I AM a novice when it comes to cruising – the last time I sailed was on a tiny vessel on the Yangtze River when I was 11.
More than two decades later, I am back in China for another cruise. But this time it is aboard the biggest liner in Asia: Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas.
It is the first Quantum Ultra-class ship from Royal Caribbean and has space for more than 4,000 passengers across 16 decks. To keep sailors of every age happy, there is everything from a creche, splash pool for toddlers, laser tag for teens and a casino for grown-ups.
It is also the US brand’s first ship designed with the Chinese market in mind. While all staff speak English, you notice signs and announcements are in Chinese first. I joined the inaugural sailing from Shanghai and was with my parents, who are in their sixties and have a handful of Med cruises under their belt.
We headed to SeaPlex, the largest sports complex at sea and where you will find most of Spectrum’s activities. Split into an indoor and outdoor area, divided by the main pool, the inner space is particularly clever.
In the morning it hosts bumper cars and by noon it is transformed into basketball and football courts. When evening rolls around it becomes the battlefield for laser tag. Upstairs, you can enjoy table tennis and table football, archery and fencing.
Challenging my dad to a duel was a highlight — and I won. I have not seen my mum in a bumper car since I was about six, so that was another novelty.
The morning flew by and we worked up quite an appetite. Just as well because there were plenty of lunch spots to choose from, including two buffet options. We tried the main dining room, where I had lobster in a curry sauce while my parents went with chips and salad.
For afters, there were cakes and gateaux plus a chocolate fountain. Like excited children, we wanted to do everything in a day, so took on the outdoor part of SeaPlex during the afternoon.
First it was a quick scramble up the rock-climbing wall — a terrifying feat when the wind picks up. On Sky Pad, which is a VR bungee ride, I tried leaping into the air to catch virtual sweets. It was basically the real-life version of the Angry Birds video game and I was no better at it.
Then I suited up for iFly by RipCord to try my hand at skydiving. I was terrible at that, too. By the time I went on surf simulator Flowrider, I was exhausted. After a few attempts at getting up, I was washed away in front of an expectant crowd. Fortunately, there were plenty of bars on board to help console me.
First stop had to be the Bionic Bar, where two robot bartenders create whatever cocktail you want. After placing my order — a Negroni — via tablet, I sat down and watched one of the robotic arms reach up to the ceiling, where the booze was stored, and start mixing.
A display behind it told me exactly what was happening at every stage. For dinner, there are 33 dining options across the ship including a buffet at the WindJammer and a main dining room, which is a more formal affair. There are also speciality restaurants, a handful of which are dedicated to regional Chinese food.
I was surprised by how authentic the offering at Hot Pot was. You get a choice of broth, as well as ingredients to dunk as you see fit.
Then you get to the shows. Three productions have been commissioned for Spectrum of the Seas. At the Royal Theater, there are two musicals, both Broadway-style numbers jazzed up with mini- drones and laser projections.
The Effectors is themed on superheroes, while Showgirl! Past. Present. Future. is a merry-go-round of female performers in stunning costumes. At the other end of the ship is Expedition Two70, where you can sit down for The Silk Road, which combines music and acrobatics.
The three productions really made it for my parents. But it was no surprise because they have been created by Royal Caribbean’s Nick Weir, who looks after more shows across the portfolio of ships than Broadway and the West End.
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