A SCUBA Tank of Irony
Ah Bali. You come here for the clinics, yes?

Ah Bali. You come here for the clinics, yes?

How did I end up here?

(yes, I drop the F bomb once below).

So 3 weeks ago I started scouring the Internet looking for dive companies to take me diving at the various ports on my circumnavigation of Australia. You would think that around an island nation, with some of the best diving in the world, this would be an easy task. But no, no it is not.

  • Brisbane - none
  • Cairns - nope
  • Darwin - not even a dive company open
  • Bali - yes
  • Geraldton - call us the day before arrival
  • Perth - nah

Generally the reason for all these no's ties into schedules. With most ports being tender ports everything is delayed. So even though the ship arrives 7am. You are probably looking at arrival on land closer to 9am if you are lucky. Closer to midday if you don't want to take part in the morning rush. Given that most dive boats head out around 8am this makes diving (especially Cairns) very difficult. I also found the dive companies there were rather rigid in their policies, eg I like to dive with a bigger tank 12-15l. My size, lung capacity and still learning to SCUBA with more efficiency mean I burn my air. And while a smaller diver may get 40 minutes or more out of a tank, I am generally 10-15 mins less.

Neptune Scuba Dive Bali is the only company that replies in the positive. Absolutely, we will pick you up from the port. Drive you to the dive site. Provide gear as reqd. Yay! 😀 Finally a dive is organised. 

The next happens over a series of emails. 

I ask about water temperature. Julian (the owner) tells me is 27-28°. I tell him I don’t need a wetsuit. 

He says you really should have a wetsuit. 

I replied that I was ok. I can dive 27° without. He says it’s not about thermal protection. It’s about protection from scorpion fish, fire coral and stone fish. (I’m not really sure how much protection a 3mm wetsuit provides against any of those but I then agree after all he’s the local expert).

mola mola

mola mola

We also discuss dive sites. The first is a drift dive in Nusa Penida, with the possible sighting of manta rays ands mola mola. This I am excited about. The other is much closer to shore and often used for training grounds Pedang Bai. Lots of smaller fish and maybe, some white and black tip reef sharks. And maybe just maybe some sun fish if you’re lucky. 

The Nusa Penida is the option we both agree is the better dive to do. But time is of the essence. I have to get from the ship to the dive shop ASAP so as to make it to the dive location. 

I manage to get myself a spot on the first tender, so things are looking up. Nusa Penida here we come. But then the tender operation is delayed by 15 minutes. There are 2 tenders, the ship ones (slightly tweaked life boats, which are slow). And the local fast ones, of course they first tender is a slow one. (Fast tenders do the run to the wharf in around 20m, slow 30-40m). The long and the short I am ashore almost an hour later than I had hoped. Looks like Nusa Penida is scrapped.

I get ashore, and after a few minutes meet the driver and off we head. He navigates Bali traffic well, (Bali's traffic is pretty chaotic, not the most chaotic I have encountered, but I really would be uncomfortable driving there) and gets me to the dive shop remarkably without any damage to the vehicle. I meet Julian and his wife Joe, and we have a bit of a chat on where to go. Joe thinks there is time for the Nusa Penida. Julian is less sure. He wants to play it safe and go to the  local dive at Pedang Bai. 

As I really don't want to fly to Perth in wet speedos, a t-shirt and no passport, I agree with Julian and choose Pedang Bai.

So just to give you some idea of the decisions and actions that have lead to this.

  1. I have agreed to wear a long 3mm wetsuit
  2. I managed to secure a position on the first tender
  3. tender boat operations are delayed and the first tender is the slow boat delaying my arrival
  4. risk it with Nusa Penida, play it safe for Pedang Bai, we choose Pedang Bai.

So off we (driver, dive guide and myself) head to Padang Bai. On the way we intercept a motorcyclist from the local gear supplier with a 3mm shorty wetsuit (it looks like it will fit, but I will never know). I tell the dive guide that Julian is pretty adamant that I wear a long wetsuit to protect me from all the things that can sting me in the water. So the dive guide calls ahead to the dive site to organise a long wetsuit from another gear provider.

So adding to the list of actions/decisions -

  1. The wrong wetsuit is delivered
  2. another company has to provide a different wet suit

We arrive at the dive site and the local guy shows up with a wetsuit that’s definitely seen better times, not only that but I also think it’s not going to fit. 

They say try it on, wetsuit guy says it’s the biggest they have. I know it’s not going to fit. But try it on they encourage. 

Meanwhile the 3 young local teens have come to the car to help unload it and pack the boat. 

I put my foot into the first leg. 

And OUCH!!

I Feel a sharp pain on the back of the knee. I think it’s just some plastic or poor stitch in the wetsuit. 

I roll it down to look   

This centipede ruined my day

This centipede ruined my day

To see this guy scurry away 👉🏼

I try to tell my guide I’ve been sting by a millipede (I incorrectly identified it, turns out it was a centipede), but he doesn’t understand and thinks it’s just some problem with the  wetsuit. He goes to put his arm down the leg and I shout out "STOP" "Be careful". He then carefully flips the wetsuit inside out, the boys helping have now gathered and they all gasp when the centipede comes out. 

My guides next actions all occurred very quickly. He jumps back like a child who has just touched an iron  (that's not good!) He takes a series of "out of focus photos" (see above) and asks the local guy do you have medicine (this is done in Balinese, but it seems the bite has given me a super power of now understanding Balinese) wetsuit guy goes back to his shop, guide goes elsewhere. The teens all sit down and begin to watch me react. It's like "lets watch the white boy die!" 

At first the pain, isn't even that. It's just an awareness that I have been bitten. But then the pain begins to grow. Spreading down into my calf, and now my calf and knee feel like I have an red hot iron poker just hovering over the back of my leg. It's not hurting yet, but damn that heat is growing. 

The guide returns and says "we go to clinic".  After trying to find the clinic (hidden behind a school) the nurse there declines to see me for a reason that is never made clear to me, and my superpower of understanding Balinese has now faded. She directs us to a slightly bigger clinic about 10 minutes away. My guide shows despair, and I have to be honest, between boys watching me, nurse not treating me, and guides despair my concern over what has happened is now well and truly greater than the pain. Am I dead? How toxic is this thing? Do I lose my leg? Muscle tissue decay? Just what has happened to me? We drive up to the clinic and I’m rushed into the ER. Blood pressure is taken (170/110), oxygen given and a injection which I later learn is a mild pain killer, administered. 

A nurse comes over grabs my hand reassuringly and says in broken English (she may have been clearer than that, but as it was already in my head, along with amputation, muscle rot, you know, all the worst case scenarios), "Younna die!" 

Internally I scream "YOUNNA FUCKING WHAT!!!" 😱

Her colleague rushes over "You not die!!" and tries to explain exactly what has happened, it helps, but not much. 

The pain in my calf continues to grow, that poker is now almost touching my calf.

I am kept in the hospital for a while longer for further observation. A Doctor 👩🏾‍⚕️ comes over and tells me what has happened, and tell' me what i’s going to happen and adds you probably won’t sleep because of the pain, blood pressure taken, medical report issued and then I’m discharged. 

  • My night out of Bali was unbelievably painful.
  • Neptune Dive Bali were awesome, made sure everything from pickup to drop-off went smoothly and pain free. (excluding the centipede bite). My Tripadvisor review is here
  • Tendering is always a pain. Bali is a bit more so, probably best avoid time sensitive activities unless you book with your cruise line. Ensuring the ship will wait for your return (and priority departure)
  • If you missed the irony; I put on a wetsuit to protect me from the stinging things in the ocean. I got stung before I entered the ocean

And for those who have asked, P2 of living on board is coming...

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.


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.


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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