If you have read my previous blog post, 7th Time Lucky! you will know the story of our cruising history, or rather the lack of it. I had begun to feel that fate was telling me never to cruise, but we persevered. With the demise of Crystal Cruises and our 6th booked cruise with it, we had to look elsewhere and turned to the luxury cruise line Silversea. Let’s make it simple and try a cruise in the Mediterranean.
The day arrived for us to fly to Lisbon, a couple of days before embarking the Silversea ship Silver Spirit. Silver Spirit incidentally is the ship that Silversea decided would be better if it was bigger. So they had a 49 foot section of a ship built in a dry dock. Then they sailed Silver Spirit into the dock, cut it in half, pulled it apart, put the new section in the middle, pushed it back together and welded it up. Simple! There is a great video of the process if you are interested Silver Spirit Lengthening Video.
It’s bigger now, but nothing like the size of Harmony of the Seas. That ship has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,600 passengers, Silver Spirit accommodates just 600! Smaller was better for us. On the big ships, you could be on for two weeks and never see the whole ship, and never see the same people twice. For me it’s the difference between a Butlin’s Holiday Camp, and a small, friendly, boutique hotel.
On Silversea, service is the key, there were nearly as many crew members as there were guests. They pride themselves on providing an exemplary service at all times. They remember your name from day one, they remember what drinks you want in your suite, and what you like to drink in a lounge. You never go to the bar, anywhere on the ship, in a lounge you sit down and they come over and ask what you would like to drink. They only really do that on the first day, they know what you want after that and it just arrives! There were always seats available in the lounges and tables available in the restaurants, and we never once had to wait for a drink for more than a minute or two.
The restaurants are a whole different thing. The food is fantastic. We had some wonderful food, from beautiful steaks to Asian fusion food that was so delicious. Two weeks, three meals a day, all fantastic. I spoke to our Butler one day about how much I liked Indian food, yes we had a Butler. He said that if I would like it, he would arrange for the chefs to make us an Indian meal! Of course we said yes, and it was excellent.
We got to meet some great people. The 92 year old man from the Tyne Valley, full of fun, he reminded me of my dad. The retired business man from Scotland and his lovely wife, seasoned cruisers and great company. The 82 year old lady with her sparkly dresses and stiletto shoes. The young American couple with a passion for Michelin starred restaurants. The retired surgeon and his colourful jackets. The Texan farmer and his wife, who had his own helicopter. And the lovely two couples from Florida who invited us to join their Trivia Quiz team. We were a formidable team and did quite well in the daily quiz. After two weeks we had won enough prize points to get us half way to a Silversea branded baseball hat!
They say that the best thing about going on a cruise, is that you get to visit some great places without ever leaving your hotel room, or suite as they call it. That’s true, but my hotel room vibrated in the mornings! Mainly because most mornings on this cruise we were docking at a port, and the process of docking seems to involve a lot of thrusters. These seem to make the ship vibrate until docking is complete. It’s an odd experience, but you soon get used to it. It signals that you have arrived somewhere great to explore.
And that is the whole point of it. A cruise takes you somewhere, just for a day, without having to pack and unpack, your hotel room moves around with you. We went to some great places we had not visited before.
- Pisa, not just a leaning tower, but a fascinating town with some great architecture.
- Portofino, Italy, It’s just a tiny place, but so picturesque. It’s too small to have a port, the larger ships can not get anywhere near it. We were able to moor off shore and get a short tender ride to the village. You can do the whole place in one morning, so a cruise ship was the perfect way to visit.
- Valencia and Barcelona, fabulous cities, one day was not enough, we need to go back there.
- Marseille, our ship was small enough to dock right on the edge of the city centre, the larger ships were docked up to two miles away.
- Monaco, what a unique place, steeped in history, a whole country in a square mile. The Casino at Monte Carlo, crowds of people posing outside and taking selfies. An absolutely fascinating place. One of the richest places in the world, but you could still buy a baseball hat for 10€. I’m so glad we went there.
Is there downside to a Silversea cruise? Sadly there is. It is so addictive that we are looking to book again, which will seriously eat into our holiday budget. But worth it, in my opinion, for the great food, lovely drinks, fabulous people and fantastic service. We will be off to see Sharna, our favourite Travel Agent, very soon. I need some more prize points, I want one of these Silversea hats!