A Land Far, Far Away
Discover paradise in the South Pacific aboard Silver Discoverer.
By Art Sbarsky
On the last night of my cruise, some guests were talking over dinner, picking out our favorite ports. This was much more difficult than usual since, even collectively, we couldn’t remember the names of all the stops.
The reason may be that this 10-night cruise on Silver Discoverer, the latest addition to the Silversea Expeditions fleet, went to such wonderfully small places in the South Pacific that the names were mostly unknown. Indeed, this was a fantastic trip to see places way, way, way off the beaten path.
Exploration by Land and Sea
The trip was round-trip from Papeete, Tahiti’s largest port and the starting and ending point for the “Peaks and Atolls of French Polynesia,” cruise. Consider these names: Ahe, Manihi, Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, Puamau, Rangiroa, Atuona, Tahanea, Motutonga, and Fakarava.
Some were tiny little atolls with amazing reef formations and the clear, light-blue water that the words “South Pacific” conjure up. Others were gorgeous, small volcanic islands dotted with Polynesian villages that are not untouched by time and modernization, but still have a very different, simpler way of life.
These islands get very few visitors, and the locals were genuinely glad to welcome us. At every call, we were greeted with native dances and music, local foods to sample, and crafts to peruse and purchase.
The ship’s expert expedition team consists of 14 members, all of who take on multiple roles including lecturing about the areas we were visiting, telling personal stories of what they’ve seen and done, driving the zodiacs, and conducting the snorkeling and diving adventures. They’re essentially fun and friendly guides to everything.
We didn’t dock anywhere, but instead would zodiac ashore or to stopping points for snorkeling and diving. There were plenty of opportunities to explore the crystal-clear waters that teem with abundant fish and coral.
The expedition team provides all equipment and offers terrific instruction for beginner snorkelers. And at each stop, they created a zodiac platform with two tied to each other for putting on equipment and jumping in and a third or fourth zodiac constantly rotating to and from the ship when guests wanted to come and go.
Also along the way, we journeyed on land and saw where Paul Gauguin painted as well as visited the cemetery where he’s buried, which is close to famed singer Jacques Brel. We enjoyed the ship photographer’s drone in action, did some relaxed bird walking as well as some serious hiking, met plenty of locals, and visited a spiritually significant location of ancient tikis, wood carvings in human form.
The Onboard Experience
Silver Discoverer carries up to 120 guests, but was only about half full, which meant that the already-incredible Silversea service was that much better. To say that the staff got to know us well would be an understatement.
One night at dinner, there was one guest — okay, it was me — who asked if it was possible to get a simple pasta dish that wasn’t on the menu. The answer was an easy yes, but then three others also wanted pasta and, of course, all with different sauces. And for our order of four off-the-menu dishes? No problem, no delay, and very delicious.
Activities at night were limited mostly to music in a nearly empty lounge (most guests were exhausted by then), but one night there was the best crew show I’ve ever seen. On the night of the deck party and barbeque, an average-looking pool area was transformed into paradise with local greenery, a great buffet, and live music under the stars.
There were plenty of “large” public rooms: a lounge for lectures, talks, and get-togethers; a main dining room; Silversea’s signature Hot Rocks restaurant; and an indoor/outdoor spot for breakfast and lunch with buffets and individually prepared items.
The makeup of guests was quite a mix: 20 percent from the United States, 15 percent from Australia, 15 percent from the UK, and the rest from other parts of Europe, Israel, and New Zealand. It wasn’t overall a young group, but a very active one when it came to adventures like…
Photo: Peter Griffin/Getty Images