March 1 – We sailed from Bali at 10 am and had a much-appreciated day at sea after four days of touring and sightseeing.
March 2 – Surabaya, Indonesia. An excellent day of sightseeing. We were picked up by our guide and driver early in the morning and drove about 1 ½ hours to several temple complexes including Pendopo Agung Trowulan — an open air pavilion thought to be the main building of the Majaphit Palace and Tikus Temple that was used for ritual bathing and cleansing.March 3 – Semarang, Central Java Indonesia. Today was for sure, a highlight of our cruise. A visit to Borobudur — the largest Buddhist temple in the world — but getting there was an adventure in itself. The drive was almost 3 hours. The traffic was brutal. The Crystal busses had a police escort to get around the traffic, and our private car joined their motorcade. Borobudur was worth the difficult ride; the temple was absolutely mind-blowing. It reminded us of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The inscriptions and bas relief figures were exquisite. We walked up to the top of the temple, and while the steps were steep, not as bad as Angkor Wat. The whole complex lay covered in volcanic ash for nearly a millennium, until it was rediscovered in 1814. In 1973 UNESCO supervised a ten-year restoration, and today it is a World Heritage site.
March 4 – At sea.
March 5 – Ujung Padang, Indonesia. Today we enjoyed some local color. We started off visiting the colorful fish market and the harbor. The other food market was interesting as well. We then drove out to a national park and rain forest — quite beautiful — with a magnificent waterfall falling into a river, where locals were swimming and tubing. Lots of children were enjoying the park. The last stop was at Fort Rotterdam, which is now a museum. The Dutch built this bastion in the 17th century. They ruled Indonesia until 1945, when it became independent.
March 6-7 – More days at sea and total relaxation. On March 6 we the crossed of the Equator. I had never done it before on a ship and found out that there is a ceremony for first timers from King Neptune. It involves kissing a fish, being doused with make believe paint, and being thrown in the pool. It was quite hilarious, especially when the captain of the Symphony joined the rest of the guests where he had to kiss the fish, got painted from head to toe, and thrown in the pool.
March 8 – Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia. Today we enjoyed another Ensemble Experience. Our group of 12 started out with a short tour of the city, seeing the Sabah Foundation building, a stunning 30 story glass tower, several beautiful mosques and other landmarks. Then we drove to the Hari Mari Cultural Village, where we saw various Borneo ethnic groups demonstrating weaving, cooking, fire making etc. Delightfully interesting. We then went back to Kota Kinabalu and enjoyed a terrific Chinese lunch before returning to the ship.
March 9 – Bandar Seri Begawan, the Sultinate of Brunei, Borneo. We took a full-day excursion with Crystal today. Brunei is a very wealthy sovereign state, made wealthy by a great deal of off-shore oil. It is ruled by a sultan. We did a city tour passing the sultan’s palace, and saw several mosques. We visited a state museum, which was almost a palace in itself. Lots of carriages and armaments etc. and quite impressive. We went to a magnificent hotel for lunch. After lunch we passed the most exclusive private club in Brunei which included polo fields etc. before going back to the ship.
March 10 – At sea.
March 11 – Singapore. We took the shuttle provided by Crystal to a very upscale shopping mall. For us, the highlight of the day was being able to visit the Crystal Serenity, which was docked right next to the Symphony.
Singapore is a very strict country with many rules and regulations. It was the only country we visited that required us to carry passports whenever we went ashore. It became a joke to see the Serenity that day. We disembarked the Symphony, went through passport control and then customs, where they x-rayed everything. Then we walked across the terminal and went through passport control again and customs again before arriving at the Serenity. We met up with several old friends who were sailing on the Serenity and visited their cabins and public rooms before returning to the Symphony to pack. Our 2 am flight the following morning took us from Singapore to Tokyo and back to New York.