Top 5 best things about my RTW

best things about my round the world trip

2 weeks ago, I shared the Top 5 worst things about my round-the-world trip.

Of course everyone loves a happy ending so today we’ll be looking on the bright side of things.

Top 5 best things about my RTW

5. Learning Spanish in South America

Taking notes for Spanish class
Taking notes for Spanish class

There is something about learning a new language: A new way to express yourself. A different way of seeing the world. Being able to eavesdrop on other people.

Check out the rest of the post…!

Glutton on a cruise

After the teaser post last week, I’m ready to show you some of the things I ate on my 15-night cruise.

It’s very dangerous to put a Glutton on a cruise, especially a 15-night cruise. I think all the imagined fat that I’ve burnt off getting lost cycling in Sri Lanka were replaced by the food I had been eating everyday on the cruise.

First off, I want to share that I’m quite disappointed that food on board is not free-flowing for 24 hours.You still have room service throughout the night (free food but please tip the delivery person) but that doesn’t really count, does it? Of course, no midnight buffet is actually a good thing as it avoids food wastage and overeating.

By the way, food on board is not fantastic. It’s a bit like plane food (but you know that I love plane food)

On board the Legend of the Seas, there are three main eating places I go to: Windjammer Cafe, Romeo and Juliet Restaurant and Park Cafe.

Windjammer Cafe has buffets for three meals while Romeo and Juliet has sit-down meals for the same three meals. Park Cafe serves snacks and opens when Windjammer is closed but only until around 1:00am.

Windjammer Cafe food

I prefer Windjammer over the dining room of Romeo and Juliet because you get to pick and choose only what you want to try.

At breakfast, you can order omelettes with fillings of your choice. My favorite types are ham, bacon, mushroom and cheese.

For lunch and dinner, I usually eat like a carnivore with loads of meat on my plate.

Generally speaking, the ship doesn’t do Asian food well. All the Chinese-inspired soups were filled with MSG.

Romeo and Juliet restaurant

For the dining room, there’s fixed seating at dinner and free seating at lunch and breakfast. For free seating, you’re usually guided to a shared table and everyone makes small talk.

I met a lot of new people at the free seating which is really good since I don’t go out and mingle about too much.

The dining room offered a menu with food that appeared more than once each week. The main dishes were alright but the desserts were usually rather good for cruise food.

During dinner, everyone has fixed waiters for the table. My two waiters were Jenny and Valent who keep the conversation going when I sit alone. There were two Indian couples who now live in the US at my dinner table too.

On the last night, the staff stage a singing show to bid us farewell. It made me a little sad to leave the ship.

Self-squeezed orange juice

Self-squeezed orange juice

I found out about self-squeezed orange juice from a blogger who was on a transalantic cruise. She made her own orange juice because freshly squeezed orange juice was too expensive on the ship.

On Legend of the Seas, freshly squeezed orange juice is US$4. There is also juice made from concentrate–which I love–but it’s different from drinking orange juice just freshly squeezed.

I make mine by cutting the orange with cutlery snagged from the buffet table. The inside can be crushed easily using a spoon. It’s a rather messy business by the end is worth all the effort.

Have you been on a cruise? How was the food?

15th cruise day: Bye bye cruise life [YQrtw Day 26 May 3]

Today is the last day at sea. I will miss this floating life very much.

In the morning, I joined another session of card-making. Today’s card was different from the last, although I still do not know if I should post them out or leave them to yellow.

Card making session on Legend of the Seas

Around noon, the ship passed Sicily. It’s rather a surprise that Sicily is the first Italian town I would see when I thought that it was going to be Civitavecchia [pronounced: Chi-vita-veh-kia (I didn’t know that and said it as it is spelled.]

View of Sicily from the sea

The island had a long long coast and it seemed like we sailed forever before we stopped seeing its dotted shores.

In the evening, the restaurant staff performed a lip-synced song of farewell. I felt teary, more sad about the thought of needing to pay for food for the next few months.

[Anna Karenina is on three different channels as I write. Yikes!]

14th cruise day: A show in the air on sea [YQrtw Day 25 May 2]

Legend of the Seas aerialist

Another sea day. Today was filled with food and lots and lots of reading.

Reading might seem like a lonely affair but, really, I get to see the lives of people who are A LOT more interesting than me.

In the evening, there was an exciting performance.

Legend of the Seas aerialist
Legend of the Seas aerialist

The Legend of the Seas was renovated recently. The company added a section for acrobatic performers to fly around in the middle of the ship.

The performers are called the “Legend of the Seas Aerialists” and they had a show today. It was 20 minutes of people tumbling around with elastic cords, accompanied by singing by the Legend of the Seas singers.

13th cruise day: Historical and commercial Egypt [YQrtw Day 24 May 1]

Egyptian Museum

Location: Cairo, Egypt
Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 12]

Since we reached the hotel late last night, I only got the chance to take a good look a Mena House Hotel in the morning while I was rushing for breakfast.

The hotel was previously a palace for King Faruq. The wing we stayed in was newly built. The original wing, which was also where the check in counter and restaurants were, is really gorgeous.

Hotel Mena House

Outside of the entrance hung a huge oriental-looking chandelier. Inside the building, some of the walls were covered with cool marbles and reception area had many parts gilded in gold.

Breakfast itself was alright with the normal western food. I did drink three short glasses of hibiscus juice. When made right (meaning lots of sugar), hibiscus juice tastes like cranberry juice and even looks like it with its bright red color.

It’s a really rare chance for me to stay in a 5-star hotel while travelling on my own. I think it’s a combination of a drop in the number of tourists and being in a tour group that allowed me to live luxuriously for a night.

We left at 7:00am and headed straight to the Citadel of Salah Al-Din. From afar, the mosque reminded me of the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I didn’t dare voice that out loud in case it looked completely different and I look like a fool.

It turned out that the mosque was indeed a copy of the Blue Mosque and was made by the same architect. [citation needed] We had to chance to take gorgeous photos of the mosque.

Persistently wrong souvenir seller

Citadel of Salah Al-Din

When I exited the mosque, I was approached by a souvenir seller. I waved my hand next to my face while saying, “No.”

Then the seller said, rather fiercely, “I know you are Japanese by the way you wave.”

I was kind of stunned. Is that how you determine nationality? By the waving of hands? I replied in Japanese and English that he was wrong.

He was persistent about his answer but guessed again, “China?”

I said, “No. Two dollars for answer.” I stretched out my hand for the money.

I suppose he was taken aback but he replied, “I don’t want your answer.”

“I don’t want your souvenirs neither,” I retorted and continued taking my photo.

A while later, he came back and said, “You ARE Japanese.” With a dramatic turn, he walked off which kind of reminds me of the crazy drunk in Paris.

The Old Papyrus Museum

Among our stops today was the Old Papyrus Museum which I loved.

Inside, we were shown how papyrus paper is made.

  1. Peel off green skin of papyrus for the flesh inside.
  2. Take strips of papyrus flesh and soak in water. After 7 days, you will get white strips. For darker strips, soak for 10 days. (Remember to change water everyday to remove the suagr).
  3. Line up de-sugared strips horizontally and vertically. Put the strips between two piece of cloth to soak up the water.
  4. Put the papyrus/cotton burger in a press to get rid of water.
  5. Change cotton burger everyday for 10 (?) days.
  6. The sugar and natural chemicals in papyrus will stick the strips together.
  7. Voila! You have papyrus paper.

The papyrus paper I touched was a lot thicker than regular paper. I heard that you can even wash the paper.

Papyrus shop

The shop also has “royal paper” which allows you to crumble up the paper but it will bounce back to normal. There are also caps and vests made from papyrus.

In the end, I bought a few souvenir papyrus drawings to use up my Egyptian pounds.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

The highlight of today was the Egyptian Museum. We could not bring our cameras inside so I am not able to share with you the goodies.

The museum is only 2-storey high but it was packed with antiques. Rows and rows of mummy coffins; tiny pendants all in 15 rows (!), dried up mummies, wall carvings and so on.

The highlight of the museum is King Tutankhamun’s gold mask. It is so SHINEY! (Yes, I’m speechless and adjective-less.)

Many of the galleries featured wall carvings chiselled off ancient walls. Hieroglyphic is really cute.

On our way back, we were caught in a traffic jam. For a while, it seemed that we might miss our curfew to get back on the ship. Thank Amun-re that we made it on time in the end.

11th cruise day: Through Suez Canal [YQrtw Day 22 Apr 29]

Suez Canal entrance

Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 11]
Location: Suez Canal, Egypt

I set my alarm for 2:05am to prepare for the cruise ship’s entry into Suez Canal. When the alarm rang, I shut it off and dozed a little.

A little of snooze turned into 3:34am. Thinking that I might have missed the entry, I put on something warm to go out and see which part of the canal we were at.

Turns out, it was still really dark and we were still in the Gulf of Suez. It wasn’t until 6:00am that the ship started driving toward the canal entrance. By that time, I was bored out of my brains.

Suez Canal entrance
Suez Canal entrance

After the entrance, I went back to my room at 7:00am to rest a little. Same as in the morning, “a little” turned into 11:00am. Gulp!

I had lunch at the Windjammer Cafe which had a view of the canal.

Then I headed upstairs to the open deck to take photos of the canal. The canal was a pretty blue green when we sailed on it. Beside the blue, we had plenty of sand.

Suez Canal
Suez Canal

Landmarks which we passed include the Egypt-Japan Friendship Bridge. The pillars are obelisk-shaped which I thought was a nice touch.

The journey through the canal was quite long. It took 9 hours for us to finally cross from south to north.

While the ship sailed through the canal, I managed to go online on my laptop by using the Egyptian mobile data. I felt rather smug when the other passengers asked me if I was using the ship’s Wi-Fi.

10th cruise day: First time in Egypt [YQrtw Day 21 Apr 28]

Naama Bay

Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 10]
Location: Sharma El Sheik; Na’ama Bay, Egypt

After a day of R&R on the ship, I was ready to conquer Egypt, or at least the tourist town of Na’ama Bay.

Naama Bay
Naama Bay

I booked a shuttle transfer from the ship to Naama Bay since I desperately needed to buy a 3G SIM and a razor.

Na’ama Bay is a tourist town, meaning the streets were lined with shops that have English signs. It also meant that stall owners prey on the tourists.

While walking around in the hot sun, I was called out by stall owners. I usually use my umbrella to shield myself physically and visually from them.

One man shouted at me after I shook my head when he invited me to see his wares. I made a loud noise as well. I’m not sure if that managed to scare him off or not.

Another tout shouted at me when he saw me approaching the square. I stopped in my tracks and turned around. He stopped as well. I had to return to the square because it led me to Carrefour, the tout walked to me, saying something loudly. I shielded my eyes with my umbrella and went on to Carrefour.

At Carrefour, I was very happy. I got the thing I need and other groceries. I found mini face loofahs and a natural hair remover. I also bought a box of hibiscus tea.

Groceries from Egyptian supermarket
Groceries from Egyptian supermarket

[I am not kidding about the women’s razor. It’s unique selling point is that it’s small enough for women’s hands. Whaaat.]

3G data shopping

After the satisfying grocery trip, I stumbled upon a Vodafone shop and bought my data SIM. I tell you, buying that SIM is the best thing that has happened to me that day.

The shop assistant, Mohammad, said there was a cheap 3G package. For 60 Egyptian pound, I could get 4GB of Internet. I almost foamed at my mouth when I heard that. That is about S$10 for 4GB! (I later found out that it’s actually 4.5GB. Hurray!)

I happily Whatsapp and called my mom with my SIM. While I was happy with my data plan, one of the text messages from the mobile operator mentioned 500MB. I got paranoid and thought the sales person might have accidentally signed me up for a wrong package. I had to go back and ask again. (In the end, I found out online that the package was correct.)

With my groceries and 3G SIM card, I hopped on the shuttle bus back to the ship. The rest of the day was tame, compared to my 3G SIM card. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get signal out in the sea.

At dinner, I was reminded that we will reach the Suez Canal at 2:00am. I retired early, setting my alarm to 2:05am, so I can catch our entry into the canal.

9th cruise day: Birthday onboard [YQrtw Day 20 Apr 27]

Birthday on a ship

Location: Legend of the Seas [Day 9]
Location: Safaga, Egypt [Didn’t visit]

Today was my birthday. Happy birthday to myself! (I’m 27–if you are curious–which is my lucky number.)

Birthday on the ship
Birthday on the ship

After a tiring day at Jordan, I decided that I would stay on board for the day and skip the Valley of the Kings. (Yes, I can hear you gasp.)

OK OK… I decided to skip the day on shore because I want to save money. Besides, being on board is less boring than you think.

The day passed with a lot of reading and sitting in social sessions. I like the reading part but forced myself to do more social things.

In the evening, there was a theater screening of Les Miserables which made the day even better than it was.

Les Mis blurred looks very much like a zombie flick.
Les Mis blurred looks very much like a zombie flick.

At night, I gave rock climbing another try. The first time I tried rock climbing, I gave up halfway. This time, I was sent to the beginner’s lane.

About 2 squares before the bell, I wanted to give up but a lady I met cheered me on. I didn’t want to embarrass myself any more so I pulled up the few rungs and rang the bell with much gusto.

Before we leave, here is a badly stitched up photo of Safaga port.

Safaga, Egypt
Safaga, Egypt

8th cruise day: Jordan’s Rose City and Wadi Rum desert [YQrtw Day 19 Apr 26]

Location: Legend of the Sea [Day 8]
Location: Aqaba; Petra; Wadi Rum, Jordan

After 7 days at sea, we finally had a port call. Today, it was Aqaba, Jordan. Persuaded by two other ladies, I signed up with a private tour to Petra the Rose City and Wadi Rum the desert.

Surprisingly, the tour bus was waiting for us at the port even before we were allowed to go out.

Our tour guide was a woman–one of the 66 lady tour guides among the 1,000 or so tour guides in Jordan. She kept us entertained on the bus and was a stark difference compared with the Hoi An tour guide who was just talking nonsense most of the time.

Our first stop was Petra the rose city. The journey from the port to Petra was about an hour.

Since Petra was at a higher altitude, the weather was cool. By cool I mean air conditioning cool. Of course, the sun was so piercingly strong and the walk to the sights so challenging that everyone was hot by half way of the tour.

Petra's famous Treasury.
Petra’s famous Treasury.

There was a lot of walking on stoney paths in Petra. The most famous sight is the Treasury which was also where they filmed one of the Indiana Jones movie, or so I heard.

The Treasure and other sites were nice but I kind of like the houses facing the valley more than the historical sights. The houses were the color of sand and like boxes with square holes of windows.

After lunch, we took a long bus ride to the desert. The Jordanian desert is not full of sand like the picture books I read when I was a kid. Instead, there were rock mountains jutting out here and there.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Wadi Rum
Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Wadi Rum

Lawrence of Arabia was stationed at Wadi Rum for a period of time. Sadly, I didn’t do any reading on him so the excitement of being where he was didn’t mattered to me.

We had a 2 hour ride on the back of a pickup to admire the scenery, be baked by the sun and to see some of the souvenir places along the way.

At one of the stops, I tried running up one of the sand dunes but the sand grabbed onto my ankles with each step I take. I was breathless around one-third of the dune’s height.

After the desert jeep ride, we raced back to the port and was back an hour before we were required.

That night, I rested very well.