prince albert II - silversea expedition cruises - cruise ship photos

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The German island of Sylt is like the German equivalent of the Hamptons or Capri. With wide sandy beaches, gorgeous scenery, hi-end shopping, hot nightlife and expensive real estate this North Sea island acts like a magnet to the rich & famous every summer. Inaccessible to large cruise ships, the best way to arrive at this über-exclusive hotspot is by über-exclusive expedition ship! We embarked on Silversea's Prince Albert II for a short weekend getaway from Hamburg to Sylt, which allowed us to get a good taste of luxury expedition cruising.

Silversea Expeditions - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Now that's a towel! - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

First impression as we board Prince Albert II at Hamburg: she is small. Very small. Measuring a mere 6,000 tons, the ship has a capacity for 132 guests and 111 crew members. Still, her compact size and shallow draft means she can call at ports that are inaccessible to larger ships (like Sylt). Built as an expedition vessel in 1989, Prince Albert II most recently sailed as World Discoverer for Society Expeditions and many of her crew transferred to Silversea Cruises in 2008 when the Italian cruise line purchased the ship and named her after Prince Albert of Monaco.

A bottle of Pommery awaits us - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Vista Suite 418 - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

Check-in is a no-stress affair here. You simply walk on board where you are met by a smiling waitress who offers you a glass of champagne. With a glass in one hand and your passport and ticket in the other, you then report to the staff who are positioned in the middle of the Panorama Lounge. There your photo is taken and you are given a leather wallet with your keycard. Once you have finished your drink (and perhaps ordered one more) a stewardess will walk you to your suite. Here at Silversea one doesn't talk about cabins after all!

Vista Suite 418 - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Room to breathe - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

Our Vista Suite 418 is roomy for a ship of this size and features all the amenities one has come to expect of Silversea: a bathroom with tub and great shower, Bvlgari toiletries, ample closet space and a bottle of Pommery champagne screaming to be uncorked. Unique to Prince Albert II are the backpacks and the complimentary red-and-blue parka's that you will find waiting for you. A large flat screen TV brings the world to your suite. And more than 100 free full-length movies. While you are out having dinner, the stewardess puts divine chocolates on your pillow and makes sure the complimentary mini bar in your suite is stocked up. Of course there has to be a pet peeve, too. The beds are way too soft to my liking. But since it is by no means time to go to bed, let's first tour the ship!

Panorama Lounge - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Theater - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer
Library & Internet Café - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Observation Lounge - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

Don't expect a soaring atrium or show lounge. Prince Albert II's public rooms are intimate and pleasant but lack the glitz of larger ships. The theater high up on the ship seats all guests and is used for briefings, presentations and lectures. Then there is the Observation Lounge, a small library and Internet Café, cigar lounge and the Panorama Lounge which is the social hub of the ship. Meals are served in an open sitting in the window-walled Restaurant or (if weather permits) out on the cozy teak sun deck with its twin Jacuzzis and bar.  

The Restaurant - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Great looking appetizer - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

By the time the ship sets sail from Hamburg we thoroughly enjoy all that Silversea has to offer: excellent food, well prepared and paired with good (complimentary) wines. Service is very good from young, friendly staff from all corners of the world. Later in the evening the guests move to the Panorama Lounge for after-dinner drinks (again: complimentary) while Lou tickles the ivories. For a moment, Prince Albert II does not seem very different from her larger Silversea sisters. Except for the dress code, which is decidedly more relaxed here with a ban on bow ties and evening gowns for the duration of the cruise.

Welcome to Sylt - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer A gorgeous Sunday - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

On Sunday morning our cruise changes into an expedition as Prince Albert II drops anchor off the fishing port of List on the north side of Sylt. Under glorious blue skies, the expedition team takes out the zodiacs. First, the local dignitaries and officials are brought on board and after a mandatory zodiac briefing for all guests, Captain Peter announces that the ship is cleared and we can go ashore. By zodiac, naturally! These fast, stable rubber boats are the vessel's lifeline in most ports of call, from Greenland to Antarctica. Getting in and out of a zodiac couldn't be easier and the ride to the island couldn't be more fun. What a way to arrive!

The zodiacs are lowered - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer We are brought ashore at List - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer
View of Prince Albert II at anchor off Sylt - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

Once ashore, the expedition team has organized some guided walks. One for people interested in geology, one for guests that are interested in animals. There is even a photography walk with an award-winning photographer from California. We opt to take the local bus to the island's main town of Westerland. Later, we head for Kampen where we enjoy the lifestyle of the rich & famous, sipping wine on a seaside terrace. Ah, the good life!

The beach at Westerland - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Gorgeous scenery - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

On our way back to Prince Albert II, our zodiac captain decides to sail around the ship to give us ample opportunity to take photos. Back on board, the waiter who brought us extra-strong coffee this morning now hands us a refreshing towel. We don our lifejackets (compulsory in the zodiac) and head out on deck where we order another liquid refreshment while enjoying the sunshine.

Prince Albert II at anchor - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer
Prince Albert II at anchor - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer Last zodiac back to the ship - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer
Out on deck enjoying the sunshine - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

That evening, after another memorable meal in the Restaurant (some tablemates can't stop talking about the cheese trolley and that glass of port wine) we head up to bridge. On Prince Albert II, the navigating bridge is open to guests most of the time. We chat to one of the officers and see the island of Helgoland on the horizon. All too soon it is time for (a soft) bed as our expedition ship gently rock 'n rolls back to Hamburg.

Beef Wellington - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer The cheese trolley - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

We end our short taster expedition with a sumptuous breakfast in The Restaurant. At 8.30 AM, Captain Peter Stahlberg announces that we can put our luggage in the corridor; crew is at hand to take it ashore. Minutes later, an announcement is made telling us all luggage has been taken ashore and that the ship is cleared. Ah, if all disembarkations could be like this!

Time to disembark - Photo © 2009 Bart de Boer

This summer, Prince Albert II sets course to the Norwegian coast, Spitsbergen and ultimately Greenland. Guests will spot polar bears, whales and sail around massive icebergs in the zodiacs. Back on board, they will sip champagne and enjoy great food. With Prince Albert II, Silversea offers a luxury expedition product for passengers who are truly interested in a hands-on visit to some of the more remote spots on our globe. A learning experience if you wish, but one that doesn't compromise any of life's luxuries. A word of warning though: if you're into shopping, clubbing or endless sunbathing, you might want to find yourself another ship! 

 
 

All text & photos © 2009 Bart de Boer  - www.ShipParade.com

 

First published on June 6, 2009

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