2 April: Nha Trang, Vietnam and reflections on the onboard Art Gallery

After a succession at great days at some marvellous ports we cannot reasonably complain about a poor day, but Nha Trang was and is a pretty vile place. This wasn’t entirely a surprise, the guidebooks describe somewhere, once widely used by US Servicemen for rest and recuperation, and which has now grown into Vietnam’s most hedonistic resort. But even so, it was disappointing, particularly after we were so enthused by Saigon.

For the first time on this cruise, Cunard struggled a bit with their tender operation, probably because they encouraged those of us not on excursions to turn up too early for tender tickets. And for the 1500 new passengers who had boarded at Hong Kong, this was their first port and, not surprisingly, they were ready very early for their first trip to shore.

We were queuing for tender tickets at 8.30, but it was nearly 9.30 before our tender left the ship. But the shuttle service once the tender docked was as reliable and as prompt as ever and we were delivered to our drop off point in Nha Trang by ten.

The importuning by taxi drivers, tour operators and cycle rickshaw drivers was as intense as we’ve experienced on this trip and Jan and I almost fled into the side streets to get away from them. We decided not to bother with the market here, the market in Ho Chi Minh City having been very poor, and our having recently sated our appetite for markets in Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.

But avoiding the market, the main destination for tourists, posed challenges for us. We searched first for somewhere for coffee and found a simple cafe busy with businessmen and couples. But we were not prepared for the complete absence of English and our holiday French got us nowhere. Nor we were prepared for the grubbiness. Eventually, a lot of pointing between us and the proprietor – who never removed a cigarette from his mouth during the exchange – got us some coffee. Like this:


But even in the spirit of trying everything it was undrinkable, being cloyingly sweet and at the risk of appearing impolite we paid hurriedly and left it.

We walked back to the front where there was an attractive beach and lots more cafes and bars. But they were all pretty grim, even those recommended by Lonely Planet. They all had names like The Skylight Bar, Crazy Kim’s Bar or the Beach and Booze Bar and patently catered for a very young and night time crowd. At midday they were just dull and grubby dives. And the restaurants we looked at were little better and for almost the first time on this trip, we did not eat out during a port visit.

We found a modern shopping centre and Jan bought some Levis – not forgeries – at a very good price. But mostly there was little to interest us. We wandered and wandered along the front and up and down the main roads, but there was virtually nothing to commend the place other than, perhaps, spending some time on the beach. We gave up and returned to the ship by about 2.30.

Clarendon Fine Arts

It’s a mystery to us why Cunard cannot find a better art gallery provider than this one. There’s a captive audience onboard and one that is inclined to buy something to remind them of the cruise. If there were a gallery selling paintings depicting some of the places we’ve visited, and at reasonable prices, I suspect it would do well.

But what we have here is a gallery which while taking up a lot of space has a range of pictures and sculpture of little or no relevance to the cruise. And, worst of all, it’s appallingly priced. This well known and commonly retailed Vettriano print is marketed here as a signed limited edition. Anyone paying this price (about £450) would be very badly advised:


The Flat Iron Building in New York is a beautiful building and has been captured brilliantly by many artists and photographers. We’ve rarely seen a painting which portrays it as inadequately as this attempt.



But this – which makes the Flat Iron look like the Middle Sized Iron – is described as a hand signed limited edition and is priced at £500.

There are some rather attractive reproduction vintage Cunard prints in which we were briefly interested. And there are some original works which are of better value than the so called limited editions. But overall, the value for money of almost everything available is poor and has the potential to exploit those who don’t know how affordable high quality art can be when purchased in the UK.

And this sort of drivel, promoting the work of an artist called Fabian Perez, is beyond parody. Why the Captain would associate himself and Cunard with this nonsense is hard to fathom:


This cruise is a product of such high quality and such great value, Cunard need to think again. Anyone buying from this Gallery and doing a bit of research after returning home would feel pretty disenchanted with Cunard.

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62 year old male on the edge of retirement and giving that a trial with a four month break. Not our first Cruise, but certainly our first and only World Cruise.

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