Suite life on deck
MANILA, Philippines — Tis the season for sweet treats, end-of-season sales, extra hours stuck in traffic, and being tasked to plan the next family Christmas reunion. The latter is every yuppie’s blessing and curse, really. You’re young enough to know what your nephews might enjoy, but you’re also too old to settle for a beer pong night. Your paying titas think you’re the Master of the Internet and they trust you with their platinum credit cards to book whatever is needed for your next grand get-together. It’s a powerful position to be in, but the fun stops once the family Viber group becomes flooded with suggestions and special requests.
When it comes to planning an itinerary that has something for every member of the extended Filipino family, Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas might be what you’re looking for. It’s hard to please everybody, but as a ship that’s 1,020 feet long and has enough room for 3,807 guests and a crew of 1,185, the Mariner of the Seas easily makes for a well-deserved getaway for everyone.
Let’s be real. People who prefer to chill out and pamper themselves aren’t necessarily defined by their age. So what if your 12-year-old cousin wants to learn origami with your grandpa? The Mariner’s Schooner Bar is where the arts and crafts classes are at. The Vitality Day Spa is perfect for that mother-daughter pamper party you’ve been meaning to get but were always too busy for. When you can’t choose between going out for a tanning sesh or staying in for a movie marathon, then the poolside outdoor theater might just be where you’d like to hang. There’s also a library on Deck 7 for when your precious books didn’t make the cut for your baggage allowance. You can even borrow them to read anywhere on the ship if you like. The Mariner’s main dining rooms also boast of a wide-range buffet of international cuisines. That’s a sure way to get the entire family to finally sit down together for dinner, tbh. If you prefer something extra homey, Giovanni’s Table even serves fresh Italian dishes that can be served family style instead of a la carte. Your family dinner’s special guest: the inevitable shame piece.
And what’s a good family staycation without some wholesome fun and games? An air hockey tournament at the Challenger’s Arcade is always a good idea, but the Casino Royale is where it’s the most fun. (Only if you’re 21 years old and above, kids.) But there’s also nothing quite like a good old quiz night, and the Schooner Bar is where it’s at. And yes, it’s facilitated by a legit quiz headmaster, so your tito can’t make you believe something he made up just so that he can earn that extra point. Sorry not sorry. There are bars for a chill nightcap like Dragon’s Lair, but The Savoy Theater’s late-night productions are pretty interesting too. (P.S.: did we mention it’s larger than the newly renovated Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore?) But out of every chill thing you can do onboard, nothing is more laid-back than waking up to the view of the line where the sky meets the sea from your own bedroom balcony.Team Adventurer
Chances are, there will be family members who’ll prefer a little bit more action during the holidays. The best thing about going on a cruise is the fact that you’re traveling without the hassle of being in transit. It’s like a really long flight to your destination, without being stuck in your chilly seat with almost no legroom. The Mariner of the Seas Asian Cruises for 2017-2018 have stops in ports like Phuket, Thailand; Penang, Malaysia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Okinawa, Japan. There are various itineraries depending on how long you like to travel and what you’d like to experience, but the four-night isles of Southeast Asia Cruise, seven-night Spice of Southeast Asia Cruise, and nine-night Exotic Asia Cruise are great options. Royal Caribbean International doesn’t just bring you to these cities, they also make sure you get the best experiences with the few hours you have. Shore excursion packages are available for a separate fee, but you’ll want to be hassle-free especially when you’re traveling with senior citizens, infants and hyperactive teens. The packages are categorized based on interests like food, shopping, tourist landmarks and even outdoor activities like canoeing or spending an afternoon at an elephant jungle sanctuary. Each excursion comes with a tour guide, on-ground transportation, and for some, the meals are also included. This is what tita-approved tours are made of.
But even while the ship is in transit, there are so many exciting things to do onboard that you actually have to schedule your activities. Rock-climbing while overlooking the ocean is quite a surreal experience; but so is ice-skating inside a moving cruise ship. But if you’re up for something less extreme, catching the “Ice Under The Big Top: An ice Spectacular” — the only circus ice show at sea in Asia — is something you’ll enjoy. You can do that, or rollerblade around the upper deck à la Beyoncé in the music video of Blow. The mini-golf area is a perfect place to bond and get a workout with your nieces and your lolos, but so are the swimming pools. It might be a family trip, but you also don’t want to just stick with your relatives the entire time. There are a lot of interesting people you’ll see on a ship, but if talking to random strangers is too much for your younger cousins, the Teens Meet and Greet session in The Living Room — a lounge exclusively for kids ages 12-17 — is a great way to meet new friends. No guarantee that you’ll meet the Troy Bolton to your Gabriela Montez, but it’s enough to challenge your social skills.Best of Both Worlds
It’s in our culture to celebrate the holidays at home, but home can also be anywhere that’s warm and welcoming to every member of our big Filipino family. With enough activities and facilities to keep everyone from your Facebook-obsessed ninang to your very sociable brother entertained, enjoying the suite life on deck over the holidays seems like the way to go.
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For more information, visit www.royalcaribbean.com.sg