South African Cruise Q&A

Now that I have returned from South Africa and Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind, I have finally had a chance to decompress and recover from jet lag (more on that later). Most importantly, I’ve had some time to look over some of the questions sent in by readers about my journey, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of them here.

Silversea's elegant Silver Wind docked in Cape Town, South Africa on January 15, 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind docked in Cape Town, South Africa on January 15, 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

How does the Silver Wind compare to the Silver Spirit or Silver Shadow?

Very well – but they’re different in terms of style. Silver Wind was Silversea’s second ship, constructed in 1995 by Genoa-based T. Mariotti.  Silver Spirit was built in 2009 and is longer, taller, wider and carries more guests than her earlier fleetmate. Silver Shadow, on the other hand, is a bridge between the two, having been built in 2000.

An Observation Lounge was added to Deck 9 aboard the Silver Wind during a refit a few years back. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
An Observation Lounge was added to Deck 9 aboard the Silver Wind during a refit a few years back. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Is there a better ship? I don’t think so. It really depends what you look for in a ship: Silver Wind has aged beautifully, but there are still areas of her that harken back to her early 1990’s roots, like the faux marble on the support columns and ceiling accents in the Panorama Lounge.  Is that a problem? No – in fact, Silver Wind’s Bar on Deck 5 is so beautifully done that I hope the line never touches it.

Silver Wind’s décor and color palette are more subdued than the vibrant reds, greens and blues of the Silver Spirit.

The Parisian Lounge is a two-story affair, and larger than you might expect for a ship the size of the Silver Wind. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The Parisian Lounge is a two-story affair, and larger than you might expect for a ship the size of the Silver Wind. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If you love the intimacy of a smaller ship, though, it’s tough to beat the Silver Wind. She has all the important Silversea hallmarks, like The Grill featuring Hot Rocks, La Terrazza, and Le Champagne, not to mention some fabulous suites and that same high-quality Silversea service.

What was your favorite thing about the Silver Wind?

La Terrazza aboard Silver Wind; Deck 7 aft. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
La Terrazza aboard Silver Wind; Deck 7 aft. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I loved her size. If you forget something in your suite, it’s never more than a 60-second walk away. No Silversea ship is crowded, but the Silver Wind took spaciousness to a new level. The only thing that seemed too small to meet demand, at least on my sailing, was Le Champagne. But its popularity could vary between sailings.

Once again: it's tough to beat the Observation Lounge, with its Silver Spirit-esque design. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Once again: it’s tough to beat the Observation Lounge, with its Silver Spirit-esque design. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I also loved the Observation Lounge on Deck 9 forward. Once again, few people were ever in this beautiful space. There’s no bar here like onboard the Silver Spirit, but a light breakfast (fruit, pastries, coffee, tea) is served here each morning, and I’d often go up for a coffee and some fruit. Okay – coffee and a doughnut. Who am I kidding?

It's all about choice, and there's nothing quite like cooking your meal atop a slab of volcanic rock under the stars at The Grill. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
A Silversea cruise is all about choice, and there’s nothing quite like cooking your meal atop a slab of volcanic rock under the stars at The Grill. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

How bad are the flights to South Africa from North America?

I got to know the Boeing 747-400 very well on my journey to South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
I got to know the Boeing 747-400 very well on my journey to South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Flying to South Africa is really more of a case of mind over matter: it sounds worse than it really is.  I flew on British Airways through London Heathrow in both directions, and found that jet lag on returning home was no worse than a trip to London or Paris. This is due to the fact that although the flight from Heathrow to Cape Town is about 11.5 hours in duration, the time difference between the two is only two hours.

A few people remarked on my long layover at Heathrow; it was actually quite pleasant. But I enjoy airports and I had my laptop, so I took the opportunity to catch up on work. And I’d rather lay over for nine hours than do a “milk run” flight with multiple connections.

Why did you get seasick? Does the Silver Wind not handle rough seas well?

A particularly large wave breaks over the Silver Wind's bow as we sailed the Indian Ocean. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
A particularly large wave breaks over the Silver Wind’s bow as we sailed the Indian Ocean. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Ah, the seasickness. It has nothing to do with the Silver Wind’s sea-keeping abilities and everything to do with the unpredictability of the Indian Ocean. The same holds true for any ocean; I’ve been in heavy seas in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Aegean, the North Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and even just off the coast of Alaska. There’s no rhyme or reason sometimes.

As for why I got seasick: I attribute that to fatigue. There’s a first time for everything, I suppose, and after that one bout, I was fine for the rest of the trip. And as I said in my post, if you’re going to be seasick at any time, Silversea is the line to do it on: I doubt I would have been able to get candied ginger, ginger ale and crackers faster and with more genuine care anywhere else.

How safe/unsafe is South Africa

I never felt unsafe in South Africa; Mozambique was a different story. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
I never felt unsafe in South Africa; Mozambique was a different story. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If you pick up a guide book on South Africa – like I did – you’ll see large swaths of pages devoted entirely to safety.  While the recommendations are appropriate, simply reading these chapters is enough to put some people off from visiting South Africa.

There’s a lot to consider when visiting South Africa. I had read that the traffic was horrifying (accidents are the cause of numerous deaths), and that’s if you aren’t car-jacked at gunpoint. Theft and muggings are reportedly not uncommon, and AIDS is widespread.

Now, in perspective: I never saw a single car accident. I was never car-jacked, or mugged – though in Mozambique, I don’t think this would have been difficult to achieve. And I didn’t sleep with anyone, which should rectify the AIDS thing.

Cape Town, particularly the V&A Waterfront, is very safe. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Cape Town, particularly the V&A Waterfront, is very safe. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Instead, I found South Africa to be a warm and welcoming place. Do you have to take care of yourself? Absolutely. Should you carry around valuables? No. Should you be aware of your surroundings? Yes. At the end of the day, it’s about knowing the risks and doing everything possible to not make yourself a target, and being smart about it. Wandering around after dark with a camera slung around your neck is probably not a good idea.

But I would go back to South Africa in a heartbeat – any time, any day.

I’m scared of bugs. How bad are they on Safari?

Say hello to the Elegant Grasshopper: it discourages predators by emitting foul-tasting and smelling fluids. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Say hello to the Elegant Grasshopper: it discourages predators by emitting foul-tasting and smelling fluids. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

As anyone who’s met me knows, I’m not a fan of anything that flies, buzzes and can sting. But I plied myself with bug spray and got on with it. The bugs really didn’t bother me all that much – except for the hippo horseflies. I did not want to get stung by one of those.  But like the rest of the trip, the reward for controlling your fears is enormous, and this trip was good for me personally also.

Why should I cruise to South Africa instead of taking a land tour?

Explore on Safari during the day... Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Explore on Safari during the day… Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Return to luxury at night. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Return to luxury at night. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Like any destination, a cruise is a fantastic way to experience a number of ports and destinations in one go. On Silversea, it’s even better because you know that everything is taken care of. You know that guides, transportation, and meals will all be above-par, or of the best quality possible given the region you’re in. You can go ashore and be as adventurous as you want to, and return to the beautiful Silver Wind to relax and rejuvenate.

Is this a cruise you could do twice?

The unpredictable nature of Safaris makes this cruise very repeatable. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The unpredictable nature of Safaris makes this cruise very repeatable. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Yes, I think so. I heard some guests aboard the ship that said they had been once and could cross South Africa off their bucket list, but for me, I’d like to come back and cruise to South Africa again, either taking a voyage that explores the same stretch of land or taking a voyage that ventures further after, around the West Coast of Africa. On my destination hit-list now: the Namib Desert; Ghana; and Mauretania.

I’m going to cruise from Cape Town. Should I spend some time there pre-or-post cruise?

Linger a while in Cape Town; it's a shame to come all that way and not stay. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Linger a while in Cape Town; it’s a shame to come all that way and not stay. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Yes. The biggest mistake I made was not staying a day before or after in Cape Town. It’s a vibrant city with plenty of things to see and do, and there’s even a hop-on-hop-off bus you can take that operates from the historic V&A Waterfront.

Where are you going next? I miss my daily morning/afternoon/evening update.

We’re working on some other exciting voyages to bring you sooner rather than later.  Stay tuned.

Why should I go somewhere like South Africa?

Because it will change your life.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Silver Wind, South Africa

Day 1Cape Town, South Africa
Day 2Cruising The Indian Ocean
Day 3Addo Elephant Park
Day 4Day at Sea
Day 5Maputo, Mozambique
Day 6iSimangaliso Wetland Park
Day 7On Safari
Day 8Durban & Tala Private Game Reserve
Day 9East London & an Inkwenkwezi Safari
Day 10Day at Sea
Voyage Recap

Join the Conversation

Nicholas Sabalos, Jr., CDR, U.S. Navy (Ret.) says:

Welcome back, Aaron! Once again, an exceptionally engaging series of reports and photography. I felt like I was right there, cruising the waters of southern Africa!

Jennifer says:

Loved the blog Aaron. I note that u stayed at the Table Bay Hotel and the Silver Wind was docked right next door. I have read that ships don’t dock in the V&A, has this changed recently?

Cheers
Jennifer

Aaron Saunders says:

Many thanks for your kind comments, Jennifer!

I’d heard that as well about the V&A Waterfront, but Silver Wind seems to be exempt. In all honesty, she’s about as large as you could dock at V&A – very narrow entryway and short piers. The much larger MSC Opera, I believe, was docked over at the commercial berths on our return to Cape Town on the 25th.

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