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  1. Singapore Part IV, Journey Home, Concluding Remarks The alarm went off at 7am and off to the gym I went (so happy to be able to say that again!). The gym was busier today, and even with 4 people it felt crowded. I managed to workout for an hour or so, my back is holding up ok. DS and DM were already up when I returned and were attempting to re-pack their cases. Not an easy task. They were more than happy to abandon it and go for breakfast…again down to the main restaurant, which was also very busy. As well as my usual fruit and yoghurt, I had an omelette prepared for me at the egg station – I swear there must have been at least 5 eggs in it, protein overload, I couldn’t finish it. Our plans for the day were to finish packing, check out, visit the ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay, then back to the hotel to chill out until it was time to go to the airport. But first we walked to a supermarket which was about 10 mins away as DS wanted to get some ‘local’ chocolates for work colleagues. Not sure Toblerone counts! I always like visiting supermarkets when I travel even if I don’t buy anything. Surprisingly it wasn’t in a mall, so we managed to see some sites along the way. We passed a Dublin Street! Back at the hotel, I started to re-pack. While it was a fair squeeze, with some persistence I managed to close my case. Job done. Next, we checked out of the hotel and left our bags at the concierge in the Club Lounge who said we could continue to use the facilities for the rest of the day which was extremely generous of them. We would be back! We Google mapped our way down to the Marina Bay area via the bus. We walked through the Marina Sands hotel to get to the Museum – would I stay here? Probably not, it’s just too big. At the ArtScience Museum you can buy tickets for individual exhibitions or for everything. We decided to just get tickets for the ‘Future World: Where Art Meets Science’ exhibition. Informational note, the tickets are pretty expensive. And in retrospective, this was not a great decision. It soon became obvious that the exhibition is mainly aimed at children, and within 15 minutes we were done. A 7 year old would love it! Me..meh, I’m young but not that young! Although the light installation at the end was pretty cool. Crystal Universe with 170,000 LED lights We were at a bit of a loss about what to do next as we still had much of the day to fill. We walked back through the Marina Sands and contemplated paying the $26 (each) to go to the observation deck on the 57th floor, but we already had plenty of epic views from our hotel (for free!) so we decided against it. We wandered around the shops for a while and then tried to figure out how to get back to the hotel. It was not straightforward – we had just missed the bus so we decided to take the MRT, but we had to change once and MRT line we took did not leave us directly back to the hotel. No matter, sure some more walking in 30+ degrees is always fun. Sure it filled in the time! Back at the hotel, we availed of the Club Lounge for lunch (more tea and toast, possibly a granola bar). DS and DM went to the pool (no loungers shock) so they went to the other outdoor seating area and spent a couple of hours reading. Meanwhile I stayed in the Lounge and did some work. At 5pm it was aperitivo time! I am surprised they let us stay for it (given we had already checked out hours ago), but it was no problem at all. Free dinner, sweet! This time we didn’t restrain ourselves as our next meal would be about 8 hours away and on a plane. During the afternoon I was emailing with my surgeon’s secretary about my upcoming operation in 4 days’ time. She said there could be a slight hiccup…ah well, sure let’s have a glass of (free) wine and wait and see. We had planned on getting a taxi to the airport, but given the efficiency of the public transport, given that the airport bus goes from directly outside the hotel, and given we had oodles of time to spare, we decided to take the bus. In retrospect, another bad decision, do I ever learn!! I didn’t count on rush hour traffic and a jam-packed bus which took the scenic route of the airport! DM used her elderly charm to get a seat, and DS nabbed one beside her, I, on the other hand, spent most of the journey standing crammed again multiple bags. I tried to be philosophical about it telling myself that it was good to stand now as I would be sitting for the next 14 hours, and sure standing is better for my back, but after the first 40 minutes I was no longer philosophical. But in fairness the bus did leave us directly into terminal 3 (still no waterfall). While queuing to check-in I used the airport’s wifi to check my email, another bad idea, I had one from the surgeon’s secretary saying that I couldn’t go ahead with the operation on Monday as the surgeon was performing the surgery in a hospital which my insurance didn’t cover. Why oh why they did not inform me of this when the initial date was proffered! I was suitably annoyed and a little upset as I had mentally prepared for it/took time off work etc. Now I would have to wait until the end of February. I tried to put it out of my head and concentrate on the positives, I just had a fantastic holiday with DS and DM, and I was returning to see DH, on balance things are pretty good. We got through security relatively quickly, but we still had loads of time before our 11pm flight so we deposited DM by the gate, and DS and I tried to spend our remaining Singaporean dollars. We only had $5 so it was a fun challenge to find anything we could afford! Mentos anyone? There was a massive boarding queue so we hung back for a while, we would on the plane for long enough. Eventually we could postpone no longer, so we boarded and took our seats near the back of the plane (DS window, DM middle, me aisle). I watched 2 movies, had some food (again pretty good for airplane food), took a sleeping tablet and tried to sleep, although it wasn’t as successful as the trip over. We had a 2hr layover in London, (no running through the airport this time), it’s all abit of a blur at this stage, but somehow we arrived back in Dublin….HOME! Some concluding remarks We have been back for 3 weeks now so I have had some time to reflect on the trip. Would I choose this itinerary again? I discovered that I really love seadays and this cruise had them in spades – on this 10 day cruise there were only 4 stops (some expected, some unexpected). So it was a much more relaxing cruise than my usual Med cruises where you are in port every day with maybe one or two seadays. That I really enjoyed. However, I also like to experience the places I visit, and apart from Singapore and Penang, I didn’t really get a good sense of the other places we visited – Bali, KL, and Langkawi. The time in port was just too short to do the places any real justice. I would definitely re-visit this region although on a land-based trip. Would I choose this ship again? It was my first time sailing with Princess, and as I already mentioned, my expectations of Sapphire were not particularly high given her age. That said, my expectations were surpassed. Plus marks go to the food (in both IDR and Horizon Court), the size of our mini suite, the friendliness of the staff, the number of pools/hot tubs, the intimate nature of the IDR compared to most MDRs, the covered Conservatory, and the Promenade deck. Negative marks go to the entertainment, trying to get to the IDR (you have to go up and down and up again, very confusing), very chlorinated pools, and bathrooms in need of updating. The ‘pluses’ win out I think. However, I like trying different ships, so I won’t choose Sapphire again for a while unless there is an itinerary I just can’t turn down. Would I sail with Princess again? Yes, but on a newer ship, perhaps Sky Princess has my name on it…. Next cruise plans? Currently in negotiations, but 7-day Med cruise on Celebrity Apex in June is in the offing… Final words Thank you all for following this very long and drawn out post. I hope you found at least some useful nuggets of information. Thanks for all your kinds words and encouragement along the (long) way. Thanks also to DS and DM, my cruise partners in crime, for putting up with me always wanted to ‘do something’ and being truly excellent travelling companions. May there be lots more cruises in our future! [Back update – there has been a significant improvement, contemplating skipping surgery – cruise instead anyone???]
  2. It was a truly great trip. I like to be active. You should see me when I am not injured...galleries galore! Panama Canal is on my to do list for sure! In retrospect maybe the detox was good for me, I am looking for the positives here!
  3. Singapore Part III You may have noticed that there has been a distinct lack of ‘7am alarm and straight to the gym’ posts recently. Four port days in a row and disembarkment has somewhat scuppered my workout plans. But today was the day to get back to it. The 7am alarm eventually led to a 7.30 rise-time and straight to the hotel gym on the 16th floor. The gym, while small, was perfectly functional with wrap around views of the city. I have a major dislike of basement hotel gyms with no natural light, so this gym gets a 4 star rating (it would have been 5 stars but the air conditioning wasn’t strong enough). There was enough equipment to fill an hour’s workout and it felt so good to get the heart rate up again. It was also sufficient time to work up an appetite for breakfast in what could be the largest breakfast buffet ever! Breakfast was included in our room rate and we could either go to the Club Lounge or the main restaurant. We decided to try out the main restaurant and I am very glad we did – in my experience you can beat breakfasts in Asian hotels, you can literally have any cuisine imaginable. Tropical juices, fresh fruit, pancakes, omelettes, real coffee!!! I was in breakfast heaven (apart from the buffet bit). Our plans for the day were to go to the Botanical Gardens in the morning, some pool time in the afternoon, and have a walk/dinner Kampong Glam that evening. Google maps directed us to the Botanical Gardens via a direct bus from right outside the hotel. Hands down, these are the best botanical gardens I have ever experienced. I would come to Singapore just for these gardens, they were that spectacular. They are also massive, and we didn’t have time to cover even half of them. There are multiple entrance gates, we entered the southern ones (I think) and there are maps available with different trails at each. We followed a couple of different trails which led to the highlight of the gardens – the Orchid Garden. Entry into the main gardens are free, but you have to pay to enter the Orchid Garden (absolutely worth it). One of the entrance points Like Ireland, the weather was mixed, it varied from overcast to sun to rain, but always very humid (unlike Ireland). My umbrella came in handy both for the rain and the sun! Warning….many photos to follow…I couldn’t help myself. Lots of hidden sculptures throughout Orchids, orchids, and more orchids DM loves gardens, look at the size of that smile! Even the washbasins in the restrooms were ‘in theme’ We walked many kilometres without even noticing it. We could have spent all day there, but eventually the heat and humidity got to us, so we took the bus back to the hotel and up to the Lounge for tea (coffee in my case) and toast and babybel! At this stage of the holiday we are somewhat craving plain food. Infinity pool time! Again luck was on our side. Just as we arrived some guests were leaving and they kindly offered us their cabana and loungers. Another prime spot. My view for a few hours I alternated between reading, music and swimming, and googling for a restaurant for the evening. I wanted to do a guided walking tour of Kampong Glam but DS and DM were not feeling it, so instead we decided to take a bus to the general area, have a walk around on our own, go to a cocktail bar that DS had found in the guidebook, and get dinner somewhere around there. First though, the hotel’s 5pm aperitivo time was calling. We got there at about 4.45pm and already there were many people casually stopping by…like us…for the free food and drinks…can you blame us! There were plates of hot dishes, cold dishes, sushi, cheese, wine and beer. We had a glass of wine and tried to limit how much food we ate as we still planned on having dinner later. We googled mapped our way to Kampong Glam via the bus, passing the famous Raffles Hotel and some interesting sites along the way. Bus sites Kampong Glam is known as the Little Muslim Quarter of Singapore. It is filled with interesting shops and restaurants, and lots of mosques. The Sultan Mosque stands tall in the centre of the district, and we very surprised to learn that it was designed by Irishman, Denis Santry, from Cork! The Sultan Mosque And one more for luck We walked around for a little while, but DM was flagging fast at this stage so we decided to forgo the cocktail and went straight for dinner. No food pics but we shared a fab pasta and salad in an Italian restaurant (not really keeping in theme at all!). After dinner we walked back to the bus-stop over a flyover with some excellent views. The Singapore skyline When we got back to the hotel we headed up to the pool to enjoy even more views. Even though it was 10am there were still lots of people hanging out. I was tempted to go for a swim but laziness crept in and we retreated to bed, we were averaging over 20000 steps every day in Singapore. Home tomorrow! Nightscape from our hotel pool...tempting I match!
  4. Singapore Part II After suitably relaxing/emailing in our fab hotel room we were ready to explore. First, we went up to the Club Lounge to grab some drinks and snacks – babybel cheese and apples. Sweet, I’ll be coming back here. The views were also pretty good. While chomping on our treats, we explored the pool, gym, and the general chill-out areas in the hotel. The pool was epic, one of the best rooftop/infinity pools I have ever seen. There was amazing views all the way to Marina Bay. We would be back here very shortly if I have anything to do with it…. Pool areas, although better views to follow when we settle in for the afternoon Finally, it was time to do some of that sightseeing business that people tend to do while on holiday and Emerald Hill was literally across the street from the hotel. We had no excuse. Emerald Hill is a conservation area in Singapore that consists of beautiful houses built in the early 1900’s, many in Art Deco and Baroque styles. It’s such a colourful road and it stands in stark contrast to the high rise buildings which surround it. You can see our hotel from Emerald Hill All of the houses looked occupied and you could tell that many had been recently renovated, some looked ultra-modern inside (we tried to discreetly sneak a peek). I wonder how much one of these costs…. A very cool bar inside DS fitting in nicely Me fitting in less nicely After our (very) short sightseeing trip, it was time for food…again. Good old Google maps said it was a mere 5 minutes’ walk to the Vietnamese restaurant we wanted to go to, but could we find it, no chance! This would become a theme of our time in Singapore. Almost everything in Singapore seems to be in a shopping mall and finding places in said malls is very challenging. Eventually we worked out how the shop/restaurant numbers correspond to street addresses and we found the restaurant, well we found what was once the restaurant, it had closed down. Typical! There was a very basic Chinese restaurant next door, so DS ordered some noodles, I had a vegetable soy sauce dish (it was literally just pak choi in soy sauce, not sure what I expected), and DM refrained, choosing instead to go back and have tea and toast in the Lounge (so Irish mammy). So after lunch we went back to the hotel/lounge. DM had toast and butter which she declared as ‘excellent’ and I had a coffee. It was the first ‘real’ coffee I had since Bali, I had forgotten how good real coffee tastes. Even more importantly I had forgotten what real coffee does to you, I never felt better! To the pool I say! Somehow, I don’t know how, we managed to get prime location loungers by the pool (and in the shade!) so we spent a couple of hours reading and swimming. There was an epic rain shower while we were there, but it was so warm and tropical, that we stayed out, sure we were wet anyway. Most normal people ran for cover. DM by the pool Rain rain don’t (necessarily) go away At about 3.30 (this day seems endless!) we headed back to the room to get suitably prepared for our Chinatown walking tour – sunscreen, check; mosquito spray, check; umbrella, check; hat, check; rain jacket, check. The weather is so changeable here. Again using the great Google maps, we discovered that we could take a bus directly from the hotel to our meeting point in Chinatown. The public transport in Singapore is just excellent, it runs on time, it’s cheap, it’s clean, they even have double decker buses like in Dublin. As non-car drivers we rely on public transport all the time at home so taking public transport is our norm. Top marks to Singaporean public transport. Again we could use our ATM cards on the buses so no messing about buying tickets etc. While the subway is great, taking the bus is much better for getting a feel of the city. It is, hands down, the greenest (and cleanest) city I have ever been in. They even have a Killiney Road here (Killiney is a very fancy suburb in Dublin, where Bono lives) We arrived in Chinatown early so we walked through what I assume is one of the main roads in Chinatown and had an ice-cream along the way. It was super busy. Chinatown We met our guide at 4.30pm and there were already loads of people waiting to take the tour. It is a ‘free’ walking tour where you tip at the end, so I guess it attracts a lot of people. The tour lasted over 3 hours (DM was flagging near the end, but didn’t give up, so very proud of her). The tour guide took us through various streets around Chinatown, stopping to discuss the history of Chinatown, the evolution of the shophouses, temples etc. We also went into a hawker market and had some small tasters (plus half a beer for DS and myself…it was very hot). If memory serves me correctly, we also did some origami…although maybe I am dreaming that bit….it was very hot…I also had a beer. It was such a long day already. The guide was funny and informative, and he did his best to shepherd the 30+ people around an already busy area, we tipped him handsomely(ish). Offerings for the dead for sale…including false teeth… Getting ready for Chinese New Year These bank machines were actually instead a Chinese temple – you can directly donate money! This was a truly beautiful temple Singapore also feature lots of interesting (commissioned) graffiti At the end of the tour, our guide said that there was a hawker market a couple of blocks away which had the best satay in Singapore. Sure, why not! We walked for about 10-15 minutes in the direction indicated, really having no idea where we were going, and where did we end up – only the hawker market we had already eaten in twice before the cruise! What are the chances! This time we had cash, so we were good to go. We ordered some chicken satay and some beef satay (and some naan, I need the carbs after all that walking). Sorry there are no obligatory food shots in Singapore, I left it on the cruise, but trust me when I say it was tasty. Slight problem now, how do we get back to the hotel from here….somewhat miraculously I was able to get free wifi in the market and Google mapped our way back to the hotel via a walk and a bus. We collapsed very swiftly into our very comfortable beds.
  5. Dismemberment Day & Singapore Part I We were awoken pretty early by our cabin steward returning our passports, which I guess is pretty important if we ever want to leave the ship/country….keep them! We had already arrived in Singapore. We packed away our remaining bits and went to Horizon Court for breakfast (why change a habit of a lifetime!). We ate in The Conservatory, and enjoyed the sights of Singapore in the distance (again memory is failing me, but pretty sure it involved the same as usual, with a slight variation on the pastries perhaps). Back in Singapore I am usually pretty maudlin about leaving a cruise, but less so this time, perhaps because we still had another three days of holiday time in Singapore before heading home to Dublin. After breakfast we went back to the cabin, deposited some cash for our cabin steward, picked up our bags, descended the deck (we used the lifts for perhaps the first time) and tried to figure out where the gangplank was (deck 7, thank you crew). We were off the ship, through immigration, and deposited back in the terminal building by 8.30. No hanging around here. On Princess we had to leave our cabin by 8am regardless of our departure time. A very nice feature of HAL is that you can stay in your cabin until your departure time, which makes for a much more relaxed disembarkation. That said, ours was still pretty relaxed. We had intended to take a taxi to the hotel, but once we left the terminal building to find the taxi rank we saw huge signs stating ‘Train to the City’. So as we had oodles of time and probably couldn’t check into the hotel until much later, plus we would have to figure out how to use the MRT at some point anyway, we decided to follow the signs. Was this a good idea?? In retrospect, maybe not. If it was just DS and myself, maybe yes, but we frequently forget that DM is somewhat older than us, so dragging heavy suitcases in 30 degree heat is challenging. I’m not sure she has forgiven me yet, even when I took over carrying her luggage. We assumed that the MRT station would be close by given the sheer size and frequency of the signs (they really were huge). Bu we walked and walked and then found another sign saying it was another 500 meters!!! so we walked and walked some more. At least it was under a covered walkway which helped somewhat with the heat which was already very hot for so early in the day. I have absolutely no photos of this process, my hands were completely full, I was lugging 4 bags at one point! We eventually made it to the MRT station (note to self, take a taxi in future). We went down the escalators, and down again, only to be confronted by ticket machines which would not take ATM/credit cards. This could be a problem. We had no cash. The attendant at the machine said we had to go to a different station 3 stops away if we wanted to buy a day pass or use cards. That can’t be right surely…how are we supposed to get to the third stop if we couldn’t use the train??? Um. Luckily, there was information desk and the attendant there also confirmed that we couldn’t use our ATM cards to buy tickets BUT we could use our ATM cards to get through the turnstiles! So basically you don’t even need to buy tickets to use the MRT in Singapore, the money is taken off directly from your card as you pass through the turnstile. The Tube in London has the same system, it’s excellent and handy. And so for the rest of our stay in Singapore we were tapping on and off like no-ones business. More good news, there is a direct train from this stop to our hotel which was on Orchard Road. We decided to stay in a different part of the city this time. The area around Orchard Road is the ultimate shopping district in Singapore. While we are not that interested in shopping (at least while on holiday) we selected it for its central location more than anything else, and also for the amazing rooftop infinity pool, as you shall soon see. The subway trip took less than 10 minutes, but actually finding our way from the MRT stop to the hotel took twice as long. According to good old Google maps, the hotel seemed to be above the MRT station but getting into it was another story. We definitely took the long way around, but in the end we found it – the Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore by Shangri-La (to give it its full title). It is located on the 10th floor above one of the malls on Orchard Road. And while not cheap, we definitely got our money’s worth – we were only staying 2 nights but we ended up using the facilities for almost 4 days. I had booked a Panorama Club room and what a panorama we got, complete with wrap around windows… The space, the space!!! Window seats Separate office TV and all those damn bags - those orange roofs below are on Emerald Hill The view The room was massive, there were numerous floor to ceiling windows, a separate dressing room office, window seat etc. A really great room with fab views. I booked the ‘Club’ room as it would give us access to the Club Lounge on the 19th floor which had drinks and snacks throughout the day and an aperitivo hour in the evening. As our flight wasn’t until 11pm in 2 days time, I was hoping they would let us use the lounge on our last day after check out, and indeed they did. But they did even better than that, when we arrived at the hotel at about 9am or so, we naturally assumed we wouldn’t be able to check in yet, but we could, so we did, and 5 minutes later we were in our wonderful room! Perfect. I had requested an early check in in advance but I didn’t think it could be this early! Hotel from the street, our room is the fifth from the top, right at the front I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t feeling too well when we got to the room. I was desperately trying to stay away from DS and DM for the last few days (in as much as that is possible when you share a cabin with people) as I was due to have surgery very soon as I didn’t want to catch their cold! Fingers crossed I’m just tired from all the luggage lugging. So rather than rushing out, we stayed in the room for a few hours while I started to tackle the mountain of emails that were waiting, well more of a hill really, it was the Christmas period in Ireland and no-one is working! DS was tasked with planning the next few days. We made a plan of sorts, at least an immediate plan. First, check out the lounge and infinity pool. Second, explore the nearby Emerald Hill. Third, lunch in a Vietnamese place DS had found in the guidebook. Fourth, relax by the rooftop pool. Fifth, do a 2.5hr walking tour of Chinatown. Sixth, have dinner. So a light day really…..
  6. Day 10 (Port Kelang – Kuala Lumpur) At this point, I am struggling to remember, had we arrived in Port Kelang when I got up or not? For your purposes, it hardly matters, just details details. Our tour group for “The Kuala Lumpur Highlights and Time on your own” tour was meeting at 8.45am so not enough time for me to go to the gym, shower, breakfast…well that’s my story and I am sticking to it. We went for breakfast (as usual at this stage) in Horizon Court (can’t remember exactly but fairly sure it involved some form of fruit, eggs, and pastries). Port Kelang When we arrived at the Wheelhouse at 8.30 it jam packed and all a bit chaotic. Given the itinerary change I guess a lot of people (who have no wifi like me) were forced to take a ship tour given we were not supposed to be here today so there was no chance to organise an independent tour. KL is 1.5hrs drive away from the port and there is no easy way of getting there using public transport so options are pretty slim. Port Kelang is an industrial port, with not a lot going on around it, so choices are limited to staying on-board or taking the ship’s transfer to KL. We opted for the former. After we checked in, we waited in the Theatre until being brought to one of the many many buses queuing in the port. Our tour guide for the day was informative and funny which helped keep us awake on the long drive to KL. This was challenging. The bus had amazing air conditioning, which is just as well as KL was hot hot hot. We made a number of stops in the morning, first to the new Kings Palace (build in 2011), the National Monument, the National Mosque, and Independence Square, before bring dropped off at the Petronas Twin Towers where we would have about 2.5hr of free time. We had about 15 minutes at each stop, longer at the National Monument where we had a chance to walk through the gardens. While it was a good way of seeing some of the sights, I can’t really comment on what I think of KL, unlike Penang for example, where we walked all over town. Seeing a city from a bus doesn’t give you any real insight into what it’s really like as a city. So I don’t want to make any significant comments on it, it seems like a large, modern and pretty wealthy city. The new King’s Palace...finally I am not the only one using an umbrella! You are not allowed into the actual palace...it keeps its distance We arrived in time for the changing of the guard The National Monument...should look familiar to our US audience Gardens at the National Monument The National Mosque Me and the National Mosque Independence Square Cricket anyone? After being dropped off at the Petronas Twin Towers we took the usual photos of the towers and then went into the shopping centre at the base for find some lunch. While I would love to tell you that we went to a really authentic Malaysian restaurant, we didn’t, we ended up in McDonalds, a proper one not just a dessert one. It was incredibly cheap, less than €10 for 3 people! Petronas Twin Towers And again And again We didn’t really have time to go and explore the city beyond the towers so we just had a wander around the shops, and went to the garden beside the towers. They even had a Marks & Spencers food shop (very British) where we bought some almond biscuits to use up our Malaysian currency. DM sat down while DS and I wandered around the designer shops and had a great chat with a local, so that’s about as close we got to the ‘real’ KL. Then it was time to head back to the bus to return to the port for our last evening on-board (boo). In retrospect a 10 day cruise it just about right for me, 7 days a little too short, and 12/14 days a little too long, until that is, my world cruise, but that won’t be for another 25 years. I had a lovely sleep on the way back to the port. Wait for me! Once back, we had to face the dreaded task of packing. To ease the pain I went to Crooners to pick us up two glasses of prosecco to make the packing more bearable. No, not both for me, I shared with DS! We still have oodles of credit left. We decided to do express check out so we don’t have to leave our cases out tonight, but we still want to get it done before dinner. Packing completed, we got ready for dinner and headed down to Crooners to our last aperitif. We had a wonderful table by the window where we watched the sun going down, and reflected on the cruise. Last obligatory pre-dinner shot…wait I'm not ready OK go Tasty Aperol Spritz, not so tasty nuts Look at that view! And so, to our last meal, sign. I have to day that the menu tonight is the most disappointing yet. I struggled to find something that interests me. I ended up with roasted vegetable salad, filet of cod (which I forgot to take a picture of), and apple pie (which was v good). We said goodbye to our Joffrey, awkwardly giving him as tip (I’m Irish not American, do we leave it on the table, give it to him directly, we never know and always end up messing it up and running out of the restaurant. Menu Last obligatory dinner shot, sob Next we headed to guest services to collect the remainder of our refundable on-board credit (despite our gallant efforts to spend it all on cocktails, we still had lots left!). There was quite a queue, but I didn’t want to face it in the morning. They gave it back to us in cash, how weird. And so to bed where we watched Crazy Rich Asians to get us in the mood for the next segment of the trip – Singapore!
  7. Thanks leck57. I hope your trip in April goes well. I'll summarise my comments on Sapphire at the end of the review, but as you already probably guess, I like her alot.
  8. Day 9 (Langkawi) After a great night’s sleep following our busy day yesterday I woke before the alarm went off at 7am. I sneaked a peak out the balcony to discover that we had already docked at Langkawi. After rousing the others, we went to Horizon Court for breakfast and sat outside to enjoy the views – we were surrounding by forest covered islands and it was truly beautiful. No gym today. Breakfast was, well, at this point, you can probably guess. View to the port Our plan was to take a taxi to the nearest beach – which were discovered was Patai Cenang (thanks DH), rent some loungers (and of course umbrellas) and relax by the sea. There was a fixed taxi rate of 60RM (about €13) and 10 minutes later we were deposited on the main strip in Cenang. It’s not the prettiest beach resort on the island, but we had tried and failed to find somewhere that we could be guaranteed loungers, so this would have to do. The ship was providing a free shuttle to Cenang from 9am but we wanted to get there early and enjoy a relatively deserted beach. And indeed the beach was deserted, so deserted in fact that none of the vendors had set up their loungers. It seems like a very relaxed kind of place, especially on a Sunday. Desert beach anyone?? We wandered along the beach and found a beautiful five star resort with idyllic views and comfy loungers. What a find! But were we swiftly turned away (hotel guests only). This much rejection is not good for the self-esteem. DM contemplating the rejection Ok, a crappy lounger and idyllic view would have to do. Not an awful way to spend a day. One vendor was just setting up his stall as we passed so we asked him to construct three loungers in the shade, and in fairness to him, he did a pretty good job. We tipped him handsomely(ish). We positioned ourselves there for the next few hours admiring the views and the almost empty beach, although there were some jet skis and parasailers to keep things interesting. The view! Some sea swimming was called for, especially after the lack of gym sessions over the last day or two. Here I go, any minute now, ok I’m in, and I’m out again pretty swiftly. Jellyfish alert! I am still traumatised after multiple giant jellyfish stings on a beach in Drogheda (Ireland, very cold) 30 years ago…painful memoires. No swimming for me, but at least I can say I tried. Escape the sun at all costs! We stayed for about 3.5hr before gradually overheating and calling it a day as it was becoming increasingly difficult to stay in the shade. And as the beach vendor helpfully pointed out, I was very white and I should be careful, thanks for the advice, I know I’m very white. Lots of palm trees We tried to find some restaurant along the beach for lunch but surprisingly there were very few and the few did exist were closed, as I said, it is a very relaxed kind of place, and it is a Sunday after all. So instead we went into a mall on the main street to use the restrooms and cool down (the walk back along the beach almost killed us, it was very hot). To recover we had to have an ice-cream sundae in a McDonalds kiosk outside the mall which only serves dessert. The McDonalds in Ireland no longer serve sundaes for some reason so I had to try one. Tasty. Sundae! We still didn’t find anywhere that appealed for lunch, so we decided to head back to the ship for lunch as all abroad time was 3.30pm, so we didn’t have too much time left. We spotted many Princess tot bags heading in one direction, so like sheep, we followed and in doing so we saved 60RM by taking the free shuttle back to port. Sometimes it does pay to follow the crowd! Our very colourful shuttle bus I was feeling very hot, very sandy and very sticky, so a shower was definitely in order, ah so much better. Then I headed to the International Café for a light lunch, while DS and DM went up to Horizon Court (I’m still trying to avoid HC twice in one day). I had some salad and a tomato and mozzarella sandwich. I was super thirsty from the morning on the beach, so I nursed a tonic water in Crooners until 5pm while working on my funding proposal for work. I did however have a brief sojourn out to the Promenade Deck to capture the sail away from these gorgeous islands. Next time, we must stay longer and explore more I sent DS a message using Princess@sea, no response (it is very annoying that you are not notified when you get a message through the app). But I reckoned that the Neptune pool was a good bet, and indeed I found DM but no DS. DS hasn’t been feeling well for the last few days, a suspected throat infection, so she had retreated to bed to rest. Up by the Neptune Pool they were preparing for MUTS, so DM and I watched a Carlos Santana concert and read. First time watching MUTS At about 6.30 we went back to the cabin to get ready for dinner where we finished the bottle of white wine from Singapore on the balcony. We went straight for dinner via the library to return some books DS had borrowed. We were very much looking forward to our second last dinner in IDR especially as we missed it last night. Obligatory pre-dinner balcony shots number 3001 As usual Joffrey had the special wine glasses we liked waiting for us, along with the Chianti we opened a few nights ago. Every night he opens the curtains for us so we can see the sea, although it’s only been day light for the last few days. If memory serves me correctly I had tomato soup, green salad, beef wellington and the chocolate journey. 4 courses tonight, I must have been hungry. The chocolate journey was excellent, I think it was my first of the cruise. The beef wellington was only ok, but DM loved hers. Menu Obligatory dinner shots number 4002 DS and DM looking happy, drinking wine Next there was a toss-up, shall was go to the Bravo show or watch the port lecture on Port Kelang (I feel asleep watching it the last time, it was so interesting). We decided to watch the lecture as we needed to decide whether to book a ship’s tour for KL or just stay on board tomorrow. DM and I were up for the tour, DS less so, especially as she was feeling unwell. The port lecture was informative, so we booked “The Kuala Lumpur Highlights and Time on your own” tour. More reading and then sleeping, before our final full day on Princess Sapphire….
  9. Day 8 (Penang – Part II) The driver dropped us off at the port at about 12.30, and we subsequently dropped DM off at the ship. Food tours are more a DS and I kind of thing, and DM was happy to spend the afternoon on the ship. In hindsight it was a wise decision, as it was so hot that afternoon (~38 degrees), DM would have melted! As we still had an hour to spare before the food tour started we walked around Georgetown admiring the architecture weaving in and out Chinatown and little India. Keen to get out of the sun and refresh before the food tour, we found a very trendy coffee shop and had an iced coffee. Trendy coffee shops are a worldwide phenomena Georgetown is a great city to explore, such an interesting history, however, it is definitely not pedestrian friendly, there are literally no sidewalks anywhere so we spend the afternoon weaving through cars and motorbikes, by the end of the day we were pros at it. We booked our tour through Simple Enak. Originally, all-aboard time for Penang was 9pm, but a couple of weeks before the cruise it was changed to 7pm. As our food tour was meant to end at 7.30, this was a problem, but Mark from Simple Enak was so accommodating. He reorganised the whole tour so instead of starting at 4pm as planned, we started at 2pm. We met our guide Mark as St. George’s church where we started our mammoth 4 hour tour. Our Christmassy meeting point Getting underway It was one of the best walking tours I have taken in any city, not only the best food tour. Mark seamlessly told us about the history and culture of Penang more generally, as well as how it influenced the local cuisine which can only be described as fusion – a mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay. We started with northern Indian, followed by southern Indian, next a snack of samosa, Penang noodles, and finished with a local cocktail. Along the way we visited Chinese temples, clan houses, and the clan jetties, at each stop we learned about the history of each place. It was such a well-paced and relaxed tour. We really enjoyed it, so much so that is made the intense heat more bearable. My umbrella was frequently out! More coffee (stop 1) Before and after (stop 1) Our guide Mark and some amazing poori (stop 2) That’s some samosa (stop 3) Penang noodles (stop 4) Some highlights courtesy of DS The food was incredible, my favourite was the naan and paneer dishes from Southern Indian restaurant. We ended the tour in a great bar where we enjoyed a cocktail of ice cold ginger beer and local ‘moonshine’ where Mark provided us with some suggestions for where to eat in Langkawi and Singapore. Throughout the day, many emails came through saying that day passes were not available from most of the resorts in Langkawi, so our options were becoming more and more limited. The non-food sights along the way Temples galore Georgetown is famous for its graffiti...and nutmeg Clan jetties and exploring the city After saying good bye to Mark, we walked 15-20mins back to the port, and by the time we got back on board at 6pm we were ready to collapse, it was so hot. I spy a familiar looking ship with my name on it (well not literally) There was no way we could go for dinner in the IDR tonight, we had eaten so much all afternoon. An ice cold shower was called for but I had to settle for lukewarm as despite multiple attempts I can’t get the water any colder than tepid in this shower. Ah well. We sat out on the balcony as we set sail, enjoying gorgeous views of the city as the sun was setting. Goodbye Penang, we will be back It’s a busy port Best sunset of the trip DM and the evening light…no obligatory pre-dinner shots of me tonight, I’m not decent Although neither DS nor I were hungry, DM hadn’t eaten, so we accompanied her to the Horizon Court. This is the first time in 6 cruises that I have been in the buffet for dinner. How did that happen. Even though I wasn’t in the slightest bit hungry, I was tempted by ‘Italian’ night and had some anti-pasta (olives, cheese, and Parma ham). Strangely enough none of the food on the tour was sweet, all savoury. As it has been almost 7 hours since my last cake, I better have some to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay (I had a weird fruit pie which wasn’t great to be honest). Then back to the cabin to write about our day in Penang and have an early night. It was a long but very enjoyable day. I would definitely consider coming back to Penang - maybe spending a few days in Georgetown with a few days on one of the beaches on the island. We still have no solid plans for tomorrow, but currently, will probably get a taxi to one of the beaches and rent umbrellas/loungers for a couple of hours….lets see…
  10. Thank you AF-1. Just think, if I go on a world cruise, I could write that book!
  11. Day 8 (Penang – Part I) Finally, land!!! I love being at sea but after three days in a row I was ready to explore some of South East Asia. We had a big day today, but a great day. Penang is such an interesting island and I would love to go back to visit for a week or so. We had two private tours booked for today – in the morning a tour of Penang hill and the Kek Lok Si Temple and in the afternoon a food tour of Georgetown. We set the alarm for 7am, no time for the gym today, but I reckon I will get enough steps in (19,500 at last count). As I stumbled from bed to the balcony we were just arriving in port (quick better put some clothes on!). This was our first time docking on this cruise as Bali was a tender port. Great to finally arrive in a port, especially a port right in the middle of the city We had a quick breakfast in Horizon court (banana and yoghurt, followed by boiled egg and toast and some interesting hazelnut swirl bread). We were off the ship just after 8am, as even though our tour didn’t start till 9am, we wanted to use our Skyroam hotspot to get on wifi and do some research for our unanticipated stop in Langkawi tomorrow. We furiously googled for hotels and resorts that offered day passes but not a lot showed up. I resorted to using google maps to find hotels along the beach near the port and emailed a load of them to ask about day passes. Let’s see if any respond…. Our driver was waiting for us at the port exit at 9am exactly. We booked the 4hr tour through KLOOK (€78 for the 3 of us). As we drove through Georgetown the guide told us about the history of Penang pointing out the mosques, temples, and churches that peacefully co-exist for Penang’s multi-cultural population (50% Chinese, 40% Malay, and 10% Indian). Georgetown looks like a lovely city and I was looking forward to exploring it later. As the British only left Penang in 1957, Georgetown has a distinctly colonial feel and is filled with beautifully restored Georgian buildings. Sights on the ride Getting ready for Chinese New Year We stopped at the base of Penang hill where were purchased tickets to take the funicular to the top. We decided to go for the normal pass (30RM) instead of the fast pass (80RM). In retrospect, this was a mistake as we waited 40 minutes to get on the funicular, that said, it was a very productive 40 minutes as I emailed a multitude of hotels in Langkawi and already started to get replies…a solid no from everyone so far. The funicular takes about 5 minutes to reach the peak at 2000 meters. The funicular and buildings at the top The views from the top are spectacular. There are several viewing points, as well as cafes and restaurants. You can also take a buggy around the hill, although we choose to walk. In the distance you can see Georgetown (which is now a UNESCO heritage site) and the bridges which link Penang to the mainland. We spent maybe 45 minutes up there but you could definitely spend longer. Amazing views over Georgetown Have to do some posing We could even see Sapphire in the (far)distance, trust me There is a temple and a mosque on the hill, and we even found some monkeys. No banana with me today so I was safe. This mosque and temple are literally 100 meters apart, such contrasting styles It didn’t take us quite so long to get down compared to going up. Our driver was waiting to take us to our next stop - the Kek Lok Si Temple (Temple of Supreme Bliss, my kind of temple). The temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia and houses a massive statue of the Goddess of Mercy. Big enough? You could make an offering (for a small fee) and I, naturally, choose ‘bodily health’. Here’s hoping DS is much better at this photo lark than me There were also great views from up here After that we drove back through a different part of Georgetown, this was definitely the fancy part of town. Georgetown, in addition to being known as the Silicon Valley of the East, is currently becoming the healthcare capital of the region and medical tourism is big business. Every new development seems to be a hospital. So it’s a good place to get sick. Next time, I’m staying here! The driver dropped us off at the port at about 12.30, and we subsequently dropped DM off at the ship. Food tours are more a DS and I kind of thing, and DM was happy to spend the afternoon on the ship. In hindsight it was a wise decision, as it was so hot that afternoon (~38 degrees), DM would have melted! To be continued...
  12. I agree Bushy69, it was a brilliant cruise despite the change in itinerary. I found it much more relaxing than other cruises I've been on given all those sea days. We had intended on trying the anytime dining restaurants, but we got so comfortable with our table and our waiters that it made it difficult to try anywhere else. Offers to extra mashed potato every day are hard to turn down!
  13. Day 7 (not KL, so another sea day) The minute I woke up….ok not the minute….let’s say 20 minutes, I dragged myself from bed and negotiated my way around DS’s bed onto the balcony to see if we were moving, and indeed we were! Radar fixed. Next stop the gym. I had a more successful workout than yesterday – 50 minutes. Today was the day I needed to contact my surgeon and sign up for the surgery or not. It has been 14 days since the injection and while it has worked to some extent I can still feel the pain, it’s not too bad, but it’s not something I want to live with, so hello surgery on 13th Jan. I am going to enjoy the next 10 days! The previous evening I suggested to DS and DM that we order room service for breakfast as we hadn’t done it yet on this cruise and now we literally had no plans for this unexpected sea day. It arrived just as I got back from the gym, and DM and DS set it up on the balcony, isn’t is lovely! I should have been more specific in my requests, instead of a selection of breads and pastries we got 1 small pastry each…um might need a mid-morning snack later. But still, drinking coffee(ish) and eating breakfast from your own private balcony watching the sea on the horizon, you can’t beat it. Post-gym brekkie DS’s fancy shot While I was in the gym the captain announced that they now have one functioning radar, but because we have lost so much time, we were bypassing the KL stop and heading straight to Penang, and we would arrive the next morning. So it was pretty much what we expected. But now we needed a plan for the day. A new patter arrived – DM said she would go to the film Judy in the Princess Theatre at 1pm, but apart from that not too much interested us; quizzes, line dancing etc. are just not my thing. We considered booking The Sanctuary for the afternoon. We considered booking a massage in the spa. We considered going to the IDR for lunch. So many choices. Ultimately though, we were a bit listless, and didn’t make any plans. I went to my usual spot on deck 7 to write, while DS and DM tried to find somewhere by the Neptune pool to sit out, which turned out to be pretty difficult as even by 9.30 everyone had ‘claimed’ the loungers. although no one was actually sitting on them. I am still here writing; Crooners in a lovely spot for writing and drinking coffee (from Horizon Court in this case – I take various different routes to the gym each morning and today I noticed coffee available on the Topsails (??) bar, but it had disappeared on my way back from the gym). Maybe I imagined it. After catching up on writing this, I did some work. While I had intended not to work on this trip, this unforeseen sea day presents an opportunity to work on a funding application which I would now have to submit before the surgery. After that, I headed up to the Neptune pool to meet DS and DM where we played Boogle until lunchtime. I won…again. Lunch was a salad and some form of bread in the Horizon Court, followed by cherry crumble and coffee(ish). More salad & carbs Next up, my 3 mile power walk where I was joined by DS for the first 2 miles. Over lunch the captain announced a change in our itinerary. We had assumed that after missing KL, we would carry on to Penang as planned, followed by Phuket in Thailand as planned, then another sea day, and then back to Singapore. However, to our surprise, he said that indeed we were continuing on to Penang tomorrow, but then we were skipping Phuket and stopping in Langkawi in Malaysia instead, and then we were going back to KL, and finally Singapore. You could hear audible gasps as he made the announcement, it did not go down well and throughout the day we would hear people complaining about it. Lots of unhappy campers today. We were also disappointed as we really wanted to go to Thailand again. Both DS and myself have been there several times and we wanted DM to experience it (if only for a day). We had booked a Princess shore excursion (our only one on this trip) for a snorkelling trip around Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding areas. It was to be our only ‘beach/swim/snorkelling’ day of the trip and we were suitably disappointed that we were missing it to go to a port which we knew nothing about and had not prepared for. They said that shore excursions for Langkawi would be available later in the day, so after our walk we headed to Shore Excursions to look at the options, but they were not available yet. I’m pretty happy just watching this all day Back at the Neptune pool, I read, while also trying to get network connection as we were pretty close to land, but no joy. Throughout the afternoon I kept checking the Princess@sea app to see whether the excursions were available yet. At about 5pm the shore excursions finally popped up, however none of them appealed to us, they all seemed to involve shopping. There was one nature hike through a rainforest but I don’t think DM would be able for it. We decided that our best strategy would be to find a hotel near the port and have the beach day that we were all looking forward to in Phuket, even if we couldn’t snorkel. But one issue, we had no wifi, and paying $0.79 per minute to find a resort hotel with day passes would probably end up costing more than the tour itself! DS went down to shore excursions to ask them about nearby resorts, but they had no idea as they had never been to Langkawi before, so not very helpful. I went on the wifi for one minute and Whatsapp’ed DH to ask him to search for us. Desperate measures! As usual we headed to the aft pools in the evening to enjoy the peace and quiet, then we headed back to the cabin to get ready. No time for pre-dinner cocktails and cards today. We went straight to the dining room. Evening aft time (although possible on a different evening) Pre-dinner balcony shot number 8(?)…it was very windy I had a very garlicy but very delicious and decadent goat’s cheese soufflé followed by pork tenderloin with truffled mashed potatoes. This was followed by amaretto ice-cream and some petit fours. Menu Obligatory dinner shots number 10000 As we didn’t finish the petit fours we asked Joffrey if we could take them with us and he kindly facilitated us. As we had finished the Pinot Noir the previous evening, we asked if we could open one of the bottles of wine we had bought in Singapore (a very nice Chianti), no problem at all, we just had to pay the $15 corkage. Perfect. There was a singer in the theatre which DM wanted to see so we spent some time there before retiring for the evening to get ready for our second port day of the trip and to watch on port lecture on Penang. It was great for sending me to sleep.
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