Travel Destination: Luxury Cruising in the Mediterranean

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Pictured above is my stateroom aboard a vessel offering a maximum manifest of around 100 passengers the attentions of a crew of almost equal numbers. The bedroom, dressed in designer linens, makes for restful luxury. The wide window – no mere port hole – affords exceptional viewing; the carpeted sitting room, with high-set coffee table for serving snacks, is equipped with the latest techno gear. Obscured are generous wardrobe space and the sparkling marble bathroom with flushing loo.

For a bit over $1000 a day for a couple, including all 5-star dining, wines with lunch/dinner, drinks from the open bars and nightly cocktails, this cruise operator is offering a novel way to celebrate Christmas 2013, or New Year. Add flights into Singapore and ex Phuket to the budget (and, if feeling flash, a few days in incomparable  Singapore). The journey – Sydney, Brisbane or Gold Coast Airport to Changi – is in a similar time zone, so no jet lag. Flight options include budget airlines. The vessel sails from Singapore on Saturday evening December 21, calling at seven south-east Asia locations over seven days. Visit Malacca, Pangkor, Penang, Langkawi, Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi and Patong Beach, ending at Phuket, where the cruise disembarks on Saturday December 28. Optional pre-organised land experiences here include elephant attractions, a visit to the Grand Pagoda venerating Buddha and entree to an elite golf resort.  En route, Sea Dream Yacht Club promises “Christmas Day in the turquoise waters of Langkawi island”, across the Straits of Malacca in the Andaman Sea off western Malaysia, near the Thai border. Overnight on Christmas Eve anchored at Pilau Penang, a short hop to Langkawi for the following day’s festivities.

Attractions on the voyage include on-shore sightseeing, spectacular natural topography, native fauna, colonial architecture, white sand beaches – both secluded and hosting plush resorts, markets, shopping for batik and other crafts, silks and artworks. The ports of call offer an ideal chance to learn about and absorb the fascinating history of the Raj and other administrations, the cultures and exotic cuisines of a “sampler” of Asia. Between times, home’s a comfy familiar haven with excellent on-board dining, truly “inclusive” drinks, impeccable service, exclusivity.

Sea Dream’s slogan is“It’s yachting, not cruising”: and the boutique size of its vessels and friendly “country-club afloat” atmosphere and gentle pace justify the claim. Sea Dream II, with authentic teak decks, hosts a pool, library, discreet casino, sunset bar, starlight movies, piano/cocktail bar, fitness centre, beauty spa, golf simulator and live-music interludes and is the just ight size for mingling, or privacy. A big drawcard is the retractable “marina” that comes into play at anchor offering glass-bottomed kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, tubing, snorkelling, Lasers, a floating lounge, waterskiing and jetskiing. Cuisine is showcased at the welcome and evening cocktails, in canapés, at Captain’s reception, sunrise coffee, in healthy fresh breakfast feasts on deck and lunches, formal dinners, poolside sandwiches, tea service, champagne, caviar, degustation menu, 24-hour snack menu, and spa menu.

Sea Dream’s website quotes $3999pp twin share including tips, plus port and other fees of $910. Until March 15 there’s an extra 10% off to celebrate this, the line’s first foray into Asia. A similar 7-day cruise on a modified itinerary departs Phuket on December 28, dropping back into that port for NYE and ending in Singapore on Saturday January 4. See travel agents, visit www.seadream.com, toll-free 1800 217 902.

A dozen other Asia/Australia Sea Dream cruises early next year include itineraries around Singapore, Bangkok, Bali, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Indonesia, East and West Timor, Seven Spirit Bay NT, Darwin, Cape York, Lizard Island, Port Douglas and Cairns.

This article can be found in issue 88 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus

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