Cruises across Southeast Asia feature a variety of fascinating
ports, but Hong Kong and Singapore have long been the “stars.”
Until a year ago, the little Thailand island of Phuket was one of
those lesser-known destinations then came the devastating
Suddenly, Phuket was everywhere in the news, depicted as one of
the areas worst hit by the tidal wave. Scenes of damaged beachfront
resorts and businesses were shown over and over again. While some
waterfront communities were indeed destroyed, overall the island of
Phuket suffered the least amount of damage and casualties in
What happened after the tsunami, according to Thai tourism
officials, was ironic. Few of the major resorts on Phuket Island
were seriously damaged. Power was quickly restored, and the Phuket
International Airport reopened in little more than an hour. As a
result, the international media set up camp in Phuket and
transmitted reports and images via satellite.
While the media relayed the terrible destruction suffered in
Indonesia, Sir Lanka or along outlying Thai islands, the reports
came from Phuket. Not surprisingly, audiences got the erroneous
impression that Phuket, too, suffered terrible loses.
In the months since the natural disaster, Phuket has rebuilt,
and today cruise passengers will not see even a hint of damage left
by the tsunami. Instead, they will discover Phuket to be a charming
destination. On its west Andaman Sea coast is a series of white
sand beaches, fronted by a nonstop row of resorts, some among the
most luxurious in Southeast Asia. The interior is mostly hilly,
hence the name given to the island by the early Malayans, Bukit,
which means mountain.
Facilities at the port of Phuket are a far cry from those in
places like Hong Kong or Singapore. Without a cruise terminal,
passengers disembark directly onto the pier and to their shore
excursion by bus or taxi.
The island boasts an excellent road network that provides easy
and comfortable access to numerous venues. Travel times are short
because the island, at most, is 13 miles wide and 30 miles long
with an area of 210 square miles. As they zip along, visitors will
pass rubber plantations where, in the pre-dawn hours, tappers move
from tree to tree draining little cups of sticky sap that will
Without question, ships from Star Cruises Asia are the most
active in terms of Phuket calls. The SuperStar Virgo visits Phuket
every Tuesday on its five-night Straits of Malacca itinerary almost
year-round. The SuperStar Gemini begins its Phuket calls with
overnight stays each Wednesday starting this month and continuing
until April of next year.
Silversea’s Silver Shadow will call at Phuket on Dec. 4 on its
14-day Indian Ocean Explorer itinerary, Dubai to Singapore. Then in
late 2006, Silversea will return with three Phuket visits during a
Mumbai-Singapore sailing and two Singapore to Singapore
Radisson’s Seven Seas Voyager will call at Phuket in March
during the Singapore-Dubai segment of its World Cruise. As a
parting treat for passengers, Radisson arranges for masseuses to be
on hand 2-4 p.m. to provide a complimentary 15-minute Thai massage
before returning to the ship.
Despite its reputation as a beach destination known for scuba
diving and other watersports, the island offers cruise passengers a
variety of sights and experiences. Shore excursions take visitors
to the Way Chalong, a colorful compound of Buddhist temples and
Other popular shore options include a visit to Kata Thani Beach
Resort for a folkloric show of traditional Thai music, dancing and
martial arts; or a stop in Phuket Town itself, where examples of
early Sino-Portuguese architecture remain.
Cruise passengers can also enjoy a visit to a working rubber
plantation, a cashew nut factory, a pearl factory and showroom and
even elephant rides.