- Photo Tours
- Live Voyage Reports
- AmaLyra- Christmas Markets
- Honolulu, Hawaii Trip Report
- Hurtigruten Midnatsol – North Cape
- Miami for Families
- Norwegian Breakaway – Christening
- Norwegian Epic – Eastern Caribbean
- Queen Mary 2 – Transatlantic
- Schooner Zodiac – Wine Cruise
- Silver Explorer – British Isles
- Silver Spirit – Athens to Barcelona
- Silver Spirit- Eastbound Transatlantic
- Silver Wind – South Africa
- Tauck Swiss Jewel – Blue Danube
- Viking Freya – Danube Christmas
- Viking Longships Christening 2012
- Viking Longships Christening 2013
- Wind Spirit – Stockholm to Oslo
- Zuiderdam – Alaska Inside Passage
- Airport Guides
- About FTDC
- The Avid Cruiser
Silver Spirit arrives in Casablanca, Morocco!
This morning, Silversea’s elegant Silver Spirit glided slowly into the harbour for Casablanca, Morocco, passing numerous container ships and bulk carriers before coming to a standstill in the basin and executing what looked like a tricky three-point turn in order to back into our berth at the container port.
Silversea offers plenty of shore excursion options in Casablanca, from a short city tour and cooking class to full-day excursions to the historic Moroccan cities of Fes and Marrakech. It’s always difficult to decide what to do in port, particularly near the end of the cruise, so we opted for the 4.5 hour “Casablanca and the Grand Mosque” excursion, chosen mainly to see one of Casablanca’s most impressive sights: the imposing Hassan II Mosque.
Although it was built fairly recently, from 1986 to 1993, the Hassan II mosque is the largest mosque in Morocco and the seventh-largest mosque in the world. It is also one of only two mosques in the entire country that non-Muslims can enter. Our guide told us that while roughly 1,000 Muslims come here to pray each day, that number can rise to twenty or thirty thousand people during Ramadan.
It’s an amazing sight that should be seen by anyone coming to Casablanca for the first time, and ranks among some of my favorite attractions around the world.
But I was excited to discover that our tour today would be one of the first Silversea excursions to feature QuietVox wireless audio headsets. If you’ve ever taken a river cruise, chances are you’ll be familiar with these fantastic little devices that feature a wireless receiver that hangs around your neck and a single earpiece.
This allows your guide to speak to you in a level that never reaches above conversational volume, and also gives you the freedom to move about during your tour yet still be within constant “earshot” of your guide.
Casablanca, with its astonishing multitude of cellular towers and satellite dishes, got the better of us, and we were unable to utilize our headsets due to the abnormally high level of interference. But I’ve seen firsthand what these amazing little headsets are capable of on my river cruises, and I hope Silversea rolls them out across all of their excursions where appropriate!
We didn’t need a headset to tell us when we’d hit Casablanca’s open-air fruit, vegetable and fish market: we could smell it long before we could see it. Although the city of Casablanca is relatively new, the market boasts the air and general feeling of those that you might find in older cities like Marrakech.
For the uninitiated, Casablanca can be a veritable assault on the senses. Buildings are largely dirty and, in many cases, run down. The traffic is nightmarish (find a car without cosmetic scratches – I dare you!) and it is apparent that while a portion of the population is extremely wealthy, an equal percentage of people are terribly poor. But I found Casablanca exciting and enjoyable for these very reasons: it is unlike anything you’ve seen before, and yet I can draw comparisons to visits to places like Turkey and Greece. You’d be forgiven if you feel like you’ve stepped back into France in certain parts of the city; one of the most influential architects of “old Casablanca” was a Frenchman.
The only part of the tour that fell completely flat – and it’s a minor part – is the part of the tour I’m pretty sure Silversea doesn’t know about: the shopping “stop” at the tail end of the tour where our guide and the bus driver took us along a gritty side-street to a Moroccan carpet shop, where we were herded down a long, narrow corridor to a room lined with carpets of all shapes and sizes.
Now, I played this game in Kusadasi, Turkey many years ago, so I knew of the painful ordeal that lay ahead: the hard-sell to buy a Moroccan carpet, though this time it didn’t come with the refreshing Apple tea. Instead, Mr. Magic Carpet and his “assistants” proceeded to roll out roughly 30 carpets, extolling the miraculous virtues of each as they went along. When there were no takers, Magic Carpet thanked us for our time, and everyone rose to leave. But he surprised everyone by exclaiming, “Now, we roll up the carpets please, yes, please, one by one please, and I give you the informations please, yes.”
And then we spent another 15 minutes as he and his “assistants” tried their best to sell us some carpets. Finally, he decided he’d had enough, and with about ten carpets still unravelled on the floor, yelled that if we weren’t interested, we should leave – which we did – only to be herded down another hall, which Kim and I wriggled free from.
Now, the one good aspect of this final experience – which blemished an otherwise spotless tour – is that a representative from the ship accompanies every Silversea tour, and our designated rep gave our guide an earful once we were back on the street. You can bet that won’t be happening again.
For those guests who wanted to do their own thing, Silversea also arranged complimentary shuttle services departing every 30 minutes pierside and going to Casablanca’s United Nations Plaza. It’s a great little touch, and one that could have cost a small fortune on other lines.
Back onboard the beautiful Silver Spirit, there was a slight change of plans necessitated by our berthing location in the commercial port here in Casablanca: the Pool Deck Buffet was moved into La Terrazza on Deck 7, and Stars was now opened for dinner. The crew onboard the Silver Spirit had a good reason to do so: dust from the commercial bulk carriers next to us is caking the Silver Spirit in a thick layer of brown soot.
Rather than being a negative, the Moroccan-themed buffet extravaganza was made even more elegant by its new location in La Terrazza. Kim and I were seated near the windows, where Donato, Debbie and Chef Ricardo took excellent care of us, as they did for every other guest. The whole evening was one of the most memorable I’ve had, not just on this cruise, but on any cruise I’ve ever been on. A big round of kudos to the staff of the Silver Spirit for recognizing early on that the pool deck party wouldn’t work and for communicating those plans to the groups that were still on the full-day Fes and Marrakech tours.
I looked around me at dinner tonight and saw a group of passengers and crew who were thoroughly enjoying themselves. After nearly 14 days together, new friendships have been formed and old ones rekindled. Crew and passengers, normally divided (if ever so informally) on other ships start to meld into one on Silversea; with each voyage acting as one stellar experience that we all get to take part in. It is, I think, one of the aspects of Silversea that both defines and enhances their onboard product, and it goes back to the very first time I stepped aboard a Silversea ship.
Before I’d ever sailed with them, I toured the Silver Shadow in the port of Vancouver. The ship was immaculate, and I went about taking photos until I noticed that guests were starting to trickle on. But I also noticed the guests would run up and hug various crewmembers they saw. One lady was even moved to tears when she saw one of her butlers from years’ past. At the time, I didn’t quite understand it.
Now I do – and it makes leaving all the more difficult.
But we still have a day of exploration and enjoyment tomorrow, as we spend our morning at sea here aboard the lovely Silver Spirit before calling on Portimao, Portugal in the afternoon.
I can’t wait.
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Spirit continues tomorrow, as we spend an afternoon calling on Portimao, Portugal before setting sail for our final port of Lisbon.
Sign up for the Avid Cruiser newsletter
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009