Silversea: Luxury and La Dolce Vita
Amy recently enjoyed a taste of luxury with Silversea, cruising from Athens to Venice. Here's what she thought of her cruise...
‘So it’s a great itinerary, including Athens, Dubrovnik, and Venice, it’s a six-star luxury cruise ship – all-inclusive, with our own butler, so we can have a bottle of champagne every evening and be served Buck’s Fizz with breakfast on our balcony every morning’. Sitting in a London wine and cocktail bar, that was how I managed to convince my friend, Lauren, to join me onboard Silver Spirit from Athens to Venice this August. After months of planning, discussing what clothes to wear, booking our dining reservations and our excursions, we excitedly set off from Heathrow to Athens. This was Lauren’s second cruise, as she had previously joined me on a mini-cruise with another cruise line, but this was both a first for us, sailing with Silversea, and an exciting taste of luxury cruising for the both of us. We’d booked our flights and hotel stays independently, although Silversea offer their own packages (Cruise Select also offer tailored Silversea packages to suit your interests and requirements on a bespoke level, too).
We’d booked an overnight stay at the Royal Olympic Hotel in Athens which, so our taxi driver told us, was one of the top three hotels in the city. We passed Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus ruins, opposite which we were dropped off outside our hotel and greeted by a hotel porter clad in a dark green tailcoat (somewhat reminiscent of the Guardsman in the Wizard of Oz). I was impressed by the interior of the hotel; it seemed expansive, yet welcoming. Our room was spacious, well appointed, and featured a balcony overlooking the incredibly inviting-looking pool below. After a bit of a stroll around the local vicinity towards the Plaka district, where we had a spot of lunch of typical Greek fare (Greek salad and pork gyro), we later headed back to our hotel, enjoying an Aperol Spritz on the balcony before getting ready. Originally the plan was to enjoy a drink or two on the rooftop bar, and then head out to a local restaurant. However, as we sipped our Aperol Spritzes and looked upon the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis as the sun set, we felt so incredibly relaxed, and eventually we simply could not tear ourselves away from the views, which must surely have been some of the best in the city! So we enjoyed some very tasty grilled octopus and a very nice bottle of red wine from the Greek island of Paros at the rooftop restaurant of the hotel – a perfect way to start our holiday.
After a refreshing breakfast the following morning, complete with the stunning views from the rooftop, we set off for the Acropolis. We had plenty of time before having to worry about embarking on the ship, and had decided it’d be better to avoid the worst of the day’s heat. Arriving at about 9-9.30, I was at first a little cress-fallen to realise we’d apparently turned up at the same time as various coach groups. However, the queue to get tickets wasn’t too bad considering, moving reasonably quickly. The Acropolis is one of the most iconic monuments in the world, and is synonymous not just with Greece, but with UNESCO World Heritage. It symbolises a past civilisation to which we owe so much, from democracy to theatre. Sat atop a hill (which can at times mean some steep walking), this ancient citadel comprises some of the most historically significant ruins of the ancient world, but from its vantage position, also offers excellent panoramic views of the sprawling modern city that Athens has become today – a fascinating and striking contrast, which reminds us and connects us to the city’s long and storied history as one of world’s oldest cities, with a recorded history spanning back over 3,400 years.
We saw some more of Athens’ landmarks and history on a charming and genteel tourist train, before tucking into lunch in the Plaka district, after which we returned to the hotel to pick up our luggage – having already checked out – and heading off to Piraeus, the port for Athens. Piraeus has served as Athens’ port city since classical antiquity in the early 5th century BC. The modern port of Piraeus is Europe’s largest passenger port, and the second largest in the world. The new passenger terminal, where cruise ships dock, is just eight miles from Athens, and it’s a reasonably quick and painless taxi journey. It is possible to get there by public transport, but for convenience we chose a taxi – particularly with our heavy and cumbersome suitcases! I eagerly anticipated the thrill of catching the first glimpse of our ship, particularly as it was a first time for cruising with Silversea, and the excitement did not disappoint!
As soon as we arrived at the port, we were greeted by a representative of Silversea who ushered us into the terminal building to begin check-in, although we were soon on the ship, in the sleek and contemporary reception. Greeted with a glass of champagne, our check-in was soon completed, and a suave, white-gloved butler cheerfully took us up to our suite. This was certainly a more pleasant way to check-in than waiting in the cruise terminal!
Once we were in our verandah suite, we felt right at home. Spacious and well appointed, with a lovely bathroom, complete with Italian marble and both a shower and a bath, the suite also boasted warm, welcoming colours. In both the bedroom and the sitting room, we had flat screen TVs discretely hiding behind large mirrors. Our balcony became our sanctuary to relax in with champagne and watch the sunset, or eat a refreshing breakfast to start the day. We were soon introduced to our Butler, Anil, who offered us a welcome bottle of Prosecco, very in keeping with Silversea’s proud Italian tradition. As we got settled and unpacked, we later enjoyed a couple bottles of champagne, and some room service. Anil very quickly cottoned on to our penchant for champagne, and without needing to directly ask for a bottle every evening, he intuitively replenished our mini-bar with a bottle of champagne throughout our cruise – which was a very pleasant surprise when we came back from our first excursion the next day!
We’d booked three excursions for our cruise: a tour of Olympia and a visit to a Greek winery for our first port of call, Katakolon, a walking tour of Kotor, and a cable car and buggy excursion in Dubrovnik. Our other ports of call – Corfu, Hvar, and Venice – we’d decided to explore independently. I was glad that we'd booked an extra night in Venice after the cruise, enjoying a stay at the Aqua Palace in a beautiful, spacious room with views - and a balcony - overlooking a canal, and close to Rialto Bridge and San Marco (although hard to find if you don't have a sense of direction). This was a really beautiful itinerary, visiting some truly stunning destinations, and generally hugging the coastline, so there seemed to be very little time cruising on the open sea. With no full days at sea, it truly was destination-focussed, and we stayed in port overnight in Kotor, leaving early for Dubrovnik for a short sail, and overnight in Venice before disembarking. I enjoyed our Silversea excursions, as I felt they gave an extra depth of understanding to Olympia and Kotor, and the buggy excursion in Dubrovnik was full of thrills, laughs, and great panoramic views. I noticed that tour group sizes were kept small, so that guests could get more out of the excursion; able to ask the tour guide more questions, and not clog up the small, winding streets. This was in stark comparison to spotting tours from other cruise lines; in Kotor, I noticed that one tour guide had a megaphone to bellow out commentary to a large group of tourists, still straggling behind due to the numbers of their group. Our tour guides were informative and engaging, particularly in Olympia, where we learnt not just about the original Olympic games, but about the religious significance of the site, Greek myths, and an earlier settlement. The Olympia Land Winery we visited was a young vineyard, but the tasting was without the usual pretensions you’d expect; instead, it was more like being invited in to enjoy some canapes and wines. The walking tour of Kotor included a visit to its cathedral and to the maritime museum, and it was nice to flesh out the place with a bit more background information - and with our individual 'quietvox' headsets, it was easy to follow the commentary without having to stick too closely to the tour guide. Kotor is a small but picturesque town set on the Bay of Bokor, surrounded by dramatic scenery, and I made sure to get up early as we sailed in to take in the staggering splendour of the mountains, dotted with small settlements. Throughout our itinerary, we discovered medieval charms and the influence of the once mighty Venetian Empire was everywhere, from Corfu to Venice itself.
A couple afternoons, we headed to the pool to relax after exploring ashore. Here, we enjoyed Aperol Spritzes, and were offered a cold towel to cool our faces in the sun. Our evenings were spent getting ready for dinner, enjoying sublime food, and then perhaps heading to the Panorama Lounge for drinks and a bit of dancing. Unfortunately, we cleared the floor with our request for the Spice Girls one night. Another night, we headed down to the Show Lounge to catch the ‘Musica Maestro’, performed by the Voices of Silversea to a musical score arranged, performed and recorded exclusively for Silversea by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. I’m not usually one for cruise entertainment, I tend to find it very cringe-inducing and over-the-top, but this was quite a stylish and slick performance. Other nights, we would just relax on our balcony – it was heaven.
Although we tended to eat lunch ashore, we experienced each of the dining venues onboard at night. Silver Spirit has a varied and eclectic range of cuisines on offer to cater for most tastes, from the Italian tradition of slow food to strong Japanese influences on fine, Asian-fusion. The first two nights we ate in The Restaurant, the main dining venue onboard, with a menu which changes daily.
The choices available were incredible, and it was almost impossible to choose! Elegantly presented, the food was absolutely delicious. Our waiters were friendly and personable, too. The first of the speciality restaurants we dined at was the Stars Supper Club, which I loved. The premise behind Stars is quite unique, evoking the glamour of New York’s legendary Rainbow Room, with a five-course degustation menu, with each course featuring three different tapas dishes. Whilst you enjoy cocktails, wine, and food, the velvety, soulful notes of the cabaret singer really adds to the atmosphere, transporting you back to the supper clubs of the 1930s. For me, this dining experience was a highlight, and a must-do, which I would highly recommend for any cruise onboard Silver Spirit. It’s not just that the martinis were wonderfully mixed, or that the food was delicious – and included some dishes that I wouldn’t normally get to try, such as frog’s leg – but the whole ambience made it a special experience. The next night, we made the most of being in port over night with an al fresco dinner at The Grill, enjoying succulent steaks, which we cooked to our own liking on a heated volcanic ‘hot rock’ plate, listening to the sizzle. From where we sat, we overlooked the Pool, and could see the dramatic mountains surrounding Kotor as the sun set. The next two nights, we ate at Le Champagne and Seishin respectively, which both incurred a reservation charge of $40 per person, and were both situated on deck four, near the Restaurant. Le Champagne by Relais and Château is an indulgence in fine dining, and Silversea boast the only Relais and Château at sea. Both Le Champagne and Seishin are much smaller than the other dining venues onboard, offering an intimate ambience, and are both highly sought after; be sure to make your reservations early, as they are high in demand! Seishin, named after the Japanese word for ‘spirit’, is heavily inspired by Japanese cuisine, and offers a choice of two sampler menus of about four or five courses, or a seven-course degustation menu, which we opted for. The food is prepared in front of you by the chef in the centrally placed Chef’s Table, starting with sushi and sashimi. Finally, we ended our cruise with authentic Italian dishes as we dined al fresco at La Terrazza, which offers a more casual lunch-time alternative during the day. Throughout the cruise, the dining was highly enjoyable, and something we looked forward to each day – we had the opportunity to try dishes we wouldn’t ordinarily get to sample, the dining venues were beautiful, the service friendly and warm, the food sublime and stylishly presented.
During my SIlversea cruise, I was reminded of why I love cruising, from the simplicity and serenity of just watching the ocean, feeling its immensity but also its calming sensations, from the privacy of a balcony, to enjoying delectable dining, and waking up somewhere new. Silver Spirit is a beautiful ship, and with only 540 guests, it was peaceful and without crowds. I didn’t want the cruise to end! After all, who would want to go back to the humdrum of everyday life, after being so pampered?
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