Singapore, MAR 23 2024

We had one sea day before we reached Singapore. It was a busy day. We attended a Mariner’s Club brunch In the morning and a reception in the afternoon. I forgot to mention that between the two Vietnam ports we had a personal tour of the print shop. Each evening, the Daily Planner with the next day’s activities is delivered to each stateroom. This four page planner is delivered to approximately 850 cabins each evening. In addition, the daily breakfast, lunch and dinner menus must be printed along with any letters and announcements from guest services. This is all done by one, solitary man. We enjoyed meeting and talking with him. 

I also forgot to mention the Mariner’s Awards Ceremony we attended. Bill and I each received a bronze medal which was placed around our necks by the captain. Really not that big a deal since some passengers received silver, gold and platinum medals. These awards are given when you reach a certain number of sailing days with Holland America. 

We arrived in Singapore which was the end of our cruise. We were very sad to leave all the wonderful crew we had gotten to know so well. It was not farewell, but until we meet again. We certainly hope our paths will cross with them again someday.

Our Greeters in the Terminal

We were last in Singapore in 2020.  See this link: Singapore, JAN 15, 2020 What I remembered about Singapore was the incredible heat and humidity, how clean it is, and how strict the country is. They do not allow chewing gum, cigarettes and drugs to name a few forbidden items. I heard a crew member was fined $200 Singapore dollars because he forgot he had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket when he left the ship and went ashore. Our tour guide told us anyone caught with a certain amount of drugs was hung. I don’t know the quantity that led to this penalty. 

Before entering the country we had to fill out an online arrival card where we answered health questions and listed where we were staying and for how long. When we exited the ship we had to present our passport which was linked electronically to our arrival card. They also fingerprinted our thumb. 

Our travel agent had arranged for us, as well as two other passengers, to spend two nights in Singapore with a hotel and a guided tour. Like clockwork our guide was waiting for us after we collected our luggage and completed immigration. With a van and driver, we began our tour. 

First we went to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Gardens, made up of 202 acres, were founded in 1859 and is the only tropical botanical gardens on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has three gardens but our guide only led us through the National Orchid Garden with 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids. It was hot, but the heat would only get worse as the day progressed.

Named For Princess Diana

See more pictures of the orchid garden by selecting this link:

Next our guide took us on a whirlwind tour of Singapore. He had an itinerary to complete and he was determined to finish it, no matter how fast we had to move, how tired we became, or how miserably hot it was.

Swissôtel The Stamford, one of the tallest hotels

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Esplanade Concert Hall

200-year old building which was once home to Singapore’s first parliament.

St Andrew’s Cathedral, Anglican church

Merlion, statue with the body of a fish and a head of a lion.

Lunch brought us to Chinatown where we ate at a Chinese restaurant. The tour really moved too quickly and we would like to have had more time to look around Chinatown and Little India.

Sultan Mosque

Thian Hock Keng Temple

Sri Mariamman Temple, Hindu temple

Laughing Buddha

After lunch we were taken to our hotel, the Marriott Tang Plaza, where we had a little over three hours to rest up before part 2 of our tour.

At 6:00 P.M. we were picked up by a different guide and driver. This guide was more relaxed and easy going, more than willing to go at our speed.  We spent the evening at the Singapore Night Safari, the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park. With 99 acres, it has 2,500 animals.

First we had dinner at one of the restaurants inside the park. We then went to a wildlife show followed by a tram ride around the park.

Showing An Owl’s Head Turning

Racoon Opening A Big Jar

Our guide then took us on a walking tour in the park. It was unbelievably hot and humid. The park was nice but we much prefer going to these parks in the daytime when the animals are much easier to see. We got in some heavy traffic on the way back and arrived at the hotel at 11:30 P.M. We had been going since 6:00 A.M. that morning and had logged over six miles on our watches. 

See more pictures of the zoo by selecting this link:

We had the next day free so we relaxed, worked on blogs, and walked to a nearby shopping mall.

Sidewalk Traffic

Lucky Plaza

The next morning a driver picked us up at 3:00 A.M. for our trip to the airport for a 6:40 A.M. flight.

Beautiful Singapore Changi Airport.

It would take us 33 hours to get home on three flights; Singapore to Tokyo, Tokyo to Chicago and Chicago to Orlando. We found that jet lag from the twelve hour time difference to be pretty rough for several days when we arrived home.

Sunrise From The Plane

Flying Above The Clouds

With that, our trip has ended. We had a great time! We enjoyed every minute, despite the cold weather in Japan and China, the extreme heat in Brazil and Singapore, and the filthy Chinese bathrooms and difficult immigration officials. 

Next up: yet to be determined


Da Nang and Phu My, Vietnam, MAR 19 2024

We had one day at sea before our next sea port. It was St Patrick’s Day and the ship celebrated with cakes and decorations in the dining rooms.

We were thrilled that the weather was warming up considerably and we were once more able to enjoy our breakfast and lunch out by the Sea View pool each day. We were also enjoying very calm seas. No seasickness pills needed. 

With the weather getting hotter, we found 2 one gallon jugs of drinking water in our stateroom provided by the ship with a card warning us to stay hydrated.

Our next port of call was Da Nang, Vietnam.

See this link to Da Nang, Vietnam JAN 27, 2020. The shipping port is extremely busy and for that reason we were not allowed to walk anywhere in the area. Very understanding considering all the trucks and forklifts. Definitely not a picturesque port. We were last here in 2020 right before the pandemic. On that visit we had a nice excursion to the charming little city of Hoi An. See this link to Hoi An, Vietnam JAN 26, 2020. This time we didn’t see any excursions of interest and hoped the cruise ship or city would offer a shuttle bus into the city of Da Nang. The shuttle never materialized so we decided to stay on the ship. They did offer a golf cart to the port gate.

We were told outside the security gate some locals had set up tents with souvenirs and handicrafts for sale. We rode the golf cart to the drop off point, only to discover a large group of young men aggressively wanting us to take taxis into the city or take us on private tours. They were very insistent and refused to take no for an answer. We never saw any items for sale and quickly took the golf cart back to the ship. 

The ship celebrated Viet Nam with food and decorations.

We had a day at sea before reaching Phu My, our second Vietnam port. It is a deep water port and another busy shipping port. Ships docked here offer excursions to Hanoi. We did this in 2020 and remember the long bus ride to and from Hanoi. This time we found an excursion to the nearby town of Ba Ria. This is a rural area where many of the people have lived their lives the same way for generations, untouched by urban development. 

Our first stop was a Buddhist temple. The property itself is large and we were told 700 elderly homeless people live here and are cared for.

Here are some of the city scenes.

Wood Is Need For Many Small Businesses

Statues Cutting Beside The Road (Mother Mary)

Everything Carried By Motorbike

Nhà thờ Kim Hải Catholic Church

County Government Office

Next we visited the home of what the guide said was a local wealthy family. It was rather strange since it appeared to be more of a museum than a home someone lived in.

With the weather getting hotter by the minute, we stopped to see the process of making rice paper. We were all offered the chance to make rice paper, but it was so hot in the cramped space, none of us lasted longer than the time it took to take pictures.

Drying In The Sun

The Kitchen

We noticed that the same vendors that had been at the temple were at this location. Our guide told us the vendors knew the tour schedule and followed us during the day on motorbikes from one location to another. They figured they would wear us down by the end of the day and everyone would eventually buy something. They not only followed our schedule, but managed to beat the bus to each location!

Next we stopped at a distillery to learn how to make moonshine or rice wine. Once again it was dreadfully hot inside. We noticed black flies on the drying white rice. Certainly did not make us want us to drink the wine, and none was offered. However they did offer us fresh pineapple, bananas and bottles of drinking water.

We stopped along the side of the road at a rice field where we were given the opportunity to look at the rice up close. Too small for a clear picture.

We visited the Cao Dai temple. The Cao Dai religion was founded here in 1926. Within a year the group had 26,000 followers. By the mid 1950s, eight percent of the South Vietnamese were CaoDaist. It is a combination of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism and native Vietnamese spirits. The official symbol is the “divine eye”, an inset into the front of the temple above the altar.

Our last stop was at a local market with food and a bit of everything else. Similar to a mini Walmart. By this time we were too hot and tired to do any shopping.

One thing we have noticed is an increase in the number of cases of colds, coughs and bronchitis among the passengers and crew. The bronchitis is of greatest concern because it seems to be making the passengers the sickest. Some are blaming it on the fact it was so cold in Japan and China and then warmed up quickly in Hong Kong. Some are blaming it on the severe smog in China. Someone told us the ship doctor called it the “Chinese Crud”. One passenger was taken off the ship in Phu My by ambulance because the ship doctor said his lungs were full of fluid and he needed to be hospitalized.  Bill and I are fine and taking precautions. We brought plenty of cough drops and cough syrup on the ship. We gave them to some sick “neighbors” on our deck. We can always buy more in Singapore if needed. 

Next up: Singapore and the cruise ends


Hong Kong, MAR 16 2024

We arrived in Hong Kong on a very foggy morning. Visibility was practically zero. We were last here Hong Kong, FEB 1, 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. During that cruise, after Hong Kong our cruise ended unexpectedly.

Unlike last time, we did not get up early to see the sail into the harbor due to the fog. This time we were going to be in Hong Kong overnight. Like many of our ports, we were welcomed by local entertainers.

During our last visit to Hong Kong we took the Hop On Hop Off Bus around the island. This time we booked an excursion. We took a bus under the Victoria Harbour by tunnel and then the bus climbed a steep, winding road to a funicular.

The Peak Tram Entrance

We rode a funicular tram (1,300 feet) to The Peak Tower. The Peak Tower (1,376 feet above sea level) is Hong Kong’s highest viewing platform where on a clear day we would have had an exceptional view of Hong Kong. Due to the fog, we saw absolutely nothing. One passenger said she had been to Victoria’s Peak three times and had yet to have a clear view. But riding the funicular tram was fun!

The funicular began operating in 1888 and takes about 17,000 riders to six stations to the upper levels of Hong Kong Island. The tram was renovated and upgraded in 2022.

Posing With Benedict Cumberbatch

The excursion bus driver drove much too fast on the curvy road back down the mountain, leaving some passengers feeling queasy.

Sandy Public Beach

Our next stop was in Aberdeen, an area on the southwest side of Hong Kong where we took a sampan ride. A sampan is a small wooden boat normally propelled by oars. We had an enjoyable ride around the harbor.

An elderly lady maneuvered the boat.
Our last stop was at Stanley Market. This is a street market typical of traditional old open air markets in Hong Kong. It is a major tourist attraction known for bargains and haggling. We bought nothing.

Our second day in Hong Kong we thought about taking the Hop On Hop Off Bus again but it was another very foggy day. We decided to visit the garden on top of the huge cruise terminal beside our ship. How like Hong Kong to create a garden and walking area on top of the roof of a cruise terminal. We not only enjoyed the exercise but we also found two geocaches.

View Of The Cruise Terminal

We saw a group of children having a kindergarten graduation ceremony. In Asia the school year ends in March and the new school year begins in May.

During sail away the ship provides special music, snacks and drinks.

We Waited For the Cruise Ship Behind Us To Go First

The Pilot Pickup Boat

Next up: Da Nang, Vietnam

Tianjin, China MAR 12 2024

The second day in Tianjin, we decided to take an excursion into the city of Tianjin. We had considered an excursion into Beijing to see the capital, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. But that would mean another three hour bus ride each way including the police checkpoint, so we decided not to go. Even getting from the port into the city of Tianjin was an hour ride each way.  We left the ship very early in the morning on a very cold day with temperatures in the low 30’s.

Another One Of Those Super Tall Buildings

Even a Walmart in China

Our Lady of Victory Church also known as Wanghailou Church, is a Roman Catholic church located in Tianjin, China.

Towering 120-m. Ferris wheel above the Hai River, illuminated with colorful lights at night.

Tianjin, with a population of 14,000,000, is the seventh largest city in China. Our first stop was at the Confucian Temple. It is a temple consecrated to offer sacrifices to the memory of Confucius, a great thinker, educator and statesman in ancient China. Built in 1302, it is the second largest Confucian temple in China. It is the largest traditional architectural complex in the city and one of the oldest. There are actually two temples here, one on the east side and one on the west side. The temples underwent extensive repair in 1985. We spent quite a bit of time here walking through the temples and various buildings.

Next we went to the Guwenhua Jie Street market with many brightly colored stores. It was very loud with music and vendors selling their wares. It was a pedestrian area and we had a false sense of security regarding traffic. Bill was slightly in front of me and looking to the left. Suddenly I saw a speeding motor scooter coming from the right, straight at him as he was about to step into its path. I screamed for him to watch out and he stopped inches from the scooter as it flew by. Whew! That was a really close call. We really didn’t want to end up in a Chinese hospital!

Near the market was a large statue of Mazu, a Chinese sea goddess they believe protect sailors and fishermen.

Next we went to a Chinese restaurant for another “authentic” Chinese lunch. It was very similar to yesterday’s restaurant with a table for eight and a Lazy Susan in the center. The food was similar to the day before but no soup or orange slices for dessert.

Tianjin University is the oldest university in China, 1895

Children Exercising

After what seemed like a long hour bus ride back to the ship, we went through security and turned in the copies of our passports they had stamped. We were officially checked out of China.

This Is The View Of The Port Area

One comment about Chinese public bathrooms. They were horrible everywhere except for the two nice restaurants. The restaurants had western style toilets which were fully stocked with toilet tissue, soap and paper towels. But other public restrooms throughout China are filthy and disgusting. Most were Asian style with a hole in the floor. If we were lucky they had one western toilet with a seat, but the stalls were very small. There was no toilet tissue, soap or paper towels. Most of the women, me included, limited our fluid content so as not to have to use those restrooms any more than necessary. 

Once again we were over two hours late leaving Tianjin due to the stringent Chinese immigration officials. The captain remarked during his noon talk the next day that the Tianjin officials were the hardest to work with, bordering on rudeness. He commented he was very glad our China ports were over. He apologized for what we had to endure during the police checks, etc. He said he notified the Holland America corporate office and perhaps they would consider that when planning future cruises. 

We now had three days at sea before our next port of call, Hong Kong. It was obvious everyone was tired from all the back to back early morning Chinese ports. Everyone welcomed a much needed rest.

On one of those evenings they had the Zuiderdam Ball beginning with a formal dinner. Various officers hosted tables in the dining room. We were invited to be the guest of George who is the director of the food and beverage services. He is in charge of a very large staff from dining room managers to maitre d’s to servers and cooks in the dining room and buffet. There was a table of three couples and George. We all had a big laugh when we found out the three ladies at the table were all named Diane. We jokingly told him they did that to make it easier for him to remember our names. He was a great host. It was a very enjoyable evening with complimentary wine and great conversation.

Unfortunately we have to say goodbye to our beloved Captain Frank and his friendly wife when we reach Hong Kong. He originally was not supposed to be the captain of the World Cruise, but he had to fill in for another captain who had a personal emergency. Captain Frank’s duty ended in Hong Kong. The sea day before we reached Hong Kong there was a farewell salute for the captain and his wife in the Grand Theater. Two standing ovations from passengers and crew brought tears to his eyes. A touching video of highlights from the cruise was shown. At the end of the salute, the crew crowded the stage while the song “We Are Family” played and the passengers clapped and cheered. We sure will miss Captain Frank and Alexandra. They are going back to their home in the Netherlands for a well deserved vacation.

We heard from a crew member that the new captain has a similar style to Captain Frank. If that is true, then we will all be A-okay. 

We also received an invitation for a private tour of the ship’s galley. The galley is under the direction of an Executive Chef who supervises 134 people. We were given a printout of the amount of food prepared, dishes washed, etc that is mind boggling. The complimentary champagne at the end of the tour was a nice touch. 

Next up: Hong Kong and foggy weather that is finally warming up


The Great Wall of China, MAR 11 2024

We arrived at the port of Tianjin, China for an overnight stay. The cruise terminal is 110 miles from Beijing, China.

The first day we booked an excursion to The Great Wall, outside of Beijing. We knew when we booked the tour that it was a three and a half hour bus ride each way. But we also knew this was our chance to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We had to bite the bullet and endure the ride. 

But first, a delay getting off the ship. Chinese regulations require cruise ships to use their gangway. Problem was their gangway had an electrical problem and they had to wait for a mechanic to arrive. As time passed and tour buses waited, they refused to allow Holland America to use their own gangway. As you can see in this photo the wheels are pointed in opposite directions to what was needed.

Then Chinese officials had to come onboard to clear the ship. Their rigid, strict regulations meant this took longer than most clearances in other countries. This is also the first port that had a strict overnight curfew that required the gangway to be dismantled at night. During the hours of 11:00 P.M. and 5:30 A.M., no passengers or crew would be allowed to enter or exit the ship. This was important because we were staying in the port and some people taking private tours could arrive back late.

Finally we were on our way. Near the Cruise Terminal is many apartment complexes that were built for people to move to, but our guide said people don’t like it because there is no restaurants or other normal city amenities.

Many Workers in China Use Branches to Sweep

Don’t Throw Banana Peels

If you ever wondered where some of the shipping containers come from, we think we found the factory that makes them.

Brand New Empty Shipping Containers

They Are Waiting To Be Delivered To The Owner Companies

We would pass around Beijing along our route. There were twenty Holland America buses on the road, some going to the Great Wall and others headed to Beijing for a tour of the capital city. As we reached a police checkpoint, we were pulled over. We could see the other Holland America buses had already been stopped and more followed behind us. Our tour guide got off and we waited an hour before our guide came back onboard and said the police wanted to see our passports. Evidently in Beijing they were having the second session of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and therefore security was very tight. The ship had everyone’s passports, so we gave him our passport copy with the official immigration stamp their immigration officials on the ship had given us. The police didn’t seem to know what to do with these passport copies given to us by their own officials. A supervisor had to be called. After another 30 minute wait we were wondering if we needed to call the ship’s emergency number for help, but just then our guide came back with our passport copies and we were again on our way But this delay of 90 minutes made an already long trip even longer.

Very Large Windturbines

We Saw two Power Plants

This Very Tall Building is in Beijing City Center

After what felt like an endless ride, we arrived at The Great Wall of China, 31 miles from central Beijing. This section of the wall is located at Juyong Pass, a mountain pass. The Great Wall is a series of fortifications built across the northern border of China as military protection against nomadic groups such as the Mongolians. It is not really a wall but a series of fortifications. The total length was 13,171 miles, making it the longest man made structure in the world and half the length of the Equator! The height ranged from 20 to 23 feet with the highest being 46 feet. The average width was a little over 21 feet. The construction lasted over 2,300 years from 680 BC to 1681 AD during more than nine dynasties. More than 1,000,000 laborers built the wall. Of the Seven Wonders of the World, it the largest and took the longest to build. Due to natural erosion, earthquakes and other natural disasters and human activity, only 10% is still standing today and 30% has vanished with no trace. The part that we visited, and the parts seen on television and those that tourists see, was rebuilt in modern times.

The Cloud Platform at Juyongguan is a mid-14th-century architectural that was repaired in 1961.

Cloud Platform

We had a little less than two hours here. In an attempt to make up for the late arrival due to the police checkpoint, our guide bought each of us a Snickers bar to snack on before our walk. Nice of him since what happened was not his fault and out of his control. The guide warned us several times about the steep, unlevel steps of varying heights. He told us many people fall here, especially going down the steps. We had our walking sticks with us and we took his warning very seriously. The last thing we wanted was to get hurt and end up in a Chinese hospital! I did not walk up as far as Bill. Our guide told us we were very lucky as there were not big crowds of people today. The Great Wall has 50 million visitors a year.

After leaving the Wall we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. A very late lunch since it was 3:30 instead of the planned 12:30.  We were seated at tables of ten with a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table with many beef, chicken and fish dishes, as well as soup. We were given the choice of water, Coke or beer. Dessert was orange slices.

The restaurant was part of a large jade store, so of course after lunch they wanted to show everyone their large collection of expensive pieces of jade for sale. 

With the three and and a half ride back to the ship, lengthened by rush hour traffic, most buses arrived back at the ship three hours later than expected. It was 9:30 P.M. and everyone was tired and hungry. Usually the dining room and buffet closes at 9:00 P.M. and we wondered what we would find to eat. Imagine our surprise and joy when we found the buffet open with a full menu and service. The ship knew we would be arriving late and rearranged the buffet schedule. How nice! On mornings when excursions are leaving very early, they open the buffet at 5:00 A.M. rather than 6:30 A.M.. It means the cooks and servers need to get up at 3:00 A.M. to have everything ready. And yet, they always have a smile on their faces. 

What a day! 

Next up: Visiting Tianjin and Bill almost gets hurt

Dalian, China MAR 10 2024

After two busy days in Shanghai, we were glad to have a sea day before the next port, Dalian,

On our sea day between Shanghai and Dalian, we were surprised with the opportunity for another exclusive ship tour. This time it was a tour of the ship’s laundry facilities. A group of eight of us was taken down by special elevator to the lowest deck on the ship. There we saw tailors making uniforms for the staff. An order for uniforms had not come in so they were using tablecloths to make chef jackets.

Uniform Supply

Large washers and dryers lined the walls. They had special machines designated for clothes of anyone on the ship ill, such as with Covid or a stomach virus.

One Washing Machine For Contaminated Items

We saw how they use machines to label each item of clothing with a laundry mark. The guide told us these machines are a critical piece of equipment. Otherwise each item would have to be labeled by hand, significantly slowing down the process. Each bag of laundry turned in has a turn around time of less than 24 hours!! He said they usually process around 400 bags of laundry a day, 500 bags daily when in hot weather. 

Of course there are also sheets, towels, cloth napkins and tablecloths. This machine takes a flat sheet and folds it.

They also have dry cleaning and pressing available. They are all such hard, dedicated workers.

Folding By Hand

The process for passengers is to fill a laundry bag with dirty clothing and give it to the room steward. It is returned to us by the room steward within 24 hours. We can have the laundry hung or neatly folded and returned in a basket. There is a charge for the services. You can pay by piece, by bag or buy unlimited laundry service. Our travel agent secured free unlimited laundry for us on this cruise. A first for us and has certainly been a treat! 


China. Dalian has been owned by England, China, Japan, Russia and then given back to China by Russia in 1950. It is located on Korea Bay. North Korea is about 310 miles away. Dalian has a population of 7.5 million. Our tour guide said we are the first cruise ship to visit in five years. He said he was nervous and embarrassed because his English is rusty since he hasn’t spoken it in five years.  We thought his English was very good. During the pandemic there was no work for tour guides so he became a middle school teacher and took the day off from school to be our guide for the day. Our visit was a big deal for the city and we were told they spruced up for our visit, including repaving some sidewalks.

Once again, before leaving the ship, we had to go through two security checks where stern immigration officials checked our passports and any bags we were taking with us. Everything was done twice.

Musicians Played For Us

The day was very chilly as we boarded the bus. We rode by Zhongshan Square, the oldest square in Dalian, built by the Russians in 1899. It is a small square located in the middle of a five lane roundabout.

We rode to the top of Lushan Hill for a panoramic view of the city. It was a very steep, narrow, curvy road and I worried about the condition of the brakes on these tour buses.

Next up was People’s Square. This square was first built by the occupying Japanese in 1914. In 1949 it was changed to Stalin Square by the occupying Russians before finally being renamed People’s Square in 1999.  We had an opportunity to get off the bus and walk around. Since it was a Sunday there were many families who smiled shyly at us with curiosity.

We rode to Xinghai Square, located on the Yellow Sea, which was built in 1997 to commemorate the return of Hong Kong to China. Built entirely through land reclamation (landfill), it is the largest city square in the world (270 acres). Again, being a Sunday, it was busy with families and young people.

Finally we rode along a coastal road to Beida Bridge. Our guide had us walk across the bridge holding hands. He said the Chinese believe everyone who walks across this bridge holding hands stays together forever.

At the sail away time, once again the ship had a party on Deck 3 with appetizers, drinks and music. It was very chilly so once again the crew passed out deck blankets. Everyone lined decks and balconies, waiting to watch the ship leave the port. We waited and waited and waited. Chinese immigration officials who worked in the port came out for a group picture with the ship in the background. They turned around, smiled and waved at us. We cheered and waved back. They then quickly filed into formation and marched away.

We Believe Many Were Here For Training

We continued to wait. And wait. One of our officers came out and met with some Chinese officials on the dock who handed him paperwork. They talked, then they each got on their cell phones, talked some more, back on cell phones. Our officer finally walked back on the ship and the Chinese waited. We’ll this didn’t look good. It appeared they were not letting us go.

The Waiters Killed The Time By Dancing

By now it was getting dark and colder so we gave up and went to dinner. During dinner we finally saw the ship pulling away from the dock. At last. Two hours behind schedule which meant the captain would have to increase his speed to reach the next port on time. We never heard what the problem was, but we do know the Chinese officials are precise, rigid and unwavering with their regulations. Perhaps after not having a cruise ship in five years, they were a little rusty in processing cruise ships.

Our visit to Dalian was pleasant. Not the most exciting city, but one of those places usually not on a cruise itinerary.  I doubt we will ever return. 

We were amazed how MOST of the skyscrapers changed colors and patterns.

It was also International Women’s Day and the ship celebrated with cakes in the buffet.

Next up: Tianjin, China, the Great Wall and being detained by Chinese officials on the road


Shanghai, China PT 2 MAR 8 2024

The second day our excursion was Shanghai Old and New.

Today’s Guide Was Younger

We saw more of the new area and then went to People’s Square. A large square, it is the commercial, cultural and political hub of the city. Shangai’s municipal government headquarters building is located here.  This area was once a former colonial British horse racing course and a popular place for the Chinese and British for gambling on horse racing.

In the winter of 1986-1987, the park was the site of tens of thousands of protesters who demanded democracy and political changes. In 1989 there was the famous Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing and once again tens of thousands gathered here in support of the Beijing protesters.

We went over the Nanpu Bridge.

All The Best Cars: BMW, Telsa, Mercedes

Bicycles and Scooters have their Own Lanes

Armored Truck Being Loaded

We drove through French Town or French Concession, is an area in Shanghai that the French government ruled from 1849 to 1946.  It continues to be a popular and sought after residential area. Huaihai Road in the area is one of the busiest shopping areas in Shanghai with many expensive designer stores. 

Here are some of the photos we took from the bus.

Bicycles and Scooters at the Train Station

A Few Phone Booths

Next up: Dalian, China 

Shanghai, China PT 1 MAR 7 2024

After a day at sea, we arrived at Shanghai, China for an overnight stay, giving us two  days to explore. There would not be any independent exploring here. We did not have a visa so we could only leave the ship if we were on a Holland America excursion. Fine with us. We had no desire to go off in our own in China. These are early morning photos before we docked.

Fog or Maybe Smog?

With 9,010 miles of coastline, China has a population of over 1,409 billion. Shanghai has a population of over 24 million making it the second largest city in China. Shanghai has the largest seaport in the world. Chopsticks were invented here 5,000 years ago.

Some interesting facts given us by our tour guides:

  • Country’s biggest problem is how to feed over a billion people
  • Two generations ago, Chinese families were very large. Our generation was limited to one child. Now that the birthrate is shrinking and is at minus one, the government is encouraging young people today to have more than one child and give the parents monetary supplements for additional children. 
  • Current problem is young people today do not want to marry and have children. They know life is very hard if you marry and have children to be responsible for. They have to work harder to get a bigger apartment, pay for schooling, etc. They want an easier life with less responsibilities and more time to relax and be with friends.

Security was tight getting off the ship with Chinese officials checking our passports at two different checkpoints as well as scanning bags twice we were taking off the ship. On the first day we took an excursion that including a short train ride and tour of Shanghai. Our guide was a young, energetic guide who spoke good English with a heavy accent.

Unique Buildings Everywhere

The first stop was at the Maglev Longyang Road Station to ride a Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train. The Shanghai Maglev is the world’s first commercial high speed maglev with a maximum cruising speed of 186 mph. The line uses German Transrapid technology. The driverless powerful electromagnetic train floats on an electromagnetic cushion over guideways using the basic principles of magnets to replace the old steel wheel and train tracks. The trains can reach high speeds because there no rail friction. The trains float, rarely if ever touch a track. As we turned corners there was definitely a feeling of flying. There is less noise and vibration than a train on a track which also means fewer mechanical breakdowns or weather related delays.

We rode the train round trip from the Longyang Road Station to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

We Whizzed By this Church

The 19 mile mile trip takes eight minutes and ten seconds each way. We rode one way, waited about ten minutes on the train, and then rode back to our starting point. Think of all the road traffic jams we avoided. We know it well because our ship is located 17 miles from the city center and it is an hour bus trip ride from the ship, more time in heavy traffic. 

After that exciting ride we went to the new area of Shanghai, the Pudong area. We saw the Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower. Completed in 1994, it was the world’s first steel antenna. At 1,535 feet, it is the fourth tallest in Asia and sixth in the world.

The Jin Mao Tower is an 88 story building and is the third tallest skyscraper in Shanghai. It was completed in 2001 and is 88 stories because the Chinese think the number 8 is lucky and symbolizes wealth. So a building 88 stories high would be doubly lucky and bring wealth. The design blends modern and traditional technology. We rode a large elevator to the observation deck on the 88th floor. The ride took 45 seconds and we could feel the fast ascent in our ears. There was a great view of the “Bund” or waterfront area and Huangpu River which surrounds the financial district.

Well, the view was great except for the smog. The captain had told everyone that he received a poor air quality alert for Shanghai. The smog was not that noticeable until we were at a high level.

Shanghai Tower, The Tallest

You can pay to walk around on the outside ledge of the tower. None of us took them up on the offer. The Jin Mao Tower also contains a shopping mall, offices and the Grand Hyatt Shanghai hotel.

Looking Down into The Hollow Area of the Hyatt Hotel

We had time to go to a bank on the third floor to use the ATM and get some Chinese yuan. 

Along the Jin Mao Tower is the 128 story Shanghai Tower, the tallest in Shanghai, this area has the world’s first trio of adjacent super tall skyscrapers.

Next up: more Shanghai

Kanmon Straits and Fukuoka, Japan MAR 4 2024

The day after we left Kobe we had a day of scenic cruising through the Kanmon Straits.  We are traveling from the east side of Japan to the west side of Japan. This is a stretch of water separating Honshu and Kyushu, two of Japan’s four main islands.

A Lonely Lighthouse

We went under the Kanmon Bridge, a suspension bridge.

The Straits connect the Sea of Japan and the Inland Sea. The Kanmon Straits is used by many cargo ships as a shortcut to Osaka and Tokyo from Korea and China. It is less than half a mile between Honshu and Kyushu in the Kanmon Straits. The day was overcast, not a perfect view for taking pictures. And of course, very cold!

On March 5th we arrived in Fukuoka, our last Japanese port.

We did not book an excursion, thinking a shuttle would be available into the city center. On our arrival it was cold, rainy and no shuttle was available. We were happy to stay onboard. Between noon and 3:30 everyone had to go off the ship into the port terminal for a mandatory face to face immigration inspection as we “checked out” of Japan. Since we had a 1:00 appointment for our Bridge tour, we were in line right at noon to get checked.

Our Early Morning Arrival

Same Tower

At 1:00 a crew member came down to Desk Services and escorted ten of us up to “The Bridge” on Deck eight. The Bridge is the brain of the ship where all the helm/steering, speed, navigation and ship’s current conditions takes place. Think of it as the cockpit of an airplane only much, much larger. The first thing you notice are the huge windows followed by all the electronics. We were told we could take pictures but we were asked not to put them on social media for security reasons. Therefore we are limited in the pictures we can post on the blog. A senior officer named Tim gave us a tour. For over an hour he explained everything and answered all our group questions on every subject we could think of. He did an excellent job and we certainly left feeling even safer than ever. I asked what areas of the world are particularly challenging and he said definitely China. There is so much boat and ship traffic in that area of the world. The Chinese ships and boats don’t always pay attention or obey the rules. They particularly like to cross too close in front of big ships like cruise ships. They think doing so wards off evil spirits. Tim said they have to get themselves mentally prepared for Chinese waters. It was an informative and fascinating tour.

In the evening each cabin received an interesting flyer in our cabin mailboxes. A tailor would be on the ship for several days taking orders for custom made clothing for men and women. Fittings for orders of all types of clothing of many different quality fabrics from England, Italy and France would be taken. The clothing would be ready to be picked up when we reach Hong Kong on March 16th. It would be interesting to know how many passengers took advantage of this offer. 

Next up: Shanghai, China 

Kobe, Japan PT 2 MAR 3 2024

On day two in Kobe we had a great excursion with an excellent guide that took us to several places in nearby Kyoto. Kyoto, about an hour drive from Kobe, was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years from 794 to 1868. First up was the Heian Shrine, listed as an important cultural property in Japan. Built in 1895 the shrine property has a Tori gate, main gate, castle, garden and a lake, to resemble the 11th and 12th century design periods. In 1976 several buildings were destroyed by fire and rebuilt. We have learned in Japan, over thousands of years, many shrines and temples were destroyed by fire, earthquakes or bombing during WW2.

We enjoyed walking around the grounds, though at 35 degrees, it was cold.

A tree was full of white strips of paper tied to the tree. The wish tree has good fortunes tied on the tree to bring good luck. Another example of Japanese superstitions.

In the garden we came across a happy couple having wedding photos taken.

Next we went to Nijo-jo Castle. Built in 1626, this is from the feudal period and was the home of Tokugawa shoguns. It was struck by lightning and burned to the ground in 1867 and rebuilt in 1893.  What makes the castle unique are the nightingale floors as they are known in Japan. They are a type of floor that makes a squeaking, chirping noise like nightingales when walked on. These floors were built for security so the shogun would hear if anyone came into the castle.

Before entering the castle for a tour we had to take off our shoes while walking on the floors.

Even with socks on our feet were freezing and we couldn’t feel our toes by the end of the tour. We did hear the floors chirping. I did not see the “no photos” sign so I was in the process of taking my first picture when a guard walked up behind me and loudly said, “No photos!!” Almost gave me a heart attack. Here is that picture.

Time for lunch. We were taken to a very nice Japanese restaurant located in a high end hotel. Each place setting had a bento box which is the Japanese version of a boxed lunch. Very nicely done. It included soup, sticky rice, tofu, shrimp, a sweet potato cake and salmon. Chopsticks and forks were provided. Lucky Bill enjoyed his lunch and mine!

Japanese Has Small Vehicles

Our final destination was the beautiful Kinkaku-ju Temple, also known as The Golden Pavillion. Several people on the cruise ship who had been to Koyoto before, said this was their favorite place. It did not disappoint. It is a Zen Buddhist temple that at one time was a family villa. Built in 1397 as a shogun palace, it later became a temple. The pavillion burned down in 1950 and was rebuilt in 1955. It is a three story building with the top two stories covered with pure gold leaf.

Picture of Their Interior Picture

We were not allowed to go inside. A one way path for tourists led past the temple. Our guide told us the guards would not allow people to go part way and then turn around and walk back. The problem was 100 steps that had to be navigated on the one way path. It turns out the steps were not too bad. I hope people didn’t decide not to go because of the steps. It is such a beautiful place, it is a shame they don’t make it accessible for people with mobility issues. There were lots of tourists there but it was not crowded.

Three young Japanese girls were visiting in traditional dress. We asked if we could take their picture and they gladly agreed.

It was a long day with an hour ride back to the ship, but a very enjoyable day. Back at the ship, it was very close to the time the ship was leaving. We had to go through Japanese immigration again (we had to do this every time we left or came back to the ship while in every Japanese port). As we were walking toward the ship we heard a band playing. We were so surprised to see a band and a crowd of people at the top of the cruise terminal with banners and flags to see us off.

On the ship, passengers had crowded all the decks and balconies to wave goodbye. It was quite a party with the crew passing out drinks, appetitizers and blankets for warmth. We quickly joined the crowd. As the band played “Anchors Away”, the people released pink and green balloons and waved goodbye to us. Wow! What a send off. Thank you, Kobe!!

When we got back to our cabin, we had another nice surprise. An invitation had been placed in our cabin mailbox. A coveted invitation for a tour of The Ship’s Bridge, which is where all the ship’s navigation takes place. Bill has been wanting to do this for a long time. We were under the impression tours had been stopped years ago for security reasons. Bill was thrilled. Can’t wait! 

Next up:  The last Japanese port, scenic cruising and a tour of “The Ship’s Bridge”