Sailing the Gulf of Aden
Position as of 18:49 L: 12° 58’19” N, 43° 11’57” E
Speed: 19.7 knots
Wind: 8 km/h / Seas: less than 1 metre
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Silversea’s Silver Wind finds herself once again in the Gulf of Aden today as she makes her way from Salalah, Oman to our next port of call in Safaga, Egypt, where we will arrive at 0700 on Sunday morning.
In the old days, a long sea voyage used to be prescribed for a variety of maladies. It was thought that the sea air had restorative properties and was good for what ails you. While doctors no longer offer up a weeklong cruise as the proverbial cure-all, they probably should – particularly itineraries like this that have long stretches of days spent entirely at sea.
Truth be told, I’ve felt exhausted for the past few days – so much so that I’ve had to have a mid-afternoon nap, which I almost never take. I tried everything to avoid this yesterday, even using the Illy espresso machine in my suite to whip myself up a double espresso in the hopes of keeping my eyes open. Finally, I couldn’t fight it any more: I laid down for an hour-long “power nap.” It must have worked; in what seemed like the blink of an eye, my iPhone was waking me up.
Here’s the difference between a Silversea cruise and a mainstream cruise: the Silversea cruise encourages you to focus on you. It invites you to slow down, to escape the rush of that thing we call “the real world.”
Writing about cruises sounds very glamorous, but it isn’t. The hours are long; the free time, almost nonexistent. I get to watch movies on airplanes. I read books on trains. I rarely sit still for more than a few moments at a time, and when I do, it’s to write – typically for stretches longer than I should. I suspect most Silversea guests have similar lives: regardless of what they do, I can guarantee virtually all of them are busy.
So when you see the daily activities in the Silversea Chronicles and see a handful of lectures interspersed with items like “Jigsaw Puzzle – come and add a few pieces”, your first thought – if you’ve never sailed a luxury line – might be to assume that a luxury cruise is boring. It isn’t.
Instead, a luxury cruise focuses your attention on you. Here aboard the Silver Wind, things are relaxed. Guests are sunning themselves by the pool. Reading on-deck. Joking and laughing with new friends over drinks. Watching movies in their suites.
And it’s fabulous. Absolutely, unequivocally, fabulous. There’s no rock-climbing walls here. There’s no forced or manufactured fun. No robotic bartenders that occasionally go on the fritz. Only real people, interacting with other real people in a convivial environment that encourages rest, relaxation and true, genuine enjoyment.
Today at Noon, Captain Arma announced we were sailing 51 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen, abeam of the recently-overrun city of Aden. With so much distance between us, we’re perfectly safe here onboard the Silver Wind, and cannot even see the coastline, much less Aden itself. In fact, with no ships in sight and perfectly calm seas, we could just as easily be sailing the mid-Atlantic. It’s an excellent lesson in geography for those of us onboard: the world really is bigger than it seems in this digital age.
This afternoon, on our second of four straight days at sea, I took some time to read up on the Suez Canal, which we will transit on 14 April. A passage between Europe and Asia had been considered as early as 1798 and likely would have happened earlier than it did had that fun-loving conquistador Napoleon hired engineers who were better at mathematics. Acting on behalf of the diminutive leader, Napoleon’s engineers had mistakenly calculated that a difference of ten kilometres existed between the two sea levels, and that a canal was an impossibility.
The British realized the mistake, but it was a Frenchman, Ferdinand de Lesseps, that actually petitioned the Egyptian government to build the canal. Convinced, work began in 1859 and was completed by 1869. Today, the Canal is under the control of Egyptian authorities, and is one of the busiest waterways in the world. It’s also an important economic lifeline to Egypt, which collects the heavy taxes and tariffs charged to ships that utilise the canal. Much like the Panama Canal, transiting from the Suez can cost an amazing amount of money but the alternative – sailing around the horn of Africa – is simply not possible for many shipping lines.
The Silver Wind is just about half full on this voyage – which, I have to admit, is better than I expected for a Middle East cruise. Even when fully booked, the Silver Wind feels like it’s half-full: passengers are so well-distributed throughout the ship’s public areas that you’d never know you’re sailing with a passenger complement of 296.
One feature I do wish the Silver Wind had that its larger fleetmate Silver Spirit has is the Stars Supper Club; an intimate room modelled after the Rainbow Room in New York. Guests can (and typically do) spend their entire evening there, enjoying cocktails and the pre-set tasting menu while they listen and dance to live jazz music that usually has the room in a standing-only situation by the end of the night.
At five o’clock, it was time for – as Cruise Director Colin puts it – “the inevitable bloodbath that is Team Trivia.” Held each afternoon in The Bar on Deck 5, Team Trivia on a Silversea ship is Serious Business. An all-out battle of the wits, teams of eight compete against each other over 20 questions for prize point cards. What can these points be redeemed for you ask? Fine wines? Rubies? Sapphires? No – you can get your very own Silversea hat, or a T-shirt, or something of that nature. In that respect, I’m already a winner – I purchased a new Silversea hat three days ago from the Onboard Boutiques.
Points aside, Team Trivia is a ton of fun. I don’t think anyone really plays for the points, to be honest. You’ve got a ship full of very intelligent, very successful people: they’re playing to be Team No. 1, earning the unofficial title of Silver Wind Voyage 2509 Champions. It won’t be my team – we’re a bright bunch, but today we had “one of those days.” Chalk it up to too much sea air and fine cocktails, perhaps. But I have a good feeling about tomorrow!
It’s a nice segue into the evening here onboard the Silver Wind. For most guests, that means returning to their suites to change for dinner, which then gives way to pre-dinner drinks in The Bar on Deck 5 or the Panorama Lounge on Deck 8 aft. This leads to dinner, which leads to the nightly show by the Voices of Silversea, which – inevitably – turns into nightcaps in the two aforementioned lounges.
And that’s where I am now – in the Panorama Lounge, researching my way through the cocktail list and listening to the fabulous music of Lou – who I am pretty certain was the pianist on my Silver Explorer expedition around the British Isles back in 2012.
Before I close this report, let’s look at where the rest of the Silversea fleet is – and what adventures their guests around the world got to indulge in today:
- Silver Cloud: Cartagena, Spain
- Silver Shadow: En-route to Hamilton, Bermuda
- Silver Whisper: Walvis Bay, Namibia
- Silver Spirit: Cartagena, Columbia
- Silver Explorer: Pointe Noire, Congo
- Silver Galapagos: Cerro Colorado, San Cristobal, Ecuador
- Silver Discoverer: Broome, Australia
I look forward to the Silversea Chronicles placed on my bed each evening in my suite, if only for that fleet list. It captures the imagination every time. Consider the position of Silver Explorer: who else but Silversea would offer such an adventurous port of call as Pointe Noire in the Congo? That’s mighty cool!
Of course, those guests onboard Silver Explorer tonight might be looking at their Silversea Chronicles tonight saying, “I wish I was on the Silver Wind en-route to Safaga, Egypt!”
Silver Wind Middle East Adventure
|April 5, 2015||Muscat, Oman||Embark Silver Wind||19:00|
|April 6||Day at Sea|
|April 7||Salalah, Oman||13:00||23:00|
|April 8||At Sea|
|April 9||At Sea|
|April 10||At Sea|
|April 11||At Sea|
|April 12||Safaga, Egypt||07:00||21:00|
|April 13||Aqaba, Jordan||09:30||21:00|
|April 14||Transiting the Suez Canal|
|April 15||Port Said, Egypt||08:00||17:00|
|April 16||Ashdod, Israel||08:00||23:00|
|April 17||Haifa, Israel||07:00||18:00|
|April 18||At Sea|
|April 19||Kusadasi, Turkey||08:00||17:00|
|April 20||Piraeus (Athens), Greece||07:00||Disembark; Live Voyage Recap|
Our Live Voyage Report aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind continues tomorrow as we spend another day at sea en-route to Safaga, Egypt! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.