sip sip ahoy

Mr VVOf all the fun pop-up experiences happening in and around London right now, Vestal Voyages, the world’s first floating pop-up bar, might be the only one that gets me to don a life vest. The scene is a 50-ft classic canal boat, where a maximum ten guests at a time are invited to push out for a leisurely cocktail-fueled voyage along Regent’s Canal. Sailing from King’s Cross you’ll float through the longest tunnel on the canal network before finally emerging in fleafy Islington, downing luxurious libations all along the way. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a lazy afternoon – weather permitting, natch. For more info tweet @vestalvoyages.



gondola launch

After trampling up and down temples in the sweltering heat – I’ve tried to not belabor the point but it is hot, hot, hot in Cambodia! – it’s time for a little luxury:  skimming the moat of Angkor Thom in a private gondola stocked with champagne and canapes. As the sun set the moon rose high into the sky, casting an iridescent blue glow over the waking jungle.


moorise over the moat

pale blue glow


a precipitous change in the weather


picture yourself in a boat on a river

Today I got a unique opportunity to explore a small piece of Thailand’s rural heartland aboard a traditional teak rice barge, the Thanatharee, sailing on the Chao Phraya out of Ayuttaya – the ancient Thai capital an hour and a half north of Bangkok – and into the rich agricultural central plains. Comfortably repurposed it could not be beaten as the perfect place for a long, cool drink and a languorous lunch while watching the world drift gently by. That is, until the weather abruptly – and radically – changed.


water for elephants

Cruising the Chao Phraya river just north of Bangkok this afternoon, I came upon the most amazing sight: a trio of domesticated elephants out for their daily bath.


live blog: disembarking


live blog: bang into bodrum

Situated at the end of a peninsula jutting into the Aegean, Bodrum, Turkey – home of the Greek historian Herodatus – is these days better known as a coastal holiday resort. In ancient times the town was called Halicarnassus – famous for the Mausoleum of Mausolos, one of the original seven wonders of the world. Destroyed by successive earthquakes, the Mausoleum today lies in ruins. Of interest however is the fortress of Bodrum Castle, which overlooks the harbor. Built by the same Knights who later fled to Malta via Rhodes, the castle has been turned into a museum of underwater archaeology, with a collection of amphoras, ancient glass, bronze, clay, and iron items recovered from ancient shipwrecks in the Aegean Sea. It’s also a great place to sip a Turkish coffee.


live blog: setting an open course


live blog: midnight at the oasis

The sun sets over the old town of Rhodes and the city lights up like an oasis in The Levant: palm trees, minarets, and medieval ruins all crowned by a crescent moon. There’s something mystical here. The island, though clearly Greek today, has been a crossroads for travelers and divergent civilizations over centuries. It’s made for a perfect launch point: tomorrow I’ll be sailing the Dodecanese for just over a week, zigzagging my way from the coast of Turkey to Santorini, Crete and a handful of lesser islands on a small sailing ship with Variety Cruises. Yet again, I’ve no idea what the internet situation will be, so postings may be sporadic.  Fear not, however; Odysseus will be making a full report as time – and technology – allows.


savoir faire savings

Just over a year ago when Voyage Privé first entered the US market there was – at most – a handful of flash-sale sites.  Since then the flash-sale phenomenon has taken the internet by storm – especially when it comes to travel. With so many new sites popping up, it leaves you wondering what’s so special about the ones that got there first? For one, Voyage Privé is the only members-only travel flash sale site to offer a flexible cancellation policy – so there’s no need to sweat about buyer’s remorse the day after. Even better, a Best Price guarantee promises you can rest easy:  there is not a better deal to be had anywhere. Period. With discounts of up to 75% off a dozen or so travel deals per week, European-based Voyage Privé is a fantastic way to shop entre nous for high quality travel – and I do mean quality: save 62% on a stay at The Millennium Hotel London Mayfair, up to 57% off at The Pavilions in Phuket, and 56% aboard the m/s Paul Gauguin, including air fare. Sure you’re locked into certain dates, but a little flexibility turns into significant savings when money-saving deals are constantly sprouting up. Yet buyers beware: sales are here today and going, going, gone tomorrow. Hesitate at your own expense.


ship shape

I must confess:  I am not much into cruise ships.  Don’t get me wrong, as a child I was addicted to the celebrity-studded Love Boat as it sailed each week to exotic-sounding ports of call like Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.  Everyone dressed for dinner, had all their problems sorted in under an hour, and nobody ever seemed to wait in line for anything.  It seemed like such a civilized way to vacation. Of course that show was the ruination of cruising as I had always imagined it, too.  Suddenly everybody in America wanted to jump ship and welcome aboard love.  Cruise lines started tripping over themselves to build bigger, bolder ships, with substantial passenger capacities.  The era of the mega ship followed not too far behind.  The trick was to make travelers believe that quantity equated with quality.  (In retrospect, the 1990’s were a big buffet – perfectly tailored to meet America’s growing obesity epidemic.)  In the year 2000, Celebrity launched the ship Millenium: its main selling point was comfortably holding 5,000 passengers. I spent a tortured, claustrophobic night on that boat when it docked in New York and I knew then and there that cruising would never be for me.

So I found it amusing that I was invited on board the Crystal Symphony for lunch last week while it docked in New York for the day. My friends who have been known to indulge in a cruise or two spoke of Crystal’s ships in reverent tones of adoration, however, making me think it might be about time for me to reevaluate my decade-old prejudice.  What I discovered surprised even me.

There’s a reason Crystal is consistently ranked as the “World’s Best Cruise Line” – this ship is really a floating five-star hotel.  Spacious rooms with Murano glass sinks and Frette linens instead of the standard miniscule bathroom and scratchy blankets; a guest-to-crew ratio of less than 2:1, gourmet dining options like Nobu and Selvaggio; a Feng Shui-inspired Elemis spa; the driving range, putting green, and on-hand PGA pro; and a grand staircase that wouldn’t look out of place on the Pacific Princess. The difference between this new reality and my preconceived notions was, pardon the pun, crystal-clear.  This was how I always imagined life on board a ship could and should be:  tranquil.

Come 2011 I wouldn’t be so surprised to find myself at sea.  And happily so.


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