Cruising Like Bond in Thailand

Today, a speedboat adventure took us to the Thai island popularly known as "James Bond Island." Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Today, a speedboat adventure took us to the Thai island popularly known as “James Bond Island.” Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This morning, Silversea’s elegant Silver Shadow came alongside in Phuket, Thailand under cloudless skies and climbing temperatures. This is our only port of call in Thailand on this particular voyage, and I was eager to make the most of it.

We have a shorter port call today, with a departure time of 1400 hours, or 2:00pm. This is necessary in order for us to reach Yangon by morning on Saturday. It also happens to be quite welcomed by guests aboard Silver Shadow, many of whom are ready for a relaxing afternoon at sea.

Disembarking Silver Shadow...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Disembarking Silver Shadow…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and heading to the waiting motorcoaches for our tours of Phuket. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and heading to the waiting motorcoaches for our tours of Phuket. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It is true that it’s easy to do too much on a cruise. Call it the “fear of missing out.” I am also guilty of that; I think I’ve pushed myself too hard on the previous days, and today I feel like the heat is getting to me.

Nevertheless, I pre-booked myself the longest tour I could possibly take today in Phuket: Silversea’s 5.5-hour Phang Nga Bay by Speedboat (HKT-F). At $199 per person, it isn’t cheap. But it proved to be one of the most memorable tours I’ve taken so far this cruise.

Power lines in Phuket. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Power lines in Phuket. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Arrival at the marina...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Arrival at the marina…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...for our morning speedboat adventure! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…for our morning speedboat adventure! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

A 40-minute drive east of the cruise terminal took us to the local marina, where we boarded our speedboat. To my unbounded relief (I forgot to pack a hat on this trip), half of the speedboat is covered, with space for about a dozen or so guests up front on the uncovered bow portion. I’d much rather escape the searing sun, and wasn’t disappointed when our Captain kicked things up to 56 knots, and a cool cross-wind swept through the aft cabin.

The scenery we experienced here is unparalleled. Google ‘Phuket’, and you’ll more likely come up with images of Khao Ping Kan Island – perhaps better known as James Bond Island. It was on this island that the last scene of the Bond flick, The Man with the Golden Gun, was filmed. Today it is hot, overrun with tourists, and absolutely beautiful.

Other speedboats raced alongside us...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Other speedboats raced alongside us…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...as we made our way to "James Bond Island." Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…as we made our way to “James Bond Island.” Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

What’s interesting to me, on a personal level, is how many Russian tourists are here in Thailand. Nearly everyone I encountered on James Bond Island seemed to be speaking Russian. There were no Americans here, and only a handful of Brits and Aussies. One conclusion that can be drawn: the Russian’s clearly aren’t worried about travelling the world.

James Bond Island. The final scenes of "The Man with the Golden Gun" were filmed here. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

James Bond Island. The final scenes of “The Man with the Golden Gun” were filmed here. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Two very practical signs! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Two very practical signs! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

We also stopped at the floating village of Koh Panyi for a brief visit to the local school, and to admire the sights. With over 200 houses on stilts, the original inhabitants of the village actually came here from Indonesia two centuries ago. The heat, even at eleven in the morning, was stifling. Yet inside the darkened enclosure of restaurants and shops that comprised the streets of the village, it was refreshingly cool. The same can’t be said for the courtyard the kids played in; you could have cooked an egg on the thing.

The floating village of Koh Panyi. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The floating village of Koh Panyi. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

However, what you notice about travelling the world like this is that we’re really all the same. We all learned our A-B-C’s. We all had to read and write and take mathematics. The only thing that’s different is the setting in which we did it. I certainly didn’t go to school on a floating village surrounded by the most gorgeous scenery ever, but then again, these kids have never seen the snow that I saw growing up.

Afterwards, we cruised for an hour back to the pier, and reboarded our coach to the awaiting Silver Shadow. As the mercury climbed higher, we dropped our lines and a cool breeze finally wafted across the pool deck as Silver Shadow climbed to her cruising speed of 14 knots for this leg of our journey.

Relais & Chateaux Evenings

Back onboard Silver Shadow, things were looking decidedly moody as we left Phuket. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Back onboard Silver Shadow, things were looking decidedly moody as we left Phuket. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I was invited to attend a private Relais & Chateaux culinary event: a wine and food pairing held in Le Champagne on Deck 7. Silversea has long been affiliated with this prestigious culinary institution, and is still the only cruise line in the world to be affiliated with Relais & Chateaux, which counts some of the world’s leading hoteliers and restaurants as its members.

This intimate gathering in Le Champagne is a new event for Silversea, having just been rolled out over the past year. It is currently offered to guests staying in the line’s top suites, and to high-ranking Venetian Society (past guest) members. It is meant to supplement the premium wine tasting that is held on the first sea day that comes at a cost of $65 per person.

This afternoon, I attended an intimate wine tasting in Le Champagne. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, I attended an intimate wine tasting in Le Champagne. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Over the course of a very relaxed hour, we learned about wine with Le Champagne sommelier Peter, sampling four distinct wines as we did so: Altadonna Chianti Classico 2013; Chateau Cousteau Cadillac 2012; Domaine Lebrun Pouilly-Fume 2014; and the very nice Saint-Nicholas Bordeaux 2012.

Of the four, my undisputed favorites were the Cadillac 2012 dessert wine from Cadillac, France and the Saint-Nicholas Bordeaux 2012. I wasn’t as nuts about the Pouilly-Fume, but this event did teach me that while I didn’t care for it by the glass, it paired very nicely with the lobster that was served along with it.

Offered to guests staying in the line's top suites, this wine and food pairing event complements the rare vintage event that is being offered tomorrow. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Offered to guests staying in the line’s top suites, this wine and food pairing event complements the rare vintage event that is being offered tomorrow. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Wine pours were generous, and guests were invited to ask questions and learn from Le Champagne's sommelier. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Wine pours were generous, and guests were invited to ask questions and learn from Le Champagne’s sommelier. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Of the four wines we tried, this was my absolute favorite. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Of the four wines we tried, this was my absolute favorite. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

To keep the culinary theme alive, I dined in Le Champagne tonight. The only dining venue that carries an additional per-person surcharge aboard the Silver Shadow, the $40 per person charge is more about crowd control than turning a profit. With space for just 20 guests in a single evening, this is one dining venue that you really want to use your My Silversea cruise personalizer to book in advance.

The menu at Le Champagne hasn’t changed all that much over the past five years – and that’s okay. There is no need to mess with perfection. In the dozen or so times I’ve dined here over the past half-decade, I have never come away disappointed, and tonight was no different. The quality of the food was sublime, the service was excellent, and the value-for-money was great.

Dinner at Le Champagne is one of my favorite culinary experiences aboard a Silversea ship. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Dinner at Le Champagne is one of my favorite culinary experiences aboard a Silversea ship. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Course No.1: There's always room for Caviar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Course No.1: There’s always room for Caviar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Course No. 2: Lobster Bisque, prepared tableside. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Course No. 2: Lobster Bisque, prepared tableside. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Course No. 3: Breast of Forest Pigeon. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Course No. 3: Breast of Forest Pigeon. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

If there’s one thing I’d like to see here, it’s a return to the more degustation approach to dining that Le Champagne used to have. Prior to late-2010, each course at Le Champagne was offered with a wine pairing option that was meant to enhance the meal. Now, the downside to this was that dinner became a rather long, wine-soaked affair that came at a fairly substantial price point for a luxury product. With most guests electing to just enjoy the multi-course meal here and not the wine pairings, the degustation option was eventually dropped from the fleet.

However, having had the wine pairings this afternoon, I’d like to hope that maybe the line’s forthcoming Silver Muse will offer a wine pairing option in the successor to Le Champagne, which will be known as Grand Dame.

Click here to read our report from the keel-laying of Silversea’s Silver Muse in Genoa, Italy!

I also managed to, for the first time this voyage, take in one of the nightly shows held in the two-story Athenian Lounge. Over the past six years, I’ve seen Silversea’s entertainment options grow and change, and to be honest, they’ve never been better than they are right now.

Big ships hold all the cards when it comes to nightly shows, with full-scale Broadway productions and big-name spectacles. Silversea focuses on quality performers that make you feel more like you’re seeing an intimate concert. Tonight, guest entertainer Heather Sullivan and the Silver Shadow Quartet performed the hits from great singer/songwriters like Carole King and Stevie Wonder.

If aliens came to this planet, they’d conclude that only a dozen or so songs had ever been written if they listened to the average cruise ship playlist. Personally, I want to pull my eyes out every time I hear Signed, Sealed, Delivered or Dancing Queen. And while Sullivan strayed briefly into that territory, she won me over with a beautiful rendition of a song that, I realized, I’d never heard aboard a cruise ship: Elton John’s Candle in the Wind. That earned her a standing ovation, and reaffirmed to me that Silversea really is choosing entertainers that are the best of the best.

Tonight, we ratcheted the clocks back 30 minutes in anticipation of our arrival into Yangon on Saturday morning. Between now and then, one very luxurious day at sea is in store for us all.

Evening entertainment in the Athenian Lounge tonight as Silver Shadow speeds towards Myanmar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Evening entertainment in the Athenian Lounge tonight as Silver Shadow speeds towards Myanmar. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Shadow continues tomorrow as we spend a day at sea en-route to Yangon, Myanmar! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
October 31, 2016SingaporeEmbark1800
November 1Port Klang (Kuala Lumpur), Malaysia08001900
November 2Penang, Georgetown, Malaysia08001800
November 3Phuket, Thailand08001400
November 4At Sea
November 5Yangon, Myanmar0600Overnight
November 6Yangon, MyanmarOvernightOvernight
November 7Yangon, MyanmarOvernight1900
November 8At Sea
November 9 At Sea

November 10Langkawi, Malaysia08001500
November 11Malacca, Malaysia13001900
November 12Singapore0700Onward Journey Home
 

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