Hello. My name is Emma and I go on cruises. Mostly, so far on P&O ships out of Southampton, but other perfectly good cruise companies are available. ;-) When I can, I con my parents into paying for my ticket.
When I travel, I blog. If you would like to read it all, it can be found at my PS. The Post have asked me to proffer some edited highlights of my ramblings, which I shall now inflict on you forthwith. Enjoy.
Happy St Patrick's Day. Today was a Good Day, despite the fact that today we lost a lot of crew and passengers. Today was the end of a leg. Several dozen waiters, cabin stewards, entertainment staff and deck officers left, and new ones joined. The port agent showed us the lists! My mate, Rob, the DJ, was one of those leaving. He had a leaving do last night. His "day job" was to run the cricket, and the cricketers bought him a cake! Really good send-off party. Bed at about 3 a.m.
Arrived in Singapore and met up with the parents. Went out onto the quayside to wait for the Port Agent to send transportation to take us to the hospital. This was a bit more organised than last time, and once we'd FOUND the port agent, he had a car waiting and ready. When we got to the hospital, the doctor was ready and waiting. The nurse took some new xrays of mum's wrist, which the doctor looked at and then asked the nurse to remove the cast. Yay! It's healed! No more sling, no more "Ah poor me". Yippee! We wished the doctor a happy birthday and then left.
We asked a taxi to take us to the Meridien hotel. He took us to the Mandarin instead. Oh well, never mind! The Mandarin Orchard is a beautiful modern hotel with a restaurant so good you have to book to get in on a weekday lunchtime. I dread to think how far ahead you'd have to book for dinner! We ate in the Triple Three cafe, where I had to take a photo of the cake display, because it looked more like art than food! Mum had a piece of quiche, dad had a giant cookie and I tried a Green Tea Mousse, which was very nice but was sweeter than I was expecting, so dad finished it for me. Good old Daddy. We then used their beautiful loos (although mine flushed itself three times while I was trying to use it, which was VERY disconcerting!) and then headed out onto Orchard Road – shopping mecca of the world. It was insanely hot and very humid, as always in Singapore, and for some reason, the streets were extremely crowded. Some store called OG was having a members only sale and everyone in Singapore was apparently a member except us. The queue went down the block and everyone came out laden with purchases. Sort of like trying to walk past Primark during the first morning of their sale! Except OG bags are still plastic. Tut tut.
Once the novelty of the crowds had worn off (which didn't take long!), and we'd bought couple of cheap watches (mine died yesterday and no amount of CPR/new batteries could save it – it had a good life, though – it was my present for passing my GCSEs!) we grabbed a cab to Funan Digital Life Mall. This is the home of fixed price electronics in Singapore. You can go to Sim Lim Square and haggle, but you'd have to check the contents of the box you receive and the warranties are less reliable, apparently. So Funan it was. I bought a small HP Mini notebook, pink, of course, and a padded slip cover to protect it, pink, of course. I was going to buy an Acer One, but the salesman said the HP was the same spec with a better warranty and fifty dollars cheaper, and I couldn't argue with him on any point, so that's what I bought. We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the Harbour Front. This is a massive shopping mall built right on the quayside next to where the cruise ships dock. However, "local" shipping lines take priority (which is not the line P&O feed us – they give us some twaddle about the Aurora being too tall – but never mind), so nowadays we have to moor out at the container port and get a shuttle bus into town. This is also absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this is probably WAY cheaper for P&O. Nothing to do with it, AT ALL. No, sirreebob. Not a bit of it. Especially in view of the fact that this is our second visit to Singapore on this cruise. Not at all. Nope. The shuttle bus went from and to the Harbour Front Mall. Nice touch that, P&O, thanks. Not only don't take us to the beautiful purpose-built cruise terminal and dump us so far out of town in the commercial port that it takes twenty minutes to drive from the ship to the port gate (no, really, we timed it) and THEN twenty minutes into town, but then drive us to that purpose-built cruise terminal and mall so we know EXACTLY what we're missing. Thanks for that, thanks a bunch. We went back to the ship and divested ourselves of our (my) purchases, which considering their littleness were getting surprisingly heavy! Then we caught the evening shuttle bus to Clarke Quay. Yes, the evening shuttle went to and from a different place to the day shuttle. No potential for lost and confused passengers there then!
At Clarke Quay we found a beautiful and thankfully air conditioned Chinese restaurant called Peony-Jade. The food was lovely, but the portions were VAST. We ordered the duck, but when it came, not only were the pancakes triangular, which was a first for us, but they insisted on making them up for us! This was a little irksome because it meant not only having to stare at it for a good ten minutes before getting our hands on it (we only got them when they were all made up), but having to explain who wanted spring onion, who didn't, and so on. Just give it to us and let us do it! Luckily, for half of the duck, they gave us the bits and let us do it ourselves, otherwise we could well still be sitting there! Dad and Mum had a shredded beef dish and I ordered a chicken in sweet lime dressing, which, if you eat Chinese food in the UK, was as near to lemon chicken as makes no difference. It was delicious. The rice was very colourful, because they filled it with slices of spring onion and what looked like crab meat (which is reddy-pink for the unfamiliar). When I asked, he said it was fake crabmeat, made from flour. What's the point in that?! I find that hard to comprehend. If I order a vegetarian dish, making it clear I don't want any fish or meat in it, why would you put in PRETEND meat or fish?! Can't process the thinking behind that one, I'm afraid. Deeply odd.
All delicious, nonetheless, but if you're ever in Singapore, DON'T EAT THERE. No, really. Don't eat at the Peony-Jade. Why? Because they con you when the bill comes. Dad calls it Tourist Tax. They poured tea for three, despite the fact that we ordered for two. They charged us for three, despite mum sending hers away untouched. Then, they gave us little towelettes to clean our fingers after the pancakes. And charged us for those, too! The overall damage for the uninvited extras was around six dollars, or a little under 4.5% of the total bill. Now, they have no danger of repeat business from us, we're from the cruise ship, they know we're only around for one day or two at the most, but that kind of behaviour is not to be encouraged. Tourist Tax isn't all that common any more (this is the ironic name given to that extra that appears when you try to pay for something whilst clearly not being a local), but I still think it's indefensible. Charging for a towelette? We didn't ASK for a towelette, you GAVE us a towelette. We would have been happy with a boil of water with a slice of lemon in it! Utterly disgraceful.
So that's the tip of the day: NEVER EAT IN THE PEONY-JADE, CLARKE QUAY IN SINGAPORE. Don't eat at Quayside Seafood which is next door and owned by the same people. I imagine they con you there too.
Anyway, Clarke Quay is AMAZING. It's a beautiful harbour/marina type thing but on a river, not a dead end, with restaurants along the water's edge. Live music coming from every door, covered pedestrian streets so that you can sit outside. Really vibrant and buzzing. NOT my parents' sort of place at all! But they liked it as a thing to look at – it was the "noise" they couldn't handle. So after a wander, we headed back to the shuttle bus and back to the ship. We got back about 11.15. We weren't due to leave port until 2 a.m., but enough is enough! It was a long day!
In case I've forgotten to explain (and no, I'm not going back and re-reading it all to check!), there's a reason why we stayed in Singapore until 2 a.m. We never normally stay in a port past midnight, because it costs a whole day extra in mooring fees (roughly £50,000, give or take). However, a few days ago, the Captain was informed of a recent "threat to oil shipping" in the Malacca Straits, so he negotiated with Southampton and they said "Stay late and then go like hell. Go through the Straits at full pelt. Just to be on the safe side". So that's what we're doing. It's now 5 a.m. and I can't sleep, so I can tell you that we are currently passing between some islands (there's rather a lot of those around here...) and only doing 10 knots, but once clear of them, we will be going at full tilt for the rest of the night. Here endeth Singapore 2.