And so, the gal is about to set sail once again, which of course is a metaphorical statement as cruise ships today do not, with exceptions such as Windstar, have sails. As usual the ship in question is one of the super Silversea fleet, this time Silver Cloud. She is the oldest of the luxury-hotels-at-sea that Silversea runs, and the guy who is responsible for making the hotel side of the operation work is Christian Sauleau. He came onboard before the ship sailed, out of Fort Lauderdale. Levels of luxury are upping the whole time, he says – for him, today, it is a Lanvin tie; I forgot to ask about his suit or shoes.
At the same time, there is more informality. Gone are the days of upright, strictly-vertical service. Just as in the best hotels-on-land, there is more interaction between servers and customers (I think back to a night ago, when Laura in The Diplomat’s Rivals sports bar shared secrets of how she memorised orders without writing them down). Here, however, Christian Sauleau has instituted tablet order-taking, which is then immediately transmitted to the kitchen. He is always introducing enhancements – salt and pepper mills aboard Silversea are now Peugeot, for example. Christian Sauleau was chatting so much I was afraid he might miss getting off the ship, but he left, we sailed, and the sun set.
And the sun was to rise, a few hours later, as we steamed into Nassau, on New Providence island, capital of the Bahamas. Of course there were other cruise ships in, a couple of those Monstrosities of the Seas with mountains, both in body mass as well as head count, of people. Nassau was ready, however; colourful market stalls were offering everything from hair-braiding to bottles of rum to take home as souvenirs, or to drink onboard (Silversea, of course, is drinks included, and someone had even kindly put a bottle of Pommery‘s Louise 1999 Champagne in my cabin, next to a perfect white orchid plant).
The pier is one big colourful patchwork. The nearest hotel is the iconic British Colonial Hilton, built 1900 by railroad magnate Henry Flagler (who also put up Palm Beach‘s The Breakers luxury hotel). The James Bond movies Thunderball, 1965, and its 1983 re-make, entitled Never Say Never Again, were shot here. The hotel has just been bought by China State Construction Engineering Corporation, the contractors building the mammoth Baha Mar complex to the west of New Providence Island. The British Colonial has a private beach and also an adjacent plot of land – will the Chinese do another luxury hotel here?