Maidens at sea: Seabourn Odyssey

The Indonesian island of Bali has just slid into view, complete with halo of puffy clouds. As you might have guessed, we’re not in Australia anymore, Toto.

Sorry for the silence on the blog: life in Australia is never dull, even more so when you leave. At the moment, I’m cruising with the sparkling new Seabourn Odyssey. She’s on her maiden voyage around the world, after leaving Fort Lauderdale, Florida, two months ago. In another two months, she’ll reach the Greek port of Piraeus, travelling via Hawai’i, Australia, south-East Asia, India and Egypt. I’ve snagged a cabin on the leg from Darwin to Hong Kong.

Somehow, she’s called a yacht, even though there are 11 decks, 450 guests and almost as many staff again. But compared with the super cruisers, who have up to 3000 guests, she’s small and personalized. People remember each other’s faces at the breakfast buffet, which is nice when you see the same people at the spa, or by the pool.

The boat’s got things like personal shoppers for each port, market shopping with the chef, a nine-hole putting course, rare tea tastings, movies under the stars, bath menus, and allegedly a beach barbecue, with staff in full uniform delivering champagne and caviar from the ship by surfboard. There’s also a diamond showroom which I desperately need. But just in case you thought they were getting too far above themselves, the Odyssey still has shuffleboard, that old-school deck game of bowls for ships that would have kept many ten-pound Poms from going insane on their long sea journeys to Australia. Hell, this ship even has shuffleboard Olympics.

There’s also daily trivia, enrichment lectures from foreign correspondents and explorers, the guest magician is doing a chat on Houdini, you can learn to tango, make jewellery, do daily yoga, play bridge till your cards melt or become a gym junkie.

Let me tell you about our suite, one of the Owner’s suites. We are at the front of the ship, one deck below the bridge, where the captain and his mates hang, so my little laptop has a bird’s eye view of where we’re heading. There is a walk-in wardrobe, two flat-screen TVs (one for the bedroom, one in the lounge), a main bathroom with full-sized bath as well as a guest loo. There is a kitchen with a little espresso machine (which, weirdly, doesn’t let you do the whole steamed milk thing, so it’s short blacks only), and mixers for your drinks. There are champagne glasses, sink and stools to pull up to the little kitchen, as well as a dining table with fresh fruit, where we sit to take our tea each morning, delivered early by room service.

My one surprise is the size of the bedroom area – I understand most people are travelling with their spouse, but for those of us who might have, say, their mums with them, split into two twins, there’s some pretty up-close-and-personal sleeping going on...

The prices might be six-star, but the service is also stellar. There are just two Australian members of staff on board, and they’re both girls in the spa, the rest are a jumble of Europeans, South Africans, some Americans (I think) and the ubiquitous and charming Philippinos.

The captain is a chatty Englishman who has just interrupted to give his daily midday update to tell us that it’s 29C, we’ve travelled 733km since Darwin and Bali is the fourth island on the right, where we’ll anchor tomorrow morning.

Today, the itinerary includes a facial, yoga, a little stop for coffee in the chic little café that stocks the most luscious little cakes, fresh from the kitchen, and, if you were so included, a visit to the bridge to see the ship’s steering wheel. Busy day, I’d better hop to it.

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