By Karl Klingeler & Linda Johnston.
A little over 4 years ago, we left the Seven Seas and our home in Bali to embark on “The Trip of a Lifetime”: 3 months in Africa followed by a 9 month road trip around the western United States. Along the way, we visited many of our Seven Seas friends who had kindly invited us to stay if we were ever in their part of the world. It was through one of those friends that we were offered an amazing opportunity to work as Lodge Managers in Botswana, starting in April 2020. We were so excited and were halfway through our training as Nature Guides in South Africa when Covid closed the world. We lost our job offer and were stranded in South Africa for 17 months before going back to the States and the UK to work, only arriving back in Bali a week before this trip began.
We knew that our South African friends and long-time Seven Seas veterans were due to come on board in February, so imagine our excitement when Mark told us we could jump on board to join them cruising Raja Ampat and this time as guests, making it even more special. We also had 2 nice couples from California and a couple from Canada whom we’ve cruised with before on the Seven Seas, making for a great group of friendly travel companions.
A warm welcome back from many familiar faces awaited us on arrival and soon enough it felt just like home again, as if we had never been away. It was great catching up with crew members – friendships forged by working together for so many years … only when they told us how old their kids were now did we realise how much time had passed! It was nice to be on board and be on the other side – no planning, no briefings, no guiding, but by habit still keeping a watchful eye on people while underwater. We soon slipped back into the familiar routine of eating, diving and relaxing on deck in between, the stresses and distractions of our previous lives quickly forgotten.
The Seven Seas herself was looking as smart as ever and we noticed some well thought out additions and improvements, including stunning collages of photographs hanging on the walls below deck, beautifully lit with picture lights giving us a glimpse of what delights awaited us underwater. Many cushions have been added to the seating areas around the boat and recovered in a new colour scheme and the addition of cushions on all dining chairs adds comfort and a homely feeling. New rugs in the corridor and cabins not only look good but are great for anti-slip on the wooden floors. There is a new TV in the salon and the wall-mounted fans keep the salon cool.
Some new safety features have been introduced, most notably in the engine room and with the charging station in the salon: a smoke detector directly above the charging station, 2 dry chemical fire extinguishers and a fire extinguisher ball (AFO) that automatically senses and extinguishes a fire. In the engine room 2 new smoke detectors, and 3 different types of fire extinguisher: dry powder, foam and CO2 for all types of fire. In case of a larger fire, a fire suppression system has been added, consisting of 3 large CO2 cylinders mounted on the ceiling of the engine room to snuff out the fire by closing the engine room door, turning off the ventilation system and discharging the CO2 cylinders.
The food was quite simply the best we have ever had on board, thanks to Nico the Head Chef who, in typical Seven Seas tradition, has worked his way up the ranks from waiter to assistant cook to Head Chef, providing delicious meals to all the guests. The menu was varied and interesting, each dish prepared with care, perfectly cooked and nicely presented. Some of our favourites included the mie kuah for breakfast, loaded with vegetables and a poached egg, lightly seared tuna and California rolls for lunch, tender melt-in-your-mouth lamb with creamy mashed potatoes seasoned with nutmeg for dinner – yummy!
The biodiversity of Raja Ampat never ceases to amaze: from hard corals to soft corals and mantas to pygmies, even all in one dive! We had great fish life: many schools of fish and trevallies hunting, mobulas and sharks, turtles and critters. The Seven Seas is always happy to accommodate whatever you need, whether it be diving, snorkelling or shore excursions and special food requirements are easily catered for. A selection of itineraries means the returning guest always has a new adventure to look forward to.
A big thank you to Foued for directing and the entire Seven Seas crew – the best crew in all of Indonesia! Thank you to Captain Pai and Captain Wahyu for always keeping us safe: they are the best captains in Indonesia. Also thank you to the hard-working Second Officer Aan. Thank you to the engineering team: Untung, Bali and Lexy for fixing our A/C, keeping the machinery running smoothly and helping out on the dive deck. A big thank you to Jefry and Alex for finding all the cool critters – it’s been great diving with them. Thanks to John & Cely for their housekeeping and service in the restaurant – it was great to see John’s smile again and we hear Cely gives a mean massage – they make a great team. Well done to Head Chef Nico & Assistant Gustav for creating so many delicious meals. Thank you to Bakar, Bado & Viky for taking us out to the dive sites, helping us gear up, keeping an eye on our bubbles and picking us up at the end of each dive. Also thank you to Ben Heighes who is on board learning the ropes – he did a stellar job leading the snorkelers and land excursions. And finally, a huge THANK YOU to Mark for giving us the opportunity to jump on board as guests and live the Seven Seas experience from the other side.
Karl & Linda