Tasting The Spice Of South East Asia

dolphingirl47

In Search of the Tag Fairy
Joined
Dec 25, 2007
Day 10

After walking for miles, the previous two days, a more relaxing day was called for. Despite my relatively late night, I was awake before Graham again. I checked out the best way to get to Sentosa and then read until Graham was awake, too. Once he was on the move, we got ready and headed out.

It turned out that the easiest way to get to Sentosa from where we were staying is by bus. This could be accomplished in just one change, which just happened to be at Tiong Bahru MRT station. A bus pulled up shortly after we got to our local bus stop. When we got to Tiong Bahru MRT station, the Sentosa bus was right behind us, but we decided to stop at Toastbox for some breakfast. We both had kaya toast with half boiled eggs and kopi, but also tried a local cake that is flavoured with pandan leaves and was bright green. The cake had a beautiful delicate flavour. Once we had finished our breakfast, we headed back to the bus stop and we did not have to wait long for our bus. The bus journey was pretty interesting again and took us through all kinds of different communities.

It did not take long until we got to Sentosa. I had written down which stop we needed to get off at, but the bus terminated at Sentosa Resort Gateway, which is the first stop on Sentosa. That was not an issue either. Actually, I am not even sure if the other stop would have been closer. Sentosa Resort Gateway Is an underground transport interchange right underneath where most of the attractions are. It was just a question of taking an escalator up and then follow the signs.

Sentosa had a chequered history. Originally it was home to native Malays. They were relocated to the mainland in the 1970s. During the Second World War, it was a British military fortress until 1942, when it became a prisoner of war camp housing British and Australian prisoners. After the war, it became a military base again until it was decided in the 1970s that Sentosa should be developed as a holiday resort. Today Sentosa features a casino, two golf courses, the historical Fort Siloso, 3 beaches, 14 hotels and more attractions than you can shake a stick at including Universal Studios Singapore.

First impressions were not entirely favourable. We only saw parts of Resorts World Sentosa, but that kind of has a Las Vegas meets Universal Citywalk feel. Neither of those are favourites of ours. There are all manner of strange shops and a number of restaurants operated by various celebrity chefs. We did not spend any time looking around, but headed straight to the ticket booth. Our destination was Adventure Cove, which is Sentosa’s water park. It did not take long for us to get our tickets and then we walked along a boardwalk to the entrance of Adventure Cove. It was a Saturday and we wondered how busy it would be. However, when we looked at the weather forecast, this was the only day when no thunderstorm was forecast so we decided to take our chances. In the end, it was really quiet. We got changed and put our stuff in a locker. Then we headed straight for the lazy river. As water parks go, Adventure Cove is not particularly big, but it contains a good-sized lazy river, a wave pool, various children’s areas, half a dozen slides, Rainbow Reef plus a number of experiences that come at an extra charge like Sea Trek, Ray Bay, Shark Encounter and Dolphin Island. The wave pool was closed when we were there. It is not particularly big, and I don’t think it being closed was a big loss.

The lazy river however was a lot of fun. There were various themed sections with the usual caves, waterfalls and jets of water. There was a small section that overlooked dolphin island, a glass tunnel, where you were surrounded by colourful fish and a huge window to Ray Bay. We swam one lap around the lazy river. I then decided to get an inner tube for the second lap, but they seemed to be in short supply. There were none where we had started. I got out of the lazy river again at the next exit to check and spotted something much more appealing- Rainbow Reef.

Rainbow Reef is their artificial snorkelling lagoon. Graham realised that something had captured my interest and followed me. We then headed over to Rainbow Reef. We had a short wait until we were let in. We were then equipped with a life vest, mask and snorkel. There was then a short briefing and then we were released into the lagoon one at the time. It had been a fair while since I last had the chance to snorkel. I think the last time was in Maui in April 2017. It took me a few minutes to get back in the swing of things. However, a couple of mask and snorkel adjustments later and I was away. I took a nice slow lap around the lagoon and saw many familiar fishes that I had previously seen in Hawaii and the South Pacific. Once I got to the exit, I had to make a decision if I wanted to do another lap or come back later. Even with my wetsuit, the water was pretty chilly, so I took the second option. Graham was not far behind me.

















We headed back into the lazy river and shortly after we got back in, I found an inner tube. I keep forgetting how uncomfortable they are and after a lap and a half, I was done. We decided to get out and go exploring. We found Dolphin Island. There was a nice area where you could observe the dolphins. Shortly after we got there, the trainers came out for a training session. I was amused that I could tell what the dolphins were about to do based on the hand signals the trainers gave. I found it very interesting that the hand signals are obviously international as they were the same as in the USA.



Shortly afterwards, they got ready for a dolphin interaction program. I have to admit that I was a little tempted, especially as this was the cheapest dolphin interaction program I have encountered. I have been lucky enough to participate in dolphin interaction programs in 6 different facilities across the USA, Mexico and Dubai over the years and most of them more than once. However, this was by far the weakest program. The one we observed was there top-level program and that consisted of a few rubdowns, some hand signals, feeding the dolphins some fish and a foot push. I have never been overly keen on the foot push so for me this would have been a huge disappointment. I decided to save my money. It was fun observing the dolphins though.

We headed back into the lazy river. I decided to pick up a life vest on the way. I put it on, laid on my back and just floated. This worked much better than the inner tube. We did just over a lap and then got out at the Rainbow Reef. When we sat down for the briefing, one member of staff recognised us and sent us straight in. We were about halfway when it started to rain. That was not an issue as we were wet anyway.

We did another slow lap around Rainbow Reef and I took a bunch of photos. Once we came out, I put on another life vest and we headed back into the lazy river. We completed our lap and then decided that we were quite wet enough for one day. We headed to the changing rooms to get showered and changed and then we left the park.









We headed back to the transport interchange. We had found that the bus network in Singapore is very easy to use with a lot of information at each bus stop. Sentosa Resort Gateway was the one exception to this rule. There is absolutely no information whatsoever. The bus stops are not even clearly marked as such. A few minutes after we got there, a bus with the right number arrived. As we had been told in the morning that the bus would not go any further than Sentosa Resort Gateway, we figured that this would take us back to Tiong Bahru MRT station. Unfortunately, we had thought wrong. This bus headed towards the beach station where it terminated. It did not matter. We did not have any timetable.

We did see a few more low-key parts of Sentosa and also our first merlion statue. The merlion is the official symbol of Singapore and consists of the head of a lion and the tail of a fish. There are 6 merlion statues around Singapore that are approved by the Singapore Tourist Board. I managed to see two of those on this trip. I really want to find all of them on our next trip. The one on Sentosa was previously approved by the Singapore Tourist Board. This used to be a tourist attraction. It closed about a month before we got there. When it was still open, you could climb up in the inside of the statue and there were a shop and two viewing galleries inside. It was also able to shine laser beams from its eyes. This is due to be knocked down in the not too distant future. It will be replaced by a new attraction by 2022.

It did not take long until we arrived at the beach station. This is the terminus of the Sentosa Express monorail. What I did not realise is that the ride from Sentosa back to the mainland is free of charge. They only charge for the trip from the mainland to Sentosa. Had I known this; I would have jumped on this opportunity just for the experience. Apart from the monorail station and the bus station, there is also the terminus for the free Sentosa shuttle and a bunch of food trucks in the area. I went to check out the food trucks. I found another Singapore speciality - the curry puff. It looked like a Cornish pasty and is made from the same kind of dough. However, it was filled with a chicken and potato curry. I got one for us to share. It cost the princely sum of two Singapore Dollars. I am sure that it would have been even cheaper pretty much anywhere else in Singapore, but it was a good size and from my perspective a bit of a bargain. It was also delicious.

We did not have to wait too long until the driver came back from his break and we were back on our way to the mainland. We switched to the MRT at Tiong Bahru and headed to Chinatown. We had some business to attend to. As nice and convenient as the Singapore Tourist Pass is, it also has its drawbacks. First of all, you can only get passes that are valid for 1, 2 or 3 days. We needed a total of 4 days on this trip. There are also only 16 places where you can buy them and a lot of them are only open for very limited hours or even only on certain days of the week. My original plan had been to go back to the Chinatown station, but then I noticed that Bugis MRT station also sells them. This station is on the same line as Tiong Bahru and there opening hours are better. I also remembered that Bugis was one of the recommended stations for Little India and Arab Street. I was planning on going to the Tekka Centre in Little India for a late lunch/ early dinner. Unfortunately, we encountered a little snag. I was not sure if I needed to switch SIM cards that day or the next as the data SIMS I had were only valid for 8 days. I tried it that morning and it worked fine so I figured it would be the next day. Apparently, it does not consider calendar days but multiples of 24 hours. So, at some stage that morning, it must have stopped working. This meant that I did not have access to Google Maps. We never did find Arab Street. It turned out that we just needed to head one intersection further north. We will definitely make a point of exploring this area on our next visit.

Fortunately, we at least found the Tekka Centre. This is right around the corner from the Little India MRT station. The Tekka Centre is quite different from the other hawker centres that we had been to. It is a multi-purpose complex. On the top floor, there are shops that sell traditional Indian costumes and inexpensive casual clothes. Some of the shops sell Taoist and Buddhist paraphernalia. There are also hardware shops, and tailors who can alter clothes in minutes. The ground floor is in two parts. We only explored the ground floor. Part of this is taken up by a wet market with stalls that sell fresh seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables. A lot of the fruit and vegetables looked very exotic and I had no idea of what half of them were. The reason we came there took up the other half of the ground floor. This is a hawker centre with stalls which sell Indian vegetarian meals, served on banana leaves or on stainless steel platters, besides Chinese vegetarian, North Indian and Malay food. I was surprised by the variety of the food on offer there. I had expected it to be all Indian food. We did however mainly stick to Indian food. Graham went to find a table and I went to find food. I got some butter chicken with roti first and then got some cheese-stuffed roti with vegetable curry. I also went to get us some drinks. I got Graham some sweetened lime juice and I had a drink made with rosewater and lemon, which was very refreshing. The main courses where quite big and filling. We both fancied something sweet. I had hoped for kulfi or some traditional Indian sweets, but they were nowhere to be found. Instead we had shave ice with mango and ice kachang, which we both shared. The ice kachang here was very different. Rather than fruit syrups, it had rose syrup and it did not contain palm seeds or grass jelly.



Once we had finished our meal, we headed over to the MRT station. We checked if there was a bus going in the right direction, but could not find one. We got on the MRT and got off at the Chinatown stop. We walked back from the hotel from there. It was still quite early when we got back, but we just relaxed in our room for a bit before having an early night.
 
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 11

    We had no particular plans for this day. There were a few things that we wanted to take care of, but we decided to kind of take things as they came. I managed to sleep a little longer that day, but was awake around 7:00. Graham was still fast asleep, and I saw no need to change this. I read for a while and then went online to see how we could get to some of the places we wanted to still see. Some of them were a little off the beaten track, but they actually turned out to be more straightforward to get to than I had thought. Housekeeping came quite early and we got out of the way while we were figuring out what to do. A while later, we headed back up to the room to get ready to head out. I finally got around to taking some photos of the room and then we made tracks.



    One of the things that were still on our to do list was Haw Par Villa. This was something Graham remembered from when he was a child in Singapore and somewhere, he really wanted to visit. It turned out that there was a bus leaving from across the road that took us straight there. When Graham was a child, this was known as Tiger Balm Gardens and was owned by the brothers behind Tiger Balm. In the late 80s, this was taken over by the Singapore Tourist Board. The park contains over 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese mythology, folklore, legends, history, and illustrations of various aspects of Confucianism. The centre piece is the Ten Courts of Hell, which features gruesome depictions of Hell in Chinese mythology and Buddhism. The park is downright bizarre. Before you get to the Ten Courts of Hell, there is a small museum about funeral traditions in Singapore. The park also looks decidedly sorry for itself and could do with some money spending on it. I am still glad that I had seen it as it is so unusual.














































    There had been some light showers on and off while we were at Haw Par Villa, but nothing that concerned us. When we had finished looking around Haw Par Villa, we headed to the local MRT station and took the train to the Botanical Gardens. We got out of the Botanical Gardens station and the heavens just opened. We stayed under cover until the rain seemed to let up and then we headed inside the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, we were lulled into a false sense of security. We were a few meters inside the Botanical Gardens and an even heavier shower moved through. We managed to find some shelter and when the rain eased off a little, we got going. We did not see a great deal of the Botanical Gardens as it never stopped raining and in distance there were a few rumbles of thunder. The Botanical Gardens is really not somewhere either of us fancied being during a thunderstorm. We did however see enough that we decided that we need to spend some serious time there on a future visit to Singapore and thoroughly explore the place.

    Even though we were both interested in the Botanical Gardens in their own right, there was a specific reason for coming there that day and this was linked to Graham’s childhood in Singapore. His family lived at the Tanglin Barracks when they were in Singapore. The Tanglin Barracks were a military installation from 1861 until the British withdrawal in 1971. From 1972 to 1989, the Tanglin Barracks were taken over by the Singapore Ministry of Defence. From 1989 to 2006, the place was essentially left to rot with the exception of the old mess hall, which was taken over by another government department in 2001. In 2006 it was redeveloped as a lifestyle destination with all kinds of quirky shops and restaurants and was renamed Dempsey Hill. There is a free shuttle that runs from two of the exits of the Botanical Gardens to Dempsey Hill. We caught this and when we got to Dempsey Hill, the rain had let up a little. It turned out that the shuttle stop is right opposite the building where Graham lived as a child. We checked this out. Today, this is home to an art gallery, an upmarket deli and grocery store and an Italian restaurant. We had a little wander around and then decided to find the bus back to the city. It was still raining so we were not tempted to explore too much, but we definitely want to come back to explore the area properly. There are all kinds of walking trails in the area and I am sure we can happily spend half a day there.









    Most of the restaurants in this area are fairly upscale and did not tempt us. However, on the way down to the main road and the bus stop, we came across an Indian restaurant that looked very tempting and fairly down to earth. We had a quick look at the menu and then we went in. We were quite surprised that rather than on plates, the food was served on banana leaves. You chose you main course and then you can add a set consisting of different types of rice, two vegetables and poppadum to go with it. I went with the Butter Chicken and had the Biriyani rice set with this. Graham had Chilli Chicken with white rice. The vegetables that day were aubergine and cabbage. I am not normally a big friend of cabbage, but I could have made a meal out of this. It was absolutely delicious. Graham had a Tiger Beer and I had a homemade lime soda. The food was absolutely amazing and at about £10 per person, it was also dirt-cheap. I really hope we can go back there.

     

    dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    After lunch, we carried on walking towards the main road where bus stop is. Graham pointed out all kinds of landmarks and entertained me with stories from his childhood. A lot of the area is still very much the same, but other parts have changed. Unfortunately, we just managed to miss a bus, but we did not have to wait too long. The plan was to head to the Raffles Hotel next to get a Singapore Sling. However, we got waylaid. The bus route took us right past the ION Orchard Mall. Sometimes things just happen for a reason. Under normal circumstances, I would not even have noticed this, but just as we were coming up to this, we got stuck in a traffic jam. I spotted the name and it sounded familiar. I could not figure out why, but I knew there was something significant about it. I Googled it and realised that this is where the first Singapore outlet of Heytea is located. There are now a few more, but the reason it rang a bell is that I had read an article about insane queues of up to 3 hours when this first opened. I mentioned this to Graham, and he asked if I wanted to get off the bus to get some tea. He did not need to offer twice. Once the bus arrived at the stop, we got off and walked through the underpath to the shopping centre. I saw a sign for Heytea pretty much as soon as we entered the shopping centre, but it still took a little while to find it. There was quite an impressive line, but this was moving very quickly, and I got in line. Graham sat down nearby and waited for me. I went with tried and tested and had the Aqua Green Cheezo Tea, which consists of Jasmine green tea with a cheese topping. Graham had spotted an oolong cold brew on the menu and he asked for that. I also spotted a boozy grape tea, which consists of grape juice, tea and beer and decided to get one for us to share. Everything hit the spot and I was glad that I finally got my Heytea fix.

    We headed back to the bus stop and just had to wait a couple of minutes until our bus arrived. Traffic had eased up while we had our tea, so it did not take long until we were at our destination. The bus stop was just around the corner from the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. There was quite an impressive line to get into the bar, but it was moving steadily. We waited about 20 minutes until we were shown to a table. The Long Bar is an absolutely gorgeous place. It was recently completely restored as was the rest of the hotel. They did a great job with this. The only thing I did not like was that the floor was covered with peanut shells. Every step you took, something crunched. Shortly after we were seated, we were handed the menu with three drinks. The options on the menu were the original Singapore Sling and two variations. We both had the original. I did like the Singapore Sling I had at the hotel, but this version was way better. I was really surprised that some people came in and just ordered a glass of wine or a beer. For me there was only one reason to come here. We took our time over our drinks and enjoyed the atmosphere.













    When we had finished our drink, we headed out. There was one last thing that I really wanted to see, and this was Merlion Park. My phone signal was not particularly strong, and Google Maps was giving me contradictory information. Graham suggested that we should go back to the hotel. We were standing by a bus stop trying to work out where we were in relation to Merlion Park. It just so happened that one of the bus routes that served this stop went straight to the hotel. The bus came and I got on. However, Graham had not followed me. I figured we would meet up again at the hotel soon enough. That is not quite how it worked out though.

    The bus was weaving in and out of little side streets for a while and then turned into one of the main streets. Just after that turn, I looked down one of the cross streets and saw something familiar in the distance- a building that looks like a giant durian fruit. Pretty much every photo I had seen of Merlion Park had this building in it. I realised that I was really close. I got off at the next stop and headed towards this building. This was a very nice walk past some historical buildings, through a park and along the river. Soon I could see the merlion in front of me. There are actually two merlions there. The original one is 8.6 meters tall and weighs 70 tons. This merlion is right by the waterfront and is spouting water from its mouth. I was walking around the area trying to find the best perspective for a photo. Once I had what I wanted, I had a look around the rest of the area. I came across a second merlion. This one is part of a fountain and is only two meters tall and weighs three tons. It is referred to as the merlion cub. There was only one person looking at the merlion cub when I got there, and he soon left so I had plenty of time to take photos. Once I had taken plenty of photos, I decided to head back towards the main road to get the bus back to the hotel. As I headed towards the bridge, Graham came the other way. He was not exactly taken with the merlion and compared it to the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. I took him to see the merlion cub and this met with his approval.

















    After all the showers we had during the day, we ended up with an absolutely gorgeous evening. Graham suggested that we could take a walk along the river towards the hotel. I happily agreed. We had to backtrack a little and we went straight past the building that looks like a durian. Curiosity got the better of me and I went to check what it actually is. The official name is Esplanade Theatres By The Bay and the complex is made up of a theatre, a concert hall and a number of smaller performing arts venues. Their Instagram account is called MyDurian. That made me giggle.

    The river walk is really beautiful. There are all kinds of interesting historical buildings. There are also a lot of trees and I found out that some plumeria flowers in Singapore have a scent. There are also all kinds of statues of people from around the world that have some link to Singapore. I saw a proper sampan boat on the river. The whole walk was truly magical.





















    As we proceeded, the buildings got more modern and soon we were at Clarke Quay, which is a popular night-time spot and is packed with bars and restaurants. There was life music and it was a little bit too noisy for our liking. There was however something that had a big pull on me - another branch of Heytea. We were both ready for something to drink. We made a small detour. This outlet is much bigger with plenty of seating. It was not particularly busy. It is also unusual that it is a two-part operation. On the left side, it has the usual selection of teas and ice cream and on the right side, there is a bar serving various tea-based cocktails. We stuck with the normal tea and both had Jasmine green cheese tea. We also had an ice cream sundae each. They have a mango sundae on the menu and we both fancied this. Unfortunately, this was out of stock. Most of their sundaes contain chocolate so that is out of bounds for Graham. They suggested the bobo sundae. This consisted of oolong tea soft serve ice cream, brown sugar tapioca pearls and a brown sugar syrup. It was a good recommendation and we both enjoyed this.

    Once we had finished or teas and sundaes, we decided that we may as well walk the rest of the day. It did not take us long until we were clear of Clarke Quay and then the scenery completely changed. The river became quieter with a mix of hotels and residential buildings on both banks. It did not take very long until we were back at our hotel. We got ready for bed as this had ended up being quite a full day after all.
     
  • dolphingirl47

    In Search of the Tag Fairy
    Joined
    Dec 25, 2007
    Day 12

    The time had come to pack up yet again and embark onto the third and final part of this trip. We both woke up around 7:30. We had nowhere to be anytime soon, so we just relaxed for a bit. We got up around an hour later, got ready and packed. We stayed in the room until around 9:30 and then headed downstairs to check out. This did not take long and one of the bellmen flagged down a taxi for us. We headed to the port and dropped off our luggage. As we approached the port, I had to smile. Next to Quantum of Sea, the Carnival Splendour was docked. Back in 2015, we were ready to spread our wings to another cruise line as we had run out of itineraries we wanted to do on Disney Cruise Line. The ship that I had my eye on to try next was Carnival Splendour. In the end the very good airline staff rate I had seen nearly doubled by the time they added various mandatory extras and I walked away from this. Instead we ended up trying Royal Caribbean and we have not looked back since. It gave me a big buzz to see the ship that indirectly is responsible for all the adventures we had since 2015.

    Once we had dropped off the luggage, we had an errant to run. The Singapore Tourist Pass has a 10 Singapore Dollar refundable deposit and between the two of us, we had 4 of them. Fortunately, it is easier to return them than to buy them. One of the ticket offices where you can return them to is at the closest MRT station to the port. It was a beautiful morning and I rather enjoyed the walk from the port to the station and back again. The process of getting the deposit refunded was quick and easy and soon we were back on our way to the port.







    As soon as we arrived back at the port, we went to check in. I was a little nervous. I was hiding something from Graham, and I hoped that I could keep the secret a little longer. However, there was a real chance that I would be rumbled as soon as we got to the port. We had booked an interior cabin for this cruise. At the beginning of October, I noticed that it would only cost an extra £12 per person to upgrade to an extra-large balcony cabin. I rang Royal Caribbean to make the change. Another week later, I got an email inviting me to bid on an upgrade. One of the options was for a Grand Suite for a silly low minimum bid. I bid a little bit above the minimum and this was classified as a weak bid. However, I could see that there were quite a few Grand Suites left. Sure enough, just over a week later I got an email letting me know that my bid had been successful. I had not told Graham about either of those upgrades even though I was nearly bursting with the exciting news. He still thought we were in an interior cabin.

    Normally there are all kind of priority check in lines for different loyalty levels and then for suites. I was hoping that I could get through the Diamond Crown and Anchor line without being challenged and sent to the suite line. As it was, there did not seem to be a priority line for either at this port. The only priority line I saw was for people who purchased The Key, which is a program that gives people a range of different perks for a rather steep fee. Check in was very quiet and we were funnelled through the whole process at the rate of knots. I had opted to go with electronic boarding passes this time round and they were on my phone. Graham never saw those. The advantage of the Quantum class ships is also that they do not give you your key cards at the port, but they are waiting for you outside your cabin. I was a little surprised when we were assigned boarding group 8 as we should have had an earlier boarding group as suite guests, but that suited me just fine. The started boarding at 11:00 and we were called about 15 minutes later. I sweated a little when they scanned the barcode on our electronic boarding passes in case, they said something, but we were soon on the ship and my secret was still intact.

    For the time being, I was safe. Rather than doing the embarkation photos in the terminal or on the promenade deck, they did them on the Royal Esplanade. We stopped for some photos. They even had a tiger out. I then left Graham with the luggage as I wanted to find out the opening times for Coastal Kitchen. Unfortunately, I did not have any success with this. Coastal Kitchen was not listed on the Daily Compass and the person I spoke to at Guest Services had no idea. She went to find out and disappeared into the back. When she still had not come back 10 minutes later, I gave up. I went back to where Graham was waiting, and we headed up to the pool deck.





    We found somewhere to sit down. I then went exploring. I particularly wanted to see what they had done with the solarium as this was a suite area while in China and had been turned into an adult area while the ship was sailing from Singapore. I was very disappointed that they had removed all the round loungers. Fortunately, I did not have to go very far to find them. Most of them had been moved to the covered family pool.

    I completed my lap around the pool deck and decided to check out if there was somebody on the podium for Coastal Kitchen. There was and my visit served two purposes. Not only did I find out when they were opening for lunch, but I also did my bit to make sure that my secret would not be blown. I explained to the person at the podium that I was going to surprise my husband with a Grand Suite and that he thought we were staying in an interior cabin. She thought that this was wonderful. The little visit paid off as nobody breathed a word.

    I had prepped Graham with a few little white lies. The previous year on Quantum, we got kind of adopted by one of the concierges on board. There were not many diamond or higher crown and anchor society members on board and most of the suites were occupied by tour guides for the various Chinese tour groups. The concierges on board were a little bored. We ended up being included in a lot of the suite perks. The one thing it never stretched to was an invitation to Coastal Kitchen, but I am sure if I had ever mentioned this, it would have been forthcoming as well. I mentioned a week or so before we were due to get on the ship that the concierge on Quantum had been in touch and a couple of days before that we had received an invitation to lunch at Coastal Kitchen on embarkation day. He did not smell a rat.

    When I came back, Graham had disappeared. I sat back down and waited. It appears that he had gone for a cup of coffee and then had a snack while he was at it. He came back just in time for Coastal Kitchen to open. We went to check in and were shown to a table. We had an absolutely amazing server. He brought us the menu followed by bread and water. He made some recommendations and then left us for a bit to decide. Graham started with the grilled prawns with spicy pepper oil, garlic chips and lemon aioli. I had the Mediterranean tomato soup with mini Croque Monsieur. Our server had talked us into sharing a flatbread and that definitely was a good recommendation. We had the Sonoma flatbread with roasted peppers, sausage, olives, oregano and shaved Parmesan. For his main course, Graham had the pan seared branzino with toasted farro, carrot puree and lemon oil. He seemed to enjoy it. None of the main courses really inspired me, but I went with the grilled chicken sandwich with gouda and chipotle aioli. This was nothing special. It was tasty enough, but not on par with the rest of the food. Graham passed on dessert, but I could not resist bittersweet chocolate tart with red wine sorbet. The whole dessert was amazing, but the sorbet was out of this world. There was hardly anybody in the restaurant and we took our time over lunch. While we had our coffee, our server came over and chatted with us for a bit. It was just a really nice lunch.















    By the time we had finished, our cabin was ready. I hung back a little and let Graham go in first. I had planned to video his reaction, but I had a slight technical malfunction. This is a crying shame as his reaction was priceless. He kept insisting that this was not our cabin as this had a balcony. He did not realise that there was something vital was missing, the bed, and that this was not just a balcony cabin. I told him that this was definitely our cabin and then I owned up to what I had done. We then explored the cabin. We had a good-sized living area with a sofa, table, a desk area and a huge wardrobe. Separated by a curtain was the bedroom with another desk and another wardrobe. The bathroom could be accessed through both the living room and the bedroom and was huge. The balcony was not too shabby either. I had visions of having a meal on the balcony one day, but we never got around to it.









    After we finished our tour of the cabin, Graham was ready for a swim. I for once had come prepared. I normally always forget to put a swimsuit in my hand luggage and then have to wait until the suitcase is delivered. This time I had remembered. I sent Graham ahead as I wanted to go through the paperwork that had been left for us in the cabin by our concierge and also wanted to put our magnets up. I then got changed and followed Graham upstairs. The only problem with this was that I could not find him. He had told me that he would be heading for the solarium, but there was no sign of him. I checked the other pools, but he was not there either. I headed back to the solarium and waited for a while just in case he had gone to the bathroom, but he did not appear. In the end, I did find him in the covered family pool area. I was brave and got into the pool even though this was cooler than I would have liked. After I had swam some length for a while, we retired to the hot tub for a bit. Once we were duly boiled, we got dried off and went to the cabin for a quick shower and to get changed.

    We still had some time until the safety drill and curiosity got the better of me. There are not many nooks and crannies on Quantum we had not been to. We even made it to the Golden Room VIP casino and the suite sun deck on our first cruise on this ship. We however never made it to the concierge lounge. I could not wait to see this. Graham did not need much convincing. The concierge lounge is all the way aft on deck 12 and has beautiful views. It is also a very comfortable space. They have a fancy coffee machine in there. I got us both a coffee and we just relaxed until it was time for the muster drill.







    About 20 minutes before the muster drill was due to start, we quickly headed back down to the cabin to drop off our stuff and then onwards to American Icon for the muster drill. Little did we know that this was likely the last time that we would do muster drill in this format. This week, Royal Caribbean has announced a new way of doing muster drill where you essentially fulfil the requirements in your own time via a smart device or the interactive TV in your cabin and then just report in to your assembly leader at your assembly station, who will check that you have completed everything and will answer any questions you may have. I initially thought this was in response to the current pandemic as the muster drill is the one area where social distancing is difficult. However, apparently, they have been working on this for over a year and trialled this on Symphony of the Seas back in January. I think the only thing that was influenced by the pandemic is that they have decided to share this technology with unrelated cruise lines.

    Everybody was on their best behaviour and got there nice an early at our muster station. This was one of very few occasions where everybody had turned up on time and they did have to call out any stateroom numbers. I think not all assembly stations were as disciplined as there was a lot of waiting around until the announcements started. Still on the whole, it was painless. While we were waiting, I heart a familiar voice. I had booked one of our customers on this cruise and he apparently had been assigned the same assembly station. I looked around, but could not see him. This was probably just as well. While we had an absolute ball on this cruise, I don’t think this was for him and he complained bitterly on his return.

    Once we had been dismissed, we waited for a bit for the crowds to disperse and then we headed back to our cabin. Graham wanted to pick up his telescope and I wanted to get my iPad so that I could read. Our luggage had arrived before we headed to the muster drill, so I quickly unpacked what I needed and put the suitcase in one of our many wardrobes. That is the pleasure of packing cubes. The whole unpacking process literally consisted of taking out the packing cube for this leg of the trip and put it on the shelf next to the bed. I then only had to take out the shoes, the dresses that needed hanging up and the wash kit and the whole unpacking took about 5 minutes. Then we headed back to the concierge lounge.

    It was still empty when we got there and we managed to get a sofa by the windows, which was a perfect spot to watch the sail-away. Graham set up his telescope. I settled down to read for a bit. Christopher, the concierge, arrived shortly after us and introduced himself to us. He checked if we were OK and if there was anything he could assist with. We told him we were fine, but would let him know if we needed help with anything. Shortly afterwards, happy hour started. There was a buffet set up with hot and cold canapés and mini desserts at the opposite end of the room and bar tenders were walking around offering drinks. Graham had some red wine and I had some sparkling wine. I checked out the snacks available and ended up having some chicken satay, mini spring rolls and some chocolate-covered strawberries. Unfortunately, some rather nasty weather moved in as we were leaving Singapore so the view during sail-away was not wonderful. However, it was just nice to relax. We had a couple more drinks each.





    We left the concierge lounge around 18:30 and headed back to the cabin. We took turns getting showered. While I was in the shower, Graham unpacked. Once we were both showered and changed, we headed up to Coastal Kitchen for dinner.



    We had requested the same server that we had for lunch, but we ended up with a different server. He was also very nice. Graham started with cold smoked salmon with pumpernickel, horse radish creme fraiche and caviar. I had both an appetiser and a soup as I could not make up my mind. I had crispy pork belly with parsnip puree, apple slaw and a port wine reduction followed by the smoked tomato soup. For his main course, Graham had gone with the seared duck breast with green pea puree, broccoli rabe, berries and Madeira sauce. I went with the grilled fillet mignon with truffle potato puree, asparagus, bordelaise sauce and garlic crisps. It was still during happy hour when we settled down for dinner and as Quantum of the Seas does not have a Diamond Lounge, I knew that we each had three drinks coupons loaded on our SeaPass cards every night. This is separate from the offering in the concierge lounge. I was not sure if the coupons were valid in the restaurants, but I decided to ask. I was told that they were. The only problem was that we had left our SeaPass cards in the cabin as we were wearing our Wow Bands. Apparently, they can’t read them for the coupons, which make them a little bit of a pointless exercise. Still, I had phone with me to take photos and I still had the boarding pass on there that clearly showed our status. I showed this to our server and I soon had a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc to wash down my meal.













    It was after I ordered dessert that Graham mentioned that he thought that he left our Malaysian Ringgit in the hotel. I had paid a deposit via PayPal for our tours in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, but we needed to pay the balance in cash the next day. We were also advised to bring money for admission fees and lunches that were not included in the price. Normally I never exchange money in advance, but Malaysia has some issues with credit card fraud, so I played it safe. I have to say, I did not really feel like eating dessert after this. I had the hazelnut cake with frozen yoghurt ice cream. This is normally one of my firm favourites. I had a couple of bites of the cake and the ice cream and then we headed back to the cabin.





    We checked if the money was there, but there was no sign of it. We headed down to guest services to check if they had Malaysian Ringgit available as they do offer a currency exchange service. We were initially advised that they did, but then were told they only had US dollars, which were not going to do as any good in Malaysia. As we were down there anyway, we stopped for some photos and then we headed back to the cabin. We had a free Internet package with our suite, and I was grateful for this. I found an email address for the duty manager at the Holiday Inn Atrium in Singapore to check if the money had been found. We then got ready for bed as we had an early start and a long day the following day. It did not take long until we were both asleep.

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    [url=https://flic.kr/p/2i3UK2y]
     

    tiggrbaby

    <font color=deeppink><marquee>We must work harder
    Joined
    Jun 26, 2004
    What a score on that cabin! And congrats on keeping it a surprise!

    Cute pics of the two of you!:love:
     

    KEK1

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Aug 23, 2017
    Love the cabin surprise! Singapour looks gorgeous. Enjoying reading along!
     
  • shezfrombermuda

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 28, 2005
    Hi Corinna, I am joining in quite late but I just found your report today. I enjoy your writing and all your pictures. It looks like a fabulous trip so far!
     







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