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Friday File: A Market In Vietnam

In a country such as Vietnam, markets are far more than tourist attractions; they are the lifeblood of its people, who depend on catches of the day and main courses that North Americans regard as delicacies for their survival. For locals, every day is market day, sometimes without closures. Fellow cruisers on AmaWaterways’ new river ship AmaDara had an opportunity to visit this Cai De market, not far from Ho Chi Minh City, and to photograph its contents and its people…

1-dozens of rice varieties

Southeast Asia seems to have as many types of rice as it has dialects.

2-a family affair

Markets are family affairs for vendors, and the youngest learn that early.

3-yep...those are rats

To the question “Are those what I think they are?” the answer is “Yes — rats.”

4-winning smile

A friendly wave and winning smile, trademarks of the Vietnamese people.

5-the dollar store of the market

The dollar store of Cai De’s market, on the shores of the Mekong River.

6-Live chickens

Yes, those are chickens and they’re alive only until winding up on a plate.

7-Vietnamese hats

Beneath the conical hat’s perfect cone is a woman happy at work in the market.

8-even games of chance...

This was a surprise but maybe shouldn’t have been — games of chance sold here.

9-If there was an award for best sox..

If Cai De had an award for coolest socks, chances are this would be a winner.

In the news…

• Explorer of the Seas rocked with tornado-like winds off Australian coast
• MSC confirms private island in Bahamas to be Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
• Three norovirus outbreaks in three months on cruise ships in Australia

Today at portsandbows.com: Azamara unveils itineraries three years early


Holland America Noordam
7 nights
May 1, 2016
Vancouver (return): Inside Passage, Tracy Arm, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, Inside Passage
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $99
www.hollandamerica.com

Southeast Asia Tourist Visas 

It’s likely that more North American cruisers will be visiting Southeast Asia, if not this winter then certainly in the foreseeable future, because more cruise lines from both genres are establishing a stronger presence.

As first-timers to that part of the world this year, we had to be educated about the coming and going to countries we’d never come to or gone from before 2015.

That would be tourist visas.

In our case, we were going on the new AmaWaterways river cruiser, the AmaDara, and it goes up and down the Mekong River in both Cambodia and Vietnam. In terms of customs, that meant coming to Cambodia and going from Vietnam. If you’re particularly nervous about this, the cruise lines will make it as easy as possible for you — through a third party, at a price we didn’t want to pay.

So we decided to go it alone, and here’s what we discovered…

Cambodia: This can be done online at the Embassy of the King of Cambodia. All you Cambodia visaneed is a passport, some time and a credit card. One cautionary note…your passport must be valid for six months from the date you enter Cambodia. The process took about a week. We printed the e-Visas at home. The cost: about $40 US.

Vietnam: Perhaps because it’s a Communist country, this was slightly more complicated, Visa-Bob copybut it’s still an online process and your passport only needs to be valid for one month from when the Vietnam visa expires. Again, the process from submission to receipt of the visas took about a week, and came by mail. The cost: $110.

For both, we paid $300 US. The process was not at all intimidating, contrary to what we’d anticipated.

Had we gone through the third party to get our tourist visas, the cost would have been $412 each…$824 for both.

In the news…

• Financing in place for Royal Caribbean’s fourth and fifth Quantum Class ships
• Fake doctor treated passengers on Aida ships for five years arrested in Berlin
• Contrary to reports, Star Cruises won’t be deploying ships to the Mediterranean

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruise news and views you can use


Enchantment of the Seas
3 nights
May 16, 2016
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $201
Cost per day: $67
www.royalcaribbean.com

Friday File: AmaDara, A River Intro

While we’re far from experts on river cruising, our trip on AmaWaterways’ new ship (the AmaDara) quickly brought the similarities with — and differences from — ocean cruise ships into focus. Because everything is much smaller, even though river cruises are less modest in price they are more modest in the size of, well, everything — except service, of course, because the crew-to-passenger ratio is so much better. When you spend a week on a river ship, chances are if you don’t know everybody you will at least have a nodding recognition. From our week in Southeast Asia, today’s pictures will give you an idea of what it’s like on board…

AmaDara
AmaDara is one of the bigger (higher) ships on rivers and it comfortably carries 164 passengers.

Entertainment

Five entertainers who entertain only when the ship is in a port, in an all-purpose room on the ship.

The Pool

That is THE pool…the only one, so clearly river cruisers don’t expect to get bronzed by the pool.

Gym

Yes, there is a gym and what you see of it here is pretty much what you get — yet it’s rarely busy.

Internet

While ocean ships devote rooms for Wi-Fi, the AmaDara’s Internet connections come from here.

Lifesaver

Every ship has one lifesaver, at least, and fortunately for all it’s almost always just a decoration.

Stateroom-1

Our stateroom…a little larger and more plush than a comparable category on the ocean.

Suite-1

This comparative photo shows you what a suite — of which there are few — looks like.

Towels

Some things don’t change when you’re on any kind of cruise ship: room stewards’ creativity.

In the news…

• P&O's Pacific Eden to be christened, sail maiden voyage, this weekend
• Vancouver, Boston latest ports to report banner years with crusing

Today at portsandbows.com: Australia — very much a cruising hotspot


Celebrity Millennium
8 nights
May 12, 2016
Vancouver, Inside Passage, Ketchikan, Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Skagway, Hubbard Glacier, Anchorage
Inside: $619
Cost per day: $77
www.celebritycruises.com

Friday File: A Taste Of Southeast Asia

When you go to a foreign land and eat local food, sometimes you’re never quite sure what you’re eating, or if you are indeed eating what the locals say. It is a culinary adventure, to say the least, and after visiting Southeast Asia for the first time we better understood why locals eat what they do, we shared many of their dishes and we came home raving about the food of Cambodia and Vietnam, especially Vietnam. Some of the servings surprised as, as they probably will you…

Crickets

When you visit a cricket farm, as we did in Vietnam, you naturally expect to see crickets and you anticipate being invited to eat them. We were — and did…okay, one of us did.

Cambodian soup

The most popular dish on the AmaDara river cruiser was, without question, Cambodian soup and while it was often available throughout the day it was a breakfast specialty.

Version 2

Vietnamese spring rolls are available on this side of the Pacific but the ones at our favourite Saigon restaurant, Quan Bui, were better than any in North America.

Bread

This is not what you think, it’s just the work of a creative pastry chef on the ship, and it definitely tasted better than it looked, although Cambodian crocs are a delicacy.

Tarantula

This is what it you think, a man eating a tarantula. It was at a stop called Spidertown, the tour guide’s is Nyphea and the tarantula wasn’t wiggling…except when he crunched it.

banana, mango, dragon fruit

Dessert is always a welcome respite when you’re eating in adventureland, and this delectable trilogy of dragon fruit (red), mango and banana really hit the spot.

In the news…

• Legends In Concert move from Norwegian Epic to the Pearl
• Royal Caribbean's new catchphrase for marketing — 'Come Seek'
• Carnival latest cruise line to relax carry-on policy for beverages

Today at portsandbows.com: Preview of the new Carnival Vista 


Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas
7 nights
November 29, 2015
Galveston (return): Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $430
Cost per day: $61
www.royalcaribbean.com

Vietnam: Cruising’s Next Hotspot?

Maybe it’s because we were just in Vietnam, cruising down the Mekong River on the AmaDara. Maybe it’s because every time somebody asks us what Vietnam was like, we can’t say enough nice things. Maybe it’s because more cruise ships — new ones from Carnival and Norwegian and Princess, all announced in a 24-hour period — are going to be visiting Vietnam from their Asian homeports.

Maybe it’s the food, which is as tasty as you’ll find anywhere. Maybe it’s because when the DSCN2011preliminary Trans-Pacific Partnership was announced last week, the partners are Australia and the United States and Canada and Singapore and Chile…and Vietnam.

Maybe it’s all of that.

For tourism, Vietnam is the next Cuba.

Yes, it’s a Communist country. Yes, it was war-torn and hated all those years ago. Yes, it comes with uncertainty bred by a lack of knowledge. All of those things crossed our minds before we flew to Cambodia, which is not Communist but also comes with the other psychological baggage…and which is also warm and welcoming.

We loved them both. The people are warm and friendly. The people are happy and prospering, at least by the standards they have known for too long. They want a better life and with at least some access to the World Wide Web, they’re seeing things they’ve never seen. They see that tourism is an enormous asset.

The U.S. has recognized this Vietnam since 1996. With the emigration of many cruise ships to the Asian market, cruise analysts also have recognized the attraction of taking their customers to Vietnam. The river cruisers probably started it, and the AmaWaterways ship that took us to within an hour of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is not a refurbished, aged relic of the past…it is new.

Cuba wants to welcome the world, and it’s hot. Vietnam is going to be.

In the news…

• 15 singles cabins, 30 Britannia Club balcony cabins for Queen Mary 2 
• Viking returning to cruise 'Kiev to the Black Sea' in Ukraine next year
• Official ceremony naming next two P&O ships to be done on Twitter

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news


Norwegian Jade
7 nights
January 9, 2016
Houston (return): Cozumel, Belize, Roatan
Inside: $479
Cost per day: $68
www.ncl.com

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