Seeing Asia on Seabourn: Day 3

(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 at sea today, cruising up the coast of Malaysia through the Straits of Malacca. The water is as smooth as glass; it doesn't feel like we're moving at all.

Most importantly, our jet lag is finally over. We started the morning with coffee and croissants in the seating area of our suite, glass doors open to the world. To be at sea like this is to be unaware of anything happening anywhere else. It's so nice to be lulled into this state of total detachment, especially because our normal world is frenetic and crazy. Everyone tries to attain this state of mind on vacation, and this ship has done it for us.

Tonight is the captain's "welcome aboard" reception and formal dinner, so our tuxedos and formal wear are pressed and ready to go. We must be scrubbed and dressed for 6:45 p.m. cocktails and the captain's introduction of the ship's personnel--a tradition practiced on board every ship we have ever sailed. Some captains are a better master of ceremonies than others. In this case, Captain Erik Lund Anderssen is glib, funny and personable in the spotlight. In spite of his relaxed antics with his staff, I'm sure he's a different person on the bridge. It's a tough job and you have to respect his abilities on all levels.

We're getting a little ahead of ourselves so lets backtrack to the morning lecture by our shore excursion manager, Robin Noble. We've sailed with Robin before, and she is one of the best. Her delivery is especially astute in advising passengers what to expect and how to act and dress in a foreign country. This is important when we are visiting an unusually orthodox culture, with rules and laws stricter than those in the west.

Today was sunny and hot -- not just hot, but scorching, and the humidity was overwhelming. We went onto the upper deck to get some sun, but we only lasted 15 minutes before meltdown. There was no breeze anywhere, so we decided it would be best to head aft to the Verandah for a chilled iced tea and a generous plate of tropical fruits.

Feeling guilty, we headed back to our cabin and changed into shorts and t-shirts for some healthy exercise. The Legend's fitness center is small but adequate for a ship of this size, with half a dozen treadmills, some free weights, a couple of bikes and a couple of training machines. It can accommodate several people exercising, and classes are scheduled daily beginning at 8 a.m. It also has a refrigerator stocked with sliced grapefruit and oranges, and a stack of scented towels (a nice touch). There's also plenty of bottled water, and closed circuit TV to help pass the time.

That done, we headed back to the suite to cool down and change for "high tea" in the forward lounge. Our consciences satiated, we sampled cakes and tea sandwiches as well as miscellaneous pastries, hot and cold. Accompanied by the most sublime legato piano music, this made for a delightful hour of socializing.

Here we go again, lulled into that serene place. The British certainly knew something we didn't when they gave us this tea-time tradition. Some do it better than others, of course, and Seabourn does it very well indeed--a fun way to wind down from your day and prepare for the evening festivities.

Later, fully dressed for dinner, we arrived at the Amundsen Lounge for the party. After meeting the captain, the ship's photographer took the perfunctory photo and we were subsequently cornered by four waiters, each waving a different tray in our face with hors d'oeuvres, champagne and big smiles. We accepted their offerings with a gracious "thank you."

It was the caviar resting on ice that impressed us the most. Like something out of a romantic novel or a James Bond flick, an ice-carving with kilo tins of Malossol sevruga caviar glistened on the serving table, whetting our appetite for dinner.

The band played on for dancing while we queued up for the parade to the dining room. It's always a pleasure to see everyone dressed in tuxedos and gowns. We miss this elegant display on most ships today. After all, this is an evening when most people enjoy seeing and being seen.

The alternative is to eat in your cabin or go to the Verandah for an informal meal. We deferred to the former, and dinner was excellent again: a smoked duck pate to start, followed with Caesar salad and a main course of prawns steamed with bok choy in a garlic and ginger broth--what could be better? I requested rice and Richard had steamed vegetables on the side.

Richard has been sampling the low-fat, low-calorie cuisine while Barry is ordering directly off the menu. Prime rib and the usual potpourri of standard fare is always available. I neglected to mention that there is also a vegetarian and/or a healthy, low-calorie choice as well. Additionally, you can request anything your heart desires, if you give them 24 hours' notice. That includes special dietary requests by personal preference or doctor's orders.

After dinner, we went to a floorshow in the lounge featuring a funny, entertaining and enjoyable comedian/magician named Harry Maurer. What a pleasure not to have to sit through one more cliched musical revue! Production shows are always so predictable. The most important thing is that everyone had a good time and it capped a perfect evening. We must get to bed now, because tomorrow we're off to Kuala Lumpur for a full day of touring and shopping. It's a two-hour drive from the port by shuttle, so it's an early call.

Good night again, fellow CruiseMates--wish you were here!

Click here to read Days 1 and 2 Click here to read Day 4 Click here to read Day 5 and 6

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