Often novice cruisers never give much thought to the details of ports they will be visiting. Even experienced cruisers are often so involved with the overall planning of a trip they overlook those important port details.
On our next cruise are there any tender ports? Are there ports that don’t allow walking out? Are there facilities on the pier? Is a port wheelchair accessible? Often cruise ships are not that free with information on upcoming ports of call and it would be helpful if you knew ahead of time if there are going to be challenges.
We’ve begun going thru our trip notes to build a section devoted just to port information and highlights. We hope you find it useful.
Also, If you would like to contribute please email us at TheIntentionalTraveler@gmx.com
For over twenty-five years the heart of our business was servicing customers in the Caribbean. It would be easier to list the places we haven’t been than were we have. As a result we like to think we know the neighborhood pretty well.
Back in the beginning, Eastern Airlines was the primary carrier from the U.S. to most islands and they sold an island hopper ticket that allowed us to travel around the islands for a discount price. We would usually go out for a couple of weeks at a time spending a day at each island and staying at local or discount accommodations. Fast forward a decade or more and Eastern is gone (mostly replaced by American) and, because we now have to book each flight in and out with between islands mostly being LIAT and seaplanes, the trips take in fewer stops at much higher prices. Fortunately our business is more successful but travel has gotten more complicated because we are hauling children with us.
The restaurants, hotels and resorts are more upscale and we tended to spend more time in each location, partly because of the airfare, but also because we are spending time with more customers. We also took a number of busman’s holidays because we liked skin diving and beach combing but also because we could include business and offset some of the costs.
There are some places that we haven’t been back to in a while but we can still talk about the character of the islands. There is one place we can’t go back to because a volcano buried it (Montserrat). There are a number of places we return to often and can offer current tips and suggestions. Keep an eye out as we add articles about our little corner of the world including:
We spent all of February cruising with Celebrity’s Constellation in the South China Sea on back-to-back itineraries. We visited twelve ports with only one repeat (Ho Chi Min City). If you are going to fly twelve thousand miles you probably should make the most of the trip. We flew into Singapore and with the return for the second cruise and the extra day in port at the end we had five days to explore the city and all we could say was wow! The ship also spent two days in the port for Bangkok and we spent that night in a Bangkok hotel and booked a private tour (more about that at another time ;-).
Beyond the usual reasons for cruising there was an additional advantage on this trip. If you are not into a diet of noodles with dried fish flakes or hot curries, the ship gives you the opportunity to return to a Western style menu. The ship also takes care of visas and immigration ahead of each port.
Besides our time in Singapore our trip included four stops in Vietnam, Hong Kong, two stops in the Philippines which included Manila, two stops in Borneo, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Brunei and two stops in Thailand. We had an opportunity to see a lot as well as try a number of cuisines. Many of the destinations were studies in extreme contrasts but it was also obvious that things are greatly improving economically. It is also interesting to switch from Muslim to Buddhist to Western cultures as we went from one port to the next. On board there were a number of excellent in-depth lectures on the history and culture of the various countries which provided a good perspective on the ways the region developed.
Over the last number of years we have found cruising gives us an opportunity to sample a number of places and than we decide where we want to come back to for extended stays. Southeast Asia is no exception to this and we certainly have a few we will add to our return list.
Phone Service: We were traveling on this trip with an iPhone 5 on Verizon service ($80 for 250 international minutes)and with a Blu 5.5 phone with a prepaid international plan from One Sim Card service. Vietnam and Brunei were not part of the Verizon international service so we switched use to OneSimCard. Phone calls with Verizon worked well everywhere else but there were problems getting text messages out on a few days. The only reliable data that we found on the Verizon service was in Singapore (didn’t attempt in Hong Kong) most other places indicated “Data Service Failed”. The One Sim Card service worked as expected except in Vietnam. There we connected with the recommended service provider (Viettel) but instead of text messages costing the expected 25¢ they were charged at a couple of dollars. One Sim Card did send a text message warning of high costs on this service recommending we switch networks, even though Viettel was their recommended provider.
In the near future look for posts covering each of these countries with pointers on must do things, food, transportation and hotels.
we’d love to share our experiences with you in this guide to cruising. We enjoy the entertainment and the food and there always seems like there is something to do. It also gives us an opportunity to do nothing – we read and relax by the pool and just watch the ocean roll by. It takes us through a world of interesting places. We get to meet lots of people from all over along with friends that share our interests. We like it so much we have taken over fifty cruises – including a number of long cruises.
Scroll down for the cruising table of contents.
We think we’ve learned a few things over the years and we’d like to share our tips, itineraries, and destinations, so take a look through the currently eight dozen articles listed below…
A few things we’ve learned over the past twenty years. Ideas for saving money when booking a cruise, making us of loyalty programs and more. If you are new to cruising and are ready to book a cruise we got some advice that could help…
The age of the old ocean liners was marked by trans-Atlantics, Mediterranean and round the world cruises and were mainly for the very wealthy. Some twenty to thirty years ago cruising came into a new age as first-time cruisers selected the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska for their cruising vacations. As those cruisers returned, the industry enticed new customers with bigger and grander ships. Now to keep everyone coming back the industry is looking for new destinations. Australia, the South China Sea, South America and Antarctica to name a few.Every cruise port is different. Some see a virtual parade of cruise ships each week and some rarely have one visit. Being informed about facilities and what’s near the port before you arrive can help you make a plan on how best to get around, what attractions to see and what to expect when disembarking. For warned is forearmed.
We’ve visited over a hundred cruise ports of call. Here we offer our impressions and what we’ve learned about each. So far there are around fifty port articles and we are adding more as fast as we can. Please check back often or better yet become a subscriber and get a notice about each new article.
Every cruise port is different. Some see a virtual parade of cruise ships each week and some rarely have one visit. Being informed about facilities and what’s near the port before you arrive can help you make a plan on how best to get around. As you explore your itinerary choices, check here to learn what to expect in those ports of call. Do you tender or dock, are there terminals or is it a working port? How far to town from the cruise dock? What does the port have to offer.
West of southern Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean sits a cluster of volcanic islands called The Canaries. The Canary Islands feature a rugged volcanic landscape known for the black and white sand beaches. Tenerife, the largest island, is dominated by an active volcano Mt. Teide, which has its own astronomical observatory and is part of Teide National Park. Tenerife hosts a huge pre-Lent Carnival each year in the capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Where Your Ship Docks
Most cruise ships will dock at the piers in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. There are no cruise terminals or readily available public facilities at the pier. While docked in the city it is still a good walk to reach the central business district. At times there can be shuttles available to get out of the port area.
The island does have a good bus system (CLICK HERE) that uses a pass card, the Ten+ Travel Card. It can be used on most all bus routes. The plastic card itself can be purchased at various outlets around the island for €2 plus a €5 minimum charge amount amount. The island of Tenerife is a large covering almost 100 square miles with a trip from one end to the other being about fifty miles.
Because of the distances that you need to cover to see the island on a short visit it’s recommended that you rent a car or take a tour.
The Canary Islands, like Spain are part of the EU making the local currency the Euro. Credit cards are widely accepted but you will need to use the Euro for cash transactions.
The Canary Islands are a favorite holiday destination for Europeans, particularly the British. It features a good selection of fine restaurants along with a thriving wine industry with a number of vineyards of note.
Because of the volcanic nature of the island there are a number of interesting sights focused on the geology. The Cueva De Los Verdes, lava-formed tunnel with guided tours. Also the Jameos del Agua, a volcanic cave system with dining & music that opens each day at 10 am.
Blessed with a near perfect climate, Tenerife has a number of good beaches like Playa de Amadores, a busy beach for swimming & sunbathing. There is also Palmitos Park, a botanic park with an aviary & dolphinarium or Siam Park a Thai-themed adventure water park.
A good location to book independent tours while in Tenerife is a tour operator called TravelOn.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could move tropical seas, palm trees and great beaches to Northern Europe? It’s not going to happen, but the next best thing is to move the Netherlands into the Caribbean. Welcome to Curaçao.
There are a number of European influenced islands in the Caribbean but no place expresses it as well as this little Dutch island. While Aruba has succumbed to run-away Americanization you can still stroll the streets of Willemstad, sit in a café for a Cappuccino or stop in a small bistro for lunch and it isn’t hard to think you are in Amsterdam. Add to that the great beaches and resorts, balmy weather and turquoise seas and you have Curacao.
Where Your Ship Docks
Willemstad is the activity center of Curacao and most ships will tie up very near the center of town. Located at the dock is a hotel area with a shopping and restaurant area. A short stroll along the water brings you to the unique Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. On the other side of this floating bridge is the downtown area of Willemstad. There are also public facilities near the dock.
Curacao is a larger island and while there are taxis available they tend to be pricey. Public transportation is sparse and difficult to make use of. If you really want to go out and see this charming island a tour or renting a car is probably your best bet.
Curacao while a major Caribbean destination and many places will accept U.S. Dollars it is usually limited to smaller purchases. The Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG, locally referred to as NAF, an abbreviation of the Netherlands Antillean Florin) is the official currency of Curaçao. It is benchmarked to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77. Most credit cards are welcome and there are ATM’s available.
Curaçao has seen explosive growth in upscale resorts and residential neighborhoods in recent decades but the old world charm has remained intact. Over a period of time there was a huge migration of Dutch retirees, much to the consternation of the locals, and that drove up the cost of living, but it didn’t negatively impact the atmosphere of the island.
In the center of Willemstad is a channel that is part of St. Anna Bay and the primary way of getting across is the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. The bridge opens by breaking its connection on one side and an outboard motor pushes it out of the channel anchored by a hinge at the other end. Fun to watch and fun to ride.
On the northwest side of town is a neighborhood that has been restored and turned into a resort, visitor center and museum known as the Museum Kurá Hulanda & Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa. Where you can walk cobblestone streets and visit cafes and shops. There is also a floating market in town where boats come over from Venezuela, only 70 miles away, to sell produce (current conditions in Venezuela have probably eliminated this business). The island also boasts the Curacao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy Curacao which is worth a visit.
If you like to dive, snorkel or just relax on the beach, you have come to the right place but you may have to get a ways out of Willemstad. There are dive shops everywhere and great resorts around every turn. The language is Papiamentu which is a blending of Dutch, Spanish and local Indian. Greetings are Bon dia – Good morning. Bon tardi – Good Afternoon. Bon nochi – Good Evening/Good Night and Danki – Thank you, Di nada – Your welcome.
Often when people take a cruise they want to stay in touch with family back home by calling. Before you take that cruise it is advisable to check with you cellular service concerning your options and costs. Being forewarned is forearmed.
Using cell phones while on a cruise can be very expensive. The major U.S. cell services range in cost between $2.99 a minute up to $5.99. In order to provide cell service the cruise lines contract with a marine cellular service that operates while at sea. A number of the U.S. based cruise lines use Cellular At Sea for the service and the charges are passed from Cellular At Sea through to your cell service to appear on your monthly bill. Because of this arrangement most prepaid plan services just won’t work onboard ship. Using the ships in cabin service isn’t any better with $5.99 a minute being typical.
If you wait until you are in a port to place calls the service switches to the regional carriers in that country where costs are based on your cell services roaming charges. Roaming charges vary depending on your service so you’ll want to check with your carrier for those rates. If you’ve got T-Mobile, check to see if the country visited is included in the Simple Choice plan. If it is, making phone calls will only be $0.25/minute whie data is free. Calls from Mexico and Canada using T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan are free. Verizon’s TravelPass and AT&T’s International Day Pass charge $5 to $10 per day for travelers to text, call and use data based on the plan they have at home but you must sign up for the service. Without the pass, pay-per-use data rates for both carriers costs more than $2.00/MB.
Receiving and sending text messages are usually pretty inexpensive while at sea. Typically incoming texts are free and outbound costs are typically 25¢ to 50¢. Be cautious of MMS and ask your carrier for rates as they involve data charges.
A number of years ago the major carriers had reasonably priced cruise plans but AT&T acquired Cellular At Sea and changed the rate structure. Now AT&T is the only company that currently has cruise rate packages with the lowest priced package providing 50 minutes and unlimited texts for a fixed price of $50 (overages are $1.99 a minute) with no data.
When you’re in port, your cell signal will switch to a carrier in that country where international roaming rates apply. You need to be very aware of the service switch as you enter and leave port. If you are on a call as the ship sails out and it switches to the marine service – so will the rates.
If you are looking to save money on calls, most ships have data plans with some being reasonably priced. Often you can install an app on your phone that allows calling over internet that usually works well. Services that provide video calling, like Skype may encounter internet speed issues however.
There was a time when small roadside attractions where the highlight of family road-trips. While they have been overshadowed by the mega-parks and major resorts, there are still a number of roadside gems that should be sought out – little pieces of history encased in small museums. If you take the time, you will discover these surprises everywhere.
Discoveries we have made in Florida and Georgia include:
The Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Georgia, is home to the largest collection of antique telephones and telephone memorabilia in the world. As a bonus, this museum is a stop on the SAM Short Line excursion train out of Cordele – a great day trip!
Located in Lakeland, Florida off I-4, The Florida Air Museumdisplays a wide variety of vintage aircraft, ultralights, experimental homebuilts, air racers, military, aerobatic and factory-built aircraft from all eras.
The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an interesting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, to the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.
National Civil War Naval Museum located in Columbus, GA. Tells the stories of the navies of the Civil War, connecting people with the past; giving them a better sense of place and time.
On a recent drive we decided to take a look at south-central Florida and visited a few small towns like Sebring, Lake Wales, Lake Placid and Clewiston. Planning the trip we researched a couple of stops that seemed worthy of a visit.
In Sebring, home of the the famous race course where the first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952, we found our first museum of the trip.
The Military Sea Services Museum – an admittance free museum that has collected seagoing artifacts, stories, books and photographs relating to the time spent at sea by our military. In the collection are a large number of custom ship models, uniforms, weapons and some real finds like a commemorative brass plate cast for the WWII Japanese surrender on the battleship Missouri. The building sits in the middle of a WWII military training airfield.
Another stop in Sebring was planned as a visit to Highlands Hammock State Park. Established in 1931 and developed later by Florida’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the park features a lush and incredibly diverse 9,000 acre refuge for endangered animals and ancient flora. While the park is a great place for hiking, it is also home to the Florida CCC Museum. Chock full of memorabilia and AV displays, it is a remarkable place to learn about the Civilian Conservation Core, the New Deal program that gave hundreds of thousands of young American men an opportunity for paid work and training during the Great Depression.
While on the subject of Florida small museums, there is one that I have been visiting for years. Located on the southern end of North Hutchinson Island at Ft. Pierce is The National UDT And Seal Museum. It was located at Ft. Pierce because that was the site of the original WWII training facility for Underwater Demolition Teams. It was originally named the UDT Museum but was later updated to include Seals.
The Seal teams have overshadowed UDT in recent years but Seals are a progression from the UDT units that were active in WWII up to the early 1970’s and they share the same training program (Buds for Basic Underwater Demolition School). Stop by and learn something about Seals, their training, missions and their predecessor’s, the Underwater Demolition Teams..
UDT prided themselves as the first on the beach in a landing assault
Getting pickpocketed is a terrible thing. If you travel often, the chances are that it’s going to happen. Even if you don’t travel it can happen. If you take precautions and stay alert the risk is greatly reduced but the fact is no one is immune.
Some steps you can take to make you less likely to be the victim:
There are three proven ways to avoid being the victim of a pickpocket
Keep your valuables secure in a money belt. There are a number of styles and sizes available but the common design is a pouch that secures to a belt and is tucked under your clothes. If you find it awkward to access the pouch, a pickpocket will find it near impossible. If you have to carry a passport, cash or credit cards they really should be in a money belt.
If you won’t need something, don’t carry it. If you are staying in a hotel most now provide in-room safes where things are much more secure than carried with you.
Stay aware. The best thing you can do is avoid getting into crowds. That is the favorite environment for pickpockets. If you do end up in tight quarters be aware that pickpockets are masters of disguise. Most choose to look just like other tourists or well-dressed professionals or a young mother carrying a baby so don’t let down your guard because of hoe someone looks.
There are also some things you can do to foil a purse snatcher
Always expect the worse and keep a firm grip on you purse. Don’t expect a strap hung over your shoulder to prevent a snatching. Often the thieves carry a knife to cut the strap. If you get into crowded areas keep an arm wrapped around the purse.
Never walk around or sit in a public space with your purse wide open. It only takes a second to reach in and run.
There are purses available with a wire inserted into the strap and there are also accessory straps from companies like Pacsafe that prevent cutting.
You should also realize that backpacks have also become popular targets for thieves. Use those same precautions with backpacks and don’t walk with a backpack slung loosely over one shoulder. Wear it over both shoulders. Lately you will also see many people wearing their backpacks on their front. That is not a new fashion look but an additional way to protect a backpack especially on the crowded streets of an unfamiliar city.
If you are traveling internationally, normally you don’t need to carry a drivers license unless you are going to rent a car. Likewise you usually don’t need to carry your passport. Our recommendation is to leave those in your hotel along with credit and debit cards you won’t be needing. You should still have some forms of identification and a copy of your divers license will usually suffice. Another strong recommendation is to have and carry an emergency identification card that includes contact information and any medical needs (a great source of a downloadable card is HERE).
Keep any money and cards you’ll need in that money belt and carry a small card case for that license copy and emergency ID in your pocket along with important information like key phrases, hotel address, and local emergency numbers.
Brunei is a tiny nation on the island of Borneo. It’s known for the opulent Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, adorned with chandeliers, stained glass and Italian marble, and surrounded by a lagoon. Nearby, the Royal Regalia Building showcases a gold carriage and lavish gifts presented to the sultan. To the northwest is the Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque, with 29 golden domes.
The country is modern, clean and the people friendly and welcoming to visitors.
Where Your Ship Docks
The Brunei seaport is Muara located 20 miles away from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, Most visiting cruise ships will provide shuttle busses to the capital.
Bandar Seri Begawan is a very walkable city and water taxis are easy to locate for trips and tours. While there is a good bus system, Brunei now boasts their own ride share service called Dart Brunei with apps available on on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Reports are that the system is safe and easy to use and fairly priced.
Brunei has its own dollar with an exchange rate of one Brunei Dollar equal to US 75¢. Major credit cards are widely accepted.
Brunei In General
There has been some controversy recently involving the Sultan and “his” nations strict interpretation of Islam and Sharia Law. In Hollywood there was a call to boycott the Salton’s five luxury hotels that included The Beverly Hills Hotel. If anything this sheds a light on just how wealthy Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is (his full name is Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam).
The countries wealth is based on oil. There are huge offshore deposits controlled by the Sultan and his companies. While the Sultan controls every facet of the economy and government he is a very benevolent ruler. Currently the average income in the country is US$40,000 and most everyone that wants to work has a job. He provides free college education and government subsidized housing.
This area of the world is famous for what are called water-villages and Brunei is home to some large water communities. A serious issue with these villages is sanitation where waste is simply flushed into the sea. To fix this problem the Sultan has been building new, modern water-villages with proper plumbing and has systematically been relocating his people into these new facilities. Generally, the people love and support their Sultan and he invests heavily to provide for his people.
A conversation overheard on a bus in Brunei:
Canadian tourist – What form of government do you have here in Brunei?
Local young man – We have the Sultan and the Legislative Council.
Canadian tourist – So the Sultan is the head of government?
Local young man – Yes, he takes the role of Prime Minister
Canadian – How often do you have elections and are there a number of political parties?
Local young man – Oh, we don’t have parties or elections. The Sultan appoints each member of the council.
Canadian tourist– Does that much power concern you? Don’t you fear corruption?
Local young man – No. The Sultan would remove anyone that was corrupt.
Canadian tourist – But don’t the people want a say in what the country does?
Local young man – Why? We have the Sultan. He takes very good care of us…