As soon as we escape the controlled waters of Sydney harbor our vessel slams into the waves of the Bass Strait like a sledgehammer pounding on dirt. Tossing us side-to-side and front to back, the seas play with us like a child with a rag doll. Creaking and dipping, our suite with 600 thread-count sheets and high definition TV lists as we make our way towards Melbourne. From our fourth floor portal, 60 feet above the waterline, foam from broken waves paints our view white. Our first night at sea and we are deep into the feeling of man’s tentative relationship living upon water even when our capsule is the size of the Empire State Building.
A new day breaks and the seas have laid down with a bright sun shining over all of us. My first art class goes well as I endeavor to polish some budding artists. Several, having come full-circle in their twilight years, create with the sheer pleasure I have observed in children.
Angie and I begin to get a hang of the ship’s layout as our sea legs sprout. Smooth sailing for the day until evening when the winds pick up and again buffet us about. We pass far off shore somewhere between Tasmania and Australia. The horizon curves away and there is only an ocean with a few frigate birds, their wing tips tapping Morris-code on the faces of the waves while they swoop across the surface of the sea. After standing long against the thrust of the wind, it is time to go below and prepare for the night’s black tie dinner.
The following day begins with a whale spouting off port and two dolphins playing in the boat’s wake. A good omen by any standard. Angie and I have settled into our shipboard routines. Up with the sun, Angie goes to stretching and strengthening classes while I ensure the bed doesn’t get made before 9am. Later, while I teach an art class of dedicated students, Angie practices Samba and Waltz moves with the ship’s two svelte Ukrainian instructors. By dinnertime we are ready for a nap before venturing aft to dine in elegance.
In ports of Adelaide and Freemantle, we walk about, feeding on fresh sights and old buildings. We find quaint turn of the last century architecture mixed with ultra modern steel and glass structures. The highlight of shore leave is inevitably the high-speed Internet connection available at Hungry Jack fast food restaurants where we reconnect with the outside world. Returning to our home away from home on the sea, we set sail for Bali.
A cyclone off the north of Australia whips up the seas again as we are pummeled by 40-knot winds and 20 foot seas. Dinner with dancing waiters goes remarkably well while nothing appears to hit the floor despite the pitching seas. However, by dessert luck has run out and a substantial crash emanates from the kitchen, reminding us that behind the manicured veneer, keeping a vessel of 1000 guests and crew operating while in the grip of Poseidon has its challenges. But the staff and the ship respond impeccably as we cruise the Indian Ocean heading towards the equator.
After two weeks on the sea, we anchor off the East coast of Bali and spend a day revisiting local sights and friends. It has been an expansive trip for both our hearts and bellies. We lunch at an open-air wet market on traditional Indonesian food, returning to a more reasonable caloric diet. Our last view of the island is the departure lounge of Bali International Airport, returning to Singapore and life lived on land.
Text by Gregory Burns, Photographs by Angie Tan Burns, All Rights Reserved.