It was an experience I had for the first time 19 years ago. I had just boarded the SeaDream Yacht a few hours earlier. I was happily ensconced on the upper deck, a new book by my side, in a comfortable, deep-blue chaise with a clear view of equally blue waters surrounding me.
I was "undercover," road-testing a product that likes to say it is "not cruising," and I had clear skies forecast ahead for a week of visiting islands that mostly lack the docking facilities for megaships.
I was starting to feel relaxed when my view was blocked by a pool deck waiter. I still remember his exact words:
"Good afternoon Mr. Turen. I know you have just arrived, and I don't want to be interrupting you. I see you have a new John Grisham novel to deal with, so I was wondering if I could bring you two of your favorite drinks. And, Mr. Turen, I notice there is a small speck on your sunglasses; please allow me to clean them."
I handed them over, and he took out a spray bottle and cleaning cloth, carefully returning them when he was finished.
Then he was gone, quickly returning with two Moscow mules. Just a little thing, but it set the stage for what was to come. Crew addressed everyone by name. Crew anticipated what you needed. Crew realized you were "on vacation," and they did their very best to set you up and then leave you alone. You know, much like the crew might do if you had chartered your own private yacht.
Now, many years later, I am on the same upper deck in the same position and, as luck would have it, I had found the latest Grisham novel in the airport gift shop; it had just come out in paperback. And just like before, I was promptly approached, offered a drink and asked if there was anything else I needed.
Last week I took our group of 26 on a wonderful itinerary to formally announce -- as you may recall from my March 21 column -- my "not at all serious" intention to be named the CDC's next director. The idea had developed less than 90 days before at a time when there were many cautions about travel by sea.
I announced that my campaign was going to end as the CDC, on hearing of my threat to take over their organization, had done a complete turnaround just prior to our departure. They lowered their warnings about cruise travel down to a mere "caution." We had won.
I loved our itinerary, and I realized, again, that SeaDream is not easily defined within the cruise context. This really was a yacht, with 89 guests and the same number of crew to serve them.
We had all but two meals at tables on the outside decks. The menu was extensive, but in reality, you could order anything you wanted.
Several of my clients slept in Balinese beds that were thoughtfully set up by crew. Some of my group slept under a bright moon as we overnighted just off St. Barts.
Our SeaDream II Yacht had just undergone a $5 million decor update with new teak decks and redesigned staterooms.
This is not cruising. This is truly attentive service, better than expected food, within an onboard environment unmatched by any other cruise line. This is cruising for those who wish to arrive in port aboard the largest yacht in the neighborhood.