After three months of waiting and a whole lot of planning, the day was finally here: my first ever cruise. Quantum of the Seas beckoned, and all that stood in the way was the pre-boarding logistics.
|🚢 Cruise to Nowhere: Royal Caribbean|
Getting to Marina Bay Cruise Centre
Both Genting and Royal Caribbean cruises to nowhere depart from the Marina Bay Cruise Centre, located at 61 Marina Coastal Drive. While there’s a dedicated MRT station in Marina South Pier, it’s still a 700m or so walk from the station to the terminal (at least it’s a sheltered walkway).
Parking is available, but limited (normally there’s 327 car lots, but some of the space is being used for swab testing facilities). Drivers can purchase a DriveCruise Package at the following prices:
- S$45 for 4D3N cruise
- S$55 for 5D4N cruise
- S$65 for 6D5N cruise
There is a vending machine in the carpark (Level 2) which will sell you the DriveCruise ticket, so there’s no need to purchase ahead of time (in fact, you can’t). This machine accepts Mastercard and Visa, and the Visa Supplier Locator tells me the MCC for Marina Bay Cruise Centre is 5999 (General Merchandise)- though I’m not sure if this applies to the carpark too.
If you’re opting for a shorter cruise (2N or less), there’s no DriveCruise Package available. You’ll pay the hourly rate, as shown below:
|Per hour or part thereof (First 2 hours)||S$2.40|
|Per hour or part thereof (Subsequently)||S$3.30|
|Per Entry Rate (2231 hrs to 0700 hrs)||S$3.30|
|Maximum Rate Per Day||S$18.00|
Should the car park be full, you can park instead at Marina South Pier (700m away) or Gardens By The Bay (2.8km away).
I’m of the opinion the simplest option is to leave the car at home and just Grab over.
Check-In & Boarding
Even though Quantum of the Seas only officially departs at 2000 hours, you’ll want to board as early as possible. It’s not just to maximize your first day (staterooms, dining and activities are available from the moment you board), it’s so you can snatch up all those precious reservations.
I’ve elaborated on this more in my Pre-Cruise Planning post, but the long and the short of it is that you can only book the following once on board:
- Activities like bumper cars, pickleball, table tennis
- Coastal Kitchen
- Specialty restaurant dining (for those holding an Unlimited Dining Package; individual reservations can be made before boarding, at the usual piecemeal prices)
|If you’re in a Grand Suite or higher, look out for an email from the concierge ~5 days before sailing. He/she can help pre-book all of the above, making your boarding experience a lot less stressful. Junior Suites, unfortunately, do not have concierge access.|
However, this battle is won and lost during online check-in, long before you even arrive at the cruise terminal. Online check-in opens 90 days before your cruise, and please, please do it as soon as possible. The first boarding slot is at 2 p.m, and it disappears before you know it.
There’s no point arriving at the cruise centre ahead of your boarding time, because you can’t board until your official time slot. Perhaps they weren’t so strict in the past, but due to COVID-19 safe distancing measures, this is religiously enforced now. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a suite or regular room (Star Class suites may have different rules, but Sea and Sky definitely don’t). The authorities want to spread out boarding to avoid everyone bum rushing the boat at the same time.
If you arrive early, there’s nothing to do but sit in the aptly-named Seaworld Cafe and wait.
So let’s talk check-in. It’s a two-part process; part one takes place outside the cruise terminal, part two happens inside.
Before even entering the cruise terminal, you’ll be asked if you have any luggage to check. This is offered purely as a convenience; unlike airplanes, there’s no restriction on the size of your hand carry luggage.
My advice would be that you keep your bags with you. It’s just logistically simpler, and it’s not like you’ll have to lug them up and down the stairs anyway. If you really must check your bag, be sure to bring a separate bag that has everything you need for the first few hours. Some suggestions:
- Change of clothes
- Laptop and charger
- Workout clothes
Check-in bags should be delivered to your stateroom within 2-3 hours of boarding, but it depends on how full your cruise is. I checked-in at 2 p.m and my bags were waiting outside the door around 4 p.m.
If you have any alcohol in your bag, you’ll need to remove it and carry it with you onboard the ship. As a reminder, each stateroom is entitled to 2 x 750 ml bottles of wine or champagne. Spirits or beer are not allowed. Bottles can be enjoyed in the stateroom, or you can pay a US$15 corkage fee to enjoy them in the restaurant.
After checking our bags, we joined the queue to enter the terminal. It was roughly 1.35 p.m at this point, so we stood in line for 25 minutes.
Once inside, we were asked to show our health declarations, which can be filled up via the Royal Caribbean app the night before.
Answer truthfully, but also carefully because answers cannot be modified once submitted. If you accidentally tap “yes” instead of “no”, you won’t be allowed to board. You will also need to show your OneTrust app, with your COVID-19 test result.
After that comes a security screening (similar to the one you’d undergo at the airport), and then we were funnelled over to a second check-in desk.
Here’s where we received our tracelets, a contact tracing tool that must be worn at all times while onboard (except in the stateroom, obviously). In many ways, it duplicates the functionality of the TraceTogether app (which you must install and download for the cruise, or else use the TraceTogether token), but I understand the rationale: it’s highly visible, the battery won’t die, and unlike TraceTogether, you can’t switch off the bluetooth.
The tracelet is fully waterproof (and hypoallergenic), so you can swim with it. This stays with you till you disembark, and a colored sticker helps you identify whose is whose.
The next stop is immigration- even though this is a cruise to nowhere, you’re technically leaving Singapore waters, and you’ll need to scan your passport (they have automated biometric clearance, just like the airport). This was the first time I used my passport in just under a year (the last trip didn’t end so well…)
And finally, we were ready to board. We walked up the gangway and were reminded by Mark Lee (or not, see comments) that holidays were fun, but problem gambling was not. There were two ladies in wheelchairs ahead of us, and one of them pointed and asked “Is he on the cruise?” Bless them.
There was one final boarding pass check at the end of the gangway, but after that, we were finally onboard the Quantum of the Seas. The crew and officers were lined up to welcome guests, and it felt positively festive.
One of Quantum’s many photographers invited us to take a photo with a backdrop of the ship, but feel free to skip this unless you want to buy their overpriced photos (5 for S$79, 10 for S$133, 50 for S$163). I really think they should have given all guests one complimentary print though; it’d make for a nice souvenir. Unfortunately, they won’t use your phone to take photos for you (company policy).
And just like that, I was ready for my maiden voyage.
To recap the main points:
- Check-in online and choose the earliest boarding slot available
- Complete the health declaration form before arriving at the terminal
- Show up at the cruise terminal ~15-20 minutes before your boarding time
- If at all possible, don’t check a bag
- If you’re checking a bag, save some time by bringing a smaller bag with all your essentials (plus wine/champagne, if you’re bringing it)
Next up, the Quantum of the Seas experience, from start to finish.