Cruising SOPAC

It’s been almost two years since I took a cruise from Sydney to New Zealand. Looking back, I have posted about New Zealand and my experiences there, but not about the cruise itself. Well, this post fixes that problem. Note that I’m going to focus on the cruise itself, not the events before or after, or the ports of call in between.

After spending about four days in Sydney with a former colleague and her family, I boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Radiance of the Seas. I was meeting my mom and many of her old high school friends, making me probably one of the youngest in the party.

For the next 12 days, that was our home away from home.

There are plenty of sites that already talk about cruise ship etiquette – basic things like being on time so that the ship can depart on schedule, all the paperwork, the people who have to tip, what to do, what not to do, etc, so I’m not going to reiterate everything you can read elsewhere.

Here are few things I’ve learned.

First, a cruise is not for everyone.

If you are prone to seasickness, don’t go. I am not prone to seasickness. In fact, I felt worse after taking a seasick prevention pill. As a result, I ditched them on the second day. Meanwhile, there were pretty rough days in November while traversing the Tasman Sea. In fact, I have never seen the sea turn these colors: violent grays and frothy silvers.

Speaking of the seas, depending on where you are and whether you want to brave the cooler temperatures on deck instead of a warm restaurant or casino, sunsets were the most magical time for me. I saw some awesome sunsets. It’s hard to go back in time and recapture that feeling and pictures don’t really do much justice.

Second, enjoy the food.

We had a choice of either the restaurant or the buffet. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. First, because of the sheer number of people, everyone, and I mean everyone, is assigned a shift – early or later. Early dinner is 5:30pm. That’s way to early for me because sometimes I’m still at work or on the road home. In fact, I don’t usually eat dinner until later. However, my choices were: 1) eat with my mom’s group, 2) eat at the buffet, or 3) grab a later snack.

Remember, big boy rules apply when you’re over 25 and hanging with your parents and their friends. Just go to the bathroom; no need to ask permission. You already have a job and your own credit cards; buy whatever souvenirs you want. And thus, eat whatever and whenever you want. For convenience sake and also because it is a lot of fun and energy, and also to meet new friends, I spent several meals with my mom and her friends.

I had dishes that I don’t know how to make and thus enjoy them a little bit more: coq au vin, Singaporean satay chicken, shwarma in Christchurch, bacon wrapped poached eggs, and cheesecake.

As for the buffet, on several nights when I didn’t want to go to the restaurant, I eat the buffet instead. In fact, there were times when I had a better experience here than the restaurant. That was because they had themed nights. One night was Malaysian and Indonesian street food. Another was Mexican night – tacos and burritos. By contrast, on those days, the restaurant menu’s daily specials just were not too appealing.

Third, stop complaining.

One thing that really peeved me on the cruise was when people were complaining about how the food sucked and that other cruise line’s had better food. Blah, blah, blah. Having been to other Third World countries where the standard of living was much, much lower and people were eating whatever trash they could find, I had very little cause to complain about anything.

Although, the ship’s captain did have a Q&A session where people could ask all sorts of questions, such as about the ship’s propulsion and stabilization systems, bathrooms and waste management, and everything in between.

Fourth, there is something for everyone, but not everything is for you.

If you read this far, please bear with me because it might sound preachy. In the book of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul said that “all things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. Food is for the body, but I will not be slave to my appetite.” What Paul is saying is that there is Christian liberty to indulge – if you want to drink alcohol and you’re legal, have a drink. If you want to learn how to play card games and gamble, no one is going to stop you. If you want to climb a 60 foot high rock wall on a pitching deck of a ship, go for it. If you want to spend all night listening to a 70s indie Aussie rock tribute band, make sure you bring some ear plugs.

For me, I don’t like to drink. I was pretty put off when I see plenty of half drunk, flushed face men and women with a drink in one hand during happy hour. And while I have money, I’m not going to lose playing the slots or blackjack. There are better uses of my money and time, like watch a movie that I always wanted to see but didn’t have time to see on the big screens back home. Or catch up on reading. Or sleep. Or stargaze on heli-deck located at the bow of the ship. My cameras are not great so I have to rely on memory as I looked up at the southern constellations. That’s what I’d rather do.

What else? There was the magician Leo Ward – went to both of his shows and bought the DVD. Had him autographed it.

There was this pianist- violinist husband wife duo from the Ukraine. Bought their CD too. They cover everything from Michael Jackson to Mozart and even Yankee Doodle. Didn’t get their autographs.

One final note: the hotel staff do know how to keep things interesting. I saw some wildlife:

In addition to elephants and monkeys, there are also bears and 17 other animals. There was even a demonstration by the hotel staff. Very interesting; if you like origami, folding towels should be right up your alley.

Besides towel art, there was a random Marilyn Monroe statue in her famous pose. Why is that there on the 11th floor art gallery, I don’t know. I leave you with this mini mystery

Would I go on another cruise? Maybe?

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