Following an extensive refurbishment to the tune of $40 million, Silver Cloud - the very first ship launched by luxury cruise operator Silversea back in 1994 - has been transformed into an ice class expedition vessel. But it’s not just any expedition cruise ship. As befits what is one of the world’s most regarded liners, the Cloud represents the most expensive and technologically-advanced refit in the history of Silversea.
Fresh from exploring her maiden voyage to the Falklands and Antarctica - during which her passengers took in the awe-inducing icebergs, glaciers and wildlife of the earth’s southernmost continent - we take a first look at what is reputed to be the most luxurious expedition ships at sea.
Ice Ice Baby
The most extensive and essential element of Silver Cloud Expedition's refurbishment is something passengers won’t really notice: a newly strengthened bow and resurfaced hull along the flotation line.
The new bow allows the Cloud to break through young ice and meet the demands of unwieldy ice patches that it may encounter, while steel plates have been added along the ship's hull from decks one to three to add redundancy for ship protection.
The Suite Life
Accommodating 254 guests when sailing to non-polar regions and 200 when sailing in the Arctic and Antarctic, the all-suite Silver Cloud has the highest space-to-passenger ratios in the industry.
Three classes of spacious suites (most featuring private verandas) range from the extravagant Silver and Royal suites to the most common Veranda Suite. Akin to a floating 5-star hotel, these lavish cabins feature huge beds, walk-in wardrobes and roomy marble bathrooms complete with rainforest shower, Bvlgari toiletries and a bath big enough for two.
Other luxury touches include sumptuous bedding and a nine-option pillow menu, fully stocked minibar (filled with your preferred beverages) and a personal, penguin suit-clad butler - the only cruise liner in the world to provide one for every suite.
Back To School
Given the expedition nature of the itineraries, the educational component for passengers on the Cloud is phenomenal. Offering the largest expedition team in the Silversea fleet, voyages are staffed by 22 experts (specialising in everything from biology and geology, to history and ornithology) recruited from across the world, all eager to share their passion, knowledge and years of experience.
These professionals lead hikes, kayaking trips and nature walks and run daily informative presentations and lectures in the new Explorer Lounge on deck six. One of the largest lecture and briefing halls at sea, the two-floor high theatre is fitted out with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and three large screens.
Continuing the educational offering, the Cloud is home to the ocean's first-ever floating photo lab on deck five where passengers can hone their digital photography skills, learning the best way to snap the amazing scenery and wildlife they’ll encounter during the voyage. A dedicated photo manager will lead one-on-one sessions, couples classes, or group sessions, and guests can even print their pics for posterity afterwards on postcards and posters. Who knew learning could be this much fun?
Food For Thought
A definite highlight for most cruise hounds is the food and drink offering onboard a ship and Silver Cloud certainly doesn’t disappoint. Offering four restaurants, there’s ample to tempt (and satisfy) all tastebuds.
The main restaurant (and the largest) is the The Restaurant, which serves contemporary, international cuisine, alongside including regional specialities from destinations on the voyage, during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Italian eatery, Le Terrazza also serves a buffet-style breakfast and lunch with seating both indoors and outside and then a la carte casual dinners in the evening. Poolside, The Grill, is a go-to for burgers and pizzas during the day, but at night it transforms into a fun ‘hot rock’ cooking venue in which guests can grill their own meat or seafood at their table on a preheated volcanic rock.
In terms of fine dining, Silver Cloud definitely rules the roost, given that it’s home to the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant on an expedition ship in the entire world. A 12-table, intimate dining experience, La Dame’s elegant French tasting menus include caviar, truffle and foie gras.
A Room With A View
A new addition to Silver Cloud is the Tor Observation Lounge. Perhaps the ultimate room with a view, this new space offers commanding 180-degree vistas, making it ideal for scenic days at sea and also for taking in the stunning otherworldly landscapes of the arctic.
While on deck eight, the Panorama Lounge, serves up a small continental breakfast and cocktails, but is also another destination for those looking for phenomenal ocean views day or night.
Given the obvious ramifications for foodie excess (‘a minute on the lips’ as the age old adage goes) it’s a good job that Silver Cloud has am amply equipped gym to help combat potential weight gain.
Packed to the rafters with the latest Technogym gear, the new Fitness Centre on Deck six is double the size of the previous space and features everything a fitness fanatic could possibly need, including fancy stretching mats, free weights, elliptical trainers, bicycles, benches and medicine balls. Wellness warriors can also take advantage of regular barre, yoga and circuit training exercise classes. Up on deck, a running track and heated resort-style pool are both perfect for morning or evening laps and a pair of jacuzzis offer great post-workout relief.
Considering the size of the ship - especially the fact that it’s an expedition vessel - having an onboard spa is a real added luxury.
Newly branded across the fleet, Silversea’s signature “mind-body wellness zone,” the Zagara Spa houses both spa and beauty salon, which combined offer a mind-boggling array of treatments and rituals catering to both men and women. From pedicures and highlights, to teeth whitening and waxing, pampering spans the usual go-tos to the decidedly esoteric - what other expedition ship offers amethyst crystal sound bath healing?
Speaking of, the newly designed ‘mood room’ is a standout. Here guests are taken on a sensory journey of sight, sound and smell with aromatherapy scents, nature sound effects and visuals of appropriately soothing Zen-like scenes. From there a bespoke treatment (including massage oils, room lighting and music) is created.
Regardless of whether you book in for some spa time, the adjacent male and female sauna and steam rooms are free to use and offer the ultimate juxtaposition to the arctic chill.
Adventures All Around
Adventuring is a breeze thanks to a fleet of 16 brand spanking new motorised Zodiacs. An industry first, the tech-y craft have expanded GPS and greatly increased distance capabilities, making them perfect for glacial waters.
Added to this are first-in-class custom-made loading and unloading platforms that will increase both speed and safety when loading and unloading guests. The ship also carries 12 double kayaks to explore the jaw-dropping coastlines it encounters en route.
In 2018, Silver Cloud will embark on a journey from the southernmost tip of South America to the southernmost point of South Africa. From there, she will head up the western coast of Africa to northern Europe before returning to Antarctica again in November for another series of expedition voyages.