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A Day of Exploration in the Isles of Scilly
A little after 8AM this morning, Silversea’s Silver Explorer let her starboard anchor go with a thunderous rattle, announcing our arrival at the remote Isles of Scilly. On our port side was our morning destination, the island of Tresco. To our starboard, the Island of St. Mary’s beckoned us for an afternoon call.
Guests could also sign up for an afternoon birding and botany walk with expedition team members Chris and Hans Peter, or choose to wander around Hugh Town, the largest town on St. Mary’s.
To be completely honest, I’d never heard of Tresco, St. Mary’s or the Isles of Scilly before this trip. Chances are I’d never have ventured here had it not been for this expedition, and that’s a shame. But it’s also one of the greatest aspects of Expedition Cruising: not sure where (or what) all the ports of call are? Don’t worry – just go along and enjoy the ride!
Tresco ended up being more fascinating than I had initially thought it would be. After an always-enjoyable zodiac ride ashore, guests from the Silver Explorer had an easy, ten-minute walk to the Tresco Abbey Gardens, located smack in the middle of this 3.5km x 1.75km island.
The main draw here? Tresco Abbey Gardens is chocked full of flowers, trees, plants and shrubs that would never survive on the English mainland, but which are able to flourish thanks to the moderate climate in and around the Isles of Scilly. Trees from South Africa, plants from Argentina, and even exotic birds can be found on this remote island that, in the past, saw more shipwrecks than tourists. I was particularly fascinated with the Abbey’s display of salvaged figureheads from wrecks dating back more than 200 years.
But outside the lush gardens, the island of Tresco still resembles the rugged, wind-swept and inhospitable place that surely greeted the sailors of days gone by.
After a great buffet-style lunch in Silver Explorer’s Restaurant and some very refreshing white wine, it was time to head ashore again, this time to explore neighbouring St. Mary’s and Hugh Town. By now, everyone has the ins and outs of the Silver Explorer’s lifejackets down pat, and everyone comes down to reception when their zodiac disembarkation group is called. Groups are also rotated each time we use the zodiac; for example, this morning Group 3 was given the go-ahead first, and after lunch, Group 4 was invited to disembark first.
While there wasn’t much to do in Hugh Town, I still had an enjoyable stroll along the waterfront and the small side-streets, many of which have changed very little in the past one, two, or even four hundred years. In retrospect, I should have popped into one of the centuries-old pubs for a refreshing pint and a pasty, but my explorative nature got the better of me.
Upon our return from St. Mary’s this afternoon, hot lemon tea was on hand to greet us. It’s a great touch when the weather is chilly to come onboard to a waiting hot drink. In the morning, hot bullion was served in the Panorama Lounge with your choice of cheese, croutons or parsley added. In fact, I’m impressed at how well-attended both the morning Bullion and afternoon tea time are; there’s scarcely a seat available at either!
The Silversea Chronicles, the daily onboard newsletter delivered nightly to your stateroom, does a great job of listing all the available dining options. One thing I’ve always loved about the Silversea Chronicles is that it gives me a chance to daydream about where Silversea`s ships are. Here’s a look at where the entire fleet is today:
- Silver Cloud: Oostende, Belgium
- Silver Shadow: En-route to Petrozavodsk, Russian Federation
- Silver Whisper: Edinburgh, Scotland
- Silver Wind: Santorini, Greece
- Silver Spirit: Marseille, France
While it may seem odd to dream about another cruise while currently onboard, it`s tough not to be attracted to a tantalizing glimpse of Silver Explorer’s 2013 Expedition lineup. The expedition team hand-picked an exciting voyage next year, Voyage 7308, that sails from Tema (Accra) to Dakar. Along the way, guests will get to visit a traditional Ewa village and school; learn about the voodoo culture; contemplate the solemn slave trade history; visit the remote Bijagos Archipelago; and photograph unusually colorful butterflies. It’s another exciting itinerary for the ship that seldom repeats ports of call.
At 5pm with all of Silver Explorer’s guests onboard, we raised anchor and once again set sail, this time bound for Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland. Ironically, the cool temperatures evaporated during sail-out, replaced with the same sunshine and warm weather we were treated to yesterday in Dartmouth. At a comfortable speed of roughly 12 knots, we should reach Waterford by 7am tomorrow morning, where we will dock alongside the city centre; another benefit of being on a small vessel!
Since my jet-lag has finally (finally!) dissipated, I was able to go around the ship this evening after most of the passengers had gone to bed to take some more photos of this extremely popular expedition ship:
Here’s what impresses me most about the Silver Explorer after four days onboard: Silversea was able to take a small ship that had been passed around like the village bicycle since her construction in 1989 and give it a new lease on life as a major player in the expedition cruise market. Can you imagine what they could achieve if they ever decided to construct a purpose-built expedition ship?
But like Silversea’s other ships, Silver Explorer is warm and welcoming, like an old friend you have the good fortune to run into every now and again. And as I sit here on Day four of this 11-day journey, I can certainly understand where all those positive, effusive comments about the Silver Explorer from guests I ran into onboard the Silver Spirit were coming from. I’ve been asking around, polling the guests I’ve been fortunate enough to chat with about what their second-favorite ship besides the Explorer is, and most people name Silver Cloud and Silver Whisper as their next “go-to” ships.
A reader asked about dining times here onboard, and while breakfast and lunch tend to vary in timing due to excursions, our dining times for today can be taken as a rough guide:
- Breakfast Buffet: 07:00 – 9:30
- Lunch is Served: 12:00 – 1400
- Dinner is Served: 19:30 – 21:00
- Bullion is Served: 11:00 – 12:00
- Teatime: 16:00 – 17:00
- Tapas are Served: 1800 – 20:00
- Early Riser’s Breakfast is Served: 06:30 – 10:00
OUTDOOR GRILL (weather permitting)
- 12:00 – 14:00
Of course, Room Service is always available 24-hours day. Coming from the Silver Spirit, I do miss having alternate venues like Le Champagne and Hot Rocks, but I think they’d be under-utilized here given the intimate passenger count. Even still, all the menus in The Restaurant onboard Silver Explorer feature Relais & Chateaux specials paired with appropriate wines.
A few readers have also asked about the average passenger age onboard, which (at least on my expedition) tends to skew older than my past voyages aboard Silver Spirit; I’d estimate the median age is mid-to-late 60’s, with a good number of passengers trending older than that. Which brings me to the final thing I’d like to leave you all with tonight: don’t wait until you’re in your 80’s to do an expedition cruise – do it now.
There’s nothing like experiencing the extraordinary aboard a ship that exemplifies that herself to help inspire your imagination. But beware: once you do, it can be very, very addictive: in fact, three quarters of the passengers aboard Silver Explorer can attest to that!
There’s a whole world of adventure out there; it’s just a matter of deciding when you want to grab hold of it.
Our Live Voyage Report from aboard Silversea’s adventurous Silver Explorer returns tomorrow as we call on the oldest city in Ireland: Waterford!
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