Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Remembering a cruise into Singapore on the Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, which I've nicknamed the Republic of Royal Caribbean


Dessert today in my Travelife

A conversation about cruising options for families, at lunch today, somewhere in the world living a Travelife, made me remember my cruise on the Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas about two years ago.

I'd taken this particular cruise because this very ship was the only one sailing into Singapore's brand-new cruise terminal at Marina Bay for the inauguration of the terminal itself.

I thought it would be nice to sail into the Marina Bay Cruise Terminal on the very first cruise ship to dock there.

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SMALL SHIPS VS. BIG SHIPS

If you read this blog, you'll know that I usually only ever sail on small and mid-sized cruise ships.

The small ships have less restaurants and facilities compared to the larger ships, which are practically floating palaces.

But I like the country club atmosphere and the fact that everyone knows you by Day 2 of the cruise on a small ship.

MY FAVORITE CRUISE LINE



My particular favourite is Silversea.

I sailed on the very first cruise of Silversea to the Ukraine about twelve years ago, when tourism infrastructure in the Black Sea ports of the Ukraine were almost non-existent still.

What an adventure that was, and this cruise got me hooked on Silversea.

And today, it's very sad to see all the things happening in the Ukraine, which is a beautiful country with a fascinating history.


CRUISING ON THE VOYAGER OF THE SEAS

But my cruise on the Republic of Royal Caribbean, sailing into Singapore, was a very memorable experience.

I nicknamed the Voyager of the Seas the Republic of Royal Caribbean on this blog because it was just so huge.



In fact, when I got my first sight of it, after only ever going on ships with 300 guests, I said to myself: "This isn't a ship. This is a country."

Wow. I couldn't even see the end of the ship from where I stood.

THE POPULATION OF A CITY ONBOARD



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

I've holidayed in so many places with far less people than this.

In fact, my last blog entry was about being one of four guests for something like 50,00 square kilometers, at a luxury safari lodge called The Retreat in the beautiful middle of nowhere in Tanzania.



WHAT'S SEA DAY LIKE
ON A LARGE SHIP

And on Sea Day, which means the ship doesn't dock anywhere, this also means 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.

After all, we’re talking 5000 people stuck in an area the size of a big city park.



However, interestingly, I didn’t feel the crowdedness I expected to feel at the outset.

Sure there were lots of people around, especially by the pool, which was lined from one end to the other with deck chairs.

But I never felt claustrophobic or cramped.




LESS CROWDS THAN EXPECTED

The elevators were usually not crowded, the libraries were quiet, and I didn’t bump into people in the corridors.

I was even able to get the spa appointments I wanted for the times I wanted. 

Admittedly, I had to line up at reception, and I had trouble finding a seat at a popular game event. But the receptionists were efficient and quick -- they probably had these matters down to a science -- 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

One thing though.

Everything is an exercise onboard a ship like this, so doing 10,000 steps a day is a piece of cake. This is a good thing, though, especially with all the food everyone tends to eat while on a cruise.

And when I finally got a grasp on the layout of this floating city, I get lost so much less.



I still walked a whole lot – it was a trek to go for breakfast, or to retrieve something I'd forgotten in my room – but at least this was all exercise I never ever got in Manila.

KINDNESS OF A STRANGER

And amidst all the people -- or perhaps because there are so many people? -- there were lots of instances of kindness by strangers.

On my first night on board, for instance, we were docked outside Pattaya and everyone sensible was accessing the Internet from the cruise terminal instead of on board the ship.

At that time, it cost US$.65 a minute to access the same Internet on board the ship via satellite, so of course everyone was going for the free Internet when they could.



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 there was free WiFi.

If you cruise a lot, you already know the drill as to where to get free WiFi or how to spot a free WiFi area.

Some people even know exactly which cruise terminals around the world have free WiFi.

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So as soon as I’d checked into my stateroom and unpacked, I’d lugged my Macbook Pro down to the terminal to get on the Internet before we sailed.

I'd already bought the largest Internet package for onboard WiFi, of course, but I figured I was going to use that up in a morning, just with the Day at Sea.

TWO LAPS AROUND THE POLO FIELD



The walk from my state room to the cruise terminal where everyone was sitting around with their laptops was the equivalent of two runs around the Manila Polo Club field, by the way, so it was quite an exercise to do so.

And when I sat down on one of the chairs and asked the guy next to me how to get on the Internet, I got the shock of my life .

US$2 MAY AS WELL BE US$200



It turned out that internet access at the port terminal cost US$2 for two hours.

This is a steal by cruise ship standards, but I hadn’t brought any money with me to the cruise terminal, so the US$2 fee was as meaningless to me as a US$200 fee.

And I wasn't about to do four runs around the Manila Polo Club field just to get US$2 from my room and come down back, computer and all.



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 and for lugging my heavy computer across the Republic of Royal Caribbean and down to the terminal for nothing.

US$2 OUT OF NOWHERE

Well, he actually fished for US$2 from his pocket, giving me a little shock.

This was a complete stranger, after all, and he gave me US$2 just like that. 

“Here,” was all he said.


We made small talk and I found out that he was from Florida, cruising with a bunch of relatives. I then 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.

But did I ever see him again on the Republic of Royal Caribbean, though? 

Of course not -- not in that mammoth of a ship, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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