Feb 13-15, 2016 – Victoria, BC Canada to Singapore
2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise
My first two flights (Victoria to Vancouver and Vancouver to Hong Kong) are both about an hour late departing. This doesn’t cause me any major problems since I have lots of time between my flights into and out of Vancouver.
The Cathay Pacific flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong takes over 14 hours of flight time. We fly up the coast of British Columbia and Alaska, over Russia, and then south across central China, and to Hong Kong. I get a beautiful view of Venus off the wingtip and also of the lights of Wuhan, China.
In the Economy section where I am seated, the flight crew serves dinner shortly after we leave Vancouver, and breakfast before we arrive in Hong Kong, but otherwise completely ignores our cabin. They never check on passengers, or offer any water or other refreshments or snacks. This is completely unacceptable. I have flown many long duration flights, and all airlines take much better care of their passengers than I experienced on this flight.
I am anxious about my late arrival in Hong Kong, since I have to go through security and change gates for my onward flight to Singapore, and accomplish all of this within an hour in an unfamilar airport. Deplaning in Hong Kong goes surprisingly quickly, but I immediately have to re-clear security before I can proceed to my next gate. The security guy operating the scanner screws up his face when my computer bag goes along the belt, so at the end, a young woman asks to see inside my bag. It appears she doesn’t know what binoculars are, but is satisfied once she inspects them. She even asks me how to pronounce the word “binocular”!
Cathay Pacific does redeem themselves on the Hong Kong to Singapore flight, where the cabin service in Economy is very good. They serve us breakfast after departure, and ensure the passengers are comfortable throughout the four hour flight.
After over 30 hours elapsed travel time, and losing a day in the process, it feels great to get to the Pan Pacific Orchard hotel, have a shower, and get some sleep for a few hours in my quiet hotel room. This hotel is not new, but it is very nicely appointed, and is located in the fairly quiet Orchard district of Singapore. This area is not downtown, but there are lots of malls, hotels, embassies, and residential towers in the area, and a subway station is close. I sleep soundly overnight. This property is now being redeveloped (opening in 2023), however the other Pan Pacific hotels in Singapore would all be good options.
Feb 16, 2016 – Singapore departure aboard Volendam
I have some cappuccino and breakfast this morning at the hotel, and then repack before taking a taxi to the cruise ship terminal just before noon. As usual, Holland America Lines (HAL) are well organized. After filling in a few additional forms to allow me to exit Singapore, I check in at the cruise ship counter, receive my personalized security card for the ship, and walk my bags and myself through the concourse and along the gangway, board the ship and find my stateroom.
The ship is docked in Harbourfront, a busy area of Singapore. When I return in 15 days mid-cruise, I will have some time to explore Singapore, since the ship stays overnight before departing for Indonesia and the Solar Eclipse. I attend a welcome reception for three and four star Mariners, where snacks are served, along with champagne and orange juice. The Cruise Director and Hotel Manager welcome us as repeat HAL cruisers. After some delays caused by Singaporean authorities, the ship pulls away from the dock around 4:30PM into the busy harbour. We have a day at sea tomorrow before our arrival in our first port: Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.