Phuket is fast becoming a popular hub for luxury cruise ship departures, and cruising from Phuket makes perfect sense for lovers of luxury travel. Not only can you cruise the tropical waters of South East Asia in the luxurious comfort of ships such as Silverseas’ Silver Discoverer, which offers a range of itineraries from and to Phuket, but there’s a fantastic range of luxury properties to stay in before and/or after your cruise.
One of the itineraries on offer is Silversea’s Phuket to Phuket cruise of the Andaman Sea, which takes in the mysterious Andaman Islands, the Mynamar capital of Yangon and a few remote and idyllic tropical islands in the national parks of southern Myanmar, as travel writer Deborah Dickson-Smith recently discovered.
In the Andaman Islands archipelago south east of India, on remote and little-known North Sentinel Island, lives a fierce community of people who most closely resemble African pygmies. Very little is known about them; why they’re here or where they came from, because, while many have tried, to this day no one else has ever set foot on this island.
Nearby Nicobar Islands (also off limits) are home to two Mongoloid tribes, the Nicobarese and the Shompen, and again, nobody knows how they came to be here, and indeed, how many are left. Passengers learn about these mysterious tribes at Port Blair’s Museum of Anthropology, which includes a cultural performance by visiting Nicobarese villagers.
On board, passengers discover all these fascinating anthropological insights, sailing through the islands in the lap of luxury. On board the ship, a range of experts, guide passengers through the various geological, historical, anthropological, and ecological aspects of the region. So, as you sail from one port to the next, the on-board experts prepare you for the next day’s excursion, and the seminar is usually accompanied by the cocktail of the day.
The 11-night cruise takes in Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, then heads to Myanmar’s capital Yangon, on to Lampi Island and the Kawthuang and Mergui Archipelago in southern Myanmar, before returning to Phuket.
In Port Blair, after visiting the rather sinister Cellular Gaol, used to house political prisoners by the British, learn about the island’s violent history as a penal colony, its brief occupation by Japanese forces during WWII and its role in India’s independence, all through the medium of a laser light show, projected on the ruins of the old British settlement.
The following day the ship sails for remote islands North and South Cinque Islands, uninhabited, picture-perfect desert islands. White sandy beaches fringed with palm trees, and a heavily wooded interior, surrounded by crystal clear shallow lagoons dotted with coral outcrops.
From here sail to Yangon to seek out a few of Myanmar’s mysteries, visiting the country’s oldest and grandest temples, including the most famous Schwedagon Pagoda, which towers over the city, at 99m tall, glistening in the sunlight being covered in 60 tonnes of gold plating, topped by a stupa containing over 7000 diamonds, rubies, topaz and sapphires, and a massive emerald positioned to reflect the last rays of the setting sun.
On the waterfront, the crumbling, grandiose administrative buildings of old Rangoon, capital for British Burma for over 100 years, still stand.
After a couple of days’ exploration of Yangon the ship heads back out to the Andaman Sea to another remote outpost. The Lampi Marine National Park encompasses a group of islands in the Myeik Archipelago, 800 islands stretched along the coastline of southern Myanmar. The area is covered by tropical evergreen rainforests and surrounded by extensive coral reef system.
Lampi Island is the largest island in the group, the core of the marine park, covered by lush tropical rainforest with a rocky coastline dotted with white sandy beaches. The rivers and inlets are lined with thick mangrove forests and surrounded by seagrass meadows, important feeding grounds for sea turtles and dugongs.
After this, it’s back to Phuket, where of course you can choose to extend your holiday just a little bit longer, which most of the passengers on board choose to do, their hotel transfers waiting for them at the wharf on arrival.
For departure dates, check out the website: www.silversea.com
If you plan to extend your stay in Phuket here are some tips for Phuket beaches
Patong – With a wide variety of activities, shopping malls, coffee shops, restaurants, bars and nightlife, Patong is a place for nightlife. Accommodation here ranges from backpacker hostels to five star resorts.
Kata and Karon – These two beaches also offer a wide range of activities, similar to neighbouring Patong, but smaller in scale. Kata is also popular among surfers (from May to October).
Rawai – Rawai is a relatively quiet beach with a limited number of accommodation choices, shops, restaurants and nightlife options. Rawai Walking Street is the best place to have local seafood, fresh from the morning’s catch.
Panwa and Mai Khao – These tranquil beaches are known for their luxury resorts. Mai Khao is perfect for families who enjoy relaxing on a long white sandy beach and activities offered by the resorts. Panwa is known for its stunning scenery as many pool villas are located on top of the cliffs. Both beaches are also known for the marine turtle research projects located there, with Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation at JW Marriott and Phuket Aquarium in Cape Panwa.
Nai Harn – Being surrounded by lush, jungle-covered mountains, this is an ideal rainforest retreat, a place to enjoy a relaxing stay amidst idyllic natural surroundings.