Seeing Asia on Seabourn: Days 1 and 2

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

Grand StaircaseClick to Enlarge
(CruiseMates contributing editors Richard and Barry Wright are also performers who have sung their way around the world aboard the finest cruise ships.)

We are flying to Singapore, and this is one long flight. There are so many time zones to cross from the U.S. east coast that we lost count after 10 -- so much for melatonin and homeopathic remedies. The true remedy for our jet lag will be the coming weeks aboard the trip of a lifetime: A voyage on one of the magnificent yachts of Seabourn, sailing the exotic seas of Southeast Asia from Malaysia and Phuket to Yangon and then Vietnam to Hong Kong. Thanks to our years of entertaining at sea and abroad, this is not our first time in the region. But it has been many years since we sailed to these ports, and many years since we sailed on the elegant Seabourn Spirit, a five-star plus ship of only 10,000 tons that carries fewer than 200 passengers.

After arrival, we hopped a cab to our hotel in Singapore. When a cruise involves a flight of this length, it's always a good idea to arrive the day before embarkation, so you can rest up and have time to explore the departure port.

Our taxi ride was not the hair-raising experience I have had in some countries, but the right-hand drive is still unnerving. After check-in we quickly unpacked a few things and showered; then we headed off to the neighborhood food stalls for some authentic Singaporean dishes -- one of Asia's most diverse and wonderful cuisines.

Singapore itself is a sparkling jewel among the destinations of Southeast Asia. We performed many times here at the rooftop supper club of the Shangri-la Hotel and were featured on many holiday TV specials for Singapore Broadcasting, so this is familiar ground for us. This tiny island nation is well ahead of its neighbors in moving into the 21st century.

After a full day, we headed back to our hotel for a good night's sleep -- just what the doctor ordered! The next morning, a short taxi ride brought us to the port where we were processed and then boarded the Seabourn Spirit.

As we boarded, we were served champagne by white-gloved waiters and escorted to our cabin by a stewardess. The ship's staff is very well-trained, and each one greeted us with a big smile. While we waited for the luggage to arrive, we went to the lounge for high tea, which was served with thought and care. Apparently the traditional cakes and sandwich wedges weren't enough -- they now serve peanut butter wedges by "popular demand". A first for us!

Seabourn FleetClick to Enlarge
The Spirit's passengers on this cruise are mostly age 50 and up, but we spotted a few people in their 30s or 40s. To appeal to a younger clientele, some cruise staffers have a high energy level and create an atmosphere that is fun without being pretentious. Their job is all the more difficult because there is a large contingent of German and British passengers in addition to the usual Americans.

Dinner is served in open seating and was spread out through the evening until 9 p.m. The ship also offers alternate casual dining in the aft deck's Verandah--a cafe where you can eat inside in air-conditioned comfort or outside on deck. The Verandah is a nice respite for those evenings when you just don't feel like dressing up for dinner.

This night, we had perfectly prepared Chilean sea bass -- for Richard, a light version grilled dry with lemon and steamed veggies; and for Barry, prepared as the menu suggested with a beurre blanc sauce and roasted new potatoes. The staff quickly remedied a minor problem with the shrimp's texture in the appetizer cocktail, and the dessert was an imaginative creme brulee with a chocolate bottom...excellent! Richard had a plate of exotic fresh fruit and a wedge of gorgonzola cheese.

Thus ended our first day of pampering and haute cuisine, so we went back to our spacious, comfortable suite. It's separated into two sections by drawn draperies tied back between the sitting area (which overlooks the ocean) and the sleeping area. A chilled bottle of Piper Heidseck Brut was waiting for us in the sitting area with a bud vase filled with orchids. The beds can be made up as one queen or two twins with soft, fluffy duvets and silky linens. These things matter: After all, this will be our home for the next 26 days. We hung a breakfast order for a pot of coffee and brioche on the door handle, and opened the sliding doors onto the elegant French balcony.

We are now watching CNN and catching up on some tardy paperwork while writing this letter to you, our CruiseMates friends. The only downside to the decor is the location of the TV in an armoire, impossible to see from bed. A few more deep drawers for clothing wouldn't be bad either. The walk-in closet has excellent hanging facilities, but drawer/shelf space is limited. Tomorrow we need some more hangers for the pants. I knew we over-packed! Isn't it always that way?

To be continued...

Click here to read Day 3 Click here to read Day 4 Click here to read Day 5 and 6

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