Our forefathers probably came to Singapore from China as human cargo in the hold of a ship. You could see the pathetic condition of a cargo hold from the following video-grab of a 1984 local TV series, Wu4 Shuo3 Nan2 Yang2 (雾锁南洋):
Unlike our forefathers, my family has never taken a trip on board a ship. So for the experience, I paid $1630 for four of us to go on a cruise-to-nowhere from 10-12 Aug 2007 on board the luxurious SuperStar Virgo. At 76,800 gross tonnage and 268m length, the Virgo is the largest ship in the Star Cruises' fleet. It has 13 decks and 980 cabins which can carry 2,000 passengers. From what I was told, it takes more than 1,200 staff of a dozen nationalities to keep the ship's operations running smoothly.
We boarded the ship at 5.30 pm on 10 Aug 2007. Embarkation at the Singapore Cruise Centre at the Harbourfront was a breeze as my wife had the foresight of pre-registering a day earlier.
Our cabin number was 5520 on Deck 5.
I was sort of relieved that it was above the waterline.
It was an "oceanview stateroom with window" on the portside of the ship.
(It is obvious that both my sons are avid fans of Walt Disney cartoons.)
Being someone who is quite observant, I noticed that on the entire ship, there were no cabin numbers with a figure "4" as any of its digits.
Notice the missing cabin numbers (marked by red arrows) 5502, 5514, 5524, 5004, 5014 and 5024 in the deck plan above. Also, cabin numbers on the portside run from 5500 to 5610 (with no numbers beginning with 554) while those on the starboard side run from 5000 to 5100 (with no numbers beginning with 504). It looks like a deliberate attempt to avoid the number 4 at all costs. I can only think of superstition as the reason for such a weird numbering system. (The figure 4 when pronounced in Cantonese sounds like 死 or "die".) Yet surprisingly, there is a Deck 4 which houses the tendering area and the medical centre. Hmm... how then would you rate your chances of recovery should you ever have the misfortune of being cared for in the medical centre?
I also heard of this superstition - when you are sailing and eating a whole fish at a meal, never flip the fish over to get at the meat on the other side. Instead, always try to get to the meat from between the bones because if you flip the fish over, the ship may capsize!
(To be continued)