Monday, November 7, 2016

Silversea Expedition Cruises - Exotic Journeys Focus on "The Journey" - Silver Discoverer Indonesia/Myanmar Expedition: Part I

As the upscale and luxury traveler looks for...no actually is demanding...more exotic destinations and more experiential travel, I see the market becoming crowded; really crowded.

But what I am also seeing is that, as new cruise lines and new ships enter the "exotic destination" market there is a real divergence in approach:  Focus on the Ship or Focus on the Destination.  Both are legitimate and both have a market, but there is a real difference in what the products are and what they offer.  And when one focuses on the Destination is it as a passive or active traveler?  (If you are not physically able to hike in a hot steamy forest or bounce around in a zodiac you are going to be a more passive traveler.  It is not a bad thing, it must, however, be recognized.)

Personally, while I see Crystal Cruises and Scenic Cruises bringing on board their luxury "exotic destination" ships, I noticed that they both have submarines and they both of helicopters and they both will have luxury accommodations...and, thus, will be fighting for the same market...they are not - at least yet - focused on the truly expedition experience.  (In fact, Scenic has made the decision not to call its "yacht" an expedition, but a "discovery", ship.)





Silversea's Silver Discoverer
And that brings me to the Silversea Discoverer!  I will be sailing on her on November 10, 2016 on an 11 day trip through Indonesia and Myanmar (Burma).  But not the typical ports and, in fact, some of the stops are not ports at all but uninhabited or semi-inhabited islands.


Here is the itinerary:

10 Singapore, Singapore
11 Day at sea
12 Belawan, Indonesia
13 Day at sea
14 Sabang, Indonesia
14 Banda Aceh, Indonesia
15 Day at sea
16 Kawthaung, Myanmar (former Burma)
16 Myauk Phyu, Myanmar
17 Lampi Island, Myanmar
18 Bo Cho Island,
18 Frost Island, Myanmar
19 Shark Island, Myanmar
19 Kho Yinn Kwla Island, Myanmar
20 Kyet Mau Island, Myanmar
21 Phuket, Thailand 5:30 AM

As Silversea Cruises briefly describes this journey:
On this voyage to Sumatra and the Mergui Archipelago we will hike through Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and part of the UNESCO Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra World Heritage Site, looking for orangutans and other wildlife.

When cruising the Andaman Sea we will enter a part of the world that has hardly been explored and immerse ourselves in one of the most remote and culturally interesting offshore paradises. The vast majority of the hundreds of islands are still uninhabited.

The Mergui Archipelago is used by the Salone or Moken, a people who live off, and on, the sea. Sometimes called “sea-gypsies”, this ethnic minority group leads a traditional, semi-nomadic lifestyle, dominated by diving for sea cucumbers, fishing and bartering.
OK, but before I get into the details of this truly exotic expedition cruise (which I will do throughout my journey), let me talk about the Silver Discoverer, which is a true expedition ship that has been reinvented as an expedition ship that is supposed to offer a luxury experience; noting that everyone's definition of luxury is different!  (I will, of course, let you know.)

The Silver Discoverer is an intimate shallow-drafted ship of only 338 feet (103 meters) in length and 51 feet (15.4 meters) in width, just over 5,000 gross tons, carries only 120 guests and travels at a slow-and-steady speed of 14 knots; bringing 12 zodiacs along for the ride.  She was acquired by Silversea in 2014 after bouncing from owner to owner; not because she isn't a good ship, but rather because in her early life the market for upscale expedition cruising really did not exist.

Silver Discoverer's View Suite
Most of the "suites" are actually staterooms.   I will be staying in the most common accommodation: a View Suite which is a 181 square foot picture windowed affair with a marble bath, sofa, occasional chair and a small desk with a flat screen TV above.  (There are also port-holed Explorer Suites, double windowed and far mores spacious 269 square foot Vista Suites, 8 Veranda Suites at 280 square feet and one 408 square foot Medallion Suite; the only true suite.)  Clearly staying in a "suite" smaller than pretty much any stateroom I have stayed in, including on my recent Fathom cruise, is not what I would call "luxury"...if that is why I was going on this cruise.  Fortunately it is not!

Dining is limited to the casual Discoverer Lounge (breakfast, lunch, tea, snacks), The Grill poolside for all three meals (including the Hot Rocks experience at night) and the Main Dining Room (dinner only) plus, of course, In-Suite Dining.  There is also a gym and spa.

Even with butler service in all accommodations, room service, complimentary beverages in your suite and about the ship, included gratuities, open-seat dining, included expedition and shore excursions you may be saying to yourself, "OK. Sounds fine, but where is the real luxury?  This ship cannot compete with what Crystal or Scenic are going to be offering, or even what Seabourn offers!"  And that is where your definition of "luxury" needs to be defined! 

Here "luxury" is focused on a "Experiential Experiences"; ones that you simply cannot experience on the ship, but where the ship takes you...Silver Discoverer shines in this regard; not only with its itineraries, but what Silversea does when it arrives in the various locations.  I am very interested in seeing what the mix of guests are (I am told it is very international) and how many are going to sit on a beach, meet the indigenous people, hike (yes, actually hiking), snorkeling or, possibly, diving.  I am equally fascinated to observe, not only the lecturers, but if and how the guests engage with them.

There is no question that on this expedition cruise it is going to be hot, sweaty, salty and incredibly interesting.  For me, it is "My Luxury".

By the way, speaking of luxury, I will be staying at Raffles in Singapore for one night in a Personality Suite for one night.  I am really looking forward to which famous person's personality I get to enjoy:  Rudyard Kipling, Charley Chaplin, James Michener, etc. A bit of a different luxury...though I do plan on hitting the night markets and enjoying some chicken rice.

And at the end of the cruise, as my flight doesn't leave until 4:20 a.m. the next day I will be staying at The Slate in Phuket, Thailand.  It is an all-suite hotel that is absolutely beautiful.

If you would like more information or would like to book your Silversea or other exotic cruise, please give us a call:

United States:         (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:    020 8133 3450
Australia:                (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else:   +1 530-562-9232