At the beginning of September, I did something I never thought I would be able to do. A type of travel I just never even considered, let alone pictured myself doing one day… I went on my first ever cruise!
Not only was it my first cruise, it was a six-star luxury cruise with Silversea Cruises, on their brand-new ship the Silver Moon.
Now, for those who don’t know, I work in travel and more specifically I work for a luxury cruise agent based near Manchester, called Panache Cruises. This obviously isn’t an ad buuuut of course if you want to go on a luxury cruise hit me up ;). One of the perks of my job is that I was able to go on an all-expenses-paid trip of a lifetime, sailing around the Greek Isles on a beautiful small ship.
I went with a colleague and was part of a small group of other travel agents, so it was lovely to have a group of friendly faces and people to enjoy the experience with. I was slightly concerned about being so young, but to my surprise (and delight) there was a much younger crowd on board than I was expecting. So there’s the first cruise myth busted – it’s not all grannies walking around on Zimmer frames and playing bingo!
The first thing I want to address is how safe I felt throughout the entire cruise. A requirement for boarding the ship was that everyone has to be vaccinated and tested prior to embarkation. We also had a compulsory Covid test done half way through the cruise, to ensure no one had gotten infected while visiting one of the ports, and while moving around the ship everyone was required to wear a mask. When seated, or outside on the pool deck, masks were not mandatory. I found these rules to be simple and effective; it was no extra effort as it had already become second nature to wear a mask and test fairly regularly back home anyway. As such, Silversea have a had a hugely successful return to cruising post-Covid.
We were on board for six nights, embarking in Rhodes, before enjoying a day at sea on our way to Limassol, Cyprus, a day exploring the town (incidentally my 25th country!), then another sea day before docking in Heraklion (Crete), Mykonos, and finally reaching Athens where we disembarked.
At first I was unsure whether the sea days would be boring, as I was so excited to visit islands I had never been to before, but they actually turned out to be the highlight of the trip for me! The first sea day we had a business meeting (it was a work trip, promise) and a full ship tour, then spent the afternoon and evening getting to know the other agents on board.
We had certain appointments scheduled in throughout our time on board, such as a cooking class, shore excursion to a farm in Mykonos, and all our group dinners. Other than that we were able to roam free and do whatever we wanted, so each day in port we would go off the ship to explore in the morning and then return in the afternoon when it got too hot to be walking around, and enjoy lounging by the pool, eating far too much and sipping too many cocktails!
Highlights from each port
What I loved about the cruise is that we had a full day in every port we visited, and the freedom to explore as much as we liked. This gave us a nice little taster of what the place was like and has certainly given me ideas of where to go when I next visit Greece. Our first port of call was Limassol, a small port town in southern Cyprus. Unfortunately we visited on a Sunday and most places were closed, but we enjoyed a mooch around a few shops, old winding streets, and the glamorous marina for an hour or so. With little else to do in the town, we didn’t spend long there and went back to enjoy our frozen mojitos on deck.
Next up was Heraklion, the one place I was super excited for prior to the trip. Situated on the north coast of Crete, Heraklion is the island’s capital and serves as a gateway to ancient Minoan history. The Minoans date back to around 3500BC and little is known about this mysterious Aegean civilisation. The palace of Knossos is one of the most famous and important archaeological sites in the ancient world, yet still no one knows what happened to the civilisation, which went into decline and disappeared altogether around 1100BC, possibly due to the massive volcanic eruption in Thera (Santorini). As an archaeology grad I was really keen to visit Heraklion Museum and maybe even jump in a taxi to Knossos, but it was incredibly busy (the queue for the museum was 2 hours long!), the sun was beating down, and I was out on my own, so I decided to give it a miss and will definitely head back to Crete in the future.
Our final port of call was Mykonos. There are hundreds of pre-arranged shore excursions for guests to sign up for, but we just went on one, to a hilltop farm in Mykonos where we were shown how to make various cheese and filo pastries. This was a fantastic day out and one of my favourite things to do when travelling; you learn so much from eating local food with the local people. If you are heading to Mykonos I thoroughly recommend a visit to Mykonos Farmers – Jiorg and his family are wonderful and their food is delicious!
We disembarked the ship in Athens the following day and unfortunately had to head straight to the airport so couldn’t explore the city. Another place I will be revisiting as soon as possible!
What was the ship like?
The Silver Moon is not one of those beastly monstrosities you see docked when you go on holidays to the Mediterranean, or the kind of ships which completely overshadow the beautiful Caribbean islands due to its sheer size. The Silver Moon is a much smaller, sleeker ship, holding a maximum of 596 passengers. I had no idea what to expect before I boarded her – OK, I had a bit of an idea seeing as I work in the industry – but everything I had read or been told by colleagues just wasn’t enough to prepare me for how awesome it was, seeing the ship in real life and climbing aboard.
I was very kindly given a Deluxe Veranda Suite and it was BEAUTIFUL. I was assigned a personal butler, had an array of luxury amenities provided (including Bulgari toiletries I brought home), complimentary Champagne on arrival and a minibar stocked with whatever I asked for whenever I wanted it. I had a king size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets which was the most comfortable bed on earth – plus no boyfriend hogging the space – a beautiful balcony where I spent each evening in my complimentary dressing gown watching the sunset with a glass of Champagne (how boujie do I sound), and I even had a bath. I was well and truly living the high life.
It was also the perfect opportunity to dress up a bit which I loved. Another cruise myth is that they are old fashioned and uptight when it comes to strict black tie dress codes but this simply wasn’t true, although jeans and casual footwear were not appropriate. We were given a schedule each morning of what events were on around the ship, the weather that day, any optional excursions, and the dress code for the evening. Every night was informal/casual except for one formal night, which basically just meant men had to wear a tie.
As I previously mentioned, I spent a lot of time on the pool deck, where I sampled every cocktail on the menu, ate at the poolside grill and pizza restaurant, chatted with other agents and guests in the whirlpool, and topped up my tan.
I sampled every restaurant on the ship except La Dame, a French restaurant with limited capacity which was sadly fully booked the whole week. La Terrazza was a beautiful open plan/al fresco restaurant where fantastic breakfasts, lunches and dinners were served. There was no breakfast menu, you simply asked for something and they made it! At lunch they had a Covid-safe buffet with fresh salads and light dishes on offer, while the evening was authentic Italian cuisine.
My absolute favourite restaurant was the SALT Kitchen. A little sidenote here to explain Silversea brand-new food concept: the SALT Programme. This stands for Sea And Land Taste; each day the food and wine menu is adapted to serve local cuisine from the port where the ship has been docked that day. On sea days, inspiration was taken from nearby destinations, such as Israel and Turkey. We dined here twice and it was absolutely incredible. Alongside the restaurant is the SALT Bar, where moody bartender Carlos whips up the signature drink ‘Selene’; the SALT Lab where we attended our cooking classes (I made baklava and it was delicious!); SALT Talks, where experts host lectures in the Venetian Lounge about local cuisines, wine and culture; and the SALT Ashore programme which organised food-related shore excursions like the one we enjoyed in Mykonos.
Another personal favourite was Silver Note, a tapas-style jazz lounge tucked away next to the casino. However, this was unlike any other tapas I’ve ever tasted. Absolutely awe-struck by the menu, we all wanted to try everything. So we did. We asked the waiter how many dishes we should order per person and he recommended four, so of course we all chose five. From lobster tail and sumptuous duck breast to octopus salad and delicately fried vegetables, each dish was *chefs kiss*.
Other places to eat on the ship were the main restaurant Atlantide, sushi bar Kaiseki, Hot Rocks grill, Spaccanapoli pizza restaurant, and the Arts Café, which was great for a mid-morning coffee – by day two the lovely barista knew my almond cappuccino order off by heart – and delicious pastries and fruit platters. I also had to take advantage of room service and had breakfast laid out for me one morning.
Aside from restaurants, there were a few bars and lounges on board. Each evening, our group met in the Dolce Vita lounge for Champagne and canapes; this area was nice and relaxed during the day as it’s where guests book excursions and can ask for help at reception, whereas in the evening there is live music and more of an atmosphere. We also had a pool party at the outdoor bar one evening which was great fun, we stayed up dancing until the early hours!
The ship also has a pretty swanky gym, luxury spa and wellness centre, boutique shop, casino and cigar lounge. If I had been on board for longer I would’ve liked to have used the gym, but to be honest trying as much food as possible was my number one priority!
You can see the full layout of the ship here.
Watch my video from on board below:
Our final night was spent watching the ‘Voices of Silversea’ perform on stage, followed by a thank you from the Captain and a standing ovation for all of the crew on board.
The six days I spent on board Silver Moon were truly incredible. It was such a surreal experience and one I will never take for granted. It opened up a whole new world to me and to my surprise, I cannot wait to get back on board a ship one day! Thank you to both my work and Silversea for sending me on the trip of a lifetime.