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8 September 2016

day-tripping with royal caribbean

zomg the most amazing thing happened to me over the weekend, and i got to partially tick something off my travel bucket list: i got invited to spend the day on a real-life cruise ship. you guys know i've been banging on about going on a cruise this whole past year and then some, so when the opportunity came up, i was no way going to let the early-morning wake up call and forecasted rain keep me away. i was getting on that ship, come rain, hail, or (hopefully) shine.

after a rather rocky start (them sunday rail disruption feels), milly, aj and i were southampton bound, on an 8am train out of waterloo. a few hours and one cab later, we were stood in the departure lounge at southampton port, waiting to board royal caribbean's navigator of the seas. i was literally giddy with excitement (and bursting for a) another coffee, and b) a wee), and couldn't wait to get on board and see what all the fuss was about.

the day's itinerary was really tightly planned; our first stop was coffee. immediate thoughts: there's a fricken starbucks on board - get in! on entering the promenade... my jaw simultaneously hit the floor, and was firmly fixed into the stupidest grin; this place was haaaauuuuuge! up both sides of the promenade were the windows to the internal suites - floor after floor of them, all looking out over this incredible arcade-style shopping strip, catering to everything you could possibly need on board. like starbucks. without needing to see anything else, i was sold.

we then headed up, up, up above deck and moseyed around the pool and and athletics/sports areas to check out what the other group were up to. hint: they were only riding the bloody flow rider, the self-contained surfing simulator. it pumps 34,000 gallons of water per minute, and allows guests the opportunity to try and stand up and surf while on board, or start off small on a boogie board if they so choose. that day, eleven time surf pro ben skinner was also on hand to help the guys out and try to get them up and surfing. and so they did!

after that, it was time to check out some of the suites on offer. and i can hand over heart say that at least two of the suites we saw, are bigger than my flat. we saw a junior suite, executive suite and a balcony room, but not one of the inside rooms. i heard rumours that the inside rooms have fancy virtual windows in them that show the outside of the ship in real time, to give the impression of a window. kind of a cool idea, rather than just having a room full of unnatural light (the worst), at least this gives guest travelling in the inside of the ship an idea of what's going on outside the ship. personally though, if i'm cruising, i want a balcony and some real sea air. having a window to the outside world really helps eliminate sea sickness too; being able to keep eyes on the horizon helps the brain recalculate its environment and decrease the nausea of a rocking boat. which, we barely felt anyway. we were docked though i suppose.

we then met up with executive chef russell henderson - who's been on board some twenty odd years (not the same ship, and not the whole time, haha), for a walk-through of the galleys. he talked to us about the amount of food that is prepped on a weekly basis across its nine restaurants, including the 20,000 rashers of bacon, 350 pounds of avocados, 3,000 pizza and over 40,000 bread rolls. all made on board, fresh, by the incredibly talented and hard working hospitality staff. chef henderson oversees the whole operation, ensuring that everything that goes out of his kitchens is nothing less than the best. we tried some of it. it was. and after all that chat, we were starvedddddddd.

we headed through to the viking lounge for a quick cocktail demo with the ship's head mixologist (wasabi martini: try it) before taking our seats for the much anticipated lunch at izumi with founder and head chef, travis kamiyama. now, i *like* sushi. i don't choose to have it regularly, i have to be in the mood for it, but i do like it. i have tried a whole bunch of different ones, but i usually go for a time honoured *safe* option of tuna rolls or tempura prawns. so the thought of nothing but sashimi for lunch kind of worried me a bit.  i figured if all else failed, i'd just eat the rice and grab something back at the station afterwards.

but then travis did his thing. he made art; out of great cuts of raw fish, seasoned rice, and delicate sheets seaweed, he molded and shaped and created the most beautiful looking sushi rolls and tuna and wasabi carpaccio and salmon roe nigiri and octopus tako, and it was all so... pretty. and smelled really, really good. and i was starving, so... i went and ate all of it. literally, everything that was put down in front of me went in my mouth and was devoured within moments. i have no regrets at all about that. i have also never, ever in my life uttered the words "i am so full of sushi", but there you go. another bloody first.

after a quick chat with the man of the hour, it was time to leave. five hours, four cocktails, three suites, two platters of sushi and one iced coffee later, and we were headed back to the station - miserable after having the most amazing morning on board this crazy giant ship, with some of my favourite people. right, so: i've been yapping on about cruises for long enough. it's time. watch this space; i'm going to make it happen this year - if it's the last thing i do.

*i was invited on board as a guest of royal caribbean, but all views are my own*

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