There are cruises and there are voyages. I prefer the latter, which suggests we are going somewhere, perhaps with a touch of the unknown.

Words David Wishart, Photography Courtesy of Silversea, Seadream & Seabourn


There are cruises and there are voyages. I prefer the latter, which suggests we are going somewhere, perhaps with a touch of the unknown.

Words David Wishart, Photography Courtesy of Silversea, Seadream & Seabourn

That we got on our last voyage before Covid, when halfway from Singapore to Sydney it appeared bushfires in Australia would cut short our trip. At one point it looked like our best bet was to disembark at Brisbane and catch another ship to New Zealand, but we did manage to get to Sydney for a shortened visit, then went to New Zealand on what turned out to be a wonderful voyage. The following winter in Marbella was heads down as Covid seemed to be everywhere and cruises were out of the question, but at least we had good weather.

Last year was more of the same, with the added scare of Omicron, but the cruise industry was desperate to lower the gangways and introduced strict measures to protect the health of passengers.
By the autumn we were also itching to travel again, and when it became clear that Omicron, while more transmittable was a less dangerous variant, we decided to see how things were at sea. But where to go? We had booked two cruises to circumnavigate Australia, both of which were cancelled. Not being UK-based we could not go there, but anyway who wants to sail around the British Isles in the winter?

The best bet was the Caribbean, which we had visited but not in depth, affording scope for an extended visit taking several ships, and then there was Florida and my favourite beach resort Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, just cosy low rise buildings, a pier and a beachside restaurant where an old boys’ band plays rock’n’roll.

And so we boarded Silver Moon in Lisbon, a happy reunion with one of the very best lines, where that much overused word luxury is taken seriously. But first we had to show we were fully vaccinated (including the crew), then had antigen tests dockside. Champagne in hand, we were off to Florida in the wake of Columbus.

Our designated cabin was on 9 deck, a very comfortable space with a huge bed, generous lounge area, walk-in closet and a fine veranda, but we did not stick around to even open our bottle of Laurent-Perrier Champagne. With just 400 passengers on board, Silver Moon was sure to have bigger suites available, and last minute upgrades normally go at a good discount.

And so we sailed into a Silver suite on 11 deck (having retrieved the Champagne) whose balcony was fabulous, sporting two loungers, dining table and a panoramic viewing platform for diving sea birds.
All Silversea cabins come with butlers, and our man had a special touch – cleaning our sunglasses every night and wrapping them in neat little cloths. He also took our temperatures in the morning; in fact we were forbidden to leave our suite until he had done just that. He aways wore a mask, and we did too.

Then still masked up, we could go for breakfast, which for me was always La Terrazza at the stern, allowing for inside or outside seating. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats a table at the very back of the ship where below the sea is churned into the wake.

So, table secured, to the buffet. But first we had to pass the hand cleansing machines, crafty gadgets that do the job before you are allowed to get at the grub. By now it was clear that Silversea was also serious about safety, and totally reassured, we got on with the business of enjoying the voyage.

Very quickly we learned that Silversea is better than ever, starting with complimentary caviar when and where you want it. The selection of restaurants is superb, although we became regulars at the Atlantide and the little bar next door. For lunch, and a casual dinner, the Pool Grill was hard to beat, while a fine evening option was Silver Note, which offered a tantalising blend of live music, offbeat food and romantic lighting in a small room.

I like small, so every morning I had coffee in the Arts Cafe, often sitting outside in comfortable chairs with a book and the view. Here there were also attractive sandwiches for a light lunch, and attentive staff. And if like like pizza, this is your ship! Silver Moon also had a SALT kitchen, a clever idea to present food of the region we are in, but there was not much scope for that on a crossing. However La Dame, the occasion for a dressy night out, was most enjoyable. Reception came with a smile, particularly when the IT man showed he could fix any computer problem in a flash. Then, after 13 days we were there. Columbus would have been impressed. We certainly were.

Dockside at Ft Lauderdale was buzzing. Many passengers were hopping on Silversea ships to other destinations, some leaving the same day for the south Atlantic, others the Indian Ocean. We took a taxi to Miami airport, had a PCR test, and flew to Barbados. American Airlines was serving alcohol in business class but not in economy. No food either. No doubt it would blame Covid when it’s just a lousy airline.

Not much wrong with Barbados when you have a big wallet, certainly at high season. Figure a thousand bucks a night for a good hotel, which we had in the Fairmont, probably one of the best beach hangouts I have experienced.

The restaurants are seriously overpriced. As we had been eating sumptuously we avoided the likes of Sandy Lane, Tides etc, and had several fun evenings at the Sea Cat, where the owner fishes every day and serves it fresh in a room that might have been built by Robinson Crusoe on Man Friday’s day off. Go here for grilled mahi-mahi with a hot Bajan sauce. It was the next best thing to breakfast at the Fairmont, where every morning the French manager was talking to guests.

But after a week the sea beckoned, as did an antigen test before boarding SeaDream 1. It’s an old ship without balconies, but has been beautifully remodelled, does great food, boasts a stern marina, has the ability to land passengers by rubber boats on beaches and it carries just 100 or so. There are two ships, which cruise the Med in the summer and the Caribbean in the winter. Sadly not all the islands were possible to visit, or if we could go ashore it had to be in a bubble as a paid excursion.

We did set foot on Bequia, which I had enjoyed in the past, along with nearby small islands such as Union and Palm, and I’ll never forget happy days standing under a palm tree by a perfect beach, beer in hand and listening to a steel band. The nearest we got to that was at Mayreau, where we had a beach party with caviar on a surfboard, but the music, alas, was recorded.

However, do not be unduly discouraged, things have changed and next winter should be back to normal.
We did get to St Barts, very French, very expensive, where lunch on a beach came with wines starting at 200 bucks a bottle. I’ve never seen so many people sipping wine by the glass.

But some did fork out $500 to go to Nikki Beach, others to Pearl Beach and Eden Rock. Regular SeaDream passengers are an interesting bunch. They’ve been on all the best ships but what makes them really happy is having all their meals on deck, the very sociable topside bar and a bed beside the funnel (with PJs provided) to sleep under the stars.

Mind you the Caribbean can be windy and rough. We had plenty of that and several nights we trooped down to the handsome dining room. Service was excellent from a mainly South African crew.
Beware that the Caribbean is not far from the US, and attracts a party crowd quite different to what you’ll encounter in the Med. And shore visits are mostly about beaches. Covid was taken seriously with several group antigen tests, as well as a gadget at reception for daily temperature checks.

We had another hotel break at the Radisson on the south coast. Resting on a fine beach, the Radisson has had a major renovation but unfortunately this is not revealed on dated social media posts.Suffice to say it is great value and close to Bridgetown.

Then back to sea, this time on Seabourn Odyssey, still looking as good as our inaugural cruise in 2009. Odyssey was Seabourn’s first new ship in 10 years, carries 460 passengers while newer vessels hold 600. This design was the first with Seabourn Square, which cleverly combines reception, library, coffee bar and shops in an appealing stern location. Here we negotiated a penthouse suite on 9 deck.

The cruise started well with fewer bubbles and a beach party on Carambola beach, with caviar and Champagne of course. But on the evening of our return to Bridgetown, 10 passengers in hazmat suits were seen leaving the ship. Next day the chat in the square picked up on this, but unsurprisingly there was little concern. We had been hearing Covid outbreaks were still happening on other ships, but passengers were not getting seriously ill and were isolating rather than cruises being cancelled.
Getting ashore was not always possible as some islands were off limits, such as St Barts this time, and Philipsburg on St Martin was closed for cruise lines. No problem for the Odyssey, which simply sailed to Marigot on the French side, and docked there.

One enterprising couple rented a car in Marigot and drove to the Dutch side, while others complained it was sometimes a long walk from the dock into the port with no shuttles provided. Meanwhile the wind continued to blow, and terns entertained us with spectacular dives on to the white caps to catch flying fish. For us there was afternoon tea beautifully served in the Observation lounge, caviar anywhere, and living as good as it gets on any cruise ship. Next up was meant to be the new Rotterdam out of Ft Lauderdale, followed by a voyage back to Lisbon on the Regent Mariner, but the latter cruise had just been cancelled, prompting a rethink.
It was time to go home.

At press time the cruise industry was in pretty good shape. America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has backed off from earlier warnings not to cruise; most ships are now at sea with protocols superior to land-based facilities such as theme parks, hotels – and supermarkets, as the cruise industry has been saying for a long time. Shoreside, however, people continue to get infected from Covid, so it’s best to take care by avoiding areas with high casualty rates, and ships not given the best safety ratings. Start with a cruise specialist travel agent, and good luck!