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Master Echo

'Discoverer-ing' Japan and the Philippines

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Monday April 16

A seat sale by Emirates decided Sir and Madame to sample the airline’s First Class service for the flight to Osaka in Japan.

The first leg to Dubai found just four of us in total in a cabin that could seat 16, making more cabin crew than passengers on this A380 aircraft! Even during the plane change in Dubai, the service was excellent. The 777 onwards to Osaka lacked the shower facility of the A380, but the cabin suites were identical. It was a novel experience to have one’s bed on a plane made up by a cabin attendant, who laid out a mattress onto the flat bed seat, and then covered it with a duvet; naturally pyjamas and slippers were provided.

Kobe is one of Japan’s largest cities and is about an hour’s drive from Osaka Kix airport. I chose the Okura hotel and one of the south facing rooms on a high floor because of the location overlooking the cruise terminal, and the spectacular night view of the lights of Kobe. It is also one of Silversea’s pre-cruise hotels, and this offered the advantage of a Silversea hospitality desk.

Silversea’s expedition ships get very little coverage on these boards, indeed it would seem that I am the only CC’er onboard this cruise, and it has therefore been impossible to ascertain the lifestyle on the Discoverer. The itinerary of this forthcoming cruise on Silver Discoverer that charts a south westerly course through Japanese waters into the Philippines, appeared to offer a way of seeing more of both countries.

Only recently I have found on the Internet that there is a party onboard organised by the Arts Club, size unknown at this stage. When I went for breakfast this morning, the Restaurant Manager said that there would be a short wait because of the presence of a large party. Answers to this and other questions will hopefully be revealed tomorrow on embarkation.

Kindest regards

 

Master Echo

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Good to hear from you ME, hope you find the Discoverer welcoming and look forward to your reporting.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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Looking forward to hearing more about this interesting journey. We have looked at Discoverer in this part of the world but it will be some time before we can get there. Have a great trip!

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Have a wonderful Discoverer voyage ME. Thank you for taking us along. Are you doing both Kobe to Manila, then Manila to Koror? Hope you get the opportunity to enjoy Corregidor.

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Thank you all for your good wishes.

 

Wes, unfortunately I am not doing a B2B this time and am disembarking in Manila. I am however staying for a further two days to explore that not seen before.

 

Have tried to attach a couple of pics from my hotel window showing the Naka cruise ship terminal from where hopefully, Silver Discoverer will appear tomorrow morning. However the photos are too large, and to date am not able to make them smaller.

 

Hopefully I will find a way!!

 

Kindest regards

 

Master Echo

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Master Echo....

Looking forward to reading your day by day blog..especially with the new unlimited wifi.

Enjoy your adventure!

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ME, are your using an Iphone or Ipad--using cruise critic forums app or Tapatalk app easily allows you to post. If so can send easy to read instructions--when I post using these apps, I chose the medium size photo selection for posting. If you're using a camera, then most likely your using a third party photo hosting site to post. Good luck

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Dear Wes,

 

How kind of you to suggest a remedy for my dilemma.

 

Having spent some considerable time trying to find how to diminish the photo size on the iPad, which eventually was successful, it finally came back saying "no internet connection".!! Happy days- will try again tomorrow!

 

Kindest regards

 

Master Echo

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I will look forward to hearing your observations of the Discoverer. George and I have sailed a bunch of times on Explorer, as well as once on Galapagos, and love them. We have considered Discoverer for Australia, but our friends who have been on it didn't seem to like the ship much.

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Have a wonderful trip ME. One of the high points of our recent trip on the Whisper was snorkeling in Coron in the Philippines. Hope you have the opportunity to do it.

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Day 1 April 17

 

The day has dawned misty but fair, and Silver Discoverer is docked below our window awaiting our arrival.

 

 

Kindest regards

 

Master Echo

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Have a great time ME...and look forward to being taken along with you on your voyage.

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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We have mixed feelings about the Discoverer, somewhat coloured by our great affection for big brother (PAII).

We even have a current booking, paid up 'n all.

We are , however, having serious thoughts about the itinerary and about the current state of life aboard.

Some very ordinary reviews about, and while a review is just one persons opinion, multiple negative comments cannot be ignored.

That's a very long winded intro to say I am looking forward very much to your cruise comments, Master Echo…… :-)

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Have a lovely trip ME.

The Discoverer is an eccentric lady with her own quirks and peculiarities. We were charmed by her!

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Day 1 - update - April 17

It was gone 12.30pm when we arrived by taxi on the quayside and there was no one to be seen apart from four port security guards. Embarkation started at 1.00pm.

Despite this delay, I was first onboard and was escorted to the pool grill for lunch, where Sir and Madame had their customary Pimms! The fish of the day was tuna and it was delicious which was accompanied by fries and a salad.

Three of the crew came over specifically to say hello which I thought was very nice, and a reminder that all the staff move between both expedition and the classic fleet. One was Edgardo, bar steward who’s wife is Nicky, bar stewardess, who many of you will remember. Both sailed for many years on the Wind, and we were so pleased to hear that she has been promoted to work on reception doing audit work, and currently on the Cloud. How time flies, their little girl is now five years old!

The ship is in the throes of updating the ship's Wi-Fi and as a consequence of this, there is currently no live TV.

However, we have all been given $200 shipboard credit, which I felt was a nice gesture. Struggling to find functioning shoreside Wi-Fi!!

More to follow shortly - hopefully!

Kindest regards

Master Echo

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From the outside, Silver Discoverer is not a pretty ship, lacking the pleasing sleek all white of the classic ships.

 

She has a capacity of 116 passengers, but there are 92 on this voyage. The crew quota is just over one hundred which includes about eight expedition staff. My cabin on deck 6 has a balcony, but very disappointingly, is of the Juliet type, and has two small chairs and an even smaller table.

 

The main cabin is of a good size, has been refurbished in Silversea decor, has quite a large writing desk, and on the other wall, a dressing table. Unfortunately storage space is extremely limited, made worse by the safe in what was originally a drawer, a lighting console in the bedside table also once a drawer. There is no room for any large luggage under the bed, as most of this space contains two large metal cabinets, one of which has a blanket, so space is limited even here. They stretch some way under the bed, but are not very deep, roughly about three inches. Lighting is poor, although the bathroom which is even tinier than those on the Wind, does have a spotlight over the sink. There is however no light in the shower cubicle. No shower curtain but a rigid screen jutting out about a foot. A very cosy environment! The balcony door is of the sliding variety, to open and close, requires a great deal of muscle, and we have asked our butler if this could be eased.

 

A major drawback is that the only electrical connectivity is via American type two pin 110 volts, which is a disgrace considering the high proportion of passengers who require European style two pin sockets. A hole in the wall above the dressing table bears witness that this facility once existed, but one wonders why this has been left in this state.

 

Our butler is from Kolkotta, and his assistant is Burmese from Yangon and she is delightful. Dipak recognised me and said he had been one of the team who had been part of the team who had opened up the Muse.

 

The ship might have the Silversea brand stamped on her, but her past life is still obvious. The internal stairs are similar to those on a ferry, and the high metal steps to outside decks show her age. In the restaurant the ceiling is extremely low, and the Dutch lady who I sat next to last night at dinner, had to be careful when she stood up!

 

To those who have not travelled on an expedition ship, will not know that it is not run on the same lines as the classic ships. There is no Cruise Director, nor is there any Trivia, so any aficionados, would suffer withdrawal symptoms! There is only one restaurant, no La Terrazza, but a pool grill, for lunch, which doubles up as Hot Rocks at night. Unfortunately last night would not have been a good time, it was cold and wet after leaving Kobe.

 

There is also no Food & Beverage Manager, Room Division Manager and the senior receptionist acts as the GRM.

 

At the present time, i feel this trip will be very regimented, with little chance to relax, but maybe I will be able to bow out of some of the all inclusive excursions. I knew that the swimming pool was little more than an overgrown jacuzzi, but was horrified to learn that no more than five people can use it at any one time!

 

The only chairs around the pool are for eating at the Pool Grill, and the few sun loungers I have seen are two decks above at the forward end of the ship!

 

More will follow on day 2’s excursion in Okayama.

 

Kindest regards

Master Echo

 

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Dear Silver Spectre,

 

Do hope your continuing journey on the Wind is good.

 

Day 2 April 18 - Okayama

 

The route march has started! Breakfast was served from 7 am in the Restaurant, I chose room service breakfast, enabling me to get ready whilst eating, and the need to be on the quayside by 08.45 am. It was essential to collect passports, only handed in last night, to take ashore, together with the heavy metal flask, and the walkie talkie receivers, which would enable all to hear the guide on our walk about. Fortunately I had a water bottle from the hotel in Kobe which was most opportune, as there are no plastic water bottles on board. The weight of these metal flasks without water are heavy enough, without walking round the town filled with water!

 

As it was, it was bus no 4 which was left for the remaining passengers, Sir and Madame amongst them!

 

The journey from the port to the city of Okayama was an hour on the coach. Weather, after a dreary start, became very sunny, although the wind was keen.

Okayama is the capital city of its namesake prefecture, in Western Japan, and the largest city in the Chugoku Region after Hiroshima. Today’s visit was to the Korakuen Garden, which contains a large pond, a plum grove, a tea plantation and a Noh Stage. The garden has a circuit style enabling one to walk round this extensive area. At the apex of the garden stands the Okayama Castle. Apart from the blooming azaleas in vibrant hues of pink, fuschia and red, are fields of tea bushes. There were also rice fields, currently in flower. A small aviary contained about six cranes and many people expressed concern that they were not free, and also that the cage was not big enough for these beautiful sacred birds. According to the guide, they have now become an endangered species, hence this conservation operation. For a mid morning treat, everyone who liked ice cream was given a peach ice cream cone which was delicious.

 

After two hours, all passengers returned to the coach for our next stop to Kurashiki, a city on Japan’s Seto Inland Sea. It is known for its centuries old wooden buildings, its characteristically Japanese white walls and the willow trees lining the banks of the Kurashiki River. It is very picturesque, but very touristic with many shops selling tourist paraphernalia. There is also an old wooden boat which plies its trade for a few yen on the river taking tourists for a short ride. All are given straw conical hats, which makes the scene even more enchanting.

 

Before the walk, lunch was served in a local hotel. This was presented in a large rectangular wooden box, a very upmarket bento box. This contained about eight small little compartments with a variety of different foods from salmon sushimi, daikon, Japanese radish, much bigger than that grown elsewhere, vegetables, chicken, and a couple of different fish. This was also accompanied by a little bowl of rice. Finally the meal concluded with miso soup, and a little bowl of fresh fruit. The strawberries, melon, and orange were so juicy and fragrant.

 

Finally we all returned to the ship at a little after 5.00 pm, with a chase to get washed and changed for the Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party at 6.30 pm and dinner with Expedition Leader at 7.15 pm! Scurry is the name of the game!!

 

Tomorrow is another early start!!

 

All for now - bed beckons

 

Kindest regards

 

Master Echo

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After reading your review of the cabin etc I am please that we are booked on the Cloud Expedition for our Africa adventure rather than the Discoverer vessel!

 

I hope things seem better as you get more accustomed to the more limited facilities...

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ME,

So glad to “hear” your voice again. And I am very pleased you are reviewing The Discoverer, as I have been very curious. Knowing your even handed past reviews, I feel confident that I will, at last get a fair look into a Discovery Cruise. I was thrilled to hear that Nicki and Edgardo are still with SS. I have been looking for them and I miss them both very much.

Please give Sir a special greeting. With love, DLaG

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Day 2 Okayama - continued

Just a recap of yesterday evening. The Captain’s Welcome Cocktail Party was quite informal by classic ships standards. Despite no jacket being required a significant number of men wore them, by contrast there were many ladies extremely casually dressed and Madame was one of only a handful who wore sparkly attire.

On the Expedition Leader’s table of nine, Sir and Madame were the only non Australians. The menu was not quite a classic Captain’s welcome dinner, but venison proved an excellent choice.

Food - This has been of a very high standard, both in terms of quality and presentation. Pia, the Chef is a tall German lady and is certainly an asset to Silversea. She has also circulated round the dining room at the end of dinner service.

Staff as always are friendly and nothing has been too much trouble. As ever “No” is not in their vocabulary.

More to follow on Yakamatsu.

Kindest regards

Master Echo

 

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Pia was the head chef on our last expedition cruise (Oct/Nov 2017 on Explorer) and did a fantastic job. It was a culinary cruise and she managed both the kitchen staff and the guest chefs flawlessly. At least on Explorer, the kitchen is really tiny compared to the regular SS ships, so it's quite a challenge to turn out such great meals.

 

Glad to hear that she is still doing what she does best, leaving cruisers with a few more pounds than they brought on holiday, but coming home happy and well-fed... :cool:

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Personnel points

 

No, not a mis-spelling for personal!

 

I first met Daniele Franco when he was F & B Manager on the Silver Muse inaugural cruise. Clearly he must have acquitted himself well because he is now the HD on Silver Discoverer.

 

He is clearly well tuned in as to what is going on, based on two experiences. First, he said he had arranged whilst in port in Takamatsu to try and purchase electrical adaptors to fit the US pattern wall sockets. I had raised this matter only at butler level, but the issue had been passed up the line to Daniele.

 

Secondly, at breakfast this morning Daniele was aware that Sir and Madame were making their own shore based arrangements for the day. With the vast majority of passengers on an organised day tour, he offered to set up a serving station in the dining room accompanied with galley manning to provide a lunch service as an alternative to the pool grill, as the former was closed for lunch. The offer was gratefully received but declined.

 

Pia has continued to be highly visible and receptive to comments where a dish didn’t turn out the way it had been planned.

 

Today’s main tour did not include lunch but was due back around 3 pm, and Pia made arrangements for an enhanced Silversea afternoon tea which was very well attended. It is by no means been unknown on classic ships, where tours arrive back after 2pm, when the main dining venues are closed, to be told to order room service, and therefore the willingness of the small galley team here should be commended.

Dipak our butler has always been around when required, but not obtrusively so. He has loaned me one of his own plug adaptors, which I thought had been bought by Silversea, and which only came to light this morning. When I found this out, I drew this standard of service to the attention of the HD.

 

The overall impression is that the small size of the ship means that the smaller management team integrate better departmentally. A good instance of this could be seen at breakfast this morning when the Captain, HD, Future Cruise Consultant and others all dined together, which I have never observed on a classic ship.

 

Internet connectivity onboard has been abysmal today; and this with most of the passengers on tour, thank God for shoreside free WiFi!

 

Sorry, but photos will have to wait!

Kindest regards

 

Master Echo

 

PS I promise our adventure today in Takamatsu will be posted as soon as possible.

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Day 3 -April 19 -Takamatsu

Once again an early start, as Silver Discoverer docked at 6.30 am. Takamatsu Port is on the Seto Inland Sea, and was one of the first national parks designated in Japan. The dock area appears to have been newly constructed to accommodate large cruise ships. It is adjacent to several ferry terminals, and I watched the docking of several of these Ro-ro vessels and it was an extremely slick operation. This is a major jumping off point for travel to many nearby islands, and during our stay, it seemed a continual round of docking and leaving.

Today’s tour involved a visit to yet another Japanese garden, followed by the making of the famous Udon noodles for which this area is renowned in Japan. I felt I had seen enough blades of grass yesterday during my visit to a typical Japanese garden, and prefer my noodles already prepared, and therefore I eschewed the ship’s shorex, for an independent expedition.

Leaving the ship with a local map, courtesy of SS, I walked towards the ferries and the hive of activity. Signage was extremely good giving both clear directions and distance, in English, for my destination, the train station. On arrival, I found an information desk with a sign telling customers that they spoke English. Indeed her English was good, and armed with the information I required, I walked to a smaller station from where I could board the little yellow train on the Takamatsu to Kotohira Electric Railroad.

The Kotohira line at nearly 33 kilometres, is the longest of the three lines operated by this company. The coaching stock is reminiscent of a London tube line circa 1960’s. However it is wide bodied, and it is possible to walk the entire length of the train, as there are no inter-connecting doors.

Buying the one day pass, price 1260 yen return per person ($US 12), from the lady in the ticket office, she gave me maps and times together with the tickets. The trains run every half an hour, and it was fortunate that there was only a few minutes wait before my train rolled in at this terminus station.

Needless to say Sir and Madame were the only Westerners, and the outbound journey was less busy than the return. The passengers were a mix of both older and younger and both sexes. As in all of Japan, it is easy to distinguish between office workers and artisans. The former, almost seem to have a uniform. Dressed in suits with white shirts and ties, the ladies similarly attired, was a welcome change from that at home, where slovenly clothing seems the norm.

The line is completely single track, with passing loops at stations. It appears very narrow gauge and many houses were so close, that you felt that you could reach out and put your hand in their windows.

Sitting at the front, watching the driver, who appeared to get out at every station, seemingly just to stretch his legs, but I then realised he was collecting the tickets from the alighting passengers. The only other member of the company was the train manager. He was so interesting to watch and obviously took his position extremely seriously. Resplendent in a smart uniform with an impeccable white shirt and equally white gloves, he walked up and down the train with his ticket machine in his back pocket taking money from any passengers who had not already got tickets. As we were at the front of the train his little ritual of turning round, clicking his heels, a tiny salute before marching off down to the last carriage, gave me a giggle.

The train must have had about twenty stops, and the driver seemed to stop at all of them, regardless of whether or not there was anyone waiting to board or alight. The journey was around an hour each way and it proved to be an interesting insight to rural Japanese life.

When returning to the cabin, apart from the usual chocolates and all the paperwork for the following day’s programme, was a little paper bag containing a sweet confection. This apparently was “kenjo guri” - translation - “Offering Chestnuts” which dates back in the mists of time when the Lord of Takamatsu loved one sweet confection the best. This would be presented to the family of the Shogun as a token of their fealty - locally picked chestnuts. Respecting and upholding this long standing tradition, modern confectioners now make this sweet by hand,

Kindest regards

Master Echo

 

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