In what one attendee called "a real christening -- a nautical tradition instead of a Broadway extravaganza," luxury line Silversea Cruises today formally welcomed its new flagship, Silver Spirit, into the fleet. The hour-long ceremony, held in Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades under a blue sky on a very windy day, captured the cruise line's Italian character with the presence of a Venetian Honor Guard and a procession of executives accompanied by the Silversea Chamber Ensemble's renditions of Samuel Scheidt's Canzona Bergamasca and Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
The elegant and relaxed ambience of the small dockside ceremony belied some tumultuous events that occurred throughout the morning. The ship was subjected to an all-important and early morning inspection by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program, which had restaurant and kitchen staffers running in circles (it ultimately earned a 96 out of 100 in the sanitation inspection; 86 is considered a passing score). The ceremony's start was delayed because the priest who was handling the benediction was trapped in traffic on I-95.
And the windy conditions wreaked havoc with the official Champagne smash: despite two days spent practicing, the bottle bounced against the bow three times before a staffer finally raised it and hurled it with a vengeance.
More importantly, the dignified event was distinguished by two moments that were incredibly moving.
As one of the few family owned and operated lines left in the industry, Manfredi Lefebvre D'Ovidio, Silversea's chairman, paid tribute to his family -- his mother and father, who championed Silversea's creation and who were unable to travel from Italy to Florida for the event, and his sister Maruzza, who passed away last year. Another sister, Silvia Lefebvre D'Ovidio, served as godmother. "We are not only investing in this cruise line," D'Ovidio said, "we feel this in our hearts."
Continuing the family theme, this time with ship staffers, another particularly touching moment occurred when the cruise line's executive team, including Captain Angelo Corsaro, President Amerigo Perasso, and fleet operations chief Christian Sauleau, waved and saluted at the crew, many of whom were hanging over balconies watching the show.
Prior to its launch, Silver Spirit, the first new ship for Silversea since 2001, has often been compared with Seabourn Odyssey, also a brand-new design, which debuted in June 2009. After a night onboard Silver Spirit (and a week's Mediterranean cruise on Seabourn Odyssey), it's clear to me that the ships couldn't be more different in sense and sensibility. If you compared each vessel's style to a destination, Silver Spirit evokes the retro-contemporary elegance of Milan while Seabourn Odyssey feels more like Greece's Santorini (stay tuned for our upcoming sneak preview review of Silver Spirit).
Highlights of Silver Spirit include its Stars Supper Club, an homage to 1920's England, the Asian-fusion Seishin restaurant, and a sprawling spa, with a hammam and gorgeous aft deck outdoor relaxation area complete with small pool.
Silver Spirit, which just completed a pre-inaugural Atlantic crossing (check here for reports posted by Cruise Critic members from the ship), sets off today for its first official voyage –- a 91-night cruise focusing on the Americas, from the Caribbean to South America and from the Panama Canal to the northeast U.S.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
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Silversea Cruises Christens New Ship
January 21, 2010