Saturday, January 15, 2022

Our Sea-cation Experience

I am never a huge fan of cruise trips and probably never will be (maybe I will change my mind after retirement) but with "cruise to nowhere" being the only option to "travel" without the fuss of quarantine and restrictions, we took the plunge and went on a 3-night journey on Royal Caribbean's Spectrum of the Seas in mid-December. 

Most people were deterred from doing cruise vacation by the horror stories of passengers stuck on the ship upon discovery of COVID cases on board last year, but this time, everyone (including passenger and crew) need to be vaccinated and underwent COVID testing two days before boarding. That might be the slight inconvenience to us, but at least it gave everybody a peace of mind. We expected a long line at check-in with all the pre-boarding procedures but turned out it was a breeze - God I do miss going through the immigration counter and luggage check X-ray, something we haven't done for two whole years!  

We booked one of the rooms in the "Silver Suite" class. It's a bit of a stretch to call the room a proper "suite", but rather it's a slightly larger room (280 sq feet) with the sea view, separate bath and shower in the bathroom and a decent-sized balcony (55 sq feet), enough for two deck chairs. Nonetheless it's more than comfortable for the two of us. I personally preferred the room on higher floor and middle of the ship that seems to have the perfect balance of being convenient and quiet and that's what we got. 

I heard mixed comments re the food and beverage offering on board and turned out it's better than I expected in terms of variety and quality. Main Dining Room and Windjammer Cafe were their default dining options, one with a la carte selection in a seated setting and the other essentially a giant self-service buffet food hall. We sat down for dinner at the Main Dining Room the first evening - while I wouldn't call it fine-dining per se (especially the place was so loud during dinner time) but the food and service were okay. They even remembered us travelling to celebrate our wedding anniversary and offer us the cake to celebrate at the end of the meal (on top of the two desserts we ordered). Windjammer Cafe (what Royal Caribbean Line used for all their ships for their buffet restaurant) has great selection of food with everything you could imagine and the menu changes regularly throughout the trip - plus it's only one level up from our room so it's very convenient for us to hop in and out for a quick bite. In between meals there were a few outlets serving snacks - hotdogs by the playground, soft-serve ice-cream by the pool etc. Those turned out to be very popular but at least the waiting line was manageable and worth waiting for. 

One of our favorite perks of being in the Silver Suite was access to the "Silver Dining" section located at the front of the ship near the top, which was much cozier with sit-down service. Most of the food were available at the buffet counters (not as big as Windjammer but with sufficient variety) with some dishes prepared a la minute from the kitchen. Definitely the upgraded version from the main dining areas. We ended up spending most of our time eating there - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and had a great time (and kudos to the excellent service by the team)

There were more to do on the ship than we expected. Originally we thought mid-December might be a bit too cold to swim in the pool but turned out the water temperature was manageable especially in the middle of the day. And with the ship barely operating at 1/3 the full capacity the public area (including the few pool areas) was never too crowded. When we got too bored from hanging out in our own room and balcony, there were plenty of sections where we could sit around and chill, or have a leisure stroll around. Seaplex was more catered to the younger passengers (and those young at heart) but we were impressed they even got a bumper car track fitted inside the ship (which was fun, by the way)

The entertainment program featured the rather predictable line-up of events - outdoor movies, concert at the lounge, musical shows in the theater, or even a group taichi class one morning (and well-attended too, to my surprise). Those keep us well occupied day or night. We particularly enjoyed the arts and crafts workshop specifically organized during the Christmas sailing period, when we spent a couple of hours designing a festive decoration piece that we could take home with. 

"North Star" is one of the unique features of the ship, which is an observation deck that could go 300 feet above sea level with an extended mechanical "arm". Not much to see in the middle of ocean to be honest, but it's an interesting experience getting on for a quick 15 minute tour up high. I wish we were brave (and skillful) enough to get on the surfing simulation - I thought that's the most exciting facility on board and did look like fun. Or the rock climbing wall.  

We made the conscious decision of not subscribing to the add-on Internet package during our sea-vacation so we were disconnected for a couple of days from the cyberworld (not only because it cost arms and legs to stay connected). Turned out we love the our "digital detox" experience, just to get us out of the unhealthy routine of checking on our Facebook or Instagram every few minutes. It was lovely to be muted from those phone notifications that would otherwise be buzzing constantly. Even for that alone we probably will want to go back some time soon if and when we were allowed to. 

NB: Hong Kong government has suspended future cruise travel in January out of concerns of Omicron variant 

More photos:



Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the photos of the different places of the cruise with us!
Photos look vivid - shot on phone or camera?


gary s said...

Sometimes phone, and sometimes camera. These days is mostly phone since I am too lazy to carry a camera around.