Luxury Cruising: I Did It My Way
Cloud & Silver Wind docked in Malta
by Georgina Cruz
Say you go shopping for a sofa or recliner and you find the perfect one, but you want it in a different fabric and color—usually fine furniture stores are able to oblige. How about customizing a home you are having built—maybe knocking down a wall of the floor plan to create a "great room" or adding another bathroom? Many builders allow you to do just that.
So why should the same not be possible with a cruise vacation? Well, it is! Ultra-deluxe Silversea Cruises introduced "Personalized Voyages" aboard one of its vessels in 2003 and due to its success, soon afterwards the line rolled it out to the rest of the fleet. This program allows you to truly make the cruise vacation your own—choosing the length of your voyage and embarking and disembarking from your choice of a wide selection of ports. You can also tack on a pre- and/or post-cruise stay if you so desire.
"Personalized Voyages addresses the needs of today's luxury traveler by giving them total vacation flexibility," said Albert Peter, Silversea's CEO. "We are enabling guests to customize their vacation experiences to fit their needs, not the other way around.
With today's affluent traveler, the most precious luxury is time. By offering guests a way to control time and make the most of it, we are helping to define the new ultimate luxury vacation experience."
There is a minimum of five nights in a row on board ship required and more than 200 approved embarkation and disembarkation ports. Guests need to arrange their air transportation (or have a travel agent do it for them) and Silversea is happy to assist with hotel and/or transfer transportation in select ports.
"Sometimes guests opt to cruise, then go on extensive overland touring, and rejoin the ship at a later port," said Gerard Paul O'Reilly, Silver Cloud's hotel director.
Naturally, guests can still opt for a cruise vacation from the line's published worldwide itineraries without "personalizing" them, and select either an air/sea fare or cruise-only fare. Silversea's Venetian Society members (past passengers' club) can enjoy the 5 percent Venetian Society savings, which is also available on all Personalized Voyages.
The Personalized Voyages program suited us just fine. Because of work, volunteering, and other obligations we did not have the two weeks needed to squeeze in a 12-day voyage on the Silver Cloud, sailing from Rome to Alexandria (plus a one-night stay in Rome pre-cruise and a post-cruise overnight in transit to the U.S.). But we loved the itinerary! It included exotic places we had never been to or had visited only once like La Goulette, Tunisia; Bejaia, Algeria; Valletta, Malta; and Heraklion, Crete.
Since we only had 10 days available, we played a bit with the itinerary under the Personalized Voyages program's umbrella. As it turned out, we could fly in on sail date (we had already been to Rome a half dozen times) and disembark 10 days later in Athens (skipping the port of Rhodes and Alexandria and flying home directly without an overnight enroute). In our case, by disembarking early, we
did not miss anything: we had visited Rhodes twice before and spent three days in Alexandria, making side trips to Cairo and the Pyramids during that stay several years ago.
The Personalized Voyages program did not only save us time, but the fare was approximately $1,400 less per person as we spent fewer days onboard ship.
During the voyage we splurged on spa treatments (including a hot lava rock massage, $210), souvenir shopping, and dinner at La Saletta, the intimate Relais & Chateaux wine-themed restaurant at sea. Dinner at this restaurant, featuring dishes from Relais & Chateaux Relais Gourmands, is complimentary. The award-winning wines paired with the dishes—one wine with each
course—are not included among the line's complimentary wine and spirits selections, so a fee of $150 per person is charged to guests' accounts.
And we splurged some more on shore excursions, signing up for several full-day tours. We explored the Roman ruins in Djemila, a UNESCO World Heritage site while on an excursion in Algiers and the Bardo Museum with its wealth of ancient Roman mosaics as well as the ruins of Carthage while in Tunisia. We were privileged to walk again on the ancient streets of Pompeii (we had first visited five years ago), and we marveled once more at the Roman town which was buried in ash after an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
In Malta, we went on walking tours of the medieval walled town of Mdina and of Valletta, including its impressive Co-Cathedral of St. John with more than 400 inlaid marble tombs of the Knights of St. John on the floor as well as the Grand Master's Palace with its tapestries, decorated ceilings and suits of armor.
We had always wanted to go to King Minos' Palace at Knossos in Crete, but though we had visited that beautiful Greek Island once before, the opportunity had not presented itself. So this time, our dream came true. Exploring the reconstructed ruins of the Minoan civilization from 4,000 years ago—including the Throne Room, Queen's Quarters, Central Court and Grand Staircase—made us feel like royalty. Coming to think of it, just like we felt during our entire personalized voyage on the Silver Cloud.
IF YOU GO—
Contact a travel agent or Silversea Cruises at 1-800-722-9955 or visit
www.silversea.com for additional information on Silversea's Personalized Voyages.
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