Having been on our first cruise earlier in the year I never thought we would be taking another so soon especially as the first one had ended in tragic circumstances and although enjoyable had failed to deliver in so many expectations.
It all happened so quickly. We had some junk mail delivered, the stuff that always ends up in the recycle bin, only for some reason this particular leaflet didn't. For the first time ever, the junk had me hooked. Eight pages of cruise offers but two were standouts. Both were on the same ship, The Great Wall of China with Hong Kong and Beijing or the alternative Hong Kong to Singapore with an add on stay in Thailand. They didn't seem too expensive and would be much cheaper with only one air fare to and from to consider, why not combine the two in to one big cruise ? A phone enquiry turned in to a firm booking as I was told that the inside cabins I was interested in were all sold on the second leg. In a panic and before they all went I booked on the spot for both legs which was possibly a mistake , all would be revealed in time
Booking directly with the cruise company rather than a tour company gives you more flexibility. OK, there were some benefits such as the airport to ship transfers being arranged for you but to be honest it's not that difficult to arrange your own and in some places beneficial. You also have the flexibility of how long and where to stay at either end of your cruise.
Anyway, it was too late as we had paid the 33% deposit on the spot and were now committed.
Repent in leisure as they say. Maybe , maybe not. The cruise certainly had some really exiting ports of call but I soon found out that the reality was we would be docking several hours journey away from places like Bangkok and Ho Chi Min City. Getting about might be expensive so instead hopefully there might be some local alternatives. The official ship's tours can be very expensive and a big consideration on cruises are all the hidden costs... added tips, drinks and in this case VISA's for both China and Vietnam. Even the simplest of things can cost ! We were due to visit 7 different countries and would need different currencies. How much would you need to spend on a day trip. You didn't want to underestimate the amount but there again you probably wouldn't bother changing a few surplus notes back again either.
In addition to the financial quandaries you have the variety of weather from potential sub zero in China to melting point in Singapore to consider. What clothes do you take ? Another added complication would be "formal evenings". OK you can drop out of the latter but it's something the ladies particularly like doing because for once wife Claire get's the opportunity to dress up.
Oh and then there's the wildlife.
Was this cruise going to tick the boxes for me ? In honesty probably not for much of the time but our holidays are not just for me and I have had more than my fair share of putting my needs first.
I decided that I would not get too many opportunities, our ports of call were largely urban. I decided that I couldn't justify taking my 500mm f4 lens as it was too big and bulky and took up too much hand luggage space for the limited time I would use it. Instead I packed a 300mm f2.8 which with a 2.0x teleconverter made a 600mm lens and that was as good as lots of people have at the best of times, however using a full frame camera I knew there were times it would come up short. So be it.
There would be new photo challenges, landscapes, nightscapes, portraits to play about with.
My two hand baggage camera bags still pushed the allowance to the limit when they carried a 24-105mmf4, 70-200mmf2.8, 85mm f1.8, 2.0x and 1.4x Tc's, 300mm f2.8 plus a Canon 5D3 and 1DX. Then there were two computer tablets, plugs and leads, paperwork and passports. Enough to give anyone a bad back but you have to be prepared !
Beijing here we come !