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Dartmouth, the Royal Navy and Silver Explorer
Silversea’s Silver Explorer sailed into a bright, sunny day today as we made our way up the River Dart to Dartmouth, England. The extraordinary maneuverability of the ship was evident as Captain Alexander Golubev used the thrusters to turn us in a complete circle in the small harbour so that our bow was facing back out towards the cut and the open ocean. It’s a feat that even Silversea’s other vessels wouldn’t have been able to perform due to their larger size.
It was our fantastic day here in Dartmouth that made me realize that even if you’ve done the British Isles before, you’ve never done them like this. There’s no chance that passengers on megaships carrying thousands of passengers will ever be able to call on this quaint little town, located perhaps five hundred feet across the harbour from neighbouring Kingswear, and they certainly wouldn’t be treated to the exclusive event that I found myself a part of today.
At 9:45am, the entire compliment of passengers aboard Silver Explorer (all 120 of us!) boarded three separate coaches for the five-minute drive to the Royal Naval Academy, which has occupied a commanding perch over Dartmouth since it was constructed in 1905. It was here that Prince Philip met the future Queen Elizabeth II, and monuments on the grounds stand dedicated to the memory of some of the most influential figures in British Naval history, including Lord Mountbatten, Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill and polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott.
Even if your British Naval history is rusty, chances are you’d find much to enjoy about this exclusive tour. First off, the Royal Naval College just doesn’t usually allow visitors, period. So being there in the first place is something of an occasion. Secondly, the creation of the college on this site in 1905 had a profound outcome on the course of history, as it was influential in both World War I and World War II. Even some inscriptions on the site still refer to the first World War as “The Great War.” Few could have predicted the devastation that was to occur two decades later.
Our tour, which was extraordinarily informative, was followed by a private reception at the college, overlooking the town of Dartmouth and accompanied by champagne and canapés. It’s an experience I’ve never had before, and one that I was consciously aware I may never have again. Think of it as “pulling back the curtain” on one of the most respected and influential institutions in England outside of Oxford, and you’ll begin to see the appeal.
One of the fascinating things I noticed at the College had nothing to do with education or history, but with security: small security-seal stickers had been placed in all the usual spots you might expect, but I was surprised to notice them even on the small drainage grates littered throughout the grounds.
One word of advice to future male Silver Explorers from Aaron’s packing Foibles: bring a set of khaki pants in addition to jeans and dress pants. The Silversea Chronicles for today informed us that jeans were not appropriate attire for our visit to the Royal Naval College, which saw me putting on full dress pants, polished black shoes and a proper dress shirt and climbing into a zodiac in the rapidly-rising heat. I personally think track pants are worse than jeans, but hey, I could have dressed a little more causally if I had packed some khaki (or similar) pants. Mea Culpa.
But before my tour even began, Expedition member Juan was also kind enough to take me on a circumnavigation of the Silver Explorer via zodiac so I could snap away and get shots of the ship from every angle. If time constraints allow, they’re more than happy to help you get that critical shot. Here’s a few of the photos of this agile ship I was able to snap:
Upon returning to the inviting Silver Explorer, I took advantage of the warm weather this afternoon to dine casually on the aft portion of Deck 6, at the Poolside Grill. While the menu is pared down somewhat from Silversea’s other vessels, chances are you’ll find your favorites here, including salads, hamburgers, and the Transatlantic “Double-Dog”, a two-hotdog wonder served with all the trimmings.
If the town of Lyme Regis turned out for our arrival yesterday, the weather was on hand to greet us this afternoon, with clear skies and soaring temperatures; it was more like an afternoon on the French Riviera than Southern England!
The afternoon was spent participating in one of my favorite pastimes: wandering. With little need for a map due to Dartmouth’s small size, I spent an enjoyable few hours wandering in and out of little side-streets and thoroughfares, zipping from one end of the city to the next. During a pre-excursion walk this morning, I noticed every shopkeeper was out cleaning their store windows this morning. And not just one or two: everyone. Everywhere you look, the windows are spotless.
If our arrival to this historic town was memorable, our departure was downright spectacular. Under blue skies we departed Dartmouth, winding our way past Kingswear and Dartmouth Castle and out onto the open ocean.
It was a fitting prelude to our evening lecture in the theatre, where we were briefed on our options for our stay in Tresco tomorrow as well as a recap of some of the remarkable things we’ve already seen and done in our two days since leaving Portsmouth on Saturday. It was also an excellent opportunity for the guests to ask questions about things they’ve seen or wondered about.
If you were to glance at the Silversea Chronicles daily program, you might think it’s a little sparse compared to the more traditional Silversea ships – but this isn’t so. In fact, between touring ashore and the nightly activities, e passengers are kept quite busy indeed!
Tonight after the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Gala Dinner, most of the passengers seem to have retired to the Panorama Lounge on Deck 5 aft, including yours truly. I spent 45 wonderful minutes listening to Lou on the piano while passengers slowly trickled in, filling the lounge to near capacity. In fact, I’d still be there, but this Live Voyage Report beckons!
This morning, I borrowed a book on the world’s most famous explorers from Silver Explorer’s Library, and I can’t help but wonder what adventurers like James Cook, Roald Amundsen, and Francis Crozier would think of Silver Explorer.
My guess is they would enjoy it as much as we are; modern-day explorers on a modern-day adventure.
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s adventurous Silver Explorer returns tomorrow from the Isles of Scilly as we call on Tresco & St. Mary!
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