On Site: New Silversea Flagship Christened, Sets Sail on Inaugural Voyage

Stressing that Silversea "is a European product but you [American passengers] are the soul of Silversea," Manfredi Lefebvre, chairman of Silversea Cruises, and other company executives thanked trade partners and loyal guests for their support during a christening ceremony for the line's new 540-guest, 36,000-ton Silver Spirit.

all photos by Susan Young

Complete with Venetian Honor Guard flag bearers marching pierside in Renaissance-style attire and classical music played by a brass/string ensemble, the christening ceremony was conducted dockside at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The event was broadcast live on the Internet and a replay of the webcast will soon be available on the Silver Spirit blog at www.silversea.com.

More than 450 invited visitors included local dignitaries, members of the trade and media, as well as members of the Venetian Society (Silversea's past-guest loyalty club) and guests sailing on the Grand Inaugural Voyage, which departed the same day. Matthew Upchurch, Virtuoso's CEO, and Jack Mannix, president of Ensemble Travel, Ellen Bettridge, vice president Retail Travel Network at American Express and Audrey Hendley, vice president of marketing for American Express Travel, were among the trade leaders in attendance.

The ship's godmother, Silvia Lefebvre, sister of Silversea chairman Manfredi Lefebvre, presided over the festivities.  The blessing was provided by Father Thomas W. Falkenthal, director of the Apostleship of the Sea for the Archdiocese of Miami.

Heartfelt speeches included tributes to Lefebvre family members including Silvia and Manfredi's 97 year-old father, who founded Silversea, and 97-year-old mother, both of whom were unable to attend the ceremony. Manfredi Lefebvre credited his father's vision for the success of the line and stressed: "Not only is it a very good investment, this is something we feel from our heart."

"Today is a proud day for Silversea as we celebrate the christening of our new ship and what is the culmination of much effort and planning," said Amerigo Perasso, Silversea's president and CEO, who also said the line ended December well ahead for 2010 bookings with 70 percent of inventory sold, the company’s best performance.

Perasso outlined the progression of the ship's fleet since the line's founding 17 years ago. The first ship built by Silversea was the Silver Cloud, launched in 1994, followed in 1995 by sister Silver Wind. Those ships sail with 298 passengers.

Then in 2000, Silversea launched the larger Silver Shadow, followed by its sister Silver Whisper— both carrying 382 passengers. About two years ago, the line launched a new concept -- luxury expedition cruising -- with the Prince Albert II, a smaller 132-passenger vessel popular for Antarctica and Arctic adventures.

Perasso called the launch of the largest ship in its fleet, Silver Spirit, “another milestone” for a fleet that now has a capacity of about 2,000 guests. He described the new vessel as “elegance with a sense of freedom,” citing features like six restaurants including a new Asian fusion venue, the Star Supper Club, and the line’s most spacious 8,300-square-foot spa.

A few hours after the christening, Silver Spirit set sail on its Grand Inaugural Voyage, a 91-day journey throughout the Americas. The ship will visit 20 countries and 45 ports before spending the summer in the Mediterranean and fall/winter in the Caribbean.

Look for a review of the ship in the mid-February issue of Travel Agent magazine.

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