This time last year, Anne Sadang joined Emeraude Classic Cruises as the vessel’s Chief Purser. Since then, she’s clocked as much time on the Emeraude as anyone else, and seen the bay through all its seasons. So what’s it like to live a year on a boat in one of the world’s most naturally wondrous places? Let’s Anne tell you.
Describe a typical day for you on the Emeraude.
I would start with when I get all the guests embarked, and cruising. After everyone’s settled in, I invite them to lunch and spend much of that time talking to passengers, checking on special arrangements. After that, it’s quiet for a couple of hours, between 2 and 3. At 3, the passengers debark to visit one of Halong Bay’s island caves. While they’re caving, I’m doing my reports and computer work. At 5, the passengers are off to swim and explore Titov Island. At 6, we’re preparing for dinner and a movie and I’m talking about what will happen the next day: How early passengers can get their coffee; what time the tai chi starts — that sort of thing.
And then you’re done?
No, from 7 to 9, I check that all is okay in the restaurant and I reminded everyone of the the movie on our top-deck at 8:30. I got to bed at 10:30 or 11 as the movie is finishing. Then I’m done.
My next day starts at 7 o’clock. I check to make sure all is okay, and that breakfast is good! We have meetings at 8:30 and then I make a final announcement as we approach the pier to disembark at 9 - 9:30. From 9:30 to 12, we do all of the back of the house stuff. The restaurant is cleaned. Housekeeping cleans cabins, and so on.
What’ been your most interesting experience aboard the Emeraude?
Everything is pretty much interesting: the crew, the guests, Halong Bay. I am from the Philippines, where we have a bay that’s similar with its limestone karst islands. But Halong Bay has bigger rock formations, and the islands are bigger. I go through this every day, and it never looks the same. One guest asked if I have gotten used to all the rocks and islands. I told him I haven’t named them yet. If I had, if I’d been able to name them and know them, then I’d know I was bored.
Have you met anyone famous on the Emeraude?
Senator John McCain from the United States. When he came on the boat, we only found out the day before. We had a confidential booking form the US Embassy. We took some pictures of his cruise, and I posted it on my Facebook and I got a lot of comments. I even got an invitation from my high school to come and talk to students about meeting Senator McCain.
What animals have you seen on the bay?
I have seen monkeys, and I cannot imagine monkeys could be so big or fat. This one I saw last week was really huge.
What’s been your most interesting weather experience?
It’s interesting, what happens in July, August, and September. When we are at the pier, it might be cloudy and ready to rain. But when we start cruising close to the mountains, it’s all sunny, as if part of the bay is covered with a bubble. It’s something magical. I tell guests not to worry.
Have you ever been afraid on the water?
Not really. When the winds are strong, we don’t go out. When the winds pick up, at 11 or 12 at night, the waves are high but the boat moves just a little. A couple of times, when it’s waving hard at midnight or 1, you still feel safe because the captain is on standby at the wheelhouse, watching the winds. He knows when it will stop. He’s into paying attention.
What’s the most beautiful image you’ve encountered on the bay?
I had this experience a couple of weeks ago when I saw a double rainbow. I was taking a picture of a rainbow, and five minutes later, another one came out. Everyone was so happy, understanding it was a rare occurrence. It’s supposed to lead to a pot of gold.
Have you ever worked on a cruise vessel?
This was my first time on a cruise vessel. I did not want to work on a boat, at first, but Kurt (Walter, the boat’s general manager) showed me a book about the Emeraude, and I said I think I want to do this.
How many times have you seen the film Indochine?
Well, because we play the film nightly on the top-deck, I have seen it four times all the way through, but bits and pieces dozens of times. The captain and I have a habit of repeating favorite lines from the movie. We know them all.