Cruising to Nowhere

If you want to leave Singapore and play tourist these days, there’s only one real way to do it: get on a cruise boat and spend a couple of days spinning in quiet circles around the southern end of the South China Sea.

With tons of safety precautions in place (COVID testing, ships at half capacity, masks on board, only Singapore residents allowed), it’s a great chance to get away. There are two cruise line options, and we chose Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas (even though I’m not sure I understand the ship’s name).

You can opt for two, three, or four night cruises; we took the middle option. That really means that we were out at sea for only two days, since we set out on our voyage late on day one and returned to port incredibly early on day four. Our cabin was reasonably large, like a long, thin hotel room with a small balcony at the end:

Identical balconies stretch out the entire length of the ship, with the solarium and pool deck on top:

While are called “cruises to nowhere,” you actually do have a destination. You start out at the Singapore port …

… and then you head out around the tip of Malaysia into open water (thanks to Google Maps for allowing us to keep track of ourselves throughout the trip):

There’s nothing to see but ocean all around, but there are tons of things to do, from origami classes to rock climbing to bumper cars. There’s a casino, an arcade, and a live music hall. We went to the gym, got massages, took in a few shows (two song-and-dance extravaganzas and one acrobatic/comedy delight) at the giant, socially distanced theater…

… ate remarkably bad food at elaborately decorated restaurants …

… and spent a lot of time in the air conditioned (and adults-only) solarium …

… watching the open sea out in front of the boat:

I enjoyed just walking around and taking in the scenery:

If you’re brave, you can also go running!

One of the features of this boat, along with fake skydiving and fake surfing, is the North Star: a small glass capsule that holds the Guinness Record for “tallest viewing deck on a cruise ship.”

A long arm slowly lifts the capsule up 90 meters above sea level …

… from which you have a fantastic view of the whole ship:

If the pool looks empty, that’s because it was (1) early in the morning and (2) space-limited. By afternoon, both this pool and its indoor twin were pretty much overrun with kids. This is definitely a family-friendly cruise.

Another favorite activity for everyone on board was watching sunrise …

… and sunset …

… which, if your room was at the right angle, you could do mask-free from the balcony:

There’s no end to the entertainment — you can even take a towel-folding class.

I didn’t expect it, but there’s also a lot of art on the ship (and I spent a good deal of time wondering how you get the role of cruise ship art curator).

I was a huge fan of both the giant bear …

… and the giant chair:

One of the bonus elements of taking a cruise to nowhere is that you get to see the Singapore port in action early in the morning …

… so if you’re a fan of boats, you have a front-row seat (you can also go learn more about them at the nearby Singapore Maritime Museum):

I am really glad that I did this cruise, because it provided a true getaway. Would I do it again? Probably not, mostly because the food was lousy (both the main dining areas and the specialty restaurants served mediocre fare). Also, even a giant cruise ship (at full capacity, Quantum of the Seas can hold nearly 5,000 passengers) starts to feel small when (1) you can’t stop at any ports or see any points of interest and (2) a number of the usual activities are closed or limited because of COVID-related restrictions. But it was definitely worth a one-time adventure.

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