Flying from the U.S. to Southeast Asia is quite the trek (just over a 16-hour flight from NYC or LA to Hong Kong), so making time to experience a variety of destinations while exploring that corner of the world is well worth it. The best way to do this, while eliminating the hassle and stress of navigating directions, numerous flights, and train stations is to take a cruise. Specifically, Holland America offers an incredible option beginning in Hong Kong on the Westerdam.
In addition to Hong Kong, the ship docks in Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand, before ending in Singapore. All of which makes this an excellent option for travelers looking to get the most out of their Asian adventure.
On Board the Westerdam
The Westerdam holds several Best Cruise Ship Awards and is a great vessel to keep you entertained and relaxed between experiencing the six Asian destinations on this itinerary. Book a calming massage to loosen up your muscles after the long flight to Hong Kong at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon. Get a workout in at the gym in the morning before exploring the cities, or soak up the sun while playing pickleball on the top deck. Soak in the hot tubs or take a dip in the Sea View Pool.
At night, while the ship is traveling to its next destination, watch one of the live performances at the World Stage. Instead of dealing with the logistics between each country, you can sit back and enjoy the journey while having a quality Italian meal at Canaletto or tender chops at the steakhouse on the ship, Pinnacle Grill.
Split creamy Burrata at Canaletto with juicy, plum tomato salad, extra virgin olive oil, and pistachio-garlic gremolata followed by daily fresh, housemade pastas. For seafood lovers, try the Spaghetti with Shrimp and Clams with garlic and chili or the Broiled Lobster Tails with spaghetti coated in olive oil and fresh garlic with warm crab mayonnaise and asparagus, among other seafood options.
If you prefer beef or poultry, there are delicious options for that, as well, like Chianti Braised Beef Short Ribs with onion, shallots, vincotto, and roasted butternut squash and Herb & Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast with fresh mozzarella, crispy zucchini, and basil roasted potatoes. Pinnacle Grill delivers high end service and delicious seafood options, steaks, and wine pairings. Splurge on Ossetra Malossol Caviar with crème fraîche and fluffy buckwheat blini with a glass of Veuve Clicquot. Indulge in Candied Bacon soaked in maple with cracked black pepper and fresh, half sour pickles or Beef Tenderloin with Lobster Dumplings served with horseradish bordelaise sauce, lobster béarnaise, and celery root purée.
The Westerdam has a range of inside rooms, ocean view rooms, verandah rooms, signature suites, and the high end Neptune Suite if you’re looking to really splurge. The verandah rooms are flooded with natural light from the huge windows leading out to a private balcony. Head out onto the terrace with a cup of coffee and room service in the morning or relax on the Euro-Top mattress after a soak in the tub to watch a movie in the privacy of your own room.
It’s highly recommended that you arrive the day prior to your cruise start date. There’s always a risk of flight delays, so planning accordingly can help avoid missing the embarkment day. If you choose to get to Hong Kong a bit early, check into the five-star property, The Cordis. Even if you arrive and decide you want to stay in for the first night, they have amazing dining experiences in house like the buffet at The Place filled with high quality seafood dishes like Fresh Oysters, Chilled Lobster, Snow Crab Legs, Argentina Red Prawn Sashimi, Seafood Paella, Scallops, and more like the Pan-fried Foie Gras and OX Tongue.
The concierge can help book tours of top destinations like the Mongkok Market, Dundas Street, Fa Yuen Street Market, and more, to make the most out of your time in the city. The pool on site has spectacular views of Kowloon and the rooms are equipped with comfortable beds, some with special touches like panoramic windows and a soaking tub. If you visit Hong Kong from November through January, visitors and locals can take advantage of wave season, when surfing conditions are best.
To explore Hong Kong, take the Food Tour through Walk to try traditional dishes. Walk has created a series of creatively designed tours to give you a taste of what Hong Kong has to offer. There are a wide range of tours surrounding history, local living, and, of course, food! The guides are passionate about giving visitors an authentic, curated experience.
The cruise starts with an overnight in Hong Kong on the ship, departing the following day at 5 PM. Once you check out of the hotel and board the boat, settle into your room and then explore the ship’s amenities, before going out to see Hong Kong on your own or through a tour. Holland America offers a variety of group tours, but if it’s your first time in the city, the Hong Kong Highlights Tour is a great place to start.
This excursion brings guests under Victoria Harbour via the tunnel to Victoria Peak by tram for beautiful views of the city. After, the group drives along Repulse Bay with stunning beaches before stopping at Aberdeen, a fishing village, to take a sampan ride and shop for artisan crafts. The Stanley Market has a variety of souvenirs, clothing, and furniture to browse as well.
After a day at sea, the boat docks in Manila from 8 AM-11:59 PM. With big city vibes right on the bay, the capital city boasts character and culture, as the colonial Spanish architecture and 16th century churches blend with modern buildings to create a unique skyline.
Inquire about the Holland America tour, “A Day at Tagaytay.’” After an hour and a half drive along the coast, through local villages, coconut plantations, and rice fields, the group will arrive in Tagaytay where you can see Taal Volcano, also known as being the smallest volcano in the world. Sit down for lunch with beautiful views before heading back to the boat, seeing some of the churches in Manila like San Augustin and the Manila Cathedral along the way.
Puerto Princesa, Philippines
The next stop is in Puerto Princesa in the Philippines. Here, Holland America offered some great excursions like the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Guests will leave first thing in the morning to head to the St Paul Underground River, known as one of the world’s longest underground rivers. On the way to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, about two hours from Puerto Princesa city, you’ll explore the countryside, taking in the views before stopping in Sabang to board a small boat for a 20-minute journey to the park.
Upon arrival, you’ll switch boats into a smaller canoe to make your way to the underground section where the boat will float for about two miles into the cave. You’ll have an opportunity to take in views of the rock formations before having a quick lunch at a local restaurant. For this excursion, it’s suggested that you wear your suit under your clothes and bring a towel, a cover-up, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen.
Kota Kinabalu, Sabahlaem, Malaysia
After the Philippines, the next stop is Kota Kinabalu, Sabahlaem in Malaysia. Among the Holland America excursions offered is the Borneo Traditional Living. Beginning with a 40-minute drive to the Mari Mari Cultural Village, guests will stop to experience the culture and diverse nature of Sabah, tucked between a river and tropical fruit orchard.
Learn about the history of the village, as well as the indigenous Borneo people, headhunters, and local traditions from fire starting techniques to tattooing. Guests can even taste some Sabah treats like rice wine, herbal remedies, and more before viewing traditional dances and performances. It’s recommended for this excursion that guests wear long sleeves and long pants, in addition to bringing plenty of bug spray, water, and comfortable walking shoes.
Phú Mỹ, Vietnam
The next destination is Phú Mỹ, Vietnam. Among the variety of tours offered through Holland America is “A Taste of Vietnamese Cuisine,” a wonderful option for foodies looking to experience local Vietnamese food. Once the group arrives in Ho Chi Minh City (90 minutes each way) in southern Vietnam, the tour begins at a local market with an executive sous chef there to offer guidance.
The market atmosphere is exciting, with plenty to take in. Here, you can explore various grains, fruits, veggies, seafood, spices, meats, and more before stopping at the culinary center for a cooking demo of Vietnamese dishes. The group will learn about the national cuisine, chopstick use, and etiquette before enjoying a meal together.
Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand
After Vietnam, the ship will arrive in Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand. Among the opportunities to explore on your own and other tours offered through Holland America, “Experience Local Life” is a wonderful option. The group will begin the tour with a ride out to Chachoengsao, a town full of history with stunning Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, and traditional markets. During the drive, enjoy the countryside views of rice paddy fields and scenery before stopping at the Klong Suan Market, where you can experience Old Thailand.
Just a 15-minute ride from the market are Buddha images Phra Phuttha Sothon (or Luang Pho Sothon). The new Ubosoth holds a beautiful Buddha statue and guests might even get to witness Thai dances. After, the group will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before heading back to Laem Chabang. Remember to dress modestly for the temples. This means nothing fitted or collarless. All shirts must cover your shoulders, pants must cover your knees, and no skirts or shorts are allowed. Comfortable walking shoes are fine, and they can be removed when visiting the chapel.
Once you return, see if you have time for other activities nearby like the Pattaya Floating Market.
On the last day, the boat will arrive in Singapore around 7 AM. Guests can disembark and head immediately for the airport or enjoy another Holland America tour before the flight. If your schedule allows for it, I highly recommend taking advantage of your time in Singapore and spending a night or two in the area. Check into the Pan Pacific Orchard in Singapore‘s shopping area.
The city offers incredible sightseeing opportunities, shopping, food tours, street markets, and more. The beautiful hotel has its own restaurant called Mosella, where guests can indulge in a three-course meal right in the comfort of their own hotel before heading upstairs to relax for the evening. If you’re a foodie, discovering Singapore’s street food is a must, and there’s no better way to do that than a tour through Makansutra with the street food expert himself, KF Seetoh.
Makansutra, founded in 1997, was created by KF Seetoh to boost knowledge about the food culture in Singapore. Makansutra has created a variety of food centric adventures like Food Safaris, Culinary Bazaars, Food Hunts, Food Festivals and more. The well-known Makansutra Food Safari was previously awarded “Top 10 Culinary Tours” by Sherman’s Travel, USA, and brings guests on an exploration of some of the best cuisine and restaurants in Singapore. The perfect adventure before flying home.