George Town, Penang, Malaysia

Our second port on our Mariner cruise was the town of George Town in Penang, Malaysia. It was advertised as a food lover’s paradise! My husband however was not convinced and was refusing to try any of the food (because of the hygiene he says). So as a result, we didn’t book any shore tours. We had (mistakenly) read that we could leave the kids in Kids club for the day while we were in port…but when we got to Kids club we found out this was not the case as they had set sessions of only a couple of hours and we had to collect the girls after each session. So in the end they came with us.

Getting off the ship was reasonably easy, with one exception…. the “vultures” that are the taxi drivers and local tour operators who are trying to get all the passengers to take their cabs. They stand at the exit and yell at you for business and it was to the point of touching. They don’t take no for an answer either. They were rude and it was horrible. In the end my husband was quite nasty to them. If there’s one thing I absolutely hate, it’s hawkers.

Once we got off the ship, we set off to find the free bus that goes around town for a look. Found the bus and went around. That was okay. We didn’t find the town terribly exciting. We ended up at one of the shopping centres. At this point hubby was frustrated with nothing to see (and he hates shopping!), kids were annoying and at this point we were almost ready to go back to the ship. We decided to catch a bus to go to Penang Hill. We caught the public bus up. The trip was really cheap (about 2 Ringgit each) but it took about 40 mins.

When we got to the top, we almost decided not to go up, the queue was a mile long! Time was running out and we were wondering whether we would have time to stay. In the end we discovered there was a “fast lane” option, you pay a little extra but it meant skipping all the queues and getting on the next train!

So up the hill we went…

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The train up the hill. It’s quite steep going up, similar to Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

The views from the top were spectacular. I spy a cruise ship!

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There were monkeys here too. This one scared the living daylights out of the girls when it kinda jumped at them. They were a little more wild than the ones at Batu Caves.

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Although my hubby and the girls didn’t eat, I wasn’t wasting my opportunity! Up the top there is a food court and so I tried a laksa and chicken nuggets. Was very nice.IMG_0210

 

Meanwhile the girls got airbrush henna tattoos

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We had a lovely time in the end and I am so glad we ended up going up the hill. I wish we had started here so we could have more time. When we got back to the bottom we decided to skip the bus and take a taxi back to the ship. We really should have done this in the first place. The driver was lovely and not a maniac like the guys on the port. I had heard Penang makes good coffee so I asked him where to get good coffee and he took us to a “factory outlet” type place where you can try and buy coffee and tea sachets. There was both tea and coffee here, as well as chocolate. Was very nice. The only criticism was I wish this place sold a variety or sample pack of different coffees/teas to take home, I would have liked that over buying one packet of 20 in the one flavour! In the end I bought a pack of lychee tea and some chocolate. I’m not much of a tea drinker but it was really nice (and sweet, I like my sweet drinks).

So my husband didn’t think much of Penang but I didn’t mind it so much. I would like to have tried more of the food…might have to do this one day without my husband or kids!

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Mariner of the Seas

This post is to give you more of a detailed overview of the ship my family cruised on…Mariner of the Seas. I went on this cruise as part of my holiday to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Mariner of the Seas is a Voyager class ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The ship mainly operates out of Asia and does cruises within Asia from Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

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The solarium pool (adults only) on Mariner.IMG_0075

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The Royal Promenade (don’t mind the look on my daughter’s face! LOL).

There were a few high-end shops here. I am not really a designer label shopper (I look, but don’t buy!) so it was interesting to watch everyone go crazy when they had “sales” on designer handbags and watches. If you look carefully towards the top of the photo, there are a bunch of windows overlooking the promenade. Some of the staterooms have windows that look over the promenade instead of the ocean. If you get an inside room, this is most likely the view you will get. Good for watching the Dreamworks parade though, and as I was on a New Year’s Cruise, it would have been awesome to have a room watching the countdown to 2016…but alas!

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The Dreamworks Sailaway parade

IMG_0093The front windows of the ship

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Putt Putt golf at sea (was rather breezy when we took this!)

There is a lot to do on this ship. As well as the usual pools, casino, theatre, bars and so on there’s a gym, video game arcade, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, inline skating track, basketball court and more.

Food – You will never starve! Lots of options. Most are included in the cruise, but some restaurants you pay a per person charge to eat at.

Each passenger is allocated a dining room they can eat at each night for formal dining. There are set dining times, or you can book My Time Dining and come at a time that suits you (but you have to prebook this). The food here is really nice, and there is a fair bit of choice. You can choose between around four or five dishes for each course of your meal. The menu also had Asian options, every day there were different things to choose from. Plus there is a kids menu (although that didn’t change every day). When you go to formal dining you sit in the same area and have the same wait staff each night. Our waiters were Nur and Subhang (Bangbang), two lovely guys from Indonesia. Regan was our barman from India.

Some of the lovely food from the dining room.

If you aren’t into formal, there’s the Windjammer buffet. Breakfast was held there every day, but you could go up there anytime for lunch or dinner as well. Being in Asia, there were Asian and Indian food options in the buffet, and also an Asian-only food buffet attached to Windjammer called Jade.

On the Royal Promenade there is a cafe on it that serves cakes and snacks (wraps, pizza slices etc), as well as brewed coffee and tea. You can also get what RC call “premium coffee” there (cappuccinos and lattes etc) but you have to pay extra for those.

The ship has room service so you can order food into your room if you wish, I think they only charge late at night. A number of times we would go to the bar/cafe and buy drinks then take them back to our room.

There were a few paid dining options, but we didn’t do any of these. Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table (Italian) and Johnny Rockets (burgers).

Service was great. All the staff spoke English really well. Many of the staff also spoke an Asian language and were from an Asian country (I did manage to find the one Mauritian guy though!). Staff were friendly and helpful. I had brought the wrong plug for the ship (yes RC Fans Facebook group friends, even after seeing the post a million times I still stuffed up!) and I was loaned a plug I could use on board (I gave it back when I bought one).

Money – Everything is charged in US dollars. I spent half my cruise carrying my phone around with my currency converter app on! RC actually use a cashless system on board. When you embark you are given a SeaPass card. This card is your room key, ID (because RC look after your passport while you are on board) and credit card. You pay for everything with this card and then it gets charged to your account. At the end of your cruise RC can charge it to your credit card (and you can choose beforehand if it charges you in $US or your home currency) or you can pay cash at the end. During the cruise you can put on your TV in your room and you have an itemised statement showing what you have bought and how much you have spent.

Kids Club – I can’t really talk too much about this. My girls only went once the entire cruise for about 2 hours. When they did go, they enjoyed themselves. I think they liked the time apart from their sister, as the groups are arranged into age groups. We were happy to sit by the pool relax with a drink and watch them swim, they loved the pool too!

Port Days – We had 3 days in port. We got off each time but you don’t have to. Port Klang and George Town the ship was docked, so getting on and off was not a big deal, but in Phuket the ship was tendered (anchored offshore) and you have to get on a smaller ferry to get to the port. I had heard mixed reviews about the tendering process. In the end we had no issues. There was a process and we got off reasonably quickly.

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The Mariner tendered offshore in Phuket.

So there you have it! As much as I can remember right now about the ship itself. I highly recommend cruising, we had such a great experience.

Kerrie

 

 

My fabulous 40th Birthday Holiday!

What a summer! My family and I have had the most fabulous December and January break! Asia was an intriguing and wonderful experience.

I’ll try and post more about each place I went to, but overall, for me my absolute favourite thing about my trip was the cruise I went on. I was really nervous (yet excited) about cruising. I had heard so many fabulous and not so fabulous stories about friends and family who had completed cruises and I was curious to try one. As this was my first cruise, I was adamant I didn’t want to do a long cruise, and that I didn’t want to visit the South Pacific (as my husband and I had been to many of the places already…that said, maybe we will do a South Pacific cruise down the track, if we go with a group of people). I was worried about seasickness. I can get carsick (dizziness), and I have been quite nauseous before on smaller boats in choppy waters, so I was super prepared for it all.

The cruise we went on was Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, which left from Singapore. The ship is absolutely massive (and it’s a mid-size boat in their fleet! Yes, there are bigger ones!). Mariner has 15 decks, 2 swimming pools, a 9 hole putt-putt golf course, an ice rink, a mini basketball court, a rock climbing wall, a Royal Promenade (think like a mini shopping mall) that runs through the middle of the ship with shops, a cafe and even an English pub just to name but a few of the facilities on board.

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Why I liked my cruise so much was not only did I NOT get seasick (yay!), crusing took the stress out of traveling to various places. You can get on and off the boat very easily when in port and you don’t have to think about hotels, luggage, immigration etc. All you have to worry about is not losing your SeaPass (the card they give you on the ship) and getting back to the ship on time (and if you are on a ship tour you don’t have to worry too much about that either). On a sea day, there is a lot to do for both adults and kids, so you can’t get bored. Almost all the food (including snacks) are included so you can eat at almost any time what you like (a dangerous thing!). The only thing not included were drinks (apart from coffee, tea, water, iced tea and juice at breakfast), but as we aren’t heavy drinkers the costs were not excessive and the drink prices weren’t too bad.

The destinations we visited on our 5 night cruise were:

Singapore (our cruise started and ended here),

Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia (KL is about an hour away from the port itself),

George Town, Penang, Malaysia,

Phuket, Thailand.

We had one day in each port (apart from Singapore) and one day at sea.

The rooms are compact, but surprisingly adaptable and spacious. We had an ocean view room on Deck 2 (next time we will probably get a balcony) We did freak out when we got to our room, because it looked like this when we checked in:

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We were wondering where the girls were going to sleep! Thankfully our stateroom attendant pointed out that each night he comes and pulls the beds down from the ceiling each night. It’s rather clever actually. You can see the mechanisms in the photo below and you can also see where the beds are hidden in the first pic.IMG_0114

This was our tiny yet useful bathroom. We had a shower too it was on the right hand side of the picture, but you can’t see it too well. You can see a bit of the shower screen!IMG_0177

The experience on board was amazing. The staff were efficient, friendly (and all spoke English well) and nothing was a problem for them. I’m hoping to post more about the ports etc soon. I am now a cruise fan! We are already looking at another cruise to go on in 2017!