Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cruise to Taiwan - Part 1

Ok, this post was supposed to follow my Hong Kong post - remember the one in October? So, yes, I know - this is really, really late - never could find the 'write' time - and still working on the procrastination issue. So why now - well 2 reasons - first, I do want to post this before our next vacation, and second, my memories are getting kind of blurry, the longer I wait, the shorter this post will be - I have visions of a one-liner - "We went on a cruise to Taiwan, and I really had a great time!" Now, that  wouldn't be much fun, would it? So here goes - our October vacation, a cruise to Taiwan!

Royal Caribbean's 'Voyager of the Seas'

Cruises - I absolutely love cruises!! Our first one was several years ago, when we lived in France - and I have been hooked ever since! Seriously, what's not to love?? Totally prepaid - I'm not denying it is pricey - but once you've paid, everything is included!! Travel without driving - no road maps, no looking for directions!! All meals on the ship - no hunting for McDonalds or Pizza Hut each place we go to!! And not just any meals - lavish buffets for breakfast and lunch, and an elaborate, fancy sit-down dinner every night!! Kid's Club - a fancy word for babysitting services - woohoo, the adults can get some serious sight-seeing done - or maybe, just relax with a drink on the deck!! Various other planned activities to keep you entertained every minute - and the piece de resistance, mind-blowing shows every night!! As I said, what's not to love?!!

We celebrated our 10th anniversary with our 2nd cruise, and ever since we moved here, I've been looking for the next one - finally, the search ends with Taiwan!! Our cruise line of choice is Royal Caribbean, we've always had a wonderful experience with them, their website is easy to navigate, and their vacation planners are really helpful. On board, the crew is extremely solicitous and ready to go the extra mile - can I just say how much I love the turn-down service? But the deal-clincher - most of the crew is Indian, and the kitchens make Indian food every night - so above and beyond the menu, my daal-bhat loving foodie husband gets a special meal every night!! A word of caution, though - Royal Caribbean is not responsible for getting you visas for the countries on your itinerary - you're on  your own for that! For Taiwan - US citizens require no visa (a big surprise there!), but Indian citizens need a valid US or Japanese visa to apply for Taiwan visa.

Ready to board!

Our ship was to depart from Hongkong at 5pm and boarding started at 11am. Once the formalities were completed, and we were finally on board - I never remember the tedious waiting in line!! We were soon to realize that this cruise was slightly, just a tad different from the ones we've been on before. On boarding day, a buffet lunch is available until the ship sets sail - I remember checking into our cabin, strolling along the deck, getting a bite to eat - not this time! The dining room entrance was a scene of total chaos - passengers pushing, shoving to get inside - the crew on duty pleading in vain that all seats were taken, and could everyone come back in 30 minutes. A barricade had been put across the doors, but the unruly crowd soon broke through these barriers - running to the food counters as if they had been starved for a week.

The same story inside - people rushing from place to place, heaping their plates with more and more - as if the food would disappear if they didn't hurry. And the waste - oh the prodigious waste! To be honest, I had noticed the wasting of food on our previous cruises too - but on this one, it took on a whole new dimension. It was quite enough to make me completely lose my appetite. What was the difference? Take 3 guesses - it is a Chinese holiday, and the cruise is departing from Hongkong - I don't have to spell it out, do I?? All the public areas were the same - especially anywhere food was being served. It was pretty obvious that all our co-cruisers were out to get their money's worth for sure!! After being jostled and elbowed one time too many, we gave up and beat a hasty retreat to our cabin.

This year, I had splurged on a stateroom with a balcony - and it made such a huge difference. A couple of deck chairs, a good book (luckily for me, the only deserted area on the ship was the library!), the ocean swirling all around - the start of a perfect vacation. The stateroom itself was also a bit larger, a pullout couch for Manasi instead of overhead bunk beds, a bigger TV. Seriously, I can't say this enough - cruises are AWESOME!!! The Outside staterooms have a porthole, so plenty of light - and they are perfectly good if you are able to spend most of your time on the main decks - for this particular cruise, the balcony was a god-send!! We've also tried the Inside staterooms before - these are of course the cheapest option, but wouldn't really recommend them - the room gets dark as pitch, electric lights needed all the time!

Our stateroom

Upper deck

The Promenade


Dining room

Chilling on our balcony

Now that I'm done waxing eloquent about the ship, I guess I should get to Taiwan? Although, strangely enough, I started off thinking that I wouldn't remember enough to write an entire post - and now, here I am considering splitting this up - save the actual Taiwan sightseeing for a follow-up post! I do so love cliffhangers!! So don't go anywhere - Taiwan coming up in (fingers crossed) no time at all!! Meantime, go look up the cruise website - your dream vacation is only a click away!!

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