Saturday, June 25, 2011

A week on a silver sea


Hello from Istanbul. I've just flown in from Barcelona and am killing time at the airport before my long flight back to Asia after my Mediterranean cruise, so I thought I'd write a little bit about my wonderful week on board Silversea's Silver Spirit, the luxury cruise liner's newest ship, as it sailed from Lisbon to Barcelona.

Last week I boarded the Silver Spirit in Lisbon and at 6 PM, we sailed out of the harbour towards Spain, with the sun slowly going down over this picturesque and yet crumbling city of old glories and past memories. We were all on the top decks of the ship, drinking champagne and having caviar with blinis as we sailed away with chill music in the background, excited to be on a new adventure that would take us to amazing places. The beautiful scene certainly inspired many of us to think about our lives and our good fortune -- we were all lucky to be exactly where we were, on perhaps the world's must luxurious cruise ship as it sailed out of one of the world's most beautiful cities.

IPOD FOR COMPANY

I had my iPod with me, and interestingly, I was playing some songs that had accompanied me the last time I had sailed on this very ship, which was about three months ago, when I’d boarded the Silver Spirit in Bali and sailed with it through Malaysia until Manila. That was just after the Tokyo earthquake, and I'd survived the earthquake and slept on an airport floor and then flown through four cities in two days to get to Bali in time to board the Silver Spirit. Listening to these songs again on board this very ship brought back lots of different memories.

The songs were “Do It For Love” by Hall & Oates and “It’s Over” by Level 42. I’d never heard these songs before but they’d found their way into my iPod and I’d discovered them on my last Silversea cruise, and listened to them over and over again as I walked the decks for a bit of exercise, as the ship made its way through the middle of nowhere somewhere between Malaysia and the Philippines.

SURREAL BUT NICE

By the way, if you want to know what surreal is, it's walking the decks of the Silver Spirit with your iPod as the ship crosses the ocean with nothing but blue sea and blue sky around you, three days after almost falling off the Tokyo Bay Bridge during the Tokyo earthquake. Then you get into your evening gown and and head down for a five-course dinner and champagne, followed by all-night dancing under the stars.

But last week, I was sailing out of one of the most charming cities in the world with champagne and the works, and a wonderful dinner to look forward to. It's truly a Travelife, and I kept thinking how lucky I am to be living the Travelife I want. I never take this luck for granted, and there's not one single morning that I wake up not feeling happy about this good fortune to be constantly visiting amazing places, doing interesting things and spending time with pretty wonderful people.

RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME

That’s what a Silversea cruise does to you. It makes you happy to be alive and thankful for being at the right place at the right time. Moreover, it's truly a wonderful holiday and a great way to see new places and revisit old ones. It helps, of course, that a majority of the Silversea staff are Filipino; and on the rare occasions that they see a kababayan on board the ship, they're happy to pamper and spoil that passenger.

Lots of my friends in Manila have begun taking Silversea cruises, but on the cruises I've been on so far, I've never been fortunate enough to have another Filipino passenger on board (although I heard through the grapevine that a Filipino family is boarding this same ship in Barcelona, on the same day that I'm getting off the ship to make my long way home back to Asia). And, in fact, on some cruises, I've been the only Asian. I once boarded Silversea's Silver Whisper in Istanbul to join its maiden voyage to the Ukraine. I was the only Asian and, boy, was it easy to make friends with everyone.

So I get terribly spoiled by the staff, who save me good tables, keep my glasses filled with champagne and my favorite vegetable juices, and basically bend over backwards to get my requests done. When I'm on Silversea, I always order apple-carrot-cucumber juice at 8 AM everyday and then cucumber juice before dinner. In fact, on this particular cruise, a couple of waiters came up to me and said: "Ma'am, I remember you from your cruise in March. You kept ordering cucumber juice."

The Filipino staff onboard Silversea are all so professional and hardworking, and kind.

OVER 850 DAYS ON A SHIP

And just in case someone starts thinking that we're waxing rhapsodic about Silversea because we're on some media trip, I just want to add that I've been sailing Silversea as a regular customer for years. In fact, on this cruise, I attended a cocktail party given by the ship's captain for regular Silversea clients, who are automatically made part of Silversea's Venetian Society, which is the association of repeat customers.

At the party, the cruise director announced that one of the perks provided to loyal customers who chalk up at least 100 days on board a Silversea ship is unlimited free laundry during the cruise. Now I know I've been on a lot of Silversea cruises but I've never really counted the exact number of days. But on this cruise, I was given the unlimited free laundry service which was certainly a wonderful and convenient perk.

On my last cruise day, I sent all my clothes for professional washing and pressing, and my butler brought them back in a few hours all beautifully folded and wrapped in tissue paper, ready to place in the luggage. Now that's certainly an incentive to cruise at least 100 days, as laundry on a ship can otherwise come up to a pretty hefty bill. The beautifully-folded packages also made packing completely effortless.

IMPORTANT FOR A MINUTE

I had less than a minute to feel pretty important, however, as soon afterwards, the ship's captain began recognizing the real loyal customers in the group. On my cruise alone, there were several people, as well as couples and families, who had sailed as much as 850 days each! Yes, a couple from Switzerland had each sailed over 850 days with Silversea -- which means a total of over two years on board a ship for each. There was also a family from the UK onboard who had each done over 550 days per family member. And these were just the numbers for people actually on board our ship.

We all started doing the math for the people from Switzerland, seated a few rows behind me, who had sailed over 850 days. Even if they'd managed to get super discounted cruises, that would still easily run up to at least US$500,000 per person or well over a million dollars per couple on the cruise alone. Not to mention the cost of getting to the destinations, the tours, the spa services and the pricey Internet service which is a long-distance satellite service that costs $1 for 2 minutes for slow downloads.

LUXURY FOR A GOOD CAUSE

I bought this Silversea cruise I'm on at a charity auction to raise funds for the GK communities in Mindanao last year. So we do put our money where our mouth is as far as travel is concerned. And when we at Travelife say we like something, it's because we've literally bought into it as well and can recommend it with authority.

Back to that cruise on auction. The auction price went a bit higher than what I would've paid on the market, but it went to a very good cause anyway -- and I had a fabulous time. So all in all, it was a great win-win situation. And just another wonderful week in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful, TRAVELIFE.

Good night from Istanbul. When I wake up, I'll be in Hong Kong and on my way to my home away from home in this former Crown Colony for a Peking duck dinner with friends.



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