If the title of this blog post grabbed your attention, just wait until you see the photos from this trip!!
I am incredibly lucky to have the best job in the world. Not only am I allowed to live and work in Asia right now, but I’m also given the most amazing opportunities to sample what we sell at Panache Cruises. So that meant I was asked if I’d like to go on a luxury cruise around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. Let me think….yes please!
The cruise was with ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn aboard their beautiful ship Encore. I’ve heard such amazing things about Seabourn and couldn’t wait to get onboard. More excited than me, however, was Joe, who had never been on a cruise at all before and was thrilled to be invited along too – talk about starting right at the top!
Having spent a couple of weeks working in Malaysia, we hopped on a bus to Singapore and spent a night in a gorgeous hotel, Grand Park City Hall. It was in a great central location, meaning we were able to use our limited time in the city to do some shopping (we needed some more formal clothes for the cruise!) and get food at our favourite restaurant, Zam Zam’s, near the Sultan Mosque.
We headed to the cruise port the following day after lunch and after checking in our bags and handing in our passports we embarked the ship – the whole process was quick and smooth and we were just so excited to be among the first to get onboard!
We headed straight to our designated suite, a beautiful Veranda Suite on Deck 6, and popped open the bottle of Champagne waiting for us upon arrival. The suite was so spacious with the comfiest bed in the world, a lovely veranda, dining table, walk-in closet, and stunning bathroom with double vanity. The perfect place to call home for the next 14 nights!
After a quick tipple we decided to explore the ship and get our bearings, plus this was a great opportunity for me to take some photos and videos for work whilst there was virtually no one else around. We ran around like excited children, exploring the restaurants, bars, lounges, spa, gym, and other open decks. Of course, we had to stop off at the pool bar and order a Singapore Sling – it would’ve been rude not to seeing as we were in Singapore!
It was soon time to head back to our suite, unpack our bags, and get ready for the evening. We had an absolutely divine first meal in The Restaurant, which is the most formal dining venue on the ship. It was such a novelty to dress up and head to a fancy dinner where we drank too much wine, ate delicious filet de boeuf, sublime sweet desserts, and shared a cheese platter with a port wine pairing – when I tell you I missed cheese over the past four months in Asia, I mean I nearly cried eating this. Our first evening ended at The Club, a music venue and bar onboard where we spent pretty much every evening of the cruise, either for a pre-dinner drink, competing in team trivia during the day, or for a dance late into the night. Day one of the cruise had been a huge success and it just felt so surreal to be onboard – and trust me, that feeling never really wore off.
To spare you every single detail of our lives for the two weeks we spent on Seabourn Encore, I will share a little summary of the highlights of the cruise!
You’ve heard a bit about The Restaurant but we also visited for lunchtime one day when there was an event called the Galley Market. This was where the fantastic culinary team prepared and laid out a huge buffet in the galley itself and guests were invited to walk through and serve themselves. There were hot and cold food stations, desserts, cheeses, themed foods, freshly carved meat, and a ginormous wheel of cheese with spaghetti swirled inside it! It was a fantastic behind-the-scenes view at the galley kitchens and gave us the chance to meet the talented chefs who worked tirelessly throughout the voyage to provide the most incredible food for us.
Other highlights were The Grill at Thomas Keller, the signature restaurant onboard Seabourn Encore where reservations are required. We went twice, once just the two of us and once with the singers who we got to know throughout the voyage. If you don’t know, Thomas Keller is the only American chef to boast three Michelin stars at two different restaurants, and he’s partnered with Seabourn to create an amazing menu of classic, homely dishes with a twist. Think mac and cheese but throw some lobster and artichoke in there, or chicken cordon bleu with the creamiest whipped mash and the most delicious vegetables you’ve ever eaten.
We also ate a couple of times at the Sushi restaurant onboard and tried a variety of nigiri, sashimi, gyozas, miso soup, matcha ice cream, and western style sushi rolls. Delicious! The Patio is the casual poolside restaurant where we enjoyed burgers, pizzas, and homemade salads, and at night it turned into the more elegant Earth & Ocean restaurant. This was a great spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset and try some gorgeous dishes including slow-cooked lamb, juicy swordfish, creamy king prawns, and baked camembert.
The place we ate at the most onboard though was The Colonnade. This was open for a fantastic buffet breakfast and lunch, and for dinner there was a different theme each night. We went for French night (snails and French onion soup, yum!), Italian night (risotto and pesto pasta), Vietnamese night (pho, spring rolls, and crispy crab), and the Indian night (we love Indian food so this was fab). I will never ever get tired of a full English breakfast and I loved the theme concept, especially when we were eating Vietnamese food on the terrace overlooking Ho Chi Minh City.
We also indulged in room service a number of times (usually when a little hungover) and this was one of those things we found really luxurious. Forget dressing up and going to a fancy restaurant for dinner – eating pasta in bed or a huge breakfast on the balcony and having it all brought to you and laid out is a real luxury.
Another highlight for us was obviously getting to visit so many different places. I never thought I’d be a huge cruise fan but it’s actually such a great way to travel and see so many places in one luxurious holiday. Our itinerary took us from Singapore to Bangkok, Koh Kood (a Thai island close to Cambodia), Sihanoukville (Cambodia), Ho Chi Minh City, Port Klang (near to Kuala Lumpur), and back to Singapore. There were five sea days interspersed in the itinerary where everyone was onboard, and we decided to also stay onboard for the Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur sections as we have already visited. Also, for us, being on the ship was the main experience in itself.
We did get off the ship in Koh Kood, Sihanoukville, and Ho Chi Minh City, however. Koh Kood was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life so far. It’s where Seabourn hosts their signature event, Caviar in the Surf. We got a tender boat to a private beach on the island and it’s nothing short of paradise. The crew rolled out the red carpet for us (literally) and served us Champagne, cocktails, and put on a huge barbecue for lunch.
The main event was the cruise director Aimee and some of the culinary team whipping out a surfboard and serving caviar off it while standing in the ocean. It was quite simply insane. Joe and I absolutely loved this event and will remember it forever as one of the most bizarre and unique experiences of our lives. The rest of the day was spent paddleboarding, swimming with tropical fish, and drinking more cocktails.
Sihanoukville is not somewhere I’d ever visit again, although I said that last time I went in 2016…we spent a couple of hours at a local market and walked along the beach, but the place is so run down and we were happy to just stretch our legs and get back on the ship. Ho Chi Minh City, on the other hand, was phenomenal. I loved it when I visited before and couldn’t wait to go with Joe for the first time. We visited the War Remnants Museum, a really harrowing place but an absolute must to learn about the history of the country. We strolled the streets for a few hours and found a bunch of other places that we can’t wait to visit when we go back, hopefully later this year or early next year!
Just….being on the ship
To be honest, as I said before, the main experience for us was just being onboard such a beautiful ship. We had every intention of going to the gym (I love a good treadmill view), trying a 7am yoga class, going in the sauna and maybe treating myself to the spa, but none of those things happened.
Most days we chilled by the pool with a book and cocktail (or five), one day we sampled afternoon tea in the Observation Lounge which was a real treat, and on a few occasions we joined team trivia – and even won on our final day! I didn’t even mind having to do some work onboard, as I got to do it in the beautiful Seabourn Square, a lovely lounge with indoor and outdoor seating and a little cafe which served the best cookies ever.
But most of all, we simply loved spending time with the friends we made onboard, meeting for pre- and post-dinner drinks in The Club every night. The entertainment on Seabourn Encore was also absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t say I’m a theatre-goer or a music fanatic, but I found myself looking forward to the performances every single evening, which ranged from Jamie Raven’s spectacular magic show (which Joe took part in!) to a classical/jazz piano fusion performance to the very best musical numbers performed by Seabourn’s amazing singers and dancers. We fully expected to be having early nights, but everyone onboard was up for a party and the atmosphere was great.
All in all this was such an amazing experience to share together for the first time and a welcome break from the budget backpacking we’ve been doing for the past few months! Joe loved his first cruising experience and I think it will be a hard one to beat. Thank you so much to both Seabourn and Panache for getting us onboard!
Want to find out more about luxury cruising? Read about my first ever cruise around Greece with Silversea here and head to Panache Cruises to see if you fancy trying a cruise for yourself 😉
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