Wed 25th April 2012
I arrived at Gatwick in the early hours of a very wet and rather chilly morning for a horribly early Easyjet flight at 0725 hours to Tenerife. I was on my way to board a short cruise on the luxury Silversea Expedition ship - the "Silver Explorer". I was excited to have this rare opportunity to sail on a ship which claims to be "The Worlds Most Luxurious Expedition Ship." Opportunities of this kind dont arrise often as this vessel often books out many months if not years in advance particularly for the Polar voyages for which it is so renowned.
My voyage however was a section of the Island Days and Arabian Nights cruise between Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands and Lisbon, Portugal. We however were due to sail as far as Madeira only.
On arrival in Tenerife we were transferred by bus to the little port of Santa Cruz where I saw the ship for the first time - I was immediately struck by the small size and quickly realised that this would be an intimate voyage for a select number of passengers. Infact the ship accommodates a maximum of just 132 guests.
Our welcome onboard was immediately very personal - the staff pride themselves in getting to know all passengers by name - check in was therefore swift and I quickly had a glass of champagne in hand!
I was lucky in being accommodated in an "Expedition Suite" - all cabins on this ship are oceanview ranging from having two portholes in Adventurer class to a teak Veranda in the Owners suite. Our suite was very spacious with two large windows, a spacious living room, a marbled bathroom with tub and shower and was very well appointed with a flat screen tv with a great selection of movies and even a couple of pairs of binnoculars.
The weather was warm and sunny so after an excellent lunch I wasted no time in getting up on deck to try out one of the pair of hot tubs on board. There is no swimming pool but the hot tubs and sundeck make a very nice area to relax.
Afterwards I headed to the Welcome Aboard Cocktail party which gave a nice introduction to all of the Silversea team. This was followed by pre-dinner drinks in the Panorama Lounge and a fine dinner in the restaurant. There is only the one main bar (also a day time one on the sundeck) and restaurant so you dont get the choice of venues
of the other larger vessels in the Silversea fleet or infact of other cruise ships. However the standards of cuisine and service are second to none. The other key difference between this ship and others is the very relaxed dress code which is fairly casual and relaxed most nights. Certainly no need for DJs or fancy frocks on this ship! The most dressed up evening is still classed only as "Informal" where men require a jacket but no tie and there is always the option of room service if you dont fancy dressing up.
After my early start I had retired to my comfy bed before we sailed late in the evening.
Thursday 26th April 2012
This morning I awoke early and we were already moored up in the port of San Sebastian on the small Canary Island of La Gomera. I was going on a morning coach tour of the island. I had holidayed on this island a few years ago and already knew just how stunningly beautiful it was. The island has dramatic mountain scenery and interesting flora and fauna in the National Park of Garajonay as well as fascinating history and culture. So I enjoyed a return visit back to this lovely island and we even stopped at the hotel where I had previously stayed the lovely "Jardins de Tecina" for mid morning coffee and a stroll around the beautiful botanic gardens. La Gomera is one of the least visited of the Canaries but is well worth a visit for those looking for a step back in time for some peace and tranquility and some fantastic walking.
We were back on board in time for lunch before sailing bound for our next port of call. The sun was shining and we spent a lovely leisurely afternoon up on deck as we cruised slowly around the island of Tenerife with some fantastic views of Mount Teide. We were lucky when a big school of Dolphins decided to put on a fine show following our ship for some time and performing some fine leaps for us. We even saw several Whales in the distance whose water spouts were clearly visible. A lovely way to relax!!
I even found time to test out the Sauna and Steam rooms before another fine dinner. It has to be noted that this area is very small but perfectly functional but not to be compared with the large, luxury spas of other vessels. Likewise the gym is a very small room with just a handful of equipment but one has to remember that this vessel is all about the destination rather than being a destination in its own right like some other larger cruise ships nowadays.
Silver Explorer is all about getting you up close and personal with some of the most remote parts of the world. For this end it is equipped with a large number of very stable zodiac boats which can get passengers ashore in remote locations such as the Antarctic and Arctic.
Friday 27th April 2012
Yet another early start this morning as I was going on both the morning and afternoon excursions on Lanzarote. The great thing about Silver Explorer is that all the excursions are included in the cost. So everywhere you visit there is a full programme of excursions to choose from so even though I had visited this island before I was keen not to miss out and as it had been one of my first holidays abroad over 20 years previously it was all quite nostalgic for me! Lanzarote is a really interesting island and the morning tour was devoted to the Volcanoes which dominate the Canary Islands and the afternoon to the home and work of the late artist Cezar Manrique. Once again the evening was rounded off with another lovely dinner.
Saturday 28th April 2012
Today was a sea day so a real opporunity to get a feel for the ship. Unfortunately the sea was really very rough and on getting up I quickly lost interest in breakfast.
I struggled a bit on the tour of the ship but managed to view all of the different cabins and suites onboard right up to the Owners suite with its large teak veranda and patio furniture and floor-to-celing glass doors. However this done as the ship was rocking I retired to the comfort of my bed where I remained for the morning until the worst of the weather had passed. This experience provided me with a good insight into what it would be like to be onboard for the infamous crossing of the "Drake Passage" down to Antarctica. The ship is great for hibernating in your cabin during rough seas as although the boat being small it does rock quite a bit the cabins are comfortable and spacious
and there is a huge selection of movies and room service is always available if you cant face leaving
your cabin to eat.
By lunchtime however the sea had calmed enough for me to emerge onto the sundeck just in time for a lovely light lunch.
In the afternoon we were treated to a presentation on the ship and a discussion on the many exciting itineraries this ship has planned for 2013 and 2014! Everything from the West Coast of Africa to remote pacific islands. We viewed the zodiac boats and heard about the mud room down below where returning guests remove their muddy wellington boots!
In the late afternoon we joined the daily recap and briefing. This is what Silver Explorer is all about the ships geologist answered questions on the Volcanoes we had seen and the onboard Ornithologist provided information on the birds we had seen. The onboard photographer even provided us with top tips for the perfect photos. This daily event seems to merge into Cocktail hour!
This evening we were treated to Dinner under the Stars - it was a bit chilly but with their usual attention t detail the staff quickly provided us with warm blankets and we were treated to a fine Al Fresco meal.
As one of our party was celebrating his birthday a lovely cake was provided and we were treated to an impromptu celebration - all part of the Silversea service.
Sunday 29th April 2012
Today I awoke to a view of the gorgeous island of Madeira. We were docked up very close to town so I decided to go out on a "Jog see" so I set off alone to explore the beautiful Old Town of Funchal the lovely little capital of this Portuguese island.
On returning to the ship I had a last little taste of luxury with a lunch on deck in the sunshine and a glass of Kir Royale by the hot tub before all too soon my short sojourn on the lovely Silver Explorer is over and I had to say a sad farewell and head off in a taxi to the airport for a Tap Airways flight back home to Gatwick.
In truth we hadnt seen quite everything the ship had to offer as we hadnt experienced the zodiac landing which the remaining guests had planned for the next day when they were due to experience one of the first ever visits by a cruise ship to the Isla Deserta off Madeira and home to many seals.
This is of course what this ship is all about - visiting new and remote destinations and getting up close to the wildlife. All this in the company of expert expedition leaders and renowned Botanists, Ornithologists and even historians all of whom are keen to share their knowledge with the guests onboard both in lectures and even informally over dinner. However, I had gained a unique insight into life onboard and a taste of the amazing experiences this ship can provide to those guests who are a little bit adventurous and have a real thirst for knowledge but want to do all this from the comfort of a luxury vessel and still with the great service and cuisine that Silversea are renowned for. I would just love to come back one day on the voyage of a lifetime to one of the Polar regions!!