HALONG BAY, Vietnam (10 April 2009) - U.S. Senator John McCain toured Halong Bay as a passenger aboard Emeraude Classic Cruises April 6 - 7.
McCain, who was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 election and who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi from 1967 to 1973, was accompanied by an American delegation that included Senators Lindsey Graham (R - S.C.) and Amy Klobuchar (D - Minn.).
During the overnight cruise, McCain fielded questions from fellow passengers. He and his entourage visited Surprise Cave. Like everyone else, he stood on the deck and marveled at the karsts. Several members of his delegation attended a screening of the French epic, Indochine on the Emeraude's sun-deck after dark.
"They insisted on no special treatment," said Kurt Walter, general manager of Emeraude Classic Cruises. "That was the really remarkable thing about this entourage, and they were very clear about it - no red carpet, no special menu. They only wanted to experience Halong Bay the way all of our passengers were experiencing it."
When it came to dining, the 2008 presidential candidate waited on line at the buffet and served himself.
None of the Emeraude's passengers had been given advance warning about the McCain trip.
"It was a big surprise when he walked into the restaurant," said Walter. "You could see everybody's eyes grow larger."
McCain fielded questions from fellow passengers, four of whom were American. He spent the night on the upper deck of the vessel in the Paul Roque Suite.
"He didn't ask for the suite, but we insisted," said Walter.
McCain told Walter that the cruise on the Emeraude was his first overnight cruise on Halong Bay. They talked about hotels in Hanoi, and Walter told the senator about a fine, new hotel on West Lake.
"'West Lake,' the senator said to me. I landed a plane on that lake 40 years ago - on Truc Bach Lake," Walter recalled. "Truc Bach Lake the senator remembers."