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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Kuala Lumpur

Our first port of call on our cruise on Mariner of the Seas was Kuala Lumpur. When I started looking into going on this cruise, one of the first things that worried me about this port was the fact that the actual city of Kuala Lumpur is quite a distance away from the ship’s port (called Port Klang), it’s at least a 90 minute drive, and traffic could hamper this.

I looked at the shore excursions on offer. With 2 adults and 2 kids the cost was going to blow out to over $A400 and I just couldn’t justify the cost. My husband was not keen to go to Batu Caves at first, I had to do some real convincing.

I was reading a review of the Mariner on another website and the lady had hired a driver for the day for much cheaper prices than the ship, so I investigated further. I found a recommended drivers thread on TripAdvisor and decided to book a local driver who could drive our family around for the day. This ended up costing around the same price as it would for ONE person to do the ship tour. (around $A150 for 6 hours). It was a risk, because if we were late the ship wouldn’t wait for us (whereas they would have waited if it was a ship tour). I took the risk. It paid off for us.

Our driver’s name was Gopi and he was lovely. He was waiting for us at the dock. We got away before all the buses did and the drive into the city was about 90 minutes. First stop was Batu Caves, which is actually past the city from the port.

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My eldest and I at Batu Caves.

Batu Caves is a limestone cave that is also a Hindi temple. There are 272 steps up to the top of the cave. At the top there is a shrine to Lord Murugan. The statue at the bottom is the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world.

The girls didn’t whinge too much about the many steps because they were distracted by the fact that there are wild Macaque monkeys everywhere wandering around the steps. As cute as they look, be careful because if you have any food in easy reach they go for it.

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The monkeys at Batu Caves are everywhere!IMG_0124

At the top!

Batu Caves was interesting. The girls found the place intriguing and kept taking pictures of the monkeys. They seem to be renovating/rejuvenating the caves so maybe this will help conserve it more as it was a little run down in places. It was good exercise and interesting to see the Hindu people worshiping and making offerings etc.

Next stop was the Petronas Towers. These are the tallest twin towers in the world. Gopi our driver took us for a quick photo stop first at KLCC park:

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I had pre-booked tickets online for us to go up the towers themselves. The ship’s tour had not included this so we were really lucky! I am so glad I did this! If you do this, pre-book your tickets or buy online because they apparently sell out early in the day.

The whole towers “experience” goes for about an hour. First stop is the Skybridge, which is a double-decker structure 42/43 floors up that connects the two towers together.

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KLCC park from up above.IMG_0152

We were on the Skybridge for about 15 mins before we went on up to the Observation Deck on Level 86 in Tower 2.IMG_0160

Views from the Observation deck. You can see Tower 1 in the foreground.IMG_0173.JPG

Underneath the towers/next door is a shopping mall called Suria KLCC. We popped in there for a little look. I wish I had stayed longer (it looked cheaper than Singapore and had more of my kind of shops!) but we were conscious of time and that we had to meet our driver.

We decided after that to go back to the ship. We enjoyed our day in Kuala Lumpur. We only saw a taste of what is there, but who knows maybe one day we will visit again!

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!