All-you-can-eat caviar and a test kitchen: This new luxury cruise ship delivers for foodies
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Melanie Lieberman sailed on Silversea’s Silver Moon as a guest of the line. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren’t subject to review by Silversea.
There are few experiences as singularly luxurious as eating caviar in bed. Or returning to your suite to find your butler has cleaned your sunglasses, untangled your charging chords and drawn a post-massage bath. There are far worse ways to spend a holiday.
On Silversea’s new Silver Moon, which was completed in October of 2020 but sat unused until this June due to the coronavirus pandemic, travellers can expect this type of timeless luxury. At the French restaurant La Dame, for example, Dover sole is filleted tableside. All guests have access to a butler, and there are live orchids in the suites and fresh flowers at every turn.
But the vessel itself has eschewed the dark, polished woods and crystal chandeliers found on many luxury lines in favour of bright, neutral hues and light wood and marble. As a guest of Silversea on a recent sailing that hosted both members of the media as well as paid passengers, I had a chance to check out one of the industry’s most anticipated new ships.
Here’s what I discovered during a recent 10-day sailing around Greece and Cyprus on board Silver Moon.
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For cruisers familiar with Silver Moon’s sister ships Silver Muse and the recently refurbished Silver Spirit, the vessel will feel very familiar.
With a capacity of just 596 passengers and 411 crew members, the guest-to-crew ratio is roughly 1.45 to 1 when the ship is at full capacity. And while I was sailing with Silversea, the number of guests was approximately half.
During a Q&A following a naming ceremony on the first day of the sailing, Silversea Cruises’ CEO and president Roberto Martinoli described the key differences guests might notice between Silver Moon and Silver Muse.
The aforementioned restaurant La Dame has moved upstairs. It now has ocean views and can seat more than twice the number of guests.
The Arts Café has moved, as has the Connoisseur’s Corner which now has a lovely outdoor area even non-smokers may want to take advantage of. The fitness centre and spa have been enlarged, too, as have other dining venues.
And of course, Martinoli said, “we’ve been perfecting some other things.” Guests might notice some of the decks have more free height, for example.
But the biggest change, Martinoli emphasized, comes in the form of SALT (Sea and Land Taste), a culinary programme that might just lure diehard epicures to cruising for the first time — and edged out the teppanyaki space on Silver Muse.
Travellers can expect a trifecta of SALT programming including talks and demonstrations; specialised SALT Ashore excursions that might include a wine tasting at a vineyard, an organic farm tour, or a cheese-making class followed by a veritable feast at a local restaurant; and onboard cooking classes.
At a gleaming new test kitchen, the SALT Lab, passengers try their hand at preparing regional recipes. While the ship was docked at the island of Crete, for example, I learned to prepare gamopilafo, a traditional wedding rice dish with both Venetian and Ottoman influences.
In addition to the new Lab, guests can dine at SALT Kitchen (billed as the first large-scale regional restaurant on a luxury cruise ship) with a menu that changes daily to reflect the port of call. After dinner, guests can order whimsical cocktails at the SALT Bar. (Order the Selene, and start filming when the drink arrives; just trust me on this, OK?)
Entertainment and activities
In addition to the SALT programming, guests will have access to a lineup of entertainment and activities similar to what you’d find on other Silversea vessels. There are no roller coasters, waterslides or Broadway-style theatre productions.
While Silver Moon plied the Aegean and Mediterranean seas at night, guests could be found at the casino or enjoying live music at a number of the ship’s bars and lounges, including live jazz and blues at Silver Note (which also serves small, shareable plates featuring fusion-style fare).
At the Venetian Lounge theatre, the Voices of Silversea performed a medley of classic show tunes; there was a Queen tribute show; and Dain Cordean performed magic.
Silversea may not be the cruise line of choice for travellers seeking high-adrenaline thrills, but there’s more than enough entertainment to keep you occupied after a lengthy multicourse dinner or a busy day at port.
After a full day at Cyprus, my friend and I went to the pool deck for Simply Divine, a performance of iconic duets which turned into line dancing and, after most of the guests had dispersed, a bit of a dance party with DJ Gabor who pulled out hits by Bruno Mars, Britney Spears and The Killers. Seriously.
Silver Moon also has a deck-top pool and a handful of hot tubs, plus the Zagara spa, salon and fitness centre for travellers who prefer relaxing over the cha-cha slide.
Cabins and suites
You won’t find any interior cabins with virtual balconies on Silver Moon. Here, every guest sails in a suite with an ocean view and a butler available for pretty much any request you can think of.
In our Deluxe Veranda Suite, full-size glass doors slid open to reveal a balcony with patio furniture, and there was a walk-in closet with a dresser and plenty of room to store our suitcases; more than either of us can say for our New York City-area apartments.
When we arrived, there was a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé waiting in the separate living and dining area, and our butler, Antonio, offered to pour us glasses and unpack our suitcases.
I’ve had access to a butler before during luxury hotel stays, but I can’t say I’ve ever known how to take advantage of the service, exactly. But even though we didn’t ask Antonio to unpack our belongings, he always found ways to awe us during our stay. I came back to the suite one day to find my sunglasses, which I’d left out on a table, polished and wrapped in a Silversea microfiber cloth.
When we asked about different amenities, Antonio brought an entire tray of different brands and products to choose from, as if Bvlgari bath products may not be suitable. During sea days, he drew us fragrant bath with soaking salts.
The intuitive service extended far beyond our designated butler, of course. In fact, the service on board may have been the most remarkable part of the cruise — and that’s really saying something when you consider that almost every suite category has a marble bathroom with both a rainfall shower and a full-size tub.
You won’t find any two-story suites on Silver Moon, but during a tour we did get to see a handful of other suite categories, including a Silver Suite (which has double vanities in the main bathroom and a separate powder room).
We also saw a Grand Suite, which has the largest balconies on board and, when booked with a second bedroom, sprawls over 1,970 square feet (including the teak veranda).
SALT Kitchen is, understandably, a focal mark of cruising on Silver Moon. In addition to the dedicated “terrain” menu that changes daily depending on your destination, there’s also a consistent “voyage” menu that draws on influences and inspirations from the region at large.
Some of my favourite meals were at SALT, including a shrimp yiouvetsi served with local San Michali cheese from the island of Syros.
But travellers sailing on Silver Moon have seven other dining venues to choose from (or more, depending on your interpretation).
Guests who have sailed with Silversea in the past will recognize Atlantide, La Terrazza (which transforms from a buffet at breakfast and lunch to an upscale Italian restaurant in the evenings), Arts Café, Spaccanapoli, Silver Note and Kaiseki, a Japanese restaurant that usually costs $40 per person for dinner but serves knockout sushi and sashimi at lunch for no extra charge. (Thanks for the tip, Art.)
There’s also The Grill, which serves casual poolside fare during the day and transforms into Hot Rocks at night, where guests can prepare their meals at their table on heated volcanic stones.
And La Dame (typically $60 per person) produced one of the best, and most memorable, meals of the entire sailing in terms of execution, service and presentation. My Chilean sea bass was so buttery, it was almost indistinguishable from the sauce it was served in. Soups were poured tableside, and every dessert arrived with a personalized flourish.
The food and beverage programme was one of the best, but somewhat inconsistent, parts of our sailing — something that can likely be chalked up to a new crew on a new ship still getting their feet wet as cruising resumes after the coronavirus pandemic brought the entire industry to a halt March of 2020.
While some meals rivalled the best I’ve had on land, I also ordered a tuna steak at La Terrazza that was overcooked to the point of having a greyish hue. There were a few other misses as well, including a shrimp curry at Atlantide that simply fell short of expectations (which already, on the third day, were quite high). But otherwise, the food and beverage programme was exceptional.
And there’s something for everyone at Silver Moon, whether you’re looking for a quick, casual bite or a lengthy, lavish dinner.
The cocktails at SALT Bar, for example, were downright works of art. But I personally preferred more traditional cocktails at the Observation Library on Deck 11, which boasts sunset views from the front of the ship.
As you might expect for a ship stocked with Ars Italica caviar, sailings on Silver Moon aren’t inexpensive. Ten-day Mediterranean voyages similar to the one I experienced start around $6,300 per guest this summer.
But the price tag includes more than just your suite. In fact, Silversea is known for offering one of the most all-inclusive products in cruising.
On an upcoming 10-day Mediterranean cruise to and from Piraeus, the port of Athens, Greece, entry-level Vista Suites start at $7,800 per person. That price includes economy-class return airfare; transfers between the airport and ship; one shore excursion per port, per day; onboard gratuities; unlimited Wi-Fi and more.
Some itineraries cover flights in the form of a credit baked into the cruise fares instead, and select itineraries include private transfers between your home and airport.
Starting in 2022, Silversea will make private executive transfers a standard perk. Guests will get a chauffeured car from their home directly to their ships (if nearby) or the local airport at no extra charge. The same service will be available to passengers in reverse at the end of their cruises. Silversea said these private transfers can be arranged in more than 200 cities in over 50 countries around the world
There are still extras you’ll have to pay for on Silver Muse, including spa treatments (I spent $159 for a 50-minute massage, though that included a 15% tip), dinners at Kaiseki and La Dame ($40 and $60 per person, respectively) and some activities.
I’ve cruised before, but have never on a luxury line. And my friend, who joined me for her first-ever cruise, is certainly spoiled for life.
Silversea’s modern take on luxury is unfussy and instinctive. If you so much as think about asking for your wine glass to be refilled, you’ll find it has already been topped off by a smiling crew member.
And Silver Moon’s signature SALT program is a sensation.
I was also impressed with Silversea’s no-nonsense approach to safety and health during the pandemic. Right now, Silversea is requiring all passengers on the ship to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine before boarding. All crew members are required to be required vaccinated, too.
Even though daily temperatures before leaving your room might sound annoying, they’re done quickly and really don’t interfere with your morning routine.
Travellers also need to submit to an on-arrival COVID-19 test, and are not allowed to board until a negative result is returned (mine took about 20 minutes). During my sailing, Silversea also mandated mid-cruise COVID-19 tests and provided end-of-sailing rapid antigen tests for free.
At a time when coronavirus cases are surging again and concerns about coronavirus variants are causing destinations to tighten restrictions once again, many of us remarked at how safe we all felt on Silver Moon, in a protective bubble sailing around the Greek isles and stocked with enough caviar and Champagne to transport us all back to a far more relaxing time.
Featured image by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy
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