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Sunday, December 7, 2008

AUSSIES’ MAKE SEADREAM A CARIBBEAN COUP

david ellis

MODERN-day pirates may have guests ducking for cover on cruise ships off Somalia, but when a baker's-dozen Aussies decided on a brief "commandeering" of the world's Number One motor-yacht in the Caribbean last month, fellow guests didn't go running for cover – they went running for their cameras.

SeaDream I had just sailed 4952km across the Atlantic from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, and had dropped anchor off sunny St Barts in the French West Indies when the Aussies sprang their Caribbean Coup.

Gathering at the ship's stern they swiftly lowered the official Norwegian flag, and in a flash had a 2-metre Australian one fluttering in its place - providing unique photo-opportunities aboard SeaDream I and on surrounding pleasure boats as well: it's not every day luxury cruisers are seen in those parts with the Aussie flag flapping from their flagstaff.

After a Champagne toast down our flag came and that of Norway (SeaDream Yacht Club is Norwegian-owned,) run-up again by SeaDream's security officer – one of only two deck officers who knew of the "surprise" event: the other was the Captain, who'd quietly given his approval.

The thirteen Australians were the third biggest group after Americans and British amongst the-just 91-guests on board, and also the most Aussies ever to make the annual 11-night relocation from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean where SeaDream escapes the Northern Winter.

And despite dire predictions from doomsayer mates, passengers on the boutique 4,300 tonne SeaDream I – and that included this writer – were not tossed around on a wild and stormy Atlantic: SeaDream's mega-motor-cruisers travel well south, missing the stormier conditions of the North Atlantic.

Apart from rain showers on the first day that prevented dining on deck, breakfasts and lunches were taken outdoors under shade-covers for the remaining 10-days, and the open-air Top of the Yacht Bar became a late-morning focal point for flutes of Champagne, rainbow cocktails in voluminous glasses, beers from Europe, America and Mexico, and wines from around the world (that are all included in the holiday price.)

A 3m swell eased after the first few days and from then-on it was much like lake sailing… in fact, so smooth was it towards the end that Captain Bjarne Smorawski had to reduce speed to avoid arriving ahead of schedule into our first Caribbean port, St Maartens.

And again despite the doomsayers, there was plenty to keep us occupied on our eight non-stop days across the Atlantic: a Handwriting Analyst and People Profiler, and an Astronomer each gave several talks to interested guests, while poolside was the place to chin-wag, read a book, or take a nap in the sun (and raise a languid hand to have your favourite drink miraculously appear – and your stewards clean your sunglasses and mist you with cool water if they deduced signs of fatigue in these gruelling conditions.)

And then there was the food, oh glorious food: Chef d'Cuisine, Tomasz and Pastry Chef Garfield (dubbed "The Pound A Day Men") offered sensation after sensation from traditional breakfast favourites through internationally-inspired luncheons, evening cocktails and dinner – always a particularly grand 5-star affair with Starters (Gratinated Escargots with Aubergine Compote and Champignon de Paris amongst the choices one night,) Middle Courses (Cream of Mushroom Soup infused with Truffle Oil another,) Chef's Main Dishes (decisions decisions: Grilled Lobster Tail, Roast Baby Lamb Loin or Duck L'Orange one evening,) and Garfield's sinful desserts that might include Chocolate SoufflĂ© with Baileys Sauce….

For the Pound A Day guilty there were brisk morning walks around the top deck (that also raised funds for Miami's Children's' Bereavement Centre,) Tai Chi and Stretch Sessions, Yoga, golf on the 50-course Simulator, a state-of-the-art Fitness Centre, an optional-cost Spa, and less physically-demanding quizzes, trivia sessions, Black Jack lessons and Sundowners at the Top of the Yacht Bar to prepare one for the evening's pre-dinner Cocktail Party…

And yes, we survived to hopefully do it all again…

(The 55-couples/95-crew SeaDream I sails 11-nights from San Juan to Lisbon on May 3 2009 with prices from US$3527pp twin-share, inclusive of all 5-star dining, drinks from the open bars and wines with meals, nightly Cocktail Parties, use of a 50-course golf simulator, gratuities, port charges and taxes. See travel agents or visit www.seadream.com for more information including 2009's Mediterranean itineraries.)

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PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] CARIBBEAN coup – not every day the Aussie flag flutters from a luxury ship in the Caribbean.

[] SEADREAM I slips by an idyllic Caribbean isle.


(PHOTOS: Malcolm Andrews and SeaDream Yacht Club)

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