It was a multiple stop cruise in Asian ports. Knowing the ‘Mariner of the Seas’ docks at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre was a bonus in convenience. Though I love travel, taking an aircraft is a major logistic challenge. Now with the MRT running to Marina South Pier station, transit is economically easy though there is still a 20-minute stroll to board the ship.
Cruising removes the need for sourcing accessible accommodation, a big bugbear for wheelchair users. Steps in the way, lifts that are too small, doorways my wheelchair cannot squeeze through are not on the worry list. I must qualify that there are areas that the non-ambulant disabled cannot go to such as the top deck. Seating arrangements for PWDs in theatres on certain cruise ships are not catered to on Asian run cruise lines.
The food available on board is mind-boggling hence the concern is over-eating rather than the meal hunting (which is an adventure in itself) needed on land excursions. People have often queried what are the things to do sailing out at sea. Well most of the time is spent drinking and dining and er… sleeping.
Then there are shows ranging from magic performances, samba dances, circus acts, ice skating extravaganzas, music from jazz to big bands to pop, K-pop to one of a kind ‘hypnotise the audience’ displays and imitating celebrities by an incredibly talented transvestite are the possibles in the itinerary each evening. More mundane dos are karaoke, towel origami, shopping, fruit art, swimming, rock-climbing, mini-golf, Jacuzzi soaking, sunbathing, read books, myriad games and the list continues.
Of course there those that are payable if you got the cash. Arcade games, Spas and massages, specialty restaurants, on board tours and pre planned shore trips, topless revues and the ubiquitous casino. The gaming area is where passengers really pay.
The ride to Marina Bay station was smooth. Disembarking and waiting for the allocated train to Marina South Pier station was more than ten minutes. The walkway to the terminal was mostly sheltered. Clearing customs proved to be similar to the experience at airports. Going through metal detectors for both people and luggage, a quick body check for me, passport screening and then to the ship.
Having booked and paid online for the disabled accessible lodging, cruise personnel scanned and allotted a type of credit card to each passenger as a system to pay for purchases on the sail. All along, the gangway was accessible except for a few bumps at joints in the corridor. We had hand carried bags while the heavier luggage was checked in and delivered outside our cabin door a while later. A quick unpacking of sparing essentials and we were off to the cafeteria style eating. As usual, it was an overwhelming array of choices including the beverages.
The first evening on a cruise is the safety drill much like the video at the start of a plane flight. For this instance, knowing the place to head to in case of emergency is vital. Still, nonchalant folks taking the precautions lightly are commonplace. Dinner is offered in two time slots as it switches between two theatre show times for an interchangeable option.
Ports of call can be in a situation where it needs tendering. That means transferring to a boat to go on land. That takes the shore outing out of my list. The various destinations are Port Klang, Penang, Langkawi, Phuket(overnight) and back to Singapore. The only place my motorised wheelchair can get down was Penang. I could go down to the pier in Port Klang but there is not much to do there and transport to town was not available for my needs. Penang port is a short walk to the city and its streets of shops and stalls.
At Langkawi, a very steep ramp discouraged taking the considerable risk to get to a sole souvenir shop at the ferry terminal. Phuket was only by tender. It may seem a waste not to be able to go on land but there are benefits. When a majority of passengers goes on shore, the whole ship seems deserted. Restaurant staff cater to your whims and other venues evoke the feeling of exclusivity accorded to celebrities and VVIPs. The swimming pools and Jacuzzis are not crowded out and leisure strolls hand in hand with your loved one is a most satisfying activity.
One has full awareness that such moments in time like this are the stuff dreams are made of. It is after all, a vacation away from the stresses of city living and materialistic pursuits of Singapore society.
TIP: This ship has room service during the day and food is allowed in the cabin, a much-appreciated help for a disabled person. Breakfast in bed is a luxury as it shortens sitting periods and delays the tiredness of a long day.