The Silver Whisper in Helsinki, August 2013

The Silver Whisper in Helsinki, August 2013

Silversea has become such a platinum chip fixture in the luxury cruising firmament, that it seems miraculous to consider that it is only now, in 2014, that the company celebrates its twentieth anniversary. It seems to have been with us for so much longer.

But it was in 1994 that the then brand new Silver Cloud made the line’s first, tentative foray into the luxury mainstream. She would create waves in the luxury market like no ship before her or, indeed, none since. The bar was not so much raised, as it was sent into orbit.

With all suite accommodations, including around ninety per cent with private balconies, the Silver Cloud was a quantum leap in terms of seagoing spatial largesse. All inclusive, low key and highly styled, she left the opposition floundering.

With Italian officers and deft, European style on board service, the ratio of staff to guests- Silversea discourages the idea that their clientele are mere passengers- is almost one to one. The style is effortlessly elegant, suffused with Italian style and flair, and served up in what was then- as, indeed, it still is now- a sublimely luxurious, almost ethereal cocoon.

The Silver Cloud was followed a year later by a near twin, the superb Silver Wind. The small, intimate style of these two ships enabled them to slip sedately into the smaller, more select harbours around the globe that the bigger, more gimmick orientated cruise ships had to glide past. From the start, Silversea wore its sense of exclusivity like some immaculately polished crown.

Champagne sunset; cruising the Baltic on board the Silver Whisper in August, taken at sea somewhere between Helsinki and Copenhagen.

Champagne sunset; cruising the Baltic on board the Silver Whisper in August, taken at sea somewhere between Helsinki and Copenhagen.

That first pair of trailblazing ships was followed by a duo of slightly larger siblings- Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow- in 2000 and 2001, respectively. These two magnificent ships were scaled up versions of the original pair, but at 28,000 tons half as large again. With the increased size, each grade of suite became just that little bit larger than on the original duo. None the less, the ambiance of quiet, refined  indulgence suffuses these two ships just as surely as it does on the original duo.

The quartet enshrined a cult of open seating, gourmet dining from dawn till dusk and beyond. With beautiful lighting, indulgent menus, discreet service and spectacular, elegant flatware, each Silversea dining venue became a benchmark for the most elegant culinary repasts at sea.

Later came the slightly larger Silver Spirit, at about twice the size of the Silver Cloud, but with the same sense of opulent, uncrowded ease as her quartet of fleet mates. The extra space allowed, once again, for the addition of larger suites, and more dining venues. And it is also worth remembering that all of these (except for the $30 charge at Le Champagne)  come at no extra charge.

And the line has continued to refurbish and refresh each of these five ladies, intent on keeping them at the forefront of the luxury firmament. Now joined by a trio of sublimely refurbished, deep ocean expedition ships- Silver Discoverer, Silver Explorer and Silver Galapagos- the Silversea brand continues to define the ultimate, small ship luxury experience afloat.

Sunset martinis in the springtime Med, on board the Silver Wind

Sunset martinis in the springtime Med, on board the Silver Wind

Twenty years on from it’s inaugural voyage, Silversea continues to garner rave reviews from a worldwide clientele. To celebrate the anniversary, the pioneer, much beloved Silver Cloud recently underwent a massive, multi million dollar refreshment that has her looking as chic, proud and highly styled as on her debut, back in 1994.

There will be a number of commemorative, anniversary voyages across the Silversea fleet this year, but that is pretty much it as far as it goes. Because this is not a line that likes to shout about what it has achieved; that kind of crass, shrill banality is the very antithesis of everything that Silversea represents.

Instead, the ships of the Silversea fleet will just go about their business in their usual spectacular, casually understated style. You can be sure that there will still be cool jazz and ice cold champagne on the terraces at sunset, from Helsinki to Hanoi, Copenhagen to Cairns. The personalised, platinum chip service that has always been the standard bearer of the Silversea ethos will be as unchanging as the spectacular panoramas showcased by these beautiful ships.

Those who know the line do not need to be sold on the epic, effortless lure of the Silversea experience. And, for all those who wonder, all I can say is- get out there.

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