How did I end up (basically) living on board Royal Caribbean? (part 1)

Oasis of the Seas. The ship that started it all.

One of the most common questions I get asked by those I meet on board (and others) is how? or why did this journey begin.

It's a longish tale, so please bear with me. So TL:DR Oasis of the Seas inspired this journey.

For those who are still with me.

For the best part of the past 18 years (ie to date pretty much all of the 21st Century)  I lived in Japan, for most of that time I was an English teacher. One of the issues with learning English (and Japanese for that matter) is that counting isn't a straight forward translation. (This gets a little convoluted, so please bear with me). 1 = 1 and 10 = 10 but when you start getting to larger numbers things begin to get funky. It's all easy to the low thousands, but after you reach the 10's of thousands Japanese counting begins to mess with counting as you know it, because 10,000 is a new base, meanwhile in English we count all the way to a million, in Japanese you count from 10,000 (man) to 100,000,000 (oku) to get a different base. For learners in both languages it takes time to work out what 225,282 is (apart from the Gross Tonnage of Oasis of the Seas).

So in early 2010 I came across an article discussing the Oasis. The tonnage, the number of guests, staff, food consumed, length of the ship, fuel used, etc. It was, at the time, the worlds biggest cruise ship and the article was dripping in big numbers. It was and is an amazing feat of engineering and some thing many of my students would enjoy discussing. I turned it into an English lesson. And every student I had over the next few weeks got to read about and discuss the Oasis of the Seas. Every lesson we talked about her, what it would be like to sail on, what were the ports like, it was one of my favourite lessons.  Before long I really wanted to sail on her. But she was in Florida, and I was in Japan, so this wasn't happening any time soon.

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In 2016 I found myself in America for a few months, and I was sort of lost between dates on what to do. Go to Florida and Disney World and the other theme parks? Go to New York? Rent a car and go for a road trip? Florida... hmmm what is about Florida.... there was an itch of a memory... but it bugged me for days on end. And then one night Bingo!! Oasis of the Seas. A cruise!! I can go on a cruise!!

So I hit the internet to find out when and how much it was to sail on her. 

Allure of the Seas My first cruise.

Allure of the Seas My first cruise.

To my surprise there was a newer and (by not much) bigger ship, the Allure of the Seas. Well that's it, I would have to book a holiday with her.  So I did. I booked a 1 week Caribbean cruise. It was a bit pricer than I would have liked, so I teamed up with my friend from Japan to spilt the cost and we went on my first cruise. Yes, my first cruise was on the then biggest cruise ship in the world, and I had no idea what to expect. 

It was a great week, and I enjoyed it immensely. But I was pretty sure I wouldn't do another cruise without getting a few friends together, or at least a girlfriend to go with me. Solo cruising was not for me.  But I wrong, so very very wrong.

tbc....

Food Glorious Food!

While my lot isn't nearly as tough as a 19th Century orphan, spending in excess of 180 days in the past 8 months on board Royal Caribbean has me empathising with Oliver and his fellow orphans. 

To put it frankly I am done with RCI's food (with some exceptions). Too salty, too fatty, too rich, and too boring! Every ship is the same, every menu is the same. A couple of cruises ago I purchased the deluxe food package, thinking have the specialty dining every night and for sea day lunches would help. But it just made things worse. 

With a few exceptions, I really don't like the specialty restaurants on board these ships. Izumi's is the worst Japanese food I think I have ever eaten. Giovanni's is uninspired Italian (is it Italian?), Chops (the steak house) is very good, but I can not eat there anymore, I need to give it a rest.

On board Ovation they have Wonderland, which is excellent. and Jaimie's Kitchen (another Italian? restaurant). The pasta is exceptional, the sauces are way too salty or rich. On some of the other ships like Allure they have Sabor, the Mexican restaurant. This is by far my favourite place to eat onboard, unfortunately it is only on some ships. 

Radiance had Samba, a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, which I quite liked, but it was just more meat; adding to my red meat intake didn't help anything. 

I know many of my readers will disagree with me about some restaurants. Especially Izumi's, as it seems to be very popular, but I lived in Japan for the best part of the first 2 decades 21st Century and I guess I want the real thing. My local sushi place in Hokkaido, with its $2-$4 plates of sushi, is way way way better than the extremely ordinary at best sushi in Izumi. 

The Deluxe food package was wasted as I ended up going to Chops every night. (NO MORE RED MEAT!)

Windjammer (RCI's buffet) is ok. I get to pick and choose from a variety of dishes, and it's casual dining on top (so no formal nights for me).  A spot of curry and rice, and/or some salad. I might mix in the occasional hamburger for variety. Breakfast is normally an omelette with veggies. 

The Promenade Cafe or Park Cafe or Sorrento's (depending on which ship your on) has all you can eat pizza, which is about 1 small slice/cruise (it's very very very ordinary pizza). The cafes also have cookies, the oatmeal raisin cookie is probably the best thing on board (although the Radiance's cookies were all very disappointing). 

As for skipping the dining room, the biggest problem with that, I don't get to have dinner with anybody. I am just that lonely sole in the Windjammer, who just has his dinner and leaves. 

When we hit port I am almost always off the ship to find a cafe or restaurant where I get to sample something different. Some Thai curry, or a kebab, a sandwich on sourdough, just anything different and more interesting than what's on board.

If you have ever wondered how most of the staff don't put on weight, and hopefully I will take some off, it's because we are all over the food. We eat just enough to get us through the day. 

Honestly as we get into the business end of my living back to back (almost) on cruises (15 down, 21 to go), I really don't know what I am going to do about food on board. It is clearly one of the biggest challenge's of living onboard. 

Readers Questions
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Over on Facebook Di asked some great questions.

  1. Have you been upgraded often?
    • Never!!! I will be a happy cruiser when it happens (I have requested an upgrade once and a room change twice, today was the second time, I doubt I will be lucky).
  2. Do you book a particular level, cabin or class?
    • This is actually quite complicated. As there are several factors involved in how I choose my room. Firstly, suites are almost always out! Too expensive, and for a solo sailer, poor bang for your buck on points. For example, and lets assume a Junior Suite is only 2x more than a balcony stateroom. 7 night cruise, $2,000 for the balcony, $4,000 for the suite. I get 14 Crown & Anchor points for a non suite, so each point cost me $143. For a suite I get 21 points, which is $191/point.  
      So the extra money for a suite is not worth it. Combined with the fact that it's just me, I don't need all that space. 
      Super Mario, Royal Caribbeans most dedicated cruiser, always books interior. After all he reasons, he is never in there, except to sleep and shower. I am not quite like Super Mario, and sometimes I just want to sit in a quite space, watching the ocean go by, so I do like a stateroom with a balcony. But then it comes down to price.
      If an interior room is significantly cheaper than a balcony, I will book the interior. But if the balcony is only a few hundred dollars 💵 more, then I will book that. 
      Finally duration, on longer cruises, or ones that are particularly scenic (Norway, New Zealand, and I imagine Alaska) I will have higher preference for a balcony, but ultimately the dollars rule. I would rather cruise more and have an interior room, rather than a balcony and cruise less. There is no right answer on which class of room to choose, it is 💯 a persons preference balanced against budget. If I had a bottomless budget, it would be a balcony every time, but with budgetary constraints, interior it is. 
  3. What % of discounts do you receive as you climb up the levels to pinnacle?
    • I have no idea. I don't believe it is a % at all. Rather it is a numerical value per day. It only applies to balcony and above staterooms, so no C&A discount for the interior rooms! (this plays into the price difference, as I level up the difference gets less).
      Ultimately it feels like I am only saving a few hundred dollars, and that's on longer cruises, at my current level. It is a good question and I will see if I can get the low down, so I can give a better answer.

Thanks for the questions Di, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, or contact me through Twitter, Facebook or even Instagram.

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First Cruise for 2018 - Cruise 14 & 15 Radiance of the Seas
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The next big adventure is onboard the class namesake Radiance of the Seas. Last year I sailed on her slightly newer sister ship - the Serenade of the Seas. It's one of Royal Caribbeans smaller ships, but with over 2000 guests, she is still a big ship.

The Serenade is one of my favourite ships. There is a level of intimacy you just don't find on Royal Caribbeans larger floating villages. So I imagine Radiance will be its equal in this regard. But there are other factors to what makes a great cruise. I will just have to wait and see how this one shapes up.

Itinerary - CRUISE 15

  • Auckland 🇳🇿
  • Bay of Islands 🇳🇿
  • Tauranga 🇳🇿
  • 🌊
  • Wellington 🇳🇿
  • Akaroa 🇳🇿
  • Port Chalmers (Dunedin) 🇳🇿
  • Dusky, Doubtful and Milford Sounds 🇳🇿
  • 🌊🌊
  • Melbourne 🇦🇺
  • 🌊
  • Port Kembla 🇦🇺
  • Newcastle 🇦🇺
  • Sydney 🇦🇺

Itinerary - CRUISE 14

  • Sydney 🇦🇺
  • 🌊 🌊
  • Noumea 🇳🇨
  • Mare Isle 🇳🇨
  • Lifou Isle 🇳🇨
  • 🌊
  • Suva 🇫🇯
  • Lautoka 🇫🇯
  • 🌊
  • Vav'U 🇹🇴
  • Nuku'Alofa 🇹🇴
  • 🌊🌊
  • Auckland 🇳🇿

Finally, one of the best rewards I can get.  

Finally, one of the best rewards I can get.

 

Some big milestones on these cruises. I will reach 364 points. That means I get another milestone "brick" (an etched glass block). 

But the biggest reason to celebrate, and one that will have a rather large effect on all future cruises. At 340 points you gain access to "single supplement fare reduce to 150%" no more double fares for me 🤘🏼.

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