Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cruise Review: The Silver Whisper Revisited

By Georgina Cruz

There are few things in life that are better than setting sail on an intimate, ultra-luxury all-suite vessel, but one I can think of right off the bat is returning to that ship after a few years’ absence, re-living the memories of previous voyages and making new ones. This fall, my husband Humberto and I revisited the 28,258-ton, 382-guest Silver Whisper—this was our third voyage on that ship: we had first sailed on her during her inaugural year in 2001 and again in 2011, both times visiting gems of the Mediterranean—and she had never disappointed us. Now, in 2017, again we found her to be the ideal, beautiful and re fined, base—this time for our 11-day Canada/New England voyage from New York to Montreal in mid-October.

Upon embarkation, we were greeted, as usual on Silversea ships, by stewards bearing chilled flutes of champagne and other beverages in the ship’s lobby area, always a special, festive welcome aboard to the ship that boasts a contemporary décor, understatedly elegant. As Humberto and I always do on embarkation days, we dropped off our carry-on luggage in our suite (the Silver Whisper is an all-suite ship) and went on a self-guided tour of the vessel to re-acquaint ourselves with our favorite spaces: the Panorama Lounge, where we attended the very civilized musical afternoon teas several afternoons; La Terrazza, with its sun canopy in the al fresco area of the restaurant where we love to have lunch with a side of views of the ports and where we always linger over the delectable Italian fare, particularly the creamy, homemade gelatos at dinner in the indoor section; the Observation Lounge, from where we like to watch port arrivals and departures and toast the occasional sunset; and The Restaurant, where particularly apropos dishes to our itinerary like grilled Maine lobster with saffron potatoes and vegetable vermicelli are served impeccably, but in a warm and friendly manner, never stuffy like it can be sometimes in some other ultra-luxury lines’ ships.

The Spa, Card Room, Casino, and Boutiques were as fresh as we remembered them. And so was the Viennese Lounge, the Silver Whisper’s show lounge, that presents enrichment lectures during the day and musical productions and cabaret-style presentations in the evenings. One of our favorite shows was a presentation by cruise director Vicki Van Tassel featuring song, dance, and lots of humor and chronicling her journey to Broadway. The Viennese Lounge, by the way, will be receiving new equipment, including new lights, this fall and in December La Terrazza, Panorama and Observation Lounges will be refurbished as part of a general refit to get the ship ready for her annual World Cruise.

The outdoor spaces on the ship also did not disappoint and we were soon ensconced in our favorite comfy sun beds for two by the pool. We frequented this area often, particularly its Hot Rocks Grill, our favorite Silversea outdoor restaurant, where we can cook our steaks, salmon, prawns, and other goodies on hot lava rocks right at our table.

For special occasions there is La Dame (previously Le Champagne but now re-named in a nod to Silversea’s newest vessel, the Silver Muse, and featuring the same menu as on the Silver Muse). La Dame offers dishes inspired in Relais & Chateaux—lobster tail or filet of Limousin beef, Café de Paris, anyone? This delectable fare, perhaps enjoyed with a luscious soufflé au Grand Marnier for dessert, is served in La Dame with seating for just 24 (fee is $60 per person, the only restaurant that charges a fee onboard). The daily selections of wine served by Silversea in restaurants are complimentary (beverages including wines, beers, cocktails, sodas and bottled water are complimentary throughout the ship). A dinner at La Dame is definitely a highlight of any voyage, and when the Silver Whisper pulls into a port—any port—it is safe to say that La Dame is among the top five restaurants in the area.

Port highlights during our journey in Canada and along the U.S. East Coast included:
• The Cliff Walk trail and a visit to tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s The Breakers Gilded Age mansion were the highlights of our call at Newport, R.I. On one side of the trail is New England’s rocky coast and powerful surf and on the other, Newport’s “cottages,” the mansions of the rich and powerful. A self-guided tour inside the 70-room of The Breakers mansion, set on a 13-acre estate, showed us its Italian Renaissance interior which is opulent and inspired on 16th century Italian palaces.
• The Freedom Trail in Boston opened a window to the past for us. A 2.5-mile trail marked by a red line on the city’s streets, it leads to historic churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship—the USS Constitution—and more. Among many highlights for us was the visit to Paul Revere’s House and the Old North Church of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame. The Paul Revere House dating from around 1680 is now a museum and the oldest structure remaining in downtown Boston. Revere lived here when he made his famous ride to Lexington on April 18-19, 1775 that would be immortalized by Longfellow in his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
• A shipboard-bought tour took us to from Rockland, Maine to quaint Rockport and Camden to visit these quintessential New England towns. A delicious stop at the oceanside Samoset Resort introduced us to the flavors of the region during a Lobster Bake, with fresh whole Maine lobsters pulled out of the sea and drizzled with butter and served with mussels, fresh corn, baked potato, cole slaw, and blueberry pie—Yum!
• A walking tour along the cobblestone streets of the Old Town of Quebec City, the only walled city in North America and UNESCO World Heritage site. We took in the Place Royale with its stone buildings in the heart of town and North America’s oldest standing Catholic Church, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. Other points of interest included Le Quartier Petit Champlain, a pedestrian-only area with narrow cobblestone streets filled with outdoor cafes, boutiques, and entertainers including strolling musicians, jugglers and other performers. A funicular ride transported us to the Upper Town for additional exploration and views of the St. Lawrence River.
• In Halifax, Nova Scotia, we had, on previous cruises visited the star-shaped Citadel Fortress, a National Historic Site of Canada. It dates from the mid-1700s, has an impressive 19th century Old Town Clock at its entrance, and it offers panoramic views of the city and its harbor. We had also visited Peggy’s Cove, a picture-postcard-perfect fishing village with one of the most photographed lighthouses in the Canadian Maritimes, but we couldn’t resist and went there again—a glorious sunny afternoon with the lighthouse gleaming: its white paint as white as marshmallows against the gray and black of the rocky promontory on which it stands facing the sea.
• Scenic cruising along the Saguenay River offered a feast of fall colors with birches and willows resplendent in yellows. In the dramatic Saguenay Fjord with its 1,500-ft. high cliffs, another sight awaited: a 33-foot statue of Notre Dame du Saguenay with the Madonna perched on Cape Trinity. The “Ave Maria” was played in the outer decks of the Silver Whisper as the ship passed the statue of the Virgin Mary, in praise of the patroness of the fjord.
Embarkation/disembarkation ports highlights included the view of the Statue of Liberty and the Big Apple’s skyline as the Silver Whisper sailed out of New York Harbor, and the lovely Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal.

After our explorations ashore, our suite #718, was a welcoming, comfortable and attractive home at sea with seating/dining area, marble bath, bedroom with plush bedding—so comfortable we found ourselves falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer—and a nice veranda furnished with comfortable seating and a table and chairs (coming to think of it, this veranda was large enough to throw a party in if we so wished!). It was perfect to watch the New England and Canada coasts go by.

The Silver Whisper, in a word, shines in her accommodations. The ship has 194 ocean-view suites ranging from entry level suites measuring 287 square feet to spacious apartment-style lodgings measuring 1,435 square feet, and more than 80 percent of the accommodations have private verandas. Among the standard suite amenities are butler service (we definitely wished, as we do on all our Silversea Cruises, that we could take ours home with us after the voyage). Our butler Dinesh Loham, from Mumbai, India, provided the SebaMed hypo-allergenic lotions, soaps and other toiletries both Humberto and I love and kept them replenished (there is also a choice of Bvlgari and Ferragamo toiletries), and he provided our complimentary bar set-up and replenishment including my favorite Pinot Grigio wine, as well as fresh fruits and canapes (foie gras terrine, caviar with blinis, and Mediterranean tapas were among the delights available in our suite) and he served us dinner ensuite one evening when we returned from a long tour ashore.

Other suite amenities include convertible twin-to-queen beds, luxurious Pratesi bed linens, walk-in wardrobe, sitting area with writing desk, dressing table with hair dryer, choice of pillows, plush robes and slippers, Italian marble bathroom with telephone, double basin vanity, full bath and separate shower, refrigerator and cocktail bar, flat screen television, direct-dial telephone, Wi-Fi and cellular service, personal safe, and 110/220 electric current. Owner's, Grand, and Royal Suites feature whirlpool bathtub, guest powder room, CD player & espresso machine. Silver Suites (this was our suite category) feature whirlpool bathtub, CD player & espresso machine. Medallion Suites feature whirlpool bathtub.

Bottom line? Sailing on the Silver Whisper three times is definitely not enough—we want to return soon!

Information: Silversea.com.

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