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  • Writer's pictureRJ

Travel Tips for a Hong Kong to Singapore Cruise

Updated: Jun 20

Visiting Southeast Asia is a very different experience from most vacation travel. Not only are you physically on the other side of the world from the USA but you get to experience a variety of different cultures, people and foods as you travel.


In my opinion, one of the best ways to see Southeast Asia is on a luxury cruise ship, like Celebrity Cruises. The ease of travel by cruise is a no brainer, especially when getting around such a large land mass as Asia would not only be expensive, but exhausting if we tried to plan it all on our own.


Instead, we booked 12 days on the Celebrity Solstice from Hong Kong to Singapore with stops in Vietnam and Thailand, and opted in to port tours every day.


But, as we talked to other guests on the cruise we realized there was a lot of planning work up front that most travelers don't consider before traveling to Asia.


Below I've rounded up some of the FAQ's that keep coming up when I talk to people about my Hong Kong to Singapore cruise.


Note: Always Pack Tissues represents many tried and tested travel sites as what is called an 'affiliate' partner. That means if you click on my ads I may get a commission from a resulting sale.




Tips for Booking a Hong Kong to Singapore Cruise


Look for Cruise Deals



Consider your embarkation and disembarkation ports. Where will you stay? How will you get around? How expensive is the airfare? Remember you will have to book one way airfare to Hong Kong and FROM Singapore, so planning this part will be the most difficult.


If you need help planning and booking the cheapest airfare, check out my Google Flights guide.



Book Your Shore Excursions

Consider the ports in between, consider the ship going out, and all of the shore excursions. That's the fun part! But next, below, there are some vital things to add to your to do list and considerations for planning.


When booking shore excursions, keep in mind that the ship can't park downtown and usually docks a 2 hours drive away.  The traffic in Asia is the second worst in the world. By the time you get to where you are going, its time to leave. Except for Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, you can't get off the ship and walk to anything. Most ports are commercial container stops and there is nothing outside the ship. Check the website "What's in Port" to verify if walking is possible.


Avoid Disappointment

If you plan on visiting Hanoi or Bangkok, consider booking private travel to and from the cities or finding an activity closer to port, outside of the main areas.  


A one day shore excursion from the ship to these places will mostly be spent on a bus stuck in traffic and can be a very expensive disappointment if you hoped to see more during the day.


This tip is especially good to remember in any city that doesn't have the main attractions within an hour of port.




Avoid Travel Burnout


Don't under estimate the jet lag.

Allow space in your schedule to adjust to the time zone difference or you'll be dragging around the first 5 days of your cruise. Asia is approximately 12 time zones different from the US and really hard on the body to adjust eating and sleeping.


In other words, don't plan much for your first couple of days.


Plan a stopover halfway to Asia.

The flight from the USA to Hong Kong can be 20 hours or more depending on the direction you travel. We stopped in Istanbul, Turkey for two days on the way to Hong Kong to meet the ship. Other people on the cruise stopped in Korea and Hawaii to partially adjust. Whatever makes sense for your corner of the world, a stopover is a great way to slowly make the adjustment to the new time zone.


boats line a harbor in Istanbul




Tips for Embarking in Hong Kong


Currency in Hong Kong

Bring Hong Kong Dollars. Taxis only take cash and only Hong Kong Dollars. Most hotels and restaurants take credit cards but not always American Express, so use VISA or cash.



Do I Need a Visa to Visit Hong Kong?

If you are an American citizen, you will not need a visa to enter Hong Kong for a few days to catch your cruise ship. But always check with the Dept of State at least two months in advance for the latest visa requirements before embarking on your trip.


How Long Should I Plan in Hong Kong Before My Cruise?

Plan on at least two or three days in Hong Kong before you get on the ship. This will give you a chance to adjust to the local time and be ready to enjoy the cruise ship from day one. If you have never been to Hong Kong, book some tours to fully enjoy the city as a tourist.




What's the Best Place to Stay in Hong Kong Before My Cruise?

Stay in Kowloon instead of Hong Kong Island. There are many beautiful 4 and 5 star hotels all around Hong Kong but Kowloon has the vibrant energy, street markets and international restaurants that make your stay come alive. The cruise pier is also on the Kowloon side for a shorter taxi ride.


We stayed at the Conrad Hilton on Hong Kong Island. A beautiful hotel with a western style shopping mall attached. However, we ended up in Kowloon by taking the Metro for shopping and food.


busy shopping street in Asia

Can I Drink the Tap Water in Hong Kong?

I would not drink the tap water anywhere in Asia. The major hotels probably filter the tap water but why take a chance. Our beverage of choice was ice cold local beer which was available everywhere and cheap.


Anything Else I Should Know For Hong Kong?

Eat in the local restaurants. Don't be shy. This is why you came to Asia. There is a wide variety of international cuisines to be found but Korean BBQ seems to be a favorite in Kowloon.


Tips for Vietnam Cruise Ports


Currency in Vietnam

Bring new and crisp US $1 Dollar bills for Vietnam.  You don't need their local currency. Pay in dollars or use VISA in shops and restaurants. If the bill looks worn or torn, they won't accept it. I brought a stack of 100 new $1 bills and used them all.


Do I Need a Visa to Visit Vietnam Ports?

Yes, you will need a visa to enter Vietnam. You can get it before you leave home on the internet for $25. Vietnam has an electronic Visa (Evisa) web site that is easy to use. It takes about three days to get the visa back once you pay. Each person needs their own visa.


Can I Drink the Tap Water in Vietnam?

No. Not a good idea. The one time I had ice from a street cart was the quickest emergency run to the bathroom that I've ever experienced. Just take my advice and nix the water or ice.


Anything Else I Should Know For Vietnam Ports?

Keep in mind that Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are a good two hours away by tour bus each way. Consider staying overnight at a hotel. (To which you may be now thinking, what? I'm on a cruise!). Because these ports are so epic, the ship often docks for two nights. There is an opportunity for you to book a hotel, although I'm not sure on the logistics with the ship.


Do most of your shopping in Vietnam. In Hoi An, the merchandise is good and cheap. You can find many knock off us products or get some clothes custom made. Everything is up for negotiation. Start at about half of less than what they want. Don't be afraid to walk away from the deal. They usually will drop they price to what you last said.


lanterns hang from shop window on a shaded street


Also, like in Hong Kong you must eat in the local restaurants! Vietnamese cuisine has some of the freshest ingredients and different foods to enjoy. Try the Spring Rolls or Pho (soup).


yellow facade of a Vietnamese restaurant

Or, get a foot massage in Vietnam. It cost less than $8 for 60 minutes and is very thorough!


two women give foot massages


Tips for Thailand Cruise Ports


Currency in Thailand

You will need Thai currency in Thailand. They don't take US dollars but some do take VISA credit cards in restaurants.


Do I Need a Visa to Visit Thailand?

You do not need a visa to visit Thailand if you are an American citizen and only staying a short time for your cruise.


Can I Drink the Tap Water in Thailand?

Never, Never, Never. It will turn your innards into black goo within hours. Drink the beer.





Anything Else I Should Know For Thailand Ports?

Thailand traffic is horrible. Expect to sit in traffic for hours on any shore excursions. If you booked a private tour, don't miss the boat. The ship will leave you if you are not back on time.


Similar to Vietnam, massages are very inexpensive in Thailand. I suggest getting a full Thai body massage. Very relaxing and cheap, less than $10 for 60 minutes.




Tips for Disembarking in Singapore


famous Singapore waterfall in airport

Currency in Singapore

You'll need Singapore Dollars.  Credit cards are widely accepted but not US dollars. Hotels and food costs are compatible prices with what you find in the US.


Do I Need a Visa to Visit Singapore?

No visa required.


Can I Drink the Tap Water in Singapore?

I didn't. But of all the countries in Asia, you stand the best chance for clean tap water in Singapore.


How Long Should I Plan in Singapore After My Cruise?

Singapore is an incredible experience.  Plan on staying at least two or three days to explore the city. Visit Chinatown, Little India, Arab Street and Universal Studios.


On the way out the Changi Airport is a modern marvel in itself. It has a complete shopping mall attached to the terminal with the world's largest indoor waterfall. You'll probably have plenty of time to kill, so consider getting a Priority Pass access to the lounges.


What's the Best Place to Stay in Singapore After My Cruise?

There are many great hotels in Singapore. Pick a hotel that meets your price range. We stayed at a Marriott near Chinatown. The Metro called MRT can take you places quickly for about $1 a ride. It's safe, clean and efficient.





Plan each of your stops carefully in Southeast Asia. You'll be able to get the most of your time in each port. There is a lot to see and do but don't forget to enjoy the cruise ship along the way.



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