Silver Shadow "Sea of Quiet Reflection" (08MAY-22MAY)
Itinerary: Lisbon, Gibraltar, Casablanca, Funchal (Madeira), Ponta Delgada (Azores), and Bermuda, New York. Stateroom: 621 (Verandah) This transatlantic voyage was the last sector of the Silver Shadow's World Cruise and it was a wonderful way to spend 14 days. Of those 14 days, seven were sea days with the longest stretch being the four days between Ponta Delgada and Bermuda.
Embarkation: A breeze. Embarkation on Silversea is generally very easy however this was easier than normal because about 140 passengers had already boarded...about 100 days earlier.
Disembarkation: The ship docked at the pier in Manhattan at 7:00 AM. Passengers who were continuing back to Southampton, England and ship's crew were cleared first. We were in the first group of disembarking passengers to get off the ship. We were called to disembark at around 9:15AM and finished with all governmental requirements by 9:30AM.
Entertainment: Now, I'm not a big one for ship's entertainment but this cruise was chock-a-block with interesting presenters. Noted maritime historian Bill Miller gave about three lectures on board. John Derbyshire of the conservative magazine "National Review", (who replaced the grieving William F. Buckley) had, I think two lectures...one on politics and one on numbers. (???) Ted Allen, formerly of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and now of "Top Chef" had two or three cooking demonstrations. Broadway producer Arthur Whitelaw entertained the crowd. Last but far from least was pianist and raconteur Michael Feinstein. Michael boarded the ship in Bermuda and performed in the Athenian Lounge for nearly 90 minutes. It was a great performance!
Ship's Tours: We did ship sponsored tours in Morocco, and the Azores. The tour in Morocco was a ½ tour to that nation's capital, Rabat. Rabat was very interesting and the tour guide very knowledgeable. The ship also offered a full day tour to Marrakech however it's a four-hour road journey in each direction. That was just too long to spend in a bus!! In the Azores we did a four-wheel drive tour of the island of Sao Miguel. This was an excellent way to see the island. Each Land Rover or Jeep had a tour guide and four occupants. Our tour guide spoke impeccable English...being a Canadian of Azorean descent who decided to move to the land of his grandparents. It was an excellent way to see a beautiful island. Madeira: Silversea offered a complimentary excursion at Madeira. I chose not to go. My partner did as it was a wine excursion but when he returned he said that it smacked of a promotion by local vintners.
Other tours: When the ship docked in Gibraltar there were many taxis/minivans offering tours of the "Rock". Our minivan held 6 and the driver/guide gave us an excellent overview of the rock. We went to the top; visited the caverns; saw the monkeys; walked through the man-made caves and were dropped off in town. We didn't do any tours in Bermuda because I've been there nearly 20 times. Bermuda really doesn't require any tours. Just rent a cycle and go go go!!! (which is what I did)
Ports: Lisbon: We spent 3 days in Lisbon prior to boarding the Silver Shadow. I had fully expected it to be a sleepy, somewhat boring city. W-R-O-N-G!!! Lisbon may not be a massive bustling metropolis but it is a city with great people, great architecture, great infrastructure and great public transport. Well worth a visit!! Gibraltar: Winston Churchill's belief was that, as long as the barbary apes inhabited Gibraltar the territory would remain British. Well, we saw quite a few of the apes and the territory does have a very British feel to it...if Britain had sun!! ? Visiting the "Rock" was great fun and extremely interesting. Although it is British, the Spanish language is often heard and most places of business will accept the Gibraltar pound and the Euro. Casablanca: Where's the romance? Where's the charm? Where's "Rick's Cafe Americaine"? (okay..Rick's is apparently a tacky bar under renovation in the lobby of the Hyatt). Casablanca itself is not
particularly interesting or beautiful. We did take a ship's tour to Rabat, which had many fascinating sights. Rabat is about 90 minutes from Casablanca. Madeira: I've been here before on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary 2 so I only disembarked the ship in order to take pictures of the vessel. The crew of the Silver Shadow commemorated their visit to the island by proudly painting the Silversea logo on the wall adjacent to the pier. It's a nice little island…but the ship is nicer!! Azores: The ship called at Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel. I knew very little of the Azores so I didn't know what to expect. Well…Sao Miguel is a spectacularly beautiful island!! It's lush and green. It has beautiful beaches and wonderful lakes that fill the indentations of dormant volcanic craters. If you're ever in the neighborhood…visit the Azores. You'll be surprised and enthralled. Bermuda: The only place it rained during the 14 days was in Bermuda…and it rained hard but the torrents didn't stop me!! I walked up Front Street to Oleander Cycles and rented a scooter. I rode to St. David's Island, and St. George's and toodled around. I visited Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and then met my partner for lunch at the "Swizzle Inn" outpost in Warwick parish. Some of the crewmembers also emblazoned the Silversea logo with the worlds "World Cruise 2007" on the port's breakwater. New York: The port of New York welcomed the Silver Shadow on its maiden visit with a water spray from a historic fireboat. Although New York is my home and an amazing city it was depressing to disembark, get in a taxi and go straight to work.
Crew: The crew was virtually flawless. For example, I had mentioned to the ship's bar manager, Sujith that Marilyn in the Panorama Lounge had made sugar syrup for my caiparinhas. His reply was basically, "You shall have simple (sugar) syrup at every bar by tomorrow "…and we did. Sujith is the epitome of professionalism. There was a bit of intra-crew ugliness when an engineering officer who was in overalls "ordered" Sujith to prepare an alcoholic drink during the crew's "deck Olympics". Sujith respectfully advised the officer that he may have the soft drinks provided for the crew on the deck. The "officer" then began to berate Sujith with, "how long have you been here? Do you know who I am?" but Sujith politely held his ground even though this officer persisted. Passengers who witnessed this made a number of complaints against this officer. The officer wasn't seen in public again. Throughout the ship the crew were friendly, professional and welcoming. They called us by name routinely and remembered our likes and dislikes from day one. The cruise director was the polyglot Fernando. He is extremely welcoming and engaging and has an amazing history.
Passengers: My partner and I met many wonderful people and never felt like interlopers among the World Cruisers. The range of nationalities was far and wide. We met, made friends with and dined with World Cruisers and late joiners alike and had a great time. One of the many, many highlights was a conversation in the Davidoff Humidor with an executive producer of a popular American news program. He, my partner and I spoke about a wide range of topics until 2AM! Memorable, simply memorable. Overall it seemed that all the passengers were enjoying themselves, the ship and the voyage.
Trivia: I'm a big fan of trivia and admittedly have a mind full of useless information. However on a couple of past cruises with Seabourn and Silversea, the trivia sessions proved to be an exercise in embarrassing childishness. On this voyage the trivia games were completely social and fun. Was this a function of how Fernando ran the games or the players themselves? I'd say it was a 50/50 split.
Food: I made a conscious not to go to breakfast. I generally don't eat breakfast at home and didn't want to disembark the ship at a weight of 800lbs/360kgs so I figured that I would skip breakfast. Lunch was almost exclusively taken poolside. The poolside grill (always my favorite!) was in fine form with a nice selection of hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled fish and salads. My partner and I did have lunch one afternoon in the restaurant when we invited Fernando to join us. It was the day of the galley brunch and it was quite good. Although the ship offers four venues for dinner we only ate in "The Restaurant". The South African-born chef in "The Restaurant", Richard is quite accomplished at serving nearly 400 covers to a demanding clientele. The dinners were normally very good to excellent. There was only one meal where the Restaurant's offerings were prepared to a "good" level. Three truly memorable meals were served on board the ship. The first was "Poulet de Bresse", a renowned chicken from Bresse, France that is notable
for its blue feet and a tag on its wing. We special ordered it and the chef prepared it to perfection and the captain of the section, Jose, carved it tableside. On the advice of one of the world cruisers, we asked for an Indian banquet. We had planned for a total of six diners however the two wives of the other couples were unwell and didn’t join us remaining four. This dinner, from beginning to end was a journey through India. The chef prepared chicken Tikka, shrimp Masala, Tandoori chicken, various chutneys, chickpeas, papadom and naan breads, rice. This meal was otherworldly. We learned from the maitre d’, Antonio that the chef who prepared this feast was in fact Indian and was given carte blanche in India (when the ship called there) to buy fresh spices and curry powders for the kitchen. We also learned that this chef had also recently been promoted. This meal was so good that we asked for a second Indian banquet, which we shared with another couple. It was just as good as the first!!!
Room Service: This was a bit spotty. I found that you had to be very, very specific with what you wanted and even so, things would be missing from the order. For anyone who is a fan of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” think of the scene where the “King of the Swamp Castle” tried to give instructions to the guards watching “Prince Herbert”. On one afternoon we were at the pool deck and my partner wanted something from the restaurant’s lunch menu to be delivered to the pool deck. He placed the order and about 30 minutes later was told that it wouldn’t be coming because he had ordered it after the lunch service had ended. He challenged this (because the order had been placed prior to the end of service) and then was told that it could be delivered to the suite but not to the pool deck. After about four different excuses the dish was finally delivered to the pool deck. No one offered a reasonable explanation for this service interruption. On a positive note my partner asked for a daily order of caviar to be delivered to the room every evening at 6:00PM. He only had to make this request once and the caviar appeared every evening. Even if we were out of the stateroom at the time of delivery the room service attendant would leave the caviar in the stateroom.
Stateroom: We had a verandah suite (621). Our travel agent told us that this cabin was next to the linen station for the deck and it might have added noise. Well, we didn’t hear a peep. The cabin is a standard Silver Shadow suite. It was well appointed. I do hope that the TV’s are replaced with flat screens. The ship’s wireless internet extended to the staterooms and was very convenient and pretty quick.
Overall impressions: Excellent voyage…probably one of the best if not the best I’ve been on. The combination of interesting ports, number of sea days, great fellow passengers and virtually flawless service made the two weeks fly by. While we were on board we booked another cruise (that offered an onboard savings) for April 2008 so now we have two more Silversea cruises to look forward to. My partner and I have been “immortalized” in the Restaurant. We brought along a fascinating bottle of wine that was without a label. Jerome, the sommelier created a label with our names and the wine’s information, affixed it to the bottle and placed it in the display case as you enter the restaurant.