Embarking Silversea’s Silver Discoverer in Broome, Australia
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
My horoscope in the West Australian newspaper said today would be a bad day. And for the first half of the day, it was shockingly accurate. But the latter half of the day got infinitely better when I finally stepped aboard Silversea’s newest ultra-luxury expedition vessel, the sleek Silver Discoverer, in the red rock port of Broome.
Located on the western coast of Australia, Broome is a small town that is home to just under 15,000 inhabitants. During the height of the tourist season, the town’s population more than doubles. Tourists come to see Broome’s immense stretches of sandy beaches like Cable Beach, which runs for 22 kilometres. Tourism Australia calls Broome, “the romantic pearling port” and gateway to The Kimberley.
It’s also remote: it’s a two-and-a-half hour flight from Perth to Broome, and while Qantas offers flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Broome, most people will come here via Perth.
Admittedly, things got off to a rather lousy start when my pre-arranged transfer to Perth airport didn’t show up, despite having reconfirmed it yesterday with the Concierge at the Pan Pacific. Fortunately, the airport isn’t terribly far away, and Qantas has things down to a science in terms of check-in. Like in Sydney yesterday, I tagged my own bag and placed it on the conveyor belt, and was through security in under ten minutes.
From there, it was only three more minutes until I was relaxing in the splendour of the Qantas Club Lounge in Perth Airport’s Terminal 4, where I was able to grab a light breakfast, a barista-made cup of coffee, and a copy of The Australian newspaper and settle in for an hour of relaxation.
The time was 8:30a.m. I wouldn’t be relaxed again until after 4p.m.
When Qantas 1074 to Broome boarded this morning just after 9:30a.m., the Boeing 737-800 we embarked was so new it still had that “new plane” smell. Unfortunately, a baggage handler loading a large dog kennel into the hold ended up smashing the carrier into the open cargo door.
What was at first thought to be a small gash turned out to be a rather deep one that took off some rivets. After watching our departure time come and go, the decision was finally made to deplane everyone and switch them – and the luggage, and the catering – to a new aircraft.
I absolutely applaud Qantas for erring on the side of caution and safety, and to their credit, we were onboard our replacement 737-800 just 30 minutes after disembarking the first one; a herculean effort from all those behind-the-scenes.
Unfortunately, it also meant we took off nearly two hours late. But Silver Discoverer wasn’t scheduled to sail until 4:30p.m., so no issues there.
Until the second car service driver failed to show up to collect me in Broome.
Fortunately, the gentleman who is Silversea’s contact person in Broome – a man by the name of Frank Burgess – personally took me to the pier in his own car after multiple failed attempts to contact the car service.
The pier in Broome is strictly regulated. You have to have a certain kind of license to drive a motor vehicle out onto the jetty, making pre-arranged transfers essential. I’m not sure what I did to anger the transfer Gods today, but it must have been a doozy.
Fortunately, Frank sprang into action and arranged everything through Abercrombie & Kent, who arrange the majority of Silversea’s transfers here in Australia. Once at the pier, he got out of the vehicle and switched seats with someone – I have no idea who – that clearly held the necessary license. Even if it wasn’t a sweltering 36 Celsius outside, I couldn’t have walked the pier to the ship: it simply isn’t allowed.
What’s more, Frank runs a Bed & Breakfast in Broome called Ochre Moon. And he had two paying Ochre Moon guests with him, who were nothing but kind about the unexpected detour for the stressed and sweaty Canadian writer.
So my hat is off to Frank, along with my sincerest thanks to him for staying with me for over an hour after touchdown as he tried to get the situation sorted.
Once I arrived at the Silver Discoverer, however, things began to change for the better. I was – literally – the last guest onboard today, but the scents of the Laura Tonatto “Shanghai” reed diffuser in my room intermingled with the Bvlgari toiletries made me feel almost instantly at home.
Shortly after I embarked, the standard Muster Drill was conducted in the Main Lounge. Now, I’ve put on a lot of lifejackets in my time, but the ones aboard the Silver Discoverer were clearly designed by someone with sadomasochistic tendencies; the clasp on the thing is damn near impossible to open. In order to unlatch the bottom plastic clip, you have to push it in, simultaneously pull a heavy plastic tab up, then pull back – all without letting go of the two aforementioned pieces.
After a gorgeous sailaway from Broome, guests reconvened in the Main Lounge for the first of many Expedition Briefings, in which the days ahead were outlined, including a detailed description of our time spent cruising The Kimberley.
The Kimberley is one of Australia’s most remote regions. Travellers embarking on a land journey through The Kimberley are warned that four-by-four vehicles are mandatory. Extra jugs of gasoline or diesel have to be carried, as does extra food and water due to the limited locations of service stations and rest stops. Australia is also known for their massive “road trains” – massive multi-trailer semi-trucks that can run up to four trailers in length.
Part Australia’s allure is that, outside of the major cities, much of the country remains very rugged, remote, wild and untamed. Perhaps I feel a certain affinity for it here because it’s not so dissimilar from my own country, Canada.
Of course, one thing we don’t have in Canada are Box Jellyfish. And saltwater crocodiles. And the fun-sounding Irukandji Jellyfish, which is about the size of your fingernail and extraordinarily venomous to boot. It fires poisonous stingers out of its body and into that of passing victims, which causes a fun little condition called Irukandji Syndrome.
You might not even feel the sting – but you will feel the effects. Five minutes after being stung, a barrage of symptoms begin to develop: severe headache, backache, muscle pains, sweating, vomiting, anxiety, hypertension…the list goes on. It’s survivable, and treatable, but some patients are reportedly so convinced they’re going to die that they urge their doctors to kill them.
So – not the place you want to fall into the water!
I would be remiss if I did not mention tonight’s spectacular dinner in The Restaurant on Deck 3. I put spectacular in italics because that’s precisely what it was: one of the best dinners I’ve ever had on any Silversea ship. That the Silver Discoverer can hold her own against the line’s mainstream fleet is a huge accolade.
Because she’s going to play such a prominent role in the next 12 days, I want to close today’s entry with a look at the Silver Discoverer. She’s a real beauty, and I am once again amazed at Silversea’s ability to soothe, calm, excite and rejuvenate – all at the same time. I’ve only been onboard for a few hours as I type this, but I like what I see. A worthy sister-ship to Silver Explorer, to be sure!
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|