For me a trip starts as soon as I close the front door. I actually enjoy airports, or at least I do after security. The Silversea cruise allowed for a conveniently timed flight from London to Rome, and although I had expected a fume-laced drive from Leonardo da Vinci airport to the port of Civitavecchia about 50 minutes’ drive away, it was actually more like a backdrop from a pastoral Italian movie.
Our route took us through hills, looking a little parched so late in the summer, through vines that held a promise of a good harvest, past ‘umbrella’ pine trees that offered that thoroughly Mediterranean shade to any lucky enough to call this beautiful landscape home. This was a world away from the not-so-leafy suburbs of West London. Hounslow could never look this good.
The port of Civitavecchia is an historic one; in fact the name means “ancient town”, and there are still walls that attest to that fact. The harbour was constructed by the Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the 2nd century. Recently (OK, so it’s only recent in Roman terms) Michelangelo built a fort here and it remains a solid testament to the genius of the designer and the enduring significance of the port.
Our vessel wasn’t the largest of those docked. It was somewhat dwarfed by its neighbour which housed several thousand guests when fully laden. The Silver Wind of the Silversea Line was small but perfectly formed and still sporting all the amenities that any regular cruise-goer might expect.
Yes, there are indeed ‘regular’ cruisers and they are discerning. Many of these passengers have tried other lines but return to Silversea and its Silver Wind, preferring its luxurious trappings over the cavernous proportions of those colossus’ of the seas. It’s a matter of taste, but this ship has its loyal followers. This is for many of us the preferred face of cruising, and in bijou elegance.
The public spaces on board are sumptuous. There is plenty of polished brass, artwork, dark wood, but guests will appreciate their private suites which include sitting area and bathroom (that actually contains a bath), as well as a veranda. It’s an intimate and quiet haven on which to soak up some sun; it’s more prized for offering a vantage point from which to witness the arrival of dawn and a new port.
The Silver Wind will appeal to anyone who enjoys the finer things in life and appreciates the best. Its restaurants are first class and offer menus that reflect the international composition of its guests and indeed its crew. One can indulge in casual snacking by the pool, admire the skills of Relais & Chateaux standard chefs, and delight in everything in between. Culinary variety is the very spice of this cruise.
That aforementioned pool is partnered by a brace of hot tubs and ranks of sun loungers. You will likely have the area to yourself on days when Silver Wind docks. The two ship’s tenders run a fifteen minute shuttle to and from that day’s port of call if it happens not to offer moorings alongside. It’s easy to spend just a little time ashore to explore, rather than committing to a long day away from your floating home.
Sliver Wind accommodates the fancies of all its passengers. There is a lounge called the Humidor which caters for those lovers of cigars. Whilst not a smoker myself, I can, at least to some small extent, appreciate the draw. Cigars have an aroma and a rich perfume that is missing from cigarettes. A seat in the Humidor will be welcomed by many a man (and perhaps woman) who has hitherto been consigned to the garden for a crafty puff.
Time at sea allows one to relax and to try one’s hand at games, and even games of chance. There is a bespoke games room complete with baize-covered tables, and piles of board games that run from the ever popular family variety like Monopoly to the more sophisticated backgammon. For those with a yen (or a pocket full of Euros) for higher stakes there is a small casino with tables to gladden the heart of any high-roller.
One should consider taking some exercise while on board. That could come in the shape of a few gentle turns around the upper deck in the early morning freshness, or even some time spent in the well-appointed gym. This has every stripe of fitness torture ever devised. It’s conveniently located next to the spa which offers beauty and well-being treatments.
Cruise ships are often described as floating hotels but in fact they are much more. The scenery moves and there are spaces that are dedicated to unashamed unwinding therapy. It’s perhaps better described as a floating resort with travel options. The Silver Wind is considered 6* and the verity of that accolade can be appreciated after just a few hours – one will notice more crew than other guests. There are almost as many folks in uniforms as there are folks in shorts. Service is high-standard and high-priority.
One has a butler and that is worth an extra star for sheer charm and indulgence. Guests need not move from their suite to enjoy breakfast, a chilled bottle of champagne, a snack or some extra of anything-of-which-one-could-think. The butlers of Silver Wind are perhaps the best ambassadors the ship could have.
A Mediterranean cruise takes the fear from any first-time cruiser. The ports visited on this Silversea voyage offered historic sites, gastronomic insights, cultural enlightenment and a lot of fun. From Rome one floats to Sorrento and the isle of Capri. Sicily will tempt one with its olive groves. Malta welcomes with honey-coloured stone. Corfu has myths from the dawn of civilisation. The island of Hvar in Croatia describes itself as the sunniest island in the Adriatic. Koper, Slovenia, presents the traveller with an undiscovered corner of Europe. Venice is unmissable with its canals and the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale.
I am a woman of a certain age but I had expected a cruise to be a bit staid and dated even for my advanced years; but I found the reality to be different from the blue-rinsed reputation. This Silversea holiday would be enjoyed by anyone seeking quality, accessible style, amenity, and as much calm as fatigued body and mind might need. One can choose to join in with social activities or remain with just one’s family or friends. It’s not a holiday camp and one can tailor the experience to one’s own vacation requirements. There is splendid flexibility with some rather nice views, and those views are both memorable and ever-changing.
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018