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Distinctive Voyages - more than just a free shore excursion.

If you sail often enough on Celebrity, Holland America, Regent, Azamara, or Cunard, you might hear that it's a Distinctive Voyages cruise. What does this mean?

Well the short answer is that you will be on a cruise where a small group of clients receive a free VIP shore excursion, a cocktail reception, and the services of a host - an expert travel agent who has been specifically selected to help enhance your cruise experience.

On a recent cruise Joyce and I were the hosts on the Azamara Journey Borneo - Vietnam - Thailand 14 day cruise from Singapore.

Our excursion was a full day experience in Bangkok. A local guide (Parti) greeted our group for an 8:00am departure. She had with her a driver, assistant driver, and 2 other helpers, all to support our small group. She was fluent in English and had been an expert guide for 17 years.

We made our way out of the pier on a coach bus that was well stocked with cold water. The first indication that the day was going to be better than the usual cruise line excursion was the use of individual electronic headsets, something that the river cruise companies use but not often offered by ocean cruise lines. This would allow us to wonder an area without the need to be close to Parti.

First stop was at the city river boat dock and we boarded a private boat for the short ride to the Wat Arun on the Chao Phraya River - temple of dawn. The use of the boat allowed us to skip the crazy Bangkok traffic and enjoy an early arrival. After a brief tour she took us to the ceremony room where 3 Buddhist Monks awaited. Parti explained that we would offer a gift (alms) to the Monks and in return they would offer a prayer for us in a chant. It was a moving introduction to the spiritual side of Thailand.

Our next journey was further up the river where we passed old riverside homes, a few floating vendors, and stopped to feed some fish. We continued our way with a stop at the Grand Palace.

Parti had pre arranged tickets so without delay she lead us through the entrance and took us on a 1.5 hour stroll through these most impressive buildings and temples with a stop at the national treasure Emerald Buddha.

Our coach then took us to a luxury hotel where we had lunch enjoying a vast array of both international and Thai cuisine. It was a welcome oasis on a hot day in Bangkok.

Our final stop was Jim Thompson house where Parti turned us over to a location specialist who walked us through the house, gardens, and the history of this entrepreneur.

We made our way back to the ship where we shared a final good bye and wishes for a safe onward journey.

This was certainly more than just an excursion, it was an experience we won't soon forget.

Bob and Joyce at Jim Thompson house.

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