Tonight's show was a Production show by RCI and as I have said in the past I tend to hate these shows. I have to say tonight's show was one of the better ones I have seen.

 

September 8 2017 - Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam aka Saigon

Today is going to be a very long day as we have to travel about 2 hours by bus to Saigon.

 

We booked a ships excursion because the ship won't leave without us, so they say. The price was also good for about $45 CAD each for a 10 hour tour.

 

The ship can not dock in Saigon as the river can not handle ships this size. The port of choice is Phu My which is a freighter port. There is not much here nor is there a terminal building. I think the first thought when the ship is pilling into the port is Oh My.

Leaving the ship around 730 AM for our 745 AM departure was interesting in it's self. The local Vietnamese were setting up stalls to sell their wears to those that were going to be around.

The bus pulled out on time and our guide began to talk about the local area and how long it would take us to get to Saigon. The guide suggested it should take no more than 2 hours to get to Saigon with one planned rest stop along the way.

 

rest stop
This is suppose to be a typical rest stop. Bathrooms in back and hammocks on the right side back to rest for 60 minutes and food stalls.

 

I can say it was 3 hours later when we arrived. Our tour would be adjusted so that we would still get our full tour and arrive back at the ship by departure.

 

The first stop was a Temple called Ong Bon Pagoda which we could visit the grounds but could no go into the Temple itself.
This temple was built by the Chinese after WWII for the God of Wealth. One brings fake money here to burn at the Pagodas furnace which is said to bring luck.

 

Ong Bon Temple

 

Budda

 

inside temple
Looking through the gate into the Temple

 

 

I have to say just driving around the city is an experience in itself. The mopeds every where and carrying everything.
I am certain that if you need something made of plastic this is the place to get it.

 

mopeds
see any cars?

 

plastic?
need something made of plastic?

 

We then headed towards downtown where we would be dropped off for a few hours Bến Thành Market and area.

A few of our group of six ended up going to do a couple of Geocaches one at Saigon Turtle Lake Park then onto
Cathédrale Notre-Dame. I have to say the sidewalks in Saigon are uneven and no one has heard of a level.

 

 

Cathédrale Notre-Dame
The church was built 1880

 

Turtle Lake
Looking from Turtle Lake Park towards Cathédrale Notre-Dame

 

Arriving back at our drop off location was interesting because every street seller known to man is here. Barter is the order of the day, The sellers even out barter those beside them for the same item. It is very funny. Well made T-Shirts for $3 or 5 for $10 USD. They say that you can't use USD but they sure accept it. The Vietnam Dong is worthless and if you bring any home it becomes a souvenir.

From here we went to Reunification Palace where the end of the Vietnam War took place on April 30th 1975.

 

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

 

Conference hall
Conference Hall

 

Banquet Chamber
Banquet Chamber - not exactly sure where the food comes from.

 

We then boarded the bus back to the ship. The traffic was not as bad as coming into Saigon but none the less it was just under 2 hours. Almost 5 hours on a bus to/from Saigon.
I would suggest that one finds a cruise with an overnight stop here and take a hotel room in Saigon to get the most out of it. I understand good hotels are very cheap.

 

Vietnam is a Communist Country today but it is said that 95% of it's people support Capitalism. While Ho Chi Nin City was the name given to Saigon after the Vietnam war over 40 years ago it is still referred buy the people in the south as Saigon.
The people work very hard and from the goods I saw on the street being sold such as shirts they appear to be of good quality and a tenth of the price in North America. Just remember this clothing sizes in Vietnam are not the same as home.

 

Yes we did need a Visa to enter Vietnam but we paid the ship $5.00 and they looked after it for us. We never even got a stamp in our passport for our $5.00.

 

Tonight's show was Jen Jayden the Journey of a Songwriter. It was scheduled for 10:00 PM and we took a miss on this due to dinner.

September 9 2017 - At Sea

Today is the last day on the the Mariner of the Seas. It is forecast to be in the low 30's C.

 

My thoughts to this point of the cruise are this. While the majority of the passengers are Asian and many things are geared to them including the staff on board which in the food and beverage areas are Chinese, their English is amazing.
Our Cabin Steward was from Indonesia which is the norm for most cruise lines.
There was a change of Cruise Director starting with our cruise to a Canadian from Vancouver Canada. While he tried to do many western shows they just didn't appeal to the mostly Asian Passenger list.
Many of the information signs around the elevators were replaced with signs in Mandarin. While this is a sister ship to the Explorer and Adventure of the Seas things are not in the same place as on those ships as some changes were made to Mariner when it went to China. These changes will be undone when Mariner sails back to North America in 2018.

 

I look back at our brief visit to China and the one thing that strikes you in Shanghai is the money that is there, I could not get over the number of Tesla's or Buicks driving around. For a Communist Country this appears at odds with the Communist System. So it is fair to say it is like Vietnam.
There is still very much the Communist System in place with everyday things such as try and use your mobile phone or computer and access Google. It is not going to happen unless you use a VPN. Now you can use Yahoo with no problem.
Yes there were some odd ball things that happened in China but in the end that is what made Chine truly unique.

 

The last day of any cruise is a day where you say goodbye to new found friends and head back to the cabin and pull the cases out from under the bed and start packing.
Then one places their suitcase outside the cabin door by midnight and the next time you see it is on land.

 

Tonight we had our final dinner in Giovanni's and what a dinner it was. We had asked that items from the lunch menu be prepared for dinner and that was looked after for us.

 

September 10 2017 - Singapore

We departed the ship on time but the holdup was Singapore Immigration to get our Passports Stamped and paper Visa at no cost.

 

We then said Goodbye to our  friends from Toronto as they caught a taxi to their hotel while Tony scoured the landscape for a small bus for the 6 of us. After about 10 minutes Tony located a small bus but the catch was we would have to walk a short distance to get it.
All of us managed to get into the bus with our luggage and we were on to the Ibis Hotel. We stayed here last trip and there was nothing wrong with it.

 

A short time later we were at the hotel and our rooms were ready for us. This being around 10 AM surprised us they were ready.

We were off to walk around Singapore and visit Gardens By the Bay because our friends didn't come with us on the last trip.

 

Walking around the Gardens we saw they were getting ready for the Fall Festival which for the most part look a lot like Thanksgiving.

 

gardens by the bay

 

We headed over to the far end of the park to do some Geocaches over there that we missed earlier this year. The two we headed too involved what is referred to as an Earthcache. One has to read what is special about this location and then answer a series of questions. In this case it had to do with petrified wood.

 

Petrified wood

 

There was also a physical geocache nearby as well which we set off to do and completed.

 

From here we continued around the park and picked up a couple more Geocaches before heading to the area for the Gardens by the Bay Light Show. If you want a good spot it is advised to be there early because lying down is the best way to see it.

 

Sands Hotel
Sands Hotel and the Singapore Eye to the right

 

baby
Baby near the Geocache we did.

 

flower

 

Flower twilight
Flowers with Sands Hotel in back

 

 

dark
All done to Music

 

While we had seen this display (free) back in March it was a totally new show this time. It is worth a trip to visit Gardens by the Bay.

 

Once we were done here it was a trip back on the train to the Little India Station where we got off the train and walked back past the entrance to Little India.

 

Little India
That is one colourful entrance

 

September 11 2017 - Singapore

There were 3 of us today out of our group of 6 that decided we would catch the Sindo Ferry over to Batam Indonesia where we could get 2 Geocaches, yes 2 and then catch the ferry back.

 

The 3 of us caught the train to Harbourfront Centre arriving about an hour before we were scheduled to leave for Batam.

 

Boarding the Ferry was a painless experience for 2 of us while the 3rd was detained because there was a small problem, or a BIG problem in Singapore's eyes. You see since we were all together on the Singapore to Spain cruise it would appear that Tony was still in Panang Malaysia according to Singapore's records and they wanted to know how he go back into Singapore. Once this was straightened around we were off to Batam.
The ferry ride is on a Fast Ferry and lasts roughly 1 hour where you make a short stop to disembark everyone but us who continue on to Waterfront Station. Arriving here Immigration proved interesting as we were to explain our exact nature of our visit. You see we did not have any luggage so we were not staying a the Holiday Inn nearby. Trying to explain Geocaching was fruitless to this 70+ year old Officer. When I said the 3 of us had return tickets for the return trip and showed them to him we were stamped and sent on our way.

 

This part of Batam was once a thriving tourist location but all changed several years back and it was up and abandoned. It looks like people just walked away and left everything behind.

The first Geocache was near the Ferry Terminal and the next one was about 700 meters away. The first one was found without problem and we signed it and left for the next one. There wasn't much along the way except one well used warehouse. A few people passed us on scooters all waved at us.
Upon arriving at the second Geocache I was almost hit by a falling coconut which just missed me by a few feet.
We were aware this cache was to be replaced as per the cache owners request so we did just that.
It was then a walk back to catch the return ferry to Singapore.
For doing these caches in Indonesia I managed another country bringing my total to 43 countries I have cached in.

 

nothing here
nothing here except local truck driving by.

 

yeo nothing here.

 

walking back
nothing here...

 

Customs House
The Indonesian Customs House

 

Arriving back in Singapore meant having to clear Immigration again and then back onto the MRT line back to the hotel to meet the rest of our group. It was also the last night for 2 of the group who flew home the next morning.

 

Tonight it was dinner across the street at one of the many Hawker places to eat. You see you can get anything in Singapore. I would say it is a world mecca for food.
There are tables setup on the sidewalk and ordering food is fast and easy. I do caution you to pay attention to stands marked HALAL as you will see signs not to bring food from other stands to those tables. I wasn't a rebel and try it as canning is still legal in Singapore.

Once dinner was done it was a walk around the area to see what was going on. I have never not felt safe here in Singapore on the trips I have been here.

 

September 12 2017 - Singapore

 

Today was shopping and looking around at the F1 Race Course that was being set-up for the coming Singapore night race this coming weekend.
I had to get an outfit for my new Granddaughter which was coming soon after I returned home.
So the Ladies left Joe and I to our devices and we were off. Joe and I managed to find a couple of items for the new Granddaughter and then we were off to find a pub for lunch. As I said yesterday Singapore is a food mecca except if you try and find a pub for lunch.
Joe and I managed to locate a Pub after searching the net. It was a few local beers suggested by the bar tender and burgers for both of us.

The beers were good along with the food and the company!

 

We were soon off to go meet the ladies and continue from there.

 

Singapore
Preparing for the F1 Race

 We found the ladies at the appointed time and location and decided Popeye's Chicken was going to be our final meal in Singapore. I can't explain why this happened but it did and we enjoyed it I must say. From here it was a short walk to the hotel to prepare for our flights home tomorrow.

 

September 13 2017 - Singapore to Home

It was an early morning today with our arrival at 6:00 AM at the airport. What I found odd was there was no security until you reach the gate to board the aircraft. Very interesting way to do things.

 

Our flight was delayed by over an hour which would mean we would miss our connection in San Francisco. They now had us on a Air Canada flight from SFO to YVR which in turn turned out to be 2 hours late. The SIN to SFO is listed at 15 hours long. The good news was I managed to get the centre section for both of us with the middle seat remaining empty.
United did a good job for the most part except when serving drinks and they suddenly stopped with 7 rows to go and put the cart away. After 5 minutes or so I got up and went back to the galley and asked if they were coming back and they said no. I asked why they stopped and the cabin attendant said everyone was sleeping. I pointed out that I was trying to order my drink when you left but you ignored me. At that point I saw a look on the flight attendant that said I was a problem and she was going to deal with it her way. I did manage to get my drink and man the service for the rest of the flight could not have been better.

 

Looking back at this trip I have to say it was a good trip made better by the Friends that came along.

China was some of what I expected but in a lot of ways not what I expected. I would have thought the 144 VISA situation would have been better handled and surprised me when we left the Officials were not sure what to do to let us exit the country of China.
There was the hotel that got our friends a refund for being over charged by the taxi company.
While China is a Communist Country it is a very Capitalist society and trying to do simple things like going on the internet can be fought with many problems yet we had no problems walking the city and felt very safe.

 

I found Okinawa Japan just too hot for the day we were there. It also appeared to not be a true taste of Japan because of the US Navy being there.

 

Hong Kong was interesting but I just didn't have enough time there to make much of a comment on it. I need to go back for a further visit.

 

Saigon and for that matter Vietnam is somewhere where I want to back to to spend some time. The people were friendly at least the ones we came across.

 

Singapore was much better the second time around as we felt more comfortable being there and ventured out more than we did the first time. Yes I would go back again!.

 

The cruise itself was okay but not great. I suppose many things have changed since my first cruise in 1983. Royal Caribbean keeps changing things and for the most part not for the better. With this cruise only being scheduled in early July may have caused some of the problems with the food we had on board. You see the ship has to place it's order about 90 days before the cruise date in order for the food to arrive in time for the cruise. The Mariner was doing 3/4/5 day cruises in the Asia market where the vast majority of Passengers were Chinese. This 10 day cruise gets thrown into the mix and 30% or more of the passengers are from the western world. So how does the ship deal with this when the food was already ordered for the dates this ship was sailing. The ship has to make do but at a cost to those from the western world.

 

I was sick for most of the cruise and I came home to find I lost 11 lbs. as a result. Did I do something stupid to get what ever it was I got or had, who knows. I know this though when told NOT to eat for 24 hours do it for 48 hours.

 

The next thing I learned on this trip was don't place your photos on as many as 5 devices like I did. When you get home and try and look at them and write about it, it takes time to locate all those photos and get them transferred to one device. This is why it has taken me so long to write about this trip.

 

Thank you for reading,

 

Phil