Ayup again Stokeducky,
I had a bit of time this morning and managed to edit my diary. Be prepared though as it is very long but it does contain hopefully useful information about each port....so here goes!
As I mentioned before, I booked the cruise directly with Celebrity and added 2 nights in Hong Kong, pre-cruise and 3 nights in Shanghai, post cruise. we chose the hotels in Hong Kong and Shanghai from a list provided by Celebrity. We decided to only purchase 1 transfer with Celebrity and that was from the Shanghai port to the hotel.
I have some mobility issues so use ‘airport assistance’ which was pre-booked.
We flew with Emirates from Birmingham to Hong Kong via Dubai and returned to Birmingham from Shanghai, also via Dubai. The flights were all on Airbus380s and I pre-booked seats at a cost of £20pp per flight.
I have to be a bit careful when choosing port excursions because I can’t walk or stand for extend periods.
We have been to Hong Kong several times over the years so know it quite well and have visited the main and less usual sights several times. If this is your first time to HK and you have a full day to explore, I would recommend using the Hop-on, Hop-off bus as you will get a good overview of the city.
Week 1. Wednesday 13th March to Tuesday 19th March 2019
Day 1. Wednesday 13th March.
Home to Dubai.
A.M. overcast with a very strong wind.....storm Gareth was making itself felt!
The journey went smoothly with no hold-ups on the motorway so we got to the car park at 08.30. We found the APH carpark easily, having been there in January and were quickly processed and on the bus to the airport at 08.45. The driver took the back roads to avoid the rush hour traffic and we arrived at the airport at 09.05.
Our seats were 42B&C which I had pre-booked. I chose these because they are as near to the upper deck staircase as I am allowed to be and so we have some space to stand up if necessary.
Day 2. Thursday 14th March
Dubai to Hong Kong.
P.M. warm with torrential rain. It stopped during the evening.
It was a bit chaotic getting assistance at Dubai but that got sorted eventually and we made it to the gate at the opposite side of the airport with 15 minutes to spare before boarding the Hong Kong flight.
We had the same seats....42B&C...and find these comfortable as there is room to stand and walk about very close by plus, we get our meals quickly.
We landed on time at 14.30. The cases were already on the carousel so we grabbed trolleys and made our way to the concourse where we looked for the signs for the bus transportation hub. The signs were a bit confusing but we did eventually find the bus station and purchased our tickets for the A21 bus which stopped right outside our hotel. It was HK$33 (£3.30pp) each and we had to pay cash. The bus arrived promptly and there was plenty of storage space for luggage. The journey to our stop (number 10) took 40 minutes to the Nathan Hotel on Nathan Road.
Having settled into the room we set off to find somewhere for our evening meal. We went to the food court in the basement of the Eden Hotel next door which, at first sight, seemed a bit basic but we had a delicious spicy chicken burger and classic homemade beef burger plus drinks for £26 and thought it was good value.
After a wander through the night market we returned to the hotel and were asleep by 21.30.
A good day despite the rain!!
Nathan Hotel - room 1106.
We were given a complementary upgrade to a premium room on the 11th floor.
* The Hotel is well situated close to a metro station and it is a very short walk to the Temple Street night market. There are plenty of food outlets close by. We particularly liked the food hall in the basement of the adjoining Eden Hotel.
* Our room was newly refurbished with a comfortable bed, free Wi-fi and the free use of a mobile phone. There was tea/coffee making equipment, complementary bottled water, good quality toiletries and a powerful shower.
* The included breakfast was adequate with a reasonable variety of options of both European and Chinese dishes.
Day 3. Friday 15th March.
Hong Kong - day trip to Macau.
A.M. warm but overcast with persistent drizzle
P.M. warmish and overcast.
We were awake around 07.00 after a surprisingly good sleep given the time difference. After coffee in bed we got up and headed for breakfast. We had decided, before coming to Hong Kong, that we would try to get the bus to Macau so we could travel across the new bridge but despite a lot of research, I couldn’t find the pickup points on a map in relation to our hotel. We asked last night and the girl in reception showed us the brochure for the HK-MAC Express service but it was in Chinese with tiny writing in English so it was still a bit of a mystery. She said that the 2nd pick-up point was quite near to the hotel so we decided to walk to try to find it........big mistake!!!!! I should have studied the map and the tiny English writing more carefully because we never found the bus stop. After asking several people including police officers we walked for miles, or so it seemed, before we asked a Canadian lady who explained that the bus terminus was in a completely different part of the city and she recommended that we get a taxi to take us there. We did that and found the ticket office quite easily. After buying our return tickets (£30ish pp) we caught the 10.50 bus.
The journey took a lot longer than I expect because we had to go through immigration controls in both HK and Macau where we were allowed 20 minutes to complete the process. It was a very long walk at both border crossing points and Jim literally dragged me so I could walk a bit faster. Luckily, we made the bus each time but one couple did get left behind!
We didn’t get a particularly good view of the bridge because it was misty and drizzling but it must look spectacular on a clear day.
We had been to Macau 25 years previously and remember it as a quaint Portuguese influenced town centre but how times change! It is now the Asian equivalent of Las Vegas with huge casino complexes based on the Las Vegas designs.
The journey took just over 2.5 hours so we arrived at the Venetian which was where we had opted to spend the day.
We had a look at the shopping mall with the canal and gondolas before finding one of the many food courts where we had a waffle and ice cream before going down onto the casino floor. I had US$50 on the slot machine and won back the equivalent of $36 which was almost exactly the cost of our evening meal at the Eaton food court - HK$282.
Jim went for a wander outside while I sat and rested and we caught the 17.50 bus back. We got a much better view of the bridge because the cloud had lifted and the air was clearer. The bridge was lit up and the stanchions at the high points changed colour which was quite cute.
We arrived back at the first drop-off at 20.05 and got a taxi back to the hotel where we then headed to the food court for a burger dinner again.....we were too tired to go searching for something different. After dinner we walked to Temple Street Market and bought 3 polo shirts for Jim (£10) before getting a MacFlurry for pudding and then heading back to the hotel and bed.
A very long and eventful day but great too.
Day 4. Saturday 16th March.
Hong Kong - boarding Celebrity Millennium.
A.M. Sunny and warm
P.M. Warm but mainly overcast with sunny intervals
It was lovely to see the blue sky and the sun after the previous 2 very dull days. Jim decided to walk down to the Kowloon park while I packed and caught up with the diary.
We met for a Starbucks at 10.30 (right next to the hotel) before checking out at 11.15. We got a taxi from directly outside the hotel to Kai Tak Cruise Terminal. The journey took about 20 minutes and cost HK$120 =£12....a bit different from the US$60pp that the cruise line wanted!
Check-in was fairly straightforward except for the fact that Jim had to queue up to get photocopies of our passports. I had made copies at home but had cut the A4 paper down to the size of the copy to make it less bulky to carry and I shouldn’t have done that....oh well, lesson learned.
We were on board by 12.45 and our cabin was ready so we dropped off the carry-ons and went for lunch in the buffet.
After lunch, we went to the passport departure inspection. This was followed by the Muster drill at 17.00 which, for us, took place in the theatre.
Once we had finished the drill we headed to the restaurant for dinner and secured a pleasant table in the quieter area. (select dining)
We went to the show and then went back up to the deck to see the Hong Kong skyline lit up as the ship departed at 20.00. After enjoying the sights, we went back to the cabin for an early night. Jim had to go to the 'naughty room’ because we had an extension cable in the case. I met our cabin steward, Ronny, and requested the extra coat hangers, ice and a kettle which all arrived promptly.
A good day......and the kettle made it even better!
Cabin 7032 - inside handicap accessible.
The ship has just undergone a complete refurbishment so it seems lighter and brighter than its sister ship, Constellation.
* The cabin is very spacious.
* The bed is extremely comfortable with good pillows.
* The TV is wall-mounted and large with a reasonable selection of included channels and 'pay-to-view' films. Account access is available too.
* We asked for a kettle and it was brought promptly along with 2 mugs!!!
* There are device charger outlets in the base of the bedside lamps.
* There is a small sofa and table.
* The en-suite is a 'wet room' and the shower is powerful
* There are grab rails by the toilet.
Not so good
* The cabin is in an odd position at the end of a branch corridor so it’s quite a way from the lift. It would be a bit awkward for anyone using a wheelchair.
* There is a distinct lack of storage for hanging clothes.
* The plug outlets (1x round 2pin and 1x flat pin) are in an odd place by the dressing table.
* There are no hooks for bags etc.
* There are only 2 tiny shelves in the en-suite and they are very high up by the sink.
Day 5. Sunday 17th March.
At sea - Hong Kong to Taiwan. Diet day
A.M. Overcast with a strong breeze and occasional sunny intervals.
P.M. As above
Sea conditions: moderate swell.
Day 6. Monday 18th March.
Keelung, Taiwan. 07.00 to 21.00.
Time change: 1 hour forward
A.M. Early morning mist and drizzle but warm. Mostly overcast but dry with occasional sunny intervals
P.M. As above
Sea conditions; moderate swell overnight
· Ship's tour: The Fairy-tale Rock Formations of Yehliu Geopark and Bisho Fish Port.
We were up at 06.00 for an early breakfast before heading to the theatre for our 08.15 tour meeting.
Keelung Port;We were docked right in the city but on the opposite side of the port from our last visit. This is a little less convenient for accessing a few shops because it is a longer walk to the port exit and then there is a dual carriageway to cross.
· There was a free shuttle bus to take passengers into the town centre.
· There were taxis available and people who had prearranged independent tours were being met by their guides just at the port exit.
There were a few shops and a Starbucks within a fairly short distance to the left of the port.
· Keelung, unfortunately, isn’t a particularly attractive city although I found it interesting to see how the Taiwanese people live their daily lives.
Ship's tour: The Fairy-tale Rock Formations of Yehliu Geopark and Bisho Fish Port.
* We met in the theatre at 08.15. It was very busy in there as a lot of people were on tours to Taipei and they were leaving before us.
* When DH collected our coach numbers from the excursion staff on the stage, he asked for a seat near the front to be reserved for us because of my mobility problems. This was done promptly.
* All passengers had to carry the photocopy of their passport (this had been stamped by the Taiwanese immigration officials and placed in our cabins the previous evening) along with their sea-pass as they went ashore. There are stringent rules about not bringing any fresh food, fruit and vegetables into Taiwan and this was strictly monitored in the arrivals’ hall. All bags were X-ray
* Our group was called to go down to the exit at 08.30 and were on the coach at 08.45.
* our coach was newish and comfortable. Passengers sat on the upper deck so the views were good. There was a complementary bottle and of water per person.
* Our guide was enthusiastic and spoke good English although it was heavily accented so I couldn’t always understand what he was saying.
* We were taken on a 35-minute drive through the city and then along the coast road. The views along the coast would be really nice on a sunny day but it was overcast and misty so we didn’t get the full impact.
* The coach pulled into the Geopark parking area and we were all amazed at how many coaches were already there.......it seemed like hundreds!
* After giving us time to visit the toilets (clean and well maintained but crowded), our guide bought the entry tickets and showed us the entrance. We could follow the guide or do our 'own thing' and had 90 minutes there.
* The Park itself is well maintained with pleasant paths through the trees and the rock formations were stunning. Some of the single rock formations are highlighted in their own sheltered areas. There are several other viewing areas for the groups of formations. It was quite a long walk along an extremely crowded path to see one of the areas but others were more accessible.
* Just outside the main park exit is a covered market with a lot of food and souvenir stalls. Unfortunately, there are very few signs in English so it is difficult to know what the items were but there were opportunities to taste things. A few stalls accepted US$ but Taiwanese currency was preferred.
* We left the park and drove for 20 minutes to Bisho fishing port where we were given 30 minutes to either explore on our own or go with the guide. To be perfectly honest, there wasn’t a huge amount to see.
* Our last stop was another 20-minute ride away and was at the Buddhist temple in Chung Cheng Park. The statue of the Buddha can be seen from the cruise port and is high on the hill in the centre of Keelung. The view from the terrace was very good and we got a great photo of the ship. The temple was a haven of peace in the busy city and after the bustle of The Geopark. There was a small shop selling souvenirs and toilets too.
* We returned to the ship at 13.15.
It was an interesting tour if you wanted to do something different other than a tour of Taipei.
Day 7. Tuesday 19th March.
At sea - Taiwan to Busan, South Korea.
A.M. Sunny with a strong breeze
P.M. As above
Sea conditions: moderate swell.
Week 2. Wednesday 20th March to Tuesday 26th March 2019
Day 8. Wednesday 20th March. Diet day 2
Busan, S. Korea 12 noon to 20.00 - revised times
Time change; 1 hour forward
A.M. sunny with some sea fog
P.M. overcast with heavy rain in the late afternoon
Sea conditions; flat calm.
· Independent tour with Cruising Excursions: Busan Highlights City Tour.
The Captain made an emergency announcement to tell us that there was an electrical fault which was affecting several parts of the ship and that meant we will not be docking until at least 14.30. The ship will now depart from Busan at 22.00.
I’m not sure how this will impact on our tour as we have to go through a 'face to face' immigration process on chore which will take time. We have been allocated a group 2 place so we shall see.
Well.....we finally docked at 14.00 and by that time people were already queuing on deck 3 to get to the exit and it gradually became more chaotic as time passed. Ship’s tour passengers were being taken of first and then people from group 1 but it was virtually impossible to keep to the group plan and the crew members just let people through. There was no provision made for people with disabilities and that meant we were standing for long periods and getting squashed.
We eventually got to do our tour and were back by 19.00 so we went straight into dinner (food at last!!!) before going to the show and then bed.
* When we eventually got off there was a bit of a walk to the terminal building.
* Every passenger had to disembark at some point for a 'face to face' meeting with immigration officials.
* There were toilet facilities just outside the port building
* Passengers with independent tours we met at the exit doors by representatives holding name cards.
* Tour busses and private tour vehicles were parked immediately at the exit.
* I didn’t notice any taxis.
* The port authority provided a free shuttle service into the city centre.
* There was a mobile bank for people wanting to exchange money. Apparently very few venues in Korea accept US$s.
* Busan is the second largest city in S. Korea and has a huge industrial port.
* The city centre is mostly modern with a huge variety of shopping and eating opportunities.
* There are a few attractions. The fish market is worth a visit as is the Dragon Head Park.
* The shuttle bus stops next to Starbucks which is on the outer edge of a huge shopping complex.
Independent tour with Cruising Excursions: Busan Highlights City Tour - 4 hours.
* The guide, 'Ellie', was waiting for us at the immigration building exit. She was holding up a 'Cruising Excursions' sign.
* She directed us to the mini-bus that was parked right by the door.
* Luckily, we only had a short wait for the other 8 guests to arrive. There were 3 couples from the UK, 1 couple from the US and 1 couple from Australia.
* The bus was spacious and comfortable.
* Ellie spoke good but strongly accented English. she was pleasant and informative.
* We left the port at 15.30 and it was a 20-minute drive to our first stop which was the Yongdusan Park. The park is quite small but is beautifully kept with manicured flower beds, a small temple, clean toilets, a duty-free shop plus a viewing terrace with a convenience store and small cafe. The main attraction was the observation tower (US$5pp) which had excellent views over the city on a clear day. We had 40 minutes there and were fortunate that it was still fine weather. The heavy rain started just as we got back on the mini-bus!
* Our second stop was at the Jagalchi outdoor and indoor fish market which was huge and fascinating. I have never seen so many varieties of seafood and all beautifully presented. This part took about 30 minutes.
* Our 3rd stop was at the Seomyeon Shopping district, the enormous open and covered shopping complex which had shops and food outlets of every kind. Unfortunately, there isn’t much English signage so it was difficult to know what items were and calculating prices was tricky too when £1 = 1500SKWs. We had about an hour of free time in this area and DH and I had a short wander before spending the rest of the time in Starbucks.....it was too wet and crowded for me to walk comfortably unfortunately.
* We were back at the port just before 19.00.
It was a nice tour and probably right for us in the type of weather. Next time, I would choose a tour that took us out into the countryside and to the temple on the sea.
Day 9. Thursday 21st March.
Sea Day - Busan to Incheon, S. Korea.
Captain’s Circle Senior Officers' reception
A.M. Cold and overcast
P.M. As above
Sea conditions; choppy....rough during the night.
Day 10. Friday 22nd March
Incheon. S. Korea. The port for Seoul. 07.00 - 19.00
Time change: 1 hour back.
Early A.M. Extremely cold (1*c) but bright sunshine.
Mid-morning; still extremely cold and sunny with a strong wind
P.M. As above
Sea conditions: Extremely rough overnight
· Ship’s tour - Seoul Highlights. 8 hours £88pp
* The port is huge and very industrial.
* The cruise ship dock is a long way from the city centre (40 minutes ride according to information) so there is a free shuttle service running from the time the ship is cleared for disembarkation.
* The tour busses and independent tour transportation vehicles were parked close to the gangway.
* There were some tourist stalls in the car park showing local crafts.
Ship’s tour; Seoul Highlights.
* Our meeting time was 08.15 but everyone had checked in by 08.10 and so we were called to disembark straight away and our coach departed at 08.30.
* The journey into Seoul took 2 hours because the traffic was so bad. I was surprised to see that we travelled through continuous urbanisation.....I had been expecting to see some countryside!
* Seoul is an enormous, clean and mostly modern city with pockets of older, more historic, areas.
* The first stop was at the Gyeongbokgung Palace where we spent almost 2 hours. There were clean western style toilet facilities in the car park and at points inside the palace grounds. I thought the complex was impressive and well maintained with a variety of buildings in different styles. The best part for me was seeing all the local young people dressed in traditional costumes having a great time celebrating???
* Our second stop was in the heart of the city at Bukchon Hanok, a street that marked the centre of the old city. The street was a steep hill with lots of quaint buildings and small shops and tea rooms.
* We were then taken to a very nice local restaurant where we were introduced to a Korean meal comprising of finely sliced beef and a variety of vegetables cooked in a broth at the table. This was served with sticky rice, some pickles and kimchi.
* After lunch, our last stop was at the market street where there were some stalls, small artisan shops, food outlets, general stores and well-kept public toilets. It was a pleasant place to walk and there were some bargains to be had depending on personal preferences. I bought a substantial, well-made sun hat for 5,000 wons (£3.30) and some unusual greeting cards for 1,000 wons each (66p each).
* We had an hour in this area before getting the bus back to the ship....another 2 hour journey because the traffic is so congested despite the 8 lane highways!
A very enjoyable day!
Day 11. Saturday 23rd March.
At sea - Incheon to Tianjin
A.M. Sunny, windy and cold (7*c)
P.M. As Above
Sea conditions: heavy swell which calmed down during the day
Day 12. Sunday 24th March.
Tianjin, China. Day 1
A.M. clear blue sky, sunshine and a cool, blustery wind
P.M. As above but warm in the shade
Sea conditions; calm overnight.
The ship docked around 06.00 and the authorities started calling the passenger immigration groups just before 08.00. The last group number was called at 09.05 and then people who wanted to disembark in their own time were free to go to immigration at their own convenience.
* People who were going to stay off the ship overnight or who were travelling on the bullet train had to collect their passports with their full Chinese visa last night. The rest of us were given a stamped photocopy of our passport which was delivered to our cabin.
We left the ship about 11.00 and caught the local bus unto Tianjin City. We realised that the bus terminus was not in the central area so we just went into the railway station and shared a very nice coffee, piece of cake and a snickers bar before catching the bus back to the ship. We got back to the ship around 15.30
Tianjin cruise port.
* The port is huge and very industrial
* It is situated approximately 20 miles from the city of Tianjin.
* The cruise terminal is very modern and absolutely huge.
* There are duty free shops, a post office, money exchange, toilet facilities and an information desk. Unfortunately, the information desk is small and only had 1 assistant so the queue was very long. Her English wasn’t particularly clear either so we were glad to get assistance from two ladies from Singapore who spoke fluent Mandarin and English.
* There are taxis available directly at the exit. We were quoted US$100 to go into Tianjin. I think the drivers did tours as well.
The public service bus to Tianjin.
* We opted to get the local bus, #513, into Tianjin. It took us a while to find out where the stop was. It is a bit of a walk to the main road but then the stop is directly across the road. The bus livery is mainly yellow. The service isn’t particularly frequent and the information assistant didn’t have a timetable or make it clear where the stop is situated. The busses see to run every 20 minutes.
* The fare is 2yuan pp (25p) each way and the exact change is needed. We were very lucky that the driver took pity on us and let us on as we only had a 50 yuan note!!
* The journey takes about 1 hour and the terminus in Tianjin is right next to the Bullet train railway station.
* The first part of the route took us along excellent roads but there was very little to see.....only scrubland and a few newly built high rise housing complexes. Once in the city, though, the bus does quite a circuitous route so it gave us chance to see a little bit of the city.
The Bullet Train Station.
* The station is easily identifiable because the roof is made of shiny bronze segments and looks a bit like a tortoise shell.
* The station is huge but luckily there is signage in English.
* There are toilet facilities, a coffee shop, a supermarket and waiting areas.
* The ticket office is on the lower concourse.
* I was stunned by the size of the city....it is enormous (17,000,000 people) and crisscrossed by 12 lane highways. There are lots of ultra-modern buildings interspersed with parkland.
Day 13. Monday 25th March.
Tianjin, China. Day 2
Diet day 3.
A.M. chilly with a brisk wind but bright sunshine
Noon. Pleasantly warm and sunny
P.M. Almost hot and very sunny
· Independent Tour. The Great Wall and Olympic Park Tour - 12hours (Cruising Excursions)
We were up early as usual to get sorted before disembarking at 08.30. Although it was a very long day with a lot of travelling on the coach, it was absolutely worth it and we were so lucky with the weather!
A fabulous day
Independent Tour. The Great Wall and Olympic Park Tour - 12hours (Cruising Excursions)
* The Tour was due to start at 09.00 and we were to meet the guide at the port exit.
* We decided to leave the ship at 08.30 as it was a long walk for me through the terminal building.
* Steven, our guide found us just before 09.00 and then we had a longish walk to the coach which was in the main coach park.
* It was then that there was a problem because Steven couldn’t find one other couple. After much tooing and froing to the exits and numerous attempts to contact them by phone, his office told him to start the tour so we finally left at 09.40.
* It is an extremely long drive to Beijing (2.5 hours) but the roads are good although the scenery, until we got to the outskirts of the city, was boring and monotonous.
* Once in the city we were driven to the Olympic Park where we had 30 minutes to view the 'bird's nest' stadium and use the toilet facilities. I thought that this was a nice place to stop because we needed to stretch our legs and it was a spacious place to walk and not too crowded.
* We were back on the bus for another 45 minutes as we continued to travel through Beijing. We got some good views of this very modern and bustling city before being taken to the ubiquitous 'shopping stop' which took the form of a visit to a Jade Factory.
* Steven gave us approximately an hour at the factory which had a cafe and toilet facilities as well as a demonstration area where we could see jade being carved and the huge shop.
* It was another 40-minute drive out into the mountains to the Great Wall. We were taken to the Juyongguan Gateway which I thought was so much nicer and more accessible than the much bigger and more commercial Mutianyu site.
* The wall, at this point, is spectacular with lots of the small fortified buildings and extremely steep, winding pathways stretching across the mountains.
* There is a courtyard by the bus park which has a few souvenir outlets, a cafe, toilets and a seating area.
* We were very lucky that the weather was perfect (warm and sunny) for walking on the wall and the views were spectacular.
* Late March is still very early in the season so the site wasn’t too crowded which also helped.
* We had 2 hours at the wall before leaving at 16.00.
* Our last stop was at the Ming Dynasty Tombs which was just about to close so Steven had to talk the ticket officer to let us in. It was a beautifully kept park area with a typical Chinese temple building at the start of an avenue of trees and plants. We only had 20 minutes so there wasn’t time to see any more of the vast site.
* The journey back to the ship took 3.5 hours and we were back on board at 20.45 after a long but exhilarating day.
Day 14. Tuesday 26th March.
Tianjin day 3.
A.M. Hazy sunshine and pleasantly warm
P.M. As above.
· Ship’s tour - Best of Tianjin.
It was an early start as the tour meeting time was 07.30
It was a long tour but it gave us chance to see both the ancient and modern sides of Tianjin and we were back in time for the 17.00 drinks so Jim was happy!
Ship’s tour - Best of Tianjin - 8 hours
* Our meeting time was 07.30 in the Theatre but we got there at 07.05 and were able to get stickers for bus 1. We then set off to get to the terminal exit which is a very long walk for me and the rest of the passengers were soon following.
* The bus left at 07.45 and it was a 2-hour ride to our first stop in central Tianjin......I still can’t get over the size of the city!
* We arrived at the Shi Family Grand Courtyard at 09.30 which, fortunately, was before the main crowds so it was quite easy to get around to the various areas. The building is huge and very well maintained with parkland and a typical style Chinese bridge which allows people to cross the 'Great Canal' to reach the courtyard area.
* We had just over an hour there and Susan, our guide, showed us through the maze of small rooms and courtyards as she explained the significance of each room.
* Once back on the coach, we drove for 45 minutes through the city (I said it was enormous!) to the Century Hotel where we had a Chinese style lunch. Dishes including rice, sweet and sour chicken, duck, beef, lamb, seafood and a variety of vegetables were placed on a 'lazy Susan' turntable in the middle of the table and we all helped ourselves. There was green tea, coke, beer and water to drink. I thought the food was ok but the room and the toilet facilities were rather shabby and a bit disappointing.
* We left the hotel at 12.45 and it was another 45-minute drive to the Ancient Cultural Street where we had 75 minutes to explore. It is actually several streets lined with small shops, stalls and street food outlets. I thought it was really interesting but unfortunately there were very few signs in English so we often could only guess at what the various items were. There were toilet facilities by the bus park (very crowded) and along some of the side passageways (much less crowded).
* After a short drive we had our final stop which was at the Confucius Temple and gardens. The area was quite small but was a peaceful oasis in the middle of the city. We were given 30 minutes there.
* The journey back to the ship took another 2 hours and we arrived at 16.20. There was a very long queue to go through security as several excursion busses returned at the same time and the Holland America ship, ‘Westerdam’, was in port too.
Week 3. Wednesday 27th March to Tuesday 2nd April.
Day 15. Wednesday 27th March.
At sea - Tianjin, China to Jeju Island, S. Korea.
A.M. very misty and cool
P.M. The sun came out and it was warmer.
Sea conditions; calm
Day 15. Wednesday 27th March.
At sea - Tianjin to Jeju Island
A.M. cool and very misty
P.M. as above
Sea conditions; calm
Day 16. Thursday 28th March
Jeju Island, S. Korea - 08.00 to 18.00. Light day.
Time change; 1 hour back
A.M. Early morning mist made it cool but it warmed up as it became brighter later in the morning.
P.M. warm with hazy sunshine.
Sea conditions; calm overnight
· Independent Tour - cruising Excursions. Jeju Island Highlights City Tour - 09.00 to 13.00
Disembarkation was quick and easy this time and fortunately nothing like the mess it had been in Busan.
We were back on board after the tour at 13.15
Yet another good day!
Jeju Island Port.
* The port is large and industrial with a very big and modern cruise terminal.
* It was a long walk from the ship to the exit.
* All passengers had to show their full passports to the immigration officials.
* There is excellent free Wi-fi in the terminal building.
* There is a small selection of shops on the ground floor (souvenirs, a convenience store and a pharmacy), toilet facilities and a tourist information booth.
* There is a HOHO bus which departs from the building exit.
* The guides for Independent tours wait inside the building on the ground floor.
* There was a free shuttle bus to the city centre which ran every 20 minutes.
* The city is tiny compared to Tianjin and Beijing but is large enough to have a good market, several shopping malls, food outlets and a lot of good quality shops, many with familiar names.
* It is walkable once in the central area.
Independent Tour - cruising Excursions. Jeju Island Highlights City Tour - 09.00 to 13.00.
* Our tour guide, Sam, was waiting for our group when we got there at 08.30. There were 8 of us altogether and we had all been on the 3-tour package.
* The bus was small but comfortable with plenty of room for us all.
* The route took us through the city to our first stop which was the Folklore and National History Museum where we stayed for just over an hour. The grounds were beautifully kept with a variety of interesting plants and geological exhibits strategically placed around the area. We had the wonderful experience of seeing the cherry blossom trees on bloom......not quite on the scale of Japan but still beautiful! We were also surprised to see lots of orange trees laden with ripe oranges and we learned that Jeju is famous for its oranges
The museum itself was housed in a modern building with good facilities including a cafe, shop and toilets. The exhibits were well presented and the majority were labelled in English.
* It was a short drive to our second stop which was Yongyeon (the Dragon Pond) where we had 30 minutes. This was a small but deepish canyon where the river ran between large rocks. There was a picturesque bridge and several walkways along the riverbank.
* Our third stop was a short walk away and was to see the Yongduam Rock (Dragon Head Rock). The walk took us through a small shopping area where there were clean toilet facilities and several souvenir and food stalls. The Dragon Rock sticks out into the ocean and there are viewing points. It took a bit of imagination to see the 'Dragon' though.
* Our last stop was in the centre of Jeju city where Sam recommended that we stroll through the main market. That was an interesting experience as the stalls were arranged in a very higgledy-piggledy way. There were lots of opportunities to taste local food especially the oranges which were delicious. We had 75 minutes in the area.
* The coach picked us up in the main square and we were back at the port just after 13.00.
Day 17. Friday 29th March
At sea; Jeju Island to Shanghai.
A.M. Hazy sunshine and pleasantly warm in sheltered areas
P.M. As above
Sea conditions: millpond calm
Day 18. Saturday 30th March.
Shanghai. Disembark Millennium and check in to The Pullman Shanghai Jiang An Hotel.
A.M. Overcast and humid
P.M. hazy sunshine but much cooler
We were up at 05.30 to get the final packing done and get to breakfast for 06.15 as we knew it would be crowded and it would take a bit longer than usual to eat.
After breakfast we collected our belongings from the cabin and headed to the Tuscan Grill which was the designated 'Elite' waiting area.
We were off the ship and in the hotel by 10.30 which was too early to check in so we left our luggage with the concierge and went for a walk to the nearby Railway Square where we found a Starbucks and had a coffee and muffins before heading back to check in.
Once in the room we sorted out the cases and then got a taxi (29yuan = £3.60) to The Bund where we spent an hour wandering along the promenade and enjoying the floral displays and ambiance.
We got a taxi back to the hotel and then walked to one of the shopping malls by the Station square. We found that all the stores were women’s clothes and most of the items were identical. We did, however, discover a very small supermarket where we bought some nuts, crisps and a drink each before exploring the food court in the basement and trying one of the savoury pancakes that the Chinese people love. It was actually quite tasty and we enjoyed the experience!
We then went to MacDonald’s where a very kind Chinese lady, who spoke excellent English, helped us to order the spicy chicken burger combo.....and it really was spicy!!
After eating, we headed back to the hotel for a game of scrabble, our nibbles and an early night. I couldn’t find any tonic water the supermarket so bought a can in the hotel for 45Yuan = £5.50!!! Never again!!
* We had originally been given a 10.30 disembarkation time but changed it to 08.40 at Customer Services because we had been told that the Chinese Authorities took a long time to process immigration.
* We went to wait in the Tuscan Grill, our designated 'Elite' area.
* It became apparent that the disembarkation process was going much more smoothly than anticipated and our tag number (18) was called at 08.20.
* We were off the ship quickly but, after a long walk to the terminal building, we were held in a queue for 10 minutes before being let into the immigration hall in groups.
* Once in the Hall, we had another 10 minutes in a queue to reach the passport control officer who fingerprinted me but not Jim!
* Luggage was arranged for collection by the disembarkation number tag and the areas were clearly marked.
* We had pre-booked a private transfer to our hotel through Celebrity and we found our driver quite quickly as we exited the security area. There were lots of drivers holding name cards.
The walk to the transfer car was very long and the driver took pity on me half way there and let us sit while he collected the car from the parking area.
* Our private vehicle was a very comfortable and roomy people carrier.
* The port is about an hour's drive from Shanghai city centre.
* There are long covered walkways from the ship to the immigration hall.
* The building is large and fairly modern.
* The car park and bus pickup points are quite a way from the security exit.
* There were plenty of metered taxis available and airport shuttle busses too.
The Pullman Shanghai Jing An Hotel.
* I booked this through Celebrity UK when I booked the cruise. It was one of several hotels offered as part of our package.
* The Hotel is centrally situated right next to Shanghai's main railway station.
* I was a little concerned when we approached the hotel as the main entrance is in a small alleyway but, once inside, my apprehension disappeared as it has a very modern and impressive reception area.
* Unfortunately, we arrived too early to check in but the concierge was extremely helpful and helped us to store the luggage and gave us directions to explore the surrounding area.
* We checked in at noon and were given room 1901.
* Breakfast was included in the package and there was a very comprehensive choice of food to suite most tastes.
* The room was the first along the corridor from the lift lobby which was very convenient for me.
* The room was fairly spacious and decorated in light, modern colours.
* There was: a very comfortable double bed with wonderfully soft pillows, TV, desk, lounge chair, ate and coffee making facilities, 4 complementary bottles of water, fridge, safe, walk-in shower, separate sink area with toiletries and huge fluffy towels.
* The only downside was the lighting system. Not only was the lighting relatively poor (seems to be typical of most hotels) but if you put the toilet light on during an after-midnight visit, all the bedroom lights come on and that wakes up a sleeping partner....bizarre!
Day 19. Sunday 31st March
Shanghai. Viator Tour;
A.M. Cool with sunny intervals.
P.M. Pleasantly warm and sunny but it got very cool on the boat so we were glad that we had taken our coats!
Viator Tour - Zhujiajiao Water Town Tour including Huangpu River Night Cruise.
We thoroughly enjoyed our Water Town tour and it worked well because our guide agreed to drop us off at the Hyatt on the Bund when the tour ended instead of our own hotel. We had a wonderful couple of hours in the bar on the 32nd floor where we admired the fabulous views of the river and the Bund.
We got a taxi back to the hotel after a great day.
Zhujiajiao Water Town Tour including Huangpu River Night Cruise.
Viator Tour Description; Enjoy two of Shanghai’s must-do activities on a Zhujiajiao water town and Huangpu River cruise experience.
Visit the ancient canal town of Zhujiajiao for a walking tour of the willow-lined waterways, lanes, and Ming- and Qing-era architecture.
Afterward, learn about silk-making at a silk museum, and admire Shanghai’s illuminated skyline on a buffet dinner cruise on the Huangpu.
Return coach transport, admission fees, cruise buffet, and central hotel pickup and drop-off included. 8-hour Zhujiajiao and Huangpu River experience from Shanghai.
Tour ancient Zhujiajiao water town, seeing its pretty waterways, lanes, and bridges Admire the quaint buildings dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Learn how silk is made and browse ‘soft gold’ at a silk museum.
View Shanghai’s illuminated sights on an evening River Huangpu cruise
Chinese buffet dinner included on board
Admission fees, coach travel, plus central hotel pickup and drop-off
* We had a message left at the hotel to tell us that we would be picked up at 11.50 and should wait in the lobby for the guide. And then the guide, Jason, rang the hotel at 11.45 to say that it would be about 12.05 when the minibus would get to us...... very considerate service.
* There were 12 of us; 6 Germans, 2 Philippinos, 2 from the US and us so we had plenty of room to spread out.
* The journey to the 'Water Village' took about 55 minutes and took us through the heart of Shanghai and out into the countryside. Jason said that we had made good time as usually, on a Sunday, the traffic is particularly bad.
* At first, the village looked more like a large, busy town with lots of shops and food outlets.
* We were dropped off in the newer part and followed Jason through ever narrowing street until we got to the incredibly narrow ancient street than ran parallel to the canal. It was here that we could appreciate the quaint picturesqueness of the village in spite of the heaving crowds (I would suggest visiting in the early morning to avoid the crush).
* There was so much to see and explore. I was amazed at the variety of food styles, souvenirs and high-quality goods and it was a real shame that we didn’t have either the time or the energy to push through the throng to experience them better.
* Jason took us to the end of the narrow Main Street and pointed out some eating places and where the toilets were before giving us 1 hour’s free time. This end of the street was remarkably quiet and, when I followed the arrows to the toilet block behind the cafes, I was amazed to find the area deserted and the toilets clean and tidy.
* We spent our free time doing a walk across the old bridge to the other bank where there were equally narrow, crowded streets with interesting shops.
* When we got back to the meeting place, we had an ice cream while we waited for Jason. He had arranged a canal boat ride for 50yuan pp (£6.50) and we thoroughly enjoyed the 20-minute ride through the very picturesque, narrow backwater canals. It was like being in Venice without the singing!!
* We got off at the other end of the village and Jason took us back to the minibus through more narrow streets.
* We were back on the bus just after 15.30 and it took us 65 minutes to get to the silk factory where we had a demonstration of the processes involved in producing silk fabric and duvets from the cocoons before having a chance to buy items in the shop. I bought a king-sized medium weight duvet for 960yuan which was vacuum packed to make it easier to get home.
* Our next stop was at a traditional Chinese restaurant in a shopping mall by the river for dinner. The food was plentiful and pleasant enough.
* Jason then took us onto the Bund promenade where we watched the light show start as it began to get dark.
* The river cruise was a bit of a 'bun fight' as people jockeyed for the best positions out on deck but it was worth it to see how amazing the light show was......breathtaking!
* We were on the boat for 50 minutes and the got back on the coach to be returned to our hotels.
A very good trip!
Day 20. Monday 1st April.
A.M. Clear sky and warm sunshine
P.M. As Above
Our flight didn’t leave until just after midnight so it was a long day. We realised that we should have done a tour today as it was a bit of a wasted day but 'hindsight is a wonderful thing’!
We checked out at 11.45, left the luggage with the concierge and went for a walk around the local area. We had a Starbucks and muffins for lunch and went back to the hotel to play scrabble for a bit.
We set out again at 16.00 to go to the food court in the mall to get a Chinese savoury pancake each for tea - 12 yuan each (£1.50) and we sat for a while watching the lady make them before heading back to the hotel.
The taxi that Vincent, the concierge had ordered arrived at 18.50 and we set off for Pudong Airport. It is 60km from the city centre and took about an hour. It cost 240yuan (£30) which was a lot less than the £120 that Celebrity wanted!
The Emirates check-in was quite quick once we pointed out my disability and we were whisked through the formalities before being taken to the VIP Lounge9 used out Dragon Pass Lounge passes) where we had something to eat while we waited to be taken to the gate.
We boarded on time and pulled back at midnight.
Day 21. Tuesday 2nd April.
Shanghai to Dubai and Dubai to Birmingham.
Flight 1 - Shanghai to Dubai 9.5 hours.
We took off on time at 00.05 and, after a pleasant dinner, we watched a bit of TV before managing a few hours’ sleep. The flight was relatively smooth. We had breakfast and then landed on time in Dubai.
The assistance was waiting and we were whisked through security and taken straight to the gate where we had 50 minutes before boarding.
The plane wasn’t full and the lady who should have been sitting on our row asked to be moved so we had the luxury of the 3 seats for the two of us. The flight was smooth and uneventful so we managed a couple of hours sleep.
We landed on time at 12.15, got the assistance and were quickly through immigration but had a long wait for the cases.
Once they arrived, we caught the APH shuttle and were in the car, heading home, by just after 14.00. After a quick stop at the Aldi in Stone we got home at 15.20
A good holiday.