Penang highlight of Princess cruise

By Robert A. Sierbert
This item appears on page 25 of the April 2017 issue.
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The gold-plated Reclining Buddha is 33 meters loåçng — Penang. Photo by Robert Siebert

On a 10-night “Malaysian Peninsula & Indonesia” cruise that I took on the Diamond Princess in January 2017, the itinerary, round trip from Singapore, included full-day port calls at the island of Bali in Indonesia, at Kuala Lumpur city and Penang state in Malaysia, and at Phuket, Thailand.

This was with Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita, CA; 800/774-6237, www.princess.com). The cost of the cruise, alone, was over $8,800, which included single occupancy of a full suite. I paid a total of just under $250 for shore excursions at the four ports.

 There always was fresh fruit in my suite. Amenities also included breakfasts on board at Sabatini’s, complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning services, and a setup of spirits and the like at the bar in my quarters, used for a cocktail party on our last day at sea.

Also available to suite clients and those with multiple cruise credits was a special lounge that served about five different drinks at lower prices than at the ship’s other bars. However, the lounge was beneath a basketball court, and you could hear the movement of feet from above.  

I flew round trip from JFK Airport on Singapore Airlines, refueling in Frankfurt but not having to change planes, which I considered a blessing. 

I had flown Singapore Airlines on other occasions, and, in my opinion, it is heads above other carriers. The only downside this time was that each New York-Singapore flight lasted about 20 hours, two hours of which were spent refueling.

I had been to Singapore only once, in 1994, but only for a single day. This time, I made arrangements for a pre-cruise hotel stay of two nights at the Fairmont Singapore, setting aside one day in Chinatown for visits to Buddhist and Hindu temples, which I hadn’t seen.

While in Chinatown, my lunch consisted of chicken rice at Tian Tian Haianese Chicken Rice (1 Kadayanallur St., #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore; phone +65 9691 4852), upon the recommendation of a nephew who had lived in Singapore. The stall was easy to find, since it was the only one with a line.

The cost for a small portion was SGD3.50 (near $2.50) — a real bargain! The chicken was the most tender I’ve ever experienced.

The other day in Singapore started at the Marina Bay Sands (10 Bayfront Ave.; phone +65 6688 8868, www.marinabaysands.com), a hotel complex consisting of three separate buildings with over 50 floors apiece, connected on the top by an enormous slab of concrete from which there are views of the city and Gardens by the Bay below.

The cost of the elevator to the building’s summit was SGD20, including a voucher in that amount for the purchase of food and drink in the rooftop restaurants.

I also visited Gardens by the Bay (www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en.html), though I was not able to stay to see it lit up at night, and the nearby Merlion statue.

Directly across the street from the Fairmont hotel was the Raffles Hotel, so I walked over to have a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar*. My drink was very expensive at 31 Singaporean dollars, or more like SGD37 ($26.50) after tax and service charge. Staying at the Raffles would have cost me more than double what I paid at the Fairmont. 

Although I had purchased shore excursions for the Diamond Princess’s four ports of call, my real reason for booking this cruise was to fulfill one item on my bucket list: returning to Penang, where in 1969 I had spent four days of R&R while stationed in Saigon.

For me, the highlight of the cruise was revisiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Penang. It is the most impressive Buddha I have ever seen in the course of my travels. There are also several other photographable scenes inside Wat Chayamangkalaram, the Thai temple in which it is housed.

Among other worthwhile attractions on our shore excursions were Kertha Gosa (which had functioned as a court of law) on Bali; Besakih Temple Bali (the island’s largest Hindu temple); the National Museum and the National Monument in Kuala Lumpur, and Wat Chalong and typical Thai entertainment in Phuket.

My only mistake in booking this cruise was unwittingly choosing the monsoon season for my vacation, although, regardless of downpours, there were enough dry periods to allow all of the scheduled sightseeing without any difficulty. The skies were completely overcast virtually every day. The temperature was generally hot and the humidity, oppressive.

ROBERT A. SIEBERT

Jamaica, NY

*The Long Bar, and several other sections of the Raffles Hotel, will be closed for restoration until mid-2018, but Singapore Slings are being served in the Bar & Billiard Room. The entire hotel will close from year’s end to mid-2018.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.
The gold-plated Reclining Buddha is 33 meters loåçng — Penang. Photo by Robert Siebert

On a 10-night “Malaysian Peninsula & Indonesia” cruise that I took on the Diamond Princess in January 2017, the itinerary, round trip from Singapore, included full-day port calls at the island of Bali in Indonesia, at Kuala Lumpur city and Penang state in Malaysia, and at Phuket, Thailand.

This was with Princess Cruises (Santa Clarita, CA; 800/774-6237, www.princess.com). The cost of the cruise, alone, was over $8,800, which included single occupancy of a full suite. I paid a total of just under $250 for shore excursions at the four ports.

 There always was fresh fruit in my suite. Amenities also included breakfasts on board at Sabatini’s, complimentary laundry and dry-cleaning services, and a setup of spirits and the like at the bar in my quarters, used for a cocktail party on our last day at sea.

Also available to suite clients and those with multiple cruise credits was a special lounge that served about five different drinks at lower prices than at the ship’s other bars. However, the lounge was beneath a basketball court, and you could hear the movement of feet from above.  

I flew round trip from JFK Airport on Singapore Airlines, refueling in Frankfurt but not having to change planes, which I considered a blessing. 

I had flown Singapore Airlines on other occasions, and, in my opinion, it is heads above other carriers. The only downside this time was that each New York-Singapore flight lasted about 20 hours, two hours of which were spent refueling.

I had been to Singapore only once, in 1994, but only for a single day. This time, I made arrangements for a pre-cruise hotel stay of two nights at the Fairmont Singapore, setting aside one day in Chinatown for visits to Buddhist and Hindu temples, which I hadn’t seen.

While in Chinatown, my lunch consisted of chicken rice at Tian Tian Haianese Chicken Rice (1 Kadayanallur St., #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, Singapore; phone +65 9691 4852), upon the recommendation of a nephew who had lived in Singapore. The stall was easy to find, since it was the only one with a line.

The cost for a small portion was SGD3.50 (near $2.50) — a real bargain! The chicken was the most tender I’ve ever experienced.

The other day in Singapore started at the Marina Bay Sands (10 Bayfront Ave.; phone +65 6688 8868, www.marinabaysands.com), a hotel complex consisting of three separate buildings with over 50 floors apiece, connected on the top by an enormous slab of concrete from which there are views of the city and Gardens by the Bay below.

The cost of the elevator to the building’s summit was SGD20, including a voucher in that amount for the purchase of food and drink in the rooftop restaurants.

I also visited Gardens by the Bay (www.gardensbythebay.com.sg/en.html), though I was not able to stay to see it lit up at night, and the nearby Merlion statue.

Directly across the street from the Fairmont hotel was the Raffles Hotel, so I walked over to have a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar*. My drink was very expensive at 31 Singaporean dollars, or more like SGD37 ($26.50) after tax and service charge. Staying at the Raffles would have cost me more than double what I paid at the Fairmont. 

Although I had purchased shore excursions for the Diamond Princess’s four ports of call, my real reason for booking this cruise was to fulfill one item on my bucket list: returning to Penang, where in 1969 I had spent four days of R&R while stationed in Saigon.

For me, the highlight of the cruise was revisiting the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Penang. It is the most impressive Buddha I have ever seen in the course of my travels. There are also several other photographable scenes inside Wat Chayamangkalaram, the Thai temple in which it is housed.

Among other worthwhile attractions on our shore excursions were Kertha Gosa (which had functioned as a court of law) on Bali; Besakih Temple Bali (the island’s largest Hindu temple); the National Museum and the National Monument in Kuala Lumpur, and Wat Chalong and typical Thai entertainment in Phuket.

My only mistake in booking this cruise was unwittingly choosing the monsoon season for my vacation, although, regardless of downpours, there were enough dry periods to allow all of the scheduled sightseeing without any difficulty. The skies were completely overcast virtually every day. The temperature was generally hot and the humidity, oppressive.

ROBERT A. SIEBERT

Jamaica, NY

*The Long Bar, and several other sections of the Raffles Hotel, will be closed for restoration until mid-2018, but Singapore Slings are being served in the Bar & Billiard Room. The entire hotel will close from year’s end to mid-2018.