The Lost Islands of the South Pacific onboard SILVER DISCOVERER Silversea
Early morning departure on AA from ORD to DFW for connecting flight to Seoul on old AA 777-200. Upgraded to First Class on this 13 hour flight, had to! Even for a very old seat I was surprised yet very pleased that it was fully functional. Non-descript meals as expected and the service was a notch above nominal but nothing to write home about.
Change of planes in Seoul and then my first experience on Korean Airlines for the 5 hour late evening flight to Koror on the island of Palau. It was the beginning of the Korean Thanksgiving holiday so the flight was packed full. Business Class on the 737 is 2×2 seating and was comfortable, not a full recline but plenty of room in the seat and between rows. Flight arrived on time into Koror just before 2:00AM.
I had confirmed transfers through Silversea and the friendly driver was right there as I exited from the “Customs” area in the very small Koror airport. There were a couple of other passengers in the shared vehicle and we arrived at the Palau Royal Resort (Nikko Hotels) at about 3:00AM for immediate check-in. 160 room resort hotel on a small bay, standard comfortable room with king bed that I fell into immediately for a few hours’ sleep. Typical buffet breakfast was served in the hotel restaurant after which it was time for check out by noon, then transfer to the ship.
The pick up by the tour operator and Silversea was a bit confusing. This can happen in remote areas of the world, we too, the seasoned traveler and agent, find these hiccups occasionally. After waiting 30 minutes, the same vans from the company who received us at the airport showed up and started loading bags and people and off we went.
Boarding the ship was like being welcomed home (that is if you have a Doorman and Butler!). It took a mere 5 minutes to check in. The reception only asked what internet package you would like, swiped your credit card and you’re in your suite with the Butler explaining his duties and introducing you to your Suite Attendant.
The service was nothing short of superb which I expected really good service, but this was a wonderful perk. Absolutely superb.
After boarding and unpacking I discovered an area of the carpet in front of the washroom in my suite was very damp and I had noticed a musty odor upon entering. I asked the butler about it and he said he would get a carpet dryer on it right away. After the introduction to the ships staff in the Explorer lounge, I found my butler, suite attendant and the head of housekeeping standing in the hallway by my door and asked if I would like to switch to the suite next to 411 so I said, “ yes, please”! No odor, no wet carpet and in a couple of minutes later the butler had all of my belongings into suite 413.
The View Suite I was in, is approximately 185 sf in size with large closet. The bathroom included a single sink and nice size rain shower. There are much larger accommodations with balcony suites on Deck 6.
Having not cruised in almost 20 years I was somewhat concerned about being onboard a 120-passenger vessel for 16 days which I thought would be nothing short of torture. The Silversea SILVER DISCOVERER, however, proved me wrong.
The public areas were pleasant. The Explorer Lounge on Deck 4 served as a general meeting place where the lectures were given each day by one of the Exploration Leaders onboard. There were 8 specialists in different areas; historian, dive specialist, marine biologists, archaeologist, master navigator (more about this guy in a moment) and a botanist. After dinner, each evening, the lounge provided piano music by Lou the Entertainer and cocktails till midnight.
The Silver Discoverer cruise is all about discovering, learning and exploring with the wonderful asset of sailing on a 5 star cruise line. Explorer by day and sophisticated traveler at night. Perfect combination for the adventurer.
Our daily explorations where amazing and filled with amazing facts you could see, hear, feel and smell. It was not only interesting but tons of fun. I could write a book on everything I learned but I don’t have to because the crew on board does it for you. Plus, they are way better writers than I am, Here is the link to learn about my daily explorations. http://www.silversea.com/expeditions/voyage-journals/9520/
Now back to the Master Navigator I spoke of earlier. His name is Tua Pittman from the Cook Islands. He is one of the most amazing person I’ve ever met. A master navigator has the capability to sail by only using the stars, the feel and size of the waves and the position of the sun. This is a craft handed down by other master navigators for centuries. Mostly ancestral teachings that are hard to learn in any book or classroom. Tua sailed the Pacific in a double hauled canoe (yes, I said CANOE) for 12,000 miles, all by star navigation. There is a movie based on this journey which played during our voyage.
Most all of the shore excursions were done in zodiacs as the ship was anchored off shore at these small islands. There is a platform at water level at the rear of the ship where one boards the zodiacs. Crew members are always on hand to assist each and every passenger into the zodiac safely. There was a British couple traveling on board (I’d say he was at least 80 and she was mid 70’s) who were on every shore excursion with no problem.
Food was very good on board. Every morning a selection of boxed cereals, egg station, waffles and pancakes, salad, salmon, fresh breads and pastries and yogurts and fruits. Lunch was always buffet style with at least three different hot dishes, salads and sweet desserts. Dinner in The Restaurant was always three courses with unlimited wine. There was selection of meat, fish and many times vegetarian on the menu (one could also request specific dietary needs with the chef and he was happy to accommodate). Except for the evenings when the outdoor dining area was closed, they also used Hot Rocks cooking style, outside by the pool. This featured meat, poultry or seafood cooked on a superheated individual rock. The cooking was performed at your table. The entrée was accompanied by a baked potato and vegetable skewer, followed by a dessert. All was delicious!
As we arrived into Laukota, Fiji at approximately 6pm on Thursday. Disembarkation was a cheery, and tearful, goodbye to the Expedition leaders who were all so friendly throughout the voyage. I know why some of the passengers are groupies. Some people choose the vessel, but these groupies select the vessel for their favorite Expedition Leader. Makes a huge statement for Silversea and their handpicked specialist.
After 6 days at sea with overcast skies it was nice to at least witness a beautiful Fijian sunset the last evening onboard ship!
We spent the day with Joe from Rosie Holidays which is the major DMC for Fiji. There actually IS a Rosie and we visited her home (but didn’t see her) which has a wonderful view up over Nadi and the ocean. Next stop was the Oceania open air market in Nadi. Everything here from exotic fruits to seafood and, of course, kava …. Kava everywhere! From here we were taken to the Raymond Burr Orchid sanctuary which he built in 1977. Now has thousands of beautiful orchids and a jungle walk one can do through the property.
We then had lunch at Port Denarau which is where many sightseeing charter boats leave from. A shopping mall is here with several restaurants and bars that were full with locals and tourists. We had lunch at a wonderful Indian restaurant called Indigo. Something new learned that day: Fiji’s population is 57% Fijian and 39% Indian. The remaining 4% is a Polynesian mix. Indian and Hindu influence here is very big here.
From here we were taken to the airport to check-in. Fiji Airways lounge was decent, basic cold food and snacks and drinks. Service onboard the A330 in Business was very good. 2x2x2 seating with flat angled seats, nice big pillow and blanket. Choice of 3 different entrees were offered. Since it was almost 10pm when we took off, the meal was light, more like a late snack, but served its purpose. The 10-1/2 hour flight was right on time into LAX and I was able to get through Passport control thanks to Global Entry in a mere three minutes.