Today, Silversea’s sleek Silver Wind spent a lazy day sailing the Indian Ocean, destined for Cape Town, South Africa. Tomorrow, the two hundred or so of us onboard will disembark, and another two hundred or so guests will embark for their very own 10-day adventure along the eastern coast of South Africa.
I rose at 6am, determined to make the most of my last sea day onboard. After breakfast out on the veranda at La Terrazza (what else?), I took the opportunity to catch up on my reading. I have a small pile of copies of Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper sitting in my suite that required my attention, so it was off to my balcony to enjoy a bit of warmth and relaxation – all before 9am
In reading the daily Silversea Chroniclesnewsletter, one of the things I love is the little box on the last page that tells you where the rest of the fleet is. Here is where the ships of Silversea are on this very day:
Silver Cloud – Montevideo, Uruguay
Silver Shadow – Stewart Island, New Zealand
Silver Whisper – Bay of Islands, New Zealand
Silver Spirit – En-route to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
Silver Explorer – Antarctica
One of the things that Silversea still offers is tours of the ship’s navigational bridge. This is offered only once, and is restricted to just 20 guests, though I’d estimate just 10 people, including myself, showed up today. Being a huge ship and maritime freak, I absolutely love this unique opportunity to get a look “behind-the-scenes.”
Greeting us on the bridge was Silver Wind’s friendly Captain, Michele Macarone Palmieri who, along with Chief Navigator Georgi Apostolov and 2nd Officer Georgi Takov took the time to explain both nautical navigation and the Silver Wind to us.
For me, this was as good as Christmas; I love standing on the bridge, gazing out over the bow and reading the various systems and controls while the subtle elevator motion of the ocean moves us up and down. Of particular interest to me were the charts mounted on the backside of the large safety console that showed the results of the speed tests conducted by Silver Wind’s builder, T. Mariotti of Genoa, back in 1994. For example, a “crash stop”, whereby the ship is run at full speed and put into full reverse until she comes to a standstill, could be accomplished in a little over four times the length of the Silver Wind.
On cruises, you may have seen a five-digit alphanumeric code painted on the tops of the ship’s lifeboats. This is the ship’s call-sign, and here onboard the Silver Wind, it is C6FG2. Just above the information board listing what our local port contact in Cape Town and pilot waystation would be, Silver Wind’s call-sign was spelled out in signal flags, which can be hoisted and used to convey any number of messages in the event of a loss of communication.
It was one of the most relaxed bridge visits I’ve had the privilege to be a part of, with Captain Palmieri taking ample time to answer all our questions in his trademark friendly, easygoing manner. It is no exaggeration to say I think he and his team of Officers have the best “office” in the world.
At noon, there was an event I don’t remember ever seeing on past Silversea voyages, as The Bar on Deck 5 was transformed into a British “Pub Lunch” venue, complete with fish and chips, mushy peas, steak & kidney pies, and plenty of UK beers. Although it wasn’t as popular as I would have guessed (I was a real keener, lining up ten minutes before noon), I absolutely loved it. The mushy peas were as good as anything I’ve had in the UK, and The Silver Wind Quartet played a mix of Brit favorites while International Hostesses Asta & Roxanna worked the room, along with Cruise Director Allan King and his talented team of Silversea Artists.
A quick word about Allan: he was made for this job. In fact, he’s been at sea doing this very thing for nearly four decades, so he knows his stuff. Guests sailing onboard the Silver Wind in the future can look forward to his easygoing, personable nature.
This afternoon and evening were spent as any good afternoon and evening should be aboard a Silversea ship: reveling in the company of new friends, on both the guest and crew sides. I’m even enjoying the simple pleasures of being “in motion on the ocean”, with heavy swells that are bouncing the Silver Wind around quite well this evening.
One thing, though, was missing, and it’s something I look forward to on every Silversea voyage: the printed guest list. There was something wonderfully old-worldly about getting that printed guest list, and I’d always go along with a pen and star off the names of the people I met and became good friends with. It’s such a small, small thing, but I do honestly miss my Silversea guest list.
It has taken me forever to write the closing paragraph of this article; no doubt I should probably be finishing up the last of my packing and placing my luggage outside my door in preparation for tomorrow’s disembarkation in Cape Town.
It’s not that I have nothing to say; it’s that I cannot possibly imagine how to say it.
In the past ten days, I’ve watched herds of elephants at the Addo Elephant National Park. I’ve gone hunting for Big Five Game at the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Reserve and have been chased by a mammoth elephant in heat in the process. I saw hippos and birds in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and roamed the countryside at the Tala Private Game Reserve, and went on a thrilling half-day drive at the Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve near East London yesterday where the lions – caged or not – scared the heck out of me.
I even set foot in Maputo, Mozambique for a single, unnerving afternoon.
Over the past ten days, I had an experience. Not a vacation, an experience that was part luxury cruise, part African safari, and all adventure. But it was also all about choice; you could, after all, choose to remain onboard the Silver Wind and sip your favorite drink by the pool. But after journeying over 10,000 miles to be here, I wanted to immerse myself as fully as possible. I went on Safari in the blazing heat and the pouring rain. I was whapped in the face by branches, hounded by the bugs, and thrown around like a rock in a tumbler for five straight days.
And I loved every minute of it.
I learned to ignore the bugs, brush off the branches, and shrug off the aches, because at the end of the day, I got to return to the elegant Silver Wind.
She’s not as flashy as the Silver Spirit, and she hasn’t been through the same kind of total makeover given to her sister, Silver Cloud, this past fall. If you’re looking to have your socks knocked off by soaring atriums, glass elevators, and kitschy décor, this isn’t the ship for you.
What Silver Wind excels at, though, is what the rest of the fleet has going for it: a kind of warm, understated elegance that is becoming increasingly harder to find. Some parts of her, like La Terrazza and the Observation Lounge on Deck 9 forward, reflect the “modern” Silversea. Others, like The Bar and the Panorama Lounge, harken back to the mid-1990’s when Silversea was first founded, largely on the backs of Silver Wind and her sister, Silver Cloud. They’re little-changed, and for good reason: The Bar onboard the Silver Wind is gorgeous. As much as I love the new colour scheme added to The Bar onboard the Silver Cloud, I will be sad when they renovate the one here.
If you can get behind that, you’ll have an absolutely fantastic time. The crew – who will, I promise you, become like friends and family to you – will ensure it. Then, when you return, they will greet you as if no time has passed at all.
They are what I miss the most each and every time I disembark a Silversea ship; a process that never gets any easier.
With a late-night flight out of Cape Town, it will take me nearly two days to get back to Vancouver traveling via London’s Heathrow airport. It’s a long haul, no question. But it’s a journey I would gladly undertake again in order to return to South Africa. What’s more, my time here has inspired me to visit and explore more of the world’s exotic destinations, like Asia, South America, and Australia and New Zealand, all of which are places that, for all my travels, remain unexplored.
The 2013 Silversea brochure has an inscription on the cover that reads, “Journeys to treasure across every continent.”
They’re right: I will treasure the past ten days for the rest of my life.
|Day 1||Cape Town, South Africa|
|Day 2||Cruising The Indian Ocean|
|Day 3||Addo Elephant Park|
|Day 4||Day at Sea|
|Day 5||Maputo, Mozambique|
|Day 6||iSimangaliso Wetland Park|
|Day 7||On Safari|
|Day 8||Durban & Tala Private Game Reserve|
|Day 9||East London & an Inkwenkwezi Safari|
|Day 10||Day at Sea|