A number of cruise ship itineraries around South-East Asia include ports of call in Vietnam which provide proximity to popular tourist destinations such as Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hanoi, Hue and Nha Trang. The main cruise port in the south of the country is Phu My from where passengers can travel into Ho Chi Minh City and discover a vibrant city filled with French colonial architecture, Buddhist temples, sites related to the Vietnam War and a seemingly endless choice of places to enjoy traditional Vietnamese cuisine be it on street corners or in haute cuisine restaurants. You’ll find so much to see and so many things to do in this fascinating city that you’ll struggle to fit it all into a single day in port.
Phu My Cruise Port
Large cruise ships heading for Ho Chi Minh City sail up the Sông Thị Vải River and dock at the container port of Phu My which lies approximately 70km to the south-east of the city. Arriving at this busy commercial port isn’t ideal for cruise ship passengers as there’s nothing of interest locally so it’s important to arrange transport into Ho Chi Minh City in advance with your cruise ship or have a local tour operator meet you at the port gate. There are usually some taxis and private vehicles outside the port complex offering private tours. However, you’d be well advised to pre-book your shore excursion in advance with a reputable company.
Small and mid-sized vessels can sail up the Saigon River and dock at Nha Rong Port, Tan Thuan II Port or Lotus Port which are all much closer to the city centre. Transport into the city from these smaller ports is readily available by bus, taxi or excursions provided by your cruise line or private operators.
Ho Chi Minh City Airport Transfers
Cruise ship passengers who are beginning or ending their cruise in Phu My Port will most likely be arriving or departing through Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport which lies some 70km north-west of the port. Public transport between the airport and Phu My is not an option for cruise ship passengers so it is advisable to pre-book a private transfer from Ho Chi Minh City Airport with Shuttledirect. Their professional drivers are available for journeys from the airport to the Port of Phu My as well as for the return journey.
Transport from Phu My Cruise Port
Official tour buses and shuttle bus services heading for Ho Chi Minh City will meet cruise ships either at the cruise dock or at the port gates. Passengers are not allowed to walk within the port complex so a shuttle bus is available to get to the exit. With no tourist attractions around Phu My it’s important to arrange transport to HCMC in advance through the onboard excursions desk or online with a local tour operator. Shuttle buses into the city generally drop off in the vicinity of the Rex Hotel in the city centre from where many of the main sights are accessible on foot. Alternatively, there are metered taxis, mototaxis and cyclos which are readily available for ferrying visitors around the major landmarks.
An alternative excursion is to the beach resort of Vũng Tàu which lies 35km to the south of Phu My Port. Some cruise lines provide a shuttle bus service to Ba Ria from where passengers can make their own way to Vũng Tàu.
Shore Excursion to Ho Chi Minh City
With the round trip between the Port of Phu My and Ho Chi Minh City taking around 3 hours your time in the city is likely to be limited to something like 4 or 5 hours. In that time you’ll want to see the best of the city’s beautiful French colonial architecture, discover a little of how Saigon (the city’s former name) was affected by the Vietnam War and find a place to enjoy some typical Vietnamese food.
The Rex Hotel Saigon is a good starting point from where you can walk to the City Hall building, the Central Post Office, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Opera House. Also nearby is the Reunification Palace (or Independence Palace) which was the site where the Vietnam War came to an end in 1975 when North Vietnamese tanks crashed through its gates. A more sombre site close to the Palace is the War Remnants Museum which documents the atrocities of American chemical warfare and its long-term effects on the Vietnamese population.
A ‘must-see’ for many cruise ship passengers is the Ben Thanh Market which attracts an estimated 10,000 daily visitors. After browsing the lively fresh food stalls and picking up a souvenir or two, visitors can enjoy some excellent Vietnamese street food from the many stalls surrounding the market. Alternatively, you can enjoy one of the nation’s favourite dishes at the nearby Pho 2000 restaurant which became famous after Bill Clinton ate there during a state visit.
With a little more time passengers might like to head out to the Chu Chi Tunnels which are located within a war memorial park some 50km north-west of Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors to the tunnels will learn about their strategic importance to the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War and will have the opportunity to go underground into a tunnel which has been enlarged especially for tourists.
Shore Excursions to Vũng Tàu
If this is your first time cruising to this part of the world then a shore excursion to Ho Chi Minh City from the port of Phu My is a no-brainer. If, however, you’ve been to the city then your best alternative would be to visit Vũng Tàu which is a large city which stands on a peninsula some 45 minutes from the port by road. It has access to a number of beaches and serves as a popular weekend escape for residents of HCMC. Attractions around Vũng Tàu include religious sites with large statues dedicated to the Buddha, Christ and Saint Maria, a historic French lighthouse and the Minh Dam Caves which were used by the Viet Cong during the War. A little further afield is the resort town of Long Hải which is another popular getaway for the city folk which is home to some attractive beaches.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is one of the world’s most established and respected airport transfer providers. Our services are available throughout Europe as well as in North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical and convenient passage to and from the airport, cruise terminal or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!