As travel writers, we absolutely love exploring new places and losing ourselves in different cultures. Yet there’s something to be said for familiarity: someone that speaks your language, or just a cup of coffee brewed exactly as you like it. On a recent trip, I managed to enjoy the best of both worlds: entering unchartered waters (no pun intended), without giving up the comforts of home, thanks to Tirun Travel Marketing and Royal Caribbean‘s Mariner of the Seas which took me from Singapore to Malaysia, Phuket, and back. Here’s what you can expect when you check into this massive, (1,38,000 tons to be precise), yet ‘homey’ cruise liner:
1) Wake up to the best view ever:
The next-best thing to buying sea-facing property, is to book an ocean-view stateroom on the Mariner of the Seas. There’s something magical about waking up to the sound of waves, the sight of the sky ablaze as the sun rises and shimmers over the water, and finding nothing but the big blue as far as the eye can see.
If that’s not enough, there’s the house-keeping service. At some point in the morning, usually when I’d stepped out for breakfast, the bed was made-up with crisp, fresh sheets and there was some delightful towel origami on show (a towel swan was seated atop my bed); tea and coffee supplies were replenished, as were the toiletries; laundry was taken away and fresh clothes appeared neatly folded just when I needed them.
The room was made brand new again, with a little note, ‘Hilda cleaned your room today.’ It almost made me wish I could live on this cruise ship. Mario Salcedo managed to do just that. Surprisingly, he lands up saving on regular rents thanks to Royal Caribbean’s competitive deals.
2) The World on a plate:
The best part of being away is that you don’t have to worry about mundane chores, like cooking. That said, sometimes you miss ghar ka khana. But not onboard this ship. Chef Anil George takes into consideration the nationalities of passengers, and the extensive menu is prepared accordingly. I even found some dal tadka and paneer pasanda at the Windjammer Cafe. You can also sample the exotic: how about some creamy Italian risotto at Giovanni’s? Or some good American steak at Chops Grille? Or maybe some spicy Asian delicacies at Jade? For in-between meals, indulge in a slice of cheese cake, or a healthy fruit tart, washed down with different types of coffee/tea, at Cafe Promenade.
On the Mariner of the Seas, apart from the eateries, there are as many as 17 bars, clubs and lounges to visit. And the staff is friendly and obliging. To understand what it takes to feed a ship, sign up for the Galley Tour where you get entry into the ship’s kitchen.
3) It’s where the party never ends:
Even if you’re a social animal, the worst part about a night out on the town is commuting to your destination. In big cities, this often means hopping on public transport, and fighting traffic, when you’re all dressed up. A cruise ship, however, is like a city in itself with loads of entertainment options, that are just a walk away. Within a few hundred metres, I could make it to Studio B to catch a fantastic ice-skating show, or the Savoy to watch a musical, or Ellington’s which transforms into a jazz bar by night, or the Dragon’s Lair where techno beats course through the room.
Or for something a bit different, I could sign up for a rock-climbing session (yep, there’s a faux wall on this ship), a crash course in ice-skating, dance lessons, or even enter a cruise quiz (this is where I learned that the Mariner of the Seas belongs to the voyager class of cruise liners). There’s plenty to keep you entertained for months. Now if only cruises lasted that long.
4) Experience many worlds without leaving the ship:
A smattering of familiar Hindi, a bit of Chinese, a hint of Korean, English spoken with every accent from British to Australian, and many other languages can be heard on the ship. Apart from the fact that passengers come from near and far, the crew too comes from different corners of the globe. I struck a conversation with a bartender from China who was more than happy to tell me about his culture; performers from USA who loved the ship but missed home; servers from India who came from my very own city of Mumbai.
Whether or not you decide to dock-off on ports along the way (Port Klang in Malaysia, Phuket in Thailand), rest assured, you’ll find the World on the Mariner of the Seas.
KIRAN MEHTA – Freelance travel writer contributing to Indian publications and a few based in USA and Europe. She contributes to India’s largest publications, and a few abroad.