Looking for Gopher but finding a Legend: The Legend of the Seas

25 11 2010

I have to admit that it has been ages since I have embarked on a cruise, some three and a half decades to be precise – half a lifetime ago. In saying so, I have to also admit that while I went on a series of two cruises in the short space of a year, they had been ones that provided a very different experience from what the magnificent cruise liners we see on our shores today can provide. The two cruises had been ones that were taken on a shoestring, so to speak, as fare paying 2nd Class passengers onboard an old fashioned davit adorned cargo cum passenger ship of a 1950s vintage, the M.V. Kimanis. While that offered the relative comforts of a clean and what would have been a luxuriously outfitted cabin, the simple furnishings of the cabins would probably seem Spartan against the luxurious settings of today’s cruise liners.

The setting for my first two and only cruises to date.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines offered bloggers a peek through the portholes to the wonderful Legend of the Seas - a very different world from the old cargo ship I had taken a cruise on all those years ago.

The concept of luxury cruise liners wasn’t actually alien to this part of the world back then. The M.S. Rasa Sayang, probably the first to be based in Singapore, offered cruises that offered more than the one-armed bandit, duty-free beer, strolls around the wooden sheathed deck and the odd visit to the Bridge. That however, was out of reach to most back then, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I got my very first experience of a cruise liner – with the help of the very merry Captain Merrill Stubin and his jolly crew on the Pacific Princess, I was, together with my parents and sister, carried to exotic sounding ports such as Acapulco and Puerto Vallata on the west coast of North America – not physically, but virtually on the screen of my family’s first coloured television set. That was of course the then very popular sitcom, known to us as “The Love Boat”, which featured characters such as a favourite of mine Gopher, the Yeoman Purser.

The bow of the Legend of the Seas seen through the link bridge at the Cruise Centre.

Now, fast forward to 2010, and despite my early adventures on the high seas, the inspiration provided by Gopher, and having had many past encounters with ships large and small and one that literally flies, during the course of my career, it wasn’t until the generous offer of a half day tour of the Legend of the Seas made by Royal Caribbean Cruises to promote their “My Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventure” to bloggers, that I finally got not just to peek through the portholes of a cruise liner, but actually be brought around one.

The tour of the Legend of the Seas provided bloggers with a first hand view of the fabulous 70000 ton ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Taking the first peek at the very luxurious Legend of the Seas.

The ship tour offered a rare opportunity to visit a luxurious cruise ship and cameras started clicking from the word go!

I guess I wasn't the only one awed by the experience ... Mr. Personality at the Urban Homme Challenge Aussie Pete was wide-eyed throughout the ship tour.

The walk through the ship started with a briefing at the Anchors Aweigh lounge on Deck 5 at which evening entertainment is held during cruises, moving through a shopping arcade Boutiques of Centrum, where we learnt that we could shop with the assurance that prices would not just be duty-free, but would come with a lowest price guarantee. Also on Deck 5, are the Shore Excursion Desk, and the Purser’s Desk, where I might, expecting to see a familiar face in Gopher, have been disappointed if not for the wonderful smile I got from the lady Gopher … uh I meant Purser.

The Anchors Aweigh Lounge on Deck 5.

Decoration inside Anchors Aweigh.

Welcoming the bloggers at Anchors Aweigh...

Decoration inside Anchors Aweigh.

Where I guess one can shop till one drops ... prices guaranteed too! The Boutiques of Centrum on Deck 5.

A cute offering at the Boutiques of Centrum.

The Shore Excursion Desk on Deck 5.

The Purser's Desk on Deck 5.

The Purser - not quite Gopher, but with an equally wonderful smile.

Snail mail gets delivered too!

Moving up to Deck 6, we were shown some of the smaller but no less luxurious cabins – the Ocean View Staterooms and the Interior Staterooms, but not before having a glance at the Photo Gallery and Shop, and being tempted by the offerings at the Ben & Jerry Cafe Latte-tudes.

Ben & Jerry's on Deck 6 at the Cafe Latte-tudes.

Cones waiting to be treated with a scoop of Ben & Jerry's ...

There is much more than Ice Cream that Cafe Latte-tudes offers the hungry passenger ....

The Ocean View Stateroom on Deck 6.

On Deck 7, we were greeted by the busts of the likes of Mark Twain and the Bard, William Shakespeare before coming to the little but delightfully furnished Library where a wide array of books awaits the passenger, and the Card Room where Mahjong can also be played. On the same Deck, we also saw the Superior Interior Staterooms, and the D1 Staterooms which were fitted with balconies – something that impressed our Urban Homme Challenge Mr Personality, Aussie Pete no end and probably helped convince him that a cruise was in order.

The bust of Mark Twain next to the Library on Deck 7.

A well-stocked shelf in the Library.

Generous windows illuminate the gorgeous Library.

Inside the Library.

The Card Room on Deck 7.

The cruises offered are very popular with organisations looking for incentive travel packages.

An Interior Stateroom on Deck 7.

The room with a view - the D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom on Deck 7 with a balcony that wowed many.

The Balcony of the D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom.

The reverse view of the D1 Superior Balcony Stateroom.


The view from Deck 7.

The view up ... to where the air is thin ...

The oxygen level did seem to get thinner the higher up we went and on Deck 8 as after the peek at the WIFI access area situated at the Crown and Anchor Study, and an internet cafe in the form of Royal Caribbean Online, our breath was taken away by the gorgeous suites on the deck which included the Grand Suite, the Owner’s Suite and the expansive Royal Suite, something that perhaps I would have otherwise only set eyes upon in a glossy magazine.

Crown and Anchor Study on Deck 8.

Royal Caribbean Online on Deck 8.

Decoration on the bulkhead at Royal Caribbean Online.

Beautiful natural light is provided by the skylight to the public areas on Deck 8.

The view through a blind on Deck 8.

Inside a Grand Suite on Deck 8.

The balcony of the Grand Suite.

The Owner's Suite on Deck 8.

The bed in the Owner's Suite.

Even the toilet paper used onboard reeks of luxury.


The Royal Suite.

Ashtray / Cigarette disposal in the balcony of the Royal Suite.

On Deck 9, we had a quick look around the Windjammer Cafe, which had what seemed a sumptuous buffet spread that had my stomach growling. The very inviting looking Main Pool is located on the same deck, as well as the Solarium and Day Spa & Fitness Centre, which our group somehow missed, missing a show stealer that was put on by one of the bloggers.

The Windjammer Cafe on Deck 9.

Offerings at the Windjammer Buffet ...

The view on Deck 9.

Refreshments on Deck 9.

Up on Deck 10, we came to the Optix, an area for teens which had what seemed to be a very cool recording studio within the area. Situated in the same area is a Video Arcade as well as Adventure Ocean, a kids play area. We were then shown the open deck area where a row of deck chairs leads aft to the Legend of the Links, a mini-golf course and then to a Rock Climbing Wall located right at the aft end of the deck – awesome!

The view of the Main Pool on Deck 9 from Deck 10.

Optix is an area on Deck 10 for teens to chill out.

Adventure Ocean - a kids activity area.

View of the Main Pool from Deck 10.

View of deck chairs on Deck 9 from Deck 10.

Deck chairs on Deck 10.

Shuffle board on Deck 10.

Legend of the Links - Mini Golf!

The Rock Climbing Wall at the aft end of Deck 10.

Sadly for us, even though many of us harboured thoughts of finding a hiding place to stowaway, we made our way to our final stop, the Romeo & Juliet Dining Room on Deck 4, where we were treated to a wonderful three course meal. I had a prawn cocktail, the steamed Halibut served with vegetables and polenta, and a very sweet but light dessert. While all this was going on, one of the bloggers seemed to be studying the cruise brochure pretty hard – nipping out for a while to check the Casino Royale on the same deck out, perhaps hoping that it was opened so that he can get lucky, and perhaps return for a stay in one of those very luxurious suites on Deck 8 that not just he, but most of us were most impressed with…

Lunch at the Romeo & Juliet Dining Room.

He's definitely sold on a cruise on the Legend of the Seas!

And before we knew it, it was time to reluctantly say good-bye …

6 08 2010

Having had a great time in Hong Kong, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and omy.sg, and having made some wonderful friends over the previous three days, the final day came all too quickly, and it was time to bid the Fragrant Harbour goodbye. All I guess were busy in the morning trying to stuff whatever shopping they had done into their bags, and when the time came to say a sad goodbye to the fabulous hotel room at 9.30 am, most of us had made it down to the glorious lobby of the hotel with bulging bags, which we soon loaded into the bus that was to ferry us around that day. Once on the bus, the ever amusing Aussie Pete, gave us an account of his shopping exploits at Harbour City Shopping Mall, and how he had managed to fill his very large and what had been an almost empty suitcase, even getting a toy dog that his son had wanted (isn’t that sweet?). That I can tell you is no mean feat, having not had much time to do any form of serious shopping, with the activity packed programme that the HKTB had lined up for us over the previous three days!

Pete started our morning with the story of how he managed to fulfill the big shopping task his wife had set him.

Evidence of Pete's shopping exploits.

The day’s programme started with breakfast at a congee restaurant that is apparently on list of recommended local restaurants in Michelin Guide, Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road. The word is that the chef has been dutifully gotten up at 3 am everyday for the last 50 years to prepare his highly rated concoction of Thai rice, crushed preserved eggs and fish bones that many crave. I myself, not being fond of congee, opted for a plate of beef brisket noodles, after which I was ready for what was to prove a very interesting walk around SoHo and Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen, which I have mentioned in two previous posts.

The day's programme started with breakfast at Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road in Central.

Law Fu Kee is highly rated for its congee which has been prepared in the same way for 50 years.

After the walk which ended at the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, it was time for lunch at the Yin Yang, a private kitchen with three tables housed in a historic building of 1930s vintage in the Wan Chai area, run by celebrity chef Margaret Xu. Xu had given up a job at an advertising firm to run the kitchen and an organic farm on which most of the fresh produce used in the kitchen comes from. The exclusive kitchen, known for its signature dish of “Yellow Earth” chicken which is roasted in an earthern oven designed by Xu herself, hosts up to 30 people and each sitting features a menu that is hand picked by Xu herself, which can cost around HKD 700 per person. I guess this and the sauce making session conducted by Xu herself that followed deserves another post and that I guess is what I would just do.

Yin Yang is a private kitchen housed in a historic building on Ship Street.

The historic building dates back to the 1930s.

Yin Yang's signature dish: "Yellow Earth" Chicken

The specially designed oven that the "Yellow Earth" chicken is roasted in.

We had a Blue Girl at the table.

Celebrity chef Margaret Xu later conducted a sauce making session for some of the bloggers.

Margaret's sauce making demonstration was very intently followed by the bloggers who attended the session.

Margaret Xu demonstrated how to turn this mixture of green chillies, spring onions, ginger and oil from this ....

... to this tangy tasting pesto like paste ...

... which Pete seemed to like ...

We each had a bottle to take home with us.

When the session came to an end, we had a chance to taste the tangy green chilli sauce that Margaret had shown us how to make, which had perhaps the consistency of pesto, of which Pete seemed to enjoy the most. We were each given a bottle of the green sauce which Catherine Ling of Camemberu fame mentioned goes well with Chicken Rice. With that, it was almost time for a sad goodbye to what had been a really enjoyable trip, made better by the company of the friends we had all made on the trip, including the members of the HKTB team, the omy team, and my fellow bloggers, as well as that of the excellent hospitality we all had been shown by the HKTB. After a quick look around the area, during which I had a quick glance at the Hung Shing temple on Queen’s Road East, which was constructed in 1847 and at the time of its construction was by the sea, it was time to board the bus for the airport and say goodbye to some of those who had opted to stay behind. With that, what certainly had been one of the most enjoyable trips I have made, came to an end.

A last look around: Hung Shing Temple (1847) on Queen's Road East.

An annex to the Hung Shing temple, a Kwan Yum temple was added in 1867.

Queen's Road East in Wan Chai.

Darren completing formalities, before we said goodbye ...

A lasting last impression of Hong Kong ... a city that reaches out for the skies in many ways.

Time to say goodbye.

All settled for the final journey to the airport.

Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.