Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore

I had a 12 hour layover in HK, so I thought I would try out the United Club airport lounge there. Checking out the food proved a very satisfactory experience, with such a variety of hot food served in their buffet: Indian curry, Taiwanese seafood soup, spaghetti with tomato sauce, chicken in a lemon butter sauce… I’ve been to a few United Clubs in the US but none can top this one. No wonder Hong Kong is one of the best food cities in the world!

Next long layover will be in Bangkok, but they only have United Clubs in Tokyo, HK and Guam, out here. I have a 14 hours at Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok) to look forward to, not sure whether I will go out and look about, because the cruise ship will later stop in Bangkok for two days. After the cruise, I will fly out of Singapore, stop at Bangkok again, then on to Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan! Can’t wait!

~Kai-ling

Roma

Our ship arrived in Rome October 21. On this trip, I met some local people who helped me a lot, so I didn’t get too lost transferring between buses and trains in the end. Don’t be afraid to politely ask for directions, recommendations — it’s great if you can learn some phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting. If not, my expressive sign language and their willingness to help made for real progress; and me, very grateful to the wonderful Italian locals I met.

Like most of the elderly passengers I met on the cruise ship, the typical means of locomotion in these local towns is to walk. So I walked by myself, which is good exercise for me anyway, after eating cruise buffets nonstop everyday, plus mid-day snacks (tacos, finger sandwiches, etc.) thrown in for good measure. On the fifth day we made it to Napoli, where weather-wise we had the worst of the trip. Rain poured down so hard, but fortunately by the time we got to Rome it was only cloudy and dry. I stayed in a place near the airport, which made it a non touristy, affordable area that was also easy to train into the town center. Walking through the town (I can’t oversell the rewards of walking in a foreign country), I saw these steps on a hillside where an artist had painted a female head. Anyone know what it represents or who made it? Not sure where I was when I took the snap!

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Staircase art!

I tried to choose a cruise that doesn’t sail at sea for more than 2 days. Some routes sail at sea for even up to 3 days, but that amounts to too much time on the ship. This cruise to the Greek islands was only at sea for one day and that was already too much. I want to see places and not just hang around on the ship. I actually heard some of the passengers on my cruise only stay on the ship (just enjoying the food, movies, game room, etc.) and never went out to the ports! I want to visit new places, even if only for six hours and all I do is walk and bus/train to local streets =)

~ Kai-ling

Santorini

Here’s the first post! I think cruises would be cooler if scholars gave talks during the cruise, as an in-depth lesson in local history. My mother took a cruise (Celestyal Cruises around the Greek Islands, I believe?) and here is what she had to say about it:

I would love to stay overnight the next time I visit this island, but that is the limitation of cruise vacations. I had beautiful weather, which isn’t surprising, as I was told it rarely rains there and not until November. Delightful! The first port we arrived on October 15 was Kusadasi, western Turkey (“The gateway to Ephesus”). I wanted to avoid the pricy shore excursion organized by the cruise, and since it was a nice day, I walked around the pier and the local market a bit. The ship docks at every port from 8 am to 5 pm, which isn’t enough time to do too much, but I learned a few things on this trip from other passengers about how cruises work (some of them having cruised over 30 times!)

After that, we hopped on to some Greek islands — Rhodes, Katakolon and Santorini (Σαντορίνη). Because the last stop was the most beautiful one, it was unfortunate we couldn’t stay for the sunset which is supposed to be absolutely worthwhile. A reason to visit there next time! Overall, the weather in Turkey and Greece was beautifully sunny and warm (80 deg F / 27 deg C) for the four days we lingered there, before moving on to Italia.

~ Kai-ling

Out on the pier

Out on the pier