Next year, Silversea will take delivery of its first brand-new, purpose-built luxury cruise ship in seven years: the 596-guest Silver Muse. Not only is she the newest ship in the Silversea fleet, she’s also the largest, carrying an additional 56 guests over her near-sister, Silver Spirit.

Silver Muse, Silversea's newest ship. courtesy Silversea

Silversea’s Silver Muse is moving ever closer to her April 2017 debut. Rendering courtesy of Silversea.

Since we visited her at the Fincantieri Shipyard in Genoa, Italy back in December, Silver Muse has come a long way. Ten days before Christmas, we stood in front of the drydock for the traditional keel-laying ceremony. The ship that was to become Silver Muse hadn’t really taken shape yet; little more than a few blocks of the lower portion of her hull existed.

Eight months later, that’s all changed. On July 1, Silver Muse was officially floated out, her hull meeting the water that she will sail for the first time ever. Next, she’ll undergo her final fitting-out and sea trials before entering service next April.

Don’t be fooled by her exterior appearance: this is no Silver Spirit 2.0. While many of the Silversea features you know and love are returning to Silver Muse in a new and updated form, there are plenty of new features as well – including larger suites, more top-of-the-line suites, and an entirely new dining concept for the line.

Here’s what we’re excited about:

Revitalized Dining

Say goodbye to the main dining room: Silver Muse is pioneering a new, more intimate style of restaurant. Shown here is Atlantide, one of two new venues on Deck 4. Rendering courtesy of Silversea.

Say goodbye to the main dining room: Silver Muse is pioneering a new, more intimate style of restaurant. Shown here is Atlantide, one of two new venues on Deck 4. Rendering courtesy of Silversea.

The Restaurant, Silversea’s main dining venue aboard all of it’s ships, won’t be returning to Silver Muse – and we’re not sad to see it go. Why? Aboard nearly all of the vessel’s ships, the main dining room – while gorgeous – was never full. On Silver Spirit in particular, with its myriad of alternative dining options, the main dining room frequently feels empty, particularly on port-intensive days when guests are dining at odd times.

Silver Muse rectifies that by taking the space formerly occupied by The Restaurant and splitting it into two distinct dining venues – each of which will have their own built-in bar to allow guests to mingle over pre-dinner cocktails.

The two new venues – Indochine and Atlantide – will feature entirely unique culinary creations. Atlantide will, as the name suggests, feature a bevvy of seafood like royal crab, blue lobster and Verbena infused red snapper in a sea salt crust alongside more traditional steaks. Indochine, on the other hand, will unlock the flavours of Asia, from India to Vietnam.

The restyled Kabuki could be thought of as Seishin 2.0. Rendering courtesy of Silversea.

The restyled Kabuki could be thought of as Seishin 2.0. Rendering courtesy of Silversea.

Also returning to Silver Muse -but renamed – are La Dame by Relais & Chateaux, perhaps better known as Le Champagne, Silversea’s pinnacle dining experience that boasts dishes like Gold Leaf Risotto, Lobster Bisque, and exquisite cuts of meat and fish. Kabuki is the new iteration of Seishin, the Japanese-inspired restaurant introduced aboard Silver Spirit back in 2009. Another Silver Spirit innovation returning (but renamed) aboard Silver Muse is Silver Note, which takes the place of Stars Supperclub but which will still offer live jazz music paired with a set evening tasting menu that can be paired with hand-crafted cocktails or fine wines.

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The Passage to Eastern Europe Is A Pleasant Surprise

Sailing the famous Iron Gates of the Danube aboard Viking River Cruises' Viking Embla. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Sailing the famous Iron Gates of the Danube aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Embla. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, River Cruise Advisor

If you ever want to appreciate the value of a cruise, take a long-haul flight in economy class. I have two inches between my knees and the seat in front of me, and even less between my elbow and my seatmates’ elbow, which keeps encroaching on my personal space. I’m dining on a luscious meal of “chicken”, with the alternative being, “pasta.” To wash that down, I’m kicking back some very adequate Merlot. And, on my personal five-inch-by-five-inch inset seatback screen, I’m watching William H. Macy bumble his way through a botched kidnapping in Fargo.

My journey aboard Viking River CruisesPassage to Eastern Europe voyage aboard the stellar, 190-guest Viking Longship Embla came to a close on Saturday. That afternoon, I flew back to Canada, which – after 10 days in Eastern Europe – seems a lot like a glorified Disneyland.

Viking Embla docked in Vidin on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Viking Embla docked in Vidin on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I find I miss Eastern Europe. I miss the sights, the sounds, the visible scars of long-fought battles against the injustice and tyranny that affected this region so badly, and so frequently.

I also miss Viking Embla. Viking has done it again, delivering a river cruise product that continues to grow and mature along with its ever-expanding fleet. I was interested to sail aboard Viking Embla, which celebrates her fourth birthday this year. I was worried she might look tired or run-down. Instead, she sparkles – just like when I stepped aboard her when she was just weeks old, back in 2012.

Welcome aboard Viking River Cruises' Viking Longship Embla on the eve of our Passage to Eastern Europe river cruise! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Now four years old, Viking Longship Embla still sparkles like new. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The groundbreaking Aquavit Terrace was a first for the river cruise industry. It is now often-copied but never imitated. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The groundbreaking Aquavit Terrace was a first for the river cruise industry. It is now often-copied but never imitated. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This has been a most unexpected voyage through a part of the world that’s full of surprises. And one of the best surprises is that, when it comes to Viking’s river cruise product, it seems to always be getting better with age.

Our full Voyage Report:

After spending 10 days on this fantastic voyage, I’ve come to the conclusion that this isn’t the trip you take as your first river cruise; that should be Viking’s Romantic Danube or something of the like. Instead, this is a great river cruise to complete on your second, third, or fourth voyage.

Inside the National Theatre, Belgrade, as part of our optional tour with Viking River Cruises. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Inside the National Theatre, Belgrade, as part of our optional tour with Viking River Cruises. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

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Our Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Embla in Eastern Europe has sadly come to a close, but we’ve always got more exciting river journeys in the works. Be sure to follow along on twitter @deckchairblog or using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

Budapest On Foot

Today, I set out to explore the city of Budapest, Hungary entirely on foot. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Today, I set out to explore the city of Budapest, Hungary entirely on foot. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Friday, July 15, 2016

After beginning our Viking River CruisesPassage to Eastern Europe voyage in Bucharest, Romania last week, it’s now time to say goodbye: today, Viking guests enjoyed a day at their leisure in Budapest, Hungary to cap off this 10-day journey through some of Europe’s most fascinating countries.

With another group of guests occupying Viking Embla, this final day in Budapest began from our post-cruise base at the Hilton Budapest hotel. Located on the “Buda” side of Budapest, it has the advantage of offering picturesque views of Fisherman’s Bastion and the Matthias Church from its perch up on Castle Hill. Unfortunately, it’s also removed from the majority of attractions in the city, most of which lie on the “Pest” (pronounced “pesht”) side of the Danube.

My somewhat circuitous route through Budapest, as approximately as I can map it out in Google Maps.

My somewhat circuitous route through Budapest, as approximately as I can map it out in Google Maps.

Last evening, I walked down from the hotel and across the Chain Bridge over to the Pest side in about 15 minutes. Today, the bridge was closed for the Red Bull Air Race, which begins tomorrow and runs through Sunday. Today, turbo-charged prop planes were doing practice maneuvers along the Danube. It made for some great views and photo opportunities – but it meant a longer walk to cross the Elizabeth Bridge into Pest. Total time: nearly 45 minutes.

If you don’t want to walk, you have two options: a taxi, or the Number 16 – Deak ter bus. Budapest city council recently chased Uber out of the city, so that option is no longer available.

The lobby of the Budapest Hilton is quite attractive. Sadly, most rooms haven't had similar updates yet. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The lobby of the Budapest Hilton is quite attractive. Sadly, most rooms haven’t had similar updates yet. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Normally, neither option would be an issue. Today, I’m glad I made the walk along the Danube promenade and over the Elizabeth Bridge: traffic was absolutely snarled in every direction, with cars prevented from accessing any points on or near the Chain Bridge. Add to that the closure of the Liberty Bridge, and you’ve got the makings for the worst Friday morning commute ever.

Now, I chose to enjoy a day in Budapest on my own. While Viking doesn’t offer any complimentary tours today, it was offering four additional cost excursions:

  • Szentendre Excursion – 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM, €59pp. Visit Szentendre, 10 miles north of Budapest, to visit the galleries and shops of this quaint town. An extensive collection of Margrit Kovacs ceramic works are located here as well. Tour includes coffee break with snacks and beverages.
  • Best of Budapest & Thermal Baths 8:30 AM – 11:00 PM, €209pp. You read that right: this all-day tour lasts for over 12 hours and includes visits to the Grand Market Hall; a traditional Hungarian lunch; a dip in the Rudas Thermal Bath, and an evening dinner with wine pairings at the Borkapolna Wine Chapel just 1.5 miles from the hotel.
  • Dohany Street Synagogue & Jewish Budapest – 1:00 PM – 4:30 PM, €59pp. Focusing exclusively on the Jewish history of Budapest, this tour includes a visit to the massive Doany Synagogue along with a walking tour of the Jewish Quarter. Once the Budapest Ghetto, guests can visit to the Tree of Life memorial to the over 400,000 Hungarian Jews killed by the Nazis.
  • Godollo Excursion – 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, €79pp. This tour travels 18 miles outside of Budapest to see Godollo, the location of the Royal Palace of Hungary that was used as a summer retreat for Emperor Franz Joseph.

I, on the other hand, set out to have a random day in Budapest. All you need is a map and a couple of addresses to start you off.

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Our Voyage Report from onboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Embla in Eastern Europe has sadly come to a close, but stay tuned for our full Voyage Recap coming next week. Be sure to follow along on twitter @deckchairblog or using the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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