ITS name sounds like a potential title for a movie where James Bond meets Pirates of the Caribbean. Spectrum of the Seas would be the setting for an edgy plot, packed with marine adventures and hi-tech gadgets, perhaps sparking sequels or prequels called Quantum of the Seas or Anthem of the Seas. It’s not too far-fetched an idea.
After all, Spectrum of the Seas is the name of an actual ship (as are the other two names), a dynamic vessel that’s licensed to thrill, and the latest one to be introduced by Royal Caribbean International, the world’s largest cruise line.
Touted as the biggest and most expensive cruise ship in Asia, the Shanghai-based Spectrum is about to sail away from Singapore one evening with me onboard, for a hop to Port Klang. Shuffling eagerly along an external corridor on the way to board the vessel, I’m left with my mouth wide open when I realise that the behemoth beside the terminal isn’t a huge office building.
To see a cruise liner in person for the first time is mind-blowing. Leaning over the railing, glancing up and down, looking left then right, I’m unable to see how far the ship extends, but I know for certain that she’s taller than my condominium and quite possibly as large as a shopping mall.
Whatever archaic notion of cruise ships I’d possessed previously starts to fade away when I find myself in a swanky carpeted lift lobby area swirling with people desperately trying to find their bearings with their carry-on bags in tow.
Fortunately, for anyone not accustomed to enclosed spaces, Spectrum of the Seas features transparent lifts and plenty of large windows, high ceilings, spacious atriums and open plan dining venues.
Ship designs are an architectural marvel these days, equipped with the latest innovations, and this brand new baby, the first Quantum Ultra Class ship in the Royal Caribbean family, raises the cruise experience up a notch as I’m about to find out over the next three days.
Like navigating through a new shopping mall, disorientation strikes at first, but with each stroll up and down the decks, my sense of direction improves. A pocket-sized printed guide to the ship serves as my quick aid for locating all the attractions, in addition to the signages, directories, and digital maps.
There’s even a mobile app to assist guests with planning. The prospect of exploring 14 passenger decks sounds staggering until I realise that most of them are allocated for staterooms and suites, leaving guests essentially to wander a around only a handful of other decks.
FIRST DAY THRILLS
There’s no time to fully explore yet because within an hour of setting foot onboard, a whirlwind of activities sweeps me off my feet, quite literally, beginning with a ride on the signature North Star, a glass capsule that slowly rises about 90 metres above sea level, providing a 360-degree view of the ship’s top deck and beyond. It’s a tame ride when compared to the next heart-pounding, gravity-defying activity.
“I don’t want to but I have to touch your legs,” a macho-looking fellow tells me, wearing a deadpan expression while holding some thick straps. I almost retort, “Please go ahead and touch” but stop myself in time. Having never tried either bungee jumping or trampolining, the SkyPad offers a mild and fun cross between both, a bungee trampoline experience with an optional virtual reality component.
Tethered via solid straps and ropes to a sphere-like structure and guided by Mr Macho, I discover that bouncing can be exhilarating, though as tiring as cardiovascular exercises. Slightly breathless and somewhat sweaty, jumping is paused for a moment to allow a VR (Virtual Reality) headset to be placed over my head before I’m immersed in a colourful virtual world of chocolates, marshmallows and ice-cream.
More adventurous thrill-seekers would attempt the surfing simulator FlowRider and the skydiving simulator RipCord by iFly, but with enough of an adrenaline rush for the first day, I decide to take things easy. So the rest of my afternoon slows down once cabins (also known as staterooms) are ready and keycards are handed over.
I notice my name on it and learn that these smart cards are linked to my registered Royal Caribbean account, allowing cashless purchases onboard and for re-boarding if needed. Like a standard hotel room, my cosy, well-furnished cabin has plenty of modern comforts that a guest might expect, including kettle and mini fridge, and best of all, a balcony overlooking the port side of the ship.
At last, a chance to hurl myself onto the comfortable bed like a 5-year-old and stretch my limbs starfish-style. But there’s no time for a power nap because my internal system is demanding caffeine and cake.
FOOD FOR ALL
It’s hard to believe that there are some 15 dining options scattered around the ship, of which more than a handful offer complimentary fare throughout the day, ensuring that guests are well-fed. The rest are specialty outlets such as Sichuan Red, Teppanyaki and Jamie’s Italian. For a great deal, special dining packages are available that entitle guests to dine at these specialty outlets for a set price.
Judging from the swarm at lunchtime that followed boarding, Windjammer is clearly very popular, not just because the buffet spread is free and offers a more casual, child-friendly environment, but also for the diverse choices of global cuisines and gluten-free dishes. Wanting to try a different place, however, I head to Café@Two70. Despite the flurry of ever-hungry guests milling around the café, I grab a coffee and a light bite without having to stand in a long line.
There might be thousands of passengers onboard but there never appears to be a shortage of seating space at mealtimes. For some venues, reservations are recommended. With a table booked for dinner that evening at the Main Dining Room, I relish the change of ambience. The setting is more sophisticated, the menu is Western, and the dishes more refined. In addition, the service is sharp, with each table displaying the names of allocated waiters.
At some point as the dishes begin arriving course by course and conversations resonate across the table, Spectrum of the Seas departs Singapore silently, gliding smoothly into open sea with hardly any hint of motion.
SHOWTIME AND PLAYTIME
Post-dinner time is when theatre and musical buffs (like myself) who are starved of world-class shows can indulge in a live stage performance every night at different locations on the ship. On the first night I catch The Silk Road at Two70, a state-of-the-art theatre venue specially created by Royal Caribbean International. The show itself is also an original in-house production that took a laborious 18 months to put together.
From vivacious dancing, impressive vocals and astounding acrobatics to sequins, feathers, and dazzling costumes, the variety and quality give me Las Vegas vibes. In the Music Hall where bands perform live in a more intimate venue, I get the feeling of being at a mini concert.
When a Beatles tribute band takes the audience on a nostalgic 90-minute musical journey, it’s heartwarming to see a silver-haired couple swaying together on the dance floor, who are then joined by other guests till the floor is humming with people singing and twisting the night away.
By day two, I realise that I’ve only experienced a small fraction of the thrills onboard Spectrum. Every day, a leaflet is distributed to all cabins outlining the long list of activities and deals for that particular day. While there are those who are happy doing nothing but lounge by the pool, playing cards on a comfy couch or posing for photos on the upper deck, I just want to do everything on the schedule. So I plot my itinerary of fun time with the efficiency of Miss Moneypenny.
“Fencing at 6pm, bumper cars at 7pm, the Showgirl performance at 8.15pm and then the Beatles Maniacs at 9.30pm followed by the silent disco party at 11pm, and I’ll squeeze in Laser Tag and a trivia quiz session if there’s time,” I declare aloud to my companions on the cruise.
“What about dinner?” someone asks. Ahhh yes… almost forgot about that! Suddenly, three days on a cruise doesn’t seem like enough time.
SPECTRUM FACTS & HIGHLIGHTS:
•41 metres wide x 347 metres long
•5,622 guests at maximum occupancy
•1,551 international crew
•Features Royal Caribbean’s first private enclave for suite guests with special access, dedicated restaurant and private outdoor space
•A two-level family suite that accommodates up to 11 guests and comes with a recreation room
•Innovative dining concepts showcasing authentic cuisine from China plus Japanese and European fare
•An enhanced Seaplex, the largest indoor sports & entertainment complex at sea
•A new karaoke venue, Star Moment
•Pack essentials like phone charger, change of clothes and some toiletries in your carry-on bag in case your luggage reaches your cabin later than expected due to the high volume of bag deliveries.
•Bring clothes that don’t need ironing, unless you’re prepared to pay for the onboard ironing service. Don’t even try sneaking in an iron as it’s strictly not allowed for safety reasons.
•To avoid a long queue for certain popular activities like bumper cars, try to arrive 15-30 minutes early.
Following Spectrum of the Seas, the region will also be welcoming her sister ship, Quantum of the Seas, later in November for a six-month season with 34 cruises planned. Her itineraries will include 4 four-night cruises to Phuket and Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) or Penang, 5-night cruises to Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang), Penang and Phuket; a seven-night cruise to Bangkok (Laem Chabang) (overnight) and Ho Chi Minh City (Phu My); and a nine-night cruise to Bangkok (Laem Chabang), Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang and Hue/Danang (Chan May).
After her multi-million-dollar revitalisation project prior to the season, guests can look forward to a refreshed and upgraded ship to provide the best experience for guests in this region.