For me, the beauty of Princess is that wherever you board their ships feel reassuringly familiar, with subtle differences in the décor and restaurants, depending on where you’re sailing. So even though we’re in Southeast Asia, it’s still possible to enjoy a juicy steak served with Hawaiian salt in the Crown Grill, but there’s a statue of a Buddha watching over the Retreat pool.
On one of our sea days we spend an afternoon at the Sanctuary, where we sample the cocktail menu and indulge in the complimentary afternoon tea.
Our first port of call in Vietnam is Nha Trang; it’s raining and humid but the golden sandy beach and bay still look glorious. We explore the historic Po Nagar towers, and wander around the street market where women wearing traditional conical hats ply their wares. We also visit the silk factory, and it’s fascinating to watch the embroiderers work on their exquisite creations.Nha Trang – Vietnam
Back on board, we’re privileged to enjoy the Chef’s Table experience – the chance to go behind the scenes into the galley with the Maitre’d and Chef, and learn about the creation of our special menu while sampling hors d’oeuvres galore, before sitting down to one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten at sea.
Our cruise ends in Ho Chi Minh City, with its wide boulevards, parks and palatial buildings, including the Reunification Palace, the Notre-Dame Basilica and the Central Post Office with its impressive murals.Reunification Palace – Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Everywhere we look there are brides posing for their wedding album photos in dresses as white and fluffy as meringues (they will wear traditional Vietnamese style clothes for their actual big day). There are also hundreds of scooters, which makes crossing the road a challenge (cars are prohibitively expensive to buy in Vietnam.) We have time for an excellent lunch, and we peruse the indoor markets, which are definitely not for the claustrophobic – there are countless stalls with a mind-boggling array of tat and everywhere you go there’s some sort of pho or rice dish being cooked; as with everything about the city it assaults the senses, but it’s also a quintessential part of the Vietnamese experience.
A quick stop at the Chùa Bà Thiên Hau Chinese temple to light incense and make wishes, and then it’s time to leave for the airport and our luxurious Singapore Airlines flights home. Despite the scooter and motorbike-fuelled chaos on the roads, when it’s bathed in the late afternoon sun there’s an ethereal beauty to Ho Chi Minh City. Like every aspect of our Southeast Asian stay-and-cruise adventure, it’s extraordinary.