At First Glance

When we first decided to come to Asia, we thought it would be a good idea to slowly work ourselves into the area by taking a cruise. We anticipated getting a brief snapshot of the people and culture by stopping at different locations. Once our friend could no longer travel with us, we expanded on our original plans and decided to dig deeper into the area after the cruise.

So, once we had completed our time in Singapore, we hopped on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas for our first of two cruises. The first cruise is a 9-night Thailand & Vietnam trip, and the second cruise cruise directly following the first is a four-night Penang, Malaysia, and Phuket, Thailand cruise.

Singapore MRT Sign
Singapore MRT Station
Walkway to the ship.

Our trips sailed out of Singapore on the Spectrum of the Seas, a beautiful ship that holds up to 4,900 passengers. We anticipated a longer check-in time due to the extensive range of international travelers and Visa requirements for each country. We were spot on with our assumptions. A standard embarkation time for a Caribbean cruise out of the US usually is around 30 minutes. This includes security, document checks, and ID card/room key card collection. However, from start to finish, it took us almost two hours before we were able to board the ship. Lines were everywhere, and they were long. Many staff were working to get us onboard, and it appeared to be a very organized chaos. Everyone was friendly, for the most part, and all of the cruisers were generally well-behaved. Two things we did not expect: after the document check, the agent informed us that our key card would be placed outside the door to our room at 2:00 PM, and as we were boarding the ship, they took our passports and told us we would get them back when we disembarked. Neither of these actions was standard protocol when cruising out of the US.

After we gained access to our room, we found a note in our cabin that explained the reason and process for the passport collection. Both Vietnam and Thailand required this. They assured us that our passports would be stamped at each port and returned to us the day before we got off the ship. We never figured out why our room key was outside our door, but we did find it, and it worked fine. It just didn’t sound like a safe practice to us.

Our Cabin

Our room was very nice and quite roomy. The room steward, Patrick, stopped by to introduce himself, and we spent the time before dinner unpacking and relaxing in our cabin. We had requested early dinner seating, which they honored, so we went to the main dining room at our assigned time. We were shown the table we would have for the rest of the trip.

RCCL balcony cabin
Balcony cabin sitting area.
Balcony bathroom

The Main Dining Room

The main dining room was beautiful, and our servers were attentive; however, the vegetarian selection was minimal, and they did not appear to have any vegetarian/vegan menus to choose from like we had on other cruise lines. Our waiter appeared a bit embarrassed when he pointed out the one item on the menu that fit the bill. We both ordered the mushroom entre, but it was not very good; you had to dig through the unknown type of grain filling the bowl to find the sliver of mushroom. The dinner rolls were great, however.

After dinner, we got off the ship and saw a few places on our visit Singapore list before the ship set sail the following day. This was also new to us. All the other cruises we have taken sailed the evening we boarded. Not this one; we boarded and were told we could leave the ship at 4:30 PM and needed to be back by 3:00 PM the following day when the ship was scheduled to sail. It worked for us as we had a few places we wanted to see but had run out of time.

Buffet on cruise ship
Cruise buffet breakfast
Cruise buffet

The Next Day

Royal Caribbean has a very nice app that they encourage you to download throughout the reservation/onboarding process. We discovered it was essential to do this as they don’t leave printed newsletters each evening outlining the next day’s activities, restaurant operating hours, etc. So, at 5:00 AM, when I was ready for my first cup of coffee, there was no printed documentation telling me where to go. I consulted the app, but all of the dining venues showed that they were closed. I wandered up to the main buffet area, which showed an opening of 6:00 AM on the app, and found the doors open, but the food sections roped off. The coffee urns were located just outside the roped-off area; it was hot and fresh. Mission Accomplished. I found a table in an out-of-the-way location, drank my coffee, and caught up with the news. Around 6:00 AM, people began arriving looking for breakfast, so I headed back to our room. Jim was away by now, so we returned to the buffet for breakfast. We usually like to have breakfast in the main dining room so we don’t have crowds to contend with, but it did not open until 8:00 AM, so we opted for the buffet. Although it was getting busy, it wasn’t too crowded, and we enjoyed our meal.

However, lunch was a different matter. The main dining room was not open for lunch. Our only options were the buffet, a hot dog stand, or a pizza place. We opted for the buffet; it was an absolute madhouse. Finding a place to sit was tough, let alone wrangle a spot in line to get food. The first plate I picked up from the stack of clean plates was dirty, as were some of the wrapped utensils. We ate quickly and went back to our room.

Promenade area on the Spectrum on the Seas
Lounge area on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas.
Display celebrating the Chinese new year on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas;

The Ship

After breakfast, we explored the ship and all the venues it has to offer. It’s a pretty ship and well-maintained. It did not feel crowded, and we didn’t have to wait too long for an elevator. We forgot that we were morning people, and most of our fellow cruisers were still sleeping. By noon, those sleepyheads had stirred, and the wide open spaces became few and far between. This was a port day, so many folks were off the ship on excursions. Tomorrow is a day at sea; we’ll see how spacious this ship is.

A Few Days In

We’ve been on the ship for a few days now and are settling into a routine. The ship is indeed crowded, with a total of 4,200 guests onboard. The main dining room is only open for dinner on port days but is available for breakfast and lunch on sea days. However, when we attempted to stop in for a late breakfast coffee, we were told the line was too long and that we should go somewhere else. We didn’t see a line and were underwhelmed by the customer service. We have been eating dinner at our assigned table each night, and our servers are efficient and friendly.

A theater on the Spectrum of the Seas.
Main theater on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas.
Coffee shop on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas.

The Windjammer Café (buffet) has been overly crowded every time we have visited. Finding a table is an issue, and people are a bit pushy while waiting in lines for food. The food itself is decent but hasn’t changed much. They could use more folks cleaning the table during the rush hours. We witnessed guests clearing tables so they had a place to sit. Cleanliness is still an issue with plates, glasses, and silverware, even in the main dining room.

On a particularly early morning coffee run, I went to the buffet, which had been more of a source for morning java, only to find the doors closed and no one around. So, I headed down to the Customer Service desk to inquire where I might find a cup of coffee at this early hour. The representative pointed across the hall to the La Patisserie Café. The app mentioned that this venue did not open until 6:00 AM, but after speaking with the attendant, he said it was open 24 hours a day and that coffee was always available. They serve specialty coffees for an additional price but also have several urns of their standard brew, which does not have an extra cost. Ice cream creations are also available at an additional cost, and there are a few light-bite sandwiches that you can snack on at no additional charge. You might ask before ordering, as it’s quite a mix of charge or no-charge items.

Flying Pig statue on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas.
Ariel lift ride on the RCCL Spectrum of the Seas.
Kids pool area on the Royal Caribbean Spectrum of the Seas.

The Next Cruise

We were traveling on back-to-back cruises, both of which began and ended in Singapore.

The day arrived to transition from the first cruise to the second cruise. Royal made this an easy process; we were assigned a time and location to check in with the ship staff and exchange our room keys. We were staying in the same room for both cruises, so the process was quick and efficient.

Royal gave us the option to get off the ship and explore Singapore that day, but since we had already spent so much time in Singapore, we decided to stay on the ship and not mess with the mass embarkation process. They even had a special dining room where we could eat lunch, which was nice.

Towel animal on the Spectrum of the Seas
The moon setting over the ocean with clouds.
Jim on balcony of our room while in port.

Ports of Call

The ship had several ports of call, including spending the first night in Singapore, with stops following at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Bangkok, Penang, Malaysia, and Phuket, Thailand.