Zodiac Signs: World Cruise Whispers on a Caribbean Voyage
Standing on deck 10 of the Silver Whisper, I gaze at the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean on the first day of our 2-week voyage. On this full sea day, we make our way to our first stop in Grand Turk and on to a total of eight destinations scattered across the Eastern Caribbean. From my windswept vantage point, I can’t help but anticipate the diverse adventures that lay ahead; from discovering Alexander’s Hamilton roots in Nevis and exploring the lush highlands of Martinique to soaking up the sun in the paradisiac beaches of the British Virgin Islands and tracing the colonial history of Antigua.
As I daydream about my jam-packed agenda, my view drifts towards the bow of our ship and something interrupts my thoughts: eight Zodiacs, branded with the name of our vessel, lay neatly stacked on the bow. Are these inflatable boats meant to help ferry us to our harder-to-reach destinations? Are they set aside for specific shore excursions that necessitate smaller watercraft? There’s a far grander revelation: These eight zodiacs will not touch the warm waters of the eastern Caribbean on this voyage as their destiny lies more than 8,000 miles due south.
In the most unusual world cruise in history, Silversea is the first cruise line to ever combine true expedition experiences in Antarctica with a classic world voyage. The 2020 World Cruise, dubbed Legends of Cruising, departs on January 6 and spends 140 days visiting places all around the planet, including the White Continent. And it will all take place here on Silver Whisper.
It’s Not Your Usual World Cruise
The three-day foray into the Antarctic Peninsula is, pardon the pun, just the tip of the iceberg. The journey from Fort Lauderdale to Amsterdam includes dozens of fascinating and expedition-minded destinations like the remarkably remote Pitcairn Island, French Guyana’s infamous Devil’s Island, Vanuatu’s exquisitely named Champagne Beach, and Jordan’s only port city of Aqaba, gateway to the striking landscapes of the Wadi Rum and the ancient lost city of Petra. It also features stops in cosmopolitan metropolises like Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Singapore, Mumbai, Rome and Barcelona. But the Antarctica segment is what makes this voyage utterly unique. It truly visits all seven continents, a first for the cruise industry.
In order to unlock a destination as remote and unique as Antarctica on a classic ship, a few adjustments were necessary. First and foremost is the addition of the Zodiac fleet on Silver Whisper. These nippy little vessels are a key element of expedition cruising. They can operate efficiently in the smallest of spaces or across large expanses of water, as well as act as tenders to get guests ashore at shallow beaches or remote coasts where harbors and ports are unheard of. Additionally, nine qualified specialists – including marine biologists, geologists, glaciologists, naturalists and more – will be on hand to enhance the Antarctica experience by providing valuable information and explanations that helps put the destination into context.
And beyond Antarctica, the 2020 voyage will also feature a seasoned team of destination specialists and lecturers aside from the traditional team of skilled maritime, hospitality and entertainment professionals.
With capacity for up to 388 guests, the recently-refurbished Silver Whisper is nimble in size. It’s small enough to dock in tiny ports, and holds its own in marquee destinations. That’s totally evident even on my more low-key Caribbean sailing as we call in definitive Caribbean ports like San Juan and Bridgetown with the same ease as less accessible destinations like Guadeloupe’s Les Saintes archipelago or the B.V.I.’s iconic Jost Van Dyke.
More History in the Making
Incorporating the expedition-centric detour to Antarctica on the 2020 world cruise is a brave first step. By no means will it be the last. In 2021, Silversea will launch two world cruises, a first for the cruise line. Moreover, expanding on the 2020 experience, one of these voyages will be fully expedition-focused. The aptly-named Uncharted World Tour, stretching 167 days, will take Silver Cloud from Ushuaia, Argentina to Tromso, Norway. Antarctica, of course, will be a centerpiece destination on a trek that also includes extensive itineraries throughout the south Pacific, Southeast Asia, the British Isles, Iceland and Svalbard. Amazingly, the voyage will take travelers from the Antarctic to the Arctic Circle. Enriching the experience for guests, a number of world-class experts will join the voyage, offering workshops and lectures, and accompanying shore excursions. And most of these excursions will take place on Zodiacs not unlike the eight waiting on the bow of Silver Whisper for their moment to shine soon in Antarctica.
Although I have plenty to look forward to on my Caribbean voyage, I can’t help but give the Zodiacs one last glance. Their position at the bow of Silver Whisper is quite suitable, symbolic and almost poetic. They stand at the vanguard of Silversea’s grand plans for 2020 and beyond, a physical representation of what it means to push boundaries. And for me, they are also a reminder of how fulfilling it is to discover the world and to feel that remote and otherworldly destinations like Antarctica are merely a voyage away, close at hand.
Almost as close as the eight Zodiacs are from deck 10.