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Expedition to LuxurySeptember 29, 2008 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
From Antarctica to Tahiti, Prince Albert II offers an all-encompassing trip
The new Silversea Expeditions’ product, the 6,072-ton, Class 1A ice-rated Prince Albert II, embodies a journey to adventure with a decidedly more upscale focus than traditional expedition cruise products. We sailed on this 132-passenger ship, the former Society Expeditions’ World Discoverer II, on a four-night repositioning voyage between Port Everglades, FL, and Belize City in mid-September.
Prince Albert II features several revamped amenities
Here’s what we discovered during the startup phase of this new product: A regular series of voyages will begin in two major regions—Antarctica and Tahiti—later this fall.
The Wow Factor: We loved the intimate size of this vessel, the one-to-one guest to crew ratio and the multimillion-dollar renovations. In most cases, Silversea combined two cabins to make one larger, more spacious suite. Several Expedition Suites, including 323, our suite, have two large picture windows as a result. On Deck 5, Silversea Expeditions added new sliding glass doors and teak flooring to the French balconies. A curved staircase was added from the Panorama Lounge to the Dining Room. And the aft deck pool was removed; that space is now a great place for alfresco dining with chairs, tables and several umbrellas, as well as two new hot tubs.
Top Table: Given the size of the ship, the dining choices are a bit more limited than on Silversea’s traditional vessels. But clients should be very happy with the spacious Restaurant on Prince Albert II, which delivers Relais & Châteaux creations and a robust wine cellar. The eclectic, tasty menu offerings seem more exotic than Silversea’s norm. The line also brought many of its best dining room service and food preparation team members onto this ship, including maître d’ Uta Rickert.
Sample appetizers include a smoked eel tower with lemon salad or a double-baked cheese soufflé with toasted walnuts, chervil and pine nut dressing. For dinner, our group ordered such selections as roasted prime rib of Kansas beef with a horseradish-baked potato; a wild boar ragout with porcini mushrooms; and, one I enjoyed, a crown of slightly seared jumbo scallops on a tasty wild mushroom risotto.
The Restaurant offers full table service at night; lunch and breakfast are buffet style, but you only need ask and the dining room servers will bring whatever you like to your table. The Outdoor Grill is available for hamburgers, paninis and salads, as well as a healthy continental breakfast. Or, you can enjoy continental breakfast with tiny chocolate croissants and other decadent bits in the Observation Lounge. Room service is available 24 hours, but with a more limited menu than on the bigger Silversea ships.
A view from Grand Suite 700
Rating the Digs: We stayed in both the aforementioned Expedition Suite 323 and Grand Suite 700 (when the latter became available). Suite 323 was very spacious with separate living and bedroom areas, and a well-designed circular traffic pattern; its walk-in closet was as large as a room. The Grand Suite’s layout, in turn, was akin to a small condominium. A hallway connected the living room and bedroom, with the walk-in closet and the bath entry between. When clients step inside the Grand Suite’s bathroom and open the interior glass door, they’ll discover a lovely rainforest shower and an adjacent full tub.
The Grand Suite’s sleeping area featured two forward-facing windows with Roman shades. Storage space was unbelievably good throughout, with multiple drawers in living and bedroom areas, plus shelving in the hall and elsewhere. A small balcony opened to the sky with two chairs and a table.
During this startup phase, Silversea was tackling a few challenges with air conditioning and electrical issues in certain suites, including ours; however, the line says those should be resolved by the time the ship docks in Los Angeles this week. Also, new mattresses for all suites will be brought onboard this week.
Hot Spots: In the brightly colored theater, Expedition Team members explain shoreside explorations and lecture on photography, culture, marine biology and birding, among other topics. Fitness gurus will appreciate a small exercise facility with several machines. In the spacious library and Internet café, clients may peruse books on ecology, culture, travel, classics and fiction. Suites also double as personalized entertainment hot spots, as Silversea Expeditions has debuted a new, complimentary movies-on-demand system with 135 or so choices.
Nooks and Crannies: For curling up on gray leather furniture in a clubby setting, your clients might head to the Panorama Lounge with its adjacent Humidor. If clients seek bright and airy, the Observation Lounge with its 180-degree window views awaits.
Editor’s Gleanings: The focus is solidly on “expedition” with significant touches of the luxury Silversea experience your guests expect—most notably the superb dining. No, your clients won’t find a casino, a pool or a huge spa with lots of facilities. However, they will find a small beauty salon, small gift shop and one spa treatment room offering a wide range of treatments. Given the ship’s size, the onboard atmosphere is quiet and reflective, yet the ship attracts guests of all ages who have a sense of adventure. Many walked the outside decks and eagerly headed for the Zodiacs to explore or hike ashore. Clients receive a complimentary backpack, complimentary parka (in Antarctica), free use of snorkeling gear and, in Tahiti, use of one- or two-seat kayaks. The Zodiacs are a hoot as a means of “tender” transport. We loved feeling the spray in the air and our hair blowing in the wind.
Just the Facts: Registered in the Bahamas, the five-deck Prince Albert II is 354 feet long and 52 feet wide. Guests are served by an international crew. A total of 66 suites are available, many with capacity for a third guest, and there are some adjoining suites. Silversea says the per diem rates for this expedition product are comparable to other Silversea cruises.