The luxury ‘Spirit’

WAG Wanderer Barbara Barton Sloane charts the “road” to happiness on four of the Seven Seas.

Ever consider that the road to happiness may not be a road at all? That point was driven home forcefully when I recently cruised four of the seven seas — the Mediterranean, Aegean, Ionian and Tyrrhenian — on the Silver Spirit, one of the vessels on Silversea Cruises. Charting my watery journey for 10 blissful days, I often thought of a quote by Anaïs Nin: “I have no fear of depths but a great fear of a shallow life.” 

No chance of that. Life aboard this luxurious vessel with its myriad exotic destinations was exciting, inspiring and fun from start to finish. A nice introduction to what I might expect on my coming days at sea came in the form of a knock at my state room door shortly after arrival.  A tall, dark, handsome man dressed in tails greeted me with the words: “I will be your personal butler on this cruise.” He went on to explain that, 24-7, I would be able to have meals delivered to my cabin, have restaurant reservations made, have clothing laundered — in short, my every wish would be his command.  Oh yes, I was off to a good start.

I began each day with either a morning walk, a stretch class or yoga exercise precisely because after that I often chose merely to laze by the pool, then glide over to the grill for lunch, and finally return to my lounge chair until pre-dinner cocktails.  If, however, all that seems just a bit too decadent, take heart. Loads of engaging activities were offered throughout the day while nighttime brought roulette-spinning in the casino and Broadway-caliber musical performances in the show lounge. There were ballroom dance classes, enrichment lectures, bridge tours and the ever-popular Silversea Quiz, a form of Trivial Pursuit where prizes were given to each day’s winner.  A cute, fun game? Not so much.  Instead, a competitive, blood-sport that happily ended in new friends made.

I’m a spa kind of gal myself, so several times I visited The Spa at Silversea — indulging one day in a Swedish massage, another in a deep conditioning Frangipani Scalp & Hair Treatment, and once — anticipating the night’s formal dress attire — having a Sun Glow makeup application. Each evening before dinner I trekked up to the panorama lounge for fabulous drinks and the music of pianist Alfredo, a most talented musician.  No matter your song request, he could and did play it divinely.  Soft music, dancing and, at my table, a perfect cocktail — a neat way to start the night. 

Dinners in any one of the five restaurants aboard Silver Spirit were invariably amazing and always accompanied by one of the ship’s 80 wines, all complimentary and all of fine quality. Sophisticated elegance, impeccable service — this line’s cuisine is consistently ranked among the finest at sea. One evening I decided to sample something called Hot Rock Dining — a sizzling barbecue dinner under the stars. I sipped wine while watching moonbeams kiss the sea — and then the real fun began.  My steak arrived on heated volcanic stones — seared and sizzling. I then continued to cook the meat to my desired wellness.  Our table of six concurred that this was way more fun than merely saying, “Medium rare, please.”

Our port of call destinations read like a compendium of a wish list. We visited Malta and in Valetta, its capital, I rode in a typical Maltese boat, a dghajsa.  A visit to St. John’s Cathedral dazzled as I gazed up at Caravaggio’s “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist.”

In Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, I made my way to the Knossos Palace.  I’d heard the myth that the palace was designed by the famed architect, Dedalos, with such complexity that no one in it could ever find their way out.  True to form, once inside I lost my group but finally, rounding a maze-like corner, voilà, my friends. Embarrassed, I feigned nonchalance saying that I’d been wandering the rooms alone and found it a mystical experience. I suggested they try it. 

The island of Rhodes perches on a bluff overlooking white-washed homes, narrow, cobblestone streets and the majestic Avenue of the Knights where these fabled gents once lived. I was glad to find a tree-shaded bench where I escaped the midday sun before returning to the ship to collapse by the pool and allow myself to be plied with rum punches.  A Grecian blue sky above, marine blue Aegean below — quelle vie.

Bodrum, Turkey, is a famed resort, a spot in the southern Aegean that holds some of the country’s most fascinating and diverse treasures and is a favorite haunt of the Turkish upper class. I went sailing on a traditional pinewood boat called a gullet to admire pretty coves along the peninsula and gleaming whitewashed houses covered in bougainvillea. The captain stopped the boat so we could snorkel the icy water. Worth the chill? Absolutely.

What can one say about Santorini that hasn’t already been said? It is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful islands in the whole world and a photographer’s dream.  Narrow, cobblestone streets, tiny shops, white and blue dwellings nestled in niches hewn into the volcanic rock, mansions painted in a spectrum of pastel colors. As I gazed down at the sea and our ship, miniscule on the horizon, I realized how lucky I was to be on this special cruise.

Taormina, Sicily, with mystical Mount Etna looming in the distance has been a melting pot of every great civilization on the Mediterranean.  The city rests on a terrace overlooking the sea and embraces the grand Corso Umberto, the Palazzo Corvaia and the Cathedral of Taormina. I wandered down lanes bordered with bright flowers and browsed for local handicrafts in small shops featuring embroidery, intricate lace and colorful Sicilian pottery.  During my visit, Europe’s most active volcano was quiet, ensuring an uneventful end to my visit.

In Elba, I climbed aboard a local bus to travel a few miles outside of town to visit Villa San Martino, Napoleon’s summer residence during his 10-month exile. Then it was on to Monte Capanne via a twisting road that provided magnificent vistas at every turn. I sat in a little piazza in the tiny town of Porto Azzurro, replete with flowers, shade trees and the ubiquitous gelato store, its colorful, frozen treats perfectly matching the pastel-hued hilltop homes.

Ah, Napoli — a destination that no one ever forgets. Naples is at once lush, chaotic, scary, funny, confounding, intoxicating and beautiful.  I visited Castel Nuovo, the massive fortress of the 13th century with its sala dell’armeria (the armory) and glass floor revealing recent excavations of a Roman bath from the Augustan age. 

Napolitanos have a favorite saying, il dolce far niente, which translated means the sweetness of doing nothing. “During my Silver Spirit idyll,” I had much dolce far niente, for sure.  However, my port of call excursions offered lots of action and myriad absorbing activities. That, too, was dolce indeed.

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