Why a cruise is the perfect introduction to Asia

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Asia: exotic, hot, tropical, enticing.. but far. Too far for many people who only have a couple of weeks vacation time, and too big for most people to decide where to go. Where to begin? A buzzing metropole like Singapore or Bangkok? Pristine beaches? Mystic temples? Ideally, you’d want to experience a bit of everything. And that’s why I think being introduced to Asia on a cruise is a brilliant idea. It’s the easiest way to travel, you can see more than one country even on a short trip, and you don’t have to worry too much about planning a trip through a region that looks so different from our home country.

Still not convinced? Here are five reasons why a cruise is the perfect way to experience Asia:

© Studio PONANT Margo Sib

1 See a lot in little time

When I visited Asia for the first time, I had six glorious months to explore this fascinating part of the world. But I was also well aware of the fact that most people don’t have the luxury of traveling for six months – or even six weeks! So when, upon my return to the U.S., people asked me where I’d recommend they go on their own Asian adventure, I always felt a little stuck.. that’s like choosing your favorite child! I loved all of the countries I visited, and all of them for vastly different reasons. So when I noticed over the past few years that cruises around Asia were becoming more and more popular, I thought what a perfect way of traveling this was. People are able to see so much of this huge continent in a short amount of time, and get a taste of the different cultures, culinary specialties and major tourist attractions. A cruise is long enough to give you a good idea of what a place is like, and based on this first introduction, you can decide which country you’d like to see more of on a return trip.bangkok temple

2 Minimal travel planning

I traveled around Asia mainly overland, which was incredibly rewarding, but also required a lot of travel planning. Luckily travel planning is something I thoroughly enjoy, and I don’t mind spending hours researching accommodation and places to eat, reading reviews and mapping out routes. However, I know that most people find travel planning tiresome or simply don’t have the time for detailed trip planning. And it’s not just travel planning that people find tiring – it’s also the thought of moving around a lot, packing your stuff every few days to move to a new hotel. Not everyone wants to spend their vacation like that. Which is why I think a cruise is such a genius concept: you get to see several countries, but travel planning is minimal and even though you explore several cities, such a Hong Kong and Singapore, you never have to change hotels. Instead, your hotel travels with you! You only unpack once, and your cruise director and his team know where to take you on guided excursions. Speaking of which:

© Studio PONANT Morgane Monneret

3 Ease into a new region

Because Asia is so different, some travelers are apprehensive to visit this part of the world independently. On a cruise, you don’t have to worry about that too much. You still have the amenities you’re used to from a hotel in Europe or North America, you can choose to try new foods but there is also plenty of Western food available, so that you don’t have to be worried about trying new foods and possibly suffering from a stomach ache or even food poisoning. And preferring the food you are used to from back home is nothing to be ashamed of: most Chinese tourists travel to Europe with a tour group for exactly this very reason: so that they know they can still have rice and noodle soup for breakfast instead of European breakfasts.

Exploring a new region by cruise takes away the fear of language barriers, getting scammed, and having to decide which places to see. If you want to, your entire trip can be planned out for you – you simply join the land excursions that interest you, and let the cruise team do the work. And if you decide to explore a city independently, you can simply use the ship as your luxury transportation to get around Asia and focus on exploring the ports your ship docks at.

© Studio PONANT Morgane Monneret


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How to get Vietnam visa on arrival for US Citizens

As a holder of US passport you need a visa to enter Vietnam. If you are traveling to Vietnam by air, getting a Vietnam visa on arrival is the easiest and best way to you to get a valid visa.

At the moment, you may hear that there are up to 3 ways to obtain a visa to Vietnam, consisting of visa at Vietnam embassy, visa on arrival and e-visa. But as a US passport holder, only the first two ones are available for you, and as said before, the second one is best if you travel to Vietnam by air.

How to get a visa on arrival to Vietnam for US passport holders?

If you are holding a US passport and would like to get this kind of visa, you need to obtain a visa approval letter beforehand through a local travel agency to then get visa stamped upon arrival at Vietnam airport. This process is detailed in 4 simple steps as follows:

Step 1: Complete the online application form

In this step, I recommend you the form on which is simple and easy to fill out.

You need to access this link, and complete the form with just some simple information (purpose of visit, type of visa, arrival airport, arrival date, full name, nationality, gender, passport number, passport expiry date, and contact information). That’s all.

Tip for this step: Have your passport next to you while you complete the form to ensure all information you provide is correct.

Step 2: Pay the service fee

In this second step, you need to make the payment for service fee via online portals (PayPal, OnePay) with your Credit/Debit cards.

Step 3: Receive visa approval letter

You will then receive a visa approval letter stating that you are allowed to enter Vietnam within a certain period of time, and a detailed guide on how to get your visa stamped.

Step 4: Get visa stamped

When you land at the Vietnam international airport, you need to head to the Visa on Arrival / Landing Visa counter there, showing your documents and pay the fee to get your visa stamped.

This is the entire process to obtain a Vietnam visa upon arrival for US citizens. The next question is:

How long you can stay with Vietnam visa on arrival?

At the moment, US citizens have several options for the  length of their stay in Vietnam with a visa on arrival:

For Tourist visa:

  • 1 month single/multiple entry visa;
  • 3 months single/multiple entry visa;
  • 6 months multiple entry visa; and
  • 1 year multiple entry visa (maximum 90 days per each stay);

For Business visa:

  • 1 month single/multiple entry visa;
  • 3 months single/multiple entry visa;
  • 6 months multiple entry visa; and
  • 1 year multiple entry visa

Which local travel agent you should trust?

This kind of visa, despite being issued by the Vietnam Immigration Department, must be obtained through a local travel agent. Which brings up the issue which travel agent you should trust with your money? I recommend for their prompt and accurate support and timely delivery of the visa approval letter. Reading through their website and Facebook, I also found a lot of great feedback from their clients.

Now you have detailed information on how to get a visa on arrival for US passport holders. But, as I said right at beginning of my post, visa on arrival is only an option if you travel to Vietnam by air. Otherwise, you need to obtain the visa at a Vietnamese Embassy.

If you have any more questions about a Vietnam visa, feel free to ask me anything 🙂

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Hong Kong On A Shoestring

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Hong Kong is notoriously pricey, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't visit this amazing city! Today I am sharing my
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