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All the places we’ll go-and things we’ll do-on the royal mariner of the seas

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All the places we’ll go-and things we’ll do-on the royal mariner of the seas

Royal Promenade —PHOTOS BY NIKKA G. VALENZUELA

“Are you ready to go ice skating and wall climbing?” Mark Parladé asked us during the predeparture briefing.

Ice skating? Wall climbing? On the ship? While cruising? I had so many questions.

How does a cruise ship have an ice-skating rink and a rock-climbing wall? Doesn’t that defy gravity and logic? It sounds fun, but there was this tiny voice at the back of my mind asking, “Is it safe?”

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But when I saw the ginormous Mariner of the Seas floating on the calm waters of Singapore, I was stunned. The cruise ship’s enormity was gravity defying, but it was already towering and surpassing our expectations, even from miles away.

Rhapsody in Blue dining room looks like a scene out of a movie, literally.

The Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, docked in Singapore’s port (a building fashioned after a ship) journeyed for four nights, from its home port to Penang, Malaysia, and Phuket, Thailand. I was excited to set foot in Penang, Asia’s street food capital and home of potent and delicious coffee, and drink Thai iced tea at Phuket.

But cruising, I learned, was not about commuting from one place to another. The ship was a destination herself.

When I entered the ship and saw the Royal Promenade—a stretch of retail stores, pubs, café and ice cream parlor—I said out loud: “It’s like a small floating city!” And Mariner of the Seas was exactly that.

The ship was 14 decks of fun, entertainment, action rolled in a 138,000-ton vessel, and I had four days to explore it.

I walked around the ship with my Cruise Compass on hand. Ice skating rink? Check! Wall climbing? Mounted at the back of the ship’s funnel. Pools? Too many to count. A view of the horizon? Pick a spot.

Haji Lane

Mark wasn’t kidding with the rink, I said to myself.

On Day 2, we docked at Penang and explored George Town, the old British colony that still embodies its British DNA up to this day. The guide said that in Malaysia, citizens are required to learn at least two languages since the country is a hot pot of different people, from Peranakan Chinese to Malay.

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The thing about Penang is that one must eat his way through the city. Because the Mariner of the Seas only moored for a few hours, I was able to hit only one hawker center, Gurney Drive, and ate everything I could stuff in my stomach in less than an hour.

“Char koay teow” stall

Sino Portuguese houses at Soi Romanee, Phuket

The guide said that one must buy a drink from the table owner, but can order from different stalls. I devoured half a plate of savory Teochew-style fried oyster omelet. How can one resist a mouthwatering plate of oyster priced at only 7 Malaysian ringgit?

Char koay teow, a stir-fry rice noodle with shrimp, duck egg, togue and peanuts went well with the omelet. Then there’s asam laksa, the Malaysian version of the classic Singaporean spicy noodle soup. At 5.50 Malaysian ringgit, one can enjoy a medium bowl of asam laksa. It was bursting with flavors, but it’s definitely not for people who can’t handle chili.

By the time I finished the meals and some satay, I had no more room for cendol, the shaved-ice dessert similar to the Filipino halo-halo. It was time to go back to the ship.

Day 3 and the clocks have moved an hour behind. We have arrived in Phuket.

In Phuket the port is small and water is shallow that we had to dock away from the harbor. We disembarked the ship and transferred to a small ferry that took us to shore.

Big Buddha sits on top of a mountain overlooking Phuket.

We walked around Soi Romanee, a street lined with colorful Sino Portuguese houses where the lower floors were turned into coffee shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. It was a Thai version of Haji Lane and it was every Instagram-obsessed person’s paradise.

A visit to Thailand won’t be complete without going to a Buddhist temple, an elaborate architectural marvel that has been a landmark of Thailand. We stopped by Chalong temple, the largest and most visited temple in Phuket. Outside the temple was a small market with souvenir stores, food stalls and refreshment stands which sold Thai iced tea.

The Big Buddha, sitting on top of a mountain, is also a must-visit. The Buddha overlooks Phuket and the surrounding islands and its white sand beaches.

Pool deck

Day 4 was sailing back to Singapore. I had only one day left to experience the ship’s amenities, so I finally rose early to play mini golf. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing, but the course was on Deck 13, right on the edge of the ship, and I’d be a fool if I didn’t play for the heck of it.

After mini golf was a visit to the video arcade. I’ve visited this place three times in four days because, well, this is my kind of casino. Yes, I was old enough to be the mother of some of the kids playing there. No, it didn’t stop me from playing “Candy Crush” or “Soul Surfer.” It was the only place where I didn’t suck. Because I sucked at the wall climbing, more so in the in-line skating. After one struggle of a round at the skating track, I went straight to the frozen yogurt station for some comfort food.

Rock climbing wall

The skating rink was closed for most of the day (that’s why one should always check the Cruise Compass) for the “Ice Under The Big Top,” a circus ice show featuring an international cast. It was loads of fun, but beware clown haters, your worst nightmare makes an appearance here, sans Pennywise.

Before I knew it four days had sailed away and I was back in Singapore, craving the unlimited frozen yogurt and regretting that I had not gone ice skating or visited the spa or the jazz club or piano bar. But there’s always a next time, and I already know my way around Mariner of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas has returned in Singapore for her longest and final season until April 2018. She is offering 56 Southeast Asian sailings from Singapore, the highest number for this ship ever. Choose from the following itineraries: three-night cruise to Penang/Kuala Lumpur; four-night cruise to Penang/Kuala Lumpur and Phuket; five-night cruise to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket; seven-night cruise to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi and Phuket; seven-night cruise to Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.

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