Previously, I compared Royal Caribbean’s and Dream Cruises’ ‘cruise to nowhere’ based on the research that I did. Today, I am going to share with you some of the stuffs that you should know before booking and when you are onboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas (not sponsored). All of these are based on my experience during a New Year cruise. It was incredibly fun; I will talk more on it in another post.
- You are leaving Singapore
Despite being marketed as ‘Cruise to Nowhere’, you will be in fact cruising out to international water (Malacca Straits). This means you are technically leaving Singapore, and you will need your passport and preferably whatever documents that you need (e.g. Re-entry permit) to legally re-enter Singapore when you disembark from the ship. Yes, you will need to go through immigration check twice during the trip. Personally, I have seen a family who got delayed at the check-in counter as they had to download their re-entry permits from the ICA website.
- GST allowance applies
There are plenty to shop onboard – watches, cosmetics, apparels and goods that you usually see at airports – and since you are technically purchasing these items outside of Singapore, the GST allowances for local residents apply, which are $500 for cruises more than 48 hours and $100 for less than 48 hours. More details here.
- There are two swab tests – PCR and Rapid Antigen
While most cruise goers would know by now that a pre-cruise PCR test is mandatory for ‘Cruise to Nowhere’, there will also be a post-cruise Rapid Antigen test when you re-enter Singapore. Thank goodness, Rapid Antigen swab is not as uncomfortable as the PCR swab as it does not involve the deepest section of your nostrils. The test result is not immediate, but you will be allowed to leave right away as they will call you in an hour if the test comes back positive.
- The price that you see on ads may not be final
Do take note of taxes, fees, port charges of $54.15 and automatic gratuity service fee of up to USD 17.50 per person, per day. Chances are, there will be a difference between the per person price that you might have seen on advertisements and the total fees that you pay.
- Do some research before you pick your room.
Should you pick your own room or leave it to Royal Caribbean? Are the rooms at Aft better than Forward? Are the rooms on Deck 13 (highest possible floor for accommodation) better than the one on Deck 10? Although most rooms in the same category are created equal, the ocean view that you get is not! Generally speaking, avoid deck 6 unless you have a suite, as most of the balcony staterooms have views partially obstructed by lifeboats. Similarly, for Deck 12, you might see pillars supporting the sun deck, but this should not post as big of a problem as those who are staying on Deck 13. Humans tend to associate height with prestige but picking the highest possible floor for your room might not necessarily be wise. On Quantum of the Seas, you might not be able to see the horizon if you are staying on Deck 13 because of the overhang, unless again if you are in a suite. Check out this post by Cruise Admiral to learn more.
- You will never starve on board
The fees that you pay are inclusive most meals on board. This means breakfast, lunch and dinner at the dining room and the buffet at Windjammer Marketplace, Solarium Bistro and Cafe Two70. You can also get pizzas, sandwiches, hot dogs and ice creams on board at no additional charge. You will also not starve on board as Café Promenade (inclusive in your fare) is opened 24 hours, so leave your electric cookers (yes, I have seen it and you cannot bring it on board anyway) at home if you plan to bring one.
- Stuff that you cannot bring on board
I will not talk about dangerous items as it is common sense not to carry such items when you pass any security checks. Besides those, there also various prohibited items such as extension cords including those made for travels, irons, cloth steamers, alcoholic drinks (except two bottles of wine or champagne per room) that are not allowed on board. The security will usually keep this item for you and return it at the end of the trip.
- Be early, be early, be early
Being late is bad for your cruise to nowhere as it has a snowballing effect. You will want to complete your online check-in early so you will get the earliest slot (2pm) for boarding. Remember check-in time are staggered to prevent overcrowding at Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Once you are on board, the first thing that you want to do is head to any specialty restaurants to book your table for the rest of the trip if you have a dining package. The bad thing about having a dining package is you cannot book the restaurants that you would like to dine before the trip as preference is given to those who paid a full price.
Once all these are done, connect to the ship Wi-fi and book whatever shows or activities that you want to do right away. Although Royal Caribbean has ensured there are multiple timings / repeats, this is important so you can secure the timeslot that you want.
Also take note to book using the ship’s facilities such as gym, spa, Seaplex can only be done at the venue itself, so you might want to head there next. Rock climbing and Flowrider are first come, first serve and you cannot book them in advance. Be prepared to queue for more than 30 to 60 minutes even if you show up right when they are opening, hence doing it on the embarkation day is a good idea as most people are either still not on board or are ‘exploring’ the ship.
Besides rock climbing and Flowrider, smaller scale entertainment (think music, movies, gameshows) are also first-come, first serve and seats usually run out a few minutes into the show.
Remember to also watch the compulsory safety videos in your room or on your phone and report to your muster station.
- Prevailing social distancing guidelines apply
What you practice on land in Singapore is what you will have to do on board. The prevailing guidelines from the authority apply, so wear your mask, keep one metre between you and other passengers and consumption of alcohol (except in your own room) after 10:30pm. You will also need to tap your room card, have your temperature taken, wear a Royal Caribbean tracelet, sanitise your hand at select checkpoints. I have seen some guests arguing, but all these measures are designed to keep everyone safe and this is also one of the reasons why there are so few community cases in Singapore.
You will also get a constant reminder on all the social distancing rules from the crew. There are also safe distancing ambassadors on board who constantly take pictures to ensure all these guidelines are being followed.
You will also not be able to get drinks during shows as live performances at bars and restaurants are still not allowed. This is because spaces can only either be an ‘event venue’ or an ‘F&B outlet’, but not both at the same time.
- Other tips
I personally recommend getting the Unlimited Dining Package, if you ever come across it. Do check your mailbox and Royal Caribbean website as it does not appear often. This package allows you to dine at specialty restaurants on board multiple times per day, and you will be paying a fraction of what the restaurants charges on board.
Talking about dining at specialty restaurants, you can also bring your own wine and champagne to these restaurants and there is absolutely no corkage fee! Remember you have an allowance of two bottles per stateroom (no spirit or beer though).
Also, make sure that you download the Royal App, which is an e-cruise compass. It allows you to get the latest showtimes, restaurant details as well to book specialty restaurants and select activities on board.
Last tips, there is an art gallery that sells artworks on board and they even organize art auctions. These can be fun to watch but always do your research before you buy anything especially those that have subjective value. Remember, you will not be able to check prices online if you do not have an internet package. I highly recommend reading this article on cruise art auction before your trip.
Update: I’ve a friend who purchased a data roaming pass from a telco prior to cruising thinking there will be a connection. Don’t do that if you’re taking a ‘cruise to nowhere’. You’ll be too far out from land and there’ll not be a port call. If you need internet access, purchase it directly from the cruise operator.
More from the Cruise to Nowhere series:
10 things to know before, during and after your Royal Caribbean cruise to nowhere
Cruise to nowhere Singapore guide: Dream Cruises vs Royal Caribbean vs staycation at hotels
Royal Caribbean Specialty Restaurants Review Part 1: Wonderland
Royal Caribbean Specialty Restaurants Review Part 2: Jaimie’s Italian, Chops Grille and Izumi