There are worse ways to spend a Monday afternoon than sitting in a spa … on a cruise ship … in the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge … sipping cocktails with a girlfriend.
It’s a bloody awesome way to start the week.
When I scored an invitation to spend a night aboard the Voyager of the Seas, I knew exactly who to ask as my “plus one”. My gorgeous school mum friend Mel has been such a sweetheart to me this year. I’ll send her panicked texts on a Thursday morning saying “Any chance you can take Ruby to art class this arvo??” and she always texts back affirmatively.
Besides, most of my Monday nights are spent going on power walks (or should that be power TALKS) – with a vodka lime and soda at the halfway mark at the local pub – so I figured we might as well do it at sea instead.
Mel had never been on a cruise before, so she was mad keen to check it out.
We met at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at 1pm after I’d sent her a panicked text asking if she had a US power adaptor. In my brave new world, keeping my iphone charged – it now goes flat an average of three times a day – comes third in importance to eating and sleeping.
Mel had a better idea. Her equally gorgeous hubby Israel works for a company that sells something called a Sprout Powerbank Rapid – black boxy portable doodads that carry enough power to recharge your phone around four times, heaven – and she brought one of those along for me.
It. Has. Changed. My. Life.
The Voyager of the Seas isn’t just any cruise ship. It’s crammed with everything from an ice-skating rink to a shopping promenade, 1350-seat theatre, three pools, a rock-climbing wall and full-sized basketball court. The kids and I tested it out in January when my mum took us on a mini-cruise as our Christmas present.
Since then, a $US80 million revitalisation in Singapore has added a FlowRider surfing machine; inside cabins with virtual, real-time “balconies”; a 3D movie theatre; and new dining venues including a sushi restaurant.
The kids were soooooo jealous when they heard I’d been invited aboard to take the new facilities for a spin. What I didn’t realise was that I’d be doing it in five-star luxury.
The first hint that things would be a little different to my normal cruising experiences was the “gold” identification card I was handed before embarkation. “Oooooh, a gold card, lucky you!” cooed the Royal Caribbean staff when they saw it.
The card opened the door to the Genoa Suite — cabin 1320 — an “owner’s suite” with its own concierge, expansive dining and living area, separate bedroom and full bathroom with tub, bidet and twin sinks.
Much squealing ensued when we stepped inside.
I normally spend my nights on cruises in a squeeze four-birth internal cabin, but I got to lounge around in a stateroom that looked liked this …
That’s a massive 51.9sqm of luxury, plus a 8.4sqm balcony. Just to put things in perspective: my first apartment in East Sydney was only 41sqm and I LIVED in that.
It was tempting just to put my feet up and admire the harbour view for the rest of the afternoon, but we were starving and headed to the Windjammer Cafe for a buffet lunch.
I looooooooove a buffet. We stuffed ourselves silly on Chinese food including noodles, chicken stir-fry and ma po dofu, then I backed myself up for curried chicken pot pie and mash. Oh yes, I did.
Afterwards, we waddled back to our suite to change into cossies and sun ourselves poolside. As a special treat for all the passengers on board — many of whom had won a night on the ship — all cocktails were complimentary.
Mel asked various passengers what sort of cocktail they were drinking and they’d invariably reply “It was free!” … which wasn’t the question …
Initially we requested Moscow Mules, but the bartender was out of ginger ale so we settled for mojitos, climbed into the spa with them and stayed there for a few hours … aside from a few side trips for cosmopolitans and pina coladas … gazing up at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and chatting to the parade of bikini-clad women who joined us in the bubbling water.
Here’s a teeny weeny official pic …
And here’s the close-up selfie version (I’m in love with my new Seafolly bikini top, even if it WAS stupidly expensive) …
We were finally enticed out by the promise of an ice show in Studio B. The skaters put on an amazing performance that I recall totally dazzling my kids when they saw it on a previous cruise.
Incredibly, we were hungry again after the show and grabbed pizza and nibbles from the Promenade Cafe, plus complimentary champagne, and returned to our suite to admire that fabulous view again.
At 6.30pm, X Factor favourite Reigan Derry — wow, the voice on that 26-year-old — and singer Nathaniel Willemse performed a special show in the La Scala Theatre … with even more complimentary champagne …
I’d never heard of either of them, and Nathaniel warbled a little too far into the eunuch register for my liking, but when Reigan sang “Only Girl In The World” I got shivers. Sooooo good.
Then it was off to one of the speciality restaurants, Chops Grille, for dinner. I ordered a medium-rare filet mignon with bernaise sauce, plus sides of creamed spinach, fries and grilled asparagus. Yum! And the chardy just kept on flowing …
Later, my “gold” card scored me a VIP spot on the helipad for dessert, champagne and fireworks at 10pm. They were incredible – so close and so amazing with the Sydney Opera House as a backdrop.
Then we wandered to the pool deck for an after party, with a covers band playing crowd hits including The Village People’s YMCA, and Joan Jett’s I Love Rock And Roll, and we couldn’t resist having a little bop (plus another Pina Colada) before bed.
After a blissful night’s sleep it was back to Windjammers Cafe for a cooked brekkie, featuring the most amazingly crispy bacon. And then, all too soon, it was time to disembark and head back to the real world.
Yep, you guessed it, we had bulk fun.
Song of the day: I never thought I’d EVER feature a Rihanna song … but this makes me slightly giddy … “Only girl in the world” (for heaven’s sake, put some clothes on, love)