Story and photos by Julie L. Kessler
In mid-November Silversea Cruises inaugurated its newest ship in Antarctica, the Silver Endeavour, marking Silversea’s 11th ship in its ultra-luxury fleet. Silversea acquired the 2021-built ship in July following Crystal Cruises’ demise. I embarked on this inaugural voyage of Silver Endeavour courtesy of Silversea Cruises. The christening was held with Silversea executives and Chilean dignitaries attending, a religious blessing ceremony, bagpipe performance (customary for parent company Royal Caribbean), and American and Chilean National Anthems performed. Felicity Aston MBE, polar explorer and Godmother extraordinaire was then introduced.
The arrival of Silver Endeavour, a PC6 Polar Class ship, to Silversea’s fleet is a particularly great experience for those with limited time. Many vessels that navigate to Antarctica do so with round trip sailing across the notorious Drake Passage from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southern-most tip of South America. This can be a 36-hour crossing that can resemble either a Drake Lake or a Drake Shake. For most of its Antarctic voyages, the Endeavour instead uses the Antartica Bridge, so guests fly first to Punta Arenas, Chile. Guests then board a private chartered plane either a reconfigured BAe 146 or RJ 100, some of which are adorably painted like penguins. With only 64-passengers on these aircrafts built for 100, guests comfortably fly to a small airstrip on King George Island in the South Shetlands then board a zodiac to embark directly onto the Endeavour.
Having recently experienced both the Drake Lake and the Drake Shake on another voyage, avoiding the Drake Passage not only saved precious time thereby permitting more Antarctic adventures on the Peninsula and continent, but also eliminated any worry of seasickness. I’d much rather be sipping champagne and eating caviar onboard than mainlining Bonine or donning a dastardly, drought-inducing anti-seasickness patch.
The Endeavour is, in a word, magnificent. There is Carrara-style marble throughout the ship with gold trim and turquoise pops of color. Intricate crystal and Murano glass lighting in several public areas adds panache, while vapor fireplaces throughout the ship sets a warm, contemplative mood. Free form gray, white, and blue carpets precisely mimic the color palette of Antarctica herself. The Endeavour is an elegantly luxurious, yet exceedingly comfortable way to visit the White Continent.
On Deck 3 a dedicated mudroom with lockers and marina makes getting suited up for expeditions and embarking onto zodiacs easy and comfortable. Deck 4 has three of Endeavour’s five restaurants, the Connoisseur’s Corner for cigar aficionados (with an excellent filtration system), and the Explorer Lounge where daily briefings and expert lectures are delivered. Suites are located on Decks 5 through 8, while Deck 5 houses two more eateries, the beloved Arts Café and atrium-enclosed Grill, as well as Reception, the signature Otium Spa, beauty salon, fitness center, indoor swimming pool and whirlpool. On Deck 9 the Observation Lounge, the Study, and well-curated Library, all with floor-to-ceiling windows, are marvelous places to see wildlife and engage your mind while you further learn about the region and historical voyages past.
The Suite Life and Dedicated Butlers
Currently the Endeavour holds a maximum of 200 passengers in 100 suites, with a crew of 200 for a 1:1 guest/crew ratio. The onboard casino and helipad/hangar have been retired and the space will be used to add 10 additional suites next Spring when the ship goes into dry dock before its next polar season. Suites are large with separate seating areas decorated in calming, muted tones with a walk-in closet and plenty of storage space. Suites also boast a two-person quartz desk and a beautiful quartz vanity area with Dyson hair dryers. Bathrooms are likewise large with enormous marble showers and Caudalíe products. Conveniently, the WC is in a separate room with its own additional sink.
A mini bar stocked with your favorite items is replenished daily. There are enough USB ports and outlets to satisfy even the nerdiest electronic geek. Silversea’s signature bedding, pillow menu, and high-count sheets ensure restful repose while Nespresso makers and Illy coffee capsules makes mornings glorious. Suites also have lovely traditional balconies, so binoculars are put to good use and your camera will likely never rest.
If all of that were not enough, Endeavour’s suites, like all ships in Silversea’s fleet, have dedicated Butlers who take their jobs – to make your voyage perfect – very, very seriously. No request is too small and their prompt, professional hospitality is their hallmark and stock-in-trade. The only downside: my butler had to stay on the ship. He is sorely missed.
Like all Silversea ships, the Endeavour has a wide variety of dining options. The Restaurant is the ship’s main, open seating dining room and serves Continental cuisine. Surrounded by windows, dramatic views add to the experience. Il Terrazzino pays homage to Silversea’s Italian heritage and serves delectable fresh dishes such as Caprese salad, papparadelle al ragú d’anatra, and tiramisu that will have you dreaming of Italy.
Silversea’s signature La Dame serves the finest French cuisine at sea in a supremely elegant atmosphere. There’s an a la carte menu and a six-course wine paired degustation menu served by white gloved waiters. Enjoying champagne and fresh caviar with all accoutrements, foie gras terrine, tender Limousin beef and pistachio soufflé while mesmerized by floating icebergs the size of big rigs is an experience not soon forgotten.
The Grill on Endeavour is in an enclosed atrium so as you enjoy burgers, crab cakes, grilled squid, prawn bisque, sushi, or a kale and portobello quiche, your attention will likely be diverted by a whale breaching or enormous Antarctic birds diving for their own sustenance. Arts Café which resembles my favorite Starbucks, only better, serves light breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, along with excellent coffees and house made gourmet ice cream. There’s also 24-hour room service delivered by your butler within 20-minutes.
Fitness, Otium Spa & Salon
The Endeavour has a state-of-the-art fitness center, which, if you actually use it, makes dining happily guilt-free. In addition to Technogym equipment, there are daily yoga, stretch, Pilates, and abs classes.
The Roman-inspired Otium Spa is designed to promote the original art of comfort. Otium experiences include the decadent 100-minute Apollonian Spirit using warm mineral-rich salt stones followed by a cold mask. The Heavenly Journey deep-tissue massage with Mediterranean oils nearly made me forget my name. The Endeavour also has a full-service hair and nail salon for men and women including the Emperor’s Chair where men can enjoy a complete manscaping experience.
Expeditions for the Curious
The Endeavour currently has 18 military grade Zodiacs with plans to increase to 22 shortly allowing all passengers to disembark for expeditions at once. Endeavour’s large, well-trained expedition team has years of Antarctic experience and a plethora of local knowledge, and I felt safe on the Zodiacs and landings. Expedition teams went to landings in advance of passengers marking areas where we could hike for the best glacial views and animal sightings. Wildlife and expedition experts remained at landings to answer questions and assist with photos.
Nothing quite prepares you emotionally for seeing your first penguin colonies and their communally often comic conduct. Nearly all their behavior has hilarious aspects. From their drunken sailor like waddling uphill, sliding downwards on their bellies when gravity calls, or food diving with synchronized swimming precision. Bird lovers will be kept busy identifying those found in Antarctica including Albatrosses, some with 12-foot wingspans. There were also dozens of crabeater, leopard, and elephant seals, all of whom seemed talented at sleeping and rolling over. For those wishing to glide through Antarctic waters alongside bitibergs, Endeavour also has 12 kayaks.
Complementing the experiences on land, the Endeavour retains a variety of expert lecturers onboard including ornithologists, marine biologists, polar historians, anthropologists, and naturalists. A professional photographer also gave tips so guests could improve their skills.
An Unforgettable Journey
It’s true that a trip to Antarctica is utterly transformative. It’s remarkable while you are there, of course, but unlike many other destinations, Antarctica’s nature, wildlife, grandeur, scale, and breathtaking vistas stay with you long after returning home. For all travelers to Antarctica, it’s key to remember three things:
First, Antarctica is a land of superlatives – being the highest, driest, coldest, and windiest place on earth, possessing 93-percent of the world’s iceberg masses.
Second, Mother Nature can be fickle and dances to her own distinct and intense drum. Weather and navigational conditions can, and often do, change in a New York second requiring the captain and crew to completely alter plans where landings and excursions are concerned, and even arrivals to and departures from the continent.
Third, Father Time is also thoroughly unconcerned about your long-standing meeting at the office back home, any front row opera tickets or other commitments you may have.
So when traveling to the 7th continent, find your inner flexibility and make certain to pack it along with your patience You will then be well-suited and rewarded beyond measure as you enjoy Antarctica’s many marvels. You will also likely become a staunch Antarctic ambassador to protect it for the future and for progeny once you’ve returned home, all the while contemplating your incredible good fortune to have experienced such a remarkable place aboard Silversea’s ultra-luxury Silver Endeavour.
Read more about Antarctica on Silversea: Recap of our 2018 voyage
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