Donna Daniels and Jim Bailey, the owners of Fox Travel, have written this amazing Windstar Cruises review on their South China Sea cruise adventure.
Looking for pirates in the Orient…where did they hide their booty – Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo or the Philippines? We hoped to discover their secrets…and have some fun along the way by visiting small ports and meeting the locals.
We’ve always been fascinated with Asia and the Pacific region and Windstar’s President’s annual Cruise offered the perfect itinerary.
For our January wedding anniversary cruise, January 6-20, 2018, we sailed two weeks from Singapore to Hong Kong to look for the answer. Our ship was the Windstar Legend with 106 luxury staterooms, an excellent cruise value highlighting the largest standard suites in the industry.
Windstar Cruises Reviews Highlights
· Small ship itinerary with superb crew, officers and dining, highlighting local cuisine in each port of call
· Large, luxury suites that will spoil you rotten
· Well-traveled mix of international cruise guests to enlighten each cruise day and dining opportunity
· Wonderful weather temps, minimum rain and plenty of sightseeing and snorkeling
· A thirst to return to the Philippines for more beaching and diving action
· Virtually everyone spoke some English language in each port of call. The locals were very,very friendly, especially in the Philippines, where it seems everyone sings, dances or plays a musical instrument.
Let the fun begin!
Windstar Cruises Reviews: Sailing Adventure in the South China Sea
On the plane, the plane headed to Singapore.
Day 1 Saturday, January 6, 2018 Singapore – all aboard!
On the dock with a send off by these lovely ladies. Then, on to the bridge,making sure the captain knows where we’re going. The captain looked, spoke and behaved just like a famous British actor. He should have been….what a delight.
It’s 5 PM when we departed Singapore for Malaysia and Borneo after a couple of nights at the J.W. Marriott in Singapore’s city center.
Surprises: Even more luxury stores than our prior visit 3 years ago. Our old haunts for spicy Satay cuisine are gone, replaced by high rise offices or apartment complexes.
TIP: Know your ship’s location: Singapore has two cruise ship terminals, one at the new Marina Bay facility plus the original port at Harbor Front Center, both minutes from city center.
TIP: Language is English throughout Singapore, on the ship and most everyone at each port of call spoke some English..
Day 2 Sunday, January 7 – At Sea
Ah, sleep … no alarm clock! Our lecturer for the day covered “Malaysia: The Melting Pot” followed by port talks describing adventures to look forward to, a visit to the bridge tour and the day’s highlight:
Surprise: Dining, menu selection and cuisine quality was excellent.
Day 3 Monday, January 8 Docked 9 AM – 5 PM Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia – Island of Borneo
Who knew the common house cat is the official mascot of Kuching, Sarawak state’s largest city? Visitors will find feline statues and cat monuments throughout this commercial port city on the Sarawak River, also home of Borneo’s Semenggoh Wildlife Center, an orangutan rehabilitation facility. Nope, no Borneo head hunters here.
Surprise: Cats rule!
Day 4 Tuesday, January 9 – At Sea
Our lecturer for the day covered “Geopolitics of the South China Sea.” A great port talk wet our appetite for Bandar Seri Begawan, the jumping off point in the mysterious Sultanate of Brunei.
Surprise: A fun meet up with Philippine crew members for a Q & A session with passengers about their lives, families and traditions.
Day 5 Wednesday, January 10 – Docked 8 AM – 10 PM Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei – Island of Borneo
Brunei, with its wealth of oil & gas deposits, rivals the mid-East as one of the wealthiest countries of the world. Not to be missed is Istana Nurul Iman, the world’s largest residential royal palace with over 2.2 million square feet, almost 1,800 rooms and 257 restrooms. Who cleans the windows and dusts? This is the cleanest city we’ve visited…including the local market filled with vegetable and fish stalls. We enjoyed a visit to a local family’s over-the-water river home constructed on pilings. The best guide of the trip, Michael, filled in the blanks for questions about this mysterious fascinating country where citizens don’t need to work very hard.
Surprise: No Taxes….No income tax, no sales tax, no inheritance tax and gasoline is cheap and plentiful.
Day 6 Thursday, January 11- Docked 8 AM – 10 PM Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia – Island of Borneo
Busy sea port and tourist magnet. Donna’s best tour so far: A walking experience through the fresh fish market with the ship’s Chef, Jeffrey from Canada. When buying a huge fresh tuna, you could tell who was the boss at the fish stall: Husband negotiated, the wife approved or disapproved. Go figure. Got a cold? The smell is guaranteed to clear your sinuses.
Surprise: Visit the restroom onboard the ship before you tour. Toilets in most local stores, shops and restaurants are a hole in the floor. Take tissue with you.
Day 7 Friday, January 12 – At Sea – Especially for Foodies
Perfect excuse to sleep late….rain most of the day. Enjoyed another talk with our guest lecturer about the Philippines, first colonized by the Spanish in 15th century, then USA, Japan, USA and finally independence mid-20th century. Followed by a yummy food show with Chef Jeff who prepared a delicious, light appetizer with fresh veggies, boiled lobster, hot sauce and sticky rice….followed by more food at lunch. An excuse to indulge further – A mid-afternoon wine tasting with sommelier, Justin. Plus another tasting session was added for champagne and sparkling wines later. Fortunately, the women guests were in a good mood the rest of the day….and night.
Surprise: A hilarious floor show by the crew, one of the best we’ve seen in over 100 cruises.
Day 8 Saturday, January 13 – Docked 8 AM – 5 PM Puerto Princesa, Palawan Island – Philippines
Voted by Travel+Leisure as one of the best island in the world, don’t miss UNESCO’s Puerto Princesa subterranean surprise, the world’s longest navigable underground river cave system.
Surprise: Due to heavy rain the night before, we missed the tour above but snorkeled for the day followed by lunch on the beach.
Day 9 Sunday, January 14 – Docked 10 AM – 6 PM Coron, Busuanga Islands – Philippines
One of our favorites ports: Diving in gin clear water over some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world followed by a visit to the clearest fresh water/salt water lake in the Philippines Great photos…wish we had an underwater camera!
TIP: If you’re a serious diver, plan a separate visit to Coron.
Surprise: At least 10 Japanese naval vessels were sunk in Coron waters (during the U.S. Navy’s battle of Leyte Gulf in WW II, most in shallow depths), perfect for Scuba diving and exploring the riot of coral color formations.
Day 10 Monday, January 15 – (Tried to) Anchor 8 AM Borocay Island, Philippines
Due to high seas, we were unable to go ashore, preventing a visit to this island playground, consistently rated as having some of the best beaches and night life in the world by Travel+Leisure Magazine and other “authorities,” a great excuse to return.
Surprise: Missed a visit to one of the best tropical vacation islands in the world, a great excuse for a return visit.
Day 11 & 12 Tuesday & Wednesday, January 16/17 – Docked Overnight Manila, Philippines
Wow, what a big, exciting, crowded and bustling city with modern high-rise buildings next to colonial neighborhoods hundreds of years old, including the largest Chinatown in the world plus a mix of Filipino, Indian and Asian ethnic groups. Oh yes, the Mall of Asia near the port is 4th largest in the world, a great escape from sightseeing, good for a haircut and hundreds of stores.
TIP: Try a tuck tuck ride and put your life in the hands of a million motor bikes equipped with “add on” chases that conveniently encapsulate it, converting one rider on two wheels to four (or more) passengers on the same set of wheels.
Surprise: A classy touch by Windstar: The cruise line held a special private banquet for cruise guests, the Filipino crew and their families who joined them at the Manila Hotel.
Day 13, Thursday, January 18 – Anchored 9 AM – 4 PM Hundred Islands, Philippines
A cool place for sightseeing tropical islands scoured by wind and sea to form exotic shapes. Windstar crew who were wearing uniforms for workers not only enhance safety and efficiency but also create a cohesive and professional team image, catered a phenomenal complete beach buffet …. how do so few people do so much and keep smiling?
Surprise: Hard to imagine so many small islands are part of the National Park.
Day 14, Friday, January 18 – At sea. Relax and enjoy one last day before reality returns.
Surprise: Actually had time in the day’s schedule to pack our luggage…early. Enjoyed final dinner at farewell party that evening.
Day 15, Saturday, January 20-23, 2018 Hong Kong, China
Back again for more dim sum, Asian cuisine and amazing buildings….more and more construction every year.
Surprise: James scored a couple of custom-make sport coats, shirts and shirts.
If you want to sample a touch of the South Pacific & Orient, this itinerary is a perfect primer. If you can spare the time, plan to visit Thailand or Bali since you’re close by.
If our Windstar Cruises reviews has peaked your interest in adding South China Seas to your bucket list contact your favorite Fox Travel cruise counselor at 281-363-0808 or fill out the form below.