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Voyage To Legendary Cities
Aboard Silversea’s Silver Spirit
The glories of two legendary cities, Athens and Venice, were like
elegant “bookends” to a luxury cruise aboard Silversea Cruises’
Silver Spirit. And the voyage, on the Ionian, Aegean, Adriatic, and
Mediterranean Seas, those cradles of major civilizations, also
opened pages to other great, iconic sites along the way.
This region of the planet, that has served as inspiration to
countless artists, poets and writers, including, of course, Homer,
always enchants with its history, legends, and landscapes, but
particularly more so when a journey, like our nine-day voyage with
one-day pre-cruise in Athens, starts in the Greek capital and ends
in Venice—with two days in each city.
In Athens our pre-cruise base was the Athenaeum Intercontinental—on its rooftop Premiere Restaurant a Mediterranean-inspired dinner
comes with a “side” of views of the Acropolis. And the hotel, with
amenities including an outdoor pool open in the summer and a spa, is
located near the Temple of Apollo and the shops and restaurants of
the quaint Plaka in the heart of this city of 3.7 million
inhabitants. A complimentary shuttle takes guests to the city
No matter how often you do it, the climb to the top of the Acropolis
with its view of the Parthenon and 20 other marble structures and
the city below is a “must” when in Athens, and always breathtaking.
“It’s right up there with the view of the Great Wall of China, the
Pyramids and the Taj Mahal,” said Patrick O’Brien, a visitor from
From our room and our hotel’s club lounge, we enjoyed views of the
Acropolis as well –amazing, particularly at night when the Parthenon
and other structures are bathed in golden lights.
Venice, the other “bookend” of our journey, is a city that
playwright Truman Capote described as “like eating a whole box of
chocolate liqueurs in one go,” and there the Silver Spirit served as
our hotel for two days. We did all the must-sees including St.
Mark’s Square (Napoleon referred to it as “Europe’s drawing room”)
with its cafes and zillions of pigeons; the Doge’s Palace with works
by Tintoretto, Veronese and other masters; St. Mark’s Basilica with
its symphony of domes; the Bridge of Sighs (where tradition holds
that if lovers kiss, their love will last forever); and an evening
gondola ride with our gondolier serenading us with “O sole mio” and
And in between those two legendary “bookend” cities, we had another
legend to live to the fullest and enjoy: the luxurious Silver
Spirit. This all-suite, elegantly understated vessel, is the ideal
home at sea. Each suite has fine furnishings, flat-screen
televisions embedded in mirrors with more than 200 complimentary
on-demand movies and documentaries, mini-refrigerator stocked with
guests’ preferences, and marble bath with European toiletries. It
was a pleasure to watch the world go by from our terrace while
enjoying breakfast, afternoon tea, or canapés served by our butler Priyesh from Mumbai, India. Priyesh also spoiled us with chilled
cups of mixed berries awaiting our return from tours each afternoon.
We had multiple dining venues to choose from, including the Hot Rock
Grill, with seating alfresco under canopies overlooking the ship’s
swimming pool and lit by a “mini-constellation” of navigational
lights. One of our favorite restaurants at sea, it serves up chips
and dips, salads and entrees including salmon, prawns, steaks—center cut filet mignon, anyone?—as well as veal chops and pork
chops along with baked potato and vegetables on a skewer. Guests
finish grilling their entrees to their taste on a heated volcanic
rock plate at their table. Desserts include apple pie with vanilla
ice cream, black and white chocolate mousse (yum, yum!) and fresh
The Restaurant, the Silver Spirit’s formal dining room, serves
continental cuisine and Relais & Chateaux dishes. One of our
favorite dinner menus included grilled Maine lobster with saffron
rice and a delicious Black Angus beef Wellington. A selection of
complimentary wines is available for lunch and dinner and service is
warm and impeccable here and throughout the ship, with staff
remembering preferences and anticipating guests’ wishes.
La Terrazza, another choice, serves delectable a la carte Italian
fare with fresh ingredients in the Slow Food tradition for dinner
(menus change every three-four days). There’s indoor/outdoor seating
with splendid views of the wake. And for a special occasion—and it
was my birthday!—Le Champagne is an intimate venue, just beyond The
Restaurant that serves 24 diners, and features a six-course menu
highlighting regional specialties paired with fine wines. Fee is $30
per person with wines from the day’s complimentary selections (extra
charge for wines from the ship’s Connoisseur List, if desired).
Yet other dining choices include the Asian-inspired Seishin
Restaurant serving such delights as sushi, Kobe beef and lobster
(food menu fee is $30 per person), and the Stars Supper Club
inspired in New York’s Rainbow Room. It features a relaxed ambience,
trend-setting menus, and nightclub-style entertainment.
After dinner, a stroll under the stars and a drink in one of the
lounges (it is a pleasure not to have to be signing checks every
time you order something as bar drinks are included in the fare), we
often patronized the show lounge for musical revues and variety
entertainment. Other entertainment features we enjoyed included
musical afternoon tea by resident piano player and singer Eric, and
pre-and post-dinner piano melodies by pianist Amedeo. Both Amedeo
and Eric remembered our musical requests and played them whenever we
entered the lounges—just a few examples of the personalized
ambience of the Silver Spirit, where wait staff brings your
preferred beverages the minute you enter the bar or lounges without
being asked and greet you warmly by name. One example: each
afternoon when we went to the daily trivia contest, the wait staff
in the ship’s beautiful Panorama Lounge, instantly brought us
glasses of sparkling mineral water with lime—without our even
having to place an order!
Other stops on the voyage in between our “bookends” included
picture-postcard-perfect Dubrovnik in Croatia and medieval Kotor in
Montenegro. A call at Kusadasi, Turkey, enabled us to tour Ephesus,
one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman cities in the Eastern
Mediterranean and arguably, the most important “tome” held by our
Legendary gateway to the Orient, Ephesus was the site of the Temple
of Artemis, one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, and it is
a site of Christian pilgrimages as according to tradition the Virgin
Mary, accompanied by St. John, came to this area around 37 to 45
A.D. The apostle St. Paul also came to Ephesus.
Highlights include the Marble Street in front of the Great Theater
and leading to the Library of Celsus dating from the Second Century
A.D., and at one point a depository of some 12,000 manuscripts; and
Curetes Street, a marble thoroughfare lined with restored mansions
and monuments like the Temple of Hadrian with four Corinthian
columns from the Second Century.
The Great Theater, constructed during the reigns of emperors
Claudius and Trajan, could accommodate 24,000 people. It was the
setting for the Festival of Artemis, patroness of the city (only a
column remains of her temple nowadays); and it was also the site
where St. Paul preached a sermon against the pagan rites taking
place in the theater.
The House of the Virgin Mary, in the outskirts of Ephesus is another
point of interest. Renaissance historians and oral traditions
related a trip by Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Ephesus and pointed
to a small house that the faithful believed had been her dwelling.
In 1967, Pope Paul VI, visited the house and confirmed the
authenticity of the legend. The house, that looks more like a chapel
than a dwelling, has a small picture of a woman’s face that looks
like depictions of Mary across the centuries. There is a spring
where visitors take the water and make petitions as in Lourdes,
France, and other Marian sites.
Yet another highlight is the Basilica of St. John, near Ephesus.
According to tradition, the apostle St. John spent his last days in
Ephesus and the basilica was erected over his grave.
We signed up for an evening classical music concert by a local
sextet that took place in front of the Library of Celsus at Ephesus—another unforgettable moment in our cruise to legendary sites!
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