Sail Through Sunsets and History in the Mediterranean

By Brian Johnston

Santorini’s famous 3 Blue Domes.
Santorini’s famous 3 Blue Domes.
This luxury cruise ship journey in the eastern Mediterranean stars incredible history amid some of the world’s most beautiful cruise scenery, as well as peerless onboard comfort.

The single biggest reason I enjoy cruising is those moments when I’m sailing in or out of port. A ship’s deck is a grandstand onto splendid landscapes, time-gnarled towns and throbbing megacities from an angle most visitors miss out on: the sea.

I’m reminded of this as Silver Spirit sails from Istanbul. Here I am on a luxury cruise ship, cocktail ice tinkling, seagulls dancing above, fresh breeze on my face. Over the railings the minarets of the Blue Mosque loom like rockets against a pink sky, and Topkapi Palace pavilions are silhouetted like an illustration from an Aladdin story.

The ship glides away between Europe and Asia on one of the world’s greatest waterways. Ferries grumble, lights twinkle, and the declining sun becomes entangled in distant high rises. Seductive Istanbul lurches above the railings, and then is swallowed in the night.

Over the next 10 days, as we slide down the Turkish coast and around the Greek islands, I have many more reasons to ogle the views the way most travellers have seen them since ancient times. Unlike ancient sailors, however, I’ll be journeying in considerable style.

The all-new Silver Spirit has never looked better nor felt cosier.

Transformed treasure

Since I was first on Silver Spirit it has undergone a dramatic transformation. The ship was improbably cut in half and a new middle section inserted although, hard as I look, I can’t see the joins.

Like a supermodel who has slipped on high heels, Silver Spirit just looks longer and more elegant. The pool deck is bigger, and the swimming pool stretched like the pizza dough at the ship’s informal eatery Spaccanapoli.

Silver Spirit carries 608 guests in enormous butler-attended staterooms; mine has a sitting area, good-sized balcony and bathroom that fits both bath and shower. Public areas never feel cramped or crowded. This intimate ship manages to fit in a theatre, the full-service Zagara Beauty Spa, and an  impressive number of lounges, bars and restaurants. Next morning, I enjoy a lingering breakfast and dip into the swimming pool before we dock at Dikili in Turkey. This 5,000-year-old port is a only curve of apartments on a hot hill, but a staggering view is only a shore excursion away. Pergamon, which first flourished under fabled King Croesus in the 6th century BC, sits on a rocky outcrop with a parachutist’s view over sea and biscuit-brown plains. It has a ragged crown of temple pillars and tumbled palaces that seem suspended in the sky.

The Gate of Augustus and the Library of Celsus in Ephesus.

Next day, the ruins of Greco-Roman city Ephesus are even more impressive. I walk down colonnaded streets and stroll through the forum where stray cats bask in the sun. The impressive façade of the Library of Celsus is decorated with statues representing the four virtues.

The sail into Marmaris is unexpectedly extravagant. I’m on the deck of La Terrazza restaurant being served freshly squeezed orange juice and an omelette as Silver Spirit glides past Turkish islands into a vast bay ringed by blue mountains. It’s next day, though, that the scenery reaches a great operatic crescendo as we sail into Santorini’s sunken volcanic caldera, enclosed in red cliffs and topped by white cubist buildings and bulging blue church domes. I’m off the ship early and soon wandering the high terraces of Oia. The views make me feel like an angel gazing over a silvery-blue heaven.

Beautiful Marmaris.

Dinner with a view

Sunsets are worshipped on Santorini, but I don’t have to jostle with Instagrammers. Instead, I have a peaceful perch as Silver Spirit departs beneath glowing cliffs topped by pink marshmallow clouds. No better night for an al fresco dinner at relaxed The Grill, where I cook my fat Berkshire Pork Chop on a hot stone and let myself be lulled by a spangle of stars.

The dining is always excellent. Silversea has abandoned the traditional main dining venue in favour of smaller, interesting alternatives such as Seishin for Japanese, La Dame for formal French, and Indochine for pan-Asian. Quality buffet venue La Terrazza transforms into an à la carte traditional Italian restaurant at night. My favourite, though, is Atlantide, with its Prime American Strip Steak, Argentine Grass-Fed Beef, Blue Lobster and Baltic Salmon.

Sample fine French cuisine at La Dame.

Onwards, and history aplenty awaits. Rhodes has a fantastic medieval citadel dating from the crusading Knights of St John. The day after I’m in Knossos on Crete, seat of the Minoan civilisation that flourished 4,000 years ago. Then we’re in Mykonos, whose whitewashed town sits below old windmills.

Our final destination Nafplion has both scenery and history. It was independent Greece’s first capital, and many elegant neoclassical buildings remain. Above is a whopping Venetian castle. Later as we sail away, another fabulous view unfurls over drinks in the Panorama Lounge, another spectacular end to a cruise day.

Enjoy the sumptuous luxury of a Deluxe Veranda Suite on the Silver Spirit.

Welcome aboard

The all-new Silver Spirit has never looked better nor felt cosier. Spacious decks leave plenty of room for relaxation, yet the cosy niches make sure that there is something for everyone. Make new friends, enjoy first-class dining and admire the incredible sights.


Photography: Andrea Cappello, Silversea, Brian Johnston


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