Simply on the moon for Silversea’s Silver Moon
Few travel sectors were as affected during COVID-19 and its aftermath as the cruise industry. And no industry has worked harder to keep its crew and passengers safe as science unfolds to ensure the safe return of cruising.
Like a first kiss with a beautiful idol, I fell deeply in love with Silversea about 10 years ago. It was a lasting love that, like a good marriage, has withstood even a pandemic.
Like many who live and love to travel, I sat on my hands anxiously awaiting international travel and the return of the cruise. Of course, staying safe and healthy remained paramount. Spearheading the global recovery of cruising, Silversea requires all crew and passengers to be fully vaccinated before departure. Additionally, Silversea requires COVID testing immediately prior to boarding, mid-trip, and disembarkation. On board and inside, passengers must mask themselves unless they eat or drink.
With all of these precautions in place, it seemed safer to browse than to shop at my local supermarket. Hearing that Silversea’s new ship, the Silver Moon, would have its first season in several Greek islands and Cyprus while launching its new Sea and Land Taste (SALT) program, allowing guests to dive deep into local culture through its food and wine I packed so fast for the end of July trip it could have qualified as an Olympic sport. Silversea.com
To run away
Boarding at Piraeus was swift – the COVID test, results and check-in took 15 minutes – and that evening Silver Moon was officially named with the usual bottle of champagne smashing on the bow of the ship. A celebratory dinner and fireworks followed before Silver Moon left Athens.
The 698-foot Moon has eight passenger decks, carries a maximum of 596 passengers, and a crew-to-passenger ratio of almost one-to-one. Impeccably trained staff and dedicated butler service for each suite mean the service is truly unmatched.
The spacious suites start at 330 square feet, are elegantly appointed in calming hues, and the bedding includes luxurious, premium linens with multiple pillow options. Suites have wet bars, bespoke refrigerator content, and, to stay connected, flat-screen HDTVs and ship-wide Wi-Fi. The marble bathrooms have separate large tubs, spacious enclosed showers, and Bulgari toiletries.
With 24-hour room service serving exceptional meals in under 30 minutes, nine restaurants including French specialty restaurants La Dame and Japanese Kaiseki, nine bars and lounges with live entertainment, food and drink, the boredom was impossible.
The main feature of the Silver Moon was the launch of its Sea and Land Taste (SALT) program designed to allow guests to truly immerse themselves in the local culture, food and wine of planned destinations. Three distinct configurations on board: SALT Kitchen with a changing menu highlighting local specialties, SALT Lab for hands-on participatory cooking classes, and SALT Bar celebrating creative mixology. Specially organized shore excursions with local food and wine experts provided a cultural connection and a sense of place and history where food and wine reigned supreme, connecting the past to the present.
A large, state-of-the-art fitness center and Zagara Spa’s treatment menu helped to prevent massive weight gain and improve well-being, while enrichment lectures and other activities helped customers to be as engaged as desired.
The Cycladic Islands of Syros and Paros
The lesser-known Syros – Queen of the Cyclades – spans just over 30 square miles but is packed with medieval punch, especially at the top of Ano Syros hill. Narrow, steep stone paths with brightly colored doorways, climbing fuchsia bougainvillea, and deep cobalt blue backgrounds lead to St. George’s Cathedral. The church has been rebuilt five times over the past few centuries; the dedication to his patron St. George was constant. Donkeys are ubiquitous and locals jokingly call them Syrosian cows.
That evening, SALT Kitchen prepared several delicious Syrosian dishes using local ingredients, including Loukanika sausages ¬ with braised fennel and Halvadopita – almond nougat in paper thin wafers.
In Paros, the largest and greenest Cycladic island, SALT’s shore excursion brought us to Thalassamou, a secluded beachfront restaurant with ethereal turquoise views. Here, owners Anna Kouda and Marios Salmatanis have shown a palpable culinary passion by demonstrating the preparation of their delicious Mediterranean Greek creations. We shared a hot spanakopita from the oven, fresh squid, various fish and salads with reckless abandon while being mesmerized by the azure waters.
Patmos and Rhodes of the Dodecanese
The tiny Patmos, where in 95 AD Saint John wrote the Book of Revelations, is home to the monastery of its namesake, a UNESCO site. One of the best medieval complexes in the world, the surrounding turquoise sea kept me away from doomsday ideas. Toes in the sand later in a seaside tavern with fresh rosé and lightly breaded squid, the pansies turned downright heavenly.
Located 12 miles off the Turkish coast in the Aegean Sea, Rhodes is the largest of the 12 Greek Dodecanese Islands. The scale of its spectacular walled old town – another UNESCO site – was breathtaking. Spherical towers, arched doorways, and intricate mosaic floors adorn the enormous 14th-century Grand Master’s palace. Near Socrates Market, the 14th-century Kahal Shalom Synagogue has a well-documented history of Jewish life in Rhodes, while the adjacent Martyrs’ Square honors the 1,604 Rhodian Jews sent to their deaths at Auschwitz, forever changing demographics from Rhodes.
Cruise to Cyprus then Crete
As politics have separated Cyprus and its capital Nicosia remains the last divided city in Europe, it is conceivable that the food that unites Greek and Turkish Cypriots could one day help unite it.
The mezze cooking experience at Silver Moon’s SALT Lab was enjoyable and delicious, and it whetted my appetite for the SALT shore excursion to the 4th century village of Omodos and the hilltop Vassiliades vineyards. Although known for the Commandaria dessert wine, Vassiliades also produces good dry whites and rosés and an exceptional 2018 dry red Geroklima made from exclusively female grapes. A traditional taverna dinner included moussaka, stuffed dolmas, and finely chopped pork sausages ripened with mavro, an indigenous grape using an ancient method of preserving Cypriot meat.
Swimming all the way to Crete might have been calorically more correct, but another SALT lab on Cretan specialties nodded. Become so inspired, after strolling through the historic center of Heraklion with its old mosque, now the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Titus, I bought various spices, oils and other items in the hope of recreating items Cretan for, culinarily speaking, my long-suffering husband. If I succeed, SALT’s chef de cuisine, Cyril Mougin, would undoubtedly be the recipient of eternal recognition.
Heading to Athens, the last day was spent in Mykonos admiring whitewashed houses, apparently built on top of a hill, enjoying its beaches and iconic sunsets for which Mykonos is well known.
One thing became clear, after sailing on the glorious Silver Moon of Silversea my near terminal travitude was healed – that lingering long cranky mood caused by not cruising for 17 months. Be forewarned, the Silver Moon cruise will result in prolonged feelings of happiness and joy that will last long after disembarkation.
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, lawyer and author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight. She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com. This cruise line hosted the writer; however the content has not been reviewed by him prior to publication and is solely the opinion of the author.