in the november/december 2002 – ursula & eldrid retief discovered the all-inclusive luxury of silversea cruises across the north atlantic...

Sanu and Nalini Desai of Aylesbury in England have booked their seats – front row, balcony – for yachting’s epic America’s Cup in the waters off Auckland, New Zealand, in February.

They’ll be on the Silver Whisper, luxuriating in a 9-day Auckland-to-Auckland voyage, a segment in the ship’s first-quarter sally into South Pacific and Hawaiian waters.

The opportunity to see the America’s Cup races is typical of a unique Silversea Cruises’ concept – The Silversea Experience®, a special complimentary shoreside event on select sailings. Guests will follow the America’s Cup on deck on any of a number of large-screen televisions, with commentaries by experts, and they will visit The Squadron, current home of the Cup and of Team New Zealand.

Sanu and Nalini discovered Silversea in 1996 when they cruised to the Amazon on the Silver Cloud and, except for a weak moment when they opted for another line in pursuit of a particular destination, Silversea has become their cruise home.

When we met them on the Silver Shadow on a transAtlantic voyage from Dublin to New York they had spent over 340 days (in the past six years) on Silversea ships .... and still counting.

What is the magic that Silversea holds for them? Its convenient all-inclusive terms probably tops the list, they said.

When Silversea says its cruise fares are “all-inclusive”, it means just that: Its all-inclusive air/sea fares are by far the most comprehensive among cruise lines. It includes roundtrip air transportation with personalized airport meet-and-greet and a deluxe pre-cruise hotel stay (we were at the ultra-splendid Four Seasons in Dublin), all transfers and porterage, all port charges, all wine, spirits and champagne and all gratuities. Your in-suite cocktail cabinet and mini-refrigerator are continually replenished.

Sail on Silversea and you need never reach for a wallet or a purse, unless it is to buy a Fabergé Egg pendant or a Gucci watch in the boutique shop, maybe a little something from the onboard shop of the famed Italian jeweler Bvlgari (to match the Bvlgari toiletries with which your suite is stocked), perhaps for a session in the Balinese-style Mandara Spa, or to try your hand in the casino.

Close on the heels of “all-inclusive” as reasons the Desais have for falling in love with Silversea come “class”, “real elegance”, “pampering” .... words collectively expressed as we stepped aboard the Silver Shadow for our transAtlantic cruise to be greeted by a white-gloved attendant and a flute of Moët & Chandon.

We were pampered for 14 days – from Dublin, the capital of Ireland, a city rich in culture but with a mind-blowing collection of pubs, to Thorshavn in the remote Faroe Islands, midway between Scotland and Iceland; to Reykjavik in unique Iceland, so far north that parts of it touch the Arctic Circle; across the Atlantic to Canada and the classic harbor city of St. John’s, historic capital of Newfoundland & Labrador; to Halifax, the eclectic oceanside capital of Nova Scotia; and finally New York. Hurricane Gustav which was hanging around somewhere in our path put paid to thoughts of visiting two other ports on the original itinerary: the island archipelago of St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, a speck of French territory 12 miles off the south coast of Newfoundland and Sydney on Nova Scotia’s Cape Bretton Island. (See Ports-of-Call.)

That’s eight fascinating destinations in five countries in two weeks. Try matching that if you’re driving or even flying. You’ll be spending half your time at airports. This precise itinerary will not be repeated but Silversea have several trans Atlantic crossings lined up in 2003.

Much of the Desai’s joy on Silversea has stemmed from the friends they’ve made as members of Silversea’s Venetian Society, feeling part of a special family of travelers who enjoy seeing the world cosseted in shipboard luxury.

The aptly-named Venetian Society recognizes the loyalty of its past guests with exclusive special service benefits and privileges. The early Venetians and its most famous son, Marco Polo, were among the most intrepid explorers of all time. Some 700 years after the publication of his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, quite possibly the most famous and influential travel book in history, Silversea Cruises is reaching destinations he could not even have dreamt of.

Its four ships sail to every corner of the globe to some of the world’s most treasured destinations and in search of its most exotic locales (explored by Silversea’s Shore Excursion Program), and along the way indulging their guests in a fashion Marco Polo would have envied.

Silversea’s string of honors reads like a Who’s Who of Cruise Awards – the readers of Travel & Leisure, for instance, says it’s the “World’s Best Small-Ship Cruise Line” based on food, accommodations, service, activities, destinations and value.

That word “value” may nonplus those who have a problem equating value with ultra-luxury, but it doesn’t come as a surprise to regular Silversea guests. Given the genuine all-inclusivity of its fares and the savings on many journeys it IS really good value for money. Check out its website at for huge savings on its Simplicity Pricing, Advance Payment Bonus, for its New Guest initiative, for its Early Booking Incentives and for those voyages where Silversea has waived the single supplement.

Space is a requirement of luxury travel, and Silversea has it in abundance. The huge suites (all with ocean views and 80% with private verandas) have every creature comfort. The gracious shipboard living provides numerous public rooms and the caring, unobtrusive staff is there for your every need and whim.

The cuisine is sumptuous and The Restaurant has unhurried single-sitting, open-seating gourmet dining with unobstructed views of the sea. Its exclusive teaming with Relais & Châteaux-Relais Gourmands offers guests an opportunity to taste some of their inspired gourmet creations. On Silver Shadow guests can also opt for dining in The Terrace Café to sample the dishes of specific regions - Italian, French, Mexican for instance. There is of course an extensive room service menu 24 hours a day while items from The Restaurant menu can be served in your suite dish by dish.

Not many passengers on the Silver Shadow are here specifically for the custom-designed fitness programs, we find, but guilt-ridden, some make their way to the Fitness Center to ease their conscience while doing little for their waistlines. Those relaxing in the two outdoor whirlpools flanking the pool believe the churning water is doing it for them. For others there is the jogging track on Deck 9 or the GolfNet for practise every day and if necessary golf lessons from the onboard golf instructor.

No-on will admit they’re here simply for the structured shipboard amusement which runs non-stop during the day, but every night they’re all in the all-tiered Athenian Lounge for the diverse entertainment of music ensembles, singers and dancers, magicians and musicians. The enrichment lectures are an integral part of a cruise and they are usually packed.

Our own transAtlantic journey ends in New York, soon after six o’clock in the morning. The rails are lined with passengers as we pass the welcoming Statue of Liberty.

Many of those same passengers had booked their next voyage with the onboard cruise consultant while they were on the Silver Shadow.

Now we know why.

photos: silversea cruises

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