FIRST THINGS FIRST
What better introduction to luxury cruising than on a brand new ship
New-ship smell. It’s a thing. Think new-car smell only far more enticing. Allow me to illustrate: worldwide there will be more than 70 million new cars on the road this year compared to only 10 new cruise ships scheduled to hit the water. Of those ships, there are a total of 27,704 berths.
Add to that the fact there are about 7.5 billion people in the world and you don’t have to be a genius (I am not) to work out that breathing in the air on a brand spanking new ship – an ultraluxury one at that – is statistically a rare opportunity.
Which brings me to Silver Muse.I board Silversea’s latest addition in Girona, Italy, in early April.
It’s fresh from the docks of the Fincantieri shipyard, built at an estimated cost of $280 million, and one of the first things I notice is the distinct aroma of newness paired with the never-been-touched sparkle on every surface.
The four-night sailing I’m on is a dress rehearsal – aka shakedown cruise, aka pre-maiden voyage – before paying passengers come on board. Along with travel agents and journalists from the US, UK, Europe and Japan, my travelling companions include Silversea’s owner and chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, and a slew of company VIPs.
It’s their first new ship since 2009, and the ninth in their fleet, so it’s an understatement to say they’re all eager to show it off.
The guests are filled with a similar sense of anticipation.
SHINY AND NEW
My personal cruise experience sits firmly at the large-ship end of the spectrum so being on a small, premium vessel, let alone one at the beginning of its life, is a first for me.
Silver Muse has the capacity for 596 guests and 411 crew, a ratio apparent the minute I step on board to be greeted with a glass of champagne and ushered to my deck-seven room.
Rommel, my cabin attendant, takes me through every previously untouched feature of the 36sq m deluxe veranda suite. The decor, like the rest of the ship, is contemporary chic with a neutral colour palette and restrained finishes.
It feels at once sumptuous and homely; a very easy place to lay roots for a few days or weeks.
The next thing that takes my fancy is the hi-tech audiovisual system, the screen of which appears in the centre of the floor-to-ceiling and over-desk mirrors. It’s something straight out of a Marvel comic.
The bathroom, with its stand-alone bathtub, capacious shower and practical lighting and storage solutions, is next . It’s big, well lit and, in terms of its finishes, comparable to a five-star hotel. A nice touch is the toiletries, proffered on a silver platter with a choice of premium (Bulgari! Ferragamo!) and skin-sensitive brands.
A walk-in wardrobe with masses of hangers, lounge area with curtain divider (ideal for couples with different sleep patterns), large balcony, ample power points and USB port, and desk, plus the laundry down the hall, make it one of the most well-equipped setups I’ve experienced at sea.
Which takes me back to Rommel. I’ve only once sailed with a private butler at my disposal. As it’s a given on so many high-luxury ocean and river cruises, I defer to my more experienced travelling companions for suggestions on making the most of this perk. Their advice: the butler is there to keep your room spick and span, pamper you and make the trip easier. It could be as simple as bringing tea or a full breakfast first thing in the morning or a G&T at cocktail hour but, if you ask, he’ll also unpack and pack your suitcase, polish your shoes, make your dinner bookings, solve your problems ... thank you very much.
OUT AND ABOUT
The intimacy that comes with small-scale luxury means that within a few hours I have my bearings, half a day later my preferred nooks and vantage points.
The Arts Cafe on deck eight becomes the go-to spot for down time, not just for the dreamy cakes but for the wonderland of coffee table and reference books on the shelves. Curated by Heywood Hill, a renowned London bookshop, it’s one of many examples of Silversea partnering with experts or premium suppliers to elevate their luxury offering to the next level.
THE DELUXE VERANDA SUITE IS A VERY EASY PLACE TO LAY ROOTS FOR A FEW DAYS OR WEEKS
On deck, getting a dose of Mediterranean sunshine is as easy as finding a banana lounge by the pool and ordering a midmorning espresso or lunchtime burger and beer.
It’s in these moments that the joys of Silversea’s all-inclusive fare hit home. There’s no mental budget or checking of the account needed. Also, cruising folk are usually a convivial crowd, but the ease of striking up a conversation with a fellow passenger and “inviting” them to “share” a whisky later in the day at Connoisseur’s Corner is hastened when there’s not the prospect of awkward bill splitting.
INTRODUCING THE CAPTAIN
There are two ways to decide where to dine on Silver Muse.
The obvious is to look at the menus for each of the eight restaurants (there is not a main dining room) and pick one – Indochine or Kaiseki for Asian, La Dame for classic fine dining, La Terrazza, Spaccanapoli for Mediterranean, and the open-air deck Grill – that tempts your tastebuds.