What I’m about to write will shock those who know me best.
I might just have discovered the antidote to a day-and-night attachment to my mobile phone. I won’t pretend it’s cheap, but it is affective and involves no therapy: it turns out you just need to pack me off on a cruise. The longer the better, you understand.
The weaning process begun by accident with the intermittent WiFi connection on board Silver Spirit as we departed Stockholm but long before we’d reached the last of the four countries of our northern European tour I’d become adept at voluntarily ignoring the ping of emails or the temptation to check trends on Twitter. Frankly I had more pressing things to contend with than the Brexit balagan back home: afterall, it takes time to eat your way through eight on board restaurants or to finally work out your favourite spot for reclining with a glass of one of 60+ wines from Silversea’s all-inclusive offering.
A taste of the six star lifestyle ahead for the next 11 days in St Petersburg, Tallinn and Copenhagen came before my father and I even stepped onto the recently-renovated Spirit when a member of its team practically wrestled our luggage from our taxi driver. If that was meant to whisk you off your feet, discovering you have a personal butler throughout the stay certainly adds to the wow factor. Silversea is the only line that offers butler service in every suite; surely one of the reasons why it was named ultra-luxury cruise line of the year at the ttgluxury Travel Awards for 2019.
Like his colleagues, Alain qualified under the Guild of Professional English Butlers and enthusiastically launches into a run-down of the facilities in our spacious ocean view suite; from the television which records dinner bookings to the veranda where you can literally watch the world go by to the menu of nine pillows. He offered to unpack, to fill the minibar with drinks of our choice and even to arrange in-suite family celebrations – a perk I took advantage of for my dad’s special birthday.
With a capacity of 608 guests, this hotel on the high seas hosts more than most of the nine ships in Silversea’s ever-growing stable (Silver Moon and Silver Dawn will be launched in the coming 18 months). The fact no part of the ship ever feels busy, however, left me wondering if there was an area Alain was keeping hidden from us. Renovation work last year saw the Spirit cut in half and a 49-foot midsection inserted – creating more space for soaking up the sun on the 9th floor pool deck and an overhaul of the Dolce Vita lounge with its dark wood panelling and sumptuous leather chairs that scream luxury (or it would if this wasn’t a great spot for quiet relaxation with a book). Much of the new-look is inspired by the line’s flagship Silver Muse including the same number of eateries – only two aren’t all-inclusive – that allow guests to travel the culinary world without stepping ashore.
Tuck in at the main eaterie, Atlantide, where waiter Ryan practically sings the contents of a beautifully-bound Meditteranean menu that includes an ‘intermediary’ course for when three is simply not enough; enjoy countless varieties of pizza between 11am-11pm at Spaccanopoli; or be met by a delicious dark rum cocktail at Asian fusion-themed Indochine where maitre de Racman personally ensured kosher chicken was ordered so I could enjoy a delicious curry dish. At La Terrazza, I’d highly recommend the tomato soup and waiter Hermes, one of the many stars of the 411-strong crew that seem to quickly memorise names as well as food and drink preferences. Those with a kosher diet or with other special requirements are invited on day one to a personal meeting with restaurant manager Sergiu who proudly says: “We never want to say ‘no’. We always try to find a culinary solution.”
While room service is offered 24 hours a day, those with a sweet tooth are assured of a sugar high in the Arts Café, where bulging shelves of cakes, scones and cookies make way after dark for an assortment of chocolates that would put Willy Wonka to shame. Stay well clear if you’ve got any intention of attending the Death by Chocolate evening.
If you don’t work up a sweat moving from restaurant to restaurant, there’s daily yoga classes with fitness instructor Riya who optimistically tries to leave guests “ship shape rather than the shape of the ship”. The Spirit boasts a well-equipped gym and the Zegara spa which takes an all-senses approach to treatments starting at $149. A voyage with Silversea is not aimed at those looking for an 18-30s-style getaway, but a nightly flick through the Daily Chronicles newsletter offers plenty to do: browsing the plush boutiques, language classes, wine tastings and daily quizzes to name a few.
Former West Ham youth footballer turned cruise director Nolan is the man tasked with keeping guests entertained when night descends; from welcoming the talented Voices of Silversea singing troupe to the Venetian theatre stage to performing his own stand-up comedy routine in the Panorama Lounge. He’s also the man with the important task of ensuring Kiddush is laid out on Friday night and latkes are provided for Chanukah – a task he clearly relishes. And it’s not only Jewish food on which he claims expertise; confectionary around the globe would likely be his chosen subject on Mastermind.
Likewise, excursions manager Susie boldly says she’s “probably visited more countries than the Queen”. Name any of more than 200 countries and she can suggest what to do; just as well given Silversea visits more than 1000 destinations worldwide. We picked from at least six organised trips (not part of the cruise cost but fairly priced for the benefit of not having to arrange tour tickets or transport yourself) each day the ship is docked.
Those included a tour of the world’s oldest pharmacy still in operation in Tallinn and an exclusive after-hours concert at the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg. We opted for a nine-hour tour that showcased the full beauty of the city with its hundreds of bridges, 221 museums and 4000 outstanding monuments. Visitors marvelled at the dome made from 100 kilos of gold at St Isaac’s, once the premier church in the Russian Empire, where visitors view UNESCO-protected mosaics so exquisite they look like paintings and where shell damage from the Nazi siege is still visible. And we took our place at the 18th century Peterhof Palace, Peter the Great’s effort to outshine Versailles, for the 11am daily switch-on of the spectacular fountains in the Lower Gardens. It’s precisely because you can do a nine-hour tour or do nothing other than order breakfast, lunch and dinner on your balcony that makes cruising so attractive.
Everything about the experience – on land and sea – lends itself to switching off not just your phone, but your brain too. Right down to the fact one particularly attentive member of reception staff took it upon themselves to send medicine to my room when I was under the weather. To make life easier Silversea even arranged on board customs checks ahead of the final stop at Greenwich.
Absorbing the commentary as the Spirit passed through the Thames Barrier on the final leg, I made a final call to Alain. It wouldn’t be long before I’d have to remember where to find food for myself.
- Silversea Cruises offers a 7-day cruise from Stockholm to Copenhagen on board Silver Spirit from 27 August to 3 September 2020 from £2,970 per person (with 10% Early Booking Bonus). The price includes on board gratuities and return business class flights from the UK and overseas transfers. Visit Silversea.com or call 0207 340 0700