Cruising

Sometimes, before I look outside the window, I forget about my house being mounted on solid, unmovable earth. Through the jelly legs that I stand on, I can feel the rhythmic humming of the ocean; each imaginary wave crashing into my slippers. I’d remember, suddenly and with stark certainty, that the view from my bedroom will never change—not in the way I’d momentarily assumed it would. Such realities, unremarkable they may be, pave the way for one to get used to the world again after having lived in the middle of the ocean for a week or so.

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The Mariner from a distance

Twenty-four hours ago, I was in the airport, trying to get as much sleep as I could before my next flight. Twenty-four hours before that, I was in a cruise ship—the Royal Caribbean, Mariner of the Seas. A huge one, undeniably. Life in a boat is as fun as you’d expect it to be. You climb in, get to feel a bit more pampered and luxurious than usual, then tour exotic islands when you disembark. It’s like a tiny village or city, or nation—whatever—floating in the sea, existing idly by.

Our ship housed about 3000 guests from all over the world. The cruise itself lasted for about 6-7 days, visiting three other countries before finally dropping us off at the Singaporean port. With lavish interiors and ornate wall finishes, the Mariner was a feast for the eyes. It definitely projected a strong first impression. Sure, considering the route of the trip, I would have wanted something with a bit more Asian flair, but there’s not much else to complain about. As a guest, I was satisfied by the look of the place, and thought it was worth the money.

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The Promenade

Moving on…

My family’s cabin was situated on the 8th floor (they actually call it deck)—the 8th! That’s already two levels higher than my condominium unit, and the Mariner had thirteen of them. I still can’t wrap my head around how all of these spaces were able fit into this floating mass we call a ship. I suppose it’s just one of those things will always be amazing to me, regardless of how much physics or science I’ve studied. Off the top of my head, I can remember a theatre, buffet restaurant, basketball court, ice skating rink, conference room, casino and arcade, and a shopping promenade as among the spaces carried by the ship. At times, I’d walk into a tiny passageway leading to a room that led to another, and another. What I’m saying is that unless you’re an excessively high-maintenance kind of person, you wouldn’t need to worry about having a lack of activities to do.

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So many levels!

Did I mention that the ship had a library? (A library!!) It was probably my favorite space in the entire boat. It wasn’t so much the collection of books that hooked me, but the feel and appearance of the room. Quiet, contemplative, and full of warmth, that tiny area. I’m convinced I’d want one in my future dream home (when I’m established enough to design it, of course).

The food was delicious and pleasant—not exactly one-of-a-kind meals you’d be craving for the rest of your life, but cooked with enough quality to assure you it’s worth what you paid for. There are numerous dining areas, buffet rooms, and cafes that offer unlimited food for about 15-24 hours in a day, but it’s really the main dining hall you’d want to look out for. You’re given a daily schedule for eating here, and I insist—you wouldn’t want to miss that schedule. Each table is assigned to two waiters who will serve you for the duration of the cruise. They will basically give you whatever you ask for, even if it’s not part of the menu—extra rice, double dessert, veggies, you name it! On second thought, we never really tried to request anything outrageous, so just ask for things that are easy to prepare.

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Our banquet hall

As for the sports facilities, I couldn’t help but feel like they were all crammed together, if only to fulfill a checklist. The ‘football pitch’ was nothing more than a small chunk of ground in between the two halves of a basketball court (disappointing, I know). The ‘golf course’ consisted of a small mound of grass (alright, a bit bigger than that, but you get the point). The ice skating rink could probably comfortably fit only 20 people. I guess it was a bit naïve of me to have expected better facilities—this was a ship, after all, and from a marketing perspective, it made total sense to lay the spaces out this way. Still, I do feel a bit cheated; I was really excited for whatever these ‘courts’ could offer me. On the up side, the one thing that did live up to expectations was the rock climbing wall. Tall, well-lit, and obstinately unclimbable; it looked like a fortress.

Service was top-notch. The ship never ran out of willing personnel. Each crew member was professional and went out of his way to answer your inquiries. To give you an idea of how well we were taken care of, the passenger-to-crew ratio was at 1:3. Pretty outstandingly high for me. What was also amazing was that these people came from about 50 different countries around the world. Strike up a conversation with any one of them, and you’ll learn a new thing for sure. Aside from being personable, these crew members work their butts off. Your room will be cleaned twice in a day—possibly more times should you wish it (but give them some slack! It’s tough enough to work during holidays, as it is).

Now, I shall proceed to the best part of this entire journey—the outside world. Imagine looking through a window and seeing different scenery each time— the port of Penang, a beach in Phuket. Picture the Singaporean skyline fading into the horizon as the ship begins to move. Even when you’re in the middle of nowhere, the view is still nothing short of extraordinary. The water rising, falling, and folding into itself to create bigger waves, the white trail of ripples created by the bottom of the ship—these sights are tourist attractions in and of themselves.

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A random island
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Singapore, as seen from the ship

Sunset was, of course, my favorite time of the day. With no buildings to obstruct the view, you have only the sky and the sea to stare at. Such a vast expanse laid out in front of you is something that doesn’t come often in life. The wind will roam freely, play with your hair and ruffle your clothes. I wish I could say something about seeing stars and constellations at night, but the ship was far too well-lit, and the sky too cloudy for that.

Overall, what do I have to say about this whole cruising endeavor? It can get tiring as well. I know this contradicts the general tone of this blog post so far, but you’ll eventually want to get out and return to dry land (or maybe that was just me). You see, I ended up puking on the last night of the cruise. I’m not sure if it was because of the street food I ate in Penang, or the slight turbulence on board, but all the same— nothing felt worse than letting it all out at three in the morning, knowing I was in the middle of the ocean. The interiors of the ship, beautiful they may have been, began to seem too restricting towards the end of our journey. It was like, as I visualized it, the walls leaning inwards and the spaces compressing. The ship can feel like a cage, especially when you realize that you can’t just decide to leave whenever you feel like it.

Do I recommend it, and would I ever go cruising again? Absolutely! I think it’s a unique and valuable experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Still, it’s one of those things best enjoyed in healthy doses. I probably wouldn’t go on one anytime soon.

Here are some extra photos:

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A show in the theater… inside the shop
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One of the places we visited: Georgetown, Penang
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I love postcards!
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My favorite painting for sale in the cruise. I love the composition, the strokes, the expressions on their faces.

And this was how I spent my Christmas holidays! If anyone’s reading this, I hope you had a good one as well!

-B.

Extra note: I was originally going to draw/paint the visuals for this post, but I got… lazy… which is why I’m using pictures instead. I also took a lot of better photos, but I didn’t want to give my identity away. 🙂

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