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    09.06.2009

Luxury Silversea Cruise

Just a whisper away

A luxury Silversea cruise leaves a lasting impression. Story by MICHAEL GEBICKI.
Give or take a month or two, it’s taken 42 years to get me back on board a cruise ship. The psychological scar tissue from that 1966 voyage from San Francisco to Sydney lingers on. I recall a dark and airless inner cabin, a lingering smell of drains everywhere, a narrow bed, and bread rolls that we teen terrors used to hurl at one another. It’s time. I’m dipping my toe in the water so to speak, with a three-night cruise from Cebu in the southern Philippines, to Hong Kong. Not exactly intrepid, but enough to see whether cruising and I are made for one another.
“Champagne sir?” I’ve just stepped up the gangplank and it’s already obvious that cruising has changed somewhat. Naturally, I’ve chosen a ship with care. Silver Whisper first hit the water in 2001, a product of Norwegian architects and Italian shipbuilding finesse. With a length of 186m, a beam of 25m, and a gross tonnage of 28,250, she’s a minnow compared with the mega ships of many rival cruise lines. This is typical of Silversea’s six-ship fleet, which are all smallish vessels that are big on comfort, style and amenities.
One statistic that you need to pay attention to when you choose a cruise ship is the space-to-passenger ratio – the vessel’s gross tonnage divided by its passenger capacity. With a capacity of 382 passengers, this gives the Silver Whisper a figure of 74. This is phenomenal. These days, a space-to-passenger of 35 is about the norm for a luxury cruise ship. Some of the tonier lines such as Holland America, Crystal Cruises and Seabourn nudge into a space/passenger ratio in the 40s or even low 50s. But 74 is truly astonishing. No other cruise line even comes close.
What does it mean? It means that I never have to wait for a computer when I go to check my email, that I can always get a window seat in La Terrazza when I sit down for breakfast, that I can lounge by the pool in a teak recliner without bodies in close proximity if I want to, and that I don’t play bumper cars with other people on my morning jog even when the ship is rolling. It means I don’t have to queue to leave the ship when she ties up in Manila, and that after day one the smiling man behind the espresso machine on the pool deck knows how I like my coffee and when.
Guest suites are poshly elegant. Mine is a Verandah Suite, which is by far the majority of the eight suite categories. Regardless of which suite you choose, everyone gets a view. There is no such thing as an inside cabin. There’s a queen-size bed with a choice of pillows, which can be divided by curtains from the sitting area, which has a small but comfy couch, an armchair, a flat-screen TV and writing desk. There’s a bottle of French champagne, which is replenished when I pop the cork, and a mini-bar stocked with soft drinks, beer and some spirits. Beyond are sliding picture windows that open to my private balcony. The marble-panelled bathroom has double sinks, a bath separate from the shower and Bulgari bath condiments. There’s also a walk-inA dressing room with heaps of storage space. It feels like a plush room from one of the better American stables: Ritz-Carlton, if I had to put a name to it.

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