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Silver Cloud Facts & Figures

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When we return from hours of strolling around glorious Venice, Silver Cloud is waiting for us, dressed overall. There is no check-in quayside, so we climb the steep gangway to deck 5, where we are welcomed by the security staff with a handshake. We are directed to The Bar, where charming waitresses hand us the first of many glasses of Mot & Chandon champagne. We are welcomed back on board by Margaret, Silver Cloud's Social Hostess, hand in our ticket and passports, and are given our suite key cards. A stewardess walks us to our living quarters for the next ten days, where our luggage is already waiting for us. There is no waiting, no stress, no pressure. If all cruises could start like this...

Venice is all I thought it would be - and more. For one, it is much bigger than I had imagined. Cleaner. And far more beautiful. It takes about ten minutes to walk from the Cruise Terminal, where Silver Cloud is docked, to the Piazzale Roma - a beehive of cars, buses and water taxis and jumping point for most visitors to Venice. With a detailed map to guide us, we immerge in the back streets of Venice, and are completely taken by the beauty of the place. The fact that we are lost every 15 minutes or so only adds to the fascination, because every alley, every backstreet canal, every hidden  palazzo seems more beautiful than the last one.

We do make it to St. Mark's Square and the Rialto Bridge, but are puzzled by the huge number of tourists that have flocked to these tourist traps. Forget feeding the pigeons at St. Mark's; they are not interested in food anymore!  Instead, walk two streets off the bustling square and the only sound you will hear is some gondolieri singing a heartfelt rendition of "Oh Sole Mio", while steering his polished gondola clear of the bridges. In fact, the total absence of cars makes the city feel peaceful and quiet in places, despite the tourist crowds. There are no traffic lights, no car pool lanes. This is what city life used to be!

After walking for hours and hours, we are back at the Stazione Marittima and Silver Cloud at around five, and find our suite accommodation just perfect. We toast the start of the cruise with a glass of  Mot & Chandon from the bottle that awaits us in the suite, perfectly chilled. But first things first. We have to report to the Panorama Lounge for a Lifeboat Drill, which turns out to be a rather comical affair - or is it the champagne? At least it is a good opportunity to see whom we will be sharing our seagoing home with during the next ten days. Our fellow shipmates seem of all ages, sizes and shapes and sport many different accents.

After a relaxing soak in the bath tub, we are welcomed to The Restaurant by the personable Maitre d' for our first shipboard dinner. Miraculously, he seems to know our names and suite number by heart already, and our request for a table for two is accommodated without a hitch. Food is glorious, service is unhurried and the atmosphere is just right. From bread rolls with a hint of cumin to a piping hot asparagus soup; all we eat is cooked and presented to perfection. And let's not forget the wines. Most of them are complimentary and chosen with care by the personable Belgian Head Sommelier Philippe. And that little tray with handmade sweets that accompanies our coffees is really the icing on the cake...The day ends with a nightcap in The Bar, which to my surprise is quite lively on this first night of the cruise. Back in the suite, I sit on the balcony for a while, looking at the illuminated bell tower of St. Mark's on the horizon. I couldn't have imagined a better start to what is already proving to be an unforgettable voyage.

 
   

Photos and text: 2002-2011 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on October 6, 2002

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