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Ocean cruises to Thailand and Malaysia for the whole family

With the Costa Victoria celebrating 20 years on the water, I stepped aboard to discover the highlights of its short cruises from Singapore to Malaysia, Thailand and beyond.

cruise, sea, holiday
Cruise along on the impressive Costa Victoria

Going on a cruise has its advantages, and not having to pay for kids (they’re free on Costa Victoria if they’re under 13 and sharing your cabin) is just an additional one. There’s plenty for them to do on the ship, and with the buffet-style eating being all-inclusive, you don’t have the drama of meals not getting finished when you’ve paid a lot of money for them. It’s also a good way for young ones to get a taste of new types of foods without the waste. There are five restaurants, some à la carte and some buffet, and ten bars.

Most of the onboard entertainment is suitable for all family members, so it’s a good way to spend time, and you can’t really lose them anywhere – well, only if you try hard! (If your children are old enough to have a smart phone there’s a MyCosta Mobile app that lets you and them stay connected while aboard.) Every evening there is a different show, from a Michael Jackson tribute show to a very clever comedy show, and all sorts in between.

Costa is an Italian cruise line, and Costa Victoria has an authentic Italian theme throughout: the floors are all named after Italian operas and there’s heaps of good Italian cuisine. Also, a Pavarotti lookalike sings in the foyer – he’s brilliant! It’s all rather musical, actually – even the waiters in the fine-dining restaurants will suddenly break into song and dance. And the big event on board is the Venetian Ball.

italian food, dining, food
While on board, savour some authentic Italian cuisine

The ship’s kids’ club is known as Squok Club, and it offers everything from making Venetian masks and costumes, to mural, necklace and t-shirt making. Meeting the Captain is always exciting for littlies (and biggies, too!), and there are sports tournaments for kids and sport facilities like a fitness centre, jogging track, and tennis and volleyball court.

If you want to take older family members or those with disabilities, there are six cabinets that can cope with wheelchairs and it’s a very easy way to travel. The ship employs around 760 crew members, so there are plenty of people around to help. For our Ocean View with Balcony cabin, we had our own butler, William – he was lovely. And there’s also a Medical Centre on board. The first night there is a compulsory fire drill; getting youngsters and old ones to that could be a bit painful.

There is a spa but the massages seemed quite expensive; however, there are some great deals in the on-ship stores. I bought a couple of Guess handbags at a steal and stacked up on some Christmas presents too.

pool deck, cruise, lounge chairs
Relax on the pool deck after a hearty dinner

Cruising is a great way to see the region without flights and tours. The three-night cruise from Singapore includes day tours to Malacca and Penang, and there are four- and five-night cruises that include destinations such as Phuket and Langkawi. Various day-tour options are offered at each place, though unless there’s enough interest not all of them will run. I wanted to do a kayaking one at Phang Nga off Phuket but because no one else had subscribed to it, I ended up doing a really dodgy animal park, labelled as a “wildlife park”. It was awful and they had monkeys and elephants doing tricks; I don’t understand why these places are allowed to function or are promoted. The Penang day tour was also disappointing, so, if you’re a family, I think just do your research before and organise a tuk tuk or taxi to take you where you want to go. Or just spend the day on the beach or in the nearby shops.

I’ve been on a few cruises from Singapore and the quality of the experience does depend on the time of year – travelling in regional school holiday periods means you’re going to get more of the mass market, so bear that in mind.

Costa Victoria is a stunning ship and I think cruising is definitely the easiest and most relaxing way to travel and see some of Southeast Asia’s highlights. You can start the cruise from Penang too, if you prefer, with an option of flying and cruising for one night only.

For more information about destinations, itineraries and bookings, visit costaasia.com.

This is an article that first appeared in the September 2016 edition of Expat Living. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

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