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Silversea’s Discoverer: Exploration in comfort

Discoverer: Exploration in comfort

Discover

Silversea’s newest expedition ship is the luxurious option for venturing into the world’s great wildernesses.

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If you have already explored most of the known world by cruise ship, the next obvious step is to widen your horizons and take a look at what the unknown world has to offer. But you still want to do it in comfort, not in one of those converted Russian icebreakers where the idea of luxury is an extra pillow and where haute cuisine means a tin of something off the top shelf in the pantry. Step forward Silversea Expeditions, who have added a third vessel to the fleet of three that complement the company’s five classic ships plying ultra-luxury waters.

Launched in Singapore this spring, Silver Discoverer began its first season by cruising Australia’s remote and utterly spectacular Kimberely region. I flew to join the ship in Broome for a week-long voyage along the coast to Darwin. Silver Discoverer is not quite as sumptuous as Silversea’s brochures claim; the ship is not brand new but it has been given a multi-million pound facelift and conversion.

The majority of the cabins are 181 sq ft View Suites which come with a queen-sized bed that can be spilt into twins; dressing table, and compact, heavily-marbled shower room. Just nine of the passenger rooms have balconies; top of the range is the 408 sq ft Medallion Suite. The galley is overseen by executive chef Pia, and her top class dinners live up to Silversea’s ultra-luxury status. The Discovere Lounge provides a limited buffet selection at breakfast and lunch.

Outside, by the small pool, is an unchanging menu of burgers and hot dogs at lunch. In the evening, the pool deck plays host to Silversea’s trademark Hot Rocks dinner under the stars – steaks and fish that passengers cook for themselves on slabs of lava heated in a furnace to 400 deg C. It’s not exactly a luxury experience, however, sitting at a picnic table with the wind threatening to snatch away the napkins. Drinks from the bars – in the Explorer Lounge and by the pool – and wine with dinner are included in the fare. There’s little in the way of conventional entertainment, although pianist Jorge takes his Bontempi keyboard to the buffet for afternoon tea and tickles the ivories on the grand piano in the Explorer Lounge before and after dinner.

What the ship – and the passengers – really concentrate on are the destinations and Zodiac-borne expeditions that range from educational trips around the bay to all-day hikes and the chance to swim in the remote creek. Where mainstream cruise ships have a cruise director, Discoverer has an expedition leader who holds daily de-briefings to tell passengers about what they have seen and to set the scene for the next day’s events. The expedition staff also create entertainment – one compiled an amusing Candid Camera-style collection of pictures and video clips of the passengers; another presented a CSI Kimberley investigation into the mysterious deaths of some of the region’s less fortunate creatures.

Each day brought an enriching lecture on an aspect of the Kimberley’s history, geology, or wildlife – several of them presented by expedition leader Mick Fogg. Silversea also partners with the Royal Geographical Society in order to ensure passengers are provided with the very best scientific and historical information available. Our fellow-passengers were well-heeled adventurous oldies; mostly English-speaking and several who freely admitted their travelling days are coming to an end. There was a small but determined group of our Commonwealth cousins who tested the barman’s ability to mix cocktails pretty much round the clock. The majority, preparing for another hectic day’s action spent in pursuit of saltwater crocodiles and picture postcard waterfalls (or perhaps driven away by the tuneless pianist) were in bed by 10.30 each evening.

Given the potential free publicity for envious friends and family who would be subjected to the voyages souvenir DVD once passengers returned home, the US$150 price tag seemed rather excessive.

Almost everything else on the trip was included in the fare – drinks, tips, and most excursions. Even a spectacular flightseeing tour over the famed Bungle Bungles was complimentary, and there was an alternative excursion along the River Ord for those who preferred not to fly. Only an optional helicopter trip to the Mitchell Falls came at an extra cost.

SILVER DISCOVERER
LENGTH – 338 FT
CABINS – 62
PASSENGER DECKS – 5
PASSENGERS – 128
CREW – 96

WAY TO GO

After its introductory season in the Kimberley, Discoverer headed north to Alaska and a number of voyages to Russia’s remote and mysterious far east. It will be back in the southern hemisphere by November or two months of cruising in the New Zealand sub-Antarctic region, and then returns to the Kimberley for five cruises in April and May.

Prices for a 10-day cruise from Broome to Darwin on April 9, 2015, start at £6550 per person based on double occupancy of an Explorer Suite. Air travel is extra. Silversea can book return flights with Malaysian Airlines from London Heathrow to Darwin via Kuala Lumpur from £719.

Contact Ponders on 01954 232802 for more information.

 

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