Cruising in the Mediterranean: All at sea with my own butler
Silversea offer voyages across all seven continents and features luxury cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, both Polar regions and over 400 destinations in between.
Silversea offers cruises from Lisbon to Monte Carlo (8 nights) starting from $5,668 inclusive (all prices are in US dollars). Further details can be found at www.silversea.com.
Even a lifelong cynic like me cannot deny that there is a great deal of romance about taking a cruise. There's something about going to sea and sleeping aboard a ship that really encapsulates the idea of 'getting away from it all'. Mind you, I've never fancied climbing aboard one of those super-cruisers that carry thousands of passengers. So the Silversea Silver Spirit, which carries 540 passengers, and is like an elite boutique hotel, was perfect for me. I know 540 passengers sounds like a lot but, instead, the ship is small enough to get around without feeling overwhelmed while big enough not to feel cramped. As Goldilocks might have said if she took to cruising, it was 'just right'.
The two biggest misconceptions about cruises are that they are populated entirely by honeymooning couples and ageing Americans. Okay, yes, ageing Americans were adequately represented aboard the Silver Spirit but the passengers were a very eclectic bunch, including travellers from Australia, Canada, South Africa, Japan, South America and pretty much every country in Europe. Instead of loved-up couples, there were quite a few solo travellers and families with both teenagers and younger children.
The ship itself is a home away from home (if your home contains top chefs, butlers and full-time cleaners that is). I loved the fact that I could visit a number of different places including Spain, Italy and France, without the attendant hassle of having to pack and unpack at every port of call. It was a bit like being a rock star, travelling by night and waking up every day in a different place and, indeed, having my every whim catered to. When I first boarded the Silver Spirit, I was overcome with the feeling that I'd strayed into an Agatha Christie book. The reception area and adjoining bar are decorated in an art-deco style reminiscent of the golden age of travel in the 1930s and I fully expected to see Hercule Poirot enjoying a tisane. (Hercule was not aboard but by the end of the voyage we were all a bit Poirot-shaped as the food was both plentiful and delicious).
My suite which, while modern (a flat TV embedded in the mirror in both bedroom and sitting room), also had a distinctly art-deco feel and the bathroom was just perfect. Hercule himself couldn't have found fault with it because, despite looking like it belonged in an earlier, more glamorous age, the amenities were thoroughly modern, with a massive power shower and a huge bath that doesn't take hours to fill.
If the suite, with my own private veranda, wasn't luxurious enough (and it was) I had my own butler to attend to my every need any hour of the day or night. He brought me breakfast in bed every morning and repeatedly polished my sunglasses! Apart from certain wines, premier spirits, cigarettes and cigars, everything is included in the fare.
I have to say I'm a big fan of the all-inclusive holiday as it means you can act like the Queen and stop carrying cash and also go for a meal without an undignified Mrs Doyle-style tussle about who is going to pay at the end.
There is so much to do on board that you need never set foot on dry land at all if you don't want to. Apart from the various bars, restaurants, casino and duty-free shops (only open when the ship is at sea) there is a full agenda of on- board activities arranged every day and entertainment every evening.
I would have been more than happy to spend my days lounging by the pool and trying out the three whirlpools one at a time but I did sign up for a couple of shore tours. The tours cost extra and unless you have a burning desire to see something specific on the agenda then you'd be just as well to get a map of the town from the concierge and make your own way around. I have to say the shopping in Ajaccio, Corsica (birthplace of Napoleon) was great. Be warned, though, if you fancy shopping rather than just sightseeing; go in the morning as most of the destinations on this cruise have a siesta in the afternoon.
You can't go on a cruise and not discuss the food. On our first night, we had a poolside barbecue. I'm one of those miseries who associates the BBQ word with semi-cooked sausages. Despite being surrounded by luxury and butlers I got it into my head that the poolside barbecue would consist of some fella in an apron serving up badly cooked burgers on a bun.
Instead, it was a feast of epic proportions and not to be missed. I'd also highly recommend having dinner at Hot Rocks restaurant where you cook your own main course at the table. I know it sounds rubbish -- who wants to go to a restaurant to cook their own dinner? That was exactly my thinking but not only was it a lot of fun, the meat was amazingly good and it was a fabulous meal.
For those who want to offset the effects of so much temptation, there is a gym and a number of fitness classes run daily. And, of course, there's a spa.
Spa treatments are extra but entitle you to use the amazing thermal suite, with hot-stone beds and give you access to the private spa deck where you can relax in the Jacuzzi and enjoy the view.
The only major problem I had with the Silver Spirit is that they wouldn't let me take my butler home as a keepsake -- and now I'm reduced to polishing my own sunglasses.
Silversea offer voyages across all seven continents and features luxury cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, both Polar regions and over 400 destinations in between. Silversea offers cruises from Lisbon to Monte Carlo (8 nights) starting from $5,668 inclusive (all prices are in US dollars). Further details can be found at www.silversea.com.
Sunday Indo Living