Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Traveling to Vietnam

Vietnam: A little history, outcome of the War and how children of the War were treated in Vietnam.

This excerpt I am including here came from the PACIFIC RIM LAW & POLICY JOURNAL.

In Vietnam, as in other Asian cultures, the father plays a significant role in a child’s development. A Vietnamese child derives its sense of personal identify, nationality, and race from its father. Because the American fathers of Amerasian children cannot perform the traditional Vietnamese paternal duties, the Vietnamese exclude Amerasians from the mainstream of their society. In Vietnam an illegitimate child does not legally exist because he or she is not a Vietnamese citizen.

Most homogenous Asian cultures disdain racial impurity. Because the Vietnamese tend to regard the physical features of their people as symbolic of their national identity, many Vietnamese associate Amerasians with the dilution of their national character. This phenomenon largely explains the harsh treatment of Amerasians in Vietnam. In Vietnamese society, Amerasians lack basic rights, live in the squalor of poverty, and are deprived of a solid sense of identity. Most face a daily barrage of racial slurs. Furthermore, Vietnamese-Amerasians typically are outcasts and excluded from full participation in education, marriage, and employment".

Some interesting reading about Vietnam


Vietnam is also safer and tourism has increased dramatically over the years, according to http://www.vietnamtourism.gov/, tourism has increased by 63% since 1999, with the most visitors from China, South Korea, Japan and coming in 4th, United States.

Traveling to Vietnam

I have been to Vietnam a total of 3 times for a minimum of 10 days and up to 15 days. I would recommend at least two weeks for the full experience and also because flights are not cheap, you are travelling 8,400+ miles, flying for about 15-24 hours depending on how many connections and what airline(s) you are using and where you are traveling from within the States.  If you are on the West Coast, you will be saving some time as most flights are connected in LAX.

Asian Airlines

I have flown on the following airlines: Korean, Malaysian, and Cathay Pacific. My favorite is Malaysian Airlines. Malaysian Airlines had the best food selection, drinks, desserts, movies, games, comfort, and flight accessories (I got a little bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eye mask). Korean Airlines had really good food but much more limited, not to the extent that Malaysian Airlines did, less variety and they were not serving as often but still highly recommended if you don't need a lot of variety and don't eat as often as I do, if you are a foodie, these airlines will give you  variety and a pre-asia vacation experience.

As for Cathay Pacific, I was not impressed, food was mediocre, and entertainment was poor.

One of the things I really enjoy in addition to going to traveling to Vietnam, is the flight to Vietnam, all the movies I can catch up on, especially new releases that haven't even made it out to blockbuster, playing all the cool new games, eat interesting foods and drinks.  In addition to all that, Malaysian and Korean Airlines treated me like I was sitting in first class.  And it is important to have a good experience especially when you are flying over 8K miles.

Using a Travel Agency or website for booking?

Now a little background on this, my mom had been to Vietnam two other times prior to me going and each time she would use some Asian Travel Agency in D.C., her tickets typically ranges from $950- $1200.

Prior to my trip, I decided to do some digging on airlines and pricing, just to see if I can find a better deal. I was surfing all the known traveling sites (Expedia, Orbitz, Cheap, Travelocity, Malaysian Airlines main site, Korean Airlines main site, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, you name it and I surfed it). And all these were ranging from $1600+ with 2+ connections; however these were with US Airways, United, American Airlines, Continental, etc. I have flown to Paris on Continental before and the food & drinks, etc. were quiet limited. My mom had mentioned that she flew on Korean and Malaysian Airlines and the food, drinks, desserts, entertainment were phenomenal. Finally, I looked up a couple of Asian Travel Agencies in my area, at the time Philadelphia. I had the Asian Travel agencies get me some quotes, and to my surprise, each of these Asian Travel agencies had better pricing than other those sites, with 3 connections as I was coming from the East Coast. Now you may ask how much? Our flights were $900 (the quoted pricing from others were in the same ball park with the highest being $980. The price also included expediting our Visas. Vietnam requires that you have a Visa in addition to your passport.


Call some Asian Travel Agencies and you will get the best rate, do not use the online sites mainly because of pricing and also because you will be flying with American Airlines or US Airways or United, it is not the same experience as being on an actual Asian Airline. You are going to Asia, start your experience as early as possible and on top of that, you will save money and get treated like you are in first class.

Where to go and what to do in Vietnam...to be continued...

Cruising - What to expect on a cruise for those newbies!

What to expect on a cruise for those newbies!

I will be specifically giving you my experiences on these three cruise lines: Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Carnival Cruise Lines are known as the fun ships as they are have much more interesting planned events in the evening than the other 2 ships, late night adult only comedy shows, vegas style shows (no, not nudity but slightly more risque type costumes, pg18 would be a more accurate description).

Norwegian Cruise Lines are known for their freestyle dinning, which means you can eat at any time you want without a schedule than that of Carnival and Royal Caribbean have set in place.  I would recommend this if you are a foodie and just want to do your own thing and just want to relax.  The food choices are much better on NCL than the other two. 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines are known to be more expensive and the ships are a bit more impressive than both Carnival and Norwegian in that Royal Caribbean would have their are themes throughout the ship such as a Central Park in the middle of ship, the main area of the ship is set up in a way where it feels like you are in the middle of a mall, they also have british pubs, johny rockets, rock climbing wall, a more luxurious setup gym and spa, an adult only pool which looks like you are in Rome.  With that said, Royal Caribbean will always be more expensive than Carnival and NCL. 

Cruising with any cruise lines will have all inclusive food with the exception of these coffee stands where you will need to pay for cappucinos, lattes and sweets (this is a new thing they started doing in the last 2 years), however, you can always go to the food deck and get them for free (the sweets not the cappucinos and lattes).

Drinks: Juices are included, Sodas are extra, you can either pay for it by the can or get a soda card for the duration of your stay on the ship, it is about $50 for 3 nights on Carnival, these details can be found on the Cruise Ship websites as well (Carnival.com, RoyalCaribbean.com, NCL.com).

Royal Caribbean Soda card plan:

How am I identified as having purchased the Fountain Soda package?

A complimentary Coca-Cola® souvenir cup will be delivered to your stateroom. Upon embarkation, an icon will be placed on your SeaPass Card which indicates your participation in the unlimited fountain soda package.

Pre-planned activities on Carnival and Royal Caribbean, trivia contests, kids camp, couples games, bingo, hairy chest contest at the pool, mixology contest, cards, poker tournaments, tea time for those who enjoys a conversation over piano music and delicious pastries (e.g., scones, cakes, cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon, and more).  Nightly vegas style shows (on the Carnival Cruise Ships, Royal Caribbean is a bit more family style), family comedy time and adult comedy time at midnight (again, the adult comedy is on Carnival, Royal Caribbean is more family style), karaoke, night club, casino, midbight buffet, miniature golf, shuffle board.

Cruising is really perfect for an entire family, there are activities for all ages, even for folks with kids. Carnival cruise line have a kids camp carnival, there is something similar on the Royal Caribbean as well (so you can leave your kids with the cruise staff as there are plenty of activities for them to enjoy while you go to the spa or sit by the pool or have a couple of cocktails or test your luck at the casino). 

Cost of a 4 days cruise is typically $280 - $350 for an inside room or for less, try a bunk bed inside room that has a pretty decent layout (I was really surprised), I would recommend this if you want to cruise ultra cheap, I typically do not spend that much time in the room on a 3-5 nights cruise but if you are going for 7 days or  more, I would recommend getting a balcony room.  Nevertheless, a weekend of eating out for two would cost the same and comparable to a nice 4 stars restaurant as going on a cruise for 3-5 nights.

Alchohol is not included, you can bring 1 bottle of wine on board per person and drink in your room or pour it and walk around the ship or if you want them to serve it to you at dinner, a corkage fee of $10 for Carnival Cruise lines,$15 with NCL, $25 for Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, (you can also search on the particular cruise line for pricing) will be charged to your sail and sign card (which is a card that you should keep very close to you as it acts as your credit card on the ship, this card is tied to either a credit card that you registered upon coming on the ship or if you opted to pay in cash upon coming on ship) and they will store it for you until your next dinner.  If you want to save some money, then just pour yourself a big glass and bring it with you for dinner.  No one will question it as you could have gotten from the bar before coming to dinner, so this is not something you need to worry about.

Additionally, if you wanted to bring 2 bottles per person, I would suggest leaving one bottle in your checked in bag and carrying one on with you (so if there are 2 of you, put one in each of your bag, make sure your bags are not labeled with the same name, otherwise your bottles will be taken or if you checked both bottles in the same bag, they will keep both bottles till your last night on the ship before returning).  So keep them in separate bags with separate names (doesn't matter if you have the same last name, as long as your first name is different).

Purchasing alcohol at port or on ship.

As soon as you board the ship, you will see that they have all these liquor tasting on their itinerary and you can buy them for half the price of what you will see in our stores, (for example: 2 bottles of Crown is $35), however, you will not get these bottles until the last night of your cruise.

At port, most places will tag your bag, so that any alcohol you buy at port will be kept by the ship until the last night of your cruise, they will bring them to your room.  If for some reason, you wanted to bring it back to your room, that will not happen unless you transfer it into a water bottle or a soda bottle.

Dinner, there are multiple dinner seating times (this is only applicable to Carnival and Royal Caribbean), 5:15 being the earliest with 8:30 being the latest.  You will be assigned to a table and during your booking, you will need to pick a table of 4 or more to share, so if you wanted a private table for your family or if you are traveling with your spouse and you wanted a private table, you need to go to the Restaurant on the first night and request for a change with the Maidre D' or Hostess, this should not be a problem as they always accomodate.

Tipping:  You will be charged an automatic 15% with any drinks you buy from a bar or restaurants on the ship, so you do not need to add more if you don't want to.  Additionally, at the end of your cruise, you will be charged $12 a day automatically to your sail and sign card, unless you go the customer service desk and have this changed, you can opt to not tip with the sail and sign and give the cruise members that you thought deserved the tips most, Cash.  I typically change this day 1 as I prefer to give my room stewards and my servers cash for their hard work.

Here is Royal Caribbean Tip policy: To simplify the service recognition process, Royal Caribbean automatically adds a $12.00 USD gratuity ($14.25 USD for Suite Guests) to each guest’s SeaPass® account on a daily basis. This gratuity is shared by Dining Services Staff, Stateroom Attendants other Housekeeping Services Personnel that work to enhance your cruise. The daily automatic gratuity amounts are recommended and are based on customary industry standards.

Happy Cruising, any questions, send me a comment and I will be happy to assist you as I have gone on a dozen cruises so far.