The year 2015 is almost over. Within a couple of weeks, we are reaching the 52nd week and the 365th day of this year.
Recently, I’ve done an introspection about my blogging attitude. I realize that I’ve been one of the least productive bloggers for the last 4 years. I’ve been posting less than 100 articles since 2011, where everyone else can publish over 500 posts within the same period as mine. There are times I hibernate from blogosphere. The result of my absence is a quite significant amount of decreasing followers.
Writer’s block is not really an issue since I have too many things in my head that the ideas and words are sometimes tangled. I only need more time to construct them properly into something amusing to read.
So what are the real problems? I have too many distractions in real life apart from a day to day job, from too much hang outs (including late-night socialization), playing with my dearly doggie, yoga practices until too much TV time (Yes, too bad I cannot resist those series of Homeland, American Horror Story, CSI and box-office movies on cable TV). Focus and concentration are the main challenges I need to face at all times.
Nonetheless, they are not signs of my blogging retirement. Actually, I’ve been showing off my travel pictures on other platforms:
So, suppose you feel like viewing the pictures without scrolling all my posts, feel free to choose whatever platforms you like. I’ve been more active on Instagram lately that linked to my Twitter, but it doesn’t mean I leave Pinterest.
Moreover, I have some blogging resolutions for the coming year. First and foremost, I’ll do my best to post quality contents more often. Hopefully, once a week. Fingers crossed.
Also, I’m developing new pages in my blog:
It’s a collection of all posts related to suggestions and tips based on my travelling experience in one page, with excerpts preceding direct links to the posts. In a nutshell, it’s a shortcut to all travel tips subjects I wrote. I haven’t shared much about tips so far, but I’ll do more writings about them in the future.
FunFAQs is mainly short paragraphs about surprising, disturbing, interesting facts I discover about peculiar habits, attitude, architecture style, table manner, culinary etc in cities I’ve visited. Generally speaking, it’s suitable for those who want to have some light content posts to read fast
Please note that both Travel Tips and FunFAQs are purely personal since they all are based on my own experience. They do not always represent the whole image and idea of a country or a city. I do not endorse any brands I mention in my post either.
Merry Christmas for those who celebrate it. And happy holidays, happy new year everyone!
Two Korean girls, one had long and wavy hair and her female friend with short and straight hair. That’s the only way I can describe about these particular guests because I’m so bad at names. After a short greeting with big smile to break the ice, the short-haired girl started a conversation.
“We would like to present a school project.”
She held an A4 folder in her hand, folding its plastic cover to the rear side to show me a printed version of a power point proposal in large font size. She read it all out loud, page by page, so what I needed to do was basically to listen to her and look at the charts and other graphic images. Well, “read” is not exactly the right word. The words fell so freely, so naturally as if she had done it a million times before. The texts actually didn’t do much for her.
Who creates men, animals and plants? God. Jesus was sent to the world to mingle with us as a human being and to forgive our sins. Jesus’ parents are Mary and Joseph. Nowadays many people forget to praise the Lord, or even don’t believe in God. And many more. All I know she brought these simple and common facts to live.
Like multilevel marketing business, it is very necessary to make a prospect second one’s thoughts and ideas before going to the next stage. Lucky them, I’m Catholic who entered a Catholic school for 15 years. I’m not one of those people who think Jesus is just another Jew and definitely not an Anti-Christ. Although I don’t go to church that often, frankly speaking, what they said didn’t against Christian bible and everything I learned at school. In short, I agreed with them.
Helping a school project? Why not? So I let them in.
We had a small talk about school stuff and a bit of life experience as foreigners in the Netherlands. It turned out that the Korean girls were studying business in a university in Amsterdam. Neither theology nor Christianity related. One thing I know: that the presentation was part of the school project was a lie.
They gave me souvenirs, a drawstring pouch-shaped mobile phone key chain and a pin, depicting an image of a church and the texts circling the inner side of the pin mentioned the name of church the girls belonged to.
“Look, we are also in Indonesia!” The short-haired girl exclaimed proudly, pointing the location of Indonesia in the world map from the leaflet that claimed the church existence around the globe. “You’re from Jakarta, right?”
I nodded. I had said that during our small talk. The fact that it has spread in two to three major cities in Indonesia is quite amazing, I admit.
Then, they were back to business. The church does not claim itself as a Catholic, a Protestant, an Anglican, a Presbyterian or else. It welcomes everyone regardless various sorts of Christians. Gradually, it shifted to a deeper content — about God created men. How Christianity started. The role of Jesus and miracles He created, including Lazarus’ resurrection from death. Judgement day. Apocalypse. Revelation. I met them over seven years ago. And I forget lots of details about our Christianity talk.
But I remember what I felt about the story of judgement day, apocalypse and revelation. “The ultimate victory of good over evil”. Those scared (and still scares) me a lot. I started introspecting.
How many times have I sacrificed Sunday services for taking some booze at the club until the morning light? I should wipe out my vengeance over people I hate and forgive them instead. Do I cheat on my friends and families? I hardly pray. Have I been a good person? How much time left for me to fix everything before my time comes? Will I go straight to heaven or hell or somewhere in between?
The girls offered me baptism, even if I was baptized long before I could spell a single word. Yeah, may be I have been a lost child and need help to bring me back to the right way.
So re-baptism, with my own consciousness, sounded like a great offer.
What I had to do next was to find a place that didn’t make my bedroom wet. If there was no Jordan river, my bathroom instead would do just fine.
I was a bit embarrassed. As I knelt down on the floor, my face was just a few centimeters from the toilet seat, accidentally left open, since my bathroom was so narrow. What an uninteresting view! They put a white veil over my head, that looked more like a wide handkerchief with lace ornaments all over the borders.
I heard a doorbell. One of the girls went outside to open the door of my unit.
I looked back, suddenly I saw an Asian man in his 40’s wearing glasses, clerical clothing and a cross necklace. While holding a bible, he made a cross sign with his right hand. So I did the same. In the name of God, and Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Next thing I heard was a language far beyond my comprehension and recognition coming from his mouth. It sounded like howling wolves and native Indian chanting altogether.
All right, I just put it that way to prove that I really didn’t know what the priest said. I soon recognized that I just heard a spiritual language, also called “speaking in tongues”, a Methodist friend of mine once said. The voice he heard was from the Holy Spirit. If one fully surrenders to God, one will be able to receive it — if I understand it correctly. Tell me if I’m wrong about this.
However, I remember feeling awkward being surrounded by church members who spoke that way long time ago. I was completely absorbed into tones of questions and denials, not a solemnity and holiness of baptism.
What am I doing here? Why do I accept these people in my room? There is no such thing like the language of Holy Spirit in my Catholic church. What are they going to do with me? I don’t even know what he said. How do I know if he doesn’t bully me? What if it’s not the language of Holy Spirit? Et cetera.
One of the girls took off the veil from my head. The priest immediately poured water to my head with a plastic glass I used to gargle to symbolize baptism.
They said goodbye and asked when they could get in touch with me. After that, they left to continue their mission.
A week after returning from London, I received a phone call. Oh my, that was from the girl who offered me baptism. I almost completely forgot about her and the church. She asked me repeatedly week by week to attend services. Most of the time, she called when I was working. I found it very annoying. I kept avoiding her and never returned the call.
May be I accepted re-baptism not from my own consciousness, but my own sympathy to help students with a “school project”. May be I was still in a complete denial about the language of Holy Spirit. May be it was just an immediate response of being afraid of going to hell.
May be I haven’t opened my heart and soul for re-baptism. May be I don’t even know the real meaning of baptism or re-baptism, after all.
The girls forget taking back the white veil they lent me and the pouch — exactly the same design as the mobile phone key chain — to put it in. Oh well, regard them as souvenirs, then.
If you ask me whether I become more religious than before after my re-baptism, the answer is no. I still don’t understand what really happened to me on that day.
The only thing I know that it seemed like another unusual encounter in my room. And I’m not ready yet for the next big thing (after re-baptism).
The 25th day of December is what Christians around the world is waiting for. However, the Dutch are also looking forward to the 5th day of the month to celebrating Sinterklaasfeest or St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas (Sint Nicolaas) was originally a patron saint of children and sailors who liked placing presents secretly in one’s shoes.
Although Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are old, have full white beard, wear red outfit, and deliver presents only for nice children, they still have some other characteristics not in common. Sinterklaas rides a horse named Amerigo, not a sleigh pulled by Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and his pack. He has less fat on his tummy than Santa Claus, doesn’t live in North Pole, is assisted by his humble servants called Zwarte Piet (curly-haired man who’s got dark skin from chimney ashes), wears a Pope-styled red mitre and holds a golden walking stick with decorative curl shape on top.
Another important fact about Sinterklaas: he becomes the foundation of American Santa Claus character.
SINTERKLAAS IS COMING TO THE OFFICE
Basically, Sinterklaasfeest is about present giveaways for (good) children, just like Santa Claus. However, nowadays some corporations in The Netherlands regard Sinterklaas as an alternative Christmas gathering besides a Christmas dinner. Therefore, the celebration is not limited for children and no worries, no bad-behaved children or mankind are taken to Spain in Sinterklaas’ sack.
What differs Sinterklaas celebration from any regular Christmas party is the rituals related to exchanging presents that takes some efforts. Oh well, if you associate the effort with creativity, it becomes a seriously fun thing to do.
Honestly, I’m not traveling anywhere nor do anything special this Christmas, but I recall unique traditions and wonderful moments of Sinterklaas event for the first time in an office in The Netherlands back in year 2005.
First thing first, all of us had to pick a random lottery, a jar containing small pieces of paper rolled with a recipient’s name written in it, to define to whom we had to give the present.
2. Be creative with the present
Anything significant about him or her? Is she afraid of spiders? Is he a devoted yogi? The chosen present must reflect a recipient’s personality, together with a poem or surprise in Dutch and the packaging. The latter must be presented as humorous as possible in a good way. Don’t surprise an arachnophobia by putting spiders inside a gift box,that’s nasty and mean. But nothing’s too serious either, otherwise it’s not fun any longer.
The lottery said that my present would go to Herman, the big boss who is (unfortunately) discreet about his personal life. I had no idea about his favourite drinks, TV shows or else, neither did my colleagues. All I know was that he’s quarter-Indonesian (if not half) and a family man.
Food was the only thing I could think of as a present if no great ideas running to my mind. Thus, I decided to give something physically cute and sweet taste I saw everyday in grocery stores during Christmas time, marzipan, regardless he would like it or not. Then, I created a giant De Ruyter packaging, a famous Dutch hagelslaag or chocolate sprinkle brand, to enclose the gift. Plus, to spice things up, I added marshmallows, chocolate syrup and shredded newspapers inside the giant box.
FYI, the Dutch introduced their traditional delicacies, including chocolate sprinkle, to Indonesian people during the 350-year-conquest in Indonesia. So, I believe historical connection between Dutch and Indonesian, represented with hageslaag, symbolized Herman’s origin. Sounds conceptual or simply out of a line? Whatever. Plus, to spice things up, I added marshmallows, chocolate syrup and shredded newspapers inside the gift.
What I did next:
Wrap the marzipan package with newspaper.
Mix marshmallows and shredded newspapers (an instant solution to save money on marshmallows) with chocolate syrup in a bowl.
Place the present inside a cereal box, then pour chocolate-stained marshmallows and shredded newspapers on top.
Close the cereal box and wrap it with a drawing paper.
Draw De Ruyter packaging design on the drawing paper with coloured pencil.
Make a poem. Gosh, I’m just not good at it! I totally forget what I wrote back then.
3. Place one side of a boot in front of the fireplace beside the entrance door.
The day before, we left one side of our boots near the office entrance door. So Sinterklaas could put the present next morning, an alphabet chocolate bar according to the first name of the owner, in the boot.
We were all more cheerful than ever despite the tight deadline. The day began with eating an alphabet chocolate from Sinterklaas and kruidnootjes, tiny rounded-shaped spice biscuits, from Zwarte Piet our secretary. A simple yet traditional lunch at noon, kerstol met amandespijs, sweet bread with almond paste,and Old Amsterdam’s oude kaas or old cheese, signified that the most anticipated moment was just a few hours more to come.
Et voilà! At 5 pm, Sinterklaas entered the office carrying his sack of presents. Surprisingly, without Zwarte Piet!
Thanks to my colleagues who captured these special moments, I am able to show it to you all. Check out if the presents truly represent recipients’ personality…..
A cat lover wearing Dutch klompen
An egg eater reading poetry
The other big boss is trying to give up on smoking
Now a bug hater can use scissors to slay any bugs
What’s inside the balloons? Mouse, fleas and other bug members!
Guess who was the man behind the Sinterklaas suit? Herman himself, to whom I delivered the present! I couldn’t be happier to see Dutch Santa rolled his sleeve to dig dirty marshmallows and shredded paper inside the giant De Ruyter box with bare hands to reach the present, without any help from Zwarte Piet.
Aha! Gigantic hagelslaag?
See the chocolate stain in his arm and gift?
Tah….. Dah…..fruity marzipan!
Time flew fast with lots of laughter and happiness regardless what we got from Santa. It might not be a feast with fine dining experience in a fancy restaurant, yet Sinterklaasfeest brought us together in particular way, more than just small talk to everyone in the beginning that ends up with an isolation of several people with common interest for more specific conversation while zipping a glass of wine.
It was time to unmask seniority and superiority in hierarchical environment for once and for all. On top of it, it really put us to the test how well we know our own colleagues or boss(es) in person after some time, that could sometimes be the hardest job of all. Indeed, some of us failed to do so, especially me, and realize it after the feast. Mingle more, folks, and build better human relationship out of it….
Merry Christmas, everyone! May joy and kindness be with you!
I remember some jealous commentaries from European people about what my country, Indonesia, has: beach, sunshine and heat.
A friend of mine in Helsigborg showed me the so-called “Tropical Beach” that draws the end of Swedish territory. Nothing special about it, until she told me this, “The beach is artificial. The government creates it to make its people’s dream come true: to have their own beach, which is not possible in nature.”
A German girl envied me living in the city situated just 1.5 hours from Bali by flight, meaning that I can go sunbathing and enjoy magnificent beaches anytime I want in a shoestring budget (and she can’t).
Also, a Dutch woman asked me why I thought of living in Holland if the country I come from is beautiful where the sun shines all year-long.
Was I proud about it? No, I wasn’t. On the other hand, beach was not my thing even though I live in a tropical country with thousands of beaches I can choose to visit. I disliked the sun burning my skin. I couldn’t stand the heat and humid air that makes me sweat. I feel it most of the time and it bothered me.
When I came to Holland, something struck me. Volatile weather change, strong wind, rain, and snow has lessened the chances for the sun to get its turn to appear. Majestic antique buildings stood arrogantly, as if they knew we would count on them to warm our bodies by entering heated chambers they offer. Indeed, it was my first time to feel it all year-long, not just 2 or 3 weeks on a family holiday.
A couple of years later, my friends and I looked for milder weather, more sunshine and went to the beach in Rhodos Island in Greece and Benidorm in Spain. Still being skeptical about how getting myself roasted could be fun, I followed what the majority decided.
A magnificent view of clear blue sky and shimmering seawater reflected from the sunlight indulged me with unlimited space to be wild and free. The sun opened its hands wide open to embrace me with warmth that I had never felt for a long time and the breeze soothed me, giving me calming effect physically and mentally.
It was an awakening experience. Suddenly, something popped up my mind, “Hey, I think I have that too in my country!” Why didn’t I get the same sensation as when I was Greece and Spain?
Have we ever ask ourselves why we travel in the first place? Stress-relief from a job? Experience and see things what our hometown never has? Get a better living or education? More business opportunity? Be closer with someone we love? Run away from a trauma? There’s nothing wrong about the reason behind it, unless we invade the locals and make their life miserable.
However, let’s think reverse. I just did. There are times when we don’t appreciate things around us because it’s just there effortlessly and we see it everyday, like sunshine and beach in my case. Many of us don’t feel enough and satisfied with the place we live. We think other people’s land is greener than ours. Our imagination runs wild, wishing there were snow, pyramids, a river as wide as Amazon, nature phenomena like aurora borealis and midnight sun in our hometown and so on.
Sometimes we need to learn the hard way that it takes months or years to realize that our hometown has more than we know. Perhaps, what we need and want is just right there, but we are just not aware until we lose it.
It took me years to understand the kind of jealousy with beaches and sunshine until I dealt with rain, dark sky and wind that infiltrated though my skin pores to the bone until I trembled from coldness throughout the year in Holland, where the real sunny time actually only happens about 2 out of 12 months. Going for a quick grocery with sandals and shorts was a luxury I could’t have since I needed to arm myself with winter clothing to face unfriendly weather.
May be another reason why we travel is already inside your head (or not), and expressing it in words is the only thing left: to let us know that other people’s land is not always greener than ours and to be more grateful with what our hometown has given us, although there’s no obligation to like everything there. The thing we waste could be other people’s (unattainable) luxury.
For the last few years, I’ve been appreciating sunshine, beach and heat more than before. Heat from the sun doesn’t bother me that much any longer. I’m still not a beach person until now, but I’m able to enjoy the sunny beach responsibly, protecting my skin with sunblock and no sunbathing at noon, and I cherish that moment.
Last but not least, I remember what my friend said in response to my amazement why some people don’t travel if money, time and fear are not their obstacles. “May be they have found what they want in life without looking too far and are happy with it.”
I guess he has a good point about it.
So how about you? Why do (or don’t) you travel in the first place?
Back to my school life some years ago when I stayed in Uilenstede, a student housing district in Amstelveen, The Netherlands…….
I was alone in my room, cleaning a dusty desk, bedside table, and all the things I put on top. Suddenly, the loud sound of a doorbell broke the silence.
I walked out from my room to the corridor to open the door. A long wavy-haired, fair-skinned Chinese girl stood in front of me, asking a permission to see my room. I didn’t find it a strange question. The management office always advised their future tenants to ring any current tenants’ room suppose they want know how it looks like and hopefully somebody will open the door for them.
She attentively observed things around her, from an unfolded blanket, an untidy bed sheet, piles of papers on top of the printer, textbooks on a desk, arranged perfume and cosmetic bottles on a dressing table, a laptop on a sleep mode, unmatched pairs of furniture until a plugged water kettle on the floor. All right, I wasn’t proud of it. But I didn’t expect a company either.
Next, she asked me a permission for the second time to take a look at the balcony. The wind was mild, the bright sunshine gave some warmth on her face. She took her time a bit longer in the balcony than any other visitors. Most probably she drowned herself into her own world, playing with her own mind out there.
After she was back inside, I started a conversation, “Do you study here?”
“No. I’m just visiting.” replied the girl.
We ended up talking about places she visited in Amsterdam and some European cities with her family, and I told a bit about myself. She introduced herself as Vivian. Knowing that she didn’t and wouldn’t stay in The Netherlands, I was very curious how she knew about Uilenstede, the place which is mostly popular among local and international students in the country, not tourists.
She finally revealed her main purpose of coming to my place. “I know someone who lived here. I just wanna see how it looks like and how he lived, how his life was. He used to study here.” She even said that the room I resided, unit 439 room 5223, was exactly the one where he stayed during his school life. I was like, wow! So my room was not just a random pick!
However, In response to my question about where he lives now, she only said, “I don’t know.”
Living my bedroom, we passed the corridor for the last time to show her the living room with public kitchen and washing machine. She didn’t ask for it, it was only my initiative to do so. She looked at it at a glance without expressing so much interest. Then I realised that it was not the most important thing for her.
She thanked me for allowing her to enter my room. After that, she headed to the elevator and went to the metro station to join the rest of her family.
I haven’t heard about her ever since. Months later, I emailed her to the Hotmail address she gave on that day. There was no reply. May be her account was already dead. May be she simply has forgotten me. Or else.
If I had an intention to write a blog at that time when I met her, I could have lead our conversation to someone whom I know very little: a Chinese male who once pursued his study in The Netherlands. This someone is the key character of the story. This someone also holds the reason why she didn’t know where he lives now. Or why she didn’t want to tell me about it. There must be something about someone, who was able to trigger a girl named Vivian to feel his life under her shoes by visiting his former 18-square-meter room.
The only way to know more about someone is to trespass someone else’s (aka the girl’s) privacy by asking more intimate questions, which is against my nature. Which didn’t cross my mind either. And I would never get that chance, ever.
Someone who didn’t love her back but she couldn’t accept it? Someone broke her up or passed away but she couldn’t let him go? Did the answer “I don’t know” conceal the sorrow of hers? I could only use my imagination to guess.
Nevertheless, I have one wish: I wish someone knew how much she admired (admires?) and loved (loves?) him.
It was a very small and forgotten part of a gal’s (my) life in travel that I had never shared to anyone. If you read this post, it means you hear (read) it from me for the first time. I don’t know if it is interesting enough to tell. I just feel like sharing it to you now.
Oh, wait! I still have another wish: creative people like you can turn a usual story like this into an epic novel.
While I was looking at my free postcard collections, I suddenly found the longest word count postcard I’ve ever had that really fits my travel blog, depicting various moods and feelings travellers might experience on their journeys. I started collecting postcards during my study life in The Netherlands in 2002 to save money on greeting cards. Somehow the new hobby is addictive, so I’ve got hundreds of them with me until now and still counting.
Most postcards I have are printed by Boomerang and distributed in public places, namely cinemas, restaurants, cafe, bars, universities, theater and health clubs in several European countries.
The following postcard was printed in 2003 in The Netherlands to promote works by a Dutch artist Esther Kokmeijer on her website www.estherkokmeijer.nl. Her works are mainly inspired during her travels around the globe.
The back part of the card says, “Boomerang supports travellers.”
I retype what it says in the front part in case you can’t read it clearly:
Anything left? Nope? Phew! Total inscription word count: 503 words! It’s amazing how a postcard could hold so many words without a back page contribution. Please note that the 503 words are gathered in 1 sentence only!
So what’s the moral behind it? My interpretation is both good and bad situation, mood and feeling during the trip are part of the art of travelling. They should not kill the spirit of exploring beauty and wonders of the world through travelling. I believe it is the first and foremost resolution of true and avid travellers. Suppose you’re still thinking what resolution you need to make this year, may be you can put this one first on your list. Whether it’s the first, third, tenth or seventieth resolution, it’s your call.
In the future, I will occasionally post my other selected postcard collections that are interesting to share or related to my post.
Gellukig nieuwjaar en goede reis! Happy new year and have a great trip! (Ehm, slightly too late for a new year greeting?)
For many, a cruise ship is a luxury vehicle sailing to reach any desired destination. But for many others, it is actually the destination – far more important than where it docks. So let’s skip the disaster part, and let me tell you the meaning of Escape Completely, as mentioned on Princess Cruise’s tagline.
NEW IN TOWN
Once being on board, you’re registered in the town hall of Emerald Princess, the name of the ship taking you to Baltic Sea. Your cruise card is the second most important thing you need to carry at all times after your passport to enter your stateroom, make purchases and re-board the ship.
Bring the map to find where you can find the ship’s luxurious facilities, from fitness, library, casino, discotheque to photo studio, so you don’t need to sacrifice your needs, hobbies and habits completely. Only machine rooms, crew’s cabins and the least wanted places to go – jail and mortuary – are not on your map. Without it, some passengers cannot find their own stateroom on the first and second day! Getting to know other passengers travelling with you could make you feel like home, too.
NEVER ENDING FOOD SUPPLY
Variety of food is two thumbs up! So yeah, you’ll always wonder what they have for buffet, tea time and fine dining. Later on, you’ll get some clue about food availability.
I got it starting from the 4th day on. My favourite fennel salad with shrimps is available 24 hours only at International Café on deck 5. I could get double chocolate chip cookies at Horizon Court and Café Caribe on deck 15 during lunch and dinner, except breakfast. Pizza and ice cream parlour opens on deck 15 from 11 am to 11 pm. I could customize my orders at the five-star quality fine dining as long as it is on the menu. For instance, replacing shrimp cocktail with spaghetti Alfredo or skipping the fatty dessert to keep up a strict diet program.
ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD
“Life shows are like a box of chocolate. You never know what you gonna get.”
Princess Theater saved the best for last. I didn’t really fancy the first week shows, until I missed one of the best music performers on the last day! However, I managed to watch “International Crew Talent Show”, where the crews demonstrated their hidden talents, from traditional Balinese dance, belly dance, singing, drama until piano performances. To be honest, some crews sang as good as the professionals the company hired, even better!
For passengers who love singing, they can join Princess Pop Star competition. It’s like American Idol with more diverse nationalities. And my uncle made it to the grand final! Yeaayy! Or join Texas Hold’em Tournament for gamblers!
As a classical music lover, I found The Alegria String Quartet rocked The Piazza on deck 5. From Strauss, Mozart, Vivaldi until The Beatles, the 4 pretty ladies were violin and cello killers. On their peak performance, the Quartet’s leading lady asked a passenger’s participation to hold her violin’s bow. Then, she drew the strings across the bow the passenger held instead of drawing the bow across the strings. The audience was stunned and finally gave the longest applause in the end of the show.
Liam Steward, the singer and pianist entertaining at Crooners Bar every evening, could kill any song with that blew the audience away. The fact that he’s a hunk is an advantage!
Knowing that you paid everything in advance, you might immediately believe that all kinds of facility, food and beverage are included in the price. My best advice is: do not hesitate to ask, especially with names or words that sound specific and rosy.
There are extra charges applied for alcoholic drinks, yoga, massage, particular activity like “creating your own matryoshka“, and specialised restaurants like Sabatini’s and Crown Grill have $25 cover charge. Internet connection costs $.79 per minute. Since it is only possible to use satellite to get the network at sea, the connection is slower than that at home and office. My cousin knows it best. He spent $11 for sending 2 short emails!
Holiday in a luxurious cruise ship is not a budget trip. It is meant for those who indulge, reward themselves with achievements in life: marriage, birthday, wedding anniversary, career promotion, successful business or just a family gathering. Certain retired couples with decent amount of retirement funds spend the rest of their life in the ship. Youngsters need to have more savings to pay the trip. FYI, the price for “non-free” food and drinks on board are fair, not too overwhelming. Nonetheless, there is no harm to think wisely before you spend.
Departing, arriving or on the way to destined cities, the best place to witness breathtaking views are the outdoor section of deck 15 and 16. Oslo and Warnemünde are the prettiest cities seen from the top deck, as well as Stockholm while heading to and leaving the harbour (not when it docked). Moreover, clean breeze, sunshine and 20 degree temperature made the place heaven on earth that did not happen everyday.
Watching seagulls flying high so close to me, on the same level as I stood was another unforgettable experience. While a passenger was feeding seagulls with an ice cream cone, everybody laughed and took pictures of aggressive birds pecking the cone edges with hints of vanilla ice cream left inside.
$11 per day gratuity for the crews is part of the company’s house rules. However, making friends with them is what money can’t buy. It broadens your horizon about life behind all the luxurious service and facilities, from long working hours until their tradition, i.e. how Indonesian crews celebrate Indonesian independence day at sea. Since they come from various countries, who knows they have the same nationality as yours!
Besides, far far away from traffic jam and air pollution, picturesque sea view (especially for a city girl like me), friendship with other passengers are also priceless. For everything else, there is MasterCard Princess Cruise Card.
Give me more time to put my journey in words for all cities I visited. This I promise you in my next post.
EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, it’s made to do so!