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Asian Explorer on the ms Volendam

Asian Explorer on the ms Volendam Many thanks for your letter and for giving us the opportunity to tell you a little about our recent Asian Explorer holiday.

In one very brief phrase – it was fabulous! Many thanks to Travel the World personnel for starting our holiday off in the very best way with their service.

The Holland America Line ms “Volendam” promised everything and our shipboard experience confirmed that it certainly delivered on its promises. Of course, it being our first cruise ship holiday, we don’t have any other benchmark, however, our travelling companions have experienced about 12 previous cruises, the most recent 6 being on Holland America ships. As we had faith in their discernment, we went along.

So far as destinations are concerned, we start with the least enjoyable, being Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It had almost nothing to offer from any perspective and is a destination that could well be replaced by HAL by a port that might have more to offer, both from an interest and enjoyment perspective.

Of particular interest was Nagasaki. It proved to be a valuable insight into the tragic events that took place there at the end of World War II. Certainly a good inclusion as a port of call. A trip to the Stanley Markets in Hong Kong was one of our most pleasant on-shore experiences. We travelled independently to Macau to see the changes that had occurred since we last visited there 38 years ago. They were remarkable, not the least of which was the freedom at the border crossing now able to be enjoyed by those who wish to make the crossing from Macau to the PRC.

Macau was the only HAL organised shore excursion we experienced – and that was on account of a security concern we felt (whether justified or not). A suggestion we would make to HAL is to better inform passengers booking on that tour of the time frames involved. The duration of the tour was 10 hours, however, more than half of that time was devoted to customs and immigration activities both prior to departing Hong Kong and following arrival in Macau. Had we known how little time would be available to us in Macau, it is likely we wouldn’t have taken the tour.

A huge escalation then to Shanghai – an exciting, vibrant , colourful city that had much to offer. A couple of images of Shanghai architecture are attached.

Finally, disembarkation at Kobe in Japan prior to travelling on to Kyoto. We are agreed that Japan is a country to which we’d like to return at some future time. We found the Japanese people to be both extremely courteous and always willing to help. The Todaiji Temple in Nara was a highlight of the entire itinerary.

So far as accommodation is concerned, aside from our HAL “Volendam” stateroom, the only accommodation we enjoyed was with the ANA Hotel in Kyoto following disembarkation at Kobe. It was Golden Week in Japan and accommodation was not only scarce, but also quite expensive. However, via their online booking facility, we were able to secure very comfortable rooms at a low rate well in advance of leaving on our trip.

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