From Singapore to Sydney: A diary of a cruise

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
- St. Augustine

Gwendolyn Ste. Marie and her husband, Chet Williams, stand outside the Sydney Opera House and Harbor Bridge.

Raffles Hotel, Singapore

Regent Seven Seas Mariner

Passports packed. Australian visas verified. All aboard!
To celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, my husband and I booked an all-inclusive fare, 17-day Asia Pacific Cruise aboard Regent Seven Seas’ Mariner. The Singapore to Sydney trip through 3 countries began with an over-night stay at Raffles in one of Asia’s most storied hostelries.

Nov. 1, 2009
After landing at Singapore’s Changi Airport after midnight, we grabbed a cab. Hotel Raffles’ attendants in white coats with gold tassels escorted us into the lobby. Painstakingly restored in Colonial Southeast Asia Chinese red, white marble, and mahogany, the hotel, named after Singapore’s modern founder, Sir Raffles, boasts of guests Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham, and Noel Coward.

The John Wayne Suite charmed with marble bath, antiques, Persian rugs, and butler service. So did the 55,000-plant-filled gardens. In a city of dual religions, “shopping and dining,” Raffles 18-restaurant-bar, 40-shop-arcade captivated.

At 3 P.M. we viewed the motionless Mariner in Singapore Harbor. We climbed the gang plank of the 50,000-ton, 12-deck vessel. The medium-sized ship’s impeccable interior in contemporary hues of blue and beige with touches of toast and taupe, impressed.

Eager to see accommodations since Conde Nast Gold List and Travel + Leisure rated Regent Seven Seas staterooms among the best at sea, we located our 10th-floor penthouse suite. Decorated in burgundy and gold, the 449 square foot stunner came with marble bath, balcony, and butler. Dressed in tux with tails, Lincoln from India offered to unpack and press our dinner clothes. During the days ahead, he provided French Champagne, boxes of chocolates, waters, wine, beer, soft drinks, snacks, fresh fruit baskets, and 5 P.M. hors d’oeuvres.

Excited to explore, we began with the ship’s 8-deck atrium, then perused the 2-level Constellation Theatre on deck five, the casino, boutiques and five lounges. Deck 6 offered a cornucopia of cozy rooms: the library, the Coffee-Connection (our favorite hangout) and the Internet Café. On deck 7, we popped into the beauty salon, spa, and fitness center. Anxious to see the 4 dining venues, we peeked in Compass Rose and Prime 7 on deck 5, Signatures on 6, and La Veranda on aft deck 11. Deck 12 housed the Observation Lounge which became our early morning whale-watching perch.

Following a mandatory life-jacket drill, guests gathered on Pool Deck 11 for sail-away cocktails. With 645 well-traveled passengers from a mélange of cultures speaking English in many accents, we put out to sea cradled in 6-star luxury for Semarang, Indonesia 698 nautical miles away.

That evening in Compass Rose, the main dining room, the Maître d' escorted us to a table by a porthole set with silver chargers and sparkling crystal for an evening of superlative service. The Sommelier kept wine glasses half full while we feasted on escargot, Chilean sea bass, flambéed bananas with caramel ice cream, and coconut sabayon. Cheese and port followed. The finale: petit fours and espresso.

Back in suite, stewardess Chuni from Tibet, left chocolates on a turned-down bed.

Lulled by sea swells rocking the ship, we drifted to sleep.

Nov. 2
Cruised Selat Barhala.
First morning on board, we drew the curtains, threw open the door, stepped out on the balmy balcony, greeted the sun and sea, dressed in exercise clothes, breakfasted outdoors at La Veranda’s buffet, lunched, and for Afternoon Tea, gathered with guests in the Horizon Lounge. Dressed formally that evening, we attended Captain Patruno’s cocktail reception. He hailed Regent Seven Sea Cruises “Best of the Best.” For a dazzling dinner, we chose Prime 7, an intimate, reservations-only, classic American steakhouse famous for beef, lobster, and fourteen layer chocolate cake.

Nov. 3
At first port of call, Semarang, Java, Indonesia, ship docked at 8:00 A.M. Motor coaches transported passengers to 8th century temple of Buddhas of Borobudur. Ship sailed at 5:00 P.M. on 412 nautical mile journey to Padang Bay, Bali, Indonesia.

Nov. 4
Arrived Bali at 6 P.M. Overnight stay in port.  Mariner’s Balinese Crew performed the Hindu epic, “Kecak (Monkey Chant) Dance” in the Constellation Theater.

Nov. 5
In Bali, tenders ferried passengers ashore for excursions. Amidst a bubble of Balinese, bus departed the pier for Ancient Bali’s 4-hour tour. Drove along holy mountains, rice paddies, mangrove swamps to Tenganan Village and Karangasem Palace. At 6:00 P.M. sailed away to navigate 1,457 nautical miles to Fremantle, Australia.

Nov. 6
Cruised Indian Ocean. Sea days quiet, never boring with endless onboard activities. People promenaded on deck, exercised, napped, read, swam, played blackjack, bridge, bingo, surfed the internet, attended wine tastings, art auctions, history, astronomy, geography and gourmet lectures. We dined in Signatures, a Cordon Blue restaurant at sea, on Foie Gras, Margret Duck Fillet with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Apple Tarte.

Nov. 7
Cruised Coast of Western Australia--nearly 4 times the size of Texas. Attended Australian immigration onboard inspection. Attended lecture on “Original Australians.” Formal attire for dinner.

Nov. 8
Cruised Western Australia attended by gracious European officers and 445-member crew from 33 countries. General Manager Gunetti reported that, “Mariner was heavily booked for next year, thanks to offer of free excursions.”

Nov. 9
Fremantle (Perth’s port), Australia, 8:00 A.M. / 5:30 P.M. A 4-hour tour of Perth, one of the most isolated cities on earth with postmodern skyscrapers overlooking meandering views of the Swan River. Stopped at Monument Hill and Kings Park.

Nov. 10
Albany, Australia, 2:00 P. M. / 7:00 P.M. Walking town tour. Back on board for Australian Day Burger lunch: sesame bun stacked with patty, fried egg, lettuce, tomato, avocado, beet, cheese, red onion, barbecue sauce.

Nov. 11
Cruised Great Australian Bight. Morning lecture: “Adventures in Space to the Edge of the Universe.” Afternoon lecture: “Great Australian Singers: Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland.”  Evening Showtime in Constellation Theatre with piano virtuoso, Jon Darsk.

Nov. 12
Cruised the Great Australian Bight. Crew staged Country fair on Pool Deck. Lecture: “Wonders of Hubble.”

Nov. 13
Adelaide, Australia, 8: A.M. / 11:00 P.M. A 5-hour tour of Barossa Valley, home to 50 wineries.

Nov. 14
Cruised South Coast of Australia. Le Cordon Bleu Workshop. Showtime in the Constellation Theater for Australian vocalist, Stephen Fisher King.

Nov. 15
Melbourne, Australia, 8:00 A.M. / 8:00 P.M. A 41/2 hour tour of Melbourne: Fitzroy Gardens, Captain Cook’s Cottage, Shrine of Remembrance, Eureka Sky Tower.

Nov. 16
Cruised Bass Strait. Ship wine tasting. Captain’s formal farewell cocktail party.

Nov. 17
Early risers congregated in top-deck’s Observation Lounge at 5:30 A.M. Awed, we concluded our anniversary celebration with a breathtakingly beautiful sail into Sydney Harbor. At 7:00 A.M. ship docked beside Sydney’s stunning Opera House--a sailboat asleep on the sea.

Nov. 18
At the end of an incomparable 5, 039 mile journey, we departed Wonders Down Under for an 18-hour flight to Los Angeles.     

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