Tuesday, December 8, 2009

R&R on board

Day 4 (Wed, 2 Dec 2009)

All too soon, it's the last day of the holiday. Nothing interesting to report today since there are no stops - the ship makes its way back to Singapore. So the focus will be on, what else, food!

One last breakfast photo. For the record, Andre ate two croissants every morning, with eggs, bacon, cereal and sometimes even prata, washed down with juice and milk. Thank goodness he has ongoing badminton training, otherwise he'll be a likely candidate for the Fat Awards.

Incidentally, before we left on this trip, Andre kept asking anxiously, "Is there internet on the ship? Who's going to sound our Mousehunt horn then?"

As it turned out, there WAS internet on the ship, albeit at an exorbitant rate - 23cts per minute. But since you're talking to three true-blue Mousehunt diehards here, we actually logged in once a day (in the game, you have to sound the horn once a day to get hourly checks for the next 24 hours. Doesn't matter if you don't get it, it's something only fellow Mousehunters can understand).

Imagine three persons hovering over a computer with internet connection at snail speed, eyeing the timer and willing it to go faster. In case you're wondering, we utilised 6 minutes and 5 minutes on Days 1 and 2 respectively. Kenneth thought we were crazy but indulged us. Like I said, only Mousehunters will understand!

Since we had time on our hands, we decided to catch a movie (there's a mini cinema on board). They were screening Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, which none of us had seen. As it turned out, the quality of the film wasn't very good. The picture was fuzzy and sound quality was muffled in parts. But overall, it was still reasonably enjoyable, if you're not fussy for surround sound and all that jazz.

Lunch was at Bella Vista but we opted for the Chinese menu. (Since the Chinese menu is always more popular than the Western, Bella Vista offers this option besides Pavilion, the Chinese restaurant, to cater to demand). We figured that we should at least try the Chinese food once on this trip. Again, the food isn't great. They had this vinegared pigs' trotters which was quite tasty but I wondered how many people could actually appreciate this dish, particularly those with kids.

The rest of the day, we just spent a relaxing time doing practically nothing. Some pictures taken on the deck (these were actually taken on the first day, that's why you can see Jurong Island in the background).

Part of the afternoon was spent at the Activities Centre playing carrom and pictionary.

Since this was our second cruise, we didn't explore many of the locations on the ship or other activities organised on board. But for those interested, there is actually lots to do. Here are some pics from our 2007 cruise:

Miniature golf (left) and kids' pool (right)

Basketball court (left) and miniature rock climbing wall (right)

Finally, we partook of our last dinner on board at... you guessed it! Bella Vista. To be honest, when you've had this sort of dinner for four days straight, it starts to get a bit jelat. Except Andre, who looked so comical with his oversized menu, telling the waiter, "I'll have the goat cheese and tarragon tart." To which the waiter replied, "Yes sir!" LOL

Here it is, the goat cheese and tarragon tart appetizer

Assorted tempura with papaya rice. Soggy and the rice was tasteless, not very nice.

Andre digging into his main course of pork loin in cilantro sauce.

With that, we said staggered off Superstar Virgo, a little heavier than before this trip. The diet can begin tomorrow... BURP!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fun in the sun

Day 3 (Tue, 1 Dec 2009)

Early in the morning, the ship arrived at Phuket. We'd decided to do a free-and-easy day at Patong Beach, accessible via a small ferry at the tendering deck.

It was bright and sunny - super weather for a day at the beach! The thing is, since we had also come to the beach two years ago, we didn't really take many pictures this time. So here are some pictures we took in 2007. We'd rented two deck chairs, same as this time around. The beach is simply beautiful.

In 2007, Lesley-Anne had gone para-sailing. It's quite an experience, rather like flying! We decided that Andre was still too young for it, so nothing quite as exhilarating this time.

Some pics taken on this trip. Can you believe how much my kids have grown?

We spent the whole morning at the beach, then headed back to the ship. When we got back to the cabin, we saw this on the bed:

Housekeeping had fashioned a bunny out of towels! What a lovely extra touch.

Lunch was at the Mediterranean. As usual, dessert was visually more exciting than the main courses.

We had the afternoon free, so headed to the activities centre for a game of carrom.

Then the kids got more water action at the pool and the slide. This time, Lesley-Anne joined in the fun.

Dinner was at Bella Vista once again. This was the gala dinner night so diners dressed up a little more and there were four courses instead of three. We were lucky to get the 6.45pm sitting, we were put on wait list but managed to get a place. Otherwise dinner would be 9pm, far too late for our eager tummies!

Smoked salmon rillettes (appetizer)

Baked fillet of halibut - really melt in your mouth quality

Seafood thermidor

Baked alaska (this seems to be their standard gala dinner dessert, we had this two years ago too)

Petit fours

In the main concourse, the cast of one of the shows was performing Christmas carols. Lovely addition to the festive atmosphere.

I should add that each night, there was a different show at the Lido theatre but since photography is not allowed, I haven't shared any photos. The show on this night featured a combination of Eastern European dancers and Chinese acrobats. A glitzy, sometimes verging on cheesy affair, but admittedly rather entertaining. Afterall, that's what cruising is about!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A little whiff of Penang culture

Day 2 (Mon, 30 Nov 2009)
We started the day with breakfast at the Mediterranean on the open deck. Fresh crisp sea air - great for perking up the appetite!
After a short rest, Andre headed off to the pool. The reason he was so anxious to go was this:
That's right - a mega monster slide. This slide is relatively new, it didn't exist when we were on board two years ago. Anything that involves water and an adrenaline rush is a-ok in Andre's books!
It looks scarier than it actually is. The slope is quite gradual so you don't slide down very quickly, in fact he was trying to streamline himself as much as possible to gain speed but it was still slow (slow enough for me to take a picture!)

He went so many times he lost count. Then it was just soaking and relaxation in the jacuzzi (heated no less!)

In the late morning, the ship docked at Penang. You can sign up for various day trips, go free-and-easy or choose to stay on board. The last time, we stayed on board, so this round, we thought we should expose the kids to some of the Penang sights, since they've never been here. Initially, we'd wanted to visit the Snake Temple but after reading all the unfavourable reviews online, we opted for a cultural tour instead.
The outskirts remind me of Singapore in the 1970s, it had that old-world charm that modern Singaporean kids don't see any more, which is kind of nice. Especially those road side hawker stalls.

Our first stop was the Wat Chaiyamangalaram Thai Temple. This temple houses one of the world's largest reclining Buddhas. Obviously since we're Christians, we're not visiting for religious purposes but to take a look at the architecture and culture. We especially thought it would be good to expose Lesley-Anne since she would be learning about Southeast Asian history next year.

Next, we paid a visit to a local produce shop which sold foodstuff ranging from bat kut teh packs and banana chips to local candy and tao sar piah. We could see the tao sar piah being made right there in the shop.

Next stop, the Kek Lok Si Temple. It's on a hill and to get to it, you have to walk up a winding path strategically lined on both sides with little shops selling knick knacks and cheap garments.
The architecture of the temple is quite impressive and large-scale. The pic on the left shows the Liberation pond where devotees release turtles for longevity.

Here's Andre on the bus with his new toy, Mr Bean's Teddy, bought from one of the shops. Another kid sighted him with it and yelled out, "Hello Mr Bean!" Hehe.

Last stop was Gurney Plaza, one of the poshest shopping malls in Penang. Sure must have shopping lah! It's upmarket with all your big names, very much like Takashimaya or Paragon in Singapore. Not surprising since it's owned and managed by Capitaland.

The mall faces the north channel and we went to take a look. It was low tide so you could see the mudflats with many migratory birds.
Then it was time to head back to the ship.
Aside: Usually this evening, there is a barbecue dinner at the Mediterranean. It's quite pleasant enjoying barbecue prawns, steak and so on at the open deck, watching the sunset. However, you need to get there early to reserve a good table and since we arrived back at the ship after 6.30pm this time, we decided to opt for a quiet dinner at Bella Vista instead.
But here are a couple of pics we took on the last cruise to give you an idea of the barbecue dinner.
And this was the actual dinner we enjoyed at Bella Vista. As usual, it's a three-course set dinner.
Beef stroganoff with fetuccine. Tastes better than it looks.
Roasted duck ala orange
Black forest cheesecake
Andre's assorted cheese platter for dessert