A different adventure everyday
One of the best things about being on cruise is the the fact that you are able to wake up and visit a new place everyday. Well, almost! Our cruise on the Costa Victoria took us to Phuket and Langkawi, both of which we had a lot of fun exploring.
The option of what to do when the cruise ship docks at its port of call is entirely up to you. You could choose to stay on the board the ship if you wanted to. The activities on-board will continue to run, and the restaurants will remain open for you. Or you could choose to go on-shore, which I think is probably more exciting!
And if you are clueless about what to do, a visit to the Shore Excursion Office would sort you out. The Costa Victoria offered a selection of excursions for each destination for the adventurous and not-so-adventurous that were pretty extensive. Included in the mix were shopping, sight-seeing and tours to nearby islands. You can even pre-book these online before embarking on the cruise.
Costa Victoria Phuket Stopover
Elephant Trekking with Siam Safari
We had a day in Phuket (9am to 6pm) and I had my heart set on bringing the kids on an Elephant Trek, on a tour conducted by Siam Safari. I had heard good reviews of their tours. Unfortunately, theirs was not part of the excursions offered by the cruise, so I arranged the tour all on my own.
On hindsight, I would say arranging a separate tour on your own is not something I would recommend. I survived many heart stopping moments, like when I realised I didn't factor in the time difference between Phuket and Singapore when estimating our arrival time, and when I thought that we would be docking at a different part of Phuket from that which I had been informed by the travel agent.
Honestly, the only reason we were still able to go on our elephant trek and have a wonderful time was due to the accommodating staff at Siam Safari. Thumbs up for them! But if I do this again, I'm going to stick to the excursions offered by the cruise operator or take it entirely free-and-easy!
But back to our tour: I booked our whole group on a 30 Minute Elephant Trek. My first choice was really 4-in-1 Safari with Lunch but unfortunately, after several e-mail exchanges with the Siam Safari staff, we decided that the time was a bit tight given our estimated arrival time in Phuket. The tour package included 2-way transfers, but given the uncertainty in our arrival time, I informed them that we would make our own way to their camp site.
This turned out to be a good idea since it took us some time to reach shore and we would have totally missed our pick-up. We got a tuk-tuk (at a cut-throat price of 800 baht) and Siam Safari helped give the driver directions so we had no trouble reaching the campsite, albeit after a 45 min ride . We also missed our tour time, arriving half an hour late but thankfully they managed to slot us into a later tour. I'm glad they were so accommodating, or the kids would have been disappointed.
When it was time to set off, we were rounded up and the kids were given their first treat of the day: a tractor ride! They were most chuffed.
We were first brought to an area where we were treated to a short show by two baby elephants, Phu Nok and Hat Chu.They were adorable! The purpose of the show was to demonstrate how the elephants are trained and Phu Nok and Hat Chu performed simple tricks such as kicking a ball, picking up the hats of their mahouts (their trainers), and even doing a bit of painting. Thereafter, they willingly posed for some photos.
After this initial encounter, it was time to get on our elephants! I was a bit worried that the kids would refuse to get on or complain about the smell, but as it turned out, my fears were unfounded. They were both really enthusiastic about the whole thing and once the elephants started clomping off, the kids started laughing with delight. They absolutely loved it.
We trekked along a jungle path which eventually wound round and up to a lookout point overlooking lovely Chalong Bay. The mahout guiding my elephant didn't speak much English, but he was very obliging in helping us snap photos and also pointed out a really huge spider towards the end of our trek.
We found that 30 minutes was quite a decent length of time for the trek, though the kids would have been happy to go on for longer, I'm sure! After we got off our elephants, we were free to get close to the elephants for pictures or feed them bananas and other fruit.
Fruit baskets were available for an additional 100 baht. Naomi refused to do it but Noey plucked up his courage to do some feeding, though he was a bit squeamish about it. Eventually he carted over the fruit basket and left it within the elephants' reach for them to help themselves!
It was altogether very enjoyable and I would recommend this for kids. Definitely one of the more interesting things I've done in Phuket!
Kalim Beach, Phuket
After our tour, we were given a transfer back to Kalim Beach. From there, we set off to achieve another must-do when in Thailand: Eat Thai Food! There weren't many options around Kalim Beach but we managed to find a street side stall that we decided to take a chance with. The food was a bit hit and miss, but we finished most of it anyway. At least it did satisfy my Thai food craving for a while!
After we finished our rather late lunch, we'd planned to pick up some supplies at the provision shop then let the kids play a bit at the beach before going to catch a tender back to our cruise ship. But when it started to rain, we decided that we might as well squeeze in some time getting a Foot Massage.
There are a couple of shops right by the beach that offer hour-long foot massages for 250 baht. Sounded good to us! Getting our feet rubbed with free wifi to boot -- what a treat. And we were still able to squeeze in a bit of sand play for the kids before we had to head back on-board, so everyone was happy.
I think I can safely say all of us enjoyed our day-out in Phuket. The 9 hours we were given gave us enough time to get a feel of Phuket and do a number of things on shore, which we were pretty happy about.
Costa Victoria Langkawi Stopover
Our Langkawi stop was not as long. With only half a day to explore the island, we didn't venture very far. I had initially planned on visiting the Langkawi Cable Car after reading Bryan's rave review about Langkawi. However, I happened to check reviews on Tripadvisor the day before we docked and read that the queues during the school holiday peak period were quite daunting.
Cenang Beach, Langkawi
Given the limited time we had available, I wasn't keen to stress everyone out queuing and worrying if we'd make it back in time to catch the tender. So we decided to treat the kids to more beach time, this time at one of Langkawi's most popular beaches - Cenang Beach.
It was relatively straightforward getting there. We were delivered via tender to the Resorts World Langkawi, and from there, it was easy to arrange a taxi ride to Cenang (pronounced "Chenung") Beach, which was a short 10 min ride away. We found ourselves on a long stretch of powdery sand and clear waters as far as the eye could see.
The kids quickly made themselves comfortable on the sand and we enjoyed the morning just digging sand castles, pushing sand into little crab holes on the beach with our toes, and just wading out in the water. It made me wish that we lived near the beach so we could do this regularly.
If you're feeling more adventurous than we were, there is plenty to do on Cenang Beach. A family on the same cruise rented a speedboat for eight for only RM200 -- and that was for 3 hours! They only used over an hour but they were happy enough with the rate, and judging from their wet clothing, they had a fun time. There was also parasailing and banana-boating, amongst other activities. It looked like fun and is something I look forward to doing with my kids when they're older.
Even if you weren't keen on the beach and watersports, the area around Cenang Beach is bustling with activity. My Sis happily spied a Starbucks nearby and disappeared in there for a good while, enjoying the coffee and free wifi. There is also the Langkawi Underwater World and quite a bit of shopping just nearby, including Coco Valley (a huge chocolate store) and The Zone Shopping Paradise (a large duty-free shopping complex).
Wrapping it up
I think we all enjoyed the time out, but all too quickly it was time to get back on our cruise ship. I would dearly love to explore Langkawi again with the family some other time. It certainly has more to offer than I realised.
All in all, our day trips out to Phuket and Langkawi were among the highlights of our cruise holiday. We're looking forward to doing it all again in sometime soon!
You may also want to read more on my first Costa Victoria blog here and Bryan's Costa Atlantic blog below.
Cruising with Costa Cruises
You may get your Costa Victoria tickets can check out the list of travel agencies that Costa Cruises works with in Singapore below.
Articles from our Costa Atlantica Adventure:
Disclosure: Media Invitation