Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) was a (for me) surprisingly bustling city. The 'Exclusively Seabourn Experience' was here...a cocktail reception on the roof of the 'Rex Hotel'. This is where journalists during the Vietnam War would stay...and drink. The ship overnites here giving you the opportunity to do a full day tour of the Mekong Delta. Impressive tour. Da Nang was the port that allowed access to the Imperial City of Hue or, of course, Da Nang. We chose to go to Hue. Very interesting, a beautiful bus ride but much of the city has been destroyed. It is still worth a visit. When I saw 'Cruising Halong Bay' on the itinerary, I thought, "so?". It's a beautiful bay with impressive rocks and islands jutting through the surface of the water. Very peaceful. Halong Bay takes about 2 hours.
Haiphong is the port nearest to Hanoi. Hanoi is the country's capital. See 'Uncle Ho' in his natural environment! A city full of history. It is about 3 hours by bus from the Haiphong port. We did have the option of taking a helicopter from Hanoi back to Haiphong. We did this and it was great fun...riding in a Russian craft, operated by a Vietnamese crew following the French aviation rules. This ride takes about 35 minutes and upon arrival at Haiphong airport, some of the Seabourn crew were on hand with champagne. My rating of the itinerary: 10/10
Food: The chef was most engaging, taking passengers on a tour of a local market in HCMC where he buys some provisions for the ship, (mostly soft shell crabs). His food was very good, but bordered on the bland side. We asked the waitstaff why the food was bland and was told that Seabourn caterers to an older clientele who don't or can't appreciate spiciness. We ordered off the menu (Steak Diane) and it was excellently prepared. The ship has two restaurants to dine in. My rating of the food: 7.5/10
Service: Superlative. Names were remembered, preferences were remembered, smiles were genuine. 6PM brought a daily roomservice order of caviar. :-) My rating of the service 10/10
Entertainment: The ship had Bernard Kalb (formerly of CBS and CNN) as a lecturer. He reported from Vietnam during the war. He was fascinating, funny, informative. General evening entertainment was average. I chalk this up to the ship being small (208 passengers) and the cruise director and the assistant cruise directors doubled as the entertainment. The band and the pianist could have phoned their part in. My rating on entertainment: 7/10
Cabin: Very nice, very comfortable. We were midship so the amount of pitching/rolling we felt was minimal. Very few of the standard cabins have balconies, and those that do have tiny balconies that were the result of a refit. The balconies are not worth the additional price IMHO. The windows are quite large on the non-balcony cabins. The minibar was kept well stocked. My rating of the cabin: 8.5/10
Tour office: Hmmm...very knowledgable on the excursions and on the region. We sometimes got he feeling that she was pushing certain things (i.e. private car tours vs. bus tours). My rating of the tour office: 9/10
Tours: All the tours were operated by very knowledgable tour guides in comfortable vehicles. Unless you really have a specific agenda/itinerary, the bus tours were just as good as the private car tours. My rating of the tours: 10/10
Ship: It has its standard amenities, (casino, library, theater, etc). The jacuzzi on the bow is a nice private area. Not too many guests ventured there. It is a small, luxury ship that handles well. Unfortunately, she's beginning to show her age, or rather, newer ships have superceded what the Spirit can offer. We travelled aboard the RSSC Mariner and, if all other things were equal, the Mariner, as a vessel, far exceeds the offerings of the Spirit. My general rating of the ship 8/10.
Overall rating: 8.5/10
I must say that this was my first time on a smaller ship. I find that I prefer larger vessels (not a mega ship!). I've been on the QE2 twice; Seabourn Sun, RSSC Mariner.