As an owner of the Fernandez family’s Affordabletours.com, I’ve been fortunate these past 10 years to experience many, many remarkable travel opportunities, from tours to river cruises, to ocean cruises. That said, two weeks ago when I embarked on the Silversea Spirit for their twelve day Mediterranean cruise from Istanbul to Athens, I was totally unprepared for the event that was about to unfold.
Silversea Cruise Line is the Rolls Royce equivalent among the world’s cruise lines. Founded over twenty years ago, this small cruise ship company has dedicated itself to the ultimate in luxury travel. Their fleet consists of six remarkable ships, with passenger counts ranging from 296 to 540, and their passenger to staff ratio is practically one to one, so no other cruise line comes close to providing the extraordinary personal service one encounters on Silversea.
I’ve often said that when you take an ocean cruise the ship is the destination. While the destinations we visited were interesting, and several were delightful, they were almost incidental to the pure joy produced by spending the day on the magnificent new Silver Spirit, Silversea’s newest ship.
Like all Silversea ships, all accommodations are suites, with the majority of them being the Veranda Suites, totaling a generous 376 square feet, including a 165 sq ft veranda. Luxury abounds, from the marble bathroom with full tub, stocked with Bulgari and Ferragamo bath amenities, to the walk-in closet, a separate sitting area, two vanities with hairdryers, a writing desk, flat screen TV with hundreds of movie choices, a CD player and IPod docking station.
Did I mention that every suite comes with its own personal butler? Albert was our man for twelve days, and he was a gift from the gods. On arrival he helped us unpack and hung our clothes in the closet, then stored our suitcases under the bed. Each day he ensured our bar was fully stocked with our favorite soft drinks, liquors and wines. When we returned from an exhausting day visiting the ruins at Kusadasi and Ephesus in Turkey, we were dusty and thirsty, and upon entering our suite, noticed it was quite dark. As our eyes adjusted we realized small candles were flickering around the coffee table in the sitting area, where Champagne was chilling beside a beautiful tray of strawberries with dipping sauces, and assorted cheeses and crackers. Albert led my cousin, Mara, and I over to the bathroom and upon entering, found more candles surrounding the large steaming bathtub, filled with mountains of bubbles! This was the first time we’d missed our husbands!
Dining is a cherished highlight of any Silversea cruise. From their beginning, Silversea partnered with the renowned Relais & Chateau organization to guarantee dining would be an exceptional hallmark of their at-sea experience. The larger size of the Silver Spirit introduced two new restaurants, the intimate Seishin Restaurant, offering a wide range of Asian menu items, from Kobe beef to spider lobster, and sushi galore. The fantastic Star’s Supper Club provides live music and dancing, with nightclub type entertainment to complement a delightful menu in a relaxed setting. These two restaurants join the other four onboard, including the Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, La Terrazza, where authentic Italian cuisine is served at night, Le Champagne affords an epicurean experience par excellence, and the Pool Grill for al fresco dining for lunch and dinner.
In addition to these wonderful restaurants, the various public areas on the Silver Spirit are surely some of the most beautiful and tastefully appointed of any ship afloat. We enjoyed having a drink in The Bar, played bridge with new friends from Mexico in the card room, sent emails home from the Internet Cafe, chose books from the lovely Library, watched the world float by from the Observation and Panorama Decks and Lounges, and were thrilled by first rate entertainment each night in the Show Lounge. The entertainment varied from full-scale production shows to classical soloists and Opera stars and string quartets. The Show Lounge also hosted enrichment lectures from experts on the area, and port talks the evening before we were to visit the next destination. If you miss a lecture, you can always watch in “on-demand” in the comfort of your sitting area!
As I said before, for me, this cruise was more about savoring the extraordinary shipboard experience than the ports of call, but that is not to say this wasn’t a delightful itinerary. My favorite shore experience was the day we spent in Kusadasi and Ephesus. We docked at the port of Kusadasi and our small group of 20 from the ship were taken the nine miles over to the astounding ruins of ancient Ephesus. An excellent example of a classical Greek city, the ruins are very impressive. Taken over and ruled for many years by the Romans, Ephesus today boasts the finest Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean.
Toward the end of the cruise we spent a day on the Greek island of Santorini. This unique island was formed by a series of volcanic explosions, resulting in steep cliffs, black volcanic rocks and beautiful ocean views. You know Santorini…it showcases the typical Greek island architecture of white-washed buildings with blue doors and windows, and the churches of Santorini are topped by the lovely blue domes. From where you dock at Fira, below the town, you take a cable car up to the town itself. We ventured over to the village of Oia, perched over the Aegean, sitting on the Caldera. From here we enjoyed the best views stretching forever over the azure blue Med. It was a lovely day’s excursion, but really we couldn’t wait to return to the ship and see what the ever resourceful Albert had in store for us on arrival! Not to disappoint, he promptly pointed out that he’d emptied our suitcases and used a special cleanser to make the insides spotless. He offered to help us pack for the next morning’s departure, but we declined, instead asking him to prepare some little finger sandwiches to accompany our en-suite happy hour to celebrate this once in a lifetime experience at sea.
For adventure-seeking travelers, Silversea Expeditions offer journeys to the four corners of the earth. Their three specialty-built expedition ships offer the same luxurious accommodations, personal service and fine dining that characterize the other six ships in the Silversea fleet. Among the destinations offered, Antarctica and exploring the Galapagos Islands are always a favorite.
Those of you who’ve sailed on Tauck’s Small Ships, or Regent Seven Seas may want to consider Silversea in the future. Doing a comparison of prices and accommodations may result in a nice surprise!