As mentioned in yesterday’s post, nearly all cruise lines are trying to boost their bottom lines by conserving fuel costs. Some attempt to balance time in port with an early enough departure to allow for a slow and fuel-efficient sailing to the next port of call. That’s good for the environment, of course, and even better for profitability, but squeezing time in port can — and often does — diminish the passenger experience.
Today in Kusadasi, for example, Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas was long gone when we stepped off Silver Spirit at 7:30 p.m. for an evening concert in Ephesus. The experience ranked as one of the highlights of my years of travel, and I’m grateful that we were in Kusadasi late enough to enjoy it. I’ll share more with you about the evening in Ephesus in a moment.
Silversea strikes a fine balance between conserving fuel, fulfilling its responsibilities to the environment and maximizing the guest experience by smart itinerary planning.
We arrived in Kusadasi at 8 a.m. and didn’t set sail until 11 p.m. With ample time in port, we were able to enjoy Silver Spirit in the morning, take a leisurely lunch on board, stroll around Kusadasi in the afternoon and visit Ephesus in the evening.
Plus, we stayed up for the late-night departure from Kusadasi, standing aft, watching a tug do its work to help maneuver Silver Spirit against a backdrop of ever-receding twinkling city lights along the shore. It was the perfect ending to a full and rewarding day.
Time ashore is something you will want to consider in choosing a cruise. The amount of time you have to experience the places you visit is one of the intangible aspects that should go into the value equation of selecting which cruise line, ship and itinerary best matches your preferences and travel goals.
Today in Kusadasi, with Silver Spirit, carrying 540 guests, docked beside Navigator of the Seas, carrying more than 3,000, the differences in the experiences were especially apparent. The larger ship had longer lines of passengers embarking and disembarking for shore excursions. There is often constant queuing on large vessels. And as you can see in the photo, Navigator of the Seas was sailing away in the afternoon while Silver Spirit remained docked in Kusadasi for another six hours.
With such ample time, we felt no need to rush, so we spent a few hours in the morning over a leisurely breakfast and exploring Silver Spirit.
Silversea’s largest vessel, the 36,000-ton, 540-guest Silver Spirit is a veritable floating icon for refinement and taste. Everything aboard whispers class, from the design and decor to the exquisite service and cuisine, high-end amenities, free-flowing champagne, artwork and fresh flowers throughout the vessel. On land, Silver Spirit would be one of the world’s finest boutique hotels; at sea, it’s simply one of the world’s finest cruise ships.
The ship’s interior designer, Giacomo Mortola, crafted rooms that mix classic old-world elegance with hints of art deco. Every room seems perfectly designed and proportioned to deliver exquisite experiences. Like all the Silversea ships, Silver Spirit is designed with the vast majority of her public rooms located between midships and the stern, while staterooms and suites occupy the ship’s forward half.
I’ll be sharing more with you this week about Silver Spirit, but for now let’s move on to a photo slideshow highlighting our day in Kusadasi and evening at Ephesus.
Western guests are generally put off by Kusadasi shopowners' aggressive solicitation and bartering, but note the No Hassle sign in the center of the photograph. We saw lots of those on are stroll through the bazaar yesterday. Apparently, businesses are taking a new, more relaxed, approach to selling their goods than in the past. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
For guests attending Silver Spirit's Classical Concert at Ephesus, an early dinner. I ended mine with this delicious — and attractive — rice pudding, served with an edible spoon and bowl. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
At 7:30 p.m., we boarded busses for Ephesus … © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Entering Ephesus under the amber glow of the sun. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Dating from 125 A.D. the Theatre Gymnasium at Ephesus. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
A journey through time as we head to the Library of Celsus for the evening concert. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Empty in the evening, the Marble Avenue was packed with people during the day. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
One of the icons of ancient Ephesus, the Library of Celsus. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Open only for guests from Silver Spirit, Ephesus and the Library of Celsus, the venue for our evening concert. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
We sat at tables with white tablecloths, mixed exotic nuts, olives for snacks and wine and water served throughout the performance. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
An introduction to our evening at Ephesus. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
The Aegean Chamber Orchestra performed Bach, Brahms, Mozart and more for about an hour, punctuated by an interlude. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Something tourists rarely get to see: the Library of Celsus in the late evening. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Aided by light cast on columns, we leave the Library of Celsus, ending a special evening at Ephesus. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle
Trouble viewing the slideshow? View on Flickr.
Silversea offered a wide selection of shore excursions in Kusadasi. We talked to one couple who went tandem sky-diving (their first time), a shore excursion offered on Silver Spirit. Others visited Ephesus and the Home of the Virgin Mary in the morning, and some even returned for the evening concert. Golf excursions were offered as were wine tasting excursions.
We chose to visit Ephesus in the evening for several reasons: 1) With temperatures in the 90s, we figured we could avoid touring Ephesus during the hottest parts of the day; 2) There would be no crowds, as Ephesus was open only to our group from Silver Spirit; and 3) We would get to experience Ephesus at sunset, something few people in life ever experience. When our tour concluded, we were happy with our choices. It was an evening that we’ll never forget.
Here’s how the special event unfolded: After an early dinner on Silver Spirit, we boarded a motorcoach for the 20-minute drive from the port to Ephesus.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the ancient city, here’s a thumbnail sketch: In ancient times, Ephesus hosted St. Paul, St. John and the Virgin Mary. Ephesus was an important Greek trading city of Ionia. Later, it became Rome’s provincial capital and was home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The massive foundation of the Temple of Diana can still be seen here today after 3,000 years. In the 60s A.D., when the city supposedly had a population of nearly 150,000, St. Paul lived here for three years and wrote one of his most famous epistles, the Letter to the Ephesians.
When our group arrived, we walked on a road made from marble slabs under the gorgeous amber glow of the evening sun. The setting was absolutely magical.
We continued, slowly and snapping photos, past the Theatre Gymnasium, built in 125 A.D. and seating 25,000. The ruins were not only expansive but also remarkable, beautiful in the evening glow.
We were making our way to one of the largest libraries of the ancient world, the two-story Library of Celsus. Built in 135 B.C. by a son in homage to his father, this magnificent library is lavishly decorated with facades, columns and sculptures. The library once housed 12,000 scrolls of papyrus manuscripts, making it one of the largest in the ancient world and second only to the library in Alexandria, Egypt. The two-story library facade is stunning, particularly during the evening and with only a relatively small group.
We sat in front of the facade at tables with white tablecloths and on top of those, mixed exotic nuts and olives for snacks. Waiters in white gloves, poured wine for enjoyment and water for hydration. For about an hour, the Aegean Chamber Orchestra performed Bach, Brahms, Mozart and more, punctuated by an interlude.
At the end of the performance, we walked a colonnaded street that was illuminated by light cast on the columns, ending a special evening at Ephesus.
Back on Silver Spirit, we joined many others on the top deck to enjoy a beautiful sail-away. My son Alex and I were sailing away with memories of Kusadasi and an unforgettable evening in ancient Ephesus, something few people in life — not to mention those whose ships depart before the sun sets — get to experience.
|Day 1||Athens, Greece|
|Day 2||Kusadasi, Turkey|
|Day 3||Olympia, Greece|
|Day 4||Corfu, Greece|
|Day 5||Kotor, Montenegro|
|Day 6||Dubrovnik, Croatia|
|Day 7||Hvar, Croatia|
|Day 8||Venice, Italy