30 March to 3 April 2023
Singapore – Penang – Phuket
Well this was a seriously different cruise to any we had done before.
The travellers in the Asian Market eat like nothing I have ever seen – especially in the restaurants that are included in the price. They stacked their plates higher than I had ever seen before – but they finished it all. And they went back for more, and more.
It was a sight to behold.
The dining Rooms – These were virtually packed for every possible food service that was going. It was as if locusts had set upon the ship and were devouring their way through many times their own body weight in food.
The Specialty restaurants – On any cruise ship there are specialty restaurants that offer additional food options (as if there was not enough food on a boat) for extra cost. These were virtually all empty the whole cruise. The one exception to this was the Japanese restaurant that did have a decent trade.
The Buffet – WOW I have never seen anything like this. Royal Caribbean has a standard buffet up near the pool deck known as Windjammer Marketplace (the Bali Bogan Buffet when travelling in Australia). This is a huge venue with an international buffet and choices of almost anything you want. On other cruises this was a place for gluttony and wastefulness as people take more than they need. Not in Asia. If it was taken from the buffet, it was eaten, very little was wasted.
The Casual Dining – In addition to the fixed meal times and the buffet, there is a range of options for getting food in between meals. You guessed it, these were constantly busy.
This was what made the cruise so very different to what we had experienced. In Australia and on the one Caribbean cruise that we had done the bars and restaurants have always been full but in Asia it is a very different scenario. The bars are basically empty (with the exception of a few stray westerners).
On every other cruise we had done you were often several deep at the bar waiting for lots of cocktails to be made.
This too was an important note of difference. On other cruises the sun and pool decks are constantly packed with people reserving their seats from early morning. Scantily clad cruisers lay on loungers baking themselves in the sun. Not here.
The decks were virtually empty, the whole day. Even the running track (a feature for those trying to stave off obesity due to the quality and quantity of the food) was empty. This usually has walkers and runners complaining about each other as some group goes too slow or the other too fast. Or the fact that they walk abreast and will not let the faster ones pass.
Another major point of difference. Aussie pool decks are packed, always. Kids rampaging and parents sunbathing and poolside movies in the early evenings, there is very little down time for the pool decks. Not on an Asian cruise. The pool deck is almost empty (with the exception of the outdoor smoking area). The other interesting thing is the sight of children and full grown adults bobbing up and down in the pool with life jackets on.
What can I say – this was packed – constantly. We made one foray down to the casino deck in an attempt to find out where all the people were. We found them.
There was not a spare machine in sight and the tables were packed. When you look at the tables on a regular cruise there are usually a lot of $5 minimum bet tables and the odd $25 table. I could not find a $5 bet table at all and the $25 seemed to be the starting point – it went up from here. And there was not a spare seat around.