It's not an easy task to take 184 well-travelled World Cruisers away from the ship, and keep them in the luxury that they're accustomed while being royally entertained, fed and stimulated for 3 days. But, somehow, in an amazing logistical exercise, Silversea pulled off one of the best World Cruise Events that anyone can remember.
It helps that our destination was the sublimely beautiful city of Kyoto – a place that can effortlessly boast so many eye-catching temples, peaceful gardens and fascinating relics of Japan's long history and unique culture.
In spite of a rainy start in Nara, we had a succession of fabulous meals that always put the spring back in the step of our weary travellers, while the cultural experiences were superb. Being entertained by 2 geishas and 2 maiko (trainee geishas) was the highlight of our first night. Just being so close to their delicate beauty and trying to get to grips with the obscure traditions of these female entertainers was fascinating. On the face of it, they put a rather austere face to the world, but when we were talking to one of the maiko, she was just like any other 17-year old girl – giggling and making jokes.
On our second day, we all got to dress up in kimonos which was great fun (we might have seen a lot of the world, but a chance to dress up will entertain almost anyone), we practiced Japanese calligraphy, and some had a go at flower arranging. After a visit to the superb Nijo Palace, people had a choice of 8 restaurants around town, offering a different range of western and Japanese foods, from grills to tempura, tepanyaki to kobe beef. I went to an excellent Japanese-French fusion restaurant where we sat at a bar in front of an open kitchen. It was fascinating to see how calm all the activity was as they constructed the delicate flavours that were an excellent mix of east and west.
Our third day took us to a tranquil Zen Monastery and achieved something that I thought would be a total impossibility – getting all 184 passengers to sit still together in one room and meditate in total silence for 2 sessions of 10 minutes. The time seemed to pass in a flash and (for me at least), it was a strangely powerful experience.
This was followed by a simple vegetarian meal in the same temple that was maybe a little bit more difficult for some guests to swallow, but I found it pretty good – plenty of things that I'd never tasted before.
Having seen so much of the traditional side of Japan, it was time to be brought up to speed with the modern side of this multi-layered country, as we caught the super-fast bullet train from Kyoto to Tokyo. As ever in Japan, it's the juxtapositions that strike you – whizzing from the quiet contemplation of an ancient monastery in Kyoto, to the super-modern mega-metropolis of Tokyo.
What an amazing experience.