We embarked in Malta under stormy skies, and so decided to spend the afternoon enjoying the facilities on board, which include a spacious pool deck, a serene spa area and several beautifully designed lounges. The weather mellowed into a sunset which gave beautiful views of Valletta's old town and its sandstone fortress, which we enjoyed as we sipped champagne on our private balcony - a taste of relaxed luxury to start the trip.
Our accommodation was a midship veranda suite, which offers a walk-in wardrobe, spacious bathroom with Bulgari toiletries, interactive televisions built into the mirrors and the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in. Each suite is served by a butler, who was available at the press of a button to assist us with any queries, bring pre-dinner drinks to the room or offer sea sickness pills when the journey became rather rocky.
Over the summer, Silversea have been trialling the provision of complimentary shore excursions on their Mediterranean voyages; in 2016 this will be offered on Asia itineraries but it's not yet clear whether the policy will be rolled out further in the future. As such, we were able to sample one of the tours in Trapani, Sicily, which was an olive oil tasting at the Fontanasalsa estate. We were welcomed with a serenade from a guitarist in the courtyard, then an excellent local guide gave us insight into traditional production methods, as well as entertaining stories about the family who established the company. We were then treated to a delicious selection of antipasti and four different flavoured oils to taste, including one that was bright green due to its freshness.
The gourmet experience continued back on the ship, which offered classic European dishes in the main restaurant, complemented by Italian specialities in La Terrazza, with an emphasis on "Slow Food" and authentic, locally-sourced ingredients. We also enjoyed one evening pool-side, where The Grill offers a hands-on approach to steak or seafood: cooking it to your own taste on hot volcanic rocks.
Wandering around the ship, one aspect which particularly struck me was the extensive collection of beautiful and unusual art works, completely different from the generic pieces you might often see in hotels. On closer inspection, I discovered that these were original works from some of the world's most renowned artists: Chagall, Rembrandt, Warhol and Dalí to name a few.
Silversea Cruises have an exclusive partnership with the Andrew Weiss Gallery in Los Angeles, meaning Spirit and Shadow both host a curator who lectures on art history and provides advice to any guests looking to invest in one of the works. So if you don't fancy facing the hordes of visitors at MOMA or the Venice Biennale, you can simply stay onboard and enjoy prestigious artworks up close in your own private gallery. The curator even encouraged me to touch one of Dalí's sculptures! This unique décor ties in with Silversea's enrichment program, which features a wide range of expert speakers and gastronomy or art themed departures.
I was impressed with the high-quality accommodation, facilities and service on the ship. The atmosphere was relaxed, yet you could see the attention to detail that had gone into every meal, tour or onboard activity, resulting in a memorable and enjoyable trip.
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