Monday 21 August 2017

Silver Muse on the Med: An ultra-luxury cruise with butler and Bvlgari

Cruise holidays

Waiter on Deck, Silversea Cruises
Waiter on Deck, Silversea Cruises
‘Silver Muse’ takes its virgin voyage
A view of Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica from the Old Port of Marseille
A suite on board Silversea's Silver Whisper
Anna Coogan

Anna Coogan

Sometimes you find yourself thinking about money, which is exactly what I'm doing while looking up at the €300m Silver Muse, Silversea Cruises' new flagship, which is docked in Marseille in France.

Granted, I've been up since 2.45am to fly to Paris and then on to Marseille to catch the ship before it sets sail for Tarragona in Spain, so I'm sleep-deprived.

It might explain why I'm feeling light-headed at the sight of this ultra-shiny ship, an engineering feat which is dazzling in the midday sunshine on a blue carpet that is the sparkly Mediterranean Sea.

It could be also why this brand spanking new cruise ship has me thinking of comedian Katherine Ryan in the trailer for her TV show How'd You Get So Rich when she is walking towards a massively flamboyant mansion and she says: "This is the kind of house you show your 15-year-old daughter to remind her to marry for money and not love."

I'm wondering if the Silver Muse is the kind of cruise ship you show the twentysomethings in your life when they tell you they're too young to start thinking about a retirement plan?

It's not colossal - built to carry 596 guests and a crew of 411 - but it is designed for Silversea customers who are in general wealthy retirees.

It seems some go on several cruises a year, spending tens of thousands annually for the pleasure of hopping from port to port, and Silversea Cruises has a reputation for catering to their every whim.

I'm here for Silver Muse's shakedown cruise. A shakedown cruise is the nautical term for testing the performance of a new ship, and has nothing at all to do with shaking your booty or being held to ransom. There's an air of anticipation on board the ship, as Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, a member of the Monaco-based Italian family which owns Silversea Cruises, mingles with guests as they return from a morning spent in Marseille, the bustling port city on the Provencal coast.

Once we're all on board, we're setting sail for Tarragona, a port city in northeastern Spain's Catalonia region which is well known for its Roman centre and fabulous beaches.

But our plan is to hop on a coach and travel for a quarter of an hour to attend the grand opening of Ferrari Land, the new €100m theme park in PortAventura World which will be opened by Piero Ferrari, the son of the founder of the iconic Italian sports car manufacturer.

‘Silver Muse’ takes its virgin voyage
‘Silver Muse’ takes its virgin voyage

But first it's time to settle in on the Silver Muse. How will I describe my deluxe veranda suite? Well, at home I step out of bed, take a couple of steps in either direction and say "hello" to a wall. In my luxurious cruise ship suite, I walk in one direction towards a walk-in closet and shiny marble bathroom with an array of Bvlgari products. While the other direction takes me to my elegant sitting room and out on to a veranda with a view of a bright blue sky which hasn't a scattered cloud in sight, and a glistening Mediterranean Sea.

My suite comes with a dedicated butler service. I've no idea what to ask my butler to do, but I do get brought eggs Benedict on a silver tray in the morning, along with a glorious basket of pastries, all of which are presented on a linen tablecloth.

Eating is a large part of going on a cruise ship, and the Silver Muse has eight restaurants, three of which are outdoors, with 26 menus between them. Which is great, because what wealthy retiree has time to spare for an eating fad?

I enjoy tender lobster in the Japanese restaurant Kaiseki and a mouth-watering New York strip steak in Atlantide Bar and Grill. The breakfast buffet stretches around several corners, and really has whatever you could possibly fancy for your brekkie.

"Red Force", the fastest vertical accelerator in Europe, at the PortAventura World Parks & Resort in Salou. Photo: LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images

It is 273 nautical miles from Marseille to Tarragona. It's another seven-and-a-half land-measured miles from Tarragona to Ferrari Land in PortAventura. There is a party atmosphere when we arrive at 10am and in the hazy morning sunshine, and over the next couple of hours there are performances by acrobats and singers and fireworks and people are in general high spirits as they get ready to try Red Force, the fastest vertical accelerator in Europe.

I'm torn over what to do about Red Force, which accelerates from 0-110mph in five seconds, and fires passengers up to a height of 112m, and back down again, all in about 30 seconds. It's designed to give the experience of driving a Formula One car. I've a distant relationship with heights, barely looking out a first-floor window. Plus, I've used up my day's supply of bravery by going up to the eleventh deck of the Silver Muse to sit by the aquamarine swimming pool.

If you don't fancy a roller coaster ride, Ferrari Land also has a 500m racetrack, 55m tall bounce-back towers and F1 simulators for adults and children. There are beautiful vintage cars on display, and restaurants to visit.

On the other hand, the spa on the Silver Muse is offering a full-body Swedish massage, which requires no head for heights. And it turns out to be divine. And now that I'm back on the cruise ship, I go for a tour, dropping into the casino, boutiques, bars and lounges, the games room, library, and the Arts Cafe, where you can relax over tea and cake during the afternoon. There's also a theatre, where shows take place in the evenings.

The Silver Muse has a prosperous feel to it, and the decor throughout the ship is elegant and graceful.

A view of Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica from the Old Port of Marseille
A view of Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica from the Old Port of Marseille

The following morning, when my taster of a Mediterranean cruise comes to an end, I wake up in Barcelona, and enjoy a breathtaking view of the harbour and of the city rising up in front of the cruise ship, the city's antiquity and modernity all jumbled beautifully together.

It's time to leave my fellow passengers behind, lingering over their luxurious breakfast. They do look happy, it has to be said. Sated and content.

Note to twentysomethings; cruising may well be retirement's silver lining.

Totes serious, like.

Getting there

Silversea’s Silver Muse sets sail from Bridgetown, Barbados, on December 6 on a 12-day voyage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The ship calls at Castries; Bequia; St George’s; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Willemstad, Curaçao; Oranjestad, Aruba; Samana; Grand Turk and Key West.

Fares start from €6,350 per guest, cruise-only, based on double-occupancy in a Classic Veranda Suite.

Silver Muse sets sails from Rome on a seven-day voyage to Venice on May 29, 2018. The ship calls at Sorrento, Taormina, Katakolon, Sarande, Dubrovnik and Split.

Fares start from €4,450 per guest, cruise-only, based on double-occupancy in a Classic Veranda Suite.

More information: silversea.com or call +44 844 251 0837.

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