Category Archives: Voyager

Disembarkation Day – Singapore

Disembarkation from ships generally follows the same pattern. Suitcases must be packed and placed outside the cabin before midnight the evening before, from where they will be whisked away ready to be unloaded in port. Cabins usually have to be vacated by 8 or 9am on the morning of disembarkation, leaving passengers to find whatever space to sit down and relax, while waiting for the call to leave the ship.

Today, things were different. Because the Voyager is going straight into dry-dock, and a new batch of passengers won’t be joining the ship for another 4 weeks, we had the luxury of having access to our cabin until 5pm, and the deadline for placing luggage outside the cabin was 2pm. Our appointed call to leave the ship was listed as 6:20; our BA flight home, 23:15.

This meant that we had a few hours to go ashore again, which we decided to do before lunch as it would, hopefully, be a little cooler (which it wasn’t).

We walked into the cruise terminal and headed for the boardwalk that leads to the resort island of Sentosa. What surprised us when we got to the boardwalk was that for most of the way, it had one of those moving walkways (I think they call them ‘walkalators’ in airports), which was not only quite fun, but it cut our crossing time down by a considerable amount.

Sentosa is a resort island, which means that it is, essentially, one large playground and theme park. Universal Studios has a large portion of it (which, as far as I could see just meant lots of theme park rides and mock-up ‘cities’), and the rest consists of hotel complexes, aquariums, 3-D museums, shops, cafes, ornate waterfalls and a multi-coloured monorail. The island can also be reached by the cable car we saw yesterday.

At that time in the morning, the place was mercifully quiet, except for a few excitable groups of selfie-stick wielders. We followed a ‘Walking Trail’, which led us across the centre of the resort to the beach on the other side (mental note for if we ever come here again…). Here, we found a huge statue of the Merlion – Half Mermaid, half lion – the symbol of Singapore, and a small cafe where we could buy a drink and a few odds and ends in the gift shop before heading back towards the ship.

After lunch, we packed up the rest of our stuff, placed our luggage in the corridor and went to chill out in the Lookout Lounge. At 4pm, we headed for the restaurant for ‘Afternoon Tea’, where sandwiches and cakes were being served, believing that this would be the last opportunity to consume free food for quite a while.

At something past 6, we left the ship and boarded the coach that was to take us to the airport.

Checking-in was relatively slick, and the couple of hours that we had to wait passed mercifully quickly. We were on board the plane by 11pm, ready to take off at 11:15…

…except we didn’t…

The captain announced that they’d encountered a technical hitch, they were working on it, and would keep us posted on its progress. Thirty minutes later, he came on again to tell us that neither of the plane’s two GPS units were working, and that engineers had boarded to try and fix them.

Two hours later, we finally started to move, the captain thanked us for our patience and told us that the GPSes had miraculously started working again….

14 hours later, we landed at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 5, and faced a further 5 hours drive home…

Our adventure was over.

But it won’t be for long…. in January, we will be joining the Marco Polo on its way towards Brazil and the Amazon…

Watch this space….

Singapore

Today, at around lunchtime, we pulled into our final stop on a journey that started two weeks ago in Sri Lanka. Today, we arrived in Singapore.

We’ve been to some warm places, but today, it felt sort of ridiculously hot and humid. Even those passengers who have been here before remarked on just how extraordinarily hot it was.

Just the name itself – Singapore – The Lion City – the World’s only island city-state – conjures up exotic images of a modern conurbation steeped in colonial history and at the forefront of technology. When it all boiled down to it, however, neither Tracey or myself felt much like taking the trek into the big metropolis. While many folks were buzzing about an impending visit to ‘Raffles’ and the Singapore Sling they would order as soon as they got there (cos that’s what you are meant to do when you visit Singapore, apparently), or take in the ‘Gardens By The Bay’, all we wanted to do was go for a quiet walk and find some shade (and hopefully a view of the city skyline, if there was one going).

As you can imagine, the port of Singapore is a big, busy place. Across the water, we could see the resort island of Sentosa, joined to the mainland on one side of the bay by a boardwalk and on the other by a high cable car which ran high above where the Voyager was berthed. We figured the chances of finding a suitable walk were slim, yet just across the busy highway that ran right past the front of the Cruise Terminal, known as VivoCity, we discovered exactly what we were after; a large, natural park.

Mount Faber Park fulfilled all our requirements. A good, well-maintained path, shaded by tall trees, climbed up to a high ridge from where the cable car ran (at Faber Peak). We were accompanied by the weird, and rather loud, sound of insects, which we presumed were something similar to cicadas. They would whine like an electric saw, increasing in volume, and then suddenly stop, only to restart again a minute or so later. Occasionally, the pitch would increase to something even higher, and make a sound like the warning sound of a vehicle reversing.

Along the length of the ridge, once we got there, we discovered there was a roadway, which is clearly used to ferry tourists to the cable car station and to Faber Point, where a mural wall depicts scenes of local historic events. For myself; the best thing about the location was that it gave us some fantastic views. In one direction, we could see right over the bay towards Sentosa, and the ship way below, and in the other, we were given a wonderful view of the city.

This is a statue of Singapore’s marketing icon; the Merlion (half fish, half lion)…

We thought we’d discovered an alternative route back down the hill but were soon prevented from going any further by a path that was overgrown and impassable. The only sensible way back was to retrace our steps along the way that we’d come.

In the evening, we attended a farewell drink get-together thrown by the Cruise Director for the lecturers and tutors, and then, after dinner, we headed upstairs armed with cameras to, hopefully, take some photos of the city at night. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be; the rain was falling in buckets.

Tomorrow is disembarkation day and the long trek home begins…

Port Kelang – Kuala Lumpur

Today, we arrived in Port Kelang, our final Malaysian stop before the end of the line, Singapore.

Port Kelang itself isn’t a lot to write home about. It is, in fact, four large ports, all located on a reclaimed island that is still in a state of being developed. As such, there really isn’t much for passengers to do if they choose to go ashore independently, so we were very happy to be given escorting duties, on a tour simply titled ‘Glorious Kuala Lumpur’.

Port Kelang, then, is the gateway to the capital city of Malaysia; Kuala Lumpur.

City tours are generally not my favourite, but I have to say that this one was a bit of a belter. The journey into the city took about an hour; it wasn’t long, though, before we were entering the outer suburbs of the city, with its many high-rise condominiums and towering office blocks.

The guide on my coach told us that Kuala Lumpur has a population of almost two million inhabitants and that its main sources of income comes from palm oil trees and cocoa. They are also very proud of the fact that it is the home of Proton cars, and half-home of Mitsubishi and Hyundi cars.

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Our first stop in the city was to see the National Monument, a sculpture commemorating those who died fighting for Malaysia’s struggle for freedom against the Japanese occupation during World War 2. A short walk through the Lake Gardens brought us back to where the coach was waiting for us, to take us to the Butterfly House, which was an ornate garden covered in netting and populated by… well… lots of butterflies. They were a nightmare to try and photograph, but I managed to get a couple of decent shots.

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After a couple of other short photo stops, we went to lunch. I’m always a little wary of tours that feed us, but this one was fantastic. An extensive buffet stretched right around three sides of a very large restaurant that catered for all tastes; I even went back for seconds…

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A live five-piece band entertained us as we ate, and even this was of the highest quality; not too loud and great to listen to. When it was time for us to leave, I think many would have been happy just to stay where they were and get some beers in…

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We had two more stops. The first was to get a close look at the Petronas Twin Towers; one of the city’s most famous landmarks. While we were there, we were asked to undertake a rescue mission; a passenger from one of the other tours had gone missing and had last been seen at the Twin Towers. As per instructions, the guide from that tour had waited a full 40 minutes but the man hadn’t turned up. He was believed to be quite elderly and had no money on him; since several passengers on my coach knew him, it was hoped that we’d find him holed up inside the tower… unfortunately, he wasn’t…

Our second, and final, stop of the day was to visit, and climb to the top of, the city’s other famous landmark; the KL Tower. Standing at 1,381 feet, it is the 7th tallest freestanding tower in the world (the tallest being the Tokyo Skytree in Japan, apparently). I say ‘climb to the top of’; actually, a rather wizzo lift took us up to the observation platform in less than a minute, from where we had some magnificent 360-degree views across the city.

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As part of my escorting duties, it is my job to rate the tour and guide. It’s rare for me to give even the better guides a score higher than 7 or 8 out of ten, but I was so impressed by our guide, for all sorts of reasons (humour; knowledge; care for the passengers…), that I gave him a stunning 10 out of 10!

As we approached the port at the end of the trip, our guide told us that he’d received word that the missing man had turned up back at the ship in a taxi (having blacked-out and been mugged…).

Satisfied with a good days escorting, Tracey and I enjoyed this rather magnificent sunset from the back deck as we sailed away towards our final destination…

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Penang, Malaysia

Today, we arrived at our second Malaysian port, Penang.

We had no tour escorting duties… so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, grabbed a city map from Reception and went for a walk.

Just outside the port, we encountered a large fort sporting an interesting-looking lighthouse; we didn’t fancy paying the entrance fee, however, so we just admired it from the outside and carried on walking. The road that ran around its perimeter also took us along the seashore, which suited us fine.

Eventually, we reached a point where we could no longer follow the shoreline; instead, we turned inland, back towards the the centre of the city. We paused for a few minutes to enjoy the shade of some very large trees in what seemed like a small public park. The shade was welcome since it was very hot… as a bonus, we discovered that there was also some free wi-fi, which we, obviously, took advantage of (never pass up the opportunity of using free wi-fi if its available, is what I say…).

Further on, we discovered an old cemetery (I say ‘discovered’… I’m sure others have known about it for hundreds of years…). A map displayed by its entrance provided a list of all the important, and famous, people who were buried there; sadly, none of the names meant anything to me, but it was an interesting old cemetery to wander around and photograph, with its stones pitted with age and covered in vegetation.

From here, we turned left, and into the city, the heart of which is known as Georgetown. Referring to our map from reception and our trusty Maps.me app, we navigated our way towards Chinatown, which was a blaze of colour and activity. A huge mosque and a couple of temples captured our attention. A Chinese temple, in particular, was definitely worth a nosey. It turned out to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and was FREE to enter). Both of us loved the temple, although Tracey probably a little more than me, as I was starting to flag a little in the heat.

Time was getting on; we’d missed lunch but figured we should be able to get back to the ship in time for afternoon tea, so we headed back towards the port and managed to get back on board just in time, before the heavens opened, and boy… did they open!

When it came, the rain was truly torrential; we were really lucky not to have got caught out in it as some passengers did. There’s something very satisfying about stuffing one’s self with sandwiches and snacks and watching the heavy rain come thumping down…

This is a view of the city after the storm; it cleared up nicely…

Eagles and Bats in Langkawi, Malaysia

Today, we arrived at Langkawi in Malaysia, and what a beautiful sight it was. Little round-topped islands popped up out of the ocean with mist-veiled mountains behind. The only thing that slightly marred the experience was the rain, but as the morning wore on, that seemed to clear, despite a slightly dismal forcast to the contrary.

One minor little issue we’ve found with visiting these places with high humidity is that our cameras are nothing short of useless for about the first 15 minutes or so. As soon as we emerge from the ship and turn the camera on, everything steams up. It isn’t just the outer lens, either; it’s internally; a patch of condensation appears somewhere beneath the lens that just takes ages to clear, and makes taking photos impossible until it has.

We were on tour today, with only one of us escorting (I was the escort; Tracey got to be a passenger). This was an excursion that Tracey has been looking forward to since we arrived in Sri Lanka almost two weeks ago; ‘Mangrove Safari and Bat Cave’.

A 45-minute coach journey brought us to an ‘eco centre’ located right in the middle of the forest, where we decanted into small 8-10 seater speed boats for a two-hour mangrove experience.

Our first stop was a location known for eagles. Sure enough; when we got there, there were dozens of them whirling around overhead, diving occasionally to nab a fish from the river and generally doing eagle-like things. Our guide explained that the location used to be an area where the eagles were regularly fed. Although they aren’t fed there these days, the eagles still congregate and breed there. I tried to film them with my video camera, with little success, but Tracey managed to bag a couple of decent still shots.

Our next stop was a floating fish farm, tucked away in one of the little tributaries of the river, where a young man showed us around. Manta Rays came up to be stroked and Horseshoe crabs waddled around for our delight. The young guide placed one on his head, encouraging it to act like a living comb, and then invited other members of the party to have their head massaged in a similar manner. It was an interesting and entertaining half-hour, but some of the pens looked a little small for the larger fish, making one or two of us wonder how long they’d been in there.

There were quite a large number of monkeys around and about; this is one that I photographed while at the fish farm…

Our final stop on the speedboat leg of the tour was to a bat cave.

As we all lined up to enter the cave system, we were all encouraged to use flashlights to illuminate them, but asked not to use flash with our cameras. There were also many signs about asking people to remain quiet; some people, it seems, simply can’t read.

It was interesting, but also slightly disappointing at the same time. It would have been nice to have had longer in there, to try and capture some good photos, but it wasn’t to be. There must have been thousands of bats all hanging upside in the cave, flapping about occasionally and making the odd sound, but it was all over too quickly, and the video and photos that we took were a little underwhelming to say the least.

The final stage of our tour, once we’d left the small boats behind and climbed back onto the coach, was to a large craft centre, where we were given an hour to wander at will (and spend money should we wish). I had no interest in spending money and wasn’t that bothered with the the crafts, although it was an impressively large building; it did have free wi-fi, though, which kept me happy for a while.

Described as an ‘Extended Half-Day Tour’, we didn’t get back to the ship until gone 7pm, soo it was a quick change and upstairs for lunch. The Mayalsian leg of our voyage continues tomorrow, when we are due to arrive in Penang.