When I left you last, we were walking up the gangway to board Silver Cloud in Punta Arenas, Chile, on the second day of our Silver Cloud Antarctic adventure. This post will take us through days two, three and four, across the South Atlantic Ocean to the Falkland Islands, a segment of the voyage that I have designated as “the appetizer” of our five-course meal.
Why the appetizer? Crossing the South Atlantic would give us a taste for crossing the Drake Passage, though the latter is decidedly bumpier, and with its penguins and gorgeous landscapes, the Falklands would whet our appetites for the Antarctic Peninsula, more than 800 nautical miles south. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. Before we get anywhere, we’ll need to step onboard Silver Cloud.
My entry onto Silver Cloud began with a hug. Assistant expedition team leader Dominic Del Rosario and I have traveled together on three expeditions, and it was a pleasure to see him onboard Silver Cloud for our Antarctic adventure.
The first time that I traveled with Dominic was in 2011 on Silver Explorer in the Caribbean followed by a 2013 voyage on Silver Explorer in Antarctica. On those two voyages, Dominic worked in the restaurants.
Our third voyage was in 2014, Silver Discoverer in Russia’s Far East, when Dominic, who had been promoted to the expedition team, spent time exploring this fascinating region with me and my son Alex.
I found two things remarkable about Dominic: His engaging personality and his ascension through the ranks. Originally from Imus, Cavite in the Philippines, Dominic started with Silversea in 2005. He began as an assistant waiter, then waiter, then chef de rang, then headwaiter, then restaurant manager. That all changed in Antarctica, though.
During Silver Explorer’s visits to the White Continent, Dominic, who had worked the demanding breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts, would often skip naps during his breaks, opting instead to go ashore. That required not only missing a rest but also gearing up, getting on a Zodiac and landing on a beach.
One fateful day in 2013, Conrad Combrink, who founded and heads up Silversea Expeditions, took notice. “Why do you always go out on your breaks?” Conrad asked Dominic. I told him I really love the place, Dominic said to me over coffee at Silver Cloud’s Pool Bar.
Before leaving the ship on that voyage, Conrad asked Dominic if he would be interested in joining the expedition team. “I wanted to ask him, ‘Are you serious?’ ” Dominic told me. Turns out, it was a serious offer.
Shortly afterward, Dominic received an email assigning him to the expedition team. Rather than leap at the opportunity, though, Dominic spoke with the hotel management side to see if they were okay with him jumping ship, so to speak. “They were very supportive,” Dominic said.
Dominic would become not only the first Filipino expedition leader for Silversea but also the first in the entire cruise industry. His first voyage, Russia’s Far East in August of 2014, was the same voyage that my son Alex and I were on.
I recall being surprised and delighted to see Dominic clad not in a headwaiter’s jacket but in a parka with the words Silversea Expedition Team emblazoned on it. Imagine how you’d feel if you were Dominic at that time. Instead of working in the restaurant all day while in some of the world’s most beautiful places, you were suddenly charged with going ashore to enhance the guest experience.
A monumental voyage for Dominic, Russia’s Far East also ranks as one of the best trips of my life. If you’re interested in seeing what’s so appealing about the region, see the series of videos we produced here, Silver Discoverer in Russia’s Far East.
When I ran into Dominic on Silver Cloud last week, it was a happy reunion. We gave each other a heartfelt hug. I wasn’t sure he’d recognize me. We’d both aged a bit, both grown beards and while my hair was going nearly all gray, Dominic remarked about a few strands of gray now appearing in his head of dark hair.
He appears to be more committed than ever to Silversea. Just as in the days when he went ashore during his breaks as a waiter, Dominic is now one of the first ashore to scout out destinations each day for Zodiac landings. That requires that he’s up early and often late to bed. It’s a demanding pace.”When I started I really did not imagine how much work this job would be,” he told me. “But I realized that if you really like your job, you are not going to stop pushing yourself.
“It’s tiring,” he added with a smile, “but it’s a really great way to get tired.”
Dominic said that his becoming assistant expedition leader would not have been possible without Conrad Combrink’s vision and accepting attitudes. “I owe a great debt of gratitude to Conrad,” Dominic told me.
One take-away from Dominic’s story is that Silversea takes care of its staff. After all, as the saying at sea goes, “Happy Crew, Happy Guests.” Another take-away is that I’m not the only one who gets a hug when coming on board. Silversea has a family feeling. Yes, most cruise lines have professional and courteous staff, but on Silversea, many of the guests who I have spoken with over the years say that they feel as if they are coming home, or to a friend’s home.
Silversea serves up a luxury travel experience but with no snootiness or pretense. The overall feeling is one of heartfelt gestures and a sense of the genuine. As a guest, you don’t feel as if it is them (staff) and us (guests) but rather that we are all out exploring the world and experiencing it together.
The last time I was on Silver Cloud was in 2012, while crossing the Atlantic. She was a different vessel when I boarded her last week. In 2017, Silver Cloud underwent the knife for a total conversion to an expedition vessel. My colleague Aaron Saunders did a thorough review of the “new” ship, which you can find here, First Look: Silver Cloud Expedition.
One update to Aaron’s story. He noted that Wi-Fi did not extend to Tor’s Observation Lounge, as there appeared to be no Wi-Fi repeater. That has been remedied, and on my voyage, Wi-Fi worked well throughout Silver Cloud, including the Observation Lounge.
Speaking of internet, Silver Cloud includes a complimentary package that allows for 100mb per day. If you need more bandwidth, you can upgrade to a Standard or Premium package, with pricing indicated in the images below. Also, if you want to use more than one device simultaneously with others, options for that are available as well.
After a warm welcome aboard, Tamera and I had lunch and then proceeded to our Veranda Suite 507, situated forward on deck five. At 295 square feet, our suite was capable of sleeping three, so with just the two of us, it was plenty spacious.
Our queen-sized bed was draped in Pratesi® fine bed linens, and we had a choice of pillows. Tamera will be writing about the pillow menu and other fineries in another post. A sofa bed was situated in the sitting area, which could be closed off with a thick curtain/divider. Also in the sitting area, a writing desk that featured dual voltage 110/220 as well as two USB outlets.
Please note that the slide show photos can be advanced by ticking the arrows or thumbnails below the photos – and they can also be viewed fullscreen.
Our butler, Lumi, kept our mini-refrigerator stocked, and offered us a bar setup, also complimentary. The flat-screen television had a good selection of movies as well as Live TV, including the major news channels. I joked with Lumi that I preferred the HD view outside my veranda. There was a lot of truth in that joke. Tamera and I spent time out on the teak veranda, which we really appreciated when cruising in Antarctica. The veranda functioned as a platform onto which we could step our and snap photographs or admire the setting.
After leaving Punta Arenas, we sailed overnight, a full day, and another overnight, sighting the Falklands the next morning at around sunrise, which was at 3:30 a.m.
Our first landfall was New Island, one of the more than 300 islands that make up this British Overseas Territory. On New Island, we found a small museum, a farm and thousands of penguins – gentoo and rock-hoppers, along with albatrosses – perched on cliffside rocks that were just a 20-minute morning walk from the beach where Silver Cloud’s zodiacs put us ashore at around 9 a.m.
During the afternoon, Silver Cloud repositioned to West Point Island, privately owned and operated as a sheep farm. We were invited inside a farmhouse for English tea and cakes before we made our way across the island on foot.
Though small (spanning less than six square miles), West Point Island boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the Falklands. A 30- to 45-minute walk took us to the island’s west-facing cliffs (the highest in the Falklands) for spectacular views complemented by large colonies of black-browed albatrosses and southern rock-hopper penguins.
The next day, we awoke in Stanley, 148 miles from where we began a day earlier at New Island. Stanley’s few pubs and scant shops make the capital city a mecca for the Falkland Islands, but unfortunately, as can often be the case in Stanley, high winds made it risky for us to Zodiac ashore, and so with Stanley in our rearview mirror, we headed south, toward the Drake Passage and Antarctica.
The White Continent was 838 nautical miles away and with an intense weather system between us and all those penguins. Up next, Intermezzo: Crossing the Drake Passage.
In case you missed the last two posts, be sure to check out An Antarctic Voyage: On Silversea, A Veritable Feast and An Antarctic Voyage On Silversea: South America & Points Further South, Part Two, The Aperitif.