THE SHIPPING NEWS: Cruising Central America
Cruise travel is evolving. Life on board lifts us out of our usual routine and reminds us of interests that we have edited from our lives for the sake of the day-to-day: dancing, wine appreciation, playing bridge, and just taking time to gaze at the sea and enjoy a sunset. We realize that there is no need to rush—anywhere. During a 10-day cruise on the magnificent Silver Shadow to Central America, I ask myself this question: Could I enjoy being at sea for months at a time? The idea teases all the senses. Live a luxury lifestyle six months of each year. Travel to exotic destinations; dine on the world’s finest foods and wines without getting a bill; meet hundreds of new people who may possibly become friends for life. Loneliness could become a thing of the past and honestly, would I really miss the chrometo-chrome, rush hour traffic?
On board, I speak to several people who have been doing this for years. They tell me that their enjoyment index of life is way up, and their financial obligations are way down.
At sunset, the Sailaway party around the pool is in full swing, hosted by our affable Cruise Director. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and delightful entertainment by a talented, international ensemble of professional singers/dancers set the tone. Conversations come easily. New friendships are hatched.
Dinner at La Terrazza with people I’ve met at the Solo Travelers gettogether is a delight, particularly when some of my favourite Italian dishes are on the menu. Silken swordfish carpaccio slicked with extra virgin olive oil, a small middle course of Papardelle Monaguesque textured with anchovies, capers and olives, and delectable rack of lamb, partnered with herbed vegetable caponata and crunchy pine nuts. A nightcap and a few twirls on the dance floor in the Panorama Lounge is the end to an exciting first day.
Breakfast is served on the terrace by my butler Arjun. Is there anything prettier than perfectly poached eggs? He has helped me unpack and will then repack my bags again before I leave.
One meal a day is always in The Restaurant, with an encylopedic menu that includes everything from fresh tuna and avocado timbale, to cobb salad to Bouillabaise to medallions of Ostrich brought to us by an impeccably trained, international platoon of servers. Happy to see the pastry chef loves chocolate as much as I do. Poolside, The Grill offers hot rocks treatment of steaks for a casual evening under the stars.
Afternoon tea in the Panorama Lounge is splendid—finger sandwiches, tea cakes and scones, it’s the refreshment I need before I join my team for the daily take-no-prisoners Team Trivia. Competition is fierce, and despite best efforts we take third place. Still, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Right?
In true Relais & Chateaux style, dinner in the smartly designed La Champagne begins with an inventive quartet of caviar, and ends with a spectacular soufflé. More champagne, Madam? Yes, please.
No, wait. I’m not yet ready to leave the Silver Shadow. I never did get to explore the vast selection of books in the library. I couldn’t make it to the gaming lessons by the Casino staff and too sleepy after dinner to even step into the casino or enjoy the live musical shows in the theatre. I did not travel the pathway to pilates with a personal trainer. I continually missed the golf putting challenge. I did not have time to take advantage of learning another language or enjoying a cooking demonstration by the pastry chef. I never did get to play pool volleyball, or take a line dancing class. I was just too busy. Ten days has not been long enough. Perhaps I do need
a few more months.
Series, “and that collection is hung throughout the public areas of the ship.” Also exhibited, Ron’s ‘Parker People,’ mixed media observations of people around him, off centre, but on target. “What we have created here is a series of events on board, a general orientation, sort of an Insider’s Guide to Collecting Art for Pleasure, Profit and Prestige.” Many of the guests on the Shadow are collectors or interested in art. “We’ve met heads of museums, curators, private collectors with their own museums, and we met a lady who knows nothing about art and she said to me, ‘I want to buy that Chagall on Level 7,’ and that makes me very happy.”
Not surprisingly, guests enjoy repartee with this unpretentious and charming couple, both artists. “Ron and I come from different backgrounds,” says Yvonne. “Ron is the educator, academician. I come from the art background of interior design, curator. We developed this series of informal gatherings together. Ron begins with an introduction into the life of a specific artist and I give a 15-minute ‘tasting about the life and the movement.’”
“We’ve tailored our tasting,” says Yvonne, “so that the novice is not overwhelmed, but we provide enough information so that the art connoisseur is still interested.”
Guest Lecturer: Dr. John Rennie Short
Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, John Short says, “I travel to interesting parts of the world and, at the same time, do what I do in my normal job, which is to try to educate people about the world. “It’s one of the best parts of the voyage,” he says, “when you’re getting a sense of the place you’re about to visit,” and his lectures on Central America Today and The Real Pirates of the Caribbean were much enjoyed. “I learn a tremendous amount getting lectures ready and making them accessible to well-traveled and cosmopolitan passengers.”
Personal Shopper: Philip Rosenthal
“Many years ago,” says Rosenthal, “the cruise line determined that if the guests had as good an experience in the ports of call as they did on the ship it would enhance their vacation. I am able to offer stores that have been vetted, and for which the cruise line can offer to support a guarantee. Recommendations without guarantees are useless. This is anecdotal: I only know what I assist in purchasing. I assist in purchasing luxury goods and jewellery that would cost shore side in Europe, the U.S. or Canada, probably about a million dollars per cruise.”
“There are no breaks on designer jewelry or diamonds in Canada. Europeans are in heaven when they get here. They may have someone who has been dealing with the family for generations who may be able to show them a few stones, but they do not have the shopping opportunities that exist here. Our guests have guarantees that all the stores on our shopping maps are authorized dealers for the brands they represent, their merchandise is authentic and it can be appraised by an independent appraiser when you get home.”
Rosenthal will have rings sized, check all purchases and personally deliver the pieces to the customer. “Our guests are very discerning and accustomed to having individual service all the time. In fact, I am celebrating everyone’s birthday, everyone’s anniversary, I’ve been engaged hundreds of times, and I’ve celebrated many 50th anniversaries. So, basically, what I do is share in these joys and experiences.” www.silversea.com
An Education Enrichment lectures include art and destination appreciation, as well as experts’ advice on high-end shopping and jewellery at the ports of call. Art Advisor: Dr. Ronald K. Parker Art Consultant: Yvonne S. Parker “Three years ago,...
Dr. Ronald K. Parker and Yvonne S. Parker