10 Things You Got To Do When Cruising with Royal Caribbean

This post was written in 2016.

For the second time in my life, I went onboard a cruise ship and this time it was a family getaway onboard Royal Caribbean Mariner of The Sea. With my last cruising experience some 20+ years ago, I was excited and nervous as we counted down to our cruise holiday. To truly enjoy and experience cruising with Royal Caribbean, and a reminder to myself, here are 10 things you got to do before and during the cruise!

10 Things You Got To Do When Cruising with Royal Caribbean

#1 – Book Your Cruise at Roadshows

Having compared prices throughout the year, we finally booked the cruise when we saw a very good deal at the roadshow at Vivo City in November (or was it October, I can’t remember). There was the kids cruise free deal, 50% off for senior citizen (for my dad) and free stateroom upgrade promotion. With deals like that we just couldn’t resist. Total damaged was around $3,000-$3,500 for my parents and our family of four. We stayed in a family suite with balcony and a stateroom with balcony for my parents.

#2 – Online Check-in At Least 3 Days Before Cruising

When you check-in online, it saves time on the day of your embarkation. You won’t have to fill out any forms at the pier. When you arrive, you will just need your signed SetSail pass (PDF file issued upon completing online check-in), identification documents, and credit card that you register online for your onboard expenses.

#3 – Plan Your Cruise with Cruise Planner

To free up your time and avoid queues when onboard the cruise, plan your days onboard with Cruise Planner 48 hours before cruise date. At Cruise Planner, you can select your dining time if you want to dine in the main dining hall for dinner. Or if you want better quality food I’ll recommend to pay additional for Specialty Dining. Before you cruise, there’s option to buy the package that includes dinner for all your cruise days, and its really value for money after I tried it on the last night of our cruise.

#4 – Get Specialty Dining Package or Try it on the Last Day

At USD90+ per pax, it felt a little exorbitant to pay for the package for 4 adults. But after we tried the complimentary dining I immediately regretted. The crowd at the Windjammer buffet dining was crazily packed and hard to get a table. And the quality of food is sad to say not up to expectation. Most were either too salty or tasteless. It just didn’t make dining enjoyable at all. The main dining halls for serviced ala carte order serve slightly better food but the quality is just so-so too.

On the last day of our cruise, we had wanted to dine at the buffet place but it was just too crowded. So when we saw that Chopes Grill set dinner is going at 50% off we all headed in, it was if I remember correctly less than USD20 per adult and kids got to dine for free. Food was way better, the best we had during our cruise experience, and there were plenty of seats.

#5 – Consider the Drink Package and Get Drank

I was tempted to click the “Buy” button when planning our cruise before the trip but paying for drink packages for everyone onboard is going to add a lot of cost to our trip, so I resisted. But I immediately regretted after our first meal onboard before we even set sail out of our local port. Drinks served for free to everyone at Windjammer is tasteless. I couldn’t make myself swallow it after the first sip. And that’s when I stepped outside to purchase drink packages for us. I bought the Premium package for my dad and he totally enjoyed the free-flow of beverages and beer during the trip.

Drink packages are not transferrable and only the package owner can order for the drinks. My tip is, as long as you don’t get caught sharing, then one package can be shared among a few people. Of cos you don’t go overboard and order drink after drink within too short a period. Every order is entitled to just one drink and is recorded. So pace yourself.

#6 – Get the Photo Package if You’re a Memory Keeper

This is the one thing I regretted not buying on the very first night. There was a $50 off voucher which we can use on the first night if we were to purchase the full photo package which will give us all photos taken by any of the photographers onboard throughout our cruise. A friend shared AFTER my trip that he will always buy the package and make all the photographers around the ship his “personal photographer”. He’ll make sure he gets as many shots taken as possible and he’ll end up with lot of memories captured in frame by end of the trip.

Do note that each package only allows photo from one cabin. So do plan to have your family stay together in a suite vs in separate rooms where possible.

#7 – Turn off Auto Roam and Data Plan

Roaming on your mobile data plan is strongly NOT ADVISABLE when cruising. Once you’re on international waters, your telco will be laughing at the amount of roaming charges they’ll be billing you. And even if you don’t mind paying for it, you’ll probably not have stable connection throughout the ship nor location. There is connection package onboard for you to purchase and use. However from my experience, connection is very slow and interim too when you go around the ship.

#8 – Have Breakfast in Your Stateroom

After the second day, you are most likely tired of the food and crazy amount of people at Windjammer in the morning breakfast hours. Go ahead and place your breakfast order with the ordering chic in your stateroom, place it the night before and have your breakfast delivered at your preferred time the next morning. You can choose as many items as you want from the menu, but please order what you can finish and not waste food.

The girls surely enjoyed their breakfast by our balcony. A first experience for all of us.

#9 – Drop Your Kids and Have Some Alone Time

There’s kids club onboard that conduct activities and fun play time for kids. When you need some couple time alone, you can send your little ones to the club. Just remember to fetch time at end of their session.

#10 – Catch ALL the shows and entertainment

Ice-skating, dance performances, magic shows and the movie nights! These shows usually run twice a day and

 

 

Learning Value of Money is More Than Being Able to Touch Dollar Notes and Coins

I’m really bad at managing money, no one really taught me the importance of savings when I was little. I was never told that I should split my daily pocket money so that I have some to spend, to save and to donate. Being the eldest in the family also means I got a lot of TLC from my parents, relatives and gramps. When I needed more money to buy books, and the many erasers, pens, highlighters because I could never had enough of them in my overspilling stationery box, I just had to ask from my gong gong and he will give it to me.

I recall there were many times when I had to call home during recess for extra pocket money so that I can buy more things/ food after school, and then I would run to the other end of my huge school field to “catch” the extra money being thrown out from my grandmother’s house window; yup the school and home were THAT close I could be “thrown” more money!

In those days, I was given every opportunity to touch the notes and coins, but never truly understood the value of money and how important it is! If you ask me, the teaching of life values, differentiating needs and wants and learning about delayed gratification are much more important than learning to count the notes and coins.

I could have been as rich as him IF I had been taught the value of saving and investing from young.

Imagine if someone HAD told me I could have hundreds of thousands of dollars in my savings account IF I had saved from my youngers days, I would have been able to afford a decent car or even upgraded our family to a more desirable house! Oh well… at least I’m starting to plan ahead for my girls and is slowly exposing them to the importance and value of money. The POSB Smart Buddy programme is one of the many ways I am going to use to show and pave them to become a wiser spender and better saver.

Never too early to start!

Personally, I’ve tried several different ways to teach my little girls the value of money. But none were quite followed through for more than a month, because this Mum is too lazy lah! Here’s the list of ways I tried over the last couple of years:

Rewarded $1 for each day they attend school – because two years ago, they REALLY hated going to school. So I give them each $1 after dinner when they behave well in the morning and go to school willingly. This stopped when I ran out of $1 coins!

Complete a well-behave card to redeem reward of their choice – each “chop” was for a 50-cents reward. They get a chore when they completed a chore or task well. When they complete the card which comes up to about $10 of value, they get to use the $10 to get something they want. Again this kinda died a silent death because it was too troublesome to dig out the card and give them a stamp… the cards couldn’t be found after the first few days.

Zara with her collection during CNY earlier this year

Putting % of their Ang Bao Collection for their use – this year, I decided to put aside some cold hard cash in a purse each for the girls to use them whenever they want to buy something for themselves. So for the first shopping trip we had together, we remembered to bring along their purses so they each got to pay for their own toys at the cashier. I learned that they actually take  A LOT MORE TIME to decide which toy to get when they are using their own money. I thought this was an excellent way to teach them… alas, after that first trip, subsequent trips out to the mall, we forgot their purses and all purchases were made by Mum! And because no one was keeping taps of these purchases, the money set aside were eventually just put back into their savings account and spending money all came from Mummy’s wallet.

If only there was a more efficient way to do all the above! And I think the new POSB Smart Buddy watch could be my solution. But… it’s not available to just anyone who walked in to the bank to apply! Only students from the primary schools onboard the programme get to receive the watch. But thanks to the good folks at POSB who invited us to check out the watch, I gladly accepted!

After the brief session with POSB team to learn more about the feature of the watch and the accompanying app, I was very excited to try it out with my girls.

We did an unboxing video live on Facebook the next day and they were rather excited at first to reveal what was inside the packages. Little sister Zara was really happy to see the watch and was quick to figure out how the different parts work, while Ayra was a little disappointed the watch comes only in one color. She wasn’t as enthusiastic as her little sister after she saw the watch. LOL!

When I told them they could use the watch to pay for things at the bookshop, it got their interests again. And so on Sunday, I let them wear the watch out and they started pressing the button. After 101 questions, they figured out what the footprint icon and number next to it represented, they learned to see the time and discovered their names are on the screen too. Things got really fun when they started competing the number of steps recorded on their watch – which kinda puzzled me because after Ayra’s ballet class (while Zara was sitting and chilling to wait for her) Zara had as many steps as Ayra?! We jokingly assumed that the watch also counted Zara’s hand movement while feeding herself with the snacks she got from the vending machine and the many swinging around while she sat to watch others play at the bowling alley. After investigating and trying out, we concluded the steps count isn’t as accurate as any kind of movement is counted as steps too! Oh well… it is still fun for the girls to want to walk more so they can win one another.

Zara with her POSB Smart Buddy Watch, deciding if this book is going to be in her purchase.

Ok I diverted… you see this POSB Smart Buddy watch is really more than just a payment wearable, there’s quite a lot of features too! I think what I really like most of the many functions is the ability to control and track my girls’ spending with the app. I can go on and on about how this works and why I love it, but that will require another 3-4 pages of experience sharing!

Here’s a quick start guide video from POSB if you’re keen to find out how it works.

In short, I’m really excited about the possibilities of this programme and really hope to see it improve and enhanced over the years. Ayra is going to P1 next year, and I hope her school will implement the programme so that we can make full use of the watch we received. For now, we will enjoy the functions of these watches over weekends and hope I can get some good teaching of money values and management with my girls.

Ayra making her first payment with the POSB Smart Buddy watch at the bookstore. She was super pleased with her new smart wearable.

Sydney 2017: Solo Travel with 6 year old – Day 1 Journal

Someone, I can’t recall who, planted an idea in my head – “Travel solo with your girl one day, it’ll be fun!” And it got stuck in my mind so I told myself this will have to happen when my girl is in their K2 year, before they start their six years in primary school.

Ayra is starting primary school next year, so I flew us both (just Ayra and me) to Sydney in June because she wanted to experience winter (though she really wished to see real snow, oh well…) and it was Vivid Sydney festival too, which was really an excellent period to visit! Another reason why I picked Sydney is also because I was just there last December and still have very good navigation memory of the city, and I know where and what we can go or do together.

I tried to be as prepared as I could for this trip and ensure that Ayra is comfortable, safe and happy. Flying for the first time on a long haul redeye flight, we brought along the JetKid BedBox, packed in as much as I could with activities and things for the girl. The BedBox was super handy while we zoom across the airport with Ayra seated on it. The ride was smooth and it pulling it around was a breeze.

DAY 1

After our redeye flight, we took a taxi to our hotel – Fraser Suites Sydney. Both of us were super jet lag and were hoping to get some rest in our room before we take off for our first day of adventure around Sydney. However the room wasn’t ready for us when we arrived (5 hours before the hotel check-in time) so we took a quick shower at the hotel gym, checked in our luggage and off we went on foot to explore places near our hotel. The weather was chill and windy! We loved it!

Our hotel is just minutes walk to Darling Harbour, we spotted a huge playground which Ayra enjoyed throughout our stay! She kept asking me to bring her there EVERYDAY! Playing outdoor is so much more fun due to the nice cool weather in winter.

Ayra loves the soft smooth sand at Darling Harbour Children’s Playground at Tumbalong Park

After our McDonald’s lunch near the playground, we continued our walk towards the harbour. Taking in the sights, sound and super cool breeze by the harbour. It did make me rather sleepy though since I couldn’t get much sleep in the plane.

Australian National Maritime Museum

At the other end of the harbour, we spotted some cool ships and Ayra wanted to check them out. An unplanned trip to the Maritime Museums it was and I’m glad we did that. We got to check out the ship and Ayra enjoyed going up and down the navy ship and the Australian-built replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour. Find out more about the museum here.

HMAS Vampire, Australia's largest museum vessel
Ayra onboard the HMAS Vampire, Australia’s largest museum vessel
Australian-built replica of James Cook's HMB Endeavour
She’s not as keen to stay onboard the Australian-built replica of James Cook’s HMB Endeavour because she could feel it swaying with the waves.

Buskers around Sydney

One of things we both enjoyed is the many different buskers spotted around Sydney during our trip. Not sure if they appear only during Vivid season or busk weekly over the weekend. Here’s the first we saw while walking back to our hotel after the museum. We both enjoyed the show – the busker was very comical and interacts very well with his audience. Awesome juggling too!

Cheese Tarts and Angel Hat for Dinner

As we stepped out from our hotel after some rest, hoping to find a nice place for dinner, drizzles greeted us and we couldn’t get anywhere without getting wet. It was Sunday night so every dining place near our hotel were packed! Just as we gave up our search for food, the smell of cheese greeted us as we discovered Uncle Tetsu’s Triple Bake Shop. We joined the queue, bought some tarts and Angel Hat.

Here’s our dinner from day 1…

Angel Hat from Uncle Tetsu (we much prefer their cheese tarts!) and Gong Cha (just as they bid goodbye to SG at that time).
Enjoying her tart and the not-so-likable milo from Australia (she prefers the local version with lots more sugar and flavour!)
Pasta from the hotel room service

This wraps up our day 1 in Sydney. By end of the day, both of us collapsed in bed and had a very good night rest. Though I wished the pillow was firmer though. Day 2 coming up in the next post…

All photos taken with my Canon Powershot G7X Mark II which I bought just before the trip. Till today, I’m so loving it!

Read more about our Sydney 2017 trip at these links:

It’s Fun (And Tempting) But My Heart Is Too Weak To Trade

It was fun and I could feel my heart pumping when I tried my hands in trading BTC and ETH, jumped into it without any study nor basic understanding, I followed my instinct!

That was couple weeks before I was invited to attend a trial class at Online Trading Academy Singapore to get some basic know-how into trading and investing. After the class, I learned some tips and got to understand (a little) about candlestick and some common mistakes by newbie traders, there after I tried to apply them into my BTC and ETH, won a little and stopped because no time and heart weak lah.

What is Online Trading Academy Singapore?

Since 2011, Online Trading Academy focuses on financial trading education and has now grown into a community of over 200,000 investors and professional traders from around the world. The school covers a wide spectrum of trading methodologies and asset classes such as Swing Trading, Short Term Trading, Options, Futures and Currencies.

Aaron Yeo, presenter and education director at Online Trading Academy Singapore brought us through the basic and tips on the use of supply and demand. This is rather straight forward I thought, but oh my! My understanding of supply and demand is totally different from that of trading! Referring back to my three pages long messy scribbles in my notebook, in trading, when price of a stock goes up, it doesn’t mean there’s no demand or there’s an over supply! When price goes up, it’s because no one is willing to sell.

The Loving Mum trying out a class at Online Trading Academy Singapore
See how serious I was in class! (Actually I’m just really very confused with all those red and green lines!)

Using technical analysis through the use of candlesticks chart pattern, I can (almost) 99% identify the “Area of Bank” where these forms the signals where banks and institutions will start to put their cash into the market. Tips of the day: Bank will convince you to do the opposite of what they want to achieve. So we got to always put our emotions (wahhh… pain leh keep losing or WAHHH! Going up leh quick sell!) away into the store when we trade.

As a cancerian, putting emotions aside is almost impossible lah! This is why my heart is just too weak for trading of any kind. My attempt at bitcoins and ETH was short lived, but I did earn about S$30 from this lah so not bad right? LOL!

Learn with Online Trading Academy at just S$59 (U.P. $199)

Special promo code (TheLovingMum) for you because it’s good fundamental for most of us to know a little about trading (not necessary because you want to trade but its a good general knowledge imo lah), so if you want to try out the one-day introductory session with Online Trading Academy Singapore you will pay only $59 (U.P $199 excluding GST) with my promo code. This is valid until Dec 2017.

You can sign up here If you do attend and make some money from your trading, remember me ok? Thank you very much!

Location of the workshop attended:
Online Trading Academy Singapore
Aperia Mall, #03-09 12 Kallang Avenue Singapore 339511

The Loving Mum is Not on Hiatus, Just Busy

Friends and fellow blogging mums have been checking in lately to ask if I was still alive or something has happened. Thanks much for your love and letting me know that there are still real people who cares about my well being. Very grateful.

Well, it’s been quiet a crazy time for me and my new baby. Yes, The Loving Mum has got Baby No. 3 and her name is AM Collective. Ha! At times I think I spending more time on this new baby than my own two real babies at home, but hey, newborns usually get more attention right? So ya, I’ve been busy with this baby and I’m happy it is growing up well and very well nurtured by the awesome team I am blessed to have onboard. And I’m super excited about our new home for AM Collective!

Besides work, I’ve been spending the very last bit of my left over energy and time on my family and a little on myself. Personally, I’ve put on a lot of weight, so much that my grandma who’ve not seen me for few months asked what happened to me when I visited after a work shoot near her.  I was just relieved that she didn’t assumed I was preggy again! LOL! For the record, my factory is closed for good ok. I missed my slimmer days when I was undergoing my #TLMgetfit journey… maybe it’s time to set aside time to do it again!

With the crazy weight gain, my body has also been acting up with lots of aches and pain all over my body. I feel like a 70+ old lady each time I had to stand up from my work desk and in the morning when I have to get out of bed. I tried an hour of session with Dr Stretch a month back and it did help relieve some pain, but after that I’ve not managed to book another session due to the erratic schedule of mine. I’ve paid for a package with them so I must die die force myself to visit them again soon so that I don’t waste money again lah.

Family wise, I think we are doing well. And I think I’m probably the only parent whom isn’t overly panicking about primary one registration. So we did our registration online and if we don’t get into this school, we’ll just register at the next closest one for us. No pressure. Haven’t been doing much of a coaching nor teaching with the girls also, play is important right? They are still a kid! Studies and all these stress will be on them for a big part of their future days so why start so early right? See I’m trying to comfort myself already. Ha!

Ok… seriously I have no idea where this post is going… I’m just blabbing away here trying to get some time away from the crazy among of work waiting for me…

Ending this quick update with some photos from the recent days and activities in my life…

My forever baby… refused to go to bed because I was still busy typing away past her bedtime. And this happened.
We don’t get to go out on weekday nights so this rare visit to Mustafa was quite fun. Bought these for their racial harmony day celebration in school and the littlest one will be performing on National Day at a community event! This is one of her moves for her dance performance. Can’t wait to watch her dance on stage!
Sometimes I can’t tell who’s the elder one… can you? 😛
My birthday weekend was spent in JB and it seemed more like a celebration for the girls than for me. It was fun to just getaway from work and spend time filling my family love tank.
And lastly here’s me in my super round face and spot all those white hair! OMG!

Ok, break time’s up! Back to work now…

My (Gaston Luga) Backpack is Better Than Yours Here’s Why

It took me forever to find a suitable all-purpose and fits any occasions kinda backpack that I want to own. When I saw Gaston Luga Lifestyle Backpack for the first time on Instagram and on their website, I fell in love with the everlasting design and style. When my order arrived via express airmail, I was 101% sure that this backpack is going to last me for a long time.

Think Scandinavian minimalism and elegance design to suit all different occasions. Crafted with leather parts, thick quality cotton, metal details and a mix of carefully selected colours put together to became the foundation of the Gaston Luga backpacks and accessories.

GASTON LUGA CLÄSSIC – OLIVE & BROWN

That was my selected design from the range of backpacks and colours from Gaston Luga. It has travelled with me around Singapore both for work, play and family outings. The bag has also flown to Sydney and back recently and I have double confirmed my good taste and selection, the Gaston Luga Classic has served its purpose very well.

Standing tall along Sydney Harbour Bridge, unbothered by the many attention from the birds.

Compact Yet Huge in Volume

When I saw the bag on their website, I couldn’t visualise how much I’ll be able to fit into it and was a little worried. So I searched on Instagram to see how other people have been using it and use these images to confirm my selection. This backpack fits more than I’d expected and with the amount of stuff and weight I loaded into it so far, it has retained its shape, workmanship and quality. I am impressed. I’m also considering buying another colour to match my different mood.

My Gaston Luga Classic with my love at Circular Quay waiting for our ferry to Luna Park. Love the versatility of the backpack!

Not Much Difference in Price for Herschel Little America Backpack (in case you’re comparing)

The first brand that came to mind when I think of a similar style backpack is the Herschel. I bought one couple of years back and sold it off after a few times of using it. Because I find that the material is too stiff and the cushioned shoulder pads on the bag were little clumsy for my liking. The padding inside the bag also restricted the volume of stuff one can stuff into it.

The Gaston Luga CLÄSSIC backpack retails at S$319, but you can get yours at just S$216.92 just because you are awesome! The price is after a 20% off as tax rebate (from non-EU country) + 15% off with my special code “claudial15” on the remaining price after tax rebate. And you get free shipping all year round when you buy from GastonLuga.com.

guston luga backpack discount code

My next question is… which colour should I get now? Black & Black or perhaps the Navy & Brown?

Sydney 2017: We Tried Uncle Tetsu Cheese Tarts

It was right below our hotel when we were in Sydney and we had totally no idea that it is the only one in Australia and probably one of the must-eats while you spot one kinda food. Uncle Tetsu is from Japan and this store is located at Regent Place, George Street. We chanced upon it while hunting for dinner on our first night in Sydney, and due to the rain, we could only roam near our stay. With Regent Place right next to our hotel (like literally just step out, turn right and we’re in!), we settled few of our meals here.

So we had Uncle Tetsu cheese tarts for our dinner and Ayra gave it double thumbs up right after she tried the sample when we were in the queue. But when we returned back to the hotel with our box of freshly baked tarts with oozing cheese, she did not like it. Ayra ate the fragrance tart crust while I lick off the melted cheese from her tart. Mummy loves cheese tarts no matter how it’s served, while Ayra prefers hers chilled (with solidified cheese). So she had cheese tarts for breakfast over the next couple of days since we bought a box of 6.

Famous for spreading the uniquely soft & fluffy Japanese Cheesecake throughout Asia and now western countries, Uncle Tetsu opened the largest Cheesecake Factory in the world and also Uncle Tetsu’s Triple-baked Cheese Tart Factory in Sydney.  There is also the Uncle Tetsu’s Japanese Angel Garden where you can dine-in or take away the Angel Hat Japanese Cheesecake, as well as other special flavours of Japanese Cheesecake, Crepes & Galettes, and speciality barista creations.

We didn’t have time to try out the cafe this time round, but the menu sure looked interesting. There were just too many food options at Regent Place!

The next time you are in Sydney, don’t forget to get yourself some freshly baked yummy and oozing cheese tarts from Uncle Tetsu Australia!