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How did I end up living aboard (p2 continued)

read part 1 first

After I completed my cruise on the Allure and finished my rather fantastic eastern Canadian road trip (it’s not all about ships and the ocean). I headed back to Japan to tie up all the lose ends there. By Christmas, cruising was well behind me, with 2017 shaping up to be the year for resettling back in Australia. 

 My home in Sapporo.

My home in Sapporo.

The first priority in Japan was to pack up my home of eight years. I had a Japanese moving firm come over to provide some assistance with packing and shipping all my earthly possessions back to Australia; that is after selling, giving, and throwing away as much as I could, my life was now reduced to just 8 boxes 📦 . With the boxes now on the way to my brother’s place in Sydney, I left my home in Sapporo for the final time and headed to Niseko. One more season of snow and ice, cooking a daily breakfast for a dozen or so guests, sipping whisky late into the night by the fire with many of the same guests, and shuttling them around the resort. One more season, and I would be back in Australia.  

At some point towards the end of the season, my friend in Switzerland invited me to his wedding, which, inconveniently, was to be in Switzerland in July. How could I possibly get myself settled, start a new job  back in Australia in May or June, and immediately ask for leave to go to Switzerland? If I was to do this, it would hamper establishing myself back in Australia.  I put this trip on the back-burner.

In April, after many sad farewells, I headed to Sydney to start my new life back in Australia. However as Robert Burns wrote “The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft a-gley” and that’s exactly how my plans went; awry!!

These boxes, these 8 most important boxes, were not at my brothers house, after an email exchange with the moving company enquiring as to the whereabouts of my boxes, They assured me  they were at the Sydney warehouse, relieved I called the warehouse, but with Burn’s words still haunting my arrival back in Australia, the boxes were not there.

So another email exchange with the company I informed them that the boxes were not in Australia. They said that they would  look into it and would contact me as soon as they had news. About two days later they called me with some “bad news“ the boxes were still in Japan, they’re in a warehouse in Tokyo.

I was actually quite relieved with this news. I had just scored 5½ months of free storage 😀 , and I hadn’t had to bother my brother or anyone else in the family with storage or  looking after the boxes. But then the other shoe dropped, the moving company informed me that the boxes were going to take three to four weeks before they arrived in Sydney.

What was I going to do for three to four weeks? I had no idea. I wasn’t prepared to go searching for a home yet; quite frankly my life was on pause. What was I going to do while I waited? Go on a cruise? No that’s a silly idea! But I logged in to the Royal Caribbean website just to see what was available, the Explorer of the Seas was leaving in a week on a trans-Pacific repositioning to Seattle, and it was going to take just over three weeks. A three week cruise, three to four weeks before the boxes arrived. Just like Romeo and Juliet, it was a star crossed event, it couldn’t have been more perfect (I am just hoping the whole thing doesn’t finish the same way).

Excited about this I went ahead and booked it. The interesting thing about the Royal Caribbean website, it defaults to double occupancy when you try to book anything. I flew past the number of guests page, and saw the total price was just over $4,500AUD. Then I noticed that it was for 2 passengers, so I went back and modified the booking to a single passenger. It was now over $9,500 🤯.

  Explorer of the Seas  about to unleash 2 years of insanity.

Explorer of the Seas about to unleash 2 years of insanity.

I couldn’t believe it, two people was less that half the price of a single person. I called Royal Caribbean to confirm that this was the price and yes it was correct. Single was closer to $10k but for two people it was just over $4,500. I asked if I could book for two people, and was told no you can’t you are travelling alone so you must book a single. This made no sense to me, so after I hung up, I went back online booked it for two, and paid half. I then went around my circle of friends to see if anybody was interested in a 3 week cruise leaving in a few days. But when you are in your 40’s there aren’t many people who can up and leave on such short notice (which I think is a terrible thing). The following weekend I was at Circular Quay and boarded the Explorer of the Seas. I honestly had no idea what this cruise would begin.

This was a fantastic cruise. We visited some of the South Pacific islands, (Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji). I spent many sea days in the Schooner Bar, playing trivia, and chatting with other guests, and in the evenings I visited the casino. The cruise director staff were a terrific bunch of guys and gals, all working hard to keep us entertained on this cruise with around 2 weeks of sea days. 

This cruise was kind of the opposite of the Allure. It was less a party and more a journey and a bit of adventure. This was the kind of cruising I enjoyed.  This was something I wanted to do more of. I visited the Next Cruise office onboard to see if there were any other epic journeys that Royal Caribbean offered. It turns out that RCI doesn't do a lot of these types of journeys. From America they are predominantly 1 week Caribbean cruises. Europe definitely has more interesting journeys, but those long epic cruises, trans Pacific and Atlantic cruises are brackets surrounding main itineraries. But there was hope. The Mariner of the Seas was scheduled to do a massive journey Singapore to Miami via the Suez. The day it went on sale (mid cruise on the Explorer) I booked it. 

So now I had my cruise for 2018 booked. My life plan was get to Seattle, fly back to Sydney, and get myself squared away. But that curveball of a wedding in Switzerland had been pitched, and I had to decide if I was going or not. Hell you only live once, I have never been to a wedding in Switzerland, so I confirmed my attendance. Now I was going to Europe for a few weeks, I thought I may as well add a cruise to my journey. 

(You can see how things quickly began to spiral out of control). So I booked 2 weeks Mediterranean cruise on the Navigator. So that was it, fly to Europe, do the cruise, go to the wedding, and fly home. But no, there was one other curveball pitched, a day before the cruise finished, a certificate landed on my bed from the casino. I had won (earned) a free cruise. There was a rather limited list of cruises to choose from, mostly 4 nighters in the Caribbean, which didn't really appeal to me. But there was one cruise that appealed to me, 1 week on the Explorer, west coast Seattle to San Francisco. That looked like the winner, but what clinched the deal, it was the final cruise of the American season, before heading back to Australia. So I claimed my free cruise and booked the crossing back to Australia. 

Bookings  for 2017 now stood as 2 weeks in the Med, 1 week West Coast, and 3 weeks back to Australia. Then I could settle down and get my life back on track. But first I needed to leave Europe, and get to America for those cruises. A problem that I found the best solution was more cruises. Serenade of the Seas was going to do a trans-Atlantic arriving in Boston 2 weeks prior to the West Coast cruise. Perfect. Could it be better? Yes, yes it could. It was doing a Norwegian Fjord cruise prior to the crossing, just a couple of weeks after the wedding. So the bookings continued to mount up.

In the end it was just easier to fill in gaps with cruises, so I continued to add to my future bookings. 

  • 2 weeks between Serenade and Explorer - Liberty is doing a 1 week cruise out of Galveston.
  • Getting to Singapore to join the Mariner, the Ovation was doing a 2 week cruise arriving same day as Mariner was due to leave. 
  • Radiance was doing a circumnavigation of Australia‽ I have to do that! 
  • The Voyager is in Australia‽ That's a ship I haven't been on. 
  • Mariner is getting me to AmericaI need to get home, back on Explorer it is. 
  • A couple of months between Mariner and Explorer, let's go crazy, Harmony, Grandeur, Majesty, Enchantment, and Adventure all booked. (August is a bit expensive, I'll take a month off). 

and so on.. my plan for returning to Australia might have been a mess, but cruising was turning into something that I could easily find a place for, and there seemed to always be a gap and a chance to take another cruise. 

And then it dawned on me, with all this cruising I would be close to Pinnacle, the top tier of the Crown and Anchor program, so I decided to make that an objective, a nice way to finalise my journey. Let's get to Pinnacle on my final cruise back home on the Explorer. It was then that whoever was the lovely staff member in the Next Cruise office pointed out, that I wouldn't get any of the benefits of being Pinnacle for that cruise. Doh! With this in mind, I added one more cruise to all my bookings. My life was now fully scheduled until November 2018, and I was now essentially a Royal Caribbean resident.

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q&aChrisblog
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....

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.

If you are enjoying my blog, please help me out on Patreon, and get a postcard each month.

Reservation schmesaration!

News Flash - Your reservation is almost meaningless. 

Photo by Oko_SwanOmurphy/iStock / Getty Images

If anything this year of cruising with Royal Caribbean has taught me, your reservation is almost meaningless . 

From shows, to dining, excursions, your room, ports of call, to even the whole cruise. Royal Caribbean can and will cancel your reservation for what ever operational reason they have at their disposal. They don’t do this out of vindictiveness or a desire to mess with their guests. I’m sure they would love to honour all reservations.

But things on board change. It could be weather related, infection control, lack of staffing, lack of supplies, or some other operational issue. 

What happens when something is cancelled? 

If you paid, your money will be fully refunded. (This is different to if you cancel, in that case they keep some of or all of the money 👋 💰. I’m not sure what the difference is 🤨, but there it is).

Sometime though the left and right hands don’t know what they are doing so a visit to Guest Services may be required to get the refund.  

In the case of cruises, RCI will offer some form of compensation (often a choice) that they deem somewhat appropriate. There is almost no arguing, discussion, emails, pleas, threats from lawyers or anything that will fix or change this. This is the situation. So deal with it. 

What can you do? 

I suggest a zen Buddhist approach.   Leaf 🍃 on the river. You can get angry 😡, rant and rave, 🤯 and all you are doing is risking heart attack and at best getting apologies 🙏🏽.    

Photo by dam_point/iStock / Getty Images

I know it’s infuriating. But there's a 99.99999% that the poor person you are talking to is not responsible. Walk away, breath, reassess and find the positives in the cancellation. Money saved, sunset can be seen now. Less solar damage to your skin, whatever it is. Just know that you will likely experience a cancellation, or 2, or a dozen with Royal Caribbean (Personally I’m at 4 various cancellations in 6 months, and I'm fairly concerned that I will have another whole cruise cancellation or 2 over the next 12 months). 

Ultimately you will have 2 choices. Keep cruising with Royal and, when they are thrown, roll with the punches. Or quit Royal and find another cruise line. (Not that I know if they are any better or worse).   

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