Cruise travel is slowly recovering from the impact of the pandemic after major mishaps on Diamond Princess 1 and few other ships2. Currently, some of the safer and popular options for residents of Singapore are the offers by Royal Caribbean and Genting Cruise Lines’ Dream Cruises – “Cruise to Nowhere” option. These are short, round-trip cruises with no ports of call with sufficient precautions taken to avoid another super spread trouble. There was an instance in the pilot program in December 2020 where one traveler tested positive, and they had to cut short the trip by one day 3.
However, with no or a very low number of community cases coupled with mandatory Covid-19 testing for all on board, the chances of another community spread are very slim (not zero).
There are mainly three types of rooms – Suites, Balcony rooms, and interior rooms. As you are aware, the rates are lowest in interior room and highest in Suites. Most of their rooms are balcony rooms with decent-sized beds and sofa beds with 3-4 pax occupancy.
There are connected rooms available too. Please check the symbols while booking the room as shown below4.
I have used an Ocean room with a balcony, and most of the details are based on that experience.
Rooms come with a TV (minimal channels), a Phone (you can call other rooms too), and a cooler. Kettle, tea bags, sugar, etc. provided in the room. You might want to call room service for milk or creamer.
One consideration for the room selection is selecting the level/deck. There could be rate differences. If the rates are similar, higher decks should be better for a better view from the balcony, closer to the swimming pool, etc.
A couple of other essential points to consider while selecting a room are location and deck level. By location, I mean where a room is located on the ship, midship versus forward (front) or aft (back). I don’t see any big difference in the experience. However, there are expert opinions on this decision, such as this one online here
I blocked a room that was available online at the time of booking. I see that not all rooms were available online. There could be an opportunity to book the rooms on the phone. The room rate includes insurance for $25,000 per traveler and a covid swab test.
Once booked the room, the next step is to download the Royal Caribbean app.
Booking additional amenities
There are options to book internet, dinner package, beverage packages, and a couple of activities.
Royal Caribbean claims they have the fastest internet in the high sea6. Anyways, the wifi connection provided was good enough for most of the online activities, including video calls.
Internet package is charged per device. Usually, wifi connections cannot be used for hotspots. However, I noticed that I could connect my laptop to a hotspot on my phone. So assume the method of connection is different here. You can try and see if the hotspots are working before adding more than one device.
An internet connection will help communicate between family/ group members while away in different parts of the ship. There are few other ways to communicate between co-travelers.
a. You can call other rooms directly from the phone in your room and other locations.
b.Royal Caribbean app has a feature to chat between different users (2 USD per day).
c. Use the mobile roaming as explained here.
Food and Drink packages
The drink package per traveler is around 73-83 USD per day. The price of beer per 330-350 ml can/ bottle is about 6-6.5 USD. Similarly, the fee for a cocktail is around 14 USD. You are allowed to carry a couple of Wine bottles per stateroom. Most of the pubs will close by 10.30 PM except a bar in the casino. As the Singapore rule of 10.30 PM closure applies onboard, you cannot consume alcoholic drinks in public areas after 10.30 PM. The bionic bar is one of the highlights where robots mix your drinks!
Dinner and snacks, coffee, etc., are included in the package from some restaurants. For Example, Sorrento’s Pizza, Cafe Promenade, etc., is always open and serves pizza, tea/ coffee/ pastries, etc., round the clock, and it is included as part of the room rate.
However, some restaurants, such as Jamie’s Italian is a specialty restaurant, and you need to pay per dinner (around 60 USD). A dinner package of 135 USD includes three days of dinner in these restaurants.
Wind Jammer at level 14 provides buffet breakfast, lunch, etc. The main dining hall at level 5 has options for vegans too.
Free shows and activities are booked once you are onboard. You are allowed to book paid activities such as North Star (40 USD or 20 USD based on the time slot. e.g., slot for sunset is higher priced) and iFly.
I heard some of these activities used to be part of the standard deal earlier in other Royal Caribbean ships.
It is advised to check in as earlier as possible, and they allow you do online check-in 90 days before sail. You are entitled to board the ship much earlier than the time of sailing. Hence, if you can get a slot to board in the morning, even if the sailing starts at around 8 PM, that will be more value for money. You can explore and use amenities when you board, be allowed to use the ship wifi and book the free activities/ shows, etc. Hence early check-in will ensure you can get a slot for popular activities and performances. Some of the activities and shows get filled up faster. E.g., We didn’t get a place for bumper cars which is filled up fast. It is a good idea to check the activity list as soon you book the room to get an idea of what you wanted to explore.
Covid test and safety precautions
One of the only negative experiences on this journey! However, speaking to others who have gone through Covid testing, I understand that this is the usual experience. So no choice there!
Safety precautions in the ship
Wearing a mask is compulsory except when you are eating, drinking, or in the pool. You are allowed to remove the mask while getting pictures clicked. Track together app (wrist band) is needed to be carried with you always along with the sea pass card. I had to approach guest services a couple of times when we misplaced the card or wristband. Buffet restaurants have people to serve you on the counter. On entry to dining halls, you are instructed to use hand sanitizer/ wash hands. All the shows and activities are running with half the capacity to ensure social distancing.
It is an easy process to board from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre though there are multiple touchpoints. It is required to show the Royal Caribbean app if you have not printed all documents.
Though there is an option to opt for check-in luggage, it does not make sense to leave the bags as you can walk up to the room with your luggage in hand. In case you decide to check-in, please remember to keep the wine bottles in hand baggage. Checked in baggage is sent to your room at about 9 PM.
Safety briefing on the Cruise
You are supposed to attend a ship safety briefing which is also possible by watching a video on the app. It is a good idea to watch the video prior.
Reserving slots for activities
It is advisable to check in early and book the shows/ activities using the ship WiFi. You also get a hardcopy of the daily planner leaflets near the guest service center at level 4.
To utilize the time optimally, you can visit the website/app and list all activities and restaurants you wanted to try. It is crucial as the facilities are all far apart and on different levels, and you might not notice unless you explore the app/ website earlier.
There are activities targeted to kids of different ages and adults, and spending 30-40 minutes to list all activities will help a long way to make the experience more memorable. Refer to this link to see things to do onboard.
The kinds of activities available are Music/dance shows, Live music, Quiz/ Contests, Dance classes, Rock climbing, Boogieboarding etc.
I felt the “Cruise to Nowhere” was value for money considering a staycation costs much higher with less or no activities provided.
I am not getting into details on various shows and live music etc. to keep the elements of surprise. What do you see on the elevator floor? Is there a surprise?
I did the fastest run ever using the Nike app on the deck, as you can see from the picture below! Or is it really so? 🙂
Please comment below on your experience and surprises.
- Should we carry cash?
Most of the payments are made by credit card and charges to the room (as USD). You might need to stock cash in USD if you intend to visit Casino and/ or wanted to use cash for a better conversion rate.
- Should I purchase the food and beverage packages?
As you can purchase drinks on board and bring your wine bottles, I found the beverage package was relatively expensive. Even if you drink 3-4 drinks a day, you can skip purchasing the package. Similarly, if you don’t want to spend on fine dining restaurants, you don’t need to purchase the dinner deals.
- Can we carry any alcoholic drinks?
You are allowed to carry two wine bottles per room7. You can either carry disposable cups or request room service for glasses.
- Can we carry any food?
With lots of food available everywhere, it will be improbable you will consume food/ snacks carried from home. However, it is allowed and it is easy to take your favorite snacks. A water bottle will be handy instead of using bottled water. You can call room service to deliver water in a glass to rooms.
- Is the food available for vegetarians?
There are vegetarian and vegan options available on the ship.
- Should we board earlier than the 8 PM sail start time?
It is recommended to select the earliest boarding slot to utilize the facilities fully and book the shows in advance.
- How do we book the activities?
Using the Royal Caribbean app, you can book and add the activities to your calendar.
- How was the Covid test done?
You should register each passenger on a website and schedule the test a couple of days before the trip (the test is done at Raffle City). You can use the same email ID to create multiple accounts to book the slots for all passengers in the group.
- Should we pay for the covid test?
No, this is part of the room fee.
- How many times the covid test is done?
Only once. There is no quarantine etc., as the ship does not have any port of call.
- Do we need to pay for activities on board?
Most activities are free except 2-3 (e.g., Northstar, iFly). It is possible the Suites room has these included too.
- What kind of clothes to carry?
Most of the restaurants recommend casual or semi-casual clothing except one or two suggested formal. You might want to carry cardigans or a jacket as it’s windy in the evening and too cold (aircon) inside theatre/show halls. It is a scorching sun in the daytime; hence carry sunglasses, caps, good sunscreen lotion, etc. Clothes for the gym and walking and swimming are also necessary. Remember to carry toiletries, especially toothpaste and brush. There is a convenience shop onboard and you will be able to purchase some of these items. However, you will have to dole out a higher amount.
- Is there a dress code for dinner?
There is no mandatory formal dinner night on the ship, and it is entirely unto you. Please note that the ship has professional photographers (49 USD or 99 USD packages) for the photoshoot, and hence you might want to consider that while packing the clothes.
- What are the exercise and gym options available?
There is a running/walking track on level/deck 15. Go for early morning walks or evening runs. It’s breezy and pleasant!
- Is there a power adaptor required?
The US and Europe power supply with few USB charging sockets are available. If you plan to charge a laptop or want more than 2-3 USB chargers, you might want to purchase an adaptor.
I did carry a universal adaptor and a Philips AC Adaptor to USB.
- Wikipedia – COVID-19 Pandemic on Diamond Princess ↩
- Wikipedia – COVID-19 Pandemic On Cruise Ships ↩
- CNBC – Covid-19 Infection found on a Singapore Cruise to Nowhere ↩
- Royalcaribbean.com – Deck plans ↩
- Royalcaribbean.com – FAQ Benefits of booking a suite ↩
- Royalcaribbean.com – Onboard internet wifispeed ↩
- Royalcaribbean.com – Items allowed onboard ↩