Posts Tagged ‘Equator’

Singapore

My final, and lengthy(!), post of our Wedding Cruise.

Writing this last post about our Wedding Cruise so long after the event is actually quite difficult as time very quickly plays tricks on your mind and things that you think you remembered are brought into question when actually trying to reflect on them. But, the very act of writing allows me to relive what was a holiday of a lifetime, until the next one that is; savour once more those long lazy sunny hours looking at the sea, drinking wine at 5: or was that wine at 4; or even 3; possibly 2. Most definitely however, wine at 6 and most of all savour the whole event one more time. And that is the main reason I write these posts. Not for others to read, although I’m happy that so many do, and so many seem to enjoy, but primarily so that I can relive them and subsequently remember them as time goes by: and, as time does go by, so surely did our holiday as we rapidly approached its conclusion. >>>

Having successfully crossed the equator thus bringing us back into the Northern Hemisphere and therefore being the right way up once more, our journey continued to Singapore, which was to signify our ‘Journeys End’ and what a journey it had been. Setting off from London some three weeks prior, we stopped en-route to Auckland at HongKong (just for 2-hours to swap planes). From Auckland we joined P&Os Arcadia and sailed to Sydney, then Melbourne, then Adelaide, then Perth (getting married on the way), then Bali and finally Singapore. Prior to our arrival (actually it was couple of days prior to our arrival), we received the dreaded paperwork detailing our disembarkation arrangements. It’s funny you know, we all go on these holidays / adventures, we all love these holidays / adventures, we know they have an end date yet the arrival of this documentation always fills us with sadness. This one however filled me with a feeling of foreboding. It contained an extra piece of information. This piece of information warned us about the strict controls in place in Singapore:

  • Chewing of gum in Singapore was banned
  • Bringing chewing gum into Singapore was banned
  • Open activities of close affection in Singapore was banned
  • All controlled substances in Singapore are banned
    • But they didn’t say what was controlled ūüė¶
  • Prescribed drugs were to be accompanied by a medical physicians prescription
  • Drug trafficking in Singapore is punishable by [Death].

Now, for those that know me, they won’t be surprised to hear me say that I’m a bit of a pill head. If I think it’ll do me good, I’ll take it: And of late, I’ve been trying various products to help combat the effects of COPD. So, before I left, I filled up 5-weeks worth of pill organisers. Of these, the morning and evening pills included 4 prescribed pills plus others that I [knew] I should take: along with a whole load of others (most of which I couldn’t remember the purpose, or name, of) that were ‘essential’ in maintaining my health & keeping me alive :-).

photo-1

Drugs, Drugs and more Drugs

Now, with the excitement of the holiday, while I would remember, most of the time, to take the morning and bedtime drugs, it wasn’t unusual to forget many of the others. The result of this was that as I approached Singapore I had 20+ pill organisers randomly filled with all sorts of tablets, most of which I couldn’t answer as to what they were. On top of this, I also take Codeine (occasionally) and I knew that was banned in Thailand and Dubai so; was it banned in Singapore as well? I knew not, so what was I to do? Would they ‘sniff’ out these drugs? What would they do? Would they lock me up and quiz me for days? Would they subject me to special searches (the type with rubber gloves)? Would I ever see my loved ones again? Would I be put to death? I started to worry. In fact, my worry was so great that I needed to go to the bar to think about my next course of action.

As I sat by the bar with a (very large) glass of Rioja I pondered. I pondered: what should I do?; what are my options? what will they do? what are controlled substances? My mind was racing, racing with all sorts of plausible and implausible actions and consequences. Eventually, I narrowed the number of plausible options to just five:

  1. Pack them all in my suitcase and play dumb: I might just get through ok;
  2. Pack them all in Mrs Me’s suitcase;
  3. Leave them all behind;
  4. Just take the prescribed drugs;
  5. Take one complete pack and argue my case.
  • Option 1 brought with it too much risk. If I got caught, what would happen? Worse case – I could get machine gunned for drug trafficking, and I would die.
  • Option 2 was a safer option on a personal level but if Mrs Me was caught, who would iron my shirts? Who would remind me to take my tablets without which, I might die.
  • Option 3 was quite clearly an over reaction (why?, they’re only vitamins for goodness sake) and it would leave me without my prescribed mediation for 3+ days and I might die.
  • Option 4 seemed ok, but would they ask questions as to why I have so many pill organisers for just a few pills. They might be suspicious, lock me up and ask me all sorts of questions, and still perform those special searches. And then machine gun me anyway, and then I’d die.
  • Option 5 seemed the better one, I could argue the case for the prescribed drugs and, hopefully, convince them of my rationale for the others, even though I myself had forgotten what that was. There was also the chance I might not die.

So, after two or three glasses of Rioja my mind was a lot clearer(!). I would elect for Option 5. This was all the more better knowing that I had no codeine left as I had eaten the last lot over 72 hours ago. Assured by such knowledge I was confident that I had made the right decision. ¬†But first, Mrs Me had to be divested of all traces of Chewing Gum (she was a prolific chewer of gum). I did consider a ‘Special Search’ just to be sure but thought better of it. I then went through all my pill organisers and thew away all untaken drugs leaving just one complete pack. This was wrapped in a serviette that ‘may’ have been borrowed from the restaurant and surrounded with our stash of P&O Chocolates, which were placed on our pillows every night. All was then packed into the middle of my larger suitcase. Well, I think it was mine. With that, all cases were placed outside our cabin so that they might miraculously disappear overnight and subsequently taken ashore for when we disembark.

The next morning, we breakfasted at leisure as our disembarkation time was not until 13:00 – This gave us even more time to leisurely ponder our future. As the minutes and hours ticked by, there were numerous calls over the PA System for Mr / Mrs So and So to contact reception. Had they been found to have suspicious items I wondered, or had they simply not paid their on-board account? Naturally, my fear was of the former. Eventually, the allotted hour was upon us and still, we hadn’t been called. I was feeling confident.

¬†As we made our way ashore, I scanned the area looking for guards with machine guns, sniffer dogs, anything that might indicate trouble ahead. All I could see however was a long queue of disembarking passengers collecting their luggage, as we had to, then waiting to be waved into the next available immigration control point, complete with full luggage x-ray machines. This was it, I just knew we’d be found out. How was everybody else getting through ok? I asked myself. Surely, I’m not the only one who takes drugs, oops, I mean tablets. ¬†One other problem though. Despite there being two ships in today, both disgorging passengers (the other was a Crystal Cruises ship), there was only one immigration point open. This could, I thought to myself, work in our favour.

As time ticked by, people were becoming more and more frustrated: there were at least a dozen immigration points yet there was only one operating. It was almost like trying to get back into the UK via Heathrow :-).¬†Eventually, the authorities relented and opened a second desk so as to clear us as quickly as possible. Within no time at all, it was our turn. How should I play this. Should I look normal? What does ‘normal’ look like? Whatever I did, I had to be sure not to look nervous: they can spot nervous people and might single them out for closer inspection, I thought to myself. Then, it was our turn. A young lad, in uniform came up to help place our suitcases on the belt that would take them through the x-ay machine. Br careful I said, they’re full of fragile ornaments that Mrs Me has bought I said. He turned and smiled as if to say, Don’t worry, I’m used to this and in no time at all, they were loaded and on their way. I stood and watched, oblivious to the fact I was being called for to walk through the sensor and then onto have my passport checked. It was it this point that it became evident to me that I had no cause for worry. The immigration officer couldn’t have been more friendly. Welcome to Singapore he said. How was your cruise? he asked. It was great he I said, we got married, I said, pointing to Mrs Me who was waiting in the queue. Be careful, I said, she’s very bossy. Ah he said. That’s what happens when they get married, he said. You are now a ruled man, he said and with that, a look of sympathy, he waved me through. And with, we were through to join our coach that was to take is to Swiss Hotel, Merchant Court.

Conveniently, the hotel was located right by the river and handy for bars and restaurants. Perfect for those short exploratory walks out and about as we check out the surroundings and get a feel for what it’s like to be in Singapore. So, once in our room, and checked all suitcases were intact, complete with medication, our next task was to check out the bars and decide where we could have a late lunch. Our first port of call was the Octapas bar on the directly opposite side of the river. Sitting by the river, we were able to enjoy a welcoming cool beer (it was very, very hot & humid in Singapore) while watching the boats go by on the river and the rather fetching waitresses going about their business.

Hmm, I say, I think I’ll take a couple of photos of the girls (just for the boys of course). It was just at that point that I felt that now familiar stinging to my left ear. Why, oh why, does she always go for the already cauliflowered ear?¬† As we sat and drank, we looked at the map to work out what we were going to do over the next couple of days. We (I) worked out that the best strategy would be to take a boat to Marina Bay from where we could explore the Gardens by the Bay and then explore Marina Bay Sands Hotel and nearby Shopping Arcade (the last bit was the clincher). On the following day, we would be able walk to Raffles Hotel to enjoy a Singapore Sling as it should be enjoyed: in Singapore. And with that we went to explore the remaining bars while looking for somewhere appropriate to eat. Not long after leaving Octapas, we came across Hooters, this was another where I was to receive another thick ear. But wait, who did we espy but Adrian the ships photographer who took our wedding photo’s. I could do nothing. Mrs Me made a bee line for the poor man. Ooh Adrian, exclaims Mrs Me, what are you doing here? What Adrian said next brought me out into a cold sweat.

But I, rather meanly, laughed as well.

It would appear that as he (Adrian) was leaving the ship, he along with another crew member – the ships butcher (both of whom were contracted for the whole world cruise, and beyond) apparently triggered one of the sensors that picked up traces of a mysterious compound; a compound normally associated with explosives. With this, both the passenger and the photographer were bundled into an interview room where they were to cross examined for 3-hours as the authorities tried to establish why there trying to come into Singapore. Him being a ships photographer and ‘armed’ with nought but ships photographic equipment (that’s a camera to us mere mortals) seemed too little to convince them. But try as they might, they could ‘prove’ nothing. By the end the session, all that could be gleaned was they been detected as having traces of some black powder about them and all they could work out was that it had something to do with chemicals used in the photographic labs. With that, they let them go, leaving them with just half a day to explore before returning to the ship before she sailed for Kuala Lumpur. ¬†So naturally, they went to Hooters for a couple of drinks. That was when I got another thick ear for laughing at Adrian’s misfortune. Hmm, methinks Mrs Me has a soft spot for Adrian.

After this, we felt the need to eat but couldn’t decide what we wanted. We walked up and down the riverside and up and down the side streets to ¬†see if there was anything that took our fancy. There was, of course Spanish, at Octapas, but there was just about every other nationality including local varieties. We were so overcome by it all, we settled for McNuggets & Fries :-). Our evening meals, we had decided, would be taken at the Blue Potato Restaurant by the hotel pool on the 2nd floor. It was a good decision. The food was exceptional without being expensive and the service second to none: a recurring theme throughout Singapore.

Gardens by the Bay

The next morning, as planned, we caught a river boat to Marina Bay. During the trip, as a dutiful tourist I took many photos as did our friends, possibly from China, who were also visiting Singapore. As they moved around the boat taking various photos with each other we desperately tried to move out of their way until, in the end, I decided to join in and get in as many of their photo’s as I could. They seemed ok about it and we are still happy and smiley when we disembarked. Mrs Me and I now had to catch another boat to take us across the bay to the Gardens by the Bay. As our new Chinese friends they all moved together for a group photo of themselves with the bay and the hotel in the background. Beckoning me, I thought they wanted me to take their picture for them but oh no, they wanted me to be in their photo. So, back home, I’m probably described as ‘ooh look, here he is again in this picture – the old fat english man – he was everywhere’.

Anyway, we reached the gardens and having bought tickets, we joined a tour which took us for a quick 20 minute exploration of the gardens while listening to how they were constructed. I won’t go into the detail, they can describe that better than I on the website here. But I have to says, it was something else: a place to visit over and over again. I was even more amazed to find it was only completed in 2011.

Through these gardens it was possible to explore different regions of the world. You could even explore them from high above the canopies though Mrs Me did stay close to the point from where you joined this amazing walk across the sky.  Having scampered here there and everywhere we then moved inside where it was amazingly cool so that plants not liking such warmer climates could also be nurtured. Again, these could be seen from ground level and canopy level, and all levels between.

Raffles Hotel

The following day was checkout day (boooo) though our flight wasn’t until 11:00 in the evening so we still the whole day to play. So, bags packed, we checked out of the hotel and left our luggage with the porter and off we went to find the Raffles Hotel. It was in fact only a 20-minute walk so in no time at all we found it, just in time for a lunchtime drink. Having checked out around the hotel we found the stairs that took us to the famous Long Bar , birthplace of the Singapore Sling.

Just some more photo’s.

I’m bored now, so, now we’re off now to book our next adventure.

Byeeeee.

Having left Bali, we set a kind of NNW direction to Singapore. This journey was to include¬†two full days at sea during which time, we would be crossing the Equator. On cruise ships, this ceremony is conducted so as to formally request King Neptune’s permission to move from one half of the hemisphere (in our case the southern half) to the other half (that’ll be the northern half ūüôā ). Naturally, everybody was keen to ‘Cross the Line’ as for so long new, we had been upside down and desperately wanted to get to our own half and once more be the right way up. I dare the Aussies might have felt the other way round but this is all about me, me me.

The ceremony of Crossing the Line is an initiation rite in the British Merchant Navy, Dutch merchant navy, Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, Russian Navy, and other navies that commemorates a sailor’s first crossing of the Equator. The tradition may have originated with ceremonies when passing headlands, and become a “folly” sanctioned as a boost to morale, or have been created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed (Trusty/Honorable) Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed (Slimy) Pollywogs (in 1832 the nickname griffins was noted). Source: – Wikipedia¬†– Visit Wikipedia Line Crossing Ceremony¬†for far more detail ūüôā

Having crossed the equator a couple of time now, I suppose I could technically call myself a Shellback but whatever I am, the ceremony is always great fun, noisy, raucous and messy. Believe me, it’s messy. So messy that they have to shut the pool, drain it, clean it, clean it again, clean it some more then refill the pool (not with a hosepipe -see last photo – as Mrs Me believed).

There are numerous variations of the ceremony, one where an elected passenger is found guilty of nefarious crimes and sentenced to all sorts of punishments such as disembowelling (sausages, spaghetti, etc., ‘removed, from victim and tossed onto the deck / pool), beheading (not really, but lots of goo covering head), and other unsavoury deeds including the covering of miscreants (normally those who have overeaten on the cruise) with ice cram and chocolate sauce, etc.

We on the Arcadia however are so much more civilised and opted for less gruesome activities. These were split initially into three challenges between the ships officers and ships crew. It was at this point that the Captain quoted some ancient sea faring rule that dictated that the Captain must remain in charge of his ship at all times and as such he would not be allowed to take part in any pool activities. How could he, after all, run a ship when sinking and drowning in goo while in his uniform. So with that, his deputy for the proceedings appointed, the ships doctor put on alert (he’s the one in the blue gown with suspiciously looking blood stains all over) the proceedings begun.

  • Challenge 1 – One member from each team had to dive into the pool and extract as many items of cutely, that had previously been thrown in, in 20 seconds. Results:
    • Crew – Loads
    • Officers – None
  • Challenge 2 – A relay swim of two lengths consisting of 4 members of each team, with a bucket on their heads and sitting in a lifebelt ring. Results:
    • Crew – lost – one member fell off while another ended up in the Officers Lane.
    • Officers – Won by a mile.
  • Challenge 3 –¬†A relay swim of two lengths (wearing a boiler jacket, which had to be swapped each time) consisting of 4 members of each team. Trying to get a wet boiler suit off then onto the next swimmer didn’t look too easy, though it did look quite pleasing on the eye for some no doubt :-). Results:
    • Crew – lost – last girl couldn’t get out the suit in time for last guy to put it on.
    • Officers – Won by a mile.

Following this, there was the hearing by Neptune after which he was to judge whether the ships officers were worthy enough to be allowed to switch hemispheres. As they had won the challenge overall, they were indeed worthy. Before such permission was granted however, each had to pledge allegiance by kissing the fish, which didn’t look too fresh while the losers had to pay the penance, along with selected passengers, of being coated in runny jelly, blancmange, gravy and who knows what else. Needless to say this descended into absolute mayhem when everybody was coating everybody, even watching cruisers were caught in the cross fire: not me though, I was sensible and hid behind Mrs Me. And then, it was all over: Neptune granted his permission and strutted around greeting all those present before pushing them all into the pool. This included the Captain. Not sure how many Captains would have actually allowed that so, way to go Captain¬†Aseem Hashmi.

With the conclusion, the mess now obvious and the surfaces under feet way to slippy for passengers, the pool was closed and out came the army of pool cleaners who had the somewhat unenviable task of cleaning everything up and refilling the pool. All of course overseen by a big bossy sear gent major type person who stood there and barked commands / instructions; he was scary.

With that, Mrs Me and I returned to the Bar, avoiding The Fish, which was being paraded around the deck for all passengers to ‘kiss’, and settled down for a glass or two of our favourite fruit based drink (Rioja for me, Ros√® for Mrs Me) before preparing for dinner. Life at sea can be gruelling.

Next Stop: Singapore…..