In case you’ve missed it, I’m covering our Silversea Antarctic voyage as if it were a five-course dining experience. Late for our meal together? Pull up a seat at the table. Here’s what you’ve missed so far …
When I last left you, we were enjoying a gorgeous day on Silver Cloud, anchored off Cuverville Island. Remember? We were sitting on our balcony admiring the view, sipping a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Little did we know then that the weather would soon change. Well, it did. In a big way.
Our sunny day shifted overnight to – dreary is not the right word – a dramatic day. Expedition Leader Stefan came over the public address system, suggesting that we all look outside to see something not often seen on Antarctic cruises, sea ice. The sea temperature had plunged to 28.8 Fahrenheit (or lower), the temperature at which salt water freezes. What we were looking at were blotches of ice covered in snow. It was eerily beautiful, as you can see in the video below.
Snow had been falling overnight, and we were surprised to find the outer decks caked in snow when we went out in the morning. A few crew members had even built a snowman and a snowwoman on the pool deck. We buttoned up and ventured outside. Our boots made deep imprints. I’m guessing that we had six inches of snow on the decks. It was odd, for an avid cruiser like me, to see Silver Cloud layered in snow. Inside, services continued as usual, but Tamera and I preferred to play in the snow. We were the only ones on the outer decks. Check it out in the video below.
And here are a few more photos. Note that the sideshow can be advanced by swiping (on handheld devices) or clicking.
It was a good day for bundling up and for taking advantage of Silversea’s all-beverages-included policy, and so we did just that, heading to Dolce Vita, a watering hole formerly known as The Bar before Silver Cloud’s transformation last year. Dolce Vita is the perfect gathering spot before dinner and a great place to get to know some of the other guests. While on excursions, most of us are so bundled up that we hardly recognize one another, and there’s so much to keep us engaged that we barely have time to make conversation with others. With the only distraction in Dolce Vita being an Aperol Spritz, mingling was easy, and I discovered that our fellow passengers came from all around the world, including a group of Belgians, a handful of Brits, Canadians, Kiwis, Australians and others. Though we hailed from different countries, there was one point of commonality: All of us were enthralled by the beauty of Antarctica.
A momentary digression: My introduction to the Aperol Spritz was in Venice, Italy, several years ago. I had been walking along to admire the city’s endless intrigue when I stopped into a unimposing shop where a few Venetians were gathered around a bar. They were sipping orange-colored drinks that back then was known as the Venetian Spritz. Later, I was told that because of its low alcohol content, the Venetian Spritz was favored among workers headed home for the evening. Something to take the edge off. For a single euro, the cocktail appealed to me on a few levels: it was cheap, it was colorful and it was local. I’ve been a fan of the Venetian Spritz ever since.
It’s hard to say no to another round when the bartender suggests it with a smile – and when the drinks are free, and so we found ourselves sipping a couple of speciality cocktails, expertly prepared and delicious to the taste.
Fortified, we headed outside once again. As we trundled along, we noticed unusual patterns in the sea, port side, forward. A whale. We’d seen dozens of them on this trip, but only a few this close. We were practically looking down over the railing at the whale. We were so close that I managed to capture its fluke with my iPhone. It was, you may be surprised to learn, 10:30 p.m., still light outside.
The next morning, we were supposed to anchor and go ashore at Deception Island. I’d been there once before with Silversea, and I found the island to be fascinating. Deception Island is actually the caldera of an active volcano. With only a narrow opening, the harbor is one of the safest in Antarctica. That narrow opening worked against us this morning, however. Low visibility and ice prevented us from entering. And so we proceeded to Yankee Harbor, not as protected but at least we could do one last landing before heading back across the Drake Passage to Ushuaia.
Silver Cloud anchored off Yankee Harbor and began Zodiac operations. The wind was so strong, and the sea so choppy that Tamera and I almost decided not to go ashore. We’re glad we did. Yankee Harbor was fascinating, with a long sliver of land serving as a boardwalk of sorts. We walked along admiring seals and penguins and a landscape that appeared to be cast in black and white.
It was the Zodiac ride back, though, that served up our adventure for the day. Zodiac inflatable boats were engineered by a French company that originally specialized in the production of airships. In the 1930s, one of the company’s engineers developed the first prototype for military transport, and since then the name Zodiac has been synonymous with rigid-hulled inflatable boats. Zodiacs feature several buoyancy compartments and can safely continue to function even if compartments were to deflate. The are, knock on wood, virtually unsinkable, thanks to the compartmental design and their low center of gravity. In his 20 years of being on expeditions, our Expedition Leader Stefan only once did a chamber deflate. “With five chambers, if one breaks, you can continue, no problem,” he said. “If two broke, I’d call for help.”
Silver Cloud carries 18 Zodiacs, which works well to rotate guest, crew and supplies ashore. When it was time to head back to Silver Cloud, thick chunks of sea ice were forming between ship and shore.The wind had picked up, visibility had dropped. I don’t think there was any significant risk (Silversea always errs on the side of caution), but our trip back to the ship was quite an adventure.
Those up front in the Zodiac were sprayed and showered. Minutes before we came to the ice, two Zodiacs with only a driver in each, zipped past us to open up the ice. Here’s a short video of our adventure.
Back on board Silver Cloud, it was warm and cozy. Tamera headed to the spa and visited the boutique. I headed to the gym. You can get a glimpse of those venues in the slideshow below.
Mid-afternoon, we pulled anchor and began our journey north. In front of us, the Drake Passage and then Ushuaia. The forecast? Wind and waves.
Sitting in The Restaurant for a late lunch, we watched as the sea pitched and rolled, the sea spray slapping against the window at our table. Would our ride back across the Drake be as bumpy as the ride down? We were about to find out.