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Monday, 27 January 2020

Tale of a Silversea Debutante


I figured it was about time my travel writing pal, Mike Butler, had a taste of proper ocean cruising. While Mike has experienced enviable access to excess while working for numerous men's style magazines, the indulgent pleasure of top-end cruising seemed to have escaped him.

So, in something of an experiment, I convinced him the experience would we worthwhile and to my surprise (not really), he agreed. Below are his off-the-cuff jottings.



MY FIRST EVER OCEAN CRUISE, BY MIKE BUTLER, AGED 51.

Whether it's crewing tall ships across it, diving deeper it into than I should or any other of things I’ve done in salty water, I truly love the stuff that covers 70 per cent of a planet bizarrely named Earth.

But I’ve always refused to go ocean cruising. Wrote them off as glorified giant versions of too many harbour party cruises on Sydney Harbour I’ve been on and I hate those bloody things. Why?
Because 1. I always seem to drink a lot and 2. They’re the only party you can’t leave.


I guess you could call it a love/hate relationship with cruises but either way, I’ve managed to avoid an ocean one for 50 years pretty much on the back of not being able to up and leave when I want. The mother of my kids was even a cruise editor at Vogue magazine and I still dodged getting press-ganged onto what I visioned as ’roided-up harbour cruises.

Until, at age 51, I went on one and have the delight of being proved wrong! Well, kind of. I drank like I was doing it for the country but I found my three-day jaunt from Sydney to Melbourne on the Silver Muse, the newest of the Silversea ocean fleet an unexpected delight.

That’s because unlike my dreaded harbour cruises, I could leave when I liked. To my cabin at least but having that chill out/nanna nap zone is what makes ocean cruising definitely doable for me.

Being dropped in at the deep end of cruising I’m told no doubt helps and the Silver Muse would be what my more seasoned mate Rod says is like the Mercedes/Lexus of ocean cruising. “Not quite Bentley but definitely on its way,” he told me before we boarded. (Rod: I might have to review that comparison after Silver Muse)

So, in the order I think them, this is what I liked:

  • For me, nothing ever feels good as free and because almost all food, drinks, shows and ship facilities come as complimentary, it feels both free and like your life has become a no-expense-spared existence, which I also think would be pretty good.
  • Which is brings me to the personal room butler that is standard for guests on the Silver Muse. It is excellent having your own butler who’ll happily stock big 1 litre bottles of whatever you like or whatever food you want whenever you like, also all free. (Rod: 'at no extra charge')
  • The catering is very good. (Rod: let's call it 'gourmet cuisine')
  • And the cocktail making.
  • The customer service is fantastic. Within a day it feels like half the crew know you by name.
  • Your fellow passengers, mainly ageing financially successful couples from English speaking countries, are friendly and quite fascinating to speak with.
  • And, bizarrely enough, being made to dress nice. One night out of three on the Silver Muse is formal night and while I’m not a tie kind of guy, it was all so glamorous feeling I didn’t mind but told what to do.
  • The ship is decked out in the sort of flamboyance and luxury you’d expect Liberace’s house or at least a loved gay uncle’s. I’m no etymological expert but if there isn’t a connection between gay culture ‘cruising’ and ocean liner cruising, it’s one hell of a coincidence. (Rod: remember, this is Mike's first cruise!)
  • And finally being in the middle of that out in the middle of the biggest thing(s) on the planet, the ocean. Both spotting leaping dolphin pods or just staring into the fluid aquamarine churn of the ship on the ocean’s inky deep both made for such wonderful foils from my daily land-based modern life with a connection to that thing I think we all love in our own ways, saltwater.

The verdict. There’s nothing better than being wrong and ocean cruising will be going on my “let’s do that again” list for my next half-century on this watery ball we call Earth (lol). Might even bring my kids next time. (Rod: not on Silversea please)

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