The joy of cruising: Onboard the Mariner of the Seas

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014


GOING on a cruise is the ultimate “all in” vacation package. Where else can you have a vacation with everything taken cared of?

... from the cozy and comfortable cabin accommodation with 24-hour room service, to a choice of dining options, to fun activities and entertainment, and best of all, to have everything under one roof. When you think about it, cruising is the best value-for-money vacation option nowadays.

My first encounter with cruise ships was through the popular “The Love Boat” TV series shown decades ago. I was hooked to the weekly episodes, completely overwhelmed by the fun-filled life onboard. Never did I imagine that in time I would be fortunate enough to experience the joy of cruising many times over.

The latest cruise I took was last month onboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. Embarkation was in Singapore; destination was Thailand.

The Mariner of the Seas is one of RCCL’s Voyager class ships which means it is a destination in itself. All of 15 decks, the ship features exciting come-ons like a rock-climbing wall, a nine-hole mini golf, in-line skating tracks, a full-sized sports court for basketball and volleyball, an ice-skating rink, a video arcade, a teen disco, and Adventure Ocean for the young ones; and for the young once, there are music lounges and bars, bingo games, spa treatments, movies, a comfy library, an art gallery, a Skylight Chapel on the topmost deck for meditation and the like.

These are in addition to the cruise ship “must haves” which include swimming pools and whirlpools, a huge theatre for the nightly shows, a jogging track, a fully equipped gym, the Casino Royale, varied dining options, and all else that spells F-U-N!

From the time the ship left port to the end of our five-day cruise, there was never a dull moment. Just as soon as the mandatory emergency drill ended, there was the Sail-away Party by the poolside complete with horn blasts. Then followed the Dreamworks Welcome Aboard Parade, a colorful procession of beautifully costumed characters (Shrek, Fiona, Madagascar’s Alex and the Penguins, among them) at the Royal Promenade.

After dinner that evening there was the festive Welcome Aboard Showtime at the Savoy Theatre.

Highlight of the cruise was the Captain’s Welcome Onboard Reception hosted by Captain Flemming B. Nielsen on the second day. It was a dress-up affair with the Black Sea Band dishing out dance music. A smashing success on all counts!

The Royal Promenade on deck five was my favorite place because the charming boulevard lined with shops and boutiques has a 24-hour Cafe Promenade which was just perfect for sitting around and watching people come and go. Across the cafe was a pub, another spot for relaxing while enjoying a few drinks.

The Windjammer Cafe on the 11th deck at the rear end of the ship was another popular “go to” section because it offered an extensive buffet spread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What I found fascinating were the names of each food station...Sweet Dreams for the desserts; Fresh From the Garden for the salad bar; The Vegetable Patch for the veggies; Crisp and Sizzling for the hot plates; The World Kettle for the soups; Mama Mia Pizzeria for the pizzas, among them. There was also the Boardwalk Doghouse by the pool area (also on Deck 11) serving all kinds of hotdogs, and on the opposite side, the Arctic Zone with yogurt and ice cream.

One exhilarating show onboard was the “Ice Under the Big Top” at Studio B’s ice skating rink featuring a cast of international skaters. Just as entertaining were the nightly shows at the Savoy Theatre steered by cruise director Gordon Whatman.

Definitely a big thrill for our group (led by Patricia Ramos, director of sales and marketing of Arpan Air,international rep of RCI) was the chance to explore the ship.

We were ushered into the command bridge where Captain Flemming Nielsen welcomed us warmly and showed us the very modern gadgets and equipment of his ship. Next we went down to the galley and watched the kitchen personnel (most of them Filipinos) at work.

According to Filipino executive sous chef Ramil Buhian (he used to work in Plantation Bay), the cruise kitchen prepares up to 15,000 meals a day.

We also had a look-see at one of the ship’s junior suites, a two-bedroom affair with a living-dining area plus a spacious balcony. Filipino executive housekeeper Joselito Mallari said the second bedroom could accommodate four on a double decker arrangement.

When the Mariner of the Seas docked in Laem Chabang, Thailand, we had a choice of going to Bangkok which was two and a half hours away or going on a tour of nearby Pattaya (45 minutes away). We opted for the latter and found time to experience a traditional Thai massage, eat durian, and go on a quickie shopping spree. But then we couldn’t wait to go back to the ship and join the happening of the hour. Believe me, there is always something going on somewhere onboard. A check with the Cruise Compass (the ship’s newsletter delivered to the cabins every night) will lead you to where the action is.

I decided to spend time on the balcony of my stateroom to take in the scenery of the place. It was lovely just sitting there in my own little world reflecting and reminiscing. Somehow, life takes on a different hue when one is onboard a cruise ship.

Life becomes more colorful and carefree, faces become more fun-loving and friendly, and spirits reach an all-time high.

A cruise vacation is definitely something to think about and to plan for. The experience is priceless!

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 03, 2014.

Lifestyle

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