A mainstream cruise line now offers affordable cruises to the Far East - and I am thinking seriously about going.
|Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas (© Royal Caribbean International, Used with Permission)|
For a long time, I have been thinking about taking a cruise to see the Far East. The challenge, as always, is my budget. There are plenty of cruises that sail in the Far East, but most are on pricey luxury lines that spend too many days at sea and not enough days in port -- and if I am going to fly such a long distance to take a cruise, I want to see as much of the destination as possible.
But now Royal Caribbean has put out an announcement headlined "Voyager of the Seas Headed to China." While many of the ship's planned cruises are four- and five-day sojourns departing from Shanghai, I would not refer to this new deployment as visits to China. For example, the ship will operate some four-day cruises round-trip from Singapore that stop in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Phuket (Thailand). Another four-night cruise sails from Shanghai but stops in Fukuoka (Japan) and Jeju (South Korea).
A five-night cruise starts in Shanghai but sails to Nagasaki (Japan), Busan (S. Korea) and ends in Tianjin (port for Beijing, China). Another five-night cruise starts in Singapore and sails to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Penang (Malaysia), Phuket (Thailand) and returns to Singapore. And still another five-night cruise starts in Shanghai and sails to Fukuoka (Japan), Nagasaki (Japan), Jeju (S. Korea) and returns to Shanghai.
All these cruises are currently priced well under $700 per person, a very reasonable cost considering the exotic ports of call. On one of the luxury lines, one could easily spend several thousand dollars for a 10-day cruise that visits as many ports or even fewer, because luxury cruise lines tend to emphasize days at sea no matter where you are in the world. Luxury lines also commonly emphasize "out of the way" ports of call - as if all of us are bored with seeing Asia already. I say that whimsically, but the truth is I have long dreamed of seeing major Asian cities like Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. If I am going to pay a considerable air fare and endure the 12+-hour flight to this part of the world, I want to see as much of it as I can while I am there.
The fact that these cruises are so short means they are mostly targeted to the local population - the Chinese! It's a sign of the changing times that China now has a burgeoning middle class, and they are allowed to travel. China has a population of more than 1.3 billion, almost five times that of the U.S. Not all Chinese can afford a cruise, of course, but this is just one ship and it is only scheduled to stay in the Far East from May 29, 2012, through October 22, when it will make its final cruise from Shanghai and end up in Australia.
Royal Caribbean has had the older, smaller Legend of the Seas in the area since 2010, and together the ships will offer 49 sailings originating in China in 2012. In fact, if you are ready to leave next month, you can catch a five-day itinerary on Legend of the Seas for as little as $249 per person.
But as I said, if I am going to endure a flight to the Far East, I am going to see as much as possible while I am there. The four-night cruise from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Phuket (Thailand), selling for $359 (inside cabin) from November 25, 2011 through Feb. 27. 2012 just does not appeal to me, even though it alternates with three-day cruises from Singapore to Malacca (Malaysia) selling for just $230. Both of these itineraries will most likely be filled with Chinese locals, which means I will feel like a fish out of water. I prefer to go on a newer ship, like Voyager of the Seas, which stands a far better chance of having a number of Americans onboard.
The cruise I have my eye on is the 14-night Beijing to Singapore cruise, sailing Oct. 8, 2012. This cruise starts at just $1,280 per person (under $100/day), but I also priced a nice promenade view stateroom for just $1,425 per person. Royal Caribbean fans know these rooms as the ones with windows overlooking the Royal Promenade, the ship's inside public area.
Of course, I had to know how much this would cost with airfare, so I went to Expedia and priced flights from LAX into Beijing, returning from Singapore. I was surprised to see airfare as low as $1,200 per person for this "open-jaw" flight (i.e., one that returns from a city other than the one you fly into). I couldn't price the air as far out as October 2012 (airlines don't publish prices two years ahead like cruise lines do), but I did see that ticket from LAX to Beijing and returning from Singapore to Los Angeles this October.
So, I can get a 14-day cruise in the Far East for two people on Voyager of the Seas for as little as $2625 per person. Here is the Itinerary:
|08-Oct 09-Oct 10-Oct 11-Oct 12-Oct 13-Oct 14-Oct 15-Oct 16-Oct 17-Oct 18-Oct||Tianjin, China (Beijing) Cruising Fukuoka, Japan Jeju, Republic of Korea (South Korea) Cruising Xiamen, (Beijing) China Hong Kong, China Cruising Cruising Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Cruising||1:00PM 9:00AM 12:00PM 12:00PM 7:00AM||6:00PM 8:00PM 5:00PM 5:00PM 10:30PM 8:00PM||Docked Docked Docked Docked Docked|
As far as I am concerned this is an excellent price for a truly exciting cruise. This one happens to sail on October 8, 2012, and it is the most comprehensive cruise being offered by Royal Caribbean in the Far East. There are other possibilities on other cruise lines, but for Royal Caribbean fans looking for something completely different, I think this is a great option. It certainly has piqued my interest.