Thursday 23 February 2017

Travel TV: Inside the world of ultra-luxury cruising with Silversea

Silver Cloud in Dublin

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

On today's Travel TV, we take an exclusive look at the world of ultra-luxury cruising on board Silver Cloud.

Think all cruise ships are the same?

Think again. Two recent arrivals at Dublin Port prove that there's far more variety of vessels, itineraries and prices on the seas than stereotypes of bottomless buffets and blue-rinse brigades suggest.

One was the 333m MSC Splendida - with 17 decks, four pools and a Swarovski crystal staircase, the ship is taller than Liberty Hall.

The other was Silversea's 157m Silver Cloud (see video above), an elegant slip of a thing that snuggled up beside the East Link. The mass-market giant carries almost 4,000 passengers. Silver Cloud takes just 296.

The difference isn't just in size. While MSC focuses on affordable cruises, Silversea is similar to Regent and Seabourn in catering to the 'ultra-luxury' market.

Its fleet of eight boutique ships offers some of the highest space and service ratios in the industry, with all-inclusive prices including ocean views, butlers, meals, drinks and shore excursions (guests in Dublin joined a food tour and visited St Patrick's Cathedral among other options).

Forget robot bars and rock-climbing walls. Silver Cloud boasts the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea.

Quibbles? The ship's size limits its deck space, as you'll see, and its age (Silver Cloud launched in 1994) means it lacks the spiffy features and furnishings of brand new competitors. It was refurbed in 2012, however, and Silversea is nurturing a small, but growing, number of 'ultra-luxury' cruise customers in Ireland.

See inside for yourself on this week's Travel TV.

Splash

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Silversea cruises (silversea.com) don't come cheap.

Aficionados argue that value lies in their extras, however, with ocean views, butlers, shore excursions, meals and drinks included in the price.

Itineraries start from around €2,675pp going to press, but rise rapidly from there. Expect to pay around €3,550pp for a 12-day cruise from New York to Barbados, for example, or €5,850pp for a Galapagos expedition (before flights) in September. Silver Muse, a new ship set to debut in 2017, will raise the bar further for ultra-luxury cruises, it says.

Save

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Winter months tend to throw up the cheapest Mediterranean cruises, thanks to cooler weather and discounted pricing.

Going to press, for example, MSC (msccruises.ie) was offering seven-day cruises from as little as €369pp for an inside cabin in December, excluding flights.

Independent Travel (01 539-7700) had a seven-night cruise on MSC Preziosa (above) the same month from €459pp, including flights.

For more cruise deals, see John Galligan Travel (jgt.ie), e-travel (e-travel.ie) and Sunway (sunway.ie/cruise) among others.

NB: All prices subject to availability/change.

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