DAY 1-Los Angeles, U.S.
Depart Los Angeles and cross the International Date Line.
(Some flights may depart Los Angeles the evening of October 17.)
DAY 2-Hong Kong, China
Arrive in Hong Kong, formerly a crown colony, returned to China in 1997 and today a dazzling island of skyscrapers pulsing with life and the fascinating convergence of British and Chinese cultures from Deepwater Bay to Stanley Market. Enjoy some free time in this bustling metropolis before embarking the M.S. L’Austral.
Be on deck for the spectacular sail away in Hong Kong Harbor this evening. (D)
DAY 3-Cruising the South China Sea
Spend the day cruising, with opportunities to attend educational lectures. Join the Captain this evening for the Welcome Reception. (B,L,R,D)
DAY 4-Haiphong, Vietnam, for Hanoi
From Haiphong, travel by way of scenic roads through lush mountains and intricately designed and manicured rice paddies to Hanoi. The historic charm of this capital city resides in its shaded boulevards and bucolic public parks, while the city center is a marvelous time capsule of 1930s French-colonial architecture. Along the shores of the peaceful Hoan Kiem Lake, residents can still be seen performing traditional Tai Chi exercises. Visit the Temple of Literature, founded in A.D. 1070 and which educated scholars in Confucianism for more than 400 years, and see a testament to more recent history, Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. After lunch in a restaurant, visit Hoa Loa Prison, the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” where captured pilots were held during the Vietnam War. In the bustling 36 Streets District, stroll the 15th-century lanes, which carry the names of traditional handcrafts practiced here, such as “Silk Weaving Street.” (B,L,D)
DAY 5-Ha Long Bay/Gulf of Tonkin
Board a traditional junk and cruise Ha Long Bay, the mist-shrouded “Bay of the Descending Dragon,” one of Vietnam’s most extraordinary natural features and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Amid over 3000 chalk and limestone islands, wooden-hulled Vietnamese junks with their characteristic orange sails glide between caves and coves, grottoes and stone towers, in a vision unchanged for thousands of years.
Return to the ship for lunch and enjoy a cruise of the scenic Gulf of Tonkin. (B,L,D)
DAY 6-Cruising the South China Sea
The day is at leisure. Enjoy the passing coastal scenery and onboard lectures. (B,L,D)
DAY 7-Chan May for Hué/Da Nang
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Hué, located on the banks of the Perfume River, is one of Vietnam’s most intriguing and alluring destinations. Hué was the Imperial City of the Nguyen kings from 1601 to 1945. Its Imperial Citadel, reached by way of the spectacular mountain scenery of rural Vietnam and with massive ramparts and moat dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, rivals Beijing’s Forbidden City in sheer immensity. Tour the Imperial Closure and its Forbidden Purple City, a citadel within a citadel, formerly reserved only for the royalty and servants of the Nguyen Dynasty. Visit the 17th-century Heavenly Lady Pagoda, built to ensure the country’s prosperity, where the seven-tiered, octagonal Phuoc Duyen tower is the highest stupa in Vietnam.
After lunch in a restaurant, local villagers demonstrate traditional hat-making. Then visit the impressive tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, considered one of the most beautiful Nguyen dynasty architectural works and designed by the emperor himself.
Enjoy a scenic drive through the mountains along the breathtaking Hai Vân Pass (Ocean Cloud Pass), the 15th-century boundary between Vietnam and the kingdom of Champa. Reboard the ship in Da Nang. (B,L,D)
DAY 8-Da Nang for Hôi An
Da Nang lies near China Beach, famous as a retreat for American soldiers, and in the shadow of the Marble Mountains, which according to legend were formed from the fragments of a dragon’s egg, from which hatched a beautiful girl. Visit the Non Nuoc Stone-Carving Village in the foothills to watch craftsmen practice centuries-old carving techniques.
Prior to the 14th century, ancient Hôi An was the commercial capital of the Cham Empire and a strategic port for the very lucrative spice trade. Later, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Dutch merchants settled Hôi An’s ancient town, today a UNESCO World Heritage site and a well-preserved example of a 15th– to 19th-century trading post with more than 800 period buildings still intact. Visit the intricately carved Phuc Kien Assembly Hall and a workshop for traditional handcrafts including woodcarving, mat-weaving and embroidery.
After a traditional Vietnamese lunch, admire the Japanese-style covered bridge, the emblem of Hôi An, and walk through a well-preserved 18th-century merchant’s house. Peruse the city’s colorful riverside market before returning to the ship for dinner. (B,L,D)
DAY 9-Cruising the South China Sea
Cruise the southeastern coast of Vietnam and attend onboard lectures today. This evening, attend the Captain’s Farewell Reception. (B,L,R, D)
DAY 10-Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) has remained a vibrant convergence of French romance and Vietnamese spice. Women walk by in the traditional national costume of áo dài dresses, a silk tunic worn over pantaloons, while the streets are a sea of nón lá, conical leaf hats. This afternoon’s walking tour features the 19th-century, European-style Central Post Office; Notre Dame Cathedral, a distinct reminder that the French once ruled this country; the Reunification Hall, which once served as the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace; and the War Remnants Museum, which offers a unique perspective on the Vietnam War through the eyes of the Vietnamese. (B,L,D)
DAY 11-Saigon/Los Angeles, U.S.
Disembark ship the ship and continue to Cambodia for the Angkor Wat and Siem Reap Post-Program Option, or transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S. (B)