(2:20 p.m. AEST) -- This week we were granted a glimpse of a luxury world cruise upon Silversea's 382-passenger Silver Whisper as it sails on a 120-night voyage from Los Angeles to Rome.
Many people have been onboard since January, so our local leg was a short but sweet taste of the Silversea experience. Here are some of our observations.
Guest speakers are a highlight
Port talks and lectures on cruise ships can sometimes be less than inspiring, but on the Sydney to Bali sector of Silver Whisper's world cruise, the key lecturer was Thomas Keneally (pictured above), most known for his book Schindler's Ark, which was adapted into the movie Schindler's List. Keneally discussed convictism, Aboriginality and his experiences teaching writing, among other topics.
"I can speak underwater so it seemed a splendid idea, but I only gave four lectures so I felt 'working class guilty'," Keneally told us over a drink in The Bar. The Australian author, who has been on several expedition cruises and the QE2, happily mingled and dined with passengers throughout the trip. "I've met the most interesting people on this ship," he said.
Royal commentator and writer Brigadier General Alastair Bruce, who worked as a historical adviser on The King's Speech and Downton Abbey, also spoke about heraldry and Australia's royal identity. One particularly educational presentation included his contribution to the design of a new family coat of arms for the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
Speakers on Silversea's 2019 World Cruise will include other great authors Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer, Alain de Botton and Sophy Roberts, photographer Steve McCurry, and four others yet to be announced. It's almost worth booking for these events alone.
Many spaces are peaceful yet playful
From the uncrowded buffet with outdoor seating overlooking the ship's wake (pictured above) to the library (pictured below), plenty of venues allow relaxation in quiet surrounds. However it's not boring. The pool deck is a calming environment but there is live music and activities such as volleyball at designated times; there was even a flash mob of dancing waiters one day. It's also a popular alfresco area in the evening when passengers cook their own dinner on hot rocks and then linger for after-dinner cocktails under the stars. Another highlight is "family night" in La Terrazza on Sundays when an opera singer performs for diners. The quietest drinking spot is the tiny Grappa Bar off the casino and the best place to read is the Observation Lounge.
The suites are remarkably spaciousIn our Veranda Suite (among the smallest of all the categories), there is ample room for a queen bed, walk-in wardrobe, vanity table with mirror, desk, lounge, table and a balcony. The bathroom has a separate bath and shower, two basins and a choice of three brands of toiletries. The entertainment system includes complimentary on-demand movies, livestream television shows, music videos, the daily program, ship location and your account details. A complimentary minibar is replenished daily and you can choose your favourite bottle of wine, spirits or liqueur to be kept in-cabin for a quiet drink on your balcony. Room service is free and food can also be ordered from the restaurants' menus during mealtimes.
Luxury cruise traditions are upheld
Silver Whisper retains the special touches found on a World Cruise that have been lost on mass-market cruises. We loved the personalised stationery, the welcome Champagne, our butler in a tuxedo, afternoon tea and gentlemen hosts who dance and dine with the solo ladies. On the quirkier side is the bouillon served at 11am every day in the Panorama Lounge. Other daily activities include sunrise walks, shuffleboard, bridge, bingo, crossword puzzles, foreign language clases, arts and crafts and lively afternoons of trivia with the fabulous cruise director Fernando. Sometimes you just have to try everything to find your routine, especially if you're onboard for four months.
--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor