me in seventh heaven - floating in pool spouting love slogans to Seaourn.



 AND am I ever suffering from jet lag – but more about that later.



And I am delighted to say that HAVE ADDED ANOTHER  to that list of prerequisites. 

How come?    I was contemplating how very little substance is possible on a trip like this.  But  in checking my prerequisites I was gratified to come to the conclusion that although the substance was lacking,  I did actually experience an amazingly high degree of pleasure and knowledge.  I GOT SO MUCH OUT OF THIS TRIP. 

And it was then I made the astonishing discovery of something that’s actually been present all along,  I just as yet   hadn’t identified it: THE  QUALITY OF    JOY   ***

This is amazing and such a  wonderful addition:   For the pure JOY of the experience is certainly reason enough.    After all, this IS supposed to be a “pleasure” cruise.  I certainly don’t pretend to categorize these trips as being essential,  for collecting material  or anything else which would probably entail a certain amount of seriousness to the  activity,  Actually the first three are conscious efforts and kind of goal oriented entailing  some degree of planning and deliberate effort.  Joy however,  is unrehearsed and pure:   right from the heart.  I CONSIDER IT  TO BE  A BONUS , a benefit, and a gift.  NOW THAT’S A BLESSING. 

HOW WELL DO I THINK I DID?    TERRIFIC… t I really feel this trip was a definite  success  and I’d like to  attribute this benefit  to the 32.000 word  article I spent the last eight months creating on the subject of travel-   “Forget the Destination” (available to perusal on my blog   Apparently it managed to penetrate the confusion  and consciousness enough to  succeed at generating  the mental and emotional smoothness  towards travel  which I was so anxious to achieve.   I think so.   I really managed to enjoy this trip to the fullest and to my best ability and I do think that’s quite an accomplishment.



THE THREE REASONS FOR MY BEING HERE ARE:   Seabourn, Martinis, and “because its different”:   yes, in that order.

  I’m a bit concerned about the “different”.    Will it be possible for any trip of the future to live up to this trip? It was so undeniably   unique that the next can’t help but  seem anticlimactic.

The trip in  its entirety consisted of:

Two very substantial airplane flights, one of which was 24 hours in length.

 Six  Days at sea – as many days as in any port

Five countries:  Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Japan and One magnificent city-state (world’s only island city-state):  Singapore

Four MAJOR cities:  Bangkok,  Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and Hong Kong, and I’d be terribly remiss  not to count Singapore here as well.

Huge contrasts in environment and culture from extravagantly modern neon lit cities to rural rice patties and water buffalo. 

EXOTIC       being very foreign and unique in its very nature.

NO DESTINATIONS, a most appreciated and unusual  situation. At least a dearth of the customary so called commonly  designated” destinations”,  for which I am very thankful.   My above cited blog  includes a major  diatribe ostensibly involving  the negative aspects of “destinations” .

Business class and wheelchair brigade all the way.  I couldn’t have done it any other way.  It was a killer.



IT IS  FRIDAY JANUARY 15, 2016, we have a 10 am flight leaving   Dulles Airport to Tokyo:   And we’re off in a cloud of dust and without a wrinkle.

Check in, and we’re almost literally SWISHED through security and the seemingly 5 1/2 miles to the center departure gate’s business class lounge.  I must hurry to explain that the major cause of the swishing was the wheelchair method of transport which I have regretfully found  expedient to adopt.   The very thought of being swished through the airport at all is a life style I simply do not approve of;  It’s elitist, privileged, luxurious, etc.   I won’t say pretentious because to be  that you need to advertise:       ie,  it’s an opinion.  Either way, this may  be  a life style I eschew but  this is one of those things which just don’t bear worrying about:  You do what you have to do.  This isn’t my fault,  of course not.  We are simply doing what comes naturally, what is most practical and when all is said and done, most  logical.

There is no question I could survive the airports any other way.

For the record:  this whole business (that is the whole cruise/trip thing) also would be conceived as aptly fitting the above description.   From time to time that has occurred to me but fortunately I was able to dismiss it gently  with the excuse that I am justifiably gathering material which I shall make good use of either with writing or painting… or thinking… those activities which keep me active and busy the rest of the year.  I hardly need to mention the requisite addition of martinis to the equation. 

This morning we didn’t stop on our way out of the house even long enough for a “wake up” cup of coffee so it was our first thought when we  arrived at  the airport lounge …. and  the lounge provided our first puzzle of the trip.  We were faced  with  a vendor coffee machine.  After a bit of puzzlement and button pushing I managed to acquire probably my first cup of cappuccino and I could even have had  a macchiato.  That’s a pretty fancy vending machine. 

For the record:  the business lounge  clientele is not at all  as interesting as that of the general public lounge BUT, BUT -  it’s so fortuitously  accessible AND  replete with abundant and free food, an arrangement which is especially appreciated at this often needy time.  

Of particular note and rather amusing –remember this was to be a 24 hour flight -was that it was about  at that point, 12 time zones,  that you could just as well have flown either way around the world.  However I imagine  you’d have to change planes – I don’t even want to think of how many times.  At any rate,  I found it very interesting that for half of our trip  we were basically exactly 12 hours different from home:  2 AM there was 2 PM here.  Amazing!   – cool.

We flew All Nippon Air  and  once again I was totally disenchanted by the “seats”.  True, it didn’t resemble  a   nasty pink plastic cigar tube as it was on Brit Air,  but this time each seat  was  a walled mini-fortress which meant I could see no one else:  I was entirely isolated and probably claustrophobic as well.  Not to complain or anything;  after all I was traveling in a privileged world, quite different from the general cabin  but…

  Thinking rationally one has to admit there probably was some reason for it being called “business:  it was,  after all,  meant and designed for people actually traveling for “business”,  and supine, dark isolation  would surely be a preferable arrangement.  I had the strong impression that the cabin contained  primarily  just that sort of passenger.  So where are the ordinary comfort- seeking passengers to sit?  This is a good question and after even my  very limited experience one I am  inclined to ask.

It  would be nice if I could find a  web site showing and even perhaps rating airplane interiors so I could window shop and at least be prepared for any unpleasant exigencies.  Let’s get real  here –anything is still worlds better than the main cabin.

At three in the afternoon my time and much to my horror all the window shutters were closed,   I had been rejoicing at the excellent view,  and turned off the lights.  Five hours later I was having serious  emotional problems.   I had no idea how much longer this was going to go on and  I was sincerely afraid I was going to lose it.  Fortunately I got bright and called the hostess who was able to  tell  me  we had another two hours of this:  She brought me some rice snacks, some wine and, when I remembered Japan was the home of Sudoku , she found me a Sudoku to do.

 On the way home we were again slated for Air Nippon but somehow it morphed in to United and a different set of circumstances,  which proved a much more comfortable arrangement.

 An interesting thing I encountered  on that flight:  The hostess informed me there were no martinis in her bar because no one wanted them anymore.  What?   (and  also HORRORS- nothing deprives me of my sole access time for martinis).    Considering the amount of space they take up in the world of  advertising and recreational world exposure I do find this very hard to believe.  What was available was rum, vodka, scotch and bourbon.  Seeing as the only thing I ever see  people drinking is wine…  I sense something is amiss here.   Fortunately this setback was only temporary as the hostess informed me  that as  a  bartender she had learned the trick of using sweet wine instead of vermouth to make a martini.  What kind of bar do you think that was?   She mixed that up for me and it worked just fine.  Let’s face it, it had to:  I was in no position to depart.

People tend to complain about airline food but I’m not about to say a word.  For one thing   I’d have to admit we were flying business and there is no question that is good stuff.   On the return flight I figured I had evaded  trying Japanese cuisine long enough and in the mammoth menu they jammed into my hand as I sat down there was listed a gigantic  delicious sounding Japanese dinner menu  which I duly ordered. It was indeed amazing.  I felt very sorry for the poor flight attendants having to deal with this seven course extravaganza  with a double DOUBLE dessert offering.  It was quite an experience.  That was just one of the meals for that flight but I distinctly remember an equally memorable dessert offering :   an ice cream sundae.   I was so overwhelmed with the choice of toppings  that I just gave in and had everything.  I justified this  vast overindulgence by  maintaining   that this will be the last such for a good long time to come.

 All in all, aside from the length, everything went swimmingly.  Almost seamlessly even counting security and customs and all that. 


The most obvious statement I can make is that this trip was seriously different  from any of our prior trips,  being the farthest , the least developed,  and the most unfamiliar, in history as well as in culture.  In effect, it was totally EXOTIC.  

An enormous and welcome feature was the perceived impression that we were cruising around in an area which was  virtually undiscovered - unexploited.  We seemed to be the only ship in port and there were virtually no crowds of tourists.   I think of that as a distinct bonus  and  blessing.  This could be explained in many ways I suppose.  I checked and I know there are not many cruise lines which go there perhaps due to what appears  to be a paucity of deep water harbors. ( As far as I can tell it looks like this whole side of the continent is one big very low lying coastal plain or even beach).  Maybe someday I’ll  make another attempt to interpret the geology. 

There are virtually no desirable focal points which could serve the purpose of a drawing card like perhaps a tourist destination- here I am referring to monuments or perhaps edifices of crowd  drawing  magnitude.  Perish the thought.  I also think there may be only minimal infrastructure which could definitely create a form of isolation.   However, I gather the area is in the process of extensive development;  I saw an evidence  of an immense amusement park- shopping center- beach resort which was about to open in Halong Bay.  Such desecration  I cannot but mourn,  and I know Cambodia intends to recreate itself as one big beach resort,  and so it goes.  At any rate I’m sure it won’t be long before there will be masses and swarms of people  here too.

A major and an equally unusual situation for  me  was that there was a great deal of time at sea:    To the eight days on land,  there were six days at sea.  The result was that this cruise  struck me as more of a resort cruise than a travel cruise.  This  is  very unlike all our previous cruises  which  I now perceive as being  more  oriented towards the activity of touring:   the time on land was the objective of the trip and not the time on the ship.  I suppose this  condition by default is  determined by the itinerary of the particular cruise:    the longer distance cruises incorporating fewer ports.    So I shall accept the fact that it was a resort cruise which lost a lot of the resort appeal when we encountered winter conditions:   or to be blunt,   the six days at sea would have been a lot more appreciated  if the weather  had remained sunny and warm. 

We were  fortunate to have the privileged of visiting  four of the major cities in the area:   Singapore, Bangkok,  Saigon and Hong Kong,  and  how magnificent they were.  My personal quick and easy description of all four is that they are aggressively modern and glitzy to the extreme and as I love neon I was particularly impressed.  

Aside from Hong Kong,  which  has been well established for quite a while, this area has only recently achieved the peace which is a requisite element for urban development.  I is hard to accept this as having implied a disadvantage   but I think it was that which bore a large responsibility for the development of such overtly contemporary and cohesive an   architectural statement .   aside from that might be added the aesthetic thrust of the area so what I saw was a cityscape which was very  unique loaded with decorative often colorful detail:  a very  exciting  visual statement.  Obviously I loved it.

  I have to say sadly however  that there seems to be very little left of what could be considered signature traditional or regional evidence,   but from what I’ve read that could be a good thing.

We were also fortunate to be here just  preceding  the Chinese New year celebration  which in terms of a spectacular celebration has no competition.    Consequently the cities and towns were in the process of  an energetic , extravagant  and exuberantly excessive in the creation of a very  colorful  dazzling and imaginative  decorating  display as only the oriental  spirit can conceive.  There were banks of flowers, garlands of colorful and immense flowers, entire trees festooned by hand with tiny blossoms,  and,  the coming  year being the year  of the Monkey,  there were papier mache images mostly of monkeys frolicking in multiple elaborate forms, …there were monkeys in all forms climbing, hanging and cavorting and all else as evidence of delicious extravaganza.   I like that stuff too.

THE SHIP:  I was really concerned  about  whether   an additional 200 passengers would make enough difference to affect  our great affection  for Seabourn which was  engendered by our two prior trips with the   small ships  Pride and Spirit.   I’m very skeptical of the goal of upgrading to a larger ship.  I figure it is meant to produce and convey  or signal  the presence of “luxury”.    I am totally unimpressed. ,

Our introduction to the ship occurred at the pier in Singapore.  At first glance I couldn’t see it.   It blended in to the landscape  and was totally inconspicuous,  It looked like a garden apartment:  all verandah,  no ship.   I was relieved.  

  There is however indeed a difference,  but  fortunately  a very subtle one.  There is no question that 200 passengers allowed for a an atmosphere which was more personable, cozy , and warm in tone. There was just that small touch of a difference which seems to be the case with each upgrade in size.  This ship, the Sojourn,  was newer, more modern and contemporary –the style and ambience projected  was  minimalism which  although striking,  I find somewhat impersonal and chilly,   projecting the appearance of the staging you see in a model home.

 My initial personal introduction was  to the main dining room  with its… marble, glass, light, stainless,  iciness  – I called it a cafeteria.    Furthermore the maître d’ was a flimsy blond – not the sturdy solicitous variety of the past.    The maître d’  has played a starring role in earlier cruises and that is an extremely important point with regards to shipboard PR.  Cruise management works conspicuously   very hard to make and keep that impression ;  they depend so much on customer satisfaction.  I think the larger the ship the farther away from that goal they become.  That is definitely  not for me.

Further,  an obvious bit of this  luxury  thing was very evident  with  the gift shop and I think this is a very good example of how size and so called luxury status seems to effect the character of the gift shop.  This gift shop   had become a very high end jewelry store/ designer garment store.   I have in the past enjoyed browsing around  the   shop as  my form of after dinner entertainment and have indulged in some fun,  not necessarily cheap,  impulse shopping:   but the merchandise in these shops was so outrageously expensive that I lost interest and no longer gave it a thought.    No matter, don’t need it anyway.  And then there was the invitation to attend a special wine tasting at $85 a pop.  Come on!  I’m a paid member of the  “cynical about the wine hype” club.   If there actually is any difference in taste  in the higher priced wines I don’t suppose I’ll ever have the opportunity to find out and I couldn’t care less.  I shall just have to remain in ignorance  but  I’m quite happy with my wine of choice.

Along with the size comes more walking both within the ship but also on the dock,  this makes it a bit more difficult for me but really, I was maybe alone.

These examples are really of such little import  and is all minor and very subtle,  but it is there.  A lot of the coziness is lost but that’s progress.  I hate to say this but I think they may be trodding a thin, very fine line between comfortable and pretentious.  I have to admit this may always have been present and that it simply has had little effect on me- I hope.      Actually I didn’t mind it at all - now I ask you . 

  I saw no apparent difference in style of  passenger.    We’ve  had occasion in all of our tours  to  be told some really amazing outrageously ritzy stories,  but you’d never guess it from outward appearances, or get that impression by behavior.


Our first two days involved a life of poolside leisure.  Remember, this is January but the temperature was surely a luscious and welcome 90o.   My reaction was:  I don’t believe this – this is heaven.  Did I really come all the way to SEAsia for a Caribbean beach vacation with incidentally a bit of culture on the side?  On second thought this situation couldn’t be anything but conspicuously inefficient, but so what.  This is a pretty nice life style;  not what I was bargaining for at all.  The salt water pool with continuous trays of tropical drinks being served;  sure beats the Glade pool at home.  For that matter and incidentally,  and as long as we’re doing a comparison,  dinner on board  sure has my usual dinner entertainment , the  TV show “Chopped,  beat by a landslide.

 I can’t think of anything better to do with my life than float around on Seabourn… I was literally in heaven. So happy I floated,   in the pool,  spouting  all kinds of laudatory  what turned out to be slogans.  This slogan inspired condition actually persisted for the entire cruise.   I was happy.  (more about the slogans later)   I discovered the deliciousness of floating in a salt water pool… warm, weightless, delicious buoyancy,  free of my usual ambulatory, upright discomfort.  I’ll tell you!  The only fly in the ointment was all that equally delicious sun – I paid attention but I got scorched anyway.  All that brine actually made me feel like a pickle which in turn only succeeded in   adding icing to the cake:  the shower proved to be nirvana.

Obviously this is a situation I must pay more attention to -  in the future.  I’ve never learned about sun screen but  actually I don’t think this problem will come up again as  It requires days at sea in hot weather and we don’t seem to specialize in that kind of touring.

I had forgotten how international  Seabourn   is and how very much I enjoy that;  the  much appreciated  presence of many nationalities and languages.  This situation was happily brought to my attention quite quickly at dinner the first  evening  as we seemed to be sitting amidst an enclave of Belgians who proved to be quite affable and friendly. I was delighted to have the opportunity  of  expressing my  sympathy over the presence in their midst  of what seemed to be a Muslim nursery for budding terrorists.  Their  very  casual approach seemed similar to that of the Parisians even in the face of such unanticipated horror  which simply amazed me.  Could I do that?  Doubt it