Days 8 & 9: Straits of Malacca, Andaman Sea and Phuket
ABOARD OCEANIA’S NAUTICA — Departing Port Klang, Malaysia, at 6 p.m. we anticipated 74 hours at sea before our next port: Phuket, Thailand. We looked forward to one last day in Thailand and to seeing the famous resort island; plus, there’d be an opportunity to part with the Thai baht still in our wallets.
One of the true pleasures of this cruise has been getting to know Romhelyn (pronounced Rome-a-lynn), our stateroom attendant. She is a delightfully engaging young Filipina with an infectious smile and easy laugh who tidies our cabin to perfection each day and turns down our bed each night with a gift of chocolate on our pillows. She is always interested in our activities, even requesting the recipes from our Thai cooking class — that we gladly shared. Romhelyn is a star in a constellation of dedicated, professional, solicitous and engaging staff aboard Nautica.
We believe any cruise ship must be safe, clean and comfortable and provide basic services. Beyond that, what distinguishes the good from the tolerable, and the excellent from the good, are the level of amenities and service. Here, we have staff that goes well beyond what’s required for good service — they reveal personalities and seem to take genuine pleasure in their work.
One benefit of a sea day — aside from a chance to work out in the morning — is the opportunity to attend “Enrichment Presentations.” In the morning we appreciated the education from Don Campbell, retired Coast Guard commander, about ships, sailing and nautical terms. In the afternoon, travel photographer Peter Guttman dazzled a large audience with what he aptly described as a kaleidoscopic magic carpet ride around planet earth.
We concluded our evening at sea with the spellbinding Latin guitar playing of Vincenzo Martinelli.
Now Phuket is one of those ports where going ashore on your own is a good option. This 557 square kilometer island province on southern Thailand’s west coast hosts from 5 to 7 million visitors per year. Most of them come for the beautiful sand beaches and upscale resorts that line the island’s west coast where they sunbathe, swim, snorkel and enjoy other water sports. Most arrive via Phuket’s international airport. For cruise ship passengers, public transportation pretty much involves negotiating taxi fares.
This was our first time in Phuket and we’d have a maximum of about seven hours ashore. It was the beginning of Thai New Year celebration with traffic expected to be very congested, so we opted for one of the ship’s excursions.
We enjoyed our guide, who said her name was “Air.” We took photos at scenic Promthep Cape at Phuket’s southern tip and at Wat Chalong, the island’s most revered Buddhist temple. We did manage to part with our remaining baht in exchange for an attractive silk scarf at a shopping stop.
Our final stop on the tour charmed us with classical Thai dances and music with colorful, elaborate costumes. Still, should we find ourselves in Phuket again, it’ll be the beach for us and, if we can arrange it, a boat tour of Phang Nga Bay at Phuket’s north end.