Sailing the Timor Sea aboard Silver Discoverer
Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports
Silversea’s Silver Discoverer is making a steady 12 knots today, setting out with an entire day of purposeful cruising as we make our way some 400 nautical miles from Wyndham, Australia to the Indonesian island of Savu.
With only a few scattered clouds, guests had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the warm weather out on deck today. It’s 35°C out today, with a low of just 24°C, and the humidity seems to be increasing as we head further north and leave Australia’s Kimberley region in our wake.
Of course, a day at sea gives me the opportunity to do something I’ve wanted to do since we boarded in Broome last Monday: focus entirely on the Silver Discoverer!
Silver Discoverer was built as Oceanic Grace in 1989 at the NKK Tsu shipyard in Tsu, Japan. If you look closely, a few things onboard still betray her Japanese heritage, such as the traditional Japanese character sets underneath the “Exit” plaque on the Deck 5 promenade doors, and the long-painted over registration port of “Tokyo” can still be seen cut into her stern on Deck 4.
Her stint with the Japanese market didn’t last, and in the early 1990’s she was pressed into service in Indonesia as Oceanic Odyssey. In 1999, now-defunct Clipper Cruise Line purchased Oceanic Odyssey and renamed her Clipper Odyssey. She was sold to International Shipping Partners in 2007, but still retained her name.
Last year, Silversea purchased Clipper Odyssey to act as the line’s third luxury expedition vessel. She was christened just this past March in a ceremony in Singapore and has officially – as of today – just completed her inaugural season in Australia’s Kimberley region. She’ll be back next March, but in the meantime, Silver Discoverer will sail to Southeast Asia, Micronesia, Melanesia & Polynesia, Eastern Asia & Russia’s Far East, and New Zealand and the Sub-Antarctic.
Some Silver Discoverer Fast Facts:
- Officers: International
- Crew: 96
- Guests: 120
- Tonnage: 5,218
- Length: 338 feet / 102.9 metres
- Width: 51 feet / 15.4 metres
- Speed: 14 knots
- Passenger Decks: 5
- Refurbished: 2014
- Registry: Nassau, Bahamas
Wikipedia even says that, as built, this ship used to have an onboard decompression chamber for divers, but I haven’t been able to verify that.
Before entering service, Silversea made a number of changes and enhancements to the Silver Discoverer. Some are easy to spot, like the brand-new bathrooms in each and every suite that mimic the design and décor of those found aboard the line’s flagship, the 540-guest Silver Spirit.
But to really get a sense of the work Silversea did requires some before-and-after photographs:
The Restaurant, Deck 3
Silversea’s work here is nothing short of phenomenal. As Clipper Odyssey, the Restaurant was cafeteria at best. But as I have written previously, I think work Silversea has done on The Restaurant here onboard Silver Discoverer may just make it the most beautiful one in the entire fleet – and that’s saying a lot about a fleet with some pretty drop-dead gorgeous dining venues.
Everything here clicks, from the high-back chairs to the dark woodgrain panelling on the walls. I particularly like the unique lighting fixtures that offset the room. Acoustic levels are good, and tables are generously spaced so you never feel on top of your fellow guests. Service is, as always, standard Silversea: friendly, welcoming and precise – a fact made all the more impressive that several crewmembers are on their first contracts with the line.
The only downside: this gorgeous room is only used once per day, for dinner. Breakfast and Lunch are taken two decks up in the somewhat austere Discoverer Lounge.
The Explorer Lounge, Deck 4
The Explorer Lounge is the place to be for lectures, cocktails, and daily recaps of our adventures ashore. It hasn’t been as extensively modified from its Clipper Odyssey days, but it has been given a top-to-bottom makeover in terms of wall and window treatments, soft furnishings, and tables, chairs and couches.
Herein lies the problem with the Explorer Lounge: it’s crowded. The new chairs – which look lovely when photographed – are massive, and are positioned facing away from the small dance floor that has been converted into a lecture area. The result is that most people sit on the couches facing the screen, leaving the large circular chairs under-utilised.
In a bigger room, it wouldn’t be an issue, and for cocktail hour, it works just fine. But for lectures and presentations – which make up a large portion of the activities here – the furniture could use a little tweaking. But it’s a very minor thing that always comes with launching a new ship; there’s a period where general arrangements still have to be sorted out.
Calm and soothing by day, the Explorer Lounge really becomes inviting at night. After dinner, there’s still live music here, performed on our sailing by the talented Jorge.
The Discoverer Lounge, Deck 5
Located on Promenade Deck 5, the Discoverer Lounge is where buffet breakfast and lunch are held each day aboard the Silver Discoverer. You can also take your food out to the Pool Grill deck that can be accessed by way of a small corridor on the port side of the ship, or bring your burger in from outdoors to enjoy in the comfort of the air conditioning system.
This room truly doesn’t photograph well; it is far more inviting in real life. However, it’s easily the most un-Silversea space onboard, with stark white walls and oversized bronze signal lamps acting as wall sconces.
On the plus side, it’s rarely crowded, and the new chairs added to this area are extremely comfortable. Buffet selections are almost as varied as those in La Terrazza aboard the line’s regular luxury ships, and the lunch buffet offers specialties that change daily. My recommendations: have the chilled strawberry soup if it’s on offer; it’s tremendous!
The Pool Deck, Deck 5
Aside from repainting (and branding) the outdoor swimming pool (which has seen a lot of use!), Silversea also completely reconditioned this popular aft-facing area. Every day, hamburgers and hot dogs are offered for lunch, along with all your favorite liquid concoctions. And at night, the pool features Silversea’s signature “hot rock” dining experience that we wrote about a few days back – and again further down this post!
We haven’t really talked a lot about Deck 7, which is the uppermost accessible passenger deck. Deck 7 is home to both the Gynmasium and the Spa at Silversea, both of which are completely new additions to the vessel in her incarnation as Silver Discoverer. You can imagine that adding these to an existing ship was no easy challenge, yet Silversea’s designers found the space to sandwich both areas in between the funnel casing and radar mast.
They also removed the small steel bulkhead and windows that used to be at the front of the ship, replacing them instead with more standard railings. When they’re not in use, several Zodiac rafts and the ship’s glass-bottomed boat are secured up here. There are a handful of chairs and loungers here for guests to use, but the forward part of Deck 7 is rarely visited by most.
Even with only after two months in service, deckhands are hard at work painting areas of the ship’s superstructure and touching up others. Just yesterday, her radar mast got a fresh coat of white-and-blue paint.
Other structural changes included the removing of the ship’s tenders. With a fleet of Zodiac craft used for going ashore, these tenders (which used to be located aft of the ship’s bright-orange Fassmer lifeboats) became redundant and were removed, uncluttering her deck space and removing the formerly obstructed views of several suites, including my own.
Elevators and Corridors
The Silver Discoverer has one passenger elevator, located amidships next to the main staircase. This traverses decks 3 to 6, but does not go all the way up to Deck 7 as that houses the elevator equipment rooms.
The elevator is a quirky one, and most definitely original equipment from the ship’s days in Japan. It buzzes and clacks and feels a bit like you’re stepping into something out of Star Wars with all its polished metal-and-black surfaces. But, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do: get you from one deck to another.
If you’re prefer to take the stairs, the ship’s central staircase wraps around the main elevator in a horseshoe shape. Again, the only exception to this is on Deck 7, which is accessed from a separate staircase on Deck 6. Stairwells on the aft portion of Decks 5 and 6 also provide outdoor access, and guests can access the rear stern decks from the interior of the ship on Decks 5 and 6.
Stateroom corridors are attractive, with white walls offset by royal blue carpeting. Corridors are brightly lit, in contrast with the main staircase area of the ship, which feels a little dim. Like other Silversea vessels, passenger accommodations are largely situated in the forward half of the ship, with public rooms aft. The only exception to this is Deck 6, which boasts suites both forward and aft.
Tonight, after a spectacular sunset directly off our bow, I went and dined once again at The Grill outdoors all the way aft on Deck 5, with its hot rock cooking experience. It’s a dining venue that’s in high demand on this cruise, with warm temperatures that keep evenings on deck very pleasant.
Before I close tonight’s report, I’ll leave you with this insight into the kind of excellent service you get on Silversea. One of the guests I was dining with joked that he’d like some chips (French fries) with his steak. He was only kidding, but it was a bit of a running joke that he’d established with Arn, our waiter, for a while. So, when his steak came, it included a side of French fries.
It’s a little touch, to be sure. But it’s the kind of little touch that will make you remember that evening for many years to come.
Silver Discoverer, The Kimberley Coast, Australia to Indonesia
|May 9, 2014||Day 1 - Arrival Down Under|
|May 10||Day 2 - Sydney and the Shangri-La|
|May 11||Day 3 - Perth|
|May 12||Day 4 - Embarking Silver Discoverer in Broome|
|May 13||Day 5 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 1|
|May 14||Day 6 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 2|
|May 15||Day 7 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 3|
|May 16||Day 8 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 4|
|May 17||Day 9 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 5|
|May 18||Day 10 - Exploring the Kimberley, Day 6|
|May 19||Day 11 - Wyndham, Australia|
|May 20||Day 12 - At Sea|
|May 21||Day 13 - Savu, Indonesia|
|May 22||Day 14 - Komodo & Pink Beach, Indonesia|
|May 23||Day 15 - Waikelo, Indonesia|
|May 24||Benoa, Bali, Indonesia|