Thursday, November 10, 2016

Silversea Expedition Cruises - Exotic Journeys Focus on "The Journey" - Silver Discoverer Indonesia/Myanmar Expedition: Part IV (The Ship Arrives)

I awoke for my third morning in Singapore not knowing if the Silversea Silver Discoverer had its engine issues resolved and, thus, would be arriving that day at some point.  But spending a lazy morning in my Noel Coward Personality Suite at Raffles Hotel wasn’t exactly a terrible way to wait for an update.  After I received the good news that the ship was on her way and that I would be given a private transfer to the ship at 1:30 p.m. I decided I should head out for one last lunch.

The concierge was ever so nice, offering up a number of tourist-friendly lunch options, as most Raffles guests would prefer.  But when I asked her where she would go within walking distance of the hotel, she said just round the corner to the left.  And so I went; remarkably in literally three minutes I was sitting at Sin Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant; having passed three more upscale options.  (You know it is going to be good when right after you order the noon crowd arrives and there was hardly a seat to be found…while those other restaurants remained pretty much empty.)

With my last chicken rice disappointing, that was a definite.  And I had been wanting to try fish head in black bean sauce.  Local Tiger beer was the obvious beverage…again.

Fish Head with Black Bean Sauce
Chicken Rice
It was then back to Raffles Hotel and time to checkout…so that my real purpose for this journey could begin:  Boarding the 120 passenger Silversea Silver Discoverer!   But before I departed it was series of genuinely warm goodbyes along with an insistence that I have my photograph taken with my favorite Sikh doorman, who always greeted me with a warm handshake.  (The manager was amused that we had similar beards.)





My quick transfer to the Marina Bay Cruise Terminal was a bit too early as the Silver Discoverer wasn’t quite ready for us (as there was a mix up with the gangway), but after a short while I boarded the ship and was advised I had been upgraded to a Veranda Suite; a very pleasant and appreciative surprise.

My suite is much larger than I anticipated with two desks (one more of a vanity), two additional occasional chairs and a nice size sofa.  The refrigerator is stocked with soft drinks, beer and water with a bottle of red wine also provided.  A Silversea Expedition backpack and aluminum water bottle are also provided. 

Silver Discoverer Veranda Suite

Silver Discoverer's Veranda Suite has two desks and a nice sitting area




The veranda is tiny; being no wider than the two chairs which face each other.  On an expedition ship a veranda is a nice bonus, especially since I love to have the door open (when it is not too hot) so I can listen to the sea and smell the salt air.  (Of the sixty staterooms on the ship, there are only eight Veranda Suites.)

The Veranda Suite's veranda is quite small, but very nice to have
My butler, Anand, was almost instantly at my door welcoming me with a big, genuine smile, and offering to open the bottle of Pommery champagne that greeted me.  He showed me around the suite, offered me alternative hypo-allergenic shampoo (a very nice touch), and to unpack me (which I declined). 

All Silver Discoverer Suites come with a butler
The bathroom is incredibly well designed for being so small, with excellent lighting by the sink, but it is quite dark in the shower; which is a very good size.  There is no bathtub.  One little quirk (at least for me):  Tissues are on the vanity rather than in the bathroom.

Silver Discoverer's bathroom is compact,
but well designed

I also notice that the air-conditioning was not running that cold, but I also know on older ships it doesn’t work nearly that well when in port.  There were a number of complaints about the air-conditioning from other guests whose staterooms were significantly warmer than mine, but just coming out of the shipyard it is only fair to see how this shakes out.

Speaking of the just coming out of the shipyard, my initial impression was that Silversea needed two more days for the ship to be in “ship shape”.  (That is truly the case of every ship coming out of a shipyard!) So knowing she was coming out of the shipyard it is nothing I could hold against her.  The staff was busy trying to finish up work, put things where they belonged, and moving crates and equipment.  Not to worry though, even though I was one of the first to board, placing a cold beer in my hand once I went out on deck was not a problem.

Even though I had lunch, I went to The Restaurant to see what the offerings were.  Breakfast and lunch are essentially buffets with a proper dinner service.  The lunch buffet had a wide variety of offerings from salads to pizza to veal medallions and much more. 

I then spent some time walking around the ship (which doesn’t take long as she is quite compact).  The Pool Deck is quite comfortable with a small bar and buffet (that seems to be more for service than guests) with plenty of granite-topped tables and chairs.  On most evenings it is transformed into The Hot Rocks dining experience where you cook your dinner on heated lava rocks placed in front of you.  Immediately above it is another covered outdoor area with comfortable all-weather furniture; perfect for relaxing and reading a book.  Deck 6 also has an aft seating area and, at the top, Deck 7 has the Spa, Fitness Center and a large open deck (which also holds a number of the zodiacs).



The interior public spaces are The Restaurant on Deck 3, the Explorer Lounge on Deck 4 (where all the lectures take place) and the Discoverer Lounge on Deck 5 (where a coffee station is available and High Tea is served in the afternoon).  I would like to see the Explorer Lounge be a bit more inviting.  (It is clean and neat with tables and chairs, but doesn’t have much character.) 

My only real complaint is the lighting.  The ship, overall, is dark in the hallways, Reception and even the Restaurant.  The lack of sufficient lighting is compounded by the wrong temperature bulbs being used.  Many of the “daylight” bulbs should be replaced with LED “soft white” ones which would brighten things up (as more lumens with lower electrical drain could be provided) and give the ship a more comfortable feel.  It is an easy fix.

I do need to note that while Silversea was really good at keeping me informed, there were serious breakdowns in communication with a number guests who did not know the ship wasn’t arriving as scheduled until they were at the cruise terminal.  Other guests were told they had to move to a different hotel (which was, for some, lesser quality accommodations).  I do not know if it was Silversea (which did provide me with two very good letters – clearly written to all guests – explaining everything) or the port agent or the hotels.  What I do know is that there was a good bit of complaining which, when coupled with the air conditioning not working well, created a less than jovial atmosphere for many.  

Hopefully as we move forward the focus will be on this truly unique itinerary (who doesn’t want to see Orangutans in the wild?) and not on the ship that happened.

That said we set sail as evening approached and I had a lovely dinner with a Kuwaiti, South African, British and Cook Islander.  The guests and staff are truly diverse.

With tomorrow being a day at sea, I am more than content.