This past June I sailed from Lisbon to Barcelona aboard Silversea’s beautiful all-new Silver
Spirit. We chose to fly in a day early for our Silversea cruise in order to have a little time to see Lisbon. The Hotel Marquês de Pombal on the Avenida da Liberdade provided great 4-star service with clean, comfortable and quiet accommodations and a full breakfast. It was easy walking distance to all the major points of interest and only a short ride from the pier.
Check-in at the pier was quick and easy. Our butler, Vicky, introduced herself upon arrival in our suite. She showed us all the amenities and features of our room, asked if we would like any reservations made in the alternative restaurants, asked what type of pillows we would like, and said she would bring the hypoallergenic bathroom amenities for me. We then headed up to La Terrazza for the welcome lunch buffet. We had time to explore the market up the hill from the pier, as well as take a short tour of the spa/salon/fitness center onboard, and unpack our belongings before mustering for boat drill. We enjoyed dinner in The Restaurant our first evening with Gentleman Host, Dan, from San Antonio, Guest Jeweler, Alicia, from New York and two lovely ladies from Australia, one of whom was on her seventh Silversea cruise. We had a note from Vicky confirming our reservations for La Terrazza and Seishin when we returned to the suite.
The itinerary was port intensive with only one day at sea. Our first stop was in Portimão, Portugal. As it was Sunday, we were informed there were likely to be only a few shops open in town. We started our day with Fitness Instructor Gareth’s Core Strengthening class on deck then had breakfast at La Terrazza before jumping on the complimentary shuttle bus. The route had two stops – one for town and one for the beach. The resort of Praia da Rocha, with stunning rock formations, a long boardwalk and a beautiful beach, was a great place to spend the day. We returned to the ship in time for a late lunch at the Pool Grill. The menu here has some CruiseLite dining selections from the Silversea Wellness Programme, which are shown with nutritional information. The spinach and strawberry salad and the curried chicken skewers were both recommended items from this list and both very good.
We put on our best dresses for the evening – this was our only formal night during the cruise – and made our way to the Panorama Lounge to meet the Captain and the ship’s staff for drinks. After the introductions were made by the Cruise Director, we headed to La Terrazza for a wonderful Italian dinner. The antipasti appetizer plate was presented in a dish with 9 indentations – 9 small bites of delicious olives, cheese, prosciutto, asparagus, etc. – we loved it! The salad, soup, pasta, complimentary wines and service were all excellent. You can usually count on lobster making a menu appearance during formal night and we were not
disappointed! Portion sizes are very reasonable so you are able to enjoy sampling many items, although we did opt to share the tiramisu at the end of the evening.
There are two big excursions on this itinerary that we felt were well worth our investment of time and money – the trips to Seville from Cádiz and to Granada & the Alhambra Palace from Málaga. Our guides for the transfers between the cities and the local guides at the points of interest were very knowledgeable and interesting. In Seville, we toured the Alcázar, a royal palace that was originally a Moorish fort, and the Seville Cathedral, the largest in the world in Gothic style, and home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The decorative tile, carved stucco, marquetry, gardens, and architecture were very impressive. We climbed to the top of the Cathedral bell tower for a 360-degree view of the city. Our only criticism (during the entire cruise) was that we weren’t given a few suggestions for where to have lunch as this was on our own on this excursion. We sat down at one place without being served and ended up abandoning the tapas search effort. Some fellow passengers found a wonderful tapas restaurant on their second try, after having a similar experience at their first stop. On the return trip, we made a quick photo stop at the Plaza de España, built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exhibition, with beautiful displays from all the provinces of Spain. After arriving back in Cádiz, we followed the walking tour signs to see a little bit of the port city, including the landmark Cádiz Cathedral with baroque, rococo and neoclassical style elements. We joined new friends from Texas for another great dinner at The Restaurant. The menu offers a changing selection daily with some standards that are always available, including one of my favorites, French Onion Soup. We stopped by The Bar on Deck 5 for a little music afterwards. Our missed tapas opportunity in Seville reminded us that we had neglected to make a reservation for Stars Supper Club, with its tapas menu, when we boarded. A quick chat with our efficient butler, Vicky, remedied that!
In Gibraltar, we did not book an excursion as we planned to climb the Rock and visit the
Barbary Apes. We started the day again with Gareth’s Core Strengthening class and breakfast at La Terrazza. We had attended the port lecture by Corey Sandler on the afternoon of Portimão and learned that the Rock of Gibraltar is riddled with tunnels carved during the Great Siege of 1779-82. Our destination was the top of the Rock via the Mediterranean Steps trail. It is a strenuous walk with amazing views of the surrounding area. We stopped to take pictures of the Barbary Apes on our way down, including four that had climbed on a vehicle headed down the road. We did not get too close as we had been warned they like to grab any loose items – sunglasses, cameras, etc. Down below, we explored the shops and stopped for a half pint just off Main Street at the oldest bar in Gibraltar. A leisurely dinner in The Restaurant with great food, conversation and wine was a great reward after so much walking and climbing in the heat.
The drive from Málaga to Granada is about 2 hours long. We divided into groups of about 20 guests at the Alhambra to go through the grounds with our local guides. Our guide, Daniel, who was from Rome, spoke perfect English. He also studied Arabic so that he could read the poetry carved in the scripts decorating the Alhambra. Entry is controlled by appointment time so that it doesn’t become overly crowded. We toured the Carlos V Palace, Comares Palace, Royal House, Lions Palace, the gardens and the Generalife. As at the Alcázar in Seville, the design and workmanship are stunning. Our tour included lunch at the award-winning Ruta del Veleta restaurant before we returned to Málaga. Málaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and his family members have donated a number of works to the Picasso Museum located in town. We only had half an hour for a rushed look at the permanent collection before they closed for the day. The museum would be worth a longer visit in the future. We walked through old town and saw the Málaga Cathedral, which is nicknamed “La Manquita”, or “one-armed woman”, because there were only enough funds to build one of the two towers originally planned.
The ship organized a “fabulous display of culinary delights” for a Barbecue Dinner Under the Stars – weather permitting. The weather was warm and sunny throughout our cruise so the BBQ was underway when we returned in the evening. The cast performed “Spirito Della Celebrazione” on the Pool Deck while guests dined on a wide variety of seafood, meats, salads and desserts.
Our day at sea was full of activities. I had a quick morning appointment in the Salon to have Unity apply shellac polish to my nails – not a single chip even two weeks later! Guest Jewelry Designer, Alicia, had asked if we would be volunteer models for the Jewelry Fashion Show by the pool in the afternoon. We joined the other volunteers at the Boutiques on Deck 8 to be assigned our jewels – a 14k gold Aurabella Italia necklace, bracelet and earrings for me and a Maria Cristina Sterling Silver, Onyx and Pearl necklace, bracelet and ring for Wendy. These items retailed for several thousand dollars so we felt pretty special wearing them around the pool for a while as other guests asked questions and looked them over. We had a late dinner
reservation that evening so we decided to stop by the Afternoon Tea. We tried several small sandwiches and sampled from the wide variety of dessert treats along with our tea. After that substantial snack, we thought the Pathway to Pilates and the Boot Camp classes with Gareth were in order! Boot Camp was quite challenging so we took a few hours to relax on the veranda before dinner. We joined our friends at the Stars Supper Club for a five-course tapas menu that was outstanding! The music by the jazz duo made for a very nice atmosphere in this restaurant.
Our final port call was to Palma de Mallorca on a local holiday so we were informed there would not be many businesses open. We made a last minute decision to book the Palma by Bicycle excursion as a result. We were divided in to two small groups – one that went into the old town first, the other along the harbor. We started along the paved, mostly flat bike path that parallels the pedestrian walkway along the edge of the bay. We stopped for pictures at La Seu – Palma’s Cathedral and the landmark of the town – before winding through the old town for other points of interest and scenic photo stops. We chose to remain in town at the end of the excursion to browse through some of the shops that were open by that time. Silversea offered shuttle service at each stop that required any distance to get in to the heart of the town. We took advantage of this shuttle to return to the ship in the afternoon. We had reservations at Seishin for dinner this evening. There were two short set menus – Teaser 1 (fish oriented) and Teaser 2 (meat oriented) – and the longer, 9-course degustation to choose from. We chose Teaser 2 and the degustation with the included wine rather than the sake pairing. The sushi and sashimi were prepared right in the center of the dining room and were very fresh. The service was excellent and the delivery of the menu items managed just right to have both of us arrive at dessert at the same time.
We had an early wake-up call the next morning due to an early flight. Just enough time for a quick breakfast at La Terrazza before our disembarkation code was called. We enjoyed the Silversea experience very much. The ship was busy, but never crowded; there was a wide mix of nationalities onboard and a range of ages; there were many activities, dining venues, entertainment options and shore excursions to fill our time whenever we left the luxury of our suite; and the service was friendly and efficient, especially from our butler, Vicky. We can’t wait to go back again!
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