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Spectrum of the Seas - 22DEC19 - Hong Kong B2B


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Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! It’s FINALLY cruise time! 
We are headed to Hong Kong to board Spectrum for a back-to-back, 7 days to Japan and Philippines and then 4 days to Vietnam.

Our bags are packed:

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We fly from Tokyo, where we currently live, to Hong Kong today on Cathay Pacific. The flight is about 5 hours with a one hour time change. Cathay Pacific is generally a solid choice for flying around the region and the weather forecast is decent, so we should have a smooth day <knocks on all the wooden things>

One 22” suitcase, one 24”, and a backpack. The only reason for the backpack is to hold MisterZ’s work laptop (boo!) and his Child (otherwise known as his camera — details on this later if I can cajole him into giving me some photos for this blog). 
 

And we’re off!

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It might be the three stoutly-poured Royal Margaritas talking,  but I have to take a moment to say... I am having the BEST day! First, on the ship when everyone else is on shore — alway

Squeeeeeeeeee! Our first block! 

The Effectors The second unique show to Spectrum is The Effectors. It plays in the Royal Theater for two shows on one night each cruise. Although it’s also a bit light on plot, it has a fun comic

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Our travels went smoothly for the most part. Whew! I had a few moments of panic when the immigration officer at Narita couldn’t wrap her brain around my Japanese visa, but it turned out she was just new. She finally caved and made a call and then I was on my way. MisterZ then had no issue after me, since I was such an effective guinea pig.

One thing to know about Hong Kong — no taxis take credit cards anymore. They used to. We had actually not intended to get any HK dollars at all, but had to troop back into the terminal from the taxi stand. Another thing about Hong Kong — because of how the airport is structured, you have to show your passport again if you happen to try to re-enter the way you came out. Even though you’re well past the customs and immigration area. Also, security gets twitchy if you try to go through the door back into the terminal on the wrong side. I almost lost MisterZ there!

Here I am, already making mistakes so that you all don’t have to!

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30 minutes in a taxi and about $45USD-equivalent later, we’re in our hotel in Kowloon. L’hotel elan (lower case, with a ‘ over the e that I didn’t even try to make happen here) is a stylish mid-range hotel about 1km from the cruise terminal. The unrest in Hong Kong has definitely impacted the tourist industry. We got this room for about $85 for the night which is a screaming deal for this part of town. Breakfast is included.

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Cruise day! I’m up by 6am, looking at the foggy Hong Kong sunrise. MisterZ is NOT interested in getting up yet so I’ll take the time to talk about the itineraries. 

  • Day 1 — depart Hong Kong
  • Day 2 — at sea
  • Day 3 — Okinawa, Japan 
  • Day 4 — at sea
  • Day 5 — Ilocos, Philippines 
  • Day 6 — Subic Bay, Philippines 
  • Day 7 — at sea
  • Day 8 — HK turnaround
  • Day 9 — at sea
  • Day 10 — Danang, Vietnam
  • Day 11 — at sea
  • Day 12 — arrive Hong Kong

This is our first back-to-back. This is also the first cruise we have been on where the ship was the focus; we usually cruise based completely on the ports. This is also the largest ship we’ve been on. Explorer was the biggest before this. Lots of firsts!

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Embarkation

We left the hotel at 10am in a taxi. Construction around the cruise ship terminal here has only gotten worse in the last two years. It took us 15 minutes to go what should have been one kilometer but ended up being nearly 4 kms. The taxi driver was knowledgeable and asked us ahead which ship, which meant he knew when to skate around the line in several spots. The trip cost about $13.

I didn’t take pictures of the ride in as I had intended, just because all the detours, cranes, and scaffolding will likely make any “photo guide” moot in no time. Sorry about that!

At the terminal, right when you step out of the taxi, there are porters roaming around to collect your bags. We had just started the whole “ok where do we take these things?” looking when a young man swooped over and collected them. He then pointed us in the direction of check in. So far so good!

There was the usual gauntlet of people telling us to have our documents out as we headed across the hall and up a giant escalator. We were far from the first ones here — many of the cultures on this side of the world take timeliness pretty seriously! We headed for the Suites sign, ignoring the first two people who tried to send us to Diamond check in. But then, we blew it — the guardian of the Suites line said “you’re Diamond, go that way”. I should have pressed, but the lines were of similar length so we just rolled with it. Would have been fine except 10:30am happened before we were done with check in. That’s when security opened, and there was quite a crush of people. That’s when the error of our ways became crystal clear, as the Suites area had a fast track to security screening. <insert sad trombone sound here>

Still, we only waited about 15 minutes before getting to security. After that things moved along at a good clip and we were onboard right before 11am.


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Cabin 7638 — Silver Junior Suite

Here’s the cabin tour! I really like this one. We’ve been in Junior Suites on several other ships but this one seems very efficient in its use of space. 
 

At the door:

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From the back corner:

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The TV/desk area:

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The tub side of the bathing room. There is a separate shower to the left of the photo. There is a completely separate toilet room as well, with another sink:

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The balcony. Dividers can be opened on either side if you’re traveling with others:

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Day 1

After boarding, we wandered the ship a bit, heading for the Silver dining room for lunch. First impressions:

  • This is a giant ship
  • It doesn’t feel nearly as crowded as I feared it might
  • The art around the ship is phenomenal, and there is a lot of it
  • I was pleased to see the removable tiles in the elevators that show the day of the week 🙂 
  • This is our first app-enabled ship. The app has a lot of potential, but... yeah. It’s not super

The Silver lounge, dining, and solarium are lovely. The are exclusive for guests in Gold or Silver suites, plus Diamond Plus and Pinnacle. On this sailing they are also letting Diamonds in, as they have been for the last few months. I suspect they will enforce the D+ and above thing as more passengers in this region get to the higher tiers, but for now this is by far the nicest “Diamond Lounge” space in the fleet.

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We got into the Silver dining by waiting at the back door of the Silver area until a crew member walked by and then asking to be let in. Had we gone to the other side, there was someone stationed to look at Set Sail passes and let people in. We can’t seem to do anything the easy way today!

Silver dining is a buffet at breakfast and lunch. There were exactly 3 other people there when we entered for lunch, and by the time we left there were 11. In other words, the space is definitely a haven of calm! The food was tasty and fairly simple — roast beef, noodle bar, salad, etc.

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After lunch (at 1230pm) we were able to get into our cabin. SeaPass cards were on the door. All Aboard was at 3pm, muster was at 330pm. Our muster station is in the MDR. Our bags were at the cabin by the time we finished muster. Next was off to the Schooner Bar for a sail away beverage to enjoy on our balcony:

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Lavender Daiquiri and Ron Zacapa and Coke. We were supposed to leave at 4pm, but ended up heading out about 425pm for whatever reason.

No sail away pics because it was still super hazy. Perhaps next weekend on turn around day.

Back to the Silver lounge at 5pm for happy hour, the MDR at 530pm for traditional dining. We had asked ahead for a table for two and had been confirmed. Yay! We scoped out the table before muster and while it was indeed a two-top, it was just a few inches from another table. Ah well. As it turned out, our table was actually a 4-top that they split for two couples who requested seating as pairs. HA! Fortunately the other couple seems quite pleasant so I think we’ll be fine. 😄 

Full disclosure, we have always been #TeamMDR, and always traditional dining. We intend to stick with this for the first week, going to speciality restaurants for lunch. But the last 4 days we’ll have Gold dining access and plan to eat there. It will be the closest we’ve been to Coastal Kitchen and I’m excited to see how it goes!

Here’s the menu for the night. I had Pork Noodles and MisterZ has the Moussaka. Both were quite good!

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After dinner it was back to the Schooner Bar for a bit of music and one last drink. Then back to the room to do my homework... uh, post to the blog 😉 

 

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5 hours ago, Linda Van said:

Question on perks. I'm loving your pics and account. We're sailing on Spectrum on the 2nd Jan in a SIlver Suite, same class as yours (J4) and I'm confused about what perks Silver Suites get (if any). I see you had lunch in the Silver Dining and were in the Solarium so I hope they're included? Anything else?

Silver suites get 24/7 access to the Silver area, which includes a dining room (open specific hours), a lounge, a pool, a bar, a couple of hot tubs, and some enclosed deck space. The Silver dining needs reservations for dinner, but they can be made morning-of easily it seems if you’re not sure what your schedule will be for a particular day. The space is a really lovely refuge! 
We will be getting off as you get on and I’m happy to answer any questions!

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WARNING: Geeky content ahead! Feel free to skip this bit!

I told MisterZ that folks here would appreciate his testing internet speeds and recounting his VPN experience, so here you go!

We got the VOOM Hi-Speed package, although no one at Royal could ever explain to me the difference between VOOM Hi-Speed and VOOM Surf & Stream, other than $4.99 per day. (S&S was actually more) So there were always 3 choices in the planner (Surf, S&S, Hi-Speed). Onboard, the only one available for purchase is Hi-Speed.

Speed without a VPN:

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With the VPN:

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He used the Speedtest utility by Ookla, which “likes to find the ‘best’ server to test against (ie the closest network-wise) which meant the test over the VPN used a server in LAX while the other used a server in Adelaide. Lots of different variables there, obviously, but the general impression holds.”

“The VPN is the standard OpenVPN connection (UDP over port 1194) offered by StrongVPN (as opposed to the PPTP one they also offer), and the VPN client is Tunnelblick. Connected the first try, no problems and no port massaging or extra tunneling needed.”

I don’t know what 75% of that means, but if anyone has questions I’ll pass them along and try to get you an answer! 😄

 

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Looks like Spectrum's J4 is no different in layout than the J4 on Anthem. Looking at the photos of your cabin, I thought I was back in the one I had in 2018. You'll really like the space! Just be aware that the opening at the bottom of the shower's door allows a good amount of water to drip out onto the bathroom floor; be ready to sacrifice a towel or two every shower and to step out onto wet fabric.

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31 minutes ago, JLMoran said:

Looks like Spectrum's J4 is no different in layout than the J4 on Anthem. Looking at the photos of your cabin, I thought I was back in the one I had in 2018. You'll really like the space! Just be aware that the opening at the bottom of the shower's door allows a good amount of water to drip out onto the bathroom floor; be ready to sacrifice a towel or two every shower and to step out onto wet fabric.

I was worried about that at first, but there’s actually a pretty decent lip (almost 2 inches) under the door. Maybe they learned from Anthem! 

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Day 2 - At Sea

I love sea days, especially at the very beginning of the trip! Gives you a chance to really settle into vacation mode 🙂 

Today we slept in a bit and then went to Silver dining for breakfast. The options, while obviously not as comprehensive as the Windjammer, were decent and the space was calm and relaxing. Sadly, the cappuccino machine is broken — noooooooo! The drip coffee was better than the MDR and got the caffeine-insertion job done though. After that, we wandered the ship until the Crown & Anchor event held in Two70. They invited Platinum and above, a total of about 500 guests onboard. I carefully noted down the number breakdown of the loyalty levels and then promptly deleted the note. Doh! I will get the exact numbers later when I visit the Loyalty desk. Speaking of, the Loyalty Ambassador moonlights as the NextCruise Manager; there’s not enough business on these cruises yet to warrant separate people. They showed a slick production called Dance in a Box on the robo-screens in Two70 for the party. Very impressive! Particularly enjoyed the subtle change of perspective as the screens moved.

Cruise Director and Captain at the Crown & Anchor event:

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We went to lunch at Jaime’s. We had only been on ships with a Giovanni’s before and I was looking forward to testing the difference. Ultimately, I prefer Giovanni’s. I like the heavier pasta dishes. Heh. Jamie’s was certainly tasty, though! We split an Epic Brownie for dessert. OMG! Super gooey brownie, salted caramel gelato, and caramel popcorn. Mmmm! Also, shout out to @SpeedNoodles for going on about the Oberon — I remembered and recommended it to MisterZ. He enjoyed it very much! 😄 

After lunch there was some leisuring about, and then we tried to go to our Northstar reservation. Unfortunately it was too windy, so we rescheduled for the 24th. Another vote for “schedule all the things right away so you can still do/see them if the weather doesn’t cooperate!” Then back for dinner in the MDR. Tonight was “Dress Your Best” — at our seating it ran about 50% of the people dressed in anything vaguely resembling “formal” wear. Granted, early seating tends to have more families with tiny humans, so there’s a lot of “you’re lucky we’re here with pants on at all” vibe. This time I had the Japanese Steak (adequate) and MisterZ had the Tempura (also adequate). Our waiter and assistant waiter are fantastic. Our non-table table mates didn’t show, so we had a lovely two-top experience 😉 

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After dinner we went to see Showgirl! in the theater. It was decent — very elaborate costumes and strong singing and dancing, low on plot. We enjoyed it though! Honestly, we hadn’t been to a show on a ship in about 6 years, because the smaller ships just don’t do the interesting, big productions. We have resolved to take advantage on Spectrum though! FYI, these next snaps were with MisterZ’s Pixel 2XL, as my iPhone XR (what has been used for all the shots up to here) is crap for low light shots.

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A quick comment on Japanese ports/immigration...

We live in Japan. I love it, for the most part. HOWEVER, if there’s one thing the Japanese love it is structure. And rules. And procedure. And process. 

That said, our trip into Okinawa warrants a special, separate post. So here we go.

This is exactly the second time in all my cruising where booking a shore excursion through Royal has proven to be the VASTLY superior option. There are always benefits to it, but in Japan (when it’s your first Japanese port of the trip, at least) you gain at least two hours of shore time. That’s crazy!

Japan requires a face-to-face immigration process, regardless of whether you will leave the ship or not. For us, as “reentry” guests, we met in Star Moment and were escorted to the area Japanese immigration had set up on the ship before anyone else. There were about 25 people who met this criteria, either Japanese citizens or residents of some kind. It still took nearly 30 minutes to get through. MisterZ called the process “the stupidest thing ever”, since we were planning to stay on the ship anyway. Oh, and we will have to go back at 5pm to do the departure process as well. Yay?

For everyone else, there were three categories of guests. First, those on a Royal excursion, who got taken through immigration in their tour groups right away. Second, those who booked through a group travel agency deal — those people also got to go through early on, to head out on their excursions, although after the Royal excursions. Third, everyone who thought “on your own” was a good idea. Had we gone this route, our clearance time for Immigration was 12:45pm, after docking at 10:30am. Granted, we were the second to last group, but still... wow.

tl;dr — always book an excursion through Royal for your first Japanese port on a cruise that includes Japan!

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About power outlets and HDMI ports, since these are regular topics of discussion!

In our Silver Junior Suite, we have the following power outlets.

On the desk:

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Under the TV:EE8806D6-6478-4E61-BDDE-08D62C339C8A.jpeg.bf1c76048abf522b44f741d7524fe773.jpeg

By the right side of the bed:

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In the bathing room and again in the toilet room:

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For the TV, if you have small hands, you can access the HDMI and USB ports on the back of the TV. You’ll still need to bring a universal remote to change the input:

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It might be the three stoutly-poured Royal Margaritas talking,  but I have to take a moment to say...

I am having the BEST day!

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First, on the ship when everyone else is on shore — always amazing!

Second, this is the BEST SITE! Thank you @Matt and everyone else who makes this forum a fun, safe place to indulge in my cruise obsession!

Having so much fun doing this blog!

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