This morning shortly after sunrise, I trundled down the gangway of Silversea Expeditions’ third vessel, Silver Discoverer. The day before, I had been privileged to be part of a naming ceremony that took place pierside at Marina Bay Cruise Center in Singapore. The ceremony was entertaining and, at times, moving, and as is often the case with all that Silversea does, the event included a story that was both personal and inspiring.
The personal and inspiring part hinged on two narratives: Silversea’s choice for the new vessel’s godmother and the success of the company itself.
Silversea Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio chose an educator to serve as godmother of Silver Discoverer. Elda Turco Bulgherini was not just any old educator, however. She had a special connection to the Silversea family. Lefebvre’s father, a distinguished university professor and Silversea’s founder, had taught Bulgherini, who went on to become a professor of navigation law at the University of Rome Tor Vergata.
Standing in spectacular sunlight on a red carpet alongside the bow of Silver Discoverer, Bulgherini did not appear to be someone accustomed to spectacle, but as she cut the ceremonial ribbon to induct the new ship into the Silversea Expeditions fleet, she became the star of the show.
It was a hot day in Singapore, and at the end of the nearly hourlong ceremonies, which included performances featuring traditional dances, speeches and plaque exchanges, I got my first look inside Silver Discoverer.
My initial impression, aside from the rush of air-conditioning that cooled my overheated body (I had been running around photographing during the christening) was that Silver Discoverer smelled new. A major reburbishment, in fact, had touched nearly every area of the vessel, and the classic ship had been transformed, like Cinderella fitting into her glass slippers.
The color schemes appealed to me. Blue carpet, in contrast to burgundy on Silver Explorer, gave way to rich, mustard-colored walls. Evoking the exotic locales that Silver Discoverer will touch, enlarged framed photographs, many snapped by the expedition team, adorned the corridor walls. Silver Discoverer had the look of a ship built for discoverers.
During my 18 hours on board, I visited as many categories as possible of the 62 all ocean-view suites. Travel sellers, many of them top-producers who were touring the ship alongside me, said they were pleased with the suite configurations, the tasteful furnishings, the overall décor and the function of the suites. I’ll be posting a complete walk-through of Silver Discoverer next week.
After lunch, we sat in the Explorer Lounge to listen to Conrad Combrink, director of expedition cruises (or the man with possibly the world’s best job), passionately presented the life-enriching experiences that the now three-ship-fleet Silversea Expeditions offers worldwide. At one point, Combrink sounded as if he were speaking a foreign language, so exotic were his descriptions of the destinatons and cultures that Silver Discoverer would be visiting. Of particular interest to me was the Russian Far East. You’ll hear more about that too in the coming weeks.
Dinner was a lavish affair prepared by Silversea’s Culinary Director (and fun-loving Belgian) Rudi Scholdis, with free-flowing champagne and other fine wines, including a commemorative rosé-tinted Prosecco, specially produced and elegantly bottled for Silversea to celebrate its 20th anniverary this year.
That Silversea marks two decades as a luxury cruise operator, through the turmoil of 2001 and the financial crisis from which much of the world is slowly emerging, is an achievement worthy of several champagne toasts. That the company has been guided and nurtured through good times and bad by a single family, headed by Manfredi Lefebvre, makes the company’s success even more remarkable.
It was during the height of the last financial crisis that Lefebvre launched Silversea Expeditions with the goal of “enriching and educating guests,” he said in yesterday’s ceremonies.
I believe that Silversea has succeeded, in part, because its own story is personal and inspiring. That narrative was played out in Singapore yesterday by a family with vision, a teacher who inspires and a company guided by a noble mission to imbue “adventurous and curious travelers,” as Lefebvre worded it, with a “deeper understanding of the planet.” Like a young adult at age 20, Silversea has grown up and has found its way forward.