Call of the Middle East
“We're all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.”
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
On Monday, April 20, I disembarked Silversea’s Silver Wind in the port of Piraeus, Greece – perhaps better known as the gateway to Athens. Berthed alongside us was our sister-ship, Silver Cloud, which had managed to secure the more prestigious location immediately next to the terminal building. For us, a five-minute bus ride awaited.
With luggage claimed, we made our way onto the waiting coaches as a few drops of rain began to fall. I realized then that out of three past visits to Athens, I’d never felt a single drop of rain fall on the city. Surely it must; it was just something I’d never considered before.
Our full Live Voyage Report:
• Day 1: Embarkation in Muscat
• Day 2: At Sea
• Day 3: Salalah, Oman
• Day 4: At Sea
• Day 5: At Sea
• Day 6: At Sea
• Day 7: At Sea
• Day 8: Safaga, Egypt
• Day 9: Aqaba, Jordan
• Day 10: Transiting the Suez Canal
• Day 11: Port Said, Egypt
• Day 12: Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel
• Day 13: Haifa (Nazareth), Israel
• Day 14: At Sea
• Day 15: Kusadasi, Turkey
Our entire journey from Muscat, Oman to Athens was something like that: everything I thought I knew about the Middle East turned out to be inaccurate – or at the very least, a gross generalization. In North America, we tend to apply the blanket term “the Middle East” to a single region that contains countries that are very different from each other. They speak different languages, have different religions, practices, beliefs, and social norms. No two countries are alike.
There’s Oman – a wealthy Sultanate presided over by the long-serving, enormously-popular Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. Compare that with Egypt, where locals are trying to figure out what exactly to do with the deposed former President, Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to resign in 2011. Then, there’s poor Jordan, which has seen its tourism absolutely bottom out simply because it happens to share a land border with Egypt, Israel and Iraq.
More disappointingly, if you Google ‘Jordan’, you get Michael Jordan – the basketball player – endorsing Nike as result number one. Jordan, the freaking country, is two or three links down.
But, it is a region of the world that is still experiencing a great deal of turmoil and uncertainty. As we sailed off the coast of Aden, the Saudis were bombing the Yemeni port city back into the Stone Age. Fifty-one nautical miles offshore we saw nothing, sailing blissfully along on our luxury yacht, swirling the day’s white wine selection in our mouths to see if we liked it. Yes, it’ll do.
The contrast alone made this voyage worthwhile.
Once again, the dependable Silver Wind proved to be an excellent ship to sail on for such an adventurous itinerary. All of the Silversea staples are here, wrapped up in a package that holds no more than 296 guests. If they’d just add a Seishin (the popular Asian-fusion specialty restaurant introduced aboard the larger Silver Spirit), I’d be in absolute heaven. I recommend nixing the Casino – which, on my sailing, was used by all of nobody.
Although she celebrates her 20th birthday this year, Silver Wind has plenty of distinctions that set her apart from the rest of the fleet. Her forward-facing Observation Lounge on Deck 9 is one of the best in the fleet, if slightly under-utilised. Together with the Silver Cloud, Le Champagne aboard the Silver Wind is the most attractive variety of this restaurant fleetwide, save for perhaps the Silver Spirit. Add to that a bevy of public rooms and entertainment spaces that disperse guests with such ease that you could be forgiving for mistaking the Silver Wind for your own private yacht.
Can improvements be made? Of course. I’d love to see Silversea do a Crystal Cruises-style refit to the Silver Wind, because the contrast between public spaces that were renovated in 2013 (The Bar, Le Champagne) is now quite pronounced when compared to public areas that have remained fairly unchanged, like the Panorama Lounge. That’s more of a quantifier than a negative: the fact remains that Silver Wind is still well-loved and well-liked by a substantial portion of Silversea’s customer base. It’s a comfortable, and suitably luxurious, mid-90’s ship that is aging well.
Beyond the luxurious suites and the fantastic food and literally everything you could possibly want close at hand, what impressed me most was Silversea’s dedication to safety. At no time did I ever feel unsafe. At no time did I ever worry for my security. The proper precautions were taken on every step of the journey, particularly during our call on Safaga, Egypt, where we had a police escort and even a backup motorcoach for our tour to Luxor & the Valley of the Kings.
Would I do this journey again? Yes. The larger Silver Whisper is doing an extended version of this cruise as a segment of her 2016 World Voyage, which I’d heartily recommend if you’re a lover of history. There’s nothing quite like this part of the world.
In all, the 15 days I spent aboard the Silver Wind were a journey of 3,812 nautical miles that I’d gladly repeat.
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind has sadly come to a close, but details of our next four adventures are coming next week on here on Avid Cruiser.