A cruise ship is your answer if you want all the frills of a trip but not the hard work that goes into planning an itinerary. And, it would show you how the journey can itself be the destination.
Our five-night cruise in Genting Dream was headed to the Indonesian port city Surabaya and north Bali. The creature that can host over 3,000 passengers has 18 decks.
Departing from Singapore’s Marina Bay Cruise Centre, the ship undertakes journeys of two and five nights across Asia — going north to Malaysia and Thailand or south to Indonesia (in case the ship takes you through Thailand, you will need to apply for a visa beforehand, a Singapore visa is mandatory). A quick glance of the city skyline on deck 18 before leaving the harbour, and, soon, the seas take on an unreal shade of blue, the only sound to keep company is the water parting under the engines’ force.
I was only too glad to have chosen a sea-facing room with a private balcony. The pace of travel on a ship will ensure that cruising becomes addictive. For those seeking the thrill of the high seas, or the casino (from slot machines to Blackjack) on board, a weekend getaway on the cruise can assure instant gratification.
Ensconced in your cabin, a pamphlet with the daily schedule of activities: classes, movies, shows, daily yoga, karaoke, etc, introduces you to the many relaxation options on board. You could also log on to the ship’s app. Children can make a beeline for decks offering swimming, rock-climbing, or ziplining — 35m in the air — with only the ocean beneath. There are bowling alleys, billiard tables and a basketball court. Adults can detox with a Chinese acupressure massage at the Asian spa.
A good massage leaves you hungry. The restaurants offer multicuisine buffet. A majority of the cruise’s passengers are from mainland China, though activities and business are conducted in English. We, however, chose to sample Western contemporary food at The Bistro, made to perfection by the Australian chef Mark Best. Dishes like lobster bisque and pandan ice-cream served with mango and Anzac biscuit combine the best of Asian ingredients with Western techniques. Though we remained partial to tiramisu, we changed our mind once we tasted the cold, creamy gelato at Gelateria, a respite from the midday heat.
Surabaya’s industrial skyline with its glass buildings seems uninviting. And if you are coming from India, the place will make you feel you haven’t stepped out of your own country — weathered old men reading newspapers in street corners, green mosques at every few steps, the cacophony of street life. Yet, it was all a welcome break from the high seas. We warmed up to the local food, especially tahu petis or fried spongy tofu smeared in ink-black fermented prawn paste and served with a young green chilli, and were on our way to the farmlands in the interiors, about an hour from the city/port, to see the rice fields and rambutan trees, and a local buffalo race.
Next day, amid the handicrafts in Bali’s markets, the colourful jackfruit of varying sizes, its strong-smelling distant cousin durian, purple mangosteen with its lychee-like white flesh, spiked our interest. After sampling them, we headed to the Pura Ulun Danu Temple, on the shore of Lake Bratan, to see how differently Hinduism was being practised there. Balinese Hinduism is a lot similar, and yet so different. The Hindu varna/caste system is followed but so is the Buddhist concept of bodhisattva, rituals are customised, versions of the Mahabharata and Ramayana gets reflected in their art but all of that merits another article.