As I settle into my expedition of Greenland and Canada on Silversea’s Silver Expedition, I have a few initial observations; some may change over time, but two seem to be “right out there”.
While I had an initial, “Am I on Crystal or Silversea?” feeling, that has quickly faded and I am comfortably pleased with it being a true Silversea experience. While there have been grumblings on other lines about inconsistent service, too many new staff, etc. on Silver Endeavour there is none of that. Service is as good as I have ever experienced, with lots of smiles and enthusiasm coupled with polished delivery at every touchpoint. This may be aided by there only being 100 guests (out of a possible 200) onboard – this is a transitional expedition/cruise – but you can’t fake happy, well-trained, and motivated.
As you may know, I much prefer being called “Eric” rather than “Mr. Goldring” for a variety of reasons. I mentioned this to one server on Embarkation Day and within hours it seemed that almost all of the staff was referring to me as “Mr. Eric”…and I had never sailed with any of them before. A few of the bar and wait staff also picked up on teasing and joking with me makes me happy and have respectfully joined in. Impressive.
The second is that Silver Endeavour feels more like a cruise ship than an expedition ship. That can – and I am sure does – make the concept of expedition cruising more approachable and comfortable for many. If you strip away a few small things, such as the special parka closet in your suite where you place it and any other items you want to dry out and the mud room (with each person having their own boot warmers conveniently by their small lockers), and her ice-hardened hull, Silver Endeavour is pretty much a boutique luxury cruise ship with butlers, bowties, and black jackets everywhere.
The guests, however, are overall more casually dressed, even for meals, so I don’t consider this a negative for anyone. Heck, if you are paying X dollars for an expedition, why not be pampered as long as it doesn’t interfere with the real reason to be on the ship: Expedition Experiences!
Speaking of the Expedition Experience, as I previously mentioned, ours started shortly after we left Iceland with an incredible Northern Lights show. I mean a great one! That said, it was a bit disappointing that maybe 20 of the 100 guests came out on deck to experience it. Some did get a view from their balconies, but it was not the full overhead WOW.
After our day at sea with the requisite briefings, biosecurity check of our clothing, parka exchange, etc. it was time to Expedition!
Our first landing was in the small town of Tassilaq, Greenland (population 2,000 – a metropolis in Eastern Greenland). Guests were given three options: Visit the town of Tassilaq, take a five-mile moderate hike through the Valley of Flowers, or take a strenuous hike to oversee the fjord. Being that I can take a strenuous hike at home and I wanted to see the beauty of the area, I went for the Valley of the Flowers. (The strenuous hike was eventually canceled as only two had signed up for it.)
Our group started out as 19 guests and three guides, but about a half mile in a few dropped out, and at about a mile – and too many stops – our group was self-divided into a slower and less ambitious group and the actual hikers; resulting in about 10 of us to carry on. That is a surprisingly small number of guests for a moderate hike on an expedition, but actually “the less the better” for me!
It was a fun hike, with some beautiful views, a bit of bushwacking, and – after I joked that there was going to be a river we’d have to cross around the bend – a few streams we had to step stone across, which we all had fun doing. Having engaging and qualified guides always makes things better!
Upon returning to the village, there was plenty of time to wander and I did enjoy some of the Greenlandic dogs (no petting, they are working dogs), fish drying in the sun, and a seal having recently been butchered and hung to dry…preparing for the fast-approaching winter season.
It was then back to Silver Endeavour for a light lunch at the Arts Café, a bit of work, and, of course, a power nap before dinner with the Expedition Leader, Michael Callaghan.
Mike is a kind, sort of quirky, intelligent, and extremely caring and enthusiastic person. He loves what he does, but is also cognizant that not all of Silversea’s guests are as enthusiastic as he is, so he speaks in options and personal desires of the guests. This is different from what I will call the more “pure expedition” companies where it is assumed everyone who is physically able will be out and doing everything. This can be a difficult balance, but he is doing a great job. (And I do love that each EL has his/her/their own style; making the expedition unique to them.)
Dinner was both enjoyable and tasty. I try to moderate my dining (wish me luck!), so I skipped a couple of courses and I made sort of a Surf & Turf by combining two entrees: Lobster and Venison. Perfectly prepared and delicious.
After dinner, I retired to the Connoisseur Corner for a cigar and a couple of whiskies. I do appreciate a cigar lounge and not only for the cigars. It is a quiet, refined, space to just sink back in an overstuffed chair, and relax.
The seas have been a bit rough as the remnants of a hurricane pass to the east, so our overnight voyage has a bit of movement. However, when we arrived in Skjoldugen Fjord the seas calmed, but the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped a bit. The idea was to circumnavigate the island in the middle of the fjord (it is a big island), but there was too much ice. So, our morning zodiac cruise was OK as it wasn’t the best place. Many of the guests surprisingly opted out and others were just uncomfortable. You know I was out there and wanted more!
However, the afternoon was a three-hour zodiac cruise in a different area of the fjord, with flat calm water, no wind, and spectacular late afternoon autumn lighting.
From the abandoned hunting “village”, to the icebergs, to the bursts of colors offered up by the flora, it was a fantastic afternoon.
After dinner at Il Terrazzino, it was an early evening for me. Something about the rocking of the ship after an amazing afternoon just made me want to get into bed and relax.
I was up early the next morning for our visit to a fjord that Silver Endeavour, Silversea, the captain, and the expedition leader has never been too: Kangerdluluk Bjerge (Danish for Mountains). We could not go far into the fjord for two reasons: Past a certain point there is no navigational history (kinda cool) and there was too much brash ice.
With the sun shining, the seas calm but with a gentle swell, it was just beautiful. Our zodiac cruise was for only one and half hours, but I wish it could have been longer. However, we had places to go and landings to make.
Unfortunately, our afternoon landing in these parts unknown were canceled when a polar bear was spotted. Apparently in Greenland, unlike Svalbard, if there is a polar bear we must immediately clear the area. So no polar bear spotting and a hasty exit. Such is expedition life in Greenland.