Crossing On The SILVER SPIRIT, Part One

Join Peter Knego on the first leg of his latest Sea Trek aboard Silversea Cruises’ ultra-deluxe MV SILVER SPIRIT for a fifteen night transatlantic crossing from Lisbon to Barbados via Madeira, The Canaries and the Caribbean.

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Silversea Cruises

Friday, October 21, 2011

MV SILVER SPIRIT at Lisbon.

After a good night’s sleep at a hotel in Lisbon’s Baixa district, my traveling companion Rob Di Stefano and I enjoyed a quick but tasty Portuguese breakfast — uma bica (espresso) with chamuça (chicken) and rissoes (shrimp) pastries — at a corner bar. From there, it was off on a short cab ride to the Cais de Santa Apolónia Passenger Terminal where Silversea Cruises’ MV SILVER SPIRIT awaited.

SILVER SPIRIT Reception area, facing aft.

Built in 2009, the SILVER SPIRIT is the newest vessel in Silversea’s six member fleet of ultra-deluxe, yacht-like cruise ships. The line is a serial recipient of “World’s Best Small Cruise Ship Line” distinctions from publications that range from Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure and The Guardian & Observer to Travel Weekly. At 36,000 tons, the SPIRIT is by far the largest Silversea ship and yet she carries a mere 540 guests for a passenger space ratio of 67 when fully occupied. What’s even more remarkable is the ship has a staff and crew numbering 376, which means the passenger to crew ratio is 1.47. Space and service are the hallmarks of cruising with Silversea.

MV SILVER SPIRIT Skylight.

We had a short window to begin documenting the ship before embarkation began at 1:00 PM. SILVER SPIRIT is elegantly understated with wide central corridors, a largely autumnal palette featuring beige, maroon and rich brown soft fittings, brass accents and wide open vistas of full length windows that infuse her public spaces with abundant sunlight.

SILVER SPIRIT central stairtower, facing up from Deck 4.

SILVER SPIRIT has nine passenger decks laid out with all-suite accommodation forward and public rooms and restaurants aft. Perhaps the most dynamic space is the skylight-topped, seven deck central stairtower with its stacked series of “Y-shaped” staircases.

Raquel Sabinho Perreira and Luis Miguel Correia.

We disembarked at 12:30 for lunch with Lisbon-based maritime historians/bloggers Luis Miguel Correia and Raquel Sabinho-Perreira. Luis had just enough time to take me up the shores of the Tagus to see the handsome, historic MV FUNCHAL which is undergoing a multi-million dollar transformation and upgrade to conform to 2010 SOLAS regulations.

MV FUNCHAL at Lisbon.

The FUNCHAL was built in 1961 for Lisbon to Madeira and Canary Island liner service and has undergone numerous changes over the years while at the same time retaining her liner-like ambiance. She is a rare survivor from an era of sleek passenger ships and one of just a handful to carry the same name in active service for over 50 years. In addition to having all of her lustrous woodwork removed, most windows are being replaced and suites and cabins completely reconfigured. She is expected to return to service in April of 2012.

MV SILVER SPIRIT at Lisbon. Photo and copyright Rob Di Stefano 2011.

Meanwhile, Rob headed up to Alfama and Graca, where spectacular views of Lisbon and even the SILVER SPIRIT were in store.

Suite 702 living room.

Back on board SILVER SPIRIT, we had a chance to unpack and settle in. Located on forward/port Deck 7, our whopping 990 square foot Royal Suite, 702, is actually more like a spacious apartment at sea. The living room adjoins a 129 square foot veranda and features separate sitting and dining areas, a guest bathroom, a desk for writing, an entertainment center with flat screen television/dvd player, abundant storage space and an unfolding sofa.

Suite 702 bedroom.

Due to its forward location, the bedroom has an elegantly curved bulkhead, flat screen television, fantastic bedding with a down duvet and pillow menu, and a combination clock radio/i-Home I-Pod dock.

Suite 702 dressing area.

Adjoining the bedroom is a dressing area with shelves, a large mirror and makeup counter.

Suite 702 closet.

And, of course, there is a walk-in closet with cotton bathrobes and an abundance of wooden hangars.

Marble master bathroom in Suite 702.

In addition to the commodious guest bathroom, Suite 702 has a palatial marble master bathroom with a separate rain forest shower, a whirlpool tub, partitioned toilet and bidet area and twin sinks. Silversea provides Bvlgari toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, bath gel and moisturizer) as well as cotton balls and swabs.

Our man Ari.

All Silversea suites come with a dedicated butler in addition to room stewards. Our butler, Ari (Arindam), hails from Calcutta and spent three years working in some of India’s finest hotels before two years training with Robert Watson’s butler school. He is poised, elegantly mannered, impeccably attired, outgoing and makes all tasks, no matter how menial or arduous, appear effortless.

Champagne and chocolates.

In each suite, fresh fruit, flowers, a stocked mini bar (that is replenished daily), a bottle of champagne and a box of exquisite Pierre Marcolini chocolates is provided. With so much indulgence at our constant beck and call, it would be a challenge to figure out exactly when we would be drinking that bottle of champagne…

Leaving Lisbon.

Right on schedule at 6:00 PM, the SILVER SPIRIT cast her lines and began her thrust away from the quay. She was well into the Tagus by the time we reached the terrace on forward Deck 11 to bid farewell to Lisbon. Our Atlantic-bound course would coincide with the setting sun.

Ponte de 25 Abril bridge.

Spanning the Tagus, Lisbon’s distinctive Ponte de 25 Abril is named for the date of Portugal’s independence from the Salazar regime. Originally called the Salazar Bridge, it was built in 1966 and the zig zag design of its towers is almost identical to those of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge (although they are often likened to the Golden Gate, thanks to their orange paint scheme).

Turn to Stone: Padrao Dos Descubrimentos.

The Discoveries Monument is one of several scenic sentinels on the Lisbon side of the Tagus. The 160 foot stone caravelle was constructed in 1960, honoring the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry The Navigator. Included among its stone luminaries are Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan as well as a mosaic mural retracing the routes of the explorers.

Belem.

A bit further west, Tores de Belem is one of Lisbon’s most beloved and historic monuments. The UNESCO designated fortress was built in 1515 to defend the city’s strategic harbor during the reign of King Manuel I.

Smoldering sunset.

As the SILVER SPIRIT neared the Carcavellos fortress near the mouth of the Tagus, the sun met the horizon.

Embers astern.

Meanwhile, its parting rays glinted in the hills above Lisbon.

MV SILVER SPIRIT La Terrazza, facing starboard.

SILVER SPIRIT has no less than seven nightly dining options. We began our culinary voyage with an 8:00 reservation at La Terrazza, the ship’s authentic Italian eatery on aft Deck 7.

Carpaccio in La Terrazza.

Rob began with the Beef Carpaccio with Arugula, Celery and Parmesan Cheese versus my Insalata di Campo (wild greens with parmesan, walnuts and capers with fresh herb dressing).

Tuna entrée in La Terrazza

Among the four entrées offered on our first night in La Terrazza was a Grilled Fillet of Tuna with Vegetable Caponata.

Night deck.

The first night ended relatively early in the wake of our transatlantic flights. After a short walk around the SILVER SPIRIT’s temperate lido…

Sleepy time in Suite 702.

we headed back to Suite 702 where those plush mattresses, 100% Egyptian cotton sheets and down pillows would work in tandem to help us sleep off some of that jet lag…

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Every morning on board the SILVER SPIRIT a satellite-fed USA, U.K. or Canadian Times is delivered to each stateroom. In addition, a menu of worldwide papers can be ordered upon request.

Silver suite breakfast.

We awoke to an elegantly presented en suite breakfast that included poached eggs with toast, fresh squeezed orange juice, cappuccino, muesli and granola.

MV SILVER SPIRIT Show Room.

The SILVER SPIRIT has a cabaret style Show Room on aft Deck 5 that is large enough to accommodate the ship’s full complement of guests. Seating is especially comfortable atop mini sofas with wooden arms and built-in drink trays.

Cooking demo in theater.

At 11:00 AM, we attended the first in a series of L’Ecole Des Chefs culinary demos in the Show Lounge. Hosted by Guest Chef David Bilsand and Head Sommelier Kire, the topic was Food and Wine Pairing: Flavors of the Caribbean. Large video screens on either side of the stage provided close ups of the ingredients and preparation as the chefs described their techniques.

La Terrrazza lunch buffet salad bar.

Although we had just eaten breakfast, there was still some room for an indulgent lunch in La Terrazza. I got very familiar with the salad bar and its market fresh ingredients which included a selection of greens and numerous veggies. There was no shortage of organic balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated, 24-month aged Reggiano Parmesan from Umbria to make any salad a feast of flavor.

Sushi bar in La Terrazza.

In the meantime, Rob found an assortment of sushi and sashimi at the sushi bar to douse in freshly sliced ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.

Art For Food's Sake! La Terrazza chocolate cakes.

The baked desserts were so beautifully presented, it took some artful discipline to just settle for some high calorie photos of each selection.

Balconization of Rob.

Rob enjoyed a sun-drenched siesta on the balcony.

Enrichment lecture in show room.

I attended guest lecturer Philip Hurst’s presentation in the Show Lounge entitled “European Sunset/Pacific Dawn: The Return Of The Dragon” about China’s growing economic and political power. Hurst is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London and is a prominent Anglo-Australian international and constitutional lawyer, lecturer and writer.

Silver shoes.

Meanwhile, “our man” Ari had somehow made off with our dress shoes, only to bring them back in freshly polished black to don on our first formal night aboard the SILVER SPIRIT.

Suite sunset at sea.

Our first day at sea did not pass without another spectacular sunset.

SILVER SPIRIT Restaurant, facing forward.

All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in SILVER SPIRIT’s spacious, elegant Restaurant are open seating. Settings are enhanced with real candles, fine porcelain, pressed linens and crystal stemware. Lunch and dinner menus change daily and feature a selection of Always Available courses in addition to a Relais & Chateaux “La Collection du Monde” appetizer, intermediate and entrée in partnership with Silversea.

Grilled salmon in the Restaurant.

The Grilled Salmon With Lemon Dressing (an Always Available entree) was utter perfection in flavor, texture and presentation.

Strawberry bombe.

I polished off the night with a succulent Strawberry Yogurt Bombe. Sweet Dreams!

End Of First Post: Much More To Come…

Special thanks: Brad Ball, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Gina Finocchiaro, Paolo Percivale

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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