Kristin Edge sails around Thailand aboard the aboard Panorama II
The trip: Adventure Cruising for eight days exploring off Thailand's west coast in the Andaman Sea. It's a round-trip from Phuket.
The itinerary: Phuket, Similian Islands, Ko Surin Tai, Khao Lak, Phuket.
How big: 164m in length, and has maximum of 49 guests and 18 staff.
How new: This motor sailer was launched in 2004 and renovated in 2015.
Fellow passengers: A wonderful mix of young and old with a common interest in adventure and travelling to places with fewer tourists. Australia was well represented, there were three Kiwis and also folks from England, Ireland, Israel, Spain and even a drug detective from Canada. Everyone was keen to try new things and the oldest passenger celebrated his 77th birthday onboard.
Features: The restaurant on the lower deck is the perfect indoor setting for meals. There is an option to dine al fresco on the semi-covered upper deck but this is a great place to enjoy a drink as the sun goes down. Curl up with a book from the library or drink from the bar in the cosy indoor lounge, but the sun deck with chairs on the upper deck is the best place to view the ocean as you travel.
First impressions: Panorama II was docked at the Phuket Port so as container ships were loaded we too went aboard. The hotel manager made the check-in experience quick and painless, including the necessary paperwork. Once my bag was in the cabin it was to the bar and a beer on the rear of the main deck. The crew were friendly and personable.
Surroundings and decor: The boat is spacious and comfortable, but it focuses more on the destination than onboard activities. Instead of a pool, there is the sea itself. Instead of a casino, there are board games, a good book or the other interesting passengers. There's also no formal dress code to worry about. Wi-Fi is available for a small charge. But everything is neat and tidy and with a maximum of 49 guests there is plenty of room.
Cabins: Each room has an ensuite bathroom stocked with basic toiletries and a hairdryer. There's individually controlled air conditioning if you need to cool down, a mini-fridge, television, internal telephone and a safe box. All plugs are 220 volts, two-pin European-type plugs, so borrowed an adaptor from reception.
Food and drink: Plenty of it in the form of buffet. Every morning a selection of European styles including cheeses and meats, plus fruit and plenty of cooked options. Dinner provided plenty of variety of local and Western foods. All delicious. Drinks had to be paid for, but were relatively cheap compared to New Zealand prices. There was a tab system running and you paid at end of the cruise.
Entertainment: No formal entertainment, but he best part of the trip is getting to know the other passengers and it's surprising how fast this happens. There was a nightly gathering outside the bar on the main deck and music magically occurred. There was enough room to sit around and talk, and as more drinks were consumed there was plenty of room for dancing.
Bottom line: The best thing is that the boat is not crowded and you get to know all the other passengers and their interesting stories during the trip. It's surprising what strong bonds are built in such a short time. The destinations are not packed with tourists and some beaches visited are empty. An excellent adventure with plenty of time to relax.