By Georgina Cruz, Cruise Critic contributor
Editor's Note: Prince Albert II was renamed Silver Explorer in April 2011.
Silver Explorer, a purpose-rebuilt expedition ship, makes it possible for the first time to say "polar bears and penguins" in the same sentence as "cuisine by Relais & Chateaux, cigar and cognac lounge, and 675-square-foot suites."
Built in 1989 as the World Discoverer II, Silver Explorer was acquired by Silversea from now-defunct Society Expeditions in 2007, and given a multi-million-dollar refit at the Fincantieri Shipyards in Trieste, Italy. An ice-class vessel with the highest rating, Lloyds Register 1A, Silver Explorer goes beyond what most people would consider an expedition ship. It is more like an exclusive floating country club with 132 passengers (tops), who occupy the largest accommodations on average of any expedition ship and who are regularly spoiled with touches like chocolate-covered strawberries and chilled Champagne served from a "Zodiac bar" during polar bears-sighting excursions. (The ship is equipped with eight Zodiacs.)
Silver Explorer could be said to have two "faces." The first is a daytime expeditionary one, when passengers go on Zodiac excursions, walks and hikes; participate in whale- and other wildlife-watching; take in lectures about the destination, its flora, fauna, ecology and geology; and attend briefings and previews of the next day's program.
The other "face" is the evening one, when passengers stow away the complimentary parkas and backpacks (provided for them to keep), boots and other gear, and don chic leisure wear. The ambience becomes that of a luxury yacht, where the staff knows your name and welcomes you to a musical cocktail hour with tapas in one of the lounges, and you do not have to sign for beverages at the bars and restaurant.
While the yacht-like "face" includes cruise ship amenities such as an observation lounge, spa facilities and the Connoisseur's Corner cigar and cognac lounge, voyages on Silver Explorer are definitely expeditions -- not cruises. You will not find karaoke and deck games here, but you will come away with detailed knowledge of the region you are visiting.
On an expedition, flexibility is the name of the game, particularly in the polar regions, as ice and other weather conditions may affect the course of the itinerary. Since schedules can vary from announced times, it is important to be ready to get into Zodiacs on short notice when wildlife sightings and weather conditions dictate changes. In the Arctic, when the first polar bear is sighted an announcement is made -- even if it is 2:30 a.m. People throw their parkas over their nightclothes and come out on deck to the viewing areas located aft on Decks 5, 6 and 7 and forward on Deck 5.
Editor's Note: Silversea sends out packing recommendations so passengers can prepare for their expeditions in the polar regions. The list includes such items as waterproof pants, boots and gloves, and thermal underwear. Passengers may encounter chilly situations like being sprayed with water during Zodiac rides and having to make wet landings (Zodiac landings in shallow water). Heed the recommendations to the letter to get the most out of your expedition. Each participant is provided with a complimentary parka and backpack, and there is a selection of boots to borrow onboard, but be advised that they may not have all sizes.
Silver Explorer Fellow Passengers
Passengers are well-heeled, well-traveled Americans and Europeans (including many Germans) -- mostly couples in their 40's to 60's -- who often talked about their travels to Antarctica, the Galapagos and other exotic destinations.
Silver Explorer Dress Code
Casual dress is the norm during the day, and chic casual is par for most evenings (sports outfits you would wear at a fine resort). Jeans and shorts are not permitted in The Restaurant. The dress code also calls for semi-formal attire for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party and Captain's Farewell Party (jackets, tie-optional for gentlemen; dresses or pantsuits for ladies).
Silver Explorer Gratuity
Gratuities are included in the cruise fare. No other tips are necessary.
We selected the Explorer for our Classic Antarctica cruise, a bit apprehensively, as our only previous SS experience was a disappointing cruise on the Shadow. Still, we were looking for that sweet spot of comfort, education and adventure and the ...continue
We took the 14-cruise, which started with a charter flight from Oslo to Longyearben, and included Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland. Although we received numerous extreme warnings from Silversea about how luggage limitations would be strictly ...continue
1 - 3 of 32 Reviews
It is one of the most boring cruise I have been on. Program is poorly executed and pre and post cruise program and schedule waste a lot of time for nothing. Charter flight to Longbyen is inconvenient for both embarkation and disembarkation. Food ...continue