Number of Cruises: Sea
Cruise Line: Silversea
Ship: Silver Whisper
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Istanbul to Barcelona
Group: We were a group of 38 Travel Professionals
I was the group leader and seminar facilitator for 38 travel professionals on the Silver Whisper’s “Byzantium to Catalonia” cruise that sailed from Istanbul, Turkey to Barcelona, Spain with ports of call in Greece, Sicily and Italy along the way. I love the Eastern Med and think it is one of the most unique cruise itineraries in the world and would encourage everyone to visit this region. I was surprised to hear many people were concerned over visiting Turkey, as Istanbul is very pro American, sophisticated and westernized. I have always felt safer in Istanbul than I do in my hometown of San Diego…. this trip was no different.
Silversea has won the best small ship award almost annually from just about everyone that presents such awards. Its six-star rating makes it one of the most luxurious cruise experiences available at any price and it is widely recognized as the leader in small ship luxury cruising. I was eagerly anticipating cruising on the Silver Whisper, as I had not sailed with Silversea before. I was not disappointed.
This review accounts for the fact that the service, food, management and entertainment is of a level of the cruise line’s reputation and therefore I treat it just like I would any other ship and cruise and try to point out ways to enhance your cruise experience and also make suggestions where I think things could improve (however there were very few on this cruise as one might expect) If you are considering a luxury cruise experience this ship offers everything you might imagine that you would want. The staff is non-invasive, the food gourmet, the service impeccable and the overall experience is just wonderful. Silversea lives up to its awards and its “Ultra Luxury” reputation.
Getting to the Ship
I was able to find an excellent airfare and schedule on Delta Airlines from San Diego to Istanbul, Turkey and returning from Barcelona, Spain. While I had to make a 6:30 am flight from San Diego the arrival in Istanbul was at a perfect 10:20 am the following day. Upon arrival a number of the members from our group found each other and negotiated a transfer from the Istanbul International airport to the hotel we were all staying at, the Marmara Hotel. I would strongly urge anyone taking this cruise to fly into Istanbul at least one day early just to recuperate from the time zone change (10 hours ahead of San Diego) Actually, Istanbul is a wonderfully unique destination worth several days of exploration and the surrounding areas are even more fascinating so I would suggest going in a number of days early and arranging for a sightseeing tour of an appropriate duration to maximize your cruise experience.
We arrived at the hotel after about a 45 minute ride in intense traffic, checked in to our rooms, freshened up a bit and met in the Marmara Café for a quick lunch before making our way to the Old City for a walk around visiting its main sights. After lunch we negotiated two taxis to take us from the hotel to the Blue Mosque to begin our exploration. We visited the Blue Most, the Aya Sophia, the Hippodrome and surrounding areas before making our way through the city to the entrance to the Grand Bazaar’s jewelry section. Many in our group were looking for gold charms, gold bracelets and such so I thought this would be the best place to begin. We shopped for quite a while and then took a break for a cool drink before continuing the shopping. After quite a while (and many purchases) we decided to make our way through the Grand Bazaar to the Spice Market. Off we went enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Istanbul. Close to the Spice Market on an out of the way street not on the beaten pathway the five o’clock prayer began over the loud speakers. We stopped took in the moment realizing that we were indeed in a foreign country and thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of our experience. I am not sure but I think that was the most poignant moment for everyone on this trip. We continued trough Istanbul’s bustling streets until we came upon the square leading to the Spice Market. Many in our group were bushed from the long walk and we decided to go back to the hotel and rest up for dinner.
Deciding to dine in the restaurant on top of the Hotel Marmara (the hotel resides on top of the highest hill in Istanbul and the restaurant is on the top floor offering a fabulous view of all Istanbul) we met in the restaurant’s bar for cocktails at 7:30 pm. After a short cocktail period of great conversation and laughing about the day’s events we made our way into the restaurant for what turned out to be a wonderful dinner. We enjoyed excellent food, wine and conversation with a backdrop of a duo playing the piano and violin, expert waiters serving us wonderful cuisine and a to die for view of the Old City across the Bosphorus. It was truly a wonderful meal. After dinner we went back into the bar for a nightcap and to enjoy the live music that was being offered. I went to sleep very contented.
The following morning we met at 10 am for breakfast and I then separated from the group to catch up on the Internet at the hotel’s business center and then back to pack and made my way down to the ship to get on early. The boarding process was quick and the graciousness of Silversea started the second I walked into the cruise terminal. After checking in I was whisked to my cabin to start the cruise.
The Silver Whisper is the newest Silversea vessel and is an amazing ship. She was built in 2001 by Mariotti Yard in Genoa, Italy and features the finest of everything. At 28,258 gross tons she is a small ship and with a space ratio of an astounding 72.8 she feels more like a private yacht. All of the public areas (with the exception of the Observation Lounge) are located in the rear of the ship leaving the forward portion for the suites. This works well as there are no suites that adjoin public areas guaranteeing privacy and a peaceful environment. Her small size allows her to access many ports not readily available to larger ships and this also works in her favor as she offers unique itineraries to out-of-the-way ports not usually visited on most mass-market line itineraries.
Our group occupied veranda suites on decks 7, 8 and 9. At 345 square feet, the Silver Whisper’s veranda suites are more like a small apartment than a cruise ship cabin. My first impression when entering my cabin was one of complete satisfaction. It was large, beautiful and comfortable all at once. The cabin really consisted of 5 separate areas.
The veranda is generous in size and offers two reclining chairs each with its own footrest. The teak decking gave the veranda a feeling of true luxury and it is very functional as well. The doorway leading to the veranda requires a little strength to operate but offers the comforting feature of locking both when all the way closed and also in the wide-open position.
The sitting area is located between the veranda door and the bedroom and may be closed off by simply closing the drapes covering the veranda doorway and the room divider that offers a full drapery to separate the sitting area from the bedroom area as well. The area offers a nice sofa with end tables with lamps (great for simply relaxing and reading) a coffee table and separate plush chair. It is a great place to chat and enjoy the complimentary wine and champagne that Silversea offers. Upon first entering the cabin there is a complimentary bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne in a silver ice bucket and a small vase with fresh orchids. On the other side of the sitting area is a complete work/entertainment center. I was able to set up my computer and printer with no problem and had tons of room for everything else. However, be sure to bring a short extension cord with multiple outlets on it, as there is only one 110v outlet on the desktop. Behind the door on the lower right side there is a small refrigerator locked with bottled water, soft drinks and beer (all complimentary.) On the left side are some shelves and a drawer. The desktop is huge and adorned with fresh fruit and other amenities. The upper cabinet on the right offers glasses and other paraphernalia for beverages while the television and VCR are located on the left. Silversea offers a video library of movies that can be checked out and viewed in your cabin. An extensive list of first run movies and other television venues are offered as well.
The bedroom area offers quite a bit of space so that walking around the bed is easy. There is ample room for getting into and out of bed for two people. The nightstands offer two drawers each for even more additional storage and the bedding is the finest available. I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping on the Silver Whisper and would have liked to have the bedding in my home. Against the wall is a wonderful area for women to apply their cosmetics and other activities where a vanity mirror and lights would be desirable. There is another 110v outlet here as well.
These suites also offer a full walk-in closet. There is ample space for dresses, suits and all of your clothing to hang in complete spaciousness. A full shoe rack will hold a dozen pairs of shoes and there is a stack of drawers that will satisfy everyone’s needs for storage. All in all, the closet is like one you would find on a world cruiser that will accommodate a complete wardrobe with ease.
The bathroom is to die for. There is both a full bathtub and an enclosed shower. The hot/cold controls are excellent. There is also a double sink so that it is possible for two people to bathe and get ready at the same time. The generous use of marble tiles, porcelain and glass give one the feeling of luxury. Silversea provides Bvlgari hair products and Neutrogena soap products complimentary.
Hardwood cabinets and moldings accentuate the cabin’s subtle design. The crown moldings give the cabin a feeling a quality and the use of wood and mirrors make it look even larger than it actually is (and it is quite large and comfortable)
Fine dining is part of the Silversea experience and the restaurants on the Silver Whisper certainly keep that promise. Here are the restaurants you will enjoy.
This is the main restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Breakfast and lunch were never crowded as folks seemed to opt for the Terrace Café’s excellent food and service. I ate breakfast in the Restaurant one morning and enjoyed the menu and the service. You can basically order anything either on the menu or not. One gentleman prided himself for creating a caviar and swiss cheese omelet that he dined on every morning. Lunch was pretty much the same experience with excellent cuisine and service being offered daily. No reservations were necessary for any meal in the Restaurant so it was a favorite.
Dinner in the Restaurant was always a culinary treat. A preview dinner menu was always included in every day’s Silversea Chronicle so one could ponder the evening’s event with anticipation.
Dinner in the Restaurant does not require reservations and there is seating for 2 people up to 10. We never had trouble getting an excellent table no matter how many of us there were. The service is excellent (with the exception of a waitress named Elke who was a bit surly) and the food impeccable. Along with the menu one could order many of the standard offerings such as caviar, escargot and other treats. Both red and white wines were always selected and offered with dinner. Silversea offers about 20 labels and there is another 25 or so that may be purchased with dinner as well.
The Terrace Café
This was my favorite. Breakfast found an excellent buffet of everything imaginable one could ask for. While the term buffet is used, fine china and silverware are the norm and white-gloved waiters will carry your plate for you to your linen covered table. There is also full table service for those not wanting buffet items. I found the selection of fruits very much to my liking and I always apply the “seed test” to every ship….Silversea gets the first 10 I have ever awarded for the preparation of fruit for consumption (not one seed in any fruit for the entire cruise)
Lunch found the Terrace Café with another buffet with wonderful cuisine. Each day featured a different theme and the seafood buffet was to die for. Unfortunately, I missed a good number of luncheons on the ship as I was in port exploring but understood that each one was wonderful. Again, both red and white wines were offered with lunch and poured freely. I liked the Terrace Café so much that I never got around to eating in the Restaurant for lunch (I suspect that was true for most folks on this cruise.)
Dinner in the Terrace Café was an event to behold. Reservations are mandatory and it was sold out early each day so be sure to plan your evenings in the Terrace Café early (especially on formal nights) While the restaurant can seat a good number of people, the Terrace Café only accommodates about 40 or so lucky people for dinner. The event starts at 7:45 promptly with cocktails in the Champagne and Humidor Rooms. Everyone enjoys a 30 minute social period before the Maitre Di’ arrives to announce the arrival of the dinner period. The Chef explains the menu and then the Sommelier explains the wine choices for the menu. Once the introductions are done, everyone makes their way to be seated in the restaurant. The evening unfolds with course after course of fantastic dining. Without question I enjoyed dinner in the Terrace Café the very most. While reservations are required for this restaurant no additional gratuity is.
The Pool Grill
Located forward by the pool, the pool grill offers those lounging in the sun by the pool a dining option that does not require them to change out of their bathing suits to dine. The Pool Grill offers all of the standard pool side cuisine as well as more sophisticated choices as well. This dining venue was open from 11:30 in the morning until after 4 in the afternoon.
The Panorama Lounge and the Observation Lounge
Both of these lounges offered coffee, juice and rolls in the morning and snacks throughout the day. I enjoyed fresh orange juice in the early morning in the Panorama Lounge before going to the Internet Café to check my e-mail.
This is the main bar on the Silver Whisper and features full bar service in a plush setting. The Silversea Quintet plays dance music here in the evening and offers a wonderful place to relax after the show for the evening. The music is mellow dance music.
The Panorama Lounge
This is another larger lounge that offers full bar service and a piano bar atmosphere that everyone enjoys. On this cruise there was a very talented gentleman named Colin that was a wonderful performer. On some evenings the Panorama Lounges Is used as an entertainment venue as was in the case of a jazz night and a mixed entertainment evening. All in all, I liked the Panorama Lounge equally as well as the Bar.
The Grappa is a small and intimate bar adjoining the casino. It offers full service and is open the latest of all the bars on the ship and generally is the place everyone ends up if they close the other bars.
This is the champagne and wine bar that adjoins the Terrace Restaurant. It opens after dinner in the Terrace and offers an excellent venue for relaxing with a glass of champagne or wine.
Adjoining the Champagne, the Humidor is the place to relax with one of the cigars offered there and some brandy. While I didn’t visit the Humidor in the evening, those that did loved its rich environment and subtle décor. The brandies are on a self-service cart that one may enjoy and it is much like enjoying a private cigar club atmosphere.
The Entertainment Venues
The Viennese Lounge
This is the main showroom on the Silver Whisper and offers the evening’s production shows and other entertainment on the cruise. It is a smaller theater as ships go but offers a very intimate experience with the entertainers. By sitting in the front rows you feel almost a part of the act and the interaction is wonderful. The best seats go quickly and bar service is suspended during the show so be sure to get there early if you enjoy being entertained and want the maximum experience. There are no bad seats in the house. Following is a breakdown of the entertainment that is offered.
The Jean Ann Ryan Company provides the group of 5 entertainers for the production shows of which, all were great! The costumes were excellent as was the energy level of the productions. Don’t miss them as they are the highlight of the entertainment. Several acts were also featured and some were excellent however some were not so good. One ventriloquist while trying hard lost many in theater. Overall the entertainment was a nice conclusion to an excellent evening.
I would like to make a special mention for Colin Salter who played the piano in the Panorama Lounge and did an excellent job of it and also John Paul Almon one of the leaders of the Jean Ann Ryan group who would spend his evenings in the Panorama Lounge singing for those in attendance just because he loves to entertain. This type of close interaction with the passengers of the Silver Whisper certainly makes the entertainment experience wonderful.
Other Public Areas
The Pool Area
The Silver Whisper’s pool area is just the right size for the ship and offers a very comfortable pool and two Jacuzzis. The lounge chairs are all teak with thick and comfortable cushions for total relaxation. There is ample space for everyone that wants to lie out and enjoy the sun and the lounge chairs are far enough apart making it easy to get in and out of the chairs. There is also a pool bar offering full bar service and of course the Pool Grill for those that do not want to dress for lunch in the restaurants. The area is well protected from the wind and takes full advantage of the available sunshine.
The Library and Internet Café
The Silver Whisper offers an elaborate library that also houses the Internet Café. First, there are a good number of books to choose from that may be taken out at will and there is also an extensive library of video tapes for those that want to watch them in their cabin (all cabins have a VCR) One simply selects the book or tape they would like to enjoy and takes it on the honor system.
The Internet Café offers 7 quick terminals that are connected to the Internet and also has basic Microsoft Office applications on them. All of the terminals are connected to a printer and one may create flyers, letters and so on and then print them out. This really saved me as my portable notebook printer finally gave up the ghost on this cruise. The charges for using the Internet access are somewhat confusing. I was told that there was a $.75 per minute charge for accessing the Internet from the Café. While this is true, the charge only occurs while you are either downloading or uploading content to/from the Internet. I am a heavy user and my average session only cost between $2.00 and $3.00 (I was usually on for an hour or more) Most cruise lines charge you from the time you log on until the time you log off and this is nothing like that. Don’t be put off by the price per minute as it is not expensive to use the service.
There is no one to help you in the Internet Café and the terminals clearly state that the computers are for experienced users only so be sure you understand how to access your e-mail before you get on the ship. Also, Silversea will issue you an e-mail address with your final documents that folks can use to send and receive e-mail to/from you. You will be charged for each e-mail if you decide to use the Silversea address. I prefer to access my own e-mail account and use a company called www.webbox.com to do it. It allows me to freely access all of my accounts at once and to send and receive mail from my own e-mail address without problem. If you are a heavy e-mail user you might want to check it out.
The Observation Lounge
This is a great room that is overlooked by many. It offers a panoramic vista from comfortable sofas and chairs and is a great place to simply relax and watch the scenery go by. There is no bar in the lounge but there is always coffee, juice, tea or some other treat available to enjoy. There is also a small library area of nautical interest with books, maps and charts to enjoy.
The Workout Room
I was disappointed in the equipment that was offered in the small workout area but don’t see how they could have equipped it any better with the space they allocated. There is a small Universal Machine, several treadmills, a couple of step machines and some dumbbells. Not really enough to get a reasonable work out and I don’t particularly care for Universal Machines as they tend to get out of service quickly. I passed on working out for the entire cruise to give my body time to regenerate and returned to my routine when I got back home.
There is also a small aerobics area adjoining the workout area and while I never visited it I understand that it was used frequently for morning exercises and such. I am not sure how I would change the setup to make a better gym but I suspect that many on the Silver Whisper are not interested in working out during the cruise making it a moot point.
The Beauty Salon and Spa
Mandara Spa, the Balinese style spa that is considered the best on any cruise line, manages the Spa. They offer full spa services and everyone that used the spa loved it. The Beauty Salon was also heavily used by the women and gained high marks for the quality of their services.
The Silver Whisper offers a very compact casino with limited slot machines and gaming tables. However, it was heavily used and people seemed to be winning.
There are two shops on the Silver Whisper and they both offer wonderful items. The Boutique offers Silversea signature items (shirts, hats and so on) as well as other collectibles. Bvlgari, which adjoins the Boutique, offers quality jewelry and other fine collectibles.
The Registration and Tour Desks
The Registration desk is open 24 hours a day and I experienced nothing but quality service from them. They offer currency exchange and other helpful services throughout the cruise. The tour desk is always a busy place to be, especially in the morning after arrival into a new port. Everyone found the tour staff to be helpful and knowledgeable about the shore excursions Silversea offered and also about the ports.
Launderettes and laundry Service
There are launderettes located on decks 4, 6 and 8 with complimentary detergent and so on. These came in very handy for ironing and keeping small items fresh and clean. The laundry and dry cleaning service on the Whisper was reasonably priced and efficient. On several occasions I received laundry back the same day that I sent it in and the pricing was just about the same as I would pay at my cleaners at home. (HINT: I always bring my tux and suits on a cruise from my last cruise and get them dry cleaned when I get on the ship. This way they are fresh and not wrinkled like when you have them cleaned at home and them jam them into a suitcase for the trip. This works quite well on most lines and is certainly the way to do it on Silversea.)
Card Room and Conference Room
These rooms adjoin one another and make an excellent place to meet for small meetings and such. We did our seminar in the Conference Room and had approximately 35 in attendance. The conference room had everything one would need for a formal meeting however I would suggest bringing a wireless microphone and amp if you are going to present to more than 20 people. There was some engine noise that I had to talk over and after three hours my voice was pretty well gone. The card room is also another great place to meet as it is rarely used by anyone. I took my notebook computer there and set it up to meet some of the folks from our group to build some web sites.
The Gentlemen Hosts
The Silver Whisper offers single ladies two gentlemen hosts for dancing and companionship. We put one of them through his paces and I have to say that of all the gentlemen hosts I have seen on various cruise lines the two gentlemen on this ship were the best of the best. Congratulations to Silversea for finding and motivating the finest gentlemen hosts on the seas. Ladies, if you are looking for a cruise line that offers professional gentlemen hosts that are engaging and interesting yet ethical and upstanding, don’t go any further than the Silver Whisper.
The Officers and Crew of the Silver Shadow
From Captain Angelo Corsaro on down the pecking order Silver Whisper’s officers and staff are first-rate professionals. They are gracious and always available and are on top of everything that is going on. Silver Whisper is one of the best-managed ships I have been on.
Day one, May 2nd, 2002, Istanbul,
I was in my cabin, unpacked and ready to go by 3:30 pm (boarding started at 3 pm) and set out to explore the ship and to confirm some of our group’s arrangements. I was immediately impressed with Silver Whisper’s elegant, yet functional décor. Since I had skipped lunch I decided to attend afternoon tea and had a cup of tea and some sandwiches to hold me over until dinner. Silversea had invited our group to a welcome aboard cocktail party and private dinner in the Terrace Café. We met first in the adjoining champagne room for cocktails and to get to know one another and then after an introduction of the evening’s menu and wines by the Maitre Di’, Head Chef and Sommelier, entered the Terraces Restaurant where we enjoyed a fabulous French dinner just for our group. Here is what the menu consisted of.
Snail “Vol au Vent” with Pesto Hollandoise
Terre de foie gras en gelee de saulernes
Marinated Foie Gras Terrine with Sauternes Wine Jelly
Filet de sole “bonne Femme”
Glazed Dover Sole Filet with Mushroom Sauce and Langoustine Tail
Sorbet au citron et champagne
Refreshing Lemon Sherbet with Champagne
Filet de Boeuf en Brioche
Oven Baked Beef Tenderloin in Brioche Dough Vegetable
Bouqueliene and Pommes “Anna”
Tarte fine aux pommmes chaudes
Warm Crispy Apple Tart “Flambee” with
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
Petits Fours and Chocolate Truffles
Select White and Red Wine
Needless to say, the quality of preparation and level of service for the meal was impeccable. After dinner many of us continued on to the bar for cocktails and dancing.
Day two, May 3rd, 2002, cruising at
I awoke early to a beautiful sunny morning and decided to take an early breakfast at the buffet in the Terrace Café. I was the first one at the restaurant and enjoyed a fabulous breakfast of fruit, yogurt, juice and a croissant. OK, not to belabor the point but here is the fruit that was offered every morning. Fresh peeled and sliced Kiwi fruit, papaya, mango, pineapple, sliced oranges and grapefruit, cantaloupe, casaba melon, watermelon and a good assortment of canned and dried fruits as well. I was in heaven! After a lingering breakfast on the aft deck I visited the Internet Café for a session and then made my way back to my cabin intending to work for a while. Since the cabin stewardess was busy preparing the cabin I went to the Observation Lounge to take in the sights of the morning. As luck would have it, the Silver Whisper had increased her speed during the night to accommodate a super tanker that was to clear the Dardanelle Straights after the Silver Whisper and we were right on top of the narrowest point in the straights. I was treated to an early passage through the straights and all its glory. The Silver Whisper continued through the straights making its way toward the open ocean and Greece.
Finding my way back to my cabin I decided to enjoy the Jacuzzis and the sunshine for a few hours and made my way to find a deck chair. As you would expect the deck chairs were all teak covered with plush cushions that made laying in the sun a very comfortable affair. For lunch some of us had decided to enjoy the seafood buffet and made our way to the Terrace Café after changing. What a great lunch, a group of us formed again on the aft deck and enjoyed what turned out to be a two-hour lunch with wine and laughter. Since the evening’s events promised the Captain’s welcome reception and a fabulous lobster dinner, I went in early to prepare for the formal night.
Upon entering my cabin I noticed that the Silver Whisper was directly adjacent to Mt. Athos, a very famous area known for its ancient monasteries. I spent an hour or so on my veranda as Mt. Athos unfolded into view.
I met some of the members from our group and proceeded to the Captain’s welcome reception where the formalities of staff introductions and celebration took place. Then it was on to dinner in the main restaurant and a wonderful lobster dinner. The level of service and the quality of food is so evident when compared to other cruise lines it is small wonder that Silversea has won the best small ship award virtually every year. After a lingering dinner we moved on to the main showroom to enjoy the first stage production put on by the Jean Anne Ryan Company. Entitled “La Belle Epoque” the show consisted of music, singing and dancing by a very talented production team. The costumes were wonderful and the energy exciting. The small size of the showroom gave everyone a special intimate feeling with the performers. After the production the Silver Whisper Band moved into the main bar and continued playing dance music. A good number of folks continued the celebration into the evening. I enjoyed part of our group for a while and then decided to turn in for the night.
Day three, May 4th, 2002, Mykonos,
I was up early and spent time in the Internet Café catching up on e-mail and then took an early breakfast in the Terrace Café and dined on the aft outside table as we approached and then docked at Mykonos. Mykonos is truly the Greek island of everyone’s dreams with its whitewashed Greek façade, numerous boutiques and shops, quaint restaurants, great beaches and international blend of residents and visitors. We decided that a group of us would walk through Mykonos’ labyrinth of quaint pedestrian streets (laid out to confuse pirates in past centuries) and shop for charms and other trinkets. My wife, Joanie has shown interest in continuing a charm bracelet started by her mother decades ago and I have been acquiring charms from countries not represented on th e already large collection as Joanie has. The streets of Mykonos are quaint and full of excellent specialty items with an emphasis on gold jewelry and the prices are excellent for specially designed gold jewelry items. One of the quaintest scenes was the gentleman selling flowers and vegetables from the baskets mounted on his donkey as he made his way through the narrow streets.
After spending a couple of hours shopping in Mykonos we decided to make our way to one of the beaches for a little sunshine and some lunch. After some time we were able to obtain a taxi to take us to one of the main beaches across the island (Platis Gialos) where we were treated to a spectacular beach with white sand and crystal clear waters. There were several restaurants along the coast and we chose one that looked excellent. The Gallop Restaurant and Bar was indeed a treat for fine food and hospitality. I had a shrimp lunch that was to die for and the other people all enjoyed their dishes as well. We enjoyed the sun and the beach for a couple of hours and then decided to see if one of the boats located at the beach could run us back to the ship. We agreed upon a price with a Greek fellow who did not speak much English and then set out around the island. It was truly a wonderful experience cruising right off the cliffs and beaches of Mykonos as the houses and topography were wonderful. After a good amount of time we neared a wide white sandy beach where the launch entered the shoreline and we were to depart. Of course we were nowhere near our ship and the crew of the launch had misunderstood our destination. While we were all laughing, it was getting close to the time for the ship to depart and the beach that we were deposited on seemed almost vacant. One of the group found an open bar and then arranged for the bar tender to call two taxis that would take us back to the ship. All in all, it was a fun experience but it could have turned sour had we not been able to call for taxis on short notice.
Once back on board I dressed for dinner and met our group in the Bar for a pre dinner cocktail and then continued on to the Restaurant for a very enjoyable meal followed by a session back in the bar for some delightful listening music. I turned in early to prepare for the seminar in the morning and slept like a baby.
Day four, May 5th, 2002, Cruising the
I awoke early after a good night’s sleep, made my way to the Internet Café to handle my e-mail and then on to the Terrace Café for a quick breakfast of fruit, yogurt, lox and a croissant. The seminar started a 9 am so I made my way to the conference room that was set up to accommodate the 30 + agents that were in attendance. The seminar went quite well and when we finally broke for lunch a group of us dined in the Terrace Café and enjoyed the excellent buffet. I decided to work for a while in my cabin and then took a break to attend a special bridge tour that Silversea had arranged for our group. I was especially impressed by the presence of the Captain and his friendly open manner in which he addressed our group. He is certainly an asset of Silversea Cruises.
I took time for a Jacuzzi and found that the pool area was somewhat crowded yet there were still plenty of deck chairs to enjoy before turning in to get ready for the cruise’s second formal night. We had reservations in the Terrace Cafe and after a wonderful cocktail period made our way up for the 7:45 reservation. Dinner in the Terrace Café is limited to 40 people (or so) and they all meet in the Humidor and Champagne rooms for a cocktail period before dinner is announced. The Maitre D’ announces dinner followed by a detailed description of the evening’s menu by the head chef. The evenings wine selections are then announced by the Sommelier. All in all, it is a wonderful way to begin dinner. Once the announcements are concluded everyone makes their way into the adjoining restaurant to be seated. Dinner on this evening was exceptional with lively conversation and an ample amount of laughing.
After dinner our group made our way to the Venetian Lounge to enjoy the evening’s show. I must admit to being bushed and turned in shortly after the show but many stayed up for additional cocktails and the various bars on the Silver Shadow.
Day five, May 6th, 2002, Catania,
I had not been to Catania before so was looking forward to exploring the city and surrounds. A group of us boarded the shuttle provided by Silversea to the drop off point in the center of Catania. Catania is a coastal city of about 400,000 people and offers very little for a visitor. There are some ruins in a square directly located in the center of the city but that was about it. Worse, there was a dearth of taxis and it took almost an hour to finally negotiate for a taxi to take the five of us to an area outside of Catania known as Taormina, a medieval town located some 45 miles north of Catania. After a long taxi ride we finally climbed into the town of Taormina and its wonderful pedestrian shopping streets. The area is reconstructed and features hundreds of shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants in a quaint medieval setting. While wonderful for shopping, Taormina has lost any connection to its once ancient heritage. Attached to Taormina on its upper slope is a large ancient theatre built by the Greeks long ago with an outstanding view of the ocean several hundred feet below. The view alone is well worth the journey. Be aware that the shops close down for the afternoon so be sure to visit Taormina in the morning time if you intend to do some shopping. After a visit to the area we made our way back to the ship through Cantania’s horrendous traffic jam and boarded in time for a quick Jacuzzi before getting ready for dinner.
I met a group of folks that had invited me for dinner in the Bar and after a cocktail we made our way into the Restaurant to enjoy a lengthy dinner closing the restaurant being the last ones to leave. We had missed the show but somehow emerged from the restaurant right at the correct time to see Mt. Etna erupt Lava must have shot up several hundred feet to create the glowing fountain that we witnessed down at sea level and from the distance we were from the top of Mt. Etna. After witnessing the eruption we decided to have a nightcap in the Bar and settled in for more conversation before turning in for the night. One of the things I liked most about the Silver Shadow was the non-invasiveness of the music in the lounges. It was great to listen to but not so loud that you could no carry on a conversation. Then it was off to bed.
Day six, May 7th, 2002, Salerno, Italy
The day was overcast and I had been to this region and seen its sights so I decided to take the day to get caught up on my e-mail and to work on this review. I had the ship virtually to myself and took advantage of it to take some photographs for this review. I enjoyed a great breakfast with part of our group that was heading to Pompeii, Sorrento and across to Capri for a late lunch, bid them farewell and made my way to my cabin to begin working. I broke for lunch and ran into some other members of our group and spent a few hours talking business with them. More work, Jacuzzi, more work and then I went to catch up on my e-mail. The day seemed to go by in an hour and before I knew it I was getting ready to meet some of the folks from our group for dinner in the Restaurant. By now I had settled into a comfortable routine of enjoying the ship and the people in our group. Dinner was another wonderful experience and was followed by more entertainment in the theatre, a nightcap and then off to bed. I noted that one of the most wonderful things about the Silver Shadow was the non-invasiveness of the staff and daily events. Not once had I been approached for a picture or any other intrusion. The staff in the restaurants is there to give you impeccable service but never enter into personal conversations with the guests or feel it necessary to entertain guests. Only once on the entire cruise did a waiter or other individuals ever interrupt our table. It is truly a wonderful experience.
Day seven, May 8th, 2002,
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy
The morning brought rain and wind as it unfolded and since I had “been there, done that” I had decided to stay on board for the day. I ran into a group of the agents that had decided to go into Rome despite the weather conditions and I joined them. We negotiated a taxi that could accommodate the 5 of us and off we went. We made the hour long drive into Rome’s congestion passing the Vatican Museum and a line of visitors that went on for blocks. We decided to go directly to St. Peter’s and visited the fabulous church. As it was Wednesday the Pope was giving his public talk and while he wasn’t outside in plain view, he was televised on the two large screens in the square. We entered St. Peters and enjoyed the beauty and immensity of the structure. After a good while enjoying the church we departed for our taxi so that we could continue our exploration of Rome. Our next stop was Tivoli Fountain and then on to Spanish Steps where we spent some time shopping and then enjoying an excellent lunch. The shops and restaurants around the Spanish Steps area are outstanding and should be the focus of your lunchtime activities.
Following lunch we continued throughout Rome’s fabulous sights and stopped at the Coliseum and wandered throughout its structure enjoying being so close to so much history. From the upper level of the Coliseum one can see all of the Roman Empire’s vast history. After leaving Rome’s historical areas we climb to the top of one of the surrounding hills for an overview of all Rome. The view was spectacular as was the enormity of Rome itself. We finally departed Rome and started our journey back to Civitavecchia through Rome’s suburbs that broke into lush countryside with small farms growing fruit, row crops and other farm products.
Upon returning to the ship I prepared for dinner and met some in our group at the prearranged time for cocktails in the Bar. After wonderful conversation comparing our day’s activities we made our way to the Restaurant for another fabulous dinner with wine and conversation. By now everyone was comfortable with the night’s routine. First cocktails followed by a fabulous dining experience, then on to an excellent show and finally on to the Panorama Lounge or the Bar for more entertainment and dancing. It was just wonderful. This evening’s entertainment was a Jazz Night in the Panorama Lounge with the Silversea Quintet and of course, Colin and many of the other entertainers. All in all, it was another excellent evening. I was bushed and turned in before the close of the Jazz Night.
Day eight, May 9th, 2002, Livorno,
Livorno is the gateway to Florence and Pisa and while I had been there before I had never seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa or David in Florence. A group of five of us decided to negotiate for a taxi to take us for the day and was fortunate to obtain a van large enough for all five of us and then some. We left Livorno making our way through the countryside into the city of Florence. I have taken the train before and the highway follows pretty much the same route. One is surprised by the topography on the way to Florence and the countryside is simply beautiful. We arrived at the outskirts of town to horrendous traffic. Our driver explained that during times of rain everyone forgoes their scooters (the preferred method of transportation) and commutes in their cars to stay dry. It was absolute gridlock. After an hour or so we finally made it to the older section of Florence and decided to stop at the Duomo and walk from there. We visited the Duomo and began shopping in the surrounding area after making a reservation to see Michelangelo’s’ David at 3:15 pm. After visiting several stores we got a recommendation for an excellent restaurant to enjoy lunch at. After walking several blocks we entered a local eatery and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of scampi and myriad dishes. It was truly a wonderful lunch with wine and everything one could imagine. We were almost late for our appointment to see David so we hurried past the Duomo to the entrance of the museum. The wait to gain entrance can take two hours or more but by making a reservation (costs $8 Euros) you may simply show up at your appointed time and enter the museum. It is certainly worth the wait and the artwork in the museum