I made a mistake in planning this voyage, and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it. An avid cruiser like me should not make such a rookie move, and yet I did.
For years, I’ve been advising that you should plan to arrive a day or two before your cruises. I’ve proselytized readers with a consistent message that I believe benefits them. The message is this: Arrive in your destination at least one day before your cruise begins so that you will have time to appreciate the port city of embarkation, and — this is especially true when traveling to long-haul destinations — the early arrival also allows you to shake off any travel fatigue before beginning your voyage. Another benefit of arriving early is that it gives your luggage a chance to catch up with you should it be delayed by the airlines.
I ignored my own advice and flew in the day that my voyage began. I reasoned that Silver Shadow was overnighting in Bali for two nights anyway, so I didn’t need to build in an extra hotel night or two. In retrospect, I should have.
I’ve spoken with several folks on my voyage who stayed in Bali three, four or five nights before boarding Silver Shadow. Doing so allowed them recover from jet lag and also adapt to being several time zones away from their homes. They told me that arriving pre-cruise also allowed them to explore the island and to relax at Bali’s beautiful and expansive beachside resorts.
The good news is that as I have not yet adapted to the change in time zones, I am up with the sunrise each morning — long before the sunrise, in fact. My eyes open, and I become restless at around 3 a.m. It’s not a bad time to be up on a voyage like this one. The ship is quiet, and the early morning air is refreshing.
Suffering from insufficient sleep (did anyone see “Lost in Translation”?), I nap for about an hour each afternoon — again, not an unpleasant activity but one that interrupts the flow of the day. So from now on I plan to follow my own advice: 1) arrive a day or two before my cruise begins; and, also as I have advised in previous posts, 2) fly Business Class or better so that I arrive refreshed and as well rested as possible.
The Antidote For Jet Lag
Fortunately, there is an antidote for jet lag here on Silver Shadow. In fact, there are several: my comfortable suite, which I will tell you more about in a future post; massage treatments and the spa; a swimming pool and two jacuzzis; any beverage I care to consume — coffee, tea, soft drinks, champagne, spirits, beer, bottled water — not only served on a complimentary basis but also available in my suite.
I can order room service 24 hours a day. If I want to vegetate, there’s a good selection of movies and television shows from networks worldwide. Should I require something more cerebral than the squawk box, there is a library if I want to relax with a book.
All of these are great, but they pale in comparison to what may just be the greatest antidote for jet lag: Roland.
Dapperly dressed in his tux and bow tie, Roland has made my life on board extraordinarily easy from the start. He is a butler, and I, along with everyone else who cruises Silversea, have the services of a butler.
On arrival, Roland introduced himself, gave me a brief orientation to the suite and told me about some of the services he could provide. Basically, it boiled down to this: I need not lift a finger on this voyage; Roland was there to do whatever needed be done for me.
Over the course of the voyage, Roland will serve breakfast, afternoon canapés and dinner on the mornings and evenings when I choose enjoy meals in the comfort of my suite. Like a matador coaxing a bull to charge his cape, Roland will throw a tablecloth over the four-person dining room table and set it with fine cutlery and glassware. The experience is like dining in a fine restaurant, only I can dine in my bathrobe if I wish.
He’ll stock my bar, knowing that I prefer sparkling water over flat, Leffe over Stella Artois, Champagne over Sauvignon Blanc. He goes beyond the call of duty. When I sent out my laundry earlier this week, Roland noticed a hole in a pair of pants I had sent for cleaning. He returned them not only cleaned but also stitched. In the hallway, if he sees me approaching my suite, he pulls out his key card and opens the door for me.
I return to my room at times to find that Roland has cleaned my eyeglasses and sunglasses — and sometimes he has done even more than that. After dinner at La Terrazza one night, I walked into my room to discover that Roland, knowing that I enjoy the oh-so-delicious Bitter Chocolate Mousse, had set up an elaborate presentation featuring the mousse as well as fresh strawberries along with chocolate and caramel for dipping. I’m sure Roland will make an excellent husband one day.
Yesterday, when he saw me walking down the hallway with a form that I had completed designating a few shore excursions I wanted to book, Roland asked if he could take care of the bookings for me. Granted, the shore excursion desk was only one level down, but he wanted to save me the time required to perform this “administrative” task.
He asks if he can make my dinner reservations at Le Champagne and La Terrazza. When I told him I enjoyed Indian food, he suggested that one of the Indian chefs on board prepare a special dinner for me to be enjoyed in my suite. I mentioned that I should invite a couple to dine with me, and he insisted on preparing a formal invitation. Did I want to host a party in my suite later in the voyage, he asked. If so, he would prepare the event, organizing the drinks and snacks, all complimentary on Silversea.
He is definitely a giver. On the evening before my Elephant Safari Adventure shore excursion, Roland had laid out on my bed a complimentary Silversea backpack, stocked with a cap, a bottle of water, Evian spray and sanitary hand wipes. Great timing. I was wondering how I would transport a change of clothes and some other items I wanted to take along with me on the excursion.
‘A Second Life’
Roland comes from India, where, shortly after graduating hotel management school, he signed on as a butler at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. He quickly experienced something totally unexpected and tragic. Roland was on duty on the infamous night when terrorists attacked the hotel in November 2008. There were many casualties as the terrorists spared no one who had the misfortune of coming into contact with them. Roland hid for more than 24 hours along with two guests to avoid being wounded or worse.
After 24 hours, smoke (the terrorists set many fires) forced Roland and the guests to evacuate the room. They put towels over their faces and crawled into the smoke-filled hallway. Roland says that his hands came in contact with pools of blood as he crawled along the hallway, a nightmare for a boy who was then only 23 years old.
While he feared for his life, his friends and family assumed the worst when they tried calling him during the ordeal. Roland had turned off his cell phone to avoid any noise that might attract the terrorists. He and the guests escaped, shaken but unharmed. He pauses to reflect while telling me the story and says, “I feel as if I have been given a second life.”
Today, Roland is living that second life far from Mumbai. He had wanted to work for Silversea before taking a job at the hotel, but Silversea required experience working in the hospitality industry. In 2009, he responded to an ad recruiting butlers for the luxury line’s newly minted butler program. He was hired and now at 27 years old, he remains one of the company’s original butlers.
Roland tells me he loves working with Silversea, and it clearly shows. He is an exceptional butler, someone who genuinely seems to enjoy pleasing his guests.
He has a gift for anticipating guest needs (mine, at least). Roland is present when needed, yet not intrusive, a delicate balance to strike to be sure. He’s never more than a few minutes away. Should I need Roland, I need only press a button on my suite phone to page him.
One of the things that I appreciate most: Roland keeps my espresso machine filled with water, so that all I have to do is insert a capsule and push a button. Even jet-lagged, I can manage that, but I’ll bet if I asked, Roland would be happy to do it for me.
He’s a remarkable young man and a survivor to boot, just one of the many wonderful people who I have encountered on Silversea.
That’s my report for the day. It’s almost noon in my time zone, time for lunch — and perhaps a quick nap.