Silversea Cruises’ new 596-passenger Silver Moon, an ultra-luxury sister to Silver Muse, was christened by Gaia Gaja of Greek winemaking fame last week while docked in Piraeus, Greece. This week, the new 40,700-gross-ton ship continues to sail on a series of seven- and 10-day Greek Isles cruises roundtrip from Athens, and in September, it will begin operating cruises between Greece and Italy.

Speaking to Luxury Travel Advisor, Mary Jean Tully, founder and CEO, Tully Luxury Travel, talked about sailing on the new ultra-luxury ship for 10 days pre-christening. “It exceeded my expectations,” said Tully, who couldn’t believe a ship the size of Silver Moon could have eight restaurants, “all very unique and different.” She also loved that the new ship has so many places to dine outside and on deck.

The Debut of S.A.L.T.

On Silver Moon, guests will find something totally new that permeates the overall vacation experience, both onboard and ashore. Set to debut last year but delayed due to the pandemic, the new S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) culinary program is now active on Silver Moon. From what we could observe, guests were diving in.

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The brainchild of food expert and culinary journalist Adam Sachs, former editor in chief of Saveur Magazine, and Barbara Muckermann, Silversea’s chief commercial officer, S.A.L.T. focuses on “local” food and drink traditions, flavors, specialties and agricultural elements.

Think Bourdain, not Michelin, in style. S.A.L.T. isn’t high-brow—it’s authentic and down-hom, allowing guests to see, learn, taste, create and savor the local cuisine and drinks of the specific destinations the ship is visiting.

Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s president and CEO, acknowledges that most ultra-luxury lines have excellent food, but that S.A.L.T. takes that a step higher. It allows guests to immerse themselves in the authentic flavors, traditions and ingredients of the local destinations the ship is visiting. It’s a competitive differentiator for Silversea, he believes.

So, guests now head to S.A.L.T. lectures in the theater, which are a bit different than normal lectures on varied topics. Again, the focus is deep into local cuisine and beverages. S.A.L.T. talks available for guests to attend in the Venetian Lounge on the current Greek cruise include “Greek Spirits,” “Cuisine of Greece and Turkey,” “Sea Change: A Modern Approach to Cocktails,” and “Beyond Borders: The Food of Cyprus.” Earlier in the cruise, there was also a Greek wine tasting and lecture in the theater by the ship’s godmother.

On Deck 4, the new S.A.L.T. Lab is Silver Moon’s high-tech, culinary space for hands-on classes; it occupies the space where the Teppanyaki restaurant is located on Silver Muse. Class options this week include “The Wild Isle: Why the Food of Crete is the Best in Greece,” “How to Mezze” and a deliciously appealing “Cook the Menu: Moussaka.”

S.A.L.T. Kitchen

One of S.A.L.T. Kitchen’s locally themed Greek desserts, halvadopita // Photo by Susan J. Young

Luxury Travel Advisor dined one evening with Martinoli at S.A.L.T. Kitchen, which is in the same area of Deck 4 as the S.A.L.T. Lab and S.A.L.T Bar. Diners are handed a newly created menu that has two distinct options.

One is the “Terrain Menu” with local dishes from the specific port visited that day, such as the cuisine of Syros, Greece (on the night we dined there). A second menu section is the “Voyage Menu,” which is more encompassing in “reach” as it focuses on the broader region of sailing, in this case, the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Our Terrain menu offered multiple starters, among them “Flavors of Syros,” comprising San Michali, a firm cow’s cheese unique to the island, and kopanisti, a peppery spreadable cheese typical of the Cyclades, accompanied by fried sun-dried tomato and other local fare.

Luxury Travel Advisor chose to order a starter from the Voyage Menu, the astakomakaronada, a home-made pasta with Aegean lobster, fresh tomato, fennel, thyme and a splash of brandy. It was very tasty and cooked to perfection.

For our main course, we dined on a Terrain Menu choice, the Syros loukaniko, or traditional local sausages served with roasted potatoes and braised fennel. And for dessert, among the tasty sweets is the Terrain Menu’s halvadopita, a popular Syros treat consisting of almond nougat sandwiched between sweet wafers and served with frozen orange yogurt.

Heading Ashore

Lindos, Rhodes, Greece // Photo by Susan J. Young

Silversea has also extended the S.A.L.T. concept ashore. New S.A.L.T. Ashore excursions include “Tastes of the Cyclades: Food & Flavors of the Beautiful Islands” (in Paros, Greece) which, among the activities, includes a fun phyllo-making session for cruisers, and on another day, the “History of Wine in Cyprus with Florentia Kythreotou” (in Limassol, Cyprus).

In Heraklion, Greece, S.A.L.T. Ashore offers the robust “Heart and Soul of Greek Cooking: a Cretan Culinary Adventure at an Exceptional Organic Farm.” In a remote hillside setting with mountain views, the private organic farm Peskesi welcomes Silver Moon’s guests to experience the pleasures of the Cretan table on a full-day immersive S.A.L.T. experience.

Cruisers walk with the owners around the farm, learn about sustainable farming practices, pick and taste some of the ancient varieties of products grown in local fields, taste/see local olive oils and wine, and join around a wood-fired hearth to learn to cook Cretan diet staples. Lamb antikristo (cooked for many hours in front of the flames) and stuffed zucchini blossoms and grape leaves are among the delicacies cooked at this hearth.  

Tully took this Cretan S.A.L.T. Ashore excursion and appreciated the immersive experience, including mingling with the locals, learning about the island’s vegetables, hearing the stories, learning about the wines and then taking a cooking class. She also enjoyed a S.A.L.T. shore excursion with a Michelin-star chef in Santorini,

Muckermann believes S.A.L.T will entice new, ultra-luxury clients aboard—specifically, die-hard foodies who will likely dive into all aspects of S.A.L.T., attend multiple lectures, lab sessions and culinary shore tours. They’ll probably strive to “do it all,” and are estimated to comprise 10 percent or so of all guests onboard.

But the line also believes that all other guests will view S.A.L.T. as a way to enhance their vacation experience, too. Those guests will likely pick and choose this or that element to include in their overall portfolio of vacation activities. So, while they may not “do it all,” Silversea believes that what they do participate in will both enhance their vacation experience and give them a better understanding of the cuisine and drinks that the locals love.  

Hardware Differences

Silver Moon’s S.A.L.T. Lab

So, how is Silversea accommodating the spaces needed for S.A.L.T.? What’s happening on the hardware side with this new ship’s design?

As mentioned above, Silver Moon’s new S.A.L.T. Lab is now in the space where Teppanyaki is on Silver Muse. In that same area of Deck 4, Silver Muse offers La Dame, its French restaurant, but on Silver Moon, that space is now the new S.A.L.T. Kitchen.

In turn, the new-build design team moved Silver Moon’s La Dame upstairs, increasing its seating capacity from 24 guests to about 60 guests. “So, it’s a much larger venue,” says Martinoli, adding that it also now offers a beautiful southside view overlooking the destination the ship is visiting.

In addition, “we moved the Arts Café that was in that location to the other side of the restaurant,” and “we moved the Connoisseur Corner, the cigar room, just aft of the Arts Café and we created a beautiful outside area,” Martinoli says.

On Silver Moon, guests will also discover an enlarged gym and spa, which was lengthened toward the stern. “Those are the major modifications,” he says, noting that the backbone of the ship, is the same. “So, all the novelties are mostly in the dining experience.”

That said, the line has continued to perfect certain things, including creating certain decks with more height. “With the help of the new building team in Miami, we were able together with Fincantieri to bring those improvements. Those are the most important changes from the Silver Muse to the Silver Moon.

Ship Health/Safety Steps

The bedroom of Silver Moon Suite No. 931 // Photo by Susan J. Young

As the new ship sails on Greek itineraries and then between Greece and Italy, the line is working to keep guests, crew and the communities served safe. To allow for social distancing, Silversea is holding maximum capacity to 70 percent, and this week only 291 guests are aboard sailing to such warm-weather isles as Paros, Patmos, Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Cyprus.

Tully praised the ship’s health/safety protocols. “We just felt very protected,” she emphasized, noting, for example, that “the crew don’t get off the ship” and she and all other guests took a COVID-19 antigen test onboard three days into the cruise.

In addition, Tully said: “They take your temperature  in the morning but in a way that’s comfortable and makes you feel safe.” That’s done every morning in the guest’s suite by the butler using a hand-held temperature gauge that takes a forehead reading without touching the guest.

Alternatively, if guests leave early in the morning for a shore trip, there is a crew member positioned inside the ship just near the gangway who asks guests if their temperature check has been done, and if not, it’s quickly done there.

There is also a new video safety drill that guests must confirm that they’ve viewed online. Then guests gather as normal in the Muster Station on Deck 5. The drill seemed a bit shorter than in the past, and with limited onboard capacity, people could spread out.

Also, pre-cruise at Piraeus, Silver Moon’s guests—all of whom must be vaccinated—take a COVID-19 antigen test at the port; it must be negative for them to board.

On the Horizon

Silver Moon docked in Rhodes, Greece // Photo by Susan J. Young

As for Greece voyages and the potential for more in the future, Martinoli said that “we’ve always been coming to this part of the Mediterranean with quite a number of calls.” This year, the itineraries themselves have been more geographically limited, given what he called “some instability” in the far eastern part of the region.

But Martinoli also said the ultra-luxury line is “ready to come back [in a greater way] as soon as we can resume the itineraries that are going to the very eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.”

After its Mediterranean sailings, Silver Moon will head for Asia sailings this winter season. Will it come to the U.S. anytime soon? Muckermann says the brand’s mission “is always to bring its guests to the farthest, most remote places on Earth.”

So, at this stage, there’s no North American debut for Silver Moon in sight, but she acknowledged that given the many unexpected itinerary changes that have occurred due to the pandemic over the past year, “we honestly don’t know.”

Looking just at Silversea’s fleet restart, here’s the run-down of where the line is in the process: Silver Moon was Silversea’s first ship back in service on June 18. Then on June 19, the new expeditionary ship, Silver Origin, began sailing in the Galapagos. In July, Silver Muse began cruising 10- and 11-day cruises to Alaska from Seattle, WA, and Silver Shadow is now starting up Iceland cruises from Reykjavik.

Then, Silver Spirit will follow in September with sailings from the United Kingdom, and three expedition vessels will start up Antarctica cruises late in the year. “One of those ships is the Silver Wind, which as we speak is being converted into ice class and completely refurbished,” notes Martinoli.  

While the line has added Silver Moon to its fleet and another sister, Sister Dawn, will be delivered this year, too, Silversea is also thinking into the future. Martinoli says the ultra-luxury line has begun work on its newest class of ship, the Evolution Class, which provides the opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper.

“There is going to be a revolutionary announcement that will come at the end of the summer,” he says. “Stay tuned because we are really doing very interesting things that have never been seen yet.”

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