A stupendous Mediterranean cruise with Silversea ... Jaunt.ca deal of day: India
Yeah, living the life on a Silversea cruise ain’t a bad way to travel.
It’s not a cheap way to go, but you get treated like royalty (luckily more like Kate than Camilla Parker-Bowles). The smallest suite on board is close to 400 square feet; as big as some downtown condos and considerably larger than a lot of hotel rooms. Mine, I hate to tell you, is closer to 800; with more closet space than I have at home and a separate sitting area/living room and a huge veranda. The Jacuzzi tub in the marble bath is big enough to fit most of the offensive line of the Argos and the rainshower shower head is wonderful when you’re soaping yourself with Ferragamo Tuscan Soil body wash or doing your hair with Bulgari shampoo.
They’ve got a small but lovely pool with several hot tubs, a shopping arcade, a small casino and a ton of restaurants and bars and a spa, which I 'll get to tomorrow for a hammam/sauna treatment. Cuz, you know, it's been stressful. There’s room for only 500 or so guests on the Silver Spirit and Silversea is a high end line so they don’t do rock climbing walls or skating rinks.
We’ve got a butler (not really my thing but he DID shine the shoes that go with my tux and fixed the espresso maker when it started spraying hot water all over the carpet) and the wait staff and cruise personnel are awesome; remembering your name from dinner the night before and making sure you have everything you need.
The food has been mostly sensational. The first night we went casual on a warm fall night in Venice and grilled our own fish and steaks and veal chop on a hot rock near the pool. The meat was supplemented by a baked potato and veggies and a Caesar Salad. The next night we dined at a supper club called STARS, where we were entertained by a fabulous jazz singer and a wonderfully accomplished pianist and dined on a series of small dishes; crab with mango, unbelievably tasty lamb chops and something called Veal Mignon, which was remarkably tasty and tender.
Of course, like most cruises it’s all you can eat. The breakfast has great fruit and fresh baked croissants and French bread with butter and jam and muesli and bacon and sausages and made to order omelettes and lots more. It took FOREVER to get a cappuccino the first couple of days, and one day they said they had run out and had to find some espresso. But it’s been much better the last couple of orders. Service has been occasionally slow at dinner and at the bar, as well.
I had a fabulous lunch at Seishin, a Japanese fusion place where you have to pay extra if you want to eat dinner but can stop for lunch without extra charge. They had lovely sashimi and some inventive sushi rolls, including one with seafood and wagyu beef for a surf and turf effect and another rolled with chiles and sesame seeds for a spicey, flavourful kick).
Breakfast is wonderful when you can dine outdoors at La Terrazza, where you'll enjoy fine views (see photo below right). We were treated to a beautiful meal at the high-end Le Champagne restaurant on Saturday night. The plates were black and white and gold and the service was flawless. My wife’s lamb was enormous and as tasty as any I’ve tried on the planet. Her scallops with a hazelnut vinaigrette also were exquisite. And I had a nice risotto and lots of nice wine to drink. I ordered the New England venison done Wellington style and asked for it medium rare, as the wait staff suggested. The pastry was tasty but the venison was grey and unappealing and WAY overcooked. I’m sure they’d have taken it back and probably fired the chef if I’d said anything, but we were late for the 10 p.m. show and I didn’t have time to ask for another serving.
The champagne seems to flow freely. We got some when we arrived at the reception desk and there was a bottle in our room. You can get more sent to your room anytime. Ditto for nice wines or beer. They make some great cocktails, too. The Silver Spirit comes with gin, St. Germain elderflower liqeur, lime and Sauvignon Blanc. Wowza; a new favourite. And the Mai Tai is as good as most places in Hawaii.
I mentioned the shows, and so far they’re quite good. There’s a piano player in the main bar that sounds note for note like Tony Bennett and the jazz singer at STARS is lovely and personable and has a great voice. The 10 p.m. shows so far have been an ABBA production called Fabbalicious and a New York, New York bit. I’m not one for singing and dancing, to be honest, and I don’t love ABBA. So I’m probably the worst person to ask about things like that. I found the performances pretty good for the most part. One of the actors doing The Jersey Boys appeared to go through the motions, but the others were snapping their fingers and swinging and having a great time. The ABBA bit featured awful, awful costumes; not so much the girls with the long legs and white boots but the guys in white and orange with capes. But that’s what ABBA’s group members wore, ABBA as I recall. I’m not a big fan of their music, but the singers were good and they brought members of the audience up on stage and the folks in the crowd LOVED it, so I’d have to give the show a solid B-plus.
As I mentioned, the tours have been out of this world good. In Venice on Friday we did a “hidden Venice” tour I wrote about earlier. One of the things I loved is that the guide was critical of some of the art we saw; lambasting the tomb of Titian in the I Frari Church, for example.
In Slovenia on Saturday we did a full-day tour out of the port town of Koper that took us to the capital of Ljubljuna (pronounced Lyoob-lyana or just Loob-lahna if you wish), which I visited in 2009 and LOVED. And also a brief stop at Lake Bled, one of the most picturesque places in Europe, if not the world. And also a place I wrote about when I fell in love with Slovenia in 2009.
Our tour guide was fun and entertaining and hugely informative and flexible and engaging; one of the best guides I’ve had anywhere in my five years of travelling for the Star. Three thumbs up…and a couple toes, too.
More to come later this week from Slovenia and Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia and from Malta and Sicily; all destinations were visiting on the Silver Spirit...
JAUNT DEAL OF THE DAY: INDIA
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, is offering a great India trip for $1,980, including $600 in taxes. I was in India a few years and just loved it, so if you've ever thought about visiting this incredible country now is the time.
EXCLUSIVE SAVINGS: Savings of up to $1600 per couple, compared to what you'd pay had you booked your air, accommodations and tours separately!
10-Day/7-Night Treasures India Small Group Tour, with visits to the fabulous Taj Mahal, the famous Red Fort, the Agra Fort a UNESCO heritage site, Johori Bazaar and more!
Features airfare from Toronto with Etihad which was awarded the World's Leading Airline in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 by the World Travel Awards.
Includes all transportation by air-conditioned deluxe coach, accompaniment of an English speaking tour guide, private tours & entrance fees as per the itinerary, two safari’s in Ranthambore, an elephant ride and more!
Tour provided by Indus Travels - awarded the best tour operator to India five times since 2008 On this small, intimate tour, you'll be able to see and experience more at each place that you visit Indus is one of the most well-equipped (and well known) tour operators that lead tours through India, so you'll be in the company of the experts.
For more details see www.jaunt.ca. This offer is 100% non-refundable at time of booking.