Belle of the Baltics
Silver Whisper's splendid cruise of Northern Europe
BY TOBY SALTZMAN
As Russia geared up for the gala tricentennial celebrations of
St. Petersburg this past May, President Vladimir Putin personally
authorized the charter of the Silver Whisper to host a roster of
international dignitaries and VIPs. Moored in water alongside the
Hermitage - formerly the historic Winter Palace of the Czars - the
gleaming white 382-passenger Silversea vessel delighted its privileged
guests with fireworks, classical concerts, ballet performances and
As it happens, the shipboard life the guests experienced was the
same luxurious comfort bestowed on any Silver Whisper passenger:
suites laden with Moet & Chandon chilling on ice, silken Frette
bed linens, Bulgari bath amenities and bars stocked with a complimentary
choice of wines, liquors, beers and soft drinks.
Of course, Silver Whisper guests aren't bound to a single port.
While a Baltic cruise that visits historic northern European ports
can be exciting on any vessel, a deluxe Silversea cruise refines
the experience with three VIP days in St. Petersburg, where passengers
are provided with exclusive off-hours access to museums and palaces
along with opportunities to enjoy performances in concert halls
that are typically restricted to the public.
Depending on the itinerary, a Baltic cruise may start in London,
Amsterdam or Oslo. It may include a host of diverse ports: the Aland
Islands scattered between Finland and Sweden; the serene isles of
Swedish Visby or Danish Bornholme, both medieval gems; or Rostock,
Germany, the gateway to Berlin. For 2003 and 2004, the best Baltic
itineraries include 3-days in St. Petersburg with calls in Copenhagen,
Helsinki and Stockholm.
For professionals (say, doctors) with tight schedules, a good choice
is the seven-day cruise that loops between Stockholm and Copenhagen
and maximizes time in St. Petersburg, yet allows you to add pre-
and post-cruise experiences in the two Scandinavian capitals. If
your schedule restricts you to travel on certain days, consider
custom planning a Baltic itinerary with Silversea's flexible Personalized
Voyages Program. This allows you to embark and disembark in ports
along the way as well as tailor the length of the cruise.
For the seven-day cruise from Stockholm, try to arrive at least
two days early. The city - straddling 14 islands linked by bridges
- is more beautiful than ever. Unhindered by the tenets of Swedish
modernism, nothing blemishes the architectural integrity of its
medieval core or harbour. The ship berths at the edge of Gamla Stan,
Stockholm's old town, a UNESCO World Heritage treasury of medieval
buildings where you can explore cobbled alleys of boutiques, galleries
and cafes. Doctor's, researchers and laymen alike are thrilled to
visit City Hall and stand on the Nobel Prize podium.
For a touch of history, visit the Vasa, the world's oldest identified
ship (which sank on its 1628 maiden voyage). But to see how the
locals celebrate sunshine, stop for a drink at a Gamla Stan café,
or board the local ferry and sail to Drottningholm Palace. The royal
family's 17th-century, Baroque-Rococo residential estate deserves
its World Heritage status. After boarding the Silver Whisper, linger
on deck as the ship bids farewell to Sweden's capital. Indulge in
champagne and caviar as the sunset casts magical hues on Stockholm's
fading silhouette of steeples.
A tour of this intimate vessel reveals ample amenities. On the tenth
deck, the Observation Lounge overlooks the prow. Next door, the
Mandara Spa and Fitness Centre boasts treadmills and recumbent bikes
with personal TVs and headphones. Deck 9 has a jogging track and
golf cage. A deck below, twin whirlpools flank the pool. Indoors
are the Panorama Lounge, the computer centre and library. One deck
down, the Terrace Café (popular for buffet breakfast and lunch)
doubles as an alternative restaurant at night, themed alternatively
for Italian, French, seafood and Mediterranean cuisine.
Adjacent are a number of cozy hideaways. Le Champagne (the wine
and caviar room) serves as a private dining and boardroom. The Humidor
is a haven for cigar aficionados. Next door, the Conference Room
connects to a card room. The tiered Viennese Show Lounge extends
down from Deck 6 to 5. Here, the reception lobby leads to the casino
and shops. On Deck 4, The Restaurant sparkles with crystal, china
and Christofle silver. Down on Deck 3, The Medical Centre is accessible
by appointment around the clock.
After a sumptuous dinner and nightclub show, settling into the
suite is pure pleasure. TV movies, cable news and documentaries
are complimentary. For a nominal fee, Silversea's new interactive
television system provides movies on demand, along with direct Internet
access and capabilities to send and receive e-mail. The daily Silversea
Chronicles outlines the next day's programs, Sightseeing details
as well as the lunch and dinner menus (all available as room service,
delivered course by course). Silversea excels in culinary style
and taste. Associated with the international Relais & Châteaux-Relais
Gourmands hotels and restaurants, its menus feature the signature
creations of their Michelin-rated chefs.
TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE
Before heading to St. Petersburg, Silversea offers several day excursions
into Tallinn, Estonia. Ruled in turn by the Danes, Germans, Swedes
and Russians, Tallin is now coming into its own. Wandering about
this Hanseatic town on your own is also satisfying, if you don't
mind climbing a few steps for the views. It retains a warren of
medieval sights including Kadriorg Palace, commissioned in 1718
by Peter the Great for his beloved Catherine.
Anticipation runs high as the ship navigates the narrow canal to
St. Petersburg. If you're hard-pressed to choose a tour, consult
the concierge. My recommendations? Don't miss the State Hermitage
Museum with the mind-boggling jewelry and antique collections of
the Gold and Restoration rooms (closed to the general public). Visit
Peter the Great's palace: you'll get an off-hours view of the gilded
statues lining the staircase (which are otherwise obscured by spraying
fountains) and a gala meal and concert in the mirrored ballroom.
Some consider back-to-back visits to the gilded Pushkin and Pavlovsk
palaces visual overkill, but they are memorable sights to behold.
On the third day in port, many passengers fly into Moscow for an
all-day tour and return from the pricey excursion raving about the
Kremlin. In the evenings, try to attend the ship's private performance
of the St. Petersburg ballet or the costumed opera at the Yusopov
Palace: these exquisite cultural experiences are entirely different
from the local folkloric singers and dancers brought on board.
At sunrise, the ship approaches Helsinki, passing the 250-year-old
Suomenlinna Island fortress built to thwart Russian invasions. Here,
also, the ship offers interesting historical tours. But to absorb
the local cheer, don walking shoes and grab a map. Right at the
harbour, the waterfront Kauppatori market bustles with vendors hawking
produce, fish and handicrafts. Designed in the neo-classical style
of the early 19th century, Helsinki exudes charm. Pose for photos
in front of the grand cathedrals, then follow the tree-lined esplanade
buzzing with cafés and shops. A trail of gardens, fountains and
monuments leads to the Anteneum (Finland's traditional art gallery),
and the new Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, designed by U.S.
architect Steven Holl. Music buffs may appreciate a visit to Finlandia
Hall, designed by Alvar Aalto, or the monument to composer Jean
Finally, a day at sea is just what the doctor ordered to unwind
from the intensive itinerary. There are plenty of diversions (including
lectures, culinary and wine programs) as the 25,000 tonne ship cruises
at a speedy 20.5 knots. But this is a perfect chance to prep for
touring Copenhagen with a rejuvenating treatment in the Mandara
Spa, or an indulgent "de-stressing message" in the privacy of your
suite or balcony.
At first glance, the Danish city of Copenhagen seems overly fanciful.
With bronze statues of the Little Mermaid in the harbour and Hans
Christian Andersen in the city square, the whimsical Tivoli Gardens,
and the Royal Amalienborg Palace, even the tour guides crack grins.
But the more serious art and culture thrive in lively cafés and
jazz clubs scattered along the Stroget pedestrian shopping street
and in medieval warehouses fringing Nyhavn Canal. Once the sailors'
quarter, the canal's many waterfront cafes overlook flotillas of
The city also has excellent galleries. The contemporary Luisiana
Museum of Modern Art deserves accolades, while the Ny Carlsberg
Glyptotek, which mixes classical sculptures with exquisite Impressionist
art, houses one of the world's four complete series of Degas bronzes.
After a luxurious voyage that mingles medieval and modern elements
in Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki and Copenhagen with the frivolous
opulence of czar-era St. Petersburg, settling into the Radisson
Royal Hotel is a keen contrast. Though it is a world apart in concept
and style from the gilded edifices of St. Petersburg, the hotel
is a work of art. Designed in the 1950s by famed Danish architect
Arne Jacobsen and furnished with his quintessential Egg and Swan
chairs, it commands remarkable esteem just across the sea. To see
the arthitectural contrasts and the diverse cultures along the way
are good reasons to sail a Baltic itinerary. Mind you, it's fine
just to be coddled on a Silver Whisper cruise.
THE SILVER LINING
Five years running, a Travel & Leisure poll named Silversea
Cruises the World's Best Small-Ship Cruise Line. The cruises are
frequently themed - some on food and wine, others on the arts or
literature. The Silver Links golf cruises include PGA instructors,
privileges at famed courses worldwide, transfers and lunch.
Silversea Cruises (Tel: (954) 522-4477 or (800) 722-6655; Fax:
(954) 522-4499; www.silversea.com)
are all-inclusive, excluding rare vintage wines, spa treatments
or shore excursions beyond tours listed as the Silversea Experience.
Rates for the Silver Whisper, her twin, Silver Shadow, and the
smaller Silver Cloud and Wind include airfare, transfers, port charges,
pre-cruise hotel, gratuities, all drinks (including wine, liquor,
water, soft drinks). Rates vary with size of suite, length of cruise
and distance to initial and final ports of call.
To inquire about Silversea's various booking options (including
a comprehensive air/sea package, cruise-only fare, the customized
Personalized Voyages program or early-booking bonus rates), contact
your travel agent.
Copyright: Toby Saltzman 2003