Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cruising on-board Costa Victoria 2012

Sometime in end July, we chanced upon a newspaper advertisement about a cruise promotion. It was Costa Victoria, a cruise ship not really that familiar to me.

Come middle of the year, hubby opened up the idea of going on a holiday because he still had a lot of leaves in December. We chanced upon an advertisement on the newspaper - a promo for cruises. One was by Royal Carribean, the other was Costa Victoria. I have been convincing him to go on a cruise for like FOREVER. I thought maybe this year was the right time. I asked friends who have gone to cruises and asked for their feedback and recommendations. None of them have tried Costa Victoria yet but they said their children liked the cruise experience and asked for more. So that was a good indication.

Day 1: Departure day (Wednesday). The kids still had no clue where we were going. We just told them to dress up cause we were going somewhere. Ira thought we were going to Wild Wild Wet since he wished to go there for his birthday celebration and we agreed to do it on a later date (that is December).

Kelvin said he thinks he knows where we were going but wanted to keep to himself for the meantime. Then they said maybe we were going to Legoland, since we have luggage with us (close). We hailed a cab, destination Marina Bay Cruise Centre. Ira immediately said, "Are we going on a cruise? I said I don't want to ride a boat!" The reaction was from a traumatic experience when we went to Bintan years ago. He got sea-sick and said he wouldn't want to take another boat ride again. Uh-oh. 

We arrived at the cruise centre and saw the Costa Victoria - a very big ship compared to the Bintan ferries, of course. We explained to Ira that this was going to be a smooth-sailing ship since it's big. And that everything was going to be ok. Imaginative boy that he is, he started blabbing about the possibility of sinking as what happened to the Titanic, etc etc. 
at the departure entry gate. Luggage tagged and brought to the ship.
We saw them again a few hours after boarding.
Kelvin's guess were confirmed. We were going on a cruise after all.

All of Ira's negative thoughts disappeared when he saw the ship models at the lobby of the cruise centre. He started taking photos and became excited about the whole trip. Kelvin kept on saying he already knew we were going on a cruise or to Malaysia when we went to change Ringgit a few days before.

on our way to board the ship. 
We were just in time for early embarkation. 
We got to the ship at around 230-3pm.

First we needed to pass by immigration. Then we had to fill up the Public Health Questionnaire (a must for all persons above 18 who are boarding the ship). After that, we walked towards the ship, passing through a series of security checks by immigration and Costa Victoria crew. They even took our photos individually after scanning our boarding passes.
another stop before the final boarding, this time to have a family photo.
Every guest has to stop here for the photo op. Print outs were
available for viewing and purchase on-board at Deck 6. 
At USD 14.99 it was costly, but looking at our happy faces in this photo, it's worth it!

We were very eager to see what's inside the ship and what's in store for us for the next 3 days. So first agenda was to go to our cabin (Deck 6A Manon - 60149), check our luggage, then explore Costa Victoria, but not before giving our passports for the their safe-keeping. We exchanged our passports with.....

Costa passport claim stubs

After that, we were on our way to our cabin. We passed by festively costumed crew members on our way to the lift lobby. Then were directed to our respective decks.

Our cabin was located in between decks 6 and 7, which means we had to take the lift to deck 7, then take the stairs down to 6a. Our cabin was the first door on the left. Easy access. We were welcomed by a nicely done cabin, with all the essentials for the cruise neatly arranged on top of one of the beds.

There was the Today newsletter (welcome issue) which listed down the names of the main crew (captain, engineers, managers, chefs) and the activities for the day. We also got our emergency drill cards (forgot to take a photo) and Costa Cards. And of course, a map - so we could find our way around the ship.

our Costa cards, encrypted with our passport details (I think),
 which we used to disembark/embark the ship in the different ports,
and charge our purchases on board.
These cards are very important and should always be kept with you while cruising.

we had 2 single beds and 2 bunks.
Of course, the kids chose to sleep on the top deck.

 We still had a few hours to familiarize ourselves with the ship before the Life Boat Drill at 545pm, so I took notes, made our itinerary for the day based on the Today newsletter (yes, I still had to do that so I know exactly where we were going and what we were doing without going back and forth) then we left the cabin and explored.

On my notes were:
  • getting the wristband from Squok for Ira (required for children under 12 to wear this throughout the entire journey)
  • look for the Guest Relations Manager for my surprise renewal of vows 
  • register credit cards to our Costa Cards (another requirement for the cruise)
at deck 11 Rigoletto, looking for Bolero Buffet,
 where a welcome feast was waiting for us

 a view of the deck 5 Boheme atrium from the top deck

checking out Squok club, where the kids could do activities with other kids.
Unfortunately, our kids wanted to have the experience with us and didn't want
participate in any of the Squok activities :(

deck 6 Traviata lounge

Now, let's go up to Deck 7 Carmen....
at the Monte Carlo Casino
Kids are not allowed but at this time the casino was still closed.
We were allowed to explore and take photos.

baccarat, anyone?

it's official, he really is taller than me!

poker tables, roulette, slot machines

At the end of the casino hall was the arcade for the kids to have fun.

there was also a Chapel just after the arcade area.
We stopped by and said a short prayer for the safety of the trip.

after the casino was the entrance to the upper deck of the Festival Theatre.
This was where the nightly shows were held. 

headed back to deck 5 Boheme, just before the emergency drill.

The alarm sounded off and guests were directed to the cabins to prepare for the emergency drill. We had to go back to our cabin, get our life jackets, and proceed to respective emergency exits / musters. Ours was Muster B which was located just half a deck below at Deck 6, Traviata. We had to bring along our emergency drill red cards, surrender it to the crew-in-charge, and queue up in 3s or 4s.
all geared-up for the emergency drill
It took about 15-20mins for the full drill to be over. But better safe than sorry :)

After the drill, we headed back to the cabin to return the life jackets, check the luggage, and then back to exploring the ship. Before we knew it, everybody's queuing for dinner! There were several restaurants in the ship. Those included in the cruise package were Bolero Buffet, Sinfonia Restaurant, Deck 12 Butterfly, Grill Lido Neptuno, and Fantasia Restaurant. There was also the Il Magnifico Club Restaurant which has a fixed price menu (USD 33). Since we were already at deck 5, the closest was Fantasia Restaurant, so we had our dinner there.

We joined the queue for a fine dining experience of sorts. We had to be certain though that this was included in the cruise package ;)

our sumptuous dinner for the night

After dinner, we walked around again, brought the kids to the arcade, and headed to the Festival Theatre for the Magical Shadows World by Serpico and Mary Anne. Good thing we were early. We got front row seats!

It was a good show. The kids enjoyed a lot. We were guessing every shadow the duo were projecting on stage. Kelvin also had the opportunity to practice his Mandarin :) Too bad because of copy right issues I cannot post any photos :( It truly was entertaining.

After the show, we headed back to deck 12 Butterfly, for supper. Pizza and noodles were served.

exploring the ship at night

We ended the day with a full stomach, a good first impression, and looked forward to the next few days of entertainment and new cruising experience. A copy of Today newsletter together with Malacca map was on our bed when we came back to the cabin so I made up our itinerary for the following day. 
Day 2: A few hours in Malacca

I didn't have a good night sleep (not used to sleeping alone in the bed, or probably just thinking too much) but the kids slept well. Ira, who was used to sleeping beside me while holding my thumb (security blanket), made it through the night on the top deck. That's an achievement!

Anyway, agenda for the day was to have continental breakfast (deck 12 Butterfly) at 930am, then proceed to Concorde Plaza at deck 7 to board the tender boats going to Malacca.

walking around after breakfast

exploring the top deck 
What a beautiful day it was. A great weather for walking around town. 

At Concorde Plaza, we were given pieces of paper with a number which corresponds to the boat we were boarding. Then we were ushered to the side of the ship to board to tender boats after they scan our Costa cards.
the Costa Victoria shrinks as we move further away

arrived at the port of Malacca

As we stepped into Malacca, we didn't really know how to start. We had a map in hand but it was not that detailed. We started walking around towards this revolving tower (like that of the Carlsberg Tower in Sentosa) since it must be a tourist attraction. But I wanted to be sure we weren't going on the wrong path so I went into this hotel which was along the way. I asked for the directions going to St Paul ruins. The friendly hotel staff gave me a more detailed map. Thank goodness for my resourcefulness :) Then I noticed on the map that the hotel was named Seri Costa Melaka (coincidence, same name as our cruise ship).

With a colored and more detailed map in hand, I was more confident to walk around Melaka town. First reaction, we didn't think the town was this developed. It was a bustling town with lots of vehicles, buildings, locals and tourists. What we had in mind was an older, less developed version of the town. 

Closest to us on the map was the Royal Malaysian Navy Museum. We just passed by it and saw this

replica of Flor de la Mar (the Portugese ship that sank off the coast of Malacca
on its way to Portugal) at the Maritime Museum of Malacca

the Melaka Sultanate Water Mill

Next to the Water Mill was this mini fort:

 the fort along Malacca River

From the fort, we walked along the road to the Dutch Square: 

 Clock tower and Christ Church at the Dutch Square

checking out the souvenirs.
Ira liked this wooden frog.

posing next to the Melaka police officers and their horses... 

From the Dutch Square, there was a staircase leading up to Stadhuys...

a view of the Windmill from the Stadhuys

looking for some souvenirs to take home, but bought drinks instead.
It was a really hot day. We were parched!

the famous decorated tricycles in Malacca.
Even they couldn't escape the Gangnam Style trend.
We could hear it playing along as they passed by. 

We walked along the street and up to St John's Fort on top of St John's Hill:

walking further along the street and higher up the hill
we reached St Paul's Church ruins.
people doing restoration work 

it was a steep climb to the top of the hill, but the view was fantastic.
We could even see our ship from here!
we made our way down to the town busy area again and ended up at this park.

There was an outlet mall nearby, so we checked it out. We found this cartoonist's shop and decided to have a family cartoon portrait. He was kind enough to give us a discount!
at first, Ira didn't want to have our portrait drawn. He overheard that it would take the artist
10 minutes per face, so it would take around30-40mins to finish our portrait. He said he couldn't possibly sit for that long without moving! Hehehe. We were able to convince him after telling him that he doesn't need to sit still for that long. 

our first family cartoon portrait
We thought it didn't really look like us. Or maybe we were not used to seeing our cartoon counterparts. We decided that we will have another cartoon portrait in the next holiday. 

We walked back to where the souvenir shops were hoping to get a good buy. I was only able to buy my magnet. Weren't able to go around to look for more things as the kids wanted to go back to the ship and eat and rest.

We found our way back to the pier, boarded the tender boat, and off we were back to the ship.

 Costa card checked, we were back on-board Costa Victoria. Next stop, late lunch! After that, we all went back to the cabin for a nap. The kids got so tired from walking around Malacca under the hot sun. We promised them we would go to the pool once they woke up.

An hour later, we were ready for the pool. But not without having some snacks first. Yes, food was readily available (almost 24hrs). It felt like once my intestines were done with the previous meal, they were ready to work on the next one! Kelvin loved the eating frenzy.

While enjoying the pool and later on the jacuzzi, I was constantly checking my watch as I had a prior arrangement for a special event for me and hubby. Details in a separate blog. To sum it up, I surprised him with a renewal of vows on-board Costa Victoria on the Gala Night :) 

Captain Romeo's lively ceremony
Hubby was caught off guard but still said "Yes, I do"

cocktails after the ceremony, before the Captain and the rest of the crew who
witnessed our renewal of vows rushed to the Festival Theatre for the Gala Night 

FYI, the arrangement of renewal of vows was FOC, but the photos were not. We paid for the photos at USD 30 for 2 + 1 FOC. I think that was a cheap price to pay for such a memorable moment :) Too bad Kelvin wasn't able to take good photos during the ceremony (he was also surprised), or else we didn't need to fork out anything for this, haha!
we stayed behind for some family photos
It's seldom that we are all dressed like this :)
me and my soon-to-be-teenage-son

my very energetic boy's signature pose (according to him) 
at the Festival Theatre for the cocktails. The kids got mocktails. 


family photo at Deck 7 of the theatre

 and another one at Deck 6

Then we were off to have dinner at Sinfonia Restuarant 
for our second fine dining experience on-board

tobacco boys

After our dinner, we knew what we had to do next. Make it early to the Festival Theatre to get front row seats again. This time we wanted to be in the dead centre. We were there, like yesterday, an hour before the start of the show.

Tonight there were two shows back to back. At 945pm was a musical show with the singers and dancers of Costa Victoria (Rich and Famous). At 11pm was a Michael Jackson Tribute by Ice (the world famous Michael Jackson impersonator). We were full of anticipation. This was I think the first time we were watching a musical as a family. I was hoping the kids would like it.

The Costa Victoria singers and dancers were all so good. No. They were better than good. They were great! Songs from famous artists like the Beatles, Christina Aguilera, Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, Barbara Streisand, Lady Gaga, Madonna, etc were rendered beautifully by the singers (a guy and a lady). And the back up dancers were so infectious I wanted to go up the stage and dance with them. We couldn't stop clapping and singing along. I was literally dancing on my seat.

After the musical was a short break, to prepare the stage for Ice. Of course, we didn't dare leave our seats. We were in a pretty good place smacked right in the middle front. All the action was right in front of us :) 

As with the first show, Ice's Michael Jackson Tribute didn't disappoint. Too bad Ira was too tired from walking around Malacca and swimming in the afternoon that he fell asleep during the show. Kelvin, on the other hand, was all eyes and ears to the stage.

It was a very fruitful, memorable, and fun day. We got to explore the historical town of Malacca, renew our commitment to each other, and watch a musical and an MJ impersonation. Hubby wouldn't even consider watching a musical when we were in Broadway. But this I'm sure he enjoyed a lot!

Lights snacks before retiring to our cabin, and we were off to dreamland.

Day 3: docked in Kuala Lumpur,  but we just stayed on-board

Since we've already been to KL before, and we only had one more day to spend on the cruise, we decided we skip the KL tour (anyway, it was an hour away from the port) and enjoy the activities in the ship.

We had late breakfast, then lunch after a few hours :)

Walked around the ship, checked out the activities that we could participate in but ended up back to the cabin for a nap. When we woke up, it's back to the pool time with the kids.
lounged at the top deck to soak in the shade (we didn't want to get burned that much) 

There was supposed to be a dance instruction session with Ice at 445pm. When Kelvin and I got to the venue 15minutes late, there was nothing. I guess it was a short session. So we headed back to the pool.


soaking up the sun

alone in the jacuzzi
Other guests were still busy eating :)

At 530pm, I had a dilemma whether I should go to Festival Theatre for the important info for disembarkation in Singapore or participate in the group dance session by the pool. Hubby said I should stay and dance with the other guests (they were doing danza kuduro!) but I had to fight the urge to jump in cause I knew there was something important that I needed to take note of in the session with the Hostess Tamaye. So I rushed to the theatre, took down important details and ran back to the pool side for the dance session. Unfortunately, I was a few minutes late and they just did the Gangnam Style dance. I was sooo frustrated, especially when I found out later on in the cabin that they showed the information details on tv! Argh! So much for missing out on danza kuduro and dancing the Gangnam Style.

after dressing up, we brought the kids to the arcade again before we have dinner 

I found myself dolling up in this cruise :)

For dinner, we chose to go to Fantasia Restaurant again. I ordered my preferred meal and rushed down to the Concorde Plaza to collect our passports. There was an allotted time slot for Singaporeans and residents of Singapore, and guests of other nationalities. Since I have always been the one who follows the rules most of the times, I knew I had to stick to the schedule. I was fortunately enough to be able to collect our passports in less than 5 minutes. My soup was still hot when I got back to the dining table :)

It had a different atmosphere that night at the restaurant. They played Italian music and then all of a sudden, the crew members were dancing around. At first it was just the crew members. Then they approached guests from the tables to dance with them.

I had the privilege of having a dance with an Italian (i think) crew member.
My first dance with an Italian guy ;)

after that, was another lively song. This time the crew members walked around the restaurant
tagging behind them diners who were game enough join in the train of guests dancing around. Those who remained seated picked up their napkins and started whirling. Hubby joined in.

We left the restaurant with smiles on our faces, thanking the crew members for the funtabulous dinner we had on our last night.

We still had one more show to watch and probably a dance to pull my boys into. This time we said we won't be in the front row. We were still in the front row though, but in the upper deck, so we were a bit far from the stage. 

The show was like a concert by the singer called Jolanda. She was born in Poland but now lives in Germany. She's a good singer and performer. I could see my boys clapping and really glued on to her. That meant she caught their attention and they were loving her. If they are happy, I am happy. Even if we were not in the front row.

the look of happiness and contentment

Day 4: Singapore

It's almost back to reality now. After breakfast and settling of bill, we were to disembark and leave Costa Victoria behind. But not without taking with us the wonderful memories of our first cruise experience.

our official end-of-holiday photo

Singapore, welcoming us back

last meal on board

our cabin was just below this deck

the kids couldn't wait to go on another cruise adventure.
Ira was eyeing  a certain Costa ship, the biggest one with the slides. 
But then we told him it doesn't sail in Singapore but in Darwin. 
Maybe next time :)

we are home sweet home :)

This cruise experience was very different from the usual holidays we have. We didn't drive but we got to places. Gastronomic delights overflowing. The variety of activities catered to our different needs, preferences and moods. And if we were not into any activity, we could just stay in the cabin or on the decks to lounge, and we wouldn't get bored. Ira showed he could be independent during bedtime. Kelvin reaffirmed his Mandarin skills were good enough. And I proved that I could be romantic. It's also always good to be away from technology from time to time and closer to nature - in the heart of the Malacca Strait.

Cruises most often are costly. But wait,who said cruises had to be that expensive? You just have to wait for a great deal. We did, for around 5 years, and it paid off :) The usual package we see for family of 4 is around $2k, but cruising with Costa Victoria cost us less than that. Do remember to bring extra USD though if you are not bringing your credit cards. Gratuities/service fees are USD 33 per adult and USD 16.50 per child. The cost was definitely worth the experience.

The verdict: we are definitely going for another cruise in the future!


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