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Portsmouth and the beautiful Silver Explorer
“Lunch is being served in the dining room.”
After a full day of flying from Canada to London’s Heathrow airport, followed by a 90-minute journey to the southern port of Portsmouth, never have more wonderful words been uttered. I found myself seated onboard Silversea’s trailblazing Silver Explorer, admiring the dark wood panelling that adorns the elegantly-appointed restaurant just five minutes after embarking – and even then, that might be exaggerated because I got turned around. Had I not lost my way, it probably would have been more like three minutes.
I know you’re all curious to know how an embarkation on this beautiful ship could take so little time, so here’s how it worked: I walked up the gangway. Security checked my passport against the passenger list. Then, I made a left-hand turn and walked to the Panorama Lounge all the way aft on Deck 5. There, Silver Explorer’s extremely capable staff took my passport and issued me with the keycard to my suite.
And then: “Lunch is being served in the dining room.”
Two things about this beautiful little vessel would undoubtedly surprise passengers: the fact that she was built in 1989, and the fact that she is the only vessel in the Silversea fleet that was purchased second-hand. But a top-to-bottom refit upon her purchase in 2008 has her looking as if she was always destined to be a Silversea ship, right down to the trim on the baseboards. She doesn’t shake, rattle, creak or groan – something I wondered about on such a small ship. There’s little or no vibration, save for at the very stern where a slight bounce is perceptible. But hey – you’re expedition cruising!
What has impressed me the most today is how “at home” I feel here. To start with, my lunch was served to me by Kim, a generous man with a kind smile that I recognized from when Kim (my fiancée, who couldn’t make it this time) and I sailed aboard the Silver Spirit to the Med last year – and he remembered me instantly, asking where Miss Kim was. I hadn’t expected to know any crew aboard the Explorer, yet I was pleasantly surprised to find that familiar “Silversea” feeling come rushing back.
Which brings me to my home-away-from-home for the next 11 days: a spacious 460-square foot Silver Suite that comes complete with not one, but two, French balconies. The same guiding principles that have made the Silver Suites such a catch on other ships works here, too: a separate living area, sleeping area, and bathroom are included. Heck, there’s even a walk-in closet – a rarity among many other expedition ships. I got hooked on French Balconies during my river cruising experiences, and I love them. Sure, you can’t sit out on them like you could a regular balcony, but consider Silver Explorer’s size and itineraries, and you’ll see why going French was a great choice.
But let’s not forget: Silver Explorer is a true working ship. She’s built to withstand any of the hundreds of different types of weather she may encounter, and as such, she comes with all the necessary requirements that implies.
It’s important to watch your step aboard Silver Explorer, as doors routinely have weather ledges that you have to clear and some public rooms have steps up or down as you enter them. Cargo cranes load and unload provisions from the dock onto the ship’s decks, and are also used to transport the Zodiac rafts from their storage position on Deck 7.
Contrary to what you might think, none of the aforementioned is a negative; in fact, it only enhances Silver Explorer’s distinctive nature as a true expedition ship – Silversea-style.
Even in my jet-lagged state, there were still things about this elegant little ship that jumped out at me as being super-cool, like the collection of nautical memorabilia that graces the Library on Deck 5 and the Observation Lounge on Deck 6, or the fact that visits to the Navigation Bridge are permitted when allowed.
Education, self-discovery and active travelling are all major themes here aboard the Silver Explorer; there will be no days of sleeping in until 10AM like I experienced aboard Silver Spirit last month – and that’s just how Silver Explorer’s passengers like it!
Robin West, our Expedition leader (there’s no talk of “cruises” or “voyages” here!), held an informational briefing in The Theatre after we set sail from Portsmouth at 6pm this evening. These are held daily to recap events of the day before unveiling the tantalizing possibilities for tomorrow.
We had the choice of four different tours for our visit to Lyme Regis tomorrow – two in the morning, two in the afternoon. They’re included in the cost of your fare, too, so you can do as many as you’d like; just head on down to Reception on Deck 3 and sign yourself up! Tomorrow, I’m taking you all Fossil Hunting along the rocky shores of Lyme Regis!
As we’re going to be heading ashore via Zodiac, we were also briefed on how to put on our special Zodiac lifejackets and how to embark and disembark these versatile craft.
Every passenger, including myself, is also given a Silversea backpack and a stainless steel water bottle. The water bottle is a cool feature – you won’t find plastic bottles anywhere aboard Silver Explorer, nor do any of the tour operators provide bottled water. This is done to reduce the astonishing amount of waste generated by these used plastic containers, which is counter to what Silversea Expeditions stands for: responsible, sustainable tourism.
Tonight, I’m cheating a little bit – or, as I prefer to think of it, enjoying all that Silversea has to offer. I’m feeling quite jet-lagged, so I opted to take advantage of room service, complete with all the trimmings!
Finally, I feel as if I may be in cruise geek heaven, because everyone sailing aboard Silver Explorer right now has that same thirst for adventure and quest for knowledge that I do. There’s an astonishing amount of experiences to be had, both on and off the ship, and our relatively small size and agile Zodiac landing craft make it easy for Silversea and the crew to plan on the fly.
New developments just as of this evening: I’d already written that tomorrow is a big day for the town of Lyme Regis, but it turns out they are truly pulling out all the stops: the Mayor himself will be personally there to greet each and every passenger as they come ashore.
Now how often do you get to do that on a Sunday morning?
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s adventurous Silver Explorer returns tomorrow as we call on the “Jurassic Coast” of Lyme Regis, UK.
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