My cruising bucket list is long, but one experience has always stood head and shoulders above the others. And while this has now been ticked off, it is a travel experience which I hope to repeat again and again. Any guesses from the image?
Yes, it’s sailing out of Victoria Harbour while Hong Kong flaunts its neon charms in the backdrop. Reclining in a deckchair on Holland America Line’s Volendam, in the company of other starstruck passengers, it doesn’t get any better.
And cruising Asia is a similarly life-changing experience. Many of us have spent a day or two here and there in the major cities, but a 14-day cruise, bookended by Hong Kong and Singapore, and offering an insider’s view of life in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, without airports, traffic jams and continual packing is something special.
Our arrival in Hong Kong coincides with the celebration of Chinese New Year, which in 2014 means the Year of the Horse. With nearly every hotel and restaurant boasting grander and grander ‘money trees’, bulging with orange mandarins and red and gold envelopes, Hong Kong is dressed to kill.
Sailaway is at 10pm, with the sun setting in the East and thousands of neon lights flashing urgent messages to spend, spend, spend. But the deep, dark harbour waters and velvet night sky weave an even greater magic.
With late night Star Ferries, fishing boats and other small craft ducking and weaving across our path, all too soon the harbour has receded, the shore lights dim, and the mystery of unknown lands takes hold.
Our first day at sea is one of orientation. There are more activities than we can possibly hope to cover, even though there are 5 sea days on our 14-day voyage. We start by booking into the boot camp in the gym, making dinner reservations in the different restaurants, while saving some time to hit the Explorations Café and Library for a latte and browse of the New York Times bestsellers, before forcing ourselves onto the Promenade Deck on level three for the obligatory 3.5 circuits to achieve a ‘mile’ of exercise.
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