9 Silversea Silver Wind Africa Cruise Reviews

SILVER WIND– CRUISES 2406, 2407 AND 2408 CAPE TOWN TO BARCELONA, 27 FEBRUARY TO 5 APRIL 2014 PART 2 AMAZING AFRICAN ADVENTURE Review of the ports visited during Cruise 2407 from Tema, Ghana to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary ... Read More
SILVER WIND– CRUISES 2406, 2407 AND 2408 CAPE TOWN TO BARCELONA, 27 FEBRUARY TO 5 APRIL 2014 PART 2 AMAZING AFRICAN ADVENTURE Review of the ports visited during Cruise 2407 from Tema, Ghana to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands The review of the cruise on Silver Wind can be found under our posting entitled “West African Wanderings”. What follows is a review of the ports visited on the subsequent cruise from Tema to Las Palmas. TAKORADI, GHANA 14 MARCH 2014 We had to pay $50 for the privilege of a visa to enter Ghana, but the greedy so and so's charged us this amount twice, once each for the two ports, Tema and Takoradi! Takoradi is half of a twin city, the other being Sekondi. It is in fact famous for being Ghana's first deepwater harbour, built in 1928, and is the region's largest city, Takoradi being the smaller. The twin towns of Sekondi-Takoradi are together known as the Twin City. In reality they should be known as the triplets, as Takoradi is split into two separate areas, a beachside area with hotels and restaurants, and a couple of miles inland the hub of city life, with its dominant centrepiece, the noisy and bustling Circular Market. Fortunately once again, Silversea provided us with a complimentary shuttle bus service which dropped us only yards away from this market. Despite the 8.00 am arrival at the container port, we did not rush ashore, and we arrived at the Circular Market around 10.00 am. Takoradi is very similar to the port of Tema we had left yesterday, a higgledy piggledy jumble of small dwellings, interspersed with small shops and potholed streets. The market was incredible, completely circular, with shops on the outside facing the road, and a maze of stalls on the inside. The stall holders were predominately female, ranging in age from old ladies to young girls, with many women feeding their infants sitting on tiny stools, with only a small minority of men fronting some stalls. Once inside this maze of alleyways, all sense of direction is lost, and it appears that the alleys are getting narrower, and it becomes a real labyrinth. The merchandise seems to overflow onto the paths, and the further into the heart of this teeming mass you venture, the corrugated iron roofs seem to become more oppressive and no daylight penetrated into this area at all. To offset this, many had kerosene lamps hanging from the roof. The goods on sale were so diverse, ranging from food, chicken, fish, both fresh and smoked, almost completely covered with flies, to herbs and spices, both fresh and dried, and clothes, from bras to football shirts and hats! We remarked that their constitution must be so good, if they eat all this produce, after all the flies had sampled it first! Exterior of the Takoradi Central (Circular) market on the left; note the businesses on the upper floor. Running through this market, were deep drain-like channels, some of which carried water as well as all sorts of flotsam and jetsam. Indeed outside the market maze, but within the circle, was a huge three foot wide drain, much deeper than that on the inside, which seemed to be used as a general garbage dumping ground, and you can imagine the smells which emanated from this area! On the perimeter were various trucks, one of which was crammed full of boxes of tomatoes, around which were a throng of both sexes bidding for the fruit. These looked really ripe and by the crowds massing around, they thought so too. However, we were not tempted to buy anything from the market, and we decided to get a taxi to visit Sekondi. The setup was very efficient. Next to the shuttle bus was a guy named Elvis (yes really) who appeared to "run" the taxis. He asked you where you wanted to go, and for how long. He then called over waiting taxis from the other side of the road, took their name, their registration number and their cell phone number, all of which he wrote down, and off we went. By this means I think they got far more custom, as passengers felt it was regulated and therefore safer. We wanted to see two things for which Sekondi is known. One was the fishing village and the other was the colonial-era railway station building. The journey with John, our taxi driver, in a car which though not pristine, was in not too bad a shape, took only about 15 minutes. Arriving in Sekondi, with the ocean on our right, after a drive through lush greenery it was pretty evident that this was the older town. Nearly all the buildings were run down, in a very bad state of disrepair and along the oceanside were little stalls and wooden shacks that had such an air of desolation and poverty, it was quite depressing. Turning off this road, we drove inland, through equally dismal buildings until we came to the fishing village. This was incredible as we drove through a parking area, with many trucks and old vehicles, the former obviously used to transport the fish to market. Getting out, we were led down to the waters edge where there must have been over 50 battered fishing boats, not much more than canoes, as far as the eye could see, some of which were beached. Many had planks of wood missing, and one wondered if indeed they were seaworthy! This area was very muddy, presumably as the tide was out. There were several women selling the fish, surprisingly enough, some of the fish were alive, and there were a few crabs trying to make a bolt for freedom out of the bowl in which they had been placed. One lady motioned to her purse round her waist and wanted to sell me a fish, which was the size of a sprat. We were surprised that she obviously spoke no English, hence the sign language. It was also a surprise to note that there were no big fish on sale, and we wondered if those had already been sold or taken to market. Just above the water level were many tiny shacks, one of which said "Sea View Cafe" whose owner was a very large lady with tinted red hair, she spoke to us and hoped we would partake of whatever drinks she sold. However John asked her where the railway station was, and a guy appeared and got into our taxi, presumably to direct our taxi driver. Sekondi Fishing fleet We left the fish market area and drove round a few side streets, but it was plain that neither knew where this building was. Jessie - the "invited" guide then said he would take us on foot. We came to a clearing with the Ghanaian flag flying on a small flagpole, and facing what looked like a freshly constructed ramp and newly placed ballast. To the left on a raised platform was a length of rails laid on ballast, which had obviously been preserved for posterity, but there was no sign of any railway building, so it must have been demolished. The clearance of the site must have been recent because no vegetation had yet started to grow. The railway station is a well-known feature in Sekondi and all ship's tours were taken to this location, so it was evident that the ship's agents were unaware of its recent demolition and the abandonment of passenger services to the town. Sadly this was not the only colonial building whose use had come to an end, because we drove past the former post office which had clearly been out of use for some time and was derelict. ABIDJAN COTE D'IVOIRE 15 MARCH 2014 Abidjan is the former capital city of the Ivory Coast, and currently the economic capital. it is the largest city in the nation and is the third largest French speaking city in the world after Paris and Kinshasa. It is a unique city in West Africa and its nicknames, Manhattan of the Tropics, Small Manhattan, or Pearl of the Lagoons, explains the city's topography. It also has lovely beaches around the lagoon. Docking promptly at 8.00 am, we aimed to do the one and only trip offered by Silversea. This was a full day tour incorporating lunch at a local hotel in Grand Bassam. We left the port in convoy of four coaches preceded by an official port authority vehicle, with four uniformed men. We were not only in the leading coach, but also sitting in the front seat and therefore had a marvellous view of what was going on. Probably because there were three other coaches behind us, we left at a snail's pace, which was actually helpful for taking photos. The streets were wide, with very much of a French influence, and the road out of the port led up a fairly steep hill. We continued at this snail's pace until both our guide and the driver gestured to the port authority guys, to "plus vite", in other words, get a move on, which they did, but only marginally! One wonders how well they knew their town, as driving down a dual carriageway; we suddenly crossed the road and returned the way we had just come! Finally on the outskirts of town, we actually drove at probably the speed limit. The scenery as we passed became less town and more little individual clusters of habitation, little more than small shacks, interspersed with shops selling a variety of different goods and offering many different services from tyres and car components to clothes. Passing a large group of people all milling round, our guide told us that this was virtually a refugee area, where many people who had come from Niger, Mali, and many other neighbouring countries, lived apparently reasonably harmoniously and that they all managed to scratch a living. Turning off the highway by what appeared to be an unorthodox route as the surface of the road was unmetalled we were confronted by two obstacles. First a funeral cortege was heading along the narrow road that we needed to traverse, with all the mourners, about 50, walking on foot at a slow pace. Once they had passed, there was a low hanging telegraph cable which was too low for our coach to pass under. Eventually someone found a pole long enough to raise the cable, so the coaches could pass underneath! Our first stop was at the centre “Artisanal de Abidjan”, a small cooperative which was housed in a very small clearing by the side of the river, covered with bits of corrugated roofing. There were a few workers showing how they made the metalwork, and various men actually carving objects. All very fundamental, but on sale at quite inflated prices, but a few passengers did buy the various items on offer. Arriving in Grand Bassam, the old French colonial capital city from 1893 to 1896, we stopped for a visit at the National Costume Museum. This was packed with several groups of children in school uniform, early teens, who were obviously on a school visit, and many of them were kneeling on the floor in front of the exhibits making notes. They were quite boisterous and friendly and answered our greetings in French both verbally and with big grins. Some of them were lined up outside in the grounds, obviously taking it in turns to gain entry into the building. Inside the unlit rooms were various figures of the inhabitants of the past centuries wearing the costumes of the period. These also included fetishes and masks. In the grounds behind the building there was a ”sales opportunity” with a variety of objects, some of which included extremely large carvings of elephants and other animals which no passenger could possibly hope to transport abroad unless by sea. After a stop of about half an hour here, we drove through the town of Grand Bassam which runs parallel to the ocean, to our hotel for lunch, the Etoile du Sud. They had set out tables on a terrace, with the overload seated on chairs on the sand covered by an awning literally yards from the beach, which was pristine, with beautiful surf rolling in. There were quite a few locals swimming, surfing and walking along the beach. We suspect that many were staying in the hotel. The lunch consisted of various dishes both hot and cold, from beef, chicken to salads and vegetables. It was very well organised and we thoroughly enjoyed it. As usual, some passengers moaned that wine was not included with the lunch and that the food was not ready and waiting for them, as if they had not eaten for weeks! In view of the number for which the hotel had to cater, we felt they did a brilliant job. The planned shopping stop at the market on the way back was cancelled on a majority vote. Abidjan outer suburban market and basic housing seen from a highly-congested principal highway The highlight of the return journey was the amazing traffic which had built up in the intervening hours - it was only about 3.00 pm, but it was virtually nose to tail. Once again our port authority vehicle, with its four occupants headed the convoy. As the traffic increased, one of them, kept shooting his arm out of the window and gesticulated at the car drivers to move out of our way - indeed throughout the whole journey, should any car get in front of us, the police gestured frantically for them to get out of our path. Finally the traffic ground to a complete halt, so two of them got out and told whoever the driver was, be it car or truck to move. Finding it virtually impossible to move the traffic which surrounded us, they decided to drive onto the other carriage way facing the fast driving oncoming traffic, thinking this would be the solution!! When it became completely gridlocked, the remaining two occupants of our port authority vehicle, carrying AK 47s, got out and waved their weapons at the oncoming traffic!! Miraculously the traffic melted away and we drove off at a merry pace. As the guide said - we were VIPs’ and were treated royally. We all remarked that we wished we could do the same back home! With their help we finally arrived back at the port and home. We had thoroughly enjoyed our day, and not least the hair-raising journey home!! BANJUL, GAMBIA 18 MARCH 2014 This country was made well-known to the world thanks to Alex Haley and his book “Roots” which was made into a television series, and tells the story of a native of The Gambia who is captured as a slave and sent to Virginia in the USA and the trials and tribulations of his life. Gambia which is only 4,360 square miles is the smallest country on the continent, and has a cooperative relationship with its neighbour Senegal, despite having separated from the federation of Senegambia in the early 1990's. Its first historical accounts come from the Arab traders in the 9th and 10th centuries, it was then taken over by the Portuguese who subsequently sold the trade rights to the British, becoming a colony in 1899, before finally becoming independent in February 1965. We didn’t dock until around 11.00 am, so had a leisurely breakfast and a good sail in up The Gambia river. The shuttle bus service dropped us off in the city centre, at the Albert Market, where we went inside the market itself. This was almost a repeat of the other markets we had seen, particularly in Takoradi, and had the same produce as in Ghana. We then decided to stroll around the surrounding streets and we very shortly gained a "minder", who started to point out various buildings, as I was photographing. We had been warned by the ship that informal guides known as "bumsters" abound. Initially we ignored him, but when it became too problematic, I told him to go away in Arabic, which not only surprised him, but also did the trick, and he melted away into the crowd. We then picked up yet another, who purported to be from "the security" force (which he wasn’t); he had a badge round his neck to confirm it! He also proved a pain, and we stopped at some genuine police in the streets to ask the location of the internet café for which we were looking. Having made certain we were on the right track, we tried to ignore Mr. minder No. 2 only to find the original guy several paces ahead. So we then had two “minders” to ignore! Off the main thoroughfare, the streets were rubbish-strewn and potholed. Even though we were the only white people, we did not feel threatened because there were plenty of locals around. Banjul’s market on right We eventually came to the Internet cafe and ascertained it would be US$1 for an hour. As the internet speed was really slow, and after checking there were no urgent emails, we left after 20 minutes, thereby fooling our two minders who may have been waiting outside when the hour had elapsed. On arrival back at the ship there were many stall holders displaying their wares on the quayside and I was tempted and bought a scarf. At 5.30pm in the evening the ship recorded the shade temperature as 99.7 F, - 38C. However several hours later for deck barbecue, many people repaired to the dining room because of the very cold wind across the open decks, and the residual dining room staff had to be augmented by pool deck staff. DAKAR, SENEGAL 19 MARCH 2014 Senegal is the western most nation in Africa, which stretches out into the Atlantic and is bordered to the north by Mauretania, Mali to the East, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. We docked early at 7.00 am and got the shuttle bus into the main square. We were looking for artisanal shops, but most of the buildings nearby were office and banks. As we had visited Dakar previously and didn’t feel like wandering too far without a good map, we just walked round the square and then returned to the ship. Unfortunately as we were leaving at 1.00 pm, this didn’t give us very long to go further afield. Docking as one seems to do everywhere these days, despite the size of your ship, in a large container port, facilities for merchants to display their wares are minimal on the quayside and here was no exception. We were looking for a postcard for our butler, which we had been doing in all ports where we could find any, and the few stalls that had been set up were uninteresting and not one offered postcards. When we arrived Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner was in the dock across from ours, and we guessed there would be more local vendors in view of the size of their ship. Despite being so near us, by the time we had negotiated round the many wharves and cranes, it was just over a ten minute walk away. We were correct in our assumption, with not only many more vendors, but a postcard seller too, who was asking for one US dollar per postcard which included a stamp. I picked up two cards and gave him one dollar and said I didn’t need the stamp, he didn’t demur! We learned that Ray Solaire, a cruise director ex Silversea and Oceania, was now with Regent on its Seven Seas Navigator. Dakar central square Having completed our mission, we walked back round to the Silver Wind and back on board before sailing. On leaving Dakar, the wind which had started when we left Gambia, increased and this was to dog us and cause a problem until we arrived in Barcelona on 5 April. PRAIA, CAPE VERDE 20 MARCH 2014 In common with nearly all the West African countries visited so far, who charged for visas, Praia is no exception. We felt that it was exorbitant to charge a visa fee of 32 Euros, should one wish to go ashore. Based on reports we had found on the internet that were uncomplimentary about Praia, we were unsure whether to bother but we were glad that we did. The shuttle bus dropped us off only yards from the main square, which was very pretty, clean and so reminiscent of rural Portugal. Praia central square We wanted to go to the island’s Cidade Velha which is the old city and about a 20 minute drive away and a tour which was offered by the ship, but we felt that we would be able to do it more cheaply, without all the extra entrances into museums etc. It was only a few minutes walk to pick up a taxi by the church, and we negotiated a lower price to that for which we were asked, but it was slightly easier for us with our basic Portuguese. We agreed 30 Euros, which we thought was quite expensive, but felt that there were not many taxis available and if we went to find someone else the price could well be the same. The journey across the island, which was quite undulating and barren with few trees, also ran close to the ocean and we could see little coves. The road was wide with a good surface, with not much traffic. Eventually the road dropped down through very narrow streets and we knew we had finally arrived at Cidade Velha. Parking in a small car park, we got out and walked to the little beach with very black sand and some bathers. Fronting this little cove which was quite rocky, with only a small expanse of sand, was a couple of little cafe/restaurants, and the smell of cooking was quite tantalising. Although the dilapidated typically Portuguese barbecue stood on the beach waiting for the sardines to be brought out of the sea and cooked, there was no sign of it happening anytime soon, otherwise we might have been tempted to stay. One of the restaurants appeared to have been built on the old wall ramparts and there were many diners, and people sitting having drinks, most appeared to be tourists, possibly off the AidaVita which was also docked in Praia. In the middle of the town was a little square with the pelourinho - originally a whipping post, and a few street vendors selling a variety of different items together with a few paintings and postcards. This was very picturesque and we could have wandered back up towards the town and the fort which towered over this little village, but as the 30 Euros we had paid for the taxi was only for an hour's duration, we got back into the taxi and returned to the modern town of Praia from where we had left. Despite the cost of the visas, we were pleased we had ventured to this island stuck out in the middle of the Atlantic. The Cidade Velha on Praia SANTA CRUZ, TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS, 23 MARCH We arrived around 08.00, about an hour ahead of HAL’s Noordam docking close to the inter-island ferry terminal. The ship’s shuttle dropped us close to Fundación tram (trolley) stop on the Tranvia metro Tenerife system. Being quite early on a Sunday, everywhere was closed and there was little traffic, though there were maybe 15 other locals waiting for the next outbound tram. Our destination was La Laguna, conveniently located close to the end of one of the Tranvia’s line at Trinidad. The one-way fare was Euro1.35 and we had taken the precaution of having sufficient coins, judging correctly that the self-service ticket machine would not accept euro notes, although it did give change, so there is no necessity to have the correct amount. La Laguna claims to be Tenerife’s second most important city, its first capital until 1723 and, from 1999, a UNESCO world heritage site. Its full name is Ciudad de San Cristóbal de la Laguna, which is Saint Christopher's city. It sits at 1,600 feet above sea level but only about five miles from Santa Cruz and the principal streets are largely traffic-free. By virtue of it being Sunday, the main street of La Laguna was virtually dead, with most shops closed. Many of the buildings on the main street date back several hundred years. At the top end lies the cathedral, outside of which were several cafes, which seemed to burst into life once the service in the cathedral was over and people streamed out of the main entrance. San Cristóbal cathedral and plaza, la Laguna The weather was cold here, not least because of the height above sea level, rain clouds threatened and, after exploring a few streets off the cathedral square, we patronised a café in the square for two reasonably-priced hot chocolates and an hour’s worth of Wi-Fi. Then we retraced our steps back down the main street to the Trinidad tram terminus and then back to the ship. Even now, retail outlets in Santa Cruz were virtually all still closed. Considering this port is very tourist orientated, it was very surprising that most places, not only in La Laguna, but also in Santa Cruz resembled a ghost town because it was Sunday. Seemingly gone are the days, when if a cruise ship was in port, shopkeepers would stay open until the ship departed! LAS PALMAS, GRAN CANARIA, CANARY ISLANDS 24 MARCH 2014 Las Palmas was the end port for cruise 2407 and the start of cruise 2408 and roughly 220 passengers disembarked, whilst 200 embarked. AidaCara was docked on the opposite side of the cruise ship quay and we were told that an Aida ship uses this as its home port to offer sailings round the Canaries. Main shopping street in Las Palmas old town We walked to the entrance to the dedicated cruise facility and paid Euro 6.50 for a cab to the old town and walked along the pedestrianised main street, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the architecture of some of the older buildings. Of note was that maybe 25% of the properties were empty, whilst those still trading offered a wide range of retail outlets, but no food in the remainder; in fact, there were surprisingly few cafes. Roughly a third of the people in this area were clearly tourists. All this provided an interesting insight into this part of Las Palmas, away from the holiday resorts, and after a few hours browsing the area we got a cab to return to the ship. Part 3 – Las Palmas to Barcelona can be found under a separate posting entitled “The Wind Blown Wind”.   Read Less
Sail Date March 2014
SILVER WIND– CRUISES 2406, 2407 AND 2408 CAPE TOWN TO BARCELONA, 27 FEBRUARY TO 5 APRIL 2014 PART 1 WEST AFRICAN WANDERINGS Review of the ship for all three cruises and the ports visited during Cruise 2406 from Cape Town, South ... Read More
SILVER WIND– CRUISES 2406, 2407 AND 2408 CAPE TOWN TO BARCELONA, 27 FEBRUARY TO 5 APRIL 2014 PART 1 WEST AFRICAN WANDERINGS Review of the ship for all three cruises and the ports visited during Cruise 2406 from Cape Town, South Africa to Tema, Ghana SHIP REVIEW Silversea revised its passenger documentation arrangements around the start of 2014. Out went the large document wallet, that few used, and luggage tags; in came a smaller silver box containing a booklet, which included the cruise tickets, and itinerary notes. Whereas we previously got our silver box three weeks or so prior to departure, this time our pack came only a couple of days before we left for Cape Town, the pack being produced in Italy. The reason being our third and final leg from Las Palmas to Barcelona had not been printed. Beware world cruisers! Whilst waiting to embark Silver Wind in Cape Town on 27 February, we were talking to Asta, the Future Cruise Consultant and Venetian Society hostess when we noticed her gaze looking beyond us. We turned to see our old friend, Captain Gennaro Arma, in civilian clothes and looking for the opportunity to renew our acquaintance. He had flown in from Valparaiso two days’ previously, having left Silver Spirit and was taking over command of the Wind. After some pleasantries, we embarked. After our photo was taken at Reception, we were met by Cruise Director, Colin Brown, who was sadly disembarking for a well-earned holiday. After a quick exchange of news we sought a warm, shady table outside the pool bar for our introductory Pimms. Passengers came and went but we were in no rush to get into cabin 718. About 3pm, Captain Arma came along his well-trodden route around the port side of the pool. Dressed in uniform, he came to our table, leaned over and whispered ‘I’m in charge now!’ He asked if he could join us for a coffee and this gave us a better chance to catch up on his news. 45 minutes later, the queue of staff wanting his attention meant that he had to go and so did we, to see whether our cases had arrived and unpacking could begin. The ship was full, with 270 passengers, of which about 15 were travelling solo. There were two party bookings. One was a group of around 50 from Hawaii, who were not actually travelling as a unified party. The other group of about 30 were all followers of an American radio broadcaster. We kept getting different explanations about this guy, who seemed to be ultra-conservative, embrace Jews and Christians and boasted he was now on his third wife. They had events some nights, which closed off venues to other passengers, but were otherwise unobtrusive. These parties serve as a warning about how a large party could (and have) effectively dominated a small ship. Cape Town’s wind had abated on the 27th after several days, and we set sail in fine weather. Next day was at sea but that night we ran into fog as we headed for Luderitz. Reviews of the ports will be dealt with later in this document. A number of these were first calls for a ‘standard’ Silversea ship and this explains why the voyage sold out so quickly after bookings opened. Everyone without exception that we spoke to said they had booked because of the itinerary. Sadly, some passengers seemed to think the ports we visited would mirror the Italian or French Riviera. Luanda in Angola was far from the poorest place we visited, being the capital of an oil-rich country, yet one passenger berated the Tours Manager that she should not have been taken there. Cotonou, Benin, was deck barbecue night and it proved to be a hot, humid tropical evening. By 10pm, several people were in the pool, cooling off after exuberant dancing. Meanwhile, Captain Arma was clearly not happy with the state of Silver Wind, as inherited from his predecessor, who we shall refrain from naming. Several members of the crew described his predecessor as ‘lazy’. Most noticeable to us was the work he put in train around the swimming pool and wet areas. Subtle, largely un-noticed other upgrading was progressed but there was a limit to the resources available to the onboard team; more extensive work would require a dry dock visit. Talking of which, we love Silver Wind; it’s our favourite ship, maybe because it was our first Silversea ship. We accept that it is far from new and getting tired in some areas. We heard that, in very heavy seas which we encountered, the windows in the Deck 4 cabins leaked, whilst water came through some Deck 5 balcony doors. During packing in Barcelona, we were concerned to find many of our clothes coated in dust and small hairs, far more in fact, than we found in our home on return after six weeks! This most probably came from the air conditioning but our butler was dismissive about it, so had a vacuum cleaner sprayed the dust accidentally in the wardrobe? One of our cabin chairs resembled a rocking chair and did not stand as stable as it should have done, whilst the sofa was badly worn. The dark brown wood and marble in the bathroom looks dated and should be changed, and the wash basin taps are now legendary and spray water everywhere! In the tropics, the air conditioning in the cabin opposite was excessively cold, yet ours struggled to cool our cabin at all, and we hate a/c! In fact turning the dial either way seemed to make no difference. The seal on our balcony door was ill fitting, and the paintwork on the outside was virtually non existent, with a screw missing from the handle. Taken together with the leakage on balcony doors and windows, the suites need significant expenditure to bring them up to 5* standard. Suite doors are also poor at suppressing corridor noise. Lady butlers seemingly cannot carry trays as heavy as their male counterparts, and are therefore provided with trolleys as an alternative. These trolleys rattle noisily and from 6am there was a regular ‘run’ by the butlers, taking room service breakfast to the (typically) half dozen suites who were early risers. Silent trolleys need substituting and cabin door insulation upgrading, to stop passengers being woken by butlers servicing those passengers who wish to rise at 6.00am. The first cruise Voyage 2406 ended in Accra Ghana; actually Tema, Accra’s port. The weather began to change as we sailed north from the Ivory Coast. Banjul had been chosen for the deck barbecue and at 5.30pm the ship reported the temperature as 99.7’F! Once the sun set, the cold wind put a different complexion on things. The dining room had been set up with just two waiter stations on the expectation most would dine on deck. The cold wind, however, brought a steady stream of passengers into the dining room and the ship’s managers had to begin moving waiters from the deck barbecue to the dining room to cope. When we went out on deck at 9.30 pm, there were hardly any passengers and large quantities of untouched food was being taken away. In our experience, the deck barbecue is always a hit-or miss affair due to the weather. It also brings out the worst behaviour among some passengers, who push and shove others, and we have said many times the work and effort by the crew is just not worth it. Have a post-dinner deck party but scrap the food aspect. The strong, cold wind that blighted the Banjul deck barbeque continued to plague us. After the next turn-round day in Las Palmas, came Arrecife, Lanzarote, also part of the Canaries. Leaving here, the Captain’s welcome cocktail party was cancelled due to the motion of the ship caused by the strong wind. Only 75 out of around 230 passengers made it to dinner that night, the rest presumably remained in their cabins. Chairs, with passengers on them, slid around the wooden floor in the dining room! Pity the poor crew, who could not retire to their cabins, but had to keep the ship fully functioning, and not just on that evening. Even in the Mediterranean, leaving Cartagena (our final port), the Captain announced he had revised his navigation to hug the coast. The last 12 hours before Barcelona, however, found us again encountering very rough seas due to the wind. By now, the crew looked really worn out by the effects of the high seas, and many had to resort to pills for seasickness. The weather’s impact caused us to miss Agadir, Morocco. Leaving Madeira, the Captain explained that a complex low pressure was forming in the vicinity, whilst there was high pressure over Morocco. He had been advised that, even if he managed to get into the port of Agadir, he would not be able to get out. He therefore headed at full speed for Casablanca, where we stayed for two days, instead of the planned one. For some passengers, this was a good outcome as they could visit both Marrakesh and Rabat should they wish. Unfortunately for us who have visited Casablanca on many occasions and seen most of what she has to offer, it was a huge disappointment not to land in Agadir as it would have been a first! By virtue of the overnight stay in Casablanca, the deck barbeque for this cruise was moved from the night we were due to be in Malaga, to Casablanca. The reason was because the weather prospects for Malaga were not good, and at least it was forecast to be only showery in Casablanca. As a precaution, only half the usual number of tables were set up on deck, and the dining room staffed for half capacity. This proved to be well judged in terms of passenger preferences, but a (personally) surprising number of hardy souls braved the cold evening air to dine on deck. The Executive Chef changed in Arrecife, Chris replacing Anne-Marie. The latter had included Oriental items at meal times to cater for the handful of Chinese passengers on board and we enjoyed these dishes, and some menus included specific African dishes. We were less pleased with the dinner menus after Arrecife. English pub lunch was the day after Gibraltar, when we were in Malaga Spain. Despite three calls in Spanish ports, tapas dishes were never offered at either lunch or dinner. This was a surprise, not least as Silversea states that menus featuring regional specialities unique to the voyage destination are routinely offered. Baked Alaska, specially requested for a private party of eight, was botched. The ship also had no mandarin liqueur to make a proper crepe suzette. Cooked shellfish, especially lobster, was always salted to excess, a trait about which we have complained on other Silversea cruises. The menu in Le Champagne had seemingly not changed since we were on Silver Spirit last April. Despite the specifics mentioned, the food was of a generally high standard which we now expect from Silversea. Enrichment and port information was clearly delineated between the two cruises from Cape Town to Las Palmas and the final cruise thereafter to Barcelona. During the first two, we had ‘enrichment’ speakers on different aspects of Africa. One disembarked in Accra and was replaced by another enrichment speaker, who discussed world security issues. All three were very interesting and informative. The Shore Concierge Manager described the ports in her presentations about the trips offered by Silversea. From Las Palmas we had Corey Sandler as a ‘destination expert’. Corey is a nice guy, whom we have sailed with previously, but he is/was a journalist and was no more an expert on the ports being visited than we were, as a result of our in-depth research. We know Madeira much better than he and picked up errors and omissions during his presentation. He tries to give the proper pronunciation for the country being visited, in this case, Spain and Portugal. However he has the infuriating habit of using American pronunciation for place names, such as “Lanzer Wrote” for Lanzarote, not pronouncing the “e”, which helps no one to learn the correct name of the place. He also referred to the “Aye Zores”, which as an American, is the way they say it. If he wishes his listeners to learn the correct way to say a place name, this being Portuguese, it should be pronounced “Az-or-esh”. After all, the passengers didn’t all come from the US! As always, the crew worked really hard to deliver the Silversea standard and to meet personal expectations. Our butler had 13 cabins and her hours were from 6,00am till 12.00 noon and 400 pm to 10pm, seven days a week for eight months! Some of the idle, benefit-addicted unemployed in the UK and US should do a spell on a cruise ship and then they would know what work really means! The butlers are not alone on this regime, dining room and bar staff work to a similar routine. Captain Arma had referred to the voyage from Cape Town being an “adventure” and we suggested to the Hotel Director, Flavio, that the Captain might like to host a cocktail party for the 37 “doughty” adventurers, who were sailing from Cape Town all the way to Barcelona. He thought it was a good idea, but in the event the Hotel Director and the Cruise Director were the hosts, as unfortunately it coincided with our arrival into Gibraltar, and Captain Arma remained on the Bridge. A nice touch was that we were all given a “certificate of recognition” that “we had sailed through the pirate infested waters of West Africa/Nigeria from Cape Town to Barcelona”. We realised that we may have been the adventurers; but it was left to the Captain and his team to safely steer us through these difficult waters and the challenges they faced in dealing with the different countries’ immigration authorities and potential stowaways, which was handled with the utmost tact and diplomacy. We have booked to travel on Silver Wind again because many aspects suit our lifestyle and preferences. The onboard service is more intimate than on the larger Silversea ships and the staff get to know passengers and their preferences more quickly and so give better service. We just hope that when we travel again on the Wind in March 2015, she will not be looking as “tired” as she was this time when we boarded in Cape Town. LUDERITZ, NAMIBIA SATURDAY 1 MARCH 2014 Silver Wind docked at 08.00 and all passengers were mandatorily required to attend a face to face inspection, before proceeding ashore. The Immigration officials were due on board at 8.15am. However it was 9.15am before two arrived, with another two following behind, and it was 10.15am before we were cleared to leave the ship!! The Silversea shuttle bus dropped us off right at the beginning of the Main Street, which was only five minutes from the container terminal at which we had docked. In the near distance it was just possible to discern the end of the tarmac which demarcated the end of the town! So after a ten minute walk we had seen the highlights of Luderitz and spent the rest of our stay wandering around the lowlights! In a manner reminiscent of what I had been told, each of the two banks had a queue of people outside. Seemingly in Southern Africa, it had occurred when I was in Jo'burg, people were only admitted inside when there was a teller to serve them, otherwise they waited outside. We inspected the merchandise in the pharmacy, which was quite “old fashioned” in its way, but not so marked as two pharmacies found in Spain! A fellow passenger from Australia bought some mothballs, something that is unavailable in both Oz and the UK. A twelve hour flight from home still seems to transport you back 50 years! The cashier never batted an eyelid when we proffered South African Rand to pay for the antibiotics, and we were in fact a few cents missing. On leaving the pharmacy, we continued our walk up the main street and found the long abandoned railway station, which still sported a rotting sign board displaying the name of the town. Luderitz railway station site adjacent to the town’s main street Despite being down at heel the town was generally clean, with no litter in the streets. As is customary in many countries, the church was on the highest point in the town, reached by a sand strewn road which was fairly steep and quite slippery because of the amount of sand which had blown onto the road. Like many other churches in this region, it was a simple Lutheran building, with a couple of lovely stained glass windows. The view of the coast from outside the church was quite stunning and you could see for miles. After asking a couple of locals, we found a Wi-Fi cafe, and were directed to sit on a little dais with two armchairs. This was all very comfortable and we enjoyed a local ginger beer whilst checking emails. Our sightseeing over, we caught the shuttle bus back to the ship. WALVIS BAY, NAMIBIA SUNDAY 2 MARCH 2014 Being of course of a Germanic background, this place's name is pronounced "Valvish By" (the Afrikaans spelling being Baai). The port authorities were being particularly awkward concerning tour bus and coach access into the dock area, and it appeared they were only allowing so many vehicles in at a time, the upshot being that we were all congregated on the quayside, with no one knowing which vehicle they were supposed to get into. We were doing a 4 x 4 trip and some of the vehicles appeared to be based on a Land Rover, but one of the first produced in the 30's! Luckily the one we had was at least a fairly modern and comfortable, long wheel base 4 wheel drive vehicle. There were five of us, David being the only man, apart from Lawrence, the guide. He was an ex South African from Pretoria, who had been a clinical psychologist who had come to Namibia for a better life and to escape the rat race. Leaving in a convoy of three, there were only about 14 passengers doing this trip, which was called the Treasures of Namibia. We left the container port finally and made our way through the streets of the town, deserted, being a Sunday. First impressions were of low rise houses, in neat rows, with clean un-littered streets; the population is about 60,000. We left Walvis Bay and drove along the coast to Swakopmund, about 170 miles from the capital, Windhoek. Smaller in population by about 10,000, to Walvis Bay, there appeared to be one long Main Street lined with shops. Swakopmund is a beach town, but maybe because it was a Sunday, it seemed like a ghost town, with few people in the main street and little activity in the surrounding ones. We then turned inland, roughly following the course of the Swakop River, before turning off and heading into the gravel desert. We then drove along the dried up river bed for some few kilometres. The landscape changed from lunar, to flat, to valley as we progressed through the desert. We stopped in various places along the way where the guides showed us various plants, one of which resembled a succulent from which he obtained a great deal of water, proving that you wouldn’t die of thirst in this desert! We also saw a springbok in the distance and the famous Welwitschia plant, endemic to this area, and truly unique. Really weird looking, it consists of two leaves, a stem base and roots and that’s it! The two initial leaves are never shed and continue to grow and become tatty, torn and bedraggled with age and can grow to about 20 inches. It is said by some that it resembles a collapsed octopus which in fact is quite apt! Many of these plants are hundreds of years old, and are both male and female. We stopped in the middle of the bush at the Goanikontes Oasis which is residential and offers both camping, with bungalows and chalets, where we were offered a drink of champagne - actually a cheap moussec which was quite sweet but nicely chilled. Leaving here we drove back onto the road and went to Dune 7 so named as it is one of seven. It is the nearest to the airport and is therefore the one that everyone visits, although it is certainly not the tallest. It was very windy when we reached here and one guy actually from our party ventured to the top and came down sliding on his bottom. We then returned to the ship and subjected to a final face to face exit interview with immigration, so that the ship could leave the country in the sure knowledge no one was trying to remain in the country! Dune 7 LUANDA, ANGOLA 5 MARCH 2014 Arriving around 8.00 am we entered the large bay and docked in the container port. We caught the shuttle to the central square, which was only a short distance from the port entrance, and walked across the road to the President Hotel in the hope of using the internet. We were directed to the top floor café but our hopes were dashed when the staff member there asked for our room number. There followed a fruitless search along the Marginal, Luanda’s palm tree lined road running along the Bay for any cafe or internet facility. This road unfortunately appeared to house only banks and government offices with never a decent cafe or restaurant in sight. After a 15 minute walk we gave up and retraced our steps to where we had left the shuttle bus, this time walking along the sea side of the Marginal. The Marginal has obviously been upgraded recently with a play area set aside for children and landscaping with various trees and plants and we met others from the ship, similarly promenading Our ship’s tour left early afternoon, and we passed the Marginal and the Baixa district and headed to the Cidade Alta area, as its name implies, which is the upper part of town. The traffic was heavy and we first stopped at the cathedral, which was nothing special, and thence to an anthropological museum with a variety of old figures and musical instruments which was quite interesting. The highlight came last when our coach swept in to the São Miguel fort, once the home of the Governor and built by the Portuguese in 1576. This stands on an imposing site, high on a hill with a lovely view of the ocean on one side, and the urban area on the other. The large courtyard had an array of heavy weapons used in the struggle for independence which included a "shot down” Puma helicopter and a Mirage jet, both of which were little more than twisted pieces of metal. Entering inside one of the rooms we were surprised to see all the walls were covered in azulejos (the Portuguese blue and white ceramic tiles) but depicted African wild animals rather than the pastoral agricultural scenes found in mainland Portugal. Unfortunately there was not a "shopping opportunity”' and indeed the Alta area appeared just as run down as that we had seen in the morning. We were obviously not taken to the Luandan upmarket shops where jeans cost £000's! Our final stop was to the President's mausoleum housed in huge grounds with some marble statuary. This covers three floors and we were taken up in the lift, and unfortunately all the floors were polished marble and extremely slippery, and it was very difficult to keep your footing, so we tiptoed very carefully round the exhibits. The top floor was open to the elements and apparently President Agostinho Neto's favourite flower was the Welwitschia which was carved out in marble on the floor. We remained here for about ten minutes and then returned to the ship. An interesting codicil to our visit to Luanda; we not only had a police escort, but also an ambulance equipped with the latest apparatus and staffed with both doctors and nurses. Apparently this was due to the fact that should any passenger be taken ill, they would probably not survive, should they need to wait for medical help due to the horrendous traffic! This also probably accounts for the very high cost of the shore excursion SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE 7 MARCH 2014 The first weather-related casualty of the day was the crossing the line ceremony due to be held at 11.30 am, a great disappointment to me as I was going to be one of the "victims". The reason was a very violent thunderstorm and torrential rain. We were due to anchor at 1pm and tender ashore but unfortunately the weather had caused a poor sea state. Despite waiting for a period of time for the sea to calm, Captain Gennaro that the authorities in São Tomé reluctantly decided that it was too dangerous to lower the boats. With nowhere else to go, we spent the rest of the day sailing round the island! BOM BOM ISLAND 8 MARCH 2014 With a little bit of fear and trepidation, we awoke early in the hope that the weather had improved and that our visit here would not be aborted, as this too was a tender port. Luck was with us and the tender boats were lowered around 8.00am and as this was a free shorex, almost everyone went ashore. Our destination was a private resort on the island, which lies a few miles off Príncipe. Portuguese speaking, these two islands, Sao Tome and Principe lie around 140 miles off the northwest coast of Gabon. We came ashore at a small jetty, close to the resort’s restaurant. From here the main part of the resort was reached a fairly long wooden walkway. As you would expect, very lush foliage and plants cover this small island. Guests staying here are accommodated in chalets dotted round the resort. There are several little coves as you walk round and many passengers swam in the sea. We had considered taking a towel, but decided against it. We were very pleased we had not ventured into the water, as one of our quiz team members had seen a six foot sea snake lying asleep on the sand in knee deep water and had very nearly disturbed it Being an Aussie, she was only too aware that it was highly poisonous! Bom Bom island, with Silver Wind at anchor and one of the resort’s chalet’s on the left. There was the option of a "city" tour in a safari type vehicle to the town centre at a cost of 20 dollars each, which we thought was expensive, considering it was not very far. Those that did, said the town consisted of a few dilapidated buildings, so we were glad we hadn't gone. The resort has a quite small swimming pool. The reception hut had free Wi-Fi and a few expensive souvenirs and we did make use of the internet service which was surprisingly fast. After a short walk round the perimeter of the resort, we returned to the ship by tender for a deck barbecue, which on a previous visit had been held on the Island, when everything from food to cutlery had been taken ashore. There were various speculations as to why this had not taken place this time, from the resort's management not wishing us to do so, to the expense and logistics being too difficult. In the event, Anne-Marie and her team surpassed themselves with lobster and crab claws on the ship’s pool deck. Silversea gave us a 50 dollar per head credit for the "disappointment" of the barbeque not being held ashore. LIMBE, CAMEROON SUNDAY 9 MARCH 2014 We arrived in the very large bay of Limbe where there were several oil drilling platforms and a backdrop of the mountain range, at around 8.00am, from where we tendered ashore. We were so fortunate with our Captain, as on initial contact with the Cameroon authorities, they wanted us to anchor much further out in the Bay, which would have meant a 15 mile trip to tender to the shore! Luckily, he insisted that he was not a container ship, and proceeded further inshore to where he thought we should be, and dropped anchor! The Captain told us later, that he had been trying from 6.00 am to raise someone onshore, and having heard nothing, he sent a tender ashore at 8.00 am, to try and find the immigration authorities. They found 15 officials waiting to come on board to conduct immigration and inspection. Therefore the ship was not cleared until later than intended. We eventually touched land, after about a ten minute journey on the tender. The jetty, along with the whole of this small, unmodernised, port was dilapidated. From here, the Silversea shuttle took us on a five-minute drive to the edge of Limbe and we were dropped opposite the Presbyterian church. The streets were paved, just (see photo below), and deserted, it being a Sunday. However this proved to be an advantage to us. We went across the road to look in the church, which was fu and a service in progress. We then walked up the street after asking where the market was, and after a few blocks turned left, away from the coast and up towards the hills. We dubbed this street Church Street. Along both sides of the street church services were in progress, with various different denominations. These were being held, not in churches as we would know them, but in ramshackle warehouse-type buildings. In one the sermon was in English with another man translating into the local patois. There had been a very bad thunderstorm the night before and the streets were very muddy, wet and potholed, but despite this, as usual, everyone was dressed in their Sunday best. It was nice to see little boys in crisp white long sleeved shirts, little waistcoats and long trousers, and their sisters attired in pretty, elaborate dresses. Along this short stretch of road there must have been about a dozen services taking place. Limbe main street, with Sunday producing only a few market stalls; note the state of the pavement! We continued to the "market", consisting of what were a few street-facing stalls, selling a variety of goods from screwdrivers to soap, to vegetables. We could see other small stalls disappearing into narrow mud alleys, but because of the terrain we did not proceed any further. Retracing our steps down "Church Street", we continued straight down from where we had turned left, and came to a little bay and the ocean, with the tide coming in. The sand was dark, although not black, and there were a few people walking about. We sat on a little bench for a short while, and then went back to our shuttle bus pick up. Impressions were of a very run down town, with few "good" buildings, enhanced by the absence of much traffic and no hustle and bustle because of the day of the week. However there were a few large SUV vehicles, so there obviously is some money in the town. We felt fortunate that we had seen a different aspect of Limbe to that which we would have seen had it been a weekday. On arrival back at the jetty, there was a very small boat, not much bigger than a canoe, where men were loading hand over hand, cardboard boxes labelled "Vin rouge". On enquiring, I was told that it was indeed red wine, and its destination was Nigeria! In conclusion, it was interesting to hear from Captain Arma privately that he was more concerned with stowaways than he was with pirates, and indeed in all these African ports he deputed boats when the ship was at anchor and look-outs when tied alongside a quay to check that no one could gain unauthorised access onto the ship. Leaving here Captain Arma planned a wide berth out into the Gulf of Guinea to avoid too close a proximity to the area frequented by pirates to reach our next country, Benin which lies on the other side of Nigeria to Cameroon.. COTONOU, BENIN TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014 Docking at around 8.00 am at the above port, the largest city and economic centre of Benin, although the capital is Porto Novo, we arrived into a very big container terminal with much activity. Mustering as usual on the quayside ten minutes before the departure time for our shorex to the Ganvie Stilt Village, we set off around 9.00 am for the drive to the south east and Lake Nokoue, passing through the city of Cotonou. This country still practices voodoo, and there are many markets selling fetishes together with all its associated paraphernalia. This was altogether a different kettle of fish to that of our previous port in Cameroon, with many 4 x 4 wheeled cars, and a general ambience of more money and a greater French influence. The roads were busy and there was a lot of traffic. Turning off the main highway, built by the Chinese, we came to the Lake where we left our coaches to board small "pirogues" basically dug out canoes, for the trip on the Lake. I was fortunate, by waiting until most of the passengers had streamed down the purpose built steps to get in their boats, as ours only had about 6 passengers which included one of the ship's company accompanying the tour. We had been led to believe that to reach these little boats would be a hazardous trip down rickety stairs. In the event this was a complete and pleasant surprise. The sturdy construction was a broad wooden jetty with hand rails on both sides, and wide wooden steps leading down to the boats. The lake is so reminiscent of the sail up the Saigon River from Phu My in Vietnam, although this is much narrower. There are areas on both sides roped off for fishing, and also lots of plant life floating by, with many boats similar to ours packed with goods and people sailing back to sell their wares at the watery market from where we had embarked. We had a mixed reception from these boat people who were all ages, from young kids to large ladies expertly manoeuvring their boats within the crowded channel. Some were very friendly and replied to my greeting in French, but others hid their faces, and scowled as we went by. Some were openly belligerent, regardless of whether it was a wave of the hand or a verbal exchange. I can understand that they do not like having their picture taken, and it would not have been possible to ask permission whilst passing, but the reactions of some of the people were surprising, considering we had no cameras in our hand. The only conclusion we could come to was apart from the picture taking, we may be, in some way, disrupting their normal everyday lives, and perhaps churning up the waters by using the number of boats which constituted our party. We had been instructed to take our ship’s life jackets for this trip, as the boats did not carry the requisite number for all our party, but that we did not need to wear them, but just to carry them. You can imagine the chaos that reigned, when despite being told not to, many trailed their belt straps along the ground, making it very dangerous should you happen to be anywhere near them! The trip round the lake took about 45 minutes until we arrived on the outskirts of the stilt village. The village houses were fascinating, were many and varied. Some were little more than pieces of wood, or corrugated iron, with bits of material slung round openings to preserve some privacy, and others were more elaborate affairs more hut like. All had one thing in common, they were on stilts, and in some cases it was difficult to see how they could gain access, as some were very high off the water. Several had washing strung out on makeshift pieces of string and you wondered how they would ever dry in these very hot and humid conditions. We eventually arrived at the grandest building of them all, complete with no less than four thatched roofs. Here was a small jetty and steps where we disembarked our boats. This was the "Carrefour Hotel" and restaurant, with I think three rooms! This was a square with one side, a door less room with various shopping opportunities, facing three other rooms which could have been the accommodation, but seemed to double up as toilets, of which I did not partake. Next to the little shop, was a small bar, not sure whether it sold alcohol or just soft drinks. We were treated to a band of about 8 musicians and a couple of dancers. We were here for about half an hour or so before returning to the little boats and back to the landing stage and our waiting coaches. Produce was sold not only on the river, but also on the little road leading to the main highway but unfortunately we only saw the colourful fruit and vegetables on offer from our departing coaches. Artisinat (Artisan market) From here we returned to town and the Artisinat. This is a large area selling local goods, from paintings to leather goods and basketware, and is the centre for promoting what Cotinou has to offer. On driving in, we saw a sign for an Internet cafe supposedly open from 8 am until midnight, so we decided to come back later as this was the same place that the shuttle dropped off passengers doing their “own thing”. On returning, we were annoyed to be told that the cafe had closed three years previously!! Hadn’t anyone thought to take down the sign? After being directed to another cafe, which surprisingly we managed to find despite the directions, we found that they would only accept CFA (local currency), would not entertain dollars, and that there was a bureau de change down the road where we could change our dollars! We therefore returned to the ship disappointed. This was doubly so because the CDFA price, when converted into US$, worked out at 50 cents for an hour! We did not sail until 11.00 pm, which enabled Silversea to do their dinner under the stars, which we attended just for the dancing. Surprisingly it didn’t rain, but was exceedingly hot and humid, so much so that several passengers went into the pool to cool down around 23.00. LOME, TOGO WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014 Here for 13 hours, docking at 7.00, and not sailing until 20.00, Silversea offered two shore trips, neither of which we decided to do. One of the ship's tours was to a voodoo village which included a Zangbeto dance performance which I had initially wanted to see. A cross between a Zulu dance and a whirling dervish, and very African, it is very rhythmic. We were therefore very pleased to be greeted on docking in the above container port by a group of these people, playing instruments and dancing. Fascinating to see were two stilt men. They must have been at least 8ft off the ground, and to adjust the stilts around their legs they sat on the stacked containers lined up on the quayside! These two guys twisted on their stilts, gyrating and appearing to be about to fall. They were performing for about an hour, in tremendous heat, and one wonders why the women were still so large! Getting the complimentary shuttle bus into town, we were dropped off at the Superamco Supermarket in the city centre. This is, as its name suggested, a retail outlet for the locals and sold mainly food, cosmetics, alcohol and some small electrical goods, so of no interest to us, other than looking at the sort of goods on offer and the prices. For the first time this trip, we encountered Magnum ice creams with a flavour not hitherto seen. Maybe a new variety for sale for the summer of 2014 in Western Europe!? Lome street market scene Leaving this supermarket, we walked down towards the ocean, and the road on which we had come into town. Wide and straight running alongside the ocean, with a central reservation, also built by the Chinese, for all the world like an upmarket Californian beachfront, one end goes to Benin and the other to Ghana. There are a few hotels along this road and we went into one on the corner of the road on which we had left the supermarket. Unlike in Luanda, the business centre not only took foreign currency, but allowed us an hour of internet time for $5. The unfortunate circumstance, being French, the keyboard was completely different, and combined with a not very fast connection was a bit of a nightmare. However we did manage to get one of the documents we had not previously been able to open and printed at a cost of a $1 per page, so the whole episode had cost us $17! Before returning to the ship, we retraced our steps to the supermarket and the market stalls on both sides of the road. We bought a few postcards, and wandered into the small simple cathedral where a service was in progress. The music and singing appeared to be hymnal but with a strong African beat which was very infectious. We stayed to listen for a few minutes and then we wandered down another few streets with lively vendors selling everything from gold watches to smoked fish, and thence back to the ship via the shuttle bus. TEMA, GHANA THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014 This was the turn round port and the end of the first cruise, however roughly 200 passengers were staying on for the next leg to Las Palmas. Tema is the port used for the city of Accra and lies some 16 miles east of the capital, and the Greenwich Meridian - 0 longitude, passes directly through the city. It was a pity that we were unable to sail out into the Atlantic to 0 degrees longitude and latitude, but Captain Arma told us that it lay some hundreds of miles to the south west, and we had neither the time nor the money to expend on the extra fuel. Tema is nicknamed the "Harbour Town" because of its status as the largest Ghanaian seaport. Docking on time at 8.00 am once again in a soulless container port, we were fortunately not “shore side”, so had a better view of the town in the distance. We had opted not to do a ship's tour, but fortunately with Silversea, they had provided a complimentary shuttle service. Unfortunately this was not to the town which was some distance away, but merely to the port entrance where taxis would be waiting and the likely cost would be $15 an hour to hire. In the event they had either been misinformed, or inflation had happened very quickly. The first guy we spoke to wanted $25 to which we said we had been told that it was only $15. He didn’t seem interested, so we walked away to another taxi driver who quoted $50, and when we said that was outrageous, he replied that Americans had paid that earlier. We then agreed on $20, realising that no-one would be any cheaper, so we accepted this price and sped off into town. Fortunately English is the language spoken, although they do have their own patois. Our chap seemed friendly enough and pointed out various things of interest that we passed. His name was David and he chatted as we drove in his un-airconditioned seen better days Nissan Primera! Leaving the port we drove along the oceanside and then reached the main part of Tema which was very much down at heel with shops and "houses" intermingled, portraying a very bustling scene. It was here we encountered the traffic, virtually nose to tail, with big heavy trucks nearly all of whom had seen better days and appeared to have major bits missing. There were also many small minibus-type vans which were obviously local buses. These also seemed to be old and in a bad state of repair. The road was generally of a good surface, but with a few large potholes, where David was careful in slowing down. The road into Accra ran along the ocean until we reached the outskirts of the capital, where a series of large roundabouts took us inland. Here the buildings were grander and better kept. These buildings included the Old Parliament House, the Supreme Court, and the Central Library. Arriving in the outskirts of Accra, we made our first brief stop to take a picture of the Independence Arch, followed by a visit to the Accra Sports Stadium and Conference Centre. This holds 40,000 people and covers a wide area with seating at either side. They had just celebrated their Independence Day and chairs and decorations in the country's colours were being stacked away. Having taken some video footage we then went to Nkrumah's mausoleum and Memorial Park. This stands in lovely gardens with a large rectangular lake with fountains and beautifully carved statues. At the end of this lake is the mausoleum in which lies the "great" man. You can walk inside and everything is marble, from the walls to the floor and of course, his coffin. Outside is a headless statue of Nkrumah, with his head on a plinth next to it. Apparently when he was overthrown, his statue was toppled, and his head was recovered by a loyal supporter and hidden until the furore died down, when it was decided to re-erect the two side by side - presumably as a reminder. Nkrumah's mausoleum, Accra We retraced our steps to return to Tema and passed by the Arts and Crafts Market, but as time was going on, we decided not to stop here. The journey was quicker on the return drive as David was able to utilise the motorway, something not possible before, due to roadworks. He dropped us back safe and sound to the port gates and was very happy with the extra dollars we gave him. Part 2 - Tema, Ghana to Las Palmas, Canaries follows under a separate posting called – Amazing Atlantic Adventures   Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
The best food and service we have experienced over six cruises with other similar companies. This was our first with Silversea . The ship however was a great disappointment. It was shabby and dated. It needs to be sold off as I think it is ... Read More
The best food and service we have experienced over six cruises with other similar companies. This was our first with Silversea . The ship however was a great disappointment. It was shabby and dated. It needs to be sold off as I think it is past saving. The common areas are underwhelming even allowing for a smaller size overall. The bathrooms were so small we could hardly turn around. The shower over the bath was poor and very difficult to stand in. Everything about the bathroom was awkward and not a pleasant experience. The door stops on the bathroom and wardrobe were broken so could not be lodged open. The bed was not Queen size as on other ships and the linen was tatty and does not have the same finish as that on Regent hence it is not at all silky and luxurious. The entertainment if you can call it that is dire! Outdated and very poor. The singers could not sing. The pianist made so many mistakes which he covered up by singing out of key. The quartet looked like they had been programmed to play dreadfully old fashioned tunes. There was no atmosphere and dancing on the deck was limited to one night at the BBQ when it was obvious to us from the number of guests dancing that it was a popular event yet it was not continued down in the bar at 9.30 as promised and the next day we were subjected once more to the quartet. The cruise director did nothing to make this an enjoyable cruse. He just made short garbled announcements every morning about activities such as bridge and italian language lessons! The table tennis never took place and when we got the table put up it was so close to the rail that the one ball they gave us was soon lost overboard. This was probably the worst cruise from the point of view of entertainment and that is saying something as our experience on Regent has not been much better. When will these top end cruise lines get the message. We don't want music from the old days. We want to dance and have fun under the stars if possible on a warm night. It would not have taken much for the Dj to be on the deck for say three evenings for a couple of hours. We don't want extra food laid on just the bar where if necessary we could get our own drinks and have some fun. We are in two minds whether to sail with them again. If we do it will be on a different shop and on the basis that we will get the same fantastic food and friendly service. Ann Marie the executive chef is wonderful, very pro active and always on the case. She is everywhere she should be and her team produce and serve marvellous food. If only the entertainment were as good. I was tempted to see if I could plug my IPAD in to their system and set up my own dance night. We would certainly have rocked the boat!   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This cruise was chosen mainly for the destination and the ports visited on the way. We usually travel on Seabourn but this itinerary suited our travels to Africa. Boarding at Dubai was a breeze. We found out shortly thereafter that there ... Read More
This cruise was chosen mainly for the destination and the ports visited on the way. We usually travel on Seabourn but this itinerary suited our travels to Africa. Boarding at Dubai was a breeze. We found out shortly thereafter that there were only 140 passengers on board, less than half full. Some of my impressions of the cruise will obviously take this into account. The staff on board were extremely friendly and competent with a few very minor exceptions. The ship is getting on in years and despite ongoing maintenance it still has some weak points, the most noticeable is the room to room noise. Cabin size is OK, though the bathroom is very small. Choice of dining venues is good, but overall my wife and I were very disappointed with the food. Some of this emanates from the purchased ingredients but we both thought the preparation of the dished served was not good. I don't think it unreasonable to expect good food to be served on a luxury cruise line. Dishes such as quail and veal were overlooked and almost inedible. During a galley tour it was noted that salads were being pre-plated at 4pm for the evening dinner, does this happen in an on shore restaurant? The quality of the pastries and scones was also poor. On a positive note there was a good choice of wines on the free list and it was not difficult to find a wine that we liked, though sometimes we had to ask a few questions. Would we return to Silversea? Probably not unless the itinerary was exactly what we were looking for. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
The staff on this rather exciting itinerary off the beaten path for most Americans was excellent. I have never seen a harder working or more dedicated staff. Our Grand suite was well designed except for the bathroom which was a nightmare ... Read More
The staff on this rather exciting itinerary off the beaten path for most Americans was excellent. I have never seen a harder working or more dedicated staff. Our Grand suite was well designed except for the bathroom which was a nightmare when showering. I cannot imagine what the designers were thinking. The color scheme in the suite was depressing. The carpeting in the halls was often stained and looked dirty. Part of the problem was the color pallet of taupe grey and maroon but large stains on deck seven were inexcusable. There were two chefs on board, but the food was poor. The baked goods always tasted stale because I think they were baked too far in advance and left in the kitchen to dry out. They were the same everyday. For ten days the rolls, cookies etc. were always the same. The fish which was mostly frozen had no texture and resulted from probably poor defrosting and refrigeration techniques. Even the souffle made by the visiting chef at a special lunch was heavy and lacked the lightness and airiness usually found. The kitchen, seen on a tour, was out of date and the general order reflected the inability to make anything but the most basic institutional food found in a cafeteria despite the interesting description on the menu.The chef's office and desk looked like a bomb had hit it. The painted metal was scratched and peeling. There was saran wrap in shreds on the racks in front of the cooking stations. It was puzzling. Even a simple thing like a piece of garlic toast served with an appetizer was not hot. The toast was made in advance and served cold. The smoked salmon was poor quality served in thick pre cut slices and not worth eating. The best and most surprising thing was the excellent lectures. They were among the best we have ever seen on a cruise ship, General Michael Rose and Tim Hughes made the days at sea a delight. Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
We booked 3 back-to-back cruises from Dubai to Capetown, and, in spite of concern that it would be too long a time on the ship, it was just the opposite. We easily settled into a routine and the days flew by. TheVista is the smallest of ... Read More
We booked 3 back-to-back cruises from Dubai to Capetown, and, in spite of concern that it would be too long a time on the ship, it was just the opposite. We easily settled into a routine and the days flew by. TheVista is the smallest of the accommodations, it was roomy enough and we never felt cramped. While we didn't have a veranda, there was always deck space available on decks 8 and 9. The first cruise was designated an "Ecole du Chef" with Chef David Bilsland. This provided a focus with cooking demonstrations, market visits, a special luncheon and a knife skills class. The demonstrations were very well done and we came home with some wonderful recipes. Food throughout the cruise was consistently excellent with Chef Ramon very visible and accessible and very amenable to preparing special requests. While most of our meals were in the Restaurant, we also dined in La Terrazza and on deck with Hot Rocks, all of which were enjoyable. We were impressed with the quality of the complimentary wines which have improved markedly in recent years. We enjoyed the new entertainment concept and saw each of the shows 3 times without getting tired of them. Each cruise, the shows seemed to get better as the entertainers had more experience with being on the ship and with each other. The ship was beautifully decorated for the holidays and the chefs outdid themselves with menus for Christmas and New Years. Our only complaint, which was also expected, was the children onboard for the Xmas cruise, who were not always well-behaved. The ports were interesting and not places that would otherwise be easy to get to. We chose to do the combined cruises because of the time in the Seychelles which we appreciated. One comment to the previous post regarding this cruise: the drapes were drawn as a safety precaution as we traveled through some areas frequented by pirates. The captain and crew took security very seriously as was explained at the beginning of each cruise, and that is why there were limits on veranda use and lighting after dark. Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and we were actually sorry to get off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
As previous Silversea cruisers, we were very excited to be joining the Silver Wind on February 2nd out of Cape Town after our private 10 day safari in Namibia and short stay in at a great new modern boutique hotel-- Harbour Bridge Hotel ... Read More
As previous Silversea cruisers, we were very excited to be joining the Silver Wind on February 2nd out of Cape Town after our private 10 day safari in Namibia and short stay in at a great new modern boutique hotel-- Harbour Bridge Hotel and Suites in Cape Town. Try and visit Namibia before it changes. Namibia has some of the most diverse landscapes in Africa. Dunes 1000 feet tall, game parks, dramatic coastlines, shipwrecks, etc.. . Plus try and save your money to do a private safari. There is nothing like the feeling of telling your guide, that you need a few more perfect shots of that rhino in Etosha game park and not worry about offending someone else in your group. Well maybe, my husband got a little tired of my 2000-3000 pictures taken in the month we were in Africa. ----And our guide called me, Mrs.Spielberg on the next to last day of our trip. What the heck! Doesn't everyone carry 5 cameras/camcorders? We took a great all day excursion with Rob of the Cape Convoys Tours in Cape Town, plus the next morning he took me at no charge (my dear husband slept in) with others up to get the cable car up Table Mountain. We hadn't been able to go there because of the clouds, which covered Table Mountain for about 10 days. After we came down, the line to get up the mountain was 3 hours long. Well enough about the pre-cruise experiences, we got on the Wind and were shown our suite along with our room attendant and butler (female). Believe it or not, our butler got seasick---thought that was cute, plus she was new and it showed with service issues. Things happen. Did that dampen our cruise--heck, no. Never had a bad cruise, just some better, than others. I wish I cared about drinking more, but alas I told the butler to load the refrigerator with fruit juices. You can have anything within reason ie. Grey Goose, champagne, Scotch, wines, etc. all okay. The food was good, but not as memorable as our last Silversea cruise on the Shadow. The size of the Wind is great with just under 300 passengers. We lost one port due to high winds and waves, but since it was our last one before the disembarking port, that was okay. No one wants to tender in 12 ft seas, besides we had a great "dolphin safari" after we left the port area. Would we go on another Silversea cruise---sure, but only if it is discounted and has a really interesting itinerary. If you would like to see some photos from the trip, please free free to email me ---shesurfs@comcast.net. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
As this was our first experience of cruising we have nothing to compare it with. We could only go by the descriptions given be Silversea and some reviews we had read. It was promised to be a 5 if not 6 star cruise, we are well travelled ... Read More
As this was our first experience of cruising we have nothing to compare it with. We could only go by the descriptions given be Silversea and some reviews we had read. It was promised to be a 5 if not 6 star cruise, we are well travelled and do have very high expectations and these were not met.I would say it was more like 4 star. We found the food bland and a little boring, with nothing local on the menu. The wine was very mediocre, although there was plenty of choice it was not high quality, even the Champagne had been changed to a cheaper one, which was not a good one. It was evident that a lot of cost cutting had been done. We spoke to lots of people who had been with Silversea before and they commented that they found a difference in the food and wine quality. Also that the cabin staff was now all (almost) Philippino. The service in the cabin was very poor, the butlers did not seem to understand our requests for replenishment of drinks, toiletries etc. Lots of the passengers were unhappy, in fact we met many that left the cruise early because they were so disappointed with it, also some of them were ill with food poisoning. We spoke to eight people who suffered from this and there were lots more. The Gym was closed for half of our cruise and the Observation lounge had a problem with the Air Con and did not smell very nice. The water in our bath came out of the taps a nasty brown colour so we did not use the bath and cleaned our teeth with bottled water. I would not cruise with them again, maybe our standards are too high. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
The following is a day by day review of the Silversea Silver Wind cruise January 23 to February 2, 2010, Cape Town to Cape Town, South Africa. January 23 We are in Cape Town, South Africa and will board Silversea Silver Wind for a 10 ... Read More
The following is a day by day review of the Silversea Silver Wind cruise January 23 to February 2, 2010, Cape Town to Cape Town, South Africa. January 23 We are in Cape Town, South Africa and will board Silversea Silver Wind for a 10 day cruise Cape Town to Cape Town visiting East London, Maputo, Richards Bay (overnight), Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Mossel Bay. Silversea is doing 3 of these trips and we are taking the one in the middle, with another leaving Feb. 2. Some background: We've sailed Silversea Silver Wind before and were thrilled when we saw this itinerary because we have always wanted to see South Africa. We flew from Dulles airport January 18 on KLM business to Amsterdam, then transferred non-stop to Cape Town. The total travel time was 21 hours - long, but uneventful. The plane arrived at 11 pm January 19, and the driver arranged by our hotel was waiting for us and took us the 20 minutes to our hotel, the Cape Royale in Cape Town. A word about the Cape Royale: We had researched hotels in Cape Town since booking the cruise (we're cruise only) and had considered the Cape Grace, Table Bay, One and Only and Mount Nelson. However, the Cape Royale is one year old and has recently become a member of Preferred Hotels. It had great reviews on Trip Advisor and a package was available, so we booked. The package included return transfer from the airport/ship, spa, full breakfast and a two bedroom, two bathroom suite. The room is about 1,100 square feet, has a large living room with flat screen tv , a dining area, two bedrooms, two full baths and a full kitchen with granite counters, Siemens appliances including a washer and dryer. There also is a large balcony with views of the stadium and waterfront. Other rooms face Table Mountain. There is a pool bar on the 9th floor which has 360 degree beautiful views of Cape Town. The hotel is located in Green Point, within walking distance of the waterfront, and directly across from the new stadium being built for the World Cup Soccer in Cape Town this year. The location is great and there are restaurants within the hotel - a steak house and a sushi house, and a good Italian restaurant with excellent pizza next door. Also, the waterfront restaurants are easily accessible and have wonderful food and views. The best part of staying here is that the hotel provides a car (Jaguar) and driver, who will take you anywhere within a 5 km radius within Cape Town, on call at all times. We found this very convenient to get us wherever we wanted to go in the city and back and eliminated the need to take taxis. Even though the hotel is not directly in the waterfront, we found it nice to be away from the bustle over there at night. This morning when we woke up, we stepped out on the balcony and saw the Silver Wind docked in the harbor waiting for us. We would definitely stay here again. Our first day in Cape Town, we slept late and had breakfast. We then had the car and driver take us to the waterfront, where we spent time shopping in Victoria Wharf. We enjoyed the Red Shed Craft market and other stores and saw the Aquarium. The waterfront is lovely with many great restaurants and stunning views of Table Mountain. We the called the hotel car and were driven over to the Green Market Square. This is a market square with stalls selling all kinds of crafts and souvenirs, directly in front of City Hall. After the market, we walked along Long Street, stopping into shops and enjoying the architecture of the city. We then called the car and returned to the hotel. We had a lovely dinner in 1800 degrees, the steak house in the hotel and were happy to get to bed to catch up from a bit of jet lag. The next day we had booked a private tour from Hylton Ross of the Cape and the winelands. Our tour guide Deon arrived promptly in a comfortable van and we left for the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We cannot say enough about Deon. He actually trains tour guides for the company and is exceptional in his knowledge and entertaining stories of Cape Town, South African history and the sites. We drove the entire Cape road, including Chapman's Peak, saw the 12 Apostles, Hout Bay, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, Simon's Town and the African penguins and drove through Table Mountain Park. We saw baboons, ostrich, bok, and penguins on the trip as well as fascinating scenery, entertained by Deon's commentary. We then drove to Stellenbosch, in the winelands and spent the afternoon walking the town, having a lovely lunch, and tastings. Deon took us back to our hotel after a very full day, worth every second. We had salad and pizza at Bravo the restaurant next to the hotel and turned in early. Yesterday we visited Robben Island, the site where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 29 years. It is a very popular tourist site now, so it is necessary to book tickets beforehand - sometimes up to 2 weeks during busy times. The tour begins next to the clock tower in the waterfront and takes about 3-1/2 hours. We took the ferry for the 20 minute trip to the island where buses met us for a drive around the island with a guide who gave commentary on our sites. We then left the bus and were taken on a tour of the prison by a former political prisoner. It was a fascinating tour of a piece of the history of South Africa. We then spent some time at the waterfront, had late lunch at Den Anker and did some more shopping. Today we will visit a few sites and then board the Silversea Silver Wind about 2. Sunday January 24 At Sea Yesterday, after breakfast and some shopping in the city center we took the hotel car to the cruise terminal at 1:30PM. The Silver Wind looked lovely in the harbor. We walked into the small terminal and were the only passengers there. We were greeted by a medical technician who asked us to fill out a survey on our health in the past days, and, after we handed it in, she took our temperature. When she saw it was normal, she said "Welcome aboard please proceed to check in." We turned in our passports, got our keys and walked onto the ship. Our cabin was ready and our Butler Anita was waiting at the door to welcome us. It was wonderful to be back on board. The Silver Wind has gone through refurbishment since our last cruise and she looks great. The cabin was spotless and the bathroom beautiful with the new wood and granite. A bottle of Dom Perignon, a gift from AMEX Platinum was waiting on ice. Anita took our orders for our room bar and other requests. We went up to lunch in La Terraza. We recognized Faye and Rudolpho from our last cruise and it was nice to see them and chat. After lunch we unpacked and explored the changes in the ship, including the beautiful new forward observation lounge. I also set up our internet account and so far the internet has been very quick. The Captain is Michele Macarone Palmieri, CD is Jimmy, Matire' D is Jorge and Hotel Manager is Roberto. We did our lifeboat safety drill at 5 pm and then went back to the room to watch the video of the first port lecture on East London. The sailway from Cape Town was spectacular with the sun shining brightly, Table Mountain in the background and the rest of South Africa ahead of us. Jimmy introduced his staff, and said that the majority of passengers are from England, with a handful of Americans, Canadians and Australians aboard. Fellow passengers have been friendly and interesting so far. The majority of passengers have not sailed with Silversea before. Dinner in the main dining room was excellent. We had foie gras terrine, prawns and a wonderful chicken stuffed with spinach, foie gras and cheese. It was excellent. We drank a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc which was lovely. After dinner, we walked around the deck and retired at 10. Seas were a little high for about an hour, then settled in. The weather is great. The last cruise, which did the same itinerary, had lots of rain and actually skipped Mossel Bay due to high seas and inability to tender. We are all hoping for better seas and weather throughout the trip, and so far, no problems. This morning we had breakfast in La Terraza and attended an interesting lecture by Malcolm Ainscough on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, entitled "From Darling to Despot: Africa's Most Spectacular Failure." It was well attended and we are looking forward to more talks from him. I'm writing this as DH is at a French language class. Then we're off to lunch and ballroom dancing. Tonight is formal night with the Captain's welcome reception. The show tonight is "Broadway Rocks" with the Silver Wind singers and dancers. January 25 East London, South Africa The Captain's Welcome reception last night was well attended with most everyone in formal dress. Dinner once again was excellent, with lobster and filet among the offerings. It was smooth sailing into port this morning at 8 am at East London, South Africa. Weather is a bit overcast, but warm, with a shower predicted this afternoon. East London is known as the Buffalo City because it lies on the Buffalo River. It is South Africa's only river port city and has one of the most attractive stretches of the Eastern Cape Seaboard. Its white beaches are famous for surfing competitions. The natural history museum is home to the only dodo egg in existence and an exhibit of the coelacanth. Tours today include the Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve, a city orientation, and Khaya La Banthu - Life of the Xhosa. We will take the third excursion, which leaves at 1 pm. This gives us time to relax this morning. The ship's arrival was greeted by a group of Xhosa ladies singing and dancing in native costumes, and blowing whistles and horns. Also along the pier were stalls with local goods such as beaded necklaces, wood carvings, bowls and other souvenirs for sale. The ship is running a shuttle service into a mall in the city if guests choose not to take a tour. Later: Back now from our afternoon excursion to Khaya La Banthu. This was one of the best excursions we have taken. Upon arrival at the village after a 40 minute drive, we were greeted by 91 year old Mama Tofu, who greeted us on behalf of the Xhose people of her village. There was a chorus of women, men and children who greeted us with song. We then walked across a small red carpet into the village serenaded by the chorus. We were seated on benches in one of the huts made of sticks, reeds and thatched roof. Mama Tofu addressed us on the culture of the Xhose and traditions. We then were separated, men from women and taken to separate places to learn of the traditions in raising the boys and girls to adulthood. The men went to a kraal, which is the "bank" of the Xhose man, because it contains his cattle and other important animals. The women were taken to the kitchen to watch corn being ground, and a meal being prepared in huge cast iron pots over a fire. The bread being made in one of the pots was spectacular. We had an interesting discussion on the traditions of the village and then went to another hut to join the entire group in eating the meal prepared for us. It was delicious. We had more entertainment, and were invited to join in the dancing with the children of the village. Upon leaving, we had an opportunity to shop for some of the hand made crafts available from their creators. Beaded items are the specialty of the Xhose and there were many purses, necklaces and bracelets available. We then drove the 40 minutes through East London, back to the ship. We arrived too late to join our trivia team, but relaxed and had a drink in the bar with new friends from England and California, before we all went to dinner. Snapper or prime rib were enjoyed at the table this evening, along with great conversation. An enjoyable evening. Tuesday, January 26, 2010 At Sea We are at sea about 4 miles off the coast of South Africa, having just passed Durban on our way to Maputo, Mozambique, tomorrow's port. The Indian Ocean is calm and warm at 25 degrees C. It also is rather shallow, being only about 150 feet deep at this point. The outside temperature is a sunny 29 degrees. Beautiful day at sea. Today's lecture by Malcolm Ainscough was "The Creation of De Beers Diamonds and how it shaped Central and Southern Africa," an extremely interesting discussion of the influence of Cecil Rhodes on the formation of South Africa and the consequences of his actions. Galley lunch was served in the restaurant at noon. The chef, Laurent, outdid himself in the food and presentation of all items. The dessert buffet was wonderful. Tonight's entertainment will be "Fiesta Latina" with the Silver Wind Singers and Dancers. Wednesday, January 27 Maputo, Mozambique We spent yesterday afternoon relaxing, attending trivia (our team tied for first place) and had dinner in our cabin, enjoying the Dom Perignon we had gotten as a gift. Watched a movie and went to bed early. We awoke to our dock in Maputo and opened the curtains to find rain absolutely pouring down. Torrential actually, and we have been told the roads are flooded and it is difficult for anyone to get to the ship. Water in the streets is waist high in some placed. Originally there were three excursions for today: a city orientation, a taste of Maputo which is a lunch in the wild, and art of Maputo which is for 15 people and visits one of the local artists famous in Mozambique. The taste of Maputo and the art tour have been cancelled. Malcolm gave a lovely talk on safari travel in Africa with wonderful photos to fill the time this morning. The city orientation now is on for 1:00 rather than the morning. The ship is running a shuttle to town and we have opted to do that and explore a bit on our own. We have been warned, however, to be very careful, not conspicuous, and not take any valuables ashore. This is just good advice for wherever one travels. There is a Visa charge of $23 per person to disembark in Mozambique, which the ship has charged to ship accounts. There also has been a bit of controversy because Silversea sent out a letter a few months ago that all passengers on this sailing MUST have Yellow Fever Vaccine or would be denied boarding. We had our shots. Then, some passengers called the cruise line and were told they did not need the vaccine. Then, their documents arrived (quite late - just a week before sailing) with a letter saying they must have the Vaccine. There understandably has been a lot of confusions and concern over the shot, the cost of the shot, potential side effects for older people and the communication regarding this requirement. When we checked in, I mentioned that we had our Yellow Fever documents and was told we did not need them for this trip. So, the shot is good for 10 years and perhaps we will need it on other travels. But we didn't need it to board for this cruise. We took the shuttle bus to town. The original destination for drop off was the Paloma area. However, the vendor changed the location, and we were taken to the Maputo Mall. After getting off and walking around for 15 minutes, we decided there was nothing there. The city is a typical third world city and in need of serious investment to bring it back to being ready for tourism. Unfortunately, our time here is too short to actually explore the rest of the country. There are many run down buildings in need of repair, including what was a beautiful train station. The shuttle guide offered to take us on a tour of the Central Market on the way back to the ship, but her supervisor told her she could not and we returned directly back to the Silver Wind. We could not explore on our own, because we are not allowed to walk back into the port and must be on a shuttle. Also, it is illegal to take photos of any government buildings here. The city orientation excursion is still out, so we will see what those passengers have to say upon their return. But suffice it to say, this is not our favorite port. Tonight is formal night and it is Venetian Society cocktail party. We have been invited to have dinner with Rachel, the HR Manager and we anticipate a very pleasant evening. On the menu are rack of lamb, Veal Shank and Coquilles Sant Jacques. Tonight's entertainment is "Strike Up The Band" by Gary Guthman. Thursday and Friday Jan 28 and 29th, Richards Bay It was a little rocky last night, but not bad. However, the Captain later told us that the port of Richard's Bay was closed until just before we arrived, due to high winds and waves. Just about 8 am a helicopter hovered over the ship and dropped down the pilot and asst. pilot on lines to the 9th deck. They guided us into port. We will overnight tonight in Richards Bay. Some passengers will disembark at noon for an overnight trip to Phinda Game Reserve. Others will visit Zululand, the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park or Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. The Hluhluwe Reserve covers 96,000 hectares and has hilly topography. It is home to 1,600 white rhino and 370 black rhino as well as the Big Five. It is world renowned for its white rhino conservation. St. Lucia Wetlands Park was declared South Africa's first Natural World Heritage Site. It has 280 km of coastline and 328,000 hectares. The protected area is home to a large population of hippopotamus and 1,000 crocodiles. We visited St Lucia on the afternoon tour and, despite rainy weather, enjoyed sightings of many pods of hippos, a kudu, and crocodile. In addition, many species of birds and leatherback turtles. It was a very nice excursion. We returned back to the ship and ordered room service and watched a movie. We woke up Friday at 4 am in order to be on time for our 5:30 am Hluhluwe Game Reserve Drive. We had room service breakfast which was great, and headed for the bus. There were a lot of hardy souls ready for the early morning drive of about 1 hour to the Reserve. We then transferred into vehicles which held about 10 people (but we had less) and took off with cameras at the ready. It was overcast with no rain, but the ground was wet from heavy rains. The temperature was perfect for viewing. We were told that last cruise the temperature had been 40 degrees C and was very difficult to see game. We were rewarded with close encounters with elephants, giraffes, zebras, nyala, spotted hyena, water buffalo, the famous white rhino, gnus, impala, warthog and loads of birds, including yellow weavers and stork. The lions, although present in the park, were not out during our drive. But, we had a great time and took lots of great photos. We returned back to the ship and took a nap for an hour. Our team tied for first in trivia. We were scheduled to have the deck Barbeque and Variety show under the moonlight. However, due to possible rain, it was cancelled. We enjoyed drinks in the bar with some new friends. The Barbeque food was moved to La Terraza, and we had a great casual dinner up there before returning to our room. Saturday January 30 Durban, South Africa The seas were high last night but we arrived on time in Durban at 8 am. Durban is the third most populous city in the country and the busiest port in Africa. It has a subtropical climate and beautiful beaches. It is situated in the KwaZulu-Natal area and was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who landed here on Christmas in 1497. The tours today were a City Tour of Durban, Tala Private Game Reserve or the Valley of a Thousand Hills. We took the latter tour. It was a one hour drive through Durban out to the Thousand Hills area which is a beautiful setting in Zulu territory, and included a visit with the Zulu people and their culture. The landscape goes for miles and is indeed made up of a Thousand Hills. The weather again was overcast and a bit cool. The scenery and information on Durban and its changes since 1995 was interesting. We arrived at Phezulu which is an opportunity to see ethnic customs, song and dance by the Gasa clan. It also was possible to visit the traditional beehive huts and visit the reptile center which contained many crocodiles and snakes. While the visit and dancing were fine, it, in our opinion, was amateurish and touristy, not the best creation of Zulu culture available and not our favorite excursion. The visit to the huts was cut because there were too many of us on the tour, according to the guide. I would recommend the Xhose village tour I discussed earlier out of East London, rather than this one. We arrived back at the ship at 1 pm and the pilot took the ship out at 2 pm. Malcolm gave another talk today entitled "Apartheid-Democracy-Forgiveness: The Enduring Inspiration of Africa's Most Spectacular Success." Now we're off to trivia. Tonight is formal night and the Captain's Farewell cocktail party. Two comments on this cruise: We've sailed on the Wind before and are really enjoying it this time. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. Service overall has been excellent. We have used room service a number of times and have never seen it better on any cruise ship. Everything has been served promptly and to order. Dinner has been served course by course and beautifully. This cruise, since leaving Maputo, has been very port intensive with no sea days. Excursions have been long and some early and some arriving back late. They have been great, but it also is tiring and has led us to take advantage of our own time in the suite rather than attend all the evening entertainment. So I apologize for not giving more details on that. Sunday January 31 Port Elizabeth We arrived in Port Elizabeth at 2 pm today and the ship sailed at 7 pm. This morning we did some laundry (3 washers and dryers on the ship), had breakfast in the restaurant and played trivia with our team. We came in first again! DH played golf putting, we had a light lunch at the pool grill and got ready for our excursion. We chose the Addo Elephant Park excursion. It is a sanctuary of more than 450 elephants. The Addo elephants are smaller than the elephants of central Africa but do not belong to a subspecies. Only the bulls have tusks, and they are fairly short. They were almost hunted to extinction early in the last century, but the creation of the conservation area has helped their numbers return. The Park is located 70 km north of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It is 370,000 hectares in size and one of the largest safari areas in South Africa. Other animals such as the Cape buffalo, lion, black rhino, eland, hartebeest, zebra, kudu, velvet monkey and mongoose are also in the park. Birds such as the Knysna Loerie and eagles are present. The drive was wonderful. As we turned a corner on the trail, we approached a lake bed where a bull elephant stood alone, taking water. In a moment, over the rise came a group of about 15 females and babies. They greeted the male and all soon were bathing, drinking and socializing. The head female rubbed heads with the male and trunks were intertwined. After 10 minutes, about 10 more elephants came down the path, and there soon was a huge group, all within about 15 feet of our vehicle. They were gorgeous creatures and the babies were adorable. There also were a large number of warthogs with tiny babies, Cape Buffalo, kudu, red hartebeest, leopard tortoises, rhinos and zebra. The drive was about two hours and we all agreed it was definitely worthwhile. The only part of the trip that bothered us was the driver of the tour bus who, on a road full of potholes, drove more than 100 km an hour to get back to port on time. He also was on the cell phone talking a lot, which we disliked. Port Elizabeth itself was very quiet because it was Sunday. It had a long tradition of auto manufacturing going back to the 1920s. We were told not to walk in the city center. We arrived back at the ship about 6:30, quickly changed, and had drinks in the bar. We dined in the restaurant and had roast duck and chateaubriand. By the way, we asked for a table in Rudolfo's area every night. He was an excellent waiter this cruise and on our prior Silversea cruise . Monday, February 1, Mossel Bay It was a rocky, rocky night last night and many guests were not feeling well. We were fine, and up early for our last port day in Mossel Bay. The ship skipped this port on the prior cruise with the same itinerary, due to high winds and waves. Well, the winds were still here, but it was sunny and the waves moderate. It is a tender port and so the decision to go for it depended on the ability to launch and return the tenders. The Captain decided it was doable and we gathered for our excursion in the Parisian Lounge at 8 am. It took longer than normal to load the tenders as the waves were a bit high (actually water was coming above the loading platform). But it was not too rocky in the tenders and we made shore easily. What a lovely area Mossel Bay is. It is probably the most picturesque next to Cape Town of all the ports. It is a harbor along the world famous Garden Route and a popular holiday town. It is blessed with a mild climate year round and is an international docking area. The town was developed as an export harbor for wool, ochre and ostrich feathers. The area right around the harbor has some lovely restaurants and a wonderful local craft building. Among the excursions today were trips to the Kongo caves and an ostrich farm, and a game drive at Botlierskopf. Some of the crew were looking forward to doing shark cage diving! We chose Botlierskopf private game reserve (not a national park like Addo or HluHluwe) for one last try at the animals. It was about 30 minutes from the port and was a gorgeous setting which has a lovely restaurant and tented accommodations where visitors can stay overnight. We loaded into vehicles which held about 20 passengers. This was the most passengers per vehicle of any of the drives. It was a 2-1/2 hour game drive. We were rewarded with seeing 3 lions, 3 elephants, many warthogs, eland, black and brown antelope, buntebok, giraffe and zebra. It should be noted that the owners of this game reserve had rescued some of the game like the lions and elephants. One surprise was that they thought they were rescuing a male and female elephant and a few months later, she gave birth to the baby, so there were three. It is important to note that if you go on this excursion, it is off road on very bumpy tracks. It is extremely steeply pitched and at times at dizzying heights, so if you have a bad back or neck or are afraid of heights, this might not be the one for you. We were provided a lovely lunch of Koroo lamb and all the trimmings, along with local South African wines in the beautiful dining room of the reserve. The interior is lovely and made from all natural stone and wood with thatched roof. Our drive to the ship along the coast was very nice. We arrived at the tender at 2:30 and got in. Well, the waves by that time had risen and the wind picked up. The Silver Wind was listing visibly from side to side. The tender crew attempted to make the landing platform 4 times before we finally were able to reach it. About 6 men passengers got off and then the waves hit the tender, flooding it and the platform. The tender had to move away. We then waited for the ship to actually change its position to try to make landing easier. The crew did an excellent job and really took personal risk to help us try to make it. At about 3:40 we finally were able to make the platform and among rising and falling tender, flooded platform and the with the great help of the crew, got aboard the ship. There was a last tender leaving at 3:30 from shore and they also did make it. However, Mossel Bay once again proved to be a tricky port to visit for the Silver Wind. Final trivia was at 4:45, so we changed our wet clothing and shoes and made our way to the Bar for the final competition. Jimmy gave us 30 questions this time, and our team came in second. However, we were first place overall on the cruise for trivia. We went up and exchanged our points for a nice travel clock. Then, it was time to pack. We got most of our things together, had a quick dinner and went right to bed. Tuesday, February 2 Cape Town This was the rockiest night at sea yet. The ship arrived at Cape Town at about 6 and waited for the pilot to take us into port. We had room service breakfast, served beautifully once again by our Butler Anita, and watched the sail-in to one of the most beautiful port cities in the world. At 8 am we left the suite and waited in the lobby until we disembarked with no problem at 8:30am. Overall this was an outstanding cruise. Some things we would change are very small things: 1.add better programming on the tv and movies - more channels and less looping of Fox and the same movies over and over. 2. A bit more accurate information on the ports and shore excursions, and 3. for breakfast, better eggs. For some reason, the eggs were often either cold or totally overcooked. We'd also eliminate Maputo as a port. Our return to the Silver Wind was an extremely pleasant one. We have to say the food was excellent for the most part, the crew some of the friendliest and attentive we have met, and the majority of ports very interesting. Addendum: Our driver and car were waiting to take us to an area about 3 hours north of Cape Town in the Cederberg Mountains. It is near Clanwilliam, SA, and the place we are staying at right now is Bushmans Kloof Game Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat. It is a member of Relais and Chateaux group and in 2009 was named the Best Hotel in the World by Travel and Leisure Magazine. The private car and driver are part of the package the resort is offering. The drive to the resort is absolutely breathtaking through eye popping limestone rock formations reminiscent of Utah or Colorado. The Reserve itself is 16,000 acres and the resort accommodates 32 guests in individual houses and suites. Upon arrival each guest is assigned a guide, who will conduct game drives, sunset drives to spots for sundowners before dinner, assist with fly fishing and conduct drives to the caves on the property which contain primitive bushman cave paintings. The guides are incredibly well versed in the archaeology, flora and fauna and culture of the San bushman who inhabited this area. There also are talks on astronomy and star-gazing lectures at night. There is also a small museum with curator on the grounds. It is an astounding place of beauty and nature. We are in the Patterson suite, which consists of a large living room, huge bathroom with copper tub and separate shower, large bedroom, separate lanai off the bedroom, and a huge verandah overloading the mountings, river and lily ponds. We enjoyed a braai or barbeque out on a ledge in the mountains with incredible views. The resort is all inclusive with the exception of liquor and has a full service spa. We are winding down here nicely for a few days after our great cruise on Silversea and before our return to Cape Town and home. We certainly will sail SilverSea again and hope to return to see more of Africa. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Silver Wind Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 3.8
Dining 5.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.4
Public Rooms 4.0 4.0
Fitness Recreation 3.0 3.5
Family 1.0 3.5
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.6
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.6
Rates 5.0 4.0

Find a Silver Wind Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click