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Silver Cloud Readies for Her First Expedition – And We’ll Be Onboard
Antarctica has fascinated me for years. I personally consider it to be the Mount Everest of cruising destinations, surpassed only perhaps by a cruise around the world.
Remote, lonely and often overlooked, Antarctica is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is a land of towering icebergs, enormous mountain ranges, and diverse wildlife. Its thrilling history of exploration is littered with triumph and tragedy, a testament to the superhuman endurance of people like Amundsen, Borchgrevink, Scott and Shackleton.
This is a land that most of us will never see – and that’s precisely what makes it so alluring. Antarctica, the southernmost continent, is nearly twice as large as Australia. A full ninety-eight percent of it is covered in ice nearly two kilometres thick. It was the last region on Earth to be discovered, unseen by human eyes until 1820.
In two weeks, I’m making my second trip to Antarctica, travelling in the kind of luxury and comfort that the earliest polar explorers could only dream of. I’m not sure what’s more exciting: travelling to Antarctica, or doing so on the first polar voyage of Silversea Cruises’ fully refitted Silver Cloud Expedition. I think it’s both.
Silversea’s Trailblazing First Ship Soldiers On
Between August and late October of this year, ultra-luxury line Silversea sent its very first ship, the 296-guest Silver Cloud in for an extensive drydock at a shipyard in Malta. Built in 1994, she helped build Silversea into the cruise line it is today. Now, she’s preparing for an entirely new role as the company’s largest and most lavish luxury expedition ship.
Refitted to Ice Class 1C, Silver Cloud will be able to hold her own in Antarctica, which is frequently littered with sea ice of all shapes and sizes. Her ice rating allows her to cut through ice with a thickness of up to 0.6 metres, or roughly two feet – though she may not be able to wedge herself in the pack ice like her fleetmate, Silver Explorer, which carries a higher Ice Class 1A designation.
The changes made to Silver Cloud – which is now widely referred to as Silver Cloud Expedition – are sweeping. In addition to being fully repainted in a sleek new black and white livery with a thin red “cheat line” along her superstructure, she’s been given a new ice-strengthened bow. A new, ice-reinforced large bulbous bow was fitted to the ship, complete with sheltered thruster doors and a built-in FarSounder Sonar System that can see 1000 metres ahead of the ship. This system is tied to the ship’s navigation equipment on the bridge.
Because Silver Cloud Expedition will now have to cross the feared Drake Passage routinely, she’s been refitted with newer, smaller windows on her navigation bridge. This has changed her forward appearance somewhat, but attractively so. Pillars between the panes have been widened and strengthened, and stronger marine glass has been fitted.
On the bridge, the ship’s Communications Center was replaced entirely with a new state-of-the-art facility. A new Olex Marine Charting and Navigation system was installed, along with an additional system designed to more efficiently operate the vessel at the slow speeds required for ice navigation.
The ship’s entire complement of radars were removed and replaced, and the Silver Cloud expedition now has a Thermal Night Vision Camera to allow for better visibility over the ice during evening navigation.
All portholes and windows aboard Silver Cloud have been removed and, where necessary, replaced with new ones designed to be resistant to heavy seas and colder temperatures.
At the stern, a small triangular reinforced skeg has been added to aid with icebreaking when moving astern.
The ship’s entire heating and ventilation system was upgraded and fully automated, and the ship’s waste treatment plant was removed entirely and replaced with a new black and greywater treatment facility.
The most obvious changes, however, are on Silver Cloud’s upper deck. A brand-new, forward-facing observation lounge is now situated above the navigation bridge. Named Tor’s Observation Lounge, in keeping with the precedent set by the new Silver Muse, this brand-new public space will sport Silver Muse-esque décor and will serve as the place to be during scenic cruising in Antarctica, complete with its extra-large, floor-to ceiling windows.
Also fitted to the ship’s upper decks: a fleet of 16 Zodiac rafts. These rugged new landing crafts will carry guests on scenic cruising journeys throughout Antarctica, and will act as shuttles to bring guests ashore – though never more than 100 at a time, in keeping with IAATO rules governing Antarctic tourism.
The ship also carries 12 kayaks, a first for Silversea. The relevant platforms were added to the ship for kayak and zodiac embarkation, including an expedition first for the line: an inflatable zodiac embarkation platform.
In addition, Silver Cloud Expedition will now carry just 200 guests when sailing in polar waters, and 254 on other voyages. Silversea has used this reduction in guests to add more Silver Suites, each measuring 541 square feet apiece. There are now 12 Silver Suites onboard, compared to just three pre-refit.
The former three Silver Suites have now been recategorized as Medallion Suites, each coming in at 437 square feet.
Silver Cloud’s luxury pedigree makes her one of the most lavish ships sailing to Antarctica. Every room is a suite aboard this ship, from the entry-level Vista Suites on Deck 4 (a great option for those prone to seasickness thanks to their low, midships location); to the opulence of the Grand and Royal Suites all the way forward on Decks 6 and 7.
Additionally, Silver Cloud Expedition has been given a substantial interior makeover. Suites and public rooms now share the color palette introduced by the Silver Muse earlier this year, favoring greys, blues and earth tones over the darker, more red-and-orange-heavy colors of the ship’s past. Furniture and carpeting in nearly every public room and suite has been replaced, and the ship now sports the highest guest-to-crew ratio in Silversea’s fleet, at more that one-to-one in Polar Regions.
Of course, all the usual Silversea touches will be present. All guests enjoy the services of a butler, and Silver Cloud Expedition offers up the same nine-choice pillow menus and selection of luxury bath amenities that guests have come to expect, along with inclusive beverages and gratuities. Guests in all suites are now entitled to one hour of complimentary WiFi internet access, and a new library of on-demand titles is available in-suite on guests’ interactive televisions.
Silver Cloud Expedition still sports La Dame, Silversea’s Relais & Chateaux dining venue. It’s the first time this option has been available on the line’s expedition fleet, and I can’t wait to dine there while in one of the world’s most remote and alluring regions.
Because she is now part of Silversea’s Expedition fleet, Silver Cloud will also have a dedicated team of 22 expedition specialists onboard who will give lectures on everything from nature, wildlife, and the history of Antarctica, in addition to leading tours ashore. The ship also has the distinction of offering Silversea’s first-ever Photo Studio, where guests can retouch, print, and display their photographic works of art.
Silver Cloud Expedition is en-route as I type this to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her first Antarctic adventure begins on November 15, 2017 – and where we’ll join the ship to report on her inaugural sailing to the Southern Continent.
Voyage 1720 – Antarctica and the Falkland Islands
Departing Buenos Aires in the late evening, there will be plenty of time to get to discover – and photograph – the revitalized Silver Cloud Expedition as we sail first to Puerto Madryn, Argentina before heading across to spend two days in the Falkland Islands. Since this is a proper expedition cruise, all excursions are included in the price of the voyage, and will be focused on adventurous outings that can include zodiac tours of the shore line, hikes, and walks.
Following two days in the Falkland Islands, Silver Cloud expedition proves herself by crossing the Drake Passage, a turbulent stretch of water where the currents from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans collide. Then, she’s out of it, and we arrive off Elephant Island.
It was here that Ernest Shackleton set out aboard the James Caird on a desperate, open-sea journey to South Georgia in order to get help for his stranded party. The journey would take him 720 nautical miles, and he’d have the misfortune of landing on the opposite side of the Island from the whaling station at Grytviken. Miraculously, he reached South Georgia after almost a month at sea, and was able to return to rescue his men left on Elephant Island in August after the worst of the winter storms had ended.
From there, Silver Cloud Expedition spends the next six days cruising the Antarctic Peninsula, with an itinerary that is determined onboard based on the prevailing weather conditions. She returns to Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost city in the world – at the conclusion of her first Antarctic Expedition on December 1.
We’ll have our full Voyage Report from onboard Silver Cloud Expedition here on From the Deck Chair, starting on Monday, December 4. From the wonders of Antarctica to the brand-new, ultra-luxury Silver Cloud Expedition, it promises to be a very exciting voyage indeed.
Antarctica is a place I never thought I’d get to see again. Experiencing it with Silversea is about as moving an experience as one can get.
Silver Cloud - Inaugural Expedition to Antarctica
|November 4, 2017||A Closer Look at the Silver Cloud Expedition|
|November 15, 2017||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Embark Silver Cloud Expedition||2100|
|November 16||At Sea|
|November 17||At Sea|
|November 18||Puerto Madryn, Argentina||0630||1630|
|November 19||At Sea|
|November 20||New Island, Falkland Islands / West Point Island, Falkland Islands||0600 / 1500||1130 / 2000|
|November 21||Port Stanley, Falkland Islands||0630||1600|
|November 22||Cruise the Drake Passage|
|November 23||Elephant Island, Antarctica||12:30|
|November 24||Antarctic Sound|
|November 25||Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula|
|November 26||Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula|
|November 27||Cruise & Explore the Antarctic Peninsula|
|November 28||South Shetland Islands||1800|
|November 29||Cruise the Drake Passage|
|November 30||Cruise the Drake Passage|
|December 1, 2017||Ushuaia, Argentina||0800||Disembark Silver Cloud Expedition; charter flight to Santiago, Chile & return home|
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