Imagine, if you can, the Ritz Hotel with propellers, blessed with all the facilities of a really good small town, and then stripped of all the traffic, litter and crime.
What you are left with is the Silver Shadow.
With a crew ratio of almost 1:1, service is the best afloat, provided by a European-trained staff.
The whole experience was like being awake in a particularly vivid dream. Imagine drinking comp. champagne in the hot tub as Saigon emerges from the mid day haze, or having steak, onion soup and grapes for breakfast on your balcony, washed down with steaming hot coffee as the sun rises from the sea.
On Shadow, you don't have to imagine. You get to do it as often as you like.
The ship is cool, soothing and restful in terms of decor, and so spacious that, at times, she feels like the Marie Celeste. The food, both in range, quality, diversity and excellence of presentation, set this line apart, a fact reflected in the price tag. Still, with a repeat occupancy of 85%-more than twice the industry average-they must be doing something right.
Accommodations are simply awesome. 90% have balconies with real teak decking and good quality furniture. Bathrooms and interiors are so luxurious that dragging oneself out of them becomes a real trial of strength.
Nightlife is low key, revolving mainly around exquisite dining and convivial nightcaps with a passenger list that is, in general, well heeled and suitably travelled. You cannot be over-dressed on this ship. Many people take advantage of sumptuous on board accommodations to entertain privately, and why not?
An air of incredible exclusivity hovers around this ship like lingering stardust. You might as well be completely detached from reality-the latter is just an interesting optional extra. Like everything else, you can take it or leave it.
It's true to say that this ship is so compelling, so easy to linger in, that some passengers can't be enticed ashore, even by some of the most alluring ports in the world. Still, when you can linger in your bathrobe over a 24/7 room service menu that-alone-would put many mass market restaurant menus to shame, why would you?
One word of warning: this kind of cruising-exalted, exclusive, almost fully inclusive-will absolutely spoil you for anything else. After all, once you've had a Rolls-Royce, you don't downgrade to a Skoda. And yes, that really is the difference.