Style: Big city hotel afloat
Scene: The world's waterways anywhere between Stockholm and Brazil - depends on time of year
Seen on Deck: The kind of relaxed comfort that accompanies the financially assured.
Amongst cruise converts globally, Silversea's luxury fleet is regularly voted as the number one cruising experience - no need to convince them. Instead, I would be addressing my fellow unconverted - the peripatetic flyers amongst us. "Write it like a hotel report," my Editor advised, knowing this would be a good litmus test for an onboard stay.
It is, in fact, the boat's lobby that opens up Tardis-like on Deck 5 that is the first sign of hotel style. Sitting in size somewhere in between big city 5 star and boutique, it is bathed in the familiar soft golden glow and mellifluous concierge staff that calmly assures weary travellers the world over. Having no real purpose in checking in (we are on board for lunch) we are quickly whisked through into the banks of elevators and up to Deck 6 and the Show Lounge.
Inside, the Show Lounge terraces down with little groupings of chairs and tables towards an amphitheatre stage. In the low-lit dark it speaks to me ominously of Cher and Kenny G. A flute of champagne on a silver tray is swiftly served - maybe there is a god. It is as if Silversea has sniffed my fear. While they do offer performers and shows ranging from classical to rock in various onboard venues, they also have a programme of lectures that range from authors and geographers to ambassadors and state leaders. Not on the usual programme, the cheerful Conrad Combrink
, Senior Expedition Leader, begins a talk now on Silversea Expeditions cruises on board the ice-strengthened Prince Albert II.
Sweet images of seals, polar bears and penguins, cruises onboard Silversea's Prince Albert II that cover both the Arctic and
Antarctic region, fill the giant screens behind him. He speaks wistfully of schedules being swept aside for spontaneity: a mid-night sighting of northern lights; dropping into a zodiac to get closer to polar bears. This adventure is all done with the back-up comfort of six star service. In the images there seems much cause for champagne toastings - at dinner, on deck, in the zodiac amidst awe-inducing nature. I think I could get used to this kind of adventure.
After the talk, we skip the elevators and scoot down a flight of stairs to the main restaurant on Deck 4. Tables in various groupings stud the large, salmon-coloured space. Dining onboard is organised with a breezy come-when-you-feel, sit-where-you-like ease. Through great banks of windows I spy the white sails of Sydney Opera House. The menu offers four courses with two or three choices in each. The wait staff are formal enough to be terribly patient with my indecision, and friendly enough to let you know what their favourite dessert is with such enthusiasm, that I find myself ordering the much desired mango and coconut icecream. In fact, I order all four courses, varying my wines with each.
Dining ONBOARD is organised with a breezy come-when-you-feel, sit-where-you-like EASE.
There are in fact, four main restaurants on board including an Italian Terraza and a grill style eatery by the pool. I rather like the intimate shuttered space called Le Champagne which is a Relais & Chateaux wine restaurant. This offers a six course degustation with accompanying wines from a specific region. Unlike other drinks - from spirits to selected wines and champagnes - which are complimentary, this experience does cost around USD200 per guest. Tonight's selected region is Spain. I decide the Tapas would be well worth it.
Whizzing around decks it's easy to see that there is much to do on board. The casino. A golf cage. All for just 382 guests max. The pool proves to be a size that is dip-worthy, but not lap inducing. A beauty salon and spa is stocked with products by Elenis and the gym next door offers banks of equipment and big windows. Normally adverse to gyms I might consider a spin on the treadmill with a view of all that blue. There are also quiet nooks to lose yourself in, including a hushed, wood-lined library and internet café. But the seclusion I'm particularly interested in finding out about is in-room.
On board all the suites have large views out to the ocean. I decide that sailing solo I could happily float in one of the smallest vista suites that offer 284 square feet (28 square metres) of floor space. There is a bathroom with bathtub, walk-in robe and a lounge area with built-in desk that can be curtained off. I am already envisioning this as a cosy writing space. With my partner I would probably skip up to at least a verandah suite that offers 345 square feet (32 square metres) of floor space in a similar layout and a 60 square feet (6 square metres) of veranda. However,It is in the Royal, Grand and Owner Suites where service is truly ramped up to 6 star hotel. The Luxury Travel Bible loves the vastness of suites which range up to 1435 square feet (133 square metres) with verandas ranging to 280 square feet (28 square metres). While all suites have complimentary in-suite dining, these suites deliver a complimentary dedicated personal butler to your door.
I graze through the plethora of voyages that are on offer throughout most corners of the world. Starting short with the seven-day cruises, something finally dawns - being onboard has little to do with being sea-locked. There is usually only one day spent at sea, with some none at all - just a luxe night shift from one exotic port to another without having to repack, drive or fly. Could I take on the 119 days cruise onboard Silversea's newest boat Silver Spirit Sailing from Los Angeles to Southampton and armed with a laptop and time to write, I think I could become a convert.
Check in: The port is your call.
Ultimate Luxury: The dedicated butler service. On some voyages it is extended to all suites. Beyond onboard service they can coordinate the best experiences for you in each city port stop.
Most Indulgent Moment: It's a toss between spa facial and private champagne dinner in a Royal, Grand or Owner Suite. Balcony doors open to the sea air of course.
Insider Secrets: It seems silly to have to point out a bar, but it's amazing how many people miss out on the pocket handkerchief size Grappa bar next door to the casino. Low-lit, late-night intimacy.
The Little Things: You can have your mini-bar stocked according to your desire. Complimentary in-suite dining. No tips required service. A daily call sheet of activities and information.
Junior Luxies: Nothing especially here for them, other cruise lines are more kid-centric. If they're the kind of kids that squeal - 'are we there yet?', don't take them onboard. Infact don't anyway, this is couples paradise.
Dress code: Wide-legged Palazzo pants and cocktail dresses.
Break out the LV trunk - once onboard you'll never have to carry
Dent in the platinum:
Prue Rushton 2/4/10
"Photos courtesy of Silversea Cruises."