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Michelle, Senior Travel Adviser based in The Travel Studio, has recently disembarked from an incredible cruise with Ponant through Southeast Asia, featuring Vietnam and Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore. Here’s what she had to say:
Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore
Via the Malacca Straits
Aboard this 92-cabin ship that flies the French flag, you will experience the incomparable pleasure of an intimate cruise, with chic ambiance and luxury service. Le Lapérouse embodies the unique atmosphere that is PONANT’s hallmark: a subtle blend of refinement, intimacy and comfort. This all-inclusive cruise includes accommodation, all beverages, meals, guest speakers and entertainment. Shore excursions are an additional charge.
What I truly love about this 5-star ship is that its comfortable and casual. As we were sailing in Asia where the temperatures are 32+ with a very high humidity, inside was always a very agreeable temperature, not overly cold or sterile, simply comfortable.
“This was a very new itinerary for Ponant,
and it was great!”
For this cruise to visit, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore all in 1 sailing was fascinating. I had read about the Malacca Straits, but was pleasantly surprised by how busy this area is. Freighters and Fishermen line the waterways here.
I didn’t have one favourite – it’s impossible to choose!
I loved the overall experience, meeting people from all walks of life, like French, Swiss, German even Russian. People were very welcoming. The staff truly make this an experience as they come to know you, and each of them are so knowledgeable, and speak at least 2 or 3 different languages. French is the main language spoken, then English will follow. Simone our Cruise Director spoke at least 4 languages
My first favourite was Georgetown Penang. This was the original hub for trading, known as the “Pearl of the East”. Now this very multicultural city is very modern, but it’s still laden with historical heritage. Trishaw is the best way to see this city, and Trishaw’s rule the road!!!! These guys are speedy little buggers and very fit! I loved this tour, visiting the architectural sites, the UNESCO Blue Mansion, Chinese Temples, Clan Jettys, Khoo Kongsi just to name a few. I wish I had more time here but was glad to see what I did.
My second favourite was Malacca. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Malacca City is the capital of the coastal state of Malacca, in southwestern Malaysia. Jonker Street, Chinatown’s main thoroughfare, is known for antique shops and its night market. Nearby, the 17th-century Chinese Cheng Hoon Teng temple has ornate decorations and multiple prayer halls. A green, 3-tiered roof tops the 18th-century, Javanese-influenced Kampung Kling Mosque. I absolutely love the Dutch influence here and the city built inside the waterways.
Singapore is my other favourite city. The global financial centre has a tropical climate and multicultural population. Its colonial core centres on the Padang, a cricket field since the 1830s and now flanked by grand buildings such as City Hall, with its 18 Corinthian columns. In Singapore’s circa-1820 Chinatown stands the red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, said to house one of Buddha’s teeth. I was lucky enough to stay on after the cruise at Sentosa Island. I haven’t been to Sentosa for 15 years, and it has changed!!! The ex-pat community here is large, and the island itself has changed dramatically. With lots of new resorts it’s a great place to stay away from the city, yet still so close enough to enjoy the shopping and other highlights the city has to offer.
Favourite Culinary Experience
Food is an essential part of the French Culture, as is the wine that so deservedly accompanies this!
The Panoramic Restaurant on Deck 4 of the Le Lapérouse features a full menu selection that changes daily, all 5 courses! Passengers love the ambience in here and believe me – with 5 courses of beautiful cuisine – I was in heaven on many occasions.
Deck 3 is the Outside Grill Deck. This casual and relaxed atmosphere has equally fantastic choices, again with 5 course selections. I was in heaven on a daily basis. Dinner reservations are a must for the Outside Grill.
Wine – where do I begin?
When it comes to wine, the selection is so comprehensive it’s hard to choose! As would be expected with any authentic French dining experience, dinner is accompanied by a thoughtful wine pairing. However, if you have a favourite from the dedicated Wine Bar, it will be at your table before you know it. The staff on the Le Lapérouse come to know very quickly what you like and dislike. Well, to be more exact, what you like and what you should try with each meal. Daily cocktails are also available – but be very aware of the European servings, as they can be very heavy handed!
Michelle’s Top Tips for travelling through Asia
1 – Research – Do some homework on the area you will be visiting. I did some relative reading on the Malacca Straits before I set sail. Knowing a little about where you’re going before you embark on your journey will allow you to make informed decisions when you get there. You can focus on seeing and experiencing the thing’s you want to see and avoiding the areas or attractions that don’t interest you.
2 – Be Prepared – Never be afraid to ask your adviser questions about your travel, and what is required for the area’s that you’ll be visiting. We pride ourselves on ensuring that everything is taken care of before your holiday, so you can simply enjoy your travel. For example: a VISA is required for Vietnam, even if you’re only there for 24 hours. Smaller towns, especially in Asia, will only accept local currency. Taking a mixture of USD, EUR and local currencies for the area’s you will be visiting is always a good idea – so you don’t miss out on anything!
3 – Packing – Make sure you know what kind of climate you’re going to. If, like me, you’re going to Asia during their hot season you will need to pack insect repellent. Much of Asia has a Tropical or Sub-tropical climate, not too dissimilar from here. Temperatures and humidity can get high during the summer months. Ensure that your packing reflects this!