It couldn’t have been a more perfect day. Despite the fact that it’s the middle of December, temperatures soared to 16°C under a completely cloudless sky here in Genoa, Italy this morning, where a small group of press from around the world came together at Fincantieri’s Sestri Ponente shipyard to witness a major milestone in the history of Silversea Cruises: the keel laying ceremonies for the brand-new Silver Muse.
The first newbuild for Silversea since the launch of the 540-guest Silver Spirit back in 2009, the 596-guest Silver Muse is meant to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. While she boasts a similar profile, a number of changes have been implemented in areas you might not expect.
She’ll boast more dining venues than her predecessor – eight rather than six, all of which revolve around a different culinary theme. Suites have been made larger across the board, and more of the ever-popular Silver Suites have been added to the accommodations roster. Silver Muse becomes the first classic Silversea ship to be built without a casino, but adds a discreet Children’s Play Area that includes indoor and outdoor spaces, cleverly tucked away from the majority of the ship’s main public areas. The Hot Rocks dining experience is back, and Le Champagne has been given a swank new moniker: Le Grand Dame by Relais & Chateaux.
On hand for today’s ceremonies were Silversea Chief Executive Officer Enzo Visone, and Fincantieri’s Raffaele Davassi.
A keel laying is an important stage in the building of a ship. It signifies the official start of construction, and is as respected by mariners as the birth of a child. As keel laying’s go, today’s event was made especially international by the inclusion of eight separate coins, which were placed in a special box inset into Hull 6226, the official shipyard code for Silver Muse. The box was then welded into the hull by Visone and Davassi, along with additional key Fincantieri employees.
The action of welding a coin into the hull of the ship is said to bring good luck to the vessel, and Silversea has taken the additional step of welding a coin for every continent Silversea sails to, plus a special commemorative coin designed specifically for Silver Muse. These coins are welded in a box deep within the ship’s double-bottom, inset into an area where two blocks of the hull will join each other.
The coins welded into the hull in today’s ceremonies were:
“Today marks a significant milestone for Silversea with the birth of our newest ship,” said Visone. “We proudly sail to all seven continents, discovering new destinations and ports with our intimate, boutique vessels, and we are now one step closer to introducing Silver Muse to the fleet. Hull 6226 – the Silver Muse – begins to take shape at FIncantieri’s Genoa shipyard. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
“With an unprecedented variety of dining options and a design across the ship that encourages open-air cruising, guests will be able to enjoy magnificent destinations as never before. Silversea looks forward to working closely with Fincantieri throughout the construction phase of Silver Muse and in the run-up to her launch in spring 2017.”
Silver Muse makes her maiden debut in April of 2017; an impossibly short time when you start to consider that now, in December of 2015, the ship is essentially in pieces, with little more than her keel, double-bottom, and tank-top deck. Yet in just six months’ time, she’ll be floated out to the outfitting basin, and one year from now she is expected to embark on her first sea trials; a “proving run” designed to demonstrate and certify the ship’s marine handling capabilities in a variety of conditions. … the coins were inserted into their commemorative box in the hull…Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
But perhaps more than that, today’s ceremonies were significant because they represent another chapter in the twenty-year history of ultra-luxurious Silversea’s inimitable style of cruising – something that Visone alluded to after we’d witnessed the lowering of the first block of Hull 6226 into the outfitting drydock here in Genoa.
“You have to be contemporary because otherwise you become old-fashioned,” he told us in a press conference. “We build classically-designed ships that will stand the test of time. The Silver Muse is an evolution of the Silver Spirit. As time goes on, you have to consider the evolutions in technology. You also have to take into consideration the areas on the previous ships that may have been sub-optimal. You must never be complacent; the objective is to always improve.” Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
In an exclusive interview with Avid Cruiser, Visone elaborated on the ship’s new dining arrangement, which has done away with The Restaurant in favor of two additional dining venues: 7 Restaurant and Atlantide Restaurant.
“Historically, cruise ships would have one huge major dining room that had to accommodate 100 percent of the guests onboard,” said Visone. “What we’ve seen over the years is that this tradition … to a greater extent has weakened. Guests are looking for more variety, for more intimacy. If a restaurant is huge, you tend to lose that intimacy. What we decided to do on the Silver Muse was to increase the quality [of the] dining options.”
On the subject of The Grand Dame by Relais & Chateaux, Visone confirms the change isn’t a new restaurant per se, but rather a more calculated rebranding of Le Champagne: a dining venue that has always performed well on Silversea vessels but remains under-represented in terms of brand recognition. Fincantieri’s Raffaele Davassi performs the second weld. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
“It’s more unique to us to use ‘Le Grand Dame’ as opposed to ‘Le Champagne’ which is more of a general category name. But the concept is the same: it’s Relais & Chateaux, we [still] work together with Relais & Chateaux chefs. That’s an exclusive relationship that has been going on now [between Relais & Chateaux and Silversea] for many years, and hopefully will do so for many years to come.”
When it comes to the new, albeit tucked away Children’s Facilities located on the starboard side of Deck 9, Visone points out the need to balance luxury passengers who to bring their grandchildren onboard with the desires of those guests who would rather leave the kids and their toys behind.
“The reason we did this – and we foresaw this on the Silver Muse – is that many loyal guests consider [having] children onboard a disturbance,” said Visone. “So this is a way of allowing for this, especially in school holiday periods. Particularly in South America; South Americans love to travel in groups together. So when you grandparents, parents, kids, grandkids, you also have to cater to the kids without creating a disturbance for anyone else.”
Silver Muse will make it easier to cater to the wishes of guests of all ages, thanks to some subtle tweaks behind the scenes. The standard size of suites has increased, to nearly 400 square feet for the Deluxe, Superior and Classic Veranda Suites. Using Virtual Reality goggles at the Fincantieri headquarters in Genoa, we were able to take a virtual “walk” around a Classic Veranda Suite. If the finished product is even half as good as the renderings, Silversea will have some very desirable accommodations. While not much has changed in terms of layout, materials and fabrics used throughout have received a substantial upgrade, and the room feels lighter and more airy than Silversea’s past accommodations, which leaned heavily towards darker colors and fabrics. Photo © 2015 Aaron Saunders
Make no mistake about it though: Silversea’s classic, understated décor is still well-represented aboard Silver Muse. Unlike Regent and Crystal, Silversea isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel – and the company makes no apologies for that. The general feeling is that it is better to be evolutionary than revolutionary, particularly when it comes to the life expectancy of a major investment such as this. Visone wouldn’t comment on the exact construction costs, other than to say the project was costing the line, “a lot of money.”
In just 16 months, Silver Muse will set sail on her maiden voyage from Monte Carlo, Monaco on April 10, 2017. She will be the largest, most luxurious, and most technologically-advanced ship that the line has constructed to-date.
For a luxury line that only recently celebrated its second decade in business, that’s not bad at all.