Skip to content

Magellan had the right idea, but my world cruise was better

October 2, 2019

Magellan, a Portugese explorer in the service of Spain, left these shores in 1519 with the idea of sailing around the world. He had five ships and 270 crew. But just one ship, the Victoria, arrived home safely three years later, and with only 18 men, not including Magellan, who had died en route.

It was not a promising start to world cruising.

Nevertheless, 500 years later, I decided to have a crack at it. Like Magellan, I had been around a bit, and some considering his world was a lot smaller, voyaging on all great

olV3Qi3RQE6cT4zwN8E3VQ

Crystal Serenity anchored off Jamestown, St Helena

oceans and visiting the Galapagos, Antarctica, sailing up the Amazon, down the Nile, and made fabulous trips on the Ganges and Mekong. 

But the world cruise is something else. It is the holy grail of cruising – expensive, long (up to 244 nights) – and it’s hard to find a vessel going exactly where you want to go.

But I did find a very good ship, the Crystal Serenity, leaving from Los Angeles on an 85-day sort of circumnavigation, pointed in more or less in the right direction, and figured that if I hopped ashore here and there that would work. 

I like LA, particularly Santa Monica. We had four nights at the JW Marriott slap bang on a glorious beach, not far from where Mae West had a house, and in the other direction Venice, home of the Doors. We spent four days on the wide promenade with its pier and seafood restaurants, and roamed into the hills to see the Getty Museum. It was January and the sun was shining.

Then a limo arrived. When you do a world cruise with Crystal you are a somebody. The limo, about half as long again as the biggest car I have ever owned, took us to the port at nearby San Pedro, and after a minimum of formalities we stepped up the gangway – a day early. Passengers booked for less than the entire voyage would board after our party.

About half the 800 passengers were doing the full cruise, and that first night we had champagne and a splendid dinner, followed by a show and greetings from the captain, then tottered off to bed for the first night of 85.

First stop was Hawaii, aways a pleasing experience where the golfers on board wasted no time finding somewhere to play. I could not resist lunch at an old favourite, the Halekulani, the best hotel in Waikiki and right on the famous beach where Duke Kahanamoku was king of the surfers, then an Olympic champion, and the man who brought surfing to Australia in 1914.

The next day we were in fabulous Maui, enjoying the old whaling town of Lahaina, then the Big Island as it is known, where some intrepid folks flew over the very active Kilauea volcano in helicopters. The Big Island has remarkable golf courses laid on lava rock, one of the finest of which is Mauni Lani, a favourite of the PGA pros and it was here I first met Arnold Palmer. He was delighted to hear I was from Troon, where he won the Open in 1962, and on the strength of that offered  me a game at Bay Hill, his home course in Orlando. 

Samoa was a disappointment, because we went to Pago Pago at American Samoa rather than Apia at the Republic of Samoa, which was just bad luck as Crystal has also visited Apia.

It was near Apia that Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson built a home and ran the only household in the South Pacific were the staff wore tartan pareos. The friendly islanders loved Stevenson, calling him Teller of Tales, and when he died buried him like a chief on the top of a mountain. I have climbed it to his tomb, and read his epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me die.

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

This is the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And he hunter home from the hill.

Fiji was also underwhelming, because we went to the port of Lautoka rather than the capital Suva. But there was a lot more to come, and at Paihia, on the top of New Zealand, we jumped ship, rented a car and drove down the North Island to Mangawhai for lunch with friends at this easygoing beach resort. That evening found us near Auckland at the home of other friends, and the next day we dropped off the car in Auckland and boarded the ship.

Sydney is always a pleasure but increasingly busy with cruise ships. The itinerary said just one night here, so we got off and checked into a favourite hotel, the Pullman Grand Quay, where the balcony of our one-bedroom suite was a panoramic viewing platform overlooking the harbour and bridge, the latter brilliant lit up for Chinese New Year.

We spent six nights in Sydney, a highlight being a visit to the state library where I had a private viewing of Tasman’s own map of Australia, at least the parts he found. Otherwise, we just enjoyed being there, taking the ferry to Manly, dining at Mr Wong’s and sitting on that fabulous balcony watching the little ferries come and go. 

On moving day we checked with the port agent at Adelaide that the Serenity was indeed there, and then took an Uber to the airport for the short flight to the south coast city.

Serenity’s comfortable size made for a painless transit of the south coast, after which we stopped in Busselton. I had found a classic Rolls-Royce for charter and we rode in style to a Margaret River winery for lunch.

After that it was Perth, six sea days to Mauritius, Mozambique to Durban in South Africa, when once again we waved goodbye and flew to Cape Town giving us another three nights in this superb city. Serenity duly arrived and we had six nights there in total, enjoying the waterfront, Clarke’s bookshop on Long Street, and the wineries of Stellenbosch.

Namibia was good value, while St Helena was way beyond expectation. Napoleon, kept captive there by the British after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, probably missed Paris, but you can’t win them all. St Helena has beautiful, dramatic scenery, friendly people and a good pub. It also has a new airport offering challenging landings.

Cabo Verde and La Palma were also enjoyable, the latter sporting a barbershop where a decent trim was $5, but Dakar was a dud. By now we were almost home, and after an evening having tapas in Malaga and a day gripping our wallets in Barcelona, we made it to Monaco.

The verdict – if you wanted to be spoiled rotten with a variety of restaurants including Nobu, and be pampered by the best service afloat, Serenity will float your boat.

The lectures were very good, and some of the entertainment quite outstanding.

And it was well worth doing. Magellan had the right idea, but timing is everything.

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: