There will be more to come about my cruise on Silver Explorer, which ended Friday morning in Panama. For now, however, I am posting this brief “Summing Up” to answer questions that readers asked during my voyage and to give you a few of my impressions.
First, my impressions.
Silver Explorer could be my favorite among the vessels in the Silversea fleet. There, I’ve said it. I love this tiny expedition vessel and the experience it offers, both on board and ashore. “It’s expedition on the outside, and Silversea on the inside,” Hotel Director Marcus Path said to me one evening in the Panorama Lounge.
Certainly, Silver Explorer features all of the hallmarks of a Silversea cruise — personal and professional service, world-class dining and luxurious accommodations. Yet, on Silver Explorer you’re not just cruising, you’re on an expedition, meaning that you are visiting destinations that most other ships don’t and breaking the surface to explore, learn and in some cases, contribute back to the local society (in the San Blas Islands, for example, some passengers came with school supplies for the local children).
The expedition aspect was amplified by three things:
- The fine team of Expedition Leaders
- The evening Recap & Briefing
- And, of course, the Zodiacs
The Expedition Leaders
- In Montserrat, Expedition Leaders managed to achieve the nearly impossible: permission to take our Zodiacs in front of the Exclusion Zone. Photo kindly provided by Silver Explorer photographer and videographer, ludavidson.com
I have never seen so many Ph.D’s afloat. Silver Explorer could have passed for a small university at sea. Our Ph.D’s were as personal as they were professorial. Their knowledge — and passion — of the natural world was inspiring, and they presented the natural world in a way that was entertaining and accessible for all of us.
I think I counted nine Ph.D’s on our voyage. They brought us ashore in the Zodiacs, to inform us about what we were seeing and to answer any questions we might have had. Hardly a bird went unnamed — or a flower or tree. Having them on board was like having a living and breathing Wikipedia, but with personality in addition to knowledge.
The Recap & Briefing
Silver Explorer features no Las Vegas-style shows; in fact, there was no entertainment at all after dinner in the Theater. Instead, entertainment took center stage in the late afternoon/early evening during the Recap & Briefing.
The event was an informative — and entertaining — recap of all that we had experienced during the day, and a look at what was ahead in the coming days — the Briefing. Typically 45 minutes to an hour, the Recap & Briefing provided a great opportunity to learn more about what we had seen and what we would see. It consolidated the day and packaged it up nicely for us to remember.
I wouldn’t want to leave you with the impression that there was no entertainment on Silver Explorer. Alfredo, who several us deemed better than Sinatra, performed songs and soft music each night in the Panorama Lounge (and also while we were Dining Under The Stars), and our staterooms were equipped with interactive televisions featuring more than 100 movies offered free of additional charges.
The Zodiacs headlined the expedition experience. Flat-bottomed, they were able to go anywhere, and they did just that. The Zodiacs were always available to transport us between ship and shore.
The Zodiacs set the tone of adventure. The wind and sea spray in our faces was much more exhilarating than going ashore in the standard, enclosed tenders. Arriving on a beach, we felt we were were on an expedition, not a shore tour. Hey, come on, allow yourself to be an actor on the stage.
There were two types of landings: wet and dry. Wet meant that you would exit the Zodiac in water that could come up around mid-calf. Not to worry, there was plenty of assistance, and the safety measures that we learned on embarkation day made us feel comfortable moving between Zodiac and the ship, and the Zodiac and the shore.
A few Avid Cruisers wrote to me expressing concerns about their mobility and their ability to use the Zodiac. Wheelchairs would be difficult, but otherwise, most others would likely be just fine. There were always three staff helping you get on and off the Zodiac at the ship, and at least one, sometimes two, helping you exit the Zodiac ashore. Expedition leaders told me they would be comfortable with someone bound to a cane, but of course, you’ll need to assess this yourself.
Opportunities For You To Experience Silver Explorer
Silver Explorer is an ideal vessel for “off-the-beaten-track” itineraries, even in the “been there, done that” regions of the world like the Caribbean. Yes, the mainstay of Silver Explorer’s expedition experience is the Arctic and Antarctic, but there are some great itineraries between those two cruising seasons.
In 2012, Silver Explorer will cruise the West Coast of Africa, Central & South America and Europe & the British Isles (note, the links will take you to Silversea’s website).
Oh, after disembarking Silver Explorer in Panama, I flew to Paris. Tomorrow, I fly to Lisbon to cross the Atlantic. Stay tuned!