The Great Escape from the British winter to the tropical heat of South America.
After experiencing the wonderful World Cruise on board the Silver Whisper last year,* I began to dream of planning another very special “trip of a lifetime.” For the first time, Ken and I will be saying goodbye to family and friends and jetting off to escape our traditional Christmas at home.
This year Silversea offers a choice of fabulous Festive cruises departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Valparaiso, Chile, and from Singapore.
Saturday 20 December: We fly with British Airways from Edinburgh to London Heathrow for an overnght stay at the smart and stylish Sofitel Hotel. Ideally located at Terminal 5, the Sofitel will be the perfect place to stay, eat, drink and relax, ready for an early morning BA flight to Miami.
All going to plan, we shall arrive here on the afternoon of 21st December and transfer to the glitzy, glamorous Ritz-Carlton hotel, Fort Lauderdale. Time to unwind and acclimatise into the winter warmth of Florida sunshine.
The next day, 22nd December, we board the Silver Spirit for what I am sure will be a magical two week jaunt around the Caribbean. We experienced the Inaugural voyage of the Spirit in 2010 –she’s the largest of the fleet (but still only around 500 guests), and designed as an elegant art deco-styled boutique hotel. We love the Star Cabaret bar, lavish Spa with private jacuzzi pool and favourite chairs on the Panorama Deck, watching the wake of the rolling waves.
Our first port of call is Key West, a charming resort rich in Bohemian lifestyle and artistic culture, inspiring Hemingway, Tennessee Williams et al. Laid back is the word ..
Two days at sea as we prepare to celebrate 25th December: what a novelty – sunshine not snow. I can just imagine sipping Margaritas on deck at midday, a leisurely lunch, later dressing up for a festive party, meeting new friends over a glass of champagne and canapes, then dining on smoked salmon and lobster ….musical entertainment in the theatre… all part of a day of treats on board.
As you may tell from my bubbly anticipation, I can’t wait to experience a very different style of Christmas this year!.
For this cruise, I shall pack a perfect book as my travel companion: a brand new edition of Discover Caribbean Islands (Lonely Planet) will ensure we find the best beaches, bars, markets, culture and heritage to experience as much as possible. This will be our personal guide as we set off to explore each island.
The itinerary takes us from the southern tip of Florida to Puerto Rica, fashionable St. Barts, and lush green island of St. Lucia …
>>> and on to Tortola (British Virgin Islands). Ken and I visited here before and will need to check out Stanley’s Welcome bar. It’s a shack on the beach but the music, the cool vibe, rum punch and seafood is to die for.
Then off to Dominican Republic and Grand Turk before it’s back to Fort Lauderdale. But we’re not going home just yet. …
Returning to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for an overnnight stay, we shall join a few dozen other Silversea guests for a special Bon Voyage Gala Dinner. The next day, 7th January, 2015, we board the Silver Shadow for the start of a Grand Voyage which will circumnavigate South America – across four cruise segments – over the next two months.
We shall transit the Panama Canal (now 100 years old), and then on to Costa Rica, a place known for natural beauty and surfing beaches. South to Ecuador, the place to buy an authentic Panama hat, and then cross the Equator and saunter along the Peruvian coastline – Callao, Pisco, Matarani … and onwards we sail.
Our essential Lonely Planet guide to hand now will be “South America – on a Shoestring”, to advise on the diverse countries, cultures, cities, fishing villages, local food and drink on this leisurely expedition. Must check out the best drinking hole to sample a Pisco Sour or two.!
23rd January – Ken’s birthday and it’s a relaxing day at sea and Formal Night so we can get glammed up for dinner.!
It may not be too chilly in Chile, (looking forward to sampling delicious wines), until we venture further south to the Patagonian fjords.
This is the land of magnificent, breathtaking glaciers and high mountain peaks of the Andes, tracing the route of Darwin’s voyage on the Beagle.
Ushuaia is the most southerly town in the world from where expedition ships set off to explore the White Continent; the Silver Shadow will head north to visit the Falkland Islands.
Due to occasional rough seas we may not be able to anchor, but hopefully we can visit Stanley and take an excursion to Bluff Cove penguin colony, Sea Cabbage café and museum. Bluff Cove is an exciting trip by 4 x4 vehicles over wild moorland to visit this tranquil beach and nature reserve.
We then set off north, visiting Montevideo, tango our way around Buenos Aires, and many ports of call in Brazil. So looking forward to our arrival into Rio – it’s a beautiful sight with Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain framing the city.
Grand Voyagers will be treated to a night at the Rio Carnival – probably on Valentine’s Day.
At the top of my wish list in Rio is to arrange a visit to the famous Belmond Copacabana Palace for lunch or a cocktail by the pool. This glamorous, grand hotel is 90 years old and renowned for its vintage Piano Bar and timeless sophisticated ambience.
Buzios is an elegant seaside fishing resort, reminiscent of the smaller towns along the French Riviera. By now we shall be into the final month of the cruise but many more delights still to come: Devil’s Island, Barbados, Grenada and exploring the islands of Dutch Caribbean – Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire.
Snorkelling with the turtles and tropical fish is meant to be fabulous in Aruba and as we sail on, perhaps time for more watersports in the Bahamas with its white powder sand beaches and glorious warm sea.
Lazy, leisurely days at sea too as we set off back to our final destination, Fort Lauderdale.
Will be in touch again soon once we are on board with stories and photographs about our adventures around Latin America.
* see feature on World Cruise under the Great Boat Journeys cruise chapters.
For more information on Silversea cruises – www.silversea.com
Ritz-Carlton Hotels is the preferred collection of luxuruy hotels worldwide for pre and post cruise stays. www.ritzcarlton.com