Sanitised and screened, Sally Connell sailed out of Singapore earlier this year on board Royal Caribbean liner Quantum of the Seas. But with no port of call, is Covid cruising is worth the trip?
New horizons - Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas is cruising to nowhere thanks to the pandemic.
Cruising has never been on my bucket list, but having been locked down in Singapore for more than a year with my husband and two teens, I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic. As a family, we love living in here, but at the end of the day, it’s a tiny island.
I was born in Australia where you can drive and drive and drive and still be in the same state. In Singapore, I can’t travel for more than 25 minutes from home without hitting an international border that requires a passport. Pre-Covid, having another country such a short drive away was quite exotic for me, but being unable to cross these borders now just feels stifling.
In a bid to reignite the domestic cruise industry last November, the Singapore government gave international cruise companies Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises, both of whom are home-ported in Singapore, the green light to offer sailings with no ports of call.
Royal Caribbean began sailing Quantum of the Seas in December, 2020.
When we first saw the Royal Caribbean ‘cruises to nowhere’ advertised, I thought it sounded a little silly boarding a ship that we wouldn’t be able to get off. The trips earned this moniker as due to Covid restrictions, they are not allowed to drop anchor in any country other than Singapore.
Health and safety is a priority and all guests must carry track and trace tokens.
However, living on Sentosa I am tantalised with endless ocean views every day and, after 12 months of being confined to home, the thought of actually heading towards that gorgeous horizon seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.
As a cruise novice, I liked the sound of the three-night Royal Caribbean sailing which seemed the perfect length to put my sea legs to the test. There are also two and four night sailings.
I have to say, having followed last year’s slew of bad press, I was concerned about the safety aspects of a cruise. However, I have been left very impressed with the health and safety protocols that Royal Caribbean has achieved.
The boarding process was slick. Every guest and crew member has to test negative for Covid before boarding and the cruise is limited to Singapore residents and long term pass holders only. This meant we were embarking from a country which currently has no community transmission. We were also given a contact tracing bracelet to wear for the entire cruise so we wouldn’t have to constantly scan in and out of each venue.
Fun learning to surf on the ship's Flowrider.
On top of Royal Caribbean’s strict health protocols, Singapore Covid regulations also apply, which meant we had to wear face masks at all times except for when we were eating or drinking, groups were limited to eight people and there was strict social distancing. Along with brand new 100% fresh air filtration systems and the ship only booked to 50% of capacity, I felt very comfortable with our cruise decision.
When she was delivered from the shipbuilders in 2014, Quantum of the Seas was the third largest cruise ship in the world and boasts some of the most technically advanced amenities on board.
For kids (or kids-at-heart) there’s a skydiving simulator, RipCord by iFLY, a Flowrider surf simulator, a rock climbing wall, laser tag and a ‘SeaPlex’ entertainment area with bumper cars, roller skating and basketball.
In addition, think multiple swimming pools, hot tubs, an adults-only solarium pool, shows, quiz nights, bands, orchestras and no fewer than 17 dining spaces. Further attractions include a Vitality Spa and a 360 degree ‘North Star’ observation capsule.
It was quite an experience to head along to our first live stage show in more than a year and to see the dancers performing in sparkly masks. The entire front section of the theatre was kept empty which I presume was to avoid any risk of aerosol spray from the singers. And on top of that, only 50 audience members were allowed into the theatre at a time.
Covid-safe dining on board Quantum of the Seas - ships must follow local government regulations.
The dining was good quality, with plenty of different restaurants and cuisines to choose from and an incredibly attentive staff. I’m not sure if personnel numbers are Covid-driven, but there always seemed to be somebody on hand who really couldn’t do enough for us. As soon as we took a seat by the pool or in a bar or restaurant, a staff member would rush over offering us something to drink.
Worth noting is that due to Singapore Covid rules, last drinks are served at 9.45pm and must be finished by 10.30pm. Some of the bars and the casino remained open until the early hours, but with no alcohol.
I thoroughly enjoyed our ‘holiday’, it was a real break from the monotony of life under Covid. As for booking again, I would certainly consider it but maybe inviting friends to join us, too.
We’ve missed a lot of holidays due to the pandemic, particularly an extended family ski trip last winter which I was really looking forward to, and I’m desperate to get back to Australia to see my family. But with restrictions still in place, a ‘cruise to nowhere’ was perhaps just what the doctor ordered.
Royal Caribbean and Dream Cruises are currently operating cruises with ‘no port of call’ out of Singapore on board Quantum of the Seas and World Dream respectively.
This feature was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Asia Family Traveller magazine. Never miss an issue by subscribing now.