Ports to experience on Oceania’s Far East Odyssey – April 15, 2015
Bangkok’s less visited sites and hidden treasures are highlighted on this thoroughly enjoyable tour. Travel from the pier through the city’s vibrant streets to your first stop, the amazing Vimanmek Mansion, the world’s largest golden teakwood mansion. Built as a royal residence in 1900 under the direction of King Rama V, the mansion was only used for a few years before it fell into disuse. Surrounded by peaceful gardens and numerous Thai-style pavilions, the mansion was rediscovered in the early 1980s and transformed into a museum, commemorating King Rama V and serving as a showcase of the Thai national heritage. The vast compound includes more than 20 restored structures of the old Dusit Palace, displaying everything from ancient artifacts of Thailand’s pre-history to modern-day photographs donated by the King. Following a fascinating guided tour of the mansion, you’ll re-board your coach and drive to a local restaurant where a delightful Thai cooking demonstration awaits and a delicious buffet lunch.
Your afternoon begins with a visit to Jim Thompson’s House, the residence of the legendary American adventurer, entrepreneur and art collector. A rambling collection of six traditional teak houses joined together, the house displays beautifully carved walls, stunning Thai paintings and rare Thai artifacts collected by the man who resurrected the Thai silk industry. Before returning to the pier, a stop is made so that you can take time to shop for local souvenirs, including silk, jewelry and Thai handicrafts.
Explore Singapore’s colorful past and exciting present as you tour the city’s diverse landmarks. Singapore’s name comes from the Sanskrit term Singa Pura, or Lion City, and its intricate heritage is a mix of traditional Chinese, Malay, Hindu and British cultures that established themselves on this tiny island nation. Your orientation of the city begins with a drive through the Colonial Heart of Singapore to the Padang, the island’s premier grounds for sporting events and get-togethers. From the Padang see the Cricket Club, Parliament House, Supreme Court and City Hall. Walk along the enchanting Esplanade, lined with futuristic skyscrapers, chic restaurants and boutiques. Make a photo stop at the Merlion statue, the distinctive symbol of Singapore, with a lion’s head and body of a fish resting on a crest of waves.
Continuing on the tour will be a photo stop at The Legendry Raffles Hotel.
The next stop is Chinatown, a lively blend of tiny shops, pagodas and street vendors. See the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, located in the heart of Chinatown, the magnificently lavish Sri Mariamman Temple with its profusion of carved deities, colorful frescoes and bell-decked doors. Drive to Mount Faber for a panoramic view of the harbor and Sentosa Island, before stopping at a local handicraft center. The tour continues to the National Orchid Garden located within the beautiful Botanic Gardens, with over 20,000 orchid plants on display. After strolling through the elegantly laid out flowerbeds, return to the ship.
This full-day tour takes you to one of the most unique and inspiring spots on earth, Phang Nga Bay. Considered by many a must see sight, there are very few places in the world with a landscape like Phang Nga. Begin your day with a drive to the island’s north end and then cross to the Thai mainland via the Thep Krasettree Causeway. Following a brief stop at a rubber tree plantation, drive to Phang Nga National Park where you board a motorboat and begin your unforgettable cruise through the spectacular and seductive limestone scenery. Established in 1981, the park lies in the sheltered pale, milky-green waters northeast of Phuket Island, and is the location of more than 80 awe-inspiring islands. These unique karst formations were created when a collision of great magnitude occurred over 300 million years ago, between the Indian subcontinent and mainland Asia. The force of the tectonic plates pushed and rotated what is now Thailand and Malaysia, forcing the limestone above the surface. The resulting karst formations appear like fairy castles out of the sea, all different shapes and sizes. Vegetation on the karsts has evolved to withstand long periods of dryness and an almost complete lack of soil. See spectacular flora hanging off the vertical rock faces and cascading down the cliffs, including palm trees, bamboo, ferns and wild orchids. During your cruise enjoy a photo opportunity at the small island of Kao Ping-Gan, where part of the James Bond adventure, The Man with the Golden Gun, was filmed.
Visit Koh Panyee, a small island with a picturesque village extending out across the water, resting precariously on small pilings. It is inhabited chiefly by Muslim fishermen who originally migrated from Indonesia. Cut off from the mainland and most modern amenities, their unique culture has existed for more than a hundred years. After cruising through magnificent mangrove forests and small grottoes, your boat stops at the local resort. Following lunch, drive back to Phuket Town and the ship.
Explore the beauty, history and religion of Southeast Asia during this memorable full-day orientation tour of Bago, the ancient Mon Capital.
Depart the pier via coach with your guide for the 2-hour drive from Yangon to Bago. Along the way, you will see the huge WWII Cemetery containing the graves of 27,000 Allied soldiers who died in the Burma and Assam campaigns of WWII. A visit will then be made to the morning market at Htaukkyant to observe the local way of life before continuing on to Bago, located on the eastern bank of the Bago River in Lower Myanmar. Bago was founded in 825 A.D. by Mons who migrated from China. King Binya U established his palace in Bago in the 14th century, and it became the ancient capital city of the Mon Kingdom in the 15th century, when it was known as Pegu.
Upon arrival in Bago, you will begin your orientation tour with a visit to the Kyakhatwaing Monastery, the largest monastery in Lower Myanmar, and one of the three-largest monasteries in the country. You will learn about the monks that reside there, along with their lifestyle and Buddhist studies, which often last from morning through evening. Their dedication to Buddhism and discipline can be observed during their taking the food, learning scripture and residing according to Buddhist law. Next, you will continue on for a visit to the 1,000-year-old Shwemawdaw Pagoda, where the Buddha hair relics are enshrined. Originally built to a height of 403 feet, the Shwemawdaw Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in Myanmar, and even taller than the Great Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.
Next, a stop will be made to enjoy an Asian set-menu lunch at Hantharwaddy Restaurant before proceeding to the Hinthagone Pagoda, home of panoramic views of Bago. During your visit, you will enjoy a spirited dance presentation, if available. From there, you will drive on to the Shwethalyaung Reclining Buddha Image. A masterpiece of perfection in symmetry, the Reclining Buddha measures 180 feet long, 52 feet high and rests on a 5-foot plinth made of brick.
Before heading back to Yangon, a visit is made to a typical Mon village where you can view hand weaving and cigar rolling demonstrations. On the drive back to Yangon, a brief photo stop will be made at the 15th-century Kyaikpun Pagoda, which features 4 gigantic Buddha images sitting back against a massive stone pillar. Upon arriving in Yangon, you will return to the pier and your awaiting ship.
Explore the tranquil waters and byways of Kerala, with its palm fringed backwaters on this full day excursion.
The backwaters act as a vital waterway for the transportation of goods, people and their produce, often the only link between isolated villages and crowded towns. In Kerala, one of the most beautiful states in India and known as “God’s Own Country,” the total expanse of backwater stretches from north to south over 900 miles, with a network of 44 rivers, lagoons and lakes.
This morning, drive to the village of Alleppey, surrounded by coconut plantations and famous for its narrow maze of canals and backwaters. A place of immense natural beauty, Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha, is referred to as the Venice of the East. After a brief comfort stop at a local resort, board motor launches for a leisurely boat ride past coconut thatched houses and old colonial warehouses, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Catch a glimpse into the lives of local families living along the banks of the canals as they go about their daily household chores. The well-known Vallamkali, Snake Boat Festival, originated here.
Following the cruise, we arrive at the Lake Palace Resort or Punnamada Resort for lunch for delicious Kerala delicacies.
After lunch, depart for Fort Cochin with an overview of the Chinese Fishing nets before returning to the pier
Experience Mumbai, the “City of Dreams” at her colorful and exotic best on this full day excursion. Mumbai is known for its striking contrasts, where within a street or two, you will find modern skyscrapers, ornate Victorian buildings, and bustling bazaars.
Departing the pier, travel along Marine Drive, built on land reclaimed from the Back Bay and fronting the Arabian coast. Because of its curved route and many street lights, it was once called the Queen’s Necklace. At the end of Marine Drive and located on the east slope of posh Malabar hill is our first stop, an original shrine of the city, built in about 1780 and enlarged in the 1830’s. Dedicated to the god Shiva, preserver, destroyer and most powerful in the hindu trinity, the temple known as Babulnath is especially popular with the original settlers and is thronged by devotees every Monday and during auspicious occasions.
You’ll delve further into the city’s old sections in the quiet enclave of Khotachiwadi, an original settlement of charming vernacular style houses of 19th century architecture that has survived the onslaught of real estate development. Take a walk down the unique streetscape of this heritage precinct with its beautifully painted buttercup yellow, red and green cottages belonging to the East Indian community who settled in this area in the early 1800’s.
James Ferreira, renowned fashion designer invites us to his 150 year old mansion. It has charming and romantic small courtyards and terraces which take you away into the past. Everything from an antique beautiful kitchen clock to a four-poster colonial diwan with a canopy procured from an old church, to multicolored temple lights make the home a visual delight. Festivals and weddings are reasons for much celebration. During our visit, a few traditions will be showcased such as the sari tying and rangoli making, which is used to decorate the entrances and courtyards of Indian homes. Enjoy a refreshment of tea and freshly prepared local savories before leaving.
Your next stop is at the Churchgate Railway Terminus where you’ll meet the `Dabbawallahs’ of Bombay, members of the Bombay Union of Tiffin Box Carriers. As sole invitees from India for Prince Charles’ wedding, they were described by the royals as “the symbol of this enigmatic and intriguing city. One of Bombay’s unique facets, extensively investigated from the Harvard Business School to French Television and Documentaries.” Each morning, around four thousand dabbawallahs call on suburban housewives who pack a freshly cooked lunch into small circular aluminum or stainless steel containers – `dabbas’. Typically, each dabbawallah collects 30-40 boxes, ranges them out on long poles, bicycle handlebars or decorated handcarts to the nearest railway station. Here, he hands them over to a fellow dabbawallah who then transports them into the city for delivery to the consumer. Over a hundred thousand lunches of maybe sabze (vegetable curry), chapattis (Indian bread), dal (lentils) and pickle, make their way daily across town to the breadwinner and back again. The service which costs a few rupees a week, is a good example of the fine division of labor in India, reliable and efficient, for the dabbawallahs pride themselves on never losing a lunch box.
Re-board your bus at Eros Cinema Hall, the city’s first Art Deco theater, and then drive past classic Gothic constructions in the High Court, Bombay University, the Institute of Science, Prince of Wales and the Modern Art Museum. Lunch will be waiting for you at the landmark Khyber restaurant, situated in the art district of Kala Ghoda and famous for its north-west frontier cuisine (tribal areas between India and Pakistan) and barbeques.
Following lunch, you’ll travel to Crawford Market, named after Bombay’s first municipal commissioner, Arthur Crawford. Poised between what was once the British fort and the local town, the building has elements of both. Its façade features a blend of Flemish and Norman architecture, with a bas-relief above its main entrance depicting Indian peasants in wheat fields. Lockyard Kipling, father of Rudyard Kipling, designed the freize and the Kipling cottage still stands in the market to this day. The scene here resembles one from Victorian London, with its sweet smell of hay and 50 ft. high sky-lit awning that bathes the entire venue in natural sunlight. As Mumbai’s main wholesale market, you find mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables amongst a wide variety of items for sale here.
Your exploration of the old city culminates at the Albert Museum in Byculla, also known as the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum which showcases the industrial arts and life in 19th century Bombay. Recipient of the prestigious UNESCO award of Excellence for Conservation, you’ll see the story of origin and development in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century, tracing its evolution from a swampy group of islands known as Heptanesia during Roman times, to its importance as Urbs Prima in Indis.
Experience the scenic beauty, diverse terrain and ancient history of Salalah during this orientation tour of the Garden City, and its surrounding areas.
Depart the pier for the drive to East Salalah to see the contrast between the lush vegetation of the Garden City and the surrounding desert landscape. Your tour begins with a visit to Taqa. Camels may be seen roaming along the roadside on the approach to this old fishing village. Upon arrival in Taqa, you will visit an interesting fort and view typical houses belonging to the local fishermen. The elegant white stones used in the construction of Taqa’s homes are heat-resistant, and can be found nearby.
Next, you will continue on to Khor Rouri Creek, site of the city ruins of Samhuram, ancient capital of Arabia’s exotic frankincense trade. Excavations at the site have produced evidence of an ancient city with trade links by sea to Far Eastern destinations, and even distant Greece. From here, a photo stop will be made at the tomb of Prophet Mohammed Bin Ali, who died in 1135 AD. Both the twin-domed structure and tomb are fine examples of medieval architecture.
On this full-day excursion, take the opportunity to explore both Petra, the ancient Nabataean caravan-city ideally situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum, a nature lover’s paradise.
Begin with a scenic drive to Petra, an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Camel caravans passed through, loaded with spices, textiles and incense from distant regions, and through such commerce, the city of Petra flourished, until a massive earthquake in 363AD left the freestanding structures of Petra in ruins. The remnants of Petra were an object of curiosity during the Middle Ages, and the first European to describe them was Johann Burckhardt in 1812.
Upon arrival at the Visitor’s Center, you will walk to the impressive entrance to Petra, a stunning narrow gorge called the Siq (the shaft), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks. After walking through the Siq, see Petra’s most elaborate ruin and fabled achievement, El Khazneh, the Treasury, hewn directly out of the red sandstone cliff. Enjoy time to explore the Treasury and the Outer Siq, leading to immense tombs, and facades and doorways cut in the steep passage walls.
Following your time at the ruins, retrace your steps through the Siq, past the Obelisk Tomb, to a local hotel. Following a sumptuous buffet lunch at the hotel, re-board your motorcoach for the drive to Wadi Rum, then explore using 4×4 vehicles that will take you into the heart of the desert. Acclaimed by many as one of the most stunning desert landscapes in the world, Wadi Rum is spectacular in its natural beauty.
Arriving in Rum, you’ll transfer to your off-road vehicles and begin your journey through the starkly beautiful Wadi Rum, with its sheer granite, sandstone cliffs, and uniquely shaped mountains that rise dramatically out of the sand. The magnificent scenery, including the towering cliffs of weathered stone, ancient riverbeds and mauve-colored stretches of sand will amaze you, as you drive through the desert with your local guide en route to a Bedouin camp. Upon arrival, indulge in a sumptious buffet dinner served under Bedouin tents. Following dinner, transfer back to your buses in the 4×4 vehicles, then re-board your motorcoach for the return drive to Aqaba.
Your tour begins with a beautiful scenic drive from Haifa into the Judean Hills. As you ascend into these hauntingly stark hills, your coach will be traveling along the same route used for centuries to reach Jerusalem. The capital of Israel, Jerusalem is famous for its timeless beauty and was once considered the center of the world. As you navigate your way through this amazing city, you will pass some of Israel’s most notable landmarks, such as the Hebrew University, home to 2005 Nobel Prize winner Professor Emeritus Robert J. Aumann, the Israel Museum, the Shrine of the Book, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) and the State Supreme High Court. After an interesting overview of the city, you’ll proceed toward the Mount of Olives where time will be allowed to take photos from this highly favorable vantage point that provides an unparalleled and breathtaking panorama of the walled Old City. Near the base of the Mount, you will find the picturesque Gardens of Gethsemane, site of an ancient olive oil press yard that is surrounded by 1,000-year-old trees. Here you can also see the impressive Church of All Nations.
Following an unforgettable morning, you will be treated to a relaxing lunch at a local hotel before it’s time to continue your exploration of this fascinating destination with a walking tour of the historical Old City. Entering via the Jaffa Gate, your walk will take you past some of the most sacred sites in religious history. As you make your way along a route that flanks the colorful bazaar, you’ll observe the Christian Quarter, which rests beside a part of the famous Via Dolorosa, believed by many to be the route Jesus followed as he carried his cross to Calvary. Amongst the sites you will view is the golden-topped Dome of the Rock. With its stunning blue and gold ceramic tiles, this amazing shrine is considered the third holiest site in Islam. You will also view the famous Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world because it is believed to have been closest to where the Holy Ark once stood. A visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is also included. Perched on the hill known as Golgotha, the Church marks the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Rejoining your coach, you’ll leave the city behind and make your way through the Judean Hills to the edge of the desert, where the legendary town of Bethlehem is found. Your time here includes a visit to Manger Square and the renowned Church of the Nativity. This extraordinary church is built over a grotto that is believed to be the location of Jesus’ birth. Due to time constraints and very long lines to enter the actual grotto, doing so is usually not a possibility. After what will no doubt be a highly memorable visit, you’ll re-board your coach and enjoy a leisurely drive back to the ship.
Discover two of Turkey’s hidden treasures on this half-day tour that showcases the ancient cities of Side and Aspendos.
Leaving from the pier, it’s a 1-hour drive to Side, a stunningly seaside village where Marc Antony and Cleopatra played out one scene in their romantic saga. Side, meaning pomegranate in a long-lost local language, was an important seaport at the beginning of the first Millennium.
Upon arrival, you will walk through broad colonnaded streets lined by ancient buildings and then to a central agora, where pirates once unloaded and sold their cargo. Passing through the agora, you can admire Side’s 15,000-person theater which was built in the 2nd century AD. This theater, once home to legendary gladiatorial bouts, was converted into a massive open-air church in the 5th century. Three temples lie on the fringes of the theater, one of Dionysus, the god of wine, and two others dedicated to Apollo and to Artemis. Also included in your tour of Side is a visit to the Archaeological Museum.
Side’s blossoming period was long ago, between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, when the city prospered due to good relations with the Roman Empire. Earthquakes, Christian crusaders, and Arab raiders all took their toll on the city and sadly, it was completely abandoned by the 10th century, left to be buried by the sands. Recently, Side has enjoyed a remarkable resurrection, and is home to an eclectic but tasteful blend of ancient ruins and modern beachside hotels, cafés and nightclubs.
Following your exploration of Side, you will travel to Aspendos. Founded on a hilltop near the Eurymedon River, with the splendid backdrop of the Taurus Mountains, Aspendos was a major port city during the Roman period. To date, only parts of Aspendos have been excavated, but the Roman theater here is the best-preserved of any on the Mediterranean coast, barely deserving the perhaps all-too-familiar label, ruin. The theater was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. You may remember him as the pensive, brooding, and finally strangled old Emperor in Gladiator, the movie. Or perhaps the more literary will recognize him as the author of Meditations, the very first and very depressing book in the Great Books series. The theater he had built here is dedicated to the gods of country and the imperial house, and holds over 20,000 people. As you tour this theater, it’s hard not to imagine what a show here might have been like in the time of Marcus Aurelius.
Amongst other sites you will see in Aspendos is a marvelous aqueduct that is located near the theater and which can be seen from the road. At one time, this aqueduct supplied the city with its water source.
Following your time in Aspendos, you will travel back to the pier in Alanya where your tour concludes.
Together with your Bon Appétit Culinary Center Chef, enjoy a relaxed morning with a Greek family at their restaurant – Hatzikelis, followed by a sumptuous luncheon in their garden restaurant in the heart of Old Town Rhodes. Learn how the family shops for fish and produce for today’s menu, help with some hands-on cooking and then enjoy a magnificent luncheon of authentic Greek classics and local wines amongst the splendor and grace of this magnificent ancient city.
Join your Bon Appétit Culinary Center Chef for an overview of today’s tour and luncheon. Then, leave the ship by foot for a short walk to the Old City. Your walk passes along the waterfront and through the magnificent walled archway into the heart of ancient Rhodes, ending at the Hatzikelis Taverna. Upon arrival, you will be met by the friendly and enthusiastic family and staff, your hosts for the morning and luncheon. The spacious and open Taverna sits amongst the ruins, with bougainvillea blooming as it climbs the rocky walls of the ancient city.
During your visit, your group will be treated to an ‘insiders look’ at how the restaurant sources fish and produce for their always fresh and seasonal menu. You’ll be given a glass of ‘ouzo’ as a greeting, the anise-flavored Greek liqueur, as you are treated to a tour of the family kitchen. It is likely you will see whole fish being cooked over an open flame and salads being made from scratch for today’s patrons. You will also see fish, shrimp and lobster being cleaned and hear from the cooks themselves how they select the freshest product for their recipes.
After a tour of the kitchen, you will move to a private area set-up for a cooking demonstration. There, traditional Greek classics like Tzaziki will be made, and you will have a chance to join in the making of stuffed eggplants or a Greek salad. Greek cuisine is among the freshest and healthiest known, and you will learn the secrets to the famed Mediterranean Diet which originated in Greece. Relax and sip some local wine and taste local cheeses while watching the chefs make the lobster sauce for a pasta dish you will enjoy later for lunch.
No doubt you will have worked up an appetite, so next you’ll be seated for a sumptuous lunch of Greek classics with each course served being given an explanation from the chef. The menu has been specially designed by Oceania’s Bon Appétit Culinary Center Chef along with the chefs of Hatzikelis to ensure you sample authentic Greek dishes, shared with you by a most generous and gregarious Greek family. Local Greek wine will be served with your lunch and you’ll hear about how Greece is the ‘birthplace’ of the grapevine.
Following lunch, you are free to stroll about the Old City and take in the magnificent ambience of its cobblestone streets and plazas, or you can return to the ship with your guide.
Enjoy discovering Ephesus on this special Chairman’s Choice tour, designed exclusively for Insignia’s inaugural return to the Oceania fleet.
Driving to Ephesus, you can almost feel modern civilization slipping away as you enter a world firmly rooted in the past. Ephesus is esteemed as one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, and during your walking tour, you will see the remains of its glorious Roman architecture. Behold excavated treasures such as the Odeon theater, public baths, the two-tiered Celsus Library, and the nearly 24,000-seat Grand Theater, where St. Paul once preached. Known for its wonderful acoustics, the theater is still used today for musical performances.
Before leaving the archaeological site, you will have the opportunity to visit the Terrace Houses, which were inhabited by Ephesus’ wealthiest residents. The houses are richly decorated with mosaics and frescoes and even had running water.
Next, as an added feature of your Chairman’s Choice tour, you’ll be treated to lunch at a charming fish restaurant that overlooks Kusadasi. Afterwards, return to Kusadasi, where you will have the choice of enjoying some free time to shop or sitting in on an informative carpet demonstration that shows the fine craftsmanship behind these luxurious items.
Together with your Bon Appétit Culinary Center Chef and a local culinary guide, stroll through the Spice Market with stops for tastings, visit the famous Istanbul fish market and then dine in the spectacular NAR restaurant near the Grand Bazaar.
Join your Bon Appétit Culinary Center Chef in the cooking school for a brief overview of your excursion and an introduction to Turkish cuisine. You’ll learn why the dishes of this region are amongst the most revered by chefs for the unparalleled synthesis of spices and ingredients. Making your way to the pier, you will depart by coach for your first stop at the Egyptian Market, commonly referred to as the Spice Market. Built in 1664 as part of the Yeni Cami complex, this bustling convergence of shopkeepers selling spices, caviar, scarves and basketwork is unlike anywhere else in the world. Your chef and guide will orient you to the market, where you will have free time to explore, buy spices and meet some of the chef’s favorite specialty vendors. Before re-boarding your coach, the group will gather for a stroll down one of the side streets of the Spice Market for a tasting of Turkish olives, olive oil and cheese.
Then it’s off to the fish market, open seven days a week, 9 months a year – and not to be missed when in Istanbul. The fish are fresh caught or cultured in Turkish waters, or flown in daily for the various restaurants in the city. Bluefish is a favorite and sea bass and sea bream are popular with the locals. Your chef and local guide will identify the various types of fish and you will be able to observe first -hand the sophistication that surrounds the sale of fish to a local chef or home cook.
Next, you will drive to the white-cloth tabled NAR Restaurant, a favorite of the Bon Appétit Culinary Center Chef team. You will be served traditional Turkish dishes, which will be explained as they arrive at the table. The range of dishes selected for you range from Ottoman palace dishes to the humble village fare. No doubt your experience here will result in a greater appreciation for the elegance and flavors that chefs around the world associate with Turkish cuisine. In Turkish tradition, you will enjoy hot, sweet tea with your meal – just like a local.
At the conclusion of lunch, you’ll have approximately one hour of free time to wander through the Grand Bazaar in which to shop for jewelry, a backgammon board, colorful scarves or other clothing items before rejoining your coach and transferring back to the ship.