Silver Cloud Readies for Her First Expedition – And We’ll Be Onboard
Antarctica has fascinated me for years. I personally consider it to be the Mount Everest of cruising destinations, surpassed only perhaps by a cruise around the world.
Remote, lonely and often overlooked, Antarctica is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is a land of towering icebergs, enormous mountain ranges, and diverse wildlife. Its thrilling history of exploration is littered with triumph and tragedy, a testament to the superhuman endurance of people like Amundsen, Borchgrevink, Scott and Shackleton.
This is a land that most of us will never see – and that’s precisely what makes it so alluring. Antarctica, the southernmost continent, is nearly twice as large as Australia. A full ninety-eight percent of it is covered in ice nearly two kilometres thick. It was the last region on Earth to be discovered, unseen by human eyes until 1820.
In two weeks, I’m making my second trip to Antarctica, travelling in the kind of luxury and comfort that the earliest polar explorers could only dream of. I’m not sure what’s more exciting: travelling to Antarctica, or doing so on the first polar voyage of Silversea Cruises’ fully refitted Silver Cloud Expedition. I think it’s both.
Silversea’s Trailblazing First Ship Soldiers On
Between August and late October of this year, ultra-luxury line Silversea sent its very first ship, the 296-guest Silver Cloud in for an extensive drydock at a shipyard in Malta. Built in 1994, she helped build Silversea into the cruise line it is today. Now, she’s preparing for an entirely new role as the company’s largest and most lavish luxury expedition ship.
Refitted to Ice Class 1C, Silver Cloud will be able to hold her own in Antarctica, which is frequently littered with sea ice of all shapes and sizes. Her ice rating allows her to cut through ice with a thickness of up to 0.6 metres, or roughly two feet – though she may not be able to wedge herself in the pack ice like her fleetmate, Silver Explorer, which carries a higher Ice Class 1A designation.
The changes made to Silver Cloud – which is now widely referred to as Silver Cloud Expedition – are sweeping. In addition to being fully repainted in a sleek new black and white livery with a thin red “cheat line” along her superstructure, she’s been given a new ice-strengthened bow. A new, ice-reinforced large bulbous bow was fitted to the ship, complete with sheltered thruster doors and a built-in FarSounder Sonar System that can see 1000 metres ahead of the ship. This system is tied to the ship’s navigation equipment on the bridge.
Because Silver Cloud Expedition will now have to cross the feared Drake Passage routinely, she’s been refitted with newer, smaller windows on her navigation bridge. This has changed her forward appearance somewhat, but attractively so. Pillars between the panes have been widened and strengthened, and stronger marine glass has been fitted.
On the bridge, the ship’s Communications Center was replaced entirely with a new state-of-the-art facility. A new Olex Marine Charting and Navigation system was installed, along with an additional system designed to more efficiently operate the vessel at the slow speeds required for ice navigation.
The ship’s entire complement of radars were removed and replaced, and the Silver Cloud expedition now has a Thermal Night Vision Camera to allow for better visibility over the ice during evening navigation.
All portholes and windows aboard Silver Cloud have been removed and, where necessary, replaced with new ones designed to be resistant to heavy seas and colder temperatures.
At the stern, a small triangular reinforced skeg has been added to aid with icebreaking when moving astern.
The ship’s entire heating and ventilation system was upgraded and fully automated, and the ship’s waste treatment plant was removed entirely and replaced with a new black and greywater treatment facility.
The most obvious changes, however, are on Silver Cloud’s upper deck. A brand-new, forward-facing observation lounge is now situated above the navigation bridge. Named Tor’s Observation Lounge, in keeping with the precedent set by the new Silver Muse, this brand-new public space will sport Silver Muse-esque décor and will serve as the place to be during scenic cruising in Antarctica, complete with its extra-large, floor-to ceiling windows.
Also fitted to the ship’s upper decks: a fleet of 16 Zodiac rafts. These rugged new landing crafts will carry guests on scenic cruising journeys throughout Antarctica, and will act as shuttles to bring guests ashore – though never more than 100 at a time, in keeping with IAATO rules governing Antarctic tourism.
The ship also carries 12 kayaks, a first for Silversea. The relevant platforms were added to the ship for kayak and zodiac embarkation, including an expedition first for the line: an inflatable zodiac embarkation platform.
In addition, Silver Cloud Expedition will now carry just 200 guests when sailing in polar waters, and 254 on other voyages. Silversea has used this reduction in guests to add more Silver Suites, each measuring 541 square feet apiece. There are now 12 Silver Suites onboard, compared to just three pre-refit.
The former three Silver Suites have now been recategorized as Medallion Suites, each coming in at 437 square feet.
Silver Cloud’s luxury p
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