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7 Asia Cruise Tips, Packing, Visas & More

Taking a Cruise From Singapore

I have taken two cruises from Singapore to Tokyo. The first was onboard Golden Princess, the second was onboard the Spectrum of the Seas – a Royal Caribbean ship built for the Asian market.

I would go as far as to say that these Asian cruises have been my favourite cruises of all time.

The destinations that we visited were so interesting, and it was quite unlike cruising in different parts of the world.

We sailed from Singapore on both trips. It was amazing- and both times, I wished I had had more time to explore.

Both times I visited Singapore I visited the spectacular “Gardens by the Bay.”

I would 100% recommend a visit there if you happen to be in Singapore. I filmed daily vlogs onboard the Golden Princess back in 2018 – you can find those here: (the first starts in Gardens by the Bay.)

Golden Princess, Asia cruise 2018. 

Sky Trees at the Gardens by the Bay

Cruising in Asia is very different from cruising in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. Below are my seven top tips of things you should do/bring/remember when considering an Asia cruise.

1. Asia Cruise Tip #1: Travel Wash (Expect to do Some Laundry!)

Heat

We visited Asia in April and in September. The temperature was around 30-37c (98f) for both cruises.

Heat in Asia seems different to that which you might experience in other parts of the world. It can get extremely humid which means that you will probably get sweaty!

On an average day, I would change my outfit at least three times meaning that (unless you have a HUGE suitcase) you will need to wear items a few times each.

Emma Cruises onboard Spectrum of the Seas in Japan
Spectrum of the Seas in Japan

Onboard Laundry

Depending on the cruise ship/line that you are cruising on you may be able to use a laundry onboard the ship free of charge.

All cruise lines offer a laundry service but you usually have to pay by the bag or by the item.

I have never paid to do laundry like this, only ever using cruise ship laundries when they are free.

One of the perks of being a platinum member with NCL is a free bag of laundry, so whenever I sail with them, I make sure I do my laundry before going home!

There are free-to-use laundries onboard Princess, P&O and a few more. Below is the Laundry onboard the Royal Princess. Royal Caribbean doesn’t have self-service laundries on their ships.

cruise ship onboard free laundry princess cruises
Laundries onboard Princess cruises are free to use

Travel Wash

I prefer to wash my clothes myself using travel wash.

Doing your own washing may not work if your clothes are particularly dirty, stained etc, but for a quick refresh travel wash is perfect.

It’s usually easiest to fill the sink with hot water, drop in some travel wash and then rinse your clothes in the shower when you have finished. At this point you can either hang up the washing in the bathroom (there is a little washing line) or you can put your clothes on the balcony.

It is REALLY important to tie down your clothes if you are leaving them on the balcony. Balconies can get really windy and you wouldn’t want to lose any of your things to the sea. Losing things over the side is also not good for the environment…

Because of the humidity mentioned above it doesn’t take long to dry clothes at all. It’s much faster than me trying to dry them at home in rainy England!

The type of travel wash I use can be found here:

Dr. Beckmann Travel Wash, 100 ml
$4.48 $3.96 ($1.17 / Fl Oz)
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/19/2024 11:01 am GMT

Golden Princess Life Buoy View of Asia Blue Skies Ocean Flip Flops

2. Asia Cruise Tip #2: Visas

Be prepared for the cruise line to take away your passport when you board!

When cruising around Asia there are a lot of different forms you will need to fill out because each country has different rules and regulations.

Luckily the cruise ship will do most of this for you and handle things in countries like Vietnam and Taiwan.

The day before visiting a country the relevant paperwork will be delivered to your stateroom and it will be made very clear which pieces of paper you need to fill in and what you need to bring with you to get off the ship.

cruise asia cruise visas vietnam taiwan japan

Customs

In some countries, it is as simple as filling out a customs form – but in others, we needed to bring ID with us ashore (difficult when they have taken away your passport!)

We seemed to manage fine without any other form of ID but if you do have a driving license or photo I.D. at home it would be worth bringing it on the cruise

The cruise line can provide you with photocopies of your passport when they need to be taken ashore. 

Japan

The process for getting off in Japan is a bit more confusing. Everybody must get off the ship.

Even if you have no intention of going ashore at any of the Japanese ports, all guests must get off and go through the immigration process. Reboarding doesn’t start until they have a 100% immigration attendance rate!

Once you do actually get to customs they will scan you with a special camera to see if you have a temperature. It’s all very futuristic. If you do they’ll pull you aside and take your temperature with a proper thermometer.

I had a total disaster at immigration in Japan the last time I visited. Luckily, they did let me in the country!

Find out all about that here:

3) Asia Cruise Tip #3: Bring Jackets and Jeans

This one might seem a bit silly given that I said above how hot it’ll be… but, trust me on this one.

The air-conditioning on the ship is really good and you might find that it’s particularly cold in the main dining room and in the theatre. I would be most comfortable in either a long dress or jeans, plus a cardigan or something to cover my arms.

I spent a lot of the time on my Princess cruise being cold -in many of my photos and videos from the theatre, you can see the goosebumps on my arms!

When I sailed on Royal Caribbean, I made sure I packed cardigans!

japan asia cruise

The same goes for air-conditioned shopping centres/restaurants on land. If you plan on spending a great deal of time inside it is always worth bringing a jumper (sweater).

emma cruises golden princess red dress
I don’t have any photos of me in jumpers or jeans because I didn’t bring nearly enough! This black jumper was a lifesaver…

4) Asia Cruise Tip #4: Do Your Research (Where Will You Actually Dock…)

If you only listen to one of these Asia cruise tips, make it this one! DO YOUR RESEARCH. You may be reading this and thinking “But Emma! We ALWAYS do our research.”

No matter what level of research you do for a cruise you’ll want to ramp it up for a cruise to Asia.

It isn’t always easy to find WiFi and it can be quite confusing when you are stuck in a train station with no way to read any of the signs/instructions.

golden princess asia cruise

Download Guides

I would recommend downloading some guides to the places that you will be visiting ahead of time and possibly some offline maps using a website like Google Maps.

Not that you cannot download offline maps for Japan though, bit of an odd one and quite annoying.

It’s also worth looking at where you will actually be docking in comparison to the place advertised on the itinerary. The port might be far away from the city.

We docked at ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ which in reality was a 1.5-hour transfer away. Even the ‘do it by yourself’ excursion was $80 – so you’ll want to factor this into the cost of your cruise if you particularly want to visit the city advertised on the itinerary.

If you’re wondering what to do in any of these Asia ports make sure you check out my Princess daily vlogs filmed in 2018. I filmed one in every port and they may give you some ideas about where to go and what to see.

Hong Kong – Asia vlog. 

hong kong golden princess
Golden Princess in Hong Kong

5) Asia Cruise Tip #5: Don’t Expect Asian food! (It Might Be A Western experience)

There are several different cruises and cruise lines that operate in this part of the world. All of which have very different target markets.

The Princess cruise we took was heavily marketed at the Western market, and as a result, all of the announcements/shows were in English and the food definitely had an English vibe! I don’t recall ever eating any local food in the main dining room.

Spectrum of the Seas was designed by Royal Caribbean for the Asian market. The food offered onboard catered far more to the Asian traveller than my Princess cruise.

That said, there was lots of American food available on Royal Caribbean. If you want a more Asian experience, pick your cruise line carefully.

Find out about my experience onboard that ship here:

Food onboard

The food was all very good and onboard Golden Princess, I had some of the best food I’d had at sea.

There were lots of choices and I didn’t have to eat fruit every day for dessert! (I’m dairy intolerant so often my only choice for dessert is fruit).

Princess had an amazing range of sorbets which I really enjoyed, mango, passionfruit and even cider flavour. Nevertheless, you should not expect to be dining on local dishes each evening.

Onboard Spectrum of the Seas there was far more local cuisine available. They even had models of food outside some of the restaurants, so you knew what you would be getting!

Food displays on Spectrum of the Seas

I accidentally went to the main restaurant on “British Night” and they were serving Fish and Chips – not what I had expected in Asia. There was a great variety of different cuisines available.

golden princess cruise food dessert
Wonderful desserts on Princess cruises

6) Asia Cruise Tip #6: Passenger Demographics

Age

The average age of the other cruisers when I sailed with Princess was probably about 100!

The length of the cruise and destinations more than likely price out a lot of younger (working) people or people with families.

Anybody taking this cruise would have to have at least 2 weeks off work and be able to travel a considerable distance. The Princess cruise that I took was mostly aimed at Australians, Americans and British passengers.

If you are considering an Asia cruise with a line like Princess it is important to remember the slightly older crowd.

This doesn’t bother me at all, in fact, I quite like a bit of Elvis! But I understand that this isn’t for everybody. It does mean that the onboard activities are geared more towards older passengers, for example 50s/60s quizzes instead of the 90s which I would much prefer.

On Spectrum of the Seas, there was a much greater age range – children, teens, adults, older people – they were all onboard.

For the guests from Singapore, this was a local cruise which probably explains why there were many families onboard.

Nationalities

The biggest percentage of passengers were from Australia on my Princess cruise. I’ve never really met anybody from Australia before so I liked being surrounded by the accent.

Has anybody ever met an Australian who wasn’t nice?! Australians all seemed so happy and friendly.  The next largest percentage were Americans followed by the British and Canadians.

The biggest percentage of the passengers were from Singapore. There were also Brits, Australians, Americans – and lots of other different languages spoken that I couldn’t identify!

7 – Asia Cruise Tip #7: Squat Toilets

This one is possibly the most important of all of the Asia cruise tips listed here… Squat toilets are common in a lot of Asia and you may come across one when you are in port.

I first encountered one is Beijing airport when I REALLY was bursting for a wee. I went into the cubicle and was greeted with a hole in the floor.

Scary! Anyway, I managed it. What was most annoying was when I came out of the cubicle I realised that all of the other toilets were ‘Western’ aka regular toilets – so I squatted for no reason!

It also would be a good idea to take some tissues with you. Toilet paper isn’t always available and sometimes it is outside of the cubicle.

In Hong Kong, I went to a toilet which had a sign on the back of the door saying you could get paper from outside by the main door to the toilets – A bit late by that point!!

asia cruise squat toilet singapore
Squat toilet (I think it looks like skiing…)
asia cruise toilets western style singapore

Japanese toilets

If you’re cruising to Japan you might get to try some of the coolest toilets in the world!

I never knew I needed a toilet to play music for me until I found one that did… it’ll spray you… dry you… deodorise you and heat your bum all at the same time. Incredible.

asia cruise tips japanese toilet

Would You Like To Visit Asia?

If you ever have the opportunity to cruise to Asia I would 110% recommend you take it.

Every country is fascinating and it is impossible to look anywhere without finding something interesting. In general, the ports that we visited were all very clean, safe and easy to get around. 

I was lucky enough to cruise around Asia on the Golden Princess. I loved the ship but she no longer sails for Princess.

She is now known as Pacific Adventure and sails for P&O Australia. There are plenty of other newer Princess ships available for you to try though.

Before You Go

When I sailed onboard Spectrum of the Seas in Asia, I booked an obstructed balcony to save some money. Find out if that was a good choice here:

Obstructed View Balcony Cabin – This Controversial Cabin Surprised Me!

Find out why I often book “guaranteed cabins” to save money. Look at some of the cabins I have been assigned here:

I Always Book Guaranteed Cabins on Cruise Ships – (Photo Examples, Regrets & More)

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Shelley Takeuchi

Monday 27th of May 2019

Going on the Sapphire Princess next February for a 7 day cruise: Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. I saw your comment about Ho Chi Minh City being 1 1/2 hours from the ship's port. Is there a boat that takes you there (to the city) or does the boat take you to the shore, then you take a bus/cab to Ho Chi Minh? We are also going to Bangkok. Same thing or closer? I can't wait.

Emma Le Teace

Monday 27th of May 2019

Hey Shelley! The journey was 1.5 hours and Princess put on coaches at a cost of something made like ¢75 each! It was mad so we decided not to go haha.

I'm not sure about Bangkok, I've only visited by plane. Sorry! Are you on Facebook? These would be great questions for our Facebook Group. We've got almost 5000 members at the moment, somebody must know! https://www.facebook.com/groups/273786596385850/

Cheers,

Emma

Emma Le Teace

Saturday 2nd of March 2019

Wow Dave what a lovely comment! Thank you so much. I couldn't recommend it enough, it was incredible.

Tam

Monday 22nd of October 2018

Voted! Love your blog and tips. Planning an Asian cruise. Fav line, "...average age around 100" lol

Emma Le Teace

Monday 22nd of October 2018

Thank you so much Tam! Really appreciate it. It felt like the average age was close to that... ha ha.

Marilyn

Tuesday 4th of September 2018

Hi Emma..will we need any vaccinations for our Asia cruise? We are doing Singapore to shanghai later this year on Saphire princess... Been doing research for excursions and it's always a job to pick an excursion that will be good value for money and I always wonder if I'm choosing the right one.. it's only our second cruise.. first one was Arcadia to carribean last Christmas for our honeymoon.. loved it!! X

Emma Le Teace

Thursday 6th of September 2018

Hey Marilyn! I needed typhoid and tetanus injections. We didn't take any organised excursions on this cruise. Think most of Asia is pretty easy to get around alone. I'm sure you'll have an amazing time no matter what you do! It really is one of the best places to cruise :)