Ninety years later on 5th January 2013, my partner Ken and I stepped aboard the Silver Whisper for the four month Silversea World Cruise from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale. We are regular Silversea-ers but this was going to be our longest expedition, taking in wondrous sites around the globe, from Australasia, Asia, India to Africa and beyond.
Not that there was much to see for the first six days, just the endless, wild expanse of the Pacific Ocean, "with nothing to do, but do nothing and be comfortable" as Mark Twain wisely described. Time to relax, plan excursions, spot familiar faces (passengers and crew), meet new friends.
There were 150 of us on the full World Cruise with other guests taking one or two grand voyage sectors, e.g. From Oz to the Orient or Along the Spice Routes.
The number of UK passengers embarking on a (full or partial) round the world cruise is steadily increasing - 22,000 in 2010 to 29,000 last year. Once the privilege of wealthy senior citizens, the trend today is for younger, 50+ travellers to invest in this dream vacation.
Criss-crossing the Equator four times, we follow in the wake of Magellan and Cook sailing from tropical islands to majestic cities across rolling seas and tranquil oceans. Overnight in key ports allows for longer tours, while optional land programmes take small groups to the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat or on Safari.
Shore adventures aside, it's the slow pace of life which creates an indulgent sense of freedom and escape. The ship itself is a luxury destination considering the numerous days at sea. Not a minute to feel bored on board: Enrichment lectures on arts, history, wildlife; Bridge lessons; Deck walks, Pool and Gym keep us (fairly) fit, although sunbathing and reading tend
The leisurely routine preserves timeless shiplife traditions: a Bloody Mary, Bouillon, Captain's midday log, the clack of a shuffleboard disc, tea and cucumber sandwiches; G&T, formal dinner.
We eat and drink our way around the culinary map, tasting giant Madagascar oysters, blue fin tuna and exotic fruits from local markets, speciality ethnic dishes - Indonesian Nasi Goreng, Filipino Adobo, Indian banquet, Namib desert barbecue - accompanied by quality regional wines.
Entertainment is richly varied due to the talented resident Artistes, complemented by a changing line-up of pianists, singers, comedians. Before sail away from several ports, a gamelan or steel band would perform a vibrant music and dance show.
The major advantage of participating in a World Cruise, whether 15 or 115 days, is this greatly enhanced travel experience, superlative hospitality, guest chefs and cultural events. The intimate ambience is relaxing, romantic and very sociable, from Pool bar chat to dinner parties with carefree camaraderie.
World Cruisers have the added enticement of VIP treats: an invitation to the Officers' Mess, cocktail parties, exclusive dinners, a magical overnight trip exploring the Winelands, Stellenbosch. Overall, it's about great value with complimentary luggage courier, business class flights, free laundry. Surprise gifts too - Silversea jackets, Thai silk scarves, Asian spices, chocolates.
This was no ordinary cruise vacation. Over four months, we sailed 32,496 nautical miles, visiting 5 continents, 28 countries, 52 ports - unpacking just once. An unforgettable voyage of discovery and cultural inspiration, sharing an epic seafaring adventure with fine company.
"There is no more blessed reprieve from care, than that whistled blast dispatching us out to sea again, the lure of ports ahead." John Maxtone-Graham.
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