Following two days of meetings, we transferred to Marseille to embark on the beautiful newly acquired Silver Endeavour, and participate in one of Silversea's renowned SALT excursions.
So what is the news from this luxury cruise line, leading the way into a glittering future? The growth is undeniable, and by 2025 Silversea will be operating a total of 5464 berths in the luxury classic and expedition market, on board 12 elegant ships, some 30% of the total market size. (I cannot help but stop to comment on the fact that in the mainstream cruise market, this capacity could be carried on a single ship!)
Key features of the Silversea fleet include a focus on sustainable cruising and cutting edge technology, expedition cruising expertise and a product evolution that generates strong demand from traditional cruisers and new entrants alike. Their complex proposition of global itineraries and off the beaten track destinations speaks loudly to the zeitgeist, with their focus on seizing the moment and creating deeper connections and memories.
It is not unusual within the luxury sector to see a high focus on new build programmes detracting from the quality of delivery elsewhere in the company. Interestingly we are seeing from Silversea an increasing focus on constant on board improvement resulting in very high satisfaction rates, particularly relating to new initiatives such as SALT and Otium.
From my perspective it is also interesting to see the company embrace their baby boomer demograph. As I and many of our readers will know all too well, this group of people, still labouring under the illusion that they are young, fit and adventurous, have a completely different mentality to their predecessors in the 60-74 age bracket.
The cosmopolitan passenger mix, with just 62% from the Americas (including Latin America) and the remainder from Europe, Asia and Australasia is one of the prime USPs for travellers looking to broaden their horizons and understand more about global influences.
Sustainability is front of mind within the cruise industry at present, and the Royal Caribbean Group - ultimate owner of Silversea - is leading the way with its Destination Net Zero goals which will be clearly demonstrated by Silver Nova, the industry's first multi hybrid cruise ship with fuel cells for 100% of power in port resulting in zero emissions and zero noise, as well as transforming LNG to hydrogen, battery banks to normalise power fluctuations on board, and dual fuel engines. New waste management technologies and heat recovery systems will convert waste to energy.
An interesting five year partnership with the World Wildlife Fund brings counsel on key sustainability matters including sustainable tourism, sourcing, and reduction of emissions, as well as ecological and environmental issues.
Quite apart from her sustainable credentials, Silver Nova represents a new style for Silversea with the aim of breaking down the wall between the ship and destination, both by enhancing landside experiences, and welcoming the outside onto the ship with huge glass walls and sweeping views from on board, higher ceilings, more open-air space, more glass balconies and more.
She will offer the same amazing range of dining options as the existing fleet, and continue to focus on intimate and exclusive spaces making guests feel extra special and offering a quality high end experience.
Meanwhile Silver Endeavour - formerly the newly built Crystal Endeavor - is an elegant and spacious ship, sparkling in the autumn sunshine in her new silver livery. The helicopters and submarine have been removed, and extra space given to an upgraded expedition team with additional accommodation. Not due to carry paying guests for another month, she felt practically ready to go, and we enjoyed an excellent dinner, beautifully presented in the stylish restaurant.
The following day we set forth into rural Provence, to the north of Aix, to visit a traditional farmhouse known as a 'mas', nestled in a fold of the hills within an olive grove: the olive harvest was due to take place just two weeks later, when the olives will be taken to the mill in the next valley to be pressed to create a light and peppery olive oil. Warmly welcomed by Chef Paul Griffon and his family, we immediately set to with pestle and mortar to create our own versions of tapenade, flambeed courgettes in Ricard, sliced delicious cured meats and salivated over a vast selection of cheeses, whilst an enthusiastic section of our party, dressed in pirate hats, sabered open bottles of local rose fizz. A magical morning of food and drink opened a door into another world, with a slower pace of life, and much joy in the gifts of nature. On a full Silversea cruise, participants would have opportunities when back on board to cook with local ingredients, attend seminars and demonstrations, and most importantly to eat the delicious food on this multidimensional programme.
All in all I came home full of positivity about the future for this very special cruise line.