Off to Athens

Today is the start of another Live Voyage Report here on From the Deck Chair, and I am excited to be sailing aboard Silversea’s magnificent Silver Spirit on Voyage 5110G from Athens to Barcelona.  A segment of her very first World Cruise that began in Los Angeles back in January, this week-long voyage is remarkable both for its itinerary and the amount of guest speakers who are onboard to enrich passengers.

Excited is perhaps an overly simple word: I’ve been anxiously awaiting this day for months.  My Silversea 2011 Voyage Guide is almost falling apart at the seam, and the next ten days have been the object of countless thoughts, daydreams and excitement in my mind for quite some time.

In a few short hours, we’re headed to Vancouver International Airport to board a KLM flight to Amsterdam, where we’ll spend roughly two hours before boarding another, smaller KLM flight to the mind-bogglingly ancient city of Athens, Greece.  Our airfare was arranged by Silversea, which offers complimentary economy-class airfare from twenty-two major North American gateways on nearly every voyage – a huge value considering how rapidly the price of air travel has been increasing lately.

One of the Club Intercontinental rooms at the Athenaeum Athens, overlooking the Acropolis. Photo courtesy of InterContinental Hotels & Resorts.

After an overnight stay at the well-appointed Athens Athenaeum Intercontinental, it’s off to the port city of Piraeus on Tuesday to board the beautiful, elegant Silver Spirit. Our full itinerary, both onboard and here on the blog:

Date

Day

Port

Arrive

Depart

May 03 2011 Tue Piraeus (Athens), Greece 6:00 PM
May 04 2011 Wed Day at Sea
May 05 2011 Thu Taormina, Italy 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
May 06 2011 Fri Sorrento, Italy 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
May 07 2011 Sat Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy 7:00 AM 7:00 PM
May 08 2011 Sun Monte Carlo, Monaco 9:00 AM 6:00 PM
May 09 2011 Mon Barcelona, Spain 1:00 PM
May 10 2011 Tue Barcelona, Spain

Built in 2009 by Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, Silver Spirit was Silversea’s first newbuild in almost a decade, following on the heels of the extremely popular sisters, Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper.

Silver Spirit docked in Key West, Florida. Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders

Carrying just 540 guests, Silver Spirit boasts one of the highest passenger-to-space ratios in the industry at 65.5.  The average mainstream cruise ship, on the other hand, has a passenger-to-space ratio typically between 30 and 40.  The smaller the number, the more crowded the ship will feel.  Silver Spirit feels every bit like she was created just for you.  She also pioneered innovations that have not only distinguished her from her shipmates, but that have also been highly successful for the line at the same time.  The new, 1930’s style Bar area on Deck 5 has been a huge hit, and is one of the most popular evening drink spots onboard.  Silversea’s signature Black Rock Outdoor Dining debuted aboard Silver Spirit, along with the Japanese-themed Seishin specialty restaurant.  The Spa at Silversea, located aft on Deck 6, is the largest in the fleet, enticing passengers to relax and indulge themselves.

In short, Silver Spirit managed to offer more of everything while still staying true to the line’s roots. They didn’t do anything crazy, like putting in an ice rink or a three-deck high waterslide.  Instead, it’s as if they took the Silver Shadow and just made it a little taller and a little longer, opting to add another chapter in a well-loved book rather than rewriting the genre.

Star the day off right with a delicious cup of coffee from The Bar aboard Silversea's Silver Spirit. Photo © Aaron Saunders

It was that sense of uniqueness that captured our hearts on our very first Silver Spirit voyage in December.  It was our first voyage with the line, and our first time on an ultra-luxury cruise. And after over twenty cruises, it was like discovering cruising all over again.

There are no lines on Silversea; they just don’t exist.  There’s also no annoying photographers waiting at the gangway, or bothering you during dinner.  If, like me, you’ve developed a habit of showing up in public rooms thirty minutes before a scheduled event, you’ll have to break that habit here: in the nine days I spent aboard Silver Spirit in December, I never once had an issue finding a seat in any public room, or on deck, or even on the prized outdoor terrace at La Terrazza.  As a matter of fact, I can’t even think of a time when I had to wait for much of anything!

Relaxation is also a key element for the line, and to that end, tipping is neither required nor expected, and almost all beverages are included in your cruise fare.  The only beverage you might pay extra for is an extremely rare-vintage wine or spirit, and frankly the complimentary offerings are so abundant, varied, and of terrific quality that I’d be hard-pressed to desire anything else.

For me, not having to hand over my onboard account card every time I wanted a can of Coke or a glass of wine was relaxation at its finest.

But beyond the fantastic accommodations, the beautiful ship and the delicious food, one thing stood head and shoulders above the rest:  the service.  The amazing, “no request is too small” service.

Amazing: the bedroom of Silver Suite 1106. Photo © 2010 Aaron Saunders

Every suite on board Silversea has a butler, who is there to explain your room to you, answer any questions you might have, and generally arrange for everything from room service to packing and unpacking your luggage, if you so desire.  If, like me, you’re not used to being served this way all the time (or ever!), know this: the line’s dedicated butlers take immense pride in their work. This isn’t just some job; this is their chosen profession, and they’re pleased to help you in any way they can.  Our butler Karthik seemed genuinely disappointed that we didn’t take him up on his offer to bring our room service order to us course-by-course, just like in The Restaurant.

But that’s the incredible dedication of the staff onboard a Silversea ship, and we saw it throughout.  It both impressed and moved me in ways that I can’t find the words to describe, other than to say I felt absolute and utter gratitude that every crew member would show that level of interest and kindness to us.  I’m likely not the typical Silversea demographic.  My fiancée and I are in our late twenties, and on the flight to Barbados in December I briefly worried we wouldn’t fit in.

I could not have been more wrong!

I am truly excited to be going back for an entire week aboard what I’ve come to think of as my “explorer ship.”  Believe it or not, there were plenty of amenities and features aboard Silver Spirit that I just never got around to photographing, experiencing and writing about last time – and this time I intend to fix that.

So join us here every day for the next ten days as we sail through the Mediterranean from Athens to Barcelona, complete with plenty of photos and interesting facts.

The Live Voyage Report of Silver Spirit’s Voyage 5110G, May 3 to May 10, 2011, begins now!

 

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