A luxury cruise can sail in one of two divergent styles. The first is a liberating escape, coddled with ultra-luxe amenities and service; the second, an exploration of diverse cultures in remote destinations. Silversea’s Silver Shadow accomplishes both with a fabulous itinerary into exotic Southeast Asia.
In cruise jargon, the term “luxury” is often loosely bandied about, but it clearly articulates the specifics of the Silversea cruise experience. For discerning cruisers, nothing is so gratifying as when lofty expectations perfectly coincide with reality. After all, what more could one expect when every suite is provided with a dedicated butler to ensure that one’s every whim is met?
Well Worthy of the Golden Prime
The experience of upscale cruising should be compulsory for any cruise fan, yet somehow my nomadic travel schedule had never connected with a Silversea itinerary. This was inexcusable on my part, as the cruise line visits up to 900 destinations and seven continents every year. However, my dream eventually materialized in the form of a 14-day “Culinary Voyage of Asian Enchantment” sailing out of Singapore. From the beauty of the city’s botanical gardens to the kinetic streets of Chinatown and Little India, the Lion City offered the perfect pre-cruise appetizer — a threefold bonne bouche of captivating places to see, attractions to experience, and, of course, food to eat.
Once on board, the sentiment of supreme entitlement set in over our initial two days at sea. Then, the ship called on Sandakan, Malaysia, located on the northeastern coast of the island of Borneo. Although legends of semi-mythical headhunters and wild men no longer hold the same power they once did, incursions into the obscure jungle provided us with ample opportunities for a visceral experience of the local wildlife. Excursions probed the interior in search of elusive reptiles, primates, and birds, with our encounters supplemented by the preservation efforts dedicated to curious proboscis monkeys, endearing orangutans, and the rare sun bear.
Following Borneo, the ship savored the bespoke beauty of Palawan, Philippines, for two captivating days. This sliver of lush island foliage was a shimmering jewel in the tiara that was the Philippines’ more than 7,000 islands. Highlights of Palawan included its fascinating underground river and the sunken lagoon of Puerto Princesa, renowned as one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. As a fitting encore for our second day, the ship glided over to Coron, a pristine paradise. Shimmering emerald green lakes surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs and secluded beaches provided delectable eye candy.
The vibrant city of Manila introduced an urban element to our brief exploration of deeply rooted Filipino culture. The modern high-rise buildings loom in stark contrast to the city’s historical past, as embodied by Fort Santiago and the walled neighborhood of Intramuros.
With the Philippines in the rearview mirror, the Silver Shadow sailed to Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon, for a 3-day Vietnamese sojourn. Any hangover of the city’s problematic political past had been washed away by extensive revitalization efforts and a surprisingly progressive attitude. Excursion options ran the gamut, from wartime memorials and sites rooted in the colonial past to street-food tours exposing us to flavors endemic to the region.
From Out the Boundless Deep
While the diversions of our destinations played out intensely in our excursions ashore, the ship itself was a floating palace of exceptional hospitality and class. Silver Shadow dispensed dignified sophistication without ostentatious fluff. With a maximum of only 382 guests, the ship granted an opportunity to absorb personalized attention. No request was too much to ask, and all were eagerly fulfilled with Silversea’s no tipping policy.
With dedicated, white-gloved butlers at your beck and call, dialing 1 on the phone has never reaped so many benefits: laundry pick-up and breakfast at 8:00, tea with scones at 4:00, champagne and canapés at 5:00, and wine with hot appetizers at 6:00. The 24-hour in-room menu service made a compelling case for spending the entire day in the luxuriant suites. Somehow, it just felt wrong to leave for dinner.
Dining on board Silver Shadow
But in this upscale category of cruising, dining standards run high. Silver Shadow showed off its culinary chops with exquisite gastronomic preparations in the main dining room as well as alternate venues spread around the vessel. An exceptional lineup of complimentary, top-shelf red and white wines were paired with the diverse menus, raising the bar even higher.
Full-service breakfast, lunch, and dinners were served in the main dining room, and the buffet-lunch venue of the La Terrazza restaurant transformed every evening into an inviting Italian restaurant with handmade pasta and other authentic favorites. In the ritzy La Dame Restaurant, elegantly staged dining experiences were supplemented by the culinary genius of European-trained chefs. The alfresco Hot Rocks served comfort food poolside during the day, but in the evening delved into the trendy concept of meals cooked on hot volcanic slates and served under the stars.
And Brief the Moon of Beauty…
“Luxury” may very well be in the eye of the beholder, but Silversea’s hallmark exclusives gave the word new meaning. Fulfilling one’s dreams of true pampering, the 700-square-foot Silver Suites featured extra-wide private verandas, marbled bathrooms with double vanities, a full-sized bathtub, and a separate shower. These mini palaces came with Bang & Olufsen….
By Steve Leland
Photo: Silversea Cruises