After eating my way around Hong Kong it was finally time to board Windstar’s Star Legend for my cruise and land tour combination: Comprehensive China Exploration and China’s Great Wall & Warriors Cruise Tour.
|Hong Kong Pastries|
The Star Legend was docked at Hong Kong’s Ocean Terminal which is very conveniently located in Kowloon just across from Hong Kong Island’s Causeway Bay area; a quick 20 minute (with traffic) Uber ride from my hotel after my culinary adventure earlier in the day. The other, main, cruise terminal is Kai Tak which is located about 45 minutes from central Hong Kong. It is a beautiful facility, but not nearly as convenient as the Ocean Terminal. Our location highlights one of the big advantages of small ship cruising!
|View from my Star Legend Suite while docked |
at the Ocean Terminal, Hong Kong
Because the Star Legend was overnighting in Hong Kong I arrived a bit late so there was, understandably, no luggage assistance. Fortunately, I have wheeled luggage and great stamina because the journey from the entrance through a beautiful and incredibly large shopping center (Gucci, Chopard, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc. shops included) is quite a distance…including up and down escalators and very limited signage…because there are rules limiting them. But I made it.
I was greeted at the bottom of the final escalator by two young men who courteously took my luggage and guided me through a maze of roped lines to, finally, the Star Legend. I immediately felt at home. I mean my first luxury cruise as a travel agent was on the Star Pride (previously the Seabourn Pride); the Star Legend’s almost identical sister ship. The only difference: The Star Legend has only one sink in the suite bathroom, while the Star Pride and Star Breeze have two sinks. The Star Legend only has one sink because she was originally built for another cruise line, but it failed and became part of the Seabourn fleet.
Anyway, I was escorted to the Show Lounge to register. No cruise documents were provided to me, and I had no luggage tags. But on this intimate Windstar ship neither were really needed as they knew me by my face (very nice)! My initial interaction was with the staff calling me “Mr. Goldring” when I boarded; which I immediately corrected to “Eric”. (Referring to guests by their first name is the norm on Windstar, but I have been tagged as a VIP; shocking, I know. Hahaha.) By the time I reached the Show Lounge everyone was calling me Eric. Again, a very nice touch…and for those who miss that particular personal touch when the Star Legend and her sisters were Seabourn…nowadays it is alive and well on Windstar!
This sailing is curiously considered a repositioning sailing by Windstar and is not sold out. I never considered it one, but rather a sailing with a unique and very interesting itinerary. While this probably helps define the current Windstar clientele, I see it as a great opportunity for those seeking to “travel” more than merely “cruise”. I mean who would not want to see Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai and Beijing in a single journey? (Obviously, not as many current Windstar guests as I would have expected.)
|Star Legend Balcony Suite 312|
|A nice bottle of wine and beautiful flowers|
Regardless, since this created an opportunity I was upgraded to a French Balcony Suite…and one of my favorites: Suite 312. Why a favorite? Because it is midship and right next to the forward elevator and stairs, so everything on this intimate ship is even more conveniently located.
As I mentioned previously, I am not going to discuss the layout of the Star Legend much as (A) I have already done so when onboard the Star Pride and Star Breeze, but suffice it to say the suites and public areas are looking good! I do love these little 212 guest ships.
|Star Legend’s Yacht Club|
located forward on Deck 8
|Star Legend’s Compass Rose Lounge|
located Deck 6 aft
After a quiet evening with clients and then a lazy morning, with the rain continuing, I decided to do my standard Hamburger & Hot Dog Test. Windstar did quite a good job. The hamburger was perfectly prepared, juicy and tasty, though a bit thinner and smaller than I would have liked. The hot dog was a Nathan’s hot dog – need I say more – that was also properly cooked. Both buns were toasted too. So the culinary side of things should be just fine…and it has been!
That accomplished, and the rain falling harder, I only ventured into the enormous Ocean Terminal and mall (and, remember, I am well familiar with huge shopping malls). With a whole 180 Hong Kong dollars (about US$22) burning a whole in my pocket, I needed…wanted really…to find something to spend it on. After deciding a 38 year old Glenfiddich whisky at HK$68,000 (about US$8,000) was a bit too pricey I came across a bakery and my eyes and stomach lit up.
While pastries are not my first culinary preference, the opportunity presented itself, so I dove in:
|Hong Kong pastries (again)|
- Matcha with Red Bean (the bright green one)
- Mugwort with Red Bean (the pale green one)
- Durian Bar (the smelly one!)
- Chestnut Bun
- Chocolate Custard Bun
- Red Bean Daifuku (the puff pastry)
- Mushroom Truffle Bun
It was then time for sailaway and our cruise journey to finally begin. Honestly, Hong Kong amazed me with the number of high rise buildings stacked upon each other, with almost no green of any sort. The buildings just go on and on and on. Far greater than New York City in volume, but I did not get any sense of community. Maybe if I spent more time. Maybe not.
I think my “new” life living in the Sierra Nevada mountains and having fallen in love with Antarctica may have changed my perspectives forever. But one thing it hasn’t changed is my lack of intimidation of city life. I can most certainly appreciate it…and leave it to others to enjoy for more than a couple of days at a time.
Our long journey out to sea finally ended shortly after another very good dinner. As I did back in 2003 and beyond, I retired to the Star (Sky) Bar for a whiskey and a cigar as a duo played and I watched the brilliant lights of the fishing boats in the distance. It was so peaceful and relaxing.
|Star Legend Star Bar looking aft|
And then it all changed!
Our day scheduled relaxing day crossing the South China Sea became a rather rough ride with seas up to 17 feet and winds gusting to over 50 miles per hour. Even a change of course and slowing the Star Legend down didn’t help much. Fortunately I do not really get seasick so it was not a problem for me, but for many it was a challenge.
I was quite impressed that even with the Star Legend rocking and rolling, the chef and staff were able to deliver a delicious and very well presented dinner in Amphora, the main restaurant!
|Beautifully seared and presented scallops|
I have to mention that I awoke after the second night at sea, put my feet on the floor and then had very wet feet. The wind was so strong and hitting our little ship broadside that it literally pushed the monsoon rains through the balcony doors. In fact, the wind and rain was so strong it literally shattered a port-facing window in the Yacht Club on Deck 8. (It would have been nice if the weather forecasters had gotten it right. Clearly, they did not! But our captain, Mark Symonds, has done a great job at keeping us informed and safe.)
So with this storm our arrival in our first port of Keelung, Taiwan has been delayed about five hours, my nature tour of its north coast cancelled and our second port of Ishigaki, Okinawa Islands has also been cancelled. Windstar’s Destinations Desk has been very helpful, but since I recently spent three days in Taipei with my daughter, I really didn’t want to pay for a bus tour overview of the city which is about an hour away. Clearly, I am the exception as I don’t think any of the other guests have been to Taiwan before so Windstar’s willingness to make the other tours available at the last minute is quite good.
On the plus side for me, it was decided that we will overnight in Keelung rather than get bounced around another night. And, for me, that means I will have the opportunity to do one of my favorite things: Go to the Night Market! An open mind and flexibility is the key to enjoying travel. When one thing falls through another opportunity usually presents itself…and this is a great one.
I can’t wait to dive in…and you will have to wait for my next article to find out how it went!
If you have any questions or wish to discuss booking your own Windstar Cruise, give me a call, drop me an email or send me a Facebook message!
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