This post is about cruising and the kindness of strangers. I usually sail on small cruise ships because I like the intimacy of the voyage on a ship with only about 200 to 300 passengers. But some years back, I boarded my very first mega-cruise ship, a ship from the fleet of the Royal Caribbean, to join the very first cruise to sail into the Singapore Cruise Terminal and officially open it. It was on this cruise from Singapore to Bangok that I was the lucky recipient of kindness from a stranger.
CRUISING FROM BANGKOK TO SINGAPORE
This cruise from Bangkok to Singapore was my first cruise on a mega-ship, and the difference in size between my usual smaller ships and this mega-ship I found myself on was so stark that I took to calling the mammoth Voyager of the Seas ship of the Royal Caribbean, the Republic of Royal Caribbean. It was true. This ship was not a cruise ship; it was a floating country. I boarded it in Pattaya.
ABOUT THE VOYAGER OF THE SEAS
The Voyager of the Seas was so huge that it was basically a floating city. So it took me awhile to get a grasp of it. I had to walk a whole lot – yes, it was serious exercise to go anywhere, whether to eat breakfast, to retrieve something I’d forgotten in my room, or to go up to the observation lounge of the ship, for example. And at that time this was definitely all the exercise I never ever got back home.
I kept losing my friends on this ship, as well.
On my first night, my friends and I had taken separate elevators up to the 12th floor, and after that, we’d never seen each other again because we’d gone in separate directions — and once you’re going one way, well, you’re off to a different city almost. On another night, we’d all gone to the game event in the one of the ship’s auditoriums 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.
ABOUT CRUISING AND THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Amidst all the people, though — or perhaps because there are so many people? — there were lots of instances of kindness by strangers.
On my first night onboard the Voyager of the Seas, we were docked outside Pattaya and everyone sensible was accessing the Internet from the Pattaya cruise terminal instead of onboard the ship. Back then, it cost US$.65 a minute to access the same Internet on board the ship via satellite, so of course we were all going for the free Internet or cheap Internet on land whenever we could.
EVERYONE’S ON THE INTERNET AT THE PATTAYA CRUISE TERMINAL
Anyway, I’d just arrived in Pattaya to board the Voyager of the Seas but I’d seen everyone with their laptops and iPads sitting around the Pattaya cruise terminal area, crew members included. So I assumed the WiFi at the Pattaya cruise terminal was free. All cruise veterans know that you should follow the ship’s crew members when you’re looking for free Internet or cheap Internet, as they all know where to go in every port.
So as soon as I’d checked into my stateroom and unpacked, I’d lugged my pretty heavy 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 in the Pattaya Cruise Terminal.
CHEAP INTERNET AT THE PATTAYA CRUISE TERMINAL
Shock of my life when I finally got settled at the Pattaya Cruise Terminal and I asked someone how to get on the Internet. The internet access at the port terminal, offered by the terminal coffee shop, cost US$2 for two hours; this was a steal by cruise ship standards, but I hadn’t brought any money with me to the cruise terminal because I’d assumed it was free. I’d left my wallet in the safe in my room on the Voyager of the Seas, and all I had was the cruise ID I needed to re-enter the boat.
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 down to the terminal.
Plus, by then 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 Pattaya Cruise Terminal for nothing. Going back to my room just to get US$2 would have meant walking the equivalent of eight rounds around the Manila Polo Club field, but with my heavy computer.
US$2 OUT OF NOWHERE
Well, this man 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. Oh my goodness. A total stranger was giving me money out of nowhere. After that, 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. Did I ever see him again on the Republic of Royal Caribbean, though? Of course not. On that mammoth ship, I had enough difficulty finding my friends, much less finding kind strangers.