I have cruised on many ships and have had many different experiences but none have them have been as amazing as my recent voyage with Silversea!
We boarded Silver Spirit in Fort Lauderdale having stayed at the W Hotel the night before. I have to say Fort Lauderdale was a pleasant surprise, I had it in my head that it was just a cruise terminal but in actual fact the city is a destination in its own right with a great beach, fantastic shops including the largest mall (Sawcrass Outlet Mall) in North America, great restaurants and a really cool laid back vibe, not as showy and glitzy as its neighbour Miami but with hotels a fraction of the price Fort Lauderdale should not be overlooked. There is a Ritz Carlton right on the beach and a Conrad is under construction is due to open next year.
We embarked on Silver Spirit just after lunchtime and started the experience with a lovely buffet style lunch in the main restaurant. Silversea offers luxury small ship cruising in an intimate atmosphere calling into ports where larger cruise ships simply cannot reach. The largest ship in their fleet is the formidable Silver Spirit, when sailing at full capacity it still only holds 540 guests, and with 376 crew members you can be sure of impeccable service
On arrival into our veranda suite we were greeted by Mark, our butler, who introduced us to all the cabins amenities including a pillow menu! Mark is the one who will unpack for you, bring you your morning cuppa, book any of the fabulous restaurants and generally look after you in an unobtrusive manner.
The cabins or staterooms as they are called are decorated to a very high standard, I stayed in a mid-ship Veranda category which had a spacious balcony with sun beds, a bath, separate walk-in power shower, a sitting room and even a walk-in dressing room, what pleasantly surprised me was the amount of storage space for clothes it beats many hotels hands down! There were 2 flat screen TV’s and a fridge filled with a selection of drinks that you can request from your butler, the bedlinens, towels and bathrobes were of a very high standard and the luxurious Bulgari toiletries were an added touch.
The next day I awoke very early due to Jetlag so took advantage of the fully equipped gym and upper deck jogging circuit-10 circuits are equivalent to one mile and certainly will blow the cobwebs away. We then feasted on a sumptuous buffet style breakfast up on the pool deck setting us up perfectly for the day, it’s worth mentioning that Silversea cater for any dietary requirement from gluten-free and halal to diabetic and even have a wellness menu with calorie counting dishes. Silversea Cruises are all inclusive and although they at first appear to be more expensive than some of their competitors when you consider all meals, drinks (including fine wines, champagne and cocktails) are included as well as room service it is actually better value for money. I did find the cost of US$ 30 for 24 hours internet service expensive but I believe this is being addressed and soon to be complimentary.
Our first port of arrival was Key West, the southernmost town in the continental US which became part of the USA in 1821. It is the former home of Ernst Hemmingway and major attractions include: Key West Lighthouse and Museum, and the Harry Truman Little White House Museum as well some great shopping. This place has a lively, friendly atmosphere and felt very welcoming – a great first stop and frequented by many US tourists- it is the gateway to the Keys.
Back on board it was classed as a “formal night” so dressing up was the order of the evening with men wearing tuxedos and ladies in cocktail/evening gowns. We ate in the amazing La Champagne where the signature dishes are created in partnership with Relais & Chateaux, the service was impeccable and I would highly recommend the Dover sole which was boned at the table. There is a supplement of US$40 per person for this restaurant, well worth it and an absolute must, the restaurant only seats 26 so be sure to get your butler to book it on arrival.
After dinner the entertainment came in the form of a “Motown” show with singing from the onboard artists in the showroom lounge. If this form of entertainment isn’t your bag then then there is a musical trio in the bar, a casino, a pianist in one of the many bars and resident DJ with dancing in the Panorama lounge.
The following day was classed as a “day at sea” where the ships company entertain you with various activities including shuffleboard, table tennis , card games, gym classes, as well as a “port and tour talk” by the ships Concierge manager to prepare you for future ports of call. There was also a fitness talk on detoxification and acupuncture, a cooking demonstration, martini tasting and the resident gemmologist, Kelly, talked about diamond buying in the Caribbean. On every Silversea cruise there are enrichment talks by guest lecturers and Captain Larry Rudner was on board at the time telling of his maritime adventures.
That night was casual attire so we ate at “Hot Rocks” on the pool deck under the stars where we cooked fish and meat on our very own hot stone, adorned with bibs this was great fun and was accompanied by a duo singing popular cover versions.
Day 3 had us waking up in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. The largest of the Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman is one of the Caribbean’s favourite getaways, especially for watersports lovers, famous for its translucent waters and varied marine life. Grand Cayman also has two money saving attributes , duty free merchandise and the absence of sales tax, great for jewellery shopping! The Seven mile beach and an excursion involving the sighting of the stingrays is a must, the cost for such an excursion was US$79 per person.
That evening we ate at “La Terraza” an Italian a la carte restaurant embracing authentic Italian cuisine and the dress code was semi-formal which meant jackets for the gentleman, no ties required and smart trousers/dresses for ladies. The show that night took us back to the ’60′s with singing and dancing from the Silversea artists.
We arrived into Falmouth Jamaica and sadly came to the end of our time with Silversea. Silversea Cruises are worthy of all their accolades and awards, the crew are very attentive, the cuisine is exquisite and unlike some other cruise lines they are not brash. Their ships glide through the ocean treating their clients to an amazing small ship cruising experience, friendships are made and fabulous itineraries are carefully designed to make the experience a unique and memorable one. I also liked the fact that there is no ship’s photographer snapping away at every opportunity badgering you to buy, there are also no constant ship announcements!
Jamaica greets you with an array of colour with local handicraft stalls and a welcoming Caribbean steel band. Jamaica as an island has plenty to entertain you, from fishing and boating trips to a visit to Bob Marley’s birthplace, golfing, a picnic at Noel Coward’s Firefly, Dunn’s River Falls, river tubing, and zip lining through jungle canopies or learning the art of cooking Jerk Chicken.
We stayed at Jamaica Inn, a “make yourself at home resort” with only 52 rooms and suites. Located right on a beautiful private beach in the parish of St Ann known locally as the garden parish of Jamaica and with 8 acres of garden this resort is extremely private and has a huge repeat client following.
There is a variety of rooms to choose from but my favourites are the deluxe or premier veranda suites or the newly refurbished one bedroom cottage suites with steps into the sea and private infinity plunge pools. The deluxe and premier veranda suites are located on the ground floor and have a huge veranda best described as a fully furnished outside living room, with amazing views across the croquet lawn to the beach and Caribbean Sea.
The resort has a fascinating history having had many famous celebrities and politicians in the past and has a huge repeat following, it may not have all the mod cons and may need updating in places but the atmosphere and staff really make for a very warm enjoyable stay. There is complimentary Wi-Fi and the dining options include breakfast, half board or all inclusive and this resort only allows children over the age of 12.
A visit to the Ocean Spa is a must and every client receives a 20 minute “travellers unravelled massage”, with all spa products sourced locally from organic farms the treatments are amazing and I would highly recommend you taking home the Jamaican brown sugar body scrub, the spa treatment prices are very reasonable.
Breakfast is an a la carte affair which is really nice and makes a change from the buffet style breakfast which most resorts rely on these days, there is a huge variety and the local fruit is something else. The whole resort is very casual but they do insist on long trousers for gentleman after 7pm. Every Tuesday is General Managers cocktail and barbecue night which is a lovely evening where all guests congregate and hear of the activities for the week ahead which include cooking classes and updates on the turtle hatching programme. The cuisine is outstanding and a real must is the local Jamaican patties, goat curry and jerk chicken, all served with a rum punch!
All too soon it was time to head home as our pre-Xmas break was over. I felt very privileged to have experienced such an amazing trip and now have a complete understanding of how cruising in 6 star luxury really is great value for money.