It is glorious to be cruising again. I can’t believe I am on a ship and a new one at that – especially after 16 months of near-constant lockdown.
In late July, in Athens, we boarded Silversea Cruises’ newest ship, the Silver Moon and are currently sailing the Greek Isles for ten days on a terrific itinerary – lots of small islands as well as the usual highlights. It’s sheer bliss to be on the sea again, interact with the international guests, and the happy crew thrilled to welcome us aboard again.
The Silver Moon would typically carry up to 596 guests with a crew complement of 441. We are 291 guests, and Silversea has committed to sailing at a maximum capacity of 70%. We are incredibly pampered, as the staff numbers just under 400, and it’s evident that everyone on board feels privileged to be here. There’s a light and lively, almost giddy sensibility at times, and it’s a marvellous feeling. And under those masks, you know everyone is smiling.
Here’s how cruising feels these days – and I am pleased to say, it does feel relatively normal. To fly into Greece, one has to download the VisitGreece app, fill out a Passenger Locator Form, upload your proof of a double vaccine, and give all the info for contact tracing. You receive a QR code, which you show on arrival – and we breezed through the airport. The most challenging part of our trip was wearing a mask for over 14 hours. Once in Greece, all the people we interacted with wore masks, proudly told us they were vaccinated, other than a private guide we had booked with Viator (a whole other disappointing story). We felt safe, although with the 40-degree heat in Athens, wearing a mask most of the time was tricky. Having proof of your vaccine with you at all times is recommended, but no one ashore has yet asked for it.
Although everyone cruising has to be doubly vaccinated, all guests undertook a very efficient Antigen test before embarking. I applaud Silversea for its meticulous health and safety measures and concern for both guests and crew. Frankly, I would not sail on any cruise line that did not require the same. We comfortably waited in a tent on the pier while our results were processed – about fifteen minutes. And then, voila, we were onboard.
Masks are required in all public areas until one is seated by the pool, for meals, drinks, etc, or outside with the requisite two-metre distance from other guests. The crew wears masks all the time, and our butler, Jerry (affable, kind and proficient), takes our temperature every day, and mid-way through the cruise, all guests took another antigen test. It was easy, with results arriving within two hours. The crew have a test every few days too and are in a bubble – they are not allowed to go ashore right now, although we hear the cruise line is setting up specific crew shorex to give them time off the ship. It shows how careful Silversea is being with their bubble – and again, I firmly believe this is the way to do things. I feel safe, and that is a massive contributor to the enjoyment of this cruise.
And how is the ship herself, you might ask? Well, she is gorgeous – stunning and classically elegant. And there have been some lovely design and décor changes that enhance one’s onboard experience. La Dolce Vita Lounge on Deck 5, which is the hub of the ship, has been redesigned and now features a circular bar at its centre. It breaks up the space and affords more interesting seating throughout. It’s also more beautiful now, and the flower arrangements are spectacular. Since the Moon set sail in July, guests could not sit at the bar because proximity was an issue. Silversea resolved this by taking out a few bar stools and spacing the guests. It works – again, I offer more kudos for ensuring guest enjoyment and safety are married well.
S.A.L.T. – an acronym for Sea and Land Taste is an exciting and enjoyable new culinary program from Silversea that touches on the authentic cuisines around the world and is indicative of the region in which one is cruising. Some of the most significant changes have occurred on Deck 4, the location of several restaurants. S.A.L.T. Kitchen has replaced Indochine (on Silver Muse), and La Dame is now on Deck 8 – with a view and more seating for about 60 guests who can enjoy this fabulous dining experience for an additional fee.
The S.A.L.T. Lab offers delectable cooking classes focused on the area in which the ship is sailing, and they sell out every session. We enjoyed one on “How to Mezze” taught by a local food expert. S.A.L.T. Kitchen is another beautiful restaurant, and the menu changes daily with no reservations required. In my next column, I will write more about the dining choices, of which there are many, the activities and included shore excursions and wax lyrically about our stunning Silver Suite.
Silversea is better than ever. They have used their downtime wisely and efficiently and have emerged as a more consistent cruise line, at the top of their game, with a beautiful new ship and thoughtful changes. Her sister, Silver Dawn, comes in November, and the new expedition vessel, Silver Origin is now cruising in the Galapagos Islands.