Tuesday 17 December 2013

From aboard SeaDream II in Asia

As published in Cruise Weekly today.

From aboard SeaDream II

Location: Yangon, Myanmar

Vessel: SeaDream II, launched 1985, refitted 2002, 4260 tonnes, 105m, 112 passengers

SeaDream Yacht Club (SYC) [www.seadream.com] knows exactly what they’re about. The company launched with two identical vessels just a couple of weeks before the calamitous 9/11 event and founder, Norwegian-born entrepreneur Atle Brynestad, thought he was doomed. But against all predictions, not only did SYC survive, it flourished.

I’ve had my eye on these ships (whoops, ‘yachts’) for years and when their ground-breaking Asian itineraries were announced, I pounced. It was a bit of a risk for the regular Mediterranean and Caribbean-operating line, which had come under increasing (gentle) pressure from their growing legion of repeat guests to find new playgrounds to explore. Long time SYC Club Director, now Business Development Director, Asia, Thailand-based Richard Jones, was behind the push and with his extensive knowledge of the region, oversaw the 13 new itinerates that include major ports such as Yangon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Phuket, Langkawi, Bali, Bangkok and Cairns. After this exploratory season, SYC will return to Asia for the 2015-16 southern summer, but will only travel as far south as Bali.

Constantly lauded by the cruise industry’s independent arbiter, the Berlitz Guide, SYC has consistency ranked at or near the top of the tables for ‘Boutique Ships’ category (50 – 250 passengers) against some pretty stiff competition.

Champagne and caviar in the surf. A SeaDream institution.(R Eime)

Chatting to some of the repeat cruisers, many of whom count their days aboard in the hundreds, it keeps coming back to service. Being treated like royalty with your every need predicted, without being fawned over or stifled. Our sommelier, Frank, a dashing and lively Hungarian of some ten years standing with SYC, would address us cheerfully with ‘How ya going mayte?” then proceed to elaborate on the salubrious wine list for this evening’s fine dining menu.

Another of the things that topped many repeat cruisers’ favourite things, was the all-inclusive beverages. Super quality wines, aperitifs and spirits are there for the asking. Okay, if you want Dom P√©rignon, there’s a surcharge but the included drinks would satisfy most discerning tastes and many a late night was had at the Top of the Yacht Bar in entertaining company.

SYC might sound like a retirement plan for well-heeled and sozzled seniors, but my experience did not support that myth. Most passengers were middle-aged or older couples, some with tight families in tow enjoying some true luxury time together. Active types can utilise the water sport ‘toy box’ with jetskis, snorkelling, kayaks or hobbycats and when aboard, there’s a golf simulator to keep you swinging, although the a/c needs a tweek to keep it comfortable.

To find fault with this well-oiled offering is to appear churlish, but if pressed I would say the bathrooms are a bit tight (especially if you’ve been enjoying the cuisine) and more simple, included shore excursions would be nice, such as a city walk led by one of the crew or staff. The shore-ex on my itinerary were add-ons ranging from Shwedegon Pagoda ($49) to Bagan by air ($795). The only included tour was a tender visit to the Sea Gypsy village.

Voyages are typically 7-days, with some 10 to 14 also on offer. Brochure fares are around $1000pp/day but substantial discounts can be had for early bookings.

For more information and reservations, contact SeaDream specialist:
Cruise Express on 1300 766 537.

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