PAL-RCI 'Fam Tour-Caribbean cruise: A cruise to remember
By Baby Gomez
Davao City (6 November) -- When one mentions a cruise ship what comes into mind is just a passenger ship. But when you change it to 'love boat' then it is synonymous to a cruise ship as most people would associate it with the TV series 'Love Boat' which has for years inspired (emotionally and otherwise) and made people avid viewers of the show's episodes.
But for Tita M. Manabat, manager of PAL Davao City Ticketing Office and a certified cruiser of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Inc.. who has traveled to many destinations says a cruise is so much different from plain traveling to one destination to another destination.
Manabat together with Carlo Tan, manager of Arpan Philippines-Royal Caribbean Int'l (Phils) led top selling travel agents from Mindanao for a Western Caribbean cruise after topping ticket sales for 2007 last month.
From Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the 81,045 ton "Enchantment of the Seas" sailed to the Florida Keys with the 14 cruise participants from Mindanao. The ship which has a maximum speed of 24 knots can accommodate a maximum of 2,730 guests. During Day 1, the cruise vacation highlights started with a welcome aboard lunch at the Windjammer Market Place where food was served buffet style. Food, fruits, and drink aflowing. The cruisers who came from Davao City, Gen. Santos City, Cagayan de Oro City and Zamboanga City where the only Filipinos on cruise. Thus, the exciting vacation of a lifetime started from Fort Lauderdale for the 5-day vacation package of Royal Caribbean to the Florida Keys and Mexico.
Manabat said most of the passengers boarded the ship past noontime and most of them rested in their respective staterooms after having a sumptuous lunch. A compulsory emergency guest muster drill was conducted just before the ship leaves Fort Lauderdale. Prior to embarkation, each passenger was issued a sea pass which served as identification whenever a passenger disembarks or embarks from the ship, use it when making purchases on board the ship or identification for the dining area assignment.
It is really different taking the cruise ship, Manabat said. Its not only the way passengers are pampered during the cruise and the never-ending amenities and package of fun that goes with it but to the number of destinations as the number of days the cruise has. Each night passengers are provided a daily planner for day-to-day adventures and activities. During daytime, passengers can go to destinations included in the daily itinerary and usually the ship docks early morning in identified ports and leaves late in the afternoon to catch for the next destination. Or one can prefer to stay on board the ship and marvel the different facilities of the ship.
Meanwhile, Carlo Tan, manager of Royal Caribbean Intl. (Phils) added, the cruise vacation will bring the passenger to a new heights. The latest feature is the Rock Climbing Wall and Jump Zone on a Bungee Trampoline. For those who want to work up a good sweat or release all the stress from back home or go the Vitality' Health & Wellness program. Or one can satisfy his/her dancing feet to the tune of salsa, disco rock or ballroom in one of the bars and lounges Just like the usual cruise, an array of nightly performances dominate the evenings by talented singers and dancers.
A live art auction is also set each cruise, spend his/her time at the casino which is operates 24/7 or enjoy the evening shopping at duty-free shops aboard, spend the evening with your favorite beverage and watch the world sail by or just swim your day away at the swimming pools, kid's splash pool, solarium pool or the whirlpool/Jacuzzi at deck 9. A daily bingo game is also part of the fun and excitement aboard the Enchantment of the Seas.
Tan, however, added there is a required dress code for each evening. The Second night is the Captain of the Ship's welcome reception. Suggested attire is formal. Succeeding evenings will require casual or Caribbean. Daytime which is usually excursion time which requires the most comfortable attire a passenger can think of. He said Royal Caribbean Intl. will make sure each cruise will be an unforgettable one and their crew has been trained to make each passenger feel important.. It is not only from maintaining cleanliness in their staterooms, delicious foods for all the passengers but for all their concerns during the cruise.
For the food tripper one can indulge at WindJammer Market Place buffet area or at the My Fair Lady Restaurant where passengers enjoy fine dining during evenings. Still, passengers can hop from one snack bar to another for the afternoon or late night snacks still to the max. There is also the Chops Grill specialty restaurant where juicy, tender New York sirloin is cooked to perfection with an accompanying vintage Merlot wine. Some function rooms are designed as non-smoking areas like the Champagne bar and terrace but there are rooms for smokers only.
Destination highlights are Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Key West is the southernmost port in the United States of America. Approximately 2 miles wide and 5 miles long and a population of about 25,000 people, Key West is a mesh of festive, innovative and artistic individuals living amidst a fairy tale land of colorful ginger bread style homes, eclectic shops a 24-hour night life. Jewelries and precious stones like diamonds, tanzanite, emerald, opals, amber, mother of pearl, artists markets butterfly art, key lime treats and magic color changing souvenirs and sports destinations best describe Key West.
The Key West Conch Train will bring back the4 pages of history when it was a bustling sea of Continental United States. The 1-hour train ride will bring visitors to over 100 points of interests. There is the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum and an eco-tour to the Glass Bottom Boat. Visitors will find the only living coral reef in the Continental United States. Its famous beaches links the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Adding to its points of interests are the Hemingway House and Truman Little White House. The world's 3rd largest barrier reef is located in Key West. It is in Key West where eco-tour adventure is at its best via 65-ft catamarans.
Cozumel Island is referred to as Ah-Cuzamil-Peten or Island of the Swallows. It is linked to the Mayan civilization which declined during the 10th century. Many Mayans were killed during the battles which ended in the 15th century. During the 12th century, the Toltecs cult of the god Quetzalcoatl (meaning plume serpent) dominated the Mayans. Fighting ended in the 15th century when the Spaniards came. Pirates utilized Cozumel as their base during the 17th century. It was in 1901 that the Mayans surrendered to government troops. It is home to Tulum Mayan Ruins. Present day Cozumel is considered as one of the best shopping destinations in the world. Today, the streets are decorated with Mexican arts and crafts. Shoppers will find finest sterling silver, onyx carving, leather goods and locally cultivated tequilas and vanillas and duty free shops. It is the leading port in Mexico for jewelry. Basic transportation is taxi. Rates are posted at the pier at $6 per passenger up to four passengers in a cab.
Cozumel is a unique island destination. Right at the pier passengers can catch a glimpse of the cruise terminal and shopping area including the duty free shops. At the pier, waiting sheds and pay phone stations by AT & T. Business starts from 9:00 am to 9:00 p.m. are available for the public.
Manabat said one can choose a cruise schedule and places to be visited ahead of time so planning is an important factor. You can time it with a scheduled trip and save on travel costs as one can plan another business after the cruise.
The cruise is made more memorable with presence of many Filipinos working in the ship. The "Enchantment of the Seas" prides itself with its Davaoeño executive chef, Ramil Buhian, who is the youngest so far. At the kitchen department alone of 167 people, 40 are Filipinos. Ranking second are Latin Americans who are equally service-oriented but Pinoy can never be outplayed when it comes to adaptability, perseverance and ability to smile despite pressures.
Cruising travel agents include: Riza Canda, Aqua Gem Travel; Wren Teo, Mt. Apo Travel & Tours; Ivy Tan, Frontier Travel & Tours; Joy Loyola, Allied Travel & Tours; Christine Serrano, Astoria Queen Travel; Francis Sablon, Zion Travel-Gen San; Nelly Sablon, Zion Travel-Koronadal; Christine Baluyot-Teo, Mt. Apo Travel & Tours-Gen. San; Chastity Ann Sarmiento, Lite Travel; Bebot Jariol, Seven Stars Travel; Eleanore Ramchand, Great Vacations Travel; while other joiners include Tita M. Manabat, PAL; Bernadette Gomez, PIA, and Carlo Tan, Royal Caribbean Intl.
Cruise lines face a stiff competition. Each one outwitting each other in order to capture to as many market they can penetrate. Next year, more cruise ships will be introduced to reach out to specific markets as each ship is themed to a particular specialty. In fact, a Mediterranean Cruise during mid 2009 is on sale. Those interested can take the cruise. For those who would want to get a picture of specific cruise package, may contact RCI's Mindanao preferred agent, the Mt. Apo Travel and Tours. (PIA) [top]