penang

Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas Full Review with Tips! Part 1/5: Getting Ready

As I was doing my “last minute cruise” preparation, I couldn’t find an updated review about Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas journey from Singapore. The latest one was way back in 2014 and there wasn’t much on Cruise Critic neither. So I have decided to write a full review here to share with you the exact experience on the cruise (and shore).

My family thought of going on a cruise earlier this year but hesitated slightly as we have never been on one, and never really heard the details from our other family members and friends about their experience. It was until our aunt told our parents how big the ship is, how fun it could be, and how nice and ample the food is, and we have decided to explore further.

After doing some basic research (which cruise line and where to get the best deal), we bought the cruise ticket from a travel agency (Transtar Travel) in March. It was a 4 night Penang & Phuket Cruise from Singapore and our departing date was on 15 May 2017. It cost us about SGD 1800 for 3 pax. There were some deals for senior citizens, children, and additional pax (third or fourth guest). We chose this cruise line as it seemed to be the best of all as the first trial: 4 nights aren’t that long nor short, the season is just nice, and we get to explore 2 new places – Penang and Phuket!

Cruise line

Tips: avoid raining season in Penang and Phuket, and avoid the school holidays! I think August or September is the best time and you should avoid October onwards as the weather is getting wetter and school holidays are starting. 

Once payment was done, we get our invoices through email. The agency phoned us to arrange a date to collect our tickets and to do a briefing with us. It was a month before the sailing date that we collected our tickets and attended the briefing.

Briefing by agent: what they tell you, and what they don’t tell you?

We arranged an appointment with our agent and have to physically be there to attend the briefing and to collect the tickets. Not all the passengers have to be there, you can just send one representative. It’s good to take down notes though the briefing is simple and you think you will be able to remember everything. It’s one (or more) month ahead, you might forget something nearer to date!

When passing us the tickets (the Set Sail Pass), the agent also handed us the “luggage tags”, a set of printed and folded paper which we have to manually hook on our luggage and staple it with our names and room number facing upwards.

luggage tag

Well, no worries if you lose it because you can request for one at the bag-drop counter on the day itself. But why the hassle, right? Just keep your Set Sail Pass and luggage tags properly!

You will be also be issued a “Guest Ticket Booklet” which you will find your deck number, your room number, your dining time, packing list, and ticket contract. The agency has helped us to secure a Deck 3 (front) stateroom with Ocean View. (Spoiler: The good thing is, it’s near to the theater, 24 hours cafe, and disembark area. Our stateroom is at the front deck while the dining area is at the rear deck, separated by the Ice Rink. So, we have to go up to Deck 4 or 5 to go to the rear and go down to Deck 3 again. See the floor plan here for reference only.)

Here are some tips given by the agent:

  1. “Get your dinner at the specified timing.” Our dining time was during the Main Seating (5.30pm) which was more suited for us rather than the Second Seating (8.30pm). “But if you missed that timing, you can try to go for Second Seating or casual buffet at Windjammer Cafe or other paid restaurants.” My additional tips: Yes, try to be on time! The waiter can serve you faster and better. The fine dining for each night is rather good, don’t miss them!
  2. “Water and other liquids are not allowed on board. A kettle is provided in your stateroom and you may boil your own water or purchase a beverage package. We don’t recommend soft drinks package though it’s cheaper.” My additional tips: If you can’t survive without having a water bottle with you (like me), bring an empty and reusable one. After entering the boarding area, refill it before boarding the ship, just like at Changi Airport. Clean water (hot and cold) is available at the Promenade Cafe. Although it is written that you should not refill your bottle there, but the staff won’t be too strict as long as you don’t try to do something funny or unhygienic. I would recommend you to take the water using a glass and pour into your bottle. 🙂 Evian water package is EXPENSIVE! We saw quite a number of passenger bringing cartons of mineral water from Penang though. They went past the baggage check counter just as fine. I was wondering if we could check in some bottles of mineral water at Singapore… as the baggage crew didn’t seem to scan them? And what if they scanned it and found the bottles of water in my luggage? Will they force open my luggage or call me for that? Not sure. :s Didn’t risk trying it.
  3. “Explore the ship when you get on board instead of going straight to your room. Wear something easy or pack your swimsuit along to change.” My additional tips: If your boarding time is early (e.g. 11 am), yes pack things to change or bring along your luggage directly. Check the cruise compass for activities available or simply just walk around to explore and take nice photos with fewer people in the background. If your boarding time is 2.30pm onwards, don’t bother. Just wear something comfortable (no high heels or formal wear) and bring along basic important things to get yourself on board (passport, phone, personal medication…). Leave the luggage at the bag drop counter (with the luggage tag!) and start exploring! However, here is something the agent did not remind us. There will be an emergency evacuation drill at 4 pm (1 hour before the ship sails). So, don’t go to your stateroom and sleep! You may not be able to hear the announcement clearly when you are in your stateroom. If you are not present at the assembly area, you are making thousands of people waiting for you. People are going to remember your room number and you will be given a serious warning by the captain. 
  4. “Bring along your own toiletries, especially toothbrush and toothpaste.” My additional tips: YES! There is no convenience store on the ship. Please remember to bring your toothbrush along. Soap and shampoo are given but if you have sensitive skin or is particular about the products you use, bring along your own soap and shampoo. 
  5. “If you need to bring food items, make sure it is unopened.” My additional tips: It has to be unopened totally, even ziplock bag won’t work. But there is really no need to bring any additional food as there is ample of food on board. Well, you can bring an empty container to keep some bread from the Cafe for supper or when you go for shore excursion! 🙂
  6. “Don’t miss any performance. Check the Cruise Compass and book your show accordingly through the interactive TV.” My additional tips: Umm, there is actually no option to book any show through the TV. In fact, we couldn’t even order room service through the TV though this option is available (something was wrong in their system). The only show that needs ticket was the Ice Odessey, which you can collect at a specific timing. Limited tickets available. The other shows were simple first come first serve, no seat-booking allowed. 
  7. “Bring along 1 formal wear for the Captain Night. You will dine with the Captain.” My additional tips: I did see guys wearing shorts and still able to dine in the dining room… but just bring along and wear it for great photos. We saw the captain from afar but it wasn’t during dinner time. Our formal night was at Penang port-of-call. The dining room was quite empty and there was nothing special about wearing evening gown… But, just wear them for good photos before or after the dinner. 🙂 Also, there was a themed party at the poolside later that night. 
  8. “You can explore on your own at Penang and Phuket ports-of-call. At Penang, just turn left and walk straight. You will see coffee shops, street arts, UNESCO heritage site… At Phuket, the ship will be anchored near to Patong Beach, just get down the small boat and have fun shopping and eating!” My additional tips: Penang was OK and although it took us quite some time to locate the direction from Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal. Download the offline Google map of the site is useful. But Phuket was a miserable lie. We have to use tender boats to get on shore at some “ulu” (rural) area and be prepared to be slashed by the taxi drivers. 1000 baht per person to go to town or the beach! My recommendation, either you join the Royal Caribbean shore excursion or pre-book a local tour or just stay on board to enjoy the cruise to the max.
phuket port 2

 More details are available in my subsequent blogpost for each day on cruise. Stay tuned!

Before sailing: what you need to prepare?

It wasn’t that exciting until we were 2 weeks before the sailing date. I started to slowly feel the excitement when I took out my luggage to pack my stuff!

OK, so here’s what you can do to better prepare yourself for the cruise:

  1. Prepare your own packing list. As you think about your cruise and you suddenly think of something to bring along, write them down! Run through them and imagine your great cruise experience! Then pack them into your luggage. Here is a “What to Pack” guide from Royal Caribbean. Here are some examples on my list:
    • Swimsuit – 1 or 2
    • Formal wear + appropriate shoes (you don’t want to wear those sport shoes with your gliterring evening gown)
    • Sport attire and shoes for sports
    • Sun screen
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Travel adapter and your phone / camera charger
    • Credit card
    • Cash – USD (on ship), MYR (Penang), THB (Phuket), SGD (Singapore)
    • Selfie stick may be?
    • Seasick pill (very useful when reaching Phuket as the wave is rougher)
    • Essential medicines (Panadol, Zyrtec, lozenges…)
    • Small backpack for shore excursion
    • Waterproof handphone case or pouch with strap. The wing can be so strong that it blows away your phone when you are taking selfie! It’s good to protect your phone against water too. I was using a brand new iPhone and didn’t want to risk it falling into the swimming pool (though it’s splash proof) or the sea! My main motivation of buying it was actually for this cruise trip. 😡
    • Look what my sister gave me! It’s soooo useful and Bay Max was so cute protecting my phone. It got some scratches after the trip. 😦big max phone pouch
  2. Do some basic research like reading this blogpost! Find out what to expect on the cruise, at the shore, and whether to get beverage or wifi package. It’s good to list down a to-do-list and set some goals just to build on your excitement, such as:
    • I want to try most of the facilities on the ship!
    • I want to watch all the shows!
    • I want to eat the free-flow ice cream!
    • I want to enjoy the jacuzzi at least twice!
    • I want to eat all I can!
    • I want to go to the gym every morning and run on the track!
    • I want to buy Big C seaweed from Phuket!
  3. Stay healthy! Take particularly good care of your health before the sailing date. It’s good to be in your perfect state to enjoy the cruise to the max. 🙂 But if you are slightly sick, no worries, you can still enjoy it. I was recovering from a flu and cough one week before the sailing date, but everything went well and I was 90% recovered when I returned from the cruise. I just couldn’t fulfill my goal of eating as much ice cream as I wanted. 😦

And you are all set for cruise! Be early so that you have more time on the ship. However, do adhere to the recommended boarding time to avoid crowd. They have the right to decline to board you if your boarding time is at 3 pm and you are there at 11 am. Your ticket will have the boarding time. Upper decks usually board earlier. Ours was Deck 3 and the boarding time was between 2.30 to 3.30 pm.

Here’s how to get to the Marina Bay Cruise Center Singapore! It’s not at Harbour Front Cruise Center!! There are different options to get there, refer the official website here.

MBCCS Map

See you in next post where I will be giving more insights to Day 1 of my cruise experience! 🙂