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Setting sail from Shanghai
Shanghai has long been China's most outward-looking, cosmopolitan city, as evidenced by the fascinating mixture of European and Oriental architecture. The Bund, a riverfront promenade flanked by grand colonial era buildings, is the city's most famous thoroughfare, while the Pudong financial district lights up the city skyline at night with its futuristic towers. Shanghai's restaurant scene is thriving like never before, with a number of Michelin-starred chefs setting up shop here, while Nanjing Road is the place to head for a spot of retail therapy, with its shiny shopping malls and luxury boutiques.
Walking along the Bund as the sun rises, watching the locals practise Tai Chi. Magic.
Three days after Hiroshima was flattened by an atomic bomb, Nagasaki suffered the same horrifying fate. The reconstruction of both cities has been quite extraordinary; Nagasaki today is a vibrant, cosmopolitan place, with a fascinating history that goes back a lot further than 1945.
Naha is the capital of Okinawa prefecture, a subtropical region of southern Japan with its own distinct culture. The city is a bustling commercial centre despite being flattened during the Second World War, and the architectural highlight is the elegant Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Japan: Ishigaki Island
Ishigaki is the most developed of the Yaeyama islands, an idyllic tropical archipelago located closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan. The offshore coral reefs make this a popular spot for diving and snorkelling, while the jungle interior offers some great hiking opportunities.
Taiwan: Keelung (Taipei)
Keelung is a fairly unremarkable port city close to Taiwan’s capital, Taipei. The city is best known for its night market, where a mouthwatering array of food is on offer in an atmospheric setting. Otherwise, you are best off heading for Taipei if you want to prolong your stay on the island.
Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and one of the world’s largest container ports, situated on the south west coast of the island. Formerly a rather grim industrial centre, the city has been transformed in recent years, with new parks, cafés, galleries and museums popping up all over the place.
Manila is a sprawling, chaotic conglomeration of soaring skyscrapers, faded colonial facades and ramshackle slums, and it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you have the stamina and an inquisitive nature, there is plenty to be enjoyed in the Philippines’ boisterous capital.
Hong Kong SAR China: Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a striking mix of ancient and modern, Chinese and British, and there is a lot more to the city than just skyscrapers and high finance. Its also a fantastic destination for foodies, a melting pot of culinary influences from around Asia and beyond.
Vietnam: Ha Long Bay
Almost 2,000 limestone islands and karst formations are scattered across the remarkable World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay, said to have been created when a dragon fell to earth. A cruise on a small junk boat is the best way to see the many islands and caves, and it's also a great place to explore by sea kayak.
Vietnam: Da Nang
Da Nang is the largest city in central Vietnam, and was the site of a major US airbase during the Vietnam War. The main point of interest in the city itself is the excellent Cham Museum, while nearby attractions include Hoi An, the Marble Mountains and the imperial citadel of Hue.
Vietnam: Nha Trang
Nha Trang is Vietnam’s premier beach destination, on a stunning bay dotted with idyllic islands. The main attraction is the laid back seaside atmosphere, but there are also a few noteworthy cultural sites, including the ancient Po Nagar Cham Towers, which were built between the 7th and 12th centuries.
Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City
Saigon, as it was known then, was the capital of the South during the Vietnam War, and American-style capitalism has been embraced more enthusiastically here than in the North, with a clutch of shining skyscrapers standing as testament to Vietnam’s surging economic growth.
The once sleepy backwater of Kompong Som, renamed after the former king Norodom Sihanouk, is the rising star of the Cambodian coast’s burgeoning tourist industry. Here you’ll find beautiful sandy beaches and a string of laid back islands that are still largely undeveloped.
Thailand: Bangkok (Laem Chabang)
Thailand’s sprawling capital is an assault on the senses, an invigorating blend of tradition and modernity. Soaring skyscrapers, air-conditioned shopping malls and an efficient public transport system combine with shimmering golden temples, ancient palaces, floating markets and at times gridlocked rush hour traffic.
Thailand: Koh Samui
Attracting everyone from budget backpackers to ostentatious oligarchs, Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most popular islands. It’s no surprise, given the truly stunning beaches, but the more developed areas such as Chaweng have lost a lot of their charm, so head for the quieter south and west if you can.
Arriving in Singapore
Singapore is one of the world's richest cities, with a standard of living to match, and in recent years it has moved on from its image as a sterile, overly officious nanny state to become one of the most dynamic and exciting cities in the region. Singapore's heritage as an important trading post means that there is a real cultural mix, with four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Step away from the gleaming towers and you'll find yourself transported into another world amongst the intoxicating streets of Chinatown and Little India.
Food is a passion, almost a religion, in Singapore. So plan ahead, ask the locals and make sure you don’t miss out – street food or super-fancy, either is great.
Your home from home
The lovely sisters Volendam and Zaandam, carrying just over 1,400 guests each, are the perfect size to combine intimacy with extensive facilities, and a great onboard experience with a comfortable ride.
What we love
The Holland America hallmark décor is distinctive and memorable, with a huge collection of art and sculptures as a backdrop to the stylish public areas. Volendam and Veendam have distinctive themes in play - a floral garden focus for Volendam, and great world music through the ages on Veendam.
|Crew||615 International Staff|
These intimate ships are perfect for meeting new people, so the atmosphere is elegant but friendly, with lots to do and plenty of choice.
|Year Built||1996 (Volendam) / 2000 (Zaandam)|
|Last Refurbished||2014 (Volendam) / 2013 (Zaandam)|
|Tonnage||61,214 grt (Volendam) / 61,396 (Zaandam)|
|Cruising Speed||23 knots|
Tailor-make your trip
Where to stay in Shanghai
So many fabulous hotels to choose from, but we would go for the Peninsula on the Bund.
Another side to Shanghai
Wander the Yuyuan Gardens with its serene fish ponds, pretty pagodas and enjoy a rest from the crowds at the Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse, reached by a zigzag causeway designed to stop evil spirits.
Our favourite hotel in Singapore
So many wonderful hotels. We like a lot of them, but our choice is the Fullerton.
Leave Singapore in style
If you’ve got time and the dates work, take the Eastern and Oriental Express train to Bangkok.