Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kindness and US$2 from a stranger on the Republic of Royal Caribbean



Good morning from the Republic of Royal Caribbean, sailing somewhere between Thailand and Singapore.

I’m on Day 3 of my trip on the mammoth Voyager of the Seas ship of the Royal Caribbean, and I’m headed for Singapore to arrive by sea tomorrow in time for the official launch of Singapore’s splashy new cruise terminal.

The new cruise terminal, which will be launched via formal ceremonies to be presided over by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, will definitely put Singapore on the map as Asia's cruise ship hub.

Anyway, back to the Voyager of the Seas. This ship I'm sailing to Singapore on is so huge that it’s basically a floating city, and that’s why I’ve nicknamed it the Republic of Royal Caribbean.

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PEOPLE, PEOPLE, PEOPLE

Think 3800 guests and a crew of about 1200 for 5000 people on board a ship.

And it’s Sea Day today, which means that 5000 people are on board the ship and there’s nowhere to go but up, down and across 14 floors. For someone like me, with a pretty big need for physical and psychological space, this might have posed quite a dilemma. We’re talking 5000 people stuck in an area the size of a big city park, after all.

Interestingly, I don’t feel the crowdedness I expected to feel at the outset. Sure there are lots of people -- especially by the pool on Sea Day – but so far I’ve not felt claustrophobic or cramped.


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CROWDS, BUT NOT THAT CROWDED

The elevators are usually not crowded, the libraries are quiet, I don’t bump into people in the corridors, and I’ve even been able to get the spa appointments I wanted for the times I wanted. 

Admittedly, you do have to line up at reception, and last night at a very popular game event, I had trouble finding a seat. But the receptionists are usually as efficient and quick as possible. And if I’d gone earlier to the game event, I would have easily gotten a front-row seat.




LESS CONFUSED, 
BUT STILL WALKING THE CALORIES OFF

And now that I’ve more or less got a grasp on the map of this floating city, I get lost so much less. I’m still walking a whole lot – yes, it’s an exercise to go for breakfast, or to retrieve something you’ve forgotten in your room – but at least this is all exercise I never ever get in Manila.

STILL LOSING FRIENDS



I also have a better idea of where everything is. I’ve still lost my friends two nights in a row now, though.

On my first night, we’d taken separate elevators up to the 12th floor, and we’d never seen each other again. Last night, we’d all gone to the game event but we’d had to sit separately because there were only odd seats free by the time we’d arrived. And that was the last I’d seen of them as well, in an auditorium with about 1200 people.



KINDNESS OF A STRANGER

Amidst all the people, though -- or perhaps because there are so many people? -- there are lots of instances of kindness by strangers.

On my first night on board, we were docked outside Pattaya and everyone sensible was accessing the Internet from the cruise terminal instead of on board the ship. It costs US$.65 a minute to access the same Internet on board the ship via satellite, so of course you're going to go for the free Internet when you can, if you're conscious of costs.

Yes, uploading this blog now, as we are sailing and so I'm accessing the Internet via the ship satellite, is costing me US$.65 a minute, in case you’re wondering. So I hope you’re enjoying this account.



EVERYONE'S ON THE INTERNET

Anyway, I’d just arrived to board the ship but I’d seen everyone with their laptops and iPads sitting around the cruise terminal area, so I’d assumed WiFi was free. So as soon as I’d checked into my stateroom and unpacked, I’d lugged my Macbook Pro down to the terminal – a walk the equivalent of two runs around the Manila Polo Club field, by the way – from my room and sat down on one of the chairs.

Shock of my life when I finally got settled and I asked someone how to get on the Internet. Internet access at the port terminal cost US$2 for two hours, which was a steal by cruise ship standards; but I hadn’t brought any money with me to the cruise terminal.

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The guy sitting next to me – the same one who'd broken the bad news about the US$2 fee – probably took pity on me, as I’m sure I looked like I was about to kick myself for stupidly not bringing any money to the terminal.

Plus I was exhausted from a really busy 24 hours and the long trip door-to-door from Manila, and I’d just lugged my heavy computer across the Republic of Royal Caribbean and down to the terminal for nothing.

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US$2 OUT OF NOWHERE

Well, he actually fished for US$2 from his pocket – this is a complete stranger, I have to stress again – and gave it to me.

“Here,” was all he said.

OMG. A total stranger has never given me money out of nowhere before. We made small talk and I found out that he was from Florida, cruising with a bunch of relatives. I tried to find out how I could pay him back on the cruise, but he just said: “Forget it. No worries.

Of course I made up my mind to return the US$2 if and when I saw him on the ship again. Have I seen him again on the Republic of Royal Caribbean, though? Of course not. I have enough difficulty finding my friends, much less finding kind strangers.





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