Recapping our Expedition around the British Isles

Silversea's Silver Explorer moored off Dartmouth, England. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

After spending 11 days aboard Silversea’s expedition ship, the Silver Explorer, I’m still grappling with the words needed to adequately describe this voyage. Sure, I can tell you how long the ship was (354 feet) or the difference between the Silver and Expedition Suites (French balconies), or how many guests she carries (132), but what is harder to put into perspective is just how extensive Silversea’s expedition product is.

Silver Epxlorer's size lets her sail into almost any port in the world, while her onboard zodiacs allow for shore landings in the most remote locations. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

But first, in case you missed the original report when it ran live, here are some quick links to our adventurous days onboard the Silver Explorer:

May 19 – Embarkation in Portsmouth, England

May 20 – Fossil Hunting in Lyme Regis, England

May 21 – Dartmouth, England and the Royal Naval College

May 22 – Tresco & the Isles of Scilly

May 23 – Crystal & Class in Waterford, Ireland

May 24 – Glengarriff and the Ring of Kerry

May 25 – Galway City, Kylemore Abbey, and an Impressive Maneuver

May 26 – Scenic Cruising and Killybegs, Ireland

May 27 – Rathlin Island, Portrush, Northern Ireland and the Giant’s Causeway

May 28 – The Ultimate Adventure: Staffa and Iona, Scotland

May 29 – Brodick, Scotland

It didn’t take long for me to learn that Silver Explorer offers the best of both worlds: a true expedition cruise coupled with the same luxury and elegance that has earned the line accolades on their larger ships. Personally, I love the idea of a modern-day adventure but cringe at having to give up all the niceties I’ve come to expect from cruising. I would have made a terrible Ernest Shackleton.

The Connoisseur's Club aboard Silver Explorer, located on Deck 5. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Daily briefings are held in The Theatre on Deck 6, where guests can ask questions about the days' events and learn of their adventures tomorrow. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Onboard Silver Explorer, you can enjoy a day on the zodiacs exploring uninhabited lands before returning to the warming properties of the welcome aboard tea served as guests re-board the vessel.

It’s also a very personable experience. Crew members – even ones you may not have met yet – will address you by name. Drinks are remembered and replaced with ease. Don’t see something to your liking on the menu? Chances are, if they have the ingredients, you’ll get it. I had developed a cold a few days in to the voyage, and Maryna in the Panorama Lounge fixed me up with a Hot Toddy containing actual pieces of orange and lemon peel at nearly 11pm. How she came up with all those ingredients, I will never know, but she did it with a smile.

Normally closed off to visitors, we were allowed to visit the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth - an experience unique to Silversea. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

I took a walk around the block in my local neighbourhood today and found I was noticing the flowers everyone has in their gardens.  Had they always been there?  Surprisingly, I could identify many of them as I walked by.  I was also aware of the birds chirping in the trees and hopping along the grass. I thought of Expedition Team member Chris, who was searching high and low at Brodick Castle for the elusive red squirrel, when I saw a typical West Coast one scamper across the street and up one of the many trees.

It is surprising to think of how much I managed to learn in the past two weeks.

Exploring the caves of the remote Scottish island of Staffa. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Where else could you possibly see something like this? Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

That, I think, is the primary difference between a regular cruise and an expedition product: it engages you in a way that a “typical” cruise doesn’t. Few people do tours in every single port, yet we were doing one, two, sometimes three excursions per day. You learn through experience – touching a castle that is centuries old or standing on top of an uninhabited island. Then, you get to come back to the understated relaxation onboard the Silver Explorer, where everything you might need is taken care of.

Silver Explorer's aft pool deck at night. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Is expedition cruising for everyone? That’s actually a difficult question to answer, because our sailing had people from every age group present from 10 to 90. They came from all over the world. Many of them had sailed on other luxury and mainstream lines before. One lady was even telling me about her Oasis of the Seas cruise that she’d taken before boarding the Silver Explorer.

Silver Explorer can take you to places that you never knew existed, like the remote island of Staffa. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

The Gothic Cathedral at Kylemore Abbey, County Connemara, that was created by the owner out of love for his deceased wife. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

There were guests onboard who have travelled to places that I have never even heard of, and could only dream about visiting. They have travelled multiple times to Antarctica and the Far North and to destinations like Africa, Russia, South America, India, and many others.

The breathtaking beauty of Ireland's Ring of Kerry. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

For those who really have a burning desire to truly see a particular place, Silver Explorer is the way to go. The British Isles are no stranger to cruise ships, with dozens routinely leaving from ports like Southampton, Liverpool and Dover. Yet even if you’ve sailed this region before, chances are you’ve never been to the places the Silver Explorer can take you to.

Hundreds - maybe thousands - of nesting birds on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

So yes – if you’re up for the challenge and are looking for a very active adventure, expedition cruising is the way to go. If you want to lay by the pool in a deck chair with a book and not be disturbed, you might want to give it a pass. Because the focus of Silversea’s expeditions are as much on the ashore experience as they are on your shipboard one.

The sort of photo you normally see on a brochure, heavily Photoshopped. But this is real, straight from the camera. Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

For me, the 11 days I spent aboard Silver Explorer were like rediscovering cruising all over again. I knew about the product. I knew how the brochure described it. I knew how glowingly guests on other Silversea ships had mentioned it. But the reality of it was something that I was wholly unprepared for.

It wasn’t just a vacation. It wasn’t just a cruise.

It was something truly special.

Until we meet again... Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s adventurous Silver Explorer has sadly come to a close, but look for a complete, deck-by-deck Photo Tour of the Silver Explorer coming soon, right here on From the Deck Chair!


9 Responses to Silver Explorer Live Voyage Recap

  1. Ingrid. says:

    Aaron, thank You so much for such inspired writing. You are truly gifted. Fabulous photography too. You have captured The expedition perfectly and I’m quite sure that anyone who has previously overlooked the British Isles and Ireland expeditions will not make the same mistake again! Being from Ireland you have Highlighted places I had never thought to travel to. Next time you are here you must seek out The Burren and then The Cliffs Of Moher.
    What a great start to my day ‘From The Deck Chair’ has been.I have been vicariously travelling along with you, not just on Explorer but also on Spirit. P.S please don’t give up posting on Cruise Critic as it would be a shame for those not yet familiar with you to miss out!
    Bon Voyage.

  2. Nicholas Sabalos, Jr., CDR, U.S. Navy (Ret.) says:

    Magnificent in all respects, Aaron! Looking forward to your next voyage! Enjoy your time back home!

  3. […] transiting the Panama Canal on Crystal Serenity. Now back in British Columbia, Aaron Saunders recaps his Silver Explorer voyage on From the Deck Chair. And I spent a few hours  Wrapping Up A Wonderful Week On French Country […]

  4. Justin Beck says:

    I had some clients on this voyage (Mary & Jay Flynn) — I just wanted to comment on how fantastic your narrative and pictures are! Let me know if you need help with your next Silversea trip.



  5. […] Click here to read our Live Voyage Report from onboard Silver Explorer! […]

  6. […] from onboard Silver Explorer as she winds her way from Portsmouth, England to Greenock, Scotland by clicking here, or tune in next week for the start of our own Live Voyage Report adventure aboard Silver […]

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