Antarctic Explorations with Silversea
Jules Maury, Head of Scott Dunn Private, embarked on a luxury Polar expedition with Silversea, navigating the notorious Drake Passage en route to Antarctica on the Silver Endeavour. Delve into her expedition cruise experience below.
18 January 2024
The unusual structure of this trip is that I was on board as we navigated the Drake Passage, but flew home from King George Island to Punto Arenas so they could highlight the ‘Fly the Drake’ options of these Antarctica expeditions.
Scenic departure points and stellar personalised service
Puerto Williams is very much the Silversea stronghold with a brand-new terminal for the ship and an easy charter from Santiago south. We left with the usual Silversea fanfare of being invited on board and shown around your sumptuous suite by your personal butler. Excellent dressing room facilities, a daily stocked mini-bar, Bulgari amenities along with dressing gowns and slippers mean you do not need to stretch your luggage allowance. Part of the Silversea attraction is you can order your polar clothing in advance through their excellent website. Polar jacket with an inner, waterproof pants and your excellent boots are all waiting for you to try on in your hotel in Santiago before you embark making changes in size easier than on board. The distinctive red jackets and black trousers are truly stylish and yours to keep on certain cruises. The boots are fantastic and a must in polar conditions.
Life on board: Choosing the best cabin
The suites vary in size and my only advice would be to choose those in the centre of the ship which are the Owner’s Suite as a norm and the Silver Suites if you wish to have an upgrade of their excellent Veranda Suites which are ample in size with balconies to watch that breaching whale, sip your hot chocolate and marvel at the passing Narnia-like views that surround you each day. The Grand Suites which people often go for with their large balconies and extra space are at the front of the ship and with movement suffer much more than the cabins mid ship. Not a great choice if you are going to be in rough seas is my tip. Always ask for a deck plan and avoid those front cabins if in doubt.
Life on board: Daily decadence
There is a generous seating area where I personally loved to have breakfast looking out through the floor to ceiling windows and your plans for the day are posted daily on the television which makes it so easy to see where you are and the daily activities. Comfort is the byword here with Silversea and if you wish your butler to fill your bath with bubbles and serve a glass of champagne at the end of a busy day you only have to call! Excellent beds, lighting and facilities are all a byword with Silversea and if you wish to have caviar delivered to your suite every day then your wish is their command.
We love that there is no tipping, and it makes it so easy to enjoy their hospitality in their restaurants which included the swanky La Dame for fine dining, The Restaurant for lunches and dinners serving an international menu, Terrazzino for a more Italian flair and the Grill which has all-day dining on a delicious but more relaxed menu. The Arts Café is your classic coffee shop with the best pastries and gourmet bites if you would prefer a lighter snack. Expect fine wines and gourmet experiences on these top luxury ships and The Endeavour did not disappoint. Service and luxury come hand-in-hand at all times as you will find in the public areas and if you prefer, as I did occasionally, to have their 24-hour in-suite dining.
Crossing the Drake Passage
To fly or sail the Drake is an interesting conundrum and there are those that say it is a rite of passage. It is either called the Drake ‘Shake’ or Drake ‘Lake’ and the names describe either rocking and rolling or time for reflection as you amble across one of the most adventurous seafaring passages on this earth. For those who suffer seasickness there are recommended precautions to help or a very well-stocked pharmacy and hospital facility on board. For most, there is a huge sense of achievement having bested the Drake so I will leave it to your choice.
Inspiring excursions & on board amenities
Their teams of naturists and guides are extremely well versed in health and safety, so you never feel anything but total security taking part in their water and land-based excursions. They have strict Zodiac rules which they take great pains to make sure every guest understands so safety is never compromised. We loved the wildlife encounters with the funny penguins, sea lions, seals, numerous bird species and a few wonderful whale sightings. There are activities every morning and afternoon with excellent lectures available on board the ship in the evenings between a myriad of optional activities. Experts will provide talks on the Antarctic and larger geographical area, wildlife, geology and all other topics to intrigue and inspire you.
Just when you thought there was more than enough to occupy this relatively short cruise you are introduced to their library where you can while away a few hours if you can find them, the pool deck which is enclosed but has breathtaking views, the boutique for a little retail therapy, the Fitness Centre to work off lunch or do a few laps on deck. The real gem was the Otium Spa where you can truly relax and unwind as well as catch up on some key treatments like a massage or world class facial amongst other beauty treatments. There is a Connoisseur’s Corner for the cigar and cigarette smokers and have a cosy drink in this club atmosphere.
My favourite was to climb up to the Observation Lounge, have a coffee or drink and sit looking through the glass over the 270-degree vista of Antarctica. It is usually a haven of peace, and you can always book a slot to see into the bridge to understand the captain’s responsibilities!
I was fascinated to be introduced to the Silver Endeavour’s PC6 polar class specifications which allowed us to traverse the historical Lemaire Channel for the ship naming and to celebrate my birthday!
I loved our wonderful trip through Antarctica and would love to return one day to stay longer on this luxurious and friendly ship. She is small with only 100 passengers, and you felt this everywhere in the personalised contact with the staff and crew.
Weather can change and ours did. We had to make a run for King George Island to pick up the charter to return to Punta Arenas and then the next day onto Santiago and I wished we could have stayed on board a little longer and done the Drake again. Even though it was very much the ‘Shake’ on the way over. Just fun and now I can say I have ticked that box!