A ‘Whirlwind’ Experience at Sea

Statutory Warning! The next 1282 words, describe a ‘Whirlwind experience‘ aboard a floating world in the middle of the ocean. Granted its not an apt choice of words and I got home all accounted for, it did feel like just that- the minute I boarded the Mariner of the Seas by Royal Caribbean – a colossal 138,000 tons cruise ship, with 15 decks of activity poised in serenity at the Singapore Harbor.

From afar, one would be misguided to underestimate the ‘fun’ hidden within. After all, it does look like any other cruise ship meant for the honeymooners of mush. Looks can be deceiving, and I happened to witness it first hand the minute I boarded. “There is something for everyone”- a line that has been used beyond reckoning and is rather staid these days, not to mention over promised, would be the apt title for this ‘cruise’ and it sure lives up to its name. Let me give you a few activities that left me spell bound and thoroughly engrossed enough to realize that 96 hours passed me by. Did someone mention the relativity of time in a Interstellar manner of speaking?

THE Dreamworks Parade

Its an all star round up when life size characters of King Julian and Princess Fiona and Kung Fu Panda parade up and down the gangway to welcome one and all aboard this journey of Fun and Frolic. They even are amazing enough to click photographs with. Check out Gloria from Madagascar, she is a whole lot of hug and is quite supportive for ones weight ego issues, in a diminutive matter of speaking.

For the DareDevil in you

One realizes that moment of self proclaimed fallacies in regards to ‘physical fitness’ when the sign up for the adventure zone. You have a Rock climbing wall for the enthusiast such as ‘moi’ to climb atop and suspend oneself 25 feet above deck with unparalleled horizons of the deep blue sea and all that lurks within and shout out with arms wide stretched ‘I am the king of the world’ and play spectacle to all below who guffaw at your idiosyncrasies.

Or if that doesn’t cut it for you, try colour-coordinating footwear to match golf balls on the mini golf course during putting practice. Mind the wind and draft, it plays havoc on ones putting stance, or maybe it was the alcohol talking from one of the many bars around. For all the ‘insomniac hoopsters’ in the house, there is nothing like a great game of Basketball at 2am in the morning.

A Jacuzzi and Movie

Not all Fun and Games require physical exercise. After the bitter sweet realization sets in and parts of ones body, unheard of before- scream for attentive rejuvenation the best way to swallow ones bruised pride, no pun intended, is to catch a movie on a larger than life screen close to 70mm theatre sized format, in the middle of a bubbly Jacuzzi at 9 pm till midnight. I had a wonderful time watching a country western- The Magnificent Seven, with a beer in one hand and a shower of rain from above during the movie. A surreal experience indeed. Do remember to keep the towel handy, as the wind gets rather gusty in the wee hours of the morning. A definitive experience- with like-minded company, to redefine the term ‘Netflix and chill’. Goes without saying I wasn’t so lucky given three hairy men sharing my tub. Three more and I would be living my country western flick in real bubbly life, as a matter of speaking.

John Travolta meets Evgeni Plushenko

Contrary to popular belief, the ship while cruising is as stable as a Professor delivering a lecture on quantum astro physics on a cold winters day in Harvard. However, if some wish to get ‘Jiggy’ with it, allow me to suggest two multiple varieties on two different surfaces. For starters you could head to the neon lit discotheque at the far end of the ship, and boogie away to Saturday night fever Travolta style, and bust a move while you at it or be a vision on ice like the 4 time Olympian Evgeni Plushenko. Yes don’t look so baffled, I assure you I am not doing a Hemingway through this article and this piece is written and edited sober. There is an ice skating rink in the middle of the ship!!!! And you can learn the art of making a complete fool of yourself and redefining the term ‘Bottoms Up’ every few feet on twin blades. Whats more allow for the show to begin post ‘your’ practice rounds and see these graceful figurines make you feel inadequate and left footed every step of the way. Please wear full pants, I speak from experience having to break away follicles of hair like icicles due to the severity of the cold.

A Yankee and a show

Given all the vigorous and not so vigorous activity leaves one famished. What better experience than to dine at Johnny Rockets, one of the specialty restaurants transporting you back to the days of jukeboxes, hamburgers, hotdogs, sundaes and corn chilly fries. The Strawberry milkshake is best left to be sampled as words currently transport me to the chunky bits of fresh strawberry amidst goodness of brain freeze slush. Set in a 60’s setting of the American diner this is a fun filled experience for adults and kids alike with a set menu that includes some scrumptious mouthwatering fare that would appease the palates of adults and kids alike.

Consume the meal with gusto and don’t miss to catch the Musical at the indoor theatre Gallery of Dreams.

Its a world class production and keeps ones feet stomping through the spectacle.
Jackpot ‘Kaching!!!’

Right about now, the only infamous words coming to my mind is the sputtering of Clint Eastwood to the tune of ‘Feeling lucky punk’. No, I am not held at gunpoint nor am I in a Mexican standoff at the Roulette tables in the casino below deck. A full-fledged casino to satiate the appetite and wallet of the gambler in you, this gambler paradise has something for everyone. From slot machines to Blackjack to 21 one never gets bored. I even managed to win a little as a first time gambler. What can i say, beginners luck perhaps? After all, the house always wins right? Maybe not applicable in this case given it’s technically not a house? One would never know!! To question or not to question, that is the answer. Strictly for adults only.

As I sign off, I would like to harp upon the activities NOT covered in the gambit of Fun and Frolic aboard. Time did not permit me in a 19 hour day of whirlwind madness to indulge myself in the VitalitySM Spa with 100+ treatments with medi-spa treatments and acupuncture or the 4 pools including the Solarium that is an adults only retreat.

Nor was I privy to the state-of-the-art Fitness center with classes that included Tai chi and yoga or indulge my shopping delights in the duty-free shopping on the Royal Promenade including a Coach¯ store, jewelry, perfumes, apparel and shopping etc. Time also did not permit me to enjoy my stateroom with ocean facing balcony that had a flat-screen television with touchscreen way finders and digital signage to get the digital geek in me fed and be happily content. However having witnessed it all, I am eager and ready to get on my next cruise for a longer duration of time to plan my schedule more meticulously to experience all that it has to offer.

Boredom is never an option aboard the vastness of the ocean thanks to Royal Caribbean and Tirun Marketing.

Picture courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Images shot on IPhone6

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The Old Man & the Blue 

A road trip was the need of the hour  so I packed up and headed for the coast. I wanted to move far far away, where the haunt of technology couldn’t usurp my senses. No network, no internet – just the perfect respite I was seeking. Run away from the dogma that plagues us working highly stressed folk.

I headed to the docks where a ferry service was willing and ready to take me to the fishing island up ahead. It was early- 6:45 a.m and the sea mist and the seagulls were at harmonious play. The water golden tempting me to plunge deep within.  Like clockwork we depart on time.

The man at the helm was Sheikh Abdul Pathan. A native of Punjab (now part of Pakistan post the separation) who moved to Mumbai in the early 50’s -then called Bombay. Towering a little over 6 feet 3 inches I felt like Frodo next to him. He was accompanied by his 10 year old grandson since school was out that day.

Busy at work with no time to chat Mohammad was scurrying around the boat pulling in ropes and buoys to ensure all was as planned for a smooth sail ahead. Much like a pro athlete from the NBA doing suicide drill warmups. Focussed and determined.

Me being a restless soul I walk across to the man with the mesmerizing blue eyes – Lagoon blue set amidst the burnt reds resembled two sapphires lodged deep within an abyss of possibilities and stories. His stare was deadpan and might i add intimidating – yet he had the calm and composure of a placid lake with the occasional dragonfly swooping in for a ripple nibble.

Breakfast was around the corner. I hadn’t eaten since I woke up. Home made fish pickle (always a MUST carry along on trips to give flavor to bland food one might encounter) and some egg and bread sandwiches in the nap sack.

I had befriended his Mohammad Ebrahim (his grandson) and we decided to ‘break bread’ together. The grandfather decided to partake as well and thoroughly relished the fish pickle.  He even suggested I come home and try out his wife’s preparation of dried fish soaked in groundnut oil and spice.

In conversation I asked him what his purpose in life was. “It was all in the hands of Allah” he mentioned looking up to the sky with gratitude. I could tell his contentment of being a fisherman who took pride in his job and on weekdays used to ferry the boat for passengers at USD 0.25cents a trip spanning 3  kilometers across the sea. Was business good? His answer was as clear as the blue in his eyes.

He explained- Two ferry trips a day and every alternate day would be his fishing expedition to get an adequate supply of fish to feed his family. When questioned as to what he did with the remainder of his time he chirped “I sleep late, play with my grandchildren, take a siesta with my wife, talk to my sons, pray and stroll into the village to meet the neighbors. I have quite a busy life”- was his gaiety retort.

I was curious to his contentment and had to ask why not increase the cycle of fishing trips to earn more money. He asked “what would money do for me? I would buy a bigger boat, better equipment, catch more fish, get a fleet of boats- how long would that take me? 15 to 20 years? But what then?”

I nodded in unison as he stole my thoughts and affirmed that he would become a millionaire and be able to comfortably retire to spend time with his family and friends. The old man smiled at me. It was a smile that showed I was on the brink of a major apparent discovery of one of life’s simplest mysteries.

And that’s when it struck me like a lightning bolt -this old man of the blue knew the meaning of Living each day with a general plan of an uncertain tomorrow. Tomorrow is promised to no one my friend.

Carpe Diem. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography