Silver Wind Mediterranean Day 9 – Malaga

Disembarkation in Malaga, Spain & Post-Cruise in London

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Aaron Saunders, Live Voyage Reports

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Linger a while. Guests are invited to relax in Silver Wind's public rooms until disembarkation. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Linger a while. Guests are invited to relax in Silver Wind’s public rooms until disembarkation. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

With Silversea’s Silver Wind, already docked in Malaga, Spain this morning, disembarkation has taken on a more leisurely tone than most days. Customs formalities were completed upon our arrival around dinner time yesterday, and today’s logistics basically only consist of waiting for port officials to open the port and for luggage to be offloaded and placed onto coaches.

As always, getting off a Silversea ship couldn’t be easier: guests are invited to use their suites until roughly 8:30 a.m., and at that point they are able to kick back and relax in one of the ship’s public areas.

All Good Things Must End: my British Airways flight to Gatwick waits at the gate in Malaga, Spain. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
All Good Things Must End: My British Airways flight to Gatwick waits at the gate in Malaga, Spain. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Also unlike most lines, room service breakfast is still available for those who want it on disembarkation day, and a Coffee Corner is featured in the Panorama Lounge on Deck 8. Full-service breakfast can be taken in both La Terrazza (my favorite) on Deck 7, or in The Restaurant on Deck 4.

The logistics of getting off are simple; the emotional consequences of leaving are somewhat harder to stomach.

All around the ship this morning, I see guests hugging crew members that have made a difference. For me, I’m saying goodbye to some crew that I have known for three or four voyages now, while others have made an amazing impression on me in just seven short days.

Inside Malaga airport. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Inside Malaga airport. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

There is an enormous lump in my stomach as I write this portion of the report from The Bar on Deck 5. Every time I sail with Silversea, I hope it will get easier. And every time, saying goodbye seems to get harder.

Other guests must think so, too. I’ve seen five (five!) this morning who are thumbing through the line’s 2014 Itinerary Atlas.

In total, we sailed a distance of 1551 nautical miles from Rome, including a whopping 768 nautical miles on our at-sea-run from La Goulette to Malaga.

We're Not On Silversea Anymore. Playing the Baggage Game at Gatwick; a process that would take almost 90 minutes. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
We’re Not On Silversea Anymore. Playing the Baggage Game at Gatwick; a process that would take almost 90 minutes. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

When the time finally came to go, I made my way to the airport using Silversea’s group airport transfer. However, the airport is less than 30 minutes away, so simply hailing a taxi probably isn’t an issue for cruisers disembarking here. Still, I liked the peace of mind – and the pre-arranged 9:30 a.m. departure time that allowed me to relax and enjoy staying a little while longer aboard the Silver Wind.

My journey from Malaga took me to London’s Gatwick airport aboard British Airways. There are no flights to London Heathrow aboard BA, and only select seasonal flights to other European hubs; something to be aware of if you are sailing here in the off-season.

The sun sets over England onboard my National Express coach en-route to Heathrow and my overnight digs at the Sofitel. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The sun sets over England onboard my National Express coach en-route to Heathrow and my overnight digs at the Sofitel. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

For me, the flight to Gatwick instead of Heathrow necessitated an overnight stay in London at the Sofitel Heathrow Airport. It also meant I’d have to use a National Express coach transfer to get to Heathrow once I had landed.

Here’s why I like doing these post-cruise reports, particularly when it involves Silversea: After seven days of people being kind and making things run like clockwork onboard their ships, the real world seems to function with less fluidity.

Heathrow Terminal 5 as dusk approaches. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Heathrow Terminal 5 as dusk approaches. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

At Gatwick, it took over an hour for luggage from the flight from Malaga to be dispensed on the carousel. Over the PA, a woman told is this was due to a “Navigating Error” and mentioned that our “patience is appreciated.”

Personally, I’d like to know more about this “Navigating Error.” It sounds like a fancy way of saying the driver got hammered at lunch and ran the baggage trolley into a ditch. I mean, the gates are only numbered in large block letters. I can understand that must be confusing.

My room at the Sofitel Heathrow. The bed is exactly as comfortable as it looks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
My room at the Sofitel Heathrow. The bed is exactly as comfortable as it looks. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

In the grand scheme of things, it was an annoyance and not a problem. But when you are on Silversea, the smallest annoyances are fixed. At Gatwick, a major problem with a basic service was met with a vague answer – and no solution.

By the time I reached the Sofitel at Heathrow (which is phenomenal, by the way), I had been in-transit for eight hours and up for 12. Couple that with about four hours of sleep the night before, and I was rather delirious when I caught the Tube to go visit some good friends of mine that, incidentally, I met the last time I was onboard the Silver Wind, sailing through South Africa.

My room also had a large writing desk; a feature I really appreciate - though I did take the evening off! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
My room also had a large writing desk; a feature I really appreciate – though I did take the evening off! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I got onboard the train at the London Underground station at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and plopped myself down in the seat. After a long day of travel – and, let’s face it, absolutely none of the kind of service that I’d grown used to on Silversea, not to mention a decided lack of quality champagne – I was totally exhausted by the time the doors whooshed shut.

Riding the Tube in London. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Riding the Tube in London. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Then the nice canned voice over the public address said, “This is a Piccadilly Line service to Cockfosters.” And I couldn’t resist a little chuckle, as it caught me by surprise. Now, I like to think of myself as being quite versatile – I love smart, intelligent humour – but I’m not above some well-placed toilet humour, either, and that includes the old “words-that-sound-dirty-but-aren’t” bit. The problem here was that, as my journey progressed, the station announcements continued. And, of course, there’s nothing inherently funny about the announcement – it’s simply advertising the terminus station.

But after about six stops, the announcement had warped in my head to, “This is a Piccadilly Line service to…Cockfosters!” I couldn’t help it any longer. I burst out laughing. Unlike last time, the Tube was now full.

The gentleman next to me turned around, looked at me, and said, “Long day?”

“Oh, yes.”

Wednesday, November 27

Today, I took the Heathrow Express to London's Paddington Station to begin my explorations. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Today, I took the Heathrow Express to London’s Paddington Station to begin my explorations. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

After a restful sleep at the Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5, I was up at 7 a.m. and down for breakfast by 8, where more people than the entire Silver Wind is capable of holding were seemingly all gathered in the main restaurant. Breakfast was delicious, but the place was a beehive of businessmen and women with rolling trolleys. In fact, I felt rather under-dressed even with a collared shirt, jeans and dress shoes.

With an onward flight that doesn’t depart until 5 p.m. local time, I parted way with £34 in order to take the Heathrow Express train from Terminal 5 to London’s Paddington Station. With a travel time of 21 minutes end-to-end, it’s massively faster than the London Underground and represented the quickest way to see the city.

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

I was last in London 12 years ago, but I’m rather proud of how much I’d remembered about the city. Armed with a map of the Underground, I was able to find my way around with ease, connecting from Paddington to the Underground Bakerloo Line so that I could get off at Piccadilly Circus.

Quintessentially London. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Quintessentially London. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

From the Piccadilly tube station, I was able to stroll all the way to “Big Ben,” passing iconic landmarks like Trafalgar Square, the National Galleries, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and even the Canadian Embassy, which was draped on two sides with plenty of flags bearing the iconic maple leaf.

A few photos from my day in London:

London's famous "Big Ben", constructed in 1859. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
London’s famous “Big Ben,” constructed in 1859. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

 

Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Across the street: the London Eye, which opened in March, 2000. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Across the street: the London Eye, which opened in March, 2000. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Good advice. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Good advice. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Popping into a local pub... Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Popping into a local pub … Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
...for a pint and a bite. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
… for a pint and a bite. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Behind the gated fence and armed guards? That's No. 10 Downing Street. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Behind the gated fence and armed guards? That’s No. 10 Downing Street. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Trafalgar Square. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Trafalgar Square. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Christmas decor on display in London, England on November 27, 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Christmas decor on display in London, England on November 27, 2013. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The National Gallery. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
The National Gallery. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Returning to the Tube... Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Returning to the Tube … Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
...and London Heathrow Terminal 5. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
… and London Heathrow Terminal 5. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

It was a kind of odd, but enjoyable, way to conclude my Mediterranean Adventure with Silversea. It was a journey that reaffirmed how much I love to travel with the line, and just how special those experiences can be.

I often tell people you can’t judge Silversea based on a single voyage; you have to come back and experience what it feels like to be greeted by name by crew that, chances are, will remember you from your previous voyage.

It’s something that, to this day, I have never experienced onboard any other cruise line.  And when it happens to you, it’s breathtakingly moving.

Sunset off the stern of the Silver Wind earlier in the week. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders
Sunset off the stern of the Silver Wind earlier in the week. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Silver Wind, Rome to Malaga

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
November 18, 2013Rome, ItalyArrival in RomeOvernight hotel stay
November 19Civitavecchia (Rome), ItalyEmbark Silver Wind6:00 PM
November 20Sorrento, Italy8:00 AM6:00 PM
November 21Trapani, Italy8:00 AM6:00 PM
November 22Valetta, Malta8:00 AM 4:00 PM
November 23La Goulette, Tunisia8:30 AM6:00 PM
November 24At Sea
November 25Cartagena, Spain8:00 AM5:00 PM
November 26Malaga, Spain8:00 AMDisembark Silver Wind; onward journey

Our Live Voyage Report through the Mediterranean aboard Silversea’s Silver Wind has sadly come to a close, but tune in on Friday for a complete recap of this wonderful voyage from Rome to Malaga; and stay tuned for our next Live Voyage Report, beginning December 3, 2013. Be sure to follow along on twitter by following the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

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