THE SHIP­PING NEWS: Cruis­ing Cen­tral Amer­ica

DINE and Destinations - - CONTENTS -

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

Philip Rosenthal

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