Hinch Travel

What A Wonderful World

You would have to have rocks in your head or be a Rockefeller or a Packer with a safe full of rocks (as in diamonds) to do what I just did.

I paid more than $7000 for a long weekend away. True, it was at sea on board The World, one of the most luxurious floating palaces in the world. A cruise ship consisting of own-your-own apartments with price tags of between $US I million and $US 10 million. That’s not to mention the annual maintenance fees of $150,000 plus.

There were two of us in a two-room plus kitchenette plus marble bathroom and two balconies apartment and it worked out at about

$A1000 a day each – which isn’t so bad if you say it fast and mumble it.

I had been on The World briefly before when it stopped off in Melbourne on its maiden voyage three years ago.

I was enthralled to be in a luxury apartment block that floats. Not only floats but leisurely cruises the world all year round. There are never more than 400 people on board this 12-storey ship (plus 400 crew) and on our  recent sojourn  there were only 161 owners and guests. A bit different from the 1500-2000 passengers you find on some big cruise ships. Now that’s privacy. In some rooms at times you felt like you were on a private yacht.

The World has restaurants, shops, a mini-casino, a disco, a golf driving range, tennis courts, ‘putt-putt’ golf, gymnasium, beauty treatments etc. and the ship still has The Street where you can wander and visit the wine shop or Fredy’s Deli and buy fresh meat, fish, vegetables, baguettes, wine, sauces and condiments from all over the world. You can cook at home or one of the chefs from their five restaurants will come and cook for you.

A few things have changed. The biggest one is the change of ownership. The original planners and builders of The World apparently got into deep doo-doo financially and put the liner up for sale.

You know what happened? It reminded me of a millionaire named Victor Kiam who used to use Gillette electric razors. He was ‘so impressed’ by the product, he said in a famous TV commercial ‘I bought the company’.

That’s what the apartment owners did when they heard The World was up for sale. They bought it! The quality and the service haven’t changed. Obviously, if anyone knows what passengers want, it’s the residents.

And speaking of quality and service let me put on the Hungry Hinch hat for a minute. The food and wine and service in the range of restaurants was superb. It’s hard to go past seafood when you are at sea and eating on the stern in a restaurant called Tides.  Especially cold plates of smoked salmon, smoked trout, freshly shucked oysters, steamed mussels, crab claws. At East they served one of the best sashimi platters I’ve had in a long time plus a perfect bowl of clear soup with bok choy and crab dumplings.

The one time I was tempted to have beef it was more a command than a decision. For the first time on The World they were serving Wagyu beef from Australia. I had never eaten it before. Had blanched at the prices of a serving on the rare occasion I’d seen it on a few menus. What could all the fuss be about? How could they charge hundreds of pounds a kilo for it in London? Surely it couldn’t be that good?  It was.

I had 200 grams of rib eye. It was so tender I could have cut it with the wrong side of the knife. Sounds clumsy but it didn’t taste like beef as I know it. No really strong ‘meaty’ taste but you knew you were eating something special. And rarely would I plough through a whole 200 gram steak without getting bored with the same taste. Not this time.

I won’t say it almost convinced Mrs Nosebag to waiver from being a vegequarian but I reckon she came close. In the eclectic environment on cruise ship dining – while I was having the Wagyu treat she was having a crispy, thin, vegetarian pizza.

One night at the ship’s other top restaurant, Portraits, we had ‘a night at the opera’ with a stunning French degustation accompanied by a selection of McWilliams wines from various parts of Australia and New Zealand. They included The Crossings sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, an Eden Valley Riesling, a Hay Shed Hill chardonnay from Margaret River, a Mt. Pleasant shiraz from the Hunter Valley and  a Brand’s Patron’s Reserve 2000 cabernet sauvignon-merlot from Coonawarra.

For dessert there was a limited release Riverina Botrytis semillon and a Rare Liqueur Verdelho from the Hunter.

This was followed by an opera recital in the spacious lobby-reception area for the guests who had all dressed in black tie dinner suits and ball gowns.

That was on Deck Five. I thought something was strange when I thought I saw a huge wave go past the floor to ceiling windows. We were, after all, five decks up. It was a wave alright. And they got bigger. The Rolls Royce stabilisers were working overtime.

We discovered next morning that as we rounded the bottom of mainland Australia and entered Bass Strait (before finding the shelter of Port Phillip Bay and berthing in Melbourne) we were hit by a Force Ten gale. Waves were ten metres (thirty feet) and the troughs followed by mountainous waves and blankets of spray were something to behold. Apparently that was the same time that Tasmania recorded one of its biggest waves in history.

I saw those seas and thought two things: The sheer, often under-rated, power of nature is awesome. And you wouldn’t get me in a Sydney-Hobart race for a million dollars.

The heaving of the boat gave The World a chance to show off two things. It’s reliability and relative steadiness in a huge storm and the way you can still play pool despite the pitching and yawing.

With the deck going one way and your legs bracing the other you would think that hitting balls around a table would be impossible. It’s not. We proved it. Talk about ‘and the band played on’. Thanks to a built-in gyroscope the pool table acts like it is on a gimbal. The balls do not move. Although I will admit I was in bed and not attempting to play snooker when the storm was at its peak.

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we even spent one night on board while The World was moored at Melbourne’s Station Pier  before taking off for Tasmania and New Zealand and then heading north again.

On my previous visit to The World I was the last passenger aboard and they virtually held the ship for me. This time we flew from Melbourne to Sydney to sail back to Melbourne. We boarded about four hours before departure so I couldn’t use my old line; ‘Stop The World, I want to get on.’

But I can still say that The World is my oyster. Even if the pearl is so hellishly expensive.

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