(6:30 p.m. AEST) -- Luxury means different things to different people. While some love to be dazzled by glitz and glamour, others just want time to indulge in life’s simple pleasures without interruptions or irritations. Silver Muse, the latest ship from Silversea, is for the latter type of person, which makes it ideal for the laidback luxury traveller or first-time cruiser.
Generally speaking, Australians don’t want to dress formally for dinner; we want to relax outside in the fresh air with a view. Even the five-star Australian leans toward a more casual elegance, appreciating stylish décor that's not too flashy or over-the-top. We absolutely must have exceptional food, friendly service and, of course, free-flowing drinks. But not just alcohol; we also need a decent coffee, tea, healthy smoothies and fresh juices, preferably included in the fare. Dare we say we don’t all want to sail on a ship full of Aussies? We like to meet interesting people from around the world.
If this resonates with your style, the good news is Silver Muse will be based in Australia and New Zealand for four months next summer -- one of the longest stints that a luxury ship has ever spent down under.
Last week, we joined a four-night New Year’s Eve cruise from Cairns to Brisbane to sample Muse’s delights. So why should you book this 596-passenger ship?
It’s not often that a luxury line offers so many opportunities to sail from such convenient cities. We usually have to fly to other countries to experience the likes of Silversea. But sometimes you just want to take an easy, no-stress holiday, where the weather is nice, there’s no jet lag, no language barriers and no long flight home.
In the 2019/20 summer season, Silver Muse has 20 local options scheduled from late November until the end of March. Itineraries include:
From the welcome aboard in a large, opulent lounge to the wide open spaces and outdoor decks, Muse's spaciousness is notable. Much of the ship has a calming ambience, reflected in the simplicity of the décor and the serenity of public areas. Some of the restaurants are striking in design, but overall Silver Muse is more "ahh" than "rah-rah".
An exception is Dolce Vita (pictured above) filled with comfy leather seating and aesthetic lighting. This classy hot-spot, adjacent to the reception and shore excursions desks, is pleasant in the daytime thanks to beams of natural light pouring in the windows, and then it’s buzzing at night with live music and waiters delivering complimentary drinks. (The New Year's Eve party ended up here, too, and it was a blast.)
One of the loveliest aspects of the ship is the various ways for passengers to unwind poolside. It’s quiet until the band performs at midday and then it’s peaceful again in the afternoon. Plenty of tables and chairs are positioned by the windows for alfresco dining. There are six places to get (free) food, dessert or drinks, as well as waiters providing service.
On the downside, there’s not much shade and no cabanas. While the bronzed Europeans enjoyed sunbathing all day, we noticed the sun-savvy Aussies were more likely to congregate on the couches near the hot-tubs, sit at the undercover tables or perch upon the stools at the bar.
On the upper deck overlooking the pool is Spaccanapoli, serving possibly the best pizza at sea (perhaps not so surprising as Silversea was founded by an Italian family). In the corner is a gelataria to end your feast with a refreshing gelato. Like we said, simple pleasures.
The Grill serves a wide variety of fresh, light meals. Yes, they have burgers but you can order healthier alternatives such as a tuna salad sandwich, salmon wrap or mezze plate to share. Chefs also set up stations to whip up heartier meals, saving you the trip to an indoors restaurant. At night, this area becomes Hot Rocks, where you cook your own meat or seafood on a slab of volcanic rock while dining under the stars.
Silver Muse has seven other foodie-friendly venues located indoors – a lot for a ship of this relatively small size. There’s no Main Dining Room but we didn’t miss it because the smaller restaurants were so good.
Breakfast is best in the buffet-style La Terrazza, where the waiters will carry your plate back to your table, either on the shaded outdoor deck with a view of the ship’s wake or inside in the air-conditioning. Hot items can also be cooked to order and brought to you. In the evening it serves superb Italian cuisine and was particularly popular in the warm Queensland climate because of the cooling sea breeze.
The hot tip is that Kaiseki is free at lunch, so you can sample the sushi and sashimi with a Japanese beer. (Although you can find some sushi and sashimi in the self-serve buffet, it's fun to watch the chefs make it.) At dinner you’ll pay US$60 per person but it comes with fancier food and the theatre of teppanyaki-style knife tricks and egg-tossing. Don't miss the lobster with soya sauce followed by tempura ice cream.
Atlantide specialises in seafood and steaks, but the dress code is formal, while the informal Indochine serves Asian fusion dishes. Both were excellent. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a table at Silver Note, an intimate supper club where a jazz band performs. We consoled ourselves with the observation that the music didn't sound very jazzy whenever we walked past (more like ‘easy listening’). This may be fine for dining but not if you’re expecting to be transported to New York. Other passengers told us the bite-size food was the best on the ship, so do book early.
Finally, don’t overlook the indoor/outdoor Arts Café for non-alcoholic beverages such as barista-made coffees and ‘detox’ waters infused with fruits, roots and vegetables. The snacks change according to the time of day, so there’s breakfast items in the morning and chocolates after dinner. A Silversea tradition, bowls of consommé are served before lunch, and then at 4 pm it’s time for afternoon tea, complete with cakes, scones, jam and clotted cream. People also gather here to chat, read from the collection of books or sit outside (pictured below).
By the way, room service is 24 hours, free of charge (except for caviar) and the extensive menu is fabulous. You can even order signature dishes from Atlantide and Indochine to enjoy on your balcony with a glass of wine.
One of Muse’s coolest and rare at-sea features is that almost every restaurant has its own small bar. Not only is this convenient, it means you can have a pre- or post-dinner drink in places where you’re not eating -- like doing a bar crawl to experience all the different atmospheres. If you prefer to drink in larger lounges, the ship has three more to choose from, plus a cigar room.
We dutifully researched the long list of complimentary cocktails to confirm the consistency of high quality. Expect all the usual suspects and dozens of versions of mojitos, margaritas, nightcaps and Silver-tinis. (Our favourite was the dark chocolate martini.) For the festive season there was also a few seasonal cocktails flavoured like gingerbread and Christmas cake.
Past passengers who previously poo-pooed the prosecco (a nod to Silversea’s Italian heritage) will be pleased to know that since Royal Caribbean took over the company, the welcome bottle in your suite has been upgraded to Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne. Our minibar also contained soft drinks and Stella Artois lager, replenished daily.
The accommodation is roomy and comfortable, in classic shades of brown, grey and cream, with private balconies, separate sitting areas, a desk, safe and walk-in wardrobe. Marble bathrooms are relatively large, each with a bathtub and separate shower. Guests can choose from three brands of toiletries: the heavily fragranced Bulgari, aromatic Ortiga (our fave) or pH-neutral Sebamed.
Butlers are assigned to each suite, although we had little use for ours. Wi-Fi is free but slow and limited (depending on your cabin category). For charging Australian devices, there are two USB ports and universal power points.
Television screens are in the mirror, which we found a bit gimmicky, especially as the viewing quality is unnecessarily inferior in this age of high-definition TVs. Never mind, you won’t spend much time watching movies when there is such a beautiful ship, lovely crew and fun destinations on your doorstep.
For more details, read our full ship review and Just Back From Silver Muse: Dining and Dress Code Changes.