A Day of Exploration in the Isles of Scilly

Coming ashore in Tresco, Isles of Scilly. Silver Explorer is in the background. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

A little after 8AM this morning, Silversea’s Silver Explorer let her starboard anchor go with a thunderous rattle, announcing our arrival at the remote Isles of Scilly.  On our port side was our morning destination, the island of Tresco.  To our starboard, the Island of St. Mary’s beckoned us for an afternoon call.

Guests could also sign up for an afternoon birding and botany walk with expedition team members Chris and Hans Peter, or choose to wander around Hugh Town, the largest town on St. Mary’s.

Silver Explorer, as seen from the Zodiacs. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

To be completely honest, I’d never heard of Tresco, St. Mary’s or the Isles of Scilly before this trip. Chances are I’d never have ventured here had it not been for this expedition, and that’s a shame. But it’s also one of the greatest aspects of Expedition Cruising: not sure where (or what) all the ports of call are? Don’t worry – just go along and enjoy the ride!

The relaxing, peaceful walk to the Tresco Abbey Gardens. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Tresco Abbey Gardens. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Tresco ended up being more fascinating than I had initially thought it would be. After an always-enjoyable zodiac ride ashore, guests from the Silver Explorer had an easy, ten-minute walk to the Tresco Abbey Gardens, located smack in the middle of this 3.5km x 1.75km island.

Plenty of plants, flowers, trees, and even animals thrive here that wouldn't exist just 30 miles away. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The main draw here? Tresco Abbey Gardens is chocked full of flowers, trees, plants and shrubs that would never survive on the English mainland, but which are able to flourish thanks to the moderate climate in and around the Isles of Scilly. Trees from South Africa, plants from Argentina, and even exotic birds can be found on this remote island that, in the past, saw more shipwrecks than tourists. I was particularly fascinated with the Abbey’s display of salvaged figureheads from wrecks dating back more than 200 years.

It's not just the plants that are imported. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But outside the lush gardens, the island of Tresco still resembles the rugged, wind-swept and inhospitable place that surely greeted the sailors of days gone by.

The lush, rich gardens at Tresco Abbey are among the most impressive I've ever seen. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

After a great buffet-style lunch in Silver Explorer’s Restaurant and some very refreshing white wine, it was time to head ashore again, this time to explore neighbouring St. Mary’s and Hugh Town. By now, everyone has the ins and outs of the Silver Explorer’s lifejackets down pat, and everyone comes down to reception when their zodiac disembarkation group is called.  Groups are also rotated each time we use the zodiac; for example, this morning Group 3 was given the go-ahead first, and after lunch, Group 4 was invited to disembark first.

Zodiac transfers are divided up into groups to ensure minimum wait times. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

While there wasn’t much to do in Hugh Town, I still had an enjoyable stroll along the waterfront and the small side-streets, many of which have changed very little in the past one, two, or even four hundred years. In retrospect, I should have popped into one of the centuries-old pubs for a refreshing pint and a pasty, but my explorative nature got the better of me.

Hugh Town, on the island of St. Mary's. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Hugh Town has an almost Irish look and feel to it. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Upon our return from St. Mary’s this afternoon, hot lemon tea was on hand to greet us. It’s a great touch when the weather is chilly to come onboard to a waiting hot drink. In the morning, hot bullion was served in the Panorama Lounge with your choice of cheese, croutons or parsley added. In fact, I’m impressed at how well-attended both the morning Bullion and afternoon tea time are; there’s scarcely a seat available at either!

Chilled from your adventures ashore? Warm up with a nice cup of boullion. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Silversea Chronicles, the daily onboard newsletter delivered nightly to your stateroom, does a great job of listing all the available dining options.  One thing I’ve always loved about the Silversea Chronicles is that it gives me a chance to daydream about where Silversea`s ships are. Here’s a look at where the entire fleet is today:

  • Silver Cloud: Oostende, Belgium
  • Silver Shadow: En-route to Petrozavodsk, Russian Federation
  • Silver Whisper: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Silver Wind: Santorini, Greece
  • Silver Spirit: Marseille, France

St. Mary's shops pay tribute to the Island's somewhat dubious past. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

While it may seem odd to dream about another cruise while currently onboard, it`s tough not to be attracted to a tantalizing glimpse of Silver Explorer’s 2013 Expedition lineup. The expedition team hand-picked an exciting voyage next year, Voyage 7308, that sails from Tema (Accra) to Dakar.  Along the way, guests will get to visit a traditional Ewa village and school; learn about the voodoo culture; contemplate the solemn slave trade history; visit the remote Bijagos Archipelago; and photograph unusually colorful butterflies. It’s another exciting itinerary for the ship that seldom repeats ports of call.

Watching the timer drip down at High Tea in the Panorama Lounge. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

At 5pm with all of Silver Explorer’s guests onboard, we raised anchor and once again set sail, this time bound for Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland. Ironically, the cool temperatures evaporated during sail-out, replaced with the same sunshine and warm weather we were treated to yesterday in Dartmouth.  At a comfortable speed of roughly 12 knots, we should reach Waterford by 7am tomorrow morning, where we will dock alongside the city centre; another benefit of being on a small vessel!

Since my jet-lag has finally (finally!) dissipated, I was able to go around the ship this evening after most of the passengers had gone to bed to take some more photos of this extremely popular expedition ship:

Detail on the throw of the Queen-size bed in my Silver Suite aboard Silver Explorer. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The sitting room in my Silver Suite, basked in the Scilly sunset. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Crossing the Celtic Sea, bound for Waterford, Ireland on May 22, 2012. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Here’s what impresses me most about the Silver Explorer after four days onboard: Silversea was able to take a small ship that had been passed around like the village bicycle since her construction in 1989 and give it a new lease on life as a major player in the expedition cruise market.  Can you imagine what they could achieve if they ever decided to construct a purpose-built expedition ship?

The elegant Restaurant aboard Silver Explorer. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But like Silversea’s other ships, Silver Explorer is warm and welcoming, like an old friend you have the good fortune to run into every now and again. And as I sit here on Day four of this 11-day journey, I can certainly understand where all those positive, effusive comments about the Silver Explorer from guests I ran into onboard the Silver Spirit were coming from.  I’ve been asking around, polling the guests I’ve been fortunate enough to chat with about what their second-favorite ship besides the Explorer is, and most people name Silver Cloud and Silver Whisper as their next “go-to” ships.

The Panorama Lounge, first seating, port side, facing aft. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Dining room detail. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Corridors, like this one on Deck 6 Aft, have a decidedly nautical feel to them. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Elevator and stairwell on Deck 5 midships aboard Silver Explorer. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Reception area on Deck 3 midships, facing aft. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

A reader asked about dining times here onboard, and while breakfast and lunch tend to vary in timing due to excursions, our dining times for today can be taken as a rough guide:


  • Breakfast Buffet: 07:00 – 9:30
  • Lunch is Served: 12:00 – 1400
  • Dinner is Served: 19:30 – 21:00


  • Bullion is Served: 11:00 – 12:00
  • Teatime: 16:00 – 17:00
  • Tapas are Served: 1800 – 20:00


  • Early Riser’s Breakfast is Served: 06:30 – 10:00

OUTDOOR GRILL (weather permitting)

  • 12:00 – 14:00

Of course, Room Service is always available 24-hours day. Coming from the Silver Spirit, I do miss having alternate venues like Le Champagne and Hot Rocks, but I think they’d be under-utilized here given the intimate passenger count. Even still, all the menus in The Restaurant onboard Silver Explorer feature Relais & Chateaux specials paired with appropriate wines.

Casual lunch is served at the Pool Grill, Deck 6 Aft, when weather permits. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

A few readers have also asked about the average passenger age onboard, which (at least on my expedition) tends to skew older than my past voyages aboard Silver Spirit; I’d estimate the median age is mid-to-late 60’s, with a good number of passengers trending older than that. Which brings me to the final thing I’d like to leave you all with tonight: don’t wait until you’re in your 80’s to do an expedition cruise – do it now.

The Theatre, Deck 6 Forward, plays host to the daily Expedition briefings. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

There’s nothing like experiencing the extraordinary aboard a ship that exemplifies that herself to help inspire your imagination. But beware: once you do, it can be very, very addictive: in fact, three quarters of the passengers aboard Silver Explorer can attest to that!

There’s a whole world of adventure out there; it’s just a matter of deciding when you want to grab hold of it.

What adventures await us tomorrow? Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s adventurous Silver Explorer returns tomorrow as we call on the oldest city in Ireland: Waterford!


4 Responses to Silver Explorer Live Voyage Report – Day 4

  1. Kim says:

    I am so happy for you but so jealous! I am glad you are having an Awsome time just wish I could be there to enjoy with you!

  2. Nicholas Sabalos says:

    Loving every minute of the voyage! Each evening’s report is such a treat!

  3. Niamh says:

    Trip looks amazing so far! I still can’t believe you are going to be in my hometown tomorrow, or you’re probably arriving there just about now. Cannot wait to see the pics! Have a great time in the Deise!!!

    • Aaron Saunders says:

      I was indeed, and I loved every minute of it – I just wish you were here with me to toodle me around!! But you have a beautiful hometown, and I can’t wait to chat with you about it when I get back!

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